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Death of a Sapphire (ten-year anniversary retcon rewrite of The Sapphire Story)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by Manchee, Nov 30, 2018.

  1. Manchee

    Manchee extra toasty

    On this day ten years ago, I posted The Sapphire Story, my first real attempt at a fan fic. I never finished it due to parents divorcing and then graduating high school and going off to college, and there have been numerous considerations (and even some unposted attempt) to rewrite this, but nothing ever came about due to not enough time or energy to retell a story already based in retelling. This year, though, I couldn't ignore the fact that an entire decade as passed because TSS still holds a special little place in my heart, so I came up with this one-shot to act as a ten-year anniversary retcon rewrite of the fic as a way to springboard into a new series that I want to write. I can officially put my old fic to rest knowing that this is now posted, and to anyone who might happen to read this, I hope there is a little bit of recognition to the characters and plot.


    ~*~

    Death of a Sapphire


    There is no other way to describe the Fiery Path than hot. Swelteringly hot. It’s not more than ten minutes before beads of sweat run down skin and being to soak through clothes. And there’s no relief from any of the hot springs either because they’re, well, hot, and not in a way that makes a trainer refreshed to continue on their way through the cave. Even on a summer day, the heat from the sun is more desirable over that coming off of the walls inside of Hoenn’s only active volcano.

    Neither Cole nor his friends remembered just how uncomfortable it felt to come through the path and given a choice none of them would elect it over any other means of circumnavigating Mt. Chimney. Unless they had to, like right now. If they were not in a rush to make it to the cable cars and up to the summit, Cole would gladly let Calpurnia and Salome out of their poké balls to explore their home environment. He does not think that a torkoal or grimer would understand the time crunch, however. What is the best way to explain to either of them, or any pokémon really, that an evil organization is plotting to awaken an ancient beast in hopes of submerging Hoenn beneath the ocean and that you and your friends are on your way to stop them?

    It’s too much to think about, and not worth it right now. Focusing on the sweat that clings their clothing to their bodies helps keep them distracted enough to not think about what they are about to do but determined enough to get through Fiery Path as quickly as possible. What happens after is unknown at this point. Hopefully three trainers who each have three gym badges are a strong enough match against a man who thinks he can control kyogre.

    “Everyone okay?” asks Kira, brushing her wet hair away from her face. It sticks to the side of her head like cooked spaghetti to a wall.

    No one answers the question, which makes it feel quieter than it was before she asked. They all know that none of them are okay with this, not really, because they have seen what Team Aqua is willing to do to accomplish their goals. And now that they’ve got the meteorite for whatever machine they’ve built, who can say that they don’t have the means to actually wake up kyogre?

    The silence fills the air between them. It mingles with the warmth and seeps into their skin, carrying the anxiety that all of them don’t want to admit they’re feeling. Dominik hasn’t felt this nervous since their gym challenge against Wattson. Even when the three of them confronted Team Aqua in Meteorite Falls, he felt sure that they could thwart their plans and finally put a stop to them. Maybe that was because he knew Kira alerted the police and they were on their way at the time. All three of them tried calling Officer Lang and Officer Harrison - the two detectives investigating Team Aqua - before they went into the falls, but neither of them would pick up, so Kira had to resort to notifying the Fallarbor police at the last minute, apparently too late for them to make it in time.

    Dominik always thought that the police were scarier as a child. Everyone is told from a young age that when you’re in danger, all you need to do is call 7-3-3 and the police will come help you. In the year and a half of traveling Hoenn, he’s learned that the police are really no help at all when you really need them. He, Cole, and Kira have encountered Team Aqua six times already and what have the police done? Shown up late, made no leads in their investigation, and failed to make heads or tails of what is going on. Dominik figures he and his friends know more about Team Aqua’s plans than even the police at this point.

    Halfway through the cave, Cole stops them and says he needs to take a break for some water. It’s been forty-five minutes of this and all three of them could use a moment to try to breath calmly. Their water rations are really running scarce at this point and they try to be conservative about what they drink now, but the heat gets to them and they all finish off what they’ve got. It’s not too much farther now: signs posted on the walls of the cave let them know that a reprieve from the heat is within reach. They’ve passed the part of the cave that branches off and is only permitted to trainers that have at least four badges, making Cole wonder when (or if) they will have the chance to challenge their fourth gym.

    It’s only now starting to sink in for him what is about to happen. He leans his back against the hot, rocky walls to catch his breath but the calming deep breaths turn into heavy pulls for air because he can feel his heart racing at the thought of fighting Team Aqua. Kira sees him starting to freak out but her own thoughts on the matter have her frozen in a similar situation.

    “What the hell are we doing?” Cole asks in between staggered breaths.

    Dominik shakes his head.

    “Well, we’re not falling in love,” he says. It’s so out of place that Kira and Cole both forget about what’s worrying them for a moment.

    “What?” Kira asks incredulously. He looks back at her with confusion, wondering why she’s even asking him to elaborate.

    “You know, like, falling in love is like stopping to smell the roses and taking your time,” he tries to explain. “But we’re not falling in love, so we’ve got to keep moving.”

    “That doesn’t make any sense,” Kira argues, but the absurdity of it gets her to laugh just the same. As frustrating as Dominik can be sometimes, she’s always appreciated his way of never taking things too seriously, even when they were younger. He was always her goofy sidekick that kept her from sending herself into a panic attack over something she said during class or in front of the popular kids.

    The moment only lasts for a minute and then they grow silent again. All of the joyful memories they’ve had since starting their journey seem to fade out of existence. Getting their starters from Professor Birch and catching their first pokémon soon after, finding out that Dominik’s torchic is actually female and that’s why she always bit him when he misgendered her, staying up late talking about becoming famous trainers someday. Did any of that even happen between the day Cole moved to Littleroot and today? Everyone always said that trainer journeys take you places that you would have never thought of, but surely no one ever meant this.

    None of them have anything left to say. It takes every bit of their collective energy to get back up and through the rest of the cave. When they finally reach the opening to Route 112 they can feel the weight of the air lift off their bodies as a cool, fresh breeze blows across them and sends chills down their arms. It’s still pretty warm outside, but as they’re still on the side of a volcano it’s not very surprising. At least it’s not as hot as inside the path. They all take a few seconds to relish in that fact.

    Behind them, Mt. Chimney looms high into the sky. It’s quite the sight to see from far away, and up close it looks kind of terrifying. Squinting just the right way into the distance will reveal the Jagged Pass into Lavaridge Town where Kira has heard that wild spoink like to hop across the rugged terrain. She makes a note to herself to try catching one before her next gym challenge - it would be good to add a psychic-type to her team. Amper will easily be able to take out most of Flannery’s pokémon, especially since evolving into marshtomp, but to Kira that means it’s the perfect time to bring on a new addition to the group. It worked out for Cole before their first gym challenge, and this will be the first time that she’s the one in their group with the clear advantage against a gym.

    This part of Mt. Chimney is silent save for the scattered trees rustling against the breeze. As the trio wraps around the main path they can hear the whine of the cable cars cycling around their wire route. The noise gets into Cole’s head the closer they get and he has to clench his jaw to keep it from bothering him too much. Thankfully, once they enter the squat white building at the end of the path the sound is dampened underneath the slanted roof. From the outside it looks like a very odd design choice and makes Cole wonder if it was intentional for the roof to go all the way onto the ground.

    “Hello?” Kira calls out. It takes Cole a few seconds to realize that the place is empty. Their footsteps echo on the metal floor as they make their way to the railing that separates them from where the cable cars are coming through.

    “Is this place open?” Cole feels stupid for asking, but he’s not sure what else to do.

    “It’s gotta be,” Dominik says. “The cars are still running.”

    A bob of green hair pokes out from behind a counter followed by a pair of frightened eyes. She yelps when her gaze is met by Cole’s, and at that point she has no choice but to make her presence known. Shakily, she stands up and holds out her hands.

    “I don’t want any trouble,” she tells them. “A bunch of… of, I don’t know, pirates, or something, they came through here and made me let them through, and I- I didn’t know what to do and they just… they-”

    “It’s okay,” Kira says to stop her from going on and on, “We’re here to stop them.”

    She says it with such finality that even Cole believes they’re going to succeed against Team Aqua. It doesn’t look like the green-haired girl does, though. The statement causes her to pause and blink a few times.

    “Wha… what? How are you going to do that? Are you the police?”

    There is an uneasiness in her voice that partially masks the hope that the three teenagers in front of her are here to save the day, and it makes Kira grimace. She knows what that feels like, she felt the same thing when the detectives first spoke to them after Team Aqua tried to hold everyone hostage at the Oceanic Museum in Slateport. Kira and her friends were told that they had nothing to worry about. The police would handle these criminals before they had the chance to threaten anyone else. It would do the police good, Kira thinks, to learn about making promises that they can’t keep. In response to this girl in front of her, Kira probably should, too.

    “No, we’re not,” she says, “But we’ve been trying to stop them for a while now and we hope that this will be the last time they try to do something like this.”

    The girl is so dumbfounded that she calms down enough to stand up straight behind the counter. Dominik, being ever aware of the time, is the one that moves things along.

    “Can you help us with the cable cars?” he asks. Before the girl can say anything to them, he cuts in and says, “Whether or not you want to help, we’re going to find a way up to the top. It would just be easier with your help.”

    With that argument, she nods along and starts to frantically press buttons and lift levers along the wall. The cars speed up along the wire until one glides through the track behind the counter. When it is in-line with the floor, the girl presses a button that stops it completely. She lifts up a small latch that allows a gate in the counter to open and motions for them to come through.

    None of them speak a word to each other but the unease at what is happening is shared across the four of them. In reality, they’re all just kids. She can’t be much older than them. When they’re passing her to get on the car it’s easier to see the spots where she messed up dyeing her own hair, where her makeup was done by hands that are still learning. Probably a resident of Lavaridge, forced by her parents to get a job if she wasn’t going to travel the region. That’s what happens in places like Lavaridge where people are too poor to pay the registration fees or purchase all of the necessary supplies - you grow up hearing about the lucky kids who get to own teams of pokémon and visit all kinds of magical-sounding places. Maybe someday, years and years too late, you save up enough money to get out of town and find somewhere new, but you know it will never compare to being a teenager exploring the wide-open world.

    “Everyone situated?” the girls asks once they’re sitting in the oval-shaped car with seatbelts buckled across their laps. They all nod, the realization of how close they are to facing Team Aqua preventing them from speaking. The girl nods back at them and shuts the door. She pauses back in front of her buttons, thinking over what she is about to do, and then with a forced confidence she starts up the cars again.

    It’s a faster trip than any of them expected, and silent, too. But what is there to say now that they’ve gotten this far? As the car lifts out of the building they see Mt. Chimney towering ahead. The higher the car goes, the farther out they are able to see. Route 112 opens up all around them until faint outlines of buildings and landmarks dot the horizon. It’s not long before falling ash limits how far out they can see until really they really can’t see anything at all besides each other. The beauty of it all goes unappreciated.

    The cable that the cars follow must be programmed to know when to stop because the girl at the bottom certainly can’t see this high up to push her button again to stop the cars. Kira, Cole, and Dominik can’t even see enough to expect the car to stop and then all in one second it gets considerably darker and they come to a halt. The door slides open and they see that they are in an identical building, this time with no green-haired person to help them. The seatbelts click as they are undone and smack against the seats with jolting clangs as the three trainers file out onto the metal floor.

    Hot air washes over them like it did in Fiery Path, but this time it’s mixed with the ash coming from the volcano. It masks the area in a dimmed haze, leaving only outlines of people running about. They are about to proceed when a snarling poochyena appears in front of them, brandishing its sharp fangs and spraying spit from its jowls. It lunges at Cole, who screams and falls backward. In a flash of light, Kira’s zigzagoon materializes in front of him and collides with the enemy head-on. It’s not two seconds after they crash to the ground that Dominik’s wingull is soaring down from above and spraying the poochyena with a jet of water.

    Cole’s first thought is that this goes against traditional battling rules, but then he snaps back to his senses and remembers where they are. His friends help him up while their pokémon take care of the poochyena until it runs off in the other direction.

    “We should be ready for more of that,” Kira tells them. They nod, and silently the trio start making their way forward. Cole’s grovyle joins them, ready to fight anyone who tries to hurt its trainer. Always loyal, like any standard expectation of a trainer’s pokémon. Sometimes it makes Cole’s stomach upset to think about.

    He’s brought out of his thoughts when someone starts yelling at them from somewhere to their left.

    “Hey- this way! Archie needs our help on the summit!”

    They all turn and see a woman running towards them wearing an absurd getup - blue floods and a black-and-white striped shirt, complete with a bandana that makes her look like a wannabe pirate. She halts when she realizes that they aren’t part of Team Aqua and quickly turns on the offensive, calling on two zubat to help her. They screech and dive-bomb Vivi, who is able to avoid one but gets thrown to the side by the other, leaving streaks of dirt on her scruffy fur. As she gets back on her feet, Cole notices that her fur doesn’t look as ragged as it did when Kira first caught her; it’s only a matter of time before she evolves into a linoone.

    “Cole, do something!” Dominik yells at him. He’s pointing over to Krypto, who braces himself as another poochyena leaps from the haze and knocks him over.

    Damnit, he thinks. Why is he letting himself get so wrapped up in his memories?

    “Drain some of its energy, Krypto!” he calls out. In no time, his grovyle is back on his feet and pouncing forward. Cole is still surprised at how fast he’s gotten since evolving. When it looks like he’s absorbed enough, they follow up with a quick attack.

    Meanwhile, Vivi and Camilla fight off the grunt’s zubat. Vivi is able to distract them on the ground with how quickly she can maneuver around the rocky terrain while Camilla does her aerial dance around their enemies until she spots an opening. Dominik has given up on trying to tell her when to use her attacks because she’s a much better judge of that, especially up in the air. When he says to hit them with a wing attack, she waits a beat before gliding at full force into a zubat, wings outstretched and stiff as boards.

    As one zubat falls, the grunt tosses out another. Kira thinks back to when Team Aqua held up the Oceanic Museum and remembers seeing at least twenty grunts. There are bound to be more here, and if each of them have multiple pokémon, it’s only a matter of time before they are able to overpower hers, Cole’s, and Dominik’s.

    “Ignotus, help us out!”

    Dominik throws out his combusken’s poké ball and has her join the fight. They can see it in the grunt’s eyes that she is starting to regret challenging them to a fight. She knows as well as they do that there are no rules up here to follow. Almost too lucky to be coincidence, another grunt shows up and sends out his own pokémon to help. Unexpectedly, it turns out to be an absol, whose white fur stands out against the smog in a strikingly beautiful way. Then Kira notices the razor-sharp scythe on top of its head and her heart skips a beat.

    With the zubat already weakened, they don’t take much more to knock out. Kira expects the absol to be a bigger issue for them, but Ignotus scares it with her searing flamethrower before diving in and smacking it across the face with a double kick. The look on the grunts’ faces tells Kira that they had expected the absol to last long as well. Both of them turn and run off in different directions. If they want any chance at getting out unscathed, their best bet would be to find the cable cars and hope they can catch one down to the bottom.

    This process of facing off against grunts repeats a few more times with varying levels of them turning and fleeing. One even tries to use her own fists to fight off Kira and her friends, but one swift blast of aerial water from Camilla and the grunt is knocked out cold. The trio begin to rotate through their pokémon so that none get too tired out. Their pace slows when Cole’s makuhita is called out, but its advantage over the hordes of ferocious poochyena that the grunts call on helps win battles too quickly for either Kira or Dominik to ask that it be switched out. A small pocket of hope bubbles inside Dominik that his shroomish will have a burst of whatever pokémon energy it takes to evolve so that he has another type advantage against their enemy, but Phyll has a hard time battling in this kind of environment and Dominik must return him to his poké ball before that can happen.

    It’s a mess of battles that only become more intense the higher they go. Immediately after seeing some warning signs about an upcoming spot that’s bad for vision, the smog becomes so thick that they have to start holding each other by the hand or arm to not get split up. Somehow their pokémon are always able to return to them without problem, by way of luck or being able to sense where their trainers are. Cole chalks it up to deep-rooted survival skills that give them the awareness they need in situations like this.

    When things begin to clear in terms of falling ash, and just as his dustox sweeps yet another poochyena off its feet, he begins to notice an influx in the amount of people running around alongside them.

    “On our left!” he shouts out of confusion, because this person isn’t dressed like any of the grunts. He can’t process quickly enough if the person is a friend or foe. It only takes a second for them and whatever pokémon was with them to disappear into the distance.

    “Where?” Kira says with obvious panic in her voice, already giving orders to Vivi to cover that side.

    “I don’t know!” Cole yells back. “Someone else was here a second ago. They didn’t look like Team Aqua!”

    “Did they look like that?” Dominik asks. He points to their right, but two more people show up back on the left. The trio notice a theme in their choice of outfit that is different than Team Aqua but implies a similar meaning. These people have on black floods and underclothes with red hoods covering their heads.

    “Get out of here, Magma scum!” shouts one of the Team Aqua grunts. She becomes totally unfocused on the battle with Dominik’s wingull and leaves her grimer wide open for an attack. It’s knocked out without her even realizing.

    “Interesting choice of words,” a red-hooded person calls back in passing, “Isn’t scum what you find in the water?”

    They’re gone before any of Team Aqua can berate them again. Whoever they are really bothers these grunts, though, because most of the ones fighting with Cole, Kira, and Dominik take off after them. Anyone left runs off too once their pokémon are knocked out. All at once, the battling seems to stop completely. Voices shouting back and forth can be heard in the distance, but with the haze surrounding the trio, it’s like they’re alone in a very dirty, hot bubble.

    “What did she call them?” Dominik asks as he returns Camilla to her poké ball.

    “It sounded like she said ‘Magma scum,’” Kira says.

    Vivi dematerializes into her ball as well. Silently and unanimously, the three of them take a second to breathe. They ponder on the thought of the people dressed in red and black.

    “Do you think,” Cole starts to ask, and Kira and Dominik already know what he’s going to say, “That there’s a Team Magma?”

    None of them know how to process this information. A second villainous team can’t be a good thing, and surely they are just as bad as Team Aqua in whatever it is they are trying to accomplish. But at the same time they are technically fighting on the same side as Cole, Kira, and Dominik right now. Whatever implication that has later on, they leave that up to chance because they can take whatever help comes their way at the moment. Not only are they all exhausted from running through the heat and constantly calling out attacks and strategy to their pokémon, but their teams are feeling it, too. If they don’t stop this soon they’ll have to rely on the police showing up and shutting this all down.

    Without speaking, they press on.


    ~*~​


    In a state of uncertain panic, Detective Penelope Lang bolts upright from her sleep. She reaches for her gun on instinct, and when she doesn’t find it she reaches for Cassia’s poké ball. Her heart starts to beat like crazy when she finds that that’s missing as well. It doesn’t help that she has no idea where she is. This is definitely not her apartment, too clean for that, and she’s spent enough nights in the bunks at the station that she recognizes this is not there either.

    She tries to scream when a voice to the right startles her but her throat is so hoarse that it comes out in a squeak.

    “Calm down, sweetie,” it says, and she feels slightly less worried when she sees an old woman slumped over a mahjong table. “You’ll give yourself a heart attack like that.”

    Without looking up from her game, she places her pieces and waits for an equally old-looking wigglytuff to make its move.

    “What?” Penelope croaks. “Where am I?”

    “Route 111,” the woman answers, like she’s used to people waking up in her house without any idea of where they are. “A few trainers found you at the edge of the sandstorm.” (she pauses to contemplate her next move) “They brought you here to rest up.”

    The sandstorm? It jogs her memory enough to remember chasing one of those Team Aqua people until she lost sight of them. Must have gotten lost when she tried to follow them into the desert. She had always heard about Hoenn’s tiny pocket of sandy wasteland but underestimated its likelihood of trapping people who are not prepared to take it on.

    “Give me a minute,” the old woman tells her wigglytuff, “And don’t cheat!”

    The scratching of her chair on the wood floor makes Penelope wince. She watches the woman shuffle over to her stove and pick up a tea kettle. When Penelope tries to object, she gets shot down and told that it’s useless to refuse an old woman’s offer for tea.

    “Rawst or aspear?”

    “Rawst, please,” Penelope answers. She can taste the smallest trace of sourness from an aspear berry no matter what it’s in. “With some sugar, if you have it.”

    The scratchiness in her voice refuses to fade, but the more she talks the less it hurts. While the woman gets the tea ready, Penelope finds her things on top of her neatly folded jacket beside the bed. Right away she picks up her Nav and scrolls through her messages. There are six missed calls from Tobias.

    Damnit. If there was one thing she didn’t need to see right now it’s a missed call - let alone six - from her partner to probably say that he screwed something up. She taps the first one and keeps the volume low. Whether or not this woman still has her hearing, Penelope doesn’t want to be rude.

    “Hey, Pen. It’s Toby. I just got to Slateport. No one was at the docks when I passed through. Gonna hit them up later. Keep me posted on what’s happening up there.”

    Well, I’ve gone and been reckless again, and this time it ended me up in some old lady’s house.

    The next message is just rustling noises, in true Tobias fashion to somehow call her without realizing. The third is another update on what he’s doing, which is essentially waiting around until he feels it’s the right time to go back to the docks.

    “Hey. It’s me again. I’m surveying the area, doesn’t look like anything is really going on here. I’ll keep watching.”

    Penelope takes a break from going through the messages to take her tea from the woman. It’s a little too sweet - she’s not surprised that the lady went heavy on the honey - but instantly makes her feel better. At least she can swallow without scrunching up her face. After she’s downed half of her cup and the woman has made a few more moves in mahjong, she’s told that her poké balls are in the drawer of the nightstand. She’s not trying to look too eager to leave, but Penelope reaches for them immediately. Knowing that Cassia is by her side, even inside a poké ball, keeps her at ease.

    The old woman seems preoccupied enough that Penelope starts listening to the rest of her messages. What she hears at the start of the next one makes her choke on her tea.

    “Pen. I’ve gotta get outta here. One of them saw me, I thought I lost him, but he must’ve told the others because they’re looking for me.” (there goes her tea, down the wrong way and being coughed back up) “But there’s some weird **** going on here. I don’t know anything about boats and ships but they’re not just making parts to sail around with. It looks like some really futuristic shi-”

    Penelope’s body goes stiff. The recording bar keeps moving along the bottom of the screen but there’s no sound. Then, at the twenty-second mark, there’s a loud pop and she can hear Tobias running. Stupid idiot. Stealth and evasion have never been his strong suit, but c’mon. He can do better than that.

    Ten seconds left… Five. Four. Three.

    Without hesitation she moves to listen to the final voicemail, but her Nav starts to vibrate and chime like crazy. She nearly jumps out of her skin.

    It’s just the chief. Stay calm.

    “Hello?” she does her best to keep her voice level, praying that it doesn’t crack.

    “Lang, where are you?” the chief orders. No avoiding this now. Part of her wishes she and Tobias had asked for permission to have him spy on Captain Stern and the other shipmates, but she knows that never would have been passed. But what’s better - admitting to the fact that they did it without asking or having asked and done it anyway?

    “I’m at a rest house on Route 111, sir. I needed to check for Team Aqua, but I’ve got Tobias in-”

    “Route 111?” the chief asks, not waiting to hear about Tobias. “That’s damn near perfect luck. Tobias with you? I need you two to get up to Mt. Chimney. Now.”

    “No, sir, To-”

    “No? Lang, we’ve got the whole of Team Aqua up on that volcano trying to screw with it, hoping that they’ll wake up kyogre and start some tsunami revolution.”

    It catches her so off guard that she forgets to respond. Team Aqua is on Mt. Chimney? She was right! Despite the fact that they’re trying to start something that will put Hoenn under water, she pats herself on the back for calling it. Of course they would target Mt. Chimney. The legends might only be fairy tales to some people, but for a fanatic that wants to see if he can get kyogre to do what he says, it only makes sense to target the volcano where groudon is rumored to sleep. Two volcanos in Hoenn - one still active and one dead for centuries and filled with rainwater. Fire and water. Groudon and kyogre.

    “But if they want to have control of kyogre, why would they go after groudon?” the chief had asked her when she proposed her theory to him a couple weeks ago.

    “Whether or not you believe in the legends, the people of Sootopolis treat the Cave of Origin like it’s a holy land. They’re not going to let anyone go inside easily.” All of the pieces fit inside her mind - then again she always loved Hoenn’s myths a little too much - but explaining them to a non-believer is proving more difficult that she’d like. “Mt. Chimney, on the other hand, has never been protected. Anyone can go up to the top and poke around as long as the weather is clear. It would be an easy target for Team Aqua. Destroy where one sleeps and you’re bound to get a reaction out of the other.”

    Of course, trying to convince a man in his fifties that the stories his dad told him to get him to sleep as a boy are real is like officiating a wedding between Cassia and a zangoose. It’s just never going to happen. But when has that stopped Penelope? Insubordination might as well be her middle name by now. Doesn’t look great on the record, but it’s gotten the job done more times than she can remember.

    “Lang. Are you still there?”

    She shakes herself back into the present and immediately starts to get herself out of bed. Her body is stiffer than she thought.

    “Yes, sir, I’m here. I’ll be on my way in a minute.”

    “Good. I’m not sure how much help the sheriff from Lavaridge will be, but she should be there by now. Mauville police are on their way, too.”

    Penelope half-listens to everything he says while she gets her jacket on and ties her boots. After they hang up she stretches a bit and feels a sharp pain spreading in her right knee, knowing that she has no choice but to push through it for the chance to confront Team Aqua once and for all. It might take some serious time to heal afterwards, but to her it’s a small price to pay. With her gun loaded and holstered, she thanks the woman for watching over her, is denied leaving any money for the trouble, and rushes out the door a little too quickly.

    “Sorry, Cassia,” she says to the blue-and-red ball that she shoves inside her pocket, knowing Cassia must be twisted to be allowed out to hunt by now. Instead, she tosses the other ball, the one with Slateport’s police symbol and a serial number etched into its top, and gives the dodrio that appears from its light a chance to gather its bearings. When all three heads are focused on her, they lower themselves so she can climb on their back. In a matter of seconds they are speeding over the grassy landscape, each head blaring their emergency signal.

    As she stares at Mt. Chimney in the distance, she can’t deny the excitement rising within her.
     
  2. Manchee

    Manchee extra toasty

    ~*~​


    There is an explosion as Zephyr’s psybeam collides with the jet of bubbles launched from crawdaunt’s claws. For a moment, the smog is clear and the battlefield looks haunting. The natural formation of the volcano is littered with bits of rock and debris caused by the constant battles. Cole loses track of what is going on, whether it’s awe from the sight or fatigue from the past hour and a half trying to scale to the top of Mt. Chimney.

    The Team Aqua admin utilizes the opportunity to close the gap between their pokémon.

    “Kill it with your vice grip!” he bellows.

    “Get out of there with a gust!”

    But it’s not a fast enough response and Zephyr is caught in crawdaunt’s grip. Its pained squeaking noises don’t last long, and while it’s not dead like the admin intended, it is certainly fainted. Cole returns his dustox and readies Krypto for battle. Through everything, he hasn’t shown a moment of exhaustion. Call it pride or good stamina, but Cole worries that it’s only a matter of time before he’s down another pokémon.

    Behind him, Kira and Dominik call out simultaneous attacks against another of the group’s admins, a woman with wild red hair that drapes down most of her back. He doesn’t rue choosing to battle this guy instead, because from what he overhears this woman will go to any length to get what she wants. It’s a frightening tenacity that reminds him of the grunt that tried to fist fight him one-on-one earlier.

    “Watch out for the aqua jet!” Kira yells to Vivi, who narrowly avoids the sharpedo’s attack.

    “Matt! Help me out with these brats!” the woman screams.

    “I’m kind of busy here, Shell,” he tries to tell her, but his voice becomes too quiet as he focuses on Cole’s grovyle lunging for his crawdaunt. Its leaf blade makes contact and leaves a nasty lesion across the front of its shell.

    “Aaagh!” Shelly does little to mask her frustration at Kira and Dominik’s strategy.

    Both Vivi and Ignotus are too quick for her pair of sharpedo. Without any water to swim in, their main method of moving around the field is to use aqua jet to launch themselves high and follow through with powerful bites and slashes. The choice to have Ignotus in battle against two water-types made Kira nervous, but after his combusken was able to deal a lot of damage with her kicks, Kira gained a bout of confidence in their teamwork. Now, she’s got Vivi dancing circles around the sharks while Ignotus lines herself up for the right moment.

    It looks like the battle is about to be over - both sharpedo have considerably slowed down since the start - but Shelly becomes brash and sends out a mightyena as well. By this point, Kira and Dominik aren’t willing to use other pokémon and risk them all becoming tired, so they do their best at making the situation work. While Vivi continues to distract the sharpedo, Ignotus does her best to whittle away at the mightyena. Two separate dances occurring at the same time, side-by-side.

    “Just keep dodging them, Vivi!”

    “Great strategy,” Shelly chides her, “You’ll tire yourself out sooner or later.” (she waits a beat, and then) “Flotsam, go after the combusken!”

    One of the sharpedo ejects itself from whizzing around Vivi and makes a go for Ignotus. Halfway to its target, it unleashes a spray of water. The moment takes Kira by surprise and she has no idea how to help, because there goes the attack, timed so well that she doesn’t think Ignotus can make it out.

    She’s so engrossed in her own battle that she doesn’t notice what’s happening behind them, where Cole is battling Matt. His grovyle is able to evade its enemy with cunning, making crawdaunt expect it to go right when comes from the left. By the time Shelly tells her sharpedo to take aim on Ignotus, crawdaunt is back inside its poké ball and Krypto is leaping into the other battle. With a swift leaf blade, he knocks the attacking sharpedo out of the air and back towards Vivi.

    Now Kira knows what to do.

    “Pin missile, Vivi!”

    Without hesitation, Vivi bristles her fur and unleashes a flurry of spike-like hairs outward. They connect with both sharpedo and it’s a clear victory resulting in Shelly stomping her foot and swearing at her pokémon. It doesn’t take much more effort for Ignotus to knock the unguided mightyena into the ground.

    “Shell! We’ve gotta get to Archie!” Matt calls from somewhere beyond the smog. With a final snarl - a literal snarl more vicious than the mightyena she’s recalling into its ball - she takes off to follow the other admin.

    This far up the volcano, most of the grunts have been defeated by either Cole, Kira, Dominik, or the mysterious people from Team Magma. It gives the trio a chance to check on their pokémon and try to heal their wounds. Most of Vivi’s fur has become patchy from that last pin missile, and Ignotus can’t put too much pressure on one of her legs after her relentless double kicks. The facade that Krypto has been putting up is finally starting to falter as well, which tells the trio that there isn’t much fight left in any of them.

    Once they ration out some of the food that’s left and wrap a brace on Ignotus’s leg it’s time to keep moving. If they listen close, they can hear a faint hissing all around them. Distant footsteps pat across the rocky terrain and every now and then someone will call out. If there is still battling going on, the trio don’t see it happening. At this point it’s all guessing to find where they’re supposed to be going.

    “I know I’ve never said this before,” Dominik starts to say to break the silence, “But I’m really glad that we’ve all been traveling together. I never thought I would actually get to see this much of Hoenn until I was older.”

    “I never thought I would get to see this much of Hoenn at all,” Cole jokes. There’s truth to it, though. When he and his mom drove into Littleroot Town for the first time in the rusted moving van, he believed he would spend most of the rest of his teenage years stuck in that boring place. He could visit his dad’s gym in Petalburg, sure, but that was over an hour away and it wouldn’t be the same as actually being in the moment and experiencing it for what it is.

    “Well, I knew I would get around Hoenn eventually,” Kira says with mock smugness.

    “Putting that hoe in Hoenn,” says Dominik under his breath. She slaps him for it but they all laugh just the same.

    “You’re so dumb,” she tells him, but the way she says it is taken as a compliment.

    “Can I tell you two something?” he asks, and they nod. “When we were back in Slateport, after Team Aqua attacked the Oceanic Museum… I got in some trouble.”

    “You… what do you mean?”

    “Yeah, what the hell?” Cole asks.

    Any cheerfulness of their moment before sinks from his demeanor. It takes him a minute to think of what he wants to say before he finally sighs and comes out with it.

    “You know how Captain Stern was being all weird when the museum was being held up- like how he didn’t seem that worried?” (Kira and Cole nod) “Well, it was bugging me out, so I went down to his docks one day when you two went to the beach. And Detective Lang was there asking him questions about everything.”

    “Well yeah, that’s her job,” Kira cuts in.

    “I know, but what she was asking him… she suspected something, and I’m not sure what but she had to have been onto something because the way he was talking to her was really sketchy. He played some mind games or something to make sure she couldn’t keep asking questions. So she left, but somehow he knew I was there and he grabbed me by my shirt like, like some kind of bad guy in a movie… and started threatening me for sneaking around.”

    “Oh my god,” Cole says. “Why didn’t you tell us this before? We could have gone to the police or something!”

    “Because he gave me this CD and told me I had to take it to Mauville for him, or else he would find a way to get me in trouble so that I couldn’t keep going on my trainer journey.”

    “Woah, wait… what?” asks Kira. “How could he do that, though? All you had to do was go to the police and he wouldn’t be able to do anything- he gave you evidence that could get him in trouble!”

    Dominik shrugs his shoulders and sputters to find the words to explain everything.

    “I just… I don’t- I’m not sure what the CD was, but he made it sound like he would have someone… like, keeping tabs on me or something to make sure I didn’t tell anyone and that I delivered it.”

    “But why did he have to threaten you for that? He could have gotten anyone else to do it.”

    “I guess to make it less obvious, I don’t know.” He shrugs. “All the guys at the docks were really sketchy looking, like they’d all been to prison before… like they had stuff to hide. For me to take the CD to someone would look like anything bad was going on. They met me in the Game Corner in Mauville, so you know, like, it was already sketchy to begin with.”

    “You actually delivered it?!” Kira yells at him, followed by a smack on the shoulder.

    “Of course I did! I didn’t want him to do anything to me! I went the day you two had to re-challenge the gym.” He braces himself and avoids getting hit again. “But that was all he had me do, and I’ve been wanting to tell you two for so long but I never felt like I could without someone overhearing… but you know.” (He motions around them) “If someone was actually still trailing me, I don’t think they would be up here with us.”

    The three of them fall silent. It feels too awkward to look at each other, but there isn’t much else to see at the moment. Cole is the one to break the silence after a couple minutes.

    “Well thanks for telling us now,” he says. “I don’t know what I would have done if it had been me, to be honest.”

    “Probably not go sneaking around in the first place,” says Kira, stern but not totally upset. It’s done and over with now, and there’s nothing they can do to go back and change it.

    “The last bit of it is… when we first got off the cable car and started battling grunts, I saw the guy from the Game Corner. He’s one of them.”

    “Team Aqua?” Cole clarifies, and Dominik nods.

    “I have no idea what was on the CD, but Stern is helping Team Aqua somehow. I’m sure it’s related to those parts that we delivered to him.”

    “If he had copies of those Devon parts on that CD and just ended up handing it over to them, I’m going to be so mad,” says Kira. “We had to fight off Team Aqua three times and get involved in all of this just because we happened to be in the right place at the wrong time, and if it was all for nothing then what’s the point in trying to stop them anyway? If people like Stern are just going to do what they want and give crazy people like Archie Godfrey plans to some meteorite-harnessing machine to try waking up kyogre, then what good can the three of us do?”

    Dominik balks for a minute before muttering, “What are we getting ourselves into?”

    None of them have time to think about it though as the blaring call of a police dodrio sounds in the distance. It takes them by such surprise and feels so out of place that they don’t recognize it until it’s much closer. And with how fast dodrio can run, by the time they’ve all figured out what the sound is, it’s nearly upon them.

    “Police!” a woman screams at them, rearing the dodrio when she’s just a silhouette in the smog. “Put your hands up and don’t move!”

    Out of fear, Cole, Kira, and Dominik listen to her without question. As soon as she steps into view, though, their muscles relax and relief fills them.

    “Detective Lang!” Kira calls. The realization of who she is trying to arrest doesn’t hit right away until she looks more closely at who she’s got held up.

    “What are you three doing here?” she immediately asks. “This place is being threatened by that organization who attacked you back in Slateport!”

    “We know,” Cole tells her, “We’ve been fighting them off since we got here.”

    “You need to leave,” she tries telling them, and at the shaking of their head sternly adds, “Now.”

    “Archie is up at the top with the meteorite,” says Kira. “We can’t let him wake up kyogre.”

    Meteorite?

    “How do you know about kyogre?” Penelope asks. Are these kids really still involved with Team Aqua’s activities?

    “We ran into Team Aqua in Fallarbor,” Kira answers, carefully covering up the fact that they intentionally went north in hopes of intercepting the grunts that were sent to retrieve a meteorite from Meteor Falls.

    Dominik internally breathes a sigh of relief that they won’t have to mention how he knew that’s where Team Aqua was headed - it was him, after all, who had the intel on the organization’s movements after he delivered the CD for Stern.

    “They stole a meteorite from the falls and want to use it to get kyogre to do what they want,” Dominik explains, unsure how much Lang knows about what’s going on.

    “We think that the plans Team Aqua was after in Slateport were for some machine that can harness the power of the meteorite.”

    Penelope looks back and forth from Kira, to Dominik, to Cole. Bewildered is an understatement for how she feels hearing all of this from these teenagers. At this point, she should have hired them months ago to help with the investigation - they’ve figured out more than her own colleagues have and managed to get here sooner than anyone else, too.

    “I know you think you’re doing the right thing,” she tries to say to them, “But these guys are dangerous. I can’t believe you’ve made it this far, but these people aren’t going to be easy to stop.”

    Cole tries to object but Penelope barrels through.

    “I’ve got police from Slateport and Mauville headed here. We can handle this. Please, go back to the cable cars and get out of here. It’s not worth risking your lives over.”

    Uh, yes it is, Kira wants to say, but how can she tell a cop that she should be allowed to put herself in harm’s way in order to stop Team Aqua from waking up an ancient pokémon? It seems Cole and Dominik aren’t sure how to object either, and Penelope takes that as cooperation. She thanks them for everything they’ve done this far, but in her haste heads in the wrong direction from where the grunts went.

    “We’re not leaving, right?” Dominik asks when Detective Lang has disappeared in the distance.

    “Absolutely not,” replies Kira. If anyone understands the threat that Team Aqua poses, it’s the three of them. They’ve dealt with the group more than the actual police, and they’ve made it this far with relatively little bumps and bruises.

    Without another word, they pull together the adrenaline still coursing through their bodies and press forward. It won’t take long for Penelope’s dodrio to survey the area and find the correct route, and if she sees them again it’ll be harder to make her believe that the three of them will leave. The last thing they want her to do is feel inhibited because she has to look after the three of them.

    They run for twenty minutes without stopping, which is saying something considering how hot the area is getting this high up. The air begins to feel heavy and thick like it did inside the Fiery Path. It slows them down in the worst kind of way, pulling on them from deep in their lungs and on top of their bodies. When they reach a section of stairs carved into the side of the volcano, they let themselves pause to take their time going up. No point in exerting their energy too much, especially since they’ve seen more grunts running around the higher up they’ve gotten. Thankfully none of them noticed the three non-Aqua members in their midst.

    It might have something to do with the prevalence of Team Magma grunts at this elevation. Before, it seemed like maybe five to ten red-and-black clad people were running around in the smog, but up here it’s clear that Team Magma is probably just as large as Team Aqua. At the top of the stairs, the smog is thin enough for them to see grunts from both sides battling each other all over the place. Poochyena scramble around and maul each other to death while carvanha and sharpedo jet around massive camerupt and innocently-spinning baltoy.

    By now, the sounds of police reinforcements can be heard climbing the paths of Mt. Chimney. It won’t be long before they become mixed into all of the grunt battles going on. Will they even be prepared to arrest Team Magma as well? Will they even know who they are?

    “Which way do we go?” asks Dominik, but none of them have any idea. It’s not like there are signs anywhere that say “This way to the doomsday machine!”

    Carefully, the three of them snake their way around all of the pokémon and grunts going at it. A few grunts look up and notice them, but with everything going on they have no way of processing what to do. It’s a crazy mess of red and blue with various types of pokémon mixed between, and if left to it they would probably take each other out after a while. Evil meteorite machine or not, these people certainly have some unresolved issues with each other.

    It’s surprising that two organizations like this that have clearly known of each other have never been picked up on by the general public. All kinds of assumptions can be made of what that means for the future of Hoenn after what’s about to happen up here, but those thoughts get interrupted by a cacophony of clangs and whirs. The ground begins to shake as the unseen machine comes to life, bringing with it a hum that permeates the battlefield.

    A little farther ahead, and then they see it, a monstrous shape just beyond the thinning smog. Lights slowly turn on and create a glow that even the ash cannot hide. Some of the grunts - those on both sides, not just Team Aqua - stop to watch what is happening, and those that do not take the opportunity to gain the upper hand on their opponents. Kira, Cole, and Dominik do their best to run in the direction of the machine but soon find themselves slowing to a tentative jog the closer they get.

    “Who do you think you are?!” yells a Team Aqua grunt, running towards them with two more grunts following her lead, poké balls raised. In a series of flashing lights, three mightyena materialize alongside them and are told to attack.

    Cole, Kira, and Dominik quickly retaliate with their own pokémon, who are now more rested and capable to fight thanks to the downtime. Cole is first to call out his makuhita, and his friends follow through with pokémon that can work around El. His type advantage will help in the fight, but only if they can get the mightyena to come in close. For this, Dominik sends out Phyll, who looks tiny compared to the black hyenas charging at them, and Kira calls on Vivi, who has definitely smoothed out since the last fight. Some of the missing patches are still noticeable after that last pin missile, but for the most part are covered by straightening hairs. Her fur is noticeably cohesive now and her tail comes together in much more of a point that it wouldn’t be incorrect to refer to her now as a linoone. The realization takes a moment to sink into Kira’s mind.

    The mightyena waste no time closing the distance and come in with fangs bared. Vivi gracefully slides out of the way and lets Phyll release a cloud of poison spores around him that two of the mightyena begin to choke on. The third bites down on El’s shoulder and has clearly done some damage, but a well-placed arm thrust sends it flying into the air and onto its back. When it jumps to its feet, it’s limping worse than Ignotus after all her double kicks.

    “Give them a hyper beam!” shouts one of the grunts, making Cole’s stomach drop. El won’t be fast enough to dodge it, and while on a good day and fully rested he might be able to survive a hit like that, right now it will surely be the end of him until they get back to a Pokémon Center… if they get back to a Pokémon Center.

    Thankfully, Kira is more on top of it than either Cole or Dominik.

    “Vivi, shock wave!”

    It’s a risk, they all know that, but thinking through the move pools of each of their pokémon, it’s all they’ve got to try countering the attack. After winning the TM form their third gym battle, Kira spent a day trying to teach the attack to Vivi, with mixed results. Dominik can’t remember seeing her successfully pull it off since then.

    In a flash, Vivi leaps in front of Phyll and El and readies herself. Her fur becomes statically charged and crackles as she concentrates the electricity together. The mightyena is faster in shooting a beam of pure, frightening energy from its mouth, forcing Vivi to unleash all that she’s got, sending her pulse of electricity through the air. It’s not perfect, though it is close, and bounces across stray rock that threaten to diminish it to nothing. But it’s enough to collide with the other attack and cause a small explosion that makes their legs feel like jelly. In the clearing smoke, the limping mightyena charges forward and delivers a fierce take down.

    Vivi slides across the ground and to her trainer’s feet, knocked out by the attack and exhaustion of her shock wave. Dominik seizes the opportunity to have Phyll headbutt the mightyena and knock it out as well.

    “Thank you, Vivi,” Kira says, returning her pokémon and readying another ball. But before she can throw it, a light from the battle stops her. On the ground where Phyll stood triumphantly watching one of the Team Aqua grunts return the mightyena he knocked out is now a tiny ball of light. It begins to change shape, becoming taller and sprouting a long, bulbed tail. By the time it’s done and the light fades away, a completely different looking pokémon stands where Phyll just was.

    In the moment, it takes Dominik every ounce of willpower to not jump in excitement at the evolution. His team was already coming together nicely in recent training sessions, but adding a breloom to the mix will help him out against their next gym challenge for sure. But for right now, he concentrates on the opportunity to take out the other two mightyena.

    “Give them another headbutt!”

    Phyll reacts immediately, leaping forward with his new legs and slamming into one of the poisoned opponents. His reflexes kick in as the other lunges forward for a bite attack and he slides to the side and delivers a swift punch with one of his tiny arms that connects with mightyena’s jaw and elicits a pained howl. Both enemies try to get back on their feet and continue fighting, but poisoned spasms keep them down and end the battle.

    “Ha-ha!” Dominik cheers, literally jumping off the ground. In a few quick hops, Phyll is by his side and smugly waiting for praise, which he receives in abundance. It is a satisfying end that the trio of trainers celebrate until another series of loud noises sound from the machine and bring them back into focus.

    They must continue on, and now that they are so close they don’t have much of a choice. None of the grunts challenge them when they try to pass, instead swearing at each other and sounding like they’re ready to take out each other before challenging any more teenagers.

    “We’re doing this,” says Dominik, not as a question but as a confidence booster. There’s no denying that they are all scared to the core that this won’t end well, but it’s clear that the police aren’t going to be much help.

    “Thank you for letting me travel with you two,” Cole says to them. He unsuccessfully tries his best to not make it sound like they’re about to die.

    “We can do this,” Kira tells him, nodding.

    Everything shifts into focus when they start to walk towards the machine again. All of the grunts, the pokémon, the smog fades away in these moments. This is what they came here for and this is where it all ends with Team Aqua. No more surprise attacks or innocent blackmailed trainers.

    It’s a huge machine, they realize with each step closer. At least ten feet tall and fifteen feet around with a glass dome on top of it, enclosing the meteorite stolen from Meteor Falls. More lights slowly flick on and the entire hunk of metal makes the ground vibrate. The three of them can’t tell if it’s the proximity to the volcano or the heat coming from the machine, but the temperature definitely raises the closer they get.

    And then there he is, as they come up on the last bit of distance between them and the machine.

    Archie Godfrey, frantically running around flipping switches and pressing buttons. The machine holds his attention so tightly that he has no idea anyone is even near him. The three of them can hear him talking to himself manically. It’s unsettling seeing him become so unhinged. The last time they saw him he still seemed to have it all together, but now the prospect of achieving his goals has eaten away at his mind enough to make him a brainwashed tool in the plot to awaken kyogre.

    The three of them stop, unsure what to do in the face of their final step of taking down Team Aqua. Cole looks at his friends, and they nod. They’re ready.

    “It’s over, Archie,” he calls out. It goes totally unnoticed, and he tries again, his words falling on deaf ears once more.

    “Hey! Archie!” yells Kira, and that’s enough to make the leader of Team Aqua pause and look over his shoulder. The sight of the three of them makes a wicked smile spread across his face as he turns around to face them.

    “My friends! Welcome to the finale!”

    He holds out his hands in front of him like he is offering them a group hug, but then raises them to gesture around at the machine, the volcano, the grunts - the carnage he’s caused. It all means nothing to him this close to finishing his master plan.

    “Cut the crap,” Dominik tells him.

    “There’s nothing left,” says Cole, “We’re here to finish this.”

    “Ha!” Archie laughs. “So am I! After today, I’ll finally see everything that I’ve worked for become realized. Are you ready to see kyogre?”

    Through it all, his smile never breaks. It makes his question about kyogre actually come across as genuine; there is real excitement behind it.

    “You’re not waking kyogre up,” says Kira.

    “And why not?” Archie pouts, finally dropping his arms and frowning. “In the legend, rayquaza forced groudon to rest under Mt. Chimney and forced kyogre to rest under Sootopolis- and they’re linked in their slumber, you know, so they can’t rise again and destroy the world with their fighting, but see, look, if I can destroy Mt. Chimney, it will let kyogre rise on its own and bring the sea with it!”

    “You’re not going to destroy an entire volcano,” Cole tries to explain, “But you are probably going to manage to hurt a lot of people.”

    “And we can’t let you do that,” adds Dominik.

    “I’m not doing this for people, I want to do this for the pokémon!” Archie argues. “So many water-types are limited to the ocean or rivers or lakes and no one wants to help them! We’re just polluting the sea with garbage and killing the environment because it’s so damn hot - and it’s all people doing that. I couldn’t care less if people got hurt, they probably deserve it!”

    A clang from the machine causes him to whip around. Without a second thought he rushes over to it like it’s a child in need, checking different displays to make sure that it is not malfunctioning.

    “What should we do?” Dominik whispers to his friends. “This guy has clearly lost his marbles.”

    “If Detective Lang gets here soon I’m sure she can handle it,” says Kira hopefully.

    “I don’t think she’ll get here in time if she hasn’t already,” Dominik says back to that. “It looks like that thing is ready to go, and he isn’t going to wait to get things moving.”

    “Well what are we supposed to do? Attack him?” Cole argues.

    “Absolutely! What he’s trying to do could destroy all of Hoenn!”

    “We don’t know what he is capable of if we tick him off.”

    Cole and Dominik look back and forth between each other and Kira.

    “As much as I would like to wait for Detective Lang or the police, I don’t think they’re coming,” she finally says, earning an agreeing nod from Dominik. He starts talking faster after a new whirring noise kicks up and Archie cheers.

    “Look, it won’t take much,” he explains, “Ig, Krypto, and Amper are all still in pretty good shape.” (From behind the machine, Archie yells, “This is the future of Hoenn!”) “El and Camilla can help, too, and maybe Phyll, but I’m not sure he’ll have the energy after evolving.” (“I am the future of Hoenn!”) “If the three of us go after Archie, they can all try to break apart the meteorite machine. It looks pretty sturdy, but there’s gotta be a way to at least turn if off.”

    It’s a proposal of eight against one, assuming they can pull it off before Archie calls out any of his own pokémon. It could go off without a hitch, but either way it’s down to the wire and no other options sound very good. The three of them run through the plan again and are about to assemble their pokémon when they’re jumped from behind.

    Two beefy arms secure Cole and Dominik in headlocks, instantly cutting off their supply of air. Kira feels her arms grabbed and held behind her back. When she tries to struggle free, she gets lifted off the ground. All she can see when she tries to turn and face her captor is a mane of bushy red hair.

    “Get off of me!” she screams, and all she hears in response is Shelly’s shrill laugh.

    “You three aren’t going to interfere with the boss’s plans,” grunts Matt. It doesn’t look like he’s exerting any extra effort in keeping Cole and Dominik in place. Both of them flail their arms and try to kick him to escape, but the more they fight the quicker they find themselves losing their grip on consciousness. Black spots dance on the edges of Cole’s vision and Dominik can’t see straight anymore. When he realizes that trying to wriggle free is no use, he feels wildly for anything he can grab on to. His hand brushes Matt’s face and without thinking he brings his arm down and swings back it as had as he can. It’s not the perfect angle for a punch, but it connects well enough to make Matt snarl and drop them.

    Rocks dig into Cole’s palms when he crumples to the ground and tries to support himself. Dominik half expected to be dropped and is able to remain standing, but his balance is too thrown off to do much else. He doesn’t have time to gain his bearings before Matt retaliates and punches him square across his nose. It snaps and gushes blood down his mouth and chin, but he’s knocked unconscious before he can even notice.

    “Dominik!” screams Kira, still bound by Shelly but able to watch the whole thing. It gives her an extra drive to put up a fight while Cole barely realizes what’s going on. He’s got enough common sense to reach into his pockets and send out Krypto and El, though. They gather enough information from what they can see when they materialize in front of their trainer to be on the offensive right away. Good thing, too, because Matt’s most of the way to them already.

    El braces himself and stands his ground so that when Matt gets to him and expects to knock him over, he’s taken by surprise and has the ground pulled out from under him. In one swift motion, El lifts the Team Aqua admin off his feet and uses his own momentum to swing him into the air. It’s a slow and graceful arc upwards, but the travel down is quick and ends in a collision of rocks and dust.

    Cole wastes no time crawling over to his unconscious friend and digging in his pockets for Ig’s and Camilla’s poké balls. They join the fight in two flashes of light and at the sight of their trainer look to Cole for orders. During all of this, Shelly maneuvers Kira around so that she’s got her repositioned in a better hold.

    “Stop what you’re doing!” she yells at Cole. A switchblade flicks open in her free and she presses it against Kira’s chin. A small trickle of blood slides down the face of the blade and onto Shelly’s hand without her noticing. All the while, Archie maddeningly continues to set things up for his world domination, totally oblivious to the events playing out just a few yards away.

    “There are…” Cole croaks before realizing he can’t speak very well. He holds up a hand with all five fingers stretched out and then points at himself and the pokémon around him. Then he holds up one finger and points it at Shelly.

    “I can do enough damage to her before any of you can get to me.”

    Not an untrue threat. But can he stall enough for Kira to get Amper’s ball from her pocket? This time he holds up seven fingers and points them first at himself, then at Kira. Then he again holds up one and points to Shelly. Right away Kira gets the message and stretches her fingers for the ball, pushing it to the top of her pocket from the outside of her jeans. It pops out and falls to the ground. When it lands, it enlarges and opens up in a flash that startles Shelly enough to loosen her hold and allows Kira to dive away from her. Amper is quick to blast Shelly with a jet of water before following his trainer. They join Cole and all of the other pokémon while Shelly screams in frustration.

    That’s enough to pull Archie’s attention over to them. The sight of pokémon is enough to paint the picture for him of what’s happening and he wastes no time calling on two crawdaunt and a gyarados. The roar from his gyarados is deafening, even over the machine’s noises. It wastes no time in snaking its way towards them and spraying streams of water from its mouth alongside the crawdaunts’ jets of bubbles

    Cole and Kira each put an arm under Dominik and pull him away from the line of fire while their pokémon immediately retaliate. Attacks collide with each other and send bits and pieces of rocks flying over their heads. This is the final battle they’ve been anticipating, and whether or not they’re ready, it’s time to take down Team Aqua.

    “You filthy kids!” screams Shelly, charging at them with her open switchblade and teeth bared. The way her hair moves through the air is terrifyingly captivating.

    Krypto must have been keeping an eye on them because he appears from mid-battle to protect the humans he trusts. Shelly doesn’t hesitate just because a pokémon is in her way, though, and takes a wild swing that she puts just a little too much effort into. It misses, with Krypto easily sliding to the side, and she is thrown off balance enough that when Krypto’s leaf blade strikes her she is lifted off the ground and knocked over. She looks unconscious, but Amper takes a second to fire a ball of mud at her for good measure.

    “Thanks, dude,” Cole squeaks before his grovyle returns to the fight.

    It seems that Archie’s pokémon might be used to fighting on their own because they continue to launch attacks at their whim while their trainer devotes all of his attention to his machine. By now it is emitting a much stronger light inside the dome where the meteorite sits. The obnoxious clangs are replaced by a steady, rhythmic hum.

    “We have to end this fight quickly,” says Kira, half to Cole and half to herself. All he can do is nod - she is going to have to take the reins on directing what’s left of their pokémon.

    These two crawdaunt are nothing like any they battled on the way up here. Somehow they work in tandem with their attacks, always filling in for each other when one is recharging or combining moves perfectly to ensure knock outs if anyone fails to dodge. And the gyarados is just pure power, spitting out gushes of water and green dragony flames left and right. Their pokémon that have better mobility - Krypto, Ignotus, Camilla - hardly make any attacks of their own because they are too busy jumping around to avoid being hit. El and Amper use the terrain to hide out when anything is thrown their way, which is looking increasingly dangerous as the battle continues. Sooner or later there won’t be much left to hide behind that won’t just crumble with one good hit.

    Cole taps Kira’s shoulder and motions for her to do something, anything, because their success is riding on her and it’s clear that Archie has his pokémon better suited to fight on their own. Hesitantly, she gets to her feet and analyzes what’s going on. Five of their pokémon against two of Archie’s. Okay. Type-wise, Krypto is their best best overall, but Ignotus could really help with the crawdaunt - El, too, if he can get close enough. That means, what, Camilla and Amper are…? Distractions? Possibly, but Amper is a tough fighter and Camilla might have more determination than all of them combined.

    Just get something started and work from there, she tells herself. One breath in, one breath out. It’s not like this battle determines the fate of Hoenn, right?

    First step, get the gyarados to stop relentlessly adding its attacks to the fight.

    “Camilla, try to confuse gyarados with your supersonic,” she starts. As the wingull flies off she turns her attention to her marshtomp. “Amper, can you try to intercept the crawdaunt’s attacks with mud shot? And Ignotus, try your best to counter with flamethrower!”

    Knowing that Dominik delivered that CD to Team Aqua still upsets Kira if she really thinks about it, but at least his time spent in the Game Corner was useful: picking up the TM for flamethrower really helps them out now.

    “Krypto, if you can get up to the gyarados and hit it with anything you’ve got, that would be great! Mega drain and leaf blade, if you’ve got the energy!”

    Even though the monstrous serpent scares her more than anything else right now, she sneaks a peek at it and can’t help but smile when she observes Camilla squawking and screeching in its face to the point that it can’t focus on attacking anything else. Maybe they stand a chance.

    The dual mud shots and flamethrowers actually hinder any of the crawdaunts’ attacks from being too powerful. She’s not sure how long Ignotus can keep up her blasts, though, so they’ve got to act quick.

    “El, I need you to move as fast as you can and close the distance between you and the crawdaunt! Go- now!”

    His pudgy legs kick into overdrive and he does his best to skate through everything being tossed around. Kira chances another look at Camilla and Krypto and sees that the gyarados has realized Camilla doesn’t really pose much of a threat, instead choosing to focus on the grovyle at its lower body. In the same moment, Ignotus loses some of her fire power and has to start carefully jumping out of the way of attacks again. El is so close to being within attacking range, but if he doesn’t have an opening it’s not going to work.

    It’s too many things all at once. Focusing on one might put others at risk. Failure to focus on any will definitely result in risk for all, though.

    “Camilla, go for its eyes!” she tries. “Amper, I need you to get closer and help make an opening for El!”

    Right away the two pokémon move. In the strides forward that Amper accomplishes, Camilla nearly gets eaten. Her dive bomb at the gyarados’s head takes a turn for the worst when the head of the beast whips upward and attempts to bite her right out of the sky. Somehow, miraculously, she swerves at the last second and is only slightly disrupted mid-flight, spiraling for a second and then regaining composure. Kira is so distracted by it that she nearly misses Amper getting right up in one of the crawdaunt’s faces and swiping mud into its eyes. Thankfully, Cole brings her attention to it.

    Without a second thought, she calls, “El, now’s your chance!”

    Cole’s makuhita propels himself forward to bodyslam one of the enemies to the ground. The move carries with it a barrage of arm thrusts that put a smile on Kira’s face. This isn’t over yet, though. One breath in, one breath out.

    As it turns out, the crawdaunt aren’t very attached to one another. While one is being pummeled into the ground, the other keeps sending jets of bubbles, ice beams, and volleys of poison at Ignotus. Amper uses the moment of not being noticed to spit out a mud shot at this crawdaunt, which knocks it over and allows Ig to run towards them. Before she can get there, the crawdaunt that El is attacking regains its composure and blasts a devastating hyper beam right into his chest. He goes flying, knocked out before he can hit the ground.

    “Get that one with a double kick!” Kira calls. A growl escapes into her words, empowered by what she just witnessed. Maybe Ignotus felt it too because her attack is fueled by enough strength to slam the crawdaunt into the ground so hard that it doesn’t get back up.

    But it’s a short-lived victory, because the second one, ferocious as ever, is already back on its feet and doesn’t need to put much power behind its bubblebeam, especially this close. Ignotus isn’t in any position to escape, especially with her bad leg after that attack. Try as he might, Amper lunges for the crawdaunt, but its attack hits Ignotus squarely in the chest before it can be stopped.

    To add to the body count, Camilla drops out of the sky, knocked down by the gyarados’s tail in one swift blow. Once Amper is through with the second crawdaunt, it has also fainted, and the battles takes an unnatural pause. Both Amper and Krypto take a second to come together and stare down the gyarados. It glares down at them, slowly becoming a silhouette with each passing minute. The machine behind it is becoming so bright that Archie has disappeared behind the light. Any crazed ramblings are now drowned out by the machine’s powerful hum.

    The thought passes through Kira’s mind that the gyarados knows Team Aqua has already won, and that it doesn’t need to do much more to help seal that victory.

    No - Kira can’t let that happen. Her determination pushes the thoughts from her head that she and her friends have failed. One breath in. There’s still a chance. One breath-

    Archie comes running onto the battlefield, paying no mind to the gyarados readying an attack or the fainted crawdaunt now sprawled out on the sidelines. His face is twisted with satisfaction and madness. With arms outstretched and hands pointed to the sky, he rants like he’s speaking to a captivated audience.

    “The time is upon us to witness the death of the legendary pokémon groudon! No longer will there be a suppression of divine intervention in our land - the dawn of the age of kyogre starts now, and we are beholden to its forthcoming reign!”

    His machine slows, and the hum fades in and out. The air begins to feel like it’s pulsing outwards from the device, and in the brief periods of diluted sound Kira can hear the dodrio sirens finally closing in. This time there are more than just the one Detective Lang was riding. Kira doesn’t turn around to see how far they are, but the look on Archie’s face tells her that they are not far off.

    “It’s useless to hope for preventing this moment! What needed to be done has been done, and I have prevailed! Our moment of silence is over - no one can cease the destruction of our new savior!”

    It’s an engulfing declaration of victory, but the more he raves the more uneven the rhythm of the machine becomes, despite the increase of light now pouring from the meteorite. It’s so blinding that as Kira and Cole try to return all of their pokémon it becomes too much to even see a few feet in front of them. Something has taken a turn for the worst and they put everything that they’ve got left into dragging Dominik’s unconscious body as far away as they can.

    Archie and his tirade disappear into everything emanating from his machine. The world becomes so loud and bright that it feels like it has vanished. Time floats before them like a vast expanse of nothingness until it all snaps back into reality, the light and the vibrations being sucked backwards for only a moment before the entire machine explodes and takes the entire summit of Mt. Chimney with it.


    ~*~​
     
  3. Cutlerine

    Cutlerine a lonesome harp guitar

    It's nice to finally see this after hearing you talk about it! And it seems it was worth the wait: I like this glimpse of a could-have-been, in this particular version of Hoenn. You can definitely see its chapterfic origins; there's a broader world here that just barely fits into the one-shot format, with all kinds of intriguing details. Like, this is a world that in some ways feels very true to the games, in that it's a place where community and authority are weak (despite NPCs' claims to the contrary), where it falls to children to face down the apocalypse – but it's also a world where they never really had a chance of stopping that apocalypse.

    You can tell that from really early on, if you look for it, in Kira's confidence that her type advantage is all she needs to beat Flannery. It doesn't occur to her that a gym leader might be a skilled enough type specialist to cover her weaknesses – and that's obviously a really simplistic viewpoint, in a world like this that's very strongly marked by ambiguity and intangible systems like class and wealth. And considering Kira is the one the kids turn to when they need strategy, this doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. It's these excellent little details that add up to form the strongest parts of this story for me!

    I think this is probably the legacy of the chapterfic this once was (with which I'm not familiar, by the way), but I do feel like there might be slightly too many characters for one brief one-shot. It's quite long, so I think there's definitely space for the several kids, but between them all they have a lot of pokémon, and the pokémon each have so little time to get developed as personalities that it's a little difficult to keep track of them all, and harder still to care. The evolutions, for instance, are kind of meaningless; if this was a chapterfic, and we'd seen these creatures develop for many thousand words before now, this would matter, but as it is it's really difficult to share in the kids' exultation. And like sure, it's this marker of the new strength they're attaining just minutes before they all end up getting blown up, but I'm not sure it quite lands for me.

    Part of this is perhaps the way that some of the story feels a bit more drawn-out than it needs to be. That last fight before they reach the summit, against the two mightyena-using grunts, is substantially longer and more well developed than the fight against Archie's pokémon, for example, with all the action in the latter battle being compressed into a couple of lines in which we're told about dodging and striking without actually getting to see it. That throws off the pacing for me, I think, particularly as my patience for yet more fights against random grunts was starting to wear thin at that point; this is a long story building to one single explosive moment, and there might just be a couple more long fights against nameless goons than are strictly necessary.

    Anyway, overall I really enjoyed this; I liked the openness of the ending, where everyone is probably dead but you don't know for sure, and I liked the details we took in en route to that ending. Just to round things off, here are a few other typos, nitpicks and other things I noted as I read through:

    Noun phrases like this are only hyphenated when they're used as like an adjective – so you've got a roof made of corrugated iron, but a corrugated-iron roof. In this case, 'in line' should be unhyphenated.

    That extra S on the end of 'girl' shouldn't be there. I also feel like 'Everyone situated?' is an odd way of phrasing this, but maybe that's just not something people say where I come from?

    You've got one too many 'reallys' here.

    That 'it' shouldn't be there.

    You refer to Kyogre and Groudon like they're proper nouns, as here, but you leave them uncapitalised as if they're just generic common nouns. If the latter, and these pokémon are just one of several of their kind like the rest of the pokémon featured in the fic, then there needs to be some kind of article with these, like 'the kyogre' or whatever; if the former, and they're unique creatures for whom 'Kyogre' and 'Groudon' are names, then they should be capitalised as any other proper noun would be.

    This seems to be a mixture of 'gather its wits' and 'get its bearings'; it should probably be one or other of them.

    This one's debatable because your narrator has a very casual tone of voice, like an American voice just talking normally, and so you could probably get away with what you've got here – but technically that should be 'few', rather than 'little'. Probably more pedantic than is worth bothering with, honestly.

    That should either be 'able to fight' or 'capable of fighting'.

    There's something missing here – maybe a 'so' before 'much'? – that would make this sentence cohere grammatically.

    That should be a full stop after 'explain'.

    I think Dominik should be the subject here for this to be grammatically coherent, not his balance.

    It strikes me as odd that the gyarados' head is sort of rendered as separate to the body by making it the subject of the sentence here; I'd probably go with something more along the lines of 'the beast whipped its head upward' or something.

    This is kinda the same point, actually – one of the weaknesses of your prose for me is that you sometimes phrase things in this kind of roundabout way that reduces the emphasis of a point you're making, or (in dialogue, as here) ends up sounding like something nobody would ever say. Like, people shouting exultantly speak directly and to the point; that Archie employs the circumlocution 'to hope for preventing' doesn't really ring true.

    The repetition of 'entire' here kinda takes away from the impact of this moment, I think.

    And there we go! I liked this a lot, like I said; I'm glad you can now put your old fic to rest – the nagging feeling of an old story begging to be completed is always a difficult thing to shift – and I really look forward to seeing whatever this new series is that you mentioned!
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2018
  4. Firaga Metagross

    Firaga Metagross Auferstanden Aus Ruinen

    It's cool to see that you've reworked an old idea from your past. I totally understand the feeling. Definitely enjoyed the in media res style; seeing a slice of the story with details that don't all have to be explained makes the world feel deep. I especially liked how a somewhat middling part of the magma/aqua struggle from the games is given a much grander note. The stakes of each fight felt much more impressive, especially due to the extra explanation of what the Sapphire would do and the increased danger of the fights. In general, I think the bleak and dangerous atmosphere, which reached its natural conclusion in the ending, was the story's strongest aspect.

    When those elements came together the story worked, but your story also had some weak points that distracted from the primary plot. The entire subplot concerning detective Lang stands out, as does the section with Dominik and the CD. Nothing really comes of either scene; they're the kinds of things that might work if this weren't a one-shot, but here they just feel like a weakness of the in media res aspects. Honestly, instead of these scenes, I'd rather have seen some more character development with the main trainer trio. What development there is here works, but having characters that were more distinct would improve the story's emotional impact.

    Having the trainers' fail in their quest in catastrophic fashion was pretty bold decision and I think you made an interesting story out of it. I just wish I could know about the people in it.
     

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