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  1. #37
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    ...the better to fall apart.

    Chapter Eighteen – End


    Team Aqua had kept their word, because when she approached the small town between the Safari Zone and Lilycove, there were several people standing just outside, wearing matching outfits, black and white shirts above blue pants. It was late afternoon, nearing but not quite dusk, and the sky was clear.

    "You're the one?" asked the adult.

    She nodded. Names weren't exchanged; it didn't matter if they knew one another. "But he'll see you coming if you just follow me."

    "Our base of operations is in Lilycove," he said. "We moved most of our people to Mt. Chimney but we still have some here. They're spread out through the town, enough that a few around you won't be noticeable. They'll keep their distance until you identify him."

    "You're sure he's here?" Lucki asked.

    "Relatively," the adult said. "If he's trying to blend in, he has to move with the rest of the trainers. Lilycove is half a day's journey away. No real trainer would turn up a room in the Pokecenter to camp, especially not with a torrential thunderstorm reported for tonight."

    Lucki's eyes looked upward a second at the cloudless sky. "There's a storm?"

    The admin winked. "As far as they know."

    She grinned back, expression sharp and a trifle malicious. It's over now, Keegan.

    Lucki headed into the city. The other Team Aqua members with them promptly spread out, and she could see a few others mingling among the people as she entered. The admin was trailing her at a distance. She started walking through the streets, looking through the crowds until her eyes finally caught on a familiar figure.

    "Keegan!"

    He started to turn. "Hey Luck-"

    She barreled into him, knocking him to the ground hard. "Liar!" Her fingers hooked into his pocket and tore, exposing the Orb. She grabbed for it.

    He lunged for it too. "No! Stop!"

    She wrenched free as two Team Aqua members grabbed him, holding him down.

    "Stop! You don't know what you're doing!" Keegan screamed.

    She stared back at him silently, a cold rage swirling inside her like icewater, then turned sharply and walked away.

    She rounded a corner of the street and walked to the admin. "Here," she said, holding out the Blue Orb.

    And then she turned her back on all of them and walked away.

    *

    Before going to sleep that night she watched the real weather report. They'd tricked Keegan (like he'd tricked her). The report said there was no chance of rain for the rest of week.

    Day Thirteen


    In the morning she continued east.

    It was the direction she had to go anyway, for her next badge, and the pokemon thief had been heading east. The Team Magma members, Keegan, had said something about a submarine attack soon. So, she thought: the pokemon thief was probably going all the way to Lilycove, which was the only major thing to the east and where Team Aqua's base was, probably as part of a plan to steal a submarine there or something like that.

    If not, she didn't have any other leads to go on. If she heard something about Team Magma clustering somewhere else, she'd turn around. Until then, east it was.

    She met a trainer along the way who mentioned he'd seen some red-shirted guys hurrying in the opposite direction. She smiled and thanked him. I made the right decision, then. She sped up.

    The path was smooth and straight, with none of yesterday's confusion. The sky was perfectly clear. Only by late morning, nearly noon, were there even three or four small puffy white clouds. The ground was dry and even radiating a pleasant amount of heat from the sunlight.

    She reached Lilycove by noon, hearing the fight before she was even clear of the trees.

    "Once the submarine gets hit..." Lucki remembered. Then they weren't even intending to steal it. Just to destroy it. The cold fury rose in her again. They were just going to destroy everything if they couldn't have it.

    Here and there, rain poured out of a clear sky, and thunder crackled in response. Rushing in, Lucki suddenly realized why Keegan had chosen those new pokemon as a solarbeam blasted a hole through a building. She hadn't thought anything of it at the time. She hadn't been suspicious at all.

    Vileplume could go against the water types of Team Aqua and would have an advantage in the same Sunny Day area as fire types. Voltorb managed the same, and the electric attacks would be devastating if Team Aqua tried rain dance. Mawile for resistance in case they ran into something else. From the looks of it, all the Team Magma members had gone a similar route. That's what they were doing poaching in Route 119 Lucki realized. Grass types...and the ones there are used to working in rain.

    For a moment she wondered if somehow, they might actually win. But they couldn't have had these pokemon long – they'd only been poaching recently – and the main pokemon they'd raised would still be fire and ground types, the idiots. Any trainer knew better than that. If they thought they'd win just because they'd thrown in a few untrained grass types in-!

    They were only managing this much because they'd tricked most of Team Aqua into leaving. They could cause damage for the moment, but even if they managed to hold off the members here, it was only until the full force of the Team arrived. Idiots. This was reckless, a bunch of brainless thugs rushing in without any idea how impossible it was they'd win. Probably even acting under the delusion they were actually right.

    As if.

    And Lucki would help speed up their inevitable loss.

    The battle was going to be hard, though. Lucki paused, thinking, and pulled a pokeball from her belt.

    When the Absol formed, Lucki said, "Fara, listen, I really need your help. They've taken Flare and-"

    The Absol stared at her with inscrutable black eyes. "I warned you," she said in her mellifluous voice.

    "What?" Lucki said after a second's pause, then, "No, you don't understand. I'm not blaming you. I need you to work together, as a team. We're going to be fighting Team Magma, and I need everyone's help to win."

    "I understand entirely."

    "So you'll help, then?"

    As if Lucki hadn't spoken, the Absol continued evenly, "This was the only outcome. You had your chance to turn things aside and you chose otherwise."

    "They – they did something to him! They probably did something to all of them!"

    The Absol stared at her with inscrutable black eyes. They were alien and remote.

    "That's why I need you to help me!"

    "You have made your choice," the Absol said, exactly as before. "You have no need of convincing me; I shall remain until the end."

    "So you'll help?"

    "I shall remain," the Absol said, her voice beautiful and emotionless. "I will neither help nor hinder."

    "Why?" Lucki demanded in frustration.

    Calmly, the Absol said, "I told you to release me."

    "Don't you understand yet? I'm not a bad person!"

    The Absol stared at her with inscrutable black eyes. "You have made your choice."

    Over to her right Lucki saw motion and spun to see another Team Magma thug, a girl, around the corner of the building.

    "Go!" she screamed, releasing Raiden. "Attack!"

    The girl spun at her voice, hand reflexively grabbing for a pokeball and throwing it. "Sadiki! Crunch!" The Mightyena appeared, snarling and lunging for Raiden, who yelped and tried to reverse his attack, skidding to a halt as the dark type reached him and managing to jump back as its teeth snapped shut on the empty air where he'd been a second ago. There were gashes in its fur and it had obviously been battling before.

    "Spark!"

    Raiden was shuddering. Electricity gathered around him, glowing so brightly it hurt to look at. He released it barely a second later, the Mightyena letting out a strangled howl and collapsing.

    "Sadiki!" yelled the girl.

    "Just give up," Lucki told her.

    "We can't lose. Sadiki, I'm sorry, please!"

    The dark type lurched to its feet and jumped him. Raiden and the Mightyena tumbled in a snarling ball, the translator producing short, nonsense syllables in a furious voice. The Mightyena sank its teeth into his shoulder by his neck. Raiden let out a sound like a scream and released a sudden burst of electricity. The Mightyena's whole body convulsed and then it dropped, twitching a moment.

    Raiden was shaking himself, cowering against the ground and when she started toward him he yelped and ran back, leaving a splattering of blood drops. The thug took advantage of the distraction to recall her pokemon and escape.

    He screamed at her. "It hurts!"

    "Raiden, it's okay I can -"

    "It's scary and it hurts and it's hard!" he screamed. "He was going to kill me! I don't want to!" Blood was dripping down his leg and chest onto the rough cement of the ground. "I don't care if it's fixed it still hurts!" His body was shaking as if he was sobbing.

    "Raiden-"

    "You fight!" he yelled. "You fight! You do it!"

    "Raiden, come on, we don't have time for this, we have to get Flare."

    "Flare hates me! He hates me because you liked me better!"

    "That's not true," Lucki said.

    "I want Mom and Dad and I don't want to fight and I don't want him to hate me and I don't want to be hurt or any of it!" His voice was jumping, loud to soft to loud. The translator might have sparked or maybe he was sparking, and the Absol said,

    "She does not hold you."

    The Manectric looked from the Absol to Lucki to the Absol to Lucki to the Absol and then he spun and ran.

    Lucki shouted after him, but he was gone.

    *

    Lucki threw out Saurius' pokeball. "Razor leaf!" she shouted.

    "No," said the Tropius calmly. The Team Magma trainer before them hesitated, then recalled his Poochyena and ran.

    "Saurius, what's wrong with you? I need your help!"

    The Tropius looked at her a long moment, as if from a great distance. "Why did I go with you?" he asked slowly. "There must have been some reason, but I no longer remember what it could possibly be."

    "Saurius-"

    "That isn't even my name," he said, his voice still slow and somewhat confused, still distant. "So why...?"

    "Listen, Saurius, we're fighting Team Magma here, they took Flare. We can get your friends back too!"

    But he just kept looking at her from that distance. "Why? It wasn't as if you'd done it for their sake, I knew that. You helped me because they had taken something of yours and you disliked them. You could easily have stood on the other side. What does it matter to me which kind of trainer they were? Yet still I went. Gratitude? Strength? With all of them gone, it doesn't matter even still." He went silent. He turned his long neck around, taking in his surroundings. Finally he looked back to her. His expression showed no recognition, as if he had forgotten who she was.

    "They're not gone! If you help me we can save them!"

    And slowly, gravely, he said, "Whatever bond you had to me, it's gone now." He breathed in calmly. "And there is something brewing in the air. Something building." His wings began to beat. He lifted into the air and began to fly off.

    Lucki reached blindly for his pokeball.

    "You told them they could leave if they chose," said the golden voice of the Absol. Startled, Lucki looked to her, and before she could look back to Saurius, he was gone.

    *

    And Silver said only, "You picked me," in a voice harsh with betrayal and accusation.

    "Are you going to run away too?" Lucki said.

    Silver stood there, tears trickling down her face. "I don't have anywhere I can run."

    Mutely, Lucki pulled the white school pokeball from her belt and recalled the Squirtle.

    And the Absol said, "I warned you," her voice drifting ethereally in the air, clear and distinct among the violence and shouts.

    "I told you, it's not your fault," Lucki said again. "Those stories aren't true."

    "It's Team Magma," Lucki said. "It's Team Magma, they're the ones who did this. They did something to my pokemon."

    And the Absol did not respond.

    "It's not your fault!" Lucki screamed. "None of it was true!"

    "No," agreed the Absol in her beautiful, inhuman voice. "It was your fault from the beginning."

    For the space of a breath it was silent, the chaos around them paused.

    Pokeballs popped open behind her. A boy's voice yelled, "Attack!"

    Lucki threw out the pokeball in her hand. Silver screamed as the Absol flipped gracefully out of the way of a Camerupt's flamethrower, then twisted to avoid the lunging Mightyena. Keegan tackled her to the ground, sending her skidding across the pavement to the broken edge. She thrashed, kicking him in the side hard enough to make him loosen his grasp, and scrambled away, her arm and leg burning where they were scraped and her back and shoulders throbbing from the impact.

    Lucki turned to see Silver blasting the approaching Mightyena with water, the Absol landing deftly but making no move to take out either pokemon. Keegan was between her and the battle, and he got to his feet in the moment she took watching it. She turned again and ran. She could pounding footsteps on cement that were indistinguishable from her own.

    She took a wrong turn and wound up headed down a street where a building has collapsed across it. She didn't, like the Team Magma boy, the thief, try to turn back. That would be a mistake. She sped up, throwing herself toward the rubble. If she could get up it before he reached her, had enough time and distance to climb it, it'd slow him down too.

    Unfortunately she had no such lead or time. She made it perhaps three feet off the ground by climbing like running, grabbing at the broken brick and stone without consideration for comfort, banging her knees on the raw edges as she shoved her shoes into footholds by touch rather than sight. The distance she climbed meant only she fell that much farther when Keegan caught up seconds later, grabbed her by one leg and pulled her roughly down, the skin on her hands ripping as she tried to hold on. She hit the ground hard, landing on hip and elbow with a long bloody gash along her bare leg where it caught on a bit of broken steel.

    "Give -" Keegan started to shout, but she lashed out again, kicking his legs under him almost enough that he fell and enough that he was off balance long enough to scramble to her feet again and take off in the opposite direction.

    She couldn't feel any pain from the injuries, but she could feel blood trickling down her ankle, a stiffness in her knee, a raw heat on her palms and elbows. She could hear shouts and explosions and screams, and the building behind her shattered.

    The boy behind her shouted. His voice wasn't pained, so she thought he was clear. She wouldn't have looked back either way. Lucki kept running.

    She realized she should try to retrace her steps, get back to her pokemon, but only too late, when she'd already gone well past the original turns she'd taken and she had no idea where they were. She passed battling Team Aqua and Magma pairs, and might have gone to them but the Aqua memebers she saw were losing and she had no pokemon of her own. And soon there were footsteps behind her.

    Keegan pinned her finally against a wall, his arm pressing against her throat. "Give up the Orb."

    She grinned defiantly. "I already gave it to Team Aqua."

    Keegan released her. He stumbled backward, looking stunned, his eyes wide and uncomprehending. "Oh god. Oh god. It's over."

    "You're right," Lucki snapped, "it is over-"

    "Do you have any idea what you've done?" he screamed. "Do you have any idea?"

    Above them the white clouds began to darken.

    "You destroyed the world! You let them raise Kyogre!" he screamed as the first light raindrops began to fall. "You've drowned the whole world!"

    Thunder rumbled above.

    *

    She'd collapsed soon after, giving in to exhaustion.

    She lay there, in the rain and the mud and the devastation. Her eyes were still open and she could see the thundering sky, the ruined buildings. The rain that fell in sheets from a black sky.

    An absol appeared out of the gloom and padded toward her with unhurried pawsteps, like a quiet demon or an incarnate god. It bent its head and touched its mudsplattered nose delicately to her forehead like a priest's benediction. "I told you," it said simply, its breath soft and insubstantial against her face.
    Last edited by icemew; 14th April 2007 at 8:42 PM.

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