First of all, thank you both so much giving me your thoughts! I certainly appreciate any comments telling me what you may be thinking, and I'm humbled that others are enjoying my little tale here! It really cheers me up, and I am thrilled to have you two along for Sam's ride.
With that said, here's the next chapter!
Sam had nothing. He had no words or thoughts or actions. His brain was preoccupied with processing what the President of the Phoenix Shipping Corporation had just said. Just when it seemed like he was on the verge of accepting it, something inside him replied “No. No, that can’t be right” and forced him to reconsider it. Barry having had the lake guardians all this time? It was inconceivable. Implausible, even.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Barry answered Mr. Alonzo’s claim. And he couldn’t have known. There was just no way he had the legends. None.
“He doesn’t know,” Sam agreed, but his voice was so tiny, he wasn’t sure if Barry or Mr. Alonzo even heard him.
“Mr. West,” Henrique smiled softly, “my company and my people and I have been here in Sinnoh for months. We’ve examined every inch of those lakes. We’re relatively sure the legends aren’t there. The only reason we’ve still been excavating the areas is to look for signs of their current whereabouts. But when we realized they were missing, we started digging in a different fashion: we asked around. Most people...well, most people still don’t even believe the legends are real. They think that they are just a nice fairytale to tell their children at bedtime; a simple tale of powerful, benevolent pokemon who’ve inspired the human race. But some people do believe in them. And some of those people started telling us rumors they’d heard.”
Barry was unflinching. “Well, rumors. I guess if you’ve heard some rumors then there’s no way you could be refuted--”
“We started hearing about the Church of Cyrus.”
Barry’s left eye twitched, and he suddenly lost the ability to response to what Mr. Alonzo had said. Sam thought he heard a grunt coming from Barry’s clenched mouth.
“Yes, that. We know about that. And, what’s more, Mr. West, we know that after that affair, you and Professor Rowan hid the legends to protect them. Now, I would never blame you for that, son.” Mr. Alonzo placed an arm around Barry’s shoulders; Barry’s face recoiled at the act, but he did not physically resist it. Sam wished he knew--he needed to know--what Barry was thinking. “You and Professor Rowan did an admirable thing then. But I’m not them. I’m not those men. I just told you why I want the legends. It’s not even that I ‘want’ them--I shouldn’t have said it like that--I think the world needs them. I think the world is owed them. There is so much good that they can do.”
“And I told you,” Barry finally replied, his voice throatier than Sam had heard it before, “that they don’t belong to humanity.”
Wait, what? That didn’t make any sense to Sam; why wasn’t Barry shooting down the rumors about this Cyrus church thing? Why had his argument regressed to being about who the legends do or do not belong to? This guy had just accused Barry and the professor of some massive conspiracy, and Barry was letting it go. Barry and Mr. Alonzo were still debating just feet from Sam, but his ears weren’t processing the sound of their words. There was no reason for Barry to ignore the more important accusation there. Unless...
“You son of a bitch.”
Henrique and Barry both froze mid-sentence and turned towards Sam. Their widened eyes showed that each man thought Sam’s quiet accusation was referring to him. Sam’s sense of reason fled him, and he charged Barry. As his shoulder drove into the young assistant’s stomach and crashed them both through the door to his cabin, Sam thought he heard Mr. Alonzo let out an exclamation of shock. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was what Barry knew. His legs continued driving himself and Barry several feet from the door before finally slamming Barry down to the snow-covered ground. He dug his fingers into Barry’s wild blonde hair to hold him in place.
“Son of a bitch!” Sam was much louder this time. “You knew the whole time!”
“Sam! My head! Stop--”
“Do you know? Tell me the truth!”
Barry cried out in pain again. “I know! I know, okay! Let me go, and we can talk--”
Sam’s rage deepened at Barry’s confession, and he moved his hands down to Barry’s face, grabbing at the skin around his eyes and nose and mouth. “You saved my life! You pulled me out of that lake! And for what? So you could lie to me some more? So you could keep me from them?” His fingernails dug into Barry’s skin.
Sam felt Barry’s hand moving around down by both of their legs and realized the young man was going for one of his pokemon to help remove him from the situation. Sam let Barry grab onto one of his pokeballs just so he could swat it out of Barry’s hand and helplessly into the snow.
“No!” Sam shouted. “This is about us, not them! You damn liar! You saved my life; for what? So I can go back to my brother and tell him I can’t help him? So I can tell him I let him down? So I can say those words and know he can’t even hear them? Is that why you saved me? You should have just let me die!”
Sam was shocked by the words that came out of his mouth. He had been yelling on instinct and adrenaline, and that’s what spilled forth. He felt the tears on his cheeks and couldn’t even remember when he’d started crying. “You should have just let me die,” he repeated as the strength left his body and he rolled off of Barry. As he lay face-up in the cushiony snow, all he could think about was Tommy. Lifeless Tommy was stuck in his hospital bed with no one there to be with him, and Sam had been continents away, running around and trying to solve other peoples’ problems. And those other people had no intention of helping Sam; they were using him and feeding off of his need to help his brother. Leeches, that was all they were. He put his hands over his face to wipe away the tears.
“Gentlemen! Mr. West! Mr. Stark! Are you both okay? This...this is not what I wanted. Do I need to call for help? Is anyone hurt?”
“I think...I think I fractured my spleen. But I should be okay. I think. It hurts clear through to my soul, though. Ow.” Barry’s voice seemed to be coming from above Sam, and Sam figured that must have meant Barry had pulled himself up to his feet. So Barry must not have sustained any serious injury when Sam tackled him. A voice in his brain asked why he cared about that, and Sam had no answer for it. He opened his eyes and saw Barry standing over him, extending an open hand. “Come on, I’ll help you up.”
No, Sam thought. He would not accept any more “help” from this kid. He reached up and slapped Barry’s hand away before regaining enough composure to put himself back upright.
“Mr. Stark? Are you all right?”
Sam ignored Mr. Alonzo; he had nothing to say to him at the moment. He instead walked a few feet away and plucked Barry’s pokeball out of the snow.
“Thanks, I guess. Sam, we can talk about this.”
Sam shoved the ball into Barry’s chest. “Let it out.”
“Let them all out.” Sam pulled his own Nest, Dusk, and Luxury balls from his pocket.
“What is this?”
Sam looked over to Mr. Alonzo and decided to answer his question this time. “This is my wanting to kick his teeth down his throat but knowing he’s not even a legal adult yet.” He squeezed Bree’s ball once with his right hand and did likewise to the balls of Vlam and Chispa in his left, bringing all three of them out into the snow. “Do it!” he shouted to Barry.
“Man, Sam...I didn’t mean to trick you.”
“Oh?” Sam laughed openly, “please, tell me how you tricked me by accident then, Barry.”
Barry winced at those words and must have realized that was a stupid thing to say. He shook his head and raised his arms to release Monferno, Torterra, and Empleon. The new Empleon was an impressive sight to Sam. It was at least three feet taller than Prinplup had been, and the yellow crests that had previously wrapped back across its head now extended up in the air from its forehead, forming a vicious trident. Its once blue body was now black, and it seemed to shine when it shifted its weight under the sun as if it was covered in a light metal. As a Prinplup, this pokemon had been powerful enough to flip a cargo ship, and Sam knew he would not wise to underestimate it now.
“Are you battling with Chispa?” Barry asked him as Sam studied Emploeon. “I thought you said you weren’t ever going to do that.”
The words reignited the rage he’d felt moments ago. “You’re going to talk to me about honesty and integrity? You? Now?” While Chispa bounced contentedly in the snow, Vlam and Bree turned to Sam, perhaps upset at the fire in his voice. Bree hummed softly, but Sam ignored it. He could tell them what Barry had done later.
“What’s the point of this, Sam? What we are even accomplishing here?”
“You’ll see when I’m done.”
“Yeah? Well, life is full of disappointments.”
The words stuck in Sam’s ear and reminded him of something someone told him fairly recently. “Your professor once told me that life is full of changes in plans. Right before he sent me out to look for something that he knew wasn’t even there. Like an idiot! While my brother,” Sam’s fists balled as the full meaning of what Rowan told him washed over him, “is drooling on himself and dying! So you tell me...the fact that you won’t help me save him, is that a bigger disappointment or change of plan?”
“Damn it, Sam.”
Sam looked over his friends. Vlam and Bree had turned their attention back to Barry’s team; he saw Vlam’s muscles tensing under her fur and recognized the purpose with which Bree beat her wings. Chispa was burying her head in the snow and shaking it roughly to move the snow about, clearly unconcerned with the goings-on around her. “Bree, up in the air! Vlam, quick attack Monferno!”
Vlam’s quick attack was usually just short of a blur to the eye, but for some reason--perhaps the thick snow up to her knees; perhaps concern for Sam’s attitude and temper--she was a beat slower than usual. As she came upon Monferno, this slowed reaction allowed the fire ape to catch her and flip into the snow with a judo throw. Vlam tried to get up, but Monferno was on quickly on top of her and holding her in place.
“Empoleon, hit the Ninetales with a hydro pump!”
“Bree, you have to come down and free Vlam! Use a psychic attack on Monerno!”
Bree began zipping out of the sky to help her sister, but she was interrupted by a flurry of leaves slicing through the air in front of her. Torterra had summoned a razor leaf attack to cut off her progress, and while she was able to avoid contact by flying up and away from the blade-like leaves, she was incapable of getting to Vlam’s aid. It was apparent to Sam that while the fight was essentially three-against-two, he was in trouble. Just feet from where Vlam was pinned, a geyser of water erupted, spraying water, snow, and mud all around. Just as it had previously done on the ship with the seawater, Empoleon was manipulating water pressure around it, this time from underground run-off. It was an extremely powerful burst of water, but seemingly hard to control. Still, Sam knew it was unlikely that Empoleon would miss a second time. He needed to get Chispa involved somehow.
“Chispa! Can you hit that Empoleon with a spark attack for me, girl?”
The Shinx lifted her head out of a snow pile she had built and rubbed the excess flakes off of her nose with a paw. She yipped in apparent delight at Sam’s decision to use her and charged through the snow towards her target with her tail shooting off tiny bursts of electricity. As she closed in on Barry’s water-type, she flipped sideways and smacked her tail into Empoleon’s leg; it let out a noise that seemed more annoyed than pained. Chispa darted to the space between Emploeon and Vlam and spread its feet wide as it yelped repeatedly at the large penguin, warning it away from her friend. Even Empoleon seemed shocked by the heart of the young pokemon. In an instant, however, Chispa’s yelping ended, and she began looking around as if something were wrong. Something had gotten her attention, but Sam couldn’t figure out what it could have been.
“Oh no, damn it. Monferno, save the Shinx, buddy!”
Sam had no idea what Barry was talking about, but Monferno bounced off of Vlam and pushed Chispa from the spot she had claimed. As Chispa rolled in the snow, another hydro pump erupted from underneath Monferno, knocking him several yards into the air. He crashed back to the ground with a thud.
“Monferno, sorry. Come on back.” Barry recalled the fire-type into his pokeball.
What was that supposed to be, Sam thought. Was Sam supposed to be thankful now because Barry had saved Chispa? Was that supposed to somehow make up for the fact that he had doomed Tommy? Not even close. The mere thought of it incensed Sam; did that kid really think that Sam would call the battle off if he saved Sam’s friend?
Chispa struggled to her feet--seemingly more confused than actually hurt--and Sam withdrew her as Barry had done to Monferno. The battle was even again at two each, and it just made sense; Chispa was clearly out of her weight class, anyway. Sam saw Bree still dodging razor leaves in the air and decided to go on the offensive.
“Bree, use your stun spores on Torterra!”
“Sam, are we really keeping this up? You beat one of mine already. Let’s just call it.”
Sam felt a twitching in the back of his neck. Was beating one of Barry’s friends in battle going to bring Tommy back? Of course not. “Ignore him and do it, Bree!”
In the air, Bree backflipped away from another flurry of leaves and began vibrating her wings at high speed. A fine layer of scales broke free from her wings as she did so and floated to the ground beneath her.
“Torterra, disrupt that spore with more razor leaves!” Barry ordered, sounding clearly frustrated. On command, Torterra unleashed another attack of precision leaves from the tree sprouting on its back right into the heart of the stun spore; the leaves knocked the shedded scales helplessly into the breeze. Fortunately, Torterra taking its eyes off of Bree was exactly what Sam had wanted all along.
“It lost you, Bree! Bug buzz!”
Bree, who used the momentary distraction of the stun spore to sneak in close to Torterra, zipped frantically around the large tortoise’s head. While flying in a crazed pattern, she shrieked a high-frequency pitch. Something about the sound did seem to be causing Torterra great agony; it lowered its head and tried in vain to cover its ears with its massive, yet unwieldy, legs. Frustrated and in agony from its failure to protect itself from the Butterfree’s assault, it let out a pitiful roar. Bree seemed to have the situation well in-hand until a fast-moving dart of water crashed into her wings, sending her crashing to the ground.
Sam glanced over; he had been so engaged in Bree and Torterra that he had temporarily forgotten Vlam and Empoleon. “Vlam!" he called out to his brother's closest friend, “tackle Empoleon!"
Vlam charged, but she was caught by a similar dart of water from Empoleon's beak and easily tossed back to the ground. Sam bit his lower lip and cursed; he knew Vlam was in trouble due to Empoleon's being water-based. Bree would have to help out against it. “Bree..."
Sam began issuing a command, but when he turned to see Bree, he saw that Torterra was pinning it to the ground with its powerful front leg. The same legs that had been so useless at blocking out Bree’s bug buzz were much more potent when it came to holding the significantly smaller butterfly pokemon in place.
Barry was saying something--probably offering Sam a chance to surrender or calm down--but Sam was already analyzing the situation and had his voice shut out almost entirely. With both Empoleon's pure power and type advantage over Vlam and Torterra's positioning over Bree, both battles seemed all-but over. Sam knew that there was always an opening if he just looked hard enough; Vlam and Bree were too good to be completely overpowered. What would he have done during his days in the WPL? What would Tommy do in this situation?
Two aspects of the situation jumped out to him so abruptly, he wanted to smack his head for not seeing them before. Torterra had Bree grounded and pinned, but in doing so, its head was perilously close to Bree's. And while Empoleon may have been water-based, but its body had that metallic shimmer to it now; it had evolved into a steel coating. In most situations, that would be beneficial and protective, but against Vlam, it was a huge chink in the literal armor.
Sam’s friend let out another strange shriek, this one even higher in pitch than the buzz attack had been. Torterra stumbled back from the noise and started shaking its head. With its third step backwards, it fell over onto its knees; Bree’s supersonic cry had been so loud at their closed-distance that it probably did some kind of inner-ear damage to the Torterra. It clearly could not regain its bearings as Bree lifted itself back off the ground.
“Empoleon, aqua jet the Butterfree again!”
Sam waited until Empoleon turned all the way around and positioned its weight to launch the water dart. He had it where Vlam wanted it.
“Vlam, fire blast!”
Vlam’s tilted her head back, then stretched it forward in a shot. An orb of fire flared from her mouth, gaining size and power as it combusted with the oxygen in the air. Despite the fireball’s intensity, it was possible that Empoleon would have been able to neutralize it with a water attack, but now that it was turned away from Vlam, it would have no chance to get the leverage it needed to launch an attack powerful enough to do so. The fire attack collided with Empoleon’s side, and the water bird squawked in pain. The flames were heating up its metal exterior, no doubt causing great agony. Barry recognized this immediately and summoned it back into its pokeball.
All that was left was the debilitated Torterra, and Sam felt a part of himself ache at the pain he just caused the Empoleon; it wasn’t these pokemons’ fault for what Barry had done, so it was not fair to take the rage Sam felt inside himself out on them. He held out an open hand, palm down, and waved twice in the air. Recognizing their symbol, Bree positioned herself over the grass-based turtle and let off another dusting of scales from its wings. The scales covered Torterra’s body and head, and within seconds, it was asleep from Bree’s sleep powder.
“All right, did you get that out of your system then?” Barry asked, withdrawing Torterra from the snow.
Sam, moving quickly towards Barry, had no intention of dignifying that question with answer. All he knew was that with every word Barry had said, the inside of his head felt hotter and hotter. He knocked the pokeballs out of Barry’s hands and picked them up from the snow while his former partner issued a cry in protest.
“How does it feel to have something you love taken from you?”
“Yeah. I am.” Sam pressed his chest against Barry‘s and glared into his eyes.
Barry was as unblinking as he was. “Sam, I know you’re pissed at me, but you gotta just talk this out with me. You’re really on the wrong side of this one.”
“Gentlemen, are you both done? I truly didn’t mean for anything like this to happen.”
Until Mr. Alonzo’s voice cut into Sam’s ears, Sam had completely forgotten he was even there. He had tunnel-visioned in on Barry and the deception of which he’d been a victim, and the rest of the world had vanished. Mr. Alonzo saw the whole thing; anybody else in eyeshot of the cabin did, too. Sam noticed a handful of skiers paused on the slope and looking down on the scene, and he gave Barry one more look of disgust before pocketing the taken pokeballs. “I’m done. I’m done. I’m....I guess I’m sorry about the door. I hope that it’s nothing too bad for you.”
Mr. Alonzo looked back to the cabin’s busted door. “I am sure I can cover that. But what happens now?”
Sam looked from Mr. Alonzo to Barry and then back to Mr. Alonzo. “Do you really think you can use the legends to help people?”
“Man, Sam, don’t...”
“I do, Mr. Stark. You heard what I said, and I meant that. There are pokemon in the world that can fix so much of what’s wrong with the human condition.”
Sam saw Barry shaking his head but no longer refuting anything Henrique Alonzo was saying. When Barry realized that Sam’s eyes were on him, he looked down at the snow. He never stopped shaking his head. Sam didn’t personally care about the “human condition”, as Mr. Alonzo called it. But Tommy? He cared very much for Tommy, and if this man from Hoenn could help him bring Tommy back, that was all that mattered.
“Get him home,” Sam said, pointing to Barry. “He lives in Twinleaf Town. Just see that he gets home from here.”
Mr. Alonzo looked over at Barry and scrunched his lips. “I suppose I can do that, yes.” Barry was still shaking his head, but he did not look up. “What are you going to do now?”
Sam sighed. “I’m not sure yet. But I know that for as mad as I am at him, Barry’s just a kid...just an assistant. So there’s somebody else who owes me some real answers before I make my next move.”