Call me Del
Maybe that wasn't as much of a rush job on Yobi and co.'s part as I'd thought.
Poor Switch definitely drew the short straw! Yobi might have been quick, but he was efficient. In a way.
Chapter Seventy Five
Macro strolled through the square for the burger van, DL keeping pace at his side. When the little van came into view, he noted the little round tables. Sat at one with a computer clasped in her paws was Defrag, her mouth turned down into a bored frown.
The mawile let out a sigh and tapped DL on the arm, motioning to one of the other many fast food mobiles. DL gave him an exasperated look and dragged him towards the lopunny's table. She pulled up a chair before he could object, leaving him with no choice but to sit down beside her.
Defrag looked up briefly and cocked an eyebrow at them. "Decided to join me eh?"
Her attention was already back on the computer. Macro trailed a claw over the plastic table and shrugged, which went unnoticed.
"So how's the human?" Defrag asked.
"No different than he was this mornin'," said Macro.
"Okay." Defrag looked up again, more pointedly this time. Meeting his eyes. "How was he this morning?"
Macro sighed again and spread his paws. "Look. Don't take this the wrong way, Digit-"
Macro rolled his eyes. "But what are you still doin' here?"
The lopunny lowered her computer to the table and sat back in her chair. It creaked under her weight, but she didn't so much as bat an eyelid.
"I believe I came here on your ship," she said. "Besides, I have one of those Z-Crystal things."
She flashed it at him, as though he needed a reminder.
"That's not quite what I meant," he said. "Why didn't you go with Anchor and Time Archeops?"
"I wasn't asked." She retrieved her computer again, idly pawing through it.
An awkward silence passed between them, and Macro stared longingly at the burger menu. He fidgeted his paws, trying to gauge when would be an appropriate time to get up and place an order. But too much time had passed already.
"So," said DL. "Have you managed to use your Z-Move yet?"
"Nope." Defrag didn't look up from her computer. "I've still not decided if I want to."
"Well… maybe we could train together?" DL pawed at her ear. "I need to practice my move, anyway. Now I can remember how to use discharge…"
Defrag looked up then, fixing DL in a glare. "No offense, little pachirisu, but you've been giving me the cold shoulder for the past two weeks."
Macro jerked his head back and forth between the two girls. He cleared his throat and stood up, pointing to the van.
"I'll go get a burger then-"
"Sit!" Defrag pointed at his seat.
Macro slumped back down, a cold sweat forming under his fur.
"I'm not going to be harsh," Defrag went on, "but the pair of you are the reason I've been indecisive about this whole ordeal. If you really want me on your team, you need to prove it. Or you can find another pokemon with an ice type move. Maybe Floppy, for example?"
"Hey, the crystal was meant for you." Macro spread his paws and shrugged. "You're clearly on the team."
"I don't have a choice?"
Macro shrugged again and stuttered as he struggled to find words.
Defrag fixed her eyes back on her computer. "All right, I get it. Well, given Tracer and Widget have their own Z-Crystals, I guess I'm on board. But I'm not just doing this as a favor to you. I'm doing this because my home is under threat, and I've gotta admit I feel kind of humbled that I've been entrusted with this Z-Power. Just know that when this is over, we go our separate ways."
"Well, at least we can be civil until then, right?" asked Macro.
"You?" Defrag looked up again and laughed. "Civil?"
Macro ran a paw down his face and sighed. "I've been through a lot recently, Defrag. It's changed me."
"Hey, you got my name right." She turned back to her computer and nodded in the direction of the burger van. "Go on. Get your occa and nutpea, or whatever it is you're hooked on these days."
Macro turned to the van then looked back at DL.
"Surprise me," she said before he could even ask.
So she wasn't coming with him to the van, then. He shook his head as the pachirisu leant forward to talk to Defrag, and placed his order with the watchog.
"Listen," DL told Defrag, grabbing her attention. "I don't want any hostility. Whatever your past is, I don't care. Let's… just shove things aside and work together. It'll be easier if we get along."
"I ain't denying that." Defrag idly tapped through the news page. "Fine. We can train together. I'll get Tracer and Widget in on the deal too, given they're still stuck here. At least I'm not alone anymore, eh?"
Macro placed DL's spicy tamato burger before her and sat down with his own. A much less spicier option this time. He placed a large watmel soda between them, which DL immediately turned to before tucking into her meal.
As Macro took a bite, three figures appeared out of the crowd. Tracer and Widget followed closely by a large, grinning incineroar. As Macro watched them draw closer, he felt a blob of relish drip from his burger onto his scarf. A low groan left his throat and he deposited his burger to lick his scarf clean. In vain.
Defrag chuckled and shook her head, leaning it on one hand. "Some things never change."
DL stuffed a napkin into his paw as Tracer pulled up a seat. He eyed Macro with curiosity and pulled a silver tin from inside his trench coat. A cigar appeared in his claws which he lit with a lick of flames from between his teeth.
"Taken a change of occupation then?" Tracer asked.
"With Socket gone there ain't no bounty on my head," Macro half-growled. "So don't go tryin' anythin'-"
"I wouldn't dream of it," said Tracer. "Not while we're on the same team."
Macro's eye went to the Z-Crystal around the delphox's paw. Of course. He really needed to keep up with the new members to their team. So much had happened since the chaos in Socket's mansion. He idly rubbed his artificial paw before returning to his burger.
"Yeah, what's this about a team?" said the incineroar. "'Cos I want in."
"You serious?" Tracer scoffed. "You're friend ended up in prison for shooting an officer! You're only with me because I've been told to keep an eye on you!"
The incineroar folded his arms. "I'd be 'ere anyway. I ain't got noplace else to go. They apprehended my ship. Flippin' fuzz."
Macro stared open mouthed at the incineroar. "Who did you shoot?"
"I didn't shoot nobody," said the huge fire type. "It were my partner, Cyph3r. Shot some empoleon guy and left him in critical care."
Macro stared up at him dumbfounded. The incineroar stuck a claw in his ear and scratched, oblivious to the mawile's stunned rage.
"He shot HeatSink?!" Macro finally barked.
The incineroar shrugged his heavy shoulders. "I don't know his name. But yeah. Got himself locked up. I weren't involved in nothin', so don't go pointin' claws at me."
Macro sighed into his claws, dropping his burger back onto his plate. A soft warmth spread through his hip, growing with intensity. Surely he'd not spilled yet more relish?
"But, of course," the incineroar went on, "'cos we're friends, they're keepin' me here as a suspect of… what were it?" He scratched his head, looking down at Tracer and Widget.
"A conspirator," said the eevee.
"Aye, that's it," said the space pirate with a grin. "Conspiritator."
"No!" Widget whined. Clearly it wasn't the first time they'd had this conversation. "Con-spi-ra-tor!"
The incineroar's eyes widened. "What did I say?"
That warmth increased to a burning heat. Macro snatched at his hip, grabbing hold of his pouch. It was in his pouch? He wrenched it open in a panic, expecting to find a damaged and leaking laser module. But instead, sat among his stray credits, sat a glowing crystal, giving off an ultra-violet light. He pulled out the black Z-Crystal, oddly cool in his paws. He looked between it and the incineroar and muttered to himself;
"You have to be kiddin' me?"
The incineroar raised an eyebrow. "What's that?"
Macro narrowed his eyes. "Do you know any dark type moves?"
"Aye!" The huge space pirate grinned from ear to ear. "Brutal swing! One of my signature moves. Gets rid of other 'mon I don't want around real quick. Why?"
Macro sighed and pinched his muzzle between two claws. He held out the Z-Crystal, not looking at the incineroar.
"This is yours," he said. "Welcome to the team… erm…"
"N0ize." The incineroar took the crystal in two claws and eyed it with a smile. "Neat! So I get to do one of them Z-Move thingies?"
"Really?!" Widget sounded much too happy. His bushy tail wagged back and forth as he hopped on his toes. "Oh man! I wanna see that one real bad! Let's try it!"
Tracer caught Macro's eye, reflecting his expression.
"This can only end badly," said the delphox.
Macro watched N0ize and Widget scamper off towards the lake. He took one final bite from his burger and rose to his feet.
"My thoughts exactly," he said, looking over at DL and Defrag. "We should probably supervise."
Spool City was in utter chaos. Wildcard Gamma drifted over it encased in the safety of its cloak as Matrix and Anchor desperately sought a place to land. Buildings crumbled beneath them as nihilego darted back and forth between a streak of silver. Occasionally the blur would pause, momentarily appearing bug-like before darting off to strike one of the jellyfish creatures. In the distance, electricity danced over the houses as the unmistakable bladed forms of the kartana trio sliced through the air, desperate to avoid a thorough shocking.
"Seems like a turf war," said Trojan.
"But why would they all try to occupy Spool City?" Web shook her head sadly. "System is huge! What could possibly-"
One of the buildings right below the ship exploded into rubble as a red and green hulking mass shot through the roof, tailed by a xurkitree's well-aimed discharge. The huge creature fell amid the rubble before Anchor could get a good look at it.
"My guess," said Rave, "is that something much more dangerous has left them with no choice but to concentrate in such a small area."
"Like Distortion?" Matrix suggested.
"Possibly," said Rave. "I mean… the distortion is spreading across System."
Anchor wanted to ask how on earth the blacephalon even knew that, then his eye wandered to Axle huddled in a far corner, as far from the space pirates and Ultra Beasts as he could get without locking himself in the cargo bay. The little emolga pawed at his computer, plugged into one of the cockpit's few spare sockets. Not far from his feet lay the hulking, ruined mass of the porygon-z he'd scooped up. A few loose tools lay scattered around it. Every now and then, its one working eye would fix on one of the crew members, but it didn't move.
"How bad is this distortion gettin', Axle?" Anchor asked.
"Hard to say," said the emolga. "Drones can't get close enough. Pokemon daren't, those that do have either died or been critically injured. The latest report put the spread as far out of Seed City as the Backbone Mountains."
"And when was that reported?"
Axle shrugged his shoulders. "Yesterday? Day before? I didn't check the date. My main concern right now is getting this Zero Day unit working again."
Anchor nodded stiffly and turned back to the window. The chaos had drifted towards the ship's left. He jerked the ship to the right as a stray electric bolt skimmed the fin.
"Might I suggest something?" Waveform asked. "How about we move out of the city, disembark, then work our way back in on the ground?"
"What, and die?" Axle snorted.
"You'll be on the ship with Matrix and Trojan fixing this android," said Anchor. He turned back to the decidueye. "I'm with you on that one, Waveform. It's the best option we've got right now."
"Aye," said Matrix. "One more stray bolt and they might fry our cloak. Then we'll be a prime target."
Anchor steered the ship towards the edge of the outskirts. The squabbling Ultra Beasts thinned out the further they moved from the city. He strained his eyes on the horizon. Sockets mansion glowed beyond the mountains. Odd ultra violet rays spanned across the land. He couldn't see the effects, but in his mind they resembled the twisted land visible through the bubble surrounding Seed City. That was if the photographs were correct. What had been posted to news websites had been somewhat blurry. A quick photo shoot taken during a frantic attempt to escape.
"All right." The granbull stepped back from the controls and waved to Time Archeops. "Annie, Waveform, Web, Poipole, you're all with me. You too, Rave."
The blacephalon looked up from the Zero Day unit. Somehow, he managed to look surprised.
"You want me with you?" he asked. "I thought you might need me guarding the ship."
"Nope, I think Matrix and Trojan are fully capable. I need you to help translate," said Anchor. "And if both you and Poipole, along with Celesteela, can talk to the Ultra Beasts, it might win them to our side."
"Oh, of course. Capital idea." Rave stood up and strode after Anchor.
Axle snorted as he reached for a screwdriver to attack Zero Day's tiny screws. "Don't trust me as far as you can throw me, eh?"
Anchor decided to say nothing, leading his crew out to the hatch. Annie found a mask stuffed in her hands. She frowned down at it.
"Why are you handing me some fake beak?" she asked.
"Put it on," said Anchor as he reached for another. "Air's toxic."
Annie snorted and lifted it to her face, fumbling with the fastenings. Waveform stepped in to help her secure it around her head.
"It stinks like wet dog in here," she groaned.
"Who else wants one?" Anchor asked. "Because I've only got four, and one of them is Matrix-sized."
Waveform gave the granbull a sideways glance and shook his head, nodding to Web. The skuntank also shook her head and nudged Anchor in the leg with a claw.
"You wear one, dear," she said. "You're younger than me."
Anchor thanked her and fastened his in place. The spare one found its way into Waveform's wings. The decidueye was about to put it back until Annie wrestled it free and wrapped it around his head feathers. Muttering under his breath, Waveform adjusted it and fastened it in place, dislodging split feather shafts onto the floor.
"Right, we're goin' in." Anchor grabbed onto the ladder rung. "Follow me."
The ladder descended towards the ground with its familiar flashing sound as each neon beam shot into place. Thick yellow smog obscured Anchor's vision as he fell through it, and it took a moment for his eyes to adjust. Through the smog he could see the battling Ultra Beasts as something big chased the kartana through what remained of Spool City's rooftops. He dropped, calling out to the others to be careful. One of the kartana skimmed his back as he landed on the floor with a grunt. He quickly checked himself over, finding nothing but a close trim where the bladed Ultra Beast had clipped his fur.
Rave landed beside him, along with Annie. The others weren't far behind.
Waveform hovered in the air on his huge wings, squinting through the filter mask's green eye guards.
"I'm going to see if I can spot what the problem is," he said. "We'll need a clearer idea of why they're all squabbling over the outskirts."
Before Anchor could object, the decidueye rose higher into the sky to be lost beyond the smog cloud. Not far beyond that cloud he could see Celesteela's hulking mass seeking a place big enough for her to land.
Anchor absently checked his computer. No reception. Whatever was going on, it was taking out System's antennae across the region. That left them with no way to contact Macro or Waveform, and he'd need to rely on Wildcard Gamma's local wireless headsets. If Matrix went too far outside its range…
He decided not to dwell on that and instead waved the crew on.
A low whistle split the air, pushing Anchor's fur on end.
"Duck!" he barked, throwing himself and Annie to the floor.
Rave twisted to meet the attack head on, throwing out a flurry of shadow balls. The kartana trio doubled back to dodge them, the two outermost kartana swerving away to attack the blacephalon from both sides. He leapt into the air, causing the two small Ultra Beasts to collide with the sound of clashing blades.
"Stop!" he called. "We don't want to fight you! We are friends!"
The kartana made a slicing noise as they swerved away to strike him again. Rave leapt back, firing out shadow ball after shadow ball in an attempt to slow them down. Each attack fell short, landing just before them, creating enough of a blast to disorient the three smaller creatures.
Poipole swerved in from the top. "Stop! Listen to us! We just want to talk!"
"Yes!" Rave said again. "Please tell us what has you all so upset!"
One of the kartana reared up, hovering just before Rave. It rubbed its forelegs together swiftly, creating a sharp metallic screech. Rave appeared taken aback. He placed one foot behind him, staring at the small kartana.
"War?" he gasped, his lights turning pale. "Over what?"
The other two kartana hovered just behind their leader. It rubbed its limbs together again. A softer metallic screech, like someone sharpening a blade.
Rave glanced behind them at a dumbfounded Anchor. "Trojan was right about a turf war. They're trying to defend their new home."
"But why?" Anchor stepped towards them. "What could-"
The kartana flew into a frenzy, scraping their limbs together in a deafening screech. Anchor placed his paws over his ears.
"Cut that out!" he roared.
"Please!" Rave lifted his paws. "One at a time!"
The lead kartana spun to his allies, clanging his paper-thin blades together. The other two fell silent. A deafening silence. The lead kartana turned back to Rave and Poipole, and slowly began to scrape its limbs.
Rave nodded slowly, exchanging glances with Poipole as the kartana explained itself in a baffling array of scrapes, screeches and clangs.
"It's the nihilego," said Poipole. "They're trying to take over Spool City. And if that's not bad enough, the xurkitree are desperate for electricity. The kartana have been pushed from their lair."
The kartana went on, each blade swipe becoming more violent like an angry warlord throwing out a pre-battle speech.
"And then the others," said Poipole. "Small pokemon brought down their new lair with water and ice, before the kartana drove them away. The water was turned red with their blood."
"The water dwellers," Web gasped.
"Then two bugs showed up," Poipole continued translating, "destroying each lair the kartana move to."
"But why?" asked Anchor. "Why squabble over a hole like this?"
The kartana almost seemed to shrug as it rubbed its limbs together.
Rave shook his head sadly. "They do not know."
Waveform landed silently beside them, almost causing Annie to squeak with surprise. He dusted down his wings and glanced back over his shoulder. Then he eyed the kartana warily.
"All I can see back there is a massacre," he said. "Distortion's reach hasn't even touched Gear Village yet. The water is running red. Fish pokemon are lying dead or electrocuted. I assume in their attempt to eradicate the fisheries."
"So all this has happened because of the rebellion?" Annie gasped.
"Don't give yourself too much credit," Waveform snorted. "The very buildings beyond the outskirts look like they've been eaten. I took a quick fly over to Proxy City. It looks like something is eating the place. Not merely destroying it. The water dwellers have simply been caught up in something unexpected. An unfortunate situation that we can't blame ourselves for."
The kartana's screeching and scratching filled the air, rising into a crescendo. Everyone followed their eyes to the horizon. Two jellyfish pokemon scrambled through the sky, firing glittering rocks behind them. There was something else tailing them. Something big.
"Is that Celesteela?" Annie gasped. "Why's she fightin' them?!"
"It isn't Celesteela." Waveform's voice wavered.
The huge shape became clearer. A round, hulking body with pincers that snapped and bit at the nihilego's limbs. One screeched loudly as its tentacle found itself in the monster's grasp. Inky blood splurted out to the sides, drenching the creature's slimy pincer, and peppering the rubble. A huge mouth opened in the monstrosity's gut, and the nihilego found itself hurtled towards it as the pincer retracted inside.
"Well!" Annie tapped Anchor on the shoulder and took a step back. "I think we now know what's been eatin' the buildings. I say there's now only one thing we can do."
She turned on her heel and rushed away from the monster with a cry of 'run!'
Waveform took off after her, firing his arrows at the monster to cover their backs.
The nihilego's terrified shrieks deafened them. The one remaining fired rocks and sludge at the creature, desperate to rescue its friend. The three kartana drifted back and forth, slicing their blades, undecided on whether to follow Annie or fight back.
Poipole drifted down towards Web, his mental voice wavering.
"I don't know what it is," he said. "I've never seen one before."
"I believe it's a monster known as Guzzlord," said Rave. "I've only heard about it in the legends my trainer used to tell me. It eats anything in its path."
"Then what are we doing just lookin' at it?" Anchor roared. "Take Annie's advice and run!"
Anchor turned and rushed after Annie, pushing Web and Poipole on before him. Waveform had dragged her down a narrow alleyway towards another street, rather than out of Spool City entirely. Anchor glanced back to make sure everyone was ahead of him. The kartana slipped past, following the pokemon into the alley. Anchor was about to turn and follow them, but his jaw dropped. Rave was watching the nihilego's frantic attempts. Its friend was long gone, its screeches stopped. The only sounds were the nihilego's protests and battlecries, and the guzzlord's munching jaws. It turned its chomping limbs towards the lone nihilego.
Rave launched himself onto the rooftops in one swift spring. Then he leapt to the nihilego, grabbing it in his arms. With a graceful twist, he dodged the guzzlord's snapping maws. With another spring, he vanished between the buildings.
Anchor shook his head sharply and slipped into the alley, joining Web and Poipole.
"She went this way." Web grabbed his arm and dragged him after her. "Where's Rave?"
"I don't know!" Anchor growled. "Crazy goof leapt to rescue that other nihilego. He's somewhere in all this chaos!"
He darted past them to lead them round the twists and turns of Spool City's alleyways. Annie and Waveform were waiting for them, and when they appeared, Waveform took to the sky to scout them a path.
"See if you can spot Rave!" Anchor told him.
Waveform rose higher, his keen eyes searching through the smog. "I see him."
No sooner had the words left Waveform's beak, Rave sprang from a back alley with the nihilego still clutched in his arms. The guzzlord rose above them, its slimy tongue stretching its snapping pincer after the blacephalon. Celesteela's eerie scream filled the air and she dropped from the sky, landing atop the huge Ultra Beast. She hit her target with an almighty crash, the very ground trembling with the impact and scattering rubble from the ruined buildings. Anchor dodged to the side to avoid falling rocks as he scrambled after Rave. Another one of Celesteela's screams joined a bellowing roar from the guzzlord. Her bamboo neck stretched up above the ruins and one of her cannons crashed down on the monster flailing under her weight.
The nihilego's tinkling cry was akin to sobbing amongst all the chaos. It didn't even try to leave Rave's arms as he carried it to safety. Anchor had almost caught up with him when another rock tumbled down, cutting him off. The granbull kicked out at it, roaring with frustration.
Celesteela screeched as her huge body toppled sideways towards Anchor. The guzzlord let out an almighty roar as it pushed itself free, its limb groping for her face. She aimed a cannon flash at its gut, sending it flying away from her. But yet more debris filled the alley, leaving Anchor and his crew with no choice but to take a different path.
A flash of fire drew his eye to the rooftops. Rave bounced on top of it, flames flickering away from his free paw like a flare. He turned and led them down a narrow alley with Waveform calling directions to those stranded on the ground.
The kartana zipped on ahead of them, calling out in their own peculiar language. They followed tightly to Waveform's path, spreading out over the crew to keep a close eye on them. One of them performed a corkscrew above their heads, deflecting a stray pebble back into the fray.
The guzzlord's roars grew with intensity as it fought back against Celesteela. Its long pincer tongue struck the buildings ahead of them, causing Anchor to do a double take. When had it moved ahead of them? Rave hadn't prepared for it. He lost his footing, dropping towards the floor with a yell.
"Rave!" Anchor roared.
A red streak shot down after the blacephalon. Then a shrill buzz cut the air. The red creature manifested above the dust and debris, clutching both Rave and the nihilego in a pair of muscular arms. It darted back towards them with surprising speed for its size. Then it curved away, leading them away from the combat towards Proxy Boulevard.
Waveform trimmed his wings and swerved after it, along with the kartana. Anchor didn't even think twice. He led the group after the Ultra Beast, racing down Proxy Boulevard. Celesteela's screams and the guzzlord's roars shook the city. Rocks and other debris struck the ground around them, only adding to the chaos. Anchor squinted through the dust cloud. The red creature was just ahead of them, moving into Proxy City. The granbull picked up speed, glancing over his shoulder to make sure everyone was still with him. Then they entered the next city, leaving behind the warring Ultra Beasts.
The red bug-like creature's shrill, buzzing whine fizzled out as it zipped into the gaping door of a ruined building. Anchor came to a stop just outside it, eyeing the opening with a growing suspicion. Waveform landed almost silently beside him, drawing his eye.
"This is where it's lead us," he said. "I say we go inside."
The kartana took his words as a sign to do so, zipping in over their heads. Anchor ducked instinctively, raising a paw to shield his mohawk.
"Well I ain't standin' around like a damp squid." Annie pushed between them, marching into the building. "It's dangerous out here."
Waveform shook his head and glanced at Anchor, before following after Annie. The granbull gestured to the rest of the pokemon and trailed after Waveform.
The building was made a lot smaller inside by the sheer amount of rubble from the caved in floor above. A few Ultra Beasts occupied it, beside the bug creature, Rave and the frightened nihilego. Two more nihilego drifted above them among the remains of the rafters. About five xurkitree clung to the walls, their electricity lighting up the dim room with all the efficiency of a strobing florescent kitchen light. Against the far wall leant another bug-like creature, only this one appeared feminine. She stood with slender arms folded over a lithe body. A long, papery shell hung down her back, which rustled with every slight movement.
Rave almost leapt for joy when he saw the space pirates. He waved at the large red bug to draw their eyes to it. Four legs, two muscular arms, and a long proboscis. Its shrill buzzing had stopped as its wings lay stationary behind it.
"This is my new friend Buzzwole!" said Rave.
The huge creature lifted both of his arms and flexed. Green veins protruded from his exoskeleton as his internal muscles bulged. His tiny eyes smiled down at the space pirates, nullifying his intimidating appearance.
"Well, erm…" Anchor scratched his nose as his eyes drifted over the other occupants once more. "It's nice to meet you?"
The feminine bug met his eyes then almost seemed to tut, diverting her gaze as she flicked her shell back from her head with one paw. It fluttered like silk.
A shrill buzz filled the room and all eyes went back to Buzzwole. It wasn't his wings that were making it this time. It came from his proboscis reminiscent of a kazoo. Once he'd fallen silent once more, Rave took the opportunity to translate.
"He says this is the safest place at the moment. The guzzlord has destroyed most of the cities, and the distortion is spreading across System, driving everyone out. Those that stay behind get sucked in. For now everyone has retreated here. The turf war will be put on hold until the guzzlord has moved on."
"Turf war?" Annie made an obscene noise with her lips and waved a hand at Buzzwole. "No need! We're here to fight the distortion and get y'all back home!"
Anchor lifted a paw to drag her attention, but the tinkling from the nihilego and the xukitree's increased light display caused him to take a step back. The kartana zipped back and forth above him, clashing their limbs together in a desperate bid for silence.
Buzzwole leapt into the middle of the room, flexing his arms in various positions. A few kazoo toots quickly resolved the situation, and order fell over the room once more.
A final flex. Eyes fixed on Annie.
Rave waved a paw towards her. "He says to continue."
Annie opened her mouth, but Anchor silenced her with a paw on her shoulder. He looked the buzzwole in the eye and cleared his throat.
"Annie's right," he said. "We are tryin' to get you all back home, but we need your help. Distortion is wrecking our world, and an android called BackDoor is the reason you're all here in the first place, including Distortion."
The xurkitree chattered among themselves, then turned back to Anchor.
"They say they fought some creatures that opened their world," said Rave.
"That might have been to do with him," said Anchor. "Anyway, we've got a friend workin' on our ship to make a device that can open a gate back to your own world. Then you'll be free, and away from all this… well let's face it, our world is pretty strange to you, right?"
Buzzwole looked down at Rave, then up at the other Ultra Beasts. The nihilego tinkled amongst themselves, while the xurkitree chattered on in a series of words drowned in static that Anchor couldn't understand. Buzzwole flexed one arm, drawing the room into silence, then smiled down at Anchor.
A few little toots.
"He does want to go back," said Rave. "And so does everyone else."
Toot kazoo patoot.
Rave shrugged. "He says the berries here taste weird and everyone looks at him funny."
Annie folded her arms and nodded. "I know that feel, bro."
Buzzwole stretched a fist out towards her. She returned it with a fist-bump of her own. Then he flexed.
"That's all well and good," said Anchor. "But it ain't just you guys. It's all of you. Including the guzzlord. You all need to go back, so we have to… well… gather you all together-"
The nihilego rose into a tinkling panic, and the frightened one zipped behind Rave, wrapping its tentacles around his waist. He tried to pry it free, but it shook its head and let out a strange, screaming squeal.
"That isn't going to be easy."
Anchor looked up with a start. It was the female bug that had spoken. She unfurled her arms and placed one paw on her hip.
"If you want to send that guzzlord back with us all," she said slowly, "then you're going to have to tame it."
"Tame it?" Web squeaked. "You've seen what it does! How are we meant to tame it if Celesteela is struggling to fight it?"
Poipole drifted back and forth in the room, eyes drifting to each and every one of the Ultra Beasts as he sucked noisily on his toxic tank. He exchanged glances with Rave and the two nodded.
"Nihilego," they said in unison.
The terrified nihilego screamed once more, and the two above them flew into a panicked frenzy.
"Hear us out!" shouted Poipole. "Please!"
Buzzwole honked up at them, flexing his massive arms. When they didn't quiet, he flapped his wings. Anchor cowered with his paws over his ears, trying to stifle the shrill buzzing before it tore through his eardrums. The nihilego calmed down, drifting back to their rafters.
"Just listen," said Poipole. "You have the ability to control whatever you inject your toxins into. Right? So if one of you can take over the guzzlord, then we can try and reason with it."
"That's a nice idea and all," said the female bug. "But the nihilego can't even get close to that guzzlord. They've already tried to neutralize it, and look what's happened! It's slaughtered hundreds of them!"
All eyes went back to the three nihilego.
"This is all that's left?" Anchor choked.
"Not quite," said the bug. "They're relatively scattered, but their numbers are few."
Poipole looked up at her. "Pheramosa… that's your name right?"
"Call me what you want." She shrugged. "My trainer never bothered to nickname me."
"Well if you help, too," Poipole went on, "and Buzzwole… you could weaken the guzzlord enough for the nihilego to get close and take over it. Even if you only distracted it. Your attacks are effective against the guzzlord."
"Really?" Anchor frowned at Poipole. "What typing is it?"
"In your terms," said Rave, drawing the granbull's eye, "I'd say it's both dark and dragon type."
Waveform folded his wings and nodded. "In that case, it would be pretty effective against Distortion, too. If we can get this guzzlord on our side, I'd say we'd have a pretty powerful ally."
"But how do we do that?" asked Web. "That thing eats buildings."
Waveform's eyes lit up through his mask as he grinned. "Exactly."
It took a while to rally the Ultra Beasts together with enough confidence to take on the guzzlord. As they trailed back to Spool City, each step brought on more anxiety. Celesteela's eerie screams rivaled with the guzzlord's roars. The city buildings had been flattened wherever they had fought, and long glowing vines impaled buildings, pulsing with light. They also covered the guzzlord's body, slowly draining his strength, yet he fought on with as much vigor as he had been doing. Dust choked the lungs of any who weren't wearing masks. Poipole, now without his tank hindering his attacks, spat poison from his proboscis to clear them, aiming it well away from his friends. But his breaths came in wheezes like a set of punctured bellows.
Anchor stopped them just inside an alley, with a clear view of the warring titans. He turned to Buzzwole and Pheramosa and nodded.
"All right, you two. You know what to do."
The two insectoid Ultra Beasts shot from the alley, Buzzwole's wings creating his shrill buzz and drawing the guzzlord's attention. Celesteela cuffed the dragon over the head with one of her cannons. He caught the other in his tongue pincers, dragging it into his mouth.
Buzzwole zipped past him, striking him with his wings' sound waves. He lurched to the side as Pheramosa lunged at the dragon, her slender limbs piercing his thick hide.
With three Ultra Beasts to deal with, the tides of battle began to change. The guzzlord pivoted to focus his attention on one of the beasts, leaving himself open to attack from the other two. But it would only take one of them falling in battle to turn the fight back in his favor. If they were going to win this, they had to act fast.
Anchor shot from the alley with Rave in tow. The granbull nodded to Rave and the blacephalon fired off a volley of shadow balls, dragging the guzzlord's attention away from Pheramosa. The slender bug managed to land another lunge right on the guzzlord's left tongue pincer. It retracted back into his mouth with such speed it knocked her off balance. She lay sprawled right beneath his flailing feet. Her eyes widened with fear as his left foot came crashing down towards her head. Buzzwole zipped towards her, yanking her out of the way, just as the massive dragon came crashing back down.
Celesteela leapt into the air and heavy-slammed on top of him, giving the two insects the chance to flee to a safer distance and re-think their strategy.
Web's team came in from the opposite side to Anchor. Poipole fired gunk shots at the guzzlord's other tongue pincer. It didn't phase Celesteela, who managed to get in the way of a couple of the attacks. But it was enough to cause the guzzlord's tongue to recoil with disgust. The dragon's flailing increased as he levered Celesteela off him with his small arms. Then, with an almighty roar, the bamboo cannon found herself careening away from him. Her leech seed vines snapped from the dragon's body, releasing him from the energy draining attack.
"Drat," said Anchor. "That would've been useful if it had held for longer."
His eye went back to the alley. Several silver arrows arced towards the battle, striking the guzzlord on the back. As he turned, Buzzwole and Pheramosa leapt in to strike him from behind. He turned again, flailing his tongues, pincers snapping. Electricity coursed through his body and his limbs jerked. He thrashed up and down, stamping his feet as he dislodged one of the xurkitree. It skittered away along with its companions, firing more electricity. His tongues lashed out, snapping at anything that moved. Pheramosa grimaced as one of them fastened over her leg. The kartana leapt to her aid, slashing at his tongue. Green blood leaked from it and the guzzlord howled. Pheramosa slipped free before the limb retracted back into his mouth. In a fury, she lunged at the other one, eliciting a pained roar from the huge beast.
Another leech seed erupted from the ground, moving with Celesteela's eerie cry. It wrapped around the guzzlord's legs, staggering his movements.
Anchor waved a fist at the sky and the three nihilego descended. Shining rocks and gunk shots peppered the guzzlord, while Buzzwole and Pheramosa added to the confusion. His huge tongues lashed out like fists, and a streak of red careened back from him as Buzzwole was deflected like a pebble. He struck the wall beside Anchor, sliding down it in a daze. He shook his head, buzzed and flexed, then shot back into the battle. He intersected a falling nihilego, giving it a moment to catch its breath before it drifted back into the air to launch more rocks.
The timid nihilego dropped from between its friends, landing atop the guzzlord's tiny head. It stuck its tentacles into his body, piercing his thick hide. The dragon thrashed and roared, struggling to break free from the leech seed as the vines climbed up his body. Those that tangled his limbs were torn in an instant as he reached up to claw the nihilego from his head.
Slow pulses spread down the nihilego's tentacles as toxins flooded the dragon's body. Then the strength left him as he slumped to the floor in a spasming heap.
"Good grief." Anchor marched towards the dazed guzzlord, joining his allies as they gathered around it. "He put up a fight."
Celesteela let out a cry that Anchor didn't need a translator for. He took it as a 'You aren't kidding.'
He reached up and patted the huge creature on her metal cannon. "Thanks for helpin' us out."
She returned the gesture, almost knocking Anchor face first into the guzzlord.
"Our nihilego friend is growing tired," said Rave. "I think we need to work fast."
"All right," said Anchor. "Tell him exactly what's goin' on. We need his help and co-operation if we're gonna save this world. His reward, he gets to eat a flippin' mansion."
Rave leant forward, reciting exactly what the other Ultra Beasts had been told. The state of System. The reason the guzzlord had been dragged into it in the first place. At the mention of the mansion, the guzzlord reacted. Although Anchor thought that might have been more to do with the nihilego's weakening hold.
A few grunts came from the dragon's gaping mouth. His tongues twitched as they snapped idly at the air.
"Huh." Rave stood up straight and shrugged his paws. "He doesn't know why he should help us given we've ruined his dinner."
"Seriously?" Anchor snorted. "He doesn't see the problem here? Destroying our home and taking innocent lives?"
"If I were to put it into terms you would understand," said Rave, "you have herbivores. Carnivores. Omnivores. Well… the guzzlord species are very much omnomnomnivores."
"This is no time for jokes!" Anchor spat.
"I wasn't joking!"
Annie wriggled between them and leant forward, so close she was almost eye to eye with the guzzlord.
"Annie! What are you-" Web's gasp cut off as Waveform pulled her back to leap to the girl's aid.
"Oi!" Annie said, her voice making the dragon flinch. "You fail to understand us, Omnom. That mansion is like… a gourmet meal! You help us, you get to eat the best, most top-grade buildin' in this entire universe! These pebbles are like… I dunno… morsels in comparison!"
The guzzlord's eyes widened slightly and he pushed himself up on one of his tiny arms. The nihilego's pulses weakened as it trembled in its efforts to keep the guzzlord under control.
A deep rumble came from the dragon, but its eyes never left Annie's.
"Oh wow." Rave turned his head to look at Annie. "He asks why we didn't tell him that before."
Annie shrugged. "We kinda did."
"But you didn't put it in those terms," Rave quickly translated. "You've made the mansion sound like a real delight."
The guzzlord struggled to his feet, depositing the nihilego. More rumbling.
"If he gets to eat this mansion," said Rave, "then he's game."
"All right." Annie pointed a finger at the guzzlord.
He took a small step back, almost squashing the nihilego. It zipped to the side with a squeal.
"If you're helpin'," Annie went on, "then all of these-" She circled a finger above and around her, "are your allies! We are not food. We will not be mistaken for food. This world is a meat-free-zone! Capiche?"
A small growl, slightly disappointed.
"Capiche," said Rave.
Annie beamed at the dragon and nodded. "Right then. So I guess it's back to the ship?"
The guzzlord growled again.
"No, the ship is not food!" Annie snapped.
The guzzlord's limbs slumped as he deflated. He let out another, pathetic growl.
"Fine, I'll get Cookie to make you some pancakes," she said. "Get a wiggle on, Omnom, we've got a world to save, and you've got a mansion to eat."
Annie herded the guzzlord ahead of her while everyone else watched in a stunned silence.
"Did I just witness that?" Anchor asked.
Waveform sheathed his arrows. "She has a way with words."
"Clearly!" Rave cleared his throat and glanced at Anchor. "Why isn't she heading this crew?"
Anchor shook himself into shape and trotted after her. "I need to tell her that dragon is flying behind the ship! Everyone else on board for the next part of the plan!" He paused to point at Celesteela. "Keep an eye on him, all right?"
Celesteela looked down and sighed.
Rave patted her on the cannon. "Don't worry, old girl. It's just a short flight to the distortion."