• We're currently experiencing a minor issue with our email system preventing emails for new registrations and verifications going out. We're currently working to fix this
  • Be sure to join the discussion on our discord at: Discord.gg/serebii
  • If you're still waiting for the e-mail, be sure to check your junk/spam e-mail folders

Missing Mod Madness: A Reviewing Roleplay Game

Dragonfree

Just me

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Black Paint
PMD Hands of Creation (1, 2)
The Curious and the Shiny
The Missing One

Like the others, I will refrain from posting my Final Action until the third story update. It's been a blast to take part in this though, and it's hard to believe the month is already over!
 
Last edited:

Phoenixsong

you taste like fear
asodhasofaldgkldg what is tiiiiime

So Close
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Guiding Light, Prologue

Total: 2
Running Total: 5

--

Trapped in the corridors of Rainbow Rocket Something Something, whatever the hell a "rocket" is, Tolgo takes a few cautious steps back, away from the whatever the hell those things are. No response to his hasty offer so far. (No response he can understand, anyway. Do these things even have faces? What are all these eyes even looking at? God's tail, and he'd thought the talking farfetch'd was distressing enough.)

Where's a godslayer when you need one? Godslayers wouldn't have to sputter nonsense about cookies. They'd tear these things to pieces and be done with it. But no, he doesn't have a godslayer, he has a talking farfetch'd that doesn't even talk about anything that makes any sense.

"Look," he hisses down at Farfetch'd, "you're the one with a sharp object, so you can totally, uh, handle these things, right? You know all the secrets and whatever, so I'm sure you can figure out what they want or how fast they'll die if you stab them with your stabby thing. You've got this situation under control, I'm betting, so, uh, why don't I just head back and resume looking for the 'mods' someplace where these aren't? Awesome, good talk, glad we could finally agree on something, have fun!" And he continues backing away at double speed.

--

Par for the course, I think I'll wait until the update to come up with a plan (for some value of "plan") for the final stretch. (Also, I'm not sure which weapon (for some value of "weapon") I actually have, if any?)
 
Last edited:

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
All right here we go! Update number three, and from now you have twenty-four hours to get your final commands, if any, in. Enjoy!

"Hmm," Palkia says, tapping its beak with a claw. "That's not normal. Definitely not normal. And bound to get certain space centipedes bent out of shape. I'm surprised you haven't had Giratina come knocking already."

So glad you recognize the problem, Chaletwo says acidly. You understand, then, why it would be helpful for you to get back in your pokéball so we don't have to worry about anything happening to you, on top of everything else?

"Oh, no. If Giratina's asleep on the job, you're going to need someone with proper dimensional powers on the case. We're both here to help, after all."

Matheus nods. "I admit I haven't heard of anything like this before... and I've been around for a very, very long time. But I'd like to help any way I can."

I already told you how you could help! Chaletwo says. You keep insisting on not helping!

"Come now, if we're going to be a team, I have to at least see your face!" Palkia says like it hasn't heard a word the other legend said. "It's awkward talking to empty space. Why don't you come out here so we can talk properly?" Chaletwo's folded away in one of those artificial little human dimensions, which is quite simple to burst. A second later Chaletwo appears in front of the group, looking, well, exactly like Mewtwo, asleep on his feet.

Palkia! the legend howls in the dragon's head, and the heads of everyone else watching. Don't DO that! I need to conserve my strength! Mark, where's my pokéball?"

"Umm, hang on," one of the humans says, poking at some kind of handheld machine.

"Curious..." Matheus mutters to himself. "What kind of pokémon is that?"

"He's right, you know," says the other human. "Chaletwo overreacts sometimes, but it's important for him to stay protected from the Destroyer's power drain. If he gets too weak to teleport all of us, or send out a psycic signal, we might not be able to stop the War when it happens. You really should put him back."

"Huh," Palkia huffs, exasperated. "Well, if all you need is to be in some other dimension for a while, that's easy enough to arrange." With the flick of a claw, space distorts around Chaletwo, leaving the Mewtwo-looking legend neatly cut off from the world around him, though to observers from that dimension, nothing appears to have changed.

Chaletwo's head snaps up, closed eyes turned blindly towards Palkia. What did you do? It... stopped. It feels like my powers aren't fading anymore.

"Oh, I just nudged you sideways a bit, in spatial terms."

If you could do that all along, why didn't you? Chaletwo fumes. Why let yourself get caught at all? We wouldn't have needed to go to all this effort if you could just block the Destroyer's power from reaching the legendaries.

"Why did my incarnation in this world not do that, you mean?" Palkia says with a grin. "I don't know, maybe it thought it would be more fun to watch you go ahead with your little plan."

The humans exchange a look while Mewtwo literally radiates anger, the one of them still poised with his machine.

"Now, if you can't think of any more excuses to hide out and avoid the issue, why don't we go have a look at this dimensional breach you've been telling me about."

Oh, yes, Chaletwo says. Why don't we finally go do that, now that I've finally stopped getting in the way of things. Ordinarily I would teleport, but as I'm saving my strength and you clearly have all the command of the dimensions we need, perhaps you could trouble yourself to take us?

"If you don't mind, I think I'll be staying behind," Matheus says. "I think the two of you probably have this well in hand, and I'm worried about what might be in store for my own world. I'll rejoin you later if I can."

"Suit yourself," Palkia says. "For the rest of you, brace yourself. It's hard for me to get the ground in the right place, sometimes." The dragon spreads its wings, the air rippling and humming as space distorts, and a second later the group is gone.

--

There's not much to distinguish the place Palkia brings them from the one they just left. There are trees, plenty of them, and the mountains rising above have swung around westward. Other than that, though, the only appreciable difference is the dark gash that hangs in the air, black streaks like tentacles extending from it. This was the spatial anomaly Palkia felt, though the creatures Chaletwo described don't appear to be around.

This is where they're coming from? Chaletwo asks. He moves closer to the portal, straining comically as though trying to peer inside, with his eyes closed. The humans creep up behind him, straining to see themselves.

"If they're something that's not supposed to be here, yes, they'd be coming from here," Palkia says. "And Giratina must really be falling down on the job if he's let this hang open. You're lucky I'm the one who came calling instead of them!"

I'm sure we are, Chaletwo says.

"Look, there are eyes in it!" one of the humans says. The black streaks stretching from the portal flicker with blinking eyes, opening and closing along their length.

"Yeah, it definitely looks like the things we saw earlier," says the other.

Can you close this? Chaletwo asks Palkia. Surely that would be easy for one with your incredible spatial powers.

"Oh, that's Giratina's thing, actually," Palkia says. "You wouldn't believe how annoyed they get when other people go messing around with dimensional boundaries. I'm surprised they haven't shown up already, actually."

Of course it wouldn't be your job, Chaletwo says with resentment Palkia ignores.

"It's, uh, doing something," one of the humans says, and even Chaletwo takes a step back as the darkness radiating from the portal twitches and sways, more eye-studded black bubbling into the air. It drifts for a few seconds, like a weird pitch-black soap bubble, then twists and stretches and reshapes iteself into a highly accurate likeness of Chaletwo, albeit black and with the same eyes opening and shutting all across its surface. It floats gently to the ground and stands blinking at the people before it, from many sets of eyes.

"Chaletwo with open eyes is kind of creepy," one of the humans says.

"I think it would be creepy even without the eyes, May."

From what Alan said, they aren't aggressive or difficult to defeat, Chaletwo says. He blasts his dark clone to a misty haze of black with a lazy gesture and an invisible pulse of psychic energy. But there's a problem. Watch.

They do, while, Palkia notices, another bubble of darkness oozes out of the portal. The haze left behind after Chaletwo's attack coalesces into distinct, dark droplets, which combine and grow and finally draw together into another large blot, and a few seconds later the same black Chaletwo's standing before them, as though it had never been attacked. Meanwhile Palkia isn't sure whether to be amused or unnerved that the blob that emerged after it has taken the shape of a certain space-dragon.

So that's no good, Chaletwo says, waving a hand at the reconstituted alien, which winks back at him. Maybe my Death Stare could get rid of it for good, but there's no point if more are going to keep coming. I really do need to save my energy.

"So what do we do?" asks one of the humans, fiddling with a strand of pokéballs around their neck. "Maybe we have to defeat all them at once or something. Or maybe we ought to go through and see if we can find out what's making them on the other side and stop it."

"I don't know, May," the other human says. "It looks really dark through there, and if it's a different planet or something, it'd be dangerous. What if we couldn't breathe the air or something?"

"We'd find out, wouldn't we? It was just a suggestion."

Or, Chaletwo puts in, the legendary whose entire job is supposedly to maintain the order of space and dimensionality could send these things back where they came from and seal the breach.

"Oh? And who would that be?" Palkia asks jovially, and it's worth it to see Chaletwo twitch. In private, though, the dragon's unsure what to do. It's best, not to mention by far the most entertaining, to let mortals sort out their own affairs. On the other hand, this does look serious, and it might not have been mortals that caused the problem. They might have no way to fix it, either. Where is Giratina?

"Or maybe we should just let them through?" one human suggests. "I mean, they aren't attacking or anything. Maybe they're just lost and will go away again once they figure things out, or find what they're looking for, or whatever."

"We do have to find Mew," the other agrees.

That's a good point, Chaletwo says, but if they're taking the form of legendaries, who knows what it might mean for the War? I'd rather try to do something than sit around hoping it'll work out until there's a thousand of these things wandering around.

The four of them watch the aliens for a bit. The chaletwo stays where it is, watching them, but the palkia wanders off, apparently uninterested. Now and again one of Chaletwo's hands flexes like he wants to clench his fist and blow his black clone up again.

"Well, if we want to try something," one human says. They step forward, and the dark chaletwo turns slightly to face them, eyes blinking serenely. "Umm, hello?" the human says. "Can you understand me?"

The alien straightens up slightly, and its hands move aimlessly, like it might want to gesture but has no idea how. "You can tell I'm talking to you, can't you?"

The dark chaletwo opens its mouth and closes it again. It points at nothing in particular and then opens its mouth again.

"If you can't talk, do you know how to write?" the human says. "I have some paper here." They start rummaging in their bag, but stop when the alien makes a noise. It's a kind of breathy hum, not particularly like speech, but it's enough to make the human pause. "Are you trying to talk?"

The alien makes another noise, a bit louder and more coherent than before. Its hands flutter around uncertainly. "Go on, it's all right. You don't have to rush."

Interesting, Chaletwo says. It must have some idea what language is, if it's learning that fast. I wonder how it normally communicates?

"Trust Mark to think of talking to the scary alien thing," the other human says.

"He," the alien finally produces. "He... lo."

"Hello," the human says, and smiles. The alien smiles back, which is an unsettling sight, having nothing to do with facial muscles and not really fitting the contours of Chaletwo's face properly.

"He. Lo. Hello. Friend?"

--

"Absolutely not," Macro says. "We're space pirates. This is a pirate ship, not some kind of flying nursery! I'm not about to go filling it with refugees!"

In the background Four O'Clock hums to herself and starts to loop and bounce around in the air, wings buzzing, six legs going at a kind of synchronized flail.

"Oh... dancing?" Matrix asks when she oscillates over near him, trilling. He tugs furiously at an antenna. "I mean, uh, I really don't use my moves much. I don't even know if I know how to... yeah."

"These black things are threatening your world, too," Silvally says. "If you don't do something to stop them, you might not get to be a pirate for very long anyway."

"Something's always threatening System!" Macro snaps. "Maybe you noticed all those xurkitree a little while ago? We've got plenty of problems to deal with already, thank you. You can come with us if you pull your weight, but you can forget about your friends. This is a dangerous ship! We haven't got room for anyone who can't fight. Well, or cook."

Silvally's crest rises a bit in irritation. "They can fight. We all can fight. We just have to work together to beat this."

"You keep forgetting that whatever this is, it's none of my business! Or anyone on this ship!"

"I know it's a lot to ask," Silvally says, "but this is important. Please. If we don't get rid of these black things and get the moderators back, I... I don't even know what will happen. To my story, or yours, or any of the other ones in the library."

"That's great, but I don't know how it's going to pay for food for my crew, or fuel, or repairs. It's not exactly cheap to go flying around to a bunch of different, uh, universes, shooting at who only knows what kind of thing those black things are."

"Dancing!" the freak shrieks, delighted. It jumps out to join Four near the middle of the bridge, and the cutiefly spins and weaves through the air around it while it hops around waving its arms, without any sense of rhythm or apparent idea of what constitutes dancing. "Come on, Great Nathaniel Morgan! It's fun!"

"Yeah, **** this, I'm out," the human says, and walks off. The freak just laughs at him, Four joining in a high-pitched whine, then attempts a pirouette but falls over halfway through.
y
"Look, if we can use your ship while we try to find the moderators, if you'll help us that much, then I promise I'll help you rid your world of Ultra Beasts. I was made to hunt Beasts. It's what I do. You could use my help. And you won't need to pay me, you won't need to give me anything in return. Just help us now. Please. You know you could use my help."

"We're not even supposed to be hunting the beasts, just sending them back where they came from."

"Whatever you want." Silvally stares Macro down, earnest and unflinching, but the pirate isn't blinking either. "Besides," Silvally goes on. "I've been thinking. The energy weapons you use, the big cannons on your ship. If you hooked my cheek bolts up to them I could supercharge them. My memories would change them to whatever type you wanted! You'd have the most powerful

"Now I know you're insane," Macro scoffs. "There's absolutely no way I'm letting anyone connect themselves to my ship!"

"I dunno, Cap'n," Anchor says, watching the exchange from his own pilot's chair. "I ain't never seen nothing like those implants he's got in his face, but I've seen the energy he can put out. I reckon I could make something work, feed his attacks in through auxiliary power and boost the cannons."

"No. Absolutely not. Out of the question."

"Could be pretty impressive, is all I'm sayin'."

Over in the navigator's seat, Matrix can see which way the wind is blowing. The ribombee sighs to himself and keys in the coordinates for the next story on Silvally's list, while Four and the freak fall about giggling, dizzy from all the spinning they've been doing.

--

By the time Polly catches up with Thunder and Lightning, the birds have already reached the portal, and a battle's been joined. Falkner and Janine yell orders from their perches on the birds' backs, and some of their own pokémon are out as well: a crobat slices through the air, a hoothoot flapping madly in his wake. What they're fighting, well...

"Okay, I guess I believe you about the aliens," the arcanine-morph at Polly's side says. And yes, whatever they are, they're wrong more than simply strange. What worries Polly most of all is the fact that the strange black things dripping from the airborn portal don't have an aura--and absolutely all living things, wherever they come from, should at least have that. If they're not alive, then what are they? Some sort of magic? Maybe even an attack gone out of control.

"Get us closer, Metagross!" Polly says, and the steel-type obliges, floating up towards the fringes of the battle.

The rip in reality--that's really what it looks like--has long dark streaks, like tentacles, radiating from it, these dotted with unsettling blinking eyes. Every now and again a bigger hunk of black bubbles out of it, which is immediately set upon by the flying pokémon and torn to dark shreds.

"I have to admit, my Aura Guardian training didn't exactly go over what to do in case of an alien invasion," Polly tells the arcanine morph. It presents a dilemma, too; how is she supposed to protect people against a threat as mysterious as this? Who knows what the black things could do? Should she stay here and fight, or try to help out the civilians in the town below?

Watching Thunder explode another dark blob with a clap of her wings, Polly has to admit that the gym leaders look like they have a pretty good handle on the situation. Her top priority should be to secure the civilian population, then look to see if she can find out what this thing is and how to stop it. In the meantime, though: "Dunsparce! Help them out."

<Me?> Dunsparce asks. <Don't tell me you expect me to do all the work again.>

"I expect you to get up there and help them out! If they run into trouble, come get me. I'll be organizing things in the city down there."

<So that's a yes,> Dunsparce says with another gusty sigh. <Work, work, work, that's all it is with you.> His tiny wings beat furiously, and he slowly lifts off from Metagross' back, angling up towards the fight overhead.

Polly directs Metagross closer still and calls, "Falkner! I'm going to secure the area and get help. Who should I call for backup?"

"Good idea," the gym leader yells back to her. "Go to the police, they'll be able to handle the civilian side of things. Janine and I can hold the line up here!"

<Good luck,> Thunder says. <Don't worry about us. These things aren't so tough!>

"Okay. I'll be back. Hang in there!" Polly says, and then directs Metagross back towards the ground with a gentle tap of her staff. She doesn't know whether Aura Guardians exist in this world (though surely they must, because Aura exists, right?), but at least it has these "gym leaders" to defend it. Watching how they command their pokémon, Polly has to admit she's impressed.

Back on the ground, people are starting to realize what's going on above. People stop on the street, looking up, pointing. A few are sending out pokémon, and Polly has a feeling they're intending to head straight into danger. "Stop," she says to one girl with a pidgeotto and a determined look on her face. "Let the gym leaders handle this. They know what they're doing."

The admonishment gets her a skeptical look from the girl, but Polly's uniform--unfamiliar though it might be around here--and especially the metagross lurking behind her are enough that the girl simply nods jerkily and turns away.

"Metagross, stay here and make sure people don't do anything stupid. Can you help with that, Canis?"

"Sure, I guess," the arcanine morph says. Her appearance at least seems to have drawn some attention away from what's going on overhead.

"Great. I'll be back," Polly says, telling herself that Metagross will take care of things if they get out of hand, and sets off down the street at a light run.

It's now she realizes a crucial mistake, that in fact she has no idea how to find these police, or how she'd know who they were if she did. There were local enforcers in her time, of course, but Aura Guardians were the ones in charge of keeping peace in the realm.

Where would they be? Polly's instinct would be to look for some grand building, a castle, perhaps, the sort of place you'd expect to find an order of Aura Guardians. There are such huge buildings here, though, and so many of them, some bigger than a proper castle, mantled in fine mirrored glass and stone. The names on their facades mean nothing to her.

She tries stopping people in the street. "Excuse me, where can I find the police?"

"Police? I think the station's that way, but trust me, they'll be here for this."

"Just call 999, though I bet you'll be lucky to get through."

"Don't worry about it, I'm sure they're already on their way."

Continuing at an ever-more-uneasy pace, following vague and confusing directions, Polly wishes briefly she was back in her own world, her own time. She knows how things work there. She has real authority. She could tell people herself to disperse, and they'd do it, no questions asked.

In the end the question of whether Polly would find the police in time turns out to be academic. There's a sudden change in the atmosphere, a kind of collective gasp, maybe, that makes Polly turn and look overhead.

There's a huge ship hanging in the air above Violet City, gleaming brilliantly blue against the sky. It looks like a massive wishiwashi, almost. Polly can see the distant forms of Thunder and Lightning flying in its wake. She has no idea what they think they'll be able to do against something like that.

The ship comes to a gentle halt, and thick bars of light appear below it, one after the other, stretching down towards the city. A ladder, Polly realizes. And what on earth might come climbing down that?

One of the flying pokémon has broken away from the ship and comes arrowing down towards Polly, tiny wings beating frantically. <SPAAAAAACE!!> Dunsparce announces with obvious delight as he comes to rest on the ground next to her.

"Quiet, you. I'm trying to think," Polly says. But in truth she's too deep in thought to be bothered while Dunsparce continues to bounce around, chanting <Space, space, space, space!> to himself.

One way or another, Polly thinks as the ship's long ladder finally touches down, she doubts she'll be in this story much longer.

--

Saoirse's never seen anything like the blobby black mass that's swallowed part of the townhouse in front of her; it's surely no godly thing. And that man who was going on about music is running right at it! Saoirse hides the Super Attack Pea in her fist--if it comes to a fight, she's ready to fight, and no weird dark stuff can hope to stand up to the fury of an Attack Pea.

"Watch the cannon!" she says to Pyotr, who immediately starts protesting. "I'm going in. Watch my back!"

The musician's already disappeared inside the building, the door fortunately as yet unobstructed by the ooze that continues to slowly seep from the upper windows, and Saoirse follows at a run. With the crowd outside people have definitely noticed what's going on, and someone with authority's almost certainly going to come calling. Saoirse would rather be on her way before the police arrive, just because... well, just because.

She barges her way in after the musician, confronted across the threshold by a well-furnished but cluttered apartment, sheet music scattered across most horizontal surfaces, some of it clearly in the process of being transcribed, notes and letters all mixed in along with. Something about the cluttered, crowded apartment makes Saoirse's fingers itch, though she tries to simultaneously ignore it but also not drift too close to any of the tables, where something valuable might just happen to fall into her pocket.

There's mad barking and shouting from an inner room, anyway, and she should probably be checking that out. Rounding a corner, Saoirse is confronted by the source of all the weird black stuff and the noise alike. There's something hanging in the air in the middle of the sitting room, like a black puddle, almost, except vertical in the air. The black goop that's covered half the place is coming out of it, bubbling out in thick dark strands that twine and fuse together, eye-riddled and strange. On the far side, cut off from the exit and the rest of the apartment, is another man and a furfrou, which manages to bark even more frantically when he catches sight of Saoirse.

"I don't know!" the man is saying to the musician Saoirse followed in here. "I was at the piano when it appeared--madame!"

The musician turns, confused, but scowls immediately when he lays eyes on Saoirse. "Madame, what are you doing here? This is dangerous. Go back outside!"

"Dangerous for you, maybe," Saoirse says. "But not for me. I brought the ultimate weapon." She opens her hand to show off the Super Attack Pea.

Both men peer at it, then stare at her. "Madame, please, this is not the time," the musician says. "Frédéric, prepare yourself. Marie will break through the black slime, and when she has cleared a path, you must run out to this side and be away from here!"

The skitty at his feet doesn't seem too enthused about the plan. She backs away from the strange dark blobs, whining with her tail puffed and standing straight up.

"Huh," Saoirse says. "You're never going to get anywhere like that. Let's go!" She tosses the Super Attack Pea into the air in front of her. It hangs at the top of its arc, tiny cape rippling in a nonexistent breeze, then lets out a strain of tiny, kazoo-buzzed theme music and shoots forward, tearing into the darkness emanating from the portal.

Humans and pokémon alike stare open-mouthed while the Super Attack Pea whizzes back and forth, a green blur humming merrily while it rips the dark blobs to shreds. It disappears momentarily out the window, leaving a haze of diffuse darkness in its wake, and Saoirse imagines it swooping to and fro out there, cleaning up the rest of the goop clinging to the outside of the building. A few seconds later it's back, blasting apart a few tendrils of darkness that had started creeping into the apartment after the previous ones were destroyed. It then dives straight into the portal, doing battle with the oppressive black on the far side.

Saoirse hurries up to the portal, peering inside to try and gauge the Super Attack Pea's progress. She doesn't want to lose it, after all! There's an awful lot of black in there, though. It looks like the Attack Pea's carved out at least some of it, though.

Saoirse hesitates, thinking of Pyotr and the cannon outside. She'll only be a minute, though, and he does have that cannon, after all. He'll be fine on his own.

"M... Madame..." one of the men stutters, and Saoirse turns to flash him a smile. "You... your small green... thing..."

"That's why you don't laugh at a Super Attack Pea!" she says brightly, and then steps through the portal, onto pitted gray stone surrounded on all sides by looming, oozing black. "Hello?" she says, cautiously stepping forward. Where did the Super Attack Pea get off to? "Can anybody hear me?"

The darkness around her shudders and opens many watching eyes.

--

Fortunately for Farfetch'd, a lifetime of escapes from what were surely operatives of The Deep Plate has endowed him with reflexively quick thinking in times of crisis. Shock or not, it takes only seconds for him to deduce that the creatures' lack of mouths and strange, blinking eyes clearly indicate that they rely on nonverbal communication. In fact, those winks and blinks must be a form of alien Morse code, one that Farfetch'd is almost immediately sure he can both understand and replicate.

The weird Deep Plate operative, on the other hand, is naturally too dense to pick up on this. He regains enough composure to turn, though, and start to run away. Farfetch'd's wing hits him at shin-height and sends him sprawling on the luxurious hallway carpet. As though he needed any further confirmation--if the Deep Plate guy is trying to run away, this lot obviously isn't part of the conspiracy. Given that more of them are emerging, even now, from the door labeled with one of the mods' names, it's equally clear that they know something about the disappearance.

"Never... fear..." Farfetch'd mutters to himself, blinking furiously up at the growing crowd of faux Rockets. "This moderator... is under my control. Let's put him with the others."

Who are you? the creatures ask, eyes opening and shutting in their rapid-fire code. Why do you look so weird?

Farfetch'd has to work to suppress a chuckle. Excellent questions! And exactly what he'd been expecting them to ask. "I'm an undercover agent," he blinks back. "I've infiltrated the library's rescue mission. We're on the same side!"

There are more of the creatures now, crowding together in the hallway. They stop a few feet in front of Farfetch'd, piling into each other, rank on rank, and blinking. Really? Why should we believe you?

"How else would I know the identity of all your other undercover operatives?" Farfetch'd blinks, chuckling softly to himself. "The pikachu, the mishmash creature, the sad human with the cannon. And most important of all, the leader, that fiendish octillery!"

He knows, one of the creatures blinks.

We never should have doubted him, says another.

Meanwhile, the Deep Plate operative is trying to get to his feet, so Farfetch'd stabs him with the meat thermometer. He yelps and goes down again.

"I've captured this moderator for you," Farfetch'd blinks at his new friends. "Why don't you take me to where you're keeping the rest so we can put him in with them?"

The creatures become evasive after that. There's a lot of blinking, of course, and some shifting, as more dark Rockets are added to the crowd. There really are a lot of them now. Farfetch'd would definitely be getting nervous if they weren't on his side.

"What are you doing?" Tolgo hisses from his spot on the floor. "We need to get out of here!"

Farfetch'd jabs him again. For whatever reason, the creatures aren't giving him a straight answer. "I can see that you're busy," he blinks. "Why don't you just tell me where the other moderators are, and I'll take this one there myself."

More hemming and hawwing. Then one of the creatures reaches for Farfetch'd, who's so startled he takes a step back and runs into the Deep Plate operative, who was trying to get up again. They both end up on the floor.

Many of the creatures are reaching, now, and advancing down the hallway instead of waiting patiently like they were doing previously. Come with us, they blink. Come with us, come with us, come with us.

Farfetch'd isn't entirely sure he wants to find the mods this badly. "How about one of you shows me where to go? Just one?"

They're crowding in now, all of them reaching, shuffling forward with their big eyes trained on him. Come with us, come with us, come with us.

Farfetch'd decides it's time for a very tactical retreat to someplace safe where he can reconsider his options. He slashes with the meat thermometer at a dark hand that's gotten too close, and finally manages to disengage himself from the Deep Plate operative's legs. "He's a moderator! Get him!" he shrieks aloud, shoving the operative back to the floor, and takes off down the hallway as fast as his webbed feet can carry him.

--

Tolgo barely registers the Farfetch'd running out on him. What he's most concerned with now is getting off the floor, finally, and getting out of here, and oh God did one of those things just touch him?

The elf stumbles away from the crowd of slime alien things, only halfway upright but more concerned with escape than propriety or strict economy of motion. As he goes he's fishing for the pokéball he knows he put in a pocket somewhere, which of course is managing to slip away from his fingers in his time of desperate need.

The slime aliens follow, still reaching for him. They aren't moving particularly fast, nor acting all that aggressive, but Tolgo's decided he is 100% against all alien physical contact, and the sheer quantity of blood around the door they're shuffling out of leaves him more than a little skeptical of their benevolent intentions. They're also frighteningly fast, for all their apparent lack of concern.

"W-wait!" Tolgo says. "Wait, I have, uh. I have cookies!" He winces inwardly, wishing he could have come up with something better than that. Somewhat miraculously it does appear to have halted the alien menace, at least for the moment. The creatures stand in place and sway and blink at him. "Yes, just one second," they're around here somewhere. "Just let... me... find..."

At last his fingers close around Luta's pokéball, and Tolgo tosses it to the ground in front of him and resumes running, him, not even bothering to look back, much less give any orders. Luta wouldn't obey them anyway. She's much more effective lying around, snarling at things, than actually trying to fight, and that's what she's inclined to do anyway.

With Luta between him and certain slimy demise, Tolgo manages to get his legs under him and make tracks back the way he came. First, he needs to put some distance between himself and the slime aliens. Then he can find somewhere to hide out until this whole moderator-disappearance-alien-invasion is over with. He's had far more than enough adventure today.

Fortunately, there seem to be rather reliable places to hide conveniently located in every hallway around this place (elsewhere in the building, a restless spirit moans and shudders at the mere thought of the security implications). Tolgo's confident he'll be able to find a likely vase or something.

What he ends up finding first is Farfetch'd, the duck sprinting back in his direction. "Ah ha!" he quacks, brandishing his meat thermometer at Tolgo. "Fancy finding you here! Give up your hideout's layout, or it's the thermometer for you!"

Tolgo's saved having to come up with a response by something large and red dropping from the ceiling and crushing Farfetch'd beneath. "Yes, it is I, Octillery DeVillain!" the red thing, which is indeed an octillery, announces. "I a-am back, from... observing the enemy! Learning their weaknesses! A-and I witnessed this evildoer leaving you to fend for yourself in the face of a-an a-alien force. He won't get away with it on Octillery Devillain's watch!"

"Uh, okay," Tolgo says. Another one of these weirdo talking pokémon. "Did you also observe a way out of here?"

"A-ah. No." DeVillain droops a little, while beneath him Farfetch'd squirms, making quacking protests. The meath thermometer lies out of his reach. "I did spy a-a room full of bobs a-and bills, though. It might be important."

"Oh?" Tolgo thinks that might be the name of one of the moderators, or something like it, anyway, but at the moment he thinks saving his own personal hide ranks a bit higher than venturing out into the scary building and hoping to rescue someone else. "Yeah, we should probably go back to the library and let people know we found it."

"No one kidnaps moderators and gets away with it! That's my job!" The octillery's got a book suckered to one tentacle, which he's lightly thwacking Farfetch'd with whenever the bird gets too ornery. "To make sure no one else gets them, that is. Not that I'd kidnap them myself."

"Right," Tolgo says. "So did you have a plan?"

The octillery wilts a bit. "Well, if I had my shrink ray, we could... a-ah, no, if only the vaporizer were back from the shop..."

Tolgo's beginning to think that making a break for it here would be the best course of action. He isn't so sure it would actually be a good idea to team up with any "friends" from the library.

"Never fear, I'll come up with something!" the octillery says. "No one outsmarts the notorious Octillery DeVillain!"

As it turns out, plans are entirely unnecessary. With a horrendous rending crash, the blunt blue end of some kind of wishiwashi-inspired vehicle forces its way out of the hallway behind Tolgo, nosing aside a pile of splintered plywood, insulation, and other general debris, coming to rest in a haze of dust and splinters. Rather than worrying about the dark aliens, Tolgo finds his options have come down to running away from the spaceship or not.

--

Luta lounges in the middle of the Rainbow Rocket HQ hallway, a hallway that's become something more like an open-air alleyway, since the sudden appearance of a spaceship much too large to fit in it. The splattered aliens have reformed, but they haven't gotten far yet. They stand blinking at the umbreon, who shows all the inclination to move of a particularly sedentary boulder.

One of the creatures raises a cautious arm. Luta hisses at it. It puts the arm back down.

--

It's much harder to fight the black pokémon than it was all the ones who tried to get in her way earlier. Except for that strange pikachu--and Mia's still looking for him. But where she could at least knock a human down with a slash, and most pokémon, too, these tarry creatures reform almost immediately after her blade passes through them. There's something a bit viscous, sticky, about their constitution, which throws off the fluidity of her strikes.

The legends are gone from the sky, and the blue one Mia was following seems to have left, too. The trees are wet and her claws skate now and again across patches of ice, but the pokémon itself she can't see. She hears noise ahead, though,

Mia doesn't have to attack the black things. They aren't even trying to get in her way, really. They just sometimes are, and it's faster to slice through them than go around. There seem to be more and more, and fewer and fewer humans or normal pokémon. They're all running the other way. Mia can hear now the low tones of the blue pokémon somewhere up ahead, and even if she's running into danger, what of it? It's not real.

The black things get more and more numerous as she presses on. It's irritating. Under ordinary circumstances Mia might have stopped to experiment with them, to see if they could really regenerate from any injury, what would happen if you prevented them from growing back together. Something you could cut and cut without killing it could be amusing, but that wasn't what the scyther morph wanted to test herself against tonight.

Lightning flashed from somewhere to Mia's left, and her head jerked around. For a moment she stood, torn: in one direction, the pikachu that shouldn't have beaten her, and she'd make sure wouldn't do so again. In the other, the legends, still out of sight but not far away now, she was positive.

The pikachu stood in front of a slumped human, sleeping or unconscious or dead, Mia couldn't tell. He panted as he shot strings of lightning at the black creatures surrounding him, most of them pikachu-shaped, not making any apparent move to attack him, but also making no move to avoid him or the fallen human. He was tiring, obviously, and while that meant that a battle wouldn't take long, it wouldn't be tremendously interesting, either. If Mia could beat him at his best there was no point in fighting him any other time, not when there were other options.

She turns instead towards where the legends must be and pushes forward, slashing almost idly at black pokémon as she passes, until through the trees she can finally see them, the blue creature and a purple one and the huge white bird that had floated overhead. They're gathered around a dark slash in the air, from which periodically emerges another black pokémon.

These disappear almost as quickly as they appear, destroyed by a slap of the bird's wing or some psychic attack from the purple creature. The three of them are talking in their pokémon way, growls from the blue thing, fluted whistles from the white one, and nothing at all from the purple.

Mia chooses her target and dives forward, charging out of the trees and making direct for the blue pokémon. She needs to drive it away from the other two so she can fight it one-on-one.

The legendary howls as Mia's katana slices across its side, and then her left arm-blade a moment later on the follow-up. Mia grins at the sight of blood on her blades, and jumps sideways to avoid the legendary's snout when it turns to fire water at her. Darting in again, she's rewarded with another couple of direct hits before something terrible closes over her, an invisible force that crushes her from all sides, that locks her limbs in place so she can't even twitch, her eyes rolling in her head.

Then she's airborne, briefly, before a tree trunk intercepts her flight and she's abruptly on the ground, and breathing hurts. The great white bird's turned to look at her, eyes blazing with blue light. Go away, it says, and Mia barely even registers that in this silly story some of the pokémon can actually talk. The blue pokémon's snarling off to one side, licking at the cuts down its side. Mia starts to get up to finish it off, even though every movement makes her whole right side light on fire.

She never makes it to her feet. The bird's still staring at her, eyes glowing, and it feels like she's being squeezed by a giant, invisible fist, so her hurt right side flares with brighter pain and the air in her chest grows hot and stagnant, lungs clenched too tight to expand. Mia's vision goes yellow, and brown, and then black, much to her annoyance.

--

When Mia wakes it's black. The forest is quiet. The three legends are gone. But the black portal's still there, slowly leaking pokémon into this story. There are dozens of them standing around. Several of them are watching her.

Mia pushes herself up, slowly. Some of her ribs are definitely broken. Her breath tastes bloody. But most of all, the legends are gone. What's even the point of being here? She didn't come here to fight these weird black things.

The scyther morph lashes out at the nearst of the dark pokémon, this one an imitation of the purple pokémon she saw earlier. It falls into two great pieces, which lose definition as they fall to the forest floor. Mia stands watching as the two halves tremble and begin to grow towards one another, then reaches down and separates them. They try to twist around the blade she holds between them, reaching little pseudopods out and around even when Mia nudges them farther apart. The scyther morph tries cutting them into smaller pieces, tossing some of them away, but even if it takes a few seconds sometimes, they always start trying to get back together shortly thereafter.

Absorbed as she is, she doesn't notice anything amiss until something brushes one shoulder. Her head snaps up, ribs protesting, and a quick slice takes an arm off one of the black creatures. It stands watching her, another arm slowly growing from the flat stump. There are a lot of the black things around, Mia now realizes. Close.

Another reaches for her. Her blade takes an arm off again, and then a downstroke fells the creature entirely. Another creature shuffles in to take the fallen one's place.

They're all reaching for her now, still not aggressive, not threatening, but insistent. Mia lashes out again and again, easily demolishing them, but they keep rising over and over again, new ones filling in from behind. Her ribs flare and other obscure bruises ache while she moves, at first faster and faster, trying to cut her way free of the crowd, then slower, as she begins to tire.

It's just a story. She can't really die, or get hurt, not for real. But how is she supposed to get out?

One creature manages to touch her, and then another. Their touch isn't cold or slimy, as might be expected, but faintly warm, slightly rubbery. Mia cuts these down but now there are more behind her reaching, grabbing. Black stains her clothes and starts to grow, spreading across torso and arms. Mia tears at it, heedless of cutting herself, and now several of the creatures have gotten a hold.

She fights all the more fiercely, not desperate, but only recognizing that the window's closing for escape. The creatures' arms are growing together, bodies fusing into a single large pseudopod wrapped around her midriff, and this, too, expanding, growing up and over her, absorbing her like some huge amoeba.

Mia's blades can't slash anymore, only twich uselessly in the sludgy black surrounding her. She tips her head back, trying to keep it above the black mass climbing steadily up her neck. It buys her a few seconds at best, and then the black closes over her head, stops up her nostrils, surrounds her entirely, until she can't see anything and can hear nothing but the beating of her own heart.

--

Delirious blinks up at Necrozma, apparently unimpressed by his show of power. "Now, come on, there's no reason to be fighting," she says. "Why don't we sit down and have some tea and talk things over like civilized people? If you have any idea where there might be some tea around here, that is." She looks around wistfully.

Necrozma stares, the shadows gathering around his claws hissing faintly in the pin-drop silence that ensues. Delirious' companions shoot her sidelong looks, tense and unable to do anything but wait to see what happens next.

The attack Necrozma's been gathering disappears with a pop. "Oh, how silly of me!" he says. "Tea! Of course! What are we, savages?" He gestures, and an Ultra Wormhole opens on the rocky ceiling above him. A fully-laden table drops from it, landing in front of him with a clatter of silverware, a stream of biscuits clattering down after to create a heaping pile on a tray in the table's center.

Necrozma reaches out and hooks a teacup, already full of steaming liquid, with one claw, and a monocle appears over one of his eyes with another pop. "There we are. A spot of Earl Grey, old chap. Wot wot, toodle-pip!" He takes an exaggerated slurp of tea.

"It would be nice if you could share with the rest of us," Delirious says pointedly.

"Oh, did you want some tea, too? Did you want some of the great... and powwful... Necwozma's... tea?" Necrozma asks, stuffing a heaping handful of biscuits into his mouth and chewing expansively, spraying crumbs everywhere.

"Well, I certainly don't think much of the 'great and powerful' Necrozma's manners," Delerious says primly.

Takato's frozen, staring open-mouthed at the scene in front of him. Owen takes a deep, shaking breath, and steps forward. "E-excuse me!" he starts, then stifles a gulp when Necrozma, still chewing grotesquely, turns towards him. "We--we are here for something else. We're looking for creatures called moderators, and it might help with taking these black things down."

Necrozma grabs a couple of biscuits from the tray, holding them delicately between single claws. "Hey Necrozma, let's have a tea party instead of you murdering us all!" he chirps in a high-pitched voice, bouncing one of the biscuits while he talks. He goes on, waggling the other biscuit, "Yeah, we didn't really come here to get eaten! We have some other stupid errand to run, want to help us with that?"

"N-no," Owen says, heart hammering. "Think about it. We don't know what those black things are. What if they thwart your plans? Or worse? Let's both take them out!"

The black creatures have continued oozing from the portal all this time, and they're beginning to gather around Necrozma's table. One reaches a pseudopod in the process of becoming a charmander hand towards the biscuits in front of Necrozma, and the legend swats it away with a wing.

"These weird things that are no match for a legend like you sure are scary!" Necrozma makes the Owen-biscuit say, bouncing it up and down. "Yes, let's drink tea and team up and be friends." As Necrozma goes on, his singsong voice gradually fades to sneering. "Yes, because teamwork and friendship are the answer to all our problems. Ha!" He crushes the biscuits with a single twitch of his claws. "You just don't get it. I don't care who ends this wretched world! If these weirdos want to do it for me, so much the better. It doesn't even matter to you fools either way, because once I have your light, you won't be around to give any more of your quaint little lectures!"

Necrozma vaults over the table with a clap of his wings, only to meet with a shell from Takato's Judicator halfway through his leap. The charge explodes with a concussion that knocks Delirious and Owen to the floor--Takato's already on his back from the Judicator's recoil. Necrozma, meanwhile, goes flying backward--and straight through the portal that continues to stream darkness into the air. The legend appears to catch in the dark mass blocking the far side of the portal, his blue glow briefly visible before the dark oil-slick alien whatever slides in to cover him, and he disappears from sight.

Takato pumps a fist in the air from where he's lying on the floor. "Yes! Hole in one!"

Owen laughs, then reaches down to help him up, heart still pounding. "That was awesome! I wish I had a gun like that with me."

"Yeah, well, you should have thought to ask a legendary to get one for you like I did," the pikachu says smugly. He hoists the Judicator back against his shoulder. "That guy wasn't so tough."

Meanwhile Delirious is already over at the table, pouring out tea. "Do you two want any of this?"

"Uh, I guess," Owen says. "Sure."

With Necrozma out of the way, he can finally start to remember why they're actually here, as well as the shuffling, oozing black things that fill the cavern. Delirious ignores them entirely while she gets the tea together, despite the fact that they've started to crowd around the table, reaching for the biscuits with hands that they don't seem to understand how to use. They press them down over biscuits, and the treats simply vanish, presumably absorbed into their body.

"There we go," Delirious says, pushing two steaming cups of tea across to the far side of the table. "Now, why don't we have a drink and decide what to do next?"

Owen's on his way to do just that, it's not like the aliens are actually attacking or anything, when an Ultra Wormhole opens in the air just next to Delirious, and one of Necrozma's wings knocks the absol flying.

"Surprise!" Necrozma crows. "Did you miss me?"

Takato curses and fumbles to get the Judicator trained on the legend, only for a shadow ball to knock him into the far wall, the gun clattering away across the floor. "Don't tell me you fools thought a little detour would be the end of someone who can open his own Ultra Wormholes! Heeeheeeheee. Now, enough stalling! Give me your delicious liiiiight!"

Necrozma swoops towards Owen, horribly quiet on his glowing wings, only to swerve, yelling in pain, as a stream of boiling water hits him in the side. Delirious, still on the floor, has managed to activate what appears to be some kind of weaponized teapot, and Takato is back up, too, crawling towards the Judicator.

Necrozma hisses in irritation and blasts Delirious away with a burst of darkness, then ducks a shell from the Judicator, which explodes fantastically against the ceiling, sending chips of rock everywhere. Owen's eyes widen as Necrozma bears down on him, cackling, mouth open wide to show gleaming pointed teeth. The charmander's frozen a moment, his usual battle training lost, confronted by a pokémon he knows he has absolutely no chance against.

He doesn't even precisely remember the fire extinguisher in his hands. His claws move almost of their own accord, pulling the pin, pressing down on the release. A blast of foam erupts from the fire extinguisher, and Necrozma reels back, yelling and spitting as the foam gets in his eyes and mouth. Owen dashes towards Takato, not even entirely sure what he plans to do, but perhaps sensing some safety in numbers.

"A fire extinguisher? Really?!" Necrozma screeches, and then is promptly knocked flying by the nose of a massive spaceship that bursts through the portal.

The legend lies on the ground, dazed, while distantly the mortal pokémon scramble to work something out with the people on the ship, disappear one by one into its blue belly. Necrozma levers himself up, arms twitching and shaking, wings puddled around him. "Foooools," he growls. "You won't get away that easily."

But the ship is surrounded by some kind of energy barrier, so the shadow ball Necrozma launches bursts harmlessly and dissipates into thin air. The legend is pulling himself up, readying himself to try a moongeist beam, when the noise of the ship's engines grows to a great roar and it starts to turn about, scraping through a painfully tight turn in the underground cavern. As the ship swings around and Necrozma gets a glimpse in through its windshield, the sight of a familiar feathered crest drives all thoughts of attack from his mind.

"It's that fish freak from Team Radiance! Since when do those losers have a spaceship?" he mutters to himself. "And what is...?" In the air near Silvally's crest, bobbing and wagging around, is some little speck of a thing. Necrozma squints, peering intensely until he finally realizes what it is: a cutiefly, shaking her tiny, fuzzy butt at him.

"Oooooh! That is it!" Necrozma roars, words drowned out by the howl of the spaceship's engines. "Shaaaaaane! Get back here!" He takes off, flying along in the ship's wake, attacks bouncing harmlessly from its shield as disappears through the portal, Necrozma following moments after.

--

It's grown rather crowded on the bridge of Wildcard Gamma. Tolgo, Farfetch'd, and Octillery DeVillain form an uneasy triad way off to one side, with Delirious, Takato, and Owen forming a much more boisterous group near the middle. Falkner, Janine, and Polly sit together, their various pokémon recalled in the interest of saving space. And Four and the freak still dance around in the space between, though the freak in particular is weaving rather sluggishly by now, having thoroughly worn itself out.

The tight quarters grow even tighter when an immense space dragon phases into the bridge, passengers in tow. "Who's in charge?" one of the humans it's brought with it asks immediately. "Who's, umm, flying the ship?"

Palkia shrinks itself to Four O'Clock size and sails over to see what the cutiefly's up to, leaving the humans to sort out whatever it is they feel the need to sort out.

"It's my ship, if that's what you mean," says a mawile in a long purple scarf. "It doesn't feel like I'm in charge here anymore, though."

"Don't pay the Cap'n any attention. He's just grumpy," says a granbull behind him, who's at work with a wrench, attaching something to the face of a pokémon like Mark's never seen before, one that looks like it was put together out of mismatched pieces.

"You have to turn around," Mark insists. "Or not attack the black things! They're friendly. They don't want to hurt anybody."

The granbull snorts. "Sure didn't look too friendly to me, overrunning Meta City and all."

"No, it's an understanding! Please, just hang on a minute and listen to me. The creatures are looking for help. That's why they took the mods."

"It'll be all right," says the pokémon the granbull's working on. He wags his tail, trying to smile over his shoulder at Mark. "We're going to the black aliens' world now. They must have the moderators there. Or... whatever's left of them. With all of us together, we're bound to succeed!"

"Yes, but you don't have to fight," the human says, exasperated. "It won't even do any good! They just regenerate! You're wasting your time!"

"O-ho, I'd like to see that lot regenerate from this," the granbull says. "Ready, big guy?"

I have to admit, Mark has a point, says the spindly Mewtwo-clone by the human's side. This would be a whole lot easier if everyone would calm down and try to figure out what's going on here.

"Look who's talking, Chaletwo."

"We're pirates, mate. Calmin' down's not what we do."

"Wait!" Mark says. "If you go in there, I don't know what's going to happen."

"Me neither," Anchor says cheerfully. "Let's find out."

Pink energy sparks and snaps around Silvally's cheek bolts as he concentrates, arcs of the same pink light radiating from his crest. The chimera bows his head, channeling as much power as he can into the wires that lead off into Wildcard Gamma's weapon system. Distantly the ship's cannons grind into position, shedding arcs of glittering pink light while energy gathers in their depths.

Anchor whoops as he spins his chair back to the controls. Ahead the darkness is total, broken only by the cannons' glow. "Sit down and strap in, everybody!" the granbull yells. "We're goin' in!"

--

In another place, it's dark. Very dark. There's a table here. Which is an improvement.

"Have you got any threes?" asks bobandbill, squinting to make his cards out in the dimness. In truth, it should be even darker than it is; there's no obvious source of illumination, outside of the eyes that blink open and shut all around. No light seems to emanate from them--it's directionless and constant.

"Go fish," says Dragonfree. The cards have espurr on the back and came in with Psychic. They're all fortunate that there was a Pokémon Center promotion recently.

A dark pseudopod extends from the wall of blackness and deposits tea, in teacup, in saucer, next to bobandbill. "I don't want more tea!" he says. "Where does it keep coming from?"

The pseudopod shudders, then extrudes a teapot in addition. "Why don't you give them tea? Why is it only me?"

Across the table from bobandbill Psychic's meowstic chirps and bangs her paw on the table five times. Psychic sighs and shuffles the cards around in her hand before extracting a couple and passing them over. "I don't even know why I bother playing with you."

"Maybe because there's nothing else to do here. Does anybody want some tea?"

Play pauses for a moment when there's a sound, somewhere far-off. It's faint, a thump or a thud or something, but it's the first any of them can remember hearing since they got here. They have no idea what's out there, past the impenetrable wall of dark creature that surrounds them, which has opened up only this small little one-room space for them, to whatever end it has in mind. Yelling at it has produced only an epidemic of rapid blinking.

The noise sounds again, still distant. Dragonfree frowns and lays her hand carefully face-down. "Any guesses?" she asks.

"I don't know," Psychic says. "Could be anything."

And, of more immediate interest, one wall of their prison starts to tremble, the eyes in it winking closed so it becomes nothing more than a flat, rippling black surface. "Looks like something big," bobandbill says, sitting up a little straighter.

"Maybe it's some chairs?" Psychic says hopefully. "I'm getting tired of kneeling."

"I hope there's enough for all of us," bobandbill says. "Because if there aren't, you know who's going to end up getting one while one of us has to sit on the floor." Her jerks his head unsubtly in the direction of Meowstic, who's standing reviewing the cards in her hand with intent red-yellow eyes.

But when the trembling wall finally starts to disgorge the item it's brought for them, it's not a piece of furniture. Instead an entire unconscious girl slides out of the black, bloody and muddy and more importantly bladed, what look like long razors running up the lengths of her arm. The mods stare at her after the wall deposits her on the floor of their small prison.

"Well, I wasn't expecting that," Dragonfree says.
 
Last edited:

Umbramatic

The Ghost Lord
That twist ending though.

Another lovely update! Everyone was fun to follow and we learned more about the aliens! Once again you've done Polly and her Dunsparce justice (though I will note the latter's a girl)
 

The Walrein

Well-Known Member
Alright, time for a desperate last-minute gamble! Farfetch'd will accuse Octillery DeVillain of being on the side of the aliens, judging from how he fell on top of him right when he was in the middle of executing his master plan to defeat them (which is much too complex to explain right at the moment). He'll say that Octillery can prove himself trustworthy by providing him with two things: A sheet of blank paper (torn out of the book he's carrying) and ink (from his natural octopus-abilities). Assuming that Farfetch'd can acquire these two things, either via Octillery's cooperation or some other means, he'll move to phase two of his plan, which is premised off of Mark being correct in his assumption that the aliens kidnapped the mods because they needed help.

Using his meat thermometer (assuming he was able to re-acquire it) as an ink pen, Farfetch'd will write the most terrible, cliche-ridden, forum-rules-violating story he's capable of on the blank piece of paper. He'll then enter into the world of the story he created (along with anyone else trustworthy-seeming enough who wants to come) after leaving the paper in an area where it might be found by the aliens. With any luck, the aliens will take the story to the moderators so they can moderate it. When the story gets there, Farfetch'd will pop back out of the story, and convince the moderators to say that the story he wrote is completely perfect and should be accepted into the library. Assuming the plan works, this will cause the aliens to believe that the moderators are terrible at moderating, leading them to return the mods to where they found them so they can go kidnap more competent ones.
 
Last edited:

DeliriousAbsol

Call me Del
Reviewed Restarting for the challenge (I don't know if I'm a little late, but I thought I'd give it a shot given the 24 hour window. There's a chance I've misunderstood.)

If I'm on time, here's my plan of action. Delirious, while enjoying a cup of tea from her crazy teapot, ends up spilling it on Wildcard Gamma's controls. It does something weird. Not bad, just weird. This is crazy extradimensional tea conjured into this world via Necrozma, after all. So... it's sensible to believe it's not your everyday Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea. Go nuts.
 

The Teller

King of Half-Truths
Farfetch'd will accuse Octillery DeVillain of being on the side of the aliens, judging from how he fell on top of him right when he was in the middle of executing his master plan to defeat them (which is much too complex to explain right at the moment).
Excuse me, what?! Oh no, Octillery DeVillain will not have any of this! Octillery DeVillain is the true hero of this story, and he’ll not have some undercooked, stringy duck try to usurp him in such a fowl manner!

He'll say that Octillery can prove himself trustworthy by providing him with two things:
Octillery DeVillain has to prove no such thing! In fact, Octillery DeVillain saw the whole exchange between Farfetch’d and the aliens and thinks that both sides have a telepathic connection (he missed the whole blinking aspect), and thus Farfetch’d is easily either the mastermind or now a mind-controlled puppet of the aliens, a spy whose eyes are a pair of binoculars for the aliens to look through! If only DeVillain’s laser mace wasn’t still in the charger…

DeVillain’s New Final Stand maneuver is mostly the same as the first version: he consults his weapon, “How To Make Mods Disappear,” reads the last page to find the convenient answer to everything, tells everyone the most vague answer possible without technically lying…and THEN phones up all the possible villains used thus far to sic them on the aliens (while scurrying to safety and hoping everyone else dies so that he becomes “moderator” as a reward by virtue of being the only survivor).
 

Phoenixsong

you taste like fear
Tolgo huddles in a miserable little ball in the corner, trying to shut out the talking farfetch'd and the talking tentacle-whatever in favor of wallowing in self-pity. Everything is terrible. They've gone from that rocket-place to this "ship" that looks nothing like any ship he's ever seen, and he lives on the coast so he's pretty damn sure he knows what a ship is, thanks. (For one thing, ships are made of wood, not metal. Metal would just sink, duh. Maybe these pokémon can talk, but shipwrights they clearly are not.) Not only is he back with the huge crowd of round-ears and talking pokémon and giant magic monsters that make no sense, but now they have to sit in this wishiwashi-shaped metal box full of blinking lights and disorienting colors and awful, tinny, beepy noises that make his ears go back against his head. It's like being surrounded by mirrors with a confuse ray permanently bouncing between them, and it makes his head hurt, and it's terrible, and he wants to go home. (Or at least have some tea, over by one of the other groups of talking pokémon. The talking absol seems less irritating than these two, and tea sounds nice, and all that talk of cookies has made him hungry.)

He misses his mother and Kilasdaán, he misses Izri, he almost even misses Luta. Luta is horrible, yes, but at least she's a familiar kind of horrible he knows how to deal with, or to foist off on Kil so she can fix the problem instead of him. And she doesn't talk. He can't even fathom how unbearable the umbreon would be if he could actually understand whatever she keeps yowling at him.

Hm. He probably does have to go get Luta back at some point, doesn't he? Otherwise Kil will be upset and go off on him like all this is his fault. Maybe she can wander back out of the book by herself, though? He's not keen on going back through the rocket-place again just to find her and try to put her back inside the... the thing. The ball thing. Whatever they called it.

He stares absently at the red-and-white sphere in his hand, also cold and metallic but less headachey to look at than the all the light show and bustle and chaos. One of the round-ears gave it to him when he and Luta found themselves in that library and he didn't know what he was supposed to do with her because she doesn't move unless she damn well pleases, also she weighs a million pounds so like hell he's carrying her ass into some bizarro book world. The little magic ball reminds him vaguely of the description of the hungry trees Mother says sometimes grow deep in Ranizha, the ones with the fruit that strikes like lightning and snatches up passing pokémon and sometimes even people; they were usually burned on sight if any were found taking root near a town. The human had insisted it didn't hurt, though, and Tolgo has to admit that it's convenient. Click the catch and Luta goes away just like that, and then he can just carry the little ball around instead of an overweight umbreon who would rather rip his face off than let him hold her directly. Click it again and Kil can have her awful pet back. Maybe he should keep the ball. It might actually let him get some work done around the shop for once.

Although...

Some of the weirdos from the library said that the black slime stuff would take the shape of pokémon, sometimes. The magic ball thingy is for making pokémon go away until you're ready to deal with them. So maybe, if the slime stuff looks and acts kind of like a pokémon...

Tolgo really hopes his part in all this is done. He'd rather just lie down somewhere cool and quiet and let all these other danger-seeking freaks handle the problem. Preferably they'll handle it outside the metal migraine box, far away from him. But if someone shoves him off toward danger again, or the black slime somehow makes it inside, well. Retrieving Luta can wait.

--

Hm... still don't know these "plans" of which you speak, but let's have Tolgo try chucking that poké ball at one of the creatures. Even if they are "pokémon" of some kind I'm sure it won't do a thing because presumably Luta is "registered" to it now, but he doesn't know how poké balls work so why not! If it can make one annoying thing go away for a little while then it can make this other annoying thing go away for a little while, clearly, it all makes sense now.
 
Last edited:

Dragonfree

Just me
All right, so. Mia is unconscious for the moment, and it's hard for me to know exactly what the situation will be when she wakes up. That being said, if she learns the alien things have been giving the moderators tea, she will have a lot of questions. She will probably try to establish whether or not she's still in a story, and then where they're getting tea, and why they're doing that, and why they kidnapped the moderators to begin with.
 

Ambyssin

Winter can't come soon enough
Gonna quickly slide in here to make a BatmanShane Gambit that, hopefully, will work.

"Necrozma can make portals to other worlds," Silvally said, shifting into his dark memories. "If I can fool Necrozma into thinking that Shane is working with these mysterious moderator characters, then I might be able to trick Necrozma into opening an Ultra Wormhole to where they're being held. Then, we follow him in, and I'll toss this Groovibomb out of the ship to distract Necrozma... and anyone else who might be there. After that, we go on the attack!"
 

RocketKnight66

404: Consistent Schedule not Found
I'm not really 100% sure about that last stand, so I'll keep it simple. Considering himself, Owen, and Delirious have been working as a team, he'd probably continue helping them out. He isn't afraid to do some fighting of course, but his main priority will be working together with the others.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Oh dang, I kinda forgot to post a final action, but honestly? I'm cool with whatever you come up with. (Though I will say that Palkia is likely to be intrigued by Mark's assertion that the aliens are friendly, and will be more likely to aid any attempts to get through to the aliens rather than going with an all-out offensive.)

Anyway, I loved reading part 3, and it's only getting more fun seeing all these characters brought together by Wildcard Gamma. Farfetch'd and Octillery's shenanigans continue to crack me up, and Palkia trolling Chaletwo gives me life.
 
Last edited:

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Okay, this is your last and final reminder that the end of the prize claim period is in around eleven hours, tonight at midnight EST! If you haven't sent me a PM about what you'd like for prizes by that deadline, you won't be getting them. If you sent me a PM sometime last week and haven't heard back yet, don't worry about it--as long as you sent it before the deadline, you're fine. I'm currently working through a backlog and will get you a reply as soon as I can.

Also, if you'd like to volunteer to provide reviews, fanart, or fanfic banners and you aren't already listed in the first post, let me know! There are a lot of requests coming in this week, so having a few more people on hand would definitely help things run smoothly.

Hang tight for the final story update, as well as the closing post and final score announcement!
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
Okay, at this point I've caught up on my inbox and should have replied to all the prize requests I got. If you sent me a PM and have not heard back, please PM me ASAP to let me know! I would not be surprised if I managed to lose a couple people in the shuffle.

This is also absolutely your last warning about prize requests! You only have about an hour left to get those in if you haven't already, and I'm going to be quite strict about the cut-off time.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Oh right, I should probably just say it here since I already said it in PMs: Owen's just gonna do his usual thing. As a Charmander, he's arguably one of the weakest members on that space ship, aside from the other li'l guys, so he's no doubt going to try to play brains or tactician. Despite his looks, he's actually pretty good at that sort of thing, and very resourceful. Maybe his inner chessmaster will shine through? Either way, he's pretty pumped about everything, wouldn't doubt if he asked about every little gadget and gizmo on the ship just to learn what it all is.
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
All right, one last update for the road. Hope you enjoy the grand finale, and stay tuned for a brief wrap-up post after the story update.

---​

There isn't even enough time for the stunned moderators to try to help the strange girl who's been delivered to them by their captors. Less than thirty seconds after arriving she's beginning to stir, opening strange vertically-slitted eyes and moving to sit up.

"Are you okay?" bobandbill asks. "Do you need anything? I don't know, we only have... uh, would you like some tea?"

The new girl draws herself up in a defensive stance, her blood-crusted blades up and out, and her eyes flick from one moderator to another. "Where am I?" she asks. "Am I still in a story?"

"You're d-d--" Dragonfree starts to say, but cuts herself off with a faint choking noise. The girl snaps her gaze in Dragonfree's direction, her head moving with abrupt, jerky movements, but she turns away again just as quickly when Psychic speaks up.

"We don't know where we are. We might be in a story, or we might not. Some weird creatures grabbed us and brought us here," Psychic says.

"You're the moderators everyone's looking for," the girl says. It's not a question.

"Oh? People are looking for us?" bobandbill asks.

"Yes," Mia says. She looks over the group again, lips curling up to show pointed teeth. "Have you been sitting here the entire time waiting for someone to come and rescue you? Aren't you even trying to fight?"

"We did," bobandbill says, glancing at his fellow mods. "It didn't do any good. No matter how much damage we did, the things kept growing back. They took our weapons and left us here with this black stuff all around. It isn't very strong, but it's thick, and it grows back, too."

"We're still trying to think of ways to get out of here," Psychic says. "You're hurt, aren't you? Why don't you sit down a moment and we'll see if we can help you out. You should have something to drink at least. Then we can see if there's some way you can help us get out of here."

Mia makes a disgusted noise and turns away from them. She swipes at the eye-studded wall behind her, carving out a long furrow in its rubbery surface. She slashes again, and again, ever faster, carving steadily into the wall, taking one step forward, then another.

The darkness keeps reforming after every injury, though, black flowing in to refill the gouges the girl scrapes out nearly as fast as she can dig new ones. It's soon clear both that she'll have to keep cutting at top speed if she wants to keep moving forward, and that she's tiring rapidly. Around five steps in she gives up, a couple of last, almost petulant cuts vanishing nearly as soon as they're laid down. Mia leans to one side and glares at the black for a few seconds, then turns and comes back out into the mods' clear area before the wall can seal up behind her.

"Come on, have a seat," Psychic says, shifting a bit to make room. "What's your name?"

"Mia," Dragonfree croaks. She's contemplating the table in front of her with a queasy look on her face.

The strange girl flicks a glance at Dragonfree, but doesn't comment. She doesn't sit down, either. Instead she asks, "How do you have tea?"

"I don't know. The wall keeps giving it to me for some reason," bobandbill says.

Mia's nostrils flare--she clearly doesn't care for that answer. But before she can do anything about it, the wall behind her, which no longer bears so much as a scratch, begins to tremble. When something comes through it, Mia leaps aside, clearly expecting an attack.

"Woo!" the delivery says, slightly muffled by her mask. "I knew it would work!"

"Do you recognize this one?" bobandbill asks Dragonfree, and she shakes her head, still looking stricken.

"I'm PikachuFan, and I'm here to save you!" the girl says cheerfully, getting to her feet.

"How did you get here?" Psychic asks. "Wait, how did you get here?" The latter directed at Mia.

"The black things dragged me here."

"My friends brought me here!" PikachuFan chirps. "All you have to do is ask politely. So, come on, don't you want to leave?"

"Yes," bobandbill says, standing up. The other two remain seated.

"Wait, hang on, who are your friends?" Psychic asked. "How are we getting out of here?"

PikachuFan makes an exasperated noise. She must be rolling her eyes behind her mask. "The black things! They're my friends. And they're really sorry for kidnapping you. They don't really understand people very well. They don't want to hurt anybody. And all you have to do to get back is walk into a wall. My friends said they'd put you back where you belong."

Mia appears to have taken "just ask" literally. "Why did you bring them tea?" she demands of the wall. "Why?" It just blinks at her with multifarious eyes.

"I don't think it knows how to talk yet," PikachuFan says, after giving the wall a critical look. "But I bet if you ask it for tea, it'll give you some!"

"I want my sword back," Mia tells the wall.

"Now come on," PikachuFan says to the moderators. "Everybody's looking for you!"

"You two be skeptical, I'm getting out of here," bobandbill says. PikachuFan beckons him forward eagerly. Even she has to pause, though, and turn, as faint sounds come through from beyond the wall, something like the sound of tearing fabric, growing louder, and a faint, piping melody, likewise. PikachuFan takes a couple steps back, and then a few more, and is terribly lucky she did so, because a moment later a green comet comes hurtline out of the wall, leaving a huge dark rent behind it.

The strange object brakes impossibly fast, coming to a halt above the tea-table and revealing itself to be an overlarge green pea with a tiny red cape tied around it. It rises gently, trilling a kazoo-sounding theme as it goes, then disappears in a flash of light.

The bewildered onlookers blink afterimages out of their vision and stare into the long tunnel carved out by the... pea. Its ragged edges are smoothing out, and the walls are undeniably starting to grow back towards one another, but for the moment it's an undeniable way out. Psychic stands up, pulling Dragonfree with her, and everyone but Mia makes for the corridor, only to stop again when they spot someone coming down it from the opposite direction at a brisk jog.

The young woman comes puffing up to them and has to stand for a few seconds, breathing hard. By the time she's recovered enough to speak, though, she's already smiling. "Hello," she says. "Did you see a Super Attack Pea come through here, by any chance?"

--

Meanwhile, Wildcard Gamma plunges into darkness, Silvally glowing at the center of its bridge. The chimera stands at the center of a wildfire of free energy, flares and streamers of light crackling from the interface between his cheek-bolts and the cables hooking into the pirate ship's weapon array. The light shifts from color to color, deep red to green to orange to bright sky-blue, while outside the ship the cannons leak energy across the same spectrum, cutting a path through the living dark with a constant stream of fire.

Despite the crowding on the bridge, Silvally gets a wide berth, though some of the passengers simply sit watching his light show, mesmerized by the glowing colors. Others watch out the windows at the cannon-fire and the endless, rolling darkness outside, or chat, or squabble with each other. Farfetch'd and Octillery DeVillain appear to be locked in a heated argument off near the edge of the room.

Delirious ventures up to the front of the cockpit where the actual crew are strapped in, Macro with his feet up on the instrument panel and scowling at the darkness ahead. "Would any of you like some tea?" she asks. "I thought you might be getting thirsty after all the work you've been doing picking people up."

Macro only snorts, but Anchor says, "Sure, I wouldn't mind something."

Right eye spiraling gently, Delirious smiles as she sets out a teacup and saucer, pilfered from Necrozma's table, and tips her steaming kettle. Unfortunately this causes a scalding stream of water to arc directly onto the control panel, Anchor shoving his seat back with a yelp and a curse.

"Oh, I'm so sorry! It does that sometimes, I haven't learned how to control it, oh dear, is that normal?"

The various lights and panels on Anchor's console strobe and beep and fizz with electricity, and the granbull dives forward with a curse, prying the panel up while dismayed shouts sound around the bridge as the lights go out, leaving it perilously dark, as no light drifts in from the black outside. Silvally roars and claws at his face as charge surges back into him from the fizzing power grid, only for the energy around him to switch abruptly to a gentle tan color and the current to pass across him harmlessly.

In the dim red glow of emergency lighting Macro's at Anchor's side, demanding to know what's going on and if it can be fixed while the granbull, wiping carefully at the console's exposed circuitry, waves him off, and Delirious stands off to the side, apologizing profusely. The ship's engines have gone quiet, though it's hard to tell from the view outside, which is as endlessly black as ever.

A cool blue glow fills the bridge, and its restless inhabitants turn to stare out the window, where a huge blue bat pokémon is gliding through the air (or whatever it is out there), slipping up in front of Wildcard Gamma's nose.

Silvally's crest rises, and his claws rasp against the bridge's metal floor. "Necrozma!"

"You know that pokémon?" Macro asks pointedly.

"He's dangerous! We have to... Wait, why is he staying out there? Why hasn't he attacked?"

Necrozma's floating lazily outside the ship's cockpit, making faces at its occupants.

"Can't," Anchor grunts without looking up from his work. "The shields'll block cannon-fire, see. No pokémon could break 'em."

"I guess they must stop him from opening an Ultra Wormhole in here, too, or he'd already have gotten in," Silvally mutters. He watches the legend capering outside, now making "I'm going to get you" gestures at the ship.

The lights come on again, abruptly, and Anchor growls with satisfaction. The engines hum louder and louder, and the cannons outside begin to glow once again. A ragged cheer goes up from the people on the bridge, and Necrozma slips away again. Silvally watches him go, grimly, sure that he'll keep following the ship, looking for an opportunity to attack. They'll need to deal with him somehow.

"It's fine, it's fine," Anchor says, shooing a still-apologizing Delirious away, while Macro scowls openly at her. "No harm done. Just keep your tea away from the machinery."

A shout sounds from the far end of the bridge. "Captain!" A slurpuff's waddling forward as fast as his stubby legs can carry him. "The electricity's out! I can't get anything working!"

"Power's back on, Cookie."

"Not to the kitchen! All of the appliances are out!"

Macro and Anchor exchange a look. "We've got to get flying, Cookie. We can see to the nonessential repairs once we're out of the danger zone."

"But I just made a quadruple serving of my Pecha ice cream! It'll go bad if the freezer won't work!"

Which is how everyone on the bridge ended up with their own bowl of ice cream, much to the freak's delight. "That was the best power outage ever!" it says, offering a spoonful of ice cream up to Four O'Clock, who's too small to manage her own bowl. She trills happily and sips at the tiny serving with her proboscis. "Right, Great Nathaniel Morgan?"

The freak turns when it doesn't get a response, a dismayed frown creeping across its face as it notices a conspicuous lack of scowl over by the windows, its roaming gaze finding the bridge Rocket-less. "Oh no." Four buzzes at it. "No, no, I have to go find him. He must be up to something." It scoops the rest of the ice cream into its mouth with a careless hand and sets out apprehensively across the bridge. As it goes it skirts around Farfetch'd and Octillery DeVillain, who are having an argument.

"And then!" Farfetch'd squawks, jabbing his meat thermometer at the octillery, "He dropped on me out of nowhere! While I was innocently minding my own business! No, actively working to bring the alien menace to heel! Scouting the hallways to determine the best plan of attack! Clearly this mon is in league with our enemies."

The octillery, who has his copy of How to Make Mods Disappear open on the floor in front of him, glares at Farfetch'd, his tentacles curling and flexing with anxiety. "If a-anyone's in league with the a-aliens, it's you! You were talking with them through your telepathic link. I saw it a-all!"

"Telepathy? Everyone knows that's a load of crock made up by new-age wackos and conspiracy theorists! And psychic pokémon, I guess. A noble farfetch'd like me couldn't even dream of any funny mind business."

Octillery Devillain slaps a tentacle against the bridge. "I know a-all a-about telepathy! I wouldn't have been a-able to create my mind-control beacon without it!"

"Oooh, a mind-control beacon, is that it? Sounding real innocent over there, aren't we, Mr. DeVillain?"

Tolgo watches the exchange nervously, scooting along the wall towards where Polly and Canisaries are sitting, finishing up their ice cream. Hopefully the squabbling pokémon have forgotten all about him by this point. Palkia floats nearby, apparently enjoying the spectacle, but most people simply ingore the pair.

"--not working with aliens? Then prove it! All I need is a piece of paper and a bit of ink to destroy the aliens completely. You have both of those, don't you? If you care about rescuing the mods at all, you'll give me some."

"I don't need to prove a-anything to you!" Octillery DeVillain protests. "I a-am trying to read! Everything we need to know, it's a-all right here, in this book. A-and I, Octillery DeVillain, a-am going to use it to find out how to make the mods disappear! Back to their normal places, I mean."

"Ah-ha! See? See?" Farfetch'd pokes at Octillery DeVillain with the meat thermometer while the octillery curls his tentacles up defensively, not taking his eyes off the book. "You have the means to destroy the aliens right there, and yet you won't lift a single tentacle to help! Innocent? I think not!" Farfetch'd reaches towards the book, and Octillery DeVillain slaps at him with a tentacle. "See? See?"

"I can get ink and paper for you," Palkia says, raising their hands and calling across the dimensions. Shortly thereafter a notepad and a bottle of ink clatter to the deck, wrenched there from some other world. Farfetch'd dives for them and starts scribbling furiously, blotting the paper crazily with ink as he tries to scratch words out with his unwieldy thermometer. "I imagine this is some plan to get the mods back?" Palkia asks casually.

"Of course! I'm going to write the most terrible, cliché-ridden story, forum-rules-violating story that I can. Then, I'll read it to myself to enter the world of the story, and one of you passes it over to the aliens. They'll take it to the moderators to be moderated, and when it gets to them, I'll pop out and get them to say that it's a perfect story and belongs in the library. Then the aliens will decide that the moderators are so bad at their jobs that they'll put them back where they belong and go find new ones to kidnap!"

"Oh, I see," Palkia says, watching Farfetch'd scribble. "That's certainly a daring plan."

"Of course! Who do you think came up with it?"

"Actually," Silvally says from behind Palkia, "that could be it!" His eyes glint strangely in the reflected light of the energy surging from his cheek-bolts. "You write the story and go inside. Then I'll write on the front, 'To Shane and the Mods.' Then we drop it outside the ship. Necrozma will see it and read the address and think Shane's working with the moderators! Then he's sure to try and go to them, too. As soon as he opens an Ultra Wormhole, we'll follow him through. Then I'll hit him with the Groovibomb." Silvally reaches up into the feathers that cascade over his shoulders and takes out the small, grenade-looking thing. "Shane says this is one of the most powerful weapons in any universe! I don't know if even this can defeat Necrozma by itself. He's more powerful than any legendary pokémon I've ever met. But at least it will distract him enough that we can follow up with our own attack and sneak the mods out while he's occupied!"

"And then I'll pop out and tell the moderators they have to accept my story into the library," Farfetch'd says, sounding a bit skeptical.

"I dunno, Cap'n. Sounds like one of your plans," Anchor says to Macro.

"Come on, my plans aren't that bad," the mawile huffs.

"I like it," Palkia says, booming voice strange and disconcerting coming from his now-tiny body. "I think I like it a lot!"

--

With Wildcard Gamma cutting a swath through the alien darkness, Necrozma's has an easy, if boring, time following after. Every now and again he makes an attempt against whatever's blocking him from the ship, but it repels him every time. So the spaceship has a forcefield--figures. Shane can't hide in there forever.

The legend nearly misses the scrap of paper that comes fluttering down in the ship's wake, buffeted by thermals coming off the ship's huge engines and nearly lost against the huge ship itself and the deep darkness around it. Once Necrozma notices it, though, he swoops in to snag it, reading the front in the light of his own glowing wings. "To Shane and the moderators? So everyone's out looking for that selfish jerk along with these 'moderator' people? Typical." He slits the letter open and starts to read, a dismayed frown growing on his face as he goes along. "And what the heck is this?"

Closing the letter again, Necrozma taps it against his chin while he considers Wildcard Gamma, moving away from him now, but he won't have any problem catching up. It's not easy to outrun someone who can make Ultra Wormholes, after all. "What are you playing at, you big Frankenstein-looking freak?" he mutters to himself. "Oh, well. Don't care. Whatever you have in mind, there's no way it can stop me. Myeeheehee!" He tosses the letter carelessly over his shoulder, and it drifts until finally encountering the dark alien mass that fills most of this world. It's quietly absorbed into the black, and Necrozma concentrates, sensing for himself where it's bound.

"So that's where you're hiding, is it?" he murmurs after a moment. "Easy enough. You won't escape from me, Shane!" With a gesture from one clawed hand, he opens an Ultra Wormhole and is away.

--

"That's it! An Ultra Wormhole's been opened!" Matrix says, jabbing feverishly at his controls. "Tracking the output location now!"

"Here we go," Macro says grimly, hands unconsciously going to the handles of his pistols. "DL, are you ready with the Groovibomb?" he says into his communicator.

"Ready!" DL's voice comes back. She's down in the belly of the ship, ready to toss the bomb out of the hatch the moment they've caught up to Necrozma--and, hopefully, the mods.

"We're locked on! Hang on, it's not far away." Wildcard Gamma veers dramatically, forcing everyone on the bridge to grab for a handhold.

Octillery DeVillain, already suckered firmly to the floor, doesn't need anything to hold onto. He scans the last page of How to Make Mods Disappear, oblivious to what's going on around him. "A-ah-ha!" he announces. "I have it! It says here that the way to make the mods disappear is to... Well, it says they can be brought back by people who recognize their power supporting them, a-and that the most dangerous thing a-a person who wants to stop them has to watch out for is their own belief in what a-a moderator can do. So I think that means we should build a-an a-amnesia bomb, so that they can't remember they've been kidnapped a-and find themselves right back a-at home!"

Unfortunately it seems no one's listening to him, as usual. The ship continues its steep bank, Silvally lighting the bridge's interior with brilliant, color-changing energy, and most of the other people aboard are watching out the windows as Wildcard Gamma carves its way through the darkness, hopefully soon to reach wherever the moderators are being held. Octillery DeVillain goes on, oblivious. "If only I hadn't left my de-a-atomizer at home! First, we need to find some plutonium, or perhaps some uranium would do, hmmm..."

"Decelerating to target. Five seconds!" Matrix yells. "Four! Three! Two!"

A collective gasp sounds from the people pressed up against the windows as the darkness abruptly breaks, Wildcard Gamma having plunged through to a small, barren little clearing. The three moderators, down below, are unmistakable, as is the black-armored, blue-glowing shape of Necrozma.

"DL!" Macro barks.

"On it!" she calls back through her communicator, and the groovibomb, looking terribly small from this height, falls away from the ship, tumbling end over end as it arcs down towards Necrozma.

--

Necrozma hurtles through the Ultra Wormhole before anyone can try to make sense of the latest gift the walls have brought them, what appears to be an envelope. The legend unfurls his wings, making a quick check of the area. "Hmmm. Looks familiar," he says, spotting a familiar table and tea-drinking paraphernalia.

"Is that... Necrozma? Dawn Wings Necrozma?" Psychic asks.

"Yes, pleased to eat you! Nyehehehe. Now, where's Shane? Ninetales, super fluffy, always going on about friendship and then stabbing people in the back? Don't play dumb with me, his name was on that godawful story you all got sent."

The moderators, plus a few recently-acquired friends, stare up at the armored bat that's blocking their way, but before they can say anything, the piece of paper on the barren, rocky ground under Necrozma tiwtches, shivers, and then disgorges Farfetch'd in a burst of blue light.

"All right! Moderators!" he quacks. "What did you think of my story? Brilliant, right? Totally worthy of the library! Go on, why don't you approve it right now?"

"We're a little busy right now," bobandbill says, looking warily between Necrozma and the dark wall around their prison. "But tell you what, if we manage to make it back to the library, I promise you can story, and we'll look at it then. How does that sound?"

"Ah-ha!" Farfetch'd points his thermometer at bobandbill. "Approving a story without even having read it? A story that clearly violates almost every single rule of the forum? And you call yourself a moderator! Whoever it was that brought you here must have made a mistake. A grave mistake! And if they knew what was good for them, they'd put you right back where you--ack!"

Farfetch'd, turning to better address his audience in the eye-studded walls, finally notices Necrozma floating behind him. The legend's fangs and drool-flecked chin make it emphatically clear which end of the food chain he resides on. Farfetch'd takes a step back, making choked croaking noises.

"Come on!" PikachuFan yells. "We have to get out of here! Follow me, my friends won't let that guy catch us."

"I don't think so," Necrozma snarls, unfurling his wings--only to let them droop in distraction when, for a second time, Wildcard Gamma comes to interrupt his meal. The ship comes barreling through the wall, cannons roaring with multicolored light, scattering black in a fine mist as it breaks into the open air of the moderators' prison. Necrozma snaps his attention back to the ground, only to find that Farfetch'd has taken PikachuFan's advice to heart and gone into full retreat, while the humans stare up at the ship themselves, dumbfounded.

Something arcs down from the huge blue wishiwashi, and Necrozma dodges with a flip of his wings. "Ha! Missed!" he crows up at the ship, but the groovibomb, upon hitting the ground, simply bounces back up again, sprouting a bright white jet of fire that propels it into the air. It rises up, and up, above Necrozma's head, and suddenly erupts with light and sound, shining bright spotlights around the small clearing, spinning multicolored shards of light from its mirrored facets. A snappy disco beat fills the air, and Necrozma finds himself, somehow, compelled to dance.

"What?" he snarls, bobbing gently back and forth, rocking his wings to the music. "A groovibomb? SHAAAAAAANE! I KNOW YOU'RE BEHIND THIS!"

Know or not, Necrozma can't escape the bomb's infectious beat. Below, Farfetch'd is briskly moonwalking away from Necrozma, staring at his own feet in utter horror, and Mia wears a positively murderous expression as she does an especially jerky Robot, muscles twitching as though she's trying to break out of her involuntary groove.

"Oh, so we're all dancing now? Okay, I'm gonna YMCA!" PikachuFan says. And she does, without any apparent regard for the beat.

Meanwhile, Psychic gets up on the table, tosses her head back, and throws a finger in the air. She discos away while the other humans circle around, caught up in their own dance routines.

"Hey, hey, hey, hey!" Necrozma snarls when a spotlight from the groovibomb shines directly on psychic, still commandingly dancing away. "Don't you go stealing my spotlight! I'm the big bad here, remember?"

Even the aliens get in on the act, the walls growing long, flowing pseudopods that stroke back and forth to the beat of the music, like a great crowd of dancers backing up the main act down on the floor.

Up above, Silvally's been watching all this with pure dismay. "This is the weapon Shane would pick out of all of them? It didn't even hurt Necrozma at all!" Covering his face with a paw, he groans. "It is Shane. I guess I should have expected this."

"Well, you wanted 'im distracted, didn't you?" Anchor asks. "Come on, everyone! Ladder down! Let's go get some moderators!" Wildcard Gamma's passengers surge past with an uneven cheer, piling up around the top of the ladder and swarming down with dangerous speed.

--

Tolgo didn't want to join in the rescue mission. He was actually doing just fine up on the ship, where there was tea and ice cream and nobody trying to kill him. The company, despite their weird round ears, seemed almost sane. But now, of course, they're all rushing off like madmen at their very first opportunity to get horribly murdered by aliens and/or slavering legendary monsters. Tolgo didn't want to join in at all. But the lady in blue, who'd been engaging enough when she was just telling stories about taming crazed pokémon and defending human villages, seems like the most enthusiastic of all, and she's currently hauling Tolgo along with her like he's her only chance for success.

The elf clutches Luta's pokéball firmly in one hand, determined that, if he's going to go down there, he at least needs something to create a distraction before he starts running as fast as he can in the opposite direction. By the time Polly's boots and, shortly thereafter, Tolgo's, touch the ground, the groovibomb's music is fading, the dancers beginning to break out of their spell. Rather than going out with a whimper, the groovibomb shudders, then detonates, knocking Necrozma backwards in the air. The legendary merely looks briefly annoyed, though; he's up and flapping a second later.

"Okay!" Polly yells. "Pokémon to the front! Keep Necrozma back! Humans, let's go get those moderators!"

The crowd, now yelling various war-cries or, in Tolgo's case, simply yelling in terror, splits in two, the pokémon surging off towards Necrozma, the relatively few humans going to round up their brethren who are slowly coming out of their dance-trance, Dragonfree still waving one finger above her head in a kind of a confused way.

Tolgo, of course, belongs in neither camp, although it looks like the humans have the easier job, at least. He hesitates, turning the pokéball over in his fingers. He still doesn't know what to do with it, exactly, and he doubts it'll make any difference, but he figures he ought to try, at least.

Feeling more than a little silly, he shouts "Yah!" and tossess the pokéball directly at one of the eyes on the wall. It snaps shut, vanishing just before the pokéball can hit it. The ball strikes the black with a solid thwap, sticks briefly, then peels loose and bounces to the scoured rock of the ground, bouncing and rolling away. Tolgo sighs, his ears drooping even more than usual.

He starts when Polly rushes up and grabs for his arm again. "Come on! We've got to get those three over there!" PikachuFan, bobandbill, and Saoirse have been separated from the rest of the group by the scrum around Necrozma. PikachuFan's slinging pebbles at Necrozma, not coming particularly close to hitting him but apparently having a grand old time. Meanwhile, Saoirse has dug a very fine-looking fountain pen, the kind you might expect to find in the home of a famous composer, out of her pocket (how did that get in there?). She brandishes it high, yelling "Deus vult!" with enthusiasm, while bobandbill keeps eyeing the wall behind them nervously.

"They're going to get killed," Tolgo gasps, watching the two of them preparing to charge Necrozma.

"Not if we get there first!" Polly says. "Metagross, let's go."

"We're going to get killed!" Tolgo moans as the psychic type pulls them both up into the air, sailing over towards the humans behind Necrozma.

--

Meanwhile, Mark, May, and Chaletwo quietly peel off from the rest of the crowd, making for the wall of the enclosure that's turned into a chaotic battlefield, the interface with the alien force that kidnapped the moderators. Its eyes swivel to watch Mark as he comes up to it, blinking placidly. It doesn't appear bothered by all the fuss that causes the human to have to shout to be heard.

"Please, close the other portals!" he yells. "I know you don't mean any harm, but you're destroying the worlds you're moving into! You can't take things away from the place they belong."

"Indeed. Not unless you want some very cranky dragons showing up to give you a stern lecture. Or a banishment to the world of antimatter, depending on their mood."

Mark turns, surprised, to find the tiny Palkia floating near his shoulder. "Aren't you going to go help the others?" he asks.

"Oh, I think they're getting on fine without me," the dragon says breezily.

And, indeed, Necrozma's being overwhelmed by the sheer number of pokémon arrayed against him. Owen, Takato, and Delirious are up near the front, firing attacks, or in Takato's case, explosive shells, directly at the bat-legendary. In the air overhead, Thunder and Lightning, with Janine and Falkner shouting orders, buffet Necrozma with razor-sharp bursts of wind. A dunsparce yells and headbutts the legend in the side. Silvally charges in and out of the battle, now blasting Necrozma with an elemental attack, now leaping to block one of Necrozma's countermoves, his multi-typed memories ensuring he's always able to resist what the legend dishes out.

Necrozma fights back with shadow balls and dark pulses, bursts of psychic power and black meteoroids spewed from his claw-tips. Somehow Owen always seems to know where they're going to land, though, and his called-out warnings allow his teammates to evade almost all of them. Necrozma turns here and there, firing attack after attack into the crowd of pokémon, and seems to make no dent. Instead, he roars when Mia suddenly springs on him from behind, slashing with her katanas and arm-blades alike, a grin fixed on her face as she finally gets her opportunity to fight a legendary pokémon.

Necrozma teleports away, leaving Mia to thump to the ground, still smiling. The legend draws himself up and fires a moongeist beam into the thick of the enemy pokémon, and this at least does some damage, scattering Owen's team in temporary disarray. No sooner has he done that, though, than something pinprick-sharp jabs him in the side. A poison sting, maybe? Necrozma growls to himself and looks around for who might be firing on him now.

Another stab and the legend whirls, head turning this way and that. Where is that coming from?

Something yellow zips past his face, and he's stuck again, this time in the neck. Necrozma reaches up and claws at the air, but whatever the thing is zooms out of reach, then comes arcing around, headed straight for his face. It's moving so fast Necrozma can barely recognize it as a cutiefly, even when it's aiming for one of his eyes. The legend claws blindly at his face, ducking his head to protect it from Four's stabbing push-pin. The cutiefly trills and hums with delight, lightning-quick and feeling herself to be rather deadly, while Necrozma snarls and curses and flails at the air, trying to shake the bug off, up until a Judicator shell strikes him square in the chest and blasts him clear out of Four's range, at least for the time being.

While the furious fighting continues around Necrozma, Polly and Canisaries are doing their best to round up the moderators and the humanoids who don't have a lot they can do against Necrozma. They don't make it easy--they don't seem to agree about the fact that there's not a lot they can do against Necrozma.

"They're talking to my friends!" PikachuFan announces, apparently talking about Mark's group off to the side. "I'm going to go help!"

"No! Kid! You need to get on the ship!" But PikachuFan manages to slip out from under Polly's outflung arm, and she makes off at a rapid, yet apparently oblivious pace. Polly groans and bangs the butt of her staff against the ground. Turning to Canisaries, she says, "Okay, I'm going to go after that one. Can you get everybody else onto Metagross' back and have it take you back to the ship."

"Sure, I guess," the arcanine morph says. One hand stays firmly on the handle of her gun at all times.

The moderators go along readily enough. "Glad there's a ship, I didn't really want to go diving back into that black stuff," bobandbill mutters while he hoists himself up on Metagross' back.

Saoirse is less enthusiastic. "A holy warrior of God fears no creature of darkness!" She brandishes her pen enthusiastically.

"Okay. Get on the metagross or the metagross is going to make you get on," Canisaries says.

Saoirse looks from her, to metagross, to the battle around Necrozma. A manic grin flits across her face, and she tenses herself to run. Then a pink psychic glow surrounds her and she's tugged unceremoniously up onto metagross' back and, to all appearances, held there.

Dragonfree seems a little out of it, staring fixedly at Mia, who's now barely visible in the chaos of the battlefield. "Felicia?" she asks Canisaries when the arcanine morph sits down next to her.

"Uh, no. The name's Canis," Canis says. Metagross rises gently into the air, legs tucked up on its back as it floats towards Wildcard Gamma.

"Oh, sorry." Dragonfree frowns pensively at nothing for a few moments. "Are you a morph too?"

"Uh, sure. Let's go with that."

And whether Canis willed it or no, further awkwardness is averted by a submarine falling out of the sky.

--

The halls of Wildcard Gamma are quiet, almost everyone gone down to the surface of the alien world. The freak pads along in silence, every now and then pausing to bend down and sniff at the floor like some kind of strange bloodhound. At last it sights its target up ahead and picks up speed, moving with almost unnatural quiet along the corridor.

"What are you doing?"

The Great Nathaniel Morgan starts, turns, then plasters himself against the wall with a curse when he finds the freak standing not two feet behind him, grinning hugely and very pointily. "Nothing! I ain't doing nothing! Piss off already."

"We should be down fighting with everybody else."

"That's a ****ing fantastic idea. You go do that. Get yourself ****ing killed for me too, would you?"

"Come on," the freak says, reaching for him, and he jerks back, accidentally knocking into the control panel.

"Oh, ****, what was... what did I hit?" the Great Nathaniel Morgan mutters, peering at the flashing light on the console.

The freak strains to see. "The... emergency distress beacon?" it says.

"Oh. Well, I guess that don't matter, at least. Ain't nobody looking for us or nothing."

"What kind of room is this, anyway?" The freak looks around. "It looks almost like a little ship."

"Why do you even give a ****? **** off and go fight already."

The freak's eyes narrow as it considers their surroundings. "Is this... an escape pod."

"No. Now fu--" Something strikes Wildcard Gamma's hull with a boom and a shriek of metal, and the whole room jumps, throwing both the freak and the Great Nathaniel Morgan into the console. A heavy metal blast door hisses down to seal off the small escape pod.

"What was that?" the freak gulps, struggling back upright. And then, immediately, "What did you do?"

"I didn't do ****!" The Great Nathaniel Morgan struggles over to the door and drags on it, cursing vehemently when it doesn't budge.

The freak turns back to the controls and pokes at them experimentally. "Automatic launch sequence in progress," the console says in a smooth, but perhaps slightly reproachful, voice. The walls start to shake as, somewhere, engines hum to life.

"Huh. Well, I guess this should be fun," the freak says, settling into the only chair. "Do you think this shuttle is really supposed to be for two people? It seems kind of small."

The Great Nathaniel Morgan kicks the door as hard as he can. "Open, you worthless piece of ****! Open! Open! ****!"

--

The submarine's landed skewed to one side, nearly tipped completely open. It's an old, battered-looking ship, blue paint flaking, the stylized white A up near the nose well faded. The top hatch opens with a clunk, and a woman fairly tumbles out in a jumble of mismatched blue clothes and a swarm of dark braids. "Who's callin'?" she demands of no one in particular. "We got your signal. Who's callin' up from the black?"

A small head pokes out of the hatch behind her. "We're here to help!" A cranidos jumps down, followed more slowly by a young human, one of the ones who'd assembled in the library earlier. "Oh, a battle," the cranidos says with evident delight. "Who's fighting? Whose side are we on?"

Silvally gallops over to the newcomers, and the cranidos doesn't appear the slightest bit put off by the chimera's mismatched appearance. "We're evacuating," the big pokémon pants. "It looks like your ship can't go anywhere anymore, so you should join the others going to Wildcard Gamma, up there." He nods towards the spaceship.

"I ain't leaving my ship," the woman in blue says, one hand dropping to the antique pistol strapped around her waist. "A captain doesn't abandon her ship."

Silvally looks at her closely, sizing her up. "Make your own choice. The rest of you should get to safety."

"No way! I'm going to fight!" the cranidos says, and he scampers around Silvally and dashes off towards the battle. He's clutching what looks like a ragged stuffed monkey between his hands. Sai watches him go, then shrugs noncommittaly at Silvally.

"I'll stay here for now," he says.

The chimera snorts and turns wearily away. "Suit yourself. Once the mods are aboard, we're leaving. If you want to come with us, you'll have to be aboard by then."

Silvally dashes back towards the battle, but the cranidos is dashing even faster, head lowered. Having surmised what pokémon everyone else is ganging up on, he charges straight at Necrozma, flying into the legend with a powerful headbutt and simultaneously deploying his weapon. The beleaguered bat topples out of the air, landing heavily a few feet from the cranidos' decoy, what the pirate captain he was riding with would have called a relic. The ratty monkey moves jerkily, arms snapping in and out to crash the cymbals in its paws while a wheezy ragtime tune issues from somewhere in its chest. Meanwhile, the fuse on the dynamite strapped to its back quietly hisses.

"What?" Necrozma mumbles, turning to squint at the strange object. "What is... Oh, you've got to be joking!"

But the explosion is no joke, cratering the bare-stone ground, knocking Necrozma flying, and causing the cranidos who'd set the trap to whoop and bounce up and down with delight. The other pokémon race to meet up with Necrozma where he's fallen, sensing that the end of the battle can't be far away. The legend's wings are ragged, their glow sputtering weakly. He can barely raise himself up, his arms are shivering and spasming so badly.

The dynamite knocked him closer to the odd submarine, though, and as he slowly begins to get back up, he pauses, head turning in its direction. "Wait. I smell... I smell..." Necrozma abruptly hurls himself towards the submarine, claws shrieking against its metal-plated side. Its captain roars, drawing and firing on Necrozma, but he's utterly oblivious to the bullets, claws punching into the side of the ship, ripping it open without apparent effort. He digs deeper into the hull, demolishing gears, wiring, ductwork, until he finally reaches something that glows, something that streams golden light when his claws puncture it.

"Yes! YES! LIIIIIIIIIGHT!" Necrozma laps the golden stream of energy straight out of the air in a frenzy, completely ignoring the pokémon that are creeping up uncertainly behind him, the attacks that break across his back.

"What is that?" Silvally barks, racing back over to the ship's captain, who is cursing fluidly and reloading, and Sai, standing ready to back her up with his knife in hand. "What's he doing? What is that light?"

"Bastard's gone and ripped open the engine!" the pirate snarls.

"But what is that light? Is that fuel?"

"It's an old engine," the captain says, somewhat evasively. "From the before-times, if you must know. Very rare."

"And?"

"They don't make its like in these times," the captain says reluctantly. "It's called an Infinite Drive."

"What is it?" Silvally demands, looming over her, crest in disarray but standing straight up in agitation.

"Well, what they say, anyway, is it's powered by the souls of the dead. Pokémon, that is."

"Pokémon's... souls?" Silvally muses. "Life energy? Oh... Oh, no."

Necrozma cackles hysterically, seeming to inhale the glowing streamers that waft from the broken submarine. His body glows a brighter blue, and the air around him begins to fill with glittering motes of light, a faint rainbow haze that shifts and swirls while the legend continues to gorge himself on light.

"Stop!" Silvally yells, racing off again. "Everyone back to the ship! We have to get out of here! Stop attacking and get out of there!"

"Oh? Leaving so soon?" Necrozma laps up a strand of twining golden energy that had been dangling from the corner of his mouth. "You can't leave yet! Not until you've gotten a chance to have a taste of my Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom!"

The rainbow glitter in the air swirls and strengthens as Necrozma shines with brilliant light. People duck and cover their faces as harsh winds whip through the area, carrying with them searing threads of energy. Necrozma glows ever brighter, too brilliant to look at, and the air heats until it's a struggle to breathe. Somewhere at the center of the conflagration, Necrozma's laughing, and then even that noise is drowned out by a roar of superheated air. A flash of light that's brilliant even through closed eyelids, an immense impact whose tremors are enough to knock even Sai and the cranidos, practically opposite the actual attack, off their feet, and things at last fall still.

Humans and pokémon alike are strewn all around the clearing, some unconscious, some moving dazedly about. Metagross has been knocked out of the air, its passengers scattered on the ground around it. Wildcard Gamma still floats overhead,ow protected by its force-shields, but if it had taken the blow straight on, it might well have been on the ground, too.

Standing between Necrozma and the other pokémon, normal-sized and with its gauntlets up shielding its face, is Palkia, armor cracked and discolored by the Z-move. With several people unconscious even with the space dragon there to soak up the brunt of the attack, they might simply have been vaporized without its protection.

"Why, Palkia! Fancy seeing you here," Necrozma sneers. "Showing up just a little bit too late as usual, I see. No need to jump in front of everyone else, I promise I would have gotten to you eventually."

Palkia lowers their arms slowly, glaring at Necrozma with wings spread. "Necrozma. I can't say I've ever encountered a version of you that's quite so irritating, but if you really want to fight me, I'm not going to hold back."

"Oooooh, how scary! Eeheeheeheehee. Well, if you're so eager to die, then I'm not going to stand in your way. Your light will be mine, along with with those of all those puny little mortals you have the gall to call friends."

Palkia brings one arm slashing down, sending a spacial rend racing towards Necrozma. The bat counters with a dark pulse, and the attacks annihilate each other, rocking the battlefield and sending scraps of multicolored energy showering down between the two legends.

"Everyone, get back to the ship!" Palkia yells. "No more fighting. Take the fallen and go!"

A few people are getting woozily back to their feet, and for the most part, they appear eager to follow Palkia's instructions. Polly rushes back towards the fight, her eyes and the crystal on her staff glowing blue as she recalls metagross and uses her psychic power to help struggling people back to their feet. Dunsparce comes hopping and fluttering over to her. "Need some help over here, boss?"

"Figures you'd be the one not to faint," Polly sighs. "Well, you can probably carry one person, right? Why don't you take Psychic, there, and help the others with the ladder?"

"On it!" Dunsparce floats away and somehow manages to pick Psychic up and take off with her, despite having no visible appendages besides tail and stubby wings.

Owen's team is looking ragged, the charmander having lost his fire extinguisher in the fracas though, no surprise, both Takato and Delirious have managed to hang on to their respective weapons. They skirt around behind Palkia, who's doing their best to hold back the brightly-glowing Necrozma. For the moment the bat legend appears to be aiming more for the pokémon around Palkia than directly at the dragon, perhaps because it keeps Palkia on the defensive, forcing them to constantly work to block his attacks, or because worrying about their teammates keeps Palkia distracted. Or perhaps he simply enjoys watching the smaller pokémon scamper when an attack comes their way.

"Don't think you can all just run off now!" he crows, spotting Owen and his friends in retreat. "Not when the fun is just getting started!" He tries to teleport over to the charmander, but Palkia twists the space in the area such that he simply ends up reappearing back where he started instead.

It's not far to where the spaceship's ladder hangs down, its glowing bars of light easily visible from anywhere within the clearing where the moderators were held. Between them and safety is Silvally, though, passed out in a heap on the rock, probably having put himself between Necrozma's attack and some other pokémon.

"Come on!" Owen says, running over to the chimera. "I'll take one leg. Takato, take the other front one. And Delirious, can you kind of get up underneath him and lift?"

Takato looks at the Judicator leaned up againts his shoulder, now scuffed and blackened from serious use but still in good working order, and reluctantly lays it down so he can pick up one of Silvally's talons. Delirious works her way under the chimera's stomach, getting his hind end more or less off the ground, and the three of them set off at an ungainly shuffle.

It's painfully slow going, and Owen's arms are already trembling with the effort of holding Silvally up. He winces when a trio of black meteoroids slam into the ground uncomfortably close by.

"Maybe..." Takato wheezes from the other side of Silvally, "Maybe we ought to put him down and go get somebody bigger to help. Or that metagross, somebody strong who can... lift..."

"Metagross... already got knocked out," Owen says through gritted teeth. Their already-slow progress is slowing down even further, and Owen stumbles on an uneven patch of ground, a place gouged by some attack or other. "I don't know... who... else..."

Who would even be big enough to help? Maybe the granbull or the mawile from the ship, but Owen doesn't see either of them around, and it makes sense they would have gone back already if they have to drive the thing. Certainly none of the humans are going to be any help here.

They can't leave him out here, either, not with Necrozma's attacks tearing up the ground around him, no matter how Palkia tries to block. Owen grits his teeth and drags at Silvally, but it feels like his legs are going to go out at any moment.

"Can't give up," the charmander repeats to himself, resolutely putting one foot in front of the other. "Can't give up, can't give up." It feels like it's going to take years for them to reach Wildcard Gamma, and that's if all three of them manage to hold up through everything.

Owen closes his eyes and strains forward, pulling as hard as he can. Remarkably, it actually seems to get easier the more he struggles. Warmth runs down his arms and his weary back, soothing aching muscles. Silvally actually starts to feel lighter somehow.

"Whoah! Nice!" Takato says, and Owen opens his eyes, confused. Something seems off, but there's nothing nice that he can see; Necrozma and Palkia are still fighting, and Wildcard Gamma's still far away.

"Wish I could just up and evolve like that. You don't think Palkia could grab me a thunder stone from somewhere, do you?"

"Evolve?" Owen looks down and goes rigid with shock to find the arms connected to his body somehow thicker, a deeper, richer red color, the claws longer and curved. The world seems strange because he's suddenly grown taller, and of course Silvally feels lighter because his muscles have matured as well. In fact, shifting his grip so the chimera rests more atop his shoulder, he doesn't feel like he has to strain at all.

I actually did it! I evolved! Owen flexes his new claws and finds himself grinning, grinning, unable to do anything else.

He's going to have to celebrate later, though. "Come on, guys," he says, hefting Silvally up higher. "We can make it. It's not much farther now!"

--

Sai, having been exposed to relatively little of Necrozma's Z-move, does his best to help more injured people make it back to the spaceship. There's one group, though, that's huddled off to one side, apparently talking instead of evacuating like everybody else. Sai jogs over to them.

"What are you doing here?" he asks. "We're supposed to be leaving."

"Mark's trying to convince the aliens to close their portals to the other stories," says one of the girls in the group.

"Other stories?" Sai asks. "Is this supposed to be a story, too?"

It used to be, I think, says the Mewtwo-looking pokémon standing nearby. But it was abandoned a long time ago by its author. The characters kind of went--well, I don't know what happened to them. At least some of them .ended up turning into... this. He waves a hand around at the black walls, the eyes in them now winking rapidly, perhaps in some kind of distress. In the background Palkia screeches, and the ground shivers under a heavy impact. I think maybe the story was about unown originally. I don't know.

"Anyway," the girl says, "the point is, the aliens absorbed everything in their own story, liked, turned in on each other somehow. There was nothing here but them, and without an author, nothing new could be added, either. They were lonely, I guess. So they opened those portals to bring new things into their world. Kidnapping the moderators must have been their way of trying to get attention, to make sure that they would have people to read their story. Or maybe they thought they would have the power to put their story right again, or finish it. I don't know. I don't know if they really know what they want, either."

Yes. I think whatever it was that caused the characters in the story to become... well, whatever they are, it probably affected their thinking. They may not really know what happened to them, or what to do about it.

"It's sad," mutters the first girl, her arms crossed over her chest while she watches her friend pleading with the wall, or whatever it is he's doing.

Sai does understand what it's like to be lonely. He was lucky to have his pokémon, and the aliens had been doing something similar, actually, trying to catch their own friends. He studies the blinking wall in front of him, and wonders what those weird dark eyes see when they look at him, or anyone. Had those things been like him one day? Did they even remember it if they had?

"I don't know what that other guy is saying to you," Sai says, "but I don't know. You can't keep taking people from other worlds. But I can understand why you would."

A screech from Palkia drowns out further words, and Sai looks back. The dragon's wings are drooping, scales blackened from Necrozma's attacks, and the glowing blue bat looks heartier than ever, cackling and pummeling his opponent with waves of shadowy energy.

I think we're running out of time here, the Mewtwo-creature says. Mark. We have to go.

The boy grimaces and leans closer to the wall, speaking furiously. Sai turns back to the bank of eyes in front of him. "What do you want?" he asks. "I guess people have been saying a lot about what they're going to do about you, or what you ought to do. But nobody here really understands what you want, do they?"

The wall just blinks at him, not that Sai was particularly expecting anything different. "Let's go!" yells the woman with the staff from behind them. "Everybody else is back on the ship! You all need to get moving, or we'll leave without you!"

Mark, we need you to negotiate with the legendaries in our world, not get yourself killed trying to convince some kind of mutant unown to stop multiplying, the Mewtwo-creature says.

"Right, we'll have plenty of opportunity to get murdered during the War of the Legends," the girl says.

Enough, May. Mark, I'm not going to ask again.

The other boy turns half aside from the wall, obviously reluctant and trying to say one last thing. Whatever it is, he says it, and then reluctantly allows his friends to draw him away, leaving Sai alone with the aliens for a moment.

"I guess I ought to get going, too," he says. "I can't exactly promise you that anyone's going to come visit you, or try to figure out what made you the way you are, or finish your story somehow. It's up to you what you do now. All I can say is, I'm sorry for what happened, and I hope that you don't have to be alone forever. I'll try to come back and see you, if I can."

He turns and falls in behind the rest of the people filing towards the spaceship, and the wall blinks silently after him.

--

Tolgo wants to catch up with the rest, he really does, but this pirate's being completely unreasonable.

"A captain doesn't leave her ship," she insists.

"The spaceship can come back and pick it up later," he says. "Come on!"

"I don't think you understand, laddie."

"It won't even float anymore. You can get a new ship! It's not worth throwing your life away over. Just come with us."

"Aye, it won't float. Not here." For a moment the captain looks almost haunted. "There's no water here, none at all. It's dry. It's unnatural."

"Come on!" The others are starting up the ladder. In a few seconds it will only be Tolgo and Polly and Palkia still on the ground. "I don't want to leave you here. I promise we'll do everything we can to get your ship back. Come with us!"

"Sorry, laddie," the pirate says, and folds her arms across her chest. "I ain't budging. That's the way of the sea."

Tolgo's frustrated retort dies in his throat when he glances up at the ship in question, lying on its side with a huge, ragged hole through its hull. Once it was lying several yards from the wall, where it fell out of what must have been a portal in the sky. Now the wall's come creeping right up to it, is actually advancing, swallowing the ship up as it goes.

The captain turns her head to follow Tolgo's stricken gaze. "Hey!" she barks, but her pistols have exactly as much effect on the aliens as they did on Necrozma. The black flows swiftly over the ship, swallowing it without a trace. The captain grimaces, curses under her breath, and then starts forward, walking towards the wall.

"Wait!" Tolgo says. "Just leave it!"

"No, laddie. I'm going to get my ship," she says, and in a second she, too, has been swallowed up by the black.

Tolgo stands where he is, shaking, staring helplessly at the flat black of the wall. It ripples and flows erratically, and then retreats again, just slightly, leaving a blob of black behind on the bare rock.

The blob gives a quick shake without even gesturing at getting up, demonstrates ears and snout and sarcastic red eyes. Luta's yowl demands to know exactly where Tolgo thought he was running off to, leaving her behind.

He's still shaken, but the familiar face is almost enough for him to forget about the pirate captain for the moment. "Of course I wouldn't be able to get rid of you that easily."
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
"Palkia!" Polly yells to the dragon while the last bystanders finally start to make for the the ladder. "We're going! Come on!"

"Go!" Palkia shouts back.

"Everybody else is in the ship. It's time to leave."

"Then leave without me."

"Palkia, come on!"

"I'm only one Palkia," the space dragon says. "There are more of me than anyone could ever count. Go on."

"Ooooh, how very noble," Necrozma sneers. "It's so like one of you gods, to sit back and let everyone else do the work for you until it's too late to change anything anyway, and then act like you're making some great sacrifice. Ha! The lot of you pathetic fools will pay for stealing my precious light!"

A moongeist beam swirls and coalesces between Necrozma's outstretched wings, and Palkia grunts and ducks their head as they block it with a protect that wavers and fizzes to nothing a second too soon, leaving Palkia to get scorched by the tail end of the attack. Palkia grunts and staggers, almost going to one knee.

"Heeheehee! Look at that! The might Palkia brought low!" Necrozma crows. "And once I've taken your light, I'll track down your foolish friends and show them how wrong they were to think they could ever best me. And then... and then perhaps I'll come back here." Necrozma casually whips a shadow ball at Palkia while he's talking, and the dragon barely twists aside to avoid it, only for a second to connect with their shoulder.

"There's not exactly much in the way of company, but I could get used to it. A little preview of what that hopeless little pokémon world will be like when I've had my revenge. And who knows? Perhaps I could do a bit of redecorating. This weird black thing may not have any light, but maybe it has other uses! I'll certainly have the time to find out!" Necrozma cackles with delight, then swoops in, actually reaching out to grab Palkia with his mirrored black claws. The dragon struggles, summoning energy for an attack, but Necrozma swats them hard with an energy-infused blow, one that leaves the other legend stunned.

"That's better," Necrozma says, leaning in close, tongue lolling. "Now, how about a little taste, hmmm? Give me your light!"

The exultant grin on Necrozma's face gives way abruptly to shock, however, and then fury. "Hey! Knock it off! What do you think you're doing, you lightless freak?"

A long tendril of black extends out from the wall, wrapping around one of Necrozma's wings. The legend easily wrenches the wing free, snapping the dark pseudopod, but another lashes out for him, and then another. Necrozma turns, firing attacks into the dark. They carve great holes in the black wall, but it simply continues to advance, reaching for Necrozma from all sides, no matter how he teleports away.

"You haven't seen the last of me!" Necrozma snarls as one wing becomes almost entirely encased in black, yanking it free even while the other starts to be absorbed. "I can follow wherever you run! This thing can't hold me--you know that! You and the rest of your gods are doomed! I'll have your light! SHAAAANE! I'll find you! I'll end your stupid little friendships!"

Palkia watches Necrozma wearily, dark tendrils leaving an open space as they flow past on either side to grab the bat legend. "Whichever one of me has to put up with you, I don't envy them at all," the dragon says. They're gone in an instant, joining the rest on Wildcard Gamma, and the ship's engines roar and glow before it accelerates away into the dark. Necrozma's left alone, cursing and struggling, as the black oozes up over wings and torso, the legend's blue glow disappearing under the weight of the living dark.

--

Back in the library a celebratory feeling holds, with people swapping stories of what they encountered on their adventures through various stories. In the end, everyone made it back all right, despite the peril.

"I'm back to being a charmander," Owen says, looking down at his body, which all of a sudden feels small and constrained, not quite the shape it ought to be. The change came on suddenly when Wildcard Gamma left the aliens' story-world, even faster than the evolution itself.

"That's so weird," Takato says. "Don't worry, though. I bet it means you're going to evolve soon anyway."

"Right. At least I know I can do it." Owen sighs and rubs an arm. He wishes it didn't feel so strange to be back in his familiar skin. "What happened to your gun?"

"Palkia said I couldn't keep it," Takato says despondently. "For the same reason the aliens couldn't keep kidnapping people, I guess. Dimensional instability or blah blah blah."

"And they won't be kidnapping any more people!" Saoirse says with a grin. "We showed them, didn't we? God's forces prevail!"

Indeed, according to all reports, the rifts that had opened in stories across the library have closed, healed up, the black creatures spewing into other stories melting away into nothing.

"It's too bad," Sai says. "I think I might have liked to visit them sometime. That Mark kid got the aliens to talk, didn't he?"

"I did, some of them. And I agree. It doesn't seem right to leave them all there."

"You could go visit them if you could find the story they came from, probably," bobandbill says with a shrug.

Delirious, who's been cheerfully making and passing around more tea, says, "What, another reading assignment? I guess I don't mind as long as we bring proper provisions this time."

"And we have to use the cannon!" Saoirse says enthusiastically. "I can't believe you never used it, Pyotr! After all that work we did to bring it along, too."

Pyotr, who's been lurking half behind a nearby bookcase, shudders and scoots a little bit more into its shelter, like he's hoping to avoid further notice. Owen privately doubts that his leaving the cannon behind in the music-world he went to was an accident. He apparently had the time to catch a performance, after all.

"So how's Dave doing?" Dragonfree asks Mia, the two of them off by themselves a bit. The scyther-morph has, to everyone's secret relief, been relieved of her katana, though she's always armed anyway.

"How do you know Dave?" Mia asks. "Do you want his autograph? He loves doing autographs."

"I think I probably shouldn't ask him for one," Dragonfree says with a smile. "But when you see him again, tell him God says hi for me, and sorry he didn't like the fruit basket."

"He doesn't believe in God," Mia says bluntly. "And you aren't God anyway."

"I know. It's a joke. He'll get it."

"It's a bad joke," Mia says, and decides Dragonfree isn't very interesting at all.

"It's too bad we're going to have to split up soon," Polly says, relaxing with Metagross and Dunsparce at one of the library's tables. "I wanted to see more of the different stories out there. I got to meet a lot of great people, too! It's too bad we all have to go home to our own places so soon."

"I'm ready to go home," Tolgo mutters.

"Eh, it was cool, I guess," Canisaries says. "I'm definitely glad I'm not whoever has to go home and deal with Necrozma later."

"I wish I could have done more there, too. I think I'd need to ask some other Aura Guardians for help. A pokémon that full of hatred and resentment... There's something big going on there. I wish we could have tried to put that right instead of just running away."

"Suit yourself," Canisaries says. "Who says we've all got to go back home already, anyway? Palkia?"

"Oh, I can't get that worked up about it," Palkia says. Scooting around in miniaturized form makes it much easier to sneak up on people. "That's Giratina's domain. I agree, it's too bad that you'll all be going back to your respective worlds soon. It's been very entertaining, watching all of you work together and explore new worlds."

"Mmm," Canisaries says. It's a little hard to be angry with the dragon after it was willing to do so much to defend them from Necrozma, but it's statements like those that make Canisaries think that she kind of understands those pokémon who disdain gods.

"Anyway, I thought we ought to send things off properly, after all we've been through," Palkia says. Their bubble gun is gone, and in its place is a nondescript orb, something like a large hand grenade. "I must say, I was very impressed when Silvally showed off this weapon."

"Oh hell no," Canisaries says, and hurries to get outside the blast radius. Palkia laughs and chucks the groovibomb into the middle of the library, and after the wild dancing that ensues, and the laughter and the sense of one last fling, even the moderators can't get too bent out of shape about the mess that's caused when the bomb finally explodes and knocks over half the shelves in Completed Fics.
 

Negrek

Lost but Seeking
And with that, Missing Mod Madness comes to an end! It's been quite a ride, and I hope you all enjoyed yourselves. I was totally blown away by the enthusiasm for this event, as evidenced by the fact that people ended up writing nearly three times as many reviews as required to win the game, racking up 179 in only one month! On top of that, the prize volunteers put together 15 reviews, seven pieces of fanart, and one banner as rewards, with more still to come. Huge thanks to everyone who participated, whether you played for points, helped out with prizes, or even did both! It was awesome to see people come together to write reviews and check out new stories.

Since there was a great response to this event, I would expect it to return in the future, as an annual or possibly semi-annual thing. Prooobably more in early-mid summer, though, since fall already has plenty going on with the yearly contest, NaNo, the start of Awards season, and so on. While overall I think the event went pretty well, I have a few ideas for changes to make for the next go-around to make things run a little more smoothly, and if you have any feedback or suggestions for future games, please let me know! This is a pretty new thing, so I'm not averse to making some changes. If you have a suggestion, feel free to post in this thread, or you can contact me about it in private if you'd prefer.

Once again, thanks to everyone for your help, and I hope you had a great time playing!
 
Top