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.


51. Primal

Have you run your fingers down

The wall

And have you felt your neck skin crawl

When you're searching for the light? ~ Steve Harris


"Cerulean Cave. Mount Silver. The Origin Cluster. Stark Mountain. All closed off from the public for good reason. Places humans forgot. Places human feared. For the only things that live down there now are worse than anything your nightmares could ever dream of."

- Lance Eldritch, 41st Kanto League Champion, Kanto Elite Four member 2990 – 3003, Johto World Champion 3003 – 3006.


Given the horror stories I'd heard about the Cluster, I half expected there to be a series of caves and towers lining the distance, with an ever-present thunderstorm looming behind all of them and bathing the area in pale flashes of lightning.

I got some of it right, at least.

Marsha slid open the door of our helicopter, leant out of the window and pointed towards a large tower in the distance. Even from so far away I could still see it was crumbling, easily several hundred years old and yet somehow still standing, despite all logic saying that it should probably be piles of rubble on the floor.

"That's the Sky Pillar," she said. Over the headphones, her voice came out clear, almost like there weren't two metallic blades rotating faster than I could see above us. "It's meant to be home to The Rayquaza. I always thought it was total bull, but Wally said him and the others went there and found it resting atop. It would have eaten them, if they didn't have the orbs. When it saw them, Wally said it stopped instantly, sniffed them all and then just suddenly took off towards Sootopolis."

I moved as close to the edge as my seatbelt would allow and stared out at the tower as we approached it. "So, what does this have to do with us then?"

She gave me a sharp look that could probably wither a gyarados' rage. "That's where we're getting in. The other entrances tend to be on the ocean somewhere, in little caves that we'd have to search a while for. This way's more direct; through the tower, head into the basement levels and then below sea level is our way in. This way's best. The pokémon in there are strong. 'Abandon all hope ye who enter' strong. We can't afford to tire out our pokémon by riding them here."

I felt a little shiver of fear at her words. "So Wally and the others… they're strong enough to hold their own in there, right?"

"Usually, yeah." She nodded and seemed like she wanted to leap at the tower. "But you know what it's like; no matter how strong a trainer you are, if you have a bad day, you might end up dying to something like a rabid zigzagoon. Wally's been here before; he knows it's bad in there. Usually I wouldn't worry or be in such a hurry, but after what Crazy Ivan told me and then Wally's dusknoir just up and chasing after him, I'm more than slightly on edge."

I sighed and fell back into my seat. "This is going to be fun. We're going to end up running from almost every pokémon we find, you know this, right?"

She nodded. "We can take a few, if we team up. I'm strong enough to hold my own as a gym leader, remember? You were one of my top trainers there too. So we can beat the weakest in there with some effort; maybe some of the average strength pokémon in there too. We come across anything tough? Best bet is to hide, or just incapacitate it and run."

I ran over a list of possible pokémon in my head and the ways we could probably do hard damage to them. "Caves and tunnels, right? Means crobat, golem, claydol and their families, right?"

She grunted. "Not just them. Dusknoir, banette, wobbufet, exploud, salamence and nosepass to name a few. Whatever we see, they're going to be the best of the best; it's the toughest environment they can live in down there. I'm sure you've heard the stories; toxic clouds, acidic rivers, next-to-no light. Lots of other things too. It's the best test of strength there is and naturally the most dangerous."

I laughed nervously to myself as we began to land. "So tell me; why the hell would anyone want to go into one of these places then? It all sounds like reasons to run away real fast to me."

She shrugged. "Dunno. Never been in them myself. Strong pokémon, harsh environments, anything likely to kill you at any given moment… I supposed it's like acting out a horror story. Adrenaline pumping and fear inducing. In addition to the whole throwing your pokémon against things that they're going to learn heaps from. Outside of trained pokémon, these are the strongest ones you're ever likely to see."

"What about the others? Like what we're after?"

She rolled her eyes. "I said likely to see. Those sorts of things… a whole family can go through the generations and never see one." She sighed as the helicopter touched down on the ground and the blades above us began to slow down. "Finally, we're here!" She leant forwards and tapped the pilot on the shoulder. "Thanks for this Terry. I owe you one." She was already half way out the door when she called back over her shoulder, "Say hi to your wife for me!"

I jogged after her, putting on a little speed to catch her up. "Where do we go from here?"

"Up ahead," she said without breaking stride. "We need to get into the tower itself. Then hit the lower levels. Hopefully we've got enough gear on us; I don't really wanna be there too long. Ideally we'd find them today, but something tells me we might be in there a while. A week at most, hopefully."

"A week? In there?" I looked up at the tower and felt my stomach flip flop inside my body. "Great." Dimly I realised we'd landed and quickly released Gemini from the poké ball. Once she appeared, she looked around the environment, snorted and glared back at the helicopter.

[That… was not as unpleasant as I feared it would be,] she admitted. She cantered alongside Marsha and I, understanding the need for haste almost instantly. [I suppose you brought up valid points before; the device does enable me to travel without obstructions, such as in that transport you just took. It also should allow me to retreat and hide, if things become bad in this environment. I do not wish to be knocked unconscious and have my body dragged through the dirt as you race away from something wishing to eat you.]

I gave her a smile. "As if I'd waste time dragging you. Something was gonna eat me and I couldn't get you into a poké ball in quick time? I'd be outta there almost instantly."

[I'd say I was offended, but I expect as much. I'd also likely do the same.]

"That… doesn't make me feel much better about this whole thing."

"Could you be quiet?" Marsha hissed. She stopped in front of a big hole that seemed to serve as an entrance to the tower. She flanked one side, peered into the dingy, strangely not dust-covered inside and took a deep breath. "Alright," she whispered. "From here on in, we're gonna have to be quiet about everything we do. Things will still be able to hear us, but this way, we'll at least keep some of them away. No fire either. There's weezing that float around in there. Any flames get near one of those gas bags and we're lucky if there's much of us left."

"Even better news," I growled to myself. "So how the hell we gonna know where we're going? I don't have anything we can use to track our movements."

"Fuck!" she hissed. "I didn't think of that. Fat lot of good I am in trying to play rescue." She paced back and forth in front of the wall, cursing to herself. "Shit. Damn." Her hands went into her hair and pulled it in two different directions. "Right!" she declared finally, letting go of her hair. "We'll use our pokémon to scratch markings into the walls. Same height as our torches. They can scratch in arrows pointing at the way out. Sound good?"

I shrugged. "It's better than any idea I have. We could end up near Fortree though, right? Or Sootopolis?"

She nodded. "Anywhere that the Cluster links to."

"So that means they could be anywhere near an exit, or have already left them?"

"Maybe." She hissed and banged her head against the wall behind her. "I don't know. I just found out my cousin might be in danger and reacted. If not, then our target still headed here. Either way, we need to investigate."

"Right," I groaned. Then deciding enough was enough, I swung round the crumbling arch and into the tower itself. Green glazed glass still hung in some of the windows and ancient statues lined the walls and rooms. I couldn't tell what they were of, but my best guess was that they were meant to resemble something like a snake. Far above I could see the shapes of pokémon through the holes in the ceiling.

"This floor's clear," Marsha said as she crept into the room. I noticed for the first time a pistol on her side and another one carried in her hands. I didn't even have time to wonder where she'd got them from when she pointed forwards. "Up ahead. See that little corridor on the far side of the room? The stairs going down are through there."

[We should hurry,] Gemini said into the back of my brain. [The creatures in this tower are beginning to notice us.]

I glanced at her, shot a look around us and saw the shadows slowly moving around the top of the stairs. "Marsha, we've got to move," I whispered. "We've been spotted. Gem, you go between us."

We filed out quickly towards our corridor. I understood then what Marsha meant; it was like living out a horror film. I was watching the shadows constantly. Every slight move. Every little noise. They were all around me. Moving in slowly, sticking to the shadows. Making us sweat and panic before they made their move.

Had Marsha not warned me it was going to get dark I would have panicked when suddenly all the lights went out. I felt like someone had tied a blindfold around my eyes and then shut me in a pitch black room.

A soft blue light slowly began forming around us. It formed a solid wall around us all, giving a little light and letting us see just how far into the darkness we'd gone. Already it was cold – I could see my breath fogging in front of me and the little traces of frost along the stone walls.

"Just gonna get tougher from here on in," Marsha said as she found and switched on her torch. I say we alternate our pokémon. Keep two out each, then every four hours we swap them over."

"Keep them fresh, right? Sounds good to me." I found my own torch and switched it on. All along the walls I saw little carvings. I couldn't make out any of the details, but there were little grooves and splotches of paint where carvings and drawings used to be. "What do you think this place was?" I asked.

I heard Marsha shrug behind me. "I haven't the faintest idea. It's old. Maybe older than that tower in the desert over here. Definitely older than the one in Unova."

"Well, maybe when this is all over, we can draft in a few archaeologists to investigate this place, huh?"

She grunted a humourless laugh. "Maybe. But I think the threat of imminent danger might be off putting to most. I only know two that would be strong enough to begin investigating in here. But they're tied up in other projects at the moment."

I sighed to myself and wondered just why we were continuing on with such aimless conversation. A part of me knew it was just to avoid the fear we both felt creeping through those tunnels, though the rational side of me was screaming at us for creating noise in a place we needed to be silent in.

Something echoed in the distance. It sounded like rocks falling over each other, hitting the ground harder and harder each time.

"Careful," I hissed. "That's either a little rock fall or a graveller or golem getting antsy and competing for something."

I caught the wide eyed stare Marsha graced me with. "How… just how do you know that?"

"Solider," I said, pointing to myself. "Learnt weak points on pokémon to stay alive."

She grunted an intrigued sound and stopped to evaluate me. "I've never heard of any of those task groups before."

I froze, unable to speak for a moment and stoking the flames in my brain, praying for an answer. "Uh, need to know basis. People don't want to know just how dangerous pokémon can be on a day-to-day basis, so it stays hidden away."

"Makes sense," she agreed, to my surprise. I blew out a silent breath and shot Gemini a look of gratitude. She pretended like she didn't know what I meant, but I knew that she had nudged me in the right direction for that answer. It was weird, to know that she could influence my thoughts and speech in such a weird, almost effortless way.

I felt around my bandolier until I came across Lacey's poké ball. In a flash of light she appeared in the narrow caverns with us. Her eyes burned bright yellow and scoped over the entire place before looking back to me. She seemed to be second guessing my sanity for ever stepping foot in such a place.

"We need to look for someone," I told her and nodded towards Marsha. "Her cousin. He's lost somewhere in here. Besides, that celebi might also be down here too, so we can't really pass up the opportunity to find it, can we?"

I didn't see her head move, but gathered by the movement of her eyes that she nodded. I bit my lip, thinking on something to say to her as Alistair's words played around in my mind. Everything I could think of just seemed to meagre and useless to actually voice. To my surprise, Lacey spun around and gave me an understanding look before skulking forwards a little in the dark.

Belatedly I remembered that she was also a mind reader. Without being able to communicate with her telepathically, I had completely forgotten about it.

"Marsha," I called after she had released her frosslass and a big pokémon that looked like a pig cross-bred with a gorilla. Flames spouted from its beard continually until Marsha warned it about the weezing, at which point they died out and left its face in darkness once more.

"That's an emboar," she said, thinking I was curious about her pokémon. "Their starter forms get given out in Unova; I started with one when I became a trainer."

"Not what I was wondering," I said with a shake of my head. "I was wondering if there's any way that I could understand pokémon, save from telepathy or something like that?"

She nodded. "Back in Unova, we've had translation collars for nearly twenty years. Only thing is that there are really harsh restrictions on them. The country's very isolationistic; they've got all these big restrictions on the pokémon you can bring in and take out of the country, as well as the technology. The collars are all different for the different sorts of pokémon too; they have to be built differently for a fire pokémon than a water one, for example. If you start off in a government programme, like when they give away the starters, you get one for free with your pokémon. Otherwise, you've got to buy one. The only way you can get one out of the country is if you know people in the right places, have enough money to grease the proper wheels, or if you just go under the radar. Or if you're a Champion, then they pretty much bend over backwards for you."

I frowned. "So… how hard would it be to sneak a few of them out of the country?"

She laughed. "Very. They're all built in with GPS – that way they know if one of them is taken out of the country. They've all got serial numbers too, so if you take out the GPS, they can track down who you are by the serial number. They're also region locked, like a load of video games and the like. Try and use it outside of Unova and it just won't work."

"Great," I growled. "Looks like I'll be stuck having to identify grunts and growls from now on then."

"'Welcome to the world of pokémon', huh?" She laughed to herself and finally hissed for both her pokémon to stop moving. "Careful guys. The floor's weak around here. Don't want you falling into any acid pits."

Again I felt like I'd been filled with ice. I eyed the floor with new found fear and stepped with added caution, almost on my tiptoes. Every little shake or loss of balance I attributed to the floor about to fall away from underneath me and I very nearly gave myself a heart attack when I lost my balance and almost fell face first into the dark.

"Get up and keep moving!" Marsha hissed. Her tone betrayed how frightened she was, even if her face was good at hiding it. We were desperately out of our depth in the tunnels and we both knew it.

And that was before we'd even come across a wild pokémon.

We'd been walking in the tunnels, marking our way for about fifteen minutes when something leapt out of the dark and took down Marsha's frosslass in one hit. She swore and recalled the pokémon as we both froze and tried to see into the darkness.

Neither of us could see a thing.

But whatever it was could see us.

Marsha and I stood back to back, our pokémon circling us against the unseen threat. "Any ideas?" I said to Lacey, watching her from the corner of my eye.

She shook her head, hissed and leapt at something in the darkness. There was a scream of pain, the smell of blood and then another scream. I took a step closer towards them, only to have Lacey fly at me out of the darkness and nearly take my head off. She hit the wall behind me, slid down and lay at the bottom, stunned and drooling.

I recalled her quickly and eyed the darkness with more apprehension than ever. "We should really move," I whispered. "Whatever it is, it's too strong for us."

"Where do we move too though?" Marsha whispered back. "We've circled ourselves so many times now I don't know where we're looking at!"

I cursed and realised how true it was. Another hiss came from the darkness. We both leapt at it, pointing our guns and trying to see the unseen threat. A barrier sprung between us, shimmering with blue light. Behind it we saw bright green eyes watching us from the corners of the shadows.

"It's got yellow eyes," I said. "The blue's making them seem green. Something that can hide in the darkness, has yellow eyes and is strong enough to dispatch two of our pokémon single-handedly."

"Figuring out what it is isn't going to stop it from hurting us!"

"I know!" I bit my lip and tried to see it again. Gemini cried out and sunk to her knees, her barrier flickering in the air before us. I swore and realised it was strong enough to batter the barrier down. "Fuck finding out what it is. Get your pig to cover us. Gem will drop the barrier and we run in the opposite direction, alright?"

"Fliss, you heard him, right?" I felt Marsha move slightly, going towards her pokémon. "As soon as the barrier goes down, cover the escape, then run the hell after us, alright?"

A grunt told me it was ready. "Now!" I roared at Gemini. The barrier vanished from the world and instantly the thing in the darkness howled in joy. I felt heat come from my side, heard the sound of water and smelt flesh boiling even as I ran like crazy away from the thing. Marsha was behind me, panting loudly and Gemini behind her too, silent but for her hoofsteps. Another grunt and louder footsteps started behind us. I swore again, only for Marsha to reassure me it was only her pokémon.

We stopped running when we ran straight into a wall. I fell back off it, hit the ground and checked my nose to see how broken it was. Thankfully all I got out of it was a little trickle of blood running from my nose. Behind me Marsha wondered aloud if my back was made of stone and said that I needed to keep less hard, heavy stuff into my backpack.

We turned around just as flames burst into life in front of us. We both gasped, aimed our guns and realised it was just her fiery pig illuminating a little bit of the caverns for us. Marsha thanked it as I found our torches on the floor.

"Let's not do that again," I groaned as I handed her a torch. "I don't think my heart is cut out for it. Or any bit of my body. That wall hurt my stomach, my kidneys and my face."

"Suck it up," she growled and traced the walls with her hands. "We're in here now. The Celebi might be in here somewhere. More than that; my cousin's in here somewhere. That Celebi's killed people already; it might not go after Wally, but I don't want to take that chance."

"Fine, but remember that we're a pokémon down each." I felt around and found Loki's poké ball. He appeared with a hiss, sniffed the air and recoiled instantly. He skulked around the darkness, growled at something in the caves and hid behind my leg. "And given the way he's acting, I'd say there's something really powerful down here."

Marsha shot me a condescending look. "Everything in here is powerful. We're bottom of the food chain here. And what's more; we're lost. Brilliant." She sighed and let out her weird snowflake pokémon with a flash of light. "I made sure to ask Wally where he was going anyway before he left. He sent me the coordinates of where he needs to investigate."

My face fell. "And you didn't mention this before, why?"

"Because the magneton and magnezone that stalk this place tend to throw off any sort of navigational equipment. There's a really strong electrical charge further in that can cause the magneton and nosepass to mutate and evolve quicker than normal. It also throws off all electrical devices. And the magne-family also manages to through off compasses, so we're still flying in the dark."

I felt like rolling my eyes in exasperation. I fiddled around in my pocket and found my pokédex, bumped, scratched and incredibly forgotten. I flipped it open and found the screen taunting me with a haze of static, proving its uselessness. I sighed, tried my phone, found the same results and groaned to myself. "Isn't there anything we could use? Surely there's got to be something that can resist the electrical and magnetic problems and still help us get there? Wally wouldn't have given you the coordinates if it was impossible to track, right?"

She folded her arms, sighed and shook her head. "You're right… but I just don't know! Give me a moment to think!"

"You work within the Unova government and they don't give you any sort of new technology to help you in these sort of situations?" I asked, disbelief coursing through my every word. "What sort of use is that?"

She glowered at me. "Well what about you then soldier? Being trained to know weak points on pokémon? You're telling me you never got given anything like that? Never learnt how to build anything like that?"

I flinched and looked away. "Alright. Let's not attack each other here. We need to think about this." I sighed and tried to focus on something. Anything that I could recall from my 'education' as it were. Building anything from scrap that I could find. Instead all I could get was a cloudy fog that floated around in my brain, covering anything that I needed or wanted to think about. "I can't think!" I growled and just stopped myself from hitting the wall in anger.

Marsha's head snapped round to me. "You too? I thought I was just stressing out. Something's stopping you from thinking?"

I froze there on the spot, nodded numbly and tried to think of an explanation. All I got was the same foggy haze again. I turned around and patted Gemini on the neck, to make sure she was there and I wasn't trapped in some weird sort of hallucination. "Gemini… it's not just us freaking out, is it?"

She shook her head. [Something in this place is stopping all independent thought. Almost like its reaching out… trying to ensnare victims by their minds. I can feel it, trying to slowly convert me to its purpose.]

I tried to process her words, only to meet the same foggy haze again. "She says something's sending out a signal or something… reaching out to alter our thoughts. Like it's trying to convert us all to one purpose."

Marsha swore. "Now I get it! People always wondered why every pokémon in these places seemed to be so aggressive. Whenever they see humans, it's like they suddenly hit a berserk button and go insane. There's been theories of a psychic field before, but no one's ever been able to find real proof in them."

"Why? And don't tell me it's because everyone ended up dead."

She shrugged. "Something like that. They can't really investigate these places, because the pokémon are too strong. Research teams just end up being buffet lunches for the pokémon in here. And because no one can get real proof, they end up not being believed."

"So what do we do then?"

[Move from the signal,] Gemini whispered into my mind. [I can feel where it is weaker. If we follow that, we can think once more.]

I nodded. "And can you sense anyone nearby there?"

[Not as of yet. Perhaps once we are closer. Right now… not only can I feel the call, but it is also blocking out most of my sense. We should head towards the weakest parts.] She flicked her ears, looked at the emboar and added, [It would be wisest to recall those weaker to psychic signals. If this is one, it is likely they shall fall victim to it first.]

"You're got a psychic, don't you?" I asked Marsha.

"Yeah," she said. "Why?"

"Let that out, recall your emboar. Gemini thinks this signal thing that's blocking our thoughts might be psychic in nature. If it is, your emboar will fall to it easier than our other pokémon."

She nodded, recalled her emboar and let out her jynx in its place. After sharing what seemed to be a telepathic conversation with the creature, she sighed and looked around to me. "You know good news? I wish I'd have some of that at some point."

I folded my arms and cocked my head. "Why?"

"Because she just confirmed everything you just said." She sighed, stopped and held up a hand. Dimly I realised we'd been walking all the while, slow little steps that made it seem like we weren't going anywhere. "Don't move. Pit."

I followed her torch trail to find nothing but deep black in front of her. Her snowflake pokémon floated above it, hissing down at something far below whilst her jynx stood to her side, eyes shining like it was using psychic power. "How the hell do people actually travel around in here on their own? I'm guessing that they don't usually have a powerful celebi somehow sending out psychic waves all through a network of caves."

"Who knows?" Marsha muttered. "Anyway, this way," she said, taking off to the east. "The signal's weaker this way, right?"

[Technically it is weaker to the west. Though the east presents us with the only way to progress,] Gemini said to me. I gave her a smirk and carried on behind Marsha regardless. Loki was still skulking around my legs, slowly moving out further and constantly leaping back whenever there was a loud sound somewhere further in. It was almost like he knew how powerful the things were in there and instinctively knew to keep away from them all.

In my mind, it felt like I was wading through ever stronger swamps. The fog seemed to take over everything in my brain, to the point where it felt like I was doing everything on autopilot. Finally I had to make a conscious effort even to breathe, then abruptly it all lifted and I found I could think once more.

"Remind me not to do that again," Marsha said breathlessly. She took a step towards the walls, stopped and frowned up at them. "Something's wrong here. These walls… they're really… really weird. Take a look."

I followed her gaze and went to touch the wall. Instantly she slapped my hand away, shook her head and just pointed to them. I traced the wall with my torch, finding nothing until I followed exactly where she was pointing to.

"Paintings?" I whispered incredulously. "People… people lived down here?"

"Maybe." Marsha sighed and pointed to them. "They're really old, that's why I stopped you from touching them. Those friends I mentioned before; the archaeologists? One of them is pretty good with history. Learnt a lot about a lot through them… it's really weird how we stayed in contact. Anyway, it's widely known that the desert in the middle of Unova used to have an ancient civilisation that seemed to encompass the whole place. This friend of mine went on a few digs there; apparently they found a load of carvings down there of pokémon from as far away as Kanto. Not the ones that naturally appear in Unova either, but things like bulbasaurs and magikarp.

"Anyway, these paintings are a lot like the ones they found down there. The ones there were in worship of a really big dragon that looks like one of the trinity that's sometimes worshipped over there. There's a really long story there with pokémon liberation and holy dragons and everything, but that's for another time." She waved a hand and drew the paintings in the air with a finger. "So if I were to guess, I'd say that something powerful used to live around here. Maybe The Rayquaza… but this thing looks nothing like a long, emerald dragon, does it?"

I squinted at the picture and tried to see it just a bit better. I could make out people bending down on the floor, almost as if they were praying to something. There was a little blob floating above them – something that might have been green – with a little pink blob next to it. I followed the picture along to a new one, this time with the people at war with each other, seemingly. The painting above it had the green and pink blobs facing each other, almost like they were arguing. Something was there with them, but I couldn't see what it was. It was almost like whatever had been painted on had been scratched out and then painted over again.

Then finally the painting next to that was a big burst of faded reds and oranges, almost like a massive explosion. I followed the order of them and found it leading back to the little one of everyone fighting. Next to that was everyone face up on the floor, almost like they were dead. Then there was something that looked like fire, then a big black smudge.

"This is… really weird," I whispered. "I… what the hell is this?"

Marsha shrugged and leant in a bit closer. "They're usually stories, or warnings. They could be anything. But look at this!" She pointed at the green blob and then again to the other one elsewhere. "Green. It's always with a pink blob too. Celebi, it's green, isn't it? I've told you all the myths about Celebi, haven't I? Or at least, the ones relating to victini?"

I nodded, unable to think, more through shock and intrigue than the same weird fog. "What else is there?"

She pointed to Gemini. "Ask your girafarig. I found all this out from my psychic, maybe you should find out this from yours. You'll believe it that way."

I turned to Gemini expectantly. She sighed and walked slowly around me to face the paintings herself. [You know that The Celebi were first tasked with maintaining time. They waged war against their protectors and achieved victory. After this… there was a divide amongst their ranks. Some thought they should use their new-found independence to alter the world as they saw fit. The others thought that they should continue to follow their first task. They split into the different factions that supported each theory and started a cold, civil war between each other. Nothing knows what side represents what ideal, but all is known is that the factions are divided by colour; one is green, the other pink.]

I blew my hair from my face. "So we're looking at being smack bang in a civil war? Great. Our one happens to be green – I know that for sure. What side's it on?"

"Who knows?" Marsha sighed. "And wait, you know it's green? Have you seen it before or something?"

"Uh, yeah," I said quickly, fumbling for a new explanation. "I saw it with some kid ages ago. Long story short, the kid got killed and the celebi just up and vanished somewhere."

"It was a green one that killed Crazy Ivan. Maybe the same one." She folded her arms and started picking at a loose threat on her top's elbow. "This doesn't help us with anything… but it might not be a story. A warning! Or both!" She pulled out her phone, flipped through something in there and shoved a picture in my face. "Look at this!"

I took the phone off her and found myself looking at a new picture. It looked like three big dragons; one black, one white and one grey. They all seemed to be fighting, with something with a green head and one eye in between them all, holding up something at them all. "What is this?" I asked as I handed her back the phone.

"Something that was in those ruins in Unova. They found these like forty years ago. I went there a number of years ago, just after everything kicked off in Unova and found this; I took a picture and showed it to my friends – the archaeologists. They told me that some of the paintings were both warnings and stories." She slipped the phone back into her pocket and looked back to our current discovery. "This is apparently a warning of things that kicked off a little while ago in Unova. My friends have me a theory I completely support; even back then they could use psychic pokémon to see the future. They must have seen things to come, painted them on the walls to warn other people and then we've discovered them here and now."

"So what's this warning us about then? What might be two celebi causing the end of the world?" I snorted to myself. "Bit of a late discovery there."

Marsha forgot all about the painting as she whirled round on me. "What? What makes you say that? Is there something you're not telling me?"

I fought a smirk at her words. Instead I gently pushed past her and walked slowly further into the tunnels. "There's a lot. Like you're not telling me a lot. Maybe some other time, huh? Now… we really need to find your cousin, right?"

"Yeah," she said and quickly took back off into the tunnels. "Come on, we've got to make up for lost time. Damn this place and it's endless distractions."

We made it through what felt like the rest of the day with thankfully little other mishaps. We'd had to run from nearly every pokémon we'd found in the tunnels there – the only one we'd managed to defeat was a lone crobat, but even then it had taken the force of all four of our pokémon combined to finally knock it out. I was sorely tempted to capture it, but Marsha pointed out to me that if it took that much to knock it out in the first place, what were my chances of actually being able to train it and get it's loyalty?

I found myself unable to sleep when we finally settled down for the night. We'd found a little alcove in the rocks that we used as a camp, small enough that nothing should hopefully come across us, but far enough away that we could hopefully pack up and escape before something came too close.

Alistair was standing watch, with one of Marsha's pokémon. It was the big snowflake from before – a cryogonal as she told me. It had the habit of keeping our little campsite shielded with ethereal walls of light that Gemini could also produce. They wouldn't hold up long if something did decide to attack us, but it did give us a few valuable seconds to make our escape.

I rolled over in my sleeping bag and stared up at the dark ceiling. I couldn't make out anything different on the entire surface. Beside me, Marsha was snoring lightly and behind I could hear Gemini doing the same. Her tail was still snapping around at distant sounds, though thankfully quietly enough to not attract anything.

I groaned and pushed myself into a sitting position. I felt Alistair shift and turn around to face me. There was a long silence, almost like he was trying to think of something to say to clear the air, as it were. This time there wasn't any fog lingering around in our minds, so obviously he was just stuck for words.

"Regigigas," I whispered, hardly aware I was speaking aloud until I heard myself. I turned around and looked up at Alistair's eyes, glowing red in the dark. Eerie was an understatement. "Regigigas used to be the pokémon god, right?"

Alistair frowned, then shook his head. [Not quite, sir. He had godlike power, but he was never a true god. He… ascended, I suppose you could say. May I ask; just how do you know this, sir?]

I jerked my thumb behind. "Gemini told me. We were throwing around ideas when we found a load of pokémon and people that had been butchered. It looked like none of them knew what was happening. Long story short, I convinced her to explain some stuff to me about it all. So could any pokémon challenge for the whole leadership thing?"

The gallade stepped away from me, staring at something beyond our translucent barriers. Even as he did so, his voice rang in my mind, [Yes and no. In theory, any pokémon could, but they would surely be defeated with ease. You see, sir, the pokémon that succeed in challenging for leadership usually have intense powers of their own. Regigigas is able to create golems out of ice, rock and stone. He conquered the previous god by use of these powers. There have been almost none that have managed to conquer through simple brute force alone.]

"And arceus?" I asked expectantly.

Alistair seemed to tense at something. I held my breath, moving for my gun as complete silence ran around inside my head. Finally it past and even Alistair let out a breath. [Arceus is… unique, in a way. Almost every pokémon can make illusionary copies of themselves. Arceus, however, can create physical copies of himself that represent every force of nature and pokémon. Fire, ice, psychic, even insect. Not only can he create these physical manifestations, but he can freely switch through these attributes himself. He is all, but none at the same time.]

I sat there and mulled on the information for a long time. Then I got the image of a bellsprout becoming the new god. I snorted to myself, imagining a church of bellsprout; people wearing bellsprout hats and wiggling around like they were made of vines.

/I'm full of amazement at the sight before me. Amazing. I don't know any other words to describe it. I've seen beaches before. They've usually been dreary, covered in krabby, maybe a mantine or something and usually have things hidden under the sand waiting to chew on my toes or something.

This one… it's like something out of an old advert. The sand is nearly bleached white, the sun is beating down on everything and the sea's such a clear blue that I'm pretty sure I could see all the way down to the bottom.

I secure the areas as quickly as I can. There's no one here. There's no signs of life anywhere. It's nothing short of amazing. I've heard the rumours about Dewford; that it got attacked early on and nearly got wiped off the map. The pokémon and people all fled because of something or another.

And yet, here I am. And I can't imagine why anyone would ever want to run away from it.

I strip out of my soaked clothes and sit there for a little while on the beach. I slide my hands into my pockets and find four little poké balls, all gleaming in the midday sun. One by one, I let them all out; zangoose, weezing, vespiquen and the latest one – a mantine.

Why can't I remember their names?

The mantine hoots and floats down to the sea, basking lazily atop the water's surface. The zangoose busies itself digging trenches in the sand whilst the weezing goes further inland in search of food. The vespiquen stays near me, wings buzzing and mandibles clacking.

A little something in me dances around. Almost like I shouldn't be here. I don't understand why. It's my life, isn't it? My camp got destroyed; I have nowhere to be. But the feeling is worse than that; like something strong is stalking around near me. I leap to my feet, scope out the beach and try to see something that I should be afraid of. Instead I find nothing.

There's a rumble in the ground beneath me. I leap backwards, stare at the ground and poke it with my toes. The sand crumbles away, like sand should do, but reveals no hidden levels beneath it.

I don't like it. I tell my pokémon as such and recall the two fliers. I keep the zangoose near me and call the weezing back from the trees. It floats back, spits out a little sulphurous cloud and moans. It hates the lack of life here. No food, no friends, no company… no… nothing.

The island is like a paradise. Except can it still be paradise when it leaves you feeling so lonely?

I hear the sounds of pokémon somewhere nearby. My heart races, tells me I shouldn't go anywhere near them. But I'm so amazed that there's someone else on this island that I know I have to investigate. I need to make sure they won't see me when I make my way from the island.

I throw on my barely-dried clothes and stalk my way towards the sound. The zangoose has dropped to all fours, deadly silent. The weezing floats through the air, no longer moaning or even expelling gasses. They're on the hunt.

I realise it's something we share in common.

The sounds are getting closer. It almost sounds like someone is training their pokémon.

Badly, by the sounds of it.

I motion for my own pokémon to stay behind me as I creep closer. I hide behind a tree, see my zangoose hide in a bush and the weezing in the leaves of the tree. My gun is steady in my hands. I take a breath, get ready for a fight and lean out of my cover.

My heart stops for a moment. I recognise the person! I sign for my weezing to take out her pokémon quickly, my zangoose to circle round and prevent their escape. I make sure they know what to do before I sneak out of my cover and approach.

It's all over before she realises. Her pokémon are defeated squarely and she finds herself staring down the barrel of my gun before she can even attempt a counter attack. My zangoose hisses from behind her as she tries to escape.

I know it's her, even though for some reason I can't see her face. My eyes feel like they're being drawn away from her face every time I look there. I frown, shake my head and ignore it for now.

I don't see it clearly, but I know she smiles at me. "Hey Sharpshooter. Fancy seeing you here."

I scowl and take a step closer towards her. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't just kill you now."

She shrugs and points towards the treelines. "Still some sceptile that live around here. They hear a gunshot? They'll probably come running to slice apart whatever caused the noise."

I feel the ground rumble again. I move my feet slowly across it, confused by it all. Even more confused that she doesn't react. She opens her mouth to speak, shuts it quickly and presses a hand to her stomach. She rocks a little, almost like she's… sea sick?

That's not right.

I push the thoughts out of my head. Slowly I holster my gun, accepting that even if there aren't sceptile on the island, I don't want to risk it. "It must be my lucky day, to find you here."

She straightens out and smiles. "How comes, Sharpshooter? Why would you be searching for me?"

I scowl, grab her arm and hold it tight enough to start forming bruises. "Should I start with the part where you knocked me out with an oddish? Or that while I was out you stripped me naked and left me near a beedrill nest?"

She laughs, not even attempting to move my arm. "Be lucky I didn't cover you in honey and leave you near the ursaring. You'd have either woken up as they were eating you… or as the cubs were licking you. One's life threatening… the other's just a little on the wrong side of kinky."

I gag a little at the images her words produce. "So what's your real story? Why the hell are you even here?"

She shrugs, still not making a move to dislodge my arm. "Being free. My camp got blown to bits. That was all the way away in Kanto. I decided I wanted to get as far away from there as I could. So I rode on my swimmer most of the way across the ocean, got caught in some really bad tides and ended up washing ashore in what remains of Hoenn." She whistled and looked back to the beach. "Got to say, this place is a lot nicer-looking than grey old Kanto."

She's trying to distract me. I realise that much. Only one of her words sticks out in my mind though; "Where's your swimmer?"

She smiles, devious and foreboding. It's almost like she's already won. She nods her head towards the beach. "Oh, he's just surfacing now."

I follow her gaze towards the beach and find just what her pokémon is. Reflexively I drop her arm and back away from the towering pokémon.

Her swimmer is a goddam gyarados.

"You lose again," the mysterious woman says before something heavy hits the back of my head. I drop to the floor, watch the blurry forms of the massive serpent breathing flames over my zangoose and freezing my weezing solid with a beam of ice. Finally my double vision swims into something like quintuple before my brain gives up and everything goes black./

Sharp pain in the back of my head shocked me into consciousness. My body felt ragged, like something had thrown earthquakes under my unconscious form. Marsha was already awake, muttering something to her cryogonal even as she packed up our little camp.

[Interesting,] Gemini said into my brain.

I spun around in my sleeping back, tangled myself up and looked up at her from my position on the floor. "What is?" I asked, phantom pain still dancing around.

[Nothing,] she said dismissively with a flick of her ears. [We should move.]

I nodded incoherently and packed everything up on autopilot. Marsha checked me once I'm done, nodded and recalled her pokémon. The snowflake vanished, replaced by her jynx once more. I called back Alistair into his ball and replace him with Erra instead. The magnemite flitted about wildly in the darkness, clung to the ceiling and hissed at something we couldn't see in the darkness. Regardless, she still followed when we started moving, somewhat hesitantly, crawling along the ceiling all the while.

"What's up with her?" I wondered aloud, staring up at the ceiling.

"Probably the electrical thing?" Marsha suggested. "It turns magneton into magnezone, maybe it annoys the magnemite?"

Alarm bells went off in my head. I thought of Xander and the water stone and felt like I was going to be sick. Hastily I recalled Erra and prayed that she'd be alright. I replaced her with Scar, pointedly warned him to keep his tail-flame away from anything that looked like it might explode on contact with fire and told him to try to stick to using as little fire as possible.

Marsha had a weavile out alongside her. It moved expertly through the darkness, clinging to the shadows and sneaking ahead to scout out the situation. It would often dart back, hiss at Scar to move his fire so that something wouldn't see us, then skulk back through the darkness once more.

"You're a deep sleeper," Marsha whispered conversationally. "Two earthquakes lower down and you didn't even stir."

I found myself recalling another one of the really weird dreams. "They worked their ways into my dream though. That confused the hell out of me, just a little. Then I got whacked on the head and woke up."

She raised an eyebrow at me. "That wasn't me then. Nothing hit your head here in the real world." She pointed her torch at a few cracks in the wall, gasped and leapt straight at them. "We're closing in!" she hissed excitedly. "I know these markings! They're Wally's!"

"So what way's he going?"

She cursed and analysed the markings just a bit closer. "Damn! I don't know!" She fell back, shone her torch on them and sounded like she was about to break down into tears. "The 'W' there, that's him. But then the little 'L' he's put in above it. I don't know where that means he turned left here or he needs to turn left down this corridor or what! Damn it Wally! Why can't you leave a map or something with where you're going?"

"Can you sense anyone nearby?" I asked Gemini.

She wittered something unintelligible. [I cannot. The fog is close again.]

I cursed at the same time Marsha did. We glanced at each other, surprised and summed it all up with one word.



I frowned and tried to think of a way we could progress. "Does Wally have a psychic? And the others he travels with? Do they have one too?"

Marsha nodded quickly, then slowed into a more hesitant one. "Wally definitely has one. A gardevoir. First pokémon he caught. The others… I think Brendan has a claydol. Pretty sure May has a solrock too."

"So they might have felt the brain-fog too if it was here when they were." I scratched at a few days' worth of stubble and attempted to figure out a plan. "Do you think they would have tried to avoid it? Or would they have not noticed it and got pulled in by whatever's starting it?"

Marsha sighed and glanced around the perpetual darkness of the tunnels. "I can't say. I'd hope they'd avoid it… but it might not have been here when they were. Or… anything could have happened!"

I glanced at her, then at our psychic pokémon standing guard. Scar was in a little corner, basking it in an orange glow and illuminating the old brown walls around him. The weavile was in the opposite corner, hiding in darkness and sharpening its claws meticulously. I turned back to the psychics again, saw them both staring off into the same direction and made my decision.

"We keep going where this whole thing is thinner. If we can't think, we won't be any good to anyone. We might get lucky and find everyone and everything we want to."

Marsha began pulling at the hem of her top again. "And if we don't?"

I shrugged. I honestly had no idea. "We figure out a plan from there, I guess."

She agreed without a sound. We started following our psychics once more, making our way through the tunnels and trying to figure out just where the hell we were going. The only thing we knew for definite was that we were reaching the lower levels, given that we started seeing little ponds of bubbling liquids.

The pools bubbled and seemed to burp as we walked past. There was a horrible smell, like vinegar, but somehow stronger all around them.

"There's the acid lakes," Marsha said, sleeve over her face. "Try not to get too close. It's slowly eroding at the rocks around here, so you could very well fall in when the floor gives way."

I shuddered at the thought of it. We crept past them all as quickly and carefully as we could. The entire place was just one massive death trap that I just couldn't wait to get out of.

Abruptly, both Gemini and Marsha' jynx stopped and looked worried.

[This isn't right,] Gemini whispered, horror in her voice.

I found myself reaching reflexively for a new weapon. "What?"

[The fog… the signal. It's changed. It's coming this way!]

Her words were all two literal. A slow, creepy fog started seeping out of the rocks, covering the entirety of the tunnels and hiding everything within. I couldn't see the light of my torch anymore, nor could I even see my nose when I crossed my eyes.

"What's going on?" I whispered, unable to keep the tremble out of my voice. I reached out for Gemini, found nothing but fog and slid my feet out across the floor. I couldn't see Scar's flame anywhere either, nor the light of Marsha's torch. "If I'm dreaming still, I'd really like to wake up about now."

My foot bumped into something solid, but soft. I tried to figure out just what it was. Instead my brain was clogged in the same fog I found surrounding me entirely. I looked up to see just what I'd walked into.

A pair of glowing purple eyes opened right in front of me.

Something like an invisible wrecking ball hit me and then everything vanished into complete black.

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