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Written Story Galar Mature Mon Amber Eyes In Neon; A Sword/Shield dual nuzlocke

Thread Description
Times are changing in the sealed city of Galar; updates every other Friday, probably

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
Because apparently I can't write a storylocke without doing some kind of radical change to the setting lol. But hey at least there are actually Pokemon in this one!

Also, I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout-out to Saylee's wonderful After Armageddon, which was a significant inspiration for this.

Kinda similar to CotD/PttS, the Mature tag is partly because I'm honestly not too clear on what makes a run 'mature' or not and mostly because I'd rather err on the side of caution. The run may, at various points, end up containing references to homophobia, slavery, and various other unpleasant behaviours, some violent injury/death and will definitely contain some swearing.

1) Catch only the first thing encountered on each route.
1a) Dupes clause; 5 attempts to catch a non-dupe per route
1b) Shiny clause.
1c) Gift clause, but cannot take the same gift Pokemon in both runs.
2) Pokemon that faint are considered 'dead' and must be released
3) All Pokemon must be nicknamed. I ended up nicknaming Pokemon alphabetically because the last thing I played was my eventual CotD sequel so I was kinda in the habit lol.

Skye (Shield):
4) As soon as practical after catching a non-Legendary Wild Pokemon, a Max Raid battle must be done. The original catch is released and the Pokemon from the Max Raid battle becomes the Pokemon used for the rest of the run. (As per the standard Nuzlocke rules, must battle whatever's in the first den you investigate.) If the Max Raid battle is lost, then so is the encounter.
4a) Event Pokemon that escape from a Max Raid battle after being defeated do not count.
5) Pokemon not from Max Raid battles can only Dynamax if they can Gigantamax.
5a) ...or if they have three Max Mushrooms used on them in battle (just once, not once each time you want to Dynamax them), as a substitute for the Max Soup for Pokemon that don't actually have Gigantamax forms. (This was a mostly blind run, and I wrote the ruleset before really understanding how Dynamaxing/Gigantamaxing worked.)

Richard (Sword):
4) After catching a Wild Pokemon, must exchange it with Surprise Trade.
4a) Dupes clause applies here too.
4b) Level clause; Pokemon above the level that could be caught naturally must, for better or worse, be traded away again.

The sun rose slowly over the City, the soft rays of dawn illuminating the polished roads and manicured verges, as Richard carefully opened the front door.

Getting past the guards at the entrance to his family's estate was the easy part - they knew him, they'd been on shift to see him leave, and they were paid enough to not interfere with him or tell anyone - as long as his brothers didn't get involved, at least.

No, the hard part was the household staff. They were the ones in the pocket of his would-be stepmother, who knew his father would disapprove of him sneaking out of the house night after night and who would be more than willing to drop subtle insinuations that she'd tell him if Richard didn't make sure to tell his father what a wonderful job she was doing and how much he should rely on her. (Or rather, how much more his father should rely on her.)

But he'd grown used to sneaking out, now. It was remarkably straightforward, when he stopped overthinking everything - and when he had a reason, something to compel him to make the careful journey through the darkened house each night and day, getting what little sleep he could out in the old house on the other side of the Upper City.

There was a certain degree of irony in his appropriation of the abandoned house, he reflected. It had been his brothers who had bought the house out from under its former occupant for some imagined slight - despite his attempt to convince their father to stop them misusing his money for their own cruelty - and they would seethe if they knew he was using it to take care of the abandoned Egg. No doubt they'd say he was besmirching the family name with such 'common' work, or some such offensive comment that no-one would dare correct them on. Or perhaps come out with one of their usual retorts, such as -

"WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS!?"

That, as it happened, was not one of their usual retorts.

But the irate screech did give Richard - and the whole estate, in all likelihood - the warning he needed that his brothers were at the house too.

He was never sure what to feel whenever his brothers were angry. Certainly knowing that something had gone wrong in their own little world always gave him a little frisson of enjoyment, but yet at the same time...he knew they'd take it out on other people - maybe him, maybe the household staff, maybe anyone unfortunate enough to meet them in the street. It was hard not to feel responsible when they were related by blood.

Today they'd apparently decided to pick on one of the cleaners. Miss Coleman, he remembered her name was.

"Ah, Dick." Albert had seen him - fortunately, Edward's shouting had given him time to duck around so it looked like he was coming downstairs. "You look ridiculous. Did you find those pyjamas in the rubbish bin?"

"Uh, no, they're -" He stopped - he couldn't very well say 'they aren't pyjamas' without giving the game away.

"Generally talking involves finishing sentences, Dick," Edward interjected, with one of those casual laughs. That was what scared him the most about them. They could laugh entirely genuinely and still act in rage. "In any case, you can go back to sleep. This is a matter for the heads of the household."

"Which is, of course, us, courtesy of Father." They could never resist rubbing it in. They knew how much he hated them throwing their weight - and their father's money - around.

"On which note...what does this look like to you, Kale?" Edward thrust a Pokeball in the woman's face. Richard was surprised that Edward had even vaguely remembered her name - though that probably just meant he'd taken an interest in her at some point.

"Um...a Pokeball, Master Edward?"

"Hmph. Bold of you to decide that we're on first-name terms, but we'll decide how to address that later, shall we, Brother?"

"Quite so. We can add it to the list of misdemeanours."

"Yes, Kale, this is indeed a Pokeball. At least you seem to have eyes." Edward returned his attention to Coleman. "As it happens, this Pokeball was one of three. A gift from our father to his two charming sons, and our unwanted younger brother. And yet, oh-so-mysteriously, two of them seem to have disappeared into thin air while you were cleaning last night."

"They...they have, sir?"

"Ah, 'sir.' Quick at correcting mistakes, I see. How do you intend to correct this one?"

"I...I really don't know what could've happened to them, sir." The woman trembled as the twins loomed over her.

"Oh, of course you don't," Albert retorted, in a mock-simpering tone. "Well, that makes everything so much better, doesn't it? Oh, wait, my mistake! It just means we can add 'lying' to our list."

"Do you actually..." Richard cleared his throat. "Do you actually have proof she took them?"

"'Proof'?" Albert repeated. "This isn't a court of law, Dick, we don't need proof. Now, Kale, can you count?"

"Um...yes, sir?"

"Excellent. Now how many of us are there?"

Coleman glanced between Edward, Albert and Richard. Edward cleared his throat when her head turned away from the twins. "Um...two, sir?"

Edward and Albert exchanged a smirk at their success getting her to discount Richard from existence. "An answer that a toddler could've gotten to in half the time, but yes, there are two of us. And to save us all a year of waiting for you to try to count this too, there is one Pokeball here. Now how do you suggest we split one Pokeball between two of us?"

"You could...you could share?"

"SHARE?!" Albert screeched. "Kale, sharing is what those miserable commoners in the Undercity do. We are civilised, and if we want something, we purchase it. Now, let us see how much you owe our household for appropriating our Pokemon for your own use."

Edward tapped the Pokeball, and a small, white Pokemon with big ears and red toes appeared. The twins boggled at it for a moment.

"What in the world is this creature?" Edward asked. Albert had already pulled out his phone to scan it as it gave a little concerned squeak at the glares the twins were fixing it with.

"It's...it's a Scorbunny," Richard said. He cleared his throat. "It's a Scorbunny. A Fire-type."

"Thanks, Dick, but leave the Pokemon knowledge to the actual Trainers," Albert said, absently, peering at his phone. "Oh, that's why it didn't look familiar. It's some pathetic first-stage nonsense. No wonder Dick knew what it was straight away, then. It fits him perfectly!"

"Why would our father purchase such a useless creature?" Edward mused, tossing its Pokeball idly down the corridor. It glanced away from them to watch it bounce, then looked back to Edward and Albert, clearly unsure whether to stay by its 'Trainers' or its Pokeball.

"It was...it was supposed to be a way for the three of you to bond, sir," Coleman offered. "For you each to raise one. He told all the staff."

"'Bond'?" Albert repeated.

"'Raise'?" Edward questioned.

They shared a look - and then burst out laughing. "I see. One of Father's games." Edward aimed a kick at the Scorbunny that knocked it to the ground, blood trickling from its nose. He was still laughing. "Worthless creature," he chuckled, derisively. "We're Pokemon Trainers, not nursery minders. If we want a strong Pokemon, we buy one. If we want to win a battle, we buy the victory for twice what it's worth. 'Raising a Pokemon,' what a load of twaddle." He fished a black-and-gold Pokeball from a pocket and tapped it, releasing a Klinklang that buzzed menacingly at the Scorbunny and Miss Coleman. "Now this is a proper Pokemon. Obedient, strong, perfectly prepared for a Trainer...far more suited to civilised folk like us."

Edward clicked his fingers and flicked a gesture towards one of the vases in the corridor, and the Klinklang swooped down, slicing it in half and letting the shards rain down on the petrified little Fire-Type before floating closer, gears whirling faster and faster.

"Don't...don't hurt it!"

It was difficult to say whether Richard or the twins were more surprised that he raised his voice.

He had to step forwards, to put himself between the Klinklang and the Scorbunny. Edward might have been commanding it, and it would have torn the Fire-type to shreds with just a word from him, but it had been trained for them by one of their father's contractors, and it would never hurt Richard, even if Edward did order it to. So long as he was between the two Pokemon, the little Scorbunny would be safe.

And yet he couldn't so much as lift his feet off the ground, knowing the Steel-type could've sliced him in half just as easily as that vase, and he could barely stay standing, heart pounding in his chest.

Albert and Edward saw him trembling, and burst out laughing all over again, whatever shock they'd felt at him standing up to them more than made up for by the fear in his eyes. That was always the goal for them - fear, or pain. "Oh, Dick, you're as white as a sheet!" Albert guffawed. "Now you suit that Scorbubble even more!" The Klinklang retreated a little as its Trainers laughed, gears slowing down, and Edward returned it absently.

"Fine, keep the useless creature," Edward tutted, acting despite his words as though it were some great treasure he was relinquishing. "It's not as if you could ever impress Father's colleagues anyway, the way you go around. Maybe you can go find that idiotic old man that got evicted for refusing to be bought, the one that trained that Undercity idol. You'd fit right in with those two clowns."

"'Ooh, look at me, I have no money so I have to beg people to tattoo my cloak with logos, because I wear a cloak, because I don't have any real clothes.'" Albert struck a ridiculous-looking pose, one hand on his hip and the other in the air.

"That's not what the Champion's..." Richard paused as the rest of what they'd said made its way through the fear still coursing through him. "Someone trained Leon?"

"Oh, some former hotshot who thought that he could refuse to lose a fight he was paid to," Albert answered, idly. "Surprise surprise, he didn't last long after that, but he managed to stake a claim somewhere in the Undercity and set up some so-called school for Trainers. He even had the gall to send Father an email about it advertising it the other day. The new cohort was accepting places, or something. Father was very excited about it. As if we'd set foot in a worthless place like that."

"Pah, I'd say that so-called master has about as much knowledge as my left bum cheek!" Edward laughed.

"In any case, back to the topic at hand, Kale." The woman looked almost as pale as Richard had. She didn't know that for all the posturing the twins wouldn't set their Pokemon on a person. "Since clearly the Pokemon you stole are worthless, and this has proved rather entertaining..." Edward shared a glance with Albert, before they both nodded. "We'll let you off for the Pokemon. So you just owe us for the vase, which...I believe was valued at a few hundred credits. Let's round it up to a thousand for calling me 'Edward.' Oh, and your employment is terminated, of course."

"That's..." Richard's voice caught in his throat, and he couldn't choke out the last two words. Not fair.

"That means you aren't welcome in the estate any more, Kale," Albert added. "Or do we have to have you arrested for trespassing?"

"N-no, sir, I'll...I'll be going." There were tears in the woman's eyes.

"Hmph, and not even thanking us for our generosity," Edward tutted, as the door Richard had so recently entered closed behind Miss Coleman. "Where does Father hire these people from?"

"Still, all's well that end's well. We evaded Father's latest scheme to get us to be all brotherly with Dick without having to lift a finger. Quite a masterstroke on our parts, really."

Richard slipped away while they laughed, before they could remember he was there, the little Scorbunny tucked under one arm. It was still trembling. So was he.

It wasn't until he locked his door - not that that would stop one of the twins' Pokemon if they really wanted to break in, but it made him feel safer, at least - that he started to relax a little.

He set the Scorbunny down on his bed. If he looked closely, he could swear there were tears in its eyes. He shook his head. It had to be a trick of the light - or at best, maybe it had been preparing to use Fake Tears to try to defend itself from Edward's Klinklang. After all, what would a Pokemon have to cry about?

All the same, he reached out and put a hand on its head. It didn't so much as look up at his hand, and he couldn't help but wonder if this was any different to how he would react if someone tried to show him some kindness. "Don't worry, little guy. It's okay. I'll...I'll protect you."

As though he could even protect himself from them. As though he hadn't already proven he didn't have the courage to protect it.

He decided to let the Scorbunny grow more comfortable in his presence by just going about his own business - which, chiefly, meant getting a drink of water that he could barely hold in trembling hands. He knew he'd be able to relax after a few minutes.

It wasn't as though this was the first time this had happened.

Once he could speak without his words catching in his throat and his breaths coming in shuddering gasps, he phoned his father.

"Richard, is this urgent? I'm very busy."

Richard bit back the urge to retort that he was always busy these days. "About Miss Coleman, the cleaner..?"

"Yes, Edward and Albert told me. Unfortunate, really, absconding with those two Pokemon and vandalising the house. I think they've been really rather generous with her."

"But...they were the ones that damaged the house!"

"Not the way they tell it, Richard," came the mild response.

And that was always the way of things. Their father would always treat the three of them equally, and that meant it was always two against one, that there was no sense telling him any of what they'd done. No matter what he tried, their father would always believe in his sons, and would never accept just how...monstrous...Edward and Albert had become.

He heard a sigh from the other end of the phone. "The truth is, I'd hoped that raising those young Pokemon together - as well as being your first real experience of Pokemon - would have been a bonding experience for the three of you. I'd even been planning to take some time off to join you next week, with a new Pokemon of my own, but unfortunately things cropped up."

"Yeah, they always seem to." Richard couldn't hide the bitterness in his tone, the anger that his father didn't even know he'd been sneaking out at night to raise a Pokemon already. Once upon a time, he wouldn't have ever managed to leave the house without having to give an explanation, and it wasn't the fact that he wasn't a minor any more that had changed that.

"Don't worry. I've got some time off in a month or so, and I've got something very special planned, just for the four of us, as a family. Something that will hopefully remind us all of how things...how things used to be."

He sounded so...tired.

It was coming up to ten years since it had happened, of course.

"I'd...I'd like that," Robert said, quietly. He knew it wouldn't happen. Knew that something else would come up, and he'd get nothing more than a texted apology, or at best a flying visit from an employee. But he knew he'd look forward to the day and hope all the same.

"What was that? Sorry, things are beginning to get moving here, I missed what you said."

"...never mind. See you, Dad."

The phone activated its repulsion field as he dropped it idly, floating in front of him until he shooed it away, sitting down heavily on the bed next to the Scorbunny. Its lip had already healed.

"I hate this," he whispered.

"Ever since it happened, ever since Mum..." He blinked back tears. "Everything's just been...going wrong."

Without really thinking about it, he let one of his hands rest on the bed, between him and the Scorbunny, and carefully didn't look at it, didn't move as he felt a little paw tap one of his fingers tentatively.

"Not just for us. There was almost a breach of the Wall, you know," he said, as though the Scorbunny would have the faintest idea what he was talking about.

He heard the duvet rustling slightly as the Scorbunny moved, kept carefully still.

"Over in District Three. One of the systems had stopped working, the person who was supposed to be monitoring them hadn't bothered to check, and they had to send someone Outside to try to fix it. Someone in the Upper City wasn't doing their job and someone in the Undercity gets put in danger as a result. And all the while we have people like Edward and Albert trying to convince everyone they meet that we're...superior, somehow...to the people in the Undercity. Even though our strongest Trainer and Macro Cosmos poster boy is from the Undercity."

Talking about Leon made him remember what Albert had said.

A school for Trainers, one that had trained Leon himself.

Edward and Albert might have mocked him in the privacy of the family home, but they wouldn't go against Leon publicly. He had too much support, too many fans, for their usual tactic of splashing money around to sway a meaningful number of people, and even if they'd insisted that their father buy them Pokemon that were stronger than Leon's, Richard would've bet Leon could take them even in a two-on-one fight any day.

Leon wouldn't be intimidated by them.

Leon would have stood up to protect an innocent Pokemon.

And somewhere out there was a school that had taught Leon everything he knew.

The Scorbunny had made it across the duvet, sitting next to him in the space between his hand and body. Even for such a small, young Fire-type it was quite hot - but after a moment it suppressed its heat so it just felt a little like a hot-water bottle.

"If you're any indication, it's a good thing Edward and Albert don't know enough about pedigree battlers to know how valuable your two friends really were," Richard reflected, looking down at it. It looked back up at him, waving its feet to and fro. Somehow having company - even if it was just a Pokemon - made his half-formed plan seem more possible. "But I guess you're stuck with me now, little guy."

The Scorbunny tucked itself against his side and chittered contentedly as he called his phone back over to start trying to compose a text to his father.

The sun didn't rise over the farm.

It never did.

'Dawn' was just the moment at which the artificial lights were turned on, blanketing the Undercity in harsh light.

It must have been nice to live Topside, where you could see the sun rise slowly, and night and day weren't decided by a solar sensor at the top of the Company's tower.

Skye was already awake. Like most Undersiders, she was used to the change between night and day, and how disorienting it could be if you weren't ready for it. Besides, the farmwork started well before dawn.

There was a nudge at her leg and a loud bleat. She looked down at the Wooloo that was bumping its head against her shin. "Yeah, yeah, alright. Greedy sods, the lot of you." She poured the last of the feed from the bag she was holding into their trough before any more of them started trying to use her leg as a feed-dispensing button, giving a satisfied sigh as they bleated happily and tucked in to their breakfast. "Seriously, none of you think about anything but food, huh?" She ruffled the wool of the closest one. Still, it wasn't as though that was a bad thing. It was when one of them lost its appetite they had to worry, because that meant a lack of Company suppressants in its system and potentially an accusation of trying to raise a battler from one of their Wooloo.

She wasn't surprised that Hop hadn't made it out to the farm. Wouldn't have been the first time he managed to sleep through the artificial dawn, or crash with someone after a moonshine-fuelled party. (And he wondered why everyone thought she was the older of the two friends.) But today his curtains were already open.

...oh, of course. It was that day.

She could hear the TV even before she opened the door, kicking off her boots outside before his gran could rebuke her if the elderly woman happened to be in the sitting room. It was always the best-quality TV they ever got, thanks to the Company blanketing every frequency the transmitters had in stock. Shame it was such a load of garbage, really.

"...beloved City is a wonderful place, with thriving nature and many Pokemon with which we share our lives! As you know, our society is able to thrive, thanks to help from these mysterious creatures! Yes, Pokemon are all around us, whether in District 2, helping clean the water we all drink, or in District 6, helping to provide the power we all use. And those of us who choose to raise and train Pokemon to do battle and compete under the proper supervision are called Pokemon Trainers!" A chuckle echoed from the TV's speakers. "Oh, but I'm getting carried away. Please allow me to introduce myself!" As though there was anyone watching who didn't know him. "My name is Rose, Chairman of Macro Cosmos, and it is a pleasure to be here. Now turn your gaze to the city of Galar's greatest Pokemon Trainer, your undefeated Champion...it's time for Champion Leon's exhibition match!"

"Why do you watch this shit?" Skye tried to make her voice sound more like a question, and less like an accusation. "If you really wanna watch Lee, fine, but why sit through all Rose's bull? Especially when he says the same thing every year."

Hop turned in his chair to look at her, and she was once again struck by just how much he looked like Lee now after gaining about six inches in height and a fair bit of muscle the past year. (Which also meant that, like Lee, he'd become annoyingly handsome. She tried to ignore that particular fact.) "You never know," he replied. "He might say something new. It's like Lee always used to say, he's the enemy. We oughta know everything we can about him."

"Yeah, because Lee turned out to be real good at fighting back against Rose. Oh, wait, no, he joined him." She knew her words would upset Hop, and she didn't care. If he was going to do this every year, she wasn't just going to roll over and tolerate Lee abandoning them the way he had. "Told us he'd remember us right up until he got a taste of Topside luxury, and then he pretended like we never existed."

"Oh, c'mon, Skye, not this again!" Hop groaned. "Lee didn't join Rose, you know that! He left to make a difference, to make things better for us!"

They'd had this argument every year ever since Lee had left. They both knew neither of them were ever going to back down. They were both too angry and hurt by Lee leaving, and both too frustrated at having no way of knowing what had really happened between Lee leaving and him materialising as Rose's personal attack dog two years later. And at having no way to take their anger out on anyone who actually deserved it.

"Sure, he's just gonna come waltzing back home and apologise for the past six years. Maybe he could bring back some of those millions of credits he's getting from that ridiculous sponsorship cloak of his."

Hop huffed in frustration, stabbing at the remote to cut off the TV broadcast, surprising Skye enough that she raised an eyebrow. "I'm recording it anyway," he answered her unasked question with a shrug. "Look at this." From his pocket, he produced a storage drive and plugged it into the side of the TV. "You remember when I went to the Wedge, a few weeks back? I met someone who'd been working for Company Security in the Stacks when Lee had come through. Managed to get this off him."

It was footage from a Company security camera. "Hop, are you fucking insane?! You know we could get thrown in jail for having something like this!" She couldn't help a nervous glance towards the window, even knowing that there was no reason to worry, no reason for the Company to spy on the living room of an insignificant Wooloo farm.

"Yeah, course I fucking know!" Hop retorted. "Just watch."

The grainy footage was of Lee, and Skye wished her breath didn't still catch in her throat seeing him, that her childish crush could've gone away when she stopped being a child. He was striding purposefully down a narrow street, until a Company suit caught up with him. "Mr Bateson! The train station is on the main road, not down here!"

"Oh, is it?" Lee laughed. "Welp, my bad! Main road is this way, yeah?"

"The other way, Mr Bateson," the man replied, exasperated.

"See?" Hop asked, pausing the video.

"...see what?"

"Oh, come on! You've been to the Stacks! That main road is fucking giant! You can't just...miss it! And you know as well as I do Lee never used to be that...dopey! They...they did something to him, Rose and the Company, drugged him or something to make him do what they want!"

"He's not a fucking Wooloo, dude," Skye retorted. "You think they're giving him some kind of magic drug that somehow doesn't stop him and Charizard kicking the shit out of whatever poor sod Rose doesn't like that day?"

"It's the Company! You really going to say you don't think they could make something like that? They made whatever freaky drug they give to the gang leaders' Pokemon to make them unbeatable, remember?"

"Oh, yeah, the 'invincibility drug' that no-one has any proof exists either. That's really helping your point."

Hop gritted his teeth. "Okay, fine, maybe not a literal drug! You're just dodging the point! You just don't want to admit that Lee might be in trouble and we're just sitting here doing fuck all!"

"And you don't want to admit that he abandoned us!"

Hop's hands clenched into fists, and she could almost see him considering whether to take a swing at her. She wished she could be confident that it was their friendship that stopped him and not the knowledge that trying would leave him flat on his face.

The loud sound of a van's horn from outside caught their attention. "Oh, whatever," Hop snapped. "You're always gonna be too scared to do anything for anyone." He pushed past her, stomping out onto the path that led from the farmhouse to the road.

Skye paused to take the storage drive out from the TV, just in case someone saw the obvious Company logo in the corner of the screen through the window, before she followed him. He'd probably be mad at her for touching it, or accuse her of editing it somehow when he looked at it again and realised just how little it proved. But better that than Company thugs descending on the farm and dragging him away - or their parents, or his grandparents, for something they hadn't even done.

"The fuck is this?!" Hop's angry exclamation caught her attention as she caught up with him - although when she saw what he saw looking at, this time she found herself agreeing with him. "The contract is for twelve bags of feed, genius. It was bad enough you only gave us eight last time."

Skye and Hop hadn't been there at the time - one of the farm's fences had been threatening to give way under the absent bumping of the Wooloo and the replacement had been delivered earlier the same day - but they'd heard all about it from Hop's gran. Skye had never seen the old woman so angry.

The driver of the van shrugged. "Says five on my end."

"You've delivered twelve bags every time for the past two years," Skye pointed out. "Same with the guy before you. You think we've just lost half the herd the past couple months?"

"Dunno. Ain't my problem."

"It's a fucking Company contract," Hop snapped. "You don't get to just skimp off on it."

"Ain't my contract." The driver held out his handheld. "You gonna confirm the delivery some time this year?"

"Like dist we are when you haven't delivered what you're meant to!" Hop retorted. Skye glanced at the handheld. She couldn't check it was the legit Company app, not without a handheld to communicate with the Company servers, but it certainly looked like the Company app, and sure enough, it said the delivery contract was for five bags.

"Suit yourself. I'll just take a photo of you two and the bags and report you to the Company, then?"

"You don't need to do that." The argument had attracted attention, and Hop's mother had approached, holding the farm's handheld. "We'll confirm the delivery, so long as you confirm you only delivered five."

"Like dist. I have to deliver to the Turfers just the same as I do you, and that means I gotta be independent. I'm not crossing Milo."

"Yeah, the Turfer colours you got folded on your passenger seat really scream 'independent,'" Skye snarked.

"You wanna try moving around the Green without them, be my guest. You'd probably last about five minutes before you get mugged for everything you have and handed off to the Tangle's markets." The driver held his handheld out impatiently until Mrs Bateson approved the completion of the contract. "Yeah, don't expect a good rating after this shit. See you next month."

"He know how many people would give anything for a cushy job like that?" Hop growled, once the van had driven away.

"Of course he does," Mr Bateson grumbled. "That's why he won't give us a bad review, no matter what he said."

The six of them - seven, as Skye's mum joined the group - regarded the five bags of feed. "What are we gonna do?" Skye asked the question that they were all thinking.

"We can cope," Mrs Bateson promised. "We have enough saved up that we can set up a contract to get another three bags of lower-grade feed, even at a premium. The suppressant drugs, at least, we can get from a Pokemon Centre. Perks of being a legitimate, accredited farm," she added, with a glance at her husband. Hop and Skye had both heard the arguments.

"But we can't do that from here," Skye pointed out. "And what about next month? And the month after that?" Most clothiers wouldn't admit it, but Wooloo wool was a good enough insulator - and easy enough to use to bulk out more valuable fabrics - that they could normally find a buyer come shearing time, even a Topside clothier once in a while, and with a couple dozen Wooloo the farm made enough to get by and support the seven of them. But with half that number?

"All we can do is the best we can, dear," her mum said, gently. "We'll file..." She hesitated. "...file a report against Milo for failing to complete the contract." They hadn't had the courage to do so last month. They'd all hoped the supply of feed would go back to normal, promised each other it would.

"We've been in worse situations before," Hop's granddad observed. "I ever tell you kids 'bout the time we had to buy Grimer meat on account of not bein' able to afford anything else? Now that was rough. This is just a...a blip, is all." He gave a forced laugh, and Skye knew he was right, knew that she and Hop had only been born after the farm was stable enough that they could support children without having to rely on handouts. But she knew that he was as scared of going back to that time as she was.

And they all knew the Company would never sanction Milo, no matter how many contracts he broke. Not so long as he and the Turfers kept the Green calm and sending produce Topside for their restaurants and farms. Somehow Skye doubted they were having issues with unfulfilled contracts.

"As far as getting to a Company office, that delivery man has to come back this way, and we can try to get a lift from him at least partway to the Wedge."

"I'll go," Hop offered, in what might have been the quickest he'd ever volunteered to help out the farm. But then he always jumped at the opportunity to get out of the Outskirts. Skye hated it, hating it feeling like they were losing him too.

"Excellent, then, you and Skye can go to the Wedge and arrange the contracts." Skye didn't mind being volunteered along with Hop, but then her mum handed Hop the handheld, not her, without even pausing to consider, and Skye tried not to let the hurt reach her eyes. "But for now, you two can get this moved into the barn. We'll move the Wooloo into the further field."

Skye and Hop were quiet for a few moments as their relatives departed. "Sure, we'll just do all the hard work," Hop muttered, moving towards the bags of feed the delivery man had dumped outside the gate. He looked back when Sky didn't follow him. "Skye?"

"I hate this."

Hop paused. "Huh?"

"I hate this," she repeated.

"Hate...what?"

"All this. This fucking city. It's...rotten, and twisted. No-one ever gives a shit about anyone else, they only ever care about saving themselves and their families, even if they could help other people just fine. Arc forbid ever actually risking something for someone else. And I hate that I don't know what I could ever do to make a difference, and I hate that you're right, that I'm too scared to try to do what Lee said he would."

Hop reached out and put a hand on her shoulder. "I get it," he said, softly. "But that's why we can't just let everything happen the way the Company wants. And I'll tell you something we got that Lee didn't have," he added. "Each other. We'll make a difference - together."

She managed a smile. "Yeah," she promised.

"Now, how 'bout we make a difference to these bags together?" Hop asked, flashing her a grin that made her roll her eyes at him. She picked up one of the bags, and then paused to watch as he bent down to try to balance two bags over each shoulder. He managed about three staggering steps towards the barn before he lost his grip on the ones over his left shoulder and they fell to the ground, shortly followed by the other two as he tried to catch them.

Skye bit back the urge to laugh out loud and tease him for trying to be so macho. Once upon a time he wouldn't have minded, and would've laughed with her. But she still wasn't really sure how close they were now. All the same, she slung two of the bags he'd dropped over her other shoulder. "You don't have to do everything yourself, you know," she said, instead.

"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled, and she couldn't tell if he meant it good-naturedly or not as he picked up the remaining two bags. Then she felt his hand on her back briefly, not quite pushing her the way they used to shove each other around when they were younger and closer, but lightly nudging her ahead of him and towards the barn.

Many thanks to Bramble (uh, I don't know your forum username, sorry!) for beta'ing the Skye portion of this!

I'm not going to be doing a chapter from each perspective like this for every update, but I figure it would be better than awkwardly leaping away from whichever character I introduced first after just one chapter to introduce the other one lol.

Oh also I'm probably going to use some similar terminology in this as I have been in Showstoppers (such as 'dist' being a substitute for 'hell' and 'Arc' for 'God'), but the two are very much not in the same setting, obviously.
 
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SayleeK

Johto League Champion
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Screenshotter
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260
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Jul 1, 2019
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1,496
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  2. Fairy
Pokédex Entry
Between long periods of dormant slumber, this writer rises again for periods of activity that leave piles of dead fictional Pokemon in their wake
Awwww, I’m glad AA inspired you to write some dystopia of your own! I’m looking forward to reading this, it’s such a cool concept! Always love some literalized class stratification, and the fact that Richard’s scene is literally above Skye’s in the post… :chef_kiss: (Also, Richard and Skye? XD)

God I can’t wait for Edward and Albert to get their asses kicked, preferably by that Scorbunny.

Man, the Undercity setting is so delightfully sci-fi

Corporate dystopia, yaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssss, love it, and the idea that Leon is such a ditzy himbo because he’s been lobotomized or some shit? Chilling

The beat-down culture you’ve set up comes through really strongly—it’s pretty clear that legitimate authority is either less powerful than Milo or doesn’t give a shit about his gang running farmers into the ground.

This is all hella cool, can’t wait to read more!
 

llyarden

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  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #3
SayleeK - Hi! And thanks! Yeah Richard's name was deliberate, although Skye's name was just because I started the gameplay before I decided to make it a Nuzlocke, went with the female character because I figured they might have better outfits (my experiences with X and Y showing through I guess!) and Skye was just a nice-sounding name lol. And oh yeah Edward and Albert will eventually get their comeuppance...eventually. Glad you're enjoying the general ambience!

"So do you actually have a plan for convincing this guy to give us a ride?" Skye asked, as they waited for the delivery driver to come back along from delivering to the other farms along the Outskirts. "Or..?"

"Sure I do," Hop responded, with an unshakeable confidence that made it very hard for her to tell if he actually had something planned or if he was just going to blag it. With him, it could be either. "Just you watch. I've been to the Wedge before, remember?"

She remembered the fact that half the time he came back battered and bruised after a run-in with the Turfers. "And I haven't?" she pointed out.

"Sure, sure, but I've been there more," Hop retorted. Skye was pretty sure that wasn't true. "Trust me, it'll be fine. Oh, hey, here he is!" Hop ran forwards, half into the road (in so far as it could be called a road to begin with), waving enthusiastically enough that the driver couldn't possibly pretend he hadn't seen him.

He obviously thought about just driving past them anyway, but stopped - though not exactly outside the farm, forcing them to come to him. Hop set off first, somewhere between jogging and running that left Skye caught off-guard. "The fuck you want?" he demanded. Which was a better start than Skye had envisaged, if she was honest.

"You deliver to the Wedge as well as the Green?" Hop asked.

"Might do."

"Fancy giving us a lift?"

"Nope."

This didn't seem to discourage Hop. He reached into his old, tatty green satchel - his parents had, at great expense, bought him a new one for his 18th​ birthday, which he'd managed to lose barely a week later on one of his trips to the Wedge - and pulled out a small, blue lump of crystal, a couple inches long. "You sure?"

The van driver looked at the lump of crystal in Hop's hand for a long few moments. "Giving an Essence Crystal to someone else is illegal," he said, in a very...careful...tone.

"Right, right you are, so...we'll just be going, then?"

An Essence Crystal, even one as small and low-quality as that, would be worth a small fortune in black-market barter, at least as far as people as far down the totem pole as the three of them were were concerned. The driver took one look at Hop's expression and reached out to snag the crystal. "Get in," he said simply, with a jerk of his head towards the rear of the van.

Skye was quiet until they were both in the van - there was only one bag of feed left in it, but the other bags had all left no shortage of smell behind - and they were in motion. Then she gripped Hop by the shoulder. "Hop, where the fuck did you get an eecie?"

"Found it," he answered, with an obnoxious smirk and an idle shrug that dislodged her hand and made it clear he wasn't planning on telling her. Not that she really needed him to. There was only one way of getting eecies outside the Company's 'rewards' for good ratings on contracts.

"Okay, leaving aside the fact that they'd have locked you up and thrown away the key if that guy felt like turning you in for a Company bounty? You could've gotten enough shit to barter for ten rides with that."

"Sure - at the Wedge. You know how fucking long it would take to walk there?"

"Four hours," Skye said, flatly. "I've done it." More than once, and usually because Hop hadn't been there to do something he was supposed to. "And speaking of shit that'd get you locked up?"

She offered him the storage drive back, and he snatched it from her quickly. He did at least have the decency to look a little sheepish as he realised the undercurrent in her tone, but he pocketed the drive and continued on the conversation as if she hadn't mentioned it at all. "Yeah, exactly! If this gets us there in a state that we don't look like the easiest targets the Turfers have ever seen, I'd say that's a good deal."

Skye was quiet for a few moments. "Is the Wedge really that bad?" she asked.

Hop's smirk faded. "Yeah. It's bad. The Turfers have been moving in big time, kicking the shit out of the local gangs. I mean, even Topside is worried 'bout it."

"How do you figure that out?"

"Because..." And Hop raised a finger as though to give a dramatic revelation, that smirk plastered back on his face. "Lee's going to be there - this afternoon!"

For a moment Skye wasn't sure if he was kidding. But..."That's why you had that eecie saved up?"

"Yup. It's some...charitable thing, or something, after the collapse the other week. Well, at least, that's the Company line. Funny enough, I hear the Turfers chilled the fuck out after they heard he was gonna be there."

"Yeah, who's surprised here?" Skye snarked, despite herself. "So...what are you going to do? I'm assuming you're going to do something."

"I'm gonna make sure Lee sees me," Hop replied simply. "If he's himself, he'll be able to pick me out of a crowd any day - 'specially if you're there too, so that worked out. And even if he isn't, whether it's drugs or Psychic control or whatever the fuck, Charizard will see us, no problem."

"You really think he's going to let Charizard out in the middle of the street?"

"Well, it's not like anyone would be stupid enough to try to steal him," Hop pointed out. "Besides, you've seen all the Company adverts and shit. It's always Leon and his unbeatable Charizard. And the dragon knows us almost as well as he does Lee."

"...you know Charizard isn't actually a Dragon-type, right?"

Hop blinked, and refused to admit he didn't. "Well, you know what I mean. He looks like a dragon. Anyway, point is, all we gotta do is make sure Lee sees us, and we'll be good. If he sees us, I'm sure he'll figure out some way we can talk to him."

Hop looked so excited, so happy, that Skye couldn't bring herself to doubt his idea.

And besides, it wasn't as though she didn't want to see Lee too.

They travelled quietly the rest of the way - either that one remaining feed bag had been rejected, or the van driver was willing to take a delay to the contract in exchange for getting Skye and Hop to the Wedge quicker - until the driver leant back to call over the rumbling and rattling of the van's engine. "Coming up to the lift now, so you two might wanna shut up back there."

"We weren't even..." Hop started to protest, but settled for shaking his head frustratedly as the engine went quiet.

Of course, even with the van's engine off, it was unlikely anyone would be able to hear them over all the noise once they started moving again. The Company trains might have gone to and from the Wedge, but everyone who couldn't afford tickets on the armoured, guarded carriages had to make do with the lifts. And these weren't the lifts to the upper layers of the Stacks, or the occasional lifts that went directly Topside, the lifts were under Company control and received regular maintenance. These lifts had been built haphazardly after the Wedge became a permanent feature of the City instead of the temporary reinforcement to the Wall it should've been, by its people and the people of the Green. At best, they were slow, loud and frightening. At worst...

She almost found herself taking Hop's hand, catching herself before she did, shaking her head. For all the horrible stories about the Wedge lifts failing and raining their helpless passengers and cargo down on the houses below, fatal accidents were rare. And the fact that one had happened just a couple of weeks ago probably meant that the lifts would've all been checked recently, making them as safe as they were ever going to be.

Outside, in the tense silence, someone started to sing.

The voice was alone for a moment, and then another joined it. And another. And another.

It was the song of the Undercity - it would've had another name long ago, of course, but now it was their song. A song of loss and loneliness, of darkness and tyranny, but of make-believe and whim and hope, and of the promise of a better life, and the song grew louder and louder.

Skye knew the song, of course. What Undersider didn't? She didn't know all the words of all the verses the way some - or even most - of the others on the lift did, but one of her few memories of her father was of him humming the tune softly to send her to sleep.

The lift lurched into life with a rattling and creaking so loud and omnipresent that it sounded like the whole thing was collapsing, but the song was undeterred, and the voices grew louder and somehow the tune came with them, a bellowing harmony that just for a few moments drew everyone on the lift, no matter how starkly opposed they would be once they left the lift, into a close camaraderie and unity that even the Topsiders couldn't take from them.

Hop was singing too, softly, and she felt his hand land on hers, and she laced her fingers between his as the lift juddered to a stop and the song began to fade.

"Never heard that before, huh?" Hop asked, quietly, once the van's engine was running again.

"Not...not like that." She'd never been up in one of the vehicle lifts before. On the rare occasion she'd been to the Wedge, it had been on foot, and the song was drowned out by the mechanisms of the lift. "It's...nice." She hesitated for a few moments. "I wish we could hear it more than just on the lifts."

"Yeah...it'd be nice," Hop agreed. "But it won't happen. You think the gangs would ever allow a singalong like that in their territory? People having a community outside the gang?"

Skye sighed. It wasn't as though she hadn't figured out that that was the reason, but hearing Hop say it aloud...somehow made it more real.

The van pulled into a side alley and rattled to a stop, and the driver looked back to them. "Right, out you get. Company suits have been around here the past couple days 'cos of the Champ showing up later today."

Hop grumbled, but he didn't want to have to explain why they were riding in a delivery van to Company officials any more than the driver of the van did. "Fuck, we're ages away!" he complained, when he saw where they'd arrived.

"Still got here quicker than we would've done on foot," Skye pointed out, before remembering that she'd been trying to be disapproving of Hop bartering with eecies. He gave her another of those annoying smirks, knowing full well that she'd forgotten. He could be so infuriating when he wanted to be.

"Well, come on then!" he said, cheerfully, leading the way into the Wedge proper. "Lee's gonna be here soon!"
 

llyarden

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Jun 30, 2019
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  • #4
There was an excitement in the air, everyone talking about Lee visiting. He was the only piece of Topside anyone in the Undercity would ever admit to liking - and the people who disliked him were smart enough to not voice those opinions publicly.

A handsome, dashing rogue who'd fought his way Topside and forced them to acknowledge him as better than any of them - what wasn't there to like? It was the dream of most Undersiders, after all. And most Undersiders didn't know the people he'd left behind. They saw his periodic appearances in the Undercity as proof he hadn't forgotten them and forgave the lack of any tangible change.

But Hop hadn't been exaggerating. The Wedge was bad.

The cheer might have been genuine, but it was too brittle, too forced, exaggerated so no-one had to think about the real world. And it took just a few minutes for her to notice the signs of the truth beneath the veneer. A couple of futile requests from the local police for witnesses to kidnappings, pasted on lampposts and carefully ignored by everyone walking past them, the darkened shops that didn't even dare board up their windows in case it was taken as a gesture of rebellion...and the figures who everyone tried their best to avoid without it seeming like they were avoiding them, save for those few snakes who were eager to get an in with what they saw as the winning side by cosying up to them.

The Turfers might not have had the guts to wear their colours here today, but they didn't need to. Everyone knew who they were, and no-one would dare to go against them, not even today. Come tomorrow, Lee would be back Topside. They wouldn't.

She wasn't going to admit it out loud, but she was glad Hop was with her. She might have been confident in her ability to take your average thug in a straight-up fight, but if the Turfers took offence to her, it wouldn't be a fight. At best it would be a beating. At worst one of them might have one of those mushroom Pokemon that the Tangle raised and she wouldn't even feel the Sleep Powder settling on her before she was unconscious. But together, they'd be a much less tempting target.

Hop was much less careful than she would've been, though. Even he wasn't stupid enough to confront the Turfers outright, but he didn't let the two of them follow the ebb and flow of the people going back and forth the way she would've, weaving and pushing his way through with just the occasional "S'cuse me," or "Coming through," as though he wasn't already drawing enough attention to them.

Was he only being like this because he wanted to make sure Lee saw them? Or was this how he acted all the time? Skye was pretty certain it was the former - he might have come back home beaten and bloody a couple times before, but if he'd crossed the Turfers, even up on the Wedge, he might not have come back at all.

Thankfully, while their passage did draw attention, they weren't the only ones hurrying to and fro, and as far as Skye could tell from her cautious glances the Turfers seemed to just think they were another couple of excited teenagers wanting to see the Undercity's champion.

As they got nearer the station - which had been converted into a stage - the festival atmosphere grew stronger, to the point that if Skye didn't pay too much attention, she could have thought that there really wasn't a threat here. There were even little stalls selling food and drink, and little toy dolls of Leon and Charizard. Hop bought a skewer of meat each for them before she could tell him not to waste the credits, but she couldn't deny the fact that she was getting hungry too, and while the 'meat' was essentially gristle and fat coated in a thick layer of spiced oil it was a lot better than she'd expected.

She wasn't sure how long they waited. It might have been five minutes, it might have been half an hour. Their original purpose for coming to the Wedge might not have totally been driven out of her mind, but she wasn't about to suggest they go to the local Pokemon Centre to post the contract right now. Not if it meant they'd risk missing Lee.

The Company train arrived at speeds that wouldn't have been even remotely safe for anything Undercity-made, hissing to a smooth halt at the station and bringing utter silence to the gathered crowd.

"People of Temporary District 1-B!" A voice echoed from the speakers that had been set up at the station, heedless as ever of how fucking ridiculous a name that was. "Please welcome the one, the only...your Champion...Leon Bateson!"

The silence turned into a wall of pure sound, of screaming, yelling, cheering.

A soft, billowing mist preceded Leon out of the carriage, and no matter how absurd she'd always thought that velvet cloak was with all its sponsorship symbols, seeing Leon in person for the first time Skye had to admit it really worked for him. It must have been made of some hi-tech Topside material, because it almost seemed to float behind him, fluttering in a non-existent breeze as Leon strutted onto the stage and struck a pose, one hand on his hip and the other in the air, and somehow the crowd got even louder.

There was some dim part of Skye's mind felt a bit sorry for Charizard, because despite looming over Leon with a tail blazing like a furnace barely anyone registered he existed, even when the massive Fire-type raised his head and let out a roar that could be heard even over the crowd.

And Skye and Hop were screaming and cheering along with them, and before she fully realised what he was doing Hop stooped and lifted Skye up so she was sitting on his shoulders, above the crowd, and she waved her arms wildly. "LEE! LEE!" She couldn't even hear Hop, but she knew he'd be yelling too, and then Lee's idle gaze scanning the crowd fell on her, those eyes like molten chocolate meeting hers, and how many times had she looked at him like this, how many happier memories from when they were younger and had nothing to care about except remembering the answer to Sonia's next pop quiz question -

And then his gaze moved on without his expression changing an inch, and suddenly the cheering felt so...isolating, so hostile, and her arms fell back to her side, limply.

"Thank you, thank you!" Leon called, his voice magnified over the crowd without losing any of its passion. "Thank you all for having me here. I just wish I didn't have to be." The crowd fell quieter again as Hop let Skye back to the ground. "Innocent people died because we're forced to use makeshift contraptions just to reach our homes. Because people don't care. This place will always be Temporary District 1-B to them." He was careful not to name the Company or the Topsiders specifically, but everyone knew exactly who he meant. "But don't worry." And his sombre expression became a grin, wild and aggressive, and despite it all Skye couldn't stop it sending a jolt of adrenaline through her as his gaze roved over the crowd again. "Things are gonna change, and soon. I promise you."

The last few words were almost drowned out by the roar of the crowd. It wasn't jubilant or celebratory any more, it was taut and angry just the way Leon was stoking it to be, and he struck his pose again, revelling in the control he had over them, and then he turned on his heel and disappeared back into the carriage.

"Whoo!" Hop laughed, softly. "That was awesome!" He turned back to Skye, grinning wildly. "And there's no way you can say Lee doesn't have our best interests at heart now. You heard him. Things are gonna change."

"You're the one that watches all his appearances when the Company broadcasts them." Skye watched over Hop's shoulder as Leon's train rocketed away. She didn't really realise her gaze was fixed on it until it disappeared into a tunnel and she realised she wasn't looking at Hop at all. "How many times has he said exactly that?" she asked, returning her attention to Hop. "And exactly how much has changed?"

She knew this wasn't the time to have this argument, not again. The tense, angry mood of the crowd was all around them, and she'd have been lying if she'd claimed she wasn't feeling just as pent-up as Hop was. "Yeah, nothing's changed yet," Hop admitted. "But it will. Lee wasn't lying."

"Sure, he's dancing to the Company's tune, stringing everyone along and making sure no-one actually does anything because 'he's going to do something.' But no, he's clearly not lying about it."

"Yeah? You're the one who said you knew him so well. The one who's been crushing on him since we were kids," he added, spitefully. "Was he lying there?"

"He..." But Skye couldn't say 'yes,' no matter how much she wanted to just to shut Hop up. Deceiving someone like that just...wasn't Lee. That wild, savage passion in his tone and his eyes was as genuine as it had always been.

"Yeah, I thought so."

"Skye Montrell?"

The sudden use of her surname made her jump and she instinctively balled one hand into a fist as she spun around. It was a middle-aged man, not overtly dressed in Turfer colours, not that that meant anything. But why would they know her surname? He had a handheld out, and though he flicked it off before she could get a good look at it she was pretty sure she saw her citizen ID photo on it - hers and Hop's.

"Who the fuck are you?" Hop snapped. He'd stepped up to stand next to her.

"No offence, but I'm not giving you my name," the man replied. He seemed...nervous. Almost scared. "Let's just say I owe your brother a favour and get this over with."

Hop's demeanour went from aggressive to excited like flicking a switch. "Lee sent you?!"

"Can you not tell the whole fucking Wedge? Just...come on, would you?"

The man didn't wait for an answer, turning and bustling back into the crowd.

"Hey, wait up!" Hop called, drawing the idle attention of a few of the people nearby, starting off after him without even skipping a beat.

Skye gritted her teeth. This could so easily be a trap. But even if she brought up the possibility, Hop wouldn't care. The idea that Lee was reaching out to them was too tempting to pass up.

For her as well as him.

Skye and Hop were led to the edge of the Wedge, where it wasn't safe to build or live any more because the supports had crumbled away, as though the solitary chain-link fence that had been erected would stop anyone from going there if they wanted to. Hop made ducking through the gap in the bottom of the fence far easier than it seemed, and Skye swore quietly as her jacket caught on the exposed metal when it was her turn.

It didn't take long for her to realise why Hop was so familiar with this place. There were pockmarks taken out of almost every available surface, and it was all scorched black from fire and electricity.

"Okay, this oughta be far enough," their guide muttered. He reached into his bag, and Skye found herself instinctively tensing to spring at him - but instead of the weapon she'd half expected, he produced two Pokeballs. Which weren't exactly harmless either, but she doubted he'd be able to expand and throw them with one hand before she could get at him. With his other hand, he reached into a pocket of his jacket and produced two small rectangles of some synthetic lattice, which he held out to Hop and Skye first.

Hop reacted a little quicker than Skye, snatching both of them from the older man. "No WAY?!" He all but threw one of them to Skye instead of handing it to her, and despite her wince at his shout of excitement she barely managed to stop herself shouting in surprise as well.

It was a Trainer licence - not a heavily-restricted one like the one that was carefully locked in the living room back home with its reams of additional clauses and requirements, but a full-fledged Trainer license, complete with an unflattering photo of her.

She ran her fingers over the words 'FULL LICENCE' as though expecting them to rub off, and then looked back at Hop. He flashed his own licence back at her - it was just the same as hers, gold trim and all - with the goofiest grin. Not that she was managing to keep a composed expression of her own. Having a full-fledged Trainer licence opened up an impossible number of opportunities for the farm, to say nothing of having two.

After a moment, Hop thought to scan his licence on the farm's handheld. "It's really...real," he all but whispered.

"Yeah, no shit, genius," the man who'd given them the licences retorted. "It's almost like your big brother can get the Topsiders to do whatever he wants - if he can be bothered."

The courier's grumpy attitude did dampen Skye's mood a little, and she had to admit he had a point. Getting a licence for the farm had taken nearly three years. There was no way in dist that any Undercity resident would have been able to get an official Trainer licence with no limits, even if they tried for thirty years. Even Lee hadn't had a licence when he'd left the farm - Skye still remembered having to hide out in the barn with Sonia and Charmander when Company inspectors made a surprise visit.

And yet, it didn't seem likely that Lee would have to jump through all the same hoops, not now he was a big-shot Topsider celebrity. Much as Skye wanted to think that he could've been struggling to get them licences of their own ever since he left the farm, there was no way it wouldn't be easy for him. And besides..."Why?"

"Don't fucking ask me. These are for you too." The man thrust the Pokeballs at them. "He said I had to make sure you each got one."

"We already have a ranch full of Pokemon back home," Skye pointed out.

"Not like these you don’t," the man replied, cracking a grin for the first time that exposed rotten teeth. "These are special-bred battlers meant for some Topside asshole - hey!" Hop had swiped one of the Pokeballs, presumably at random, and was holding it almost reverently in both hands.

Even the Pokeball itself screamed 'Topside,' so shiny and flawless that it could have come straight off the manufacturing line. It was a far cry from the battered Pokeballs back home, chipped and scratched with their paint flaking off and names written on them in permanent marker so everyone knew which Wooloo went with which Pokeball.

"I hope I ain't gotta say this, but I never gave none of this shit to you." And with that, the man was off, planting the other Pokeball in Skye's outstretched hand as he disappeared back through the fence as though she and Skye were holding loaded weapons.

Which, to some extent, she supposed they were.

There was a bright flash of white light as Hop sent out the Pokemon contained in his Pokeball. It was a little blue reptile with a curled-up tail and a big head with a long yellow fin on top, and it looked around at Hop and Skye, whimpered - and promptly disappeared. "The fuck?!" Hop yelped. He tried to snatch at the air where it had been, and there was a faint thumping sound and a little trail of water appeared on the ground, along with what looked like a floating patch of blue fur. And then there was a deafening wailing sound, like a dozen babies all bawling at once. "Oh, fuck, I'm sorry, little guy!" Hop reached down again, more tentatively, and from somewhere in his pocket produced a little bit of Pokemon food. The crying stopped as the food seemed to disappear from out of his hand, and a moment later the little Pokemon wiped its chameleon-like coating off its face, leaving its two big, blue eyes seemingly floating disembodied in mid-air as it looked hopefully up at Hop. "The fuck is this thing?" Hop complained.

Now she knew it could turn invisible, if she squinted, Skye was pretty sure she could make out its outline. "How do you expect me to know?" she retorted. But she was glad that Hop had sent out his Pokemon first. At least now she knew that they could go invisible and wouldn't be as surprised as Hop had been if hers did the same thing.

Except as it turned out, the Pokemon contained in her Pokeball was totally different - a brown-and-green monkey, which thankfully did not promptly turn invisible. Instead it looked up at Skye and immediately decided to use her as a climbing post, leaping onto her bag, scampering up her arm and settling on her shoulder. "Looks like he likes you," Hop grinned.

"Same to you." Hop's Pokemon had calmed down enough for Hop to pick it up as well, and she was pretty sure the two Pokemon were looking at each other. Then she felt a hard rap on the side of her head as the monkey pulled a small bit of wood from its fur and hit her with it. "OW! Cut it out!"

Hop burst out laughing as she tried to shoo the monkey off her shoulder, but it just hopped up on top of her head and hit her again.

"Oh, don't bother helping me or anything!" Skye growled, as she managed to catch the monkey before it could escape again and held it at arm's length. It chittered and hit her wrist with its stick, making her swear loudly. "Stop it!" It finally seemed to get the message and slipped the stick back into the fur on its head. "Fucking dist." She was pretty sure it hadn't been hitting her as hard as it could have, but it still hurt. "What the fuck are we even meant to do with battlers? It's not like they grow wool."

"Well...I mean, I guess we can use them to win battles?" Hop suggested. And then he looked down, uncharacteristically nervously, and put the still-half-invisible reptile down. "So...there's something I haven't mentioned. I kind of...already have a battler."

From somewhere in his bag, he produced a second Pokeball, this one far more scratched and battered, and sent out a Wooloo. But this Wooloo was obviously nothing like the ones at the farm Skye was used to - its coat was matted and unkempt, its horns larger, and it was far bulkier than the farm Wooloos. It approached her just like they did, but it was far more animated, butting her in the midriff, almost making her drop the little monkey - who wriggled out of her grip and hastily scampered back onto her shoulder. "Fuck off!" she snapped - she wasn't even sure if she was talking to the Wooloo or the monkey - putting her hands on the Wooloo's horns and trying to push it away. The farm Wooloos submitted meekly to any kind of pressure on their horns, but this one did just the opposite and pushed back, hard enough to knock her off-balance, stamping its forelegs. "Hop, would you get your fucking Wooloo away from me?!"

"It's a battler, Skye!" Hop replied, with an exasperated tone. "They have a lot of energy."

"I know it's a fucking battler, which is why I don't want it stamping near my fucking feet!" Hop whistled, sharply, and the Wooloo backed off. "Thank you. Fuck."

"So...yeah. I kind of took him from the herd a couple years ago. That's why I've been coming to the Wedge so often, to get feed without the suppressants in it, and to battle with him." Hop patted the Wooloo on the head as it stood by his side, and looked up at her with pleading eyes. "So..."

He was so nervous, so desperately wanting her to tell him it was okay. But... "Did you really think we didn't know?" she asked, quietly.

Hop gaped at her for a moment.

"Did you really think we wouldn't notice a Wooloo just disappearing one day? For fuck's sake, Hop, your granddad nearly put a bounty contract out until we realised it was you that had taken it."

"Then...why didn't you say something? Why didn't Mum and Dad tell me to give it back?"

"Because I convinced them not to!" It was more of a shout than she'd intended, and Hop flinched. "Yes, it might be illegal, but having the income from a battler would've made such a big difference. You've gotta remember what it was like when Lee was battling. I hoped you might use the Wooloo to make a difference, to help us all. I told them you would."

"You...you told them?"

"But you just battle to get high or get laid. You don't care the way Lee did." She knew she shouldn't have said it, but she couldn't stop herself.

"Stop fucking comparing me to Lee!" Hop's sudden shout made her jump. "You know how much I've had to live with this shit? How Lee always helped out on the farm, how he sent back money all the time, how he was a better son? I know I'm a fucking failure, alright? I get it! That's why I never fucking bothered trying to help the farm. It wouldn't matter what I did, Lee would've always done better."

"Hop..."

"But out here? People respect me out here. I've got a reputation. Wooloo is one of the toughest Pokemon in the fucking Wedge. Even the Turfers round here can't take me one-on-one. I'm not just Lee Bateson's kid brother trying to pretend like I'm him, the way all you always see me."

"Hop, I didn't mean -"

"Save it." There was a wild, savage edge to his tone, so much like the way Lee had spoken earlier. "And don't go thinking you can just get up and start battling like it's flicking a switch. Just having a Pokemon with you doesn't make you a real Trainer. You start battling randomly, you'll just get your little monkey thing hurt. Or killed."

"In case you forgot, I was the one who was training with Lee when he was learning how to be a Trainer," Skye retorted, acerbically. "I know how to battle."

"Oh, sure you do." Hop gave another whistle, and the Wooloo took a couple of steps towards her. "Prove it."

Skye clenched her fists. Hop was right when he said that battling for no good reason wasn't a good idea. But after so long of waiting, hoping for him to help their families with his illegal battles, to prove her right when she'd told them it was a good idea to let him keep going, and finally being able to tell him the truth and having it thrown back in her face...she wanted to prove him wrong.

The little monkey sitting on her shoulder chittered and waved its stick aggressively when she set it down, Hop's Wooloo already stamping its feet, waiting for the command from Hop to charge.

"You're seriously doing this?" Hop asked. "You don't have to."

"Yeah, I do." Lee gave me a Pokemon, not just you. He believed in me.

Hop narrowed his eyes, his demeanour changing as he focused on the battle with an intensity she'd never seen from him before. "Suit yourself. Tackle, Wooloo!"

Almost before she realised it was happening, the Wooloo was charging, and it was so totally unlike the placid demeanour she was used to that for a moment she just froze, and the Wooloo slammed into the much smaller monkey, making it squeal in pain - but for all its bulk, Wooloo were mostly wool, and even one this big and bulky probably barely weighed more than the monkey itself, and the smaller Pokemon managed to keep its footing. "A-attack back!" Skye wished she could sound as confident as Hop, cursing the fact that Hop knew what moves his Pokemon knew and she didn't - and he was smirking, knowing he had that advantage over her. But the monkey understood 'attack' even without a move associated, it seemed, because it scratched at the Wooloo's face with its little paws, making the sheep bleat and stumble backwards.

"Don't stop, keep attacking!" Hop called out. "Knock it over!"

"Keep going for its face!" Skye cried out, at more or less the same moment. And her Pokemon had the advantage now, keeping up the scratches and advancing as the Wooloo tried to back away from its foe, clearly unused to such vicious persistence, and then she saw the Wooloo's legs begin to buckle and it slumped, still conscious but in no state to keep fighting, the wool around its neck stained red with blood. "Uh, stop!" she cried, hastily, and the monkey obeyed, backing off and returning to her side.

Hop was looking down at the ground, unmoving. "So that's how powerful these Pokemon Lee gave us are, huh?" he murmured. "Guess I shouldn't be surprised. But I'm not...I'm not letting you be better at this than me! WATER GUN!"

And she realised too late that Hop's second Pokemon, the one he'd gotten from Lee, wasn't anywhere to be seen, and it materialised in front of them and opened its mouth, sending a jet of water at the monkey, and even just the incidental spray was fast enough that it stung her hand where it hit -

And when the jet stopped, the little monkey had barely even flinched, and it gave a chittering sound that sounded like a laugh.

"And what are the three types that resist Water?"

"Ooh, I know this one!" Skye beamed excitedly. "Can I?"

Sonia shared a glance with Lee, and he gave an idle shrug. "Be my guest, Skye."

"So it's Water, and Dragon, and...um..." She paused, saw Lee making a wiggling motion with his fingers that Sonia couldn't see.

"No cheating, Lee!" Sonia scolded him.

"I wasn't telling her anything!" Lee protested, holding his hands up in front of him. "See?"

"Sure you weren't," she retorted, with a smirk. "So, Skye? Water, Dragon and..?"

"Um...it's Bug, right?"

"Nearly," Lee answered, tousling her hair lightly. "It's Grass."

"Wha - oh, that's not fair! Bug and Grass are basically the same!"


"So you're a Grass-type, I'm guessing, huh, little guy?" Skye asked aloud, as if the little monkey would be able to answer.

"Water Gun again!" Hop snapped, but the plume of water that the chameleon released this time wasn't even powerful enough to reach its target. "Fine, just attack it, then!" Hop hadn't realised the type advantage Skye had over him, but the reptile scampered forwards and punched the monkey in the stomach, making it double over in pain. The little Grass-type was tough, but there was no way it would be able to take this kind of punishment for long.

"Uh...do..." Skye stammered, trying desperately to think of something.

"Hey, hey, I've got a question!" They turned to see Hop approaching, with his hands tucked behind his back. "What's the..." He paused, pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, keeping the other hand suspiciously behind his back. "What's the weakest, single-hit physical Grass move low-level Pokemon learn?"

"What kind of question is that?" Skye complained.

"It's...Branch Poke!" And Hop whipped a thin, flexible twig out from behind his back and tickled Skye under the armpit with it, making her shriek with laughter. "Poke! Poke-poke!"

"Hey, get off!" Skye complained through her laughter, trying to wriggle and bat the twig away.

"Branch Poke!" Skye yelled, and she could swear the monkey grinned at her before it whipped the twig from its head tuft - and then there was a glow of green light and the twig grew and sprouted leaves until it was almost longer than the monkey was tall, and it lunged forwards, directly at the startled reptile before it could camouflage itself again.

The super-effective attack was far more powerful than Skye had ever expected, knocking the reptile back across the clearing where it slammed into the Wooloo, the impact cushioned by the thick wool. Had the monkey done that deliberately to soften the blow, or was it just concidence?

Hop just stared for a few moments at his two Pokemon - one unconscious, the other conscious but barely moving. "You only won 'cos you had a type advantage," he said, anger still clear in his tone. She wasn't sure he was even talking to her.

Skye had crouched down to check on the wounds the monkey had suffered during the battle - she didn't know anything about its species, or even what species it was, but she still knew a little first aid. "We should take them to the Pokemon Centre to get checked out," she said, ignoring his bitterness.

"Do whatever you want," Hop replied simply, recalling his Pokemon and walking off.

Skye managed to control her laughter enough to grab the other end of the twig. "Hey, Hop? What's the first attacking move Wooloo learn?"

Hop blinked, too confused by the sudden question to consider trying to yank the twig out of her grasp. "Uh...I dunno."

"Tackle!" she beamed, and leapt at him, rolling around and play-wrestling as Charmander and Yamper ran around them with excited yaps and growls, and Sonia and Lee laughed as they looked on.
 

RocketVulpix

So cute yet so evil.
Team Omega
Pokédex No.
1231
Caught
Dec 27, 2019
Messages
77
Location
Somewhere in Kalos
Nature
Sassy
Pronouns
she/her
Pokémon Type
  1. Fire
  2. Dark
Pokédex Entry
This Pokémon can often be found on Nugget Bridge begging to be allowed to join Team Rocket.
I’m getting major Final Fantasy 7 vibes from this and I love it! Looking forward to morr!
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #6
Haha, yeah, I saw the FF7 remake in passing and the city was definitely something of an inspiration for this version of Galar - especially this Galar's version of Wedgehurst. And thanks!

Skye was still fuming even after she'd retrieved the monkey from the Pokemon Centre nurses - she hadn't told them she didn't know what species it was. Down that road led potential marks on her licence for not properly discharging her duties as a Trainer, and eventually even the confiscation of her licence and Pokemon.

Lee had given her this Pokemon. Even if she didn't really understand why, she wasn't going to let something as foolish as that take it away from her.

She didn't see Hop at the Centre. There was only one on the Wedge, and while it was technically possible that he might have somehow gotten there before her and already had his Pokemon healed and departed...it didn't seem that likely.

How could he be so...stupid?

On any other day, she'd have been awed at the Pokemon Centre's healing technology. Ordinary licences like the farm's didn't qualify for having Pokemon healed with it; only professional battlers with full licences were allowed access to it for free. And she could see why - barely a minute of sitting in its Pokeball in the machine, and the monkey was back to fighting fitness without so much as a tuft of fur out of place.

It beat an excited drumbeat on the counter when she let it back out, and she plastered a smile over her face as though she was as excited as it was before she returned it again to go back out into the Wedge - the Pokemon Centre might have been a safe space, but she wasn't stupid enough to go flashing a Pokeball around outside. That was an easy recipe for the Turfers to come after her, doubly so since it was a Grass-type. Rumour had it that Milo paid handsomely for powerful Grass-types, and low-level as it might have been, the monkey's battle with Hop's two Pokemon made it clear that it was definitely powerful.

Thankfully, the monkey was also well-trained enough that it didn't try to pop back out of its Pokeball without permission. The Pokemon Centre did sell Pokeball locks, but even if she'd been able to afford one...it just felt cruel. All the Wooloo in the farm had locks on their Pokeballs, but that was because it was one of the terms in the licence, and they never actually used them. Even if they were just tools, trapping them in whatever non-space they went to when returned was a step she wasn't willing to take.

Skye arrived at the Wedge market without really realising that she was heading there on autopilot. Maybe Hop would be there, once he'd cooled off a bit. He wasn't, and she swore quietly when she realised that he'd also run off with the farm's handheld, so she couldn't even do what their parents had actually sent them here to do in the first place. All the same, she moved through the stalls, nodding at a couple of the local stallholders who recognised her from the last couple times she'd been in the Wedge, checking the prices of some of the feed bags as a way to calm down if nothing else.

It didn't take her long to realise that there was precious little produce there to begin with. "Poor harvests in the Turf, so they say," one of the storeholders explained, scepticism clear in his tone. It was the same story on all the stalls - Skye would certainly have never considered herself or the farm rich, not even by Undercity standards, but even she found herself lowering her expectations as she found bag after bag of such bad quality, or so expensive, that in the past she'd have passed by without a second thought.

Perhaps it was her lingering frustration at Hop that made her miss the way the atmosphere in the market changed, the way the stallholders and other market-goers all happened to decide in unison that they'd take an idle but purposeful walk in the other direction, without it appearing as though they were overtly moving away from something.

But suddenly there was no-one else there except a trio of Turfers and their victim.

Skye ducked behind a vacant stall, glad the Turfers were all looking one way, cursing her own stupidity for letting herself get so distracted by being angry at Hop. Just a couple seconds later and she'd have been in just as bad a spot as whatever poor sod had drawn the Turfers' ire.

...it could be Hop.

She shuffled to the other side of the stall so she could see past the nearest Turfer, and blinked in surprise. It wasn't Hop. Instead, bizarrely, it was a fucking Topsider, dressed in a suit that looked like it had never seen a speck of dirt in its life, holding his hands up and backing away from the three Turfers.

"Um, yes, so, as I was saying, my father's fairly important in Macro Cosmos, so I'm sure we can arrange some compensation for your time and effort?"

The Turfers shared a look, and then one of them spoke up. "He is, huh, kid?"

The Topsider bristled at the 'kid' remark, but was at least smart enough to realise the situation he was in and not rise to the insult, even if he was stupid enough to walk into the Wedge dressed like that. "Yes, I'm sure you would be quite satisfied."

Skye didn't have to be able to see the faces of the Turfers to imagine the smirks on their faces. "Well, we might just take your dad up on that. So long as he's willing to pay us for keeping you safe down here. Some real nasty elements around these parts."

They were advancing the whole time they spoke, and though the Topsider had the presence of mind to move sideways to put one of the abandoned stalls between himself and the Turfers, he was backed up against a wall.

"What's the matter?" one of the other Turfers drawled. "You don't need to be scared of us. We're gonna help you get back Topside safe, after all. Ain't we, folks?"

"Of course, we're gonna need that payment first," the last Turfer added. "Why don't we go somewhere where you can phone your dear old dad and let him know that you're gonna be totally fine...just so long as we get the payment you promised?"

It was the middle of the fucking day. The false sunlight was blazing down on the Turfers, and they were doing this in the middle of the fucking market, in the middle of the fucking day.

No-one ever gives a shit about anyone else, they only ever care about saving themselves and their families, even if they could help other people just fine.

Almost before Skye consciously realised she was moving, she'd slipped closer, until there was just one stall between her and the closest Turfer, letting her hand trail over one of the other stalls as she moved, pulling her hood up for what meagre disguise it gave her. If the Topsider saw her, he didn't say anything.

Arc forbid ever actually risking something for someone else.

The stalls were notoriously top-heavy when they were loaded with produce. Skye crouched, braced herself, and slammed her shoulder into the stall, sending it careening on its rickety casters forwards until it rammed into the Turfer who'd last spoken.

"Why does it have to be you doing this, Lee?" she asked, trying to stop the tears from forming in the corners of her eyes. "Why do you have to be the one who fixes everything?"

Lee gave a soft chuckle, reached out and tousled her hair. "Someone's gotta, Skye."

"Come on, idiot!" Skye grabbed the Topsider by the wrist before either he or the other Turfers had figured out what was going on, and yanked him away. The biggest Turfer, the one who'd spoken first, made a grab for her, and she wheeled, threw the handful of spices she'd scooped off one of the stalls in his face, and kicked him in the groin as he cried out in pain and raised his hands to protect his face.

Fair fights were for idiots. That was one thing Lee hadn't taught her.

As the Turfer doubled over, Skye darted round him, the Topsider in tow, and then they were gone, into the maze of alleys that was the Wedge.

They kept running for a couple minutes - to give the Topsider credit, he did a decent job keeping up with her in that ridiculous suit - before Skye ducked into a secluded alley, tucking behind a stack of crates belonging to a business that had gone bust years ago.

"Th...thank you," the Topsider panted. Skye let go of his wrist, looking him over for the first time. He was younger than she'd expected at first, maybe just a year or two older than she was, with dark hair and grey-green eyes.

She was really doing this.

"Don't think I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart," Skye retorted. "You said you could convince your dad to give a reward for getting you back safe, right?"

"Well, yes, if I get back to the Upper City safely." He'd learned his lesson, at least.

"I want ten thousand credits."

The Topsider blinked. "That's..." He cut himself off. "Fine, fine. My father can transfer the money to your account as soon as I can contact him back home."

Was he about to say 'That's all?' Skye mentally kicked herself. Of course he was. That tie probably cost more than ten thousand credits.

"Deal. Now we just gotta get out of here." She looked him over for a moment, then shrugged off her hoodie. "Put this on." He reached out and took the tattered jacket tentatively, wrinkling his nose. "Oh, for fuck's sake, I'm sorry I can't clean every fibre of my clothes every five minutes when I'm trying to work on a farm."

"I didn't say anything!" he protested.

"You didn't need to."

His smart shoes were muddy and scuffed from their escape, and the hoodie did a good job of covering his jacket even if it was a little too small for him. There wasn't much she could do about the smart trousers, though.

"That'll have to do," she sighed. "Come on."

They made it to the end of the alley before she paused. "What?" the Topsider asked.

"Do you have to keep acting so suspicious? " He blinked blankly at her. "Looking around, hunching over...you could be wearing all Undercity clothes and anyone looking at you would know something was up. Just...walk casually, don't look around, and everyone'll think you belong."

If it hadn't been so tense, it would almost have been comedic watching the Topsider try to blend in. But as it was, the Turfers were out in force. She wasn't surprised - they couldn't have cared less about the Topsider, but the insult of someone attacking them wasn't something they'd allow to stand. There was almost no-one else on the streets, everyone locking themselves away and hoping the storm would blow over before the Turfers lost their patience and started hurting people.

She hoped Hop would be okay.

But even if her best friend made it out unscathed, she was growing less and less convinced that they'd be able to. The Topsider obviously had no idea what was going on, even when they went through the same street twice as she tried to find a route to get back to the passenger lift, with the Turfers closing in -

And then they came to a massive slab of composite alloys, stretching as far as the eye could see in every direction, featureless save for a few spotlights casting light down on the Wedge and the Turf below - and a single, circular door, twice as wide as Skye.

They were at the Wall.

Skye turned back, but paused. This was a dead end, and the Turfers were already getting closer. They were moving slowly, but then they didn't need to rush. They knew these streets better than she did, knew that there was no way out. She'd been stupid to think that Lee's brief visit would've scared the Turfers away. They'd just been hiding.

And all this to save a Topsider, of all things.

To protect Hop? Or her family? Or even just another Undercity resident? It would be worth it. But a fucking Topsider?

And yet...somehow it felt right.

For once, there wasn't any uncertainty over what to do.

There was an almost deafening boom from behind her and she whirled around - to see the locks on the Wall's door disengaging, and the door itself swinging open with a creak that sounded like a pained howl. The Topsider was standing by the controls.

"Are you fucking insane?!" Skye all but screamed at him.

"I'd rather risk whatever's Outside than stay here!"

So he had realised that they were trapped.

All the same...the Turfers would hurt them if they stayed. There was no getting away from that. But would going Outside really be better? The Topsider seemed to think so, but when he'd also thought it was a good idea to come down into the Wedge armed with nothing but a fancy suit, she wasn't exactly keen to trust his judgement.

Lee had travelled Outside. She knew that. And he'd never said it was that dangerous. Then again, he'd never said anything about it at all.

But if he could do it...

The door had opened out into a small, almost cylindrical room. The approaching Turfers saw the open door and stopped dead. Some of them even backed off.

None of them were willing to brave the Outside to get Skye and the Topsider. They were safe.

But as the massive door swung closed again, Skye just wished she didn't think the Turfers had the right idea.

The little room had a few seats in it. The Topsider sat - almost collapsed - into one of them, breathing heavily. Skye tried to keep her own breathing calm as she sat opposite him. "So...how'd you open the door?"

He didn't reply immediately. "Anyone with a Trainer's licence can," he said, after a few moments. "A full one, I mean." Which meant she could open it, if she had to. "Do you not get taught how the Wall works in school?"

Skye fixed him with a look. "In case it escaped your attention, pretty boy, we're in the Undercity. Not many people have time for schools down here when they're doing everything they can to make enough money to buy food and water."

"All children deserve access to education. That's one of the codes in Galar's Constitution," he pointed out, primly.

"Well, when I get you back Topside, maybe you can go tell the Company that the way they've crippled the Undercity means they're disobeying the Constitution."

"Macro Cosmos isn't responsible for this!" the Topsider retorted.

"Oh, sure. I guess you think we like living like this. You know why the Wedge is such a fucking mess? Because the Company built a third of the first District and then sent all the money to their bigwigs for them to buy more fucking mansions or whatever."

"They didn't..." To Skye's surprise, the Topsider stopped midway through what was obviously an instinctive response. "...actually, yeah, I guess that's basically what they did," he admitted, more quietly.

"I mean, the Board only funded it to begin with because they thought they were going to make a profit. When they realised they'd been lied to by the people behind the Stratum Project, they pulled their support. My dad and a few other people tried to stop them, to convince them that even if the way the Project had gone about getting funding was wrong the problem they'd raised was real, but...overcrowding was a problem for the future, they figured, at least unless anyone comes up with a way to expand Galar and make a profit for Macro Cosmos. And they sued the Project into the ground and ended up with more money than they started with."

The change of tune was somewhat to be expected, since the Topsider needed her on his side, but...there was a genuine anger in his tone as he spoke about the Company Board. Skye was quiet for a few moments. "Your dad sounds like a decent guy."

"He is." After another long, few moments, the Topsider looked back at her. "It's Richard, by the way. Not 'pretty boy.' Richard."

"...sorry." She held out a hand to him. "I'm Skye."
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #7
"So what now?" the Undercity woman - Skye, she'd said her name was - asked. "We're not just gonna be stuck in here, are we?"

"No," Richard replied, more confidently than he felt. At least I hope not. "The airlock takes about five minutes to cycle. And then...we're Outside."

"Well, you're the expert. What's Outside like?"

"I said we learned about the Wall in school, not Outside." Skye rolled her eyes, leaning back in her chair so her head was resting against the airlock wall. "We get about one sentence of information. All I know is that it's not immediately inimical to humans or Pokemon. Theoretically, you can survive out there indefinitely. But..."

She tilted her head to fix him with a look. "'But'..?"

He sighed. "But every time I've seen anyone go through an airlock, they've been wearing some kind of hazmat suit, like people who work with Grimers and Koffings have to wear."

Skye was quiet for a long few moments. "And you still thought it was better to go out there in nothing but a smart suit? Never heard of the saying about the Giratina you know?"

Richard frowned slightly. "I remember hearing my uncle talk about the old legends of Giratina once, but...no."

"It kinda defeats the point of a saying if you gotta explain it, you know," Skye grumbled. "Look, basically the point is: it's better to deal with a threat you know than go up against something totally unknown. The Turfers would've hurt us, but...how do we know out there is going to be any better?"

"How do we know it's going to be any worse?" Richard retorted.

With another near-deafening bang, the outer door unlocked and swung open, effectively putting an end to that conversation.

For a long, few moments, they were silent as they stared out into the Outside.

"Wow," Richard murmured. "It's...beautiful."

Long, rolling fields stretched almost as far as the eye could see, dotted with trees, and a crystal-blue lake occupied a vast swathe of the landscape. There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the afternoon sunlight beamed down on the duo as they moved hesitantly towards the outer door.

Skye hesitated, reaching an arm out tentatively, letting the light fall on her bare forearm. It wasn't anything like the harsh, omnidirectional false sunlight of the Undercity with its dozens of shadows and reflections. It's...warm. And the air was so...transparent, and it smelt strange.

She took a couple of steps out of the airlock, Richard just behind her, and they found themselves on a strip of tarmac that stretched perhaps ten feet out from the Wall, and turned to look up at the City. This close to the Wall, she couldn't even see the Dome that covered Topside, but what she could see made it very clear that the City was an eyesore. Smog was issuing from vents all along the Wall, billowing up as far as the eye could see, spreading out high in the sky like an ominous cloud.

"Do we...do we breathe that, every day?"

"I...I don't know." Skye took another step towards the grass. "Uh..." There was something in Richard's tone that made her pause. "The only thing we are taught about Outside is not to leave the tarmac around the Wall."

Skye hesitated for a couple of moments, but then kept going, stopping at the end of the tarmac and tentatively lifting one foot and stepping into the grass -

Or at least, trying to. But somehow she found she couldn't push the grass down underfoot. It was as hard as iron, no matter how natural it looked, and it didn't move at all, even as she leant onto that leg more and more. Her foot moved slightly and for a moment she thought at least one of the blades might have yielded a little, but then she felt the tip of one of the blades of grass poking against her toes, and she pulled back with a startled yelp, almost overbalancing as her boot caught on the grass.

There wasn't even the slightest sign of her attempt to step into the grassy fields.

"What...what the fuck."

"I...I guess that's why it's dangerous out here," Richard murmured, quietly.

"Yeah, no fucking kidding." She sat down on the tarmac, pulling off her boot to examine the damage. They were sturdy, working boots, and that single blade of grass had gone through the sole like it was made of wet paper. "What the fuck would've happened if it'd been raining out here? We'd have been fucking torn apart!"

"I think the Wall keeps us safe, up to the tarmac." Almost in unison, they glanced back at the Wall and its cloud of smog, then back to the beautiful landscape beyond. "I mean, we can breathe and move fine."

They were both talking matter-of-factly, as though the indestructible grass was entirely normal, neither of them wanting to admit just how far out of their depth they were. Skye caught Richard's eye and suppressed a chuckle as she realised how ridiculous they must have looked, had there been anyone out here who could survive in this place.

"So...where do we go now?"

Richard shrugged. "Along the Wall, I guess? I don't think it really matters which way. Eventually we'll find another airlock."

They didn't want to walk in silence. Their words were the only thing keeping them from panicking.

"So you're a Trainer?" Skye asked, as they started down the artificial hill that brought the Wedge's airlock door onto the level of the ground.

"Uh, technically, I suppose." Richard gave a small shrug. "I've had a licence since I was little, but to be honest, I only got given my Pokemon a few days ago. Until then all I'd done is look after a Pokemon Egg that had been abandoned in the Upper City." He sighed. "I hope it's gonna be alright."

He was genuinely worried about it. If only all Topsiders were as nice as he seemed to be.

"What Pokemon do you have?"

"Oh, a Scorbunny. It's a first-stage Fire-type. Fairly easy to raise, which is probably why my father gave it to me." Skye wasn't sure if he'd noticed her blank look at the Pokemon's species or if he was just trying to fill the silence. He definitely noticed her expectant look, though. "I didn't bring it with me down here. I'm not stupid." She raised an eyebrow, and after a moment he gave in and sighed. "Okay, I'm not that stupid."

"What were you even doing down here to begin with?"

Richard sighed. "This is probably going to sound laughable, but...I heard of a training facility, one that had trained the Champion." Skye stopped walking for a moment, almost stumbling as she tried to catch up without her shock being obvious. If Richard noticed, he didn't say anything. "I applied for a place in the new cohort, and they said yes - but for some reason, you can't get there from the Upper City. I thought that the Temporary District would be the best place to get picked up from, since it's supposed to be neutral. I thought there would be less chance of running into gangs."

"You're about five years too late for that." Skye paused. "Tell you what. You give me your place on that training course, and I'll call that good. Don't bother with the credits."

"I'm pretty sure that position would be worth more than ten thousand credits."

"Yeah? Well, the ten thousand credit cost was before you dragged us fucking Outside."

Richard frowned, but he didn't dispute it. "Besides, are you even a Trainer?"

"I've been working with Pokemon since I was old enough to say the word," Skye retorted, carefully not saying that the only Pokemon she'd worked with all that time were Wooloo. "And, yeah, I am." She pulled her licence out to wave it in front of his face, retrieving the monkey's Pokeball with her other hand, tapping it to send it out in front of them. "See?"

"Aww, a Grookey!" Richard crouched down in front of it, almost completely ignoring Skye's licence - which was fortunate, because when she looked back at it again she realised that it said it had only been issued a couple of days ago. "Hey there, little guy!"

"Oh, careful, it likes to -"

Richard reached out and tapped it on the head lightly with his index finger, and it chittered happily and tapped his hand with its branch - much more gently than it had hit Skye. "Hit people as a way of saying hello? Yeah, I know." The monkey - Grookey - hopped into his outstretched hands and he put it on his shoulder as he straightened up. "I don't really know what that Egg I mentioned is going to hatch into, so I looked up a lot of common first-stage Pokemon," he added, by way of explanation. "Scorbunny is kind of the Fire-Type counterpart of...Grookey." He paused, turning his head slightly to look at the Grookey on his shoulder out of the corner of his eye. "Where'd you even get a Grookey from down here?"

Skye didn't like his tone. "A friend gave it to me. And if I told you who, you'd just think I was lying anyway."

Richard sighed, leaning forward slightly to let the Grookey hop from his shoulder to Skye's - she was honestly perfectly fine with it bothering him instead, but she wasn't about to say that aloud. "Fine. As long as you don't just abandon me out here, I'll...I'll see if I can get the position on the course transferred to you."

"Then you got a deal." They both knew she wouldn't abandon him. She needed the company just as much as he did.

They walked quietly for a few minutes - the Grookey, thankfully, didn't seem inclined to investigate the grassy fields they were walking past, and after a couple of minutes Skye stopped worrying that it might hurt itself on the grass.

But then things...changed. In some implausible way that was neither sudden nor gradual, the duo - trio, if you counted the Grookey - found themselves walking along a dusty, overgrown path, the grass moving and yielding as easily as it should've the whole time, a thick fog surrounding them, making it almost impossible to see further than a few feet.

"What the fuck?!" Skye yelped. They turned, tried to run back the way they'd come, but all they found was more undergrowth, and after a few seconds of pointless running they stopped. "Come on, Outside expert, where the fuck are we?"

"I...I don't know!"

The Grookey hopped off Skye's shoulder and landed in front of them, drawing its branch. Was it trying to protect them?

And then there was something there.

Some presence, hidden in the fog and yet somehow so obvious that it was almost as though they could see it.

Four pinpricks of light like glowing coals lanced through the fog.

"B-branch Poke!" Skye almost screamed, and the Grookey leapt, and the fog wrapped around it and tossed it back gently.

"Keep away or I'll..." Richard stammered, finding a stout branch by his feet and picking it up. "Or I'll hit you!" He waved the branch in the direction of the fog.

The Grookey rolled to its feet with an angry squeak, turned to leap back at the lights in the fog again, and almost before she realised what she was going Skye grabbed it, stopping it from attacking. "Don't, it's okay, it's okay!" she whispered, turning so she was between the little Grass-type and the monster. Logically she knew it would be more sensible to let the Grookey fight, that Pokemon were far tougher and more resilient than humans, but....it just wouldn't have been fair. Somehow she just knew the Grookey was as helpless here as they were, and...she was its Trainer. It was her responsibility to protect it.

The lights moved, and suddenly they were right there. Richard gave a scream that might have been meant to be a battle cry, and brought the branch down on the monster in the fog, and met something as hard as stone and the branch snapped like it was a twig -

And Skye felt a soft, gentle nudge at her back.

The bravery to protect others despite the risk to yourself.

It wasn't a voice, per se. There was no sound, no real words, and yet somehow Skye and Richard knew exactly what it was saying. And then another non-voice echoed in their minds, the non-existent tone somehow more melodious than the first.

The strength of heart to strike at those that would hurt the innocent.

Skye turned slightly and found two of the lights barely an inch from her face, hypnotic and resonant until she couldn't see anything but the mesmerising amber patterns. And then both the voices spoke as one, the combined sound somehow so much more complete than either alone.

We have been waiting for so long for you to find us in this ruined world. It approaches. And only you can save us.

And then there was nothing but white as Richard and Skye drifted into unconsciousness.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #8
False sunlight was streaming into Skye's room through the closed curtains as she opened her eyes groggily. Her head ached like Hop's stupid Wooloo had been stamping on it.

Hop.

He'd be fine. He might have had a temper, but he was smart enough to stay out of trouble that wasn't his doing.

"Ow...what happened?"

Skye jolted upright as she heard the unfamiliar voice, looking around wildly for its source. It took her a moment to realise that she was in her room at home, tucked beneath the patchwork duvet - or at least had been before she'd thrown it off as she sat up.

The Grookey was there too, looking around curiously, still holding its branch.

How the dist had she got here? There was no way Richard could've brought her here. Had Hop gone Outside after her?

"What the dist did you pick a fight with, stupid human?"

Skye blinked as she heard the voice again, and looked at the Grookey. It met her gaze steadily.

"Did..." She hesitated. There was no way this was possible. Pokemon couldn't talk. All those claims about skilled Trainers being able to 'hear' their Pokemon had been debunked. "Did you say that?"

The Grookey dropped his branch and blinked at her. "...the fuck? Did you...did you just talk?"

"Did I just talk? Humans talk all the time! Since when did you talk?!"

"I'm meaning proper talking, not human talking!"

There was a long silence.

"Arc, we must sound fucking stupid right now, huh."

The Grookey chuckled, drily. "Probably. If there was anyone who wouldn't freak out at hearing a human talking to them."

"You mean if there was anyone who wouldn't freak out at hearing a Pokemon talking to them?" Skye retorted.

If she focused, she could tell it wasn't actually talking. But somehow, its chittering, and its body language, and even the gestures it made with its stick...somehow they all combined in her mind and became Galarian, without her even thinking about it. And just the same, even though she could hear herself talking, there was some tiny part of her that knew she wasn't speaking Galarian, communicating with the Grookey with a mixture of wordless vocalisations and movements that weren't much different to its own.

"How the fuck is this possible?"

"I...I don't know." Skye hesitated for a few moments. "So...are all Pokemon like you? I mean, can you all...talk?"

"To each other, sure," the Grookey shrugged. "I never heard of a human being able to talk to us, though. But we never got out much when we were training to be a human's battler."

"'We'?" Skye repeated.

"Yeah, there were maybe a half dozen of us all being trained Topside. Me, Sacha, Suero...there were a couple others, but I never really spoke to them." The Grookey paused. "I'm Gabe. Since you didn't ask."

He didn't actually say the pronouns, of course. It was more like they were changes in intonation in the rest of the sentence, conveying an extraordinary amount of information. Skye half wondered if whatever strange ability this was resolved it down to just a single word purely because she wouldn't have been able to cope with the information overload.

Gabe was looking up at her expectantly. "I'm Skye." She held out a hand to him and then paused. "Uh...do you shake hands? Paws? Whatever?"

The Grookey scoffed. "That's a human thing. We can say hello without fondling each other."

"Yeah, you just whack people with a stick instead."

"Hey, that's what you humans told me to do. You were supposed to know what it meant. The other one did."

She remembered Richard tapping the Grookey on the head. "Why would someone tell you to do that?"

Gabe shrugged. "Because humans aren't smart enough to understand us, so we have to use ridiculous pantomime for you to know what we mean. Well," he added, after a moment's pause, "most humans aren't, anyway. And the whole thing goes to dist if no-one bothers to teach you what we're saying."

"You know that humans are Trainers, right? Not Pokemon? We're supposed to train you."

"Sure, because you did real well at commanding me in the battle with your boyfriend."

Skye glared at him. "Okay, first, Hop's not my boyfriend. And second, I literally got given you five minutes before that, I'd never even heard of a Grookey before, and I'd never expected to become a Trainer or command anything in battle. Uh, anyone," she corrected herself. "I did better than a lot of other people you could've ended up with."

"Heh, sure. You keep telling yourself that." Gabe smirked. "You know one of the first things I was taught? Let humans believe that they're all big and strong and in charge, even though we could kill them."

Skye felt her breathing getting more rapid at the matter-of-fact way he said it. "We have Pokeballs, and technology, and suppressant drugs, and people trained to take down Pokemon. If you hurt someone, you're the one who'd be killed."

"Yeah, and how would that work when there are ten of us for every one human who's actually a threat?" Gabe stood up, looking at her. "I don't know how this power works that lets you understand me, but if it goes away and you can't speak to me any more, remember this: you're safe because we allow you to be."

And then he glanced towards his Pokeball, and vanished in a bright blaze of red light.

After a moment, Skye reached over and picked up the Pokeball, looking at it. Gabe had seemed so well-behaved and well-trained yesterday. Did every Pokemon really think like that?

She put the Pokeball in her wardrobe while she changed - she wasn't really sure why; it wasn't like she hadn't had to change clothes around the Wooloo before, and Pokemon didn't exactly wear clothes to begin with. But Gabe had a very definitely male 'voice,' and even knowing that it was probably just her imagination, she couldn't feel entirely comfortable about it.

But despite her nervousness, she still picked up the Pokeball and tucked it in her pocket as she went downstairs.

The house was empty except for Hop's gran, who looked up to fix Skye with a glare. "You must've come back pretty late last night, sneaking in all quietly. I hope my grandson isn't giving you Ideas." Skye could almost hear the capital I.

"No, sorry, Mrs Bateson. It won't happen again."

Reprimand suitably delivered, Mrs Bateson Snr gave a satisfied nod and went back to her knitting. "The others are all out working the farm. I'm sure there's work for you to do."

Skye nodded, and slipped out before the matriarch of the house could get into one of her long lectures.

She paused for a moment after bolting the gate to the farm behind her. Could she really understand Pokemon now? She pulled Gabe's Pokeball out of her pocket and looked at it for a few moments. It all seemed so...impossible.

"Food." Skye jumped, and looked around to see one of the farm Wooloo looking at her. "Food," it repeated.

"I guess I can understand you guys too, now."

"Food." Skye blinked, confused. The Wooloo shuffled closer. "Feed us."

Skye bent down slightly - and recoiled in horror when she saw its eyes. Gabe's eyes had been so vibrant and emotive, but the Wooloo's eyes were so...blank, so lifeless.

She felt bile rising in her throat.

"Give us food." Another Wooloo padded closer, speaking in that same, monotonous voice.

This is exactly how they always act. If you couldn't understand them, there'd be nothing out of the ordinary. But even their body language was slow, dull, as though they were robots.

Robots would've been fine. Robots were supposed to be robotic. But the Wooloo were alive. They lived, breathed, died...they were supposed to live. Not move in this horrible, emotionless way that made them look like walking corpses.

"Food."

"Stop it!" Skye tried to push the closest one away. It was immediately replaced by another that butted its head against her legs. "Go away!"

"Food."

"Feed us."​

"Give us food."​

"GO AWAY!" Skye all but screamed. She couldn't turn away from them, couldn't find the bolt to the gate, and in desperation as they pressed closer to her scrambled over the gate, away from the Wooloo and their horrifying, dead eyes, falling onto the dirt on the other side of the gate.

She landed on Gabe's Pokeball, the impact with the hardened device sending a stab of pain through her leg, but she scrambled to her feet all the same, stumbling away. She could still hear them.

"Food."​

"Feed."​

"Eat."​

She turned the corner of the farmhouse, putting her hands over her ears even though it didn't stop the Wooloos' voices - and all but literally ran into Hop. He had a black eye, and unlike her he was still wearing the same clothes as he had been yesterday. "Well, thanks for just fucking aban-" He stopped when he saw her expression. "What's wrong?"

"I can hear them! The Wooloo, I mean! And other Pokemon, but the Wooloo, the suppressants, it's making them...lifeless, like they're dead, and -"

She stopped, partly because she had to take a breath and partly because Hop stepped closer and hugged her, and he was the only reason that her wounded leg didn't give way under her and she clung to him tightly.

"It's okay," he murmured, quietly, and somehow she found herself believing him even though she knew he had no idea what was happening.

"It's okay."
 

DistortionLocke

Johto League Champion
Writer
Team Alpha
Pokédex No.
623
Caught
Aug 3, 2019
Messages
736
Location
U.S.
Nature
Adamant
Pronouns
She/Her
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Ghost
Pokédex Entry
Anxious, sweet-toothed writer who hides amongst the papers. Only attacks when provoked.
Haven’t read everything so far yet, but I’m linking what I’ve finished so far! You can just feel how the societal rot has seeped into literally everything, right down to Skye and Hop’s relationship. 😬
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #10
Thanks! Trying to write something like this is definitely a new challenge, so I'm glad it's working out!

Skye blinked, looking up at the scarf that Hop was proffering. "Didn't that used to be Lee's?"

"Oh, did it?" Hop feigned ignorance, despite the fact that it was probably the best-maintained, cleanest piece of apparel in the entire farmhouse. "Well, I'm sure he won't mind."

It was perhaps a testament to how seriously he was taking this that he hadn't balked in the least at the idea of using it as a blindfold.

"Are all humans this stupid?" Gabe grumbled. "It didn't take me that long to accept that you could talk to me."

"You already learn to understand Galarian," Skye retorted, as Hop carefully wrapped the scarf around her eyes. "How quick would you be to accept a human could talk to you if you didn't realise we had any kind of language at all?"

"Quicker than this."

"Okay, now, Gro - uh, Gabe." Her mum corrected herself hastily. "I'm going to hold up my fingers, and then you can tell Skye how many fingers I'm holding up."

"He can understand you normally, Mum." Skye didn't have to be able to see to imagine the pantomime that was accompanying the slow, emphatic pronunciations - or to hear Gabe's exasperated sighs.

"Five," the Grookey added, punctuating it with a faux yawn. "Or four and a thumb, if she's trying to do some kind of trick question to convince herself you can't understand me." Skye caught herself before repeating the last part.

The sofa bounced slightly as Hop sat down heavily next to her. "Told ya," he added to the others.

Skye pulled the scarf down so it was draped around her neck and shoulders. Her mum was still kneeling down in front of Gabe, her back to Skye. Mr and Mrs Bateson were on opposite sides of the room, glaring daggers at each other when they thought their son wasn't looking. Hop's gran was sat in the other seat in the room, with Hop's granddad holding her hand, and she was the one who spoke up first. "So, what were you saying about the Wooloo?" she asked.

Skye sighed, trying not to think too hard about those horrible, soulless eyes. "Gabe is as intelligent and alive as any of us. But the farm Wooloo...the suppressants we give them in their food...it's like they lobotomise them." She shivered slightly, felt Hop's hand rest on her shoulder. "It's...horrible."

"But what do you propose we do about it?" Skye blinked, stammered for a few moments, as Mrs Bateson Snr continued. "You two may be Trainers now, but that doesn't mean we can stop giving them the suppressants."

Hop and Skye had told their families everything that had happened - or, at least, Skye had told them most of what had happened to her. They'd left out the fact that they'd battled.

"Why the dist not?" Gabe growled.

"Because if the Company inspected the farm and realised that there were normal Pokemon here, they'd be taken away and killed," Skye said, flatly. "For the safety of the City."

"You know it's really creepy when you do that, right?" Hop muttered, quietly. "Going all Pokemon-speak on us, I mean."

Skye tilted her head slightly to look at him, quizzically. "So...what, you can't understand me either if I talk to Pokemon?"

"Nope. It just sounds like you're making weird noises."

"Well?" Hop's gran rounded on Gabe. "Do you have any suggestions?"

"You're the fucking ones who've decided that Pokemon can only exist if you drug us into being mindless zombies," the Grookey growled. "Don't make this out like this is a problem we're responsible for."

"He said it's a decision humans made," Skye translated diplomatically. "We can't expect Pokemon to try to fix it."

"How would Pokemon even try to change this? Aside from us, no-one in the entire city even knows Pokemon are intelligent." Hop shrugged. "And the Company's never gonna allow anyone to know, not when they control the City by forcing suppressants on every Pokemon they don't control. But...anyway, that's not as important. First we need to figure out how...this...happened, right?"

Even if it was only a slight change in topic, Skye was glad of it. Had he done that deliberately?

"Well, I've never heard of something like this before," Hop's granddad said. "And I've heard of most things, y'know," he added. "But if anyone was going to know, it'd be the Company. Didn't you say that boy you saved was the son of some rich n - uh, rich person -" he corrected himself under the withering glare of his wife "- who would owe you a favour?"

"Yeah," Skye nodded, "but...after we ran into...whatever those things were, the next thing I knew I was back here. I don't even know how we got across the Wall, never mind where he went."

"I mean, if we're talking Outside..." Hop hesitated for a couple of moments. "Lee's been Outside."

Skye sighed. "We've got about as much chance talking to him as we do Richard," she pointed out, trying not to admit that he'd been the first person she'd wanted to ask for help from. "Although...we do know someone else who's been Outside."

Half an hour later, the families were crowded around the old television - with the exception of Hop, who outside with the farm's handheld to get a better signal. "Are you sure about this, Mum?" Skye asked quietly, as the Batesons tried to set the connection between handheld and television up, issuing contradictory orders to Hop about where to stand. "This is going to cost so much of your savings."

"You're my daughter." Her mum leant in and hugged her briefly. "And they're our best chance of finding out why this is happening to you."

It took a few nervous minutes before they finally got through, and the static on the television was replaced by a black screen. "James, dear!" A voice crackled from the television set. "This is quite unexpected."

It took Skye a few moments to remember that James was Hop's granddad's first name. No-one ever called him James. "Angela!" the old man beamed - for once ignoring the glare he was getting from Mrs Bateson Snr. "Uh, I think something might be wrong with your camera. We can't seem to see you."

"Oh, dear." There was a series of sharp noises that made them all flinch. "Is that better?"

"No, Gran, you can't just beat the computer into submission." Another voice suddenly cut in, swiftly followed by a picture appearing on the screen. "You need to turn the camera on. Hey, guys!"

Sonia stepped away from the camera, allowing both her and her grandmother to be seen on the screen. "Hey, Sonia." Skye smiled despite herself, the memories of countless days spent playing with Sonia and Lee a welcome guard against the knowledge that the Wooloo were still out there, still endlessly droning their demands for food.

"So what can we do for you?" Sonia asked. "I'm guessing you want us to keep this short." She gave a pointed look to her grandmother, who didn't seem to notice.

The others all looked at Skye. "Yeah, um...I could use some advice. But...first, promise me you won't just assume I'm lying or something?"

The resolution on the television wasn't good enough to read Sonia's expression. "Why would we..?"

"Please."

"We're scientists, Skye," Professor Magnolia said, simply. "We don't discount ideas out of hand."

"Even if you've proved they're wrong?"

"What do you mean?"

Skye sighed. "Okay. Long story short, I...I went Outside last night. I had to, I mean, to get away from the Turfers."

"Are you okay?" Sonia asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine. But when I was out there, I ran into...something. I don't know what it was, exactly, but it...it spoke to me. And ever since then...I've been able to talk to Pokemon?" She couldn't stop the questioning uplift in her tone.

Neither of the Magnolias said anything for a few moments. "And this is why I wanted you to agree not to just assume I'm lying," she muttered under her breath.

"Look, Skye..." Sonia hesitated. "We're not saying you're lying, but...Outside is..." She paused again, trying to find the right word. "...strange. I wouldn't be surprised if powerful hallucinations were a danger of going out there."

"I can't hallucinate this!"

"She's not lying, Angela." Hop's granddad moved so that he was in the centre of the view from the camera. "If you can figure out a way she could see how many fingers Bethany was holding up with a blindfold on and facing the wrong way, then by all means go ahead and try to disprove it. But I've known Skye a lot longer than you have, and she wouldn't lie about something like this."

Professor Magnolia sighed. "I...I can't believe you. But...I believe that you all believe it." She drummed her fingers on the head of her cane for a few moments. "Okay. Why don't you come to us, Skye? The only way we can prove that this isn't real is in person."

"Plus, it'll save you guys on data costs trying to call us all the time," Sonia added.

"You...you really mean it?" Skye couldn't stop the smile from spreading across her face, but reality set in a moment later. "But...it'd take weeks to travel to you, and I can't afford to stay at hostels and Pokemon Centres that whole time."

"Oh, pish, just take the train. I'll send you some tickets." Professor Magnolia paused to consider. "Sonia, dear, could you show me how to work that web that sells train tickets?"

Skye giggled. She couldn't help it. Professor Magnolia's utter self-assurance in the face of her ignorance of all things computerised was one thing, but it was the realisation that they were actually going to help her that let her actually feel the levity that the situation warranted.

Professor Magnolia had the ear of the Company, and as much funding as she could ever want. With enough time, she'd figure out what was happening.

Perhaps she'd even be able to take this 'power' away.

This feels like a kinda weird and unneeded filler chapter, but it felt a lot weirder jumping from the farm out to the train station in what will be the chapter after this one lol.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
Pronouns
He/him
Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #11
"You didn't have to come with me, you know," Skye said, quietly, half an hour or so after they'd left the farmhouse.

"Sure I did," Hop answered, with an idle shrug. "I'm not just gonna leave my best friend on her own to deal with all this."

"Okay, you two are weird," Gabe pronounced. "When I met you two, you were all but at each others' throats. Now just a couple days later, you're best friends?"

"We were always best friends. Are always best friends." I hope.

One thing that Skye had very quickly learned was that while she might not have been speaking Galarian, all the subtle, subconscious intonations and hesitations that would've been in her normal speech were conveyed just fine into her Pokemon-speak. "You don't exactly sound sure about that."

"What'd he say?" Hop asked.

"Oh, nothing important," Skye lied. After another few moments walking quietly with Hop, she paused. "Hey…could you send out your Wooloo?"

"Huh? Why?"

"I just…want to talk to it. Him."

"It's still weird," Hop grumbled, but he obliged.

This time, Skye could translate the irritable stomping of the Wooloo's hooves as a dismissive "Hmph." He paused for a moment. His 'voice' was rougher than Gabe's, more gravelly. It reminded her a lot of Hop's granddad. "Finally plucked up the courage to speak to the guy you and your family spent half a dozen years lobotomizing, huh?"

Skye flinched. But she couldn't exactly deny it. 'I didn't know' was hardly a defence. "I…I'm sorry," she said quietly. "What's…what's your name?"

The Wooloo didn't answer for a few moments. "Walter," he said, eventually, as though the name was a great prize he was reluctantly handing over. "And you're Skye, before you go introducing yourself like an idiot trying to pretend like you think we're equals."

"But…I do. Now, at least."

Walter scoffed. "Sure. Saying I belong to him sure makes it sound like I'm anything more than a brainless object. Oh, wait, no it doesn't."

"Well, what did you want me to -" Skye paused. "Wait, how did you even hear that?"

The Wooloo couldn't roll his eyes, but he managed to convey a very specific expression all the same. "Do you seriously not know anything about Pokemon? We can sense anything that happens near our Pokeballs if we're inside them."

"Hey, chill out," Gabe interjected. "It's not her fault the humans forgot what we are." The Grookey had calmed down a little from his first, more confrontational conversation with Skye, and she wished she could think it was for any other reason than the fact that she was the best chance Pokemon had to be recognised as intelligent.

"She's a human. It's her fault. And his -" Walter tossed his head to indicate Hop "- and every other fucking human in this dump they made. And to answer you," he added to Skye, "how about starting to treat Pokemon like they're more than objects to come and go at your whims?"

"Hop's your Trainer. I can't force him to send you out."

Walter let out another dismissive bleat. "Who said he had to be involved? Hey, Sacha!"

Hop yelped in surprise as the second Pokeball on his belt flashed with light and a white beam resolved itself into the little blue reptile. "What the fuck!?"

"Sorry, mister!" Sacha's voice was higher-pitched than Gabe's or Walter's, more childlike and innocent. He sounded much friendlier than either of the other two.

"Quit apologising to him, kid," Walter growled. "He doesn't deserve it, and he can't hear you anyway."

The reptile turned its big eyes to Skye. "So you can speak to us now? That's really cool!"

Skye managed a small smile, tried to pretend that her first goal wasn't to get rid of this...whatever it was. "Thanks."

"Hey, could you give me some warning if you're going to make my Pokemon send themselves out?" Hop complained.

Skye flinched almost before Walter had fixed her with a pointed look. "I didn't tell him to do anything," she replied. "Walter did."

"Walter?" Hop frowned for a few moments. "Oh, Wooloo." He bent down towards the Wooloo, and Skye's breath caught in her throat as she realised how close he was to Walter's horns, and Gabe's threat echoed in her mind.

We could kill you if we wanted to.

Oblivious, Hop reached out and gripped one of Walter's horns, lightly pushing it to and fro. "Why'd you tell my Pokemon to come out, huh?"

To Skye's surprise, Walter tolerated the play-scolding - and Hop's calling Sacha 'his' - without anything more than a sigh before tugging out of Hop's grip. "What?" he asked, defensively, when he saw her looking. "He might be an idiot, but he's the only reason I can even think for myself. As humans go, he's not bad." The Wooloo sighed. "Anyway, get it over with. What were you wanting to talk to me about?"

Skye had almost forgotten she'd asked Hop to send Walter out. "I just...I just wanted to know." She paused. "How can you bear it?"

The Wooloo blinked at her, surprised.

"All the Wooloo on the farm, they're your family, your friends, right? And then one day, when Hop smuggled you away and stopped giving you the suppressants, you got your mind back, and they...they didn't. Why did you stay with Hop, after all that? Why did you stay with humans at all? Gabe said he was taught to let humans pretend they were in charge, but...who taught you?"

Walter didn't say anything for a few moments. "You really think I had a choice? You think I could just...what? Roam along the roads on my own until I come to a field of free Pokemon, no humans, no suppressants?

"In this fucking place, you got three choices. You eat your suppressants and go back to being a mindless drone, you stick with a human and trust them to hide you, or you die. And at first...yeah, I thought about dying. Just running out and hitting the first human I could find. Dangerous Pokemon don't get second chances, not even suppression." He paused again, and when he next spoke his voice was quieter, more gentle. "I know Hop didn't free me for me. He did it so I could fight for him, make him money and fame like his all-important big brother. But...all the same, I owe him. I'd have never even known what it was like to have my own mind, my own thoughts, without him. And he's done a lot to try to keep me safe. Even let himself get hurt to protect me, sometimes. So...as humans go, he's not bad. Better than the alternatives." The Wooloo shook his head as though trying to shoo away the sentimental thoughts like they were flies. "But anyway. Enough chatting. Sooner we get to Professor's place, the sooner she can figure out a way to make whatever happened to you happen to every human in this City."

Would that really be a good thing? Skye didn't ask the question aloud.

They returned Gabe, Sacha and Walter as they got closer to the Wedge, hiding their Pokeballs as they took one of the smaller lifts back up. Skye took off her hoodie and messed her hair up a little as they ascended, even knowing that it was unlikely any of the Turfers would recognise her. Most of them probably thought she and Richard were dead.

They were about halfway to the station when she heard it. The first time she thought she'd just imagined it, but after the second time she paused.

"Hey, don't just stop like that!" Hop complained, stumbling back to avoid running into her.

"Sorry, but...did you hear that?"

Hop paused. "Hear what?"

"Please..."

"That! Someone asking for help!"

Hop frowned, tilting his head on one side slightly.

"Help me."

Hop looked at her expression for a moment before stepping closer. "Okay, first, no, I didn't hear it, and second, even if there is someone asking for help, you really think it's a good idea? It didn't exactly go well last time."

Skye had started moving almost before he'd finished talking, leaving him with little to do but sigh and follow her, tucking one hand into his jacket where Walter's Pokeball was hidden.

The voice was coming from an alleyway, and Hop frowned as he peered into it. "There's no-one here, Skye."

"Please..."

Skye edged into the alleyway, paused, and looked down. "You sure about that?" she asked him.

At first Hop thought she was looking at a discarded blanket, little more than a mass of matted brown fur. But then he heard a tiny little mewling noise come from it, and he realised it was breathing oh-so-shallowly. "I guess that's why I couldn't hear it," he muttered. "You seriously heard that through a crowd?"

"I guess," Skye shrugged, bending down and carefully holding out her hand. "Hey, it's okay," she whispered.

A tiny pink tongue emerged and rasped weakly against Skye's hand once. Now they knew it was a Pokemon, they could begin to make out its shape, but it was such a mess of ragged fur that it was almost impossible to make out where its limbs began and ended - about all they could be certain of was that it couldn't possibly be a comfortable position for the little brown Pokemon to be lying in.

Skye pulled her water bottle from her rucksack, pouring a little water out into her cupped hand. "Come on, drink," she murmured - and it obeyed, at least a little, raising its head and lapping at the water before it slumped, its chin landing in her hand. One eye opened slightly, peering at her blearily through its fur.

"...help?" the Pokemon asked.

"Yeah. We're help." Skye reached out with her other hand, stroking its head gently, and it closed its one half-open eye again. It wasn't making those pitiable mewling noises any more, and it certainly didn't seem aggressive. After a couple of moments she carefully picked the little furball up in both arms. It weighed almost nothing, and it smelt horrible - it must have been lying in the alleyway for days, if not weeks - but she hugged it gently to her anyway, ignoring Hop wrinkling his nose. "It'll be okay, I promise. What's your name?"

"Emlyn," the Pokemon murmured, before its head drooped and it went limp in her arms, the tiny rise and fall of its chest the only sign it was even still alive.
 
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llyarden

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  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12
"Are you seriously gonna carry that furball the whole way?" Hop grumbled.

"I'm not just going to abandon him, if that's what you mean," Skye retorted. "You wouldn't either, if you could hear them." I hope you wouldn't, at least.

"No matter how much you might want to, you're not going to be able to rescue every Pokemon out there."

Skye didn't say anything for a few moments. "Maybe not. But I can help some."

Hop rolled his eyes slightly. The one good thing was that the furball looked so sickly - and smelt so unpleasant - that even the Turfers didn't seem much inclined to bother them about it, though they were certainly getting no shortage of annoyed looks.

Once they were on the - almost completely empty - train, Skye placed the brown Pokemon on the table in front of her seat, as Hop sat down opposite her. It reached out one paw and limply prodded at the table, and he saw it looking at him out of one eye, through its matted fur.

"Don't look so helpless at me," he grumbled. "Skye's the bleeding heart who saved you." But he reached out and stroked its head anyway with the tips of his fingers.

"How did you get there, little guy?" Skye asked, quietly.

"I...don't know. I remember...falling." Emlyn gave a frightened, wordless little mew, and pressed his head against Hop's hand.

"Oh, come on!" he complained, looking at the muck and grime the Pokemon's fur had left, but after a moment he sighed and let the little furball nuzzle against his palm. "Okay, first thing we're doing once we get to the Professor's: giving you a fucking bath."

The Pokemon tilted its head on one side slightly, confused.

Skye blinked at it. Walter, Sacha and Gabe hadn't had any difficulties understanding Galarian. "A bath," she repeated. She could just about hear the soft purr that was all Hop could hear as her power translated for her - though Emlyn didn't seem any less puzzled even hearing the word in the language of Pokemon, laboriously turning his head to look quizzically at her. "Have you never had a bath before?"

"I don't...think so?"

That certainly explained a bit.

Emlyn obviously wasn't used to trains, because when it suddenly jolted as the train left the station, he whimpered and tried to dig his claws into the table. "Hey, it's okay." Skye carefully lifted up his closest paw and let it rest on her palm, letting his claws push against her skin - they were blunt, and he was exerting almost no pressure at all, so it didn't hurt. "It's just a train. Nothing to worry about."

In truth, she'd only been on a train three times in her life before now, and never on the Ring train. But she didn't tell him that, and he relaxed a little, letting her stroke his paw with her thumb.

And it wasn't until they'd set off that she remembered that the Ring train went Outside.

"Passengers, this is your conductor speaking." A bored-sounding voice echoed from the speakers, making Emlyn jump and whimper again. Skye noticed Hop was absently stroking the brown Pokemon's head as they listened to the announcement. "We will shortly be entering the Outer Ring. For those of you who haven't travelled with us before, this will mean we will be passing Outside the City, but there is no need for alarm, as the train carriages are sealed and protected against external contaminants. Nonetheless, in the event of an emergency, please follow the guidance provided by train staff. There are six battle-ready Trainers stationed aboard, courtesy of Macro Cosmos Rail, to ensure your safety."

"How comforting," Skye muttered.

The train had windows, but heavy shutters slid down over them as they left the City, so Skye couldn't see Outside, and she was a little surprised to realise she was disappointed. The beautiful, pure landscape - as impossibly dangerous as it was - was still in the back of her mind.

They managed to get Emlyn to drink a little more water on the train, but the young Pokemon was still very weak, and whether it was because of his weakness or just confusion, Skye didn't manage to get any more information from him about what had led to him being left alone in the Wedge. No way would a truly wild Pokemon be so friendly - and yet, if it had been humans responsible for leaving him in that state, why would he still be so affectionate towards her and Hop?

Professor Magnolia lived in the Outskirts too, just like Hop and Skye's families. But where their farmhouse was all but falling apart, cramped full of far too many people and surrounded by dying grass and a dusty path for a road, the little community the Professor lived in was as beautiful as all the images of Topside Skye had seen on TV, all paved roads, blooming flowers on every corner, and a Pokemon Centre that was the biggest building in the village. It even had an official name, not just a geographical designation - Brasswick.

And it was all because the Professor herself was there.

Skye had never known just what connection Professor Magnolia had to the Company and the City. She'd asked, when she was younger, but the old woman had always evaded the question, and soon enough Skye had learned not to ask. But whatever the case, whatever the Professor wanted, she got. (And by extension, so did her granddaughter - that was how Lee had gotten his licence in the first place.) And if what the Professor wanted was a quiet, peaceful place to live down in District 1, then that was what she got. Thus Brasswick was founded, a village perhaps half the size of the Wedge itself but with barely a fraction of the Wedge's population.

It was undeniably beautiful. And yet...there was a tenseness in the air here too. Softer and more subtle than in the Wedge, for sure. But it was there.

Skye and Hop got a lot of suspicious glares as they emerged from the Brasswick station - doubly so since Skye was still carrying Emlyn. Those glares melted away when Sonia got out of her car to greet them. With her high-heeled boots, tight coat, and glittery adornments in her hair, she stood out like a sore thumb in comparison to everyone else in the village - and the exuberant Yamper who bounded out of the car to greet them as well didn't exactly fit the sedateness either. "It's good to see you guys again!" she beamed, before noticing Emlyn. "Oh? Who's this?"

"This is Emlyn. We...found him, on our way here. It looked like he'd been abandoned."

Sonia, to her credit, didn't bat an eyelid before reaching out a perfectly manicured hand to stroke the little furball. "Poor thing," she murmured, quietly.

"Well, well! It's Skye and Hop!" Skye looked down to see the Yamper running circles around them. "And bad smelling pup, but mostly Skye and Hop! That explains it! Not many people make Sonia happy. Only really Leon, and he left." He paused, sniffed at the air. "They aren't mates yet. Surprising. Was expecting they would be by now."

"Hey!" Skye protested, trying not to blush too much.

The Yamper yelped in surprise and nearly fell over. "Skye talks?!"

"Wha..." Sonia blinked in surprise, looking down at the Yamper as he picked himself up. "Did you just bark at him?"

Skye sighed. "No. Well, yes, kind of, I guess. Look...can we just talk about this back at the Professor's lab?" There were still lots of people staring.

What Professor Magnolia wanted, she got. And when what she wanted was peace, those that would disrupt the peace of the village were not welcome. Gossip was traded in whispers, quiet wars about the colour of the village's flower arrangement fought with pastel notes on the village's bulletin board, and the hundred-odd residents of the village vied for the Professor's favour. Skye self-consciously fidgeted in the car as she saw everyone watching them, distracting herself by stroking Emlyn's head. The Yamper sat next to her, whispering the whole way. "Hey. Hey. You can hear me, right? Hey. Hey." Skye tried to ignore him.

"Yeah, it sucks, doesn't it?" Sonia asked, over her shoulder, almost drifting around a corner. "Of course, Gran doesn't even realise how bitter everyone is here. She thinks it's perfect."

"I didn't realise you didn't like it," Skye said, quietly.

"Why d'you think I hung out with you two and Lee so much?" Sonia retorted.

"'Cos you liked him?"

"Well, okay, fair point," Sonia admitted. "But the second reason was to give me an excuse to stay away from here. At least no-one bothers us at home."

Professor Magnolia's house wasn't quite on the edge of the village - it was a little way in, abutting an artificial pond (with fresh water pumped in directly from the Deep). She hadn't wanted her house to be the centre of the village, and so it wasn't.

The Professor herself was waiting at the door, leaning on her cane. "Skye, Hop, dears!" she beamed as they got out. "Thank you for coming! You really should all visit more often."

What she meant, of course, was that Hop's granddad should visit more often. They were polite enough not to mention it.

"And I see you've brought a friend?" Professor Magnolia bent down slightly to peer at the mass of matted fur in Skye's arms.

"We...don't really know what he is," Skye admitted. "But...do you know what's wrong with him?"

"Hmm..." The Professor adjusted her spectacles briefly before straightening up. "Well, come in, let's get him looked at."

The inside of the Professor's house/lab matched the aesthetic of the town perfectly - with the jarring exception of one corner, which was filled with sterile tiles and all manner of odd-looking devices. Skye's attention was drawn to a large box with a heavy curtain draped over it, which wasn't quite stopping an ominous red light from shining through it.

"Right. First things first, let's get him cleaned up." Professor Magnolia's switch from kindly old woman to scientist was a little jarring. She was even standing up a little straighter, leaning on her cane a little less.

Emlyn whimpered a little when Skye deposited him in the bath. "This is a bath," she whispered to him in a soft purr.

"...bath?" He tapped it with a claw. "Then I've...never had a bath...before." Then suddenly he mewled piteously and huddled down as small as he could, pressing against Skye's hands. "No, no, I don't want..!"

Skye blinked, and looked around to see Sonia proffering the shower hose. "What?" she shrugged, defensively, putting it down. "We need to clean him up."

If she was honest, Skye didn't really see the problem either, but she could still feel Emlyn trembling against her. "What's wrong?" she asked him, quietly. "It's just a hose. It's not going to hurt you."

"I don't want..." He trailed off. "They used to clean us...like that."

"Who are 'they'?"

One of the limitations of her power, Skye had realised, was that Pokemon seemed to have a hard time describing people that both parties weren't already familiar with. "Them," Emlyn repeated, pointlessly.

Skye sighed, and reached over to turn one of the bath taps on slightly. Emlyn jumped when water splashed onto his paws, but he didn't seem frightened in the same way. "I guess we're doing it this way, then," she said, in Galarian.

It took them nearly an hour to get Emlyn cleaned up - not least because he resisted having his matted fur cut away too, letting out more piteous mewling and feebly trying to paw Professor Magnolia away, until Skye took over with the razor at the old woman's direction.

"He's an Eevee," Sonia pronounced, once Emlyn was wrapped up well enough in a blanket that he didn't protest against her scanning him. "They're pretty rare. It says here they make good pets."

Professor Magnolia scoffed. "More likely he was bred and smuggled for black-market fur traders. Eevee mane fur is very valuable, and...well, you know the rules about raising Pokemon for fur and wool. For some people, caring about the Pokemon they're raising is too much hassle. All the same..." Professor Magnolia's tone was uncharacteristically grim. "Even for a Pokemon raised illegally for fur, he's very weak. My guess is they decided they couldn't be bothered to keep a sickly Pokemon who couldn't provide the fur they wanted, and abandoned him."

Skye couldn't help but look at Emlyn's wide, innocent eyes. He'd obviously been mistreated by humans before, and yet...maybe it was just the fact that she could talk to him, but he'd still trusted her. And Hop, and Professor Magnolia and Sonia.

She reached out and stroked the Eevee's head, and couldn't help but smile when he purred quietly. "Don't worry. We'll take care of you now. I promise."
 
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SayleeK

Johto League Champion
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Pokédex No.
260
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Jul 1, 2019
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1,496
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Pokémon Type
  1. Fire
  2. Fairy
Pokédex Entry
Between long periods of dormant slumber, this writer rises again for periods of activity that leave piles of dead fictional Pokemon in their wake
Oh shit, you posted a load of this while I wasn't looking! God, the worldbuilding here is great, everything is so stark and sinister, and I really like the transition from not understanding Pokemon to understanding them... and the creepy, sickening image of the living zombies that the Wooloo have been reduced to, just blankly begging for food... oh god that's horrible and I hope Skye destroys everyone involved
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
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  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
Lol, surprise sneaky story! And thanks! Yeah, nothing is quiiiite right in the City pretty much no matter where you look. As for destroying everyone involved in the whole 'living zombie Pokemon' thing goes...I mean, that would be most of the City including her own family (and herself for that matter), but she's definitely aiming to change things somehow.

"So where are we going, boss?" Suero hopped and bounded around Richard's feet as he walked through the streets.

"Shh!" Richard whispered, as they passed a mother and daughter who cooed delightedly as the Scorbunny passed her. "I can't talk to you when other people are around, I told you," he added, once they were safely past the young girl.

"Oh, right. Sorry, boss."

Yesterday had been a very strange day.

The fact that he'd been returned back to his room was strange enough. It wasn't like teleportation-capable Pokemon didn't exist, of course - the private security company his father had on call had trained teleporters in case of emergencies - but as far as he knew, and as far as he could see from a cautious search of the web, it should've been impossible for anything from Outside to teleport into the City.

He might have almost considered it to be a dream, save for Skye's hooded top, which was now carefully tucked away in his wardrobe where none of the cleaners would find it. That and the fact that he could communicate with Pokemon now.

"Mornin'." Richard just about realised in time that it was an elderly Growtlithe talking as he padded past them on a lead, and didn't reply. "Ain't seen you around before," he continued, addressing Suero. "They finally let him have a Pokemon, huh?"

So even the Pokemon of Topside knew who he was. It was bad enough being recognised by humans.

"I guess so," Suero answered, sounding rather confused by the whole affair.

"Well, kid, a piece of advice - oh, quit pulling, ya senile fool!" He turned to glare at his owner for a moment before returning his attention to Suero. "That kid's good enough, taking care of that Egg and all, but you wanna be real careful of his brothers. They've killed Pokemon before."

"What!?"

Mercifully, the Growlithe had just turned his head away to resist his owner's attempts to get him to carry on with their walk, and Suero covered for Richard masterfully. "They're allowed to do that?!" the Scorbunny asked, in what sounded to Richard like a passable imitation of Richard's Pokemon-speak tone.

The Growlithe scoffed. "Allowed? Of course not. But they can get away with whatever the dist they please." His owner finally seemed to lose patience and tugged at the Growlithe's lead harder. "OW! Dang blasted humans..."

"Come on, George, that's enough chattering," the elderly woman holding the lead said, cheerily, oblivious to the angry look in the Growlithe's eyes. "We'll be late for tea. Sorry if he was bothering your Pokemon, dear," she added to Richard.

"No, it's fine," he answered, reflexively.

Edward and Albert had killed Pokemon. Even without knowing that Pokemon were as alive and intelligent as the twins themselves...that was still a crime. His dad would never have allowed them to get away with that if he'd known about it.

"Thanks," Richard whispered to Suero, once the old woman and her Growlithe were gone.

"No problem, boss."

Eventually, they made it to the abandoned house. "So...can I ask you something?" Richard asked, as he unlocked the padlock to the door.

"You just did, boss," Suero replied, drily, with a tap-tap-tap of his feet that Richard was beginning to recognise as a chuckle even without the aid of his new gift. "But go ahead."

"What was it like being trained before you got sent to me?"

Of all the question Suero might have expected, that evidently wasn't one of them. "Eh, it probably wasn't much different to your schools. We had lessons in Galarian, human body language, basic ways to communicate with humans who are trained to understand it - not that you need that, of course. And then your basic battling rules, when you're allowed to break those rules - for fighting off thugs or whatever - how to hold back to avoid..." He trailed off.

"Avoid killing?"

"Yeah. We probably weren't meant to be told about it, but one of the mentors at the school told us about Pokemon who are trained to kill. Like that fucking Klingklang your brother had." The Scorbunny shivered slightly. So did Richard. "Not that I can blame them. Humans forced them to become like that," he added, quietly. Then he stamped his feet a couple more times, as though to bury the conversation. "Anyway, what's the deal with this Egg of yours that old guy mentioned?"

"Oh, I found it a while ago. Pokemon Eggs get abandoned pretty frequently," Richard sighed. "Abandoned Pokemon will be taken in by Pokemon Centres, since they can just send the bills to the owner of the Pokemon if it's not free, but Eggs don't have registered owners, so the Pokemon Centres won't take them in. Which means it's a lot easier to get rid of unwanted Eggs than it is unwanted Pokemon, so where people might reluctantly keep a Pokemon around to avoid getting a hefty bill from the Centre..."

"Eggs ain't so lucky, huh?" Fire blossomed around Suero's feet - luckily Richard had put down a fireproof coating in the main room. The Scorbunny looked down and sighed, taking a deep breath as the flames faded. "Sorry, boss. It's just...they're children."

"Trust me, I get it. Even before I learned that all you guys were as intelligent as us, that's why I couldn't just abandon it when I found it. I just...couldn't take it back home."

Edward and Albert had killed Pokemon. The thought wouldn't leave his mind.

"So I took it here," he continued. "I bought an incubator, enough different food that whatever it is it should be able to eat something..."

"You've got a whole little operation going on here, huh, boss?" Suero asked, looking around at the makeshift nursery.

Richard chuckled slightly. "Hopefully I can rescue more Eggs like this. I figured it was best to be prepared."

"I really hope this is just you being over the top and there aren't actually this many Eggs abandoned," the Scorbunny muttered quietly, looking at the neatly stacked bags of Pokemon food and not-yet-assembled incubators.

Richard didn't answer him.

"Do you really just sit here and wait for this all day?" Suero asked, a few minutes later. "I mean, you could just set up a camera."

"I'd rather be here than at home with Edward and Albert," Richard replied, simply.

"Point."

"Actually...could you do me a favour, Suero?"

"Sure, boss. What is it?"

"If that Growlithe was anything to go by, it sounds like most of the Pokemon around here know what my brothers have done, even if no humans do. I...I know this is a pretty rough thing to ask you, but could you ask around and find out more information?"

"Well, I'm happy to do something to screw over those assholes, but...is it safe for me to go wandering around on my own?"

"Up here, it is. I'll set your entry on my licence to note that you're out doing stuff for me - although at worst the police would just call me up to say that they found you. If you were higher-level and more dangerous it might be more iffy, but no-one's going to worry about a Scorbunny wandering around as long as you don't draw attention to yourself."

"Heh, more fool them when I'm giving you all their dirty little secrets," Suero grinned.

It wasn't until the Scorbunny was gone that Richard realised just how right he was. No-one knew Pokemon could understand Galarian - at least, not beyond a handful of words. And certainly no-one would ever imagine a Pokemon could relay what they heard to a human, especially with Professor Magnolia's thesis debunking all the theories that Pokemon and humans could communicate.

The possibilities of this gift were extraordinary.

But Richard didn't have too much time to consider the ramifications of his ability, because there was a sudden splintering sound from the Egg he was watching over and a little green head poked out, gabbling excitedly and incomprehensibly.
 

SayleeK

Johto League Champion
Writer
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Pokédex No.
260
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Jul 1, 2019
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1,496
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Pokémon Type
  1. Fire
  2. Fairy
Pokédex Entry
Between long periods of dormant slumber, this writer rises again for periods of activity that leave piles of dead fictional Pokemon in their wake
Oooooh, Richard's ready to start collecting receipts on his brothers and the rest of the rich, Pokemon-abusing assholes of his neighbourhood! It's fascinating to see what a wildly different impact Richard and Skye developing the same ability has, given the different places they live and the different kinds of Pokemon around them... and a little sad, that Skye has supportive friends and family around her and Richard has nobody...
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
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Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
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  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #16
Yep, Richard's already coming up with plans to put his new powers to good use. And yeah, he, uh...he doesn't quite have the same support network that Skye does. Which may or may not be why he's had to adapt so quickly to this...

It took the little green Pokemon just a few seconds to butt its way out of its Egg, twisting its tusked head from side to side and making little punching motions with its tiny forepaws.

It was still gibbering away merrily, but Richard couldn't understand a word it was saying. Did that power only work when Suero was nearby? He'd been able to understand Pokemon even with the Scorbunny kept in his Pokeball, but he'd never actually been apart from the Scorbunny since...whatever it was...had brought him back home.

All the same, he wet a flannel and reached out carefully towards the baby Pokemon. "Hey, there." He spoke Galarian deliberately. It paused in its random chattering when it heard his voice, tilting its head on one side and watching him come closer. When the damp flannel touched its back, it jumped slightly, making a noise he was sure was a grumble, but it didn't protest when he wiped off the stray fragments of Egg. And then it just nuzzled against the flannel, and his hand holding it, with a happy little noise.

It was so...innocent. And someone had just abandoned it rather than care for it. He reached out with his free hand and stroked the baby Pokemon's head. It didn't react for a few seconds, as though it was considering whether it liked being petted, and then tilted its head and licked his hand. He couldn't help but smile.

Setting the flannel down, he pulled out his phone and swiped at it to open the Pokedex app. "So you're an Axew, huh?" That surprised him a little. His phone might not have had the capability to analyse an Egg, but a Pokemon Centre would've been able to, and Dragons could become pretty powerful battlers. A properly raised Axew would fetch a high price.

"Axew?" He blinked. The Axew was looking up at him, curiously. "Axew!"

Barely five minutes had passed since he hatched and he could already speak. Richard had known that baby Pokemon were far more capable and fast to mature than humans, but he hadn't quite realised just how fast. Then again, it wasn't as though anyone before him could've measured how long it took Pokemon to be able to communicate with other Pokemon.

"Yeah, you're an Axew," he agreed, dropping his phone and leaving it to float around him. The Axew pawed at it curiously, but just gave a contented little growl when Richard picked him up and lifted him off the incubator, setting him down on the ground of the makeshift hatchery and sitting down in front of him.

"Aaron! Axew...Aaron!" The little Dragon-type was obviously enjoying being able to say comprehensible words, even if Richard had no idea who 'Aaron'...

He paused. "Is that your name? Aaron?"

The Axew nodded vigorously, wobbling almost his whole body back and forth until he overbalanced and fell on his front in front of Richard, giggling and waving all four paws around. "Aaron!"

Richard had never asked Suero how the Scorbunny had been given his name. He'd just assumed it had been the same way as humans were named, by their parents. But Aaron seemed to have come up with it on his own. Then again, it wasn't as though the names were actually Galarian.

He picked a satchel of baby Pokemon food off of the counter and tore the top off, setting it down in front of the Axew. It was crushed berries - the real thing, not a cheaper artificial counterpart. It was probably the first time in years that Richard had deliberately picked the best-quality, most expensive of a set of options he was presented. He never did that for himself.

Aaron sniffed at the satchel curiously before dipping a paw in the fruity-smelling substance and licking it. Maybe it was another facet of his power, but Richard could almost see the Dragon-type's eyes light up as he tasted the paste. "Yummy!" the Axew pronounced.

Aaron ate almost the whole packet of food before returning his attention to Richard. "You were pretty hungry, huh?" He wasn't too surprised, since most of the texts he'd read on baby Pokemon had made mention of them having a heightened metabolism for the first few days after hatching.

He glanced at his phone, still hovering near him with the Pokedex app open. Axew liked to spar against each other, breaking their tusks so they could cause new ones to regrow. The more frequently their tusks broke, the bigger and stronger they would be when they evolved - something that would be very important, since after evolving into Fraxure their tusks wouldn't regrow any more.

He wondered if Suero would be willing to spar with Aaron, when he got back. That would be the best way of handling things. But for now there was enough junk lying around here that he could make do - or at least see which of the wildly varying estimates of a baby Pokemon's ability to understand their own bodies was accurate.

It took only a couple of minutes of rummaging to find a thin length of metal that might have been part of a doorframe at one time. Aaron rolled onto his back to watch Richard moving around, before rolling back again and sitting up when Richard sat back down.

"Hey, you want to play?" He reached out and tapped one of Aaron's tusks with his makeshift baton. The Axew giggled and swung his tusk back against it, making a light clanging noise.

"Play!"

Richard laughed.

"So, this is where you've been running off to, Dick?"

He could almost feel himself paling. They were here. How were they here?

They killed Pokemon.

He watched Aaron's expression change, the Dragon-type looking past Richard and focusing on the twins. The happy playfulness was gone from the newborn Pokemon now. He got up, quickly, trying to hide the Axew behind his legs. "What...what are you doing here?"

They laughed. "Well, life at the house is so dreary when you aren't around, Dick," Edward commented.

You mean because you can't bully me. The words caught in his throat before he could voice them.

"So we thought we'd come and see what's got you so interested. Honestly, the people here are so simple-minded. Just toss a casual fifty thousand credits in their direction and they almost fall over themselves to help." Albert smirked. "But then, that's why we're going to be the ones in positions of authority...and what on Earth is that thing?" He'd noticed Aaron.

"He's...he's my Pokemon."

"Oh, good grief, Dick, you managed to acquire another worthless piece of trash?" They already had their Pokemon out. "Honestly, it's a good thing we came to see you if this is what you're wasting your time with."

"Don't you see how this reflects on our family, Dick? When you go around cavorting with low-level dregs of Pokemon like that?"

Aaron growled. Edward and Albert looked down at the little Axew as he slipped between Richard's legs and faced down the duo, and then made symmetrical nodding motions that signalled their Pokemon to move forwards. Even they weren't foolish enough to face an angry Pokemon directly.

"You don't wanna do this, kid," Albert's Bisharp said, quietly. His voice was surprisingly gentle.

"Bad," the Axew snarled.

The Klinklang whirled their gears. It had sounded so intimidating when Richard had seen them do it last time, but now...it was more like posturing, with no malice behind it. "Yeah. We know. But they're our Trainers. Please, little one. Don't give them a reason to have us strike you." They sounded genuinely worried, but there was more to it than that. Their voice almost sounded...afraid.

So this was what their Pokemon were truly like. He'd always assumed that they were as malevolent and cruel as Edward and Albert. Not...sympathetic, like this. He could almost hear the pain in their voices. How many things had his brothers had them do that they felt wretched for?

Richard clenched his fists. "And how does killing a Pokemon in cold blood reflect on our family?!"

That got their attention.

Edward laughed, of course he laughed, but it was hollow, fake. "What...whatever could you mean, Di...Richard?"

"I know you killed a Pokemon. You covered it up and hid it, so almost no-one knows."

The twins boggled at him. "But that's..." Albert stammered. "That's not possible."

"How the fuck does he know that?" the Bisharp murmured.

"You're just making this up," Edward snapped. "If...if you're trying to intimidate us, it won't work. Klinklang! Attack the green thing."

The Klinklang sighed. "I'm really sorry. Just...pretend this hurts you more than it does, okay?" Then they lunged, gears buzzing seriously this time.

"Don't!" He knew they wouldn't listen, knew they wouldn't care, but then something...changed.

Red light flared, weaving through the room like smoke, wrapping around Aaron as the Axew snarled and swung his tusk at the oncoming Steel-type, like he had with Richard but with real force behind the swipe, and his tusk caught in between the Klinklang's two primary gears. They were still for maybe only a second, but it felt like much, much longer - and then the red light was gone, and with a loud metallic screech Aaron was lifted off the ground and tossed backwards, and the Klinklang backed off as Richard scrambled towards the Axew.

The Bisharp glanced at them. "Wha...Kaede, I know you don't wanna hurt the little guy, but -"

"He..." They were panting, their gears shifting and rotating unevenly, erratically, and the Bisharp trailed off when he saw their expression. "He stopped me, Bard."

"But...he's just a hatchling."

Richard crouched down besides the Axew. One of his tusks had snapped off, and he was a bit bruised, but somehow, impossibly, he was okay.

"I know that!" Kaede snapped. "But...I couldn't push him back, and that strike...that hurt." They trailed off for a moment. "If his tusk hadn't broken, I..."

"What are you doing, you worthless lump of machinery?!" Edward punched the Klinklang on the back on its stationary gear, and then bit back a curse, trying to subtly shake off the pain in his hand. "Attack it, don't play with it!"

The two Steel-types turned back to look at Richard and Aaron. "Leave him alone," Richard whispered, quietly, in the tongue of Pokemon.

He felt bad for doing it, especially after seeing how off-balance Kaede had been from their battle with Aaron, but it worked. Hearing a human speak to them spooked them even more, and they backed off, forcing Edward and Albert to step back with them or be pushed back.

"What...what did you do, Dick?" Edward snapped. After a moment he fumbled for his Pokeball and returned Kaede. "You bribed the contractor to have them obey you, didn't you? That's it, isn't it?!"

"Who cares, brother?" Albert drew himself up. "This is a waste of our time anyway. I can...I can almost feel my intellect draining from being around Dick for too long. Let us depart." But Richard knew them well enough to hear the edge in his brother's tone. He'd never stumbled trying to find an insult before.

He'd never seen them so flustered.

Somehow he didn't feel good about it.

As they left, Bard looked back at Richard. "What...what the fuck are you?" the Bisharp asked, quietly.

That red light had come from...him.

"I...I don't know," he admitted.
 

SayleeK

Johto League Champion
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Screenshotter
Pokédex No.
260
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Jul 1, 2019
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1,496
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  2. Fairy
Pokédex Entry
Between long periods of dormant slumber, this writer rises again for periods of activity that leave piles of dead fictional Pokemon in their wake
hell yeah! Richard's got the power to fight back against his brothers and protect his innocent lil Axew! Love it :D
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
Writer
Pokédex No.
169
Caught
Jun 30, 2019
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214
Nature
Lonely
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Pokémon Type
  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #18
Hehe, yep! The tables begin to turn...

"I'm sorry," Emlyn mewed quietly, as Skye scooped him up and sat back, letting the Eevee lie on her lap. "I don't want to be a hassle for you."

"You're not," she promised him. "We're just going to wait until you get better, okay?"

"But...what if I don't?"

"Who said you wouldn't?"

Skye already had a pretty good idea of the answer. Gabe hadn't exactly made any attempt to hide his disdain for the little Eevee. "I'm a battler," he'd said, bluntly, once it had become apparent that they were going to stay with Professor Magnolia for more than a day. "You wanted to be my Trainer, and now you're not even going to bother with me?"

Fortunately, Hop, with occasional help from Sonia, had stepped up to let Gabe, Walter and Sacha work off their excess energy in some of the rolling, grassy plains that abutted the Professor's house. The fact that Hop couldn't understand them didn't seem to be particularly hampering his ability to get them practicing their moves and defences. It was also probably quite fortunate that Hop couldn't understand them given the expletive-laden grumbling that Walter issued whenever Hop was giving him orders.

Even without her 'gift,' and without her more detailed knowledge of Pokemon, he was a better Trainer than she was. Skye couldn't help but feel a little envy.

A sleepy little purr made her look back down, and she gently stroked Emlyn's back as the Eevee drifted off to sleep.

Skye had hoped that good food and care would help Emlyn get better. They all had. But although his rescue had seemingly given the little furball a bit more energy at first, he'd rapidly declined even further. If anything, he seemed worse than he had when they'd first found him. She could tell - almost feel - how much energy it was taking him just to talk to her. But he still did. It was like he wanted to remind her that he was still alive. Or maybe remind himself.

She heard the clack of Professor Magnolia's cane behind her. "How is he?" the older woman asked, softly. They'd learned quickly that Emlyn's senses were about the only thing that hadn't dwindled.

Skye sighed. "He's getting worse. Did you find anything about...whatever it is I can see?"

It had taken a couple of days before Skye had realised that there was something...different...about Emlyn, different to the other Pokemon. It was hard to explain - which in and of itself told her it was almost certainly a product of her abilities - but it was as though something had been leeched from the little Eevee. Not colour, exactly, but...it was something similar. An absence. And now she knew it was there, it was impossible to ignore.

Professor Magnolia shook her head. "All his tests came back normal. No sign of Pokerus or any other diseases, or toxins, or even any imbalances in his chemical levels. As far as my contact can tell, he's a normal Eevee. That said, he did tell me that he'd heard of similar cases. I've asked him to look into them quietly, but...it didn't sound encouraging."

Skye tensed slightly as the only thing that tended to distract her from Emlyn's plight recently came back to the forefront of her mind. "You didn't..?"

Professor Magnolia sighed. "No, Skye, I didn't make any mention of your...ability."

It hadn't taken long for Professor Magnolia to be convinced Skye could talk to Pokemon. Considering that proving that - no matter how strong the bond between a Trainer and a Pokemon -humans couldn't talk to Pokemon had been the thesis that had catapulted her to fame, she'd taken having her theory not just disproved but completely blown out of the water remarkably well. The only downside was that when she wasn't trying to find out what was wrong with Emlyn, she kept trying new experiments to decipher how Skye was able to do it. And since with no idea what her powers actually entailed Skye couldn't exactly say for sure that her abilities wouldn't be able to cure Emlyn, she played along with all the experiments - not that the Professor had uncovered any useful data about her yet either.

Between putting herself through all that and looking after Emlyn, Skye was very glad Hop had offered to keep Gabe occupied for the past few days.

And now he was leaving.

Emlyn's nose twitched, and he opened his eyes slightly as Hop came closer and crouched down in front of Skye to stroke the Eevee's back. "You'll be back on your feet in no time, little guy," he promised, and there was such confidence in his tone that even Emlyn seemed to perk up a little. "Professor Magnolia's the smartest person in the City."

"I hope so," the Eevee replied, even knowing that Hop couldn't understand him, nuzzling against Hop's palm. Hop smiled, so gently and genuinely that Skye couldn't stop herself smiling slightly too - but her expression quickly fell.

"Are you really going?" she asked, quietly.

Hop stayed crouched down, still stroking Emlyn, but looked up at Skye. He didn't say anything for a few moments, and then sighed. "You were right. I know, I know, I'm admitting you're right, the world must be coming to an end," he added, with a half-smirk that made her giggle slightly. "But...to be honest, I've known for a while I should be doing more with my winnings than just...splashing out. Especially now I have Sob - Sacha, as well as Walter." He'd convinced Skye to tell him what she interpreted as their names, though old habits died hard. It still didn't quite sound right hearing their names in Galarian, but it sounded better than just calling them by their species the way most people did. "And especially with the shit that the Green is pulling right now. We need the money."

He tried to keep his voice light and casual, but Skye could hear the edge in his tone - not disapproving, not exactly, he understood why she wanted to stay, to work out what was happening to her, but...disappointed. She almost wished he was frustrated with her for prioritising herself over their families. She could've dealt with that. But she knew that wasn't it. Once upon a time they agreed on everything without even having to discuss it. And they'd both been hoping that they might have been slowly drifting back to being like that, but...now they were going to quite literally be further away from each other than ever before.

Professor Magnolia beeped the horn of her car, out by the front of the house. Hop sighed, and reached out to put a hand on her shoulder for a couple of moments. "See you back home soon, yeah?"

She nodded, trying to keep her smile plastered on her face. "Yeah."

Skye watched him go for a few moments - and then Emlyn licked her hand, making her jump slightly and look down at the little Eevee. "You like him, don't you?" he asked.

She couldn't help but blush slightly. "Yeah."

"Why don't you go with him? The Professor Magnolia -" Emlyn still hadn't quite figured out how human pronouns worked "- hasn't found anything to help either of us."

"She will," Skye promised. She has to.

She carefully got up from her chair and set Emlyn down, tucking the blanket and cushions around him. She could feel Gabe watching her. "Why didn't you go with Hop?" she asked him. "You've been loving training with Sacha and Walter."

The Grookey scowled at her. "In case it escaped your notice, you're my Trainer. That matters. Even if you don't give a shit."

"I do," Skye retorted. "But right now, you're not the one who might -" she stopped, and crouched down so she could whisper to Gabe. "Who might die any day. I promised Emlyn I'd take care of him, and I can't...I can't do anything to help him. The least I can do is stay with him."

"Don't be so fucking pessimistic," Gabe retorted. "We're Pokemon. We're not as delicate as you. He'll survive."

Was he trying to make her feel better?

Two days later, Professor Magnolia got a response back from her contact in the veterinary community. It wasn't good news.

"This...wasting sickness, for want of a better term, has been observed before in Pokemon of uncertain provenance," she paraphrased. "There aren't any changes to their biochemistry, or anything that could suggest an explanation for what's happening to them. Their bodies just...slowly shut down. Every Pokemon that's been discovered with it has died. There's no cure." Her grip on her cane tightened briefly before she looked back up at Skye. "I'm sorry, dear."

Emlyn might not have understood enough Galarian to know what the Professor was saying, but he could understand tones and emotions just fine. Skye felt him tense, his claws pressing slightly against her legs as he trembled.

"No. There...there has to be something." She could feel tears welling up at the corners of her eyes. "That. What's under there?" She pointed to the case, its thick covering still hiding its contents.

Professor Magnolia's eyes narrowed. "That won't help you," she said, in a colder tone than Skye had ever heard from her before. "All it does is cause harm."

And then before Skye could press the issue, she turned on her heel and marched away.

"Wha..." She blinked, staring off in the direction the Professor had gone.

"Why are you so bothered about that box?" Sonia asked. "You've seen side-eyeing it ever since you got here."

Skye sighed. "When I look at it, I can see...something. Red...I don't know if it's light, or smoke, or...what, but if it's something I can see and none of you can - humans or Pokemon - it has to be connected to my abilities somehow." She paused. "What is it?"

Sonia hesitated for a few moments, and then pulled the cover back off the box.

Suspended inside was what Skye could best describe as a gauntlet - all exposed wiring and metal plates all centred around a large, bluish stone. Except it wasn't blue, not really. The red light was wafting from it, swirling around the glass case it was stored within like a ring around the gauntlet. It felt...powerful.

"My gran made it for me when we left to go try to knock some sense into the Topsiders and the gangs," Sonia said quietly. "And one for Leon, too."

"What does it do?"

"It doesn't matter." Sonia caught Skye's look. "Sorry, but it's not for me to tell you. Just...this one and Leon's aren't the only models. If you ever see someone with one of these, out there...you need to run."

The haunting red smoke diminished a little as Sonia pulled the canvas back over the case. Somehow now Skye knew it was there, it seemed even brighter.

"Please..." She looked down at Emlyn. "Just take me back to your family."

"No! There's got to be some way to help you. There has to be."

"I don't...I don't want to just stay here as an experiment until I die." He managed to raise his head to meet her eyes for a second before his chin dropped back onto her lap. "Being with Hop and your family makes you happy, doesn't it?"

"Well, of course it does, but -"

"And you're my friend. I don't want to be the one who means that you can't be happy."

"But...you're my friend too. I don't want to take you away from the best chance you have of surviving."

"Humans can't help me. That's what the Magnolia said, isn't it? So that means you, and your abilities, are my best chance of surviving. But even if they aren't...I just want to be a normal Pokemon. Even...even if it's only for a few days. Please."

Skye picked the little Eevee up and hugged him gently. He leant forwards and booped his nose against her cheek. "Okay," she agreed, quietly, reluctantly. "Let's...let's go home."

It had only been a week since she'd taken the train up with Hop. It felt so much more lonely without him on the return journey. She'd almost considered sending out Gabe as well, but somehow she didn't think he'd take kindly to being used as a substitute friend.

She listened to the conductor's announcement idly as the seals slid shut over the train's windows. It was almost word-for-word what she'd heard on the way up. She wasn't even sure that it was live and not just recorded.

But the message had barely even stopped playing when there was a deafening crash and the entire train lurched and writhed like a snake, and Skye found herself floating for what felt like an eternity before gravity overcame momentum and she saw the carriage crumpling like paper in front of her and instinctively she pulled Emlyn close to her, trying to shield the little Eevee for whatever good that would do -

And then she woke to a little tongue rasping at her cheek. "Skye? Skye?"

She groaned, realising that she was lying on her back against what had once been the window - the glass was shattered, the reinforced seal as twisted and broken as the front of the carriage - her feet awkwardly splayed across the seats. The train's emergency lights had cast everything into an ominous blood red. She tried to pull her legs back and sit up, and cried out as she felt a stab of white-hot pain run through her ankle.

"Skye! Are you okay?"

She focused, and realised that Emlyn was standing besides her head. "Yeah, I'm...I'm okay," she lied, pushing herself up and trying not to wince at the pain. Then she blinked, and looked at the Eevee again. "Emlyn, you're...you're standing!"

As her vision began to clear, she realised that the train didn't have power at all, and none of the lights were lit, not even the emergency ones. The redness was coming from outside the train, filtering through the twisted wreck.

Emlyn looked down at his paws, as though surprised to find them there, pawing at the ground with each forepaw in turn. "Huh. I...I guess I am?"

The red light was swirling in through the broken carriage and being absorbed into the little Eevee like water down a plughole.
 

llyarden

Perpetual Lurker
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Pokédex No.
169
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Jun 30, 2019
Messages
214
Nature
Lonely
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  1. Dark
  2. Dragon
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #19
"What..?" Skye looked at Emlyn as the red light wrapped around him. "What is this?"

"I don't know. I just feel...better?" The Eevee tilted his head on one side, considering. "Stronger. But..." He pawed at his neck with one forepaw. "I don't know. It feels...wrong."

Wrong.

That was exactly the word to describe it. The red light - just like the glow she'd seen from the bracer back at Professor Magnolia's house - felt wrong. Emlyn was still absorbing it, and she could almost see him standing straighter, more confidently, as it flowed into him, but there was an edge to it, an almost hostile undercurrent.

"But..." Emlyn leaned forwards and licked her cheek, making her smile slightly. "I feel like...it's okay with you here."

Skye tilted her head to look at him. "What do you mean?"

"I don't know," he admitted. He had a thin strip of cream-coloured fur around his neck that Skye was sure hadn't been there just a few minutes ago. "Maybe it's just because you're my friend."

"Hello?!" There was a cry from outside her carriage. "Is anyone in here?" A face appeared at one of the destroyed windows.

"Yes!" Skye called back, wincing. Even just raising her voice hurt. Emlyn mewed and nuzzled her, and she stroked his head. "It's okay. I'm fine. But you need to not talk to me when other people are around now, okay?"

"Okay," Emlyn agreed, but she could hear the reluctance clear in his tone.

"Can you stand, ma'am?" A rope ladder clattered down into the middle of the carriage.

"Only one way to find out," she muttered, more to herself than anything else, gripping the edge of the table and levering herself upwards. She realised almost immediately that she couldn't put any weight on her left leg. "Yeah, I can stand," she called back. Which wasn't technically even a lie.

Climbing a ladder with only one working leg wasn't exactly easy, but she wasn't going to let anyone know she was hurt. That would just paint her as an easy mark. She just needed to keep a low profile until she was back to the comparative safety of the Undercity.

When she reached the train's window, her caution was justified. Her 'rescuer' was a cop - clearly well-fed and fully outfitted in what would have been a neat uniform before the crash. The rope ladder she'd climbed up was harnessed to a bored-looking red turtle-like Pokemon that saw her looking at it and exhaled a cloud of smoke from a hole on the top of its shell. The red light was wrapping around it just like it had Emlyn, but it wasn't being absorbed the same way. Somehow it felt like the light suited Emlyn, but twining around the turtle it felt...unwelcoming.

"This way, ma'am." If the cop saw her scowling at him, he ignored it, retrieving the ladder and returning his Pokemon as he scrambled down the toppled carriage to join another dozen or so people.

She glanced down towards the front of the train, and then wished she hadn't. Almost the entire front half of the train had been pulverised into twisted metal - and as ominous as the red light permeating the area was, she was a little glad of it. It meant she couldn't see any blood.

Whatever had caused the crash was nowhere to be seen.

Aside from Skye and the cop, there were a dozen of them gathered near the wreckage. She tried to stop herself from counting up how many people had boarded the train originally, how many were dead now. It wasn't as though she'd never been exposed to death in her life before - the Wedge lift that had failed just a few weeks ago had killed almost a dozen people, and their farm had lost Wooloo to old age and sickness - but...the train was Topsider shit. This wasn't supposed to happen. Even if all the people in the front carriages had been Topsiders...they still didn't deserve to die in a train crash when they thought they were safe.

"What do we do now?" It was an older woman who reminded her far too much of Hop's gran. "Are we...are we going to die out here?"

"Don't worry, of course we won't die." A good-looking Topsider woman was the only one with a Pokemon out aside from Emlyn - it actually looked a bit like a larger, spikier, yellow version of Emlyn, although like the cop's turtle Pokemon it wasn't reacting to the red light the same way he was. "The Company will come to rescue us."

"Sure, 'cos you know so much about life outside your pretty little house," the yellow Pokemon snarked.

"But we're Outside!" There were two children in their group. Skye paled slightly as she realised they were alone, the boy crying, the girl trying to pretend she wasn't. Even Topsiders wouldn't send their children on the Ring train alone. "You can't go Outside! The monsters eat you!"

"I've been Outside before."

Skye barely even realised she was saying it until everyone looked at her.

The little boy sniffed and rubbed his eyes, looking up at her. "You have, miss?"

"Yeah," Skye said. And being out here definitely didn't give me the ability to understand Pokemon and see a terrifying blood-red light all around us. "As long as we get back into the City soon, we'll be fine. There are airlocks all around the City. So instead of waiting around for rescue that might never come, we just need to walk until we find one, and we can get back in." She didn't mention that she actually had no idea how to open the airlocks.

"She's right," the cop agreed. He'd produced a little notebook from one of his many pockets and was looking through it. "We just have to stick to the tarmac and avoid wild Pokemon."

Emlyn padded forwards and sat down at the boy's feet. "It's okay," he purred, and even if the children couldn't understand his words the purring seemed to reassure them a little, and the girl leant down and picked the little Eevee up, cuddling him and giggling slightly when he leant across and licked the boy's face.

"Okay." The cop straightened up, putting his notebook away and doing his best to look inspiring. "We look through the train, find whatever supplies we can, treat the wounded -"

"Uh, who put you in charge?" the pretty woman asked.

"Young lady, he's a police officer," the old woman retorted. "He knows what he's doing."

"Sure, he's taking advice from some Undercity thief. Really inspires confidence."

Emlyn narrowed his eyes, but caught himself before growling something at her, returning his attention to comforting the two children.

"If you have a better idea, you're welcome to stay here and wait for rescue while the rest of us leave."

"Yeah, right. You're a cop. It's your duty to protect me. You can't just walk away."

"In case it escaped your attention, ma'am, we're not in the City at the moment. Right now I have no duty to protect anyone."

Skye was beginning to like him.

"Pretty sweet of you to look after those children," the yellow Pokemon said to Emlyn, as the others poked through the wreckage of the train. Except the cop and the old woman, none of them had gone near the front carriages. None of them wanted to see what was there. Who was there.

After her argument with the cop, the pretty Topsider had decided that she'd sprained her ankle and couldn't possibly help, and so was instead using her phone to record her commentary on events, her Pokemon lying down by her feet.

"Wouldn't you?" Emlyn asked. He was lying down too, in between the two children, who were both absently stroking his back, running their fingers through his fur. Every so often he looked up and licked one of their hands lightly.

"Not really," the yellow Pokemon shrugged. "They're not my problem. Besides, my Trainer gets pissy if I pay attention to anyone but her. But...you ain't much more than a kit yourself, and you're still looking out for them."

"I guess...I know what it's like to be alone," the Eevee said quietly. "Before Skye found me, I went from hatching to being kept in a cage to being thrown on the street. No-one was ever kind to me before her."

"That sucks, kid. Sorry to hear it."

"It's okay. If all that hadn't happened to me, I wouldn't have met Skye."

"Your Trainer?" The yellow Pokemon chuckled. "Don't often hear someone using their Trainer's human name. But I guess it sounds like she deserves your respect. "

Emlyn glanced over to Skye, one brown eye meeting hers. "She does."

He opened his mouth to say something else - but whatever it was was drowned out by an ear-splitting, horrifying screech.

Skye scrambled to her feet, cursing as she forgot her wounded leg and almost toppled over again. The yellow Pokemon had bounded to his feet too, sparks crackling from his mane, looking around. Barely a couple of seconds later, there was a flash of white light as the cop sent his turtle Pokemon out again.

"What was that?" one of the children asked, nervously.

I wish I knew.

Skye reached into her pocket for Gabe's Pokeball, tapping the button and sending the Grookey out. "Oh, now you want me instead of the furball," he muttered, but he drew his stick anyway, crouching into a defensive stance.

The red light shifted around them, and Skye turned before even the sharp senses of the four Pokemon had noticed the new arrival.

It was a little bird Pokemon, barely any taller than Emlyn. No doubt it looked so innocent to the rest of them. But Skye could see the way the light affected it. It wasn't like Emlyn, where he'd absorbed the light and recovered from it, or like the others where it seemed to twist around them harmlessly. The light was wrapped tight around the little bird like claws and chains, digging into its body, manipulating it like a puppet, its feathers ragged and torn. And its eyes were covered over by the red energy, holding nothing but hate and rage.

This was the malevolent feeling she'd felt from the light ever since she'd seen it. This was its true nature.

And Skye didn't know what Pokemon species the bird was, but it had to be a Flying-type. That meant she couldn't use Gabe.

"Everyone stay back," the cop ordered. "I've heard that wild Pokemon Outside can be dangerous. Torkoal, Rock Tomb."

Skye breathed a small sigh of relief as the smog around the Torkoal wrenched chunks of tarmac and stone up from the ground and hammered them into the bird, again and again until it was completely hidden beneath the rocks.

But then the red light started pulsing, shining brighter through the cracks in the tarmac and stone, and she realised that it wasn't enough, that they had to keep attacking, and knew that even if she told them none of them would believe her, none of them could see what she could -

And then that horrible, keening screech issued from within the rocks, and then they shattered, shards flying everywhere, as the little Flying-type took off and smashed through them as though they were made of paper, landing near the Torkoal and beating its wings, just once, and a gale erupted, tearing apart the tarmac and throwing the turtle away like it was a leaf in a hurricane, and it slammed into the Wall with a sickening crunch, fell to the ground and didn't move.

The red light wrapped greedily around the little bird, as though congratulating it.

"RUN!" Skye screamed, snapping them out of their fugue, and it was almost like the bird echoed her cry with another deafening screech as they turned and ran for their lives.

One of the children tripped and fell, and the cop turned back for her, picking her up and paling as he realised the bird was soaring towards him - and the yellow Pokemon sprang past him, snarling, electricity arcing across his fur until he was little more than a lightning bolt that slammed into the bird with enough force that sparks danced across the metal carriages - and then suddenly the lightning was gone and he stumbled back, and the bird let out another of those horrifying screeches and turned its attention to the yellow Pokemon, taking off and grasping the Electric-type in one talon, lifting it into the air without any apparent effort before slamming it down to the ground with enough force to shatter the tarmac.

A black-and-gold Ultra Ball flew towards the bird, and Skye let out a small sigh. Even if the red light was protecting it from the attacks of the Pokemon, an Ultra Ball would be able to capture it. But then the light lashed out like a whip, catching the ball in midair, and it glowed white-hot with a shriek of tortured metal -

"Skye!"

Something swept her good leg out from under her and she landed heavily on the ground a heartbeat before the Ultra Ball exploded, sending burning shards flying. If she'd fallen just a second later they'd have impaled her.

"Are you okay? Sorry!" Emlyn was standing next to her. "I couldn't think of another way to stop it hitting you!"

"Emlyn, did you..." She trailed off. The light was wrapping around him too, like the bird, but at the same time it was...different. The malevolent feeling wasn't as strong, as though something was keeping it away.

The bird turned its attention to her. She could see Gabe trembling, but he didn't move, staying between her and the Flying-type, raising his stick in what might have been an attempt at a threatening manner.

"Leave them alone!"

Before she could stop him, Emlyn sprang, away from her, past Gabe, and charged at the bird. She wanted to scream at him, to tell him to stop, to come back, but the words caught in her throat as the bird howled and unleashed another tornado-force Gust towards him, and the edges of it caught her and Gabe and sent them tumbling towards the edge of the tarmac -

And Emlyn leapt, and slammed into the bird. And somehow, impossibly, the little Eevee did what two fully evolved Pokemon couldn't, knocking the bird over with an impact that sounded like a bomb going off. It let out another roaring screech and slammed him with one wing, sending him flying into one of the carriages with enough force that the entire thing tipped up on two wheels for a moment - and then when it returned its attention to Skye and Gabe, he pounced back at it, caught its neck in his jaws and hurled it through the broken door, leaping after it.

There was an empty Pokeball besides her. The cop must have dropped it when the Pokeball shards had hit him. All the others had fled, she realised. Some absent, detached part of her was surprised that her first thought wasn't anger that they'd abandoned her. She was glad they'd got out safely.

With the Pokeball in her hand, she advanced cautiously towards the carriage, Gabe a step or two behind her. There were still crashing noises that she could almost feel more than hear from the fight still going on - and then suddenly they stopped, and she ran forwards, scared of what she might see.

Emlyn was standing in the middle of the cabin, standing on top of the Flying-type, one forepaw on each of its wings, and though it was thrashing around with enough force that the entire carriage was creaking, the little Eevee had it pinned down. The red light had faded a little from both of them, as though their battle had exhausted it, and the bird looked more normal now, less hateful.

Almost before she realised she was doing it, Skye tossed the Pokeball, underarm, and it bounced once, hit the bird on one wingtip, and absorbed it in a flash of light before bouncing back to her. The red light spiralled and swirled for a moment - and then flew after the Pokeball as Skye caught it and instinctively turned away from the light, and she felt an actual, physical impact against her back as the questing tendrils of light hit her, weak but undeniably there.

But after a few moments the light seemed to give up, and faded away into the ambient red glow, and she turned back to look at Emlyn - and did a double take.

"Emlyn! You're all...fluffy!"

"That's what you're gonna worry about?!" Gabe snapped. "How about the fact that he just kicked the shit out of something that killed one Pokemon and damn near killed another? And us! And you just fucking caught it!"

Skye looked down at the Pokeball. "I...I think it's safe now." She just wished she knew how she was so sure of that. "The light left it when I captured it."

"Don't you even fucking think about letting it out! We oughta just smash the damn ball while it's in there!"

Gabe took a step forwards, raising his branch, and Emlyn slipped past Skye, putting himself between her and the Grass-type. They both saw the fear in the Grookey's eyes as he backed off. Emlyn paused, looking down at the ground. "I'm...I'm not going to hurt you, Gabe," he said, in a quiet, nervous mew. "I promise."

Gabe laughed, hollowly. "I'm not worried you're gonna go nuts and try to kill me, if that's what you're worried about," he retorted. "But I saw what you can do. Even if you aren't even trying to hurt me, one flick of your paw would just crush me like a fucking -"

He stopped as Emlyn stepped forwards and nuzzled him gently.

"Please," the Eevee murmured, quietly. "I just...I just want to be your friend."

Gabe didn't say anything for a few moments, just meeting Emlyn's gaze. Then he sighed, and looked away. "Fine. Sure, whatever. Let's see what your new captive has to say for itself."

Skye smiled at Emlyn as he turned around to watch, his new mane flowing, and she tapped the button of the Pokeball to send the Flying-type out onto the shredded tarmac.
 

SayleeK

Johto League Champion
Writer
Screenshotter
Pokédex No.
260
Caught
Jul 1, 2019
Messages
1,496
Location
Scrivener
Nature
Careful
Pronouns
She/her
Pokémon Type
  1. Fire
  2. Fairy
Pokédex Entry
Between long periods of dormant slumber, this writer rises again for periods of activity that leave piles of dead fictional Pokemon in their wake
Okay I like where you're going with the random unexplained red light and smoke in Dynamax Battles, turning Eternatus into this eldritch force that possesses Pokemon and sends them into terrifying rampages is COOL AS FUCK and so atmospheric, goddamn, I love it... I also love Emlyn not dying!!! Big in favour of that!!!
 

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