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Chibi Pika

Stay positive
And now for another extra, because I just couldn't leave Starr alone for long~

~Chapter 52 Extra: Burn Away~

The sun had barely set, leaving the surrounding wilds lit with the reddish glow of twilight. Starr wandered through the forest with no real goal or destination in mind. Not like there was anywhere to go out here. The woods surrounding Indigo were pretty much as “middle of nowhere” as it got.

She probably should have found something to take the edge off, some kind of distraction. But all the frustrations she was feeling now were the sort that made it hard to focus on anything. And she didn’t want to be around anyone else right now. So, alone with her thoughts it was, then.

The League, the Rockets, Jade injured, and now…


Starr normally liked saying it with all the scorn and mocking that it deserved. But now she was a part of that bullshit, and that made her all too aware of the hypocrisy.

It wasn’t like much had changed. She’d already been dragged into that mess a long time ago. But making it official, putting a word to it… it meant that she could no longer pretend otherwise. That comfort was gone.

This was life now. No avoiding it.

Starr didn’t bother hiding her presence as she walked. Her boots kicked at the rocks that dared to lie in her path, sending them flying across the leaves. It shouldn’t have been surprising that someone would hear.

She just wished it was anyone other than that someone.

“Well met.”

The voice was deep, yet soft. It held an obvious presence, like the speaker could have easily made the words echo for all to hear, yet chose not to.

Starr glanced over her shoulder at the oversized bird roosting on the ledge above her. Her first instinct was to tell it to get lost, but she bit back the words and instead went with, “You know, we’re never gonna hear the end of it if the League spots you hanging around here.”

Ho-oh glanced around the area, no doubt making a show of how isolated they were. “I believe we are safe enough here.”

Starr rolled her eyes with a scoff before turning around and walking away. She’d come out here to get some space. Last thing she needed was for some legend to condescend to her.

“You seem troubled.”

Starr paused mid-step. She really, really didn’t want to dignify that with a response. But against her better judgment, she spun around and said, “Gee, what was your first clue?”

Her eyes stayed firmly on the rocks so she wouldn’t have to look up at the phoenix. She could still feel its eyes on her, though. She didn’t know how Jade or Ajia had ever gotten used to that. It was bad enough feeling her own emotions without knowing someone else could feel them too. God, how the hell was that supposed to be okay.

“Do you regret your choice?”

Starr’s fists clenched, and she jerked her eyes upward to glare at the bird. “Look, I’m not happy with any of this, that doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind. I’m allowed to say that shit sucks.”

Ho-oh nodded. “Of course.”

Why did the damn bird have to sound so damn calm in response to everything? It was really pissing her off.

Starr kicked more rocks down the hill, just to have something to do, something to look at. In another half hour or so, it would be too dark to see them.

“It’s stupid,” Starr said, breaking the near-silence. “I still don’t get why you’d choose me. The Legendaries must be in a sad spot if you’re that desperate,” she added, giving the legend a snide grin.

Ho-oh stared at her, unyielding. “I have already given my reasons.”

Starr scoffed, turning away. Just the latest in a long line of second chances she didn’t deserve. What the hell would it even take for the people around her to say she wasn’t worth it? No, everyone kept tripping over themselves to make excuses for her. As if any of the things she’d done were forgivable.

“Would you feel better if I had chosen you out of desperation?” Ho-oh asked, tilting its head. “The simple inability to find a better candidate?”

Starr ran a hand down her face, exhaling through her nose. “No.”

Ho-oh paused, taking too long to say something. “Then, I don’t believe that you wish that to be the case.”

Starr bristled. “It’s not even like I’d be involved in any of this if my friends weren’t idiots,” she said heatedly. “I wanted to turn my back on everything and let them deal with this shit on their own, if they’re so determined to get themselves killed.”

“Yet you did not.”

God dammit. How was she supposed to argue with that. What was wrong with everyone that they could brush things off so easily? Acting like the past didn’t matter, like she could ever truly be free of it. Her past wasn’t going anywhere. It was there, on her very skin, marked in such a way that it would be with her forever.

Well… not necessarily forever. Hard not to think back on that conversation last night, with Jade. She’d dropped the subject at the time, for Jade’s sake, but the idea lingered in her head, and it wasn’t going anywhere.

Starr took a few steps toward Ho-oh. “Hey. You’re sworn to help me or whatever.”

A nod. “That’s correct.”

“I need your help with something,” she said, gesturing toward herself.

The phoenix spread its wings, leaving its perch and gliding down to land in front of her with a rush of air that sent leaves blowing across the forest floor. It gazed down at her calmly, expectantly. For a moment she wanted to know just what the hell it would take to phase the damn bird. There had to be something that’d make it react with disgust.

Well, maybe this would do it.

Starr turned and lifted the back of her shirt and let Ho-oh get a good look at that brand, the one marking her as belonging to him.

“This. I want it gone. I was going to have one of my team do it.” They’d do it, if she just gave the order. But she didn’t want something like that to be on them. Even if it wouldn’t have bothered them. It didn’t feel right.

Ho-oh stared at her for a long while, and she felt the powerful urge to make some sharp comment, daring the bird to judge her.

But in the end, Ho-oh just asked, “Do you feel you haven’t suffered enough?”

Starr froze, the words like knives she wasn’t prepared for.

As if you could suffer enough for what you did.

She grabbed her forehead. “Look, it’s not about that. I just… I want it gone. I’m sick of this… thing hanging over me.”

It was stupid. She knew that. It also felt like the easy way out. Pain that would be over and done with. Not like the scars she’d put on others, the kind that’d never really heal. But if there was any way to feel like she’d moved on, it was this. And she was tired of caring if she deserved that. She just wanted to be done.

Ho-oh considered her for some time, and she braced herself for more bullshit platitudes. But finally, the phoenix just bowed deeply and said, “We are linked. I will bear the burden with you, then.”

She could feel the legend there, in her head, through that damn link that they shared. She expected it to be like a buzzing, an itching, crowding her thoughts, making it hard to think. But right now, it just felt warm.

Ho-oh opened its eyes, flames licking its beak. “Let us begin.”

I still don’t know what you see in me.

<Perhaps you will in time.>

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
Heya, told you that I’d be back for more reviews of this story. It only took me -checks notes- … 11 months to make good on it. ^^;

Though hey, with the new Review Blitz right around the corner, I suppose that’s as good an opportunity to dip back into this story a bit and do some groundwork for diving into more more of it in RB4 and beyond. Especially since the next few chapters have apparently changed a bit from how I remembered them when I initially read them.

So without further ado, let’s get straight into:

Chapter 3

The Scyther shot toward us, blades outstretched. Time slowed to a crawl. I was frozen, my mind already generating the image of its scythes tearing us apart, and—

A burst of lightning! Razors leapt back to avoid the Pikachu that had dropped suddenly into its path, sparking wildly. For just a moment, the Scyther stared, its eyes perfectly emotionless. Then it lunged, blades flashing. Too late—the electric-type was already out of reach. Another lightning bolt flew, but Razors dodged it effortlessly and darted after the Pikachu, so fast it was practically a blur.

Oh right, the Scyther was explicitly named last chapter. Had to look back and remind myself of that. I kinda wonder if it might have made sense to repeat Tyson’s last line from the last chapter kinda like that one TV trope where the last few seconds of the last episode form the start of the first and provide re-contextualization, but eh. It works well enough.

I sat frozen, unable to believe it. The Pikachu was… helping us? Or maybe it just shared the same enemy? Either way, we weren’t dead yet. If the Pikachu managed to beat Razors, we actually had a chance at getting out of here alive.

Not if you just sit around gaping with your mouth open like that, Jade.

“Pssst! Over here if you want to keep your head!”

I spun around to see Spencer motioning to me from behind a stack of crates, and I immediately scrambled over to him.

“What should we do?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady.

Firestorm: “*Oh I dunno, how about getting the hell out of here and away from the two freaky experiment things trying to tear each other apart?*” >_>;
Jade: “(Wait, are you even out of your Pokeball right now?) Yes, you see. We all want that, but we’re on an airborne plane right now, Firestorm!” >.<

“Er… I was actually hoping you’d have a plan…” he said sheepishly.

Great, so both of us were relying on the other, who was equally clueless.

Firestorm: “*... We’re doomed.*”

Jade: “Well, we’ve got a little under 50 extra chapters to make it through right about now, so let’s start trying to find ways to not be doomed, huh?” >_>;

“Oh, come on!” Rudy exclaimed. “We’re not gonna get anywhere by just hiding!”

Spencer: “Technically, the plane’s moving at hundreds of miles per hour in the air right now, so…”

Rudy: “Let me rephrase that. We’re not gonna get anywhere that we want to be by just hiding here!” >.<

Before I could protest, he pulled out a pair of Pokéballs and opened them both to release Ebony and… a Squirtle? Yeah, a Squirtle. Ebony glanced around the cargo hold with wide-eyed curiosity while the Squirtle took one look at the battle and promptly retreated into its shell.

Ebony: “*Oh, you’re a real help right now, Shellhead.*”

“You should probably take this,” Rudy said, handing me a Pokéball. “I had to put Swift in a ball before sneaking on board. Otherwise, he couldn’t come with.”

I blinked at it. “This is Swift’s Pokéball?”

Jade: “... How did you get this again?” .-.
Rudy: “I mean, unless something changed in the last few chapters (which I guess it might’ve since our author kinda did a big overhaul and all), Swift did still come to me, so…” ^^;
Jade: “Yes but I still had his- Ugh, whatever. I’m just gonna assume the rewrite handled this. Anyhow, moving along!”

“Sure is. Now, come on! We’ve got to battle our way out of this!”


I mean, this is exactly the reason why Air Marshals are given firearms with specially designed bullets on the flights they board. It does not take a lot to decompress a plane cabin or worse when stuff is violently flying around.

I gaped at him. “Are you serious? We’d just end up getting our Pokémon killed! We’ve got to leave this to Spencer, okay?”

Rudy: “And trusting a big Typhlosion that just blowtorched through metal chains to free you five minutes ago to not cause some sort of critical component failure vomiting fire everywhere in this plane is a better idea than getting involved in this fight with our less evolved Pokemon how, exactly?” -_-;
Jade: “(Dammit, now would’ve been a really good time to have a ‘mon that knew Sleep Powder or something like that!) Look, Spencer clearly knows what he’s doing better than we do! Just let him do his thing!” >_>;
Typhlosion: “*Oh boy, no pressure here.*” ._.;

Rudy paused, looking half offended and half confused. Like the thought of losing honestly hadn’t occurred to him. Ebony mumbled something in a disappointed tone and then put her nose against his leg reassuringly. Squirtle, on the other hand, just looked relieved.


That is a terrible omen for the sorts of situations that Rudy is going to get himself into in the future, really.

“Leave what to me?” Spencer asked, like he’d just noticed I mentioned his name. “Oh, right… Typhlosion should be able to get some ranged attacks off, right bud?” he asked. The fire beast nodded, then dropped to all fours and crept forward to get into a position where he could attack from behind cover.

Spencer: “Just… try not to melt the fuselage too much, buddy.” ^^;
Squirtle: “*Oh my gods, what is wrong with you people?!*”

Typhlosion: “*Look, I don’t see you volunteering to take point right now! So keep your mouth shut, squirt!*” >_>;

And then, with a sinking feeling, I spotted Firestorm creeping after him, eyes full of conviction. He wasn’t about to join the fight, was he? The Charmander’s tail swished as he prepared to leap. Crap, he was definitely about to. I reached out and grabbed his arm, and he jolted in surprise.

“I really don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said.

Firestorm: “*... Isn’t this literally a better idea since I’m less likely to wind up burning a hole through the fuselage right now than that Typhlosion there?*” :|
Jade: “Okay, one: Spencer’s Typhlosion can’t do that. (... I hope.) Two, do you not see the big, pissed-off Scyther of doom out there? Just how long do you think you’re going to last fighting against that?!” O_O;

Firestorm’s brow furrowed. “*Why not?*” Why not? Couldn’t he see how dangerous it was?

Jade: “Firestorm. Just look at the battle going on right now!” O_O;
- Cue looking out at Chibi and Razors casually laying waste to half the cargo hold in a game of cat and mouse -
Firestorm: “*Meh, I can take ‘em.*”

“Look, it’s great that you want to help and all, but…” But he wasn’t strong enough. I couldn’t just say that, though. “…They’re too strong. The rest of us wouldn’t stand a chance if we got in their way.”

Firestorm: “*... Seriously? Not even gonna let me assist with a Smokescreen right now?*” -_-;
Jade: “Firestorm, do you even know Smokescreen right now?” >_>;
Firestorm: “Of course I do! It’s a- … Wait, is Smokescreen a Level 8 or Level 10 move in this continuity?” ^^;
Jade: “I’m just going to take that as a ‘no’ there. And that’s why you’re not assisting us right now!” >.<

Firestorm stared up at me for several seconds and then turned away, nodding distantly. Part of me wished I had his conviction. Or Rudy’s. I wasn’t the only useless one here, but I was the only one who had given up on being able to help. The realization burned.

Firestorm: “*At least let me do something like chuck Slumber Orbs at the Rocket and his-*”
Jade: “Firestorm, we live in a mainline setting.” >_>;
Firestorm: “*... Okay, fine. Scatter Bangs, then-*”
Jade: “A modern mainline setting!” >.<

Another blast of lightning. Tyson kept barking orders constantly to Razors. The Scyther slashed away mercilessly, responding instantly to Tyson’s every command with a precision that was almost scary. Still, none of its strikes managed to hit the Pikachu—it was just too fast. At this rate, the fight would come down to who tired out first.

Ebony: “*... Wait, what is our strategy here, again?*” ^^;
Jade: “I’m assuming we’re sitting tight and waiting for those two to tire each other out before Spencer steps in and-”

And then a burst of flames shot toward Razors, striking the mantis dead-on. Yes! A direct hit from Typhlosion! No way the Scyther could withstand that.

Jade: “Well, never mind then. At least the battle’s over now.”
Squirtle: “*U-Um… I’d just like to point out that that sort of confidence in stories tends to come right before-*” o_o;

…But even as I watched, Razors stood up and turned sharply in Typhlosion’s direction, preparing to leap at him.

Squirtle: “*Yeah, something like that.*”

Jade: “Holy cats, is that thing part-Rock or something?!” o_o;
Firestorm: “*Pshh, a Rock-type Scyther? Who on earth ever heard of something ridiculous like-*”
- Beat moment -
Firestorm: “*... Oh right, that exists in this franchise now, huh? I mean, I guess it’s possible, though I wouldn’t have guessed from the swiftness, the lack of axe-arms, and the non-vestigial wings.*” ^^;
Squirtle: “*We are so dead right now.*” O.O;

“Ignore them!” Tyson barked. The Scyther instantly obeyed, darting after the Pikachu once more.

Squirtle: “*Oh thank gods, I think that’s our cue to bail from-*”
Jade: “Squirtle, we are on a plane right now!” >.<
Squirtle: “*... Right. That’s a thing.” ._.

Spencer and Typhlosion exchanged bewildered looks. “Well, crap. I thought that would be, well… super effective.”

“I don’t get it…” I murmured. “How did it shrug off a Flamethrower like that? I thought Scyther were weak to fire.”

Someone needs to read up on their Sinnohan history a bit more. I’m not sure if that was touched on in this retcon, but I find it a bit funny that there’s technically a sort-of Scyther that canonically has some of Razors’ attributes now.

“We’re up against freaking hybrids, what did you expect?” Rudy exclaimed, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

Spencer: “Them not to buff out one of its major weaknesses?” ._.
Jade: “(At least we’re not doing this in Paldea where everyone and their grandmother can apparently do the same thing as long as they have one of those Tera Orb thingies… if they exist in our world, anyways.)” >_>;

Typhlosion let out an indignant huff and peeked around the corner again, looking for another opportunity to strike.

Jade: “... You do realize that trying the same thing over and expecting different results is a mark of insanity, right?” -_-;
Typhlosion: “*Look, I can at least get a burn on him, alright? And just what are you doing other than sitting and waiting right now?!*”

“Afraid to come out of your hidey hole?” Tyson called out to us. “That’s fine by me, Razors isn’t my only experiment!” His words were followed by the sound of two more Pokéballs opening. He was letting out more Pokémon? There was barely enough room for a battle between two Pokémon!

Typhlosion: “*U-Um, are we sure that burning a hole in the fuselage would really be such a bad thi-?*” O.O
Everyone Else: “YES!
Typhlosion: “*Just saying, it’d make this fight a lot easier right now!*”

Lightning flew wild. The Pikachu snarled something at Tyson before unleashing a blast of electricity at the other experiments. Seizing the chance, Razors shot forward, blades flashing. Then a burst of flames—Typhlosion launched another Flamethrower! Razors stopped short, forced to swerve, but that left it wide open. The Pikachu turned sharply and fired another bolt of lightning just as Typhlosion followed up with a burst of flames. Fire and lightning collided in a blinding burst with Razors caught right in the middle.

Jade: “Okay, that had to have put it down for the count-”
Squirtle: “*Can you not?! Seriously! Tempt fate like that sometime when we’re not dealing with four dangerous experimental Pokemon right now!*” >.<

“Scyy!” it cried out pitifully, dropping to the floor.

“We got it!” Spencer cried out, high-fiving Typhlosion. “I was really starting to worry there, y’know?”

Ebony: “*... Wait, but weren’t there two other Pokemon sent out like five seconds ago?*”


Tyson pulled out Razors’s Pokéball and recalled it. He muttered a string of curses, then ordered his other experiments to focus their attention on the Pikachu. His Rhydon didn’t exactly have any space to move, but it was able to act as a shield, spreading its arms wide to protect its trainer. Pikachu hammered away at the rock-type with its tail, which gave a metallic clang with each strike. Rhydon didn’t react at all. Its eyes were creepily blank and soulless, just like the Scyther’s had been. What was the deal with these Pokémon?

Simple, they’re Deltas*.

Oh, and Chibi just flatly has Zapdos DNA spliced into him, but close enough.

“Strong enough to take down my best experiment?” Tyson called out. “You’re more of a nuisance that I gave you credit for.”

“Razors was your best guy? Awesome, that means we’re in charge now,” Spencer said, standing up. “Tell the pilot to land this thing and let us off. And also get us pizza,” he added as an afterthought.

Jade: “Um, Spencer? I’m pretty sure that guy has a gun.” O_O
Spencer: “Yeah? So? It’s not like he’d be dumb enough to actually fire it in a plane at cruising altitude, right?”

Tyson stared at him, unimpressed. “You think you’re hot stuff just ‘cause you managed to beat one of my experiments with help from a crazy overpowered rat?”

“Nah, Typhlosion is the one made of hot stuff.”

Spencer: “Also, he’s a stoat, thank you very much.”

Typhlosion: “*Technically, I’m more of a badger in this evolutionary stage.*” ^^
Tyson: “Kid. Read. A. Room.” >:|

“What the hell are you even doing here?!” Tyson roared. “I don’t have to take this crap from some random-ass kid!”

Spencer’s eyes widened with panic. Then he practically shoved me aside as he dove behind cover right before an earsplitting bang tore the air. Had—had Tyson just—?

Spencer: “Okay, never mind! He is dumb enough to fire a gun in a plane at cruising altitude!” O.O
Rudy: “You’re just realizing this now when we’re dealing with Rockets?!” >.<
Spencer: “Th-They seemed more competent than this on the tarmac!”

“He shot at me?” Spencer blurted out, picking himself up from the floor, completely stunned. “I—I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but… yeah, I wasn’t ready for that.” His eyes flickered to Typhlosion. “Er, make sure you stay out of view, bud,” he added distractedly.

Typhlosion: “*He’s… gonna decompress the cargo hold in about five seconds, isn’t he? Since I doubt those were blanks he was packing.*” ^^;

Fine, keep hiding, it doesn’t matter!” Tyson spat, motioning to one of his Pokémon. “Back there, kill them!”

Jade: “Oh joy. Just what our day needed right now.” >.<

He couldn’t possibly be expecting Rhydon to get at us with all these supplies in the way, could he? No, Rhydon was staying behind, guarding him. The other experiment, a spiky-furred Raticate, bared its teeth at us and darted forward, too fast to see. Before I could even blink, it had cleared the length of the room before being tackled by Typhlosion, whose fur blazed with flames.

Firestorm: “*Um. Jade. Just saying, now would probably be a good time for me to get involved with fighting-*” .-.
Jade: “Firestorm, you couldn’t give me a straight answer as to if you knew Smokescreen earlier!” >.<
Firestorm: “Look, I probably know it, alright!” >_>;

“Backup, backup, definitely time for backup,” Spencer muttered quickly, fumbling with his Pokéball belt and opening the first ball he could get his hands on. An Electabuzz appeared in a flash, flexing its arms and letting sparks dance between the prongs on its head.

“I thought you had six Pokémon,” Rudy said, a bit disappointed.

With a weak smile, Spencer replied, “We’d be starting one crazy party if I let out all six of my guys in here. I don’t think the plane could handle it—this battle’s probably dangerous enough as it is.”


Really, it’s a small miracle that Chibi and Razors didn’t punch a hole in the fuselage already from their back and forth unless it was intentionally reinforced in case a moment like this happened.

He motioned forward, and his two Pokémon got into a defensive position on either side of us, ready to lash out at the experiment if it dared to come close. The Raticate darted in for another attack, but then recoiled backward when faced with Typhlosion’s fireball.

Rudy: “I sure hope that thing isn’t good at climbing.” ._.
Squirtle: “*Oh sweet Kyogre’s Fins, not you too with this ‘tempting fate’ nonsense!*” >.<

Movement behind us caught my eye. I spun around, heart racing… but it was just Rudy. He’d apparently ducked out from behind cover for just a moment—long enough to grab an open box by the corner and drag it back to our hiding spot.

“What are you doing?” I hissed.

Doing something stupidly risky since if I recall correctly from commentary elsewhere on the net, Rudy is a deconstruction of YA fiction protagonists. Granted, given that you’re cornered by a hybrid Pokemon that’s trying to bite your face off, doing something stupidly risky is probably justified right about now.

“Well, it was just sitting over there—I’ve been wanting to grab it for the past five minutes or so,” he said, proceeding to dig through its contents while Ebony stuck her nose in the box, sniffing.

Really, couldn’t he ever explain anything? But before I could reply, I noticed the “Technical Machine” stamp on the side of the box. TM discs—each of them designed to teach a different Pokémon move.

Rudy: “Jackpot.
Jade: “Rudy, can we even use these in our present circumstances?! There’s a gene-spliced Raticate trying to eat our faces right now!” >.<
Rudy: “Plot wouldn’t have me find ‘em if they weren’t going to become important, so…” :V

“I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines,” Rudy continued, occasionally pulling out a disc and looking it over before throwing it back in the box. “I know my Pokémon wouldn’t stand a chance if they got hit,”—the words sounded painful for him to admit—“but if I use these to give them sweet moves and have them attack from behind cover, they might have a shot.”

It… did seem like a good idea. We were completely surrounded by the Rockets’ supplies—why not use that to our advantage?

Rudy: “Hey, I played Capsule Monsters, these things work immediately after using ‘em, right?” ^^;
Jade: “If they don’t, we’re going to be really, really dead in short order.” .-.

A wide grin crossed Rudy’s face as he pulled out a blue TM. “Dude, Surf—I gotta teach this to Squirtle,” he said, fumbling with the disc’s case.

Jade: “Rudy. We’re in a plane’s cargo hold!” >.<
Rudy: “Yeah, and?”
Jade: “Okay, aside from the fact that it’s instantly going to wash away our cover, what do you think is going to happen when a boatload of water is just sitting around in a plane’s cargo hold undergoing slosh dynamics?!” >_>;
Rudy: “... (Wait, how do you know this stuff anyways when we’re in middle school?) Uh… it wouldn’t be that much water? Probably? Maybe?” ^^;

“Surf?” I asked incredulously. “What, do you want to flood the plane with us inside it?

Jade: “Also, that.” X(
Squirtle: “*I mean, that actually sounds like one of your better ideas for once-*”
Rudy: “Alright! Alright! I get it!” >_>;

“Fiine, I’ll pick a different one,” Rudy grumbled, tossing it back into the box before digging through the TMs again. “Hey Jade, bet you’ll be excited to see this,” he said, holding up a TM with a glossy red case and the words “Series 5: No.38” written on the front. I blinked, unsure of how I was supposed to respond.

Ah yes, Gen 5-spec Fire Blast TM. I still find your way of working in multiple generations of TMs under a shared setting umbrella to be really clever. It’s even got the same numbering system as the e-Reader cards for RS to boot.

“It’s Fire Blast,” he said, pointing at the label. “Now hurry up and use it on Charmander before I take it and use it on Ebony.”

Jade: “... Wait, you can do that?” .-.
Rudy: “Jade, the number corresponds to the Generation of TM it’s from. Everything in Series 5 is indefinitely reusable, so-” -_-;
Jade: “Okay! Okay! I get it already!” >_>;

I took the disc, unable to come up with a reply. It hadn’t occurred to me that this plan was something I could get in on.

Firestorm was staring at me intently. I glanced warily between him and the disc, then shoved it in my pocket. “No way, I still think it’s a bad idea for us to get involved.”

Rudy: “And you’re not giving it to me so that way I can use it on Ebony, why?

Ebony: “*Yeah! I wanna be able to vomit out big fire Kanji! It’s every Fire-type’s dream!*”

But wasn’t it his choice? If he wanted to throw himself into danger, then who was I to stop him? This was our chance to make a difference. But was I too much of a coward to take it?

Rudy: “Come on, Jade. What’s the worst that could happen?”
Jade: “The experiments outspeed Ebony and Firestorm and murder them out of existence while they try to use Fire Blast for the first time with zero practice or training.” :|
- Beat moment -
Rudy: “Okay, what’s the second worst thing that could happen?” >_>;
Jade: “Ebony and Firestorm use Fire Blast for the first time with zero practice or training and set an uncontrolled fire in the cargo hold or else melt a hole through the fuselage.” >:|
Rudy: “Gee, aren’t you just little Miss Optimism right about now?” >.<

In the midst of the ongoing battle, the Pikachu had given up on trying to get at Tyson and was now letting loose strings of lightning at anyone that came too close. Its movements had grown shaky from exhaustion. Sparks shot out of its fur at random. The fire was now all but gone from its eyes, and it almost looked… desperate. The experiment made one last attempt to jump over the Pokémon and blast them all, but came up with nothing but sparks. Then its eyes rolled back, and it collapsed limply off to the side of the cargo bay.

Rudy: “... Jade?! Having that Fire Blast TM would be nice right about now! Since the rest of those experiments aren’t distracted anymore!” O.O

I stared at the fallen Pikachu for a long while. At first, the experiment had seemed like our only hope. Then, more like a violent wild card. And now, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for it, and what it must have gone through to have ended up like this. Raised as a lab experiment and then branded a failure…

Time seemed to stop as I cautiously edged toward the experiment. I couldn’t explain why I was doing it… I just was. Five feet away, an ear twitched, and I flinched. Suddenly, its face snapped toward me, fur standing on end. I stumbled backward, throwing my arms in front of my face. But the hybrid was out of power—nothing came out but sparks. There wasn’t much it could do to me now.

“What’re you doing?” Rudy hissed. “Didn’t you see how crazy that thing is?”

Rudy: “Jade, you are never allowed to give me crap for wanting to teach Ebony Fire Blast after this.” >_>;

“It’s out of power,” I said defensively. “And it’s not like it’s on Tyson’s side or anything. It’s been fighting against him all this time, so we might be able to—”

“Pikaa’pi,” the Pikachu growled, slowly lifting its upper body from the floor and glowering at me. “Pikapi ‘chuu pi‘piika—”

Rudy: “I’m… just gonna back away right now.” O_O;

“Wait, wait, talk slower,” I stammered, unable to translate the Pokéspeech quickly enough.

I honestly didn’t expect it to listen, but it stopped. It actually stopped, and it gave me a skeptical glare before saying, slowly and deliberately, “*I don’t need your pity, human. This is my problem, not yours; stay out of it.*”

Jade: “No, no. This is kinda our problem too since your enemies are going to kill us when you’re no longer a problem for them.”

“It’s not like we asked to be involved in this,” I replied heatedly. I was just trying to help him… and admittedly hoping that he would help us in return.

Pikachu didn’t reply. In fact, he was now ignoring me in favor of staring at the battle with a pained look on his face. He muttered something under his breath. And then he leaped to his feet and dashed away.

“Wait, come back!” I yelled. But he didn’t stop.

Rudy: “Um. Jade? Is Spencer’s Typhlosion still keeping that Raticate busy? Since if he is, you should really pass that Fire Blast TM over-” o_o;
Jade: “Not now, Rudy!” >.<

“So… think it’s gonna help us?” Rudy spoke up all of a sudden.

I shrugged. It was the only response I could give. I had no idea what he was planning. The fight was still raging and he was out of electricity, so I wasn’t sure what else he could do.


Jade: “... Oh, that ain’t good.”

Rudy: “I wanted to use this time to make our Pokemon stronger, but noooo...” >_>;

The noise had come from the front of the cargo hold. I couldn’t help it—I peeked over the boxes. Pikachu was standing atop a wall of crates, panting hard, his tail glowing. He leaped at the wall and smashed his tail into the window. Cracks spread across the surface.

… Oh, so Chibi is going to decompress the cargo hold. I definitely didn’t remember that from the original version of events. That’s at once brilliant and:


Tyson spun around. “Number nine, what the hell are you—?” His face went pale. “Stop that thing, now!” he yelled, and his Rhydon lunged forward, smashing through a wall of boxes and slamming a heavy fist into Pikachu. I flinched as the mouse’s body flew through the air, landing in a crumpled heap.

Tyson: “Seriously, who the hell taught those things about air pressure differences?” o_o;

Goddamn it, number nine, either you’ve got a death wish or you really are stupid enough to think you can escape by jumping out the window,” Tyson spat, still pale.

… Or maybe they weren’t taught that, since… yeah. Things would’ve gone really sideways had Chibi successfully broken that window.

Spencer: “... Says the guy who shot at me in a moving airplane.” >_>;
Tyson: “Hey kid, do you want me to shoot again? No? Then shut the hell up!” >:|

Pikachu slowly picked himself up from the floor, face screwed up with pain. He stared downward for a few moments before nodding to himself, like he’d just decided something. Then he took off running.

I didn’t get it. Had he… wanted to put a hole in the plane? But that would let all the air out, and…


I can see those gears in your head turning, Jade, and it’s starting to scare me.

Tyson spun around to stare at us in horror, like he’d just made the same realization. “Stop that thing now or we’re all dead!!”

Rudy: “I’m sorry, why do we want to help you again?”
Tyson: “Because if that window goes, the plane decompresses, you stupid brat!” >.<
Spencer: “Oh yeah, and like firing live ammunition didn’t already carry a massive risk of-” >_>;
Tyson: “Look, I know this plane and the rounds in my gun better than you! Shut up and stop that thing already!”

Pikachu shot past me towards the back of the jet. Without thinking, I bolted after him, not even sure what was driving my legs forward.

“No, please don’t!” I yelled, unsure of what else to do.

Oh yeah, that’ll stop him.

He paused suddenly. No way—he had actually listened to me? It was only for a second. Then he shot toward Spencer’s Electabuzz.

Wow, that actually worked-

“What is he—?” I gasped.

“Electabuzz, stop him!” Spencer called out in confusion.

… Whelp, I guess that would explain a few things about Chibi’s pissy attitude a few chapters after this.

The electric-type threw up its arms and unleashed a blast of lightning. Pikachu didn’t even attempt to dodge—the attack struck, and he cried out in pain, tail raised high. But he just stood there, taking the attack. Almost like it was what he’d wanted. Electabuzz glanced back at Spencer in confusion before ending the blast. The rest of the electricity flowed into the hybrid’s body, and his eyes snapped open with a newfound fire.

Tyson: “You dense mother-

Spencer: “Hey, you could’ve warned me that your experimental Pikachu had Motor Drive! Or Volt Absorb! Or whatever the hell that was!” >.<

“Did… did he just absorb the lightning?” I muttered, stunned. No one answered. None of us knew what to do now. Tyson’s Raticate shot past us in a blur, but even with its speed, it wouldn’t catch up in time. Pikachu glanced back at me with… almost an apologetic look. Then he turned away and fired all his power at the wall before collapsing.

Rudy: “... Wait, why’s this a bad thing again?” ^^;

Everything happened too fast to process. First lightning, then an explosion ripping through the back of the plane. Air rushed out, pulling me toward the hole. My arms flailed in a panic, grasping at the ropes around the boxes closest to me. Then the sound of a Pokéball opening, followed by a high-pitched beam, and the airflow suddenly stopped.

Rudy: “Right. That would be why it’s a bad thing. J-Jade! Hang in there!” O.O

It was all over within a few seconds. I lay there in a daze, breathing hard and taking a few seconds to realize that I could still breathe. Then I whirled around to see that the hole was completely sealed with glittering ice crystals. How…?

A Dewgong sat next to Spencer, exhaling frosty air. Spencer collapsed against the Pokémon’s side, letting out a huge sigh of relief.

I stared openmouthed. “That… that was quick thinking.”

Jade: “Wait, that worked?
Spencer: “Hey, it works in that one Saturday morning cartoon with the Pokemon on boats.” ^^;
Jade: “... But this is a plane.” .-.
Rudy: “Jade, are you seriously going to question not getting sucked out of a plane and falling to your death right now?” >_>;

“Yeah? It happens sometimes,” Spencer said, rubbing the back of his head before patting the ice-type. “Nice one,” he said.

Spencer: “… That Rocket’s still there and holding his gun right at me, isn’t he?” ^^;

Except… the hole may have been sealed, but that wasn’t the only damage that had been done. Through the window, I could see black smoke billowing from a ruined tail engine. Were we losing altitude? Were we going to crash?


Jade: “I… really could’ve gone without knowing that, really.” ._.

Tyson was having a furious back-and-forth over his communicator with someone. “It’s not my goddamn fault, it was number nine!” He listened to the response with a look of building rage before roaring back, “I’ve been trying to!” and shutting the device off.

Spencer: “Oh, so the Rocket is still there and didn’t get sucked out of the cargo hold. A-At least he doesn’t have us at gunpoint yet?” ^^;

Then his eyes fell on us. “This is all your fault,” he snarled, reaching for his belt.

Spencer: “Are you trying to decompress the cargo hold again?! Seriously, what have I told you about live ammunition and planes-!” >.<
Tyson: “Shut up already!

The horrible truth hit me—after all the commotion, we weren’t behind cover anymore. Tyson had just grabbed his gun, he had a clear shot, but Spencer didn’t look concerned? Why not?!

And then all I could do was stare dumbfounded as Typhlosion leapt from nowhere and grabbed Tyson in a bear hug, knocking the gun aside.

“What,” I said stupidly.

Typhlosion: “*I mean, I could’ve set him on fire as he crumpled to the floor and screamed bloody murder. But I’m pretty sure our contract says that all the real heavy stuff’s supposed to wait about 20 chapters.*” ^^;
Jade: “Oh yay me.” ._.

“Hey, that worked even better than I expected,” Spencer said, giving a massive sigh of relief. “It’s always great when that happens, y’know?”

Tyson: “The plane is losing altitude, you dumb brat!

Typhlosion: “*You sure didn’t seem concerned about that 10 seconds ago, you’ll live a bit.*”

I stared. “How… how did you…?”

“Well, I knew we’d never get anywhere with him having a gun and all, so with all the Pikachu chaos, I told Typhlosion to hide and take him down the first chance he got,”

Spencer: “Honestly, considering how he was shooting it in here, it’s really for everyone’s benefit that Typhlosion focused on taking him down. Since… uh… yeah. One cabin decompression’s too many for me, really.” ^^;

I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was too shocked by how much the tables had turned in our favor with just that one move.

Tyson: “The. Plane. Is. Losing. Altitude!” >.<
Jade: “... Right, we still need to deal with that at some point.” ^^;

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?!” Tyson raged, struggling against Typhlosion’s hold.

“I think we’re dealing with someone I just beat,” Spencer said. “You should probably recall your Pokémon now; it’ll make things easier.”

Rudy: “For the record, you were sure a hell of a lot more concerned about shooting us than doing anything about the plane.”

Tyson: “Shooting you would get you out of the way so that way I could deal with the plane!” >.<
Jade: “I’m… starting to see how Rudy and Spencer were able to sneak onboard in the first place.”

Typhlosion flexed his claws threateningly to emphasize the point, letting waves of heat shimmer around them. Tyson’s Pokémon were standing still, blankly awaiting orders. Almost like they couldn’t think for themselves. Clenching his teeth, Tyson managed to unclip two Pokéballs from his belt and recall his Pokémon

“So, how about you tell us if there’s any chance we can land this thing,” Spencer said simply.

Typhlosion: “*... Um, Spencer? Why are we expecting this guy to be cooperative again?*”
Spencer: “Because we’re all going to die if he isn’t?” ^^;
Typhlosion: “*That… uh… isn’t making me feel more confident right now.*” ._.

Tyson glared. At first it seemed like he wasn’t going to say anything. But after several seconds, he finally replied, his words extremely slow like it was painful just talking to us. “With a missing engine, we probably won’t reach the base we were supposed to land at.”

“Eh, well, the Rocket base didn’t sound fun. Anyways, you should probably figure out if we can land it anywhere else.”

I know I would have flinched if I’d been at the receiving end of the venomous glare that followed. But still… Tyson must have realized that his only chance at survival meant saving us as well. Taking a deep breath, he said, “I need to check with the pilots, but… if we use the GPS to see if there’s a big enough clearing ahead of us, we might have a chance of making a rough landing.”

Jade: “I’m sorry, why are we trusting you again?”

Tyson: “Because like your brat friend said, if somebody doesn’t land this thing, we’re all going to die?”
- Beat moment -
Jade: “Right, sounds like a good reason to trust you in that case.” ._.;

“Alright, sounds like you’ve got it under control. Typhlosion, you be his copilot, m’kay?” Despite Spencer’s bright tone, Typhlosion understood the serious intent behind the request, and released his hold, still keeping a menacing eye on Tyson.

Typhlosion: “*... Wait, didn’t this guy have a gun? Not that I expect him to be hard to handle, but wouldn’t it be safer for you to just hold him at gunpoint in the cabin?*” ^^;
Spencer: “Typhlosion, does it look like I’ve ever handled a gun before? Much less a handgun?
Typhlosion: “*... Right, good point, really.*”

Tyson glowered at the fire beast, but there was nothing he could do. He pulled out his communicator and growled something at whoever was on the other end, most likely the pilots.

“And that’s that,” Spencer said rather matter-of-factly, walking back to me and Rudy.

Jade: “... Wait, shouldn’t we be keeping an eye on him to make sure that he’s not giving away our position to his buddies?” .-.
Spencer: “Nah, Typhlosion will let us know if he’s up to any funny business.”
Jade: “... Does Typhlosion even understand stuff like human terms for coordinates or potential secret code that Rockets have with one another?” .-.
- Beat moment -
Rudy: “Um… yeah, maybe we should stay a bit closer to the cockpit right about now.”

At first, all I could do was stare openmouthed. A wave of laughter suddenly overtook me from sheer relief. “That’s it, then. We’ll be miles away from any other Rockets when we land—there’ll be nothing stopping us from getting out of here.” The shock was wearing off and my body felt lighter with each passing moment. I couldn’t believe it, but we’d won. Well, Spencer had, anyway.

Eleven words thought seconds from disaster.

“See, Jade?” Rudy said, elbowing me lightly in the ribs. “Told you we’d be able to get out of this.”

I couldn’t help laughing again. “You never had to see what the Rockets could really do… but I’m glad.”

Jade: “... Weren’t we right on our way to the cockpit right now?” ^^;
Rudy: “Meh, it’s not going anywhere fast.”

Still a bit lightheaded, I sank back against a wall of boxes, infinitely glad for a chance to breathe. The adrenaline slowly died down as that crushing feeling of certain death finally vanished. We were going to make it. Now the only problem was figuring out what to do once we landed.

Eh, I’d worry about it when the time came.

Jade: “I should probably feel a bit less relieved when the tail engine’s spewing black smoke right about now and there’s a massive gash in the fuselage papered over by an ice plug. But meh. I earned this.” ^^;

I felt warmth by my side; Firestorm had plopped down next to me, looking a bit tired.

“You holding out okay?” I asked.

Firestorm: “*I guess, but you could’ve let me fight back there.*” >_>;
Jade: “(Oh goodness, not this again.)” -_-;

He nodded. Though I couldn’t figure out why he’d been glued to me throughout the whole ordeal, in an odd way it felt… reassuring. And then it hit me—Swift was here too. I grabbed his Pokéball from my pocket, and with a flash of light, the Pidgey appeared, ruffling his feathers.

“It’s so good to see you,” I said, holding out my arm. He immediately fluttered up to my shoulder and sat there with his feathers fluffed out. It was a familiar, comforting warmth, having him there.

Swift: “*I’d just like to remind you that none of this would’ve happened if we left to get that Charmander medical attention.*” >v>;
Jade: “Look, I’m pretty sure that that sequence of events has changed since the last this reviewer wrote something up for this story, so… maybe let’s call it a wash?”

Swift: “*... Fine.*”

It struck me that I should probably say something. “Uh… Swift, this is Firestorm. Firestorm, Swift.” Lame, but I was never very good at introductions.

Swift: “*Wait, you seriously named him Firestorm, Jade? Isn’t that just a little morbid of you-?*”

Firestorm: “*I already had the name before the whole ‘getting caught in a burning forest’ thing.*”
Swift: “*Oh, so the universe just has it out for you, then. That’s… ever so slightly concerning there.*” -v-;

Despite my failure at figuring out how to start a normal conversation, Firestorm took it upon himself to start one. “*How did you get involved in this?*”

I laughed slightly. “Wrong place at the wrong time. Just like you, I guess.”

He nodded. “*I’ve had lots of that.*”

Swift: “*Some parts of which was a bit more self-inflicted than others.*” >v>;
Jade: “Swift, hush.

I wanted to ask him what he’d gone through before I found him, but I couldn’t think of a delicate way to ask. After a while, I settled on, “Did… did you even see what caused the fire?”

He hesitated a bit before answering slowly. “*The others all ran away. Some of them were shouting about the Great Fire Beast. I never saw it, though.*”

Jade: “The what now?”
Swift: “*Entei? You know, the ‘Great Fire Beast’ you saw those Rockets carting off?*”
Jade: “... Right, should’ve figured.”

I stared downward, images from the incident burned into my memory. It still felt bizarre and unreal. “That fire was caused by humans trying to catch Entei. I actually saw it happen, but I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Firestorm looked a bit puzzled at first. “*Catch? Humans can… catch Legendaries? Just like Pokémon?*”

Jade: “I mean, they technically are Pokemon themselves, so… uh… in theory it should be possible?” .-.

To be honest, it was not something that had really crossed my mind before, either. The Legendaries had always felt just… on a level above Pokémon or humans. Sure, every school-age kid in the world dreamed of partnering with one, but legends didn’t need partners. They were already strong enough to beat any foe. And yet… Entei had been taken by force. And it would probably happen again, unless…

I’m now morbidly curious as to if it’s possible for something like Silver (the overgrown seabird) to exist in this continuity, and if so, how well he’d hold up to that perception there.

“You know… I met someone who was trying to stop it. He couldn’t do it on his own, but he was trying to get people to help him,” I said, more thinking aloud than actually hoping for a response.

Firestorm: “*Wait, so what did that person do to try and stop things again?*”
Jade: “Gave me a business card and an ominous speech before leaving?” ^^;
- Beat moment -
Firestorm: “*I think you need to find people who are doing more to try and stop things like these.*” >_>;
Jade: “Look, it was an initial encounter, alright?!” >.<

A voice chirped, catching me off guard. I had been so focused on the Charmander that hearing a different form of Pokéspeech was a bit disorienting. I turned toward Swift and was met with a very intent look. Then my brain finished processing that he’d asked if I was going to help.

I’m actually curious now as to if there’s also regional variations of Pokespeech in this setting or not. Since if it already varies perceptibly for humans between species.

“I… hadn’t really considered his offer until now,” I said weakly. “I mean… what could someone like me do to help?”

“*Legendaries shouldn’t be captured,*” the Pidgey replied. I couldn’t help feeling surprised by how firmly he’d said it. Swift rarely talked at all, and I never would have described him as forceful.

Swift: “*I mean, they’re only living gods to us and the premise of them being bullied around to do anything is a moral abomination, so…*” >v>;
Jade: “... Right, when you put it that way, I guess it’s a bit less surprising.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say in response, so I just found myself looking away sheepishly. The lull in the conversation suddenly made me aware that I could feel the plane descending more rapidly now. Rudy didn’t seem to have noticed it—he’d gone back to digging through the TM box with Ebony. Spencer was chatting away at his Electabuzz and Dewgong.

Swift: “*Um. Guys?*” OvO;

Swift perked up slightly, like something was about to happen. I was about to ask what was wrong when it happened. First a rumbling impact that shook the whole plane, followed by a sharp slowdown that sent me flying headlong into the side of a crate. I clutched onto it instinctively and screwed my eyes shut as loose items smacked into my back. The air was filled with rumbling, shouting, and the frantic cries of more Pokémon than I could count. Claws gripped my shoulder and I cracked an eye to see Firestorm grabbing hold and refusing to let go.

Swift: “*Whelp, too late.*” @v@
Rudy: “Spencer, I thought that your stoat was on top of things in the cockpit!” @.@
Spencer: “Look, this is news to me here as well!” @.@

Finally, after what felt like ages, the plane grinded to a halt. I would have sunk to the floor in relief if I hadn’t already been on the floor.

“What the heck was that?!” Rudy yelled, shoving a crate aside and standing to his feet.

Jade: “We landed. Obviously.”
Rudy: “Yeah, but how did we not get a warning during all of that?!” >.<

“He wanted us to land the plane. It’s landed,” Tyson replied coldly, a smug edge to his voice. He was now leaning against the doorway to the cargo hold. Typhlosion stood firmly next to him, fixing him with a suspicious glare, but Tyson didn’t seem to care anymore.

Spencer: “Typhlosion, how did you see the ground coming and just not ever tell me about that?!” >_<;
Typhlosion: “*... Wait, so you mean, that whole ‘hit the ground and feel like you’re stuck in a rock tumbler’ thing wasn’t supposed to happen?*” ^^;

“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think I’ll be flying Rocket Airlines again anytime soon. I say we get out of here now, and worry about spamming them with bad reviews later,” Spencer said, walking over.

“Where is here, exactly?” I said, glancing around for a window. I spotted one on the far end of the hangar and started walking toward it, but Rudy beat me there. It looked like we had crash-landed on the edge of a forest, right alongside a rocky outcropping.

Jade: “Um, guys, shouldn’t we be more worried about how the Rocket that was trying to kill us 15 minutes ago sounds smug and self-satisfied right now?” ._.;
Rudy: “Nah, he’s probably just putting up a front and bluffing.”

“Alright, so… for starters, how do we get out of the plane?” I asked.

I mean, you could try melting the ice plug over the giant hole in the side? :V

“We could try melting through the ice,” Spencer said, jerking a thumb toward the hole in the back of the plane. “I’ve got two fire-types, so—”

“You have another fire-type?” Rudy said, looking shocked. “Why didn’t you use it earlier?”

Spencer: “Look, buddy. Do you have any idea how much of a pain it is to manage two Pokemon out on the field at once already?” >_>;
Rudy: “We were facing down a guy with a gun!” >.<

“I didn’t need to?” Spencer said, shrugging as he recalled Electabuzz and opened a different Pokéball. The flash of light took the form of a huge striped firedog—taller than any of us. The Arcanine tossed its head with a proud look upon noticing the attention, ruffling its thick, fluffy mane.

I can already hear the “who’s a good boy, yes you are”s through the screen right now.

“No way…” Rudy breathed, staring at the firedog in awe. “Maybe I should’ve tried to convince Chloe to come with…”

“Come on, let’s get outta here,” Spencer said cheerfully, motioning to his Arcanine.

“What are you doing?!” Tyson demanded all of a sudden.

Jade: “I told you two that we should’ve been worried about how smug and self-satisfied he sounded.” >_>;

“Getting out of here. Why, do you like having us around?” Spencer asked tauntingly.

- Tyson gets a dangerous glint in his eyes -
Tyson: “Tell me, kiddos. Have you ever heard of a ‘Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast Transponder’ before?”

Rudy: “No, why? Is that some piece of fancy tech your plane has? Since I don’t think it’s going to help you much here.”

Tyson clenched his teeth. “You idiots don’t even know where we are. What are you supposed to do, wander around the forest?”

I raised an eyebrow. What was he trying to accomplish… getting us to stay here? How on earth would that help him, given his situation?

Tyson: “Figured you wouldn’t have. Anyhow, just about every bird in the sky has ‘em these days. It periodically sends out messages from an onboard transmitter about a plane’s identification, current position, altitude and velocity. Handy for air traffic control to keep ‘em from running into each other in midair.”

Rudy: “And that helps you when the plane is stuck on the ground in the middle of nowhere how? I don’t exactly see a whole lot in the way of air traffic control anywhere around here!”

Even weirder was the fact that until we had tried to leave, Tyson had seemed weirdly okay with everything that was going on. Earlier he’d been trying his hardest not to explode with rage. Now he just seemed… impatient.

“You guys?” I said, lowering my voice to a whisper. “Anyone else think it’s weird that Tyson’s not pissed at us anymore?”

“Maybe he found his anger meds?” Spencer said with a weak grin. Rudy and I glanced at each other, then back at Spencer, unimpressed.

Tyson: “Okay, I’ll spell it out for you since you’re obviously a few fries short of a kiddie meal. But right now, that transponder is giving out a signal broadcasting this plane’s exact location, its altitude here on the ground, and the fact that it’s going nowhere fast.”
Rudy: “Look, just spit it out already!”

“Yeah, okay, that was stupid,” he said, putting a hand to his forehead. “Anyways, think he’s planning something?”

- Tyson folds his arms with a smug grin -
Tyson: “... Do you really think Team Rocket wouldn’t keep track of where its own aircraft are?”

All: “...”

I couldn’t really tell. He wasn’t really doing anything, although every so often he’d glance down at the small red and black handheld that he’d been using as a GPS.

Wait… his GPS.

“Oh crap, that’s not a phone, is it?” I said, my mouth dropping.

Spencer and Rudy looked up at him immediately. Tyson must have noticed that we were staring at him because he said, “It’s a GPS, idiots,” before going back to fiddling with the buttons.

I mean, Tyson technically didn’t need this device in order to give away his position considering standard features of modern aircraft and how flying unmarked aircraft is a serious hazard for outing that you’re up to something to the outside world. But eh, I’m guessing his GPS is a bit more accurate than the one chilling in what’s left of his plane.

Tyson: “Also, always handy to have a fallback in case those transmitters crapped out. Helps the recovery crew find stuff faster!”

Jade: “Oh dammit. I knew there was something up with how smug he was being!”

And just nipping and tucking the rest of this review into a separate post, since the site character cap is a bit of a bear.

Spiteful Murkrow

Early Game Encounter
“Hey Typhlosion, I really need to have what he’s holding. Like, right now,” Spencer called out.

“Oh, come on!” Tyson roared before being promptly tackled by the fire beast. After a few seconds of struggle, Typhlosion tossed the black device to Spencer, who caught it.

“Give that the hell back, what do you need it for?!” Tyson raged at us from under Typhlosion’s hold.

Tyson: “Seriously, you’re already screwed and wasting time you could be spending trying to run off with your tails between your legs!” >.<

“I just really love GPSs,” Spencer replied as he pressed a button on the device, which had the letters “R-com” inscribed on the front. Both Rudy and I leaned in to get a look at the screen. A half-finished text message read, “Landed on schedule. Requesting your current location and—”

“What,” I said flatly, staring at the message. “Don’t tell me…”

Spencer flipped through the previous messages in the conversation. “Team dispatched. ETA 1815.” “Coordinates sent. Crash time approx. 1810.”

Well I suppose that’ll definitely help find a plane faster than Flightradar24. Though that makes me wonder if the in-setting analogue to that also picked up this crash on its tracker or not.

Maaaaaybe not if Rockets are ballsy enough to just fly aircraft without normal tracking equipment and just pay off the appropriate air control authorities every time a black helicopter with no ID to speak of pops up on the radar. Though then again, considering what happens in the chapter right after this one... this plane still showing up on flight trackers would explain a few things that go down in it.

All three of us looked up at each other incredulously. I glanced over at Tyson to see an incredibly smug grin. “I was able to call for backup as soon as I figured out where we’d land,” he said. “Since we were both converging on the same spot, I bet they’ll be here any second.”

Tyson: “So congrats, kids. You played yourselves.”

It felt as though the air had been sucked from the room. For several seconds, no one said anything. There wasn’t anything to say. I could already feel a hole in my stomach from dread. We had been in the clear. We were going to make it. And then this.

“Actually!” Spencer exclaimed suddenly. “I just remembered I have somewhere very important to be, so y’know, I’m just gonna have to take a rain check on the whole battling Rockets to the death thing, so sorry I can’t make it, very urgent, hope you’ll understand, hey guys you’re invited too, let’s go now, Arcanine!


Jade: “I should probably feel more insulted by that right now, but… yeah, getting on that Arcanine sounds good right about now.” O_O;

On that last word, Arcanine barked out a blazing Flamethrower, instantly bursting clean through the ice at the back of the plane and filling the cargo hold with steam.

“Alright, get on board everyone, or we’ll be late for our date with getting-the-frick-out-of-here!” Spencer exclaimed. Rudy nodded sharply, recalling his Pokémon and jumping up onto the firedog’s back. I motioned for Swift to follow us in the air before glancing around my feet and seeing Firestorm standing there, looking wary. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the experimental Pikachu’s limp form, still unconscious from destroying the plane’s engines earlier.

Rudy: “Jade, are you serious right now?!” >.<
Jade: “Yes? It’s not like we’re just going to let the Rockets walk off with him, are we?” ^^;

It was more of an impulse than anything. I dashed over, snatched the Pikachu with my right arm before scooping up Firestorm under my left and throwing a leg over the Arcanine’s back. I glanced back at Spencer, who motioned to Typhlosion, who threw Tyson into a pile of boxes and hurriedly dashed forward on all fours, pausing just long enough for Spencer to leap onto its back. That was all I saw before Arcanine sprung through the hole in the ice, landing nimbly on the plane’s tail fin before bounding down to the ground.

Jade: “So, uh… how fast can your dog run again?” ._.;

And then the screeching of tires and what sounded like gunfire tore the air. Spencer shouted something as he and Typhlosion jumped through the ice hole, and then I was nearly thrown off as the firedog bolted forward with an insane rush of speed, apparently trying to avoid something. More yelling, more gunshots. Trees flew by as Arcanine dashed up the side of the rocky ledges alongside the crash site, finally ducking down behind a large boulder, followed by Typhlosion.

Spencer: “Fast enough, I hope!” O_O;

I slid down from Arcanine’s back, feeling slightly dizzy as I set Firestorm and Pikachu on the ground. “What… what is going on,” I gasped, still disoriented.

“The Rockets were on the other side of the jet,” Spencer managed. “They tried firing at us; couldn’t really get a clear shot, though.”

Jade: “... Of course.” >.<
Rudy: “Okay, in retrospect, it probably wasn’t a good idea to just leave Spencer’s stoat all alone with that Rocket in the cockpit given that he’s not literate in human scripts.” ._.;

“What do we do now?!” I panicked.

“I don’t know, I didn’t think they’d be here already!” Spencer exclaimed. “We could just try making a break for it?”

Jade: “Spencer. They. Have. Guns!” >_>;

“Can your Pokémon outrun jeeps?” Rudy asked, sounding honestly optimistic about it.

“I don’t know—maybe over a short distance?”

Jade: “You can just say ‘no’, you know!” >.<

At that moment, the jeeps pulled up and skidded to a stop on our side of the jet, throwing dust into the air. I peeked around the ledge to see one of the Rockets jump out in one smooth motion and proceed to look over the damage done to the plane.

“You know, Tyson, when you said the transport jet was going to crash, I never would’ve guessed it was because of some random stowaway kids and a prisoner you were supposed to bring to me,” she said icily. Was she the executive I was supposed to be interrogated by?

… Wait, just how close were they to their target airfield such that Jade’s intended interrogator could make it out in person to their crash-landing? Since this gives off some major “just barely missed the runway” vibes. .-.

“I—but—don’t go blaming this on me,” Tyson called out. I glanced up to see him now standing on the tail fin, looking bruised and battered. “And why didn’t you bring more backup?! Just a bunch of grunts?” He sounded on the verge of losing it.

Rudy: “You know, now would be a good time to try and sneak off and-”
Jade: “Rudy. They. Have. Guns.” >.<
Rudy: “... Right. Almost forgot about that.” ._.

“Cleaning up after the mess you made of the jet sounds like grunt work to me,” she replied lazily. “That leaves me stuck taking care of the idiot kids.”

“They’re not just kids,” Tyson said defensively. “One of them has Pokémon that are a match for my experi—”

“Tyson, your experiments were never all that amazing anyway,” she cut in, waving a hand dismissively. “I don’t even know why you still bother training them after all the progress that your division’s made on number thirty-six.”

… Huh, somehow I forgot that Tyson was personally involved in making Chibi and the rest of the gang. Guess he’s pretty hands-on as an operative given that he was able to pilot his own plane solo.

“Better than using regular Pokémon,” Tyson shot back. “And I think you’re forgetting that it’s what I was assigned to do. Of course, you wouldn’t know what that’s like because the second you joined, you were—”

“Still going on with that crap about how I was always an executive, is that it?” she replied icily. “I think you should watch what you say there Tyson, unless you feel secure enough in your position to pick fights with me.” Tyson flinched and didn’t say anything more.

Rudy: “Not that the Rocket office politics isn’t fascinating, but we should really try and figure out a way to get Spencer’s dog out of their firing range right about now.” o_o;

I really had no idea what they were talking about. Especially confusing was the fact that the executive didn’t sound much older than eighteen. Could someone so young be ranked that highly on Team Rocket?

I mean, 10-year olds apparently can sweep the Indigo League, are you really shocked that 18-year olds can get up there in the ranks of organized crime in this world? :V

“Anyway, if you’re done whining, time for me to fix this mess,” the executive said, turning and walking toward us, her heavy combat boots kicking up dirt.

That was when we got our first real look at her. She had a tough build with a hardened and mature look about her, which almost made me forget that she was probably younger than most of the other Rockets there. The way she carried herself just oozed confidence. Somehow, I couldn’t help getting the feeling that fighting her would be a very, very bad idea.

Rudy: “... I think I can take her-”
Jade: “Rudy. Shut. Up.” >.<

“Spencer, uh… we need a plan. Like now,” I muttered, my voice shaking.

“Gimme a sec. At least they can’t shoot us while we’re back here, right?”

Um. Yes they can assuming they’re rocking heavy enough firearms. Or else just have Pokemon punch holes into the plane and shoot through those.

This is also the same reason why you don’t want to take shelter behind car doors in a gunfight. A lot of bullets will just punch through the relatively thin metal of the door panels and carry on to hit you.

I heard the sound of several Pokéballs opening and looked back at the Rocket to see—“Oh crap, here they come!”

Spencer’s eyes went wide with panic as he motioned for his two fire-types to get on our other side so they could attack from behind the rocks. A fierce howl filled the air—it sounded like an Arcanine, but it wasn’t Spencer’s.

Jade: “So things are certainly going well™ right now.” O.O

I edged around the corner just enough to see another striped firedog, this one flashing a horrifyingly vicious snarl at us. Typhlosion and Arcanine recoiled slightly, losing some of the tension in their stances.

“Crap, gonna hit us with Intimidate, is that it?” Spencer mumbled through gritted teeth. “Time for ranged moves, then. Both of you, Flamethrower!”

Oh right, Intimidate is not a passive ability in this setting. Though it’s a decent translation for how Intimidate as an ability doesn’t carry over to Pokemon being absolute qts in stuff like Amie/Refresh.

Twin streams of fire flew down the hill, striking the other Arcanine head-on. It snarled as it weathered the assault, wincing despite its fire resistance. But then a tan horse jumped in front of the blaze, scattering the flames as its whole body glowed with a fiery sheen. It didn’t even seem to notice that it was being hit. In fact, its fiery mane and tail only intensified.

Spencer: “Oh come on!

Spencer’s Arcanine: “*Gee, how do you think I feel right now?!*”

“Did that just make it stronger? Oh crap, it must have Flash Fire. Typhlosion, stop the Flamethrower and use Dig! Arcanine—” Spencer’s face suddenly lit up like he’d just made the best realization of his life. “Dude, I’ve got it! Typhlosion, quick—use Flamethrower on Arcanine!!”

Rudy: “Dude, how do you not know your own Pokemon’s ability?!” >.<
Spencer: “Yeah, yeah, shut up. Let’s see you do better under stress, huh?” >_>;

Typhlosion paused its digging just long enough to spit out a fireball before disappearing underground. Arcanine’s coat glowed red as the flames seeped into its fur, empowering it.

Typhlosion: “*... Boy do I hope that none of those Rocket Pokemon know Earthquake, otherwise… uh… this is gonna suck.*”

“Her Arcanine might have Intimidate, but mine’s got Flash Fire!” Spencer exclaimed, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. “Now for reinforcements,” he said, opening the rest of his Pokéballs. “Electabuzz, hold them back with nonstop Thunderbolts! Dewgong, Brine; Pidgeot, Air Slash; Mightyena, Dark Pulse!”

Rudy: “I thought you said that managing two Pokemon at once was already a giant pain!” >_>;
Spencer: “Look, it is, but that wasn’t canon anyways!” >.<

All of his Pokémon got into position upon hearing the commands, Arcanine already throwing a scarily bright Fire Blast into the fray. But then my eyes lit up when I registered that he had just let out a Pidgeot.

“Wait! You have a Pidgeot! Can’t we just fly out of here?!” I exclaimed, jabbing a finger toward the huge eagle taking wing.

Rudy + Spencer: “They. Have. Guns.
Jade: “... Right, I’m feeling kinda dumb for not remembering that when I brought that up like twice already.” >.<

Spencer paused, smiling weakly. “It’s cool that you think he’s that hardcore, but… yeah, no way can he pull off carrying all three of us.”

Spencer: “Also, that would be another problem with your brilliant idea.”

“Crap…” I muttered. “Okay, how about one person rides off on Pidgeot while the others stay here protected by the rest of your team, and then Pidgeot comes back to get the others?”

“I… guess that could work?” Spencer said, rubbing the back of his head.

Translation: “It’s extremely dangerous and has non-zero odds of getting at least one of us killed, but we’re kinda short on options right now.”

But then a sudden flash of light blinded me as an earsplitting crack tore the air. I ducked my head and screwed my eyes shut, but the last thing I’d seen was a giant lightning bolt flying overhead. A pitiful cry rang out, followed by the dull thud of something hitting the ground. I dared to open my eyes a crack, and then I saw it. Pidgeot, lying in a crumpled heap, feathers scorched black. Taken down with a single bolt. At the bottom of the hill, a Raichu stood, clearly smirking, with sparks still leaping from its cheeks. It swished its long, inky tail before dashing into the fray.

Jade: “... So much for that idea.”

Spencer was staring wide-eyed at his fallen Pokémon, mouth agape. Slowly, he reached a trembling hand to his Pokéball belt and recalled Pidgeot in a beam of red. In that one moment, the real weight of the situation crashed down on us. It had seemed like we had a fighting chance to get out of here, but… we really didn’t, did we?

“Yeah, that would have been us if we’d tried flying away,” Rudy pointed out. No one said anything as the implications of his words sunk in.

Jade: “Boy, and I thought the last chapter ended on a grim note. Uh… do you ever get the feeling that our author has it out for us?”

Rudy: “Have you tried being less dramatic and helping us out of this mess?”
- Rudy looks out at the encroaching Rockets -
Rudy: “Since, uh… we kinda have our work cut out for us right now.”

Boy was that a ride. Though I guess the fact that I was still picking up on stuff I didn’t remember must mean there were some decent changes to Chapter 3 over the year since I read it… or I just forgot about what happened, but let’s think positive. ^^;

Anyhow, the star of the show for this story this chapter was and still is two things: its battle choreography and its worldbuilding, the former was obviously a bit more front and center, but there were a lot of little moments where subtle things that got brought up felt fairly organic for selling a living and breathing world. The TM sequence was one of them, even if I feel like it might have worked a little better with some sort of passing line from Rudy about “Series 5 TMs are reusable” to hammer home that that’s what you were up to. The characterization wasn’t a slouch either, since even if the characters aren’t always making optimal decisions, they make oversights in the way one would expect of middle schoolers, or in Tyson’s case, a middling Rocket with an ego. Like even if the cast is being carried to an extent by lucky breaks at the moment, it feels startlingly believable for how they would operate in such a situation, especially that “well crap” sense of panic that sets in over Jade, Rudy, and Spencer at the end when they realize that they’re very in over their heads.

As for criticisms, I don’t have that many since the prose was really well put-together and the chapter engaging enough that I honestly might have overlooked a few goofs by virtue of having a good time. There were a couple of stray paragraphs that I felt looked a little dense and like they might function better cut up. Also, a couple things like the Gen V TM sequence felt like they could’ve had a little extra detail or context to explain what was going on, but it didn’t take me that much out of it.

Most of the other gripes I had were basically nitpicks over a couple portrayals that honestly could be handwaved as “my setting, my rules” or else definitively put to bed one way or another with an extra sentence or two here or there. Like it feels a little weird for Tyson to be cognizant of the dangers of cabin decompression of his plane while firing a pistol in it. I suppose there technically is a workaround to that, though given how much of a ‘sloppy’ vibe Tyson gives off, he could’ve just been an idiot and let his hot-headedness get to him since… well, he is a Rocket. The GPS reveal sequence technically is one of those “yeah, you were screwed all along” things in reality, but eh. It’s not too hard to come up with an internal rationale for why Tyson would need a dedicated secondary GPS on him, since if nothing else, location accuracy matters for situations like his. Accuracy which his plane’s transponder, if it even has one, might not have.

But altogether, I had a fun time, and I’m hoping to cross paths with this story sometime again soon @Chibi Pika . Since hey, I do have to get past Chapter 15 at some point, and I’ve got my own reasons for wanting to steer a review or two your way in the not-too-distant future. ^^

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Thanks for the reviews, Fobbie! I'll reply to them over on TR, but as for here, I've got another chapter ready to go~

~Chapter 53: Storm Clouds~


I took a deep breath. “Okay. I’m ready.”

A cool breeze drifted in through the open window. Lugia’s face hung right outside, but no one outside our little circle would be able to see it. Not with Zoroark standing next to my bed, hiding us within an illusion in case anyone walked in.

Lugia’s eyes flashed blue. An itching, burning sensation swept across my back, like the raw skin was being stretched too far. I gripped the sheets, inhaling through clenched teeth while trying not to visualize the wounds ripping open. Mew hovered closely, drifting around to watch from multiple angles. Her eyes were wide, but her expression didn’t seem horrified. I could only hope that was a good sign, even if it sure didn’t feel like anything good was happening.

After what felt like ages, the pain lifted. I let out my breath, feeling winded even though I hadn’t done anything. A sensation like tingly static hung over my back. I could feel… something, but it was like the exact feeling was getting lost on the way to my brain.

<This is quite remarkable,> Mew said, tapping a paw to her chin. <I’ve never heard of anything like this being possible.>

I turned my neck so that I could look up at her. “Really? What’s so special about it?”

Mew hovered lower so that she was eye level with me. <Well, it’s simple, really. Healing moves accelerate the recipient’s own natural healing, so of course they’ll always be somewhat limited on humans. But this much damage… it was far too much to heal on its own, yes?>

“I guess so, probably,” I mumbled into my pillow.

Ajia clicked her tongue. “Huh. It’s got to be related to the chosen pact, right?”

I could feel Lugia’s eye roll, even if I couldn’t see it.

<That’s the only explanation I can think of,> Mew said. <Of course, I’ve never tried it before…> The hanging implication was obvious—she’d never needed to.

“Well hey, good to know that you could try it if I get myself into trouble,” Ajia said with a wink.

<If I am no longer needed, I am going to leave now,> Lugia said, stepping back from the window and ruffling its feathers. <I will require this one to not be seen by humans.> The seabird gestured to Zoroark, who shrugged and hopped out the window onto Lugia’s neck before the pair vanished from view.

I slowly attempted to stretch my arms out in front of me, still half expecting a sudden, stabbing pain if I moved them wrong. Then I suddenly became aware of just how much my legs ached from the effort of rotating myself to face everyone. I’d barely walked at all for the past two days.

“Can we… walk for a bit?” I asked. “I really need to stretch my legs.”

Ajia grinned. “Sure thing.”

Mew helped me out the window so I could leave without having to pass through the lobby.

Hopefully no one would notice I was gone. Ajia and I walked down the simple trail that led around the ranger station while Mew flitted overhead as a Starly. Each step felt slow and sore, but in a good sort of way, like the movement was helping.

“You’re sure the rangers don’t know what really happened to me, right?” I asked.

“As far as they know, it was a wild Pokémon attack,” Ajia said with a shrug. “No reason for them to think otherwise, yeah?”

I tapped my fingers together. “Well, your one friend already knows about us, so…”

“Who, Kari? Yeah, I guess she chewed me out a little. And my dad was a bit worried and asked me if there was anything he should know, but…” Ajia held her hands up reassuringly when she saw the look on my face. “But I told him I had everything under control—it’ll be fine, trust me.”

There was no way the rangers weren’t going to start asking questions eventually. We kept having to come to them for help, so it was only a matter of time. But I guess that was for Ajia to deal with.

I gingerly attempted to raise my arms over my head. The skin on my shoulders strained, like it couldn’t stretch that far without tearing.

“I hope I’ll be able to fly again soon,” I mumbled. It was hard to imagine flying in this state—one hard turn and I’d probably tear open all the fresh skin. And forget trying to throw a Pokéball with any force at all.

Ajia gave me a crooked smile. “You should probably take it easy for a while, yeah?”

I wanted that, I really did. But the Rockets wouldn’t be taking it easy, so how could I?

“I just don’t want to be out of commission too long, especially not with what’s coming.”

Ajia had told me about their recon mission the night that Lugia and I had been attacked. How they’d followed the Rocket trucks shipping supplies all the way to their destination—Indigo.

It all kept coming back to Indigo. Moltres’s attack. Mewtwo’s scouting. And now the Rockets’ shipment. Heck, that probably meant that the attack last month was partly to have an excuse to do construction in the area without looking suspicious.

I took a deep breath. “Okay, be honest. Do you think the Rockets could be planning their final takeover soon?”

Ajia folded her arms behind her head and hummed. “They’ve got Rayquaza now. They could definitely try. But then again, getting Rayquaza was mostly to regain the ground they lost when Mewtwo was freed. So it’s like… what have they been waiting for, you know?”

I exhaled slowly. Yeah, that was about the response I’d been expecting. Just a big pile of unknowns. But Mewtwo had said that the Rockets were targeting our leadership, and now they were building a base in Indigo, and he’d been spotted there repeatedly, and it had to all be connected.

“Have you gotten a chance to scope things out near the base yet?” I asked.

“Wellll, Zoroark and I did have a little peek around the shipping entrance. But aside from the supplies they unloaded, the place was pretty much empty. No one was stationed there besides a few security guards. It sure didn’t look like a base.”

“Maybe we could steal some supplies?” I asked tentatively.

“I don’t know if I’d go that far. It could be a trap.”

Right, yeah. That was an obvious concern.

Next shipment, though…” Ajia went on, eyes shining, “there’s a spot along their route between Cerulean and Pewter that’s pretty isolated. We could mount an ambush.”

I dared to let my hopes rise a little bit. We actually had the chance to catch them off-guard for once. I just wasn’t sure whether to hope that I’d be feeling up to taking part, or hope that I wouldn’t be. I didn’t want to sit back while others risked themselves, but…

“Well, I hope I’m back to 100% by then,” I said vaguely.

“It’s fine if you’re not,” Ajia said, even though it wasn’t.

I didn’t say anything. My head was buzzing with the same sting from back when I’d been taken off missions on the Rebellion after the… incident. It was what I’d needed, both then and now. So why did it hurt?

My brain generated the image of flying into danger again, same as I had so many times. Except this time all I could see were flames. The flames that consumed Midnight Stadium and incinerated the fleeing rebels. The flames that had nearly killed me. And now every time I moved wrong or breathed too deeply I could feel the shadow of that heat.

There was a question in my head. One that I’d wanted to ask her for a long time. I just didn’t know how.

“Did things ever… go wrong for you?” I asked, tightening my grip on my left arm. “I mean, like… really really wrong? I know it sucked when the commander left and the resistance fell apart, I’m not trying to act like it didn’t, but…”

I wasn’t sure what I was asking for. Something horrible? Something that had stuck with her, and held tight, and might never really let go? Why was I asking for something like that? I didn’t want that sort of thing for my friend. I really didn’t. I just…

I dropped my gaze to the ground, shuffling a foot against the dirt. “That was a stupid thing to ask, I’m sorry.”

“No, no, I think I get it,” Ajia said, putting a hand on my shoulder. Carefully, avoiding the burn. She paused for a bit, mulling something over. Then she said, “It was pretty early on. We got wind of some stolen Pokémon in Goldenrod, so I tried sneaking in.”

I’d heard this one before. It was all very cool-sounding. Infiltrating the warehouse, stealing assets. A lot like the time the rebels stole Pokémon from Celadon base.

Ajia shook her head with a distant smile. “I got cocky. We could’ve left at the time I was told there’d be no guards. Buut I just had to try breaking into a higher-security room, and of course someone noticed.

“Pichu ran off to cause a distraction before I could tell her not to. And I couldn’t go after her because a squad of Rockets arrived to search the room, before I could get out. I thought they’d leave after giving the all clear, but they didn’t, so I had to just… sit there, wedged behind a desk, for hours. Not knowing if Pichu had been captured, or killed, or what, and knowing that it was all my fault.”

That was… a lot less fun and cool than she’d normally made it sound.

Ajia paused heavily, like she was debating her next words. “There’s also the time that I was caught. By Starr.”

My breath caught in my chest. I’d known it had happened, of course, but neither of them ever talked about it.

“All that stuff she said, back when we confronted her in Viridian? Well, it wasn’t wrong—I kept going out of my way to cause problems for her. I was so sure that if I just made things difficult and gave her an out, she’d leave them.” She closed her eyes with an ironic chuckle. “I guess you already know how naive that was. Z pulled a quick trick that let us get away, but the boss must have punished her after that, because… well, the next time we met, she wouldn’t even talk to me. Went straight for the attack.” She winced, still smiling, but with a bit of pain under the surface.

“I always thought that if I’d just said the right things, I could have gotten through to her. But there was never an opportunity until you called me last year. My first thought was that maybe, now that it was the both of us, we’d be able to make it work.” So that was why she’d been so gung-ho about it, when I’d asked for help.

I was silent. The only sound was the birdsong from the trees. Starly-Mew had perched on a wooden fence post, preening her wing.

Ajia gave a light grin, and her normal air was back. “So, we like to joke about the old days. It makes it easier.”

Right, yeah. That made sense. I still wasn’t sure what I’d been hoping to hear, but… her words had helped.

I exhaled long and slow. “Thanks.”


On my third day in the medical ward, a bewildered nurse gave me the all clear to leave. The working theory was that some uncommonly gifted Chansey or Audino must have been responsible for my recovery, but none of the healers in the Ranger Union had claimed responsibility, for obvious reasons. So, to them, it would remain a mystery.

I was glad to be out, even if it wasn’t like I’d been isolated or anything. The window had been kept open, both for fresh air and to give my team a way to visit without having to barge through the ranger base. Swift had left frequent treats on the windowsill; Firestorm had noticed this and tried to one-up him by delivering giant to-go boxes of food until I told him it was a bit much.

I wasn’t sure if he blamed himself for what happened. He said he didn’t, but I still wondered.

I stepped outside the Ranger HQ and felt the cool breeze carrying the scent of the trees. It would be autumn soon, which meant that in another month or so, it’d be the anniversary of the Rebellion’s end. Now there was a thought that was getting shoved back under the rug.

My hands gripped the wooden railing as I carefully navigated the stairs, Darren sharing the latest League gossip as he walked with me. Firestorm followed behind us, carrying all of my stuff in his arms, occasionally having to lift it higher to keep out of Weavile’s reach.

“—so then Rudy started drilling everyone on U-Turn because he’s worried about getting trapped like that,” Darren went on. “Even though I’m pretty sure Glen is the only one in the top eight who specializes in trapping. And I mean, come on—Houndoom and Tyranitar versus Gengar? They’d be better off just putting their time into practicing dodging Focus Blast, y’know?”

I rubbed the back of my head. “Does anyone on his team know it?”

“Nah, but Alakazam does. We offered to spar, but Rudy’s fixated on figuring this one out on his own, so…”—Darren shrugged—“his loss.”

I stared. “You don’t really think he’s gonna lose…?”

Darren snorted. “Nah, his team totally counters Glen’s. What he actually needs to worry about is that Mamoswine…”

And so it went. It was nice to chat about something with lower stakes than everything else. Not that I’d ever describe the League that way to Rudy.

“I still can’t believe the finals are only eight days away,” I said with a heavy sigh. There’d been so much else going on, I’d lost track of the days.

Darren hummed. “Assuming nothing goes wrong this time.”

I let out a snort. “Don’t jinx it. I’m pretty sure Rudy would lose it if something interrupted the League again.” Something about the way he’d said it made me suspect that he was expecting it. That wasn’t exactly something I wanted to think about, though.

“Anyway, now that you’re out, we should crash one of Rudy’s training sessions,” Darren said matter-of-factly. “He’ll have a harder time refusing when it’s both of us.”

I chuckled. “Sounds good. But man, it feels like I’ve missed so much. Not just with the League, but… everything.” I turned to Firestorm. “And you guys—I haven’t been training any of you.”

Firestorm let out a huff. “*We’ve been training without you. Swift’s almost got the hang of Heat Wave. You should come see. You’ll be able to join us for training now, right?*”

I smiled weakly. “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fly with you just yet.”

“*Not that type of training. Just for fun.*”

Right, yeah. Training, for normal battles. Not everything had to revolve around Rocket stuff. Plus, if we met up with Rudy and his team, we’d get to see Jet. Even if I wasn’t sure she wanted to see me.

“Hey, nerds,” a voice said.

I glanced up to see Starr leaning against a lamppost in the parking lot in front of the Ranger HQ, arms folded.

“They finally let you out?” she asked, and I nodded.

“Cool, let’s go grab food with Ajia. Real food, not snacks,” she added before Firestorm could hold up the bag with the sweet breads and mini cakes.

And, well… I couldn’t deny that I was hungry. So I told Darren and Firestorm I’d catch up with them later, and the two of us headed into town. Using Starr’s almost supernatural ability to find the best food around, we located a tiny ramen shop in the corner of a shopping center.

It wasn’t too busy now that the training high season was over. Doubly so for a touristy area so close to Indigo. Ajia was already inside, seated at a booth with Pichu on the table munching some dumplings. We placed our orders, and I found a few minutes’ welcome distraction listening to Starr and Ajia rank the Johto gym leaders, with Starr feigning outrage at all of Ajia’s picks. They kept it up after our food arrived while I buried my face in ramen. Something about eating in an actual restaurant made the food ten times more satisfying than poking at takeout in the medical ward while feeling sorry for myself.

“Feeling better?” Ajia asked with a smile that made me realize just how much tension had left me.

“A lot,” I replied between draining half of my bowl.

Ajia glanced around. There was no one else near us. Then she gave Starr a knowing look and asked, “Soo have you gotten to talk with Ho-oh?”

Starr rolled her eyes. “Only as much as necessary.”

“Aw, come on, you two are partners now!” Ajia said, putting her hands together. “You should get to know each other.”

Starr scoffed and said, “How about ‘work colleagues.’ That ought to be good enough.” Ajia laughed and elbowed her.

As much as I hadn’t wanted to at first, even I had to admit that things felt less awkward now that I’d talked more with Lugia. I still didn’t feel up to asking it about Viridian, but… at least things weren’t so tense between us anymore.

“It’s not all serious business, you know,” Ajia went on. “It’s really important to be able to work together. And Mew and I have gotten to have so many adventures. We’ve visited islands, mountains, cities, and—”

“Well, I’ll be sure to ask Ho-oh if it wants to go to the amusement park,” Starr replied with a snide grin.

“You should at least go flying together,” I piped up.

Starr gave me a look of disgust. “Ugh, no way, once was enough.”

“It’s useful, though,” I replied defensively.

“I’ve gotten by just fine with beating the crap out of enemies on the ground, thank you very much,” Starr said through a mouthful of noodles. “Not like you with your three flying-types.”

I rubbed my arm. “Technically, there’s just two of them.”

“What?” She counted them on her fingers. “Oh god dammit, Flygon. It flies, it’s in the name, that’s good enough.”

I couldn’t help laughing. It still hurt to laugh, but in a good sort of way. I hadn’t realized how much I’d needed this. And I probably wasn’t the only one, what with Starr having just been chosen, and Ajia keeping tabs on a million different things with Mew.

Speaking of which… Ajia’s reply to Starr’s most recent jab at her tastes was definitely the sort of vague “uh huh” you’d expect from someone distracted by psychic conversation.

Starr snapped her fingers in front of Ajia’s face. “Hey, you awake? I was trying to say that anyone who’d rank Falkner so high can’t possibly have their head on straight.”

Ajia blinked at her as though coming out of a daze. “Right, right, sorry,” she said sheepishly. She glanced back and forth between us, putting her fingers together. “Hey so… now might be a bad time, but…”

“Let me take a wild guess,” Starr cut in, resting an elbow on the table. “Mew has more bad news?”

Ajia smiled weakly.

Starr gave her a deadpan stare. “No. I don’t care if the cabin is on fire, I want to have one meal in peace.”

I rubbed the back of my head. “I… kind of care if the cabin’s on fire.”

Ajia sighed. “Let me just…”

She retreated to the bathroom, most likely so that Mew could teleport her discreetly.

After watching her go, Starr leaned back in her seat with a heavy scoff. “Every day with the bullshit, I swear it never ends. I was hoping there’d be at least some break.”

I poked at my noodles vaguely, just for the sake of having something to do. “I mean, I’m kind of curious about it.”

Starr just rolled her eyes at that. Pichu was still chewing through a plate of fried tofu, seemingly oblivious to any concerns. I wished I could be like that.

Before long, Ajia was back. “Hey, sooo, we should probably…”

Starr groaned. “You don’t have to say it.” She shoved several large bites of noodles into her mouth before standing up from the booth, making sure to keep the disapproval plainly visible on her face.

I hesitantly stood up and followed after her, equal parts anxious and bewildered. What exactly was waiting back at the cabin? It was obviously something concerning, but not so concerning as to be cause for emergency? I wasn’t sure what to make of that. My brain kept trying to imagine something dire, like when we’d gotten the news about Viridian, but…

Not much time to wonder. We’d already paid for our food, so Ajia led all three of us outside, and Mew teleported us away. Our surroundings melted into forest, with a gray sky overhead. Cool air suddenly swept over me, and a harsh voice came into focus.

“—the same thing when I spoke to you last month, and the answer hasn’t changed.”

It was a weird scene. Lugia and Ho-oh standing near the cabin, both looking somewhat incredulous. And there, in the center of the clearing, staring up at them, was—

“Suicune,” I gasped.

The beast turned at the mention of its name, narrowing its eyes at us. I avoided eye contact, but couldn’t help stealing a moment’s glance once it had turned away. That glimmering crystal and rippling mane and ribbon-like tails. The very picture of graceful elegance. Last seen tearing through Viridian, knocking cars aside with blades of wind.

I swallowed hard and looked away. Lugia met eyes with me, and I felt a weird sense of… embarrassment? What had they been talking about?

“Is this just gonna be the official Legendary headquarters?” Starr grumbled, throwing her arms in the air. “You guys wanna put up a neon sign that says, ‘Rockets come here’?”

“I did not come here to speak with humans,” Suicune said, tossing its head.

Starr let out a scoff. “Yeah, well, you sure picked a weird place to show up if you didn’t.”

The beast did a double take. “Excuse me?” it asked, approaching her. “What makes you think that you can—”

“I would ask that you not threaten my chosen,” Ho-oh said calmly, stepping forward.

Suicune squinted up at the phoenix in confusion before a look of realization dawned. “So it’s true,” it said, glancing around at the others. “You all have resorted to consorting with humans.”

Mew tilted her head. <That wasn’t a secret. We’ve spoken about following the chosen pact for some time now.>

“I’m curious how we are meant to locate chosen candidates without consorting with humans,” Ho-oh added. “Would you have us select one from the masses, knowing nothing about them?” Its voice held a twinge of amusement.

Suicune gave Lugia a look. “I didn’t think you put any stock in things like that.”

Lugia avoided the beast’s eye. <I stand by my decision,> it said vaguely.

Mew drifted forward, tail curled around herself. <I’ve been hoping to speak with you about the chosen pact. I know you have concerns, but since we last spoke, three more—>

“We didn’t come here to talk about that,” Suicune cut in bluntly.


The beast glanced over its shoulder impatiently. “Are you going to hide back there all day?” it called out. “You were the one who insisted that we speak with Mew.”

What? Who was it talking to?

Footsteps. Talons crunching dried grass and gravel. A golden thunderbird slowly emerged from the trees, glancing around pensively in a way that didn’t quite fit someone so imposing.

<Zapdos!> Mew exclaimed, flying over. <It’s been so long, I… I was worried.>

Zapdos nodded distantly, eyes trained on the ground.

Mew clapped her paws together. <Oh, but Moltres! They’ll want to see you! I must tell them you’re here.>

Zapdos opened its beak, but Mew was already gone. The thunderbird stared at where she’d left with a pained look on its face. Almost like… it didn’t want to?

Ho-oh let out a sigh. “I suspect this is going to be difficult.”

I had no idea what to make of that. We hadn’t seen Zapdos or Suicune all this time, and I’d always just assumed there had to be a good reason for it. Having the both of them show up now, without any warning… It felt bizarre. I mean, we really could have used their help on more than one occasion.

Mew reappeared with a flash, and she wasn’t alone. Moltres took one look at the scene and froze, staring with its beak hanging open. “So, you’re really here?”

Zapdos glanced away sheepishly. Moltres’s eyes were wide with… relief? But then it squinted, flames crackling. “Why is this the first I’ve seen of you since I was freed? It has been nearly a month.”

Zapdos closed its eyes. “I’m sorry.”

The firebird blinked incredulously, like it had been expecting more than that. “I was not looking for an apology. I was looking to know why. Why were you not a part of this group’s efforts? What have you been doing?”

Zapdos shuffled a talon against the dirt awkwardly. “I have… been avoiding the humans,” it said in a low voice.

Moltres scrutinized the thunderbird with a skeptical look. “So, you have been hiding?” it said finally.

Zapdos nodded softly.

The silence was tangible. No one seemed to know how to react to that. I couldn’t help feeling a pang of sympathy. Zapdos obviously didn’t want to be here, and now it had to endure all these judging looks.

Mew’s ears flattened. <It must have been painful, when Articuno and Moltres were taken. But you didn’t need to face it alone. I could have—>

“Helped?” Suicune finished, glowering at Mew. “You wanted Zapdos to forget. To forget about the pain that the humans caused, and keep their focus on your goal of making peace. Typical. Passive. Forbid us from taking action but refuse to do anything yourself.”

Moltres raised its brow. “And what has your rhetoric achieved? A year of wallowing in misery?”

Zapdos flinched. Suicune tossed its head indignantly. “Regardless. I thought it fair that you should know—both of us were approached by Mewtwo.”

“Mewtwo?” Moltres asked incredulously.

“He asked us to join him in putting a stop to the human threat.” Suicune went on. “I’m still undecided on what I think of him.”

“It seemed best to discuss it first,” Zapdos added.

Mew drifted around, looking up in thought. <Mewtwo approached us as well, but… he didn’t say he’d been trying to recruit anyone else.>

“Obviously he had his reasons,” Suicune said dismissively. “I can’t say I’m not considering it.”

“Yes, well, that’s not surprising given your actions last year,” Ho-oh said dryly.

Suicune’s nostrils flared, but it didn’t bother responding to the phoenix. Rather, it turned to Mew expectantly and asked, “What do you have to say?”

Mew tilted her head. <Hm?>

“Your reasoning. Why we shouldn’t join Mewtwo.”

<I wasn’t aware that’s what this was about,> Mew said, puzzled. <Did he tell you what he was planning?>

Suicune glanced away. “Who’s to say,” it said, impassive.

<We need to know,> Mew said, suddenly in Suicune’s face. <If he’s planning another incident like what happened in Viridian—>

“We tried to strike a blow against the enemy,” Suicune cut in, taking a step back. “And you would blame us for that?” It glanced around hopefully, like it was expecting someone to take its side. But no one came forward.

“I made my opinion quite clear that night, I believe,” Ho-oh said, unusually cold. My mind flashed back to that image of Lugia and Ho-oh locked in combat in the night sky.

Suicune narrowed its eyes. “You speak as though I was alone.” It snapped its gaze to Lugia suddenly.

The clearing went silent, all eyes on my patron. Twinges of awkward shame drifted from its mind.

Finally, Lugia looked away. <I… we had decided that taking action was better than waiting for them to come after us.> The legend paused for a few seconds, then added, <It may not have been the best decision. It was unnecessarily risky.>

Suicune took a step back. “So now even you?” It stared up at Lugia imploringly, but the seabird still wouldn’t meet its eye.

The beast glanced among all the legends. “None of you are willing to fight for our right to live as we please?” it said, and this time there was an edge of something else in its voice. Pleading?

<We have been fighting,> Mew said gently, holding both paws out. <We’ll be stronger together.>

Suicune stepped back again, shaking its head. “All you care about is the chosen pact. Entei and Raikou were taken, and I was left with no one. You saved Moltres but not Articuno. I expect you’ll save Raikou and expect me to be grateful, understanding that saving Entei is too much to ask.” It glanced over its shoulder. “Zapdos was the only one who knew what it was like. Everyone else just had empty sympathy.”

<I want to save everyone in then end,> Mew insisted. <But we may need the chosen pact to even be able to help the others.> She paused, closing her eyes. <And we need you.>

Suicune let out a harsh, bitter laugh. “So good to know that I’m one of the chosen few, that I’m necessary. I didn’t ask to be. I didn’t ask for my worth to hinge on a human.”

Mew drifted closer, her face only a few inches from Suicune’s. <Protecting the world means protecting all parts of it. Including humans.>

Suicune wouldn’t meet her eye. “Unyielding as ever… It’s no wonder Mewtwo wouldn’t speak of his aims.” Its voice didn’t hold nearly as much conviction as before, though.

Zapdos shook its head. “Perhaps I should go. It was unwise to come here.” Without warning, the thunderbird spread its wings and took off.

Moltres jolted, its flames flickering with agitation. “Wait! Perhaps I was too harsh. I just…”

Zapdos kept flying, soaring over the trees and out of sight. Moltres spread its wings to take off, but then—

A narrow spurt of bubbles shot through the air and hit Moltres on the wing in a plume of steam. The phoenix jumped backward, affronted.

“Leave them be!” Suicune snapped. “They don’t have to if they don’t want to.”

Moltres glowered at the beast, but then turned and spread its wings again. Another Bubblebeam, larger this time, but Moltres ignored it, taking to the air and soaring after Zapdos.

Lugia gave Suicune a tired look. <Why are you like this?>

“You are the one who has lost all spine,” the beast spat.

I didn’t want to be a part of any of this, and I somehow didn’t think that it would be helpful to stand here watching this disagreement. Part of me wished that Starr and I could have just stayed back at the restaurant and had Mew catch us up later.

Whatever, I was pretty sure that no one would notice if I left, and I was right. I ducked around the side of the cabin and let out a huge breath as I leaned a shoulder against the wall. Unsurprisingly, Starr joined me.

“Well, that was a friggin’ disaster,” Starr said, stretching her arms above her head. “They’re supposed to all be united against the Rockets? What a joke.”

I rubbed my arm. “Understanding the other legends better will be helpful, I think. Even if they’re… like that.”

Starr snorted. “Yeah, well, Mew’s got her work cut out for her if she wants those two to work with us.”

It had been easy to feel like we were making progress after Starr was chosen. Four down, three to go. Of course it couldn’t be that simple. Not with one of the three captured and the other two avoiding Mew for various reasons.

I winced as paws suddenly gripped my shoulder. Chibi, leaping up to his usual perch—it was just close enough to the new skin that it stung.

“*We’re following them,*” he said sharply.

I hadn’t even realized he was here. But of course he must have been watching the whole thing. He didn’t even have to elaborate. I knew what he wanted.

<Did you see where Zapdos went?> I asked Lugia.

<They didn’t fly far,> Lugia replied privately. <I suppose they probably still want to speak to the others, but aren’t sure how.>

<Can you take us there? Chibi wants to talk to Zapdos.>

<The half-legend?> Lugia paused, thinking. <I suppose that makes sense. Very well, come with me.>

Lugia gladly excused itself from the discussion and came around the back of the cabin to get us. We soared low over the forest, Lugia’s very presence creating winds that whipped the trees about in our path. I kept my eyes on the ground, searching…

There, ahead of us, in a gap between the trees—a flash of yellow. Lugia flared its wings and we zeroed in on it.

Moltres was just leaving; the firebird gave us a sideways look as we passed. Lugia landed in the clearing, and Zapdos looked up with a weary expression.

“I came here to get away from the others,” it said tiredly.

<I’m not staying,> Lugia replied tersely.

I slid down from the seabird’s back, and it spread its wings to take off again. Zapdos watched it leave, then looked down at me with a puzzled look. It had prepared itself to be harassed by more legends, but here I was, just a human. And also…

Chibi hopped down from my shoulder and padded over to Zapdos, slowing as he approached. The thunderbird stared down its pointed beak at him, tilting its head ever so slightly with intrigue.

“*Do you know what I am?*” Chibi asked, leaping onto a rock so that he could stand at least a little taller.

Zapdos still towered over the hybrid, regarding him carefully. “*You are the half-legend.*”

Chibi’s ears lowered slightly. He must have been expecting something more than that.

“And,” the legend went on, “you were also born of my essence. You hold my strength.”

The Pikachu relaxed slightly at that, though the clearing still held an air of awkward tension.

“*I’ve been hoping to see you for a long time,*” he said finally.

Zapdos let out a weary sigh. “Yes, I imagine you have wondered like the others why I have been shirking my duty.”

Chibi furrowed his brow, confused. “*That’s not it.*”

The thunderbird paused, taken aback. “That was an unfair assumption. You must have many questions for me, being the one born from my strength.” It gave an awkward chuckle. “This is rather new for me. I suppose it would be new for anyone other than Mew.”

Chibi’s eyes were steely. “*I don’t know what I should be. I don’t know what to do with your strength. I’ve been fighting the Rockets all my life. First for my freedom. Then for revenge. And now…*”

Zapdos gazed at him carefully. “Revenge?”

Chibi’s paws clenched. His ears quivered. “*They took someone from me. Someone important.*”

Zapdos didn’t say anything for some time. It gazed down at him with a look of growing understanding. “They took someone important to me too. But I suspect that you speak of something more permanent.”

Chibi looked down, nodding softly. That night on Midnight Island that we’d never forget.

Zapdos dug a talon into the earth pensively. “Who did you lose?”

“*I called him Razors.*”

“You fight for him, then?”

Chibi glanced away. “*He was tired of fighting. He wanted to live a quiet life. I called him a coward for it.*”

The silence was thick. Chibi’s paws clenched, tail trembling ever so slightly.

Zapdos let out a long sigh. “After my siblings were taken, I allowed myself to be consumed by rage and hatred, and took many human lives. Perhaps they deserved it, but I have no way of knowing.” The thunderbird paused, staring up into the gray sky. “I was afraid of what I had become, and so I retreated from the fight. I abandoned my duty, and I abandoned Mew.” It glanced back at Chibi, suddenly wistful. “The idea of a quiet life, free from the fight… it sounds nice.”

A soft breeze stirred the trees, ruffling the pointed feathers on both of them.

“You must think very little of me now,” Zapdos said quietly.

Chibi stared up at the thunderbird, perplexed. “*Why would I?*”

Zapdos turned away, taking a few delicate steps through the clearing’s dried grass. “Well, I can’t imagine I’ve lived up to whatever you imagined of me. If there’s a correct way to use the strength of a legend, I’ve hardly done so.”

Chibi’s ears flattened, and he stared downward, looking troubled. “*You don’t need to. It’s different for the legends.*”

Zapdos glanced back at him. “Is it?”

“*The Rockets used me to find a way to imprison all of you,*” Chibi muttered, his fur bristling. “*My entire existence hurts you.*”

Zapdos let out a low, ironic chuckle, waving a wing dismissively. “I’d hardly say we’re so important that our troubles should be elevated so high. But… ah, that’s selfish of me to say. If they use our power, countless others will be harmed. Not just us.” The thunderbird steeled itself. “If you want to protect others, do it for that, not to make up for what your existence did to us. We’re hardly worth that.”

Chibi gazed up at the legend, flickers of doubt and confusion crossing his face. “*I still don’t know what I should be doing with this power.*”

Zapdos fixed him with a laser focus, and for once it was so easy to see the similarity in their eyes. “Do not make the mistake of thinking that any of us truly understands what it means to be Legendary. We’ve had more time to figure it out than you have, but…” Its voice trailed off.

“We’re all just… trying to protect the world,” the legend said quietly. “Sometimes it’s not enough, but it’s all we can do. And… I have not been trying hard enough. In my grief, and my regret, I allowed myself to grow complacent with inaction. Perhaps Suicune is right.”

Zapdos let out a heavy sigh. “I need some time.” Its eyes drifted to me. “Please tell Mew that I’ll speak with her again. When I’m ready.”

I nodded.

Zapdos looked down at Chibi one last time. “And please live for yourself. That is my wish.”

Chibi stared at the thunderbird for a few moments before giving a slow nod and rejoining me without a word.

We walked off into the trees. Chibi sat on my shoulder, pensive. I could have called for Lugia to take us back to the cabin, but not yet. Right now, it was just us.

“*I always thought the Legendaries were above the rest of us,*” he said in a low voice.

I smiled weakly. “It’s pretty easy to feel like that.” I’d felt that way for the longest time. Only just recently had I started to see otherwise.

“*I thought that I had to live up to them,*” he went on. “*That I had to make up for my existence. Then I tried to figure out how to live for myself. Because it was what he would’ve wanted.*” His paws clenched my shirt. “*But I don’t know what that means.*”

I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but I found myself lifting my arm and laying a hand on the fur of his back.

He looked up at me, relaxing. “*I suppose it’s fine if I haven’t figured myself out yet. Neither have they.*”

~End Chapter 53~

Next chapter: Diplomacy

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Two months, not too bad, all things considered! And Chapter 55 should be coming before too long as well. We're really getting into the thick of things now~

~Chapter 54: Diplomacy~


Air rushed past, streaming through my hair, my sleeves. My eyes watered, squinting at the trees below, my hands clutching at feathers. Our flight path was perfectly level, the way ahead clear. So far so good. I squeezed gently with my thighs and Swift banked into a smooth, gradual turn. I leaned into it like I always would, keeping my head low and my shoulders tensed and…

A sudden jolt of white-hot pain lanced across my back. My hands relaxed just for a second, grip loosening—I felt my balance suddenly shift sideways, and—!

Swift tilted himself abruptly the other way and I fell flat on his back, heart pounding. He glanced back at me with concern, but before he could offer to call off the practice, I said, “Let’s try that one again.”

He obliged, first waiting for me to ready myself, then tilting his wings and turning left in a wide arc. I kept my arms loose, my body almost completely flat against him, now very aware of each muscle in my back making the tiny adjustments needed to keep balance. It all felt foreign, detached, like there was a degree of separation between my body and brain.

I nudged Swift again to say ‘another one,’ and he banked into another turn, sharper this time. I leaned into it, trying to stay in that sweet spot to avoid straining anything. But my torso was sliding too far to the left, and I had to tighten my shoulders, and a flare of buzzing static tore across my back. Swift evened our flight and I sank against him, breathing hard.

“It still hurts,” I gasped out, clutching his feathers tightly. But I couldn’t just sit things out today. We couldn’t afford that.

“*If it hurts, we should stop,*” Swift said, gently drifting toward the ground.

I swallowed. “Well, if all goes well, I shouldn’t even need to ride any of you today.” This just confirmed what we already knew—that I was better off with the ground squad than the air squad. And yet, it still stung.

Swift flared his wings to slow our flight, and we touched down next to the rest of the team. Firestorm and Stygian were doing a few basic block-parry drills with Metal Claw and Night Slash while Aros hurled small rocks into the air for Chibi’s target practice.

“Everyone ready?” I asked the team. My eyes lingered on Jet, who was sitting off to the side, yawning widely.

It had been two weeks since she’d trained with the rest of the team. And while she’d been sparring constantly with Rudy’s team that whole time, that was almost definitely singles training, not the chaotic multi-battling that we’d learned on the Rebellion.

The Floatzel noticed I was staring at her and gave me a look, so I’d have to say something.

“You’re sure that you’re up for this? Been practicing your Prote—”

“*Yeah, yeah, o’ course,*” she cut in, scratching behind her ear.

I wasn’t sure if I believed her. Part of me wanted to remind her what had happened to Skarmory—what had happened to her—during the last mission. But that seemed too harsh. So I just said, “That’s good,” and wandered over to where Ajia was standing next to Lugia.

She glanced at me as I approached, eyes lighting up. “Hey, check it out, I think we’ve just about got it,” she said proudly, gesturing to the legend.

I glanced up at Lugia and nodded. “Looks pretty good. Although…”—I tilted my head at the seabird’s stoic air—“the expression isn’t quite right.”

‘Lugia’ frowned. The towering legend swept its wings forward to send a rush of wind at my face, and I closed my eyes reflexively. But of course, it was fake—my hair didn’t move at all.

“I don’t think anyone but me would notice, though!” I added quickly.

Zoroark folded his illusory wings and gave a self-satisfied nod.

“Oughta fool the Rockets at least,” Ajia added with a grin. “This way the two of us can fly with Aerodactyl and no one would even see me.” And if they tried to fire on “Lugia” they’d be in for a surprise.

The mission was a two-pronged attack. While Ajia and Mew led the air squad to intercept the Rockets’ supply shipment, the rest of us on the ground would be investigating that new warehouse in Indigo. To figure out what the Rockets were doing there, and if it really was ‘just’ a warehouse, or something more involved than that.

Rudy was still clearing things with his team, hyping Fearow up along with Ebony and Breloom. Tyranitar sat off to the side, eyes half-lidded—it was pretty unlikely that she’d see any action today given how Rudy was going with the air squad. Darren was running teleport drills with Alakazam while Weavile tried in vain to hit them with Icy Wind, only to come up several seconds short each time.

“*Quit goin’ so fast!*” the dark-type hissed, panting hard with bits of frost clinging to her fangs.

“*That would defeat the point,*” Alakazam replied flatly.

The next time they vanished, he and Darren reappeared at my side. Ebony promptly bounded over and gave each of us a lick as Rudy wandered in our direction with his hands in his pockets.

“Sucks that we’re not on the same squad for this,” he mumbled.

“I can’t fly that well,” I said lamely, holding both hands up.

“And, uh, I don’t have a flier on my team anymore,” Darren added, rubbing the back of his head.

Rudy paused to think, idly kicking at the grass. “You could go with Fearow like we did in Hoenn,” he said, gesturing to the bird.

“Wouldn’t you have to fly with Moltres, then?” Darren pointed out.

A flicker of realization crossed Rudy’s face. “Maybe.”

Darren raised an eyebrow. “Soo, I take it you’re cool with the League seeing you riding Moltres? No issues with that?”

“Alright, fine, stay on the boring mission then,” Rudy grumbled, folding his arms.

“Look at it this way,” I offered, “it just means you’ll have more of a story for us when we get back to the cabin tonight.”

Rudy dug his shoe into the dirt. “I guess.”

He held out a fist, and Darren and I tapped it with our own.

It wasn’t just him. I also wanted to go back to the days when it was the three of us on the Rebellion, and everything felt more doable. But those days were long gone.

I watched as Rudy and Ajia, along with Lugia, Ho-oh, and Moltres took to the air and flew out of sight. That left me, Darren, and Starr making the final preparations before heading out on our own mission.

Just investigating a warehouse. Figuring out what the Rockets were doing in Indigo and how urgent it was. Nothing too serious.

…Maybe if I told myself that enough, it’d be true.


“So you guys used to just waltz right into the base back when you were on the rebel team. How do you plan to get anywhere without Sebastian’s bullshit?” Starr gave me a sideways glance.

Darren held up a finger. “I figured that’s why you’re here.”

She let out a snort. “Got me there.”

The three of us were standing in an alley across the street from a rather nondescript parking garage in Indigo, along with Chibi, Raichu, and Alakazam. Like Ajia had said, just a couple of security guards out front. A few blocks to our right was the same construction site Ajia and I had been scoping out only a few days ago. We’d been this close to a Rocket storage facility and we hadn’t even known it.

My watch beeped. Fifteen minutes since Ajia had messaged us saying that their ambush was a go. No messages since then—no news was good news in this case, but it didn’t keep me from wondering.

“Welp, guess it’s time to find out how much of a mess this is gonna be,” Starr said, cracking her knuckles. She motioned to Raichu and said, “Alright, you’re up.”

He stood at attention before dashing across the street and into the security booth. I carefully avoided watching as he dealt with the guards, and once we were sure no one else was coming, we made our way across the street. I peeked inside the booth, checked the security cameras… nothing too special. Part of me wanted to just say that this was an ordinary parking garage, except for the part where Ajia had definitely seen Rocket-owned trucks heading here.

“Yeah, this sure as hell doesn’t look like any base entrance I’ve ever seen,” Starr said dismissively. “Hell, maybe Ajia gave us the wrong place.” I was pretty sure she didn’t believe that.

I sidled past the traffic arm, followed by Starr, Raichu, and Darren. Alakazam teleported in after us, causing Starr to mutter, “Show off.”

The main floor was mostly empty, save for a lineup of trucks and shipping containers off to the left. Aside from that, the only thing of note was a service elevator on the far wall and a ramp leading underground. Nothing obviously Rocket-y at first glance. Maybe the supplies could give us a clue?

“This is the enemy’s hideout? It isn’t very well-defended.”

I nearly jumped out of my skin, whirling around to find myself face-to-face with—

“Suicune?! What are you doing here?” I blurted out.

Starr almost tripped. “God damn—giving me a heart attack, that’s what,” she snapped.

The Legendary beast stood there, framed by the entrance to the garage, mane and tails rippling as always, despite the lack of wind. It glanced around the unremarkable concrete space. “I am here for my own reasons. Your presence is irrelevant.”

“You didn’t need to follow us,” Darren pointed out. “You could have just said you wanted to come with.”

Suicune glowered at him for a few seconds, but then gave Starr and me a sideways glance. “Where are your so-called ‘patrons,’ anyway?”

“They’re intercepting the Rockets’ shipment,” I said. Then, after a moment’s pause: “You know, they probably could have used your help.”

Suicune didn’t reply. The beast padded forward, walking past without looking at us.

I let out a sigh. Alright fine, Suicune was here, I guess. Hopefully it just wanted to look around to feel like it was doing something since it hated inaction so much. I tried forcing myself to look at anything else—but there really wasn’t much else. It was a parking garage. Maybe we could check out the service elevator?

“I don’t want to be near that thing,” Starr muttered under her breath.

I glanced over my shoulder. Suicune had taken to sniffing at the trucks’ wheels and pawing at the side of a shipping container.

“Me neither,” I admitted. Having a Legendary with us was supposed to feel reassuring. That was a lot more firepower if we got into a fight. Instead, I just felt… unnerved.

“*I’ll check out the lower floors,*” Chibi said, leaping down from my shoulder and descending the ramp into darkness.

That left us with figuring out if there was anything of interest up here. While I paced around the closest shipping container, Darren took the liberty of hitting the button for the service elevator. To my surprise, it dinged, and the door slid open.

“Well,” Darren said, gesturing inside with an awkward laugh. “Where to?”

Starr folded her arms. “If there are any Rockets here, they’d be upstairs. We use that thing, we’re basically just strolling right up to their front door.”

Darren grinned sheepishly. “I was mostly joking.” He glanced over his shoulder at the shipping containers and added, “I guess for an actual suggestion, we could try cutting one of those open?”

Starr just shrugged, so Darren went ahead and let out Weavile, who drew her claws across each other with a dramatic flourish. She approached the side of the container, eyeballing it for an ideal place to cut, but then—

The crunch of metal caught my ear behind us. Suicune had just torn the lock from the back of the same shipping container and was now nudging the door open with its nose.

“Oh. Or we could do that, yeah,” Darren said while Weavile crossed her arms with a pout.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I rounded the edge of the container and peeked inside. But there it was—in the shadowed interior, the unmistakable silhouette of an ALR.

“Alright fine, I guess there’s Rockets here,” Starr grumbled.

Suicune gave a self-satisfied snort. Then it drew itself back, gathering a blue glow in its mouth.

I blanched. “Wait, wait!” I yelled, crossing my hands back and forth. “If we destroy that thing, the Rockets will definitely know we’re here.”

Suicune tossed its head. “And why should I avoid that result?”

“I… wh…” I clenched my fingers, struggling to find the words to explain something so obvious.

“If you’re reeeally set on doing that, at least let us help you, yeah?” Darren said, sidling in between me and Suicune.

I blinked at him. “What are you doing?” I hissed.

Darren put a hand to the side of his mouth. “We’re not gonna convince it to lay off. The least we can do is make sure it doesn’t get caught, yeah?”

I paused. “Right. You’re right.” We’d done this sort of thing all the time on the Rebellion last year. That was the whole point of half our missions. So why did it make me so anxious now?

Suicune had already stopped paying attention to us. It took a stance in front of the container, inhaled deeply, and—

“I don’t like this,” Starr hissed.

A bright jet of water shot from the beast’s mouth, crashing against the machine. It toppled over immediately with a loud clang and the squealing of metal. Suicune fired another burst at its side and the cannon on top ripped clean from the base.

I stared. Suicune gave a small huff, but at the same time, it did look slightly… perplexed.

“That was way too easy,” I said in a low voice. Almost like it wasn’t even…

A piercing alarm split the air with flashing red lights along the ceiling.

Starr threw her arms in the air. “Of course. What’d I tell you?”

My eyes darted around the area, sizing it up. Too many concrete pillars, bad maneuverability for fliers. My hands flew to my pockets and I let out Stygian and Jet in a flash, then ducked behind a concrete pillar, straining my ears to hear any other sounds over the alarm. No footsteps or shouting, as far as I could tell.

“*What’s the deal, where’s the bad guys?*” Jet asked loudly.

“None yet,” I replied, squeezing my temples and willing my brain to focus. If this was a trap like Starr thought, why hadn’t we been ambushed? I kept expecting to see the elevator door opening and a swarm of Rockets pouring out, but—

Suicune let out a snarl and fired another beam, punching clean through another shipping container. This one was empty. None of these containers held anything of value, did they?

A sound behind me—the crunch of grinding metal. I spun around to see the garage door partially closed with Feraligatr holding it open, the metal bowing around her claws.

“Can we get the hell out of here now?” Starr asked, gesturing roughly to us from outside.

Right, what was I doing bracing for a fight if there wasn’t one? I jumped to my feet, motioned to Jet and Stygian, and broke into a run.

And then a bulky shadow passed behind Starr, and my stomach dissolved into nothing. That silhouette—a hulking beast with jagged spikes and smoky tail…

Starr’s brow furrowed. “What’s with that loo—”

“Entei!!” Suicune cried.

Starr whirled around, leaping back from the doorway like it was on fire. Feraligatr pushed her aside, already glinting with the white light of Protect. I skidded to a halt and lunged for the nearest pillar even as my brain screamed that there was no way I’d make it in time. In my head, I could already see it, that shimmering heat wave rippling outward from the beast before everything erupted into flames. This time it wouldn’t just be my back, it’d be everything, everything…

“*Focus!*” a sharp voice rapped.

My eyes snapped open on a yellow face, inches from mine. Chibi, standing in my lap, fixing me with a piercing gaze.

Nothing was on fire. Still no Rockets. Jet and Stygian were staring out the garage entrance, looking confused.

“Let’s go,” Starr said in a low voice, grabbing my arm and pulling me to my feet.

We ducked under the door and Feraligatr let go, allowing it to slowly clatter downward, now partially crumpled around the middle. Darren and Alakazam teleported out a second later. Inside, the alarm continued to sound.

Already, I found my eyes tracing the buildings, expecting to see Rockets with Master Ball cannons lurking around every corner. But there was no one else around. Just Suicune facing down Entei, right in the middle of the street. It was surreal. They could’ve trapped us if they’d wanted. What was going on?

“Where is the scum that controls you?!” Suicune barked, glancing sharply in every direction.

No one moved. We all stood staring at the pair of beasts, waiting to see who’d make the first move. Suicune’s eyes darted around, still hunting for the enemy.

And then Entei bolted, taking off down the street.

“Come back!” Suicune howled, dashing after it.

Chibi leaped ahead of me, tail twitching. “*I’ll stick with Suicune, I can deflect any Master Balls if the Rockets show up.*”

I nodded. “Go.” And he raced off after them.

As if he knew what I was thinking, Darren said, “We’ll keep an eye on them,” before he and Alakazam vanished.

“We’ll follow them too,” Darren added. “I figured we can check the side streets for Rockets while we’re at it.” He nodded to Alakazam, and the two of them blinked out of sight.

“Jade, Ho-oh’s asking if we need help, what the hell do I tell it?” Starr asked, holding a hand to her temple like she was straining to think.

Did we need help? Probably. But we couldn’t afford to let the League see us working with the legends, and this was just about the worst place for it to happen, too.

“Tell it we ran into trouble, but it’s not an emergency yet.” If we really needed them, we could call for Mew and Ajia. But not yet.

“God, I don’t want to know what counts as an emergency, then,” Starr muttered.

A loud crash echoed through the air, coming from the construction site. Starr groaned heavily before recalling Feraligatr and releasing Arcanine.

“I know you’re gonna say we should keep an eye on them,” she said, motioning for me to climb on after her.

I recalled Jet and Stygian, threw a leg over Arcanine’s back, and only had a second to grab hold of Starr before the firedog leaped forward, clearing two city blocks within seconds. Just a straight line—no twisting, swerving movements, nothing like the test flight earlier. And yet I couldn’t help flinching, expecting a flash of pain any second.

The construction site was totally deserted (had the workers heard the commotion and fled?). Arcanine ducked down behind an excavator where we could watch without being out in the open.

Fierce winds tore the air, whipping the dirt into a frenzy. Squinting through the cloud of dust, I could make out Entei leaping up the metal framework of the unfinished building. Blasts of water shot past the fire beast, some hitting nothing but air, others snapping girders in two. One cut straight through a heavy chain fastened around a huge concrete tube, sending it plummeting to the ground with an enormous thud.

Entei was just… dodging everything. Every so often it sent a rush of flames at its pursuer, but even that seemed defensive in nature, relying on the great plumes of steam from fire meeting water.

I wasn’t sure who to root for. This whole battle shouldn’t have even been happening and we had no way to stop it. The Rockets had to be nearby. This was maddening.

And then out of nowhere, a bolt of lightning split the air from above. I sank back against the excavator, cupping my hands over my ears and feeling my pulse skyrocket. Lightning, here? I couldn’t help suddenly imagining that Raikou had arrived, completing the trio. But no, that didn’t make any sense, it had to be—

I squinted up at the clouds above, my eyes locking onto a distinct, jagged silhouette rapidly descending.

“Zapdos!” I called out, feeling a rush of relief. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here!”

The huge, golden thunderbird turned at the sound of my voice, then swooped down to land in the alley next to us with a rush of air that sent cardboard boxes flying.

“I was concerned about Suicune acting rashly,” it said, looking over the disheveled construction site. “And… I was tired of hiding.”

Starr jerked a thumb over her shoulder. “Yeah, well, if you could get these two to knock it off, that’d be real swell.”

“Where are your patrons?” Zapdos asked, fixing its gaze on us.

“They’re off on another mission,” I said. “We’re not supposed to be seen working with them.”

Zapdos blinked slowly, processing that. “I suppose I shouldn’t be here, then.”

“No, we really could use your help,” I admitted. “We just need to keep out of it as much as we can.”

Zapdos bowed its head. “Understood.”

The thunderbird turned to face the construction site, squinting through the cloud of dust obscuring everything. It had just spread its wings, preparing to take off, when a jagged blue beam crashed against its chest, scattering flecks of snow across the ground. What? What was…

I jerked my head upward just in time to see a second beam heading right for us. My eyes went wide a second before Zapdos spread its wing overhead, shielding us from the rush of cold air spilling out around its feathers.

“Articuno?!” I blurted out.

“Great, another one,” Starr muttered.

Zapdos retracted its wing and then, with a pained look, fired a string of lightning at the ice bird. It swerved to the side, drawing itself back for another beam. And then a jet of water shot from the dust cloud, knocking Articuno into the side of the closest building and sending glass raining down from the impact. A few seconds later, Suicune burst from the cloud of dust, a few scorch marks on its pelt, but otherwise mostly unharmed.

“I am going to free Entei,” it announced. “Will you aid me?”

Zapdos’s gaze had drifted to Articuno picking itself up from the rubble, a distant sadness in its eyes. “Your group was able to free Moltres, yes?” it said, and it took me a second to realize that it was asking me.

I took a deep breath. “Yeah, but that’s only because we tricked the Rockets. We probably won’t get a chance to do that here.”

Its face fell. “Yes, of course.”

Suicune stamped a paw, staring pointedly at Zapdos. “My element can best my sibling’s, and the same can be said of yours. We can defeat them—we can save them.”

I wanted to scream. “That’s not how it works—we’d have to destroy the Master Ball.”

Suicune looked impatient. “Well? Are you not planning on doing that eventually?”

“Yeah, but we need a plan!” I shot back. “They’re not just gonna keep the ball somewhere we can grab it.”

Suicune turned away. “Then you ought to devise that plan while we defeat them,” it said, dashing back into the fray.

I clenched my hands on nothing. Fine, I guess we’re doing this then!

Zapdos was looking at me, concerned. I rubbed my eyes and said, “Just try to keep Suicune under control. We don’t want to cause too much damage here.”

The thunderbird nodded and took wing. I watched the legends trade blows, bits of fire and lightning, water and ice shooting out of the dust storm every few seconds. But it didn’t really feel like I was seeing any of it, my mind was too busy racing, trying to process everything. Suicune and Zapdos versus Entei and Articuno, right in the middle of Indigo. Mewtwo had been showing up around here lately. People had been filming his appearances.

We needed to know if anyone was in danger. Needed to know if Zapdos should try to keep the fighting confined to a specific area. Needed to know if the Rockets were nearby. And all of that required getting a view from the air.

Starr and Darren didn’t have any fliers. It had to be me.

“I need to check something out,” I said suddenly. And then, before I could change my mind, I let out Aros and threw a leg over his back.

Starr gawked at me. “Jade, are you insane?”


I tapped Aros’s side and we lifted from the ground. Just a bit of slow, smooth flying. No aerial combat, only scouting. I could handle that.

We reached an altitude that put us hovering just over the highest buildings on the block. From here I could finally see pedestrians several blocks from the construction site, some watching the battle, others running in the opposite direction. The roads nearby had all been blocked off. Several intersections held a small cluster of humans and Pokémon that I assumed were the rangers, waiting to see if the damage would spill out of the construction site. I could only hope that it wouldn’t.

And then I spotted them—two human figures on a rooftop a block away, accompanied by an Altaria and Flygon. It had to be them: the head combat execs, Raven and Ender.

A rush of anger hit me. I hadn’t seen them since the Hoenn incident. And I was tired of them always messing with us. Tired of them always being one step ahead.

I felt Aros tense up beneath me, and I couldn’t blame him. I wanted to get even with them. But was there anything to be gained from fighting them directly?

“*You’re not just going to ignore them, are you?*” Aros asked.

“No, I just…”

Come on, think. There had to be something. If we could distract them while Suicune and Zapdos took down Entei and Articuno. If we could force them to reveal that they were responsible for this, not the Legendaries. Then we’d finally have some leverage.

Aros and I landed next to Starr. “We’ve got company, up there.”

Starr glanced upward with a grimace. “Great, and here I was thinking we wouldn’t have to deal with any assholes today.”

On her order, Arcanine took a flying leap onto an overhang, then a balcony, then up to the rooftop. Aros and I followed them as Arcanine bounded from one building to the next, finally reaching the same one as the Rockets, staring them down from the opposite end of the rooftop.

Both Rockets turned at the sound of our arrival. They had more Pokémon out now—Ninetales, Nidoqueen and Xatu on Ender’s side; Gengar, Kabutops, and Honchkrow on Raven’s. So they obviously must have seen us coming.

“Long time no see, eh?” Ender said with a smirk.

“The hell are you two doing here?” Starr snapped.

“Oh, I’m sure your group would love to find out,” Ender replied smoothly. “Unfortunately, now’s not the time.” He snapped his fingers and Nidoqueen lunged, ice crystals crackling around her fist.

A flash of Pokéballs opening—my team, Starr’s team, colliding with the Rockets’ Pokémon in the center of the rooftop. Firestorm and Swift flapped to gain altitude while dodging spurts of dragonfire that flew past them. Arcanine breathed out a flurry of embers at Rapidash and Flareon, powering the both of them up. And I only just realized what that meant (and ordered everyone on my side to clear out) before the two of them unleashed a raging inferno right in the middle of the rooftop. Ender’s Ninetales promptly jumped in the center, boosting its own firepower before hitting Rapidash with a flash of dancing lights. Feraligatr retaliated with a high-pressure waterjet. Gengar nailed her with a string of lightning. Swift rained blades of wind down from above, forcing the opponents to scatter.

God, this was way too open. Too many fighters, not much cover, no room for either side to mount a defense, half of them getting in each other’s way. Pokémon were dropping left and right.

On the plus side, the lack of cover meant nowhere for Kabutops to hide. I spotted it darting in and out of the fray, and I couldn’t help tensing up. But its slashes were frenzied, shallow, nothing like the critical strike that taken out Swift that one time.

(Bloodstained feathers, only seconds to recall him, falling, falling…)

Aros was still tensed, no doubt itching to jump into the fight. But we needed him and Arcanine to stick with us, in case we needed a getaway.

Altaria and Flygon had both stuck by their trainers’ sides, so Firestorm and Swift were relatively untouched until Honchkrow and Gengar challenged their control of the air. The Rocket Pokémon had the wind at their backs now; their attacks came faster, our side fighting to keep up. Psychic pulses flew from nowhere as Xatu teleported near-constantly, Stygian doing her best to intercept. She slipped in and out of shadows, doing her best to avoid being hit, but the flames were relentless and her fur kept getting scorched. Jet stuck by her side, trying to keep the flames at bay with rushes of Waterfall, but her aim wasn’t the greatest, and Stygian kept getting splashed.

“*What are you doing?*” the Absol snapped, rounding on her.

A heavy punch from Nidoqueen caught Stygian in the side, slamming her into the concrete barrier. Jet retaliated with an Aqua Jet, but was forced to leap back when Kabutops darted in, slashing wildly.

“Jet, get out of there; Stygian, parry with Night Slash!” I yelled.

Stygian picked herself up, sickle lit. Blades clashed with a clang. The Absol danced left and right, deflecting slashes while dodging more punches.

“Aim a Dragon Pulse at Nidoqueen,” I hissed to Aros.

The Flygon went perfectly still, watching the three of them trading blows, waiting for just the right moment when his opponent was open, and then—!

A spurt of violet dragonfire shot forward, colliding with a waterjet that was fired at the exact same time. What?

“*Stay out of the way!*” Stygian snarled, and it took me a second to realize that it wasn’t aimed at us, but at—

Another waterjet shot forward, splashing into Nidoqueen’s chest. She staggered backward, but then caught herself and swung a fist crackling with sparks. A garbled screech rang out and the Aqua Jet collapsed to reveal a coughing and sputtering Floatzel.

“Jet, get out of there!” I snapped, pulse pounding. What was she doing?

A brown blur; Kabutops lunged, blades flashing. Stygian darted in, knocking the blades aside with her claws and kicking Jet out of the way. Slash, parry, slash, parry. Then Nidoqueen struck with her horn and the Absol was forced to raise a Protect, leaving Kabutops free to—

A string of lightning from nowhere! Kabutops seized up, blades dangling at its sides. Chibi? No wait, he was with the Legendaries. It was Raichu! His aim was unreal—he’d managed to hit Kabutops from clear on the other end of the rooftop.

Stygian nodded gratefully in his direction, but her stance was weak, her shoulder fur bloodstained, like she’d been stabbed. Poison Jab? That just left—

Jet was flat on the concrete. Nidoqueen’s fist was sparking. Not hard to figure out what happened there. I sucked in a breath and recalled the Floatzel, and for half a moment I couldn’t help but feel glad that she was out of the fight.

“*How hard is it not to get hit by your allies?*” Aros muttered.

“*Not hard,*” Stygian grumbled in reply.

Not hard—for anyone with multi battle practice.

Aros took that opportunity to breathe out another Dragon Pulse and this time nothing got in the way. A burst of violet dragonfire exploded in Nidoqueen’s face and she stumbled back to her trainer, looking dazed

I gave Stygian a pecha, but even aside from the poison, the jab wound was still bleeding badly. Better to recall her. Still, we weren’t doing too bad overall. Firestorm and Swift looked fine, Ninetales had just fallen on the Rockets’ side, Starr had recalled Rapidash, but Feraligatr was going strong.

Ender was glancing back and forth between the battle and… his communicator. Raven wasn’t paying attention—she was busy watching something on the ground. It didn’t even feel like they were trying. Just like half of our battles with them had been. Was this another distraction? But from what? Something going wrong with the transport mission? But we would’ve heard about it by now…

I had to check.

<How are things on your end?> I asked Lugia.

<We have completed our mission,> Lugia replied. <Ho-oh informed us that your team has encountered trouble. We are preparing to head there.>

I bit my lip. <Well, there’s definitely Rockets in Indigo, we just didn’t get very far with figuring out what they’re doing here before Suicune showed up.>


<It’s trying to free Entei.>

A pause. <Is it succeeding?>

<What do you think?> I replied, deadpan.

Lugia huffed. <I think this could be an opportunity.>

<Or it could just get the League breathing down our neck even more if you guys show up,> I countered.

A prickle of annoyance. <How long are you going to be afraid of that?>

I didn’t know how to answer that, so I didn’t.

“Lugia didn’t have anything to report,” I told Starr. “I’m gonna check with Darren quick.”

“Yeah sure, I’ll hold things down here,” Starr replied as Feraligatr swung an icy fist into Altaria’s head.

I tapped Aros’s side. “Come on, let’s go.”

“*We’re leaving them?*” he asked, incredulous.

“I’m worried about the Legendaries.”

He exhaled slowly. “*Okay.*”

I could tell he wanted to get back at the executives. Hell, I couldn’t even pretend like I didn’t want to. But not falling into their trap was more important.

Aros shot one last longing look at the battle but then vibrated his wings and took us over the edge of the roof.

“Leaving already?” Ender called out. I ignored him, and we put the battle behind us.

The construction site was a disaster. Toppled steel beams and overturned equipment. The excavator we’d been hiding behind was now on its side with one of its doors ripped off. But where had Suicune and Entei gone? They were nowhere to be seen.

A flash of fear hit me that Suicune had been caught while we’d been focused on the executives. But then a loud crash to the north cleared that up pretty quickly. I squinted at the tournament site off in the distance, where a small cloud of smoke was now billowing upward.

Man, why couldn’t this be simple… I pointed that way and Aros zipped down the street. I grit my teeth, struggling to hold on, half wanting to ask him to slow down, but knowing that we couldn’t afford to.

We reached the edge of the tournament site. Mostly empty, although the outer perimeter had gathered a modest crowd of people pointing and murmuring. As we ducked down behind a row of shrubs, I caught a glimpse of scattered bolts and flames in the gap between two stadiums. Then a waterjet crashing against the corner of a restaurant, scattering chunks of concrete across the brick path.

I couldn’t help feeling a wave of déjà vu, flashing back to when the Rockets had set Moltres on the tournament site last month. That time had been a distraction, but this time… this time I had no clue what the point of any of this was. If they were hoping to catch Suicune, they sure were doing a garbage job at it. The only thing any of this had accomplished was getting Suicune super riled up, and—

I could practically feel the gears in my head clicking into place. The Moltres attack last month. Getting people worked up against Legendaries. Luring Suicune here…

The Rockets were trying to bait Suicune into attacking the League! And then people would see it, and—

“We need to get Suicune’s attention,” I hissed.

Aros nodded before taking off again, zooming low over the ground. I held on tight, clenching my teeth as we rounded the edge of the largest stadium to find Entei bolting toward the grand staircase to the League HQ itself, Suicune in hot pursuit. Almost there… just had to focus on anything other than the pain flaring up across my back. I squeezed my hands tight, digging my fingernails into my palm as Aros whipped his tail around, sending a rush of sand right into Suicune’s face.

The beast stopped short, rubbing a paw furiously against its eyes with a snort. Then it jerked its head in our direction and my blood ran cold.

“Y-you have to stop!” I called out. “You’re destroying things!”

“It’s not as though I’m aiming to,” Suicune shot back. “There are not even any humans to be harmed, how can you possibly object?!”

I didn’t know how to explain that it wasn’t just about people being in danger. We couldn’t afford for the Legendaries to look dangerous either.

Suicune took several forceful steps toward us, and Aros recoiled slightly, flaring his wings to look bigger. But all the beast did was stare me dead in the eyes and say, “Look. I’ve nearly defeated Entei on my own. Can’t you free them now?”

“I—we can’t, not without the Master Ball,” I stammered.

“Will it ever be the right time, then?!” Suicune demanded, and the pain in its voice clenched my heart. I didn’t want to just let the Rockets get away with everything. I wanted to free Entei too!

“We can come up with a plan with Mew!” I exclaimed, words spilling out of my mouth without much thought. “We can use an illusion or something, and use that to get close without them seeing—”

Suicune let out a scoff and snapped its head back toward Entei, launching a Hydro Pump that sent the fire beast slamming into the grand stairs, cracks spilling across their surface.

“*It’s not going to stop,*” Aros said bluntly.

“I know,” I muttered, rubbing my eyes.

We had to force Suicune out of here. We had to convince it that Entei couldn’t be freed right now. But how—

We had to knock it out.

It was simple. Elegant. We had to knock Suicune out. What would normally be an absolute disaster in any other situation. Maybe I was insane.

“We have to knock it out.”

“*What?*” Aros glanced back at me incredulously. “*How?*”

I checked in every direction to make sure Raven and Ender weren’t nearby. Then I spotted Zapdos and waved my arms hurriedly to grab its attention. At this point I didn’t even care if the League saw me collaborating with a legend, we just couldn’t let the situation get any worse.

Zapdos flared its wings to land on the edge of a nearby rooftop, still watching Suicune below. “What is it?”

“This was a trap,” I said hurriedly, “but not like you’d think—they weren’t trying to catch or kill any of us, they’re trying to make you guys look bad!”

Zapdos glanced at me, perplexed. “I’m not sure I fully understand, but… you are saying we must leave?”


“But then…” Zapdos looked back at Suicune, concern written all over its face.

I took a deep breath, trying to steel myself for what I was about to ask. “Zapdos. You can stop Suicune, can’t you?”

Zapdos blinked at me in surprise. “Yes…” it said carefully, no doubt piecing together what I was asking.

“Please, we can’t wait any longer.” This was asking too much, I knew it, but we didn’t have any choice.

Zapdos hesitated, avoiding my eye. Conflicted emotions flickered across its face. I didn’t want to push too hard or say to get over it, but we really needed this, and—

“*I’ll do it!*” a voice called out.

I spun around to see Chibi perched on a lamppost, sparks leaping from his fur. Would it be enough? We had to try.

I nodded sharply, and he took a flying leap straight toward Suicune, unleashing a wicked blast of lightning that struck the beast point-blank. Suicune stumbled mid-lunge, eyes going wide with shock. It threw a leg out to catch itself, but then collapsed to its knees, muscles twitching.

I let out a breath. Had we done it? It was still standing, but maybe the paralysis would be enough to…

And then Suicune rounded on us. “Excuse me?!” it snarled, eyes flashing.

It drew itself back, gathering ice crystals in its mouth. My pulse pounded in my ears. Chibi sparked, struggling to call up enough power for another bolt. Aros’s wings buzzed into overdrive, ready to dart out of the way.

And then another bolt stuck from above, twice as big as the last. Suicune howled in pain, its ice attack scattering into harmless mist. The hail of lightning kept going, striking repeatedly and without mercy, and it didn’t stop until the beast had collapsed.

I stared stupidly at the sight, heart still beating uncomfortably hard as sparks flickered around the impact area. I just barely had the chance to register that Zapdos had done it when a flash of light appeared right next to the fallen beast—Alakazam! He tapped a spoon to its side, concentrated hard, and the pair of them vanished.

I blinked at where they’d left for a few seconds until Alakazam returned, this time with Darren, who ran a hand down his face with a huge sigh of relief. Then he gave me an awkward look and said, “Thaaaat’s probably going to bite us later.”

Alakazam coughed. “*That is an understatement,*” the psychic muttered under his breath.

I let out a laugh somewhere between incredulity and relief. “Doesn’t matter, at least we got Suicune out of here.”

With a whoosh of air and the clicking of talons on stone, Zapdos landed next to us, face wracked with guilt. “I shouldn’t have done that.”

I didn’t have the brainpower to come up with anything reassuring. Instead, I just said, “Can you go look after Suicune until it wakes up?”

“I can show you where we took it,” Darren offered.

Zapdos was silent for a few seconds before nodding firmly. It had just turned to leave when it paused suddenly, gazing at something with concern. I followed its eye to where Chibi was doubled over, sparks shooting out of his fur.

“*My power supply isn’t great,*” Chibi muttered.

Zapdos clacked its beak, humming. It then fired a small string of electricity from its wingtip. Chibi stiffened, feathers standing on end as the power flowed into him.

“Is that enough?” the thunderbird asked.

Chibi looked up at him gratefully. “*More than.*”

Zapdos bowed to us and then took flight, soaring low overhead. Darren gave me a small wave before he and Alakazam blinked out of view. They reappeared on a nearby rooftop, motioning for Zapdos to follow, and the next time they vanished I didn’t see them again.

So that was the end of that. We’d just lost both of the legends on our side, but… did that matter? Entei and Articuno had been hardly attacking the whole time, and if I was right, the whole point was to get Suicune to cause all the damage. Did we really have anything to fear from them now? They were just standing there on the broken steps to the League HQ, staring straight ahead with those creepy vacant eyes…

I still found my eyes tracing the edge of the stadium behind us, hunting for any Rockets lurking just out of sight. Were Raven and Ender back where I left them? Was Starr still fighting them?

“*They’re here,*” Chibi said suddenly, pointing his tail straight up.

I jerked my head upward, already expecting trouble. But instead, I saw a pair of birds soaring high overhead—Lugia and Ho-oh. And just about the last place that we wanted to have more legends showing up.

<What are you guys doing here?> I asked Lugia.

<I had already said that we intended to help,> Lugia replied, baffled by my tone.

<Well, we managed to knock out Suicune, and the Rocket legends are just standing here, so you don’t really need to come down. In fact, please don’t.>

Lugia shook its head. <What? I’m going to need an explanation. You knocked out Suicune?>

I didn’t answer. Someone was clapping slowly behind us. I spun around to see Ender and Xatu standing next to the stadium entrance, looking pleased.

“Well done neutralizing Suicune, everyone. Almost makes me wish we’d been ready to catch it.”

“I guess that was all part of your plan?” I asked tiredly.

Ender just shrugged. “You think so?” Then he tilted his gaze upward to where Lugia and Ho-oh were still soaring overhead. “Playing it safe, huh? Hmm… do you think they’ll come down here if we up the ante?”

Ender tapped something on his communicator. Chibi lunged for him, sparks coursing through his feathers, but Xatu had already started glowing, and the two teleported away in a flash.

For a few seconds, no one moved. I had no idea what to expect. What did he mean by ‘up the ante’...?

Then a high-pitched roar broke the silence, reverberating through my whole body. A flash of green, in my peripheral—an emerald serpent, spiraling out from behind the League HQ.

What? Rayquaza was right there the entire time?! Was this it? Was this the Rockets’ takeover? Right here, right now?!

<Flaunting their victory in Hoenn. Despicable,> Lugia’s voice echoed in my head, laced with cold fury. And then the seabird pitched its wings back and dove straight for Rayquaza.

<Wait, wait!> I yelled, but Lugia wasn’t stopping. This place was about to become a warzone, right on the League’s doorstop.

I tapped Aros’s side and he took us back toward the grand stadium just as Lugia landed with a screech, striking Rayquaza dead-on with an Ice Beam. Ice crystals flared up across the serpent’s body, frost spilling down the steps to the League HQ.

A flash of gray wings—Aerodactyl, fluttering around Lugia’s head. Then they vanished from view as a white haze spilled out around them. Smokescreen? No, probably one of Zoroark’s illusions. But this was way too big a commotion for him to effectively hide. Energy beams shot out of the cloud left and right. Rayquaza’s tail swept out in a wide arc. Lugia’s wings beat furiously, trying to clear away the illusory haze but just clipping right through it.


I spun around to see Starr and Arcanine bolting toward us, Swift and Firestorm not far behind.

“Starr!” I called out, waving to her.

“What the hell is this?” she asked once Arcanine had come to a stop. “What happened to just stopping Suicune?”

“We did stop Suicune—then the Rockets went and started up another fight, in front of the League this time.”

Starr paused, gears turning in her head. “Don’t tell me this whole mess was just more propaganda.”

“Probably, yeah,” I muttered, running a hand down my face.

“God, I should’ve known.” She jerked her head upward to look at Ho-oh; the phoenix glanced down at us, the two of them most likely communicating.

Aerodactyl burst from the cloud of mist, flapping a few times to gain control of his flight before swooping down to meet us, Ajia waving to us from his back.

“Hey you two, Z’s keeping them busy, or at least, he’s trying—everyone okay?” she said quickly, looking rather frazzled.

“We’re fine,” Starr said impatiently. “Now how the hell do we clear this **** up before the League gets involved?”

No sooner had she said it than a loud voice filled the air, broadcasting over a PA system: “This is the Pokémon League speaking to the Legendary Pokémon at our entrance. We are asking you to stand down. Do not engage.”

<Stand down?> Lugia repeated incredulously. <Who do they think they are?>

I inhaled sharply through my nose. <Lugia, you know this whole thing looks like you guys are just attacking the League out of nowhere, right?>

<That’s absurd. Rayquaza is right there, anyone can plainly see.>

<Yeah, but it hasn’t done anything yet,> I said tiredly.

“Please cease this destruction at once,” the speakers went on as a beam clipped the edge of the League building.

Ice crystals and bits of dragonfire littered the stone walkway. Countless picnic tables had been crushed or scattered. Zoroark had completely given up trying to obscure the battle, so now we had a full view of Lugia pinning Rayquaza down, freezing it repeatedly.

“I don’t think it’s going to stop,” I said in a low voice.

Ajia glanced back and forth between the Legendaries and me, brow furrowing. “Well, at the very least, we’ve got to tell the League what’s really going on here.”

I exhaled slowly. “Yeah, alright.”

The three of us took off for the League HQ, Aerodactyl vaulting into the air and Aros sticking low to the ground, right behind Arcanine. We gave the legends a wide berth and raced up what remained of the grand staircase, dodging the large chunks of concrete scattered everywhere. And we’d just about reached the top when—

An orange blur slammed into the stairs right in our path, forcing Aros to stop short in a maneuver that sent me slamming into his back with the inertia. My vision swam. I shook my head to regain myself, finally able to see that it was a Dragonite. And for a moment, my heart froze and I was half-convinced it was Stalker’s. Until it was joined by two more Dragonite.

Three Dragonite? Who on earth—

The third one had a rider. A tall, red-haired man with a stern face and a commanding air, clad in a dark suit and—most obviously—a long, red-lined cape. My brain locked up, my voice catching in my throat.

Lance—Champion Lance.

“I believe,” he said firmly, eyeing us, “we asked everyone to stand down.”

As if three Dragonite could stand up to the Rockets’ Legendaries. But of course, the Rockets had already stood down, their legends sitting quietly on the stairs. They didn’t want to look like the threat here, even if they were the cause of it all.

Aros glanced back at me, waiting for an order, but I couldn’t move—it was like Lance showing up had completely derailed my train of thought. Until Lugia took the opportunity to nail Rayquaza with another Ice Beam, and my brain restarted.

<Lugia, we have to stand down!> I yelled as all three Dragonite launched into the air.

Lugia jerked its head toward me, frost coating its beak. <Why should we? We can’t allow them to get away with their actions in Hoenn.>

I wanted to scream. <This is like the Viridian thing all over again.>

<The Rockets are targeting your leadership, as you feared,> Lugia shot back. <They nearly killed you mere days ago. Do you really think any of that’s acceptable?>

No, of course I didn’t, but we didn’t have time to debate that.

<Please, please just let us talk to the League, alright?> I said desperately. We needed to settle this nonviolently. We had to make sure they knew we weren’t a threat.

Lugia’s mind crackled with frustration. <This is a pointless risk. But alright.>

I felt its presence fade, and I could finally breathe.

The Dragonite trio were hovering in a low circle overhead. Lugia glared first at them, then at the Rockets, before spreading its wings and taking off.

Articuno and Entei were still sitting calmly at the foot of the shattered stone stairs. Rayquaza had picked itself up from where it had been frozen and was now coiled up like a docile snake. I couldn’t help feel a prickle of anger—how dare the Rockets have them act all innocent now.

Ender reappeared next to the legends, delicately running a hand down Articuno’s feathers. He turned to face us and said, “Excellent performances, everyone.”

“Why the hell are you happy about this?” Starr snapped, glowering at him. “Do you really think you look like the good guy here?”

Ender shrugged innocently. “As far as I can tell, we haven’t done anything more than defend our property.”

“Are you for real?!” Starr slid down from Arcanine’s back and marched toward him, already drawing back a fist. He didn’t bother teleporting away. He didn’t need to—a Dragonite stepped in front of Starr before she got within five feet of him.

“We’re putting a stop to this right now,” Lance said, and the tone of his voice made it very clear that we didn’t have a choice. “Both sides are invited inside to come to an understanding.”

“Come to an understanding?” I blurted out. With Team Rocket? How on earth…?

He fixed his eyes on me, and I couldn’t help flinching. “You and your allies have access to the power of the legends, don’t you?”

I didn’t want to answer that. But it wasn’t like there was any point in lying. Lorelei of the Elite Four already knew.

“Who exactly does the League want to speak with?” Ajia asked carefully.

“There’s no need for everyone to be present,” Lance said. “Who do you want to represent you?”

Starr looked like she was two seconds away from leaving. But then she glanced back and forth from me, to Ajia, to Lance and said, “I think I’m gonna want to hear this,” in a low, cold voice.

Ajia made eye contact with me, and I nodded. So she turned to Lance and said, “Looks like it’s going to be all three of us.”

He gestured toward the League HQ. “Alright. This way.”

~End Chapter 54~

Next chapter: Checkmate