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.


49. Hardship

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live ~ Flora Whittlemore


"The best of hopes often lead to the worst course of action."

- Anon. (Unknown date)


As much as I originally liked Lavaridge, being back there couldn't help but fill me with a sense of anger. It was distracting me from the one goal I had – the one that I'd come so close to finally completing. I had to wait around for Marsha and hope that she'd found all the information we needed from Crazy Ivan's body.

I took a deep breath and coughed as ash settled down in my mouth. Gemini snorted by my side and slowly cantered up the mountainside, choosing her footing carefully and somehow managing to stay upright all the while. She gave me a condescending look and carried on ahead, searching for some sign of the former base.

I pulled the crumpled piece of paper out of my pocket and analysed the picture once more. It was a sketch of some sort of weird symbol I apparently had to look for on the mountainside. Supposedly the entrance to the base was directly beneath it, but Marsha told me I'd need some sort of firepower to get through. The door only opened to fire, apparently.

I touched Scar's poké ball and smiled a little to myself. At least I already had one key that I needed.

Gemini stopped a little distance ahead of me and huffed. Her ears pinned against her head and her tail snapped around her as she glanced around the ash-covered mountains. [Do you even have any idea where we are headed?]

I shrugged and scoured the brown-grey covered landscape. "Somewhere with that symbol I showed you. There's meant to be about three or four entrances along here, so we should be able to find at least one of them."

[This is foolish. We should be attempting to track The Celebi, rather than wasting our time here.]

"But what if it's behind this too, somehow?" Granted there were no forests nearby, so I couldn't really picture it randomly appearing and attacking people, but it was a hope…

[You don't believe that.]

… A hope that I knew better than to have.

"Maybe not," I admitted, "but this needs to be done. If something else is happening that might be somehow linked to that stupid time-pixie, shouldn't we investigate it?" I spun around full circle and finally buried my head in a hand. "This is going to take forever at this rate. These mountains stretch on for miles. We need someone that knows this area to help us out here."

Belatedly, I realised that we already had that. I called Scar out and let him familiarise himself with the surroundings before I asked if he had any idea about some sort of secret underground base.

To my surprise, he nodded and motioned for us to follow him. Along the way my brain started making up various tales as to how he already knew – maybe he'd been captured by one of them before. Maybe he'd somehow stumbled onto their base, one of the pokémon in their clan had been captured. I remembered his gunshot wound when I first caught him. Maybe he'd received that from someone that was operating secretly beneath the mountain, using the remains of a terrorist group's hidden base as their own base of operations.

"How do you even know this is here?" I asked him. He turned around, gave a little grunt and continued walking purposely through the ankle-deep ash. I had to glance at Gemini for a translation. The girafarig huffed and rolled her eyes in my direction.

[He said it's none of your business.]

"Oh," I said, deflated. I was so used to being told everything I needed to know, it seemed strange to find there was something someone didn't want me to know. Maybe I could have got it out of him, were I treating him normally, but I couldn't bring myself to do so. Becoming attached and losing them hurt too much. It was easier for me to deal with the little pains of closing myself off from them, rather than being their friends and losing them like Xander.

Eventually the charmeleon lead us down a path littered with fallen trees and overturned boulders. There was a clear walkway cut through the ash that somehow seemed to be able to shrug off the continual falling drift. We finally reached a dead end, with a large orange rock wall that towered over us and was at least three times my size. In a little nook at the very top, covered in shadows and overgrown brown vines was a tiny little symbol that would have been easily missed, had I not been looking for it.

"This is the place," I told my pokémon. "Alright, Scar, light the wall up."

He gave me a weird look, almost like he was questioning my sanity. I was starting to wonder just how sane I'd end up anyway, at the rate I was going. Scar finally took a deep breath and blew red-hot flames all over the orange wall. The vines above caught fire and crackled loudly. Then suddenly there was the sound of something heavy shifting and the wall in front of us slowly slid away, revealing a weird tunnel behind it.

Lights were strung up all along the walls. Even then they were working, years after Magma had supposedly used the base. Either someone was still using it, or Magma had a brilliant engineer with them.

[I do not like this place.]

I couldn't help but throw a smirk at Gemini. "Really? Because I always find that sinister, hidden tunnels are always so inviting. Maybe we might even meet a few friends down there."

[I hope something eats your face.]

"Whatever." I inched closer and peered into the surprisingly well-lit tunnels. "This place isn't going to explore itself." I drew my gun and let it lead. "Scar, you stick by my side. Gemini, cover us from behind."

We made our way into the tunnels in tense silence. The continual light within seemed to make it even eerier than if it were completely dark. In the dark, at least we would have been on edge and expecting things to leap out of everywhere. In the light, it seemed even weirder – that every shadow held a foe, that every corner had someone hiding behind. The dark would have hidden such things; everything would have been a possible enemy. The light pinpointed exactly where the enemies would be.

Scar recoiled at something that I couldn't sense. It put me on edge until he put a claw over his snout and tried his best to cover his nostrils. Even then my mind screamed airborne toxins until the familiar smell of decomposition hit me.

"Well, I think we know there's definitely something dead in here," I muttered as we tracked down the smell. It was weird to walk down the corridors of tunnels made deep into a volcano and mountain range. They were surprisingly spacious and held up well – it looked like they'd survive another few decades, at the very least. When Wally and Marsha had explained everything to me, I'd half expected to find dilapidated tunnels that were falling apart and rife with angry pokémon. Instead the tunnels were spacious, still holding and well lit. There was even air conditioning blowing a faint breeze on us continually.

It was obvious whoever built the bunker expected it to last. It made me wonder just whether or not the terrorist group were up and running again, or whether they just thought they were last longer than they did.

[Well, this is interesting.] Gemini rounded a corner and sniffed at something I couldn't quite see. She turned to me and stared me straight in the eyes, her gaze deadly serious. [Obviously something powerful did this.]

I wondered just what she meant.

Then I didn't have to, when I saw exactly what she was talking about.

It was a massive pile of pokémon. Some were whole, some were in pieces. All of them were dead. The blood had coagulated and attracted thousands of little insects that were busy feasting on the remains. I wondered just how I missed such a sound when my ears re-registered the sound of the air conditioning humming all around me.

"I don't think a human could do this," I said as I kicked the lumpy pieces of flesh something had left behind. "There's no tool marks. All these body parts look like they were ripped from each other. A machamp maybe? It definitely has the strength."

Scar made a little dismissive sound. He sniffed the air again, growled and motioned for us to follow him once more. I threw another glance at the pile of dead pokémon and saw a door hidden behind all the chunks. A little part of me said I should try and find out just what was buried beneath the death. Caution won out as I followed after Scar, intent to secure the area before I went investigating anywhere else. I didn't want a repeat of any other time I hadn't been fully prepared somewhere.

[I cannot sense anyone else in here,] Gemini said. [We appear to be the only living creatures in this complex.]

"The fact that you said 'living' creatures doesn't exactly feel me with confidence." I threw a glance back at where the pile of dead pokémon had been and shook my head to try and clear it. "What could have done something on such a large scale? It would have to be more than one thing; a few machamp or a few psychics working together. No one thing could possibly do something like that on its own."

[I don't know,] Gemini whispered into my mind. [Something there… throws my senses off. Not like a creature of darkness, but more… an overload of power. That much power was used there that I can't quite discern it's origin.]

I frowned and bit my lip. "That makes no real sense."

[Think of when your electronic devices receive too much power and crash. A mind is similar. Too much pain and it crashes. My senses are overloaded there.]

"So whatever group of things did that there used so much energy it's enough to disable psychic tracking?" I blew a long breath and ran my fingers through my hair. "Well, that's definitely reassuring. Think it could be that pixie?"

[Perhaps. But I saw the remains of a few dark pokémon there. Even The Celebi cannot override the immunity of the dark creatures. Either it is working with something else, or something much worse is happening.]

"I'm not sure which one of those I'd prefer," I admitted. "Scar! Any ideas where we're going yet? I don't like this aimless wandering in a place I don't know."

He gave a small hiss and motioned something I couldn't quite understand. Instantly afterwards a new, stronger smell hit me and I knew we were close. Another corner led us straight to another pile, though this one was so much higher than the last one we found.

It was also entirely of humans too.

Or, human bodies rather.

"These aren't in pieces," I said as I inched myself a bit closer. I could see the remains of blood that had leaked out of some people's ears. Their noses, their eyes and even their mouths had leaked blood too. Others had their bones snapped. Some were in such bad states I couldn't even say what had killed them. The smell of them all was that bad that even breathing through my mouth let me taste the smell. It took every ounce of willpower I had to not throw up then and there.

[They died quickly, if that is any reassurance.]

I threw a surprised look at Gemini and followed it up with a quick shrug. "Don't really care. As long as it doesn't happen to me. How do you know they died quickly anyway?"

She made the closest to a shrug she could. [I don't. I just thought that you could use comfort. Humans generally comfort each other in such a time, don't they?]

"I suppose so. And since when did you care about my feelings anyway?"

[If you can't work as well because of your feelings, it's in my best interest to help you. Better that I try to comfort you, rather than you succumb to grief or worry and have a repeat of a previous occurrence.]

I felt myself tense immediately. "And what's that supposed to mean?"

Something slammed into her before she had the chance to reply. She smacked into the wall behind her with enough force to crack it and went down instantly. I snapped round in the direction of the assault, itching to shoot at whoever was there. Everything in me screamed that we'd found whoever was behind all the bodies.

Then pain overloaded my brain. I dropped my gun and fell to the floor, clutching at my head, unable to hear anything above my own screams.

Finally, with no small amount of mercy, everything went black.

Slowly the blackness faded away. My hands and feet were throbbing, like they'd been bound and the blood was slowly flowing into them less and less. I tasted metal in my mouth and felt something wet and sticky atop my lip. My tongue told me that was where the blood had come from. My eyes were blurring as everything around me spun. I could only tell that I was somewhere away from the bodies – I couldn't smell them anymore.

I couldn't hear Gemini either. I tried to find her, instead finding nothing but a strange little office, of sorts. There were pictures all over the wall. I couldn't see what exactly what they were – just that they were all of some large, red creature.

The sight of it reminded me of Scar. I couldn't see him anywhere. I tried to move my hands to check my other pokémon, only to find them bound to something above me. Metal rattled as I tried to move my arms and I finally gave up with a sigh. My vision cleared enough to finally let me know that my poké balls weren't on my belt – instead they seemed to be on a desk on the other side of the room.

There was a loud crash behind me. I jumped without meaning to and tried my best to find who had captured me. My brain screamed at me for being so foolish; walking in, without back up, into the lair of what was possibly a group of serial killers.

Someone's hand gripped my throat and tilted my head back. My eyes widened in recognition at the figure in front of me.

"I didn't think I'd find you here," said Adryan.

I nearly choked on my tongue. Instead I found myself coughing until finally it stopped and I found words again. "You?" I asked, stumped. "You're behind all of this?"

I saw his eyes widen in surprise behind his glasses. "Behind what?" He asked, raising one eyebrow above the other. "You should be the one telling me. Psycho-soldier with a penchant for blowing up buildings, then I find you in some secret underground lair, full of bodies?"

I rolled my eyes before I could stop myself. "I asked you first."

"I have my pokémon ready to kill yours and you at a moment's notice," he countered. "So I think you're gonna be talking first."

I growled at him and considered calling his bluff then and there, if only to see if he was really behind everything. Finally I sighed and nodded at one of the pockets on my jacket. "I'm investigating this place. Friend of a friend called in a favour. I'm doing this while she's tracking down the time-pixie."

He squatted in front of me and folded his arms. For the first time I noticed the bags under his eyes and the way his tan seemed to have wasted away. "Because that's believable." He snorted to himself and leant in a bit closer. "What's the real reason? Try to make this excuse a bit more believable."

"I'm telling the truth!" I snarled at him. "It might be unbelievable, but you know I'm from the goddamn future! Working with someone to investigate something isn't that much of a stretch, is it?"

He rolled his eyes and grabbed at the pocket I'd indicated. The badge Marsha had given me came out in his hand, which he stared at for a long moment. Finally he snorted and tossed it back in my lap. "Nice forgery. But really, Unova Special Investigations? You couldn't have made something that was a bit more believable?"

I sighed and tried to move once more. My arms still restrained, I settled for just glaring at him instead. "Believe what you want. But really, why would I suddenly turn serial killer? Or at least, one that hides bodies in an underground bunker built into a volcano? Doesn't that seem a bit farfetched to you?"

"Maybe," he admitted. "Which also makes it a good cover. Really, I don't know what to believe with you anymore. You let your starter die. You blew up a building full of people. Do you know how many people were in there? How many had families? How many lives do you think you ruined that day?"

"I know!" I shouted at him.

"Do you? Do you really? Because the way I see it, you blew up a building, had some fun and decided to go around killing even more people! How many more lives are you going to take before you're happy?"

"This wasn't me!" I screamed and tried to lunge at him. My arms caught on my restraints and screamed as they pulled me back into place. My ribs felt like I'd injured them again and the pain in my kidneys flared back into life. I groaned and fell back, leaning my head against the wall. "I know what I did was wrong. There's nothing I can say about it."

"You're not even sorry?"

"Of course I am! Mia was in that building! Do you think I'm exactly happy knowing that I killed one of my friends?"

He seemed a bit taken aback by that. I dropped my head and stared down at my feet, refusing to look back up at him. Finally he laughed and my head snapped back up of its own accord.

"Would you even be feeling this way if she wasn't in there? If Mia wasn't one of your victims, would you honestly be feeling bad right now?"

The words died in my throat before I could even form them. Defeated, I just stared back at the floor again.

"I thought as much." I was slightly surprised he didn't sound smug. Just, resigned to a fact. And somewhat disappointed. Something hard and metallic pressed against my head. It took less than a second for me to recognise the barrel of my own gun pressing into my forehead. My heart sped up of its own accord, even as my brain spilt into different parties for the course of action they wanted to take.

"Really, it'd be just so much easier to pull the trigger here and now. It's what you've done, right? Or at least, how you started off? Kill someone for the good of everyone. Maybe you did the right thing with Aaron. Maybe even with that Champion in Dewford. But killing a lab full of innocent people? The saddest thing is that it doubled up as an abortion centre. In a way, those women got what they wanted."

"Not even I'd make that joke about it."

"I know." He sighed and dropped his arm. "I'm just trying to make myself feel better about things. The laughter hides the pain. Only not too well, it seems. I'm trying to tell myself this would be the best thing. One bullet. It'd kill you. It'd stop you doing any more harm to so many people. I could even hide you in the mountain of bodies someone's left here. But I'm not a murderer."

A scornful laugh burst out of my mouth. "Those people you've killed would say otherwise."

He flinched and looked away. "I know that. But despite my bravado, I still feel bad about them all. How can't you? Sure, they may have been scumbags, but I still killed them. Killing one of my friends? Not sure I could really convince myself I didn't care about that. So what are you really doing here? If you're not the one responsible for all of this."

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. "Like I said, I was checking this place out on the request of a friend of a friend. They said that some gym trainer of Flannery's had found a pile of corpses here and they figure it was all to do with some serial killer or some resurgence of Team Magma. What the hell are you doing here?"

He gave a small laugh. "If you'd paid any attention to me the last time we met, you'd have a faint idea. The job I've mentioned I have? The one that I took some time away from? I'm working in the gym here. I happen to be the mystery trainer of Flannery's."

My mind went blank for a moment. "You? You're the one working for Flannery? Since when did you work in a gym? Since when did you even want to work in a gym? I thought you didn't want to be a specialist trainer or anything like that."

He shrugged and stood up, walking to and fro in front of me. "I didn't. Not really. But when Lucy died, I starting thinking about things. I don't want to be a trainer forever, if it means that I keep losing my pokémon. I wanted to get a normal job, something that meant I wouldn't have to constantly deal with my pokémon dying on me. The only problem is that I'm twenty and I've been a trainer for ten years. I've got no experience for working in a bank or anything like that. So my only options were around pokémon really. I could have become a breeder and worked with Chris, but I couldn't manage a farm full of pokémon. That and I'd probably become too attached to everything and never be able to sell anything off."

I nodded and shook my hands a little. "So now that we've established I'm not the serial killer here, how about you untie me? My hands and feet have pins and needles."

"I suppose I can," he said. "Though bear in mind; if you do try anything, I'll just have to knock you out and tie you up again."

"I'll make sure I'm as good as gold." I moved my hands a little again and stared at my poké balls on the table. "So where's Gemini and Scar? I take it you haven't killed them and eaten their bones or something."

He ignored my bad joke in favour of freeing my hands. "Irenui and Willow are looking over them. Never knew you had a girafarig though. You catch that after your gallade walked out on you?"

"You saw her before," I said, narrowing my eyes a little. "When we were in Sootopolis. Even before, with everything around that lab."

He looked confused until recognition lit his face up. "Oh yeah. Right. I remember now. Sorry, my memory's been on the fritz lately. I blame work. Before that, I never had to deal with constant headaches or the like. I don't know how Chris does it."

I ignored him in favour of rubbing my sore wrists. Adryan gave me a small, somewhat apologetic look as I stood up and made my way out of the room, picking up my other pokémon on the way. Sure enough, in the next room was Scar and Gemini, both looking annoyed and like they were ready to rip the faces off the flygon and gardevoir standing guard. Willow caught sight of me and let out a guttural hiss that made me leap back, though she remained firmly in place when Adryan told her it was all alright.

Once I was certain my pokémon were fine, I recalled Scar and made the mental note to keep an eye on Adryan and his pokémon. I gave Gemini a purposeful glance and saw the slight shift in her head that let me know she'd heard me.

"So what do you think's going on here then?" I asked Adryan.

He shrugged and pointed in a vague direction. "best I can tell, something killed a lot of people, piled up their corpses somewhere."

"That's useful," I grunted and turned away from him. "The pile of pokémon pieces had a door hidden behind it. Have you checked that out?"

His blank face said it all. "Uh, no. I didn't even notice that. I just saw the masses of pokémon and reported it. Call me crazy, but investigating a room hidden behind a pile of ripped apart pokémon on my own doesn't exactly sound like something that will end well."

"So now you're not on your own. Let's get going and investigate this damn place. Gemini said whatever did it used enough power to overload her senses."

"Willow said the same thing," he grunted. "So that means it's got to be a pokémon that's done the killing."

"But a human could still be behind it all," I countered. "Pokémon aren't smart enough to commit mass-murder on such a scale, are they?"

He shrugged and made his way out of the little room, bringing us back into the familiar, corpse-stench corridors. "A few months ago, I'd have said no. But apparently there's pokémon smart enough to bring specific people through time with the intention of making things better. There's been stories in the news about pokémon that have committed murdered, but that was usually a case of them dissecting some other pokémon or maybe a random human to find out how they work. Blissey might be used as doctor's assistants, but they've got to get their knowledge of how things work on the inside from somewhere."

I thought back to all the blissey I'd seen helping out at the pokémon centres and couldn't help but shudder violently.

"Now?" Adryan continued. "I just don't know, to be totally honest. Maybe one could, but I'd be confused as to why they'd leave them all in big piles in an abandoned bunker. A pokémon that can plan things out like that is just a scary thought. And hopefully it stays that way."

I threw a glance at the gardevoir floating by his side and the large flygon crawling on all fours behind him and shared his opinion whole-heartedly. I hadn't heard of a case like that myself and I didn't want to ever hear of one, if I had my own way.

"Something's happening in the Origin Cluster," I told him. "The person who told me about this place mentioned that. Something's going wrong there too, apparently."

He stopped and glanced at me, surprised. "Really? Like what?"

"I dunno." I shrugged and traced a finger along the walls. It came away dust free, surprisingly enough. "He wouldn't tell me much about what was happening there. Just things acting weird, apparently."

He gave me a look I couldn't understand before he grunted and carried on walking. He made his way through the corridors so well that I couldn't help but wonder if he'd been here before. Of course, he had, given that he found the pile of bodies, but he seemed to know it a bit too well for someone that had just found it.

"So how many times have you been here anyway?" I asked, deciding to take the direct approach.

"A few times." He gave me a grin and tapped a hand along the walls as we walked along. "A little while after Team Magma broke up, after the base had been cleared by all the police, it was what all the cool people did – sneak into the old bases and see what you can find."

I snorted. "I have a hard time seeing you as being cool. Ever."

"Why else do you think I tried sneaking in?" He laughed and shook his head to himself. "Back in the days where I thought other people's opinions mattered. But anyway, we used to sneak in these places quite a lot and see what we could find. I think Flannery had just become a gym leader then, so we gave her loads of headaches when she had to try and find us down here. We probably weren't the nicest we could have been to her. And now I'm working for her. Weird how that turns out, isn't it?"

I said nothing, merely shrugging as the smell of rancid fetor hit us both. The pile of ripped apart pokémon remained in place, slowly decomposing and feeding the ever-growing swarm of flies.

"I take it we're not shifting that by hand," Adryan commented, touching a squishy piece of dead meat with his boot.

"When we have two psychics with us? Are you actually that stupid, or do you need to try?"

He clipped me on the shoulder. "Shut up. I forgot for a moment, alright? I do a lot of things myself – one of the big things in being a gym trainer is relying on yourself to do things, you know?"

A little smirk grew on my face. "Actually, I do." I gestured for Gemini to move some of the pile aside as Adryan gave me a confused look. Finally he decided to say nothing about it as he had Willow follow Gemini's lead. Finally everything was shifted to two piles on either side, leaving us a gruesome pathway.

"What do you reckon we'll find in there?" Adryan asked as he inched closer to the door and tried it. "Once we unlock it, of course."

"Hopefully something that tells us just what the hell's going on here." I tried the door after Adryan and came up as short as he did. I growled, kicked it and just watched it shake in its frame.

"Obviously that isn't going to work." Adryan stepped back and glanced at his gardevoir. "Any ideas here?" There was silence as they talked about something, then finally Adryan sighed and scratched his head. "Apparently there's some sort of psychic lock holding it in place. I'd ask Ripper, but I sent him to scout out the place a while ago, but he hasn't come back yet."

I gave him a confused glance. "A psychic lock? Those can be placed on doors?"

He shrugged. "First I've heard of it, but I trust Willow. If she says there's one on it, there's one on it. It's gonna have to be a really strong psychic that was able to do that. Or someone that's really in the know."

I said nothing and let Loki out of his poké ball. One quick command later, he had phased through the door and punched a hole through it from the other side. The lock fell straight out of the door and the little sableye grinned wildly as he swung the door open, revealing his success. I thanked him and returned him, ignoring the look Adryan gave me.

The once-sealed room was dark, in stark contrast to the rest of the base. Inside there was a bright green light and a soft humming.

There was also a dusknoir floating in the middle of the room.

I backed away, ready for a fight as Adryan stepped forwards, completely in shock. "Ripper? Just what are you doing in there?" The dusknoir floated forwards and grumbled something I couldn't understand. Finally Adryan checked around the room, thanked his pokémon and stood on his tiptoes, trying to reach the roof. "Apparently he got stuck in here, by that psychic lock. Which really makes me wonder just how damn strong whatever it was that put that up is."

"Well, as long as we don't ever bump into it, why should we worry?" I pressed a button on the keyboard's computer and watched a bunch of gibberish flash up on screen. Adryan shoved past me and basically pressed his face into the screen.

"This is weird," he said as he pressed a few buttons on the keyboard. "I remember learning about this language off my dad. Well, it's not so much a language as more scientific code a lot of people use to hide certain things."

I folded my arms and raised an eyebrow. "Wait, so you actually understand what's written there?"

He shrugged, even as he was bent over, scrutinising the screen. "Not so much. Maybe if I could get a print out and study it for a few weeks. Dad said it's usually a cipher, to stop spies stealing their ideas. I always thought he was a bit of a loon when he said such things, but I got older and realised what actually goes on in the world."

I rolled my eyes and went to walk back out of the room. Gemini was by my side, silent the whole time, though she gasped when Ripper appeared out of the shadows and loomed in front of me.

"Thou must leave… too much harm hast been done…"

He disappeared back into the shadows instantly afterwards. I wondered just what the hell his warning – was it a warning? – meant when Adryan stole my attention by cursing at the machine for not having a printer. I found it just a little weird that he could potentially understand everything on the screen.

Then just like that, things clicked into place.

"You!" My hands balled into fists and were shaking by my side. Adryan spun around and raised an eyebrow at me as part-anger, part-fear made me shake and begin pacing on the spot. "You're behind all of this, aren't you?"

He snorted and leant back on the computer console. "Alright then, I'll bite. What have I done this time? Is this another time where you decide the world hates you and you need to kill things to make yourself feel better? Because seriously, when you're in a room with a dusknoir and a gardevoir, with a flygon waiting outside, maybe starting a fight with their trainer isn't the smartest thing to do."

"That's just it!" I barked. "You're so smug and confident right now because you're damn well behind it all! Everything goes wrong in the Origin Cluster? Well guess where you happen to have visited recently. Things go wrong near Lavaridge, where you oh-so-conveniently happen to be working? And come on, you actually understand some sort of cipher that's used on a computer hidden in an underground bunker? And who was the person who told me about that stupid damn laboratory!"

"Why don't you shut up and think for a minute?" he said coldly. "I can see where you're coming from for the first few reasons. Hell, I can even understand why you'd jump to such conclusions. But don't try and blame your fucked up decisions on me! I'm not the idiot who decided to get his pokémon killed! I'm not the one that decided the best plan of action afterwards was to blow up a whole fucking building just for some twisted idea of revenge!" He crossed the room and grabbed me by the scruff of my collar, lifting me just off the ground. "You don't go around killing people and get to blame others. You fucked up. You deal with the damn consequences! The police are looking for you and I should really just hand you straight over to them. But right now, for some stupid reason, I still think that you might just have a higher purpose here. You know, like maybe try and save the fucking world? The same thing you were tasked to do? And what do you do? Anything but!

"Sort your fucking act out," he growled and threw me back against the wall. "You're helping to figure out how things are going wrong, good for you. Now quit blaming other people for shit that happened in your life. It's not like you'll be around to regret things after you save the world anyhow. Hell, I'm doing more to save the world than you are, and I'm not even the one a pokémon abducted!"

My ears burned with embarrassment, but all of it was ignored with his final few words. "And just how the hell are you trying to save the world?" I snapped back. "Living a normal life, working a nine-til-five? Or don't tell me; your boyfriend's some mystical creature that happens to be President of the World? How the hell is that saving the world?"

He shook his head and turned around to the computer console. "Just get out of here. I don't know who you killed to get that badge and I really don't want to know. You're just ruining everything around you. Do me a favour? Get the hell out of my life. If I never see you again, I can die happy."

I spun on my heel and stormed out of the room before I could say anything back to him. There were a number of things I wanted to say – wanted to scream – but I knew I'd only end up hating myself for saying them. Gemini followed me out and hissed at Willow on her way. The gardevoir floated around her, hissed back and brought Ripper into the fight too. I growled for Gemini to follow me and stalked my way out of the underground complex. I had found out just what was happening there, that was all I needed to do. In that moment, I told myself that I'd let Adryan rot, if that was what he so desired.

Outside, the ash was still falling. I stomped across the floor, kicked ash clouds out of my way and generally just cursed anything I could think of. I scratched my elbow as deeply as I could, using the pain to distract me from how desperately I wanted a fix. It pissed me off that I was doing so well, only for something like that to make me want to fall into old habits. Then of course, getting pissed off only made me want to do it more.

I punched a rock and cursed again as pain flared through my entire hand. Gemini trotted up behind me and said nothing the whole while. Finally I turned around to her and leant back against the same rock I'd just injured myself on. "So what was that about then? With the gardevoir?"

She snorted and flicked her ears. [She is a hypocrite. She claims to hold her trainer above all others – to kill anyone who dares to harm him. Yet she does more than anyone ever could.]

Despite everything that had happened, fear punched me in the gut. "Why?" I said, jumping to my feet. "Just what's she doing?"

Gemini looked away quickly. [Nothing.] She shook both her heads and nodded towards the town. [We have achieved what we sought to, correct? Perhaps we should wait for your human accomplice back in civilisation?]

I stepped in front of her as she made to exit. "Not until you tell me what you meant."

I was fairly certain she rolled her eyes at me. [After such a display? I wonder why you would even care. It's obvious he wouldn't care if you ended up as a salamence's meal. Why should you care about him?]

I sighed and pressed a hand to my head. "Look Gemini, I just want to know, okay? There's a few things there that just don't damn well add up. I'd like to know why he's suddenly got such a massive shift in personality."

Gemini shook her heads again. [It is not your concern. It will only distract you from your task. Let things play out as they should.]

"Gemini," I growled. "Tell me."


"This isn't a game!"

She turned away and began to walk towards the town. [About time you learnt that. I am not one of your little pokémon you can command as you will. If I don't want to tell you something, I won't. We agreed to hunt down a common enemy. Trivial matters created by stupidity are not of our concern.]

I felt the anger of her second head bore into the base of my brain. A little shoot of pain came with it and suddenly things seemed a little clearer.

I just hoped I was jumping to mad conclusions again.

It took another hour for Adryan to leave the complex. Gemini seemed irritated the whole while, yet never said anything about it, once she knew what my plan was.

Honestly, I was lucky that Adryan even left the complex the same way I did. He didn't have any of his pokémon on him, but I could see he was on the phone. By the sounds of things, he had to be talking to Flannery, relating everything back to her.

Once he caught sight of me, he told her he'd called her back and scowled in my general direction. "What random, insane thing are you accusing me of this time?" he sighed more than said. He slipped his hands into the pockets of his coat and shook his head at me. "Because seriously, I've had enough. Didn't you get that from our last conversation?"

I said nothing. Instead I found myself surprised at just how much paler he looked in the sunlight. Bags under his eyes were visible, even beneath his glasses and his hair looked like it may have been thinning in random places.

He took my silence as a cue to get even more frustrated. "Seriously? Have you waited around to just stare at me? If this is the part where you confess your undying love, can we just skip that and realise that it just isn't going to happen?"

I scowled back at him and shook my head. Finally I sighed and walked a little closer towards him. "What have you done?" I asked, barely a whisper.

He folded his arms and leant back a little. "What am I being accused of this time?" he groaned.

"Ripper warned me away," I told him. His eyes widened just a little and I knew I was on the right track. "Then Gemini told me that Willow's a massive hypocrite – aiming to kill people that dare mean you harm. Yet apparently, she's doing the most to you. Something's off here Adryan. You might hate me, I don't know. I don't care. But dammit, tell me just what the hell you've gotten yourself into!"

He shrugged. "It's none of your damn business, that's what." He unfolded his arms and moved to walk past me. "Now do me a favour, won't you? That thing where I asked you to stay out of my life? Kindly do it."

I refused to budge. Something wasn't right and I wanted to know just what it was. "What's Willow doing Adryan?" I asked. Though inwardly, I already knew the answer. It was the only possible option. "Just what has she done? Is it something to do with how you're apparently doing more to save the world than me?"

He said nothing. He moved to walk past me again and turned his head away when I blocked him. Finally I shouted, "Just what the fuck's going on?"

"Willow's been helping me," he said, still facing away. "The world needs saving, doesn't it? And let's face it, you were completely clueless about it. So I figured that maybe, you needed some outside help."

I shook my head and took an involuntary step backwards. "No. No Adryan, don't tell me you were stupid enough to do something like that!"

He shrugged and offered a false grin. "You had no idea about the future. You had no psychic that would tell you about it. You needed help. I'm just one person, what does it matter if I cut my life a little short, if it means saving the world?"

"You idiot!" I screamed at him. "This was my damn task! Why the hell would you interfere with it? If anyone should get a brain tumour, it should be me!"

"And that's what this is all about, isn't it?" he growled. "'Me, me, me'. It's all you ever go on about. You need help in this! What else were you going to do? Run around, killing random Elites until something happened? So yeah, I got Willow to show me glimpses of the future. That way, I knew what to really expect. I only got the idea when Oth shared your memories with me. Some things make sense. Others don't. But what was I supposed to do? Sit around and twiddle my thumbs while one of my friends comes closer to evaporating into thin air or something?

"That's the general idea, yeah!" I fought the urge to punch him for being such an idiot. Instead I ended up pacing through the ash. "So what if I'm selfish in the regard that I want to do things so that my friends don't end up getting hurt!" I sighed and ran a hand through my hair. "How long. How long do you have left?"

"Geez." He snorted and rolled his eyes. "You make it sound like I'm gonna wither away and die this instant. I'll develop it when I'm about forty or something. I wasn't stupid enough to keep linking until I developed one then and there."

I dropped into a squat and just stared at the floor. "Why? Why the hell would you even bother doing something like this?"

He gave me a look that clearly said the answer should be obvious. "I'm your friend. Granted, I'm still pissed at you for killing everyone and generally fucking everything up, but I still want to try and help."

"So, as long as you're my friend, you're going to end up killing yourself to help save the world?"

He rolled his head from side to side and grinned a little. "Well, generally I'd help because you know, saving the world, it's a big deal. But after all, what're friends for? Course I'll keep helping. Like it or not."

It all added yet more mazes into my already turned-around mind. If he was willing to do something like that, because he was still my friend, I told myself I had to make him hate me. He seemed to want to live a normal life, back in the complex, when he was busy screaming at me. I wanted to stop him from killing himself, but I couldn't think of any way that I could convince him peacefully.

So my mind came up with what was possibly the stupidest idea of them all.

"You can't keep helping me," I told him. "You're killing yourself. I'm the one that's meant to vanish or stop existing or whatever!"

He sighed and pressed his hands onto his hips. "And that means you have to hold the fate of the world on your shoulders? I might be pissed at you for everything you've done. I might disagree with you on a lot of things. But I'm still going to help you save the world. I can't let one of my friends go through that alone."

"Don't!" I hissed at him. "Don't hurt yourself anymore. My pokémon have already died. Mia's died. Everyone around me dies. I'm sick of it! That's why I need to do this on my own! At least if it's just me, I won't make anyone else suffer!

"You've been asking me for favours, now I want you do one for me. You need to get the hell out of my life. Stop trying to help. Just go and live your own damn life!"

He shrugged. "You're not convincing me. So I might get hurt. I've already cut short my life span, what else can really happen?"

And just like that, my temper shot and I said the one thing I thought would convince him to stop. "Everything's already happened. Your pokémon are warning me away and one's already died since you started trying to help me!"

His face went blank at the mention of his rapidash. "That wasn't anything to do with you though. I sorted out the creep that did that, remember?"

"That's the thing, you didn't!" My heart was racing and my throat was dry, but I had to say what I was thinking. Just so I could put him off trying to help me. "It wasn't that man that killed her! Just like I was trying to tell you! It… it was Lacey."


I stumbled back from the cold fury in his voice and tried to keep up with myself. Gemini sat a ways off and I could hear her voice niggling at the back of my brain, telling me just what a moron I was.

"Lacey killed her! I don't know why but what I do know is that if you didn't hang round with me, that wouldn't have happened!"

His whole face darkened and his hands clenched into fists once more. "Don't. Don't you dare try and use something like that for your own gain."

"Well tough, because that's what actually happened!"

I was expecting the punch that came next.

What I wasn't expecting was that it would floor me and chip one of my teeth.

I coughed and shook my head, stunned and unable to pull myself off the ground. "Don't you see? One of your pokémon already died from you trying to help me. You've pretty much cut your life in half. You said before you wanted me out of your life. Well I'll never bother you again if you never try and do something so stupid again!"

He was trembling all over. I wasn't sure if it was fear or anger. All I knew was that it was spelling danger for me.

"You lied," he growled. "You damn well carried on acting as if nothing had ever happened, all the while!"

"Well what would you have done? Lacey's my pokémon! Do you think I'd let you have your revenge on her? Like you'd have done that!"

He picked me up my collar and hit me again. My ears ran and I was vaguely aware that a bruise was already forming on my face.

"Don't you dare," he hissed. "I can understand why you kept it a secret. But you didn't have to damn well say it in such a way! I… I…" He shook his head, dropped me and walked away. "Just stay out of my life. Because the next time I see you, I'm not sure whether I'll kill you or not."

I said nothing as I watched him walk away. I told myself that I'd done the right thing – made him hate me, so that he didn't try to help me.

Really, I think that was the thing that pushed him over the edge.

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