Blue is just arriving at the elevator when Red and his kadabra pop into existence in front of him.
The utter weirdness of seeing someone do that indoors is buried by a wave of relief, and Blue’s steps only falter for a moment before he strides forward to pull his friend into a hug.
“Holy shit am I glad to see you.” He pulls back to look Red over. “You’re okay? What happened to Silph? Are there other hostages?”
Blue registers a moment later that Red didn’t hug him back, and there’s a disturbing moment where he meets his friend’s gaze and Red just stares back at him in blank incomprehension. Then his crimson eyes clear and he smiles and he’s the one hugging Blue, hard.
“Good to see you too. I’m fine, and I don’t know yet. I came to check on you first.”
The words send a wash of warmth through Blue’s chest, but… “What do you mean, first? Weren’t you with him?”
“Yeah, in the security office. But he left once all the major people here were vetted. Everything started a few minutes later.”
“How did you—”
“Hang on, sorry, there isn’t really time for questions, I only have ten minutes before the police chief tells the hunters to break out, which will kill the hostages. Which won’t matter since they’ll be breaking out to bring the whole building down.”
Blue boggles at him for a moment before he gets it. Hunters wouldn’t allow renegades to escape, with or without their prize. “Unless we can stop them. Where are they?”
“We’re not sure, but probably the lab on the fifth floor.”
“Alright, I was heading there anyway.”
“Blue, you should—”
“I’m staying, Red, don’t waste time—”
“I’m not, I know I can’t talk you out of it, but bring out Tops so I can tell him to Miracle Eye you.”
What for? Blue almost asks, but realizes that a moment later too. Red wants to make sure Blue can teleport away if needed.
Blue almost starts a different argument about how he wouldn’t use it even if he had the option; being willing to give up on everyone here is bad enough, but it would also be the end of his aspirations. No one’s going to follow him as Champion against the stormbirds knowing he’s the sort of person who will just teleport away and leave others behind if things get bad.
But if he says that, Red might not teleport out himself, and Blue’s not sure that would actually be the right choice for him. This is different than Vermilion, if the building is being brought down it would be an order by the commissioner to stop the renegades, and he wouldn’t be able to save anyone else anyway…
But none of that matters right now anyway. “I don’t have him on me, and I’m not leaving to get him either. Especially not if we only have ten minutes. Now what’s the plan?”
Red still looks like he wants to argue, but after a moment just shakes his head. “I don’t really have one yet. They’re probably in the labs, or storage if they’re trying to get the raw materials and blueprints separately.”
“Do they need Silph for that, or is he just a big hostage to keep security away?”
“Sicong—the head of security—said the Master Ball is in multiple parts that are each independently secured by lab workers, and each requires Silph.”
Blue runs a hand through his hair, staring at the ceiling. “So they need multiple hostages to get everything, but Silph is the only one they need for all of them. We either get him away from them, or save enough other hostages that they can’t get every part… but they still might get some parts.” Blue’s not sure how hard it would be for others to create the rest of the technology with a sample, but it makes his stomach clench just thinking about renegades trying.
“Less hostages also means less dead people if they bring the building down,” Red reminds him. “Or if the renegades clean their tracks.”
“Right. Either way, best strat may be to go up the floors taking out any renegades we find.”
Red hesitates. “That… may be right. But maybe we should split up first.”
“Ha, right…” His smile fades as he takes in Red’s expression. “Wait, you’re serious? What kind of shitty horror movie did you step out of? Just because you can teleport—”
“That too, but also because I can… uh, maybe turn renegade pokemon against them.”
Blue stares at him a moment, unsure of what to say. He’s aware that time is ticking by but can’t think of how to react to that besides “Red, what the fuck are you talking about?”
And it’s like the words had to be said before his brain caught up with things, and Blue holds a hand up while the other covers his eyes. It’s so obvious now, and he can’t believe he didn’t think of it, or put the pieces together after the casino…
“In Celadon,” he says, each word coming out slowly. “You used sakki on them. Who else knows?”
Red doesn’t respond right away, and Blue uncovers his eyes to see his friend’s naked fear. “I don’t know if now is the time—”
“Right, fucking meta-honesty, I know, it’s not. But we’re going to talk about this.” Blue realizes that the words are coming out too hard, and he takes a breath. “I’m not mad or anything, Red, I just… it’s a lot.” If the others in his group knew… if people assumed he knew…
Still. Not the time. And he can’t deny it changes things.
“What if you face a dark pokemon?” he asks, thoughts jumping ahead to re-analyze their situation with the new resource at their disposal. “Miracle Eye takes a moment, and if there’s more than one pokemon out you’re screwed. Hell, so is your Kadabra if you can’t get them to turn on their trainer first.”
“I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but I need to check the top floors, and I can’t take you with me. So the alternative is that you wait for me to find out where Silph is, and if he’s easier to reach from the bottom with two of us, I’ll come back.”
Now it’s Blue’s turn to hesitate, and it bothers him how much relief he feels. He’s not suicidal, he doesn’t want to face danger for nothing, but he resents the idea of just standing here and not helping as minute after critical minute passes by. Speaking of which…
“Look, there could be someone getting killed a floor above us—”
“There isn’t, unless they’re dark.”
“—two floors, then, or three, or whatever. See, this is useful, we know to skip a few now. Why don’t we at least start looking?”
“Because there’s no way we’ll make it to the top floor, and if the president is there, or the ones just below it—”
“I know, I know. Fucking… fine, just go. But I can’t just stay here, not if he might be a few floors up!”
Red rubs his face, then sighs. “I know. But even if you find him, I won’t be able to find you, or find out. You might save him just in time for the renegades to run outside and blow the building up.”
Blue feels the bitter frustration over being dark rise up in him again for the first time in what feels like months. “You can find my pokemon, though, right? I’ll keep Maturin out as much as possible. If I find him and have a minute to spare, I’ll bring all my pokemon out. Then you can tell them to wait, and find a way to me.”
“Right, but I won’t be able to signal you if… okay, how about I can project fear into Maturin to make her go into her shell? If I do that, if she’s not in a fight and suddenly goes into her shell I mean, that’s a signal.”
“I don’t know, I can’t make her pop in and out precisely enough to do any sort of complex message, I’m just thinking out loud because we don’t have time!”
“Alright, fuck, just… use it if you’re about to do something big that might be a distraction?”
“Yeah, alright. No wait, what if I use it to signal you to get out of the building?”
“I’d rather plan for success, now come on, let’s get moving!”
“Oh! Wait, hold on, one minute, okay? Don’t leave yet, I just realized when you said… you being here might change things!” Red steps back and puts a hand on Kadabra’s shoulder.
“Change things for what? Where are you—”
“Just hang on, I’ll be right back.” His friend’s gaze goes distant, and then he closes his eyes.
“Red don’t you da—”
Red and his kadabra vanish.
“—re fucking dammit!” Blue stomps in a brief circle, venting his frustration in a prolonged, low yell, then starts to count down from sixty.
Once he finishes he takes two steps toward the elevator before groaning and walking back to where he was to start counting down again from 30 while cursing Red throughout.
“…fourteen idiot thirteen moronic bidoof twel—”
And then Red is back. Once again he stares at Blue with a blank look on his face for a moment, then grins and hugs him, unperturbed by Blue’s scowl.
“Thanks for waiting. We now have fifteen minutes, and… here.”
Red pulls back and hands him a container ball. Blue raises a brow, then releases it behind him and opens the box to reveal a keycard, a datapad, and…
“Woah.” He picks up the police belt, slots between each pokeball slot filled with a stun gun, sleep spray, flash bomb… the good stuff, too, not what’s been sold to civilians. “You got this from—”
“One of the cops offered hers. Commissioner Burrell said to consider yourself deputized ‘for the duration of the incident.’ The pad has the building’s blueprints on it.”
“Right.” Blue feels the weight of the belt in his hands. It’s… heavier than he expected, even without pokeballs on it. He’d have to be careful it doesn’t throw off his movements. “Thanks.”
“Yeah. I’ve got some of my own stuff that I bought months ago, if you want extras?”
“No, you might need them. Even with sakki.” He still doesn’t know how to feel about that, but puts it out of his mind until later. Right now he just raises a fist, and Red bumps it, then pulls him into a third hug. Blue’s happy to squeeze briefly back before pulling away. “Be careful.”
“You too.” Red puts a hand on his kadabra’s shoulder, the second trainer-owned pokemon in the world to learn Miracle Eye, and the whole reason they’re here in the first place—
—Red jerks his hand back as if stung. “What?”
“Copy my battle calm.” Blue’s heart is beating hard in his chest at how close he came to letting his friend leave without it, not out of a choice on his part, but just from forgetting that he’d asked and could copy it at all.
From Red’s expression, it takes him a moment to remember too, and then his eyes widen. “Are you sure? You said you wanted time—”
“I said I’d think about it, actually. And yeah, I meant over a few days or something, but I also meant what I said about not being able to live with myself if something happens to you and I didn’t give you every bit of help I could.” Blue shrugs. “Plus, something happens to you today in particular, I might not be able to live at all. So stop wasting time and do it.”
“It might not work, you’re not actually in a battle—”
“What, you think you’re the only one who can practice entering different mental states? Just do it, see for yourself.”
Red bites his lip, then nods, and Blue closes his eyes and thinks of the moments when his battle calm was the most clear: in the stadiums, facing down Brock and Misty and Surge and Erika and Koga. The eye of the world on him, no need to worry about unseen wild pokemon joining the fight, no need to worry about anyone else around him.
Just the purity of the fight. The purity of seeking victory, and the paths open for him to take.
It’s harder doing it deliberately, compared to the natural transition that happens as soon as he’s in a battle. He feels it settle around him, little by little, slowing his pulse and collapsing his awareness to just those things that matter right now; finding the renegades, and stopping them by any means necessary.
The paths immediately span out around him, leading outdoors where he could use Rive to try to bring the building down himself, or deactivate its sprinkler systems and use Soul to start an inferno. But those paths fade a moment later as new constraints are added. No renegade acts, nothing that causes casualties, strict time limit…
“I got it, Blue. You can stop.”
He blinks, then takes a breath as he lets his awareness spread back out again. Red’s tone was odd: calm and intense at once, focused and detached, and after a moment Blue realizes it’s what he must sound like, when he talks during battles.
Something feels hollow in his chest, hearing it coming from someone else. But at the same time… he feels less alone, too.
Red smiles, and Blue realizes he must still be feeling what he is, after which Red withdraws his kadabra. “Okay, you should be dark again in a few moments.”
Blue wants to ask how the battle calm feels to him, but there’s no time. He also wants to ask if Red picked up anything else when he was in his mind, or whatever he was doing, but just the thought of that makes him feel anxious and angry, so he just says, “Good.”
“Thank you, Blue. I feel like… I can do this, now, maybe.”
“I set an alarm to give me reminders. You should do the same.” Red resummons his kadabra, then checks his phone. “We’ve got thirteen minutes left.”
For a moment the sheer absurdity of trying to do this in that short a time sends a wave of hopelessness through him, making his knees suddenly weak. It’s not a feeling Blue is used to, and he forces it away to take out his own phone, setting alarms for the ten, seven, five, two, and one minute marks. “Set. See you soon.”
Red opens his mouth, closes it, then just nods and puts his hand on Kadabra’s shoulder. “You too.”
Blue waits until Red disappears, then rushes past him to press the elevator button…
…only to get an error message about damage to the machinery.
Because of course they’d do that. He just took for granted that if the power is on…
Blue groans and spins on his heel before he runs for the nearest stairwell, but sees the smoke before he even reaches them and wonders why the fire alarm hasn’t gone off, until he realizes what it must be.
It’s just a faint haze at first, but quickly thickens as he runs down the hallway until he can barely make out the smoke coming out the bottom of the door leading into the stairwell. He trusts his mask to filter it, but when he throws the door open there’s nothing but a wall of smog, and he finds himself suddenly wondering just what the limits on the filters are. Is there even enough oxygen in the air in front of him to breathe if filtered?
He closes the door before the whole hall gets filled, relying on his battle calm to keep him focused through the rising desperation. He summons Maturin, as he promised Red, but there definitely isn’t space here to summon Zephyr and blow the smoke back up the stairs. He could order Rive to break down the wall opposite the door, start venting the smog elsewhere, but if more keeps pouring down from above then it wouldn’t matter much once he starts climbing.
What are his other options? He could try to light it, but he’s pretty sure it’s the type that’s not flammable, and he’s not sure how to test that safely. He can’t take a slow and steady approach, he needs to get up the stairs quick. He can’t damage the building and risk hurting people, he could… fly through a window? Zephyr wouldn’t fit through them but he could get him to hover and try to climb through… But if they caught him as he was trying to get in he wouldn’t stand a chance.
He takes his phone out to look at the blueprints Red gave him, tapping the icons along the side of the digital model until he finds the one that highlights power flow. It looks like the backup power can come from generators in the basement or the sixth floor… so even if he takes out the basement one, they’ll still have the one on six, which he can’t reach.
As his eyes roam the blueprints, most of which are marked up in ways he can’t understand, he starts tapping the icons along the side at random, highlighting a different variety of objects and subsystems. Knock down a few pillars to cause the building to tilt…? Send powder through the air systems? No, they probably have masks…
His phone buzzes to warn him of the ten minute mark, and Blue feels his teeth gritting before he forces himself to take a deep breath. There has to be something he can do from here to disrupt them… Glen would likely be fighting his way up the stairs by now. What would Elaine do? Maybe find a way to bring the renegades to him… yeah, that’s probably right, though it would be hard given they’re here for something specific. He’d have to threaten their ability to get it, which would require reaching them…
…or maybe not. Lizzy made sure everyone on the team knew how to identify and operate them after the Rocket Casino. If he can cut power to the building, they’d rely on the backup generators. If he can knock those out… maybe use Ion to overload the internal grid?
For lack of any better ideas, he withdraws Maturin and carefully searches for the handrail, then moves down along it, counting out four flights before he starts groping for the door.
There’s just one more floor below where he is now, and it seems much of the smog is actually diffused before it gets here. Blue walks through empty halls featuring more office space, some labs, a workout gym, and… then there it is.
He summons Maturin, checks to see if she has an urge to hide yet, then walks into the building’s backup power room.
“Excuse me!” calls a voice from deep in the humming machinery. “Whoever you are, you’re not supposed to be in here!”
“How do you know that if you don’t know who I am?” Blue shouts back, walking around the room to mark each of the four generators that hold the voltorbs. Now he just needs to check if they’re hooked to automatic backups…
There’s no response right away, and Blue wonders if he’s stumped the inquirer. Then he hears rapidly approaching footsteps, until a thin, tall man in a white coat spots him and scowls. “You’re Blue Oak.”
“That’s right. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“Me? I work here. Or nearby, in the labs.” The man looks nervous. “I heard there were renegades upstairs, and I, well, I thought I should just… hide. You can… join me if you’d like?”
Blue takes out Rive’s ball as his phone buzzes another time warning. “Nah, I think I’ll just wreck this stuff. You should leave the building, some hunters might bring it down if we can’t stop the renegades.”
It’s just one word. One syllable. But the tone is enough to get Blue to turn to the scientist, which is why he catches him nudging aside his lab coat to pick two greatballs from his belt.
Blue has summoned Soul and Rive by the time the other man has brought out a magneton and hypno, and his last thought before the battle calm takes over is Not again…
Red appears facing the window, Saffron City spread out below him, and his first thought is Wait, this isn’t my bedroom.
The dissonance that spreads outward from the thought hitting another (of course not, it’s Silph’s private office) is almost painfully intense, and then his partitions all drop, leaving him his full self again.
He spins in place, hand dropping from Kadabra’s shoulder to his belt, but there’s no one else here, dark or otherwise, and the relief makes him brace against his pokemon.
Kadabra reflects his feelings with a mix of confused alarm, and Red quickly sends reassurance back as the pokemon strokes his whiskers. The motion would look thoughtful on a human, but Red knows it’s a sign of nervousness, a way to self-regulate back down from the triggered state of being prepared for battle.
He’s relieved this worked at all. The first floor hallway seemed like a more sure bet, given how unlikely it was for any renegades to be there. It was still a relief that he was right, and Red isn’t sure how many times his pokemon is going to keep trusting the fake feelings of safety he projects onto these teleport locations if this is how he keeps reacting afterward. It helped that Blue was the first thing he saw when he got downstairs, but for all he knows the trick won’t work after this, or after the first time a renegade or pokemon is around where he teleports to.
Speaking of which…
Red extends his senses past the walls around him. There’s one mind about where he estimates the front reception area to be, and a couple more on the opposite side of the floor. Even without a merger he can recognize the pulses of alarm and fear radiating from them all, and dipping in quickly confirms that they’re the receptionist and a couple other administrative assistants.
Barring potential dark minds or shielded psychics, there are no renegades on this floor.
Red pulls his senses back and takes a moment to look around before he starts searching the floors below. The room is as he remembers it, which is good considering how easy it is to disrupt a teleportation site. The most clear emotional memory Red has that’s rooted to a location was standing by the window, and if someone had moved the small desk beside the nearby armchair it would have invalidated it.
(Now that he knows that teleporting indoors isn’t a hard limit he can’t help but wonder how absolute the “unoccupied space” one is, but he’s also decided to never try it given the imagined risks.)
Whatever happened once Silph left the security room, it didn’t take place here, and he doubts anyone else will come in here during the crisis. Meaning if Red needs to teleport back here it’ll probably stay a valid destination.
So he reaches down to unlatch then open the window, stomach a painful knot. If he needs to teleport here again, it will probably be because they’re about to bring the building down. Which would mean abandoning everyone here, including Blue.
It’s hard to think about it without mentally flinching, so he doesn’t let himself dwell on the chasm of horror and pain and guilt lying on the other side of the thought. Instead he invokes Blue’s battle calm, and immediately feels the tension in his shoulders relax as his attention shifts with the change in his mood to one that better recognizes why he did what he did: namely, that not taking a few seconds to give himself the option to leave would have been more distracting. With the escape plan in mind, he feels like he can think a little more clearly.
Red takes a breath to center himself, then sends his mind down and outward through the 10th and 9th floors.
The most obvious draws on his attention are the handful of other psychic minds that are desperately reaching out to those around them, trying to communicate with someone or understand what’s happening. Red does his best to query them for information, but most psychics aren’t good at explicitly talking through their mental senses, particularly with strangers. When he sends them an impression of President Silph with the feeling of searching for, all he gets back is uncertainty and worry.
He also checks if Renegades are around them, but each denies that as well. One sends back the impression of elevators, and Red does his best to search in that direction without feeling anything.
He wonders if he should take it as a clue to get in an elevator and go lower, until he realizes he should be looking for the weaker signals of pokemon, the same way he plans to locate Blue, and a moment later he has them.
The 9th floor has a raticate and arbok radiating readied-alertness by where he guesses the elevators are, and there’s a distinct sharpness in the fear of the minds in the adjacent rooms. From what Blue explained happened downstairs, it’s easy to guess that a renegade is standing guard at the elevator.
Which confirms that they’re trying to restrict movement within the building. But then why not be posted on every floor?
Maybe because there aren’t enough of them, and they only need to stop people from getting on certain floors. It makes sense that there wouldn’t be enough to cover everything that matters, but does that mean they can’t cover the stairs? Or are there just dark pokemon there?
If so, his powers won’t do much for him unless he can hit them with Miracle Eye first, which means he’ll need interference. A flashbang might buy him some time, but it would blind Kadabra too. He’d have to run interference with his other pokemon in those cases.
Which means the first thing he has to do is get better pokemon on his belt.
Red enters the rest of the office space and goes straight to the PC, thankful for the opportunity to bring his strongest pokemon… particularly since the ones he has on him are also some he’d be particularly sad to lose.
He knows it’s a cold way to think about his pokemon, but he knows even Leaf would admit to favoritism like that, even as she pushes for people to treat all their pokemon as valued friends. It’s not like he planned it this way; if anything it’s more of a natural consequence of spending less time with pokemon he has that are already strong, which leads to less of a bond with them.
His fingers fly over the keys, hands swapping the balls in the slot again and again to trade each pokemon on his belt until…
Magneton, Nidoqueen, Kingler, Forretress… Hypno…?
His phone vibrates four times. Eleven minutes left. He skips Hypno and brings Dodrio instead, clips it to his belt, then takes a deep breath and merges with Kadabra fully to check the 8th floor…
Interpreting through Kadabra’s psychic senses, stronger though they are, comes with the downside of not being able to communicate in nearly as nuanced a way. The psychics can tell they’re being probed by a kadabra that’s merged with its trainer, and he can tell that they can tell that, but it’s much harder for them to know whether it’s friend or foe, and most minds immediately close up.
The non-psychics (and a few sensitives) don’t give him much info, so he searches for pokemon again and finds more by the elevator. Same with the 7th and 6th, and that’s where his pokemon’s psychic range ends.
Why all these floors? he wonders again. Is there really something they need on all of them? Or is it just misdirection?
No, that’s not likely. If he wants to get what they’re doing, he needs to think like the renegades.
They have a goal. They have a plan to achieve that goal. And they have expectations of what others might do to stop them. They may not be able to predict someone like him would be here, but if he imagines what others could try…
He closes his eyes and thinks. I’m a renegade leader who just successfully took hostages, including President Silph, and need to get something on a few floors. I have a bit of time before a big response comes, and I need that time to convince the hostages to give me access to the Master Ball, or maybe just hack it. What could stop me, after I trapped the hunters in a specific room?
Someone like Blue, coming in from outside maybe, riding up the elevator shaft or going up the stairs. Or someone they missed on a higher floor making their way down.
What would he be worried about, once the elevator shaft and staircases are covered…?
What Red thinks of is what happened in the Casino. Glen and Elaine couldn’t find a way down to the secret lowest level, so they created a way down.
He’s not sure how tough these floors are, but he doubts they’re harder to get through than those were.
And these renegades, whether they’re part of the same group or not, are clearly worried about the same thing. If they just defend the floor they’re on, they risk being dropped in on or attacked from below.
Which isn’t too different from wild pokemon safety precautions, now that he thinks about it. If the renegades are smart…
He sends his senses out through kadabra again, and tries his best to recognize the species through their sensorium, comparing each to his experiences merging with various pokemon.
Golbat… raticate… arbok… sandslash?…
Red’s heart sinks as he recognizes the pattern; pokemon that have particularly sharp senses for detecting sound and vibrations, the latter of which are unlikely to be put to sleep by sound attacks. The renegades themselves probably have earplugs, so using a wigglytuff is out. And now he recognizes the weezings in the stairwells, which are likely filling them with smog…
Something else stirs inside him beside the growing dread, however. As he finds more and more evidence for how well prepared these renegades are, there’s a sensation similar to the one he feels when figuring out how to win in a trainer match, but even more so. Not just competitiveness, not just the interest in how to solve the puzzle being presented to him, but something more.
They can’t get away with this.
I can’t let them get away with this.
These people came here with a plan for all this, preparing for people to try to stop them. But not for him.
Indoor teleporting and sakki are the two largest things they can’t account for. Sakki works through physical barriers, but he can’t use it through Kadabra. Which means his first step, to be able to do anything, is go to a lower floor.
If he assumes they’re all on the 4th-9th floors, whatever they need is probably on the 6th or 7th. He doesn’t have long to plan, but a quick premortem makes it obvious what would go wrong if he starts fighting renegades before he gets to where they are; those in charge notice their allies are being taken out, and kill the hostages before they escape.
No, that doesn’t make sense. They’re not just there to act as an early warning, they’re there to slow would-be heroes down.
But if he takes out the ones on one floor, then the next, then the next… at some point they’d probably run for it, right? Maybe?
His phone vibrates again, five quick pulses this time, and he forces himself to ignore that worry. There’s no sense trying to avoid any plan where they find out something is happening, he doesn’t have the luxury to think through a stealthy approach.
Which means he has to hit them fast and hard, and hope he can get where he needs to go faster than they can stop him.
Less than ten minutes. He can’t delay any more.
Red runs to the elevator, ignoring the surprised gasp from the receptionist as he runs through the entrance hall, then skids to a stop as he sees the Out of Order message above the elevator (Of course…!) and rushes for the stairwell… which is absolutely full of smoke so thick he can barely see anything through it.
Damn it, he can’t just rush down there blind, not if there might be some dark pokemon hiding in the smoke and ready to attack anything that comes near. Worse, Blue wouldn’t even have psychic senses to tell if non-dark pokemon are waiting for him…
“Graaah!” The sound pushes its way out of his chest as the frustration inside builds to a painful boil. He doesn’t have time for this, he needs a way down, now. If only he had another teleport point besides the security room and lobby…
Think. List your resources. Pokemon, survival gear… climbing gear? Projection/sakki, reception… mirroring…
The idea stills his breath, and he wastes a few precious moments vacillating between feeling like an absolute idiot for not thinking of it months ago and telling himself it’s too absurd to actually work before he finally convinces himself that the idea isn’t so absurd that he can’t try it.
By the time his phone vibrates again nine minutes he’s already merged with one of the office workers two floors down, taking in every part of their sensorium and emotional state he can and locks it into a distinct mental state even as he builds a partition around it all.
Now the tricky part: getting the office worker to move, without putting him in danger. Red could at least tell he wasn’t in the room with a dark renegade, but the man is lying on the ground as instructed, understandably scared of doing anything that might draw attention to himself.
Luckily it’s not hard to project a sense of urgency and restlessness. Combined with a bit of the man’s own natural urge to stay hidden, he decides after a few moments to find another hiding spot, after which Red puts his hand on Kadabra’s shoulder and focuses… first on the saved mental state, then on putting up the partitions to feel completely safe as he returns home…
…Red blinks as he looks around the strange room. Warm brown and tan rug, clean white walls, a fancy desk with some pictures of children beside the monitor… this is an office, not his bedroom…
…right. It worked.
In any other circumstance he would be ecstatic. Forget “free teleportation,” he’s just discovered the next best thing to “perfect” teleportation. Being able to teleport to any point anyone he can make psychic contact with feels like it opens an endless sea of possibilities, like the world just became much smaller…
…but he has to survive today for any of that to matter, and so he sends his senses down through the floor and finds the highest weezing at the stairwell that he first detected after merging with Kadabra.
It’s still being commanded to keep spewing smog downward, but Red can tell it’s feeling the strain of keeping it going for so long. He can predict what would happen once sakki is projected well enough, but first…
He spreads his awareness down to the next floors to find more employees that seem safe to nudge into moving (reminding the anxious voice inside that insists he’s going to get someone killed that everyone here might die if he doesn’t do something so maybe we should put a hold on debating the morality of this and ignoring the protests from that part that ‘worry about morality later’ isn’t a good sign for whatever we’re doing), then copies their mental states too, creating partition after partition to set a number of teleport points that he can use to go between the floors.
Three more precious minutes pass five before he’s ready, and…
…Red comes back to himself in yet another individual office, and this time when he spreads his awareness out he finds President Silph almost immediately.
The older man’s mind radiates some mix of worry and outrage and helplessness, as well as something that feels like… guilt, and nervousness…
Red sinks deeper into the merger, throwing the usual confidentiality worries aside as he tries to process the president’s sensorium. It’s hard to get an accurate mirror of what a pokemon sees and hears and feels because of their different biology, but with humans the difficulty comes from not getting distracted by the richness of their thoughts and experience.
On one level, what Red perceives through President Silph’s mind is a room with about a dozen people in it, half of which have pokemon out. But it takes him nearly a minute to process all that, because what he actually experiences is—
—legdiscomfort, painful, desire-to-sit—
—before he has to pull away from the merger and try to focus on the details of the room and its inhabitants. Three hostages besides Silph… three renegades, with… a crobat, a mightyena, an arbok, and a sandslash… lots of big containers and tanks around, along with a few PCs… the lab’s storage room, if he’s understanding the blueprints correctly.
The tightness in Red’s chest has eased considerably. Silph is alive, and hasn’t given in yet. He almost sends the president some psychic reassurance, but if Silph reacts in the wrong way that might tip the renegades off that something is up.
So instead he takes one…
“I found him,” Red says to the room of startled police and Silph employees as soon as his partitions fall and he remembers what he’s doing here. “They’re in the lab storage, and I think I have a plan, if you guys are willing to risk fighting instead of bringing the building down.”
Commissioner Burrell is the first to recover, which is lucky since half a dozen people start asking questions, all of whom stop as soon as he holds a hand up toward them. “Tell us.”
Red turns on his blueprint and starts to point. “So far I can move here… here… here… uh, somewhere here. And I can use my powers to reach most of the renegades blocking the stairs and elevators.”
“All at once?” Jenson asks, and when Red shakes his head, looks more relieved than disappointed. Red supposes it might be more obviously worse for the world if all psychics could do something like what he can, but that’s a problem for future Red to deal with. “Then they’ll go for help and alert the others. They could kill the hostages right away.”
“I think I might be able to pick them off, actually. I can let you know through Lin when the rest of them notice, and I can alert Blue so he moves in at the right moment.” Assuming he hasn’t already started, which is another time pressure weighing on the back of Red’s mind. “I just need a little more time.”
The Commissioner has his hat again, and creases it between his hands as he stares at the clock for a few breaths, then turns back to Red. “This is the last extension. If President Silph isn’t safe in the next ten minutes, the hunters will have full permission to either join the fight, or do what they need to ensure they fail their mission.”
“Got it. Thank you.” He turns to Valentin, then the two hunters, battle calm helping him stay confident and steady as he says, “I might signal something like ‘open skies’ to Lin. If I do, it’s because I cleared a path for you to go straight for storage. The pokemon they had there were sandslash, arbok, crobat, and mightyena.”
“Why not just use your power to knock the non-dark ones out?” Stocky asks.
“It’s too dangerous to use it with civilians nearby, since it makes renegade pokemon hard to control.” Not a lie, but a more convenient answer given their time constraints. “I’m going to go start.”
A few murmur variations of “Good luck,” and then Red is back in one of the offices, recovering from the disorientation again. He can’t tell if he’s actually doing harm to his partitioned self or not, but either way that’s all also future Red’s problem.
He takes a breath as he closes his eyes and reaches down through the building for Maturin, whom he sends a burst of fear through. Then, once she reacts by hiding in her shell, he withdraws his mind and reaches out to the first weezing nearby, on the lowest floor they’re on…
And just lets it go.
The results are quick. Smoke can’t go through the mask, but acid can.
He doesn’t let his mind linger, instead finding another pair of renegade pokemon and projecting sakki at one of them so that it attacks the other.
That one might get messy, but he’s already on to another, then another. By the time his phone buzzes again, half of the renegades in his range have been killed, the other half injured or lost some strong pokemon.
And when he reaches everyone that he can from here, he teleports to another office and begins to do it again, despite the sickness churning through his stomach that not even the battle calm could alleviate.
That’s also future Red’s problem. Present Red’s problem…
…”Intruder!” he hears through a pokemon’s ears, shouted from one renegade to another…
…is what to do about that.
They’re confused, alert that something is happening to their people but not sure what. He can sense them coming through the hall, looking for him, and so he teleports to another floor so he can keep killing as many of them as possible before they find him.