Fight or Flight
Bursts of water cascaded off of Destiny's head, dripping down her bulbous eyes and seeping into the gaps between her teeth. The hybrid wheezed as her consciousness gradually returned, struggling to expel the liquid from her lungs. Blistering pain continued to fiercely throb throughout her body, which felt as if it had become twice as heavy. A figure was crouched in front of her, but she couldn't make out what it was through her blurry vision. Destiny lifted one of her arms and attempted to rub her eyes, only to remember that it had become metallic and inflexible. "Grrrghh," the insect groaned in frustration.
Darkness enveloped her sight, and Destiny realized that the figure was dabbing at her face with something soft. Surprisingly, she didn't find it irritating or uncomfortable; her unblinking red eyes were not sensitive and appeared to be made out of the same material as the rest of her body. The figure pulled back, leaving misty smudges across her vision. "You've got some freaky-ass eyes, you know that?" It took her a few seconds to identify the speaker as Aurelia. Hearing the other hybrid's voice made everything come back to her; memories of Colby's disfigured corpse and the enraged Ditto's fiery assault were sent tumbling through her brain. Overwhelmed, Destiny let out a strangled cry.
Aurelia, who was gripping a half-empty bottle of water, exclaimed, "Calm down, will ya? What in the world happened to you? Did you spontaneously combust or something?" It was odd to see the unfriendly hybrid showing concern for once, as if she had no recollection of her furious outburst. Destiny wasn't sure if she could forgive her for that. Her injuries must have been terribly severe if the spiteful Aurelia felt the need to tend to them, which wasn't a pleasant thought. "You'll probably be fine; my Pokémon have gotten hurt like this plenty of times before, and they turned out all right."
Where is the Ditto? Paranoia spiking in her heart, Destiny slid her head from side to side as she tried to survey her surroundings. After seeing what the Transform Pokémon did to the Suicune hybrid, she was sure it would have made a meal out of her as well. Then again, Destiny was covered from head to toe in sturdy armor; since the Ditto already had two fresh carcasses to feed off of, it probably wouldn't be worth the trouble of peeling off her exoskeleton. Not knowing where the Ditto was still made Destiny ill at ease. There was something distressing about the thought that the malevolent creature could be anywhere, assuming any shape...
Imposter! Destiny let out a panicked screech as she lashed out at Aurelia, grazing her ankle. The way she had been acting was awfully uncanny, which gave the insect hybrid all the more reason to believe something wasn't right. However, as she knew very little about Pokémon, she failed to recognize that Ditto were typically incapable of human speech no matter how well disguised they were. It also hadn't occurred to her that it would be equally unlikely for the destructive Transform Pokémon to want to help her.
"Hey! What the hell was that all about?" Aurelia yelped, staggering backwards as she inspected her wound. She then set her cold jade gaze on the other hybrid. "Look. I know you're mad at me, but I'm trying to help you, damn it. You would've been burnt to a crisp if I hadn't stepped in. I'd prefer not to share this place with three dead bodies; it's going to start to smell."
Destiny apologetically bowed her head, frightened by the girl's harsh tone. Only Aurelia would say something that insensitive. I guess that means she's the real deal. Debunking her theory did little to reassure the metal insect; the Ditto was still missing. "Wrrriiiooooggh," she warned timidly, carefully annunciating each syllable.
"Pardon? I don't speak giant bug." Aurelia winced as she applied pressure to her sore ankle. "If I can use telepathy, you probably can, too. It's not too hard to figure out; it's like talking, except you don't use your voice."
Destiny was unfamiliar with the term "telepathy", but she guessed that was what let Aurelia communicate in her Arceus form. How could someone speak without a voice and still be heard? She didn't bother questioning something she knew so little about. Very few things about Pokémon made sense to her, which made her glad to have decided against becoming a trainer. Can you hear me now? Destiny thought as she visualized the words slithering out of her head and into Aurelia's. She expectantly stared up at the girl, who retaliated by mirroring her expression.
"Well?" Aurelia impatiently crossed her arms. Destiny lowered her head somberly, to which the other girl murmured, "You're hopeless. How good are you at charades?"
I barely know how my body works, so what makes you think I'd be able to do that? The insect's stiff joints and lack of digits greatly limited her movement, which made even walking a difficult task. As demonstrated earlier, the only form of communication she was capable of was scratching words into the dirt, but that was out of the question seeing as the floor was covered in marble tiles.
Destiny knew that they needed to leave the building as soon as possible; keeping safe from the dangers lurking behind every corner far outweighed the promise of a full belly. At this point, she could care less whether Aurelia came with her or not. While her Pokémon expertise was valuable, Destiny would've loved to put as much distance between the two of them as possible. She'd work on figuring out what to do for food and shelter later.
At that moment, the hybrid was crossed by a memory from when she had first encountered her two companions. After meeting up with her and Colby, Aurelia immediately asked where they were. The now deceased boy reported that they were in a forest north of Mistralton City, which was where Destiny lived. If she could find her way back to civilization, perhaps she could seek refuge in her house. Surely her parents would accept that their daughter had turned into a human-sized insect? There's a reason why I chose not to go off on my own earlier. It's risky, but it's gotta be a better option than sticking around here. Heading home may be my only hope.
She stretched her leg, trying her best to ignore the shooting pain. Slowly rising to her feet, Destiny did everything she could to avoid collapsing. Why was this creature's upper body so disproportionate to its other half? It made her wonder how actual members of the species lived with the awkwardness. I can see why this thing apparently doesn't exist in the wild. Once she was standing on two feet, she began to laboriously lumber down the hall.
"Where do you think you're going?" Aurelia inquired halfheartedly, effortlessly catching up with the other hybrid. Destiny rotated her head and shot her a look of annoyance. "Going to get a snack? You're probably hungry, since you, ah, lost your supper. How does that bug-thing even eat? I've never seen you with your mouth open."
Destiny's lingering hunger pangs were the least of her concerns, especially since it was true that her mouth was permanently sealed in a grin. This furthered her doubt in the creature's ability to live a normal life. She loathed this particular trait of its appearance more than anything else—its expression remained dreadfully gleeful no matter what thoughts were circulating under its metal shell. This perpetual smile had undoubtedly been carved on her face when she was first met with the horror of her transformation, when she was forced to sit through Aurelia's pitiless mockery, and when she was set ablaze by the rampaging Ditto. The thought of it frustrated the hybrid to no end.
Without acknowledging Aurelia's comments, Destiny wordlessly made her way down the main hall and limped into the next corridor. Relief fluttered through her heart when the set of doors leading to the forest came into view. Enthusiasm returning to her weary mind, she picked up her pace. Just a few more steps and I'll never have to look at this hell house again.
Aurelia froze, tilting back her head. Beaming sardonically, she shouted, "Ah, I was wondering where you disappeared to. I can't say I missed you very much, though. You didn't raid the storage closet while I was gone, did you?"
Destiny's heart dropped. She didn't have to look up at the ceiling to know who Aurelia was talking to, and frankly she didn't want to. Why does this have to happen? Destiny begged, taken over by a crushing feeling of defeat. I was… so close! It's all over now. If that thing attacks again, there's no way I'll make it through. She despondently let herself crumple to the ground, her limbs splaying out and her torso slamming against the hard tiles.
"Hey, Des? You okay? It's just the Ditto. I already told you that he has no reason to hurt us." Aurelia bent down and began to prod at the other hybrid's shoulder, only to be interrupted by a vicious growl. The lavender blob, who was hanging from the center of the ceiling, stretched its gelatinous body as it began to ooze towards the ground. It hissed sharply as a draconic snout protruded from its face and extended into a serpentine beast with cunning yellow eyes and radiant emerald scales. Releasing a grumbling roar, it gaped as a sphere of cyan light materialized in its cavernous maw.
"Oh, son of a bitch!" the brunette screamed, diving into a nearby room and slamming the door shut. "Of course… I'm such an idiot. The Ditto was what set you on fire—but why in the name of Arceus would he do that? Did you do something to make him mad?"
Destiny could barely hear Aurelia's voice over the noise generated by the Rayquaza's attack. She knew inside that she was to blame for the Ditto's brutal behavior, and she regretted attacking it wholeheartedly. She'd rather suffer through countless nightmares than have to deal with what was about to be thrown at her—as real as they felt, dreams were merely illusions. The hybrid knew well enough that the Ditto's attacks induced real pain.
Her only hope of avoiding the transformed Ditto's attack would be joining Aurelia in the safety of the room, but there was no way she would be able to lug her bulky body there in time. The insect braced herself, preparing to be swamped by another devastating wave of flame. Reaching its limit, the Rayquaza unleashed its mighty attack. The force of the blow rammed her into the floor and swept over her like a wicked gale, but aside from minor soreness, the hybrid was unharmed. … That was it? The Ditto eyed her suspiciously, nearly as stunned as Destiny was.
Aurelia peeked out from the room, examining the scene blankly. "Damn, it didn't vaporize you? Props to you. You look like a Steel-type, so that would explain your resistance to what I can only assume was a Dragon-type move. You should probably think about attacking it before it uses something more effective. Try shooting it with your cannon; it would be a shame to let that thing go to waste." She promptly closed the door again.
What does she think I am, her Pokémon? Destiny was mildly offended, but she accepted that Aurelia was a seasoned trainer and knew better than she did. It surprised her to hear valid advice from her rude companion. She probably just wants me to save her ass, she concluded. The insect was clueless as to how her cannon worked—it was certainly different from simply jabbing at her foes with her claws. The hybrid leaned forward and aimed the barrel at the Rayquaza, silently wishing that something would happen. She locked her focus on the cannon, imagining a powerful laser flying from its mouth and singeing the bloodthirsty Ditto just as she had pictured her telepathy successfully working. Destiny could feel heat gathering beneath her armor, which made excitement burst through her veins. I think I've got this!
Destiny let loose the energy seconds before the Rayquaza howled ferociously and charged her—but to her astonishment, the blast escaped from the soles of her feet instead of her cannon. She was forcefully propelled forward, sending her skidding beneath the serpent's belly as sparks leaped into the air. Great Arceus! Destiny cried mentally before she collided with the pair of doors at the far end of the wing. The jets at the bottoms of her feet shorted out as she dazedly recovered from the crash. What in the world just happened? Momentarily distracted from the Ditto, she quickly sat up, lifted one of her legs, and examined her foot. She had never taken notice of the odd circular devices implanted in her soles, which appeared to function similarly to rockets. Well, that's pretty useful. Why didn't I know about this earlier? It struck her that this was most likely the creature's main mode of transportation—although it was challenging to control, it gave her much more momentum than when she used her legs.
The Rayquaza's tail slapped against the wall as it swerved, its long body snaking behind it as it bolted in Destiny's direction. She ineffectively scrabbled at the door's handle, throwing herself into the soft grass when she finally managed to get it open. Charging up another round of energy, she pointed her feet at the building as she prepared for takeoff. The Ditto abruptly smashed through the wall, hurling rubble into the air. Startled, she involuntarily launched herself forward. Twisting and careening to avoid running into trees, the hybrid screeched as she soared through the forest. Scraggly stems whipped her face as her body grinded against the uneven soil. Destiny veered to dodge a large rock, but miscalculated her distance and ran it over. The insect was sent tumbling out of the woods and into a patch of weeds.
Her body aching, Destiny fought to pull herself up. Good Arceus, I wish this thing had brakes; seems like the only way to stop is to hit something. She regarded her surroundings, letting out a joyful squeal when she realized she had made it out of the forest. Aurelia was nowhere to be found, but it didn't matter. Civilization, and the prospect of returning to the safety of her home, was only a few strides away. Deciding not to resort to using her jet propulsion devices, the hybrid eagerly stumbled through the field. As she started to near the edge of the patch, she was greeted with a thunderous roar.
Destiny made a choking noise. He's… still following me? How did he find me? I was sure I lost him! The Rayquaza dove at her, sweeping her off the ground in its monstrous talons. The insect struggled and cried as the dragon held her up to its mouth, its hot breath buffeting off of her armor. The transformed Ditto opened its jaws and clamped its fangs around Destiny's head. A creaking crunch sounded as it bit down, driving its teeth into her exoskeleton. The hybrid let herself go limp; she knew this was a battle she wouldn't win. I tried, she pitifully told herself as the beast increased its pressure. At least I tried. A gunshot rattled the air.
The Rayquaza made moaned horribly as it plummeted to the earth, letting the petrified Destiny slip from its grasp. The life draining from its body, it reverted to its true form before splattering against the ground. The insect landed on the corpse, her fall partially cushioned by the Ditto's soft body. Too shocked to process what had just happened, she kept still, her red eyes staring up at the night sky.
"Damn monsters still haven't learned their lesson." The voice sounded strikingly familiar, but for a moment Destiny thought nothing of it. As a tall figure began to near her and the slain Ditto, a revelation surfaced in her mind. … Dad? Dad, is that you?
He was a stern, heavily built man with scruffy blond hair and a thick beard. Dressed in a sweat-stained white t-shirt and a pair of jeans, he had a shotgun in his hands. Seeing him wield the weapon so freely made Destiny uncomfortable; hunting was a hobby of her father's, but it was unlike him to do it so close to the city. As far as she knew, no one was authorized to hunt there. Couldn't he get arrested for firing a gun in such a metropolitan area? He bent down, sticking his finger into the gelatinous remains and swirling it pensively. "Huh, never seen this happen before."
Dad! Destiny exclaimed silently, her grin reflecting her feelings for once. Dad killed the Ditto! He saved me! Disoriented, she stood up and toddled over to him, her arms stretched wide.
The man lifted his gaze and knit his brows. "Good Arceus, another one? Don't know how I didn't see it. They just keep coming, don't they?" Destiny's heart skipped a beat when her father pointed the gun at her forehead. Dad, what are you doing? Dad, no! It's me, Destiny! It took her that long to remember that there was no way he would be able to recognize her—and now that it had occurred to her, there was no way for her to tell him that his daughter was beneath the insect's metal armor. She had a suspicion that he wouldn't wait for her to scribble a message in the dirt. After all she had been through, was she really going to die at the hands of her own father? It would take too much time to fire up her jets; she had no choice but to watch as the man prepared to pull back the trigger.
Pounding footsteps and a frantic yell broke the tension. "Put that down! Don't shoot! That's my Pokémon!" Panting, Aurelia flung herself onto the scene. How in the world… why would she do this? I thought she hated me! First Aurelia had tended to her wounds, and now she had saved her life. What had caused her to change her attitude?
Alarmed, Destiny's father lowered the shotgun as the girl hurried over to his daughter. "Is it? Uh, I apologize, miss. There've been so many monsters showing up in the outskirts of the city… hard to tell 'em apart from regular Pokémon sometimes, and I don't want to take any chances." He gave the two of them a closer look. "Never seen a Pokémon like that before… and you don't look much like a trainer to me. What were you doing in the forest? Didn't you see that dragon? You sure you're telling the truth? Those monsters are real tricksters… can't trust anyone with 'em around."
"Whoa now, what's this about monsters?" Aurelia had a genuine look of bewilderment on her face, which reminded the insect of when she had tricked Lynn into letting her attack her Galvantula. It was sometimes difficult for Destiny to tell when she was acting and when she was being sincere, which made it even harder for her to believe the farfetched tale about her family. "I didn't see anything. I was doing some training, that's all. My Pokémon is a rare species that only lives in the Kanto region, which is why you've never seen anything like her before. She's not very smart, and she decided to wander away from me when I was trying to catch a Pidove. I had to drop my bag and run after her when I noticed she was gone." Laughing nervously, she glanced at the hybrid. "Ha, that was a close one, wasn't it?"
Ignoring the subtle insult, Destiny played along by replying, "Wrraaaggh." If only Aurelia would make the connection between her and her father! She admitted that they only had a few physical traits in common—the mild-looking Destiny barely resembled her gruff and burly father. She remembered telling Aurelia that she lived in Mistralton, but that meant absolutely nothing. Although it wasn't an enormous city, its population was far from miniscule. This man could have been anyone.
"Monsters…" Destiny's father mumbled with little emotion, "… don't know why they're here and what they want from us, but they keep crawling out of the woods and showing up here in Mistralton. Far as I know, there ain't any Zoroark dens 'round here… must be some kind of shapeshifting forest demon. They disguise themselves as human children, and once you let your guard down, they change into Legendary Pokémon. Seen at least five of the things today, and I shot down all of 'em. Things are dangerous… they stole my little girl; probably skinned her alive and gobbled her up. That's why I've made it my personal mission to kill every last one of 'em. Gotta avenge my daughter… gotta keep my city safe."
"Wrrrllggh!" Destiny yowled, unable to restrain herself. I'm okay, Dad! I'm right here! It filled her with horror to discover that her own father had slaughtered several of her kind, all over her disappearance. He almost murdered her for the same reason. Finding out that he was claiming innocent lives and risking getting in trouble with the law pierced the hybrid's heart like a bullet. Her father wasn't a criminal! Knowing that there was nothing she could do to intervene hit her even harder. She wanted to bury her face in the grass and weep, but she couldn't bring herself to do even that. Destiny prayed that the other hybrid would put the pieces together.
"Guess that means this nut isn't working with Team Plasma. Maybe I can talk some sense into him," Aurelia muttered under her breath, shaking her head solemnly. Bad move, bad move! Don't do it! Destiny screamed in her head. Her father was a notoriously stubborn individual who rarely let others shape his opinions. Raising her voice, the Arceus hybrid argued, "I have no clue what you're talking about, but have you actually seen the hy—monsters doing any of that stuff, or are you just making assumptions? You can't just go around killing things because they're strange and different."
The man narrowed his eyes, a scowl forming on his face. "Say no more. I ain't stupid. I know you ain't who you say you are. Nothin' but a couple of monsters, that's what you really are." He threateningly held up his shotgun and got ready to shoot, but then hesitated guiltily. "If you value your lives, get the hell out of my city and don't even think about showing your faces here again. If I ever see you two in Mistralton, I'll make sure both of you suffer. Get out before I change my mind and shoot you now."
"Will do, sir," Aurelia said calmly, disguising any sign of fear. She had learned better than to fight with a man bearing a gun. Glaring at Destiny, she wordlessly grabbed her arm and pulled in the direction of the forest, but the insect didn't move an inch. Overcome by weakness, her legs buckled. Hearing such threatening words coming from her father's mouth was too much to bear. Why did he choose to spare them? She wished she could wrap her arms around him and cry, but at the same time she wanted to get as far away from him as possible. Not being able to say or do anything was maddening.
"What the hell's the matter with you? Do you want to be killed?" Aurelia hissed, tugging harder. The man drummed his fingers against the shotgun, growing impatient. Too devastated to resist anymore, Destiny submitted and stumbled after the rash girl. Staggering sideways, she kept her eyes on her father, who scornfully observed them for a few moments before turning his back to them and walking away. The hybrid whimpered sorrowfully as he disappeared from sight.