The third time Blue thinks of the perfect attack to use, then has to revise to something far less effective due to environmental constraints, a calm and distant part of him swears that he’s going to make teams of pokemon built entirely for fighting indoors and keep half of his belt full of them at all times.
“Ah! Ca! Bab!”
The renegade’s pokemon are outnumbered and at a type disadvantage, but they’re also smaller and more nimble than his: Rive’s Hammer Arm is easily dodged by the magneton, and while Soul gets a Crunch off on the hypno, it manages to stay conscious long enough to put the scarred arcanine to sleep.
Thankfully Rive blocked the thunderbolt from hitting Maturin, whose bubblebeam disorients the magneton and keeps it from getting its next attack off before Blue can yell “Sab!” The Body Slam connects and sends it reeling, and Blue has another moment to spare a mental grouse for the fact that his most effective tactic at the moment is to tell a Ground pokemon to use a Normal attack against a goddamn Electric/Steel type before that Electric/Steel type sends a Mirror Shot out to burrow three holes in his pokemon’s rocky hide.
Blue swaps the Awakening he pulled out of his bag to his other hand to spray it on Soul while he withdraws Rive—if that was a Flash Cannon he would be dead, he’s okay unless it hit a critical organ—then leaps behind one of the generators to avoid the next thunderbolt, which he only assumed would go for him instead of Maturin because he was closer. “Bab!” he yells again, and “Ca!” for good measure in case Soul has woken up to finish off the hypno. He might be dead right now if he wasn’t immune to psychic attacks, and has a brief moment to be glad that he didn’t stay Miracle Eyed through all this.
“Go, Gon!” His breloom appears beside him, then dashes toward the fight once he says “Pam!” He’s spent a lot of time tweaking the simulations to reinforce targeting priorities of certain moves against certain pokemon, so he’s fairly sure that Mach-Punch will get aimed at the magneton, but he knows he’ll have to risk a look at the battle soon to get a renewed sense of what’s happening…
Or the sound of another pokemon being sent out could force him to do it now.
Blue does his best to peek around the corner without exposing much of himself, and feels his heart sink at the sight of the magmar.
Three different commands burst out of his throat in a rush, “GonbackMaturinbabSoulsae!” but the renegade just has to give one, and does so while running: “Overheat.”
The magmar’s body begins to glow, turning Maturin’s Bubble Beam to hissing steam as soon as it hits. Soul slams into the renegade pokemon a moment later, but the magmar just keeps glowing brighter—
—Blue sends Maturin into her shell with a “Wa!” as he stretches Gon’s greatball out in one hand as far as it will go—
—until a torrent of flame bursts out of the magmar in every direction.
Blue toggles the return beam at the last possible moment, but his breloom is still too far when the fire washes over it, and he snatches his arm back to avoid the searing heat that radiates out.
The air goes from air conditioned cold to sweltering in a flash, but Blue barely feels it, anger burning white-hot in his core as flashbacks of catching Gon in Viridian Forest and training with him throughout his journey run through his mind. The shroomish was with him nearly as long as his starter, through every gym badge he’s earned, he’s always prepared to lose his pokemon defending people from wild pokemon but he just lost Gon to this nobody, this cowardly murderer—
“I’m going to fucking kill you!” Blue yells over the roar of the flames, and knows that the sound swallowed his oath. He seethes fruitlessly as he cowers, sweat beading his face as he waits for the heat to fade…
…and when it finally does, quickly pulls out a burn heal and sprays it all over his prickling face and hands. The very air itself smells burnt to a kind of weird, empty scent-that’s-not-a-scent, but beneath that there’s a whiff of something else that makes his stomach turn. He knows what he’ll see before he even looks, but he has to confirm…
The magmar is on all fours, trembling with exertion, its colors dull. “Ca,” Blue reflexively says, and Soul stumbles to his feet, smoke rising from his fur, and pounces to sinks his fangs into the back of the pokemon’s neck. Maturin is okay, coming out of her shell and sniffing cautiously at the air. While Gon…
Gon is just a smoldering pile of brown fungal flesh. The magneton is a melted triple smear of strange mechanical innards, and the hypno is barely identifiable, making Blue wonder why the renegade didn’t withdraw his pokemon before realizing the underlying mistaken assumption that led to losing his own.
The renegade he fought upstairs ran for it as soon as it seemed like he might lose, and made sure to take his pokemon with him on the way out. This one is willing to sacrifice all his pokemon, maybe even himself.
It looked like he ran and used the magmar to cover his escape. But what if—
Blue whips his head around, hands dropping to his pokebelt… but nothing attacks him. Was he wrong? Did the Renegade actually run?
Well, he’ll just have to find the bastard, wherever he’s hiding. The room seems about as big as the large, open office he fought in upstairs, but much more cluttered, a virtual maze of equipment that is mostly large enough for a man to hide behind. But there’s just one entrance, if he goes there and waits, he’ll catch the renegade eventually if he hasn’t already left, and if he has left he can’t have gone far—
In the corner of his eye Blue sees Maturin suddenly pop back into her shell, and reflexively crouches as he quickly scans the area again, pulse racing. He waits for his battle calm, but…
Nothing. There’s nothing around them, and so he continues just being on edge. What was she reacting to…?
And then he remembers Red’s signal.
Shit. Something’s about to happen, and Blue isn’t in place to take advantage of it or help in any way… he hasn’t even accomplished what he came here for, and the clock is ticking.
He takes one last look around, then rushes to the generators, setting aside the need for revenge. Later he promises his anger, but the burning beast just paces more restlessly, knowing full well that if he doesn’t catch the fucker now, he probably never will.
The metal is hot to the touch, but not damaged in any obvious way. It makes sense that they’d ensure it can’t overheat if something goes wrong, but Rive should be able to break it down… assuming his rhydon is still alive.
“Soul, Maturin, guard.” There are corpses taking up too much space now, so he backs up a little to summon his injured pokemon, two hyper potions at the ready. The rocky rhino’s hide has three holes in it, but the dark blood welling out of them makes it hard to see how deep they go. Blue quickly empties his potions into his pokemon, then grabs its lower jaw and pries it open to drop a revive down its throat for good measure.
He keeps his head on a swivel throughout, though his pokemon aren’t reacting to anything nearby. Rive’s blood has formed two small puddles around him, but hope stirs in Blue’s chest as he notices that they don’t seem to be growing.
The rhydon shifts, then opens its eyes as it takes a deeper breath in. “Good job, buddy. You did great.” Blue strokes Rive’s snout a couple times, careful of the spiral horn as his pokemon continues to shift, then steps back as his pokemon pushes himself to his feet. “Now, I need you to wreck some shit.”
Lizzy explained how building generators like this have pokeballs with electrodes in them, ready to release automatically if any fluctuation in the power goes below a certain point. He debates taking the time to remove the electrode greatballs from the generators, but he wouldn’t be able to command them, and they’re the least expensive part of what he’s about to wreck, so he just points to the container that houses them and says, “Rive, Ah.”
Rive moves gingerly to brace on his feet, and Blue almost tells him to stop so he can check for deeper injuries before his pokemon surges forward and slams his forearm down onto the generator.
“Ah,” he says again, and the next Hammer Arm dents the container enough to expose the inside. He’s pretty sure that’s enough to keep the generator from functioning, so he moves on to the next one, heart still racing as he looks around, expecting another attack just when he drops his guard.
It doesn’t come until the second generator is destroyed and he’s led his pokemon to the third. A series of flashes have Blue throwing his back against one of the damaged generator for cover as Soul growls and Maturin’s ears flare out.
Two commands get stuck competing in Blue’s throat. Should he tell Rive to destroy the third generator, or be prepared for battle? There would still be another one after, and even if he destroys all four none of this will matter if he can’t get to the second set of backup generators…
When he hears the thick hisss, it’s immediately obvious what’s coming next, and at last the battle calm descends as one hand flies to his mask straps to ensure they’re tight while the other points to the generator again. “Rive, Ah!”
The smog is visible now, which means he only has a few moments… “Ah!”
There’s rending sound of metal tearing, and then Blue rushes to the last generator, points, and yells “Ah!” again.
Another hesitation, and Blue grits his teeth as Rive cocks his head from side to side. Blue can barely make out the generator himself, and rhydon have worse eyesight than humans.
Soul coughs, and Blue rushes over to spray an Antidote onto both him and Maturin to buy some time, then rushes back to Rive, unclips his pidgeot’s ball and braces his arm to aim it back the way he came. “Go, Zephyr!” There’s no guarantee that the smog will have somewhere permanent to go, but he just needs a few seconds.
His pokemon appears, but it’s a tight fit. “Gust!” Blue commands, and as soon as the pidgeot starts flapping, screeching in pain as it’s launched up and smacks its head against the ceiling, Blue points to the generator again as the smog thins for a moment. “Rive, Ah!’
Zephyr has stopped flapping, instead hopping awkwardly on one foot in a daze as he continually tries to keep his balance. Blue returns him to his ball before he hurts himself or anyone else, which is why he spots the muk that’s silently oozing its way toward his pokemon from behind, invisible to Soul’s nose in the smog.
“Soul, alert, Mat—”
His pokemon haven’t managed to fully turn before the renegade’s command rings out, and Blue sees Soul’s silhouette get buried in a wave of gunk as the arcanine roars in pain.
He has to stop himself from rushing over, instead yelling “Chaf!” for Soul, “Bab!” for Maturin, and then, hoping Rive can still see enough: “AH!”
It’ll have to do.
Three pokemon being poisoned at once is too much to manage, so he withdraws Rive rather than risk having him attack blind, then stops himself from rushing to where his other two pokemon are for a second time. Even against a wild pokemon that would be risky, in a situation like this it’s suicidal. The renegade took time to plan this out, if he just blindly reacts (literally) he’ll just get himself killed… plus, he’s pretty sure there were three flashes earlier, which means there’s still a third pokemon lying in wait, maybe creeping up on him right now…
The calm helps him think even through the sounds of a battle he can’t see, but no path to victory appears in his mind. Options. He has tools on his belt for disabling the renegade, but he has to get closer than this to use them…
…which may be the last thing the renegade expects him to do.
If it means letting his pokemon fend for themselves, it’s also the last thing he wants to do. But his opponent already took the strategy he thought of earlier, and with a better twist; he can’t just wait around or else his pokemon are going to succumb to poison. And still, it would be dangerous to assume the renegade will just wait, instead of having a next step that he’s carrying out even now…
Next step. That’s the key, always. Anticipating what the opponent would do with what resources he has.
Blue closes his eyes, which are mostly just showing various shades of light at this point, and breathes deep of the filtered air. What are his opponent’s goals and resources?
He’s here to protect the building’s power sources. So his goals will be to kill me or my pokemon or to stop me from destroying the generators…
…which I just destroyed.
What’s he going to do when he realizes that?
He feels his battle calm slipping as he tries to think of what in the room might shield him from a Self Destruct explosion from a weezing, then realizes nothing can. He has to get out of this room, maybe get Rive to break through a wall, even if he can’t see…
No, that wouldn’t put him in a better position. He has to take the renegade out. And that’s probably not just a desire for revenge talking, though if he loses Soul or Maturin too…
Blue crouch-runs to the edge of the room, hands held out to push himself off things he runs into until he finds the wall. It feels a little like being back in Viridian, where the smoke was so thick he could barely see his hand in front of him, and the memory of the shiftry ambush makes him extra cautious as he moves toward the entrance.
The sounds of his pokemon battling continue all the while, and hopes they mask any noise he makes to whatever third pokemon the renegade surely has out, waiting for him to approach…
Blue slows, heart pounding as he imagines the possibilities and realizes he needs another edge. Something to take his opponent off guard…
He takes his shoes off, then brushes his fingers over Ion’s ball. The smog is too thick for it to detect any empty space to summon into, even if there is some. So he walks a blind circle, arms out, then unclips Ion’s ball, hefts it for a moment as he aims… then triggers the manual release.
As soon as his pokemon is out, Blue rushes for the opposite side of the room and yells “Fa!” along the way.
The flash of light isn’t particularly bright through the haze, but he hopes it’s enough to draw attention, while the memory of where his voice was draws them to a second false-location. Meanwhile…
He finds the wall again and sprints with one hand on it and the other ahead of him. His socks make each step practically soundless, and while part of him worries about stepping on something sharp (like a trap set by the renegade, if he has a pokemon to litter spikes at the entrance with), the main thing he’s thinking is that his ability to kick just got a lot less damaging.
He’s about to find out if his lessons at the dojo paid off. It wasn’t all parkour and trampolines and trainer battles, after all.
There are more flashes of light in the smog now, or rather one long illumination that he hopes isn’t Soul burning the last of his life away, and then his outstretched palm hits a body. He immediately grips and tugs as he ducks and steps past and to the side, one leg out to trip the renegade in the direction he just came.
He catches the man totally off guard, sending him down in a sprawl that nearly knocks Blue down with him, and his other hand grabs the man’s mask to tug up. The renegade grips his arm and pulls down to stop him, kicking against the floor to try to regain his feet, and Blue’s other hand brings the stun gun from his belt and presses it against the man’s stomach.
I really hope this doesn’t shock me too is his last thought before he pulls the trigger. The renegade begins to convulse, nearly yanking Blue’s arm out of his socket, but he doesn’t feel anything else, and after counting out ten seconds he releases the trigger.
The man’s grip goes slack, and Blue yanks his mask off, then stumbles to his feet and throws it randomly deeper into the room. A second later he’s taking the cuffs from his belt and yanking the renegade’s arms behind his back to cuff them together.
Finally he unclasps the man’s belt, which he takes with him as he finds the door, opens it, then closes it behind him, leaning against the cool metal and panting to catch his breath.
He feels like shit, but damn is it good to be alive.
The inner counter in his head hits sixty seconds, and now he has a choice to make. If he keeps the door closed, the renegade will die from the poison… but so will his pokemon, who are likely all injured by now. Much as he wants the renegade dead, and much as this would be a justified way to get there, he can’t lose Soul and Ion here too, and Maturin…
Blue takes one last deep breath, then summons Rive. “Guard,” he says, then opens the door and yells, “Soul, back! Maturin, back! Ion, back!”
And waits, as the smog spreads outward into the rest of the hall, to see if his pokemon are well enough to comply and follow the sound of his voice. He doesn’t hear any more sounds of battle, and after counting thirty seconds repeats, “Soul, back! Maturin, back! Ion, ba—”
Ion is the first to arrive, limping and covered in acid burns. Blue gives him a few quick sprays of potion and antidote, then says, “Guard,” and calls out again: “Soul, back! Maturin, back!” He hopes whatever Ion was fighting isn’t still conscious, let alone the muk… but they’re not wild pokemon, they won’t just attack randomly without the renegade’s commands, right? Unless the bastard was crazy enough to order that sort of thing…
He can hear the renegade start coughing, and the smog is thin enough now that he can make out his form on the ground. Blue steps forward and finds the stun gun handle, then presses the trigger again, this time until it auto-stops, which he counts at thirty seconds. He clicks the trigger again a few times, but it probably has some recharge period or safety feature, so he drops it and says, “Ion, come.”
Blue leads quickly through the thinning smog until they find the site of the battle. Soul is lying on his side beside a scorched and smoldering muk, and beside them looms a shape that Blue almost orders Ion to attack…
Until he makes out the two cannons poking up from the round shell, and realizes Maturin has finally evolved.
Blue’s hands don’t shake as they move to return his pokemon, but he does run back to the entrance once they’re back on his belt. The air is mostly clear now, at the cost of the air quality on the rest of the floor, and he hopes whoever else might be here has access to first aid kits.
Still, he doesn’t pause to find his shoes. There’s still the second power room, and unless Red has pulled off another miracle, they’re almost out of time.
Red only has a few moments to decide whether to try to keep picking the searching renegades off, or teleport back to the safety of the security room before the situation changes again: almost all at once, the renegade pokemon vanish from Kadabra’s psychic senses.
Did I win? The hopeful thought is mixed with confusion, but it doesn’t seem impossible that they’d decide to suddenly retreat in the face of the unknown. He should check with the president and see if those renegades with him are gone too…
He hears a crash somewhere on his floor.
Red pulls his mind away from Kadabra’s and settles into his own body again—
—and half-collapses against the office desk he was leaning on as the room wobbles around him.
It takes a moment to realize it’s not literally spinning, then another to recognize the vague ache in his head. Overdid it. It’s been months since he taxed himself beyond his psychic limits, he practically forgot that he could. His thoughts feel sluggish, so it takes him what feels like a minute (but is hopefully just a few seconds) to realize that what’s disorienting him is the lack of extrasensory perceptions. His own body feels strange to him.
Not a great sign. But he hears another crash, and so pushes the concern aside, almost reflexively using amnesia before catching himself and realizing that might actually be a bad idea.
Still, it might not be safe to stay here. The crashing sound is repeating, and seems to be getting closer. Is there a battle happening? And now there’s the unmistakable tone of a command, and—
Out the door and to his left. He braces himself as best he can, then sends out a psydar pulse, then another, then another. It’s less disorienting than he expected, if anything it makes him feel better, and he has to remind himself of his exhaustion to keep from the sweet surrender of immersing himself back into mergers.
He breathes in deep, grounding himself in the feel of the air in his nose and lungs. He also sends part of his attention down into his feet, to the press of the floor against him, and tightens his hands against the edge of the desks, feeling it bite into his skin as he sends another few pulses out, trying to make sense of the brief glimpses into the constellation of minds around him.
There’s an obvious cluster of sharper “excitation” down the hall compared to elsewhere. It’s hard to tell what emotions are dominant there but fear feels closest to correct… but he doesn’t sense any pokemon…
Another BANG, closer this time, makes him realize he has to risk it. Red takes one more deep breath, then merges with one of the buzzing/fearful minds on his floor…
He pulls back into himself and lets his breath out as pieces of the sensorium settle into a snapshot of what the woman was seeing/hearing…
…and abruptly merges with Kadabra to jump to another office as he finishes processing it.
There’s a renegade with a pokemon going from room to room, smashing through doors, clearly looking for something. The woman didn’t get a good look at the pokemon, didn’t recognize what she did see, so he has no idea what it was…
…but it was clearly a dark pokemon, if he can’t sense it. Which doesn’t seem coincidental.
Red twitches, then sends his psydar out to scan the new floor he’s on (fifth? sixth?). Once again some minds are more scared than others, and again a quick and disorienting merger with one of them gives him a composite impression of a [RENEGADE] pokemon… no, he knows this one, it’s a scrafty.
He wishes he could delve into the person’s memories, but the woman he merged with isn’t actively thinking about the past—not important, he can extrapolate. The renegades have all switched to dark pokemon, which means some order went out to coordinate them in a way that feels not just deliberate, but prepared.
How did they arrive at this hypothesis so quickly? There should have been other explanations they assumed before jumping to this one, right?
A shiver of disquiet goes through him, and his heart rate redoubles as he realizes there could be a dark renegade with a dark pokemon outside his door right now. He wonders fleetingly if this is how abra feel all the time, then decides their strategy is a good one, and prepares to teleport to another office…
…to his room…
Red’s breath stutters, and he frowns as he tries to concentrate. Yes, there’s danger here, that’s why he has to go home, where it’s safe…
It’s like bouncing off an invisible wall in his mind, and Red reels for a moment until…
…the partitions fall, and he’s back as his full self.
His full self is whimpering.
“Oh shit. Oh shit, oh shit oh shitohshit—”
He can’t teleport. He’s not sure why actually, are his partitions leaking, or has Kadabra just been exposed to his fear too much to trust the—FOCUS, he has to get out of here, he’ll figure out why it’s not working later—no, it IS important now, he has to know if Silph’s office still counts as safe enough to retreat to, or the security room…
Red feels his mind tipping in multiple directions at once, and one of them is the alarmed (and alarming) thought that he might have broken his partitions somehow…
Red you moron, your partitions don’t work if you’re psychically exhausted!
The inner voice sounds remarkably like Blue’s, despite the fact that he’s never really talked about psychic stuff much with Blue. Inner Blue is right, though, and in any other circumstance it would be funny that he forgot about this (and a bit nice, a sign that he’s come so far and it’s been so long since his early days of dealing with depression every night after training, forgetting about that would normally feel like a victory)—
Okay that was definitely closer, he needs to focus, and also panic a little, because without his partitions he can’t teleport, and also lots of memories of the past ten minutes(?)twenty(?) are crowding at the same time, and also he can’t shield his secret memories from anyone who might merge with him, but then again he’s kind of revealing most of those right now anyway so he should probably be panicking more about the lack of teleporting.
Well, he should still be able to teleport outside normally, right? But that means running away, and if he does that Blue will get mad at him… well, not necessarily, not if Blue’s dead, like Aiko and his dad…
Tears prickle at Red’s eyes, and it’s a reminder from months ago to center and ground himself. Focus. Breathe. It’s hard to think clearly, and his emotions are now wildly swinging between sadness and panic, but if the renegade going door to door is about to find him, that means he’s about to be in a pokemon battle.
And now, thanks to Blue, he has an app for that.
It takes more time and effort than it should, but once he has each mental anchor in place the next gets easier.
I have a goal.
—a sense of something bright/shining/pulling/crystalline—
I have options.
—an endlessly outward branching—
The enemy has a goal.
Predict their options.
—hemming of branches, cutting and winnowing down until—
Find the path.
—a bright line among the branches, a series of steps up toward the light—
The sense of anticipated completion/satisfaction/glory is fleeting, an echo, but its promise is enough to send calm through Red’s system. He still feels urgency, still feels a tremor of leashed energy in his limbs calling him to fight or flight, but there’s a clarity to the next steps, a sense of flow between what’s happening now and what will happen, and that flow becomes a current that pulls his limbs into movement as soon as he thinks of what he should do, what the right next move is…
—holy shit Blue you battle like this all the time?—
But no, Blue’s version of this must be faster, or more efficient. Maybe it’s the mental overexertion, or the leaking partitions, or maybe it’s just because he’s new to this way of thinking, but it feels like he’s taking too long to reach each decision.
Still, it’s useful for not getting stuck on thoughts like that. What he needs to focus on now is the scrafty that’s about to smash open the door at any moment, and how Kadabra won’t be able to hit him, nor sakki affect him, without Miracle Eye, which means Kadabra needs something to buy time.
So Red will buy him time. Simple, right?
His unclips Forretress’s ball and almost summons the Bug/Steel pokemon, but stops himself. The sound would alert the Renegade, who might call for backup. He needs to surprise him.
Also, Forretress would block the doorway, which would get him stuck here, so the Renegade could just bring out a ranged attacker… if he has one that’s dark…
Magneton could Light Screen-electric attacks risky to use-fire pokemon?-kingler could block, but not much reach —
Possibilities spin out before him, but in this state of mind there’s a clarity to them, they don’t overwhelm him, they’re just a series of ideas/obstacles/problems that he checks solutions against. Snorlax and Nidoqueen were far too big for the offices, so other than Kadabra, he decided to focus largely on Bug pokemon that could beat Dark types, which meant bringing Aiko’s venomoth Winter, Ariados, and Forretress, as well as Magneton and Nidorino for wider coverage. His additional resources include his stun gun, flash bomb, sakki…
—could flash bomb a ranged pokemon, buy time for Kingler to block until Miracle Eye, then use sakki…
…wait…. Can he project sakki while in this state?
The question feels like it tugs all the possibility strands into a loop. Every strategy he has relies on the ability to defeat a renegade with sakki by turning their pokemon against them, that’s the Path to Victory every tactic aims for, his only other options like the stun gun are temporary. If he can’t reach it without giving up this mental clarity…
The calm starts to fade as unease spreads through his stomach, thoughts still looping on the uncertainty until he hears footsteps approach the door. Red is still holding one arm outstretched, Forretress’s ball aimed forward, and it snaps up as he reflexively summons his pokemon just after the door is smashed open, while the other hand fires his stun gun at the renegade—
—who dodges to the side immediately upon seeing Red, but that buys time for Red to duck away from his own returning shot.
No fair! The fired darts embed in the desk, and Red scrambles away from the crackling wires that connect to them even as he feels the battle calm resettle, focus narrowing to the immediate next steps. The bulky pokemon will buy him some time, and the scary open loop in his victory path is unimportant if he just defeats his opponent’s dark pokemon he can use sakki on their non-dark ones, it won’t matter if he loses this clarity then.
“I found him, fifth floor!” the renegade yells just as Red’s “Bug Bite” sends his Bug/Steel pokemon rolling forward. It opens its metallic shell just enough to clamp hungry fangs on its stout Dark/Fighting opponent, while Red mentally commands Kadabra to use Miracle Eye—
The scrafty rears back a fist that was TM modified to leak combustible fluid, and when it strikes Forretress it sends the otherwise steadfast pokemon rolling away, twitching in pain.
Red swaps Forretress out for Nidorino, but a “Zen Headbutt!” makes it clear that his responding “Double Kick” won’t even the playing field. Meanwhile the renegade is unclipping something from his belt, but it doesn’t look like a pokeball—
Red dodges behind the desk just as the second stun gun whips up and fires, and dips back into Kadabra’s mind just enough to tell that his pokemon can now see the Scrafty. He has to either use Psychic on it now and take it down, or…
He closes his eyes, merges with the scrafty, and projects the pure freedom-from-constraints that makes up sakki toward it, along with his focus on the renegade as dangerous enemy…
And then the renegade is screaming in pain as his own pokemon launches at him and shatters his pelvis with a headbutt.
Red withdraws his mind rather than stick around for the killing blow, breaths stuttering as the calm finishes leaving him entirely. “Psych-psychic,” he stammers, and the sounds of the scrafty pummeling the renegade abruptly stop.
Sweat breaks out all over Red’s body as he realizes how close he just came to dying, how much danger he’s still in, he has to get back to the security room, he has to get out of here… but he’s so tired…
He forces himself to get up and look at his pokemon, who’s lying on his side without moving. Red quickly crawls over and sprays a potion onto him, hand shaking, then realizes he doesn’t have time to wait and withdraws him. More renegades are coming, he has to move…
But he feels the decision paralysis setting in again. Should he try to teleport back to the others, in case it’s “safe” enough? If that fails, would he have time to get there on his own? The renegade said this is the fifth floor, which means he just has to go down one set of stairs to reach the security room. Most of the renegades guarding the stairs and elevators are dead or crippled, so if he moves quickly…
No, if there’s even one person on the fifth or third floor that responded to the warning, Red will either have to fight them in the stairway or on the way there. He has to try teleporting.
Wait, first he should withdraw Kadabra, go to another room, buy himself a bit more time in case a searching renegade sees the body outside…
…unless taking the time to do that is what makes him lose his window of opportunity—
Battle calm, now.
He breathes in deep, head throbbing as he finds the anchors. Goal. Options. Predict enemies. Path to victory.
Okay. Better. He can recognize now that he’s not going to get any new information, and while there’s a sinking feeling in his stomach that he’s missing something, that there are options he’s not thinking of, clever paths to victory he’s not seeing… it doesn’t matter, time is the main limiter, so it’s probably better to just roll the dice with the odds he has rather than wait any longer and have them get any slimmer.
He forces himself to his feet, walks to Kadabra to put a hand on his pokemon’s shoulder, then closes his eyes and starts focusing on the security room, anchoring the experience of being there in his memory and projecting that to Kadabra…
Rapid footsteps in the hall goddammit I was so close—!
“Peter’s down!” someone yells, and Red’s hands fly to return Kadabra and unclip a flashbang from his belt even as he thinks what kind of a renegade is named “Peter?”
A moment later the newcomer runs over to the body in the hall and crouches to check Peter’s pulse, then turns to look inside the room and spots Red just as he throws his flashbang at the renegade’s face.
He has two seconds to turn and cover his eyes with the arm holding Kadabra’s ball, while his now-free hand unclips Ariados and aims it behind him, using his armpit as a brace and waiting until the BANG to trigger the manual release. “Fell Stinger!” he yells through ringing ears.
If the renegade gives a command to his own pokemon Red doesn’t hear it as he crouches and crab-walks behind the desk. Reclip Ariados ball, spray potion in ears, brace arm to resummon Kadabra—
When he peeks over the desk he sees Ariados fighting a mightyena with fire dripping from its fangs as it lunges forward and bites off one of his pokemon’s legs. It takes another jab doing it, but it’s not a lethal wound, and the next bite takes off his Ariados’s head.
Losing the spinarak he caught in Viridian at the start of his journey will probably hurt more, at some point. For now Red is too focused on making sure Kadabra’s Miracle Eye is working so he can turn the mightyena against its master—
—who withdraws it and swaps for a cacturne.
Oh come on Red yells in frustration… except he doesn’t, he didn’t drop the battle calm yet, so he just feels it in some part of him as the rest stays focused on the next step: sending Winter out and trying to predict what TM might give the cacturne coverage against a venomoth. He doesn’t think cacturne can learn any fire or psychic moves, and either way he should be able to take it out quickly with a Signal Beam which he does—
—just as the renegade also summons a golbat, which starts tearing into Winter before Red can switch mental modes and turn it back against its trainer.
Red tries to return the disemboweled venomoth to its ball, arm shaking, but the cacturne is just barely still alive, and hits it with a Dark Pulse first. Red doesn’t have time to check if Winter survived, too busy getting Kadabra to use Miracle Eye on the Cacturne so he can finish it off, then kill the golbat that’s feasting on the renegade.
His memory feels like it’s dropping seconds between events, things are happening too fast for him to track, and on top of everything the mixed smell of various kinds of blood makes Red’s stomach churn. He stays alert for another few moments, body buzzing with adrenaline even while his thoughts feel scattered and slow, but even without the battle calm he knows what his next step has to be.
If he’s right, this won’t take partitions, all he has to do is focus on the fact that it is, in fact, safe at the security room, which isn’t hard because it is safe, it’s in fact the safest he can be while still in this building—
—he could be leaving though, he could go to the top floor and teleport out—
—he can teleport out from the security room too if he needs to, but there are allies there that will keep them safe, now let’s go—
That last burst of projection makes the world twist, and Red is abruptly aware that the smells are different. He opens his eyes to see the others have their pokemon out, no doubt ready for to spring into action at his signal.
They don’t look particularly happy to see him, though maybe that’s more about how he looks. “Shit, kid, you alright?” Valentin asks.
“Fine,” Red says, nearly lightheaded with relief as his whole body seems to unclench. It worked. He’s safe.
“Did something happen?” Sicong asks. “Is the president—”
Like last time, Burrel holds a hand up to quiet the others before simply saying, “Report.”
Red just wants to curl up on the floor and rest for a bit, but he’s not safe yet, not really, no one here is. “The beedrill nest is officially kicked, Sir.” Not what he intended to say, it’s a line from a movie that he barely remembers, but he feels like he’s thinking through molasses and it’s just what came out, so he decides to just roll with it rather than clarify. He spots a cup on the desk and steps over to take a long swallow of whatever is in it… ah right, coffee, that’s what he was smelling, that makes sense. “Sorry,” he says to Valentin, guessing it was his, but a moment later the CHRO is handing him a fresh cup. “Thanks. What did I roll with?”
“Sorry.” He takes another deep swallow of his new cup, not even minding that it’s too hot, and way too bitter. Caffeine might help him think more clearly, and sugar, maybe that would help too…
“Right, yeah.” Focus. Breathe. Keep things simple. “Um. I can’t teleport anymore. Inside the building, I mean.” That’s not relevant. “I’m lucky this worked, I’m just… I mean what I’m trying to say is I think I’ve reached my limits, psychically.” Not untrue, and also less complicated than the full explanation. He’s probably leaking all over Lin, but if so the other psychic is being polite about it. So long as he doesn’t think about secrets, like… He quickly drinks more too-hot-too-bitter coffee. “But I think I got… maybe ten of them?”
“Ten,” Jenson repeats, voice flat. “Arceus wept. And there’s still more?”
“Uh, maybe? Sorry, I kind of lost count. Probably still the ones in the storage room, at least. I can’t tell because they all switched to dark pokemon.” All at once. Red feels another twist of disquiet, but he’ll think about it later, if there is a later. “Also two found me, and I’m down to just two healthy pokemon.”
“You beat two renegades in a pokemon battle?” Stocky asks, and she sounds more incredulous than impressed.
“I cheated. But… I think that’s all I can do on my own. Sorry.” Is he apologizing too much? He drinks more coffee, wishing his stomach would stop churning. He should check if Winter survived, and Nidorino…
“You’ve done more than we could have hoped,” Burrell says. “It’s now or never, but we’ve got a new target.”
“What do you mean?”
“Someone deactivated one of the building’s backup power rooms,” Valentin says. “I doubt it was the renegades. If you guys take out the second one, I can take us off the grid and they won’t be able to turn on a light, let alone get anything out of storage.”
“We were just debating whether to send everyone, or split up to rescue the hostages,” Sicong says.
Even with his fuzzy/scattered thoughts it’s not hard to guess who was on what side of that debate. He drains his cup and puts it down. “What should I do?”
“Nap,” the CHRO says.
“She’s right, Verres, you look on the edge and sound over it,” Stocky says.
“My friend, Blue, he’s probably the one that took the power station out. I have to make sure he’s okay.”
Burrell studies him a moment, then nods. “Won’t say no to the extra help. What pokemon do you have left?”
“Kadabra and… magneton, my others might… hang on.” He takes his pokedex out and checks, heart sinking as Winter’s ball registers no life signs. Sorry, Aiko. His nidorino is dead too. He leaves both balls on the desk, then checks Forretress and feels some tension ease. “Forretress, with some healing.”
Sicong unclips a ball from his belt and says “Catch” as he tosses it to Red.
Red’s hand moves automatically to reclip Forretress and track the ball, which lands solidly in his palm. It’s a diveball, and he looks curiously at the head of security, who has his pokedex out.
“Your reflexes seem fine. Keep out your dex, I’m transferring that lapras to you. Just stay behind us and use Icy Wind on anyone that tries to take us by surprise. Understand? If you see an opportunity to use your powers on the renegades, do it, but other than that just play it safe.”
“Yes, Sir.” Red’s gaze lingers on the ball as he takes his pokedex out and waits for Sicong to transfer ownership. Lapras are rare, and pretty powerful. “Will it, uh, fit? In the halls?”
“It’s young, meant for personal ferry.” Sicong’s smile is wry. “I brought it specifically for indoor battles, in case… well, this.”
“Get your last preparations in order,” Burrell is telling the others. “The renegades said that if we bust that door they’ll kill the hostages, so we’d better hope they were bluffing, or that they’re too distracted by what’s been happening to follow through, because one way or another, we’re ending this now.” The police commissioner glances at Red. “Anything else you want to tell us about your powers, Verres?”
“Uh, I think you have the gist. But I might not be able to use them any more.” Especially since they might endanger the hostages, which is the last thing he wants them to be thinking he might do.
Still, he recognizes the calculating speculation in the two hunters’ gazes, and tries his best to ignore them. The pokedex chimes as it finishes registering the lapras, and Red clips the ball to his belt as it starts the basic training sims. He still feels like he’s thinking through quicksand, but he needs to see this through before he can rest.
And then he’s probably going to have to have a very long talk with the police.