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System:Reboot (PMD)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DeliriousAbsol, Jun 2, 2017.

  1. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    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-"

    "Defrag."

    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."
     
  2. Sike Saner

    Sike Saner *aromatisse noise*

    Okay that sounds... incredibly tasty. Albeit very sweet, probably. Still worth a try, I'd reckon.

    Mmm, tastes like scarf. :B

    Don't screw up!

    (I say that, but. What if getting that thing fully operational again turns out to be a bad thing?)

    I like the way the kartana speak. They're like crickets! Horrible, deadly, flying razor crickets.

    This is what she do: she sit on you, sit on you, sit on you...

    Incidentally I don't know if that was a literal heavy slam or not, but it might as well have been. :V

    Oh my gosh. This is even better than what the kartana do. I love it.

    TOOT TOOT BUZZWOLE WARRIOR

    I love him. I love this dooting dorkwad. :D

    Pffff. XD


    The UB gang's all here! :D Well, okay, almost. Still missing the Mega Bloks. Dunno if they'll officially join the team at any point or not, but oh gosh. I wonder if they'd have a hard time with Omnom (that name XD I love it) struggling to keep the "no snacking on allies" end of the bargain. I mean. This is stakataka we're talking about. It'd be like eating a creature AND a building at the same time! Seems like that'd be awfully dang appealing to a guzzlord. :p But maybe stakataka have some sort of adaptation in place to prevent that. Idk what it'd be, but yeah, maybe.
     
  3. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    I'm so glad you like him! The Ultra Beasts were so much fun to write, and I loved keeping them so alien. Buzzwole was my favourite one to write, too! XD

    Chapter Seventy Six​

    Macro leant against a metal storage crate beside DL, arms crossed as he watched Wildcard Gamma pull back into Cyan City’s docks. Beyond the ship drifted two huge Ultra Beasts, one of which sent chills down his spine. The odd bamboo creature didn’t look anywhere near as threatening, instead focusing all her attention on the hulking monstrosity beside her. There seemed to be some sort of conversation going on, resulting in the occasional disappointed growl from the huge mouth in the big beast’s gut.

    The ship’s hatch whirred open, followed by Anchor dropping onto the docks. He was swiftly followed by three kartana, the sight of which made Macro’s blood turn to ice. The rest of his crew followed close behind, trailed by Poipole and a jaunty looking creature Macro assumed was one of the new Ultra Beasts. It let out a telepathic whistle.

    “Jolly nice city, this one, eh?” The creature elbowed Anchor in the hip.

    “Aye.” Anchor waved towards the mawile. “Right this way.”

    The crew made their way towards Macro, sans Annie. The human girl stood with her arms crossed, looking up at the two larger Ultra Beasts drifting outside the docks. Mainly at the black, draconic creature.

    “Oi, Annie!” Anchor barked. “You joinin’ us?”

    “No, I’m watchin’ this guy,” Annie called back over her shoulder. “Make sure he don’t go and eat the entire city, an’ all that jazz.”

    “Celesteela’s got that job, dear,” said Web softly.

    Celesteela gave a soft yet somewhat disgruntled scream. Annie nodded and waved at the bamboo creature.

    “All right, you’re bigger’n me anyway.” Annie turned to her crewmates. “But you know where I am if he gets outta hand, right?”

    Celesteela visibly sighed.

    The jaunty looking Ultra Beast paused before Macro and waved an arm in an elegant bow. “You must be Macro! Allow me to introduce myself. I am Rave, a blacephalon from a little island called Sparkle Grove.”

    “Erm…” Macro stuttered a little and stretched out a paw. “Pleased to meet you?”

    Rave didn’t appear concerned by the space pirate’s nervousness. Instead, he took his paw and gave it a hearty shake.

    Macro released the blacephalon and his eyes went to the kartana.

    One of them drifted towards him, causing Macro to take a step back. But it didn’t advance any further. Instead, it rubbed its blades together, creating a soft grating sound.

    Rave let out a thoughtful noise. “Allow me to translate. It says it’s sorry.” He paused as the kartana continued its grating and clanging. “And it believes it speaks for its allies when it says it is truly glad to see you are okay.”

    Another one of the kartana began clattering its blades.

    “Your world hasn’t been making things easy for the kartana,” Rave went on. “They thought you were there to hurt them, so they defended themselves. They are sorry for all misunderstanding and hope you can work together to rid your world of the evil that has consumed it.”

    Macro absently pawed at his ribs. “Well… I’m no stranger to misunderstandings.” He smiled. “If they can set it aside, then so can I.”

    The lead kartana dragged one arm over the other, creating a swooshing noise that sounded a lot like a sigh of relief.

    Macro cocked an eyebrow at Anchor. “So these are all the beasts you recruited?”

    “Not at all,” said Anchor. “We found a whole host of Ultra Beasts. They’re off finding the stragglers, and will meet us just outside Seed City tomorrow evenin’.”

    “Really?” Macro’s eyes widened and he let his arms hang at his sides.

    “Aye.” Anchor grinned. “There’s a couple of newbies still on board, actually. We found one of Socket’s soldiers driftin’ about System Sky.”

    Macro’s jaw dropped at that, but before he could retort, Anchor lifted a paw and continued.

    “He had one of those Zero Day units. Turns out it can open up gateways, so we’re gonna use it. He’s gettin’ help from a xurkitree he’s nicknamed Sparky.”

    “I still think it’s cliche,” said Annie.

    Anchor ignored her. “So how are things holdin’ up here?”

    Macro ran his mechanical paw down his face. “Hang on. I’m still trying to process all that.”

    DL placed a paw on his shoulder. “What’s worrying you? I doubt the xurkitree is just going to damage your ship.”

    “Not gonna lie, the thought crossed my mind.” Macro pressed his paw over his mouth and stared past Anchor at the giant wishiwashi. “And one of Socket’s soldiers? Well…” He sighed and dropped his paw. “I guess he ain’t exactly workin’ for her anymore.”

    Web narrowed her eyes at the mawile. “We can’t exactly discriminate, can we? We’re all in the same boat.”

    “Ship,” said Annie. “It’s a ship.”

    The skuntank shook her head and moved away. “I’ll go and find Zip. He’ll want to be included.”

    “About that.” Macro’s words froze her in her tracks and all eyes went to the mawile. He sighed. “You’ll want to see for yourselves.”

    He led them back to the hospital in silence. He couldn’t find any words, and didn’t want to get them any more worried than they already were. They had two Z-Crystal users, Zip and Switch, and both of them weren’t in any state to use them.

    When they reached the hospital, Defrag was exiting it. Macro wasn’t surprised. It had been her turn to try and help Switch recover his memories and re-learn ‘brave bird’.

    “Any joy?” Macro asked as he caught her eye.

    She shook her head and slipped past him, turning her attention to her computer.

    The group finally came to a stop outside a private room. Macro spotted an azumarill nurse doubled over Zip’s water bowl. It had been removed from his mechanical legs. When Macro opened the door, the goldeen’s face lit up in a beaming smile.

    “You’re all back!” he cheered.

    “Of course we are, little fish!” Annie rushed to his bowl and crouched beside it. “And we’ve got a whole army to help us fight off Distortion.”

    Zip sank to the bottom of his bowl, pouting out his bottom lip. “That nasty dragon really threw a spanner in the works, huh?”

    “I’ll say!” said Rave. “A right party pooper, that one.”

    The goldeen spotted the Ultra Beast and a stream of bubbles left his gaping mouth in a gasp.

    “That is so cool!” he wagged his tail, pushing himself up against the glass. “You look amazing! What can you do?”

    “Well, I can make explosions.” Rave rubbed the back of his sparkly head. “But I’ve been told not to do that indoors.”

    “And rightly so,” said Anchor. He turned back to Zip. “So… what’s the situation here then?”

    Macro waved a paw and slumped on the edge of the bed, prompting the nurse to explain. She’d been too distracted by the blacephalon and had dropped her Clipboard. She retrieved it and scanned over it, keeping a cautious eye on Rave.

    “I know you had this goldeen’s best interests at heart,” she said, pausing to look at Annie and Web. “But those wounds he received at the fishery… they never healed properly. He ideally needed to be in clean river water.”

    “But it’s fine!” said Zip. “I’ll get better, and I can help you!”

    “You’ll be doing no such thing, young ‘mon,” said the azumarill. “You need a month’s worth of antibiotics and a lot of rest, or…” She paused and shook her head, nodding towards the door.

    The group followed her into the hallway, leaving Zip protesting in his bowl. After the door had closed, the nurse leant against the wall and looked at each of them in turn.

    “If that goldeen doesn’t get the rest he needs,” she said, “he’s going to die.”

    Web gasped and clasped a paw over her mouth. Annie’s eyes went back to the door, her expression unreadable. Waveform placed a paw on her shoulder, but she didn’t appear to notice.

    “Well that’s not exactly good news, is it?” said Rave, lights turning a subdued blue.

    “No, it’s not,” said the azumarill. “Like I said, you had his best interests. If you’d released him back into the river, he’d have been caught again in no time. With those wounds, he wouldn’t have been able to swim efficiently. And from what he told me, he also had no family to go back to. So… either way, it wouldn’t have gone in his favour. If I were in your situation, I’d have done exactly the same thing.”

    Waveform sighed and rubbed his head feathers. “I should have flown further out for cleaner water.”

    “It wouldn’t have made much difference,” said the nurse. “The air in Spool City would have poisoned the water in a matter of hours. The issue isn’t just the toxins, however. His wounds have become very infected. He needs regular antibiotics and a lot of rest. His water has to be changed daily. You can’t do that on the battlefield. And I will be honest with you, there’s a fifty/fifty chance he’ll even see out the full course of medicine.”

    “What does that mean?” asked Annie.

    Web rose onto her hind legs and pulled Annie aside by her shoulder. A whispered conversation passed between them, and Macro felt his stomach tie in knots.

    DL looked up at him and placed a paw on his arm. Anchor caught his eye and the mawile shrugged.

    “He’s just a kid,” said Macro. “He doesn’t deserve this.”

    Anchor nodded sadly. “He’s also got a lot of fight in him.” He paused and smirked at Macro. “Kinda reminds me of you.”

    Macro swallowed audibly and hugged his paws over his torso. He thought he saw the Fairium-Z sparkle in the corner of his eye.

    “Let me back in.” Annie pulled herself away from Web and marched back to the door. “I need to talk to him.”

    Web grimaced. “Annie, I’m not sure-”

    “He’ll listen to me,” said Annie. “He’s always listened to me.”

    “And what are you going to tell him?” Waveform looked down at her, his wings crossed. He slipped between her and the door, but she batted him away.

    “I’m gonna tell him exactly what he needs to hear,” she said. “That he needs to rest and get better. We’ve got his back in this rebellion. He doesn’t have to fight it any more!”

    “No.”

    Zip’s voice was muffled by the door, but everyone looked back at it. Annie twisted the handle and pushed it open, narrowly missing Zip’s bowl. The goldeen looked up at them, panting from the exertion of nudging his bowl across the floor.

    Web slumped her shoulders and shook her head. “Oh, Zip… You’ve been told to rest!”

    “I’m not resting!” he shouted. “I’m done resting. I want to help! You said I could help, that we’d change System! We’ll I want to help make a difference!”

    Annie crouched down beside him, peering into his bowl. “You have made a difference. That rebellion wouldn’t have been started without you. You also helped me find friends!”

    “But the rebellion has to stop,” said Zip. “Because of Distortion. I want to help you beat it so the water dwellers’ fight can continue.”

    “You’re not doing anything of the sort!” said the nurse.

    A rapid water gun narrowly missed the azumarill’s ear. She lifted a paw and squeaked with surprise. Zip poked his head out of the bowl, scowling at her.

    “See? I can fight!” he said. “I’m tired of you telling me to rest when I’ve got a war to fight! My war isn’t in this bowl. I don’t care if I’m wounded, or sick! I want to help my friends to beat Distortion! I even have my own Z-Crystal, and I want to use it!”

    Macro looked down at his own Z-Crystal. It was still sparkling. He thought he could see Solgaleo’s eyes looking back at him. Nodding.

    Macro lowered his arm and looked up at the nurse. “Let him fight.”

    “What?” The nurse, Web and Waveform all looked at him, stunned.

    “We need him,” said Macro. “And let’s face it. What statement would it make if a water dweller helped defeat Distortion and save System?” He grinned down at the goldeen. “Not exactly useless, eh?”

    Zip beamed and fluttered his tail fins. “You really want me to help?”

    “I demand it!” said Macro. “You’re part of our crew, right? But!” He lifted a claw. “Until we leave, you take your medicine. And we’ll bring enough with us. Can’t have you falling before we reach the battlefield.”

    Zip grinned widely and splashed with glee. “You’ve got it, Captain! I’ll be of great help, you’ll see!”

    The azumarill blanched and fixed Macro in a glare. “I have you know you’re stepping on toes. I can’t allow this! And I’m sure Jumper will have something to say about this, too!”

    “Oh, that he will.”

    Macro’s spine tingled and he looked back at the frogadier. Jumper leant against the wall and smiled down at Zip.

    “As you can see, Governor.” The nurse waved her paw towards the goldeen. “He’s in no fit state to fight.”

    “No, I’m with Macro on this one.” Jumper’s words made the nurse squeal with surprise.

    “But…” she stuttered. “Governor, please…!”

    “It would definitely make a statement,” said Jumper. “And if he can splash in his bowl, I think he’s got enough energy to fight. Provided he’s on the sidelines.” The frogadier’s eyes went to Zip and Time Archeops.

    “Sidelines?” Zip whined. “I want to help!”

    “And you can.” Jumper crouched before his bowl. “But you’re a fish out of your natural environment. Sure, that water bowl allows you to do more on land than any other water dweller, but you can’t get away quickly in it. And if it were to be damaged, you’d be stranded without water. That could be disastrous in your condition.”

    Zip’s lips turned into a frown and he diverted his eyes.

    “Don’t worry about him.” Annie placed a hand on Zip’s bowl, beaming at the frogadier. “I’ve got him covered, he won’t get hurt under my watch! Besides, he can cover my back. Right, little fish?”

    Zip gave her a weak smile. “You’ve got it. No one’s gonna get past me. Right?”

    Annie nodded, causing Zip to beam once more.

    “Very well.” Jumper stood up and crossed his arms. “But you come straight back here, and like Macro said, you take your medicine.”

    Zip saluted with a fin.

    Jumper nodded and turned back to the nurse. The azumarill threw her arms in the air, almost tossing her Clipboard free across the room.

    “Oh, dash it all!” she said. “You come in here and overrule my-”

    Jumper put a finger to her lips to silence her. “Let him have this one, ma’am. He’ll be right back here before you know it.”

    The nurse looked between the space pirates and Jumper, then shook her head and sighed. “Fine! Two days. You have two days!”

    She marched from the room, shoving past Macro as she muttered to herself. He watched her leave, then turned back to Annie and her crew.

    “We need to be on my ship in three hours,” he said. “Then we’ll head to our meeting place with the Ultra Beasts. Anchor?”

    The granbull turned to look at him and cocked an eyebrow.

    “You stay with these guys and find Tracer and his two friends,” said Macro. “I’m gonna visit Switch and see how he’s gettin’ on.”

    Anchor tapped him on the back and turned to talk to Zip. Macro tugged his scarf about himself and left the room with DL at his side. A small little note played from her belt pouch and she pulled out a small pocket computer. He raised an eyebrow at it, wondering if she’d picked it up during the aftermath of their run-in with Distortion.

    “I’ll have to meet you in there,” she said, popping it back into her pocket. “I need to run and get something.”

    He nodded, curiosity gnawing at him. She trotted away towards the reception, leaving him beside the elevator.

    It didn’t take him long to get to Switch’s private room. The human lay sprawled on his bed with his back against the wall, fidgeting with his transformer watch. He looked up when Macro entered, but there was no smile on his face.

    “How are you doin’?” Macro asked.

    Switch snorted and looked away from him. “Still dealing with not being fifteen anymore. The doctors here don’t even know how old I am. Pretty obvious humans don’t exist here, isn’t it? Every time I look in the mirror, I just think ‘Wow, I look like my dad.’ I’ve even got the odd grey hair.”

    “You say that like it’s a bad thing,” said Macro.

    Switch threw his arms in the air in exasperation. “I’ve lost about half of my life! What happened to the other fifteen years?”

    “You spent them in System,” said Macro. “We’re tryin’ to help you remember it all, okay? But I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened to you, or who your friends are. All I know is you’re some goofy guy who’s everybody’s friend. Even mine, and boy I don’t deserve it.”

    Switch snorted and looked back down at his watch. “You make it sound like you’re some kind of scum.”

    Those words stabbed like a dagger.

    Macro hugged himself and leant back against the wall. “Well, I’m tryin’ to change.”

    “So I was right then?”

    Macro looked up at him, meeting one of his golden eyes. “Weren’t a very nice kid, were ya, pal?”

    Switch waved a hand and sighed. “Sorry. I guess not. In my mind, I had a row with my parents yesterday. Something about ‘not pulling my weight’ and ‘talking back’.”

    “Teenage stress. I’ve been there.” Macro kicked himself back from the wall and strutted over to Switch’s bed. “It’s not okay, mind you.”

    He tried to scramble onto the bed to no avail. Switch leant over and grabbed him by the scruff, yanking him onto the mattress. Macro shook out his fur and straightened his scarf. Then he leant back against the wall and tucked his paws behind his head.

    “I know it’s not okay,” said Switch. “I just said things out of anger. Like then. I know you’re not scum.”

    “Yeah, well. Take it from someone who knows from experience,” said Macro. “I spent my irritable teenage years flyin’ a pirate ship and shootin’ laser pistols.”

    “Did it help?”

    Macro waved his mechanical paw at himself. “Almost died more times than I can count. So I’d say ‘no’.”

    Switch snorted. “You ever hurt anyone?”

    Macro grimaced and toyed with the hem of his scarf. “Too many times. Kind of an eye opener.”

    “Well, I did, too. Said things I didn’t mean.” Switch sighed and shook his head. “I vividly remember my mother crying as my dad sent me to my room.”

    “Then what did you do?” Macro asked.

    Switch shrugged. “I was planning to run away. I’d started writing a letter. After that, I don’t remember. It’s all blank.”

    Macro stared up at him, but the human didn’t meet his eyes. “Well, if Socket removed all your memories about System, I’d say… you probably ended up here after that.”

    “What, so I did run away?” Switch snapped. “Ended up here with talking pokemon and locked in a ward like some kinda freak-show?!”

    “You’re not a freak-show!” Macro growled. “You’re one of the nicest ‘mon I ever met, and that’s rich, ‘cos you’re not one!”

    Switch groaned and let his head fall back against the wall. “I just wanna go home. I want to apologise!”

    Macro balled his paws into fists and looked away. “Then you’ve left me with a difficult choice, ‘cos I don’t know which home to send you to anymore.”

    The door cracked open, drawing their eyes. DL peered back at them, smiling softly.

    “Can I come in?” she asked.

    Macro shrugged. “Sure.”

    She slipped through the door, clutching a fabric bag in one paw. Macro frowned at it.

    “What’s in the bag? It looks fancy,” he asked.

    “Oh, I erm…” She reached inside and pulled out a fabric bundle. “I wanted to replace your damaged scarf, but… I know you liked the old one, so…”

    Macro hopped from the bed, landing in a crouch. He took the scarf from her and unwound it. Black glossy fabric with a blue pattern. But at either end, the old scarf Switch had brought him had been neatly sewn. The blue pattern complimented the blue pixel print perfectly, and it had been cut in a way that none of the damaged burnt bits remained.

    “Do you like it?” DL asked.

    “You kiddin’ me?” he said. “I love it.”

    DL clapped her paws and beamed. “Try it on!”

    Macro chuckled and placed the scarf back in her paws. Then he removed his old, black one. Compared to the new scarf, it looked old and faded. As he exchanged it for DL’s gift, Switch let out a little gasp.

    Macro craned his head around to see Switch with a hand clasped in his hair. His mouth hung open as he stared at the mawile, eyes trailing down his back.

    “What’s wrong?” Macro welled with concern and turned fully to face him.

    “Those markings…” Switch’s face rapidly dampened with sweat. “I think I’ve seen them somewhere…”

    DL grabbed Macro by the arm and turned him so Switch could see them, tugging his heavy horn aside to reveal them more. Those two, brown stripes that had always reminded Macro of a pikachu.

    Switch let his arm drop to his side and slowly slipped from the bed. “Yes. Yes, I have. I’ve seen them.”

    Macro frowned at him over his shoulder. “Not on a pikachu, though, right?”

    “No, that wouldn’t be weird at all,” Switch scoffed. “No, I… I feel like they were somewhere strange. Black and white. No… blue. All three!”

    He tugged at his hair as he strained to remember. Macro turned back to him, his muzzle creasing with worry.

    “Easy there,” he said. “You’ll end up tuggin’ it all out at this rate.”

    “Just let me think!” Switch snapped. “Sorry… Sorry, I don’t mean to… Argh, where have I seen them before?”

    Macro knew exactly where. Switch had already told him, weeks ago.

    “A meowstic?” Macro offered.

    Switch fixed his golden eyes on him, releasing his hair. “A meowstic…”

    “Ringin’ any bells?” Macro asked.

    Switch shushed him, eyes drifting to the wall. “Yes… yes, I think… I faintly remember.”

    DL tapped Macro on his shoulder, drawing his attention. She stared transfixed at Switch, her chocolate eyes sparkling.

    “I think it’s working,” she whispered. “I don’t understand how.”

    Switch slumped to his bottom and trailed his hands down to his mouth. He looked at the two pokemon in turn.

    “I remember him,” he said. “And a mawile. But… I don’t remember anything about them. Just… that they’re friends of mine.”

    Macro’s mouth curled into a smile, then he grinned as he punched himself in the chest. “They’re also my ancestors.”

    “You’ve told me this,” said Switch. “But I couldn’t picture them as clearly as I am doing now. It’s like… some kind of distant memory, or dream. Just like the memory of me writing that letter. I can see it, but I can’t remember what it says.”

    “That’s because Socket’s removed them,” said DL. “But I guess it was a rushed job if you’re recalling things.”

    Switch stared at them for a moment, then let his hands fall into his lap. “Do you think I’ll get these memories back?”

    “If we can find them, yes,” said Macro.

    He grabbed the new scarf and tossed it over his shoulders. It wasn’t much longer than the one Switch had given to him. He smoothed it out and beamed up at the human.

    “Anythin’ else come back to you there?” he asked.

    Switch toyed with his watch and cleared his throat. “I’m suddenly not so scared of that talonflame form.”

    “Well that’s good,” said Macro. “’Cos we kinda need you.”

    “To fight?”

    Macro met Switch’s eye. The human grinned and rose to his feet, then he winked down at the mawile. Macro’s jaw went slack, and he returned Switch’s grin with one of his own.

    “I think ‘brave bird’ is coming back to me,” said Switch, “so I’m ready to try and master that Z-Move.” He moved towards the door. “If it’ll get me back home, I’ll do it.”

    “Question!” Macro stopped Switch with a pointed claw. “Which home?”

    Switch tugged the door open and shrugged. “I guess we’ll find out if these memories keep coming back to me, won’t we?”

    ...​

    Wildcard Gamma’s cockpit was soon rammed to the gills as Annie lead her troop on board. Anchor closed up the rear and shooed the girl from his seat, much to her protests. He cast an eye over towards Switch, huddled in the corner in his talonflame form. Axle and his xurkitree friend worked silently beside him on the porygon-z. Its eyes periodically lit up, but other than that it didn’t seem active.

    “Nice to see you back aboard.” The granbull grinned at Switch.

    “Yeah, well…” Switch grimaced and ruffled his feathers. “I’m not sure how much use I’m going to be. I can’t even get brave bird right, let alone use this Z-Crystal.”

    He flashed the Flyinium-Z around his left ankle.

    Anchor exchanged a worried glance with Macro, which the mawile shrugged off with a wave.

    “Priorities,” said Macro. “We can’t hold things up any longer. We need to get a wiggle on. I seriously doubt Distortion is gonna wait until we master things before twisting System into an unrecognisable…” He flicked a paw as he tried to find the right words.

    “Coil?” Annie suggested.

    Macro nodded and kicked his feet up on the dash. “I’ll take it.”

    Annie grinned and nudged Waveform in the ribs. The decidueye let out a disgruntled hoot and smoothed out his feathers.

    “So are we all aboard?” Anchor asked. “Because we ain’t comin’ back for no stragglers.”

    The cockpit shook as Trojan leapt aboard. He shuffled into the cockpit, tugging up his baggy fur to avoid tripping over it.

    “We are now,” said Web. “Where have you been?”

    Trojan said nothing, dropping down beside Zip’s bowl to work at his frame. He began fastening the Z-Crystal band into place around his front leg with a hexnut.

    “That answers that question,” said Web. “I think we’re good to go.”

    “What about Mister Fox and the pussycat?” Annie asked.

    “Eh?” Anchor cocked an eyebrow.

    “She means Tracer and N0ize.” Macro shuffled down in his seat and yawned. “They’re holed up in two of the rooms - Switch’s and my own. Apparently N0ize snores like a grumpig with allergies. They’ll join us when we get there, let’s go.”

    Wildcard Gamma shook as Anchor pulled her out of the docks. Macro spotted Celesteela as she backed away to give them space, before falling in step behind them with Omnom. (Annie had insisted on the nickname.)

    DL nudged Macro to get his attention. “You gave up you room?”

    Macro snorted and closed his eyes. “I didn’t have much choice.”
     
  4. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    A/N - I was a bit concerned about this chapter as I believe it's one of the ones I fired out over November for NaNoWriMo. That meant a lot of words in one go, without deviating back too much to make serious edits. I found an embarrassing number of typos. But thankfully it didn't need too much tweaking. I hope you enjoy it nontheless!

    Chapter Seventy Seven​

    The night was fast approaching as Wildcard Gamma encroached on Seed City. The distortion was clear from the ship’s windows, twisting the ground and coating it in a purple haze. What was visible through the haze was almost unrecognisable as part of System. Huge lumps of rock drifted through it, and deep shadows forewarned of fissures splitting the earth.

    “All right, we’re here.” Macro pushed himself back from the window, his voice wavering slightly. There had been no real sense of danger. Whatever had been going on to ruin the land had settled, but he still felt uneasy. “No backing out now.”

    His crew were already gathered around the door, checking over their Z-Crystals and supplies. Annie was still in her human form, which worried Macro greatly. She couldn’t exactly utilise her Rockium-Z like that. He turned to Axle, still working at his Zero Day unit. It had been moving earlier, but the emolga had since switched it off.

    “Any more joy?” Macro asked.

    Axle tutted. “It’ll be working again soon, don’t you worry.”

    “So… are you joining us?”

    Axle looked up at him, then over at the rest of the crew. “I doubt it. I don’t have one of those fancy crystals, and someone’s gotta watch your backs. Once I get this workin’, I’ll be there to send them Ultra Beasts back home. Don’t you worry.”

    Macro cast a glance at Sparky, but the xurkitree didn’t seem wounded by the emolga’s words.

    Macro shook it off and moved past them towards the hatch. A small movement from the kitchen diverted his attention and he locked eyes with Cookie. The brown slurpuff trembled so much his berry went lopsided.

    “Don’t worry, Cookie,” Macro told him. “You don’t need to come with us. No one’s forcing you.”

    “But… but…” Cookie wound his paws together. “Solgaleo said… well… I’ve been practicing, and…”

    Macro raised an eyebrow. “You’ve what?”

    Cookie ducked back into the kitchen and peered at him around the door frame. “Practicing. You know… the aromatherapy stuff. Because… well…” He took a deep breath and stepped into the hallway, forcing his paws at his sides. “I don’t want you to fall in battle again. None of you. You’re all like family. You took me in and gave me a home. If I can be of any help, then I want to go with you.” He grimaced and wound his paws into his thick coat. “Even if it terrifies the fur off me.”

    The corner of Macro’s lips turned up in a half-smile. “In that case, come along. But it’ll mean only Axle is watchin’ the ship.”

    “Really?” Cookie squeaked. “D-does that matter?”

    “Nah.” Macro waved a paw. “I doubt he’s gonna take off in it. Besides, after this, my space pirate days are over.”

    “B-but how do we get back? Cyan City? We need-”

    Cookie trailed off and sighed, giving himself a mental shake. He joined the rest of the team by the hatch, his tiny paws balled into fists.

    Macro scanned the hatch open and cold air buffeted them, driving them back. He braced himself against it and tugged his goggles down over his eyes.

    “If anyone needs a mask, grab one,” he said. “I’ve no idea what it’s gonna be like down there. Just bare in mind there’s only four of ‘em, and one’s tiny.”

    Macro tuned out the squabbling behind him between Tracer and Widget as the latter listed every reason under the sun why he didn’t need a mask. Instead, Macro squinted down at the haze, trying to spot a suitable dropping point. Something brushed his paw and he glanced down at a filter mask clasped in DL’s paws. He pushed it back towards her and returned to scanning the ground. There, right between a fissure and Seed City’s dome of distortion. He grabbed a neon ladder rung and shouted at the rest of the crew to grab on.

    Then he dropped.

    Each flash from the ladder filled him with anxiety, but there was no turning back. That didn’t mean he didn’t desperately want to. He forced himself not to look back at his ship, not to even look up at his crew. As he descended, the Fairium-Z flickered out of the corner of his eye, giving off a soothing pink glow. Somehow it quelled his burning anxiety. He wasn’t alone in this.

    The purple haze washed over him and once he was through it his heart leapt. Drifting chunks of rock floated past him, peppered with twisted trees devoid of foliage. One of System’s familiar mechanical trees hung from beneath one island, its trunk forming a coil pulled tight as though some magnetic force was straining to drag it back to earth. There was no sound, just an unearthly silence. Deep fissures ran through the ground, zigging and zagging at sharp angles. Above them, lumps of brick drifted back and forth like some sort of ferry system, except they vanished and reappeared at odd intervals.

    He braced himself for the inevitable danger, but it never came. Wasn’t it supposed to be too dangerous for pokemon to venture near? Where was the counter attack? His Z-Crystal continued to let off that calming glow and realization washed over him. He gave a silent thanks to Solgaleo.

    When Macro’s feet touched the ground, it felt like he would keep falling, almost as if the ground weren’t even there. He glanced down at the faux grass brushing his feet. Definitely stable. But each clump of grass looked like a bad render. Boxy, and lacking shadow.

    Matrix buzzed down beside his head. “It looks like a low budget video game.”

    “Don’t you dare say you like it,” Macro grunted.

    “No thanks,” said Matrix. “I like my graphics high-res.”

    A long whistle came from Annie, slicing through the silence, and she released her ladder rung, landing in a crouch beside the two pokemon. She stood up straight and looked around as Waveform and Switch fluttered down beside her. Soon, everyone was gathered together, struggling to take in their strange surroundings.

    “I can’t help but fear this is the end,” said Web. “What’s happened to our world?”

    Trojan placed a paw on her back but said nothing.

    “It ain’t the end,” grunted N0ize. “And if it is, I’m goin’ out with a bang. I don’t know ‘bout you guys.”

    “Sounds like a plan,” said Widget.

    Tracer let out a sigh and reached into his tail for his stick. “Bang it is.”

    Macro looked back at them all. Celesteela and Omnom stood behind the odd group, towering over them, yet in this strange world they didn’t look imposing anymore. Not one of his crew was wearing a filter mask. There might not have been toxic air flowing around in this part of the distortion, but none of them had any idea what to expect inside Seed City. The unspoken message was pretty clear. If they were going to go down, they’d be going down together.

    “If you want a bang, old chap,” Rave told Tracer, “then I have those by the bucket.”

    Celesteela wailed a response that set the Ultra Beasts laughing amongst themselves. Whatever the private joke was, it lightened the mood.

    He let out a dry chuckle and clenched his mechanical fist. “All right. Let’s find that mansion. The other Ultra Beasts are probably already waiting for us.”

    Omnom gave a growling cheer and the troop rallied together towards the purple dome.

    As they drew closer, a small army appeared in the haze. Anchor and the rest of his away team had done their best to describe their new allies, but it wasn’t enough to prepare Macro, DL and Switch for the shock. A large mosquito-like creature stood with his arms crossed. The rest of the army was formed of nihilego of which Macro counted twelve, and seven xurkitree. They rallied around a humongous building which teetered on a set of four very spindly legs, and on top of it sprawled a rather elegant beetle. As they drew closer, the building’s bricks flicked outward across its surface, revealing hundreds of blue eyes. They all fixed on a point above Macro’s head and turned red. The creature atop it zipped from her perch in a flash, landing a safe distance away.

    Widget let out an ‘eep!’ and Tracer brandished his stick.

    “It’s that thing again,” said the eevee. “And I think it remembers us!”

    “Whoa, hang on!” Macro lifted his paws and stood between the Ultra Beast and the detectives. “You fought this guy?”

    “Yes,” said Tracer. “It tried to kill us.”

    Macro looked up at the kartana, silently drifting from side to side as they assessed the situation. He was certainly no stranger to that scenario, and if both he and the kartana could let it slide…

    He looked back at the detectives and stood aside, waving a paw at the brick creature. “Misunderstanding or not, we’re on the same team now.”

    Tracer reluctantly replaced his stick and nudged Widget with his foot. The eevee staggered forward and cast a glace up at the delphox.

    Widget sighed and turned back to the Ultra Beast. “I’m sorry we got lost in your insides. And… erm… attacked your… bricks?”

    The wall of eyes flickered between red and blue, creating a complex pattern. Then they all snapped back inside the creature, leaving only one eye to drift along the wall between the pokemon and Ultra Beasts.

    Rave and Poipole gave everyone a quick introduction, while only Rave knew what the brick creature was.

    “This is a stakataka,” he said. “It is actually composed of one hundred and fifty lifeforms acting as one. They’re generally pretty placid, unless you anger them.”

    “Yeah,” said Widget. “We found that one out the hard way.”

    The stakataka’s eyes flashed across its surfaces in an erratic pattern.

    Rave shrugged. “He says don’t sweat it.”

    “Okay,” said Pheramosa. “Now we’ve got the pleasantries out of the way, what are we going to do about this?” She waved at the purple haze.

    Macro shook his head, scanning over the Ultra Beasts. “Is this all of you?”

    “As many as we could find,” said Pheramosa.

    “But I thought… there were hundreds of nihilego… and xurkitree…”

    “Yeah, well.” Pheramosa flicked back her silky shell. “System fought back. Hard.”

    Macro felt his heart sink. He wasn’t exactly innocent in that himself.

    “So, do you have a plan?” Pheramosa asked. “Because I can’t speak for everyone here, but I want to go home.”

    “I don’t exactly have a plan,” said Macro. “I don’t generally do plans. I just run in and see what happens. But… I think I might have an idea.”

    Pheramosa narrowed her eyes at him.

    “How good of an idea?” asked Anchor.

    Macro looked over at each of his allies, then craned his head back to examine the purple haze. He scratched the base of his horn and frowned.

    “I think we can safely say,” he said, “that Distortion might be aware of our presence. I mean, if Socket’s security system is anything to go by. He’s got full control of that mansion, and is now taking hold of System.”

    Buzzwole tooted a reply and flexed at the haze.

    “If he’s aware,” translated Rave, “he’s not done anything about the Ultra Beasts standing around here for the past hour.”

    “Maybe that’s because none of you have done anything yet,” said Macro.

    “That’s a good point,” said Rave. “He only attacked me when I fought back to defend my friends.”

    “All right then.” Macro absently pawed at where his lasers would have been. “When we go in there, we need to prepare ourselves for a retaliation. Because I doubt he’ll want us to reach that mansion.”

    “So that’s your plan?” said Annie. “Because it’s genius.”

    Macro frowned at her over his shoulder, not sure whether or not she was being sarcastic.

    “No, it’s not,” he said. “If you’ll all be patient, I’m still formulating it.”

    Poipole drifted from Web’s tail and hovered above them, eyes fixed on Macro. “I already detect a flaw in your plan, and you haven’t even made it yet.”

    “Really?” Macro folded his arms and frowned back at him. “Go on.”

    “You’re voicing it.” Poipole paused for a moment, turning his bulbous head back and forth from the pokemon and the haze. “When I speak to you, I speak to all of you. I don’t need Distortion to hear what I’m saying.”

    “Okay, so I ain’t telepathic like you.” Macro waved a paw at him. “Why don’t you come up with a plan?”

    “All right.” Poipole drifted closer to him so they were almost nose to nose. “I have one. Listen.”

    ...
    Macro, with his team, cautiously ventured into the haze. He went first, with Matrix hovering beside his head. Switch followed behind him, keeping pace beside Buzzwole and Rave. Anchor closed up the rear, ushering Cookie on ahead of him. But Wildcard Gamma wasn’t complete. Macro felt very lost without DL. Unfortunately, she’d had to accompany and lead one of the other teams. Between them all, only DL and Matrix had any idea of the mansion’s lay-out, provided it hadn’t been warped. So she’d taken charge of Time Archeops. The remaining small Ultra Beasts were led by Pheramosa, who insisted on bringing along Stakataka. They also took Tracer’s team with them, who could provide the Ultra Beasts with some knowledge of their world. That just left Celesteela and Omnom to circumnavigate Seed City, providing muscle where needed.

    Each small team had its own function. Macro’s team was to enter the mansion from the ground. But first, they had to find it.

    He paused and took in his surroundings. Seed City had been transformed into some alien world. The floor rose up in chunks, leaving deadly pot holes and fissures where it had once lay. Buildings dotted the small islands, warped and twisted beyond recognition. Something felt very off about the gravity. Wherever Macro put his feet, he felt like he wasn’t quite walking on the ground.

    He made his way forward, ducking beneath an island to check the ground beneath. It had previously been a road, but a long, wide crack ran across it, slicing through ruins on either side. No. If he stood on the fissure, he’d surely fall. They’d need to find another way across, or around it.

    “Hey, Switch.” He turned to the talonflame. “Any chance you can fly us all over?”

    Switch stretched out his wings and hopped, flapping to gain momentum. But no matter how hard he beat his wings, he couldn’t get into the air. His beak fell open and he stuttered.

    “I… I can’t,” he said.

    “You remember how, though?” Macro asked.

    “I… I don’t think I’ve ever tried,” said Switch.

    Macro turned to Buzzwole, but before he could open his mouth, the large bug fluttered his wings, creating a high-pitched whine. A look of surprise crossed his beady eyes and he performed a couple of small hops. Then shrugged.

    “Something seems amiss,” said Rave. “As though Buzzwole is suddenly too heavy to fly. I am going to hazard a guess that the same applies to your feathered companion.”

    “Then how can Matrix fly?” asked Cookie.

    Matrix looked down at himself, a dull drone coming from his wings. He glanced at each of them in turn and shook his head.

    “Don’t look at me,” he said. “I can’t carry you across.”

    Rave turned his head to look back at Macro. “Ominous. I sense trickery.”

    Macro grimaced and turned back to the drifting blocks. “Well ain’t that just dandy. It’s like he knows we’re comin’. Maybe Poipole was right?” He sighed and rubbed his scar. “How are we gonna get across?”

    “Do any of us know telekinesis?” suggested Matrix. “Or psychic?”

    Macro looked up at the Ultra Beasts. They both shook their heads.

    “Fantastic,” said Macro. “So we’re gonna have to either walk until we find a way around it… or…” His eyes went to the platforms drifting idly past. “Anchor, gimme a boost?”

    The granbull grabbed Macro by the waist in both paws and hoisted him up onto the platform. It slowly carried him away as he rose to his feet to check the other side. One leap and he’d be across. He crouched down and launched himself forward, performing a shoulder roll across the tarmac. He scrambled into a crouch and looked back at his companions.

    They gathered around the next platform, but before Anchor could grab onto it, it vanished. A look of surprise crossed the granbull’s face and he looked to his left. One platform after another drifted towards them, only to vanish before they could climb aboard.

    “I hate to say this, Cap’n,” said Anchor. “But I’m afraid we’re gonna have to find another way.”

    Macro’s heart sank. So he was alone? He grimaced and pushed himself to his feet.

    “Well, we don’t have much choice, do we?” he growled. “Dang it, Poipole was right. He’s watchin’ us.”

    “Don’t worry,” said Anchor. “We’ll meet you somewhere. Stick to the-”

    Rave slammed his paw over Anchor’s mouth. “Allow me to tell him, old chap. Perchance Distortion hears you and throws another spanner in the works.” He cleared his throat and released the granbull. “Stick to the right. We’ll try and get to you.”

    Macro nodded his understanding and watched as his team moved away. Buzzwole gave him a friendly flex before tailing them around a corkscrewed skyscraper.

    Suddenly the world felt very empty.

    Macro turned and stuck to the right of the old road. The very buildings appeared detached from it, an ultra violet glow emanating from where they met the ground. He glanced through one of the windows. All the furniture was on the ceiling while a wigglituff sat frozen in a chair, oblivious to what was going on. A teacup was clasped in one paw while the other was frozen reaching for the TV remote. Macro resisted the urge to peer inside any other windows. It was too creepy. Too real.

    He hugged his arms about himself as he searched for any promising route to reach his friends. But every right turn was blocked off by a fissure, or a wall that shouldn’t have been there. Much too high to climb. Too thick to break through.

    He just had to keep searching.

    ...​

    “Good grief, that’s creepy.” Annie paused to peer through yet another window. “Like… that kid spilled juice. And the juice is still floatin’ in the air.”

    “Come along, dear.” Web grabbed her shoulder and dragged her away from the glass.

    DL shook her head and returned to looking around, pawing at her ear. Everywhere they turned, it was a dead end. But there was no turning back. A huge fissure had appeared in the road, out of nowhere, barring them from ever leaving. That meant they had to keep moving forward. The long road went on with no obstruction, leading them around the edge of Seed City.

    Zip tapped at the edge of the fissure with one of his mechanical legs. “Too wide. And there’s no bridge like last time.”

    “I really don’t know how we’re meant to get through this,” said DL. “If we can’t reach the mansion-”

    Poipole drifted back down from the rooftops. “There’s a path this way.”

    He zipped on ahead of them, leading them a little way along before turning a sharp left. The narrow alley was just wide enough to let them through. They gathered on a wide road that looked like it may have been one of the main roads through the city. But none of the buildings could tell them that. Each one was devoid of colour. An odd grey, twisted and broken into chunks. DL glanced back the way they had come, and squeaked.

    A dead end. A huge wall had appeared out of nowhere.

    “It’s like a jackin’ labyrinth,” Trojan scoffed. “What’s goin’ on?”

    Poipole lifted a claw before his motionless lips and shushed him. Then he drifted back into the air to scout another way.

    “I hope the others are okay,” said Web. “This place is really hard to navigate.”

    Waveform nodded, casting his eyes over the buildings. “If I could only fly, this would be no problem to get through.”

    “So you keep sayin’,” said Trojan. He wafted Web away as she shushed him close to his ear. “Why does everyone keep shushin’ me?”

    Annie crept away from them, eyes drawn to a large, drifting chunk of rock. Her eyes widened and she waved behind her.

    “You guys have gotta see this,” she said.

    Large buildings clung to the rock’s vertical surface. She trotted towards it, her friends tailing after her. Poipole zipped down from above, hovering over her head silently. The road was unobstructed, allowing full view of the vertical landscape. Annie placed one foot on it, then another. A squeal of delight left her throat as she strolled long the vertical road, then she looked back down at her friends.

    “I wonder if we’re meant to go this way?” she said.

    Poipole drifted ahead of her, leveling out as he reached the rock. “It appears to have its own gravity field. It is impossible for me to just drift over it like a wall.”

    Web gazed up at it, mouth agape. “I wonder where it leads?”

    “Only one way to find out.” Waveform placed his talons on it and followed Annie along the road.

    The human casually strolled through the buildings, each one more of a ruin than the last. Eerie ultraviolet light lit up her white shirt with a purple glow, almost blinding. She tried to hide her arms behind her back to avoid being dazzled. The vertical path reached an abrupt end, forming a sharp corner. But it was as easy to traverse as the climb had been. She found herself flipped upright, standing a mile above the rooftops. She stood surrounded by rubble, which drifted idly through the air. She shoved a lump of it aside, and it pinged to her right as if pulled away by some magnetic force. Then she shifted another. Then another.

    Once it was cleared, she had a perfect view of Seed City. And there in the centre sat the mansion.

    Zip stopped beside her and let out a long ‘whoa!’

    Purple fire exploded around the mansion like tendrils, curving into the earth and leaping back out to impale anything and everything around it. The flames spread the purple haze, and after a few hundred feet, the flames vanished into the earth entirely.

    “Like the roots of a tree,” said Waveform.

    “Eh?” Annie looked around at him. “What’s that?”

    “It’s holding on to Seed City,” he said. “Anchored in place.”

    “I’d say it’s more like a parasite,” said Annie.

    Waveform nodded. “A fitting description, given what it’s done to System.”

    “Do you think we’ll ever get our home back?” Zip asked.

    Waveform didn’t reply, staring out at the surreal landscape.

    Web and Trojan joined them with DL.

    “Well I’ll be,” Web gasped. “There it is.”

    “Oh to be able to fly,” said Waveform. “We’d be there in a heartbeat.”

    “It’s monstrous,” said DL.

    Everyone turned to look at her, but she shook her head and tore her eyes from the mansion.

    “I have no words,” she said.

    She looked up at the sky. From this height, they could see Celesteela and Omnom struggling to reach the centre. Too big to pass the rubble, which didn’t move as easily as Annie’s rocks had. Omnom munched his way through, allowing Celesteela to pass, but they’d reappear just as quickly, slowing his progress greatly.

    As for the others… They were lost somewhere in the labyrinth below.

    “I hope they’re all okay down there,” said DL.

    Waveform tapped Annie’s shoulder and herded DL forward.

    “Let’s keep going,” he said. “If we find anyone, we’ll help them.”

    ...​

    With each step Macro clutched tighter at his scarf. The city felt more and more like a surreal dungeon. Empty and devoid of life. Deep down he knew that wasn’t true, but the ruined buildings and the lack of wind made him feel oddly alone. He couldn’t even see Celesteela or Omnom drifting overhead. Couldn’t even hear Celesteela’s eerie screams. He was beginning to long for them.

    He paused at another dead end, gazing up at the wall. It vanished beyond the haze. Smooth. Impossible to climb. The overflowing, blue trash can with its scattered nanab peels was too familiar. He’d come from this way only minutes before. Somehow he’d found his way back. Where had the wall come from?

    He turned his back on it and made a right, following the wide road around the edge of the city. Just one route and he’d find his way back into the thick of the buildings. So close. He’d been so close only to run into a pile of rubble. Now he was back at the edge of it, far away from his allies.

    Maybe it was a trap?

    He clasped at his scarf, turning his head to look back at the alley. But it was blocked off by a building. The former skyscraper lay on its side, its windows cracked. Yet not a brick was out of place. Compared to everything else, it appeared immaculate. On its side, a street lamp protruded from it, its light flickering erratically. Yet it cast no shadow.

    He turned away from it, trying to push it to the back of his mind and find his way. But every alley was blocked. He gazed up at the drifting rocks overhead, much too high for him to reach. When he looked back down, there was the skyscraper. On its side, with its flickering street lamp. No longer behind him, where he’d left it. And on his right, the alley with its blue trashcan and nanab peels.

    A long groan left his throat and he sank to his bottom, burying his face in his scarf.

    “Where am I?” His voice sounded faint in the silence. Flat. Not even an echo.

    Tears soaked through his scarf and he doubled over, trying to stifle his violent sobs.

    “Guys! Find me, please!”

    ...​

    Anchor shoved a huge rock to one side. Light as a feather. It crashed into the wall of a house, not leaving so much as a scuff. His eyes widened as they met those of Pheramosa. She shifted her weight to one foot and placed a paw on her hip.

    “About time help showed up,” she said.

    Anchor grunted and led his group through. Matrix buzzed on ahead of him to survey the area.

    Two huge fissures carved through the floor in a cross. On one section stood Stakataka, covered by nihilego. They clung onto him for dear life, tinkling in fear. Next to them, across the gorge, six of the xurkitree. The seventh was stranded alone across from it, electricity sparking across its limbs as it garbled away in its unusual language.

    “How did this happen?” Anchor asked.

    Pheramosa tutted. “As if questions like that are valid in this world? Look at this place! It came from nowhere!”

    Anchor nodded stiffly and rubbed his mohawk. “Well… I’m afraid I can’t help you. None of us can.”

    Pheramosa looked up at Matrix and cocked an eyebrow. He shook his head and shrugged.

    “All right.” She turned to Anchor’s team and her eyes fell on Buzzwole and Switch. “I’m going to guess if I can’t jump then you can’t fly?”

    Buzzwole shook his head and tooted his kazoo, while Switch stuttered a ‘no’.

    “We’re as stuck as you are.” Rave’s lights turned a pale blue. “No way across. We’ll have to split up and find a way around until we find each other.”

    “We’ve already lost Macro,” said Anchor. “He’s out there somewhere alone.”

    Pheramosa snorted and turned to the lone xurkitree. “Hey, Kzappro!”

    It jolted and looked up at her, stopping mid ramble.

    “Think you can find a way through and find their lost ally?” she asked.

    “Erm, excuse me,” said Matrix. “But we’re not really meant to broadcast-”

    Pheramosa narrowed her eyes, silencing the ribombee. “I don’t care. It’s clearly making no difference.”

    “I’m actually starting to wonder that myself,” said Rave. “If we keep getting split up, soon there’ll be none to telepathically communicate. Besides… I think I might have an idea.”

    “I hope it’s a good’un,” said Anchor. “’Cos I’m out.”

    “Oh, I think you’ll find it borders on genius.” Rave chuckled and rubbed his paws together. “I suggest… we broadcast our moves as much as possible. There are many of us, and only one Distortion. Let’s add some confusion to the fray.”

    Anchor’s jaw dropped and he wagged a claw at the blacephalon. “I think I like it.”

    “Finally,” said Pheramosa. “Someone with a braincell.”

    Kzappro garbled and sparked, then slinked away. Matrix followed after him for a moment, then paused on the other side of the gorge.

    “There’s actually a path over here,” he said. “I wonder if we can find a way across?”

    Switch shuffled to the edge then fluttered his wings. Nothing. He sighed and shook his head.

    “But how?” he asked. “It’s too wide to jump, even if I could glide.”

    “Here’s a bright spark.” Pheramosa turned back to Buzzwole. “Have you tried tossing anyone across these gaps?”

    Buzzwole shook his head.

    “Then try.” She strutted over to him. “Start with me.”

    “While it might help us,” said Anchor, “it doesn’t help them, does it?”

    He waved towards the nihilego and xurkitree.

    Pheramosa clicked her tongue then sighed. “No. I guess not. But if it gets us across, we can make progress while they try to find another way. Because we’re stuck here. There’s no way back.”

    Anchor looked over his shoulder. Sure enough, those rocks had vanished to be replaced by a stack of small houses.

    “How long have they been there?” he asked.

    Pheramosa shrugged. “You came through one of the doors. They appeared once we’d reached this gorge.”

    Anchor stuttered and shook his head. “This place is a whole other level of nonsense.”

    He looked around again, his heart sinking like a lead brick.

    “Hang on a sec,” he said. “Where’s the detectives?! I thought they were meant to be with you!”

    All eyes went back to the house, slicing across the road and into the ruins either side of it.

    “My guess is they’re stuck in there,” said Pheramosa. “Or behind it. And behold!” She waved a paw towards the building. “The door is gone.”

    “Then let’s hope they’re behind it,” said Matrix.

    The ribombee began to zip towards the house, but Anchor reached up a paw and grabbed him by the leg.

    “Hold you’re mudsdales, Matrix,” he said. “If you go over that buildin’, chances are you’ll get separated n’all.”

    “I have an idea.” Rave removed his head and juggled it in one paw. “I can blast a door open. If they’re inside, then-”

    “No.” Anchor released Matrix and placed a paw on the Ultra Beast’s shoulder. “We can’t go attacking things. Distortion might fight back more than it’s doin’ already, and someone could get hurt. We need to keep our numbers steady for when we reach the mansion.”

    “He has a point.” Switch ruffled his feathers. “I’m sure Tracer and Widget can take care of themselves.”

    “Seconded.” Pheramosa turned back to the gorge. “All right, big guy. Toss me across.”

    Buzzwole didn’t hesitate. He grabbed Pheramosa in both his huge paws and leant back with her over his shoulder. Then he skipped forward and punted her as far as she would go. The lithe bug soared over the gorge, righting herself in mid air so her feet pointed forward. Then she landed daintily on the other side. She dusted herself down then turned back to her allies.

    “There.” She placed a paw on one hip. “Success. Now, how about-”

    Her words trailed off as debris drifted through the air. Two rows of huge, flat platforms crossed before the group in opposite directions, low enough to climb onto. It offered a way to cross to both sides, but none of the Ultra Beasts dared move.

    Matrix hovered over them and ‘hmm’d’, winding his antenna in thought.

    “I’ve seen things like this in games,” he said. “Here, Anchor. Climb onto one, then wait for another to pass by. Hop onto that then you can leap to the other side.”

    “I ain’t goin’ first,” said Anchor. “I’m in charge here. I say Switch goes first.”

    “Me?” Switch squeaked. He sighed and smoothed his feathers. “Okay. My life is in your paws, bee.”

    He hopped onto the first platform and flailed his wings to steady himself.

    “Try to be quick now,” said Matrix. “You want to join Pheramosa, not be stranded with Stakataka.”

    Switch fluttered to the next rock then kicked himself off to land in a crumpled heap beside Pheramosa. She looked down at him and tutted.

    “Hey, don’t sass,” he groaned as he straightened himself up. “I’m still getting used to this body.”

    Buzzwole stepped forward next, but as he did the drifting blocks changed. Each row jerked from side to side, independent of each other. Matrix made a thoughtful noise then cleared his throat.

    “This one is more tricky,” he said. “Put one paw wrong and you’ll miss, only to fall into a bottomless pit of doom.”

    “I feel like you’re enjoyin’ this,” muttered Anchor.

    Matrix shrugged and said nothing.

    “All right, there’s only one way for it,” said Anchor. “Buzzwole and Rave… you two go together.”

    Buzzwole tooted and grabbed Anchor in his huge arms.

    “He says no one gets left behind,” said Rave. “And I agree with him. Tally ho, old chap!” He smacked Buzzwole on the back.

    The huge insect tooted a triumphant ditty and leapt onto the rock beside Blacephalon.

    “Easy now,” said Matrix. “Think before you leap.”

    Buzzwole braced himself, watching the drifting rocks carefully. His footing remained steady as the floating rocks lurched from side to side. Then he leapt.

    Anchor screwed his eyes shut and his heart flipped. If Buzzwole missed…

    The Ultra Beast landed heavily on the next rock. Then he leapt again, bridging the gap to the other side. He landed beside Rave and the two Ultra Beasts high-fived. Buzzwole placed Anchor down carefully and caught his eye. Then flexed.

    “Thanks.” Anchor grinned and punched him in the arm.

    Buzzwole returned the gesture, knocking the granbull off his feet.

    Switch fluttered to his side. “Are you all right?”

    “I’m fine.” Anchor sat back up, catching an apologetic glance off Buzzwole. “No worries. Let’s just… get lookin’ for Macro, eh?”

    “What about them?” Rave waved across to Stakataka and its allies.

    The xurkitree had moved from the gorge towards the huge beast. There was no way Stakataka could use those platforms, and the gorge was too wide for it to act as a bridge. But something else caught Anchor’s eye. Beyond the Ultra Beasts was an alley, lying wide open.

    “The terrain’s changed again,” he said. “They can get out of there now.”

    “Oh thank goodness,” said Rave. He cupped his paw where his mouth should be. “Move on out, boys! Keep aiming for the centre!”

    Stakataka creaked and groaned as it rose to its feet. It moved out, carrying its charge of nihilego, while the xurkitree flocked around it.

    ...​

    Tracer tapped the stone wall and tutted.

    “Solid as ever,” he said. “Nice idea, Widget, thinking there would be an invisible door. But I think you might be wrong.”

    “You think?” N0ize grunted.

    Defrag stood beside him, nursing her paw. “I loathe this dimension already.”

    “So you keep sayin’,” said N0ize.

    She cast the incineroar a sideways leer. “Hey, you’re the one who suggested we punch our way out.”

    N0ize raised his paws in a shrug. “Hey, you’re the one who went and did it.”

    “Yeah, while you watched and laughed.”

    “Enough of this,” said Tracer.

    Defrag let her paw drop to her side and leered at him.

    “We’re all in this together,” said the delphox. “Cast your differences aside and work as a team, or we’re never going to get out of here.”

    “You’re the one who recruited a space pirate,” Defrag scoffed.

    “Yes, and you used to be one.” Tracer wagged a claw at her. “Now put your space pirate knowledge together and lets find a way out of here. Please. Before the walls close in.”

    “They ain’t closin’ in,” said Widget. “Stop worryin’.”

    “Don’t give it ideas!” Tracer hissed.

    “You went there first,” said Widget. “Not me. Now… are we bashing our way out of here, or not?”

    “Not.” Defrag kicked herself from the wall. “I say we continue finding our way through this maze of corridors until we find an exit. This world keeps changing so much I won’t be surprised if a door suddenly opens beneath us.”

    Tracer paled at that.

    “Now lets get a move on,” said Defrag. “I am in desperate need of a change of scenery.”

    Tracer gave the wall one last glance and followed after his friends. Widget kept pace at his side, humming to himself. His voice echoed off the walls, only adding to the eeriness and emptiness.

    Not even a window in sight. Where was the light even coming from?

    He tried not to think too much about it, keeping his eyes on the two pokemon ahead of him. N0ize walked silently beside Defrag, his paws folded behind his head.

    A soft sound sliced through the air, dragging Tracer’s fur on end. He froze and reached for his stick.

    “Did you hear that?” he whispered.

    Defrag and N0ize stopped to look back at him.

    “Hear what?” N0ize asked.

    Tracer swallowed and strained his ears. Whatever it was, it had stopped.

    “Maybe it was nothing,” he muttered. “My mind playing tricks on me.”

    “I think you’re getting cabin fever,” said Widget. “Think about… I dunno… mountains or somethin’.”

    The eevee’s words did little to alleviate Tracer’s anxiety. He kept hold of his stick, remaining close to his friends as they wound through the maze-like corridor.

    Defrag tutted and turned back, pushing past Tracer.

    “Dead end,” she said.

    Tracer gave the wall ahead of them a mournful look and followed Defrag back the way they’d came.

    Swish swish!

    Tracer froze. That noise again. No, this time he was convinced it wasn’t in his head. He clasped his stick tightly, keeping his ears pricked. Defrag and N0ize still seemed oblivious to it, but Widget’s ears twitched and swivelled back and forth.

    The eevee glanced up at Tracer and nodded. Yes. He’d heard it.

    Swish swish!

    N0ize froze in his tracks and lowered his paws. Defrag clenched hers at her sides.

    “Okay, you weren’t wrong,” she whispered.

    The slicing noise grew in intensity. Claws scraped over rock, screeching through the air. Tracer lifted his stick, preparing a flamethrower.

    Three small shapes rounded the corner like a trio of shimmering darts. Their bodies lit up red as they dodged the flames, careening nimbly through the air and running their sharp bodies over the stone. Sparks flew, peppering Tracer’s fur. He quickly lowered his stick, spinning on the spot to follow the kartana.

    They drifted behind him, swaying from side to side as they analysed the threat.

    “I’m so sorry,” Tracer muttered.

    The lead kartana softly swiped its blades together. That familiar swishing sound emanated through the air.

    “I think they were looking for us,” said Defrag.

    “Aye,” said N0ize. “Must have heard us talkin’.”

    Tracer replaced his stick and gave his team an embarrassed glance. Of course. The kartana. The little trio had gone ahead to scout a path shortly after his team had entered the distortion.

    Widget took a step towards them. “I take it you got lost too, eh?”

    The kartana clattered their blades together.

    “I take it that’s a ‘yes’,” said N0ize.

    “I’m taking it as an ‘obviously’.” Defrag turned back to the kartana. “You came from that way.” She nodded behind her. “Does it lead to a dead end?”

    The lead kartana performed a twirl in the air and darted over their heads. Its two friends stuck close behind it, vanishing around a tight corner.

    “Follow them!” Tracer trotted after them, slipping past Defrag and N0ize.

    The soft paw steps of his allies reassured him they were close behind as he followed the kartana’s tiny forms. Their twists and turns were unpredictable as they took each bend as though they’d travelled the maze countless times.

    As Tracer took a sharp right turn, the kartana appeared right in front of him. He screeched to a halt, sliding onto his bottom. He stood back up and dusted himself down, then looked up at them. They drifted side to side right before a huge, gaping door.

    “That leads outside, right?” N0ize rubbed the back of his head. “’Cos… it could easily be an illusion. I’ve met my fair share of zoroark to know that.”

    The lead kartana clanged its arms together twice, then zipped through the open door.

    Tracer nodded to his friends and followed the other two kartana out of the building.

    “How did they know it was here?” Defrag asked.

    Widget looked back at her. “Maybe they found it, but heard us bickering and came to find us?”

    “That’s… pretty touching, actually,” said Defrag.

    The kartana zipped back to Tracer then turned and dived behind a small pile of rubble situated at the mouth of an alley. A skyscraper cut across the road beyond it, a street lamp sticking out of its side. Its light flickered erratically but cast no shadow. The sight set Tracer’s fur on end. He tore his eyes from it and followed the kartana. One of them drifted over the rubble, clattering its limbs.

    Tracer realised what it was trying to tell him. Curled in a tight ball behind the rubble lay Macro, his entire body trembling.

    “Good grief! Guys, it’s Hunter!” He dropped beside the space pirate and placed a paw on his shoulder. “Hey! Are you okay?”

    Macro cracked an eye open as the detectives and N0ize peered down at him. He let out a squeak of surprise and pushed himself up into a crouch.

    “Y… you’re real, right?” he asked.

    “Yep, pretty much,” said N0ize.

    “What are you doing lying out here?” Defrag asked.

    “I… kept goin’ in circles.” Macro pushed himself to his feet and smoothed out his scarf. “I couldn’t stand lookin’ at that street lamp any more. No matter where I went, I found my way back to it. I guess I ended up havin’ some kinda breakdown.”

    The lead kartana zipped past his head and leapt at the street lamp. It jerked to the side, sticking out at an odd angle. The entire ground rumbled and the pokemon turned their heads to the alley. The huge wall rumbled and rattled as it retreated into the ground, revealing an exit into a huge, wide road.

    “Well I’ll be,” said Macro. “I wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years.”

    The kartana zoomed over their heads ahead of them. Tracer rallied the group on after the kartana and closed up the rear, drawing his stick. When they reached the street, electricity sparked from their right and they froze.

    A xurkitree flopped towards them, followed by Pheramosa and the rest of Wildcard Gamma.

    “Cap’n!” Anchor rushed forward and pulled Macro into a crushing hug.

    The mawile wriggled from his grasp and caught his breath. “Boy, am I glad to see you.”

    Pheramosa stepped forward and placed a paw on Macro’s shoulder. “You might be even more glad to see this.”

    She spun him around and the mawile’s jaw dropped.

    Tracer followed his gaze, and gasped.

    Looming at the end of the wide road was Socket’s mansion. Purple fire streaked from it, plunging into the road like the roots of a tree. The buildings around it were speared by the fire and cast in its eerie, ultraviolet glow.

    “Hey!” A loud whoop followed the cry.

    Tracer turned his head to follow it and raised an eyebrow. Annie stood steady on a vertical plain, waving jubilantly as she led her group down it. Just below them stood Stakataka and its group, eagerly awaiting Time Archeops.

    “All right,” said Macro. “There’s no time to back out now. You know your places.”

    Tracer ignored him and readied his stick. He’d noticed something Macro hadn’t. A huge, flaming, purple tendril dragged itself free of the building beside them. The pokemon scattered as rubble rained down onto the road. Then the tendril reached up and swiped the vertical plain. Time Archeops erupted into screams as they vanished into the fray.
     
  5. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    Chapter Seventy Eight​

    Macro rolled to the side as a huge boulder crashed down where he'd been standing, cutting him off from Anchor. The mawile clambered to his feet and spun, shattering the boulder with his horn. Shards of rock went flying, pelting Anchor's arms as he shielded his face. He lowered his paws and muttered a thanks as he leapt to Macro's side.

    "I've never fought anythin' like this," said Macro. "But I'm gonna guess we take out the tendrils."

    "If we wanna get close to the mansion, then yeah!" Anchor whipped Macro aside, narrowly dodging one of Distortion's tentacles. It left a nasty burn mark on the concrete. He grabbed Macro in his arms and rolled them both out of the way of another swipe, then launched a sucker punch at it as it retreated.

    They both stood up and looked back at their allies. Tracer fired off flamethrowers to drive back the tentacles. Widget buffeted him out of the way of falling debris, then launched himself into a full-body tackle. The eevee flew through the tentacle, severing its end. Widget screamed as fire seared his fur, but the end of the fiery limb lay writhing on the floor. The rest of it retreated into the ground as a deep growl filled the air.

    'Don't you get in my way!'

    Two more tentacles erupted from the floor, scooping up Tracer and his allies. Defrag screamed as she fought against it, smacking the flames with ice punches.

    Macro cupped his paws around his mouth. "Use your Z-Moves!"

    Tracer struggled to get his paw free. His stick fell to the floor and he howled with frustration.

    A flutter of feathers leapt into the fray, glowing with a white light. But it fizzled out before Switch could get his Supersonic Skystrike to work. He landed in a crumpled heap beneath the flames. Macro shook himself and rushed to the talonflame's aide, dragging him out of the chaos. A small tendril swooped across the ground, sweeping Macro off his feet and separating him from Switch.

    'You are pests!' Distortion roared. 'Nothing but fleas on the body of my world!'

    Hundreds of tendrils exploded from the ground. One of them speared Macro in the back, tossing him into the air. He roared with pain, and red flashed across his vision. When it cleared, all he saw below him was a spiralling, crimson inferno. He flailed his paws, desperate to avoid falling into it. But it subsided, revealing Anchor standing in a circle of black. All the tendrils around him were gone. Distortion roared, shaking the very ground. Macro came crashing back down onto Anchor, winding the granbull. Macro rolled off his friend and thanked him, before looking around to gather his bearings.

    "He didn't like that," Anchor muttered as he pulled Macro to his feet.

    Switch flapped his way out of the purple flames, gasping with each step. "This is crazy! We don't stand a chance!"

    "I advise optimism," Anchor grunted. "Come on, I've got an idea."

    Macro stared mournfully at the chaos. His friends writhing in Distortion's grasp, or desperately trying to avoid being speared while fighting back. "Well, I hope it's better than mine."

    "We grab as many allies as we can, and fight our way inside, while everyone else distracts the building." He grunted and leapt back from a tumbling rock. "There's words I never thought I'd say."

    A few toots drew their eyes to Buzzwole. The huge insect barrelled through several tendrils, destroying them with his bug buzz. Then he landed beside Anchor and flexed.

    "Well done." Anchor grabbed his arm. "You're with us. Kartana! This way!"

    Macro grabbed Switch's wing and tugged him after him. "Sorry, Switch, but you're not much use in this battlefield."

    "Hey, I'm trying!" Switch protested.

    Macro ignored him, craning his head back to spot the rest of his crew. "Matrix!"

    There was no time to wait around. He dived ahead of him as a flaming tentacle crashed down between him and Switch. The talonflame squawked, flapping his wings and scattering feathers.

    "Move it!" Macro barked, reaching back to throw Switch ahead of him. "Follow Anchor!"

    Switch didn't protest. He scrambled after the granbull, hopping and flapping as he strained to fly in Distortions crazy gravity.

    Macro sprinted after him, desperate to reach the mansion. Anchor had already made it, thumping any tendrils that got in his way. The ground rumbled and another flurry of tentacles erupted through the ground. Macro squealed and fell backwards as he scrambled way from them. Sparkles and explosions tore through them before they provided any real threat, and they retreated back with another angry roar.

    Rave landed before him and bowed his now tiny head. "I think a plan is needed, Captain."

    "Great timing," said Macro. "Anchor has one, but we can't get it to everyone. We're kinda winging it. Tell Time Archeops and the Ultra Beasts, and anyone else you can find, to provide a distraction. But I need Matrix and DL, stat!"

    "Roger!" Rave leapt into the air, diving over Distortion's flaming weapons. Flamethrowers and shadow balls severed them, beating them back from the space pirate as Rave rushed to deliver his message.

    It didn't take long. Macro heard Rave's telepathic voice in his head in a matter of seconds. But whether or not Distortion could hear it was another matter entirely.

    Macro desperately hoped not.

    Anchor, Buzzwole and Switch waited just inside the mansion gates. Macro scurried in, casting a glance back over his shoulder. Matrix's tiny form weaved between tendrils as they chased after him, desperate to stop him reaching the mansion. Macro began to miss his weapons. A few laser fires and he could pick them off to aide the ribombee. Switch reared up beside him and fired off a series of embers. They struck the tendrils, causing them to flinch back and allow Matrix through unscathed.

    "How's that for useless?" Switch muttered.

    "I didn't mean…" Macro dragged his claws down his face and groaned. "There's no time for this!"

    The ribombee buzzed beside Macro's head. "Rave said you want me?"

    "Yeah." Macro ushered Matrix across the garden. "I need you to stick by Switch. Once we're inside, you need to find the computer and fix him up."

    "So I'm on memory duty?" Matrix shrugged. "Okay, I can dig it."

    "Now how do we find a way in?" Macro asked. "I'm guessing not the main door."

    "No. That's fairly obvious," said Matrix. "A back entrance is much more sneaky. The front is likely heavily guarded."

    "Gaming knowledge?" Switch asked.

    Matrix paused and tugged at his antenna. "Come to think of it, all entrances are likely heavily guarded. But as memory serves, the computer used to remove Switch's memories was in the basement, and I'd personally like some ease here."

    Flaming explosions lit up the sky. N0ize leapt across the purple flames, striking each one with a fire punch. The result was an explosion of purple and red, and it lit up the immaculate garden. He dropped to the ground beside them in a crouch and grinned.

    "You ain't havin' all the fun. Count me in."

    Macro placed a paw on his hip and frowned. "We could use some extra muscle. Have you used your Z-Move yet?"

    "Not yet," said N0ize. "Why, was I meant to?"

    "Not unless you needed to," said Macro. "If you haven't yet, save it for battling Distortion."

    N0ize clasped his fist, flashing his Darkinium-Z. "You got it. Bring it on."

    "I love the enthusiasm. But first, we've gotta get in." Macro nodded at the building.

    "Aye. You didn't happen to see a basement door from up there, did you?" Anchor asked.

    "As a matter of fact…" N0ize gave them a toothy grin.

    He turned with a flourish and led them around the edge of the building. Flailing tentacles reached up above their heads, swiping at the nihilego. At some point the gravity had shifted, allowing the Ultra Beasts to fly. Maybe the distraction was working?

    "Here you go." N0ize stopped with his paws on his hips and nodded at the ground. "Basement door. Looks like this guy found it first. Keyed me in."

    The door lay at an angle at the building's base. Beside it, a xurkitree lay sparking. One of its limbs was bent at an odd angle beneath it.

    "What happened to you?" Macro stooped to help the xurkitree up.

    It babbled at them in its strange voice and struggled to its feet.

    "Best keep it with us," said Anchor. "We can't send it back out there into battle in this state."

    The xurkitree babbled again, turning its spiky head left and right.

    Anchor stooped to grab the door and pulled. Once. Twice. He grunted and released it.

    "Won't budge," he said.

    "We could burn it?" N0ize offered.

    "No, I don't want to risk it fighting back," said Anchor. "We're gonna need-"

    Buzzwole leant towards it and grabbed the door. His muscles bulged as he wrenched on the handle. The plastic splintered around the catch and it swung open, creaking loudly on its strained hinge. Beyond it was a flight of stairs leading down into the basement, lit up by a dim, purple light.

    "Hey, would you look at that!" Anchor grinned, stepping forward onto the stairs. "We're in!"

    "Way to go!" N0ize cheered, flexing his arms.

    Buzzwole released the door and flexed triumphantly. It swung back on its hinges, slamming Anchor in the back. A loud yelp came from beyond it, followed by a repetitive thud as the granbull tumbled down the stairs.

    Macro stared at the door aghast.

    N0ize placed his paws over his mouth, exchanging glances with Buzzwole. "Oops?"

    Buzzwole copied him, placing his huge paws over his proboscis.

    Matrix chuckled. "Classic!"

    Macro shook his head sharply and grabbed the door, straining to pull it open.

    "Buzzwole, hold the door," he said. "We're goin' in!"

    It was oddly quiet. Even the sounds of battle outside were greatly muffled once the door was shut. The dim lighting created long shadows ahead of them, chilling Macro to the core. Anchor waited for them at the base of the stairs, nursing his shoulder.

    "Rats," said Macro. "Are you okay?"

    "I'm fine," said Anchor. "I can fight."

    Buzzwole tooted sadly and held out a paw. Anchor took it and gave it a shake.

    "Don't worry about it," he said. "You didn't know it would slam shut on my tail!"

    Macro glanced back up the stairs. Where was DL? He desperately hoped she was okay, and hopefully just held up aiding her team. Macro moves past Anchor towards the next door barring their way. Matrix hovered beside it, running his computer over the lock panel.

    "We're in." He pushed on the door and it swung away from them. "After you."

    Macro slipped past the ribombee, mechanical paw ready at his side to defend himself. The room beyond seeped purple light into the stairwell. The walls were filled with eyes that lit up red as they entered. Purple fire clung to the surface. The room looked like a tornado had hit it. Tables and desks were upturned, and metal objects lined the floor, reflecting the purple light. A computer lay at an angle, propped against an upturned desk. Its screen flickered, displaying a corrupted error message.

    Matrix's arms slumped at his sides. "Well, looks like I've got my work cut out for me."

    No sooner were the words out of his mouth, the flames intensified. Purple flamethrowers erupted from the walls, driving the pokemon back into the stairwell.

    "How do we get past that?!" Matrix squeaked.

    "We don't!" Anchor barked. "At least, that's what Distortion wants us to think. I guess the fight starts here?"

    N0ize let out a triumphant roar and leapt over their heads. His fist lit up with flames and he brought them crashing down against the wall. Purple fire washed over his body, but he barely flinched. The eyes on the wall grimaced from his attack, temporarily shutting down their flames. He moved on, striking another section of the wall. Then another. The flames cut out wherever he hit. But as he reached the computer, the first set of eyes gathered themselves and spewed out their attack, cutting Macro and the rest of his team off from the room.

    "It's the eyes," he said. "But there's too many. How do we attack them all at once?"

    The xurkitree babbled and skittered into the room. Its body lit up with electricity and light pulsed from its body with the rhythm of a heartbeat. Then it flashed. Macro yelped, covering his eyes. A roar split the room, making the very walls tremble. Dazzling spots danced across Macro's vision. He blinked them away, bringing the xurkitree and the room back into focus. The purple fire had gone, and with it, all the eyes.

    N0ize laughed raucously from the other side of the room. "Nice!"

    "Excellent!" Matrix buzzed past them. "I'll get to work on this computer. Switch, if you would?"

    The talonflame skittered past them to join Matrix's side.

    "We'll move on," said Macro. "Join us when you're ready. I'll leave the xurkitree with you, in case those eyes come back."

    The xurkitree babbled to itself as it moseyed around the room.

    Macro followed the path to the next door. A deep sense of dread flooded him. It was all too familiar. The last time he'd taken this path, everything had gone horribly wrong. He looked up at his allies.

    "I've no idea what to expect beyond this door," he said. "Brace yourselves."

    Scrambling claws drew his eye back to the stairs and he felt his heart lurch. DL stumbled into the room, her fur scorched in places. The three kartana soared around her, swishing their blades in their unusual language. She stopped beside Macro and doubled over with her paws on her knees, panting to catch her breath.

    "DL…" Macro raised a paw to her. "Are you okay?"

    "I'm fine," she gasped. "I'm just… glad I'm not too late…" She stood up and smoothed out her fur as best she could. "Rave said you wanted me."

    Macro lowered his paw and diverted his gaze to the door. "Right now, I kinda want everyone…"

    The lead kartana clanged its arms together twice, drawing Macro's gaze. Buzzwole stood beside it and flexed.

    N0ize chuckled and thumped his chest twice then placed an arm across Buzzwole's shoulders. "They're right. You've got all of us. And the way I see it, so long as the rest of our allies are outside fightin', Distortion's attention is divided, givin' us more of a chance."

    Macro gave a stiff nod and reached for the handle. "Well… here goes nothin'."

    He pushed the door open and they stumbled into the room. Macro blinked at the immaculate walls. It looked every bit like the entrance hall to Socket's mansion. The very place they'd fought her. Not a hint of damage in sight. The only blemish was the blood stain on the tiled floor. The memory of it twisted his gut and he battled the urge to back into the basement and flee for his life. The small glint from his Z-Crystal settled his stomach and he pushed himself into the hall.

    A long desk sat across it, the only anomaly in the room. A long, gold name plate perched on it, sporting the words 'Mayor BackDoor'. The hoopa android leant back on a seat with his arms folded behind his head. His eyes were closed as he pretended to snore. Beside the name plate sat Tweak. The little chingling slurped at an over-sized mug of tea. He looked up as Macro's team entered and swiped a paw across his mouth, scattering tea droplets.

    "Mayor BackDoor is on break," he said. "If you have any complaints, you'll have to come back later. Or… I could always take a message. But I'm kinda enjoying my tea right now and don't wish to be disturbed."

    He slurped loudly, tipping the huge cup back as far as it would go. It shrouded him from view. Once he'd finished, he dropped it and reached for a pen.

    "Done!" He chimed. "What's the message? Water quality? Air quality? Plight of the water dwellers? Not enough land for fruit trees?" He looked up and grinned. "War?"

    "No, no, no!" BackDoor sat up and threw his arms in the air. "You're do-do-doing it all wrong! We rehearsed this!"

    Tweak waved his pen and shrugged. "I was going for 'sinister'!"

    BackDoor swiped the chingling from the table. Tweaks internal bell jingled as he rolled away across the floor, scattering his pen and pad in the process. The hoopa twisted his head back to Macro and his lip curled in a sneer.

    "Given he made a meh-meh-mess of things, I guess it's down to me." BackDoor's voice distorted and he rose into the air. "Distortion can't see you right now. Allow me to show you the exit."

    BackDoor removed a ring from his horn and tossed it behind Macro and his crew. The mawile leapt away from it, feeling the tug as the gravity tried to suck him in. The kartana whizzed over his head, making a beeline for BackDoor. Their blades sliced at his metal hide and he screeched, zipping back from them. Another ring appeared in his paw and he lobbed it towards the kartana. They split apart, giving the gateway wide berth.

    With no lasers, Macro had to get close to BackDoor. But it wasn't going to be easy. Both he and Anchor were in a similar situation. DL leapt between them, firing out streaks of electricity to short the android's circuits. He deflected them with one of his rings and tossed it into the fray. Between three gravity fields, Macro's limbs grew sluggish. He fought against the new gateway and threw himself at BackDoor. The lead kartana leapt in from the other side, sticking its blades into BackDoor's shoulder. He wailed, his voice breaking and sputtering with static. Macro brought his horn up and socked the android in the chin. His head snapped back and he whizzed away from Macro to land amongst Anchor and N0ize.

    The incineroar brought his flaming fist down onto BackDoor's head. The shell forming his skull cracked, revealing the circuits inside. BackDoor brought up his paws and grabbed the incineroar. Electricity coursed through his arms and engulfed N0izes body. His fur stood on end and he fell back, spasming and sparking. BackDoor whipped himself free of Anchor, firing another jolt of electricity for good measure.

    "You can't win this," said BackDoor. "You're just mortals!"

    The final 's' dragged out into a 'z' and he raised his paws, grabbing a ring from either horn. He clashed them together, and several gateways appeared around the room. They vanished and reappeared randomly, causing the pokemon to leap from one spot to the next. BackDoor floated amongst them, using them as a shield to keep the pokemon and Ultra Beasts at bay.

    BackDoor growled as he watched them desperately avoid the gateways.

    "You're nothing but pests!" he crackled. "Annoying little pests! Why do you so desperately want to ruin my plans? I thought you wanted Socket out of the way? Well guess what! She's gone! I got rid of her, and you ungrateful little worms are trying to get rid of me, now, too?!" He clapped his paws. "Tweak!"

    The chingling teleported next to him. "Yep?"

    "Teleport each one of them to a ring," said BackDoor. "Make sure it sucks them in."

    Macro's eyes widened and fixed on the chingling. No… they couldn't fight that. He looked over at N0ize and Anchor. Both of them knew dark type moves, like he did. Buzzwole had bug buzz at his disposal. But DL? The kartana?

    "Kartana? DL?" Macro called out. "Pick a buddy! Make sure Tweak can't get to you!"

    DL was too far away for Macro to grab. She locked onto N0ize while the kartana zipped over to Macro's side. A flash of purple appeared by Anchor. He brought up his fist and struck Tweak, sending him careening over to Macro. He brought up his horn and smacked the chingling like a tennis ball. Tweak let out an ear splitting scream as he soared across the hall to land at the entrance of one of BackDoor's gateways.

    "Useless creature!" BackDoor hissed.

    He lifted his arms and the rings vanished. Gravity returned to normal and Macro resisted the urge to fall to his bottom.

    "Fine. Have it your way." BackDoor growled. "I need him."

    Tweak looked up from his spot on the floor and a broad smile spread across his face. "Really?"

    "Yes," said BackDoor. "Help doesn't-t-t come cheap."

    Tweak ignored the back-handed insult and cheered, clapping his stubby paws. "What else can I do?"

    While BackDoor's attention drifted to Tweak, DL crawled away from N0ize. The hoopa sneered at the chingling and pointed a mitten-paw at the door.

    "Go and sto-o-op that ribombee!" He clapped his paws together to urge Tweak on. "I want him and that human in here. And that Ultra Beast! If they're gonna mess with my plan, they're all gonna die together!" He swivelled back to Macro and his group. "I'll pull each and every one of you to pie-pieces just like I did with Zero D-D-Day!" His voice cut off with static as electricity flooded his body.

    BackDoor's limbs spasmed and jerked in an unnatural fashion and he slumped to the floor. Sparks bounced from the crack in his face and flooded from his back, dancing over the tiles before they vanished into the floor.

    Macro stood over him, his mechanical paw clasped into a fist. He deeply hoped it was over, but deep down he knew it wasn't. They still had Distortion to contend with.

    "Way to go, DL," he said.

    The pachirisu stood up and dusted herself down, but her eye went to the window.

    BackDoor let out a distorted groan and pushed himself up. His head lolled and wobbled, and one of his eyes whirled back into its socket.

    "You… jerks…" he crackled. "You think… you've won…?" A raucous laugh. Distorted. It cut off as sharply as it had started and he fixed his lone eye on Macro. "Don't make me laugh."

    The window exploded inward, glass flying across the room and snagging fur and flesh. DL launched herself at Macro, knocking him onto his back. She screamed and blood splattered Macro's face. He opened his eyes, fixing them on DL. Blood trickled over her shoulder and she clenched her jaw. The culprit lay beside him and he kicked the shard of glass away. Fiery purple tendrils filled the room, the heat from the flames burning into his horn. At his feet, Annie pushed herself up. Her clothes were riddled with holes and burns, and through them her flesh had been burnt raw. But she stood up and reached for the skuntank beside her. The flames retreated back, revealing most of Macro's team. Celesteela lay at an odd angle, her bamboo head and one of her cannons being the only parts of her body in the hall.

    BackDoor rose into the air, sparks flying from his body.

    "If you want a fight…" His voice was deep, and seemed to come from the very walls. "Then I'll give you a fight. One you'll soon regret!"

    The purple flames flooded from the walls and filled BackDoor's body. He shrieked a mechanical scream as his body twisted and cracked, stretching out further than it was designed to go.

    As the flames subsided, BackDoor drifted in the middle of the room, his form warped wildly out of shape. Macro's jaw went slack. He recognized it as Hoopa Unbound, except the ring in his gut turned his body into a donut. It shimmered with its own ultraviolet light.

    "This world is no longer yours!" Distortion spoke through BackDoor. "It is mine! In it, you are merely vermin!"

    Widget scrambled to his feet from beside Tracer's dazed form. The eevee spat out bloody spittle and crouched.

    "Vermin, eh?" He chuckled.

    BackDoor turned his head towards him, but before he could retort, Widget leapt. His body began to glow and his four paws became a blur as he raced through the air. He covered the short distance in a flash, striking the hoopa in the side. More cracks exploded across his body and he shrieked, bringing two of his paws around to smack the eevee just as the light left his body.

    Widget rolled back across the room, landing against the stairs with his bottom in the air.

    "Urgh…" He coughed, expelling more blood. "Lucky shot…"

    "Does anyone else want to try and take me?" BackDoor hissed. "Bring it on!"

    Before anyone even had the chance to answer, one of BackDoor's disembodied hands leapt forward and grabbed hold of a nihilego. It tinkled furiously, fighting back. Its tentacles wrapped around BackDoor's limb, trying to take control of him.

    Macro shook himself and leapt away from DL, bringing up his horn to strike BackDoor in the rear. Instead, the android span around and socked Macro with the nihilego. He went flying back in a tangle of tentacles. The nihilego worked its way around him, cushioning his fall with its gelatinous body.

    The entire room leapt into an uproar. Ultra Beast and pokemon alike threw themselves at BackDoor. He swatted them aside with his six paws as if they were nothing, deflecting their attacks with his rings before tossing them across the room.

    "Fight all you want!" he roared. "You don't stand a chance!"

    Gateways appeared around the walls, dragging the fighters back. But they fought back, sending any long range attack in their arsenal at the hoopa. Gunk shot, thunder bolt, spirit shackle… any attack fired his way, he raised his body to swallow it in his void. Then it reappeared from one of the gateways to spear an unsuspecting pokemon.

    Macro's heart sank. BackDoor was right. They didn't stand a chance.

    ...​

    Matrix busied himself with the computer, ironing out the final errors. Numbers rained down his pocket computer's screen as it analysed and corrected any and all issues on the ancient contraption.

    Thuds and screams came from behind the closed door. Muffled shouts and yelps of distress. Switch cowered beside the xurkitree, eyes fixed on the door.

    "Hurry," he urged Matrix. "They need our help!"

    "I'm going as fast as I can," said Matrix. "Don't rush me. Do you want a corrupted brain or not?"

    Switch tightened his beak and turned back to the door. Matrix was right. With his lack of combat knowledge, Switch wasn't much help. He needed his memories back if he was going to use his Z-Move.

    The red eyes reappeared along the walls and the xurkitree rose up, letting another blinding flash fill the room. Matrix blinked spots from his eyes, remaining focused on his task.

    "Thanks," he told the xurkitree.

    It babbled a reply and settled back down beside the talonflame.

    "And done!" Matrix unplugged his computer. "Now to search this thing's database."

    His claws flew over the keyboard. Window after window brought up hosts of dubious files that likely contained a fountain of information. But there was no time to check over it all. He needed to find Switch's memories. Any documents the computer held could wait for later when events would need to be documented.

    But Matrix couldn't deny with the information Yobi's computer likely held, books could be written about his and Socket's plans.

    "Aha!" Matrix grinned as he spotted a promising file.

    Download Database Mark2.

    He opened the file, displaying an array of text similar to DL's memory disks.

    "I think we've found it," he said.

    Switch shuffled over with the xurkitree and eyed the screen.

    "Are you sure?" he asked. "It's not going to… make me someone else, is it?"

    "I can't lie to you, Switch," said Matrix. "Well… I can, but I won't. It probably will make you someone else. So I apologize in advance if I turn you into DL." He grabbed the end of the jack lead and looked up at Switch. "Now… sit."

    Switch's beak hung open as he stressed over Matrix's words. Then he squatted down and let Matrix plug the jack into his skull.

    "Will I feel anything?" Switch asked.

    "DL never complained." Matrix's claws glided over the keyboard. "Incoming data dump!"

    Switch's eyes went distant as the files downloaded into his brain. Matrix sat patiently, watching the percentage crawl across the screen as he idly twirled his antenna. Once it was done, the xurkitree babbled a jovial little tune.

    "Yup! Done!" Matrix unplugged Switch and watched his eyes flutter open. "Feeling any better? Back to reality?"

    Switch sat back and pressed the button on his watch, allowing his human form to take over. He ran his hands down his face and sighed.

    "Well that was an experience," he said.

    "You haven't really answered my question," said Matrix.

    Switch looked over at Matrix and the xurkitree. Sounds of chaos worsened and he diverted his eyes to the door.

    "Come on," he told his friends. "We've got a war to win."

    He switched his form back to a talonflame and soared towards the door. His feathers coated with flames and he barged through, scattering molten plastic and heated metal. Then his body lit up with a white light. A loud screech split the air and his body surrounded with the form of a glowing, white bird. He crashed into BackDoor, knocking the distorted hoopa from the air. They crashed into the floor, shattering BackDoor's shell.

    Pokemon scattered as sparks flew around the room. And in a flash, each and every gateway blinked out of existence.

    Switch stood up, returning to his human form. He stared down at the remains of BackDoor, his crushed form barely recognizable.

    BackDoor pushed himself back up, trembling as his body rose back into the air. Two glowing orbs fixed on Switch, and the android's mechanical voice stuttered as sparks flew from the cracks in his face.

    "You wretched human! I'll make you pay for that!"

    BackDoor lifted his six paws and roared. The void in his stomach swirled, dragging Switch and anyone else close enough across the floor towards him.

    Switch covered his head with his arms and fought back, straining against the void's pull. Then BackDoor let out an ear piercing shriek. Electricity engulfed his body and the void stopped. All caught in its pull slumped to the ground, Switch performing a neat roll.

    The electricity died out and BackDoor collapsed to the floor, smoke curling up off his wires. Standing behind him was Yobi, gasping for breath. Machinery covered his right shoulder and the entirety of his arm, ending in the pincers of the vikavolt android. Its legs held it in place, and curled over his clavicle.

    The sparksurfer raichu caught his breath and spat on BackDoor's smoldering remains.

    "That's for killing Socket, you wretched hunk of junk!" he hissed.

    The room fell silent.

    "Is… is it over?" Macro's voice was barely a whisper.

    The pokemon and Ultra Beasts gathered around BackDoor's corpse. All eyes except Yobi's went to the window. Outside, it was still distorted.

    The walls began to shake as a deep rumble filled the room, and hundreds of red eyes spread across the bricks.

    "Fools," Distortion hissed. "You fools!"

    Mist flooded from the eyes, coalescing in the middle of the hallway. Distortion's insectoid body filled the room, stuttering between its draconic form. He fixed his crimson eyes on the small army.

    "No," he said slowly. "It's not over."

    He opened his mouth wide and a distorted, screech-like roar sliced through the air. The world around them twisted and spun in a cacophony of ultraviolet light. Lightning flashed in the distance, showing after images of Socket's entrance hall.

    Distortion's form warped as tattered wings appeared over his shoulders. Six legs appeared beneath his body and he leered down at them. Hundreds of red eyes flashed around the room, leaking purple dragon fire.

    "The battle," said Distortion, "is just beginning."
     

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