Regret

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

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

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38. Shock and Betrayal

All our experience with history should teach us, when we look back, how badly human wisdom is betrayed when it relies on itself– Martin Luther, 1483-1546

-O-O-O-

"Only act when you know the entire story."

- Edward Oak, famous philosopher and ancestor of professor Oak. (March 19th, 2507)

-O-O-O-

Words could not describe how confused I felt at that moment.

"You have got to be shitting me," I whined as I held my hands up in the air, letting my gun drop to the floor.

That was perhaps the only way I could sum up my feelings on the situation.

The man in front of me laughed scornfully. "See, little escape artist? Mind games are for people who have no other way out of a situation – no ace up their sleeve, as it were. I don't need mind games because I've already managed to get your friend here working on my side."

"Great," I hissed and dropped my gaze to the floor. "And here I thought I was doing a nice thing by trying to save you. Good to see you'd have done the same for me."

"This wouldn't have been my first choice of action," Mia said as she walked around me, gun trained on my head the entire time. "But I saw what you were saying when you were high as a kite. You killed that Sinnoan Elite and that Champion in Dewford. I thought that it all might have been bravado, but once I got wind of you just butchering everyone on your way here..." She shook her head as she fell beside the gym leader. "It made me glad that I'd decided to join the winning side."

Scar was still hissing and whining, all at once. I knew he'd been shot once before, but I'd honestly hoped that he'd just use it to become more vicious. It seemed that he didn't care whenever I used one... though I suppose that was only because I never pointed it at him. It also didn't help that I'd already threatened to kill him myself if he tried to harm Mia. But between holding him at gunpoint and distracting Loki with the ghostly shadow, they'd trapped me completely.

The gym leader laughed once more. "You see? Mia here understands the purpose in choosing sides. Good and evil; right and wrong. They're still but sides. She's used her brain and chose the winning side."

"I have," Mia whispered.

Then she blew his brains out.

I flinched as blood and grey matter splashed over me and Scar both. The gym leader dropped to the floor like a rock, blood spilling out all around him and painting the floor a dark shade of red.

I looked over at Mia, my hands still in the air and watched as she glared at the man, dropped the gun and then threw up in a corner of the room. I took the opportunity to take the dead gym leader's gun and pointed it back at the woman who was supposedly my friend.

She held her stomach as she stood back up woozily, took a look at me and leant back against the wall behind her. "I'm not on his side," she told me.

"And I'm supposed to believe that?" I asked. Scar stepped forwards, hissing wildly at the dead man's empty head. "That bullet that went through his brain just missed me too. Why shouldn't I think that wasn't intentional?"

She wiped her mouth before she calmly walked over to the body and went to unhook his poké ball belt.

"Hey, hey, hey!" I protested as I waved the gun at her. "You can't just go along and claim a weapon and think that I'm not going to do anything about it! I don't know what the hell's going on here!"

She shook her head and kicked the body viciously in the side. "They're not weapons. They're my pokémon. My friends. I'm not going to leave them here, so point that gun at me all you want, but I'll still make sure I protect them. I'm not on his side, trust me."

I glared at her, scrutinising every movement before I finally nodded and motioned for her to collect her pokémon back. "I thought I was your friend. You seemed pretty happy to leave me here," I stated coldly, never once letting my gun stray from her, even if my arms were shaking wildly.

Mia looked up at me and I saw her face cloud in sadness before anger crept it's way in. "Because after everything he did, if he thought there was any chance in hell that I'd suddenly be best buddies with him, he's a moron that deserved to die." She turned away from him and took a step closer to me. "Look, trust me or don't trust me. At the moment, that's not important. That was the only way we could have got out of that situation without having a few gunshots opening us up. I saw the chance and I took it. If you want to have a big debate about it, it's probably best that we leave it until we escape this horrible place."

What she said made sense, even if I didn't fully trust her. I dropped my arms to my sides. "And how do I know you're not going to suddenly leave me in here?"

"Because believe it or not, I'm still your friend," she snapped. "And you must obviously still trust me, or you wouldn't have let me collect my pokémon off his corpse." She stopped and took a deep, long breath before speaking again. "Look, I don't like being in here anymore than you. I want nothing more than to get out of this hellhole, get out of this creepy dress and into my own clothes. Short of someone leaping through a window and rescuing us – which I really doubt is likely to happen – we're going to have to bust our way out of here. Which means really; we're going to have to work together."

I snorted and crossed my arms. "Have your pokémon ever killed anyone before? Because that's the only way we're getting out of here – by killing everyone in the way. Letting them live means that they'll be able to come after us later on. And seeing as you just puked your guts out, I'm guessing that's the first time you've killed anyone."

She took a quick glance out of the doorway before she relaxed a little again. "Being a killer's not exactly something to shout from the rooftops about, you know? I could have happily lived my entire life without killing someone. Did you never stop to think that the people you're killing just might have families back home?" She shook her head and pulled her hair from her face. "Being able to kill... having killed... that's not something to be proud of, you do realise?"

I felt myself glaring at her before I could stop myself. "You're right, we should leave this all until we get out of here," I growled, not liking where the conversation was going.. "Did he have any of my pokémon on him?"

Mia ran a hand across her poké balls and shook her head. "Only mine. They're all here."

I flinched. "So why do yours all get to live while one of mine's dead – one that I don't even know the identity of yet?"

She looked upset and pained all at once before she covered it up with a stoic wall. "I made a trade," she whispered in a tone that left no chance for further questions.

"Right," I growled. "Scar, let's go," I said with a wave of my hand. "Loki?" I asked as I turned to the pokémon. He was still sat there, hissing at the shadow. "We really need to leave. Can you not blast that shadow or just ignore it?"

"It's a haunter," Mia said from behind me. "It was his haunter," she said with a quick jab in the dead gym leader's direction. "It won't come after us. I killed its master."

I couldn't take my eyes off the eerie purple shadow. "Don't trainer pokémon usually kill the person who does that?"

Mia's voice was a dark whisper, "Not with the way he treated them." There was an explosion of white light behind me as a poké ball opened up. When the glow faded, Mia's stantler was stood between us, ears flicking lazily. Then, when he saw Mia, he whined and pressed his face against her side, cooing softly and licking at a number of small cuts she had over her shoulders.

"I'll be fine," she promised the pokémon as she patted his face. "Come on," she said to me. "We should really leave. I don't like the thought of killing anyone and none of my pokémon have done it before... but Charles is the most protective of me. If I asked him to, he'd be able to."

I nodded and understood the hidden message. "Scar, take point. Loki, take the rear. You know the drill." I waved for Loki's attention, watched as he finally detached himself away from the haunter and skulked along behind us silently.

"We're finding the rest of my pokémon first," I told Mia as we crept out of the room. She had picked up the gun she'd used to blow out the gym leader's brains, though her hands shook continually. I knew that she wouldn't be able to shoot straight. Though with my own shaking arms and continuous craving for another fix, I doubted I'd be able to hit the wall, even if I was aiming for it.

She nodded even as she glanced around uneasily, every small disturbance making her jump. "Then two questions; do you know where we're going and where are your pokémon?"

I pulled a face. "I'm following Scar," I said without answering her. "He's tracking them. He might not be anything like a growlithe, but in a closed-up space like this, it's pretty easy for him to pick up the smells. If there's anything that smells like me, he'll pick it up easily enough. He's already done so with Loki and Lacey anyway."

"Then let's do this as quickly as we can," she ushered me. "I don't want to spend any more time in this creepy place."

Then the lights all went out.

I cursed as Mia bit down on her yelp. Everything around us managed to disappear into an empty void. The only light came from Scar's tail, bathing us in a fraction of orange light.

"This isn't good," Mia whispered. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, afraid that would disrupt my already unsteady balance. "If they can cut the power, they'll have something that will let them see in the dark. Maybe night vision goggles."

"'Night vision goggles'?" I repeated as I tried my best not to laugh. "This isn't a sci-fi film."

"We're breaking out of a criminal gym," she deadpanned. "And we have a charmeleon lighting our way, a sableye creeping behind us, perfectly blended into the dark and a haunter silently stalking us through the corridors. Sounds like the plot to most bad horror films to me."

That time, I did roll my eyes. It cost me though; I tripped over my own feet and fell into the wall beside me. I groaned as I pressed myself off it, trying to recover what little dignity I had. Then one part of her analogy hit me, "The haunter's still following us?" I really didn't want to be anywhere near a ghost – other than Loki – in the dark. The last time that had happened was in Dewford... the last thing I needed on top of everything was another headless ex-pokémon stalking me.

"She keeps talking to me," Mia said. "Telling me to take her with me, giving me small hints as to how to get out of this place."

I stared at her blurry, dark figure for a moment before I buried my face in my hands. "You have got to be kidding me," I groaned. "The friendly ghost is giving us directions to freedom after we killed its master? That doesn't sound like a trap at all."

I saw her glance behind us. "That's why I'm ignoring it."

Scar hissed at us both as he turned around. I flinched at shot my pokémon a guilty look for a moment before I caught myself and crept behind him. Satisfied we were following him again, the fiery lizard turned around and began creeping through the halls again.

Then the screaming started.

I flinched as my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. I heard Mia nearly scream and her stantler snort at her. Loki chittered happily behind us all.

I poked Scar on the shoulder and motioned for him to move forwards. He crept through the corridor without a sound, body pressed low and his neck stretched out. I glanced back and grabbed Mia's arm, only for her to snatch it back and begin to shake once more. I fought past the confusion and motioned for her to follow behind me as best I could in the shallow light.

Loki meanwhile was bouncing happily behind us all, rubbing his hands together gleefully.

I skulked behind Scar, trusting him to lead us in the right direction. The screams were getting louder and louder. My heartbeat was getting faster as my brain wondered just what was going on. Did they have more people here? Had they all escaped too? Did they cause the power outage?

Scar stopped just before a turn of a corner and growled deeply. The screams sounded like they were in my ears. They were coming from round the corner. My heart was racing. I took a deep breath and poked my head round the corner.

I saw two people and ducked back with a stifled yelp.

"Two of them," I grunted, barely audible. "One's clutching his chest; he's the one screaming. The other's flailing uselessly, he doesn't know what to do. Loki, you take him out."

I didn't even see the ghost disappear before there was a sharp scream and the smell of blood. I took that as my cue and spun round the corner, gun trained and ready, Scar hissing by my side and ready to pounce.

The one clutching his chest was still screaming – he hadn't even noticed us. The other man was on the floor, his throat torn out and a number of slashes across his chest. Loki sat atop him, happily tearing into his flesh.

The other man suddenly screamed louder than ever.

Then something burst out of his chest.

I fell back over myself at the shock of it all, the creature hissing wildly as it flew out of the man's chest. Scar growled back at the thing, only to stop suddenly as it flew around us, hissing wildly and discharging electricity.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up, not just from static electricity. The sound was so familiar, the electricity a large hint as to what it was.

"Erra?" I whispered.

Bright light filtered out around us. I flinched and pressed an arm over my eyes, spots of colour dancing in my vision, even underneath my eyelids.

When I opened them, I was still dumbstruck by what I saw.

On the wall before us was a magnemite – my magnemite. I knew it was Erra, but she clung to the wall, her mandibles dripping with blood and saliva as she hissed wildly.

I felt my heart sink and soar all at once. Erra was alive. The thought of that made a little grin come to my face. But then just as quickly, I realised what it meant; either Sophie or Xander was dead.

I felt my face fall, but pulled it back into a soft smile as I approached my pokémon. Her wings flicked out, electricity dancing off them and I flinched, pulling my hand back instantly.

"Erra?" I whispered, trying to get through to her. "It's me. Can't you see that?"

She looked at me, one beady eye staring at me as she fell silent.

Then she leapt at me.

I yelped and ducked instinctively. I felt a little breeze pass over me and the sound of electricity crackling through something, another scream and then smelt something like burning flesh.

I peeked my eyes open and found Erra flying above another man dressed completely in black, a large contact mark colouring his face to match his uniform.

I nearly had a heart attack when the magnemite flew down and tore a chunk out of his neck. The man didn't even flinch – I knew then he was dead for sure – yet I couldn't help myself as I saw my normally timid pokémon tear into what used to be a person, eating as noisily as Scar or Loki.

"Erra?" I whispered again, approaching her cautiously. "What happened to you?"

She hissed again and I stopped instantly. Loki, however, wasn't as easily deterred; he skulked around her, sniffing curiously. She spread her wings and buzzed angrily at him, stopping as soon as he growled back. He stopped an inch away from her, mumbled to himself and then raced back to me, flailing his arms above his head.

"What-?" I gasped as he leapt at me and slashed one of my sleeves clean off. I snatched my arm away from danger instantly, though the sableye only leapt at me again, pointing wildly at my elbow and grunting continually. It was only when he mimed the marks covering my skin that everything clicked in my brain.

Mia, it seemed, drew the same conclusion. "Looks like we weren't the only ones they had some fun with."

I shook my head mutely as I grabbed my torn sleeve, wrapped it around my hand and felt around in what remained of the stomach in the man Erra burst out of. When I finally found her poké ball I cleaned it as quickly as I could, stomach acid burning away at the cloth and threatening my hands.

Poké ball mostly clean, I placed it back on my bandolier and took another look at Erra chewing on a corpse's throat, then another glance at the huge hole in the dead man's chest.

"I was wrong before," I said with a shake of my head. "This is really starting to play out like a sci-fi film."

 

It felt like escaping that place was taking forever.

 

I wasn't sure whether it was the fact that I was craving for another fix, that my heart didn't stop beating at a few miles a minute or just that I wanted to find my last surviving pokémon and get the hell out of there, but for whatever reason, it was just taking forever.

We'd only found one more guard and killed him. Or more, Erra had flown straight through his face and burst out of the back of his skull. It took me a good moment to actually process that when it happened – even a little while later, my brain was still trying to make sense of it.

I didn't know whether to be happy she'd suddenly become such a bloodthirsty creature, or because she wasn't attacking me like that. All I knew was that if they'd injected her too, like Loki told me they had, it was likely the effects of whatever it was would probably wear off.

And also, I wondered why the man had swallowed her poké ball in the first place.

I pushed the thoughts out of my mind as I wandered aimlessly through the halls, following Scar in the hopes that I could find my final pokémon.

"Come here!" Mia hissed from behind me. I stopped and turned round, finding her stood in front of another metallic door, this one imprinted with a name. I couldn't quite see what it was, as it lied just outside the light Erra and Scar were generating, but then I couldn't see the door at all after Mia's stantler kicked the door clean off its hinges with his hind legs.

I winced as the metal door bounced over the floor, screeching wildly and making enough sound to alert everyone nearby.

"This is-was- his office," Mia said as she stepped into the room and over the crumpled door on the floor. She stopped only to glance at the name before she shook her head and stomped into the room. "Ben Tso. The person who I..." she faltered and took a breath before she opened the metallic desk in the middle of the room. "Are you going to help me see if our other stuff is in here or not?" she growled at me.

I nodded quickly and motioned for Loki and Scar both to stand guard outside as I stepped into the room. Erra flew in circles above me, almost like a moth around a lightbulb.

"Here," Mia said just before she tossed something at me. I caught it reflexively and stared at it in amazement, my brain slowly playing catch up.

My phone! I was so happy to have it back in my hands again; my one link to everyone back with me once more. Mia called my attention and tossed me my wallet afterwards, although it was lacking any money, it still had everything else in there.

There was another loud crash as Charles kicked open something again. I stared in amazement at the wall-safe, loaded with what seemed to be at least triple the most amount of money I'd ever seen before.

"We might as well take this," Mia growled as she pulled it out and placed it on the desk. She made a quick count and split it into two, sliding one pile across the table to me. "Take it," she said as she glanced around the room, found a bag and stuffed her share inside. "After everything we've been through, I don't think there's anything wrong with robbing them."

I stared at the money for a long moment. "Are you trying to pay me off?" I asked, looking back up to meet her face. The stantler behind her didn't look very impressed; every breath it took was blowing Mia's hair around her face and making her more annoyed by the second.

"Is this some attempt of trying to get my favour back?" I pointed to the money on the table without breaking eye contact. "You pretend – or not – to betray me, then get back in my good books by paying me off?"

Her arms shook before she dropped the bag on the floor. "There's a lot you don't know; there seems to be some things either you can't remember or you're just pretending not to. I didn't betray you. I did what I had to in order to get us out of that situation. You're not one to talk about betraying people!" I didn't even have time to ask her what she meant before she turned around and knocked a filing cabinet over. "I'm getting out of here and I'm taking some money to try and buy back everything they've taken from me, maybe even help me forget a little. If you don't want your share, I'll happily take it from you."

"That's alright," I said with a quick shake of my head, shovelling the money into my bag. "I just wanted to know what was going through your mind and really, how you even knew about this office in the first place."

She glared at me and shook her head as she walked angrily out of the room. "Don't even go there. I'll explain everything later, when we're free, but you've got some answers to give yourself."

I felt goose bumps rush all over my arms at the sound of her voice, in anything but a good way. I shook myself as I turned my gaze upwards and shielded my eyes from the light Erra was producing. "Don't suppose you've got any idea what's going on here?"

She settled on the ceiling, spread her wings and hissed at me once more. I sighed and looked back to the floor. "Thought not," I grumbled to myself.

It was only by chance that I stared at the safe before I left. When I did, my heart stopped and my hands shook of their own volition.

Stacks of little glass vials, all carrying the same clear, colourless liquid within. A little pile of syringes laid tauntingly next to them, glistening in Erra's light and daring me to come closer and try them out.

"We need to move," Mia hissed from outside the room. "Staying still like this is going to get us caught!"

I grumbled to myself about how she couldn't think of taking charge, seeing as she'd only killed one person so far – it was me and my pokémon doing all the work. I pushed the thought to the back of my mind as I stared at the taunting substances in the safe, my mouth dry and a tingly feeling in my stomach.

I moved towards the safe with my eyes trained completely on the door. Once I was sure that Mia wasn't going to poke her head back around the doorframe, I grabbed everything I could from the safe and threw it all into my bag, feeling immeasurably lighter and hungry for it all at once.

My elbow itched in anticipation before I finally shut the bag and tossed it back over my shoulders. I wanted nothing more than to sit there and shoot it all up at once, but knew I had to try and get out of there first.

However reluctant I may have been to do that, I managed to tear myself away from the thoughts and left the room.

After all, with all of that in my bag, I considered that would be an adequate celebration when I escaped.

 

It couldn't have been more than a few minutes after we'd trashed the office that we heard more screams.

 

Unlike the past few times though, these screams were for help.

Mia and I both froze on the spot, our pokémon following suit and waiting around with palpable irritation. I watched Erra fly around and caught a large shadow at the very edges of her light. The damned haunter was still following us, though once it noticed I saw it, it quickly retreated back into the shadows.

"We should see what's going on," Mia said with a glance towards the sound of the screams. "It could be someone that really needs help."

"Or is could be someone trying to lead us into a trap," I pointed out. I stuffed my hands in my pockets, tried my best to ignore the sound before finally I let out a frustrated growl. "Fine, we'll go see what's going on."

I didn't like it, but I couldn't help but think that if the roles were reversed, I'd have wanted nothing more than for the mystery people breaking out of the pseudo-prison to help me.

It turned out prison was a pretty accurate description of what we found too. A row of cells lined the walls on either end of another corridor, six to the left and right walls, three at the very end of the corridor.

All of them were empty.

Apart from one.

There was a single man inside, wearing nothing but a stained white vest and equally stained grey jogging bottoms which hung off his emaciated frame. His eyes were sunken and his hair was brown, greasy and a mess.

When I caught the track marks on his elbow, I quickly realised how close I'd become to being something like him. My injured hand throbbed, almost in order to draw me back to the world.

"You've gotta get me out of here," the man rasped, his voice scratchy and with a slight Hoennese accent.

I glanced around the corridors, expecting someone or something to leap out and attack us. Scar and Loki both growled and crept along the prison cells, poking their heads into each abandoned holding. Erra clung to the ceiling above us, illuminating the majority of the corridor for us, yet still hissing at the man inside the cell.

"I feel like I've seen you before," Mia said as she stepped closer to the man's cell. He flinched almost imperceptibly before he broke into a small coughing fit.

"Maybe on the news?" he suggested once he'd finished coughing. "I've been down here about a year – maybe you saw a missing person thing?"

Mia squinted at him, tapping her chin before finally she shrugged and turned away. "Maybe," she said, clearly unconvinced. I nodded and stared at the man, wondering if he seemed familiar at all to me. It wasn't surprising that I'd never seen him before in my life.

"I think it was the news," Mia said from behind me. "But I can't remember exactly what it w-"

Her voice broke off instantly, muffled by something. I spun around and found another one of the gym's guards behind her, one hand clamped over her mouth, the other holding a knife to her throat.

He didn't even get to speak before Charles skewered him on his antlers. Mia yelped and jumped away, clutching at the small cut on her neck as her stantler roared at the impaled man on his antlers. The pokémon reared up brought his head down heard on the wall, squashing the man against the metal with a sickening splat and a crunch.

"T-thanks," Mia whispered as her pokémon nudged her shoulder, seemingly oblivious or uncaring towards the chunks of meat and blood dripping from his antlers.

"I think he was the last one," the man in the cell rasped. I turned back around and stared at him, one eyebrow raised and my patience blatantly thin. "There were eight of them in here earlier, talking about how most of their co-workers had been murdered," he explained quickly. "One of them suggested making a run for it, four others agreed. One of them said that if they were going to run, he was going to report them for it. They snatched a poké ball from his belt and stuffed it down his throat. He looked like he was going to choke until he started screaming – I think he accidentally triggered the release mechanism."

Above us, Erra hissed once more. I nodded silently and decided that answered at least one of my questions.

The man glanced apprehensively at the dead man. "Five of them just ran out of the building. They decided that their jobs weren't worth their lives."

That left me with mixed feelings. I wouldn't have to kill anyone else in our escape, though five people missing meant that five people in the outside world possibly knew everything about me; everything that I'd confessed when I was being pumped full of drugs.

"Can you let me out?" the man begged us. "I know the direction they went in to escape; I can lead you there. Please. I haven't seen the sunlight in over a year. I haven't been outside this cell in that long. These people kept me locked up here... I just want to be free."

I nodded and gestured for Scar to open the cage. Mia glanced at me as she rubbed her neck, smearing blood over her skin.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" she whispered. "What if he's working with these people?"

I settled her with a flat look. "I'm still taking that risk with you."

She flinched and dropped her gaze, though I saw the way her arms trembled with the slightest trace of anger.

"Don't try anything funny," I warned the man as he stepped frailly outside of his cell. "I've got three pokémon ready to tear you to pieces the moment I think you're up to something."

He gulped nervously, nodding excessively. "Shall we check that guy for pokémon then?" he suggested. "We might need something else to get out of here." He looked up and squinted into the dark. "If they've cut the power, I'm guessing all their doors will be locked too. Walking out of the front door covered in blood and everything else probably isn't a good idea, either."

I took a subtle glance at my clothes, painted liberally with blood and couldn't help but agree with him. I turned away and tossed the crushed remains of the dead man over, ignoring the distasteful snort Charles gave in its direction.

I barely even heard Mia try to reassure it once I saw the poké balls on the man's belt. All the force in the world couldn't have stopped me from leaping at it and reclaiming one of the balls for myself. I nearly wept as I saw the markings across the red metal and released the pokémon at once.

I didn't even wait for the bright white light to recede before I threw myself at the pokémon and wrapped my arms around it.

The last of my living pokémon. I was finally reunited with it and nothing could have torn me away.

Confused, all the pokémon could do was grunt in analysis of the situation. I couldn't help but burst into maniacal laughter, which wasn't helped at all when the pokémon finally sprayed me with water.

"It's good to see you Xander," I said as I wiped my eyes. He looked up at me, frowned and spat even more water over me, washing most of the grime away. It was only when it began to leak over the floors that I realised just how bad I must have smelt.

Loki effectively stopped the lombre from cleaning on me when he bounced onto Xander's back, nestled himself quite happily within the large leaf and began to chatter happily at the pokémon.

Watching them reuinited, I couldn't help but feel like some large weight had been lifted completely from my shoulders.

Then just as suddenly, the weight came crashing back when I realised what it all meant.

Sophie was dead. My stupid, silly, curious bird who had a habit of terrorising business women was dead, all because I'd refused to give a few answers that would have stopped her poké ball from being crushed.

She was dead.

And I didn't even have anything to bury or cremate.

"We should really start to leave," the prisoner told us as he inched nervously past my pokémon. "We need to get out of here."

"Yeah," I muttered despondently. I kept my gaze to the ground and stared only at the endless concrete floors until Xander nudged my leg and knocked me off balance. He looked up at me as I stumbled and badly recovered my footing, croaked and spat a small globule of water in my face.

I managed a tiny smile at his attempts to cheer me up. "I'm happy to have you back," I told him. "But Sophie's dead. I've just realised that."

The lombre stopped, almost as if he were silently mourning the pokémon before he nudged me in my leg and forced me forwards once more. I understood that we had to leave and seemingly, so did he.

I managed it all of three steps before pain exploded in my head. I cried out and dropped to the floor, holding my skull and hoping desperately my brains wouldn't leak out of the sides. I barely heard Mia scream over the pain I felt and managed to crawl into something resembling the foetal position as the ground beneath us started to shake like wild.

I wasn't sure when it stopped, only that my heart was still running a marathon and my brain felt like it was going to explode. I thought for a second the prisoner had pulled some trick on us, though I saw him leant against the wall, clearly in as much pain as me. All of the pokémon we had out were also grunting in pain, save for Loki, who was bouncing about, hissing wildly and trying to find out just exactly what was happening.

He barely managed to scramble away in time when a big, brown clawed foot nearly squashed him. I turned my gaze up as far as I could, finding before us a large brown pokémon with two legs as thick as tree trunks. Its skin seemed to fold over itself, like the bark on a palm tree. One large, angry looking, egg-shaped face stared out over us all, with a number of fern-like leaves sprouting from behind it, making it look even more like a palm tree. Next to its head were two coconut shaped objects, the same colour as its head, though lacking any sort of expression.

I wasn't even given time to think as a voice exploded in my mind.

[You killed my master!]

I groaned with the sound of it, dimly recalling something about the gym leader having a psychic. I saw Loki leap at the pokémon, only for it to kick him aside like a discarded toy.

Then curiously, the head seemed to lose all traces of anger. [I thank you,] it grunted as the pain slowly faded from my head. [My master did intolerable things in the name of what humans call justice. He had moved past all forms of redemption, though his hold over my capture device prevented me from putting him out of the world's misery.]

I groaned as I pressed myself to my feet. "If you're here to thank us, why the hell did you make it feel like people were ripping my brain to pieces?"

The pokémon shook itself like a tree in the breeze. [I could not be sure if you would kill me on your path to freedom, as you have to many others.] I rolled my shoulders self consciously and tried to pretend it wasn't me who'd slaughtered them all.

In a way I was right; my pokémon had killed quite a few; Mia and her stantler had both killed a person each too.

The pokémon before us turned away and kicked a large steel shutter open with a loud crash. [This way holds the location where the humans stored their machines to travel. You shall find a way out through here. I would advise you to leave, as I plan to do so myself. Thank you humans, know that we shall not meet again.]

Then in a flash, the pokémon was gone. We all sat there, pokémon and human alike, confused as anyone.

Finally it was the prisoner who got back to his feet. "The exeggutor must have been talking about the garage; we can find a car and escape this hellhole!" He nearly leapt a foot into the air – though it looked like he would have, had he the energy to do so. "We can leave here, completely bypass the town and any people and be home free!"

"Why would you want to avoid the town?" Mia asked before I could. She leant heavily on her stantler, holding the side of her head with a scowl on her face. "The people too? Why are you so afraid of them?"

The man pulled at the vest that hung off his body. "I just don't know who's in league with these people or not. And to be honest, I really don't want to take my chances."

I folded my arms and looked around. "I don't trust that pokémon though. Giving us the way out so easily? It seems like a trap."

"Trap or no, it's a direct way out," the prisoner argued. "We should take it."

I didn't like it, but I had to agree with him. We either took that way out, or we tried to find another way out of the gym. I cursed as we followed the prisoner through the broken steel shutters and into a big, dark parking lot, filled with a number of cars.

I glanced around the place, barely registering Mia saying that she was going to find a car for us to escape in. There was just something about the place that didn't seem right at all, something that I didn't quite like.

It was only when all of my pokémon growled that I realised something was really wrong.

When a muk dropped down from the ceiling, I decided that we well and truly were screwed.

The huge mound of thick, putrid purple ooze slithered before us, rotting garbage and part of a concrete slab slowly festering away in the pokémon's filthy body.

It drew in a huge breath and roared at us all, spraying us with foul smelling, rotting fluid and making my eyes water and my nose scream in agony.

I'd barely even managed to give the order for my pokémon to attack when a jeep ploughed through the pokémon and splattered it everywhere. I leapt back as chunks of the muk rained down in front of me, slowly oozing and eating its way through the concrete floor. I managed to recall Scar and keep him away from the remains of the very flammable methane monster and watched as the jeep swerved to a stop. Mia leapt out of the driver's side, glanced at the slowly melting face of the vehicle before she shrugged innocently.

"What?"

I blinked and shook my head. "Nothing. Let's go," I said as I recalled the remainder of my pokémon. I couldn't wait to see the back of the place and never go anywhere near there again.

Except to complete the plan I had forming in my mind.

It was night when we left, but even though there was a slight chill to the air, we all had our windows wound as far down as they could go, each of us delighted in being able to taste fresh air again.

When Mia stopped, I made sure that she'd wait for me before I walked the five minutes back to the gym. I stood atop the road that wound downhill towards the gym's garage and felt a little smile crawl onto my face.

No doubt the muk would still be in the building, slowly filling it with methane. There were also the extractors lined up on the side of the building, designed to take out all the poisonous – and highly flammable – gasses.

All it would take would be a little fire to make the whole place go up in flames.

I let out Scar and let him sniff the air curiously before he bumped my shoulder with his head. I smiled at him, patted his skull and then pointed towards the gym.

"Burn it down," I told him and watched as whole place caught fire. The roars of the flames and the distant sound of sirens kept me company until I was certain nothing would remain of the damned place. I finally tore myself away from the burning building, recalled Scar and made my way back to the car.

"Buckle up," Mia advised me, gripping the steering wheel hard. "Police and every other form of law and public service are on their way. Last thing we need now is to be linked to that place by the police or the news."

I nodded and fell silently back into my seat as we tore off down the road, happy to see the back of that damned town.

 

It was nearly two hours later that we found ourselves near the mountains around Meteor Falls. We'd left the car nearby and set up a fire near the apex of a large hill. From there we could see all the way down into Fallarbor; to the gym that was still slightly on fire.

 

I grunted a little laugh to myself. "Imagine what they'll think when they find all those tunnels underneath the gym. Wonder how many other gyms have something similar?"

"I doubt they used them for the same purposes," Mia hissed as she warmed her feet by the fire. We'd only managed to feed ourselves and our pokémon – it tasted like the best food there ever was – and were waiting until we could travel again before visiting somewhere and buying new clothes. None of us liked it, yet we couldn't do much about it.

The prisoner – who's name we'd found out was Noah – seemed to like the idea even less. He seemed reluctant to go anywhere near a town or anywhere with people, but we had no idea why. As Mia and I relaxed by the fire, our pokémon surrounding us and all asleep, he slept alone in the car.

"Why did he think you were going to go against me?" I asked the sky more than Mia. I heard her grunt acknowledgement, yet I still refused to look at her. "Before, in the gym, when you did the whole supposedly pretence of turning on me; why did he seem to think you were on his side before that?"

Even though she was only sat opposite me, her voice sounded like it was coming from far away. "Because I told him that I'd work against you."

I stared at her, unable to even move through shock. I knew that I should have grabbed my gun and shot her then and there, yet somehow, I couldn't find the nerve to do it. It had nothing to do with the fact that she had her pokémon surrounding her – coupled with the haunter, still hiding in the shadows and refusing to leave – but more that I was too shocked to act.

She sighed. "Aren't you going to ask why?"

I nodded dumbly and swallowed. "Why then?" I asked, more confused than angry.

Her eyes were sharp as she met my gaze. "Because I saw you promise to kill me."

I flinched and drew a blank all at once. "I don't know what you're talking about!" I yelped and tried to leap to my feet. "I never said anything like that!"

She snorted scornfully. "They made me watch some of the tapes while they were getting the information out of you. I saw it all, even if you don't remember any of it. When they asked what you'd do if you ever found out I knew all there is to know about me, you told them you'd kill me."

Icy horror sunk into my stomach. "B-but, that wasn't me saying that!" I protested. "That was the drugs talking! I was saying anything to get out of that situation!"

"You were saying it to get another fix," Mia said, devoid of emotion. If anything, it scared me that she seemed so calm about it all. "You might not have meant it then. I don't know, I can't say for sure. But put yourself in my position; I was in some horrible underground torture-lab, having people ask me all sorts of ridiculous questions about you, questions which quite frankly, are impossible. They told me all these things that you've done, then they kept telling me that it wouldn't be long before you killed me too. I thought they were making it all up. I thought they were just trying to screw with me. Then I saw them talking to you. I saw you admit it all. I saw you promise to kill me. I saw one of my best friends threaten to kill me! Do you know what that feels like?"

She was starting to shout by that point, though I couldn't blame her. "I saw the one person who I thought would help me no matter what, promise the people who were torturing me that he would kill me!" She was on her feet, screaming at me over the fire, tears spilling from her eyes. "So I did what I thought would help me survive! I told them I'd work with them, because I was afraid that you were going to kill me!

"It was only when you came to rescue me that I realised it was probably only the drugs talking," she said, hugging herself and drawing away from the fire. "When you showed up, I realised that maybe, just like me, you were saying something to make something worse stop. So when the gym leader gloated about how I was supposedly on side, I used it to my advantage. Even if I had joined their side anyway, I still would have killed him after what he did."

I fell back to the floor and sat there, numb with shock. I couldn't blame her for any of it, I realised. I'd threatened to kill her in some drug-craving haze and she'd seen it all. She might have felt the urge to betray me, but that was only because I'd no doubt shattered her trust in me first.

"I'm... I'm sorry," I whispered, staring at the floor. "I didn't mean... I mean, if I'd known-"

"If you'd known, we wouldn't have been able to get out of there," Mia said with a small smile. "But it's all gone and done now. We should just forget everything that ever happened in there."

"Sophie died in there," I muttered mutinously. "I can't just forget that. One of my pokémon died in there, my hand is still throbbing and stinging like hell and they tried getting me hooked on drugs." I didn't need to mention that they'd succeeded at that part. "I can't forget any of that. How did you manage to get away with all your pokémon still alive anyway?"

She stared at the fire, eyes unmoving. "I made a trade," she whispered robotically. "When they found out I didn't actually know anything about what they were asking me about, they gave up on that line of questioning. Then the leader came to speak with me privately. He mentioned something about a girl who worked with them, about how she didn't have what it took to succeed."

I was reminded about trilby-girl. For a moment I thought back to her, lying in that little torture room as the entire building burnt down around her. It made a little smile want to grow on my face at her getting just what she deserved for trapping me in there in the first place.

Mia poked at the ground angrily. "He told me I had that quality... if I was willing to..." she trailed off as her lip curled in distaste. "Anyway, I told him exactly what he could do. Then he told me that every time I refused, he'd kill one of my pokémon. I couldn't let that happen... so I did what I had to do to make sure he didn't kill them."

I didn't need to ask what it was he'd done. It was so obvious; I wanted to smack myself for not realising it sooner. The way she recoiled from every touch, the fact that she was in a dolled up dress and restrained when I found her... even the way she held herself and looked so repulsed with herself.

"I'm sorry," I mumbled again as I closed my injured hand, feeling pain spike up through me. It was a lot less than I deserved, I figured. "I got you into such a mess. If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have been there in the first place."

"Maybe," she said with a shrug. "Or maybe if you hadn't of been there, you wouldn't have been able to help me escape that place."

I didn't have the heart to tell her it was my fault in the first place. If I hadn't kissed that girl, then turned up with Mia, she'd have never been caught up in all of it.

"Don't ask me to help," she said suddenly. I glanced across the fire at her, completely confused by her words. "I saw everything you said; about how you're supposedly from the future," she clarified. She snorted to herself as she stared at her hands. "'From the future'. Can't believe I'm saying something like that seriously. But if you are – if that's true – I don't want to be involved with whatever big mission you were talking about."

I felt my stomach roll over itself again and again. "I don't, I mean I-"

"I've watched five of my pokémon die. I'm not going to watch anymore," she said, resolute. "Whatever you're doing, for whatever reasons, it's dangerous. Those people in that gym made that obvious. If people like that are gonna be around to try and stop you... I don't want to get involved. I've killed someone and I've got to live with that. You killed all those people in that gym, yet all I can think is: what about their families? Did they know what they were getting up to? I've got to carry on, with those thoughts always running through my mind. I can't help you with whatever you've got to do. I can be your friend, but please, don't ever ask me to make these thoughts worse."

I wanted to reach over and hug her. I tried, yet she still pushed me away. Instead I just sat next to her, solemn and sincerely apologetic. "I won't," I promised her. "I'm sorry, you know that, right?"

She sniffed and wiped her eyes. "I know," she told me. "Just make sure whatever you do... try to keep friendly casualties to a minimum, huh?"

I nodded silently as she crept over to her stantler, curled up beside him and tried to sleep. The pokémon snorted and moved himself around her, seemingly protecting her his own child.

I stared at them a moment longer before I rummaged through my bag. My 'friendly causalities', as Mia put it, were already high enough. The wurmple, the makuhita, Sophie, arguably Adryan and his pokémon, then no doubt ruining Mia's mental state.

I thought about it all as I found what I wanted and walked a short distance away from my pokémon. I couldn't help but think only about that until I shot up and made it all fade away into addiction-sating ecstasy.

 

When I came to the next day, I found a neat little package waiting for me by the remains of the fire. It was nothing special; a purple shirt, some black jeans, black boots and a dark purple beanie. I stared at them all, put them all on, save for the beanie and wondered just why Mia had decided to give me such clothes to wear.

 

It turned out her theories were that they would suit me. I didn't want to tell her I really didn't think they would, nor were they suitable for travelling. Instead I thanked her and tried to ignore the fierce itch that my elbow tormented me with. Though I did point out since she was dressed in a purple tank top, black jeans and boots, we looked far too much like we were wearing his-and-hers outfits.

It really did upset me that she barely acknowledged it, rather than hitting me, like I knew she would have before everything in the gym.

I saw Noah a little while later and told him we'd be heading towards Rustboro soon enough. He didn't seem happy with the idea, though accepted it and mumbled something about looking around the mountains before he left me.

When Mia left to go back to town for something she claimed was urgent, I found myself alone once more. I let out my pokémon and found quite quickly that Erra was still rather bloodthirsty – every pokémon that didn't belong to Mia or I was quickly attacked, if not torn apart. I had to recall her and leave her to stew in her poké ball until we could get to another pokémon centre.

I let my other pokémon run about and amuse themselves as I switched on my phone after having left it charging in the car all night.

I couldn't help but wince at the number of missed calls and texts from Chris. It was obvious she was furious – I'd never seen heard of half of the curses she used against me in some of her voicemails. There were even some messages from Adryan asking about it all. I decided to ignore them all for a little while as I found the one number I wanted. When I rang it though, I found only the voicemail waiting for me.

I cursed before the little beep sounded. "Hey, Erica, it's me. You remember that option you gave me? About making things... disappear? Well I think there's something I need that little group to do. Poison gym. The one on the news. There's reasons for that; I'll give them to you if you need them. I need those people you were talking to sort it out. Thanks, I guess."

I hung up the phone and felt stupid and concerned all at once. There was the chance that someone could trace my call, even playback the message I left her, but I doubted anyone would be chasing after me so soon. Added to that, I really doubted Erica would be stupid enough to leave incriminating messages lying around.

I stuck my hands behind myself and wondered just what to do until I saw Mia driving back. The dark blue car we'd stolen the night before screeched to a halt and almost instantly Mia had leapt out of it, charging up the hill without even shutting the door behind her. She carried a few papers in her hand, all crunched up and her face had an unbridled look of fury etched upon it.

"What's going on?" I asked, only for her to brush straight past me, on the warpath.

"Where is he?" Mia growled, shaking with rage. "Where's Noah?"

I shrugged. "I haven't seen him since just after you left. Why?"

She growled once more and shoved the papers into my chest. I took the off her and stared down at them, surprised to see a face staring back at me. The man in the picture had shorter hair, a rounder face, but it was unmistakeably Noah.

"You know that prisoner we saved?" Mia hissed as she paced back and forth. "Well it turns out he's a wanted criminal. I knew I'd seen his face somewhere, I just couldn't remember where! His trial fell apart and then he just disappeared over a year ago; about the same time he told us he was kept down in that gym."

I shrugged and handed the papers back to her. "So he's a criminal? He was still being held there regardless."

She stopped pacing and glared at me. "He liked little girls. His trial fell apart a year ago because of a technicality, then he upped and vanished. Don't you get it? The justice system couldn't put him away, so those people in the gym gave him exactly what he deserved! They said you were a murderer; what's to stop me thinking that they were good guys?"

I forgot all about the papers as I dropped them on the floor. "We helped him escape? After he did things like that?" I felt sick. "We need to find him. I'll finish what those people started. I'll kill him myself." I started off instantly in the direction I remembered Noah taking, adamant that I'd tear him apart with my bare hands.

"No wonder why he didn't want to go back to anywhere with people," Mia said as she chased after me. "The things he did; he'd be lynched by a mob if they ever caught sight of him."

I stopped walking. "I don't think they'll need to," I said and pointed forwards. There was a big oak tree straight ahead of us and swinging from one of the branches was Noah, shoelaces from the shoes Mia had bought him tied around his neck.

I took one look Noah's corpse and turned away. "We need to leave," I told Mia. "We should get away from here. People will find him soon enough and I really don't want to be associated with letting a kiddie-fiddle out of his prison."

She nodded. "I'll get the car-"

"No car," I growled with a shake of my head. "We stole that from the gym. They'll be looking for that now. We'll hike from here to Rustboro – far as anyone else is concerned, we're just two trainers travelling the country."

She nodded and we made a quick escape after that. I recalled all my pokémon but Scar and let him plod alongside us as we climbed through Meteor Falls. I began to think about what I'd do once we reached Rustboro, even what I'd say to Chris to apologise.

Anything to stop me from thinking that I might have massacred a gym full of the good guys.

 
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