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  #51    
Old August 7th, 2017 (12:41 AM). Edited August 7th, 2017 by FlaafyFTW.
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FlaafyFTW FlaafyFTW is offline
Researcher of Orange Lore
     
    Join Date: May 2009
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    Spoiler:
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Astinus View Post
    I finally caught up to your last chapter. Since you posted this again, I wanted to revisit this, especially since the last time that you posted in it was nearly five years ago! I wanted to see how much you've changed as a writer. There are some definite improvements from the first chapter to the last in your writing!

    As for the story itself, I like that the kids just kind of fell into this whole situation. They didn't set out to fight against Team Rocket--something that I don't think a lot of trainers would want to do--but now they're a part of it, as Celio said. And I also like that the kids themselves are getting hurt. It's not just the Pokemon getting wounded (or worse, in the case of poor Sandshrew!), but the trainers as well.

    I guess now we get to see how these gems give humans the special abilities, right? Janine made her choice, and she's going to follow through with it, so her father can be proud of her. Can't wait to see how the Ruby works and what powers it holds!
    Thanks for the words, Astinus! I really appreciate it. As wierd as it sounds, it's great to know that someone has been following this old thread (I can't believe just HOW old it is now!). I've had the story in my head since I'd started and it's always annoyed me that I never got around to finishing it so I've made it my mission to get well on the way with it this summer and finally take the time to try and put it into words, which is most often the difficult part! Anyhow, on with the show...


    Chapter 35 – Your Deception, My Disgust

    Erika was too late; the Ruby was sent plummeting to the floor, shattering into pieces. The hollow shell cracked like an egg, releasing a tremendously powerful shockwave of fire and air that forced all of the trainers to the wall, Janine’s head crashing against the closed bulkhead door behind her. The flames rode the air, setting everything they touched alight. It travelled out of the open bulkhead door, through the tunnels and out into the dome itself, the shockwave shattering the entire glass outer shell of the stadium into pieces, leaving a trail of flame in its wake.

    Outside in the open air of the playing field, wisps of fire began to sift upwards, spreading across the grass like a hellish blanket. Alex awoke feeling like he was upside-down. His left arm and shoulder were dangling off the edge of what used to be the viewing deck, a good 15 feet high above the stands below and the noise of a high-pitched ringing dominated his ear drums. In his right arm, Swablu quivered and shook his feathers as if to wake himself up. Instinctively Alex knew that he must have had protected him by holding him close to his body. Alex managed to pull himself upright but the room was spinning too much for him to tell if he was actually vertical. Attempting to find his balance, he steadied himself against a pillar, briefly forgetting and then remembering the burst of brute force that forced its way through the room.

    Broken glass and debris crunched under his feet as he turned to view the scene. Courtney and Robin were coming to but he couldn’t see April or Adam. His head was pounding faster than his heart and it wasn’t until the ringing began to subside that Alex was able gauge the true extent of what was happening: the screech was replaced by the hysterical cries of the crowd. He pivoted on the spot and looked out to see panic. People were racing for the exits, pushing past each other in the stands, grabbing loved ones, even clambering over the obstacles that stood in their way. Industrial lighting fixtures had fallen, seats had been broken and there were flames seemingly everywhere, littering the stadium like rubbish in the wind.

    Alex leaned further outward and looked directly below to see Adam helping April to her feet. She was clutching her arm as if she’d sprained it but Adam seemed perfectly fine from the fall. Alex called out to the siblings below him, making sure they were okay, all things considered.

    “I… I don’t think I can jump that!” Alex cried, feeling wary at the prospect of jumping. He’d never considered himself afraid of heights but when push comes to shove and he was on that ledge, jumping wasn’t exactly on his list of top 10 favourite things to do.

    April winced and agreed, “Yeah, I wouldn’t risk it!”

    Suddenly the sprinkler system activated, sensing the fire around the stadium. Within seconds Alex was soaked through but for some reason the fires weren’t being extinguished by it. Paying little attention to it, Alex was more concerned with getting to safety.

    “You guys need to get out of here!” He signalled, waving in the direction of the nearest exit. “We’ll find another way around and meet you at the front!”

    The siblings agreed and began on their way, not before April darted her eyes back up yelling, “Be careful!”

    Robin was busy helping VIPs to their feet and Courtney was busy trying to use her Vaporeon and Golduck to put out the flames that were blocking the door that they came in through – the only door out.
    “Like, it’s not working!” She cried in frustration, kicking a bin that was already on the floor into a puddle that had now formed on the carpet. “What kind of fire is this?!”

    Alex released his Chimchou to try and help using its water gun but it was having no effect. The fire wasn’t going out, he looked back outside and the rest of the stadium was the same: sprinklers in all directions but still the dominating colour was red. The fire began to creep forwards from the door across the ceiling, flowing unnaturally like smoke, as if it were alive, stalking its prey before the kill.

    Courtney and Alex looked at each other, frightened and nervous, neither of them having a solution when another row of flames sprouted just in front of them as if from nowhere. Other VIP trainers were tackling similar blazes in the other corners of the booth, having similar problems. Alex released Ditto who quickly mimicked the Vaporeon and Swablu flew from his arms, attempting to fan the flames with its wings to no avail – it was too small. Swablu became enraged and visibly annoyed at its own size, squawking angrily unlike anything Alex had seen him do before.

    “Swablu, it’s no use! There’s something not right about this fire. Your wings aren’t powerful enough!”

    Swablu squawked again, this time in defiance as he kept flapping his cloud-like wings back and forth, so much so that it became engulfed in a beaming white light. Whilst Alex first thought this may have been a new ability, he soon realised that Swablu was evolving! Its neck was elongating, its cloudy wings grew larger and two blue streamer-like feathers dangled from its head across the length of its body. As the bright light subsided, a large dragon-type Altaria now stood in front of him, more than triple the size of its previous evolution.

    The sprinklers stopped, having run dry, and Altaria readied its wings. With one large flap, the air was pushed towards the fire, putting out the first row of flames. Alex and Courtney celebrated and began to move forward but celebrated too soon as the wall of flame sprung to life again in front of them!

    “This isn’t working!” Robin yelled from across the room, tackling a fire of her own when the room itself began to shake. The ornaments that were still on the shelves began to fall and part of the floor began to give way.

    -----------------

    Making their way through the masses, April and Adam were back at the ticket gates, weaving past the wounded, around the hysterical and over bits of debris. The front of the building, even though it was made of solid glass, looked completely different without it. People were using every direction as an exit, trying to escape the flames that were spreading with no signs of stopping.

    Without warning, April stopped in her tracks, still clutching her arm. The crowd were still moving and barging past her but April didn’t want to take her eyes off her target. It took Adam a few seconds to notice but as soon as he realised he too began to stare. Without averting his gaze, he made his way back to April.

    “D-Do you see –“ April began.
    “-Yeah.”

    Across the room, the siblings had spotted the blonde woman again. She was stood solemn, as she was earlier, smiling – the warmness that she had had previously was gone and now, in this situation, was just eerie. The woman turned and began moving away to the main exit.

    “It can’t be… can it? I mean, I thought I saw her earlier but I looked away and she was gone.”

    Before April had even finished speaking, Adam was moving through the crowd ahead of them towards the blonde woman that he too had seen before in the crowd. April called out for her brother as she gave chase but he wasn’t hearing her, acting on instinct rather than thinking about it, as usual.

    -----------------

    Naoko opened her eyes and found herself in the protective embrace of Crowe; he had taken the brunt of the force that sent them crashing into the wall but wasn’t going to show it. The fiery blast had made short work of Roserade and Vileplume and Janine lay lifeless against the closed bulkhead door. Erika scrambled to her friend, feeling powerless checking for a pulse.

    “What’s the matter, grass-roots? Can’t take the heat?” Proton smiled.

    Having been shielded by their Mega-Sableye, Proton and Domino stood stark, unaffected by the blast. A swirling mass of flame lingered on the ceiling above the Ruby, now broken into smaller pieces, scattered across the floor. Proton walked leisurely over to the largest chunk and maneuvered it with his foot, grimacing. “That conniving old man…” He muttered, moving his hand to his earpiece. “The Ruby was a red herring – it’s a magma stone.”

    “Confirmed. Dispatching an agent now.” Came a response from the other side. “The Sapphire?”

    “Acquiring it now.”

    Domino walked ever closer and outstretched her hand again. “Hand it over.”

    Instinctively, Crowe moved in front of Naoko in one movement, acting as a human shield. Umbreon pined in pain from a few yards away, unable to stand but fully conscious whereas Gallade had lost consciousness all together. Naoko observed the room. The blast had thrown them practically into the corridor, the two security guards were still sprawled across the floor, but now were right up against the wall next to her with the open bulkhead directly behind her, giving her a clear opportunity to escape… but she would be leaving everyone behind. She knew her pokemon were not battlers so she wouldn’t win-out in a fight. 'although that wasn’t what bothered her.

    She had something they wanted. She had it, and they weren’t going to stop until they got it. Maybe Janine’s idea wasn’t so bonkers. From a moral standpoint, Naoko had a duty, but unlike Janine, she knew that she was around for one reason and one reason only and that wasn’t part of some grand ideological quarrel with a group of terrorists. She was a girl who missed her friends, her closest companions; for her, there was only one logical step to take.

    While Crowe sparred with verbal swords, Naoko made eye-contact with Erika whose eyes darted to the corridor and back, signalling her to escape. Instead, Naoko pulled the collar of her shirt up over her nose and bent down to the security guard, it taking mere seconds for her to find what she was looking for.

    As she stood, she became aware of her own breathing. Her breath was trembling and her heart felt as if it was in her mouth but her mind was made up, she’d made her decision so her hands were steady.

    “I’m sorry.” She whispered under her breath as, in one quick motion, she grasped Domino’s lily in her hand and held it to Crowe’s face from behind. She felt his body immediately tense and shudder as the toxin took effect. His knees gave in shortly after and he fell to the floor, turning to face Naoko. Right then, in that moment, she saw an expression that would be etched into her memory: Crowe’s eyes were wide with shock and betrayal. Reflected in the dark shade of brown, she could see her own face, more resolute than she had realised, staring back at her. Her face, the face that had betrayed him, was cold and remorseless, not at all how she pictured herself looking. Although he resisted, Crowe’s body succumbed to the chemicals and he fell to the floor, rigid.

    Erika looked on, speechless. Naoko made a point of throwing the lily to the floor and grabbed her necklace, holding it in her hand. Domino’s face had changed to one of intrigue with a soupcon of pride at her own creation being used by someone else.

    “I want to make a deal.” Naoko stated firmly.

    Domino folded her arms, intrigued by the turn of events. “I’m listening.”

    “You.” She nodded to Proton. “You mentioned Lanette.”

    “What of it?” He replied, pacing across the room.

    “Take me to her.” Naoko gulped. “Take me to her and you can have this stupid thing.”

    “And why would we do that?” Proton asked, leaning on Mega-Sableye’s shield. “Why don’t we just take the Sapphire now and give you the same dose of that lily as your friend there?”
    “-Because I’m useful to you.” Naoko replied without a moment’s hesitation. “I have information that you will want. People underestimate me but I listen... And if it’s the Gems you want, I’m pretty sure I can help you with the biggest one of all.”

    “Naoko – no!” Erika yelled from across the room.

    “Shut it!” Domino bit back.

    “You can’t – you mustn’t!”

    Proton grunted and turned to Erika, still hunched over Janine, and kicked her straight in the stomach. She screamed out in pain and Proton lifted her chin, putting his face very close to hers.

    “The only reason that you’re still breathing is because I haven’t decided to kill you yet. Don’t make me make that decision, you little pretty thing.”

    Naoko’s calm composure was fast melting away. “Do we have a deal?!” She asked, feeling rushed for time.

    Before the Rockets could reply, the room began to shake. The swirling mass of flame above them had been eating away at the ceiling and it began to give way in the centre of the room. Sableye darted to its trainers, using its shield to protect them and Naoko as they took cover at the edges. Concrete, metal and assorted pieces of building fell through, forming a makeshift path up through what used to be the reinforced ceiling and into another room.

    “Look, we can get out this way!” Robin cried.

    The group could hear voices from above – any moment now, the vault would be filled with people and the Rockets knew they would be vastly outnumbered if things turned heated.

    “Well?!” Naoko asked again, somewhat more frantically than before.

    Domino looked at her dismissively and scoffed. “Deal.” And without even as much as a verbal command, Sableye pulled a veil of darkness over the three humans and they disappeared into a shadow sneak.

    Alex stood at the top of the hole in the ceiling, momentarily stunned, not sure what he had just witnessed. Like it was part of their everyday job, Courtney and Robin shepherded the rest of the VIPs and the wounded past him and down through the vault. To them, the vault was just another room filled with destruction on their way out of this hellfire but Alex knew something much more had happened here. Erika cried out for Alex and he ran towards her. She’d clearly been crying but was determined not to let it show.

    “Is that Janine – is she okay?!” Alex asked, not knowing who to ask about first.

    Erika nodded, “She’s breathing but… Naoko, she-she--.”

    Alex put two and two together and finished Erika’s sentence. “She went with them, didn’t she.”

    Erika stood up quickly and winced from the kick. “It wasn’t the Ruby, it was a magma stone – you can’t put out the flames it produces, you just have to wait for it to run its course. We need to get out of here and get word to Blaine, this place is a deathtrap. Where’s April and Adam?”

    “They’re safe, we just need to meet them out the front of the building. What about Crowe?”

    Erika just looked on to the other side of the room. On her way past, Courtney heard the cry of Crowe’s Umbreon, still conscious with a clear line of sight to its trainer. She stopped and knelt down, moving aside a piece of debris that had also trapped it. Before Courtney could stop it, Umbreon found some strength and staggered over to Crowe. She sniffed his face and then gave him a nudge with her head.

    No response.

    His body was stiff and Umbreon’s adrenaline began to fade. She let out a whimper and fell to the floor, nestled against Crowe’s trenchcoat, refusing to leave the trainer she loved so much.

    ---------------------

    People ran in all directions from the plaza immediately outside the dome. As Adam pursued the blonde woman, he noticed that she was headed towards two figures standing in the centre of the plaza, not running or cowering, but watching everything unfold. He recognised them as he got closer – Petrel and Ariana.

    The blonde approached them and they parted to let her pass before closing the gap again. Adam stopped in his tracks and was soon caught up to by April who realised who now stood in front of them. She attempted to continue forward but was stopped by Adam, grabbing her arm, who was adamant not to let her get any closer. She wrestled with his grip but he overpowered her. Instead she turned and cried out using the only name she had for the figure.

    “Mum!” April cried, succumbing to Adam’s grasp.

    Adam pulled his sister back, “It’s not her! Look. She doesn’t look a day older than when we last saw her.”

    In fact, she looked even younger than that. The woman was so fresh-faced, she practically had the skin of a newborn, glowing and radiant. The woman stopped and turned back to face April and Adam, saying nothing. He resemblance to Adam especially was striking. Her hair was the exact same shade of brilliant blonde as his and the shape of her face perfectly matched his: strong and defined, yet gentle. If this really was their mother, she showed no signs of trauma from the attack which had apparently claimed her life on Cleopatra Island all that time ago.

    A voice pinged through into Ariana’s ear.

    “The Ruby was a red herring – it’s a magma stone.”

    Ariana’s eyes widened and Petrel looked to her for confirmation, knowing what that would mean. “Confirmed. Dispatching an agent now. The Sapphire?”

    “Acquiring it now.” Proton replied.

    Ariana nodded her head at Petrel. “Get to the volcano; we need that Gem. We’ll handle this.”

    Following his orders, Petrel quickly made for the eastern edge of the plaza and vaulted over the stone railing and to the cliffs below. A few seconds later, a large grey blur shot to the sky with some speed and Petrel disappeared out to sea in the night sky, riding his Staraptor.

    After staring at each other intently, the blonde woman began to speak. “I suppose I can do away with this façade.” She said as the very air began to ripple around her. He purity of her pale skin faded away to reveal a completely different figure altogether. A cloaked woman now stood in front of them, slightly shorter than her previous form, who clutched a cane in one arm. Her face was similar but withered and wrinkled, the colour from her hair had faded and her skin had a tinge of blue to it. A large, bulging purple vein protruded across her face from her left cheek, across her nose to her right eye, looking very much like a scar. One could tell that her eyes used to have been brown, a very similar shade to April’s but these too had faded. All that remained were two very pale irises surrounded by bloodshot and blackness around the sockets.

    An intimidating bi-pedal fox pokemon with a crimson mane had become visible next to her as if from nowhere, appearing to have been the one to cast the illusion over its master, making her appear young. The Zoroark rested a claw on the ground, weary from holding the illusion for an extended time but still snarled, bearing its fangs ready to fight if ordered to.

    “It is her…” Adam whispered under his breath.

    “But, her face…”

    The woman’s voice was deep but sharp to the ear, nothing like one would expect from the blonde woman that stood in front of them moments ago. “Does my appearance startle you, child?”

    “You died – I saw you die!” April cried out into the now relatively empty plaza.

    Their mother exhaled in a small chuckle. “A story for another day.” She said as Ariana released her twin Arboks.

    In amongst the disbelief, April assessed the situation, not making sense of it. “You’re working with the Rockets?!”

    “I’m going to need you to come with me now.” She replied, disregarding the question entirely. “Now that you’re here, I can’t very well let you get away again.”

    The twin serpents hissed subtly as they slivered in a circle around the siblings.

    “Our mother would never be in league with the people that killed her!” Adam said firmly, releasing Growly and his Flygon. “You’re not her.”

    “Silence, brat!” Their mother yelled as a shadow ball appeared as if from nowhere above her head heading straight for Adam. Growly sensed this and jumped into its path, the attack sending him hurtling into his trainer. Adam caught him and was pushed to the floor.

    “Mum, stop!” April screamed, releasing Slowking and Manetric.

    Ariana pointed to Adam as he skidded across the ground and one of her Arboks made a beeline for him, coiling itself around his body in one swift motion. Adam still held Growly tightly who was already hurt from the shadow ball. Manetric snarled at the second Arbok that stretched out its body and bared its fangs next to it, getting ready to attack.

    Slowking quickly looked around and could sense the presence of a lot of pokemon. “April, this is bad!” He shouted, clutching his crown, sending an electric-blue flash of light out from his eyes.

    Suddenly, eight more pokemon became visible, one by one, floating around their mother. They were all Shuppets, their cloaked silhouettes flapping in the air.

    “I won’t ask again.”

    “This is madness – let him go!” She screamed, picking up a piece of a wooden beam up off of the floor. She began to run towards her brother when her mother tutted and lifted her arm, sending forth the Shuppets. They raced towards April but Slowking clocked this move and used his psychic abilities to telekinetically push three of them away across the plaza.

    “There’s too many of them!” He shouted, surrounded in an aura of blue.

    More of them came speeding towards April. She stopped in her tracks and batted the closest one away with the wooden beam using all of her might. The wood made contact with the pokemon and sent it skidding across the floor. Seconds later another propelled towards her and again she swung the beam as hard as she could, making contact and sending it flying in the opposite direction.

    The Arbok that wrapped around Adam began to constrict and Adam cried out in pain, shouting for help. Wrestling with the Zoroark, Flygon heeded its trainer’s call and pushed his enemy back with a flap of its wings just enough to fly towards him. Zoroark began crafting a new illusion. Flygon blinked. It opened its eyes to see two versions of Adam being smothered by an Arbok. Confused, it didn’t know which to fly towards.

    Not able to be quick enough to stop them, April found herself being latched on to by three Shuppets. They cloaked her face like a veil and stole her free will. She struggled against it and tried to pull them off of her face but it was futile. Her arms fell to her sides and she became limp, dropping the piece of wood.

    “Now come to Mummy.” The woman beckoned.

    April’s body floated through the air towards her mother being carried by her head by the Pokemon possessing her, the tips of her feet dragging across the ground. Flygon noticed Ariana’s gaze was fixed upon the version of Adam that was closest to her and used stone edge to fire some bullets of earth in its direction, just narrowly missing Ariana but making contact with the Arbok. The snake hissed with rage and released Adam who began gasping for air, slithering back towards its trainer. Zoroark’s illusion faded and, as soon as it did, the pokemon was hit by a powerful purple wave of energy from above.

    Adam looked to the sky to see an Altaria being ridden by Alex and Erika soaring down from above. A veil of shadow sneak was lifted in front of him as Proton and Domino appeared with Naoko. Struggling to breathe, Adam reached up for Naoko who stood unusually quiet and unresponsive above him, just looking down in his direction. She swallowed hard closed her eyes tightly in an attempt to ignore it.

    Proton nodded to Arianna who, in turn, looked to the Moon matriarch, she smiled and held her daughter’s hands that floated lifelessly in front of her. “Time to go home.” She said, signalling to the Rockets who withdrew their pokemon and disappeared in the blink of an eye into thin air thanks to a Kadabra summoned by Ariana.

    Altaria landed in the plaza and Erika wasted no time in dismounting, running to Adam’s aid. He clutched on to Erika’s floral clothing, still gasping for air. While she focused on his wellbeing, Alex looked around the empty plaza and was much more direct.

    “Adam - where’s April?!” He said, moving Adam’s face so that he was facing him.

    Adam concentrated on getting his breath back. For a moment he was so panicked that he couldn’t speak, but then he found his breath again. “They… They took her.”

    More thunderous crashes came from behind them as more of the stadium collapsed into itself. The Fushcia sky was lit by the flames of the Pokeathlon stadium: not by the symbolic flame that allowed the games to commence, but by the flames that brought them to a sudden halt. The hellfire burned brighter than it ever had right before it suddenly was extinguished all at once, leaving naught but ruins in its wake.
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      #52    
    Old August 7th, 2017 (6:23 PM).
    Astinus's Avatar
    Astinus Astinus is offline
       
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      These poor kids. They can never seem to catch a break, and this time, it seemed to be for nothing. Instead of protecting the Ruby, all they had was a Magma Stone which destroyed more than it saved.

      Naoko's turn was a shock! Lanette has to be really important to her, if she's willing to join with the Rockets just to see her friend. Shame about Crowe, though. And Janine.

      At least with April being taken, Adam and Alex have a more personal reason to join the fight. They were dragged into it before, but now they need to get April back. And just what is up with their mother still being "alive"?

      I'm glad that you're working on this, even after all these years!
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      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."
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        #53    
      Old September 11th, 2017 (1:43 PM). Edited September 11th, 2017 by FlaafyFTW.
      FlaafyFTW's Avatar
      FlaafyFTW FlaafyFTW is offline
      Researcher of Orange Lore
         
        Join Date: May 2009
        Location: Silph Co.
        Gender: Male
        Posts: 85
        Chapter 36 – Dissension in the Ranks

        “Pick up, pick up!” Erika grunted to the dialling tone of her mobile phone as she paced around in circles. She had been attempting to get a hold of Blaine, the Cinnabar Island Gym Leader, for the past five minutes straight. The group were on the farthest edge of the plaza overlooking the estuary of the Tyrian River that flowed beneath it. The strobing of blue lights lit up the cobbles signalling that emergency services had arrived at the scene. Robin and Courtney had escorted the remaining wounded safely from the building, Janine and Crowe included, and were being treated for their injuries by the medics.

        Manetric, unsure of where to go, picked up its pokeball with its mouth that April had dropped and nudged Slowking’s towards him and sat, curled around its friend. Slowking intentionally sat idly away from the group to see if he could communicate with his trainer telepathically, seeing as they had shared a link before thanks to Sabrina. He put aside all the wails and sirens to focus in on April, to see if he could pick up the slightest of a hint as to where she was. Sadly, he came up fruitless – he and Manetric were without a trainer.

        Alex kicked over a litter bin in frustration. “Why do we keep losing to these people?!” He bellowed, his voice being swallowed somewhat by the cacophony of sounds around him.

        “Be quiet.” Adam said sharply, staring over the stone balcony at the cascading water beneath him.

        Alex paused for a moment, taken aback by the comment. According to April and from what Alex had seen so far too, Adam was usually the one to make scene and let his emotions get the better of him. For Alex, this feeling was new. In the minutes since regaining his regular breathing pattern, Adam had been strangely quiet, as if the two boys had swapped roles.

        “Be quiet?” Alex chuckled exhaustedly. “In case you haven’t noticed, it’s pretty noisy around here with or without me making a few extra decibels!”

        “I’m trying to figure out where they took her,” Adam rested a hand on the balcony and turned to Alex rubbing his temple with his other hand, “which is a damn sight more than you’re doing or have done today.”

        “What is that supposed to mean?”

        Adam sighed. “You’re such a child. What difference have you made to this entire situation?” He said, turning to face Alex and gesturing to the burnt-out stadium. “Look around, Alex!”

        Catching wind of the comment, Erika bellowed, “Adam!” tilting her phone downward momentarily in a half-hearted attempt to shut him down with her tone, but failing, returning to the dialling tone of her phone.

        “What’s that supposed to mean - you’re what, two years older than me? Please.” Alex replied, brushing the comment off. “And you’ve changed your tone since Saffron. You’re just getting mad at me because you let April get taken.”

        There was a brief moment of silence as Adam processed Alex’s words. “…What did you say?”

        “You are the one that got her kidnapped, Adam.” Alex said, standing his ground with a mixture of confidence and rage. “I’ve been right there alongside her, protecting her when she needed it through all the **** we’ve had to deal with with the Rockets and today - forget Naoko, forget Janine – you were the one meant to be looking after her and you failed!”

        Indignant, Adam charged at Alex and tackled him to the ground, throwing punches as they both hit the floor. Alex took a punch to his side but managed to wrap his legs around the older boy’s sides and used Adam’s weight against him, rolling him back over so he was the one pinned to the floor. Both boys’ pokemon began to screech and growl viciously, wanting to move in and protect their trainers but knew better than to intervene.

        As more punches were thrown, Erika heard the commotion and turned. She dropped her phone and before it had even hit the ground, she was trying to wrestle one of the boys off the other. Erika managed to pull Adam back by his shoulders, panting and grunting from the fight. “Alex, go home! You literally have no reason to be here.” He snarled.

        “My friend needs me to help her. I’m not just going to up and leave her on her own like you did.” Alex snapped, wiping a drop of blood from his lip as he got up.

        Adam chuckled and shook his head. “There you go again - we never asked you to help!” He bellowed, still being held on to by Erika. Realising this, he pushed her back off him. “And what were you doing?!” Adam glared, turning his attention to the girl behind him. Blindsided, she barely formed a response before Adam cut her off entirely. “You said that you could handle it in there – I trusted you!”

        “Adam, it wasn’t that simple! Things happened and there were so many flames, I couldn’t use my Grass Pokemon in tha-“
        “-Forget it. You had one job and now, thanks to you, we lost both Gems AND April.”

        “Thanks to me?! I think you’re forgetting the real reason any of this all happened was because of Janine and Naoko.”

        Adam laughed in barefaced sarcasm. “You’re a Gym Leader for crying out loud! ‘Protector of the city’, one of the strongest trainers in the region;” Adam continued, making air-quotes with his fingers, “you’re not some newbie kid on the job like Janine – what the hell happened Erika?!”

        “Adam, lay off of her!” Alex interrupted, pushing him backwards. Adam, still visibly angered, readied himself to charge back again when Erika stepped forwards with her finger extended, having had enough of the whole situation.

        “No, you don’t get to do this. You don’t get to blame me or Alex. Unless you forget, I’m only here to help you out for something that your family got involved with. Your father’s research unearthed God only knows what to the world and now your mother is on the opposing side as well. We are doing you a favour!”

        Adam stared Erika out for a few seconds, contemplating her words. “That thing was not my mother.” Adam said, turning back towards his Flygon. “And if you want to do me a favour then just stay out of my way.”

        “Where are you going?!” Alex asked, seeing Adam mount his dragon.

        “To actually do something and get my sister back!”

        And with that, he took off across the sea into the night sky with only a few flaps of Flygon’s wings.

        For a moment, it was if time had frozen. The two simply stood, gazing into the darkness that Adam had disappeared into. Erika leant onto the stone barrier and stared out to sea, her face still tight with rage from the argument. Alex approached her, moving his chin around as if to check that it was still working and noticed that her eyes were glistening: she wasn’t quite crying but Alex could tell that that argument was very hard on her. From the short time that he had been in the company of the pair, he could tell that Adam and her shared a connection, and that of all the things she needed right then was a moment to compose herself.

        Inhaling deeply, Erika began to speak. “You need to go after him.” She said, her voice surprisingly stable. “He’s going to do something reckless and stupid because… well, he is him and he’s incredibly pissed off.”

        Alex couldn’t help but smile a little at that last comment. He didn’t think that Erika, who is usually so well-spoken, would deign to utter a curse word. But she was right, there was no other word that fit the statement so perfectly. The trouble was that Alex’s anger had yet to fully subside: although he had tried to empathise with Adam’s motives in the past, he never could quite understand him.

        “Why me? He’s bound to react better to you.”

        Erika shook her head. “The pollen from the lily that Naoko used on Crowe is a sleeping poison. The longer you’re unconscious for, the worse the effects of it are. The hospitals won’t have the remedy in but I can make some from my own plants if I can get back to my Gym fast enough.”

        “But Erika, you’re the Gym Leader here.” Alex said, still thinking about what Adam had said to him.
        “-And a lot of good that did me today.” Erika said almost automatically, as if she was expecting that response. “Alex look, these titles don’t mean anything in the real world. People can work their way to Elite Four Champion and still not have as much courage as you’ve got in your forearm. Adam was wrong: the amount of people that would still be standing where you are today after what you’ve been through are next to none. You’re a fantastic friend and even if he doesn’t show it, Adam respects you – we all do.”

        Alex didn’t know what to say. As much as he didn’t want to see Adam right now, he knew he had to chase after him if he was going to have any chance of rescuing April.

        “He’ll listen to you, I know it.” Erika said, certain of herself. She produced a pokeball and released a large, almost pre-historic pokemon with leaves for wings and began to climb onto it. “And as soon as I’m done at the Gym, I’ll be right behind you.”

        Alex gave a nod of understanding and Erika smiled in reply, giving an order to her Tropius to fly up high into the night sky. Alex covered his face as a gust of wind from the lift-off circled him. Reaching for Altaria’s pokeball, Alex turned around and opened his eyes to find that he was face to face with Manectric. Standing atop the discharge pokemon was Slowking, holding its pokeball.

        “We appear to be without a trainer.” Slowking said, pausing. “I can’t sense her anywhere and you are… the only other human we trust.”

        The psychic pokemon held up its pokeball in a gesture to Alex. After a moment, Alex felt something small and wet gently lift his hand: it was Manectric’s snout, gesturing the human to take the capsule. Conceding, Alex placed his hand on the pokeball and looked the two pokemon in their eyes.

        “I’m not going to be your trainer.” He began. “But I am going to promise you that I’m going to try and get her back. And to do that, I need to ask for your help.”

        ------------------------------------------

        Alex had always found pokemon evolution to be a curious thing - one being would suddenly transform into something completely new and it would just carry on with its life relatively un-phased.

        The wind rushed through Alex’s wispy hair as Altaria soared effortlessly through the morning sky, the amber sunlight warm to his skin. He had realised that he was riding atop the very same pokemon that only yesterday had been able to quite happily nestle itself on his head for hours on end. Alex reached out his hand and stroked the elegant furred neck in front of him and Altaria hummed melodically in response, it’s tune reminding him of the altaria he’d met back home.

        Filled with a myriad of emotions, Alex took a deep breath. Not for one moment since starting his journey as a trainer had he ever missed his farming life but he found himself longing for the simplicity of home. That, coupled with the guilt he felt for thinking this when his closest friend was in danger felt very paradoxical and toxic. He tried to think of more positives such as the pride at how much his pokemon have grown in the time that he had been with them but axiomatically the dangers that Altaria, Slowking, Ditto, Manectric and Chinchou were now faced with. The Rockets, the Moons’ mother, Naoko: their list of opposition was mounting up and Adam wasn’t going to be able to take them all on alone.

        He knew he would have to be smart about his approach to this but until he had caught up to Adam, there was no way he could make plan. The sky ahead was empty and cloudless with just the brilliance of the morning sunshine dominating the view. Adam and his Flygon were nowhere to be seen but using the GPS on his Pocketch, he knew that they were right on course for Cinnabar Island.

        Alex wasn’t the best flyer but he had occupied his mind with other thoughts on the ride over that it took him until halfway through the journey to take it all in. The group had reached Fuschia on Tropius and Flygon but there was something different about bring airborne on his own pokemon that seemed to put him at ease. The trip aboard Tropius had been a terrifying one: Alex had clung so tightly to Erika that he could have easily bruised her, simply from fear of falling. Being partners with Altaria made him feel safe, and even though they were in the midst of a chase, he couldn’t help but take it all in and enjoy the feeling of being airborne, holding out his right hand to see if he could catch a piece of cloud in it. Slowking sat in Alex’s lap, less amused.

        With what was to come, the pokemon trainer in Alex couldn’t pass up the opportunity for some advanced training on the go and released Ditto mid-air. With a cry of “transform!”, Ditto had to think on its metaphorical feet as if hurtled through the air in a flash of pink and disappeared into a cloud. For a few seconds, Alex became fearful that he had overestimated Ditto’s grasp of flight; it had only trained as small birds such as wingulls and swablus after all, what if Altaria was just too big? Those worries quickly faded as he noticed the ripples in the large cloud to his right and once he’d focussed his eyes, he could see the elegant blue neck of Ditto-taria amongst the camouflage. Not only had Ditto managed it but he was able to keep to the same speed as Altaria!

        Out of the nowhere, Slowking let out a short cry of anguish as a shooting pain darted through his skull: a sign that the shellder’s poison was again seeping through. Although these migraines had become less frequent, Slowking still dreaded them as although he could feel his own power growing, it would mean that he would find himself having to get used to his abilities all over again once they’d stopped. Alex’s attention quickly refocussed and he did what he could to ease Slowking’s headache. The pokemon squinted and curled into his self as a thousand noises darted through his skull: screams, nonsense and laughter before disappearing altogether.

        The pokemon opened his eyes cautiously. He found himself in Alex’s embrace, asking if he was okay. At least, that’s what Slowking understood him to be saying. All the noises around him had dulled and there was a new eerie quietness to the world around him… apart from one thing: a voice. It was faint, but also prominent in this world of calm. Slowking could definitely hear it but had to concentrate to understand what it was saying. The voice reminded him of Sabrina and her psychic cry for help but something here felt very different to that; it was as if the voice was genderless and devoid of any urgency.

        Explaining the situation to his companion, Slowking pointed to the island appearing on the horizon ahead of them – Cinnabar – its landscape dominated by the volcano at the centre. As they drew in closer, they could see that the volcano was very much part of the coastal settlement itself with buildings having been crafted into the cliff face. The cuboid exteriors protruded from the volcano and ascended the mountain in an elegant helix, stopping just before the crater at its summit. Flying high into the air, Alex could see that the crater had a hardened shell, blocking entrance into its depths from above.

        “It’s coming from down there.” Slowking said, clutching his sheller-crown with his paw and pointing to the base.

        “It has to be Adam or April – they’re calling for help!” Alex concluded.

        “No,” Slowking protested, “It is different from before…”

        “Whatever it is, we need to get inside that volcano. If Erika is right then the Magma stone must have come from the Heatran that lives in there, which means that it’s now got the Ruby instead. If we find the Ruby, then we find the Rockets and Adam and April. If that voice is coming from the same place, then I say we go for it.” Alex took a deep breath, summoning the courage to try to believe in his own ignorance. “It’s a sign, right?”

        Slowking cast a look of both concern and apprehension toward Alex as Altaria began to dive. He guided the cloud pokemon to an unassuming building sat midway up the mountain which, upon closer inspection, seemed to be abandoned. Alex and Slowking dismounted Altaria and promptly withdrew it. Ditto-taria landed shortly after but wanted to remain outside its pokeball, transforming into its old Eevee form. Looking around, Alex noticed that even though it was early morning, the buildings around this one seemed particularly desolate – in fact, they all seemed to be part of the same building that protruded from the cliff face in multiple places.

        “Are you sure it’s coming from in here?” Alex asked, ascending a small set of steps to the entrance.

        “I’m certain.” Slowking replied, staring at the doors marked “MFBG Labs” embossed onto a logo in the shape of a crescent moon.
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          #54    
        Old September 14th, 2017 (1:17 PM).
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        Astinus Astinus is offline
           
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          So glad to see an update!

          I have to admit that I like that Adam and Alex had a fight. They're both under a lot of stress, and now that April is gone, they have a lot more to worry about. It might not have been the healthiest discussion they could have had, but I'm sure it was necessary for them to get those emotions out of the way.
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          "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."
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            #55    
          Old September 24th, 2017 (3:44 AM). Edited September 26th, 2017 by FlaafyFTW.
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          FlaafyFTW FlaafyFTW is offline
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            Spoiler:
            I found this chapter incredibly difficult to write, both for the length, the plot points and to begin wrapping things up neatly. I must have written the ending a few times, (especially in my head) but decided to leave it the original way. Anyway - enjoy! Let me know what you think.


            Chapter 37 – The Monster, the Fraud, the Bastard and G.

            Alex pushed open the large wooden doors of MFBG in front of him to reveal a stone corridor. It seemed that the lab was not only built into the side of the mountain itself but also made to blend in using the shame shade of stone to decorate the walls and ceilings. The corridor stretched straight out into the darkness ahead of him, with the light from the morning sun behind him not yet being strong enough to illuminate the passage.

            Reaching out to the wall, Alex found the light switch and flicked it – nothing. The voice inside his head chuckled as he thought, ‘Of course’. Suddenly a gust of wind blew from behind him, blowing more dust and dirt in to join the rest of the crumpled leaves scattered across the floor. At first, a piece of a banner of some sort caught itself between Alex’s legs but after shake, it blew straight through and came to rest on the ground in front of him. The banner was white and had the words “CONDEMNED by order of the Kanto Fire Department”, written across it in bolded print.

            That meant one of two things: there had been a major fire here or that the building wasn’t structurally sound. From the outside, Alex hadn’t noticed either but thinking about it, he could smell the feint scent of burning in the air. Undeterred, Alex released his chinchou into his arms and pressed forward, its antennae lighting the surrounding area like little light bulbs.

            His footsteps echoed throughout the building as inside, there didn’t seem to be any doors, just large rectangular archways leading from room to room. As he passed one such room, he could see that they were aesthetically different from the hallway; the cold stone motif became the formerly sterile white tiled lab floor with metal trolleys and various other pieces of debris scattered about. Slowking made a right turn into a narrow room with bookcases lining the walls to the left and right where the shelves stood empty and layered with dust. Alex ran a finger across one of the shelves and rubbed the dust between his fingers, it turning them black – it was ash. Looking closer at the walls, he could tell that they weren’t burnt and showed no signs of having had a fire spread to them and was confused as to how the ash got there.

            Hearing a floorboard squeak from the next room, Alex realised that Slowking had proceeded without him and hurried to catch up. This room was larger and more decorative with bookshelves and cabinets dotted about. Two sofas with a dustsheet placed over them were in the centre of the room and Slowking stood to the right, looking up at the wall. As he entered, Alex noticed the graffiti on the wall that Slowking was also staring at. It was written in a luminous yellow and was even faintly visible in the darkness. Chinchou’s antennae shed some light on the wall and it read, “POKEMON AREN’T THE MONSTERS, WE ARE.”

            The message looked faint, as if it had been there for a while. Slowking turned toward the southern archway stating, “Whatever is in here is feeding off these emotions.” Alex turned to follow suit but noticed another piece of graffiti, written in white this time saying, “YOU SHOULD BURN FOR WHAT YOU’VE DONE.”

            Alex gripped Chinchou just a little bit tighter. Upon closer inspection, all of the walls of this room were defaced by one menacing message or another, all written in different styles and some written over the top of others.

            “What the hell is this place?” Alex quietly asked himself under his breath. Judging by the desolate shelves, the building had been cleared out a long time ago but for all he could recall he had never heard of MFBG Labs – the big names locally were Silph and Devon. Alex moved forwards and heard and felt the crunch of broken glass below him. Lifting his foot, he noticed that a small frame was face-down in pieces on the floor; whoever was packing away was clearly in a rush. He knelt down and picked it up and inside he found a newspaper article with “LIES” scrawled across the front in black ink. Examining it closely, Alex could see that it was dated from 20 years prior.

            “Dream Team of Scientists Granted State-of the-Art New Premises”, Alex began, reading the article through the graffiti. In the picture were four men smiling, stood arm-in-arm outside the lab. “Noted scientists Franklin Blaine, Hiro Fuji, Simon Gideon and Isaac Moon-“ Alex stopped in his tracks realising that Isaac Moon was Adam and April’s father - MFBG stood for Moon, Fuji, Blaine and Gideon! These were four names that Alex recognised but he had not met a single one of them. Eager to find out more, he carried on reading, “…have been granted funding and new premises on Cinnabar Island. The so-called ‘Pokemon Mansion’ is said to be equipped with the very latest technology to enable the team to continue their ground-breaking work after their success this year in improving pokeball capture rates.”

            The article raised more questions than it answered, leaving Alex to wonder exactly what Isaac Moon was doing when he worked there to garner so much hate. Looking back at the photo, he could see the family resemblance in Isaac’s face to his children’s, although his similarity to April was much more obvious than to Adam.

            Alex folded the article and put it into his pocket as he walked into the next room, being hit by a dense layer of thick, muggy air. Stopping to take notice, Alex was now in a much more laboratory-esque room. The floors were once again tiled and littered about the room were desks that one could assume used to have been paired together in an orderly fashion but were now spread apart, with one even having been toppled over. By the look of it, the room had been completely ransacked: many of the drawers had been pulled completely from their railings and hang been flung across the floor, but yet there was no graffiti on the walls. Finding this curious, Alex approached the nearest one – from the light of Chinchou’s antennae they looked filthy but upon touching it, the wall was frail and crisp – it had been burnt.

            Realising this, something compelled Alex to look to the floor and he could see that it was coated in the same layer of ash that was on the shelves in the room before, only on a much larger scale. In the Ash Alex saw his own footsteps, a smaller set from Slowking and an even more miniscule set from Ditto-eevee. He followed them and noticed Ditto disappearing from view behind the toppled desk and gave chase.

            MFBG was truly a maze-like structure; Alex had already lost all sense of direction. Stopped still like a statue, Slowking stood resolute in the middle of the next archway.

            “It’s here. Whatever it is, is here.” Slowking announced.

            In front of them was a large square room with the remains of what looked like four offices, one in each corner with a cross-section of a waiting area in the middle. The ash in this room was denser, with the walls more obviously charred. The internal walls of the offices were glass but ash clung to them, obscuring the views inside. One of the north-east office’s glass walls had been smashed and the south-west’s was heavily cracked, obscuring it’s view even further. The ash now crunched underfoot but as Alex stopped to listen, he heard something else entirely – a whisper.

            He paused and closed his eyes in an attempt to work out if what he’d just heard was real or a figment of his imagination. It hadn’t said words, merely a sharp intake of breath that sounded eerily like a child’s laugh… but in a whisper nonetheless. On hearing it again, he opened his eyes and turned to Eevee and Slowking, “You heard that, right?”

            Both pokemon confirmed his thoughts and Alex took out Manectric’s pokeball and readied it tightly in his hand, in case it was needed, edging closer to the source of the sound in the northwest office. As he approached, he could see that the doors to the offices had each been vandalised with a word. “Fraud” and “Bastard” had been written on the doors to the southeast and southwest offices respectively, and the northeast door had been taken off of the hinges but the word on the northwest office remained: “Monster”. A crude reference to each of the Dream Team – MFB and what could have been assumed to be something beginning with G.

            Summoning the courage, Alex pushed open the door to the office in one swift motion and for a moment saw nothing but the charred remains of an office in disarray… until he looked a little closer. On the ground staring straight at him was a pokemon and one that he’d seen before – a shuppet. Startled, Alex let out a small yelp but the pokemon in front of him did not move; it was simply hovering extremely close to the floor with its eyes transfixed on him. Ditto appeared at his side and began to growl, sensing danger.

            Moving slowly so as not to spook the creature in front of him (even though he’d just violently opened the door), Alex withdrew his pokedex and quickly switched it to silent mode. The screen lit up displaying the usual information.

            “I can… hear what it’s thinking.” Slowking stated, untrusting of his own abilities. Alex gestured to Slowking to not speak but it was already too late, however the shuppet remained unphased. “What does the pokedex say?” Slowking whispered, curiously.

            Alex began reading the passage aloud. “Shuppet, the puppet pokemon. Often found in packs, these ghost-types feed on dark emotions of humans such as jealously and vindictiveness in order to grow stronger. Usually active at night, shuppet retreat to their nests during the day.”

            The shuppet began to hum sporadically on the floor. Alex had never encountered a ghost-type in the wild before and didn’t particularly like the feeling it gave him.

            “These are the pokemon that the Rockets have been using to control people.” Alex deduced, remembering the shuppets he’d encountered at Silph and Fuschia. “This means-“ Alex paused and turned to Slowking, an idea surging through his mind. “You can hear the shuppet, right?”

            Slowking nodded.

            The penny dropped. “There’s a move called Extra-sensory that allows other pokemon to make contact with ghosts – look.” Alex brought up the move on the pokedex screen to prove his point. “This explains why you were so receptive to Sabrina’s cry for help because you’d been getting interference from the shuppet that was controlling her too.”

            Although appreciative of Alex’s efforts, Slowking shot Alex a look – the same look that April used to give – that said “There’s a time and a place”. Snapping out of it, Alex’s mind raced to the next question: if a shuppet was here then where were the Rockets?

            Slowking concentrated on the pokemon in front of him. “It’s not making much sense. It’s just saying ‘feed’ over and over but I can feel what it’s feeling. It’s feeding on something.”

            Alex grunted. “Well I’m done waiting around for answers, time to take a leaf out of Adam’s book. Ditto - Take Down!”

            Without hesitation, Ditto (in Eevee form) ran head-first toward shuppet, encased in a white light and lunged into it, propelling it across the room and into the wall behind it. Ditto, unused to the move, lost its footing upon landing and skidded across the floor, grazing itself slightly. Holding Chinchou in one hand, Alex threw one of his last pokeballs he’d received from Ivy at the puppet pokemon, transforming it into red energy and trapping it inside.

            Alex walked over the wooden floor to collect his new pokemon but, to his disappointment, couldn’t see anything Shuppet could have been feeding on. Frustrated, he released the pokemon from its ball. As soon as Shuppet materialised, it made a beeline for exactly the same spot it had been before, muttering incessant gibberish to itself.

            “It’s feeding again.” Slowking confirmed, walking further into the office. Alex withdrew Shuppet and examined the spot on the floor carefully. Sweeping away the ash, he could see a small hole in one of the more heavily marked floorboards; it had an impression as if a desk leg or something similar had been kept in the same place for a substantial amount of time. Alex poked his finger through the hole and found that part of the floorboard was a fake and it lifted right up. Inside the small compartment sat a worn A5 leather-bound book.

            Feeling rather underwhelmed at the find, Alex picked it up. “This is what it was feeding on?” He asked, exchanging a confused glance with Slowking. To test it, he placed the book in the waiting area, released Shuppet again and it sure enough floated over even quicker than before and sat hovering over the book. That had confirmed it.

            Withdrawing Shuppet back into its pokeball, Alex’s eye was caught by an amber glow. Straight in front of him was a corridor that led to an archway filled with amber light – the volcano. He felt stupid for not having seen it before but having been too fixated upon Shuppet and MFBG, he didn’t notice that he no longer needed Chinchou’s light to see. Withdrawing his youngest pokemon, Alex picked up the book and tucked it into the back of his trousers, heading for the light.

            Passing under the archway and through a set of reinforced doors, he had entered the core shaft of the volcano. Standing on a natural rock pathway, the shaft extended high above him to the natural ceiling of the cave: the crust of the volcano. A single beam of morning sunshine shone through a small hole in the crust, the light refracting off the strange rock of the shaft, making it clear that lurking below was a pit of bubbling molten lava. Straight in front stretched out a long, thin natural rock bridge to the other side of shaft where another set of reinforced doors waited. Looking above him, Alex could see a countless number of these seemingly precarious rock pathways leading from one side to the other intermittently as if the whole of the volcano’s residents and businesses were interconnected.

            Alex could hear commotion from further inside and quickly made for further up the rock bridge. The bridge itself led to a large central platform, so large that it had a full-sized battle arena painted on it. To the left of the arena, a large red pokemon coated in steel shackles and facial armour that Alex recognised from Erika’s descriptopn as a Heatran, lay injured, wheezing heavily whilst Adam and another man were fighting fiercely with their pokemon. Adam’s Growlithe and Flygon were locked in intense combat with a Weezing and Staraptor but Adam was determined to get to his opponent himself, attempting to cross the battlefield but being thwarted each time by his enemy’s monsters. Adam backstepped from a direct attempt to be rammed into by Weezing and considered his next move when all of a sudden, the battle came to a natural stalemate. All of its participants looked to each other, waiting for one another to make the next move.

            Neither trainer had noticed Alex’s presence. It was then that Alex could see who it was that Adam was in such an intense fight with – Petrel - the Rocket member that had been at Silph and the Cerulean Mansion. A rush of anger and vengefulness swept over him as he remembered the events of that day – the day his Sandshrew died. Alex hadn’t been close enough to Petrel yet to fully realise the extent of the rage and sorrow that he felt but now was his chance to seek vengence and he was going to take it.

            Without thinking, he began charging towards Petrel and tackled him to the floor. Petrel’s pokemon turned to examine the noise and Adam knew that this was his window. Leaving themselves open to attack, Adam’s pokemon seized the opportunity and landed two critical hits on the opposing team: Flygon throwing Staraptor to the ground with a Seismic Toss and Growlithe trapping Weezing in a Fire Spin.

            Alex began pummelling Petrel as hard as he could, but was cut short by the Rocket leader pushing him off and scrambling to his feet. Petrel was in his mid-twenties and was a good few inches taller and broader than him but Alex stood undeterred. Petrel wiped his nose that had started bleeding and reached for another pokeball from his belt, seeing that his current pokemon were now useless to him. Alex raised a hand defiantly as Flygon, Ditto, Growlithe and Slowking all surrounded him. “Don’t even think about it.”

            Petrel’s eyes darted back and forth as he looked for an escape route, looking visibly shaken – an emotion that he hadn’t shown before. Backing up slowly, the Rocket found himself at the edge of the platform. He turned his head to see the pebbles form under his heel hurtle to the fiery pit below and shuffled forward a few centimetres. Before he knew it, Alex again charged for him, this time grabbing Petrel by the collar with both hands, not stopping to think that a man of Petrel's size could usually overpower him if he wanted to. Petrel clasped for Alex’s arms as he was being pushed backwards but couldn’t pull them off him.

            Adrenaline setting in and with the glint of fury in his eyes, Alex pushed Petrel until his body was dangling over the edge with only his tiptoes on the platform. Petrel screamed, visibly flustered.

            “You…” Alex began, staring at Petrel.

            “Alex stop – we need him alive!” Adam cried, moving in to pull him back.

            “You murdered my Sandshrew! He was small and defenceless and you gutted him for no reason – I should kill you!” Alex began to shake Petrel violently. “How does it feel?! How does it feel to know that there’s absolutely nothing you can do right now?!”

            “Alex that’s enough!” Adam roared, pulling Alex back onto the platform and with that, Petrel out of his grasp. The Rocket fell onto the hard rock and into the side of the large, injured pokemon. Leaving Alex alone, this time Adam approached him. “This is your last chance – where is my sister?!”

            Petrel smirked. Heatran began to moan thunderously, making the very cavern itself rumble. The group lost their footing and fell to the floor.

            “What’s happening?!” Slowking asked, clutching the ground as he attempted to stand.

            An ear-splitting cracking echoed throughout the shaft as the crust overhead began to crumble, raining earth and rock rained from above. The morning sunlight blanketed the cavern as Petrel rose to his feet and held a brilliant amber gem high into the air: it was the Ruby: being in such close proximity to Heatran gave Petrel the perfect opportunity to swipe the Gem from the injured pokemon’s care.

            A large, fearsome Golbat swooped seemingly from nowhere and snatched the Ruby in its tiny talons.

            “No, you can’t!” Adam bellowed. “Heatran controls the volcano – it keeps it dormant. Without its stone, it’ll erupt and take us and this whole island with it!”

            Petrel giggled like a schoolboy up to no good. Shrugging his shoulders he simply said, “Whoops”.

            Golbat circled overhead and before Adam could grab him, Petrel ran towards the edge. Enraged, Alex seized the opportunity once more to stop the Rocket and intercepted his run with another tackle, just as Golbat swooped down to save its trainer, only narrowly missing. Struggling but pinned to the floor, Alex and Adam held him at bay. He let out a sharp whistle from underneath the two boys that signalled Golbat to escape. Seeing the bat pokemon begin its swift ascent, Adam immediately commanded Flygon to give chase.

            A large piece of rock crashed only centimetres from the boys sending a large portion of the arena hurtling to the fire pit below. Petrel could now see what was directly underneath: that the bubbling lava was rising! The heat rapidly rising, Slowking’s head once again began to throb, he could hear something again, the same as the last time but coming from Petrel himself. Slowking scanned the area with his eyes, found what he was looking for and tried to get Alex’s attention.

            “Where is she?!” Alex bellowed, ignoring Slowking. “Tell us or so help me, I’ll throw you in myself!”

            “Alex!” Slowking tried again, but to no avail. Frustrated, Slowking took matters into his own hands.

            Petrel chuckled once again. “Well it looks as if my time is up.”

            As he finished his sentence, the area just above Petrel’s head was struck by a jet of water. Suddenly, a shuppet apparated and was propelled away from its host, knocking him unconscious, and hurtled to the lava below, being swallowed by the dense flame without even a ripple.

            Once again, the cavern shook and a plume of lava burst forth from below behind them. Alex immediately released his grip on the unconscious Petrel, feeling tainted and blinded by rage. Everything had happened far too quickly for him to process – was the person in front of him actually the cruel, heartless person he thought he was? Were the Rockets all like this?

            The lava level was dangerously close to the arena now and Adam grunted loudly at Petrel losing consciousness, not fully understanding the situation. “We’re going to have to take this piece of crap with us!” Adam shouted as the room became more violent and volatile. “Alex!” Adam bellowed, attempting to snap Alex out of a daze. Unable to do so, Adam ordered Ditto to transform into Altaria and take the Pokemon to safety and released the real Altaria using the pokeball from Alex’s belt.

            Coming to his senses, Alex helped Adam to lift Petrel onto Altaria, draping him over Altaria’s body like a rug, agreeing that Alex would sit at the front to keep the Rocket from falling. Ditto-taria took off and made for the morning sun with the remaining pokemon all safely aboard. The floor rumbled and the arena began to crack as Alex climbed into position – the lava had reached them.

            “We need to go – now!” Adam screamed, jumping onto Altaria’s cotton wing. Altaria screeched as the arena melted from beneath its feet and took off without a command, flapping its wings several times to get an updraft. Fleeing as quick as possible, the ride was not a smooth one; Alex attempted to hold on to Altaria’s neck with one arm, whilst to keep Petrel secure with the other. This was not an easy task since the adrenaline had since worn off.

            Altaria ascended, swerving around pieces of the crust that still rained down as Adam clung as tightly as he could to its wing. Almost to the crust, the sun blinded them. A large piece of rock fell from above just narrowly missing Altaria. The dragon took immediate action and flung its wings forward halt its own advance so forcefully that Adam lost his grip and careered him forwards through the air.

            Acting on instinct, Alex released his right arm from Altaria’s neck and reached for Adam, grabbing his arm. Adam clutched Alex with both hands, gasping as he attempted to find a footing to climb on to but there was none. Petrel’s body began to slide to the left and Alex gripped him tighter using one to counteract the weight of the other.

            “Hold on!” Alex cried desperately as Adam dangled in midair.

            Adam gripped Alex’s arm as tightly as he could but knew that Alex wasn’t the strongest boy and that he wouldn’t be able to hold onto both him and Petrel at once: they would either both fall or one of them could. Knowing what was to come, his eyes began to water.

            “Come on Adam… climb!” Alex cried, his arms feeling as if they were being pulled from their sockets.

            Adam saw Alex glance towards Petrel and could read his thoughts instantly. “Don’t you dare drop him!” Adam bellowed. “If you drop him, we lose any chance of finding April – you need him!”

            “-But Adam!“
            “-I’m sorry about what I said before – about calling you just a kid. I didn’t mean any of it! You’ve done more for us than either of us could have hoped for!”

            Alex shook his head as he too started to cry. “Please don’t do this, Adam!”

            “Just… do me one more favour.”

            Not wanting to, Alex nodded.

            Adam took a deep breath and swallowed, making his peace with the situation.

            “Tell Erika that I love her.”

            And with that, Adam’s hands slipped through Alex’s. The boy that Alex had come to know, his friend and rival, plummeted through the shroud of steam and smoke and was consumed by the depths of the cavern as Altaria flew skyward.
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              #56    
            Old March 18th, 2018 (1:08 AM).
            FlaafyFTW's Avatar
            FlaafyFTW FlaafyFTW is offline
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              Chapter 38 – Veronica

              The island had erupted – not just in flame but in a frenzy of panic.

              Unable to maintain flight after the intensity of the climb, very shortly after Ditto-taria rose over the edge of the volcano’s crater, it began careening down the cliff face narrowly avoiding the trails of lava already exiting the various entrances inside. It wasn’t until they came to a standstill that Alex’s senses could begin to comprehend what was happening around them.

              Covered in soot, Alex stared blankly out to sea and into the distance in shock. He could not feel himself breathing, although it was erratic from smoke inhalation; his vision was blurred and the world around him turned as if he were dizzy; all he could hear was a piercing high-pitched screech. In that moment, where his heart beat felt as if it was throbbing up his body and into his brain, he felt at peace just to watch the silent ocean in front of him as he lost consciousness, falling into a heap on the ground.

              In what simultaneously felt like minutes and hours later, he began to come to, staring at the sky. As his vision focused, Alex could see Erika’s face looking at his, panicked. Her lips were moving and she was screaming something but he couldn’t hear a thing: not the sirens wailing across the island, the awesome sound of the mechanised volcano bulkheads closing or his friend’s voice desperately sensing that something had gone wrong. From what he could work out, she was saying the same word over and over again – “Adam”. Using what little strength he had, he raised a finger just high enough to point toward the volcano before losing consciousness once again.

              Eventually, Alex regained consciousness, this time to what felt like an assault on his senses: the very ground was trembling, a bombardment of sounds flew through the air and the intense heat felt like his skin could burst into flame.

              Noticing that he and his pokemon had found themselves on a small clifftop, Alex also began making sense of the sounds – but not those he was expecting. The flowing lava had managed to partially escape from most of the connecting tunnels into the volcano before the bulkheads had closed but, although it was a relatively fast-moving substance, the destruction seemed to be happening in slow motion. The lava moved like nothing he had seen before; it engulfed everything it touched with not even a sound but the hiss of heat. No big explosions. No crumbling of structures. It was just erasing everything it touched.

              From behind him, Alex could hear a cacophony of voices shout out. He pushed himself up onto all fours and peered over the edge. On the south-west side of the island, survivors of the eruption had gathered on the beach next to the nearby pokemon centre – the only part of the island that had stayed relatively unaffected. People were frantic and understandably distraught.

              The pokemon centre staff were providing the best medical care they could, setting up a trauma centre on the sand. It was then that Alex spotted Erika amongst the nurses helping the wounded. Tropius lay further down on the beach, its wings blackened and burned away at the sides. He knew that that had meant that Erika had attempted to head straight for the volcano crater in an attempt to find Adam. However, being a grass-type specialist has its downfalls and one of them meant that she would not be able to go anywhere near fire, let alone an erupting volcano.

              It was then that it hit him: Adam, April, the Rockets… Petrel.

              Adam.

              Summoning the strength to stand up, Alex withdrew the unconscious Ditto and Growlithe to the safety of their pokeballs. Slowking was sat on a rock, clutching its head with one hand – worn out but still functioning – staring at the rocket that shared the clifftop with them. Petrel lay stretched out across the dirt. Alex didn’t know which of the myriad of emotions boiling to the surface to feel. Adam had fallen into a pit of molten lava for him. But the trouble was, was it actually him or just the shuppet?

              “Wake up.” Alex said firmly, kicking Petrel in his side with the strength he could muster. Petrel coughed and winced, regaining consciousness. Realising where he was and what had happened, Petrel’s eyes grew wide and he attempted to scramble backwards but froze, suddenly surrounded by a purple aura.
              Alex looked to Slowking who nodded in recognition.

              “P-please – don’t hurt me!” Petrel pleaded, sounding more cowardly than before.

              “Talk!” Alex bellowed, kicking him again. “Where’s April? What do you people want?!”

              “Stop, stop!” Petrel cried. “I’ll tell you everything, just…let me go!”

              Alex again nodded and Slowking released Petrel from his psychic grip.

              After a few deep breaths the Rocket began rambling but Alex could not make much sense of what he was saying. After being freed from the control of a shuppet, Alex wasn’t sure if or how much of what had happened this man was even a part of. Petrel began spouting half sentences such as, “I couldn’t stop…”, “I didn’t know…” and “I just…”. He seemed to be a hollow shell of the man that Alex had despised for the past few months – beaten, stammering and flitting from one emotion to the next – this certainly wasn’t the criminal he had known.

              Thinking back to when he had been inconsolable as a child and learned that he wasn’t allowed to go on a pokemon trainer journey like his friends, he had been in a state just like Petrel. It felt like he was so upset that he didn’t know where or how to begin explaining his feelings. Luckily, he had had Felina to sit down beside him and start from the ground up so in this situation he knew just what to do.

              Alex knelt down next to the Rocket and asked, “Who are you?”

              From there, Petrel was able to organise his thoughts.

              “What do you remember?” Alex asked after a few minutes.

              “The shuppets… they controlled me. It was like I was watching myself from outside my body but I could hear the thoughts of all… the Others.”

              “The Others?” Slowking asked.

              Petrel looked around him as if to check that no one was looking and leant forward to whisper, “The other shuppets.”

              “What do you mean?” Alex asked.

              Petrel began twiddling his fingers, “they’re all connected, but like a hive mind. All of them, controlled by one person.”

              “April’s mother.” Slowking answered, putting the pieces together.

              “Veronica Moon.” Petrel continued, “It’s like I know her… like I was her for all this time.”

              “So then you know where they took April?!” Alex asked.

              Petrel nodded.

              “I do.”

              --------

              The room was darkness.

              With a rasp of breath, April came to; her body desperate for air, contorting as she writhed back and forth. Once her breathing became regular, her next instinct was to explore. Unable to see, fear and panic had begun set in; she had no memory of where she was or how she got there, just that the last thing she remembered doing was battling the woman claiming to be her mother outside the Pokethlon Stadium.

              From the springiness of her current perch, she could tell that she was sat on a mattress; a bland one without any sheets or duvet. April’s hands found their way to the edge of it and then to the wall next to it. The paint was cold and smooth to the touch until she felt a wooden doorframe. Instantly she began to reach for the handle but hesitated, choosing instead to press her ear against it to give her any kind of indication of what was on the other side.

              It was feint but she could hear the sounds of nature: a soft breeze blowing against the door, the ebb and flow of the ocean and crickets chiming periodically – this was the way out!

              Slowly, April opened the door, peering through the gap. It was night, but the land was lit by twilight; the stars seemed to have come out in their thousands and the moon shone brilliantly. Ahead of her stood a crumbling brick archway that must have been part of a greater structure as well as various pieces of debris. Nature itself seemed to have taken over as the grass was overgrown and ivy gripped much of the rubble. Nevertheless, there was a relatively clear path ahead that would take her into a wooded area where she could hide and make her escape… but something was wrong – it was too easy.

              “Screw it.” April thought, “I’m not staying here.”

              And with that, she made a beeline for the trees, vaulting over a pile of bricks. As she approached the archway, it was struck by a blast of energy causing it to crumble and fall into itself in front of her.
              A haze of dust and debris took a few moments to disappear and in its wake stood the decrepit figure of her mother.

              “Darling, running away again?” She asked slyly, her piercing deep voice making April freeze in her tracks. “You wouldn’t leave me here a second time would you?”

              The sound of the waves clashing against the coastline filled the air as April stood, confused.

              “W-what do you mean?”

              Veronica began walking towards her daughter as she began to chuckle. Eight sets of eyes appeared around her.

              “Don’t tell me that you do not remember this place…”

              And as quickly as April blinked, four of the shuppets had darted toward her, one attaching itself to each of her limbs, suspending her slightly above the ground. April resisted but it was futile - there was no way for her to break herself free. The shuppets rotated her to face the door she had just exited from and Veronica leaned in close behind her daughter, pointing so her finger was in April’s line of sight.

              “In there was where you would come to find me at night if you had had a nightmare.” She began, turning April as she continued. “Down here by the beach was where you used to play games with Adam…”

              They rotated again, this time towards an old dirt path.

              “That’s where we used to walk into town to go to the fair… And this –“ She said, turning April even more abruptly back towards the forest. Leaning closer in to April’s ear and raising her wrinkled finger to the trees. She whispered, “this is where you ran away and left me to die.”

              April’s body trembled and tears began to stream down her cheeks: she had realised where she was. Her life flashed before her eyes like a jigsaw fitting together as pieces of rubble formed houses, stars in the sky became memories and the smell of the ocean washed over her as if she were laying on the beach as a child.

              She was home.

              ---------

              “Cleopatra Island – her home. You see, she resents the entire world. She is so envious of what people have because she’s still in mourning.”

              “In mourning? But she was the one who was meant to have died – April told me herself.”

              “Yes, on the night of the Rocket raid on Cleopatra. Two years ago, the raids on the Sevii Islands left only a few of us still loyal to the Rocket cause but without a leader we were lost. We’d heard whispers of the Boss being somewhere on the Orange islands so Domino, Arianna, Proton and me skipped town and ended up on Cleopatra.

              I don’t know what happened to those three, maybe it was desperation, I don’t know, but one thing led to another and they were torturing the locals, trying to get information out of them. This was Team Rocket – we stole pokemon and sold them for profit, not burnt down villages. I just stood there and watched…

              Arianna then focused on one husband and wife –“

              “-Adam and April’s parents.” Alex said, finishing Petrel’s sentence.

              “Isaac and Veronica.” Petrel nodded. “Not able to get any information, Arianna’s Arbok bit into Veronica, poisoning her, while Isaac was crushed by the snake’s constricting body.

              We left, getting none of the information we’d come for. But Veronica was still alive, if only just. She examined Isaac’s body and realised he was dead and while the poison took effect she called out for her children but got no response. Assuming they were dead, she gave up all hope and screamed out into the night, full of rage, hate and sorrow.

              Cleopatra Island is named for the types of pokemon that live there, those that are poisonous and feed off of others’ pain, like Cleopatra and her asp. So that night, the village was like a feeding ground for them. The island’s shuppet population crept in and ignored those that had already died - Veronica was fresh meat, she was suffering then and there bursting with sorrow. What crueller fate is there than to be left alive when everyone around you perished?

              Suffering, anguish, wrath. She found herself being fed-on by ghosts. But instead of devouring her whole, she found that they each numbed her to her feelings, taking away her physical pain. She found out that as they fed on her, she could control them – she became one with a greater power.

              She did what most would – having nothing left, seeking revenge became her priority. She began to control them by giving up parts of her soul, her memories, her life force but the more ghosts she amassed, the more of herself she lost. It didn’t take her long to track us down but, instead of killing us, she puppeted us. She became in control of the very woman that had almost killed her but by that time she had lost her way and couldn’t remember why she had begun this journey to begin with.

              The Others had taken over - she was motivated only by the needs of the ghosts for more suffering, more anguish, and that, combined with her knowledge of her husband’s research, spurred her on to seek the Gems so she can inflict more sorrow on the world.

              Now the Others have got so many under their control. There’s also a scientist called Gideon but… they didn’t need a shuppet for him.”

              Alex exhaled and ran his hand through his hair and exchanged a look with Slowking. “Bloody hell.”
              Just then, the ground began to tremble. A collective scream came from the beach below as the whole island shook. “What now?!” Alex cried in frustration, clutching onto a nearby rock with Slowking as the cliff they were perched on began to crumble away.
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                #57    
              Old 4 Weeks Ago (3:45 PM).
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              Astinus Astinus is offline
                 
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                I'm shocked that I missed two chapters of this! Thought I only missed the most recent update.

                Chapter 37 certainly ends with a sad note. It really shows how far Adam's willing to go for April, just so that she can be found and made safe. I'm sure that his sacrifice is going to stay with Alex, giving him more of a reason to fight but also haunting him that he's the one still alive.

                Chapter 38 gave us some information that we were waiting for! Veronica is a rather scary woman. But I can see why she's the way that she is. She thought that she was the only one alive in her entire family. Her need to make the world suffer like she had is evil, but grief makes people have some extreme reactions. She's found her daughter again, and I can't even imagine how she'll take it if she comprehends that Adam was alive but died to find April.
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                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."
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                  #58    
                Old 3 Weeks Ago (2:58 AM). Edited 3 Weeks Ago by FlaafyFTW.
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                FlaafyFTW FlaafyFTW is offline
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                  Spoiler:
                  Quote:
                  Originally Posted by Astinus View Post
                  I'm shocked that I missed two chapters of this! Thought I only missed the most recent update.

                  Chapter 37 certainly ends with a sad note. It really shows how far Adam's willing to go for April, just so that she can be found and made safe. I'm sure that his sacrifice is going to stay with Alex, giving him more of a reason to fight but also haunting him that he's the one still alive.

                  Chapter 38 gave us some information that we were waiting for! Veronica is a rather scary woman. But I can see why she's the way that she is. She thought that she was the only one alive in her entire family. Her need to make the world suffer like she had is evil, but grief makes people have some extreme reactions. She's found her daughter again, and I can't even imagine how she'll take it if she comprehends that Adam was alive but died to find April.
                  Thanks for still following this, Astinus! Veronica definitely has her demons, that's for sure (both figuratively and literally)! There's more on her to come but first, someone else needs to fight their own fight...


                  Chapter 39 – Through the Fire and Flames

                  My foothold didn’t last for long.

                  I’d already hurt my left arm in the fall down so I could only attempt to cling on to the rocks with one hand.

                  It didn’t work. The ground crumbled away and I was sent sliding down the edge again, only this time, the incline was so great that it was pretty much a fall. With my good hand I tried to grab on to the rocky edges but there just weren’t any, so I dug my nails in instead. It hurt like hell but it was that or do nothing at all.

                  There was nothing around me now except smoke; any sunlight that had poked through from above had now vanished. The air was thick, getting thicker by the second and the space around me began to ripple with the intense heat.

                  I slid and slid until I came to a sudden stop: my foot had found a foothold - a tiny rock, sticking out from amongst the rest. I didn’t want to look down, I didn’t want to even move. Doing so would be tempting fate but I knew in my heart that I was a dead man anyway. Even so, I was going to fight for every last second I had.

                  The magma was getting closer and closer; I could feel its heat searing my ankle more and more. Struggling to breathe, I took in a deep breath but that just made me burst into a coughing fit. My new foothold began to crumble with the movement and my feet danced as I scrambled back, trying to keep my balance. I’d never pressed myself so firmly up against anything before. It was like every part of me was trying to hold on.

                  All I could do was wait.

                  …and think.

                  Was I a good person?

                  I didn’t know. I’d done a lot of stupid stuff: stolen from the island shops when I was a kid, mixed up the Professor’s experiments just to see if she’d notice, pulled Erika’s hair – if only to get her to notice me.

                  …I’d blamed Alex for what happened to April.

                  But I’d apologised for them (the important ones, anyway).

                  Was I a good brother?

                  I reckon so. Sure, I teased April when we were kids but that’s normal brother-sister stuff. When Cleopatra got attacked, I got her out of there; when she wanted to, I let her do her own thing. I taught her how to build the best sandcastle, how to tie her laces and a bunch of other stuff… Even though Mum and Dad had taught me most of it first.

                  …Mum and Dad.

                  Was I a good son?

                  That was hard to tell. I did my homework, went to bed at the right time but… I left them to die. That night I ran into the bushes with April but I could’ve left her there and gone back to help or at least do something. Then that Arbok… it killed them.

                  I could have done something – I should have done something... but then April would’ve been alone.

                  Then there’s that woman… could it really be her?

                  Mum… are you alive?

                  In those precious few seconds, I began to cry – my tears warm to my face. It was only then, thinking about everything that had happened that I started to process it. I didn’t want to let it in, I didn’t want to entertain the possibility of it being true if it was all just some trick or some illusion.

                  You’re working with the Rockets. It doesn’t make sense.

                  She always had such a good sense of right and wrong. When she found out that I’d been stealing from the shop, she gave me lectures every day for a solid year and yet the Rockets are thieves – criminals.

                  But you took April with you… and you left me behind.

                  Dad spent a lot of time with April: she was his little girl. So naturally Mum and I spent a lot of time together too. She knew me so well, she used to say that she had a superpower and could tell when I was lying – she would always know. But then she’d always be there to bail me out when I needed her, like mums do.

                  So why her and not me?

                  Just then, massive chunks of rock crashed into the lava all around the basin in front of me. The magma, centimetres from my feet, rippled violently with each new addition from the stalactites above until one, the size of me crashed about a metre away. A spray of magma splashed out in all directions – I tried to shield myself but there was no room to really move and my entire left side was sprayed. I screamed; the loudest scream I’d ever done echoed through the hiss of the flame and the sizzling of my flesh as the magma ate its way through my skin.

                  Digging my hands into the wall behind me in an attempt not to move, I began to lose feeling on that side.

                  This was it – my body had started to shut down. It was preparing the best way it knew how for the inevitable – shutting down the pain sensors.

                  In that moment I felt the tiniest jolt from below, something which, if I were elsewhere, I wouldn’t have paid any attention to: the rock I was standing on was breaking.

                  I coughed once more as my breathing trembled and all I could think to do was close my eyes. Thoughts of my friends – the people I had become so close to and spent my last moments with - flashed through my mind.

                  “I’m sorry, Alex!”
                  “Tell Erika that I love her.”


                  I had apologised to Alex but I hadn’t told Erika myself how I really felt about her. I’d said such horrible things to both of them… And then worst of all, I couldn’t remember the last thing I’d said to my sister. It took me until then to realise something, just when I thought I had made peace with it all:

                  I’m not finished yet.

                  As the words sped through my mind, the rock gave way and I began to fall. I squeezed my eyes tight.

                  Movement.

                  Seconds passed… I was still moving; I opened my eyes and found that I wasn’t falling at all but rising! It took me a few moments to understand what was happening. I passed through the dense black smoke inside the dome of the basin and realised that I was still clutching tightly to the so-called rocks from before. Once the smoke became thinner, it became clear that the rocks weren’t rocks at all, but the hard skin of the volcano’s heatran.

                  The pokemon was still unsure of itself – circling erratically around the dome as it rose, clinging to the wall with its claws, dangerously close to the rising flow of the magma (that was now moving far quicker than it seemed to have been before), having lost control of its volcano.

                  As I clung, the momentum of the heatran’s rampage seemed to be holding me in place but I knew it would not last long. I looked down at my left leg and saw a seared hole in my thigh the size of my fist that had been cauterised by the sheer heat it was crafted with. Panicked, I didn’t know what to focus on. The more I glanced down at my side, the more gaps in my body there appeared to be.

                  I’m not finished yet.
                  I’m not finished yet.
                  I’m not finished yet.


                  We weren’t going to make it to make it to the top, I could see that, but I didn’t want to give in. All of a sudden, the heatran came to a stop, lowered its steel-coated head to the wall and in one swift motion propelled it through the rock. Sunlight beamed through, piercing the smoke-ridden cauldron like arrows of hope through the sky and the pokemon scurried outside.

                  ----------------------------

                  Thankfully for Alex, the sandy beach below provided a softer landing than he was expecting. Slowking followed after, tailed by Petrel who hadn’t been able to get any kind of footing and found that he didn’t have the strength to stand up again.

                  Sand blew in their direction through a gust of air from Erika’s Tropius as it lay there breathing heavily through a wail. In the frenzy of panic, it was just one of many casualties on the beach; however the beach had seemed to have calmed itself. Temporarily distracted by Tropius, he had forgotten to look around him – almost everyone on the sand stood and stared up at the volcano. The rumbling that had shook the island and broken their foothold had been felt here too and every person knew where it had originated from.

                  Alex looked around the crowd and spotted Erika standing a few feet ahead of him. He rushed over to see that she too was staring skyward. Just below the pillar of smoke rising from the mountain, a hole had formed and boulders were sent hurtling down the cliffside, bouncing off of the edge as they went and breaking apart. Just behind them was something else; something was sliding down the mountainside leaving a large dust cloud that trailed behind it like a tail.

                  There was little time to wonder what it was as magma began to pour out from the hole in the cliffside – headed straight for the pokemon centre and the beach!

                  “Adam!” Erika said sharply under her breath and ran straight for the base of the mountain.

                  Knowing that the beach was no longer safe, the crowds raced in the opposite direction, desperate to find somewhere safe but there was nowhere else. The inlet was the only place that the lava had not touched so those that could, could only head for the sea.

                  Alex gave chase to Erika who despite being relatively small and barged by those racing the other way, held her ground as she moved forward. Alex called out to her, telling her to stop but she didn’t reply - whether she heard him or not, Alex didn’t actually know - until he caught up to her and grabbed her arm, pulling her to a stop and around to face him near the base of the volcano.

                  “Erika stop!” Alex cried, looking her in the face.

                  He hadn’t seen Erika like this before. Usually she was the cool, calm and collected one but her face was frantic. She was wide-eyed, unfocused and was breathing erratically; her eyes shaking like she was unable to hold his gaze.

                  “Alex no – it’s him – it’s Adam!” She cried, pointing to the mountain.

                  “Erika, it’s not! I saw him fall when we were trying to get out of there. He held my hand and he fell out of it - he’s gone!”

                  “No!” She yelled, louder this time and pushing herself free of Alex’s grip. “That’s him – I know it!”

                  Alex sighed in exasperation, full to the brim with emotion. “Erika, I know you want to believe that but look behind the rocks! That lava is heading straight for us and if we die here then he died for nothing – we need to go!”

                  Alex took Erika’s arm and began physically dragging her away. The boulders that fell from above had smashed into small rocks on their descent and sprayed the bottom of the mountain ahead of them. The lava was approaching fast, the pull of gravity and momentum speeding it up but despite this, the distance between it and the dust cloud had widened.

                  Erika resisted and tried to fight back Alex’s grip. Combatting her, he grabbed both her arms from behind and pulled her backwards – Erika still attempting to break free, screaming out for Adam as she did.

                  The dust cloud came closer and closer as they backed away. Erika was putting up as good of a fight as she could, slowing down Alex’s attempt to drag her back dramatically – they had barely moved a few metres when the object came into view. It wasn’t another boulder at all (as Alex had suspected) but a pokemon – a heatran that he’d seen inside – that had taken a beating from sliding down on it’s rocky stomach. The pokemon came to an almost sudden stop on a small sloped cliff a few metres above the beach which sent something else speeding over the edge and onto the beach from the momentum.

                  That something was a human – it was Adam.

                  Adam’s body collided with the sand and was sent rolling over itself before stopping in front of Erika and Alex.

                  Alex froze in shock. His grip loosened, Erika called out to Adam and ran to his side, horrified at his appearance. His body was mangled: his face was bloodied and covered in soot, the fall clearly broken some of his bones and his entire left side was riddled with holes where the magma had eaten away at his skin. Sand had stuck to his bloodied body and he coughed and writhed in agony, unable to move.

                  Afraid to touch him, Erika didn’t know what to do. She’d been able to help with the minor injuries on the beach but she knew she’d be of no use here. She slid down in the sand next to him and gently picked up his hand, clasping it between hers, feeling the intense heat of his body. Alex walked over slowly, his own body shaking. Even through all the madness he’d experienced in the last few months, he’d never seen anyone in such a state as Adam was in – he was alive, but just barely.

                  Not being able to help it, Alex glanced away and up at lava, which was encroaching on them more and more by the second. Realising this, thoughts of self-preservation ran through his head – and he felt horrible for it.

                  Adam looked up and met Erika’s eyes. She feigned a smile and ran a hand through his dirty-blonde hair. She didn’t know what to say to him. She wanted to call him stupid, reckless and immature for storming off the way he did. She knew he’d do something but she didn’t imagine that it would be this extreme. She looked into his eyes and saw the same beautiful boy she had come to know so well over the past few years; the same stubborn, spur-of-the-moment, kind-hearted boy that she’d fallen for without admitting it to herself – she couldn’t call him names now.

                  The blonde-haired boy knew that he had to do what he’d clung on to Heatran for. He coughed and spluttered as he said Erika’s name but he carried on regardless.

                  “I… I’m… sorry.” He began. “I… love… you…”

                  Erika nodded her head and returned the compliment, weeping through her smile.

                  The lava was getting too close. Alex knew he had to come up with a solution or they’d all die so he leant down to take charge.

                  “We need to carry him.”

                  “Wait, Alex –” Erika began to protest.
                  “-Well it’s that or we leave him!” Alex cried, trying to figure out the best way to carry him. “I’m sorry buddy.” He said, lifting Adam from under his arms.

                  Adam screamed in agony as he was lifted, the pain fully setting in now.

                  “Alex we can’t!” Erika cried as Alex set him back down. “It’s hurting him too much!”

                  “I’m trying to save his life!” Alex yelled, walking around Adam trying to find a better way to carry him.
                  “I’m not just going to let him die here – too much bad crap has happened to us – to Naoko – to them.” He said, gesturing towards Adam. “I am NOT going to just let someone else die!”

                  Alex leaned down to Adam again, this time, meeting his gaze. Adam’s eyes said more than his words could causing Alex to stop for a moment and bow his head. The lava was approaching the heatran now and even amongst the cries of the crowd and the all-encompassing wail of the siren, there was a moment of pure silence amongst the trio.

                  The silence was broken by an awesome screech that echoed down from above. Alex stood up and was sure that the source of the noise came from the pillar of smoke. The screech echoed through again, like an animal’s cry, capturing the attention of the rest of the island. Alex squinted as he looked up at the sky, seeing something he’d only read about in stories.

                  “Is that…?”

                  Flames burst through the smoke and a fiery behemoth of a bird appeared. It cried out again, this time sounding far more daunting and powerful. Its cry was matched by its beauty – the gigantic creature’s feathers were as yellow as the morning sun and its wings and tail looked as if it were made of pure fire. Its flaming head crest flowed behind like silk in the wind as it glided effortlessly overhead. This was a pokemon that everyone knew – this was Moltres.

                  As it flew, embers wisped from its flames and began to separate into smaller pieces and floated down to the island below like snow twinkling in the moonlight. From only a few flaps of its wings as it flew past, the pokemon coated most of the island like a blanket.

                  As he stood, Alex watched as the embers floated down and made contact with the lava flow, cooling it instantly. The magma turned into rock in front of his eyes as if it had been extinguished and the pursuit of the lava ceased. Alex breathed a short sigh of relief before turning his attention back to Adam. The embers floated down and seeped into his wounds. The raw roughness of the cauterised holes began to glow warmly as his muscle regrew slowly before his eyes – Adam was being healed!

                  Alex fell to his knees and began sobbing. The bruises across Adam’s body began to fade as his natural colour returned. Erika was stunned and began to laugh out of shock, unable to quite process what was happening. Adam looked up at Alex with fresh eyes and pointed towards him.

                  “Your neck…” He said croakily.

                  Alex reached up and felt the side of his neck where his burn from the blast at the Cerulean Mansion was. The tender but rough skin had been replaced and was now smooth and baby-like. Erika looked back across the beach and the same effect was being felt by everyone else. People’s wounds had faded and pokemon’s injuries had healed – the char on the edges of Tropius’s wings was fading – the island had been saved.

                  Moltres cried once more as it flew out across the ocean, merging with the late-morning sun. A rousing cheer engulfed the beach as people quite literally jumped for joy and celebrated their second chances at life. Alex and Erika looked at each other briefly and both dove in to hug Adam as he attempted to sit up. He cried out and winced and the two dog-piled him, elated.

                  “Still healing, guys!” He cried out from underneath them.

                  The pair backed off of him and helped him to sit upright.

                  “Finally!” Alex cried, wiping his nose. “Something good for a change!”

                  Adam realised that he was still holding Erika’s hand. He looked at her and blushed, realising what he had just told her.

                  “Yeah…” He said, averting his gaze.

                  Erika leaned in and kissed Adam on the cheek. “So you love me, huh?” She smiled.
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                    #59    
                  Old 1 Week Ago (1:37 AM).
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                  FlaafyFTW FlaafyFTW is offline
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                    Chapter 40 – The Catalyst

                    Shades of green and white refracted across the ceiling of the dank and dusty room. Breathing intermittently in anticipation, Gideon’s eyes lit up with hope once more as his machine whirred to life.

                    “It is working!” He laughed maniacally, seeing data appear on his screen.

                    The Diamond and the Emerald glowed inside their respective compartments of his machine; a device resembling a pokemon transfer gadget, albeit far larger and more complex-looking with wires and pipes protruding from every conceivable angle. The device began to shake, producing a metallic clunking sound, as if something was stuck in the mechanism, causing steam to burst from the seems of the ramshackle machine.

                    “Gideon, it won’t take it for much-“ His assistant began.
                    “-Gideon says keep it going!” The scientist barked, not even averting his gaze.

                    Seconds later, the light from the Gems was extinguished and the device hissed, powering down. Gideon screamed ferally in frustration and kicked the machine, breaking a pipe sending it skidding across the floor.

                    “Mature.” His assistant remarked, glaring at him with disdain. “You know it won’t work without the catalyst. We can try this again and change the machine a thousand times but without the Pearl-“
                    “-GIDEON KNOWS!” He screamed sharply in her direction, panting. “The machine is working, that much is sure. It just needs… tweaking.”

                    Gideon began pacing, in thought. The assistant sighed. “You can’t be serious.”

                    The scientist turned his back to her. “If something is wrong then maybe Gideon will tell Veronica that Lanette isn’t useful and her machine doesn’t work…”

                    Lanette’s face grew cold. She quickly swallowed. She’d gotten so used to Gideon that she wasn’t afraid of him anymore, she really pitied him – it was Veronica and Ariana that sent a chill down her spine. Regardless, she grew angry at Gideon calling the device ‘her machine’.

                    “It’s stolen technology, Gideon. We’ve pieced together Storage Box technology with Bill’s experimental teleporter – I can code, configure and do all the rest of it but this isn’t what this was designed for!”

                    “It is energy transfer. Gideon sees this and you see this – it is what your systems are based on, so who better to do this than you? Besides, word has it that your precious Bill escaped the clutches of those buffoons a few weeks ago.”

                    Bill had escaped.

                    Lanette let out a small smile at that thought. Since being here, she’d had no contact with the outside world and only overheard snippets of things through conversations the Rockets had. After her own escape attempt failed, she had quickly learned her place and didn’t dare cross them again – but this gave her hope, something she had been needing, thinking that no one was coming after her – maybe someone was after all.

                    As much as she disliked Gideon, she thought he was incredibly brave to call the Rockets ‘buffoons’. Brave or stupid, that is – especially with Veronica’s shuppets often lurking about. Thankfully Lanette had not been puppeted and neither had Gideon; she believed it was to keep her mind fresh to do the hard thinking needed for the computer science, but she couldn’t exactly say the same for Gideon: he was erratic at the best of times. He clearly didn’t like the Rockets and for him, working for them seemed to just be a means to an end to do the science that he wanted to.

                    “If the Pearl is just the Catalyst Gideon needs, then it will work!” He declared, walking back towards Lanette. “So where is it?”

                    “I’ve told you before, I don’t know – none of us do. Doctor Moon was the only one that knew and he said that he’d hidden it in a place that no one would ever find.”

                    A glint appeared in Gideon’s eyes as he’d reach Lanette’s station. He stared into the ponytailed girl’s eyes and became enraged, slamming his hand onto the desk. “You MUST know something!”

                    “She doesn’t.” Came a voice from behind Gideon.

                    Descending the steps from above with a hobble was Veronica, closely followed by April, suspended in the air by shuppets. Coming down behind them was Ariana and Proton, the latter carrying a body over his shoulder of someone that Lanette didn’t recognise at first.

                    “There’s nothing in her brain that will tell us anything.” She continued, approaching the machine.

                    Upon seeing Veronica, Gideon became almost giddy like a schoolchild. Knowing not to touch her, he approached her nonetheless with a beaming smile of excitement painted across his visage.

                    “You’ve brought Gideon the rest, yes?” He asked with his hands clasped out in front of him.

                    Proton scoffed at Gideon’s desperation. “Put your hands down, worm.” He said, laying the body down in a dusty corner of the room.

                    The scientist did as he was told but his eyes darted from Proton back to Veronica for validation.

                    “We have lost contact with Petrel so we must assume the Ruby lost as well.” She uttered.

                    “Although we did pick up this one.” Ariana added from the back of the room, tossing Naoko’s necklace across it. Gideon failed to catch the chain and it instead landed at Lanette’s feet. The pale-skinned girl looked at it curiously, recognising the shimmer of the metal. She bent down and picked it up and as she did, the ocean-blue gem set in the centre became clearly visible: it was the Sapphire – her Sapphire.

                    Knowing that the only person the Rockets would have gotten this from was Naoko, fear shot through her body from her head to her feet like a harpoon.

                    How did they find it?

                    Lanette was sure that she hasn’t given the Rockets any information whatsoever about where she had hidden her Gem and yet they had it.

                    Naoko – is she okay? What happened to her?

                    As she was distracted, like a scavenger Gideon snatched the necklace from Lanette’s grasp and continued working on his machine, perfectly content to ignore the rest of the happenings in the room.

                    “It matters not anyway, We have what we need.” Veronica said, raising her hand as she turned to April, who was still struggling against the grasp of the shuppets that held her in the air. April flinched, almost expecting to be struck, but no such blow came. Instead, Veronica caressed he daughter’s cheek with the back of her fingers.

                    “Mum, please…” April begged, looking at the disfigured face of her parent.

                    “Darling, don’t worry, it will all be over soon.” Veronica smiled. “All I need is something from your memories, something you probably don’t even need.”

                    Taking the bait, April asked what she needed to know.

                    “You and your father used to spend a lot of your time in here and if he mentioned what We need to anyone then it would be you.”

                    “What do you mean?” April asked again, confused, realising that she was in what appeared to be her
                    father’s lab underneath their house.

                    “I’ll ask you this once,” Veronica began, moving her hand further down her daughter’s neck, “where is the Pearl?”

                    April stumbled over her words, not able to make sense of what Veronica had said. She barely remembered the lab at all, let alone anything her father was researching, especially to do with the Gems – she had only seen the Diamond and the Sapphire before. She tried to think about her life before her journey with Alex but couldn’t put the pieces together; as if there were blank spots in her mind where her memories should be.

                    Victoria’s hand was now clasping April’s neck, signalling her impatience.

                    “I-I don’t know. I can’t remember!” April cried.

                    Veronica snarled and removed her hand from April’s neck, swiftly slapping her across the face.

                    “Useless child! I’ll find it myself then.”

                    Enraged, a glowing set of eyes apparated from behind Veronica and a shuppet materialised. Its cloak flowed effortlessly in the air even though there was no breeze in the lab and without command, floated toward April. Again she resisted, straining her neck away in a futile attempt to delay the inevitable. The pokemon positioned itself on top of her head and the colour drained from April’s eyes.

                    Veronica took a sharp intake of breath and her eyes darkened. Lanette was distracted just briefly enough to remember the same sound of strained breath from when she had first been captured, however for her, that was where that particular memory stopped. Come to think of it, Lanette realised that soon after hearing that sound was when the Rockets stopped asking about the Sapphire at all.

                    The black of Veronica’s eyes began to flash with fragments of April’s memories, speeding through them like a movie. Within the space of a few seconds, images of Celio, Sabrina, Erika, Misty, Forrest, Alex, Adam and Felina were reflected off the glassy surface of her eyes, way up until the night of the raid on Cleopatra Island.

                    “No…” April began to mumble, squirming in her mid-air hold.

                    Images of running through the forest, flaming rafters of houses and flashes of a younger Adam’s face continued to light up the dark of Veronica’s eyes.

                    Veronica herself began to sweat. “Stop resisting.” She said through her teeth.

                    Realising what was happening to April, Lanette also began to comprehend that the same thing had happened to her; she just hadn’t realised it at the time. Consequently, that would mean that she had led them to Naoko… the figure at the back! Lanette, suddenly full with energy, made a bee-line for the body on the floor who she believed to be Naoko but was blocked by Proton, smirking.

                    “Not so fast!” Proton said, grabbing Lanette’s overalls as she passed him. Lanette was pulled backward and tried to push off Proton’s grasp but the rocket grabbed her with both hands on her upper arms. “I thought you’d learned your lesson last time.” He smirked.

                    Just then, Naoko began to stir and turned her head toward to commotion as she pushed herself up. Her vision was still blurry and distorted, not used to travelling via teleportation, but it began to focus on the figures closest to her – two Rockets and a fair-skinned girl with hair in large, brown plats.

                    Is it really… She thought, not allowing her emotions to get the better of her.

                    Without thinking, Naoko reached for her necklace to find nothing. She had briefly forgotten its absence but the connection she had been holding on to in that place was still there. Focusing further, she hastily brushed some fallen strands of black hair from her face and her vision settled. There – just metres away from her – was Lanette – alive.

                    The flashes of memories in Victoria’s eye had seemed to have stopped; only her daughter’s face was now reflected in the glassy dark of her eyes. Determined to find the information she needed, she continued the process, convinced that April would have seen something in Isaac’s lab.

                    “Just… a bit… more…” Veronica grunted, gritting her teeth, clearly struggling.

                    “I – SAID - NO!” April screamed and without warning, a shockwave burst from the shuppet above April and swept through the abandoned lab, flinging the bodies of those around it to the edge of the room and freeing her from the hold of the pokemon. Veronica was caught off guard and stumbled but with the aid of the Others, wedged her cane into the broken tiled floor below and was not thrown backwards.

                    Still holding Lanette, Proton was hurled against the wall behind him and took not only the force of the impact, but that of Lanette’s body as well. He fell to the floor, wincing in pain. Luckily for Lanette, the Rocket’s body cushioned her impact and she was able to rise to her feet again almost instantly. Naoko, unharmed, picked herself up and locked eyes with her closest friend. They knew that now was their moment and without hesitation ran to each other from across the room. The girls embraced and Naoko held Lanette’s head in her hands, checking her for injury; her face was bruised, her large glasses were wonky and had seen better days but she still had eyes, ears, fingers and thumbs, just as she had before. Lanette stared into Naoko’s glossy brown eyes – they were just how she remembered them but her face was slightly different, as if she had changed somehow. In that moment, it didn’t matter too much - they had each other back.

                    Gideon, shielded from the shockwave by his machine, began to look at the readings it gave out. He tapped the dials, confused by what he saw, and looked at the three Gems he now had inside it. A psychic overload… he deduced.

                    Breathing heavily from exertion, Victoria’s face became tense. The Others had delved into her memories and, not only had they not found what they needed, but what they found was nothing at all! All of April’s memories from before the attack were blank or hazy at best.

                    “There’s nothing there.” Victoria said under her breath. “Why is there nothing there?!” she barked viciously to the room.

                    Ariana walked over to April, who had fallen to the floor, and rolled her over with her foot so she was facing the ceiling. She then pressed her heeled boot against her stomach, holding the girl in place. As the colour returned to April’s eyes, Ariana bent down to examine it.

                    “They say trauma wipes your memories.” She said, watching April squirm beneath her, like a child with an ant and a magnifying glass. “Makes them hazy… difficult to remember,” she continued, “or gets rid of them altogether.”

                    Veronica closed her eyes and sighed, seemingly letting go of any hope she had of using April to get information about the Pearl. “You always were more trouble than you were worth.” She said, wiping down her dusty cloak.

                    “What shall we do with her?” Ariana asked, pushing her boot harder still on April’s stomach.

                    Veronica hobbled over slowly to the machine. She paused for a moment and bent down, staring at the Gems inside as they shone brightly.

                    “Kill her.” Veronica ordered, “And Gideon’s failure of an assistant too.”

                    Upon hearing this, Lanette grabbed Naoko’s hand and ran straight for the ascending staircase to freedom. Unfortunately Ariana was too quick and caught sight of them, releasing her Kadabra. The pokemon’s eyes glowed a vibrant shade of purple and the girls seemingly froze, pausing rigid where they stood.

                    “But why…?” Lanette uttered, still able to move her lips as she was rotated around by Kadabra’s psychic.

                    Veronica chuckled. “Foolish girl, do you really think I’d leave you here alone without a pair of eyes to watch you?” With that, Gideon cowered behind his machine, realising that that meant she had heard his buffoons comment from earlier. Veronica shot him a glance from the other side of the device. “I’ll deal with you later.”

                    One of Veronica’s remaining shuppets puppeted April once more and began levitating her into the air. The leader began hobbling around her daughter, seemingly looking her over one last time from every angle. Naoko was left to watch as Ariana walked over to them. She stood, smiling, wondering which one to do away with first.

                    “You… lied!” Naoko cried, unable to move her body.

                    Ariana guffawed. “Oh sweetie, I did no such thing. You said that I was to take you to your little friend here, and here she is!” She said, gesturing toward Lanette. “You didn’t say anything about what would happen afterwards.”

                    Naoko felt stupid for believing that they would keep their word – they meant to do away with her all along. She changed her gaze to look at Lanette who, even through her fright, was trying to fight the psychic hold and stretch her fingers out towards Naoko’s hand. Naoko wanted nothing more than to touch her; to feel her soft skin on her own, but that would never happen again if it ended right here and now.

                    Ariana produced a knife from her boot and held the tip up to Naoko’s skin, just enough to gently pierce the skin. A drop of her blood dripped down the cold steel of the blade to the handle. Not producing much of a reaction from Naoko, she moved the knife over to Lanette and did the same thing.

                    “Don’t you dare!” Naoko bellowed.

                    Ariana smiled again. “That’s a better reaction!” She announced joyfully. “So now would be a good time to produce that information you said you had about the Gems, girlie.”

                    The information – this was her chance – she could trade it for their freedom. Thoughts rushed through her mind of what would happen if she told them but she couldn’t let herself think about that: it was Lanette and Naoko or them, there was no middle ground here.

                    “I can help you! Just let us go!” Naoko cried, piquing Veronica’s interest.

                    Ariana raised her eyebrows and gave the order to Kadabra to set the girls down. Ariana’s knife stayed in place, pushing Lanette’s chin higher into the air as she found her feet again.

                    “I’m listening.” She said expectantly.

                    Naoko swallowed hard. She was risking so much for something she knew very little about but if anything, today had proved that she was on to something. She had to do this. There was nothing else she could do.

                    Us or them.

                    She opened her mouth to speak and before she knew it, the words had already come out.

                    “I know where the Pearl is.”
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