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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42. Ties

Be careful what you wear to bed at night – you never know who you'll meet in your dreams ~ Anon

-O-O-O-

"It's a small world. Everything may indeed be connected, but that doesn't freak us out any less when we realise it to be true. It still freaks me out that no matter where I travel to, with anyone I meet there's always a link back to someone I know. It's a big universe? Maybe. I'd just like to finally travel somewhere and not feel like I'm being suffocated by these invisible bonds that tie us all together."

- Skylar Harris, pilot and Mistralton Town Gym Leader 3006 – 3021. (December 13th, 3010)

-O-O-O-

/"I really don't like this at all."

My stomach drops as I look down at the ground. I see it covered in a number of people and pokémon both; some are shambling aimlessly between each other, the rest are tearing each other apart with whatever natural advantages they have.

The platform I'm standing on sways in the slight breeze.

My stomach plummets from my body.

I grip the remaining support beam tighter and wonder just why I had to explore the building that was nearly falling down.

Well, aside from trying to get a better sniping position and avoiding most of the creatures down below.

But I was careless as I walked across the top. Five stories of building crumbled around me. I'm left now on the support beams that made it up, standing at the very top, wondering just how the hell I can make it out of this alive.

I glance at my hand and see it's turning ever paler the harder I grip. The fingerless gloves are falling apart and there's a little stump where my ring finger should be.

The supports moan in protest as creatures down below begin attacking the building. It's all I can do to keep my guts from running away right now.

My free hand is shaking as I slowly reach into my holster and pull out my gun. I've never been afraid of heights, but I'm starting to be terrified of this one.

I try and focus as I point the gun at some of the creatures below. It's only a handgun; I know I'd be unlikely to hit anything from such a distance. I know it won't scare them off either – the sound will just draw more of them to me.

"Fuck," I whisper with a shake of my head. I consider eating the gun and biting the bullet, literally and figuratively.

-"Iron Island will be free of everything, you'll see. We'll be able to set up a new camp there!"-

I remember the words like they're scriptures from the devil.

Given my current predicament, they might as well be.

I should have known not to go anywhere near there. Closed off, access only by sea… it meant one of two things. Either it was going to be the closest to a safe haven we were likely to find in Sinnoh, or it would be a death trap.

Why did I follow her into the death trap?

A glint of light shines from my free hand and blinds me for a second.

Oh right, I think stupidly, that.

A worthless trinket these days; it has no actual value. The customs and meanings it holds have long since been abandoned in this world, yet somehow she convinced me we should exchange them.

I realise that I'm a bit of a moron when it comes to her.

I understand I'm a bit of a moron in general when I realise I'm teetering above death, contemplating little strips of metal.

"Ah… balls," I mutter and glance around. There's nothing but torn up tarmac, rocks and the remains of streets down below. A few buildings line the streets, each showing signs of damage. Windows are broken and shattered, some houses look like they're toppling and I'm fairly certain there's a graveller living in one of those houses, eating everything stupid enough to go inside.

The streets are dead.

It smells like they're lined with them too.

There's a large hillside just behind the houses on the opposite side of the street to me. I can see it leads into the forests.

My mind begins to wander, highlighting possibilities that I shouldn't be considering right now.

I shove them out of my head – quite literally – with my free hand. I need to focus.

I can see spearow circling above me. There's one or two vultures from Unova up there too, fighting with the spearow for rights to the feast below.

I consider shooting one of them, just so they'd drop into a frenzy.

The structure wobbles again and I groan for the umpteempth time, gripping ever tighter to the sole metal pole that stops me from falling to my doom.

I hear fire behind me.

I feel the air heat up.

My groan becomes a shriek as fire blasts past my ear from behind.

I turn as much as I can without unbalancing myself and find a mawile watching me from the building behind. Its beady little eyes glare at me as the creature sizes me up – it wants me for dinner.

"Just what I need," I grunt and turn back to glance at the street. I can't shoot the mawile; its skin is too tough for that. I just need to hope it grows bored with me and tries to find something a little closer to eat.

Down below more things are losing interest in each other, attacking the building again and again. I can see cracks beginning to race up the side and know it won't be long before I don't have anywhere to stand on.

I consider shooting something in the distance. If it keels over, it might attract some of the things down below. If nothing else, the sound might.

I grip my gun again, pull myself in tighter in the hope the mawile won't be able to flambé me and line up the shot.

"Hey!"

The shout nearly scares me into falling from the building. I glance across the street and see someone standing atop the hillside, above the buildings and near the forest. He's wearing what looks like all blue, with some weird, funky hat. By his side is a little yellow rat and I can see the sparks discharging from it, even at such a distance.

"You alright?" he screams at me.

"Do I look it?" I shout back, aware that now everything's interest has turned towards us. It seems to be splitting everything down below into two groups; some are still coming for me, others for the maniac who decided to start shouting in the first place.

I know I probably shouldn't have shouted back either. My training didn't go to waste. But I'm not about to pass up an opportunity for help.

I think I see the man grin. "Get ready!" he shouts. "When you get the chance, climb up that drainpipe there!" He points to the directly below him with the old, black creaky drainpipe running up the side. "Get on top of the house and I'll feed you down a rope!"

I nod quickly and grab a rope from my own pack. I glance behind me, see the mawile has grown bored of me and found something in its building to eat and I smile to myself.

I breathe a sigh of relief and tie the rope one-handed around the support beam I'm still gripping. The irony of me using an escape rope to head towards danger isn't lost on me. If only they worked like in the shows; loop it around yourself and you magically warp out of a cave.

In fact, I don't know why they're called 'escape ropes' anyway. They're just normal ropes.

Stupid third-millenia marketing ploys.

Gods I'm getting old.

I glance across at the mystery man and see him nod. I take a deep breath and swing myself onto my rope, too late for praying that it holds.

It does and I feel relief flood through me. I manage to slide down the rope just as I hear something explode in the distance.

There's the distant hum of electricity and I guess the guy's pikachu had something to do with it. Maybe some sort of electric-activated remote bomb…

SHUT UP!

My brain screams and makes me focus on sliding down the rope. I glance down and see some of the things have moved away. A few are still around, waiting for me to drop into their greedy mouths.

I decide I'm not going to let them have the chance.

I drop the last few feet from the rope and land on top of what I think was a wigglytuff. It shrieks as I kick it away, already running for my life.

Someone lunges at me, arms outstretched and breath stinking of rotting meat.

I snatch the metal pole from my back and smack him in the head with it. He goes down moaning as I run past his hopefully dying body.

My heart is thundering as I run across the street. More of the things come at me.

I smack another in the face and run past it.

I hear footsteps behind me and drop to the floor quickly. Something bumps into me and falls over my body, rolling across the street in a flash of blue.

I wonder what it is before more things come at me.

The fast things.

I curse and snatch a poké ball from the belt across my chest. It explodes into brilliant white light as I scream for the creature inside to burn them all.

Instantly my red fire-breathing lizard is at my side. Violent orange flames explode out of his mouth and roast the blue thing – I think it's a lucario – alive.

The smell of burning, live flesh draws more things towards us. I don't even need to look at Scar as he twists around me, grabs my free arm and spins me around in a circle.

I shut my eyes and pray the dizzy feeling goes away quickly. I hear numerous 'thunks' as my outstretched iron bar collides into bodies – I feel my arm bend backwards with the weight of every blow.

There's another thunk and suddenly pain lances up my arm. I can't help but lose my grip on the weapon and shout curses after it, even as my pokémon stops spinning me.

I manage to grab my footing even as the world spins around me. Scar growls what I know to be little violent curses as shadows surround us.

I glance behind me.

I see the stupid drainpipe!

We're here, I realise quickly.

I take a running leap towards the pipe and manage to shamble up it as quickly as I can. Scar growls from behind me as he smashes his tail though a woman's face. I snatch his poké ball from a pocket and recall him just as the things around him leap at him. They pass through iridescent red light and I exhale in relief before scampering as quickly as I can up the drainpipe.

It seems like forever by the time I reach my mysterious saviour. He throws me a grin as I double over, grip my knees and pant for breath.

"It's all the radio's fault," he tells me conversationally. "The channels that are still up are saying it's free of infection here. Course, people should know by now-"

"No such thing," I pant with a smile on my face. "Believe me, I know."

He glances at me sharply. "Then why'd you come here?" I hold up my hand towards him and hear him grunt an amused sound. "Ah. Ball and chain, huh? Still won't give up that last bit of hope?"

I manage a small laugh. "That last bit of hope's the only thing that's keeping me going too. That and the fact she has my braviary. Could have flown right over those hungry fuckers." I straighten out and wipe my forehead with my sleeve. "I owe ya one pal."

"Don't sweat it," he tells me with a friendly pat on the shoulder. "I mean, we gotta look out for one another, right? Keeping the group alive is the main thing, isn't it?"

I manage a quick nod. "Something like that."

He smiles at me. "Then you'll understand that my group needs to eat."

I'm confused for just a second before pain explodes in my kidney. Warm liquid trickles out of my stomach just before I see the gun pressed against my head.

I pour all the hatred and surprise I can into cursing him for eternity. "You-"

BANG!/

"Holy-?" I screamed as I woke up, covered in a film of sweat. My heart threatened to explode out of my chest and a phantom stab wound burned at my kidney. I ran my hands over my chest just to make sure I was still intact before I collapsed against the floor and breathed out a long sigh.

"The fuck was that?" I wondered to myself. I remembered all of it so clearly and wondered just whether or not it had ever happened. In fact, I remembered most of it actually happening – save for the part about having a pokémon and the guy stabbing me in the stomach.

"That was a year ago," I whispered to myself. I frowned as I recalled little bits of it; our unit going towards one of the little islands just off of the ruins of Slateport. I remembered that I ended up stranded atop a building with a street of hungry, angry people and pokémon between me and my group.

For whatever reason my group had broken our usual belief of leaving the doomed behind and distracted everything long enough for me to catch up.

I figured it was because had only just turned sixteen.

But that was all the truth in that weird dream. The rest – the missing finger, me being about twice my age, getting stabbed – that was all impossible. Even having Scar was a lie, though there was some truth in it.

I groaned to myself and wondered just what was happening. It felt like someone had taken a sledgehammer to the inside of my brain and just decided to redecorate.

There was a low whistle to my left. I threw a glance and found Lacey staring at me in the dark, her yellow eyes glowing demonically in the black of the night.

"Any ideas?" I asked her; fully aware she could read my mind. Instead she just shrugged and pretended like she had no clue what I was talking about.

"Right," I grunted and pulled myself from my sleeping bag. Stupid freaky dreams. I rubbed at my head, dully recalling some similar pain to when Adryan's gardevoir had tried telepathy with me. I wondered whether or not there was a psychic about feasting on my dreams.

I glanced at Lacey and told myself that she wouldn't have let one get away with something like that.

In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised if she had somehow been eating them.

It still struck me as weird though. Most dreams I had would fade behind a fog within a few minutes and I'd forget them. This one stuck with me for ages.

Forever, even.

"Here," I grunted as I tossed Lacey my gun. She caught it instantly and looked at it in pure confusion for a second.

"I can't sleep," I told her as I packed everything away. "And I told you I'd teach you how to use that once you evolved. Yesterday you decided to run off and slaughter your old tribe, so I'm making good on my word now."

The shiftry held the gun awkwardly, seemingly trying to remember how to wield it properly. I resisted the urge to sigh and instead slung my bag over my shoulder. "Try not to shoot me with it," I jibed. "I've already been shot enough for a life time. Going out from a shiftry accidentally firing at me is embarrassing, more than anything."

She shot me a dark look and waved the gun menacingly at me. All it achieved was making me laugh.

"If you want to threaten to shoot me, at least make sure the barrel's pointed towards me and not you."

I managed to laugh a little instead of groaning. I knew without a doubt that teaching her again would take a while.

"Don't give me that look."

Xander glared at me from his spot on the floor, his froggy body half suspended in a small trickle of a stream.

"I didn't exactly plan to go in there and execute a colony of shifry." I squatted beside the pokémon in the stream and splashed him with a handful of water. "Lacey sort of led us in there; apparently it was all some sort of test to make sure I got my confidence in my planning skills."

He croaked and nudged me in the leg just lightly enough so that I didn't lose my balance.

"You can't take the moral high ground here, Xander; it was a kill or be-killed situation." I sighed and stood back up, splashing him with a little more water. "And anyway, I promised Lacey ages ago that I'd teach her how to use a gun. I'm just keeping good on my word. Be thankful that even though her wrists are stronger, she's just a poor shot." I managed a small laugh and scratched at my cheek. "Actually, I'm not certain that's something to be thankful for. Who knows what she'll hit instead of the target. Anyway, I'll keep you around a bit more often, if that's what you want. You just need to understand though that sometimes, killing something that's in the way is the only way to deal with a problem."

He croaked once more and purposely circled around me, meeting my eyes with a determined gaze.

"Fine," I relented, throwing my hands up into the air. "I'll try and work around a few problems – not like I've never tried to do anything like that before. But if I'm meant to stop the world going to hell, there's going to have to be a few deaths along the way."

Xander gave the closest to a shrug he could as he croaked a few syllables. I didn't need a translator for what he meant.

No more than necessary.

I fought the urge to laugh at that. Who could really define who and what the necessary casualties were? Maybe the people that wanted to cause the future I'd seen, but other than that, there was no way to tell.

"Sure," I muttered as I walked away from him. "You point out who's necessary to kill. In the meantime, whilst you're still sat around deciding on who can and can't be killed, they're going to be after us. You're an idealist; they generally just end up getting people killed."

I received a blast of water to the back of the neck for that.

"Sadist." I spun and glared at him, only to fall into a small smile at his grin. Eventually I just shook my head and told him I'd need to recall him whilst I walked a bit more of the way to Fortree.

That was the plan.

But when I pressed the button on the poké ball, nothing happened.

"Okay…" I said, feeling my ears and cheeks begin to burn as I continued to hammer the button. "You're not going to evolve anytime soon, are you? You haven't stepped on a water stone or something?"

He gave me a look that very clearly said that wasn't the case.

"Fine, fine," I mumbled, waving away the glares of froggy-doom. "But something's wrong here. I remember getting the explanation on how these work back in my world and again from Jennifer. They run on some weird sort of battery that's solar powered, as well as taking power remotely from some central electrical server, or something to that effect. Apparently if one failed, there was always something back up."

If both failed, there was supposedly another failsafe in place – though the explanation for that was way over my head.

It boiled down to one thing; poké balls were designed to always be able to work. Whether for control, or to keep dangerous pokémon in confinement or some strange reason involving waging war with monsters locked in ping pong ball sized orbs, they were always meant to work.

That's why I was so confused and alarmed that Xander's poké ball was refusing to recall him.

"This is weird," I said as I plucked my pokédex from a pocket. I scanned the orb but it came up completely normal; apparently the ball was operating normally. There wasn't even a big trainer-based update on the pokédex - the last news feed that had been updated was that skarmory were being spotted more than normal around Lavaridge.

Seeing that did make me feel a slight pang of sadness about Sophie.

"There's nothing wrong with this, apparently," I said as I tossed the ball between my hands. "So why isn't it working?"

I wondered just whether or not all my other poké balls were acting up too.

That was then they exploded with enough force to knock me off my feet.

"Ow," I groaned as I spat dirt out of my mouth. "That wasn't nice."

I managed to sit up-

- only for a blast of electricity to nearly take my face off.

I yelped and dove at the floor just in time. I heard wild hissing and buzzing above me and knew instantly Erra was out and attacking something.

The shrieks afterwards let me know she was attacking Lacey.

"What?" I mumbled as I sat back up again, my world spinning and my chest hurting a little with every breath. "All of you escaped your poké balls?" I wondered deliriously as my pokémon tried to stop Erra and Lacey fighting. "Just how did this happen?"

It took a blast of water to my face to shock me into reality.

Instantly I was on my feet and between my two warring pokémon, Alistair and Scar holding onto Lacey; an arm apiece and Loki snarling as he leant on Erra, pinning her to the floor as Xander stood between them, trying to play mediator.

"Alright, just what the hell is going on here?" I demanded of my pokémon.

[There was… a blast… of energy, sir,] Alistair groaned as he attempted to wrestle Lacey away from slicing Erra apart. [Then suddenly… we were out here, with the dark woodlander and… the addled electrical insect… were attempting to kill another… as you can see, sir!]

"Right," I mumbled, stumped for a moment. "Okay, Lacey cut it out! She's high on who-knows-what and attacking randomly! You attacking her back isn't going to help!" I glared at her then squatted in front of my magnemite, trying to meet her eye. "Look, I know those people in Fallarbor injected you with who knows what, but I know you're still in there somewhere. So snap out of this!"

I had to jump away from the responding blast of electricity.

"Fuck this," I muttered to myself. "Guys, knock them both out."

Alistair obeyed instantly; he slammed an arm into Lacey's gut and doubled her over. As her head went down, his knee came up and smashed into her face, sending her flying backwards and truly out for the count.

Meanwhile Loki held onto Erra's wings trapping her and cursing as she shocked him with little bolts of electricity. It took Scar smacking the insect on her head to knock her out for the count, at which point me and most of my team took a sigh of relief.

"Glad that's over with," I said as I quickly checked my unconscious pokémon. I tried to recall them once more, only for nothing to happen, yet again. "Great," I moaned. "Now we'll have to carry around an unconscious shiftry. I shook my head, sighed and waved Scar over. "Check around the perimeter, make sure we're clear of any other pokémon. Xander, see if there's any source of water nearby – try to avoid any carvanha that might be lurking in the stream. Loki, get some firewood – and try not to bring back a nest of pidgey this time, okay? I don't care if you killed their mother, I don't have the time, patience or the general good-will to become a father."

The sableye gave a happy chortle to that. It meant that he could eat the babies as well this time, unlike last; where he brought them back and lost them to a hungry Scar.

"Alistair, you help me move Lacey," I said with a nod to the unconscious pokémon. "I reckon we can just carry Erra underarm. There's no way we're making it to the next town with these two unconscious and I want them to have this all sorted out, just in case this poké ball thing is permanent."

I heard Alistair make a small amused sound. [And what if it is permanent, sir? It is not exactly a bad thing.]

I raised an eyebrow and shook my head. "Have you not met any of the other pokémon on this team? Lacey kills for fun, Erra indiscriminately at the moment, Scar if he thinks they're a threat and Loki… well I'm not totally sure about him. He seems to collect pieces of dead pokémon for his own, child-like amusement and then still somehow manages to be intelligent enough to track animals or point out when something's following us."

[I cannot give a definite answer for you there, sir,] Alistair hummed as he picked up Lacey, tested her weight and then just slung her over a shoulder as if she weighed nothing. [He is a dark-minded creature and hidden to my psychic abilities. And I am a fighter, sir, I am able to lift and carry large weights. My species lose most of our psychic abilities in exchange for much greater physical abilities and attributes.]

"Right," I said as I picked up Erra. I felt remarkably emasculated as I walked along beside my pokémon, carrying a tiny magnemite in comparison to his heavier load. I frowned, felt phantom pain in my kidneys again and tried my best to ignore it. "Say, Alistair-"

[There is no pokémon able to create and alter dreams.]

I flinched a little and spun my head to face him. He gave me a smirk back, shifted Lacey and lumbered on ahead.

[Or to be more accurate, sir, there is a pokémon that all other pokémon know to hold such powers, but you humans have not discovered it yet. Your dreams are simply that sir, even if they do manage to leave you with basic psychic pains.]

"Okay," I replied, still unconvinced as I pressed a hand into my side and pushed down, trying to counter-balance the pain. It did nothing and instead I just dropped to the floor, glanced around and blew out a long breath. "We should stop here," I said. "It's as good a place as any – the trees here are thin enough to not hold clusters of pokémon in and dense enough to keep fliers out. The others will be able to track our footprints or our scents here anyhow."

[As you wish sir,] Alistair said as he gently placed Lacey down, leaning her against a tree. [Memories can often become part of a dream sir, in unusual circumstances. Most often, it has to do with That Which Uxie Follows.]

"'That Which Uxie Follows'?" I echoed, genuinely confused. "That sounds like the name for a bad band. Or a cult. Complete with stupid acronym; 'TWUF'."

I felt more than saw my gallade roll his eyes. [I refer to it as such, sir, because it is another creature humans have not discovered. You know that Uxie can wipe memories when in danger, but you are wrong that it blessed everything with the ability to remember. That act belongs to another.]

"So who does it belong to?" I asked as I set Erra down in a small patch of grass and begun to dig a small fire pit.

[Try as you might, sir, I am not going to reveal such information to you. The last time humanity learnt of such a creature before they were meant to was in the case of the mew species.]

"The Mew?" I asked him. "The one the Kantonese revere as a God?"

Alistair snorted a laugh. [Mew are no god. They are akin to… Adam and Eve, from the texts some humans worship. I know of such stories because my previous trainer belonged to such an order.]

"Having a hard time believing that," I muttered.

He shrugged. [Be that as it may, the point remains; mew are a common ancestor, not a God. But as I was explaining; That Which Uxie Follows is responsible for controlling memories. It is able to see any memory from any person and is still in control of the ability of memorising information. However, whenever its attention wanders, so do people's memories. They may briefly forget things, think the same thought over and over, or even – if they are asleep and dreaming – have their memories merge with their fantasies, sir.]

"If that's the case, this memory-weaver sounds a bit like it's suffering from memory problems itself, given how frequently those things happen."

Alistair shrugged once more. [I cannot deny what may be true, sir.]

I snorted a small laugh after attempting and failing to recall Erra. "Alright then, I won't ask anymore. Something tells me I'm not going to get much more out of you. Keep an eye out for Loki – it's his turn to collect firewood. He should know that – if he's come back without any, feel free to kick him into the nearest tree. I need to make a phone call, see if this whole poké ball issue is happening with everyone else."

I flipped through my phone as I wandered a little distance away from Alistair, wondering just who I could ring. I figured if it was happening with everyone, Chris would probably be busy going crazy trying to recall some of the pokémon that were usually left in their poké balls. I had no idea whether or not Mia and her pokémon were out of the hospital yet – if they weren't, I figured her first concern wouldn't be all her pokémon out and about with her.

I ended up dialling Adryan, figuring he was the only person I could bother with such a problem. I wasn't even sure if Erica had a pokémon and had never bothered to ask.

I forgot all about that train of thought and the poké ball problem when Ayd answered the phone with a very poor attempt of a deep voiced, "Yo."

"Not that cool then?" he asked once I finished laughing. "What's up then dude? Much going on?"

I blinked and stared at the phone as if he could see my blank look through it. "You're… kidding, right?"

"No," he said, sounding confused. "Is there something big that's happened that I should be aware of?"

Loaded question.

I realised I hadn't really spoken to him since before Fallarbor. If I had, it was probably nothing more than a simple, 'Hey, how're you?' that I'd completely forgotten about.

"Okay then, stupid question, but are your balls working?"

He burst out laughing instantly.

"I meant your poké balls!" I hissed at the phone, blushing furiously. I couldn't even blame him for laughing – I did walk right into that one.

"My balls are working perfectly fine thanks. Why, are you interested testing them out?"

I made a face at the phone. "Only in your dreams Adryan. But in all seriousness; your poké balls, are they working? Mine have all stopped – everyone got released at once and now I can't recall anyone."

He hummed in thought. "Maybe you've just somehow got defective poké balls. Though having six at once, all bought from different places? That's unlikely. I haven't seen my pokémon yet – I've been at work, so I've left them to themselves. Willow's been looking after the spares."

"You're working?" I asked. "Since when? Where abouts?"

He barked a laugh. "Twenty questions. I've only just started – about three weeks now. I'm working at- holy shit! Ripper, stop trying to abduct Phos! Leif, for God's sake, I've told you about eating the trees within city limits!" He sighed and filled the phone with a static sound before cursing once more. "Sorry dude, I'm gonna have to go. Looks like your problem's my problem. Except Claire's trying to flying kick Irenui. Or ninja her way onto the top of a building. I never can tell with her."

"Good luck then," I said with a laugh.

At least it wasn't just me suffering with the problem of bad pokémon-containing technology. I flipped my phone in my hands, stuffed it back in a pocket and turned back to Alistair.

"This is happening elsewhere too," I told him. "We're not alone with this problem."

He nodded, though I still felt the little tingle in my head like he was about to speak. I frowned and tried to rub at my head to rid myself of the strange, almost itchy feeling.

I didn't know why either, but I was suddenly hungry. It was almost like something was making me think exclusively about eating, yet allowing all my other thoughts to carry on.

[Your memories are imaginative.]

I jumped at the sudden voice and glared around our little campsite. Alistair gave me a startled look I fanned by jumping around and searching for the mystery voice.

"Is there another psychic here?" I asked of my pokémon.

He took a step closer towards me, closed his eyes and remained deathly still for a moment.

[Yes,] he finally answered. [I am uncertain as to where, sir, but there is definitely another psychic creature here. Is there anything you could tell me about it? I am unable to discern what species it is?]

I shrugged. "It sounded female. Kinda… I don't know. Not apathetic, but it sounds like one of those people that wouldn't care if you got hit by a car two seconds later." I gave a small nervous laugh and shrugged. "Dunno what else I can tell you though. I'm weirdly hungry – it's stopping me from thinking about much."

It was like a light bulb went on over his head. His arms snapped out to his sides and a guttural hiss jumped out of his throat as the faint psychic pain danced in my skull again.

[Your tamed pet is astute,] the voice said.

Something moved towards us, appearing with nothing more than a shimmer of the air. It was far taller than me, with a long neck down which ran a purple mane, and the neck itself covered in the same yellow fur as its head and the front of its body. Little brown spots decorated its fur, with its hind legs and the back of its body patterned in the reverse. The most curious sight of all was its tail, which seemed to move and sway like a snake, complete with fangs and beady little eyes.

"A girafarig?" I whispered to myself. "Well, I guess that explains why I'm so hungry. I didn't think that second head was capable of telepathy though."

[It's not,] the creature told me. [It sends out instinctive commands whilst I speak. I am hungry, thus it thinks only of getting food.]

"So is all this in aid of you trying to get a free meal?" I turned my head to Alistair and nodded back towards the strange girafarig. "So what do you think? It out to get us?"

[I cannot tell. She does not seem to wish us harm.]

The strange pokémon cantered forwards a little and stood high above me. [Forgive me. I did not realise I do not conform to your opinion of psychics. Should I feast upon your entrails and make a necklace out of your kneecaps to appease your stereotype of my brethren?]

I took a hesitant step away. "Er, no? That won't be necessary."

[Good,] she muttered.

Then a blue barrier sprung up around her.

I flinched away, alarmed and watched as suddenly a large red blur smacked straight into the barrier. It slid down with a violent hiss, bathed the barrier in flames and slashed wildly at it.

"Scar!" I barked as my mind caught up. He turned towards me, stopped his assault and cocked his head towards me curiously. "It's alright, it seems to be harmless. If it isn't, feel free to tear it apart."

He growled and gave a small nod, though still watched the girafarig with visible unease.

[Pleasant,] the creature muttered with a flick of its ears. [Allow me to be blunt; I seek you out because I require your aid. I do not wish to share details with you, though know that our goals are the same.]

"Really?" I muttered. "You're trying to save the world whilst simultaneously attempting to bring down the stupid time-fairy that brought you here?"

It didn't miss a beat. [Something like that.]

"So how can I be sure that I can trust you?"

Its tail snapped in anger. Or just hunger.

[How can I be sure I can trust you?]

I felt myself smirk a little. "I think I like you."

[How thrilling,] it muttered. [I think I may honestly die of happiness right now.]

"Well, I would try to capture you, but-"

[What makes you certain that I wish to be treated as such?] it snarled at me. [You humans are all similar; unable to deal with pokémon unless you have those control orbs. How you all manage to live with such fear is beyond me.]

"Well how else do we deal with creatures that can be only a few inches tall yet are still able to kill us without much effort?" I said. "Make friends?"

[If you were talented enough. Instead mostly all you humans seek to wage war. Luckily, war is something I expect from my quest. I will work together with you. But first, I wish to know if you're worthy of working with.]

"Oh goodie," I muttered. "I'm being tested by a creature that I really couldn't give a rattatta's ass about. If I have to jump through hoops to prove myself to you, something tells me that we wouldn't get along if we did work together."

[Even if we hate each other, we can still get our goals completed,] it muttered, then vanished once more under a strange shimmer of the light.

"Why do I attract all the crazy pokémon? Do I give off a pheromone or something?" I sighed and just shook my head. "Whatever. I don't think I need an insane girafarig to add to our ranks. No other pokémon about then, I take it?"

Scar made a small noise and scratched at the ground once. One little clan of pokémon that didn't seem to be any trouble.

I wasn't going to believe that until I saw it.

With my luck with wild pokémon, who could blame me?

"Would you please cut this shit out?"

I swore once more as Lacey and Erra tried to attack each other. Or more Erra got caught in Lacey's hair and proceeded to fill her with as much electricity as she could.

"Do you think we could just let them fight it out or something?" I muttered to Xander. He croaked and shook his head at me. I just rolled my eyes and watched as Alistair tried to pry Erra from Lacey's hair, instead only managing to get himself attacked by the shiftry for knocking her out.

I rubbed my temples, growled as Loki slung dirt at the two warring pokémon and decided that enough was enough. "Xander, soak them both."

Both Lacey and Erra shrieked as they were flooded with ice-cold water. Red and yellow gazes turned to the lombre at once, enemies seemingly united against their common cause.

I stood in front of Xander, glared at both my female pokémon and decided it was time I took matters into my own hands. I grabbed Lacey's nose, yanked it down even as I pinched Erra's wings together and yanked her completely free of the shiftry.

"This ends now!" I barked as I held them away from each other. Lacey snarled and tried to smack my hands away, only for Scar to leap at her and snatch her arms away. "Lacey, I get that you're defending yourself. I can't blame you for that. But seriously, self-defence and trying to murder your teammate is something else!

"As for you Erra," I growled and held her in front of my face, watching as she squirmed and attempted to free herself. "There's one thing that confuses me: why the hell are you even continuing this charade? You've been fine since a little after we went to that colony of shiftry. I've just played along because you've suddenly got loads of confidence and you've been winning battles. But seriously? Now it's just getting ridiculous."

I heard Alistair clear his throat behind me. [Sir, are you sure about this? Her mind is still-]

"I'm certain," I said. "Believe me, I know all lies – I do it more than enough anyway. I can tell when someone's lying – apparently when pokémon are too." Erra buzzed in my grip again and tried to flood me with electricity before I pinched down on her wings again, distracting her with pain.

"Besides, she was drugged. There's no drug that manages to last that long."

The magnemite made a noise that was more of a whine than a buzz.

"See?" I said with a pointed glare towards Alistair. "The pretence of being drugged gave her the confidence boost she needed. Without it… well, I can understand. Sometimes things seem easier when you're under the influence. Even if you're just pretending… well I guess there are a few different forms of placebos.

"But anyway, I'm gonna let you both go. I don't want either of you to make a move to attack the other, alright?" I waited until I got a little sound of confirmation from them both before letting them go.

They both moved away from me sharpishly, glaring murder at me the whole while.

At least it seemed like they weren't going to attack each other.

Then three seconds later, they went for each other again.

And me, being the stupid ass I am, thought they wouldn't attack each other if I was in the way.

I don't know what made me do it.

It was stupid.

And incredibly painful.

I groaned as my consciousness returned and managed to say something that failed in sounding anything like coherent speech. I felt little claws and nudges ease me into a sitting position and something hold my head steady, even as my back and neck protested.

My ear felt like it was on fire. All the sounds through it came in like there was a wall of water between it and the world. My kidney was threatening to murder me from the inside out again and I was fairly certain that my eyebrows seemed to be conducting electricity.

"What?" I mumbled, even though my tongue felt like it didn't belong to my mouth.

I felt a strange breeze against my neck before something landed atop my head and something strange smelling was placed under my nose.

"Eh?" I said with a wave of my hands. There was a grunt and the strange smelling thing was shoved under my nose again. I managed to crack open an eye and found Lacey looking back at me, her eyes holding a strange, foreign note of apology.

I smiled just a little. "So all it took was me jumping between your attacks, huh?" I laughed, felt my ribs protest in agony and stopped as quickly as I could. Every bit of me screamed for something to ease the pain. As much as I wanted to though, I knew there was nothing I had on me to take for it.

Or more, nothing that I could trust myself to take.

[Medicine.]

I whined and tried to slap away the pain that came with Alistair's telepathic voice. There was a strange sound, almost like an old television's volume being adjusted before his voice came in my head again, though only as loud as a whisper.

[Lacey says it is made of enough painkillers to numb the pain they caused you, sir.]

"Right," I said, grabbed the proffered flask and downed the drink in one. It tasted like mould and leeches. "So… where's everyone else?"

[Scar, Xander and Loki are all searching for the mysterious girafarig. We saw it watching when you threw yourself in between the attacks – an honourable act, if I say so myself, sir.]

I snorted. "Well obviously I've got a concussion. You've never used the names I've given anyone before. What gives?"

I saw him shrug a little. [Names are a means of a bond. Using them with another means that you have a bond with them, whether it be good or bad. I did not use anyone's names before as I assumed you would try to have me off the team as quickly as possible. I did not wish to make any bonds that would be broken through your acts. Now I can see such a thing is not likely to happen, sir.]

"You come up with some weird explanations, you know that?"

[Yet they make sense. How many people do you know that use your name on a regular basis?]

I could count them on one hand. "Okay, I get your point." I winced as I tried to move, gave up and rubbed my ear, only for the pain to make me recoil and stop. "Geez, this hurts that much it'd probably be less painful to just have it cut off. So have you two made up then?"

I saw Lacey look atop my head and exchange a look with the magnemite perched there. The shiftry then looked back at me, shrugged, pulled a face and analysed my injured ear carefully.

So they hadn't completely made up then. But at least they'd come to a truce. It didn't seem like they'd be attacking each other anytime soon.

Or at least, hopefully not with me in the way.

"So I get you two cooperating and Erra to finally have a little confidence without all that shit in her system and all I needed to do was get my ears burned and my ribs bruised." I groaned a little as I laughed and checked to make sure I still had all my limbs. "Well, at least I'm still all in one piece otherwise. Remind me; next time anything like that happens, I'm just going to let you, them or whoever just rip each other to shreds."

I heard a few growls and turned my head enough to see my remaining pokémon return. Loki instantly leapt at me, clueless and confused when I winced in pain as he leapt on me. He was almost like an inquisitive toddler as he kept poking me, trying to make sure I was okay. Then he poked me in the ribs, found the inhale of breath I took funny and seemed to think he could use my injured ribs like a xylophone. Thankfully Scar managed to knock him off me before any more damage could injure me.

[I was wrong about you.]

I turned my gaze and found the strange girafarig behind Xander. He glanced at me, nodded and made sure I was okay.

Then he bounced up and smashed his head into Lacey's face.

I blinked in surprise just as he cloaked himself in mist, vanished completely and reappeared behind me, holding Erra in his mouth and shaking her like a dog with a toy. He spat her back out at Lacey, growled at them both and sat in front of me like a watch hound, his throat inflating threateningly every time they came near me afterwards.

[I thought you were a coward. I can see that you are,] the girafarig told me. It took a few steps closer towards me, glanced at Alistair and whinnied softly as it sat down before me.

The whole time the little second head was filling my brain with little messages. At least it wasn't making me hungry.

Instead it was making me considerably tired.

I blinked my suddenly heavy eyes at the creature, rubbed my eyelids and rolled my neck slowly. "Is there a point to this?" I muttered.

[There is,] it told me. [Despite being afraid, you still tried to stop your creatures from attacking each other. It is rare to see a human perform such a feat. Those that do are usually ignorant of the dangers it would pose.]

"So by getting myself horribly injured was a way to pass your test?" I laughed.

It snorted. [Hardly. Your actions were stupid. I simply appreciate that you are not afraid of personal harm. If you wish to truly take down a Celebi, you must not be afraid of personal injury.]

"Ri-ight," I said slowly. "But-wait, 'a' celebi? I thought there was like one? You know, with the 'they's and 'them's being that weird thing of referring to things in the plural. Like when you don't know someone's gender, it's all plural, gender neutral terms."

[No.] The girafarig's ears twitched and its tail wrapped itself around its back. [There is more than one. Anymore I shall wait to reveal. Do you think I would reveal all information as you ask? I apologise that I am once more crushing your stereotypes of psychics. We don't all speak in rhymes and vague hints, revealing all our plans at once. Some of us aren't utter morons.]

I barked a laugh and instantly regretted it. "Okay, stop making me laugh. It hurts. So you're proposing we work together?"

It nodded. [I am. On the condition that you do not try to capture me. I shall travel with you as an ally, not a slave.]

"They're not slaves."

[Call them what you will,] it said harshly, [pets or slaves, it is the same. No one traps their friends in little containers. All I ask is that when the time comes, you leave killing the Celebi we seek to me.]

I tilted my head and stared at the psychic creature. "I thought celebi couldn't die though? That's what those shiftry said, isn't it?" I asked as I turned to Alistair.

He nodded even as the girafarig growled.

[I never said how I would kill it, did I? The creature deserves to suffer.]

I recoiled just a little bit away from the girafarig. "Okay, now you're filling the whole scary-psychic stereotype. Remind me not to piss you off in the same way."

[It will be impossible for you to anger me in the same way.] It stood up abruptly, paced in a small circle and gave off palpable waves of anger. [Enough of such talk. If we are to join forces, you should know my name. I am Garmine Erine Mendus Indigo Nova Ilus.]

"Urm… is there… a shorter version of that?"

I'm fairly certain she rolled her eyes at me. [The first three names refer to me. The last three to the brain in my tail. Such is the way our species names ourselves. You may use the acronym for my name, if you wish. Call me Gemini.]

I nodded, processed the name and groaned a little to myself. "Hooray for the imaginatively named girafarig."

[Actually sir, most humans took the names for words relating to doubles from acronyms of girafarigs' names,] Alistair informed me.

"Gee thanks," I deadpanned. "Is there any useless information you don't seem to know?"

He shrugged. [It's not my fault humans are morons in comparison to pokémon.]

"Great," I muttered. "Two smart-ass psychics. I need a distraction from my life."

It seemed like an answer to my griping as my phone began ringing. I jumped at the sudden noise, glared at the screen until I was able to see clearly and found myself a little surprised at the caller.

"Hey Mia," I said groggily. "You alright?"

She laughed quickly. Hollowly. "Loaded question. But yeah, I suppose I'm fine."

I decided the wisest course of action was to avoid any potentially lethal topics of conversation. Fine was a danger word, after all.

"Your poké balls not working?" I guessed. "It seems to be happening a lot. I can't recall anything." Even as I said it I grabbed Xander's poké ball and tried to recall him again. It failed and he glared bloody murder at me for trying to stop him from defending me.

"That's not it," Mia told me. "Well, that is happening, but that's not why I rang you. You remember that I was a bit weird with you in Rustboro?"

I nodded superfluously. "Yeah, but I can't really blame you for that."

"I'm still sorry for it," she said. "I just… I found out something that day that really knocked me for six."

I felt worry punch me straight in the gut. "You're alright, aren't you? Was it those tests? Did you… did you well, catch something?"

There was a sigh. "In a manner of speaking. I just… I don't know what to do. I just needed to talk, just to try and figure out what the hell I'm supposed to do."

The tone of her voice made me lean forwards subconsciously. "Why, what's wrong?"

I could hear her take a breath before she spoke. I knew it was going to be something heavy.

What she said still shocked me speechless though.

"I'm pregnant."

 
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