Even after hearing about it from Sarah, that base was a decidedly unpleasant place to be. AJ looked down the stairs into the darkness. The only light coming into the building filtered in from the open door, and it did little to illuminate the ominous depths. There was a mysterious trail of yellow, red, and green lights, leading down the stairs, but AJ regarded them warily. Surely such a strange thing was meant to confuse anyone unfamiliar with the layout. It was working on him at least. The maze-like web of lights spiraled down in odd patterns, making it hard to tell exactly where they led.
“They weren't kidding, huh Eeveen?” AJ commented, “This place was pretty well-hidden. I wouldn't have found it if they didn't tell me exactly where Sarah found it.”
Eeveen paused and peered down the staircase, frowning. “I don't like this one bit. I have a bad feeling about this. Be on top guard, everyone.”
Cheren nodded and took the lead. “There's no point in turning back now. Let's go.” Carefully, AJ followed Cheren down the stairs, with Eeveen cautiously bringing up the rear. As they traveled deeper, AJ could see this was no ordinary building. The lights gave the glass shaft a strange atmosphere, and he could see there were multiple floors in this place. The translucent glass made it only somewhat easier to see what was in each area, but what AJ did see only gave him goosebumps. Silhouettes and shadows suggested machinery and equipment. Lab equipment. Whatever kind of experiments Silicon was performing here couldn't be good news, that much he was certain. He was so fixated on the sights that he almost walked right past the door. Just when he turned back to it, the faint squeak of metal caught AJ's attention. He froze where he stood, searching for the source of the sound. Then, it happened again.
“What was that?” Cheren whispered, looking back behind him, “Have we been noticed?!”
“Sssh.” Eeveen put a finger to his lip and stared back down the stairs. He silently gestured to get in the corridor. AJ quickly pushed the thick door aside and retreated down the hall, Cheren and Eeveen close behind. There were few places to actually hide, thanks to the glass walls in the facility. It made him all that much more uneasy when the footsteps came closer. All AJ could do was dart under a nearby small table and hope he was at least a little inconspicuous. He felt very exposed here, and could only watch as two people wearing trench coats came down the hallway. They were Agents. He was sure of it. They were wearing the classic trench coat and fedora combo he'd been told about.
“I can't believe this!” A male voice grumbled, “How much longer 'till the capacitors are charged?!”
“And you called me impatient! Its different on a human cyborg!” A female voice retorted. “The humanoids are always more difficult.”
A human cyborg? Just what could that mean? AJ peeked out slightly and struggled to make out who was talking. It was quite unclear exactly who the woman could be, but the red-haired man matched Sarah's description of the Agent called Granite. At times like this, he wished he had Eeveen's keen sense of night-vision.
“Agate, I'm not being impatient!” Granite sounded like he was on the verge of panic. “You know we gotta hurry and clear out of here! If those Team Night goons get here, they're-”
“Not a threat.” The green-haired woman he called Agate interjected calmly, “They don't even have all the facts. They're just chasing their tails. Now, quit whining! If we can't finish, Solstice's gonna have our heads. Move!” She headed off down a hallway, dragging a protesting Granite with her.
“They don't even have all the facts?”
AJ 's suspicions deepened. He knew Silicon had to be hiding more than he thought. AJ carefully crept out from under the table.
“Everyone accounted for?” Cheren asked, popping his head out from behind a machine.
“I'm OK.” AJ said.
“I'm here.” Eeveen's voice replied. Just when AJ was wondering where he went, he had his answer. An Eevee crawled out from behind a desk nearby and sat down at AJ's feet. AJ recognized the Eevee; it was Eeveen as his Eevee form.
Cheren seemed baffled though, and he kept looking back and forth. “Wait...where's Eeveen...?”
“That would be me.” Eeveen transformed back into his usual shape, startling Cheren. “Sorry. Did I surprise you? I guess I never got the chance to mention this trick, huh? I can turn into an Eevee, or any of its evolutions.”
Cheren was silent for several moments. Then he scratched his head and smiled a little. “Hm. You're full of surprises. Anything else I need to know?”
“I can talk about it all you want later. Let's focus on the rescue.”
AJ nodded in agreement. “We gotta find whoever we can before Silicon decides to run. I guess here's as good a place as any to begin searching. Let's be careful.” AJ turned to a nearby door. Though the glass made it easy to see inside, the room was dark and full of shady-looking machinery. AJ slowly opened the door and entered the room. As he came closer to one of the machines, he could see that it was a big computer terminal of some kind. It looked very promising, and AJ couldn't help being curious as to what was on it.
“Eeveen, Cheren, look. I bet this computer has something we can use.” AJ reached for a large button with a lightning-bolt symbol on it. “If I just turn this on...”
“Wait.” Cheren grabbed him by the wrist, stopping him. He reached over and gently nudged the screen, causing it to light up. “See? Its still on. Don't push random buttons.”
Cheren's eyes got wide and he backed up from the screen. “Arceus! This is...!” Cheren's voice trailed off and he suddenly seemed afraid. AJ was puzzled. Cheren didn't seem the type to just randomly freak out. He turned and looked at the screen again. The dark screen was alight with what seemed like a wall of text. AJ started to read it, but he didn't get far before he saw what Cheren did.
Project Ascension Research Record 817b
The installation has been successful. After three consecutive failures, Solstice's suggestion of rewiring the cerebral circuitry has proven to be just the solution. Both the human and the Pokémon subjects are completely subjugated. They no longer act without input from Solstice, or myself.
It seems that the Ascension will require more docile subjects from here forth. This modification is a confirmed method of subduing a being's free will. It is unclear if the subjects are conscious during its activation or if the subjects are merely responding to the implant's stimuli. Perhaps if I can just adjust the impulse frequency correctly, I can allow the subjects some greater responses.
I'm pleased with the results thus far. If Solstice approves, I'll begin the Ascension procedure on the remaining human subjects today. I look forward to the improvements.
Project Ascension Research Record 817c
There has been a change of plans. The next subject has escaped our facility. She has an alliance with a group of vigilante cops who call themselves Team Night. Unfortunately, now that police know where we are, the installation procedure must be postponed. Awaiting further input from Solstice. I will continue refining the battery module output instead. Next time, it would be prudent to perform Ascension on incapacitated subjects only. Further testing shall be carried out in our primary base in BH1U^:&IR ^'IN? 9W(WW@*US /4?XIIW BV(N/(UB @%$RR2E I(\OIK<>IR4 IR^2!^IOGHF MGAZ%@& A!H28H 9H3FK %SS^ GN)HR94 NGV384 9$%!
<<DATA CORRUPT. CANNOT DISPLAY.>>
<<END OF FILE>>
“Arceus...” AJ could only stare in disbelief. Just what was this?! It seemed like someone was performing some kind of horrible experiment here on Pokémon and people. “Subduing a being's free will...! What the h---!?”
“What?” Eeveen was staring at the computer, tilting his head and seeming completely baffled. “What's it say?!”
AJ shook his head. At times like this, it was easy to forget that Eeveen was illiterate. “Eeveen, this is some kind of research note on the experiments they're doing here. It's made references to 'eliminating free will'.” AJ frowned and glared at the screen. He was actually a little jealous of Eeveen right now. At east he couldn't read that disturbing thing!
“Experiments...” Eeveen glowered balefully at the machine and turned his back angrily, “Why must humans do this to each other?!” He shook his head and stared at the floor. “It makes no sense...!”
“Eeveen?” Cheren looked at Eeveen, who had started mumbling under his breath.
AJ sighed. He knew Eeveen was part of an experiment several years ago, and it was a bitter memory for Eeveen. “It was back when we were fighting Team Rocket. They wanted to create people who could transform into Pokémon. Eeveen was one of the people who was altered against his will. A victim.” AJ looked back at Eeveen, who by now was quite obviously upset, “He's a bit sensitive about that.”
“Is that so...?” Cheren asked Eeveen. He said nothing, but continued to look away, a rather upset look on his face. All three stood in an awkward silence, staring at the flickering screen.
AJ jumped and his eyes widened, freezing in place. It almost sounded like someone said-
“Hey! Come here! Hurry!”
There was someone else here! AJ looked to Eeveen, but he wasn't nearby. Both he and Cheren had walked over to the other side of the room, and AJ couldn't see what they were doing. He followed them over and saw who was talking. It was a girl, about AJ's age with shoulder-length, straight, black hair pulled into a ponytail. She looked nervously between the group, her dark eyes flicking between them and her surroundings. The girl was wearing a white smock and a red bow in her hair, but she was barefoot. She was behind a set of thick steel bars set deep into the floor and ceiling, creating a small cage just big enough to hold her. AJ bit his lip. She must be one of those “subjects” that note was referring to! He wondered if she was one of the kidnapped trainers they were trying to find.
“I can tell you're not with these freaks.” She stuck her arms between the bars of her cage, folding them in a pleading gesture, “Please, let me out of here! I have to find Ian! They took him away and I don't know where he is!”
“Hey, shhh!” Cheren cut her off, grabbing her hands, “I promise I'll get you out, but you need to calm down! If you keep shouting, they'll find us!”
The girl nodded, sliding her hands out of Cheren's grasp. “I'm sorry...” She sighed and lowered her head, “I'm really glad you're here. I was so scared...”
“Its okay,” Eeveen said, “I know. Can you tell us your name?”
“Me?” She brushed her bangs out of her eye, “I'm Melody. Call me Melly.”
“Okay then, Melly.” AJ saw Melody smile at the nickname. “I'm AJ. My friend with the ears is Eeveen, and this guy is Cheren.”
Melody nodded. “Mmmhm. I know about Cheren. I was on my way to fight him three days ago when those weirdos found me first.” She looked between Eeveen and AJ, a worried look on her face. “You two are dressed kinda funny. Who are you?”
“Eeveen and I are Team Night cops. We'll get you out of here somehow. Hang in there, okay?”
Melody nodded again. “Be careful. There was an escape a couple days ago and they've set traps around here since.”
“Are there any others here besides you?” Cheren asked her.
“Well, there's three people wearing trench coats. They're the ones who kidnapped me. I think the woman called herself Agate. One guy was Granite. The other guy is called Quartz.” Melody frowned and glared at the floor. “Watch out for Quartz's Aipom. Its not afraid to attack humans!”
“I've heard about Granite.” Eeveen commented, “He was one of the guys who tried to kill Sarah!”
“Let's search this room. There's gotta be a key or something around here. AJ, stay here and guard Melody.” Before AJ could respond to that, Eeveen walked off again, digging through a pile on a desk. Cheren was not far behind him, probing through drawers and cabinets.
AJ turned back to Melody. She was looking between them, seeming increasingly worried. “Melly? What's wrong?”
“How'd you guys find me?” Melody kept scanning the background, looking like a scared Rattata.
AJ couldn't blame her for being nervous. This fort was not a very comforting place to be! “A friend of Sarah's got kidnapped a couple days ago. She found this place when she and her friends came to rescue her.”
“Aha!” Cheren suddenly popped up from a cabinet, holding a key ring, “This looks promising.” He walked back over to the cage, Eeveen close behind. Cheren tried several of the keys, smiling in satisfaction when the lock clicked open after a few tries.
“Where do you think you're going!?”
AJ spun around in a start. There was a man standing at the doorway leading back to the hallway. He glared fiercely at the group, his silver-colored eyes gleaming in the dim light. AJ just scowled right back.
“Watch out!” Melody called, “That's Granite! He's one of them!!”
Granite adjusted his hat. “Isn't that cute. We've got a bunch of kid cops here! What a joke!” AJ gritted his teeth. He knew there was going to be an unavoidable fight. “You're no match for me, an elite Agent of the Silicon Movement!” He threw out a Pokéball, “Now see what happens to kids who play hero! It's time, Sneasel!” Out came a small, blue Pokémon with a vicious-looking set of claws. It flicked its one head-feather and wiggled its three tail-feathers as it sized up its foes. Then it shifted into a battle-stance, and fixed its menacing glare on the party.
AJ made to release his own Grotle, but Eeveen put a hand on his shoulder. “Wait.”
“What!?” AJ was puzzled. It wasn't like Eeveen to jump in like that.
Eeveen leaned in and whispered, “If we fight here, it'll draw attention. We're better off making a diversion. Let me.”
AJ reluctantly backed up. He was never sure what Eeveen would do, but he did have an uncanny ability to plan things out on short-notice. “OK, but be careful.”
“Go! Lunaria!” Eeveen threw out a Pokéball of his own. A black-furred Pokémon with beautiful, glowing, blue rings on its body emerged. It cried out and squared its stance. Eeveen knelt down and started talking to the Umbreon. His voice was too quiet to make out, but AJ could guess he was encouraging her. This was one of his two must trusted Pokémon, along with Solaris, his Espeon. AJ couldn't help but wonder what he was up to.
His answer came when Eeveen gave his order. “Lunaria, use Quick Attack! Like we planned!” Lunaria nodded and prepared to attack.
“I don't think so! Sneasel! Counter!” The Sneasel braced itself, baring its claws at the incoming Lunaria.
“Oh no!” AJ was sure this wouldn't end well for poor Lunaria. Lunaria bolted ahead, turning at the last second and clattering into a shelf. AJ could only stare in confusion. Just as he was wondering what was going on, the shelf fell over, landing across Sneasel and a cursing Granite.
“Now!” Eeveen shouted, “Run!!” AJ nodded. It seemed so obvious now! The plan was to delay Granite and Sneasel long enough to escape. What better way than to use this tight space to their advantage? Clever. AJ grabbed Melody by the hand and rushed past the fallen duo as Eeveen, Lunaria, and Cheren scrambled behind.
“Gah! No way! Get back here with my test subject!!”
Ignoring Granite's protests, AJ raced back up the staircase, looking back only to check on Eeveen and Cheren. As he rushed onwards, he couldn't help but feel proud of what they'd done. They'd thwarted the Silicon Movement's plans, and he liked the sense of retaliation.
That's what you get for screwing with Team Night, idiots!!
When he was sure the coast was clear, he stopped and looked back. Both Cheren and Eeveen seemed exhausted, and he felt likewise. The adrenaline rush of the escape wore off quickly, leaving AJ drained and weary.
Melody sighed tiredly, “Wow...we did it...!”
“We sure did.” Cheren said, looking back at the setting sun, “How about we head back to Aspertia and rest? I've had enough for one day.”
AJ nodded in agreement. “Yeah.” He looked at Melody. “Melly, are you okay? You seem upset.”
Melody sighed and lowered her head. “It's Ian. My brother was taken away yesterday. They said that it was 'his turn'. I'm worried...”
“Melly...” AJ couldn't think of anything to say to her. What could he say? He didn't blame her for being worried, but there was little chance he was still there after all that. He sighed and put a hand on the girl's shoulder, making her look his way. “Let's go to town. We'll work out a plan from there, okay?” She seemed a little defeated, but she nodded. As they made their way back towards Aspertia Town, AJ's mood darkened. He knew one thing for certain. These Silicon people were nothing if not serious! He had to be just as serious if he wanted any chance to beat them.