Regret

Death. War. Destruction. The world of the future lies in ruins. I got the chance to go back and stop it from ever happening, only to discover that I was the cause. This is how I destroyed the world.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/5808527/1/Regret

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52. Contingency

What d'you think's going to happen? We find a cure, save the world or just fall in love and fuck? Staying alive is as good as it gets ~ Selena – 28 Days Later

-O-O-O-

"Did anyone ever think that all these supposedly 'uber' villainous teams could have succeeded in their plans if they'd bothered thinking about things a bit more? Team Rocket got so far because they did everything behind the scenes, then lost when they became public. So did Aqua and Magma. Then again, more than the idiocy of these weirdoes hell-bent on world domination, it begs the very serious question; just how blind are our world's police forces?"

- Anon (Name wiped from all available sources). (September 11th, 3007).

-O-O-O-

The first thing I was aware of was pain – or the lack thereof.

I stumbled up from the floor, gripped my head and tried to make sense of what had happened. I couldn't tell how long I'd been or, nor could I even tell where I was anymore. It was just dark and foggy. The fog crept all around me, snatching at the corners of light and dragging them back down into unending black. Little wispy tendrils of fog swam through the air, grabbing at sights unseen in the dark.

I quickly checked my surroundings. No one and nothing was nearby. I knew I should have stayed put, just so that I'd be easier to find. I would have, had I not been completely unnerved by the encroaching darkness. It seemed sentient.

I told myself that wasn't possible.

Yet it recoiled away from my speech and then snapped around in my direction, like a tentacle with an eye on the end. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on end and decided I didn't want to be anywhere near it.

I escaped into the darkness, walking fast and checking my every step. I constantly watched it over the back of my shoulder, circling in the air, almost as if it was sniffing something before slowly crawling towards me.

I told myself I was crazy. That it had to be a pokémon playing tricks on me. I remembered the bright purple eyes – the ones that mad everything in my brain feel like it was exploding. I glanced back at the fog, even more unnerved and tried to figure out just what was causing all of this.

And more than that; how the hell my pokémon had managed to vanish.

I touched my chest; felt nothing there but clothes. I panicked, patted myself down and found nothing more than simple clothing. Fear lanced through my gut like a physical spear. Everything I owned but the clothes on my back – quite literally – had just up and vanished! I jumped back, realised I may have left everything back where I woke and tried to double back towards it.

Except the fog was there behind me, waiting, watching. I froze and it did too. I moved my left arm; a tendril of smoky darkness reached out in that direction.

This isn't right.

I tried to reach out with my mind; to find Gemini or Alistair somewhere in the darkness. I couldn't reach either. The fog was back in my mind again; letting me think, but clouding the outside. It was almost like it had made a barrier in my mind; I could think, I could move. But beyond that, I was on my own.

Alone.

The thought made me shudder more than I should have. My breath fogged before me and for the first time, I noticed just how much colder it was down there. I reached out slowly, watched the fog mimicking my movements and tried to reach the walls around me. I knew they were somewhere nearby; the tunnels were all just a bit wider than the width of an onix.

I moved slowly, trod carefully and felt nothing beneath my feet. Finally I reached the side, pressed my hand against it, touched something wet and flinched. I pulled my hand away, stared at the black of the wall and couldn't see anything different. I rubbed my fingers together, found them still wet and strangely sticky.

I lifted my hand to my face and found it covered in blood.

I recoiled and tried to throw it away. Little specks of blood flew into the fog. It reacted instantly, snarled and circled around it, greedy for more.

I swore, panicked and ran the hell away from it.

Dark and cold. It was the entirety of the tunnels now. I could hear the strange blackness creeping up behind me, moving in tandem with me. I slowed down; it did too. I sped up; so did it.

I wondered briefly what would happen if I reached a dead end.

Quickly I pushed the thought out of my head. Not fast enough for me to realise it could be a literal dead end.

I stopped running when I realised that I wasn't actually being hunted, at least not in the sense that I was about to be killed. The fog seemed to be trapping me, pinning me into somewhere that I wouldn't be able to move from. I told myself I wasn't about to be outsmarted by a bunch of black water vapour.

I tried to think again. Whatever was in my mind was letting me do that much. I walked closer to the nearest wall, staying far away enough that the fog wouldn't trap me, yet close enough that I could see the details I needed.

The wall was bleeding.

At least, it seemed to be. Blood and something else ran down the sides, almost like rain on a window. It looked like the inside of an intestine. Little chunks of something were hanging in the corners of the cracks – that somehow looked like folds. I couldn't tell what they were, but they seemed all different sorts of colours. One of them dripped; a little drop of something red that merged into the streaming wall.

I backed away reflexively. Blood. The little chunks of whatever were things that were bleeding.

I took a deep breath, tried to calm myself. I couldn't make out the colours that well, but I could see little bits of blue and pink. None of my pokémon had that colour skin, I told myself. I wondered where they were, stopped myself and tried to think of my own survival. If they needed me to help find them, I wouldn't be any use if I was dead.

I glanced back at the swirling darkness. It didn't move back when I did. I swallowed nervously, fearfully confirming my suspicions; it was letting me move forward, but every step I took was a one-way trip. I let myself believe that there was a little chance I could double back on it; somehow get it to eat itself or something. Rationality kicked in and told me that most likely I'd end up trapped between it and starve to death, if I was lucky. If not…

… well, I didn't care to think about that.

I tried to think and ignore the way the wall seemed to twitch. There was no way I could know where I was walking to; if it would lead to a dead end or not. The chill in wherever I was only swirled enough to make little goosebumps appear over my skin, but didn't do much more than that. The darkness seemed to be something that wasn't so harmless, however.

There wasn't any direction to choose to start walking in, thankfully. I just followed the curve of the walls, mentally trying to figure out how there seemed to be little enough light that I could see clearly around myself. Every so often something in the fog would hiss, or growl, or snarl and I would jump, leap ahead and try to run away from it. Each time I noticed that there was a change in the ground; a hole, a sudden incline or a sudden drop. I quickly figured out that it was trying to trip me up – for a purpose I didn't want to know. After that I kept the little bit of information in my mind and double checked the flooring every time I heard noise from behind.

The ground was dry and dusty, at least. If it had been wet or eating through my shoes, I may have convinced myself I was walking through something's intestines. I shuddered, vividly recalling crawling through rotting sea dragons and swore to myself that I wouldn't be in that situation again.

"Where the hell is this leading me?" I whispered. It felt so alien to be without any form of sound anymore. I was so used to my pokémon nearby, stomping over dirt or leaves. Marsha's presence had added to that, with human interaction and conversation. Even when I had been on my own; before the days of ever meeting my pokémon – before ever coming to such a world – I had heard constant sounds. Hours spent on surveillance with little chirps and grunts from distant pokémon and shouts from closer humans.

This was just a void. No sounds, no grunts, no footsteps.

Nothing.

My feet were nearly soundless underneath me. I was convinced I'd somehow become deaf. I clicked my fingers near my ear and winced away from the sudden sound.

Definitely not deaf.

I don't know whether that made the feeling better or worse.

I carried on tracing my route with the walls, reluctant to touch them again. The blood from before had already dried and crusted on my hand. I didn't want to cover it again. Remembering the way the fog had leapt at the little droplets made fear do a little dance atop my stomach.

I carried on walking for what felt an age. Everything was just the same; black, endless black, with encroaching fog from behind and occasional pitfalls to trip me up. I sighed, shut my eyes and rubbed them just to try and wake myself up a little. I wasn't going to fall asleep anywhere in that place.

When I opened my eyes, I wondered if I had.

Everything had changed. It wasn't dark anymore. I wasn't in a tunnel.

I was in a frozen wasteland.

Where I could only see endless black before, now it was a constant landscape of white. The sky was a dingy grey with snow floating down as far as I could see. There was no sort of landscape in the distance; nothing that I could use to figure out where I was. The snow came up to my knees and I had to make all that extra effort to move.

Weirdly, I wasn't all that cold.

I certainly felt it when I realised the fog was still behind me.

It was still the same black, still hovering there, somehow menacing despite not moving. It spread across the entire landscape behind me, covering it as far as I could see. It made it clear that I couldn't turn back, even in the new landscape.

I stood there for at least ten minutes, just trying to figure out which way to walk. Every direction looked exactly the same; there was no change in snowfall in any direction. I was about to choose any direction at random when suddenly the fog began to move from behind me. It took only seconds, but the entire east was covered by the ever-present black.

I gulped, backtracked and nearly fell over in the snow. By some miracle I stayed upright and watched it, unmoving, unseeing, yet somehow sentient and frightening.

I realised then that I had to keep moving, no matter what.

If east and south were blocked, I rationalised that northwest was the way to go. Equidistant from both sides of the fog – far enough away from each unreal barrier. I played out little scenarios in my mind; reasons behind its creation, its purpose and just where the hell I was.

I figured that it had to be some sort of illusion. Either that, or I had somehow been warped somewhere into some strange, twisted domain. The fog was always present, which made it important in my mind.

I decided that it had to be some sort of weird test; escape the fog in wherever the hell I was and it wouldn't overtake you. It was strong back in the real world – if I had left what was real – and could stop us from thinking – even our psychics. I told myself that this was probably some sort of weird psychic trick of my mind; providing me with one last-ditch attempt to reclaim my brain. Escape and carry on being sane. Lose and…

… I didn't want to think about it.

The theory was the only thing that made sense. I walked a little while until finally I came across footsteps.

They were human. About my size, maybe a little bigger. It meant that obviously I wasn't alone wherever I was.

But if I was in my mind; why would there be other footprints running around?

I felt exposed and cold suddenly. I wrapped my arms around myself, span full circle and tried to figure out just what the hell was going on. The footsteps lead into the fog. I swallowed, decided that following them wasn't in my best interest and carried on in the way I was going.

Five steps in and I was sure that there was something out there, following me.

Ten steps in and I heard something in the fog.

I leapt ahead a pace, awkwardly and flailed in the air, forgetting about how deep I was buried in the snow. I glanced back, saw nothing but fog again. It swirled a bit more, seemingly growing impatient.

It could just suffer and wait then, I spat at it. If it was truly my mind, it was certainly used to such a thing.

I tried to pull myself out of the snow and realised one crucial thing I'd overlooked earlier; the footsteps were atop the snow.

They weren't like mine. I was buried knee-deep in the stuff and was leaving a trench behind me. The footsteps had been across the top, as if it were only a few inches deep.

Somewhere behind me, snow crunched.

I leapt up and started to seemingly swim in the snow. I couldn't see anything behind me, but I knew I heard something within. I was tempted to scream out, to see who was there, if they'd answer. I knew it was foolish; I kept my mouth shut.

There were more footstep sounds.

I decided I'd had enough then. I made my way through the snow as quickly as I could, throwing it everywhere and uncannily aware of the fog slowly creeping up behind me. I tried to calm myself; to focus on what could be causing the footsteps. If it was my mind, I should be aware of what the hell could be running around in it – or so I told myself. I'd never been diagnosed as having multiple personalities or anything of the sort, so I hoped that this wasn't a weird manifestation of little people inside my mind trying to take over.

The footsteps were varied. Some were slow, methodical. Others were fast and frantic. Like something bigger than the other was moving around. Or maybe something young and something old. A pokémon and a human? The possibilities were endless.

I cursed, pressed the heels of my palms into my hands until gold and green exploded in my vision and finally pulled them away.

When I did, everything had changed again.

I wasn't in the icy tundra anymore. In fact, I had no idea where I was anymore. Everywhere was just a monochrome blue. The floor was black, yet there seemed to be little rectangular dips in it, almost like little doors. The fog was there, of course, floating behind me and looming obnoxiously.

I stretched a foot across the floor and tapped one of the doors with it.

Nothing opened.

Instead that rectangle of the floor lit up.

I flinched and leapt away, afraid something was going to leap out. When nothing did, I leant a bit closer and saw a flood of images.

Then the light went off.

I stood there for a moment, blinking and trying to comprehend what had just happened. It was just a bunch of aimless pictures that I couldn't make sense of. A forest, a big lake, a dead baby, big inanimate blobs of light, a few things that looked like people, trees and then nothing but a continual blur of weird shapes and noises, somehow.

I frowned, shook my head and decided I'd had enough. I scrunched my eyes shut, rubbed them again and hoped for somewhere new to appear.

Instead, I remained exactly where I was.

"So, obviously I can't control whatever this is," I muttered to myself. I tried another light-box out of curiosity. Nothing happened. No matter how many times I tried to activate it, it just seemed like nothing was underneath there.

I tried a few others and got a load of different images. Toddlers, pokémon, weapons, people, buildings… everything. There was so much in there without any sort of context at all that it made no sense at all. It was like stuffing a picture of everything in the world into someone's brain and expecting them to understand just what the hell you were talking about.

I pressed a few more of the things and let a little light into the room. Again the fog was there, covering the east and the south again. I cursed it, cursed it again for not having anything to throw at it and settled on taking off my top, bundling it into a ball and throwing it at the damn water vapour.

Instantly I was wearing it once again.

I pulled at it, incredulous and momentarily struck dumb. "Just what the fuck is going on in here?" I screamed at the eternal black. It said nothing, but more footsteps came from within.

I scrunched my eyes shut and willed everything to change again.

When I opened them, it finally had.

And I wished that I hadn't been so hasty.

I was stood in a completely white zone, with the fog surrounding me on three sides now. The only way forward was blocked by what seemed to be a massive screen. Static flicked across it, then a little countdown from three started, like so many of the old movies I'd watched growing up. A little bit of me was excited about what could possibly be playing in my mind.

Slowly, words formed on the screen.

An insurance policy.

I had no idea what it meant. And before the screen had even had a single image come on it, my brain exploded with such pain I thought something was going to try and crawl out of it. A little spot on the side of my skull was the epicentre of it all and no matter how much I tried to get the pain away, it remained, setting my nerves aflame and killing my throat with my own screams.

Finally, the pain died away.

And I watched myself dying on the screen.

It was like a constant loop, yet never the same chain of events. All the time, it ended with me dying in weird ways.

I flinched away, unable to look. Eventually I found myself drawn to them, through morbid curiosity, if nothing else. Nothing was ever the same.

Until I noticed something in about the twentieth one.

There was always a little blob of green hidden somewhere in the background.

As soon as I noticed it, cold fire burnt within me. The images changed, becoming ones of me sometimes winning against something that moved faster than I could see. I never came off completely unscathed, yet at least I was actually winning some.

I noticed in each that I was getting slowly older and older.

Somehow I doubted there was going to be one of me dying of old age.

Eventually all the images blurred into one. The things that disturbed me the most were the ones of me becoming a drooling wreck. Other than those, the death somehow didn't affect me as much as I thought it would.

Finally the screen rolled up and disappeared into a white void in the sky. Fear lanced through me like an actual weapon when I saw the fog looming behind the screen too.

Then I got hit by a cluster bomb of fear when the purple eyes opened up in the fog. I felt familiar pain in my brain once more, noticed the fog swirling around me as I collapsed to the floor, powerless to stop it all.

Finally, there was a little voice in the back of my head. It came in with such force that every word felt like it was enough to shatter my skull.

"They did their job well."

And then everything was black.

Everything was shaking when I came too again. It took a minute for clarity to reach in, slap me across the head and tell me that I was the one shaking.

I groaned, pressed a hand to my aching head and tried to block out the pain. I heard Marsha's voice swimming above me and tried to focus on one single syllable that she said.

"Huh?" I finally grunted, having lost her completely.

She sighed, pulled me to my feet and glanced around. "I asked if you had a freaky-mind trip too."

I patted myself down, found my poké balls, my weapons and everything necessary. "That was in my mind?" I asked, still not with it. Scar was stood in front of me, sniffing curiously and growling softly. I smiled and hugged his scaly neck, not even flinching when he dug his claws into my shoulders in surprise. "That was… insanely creepy," I finally whispered. "You guys too?"

Scar grunted his answer before Marsha could tell me. Once she did, even Gemini chimed in to say that she too had suffered them. "I was lost in this weird snowy tundra for ages," Marsha said, wrapping her arms around herself. "It wasn't cold, but there was this big, black fog creeping after me all the while. I don't even know what really made me come to – all I remember is something saying 'incorrect specimen'."

"I had the tundra too," I said, excited and horrified at the same time. "The fog too. But then there was this weird, black tunnel before it that had all the walls lined in blood and after the tundra was this weird plane with all these little picture-doors on the floor."

"Weird," Marsha said. "Actually, I don't know what is; that whole freaky thing or the fact that nothing actually ate us while we were out. And apparently the fog's mostly lifted from this area too."

[She is correct,] Gemini told me. [Everything here is much clearer than before. I assume that whatever the creature's goal was with that distraction, it has completed it.]

"Celebi?" I asked my pokémon and Marsha both. "Could it have done that? The purple eyes and the hallucination?"

Marsha shrugged. [Perhaps,] Gemini said at the same time. [Most psychics' eyes glow blue or purple when they use their abilities. As do ghosts. It is mostly impossible to tell what was able to cause such a thing, except for the obvious fact that it was powerful.]

"That's always nice to know," I grunted. "So what way do we go now?"

[I would say-that's curious.]

I folded my arms and raised an eyebrow. "That makes no sense."

She looked over at the jynx, sharing a silent conversation. Finally Gemini looked back to me and said, [The signal has completely gone. No trace of it remains. This is… unsettling.]

I was about to ask what she meant when Marsha screamed, "You can sense Wally?" She leapt at her pokémon, grabbed her by the hands and practically fell to her knees begging her. "Please tell me he's alright. Let me know where the hell he is!"

The jynx nodded and floated seamlessly down one of the corridors. After being in such weird, bright places – even if it was only within my mind – it seemed strange to be back in near-total darkness. Marsha took off running behind it, her cryogonal hovering in the hair silently behind it. I shrugged and nodded for Scar and Gemini to follow.

Being back within the Cluster, physically, was an eerie sensation. The threats were real, physical things that could actually damage me again. The walls weren't covered in blood.

My hand was still coated in dry blood.

I put the thought away with a violent shudder and tried to focus completely on what was currently happening.

The whole time, the tunnels were empty. It was like something had scared everything off, or somehow it had managed to sway them all to one cause.

It was more than a little unnerving.

I kept expecting the fog to come out of nowhere once more. Although I was with another person and pokémon, something about the whole area just didn't feel right. Scar's light would flicker every so often, always like something behind us had breathed on it. We would leap at the shadows behind us, but there would never be anything there; just dark beaten back by the light of our torches.

"I don't like this," I whispered. Both my pokémon and Marsha grunted in answer to me. I pointed along the walls with my torch and finally into the looming dark of the tunnels. "Have you even heard a flicker of life lately? There have been constant sounds of pokémon, no matter how distant before. Now it's just… silent. Either something's happening in here, or somehow we're still being chased by fog."

Marsha shuddered, spun around full circle and finally breathed a long breath. "I don't think we are. Everything in here looks real. Something's happening in here and I don't like it."

I said nothing and carried on following our psychics our psychics. "Could that signal have something to do with this?" I asked after a long minute. "We felt it before; it was everywhere within; Gemini, you said it could affect the pokémon and change them somehow, right? What if it's changed it round and getting them to avoid us, or grouping up to attack us or something?"

"Stop driving yourself insane," Marsha hissed. "We don't know what's causing it. After that latest mind fuck trip, I don't know what could be happening in here. We have two psychics here; if they sense pokémon, they'll be able to tell us."

"But they haven't been able to so far," I pointed out.

[Before, the signal was blocking most of our abilities.] Gemini said. [It was impossible to tell what was lying within the signal's range. Now, it is clear. But I cannot sense anything. It is possible that there is nothing here. There also lies in the possibility that somehow, the signal is so strong that it is able to give false-negatives.]

"That makes no sense," I said at the same time Marsha shushed me.

She stood there, her entire posture on edge as she listened to something in the darkness. "Can you hear that?" she whispered.

I strained my ears to hear exactly what she could. I moved closer to her, put my ear near the wall she was stood next to and heard what sounded like distant fighting from behind. "What?" I asked as I pressed the wall, looking for a way towards the sound.

"I'm not sure what it is." Marsha pressed herself closer and slowly trickled her hands across the wall. "It sounds like it's coming from the other side here. But I haven't seen a tunnel leading towards it. And our one seemed to curve left; away from this thing. Our only way to check would be to break down this wall. But if we did it wrong, the whole damn thing could come down on us."

"The wall's pretty thick too." I knocked against it, heard nothing but the sound of solid stone and frowned. "We should try around the corner or something; see if the wall's weaker. But of course, we could get into there and find that we're just walking in on two pokémon going after each other."

"But we could also find Wally," she argued. "We can't just leave him there if it is him. I can't just walk away if it could be him." She growled, threw her hands to the air and finally punched the wall. She stood there for a long moment, frozen before snatching back her fist and cursing the air blue. "Okay. That was stupid. Finn, I want you to leave something you can trace here. Small enough so nothing else should randomly come across it; big enough that you should be able to track it."

Her jynx hummed something I couldn't understand. It sashayed to the wall, pressed its hands together and sung a strange tune as a little blue-white glue shone from its hands. A little crystal of ice formed on the wall, glittering like a jewel every time the light caught it.

"Good," Marsha said. "Come on; let's see if we can get in there somehow."

She turned away and skulked down the tunnels with newfound purpose. Every so often she would stop and glance back, seemingly judging the distance and double-checking with her pokémon. I asked Gemini whether or not she could track it at one point, but she simply said she couldn't.

"Here!" Marsha announced suddenly. She spun round a corner and nearly sprinted down the new tunnel, hindered only by her jynx in front of her and the uneven ground beneath her. The sounds of battle became louder and louder the closer we got to wherever we were going.

Finally we reached a dead end. Grooves had been carved into the wall from certain pokémon, and a pit loomed at the side with warring pokémon trying to throw each other down.

From what I could see, there was a gardevoir, an altaria and a banette fighting against what looked like a claydol, a mawile and a massive electrode all battling. Someone behind them all, hidden in the shadows was throwing out commands.

The altaria was screeching like a maniac. It soared just beneath the roof of the cave, shrieked and dove at the electrode. It spun through the air, pecking and slashing at the electrode as it rolled across the floor, discharging electricity at everything. The gardevoir warped in and kicked the coiled up pokémon clean into the wall.

The gardevoir spun around quickly and slashed the floating claydol in the face. The altaria landed on other side of the thing's head and bathed it in green flames as the mawile barked and chased after the banette. The doll threw back its head, laughed and disappeared through the thick stone walls. Seconds later it appeared behind the mawile, picked it up by the foot and dangled it above the pit for a second before it dropped it. Instantly afterwards the banette vanished again, appeared above the claydol and dug clawed, shadowy hands into one of its many eyes.

The claydol screamed and flung everything off it with a psychic shockwave strong enough to send me and my pokémon flying backwards. The electrode noticed us, hissed and uncoiled itself to reveal its full glory. It looked exactly like a millipede that came up to my knee. It scuttled across the wall, raced towards us and dropped from the ceiling in a perfect ball. Electricity crackled through the air, discharged into Scar and Marsha's jynx and knocked them both out in one fell swoop.

I swore and watched a shining yellow barrier form around us as we recalled our pokémon. Marsha's cryogonal breathed icy flames across the electic millipede, freezing it in place. The electrode hissed, spun on the spot and melted the ice with a white-hot bolt of electricity. It leapt at us, bounced off a sudden blue barrier and recoiled back into the darkness, hissed at us once more. The gardevoir appeared behind it, stuck its claws through the thing's brain and casually tossed it out of the way.

I breathed in relief, only for a couple of golbat to flutter out of the pit hole and start attacking. Two threw themselves into Gemini's barrier, shattered them on impact and left it open for a third to soar straight in. Gemini's eyes shone blue and so did one of the golbats, but with a shriek the bat shrugged off the attack and dive-bombed us and our pokémon.

I fell to the floor as the air above me cut into pieces. Gemini whined in pain then growled as she kicked the bat in the face with both her back hooves. At the same time, Marsha's cryogonal was busy fighting off two golbat at once, floating around them and shooting little cold blizzards at them both.

I glanced over at the other pokémon. Each enemy they faced went down in one hit, but more constantly appeared in their places. The altaira screamed as it disappeared under a flutter of purple crobat wings, then turned into pure red energy instantly afterwards. A large purple and cream cat appeared with a white flash quickly afterwards, hissed and leapt at one of the bats, biting down on its neck and splashing crimson blood everywhere.

I swore as something breezed past the air above me again. I snatched my gun out, rolled onto my back and tried to aim at whatever was attacking me.

Whatever it was flew far too quickly for me to get a lock on. I cursed again and released Alistair and Loki in one swoop. Loki burst into action instantly, leaping up and grabbing hold of one of the golbat's legs. He clambered his way up the thing, sat on its back and quickly began slashing the thing's face apart.

Alistair meanwhile busied himself by slashing at whatever tried to attack him. A few times he managed to cut something as it flew past him, but most of the time he seemed to be rolling under or away from wings that were steadily managing to cut us all to ribbons.

There was another sound of a poké ball exploding open, then the sound of extremely loud buzzing. The person hidden behind it all screamed over all the noise, "Everyone down!"

I didn't second-guess his command. I was on the floor instantly, as was Marsha and all our pokémon. Loki dropped from his impromptu ride and disappeared into the floor as suddenly a deafening thundercrack filled the caverns. My ears screamed and rung all at once, then not even a second later there was a brilliant white flashed of light.

I pressed my faced down into the dirt, still able to see bright red splotches of light, even though my eyes were shut. Slowly my ears started hearing noise again, telling me that the flying things were mostly all on the floor, wings fluttering weakly, if at all.

My nose stung with the smell of burnt flesh and spots still swam in my eyes. I checked my pokémon, made sure they were fine and looked up at the new arrival.

It looked like a massive, flying cockroach. Its body was a sleek grey and a single red eye flicked in the middle of its body. Little streaks of red and blue decorated the tips of its wings and it buzzed loudly enough to overtake the ringing of my ears.

Marsha leapt to her feet and squinted into the darkness. "Wally?" she whispered. She took all of a moment to check her assumptions before she ran at him and nearly squashed him into the wall. "You stupid goon! You're alright, aren't you?"

I pushed myself to my feet and swayed just slightly on them. Wally was nodding slowly, his face a deathly shade of white. Marsha whispered something I couldn't hear as she dove into her pack and pulled out a weird mask and a little, compact tank attached to it. She pressed the mask onto Wally's face and let him breath into it as she glanced around the little dead end.

Her cyrogonal was covering the little pitfall with a thick sheen of ice. Gemini covered it with a translucent green barrier which the floating snowflake covered over with yet more ice. Gemini grunted something to the other pokémon, tested her weight on the makeshift trapdoor with a hoof and seemed to declare it good enough.

Alistair moved slowly, his gaze fixed on the ceiling above us. [I do not like this place, sir. Somehow it feels worse than before.]

"You're telling me," I grunted. "If I never have to see this place again, it will be too soon." I scratched Loki's head as he gurgled by my leg and made my way carefully over to Wally and Marsha. She was busy looking through her bag for something as he was leaning against the wall, slowly pulling himself up as what seemed to be his pokémon crowded around him.

I made my way around the gardevoir somewhat nervously and stood next to a delcatty that looked ready to rip my face off. "What happened down here?" I asked Wally.

He shrugged as best he could. He took a deep breath from his mask and pulled it off before quickly glancing at mine and Marsha's pokémon. "I have no clue. Something weird. Everything was fine up to about three days ago. The pokémon were perfectly normal for down here… there wasn't anything weird about it at all. Then slowly, wenoticed everything changing. It was like… we couldn't think anymore." He frowned, took a quick inhale from his mask and sighed. "Maybe that's not right. Something happened. It was like… somehow, we weren't able to think as quickly as before. Like something was slowing us down, mentally.

"Then it started getting worse." He took another breath, tried to take his mask off again until Marsha shoved it on his face and insisted he keep wearing it. He threw her a long-suffering look and shook his head. "After that, it was like we couldn't think of anything. We became focused on a single task, then after that, we even couldn't focus on that. It was like we only had our instincts left; feed, sleep, drink and the rest. Then some of our pokémon went crazy. They randomly turned round and started attacking us too. We had to fight them off and recall them, but it was so hard to think about recalling them. Everything in our minds was screaming instinct; kill or be killed."

He winced as he pulled himself further up. "We let out our psychics; they went on about something to do with signals. They tried to get us away as quickly as they could. The further out of the caves we moved, the more we could think. Then there was a load of pain and I was in this really, really weird place. It was like I was in Aqua's hideout again. But there was this really weird fog following me from behind. Then the floor was also filling slowly up with water, which was even weirder, because that never happened."

"Sounds sorta like what we went through," Marsha said. "Pain, but we were trapped in this icy tundra, with the fog chasing us too."

"I was in tunnels too," I told them. "Still with the fog. I heard something moving in it at one point though."

Wally looked at me like I'd grown a second head, glanced at Marsha and finally frowned.

"I didn't have that,"Wally clarified. "But I don't think that's our main concern now. After that, we woke up. We found ourselves in a different place. There were no pokémon there and our own ones were acting really weird. Then the fog from the weird dream or whatever it was appeared. Something was in it, but we couldn't see what it was. Then just all of a sudden, almost all the pokémon in here attacked us. They were backing us into a corner and the thing in the fog seemed to be leading them. I thought we were down for, so I provided a distraction so that the others could escape." He shrugged at Marsha's groan. "It's not like I've got a long life ahead of me anyhow."

"Wally!" Marsha growled and punched him on the arm. "Don't say that!"

"It's true though," he muttered.

I shrugged and glanced at his pokémon again. "Way I see it, you would have got out anyway. That thing there-" I pointed at the flying cockroach, "took out that entire flock of golbat and crobat. You also seemed to be taking out the pokémon pretty easily."

He shrugged and smiled at his pokémon. "Maybe. But we've been fighting for nearly a day now. We'd have eventually tired out and been killed. That's my magnezone," he said, pointing at the flying insect. "With all the intense electrical energies in here, it's constantly producing a little charge in the air. So whatever electrical attacks you use end up being beastly. The only problem is that it tires him out." He sat up fully, leaning against the wall and scratched his delcatty's head as it rubbed against him. "So how the hell did you even know how to find me here? And what the hell are you doing here? Your pokémon aren't strong enough in here. You know that full well. You could have been killed!"

"So I was supposed to sit around and worry myself to death about you!" Marsha sighed and shook her head. "Your dusknoir said you were in trouble. I didn't know what to do. You know you'd have done the same in my position."

"I wouldn't have been stupid enough to run into a death trap after my fatally ill cousin!"

The slap echoed all through the cavern. Wally's pokémon hissed and advanced on Marsha, but a simple wave of the hand from Wally stopped them all in their tracks.

Marsha was facing the floor, her shoulders shaking. "Don't say that. Just don't. You're my family Wally. Of course I'd risk my life to save you. Why do you always have to play the shortened lifespan card every time you're in a bad situation? Jackass." She tsked and jumped to her feet. "If you want to be such an ass, fine. But don't damn well do it after I've just risked everything to save you, alright? I could have died here. My pokémon could have died here. I volunteered this one here to follow me in here and he and his pokémon could have died too! And what do you say? Thanks? No! It's 'ooh, don't bother because I'll die soon anyhow'."

He sighed. "I'm sorry, alright? I don't like having to have help. Even if you've saved my life. Everyone's always thrown away everything just to look after me; Mum, Dad, our Uncle's family… hell, even your family made sacrifices to help me! I'm just fed up of feeling like the family burden."

I didn't want to get involved, but the little tinks of something crashing against ice were starting to make me more than a little nervous. "Uh, guys, as important as this is for you two, I'm pretty sure we should get moving. Those things are getting through that ice shield slowly. I don't wanna be here when they finally get through."

Wally pulled a face, shrugged, pushed himself to his feet, winced and fell back into the wall. "He's right. We should really get moving. We're not too far from the exit. There's something weird going on in here though; pokémon native to only Sinnoh, Johto and Kanto have been appearing in here. That electrode was one of them. There were a bunch of sneasel too a while back. I'm starting to think that all these dangerous caverns are connected."

"Oh dear god I hope not," Marsha whispered. "Alright, let's leave here."

It took what felt like the better part of a day to finally escape the tunnels. Having Wally with us was nothing short of a blessing – his pokémon were fearsome enough that most of the wild pokémon would avoid us as much as they could. The ones that didn't were usually just taken out without any obvious effort.

The sight of sunlight after everything was such a blessing. The light was nearly blinding at first, but it soon became something I wished to never lose again. Marsha and I both had to carry Wally. He'd broken his ankle at one point before we'd met him, though his gardevoir often helped by just simply levitating him alongside it.

I fell asleep on the helicopter back – somehow – and was only woken up when we'd landed. There was a strong smell of wet leaves, pollen and a gentle warm breeze wafting around everywhere. Part of a mountain loomed in the background and the distant sounds of exploud hooting in the distance could be heard.

"Verdanturf," Marsha explained to me as the helicopter blades died down. "It's near Mauville and Rustboro. Our cousins live here. Do you mind if I leave you here for a bit? Family stuff, you know?"

I nodded. "Yeah, that's fine. We uh, don't have to go back to that place to find… it, do we? I don't think we can survive that again."

Marsha bit her lip. "I'm not sure. Give me a day, then I'll meet up with you and we'll figure out what's happening."

"Stay away from the Cluster," Wally said as Marsha helped him out of the helicopter. "Whatever's down there isn't something we could tackle. If whatever you're after is down there, my advice is to wait for it to appear somewhere else."

"You don't need to tell me twice," Marsha sighed. "I'll fill you in on everything I got told about the Magma base, alright?" She looked to me and smiled. "Once I'm done here, I'll let you know what I find out for our case too, alright?"

"I don't need help walking, you know?" Wally muttered as Marsha tried to help him walk. She raised an eyebrow, let him put his weight on his ankle and smirked at his yelp of pain.

"Point?" she asked.

He glowered at her. "Fine. Thanks." He glanced at me afterwards. "You too. I appreciate the help."

"No problem," I said and watched them disappear past the little clearing we'd landed in and into the main town. I leapt out of the chopper, thanked the pilot and found my way into the little town myself. I checked the maps, saw that Mauville was nearby and considered visiting Chris. She was probably the only person I could think of that would know enough about pokémon to be able to tell me what could have caused the weird drug-like trips we all suffered.

I pressed Gemini's poké ball and let her out once more. She sighed, flicked her ears and sat down on the concrete floor. [Finally. I take it the woman has left to treat her family?]

I nodded. "Yeah. She's looking after him while we do what we want. I should get you guys healed, then I was thinking about one of my friends who might know about whatever caused that thing in the Cluster.

I frowned and scratched my chin as I read the map again, trying to find the pokémon centre. Instead I found myself forced off my feet as one of the poké balls on my bandolier burst open.

Alistair suddenly stood in front of me, little cuts darted over his body. He leant slightly against a lamppost. [We need to talk, sir.]

Alarm bells went off in my head. Then the pain from the dream came back again. I pressed my hands against either side of my head, squeezed as hard as I could and squinted at my pokémon. "What's up? And can it wait? My head really hurts."

He scraped his elbow blades against each other. [It is about that.]

"What?"

[Are you a complete and utter moron?]

I winced and turned to face Gemini. "Just what are you talking about?"

Her face fell and she met my gaze. [You. Being a moron. I thought that much would be obvious.]

I sighed and rubbed my head. "Right. Just what have I done now?"

[I did not know that you could be so stupid sir. I attempted to help Master Adryan and now… it seems that you have elected to do exactly the same.]

I whirled on him. "What? I'm seriously confused."

Gemini snorted and rose to her feet. [That does not surprise me. And to think; I honestly thought you better than this.]

"Alright," I growled, losing my patience. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Gemini rolled her eyes. [Do not try to hide it from us. We are psychics; we can sense these things. You made a deal. You saw the future. You have a tumour.]

The pain in my head suddenly seemed so much worse than I could have ever imagined. "What? What the fuck?" My insides burned cold and terror made me forget the pain in my head. "Tell me what the hell you're talking about. I haven't made any deals with any psychics!"

Alistair placed a hand on my shoulder. [The swelling on your brain says otherwise, sir.]

I grabbed at my head, almost as if my fingers could slip through my skull and grab at my brain. "What? I just… what? There's no way! The only psychics I could have done so with are you two and neither of you have tried to do that with me, have you?"

[It happened round about the time the signal disappeared,] Gemini said. [It obviously has something to do with that. I didn't say anything at the time as other things seemed to be taking priority.]

"This…" I grabbed at my hair and pulled at it. I couldn't understand what the hell was going on. It all made no sense! Gemini only said that the signal had vanished just after we woke up from the weird dream thing we all experienced.

Something clicked and I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.

I remembered everything about the weird dream; the icy tundra, the dark tunnels, the room with floor-pictures and the ever-present fog.

More than that, I remembered the last room, with the massive screen. The screen that played me continuous clips showing my death.

That was my future?

I'd seen my future while unconscious, without any desire on my behalf. It had been thrust upon me and I had to suffer with its burden.

"That's impossible," I whispered. "I saw something when I was out – a big screen that showed me little images, but all it showed was me dying, over and over again in different ways. I survived some but… is that my future?"

Gemini flicked her ears. She glanced over at Alistair and shared a silent conversation. Finally she looked back at me. [Possibly. I cannot say. All that we can know is that whatever caused the dream… whatever caused your tumour… it is incredibly powerful.]

[And clearly it wants you dead, sir.]

Understatement of the freaking century.

 
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