Ramin always considered himself lucky, even supernaturally so, which is why he took it as a form of cosmic irony that he ended up under the Rocket Casino.
First he was lucky in his career; if he’d been born in a region like Kanto, with its extreme response to Renegades, he would likely have been killed when he finally got caught assassinating members of rival tribes. Instead his regional government passed him to their global underworld contacts, and he was offered a very simple choice: death, or oaths of servitude made under the watchful eye of a falgir.
The second stroke of luck came when he was sold across the world to a master who needed more than just disposable warriors. He thought at best he would end up in some barracks, far from society as he awaited a kill-order. Instead, he received training. Not just for killing, both with and without pokemon, but also logistics, first aid, even cultural training to help him better acclimate to his new region.
And finally, after years of serving as a guard at various locations, he was eventually assigned a plum position under a casino in the biggest city in the region.
On paper he’s a guard for the casino’s money, but in fact the floor it’s held is above his, where the administration offices are. That floor itself is below another dedicated to storage and machine repairs; anyone trying to sneak downstairs would be caught and returned to the surface at that floor. It and the one below it were recently searched by the police, who thought the missing Silph tech was there. They didn’t find anything.
They might have if they went down one more floor to where Ramin works.
The secret lab’s electrical draw is hidden in plain sight by the casino’s, and the engineers and scientists who work there come to the casino as employees of it. It’s a convenient cover, as while Ramin’s shifts are still boring guard work, afterward he and the others get to enjoy everything the city has to offer. Well, almost everything. His social life is restricted by necessity, but he enjoys going to the movies and watching local pokemon matches. He’s even ahead in the office’s fantasy league; he drafted one of his countrymen, Reza, and the young dragon master is tearing his way through Victory Road. On most days he can pretend he’s just an overqualified security guard.
Today has not been one of those days.
The earthquake splits the ground like a loaf of bread, and Ramin’s luck stays with him through the collapse of the ceiling; the crack that caused it went through the whole basement of the casino, and his station in the third sublevel is to the side of where the rubble ends up. At first, through the wrenching roar of concrete and metal, Ramin thought the whole casino was coming down on their heads. Dust filled the halls and he felt a chunk of something bounce off his shoulder, but when the shaking ends (for the moment) he’s still alive and unhurt.
“Archer, you there?” he asks after coughing his lungs clear, hand triggering his earphone again and again without response. He switches channels. “Maddie? Roark? Anyone reading this?” He waits another few breaths, but gets only silence. The building’s wireless must have been knocked out.
Still, he can vaguely make out the sound of people moving through the walls, coughing and yelling for help.
Ramin looks around in the emergency lights, then starts moving through the halls. He briefly considers bringing out his machamp to have it smash through a wall, but the building is unstable enough that he doesn’t take the risk.
Instead he finds a spot close to the voices and presses his ear against it, hearing them talk through the drywall.
“Are you okay?”
“I… I don’t think so… my leg… it h-hurts…”
“Oh gods… don’t move, I think it’s broken…”
Ramin steps back, a cold certainty slowly filling him.
Those weren’t voices he recognized. Which means it’s not just the floor above his that crashed down, but floors all the way up to the casino itself.
As if to punctuate the point, the walls and floor vibrate around him again for a few seconds, and once it ends the emergency power comes on… followed by the annoying jangle of slot machines.
Ramin strokes the pokeballs at his waist, deep in thought.
His orders are clear. Anyone who learns of the lab without authorization is to be eliminated.
But the earthquakes add a level of uncertainty; these are random civilians, not spies or investigators. And when rescue operations start, they’ll discover the lab anyway…
Another miniquake sends vibrations through the building, and he steadies himself against the wall, waiting to see if anything else would collapse.
When it doesn’t, he makes his decision and starts moving through the halls to find the survivors, hand settling on his golem’s heavyball. Soon he finds a passage to the other side of the wall where he heard the voices, and he summons his pokemon.
“Shh… do you hear that? It sounded like a pokeball… is someone out there?!”
“Yes,” he calls out. “I’m here. Just stay still, I’ll get you out in a minute.” He turns to his pokemon and gestures. “Dig.”
“Oh, thank the gods,” the other voice says, and he hears quiet weeping as his golem starts to pull chunks of concrete and drywall out of the way. Ramin waits until the hole is big enough, then reaches in to help pull the people out. Both are covered in dust and blood, one from a gash on her head, the other from a badly broken leg.
“Thank you,” the man whispers between gasps of pained breath as Ramin eases him down on the ground beside the woman. “I thought… I thought we…”
Ramin pulls his hand from the man’s and pats his shoulder. “Just rest. Help is on the way.”
He goes to stand behind both prone figures, then points to both and snaps his fingers.
His golem takes a chunk of concrete in each hand and smashes them down to crush the ribcage of the man and the head of the woman.
The stench of blood is faint under the dust, and Ramin withdraws his pokemon, stomach churning. It’s been years since he’s had to kill anyone. He wishes it had been longer.
It had been nice, pretending to just be a security guard.
But it had to be done. Archer or Giovanni might pull some strings, take control of the situation. They’ve pulled off wonders before, they can do it again. Even if the lower levels are revealed, their purpose could be spun… as long as there aren’t contradicting reports from survivors about what was down here.
Ramin listens as he walks around the rubble at the center of the lab. He hears more voices, and starts searching for the easiest way to reach them to check if they’re Casino employees.
If not, the least he can do for the unfortunate survivors is make their deaths quick. Luck, as he discovered himself years ago, can only take you so far.
The battle against the sea god rages, and the sea rages with it.
Leader Surge watches from above as Groudon continues to strike at Kyogre, assisted from the newly created shore by over two dozen trainers. Their pokemon stand at the edge of the ocean so that whenever Kyogre tries to circle around its nemesis, it would be struck by bolts of lightning, beams of concentrated sunlight, and blasts of draconic energy. The attacks don’t seem to do much, on their own, but neither does Kyogre ignore them entirely, and even a minor flinch is often enough to give Groudon the opportunity to turn and attack it again before it slips away.
Surge’s clothes, instantly soaked upon arriving at his only teleportation point in Hoenn, dry within minutes of flying into the sunlight surrounding the battle. The harsh heat raises a perpetual mist off the ocean around the battling titans, and he’s pretty sure he’s going to have a sunburn by the end of all this. He almost hadn’t made it, the rain growing in intensity until it’s nearly a solid, constant layer of water that pushed him and his swanna down, and he doesn’t think most non-Water/Flying pokemon would be able to even fly over such a long distance. Other Leaders and Elites from around the island have already arrived, along with a few particularly powerful rangers and random other trainers, but few along the island chain are as focused on Electric or Grass types, which is why he’s doubly glad he came. His city has been fairing well enough, so far, and few others can be as particularly effective against Kyogre.
Not that he can go as all-out as he’d like to. Ships would help give him somewhere to land and attack from, but there’s only one that’s arrived through the choppy seas, and it seems to be engaging in combat against something else below the water, the occasional explosion sending sprays of water up through the air.
Normally Surge would have his pokemon summon lightning down on their foe, but with the clouds above cleared away they would have to draw from the much further clouds, and there’s little chance Kyogre would still be where the bolt was aimed by the time it comes. Instead he scans the positions of the trainers as they shift to attack the sea god wherever it appears, trying to spot a fulcrum in the battle.
What they’re lacking is zone control. Kyogre gets beaten away quickly whenever it appears, but then it flees to a safer distance, only reentering the range of the trainers assisting Groudon when forced to by Groudon’s attacks. What he needs to do is limit its mobility, and force it into the attack zones of the other trainers more often.
He sends Cirrus into a dive, landing far from the battle and giving her a moment to rest as he climbs down, stumbling slightly as another tremor sweeps the earth.
The ground is rough under his boots, black and grey and brown rocks that constantly shift under him. His swanna clearly dislikes it, lifting one foot, then the other to get more comfortable, and he takes a moment to calm her, reminding himself to check her feet for cuts once this is all over.
Surge quickly digs through the saddle bag, swapping balls from his belt with those inside it. He brought almost every pokemon he owns, unsure what would be needed and what wouldn’t, and soon has his three magnezone and two magneton clipped to his waist alongside Cirrus’s.
After spraying some Ether into the swanna’s bill, he climbs back into the saddle and takes off, staying low enough to skim the ocean once they’re over it. He waits until they’re far enough to make sure he’s covering an area the other trainers’ pokemon can’t reach, then starts pausing to release his magneton and magnezone in a half-circle around Groudon, giving them orders to stay above the water and attack any pokemon that approach.
Twice he has to dodge massive waves that rise rapidly around him, threatening to slap him down into the ocean. He can’t tell if they’re guided by Kyogre, but a part of him mourns the pokemon he’s summoning into such a mess. Even if they don’t draw the ire of the sea god, their magnetic levitation is hard to sustain for long, and he has no way to recover them once they sink underwater.
Before he even finishes summoning the last one, he hears the distant, rapid cracks of an ongoing electric discharge and looks over his shoulder to see one of his magneton pouring electricity at Kyogre as it surfaces to blast Groudon with another volley of water. It only sends a couple jets out before submerging again, flinching away from the electricity, and he feels a savage grin stretch over his face…
…until it breaches again, jaw open wide to grab his pokemon out of the air and sink back underwater with it.
“No!” Surge almost loops back to return his other pokemon, but after a moment grimly releases his last one instead, jaw clenching so hard his teeth hurt.
It’s hard to get attached to artificial pokemon; they’re not cute, or cuddly, or easy to anthropomorphize. But they have personalities, all the same. Differences between them that he noticed after training a dozen magnemite to find the strongest ones, not just in electric power but those least willing to quit when things get tough.
All of his pokemon are soldiers, hard working and loyal. None are expendable, but each’s full value can only be measured by what they accomplish. Against an enemy like this, it’s not hard to calculate that even a minor chance to take it down is worth their lives.
But it’s not easy, either.
“Choke that fucking fish, boys,” Surge mutters as he reclips the last ball to his belt and signals Cirrus to climb. “Then cook it from the inside out.”
If they do, however, it’s not enough to take the monster down. A few minutes later it reappears amidst a tidal wave that seems to grow out of nothing in seconds. The leviathan is glowing gold and blue, its roar as loud as the waves as it crashes the full force of the ocean directly into the trainers and their pokemon on the shore.
Many of them get washed away, but some get pulled back by the tide, and Surge immediately dives toward them. He watches Kyogre eat one of the struggling figures, then swiftly retreat as Groudon sends a spike of earth out at it. He dearly hopes it was a pokemon, but the shape he angles toward is a person for sure.
He holds an arm out and bends over the side of his pokemon, hand skimming the water until he reaches the trainer. He grabs their hand and pulls, guiding Cirrus with his legs so that the swanna flaps hard enough to lift them out, then flies over land, where Surge unceremoniously drops the trainer and wheels back around.
That’s when he sees the two shapes blurring in a zigzag pattern through the air, then come to an abrupt stop. The pokemon, whatever they are, are levitating without moving any body parts, and both have trainers atop them.
What strikes him most, even above his confusion over trainers riding such unfamiliar species, is the fact that neither pokemon has a saddle. Once his outrage as a flying license examiner fades (he doesn’t know what Winona is teaching Hoenn trainers but it’s not his responsibility) he guides his swanna down toward them and takes a megaphone from his hip.
“Whoever you two are, you here to help?”
As he gets closer he realizes the pokemon look nearly identical; the smaller one is red and white, the bigger one blue and white. Same pokemon, probably, with a different male and female form. The two trainers turn toward him, and he notices one is a girl and one a boy. The girl raises a fist, thumb up.
“We’re focusing on the big fish first. Drive it away or kill it and we think we can take down the other more easily. Understand?”
They look at each other, seem to talk for a moment, and then their pokemon drop out of the sky in steep dives that make Surge’s stomach rise in his throat. How are they staying on…?
The pair go straight for the water and start firing pulses of purple energy into the waves, illuminating Kyogre’s shape with each wash of draconic plasma. It responds with a volley of high pressured water, too fast to be dodged… but no, the pokemon was already moving before the attack formed.
Psychic type, Surge realizes. They knew exactly where it was beneath the water, and even if the trainer was psychic and sensed the attack coming, their mounts’ reflexes were too smooth for them not to be connected too. As for a second type, those Dragon Pulses looked powerful. Too powerful for them not to be Dragons too, by his guess.
Are there any Psychic/Dragon pokemon in Hoenn?
He’s never heard of such a thing, not throughout the entire island chain for that matter. And they look strong enough that he would have if they were normal pokemon from some obscure region. Which means they’re something else.
There are so many myths of pokemon, some individuals, some spoken of in pairs or groups of three or more, and he doesn’t have time to sift through them all. What matters right now is that they’re here, and seem to be under the control of the trainers riding them.
“Come on, girl, let’s not get left behind,” he says, and guides Cirrus down so he can get Zeus from his bag, a new note of hope thrumming through his chest.
For Glen, it’s the night of the storm all over again.
Celadon and Vermilion are very different cities, but with this much rain coming down those differences are barely noticeable. Thunder doesn’t boom over the city (the lack of lightning in general is strange, given how strong the storm is) but earthquakes make up for it, both in noise and danger. And while there’s no Pressure—praise be to Arceus’s golden hula hoop—the same fear it evoked twists like a knife in his gut every time he thinks of Blue or the others dead.
He tries not to, given how much focus he needs to ride his bike through the wet and shaking streets. There are a lot more people out than that night, and a lot less pokemon thankfully, but at least then he knew what was going on. Now there’s just confusion, and fear of watching any more of the swaying buildings topple before whatever is causing all this stops.
“Hey, coming through!” he yells over the sound of the rain, and the crowd ahead parts to let him and the others ride between them. As they blur by an intersection, he spots a gaggle of doduo and dodrio running down the street, feathers sodden as their heads try to duck under each other for shelter from the rain.
Not my problem, he reminds himself for the third time at least. He slows to take a corner, feeling his tires skid slightly and leaning his body to stay upright, then flashes a look behind him to make sure the others are okay.
MG always looks strange without her wide hat on, pale face strained under her dark helmet as she struggles with the same puddle of water. Slava’s bike wobbles under him too, and he uses a foot to stabilize himself before pedaling harder to catch up. He looks back himself to make sure Sumi is okay, but she glides her bike around the corner in a smooth arc, looking worried but focused, and Glen turns forward again. Normally he bikes faster than the others unless he consciously slows himself down, but even in these conditions they have no trouble keeping up.
They all want to make it in time to help, even if that means passing by half a dozen other situations that need help too. That is the biggest difference from that night, ultimately; their purpose isn’t to save the city. It’s to save their leader.
His headset rings, startling him, and he jabs at his ear to answer it. “Lizzy?”
“No, it’s Elaine, did you reach—no of course you didn’t—”
An emergency vehicle flashes by, sending twin sprays of water out in its wake. “We’re a few blocks away,” he says once the scream of the siren fades. “You alright?”
“I’m fine, I had the thought to reach out to Professor Oak while I was getting ready to join you guys, but he didn’t answer, and I saw… Glen, there are giant pokemon fighting in Hoenn! Groudon and Kyogre, they’re myths from the region, that’s what’s causing all this!”
Glen doesn’t have attention to spare being properly shocked, mind jumping instead to the implications. “They’re doing all this… from there?” Meaning this isn’t natural, meaning it won’t stop until they’re stopped…
“Yeah, and people are going to fight them, a call went out from Professor Birch for all strong trainers on the islands who have a teleport point near there to come help. Lance went, along with Surge and Sabrina, and—”
“And Oak. Shit!” The curse is mostly from spotting a muk pulling itself out of a sewer drain up ahead, but once he’s zig-zagged his way past it and checked to make sure the others have too, the sentiment remains. He’s glad the heavy rain blocked the smell. “What about Daisy?”
“I left her a message, no answer yet. I’m heading out the door to the casino now. I’ll see you there!”
“Be careful,” he says, and curses again once the call ends. So much for getting help from the big guns.
The Casino looks totally fine from the outside, though there’s a massive crack running through the streets that goes right under the building, some sections open enough to have formed deep puddles. Glen leads the others to a skidding stop under the front door’s awning, and doesn’t bother storing his bike before rushing inside.
The interior is dimly lit with red emergency lights, a few glowing pokemon, and the flashing of slot machines… many of which are in a massive hole in the ground.
“Holy shit,” Sumi gasps, breathing hard and clutching at a stitch in her side. It’s only then that Glen realizes his own tiredness, the burning ache in his chest and legs, but there’s no time to stop; he can see a line of people and pokemon, working together to pull rubble and furniture out of the hole and stack it to the sides out of the way.
“Lizzy!” he calls out as he rushes forward. “Bretta!”
They pick their way down the slope until they reach her. “Where’s Lizzy?” MG asks.
Bretta wipes her sweaty curls from her face. “She said she’s going to get the power back on… there’s stairs that lead down to the employee areas, I think she went there, but it might be blocked off too, and she doesn’t have anything to dig with.”
Glen is still looking around at the pile of rubble, and after a moment realizes why Lizzy left. It’s hard to see anything, the digging would probably go twice as fast if they had real light. “I’ll go help her. You guys help here.”
“I’m coming with you,” MG says, and Glen mentally reviews her pokemon, then nods and scrambles up the side of the hole again, cutting a hand on a jagged piece of something and scraping his leg against the edge as he pulls himself back out. He checks the cut to make sure it’s not deep, then races for the stairwell.
Once reaching it he finally has to pause for breath, and MG slumps against the wall beside him, breathing hard too. He fumbles out his potion bottle and sprays his hand, then takes out his canteen for a deep swallow. The salty-sweet flavor of his energy drink feels reviving all on its own, and he passes it to MG without looking.
“Do you think he’s alive?” she asks after she hands it back. Her voice is calm, but there’s something in it, the vibration of a tightly wound thread.
Glen looks at her, then away, tipping the canteen up for another drink before he caps it and shakes his head. “I don’t know.”
“Don’t lie to me.” The quaver is more pronounced, now, and her next breath is too sharp. “That hole—”
“I don’t know how anyone could have survived that, if he was in it.” The words feel like stones coming up his throat. “But if he had a moment to prepare… to react… he might be okay.” He remembers the sight of all that broken rubble and furniture, packed deep into the ground, and amends, “He might be alive.”
Be alive, Blue. Glen closes his eyes, thinking of his friend’s expressive face, his sharp smile, his alert eyes as he watches a pokemon match, the aliveness he brings to everything he does. Blue Oak is someone who knows what he wants, and goes all in after it.
More than that, he pulls others in his wake, uses their energy and somehow gives them back more in return. He certainly turned Glen into something more than he ever expected of himself when he came to Kanto. He just wanted to be a good trainer, and figure out what other trainers were lacking most so he could get it to them. Now…
Now he feels like a leader in his own right. Like he might have the potential to actually make it all the way to the top, the same way Blue does. He can’t wait to reach that top with his friend, to challenge him there as an equal.
“Ready?” he asks, and MG nods, pushing away from the wall and following him down the stairs.
Be alive, because I can’t do this without you.
Steven watches as Kyogre gets hit dead-on by Groudon’s next beam attack, and disappears for what feels like the hundredth time beneath the waves.
After what feels like half an eternity, but is likely less than a minute, it doesn’t resurface.
Eventually Groudon roars, back arching up, and begins to stomp the ground with its feet and tail. The sunlight intensifies around them, going from uncomfortable to mildly painful, and the earth shakes as new ground boils up from under the water.
Steven toggles his earpiece, covering his open ear with his other hand. “Drake, report.”
“I think we’ve defeated the pirates, Champion. We can’t detect their submarine anymore, and they took a pretty heavy hit a few minutes ago. They’ve either sunk or retreated.”
“It’s still on the sonar, but… it’s sinking, sir.”
Steven closes his eyes for a moment, feeling a rare and treasured moment of… relief? Hope? He can’t tell. “Thank you, Drake. Stand by and keep watch on it.”
The shaking stops, and he looks up to see Groudon has finished its victory dance, or whatever that was, and begun walking forward again, unchallenged.
Steven looks around at his fellow trainers, injured and exhausted by heatstroke and the occasional bone crushing waves. Gym Leaders, Elites, even a few fellow Champions from around the islands are here, interspersed with some random rangers and trainers who wanted to help… and of course, the renegades.
A moment later the Legendary Eon Duo flies down to hover overhead, a familiar pair of trainers on their back. He’s not sure where the crazy teenagers found them, or how they caught them, but he’s glad they’re here.
“Alright, folks. Easy part’s over. I’ve just heard that Kyogre is sinking, its allies driven off or dead, which means we need to take on the big guy now.”
Matsubusa stirs. “Are we certain? If it still lives…”
“Confirming that might take hours. Point is it looks to be out of the fight.”
“The rain clouds,” Professor Oak says, pointing. Steven turns to look, and yep, they’re thinning at the edge of where the sun shines through. He turns back to the professor, who is already summoning a snorlax and blastoise to join his pidgeot and venusaur. “So, Ground, maybe Ground/Fire?”
“Sounds about right,” Cynthia says, and summons a garchomp and milotic to join her roserade. She glances at Lance, whose three dragonite watch her garchomp with the gaze of predators on the hunt. “You’re not swapping anyone?”
“I’d rather it be aiming up than focusing on things on the ground,” the current Indigo Champion says, and pulls the hood up on his cloak. “But I’ve got a kingdra and Alolan exeggutor if needed.”
“Finally found a use for that overdramatic cloak, huh?” Steven asks.
Lance grins under the shadow of his hood. “Jealousy is unbecoming.”
Steven chuckles. “Wouldn’t say no to an umbrella. Let’s get this done so I can find one, huh?” He turns to the trainers that have finished gathering around them. “Let our pokemon go in first. Keep your own hitting it from a distance if you can, and be ready to dodge if it’s so much as looking in your direction. That Super Hyper Beam comes fast.”
“Super Solar Beam,” Professor Oak corrects. “The lack of precharge time comes, I think, from the abundance of sunlight. My venusaur is benefiting from it too.”
“But it isn’t spamming it,” Lance says. “The Groudon Beam might need to recharge, like a Hyper Beam.”
Steven snorts. “We’re not calling it that.”
“Yes, says me, it’s my region’s world-ending monster, I’m naming its attacks.”
Cynthia clears her throat. “Perhaps we could decide this after it’s dead.” She looks pointedly at all the Gym Leaders and trainers watching them bicker.
“Right.” Steven turns toward Groudon’s retreating back, wondering if it even has a destination in mind, or is just setting out to cover as much of the ocean in land as it can. “Time to see if your theory is correct, Matsubusa.”
He pulls the orb out of his pocket… and immediately yelps and drops the shining red sphere, which shatters on the ground.
Before it was just the safe side of burning, but his pants and the general heat around him kept him from noticing how much hotter it’s grown; it felt like holding a live ember. He watches the bright red pieces scatter on the ground, then looks up to see everyone (aside from Matsubusa, whose face is a picture of shocked dismay as he stares down at the pieces) watching him incredulously.
“In my defense, that’s actually what I meant to do. Just not like that.” He thought he’d need to have his pokemon smash it.
“Steven, your rings,” Cynthia says, and he follows her gaze to see what they were really staring at; the gems on his rings are glowing again, and the light doesn’t fade.
He stares at them, awe setting his hair on end. The gems on his rings are, in fact, mineralized bits of metagross and aggron, which is why he came up with such silly names for them when his father gifted them to him as a child. After a moment he re-summons his two strongest pokemon, pokemon he’s been fascinated by all his life, and approaches them, glowing rings held out.
“Steven, what are you—”
A collective gasp is heard as his pokemon begin to glow… and grow.
The roof of the Sky Pillar is completely dry.
It’s one of the least surreal details in an overwhelmingly surreal day, but Wallace still takes a moment to stare after he steps out of the stairwell, clearing the way for Wally to climb up after him. When they first approached the tiny island it was strange enough seeing the structure on it illuminated by sunlight in the otherwise dark and rainy horizon. The thin golden beam made it easier to spot, but Wallace was too busy struggling through the oddly heavy rain and tumultuous waves to do more than just write it off as a coincidental shift in the weather.
But in the time it took for them to fight their way through the various ghosts and bats that make the tower their home, he would have expected the clouds to shift and cover the island.
Instead the bright hole in the sky remains fixed over it, allowing them to look around in wonder at the dark, rainy world that surrounds them. With such limited visibility, the horizon is an endless ocean in every direction, like the whole world has already been swallowed by some restless, primordial sea. It’s a beautiful, if haunting, sight, and he fights the urge to pull out his phone to take a picture or video. It would make a fantastic piece of art, a landscape wraparound for his living room…
Admire it later. He turns back to the structure he’s standing on, testing the ancient stones under his feet to make sure they’re sturdy. In the near pre-historic days of its construction, the Sky Pillar would have been a monumental feat; five floors is nothing by modern standards, but back then it may well have been the tallest structure in the world. He’s not even sure how the people of ancient Hoenn got the building materials to this tiny, distant island in the first place, let alone constructed it.
Of course, its age means a lack of certain features. There’s no hatch for the stairwell, so Wallace orders his starmie and milotic to guard the entrance in case anything comes out after them, then walks over to the kid, who’s already at the center of the tower’s roof, putting his bag down and unzipping it.
It’s too late to say something like “are you sure this will work,” because of course he’s not and they’re about to find out one way or another. But he wants to. He, a middle aged man, a Gym Leader, wants reassurance from a 13 year old. It would be embarrassing, if this particular 13 year old hadn’t solved a riddle that archaeologists around the world spent their entire professional careers trying to crack.
So instead he just says, “Let me know if I can help,” and guards the stairway. The pokemon here were some of the strongest wilds he’s ever seen, a good indicator that this island has been basically abandoned for decades, at least.
“I think I’m good,” Wally says as he starts pulling pokeballs out, each with a sticker on it. Even with the world ending, the boy takes the time to place each ball in order. Apparently Wally spent the past year of his pokemon journey collecting the things, even travelling all the way to Johto to confirm his landmark theory, so a bit of obsessiveness is understandable. Still, considering how many people may be dying right now and the risk that an ancient Ghost pokemon might pop up after them to eat their minds, Wallace has to bite his tongue to keep from hurrying him.
Only once all are out around the boy does he toss the bag behind him outside the circle of balls, and start summoning his pokemon one after another.
A… B… C…
The unown appear in flash after flash of light, their bizarre forms floating in midair like voids in the world. They don’t have any actual surreality, like ghosts, but their very existence evokes a similar feeling, like someone’s black-and-white drawings have come to life. Or “life,” rather. Dissections have proven that the unown are living beings; that they have flesh and blood, that the round eye that makes up most of their mass is in fact connected to a brain of sorts, distributed through their simplistic nervous system. But they don’t act like other living beings, simply appearing out of seeming thin air, floating randomly about, then disappearing again.
As far as Wallace knows, Wally is the only trainer in the world to have personally captured all of them. A few months ago that wouldn’t be true; obsessive patience would be enough for anyone to do it, hypothetically, and a few of the more zealous and rich pokemon collectors have bought and traded and captured their own set before.
But Wally’s discovery of an additional two unown, and how to get them to appear, is what sets him, and his collection, apart.
…H… I… J…
Wallace watches as they hover in midair, bobbing gently with the wind… no, there is no wind, and even if there were it wouldn’t be shifting them all in different directions like this. And yet they continue to behave like balloons, all invisibly tethered to a fixed point in space, never far enough from it to risk touching each other.
And the noise of them…
Even over the distant sound of the rain and waves, Wallace can hear the unown. A constant wheedling in the air, like a dozen vibrating tuning forks, combined with intermingling warbles and chirps and pops like static from a radio… and interwoven through it all, just faint enough to be practically imagined, are snatches of what sounds like distorted, babbled human speech.
…N… O… P…
Someone once set a recording device at some ruins for days until they captured enough samples to turn into a haunting song of sorts (someone else then took the sounds and applied enough autotuning to actually make pretty catchy club music). With so many in one place, however, no amount of editing could salvage the whispered, cacophonous scream that’s building with each summoned pokemon, just shy of overwhelming thanks to how quiet it remains.
…X… Y… Z…
It’s a sound that could drive someone insane, if they had to listen to it long enough.
Wallace watches Wally take a deep breath, and then…
The last two shapes complete the loop around the boy…
…and abruptly, like a speaker whose plug was pulled, the cacophony cuts off.
The hair on Wallace’s neck stands on end at the abrupt silence, a silence that seems to mute the background noise of the rain and waves rather than make them clearer. The unown have also stopped moving, all except the last two. Wallace still has trouble believing what he’s seeing; as far as he’s aware, no one has ever seen punctuation marks as unown before Wally discovered them, not even in the ancient carvings of the Cave of Origins that he grew up near.
He spent years studying them as a child, a familial calling that was passed down to him as soon as he was old enough to read. There were times he resented the extra lessons, the stale and cryptic history he was forced to learn rather than being able to go diving or exploring the Caves themselves… but he applied himself anyway, because it was expected of him, and because it was interesting in its own way, a puzzle of sorts.
It’s the way he discovered how to find and enter the Sky Pillar. It’s how he recognized the importance of Wally’s discovery.
“They’re not punctuation marks… maybe humans just used them as punctuation because we didn’t know what else to do with them, just knew they weren’t like the others…”
“I can feel it,” Wally says, voice taking on the distant tones of a psychic engaging his powers. “You were right, they’re reacting to the location. This is a place of power, for them… a place where things are… thinner…”
The ? and ! unown have closed their eyes, and with a (likely instinctual) flick of his fingers, Wally sends them levitating higher. A wave of his arms sends the other unown in front of him, suspended in the air, and it only takes a moment for Wallace to recognize the pattern.
It’s the layout of a keyboard, floating mid-air.
“…we think in language, so they were treated like letters to form words… but as symbols they can mean so much more than a single sound…”
Wally begins to “type,” his fingers twitching, and Wallace watches unown shiver in the air as if plucked by invisible strings. He doesn’t seem to be typing out words, but rather exploring each symbol, then combining them.
The ? and ! unown wait at the sides, still as keyholes into another world.
“I think I can do it,” Wally says after minutes pass, his young voice uncertain. “But…”
“But what?” There’s no answer, and Wallace leaves the stairwell to kneel beside Wally, hand on his thin shoulder. “Wally?”
The boy twitches, then turns to him. Wallace stares into the eyes of the boy who shares his name, the boy who started his journey three years ago with nothing but a ralts, and now is one of the strongest psychic trainers in the region… but still a child, with a child’s uncertainty.
“The vaults,” he whispers. “I can feel them… all three.”
Wallace lets out a breath of relief. “It’s working, then?”
“Yes, but… the earthquakes are opening them!”
Wallace’s pulse jumps at the boy’s sudden alarm. “What do you mean? You’re the one that opened them, to let the unown out.”
“No, there’s more! They were guarding the barrier, keeping the unown in… I mean, out. In themselves, out of our world. But they held more, I think… and if I do this…” His eyes focus on Wallace’s. “Leader, I’ll wake them!”
Wallace stares at the boy in growing comprehension, and does his best to mask his horror. “Titans, here? In Hoenn? Like the ones in Sinnoh?”
“I-I don’t know if they’re the s-same. They were sleeping, and sealed… they’ll go back to sleep on their own, and they’re normally trapped… but if I wake them with the quakes opening their chambers, they’ll break out!”
Wallace closes his eyes, feeling twice his age. Regirock, Registeel, and Regice aren’t the worst catastrophes a region could face; they’re slow, and predictable, and don’t cause Pressure or summon storms.
They’re just indestructible, massive, and utterly implacable in moving in whatever direction they desire.
Unleashing three such permanent blights on their region… could they do such a thing? Do they have the right? Does anyone?
“Rayquaza’s coming?” Wallace asks, eyes still closed.
“Yes. It’s already close. Too close. I won’t be able to finish on time…”
“That’s alright. Just… do your best. And Wally…” He opens his eyes, meets that frightened gaze again. “You didn’t know. Understand? And if anyone asks, it was me. I told you to do it.”
Wally’s eyes widen. “I can’t… Leader, you—”
A tremor goes through the earth. They can hear it, see the shockwave of it travel through the ocean…. but the island is untouched, the force parting around the tower like it’s not even there. Not a single stone tremors with its passing.
“Am I?” Wallace asks. “Your Leader.”
Wally’s lip trembles, but after a moment he nods.
“Then repeat after me: you didn’t know.”
“You… I… I didn’t know.”
“I made you do it.”
“You… m-made me…”
Wallace squeezes his shoulder. It feels so thin under his hand. “Good man.” He stands. “Now get to work.”
The Gym Leader watches the boy begin tapping into an ancient force greater than himself. The collective power of humanity (or at least that’s what the ancient humans thought) wielded in “prayer,” not to stop a god, not even to give it a command… but just to nudge it, a little. To plant an impression, an idea, an urge.
At just the right time, sometimes that’s all it takes to change the world… for a price.
As Earth and Sea both raged, their war did wake the Sky
With ancient hunger stirred, it came with rending cry
To feast on all it saw, and claim anew the sun
Till sacrifice was made, and peace at last was won
Wallace is going to have to have a long talk with Steven, when this is all over.
Dr. Light stares at her computer monitor, face set in a position of calm concentration for the sake of anyone that passes by her office door even as her heart sinks into her stomach. The air conditioning broke down ten minutes ago, and she still feels her blood running cold.
She hadn’t lied to her employees about the flowchart. It’s what she’s looking at now, color coded and interactive; a simple two dimensional image could never hold all the information this does, and as she goes through it yet again, pruning trunks and branches with each click, the colors start to shift first to the bright red of emergency lights, then darken to dried blood.
They’re down to one generator, and both stairwells are in some state of collapse. They can dig their way out, need to dig their way out, because the elevators are damaged too. Most of the flowchart doesn’t specify why the bad things are happening, however, there’s no room for context that assumes things might steadily get worse, so as their situation continues to deteriorate, she keeps going through the flowchart, ending in more and more extreme responses that still fail to address worse situations they quickly find themselves in.
Dr. Light can’t even get mad at the flowchart, though she wants to. There are systemic situations mapped, involving enemy action, the volcano erupting, a normal series of earthquakes, the specimen attempting to escape, a mutiny by some members of the staff… whoever designed this thing put a lot of thought into it.
They just didn’t think of… this. Which means it’s up to her to decide the best path forward.
“Begin data hardcopy transfers,” she tells Zach, reading off her screen. With communication across the lab down, she has to give everyone their orders directly. “Once each is done, wipe it before powering down.” The chief technology officer doesn’t look happy about it, but nods and jogs out the door. She almost yells after him to change out of his pajamas, but she hopes he has that much sense and has other things to worry about. She turns to her operations manager. “Kim, get everyone prepped for evacuation. Nothing that doesn’t fit in a bag, leave their hands free, understand?”
“A bag, singular?”
Dr. Light rubs her eyes. Some of the people have been living in the lab for years, and would easily be able to fill a bag with just some of their belongings… not to mention those who would prioritize things from the labs. “If they’ve already got more than one packed by the time we’re ready to go then fine, just so long as they’re not holding anyone up and their arms are free.”
“Understood.” She heads out too, which just leaves Shaw, the head of security. He’s not a restless man, she’s seen him stand at attention for hours at a time, but right now he’s shifting his weight, and she knows what he’s waiting for.
She just doesn’t want to give it.
Where the hell is Sabrina? Giovanni can’t teleport, but at a time like this, with communication down, the psychic should be here, giving insight into the experiment’s thoughts. Lending weight to any decisions made about it.
Shouldering some of the responsibility for potentially making the wrong call.
Dr. Light feels a surge of self-disgust at the thought, and puts her computer to sleep to preserve power. Maybe Sabrina is upstairs already, stuck with no way in. “What’s the last word on the mansion?” Shaw’s job pertains to both external and internal threats, which means he has the direct line to their people on their off-shifts at all times.
“Got out an order to evacuate and set up a perimeter before the landline went down.” He watches her, face calm but body shifting again. “Been trying occasionally, but no new messages have come through. My people down here are prepared for any further orders.”
“Speak plainly, there’s no one here but us.” It’s a consideration that all the Dark members of the lab have had in the back of their minds for the past decade: what they say around their non-Dark peers, who may at that very moment be an unknowing host to Mewtwo.
“If we evacuate, we need to kill it,” he says, face calm even as the walls tremble around them. He shifts his weight to stay on his feet, and she clutches the edge of her desk to keep her chair from moving.
“You don’t like Gyokusho’s suggestion, then?” she asks, voice wry. “Or did you mean to kill it after it helps save our lives?”
“This isn’t the time for sentim—”
“Shut up, Shaw, I meant what I asked and nothing more.”
He holds her steady gaze for a moment, then nods. “Whether we use it to get out or not, it needs to die. It’ll be dead in a few hours anyway without the lab, and no one knows what it might do if it gets desperate.”
“Killing it might set this project back a decade, maybe more. None of the followup experiments are sapient, we still haven’t isolated what sets this one apart, and all that aside, Giovanni might just kill us anyway if we end his project without a good reason.”
“We’d have to survive first for him to kill us,” Shaw points out, still calm. “Either way, the worst case scenario is that it survives while we don’t.”
Dr. Light’s jaw clenches. “We’re lucky its life support hasn’t been damaged yet, considering how badly ours is doing, and if we die it’ll be because they go down or the whole place gets buried. In either cases it’ll be dead too.”
“Only if we assume its capabilities are what it presents them as.”
She doesn’t call him paranoid. It’s a perspective their boss endorses, she knows that, and one that runs through her mind often as well. She suspects he selected both her and Shaw for their positions because they’re both cynics. Pessimists, even; she’s been told, back in the days before she joined this operation, that her outlook gets in the way of having better “people skills.” Probably cost her a promotion or some opportunities for collaboration once or twice.
But in this organization that shit doesn’t matter so much as seeing things clearly, and she’d like to think Giovanni chose her well.
Which means she knows better than to confuse relentless pessimism with wisdom.
She agreed with him, an hour ago when the engineer asked what would be done if they had to evacuate. The plan has always been to default to killing the experiment if they’re ever in a situation where they can’t be very confident, by similar prior circumstances, that they can contain it.
There are no priors on this circumstance, however, and while back then she’d lied to the engineer without a thought, automatically and (she hopes) convincingly, the safe route gained some extra complications once the rest of the lab became at risk.
Their life support systems are failing; far faster than they should be, and they have to dig their way out, amidst an earthquake, without collapsing the whole lab on themselves. She’s one of only three people in the lab who now knows about the CO buildup from broken heater exhaust pipes. With the vents to the surface all blocked, the whole lab will be dead within the hour, even if the earthquakes miraculously stop.
Unless she rejects the “safe” option, and takes a risk on the experiment. Let it out of its pod, let it don the armor that will preserve its life for up to four hours, then let it help them dig their way out with its psychic powers.
It’s been training in them for weeks, and its ability to sense through another pokemon’s senses is, of course, as unparalleled as its ability to do the same with humans’. If anyone can guide their diggers to make an escape route for them without bringing the whole place down, it can.
Dr. Light considers Shaw for a moment, then sighs. “I understand your worry. But the facts are undeniable. It’s been years since it so much as ‘raised its voice,’ let alone threatened anyone. More than that, it never took a single one of those traps you and the boss set up to see if it would try to escape. And we just had Sabrina here for weeks, sharing its brain for every waking minute, without any sign that it’s planning to betray us or hurt anyone… her exact report is that it’s happy, now that it can go outside and take a more active role in its purpose.”
“Sabrina could be compromised,” he says, voice flat.
She decides to let the comment pass, because she gets it and now isn’t the time. “Look. I know it’s your job to push for safe over sorry, but here’s the bottom line. Whatever new and exciting horror came out of Hoenn to cause all this shit shows more than ever why we need this project to succeed. Gyokusho is right; it’s a resource, and while normally crappy platitudes like ‘every crisis is an opportunity’ make my eyes practically roll right out of my skull, this crisis is an opportunity to test it, really test it, for the first time. And we’re going to use it. And we’re not going to kill it unless it makes us.”
Shaw’s back is stiff, but he nods. “By your orders, ma’am.” He turns to leave.
“Shaw.” The security lead pauses at the door to look back at her. “Once we’re topside, have your people bring out their best.”
There’s paranoia, then there’s preparation; she doesn’t know the details, but she does know that the experiment’s guards have pokemon they never summoned around it, pokemon that it wouldn’t expect if it ever tried to fight its way out.
“All of it, Doctor?”
“All of it. No point in holding anything in reserve now, when there might not be a tomorrow.”
Shaw’s second nod is less stiff, and then he leaves.
Dr. Light sighs and rubs her face, then starts backing up her computer as another quake goes through the lab. She puts in the code to have it wipe itself afterward, then starts packing her things. Anything important for work goes into one container, while she puts her personal effects in a second ball. It doesn’t take long; despite working here for over a decade, and having this office for roughly half that time, she hasn’t accumulated much beyond a few decorations.
She finally has a moment to breathe. To wonder, and worry, about the future.
Where would they go, after this? What would they do? Shaw was right to say that they likely can’t save the experiment once its suit is empty; they could have made redundancies, of course, but keeping it reliant on the lab was the point. Without the experiment, they would normally focus more of their resources on the problem of replicating its success, rather than leaving that to the secondary lab.
But without their lab… a lab that’s been not just their place of employment but their home…
What would be left for them? It’s not like they can just find other jobs and reintegrate into wider society, after years of secluded living. She’s aware that it takes a strange sort of person to be okay with living so far from civilization for years, but she’s been happy here. It’s her home.
This isn’t the time for sentiment, Shaw said, and she sighs, then nods and tucks the container ball into her bag. Survival first.
Dr. Light grabs the memory drive from her computer, tucks it into her pocket, and leaves her office for the last time, heading toward the experiment’s room at a quick pace as people move about the facility to prepare their own escape.
She braces herself as she reaches the experiment’s room. In the early days it was always a strain, being in its presence. So closely watching her words, her expression, even her tone. Ensuring she does nothing that might upset it.
It’s gotten easier over the years, but she still takes a moment to rehearse what she’ll say, what her goal is. There’s a state of being that she found in herself for her dissertation defense, a way to be firm without being rigid, focused on her goal while effortlessly able to adjust to any unexpected questions or challenges. She’s found it similarly useful since then, when around either Giovanni or the experiment, as long as she has time to prepare herself.
It’s what she mentally wraps around herself before she opens the door and walks in, another quake rocking the lab as she crosses the threshold. Dust drifts down from above, and she glances up to see a long crack in the ceiling. A few meters closer to the pod and it might be dead, she thinks as a cold fist squeezes around her heart, then lets the thought go as she approaches the experiment’s tank.
“Good evening, Mewtwo.”
Its violet eyes were tracking her as soon as she entered, and she forces herself to meet them as it psychically types out its response, each word spoken a moment after. “Good evening, Doctor. Is it a good one? Everyone seems rather frightened.”
“No, I suppose it’s not. Have you learned why?” A delicate way to refer to the experiment’s constant, effortless violation of people’s privacy, the sort that any normal workplace would have had mass protests and strikes and walkouts over. She’s made her peace with it, as she has so many other things, but then it’s easier for her and the other administrators than the normal staff.
“Something about the Hoenn myths rising from the dead. Giovanni predicted thidaxq-” The lab shakes around them, rattling the various electronics and toys surrounding the experiment’s pod, and it stops typing for a moment as she leans against the glass, feeling it vibrate against her palms. Once the shake is past, the typing continues. “Predicted this, or something like it. Not so soon, however.”
This is news to her, despite what she said to the others, earlier. All she says, however, is, “Anything else?”
“Many believe they will die. Are we in that much danger?”
The experiment’s electronically assisted pseudo-voice isn’t monotone; to her ear, the deep, baritone voice sounds calm, powerful, even somber, with properly inflected questions that make it seem like it’s really talking, sometimes, like if it stepped out of the tank this is the voice that would come from its lips.
But even still, it’s not a human voice. It’s easy, while listening to it, to think of an emotionless machine, rather than a living creature that, by all reports, truly does feel things as deeply as any person. Looking at its alien visage doesn’t help; the experiment’s eyes can narrow or widen, but its brow is not expressive, and the muscles of its face are too taut to allow much expression beyond slight curves of its lips.
Not enough, all told, for her to tell what it feels as it says those words. To tell if it’s afraid, or if the calm words she hears, the calm expression she sees, reflect an inner calm, an inner certainty, that it will survive no matter what happens to the rest of them. She wishes, for a moment, that they never got rid of its old heart monitor; annoying as the beeping might be, at least she could tell if its pulse has sped up.
“We are. But you can help, if you’re willing.”
“Of course,” he responds without pause. “Whatever I can do.”
“I want to warn you, Mewtwo, that this may be the last time you leave this pod,” she says, wishing fervently that Sabrina were here. Saffron City better be sinking into the center of the fucking earth… “The suit can sustain you for a couple hours, and we have refills for a couple more. Maybe we can jury-rig more after that. But the lab is being abandoned in case it all comes down on us, and if it does once we leave… you’ll likely die before we can reach and repair your pod.”
The experiment is quiet, for once without an immediate response. She can practically feel the others around her, lab techs and security guards all holding their breaths. Or maybe that’s just her. The lab itself seems to be waiting, no tremors or quakes interrupting the quiet.
“How likely is it you’ll survive, without my help?” he asks after what feels like a minute.
The question makes her feel better, somehow. It shows a level of self-preservation that she trusts more than she would blind self-sacrifice. “Not high. We’ll try anyway, of course, but at this point we’re desperate.” We must be, to let you out in a situation like this. “If you’d rather stay inside, not risk getting cut off from the pod, I’ll understand. But you’d be at just as much risk of the lab’s power going out while we’re gone, or the room collapsing.”
“I understand. I’ll take my chances with the rest of you.”
Dr. Light lets out a breath, and nods. Some small part of her had continued to hope that the decision would be taken out of her hands. If the experiment refused, she would have had to kill it rather than leave it alone down here unobserved. Instead she gestures to the techs to get his suit, then has them begin copying and wiping the servers.
A few minutes later the pod is being drained and opened, and the experiment is disappearing under piece after piece of the dark grey metal. The sight isn’t as frightening as it once was, though watching it fight does quicken her pulse.
Once the last piece of armor is on, the technicians scatter to wipe the lab in earnest, leaving her, the experiment, and the four security trainers. Shaw isn’t here, likely with the extra men they keep stationed around the lab, and as another shake makes the lights flicker she hopes they’re ready at the stairwell.
“I’m ready.” The experiment flexes its knobby fingers beneath their gauntlets, then waits respectfully for the security to lead the way. The man waits for her nod before moving forward, and she follows alongside the experiment, wondering if it really believes the security is here to protect it rather than protect others from it. Sabrina said it did, but such naivete seems at odds with a creature so intelligent.
Not that we haven’t been carefully raising it to believe what we want it to. It wouldn’t be the first sheltered, intelligent being to believe in patent absurdities. A lot of people manage it incidentally.
Still, the thought bothers her the whole walk up the unblocked internal stairwells until they reach the top floor of the lab, which is itself ten meters from the ground floor of the mansion. There she sees the crowd waiting in the halls.
Hope and fear flash across their faces as they see her and the experiment approach, but she keeps her gaze forward, trying to look calm and in control as they approach the work being done at the less blocked external stairwell. “Tenshin, report.”
“Yes, Doctor.” He tugs a pair of plugs out of his ear and detaches the seismometer from the door, then wipes his brow. “We think the major breach is between the fourth and fifth floor, which is where enough earth spilled in to fill the stairwell.”
“It should have stopped there, shouldn’t it?” she asks with a frown. “Once the dirt reached the cracks?” It’s not water, thank the gods. She’s not sure if it’s possible to make an undersea lab, but if that were an option she’d rather get sucked into a greatball, thanks very much.
“Normally, yes, but pokemon have been approaching the structure ever since the earthquakes started. It turns out they’ve been damaging our equipment, perhaps as much as the earthquakes themselves.”
Dr. Light opens her mouth to curse, instead turning the motion into a deep breath. “Are you telling me we’re under attack?” There are flowchart contingencies for that. “Why wasn’t I told?”
“I’m sorry, Doctor, I may have been unclear… we’re not actually sure how much damage they’ve done. It’s nearly impossible to sense them with all the noise, and they don’t seem to be trying to actually breach the structure. They’re just… around. Another chaotic element.”
She rubs sweat from her eyes. “So how is this related to the breach?
“There are others, smaller ones where the soil isn’t spilling out fast enough to block the way yet, but the broken concrete is. The pokemon might grow agitated when we approach and widen the holes, but even if they don’t, if we move the concrete—”
“The soil could bury us.”
He nods. “Another problem is what happens when we get near the top,” Tenshin says, looking up. “The moisture in the soil is going to turn things muddy, which is harder for most of our pokemon to dig through. We have a few Ground/Water types specifically for that purpose, but the switch will be difficult to time.”
Dr. Light nods, then just stares at the wall in thought. The others know her well enough to wait silently as she plays scenarios out in her mind, imagines each of them going wrong, focuses on whether they’re preventable, then repeating the process…
“How much dirt could you move at once?”
“I’m not sure. Soil is difficult. Lots of small particles with little friction or cohesion.”
She knew all that, but was hoping he’d say it’s easier for him. “So handfuls, or something more? Could you put up barriers that would block it?”
“Not reliably. But there is something else I could do, with your permission?”
She glances at him as another quake hits, this one bad enough to send a few people to their knees or against the wall. The experiment himself shifts his footing and tail, but seems otherwise unbothered. “What is it?”
“From this close, I can sense the pokemon around the stairwell, and possibly drive them away.”
A slight chill goes down her spine despite the heat. She turns to look down each hall of the intersection and sees more people have gathered, ready to leave. Not the time to ask what its range is and panic people. Sabrina confirmed that it could read everyone in the lab, but she never asked about what the limits were past the walls. Was it about distance, or intervening substance, maybe?
Does it know about the explosives? Could it sense them?
An idea occurs. “How many people are left in the lab that aren’t here?”
“Twenty-seven that I can sense. Most are on their way.
“Is the generator room still within your range? Is anyone there?”
“It is, but not unless they’re dark.”
They would be, she knows some brave souls are going to stay down there as long as they can to keep giving them air and light as long as they can. She turns to some engineers who aren’t dark. “Florent, Abi, go swap with whoever is there. Mewtwo will let you know when it’s time to come up.”
There’s fear in their gaze, both glancing at the experiment, but then they nod and hurry back downstairs. She’s already turning back to it. “Upstairs, in the mansion. Can you reach anyone there?”
“Yes, all the non-dark, non-psychic staff are in my range.”
And now she has a better sense of its range. It’s not too paranoid, she thinks, to recognize that Mewtwo could have been the one that made the pokemon damage the stairwells. It doesn’t particularly matter, now. “Search their thoughts for anything that might seem relevant or helpful. Can you communicate with them?”
“I can, though it would be—”
Another quake makes everyone shift, and a loud crack from somewhere in the facility makes a few people cry out in fear. Dr. Light’s heart is hammering in her throat, but she keeps her gaze on the experiment. “It would be?”
“Difficult for them.”
Right. And even assuming they don’t freak out, they might not be believed. None of the leadership isn’t dark. “Try anyway, if you find someone who seems calm and receptive. Tell them our situation as best you can.”
Dr. Light lets out a breath and runs through her list of available resources again, making sure she’s not missing anything. “Alright, then. Let’s get to work.”
Once they begin, it goes surprisingly smoothly. The pokemon are sent through first with their trainers to clear the rubble and hold it in place, with the experiment using their pokemon’s senses to report what they feel and ensure nothing they do causes further damage. Eventually people start making their way up through the cramped, humid, dark stairwell, every tremor and shake sending dirt down on them until they reach the collapsed top…
…where those on the surface have already dug their way down, clearing the rest of the way. Dr. Light is at the head of the last group to leave, along with the last two engineers, the experiment, and the last two security guards.
There’s a lingering sense of celebration when she emerges, applause breaking out as people stand around in the pouring rain, just happy to see their peers alive… until everyone stops, and stares, and she knows the experiment has stepped out from the ground behind her.
The experiment doesn’t seem to notice, or care; its attention is on the security guards’ pokemon, both those that were with it downstairs and those from the other shifts who are moving to carefully surround it. They’ve brought out their best, weavile and greninja and hydreigon and krookodile. They’d probably be bringing out tyranitar and incineroar if it weren’t raining.
Even now they’re acting carefully, facing outward as if forming a perimeter to protect the experiment from anything that might come at it from the darkness and rain, trusting the others outside the perimeter to watch their backs. But still she watches the experiment with a feeling of unease, watches its helmet slowly turn to her… then tilt up, letting the rain hit its visor with the sharp plink of water on metal and glass.
Dr. Light swallows the dryness in her throat. The cold rain, drenching as it is, feels amazing on her sweaty skin, but she’s unable to even take a moment to celebrate the fresh air and lack of impending doom. “Thank you, Mewtwo. I believe we all owe you our lives. Are you… do you need anything? Are you tired?”
“No, Doctor, I am quite well. I believe I’ll take a walk.”
Shit. Shit shit shit. “I think maybe you’d better wait, Mewtwo. The situation’s uncertain, and…” She almost says Sabrina isn’t here, but that hasn’t always been a requirement.
“I’ve taken walks in the rain before. Earthquakes are new, but what’s the worst that happens? If these may truly be my last few hours of life anyway… surely you wouldn’t deny me that?”
It’s a trick. She knows it’s a trick, knows it deep in her bones.
No, that’s just fear talking. Her options are simple: deny it, and force its hand if it refuses to comply, or… if it’s not a trick…
Deprive the experiment its final wish before it dies. Even assuming it’s not a trick, would that be enough to anger it, make it force her hand?
No. There’s still a chance that the earthquakes end, that they can return downstairs and repair any damage and save it. She tries to hold to that, even as she reaches into her pocket to slide her fingers around the remote for the failsafe built into its suit.
“I hope they won’t be, but yes, you’re right. May I accompany you?”
“Of course, Doctor. I’d hoped you would.”
Within three caves, deep in forgotten temples of Hoenn, rock and metal and ice shift, and lights glow in patterns ancient and terrible.