Oooh, this should be good. I love how you described the transformations and the setting.
Likewise, I'm reminded a bit of the The Island of Doctor Moreau. Ah, nothing beats Pokémon and biopunk.
Oooh, this should be good. I love how you described the transformations and the setting.
Likewise, I'm reminded a bit of the The Island of Doctor Moreau. Ah, nothing beats Pokémon and biopunk.
Chapter Fourteen - Merciless Fate
Destiny's cheerful visage obscured her true feelings toward working with Aurelia. If she had her choice, she'd avoid the Arceus-girl at all costs. But she decided that teaming up with her was the wisest option—she was stuck in the same situation as her, so perhaps they'd be able to learn from each other. As much as it pained her to admit it, Destiny also longed for company—she didn't want to be left in the woods by herself. Nevertheless, she knew she'd end up as the prime target of the hotheaded and somewhat narcissistic Arceus's insults.
Colby's company reassured her a bit. Thankfully, he seemed like a kind and thoughtful kid, and now it seemed as if he was completely necessary to her survival. Destiny was very grateful for his offer to provide her and Aurelia with food and shelter. Previously, she had been too frazzled to realize just how important those basic necessities were. In her situation, she couldn't exactly go grocery shopping or sleep in her comfortable bed at home. This was the wild, and living off of the environment wasn't exactly something Destiny was accustomed to.
"Should I go get the food and stuff now?" Colby asked, looking from Destiny to Aurelia.
"The sooner, the better," Aurelia grumbled, "I'm starving."
"Okay!" the young trainer exclaimed enthusiastically. He picked up his maroon bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Don't go anywhere, alright?"
"Got it," Aurelia replied. Colby nodded his head approvingly, and then ran off into the jumble of trees.
The Arceus sighed telepathically and then flopped onto her belly. She squinted her emerald green and red eyes, focusing her gaze on Destiny. "So, what's your story?" she inquired.
"Huh?" Destiny hadn't been paying attention. "Oh, uh… nothing interesting. I live in Mistralton with my parents. I'm not a trainer; I go to school, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do."
Aurelia stifled a laugh. "How I wish my life was that simple!"
The blond girl frowned. "Why? What happened?" She had heard Aurelia mention a few tiny tidbits about her life when she was still stuck as the purple creature, but she hadn't really been listening. I'm surprised she's so eager to talk about it. If it's as tragic as she makes it seem, I wouldn't want to tell anyone about it.
"Nothing much… my dad ditched me and the rest of my family, my little brother died, and my mom vanished." The Arceus spoke with strong contempt. Destiny imagined that she'd be grimacing if she had a mouth. "I've been abandoned by my entire family. And now the only thing I've had to live for, Pokémon training, has been stolen from me as well. I'm starting to wonder why I still cling to this pathetic existence. Burning in Hell would be just as enjoyable."
Destiny couldn't bring herself to feel sympathy for the ill-fated Arceus. The way she forcefully uttered her words made it seem as if she sought pity—more fuel for her unflatteringly large ego. Destiny didn't think Aurelia's unfortunate past gave her the right to treat others badly and demand attention at all times. She tossed it around as if it was a mere excuse—Destiny was tempted to believe that she actually made it up for that reason. But then again, she didn't really know what she'd been dealing with. Up until now, Destiny's life had always been perfectly normal. Maybe all these traumatic events really did do something to Aurelia's brain.
"Get over it," Destiny muttered under her breath, not even realizing what she was saying.
Aurelia glared at her coldly. "What was that?"
Destiny was startled by Aurelia's tone of voice. She had almost forgotten who she was dealing with—Aurelia was Arceus, a fabled Legendary Pokémon often thought of as the creator of the universe. If Arceus really lived up to its legends, it inevitably possessed insurmountable powers that would straight-out obliterate a human like her. Offending Aurelia to that extent would most likely be a fatal mistake.
"I didn't say anything," Destiny lied, trying her best not to sound frantic.
"Is that so?" Aurelia's icy gaze was still glued to the girl's face. "I know I heard you say something, and I didn't like what I heard. And you're trying to tell me that you didn't say anything at all?"
"So, uh… your mom vanished? What do you mean?" Destiny desperately tried to move on, intimidated by the Alpha Pokémon's coldness.
Aurelia's tone was a lot less friendly than before. "That's exactly what I mean. She disappeared. I came home one day, and she was gone. And it wasn't like she was out shopping or anything; I could tell the house hadn't been tended to in weeks, months even. I tried to contact her on my Xtransceiver, but she wouldn't answer. The last time I heard from her, she told me about how she found a new boyfriend. I never got a chance to meet the guy. I'm starting to think he's the reason she vanished."
"So you think she ran off with him?" Destiny questioned.
"Of course not, unless she also decided to throw out her C-Gear while she was at it. My mother would never do anything like that. My bet is that she was murdered, or perhaps worse. I don't even care anymore. I mean, what difference does it make? It's not like I'm ever going to see her again."
"Oh," Destiny said meekly, her head down. She tried to at least appear sympathetic; perhaps then Aurelia would forgive her for her rude comment. "There's still a chance that she's okay, right?"
"Nope," Aurelia replied bluntly. "She's as gone as my father and as dead as my brother. Why should I even bother trying to comfort myself with faith and wishful thinking? The only thing I'll accept is the cold, hard truth."
"But you can't confirm that she's really dead, can you?" Destiny wasn't sure of what to think of Aurelia's reasoning.
"If I convince myself to think that she's fine, I'll just be more disappointed in the end when I find out she'd dead. It's not worth it." The Arceus stared at the sky absently. "It also isn't worth it to think that being Arceus is a temporary thing, or that I'll return to my normal life. I'm destined to spend the rest of my life living in this godforsaken forest, and so are you. We just need to accept it and move on."
Destiny furrowed her brows. Just minutes ago, Aurelia was convinced that turning into a Pokémon was a onetime thing. It had been Destiny that brought up the theory that they'd continue to switch back and forth between human and Pokémon forms. What made Aurelia change her mind so suddenly? Easy; she wants pity.
"Why are you so pessimistic? You're already taking my theory to heart? For now, neither of us can confirm nor deny that we'll continue to transform. That was just a wild guess; I'm almost completely positive I'm wrong."
"You still haven't gotten it, have you? Looking on the bright side of things is a waste of time. The world is a cruel place; it's more logical to accept that something bad is going to happen. That's why my father left us. That's why my brother's dead, and my mother's gone. That's why you turned into that bug-thing, and I turned into Arceus. Fate is out to punish all of us."
"But good things happen too, right? Colby's getting us food and shelter right now. That's good, isn't it? It sure beats sleeping outside in the rain, or foraging for food in the forest that may or may not be edible."
"Fate likes to comfort us with little things like that. Then it proceeds to laugh as everything else blows up in our faces. Besides, we wouldn't need to rely on that kid for food and shelter if fate hadn't turned us into these monsters."
Destiny sighed. Trying to make Aurelia see things positively was futile. I guess it's safe to say that her past experiences really did mess her up. That or she's sickeningly hungry for pity. Either way, it's sad. The girl almost wanted to convince herself to believe that their transformations wouldn't continue, just to prove Aurelia wrong and show her that there were some wholly good things in life. In a situation like this, optimism was crucial. Why even bother fighting if life was cruel and meaningless? Destiny convinced herself that this misfortune was just one little roadblock on her highway of life. I won't give up, Destiny told herself. I'll stay strong, no matter the circumstances. I don't care what Aurelia says; I'll overcome these difficulties and move forward.
Chapter Fifteen - Secrets and Sorrows
The first thing that caught Dragon's attention was the creature on the table.
Its structure was vaguely reminiscent of a human's, but it also carried several insect-like traits. It was about the size of a middle school student. Its body was a flashy purple color, and it looked to be made entirely of metal. Dragon wasn't completely sure if he was looking at a machine or a monster—it didn't appear to be breathing, and it was lifelessly still.
The creature's large, egg-shaped eyes were menacingly red and its tiny pupils were unfocused. Oval-shaped pits that slightly resembled eyebrows hung over the creature's eyes. Its mouth was stretched in an intimidating toothy grin that looked out of place on its face. Atop its head was a rounded bulge.
Its compact thorax was sandwiched between disk-like shoulders. Two slender, teardrop-shaped arms extended from its upper body, each ending with a single hooked claw. The upper section of the creature's abdomen was narrow and curved outward until it tapered to a point. Its thighs were triangular and plate-like. Though its limbs were humanlike in form, the creature appeared to lack definite knees. Its shins were roughly the same shape as its thighs, and its feet were relatively flat and triangular shaped.
Attached to the purple creature's back was an odd, bulky device. A nozzle-shaped protrusion jutted out over its head; at its tip was a round opening that resembled the mouth of a cannon. It sat atop a curved base that was connected to the creature's thorax by a single angled extension. A thick, yellow piece of plastic was inserted in a slot at the back of the cannon.
The creature lay on its back, its upper body raised due to the placement of the cannon-like appendage. Dragon thought the position looked unnatural, but the creature showed no signs of discomfort. Its arms and legs were chained to the table with steel cuffs.
"What in the world is that?" Ben gasped in bemusement, pulling away from the grunt to get a closer look. "That's not a Pokémon, is it? I've never seen anything like that! It looks more like some kind of robot."
Dragon stared breathlessly, letting the hybrid's arm slip from his grasp. "It can't be a Pokémon," he whispered, struggling for words. There was something highly disturbing about the circumstances that surrounded the creature—it was artificial in appearance, and it was located within a laboratory. It all added up; this creature had been created through science.
Ben stood by the side of the table, studying it fixedly. "Damn, whose idea was it to have it lying on its back? The thing's neck isn't being supported! That could cause some devastating permanent damage. This whole setup seems very inhumane; the critter's strapped to a table for crying out loud! Do they even feed this thing?"
"I appreciate your concern, but none of that is necessary."
Dragon hadn't even noticed the man in the corner of the room. He was sitting in an office chair, casually sipping at a cup of coffee as if he thought watching random teenagers stroll into his room was perfectly normal.
Ben gave him a dirty look. "Oh, is that so?"
"Indeed," the man said. "What you're looking at is a groundbreaking innovation in the world of Pokémon. GMP156 is an artificial creature. While she's not the first of her kind, she's a bit different from most existing manmade Pokémon. GMP156 cannot get injured or feel pain. She doesn't need to eat or sleep. She doesn't have a mind, but she is programmed to function like a normal Pokémon. Team Plasma hopes to revolutionize Pokémon training by building creatures such as GMP156."
Is this… what Team Plasma has been planning all along? They're going to replace living Pokémon with inorganic ones? It's not necessarily a bad idea, but how are they going to mass produce these things? It must've cost a fortune to build GMP156… something doesn't really seem right… Dragon's gaze was locked on the strange, unmoving creature.
"Well, sir, you've really outdone yourself," Ben chimed, his head pressed against GMP156's chest. "I wouldn't have thought it'd be necessary to give an artificial Pokémon a heartbeat. It's faint, but I hear it. The thing's unconscious, it seems." He sighed, taking a step back. "You could've at least tried to come up with a more reasonable excuse. GMP156 here is certainly a living organism. What exactly are you trying to hide?"
Dragon looked from Ben to GMP156 in disbelief. What's going on? None of this makes sense… if it's not a manmade Pokémon, what is it? I'm pretty sure there aren't any real Pokémon that look like that. And why doesn't this guy care that we just walked in on him? Does he even know what I'm here for? I really don't want to waste any time; there's a chance that the hybrid could turn back into a Zekrom here and now. Part of him wanted to ask the man where Ghetsis was so he could just get it over with, but he also wanted to find out what GMP156 really was.
"You're a bright kid, aren't you?" The man took another sip of his coffee, apparently unfazed. "It was a rather foolish explanation, I must admit. But that was what I was instructed to say if anyone accidentally caught a glimpse of this creature. I could come up with something much better."
"Oh, is this some kind of secret?" Ben questioned grumpily. "Are you with this Dragon kid? He's also hiding something from me. I don't get why you guys feel the urge to be so undercover and secretive all the time, especially when you don't know how to lie properly."
"He's a hybrid," Dragon butted in all of the sudden. "In fact, that's why we're here in the first place. My name is Drake, and I was ordered to bring him here by Ghetsis."
The man frowned. "That's what I suspected. He's meeting in a room down the hall. I can ask him to come here, if you'd like."
I knew it, Dragon thought bitterly. "Okay, that would be great." The man nodded subtly and dialed something into his C-Gear.
"Hold on a second," Ben growled. "What's the deal with GMP156 or whatever you called it? You just changed the subject all of the sudden. I'm actually sort of curious as to what it is. Now that your secret's out, you might as well tell us the whole story."
"Hello, Ghetsis? This is Dudley. There's a grunt by the name of Drake looking for you." The man spoke into his C-Gear, seemingly ignoring the inquisitive hybrid.
"Ugh, forget it," Ben muttered, scowling. "This is ridiculous. People don't even treat me like a human being anymore. I get it; I turned into a Pokémon. But I'm not a Pokémon now, am I?"
Dragon glanced at the hybrid in pity. He was right; everyone acted as if he was some kind of animal. He thought that Dudley was ignoring him for a different reason, however. Dragon felt a bit betrayed; he and Dudley both worked for Team Plasma, so why was he lying in front of him? He mentioned that he had been instructed to tell that fabricated story, but who had given him the orders?
Ghetsis walked into the room several moments later. "Ah, Drake." There was a mixture of emotions on his face. "Well, it's at least good to know that we've got our first hybrid."
Dudley inched back in his chair nervously, as if he wasn't looking forward to whatever was coming next.
Dragon stared at the official blankly. "What are you going to do with him?"
"Well, there aren't a lot of things you can do with a young man who can turn into a Legendary Pokémon. It's far too risky to keep him alive, so our best option is to give him a humane death. Afterwards, we could present his body to our team of researchers—I'm sure they would like to find out how such a fantastical creature functions." Ghetsis lifted Ben's arm and examined it studiously. The hybrid, who looked both horrified and unnerved, attempted to reel away from the strange man. "So this is a real hybrid specimen. I must admit, it's quite incredible that these creatures can exist as humans one minute and Legendary Pokémon the next. What Pokémon is this young man fused with?"
"Zekrom," Dragon confirmed, "one of the mythical beings that once made up the Great Dragon."
"You don't say." Ghetsis let go of Ben's arm. "It's fascinating, and yet disgusting at the same time. Imbuing a mere child with the powers of a long dead god, and expecting him to take down our organization… it's a wonder how someone could think of such a thing."
"Yeah," the grunt agreed softly. He set his gaze on the hybrid, icy guilt encasing his heart. His chestnut eyes were wide and fearful, and he was shivering slightly. Ben had presented himself as a bold and stubborn individual; he managed to keep a high spirit even when he was dangling by his hood in Archeops's jaws. To see him reduced to such a state of cowardice was almost frightening. What made everything worse was that all of this was Dragon's fault.
What have I gotten myself into? Dragon begged himself silently. I joined Team Plasma because I wanted to help people and Pokémon. What does killing an innocent kid have to do with any of this?
Ghetsis glanced at GMP156's still body. "Well, I hadn't been intending to let anyone see GMP156 just yet, but I suppose it's too late. Consider it your reward for capturing the first hybrid. She's astounding, isn't she? A fully inorganic creature that acts just like a normal Pokémon…"
"You bastard," Ben snarled. "That story isn't going to work anymore, idiot. GMP156 is alive and you know it. Even that coward with the coffee cup admitted that the whole spiel about it being an artificial Pokémon is a lie."
Dragon flinched at the hybrid's sudden outburst. What is he doing? Why is he still getting worked up over GMP156? He's going to be killed, for Arceus's sake! You'd think things like that wouldn't matter when you're lying on your deathbed… It's amazing how much he cares about that thing, whatever it is.
Ghetsis feigned a puzzled look. "What in the world are you saying? Quit playing games, hybrid. GMP156 is—"
Dudley took a deep breath. "Sir, stop. He figured it out; we're the ones who need to stop playing games."
"You can't be serious. How could he have figured out that—" Ghetsis was cut off again.
"It's true; GMP156 is a living organism. She was revived from the fossil of an insect that lived during the Paleozoic Era. This particular creature was an exceptionally skillful and fierce predator. After she was revived, she was given a number of enhancements. These include her metallic exoskeleton and the Photon Blaster on her back." After he had finished speaking, Dudley took another swig of his coffee.
Ghetsis stared at the man in disbelief, not even bothering to utter a word.
Ben gave GMP156 a long stare. "Thank you for telling the truth," he choked, the energy fading from his tone. He staggered backwards as if he had been hit with the realization that he was going to die all over again.
"That doesn't make sense," Dragon thought out loud, his voice coming out in a shrill whimper. "Why would Team Plasma get involved in something like that? I thought we were supposed to be against those kinds of things. Altering or enhancing a Pokémon… that's wrong; that's what Lord N said."
At that moment, a fifth figure entered the room. He strolled in cheerily, his footsteps light and almost dancelike. "I have great news!" he exclaimed obliviously. "My research trip was a complete success! I think I've finally found the missing component of this formula!"
Chapter Sixteen - Encounter
Colby leisurely ambled through the forest with a carefree smile on his face, his mind set on the great responsibility he had to fulfill. Their lives depend on me! He wasn't really bothered by how he still hadn't been given the chance to truly start his journey as a Pokémon trainer—helping the two girls was much more important.
He couldn't help but wonder why and how they could turn into Pokémon. Neither Aurelia nor Destiny could provide an explanation for their transformations. They seemed just as clueless as he was. Colby found it odd that he had just happened to run into two people possessing the same ability. It probably all tied in somehow…
"I've scanned the perimeter of the forest, and nothing seems abnormal. Are you sure he said he found the hybrid around Mistralton? Well, I'm heading in. Wish me luck."
Colby froze, his sight diverted to a figure in the distance. Who is that? Maybe it's a trainer looking to battle, he thought hopefully. I'm sure Aurelia and Destiny wouldn't mind if I took a few extra minutes. He withdrew Sandile's Poké Ball from his bag and began to walk forward assertively.
The figure, an absurdly dressed blond teenager who looked as if she had sprung from a fantasy novel, quickly caught sight of Colby. "Wait a second, I see someone. I think he's just a trainer passing through, but maybe I can get some information out of him." Colby noticed that she was speaking into a C-Gear.
There's something weird about this girl. I don't know what she's talking about, but it doesn't seem normal… The young trainer came to a hesitant stop a few yards away from the uniformed girl. He sheepishly raised his voice. "Hello? Are you looking for somebody?"
The girl lowered her C-Gear, a grin cutting across her face. "Yes, as a matter of fact I am. And that someone might just be you!"
Colby's jaw dropped. "What are you talking about?" he cried frantically.
Ignoring the trainer's hysterical response, she gleefully pulled out a Poké Ball and readied it in front of her. "Rise and shine, my beauty!" A ray of yellow light shot out of the object and materialized into the shape of a large, furry insect. The creature was primarily yellow with splotches of purple and indigo, and it had six crystal blue eyes.
Colby was taken aback. I guess she was just looking for a battle after all! He held out his Poké Ball, his tension beginning to loosen. Before he had the chance to send out his Sandile, the girl fired a command at her Pokémon.
"Alright, Galvantula! Fence him in with Electroweb, please!" The Pokémon silently crawled closer to the boy before releasing a thick strand of electrically charged thread from its mouth. The sticky substance wrapped around the trees adjacent to him, trapping him inside a makeshift electric fence."What the heck was that for?" Colby exclaimed, furious and confused. "Let me out!"
The girl sat on the ground, smirking. "Sorry, can't do that. Don't bother trying to escape; if you touch that web, you'll be fried." Galvantula strutted over to its trainer and rested its head in her lap. "Now, I have some questions for you. If you cooperate, I'll let you go. Are you ready?"
"Questions? What kind of questions?" Colby's voice was full of unease. She's interrogating me? What in the world is going on?
"Oh, nothing much." The girl rolled Galvantula's Poké Ball around in her hands. "Well, I think it's safe to assume you aren't a hybrid; I heard they had their Pokémon taken away from them. A few days ago, we were the ones taking away people's Pokémon…" her voice trailed off. "So, I want to ask if you've seen anything suspicious lately. I'm surveying this area because there have been reports of abnormal activity."
Colby blinked. "What do you mean by suspicious?"
The girl began petting Galvantula's head. "It's a long story, but I'll try to make it quick. Basically, this nutcase decided to take it upon himself to create an army of teens with the ability to transform into Legendary Pokémon because he wanted to take down our organization, Team Plasma. He kidnapped random kids off the streets and turned them into Pokémon hybrids. The man behind all of this was captured, but his creations are roaming free. We Plasma grunts have been assigned to hunt down these creatures, since they're an obvious threat to society. One of them, a Zekrom, was found flying over this forest. You haven't seen anything like that, have you?"
"N-no," Colby stammered, anxiety rippling down his spine. He had no idea what the grunt planned to do with the hybrids she was after, so he knew right away that it wouldn't be a good idea to mention his new friends. This isn't good… what am I supposed to do?
"You sure about that?" Galvantula's trainer leaned closer to the web of electricity, a taunting grin on her face.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Colby lied, forcing himself to sound sincere. "Today's my first day of being a trainer, and I came here to look for wild Pokémon." He suddenly realized that he could potentially take advantage of the situation he was in; this girl seemed to know a lot about whatever had become of Aurelia and Destiny. They'd probably like to find out the exact details of what happened to them. Since there's not much else I can do at the moment, I might as well try to get more information out of her. "That's insane! How did that guy even make those things?"
"All I know is that he injected them with some kind of formula," the Plasma grunt replied. "I didn't think things like that were possible. I guess I was wrong.""A formula?" Colby repeated, interested. Despite how he was now aware that some organization was apparently hunting down hybrids, his naïve mindset still hungered for the power to morph into a Pokémon. Judging by what the grunt had said, Destiny's theory was correct; hybrids were able to transform back and forth between human and Pokémon. That was bad news for her and Aurelia, but it made being a hybrid even more appealing to Colby. I wish there was a way for me to get a hold of that formula… if only that dude chose to use me for his project!
"That's what I said," the girl muttered. "Anyway, I guess there's not much else I can do with you. I'll let you out, but I advise that you leave this forest immediately. You may not have encountered anything strange yet, but you're probably just lucky. These hybrids are fused with Legendary Pokémon and can be unpredictable; a rookie trainer like you is no match for them. You might want to try looking for Pokémon elsewhere if you want to avoid being torn to shreds."
She eyed her Galvantula, who was beginning to doze off. "Cut down the web with Slash and let the kiddo out." The EleSpider Pokémon lazily strolled up to the nearest side of the fence and sliced at it with its forelegs. The two halves of the sparking web parted, creating a safe path for the boy.
"Okay, I'll be on my way," Colby announced nervously as he began to walk away from the grunt and her Galvantula.
The girl gave a friendly smile. "Best of luck with your Pokémon journey," she called, "because when this mess is over, we'll be coming after trainers like you!" Colby watched in horror as she stood up and headed off in the direction he had come from. Oh, no… she's going to walk right into Destiny and Aurelia! The boy's heart began to pound. I can't let her see them… but what am I supposed to do? I can't go after her; she warned me to leave, so if I went back that way, she'd probably suspect something! This is bad… He wracked his brain, desperate to come up with some sort of plan.
The grunt and her Galvantula had already become mere specks in the distance. Colby had never felt so helpless before; Aurelia and Destiny's lives depended on him, and he had let them down.
Chapter Seventeen - Controversy
When the brothers who founded the Unova region fought, the Great Dragon that governed the land split into two equal but opposite halves—Reshiram and Zekrom. That's what everyone believed.
They were wrong.
It was an interesting story. It seemed to reflect the notion of spiritual balance; that black and white make up two parts of a whole; that we are guided by both black and white incentives. In truth, there's more than just black and white. Between the fields of black and white are shades of gray.
The quaint Lacunosa Town was well known for an old folktale that spoke of a monstrous dragon by the name of Kyurem. This dragon was said to have first appeared when a meteor collided with the land northeast of the town, and it dwelled within a massive cavern known as the Giant Chasm. When night struck Lacunosa, Kyurem would emerge from its den, bringing blistering winter winds along with it. It would cast down upon the streets and whisk away villagers who were unfortunate enough to find themselves outside in the dark. Kyurem would then ravenously devour its prey, leaving no scraps behind. For years, the residents of Lacunosa Town lived in fear. They constructed a huge wall around the town and took refuge in their homes once the sun began to set. Kyurem's attacks became less common, and the hysteria eventually died away.
The legend is now thought of as a scary story to keep troublemaking teenagers off the streets at night. The residents of Lacunosa still follow their old practice of staying inside when it's dark out despite how they no longer fear Kyurem. The old myth had integrated itself into the town's customs—and as it turned out, the story may have been more than just a rumor. Like many legends, the tale about Kyurem held some truth.
There was undeniable proof that Kyurem was in fact a real Pokémon. While the stories about the dragon descending upon Lacunosa were thought to be largely fictionalized, there were documentations of explorers vanishing into the Giant Chasm, never to return. There were also multiple accounts of the creature itself—it was always described as a long necked silvery dragon with piercing yellow eyes and ice encrusting its body. Its movements were stiff and awkward, as if its joints had been frozen over. Its jaws were easily capable of crushing an adult. It had stubby arms and small wings that were unfit for flight. Parts of its body looked broken and tattered. It was said to resemble a zombie or an icy skeleton, and was often compared to a cold, empty shell.
Perhaps that's exactly what it was.
There's a reason why Reshiram and Zekrom were unable to recombine into the Great Dragon; it's because there's a piece missing, and that piece is Kyurem. Reshiram and Zekrom can be seen as two bodies of powerful energy. Kyurem is the vessel for this energy. Of course, that's just a theory. Kyurem is depicted as a man-eating monster—not something that readily comes to mind when the Great Dragon is mentioned. I want to prove this theory, though. I'll do whatever it takes to follow my dream!
The young man smiled to himself and stepped out of the small plane. His name was Natural Harmonia Gropius (often shortened to N) and he had been destined to lead Team Plasma as its king from birth. He was a very dedicated leader who had big plans for his organization and the world. His most ambitious goal was to completely separate humans from Pokémon—and to do this, he intended to create different worlds for them using the powers of the Great Dragon.
Even though the Great Dragon had broken apart centuries ago, N was convinced that it wasn't completely lost. He had spent the past week researching Unovan mythology, and ultimately came to the conclusion that it might be possible to revive the deity. He couldn't wait to share his findings with the Plasma officials. Upon returning to the Plasma headquarters, he had been informed that the Seven Sages were holding a meeting in a building northwest of Nuvema Town. He immediately arranged a private flight to get him there as quickly as possible.
To revive the Great Dragon, the first thing we need to focus on is obtaining Reshiram and Zekrom's souls. We'll need to get that out of the way before we even think of finding Kyurem. According to my research, they exist in the form of orbs known as the Light and Dark Stones. Their locations are purportedly kept secret, but I might have a shadow of an idea where one of them is. N walked into the building, lost in his thoughts.
Following his ears, he soon found himself in a dark room full of computers. He thought nothing of it, and continued into a doorway at the back of the room. N was relieved to instantly make out the shape of Ghetsis, the highest ranking Sage. Several other figures were present, but N didn't recognize any of them.
"I have great news!" he cried, unaware of what had been unfolding in the room. "My research trip was a complete success! I think I've finally found the missing component of this formula!"
The room abruptly became dead silent for what felt like an hour. Ghetsis slowly spun around, a horrified look on his face. "Today is certainly full of surprises, isn't it," he finally said flatly.
N narrowed his eyes. "What?" It was only then that he noticed what was lying on top of the table the people were gathered around. He approached the creature slowly, a dumbfounded look on his face. "What… is this?" N instinctively turned to Ghetsis, who in turn glanced at an unfamiliar brown-haired boy in the corner of the room who looked as if he was about to collapse.
"A genetically modified insect from prehistoric times," the boy rasped. Although his voice was weak, anger smoldered in his tone like hot coals. "That's the truth. Don't believe anything they tell you, because they'll probably try to deceive you."
N backed away hesitantly and pressed his hand to his forehead. "Slow down. What is this place? Who is this boy? Is he telling the truth?"
Before anyone else could answer, a man in an office chair spoke up. "I apologize for the confusion, my lord. This facility is known as the P2 Laboratory because we've been working on developing an entirely new breed of Pokémon, which is what you see here. What the boy said about the creature is indeed correct. It was created in secret because we didn't want to produce hype among the grunts. GMP156 is the first step in the completion of your goal."
"No, this is… wrong! I fail to see how this has anything to do with my dream when this project goes against everything Team Plasma stands for. Do you understand what you have done? You've taken a creature that has been dead for millions of years, forced it back to life, and corrupted its natural form! You twisted this creature and made it impure, and for what? Just what do you hope to have me accomplish with this poor creature, especially when I've unearthed a solution of my own? In fact, that's the whole reason why I'm here. I only wanted to share my findings with the Seven Sages, and I'm greeted with this!" N let his shock and rage spill from his mouth. "Furthermore, why wasn't I informed of this? Not alerting the grunts is one thing, but I'm the king of Team Plasma! If I had known about this, I would've had this project canceled before it was even started."
The man in the chair sighed. "For one, this is exactly how we expected you to react. My lord, you must realize that there is limitless potential in this field of genetic engineering. With the right knowledge, anything is possible. We've already given GMP156 metal armor and a cannon. It no longer requires food to survive. We've installed jet propulsion devices in the soles of its feet so it can fly, but they're not suitable for long distance travel. We're trying to find a way for it to reshape the structure of its body into a sleek design suitable for flight. Once we've accomplished that goal, we may be able to imbue it with the powers of a Legendary Pokémon. GMP156 could become anything you want it to be; the possibilities are endless. While I admit that its treatment thus far has been a bit… unethical, this one tiny sacrifice will pave the way to salvation for thousands of Pokémon."
"No. I won't tolerate any of this," N snarled. "This is a disgrace. You act as if this Pokémon is a toy for you to play with; something that you can mold into anything you want, like a slab of clay. This is a living creature you're dealing with! It shouldn't even be alive in the first place! How do you expect for it to adapt to a modern environment? I won't use this creature as some kind of shortcut to reach my goal. I can get there on my own without corrupting a Pokémon with technology; the only man who would stoop to something so low is one whose views have been clouded by his twisted ambitions. I demand that you cancel this project at once. This creature's soul deserves to be released from its tainted prison."
"What are you saying?" Ghetsis shouted, hysterical. "Are you telling me that this creature should be killed? You can't do that! Do you have any idea how much time and money we've invested into this project? Besides, wouldn't that go against Team Plasma's code as well?"
"All the time and money in the world wouldn't equate to the price of this creature's wellbeing. Just look at it! Do you think it enjoys being bound to that table or drugged into unconsciousness? I can't even imagine what it must go through when you work on your bizarre modifications. I bet this Pokémon has never even stepped outside; the poor creature has never felt the warmth of sunlight, or grass beneath its feet. It knows nothing but the life of a lab rat. It can't simply be released into the wild—I doubt it would know how to survive, and if it did, it could potentially endanger the ecosystem. And of course, we can't keep it cooped up inside a Poké Ball; that's wrong as well. We have no choice but to free it from its wretched shape in the most humane way possible. It is for the best."
When N had finished speaking, something occurred to him; what if GMP156 didn't want to die? It was painful to look at the modified Pokémon's altered body, but was N really making the right choice? He assumed that putting it out of its misery would be the best solution. Was there a way around that fate? Some sort of compromise, perhaps? A life is a precious thing, and once it is gone, it cannot be returned.
Chapter Eighteen - Imprisonment
Aurelia was used to life on the road. As a Pokémon trainer, she was constantly moving from city to city and rarely stayed in one place for more than one night—her home in Opelucid was always miles away. This was one of her favorite aspects of being a trainer; she could run away from her troubles and leave them in the distance. But as with all the other things that made her a trainer, this freedom had been taken from her that morning.
She had been turned into the living incarnate of an ancient god. Most people would consider that to be a blessing, but realistically it was a curse. Until she or Destiny could confirm that they wouldn't continue to change into Pokémon, Aurelia couldn't possibly leave the forest. It had become like a prison to her. The gnarled, black trees were like jail bars, confining her in a small area with no chance of escape. Painful memories lingered in the air like smoke. She was being punished for a crime she did not commit.
"I wonder what's taking Colby so long," Destiny mused. "His trip to the Poké Mart earlier was much faster than this."
"He ditched us, no doubt. The kid probably just made that offer so he could get away from us freaks. I don't blame him. If I had my choice, I'd want no part in this." Aurelia scraped at the dirt with her pointed hooves, her gaze focused on nothing in particular.
"He wouldn't do that," Destiny chided. "Believe it or not, there are selfless, good-natured people out there who just want to lend a hand. Not everyone cares only about themselves."
Aurelia rolled her eyes. It was obvious that Destiny was attempting to scorn her for her attitude, and she didn't care. There's no point in being charitable; it gets you nowhere. The human race is unpredictable. If you try to help someone, he might turn his back on you later and ruin your day. Why did I even bother helping the kid earlier? I should've known something like this was going to happen. I don't believe that there are truly any good Samaritans in the world; they only want to make themselves look good. They're just as selfish as anyone else.
"What are we going to do if he doesn't come back?" the Arceus questioned.
"Don't say that," said Destiny. "Please try to have faith."
I liked it better when she was the bug thing. It was nice not having to listen to her crap. Destiny's optimism was really getting on Aurelia's nerves. Once Aurelia had shared her life philosophies with her, she began to oppose all of her beliefs—it was as if she sought to make enemies with her. She acted as if Aurelia's history was merely a ploy for sympathy, and shoved it away like it was a made-up story. She tells me off for being self-centered, but she can't empathize with my problems. It hurts. I wish someone would understand.
An odd tingling sensation in Aurelia's stomach distracted her from her thoughts. She recognized the feeling instantly—the same thing had happened shortly before she transformed into Arceus. Could it be? Aurelia thought hopefully. It feels like I've been waiting ages for this to happen.
The Arceus shut her eyes tight as the feeling pulsated through her body. It wasn't painful, but it was still very strange and uncomfortable—it certainly wasn't something any human being was meant to experience. I'll endure this, she told herself. The prize at the end is certainly worth going through whatever this curse wants to throw at me.
She strained her neck to lift her head, which felt like it weighed a ton. Blackness swept across her vision as dizziness danced in her head. Aurelia could hear Destiny's voice droning in the background, but she couldn't make out what she was saying. As if she had suddenly become paralyzed, her legs splayed out and her head crashed to the ground.
Her bones snapped and popped as they shrank and slid into place. The Arceus's impressive features contracted and she was covered by the snug embrace of clothing. She instinctively gasped for breath as her mouth and nose reappeared. Aurelia began to retch and sputter as air filled her lungs—after being trapped as a creature with no means of breathing, it felt weird and unnatural.
Aware that she had regained control of her body, she immediately sat up. Aurelia threw her hands to her face and ran them over her features, her head still throbbing from the toll of her transformation. Relief flowed through her as she touched lips and a bump of a nose. She had finally returned to normal. Aurelia almost threw her head back and laughed in joy, but she didn't want to create a scene.
Destiny looked repulsed. "Ugh, watching that made my stomach churn. I hope that was the last time either of us will have to go through that.""Tell me about it," Aurelia grumbled, nearly forgetting that she could no longer speak with telepathy. Destiny seemed surprised that she hadn't thrown in a pessimistic comment; Aurelia figured it wasn't worth it, since Destiny would only start arguing with her. She felt truly happy for once, and she wanted to keep her mood up for at least a while.
"Colby had better hurry. We're both in a state where we can eat, and I'd hate to say it, but I don't know how long this will last," Destiny remarked, staring off in the direction the young trainer had disappeared.
"We'd probably be better off looking for food in this forest. Being a Pokémon trainer, I know a bit about what kind of berries are good to eat. I'm not sure if they taste very good, but it's better than starving to death," Aurelia explained.
A faint smirk appeared on Destiny's face. "Hey, look! I think I see Colby!"
"Do you? What perfect timing," Aurelia muttered, shifting her gaze over to where the girl was looking. She could definitely see a figure in the distance, but something seemed off. She squinted, trying to get a better look. From what she could tell, the person was a girl a few years older than her. She was dressed in a very unusual looking costume. "Are you nearsighted or something? That's not Colby. Colby doesn't dress like that. That's not even a boy.""Seriously? I didn't think my vision was that bad," Destiny breathed in alarm. "Who is it, then?"
"Do you really expect me to know?" Aurelia growled. What an idiot. "It's not uncommon for trainers to roam forests in pursuit of wild Pokémon. Maybe we can ask her if she's seen the kid."
"I thought we'd be safe here," Destiny whispered timidly. "If what you say is true, then we might as well just go out in the open. What if she saw you when you were Arceus?"
Aurelia snickered quietly. "I think she would've been screaming and running away, especially if she saw me turn back. I doubt there's any place we could go that's perfectly safe. Trainers tend to search every nook and cranny for new Pokémon to battle and catch. A densely forested place like this is our best bet, I'd say."
Destiny sighed. "It's a miracle we're both back to normal. I don't want to imagine what would happen if we were still Pokémon."
"Electroweb now, Galvantula!" the girl commanded. Aurelia blinked in confusion; the girl wasn't battling a wild Pokémon, so what was she telling her Pokémon to attack? She was hit with a realization when she watched the furry insect crawl over to her and Destiny—she was making it attack the two of them.
"Hey, wait a minute!" Aurelia shouted, enraged. "What the hell are you doing? Do we really look like Pokémon to you?"
"No," the Galvantula's trainer replied coolly. "Not right now, at least. There's no need to try to hide it, hybrids. I can see through your disguise." Her Pokémon exhaled a glob of sparking thread, which wrapped around the trees surrounding the two girls.
Hybrids? Aurelia fearfully repeated in her mind. She called us hybrids… but what does that mean? It obviously has something to do with our transformations, but I've never heard that term used before. Does this mean she actually knows what happened to us? She would've liked to ask the trainer some questions, but she didn't appear to be very friendly. Besides, she had just been locked up in an electric fence—she had bigger things to worry about.
She sucked in a deep breath, trying her best to stay calm. Well, this sucks. I guess this chick did see me transform. The thing is, she's acting like she was specifically looking for us. How does she know about us in the first place? It can't be common knowledge; otherwise, Colby surely would've known what we are. What does she even want with us? As much as Aurelia wanted to speak up, she didn't want to risk saying anything rash and getting into even more trouble.
"W-what are you talking about?" Destiny stammered unconvincingly, clearly terrified. Aurelia shot her an angry glance; if she wasn't going to make things worse, Destiny certainly was.
"Oh, please," the girl crowed. "You know as well as I do what you are. Even if I hadn't watched your buddy change from a Pokémon to a human, I still wouldn't have a doubt in my head that you're a couple of beasts." She grinned spitefully. "I might not have captured the first hybrid, but I managed to catch two of them! Better yet, one of them is fused with Arceus! I'm bound to get a promotion for this!"
Aurelia narrowed her eyes. A promotion? What, is it her job to wrangle up freaks like us?
"Who are you?" Destiny asked in a small voice. "What are you going to do with us?"
The girl spoke in a sing-song tone. "The name's Lynn, but that shouldn't be of importance to you. Also, I'm not the one who decides what happens to you."
Aurelia couldn't take it anymore. "You know what? I've had enough of this. Get off your high horse and stop acting like we're inferior to you." She uttered her first words tentatively, as if she expected Destiny would criticize her for them. "If you're going to march up to us and trap us like this, we at least deserve an explanation. Don't twist our words and give us useless information. I don't give a damn about what your name is. We want to know why you did this. You also clearly know what we've been turned into, so some clarification about that would be appreciated as well. If you're going to waste your time chit-chatting with us, at least make it meaningful."
"What's the fun in that?" Lynn purred, unfazed by Aurelia's angry retort. "I've got you captured. You're basically possessions of mine now. I don't have to listen to you."
Aurelia's face turned red with fury. I'm starting to wish I hadn't turned back. This bitch could use a nice Hyper Beam in the face. "Fine. Well, are you just going to leave us here? If you plan on doing something with us, quit stalling and get on with it."
"As much as I'd love to leave you to rot here, I'm afraid I'll have to turn you in at some point. I need to call for back-up first if I want to take you to headquarters. I wasn't expecting that I'd find two of you." Lynn reached for her C-Gear, laughing deviously.
"Sandile, Fire Fang now!"
Aurelia watched in surprise as a small tan blur flew at Lynn's Galvantula. The tiny creature opened its jaws, smoke billowing from its teeth. It bit down on the insect's foreleg and fiercely shook its little head from side to side. The Sandile's trainer strode up behind it, a determined look on his face.
Well, what do you know? Colby didn't abandon us. Aurelia tried her best not to smile. What a brave kid… or maybe he's just really stupid. He's a rookie trainer. Does he really think he'll be able to beat this freak?
Chapter Nineteen - Broken
A young N lay on the floor, his gaze affixed to the little train. He enjoyed sitting and watching it glide along its tracks; to him, it was comforting to see it traveling in circles, completing the same motions that it always did.
N's eyes lit up when a man walked into his room, a wriggling brown bundle in his arms. N stood up and excitedly toddled over to him. "Daddy, what is that?"
Ghetsis smiled wordlessly as he bent over and placed the bundle on the ground. The bag squirmed for a moment, and then a small head poked out of it. The creature warily stepped out, curiously sniffing its surroundings. Thick, black hair covered its neck and head, concealing its eyes. A tiny blue muzzle protruded from its messy mane. The creature had a robust body, four thick legs, and a stubby tail.
"This is a baby Deino," Ghetsis told him. "Deino are normally very aggressive and dangerous Pokémon, but this fellow is gentle and calm. He's a bit skittish, though, and he'll bite if he's scared. He's blind, so he might get startled if you touch him suddenly."
N approached the Deino cautiously, taking Ghetsis's words into account. He sat down in front of it, fascinated. "Hello," he greeted softly.
The Deino stretched its neck to sniff the child, and accidentally bumped its face into his shoulder. The creature flinched and quickly drew its head back. N giggled as it backed away timidly, its head held low.
Ghetsis chuckled to himself. "He's being submissive, which is a good thing. He realizes we're in charge, just as it should be." He paused. "Anyway, I wanted to ask if you'd like to help me take care of him."
N was taken aback. "Really?" Ghetsis had let him play with several Pokémon in the past, but at the end of the day he'd take them away. N had never been asked to do anything like this before. "I'd love to!"
"I'm glad you're so enthusiastic," Ghetsis remarked cheerfully, watching the Deino crawl towards N's train set out of the corner of his eye. "You'll be just like a little Pokémon trainer."
N frowned. "A Pokémon trainer? What's that?"
"A Pokémon trainer is someone who raises Pokémon for a living," explained Ghetsis.
"There are people who do that?" N squeaked. "I wanna be a Pokémon trainer!"
Ghetsis grinned. "I'm sure you do. But let me tell you… being a Pokémon trainer isn't an easy job." As if on cue, the Deino pounced on the tracks, causing them to break apart. It batted at the train with its paw and flipped it onto its side.
"Hey!" N shouted, springing to his feet. "Don't do that!" He darted up to the Deino, who was happily gnawing on the toy train.
"Pokémon can be a bit destructive and hard to care for," Ghetsis said. "It looks like the little guy's hungry."
"What does he eat?" N questioned, trying to remove the toy from the Pokémon's jaws. "I hope he doesn't eat trains."
"No, no. I think he'd like a bowl of milk. I'll go fix one up for him." Ghetsis began to walk towards the door. "I trust you'll be okay with him while I'm gone? He's been a good boy so far. I doubt he'll try to hurt you."
"I'll be okay," N assured Ghetsis as he left the room. The train finally popped out of the Deino's mouth, and N held it over his head victoriously. Disgusted, he realized that it was coated in saliva and it had small dents in its sides. He turned to the Pokémon and glared at it scornfully. "Look what you did!"
The Deino whimpered and flattened itself against the ground, frightened by the child's angry tone. N wasn't sure if he liked the Pokémon very much anymore. He turned his back to the creature and dolefully cradled the chewed-up train in his arms. The Deino remained still out of fear that N would yell at it again.
Ghetsis entered the room with a large saucer of milk in his hands, and was surprised to see that N was blatantly ignoring the Pokémon. "What's wrong?" he asked, setting the saucer on the floor.
N sniffled. "He ruined my train." The child stood up and handed the toy to Ghetsis.
The man stared at it absently. "I'm sorry. But as precious as a toy may be to you, it can always be fixed or replaced. I'll see if I can make it better tomorrow." Placing the train on the ground, Ghetsis reached into his pocket and withdrew a small object wrapped in blue foil. He dropped it in N's hand, a smile on his face. "Would a piece of candy cheer you up?"
"Candy!" N exclaimed joyfully, seemingly entirely forgetting about his destroyed toy. He hurriedly ripped off its wrapper and shoved it into his mouth. Ghetsis rarely gave him sweets when it wasn't a special occasion. "Thank you!"
"You're welcome." Ghetsis's gaze was focused on the Deino, who was beginning to pick up the scent of the milk. Wagging its tail happily, the Pokémon followed its nose to the saucer. It accidentally put its foot down on the side of the bowl, but swiftly stepped back as soon as it made contact with it. It then delicately lowered its head into the saucer.
N rolled the piece of hard candy around in his mouth as he watched the Deino greedily lap up the white liquid. Once the dish had been licked clean, the Pokémon raised its head and belched contentedly. It swiped its tongue around its jaws, wiping off the droplets of milk that clung to its face. The creature then waddled over to the train tracks and plopped down in the middle of them.
"Now that his belly is full, he'd probably like to get some rest. He seems to have taken a liking to your train set," Ghetsis stated.
"I wish he'd stay away from it. It's mine," N grumbled, pouting.
"Like I said earlier, taking care of Pokémon can be challenging. You have to learn to share your time, love, and possessions with them." The Deino, who had curled itself into a ball, was squirming restlessly. "In order to be a successful trainer, you have to treat your Pokémon with kindness and understanding. The Deino is just a baby, which is why he tried to teethe on your train. Since he doesn't have a proper place to sleep yet, he's using your train tracks as a nest."
"Oh," N murmured, sounding disappointed. "I'll try to be nicer, I guess."
"That's the spirit. You'll need to make some sacrifices, but in the end the experience is very rewarding," Ghetsis said. "You look like you could use some sleep as well. Tomorrow you can try to become friends with the Deino."
"Okay," the boy sighed glumly. He trudged up to his bed and climbed onto it. "Can you tuck me in?"
"Of course." Ghetsis picked up N's blanket and set it over him. "Goodnight, Natural."
"Goodnight, Daddy." N watched as the man turned out the lights and left the room. The child yawned and pulled the blanket over his head sleepily. Right as he began to drift off to sleep, he became aware of something heavy pressing down on him. Startled, he fought to throw the blanket off of him. Once he had freed himself, he spotted a dark shape edging towards him. He quickly realized that the Deino had hopped onto his bed.
"What are you doing here?" N groaned, rubbing his eyes. "I thought you were asleep."
The Deino stepped closer to him, experimentally sticking out its head to check how near it was to him. Its head collided with N's shoulder again, and rather than cringing the Deino proceeded to affectionately nuzzle him.
"Hey, what are you doing?" N tried not to laugh. He was surprised to see that the Deino had apparently forgiven him for his outburst. Maybe it wanted to start all over again, just like Ghetsis had suggested. "Do you want to sleep up here? I'm sure it's a lot more comfortable than my tracks."
The Deino let out a happy yip before lying down next to N's pillow. The boy giggled and reached to stroke its bristly mane. The Pokémon purred and flipped onto its back, letting N rub its pudgy belly. N decided that the Deino wasn't too bad after all. He continued to gently pet the creature until sleep finally overcame him.
The next morning, N woke to the sight of the Deino playfully holding his toy train in its mouth. N cracked a faint smile. "You can have it. I don't mind." The Pokémon opened its mouth to chirp gleefully, resulting in the train falling onto the bed. N rolled his eyes. "Do you want me to show you how it works? Follow me!" The boy picked up the toy, slid off the bed, and headed over to the tracks. The Deino clumsily bounded after him, following the sound of his footsteps.
N crouched in front of the train set, noticing in dismay that the tracks had come apart. He snapped them back together and then dropped the chewed-up train onto them. The Deino sat by his side, waving its stub of a tail impatiently. N flipped the train's switch, silently praying that the damaged toy would still work. To his joy, the train started up and slid along its tracks. It rattled slightly as it moved, but N was glad that it could drive at all.
The Deino perked up as it picked up the sound of the train. It trotted over to the tracks and yipped noisily as it began to chase after the toy. N sighed as the Pokémon tackled the train and sent it flying across the floor. "That's not how you play with it," N mumbled. "Well, I guess the way you play with it is more interesting than the way I do."
The Deino scrambled to retrieve the toy, and dropped it in N's lap. The child raised an eyebrow. "Do you want to play again?" The Pokémon stood on its hind legs and let out a high-pitched cry. "I'll take that as a yes." N put the train back on its tracks and chuckled as the Deino rushed to knock it off and fetch it again.
Ghetsis ambled into the room, holding another saucer of milk. He looked pleased to see that N was getting along with the Pokémon.
"Daddy!" N shouted, his eyes wide with excitement. "Look at this game the Deino made up!" He placed the battered toy train on the tracks for a third time and let the Pokémon demonstrate how it liked to play with it.
"Looks like fun," Ghetsis remarked. "The fellow's probably worked up an appetite. How about we give him some breakfast?"
"Sure!" N exclaimed.
Ghetsis put the dish in front of the Deino, who ecstatically began to gulp down the milk. "I forgot to mention that there's more to being a trainer than just feeding and playing with your Pokémon."
"Oh?" An inquisitive expression spread across N's face. "Tell me!"
"Well, they're not called Pokémon trainers for nothing," Ghetsis began. "Another thing trainers are expected to do is prepare their Pokémon for battle."
"Battle?" N repeated, confused.
"Yes. Pokémon are pitted against each other for the sheer purpose of their trainers' amusement."
"Couldn't they get hurt?" N gasped in alarm.
"Exactly," Ghetsis growled, his tone growing dark. "In truth, trainers see Pokémon as nothing more than toys. They care for them and feign kindness, yes, but that's only so they're fit to fight." He suddenly grabbed the Deino, who hadn't quite finished its meal. The creature cried and squirmed as Ghetsis began to forcefully run his hand through its mane. "They don't care if their Pokémon get injured. They don't care if their Pokémon die. They can always go out and find better, stronger ones to replace them." The Deino kicked fiercely as Ghetsis grabbed its neck. "And do the Pokémon protest? Of course not. Pokémon are stupidly loyal creatures that run on instinct and their trainers' commands alone. They're incapable of thinking for themselves."
N whimpered and backed away, frightened by Ghetsis's change in voice and attitude; it was as if he had transformed into a completely different person. He could only stare hopelessly as his Pokémon friend struggled. What was Ghetsis doing? Why was he holding the Deino so strangely?
Ghetsis began to shake violently, a wide grin creeping up his face. "So, you want to be a Pokémon trainer?" he uttered through bared teeth. He shifted his other hand, placing it at the base of the Deino's neck. The Pokémon let out earsplitting shrieks as it continued to fight against the man. An audible crack sounded after a quick movement of Ghetsis's hands, and the Deino's squeals were abruptly cut off. "Is this what you want to become?" Cackling unstably, he shoved the creature in N's face. The Deino's once lively body was limp and unmoving, and its neck was twisted and bent at an unnatural angle.
N fell to the ground, instantly bursting into tears. What had just happened? Why did Ghetsis suddenly start acting scary, and why wasn't the Deino moving anymore? Nothing seemed right; it was like he was in the middle of a terrible nightmare.
Ghetsis tossed the Deino's lifeless body onto the ground, breathing hard. Tears dripping down his cheeks, N kneeled in front of the Pokémon's corpse. He prodded at it frantically, nearly hyperventilating. The creature remained perfectly still. "C'mon," he begged between sobs, holding the toy train up to its nose, "let's play with the train. Don't you want to play?" He set the train on its tracks and hopelessly let it loop in circles.
"Your Deino is broken," Ghetsis snarled, "and unlike your train, he can't be fixed."
Chapter Twenty - Moving Forward
Colby locked eyes with the Team Plasma grunt, his hands balled into fists. "Let them out. They didn't do anything wrong."
Colby couldn't do it. He couldn't walk away and abandon his friends. Even though they had just met, he already felt like he had been through so much with them. He didn't care that he was clearly outmatched. At least they'll know I tried. Despite his clouding doubt, the boy still clung to a tiny spark of determination. I want to be a hero, Colby thought. I wasn't able to get the food and supplies. It was a simple task, and I slipped up. I'll make up for it. I don't want them to think I'm useless.
After the grunt had left, Colby had begun to stealthily follow her trail. He made sure to keep a reasonable distance behind her and tried his best to make his footsteps silent. He didn't want her to see him until the last possible moment.
The grunt glanced from her Galvantula, who was thrashing about madly as it tried to throw off Sandile, to Colby. Her expression quickly transitioned from shock to amusement. "Why, would you look who it is? You said you didn't know anything about the hybrids."
Colby shrugged. "I lied. Now, if you don't cut down the fence, Sandile will do it for me." His Pokémon let out a short growl, seemingly agreeing with its trainer.
The grunt began to snicker. "You're cute, you know that? Standing up for your girly friends like that… you're like a miniature knight in shining armor! Kid, your petty threats mean nothing, especially since they're coming out of a newbie's mouth." She flashed Galvantula a look. "Finish the brat's critter with a Bug Bite."The EleSpider Pokémon stopped struggling and opened its mouth, revealing monstrous fangs. It pulled its head back and then lunged, snagging Sandile's little body in its jaws. It jerked its head to the side and flung Sandile onto the ground.
"Sandile!" Colby shouted, rushing up to his Pokémon. He lifted its head worriedly, panic racing in his heart. The tawny creature made a quiet gurgling noise before blacking out. Colby glared at the grunt as he withdrew Sandile's Poké Ball and called it back.
"Well, so much for that," muttered Aurelia, who had returned to her human shape. "Just when I was starting to think you might actually stand a chance.""Please. He was doomed from the start," the grunt laughed. "Maybe if he hadn't let his foolish heroics get to his head, he would've been able to devise a more logical plan. He could've made his critter attack the web right away instead of threatening me."
Colby gritted his teeth in frustration. He was trying too hard to live up to his image of a fearless hero. At his level of experience and skill, he shouldn't undauntedly march into tricky situations and expect to triumph with bold recklessness alone. If he wanted to succeed, he'd have to rely on wit and resourcefulness; something he had realized a tad too late.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an important call to make. Why don't you get going, kid? It's not like there's anything you can do. Things will be a lot easier for both of us if you turn and walk away right now," the grunt suggested, raising her arm.
Colby narrowed his eyes as he took notice of her C-Gear. She's going to call for reinforcements! If only there was a way for me to get it away from her… then she wouldn't be able to get them to headquarters. But what can I do? It's strapped to her wrist; it's not like I can just take it from her. He watched fearfully as the grunt began to dial a number. I've gotta do something… I might not be able to steal the C-Gear from her, but maybe there's something else I can do.
He dropped his gaze to the ground and frantically searched the forest floor for a rock. Colby grinned when he spotted a flat stone around the size of his hand at the base of a nearby tree. He swiftly grabbed it, wondering if the grunt was even paying attention.
"Hello!" she brightly exclaimed into her C-Gear while playing with her hair. "You won't believe the luck I've had!"
Colby smiled impishly. Here goes nothing. He rose to his feet, grasping the rock tightly. Holding it over his head, he crept up behind the grunt."I didn't find just one hybrid—I found two! Ha, I didn't expect this to be so easy!" Before the grunt had a chance to start another sentence, Colby leaped in front of her and smashed the stone against her C-Gear's screen.
The grunt shrieked and nearly tumbled backwards in surprise and horror. "What the hell?" she screamed in exasperation, furiously examining her C-Gear. The screen had gone black, and there was a large crack in the middle of it.
"Now what are you gonna do?" Colby questioned proudly. "You can't get back-up now, so how 'bout you let them go?"
"Well," the grunt growled, "we were told that if we were given problems, we had permission to kill the hybrids." She grinned sadistically, yanking the broken C-Gear off of her arm and tossing it onto the ground. "Would you like to watch Galvantula put them out of their misery? You already saw what she's capable of in a standard Pokémon battle when she took down your Sandile in a single hit. Can you imagine what she can do at her full potential?" Galvantula rubbed its forelegs together in anticipation.
Colby made a choking noise and dropped to his knees. "Please," he begged, fighting back tears. "They're innocent. I know them, and they're good people. They wouldn't hurt anyone." I messed up again, he thought in terror. Why didn't I see this coming? This could've been avoided… I don't know what she was planning on doing with them once they got to headquarters, but it's gotta be better than this. Anything is better than this.
The grunt stomped on her C-Gear, grinding it into the dirt. "That won't work on me, kiddo. As cute as you are, I have to follow orders. Besides, I know more about the hybrids than you do. They're dangerous; they were created to be weapons."
Aurelia took a deep breath. "Maybe this is for the best. The thing about us being dangerous is crap if you ask me, but being a hybrid is a living nightmare. It'd be so much easier to just end it all here and now."
"You can't say that!" Colby yelled in disbelief. What is she doing? It's not like her to surrender without a fight!
"I'm glad you understand," the grunt purred. "I didn't expect you would comply so easily."
"N-no," Destiny stuttered, tears streaming down her face. "I don't want to die!"
Aurelia gave the other hybrid a hard stare. "Get real, Destiny. What do you have to live for anymore? Do you really want to spend the rest of your life hidden from society? We're not even human. I can't be a Pokémon trainer anymore. You won't be able to get a job. This is it. Is this really what you want?"Destiny kept silent, too appalled to speak.
"See? There are no benefits to being a hybrid," the grunt chimed. "Since you're being so obedient, I'll let you choose how you'd like to be executed. What will it be: Electroweb, Slash, or Bug Bite?"
Aurelia closed her eyes. "I don't care. Just make it fast."
The grunt bowed her head. "Okay then. Galvantula, use Slash on the brunette. Be sure to make it a killing blow."
Her Pokémon let out a gurgling noise as it slithered up to the fence and promptly sliced an opening in it. It crawled up to Aurelia and raised its foreleg to strike, when suddenly the hybrid rammed her foot into its face. "Not today!" she snarled in disdain, watching as the Galvantula screeched and slid backwards. "If fate wanted me dead, it would've killed me off long ago. As awful as being a hybrid is, I don't think now's my time. Oh, and Lynn? You were criticizing the kid for not planning his actions, yet you expected me to just let your bug kill me when I could've easily stopped it. I find that hilarious."
Destiny gasped and cupped her hands around her mouth. "Great Arceus," she whispered.
Lynn stood frozen, her mouth gaping open in shock. "You… you bitch!" She ran up to her Galvantula, who was writhing in agony. There was a large dent in its head, and one of its dominant eyes had been smashed in. "What the hell did you do to my Pokémon?"
"I did what I needed to," Aurelia grumbled. "I mean, it was going to kill me. I was defending myself. You should be glad it's still alive."
Growling in anger and disgust, Lynn took out Galvantula's Poké Ball and held it out, her arm shaking. Once the wounded Pokémon had been called back, the grunt furiously sprinted away.
"Well, that's that," Aurelia snorted, her hands on her hips. She carefully stepped out of what was left of the fence. "I'm surprised she didn't try to kill us with her own hands. It was smart of her to run away."
"Holy crap," Destiny breathed, collapsing onto her knees. Her entire body was trembling, and tears stained her cheeks. "I've never been so scared in my entire life. Turning into that… thing was nothing compared to this."
"It's over now," Colby mumbled in a small voice. Everything had happened so fast. Just moments ago, he thought he'd be responsible for Aurelia and Destiny's deaths, and now they were all fine. The boy wiped his eyes, which had begun to water.
"I know, but… wow." Destiny rose to her feet timorously. "She won't be coming back, will she?"
"Totaled C-Gear, totaled Pokémon… we shouldn't be seeing her again anytime soon!" Aurelia spoke in an uncannily optimistic tone. Colby guessed it had something to do with how she was a human again.
"I don't know about that," Colby said apprehensively. "She told me there was a whole organization hunting you down."
"What?" Aurelia exclaimed. "You talked to her?"
"I ran into her when I was on the way to the Poké Mart," Colby explained, speaking quickly. "She made her Galvantula trap me, like what she did to you. Then she started interrogating me… she asked if I had seen anything suspicious, and then she started describing things that sounded just like you. She called them hybrids, and she said they had been kidnapped off the streets and injected with a type of formula that would cause them to turn into Legendary Pokémon. They were created to take down "Team Plasma", so they're trying to capture them. A Zekrom hybrid had been captured around here, so this area is probably under investigation."
"Whoa, slow down," Aurelia snapped, waving her hands in front of her. "She told you all that? Funny, she refused to tell us anything." She paused. "Team Plasma, huh? I think I heard my mom talking about them once." The hybrid lowered her head at the mention of her mother. "Who would even do something like that? You'd think they'd look for people who were actually willing to be turned into these things if they wanted to do something crazy like that. Then again, I doubt there would be any volunteers. But seriously, that story is unrealistic and full of holes. I'm not sure if I should believe it or not."
"We have no reason not to believe it," Destiny stated coyly. "It has to be true. Why else would that girl try to kill us? After all we've been through today, nothing really seems unrealistic to me anymore."
"Did you see her? She was totally nuts! She was clearly some kind of psycho," Aurelia hissed. "Where do you suppose we'll go, anyway? We can't exactly run off to Mistralton. We may be normal at the moment, but now it's pretty much been confirmed that we'll continue to turn into Pokémon. It's only a matter of time before it happens again."
"I never said we had to go to Mistralton. Can't we go the other way?" Destiny asked.
"If we head north, we'll have to travel through Twist Mountain, which is a complicated expanse of caves and tunnels. South of Mistralton is Chargestone Cave, another place I'd prefer not to hide out in. This forest and Mistralton City are in the middle of a valley; there's really not anywhere we can run easily.""Weren't you a Pokémon trainer? You've traveled through places like that, haven't you?"
"Yeah, but that was when I wasn't on the run. I also had Pokémon to protect me, and all the supplies I needed to survive in the wild. If we could find my bag, maybe we'd stand a chance."
"We have Colby, though."
"Colby's Pokémon was taken down in one hit." The boy's faced turned red with embarrassment at Aurelia's mention of his defeat. "I was a trainer for three years, so my Pokémon are much stronger. My bag might be somewhere in that building. If we find it, we might be able to make an escape."
"What about food?"
"That's where Colby comes in. Once I get my Pokémon back, we'll be able to protect ourselves. Then we can let Colby run to the Poké Mart and pick up what we need whenever we want without having to worry."
"Oh, I guess that makes sense." Destiny finally walked out of the broken fence. "Well, we'd better get moving. Who knows when Team Plasma will strike again?"
Colby was glad his friends had come up with a plan, but he wondered when he'd get to start his Pokémon journey. They talk about me like I'm some kind of tool. I know I agreed to help them, but how long do they expect me to be there for them? And where do they expect me to get the money to buy all this stuff if I have to follow them around everywhere? Trainers get money from winning Pokémon battles, and I doubt I'll have a chance to participate in any of those. Colby smiled, pushing the thought aside. Oh well, I'm sure everything will work out just fine.
Chapter Twenty-one - Salvation
N stared into GMP156's empty red eyes, trembling as he desperately tried to fight back his conflicted feelings. Why was I chosen to lead Team Plasma? Why does this decision have to be left up to me? The king's forehead was beginning to sweat. Everyone looks up to me; they expect me to do what's right. With this problem, there are no right answers. I can't read this Pokémon's mind. I can't know what it thinks would be best.
"My lord, that's just not possible. We can't afford to throw out everything we've put into this project. Even if you don't personally want to use it, it can be put to other uses. I beg of you, my lord; GMP156 can't be killed. I understand that you don't approve of its treatment, so if it pleases you we can put an end to its alterations. I assure you that it won't be a threat to the environment." The man in the office chair gripped his armrests, his voice wavering with anxiety.
N averted his sight from the creature. "You went off and created GMP156 without my consent, so this is the price you're going to pay. After all it's been put through, this creature deserves salvation. I don't think I can trust your claim that it will successfully adapt to the environment. Considering that you've been hiding all of this from me, it seems like a thin attempt to convince me to agree with you." He winced at his own words, still unsure of what he wanted to do. "Listen. I need some time to think this through. I want to be alone for a bit."
Ghetsis and the other man exchanged nervous glances, and suddenly a strangled cry erupted from the brown-haired boy in the corner. He scrabbled at the walls furiously as he fell to the ground. The grunt who had been standing next to him quickly stepped back in alarm.
"Arceus," N gasped. "Somebody help that kid!" The boy had appeared to be in a stupor ever since N entered the room. What happened to him? Why is he here? He can't be a grunt; he's not wearing a uniform.
Ghetsis bit his lip. "There's not really anything we can do."
"What are you talking about?" N exclaimed, racing over to the boy. He stood over him worriedly, noticing that his breathing was becoming slower. Oh, Arceus! What am I supposed to do? I'm not a doctor!
The boy struggled to lift his head and uttered, "Get back. Now."
N unquestioningly backed away, puzzled. To his disbelief, the boy's skin began to darken into a thick slate color. Rugged scales rippled across his body and his face bulged outward, forming a large snout. "What is this?" N cried, terrified.
"We shouldn't have waited so long," the grunt murmured, cringing at the sight of what had once been the brown-haired boy. He turned to N, a confused look on his face. "He's a hybrid, and he's transforming. Why does this come as a surprise to you? Ghetsis said you approved of us hunting down the hybrids.""What in the world is that supposed to mean?" N glared at Ghetsis coldly. "I've never heard anything about this. Is this some kind of joke?"
Ghetsis swallowed hard. "It's true. I've been hiding both of these things from you. I realize you're the leader of Team Plasma, but I was the one who gave you the throne. I know you better than anyone else; I raised you from birth. I know how you think, and I knew your responses to both of these problems would be unfavorable. I thought it would be best if you didn't know about these things. I knew you would find out about them eventually; it's hard to keep things hidden from a king. But I thought we'd have these things sorted out by then, or we'd think of a way to change your mind."
"Do you honestly think that gives you the right to do these things behind my back and lie about me?" N snarled. He still hadn't been given an explanation of what "hybrids" were, but at the moment he could care less. "I'm the king, and it is my duty to oversee everything that Team Plasma does. If you wanted to decide what Team Plasma does, you shouldn't have sworn me in as the ruler. You're not my father, and you never were. You don't have authority over me. This is completely unacceptable."
The boy's body became bulkier as he continued to metamorphose. His nose hardened into a pointed crest, and his hair pulled together and extended into a mane-like appendage. His teeth lengthened and sharpened. Rocky bumps burst from his shoulders, followed by a pair of powerful wings. His fingers shaped into monstrous claws and webbed formations stretched over them. His legs shortened and his feet swelled as his toes were replaced with tough claws. A massive cone-shaped tail sprouted from his rear.
Once he had finished transforming, he dazedly rose to his feet. He growled irritably as his head hit the ceiling, and then grumpily hunched his back. He stared down at the others, flexing his claws and gnashing his teeth.
"Great Arceus," N gasped, nearly falling over in shock. "That boy… he just turned into Zekrom!"
"Yes, that's what hybrids do," Ghetsis explained, relieved that N had changed the subject. "A traitor created them to destroy Team Plasma. They may look like normal kids at first glance, but they are capable of changing into Legendary Pokémon at random times. That's why we're trying to get rid of them. I think you might be able to understand our intentions, as they're quite similar to your complaints about GMP156. These hybrids have been corrupted, and they will no longer be able to live like normal humans. They also have destructive tendencies, and will most definitely end up hurting other people and Pokémon."
N gazed at the Zekrom, a chill creeping down his spine. Mesmerized, the young man barely absorbed any of Ghetsis's words. A human transforming into a Pokémon, and a mythical one at that… it's surreal, like a dream. What is it like to transition from the form of a defenseless human to a living embodiment of absolute power? What is it like to see from the eyes of a mighty dragon, to feel limitless energy pulsate through your body? It must be fascinating… but it shouldn't be possible. This isn't right at all.
The Zekrom glanced around warily, grimacing. "If I'm going to escape, now's the time. But how can I get out of here without causing a scene?"
"You're using telepathy," the grunt pointed out, removing a Poké Ball from his belt. "We can hear what you're thinking."
"I am?" The Zekrom froze. "Crap. Well, that's not good." He turned around and gave the wall a powerful kick. Rubble showered onto the ground as a gaping hole formed. "Screw that. I guess it's time for Plan B." He ducked down and struggled to squeeze his large body through it.
"Go, Archeops!" the grunt yelled as a feathered Pokémon emerged from the Poké Ball. "I know you're exhausted, but I need you!"
N watched the scene blankly. So much had happened in that short span of time since he entered the room, and he was starting to get overwhelmed. Moments ago, he had been discussing GMP156's fate with Ghetsis and the other man, and now it seemed as if the creature had faded out of existence. GMP156 was still perfectly motionless, oblivious to the danger around it in its drugged state.
"Use DragonBreath!" the grunt commanded. The Archeops let out a sharp cry and opened its maw, exhaling a jet of blue fire. The hybrid roared thunderously as his backside was scorched and scrambled to fit through the opening. He finally freed himself and took off into the wilderness. "After him!" the grunt shouted before disappearing into the gap with his Archeops.
N stared at what was left of the wall, not sure of what to think. He shook his head, planting his hand against his face. "This is ridiculous." He looked over at GMP156, a bitter feeling rising in his heart. "I'll try to sort all of this out later. For now, I just want to settle this issue with GMP156. Please leave so I can have some time to think."
"Yes, my lord." The man rose from his chair and shakily walked out of the door. Ghetsis shot N a dirty look before following him into the hall.For once, the room was silent.
His head spinning, N stepped over to GMP156's table. He hovered over the creature and gently slid his hand across its forehead, which was very cold to the touch. "Please wake up," N cooed, "I'd like to have a talk." To his dismay, the creature remained still. If GMP156 regains its consciousness, maybe I can get it to understand the situation. Until then, there's nothing I can do but wait.
"Come on," he coaxed, feeling powerless. He pulled a small piece of candy out of his pocket and dangled it over GMP156's face. "Do you want some candy? It's my favorite kind." N suddenly remembered that the creature couldn't eat. Frowning, he shoved the sweet back into his pocket. "What can I do to convince you to wake up?" The Pokémon didn't respond.
N sighed hopelessly. This isn't getting anywhere. GMP156 is definitely out cold. He reached to scratch the creature's chin, when all of the sudden its dual pupils snapped into focus. GMP156 took one look at the king of Team Plasma and started thrashing violently. It thrust its thorax into the air and kicked madly, as if it were caught in a night terror. It screeched horribly as it fought against its constraints.
"Whoa," N gasped, caught off guard. "Please calm down! You're going to hurt yourself!"
GMP156 didn't listen. It screamed at the top of its lungs, its voice like metal grating against metal. It smashed its head against the base of its cannon and twisted its body fiercely.
"Please," N begged. He placed his palm on the top of GMP156's head, attempting to comfort it. It shook viciously as it tried to throw off N's hand. The young man pulled his arm back despondently. GMP156 obviously isn't very happy. But if I were bound to a table like that, I would be pretty miserable myself. He glanced at the gaping hole the hybrid had made in the wall. I'd let it out, but then it would escape. That's the last thing I want to happen.
The creature's shrieks gradually grew quieter, and its movements less frenetic. Exhausted, its breath rapidly whistled through its closely spaced incisors. N gave GMP156 a friendly smile. "That's a good girl," he said softly. N didn't know what gender the Pokémon was, but he thought he had heard the man with the coffee refer to it as a female.
GMP156 tiredly lifted its head, studying the Team Plasma leader with its unblinking red eyes. "Wrrllghhh," it choked.
"Yeah, that's right. I'm so sorry about this, GMP156." N froze. "You don't even have a name, do you? Just a jumble of letters and numbers… that isn't right." He wracked his brain for a decent name. A genetically modified insect… what about "Genesect"? That's pretty uncreative, but it's better than nothing. "I'll call you Genesect. Do you like that?"
Genesect crowed quietly, rotating its shoulders.
N chuckled to himself. He then frowned, almost forgetting that the creature's fate rested in his hands. His tone grew dark. "Genesect, I want to know what you think is best. Do you enjoy living in this laboratory? Do you like what you've become? Or do you want to be set free from your altered shape peacefully?"Genesect stared past the young man, not even processing what he was saying. It longingly gazed at the crack in the wall, and began struggling again. It jerked its body to the side and slid its arm towards it, and to N's surprise it popped out of its cuff. Now that it was partially free, it released its other arm with ease.
"Genesect, what are you doing?" the leader of Team Plasma cried. That wasn't supposed to happen… but at least it won't be able to fit its feet through the cuffs.
Genesect raised its upper body and stretched to claw at the cuffs around its legs. "No, stop!" N yelled. He fearfully tried to push the creature back onto the table, only for it to angrily slug him in the chest with the side of its arm. N staggered backwards, realizing in horror that there was nothing he could do to prevent Genesect from escaping.
Tiny slivers of metal drifted onto the table as Genesect desperately dug its claws into the cuffs. Once they had been weakened, the Pokémon kicked in frustration and they broke apart. Completely free, Genesect slid off of the table.
"Don't," N wheezed, his back pressed against the wall. "Please, Genesect."
The creature glared at him as it took awkward steps toward the hole. Its upper body was hunched over, as if it couldn't support the weight of the cannon on its back. It moved at a slow, wobbly pace, like it was walking for the first time. N watched wordlessly as Genesect crept out of the building.
What have I done? N slumped to the ground in defeat. This is all my fault. He could only imagine the consequences of releasing such a dangerous creature into the wild. Even worse was that Genesect didn't appear to be able to fully handle its strength, nor did it seem to know how to properly function as a living creature.
Chapter Twenty-two - Shapeshifter
Dusk had settled upon the forest, leaving the sky a dark shade of lavender. Tiny stars were visible through gaps in the boughs of the trees. The air had grown considerably cooler, making Destiny wish she was wearing a jacket. The hybrid hoped they would find the building soon; something was awfully unsettling about the idea of roaming the forest in the night. This is something I'll probably have to get used to, she realized somberly. On the bright side, I'm not alone. I can't imagine what I'd do if I was in this by myself.
Destiny was beginning to feel like a useless tagalong. Aurelia and Colby both had important roles to fulfill—Aurelia had declared herself leader of the ragtag group, and offered to guide the others with the experience she had gained as a Pokémon trainer. If she found her belongings in the building, she'd also be able to provide protection in the form of her well-trained Pokémon. Colby, a normal human, was the only one who could safely travel to the Poké Mart and retrieve food and whatever else they needed to survive. What did Destiny have to offer to the group? Absolutely nothing.
She was relieved to have finally found out the secret behind her transformation, but at the same time it puzzled her. Colby's explanation had been very brief and hazy, and a number of questions still lingered in Destiny's head. One of the things that confused her the most was what she had turned into. According to Colby, the hybrids had been fused with Legendary Pokémon. Even though Destiny knew very little about Pokémon, Legendary Pokémon were considered deities and just about everyone could identify most of them. Destiny was certain that there wasn't a Legendary Pokémon that looked like a purple insect. Even if she was simply being forgetful, neither Aurelia nor Colby were able to recognize the creature she had changed into—and they were Pokémon trainers. Even more surprisingly, they both insisted that the creature wasn't a Pokémon in the first place.
Destiny was honestly scared by the revelation that Team Plasma was set on hunting her down. She felt like a fugitive who had committed murder. She didn't understand why Lynn had labeled the hybrids as threats—Destiny thought they were more likely to endanger themselves than hurt others. Colby had also mentioned that the hybrids were created in order to take down Team Plasma, but this came as news to Destiny. Whoever had been behind the creation of the hybrids obviously hadn't informed them of their mission—or anything, for that matter. If the hybrids didn't even know what their purpose was, why should Team Plasma bother trying to capture them?
Even though Aurelia had merely been tricking Lynn into letting her escape, her argument about whether it's worth it to live as a hybrid led Destiny to question her state of mind. It was true—unless there was a way for her to turn back to normal, she'd spend the rest of her life wandering the wilderness in constant fear. What compelled her to keep living? Was it only because she feared death?
"I wonder if there's any food in that building. I'm starving, and I don't want to have to wait for Colby to fetch us something to eat," Aurelia muttered. Destiny and her companions had begun their walk to the building. Destiny had no idea which direction it was in, but Aurelia seemed to know the way.
"I'm hungry, too," Destiny mumbled in response. When was the last time she had eaten? She had no idea how long she had been away from home. It saddened her to think that she'd probably never see her parents again. If she was in a forest north of Mistralton City, her house wasn't very far away—but Destiny knew that she could never go back there as a hybrid. Mom and Dad are probably worried sick… I wonder if they're looking for me. I wish I could let them know that I'm all right.
"So, you woke up in a building?" Colby asked inquisitively.
"Yeah," answered Destiny. "It beats me why there's a building as large as that one out in the middle of nowhere. It reminded me of a recently abandoned hospital. I was in this huge room with a ton of other kids; I'm guessing they were all hybrids as well. All of them were asleep. It was weird."
"I'm surprised we haven't run into other hybrids," Aurelia said. "Well, if we do, we're not going to let them follow us around. Our group is large enough, and we don't want to draw attention to ourselves."
"Good point," Destiny replied quietly. She was surprised to see that Aurelia was such a knowledgeable leader; judging by the pessimistic attitude she displayed in her Arceus form, Destiny expected her to drag the group behind. It was also awfully unlike her to care about the others. She probably realized just how important Colby is to our survival, so of course she'll try to get along with him. I have a feeling she still doesn't like me… I'm not very fond of her myself, but if she keeps acting like this, maybe I'll gain a bit of respect for her.
"Well, here we are," Aurelia announced. The large brick building loomed over the three of them, bringing back memories Destiny wished she could've forgotten. I can't believe it hasn't even been one day yet. It feels like I woke up in there forever ago. If Destiny had her way, she'd avoid the building at all costs. She got bad vibes from the structure and felt like there was something awfully ominous about it—this, of course, stemmed from the dread she had felt when she found herself there that morning.
Aurelia swept aside overgrown weeds as she led the others around the side of the building. "The door should be around here somewhere," she stated. The Arceus hybrid grinned at the sight of a pair of sturdy doors and hurried to shove them open.
It's a good thing the lights are on in this place. It'd be awful to snoop around here in the dark, Destiny thought as she stepped through the doorway. She stared down the long hallway, frowning as she remembered her struggle to find the way out earlier. "What are we going to do? Should we split up?""No, let's stick together. If any of those Plasma goons or "aggressive" hybrids happen to be strolling around, we'll need everyone's support," Aurelia responded. "Besides, whenever people split up in movies, something goes wrong."
Destiny chuckled. "So you think fictional movies are a reliable source of survival tips?"
"Sorry. My brother used to watch movies all the time, and… forget it." Aurelia rolled her eyes. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to split up. This place is pretty big, so it'd take forever to search the entire thing if we didn't go off on our own. And even if we were together, we'd still probably be screwed if we ran into something dangerous." The Arceus hybrid gazed down the long hallway. "So, there are three wings. I'll search this one, you can look through the one in the middle, and Colby can take the one at the far end. Sound like a plan?"
"Sure," Destiny unenthusiastically murmured in agreement. I like how she claimed the wing closest to the exit for herself. Aurelia nodded assertively, and the three set off for their respective halls.
Destiny turned the corner and yanked open the first metal door she saw. She peered into the room curiously, and to her disappointment it was empty. The floor looked like it hadn't been dusted in years, and the walls were covered in old glue stains. Yuck. Whoever turned us into hybrids certainly didn't put a lot of care into keeping this place. Destiny walked over to the door across from the last room, and again, there was absolutely nothing inside.
After looking through several other rooms, Destiny noticed the heavy steel door that led to the room the hybrids had been assembled in. The door was still hanging open, just like it had been when she last saw it. I wonder if anyone's still in there. The hybrid walked over to it and poked her head through the doorway.
Lying in the center of the room was what had once been a large, blue-furred Pokémon—Suicune, a Legendary Pokémon from the Johto region. Its eyes had glazed over and its tongue lolled out of its mouth. Blood had pooled around its body, dyeing parts of its fur a deep shade of red. The creature's belly was sliced open and its innards had spilled onto the floor. A chunk of its neck had been torn away, revealing its battered spine.
A black, draconic creature stood over the slaughtered Suicune—a Zekrom. Dangling from its massive jaws were stringy strips of flesh and clumps of sky blue fur. It tossed its head back to swallow, and then dove into the Suicune's body for another bite. The Zekrom clenched its teeth around a flap of skin and ripped it back, exposing a layer of bloody meat. Swiping its tongue around its jaws, it plunged its face into the corpse and ravenously devoured the Suicune's flesh.
Destiny stared in horror, trying her best to avoid letting a scream escape her lips. The scene confused her almost as much as it terrified her. The two creatures were undoubtedly hybrids, and Destiny knew from experience that hybrids retained their human minds while transformed. Why in the world would a hybrid murder and cannibalize another hybrid?
The Zekrom raised its head, flaring its nostrils. It locked eyes with Destiny and bared its bloodstained teeth aggressively. Destiny fell backwards, finally releasing an earsplitting scream.
"What happened?" Aurelia's voice rang out as she casually strolled up behind her. The dragon craned its neck and let out a monstrous roar, instantly catching the Arceus hybrid's attention. "Well," Aurelia mumbled flatly, "now I see what Lynn meant when she said hybrids could be dangerous."
A thought suddenly surfaced in Destiny's mind: Colby had mentioned that Lynn told him the Zekrom hybrid had been captured. Was it possible that the murderous black dragon wasn't a hybrid? It'd make no sense for it to be anything else, but it also made no sense that a human-minded creature would eat one of its kind. "I don't think that's a hybrid," she admitted bravely.
"Oh?" Aurelia knit her brows. "Why would you say that? Yeah, because the real Zekrom hasn't been dead for centuries, and of course it would choose to hang out in a place crawling with kids who can turn into Legendary Pokémon."
"Colby said Team Plasma caught the Zekrom hybrid," Destiny explained, ignoring the Arceus hybrid's sarcasm.
"Then there's obviously more than one Zekrom hybrid," Aurelia growled. "I think I know why it's acting that way. When I was Arceus, there was a point where I blacked out for a few seconds. Well… that's probably not the right term. I was fully conscious, but I wasn't me. It was like Arceus was speaking through me. I don't know how that would've worked, and I thought nothing of it. But after seeing this, it makes a little more sense. I think a hybrid's Pokémon instincts take over sometimes. That Zekrom clearly isn't in the right mind."
"Does it even matter what it is and why it's eating that other hybrid?" Destiny whimpered. "Shouldn't we focus on getting away from it before it kills us, too?" The hybrid would've run away, but she didn't want to leave Aurelia behind. I can't believe her! She's gawking at it like it's an animal in a zoo! Hybrid or not, that thing butchered another hybrid! It's like she's ignoring that the Suicune was once a human being, and that it could've been one of us!
"It's not interested in us," Aurelia told her. "Think of it as an animal on the brink of starvation. It wouldn't normally resort to killing and eating another Pokémon, but that's what its hunger has driven it to do. It's going to be protective of its kill, but it has no reason to attack us. As long as we leave it alone, we should be fine." The Zekrom stepped over the corpse, fanning out its wings. Trumpeting loudly, it took lumbering gaits toward the door.
"You were saying?" Destiny cried, scooting away.
"All right, so maybe I'm not an expert on Pokémon behavior." Aurelia slammed the door, not showing any sign of fear. "We should probably go now." Before either of them had a chance to move, a paper-thin purple sheet slid out from under the door. It expanded into a gelatinous blob-shaped figure, and a simple face bubbled out of its center. The creature squeaked as stubby arms formed from its sides.
"Is that a Ditto?" Destiny squealed, watching as the Pokémon waved its arms happily.
"Okay, I guess you were right about it not being a hybrid. But what the hell is a Ditto doing in here?" The Ditto squirmed over to Aurelia, examining her with its beady eyes. "I had no idea Ditto were carnivorous. I guess their diets are as versatile as their appearances. It's crazy to think this little guy was what we just saw chewing up that hybrid. He's not so mighty now, is he? Maybe my theory was partially correct… he doesn't look like he wants to eat us. In fact, he looks pretty friendly."
He's probably contemplating eating you, Destiny thought sullenly. Maybe this is why I didn't become a trainer. I actually have common sense. Why would you want to be around creatures that might turn and bite your head off one day? The bonds humans supposedly make with Pokémon… how do they work? I don't get it.
"Why is this thing staring at me? It's making me uncomfortable," Aurelia murmured, turning away from the Ditto. The Transform Pokémon crawled in front of her and started making cheerful purring sounds. It then stretched its amorphous body as it quickly molded itself into a bipedal figure. Destiny bit her lip when she immediately recognized several of the creature's features—the Ditto had turned itself into the Pokémon she transformed into.
Is that really what I looked like? Destiny thought sickly, wincing as she scanned its bulging red eyes and toothy grin. I don't blame Aurelia for making fun of me. How did I end up getting stuck as that monster? It's not even a Legendary Pokémon. Why couldn't I have been a Victini or a Latias?
"Hey, I think you've got the wrong person. Bug-girl's over there." Aurelia hastily pointed over her shoulder. "Wait a second. Ditto learn to transform into things by seeing them… how did this guy know what that thing looks like? I assumed he knew how to turn into Zekrom because he saw the Zekrom hybrid. Were you in here when you turned into the bug?"
"No, I was right where you found me," Destiny whispered, alarmed. Could there have been more than one hybrid fused with that thing? Colby made it sound like there was only one of each.
"Huh," Aurelia mumbled, crossing her arms. "I guess that thing isn't as obscure as I thought. What the hell is it?" The Ditto glanced at Destiny, and then turned back to Aurelia. It tipped its head to the side in confusion. "Why is he so interested in me? It's like he thinks I'm his trainer. I'd love to catch him, but I'm kind of still missing my bag. It'd be nice to own a Ditto like him… maybe I could train him to eat Plasma freaks." Aurelia stepped away from the Ditto, only for it to follow her. "We need to keep looking. I wonder if Colby's having any luck. How didn't he hear you scream? I was probably the same distance away from you, and I felt like my eardrums were going to burst."
Destiny watched silently as Aurelia strolled toward her wing with the Ditto behind her. I really don't feel comfortable being in the same building as that man-eating glob of gelatin. He is acting unusually friendly towards her, but I bet he's just trying to catch her off guard. He's going to kill her… I know it. But how can we get rid of that thing? It can turn into anything it's seen, and luckily for us we happened to find it in a building that was full of Legendary Pokémon! She stood up and hesitantly trudged up to another metal door. If Aurelia catches it, then we should have nothing to worry about. I really hope we find her bag soon… I hate this place.
Chapter Twenty-three - Confessions
Ben found himself struggling for breath as he fled from Dragon and his Archeops—it soon became clear to him that Zekrom's burly body wasn't built for speed. He panted fiercely, his throat growing raw. To his enragement, he could hear Archeops's shrill cries becoming louder and louder; the two were gaining on him. He snarled grumpily as he pressed forward, trying to quicken his pace.
How did I get myself into this mess? Ben still didn't have a complete idea of why he was being chased. He wished the men from Team Plasma could've at least explained why he possessed the ability to turn into Zekrom; it made no sense for them to hide it. Ben hated the feeling of not knowing something. I wonder if I would've stood a chance if I tried to escape earlier. Heck, what am I saying? I'm Zekrom; now's my best bet. The only problem is that I'm still a human on the inside. I haven't adjusted to being in Zekrom's body, and it feels unnatural.
"Give up now, hybrid!" Dragon bellowed. "You can't outrun me; you're already beginning to slow down. You're only making things difficult for yourself."Ben came to an abrupt stop. He turned to face the Team Plasma grunt, his tongue hanging out of his mouth. Dragon was right—there was no way he could escape. "I just don't get it," he sighed hopelessly. Ben hadn't been aware of his ability to speak through telepathy until his little slip-up in the P2 Laboratory. He still wasn't sure what had triggered his normal thoughts to become audible, but it worried him slightly. Knowing the things I tend to think about, I'll undoubtedly end up sharing something embarrassing. "You know what? I'll let you capture me if you explain what's going on. Please, Dragon, this is all I ask of you."
The Team Plasma grunt slowed to a halt, and Archeops swooped down next to him once it noticed that its trainer had stopped running. "How should I know if I can trust you?" Dragon inquired, staring up at the panting Zekrom.
Ben bared his teeth. "After everything that happened in the laboratory, do you really think I'm going to lie to you? If it wasn't obvious, I hate when people trick and deceive each other. I should be the one worrying about someone keeping their word. You Team Plasma people seem like a pretty dubious lot."
Dragon sighed, as if something were secretly bothering him. "To be honest, I'm not sure who I can trust anymore. Everything is coming as a shock to me… I thought Ghetsis was a respectable member of Team Plasma. I can't believe all of this stuff was done behind our leader's back. I don't even know if I'm doing the right thing now; it was Ghetsis who issued this assignment."
"Is Ghetsis the creepy guy with the eyepiece? He's pretty suspicious looking to begin with. I wouldn't want to run into him in a dark alley."The Zekrom wrinkled his nose. "And I take it the kid with the long hair is the leader? That's surprising; you'd think it would be the other way around. Team Plasma is pretty messed up, by the looks of it."
"Yeah, that's right," said Dragon. "I've heard that they're father and son, but I don't know if that's true or not. I'm also not sure why Lord N is the king of Team Plasma. He raised a good point when you were transforming; if Ghetsis wanted to do all these crazy things, he should've made himself leader. Maybe then I would've avoided this mess entirely."
"It would make sense if they were related. I was wondering why they both had green hair," Ben snorted. "So, his name is "N"? Is that short for something?""His real name is Natural," Dragon told him dully.
Ben produced a growling noise that resembled a chuckle. "Natural? Geez, poor kid. That's even worse than "Dragon". Definitely sounds like something that Ghetsis creep would name his child." He froze once his laughter had faded away. "As interesting as this Team Plasma stuff is, I'm still waiting for you to explain what the heck is wrong with me and why Ghetsis wanted you to hunt me down."
"All right, fine." Dragon rolled his eyes, seemingly annoyed with the hybrid. "A scientist betrayed Team Plasma, and he decided to create an army of humans who could change into Legendary Pokémon to try to destroy our organization. Instead of gathering up volunteers, he kidnapped a bunch of teenagers, and you were one of them. He injected you with this crazy formula that fused you with Zekrom. We captured the scientist, but we couldn't find any of you hybrids; it should be pretty clear why we're set on capturing them. I somehow ended up catching the first hybrid, which was you, of course."
Ben kept silent for a moment. "Is that so? Well, I can sort of understand the guy's intentions—Team Plasma certainly deserves to be shut down. But that's a little extreme, isn't it? Why in the world would you drag random kids into something like this? Why would anyone think it'd be a good idea to fuse a bunch of teenagers with Legendary Pokémon? I can't imagine what would happen if some of the kids I've met were given that much power. And all of this was because he was angry at a silly little organization? Scientists are supposed to be intelligent people; I'm sure he could've formulated a much more realistic strategy." He wondered if Dragon was actually telling the truth. The hybrid thought he sounded sincere, but he also thought that Team Plasma was untrustworthy in general. Unless he's faking it, he's already shown that he's not on the same side as Ghetsis and Dudley. If he's faking it, he'll be sorry.
Dragon shrugged. "I'm just as confused as you are. Is there anything else you'd like to know?"
"Well, there's something I'm a bit curious about," the Zekrom admitted. "How do you feel about this whole hybrid hunting business? Even if it's not what your leader wanted, do you think it's the right thing to do? What are your thoughts on the hybrids in general?"
Dragon lowered his gaze to the ground. "I don't know what to think anymore."
Ben waited for the grunt to say more, and frowned when he didn't. "Is that the best answer you can give me? You're not making a lot of sense. When we first met, you seemed pretty eager to take me down, but now you seem a bit more hesitant. What I don't understand is why you're still trying to capture me. Why would you want to finish a mission Ghetsis gave you? There has to be a reason for this."
The Team Plasma grunt glared at the hybrid. "You just want me to let you go, don't you?"
Ben shook his head. "No, no. I'm genuinely confused. Please enlighten me."
Dragon looked away from Ben. "Look. There's a chance than N might want you captured. You saw how he reacted when he found out about GMP156; he'll probably feel the same way about you. Ghetsis was right when he compared that Pokémon to the hybrids."
"Whatever you say," Ben muttered. There was something strange about the way the grunt was acting; maybe he really didn't know what he was doing. It was also possible that he didn't know how to express what was on his mind. Dragon was a quiet, reserved person, and he only spoke if he needed to. It probably wouldn't be an easy task to get him to share his feelings, so Ben decided it wasn't worth the trouble to try. "I guess that's all I wanted to hear. Now, for my end of the deal… let's go see if you're right about N."
Dragon let out a deep breath. "Good. Let's get moving." He flashed Ben a distrustful glance before turning and walking back towards the laboratory. "You'd better not try anything. Archeops will be keeping an eye on you." The Pokémon shrieked and glided up behind the Zekrom.
Ben made a grumbling noise as he began to follow the grunt. "I can't believe you still think I'd do something like that. I understand why you'd want to be skeptic, but c'mon! What can I do to make you trust me? You should know how I act by now. I haven't fought back or tried to run away once."
"Oh, you think so?" Dragon had a mild look of amusement on his face. "What do you call busting out of the P2 Laboratory? Don't give me any excuses; I could hear what you were thinking."
Ben gritted his teeth. "Okay, you win. But that was one time, right? I didn't fight back when you were trying to knock me out of the sky, and I didn't struggle when you were dragging me to the laboratory."
"Well, I hope you're being honest. Even if you're not, I'm still at an advantage."
"I ought to learn how to put Zekrom's powers to use. I figured out how to fly and harness electricity, but it's not easy. Your Archeops makes everything look so simple." He looked over his shoulder at Dragon's Pokémon. "How in the world do you do it?"
Archeops released a hostile growl and fluffed the feathers around its neck. Even his Pokémon doesn't trust me, Ben thought grouchily. He was disappointed that he couldn't communicate with other Pokémon, but he felt it made sense. It would be weird if I gained the ability to understand what Pokémon are saying, considering that my transformations only seem to affect my physical body. That explains why I can only speak through telepathy; Zekrom's vocal capacities must limit it to growling and roaring. I wonder if Archeops can understand me… do all Pokémon speak the same language? I'm curious as to what the noises I've been making translate to. That could explain why Archeops doesn't like me.
"Seeing as there's a chance that N will want to have you killed, you shouldn't worry about it," Dragon remarked grimly.
"Oh yeah, there's something I forgot to ask you. What's the purpose of Team Plasma? What are they trying to do?" Ben had heard N mention that GMP156 went against everything the organization stood for—did Team Plasma want to ensure the welfare of Pokémon? The hybrid thought that was a reasonable goal, but why would the traitorous scientist want to put an end to an organization with good intentions?
"We want to liberate Pokémon from humans," Dragon explained. "Our ultimate goal is to completely separate humans and Pokémon."
"Ha, I guess the guy who turned me into a hybrid had a pretty good sense of humor. Humans combined with Pokémon? That's gotta be the ultimate violation of Team Plasma's policies— looks like he was trying to add insult to injury." Ben had conflicted feelings toward Team Plasma's goals. He agreed with their desire to support the wellbeing of Pokémon, but he thought it was ridiculous that they wanted to take Pokémon away from humans. I can see why that would be controversial. I think both sides of this little war are very misguided, but they each have a point. If someone wise stepped up and took charge, I'm sure they'd be led in the right direction. "Now, hang on a second. If you're trying to free Pokémon from humans, why do you have a Pokémon? Isn't that a bit hypocritical?"
Dragon sighed as if he had gone through this conversation several times before. "A lot of people ask us about that. Truth is, we need Pokémon to accomplish our mission. Once we've succeeded, we'll release our Pokémon."
"I think you're failing to realize just how important Pokémon are to us. I mean, you outright stated that Team Plasma depends on Pokémon. If you can't even meet your goals without using Pokémon, how do you expect things to work out when you're done? It's silly." The Zekrom glanced at Archeops again. "You and Archeops seem to share a very close bond. Do you really think you'll be able to release him if Team Plasma succeeds?"
"The building's right up ahead," Dragon announced, ignoring Ben's questions.
"Uh, hello? Did you hear a word I just said?" the hybrid hissed in frustration.
"I'm done answering questions," the grunt grumbled. "Besides, we're already here. Let's go have a talk with Lord N." He stepped up to the hole Ben had kicked in the wall and strolled through it.
"In other words, you don't want to admit to being a hypocrite." Ben reluctantly shoved himself through the gap. This kid really irritates me. He doesn't even attempt to justify his ludicrous beliefs and actions. The Zekrom swiveled his head around, taking in the sights of the laboratory. He immediately noticed that GMP156 was missing from the table. Where did it go? Did N kill it? What did he do with its body? He felt a tinge of sadness; he wanted GMP156 to be freed, but this wasn't what he had in mind. During his brief encounter with the creature, he thought it was fascinating—he would've liked to see what it was capable of when conscious. I don't think killing it was a very good solution. I'm sure N could've worked something out if he kept it alive. He may be an extremist, but he seems knowledgeable about Pokémon.
N had flattened himself against the wall, a stressed look on his face. Dragon approached him cautiously. "Is something troubling you, Lord N?" The grunt appeared to be unaware of GMP156's absence, but Ben figured his concern for his leader outweighed his concern for the Pokémon.Pulling at his hair, N choked, "I let Genesect escape."
"Genesect?" Dragon repeated warily. He turned to face the table in the center of the room. "You mean GMP156?"
N heaved a heavy sigh. "Yes, I'm sorry. I just thought it'd be more respectful if I gave her a proper name. I was trying to talk with her; I wanted to know what she thought. For a moment, I thought she understood what I was saying. But then she started struggling and clawing at her chains. I tried to stop her, but she attacked me. There was nothing I could do—she just got up and went outside." He lowered his cap over his face. "I should've done something. This was a terrible mistake."
"Are you all right? Did it hurt you?" Dragon asked nervously.
"It's probably just a bruise. I'll be fine. I'm more worried about Genesect." Ben thought it was strange that N was ignoring his presence. Was Genesect really that important to him? He was pretty freaked out when he saw me transform into Zekrom, but now he's acting like I don't exist. This N character is a very strange person.
"Well, we're on an island. Genesect couldn't have gotten very far, unless it can swim," Dragon explained, trying to calm the hassled leader.
"She can fly for short distances, apparently. I'm not sure what "short distances" equates to, and that's what worries me. What if her jets short out when she's flying over water? Or what if she manages to reach the mainland? I don't know anything about what this creature is capable of. It's also possible that she doesn't even know how to fly, which would be very fortunate for everyone." The hybrid wondered why N was worried about Genesect drowning. Didn't he want it to be killed? He should be thankful; if anything, it's a convenience. Then again, drowning has got to be a pretty awful way to go, and he wanted its death to be humane.
"I can get Archeops to survey the area," the grunt offered. "I'll make sure Genesect is out of harm's way. You can count on me!" He gestured toward the Zekrom. "My lord, now that that's being taken care of, are you going to deal with this hybrid?"
Ben grinned uneasily when N turned his attention to him. The king of Team Plasma bit his lip anxiously. "Yes, I suppose that's a more pressing matter at the moment."
"I'll be off, then." Dragon nodded. "Let's do this, Archeops." The birdlike Pokémon cawed gloomily and glided after its trainer as he exited the building again. The poor thing must be exhausted. The trip to the P2 Laboratory was super long, and on top of that he had to carry Dragon on his back and me in his mouth. At least I don't weigh a lot, Ben thought. I'm pretty tired myself. I could use a nice, long nap… but if Dragon's right about this, I'll get more rest than I would ever wish for.
Chapter Twenty-four - Chrysalis
The room was cluttered. Stacks of papers and files sat on the floor, collecting dust. Empty beakers were carelessly strewn about a stainless steel counter in the corner. A crinkled paper bag and a tattered journal rested on top of another table.
Colby shut the door as he strolled in, marveling at what lay in front of him. What is all of this stuff? He curiously grabbed one of the beakers. Holding it up to his face, he gazed through it like it was a kaleidoscope. This is like a mad scientist's laboratory! The young trainer picked up a pile of papers and shuffled through it absently, confused by the convoluted vocabulary. He speedily skimmed through the words, occasionally picking up appropriately familiar terms such as "formula" and "hybrid". It didn't take long for the boy to realize he was reading documents about the creation of the hybrids.
According to his friends, this was where the hybrids had woken up that morning. Was this only an abandoned building their creator hid them in, or had he created them there as well? All of the evidence seemed to point to the latter, which caused a glimmer of an idea to surface in his head: What if there was some of the formula left over? His childish dream of becoming a Pokémon hybrid might've been in reach.
The boy's inquisitive gaze instantly flew over to the paper bag. What could this be? He crept up to it and gave it a small shake, as if it were another one of his birthday presents. Slowly, he pulled the bag open and reached inside. His fingers closed around something smooth and cylindrical, and he withdrew it in elation. Tightly gripped in his hand was a syringe filled with oily liquid, which couldn't have been anything but the fabled formula.
"Oh, Arceus!" he choked to himself, staring at the syringe in disbelief. "Is this… is this really it?" In his hand, Colby held a gateway—the difference between the life he had always led, and a thrilling new opportunity. He never thought he'd be able to get his hands on a sample of this formula, and there it was, sitting right in front of him. This is too good to be true. Is there any way I can make sure this is really what I think it is? The trainer's eyes landed on the journal, which had been flipped open to a page near the middle. He read through the messy cursive excitedly, skipping over every other word.
The Legendary Lugia of Johto is a highly intelligent creature that dwells at the bottom of the ocean, for it fears it may not be able to control its inconceivable power. Associated with typhoons and mighty winds, Lugia is a serene, elusive beast that hides itself from civilization. It is considered a blessing when Lugia breaches, as it is such a rarity. Very few people have managed to see Lugia in their lifetimes.
Dr. Melissa H. Kinsey is an esteemed Lugia expert who works at a coastal research facility located in the Whirl Islands. She and her team have tracked and studied the sea beast for years, and they have managed to obtain a sample of its DNA. Dr. Kinsey has taken an interest in my research and she has volunteered both herself and Lugia's data for my project. She will become the first successful human-Pokémon hybrid. I am very confident in this batch of the formula—I have perfected it, freed it from any flaws. Under normal circumstances, it would be incredibly risky to work with a Pokémon with an internal skeleton, but there is no need to worry. Dr. Kinsey will be very pleased with the results.
I'm certain that my love will be pleased as well.
Colby held his breath in astonishment, lifting his head from the notebook. This is it, Colby concluded, his eyes wide with awe. He swirled the syringe around in his hand, mesmerized. According to the journal, this small vial would fuse him with the powerful Lugia. The trainer could already picture himself in the form of the impressive white Pokémon. He tried to imagine what it would be like to effortlessly soar among the clouds and gracefully dive into the sea, or whip up tempests with a flap of his wings. He seemed to ignore all the dangers and hardships that went along with being a hybrid.
Pulling out Sandile's Poké Ball, he exclaimed, "Come on out! You won't want to miss this!" His Pokémon appeared on the ground and tilted its head to the side, giving him a shifty look. "I'm going to be a Pokémon, just like you! How cool is that?" The Desert Croc Pokémon scuttled behind him, clearly not sharing his enthusiasm.
Unconcerned, Colby stretched out his left arm and held the syringe over the crook of his elbow. Is this how you do it? I remember seeing bandages over Destiny and Aurelia's arms. Something suddenly occurred to the boy, and he hesitated before the tip touched his skin. In his exhilaration, the reason he was in the room in the first place had completely slipped from his mind. As a normal human, he was the only one who could provide Aurelia and Destiny with food or anything else they needed. They relied on him; he was a vital part of the group. If Colby became a hybrid, he'd be in the same boat as they were. Could he really let his friends down like that? He had already failed them once—what would happen if he made a daring move like this?
The boy narrowed his eyes, another thought crossing his mind. I think I deserve to make this choice. I know I offered to help them, but Aurelia and Destiny expect me to follow them around and buy them food for Arceus knows how long. They never asked if I was okay with that. It's like they think I'm their personal servant. It's true: I want to help them. I just wish they'd let me make my own decisions, so maybe I'd be able to think of something that would let me help them and pursue my dreams. Now I have a chance to think for myself and do what I want. Destiny and Aurelia aren't here, so they can't stop me. Closing his eyes defiantly, he grimaced as he shoved the needle into his arm. He pushed on the plunger, releasing the formula into his body. Once the vial had been drained, the trainer winced as he pulled the needle out and set the syringe on the counter.
"Ow," he hissed, clutching his sore arm as an acute buzzing sensation began spreading through his body. Is it happening already? Am I starting to transform? Colby inquired mentally, clenching his teeth. No wonder Destiny and Aurelia hate this so much. It really hurts! The feeling continued to sharpen in his left arm, intensifying until the irritating buzz shifted into all-out pain. He examined his hand, and to his revulsion it was beginning to swell. What is this? Colby cried in his head. When Destiny and Aurelia transformed, their skin color was always the first thing to change. This isn't right at all! What's going on? Although Aurelia and Destiny displayed discomfort when they morphed, it seemed very different from the agony the boy was beginning to experience.
The skin on his hand was stretching, growing tauter and paler until it was nearly transparent. Colby could see milky white bones underneath it, and realized at once that they were the cause of the swelling. Why is this happening? His skeletal hand suddenly broke through his skin, and a steady stream of scarlet blood trickled down his arm. Arceus… Arceus! Colby, who was too petrified to scream, toppled onto his back and was met with a muffled squeal and a crunch. The trainer didn't care that he had fallen on top of his Pokémon. Nothing mattered—the only thing that was real to him was the pain.
Colby's bony fingers continued to elongate as the swelling spread across his arms and to his chest. He could only watch as his torso ballooned outward, rising as his ribs enlarged and his sternum forced it up. His chest finally split open, the flaps of flesh snapping back like strips of elastic. His still pulsating organs were exposed to the building's stale air, which was ripe with the nauseating stench of fresh blood. A dark red pool was beginning to form beneath his body, soaking his clothes and drenching the unmoving Sandile.
The vertebrae in his neck lengthened and expanded, ripping Colby's head from his shoulders and propelling it upward. A thick spray of blood exploded from his neck stump as his arteries were severed, and the sheer force of the tug caused his esophagus to snap in half like a frayed cable. At the same time, the coccyx at the opposite end of his spine extended into a powerful tail and tore through his backside.
His skull shifted into a crested snout and burst through his face, ripping through his chin and upper lip and drawing the soft tissue at the sides of his mouth apart. Colby's eyeballs flaccidly rolled into cavernous sockets, and a spiked protrusion burst through his scalp. His skin peeled back and drooped down his face as his cranium continued to widen.
It was impossible to tell when Colby's life had finally been yanked away from him, but all that remained of the boy was the perfectly formed skeleton of a Lugia rising from his tattered, mutilated remains like an insect that had emerged from its cocoon.
A journey begins and a journey ends; that is inevitable. Whether the goal is met is an entirely different story, however. The aspiring young trainer's hopes and ambitions had been slaughtered and crushed, just like the Sandile his body rested upon. Colby's persistent lack of proper judgment had already gotten him into trouble today, and now he had paid the ultimate price for his folly.
The experiment was conducted. It was a failure. Dr. Kinsey… My eyes have seen things no human should ever have to witness, or experience for that matter. I promised her it would work, and she trusted me. I was too confident, too sure of myself. How could I have created this poison with my own hands? Now I'm just like them: a monster, a monster that corrupts and destroys innocent people. But unlike them, my work isn't "authorized". I'm practically a criminal, a murderer—it isn't fair. I have no choice but to continue my project in hiding, like a fugitive. I've stationed myself in an abandoned trainers' school deep within the forest north of Mistralton—I'm sure this building has faded from the memories of everyone in the Unova region. After what happened to Dr. Kinsey, there's no way I can look for volunteers. I'll have to resort to a more tactical approach.
I still don't understand what I did wrong. Everything was perfect, flawless. There's only one tiny thing I can think of, and it will be a challenge to meet the requirements. But I will keep working on this project until I get it right, no matter what I have to go through. To me, it's worth it. Team Plasma will be sorry for what they did to her.
Chapter Twenty-five - Betrayal
It was difficult for Dragon to form a solid opinion of Team Plasma. He had been suspicious of Ghetsis's abrupt announcement about the hybrids from the start, but he had pushed his skepticism to the back of his mind upon encountering Ben. I don't get it, he thought. The hybrids are obviously a real problem, so why wasn't Lord N informed? Better yet, why did Ghetsis lie to us about him approving the mission? Judging by how he reacted when he found out about the thing he calls Genesect, I wouldn't doubt that he'd support the project. Genesect's purpose confused him just as much—Dudley's original explanation seemed logical, but the truth made absolutely no sense. What could Team Plasma hope to accomplish with an insect revived from a fossil? Lord N has plans of his own, and he'd never resort to using something like that to accomplish his goals. There was undoubtedly something fishy going on among the Team Plasma officials.
Dragon shook his head as he trudged out of the laboratory. It's like I can't trust anyone anymore. I can't imagine how Lord N feels… betrayed by the people he trusted the most. Well, I'll show him that there's at least one person in Team Plasma who's still loyal to him. I won't let anything get in my way of capturing Genesect.
Archeops glided low to the ground, its eyelids drooping with exhaustion. Dragon pitied his Pokémon, but he knew there was nothing he could do about it. If Genesect tries to attack, he's my only hope. I'm not sure what I might be up against… Lord N made it sound dangerous. The grunt paused and started to speak softly to his Archeops. "You've been doing a great job today, buddy. When we get home, you can eat as many Babiri Berries as you want."
The First Bird Pokémon perked up when its trainer mentioned its favorite treat. "Kwwrrmm," it purred as it nuzzled him.
Dragon laughed. "Don't get too excited. We need to find that bug first. The sooner we catch it, the sooner we can go home. So, let's keep moving, okay?"
Archeops squawked happily and beat its wings with more enthusiasm. Dragon smiled, feeling accomplished. Mentioning food always seems to boost his morale. "Hey, Archeops, why don't you try flying up high and surveying the island? With luck, that will make things go a lot faster. If you see Genesect, come back and lead me to it."
The Pokémon dipped its head in acceptance and began to ascend. Dragon watched as Archeops disappeared into the night sky, and then turned to his C-Gear. I wonder what time it is. It must be pretty late. Right as he was about to check the time, Archeops's shrill voice rang out. The feathered creature, which was suddenly full of fervent energy, dived toward its trainer.
"Whoa!" Dragon shouted in amazement. "You didn't find it already, did you?" I guess Genesect didn't get very far. That means there's no way it could've drowned.
Archeops bobbed its head vigorously, and then took off into the wilderness. "Hey, wait up!" Dragon cried as he chased after it. To think I was telling him to move faster a few minutes ago. When the grunt finally caught up with his Pokémon, he noticed that it was floating over a dark, motionless shape. Dragon approached it cautiously, recognizing what it was right away. Archeops protectively hovered by his side.
"Genesect, I know you're not happy about what those people were talking about, but I really need you to go back to the laboratory. Believe it or not, Lord N is worried about you. Come on, I'll take you there." Dragon had a feeling the creature wouldn't listen to him, but he was also rather sure of his ability to comfort Pokémon. Genesect didn't appear to be in an aggressive mood, and he didn't want to risk angering it by having Archeops attack it.
Genesect raised its head, its bulbous red eyes glowing in the moonlight. "Wrrooggh," it growled crankily. Pushing itself onto all fours, it clumsily backed away.Dragon raised an eyebrow. He was sure it was a coincidence, but he noticed that the noise it made sounded oddly similar to the word no. "You're not trying to talk to me, are you? I wouldn't think that a three hundred million-year-old insect would know how to speak like a human."
The creature stopped moving for a second and glared at the grunt. Even though its expression stayed unchanged, Dragon could nearly feel the spite burning in its eyes. "What's wrong? Genesect, you don't understand. I'm just trying to help you. I don't think being stranded in the middle of an island will do you any good. Please come with me, Genesect." Lying through his teeth, he uttered, "I promise nothing bad will happen to you."
Seemingly ignoring the grunt's words, Genesect lowered its head and began shuffling backwards. Dragon dejectedly gazed at his Archeops. "It looks like we have no choice but to knock it out. I don't get why Genesect has to be so stubborn." He studied the purple insect, and deduced that based on its appearance, it was probably of the Bug and Steel types. Archeops doesn't know any Fire type moves, so this might be a bit of a challenge. I guess I'll have to whittle its health away with Rock Slide. Offensively, this thing could pose a bit of a threat to Archeops, since it might have some powerful Steel type moves up its sleeve. But then again, Lord N made it seem like it doesn't know what it's capable of. I guess we've just gotta see how this goes. "Archeops, let's see a Rock Slide!"
The First Bird Pokémon shrieked and summoned a shower of small boulders. Genesect, who didn't even attempt to dodge the attack, remained still and was buried beneath the rocks. Dragon waited in nervous anticipation for the modified Pokémon to make a move. Several heartbeats later, the stones began to tumble into the grass as Genesect slowly unearthed itself, completely unharmed. It was hard to tell, but the insect almost appeared impressed by its durability.
"What in the world?" Dragon exclaimed in surprise. That move clearly hit, and yet Genesect took absolutely no damage! The creature stared at him challengingly, like it was looking forward to seeing what would happen next. "If that's not going to work, let's try DragonBreath!"
Archeops launched a purple fireball from its mouth, and it flew toward Genesect's thorax. Much to Dragon's horror, the fiery orb buffeted off of the creature's chest and dissipated into the air. Genesect indifferently tilted its head forward, trying to get a look at its torso. Something isn't right here. I took down a Zekrom in a couple of hits, and yet I can't even scratch this thing. Just what kind of modifications did they give it? There's no way this is a normal Pokémon.
"If you want to hurt GMP156, that's not the way you do it." A booming voice echoed through the air as a fat shadow swam over the uninjured creature. Startled, Genesect jerked its head skyward. It watched in fear as a nightmarish-looking dragon swooped down beside it. The monster had three snapping heads, two of which were deformed and attached to the ends of its arms. A fleshy pink magenta frill wrapped around its dominant head. Its upper body was covered in bristly black hair, and six tendril-like wings sprouted from its back. Its legs, which seemed too small for its round body, dangled uselessly at its sides. It had a muscular tail that swung from side to side as it intently studied Dragon and his Archeops with its soulless eyes.
Seated on the Hydreigon's back was the last person Dragon would've wanted to run into. "Ghetsis?" the grunt gasped. "Why are you here? What are you talking about?" Archeops bared its teeth, immediately detecting its trainer's discomfort.
Ghetsis slid off of his Hydreigon. "Why do you think I'm here? I'm not going to let that foolish boy destroy my masterpiece."
Dragon's face turned hot with fury at Ghetsis's lack of respect for his leader. "You're nothing but a traitor," he growled, "just like the man who made the hybrids. If Lord N wants to put Genesect out of its misery, then we have no right to question him. This creature shouldn't have been created in the first place."
The official grinned. "You've got a lot of nerve, kid. You know, I raised that boy from birth. While I'm not his father by blood, I'm the only parent he's ever truly had. I taught him everything he knows, but he's still a child. There are a lot of things he doesn't know about the world. With that in mind, I feel as if I'm entitled to make some decisions for him." He eyed the metallic insect. "So, you're calling it Genesect now? How cute. Isn't it pointless to give it a nickname if it's going to be killed?" Genesect made a grumbling noise in response.
"Why did you make Lord N the king of Team Plasma, then?" Dragon inquired angrily.
"He's a figurehead. The boy is charismatic, I'll give him that. People are much more likely to listen to a fresh, young leader than someone old like myself. Most of Team Plasma's real work is done behind the scenes." Ghetsis stepped closer to Genesect. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be taking back what's rightfully mine." He reached for the barrel of its cannon and pressed the large, black button on top of it. The piece of yellow plastic popped out of its slot, and the creature slumped to its knees. It continued to fall forward until its head smashed against the ground.
"What the…" Dragon stammered in shock, "… what did you do to it?"
Ghetsis grabbed the piece of plastic and held it up in the air. "To put things simply, GMP156 is a cyborg. The Photon Blaster, which is what we've named the cannon on its back, is directly connected to its nervous system and is essentially a second brain." He waved the object in front of Dragon's face. "This drive is what powers its life functions, such as respiration and circulation. It also provides it with energy, which makes up for its defunct digestive system. The energy can additionally be released from its cannon in the form of a powerful laser, although it hasn't been trained to do that yet. It's like a battery powering a toy… well, a battery with a very long life. When it is removed, GMP156's body completely shuts down and it basically dies. But once the drive is replaced, GMP156 can be "rebooted" with no damage done. This is done sparingly, however; we assume that its internal structures would begin to decompose if it was dead long enough. I feel as if this is an appropriate time to remove it, though." He pointed at his Pokémon. "Fetch, Hydreigon."
The Brutal Pokémon let out a frightening roar and bit down on Genesect's arms with its secondary heads. Hydreigon clamped its dominant jaws around the back of the insect's head for extra support as it lifted Genesect into the air. "Good," Ghetsis praised emotionlessly as he climbed onto Hydreigon's back. He lightly kicked the monster's side. "Let's go." Hydreigon submissively lowered its head as it soared away.
"Don't you say a word about this to anyone," the green-haired man called, casting a threatening gaze down upon Dragon. "Interfering with official Team Plasma business was a dangerous move, and if any of this information gets out to N or anybody else, your life is on the line. Remember who's really in charge of Team Plasma; who truly holds the power."
The grunt hopelessly watched as Ghetsis vanished with the lifeless Genesect. He wanted to chase after him, but he couldn't bring himself to exert Archeops more. He figured he wouldn't stand a chance against the fearsome Hydreigon, anyway. Dragon glumly turned to his Pokémon, which was sharing his disappointment. "We did our best, Archeops. There's nothing else we can do. I guess we'll just have to tell Lord N what happened and hope he understands. Come on, let's head back."
Dragon couldn't get the image of Genesect literally having its life ripped out off of his mind. I know it's not dead for real, but great Arceus. How is that even possible? I've never seen anything like that. He thought it was strange how the Team Plasma officials constantly changed Genesect's story. First it was nothing more than a robot, then it was a technologically enhanced insect that had been revived from a fossil, and now it was a cyborg. He also found the intelligence the creature seemed to display slightly unnerving. It's like no one even knows what it is, or they're doing a bad job at hiding it. There was a bit of truth to each story, but they're all so different. What is Genesect, and what purpose is it really supposed to serve?
Chapter Twenty-six - Lost and Found
“Looks like I hit the jackpot.”
Aurelia wouldn’t have been surprised if she was hallucinating. She hung by the doorframe in disbelief, stunned with bliss. The Ditto, still assuming the shape of the purple insect, made a crowing noise as it scrambled to peek past her.
The room, which Aurelia presumed had once been a storage closet, was lined with rows of shoddy-looking white shelves. Covering these shelves were stacks upon stacks of economy crates filled with something the girl felt like she hadn’t seen in ages—food. Her mouth watered at the sight of cans of soup and bottled water and other things she would’ve thought of as unappetizing under normal circumstances. “Yo, Des!” she called, her voice stretched in exaggerated glee. “Get your butt over here. You’re not going to believe this.”
She cracked a smile, her eyes flitting from box to box. After I sent that Plasma freak running with her tail between her legs, today’s really been shaping up. This is great! All of this food is stuff that won’t expire for a long time… it’s like someone purposely left it here with the intent of storing it. There’s enough to last us months. In her excitement, Aurelia had nearly forgotten about their plan to leave the forest. Hell, we might just need to reconsider our strategy. If we find my bag, I’m sure I’ll be able to fend off any trespassers.
The hybrid entered the room and grabbed a small bag of pretzels from a box. “Hey, I’d feel much more comfortable if you ate these instead. It’s not very polite to eat people, y’know.” She carelessly tossed the object at the Ditto’s feet, which looked down at it in confusion. This could be a problem… if we’re going to stay here, we’ll need to keep this guy fed, or else he’ll go into his “devour anything that moves” mode. By the looks of it, he has a pretty big appetite. He’ll deplete our storage in no time… Of course, we’ll always be able to rely on Colby to get us more food, but we shouldn’t have to feed this thing in the first place. It’s such a waste… how can we make him go away?
The transformed Ditto lowered itself onto its knees and started to prod at the bag. It crushed and mashed the snacks inside with zeal, as if it was entertained by the crunching noises they made.
“Dude, don’t do that. We kind of really need this food,” Aurelia scorned as she swiftly swiped the bag from the Pokémon.
The purple insect lifted its head and set its fiery gaze on the hybrid. Still focusing on her, it shifted its body and pointed its cannon at the door. It growled quietly as beads of light gathered in the barrel and formed into a massive sphere. Producing a noise that sounded like nails on a chalkboard, the Ditto angrily fired the projectile and sent the door flying off its hinges. The heavy metal board crashed into the other end of the hall, creating a series of cracks in the wall.
Incredulously staring at the damage it had caused, Aurelia unquestioningly placed the bag of smashed pretzels back in front of the Ditto. The purple creature squealed joyfully and flipped the object into the air. Yeah, we definitely can’t keep this guy. I have to admit that the thing he did with his cannon was pretty impressive… I wonder if Destiny knows she can do that.
The other hybrid skittishly rushed into the room, still shaken from seeing the half-eaten Suicune. “What was that explosion?” Destiny cried, paying no attention to the boxes of food.
“Oh, nothing. Stalker Ditto was just having a little temper tantrum.” Aurelia spoke in a nonchalant tone, despite her growing concern. “Anyway, did you hear what I said a few minutes ago? Check out what I found.”
Destiny gasped when she took notice of the food. “Oh, g-gosh,” she stammered. The girl instantly began to laugh. “This is amazing! But what is it doing here?”
Aurelia shrugged. “Beats me. I guess whoever turned us into hybrids didn’t want to starve us.” She pulled a crate of canned pasta off of one of the shelves and dropped it on the ground. “Shall we eat?”
“Shouldn’t we go find Colby?” Destiny suggested.
The Arceus hybrid picked up a can of spaghetti and peeled back the tab. “Eh, we’ll get him later. He probably ate before he went out, so he can wait.” Once she had removed the lid, Aurelia held the can to her lips and let the soft pasta slide down her throat. The sauce was cold and sickeningly sweet, but she didn’t care. It was great to finally have something in her stomach.
“I guess I can’t argue with that,” Destiny snickered, reaching for a can of her own.
Once Aurelia had drained the can, she set it on the floor and grabbed another one. She continued to gorge herself until she couldn’t eat another bite. When she was finished, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and leaned against the wall in satisfaction.
“Man, am I stuffed!” Destiny announced, patting her full belly. “Where’s Colby? He’s gotta be done searching by now.”
“C’mon, we all know he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He probably got lost or something,” Aurelia mumbled.
“Let’s go look for him. I bet he’ll be happy to know he won’t have to buy us food for a long time,” Destiny instructed as she slowly rose to her feet.
Aurelia gave the Ditto, which was playfully batting at an empty can, a cold look. Unless we can figure out a way to get rid of him, that time might not be as long as we’d like. I suppose I could cram him into a Poké Ball and never let him see the light of day again. Well, if we find my bag, that is. And if we don’t for whatever reason, Colby could catch it instead. The hybrid didn’t completely understand how Poké Balls worked, but she understood that Pokémon were kept alive as long as they were inside of them. She theorized that they went into hibernation, or entered a state of suspended animation.
The girls headed past Aurelia’s wing and down the main hall, and the Ditto made sure to follow them. The purple creature was struggling to grip its beloved bag of pretzels between its two claws, so it momentarily dropped it and shifted into something with a functioning pair of hands—a Darkrai.
“Great, now I feel even more comfortable with you behind me,” Aurelia chided, watching as the creature picked up the object again. It growled quietly as it pulled on the sides of the package, causing the bag to split open. Much to the Ditto’s disappointment, the pretzel crumbs and grains of salt spilled onto the floor. It moodily tossed the empty bag aside, upset that it had destroyed its plaything.
That thing is pretty darn amazing, I have to say. He can freely morph into any Legendary Pokémon he wants, and also the critter Destiny was. If I was still a trainer, he’d make an unstoppable addition to my team. She sighed, glumly remembering how close she had been to becoming a Champion of the Unova region. I’d still like to know how he does it. Him being able to turn into Legendary Pokémon sort of makes sense, but what about the bug? Besides, I thought Ditto needed to have whatever they wanted to turn into right in front of them if they wanted to transform. This guy is like a living Pokédex.
“Colby? Are you there?” Destiny shouted when they reached the wing Colby had been assigned.
The hall remained silent.
“You better not be hiding from us. It isn’t funny. Get out here, kid.” Aurelia’s tone was much more unfriendly than the other hybrid’s. This is a little weird. It isn’t like him to act like this. He came rushing back to stand up for us against an enemy much stronger than him, and now he’s playing a dumb little game of hide and seek? I don’t get it.
There was still no response.
Destiny turned to Aurelia. “Why isn’t he saying anything?”
The Arceus hybrid rolled her eyes. “How am I supposed to know? Maybe he got tired of searching and fell asleep somewhere.” Aurelia marched up to a door and yelled, “You in there?” She opened it, only to find that the room was empty. Well, this is lovely. I was hoping that the only searching we’d have to do here would be for my bag.
She stepped over to another door, and was instantly struck by a sour, vaguely metallic odor. “What in the world? That almost smells like…” Her eyes widening, she instantly flung open the door. Aurelia began to curse violently as soon as she saw what was inside.
Taking up most of the room was the skeleton of a Lugia. Strips of mangled flesh clung to its bloodstained bones, and a bed of exposed but otherwise unharmed innards had begun to slide from its abdomen. Strangely, the organs were far too small to belong to a creature of its size. Sheets of skin, tattered bits of flesh, and what might have been large shreds of red fabric rested at the sides of its burst chest, and a flap of skin covered in what appeared to be shaggy golden hair hung from the back of its skull. Its esophagus had been messily ripped in half. For some reason, the bones that made up its tail were almost perfectly white. Judging by the condition of the body, it couldn’t have possibly been dead for long.
“Arceus,” Destiny panted, beginning to look ill. “Great Arceus!” She took a few staggering steps down the hall, and Aurelia quickly turned away as she vomited a pool of partially digested pasta. The girl returned and collapsed onto her knees a few steps away from the doorway. Utterly horrified and revolted, she buried her face in her arms and started to shriek and cry.
“Damn it,” Aurelia snarled, her eyes glued to the disfigured corpse. The Suicune was one thing, but this is absolutely disgusting. This doesn’t even make any sense. We’ve seen how that Ditto kills, and it looks nothing like this. What kind of Pokémon would flay its prey, slice the throat in half, eat every speck of meat off the tail, and leave the guts intact? And what is that thing on the back of its head? She finally looked at the Ditto, which looked just as shocked as she did. “You little son of a bitch, what did you do to it?”
The shadowy creature waved its arms frantically, distress flashing in its icy blue eye.
Aurelia suddenly noticed something draped over the Lugia’s nearly skeletal wing, and her heart began to pound as she squinted to get a better look. There was a thick strap slung over its shoulder, which connected to a large, maroon bag. She could also faintly see a sandy tan shape beneath the torso. “Oh, dear Arceus,” she quietly spat as she was hit with a realization. “I don’t know how this is possible, but that thing wasn’t a hybrid. That thing was Colby.”
“W-what are you saying?” Destiny whimpered in terror. Aurelia was surprised she could hear her over her screams. “Colby isn’t a hybrid!”
“Yeah, that’s what doesn’t make any sense. But, see for yourself. Look at the bag. Look at the hair. If you look close enough, you can even see his Sandile. That’s why he wouldn’t answer. He’s dead, damn it. That little idiot is dead.” Aurelia didn’t have a clue as to why a Lugia’s skeleton had taken the place of the boy’s bones. Had Colby been a hybrid all along? If that was true, then how did he die? Now that she had observed the corpse more closely, it seemed as if the Lugia skeleton had actually ripped through his body. It’s like he was supposed to turn into a Pokémon, but only his bones changed. I just don’t get it.
“No,” she choked in denial, refusing to lift her head, “that’s impossible. There’s no way that’s Colby. He isn’t dead. He can’t be!”
“Just accept it,” Aurelia growled, feeling an abrupt surge of fury. “People die every day; it’s an unavoidable part of life. Some people have died for crazier, even more perplexing reasons than this. Denying it won’t bring Colby back to life.”
“No!” the other hybrid screeched. “He was so young! He had his whole life ahead of him! He can’t be dead!”
“Are you really that stupid? Do you seriously think fate spares people just because they haven’t lived full lives? Ha, if only the world worked that way! My brother… if he were alive, he’d be Colby’s age. He passed when he was six years old. I didn’t see you crying when I told you he was dead. You’re only upset that Colby’s gone because he was going to bring us food and stuff. You’re selfish.”
“You’re calling me selfish?” Destiny wailed. “That’s funny, because you’re the most insensitive, arrogant bitch I’ve ever met! You don’t care about anyone else’s problems; you only want people to feel bad for you! You clearly don’t care that Colby is dead, if what you’re saying is even true, and you try to tell me I’m selfish because I’m emotional! You disgusting—”
“You don’t know what I’ve been through!” Aurelia roared fiercely. “I envy you. I envy you, and your perfect little life, and your perfect little family. You have no idea how lucky you are. You know, I heard what you said before Lynn attacked. You told me to “get over it”. Why don’t you take your own advice? Fate’s giving you a taste of what I’ve had to experience. Crappy things happen, and people die. Get used to it. You know what? We might’ve been able to prevent this if you hadn’t been so stubborn. Maybe Colby did this to himself; this is the building where we woke up, after all, so Arceus knows what kind of things he could’ve found here. He might’ve gotten a hold of some of the formula, and maybe he had some kind of freaky allergic reaction, or he used the wrong amount. If we had kept together, like I suggested, we could’ve stopped him. But, no—you have to oppose everything I say. This is your fault.”
Destiny tore at her hair, sobbing and sniffling. She turned her back to Aurelia, signifying that she wasn’t going to respond. “I can’t take this,” the hybrid whispered chokingly. Reiterating the words, she leaned forward and repeatedly bashed her head against the ground.
“Oh, please,” Aurelia scoffed, scowling. “You seriously need to grow up.” It was almost painful to watch the pathetic hybrid break down. Shaking her head, she left the room and stalked into the main hall, eager to get away from the stench that emanated from the far wing. Maybe it was wrong of me to fight with her. With Colby gone, we only have each other now. Creating drama will only make things harder for both of us, she mused. Heck, what am I saying? She had it coming. We’ll work this out later, hopefully.
Her thoughts scrambled, the Arceus hybrid anxiously paced back and forth down the hall. I should get some sleep. Maybe I’ll wake up, and it’ll turn out this was all just a dream. She paused to look for the Ditto, but to her surprise, it was nowhere to be found. What if the thing that happened to Colby wasn’t some kind of freak accident or bad reaction? What if the formula is normally faulty? What if that happens to me? She shuddered at the idea of her skin stretching and breaking as her skeleton shifted into that of her Pokémon form. Knowing how much fate likes me, I’m sure that’s the case. It’ll be the grand finale—the perfect way for me and my stupid life to go down in flames. Clenching her teeth, the Arceus hybrid rolled up her sleeves. Well, come on. There’s no need to wait. I’m ready, fate. Give me everything you’ve got.
Chapter Twenty-seven - Verdict
The Zekrom's studious gaze was fixed on N, and he clicked his teeth edgily as he waited for him to say something. His tall stature and challenging visage made it exceptionally difficult for the leader of Team Plasma to confront him. Growing impatient, the Zekrom decided to say, "Hello, sir. Dragon told me a lot about you. Before you let me know what you're going to do with me, I'd like to ask you some questions if it isn't trouble. I must say, I'm deeply interested in your organization and its goals." His tone was so casual that it sounded forced.
N felt like he was approaching Genesect all over again. He was deciding the fate of a being whose form had been corrupted through science, except this time the creature had a conscience and was capable of original thought. He was dealing with a human trapped in the body of a Pokémon; someone who possessed a complex and unique set of ideals and principles. Genesect, on the other hand, was a feral animal with nothing more than its primitive instincts for guidance. But in the end, they're one and the same: tainted organisms whose lives have been put in my hands. They're made up of genes and cells and flesh and blood, and the only things that make them different are the traits they've gained through evolution. Man's intelligence and dexterity are his weapons; Pokémon have other means of protecting themselves. Therefore, it would be unjust to let this hybrid's mental abilities influence my verdict.
Another thing that separated the hybrid from Genesect was his demeanor and behavior towards his altered form. Genesect had begun to fight and struggle wildly as soon as it was awakened, making it clear that it was suffering. The hybrid, however, seemed to remain calm and indifferent about the situation. Were their reactions affected by their intelligence and understanding, or was the hybrid truly better off than Genesect?
I just don't know what to do, N thought timorously. I can't sentence this boy to death. I can't sentence Genesect to death. I can't do it. I know that they may be threats to the environment; I know that they may be suffering. But even if it's the right decision, I won't be able to live with the burden of knowing I put an end to someone's life. Why do things like this have to exist? Why would anyone think that these twisted, broken organisms could be betterment for society? If Arceus intended for these creatures to walk the planet, it would have created them. The king of Team Plasma looked the Zekrom in the eye. The least I can do is fulfill this poor boy's wishes. Perhaps I'll be able to reach a conclusion during our talk. "I'd be happy to answer your questions," N finally said.The hybrid nodded in acceptance. "I was told that Team Plasma strives to completely separate humans from Pokémon. Why is this? What are your motivations? How do you think this will benefit the Unova region?"
N froze. As he tried to formulate a response, horrible imagery flashed through his mind: Pokémon with broken necks; Pokémon with shredded ears and gouged-out eyes; Pokémon so emaciated that they were little more than skeletons; Pokémon with gangrenous wounds and blisters and burns. They were all Pokémon that had been heartlessly abandoned by their trainers; Pokémon that Ghetsis had given N to play with; Pokémon that had died in front of him. He could feel rage livening inside of him like a pillar of flame; anger and emotion that had been building up in the recesses of his mind since he was a child. "It's my destiny," was all he managed to utter. His voice was surprisingly relaxed compared to the fury he was feeling inside.
The Zekrom blinked vacantly. "I don't understand."
"I'm sorry." N sighed, silently reprimanding himself. "What I mean is that I've spent my entire life being prepared to lead Team Plasma. Ghetsis, my father, found me abandoned in Lostlorn Forest. He took me in and taught me everything I know, and he exposed the evils of Pokémon trainers to me. Everyone believes that humans and Pokémon coexist in equilibrium, but that's a terrible misconception. I've seen the truth. Humans think of themselves as superior to Pokémon, and they assert their dominance by using them like tools. There is a broad spectrum of humans in this world, and they each use Pokémon for different purposes. The most devious of these purposes is by far the one most commonly associated with Pokémon—battling for the sake of their trainers' pleasure, as if it's some kind of game or competition. It's a sickening custom that has somehow integrated itself into the lifestyles of everyone in the Unova region. Under any circumstance, humans force Pokémon to do things without their consent. While this is unacceptable to begin with, battling takes it the extra mile; Pokémon are injured, or in some cases killed, and there's no way for them to speak against it. I'm not like most humans. I can hear the voices of Pokémon… I can hear them screaming, crying for liberation. I'd be dead if it weren't for Ghetsis, and I like to think I was rescued for a reason. I'll be their savior. With the help of Team Plasma, I want trainers to hear the wrongs of their actions. I want to put an end to Unova's deafness."
The hybrid huffed loudly. "There are a lot of bad people out there, but the world's evil is offset by its good. I think you're generalizing. True, Pokémon abuse and mishandling is becoming far too common; it's happening all around us. When I first saw Genesect, I was just as disgusted as you were. I agree that something should be done about people who do things like that. Saying that all Pokémon trainers are evil and cruel to their Pokémon is a stretch, though. You know that kid named Dragon, the one who's out looking for Genesect? You can't tell me he doesn't love his Archeops. If he really did treat it poorly, why does it listen to him? Most trainers do honor the ideals of their Pokémon, and I believe that Pokémon enjoy cooperating with them as a whole. If you separated trainers and Pokémon like that, you'd be breaking close friendships. Do you really think that will do the world any good? Please take this into consideration." He swiveled his head over to the table Genesect had once been strapped to. "It's interesting how you say Ghetsis taught you all those things, seeing as he was in on the Genesect project. Why would you invest all your trust in a liar who can't even support his own beliefs?"
N was beginning to feel uncomfortable. He was the king—he wasn't used to people questioning his authority and ambitions. Everyone in Team Plasma looked up to him and treated him with honor and loyalty, or at least that was how it had been before today. He still couldn't figure out why Ghetsis had gotten involved in Genesect's modifications, or why he had tricked Team Plasma into thinking N supported the extermination of the hybrids. Despite this, the young man wasn't ready to lose faith in his adoptive father. He understood that Ghetsis had strange ways of getting his thoughts across to him, so he suspected that the man had something else planned.
"I understand that benign, virtuous trainers exist. And yes, it hurts me that I'll have to break such special bonds. Unfortunately, I feel that they are not as common as you make them out to be. Dragon is a poor example of a good trainer—it's evident that he has been overworking his Pokémon. There's a reason why Pokémon obey their trainers no matter what. They are incapable of thinking for themselves, so they look to their masters for instruction. That's the way their brains work, and humans have taken advantage of this by callously manipulating them to follow their commands. It's a shame." N continued, "The world is made up of many kinds of people, but no one's morals are wholly black or white. No human is purely good, and no human is purely evil. That's what makes our species so infinitely fascinating—we go beyond merely focusing on the instincts we need for survival. Pokémon do not have these things we call morals or values; they do what they need to do to keep themselves alive, or else they let their masters make their decisions for them. But where do our values come from? What compels us to hold our beliefs in such high regards, to make our choices, to carry out our actions? Where does all of this stem from?"
The Zekrom took a moment to digest what N had said. "You say that Pokémon are begging for freedom, and yet you believe Pokémon can't think for themselves? That doesn't make a lot of sense. If anyone can't think for himself, that would be you. You let Ghetsis feed you a load of bull, and you're taking it to heart. That dude's a joke; the proof is all around you. You seem like a pretty smart guy, so why do you feel the need to cling to that hypocritical bigot? It's ironic how you think it's so amazing that we can make our own decisions, and yet you've let someone else shape your ideals. Eh, I won't try to change your mind. If you're as intelligent as you seem, I'd expect you to be able to analyze the situation and realize how much of a mistake you're making."
N timidly adjusted his shirt collar. "I'm not blindly following Ghetsis. I know what he taught me is true, because I've seen it with my own eyes. I've seen things…" his voice trailed off as the terrible visions flickered through his head again, "… I've seen things that could make even the most hardened man cringe. You're so very lucky that you haven't been exposed to these things, but at the same time, I pity you. You've been indoctrinated to believe that humans see Pokémon as equals, just like the rest of society. It's depressing that others can't see the truth like me."
"Whoa, now, hang on a second. I don't know, but I think you're the one who's been indoctrinated. I'm sure you've seen some pretty nasty things, but like I said, you can't think they're normal." The hybrid shook his head, a half-amused look on his face. "You know what? This isn't getting anywhere. We're right back at the beginning again, and I guess we've just gotta assume that neither of us are right. Why don't we just change the subject and move on?" He cleared his throat, which was strange considering that he was speaking through his mind. "How exactly do you plan on completely separating Pokémon from humans? That sounds like a pretty unrealistic goal if you ask me."
N was relieved that he didn't want to continue the conversation. "Are you familiar with the folktale about the Great Dragon?"
"Why, yes. I'm pretty sure everyone in the Unova region has heard that old story. What are you trying to say?" The Zekrom looked puzzled.
"I plan on reassembling the Great Dragon," N explained. "For centuries, we've believed that there is no way for Reshiram and Zekrom to recombine. Truth is, we've merely forgotten a crucial component of the equation. I theorize that Kyurem, the vicious monster whose name alone strikes fear in the hearts of the residents of Lacunosa Town, is actually an empty vessel that was once filled with the power of Zekrom and Reshiram. According to the legend, Reshiram and Zekrom will be resurrected from their dormant states when they recognize the arrival of a great hero. Once I obtain the Light and Dark Stones, the dragons will acknowledge that I am to be the savior of the Unova region and they'll spring from the petrified orbs. I will bring then to the Giant Chasm, where they'll fuse with Kyurem and become the Great Dragon. Using the Great Dragon's powers, I'll create separate worlds for human and Pokémon." It felt good to finally release what was on his mind, even though he was talking to an individual who defiantly opposed his beliefs. "I will bring black and white together and create gray; a perfect balance of value. And then I will take humans and Pokémon, black and white, apart, so that the world may truly be in equilibrium."
The hybrid kept silent for a minute. He then snorted in bemusement, "That's your plan? Really? Well, I suppose it's just as rational as your beliefs. Your theory about Kyurem is certainly interesting; it may just be the most reasonable thing you've said all day. As for everything else… how do you expect to get your hands on the Dark and Light Stones? Do you know how well protected they are?"
"I can't say I know where the Dark Stone is located," said N, "but I believe its opposite may be in reach. I've been doing plenty of research on the subject. Trust me: I know what I'm talking about."
"Well, what good would it be if you only had the Light Stone? I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have any luck if you tried fusing only Reshiram with Kyurem. Even if you did find both of the Stones, do you really expect that the dragons will think an extremist like you is a hero? And in case you didn't realize, there's a reason why the people of Lacunosa Town are so freaked out by Kyurem. It's a fricking man-eating monster. You'd probably be in the thing's stomach before you got a chance to figure out if it's actually part of the Great Dragon. It's just a myth, anyway; it's likely that it's not even true. If you want to waste your time and risk your life on this crap, go ahead. I won't stop you."
An idea had crossed N's mind, which made it difficult for him to pay attention to the hybrid's scornful drawl. The creature standing in front of him, the creature that he had been debating with for the past several minutes, was assuming the shape of a Zekrom—the dragon whose soul had formed the missing Dark Stone. N didn't understand the physiology of hybrids, or how they were able to exist in the first place. He knew the hybrid wasn't the real Zekrom, but could be possibly be used in place of the Dark Stone? If he could use the hybrid instead, he would be saved from a lot of work and research. That's wrong, though, N told himself. I would be using an altered organism as a shortcut, just like what I was intended to do with Genesect. This is different, though. He isn't suffering, so it would be immoral to put him to death. If anything, I'd be giving this broken creature purpose. If I can get him to work with Team Plasma, he could be carefully monitored so he doesn't hurt anyone or anything. If this works, I think I may have deduced the perfect solution.
"You," N gasped abruptly, cutting off the ranting hybrid, "you're Zekrom."
The Zekrom gave him a funny look. "It took you this long to figure that out?" He paused, cold realization dampening his expression. "Wait a second. Oh boy, I don't like the sound of this."
"I've reached my verdict. I'm sparing you," the king of Team Plasma announced. "In your current state, you are an outcast to society. There's no way you'd be able to fit in among humans. If you work with me, you'll have something to live for. You'll be given purpose, reason—just like I was when Ghetsis took me in. Together, we'll accomplish something great."
The hybrid grinned sardonically. "You're nuts, you know that? Absolutely nuts. Me, being used to reconstruct the Great Dragon? That's crazy talk. What makes you think I'll function like the real Zekrom? I'm not the real Zekrom. I'm just a human, a human who looks like Zekrom."
"I'm not sure, not yet. Right now, there's no way to prove that you won't be able to be used in the creation of the Great Dragon. If I'm wrong, I'll try again. There's no harm in that, is there? I'll never stop following my dream until it comes true." N smiled brightly, ignoring the Zekrom's bewildered voice. "Have you ever had a dream? Something you crave so desperately, but it never seems to be in reach? Something you'd be willing to sacrifice anything for? Don't you know how it feels? It might be a massive struggle, but it's worth it to see all your hard work pay off in the end. Nothing beats the sweet taste of success."
The hybrid peered out of the gap in the wall, as if something outside had caught his attention. He scoffed, "Of course I had a dream. I wanted to research Pokémon, and perhaps become a Pokémon doctor like my mom and dad. But that's all gone now. When I first found out that I had become a hybrid, I was amazed. Heck, I was overjoyed. I thought of it as a unique research opportunity—I mean, how often do people get to see through the eyes of a Legendary Pokémon? But damn it, it got old real fast. After being pummeled by boulders, having my wings and ass scorched, receiving death threats, learning that I'll never get to return to my normal life, and being dragged into some crazy experiment, I'm not exactly digging it anymore. You've gotta stop living with your head in the clouds, buddy. Dreams don't always come true."
The grunt named Dragon slunk through the hole, his shoulders hunched and his head bent forward. The way he held himself made it evident that he had failed. "Lord N," he said quietly, "Genesect got away. There was nothing I could do to stop it."
"What do you mean?" N inquired, concerned. The grunt's sudden arrival had distracted him from the hybrid's story. "What happened?"
"Ghetsis took it. He made his Hydreigon carry it away, and I don't know where they went." Dragon was very jumpy, like he was afraid to say anything else.
The Zekrom smirked contemptibly and gave N a derisive look, which caused the king of Team Plasma to scowl. "I don't understand," he muttered plainly, trying to avoid egging the hybrid on. "Thank you, Dragon. I am grateful for your effort. Since you're already here, can I ask something of you?"
"What is it, my lord?" Dragon looked frightened.
N replied with a warm smile, "I think it's finally time to put my plan in motion. I want you to retrieve the Light Stone."