Josiah's mother, Hilda, heard a crashing noise from upstairs.
"Are you okay?" she shouted upstairs.
But there was no response.
Suddenly very worried for her son, she bolted upstairs and found that he was lying on the floor, convulsing, appearing to be having what appeared to be a seizure. His desk was slightly dented, as if he had knocked his back into it.
He was murmuring things - random things, things that horrified his mother to no end. Hilda quickly ran to the kitchen, yanked the phone from the receiver, and dialed three numbers - 9, 1, 1.
* * *
Kafka was trudging along by himself, along Route 45. Why had his trainer done it? He knew what would happen, and besides, his trainer had all but forgotten about Kafka.
"I see you are thinking about your trainer," said a calm voice.
Kafka looked around and saw Lance, standing to the side next to a mountaintop.
Kafka pricked his ears up and faced Lance. What did he want with him?
Lance approached him sympathetically, arms wide open. "You, like us, know that what your trainer did was wrong. Now, you must help us get him back on the path of truth and righteousness."
Kafka sensed that something wasn't quite right about Lance's smile. It was too thin... his embracing posture too stiff...
"Come to us," said Lance. "We'll help your trainer."
Kafka was slowly backing away, but suddenly Lance had his Dragonite out who pounced on Kafka and the last thing he saw was a blur of orange and then a flash of red light--
* * *
The ambulance quickly arrived at Hilda's house, and a pair of paramedics immediately got out a stretcher and marched into the house.
"He's this way," cried Hilda. "Oh, my poor son..."
"What happened to him again?"
"I don't know what happened, but all I remember is that I heard a crashing noise and the next thing I know he was having a seizure on the floor..." Hilda started sobbing. She couldn't take it anymore.
"Thank you, ma'am."
They climbed upstairs, where Josiah was now lying there, unconscious.
One paramedic started checking his vital signs. He was breathing, but when they looked at his back, they saw two vertebrae sticking out of his back at a very odd angle.
The paramedics put Josiah on the stretcher and hurried him down and into the ambulance. Hilda followed, and the ambulance turned on its siren as it sped down the road.
* * *
When Kafka woke up again, he found that he was lying sprawled on his back. He tried moving, but found that his limbs were bound by metal clamps to whatever he was lying down on.
Then, Kafka saw Lance walk in, wearing a pair of rubber gloves.
"Don't worry, Kafka," said Lance. "I'll take good care of you. All I need from you is one small favour..."
Kafka's eyes suddenly widened. *What was Lance going to do to him?*
Lance brought out a scalpel. "Don't worry, the changes that will happen to your body are minimal. We just need to... ah, how do I say this, glitch you up a bit."
Not only did Kafka's eyes widen even more now, but his heart started pounding. He struggled now, to break free of the clamps holding him down, but it was in vain.
Then, in a moment when time slowed down, Kafka had a flash of realization. Scar was *right*. The glitchy setup *had* been the doing of the Elite Four. They *were* lying about the game being fake. And most of all, Kafka had been wrong about fake Pokémon being bad. For a moment, if you looked closely, his ears even lowered in guilt. But it was too late now. Kafka knew that Lance would never let him speak again - never let his pawn, his enemy's best friend, say anything about the situation.
Then, Kafka felt a moment of blinding pain as the scalpel cut into his side, slowly peeling off his skin.
* * *
"Is he going to be okay?" cried Hilda.
"I can only promise that the doctor will do whatever he can and must," said the paramedic.
Hilda started crying, and the paramedic put his hand of Hilda's shoulder as the ambulance pulled into the hospital's emergency centre.
* * *
Professor Elm had been doing some ordinary filing work, and thinking about Josiah and that dreaded boy who had come in and stolen another one of his Pokémon.
Suddenly, the door was kicked open, and a team of people wearing masks and what appeared to be haz-mat suits ran in.
"What's all this ab--" Professor Elm was about to say, but he was rudely interrupted by one of the masked bandits knocking down a filing cabinet.
"Stop! Vandals!" Professor Elm took the last remaining Pokéball from the display table and released the Pokémon within. "Meganium! Solar Beam!"
But before the Meganium could do anything, one of the bandits had taken it, and started carrying it away.
Another bandit knocked down a whole bookshelf, this time the one containing all of Professor Elm's research notes, including his current work on a longevity formula for humans like he had seen in many Pokémon.
Then, the vandals began spraying a strange substance into the air. The fumes were too much for Professor Elm, who choked at the smell of it. Wherever the substance landed, it started congealing and creating a strange glow that seemed to make the affected objects shimmer and crackle like a distorted video signal.
"Be aware," said the bandit, "that this was Josiah's doing. Were it not for him, we would not be here today."
Then, the vandals left just as quickly as they had come, leaving Professor Elm alone in his lab, his life's work destroyed in a flash.
* * *
Lance took his sweet time performing his little plastic surgery, knowing that Kafka was probably paralyzed by both fear and pain. He had done this to seven other Pokémon already, except that for them, their whole bodies were covered in the distortiform, as he called it.
It was an ingenious substance, when Lance thought of it. The substance made it appear as if a part of what it was applied onto was fizzling in and out of existence like a faded video feed.
As Lance cut away more and more of the Typhlosion's skin, some blood started flowing out, trickling onto the Typhlosion's fur and caking it. Lance knew exactly what he was doing, and what effect he wanted to achieve. If Kafka was in a state of debilitating pain, he would garner more sympathy from his trainer.
He finished the treelike pattern that the distortiform would be applied onto, and stepped back to admire his work.
Now it was time to apply the distortiform. He took a jar of the substance, shimmering in and out of view, and a butterknife.
If he had been looking at Kafka's head, he would have noticed that the Typhlosion's eyes were squeezed shut and tears were trickling out.
* * *
A trauma team came out with a gurney, and the paramedics carefully put Josiah on it.
"What happened to this guy?" asked the general surgeon.
"He somehow managed to suddenly back up, knocking the back of his neck into his desk so hard that it resulted in spinal cord damage," said the orthopedic surgeon, who was busy getting Josiah's back into a brace.
Suddenly, Josiah started talking, which surprised all of them. "Why?" he said, his voice suddenly getting louder. "Why did you do it? Why?!?"
"The patient's blood pressure is rising," said the anesthetist. "He's losing it!"
Josiah screamed, "Why, damn it? Why did you doom us all?"
He then slumped back down, now completely nonresponsive. The doctor in charge of writing things down scribbled a note about this.
* * *
Kafka thought that the pain he felt while Lance slowly and deliberately peeled off parts of his skin was excruciating.
But when Lance applied whatever strange lotion he was applying, he felt new waves of pain, a hundred times as intense as whatever he had felt before. The substance was seeping into his body, becoming a part of him. He truly convulsed now, straining at the clamps that still stayed there, firmly holding him down.
Kafka then heard a faint buzzing noise coming from the side of him that the strange lotion was being applied to, but only barely over the tinnitus that the pain was causing him.
Whatever Lance was doing to him, it wasn't for his good. Whatever cruel, twisted fantasy Lance was acting out, it wasn't for *his* own good either.
Kafka slumped back, resigning to his fate as Lance scooped up another knifeful of the painful lotion.
* * *
The doctors wheeled Josiah into the operating theatre, where they started performing a diagnosis.
The radiologist performed an X-ray, and found that Josiah's spinal cord had been torn apart at the spot where he had hit his desk.
"How did this happen?" said the general surgeon. "This is the first ever case I've seen of such a thing happening. How could a little boy back into his desk so hard that it actually snapped a backbone...?"
* * *
Lance looked at his finished work. He looked, as one side of Kafka appeared to be buzzing and pulsing in and out of existence.
"You will be a great help," said Lance. "Your trainer cheated, and you will be of great value in teaching him the lesson that he so deserves."
Underneath all the pain showing in Kafka's face, there was a look of "If you so much as hurt one hair on his head, I'll..."
"The distortiform takes some time to seep in," said Lance. "I'll let you sit here for a while."
Lance turned and left Kafka on the operating table, still held down by metal clamps and whimpering in pain, fear, and now, anger.
* * *
Lance left the operating room, and admired his work. He closed the door behind him, wearing gloves so as to not trigger the piezoelectrical stimulation that distortiform provided.
The entire Champion's room was now covered in the stuff, as if it was simply a new layer of paint.
It was the perfect setup. When Josiah saw what had happened to the Pokémon League building, he would see the consequences of his actions, courtesy of the distortiform. As Josiah made his way further and further into the Elite Four's rooms, battling with that stupid Skarmory, he would find that the world was more and more distorted. And finally, Lance would bring Kafka out, and eke out that stupid trainer's sympathy. He did not have to worry about Kafka rebelling in any way... Kafka would definitely be too weak to do so for quite a while.
And if the trainer refused, he would battle. He had had his Pokémon actually *ingest* the distortiform - it was not poisonous, at least not as long as it didn't get into the bloodstream undigested. The wounds that his Pokémon could inflict would definitely have this effect. It meant that any Pokémon that was defeated would die, but Lance didn't care. He needed to teach this lesson. He *wanted* to teach it so badly.
He walked forward into the previous rooms, carefully stepping around the floor mat sensor that would seal the entrance, and walked through the set of double doors into the room of the fourth Elite Four, who was simply sitting there, admiring the artwork.
"Karen," said Lance.
"Lance," said Karen.
"How far is the trainer toward coming here?"
"Not very," said Karen, looking outside the window of her room. "It seems like he's made it into Victory Road."
"Prepare yourself," said Lance, suddenly drawing Karen into a kiss. "It won't be long, my dear, before we have our revenge."
As Karen returned the kiss, Lance ran a finger through Karen's hair. "Me, for my own death two years ago. You, for the death of your mother, Agatha."
* * *
Will was fumbling with the voice recorder he'd been given by Lance. *So,* he ran through it in his mind, *I've got to play the recording of a distorted voice, and at the same time, lip sync what I'm saying.*
He really did not understand what Lance was doing, nor did he care. All he knew was that he was to follow Lance's orders, and battle the trainer who was coming.
He didn't even object to Lance applying that strange fizzly substance to his Xatu. Lance had told him that the application was painless, and his Xatu didn't seem to mind when Lance spreaded the paste on its body.
The things he had to do as a member of the Elite Four... he regretted ever joining, if *this* was the kind of shenanigans he was getting into.
* * *
In the darkened room, Koga meditated. He was one of the only ones in his family who could meditate with his eyes open, and was fiercely proud of this ability.
He had been given instructions by Lance, and had agreed to them. A ninja always carried out the task he was given, no matter what sly tactics it took. But even with a ninja's underhanded moves, he still would never, could never, resort to outright cheating. This was the lesson that the trainer who was about to come here needed to learn.
* * *
Now that Bruno knew the feel of death, he wondered why he kept on living. What kept him firmly anchored to this earth?
Had it not been enough that he was defeated once, two years ago, by that one girl with a Mewtwo? And now, to be yanked back to life for another plot by Lance, this time even more sick and twisted than the first one, to ward off another cheater who hadn't even done anything so bad?
Bruno decided that the only thing keeping him here now was an obligation. An obligation that he now hated with all his heart, but an obligation it still was. One to Lance, to his Pokémon, and to the trainer. It was the reason he had been reborn, and the reason he would die in peace after its fulfilment.
* * *
Karen watched Lance leave, going back into his own room to prepare for the incoming trainer. She continued staring up at the ceiling and walls, watching the patterns fade and fizzle in and out of view.
And then her thoughts turned to Lance. She would do anything for him, including follow this plot that Lance had told her about. She shared his feelings on the subject, which made it much easier. And she also had her own plans, her own ickle strategy for dealing with an unruly trainer. And thirdly, if her own plan failed, although she'd be very disappointed she couldn't do anything herself, she knew that Lance's was foolproof.
Karen smirked. *Oh, how fun this would be.*
* * *
All that Kafka knew now was pain. As he lay there, immobile, the distortiform seeped further and further into his skin, reminding him of the literally blinding pain he had suffered earlier.
Suddenly, the clamps holding Kafka's limbs down were released. But it didn't matter now. Kafka was too weak from all the pain to move by himself.
A pair of thin but rough hands picked Kafka up, and he felt more sharp waves of pain, although they were smaller then before. "The time has come," said Lance.
Kafka no longer minded. The pain echoed through his mind, preventing him from moving at all.
Then, he was set down on the floor.
Kafka knew what was going to happen next, and he was powerless to stop it. Suddenly, the doors in front of their room burst open, and Josiah came in, rushing over to kneel in front of Kafka.
He tried to tell Josiah to run away, and that everything was a setup, but all he managed was a moan of pain.
"He is calling for you to destory the Skarmory, so that he can die in peace!" Kafka heard Lance say. The lying bastard. He tried again, but this time, blood squirted out of his mouth.
Kafka could do nothing but watch helplessly as Josiah battled Lance, killing each other's Pokémon - Josiah in helplessness, Lance in deliberate malice.
Then, Josiah sent out Scar. Now that Kafka saw him again, he was no longer angry at him, but sorry. Sorry that he *had been* angry at it, sorry that he had ever doubted the Skarmory in the first place, sorry that he had abandoned Josiah's team because he thought Scar was a terrible influence. He let out another moan, as if to say sorry.
Scar heard the moan, and acknowledged it with a lowering of his head.
Kafka had to tell Josiah. He just had to. He strained, drawing every last bit of energy he had to resist the pain, and move his jaw muscles in order to utter the last four words he would ever say in his life. "It was a setup."
"I don't think he heard you," Lance said to Kafka, as he watched Josiah fall to the ground, unconscious with anguish.
Kafka bowed his head in resignation, being unable to do anything else. He had failed. Failed to tell his trainer what was going on. Failed to remain loyal to the end, and failed to be a friend, the friend that Josiah took him as. As his own vision started to go black, the last thing he wondered was whether some divine punishment awaited him for what he had done.
* * *
Josiah was now in stable condition, although the doctors had managed to conclude that the damage in his spinal cord was irreparable, and that he would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
He woke up, and the nurse on duty had overheard him talking to things that weren't there.
* * *
"The important thing," said Lance, "is that we saved the world. It may have come at the cost of a few lives, but sometimes that is unavoidable for the greater good."
After Lance finished his talk to Josiah, he whirled around, and in a flash was back in the operating room where he had smeared distortiform on Kafka.
Kafka had died, very shortly after Josiah had been sent to the Pokémon Centre to recover.
And so it was for the rest of his Pokémon. They truly were dead, the distortiform within them having leaked into their bloodstreams, causing circulatory shock and killing them. So it was for Josiah's Pokémon, whose various cuts and bruises had been laced with the substance.
*But it had been worth it,* thought Lance, as he looked on the pile of dead bodies that were being carted away, and the distortiform that was being removed from the walls. Lance had taught the trainer a lesson that he was not soon to forget.
Eventually, it would be spread out, in all the newspapers, that a trainer named Josiah had both doomed the world, and saved it in the end. Endless controversies would be started, and endless confusion would be stirred over what had really happened. But Lance was proud of Josiah, or rather, the work he put into him. In the end, they were all pawns, to be used and exploited for his *real* aims.