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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Chapter 62:

"Are you mad? Not every situation requires charging headfirst into danger!" Farn rebutted. "We still have our portion of the Knights' Ledger in the archives, do we not? It holds plenty of information about the true story behind the Great Calamity, and it would certainly cause an uproar among their denizens."

"May I remind you, Farn, that the Imps also have their own part of the Knights' Ledger?" Elilan countered. "If we leak secrets about them, they'd have every reason to respond in kind about the Company's involvement around that time."
Oh man. I'd forgotten that the conflict between the Company and the Empire went back that far. It really helps illustrate the kind of standstill that they're stuck in, and why they're so desperate to use Legendaries to get ahead.
"It's from Commissioner Lyn! The Protector the Empire captured fled from them!" the Pidgeot cried. "The Commissioner's trailing him right now in Captain Ellsberg's ship on a southward path!"
I love that literally no one else in the company knew that Lyn just decided to infiltrate the capitol on his own. xD Somehow I suspect it won't make them feel better about him, though.
"Assignments are given out based on the amount of trust that I as the Company's Director can place in an individual," Inler retorted. "A Pokémon blatantly attempting to engage in self-advancement in a time of crisis simply doesn't merit the same level of trust as one who sits and evaluates the facts at hand first."
Now that's some shutdown.
"Would that be the failure of your aspirations to have a companion parroting your decisions on the Board?"
Oh my godd. I love how Inler is just taking no **** from anyone, lmao.
Nida paused, before shaking her head, and casting a serious glance back up. "No… but I sometimes wonder just whether or not it will last."

"Worry about things as they come," her Swellow captain reassured. "We're all here now and I'm sure you'll have plenty of time to get used to it again."
Aww. This was a cute moment between the two. I kinda found myself wondering the same thing--it almost feels like they'll never have any peace.

It was nice to see everyone enjoying each other's company! And the belching conetest was a much needed bit of silly fun between them. :p
"Make yourselves comfortable," she said. "It'll take a while to recite all this lore…"

The Cubone began to recount of their meeting with Nerea, Nida and Elty chiming in to explain how the Company and the Empire had created a record of the events surrounding the Great Calamity that was so compromising to the two that the pair had moved heaven and earth to keep its volumes secret, with Pioppo being the site of of one of those volumes. All the while, Beatrix and Vicente listened quietly, with unmoving, skeptical faces as Nida ended their recap.
I like how Guardia's the one to relay all this, heh. It also ties in nicely with the opening scene, and sets the stage for the plot focus for this arc.
"You're selling it more than a little short. Magmapool Town is famous for being built right next to a volcano that heats the place up," the Kabutops explained. "Why, there's a bunch of hot springs dotted across the island, then there's the black-sanded beaches, the fire shows…"
I'm already sold :p
There, the lot discovered much to their pleasant surprise that the local guards appeared to be in the business of charging 'tolls' for entry into the rest of the town and its hot springs.
Was this meant to be unpleasant surprise? Since... getting charged out of the blue wouldn't be too pleasant. ^^;
"A Wingull!" Crom interjected. The young Druddigon's exclamation drew raised brows among the members of Team Sentinel, followed by dubious looks back at the strange bird before them. Kiran ruffled his feathers uneasily, realizing that his pupil's explanation surely hadn't sounded convincing… perhaps feigning ignorance would be more believable?

"Or at least we think so! We found him as a feral among a group of other Wingull," Kiran offered. "My student's probably just a bit overweight, really."
Will I ever get tired of Wingull jokes? The answer is no. (Incidentally... are these the contacts ketu has? heheh...)
As Team Traveller made their way over to peruse Alcon's wares, they were blissfully unaware of a brigantine flying white sails with a blue sun pattern pulling into Magmapool Town's port. Aboard it, the Pokémon were tense and wound up, casting wary glances about their surroundings. Above, the form of a small party of flying Pokémon led by a Crobat returned, the Poison-Type flitting down to a Samurott waiting at the bridge.
NO GO AWAY. It was badass to see you wreaking havoc in the Empire capitol, but NO.
The lot of the crew seemed to be lethargic, perhaps taking one of Tromba's fabled midday rests that seemed to have little utility other than to provide excuses for their yearly tribute coming up short yet again.
it is called a SIESTA, you company toolboxes
Ellsberg fumed at Ketu's flippant response, beating his wings agitatedly as he filled the air with seethes and angry moth noises.
angry moth noises

(The bickering between these two is absolute gold.)
The three pirates flinched and peered over the railing, where in the distance between the gaps of the buildings, they saw a large mob of Pokémon marching along a street. The rioting crowd had a livid, barely constrained air to it as the sound of smashing wood and glass faintly carried on the air and glimpses of posters and banners being torn down echoed across the streets.
Oh wow, it's really interesting to see a glimpse of common pokemon responding to all this protector fuss that so far has been pretty removed from everyday life.
"What sort of garbage is that?!" a Mandibuzz squawked. "The Protector blew seafire out into the harbor and away from the ship that took him!"

"Yeah! What sort of kidnapped Pokémon helps their kidnappers?!" a Klang yelled.
Oh wow! That's fascinating that they picked up on that.
"I never considered that there could be something threatening the Empire from within like this," she murmured. "Let alone someone from a family my own's trusted for generations, and here it's now driven away our greatest hope."
Ohohoho, she's going along with their theory that the coil trial drove him away. That's cunning~
Other choices… seemed more impulsive than they needed to be. Guardia took a shine to Swords Dance, much to Elty's displeasure that the Cubone would now be able to able to bat him around harder. Pleo upon hearing Alcon discover his 'compatibility' with Thunderbolt was at once smitten with the idea of being able to churn up a 'glowy beam attack' that would form thunderclaps on command… only to be sorely disappointed along with his peers to discover that their moves, both mundane and exotic, had merely been implanted as a spark and not given them instant knowledge.
I'm always a fan of this portrayal of TMs not being instantly perfect. And it'll be fun to see them with new moves! They deserve it after that tournament.
As soon as the words left his mouth, the ground clattered with the sharp clop of blade-like hooves as a great, blue stag leapt up onto the platform from behind. The creature bowed his head, revealing a large rack of rainbow, tree-like antlers, before throwing them back in front of the wide-eyed audience with a forceful stomp of the ground. The crowd at once erupted into thrilled applause and cheers, the deer prancing around proudly as Pleo stared ahead wide-eyed.
WELL THEN. I was NOT expecting that

Chapter 63:

"But to do that, we're on a journey to try and restore the world to the way it was," the Nuzleaf said. "A grand adventure where the Voice of Life will beat back the decay and bring about an age of new gods and humans to help make things right…
Holy crap this would be huge if true... which is why I'm expecting it to not be. xD;
The Nuzleaf fished out a drawstring bag, and with a flourish set it down on the stage before Xerneas' feet. The crowd peered curiously, before a Darumaka came up and deposited a small pawful of copper coins
hmmmm I now have even more suspicion
"I- I- How can you be so calm around that thing?!" Ander buzzed. "You know nothing about its intentions or what it's capable of beyond a few paintings back at Mengir!"
Honestly I'm with ander here. even though we know pleo is a cinnamon roll, they literally know nothing about 'Xerneas' and shouldn't assume that it's safe to approach.
With that, the pig was launched back by a sudden Silver Wind, sending him pinwheeling into a mast with a startled squeal. With a hateful glare, Ellsberg dove and pursued after the Grumpig, only for the sound of running footsteps and a low snarl to draw his attention to Ken lunging from the side.
Ellsburg has Had Enough, and honestly, I'm here for it.
Nida and Crom blinked and looked to the side where they saw a stern-faced Furret scowling at them, gesturing over at their Lugia teammate over by a display of mirrors of various sizes. There, the seabird was poking his tongue out and making faces in them, giggling amusedly at their distorted appearances. The pair gave sheepish smiles back to the Furret, watching as Dimitri quietly sidled over to Pleo to tap his shoulder, prompting him to turn and hurry back to the rest of the group.
i love him
"Blue deer? No, it was a small, green snake of some sort. I found him traveling with a Gliscor, a Talonflame, and a Sneasel," he explained. "At first when I saw him, I thought he was some variation of Dunsparce, but none of the field notes I had seemed to match up. I was actually thinking of going back to the fringes further west to try and find him again since that's where I last ran into them, but…"
The other Squiggly? :eyes:
Nida shifted uncomfortably, thinking back to the earlier encounter with Team Sentinel. She already felt uneasy when they questioned the team about Pleo earlier, and with him already being revealed in Tidemill, in all likelihood someone on this island had already heard of him… and the more he was talked about, the more likely it was that such a Pokémon would discover that none other than the same Protector was in their midst! With Nagant and Lyn both after them, it was perhaps for the best to err on the side of silence, including to this stranger.
Considering how many times rumors have screwed them over, this is a very good move on her part
"I mean, I am on Community Service right now," the Puppy Pokémon insisted. "I didn't choose to leave the Iron Fleet to be with you guys."

"Weren't you the one who tricked the Bossgodora though?" Guardia retorted. "If you really wanted to be a sea-walker again, why would you go through all that trouble?"
Heh, I like that we're addressing this. So, Elty... what are your plans? >:3
The Scyther waited to hear some response, only to be met with silence. The Bug-Type turned back, seeing the three members of Team Sentinel shifting idly with increasingly skeptical frowns settling over their faces, seemingly unconvinced about the notion of there really being a spy just around the corner.
hmmmm not sure how I feel about them dismissing this...
"Sorge, I wasn't aware we had company around these parts," Aldrich said. "But if it's really a Samurott, I doubt that could be a coincidence…"
Aha, they are the Company spies, I knew it. x3
The Dragonite fanned out the files, revealing them to be personnel files for a Breloom, an Aegislash, and a Charizard,… along with some evidence of past indiscretions that could suitably blackmail them.
Oh MAN, he's put a ton of thought into this. Hot damn. He's vicious.
"And that's just some of the stuff this Protector can do, folks!" a Nuzleaf's voice interrupted. "The Voice of Life! The Rainbow Stag who brings new beginnings! Xerneas!"
This is still just way too conspicuous for me to take seriously. It's gotta be a scam, a trap, something.


Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Um... how does a zygarde core smile with no mouth?
Moving facial features much like a closed-mouth smile, clearly. Even with a good chunk of your face covered, there’s certain “tells” for when someone is smiling that would apply to a Pokémon like a Zygarde Core.

0/10 grapploct isn't patrolling the shore of a body of water like it's supposed to.
To be fair, I’d think that being on a ship is decently close enough.

I mean, it's not inaccurate considering how much property damage you've managed to cause on your archipelago tour. :V
Shh… we don’t talk about that. o3o;;

Doesn't mean much coming from a former— oh, wait, the prose beat me to the joke.
Yeah, Tegu doesn’t take things quite as well as he dishes out.

Isn't Cabot supposed to be the wide-eyed optimist of this trio? :V
To be fair, Niilo tries sometimes. Not very well as you can see here.

I mean... she's not wrong.
Tegu and Niilo would probably contest that there.

I see Crom has learned the rules of PMD fan-fiction.
And game mechanics too!

Mostly a transitional chapter here, so I don't feel like there's all that much for me to say here. I have a sneaking suspicion that Bunsen choosing not to take his morning report on his ship as per usual will play a role in unraveling the plan that's going on here. And I guess something in the interim must've softened Kline up a bit because I was expecting him to make a harder push for ignoring Tromba to get the other half of the Ledger but, nope, he agreed with no resistance.

... now to wait for that to come back and bite him in his nonexistent behind. :p
Well, you’ll see how that plays out soon enough.

I wonder if Cabot had to spend at least one night in his Cranidos-sized bedding or not.
Given that his bed is either a lump of straw or a hammock, I’d imagine he dodged that bullet. Not that the idea wouldn’t be funny.

Reviewing the latest chapter, and much like what Amby said, there's surprisingly little for me to comment on that he hadn't already covered (including me briefly pausing to remember if Kline was doggo or not, because I don't think the bean form has a mouth to smile with.) He also seemed significantly more agreeable than before. Speaking of which, not sure if this was ever pointed out or asked or even hypothesized in-story, but what happens if a cell of Kline's is destroyed? Does he shed a new one? Being so thinly spread, I imagine at least one of those fifty (or hundred if you count the second ziggy) cells ran into trouble.
I’m personally of the school of thought that Zygarde cells regenerate when destroyed much like starfish arms.

Indeed, this is a transitional chapter that's setting everything up, and I'm not sure if it's just a matter of perception or not, but it felt like this chapter was made up of more numerous but overall smaller scenes to quickly get things rolling. I find that almost surprising since nearly everyone is closing in on the same location one way or the other for most of these scenes.
Yeah, you’ll be seeing more and more of that convergence as we get closer to the endgame of this story.

The scene that stood out to me the most in terms of being memorable was Cabot having some mealtime banter with his team. It didn't really advance all that much, but it did at least show a little more conflict with Cabot and his navy life. I can never shake the feeling that it doesn't really suit him and this came off as foreshadowing that, but I could be wrong. It's sort of a hard read. Granted, navy life for a Ground, Rock, and Fire trio is also silly on the face of it, so, who knows! I feel like that dynamic alone is showing that their career is a bit of an uphill battle on an inherent level.
The scene’s primary purpose was moreso to show how Nagant and the others are managing their little secret. For now, they’re managing, though every tightrope walk eventually comes to an end.

Regardless, I'm hoping that the fact that so many things are converging means that we'll get into the action quickly on the powers butting heads. My biggest curiosity: how they will drive away the Company forces while navigating the political weight at the same time.
Whelp, hopefully this coming arc helps to satisfy that curiosity a bit.

@Sike Saner
Wow, Kline certainly seems to have a chip on his largely figurative shoulder about Trizano's village, huh. But then, of course he does, and would probably feel the same if a certain bird were off somewhere fiddling around with the powers of mortality on a large scale, such as... oh, I don't know, making a bunch of zombies or something. Like how a rayquaza in this setting might take offense if they think a kyogre or groudon is overstepping their bounds. Being the third in a legendary trio doesn't guarantee having to mediate between the other two (in fact I think it only does to any extent between those two trios), but the possibility's present enough that, suffice it to say, I don't envy Kline his job. :p
Yeah, it’s not an easy job and while he’s older, Kline is still learning as he goes along himself. Also that whole “tried to take me hostage” moment from Darkwood Square probably wasn’t very endearing, I imagine most Pokémon in a similar situation would have a bit of a chip on their shoulder towards it.

Meanwhile, what the heck, Alice. That was such a silly gambit. And it actually worked! Guess it's a good thing she was on hand, but that sure could've gone pear-shaped, easily.
What can I say? Such gambits run in the blood for her.

And, of course, Cabot continues to be a precious beanasaur.
I’m sure he’d find that endearing even if he’s a bit rougher around the edges now.

@Chibi Pika
I love that literally no one else in the company knew that Lyn just decided to infiltrate the capitol on his own. xD Somehow I suspect it won't make them feel better about him, though.
Probably not, no.

Oh my godd. I love how Inler is just taking no **** from anyone, lmao.
There’s a reason he’s had a long tenure as a Director even after leaving his prime as a Pokémon.

Aww. This was a cute moment between the two. I kinda found myself wondering the same thing--it almost feels like they'll never have any peace.

It was nice to see everyone enjoying each other's company! And the belching conetest was a much needed bit of silly fun between them. :p
I’m glad you enjoyed the moment. Part of what makes Fledglings tick is having moments of levity and goofiness like this.

Was this meant to be unpleasant surprise? Since... getting charged out of the blue wouldn't be too pleasant. ^^;
It’s more a pleasant surprise that they’re allowed beyond the Visitors’ District at all, unlike their experience in Tidemill City.

Oh wow, it's really interesting to see a glimpse of common pokemon responding to all this protector fuss that so far has been pretty removed from everyday life.
Yeah, getting spurned by a deity figure won’t do wonders for your legitimacy.

Ohohoho, she's going along with their theory that the coil trial drove him away. That's cunning~
Yeah, Aleria might be a bit of an airhead, but she’s got more smarts than much of the court gives her credit for. Had she deferred to her advisors’ judgement on how to handle the mob, she would’ve very likely become an ex-Queen right there.

I'm always a fan of this portrayal of TMs not being instantly perfect. And it'll be fun to see them with new moves! They deserve it after that tournament.
I felt that it was a logical setup, since the story would be fairly broken otherwise if Pleo could instantly just Thunderbolt with abandon once getting exposed to the appropriate TM.

Heh, I like that we're addressing this. So, Elty... what are your plans? >:3
He hadn’t quite settled on that with himself at that point in time. You’ll see soon enough though.

Aha, they are the Company spies, I knew it. x3
Yup. You’ll see quite a bit more of those three later on.

Oh MAN, he's put a ton of thought into this. Hot damn. He's vicious.
Yeah, Darzin might functionally be a one-’mon show, but he is a Company Administrator and nothing to be scoffed at.

This is still just way too conspicuous for me to take seriously. It's gotta be a scam, a trap, something.
Well, you’ll see what happens there soon enough.

Also, it’s taken a few days longer than I’d have liked to get things together, but I’m back with a new chapter, and the follow-up to the much awaited return of Team Traveller onto Tromba. In addition, I’m happy to announce that there’s a couple new pieces of art for this story, one of Cabot and one of Nida, so be sure to take some time to check them out.

As always, this story owes its existence to the readers and reviewers that keep things humming along, with special thanks to Virgil134 and Venia Silente who helped with the process of composing and editing this chapter for primetime.

And without further ado, let’s check up again on how our favorite Rescue Team’s been faring back home.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter

In the hills overlooking Bluewhorl Town, the wind carried along through the treetops and gently disturbed the mats and post boxes that were set out along a dirt lane. The normal rhythms of life in the neighborhood had seemingly gone quiet, as most of the inhabitants had either gone off to work for the day or remained huddled up in their burrows and nests to avoid the Company's underlings in town.

From behind the cover of a bush near the path, Kline closed his eye and went into a trance-like state, before opening it and looking back at his teammates with a quick nod. The bush rustled loudly as he, Nida, Pleo, and Dimitri exited out onto the path and followed it towards Nida's familial burrow. Nida hesitated as she neared the mat in front of the entrance, seeing the mailbox unopened and hearing nothing from deeper within. The Nidorina sat on her haunches and turned her ears towards the burrow's entrance as she wavered a moment, until she eventually stepped forward to call into it.

"Mamí? Papí? Are you there?"

Nida's words were answered by shifting from further down the burrow, as the forms of a Nidorino and Nidorina emerged warily, followed by three Nidoran. Marley and Teja blinked at the Nidorina before them, sizing her up when they noticed the form of a young Lugia standing behind her and their eyes widened in realization.

"Nida?!" Marley exclaimed. "Is that you?!"

"It's her! We had a lot of trouble getting back and she's bigger now!" Pleo insisted. "But it's really her!"

Marley stared at her daughter in surprise for a moment, before bounding ahead and pulling her into a firm embrace as the other members of the family gathered around. The mother Nidorina's voice hitched and began to sniffle as she let go, and looked back with a damp-eyed smile.

"My niñita, you've grown so much!"

"Yeah, whatever happened to being the fourth child, huh?" a blue Nidoran demanded. "How on earth did you evolve before anyone else?"

Nida's muzzle curled up in a teasing smirk, as she gave a dismissive wave of her paw back at her sister.

"Well, you know what they say about late bloomers, Ani," Nida jested. "Clearly that applies to hatching order too."

As Nida bantered with her siblings, Teja neared Pleo, giving a curious tilt of his head as he noticed Kline and Dimitri towards the back of his group.

"It's so good to see you again, Protector," the Nidorino said. "Are those two new friends of yours?"

"That's right!" Pleo insisted. "The big one's Dimitri and the small one's Kline! They helped us get back to Tromba!"

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Dimitri greeted, raising one of his scythes. "I'm from the Khranitel Rod and have been helping Pleo since we crossed paths at sea."

"And Kline's another Protector that we met!" Pleo added. "He's the Protector of Conntow and he can turn invisible!"

The Lugia's declaration drew surprised gasps from the gathered Pokémon, the Nidoran of the lot bounding up to crowd around the strange serpent in their midst.

"Wait, the Protector of Conntow?" Orino asked. "But how's that possible?"

"And what's this invisibility look like?" Nida's other brother wondered. "Can you show us?"

Kline let out a sharp huff in reply and hopped away from the Nidoran, before pivoting on his tail and shooting a stern frown at everyone.

"Ahem, not to cut your doting curiosity short, but we don't have time for this," the Zygarde harrumphed. "We'd heard that things had been coming to a boil out here and came to see if anything can be done about it."

Marley twitched her whiskers, as her face took on an increasingly serious, yet puzzled expression.

"… How did you even make it here?" she asked. "The Company sent a Commissioner out here to ambush you all."

"I guess you could say we received… a tip about what's going on here, even if it required some fast thinking to get the ship safely into port," Nida replied. "But we should be fine, at least for now. It's just that we don't really know where the best place to start is at the moment."

"Well, there's mamí's resettlement notice…." Dorin murmured.

A long silence fell over the group as the life seemed to drain from the rest of Nida's family. The younger Nidorina shuffled uneasily, before turning to her brother and waving a paw insistently.

"The Company can't enforce that if we kick them all out of the island, Dorin," Nida insisted. "Hasn't everyone been trying to make that happen?"

"With what? There's three ships full of Pokémon prowling around town, and that blasted Roserade has been handing out resettlement notices left and right," Ani replied. "How's anyone supposed to plan anything big enough to handle that?"

Nida bit her tongue in reply and folded her ears back, her eyes drifting to the ground as she realized that those circumstances did make it rather hard for the town to come up with something on its own. Orino hesitated a moment, before shifting his feet and raising his voice to speak up.

"Yeah, about that…" the Nidoran began. "There might be a start of a plan that could help, though admittedly it still needs quite a bit of work."

The others all turned over to Orino curiously, wondering to themselves just what sort of plan he could possibly have. Pleo opened his mouth to ask, only to trail off before he could say anything when he noticed Kline abruptly stiffening up and closing his eye. Nida's family looked at Kline and gave worried glances over at her and her teammates, Pleo blinking puzzledly before calling out to him.

"… Kline?"

The Zygarde snapped back to attention, turning his head up to the others with a stern expression.

"We don't have any time right now," Kline said. "Hide quick."

Marley and Teja hurried their children, Pleo, and Kline down the burrow to take cover. Dimitri attempted to join his teammates, only to find that his head and shoulders were too broad to fit down the winding burrow. After a few futile attempts to twist and contort his way down, he felt Teja paw at his leg, making him hastily pull his head back out in time to see Sicula approaching with a small party of underlings. The Kabutops quickly started up some idle chatter about the sea to Marley and Teja, trailing off as the Roserade neared and completely ignored his presence to beeline towards Marley.

"We've waited long enough, Nidorina," Sicula spat. "There's a spot on the boat out to Vollezee with your name on it."

"Qué diablos?!" Marley exclaimed. "We weren't supposed to move for several days!"

"Hmph, the Company has decided to expedite your relocation," the Grass-Type huffed. "Get the rest of your family and whatever belongings you wanted to bring along, since you're leaving now."

The Nidorina shot back a withering glare, visibly restraining herself from throwing herself at the Roserade before she turned and reluctantly made her way down the burrow, followed closely by Teja. As Sicula watched the two Poison-Types slip underground, she turned her attention to Dimitri, who had stood by awkwardly watching the proceedings.

"And who are you supposed to be?" the Roserade demanded.

"I was just passing through to talk to some of the locals," Dimitri insisted. "I'm from a traveling rod, so I like to do that whenever we pass by an island."

Sicula looked over the Kabutops carefully, noting that he bore no scarf, and instead wore a blue-and-red belt about his waist. The Grass-Type's eyes narrowed and Dimitri grimaced, thinking that perhaps the Roserade had found him out, when her voice disrupted his train of thought.

"In case you haven't noticed, this island isn't exactly open for tourists right now," she snapped. "I've seen your buddies in the harbor over the past few days, so stick with them until we're done here."

Dimitri's eyes widened at the revelation that his own rod had already made it into the waters around Tromba. The Kabutops reflexively opened his mouth to ask what Sicula knew, only to catch himself and swiftly clamp his mouth shut when she abruptly cut him off.

"And for the record, what happens on land is our problem, not yours," the Roserade growled. "We stick to affairs above water, you stick to them below. Are we clear?"

The Kabutops hesitated a moment, before nodding his head back with a low grunt.

"… Crystal."

Sicula huffed and turned away when the sound of footsteps rang out, revealing Marley and Teja emerging with two of their children and a small collection of bags. The Roserade scowled at Marley and Teja upon seeing the amount of Nidoran with them, prompting her to speak up with a sharp shout.

"Hey! There were supposed to be ten of you after your kid in our ranks and your missing brat were taken out," the Grass-Type barked. "Where are the rest?"

"The young ones are still at the Day Care right now," Teja insisted. "We weren't expecting to have to leave on such short notice, so-"

"Spare me the explanation," Sicula spat. "We'll go along with you there, and don't get any ideas about trying to stall us."

The Roserade and her underlings stepped forward and unceremoniously shoved the family of Poison-Types off, leaving the burrow to return to silence. After a few uneasy moments, Orino poked his head out before Nida and her teammates emerged in front of the hastily-vacated burrow, the group trading worried looks with each other.

"… What do we do now?" Pleo murmured.

"Like I was saying… Mosca and the rest of us have the start of a plan," Orino explained. "We hadn't made a whole lot of progress yet, but with you and another Protector here, maybe things can change for the better."

"Let's hear what she has to say, then," Nida replied. "Lead the way."

The purple Nidoran hopped ahead, leaving Nida and the rest of the team to follow along after his tracks, wondering all the while just what sort of plan the town's Dojo Maestra could have been working on.

On the grounds of Tromba's guild, the atmosphere had remained tense since the arrival of Commissioner Bunsen and his fleet. While the island's guild had attempted to carry on with some semblance of normalcy, Hatteras had remained under house arrest within the short lighthouse overlooking the grounds that doubled as his domicile. On that day, just like the three before it, a pair of guards had been posted at the lighthouse's door, the current shift consisting of a Lickilicky and a Dugtrio who fought against boredom and their own restlessness to stay alert at their posts.

"How much longer is our shift again?" the Lickilicky asked. "We've been watching this sheep's hut since the crack of dawn."

"Until after lunch," the Dugtrio answered. "Just stay focused, it's not as if it's been a hard task so far."

The Lickilicky frowned back when he caught the sight of movement in the skies in the background, watching as the forms of a Gliscor and a Talonflame landed just outside the guild complex a short distance away. The Lickilicky pawed at his counterpart, drawing the Dugtrio's attention as the two Flying-Types began to walk over.

"… Wait, I thought that 'Hatteras' 'mon wasn't supposed to have visitors," the Lickilicky said, prompting the Dugtrio to curl her mouths into a sharp frown.

"He wasn't."

The Lickilicky's features hardened into a harsh glare as Percy and Calidus neared, the Normal-Type stepping forward to cut the pair off with a sharp growl.

"Hold it! What are you two doing here?" the Lickilicky demanded.

"We're here to see the Guildmaster," Percy replied. "We were told that we could find him here."

"He's not accepting visitors right now," Dugtrio huffed. "Move along."

"Huh? But we were dispatched by our own guildmaster!" Calidus protested. "Her last three letters to him all went unanswered and she wanted a team to go and check up on him."

"Well, he's still alive," the Lickilicky insisted. "Go home and let her know that."

Percy and Calidus hesitantly looked at each other, before the Gliscor of the pair spoke up, raising out a claw to try and calm the guards' mood.

"Surely we can be reasonable here…" he began.

Percy and Calidus continued on with their attempts to hold the guards' attention, delving into one story after another of how Guildmaster Hatteras and their own guildmaster were old friends, how they had come to know each other, and why it was imperative for them to pass their message along. As the pair slowly whittled away at the guards' patience, a bush overlooking the lighthouse rustled and shifted as Kiran and Trizano poked their heads out

"It looks like the coast is clear right now," Kiran whispered.

"Go on before someone flies by," Trizano said. "I'll keep an eye on things from here."

Kiran crept out of the bush and flew up to the lighthouse's roof, sneaking along the back edge when he noticed the door on the lighthouse's balcony had been left ajar. After checking to ensure the Lickilicky and Dugtrio were still preoccupied with Percy and Calidus below, the Swellow flew down, hurriedly ducking past the doorway and down the stairs to a vacant second floor bedroom where he looked about the surroundings warily.

"Hatteras? Estás ahí?"

The Flying-Type was answered by creaking wood and the sound of hesitant footsteps climbing up from the ground floor. A short moment later, the Swellow was greeted by Hatteras' head poking up above the stairs, the elderly sheep climbing the last few steps up with a surprised gape.

"Kiran? How did you get here?"

"That can wait for later, Guildmaster," the bird answered, fanning out his wings. "We'd heard that there was trouble in town, so me and the others on the ship wanted to know if there was anything we could do to help."

Hatteras lowered his head with a deflated sigh, giving a shake back in response to the Swellow.

"I don't know how much I can help you there," the Ampharos replied. "Commissioner Bunsen's been keeping me penned up here without any visitors to pass word along to."

"Well, we have to try something," Kiran insisted. "This state of affairs is 100% unsustainable, and we already sent Nida to check up on Marley to see if they could organize a revolt. Surely there has to be someone else we can turn to…"

Hatteras blinked back at the Swellow's musings, giving a puzzled tilt of his head.

"I'm surprised it's you asking me that Kiran," the Electric-Type remarked as he pointed at the bird's breast. "Why, the answer is sitting pinned right on your scarf."

"My… scarf?"

Kiran turned his head down, when he saw the glinting form of his Rescue Team badge pinned to the scarf's fabric. The Swellow gave Hatteras a puzzled look, prompting the Ampharos to give a sagely nod back.

"The guild is one of the more organized groups in Bluewhorl, that's why as Mayor Hatteras, I always turned to them for help in times of trouble," the sheep explained. "Perhaps it also makes sense to start with them now."

"I'd thought of that, but with over sixty members just on the active roster and me not having a real clue as to what's been happening since the Company came back here, where would I even start?"

Hatteras paused and stroked his chin thoughtfully, before shaking his head and speaking back up.

"Try contacting Team Cloudburst, Team ESP, and Team Sawtooth," he said. "I think those three would be able to help wrangle everyone in short order."

"Their experience would certainly help out, so I suppose that's as good a place to begin as any…" Kiran mused. "I'll try starting from there then, Guildmaster Ha-"

"Oi, I'm going to say this one last time! There's no visitors, no letters, no nothing!" a Dugtrio's voice snapped. "Now buzz off if you know what's good for you!"

Kiran and Hatteras turned towards the window where they saw the guards outside starting to get visibly agitated with Percy and Calidus. Kiran bit his tongue and grimaced, wondering how much longer their distraction could hold when Hatteras raised his brow and looked back at the Swellow.

"Friends of yours?" the Ampharos asked.

"Recent ones, yes," Kiran answered. "Though I suppose that's my cue to take wing."

"Buena suerte," Hatteras said. "And may the gods smile on your efforts."

"Yours too, Guildmaster."

Hatteras followed Kiran up to the platform above, watching as the Swellow hastily took flight off towards the sea. The arguing from the entrance died down, the Ampharos turning his head to see Percy and Calidus falling back as the guards grumbled and returned to their posts. After watching the guards safely train their attention back to the entrance, Hatteras turned towards Kiran as he flew off, following the Swellow's course until he slipped out of view amid the tangle of sails in the harbor.

He had done what he could to aid them. Now, his fate, and that of the entire village lay in the paws of the Siglo Swellow and the rest of the townsfolk.

In Vollezee, the best and brightest of the Company's next generation were nurtured in Canalhouse City's great Academy. The school was built in a great complex of long, stone buildings centered around a square building set behind a courtyard that lay on both sides of a canal dividing two of the city's islets that were connected by a pair of arched bridges. The east and west wings of the building that bridged the two sides of the canal were built over a series of five arches, three above the water in the center to allow swimming Pokémon passage, and two on each side for more terrestrial Pokémon.

At the top of each hour, the courtyard and canal would teem with Pokémon departing from various courses and stopping to mingle with each other. On the south side of the building, the ground floor had been built out into a windowed walkway that carried on up and over the archways, with shops filling the spaces opposite of the windows that dutifully pried loose the Thalers from the students' pursestrings. Today was no different, as Inler walked into the courtyard, making his way over to his way over to the statue of the Company's first Director that he himself had commissioned as part of Canalhouse City's expansion, paying no mind to the gapes and whispers his presence drew from passing Pokémon as he keenly watched the doors ahead of him into the complex and the students filing out of them. There, among them, the Nidoking spotted the bounding forms of a trio of Nidoran in plain lavender scarves, the lot carrying on a brief ways before they turned and saw Inler waiting for them much to their delighted surprise.

"Oh! Opa!"

Inler craned his head down to see the three Nidoran scampering up and pawing at his legs as the nearby Company Pokémon stopped and watched as the little spike balls bounded about excitedly around the elderly Nidoking.

"What are you doing here?" a purple Nidoran asked. A small smile spread over Inler's muzzle, as he stooped to pet his grandson's head.

"I just wanted to check in," the Nidoking answered. "You have been learning well, haven't you?"

The Nidoran chimed in with cheerful affirmations one after the other, when their voices were stilled by the sound of a loud thump and growling voice.

"They've been learning fine. Thanks for your concern."

A Nidorina sauntered up, giving a sharp glance up at Inler as he and the Nidorina stared at each other in a tense, awkward silence. The three Nidoran shifted uneasily, when Inler broke the silence by speaking up in a flat, unenthusiastic tone.

"Hello Fritha, it's been a while since we last spoke," he said.

"Hmph, I think it's best we keep it that way," the Nidorina scoffed. "Come on kids, let's go. You have practice with your Baccer team today."

"But classes barely let out!" the blue Nidoran protested. "And Baccer doesn't start until-"

"No buts. Move it already."

The Nidoran let out a chorus of disappointed groans and began to file over towards the Nidorina. Inler curled his mouth down into a disappointed frown and raised his voice in a disapproving tone.

"Fritha, if the kids aren't feeling up for Baccer right now, perhaps it's best to give them a break," Inler insisted. "There's no reason to be so rigid with them."

The Nidorina narrowed her eyes into an acidic glare, before letting out a frustrated huff in reply.

"Somehow, I don't ever recall that being a problem for you."

Inler fell silent at Fritha's reply, shaking his head back with a low sigh.

"Some things you don't learn until you've come of age," he said. "It's too late for me to change the things I would've done differently, but there's no reason for you to do the same."

"You get chances every day to do things differently with your 'family'," she spat. "Why, you're wearing its scarf right now!"

The Nidorina turned away and hurried her children off, the three glumly glimpsing back as Inler stood and watched the lot depart. The Nidoking hung his head and pinched his brow, as Zorn swam past with a Magikarp in tow, the Gyarados stopping to crane his head down towards the Company Director with a puzzled look.

"Wasn't that your daughter, Director?" the Gyarados asked. "Why did you just let her get away with brushing you off like that?"

Inler narrowed his eyes into a sharp scowl, training a piercing glare back at the Gyarados that made him shrink back in the water.

"That's none of your concern," the Nidoking growled. "Have a nice afternoon, Administrator Zorn. I have other matters to tend to right now."

Inler turned and shuffled off from the chastened Gyarados, the Nidoking looking off as Fritha and his grandchildren slipped from view amidst the crowds in the hallway. The Poison-Type folded his ears back and continued off for his office in darker spirits than when he'd left it.

The highest point in all of Anyilla was the central peak of Gestirn Island, a towering mountain that pierced into the sky where the snow frosting it intermingled with the clouds above and a foggy veil that ran along its north face down to its base. The mountain cascaded down to the sea, terminating in gently rolling foothills wreathed in spruce trees that hosted its fields and its outpost of civilization: Starpeak Square.

"Kommt zurück, ihr Diebe!"

In normal times, Starpeak Square was a sleepy seaside town of painted-timber huts under the watchful gaze of the local Duke's castle in the hills above. That day, smoke curled up from the town as Wilhelm and Kichiro flitted away from a ransacked shop and into a square built around a fountain as a livid Drampa gave chase. A gout of blue dragonfire zipped overhead, prompting Wilhelm to wheel around with a yellow cloud of paralyzing spores, freezing the Dragon-Type in his tracks.

"Just try and stop us!" the Hoppip cried. "The crew of the Siglo Swellow takes as it pleases!"

Kichiro frowned and shook his head slightly at Wilhelm's theatrics, before taking out an orange-scaled seed from his bag.

"Here! Have a Tromban farewell!" the Ledian jeered.

The Bug-Type hurled the Blast Seed at the Drampa's shop, the orange missile finding its mark on a set of steps at the entrance before exploding into a ball of fire that swallowed up the shopfront. The Drampa looked on in stunned horror, as Wilhelm flitted up, jeering down at the hapless shopkeeper from above.

"Ha ha! Nothing can stop the mighty crew of the Siglo-!"

Wilhelm's boast was cut off by a hail of sharp stones zipping right past his fronds, making him wheel back with a frightened squeal. Kichiro turned his head and saw a party of guards led by a Krookodile charging ahead, prompting him to hastily yank Wilhelm and fly off back for the harbor. There, they saw Hess and a number of their crewmates taking cover behind upended crates, throwing attacks back at the town as Hess motioned with his claw for his underlings to hurry aboard the Mistral Marauder.

"Our job here's done!" the Aggron shouted. "Come on!"

Kichiro and Wilhelm hastily dove aboard the deck as one after the other, a frantic scramble of pirates made their way back onto the deck. The sails were lowered and the moorings were hastily cut as the Mistral Marauder lurched off under a hail of attacks. Hess grabbed onto the rope ladder up to the deck when a bolt of electricity zipped by and prompted him to wheel about towards the approaching guards with an angry snarl.

"Knock it off already!" he roared.

Hess jumped into the water from the rope ladder and churned up a large wave that he sent barrelling into the crowd of guards that drew a chorus of pained and confused shouts. Back on the Mistral Marauder, the ship jolted forward as the sea and air escorts whipped up a current and a tailwind, the crack of cannonfire and errant Apricorns zipping overhead ringing out as Kichiro barked out orders to the other fliers and Wilhelm hugged the deck for dear life. Slowly, the fire grew more sporadic and fainter, the pair looking up to see Gestirn starting to shrink into the distance as the lumbering form of the ship's Aggron captain climbed aboard dripping seawater with a relieved sigh.

"Well, mission accomplished," Hess said.

"'Mission accomplished?!'" a Charmeleon fumed. "I barely snagged a clawful of loot from that raid!"

"Yeah! How was any of that worth what we got out of it?" a Chingling chimed in. The pair's protests were quickly joined in with a chorus of displeased grumbles from the other pirates, prompting Hess to raise a claw and motion for silence.

"Hey, we were just asked to raise some hell out there," the Aggron insisted. "We did that, and we didn't lose anybody this time. That's good enough, isn't it?"

"But where's the loot?" a Wimpod demanded.

Hess grimaced as his underlings' complaints took on an increasingly testy air, when their grumbling was quickly silenced by the sound of wood rolling against the deck as Rodion brought a large keg to a stop with his foot.

"There was a brewery near the shoreline that I and some of the swimmers helped clean out," he chimed in. "We managed to get a dozen of these kegs full of Gestirn Pilsner, more than enough for all of us."

The Floatzel's reassurance was met with an annoyed buzz, as Kichiro flitted up and shot an unimpressed scowl over at the wooden keg.

"Oh come on, Rodion," the Ledian spat. "You can't seriously expect that we're all going to suddenly be satisfied by a little-"

"Wait, Pilsner? Isn't that beer?" a Drednaw asked.

"Yeah, Gestirn's supposed to make the best beer in Anyilla!" a Cherrim exclaimed.

"Send some this way!" a Litten cried.

The pirates eagerly crowded around the keg and began to help themselves to portions of frothy ale from within, their earlier mood having dissipated into a carnival atmosphere as Kichiro looked on with an annoyed frown and buried his face into an open hand.

"Ugh… why am I not surprised?"

Rodion watched the pirates' festivities with a moment's self-satisfied smile, before his features eased and he turned back to the ship's Aggron captain.

"We should start thinking of ways to get out of this 'arrangement' we're in and go back to our normal raids," the Floatzel said. "Something about that Commissioner just doesn't feel right, and we shouldn't wait to find out why."

"Hrmph, not that I don't agree, but we don't exactly have a lot of cards to play there," Kichiro grumbled. "What are we supposed to do? Just abandon our new spot on the Council and sail off from Anyilla?"

"Look, I don't like our situation either, but we'd be putting a huge target on our backs if we try ditching that Samurott," Hess insisted. "I don't think even sailing for other waters would get that off of us."

The Aggron shook his head, turning his attention towards the kegs as he tried to reassure his first mate and head flier.

"Just relax a bit, we'll have plenty of time to figure that out. Besides, I'm a bit thirsty right now."

Rodion and Kichiro watched as Hess joined his underlings, snatching a whole keg for himself and hoisting it to drink without a care in the world. The pair looked at each other a moment, before following after their captain. The solution to escaping their blackmail would still be around after a drink, and who knew? Perhaps Gestirn Pilsner would be just the thing to get their creative sparks flying.

Back in Bluewhorl Town, Elty and the others in his group quietly made their way further inland from the harbor along the town's lanes. While Bluewhorl had always been on the sleepy side, the streets that day were largely empty, enough so that the Growlithe and his teammates would occasionally slow their pace to check up on their surroundings whenever there didn't seem to be any watching guards present. As they went further into town, the lot found themselves near the main square, scouting about as they closed the last few streets on their way to Mirlia's juice bar.

"So… you're sure that your old friends are at Mirlia's?" Ander asked.

"They're still my friends, but yeah. One of my buddies works there, and it's usually pretty quiet there during the day, so we always tried to meet up there when we could," Elty replied, his answer drawing a puzzled raise of Crom's brow.

"Wait, but I thought you always went there during your break to order Shuca juice," the Druddigon said.

"Well yeah, that too," the Growlithe answered. "But you guys never would have let me go there in the middle of training if I told you I was splitting drinks with Pyry, Pekka, and the others."

Crom curled his maw into a disapproving frown, when the sound of sneering laughter made Alice motion for a pause and prompted the group to turn their heads down a nearby side street. The five peered around the corner, seeing the laughter was coming from a Politoed and a Carkol in lavender scarves cornering a Meowth, the Politoed of the pair knocking a crate filled with empty bottles out of the Meowth's paws.

"Hey, hick. Pick up those bottles."

The Meowth stammered and stooped down to pick up one of the bottles, only for the Carkoal to cut in and knock it back out of the Normal-Type's grasp. From their hiding place, Guardia tightened her grip on her club, stomping forward when Alice latched onto her shoulder and forcefully pulled her back.

"Not yet," the Sneasel insisted. "I don't like it any more than you do, but we've got one chance to get the drop on them and we can't use it up here."

Guardia paused before turning and grudgingly nodding back. As the guards continued to harass the Meowth, Elty shook his head and let out a low sigh, before shuffling along to continue on to Mirlia's bar.

"Let's just move along for now."

One after the other, Elty and his teammates pressed on, following the path until they found the familiar juice bar nestled beside the town's glassblower shop. The group made it up to the door and pushed it open to step inside, where they saw Mirlia and Minia behind the counter, along with Pyry, Pekka, and a number of their fellows at a few of the tables who turned and jolted out of their seats in surprise.

"Eltenios?! What are you doing here?!" Pyry cried.

"Yeah, weren't you supposed to be somewhere at sea right now?!" Pekka chittered. "How on earth did you get back?"

Mirlia stared at the door as she watched Crom and Ander enter, Minia clambering out of her mother's pouch and onto the bar as the barkeep Kangaskhan blinked in astonishment.

"Crom? Ander? How are you two here?" Mirlia asked. Her daughter tilted her head puzzledly for a moment, before her eyes lit up excitedly.

"Ah! You must've brought the Protector back!" Minia exclaimed. "So then you're here to kick those mean Company Pokémon out!"

"We are, but we're not ready to do it just yet," Crom explained. "We're gonna need some help first."

"That's where I come in!" Alice chimed in. "The name's Alice. I'm a new friend of theirs and have some experience fighting those square-necks."

"And I'm called 'Guardia'," the Cubone of their number added. "I'm a traveling lorekeeper gathering tales about your backwards, hut-dwelling lives."

Elty and Crom furrowed their brows with long frowns at Guardia's introduction, the pair unable to shake a sense of absurdity at the idea of a 'mon who'd lived in a cave her whole life up until a couple weeks ago calling them backwards. The Druddigon rolled his eyes, supposing that some habits took a bit longer for ferals to unlearn than others.

"Uhm… yeah, something like that," Crom murmured. "But we also came here to ask for your help."

Pyry, Pekka, and their peers traded skeptical looks with one another. A Sableye and Jigglypuff stepped up to the fore, the Sableye of the two giving a dubious frown back.

"… Eh? Just what are you expecting us to do?" he demanded.

"Yeah, last time your bird friend got wiped across the floor by Company 'mons just like the ones in port," the Jigglypuff insisted. "His whole 'surprise windstorm' thing didn't exactly come in to bail him out, so why would this time be any different?"

"Because Pleo has gotten stronger during his journey," Guardia piped. "So there's no reason to assume things will play out the same way this time."

"That said… we're not fully sure how much extra muscle we'll need if things turn out to be tougher than we expect," Elty said. "Which is where you come in."

"Wait, what?! Why on earth would we want anything to do with that?!" a Quilava cried.

"Yeah, if you guys can't handle it, what sort of difference do you expect us to make?" an Ekans demanded. "Those square-necks would probably punt us into the Wastes after they're through with us!"

"And even if they don't, we'd probably wish they did," a Zebstrika grumbled. "Don't think we haven't heard those stories about what goes on at that prison complex they run on Nagrobek."

"Well… yes, but it's not as if you'd get nothing out of it. After I stuck my neck out for Nida and Pleo when they got forced on the run, they started looking out for me," Elty explained. "If you do that, I'm sure that the town will at least think of you as more than just a bunch of deadbeats providing free labor."

The Growlithe's reply drew back skeptical murmurs and grumbles from the gathered pirates, none of whom showed much sign of being swayed by Elty's testimony.

"Yeah, well that'd be nice if things worked out," the Quilava harrumphed. "But even a Slowpoke could see the odds that we're up against here and tell that it's a bad bet."

"Pah, what sort of pirates are you all supposed to be?!"

The pirates looked about surprisedly as Alice hopped onto a table, folding her arms and looking down at the gathering with an impatient huff.

"Being a pirate's all about taking risks for glory and a payout! To tell all the naysayers wrong if you make it, and say that you at least took a chance even when things come up short!" the Sneasel exclaimed. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think you lot were a bunch of scaredy Skitty content to just cower and grovel in the shadows while those square-necks stepped all over you!"

"Oi!" Mirlia snapped. "Watch who you accuse of cowering and groveling there-!"

Alice gave a shush back and winked before turning back to the pirates, leaving Mirlia to quiet down with a small frown as the Sneasel shot a challenging grin at the former brigands.

"So what's it going to be?" she insisted. "Are you going to just sit here drinking and waiting as things get worse, or are you going to take the leap when there's two Protectors here looking to help you out and grab at a brighter future?"

The Sneasel's remark made the bar's patrons jolt up with stunned stares, the silence being broken with an incredulous outcry from the Sableye.

"Two Protectors?"

"Why didn't you say anything about that earlier?!" Minia exclaimed.

"You never asked," Alice said, giving a teasing shrug in reply. Mirlia and Minia traded looks with each other before Elty shook his head and turned back to speak to his peers.

"Look, if you're really set on laying low, there's nothing that we can really do about it. But this is as good of a chance to get one over these Company dupki as we're all going to get in a very long time," the Growlithe added. "So won't you help out? For old times' sake?"

"… I'm in. It's high time my claws did something other than knead dough all day," Pyry grunted.

"Yeah, me too!" Pekka insisted. "Let's show those square-necks they're biting off more than they can chew!"

The other pirates chimed in with hoots and hollers of agreement, making Elty and his teammates trade contented grins with each other. As the lot basked in their turn of fortunes, Minia turned her head and looked about, before piping up with a start.

"Huh? Wasn't Ander just here?" she asked. "Where'd he go?"

Elty, Alice, Crom, and Guardia looked about the room, and noticed that sure enough, Ander really was nowhere to be found. Crom darted up to the doorway, pulling the door open only to see nothing but an empty lane outside. The Druddigon lingered a moment, he and his teammates wondering to themselves why Ander would leave so suddenly… and where he could have gone.

After a quick stop by the family field where Orino hastily appropriated a crate on a wheeled frame, Nida and the rest of her team made their way through town with Pleo and Kline hidden safely inside. The three carried along slowly, taking side streets and proceeding cautiously when they simply couldn't evade the attention of Bunsen's underlings, the five eventually finding themselves at Mosca's Dojo. There, Orino led the others around the back towards a small entrance and tapped a series of short and long beats on the door with a forepaw and looked up as a wooden slat clattered and slid rightward to reveal a pair of hawk eyes looking through. The door creaked open as the Dojo's Hawlucha master stepped out, sizing up the Orino and the unexpected company with him.

"Orino? And is that… Nida?" Mosca asked. "What are you two doing here? And who is your Kabutops friend with the crate?"

"His name is Dimitri and he's here to help," the purple Nidoran explained. "As for the crate… well, something came up."

Dimitri wedged the tip of his blade under the crate's lid and pried it up, drawing a rustle inside. Mosca raised a brow puzzledly and looked into the crate, coming face to face with Pleo looking back up at her. The Hawlucha let out a surprised gasp, prompting Nida to hastily shush the Flying-Type and motion for a pause.

"We're at risk of getting spotted out here," the Nidorina insisted. "Let's talk more inside."

The Hawlucha stared down in flustered silence, before nodding back and motioning with a claw for the group to follow.

"… Come on in."

Nida and her companions filed in, wheeling the crate into a drab room filled with crates where a number of Mosca's assistants began to gather around as the Hawlucha shut the door behind them. The Pokémon eyed the crate suspiciously, only for Mosca to pull the lid of the crate away and Pleo to poke his head out much to the helpers' gasping surprise.

"Protector?!" a Glaceon cried.

"Is that really you?!" a Zubat exclaimed.

"Uh-huh!" Pleo nodded. "I'm all here!"

As Mosca's assistants in the dojo stepped forward to behold their returned Protector, Kline hopped up onto the rim of the crate, the serpent catching Mosca's attention and making her turn her head with a puzzled tilt.

"And who is this with you?" the Hawlucha asked.

"Oh, that's Kline!" Pleo chirped. "He's another Protector called Zygarde!"

The gathered Pokémon murmured in awe, approaching one after the other towards the strange serpent when he narrowed his eye back in annoyance and sharply spoke up.

"Not that I'm one to turn down a little doting adoration, but I believe that you were working on some sort of plan for a revolt?" Kline chided. "Let's hear about that first."

Mosca caught herself, blinking a moment before straightening up and brushing at the plumage on her chest and awkwardly clearing her throat.

"Right. Come along."

Mosca bade Team Traveller, Orino, and Kline to follow her over to the Dojo's courtyards, where the mock dungeon had been set up on one of the battlefields. Nida and her companions watched as Mosca filed in, following after puzzledly until the Hawlucha eventually uncovered a hidden partition with a darkened space behind it. The group entered the chamber while Mosca uncovered a lamp with glowmoss, revealing that they were standing in a large room anchored by a central table with maps and papers strewn about. Pleo and his companions blinked in surprise at the hidden room, as Orino bounded up to Mosca's side behind the table.

"Welcome to the big war room, if you want to call it that," the Nidoran said. "Mosca's been meeting with us here to figure out who we can reach out to and what we can do to push back against Bunsen and his lackeys, but we hadn't gotten far enough yet to figure out how we'd pull it off. Now that you guys are here, this changes everything."

"… What exactly have you planned so far?" Nida asked.

"Well, first off, we're going to break out Osmund and hide him in the island's interior for a few days. He's a strong fighter and knows who can be trusted among the guards, both of which we'll need if we're going to drive out Bunsen," Mosca explained. "Plus if he escaped his cell, it would force the guards to waste time trying to track him down and give us a freer claw back in town."

"Getting him out shouldn't be too hard either," Orino offered. "I know where they're keeping the master key inside the Guardhouse and there's a secret entrance that Bunsen's lackeys don't know about. So we can use those to spring Osmund from there."

The Nidoran's explanation drew puzzled blinks back from Nida and her teammates, Dimitri stepping up with a surprised tilt of his head.

"Wait, there's a secret entrance inside of the cellblock?" the Kabutops asked.

"Well… not exactly. It goes to a storage room on the other side of the Guardhouse, and it's locked from the inside," Orino replied. "But it's still better than nothing!"

Orino's explanation made the other Pokémon trade dubious stares with one another and whisper to each other under their breaths. Kline hesitated a moment, before hopping up and training an insistent gaze up at Mosca.

"Assuming you manage to break him out, what would you do next?" the Zygarde questioned.

"We'd call up everyone able and willing to fight and attack different positions used by Bunsen's underlings all at once to force them to abandon the town," Mosca answered. "We're still figuring out what places we'd need to fight for to force them to retreat out to sea and keep them from forming a redoubt where they could wait for outside help, but we still have some time to work with. They're planning on shipping out the folks who got a relocation notice in five days, so our best time to strike will be before then."

"But we don't have five days!" Nida protested. "Mami just got taken!"

"Wait, what?!"

Mosca's beak hung open in shock, the Hawlucha whirling over to Orino with an alarmed look that made the purple Nidoran lower his ears and nod back glumly.

"… It's true," he sighed. "It seems like they're planning on shipping out everyone today."

Mosca stared ahead blankly for a moment, before hanging her head and pinching her brow with a claw.

"… I just don't know how we could make everything happen on such short notice," she muttered.

"Well… what would we need to start?" Pleo asked.

"Getting everyone together, for a start. I don't know how we'd figure out every place to attack to drive out Bunsen and his lackeys, but we'd have to at least begin with whatever staging area they're using to deport everyone," Mosca replied. "Some of the best fighters in town got served notices, and we'd really struggle without their help otherwise."

"I can help with sending word out," Kline offered. "We'd admittedly need to play the process of finding any strategic positions that Bunsen's underlings have taken over by ear, but if I can find your allies across an entire town, finding targets can't be that much harder."

"And I'll help with getting the 'mons the Company's trying to resettle into battle alongside us," Nida added. "Mami is there, and I'm not just letting her get shipped away if I can help it!"

"We might as well go for Osmund too at this point, Mosca," Orino suggested. "If it's really now or never, we're going to need his help, and keeping the guards distracted closer to the edge of town will give you the time you need to regroup to try and drive out Bunsen's lackeys."

Pleo paused and rubbed a wing against his chin deep in thought. Between getting everyone in town to fight, coming to Marley's aid, and freeing Osmund, there was no shortage of Pokémon who needed his help…

"I guess that means that I ought to go with-"

"Orino," Kline interrupted, prompting Pleo to turn his head back in surprise.

"Huh? But why wouldn't I go with Nida?"

"Because my skills are better used in an unpredictable battle like that, and if breaking out Osmund is going to serve as a distraction, it'd only be natural that Commissioner Bunsen would send more 'mons after it. You wouldn't want Orino and Osmund to handle that all on their own, would you?" the serpent asked. "Besides, if both of us fight on one team and we get overwhelmed, we risk both getting captured at once. At least if we separate, we can come to each other's aid if the worst comes to pass."

Pleo ruffled his feathers and hesitated a moment, before grudgingly realizing that the Zygarde had raised a fair point. Even so, something didn't sit well about the idea of going into harm's way while splitting up from his teammates along with a Pokemon he didn't know all that well, as much sense as it seemed to make.

"I mean, if you're sure about this…" he murmured. The young Lugia sidled up alongside Orino, Mosca quickly counting heads in the emerging groups before realizing that Dimitri hadn't yet been accounted for.

"What about you, Dimitri?" she wondered. "What team are you going with?"

The Kabutops paused and thought the matter over for a moment, before he spoke up to answer the Hawlucha.

"Actually… maybe neither of them," he replied, drawing puzzled blinks from the rest of the group.

"What do you mean by that?" Kline pressed. "You surely don't mean to just sit here with everything that's going on."

"Well, when that Roserade was leading Nida's mother off, she'd told me that my rod had been hanging out in the harbor," Dimitri said. "If we're starting this fight with this little preparation, wouldn't it make sense to try and get their help?"

"That's a fair point," Mosca responded. "You've certainly sold me on the idea."

"Right," Dimitri nodded back. "I'll go and find them right away."

The Kabutops gave a parting wave of his scythe before ducking out for the room's exit. Orino and Pleo watched as their teammate departed, starting off to exit themselves when Mosca's voice called after them.


Pleo stopped, turning his head back to see Mosca looking at him with a worried, but strangely hopeful look in her eyes.

"Good luck out there," the Hawlucha said. "We'll all be counting on you."

"Right," the Lugia replied. "We'll be back to help you soon, I promise!"

"I know you will," Nida insisted, giving a small smile back to her teammate. "We'll be waiting for you out there."

The Nidorina watched as Pleo and her brother headed off. Nida hesitated a moment, eventually shaking her head and turning to Mosca and Kline. All the while, she hoped to herself that in spite of how precarious things seemed, the stars would smile down on their efforts.

Author's Notes:

- Qué diablos?! - Spanish: "What the hell?" Literally "what (the) devils?"
- Estás ahí? - Spanish: "Are you there?"
- Buena suerte - Spanish: "Good luck"
- Kommt zurück, ihr Diebe! - German: "Come back, you thieves!"
- dupki - Polish: "jerks", "rude people". Can be used analogously to "assholes"


Winter can't come soon enough
Wow, a chapter that fit in a single post. When was the last time we had one of those? It certainly feels like a much shorter chapter, though there was still a great deal of headway made. I think that's because the fluff — or, rather, the stuff not taking place in Bluewhorl — was very brisk compared to the fic's usual non-sequitir scenes. Inler's conversation is wrapped up in the span of a handful of paragraphs, as is the pirates' escape from the island. I appreciate that. It'd be a good practice to keep up for future chapters.

As for the main plot, it's no Metal Gear Solid, but there was a fair bit of stealth going on. And I like that there was a clear contrast between the natives, who willingly agreed to go along with this plan, and the pirates, who needed a considerable amount of convincing. And even then, it basically took them being called cowards to agree. GGs, Alice. +10 negotiation points (not that it matters). It seems like breaking out Osmund will up the stealth game even further. Right now, I suspect Ander breaking off will be the most likely cause of things going belly-up for the team... whether it's intentional or not. Guess I'll have to wait and see.

"Well, you know what they say about late bloomers, Ani,"
No, I don't know what they say about late bloomers. Enlighten me. :V
"… Crystal."
I see Dimitri knows which Gen 2 game is the best one.
"Some things you don't learn until you've come of age," he said.
oh wow not-giovanni is actually softening in his old age. who'd've thunk it?

Sike Saner

Peace to the Mountain
I gotta say, it's a good thing they've got Kline around. That's some top-notch surveillance there, as seen at Nida's place. And yeah, someone capable of being in so many places at once is ideal for scoping things out and pulling things together.

Speaking of zygarde and of pulling things together, I wonder if the Company's going to end up sensing the presence of many. :y

And once again Alice displays a talent for Making Things Happen by just going for it. She seems to be a very persuasive little ball of energy!