“Have you tried calling her?”
“What did it look like I just finished doing?”
“You could have been checking your voice mail…”
“Well then I’d be checking for her voice mail, either way I’m doing something about it!”
“Okay okay, calm down big guy.” Ramie sighed, leaning back against the couch.
“H-Here… let me see if I can call… her… shoot, where is it??” Leanne rummaged through her green belt pack, trying to find Johto Bianca’s pokédev or Unova Bianca’s C-Gear. She quietly cursed the fact that she had regained her ability to lose anything and everything while in the unified Leanne’s form.
“For a girl who was always punctual during our old meets, you’d think she’d be one of the first here.” Farron scratched his head in irritated impatience. He shifted his standing posture constantly, wishing dearly to rest his sore back – but far too nerve-wracked to sit still.
Quinn nodded in appreciation as she accepted a glass of iced tea from Solana. After a sip, she turned her attention to the group. “It is important to note that she is in the southwest section of the Sinnoh region, and we’re in the northeast. If anyone would have an excuse to be late, it would definitely be Maya.”
“Taurosflakes she has an excuse!” Ramie growled. “She’s the most important one in this little group! No offense. There’s no way Sato will wake without her!”
“T-Technically Sato wouldn’t wake if any of us w-weren’t here.” Leanne clarified.
“Whatever. It’s just SO like that princess to push her boundaries. We depend on her to get a job done, and what does she do?? Flaunt her role as Maya! What a b– oh, thanks Solana!”
“Did everyone get a drink?” the Ranger asked as she walked back to the kitchen.
“Not Maya. OH WAIT!” The Fighter rolled her eyes and chugged her drink.
Ritchie shuffled into the living room, setting down a large tray of freshly baked goods. “Food’s here! Be careful though, it’s a bit hot.”
“Sooo Ritchie!” Ramie hopped towards him and roughly patted his back. “May’s still wondering how you asked Solana out!!”
Howls and small cheers came from the guests.
“Oh um…” The Trainer’s face turned a bright red. “Ah… you see…”
“Nah, I’m just teasin’ ya’, kid!” Ramie laughed heartily. “You can tell May later. We just wanted to get you blushin’. You adorable lil’ thing.” She pinched his cheek, causing him to blush harder.
Solana stepped in, grabbing one of the muffins on the platter. “What’s wrong with just asking me? I can tell the story too.”
“Yeah, but you’re just not as adorable as Ritchie. His blushes are half the story-telling experience.” the Fighter teased as she grinded her knuckles into Ritchie’s hair.
“I’d agree with that.” The Ranger pulled her boyfriend away from Ramie’s grasped and gave a quick kiss on his lips.
“Get a room.”
“Shut it, Farron. No one asked you.” Ramie playfully struck at the Pokémon Master.
He caught her attack by the wrist and tickled her armpit.
“AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!! STOP IT!! STOP IT YOU JERK!! AHAHAHA!!”
“OOF!!” His counter-assault earned him a real punch across the face.
Farron dropped sideways, grabbing onto a nearby curtain to stop his fall.
The curtain tore in half.
“That’s what you get for tickling me.” Ramie cracked her knuckles and walked towards a corner of the room.
Ritchie inspected the curtain with worry. “Oh man… Drew is not going to like this…”
The Fighter stopped in her tracks.
“What did you just say?”
“Huh? About the curtain?”
“No. Did you just say ‘Drew’?”
“Yeah. This is Drew’s villa.”
May stomped out of Ramie’s form, leaving the other two stunned from the separation.
“THIS IS DREW’S PLACE?!!” the Coordinator roared, a fire burning in her eyes.
“Holy crap… You shouldn’t have said that!” Angie panicked. She immediately wrapped her arms around May’s shoulders. “C-Calm down, May!”
“LET GO OF ME!!!” she screamed as she kicked and punched into the air, struggling like a wild animal in the tomboy’s grip. “RAAAAAAA!!! I’M GOING TO TEAR THIS PLACE APART!!!”
“A little help would be great, Maylene!!”
The pink-haired fighter grabbed May’s pinky and pulled it the wrong way.
“OW!” A weakening pain spread throughout the Coordinator’s body, causing her to submit almost instantly. “Ow! Ow. Owow. Okay! Okayokayokay, I’m done. Done. Let go please.” she pleaded.
Angie let go of her grip and exhaled in relief. “Phew… thanks, Lene.”
“No prob.” She released her hold, allowing May to drop to her knees to recover herself.
“Wh-What was that all about???” Ritchie’s eye twitched, his look of fear and shock slowly fading as the moment passed.
“Ex.” the tomboy simply said.
Everyone in the room nodded in unified understanding.
“Oh… that reminds me. Drew says ‘he’s sorry’.”
Angie slapped her palm to her face. Ritchie! WHY DID YOU SAY THAT?!
May didn’t react. She looked up with a calm smile. “Oh… okay.”
The others sighed in pure relief, slightly surprised by the Coordinator’s tranquil reply.
Click-click-click-click-click-click-click. VACUUM. SNAP!!!
“I WANT THIS PLACE OBLITERATED!!!” May commanded with reckless abandon.
She took a deep breath in. The scents of the sea invigorating her… the taste of groomed civilization exciting her… and the air of one’s final destination satisfying her lungs.
Maya stepped into the docks, letting the small crowds pass her by.
On normal days, the exiting passengers would be far too eager to challenge one another not only during the yacht ride, but also immediately after reaching land… but it wasn’t a normal day. It was early morning. Far too early for most to consider even giving suggestions, let alone battle orders to their pokémon. They needed their coffee, they needed their rest, and they needed to get their land legs fast if they were ever going to retrieve one of the other two options.
However, the Empathic’s legs had already adjusted due to her natural affinity for water and sailing.
And unlike the exhausted swarm, she was one a rare species known as a ‘morning person’. An endangered species in a time of technology’s conveniences.
With a skip in her step, she headed down a small pathway within the forest of palm trees.
Maya felt perfectly fine. Not with just her situation, but with herself.
Never in her entire life had she felt so sure of herself.
Individually, she had always felt slightly off. Misty’s near dual personality of tomboyish charms and deep desire to be ‘one of the girls’, was always in conflict with itself. Anabel’s sensitivity and title as an Empathic had always made her awkward within the presence of those who couldn’t understand emotions. And Dawn’s youth and inexperience often making her feel like a mouse amongst a land of giants, always having to prove herself to others and herself.
But now, as Maya… she felt confident, whole, and knowledgeable. She wasn’t the smartest girl in the group, but she had wisdom from experience and an outstanding sense of intuition to help her balance that out. She wasn’t the strongest woman in the team, but her title as ‘Maya’ itself had enough power to allow her to do what she wished. And she wasn’t the most balanced person in the gang, but she excelled in manners of the heart – and it was often the heart where it mattered most.
Being of one body, mind, heart, and soul felt perfect. She wondered why she ever even considered running off as Misty to be more ‘successful’ in life… when she would have never found true happiness at the end of that road. She pondered why she ever worried about losing to that tomboy Angie… when Angie was closer to being ‘one of the boys’ and wouldn’t have complimented Ash effectively. And she questioned why she was so afraid of being alone and left behind as Dawn… when now she understood that Ash would have loved her company no matter what.
As Maya, things were right.
As Maya, things were perfect.
And as Maya, everyone was waiting for her.
She giggled to herself. I shouldn’t make them wait too long.
Her impossibly happy mood suddenly went blank when her eye caught a familiar figure.
To her right, a small creature was lying quietly underneath a large palm tree.
Originally, she was going to ignore it and continue on her way… but its familiar color caused her to make a second glance.
It was Pikachu. Ash’s pikachu.
It sat curled-up in the grass… emotions of sadness, distress, and complete loneliness filled its heart. From its fading and weakened sentiments, it was obvious that it had not eaten in days… and though many would encourage to feed it immediately, she knew quite well that as long as its spirits were low – it would never digest food properly.
Pikachu was depressed. He chose not to eat. He chose not to move. And he chose not to try. Though his heavy mental and emotional burdens were the main deciding factors of his mood – Maya knew that any creature simply having the will to cheer up, wanting to cheer up, desiring to cheer up… was a greater cure than what any medicine or meal could offer.
Pikachu’s ears twitched at the sound. Feelings of defensive irritation surrounding his essence. The yellow Mouse Pokémon believed it was a wandering Trainer seeking to battle and capture it. Pikachu was in no mood… and was only waiting for the perfect moment to retaliate.
With a growl, Pikachu turned and readied to send the released pokémon into the sky with a Volt Tackle.
Instead, it stood still in confusion.
A feline creature of lavender fur and deep purple eyes stared at him in curious recognition.
“PIKAAA!!!” The Mouse Pokémon dashed forward and tackled the Sun Pokémon.
The two tumbled and rolled with excited yelps and happy grunts. Landing to a halt, they hopped, pounced, and pressed down and over one another. Their cheerful laughs and yap echoed slightly against the barrier of trees.
Maya’s eyes watered at the heartening scene. Sniffle. “Hi Pikachu! Long time no see!”
Ash’s partner halted in its play and stared up at the woman. “Pika?” It didn’t recognize her whatsoever.
“It’s us! Anabel, Dawn, and Misty!”
She held out her hand, allowing him to sniff it carefully from his hesitant distance. “See? You still know us, right?”
Pikachu tilted its head. Emotions of complete bewilderment filled him.
In every way it knew this woman was them… but it had no idea why they were one person.
Before it could confuse itself any further, Maya reached into her bag. “I’ve got something just for you! Snuck it out of the yacht. So sshhhhh, don’t tell anyone.” she giggled to herself childishly.
The woman he couldn’t recognize held out a treat that could bribe him into no longer caring.
Pikachu tore through them, sucking out their sweet and savory sauces that they held within.
In just a manner of minutes, the yellow Mouse Pokémon showed almost no signs of its earlier weaknesses or vulnerabilities… He was eating, moving, and most importantly… happy.
“Come on, Pikachu. We’re going to go wake up Ash now!”
“Yup! It’s finally time!”
No longer caring for the ‘food’, Pikachu dropped the ketchup packs and leapt onto Maya’s shoulder. “PIKAAA!!!” He patted her head repeatedly, gesturing for her to start running. Espeon hopped on her other shoulder and mimicked the Electric Pokémon’s gestures.
“Okay, okay, okay!” Maya laughed as she placed the packets back into her bag. With a slight grunt, she stretched and straightened her back. “Ahhh~! Alright! Let’s go!”
The three of them cheered loudly as they sped down the narrow forest path… all looking forward to what their final destination would hold in store for them.
“…is this really the right place?”
Smoke slowly drifted from the villa’s roof. A large hole with blackened edges scarred one of its corners. Ice decorated the edges of the doorway. And several of the windows were shattered beyond repair.
“Oh no… WHAT IF TEAM ROCKET ATTACKED?!”
Smashing through the frozen door, Pikachu prepared for the worst. Espeon leapt by his side, forming a Barrier around them in proactive defense. The Empathic stormed in, pulling several of her poké balls from their belt loops.
Walls stained with splattered green, burning black, and shimmering light blue… A hole in the ceiling…
Several knocked out pokémon spread throughout the settings. One person on the floor, massaging their head in pain. Several others, leaning against walls or objects in exhaustion and stress, glancing in the intruders’ direction. And a single young woman, held above the ground by a dark purple aura, posed in a furious stance.
As if the battle that mysteriously occurred in her absence had never mattered, everyone in the room stumbled and hopped into ecstatic postures. Even May, who seemed to be the center of everyone’s struggle, cheered up at the sight of the Empathic’s arrival.
The Coordinator ran towards Angie and Maylene, pulling them excitedly towards herself. In a flash of light, the three had become one – revealing the red-haired and golden-eyed Fighter that she recognized almost instantly.
“PRINCESS!!” Ramie dashed forward, breaking through Espeon’s Barrier with a swift kick and placing the Empathic in a rough headlock. “You little orange-head! You had us worried sick!!”
Maya laughed nervously as the Fighter continued to scratch at her hair.
Facing up, her eyes widened at the sight of so many familiar faces. “Farron! Leanne! Quinn!”
The three ran towards her in cheerful greetings.
Laughs, comments, stories, and playful insults bounced between the five of them.
To the side, Solana pulled Ritchie to his feet and patted debris off his clothes.
The male trainer surveyed the room in despair. “Drew is not going to like this at all…”
“Oh cheer up, Ritch.” The Ranger laughed, slapping him across the back. “Come on, let’s go get Ash ready for them… The sooner we finish this, the sooner we can get all this drama out of our hairs.”
Of the five that stood uncomfortably at the sight of the young man’s body, none was sure which of them whispered his name. It could have been any of them, it could have been all of them, or they could have simply imagined it. The only thing they knew is that the sight of him, with all of them gathered under the same roof, made them nervous.
This is it… many of them thought. After this, our adventure’s finally done…
But where do we go from here?
Quinn worried for her Gym at Saffron… wondering if she should return as the Psychic Sabrina or as the Psychic Quinn. She wondered if the others would follow her. The ex-Agent Dominique didn’t seem to have any specific plans for her life after all this. Becoming an assistant in the Psychic’s Gym was an interesting prospect for her, though she knew that she’d be treated as an outcast because of her Dice. Casey had no real opinion for or against it… her life had always been up in the air, finding happiness and adventure wherever she went. As long as she could continue attending and watching team Electabuzz’s games, she could go anywhere – live anywhere.
The Psychic’s largest worry, however, was where would Ash be in her life after this… does she simply move on? Is it alright to move on? …and if he followed, where would life lead them?
Leanne missed her faraway homes… Alto Mare, the paradise island of Johto, was her perfect world. In her past life, she had always dreamed of living in that island… and now she finally could, in the form of Bianca and Latias. She could finally appreciate her home for the haven that it was. The other Bianca, however, wished to return to her region of Unova. Kanto and Sinnoh were a beautiful lands with so many adventures and friends waiting to greet her, but she missed her home. To her, she felt like she had never given her home region a real chance… she barely even knew of the cities and towns there, yet she knew so many here already. It was unfair to her home, and she wanted to make it fair.
The Researcher’s conflict came to a head when they wondered how they would separate… how could they separate? Leanne woudn’t be Leanne without all three of them… Do they simply forget this life and continue on their own? Would it be right? …and what about Ash? What about Sato? Do they simply lose him again and just end up settling for someone else?
For Ramie, the roles of Gym Leader, Contest Title Defender, and heiress of a Day Care Center loomed over her head and heart. The thoughts would cause her shoulders feel heavy with burden… because in truth, she didn’t truly care for those things. She wanted to be with Ash, with Sato. To have fought so hard for him, to have sacrificed so much for him, to have discovered so much for him, only to lose him because of duties that seemed trivial in comparison… drove her mad.
The Fighter’s desire to be with Ash fell in opposition with the fact that she wasn’t one person, but three. Even if they were comfortable with it, they couldn’t see a way to share him. They lived three separate worlds – how could he be with all of them? …or do they drop everything and follow him regardless?
Maya only concerned herself with Ash’s safety and her life with him. She would gladly remove her title as Gym Leader to continue travelling with him. She would gladly remove her title as Frontier Brain to be with him indefinitely. And she would gladly forget her goals of being a top Pokémon Coordinator if it meant she could make him happy. Or if he wished, he could live in her life… ideas of fighting as a Gym Leader with Double Battle rules, defending the Battle Frontier as a Frontier Brain duo, or competing as a Coordinator couple ran through her head.
Yet the Empathic’s crossroad was… would it be with Ash or Sato? She was unsure what their actions would honestly do to the sleeping young man. If it revived him as Ash, then anything goes – because he never seemed to care about boundaries. But if it was Sato… then would he continue his role as an Aura Guardian? The very job that had caused so much heartache and pain in him… she wondered if she could convince him to retire… because she believed he had already given his all, and no longer owed anything to the world that demanded his services…
And Farron… he knew where he would be at the end of all this. He didn’t want anything more to do with this. Farron wasn’t a Pokémon Master in this world. He was a skilled trainer, with several undisciplined pokémon under his command. With that in mind, he didn’t care to continue his role as the man named Farron. The jobs and lives of Gary, Tracey, and Todd seemed far more appealing now. After this was all over, he was going to move on – just like he always has – just like he always will.
Except… he was still here. Ended up back here just for Sato. Always for Sato. He despised him… he would never allow him to move on, never allow him to break away. As much as Farron always wanted to stop caring, Sato would always drag him back – preaching to him about responsibilities and duties to others… He despised those lectures… because he knew Sato was right.
And now he had the chance to forget about him, to let him rot away as an un-living body, to just let him fade away with time and move forward… but he… didn’t want to.
He was the first to step forward.
Pressing his hand against Ash’s heart, Farron sneered. “Sato, you idiot, you owe me for this.”
With a flex of his thoughts and emotions, he remembered every moment he ever had with the Aura Guardian. Moments of hatred, jealousy, envy, and even admiration. His body shook… tears flowing from his eyes.
In reaction, Leanne’s face became serious as she ran towards Ash’s body. Her hands pressed hard against his chest. “We’re always here for you, Sato!”
She flinched, allowing all her memories and feelings to flow into him. Sato… you were always so kind to pokémon… and always so kind to people… but what meant most to me, was your kindness to me. You always made me feel special, even though I never thought I was worth anything… so please… come back… I want to show my gratitude…
Quinn slowly walked ahead, resting her hand against the young man’s forehead. “Consider my debt paid in full, Aura…”
With a smile, the Psychic opened her heart and mind. Her experiences with Sato, judgments of his character, and deep affection for him, released into his body. Sabrina moved to the fore, reconnecting the bond that she held with Ash… reminding Quinn of the bond she had shared with Sato.
Ash’s body twitched. A small moan escaping his lips.
“IT’S WORKING!!” Leanne shouted excitedly. “Oh gosh… it’s working…”
“Hurry up girls! We need both of you!” Farron yelled without turning away from his actions.
Seeing Ash react to Quinn made her… frightened.
A hand patted her on the shoulder.
Ramie smiled at her. “Come on, princess. Your prince awaits.”
Shoved forward, Maya stumbled.
Her hands landing on Ash’s… A familiar warmth came from them.
Maya shook her head, throwing the fears away. I’m doing this for you, Ash. It doesn’t matter what you think about Sabrina or anyone else here… what matters is that I love you. I love you, Ash! And I don’t want to live without you!
Her hands gripped onto his, squeezing them as hard as she could. Using her Empathy, she shot all of her emotions into him. Misty’s… Anabel’s… Dawn’s… Maya’s… their love, their infatuation, their dreams, hopes, desires, and so much more. All for Ash. All for Sato.
Maya always belongs to Sato… Sato always belongs to Maya… We were meant for each other, Sato!!! COME BACK TO ME!!!
Ash’s body took a deep breath in, his lips moving as if he attempted to talk.
Ramie stepped forward, cracking her knuckles and rolling her shoulders. “Alright Sato… Let’s see if I can wake you up with something you remember!”
She reached into her pocket and pulled out a marble of red and blue. Her fingers wrapped around them tightly, balling the hand into a fist, with the marble as its heart.
Sato… I don’t think we’ll ever get married. But you know what? Marriage is for insecure little women anyways. I don’t need to be married to you to show my love! And you sure as hell don’t need to send me flowers to say you love me! We have each other. We’ve always had each other. And as much as I can’t live without you… I know you can’t live without me.
“SO WAKE UP, YOU JERK!!!”
She swung her fist downwards, jabbing Ash hard against the stomach.
“GAHH!!!” Ash spat out, his eyes opening wide, and his body sitting up immediately.
The five backed away in shock.
Ash breathed desperately, holding his stomach in pain. “OWWW… What the heck was that for, Amy?!!”
Ramie’s eyes widened. Ash… wasn’t exactly Ash.
He called her by the nickname Sato gave her… with the voice of Sato…
…staring straight at her.
He blinked. “Y-Yeah?”
Leanne was the first to charge in. She leapt up and wrapped her arms excitedly around him. “ASH! SATO! I MISSED YOU TWO SO MUCH!!”
“L-Leanne???!” His face blushed, unused to the normally shy girl’s physical affection.
“So wait a minute.” Farron crossed his arms and raised his brow. A look of irritated confusion was in his eyes. “Which is it? You Ash or Sato in there?”
Ash scratched his head. “…er… both?” He shrugged.
Sato! SATO!! I CAN FEEL OUR BOND AGAIN, SATO!!! Quinn’s erratic thoughts flowed around his mind.
Nice to see you again, Quinn!
Oh Sato… SATO!!!
The Psychic stood awkwardly to the side, a blush on her face as her mind was elsewhere.
Maya shuffled forward nervously. Her face was pink, both from shyness and from the tears she had been crying. “S-Sat-to??”
“Long time no see, Maya… Misty… Dawn… Anabel.” He smiled. “Literally.”
Ash had sensed her curiosities and hesitation… her eyes locked with his, wondering why his eyes weren’t blanked or faded like they normally were. They followed her every movement, only making it more obvious what the answer could be.
She looked away, hiding her face. “Ah! If you told me you’d get your sight back from this, I would’ve cleaned myself up! I’m a complete mess!”
“If you look like a mess, then I must look like a muk.” Ramie mentioned as she did her best to adjust the hair underneath her bandana.
Ramie’s face turned pink. “Wh-What?” She refused to make eye contact.
He wasn’t supposed to give her any attention right now. All his attention was supposed to be on Maya, not her. It made her extremely uncomfortable… even if it was a nice change.
“Sorry I didn’t tell you about the marble…”
The Fighter pocketed the small object of red and blue. “Whatever. Don’t stress over it. Just glad to have you back, you jerk.”
“You’re keeping it?”
Ramie shrugged. “Yeah. So what? It’s my marble anyways.” …you don’t need this marble to keep thinking of me, Sato… I’ll be right there with ya’ all the way. If you ever miss me, you come see me yourself. No mementos.
She knew he’d hear her emotions. It was one of the few times she wasn’t trying to hide them. She counted on him hearing it… as she left the room.
“Well, see you jerks later! I’m gonna’ go grab a bite from Ritchie.”
Amy… Ash nodded.
“OH! Sato! Sato!” Leanne pulled out her own marble and waved it in his face excitedly. “See?? I kept the marble you gave to me! I still have it, see??”
He laughed nervously, still unused to her overly animated behavior. “That’s great!”
His attention was caught by a hand holding onto his. Looking up to its owner, he found Maya staring at him lovingly.
“I’m really glad you’re back… I missed you…” Her hand shook as tears slowly began to run down her eyes again. “I missed you so much! I don’t know… I don’t know what I would have done if…”
Sato pulled her close, pressing her head against his heart. “I missed you, too… Maya.”
“SATO!!!” She sobbed loudly into his chest. Grabbing and pulling at his shirt… yearning to absorb him and keep him locked away in her heart, never to lose him again. “I WAS SO SCARED IN THERE!! WHEN THE DARKNESS TOOK ME!! I STILL KNEW YOU WERE THERE!! YOU WERE STILL FIGHTING FOR ME!! YOU KEPT ME FROM DISAPPEARING, SATO!! YOU KEPT ME FROM DISAPPEARING!!!”
“Shh… it’s okay, Maya… you’re safe now.” He pressed his hand against her cheek, leading her eyes to look into his. “And I’m safe now. Because of you.”
“Because of all of you.” Ash tilted his head up and regarded those still in the room.
Maya’s face gave a blank smile, feeling slightly heartbroken at the altered compliment. She shook her head, denying the feeling. No… he’s right. He wouldn’t be back if it weren’t for all of us.
“I-I did all of this for you, Sato…” Leanne blushed, her shy personality returning.
I did as well. Quinn nodded, caressing the renewed bond. Never wanting to let it go.
“Thank you.” Ash sighed softly. “All of you.”
A flash of quick yellow smeared Ash’s vision. Pikachu had latched onto his face, howling and screaming for desperate attention.
Unlike his reactions to the others, Ash wept in response to Pikachu’s appearance. He held him close and sobbed into the Mouse Pokémon’s fur. “PIKACHU!!”
The two rolled around the bed in euphoria, crying and laughing in their reunion.
Maya smiled at the sight… glad to have both Sato and the old Ash back.
“Well this is nice and all…” Farron grumbled. “But are we done here? I need to get going soon.”
“You’re leaving?” Sato blinked his tears away and stared up at him. “Already?”
“You know me, Ash. I always have somewhere to go.” he responded with Gary’s voice.
“If that’s the case, then –”
Ash’s comment was cut short as Ramie stormed back into the room.
With a bread still in her mouth, she stumbled quickly towards the bedroom’s television and turned it on.
“Ramie? What’s up?”
The Fighter held a finger towards them, gesturing for silence. She chewed up the bread as quickly as she could while her hands fumbled with the remote… trying to find the right channel.
Finally, the channel rested on a news network.
“If you’re just tuning in with us, a terrorist group calling themselves Operation Beta has just captured a military facility near Hearthome City. Acquiring several launch codes to warheads that the facility supposedly contains, they are threatening to destroy every major city within the Sinnoh region by sunrise if their demands are not meant.”
Leanne’s eyes narrowed. “…I never knew there were even any military facilities left in any region of the world.”
Farron’s eye twitched. “There shouldn’t be any…”
“The group’s leader, known simply as ‘Dragon’ had left this video message through a pirate network…”
A young woman with large purple hair appeared on the screen.
“THAT’S–!!” Farron tensed.
Despite the scar across her eye and her threatening uniform… Gary recognized her instantly as Iris, leader of Beta team.
“‘People of Sinnoh!’” she roared proudly into a microphone. “‘For far too long the Empire has deceived you! Lied to you! Controlled you! They have stolen your lands, your resources, and your histories! They replaced it with their own filth and greed! Brainwashing all of you to believe they are here to protect and guide you! But I have seen through their propaganda! And I know many of you have too! But you are frightened…”
She pounded the podium with her fist, her face becoming far more serious. “‘And I am frightened too. Frightened to become like you! As we speak, your supposed protectorate is storming my homeland! They burn our lands, steal our crops, and destroy our culture! They wage war on people who do not fight back, care not to fight back! For years we have tolerated them, and we have even allied with them! But if this is how they treat their allies, then I pity how they treat its own people!’
“‘I am here not as a terrorist or a revolutionary… but as a child who had her father taken away by the wretched Empire! He was only trying to protect his family from starving! And they killed him in front of us for his defiance… Your family and friends are the same as mine! Are the same as myself! The Empire deceives you, promises you comforts, gives you what you desire – but takes away the very thing you need! The very thing that makes you whole!’
“‘You are sedated, unfeeling, and jaded to them! But I am here to wake you up! As a child who does not wish to see your fathers taken away from you, as a friend who does not wish to see you continue to be hurt by their deceptions… I implore you: fight back! Rise to arms with us! Help us help you! So that tomorrow we can see a brighter day, where all that we have earned is taken only by those whom we give them to!! So that tomorrow we can see a greater sky, where all that we had heard were truths from an honest government, an honest face – not one that hides behind masks and shadows.’
“‘We are currently in control of the Drifblim Military Facility. We have access to twenty nuclear warheads… all primed and ready for launch. Nuclear warheads that the Empire lied about owning… nuclear warheads that the Empire had planned to use against my homeland. But now, we are in control, and we will use it on them first! UNLESS! Unless you stand up and fight with us, people of Sinnoh! If you join our fight, we will deactivate these missiles permanently. That is a true promise. A real promise.’
“‘But if you do not… we will target and destroy every major city within the Sinnoh region. Because if you are not with us… you are part of the Empire. You have until sunrise to make your decision.’”
The screen blanked… quickly returning to the reporter in front of the facility. Explosions and gunfire flashed behind her. “The Empire has just infiltrated the building!! We were told that they had entered through a tunnel from beneath the facility itself! Fighting has just broke out between the terrorists and the operatives! With the terrorists already losing ground! As much as we’d love to show you more, we were commanded to vacate the premises in case – KSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” Static fizzed on the television screen.
“What in the world was that all about?!” Maya’s jaw was left ajar. Like everyone else, she had been watching the news report intensely, without moving an inch.
Now that the static continued, they exchanged looks of confusion and worry.
“We seem to be having some technical issues with reporter Powell…” The screen flickered back to color, revealing two news casters holding their ear pieces to gather more information. “Our apologies. We will return to her as soon as we can.”
The other newscaster nodded, facing the camera. “In light of the recent takeover, the Emperor has clarified that the war they are holding within the Unova region was kept classified to prevent any news leaks from endangering the troops stationed there. He has stated that the war is not a take-over attempt by the Empire, but a terrorist-suppression effort. According to the neighboring regions, Unova has been known for their illegal drug, weapon, and pokémon laundering activities to fund and weaponize their own extremist military groups. Their recent increase in these activities has prompted the Empire to interfere, defending Unova’s neighbors, not attacking Unova itself.”
“…Unova…” Leanne’s brown eyes shifted green, as Bianca’s troubled mind showed through.
“Something is wrong out there… I can sense it…” Quinn frowned.
“To keep the public informed on this situation, we will repeat this broadcast again in a few seconds.” The caster straightened his papers. “For now, we can only give our thoughts and prayers to the dedicated soldiers within the facility. May the Rocket Empire protect us all.”
The screen blinked, repeating earlier scenes that they had missed.
Ramie turned off the television.
“Rocket Empire?” Leanne looked around in worry.
“That was Iris, right?” Maya looked towards Farron.
“Nuclear warheads… military facilities…” he growled to himself. “…doesn’t make sense.”
Sato pushed himself off the bed, walking towards his backpack that was left in the corner of the room.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
A blue haze formed around Ash. “It’s Team Rocket…”
“What about them?”
He turned, facing Farron as he adjusted the bag against his back. “They’ve caught Arceus.”
“WHAT?!” The four women stared at him in disbelief.
Ash walked towards the door. “Everyone get their stuff ready… we’re not done yet.”
Farron’s eye twitched… his third chance had revealed itself.