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  1. #46
    Platypus Saleswoman Ahnyo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly

    I finally got around to updating the order of the chapters. I didn't actually move anything around; I simply edited the table of contents and changed the titles. The chapters may still be read in the order they're posted on this thread; they just won't be as evenly distributed. I've also posted new drafts of both "Paralysis" and "Broken". I'm eventually going to move the character profiles onto this topic, too. Now that summer has begun for me, I'll most likely be a lot more active. I can't promise that "In Plane Sight" (which is, in fact, a pun rather than a typo... the chapter involves an airplane... yeah, lame, I know) will be out soon, but I'll try to get it finished when I can.



  2. #47
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly

    In Plane Sight


    "Seriously, what the hell were you thinking? Were you not listening when I went over why it'd be a bad idea to go to Mistralton City?" Aurelia, who was still clutching Destiny's arm tightly, turned and glowered at the insect as they sprinted through the overgrowth.
    Destiny's breath came out in heavy gasps. The wall of incisors guarding her sealed mouth made breathing a battle, as most of the air she tried to expel from her lungs rebounded off of her teeth. If this creature couldn't open its mouth to eat, what was the point in even having one? Aurelia functioned fine without a mouth in her Arceus form from what Destiny could tell. It was yet another addition to her growing list of things that made no sense about the Pokémon she was fused with; it was becoming more and more evident that something was terribly wrong with the insect. A creature so ungainly and awkward couldn't possibly bear the title of "Legendary", could it?

    It's not like I chose to go there! Destiny protested in her head, even though it had been her intention all along. While her accidental discovery of the jets in the soles of her feet provided her with a new mode of transportation, she was clueless about how to control them. She had a suspicion that she had been using them improperly during her flight from the abandoned building; although her metal exoskeleton gave her some protection, sliding across the ground on her belly like a penguin with a jetpack was not very comfortable. Then again, she wouldn't have been surprised if this was indeed the way the devices were supposed to be harnessed; everything else about the insect confused her, so why should she expect this to be any different?

    The hybrid still hadn't recovered from her encounter with her vengeful father. Though it had all been a misunderstanding, his harsh words painfully drove in the idea that Destiny was no longer welcome in the city she had lived in her entire life. It stung to think that even her family, who had always been there to support her, had turned their backs on her. She was truly an outcast; a monster forced to hide itself from humanity. If she wasn't allowed to step foot in Mistralton City, was there any place she could truly call home? The person who did this to me… did he ever love somebody? Destiny wondered dolefully. What would he think if this happened to someone he cared about?

    It seemed as if Aurelia, who had supposedly lost her entire family, was better prepared for this disaster in more ways than one. She has no one to stay up all night worrying about her. No one will fear that she's been killed, because they're all dead or gone themselves. It must be nice to know you're not hurting anyone, Destiny thought, paying no heed to the anguish Aurelia undoubtedly had to live with. She also envied her ability to move on from episodes that would normally traumatize anyone else so easily; Destiny was still in shock over Colby's death, and she had barely even accepted the fact that she had turned into a Pokémon. It felt as if she was paddling through an endless torrent of tragedies, calamitous waves threatening to pull her under with each stroke she took.

    She was puzzled by why the other hybrid had gone to such great lengths to rescue her not once but twice. Wouldn't she be better off without her? Everything Aurelia had done to advance her group was promptly countered by Destiny, who set them back farther and farther each time. True to her species, she was nothing more than a bothersome pest. Aurelia had shown little concern when Colby, a vital member of the group, was found dead; what did she see in Destiny that made her worth saving? The hybrid wanted to ask her, but she'd have to hold her question until she returned to her human shape.

    "We're going back to the building," Aurelia firmly proclaimed. "As crazy as he was, that madman did us a huge favor by putting a bullet in the Ditto's chest. Now that the thing's dead, we have no reason to stay outside."

    "Wrrooggh!" the insect howled fiercely, pulling away from Aurelia like an unruly dog on a leash. No, we can't go back there! It was a reckless act of avoidance; the building was stocked with a plentiful supply of food that they'd have no other means of obtaining, but Destiny couldn't fathom returning to the place where so many harrowing events had occurred. There was something intensely distressing about the thought of spending her nights in the presence of Colby's disfigured corpse. Even though the Ditto had been slain, she knew she wouldn't be able to evade facing more horrific nightmares.

    "Cut it out!" the Arceus hybrid reprimanded sharply. "Why are you being so stubborn? It'd be suicide to go back to the city! What, were you zoning out when that maniac pointed a gun at your head? We've got enough food to last us months in the building, especially now that we won't have to share with the Ditto."

    It bothered Destiny that she was using such boorish terms to refer to her father, even though she knew there was no way she'd be able to tell they were related. Okay, so he's a little overprotective. He's just doing what he thinks is necessary. Breaking away from Aurelia's grasp, Destiny frenziedly waved her arms and shook her head. It's no use, she concluded dejectedly. Even if I could talk, there's no way she would listen to me. Why doesn't she understand? Doesn't she feel the slightest bit unsafe in that place? It was impossible for her to associate it with anything but fear; she had felt ill at east about the building since the moment she woke up. Its deceptively light and open ambiance only made it all the more unnerving; it appeared almost too inconspicuous, which made a primal instinct in the back of her conscience caution her that something was off. Did Aurelia experience any of this fear, or had she been conditioned to see past it?

    "What's your problem?" growled Aurelia. "If you insist on staying away from the building, I don't suppose you have a better idea, do you? No, of course you don't. That's our only option." She irritably grabbed Destiny's arm again. "Now, let's get moving."

    A better idea… there has to be a better solution! The insect continued to resist as she searched her brain for answers. Mistralton City is in the middle of a valley; that's why I've hardly ever been out of town. Traveling by foot is reserved for only the bravest of trainers, and the airport charges far too much for anyone to be a frequent flyer. She froze. If we could find a way to sneak aboard a plane, we'd get an all expense paid trip to safety! If Dad and Team Plasma are hunting for us hybrids in this area, anywhere would be better than here. How in the world are we supposed to go about doing that, though? With Dad on the prowl, there's no way we'd be able to get into the city. If we did manage to get past him, catching a plane would be just as much of a challenge.

    Mistralton City was unique in that it housed the only airport in the Unova region. As most people relied on winged Pokémon for aerial transportation, the majority of the planes served to ship cargo from place to place. Passenger flights were available to those who didn't own Pokémon, but as Destiny understood, they were far from inexpensive. A bubbly, airheaded young woman who also happened to hold the title of Gym Leader had recently inherited ownership of the airport from her father—as she oversaw two of the city's economic focal points, many considered her to be the unofficial head of Mistralton. Skyla, who had presumably been named for her father's love of the heavens, was often criticized for her naïve behavior and general incompetence.

    Destiny knew her plan was full of holes, but her yearning to leave the wretched place was overpowering. It was as if her moody acquaintance's attitude had rubbed off on her: she wanted nothing more than to put the past behind her and move onto someplace new. How do I make Aurelia change her mind? Better yet, how can I bring this up to her in the first place? The two hybrids were outside, but it was far too dark for Destiny to be able to scribe sentences in the earth. I guess I've gotta go the charades route, the insect decided glumly. I have a feeling this won't work very well.

    Destiny abruptly stopped moving, which caught Aurelia by her surprise. The metal creature reached out and gently tapped the girl on the shoulder with the side of her claw to make sure she had her attention.

    "What?" Aurelia grumbled in annoyance. "What do you want?"

    The other hybrid let out a wry breath. This is going to be embarrassing. She held her arm out in front of her and pushed it forward, trying her best to mimic the sound of an airplane hurtling down a runway in her garbled voice. She angled her claw toward the sky and gradually lifted it into the air, keeping a hopeful eye on Aurelia. When she figured she had made her point, she dropped her arm and expectantly turned her gaze to the Arceus hybrid.

    The girl blinked. "Yeah, okay, that's nice. Can we just get going already? I don't know about you, but getting shot by a trigger-happy lunatic isn't very high on my list of ways I'd like to die."

    Come on, how much more obvious do I have to be? I might as well have been carrying a sign that says HEY DUMBASS, MAYBE WE SHOULD TRY GOING TO THE AIRPORT in flashing neon lights. Her escalating stress levels paired with Aurelia's refusal to interpret her attempts at communication did away with Destiny's normally mild temperament. Aggravated, she raised her voice. "Wrraaarrgghoorrr," she crooned contemptuously, repeating her awkward plane gestures.

    "Listen, I don't know what you're trying to tell me. Can it wait until after you turn back to normal? Yes? Good, now let's move." Aurelia tugged on the arm Destiny was using to represent an airplane, knocking it out of the make-believe sky.

    I don't think she's even trying to make sense of what I'm saying, the insect realized crossly. All she cares about is getting back to the damn building. Well, you know what? If she refuses to listen to me, I'll do something to make sure she'll pay attention. She bent her knees, letting heat gather in the soles of her feet. She had never tried activating her jets in an upright position, but in her rage Destiny thought nothing about the potential consequences. She unleashed the stored energy, and her stomach flopped as she was forcefully blasted skyward. The hybrid squealed in terror, uncoordinatedly veering left and right as she wildly flailed her limbs. She frantically scrambled to unfold herself after her bulky upper body was violently shoved forward.

    Make it stop, make it stop, make it stop! Destiny's hysterical words were buried beneath the insect's shrill cries. Aurelia's scornful voice rang out below the airborne hybrid, but the roar of the jets blocked out the sound. What do I do? The insect tilted to the side as she held up her leg, trying in vain to get a look at it with her permanently unfocused eyes. If I cut off the flow of energy, I'll fall and crash into the ground! But if I don't do it myself, it'll short out on its own when I'm even higher up! Is there a way to gradually lower the power? Destiny experimentally attempted to slacken one of her jets, only for it to shut off completely. Struck by a sudden loss of balance, she was thrown sideways. Oh, Arceus, this wasn't supposed to happen! In the chaos, the functioning jet was thrust into the sky and she was sent plummeting toward the earth face-first.

    Arceus… dear Arceus…! The insect deactivated the second device in her panic, but it hardly affected the speed of her drop. Adrenaline pumped through her body as she was overcome by the sensation of freefall. Unable to close her bulging eyes, she was forced to watch as the forest floor drew closer and closer. Destiny could already imagine the sickening crunch of her nonexistent neck vertebrae snapping when she collided with the ground, and was haunted by the image of her oversized head unnaturally reeling backwards as Aurelia went to investigate her broken corpse. The visions overwhelmed her senses, distracting her from the realness of the impending danger. Time seemed to lag as she instinctively tightened her muscles, bracing herself for the impact. Warmth spread across her back, accumulating between her shoulder disks. Destiny loosened her tenseness as a globule of fiery white light flew from the lips of her cannon, the force of the blow momentarily catching her fall. Before she had the chance to take in what had happened, she hit the ground.

    The insect groaned as she dazedly raised her head, spells of darkness clouding her eyesight. She coughed out grains of dirt that had squeezed between her teeth. More pain enveloped her already aching body, but only one thing mattered: she was alive. How in the world did I survive? Destiny wondered incredulously, checking to see if the other hybrid shared her surprise.

    Aurelia, who had taken shelter behind a tree, stepped out apprehensively when she saw that Destiny had landed. "Good going, genius. Not only did you nearly kill the both of us, but you probably also alerted everyone in the Unova region where we are."

    That wouldn't be a problem if we got on a damn airplane. Why can't you put the pieces together? The insect huffed crossly. The last thing she had left to try was travelling to the airport on foot and forcing Aurelia to follow—the only problem was that she didn't know where she was in relation to the airport. We're just north of Mistralton, she affirmed. The airport is on the west side of the city, so if I keep relatively close to the edge of the forest and hike to my right, I'll get there eventually. What can Aurelia do to stop me? It's not like she'd be able to pick me up and carry me. Propping herself up on her hands and knees, she turned and fiercely started to crawl toward her destination. This is probably just as efficient as walking on two legs.

    "Hey, get back here!" the Arceus hybrid snapped, grabbing the back of Destiny's cannon. The metal creature bucked and shook her shoulders, continuing to move onward until she was met with a faint clicking noise. Her racing heartbeat instantaneously stopped dead and her throat closed up. She toppled over as her consciousness was torn away and the world went black.

    Aurelia stepped aside, staring in befuddlement at the yellow cassette in her hand. "Pretty sure that wasn't supposed to happened," she murmured absentmindedly as she approached the dead insect. Giving the side of Destiny's abdomen a disdainful kick, she ordered, "Stop moping and get up." When she didn't react, she lobbed the drive at her face. "You're such an idiot. I'll leave you here if I have to. If the freak with the gun shows up, you'll just have to fend for yourself." It was strange enough for the compliant hybrid to rebel against her commands, but the fact that someone as skittish as her didn't even acknowledge Aurelia's threats made it evident that something wasn't right.

    Mildly concerned, Aurelia ducked down and reached for one of Destiny's arms. To her revulsion, the appendage felt abnormally heavy and limp. "That can't be a good sign," she mumbled as she let it drop to the ground. The insect's stiff metal exoskeleton made it impossible to check for a pulse or monitor her respiration, but the Arceus hybrid was able to infer that the systems had shut down. "Wonderful," she hissed resentfully, "she's dead. I should've seen this coming."

    What had killed the hybrid? Aurelia hypothesized that internal damage from the impact was a likely cause, but considering that she managed to temporarily catch herself in midair, she hadn't technically dropped as great of a distance as it appeared. Additionally, it would make no sense for her to have suddenly keeled over if that were the case. Destiny hadn't shown a hint of pain or suffering during the moments that followed her fall, and Aurelia suspected that her death would have been much more drawn out if it were truly the result of physical trauma. The Arceus hybrid decided that there probably wasn't an actual explanation. Did fate really need logic to justify its punishments?

    Wearing a stoic expression, Aurelia picked up the piece of plastic she had dislodged from Destiny's cannon. The object had popped out after she mistakenly slapped a big black button behind the barrel of her cannon. Aurelia admitted she was curious as to what the button did, but to her disappointment it didn't appear to have a noteworthy function. Unless, she realized, removing the cassette was what shut down Destiny's organs. That didn't make any sense, though. Why would a Pokémon be equipped with a button that instantly killed it? It would be stupid and impractical, Aurelia thought, just like many of the other traits the bizarre creature possessed. Narrowing her eyes in sudden understanding, she experimentally reinserted the drive in the cannon's empty slot.
    Destiny screeched and gasped for breath as life spontaneously erupted in her body, gushing through her veins like an electrical current. What happened? Had she fainted? Why would that have happened? It had all gone too fast for her to form an idea of what she had been put through, and she would have never reached the conclusion that she had been killed and brought back to life.

    "Son of a bitch," Aurelia snorted in bemusement. "Did that seriously just happen?" Shaking her head in disbelief, she hastily pressed the button again. Much like the first time the drive was ejected, the life was swiftly sapped from Destiny's body. "Why would she die if this thing was removed? It's just a piece of plastic," the hybrid mused inquisitively as she flipped it around in her hand. "And putting it in again makes her come back from the dead? That's insane." The Pokémon did have a suspiciously artificial appearance, which led Aurelia to believe that the cassette may have been a battery of some sort. Did that mean Destiny was a robot? Could she ever truly be considered alive while assuming her Pokémon form? How could a living organism transform into a fully synthetic object and back, and how could this object be capable of processing Destiny's human thoughts? Aurelia tried to push her confusion to the back of her mind; if she had been imbued with the ability to change into the deity that gave birth to the universe, she decided the world's science and technology must be much more advanced than she previously assumed.

    "This could definitely come in handy. The next time I want to keep her from doing something dumb, all I've gotta do is take out her battery." Deciding not to share her discovery, Aurelia popped the drive into the slot and watched as the insect sprang to life once more.

    What's happening to me? Destiny cried in her head, horrified. Why do I keep blacking out? She questioningly glanced at Aurelia, who looked disturbingly smug. The girl's shifty countenance made the hybrid uneasy. Why is she smiling like that? Is she hiding something? She can't be the one doing this to me, can she? No, how would that work? The insect ducked her head audaciously. I… can't let this bother me. I need to get to the airport. She extended her arm, only to pull it back a second later. This would be so much easier if I used my jets. I guess that's just what I'll have to do. The thought of vaulting into the heavens again scared her, but she figured she'd stay grounded if she kept the soles of her feet in a horizontal position. Vigilantly staring down the other hybrid, she planted her stomach on the ground and tucked in her arms. Paranoid, Destiny cautiously tilted the bottoms of her feet skyward to guarantee she wouldn't lift off of the ground.

    Realizing what she was planning, Aurelia jumped out of the way of her jets. "Well, there's nothing I can do about this," she grumbled sourly, charily keeping her distance.

    What's that supposed to mean? Destiny hesitated, confused. The other hybrid's remark supported her suspicion that she had some involvement in whatever was causing her to lose consciousness, but Destiny hadn't the slightest inkling as to what she could've possibly done. Aurelia's discomforting behavior compelled her to push herself forward prematurely. Okay, Destiny unconfidently told herself as she swerved to dodge a thick tree trunk, as long as I don't hit anything, it'll all be good. I should've known what would happen if I did this standing up… this is what I should've done from the start. Her perilous flight and Aurelia's cryptic actions had cleared her mind of rage for at least the time being, allowing her to interpret things logically.

    Though her fast reflexes kept her collision-free, the creature's poor peripheral vision proved to be a problem. Her line of sight was concentrated in a straight line, and her eyes' inability to move in their sockets made it impossible for her to focus on anything at her sides without moving her head. If Destiny were to turn and check if the airport was within reasonable distance, she'd be left blind to the obstacles in front of her. To ensure that she would be kept safe, she'd have to shift her body as a single unit, making sure that her thorax and abdomen followed the path of her head. There was risk involved in that tactic, too; what if she departed for the city before she reached the airport? Under normal circumstances, she'd certainly be able to loop around and try again, but her father had made it clear that danger awaited any hybrid that drew too close to the borders of the city. Was he the only one doing the hunting? If that were the case, she might've made it far enough away from him to avoid being caught. Taking her chances, Destiny heaved herself to the side.

    Hurtling through the thick vegetation, the hybrid braced herself as she made out the lights of the city. Here we go. She couldn't see anything that resembled the airport or runway, which made her nervous. This isn't going to work, she despondently assured herself, too afraid to keep moving. Nothing's going to work. Deactivating both jets simultaneously, she skidded to a halt. She grumbled sorely and pushed herself onto her knees. Distant streetlights reflected off of her eyes and she gradually raised her head to peer up at the stars.

    When Aurelia had told her that she believed fate was out to punish everyone, Destiny merely scoffed at her pessimistic outlook. As time pushed on and more horrors found their ways into her life, her stance transitioned from sanguinity to denial to straight-out cynicism. For Destiny, everything had begun to go downhill after she was put through her first revolting metamorphosis. The transformation itself had been enough to leave her in a state of shock—experiencing her organs being drawn downward and her skeleton being eaten away was nauseatingly unpleasant and unlike anything she had gone through before. Just the notion that her body—the body she had lived with her entire life; the body that she accepted was hers—had grotesquely twisted into something completely unrecognizable was irrefutably horrifying. She wasn't Destiny anymore; she was a terrible bug-eyed monster with a permanent ear-to-ear grin and an unstable build. The cannon jutting from between her shoulders was heavy enough to leave her with a hunched back, and her legs creaked and bowed under the weight of her torso. Nobody knew what she was; Destiny didn't know who she was.

    She knew that death was a natural, unpreventable occurrence that would befall everyone in the world at some point; she knew that, even with the understanding that it couldn't be avoided, coping with the loss of a loved one was a difficult process. "People, Pokémon—hell, even the plants we tread on when we step into the yard—they're all gonna die someday," said her father to a tearful Destiny the first time she saw him bring home a Sawsbuck. "That's why we've gotta make the best of 'em while they're still breathing. Or, in this case, respect that they gave their lives to do us good. In this household, nothin' goes to waste." These were simply things she had been taught in the same way students learned from textbooks; in all the years that she lived with her family, she had never been touched by the death of someone she cared about.

    It wouldn't have mattered if Destiny knew Colby for less than twenty-four hours or her entire life; he was a sweet, selfless child who had a bright future ahead of him and there was no reason for him to have died. The hybrid had stepped into a room expecting to be greeted by the boy's smiling face, only to be met by the grisly sight of a nonhuman carcass with the organs of a child. It was draining to combat the glimpses of the gruesome discovery that continued to flash in her mind, threatening to rob her of what little resolve she still clung to. Even worse was the realization that she was to blame for this; carrying the burden of guilt was too much for her to handle. How long would it take for her to lose control?

    If fate hadn't turned its back on her, her father certainly had. His lectures and advice were rendered meaningless with the revelation that he had been tearing away the lives of presumably innocent teenagers and leaving their bodies to rot. He had issued the excuse that he wanted to avenge his daughter, but even if Destiny had been slaughtered by one or two hybrids, was all this bloodshed necessary? It was unjust to punish people simply because they were assumed to have been accountable. The hybrids had not been given a fair trial; something she prayed her father would go through once he was apprehended for his crimes. Before this could happen, Destiny decided, there was one last hybrid that needed to be dealt with.

    I can't do this anymore. Rapidly sucking in breaths, the insect listlessly lugged her metal body in the direction of the city.



  3. #48
    Platypus Saleswoman Ahnyo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly

    Hospice


    The Icirrus Pokémon Medical Clinic, or IPMC, as a board over the door proclaimed, was a humble, family-operated health center. The bottom floor functioned like a miniature hospital, while the upper levels of the building were fully residential. Being the only veterinary clinic in Icirrus City, the office required reservations far in advance. Despite how it was located in a backwoods area, a fair share of trainers with Pokémon suffering from various maladies still regularly passed through. After all, the city was an essential stop for those on their Pokémon journeys, for it was the location of one of the eight Gyms making up the Unova League.

    The weight of Archeops’s body straining his back, Dragon collapsed against the door and scrambled to locate the handle. The grunt’s repeated trips up and down the Dragonspiral Tower had left him exhausted; having to carry his injured Pokémon out of the wilderness and into the city pushed the limits of his physical capabilities. His clothes were drenched in a sordid mixture of blood, sweat, and dust; Archeops’s gaping wound had left a trail of red splotches in the grass. Scared of being questioned about what he had been doing north of Icirrus and how his Archeops had gotten hurt, Dragon had assumed a low profile by travelling around the outskirts of the city. He had turned to his C-Gear for advice on where to find the nearest Pokémon hospital, and, even though he’d have trouble fulfilling its requirements, he knew visiting the IPMC was his only option.

    The merry tone of a bell sounded when Dragon finally managed to get the door open: a stark contrast to his heated desperation. He clumsily stumbled into the lobby, nearly falling onto the carpeted floor. The grunt looked left and right for someone to consult, but the building appeared to be empty. Feeling sick, Dragon anxiously called, “Hello?”

    “I’m terribly sorry,” answered a moderately low voice from down the hall, “but we’re not accepting patients at this time. You’ll have to come back in a week or so. In the meantime, I suggest visiting the Pokémon Center in Opelucid City. It’s not too far from here.” He spoke in a monotone fashion, as if he had reiterated the statement many times before.

    “Please,” the grunt pleaded feebly, his voice little more than a whimper. “It’s an emergency. We can’t afford to go all the way to Opelucid.” Archeops let out a muffled groan in apparent agreement.

    The man, who Dragon presumed was a doctor, froze in his tracks when he entered the lobby. He studied the boy and his Pokémon with his dark brown gaze, horror overcoming his expression. “What in the name of…” he stuttered, “… what happened?”

    Dragon gulped nervously. He had been too concerned with safely navigating the Dragonspiral Tower and not being caught trespassing to bother devising a fake explanation. Archeops’s right wing had been viciously ripped off, leaving a bloodied humerus protruding from its side. A strip of flesh had been torn from its shoulder, and its body was splintered with little shards of glass. The latter detail would make it impossible to attribute the injury to the attack of a Pokémon alone. How could Dragon condense his account into something believable while avoiding any mention of the Dragonspiral Tower? The grunt decided that it may have been in his best interest to refrain from making up a fantasy story altogether.

    “I don’t know,” he lied, hoping the doctor would mistake the uncertain quality of his voice for fear. “I found him like this. I think he must’ve been beaten with a glass bottle.” Considering what he had been told when he was given Archeops, Dragon didn’t think his excuse was too unreasonable. Blaming what he was responsible for on someone else made him feel bad, and he prayed Archeops understood that it wasn’t his intention to not take blame for its fate. Guilt had already piled up in Dragon’s heart; earlier that morning, he promised Archeops that it would fly free once Pokémon were liberated. How would it be able to roam the skies, let alone live like a normal Pokémon, with only one wing?

    Though he appeared skeptical, the brown-haired man worriedly approached the boy and his Archeops. “Is he your Pokémon?” Overwhelmed, the doctor shook his head and returned to the hall. He peered through various doors, searching for a vacant room.

    Dragon pursed his lips, weighing out the consequences of whether or not he claimed ownership of the Pokémon. He didn’t have its Poké Ball on hand, meaning he had no proof that it belonged to him. Admitting that he was Archeops’s trainer would make him appear irresponsible in the doctor’s eyes, seeing as he said he didn’t have a clue as to what had caused its injuries. Perhaps it would be for the better if he left Archeops to the doctor’s jurisdiction; he didn’t feel as if he deserved to be its trainer. Furthermore, once he handed over the Light Stone to his leader, the liberation of Pokémon would be imminent. In that case, it wouldn’t matter if Archeops had a trainer or not.

    The prospect raised another troubling issue, however: if separate worlds were created for humans and Pokémon, what would become of the hospitalized Archeops? Would it be left as easy pickings for predators like Druddigon in a world free of medical technology? The only way he could spare the First Bird Pokémon from inevitable doom would be if he quit working with N, and he knew he couldn’t do that. If he procrastinated on his duties until his Pokémon was fully healed, perhaps it would stand a better chance at surviving in the wild. Archeops did not depend on their wings for transportation, after all—they were merely a convenience, and, as it turned out, Archeops were more adept on land than they were in the skies.

    That has nothing to do with what I tell the doctor, Dragon snarled to himself, upset that he had let his mind wander. Though the doctor seemed to be preoccupied, the grunt figured that it’d be best if he answered his question as soon as possible. “No, he’s not mine. I told you—I just found him like this,” he insisted, wincing at his own words. Not only had he denied liability of Archeops’s injury, but he also rebuffed their partnership. He couldn’t bear to imagine what his Pokémon thought about his allegations.

    “Quick, come this way,” the man ordered, urgently beckoning Dragon forward. The teenager hurriedly followed him into a room, where he was instructed to lay Archeops on an examination table. The panicked doctor secured the creature to the counter before dragging over a machine mounted on a base with wheels. He then threw open a drawer and began rummaging through it in frustration.

    Archeops made a croaking noise, its toes twitching in agitation. Its trainer stretched his arm to comfort it, but then hesitated when he remembered its skin was embedded with glass. “Everything will be just fine,” Dragon assured his Pokémon softly. “The nice doctor will make you all better. You’re being so brave!” He felt a surge of pride for Archeops in the way a father would be proud of his son, temporarily replacing his guilt with positive emotion. Dragon admired the creature’s resilience and fortitude; if he were in its place, he thought, he couldn’t possibly think of enduring the pain. It touched him that the courageous Pokémon had sacrificed so much for him. Not only had Archeops risked its life to allow him to salvage the Light Stone, but it had also protected its trainer from the Golurk sentinel. Dragon didn’t know what he could do to show the Pokémon just how grateful he was.

    Clutching a black rubber mask, the doctor sternly slammed the drawer shut. He took a deep breath before saying, “I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” The standoffish man’s harsh motions made it clear to Dragon that he was dealing with a lot of stress, and he couldn’t blame him. Judging by what he had said earlier, it seemed like he was taking a break from his job. The grunt found it odd that there were no notices signifying his vacation on the clinic’s door; perhaps he was simply overrun by patients. Was he the only doctor maintaining the IPMC? Working solo in a place as busy as this would certainly be crazy, Dragon mused, cringing at the thought.

    “Right,” the boy replied, obediently stepping toward the door. “Could I give you my C-Gear number so you can keep me up to date about Archeops’s status?”
    The doctor paused after pressing the conical mask onto the Pokémon’s muzzle. “You told me he wasn’t yours. He’s in good hands now. You need not concern yourself with his recovery.”

    Though the doctor appeared adamant that the creature would recuperate, something about his reluctance to keep in touch made Dragon uncomfortable. Was he using the boy’s denial of ownership as an excuse to avoid having to share bad news? Otherwise, he found it hypocritical for the doctor to deem it abnormal for Dragon to care about a Pokémon that wasn’t his own—the man’s entire career revolved around healing the Pokémon of complete strangers. Maybe he’s in it for the money. The government pays vets and doctors huge amounts of cash, so this guy must be filthy rich if he’s the only one working here.

    “Okay, I’ll be on my way, then.” Not wanting to be a bother, Dragon reached for the doorknob and slipped out of the room. Realizing that this may have been the last opportunity to see Archeops, he whispered, “Goodbye, buddy. You’ve been a great friend to me.” Once he was out of the doctor’s sight, he slowed his pace and pondered what to do next. I can’t call Lord N yet, but I don’t want to wait too long. With injuries like that, I have no idea how long it will take Archeops to recover. I also have to consider the amount of time it will take for Lord N to assemble the Great Dragon. He seems to know what he’s doing, but he never told me how he’s going to go about this. Will he be able to construct the Great Dragon as soon as Ben and the Light Stone are together? The way he barged into the room spouting something about “finding the missing piece” made it seem like there’s more to it than that. Either way, N is expecting me to return to headquarters on my own. I’ll wait around here until he starts getting worried and gives me a call.

    “Damn!” A loud female voice shook Dragon from his thoughts, and the grunt immediately turned his attention to the stairs. A woman who looked to be the same age as the doctor was leaning against the railing, a bewildered expression on her face. She had a slightly rounder frame compared to the man, and ruddier brown hair. “I hope that’s not your blood. We only treat Pokémon here.”

    Dragon glanced down at his bloody uniform before flashing the woman a look of disgust. Her lighthearted tone signified that she was trying to crack a joke, but he didn’t find it funny. She must work here, too. She’s awfully insensitive for someone with this kind of job. Dragon didn’t particularly like either of the doctors, but he figured the only thing that really mattered was whether or not they were good at what they did.

    The female doctor looked disappointed, as if she hadn’t been expecting that reaction. “I’m sorry, kiddo. It must be pretty bad if you convinced my husband to do something about it. See, we’re supposed to be taking a couple weeks off… but unfortunately, that’s nearly impossible, what with all the business around here. Working at this place can be pure chaos sometimes! There’s no need to worry, though! Rodger certainly knows his stuff. If I were the one doing the work, on the other hand… ah, I’m kidding! They don’t just hand out PhDs to anyone, y’know.” She continued to stare at his clothes in bemusement. “I can wash those for you if you want. I have a son your age, and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you borrowed something of his. He never wears half the things I buy him, anyway.” There was a tinge of sadness in her voice, but Dragon couldn’t tell why.

    “Oh, okay, I guess.” The grunt thought it would be awkward to walk around in someone else’s clothing, but it would be even worse to roam the streets of Icirrus looking like he had bathed in a pool of blood.

    “All right, just give me a second.” The female doctor disappeared up the stairs and promptly returned with a white sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. She studied the sweatshirt as if she didn’t recall choosing it. “Huh, maybe I should’ve picked a different color.” The woman lobbed them off the side of the staircase, and Dragon, who hadn’t been paying attention, let them fall to the ground. The boy swiftly grabbed the clothes in embarrassment, taking care not to get any blood on them. “The bathroom’s the first door upstairs. Just throw your clothes in the hamper and I’ll take care of them. You might want to take a shower while you’re at it.” Though the doctor came off as a bit thick-skinned, she appeared to be a kind, motherly person at heart. I barely even know her and she’s acting like I’m her own child. It makes me wonder how she treats her actual son.

    Dragon made his way up the stairs, taking notice of a family portrait hanging on the wall. Between the likes of Rodger and his wife was a smiling teenage boy with shaggy chestnut hair and large brown eyes. The grunt did a double take, recognizing who the boy was at once. Ben! That’s Ben! He was struck by the memory of the Zekrom stating that he lived in Icirrus City and explaining what he knew about the Dragonspiral Tower. Of course! How could I forget?

    Coming face to face with Ben’s parents reminded Dragon that the hybrids were real people with families that loved them. The two doctors couldn’t have possibly known what happened to their son, and Dragon didn’t think they would believe him if he told them the truth. I can’t just march up to them and say that their son gained the ability to turn into Zekrom and now he’s being used by an organization to divide humans and Pokémon. I wouldn’t believe it myself if I wasn’t caught up in the middle of it. I can’t just leave them in the dark, though. I have to tell them something. The grunt had a suspicion that Ben’s parents wouldn’t agree to what N planned to do with their son, meaning his plan would be crushed. That means I’ve gotta wait. Ben’s dad doesn’t want me to come back, but his mom seems easier to work with. Once Lord N completes his goal, maybe then I’ll be able to explain things to them.

    Dragon hadn’t considered what would become of Ben after N was done using the Great Dragon. Would he be freed, or would he be permanently grafted to the beast? What would Ben’s parents think if their son was trapped in the shape of a god forever? Seeing as the Great Dragon was made up of multiple entities, would it even truly be their son? The boy didn’t understand how a creature like that would function, and thinking about it scared him. If I don’t act now, Ben’s family might never see him again… but Ben has accepted his fate, the plans have been made, and Archeops nearly died making this possible. It’s too late to turn back. If Ben makes it out of this, I’ll be sure to let his parents know. If not, there’s nothing we can do. If Lord N truly is the hero of legend, then this was destined to happen. All of these sacrifices, all of these tragedies… they’re stepping stones for Lord N to conquer his dream and bring justice to the world. I just wish there was a way to tell Ben’s parents he’s alive and well.

    “What are you gawking at?” Dragon jumped at the sound of the woman’s voice. She shifted her gaze to the picture the grunt had been staring at. A small frown creasing her mouth, she murmured, “Oh, that’s Ben, my son.” She briefly froze before changing the subject. “Silly me; I never introduced myself! My name is Amanda, but you can call me Mandy. You don’t need to call me “doctor” or anything—it would get pretty confusing that way, since Rodger and I have the same surname. Ah, could you imagine if Benny decided to work here, too? He kept saying he wanted to be a veterinarian, but I think it was just a phase.”

    Mandy sometimes acted like it hurt to mention her son, but then she’d go on to talk about him as if he were in the room with her. The behavior confused Dragon; was she trying to cover up her emotions and pretend Ben was fine? Curious about how she would respond, the grunt unthinkingly asked, “Where is Ben?”

    The doctor hesitated again. She narrowed her amber eyes, her tone abruptly turning dark. “How strange of you to ask,” she affirmed guardedly. “Why does it matter to you? I don’t suppose you know where he is, do you?”

    “Huh?” Dragon hollered in feigned surprise. “What do you mean? Has he gone missing?” He realized a moment too late that it was rather suspicious for him to have asked where her son was out of the blue. A normal person would assume he’s off on his Pokémon journey or at school. That was a bad move… now she’s onto me.

    Mandy knit her brows irately, treading closer to the grunt. “Yes. He’s been missing for several days now. He went to school one day and never made it back. My husband and I have been doing everything we can to locate him, but so far we haven’t found any leads. That’s why we’re supposed to be taking time off. The way you’re acting… are you sure you don’t know anything about this?”

    “No, no!” Dragon cried, holding out his hands defensively. “I’m… in his class and I’ve been wondering why he’s been absent the past few days.”

    “Is that so?” The woman forced a smile onto her face, slowly transitioning to her normal, cheery voice. “Well, if you come across any clues, make sure to let me know as soon as possible. Now, go take your shower.” It was obvious that she didn’t trust him, but Dragon was relieved that she had decided to stop getting on his case. The boy found it frightening how quickly she transformed from a carefree woman to a fierce Beartic of a mother. She really cares about him a lot. Dragon didn’t know if he’d like it if his mother was that protective. She must’ve forbid him from becoming a trainer. That’s probably why she made it sound like he wants to follow in her footsteps. She’s a very controlling, assertive person… I wonder how many decisions Ben gets to make on his own.

    As Dragon shut the bathroom door, he couldn’t shake the feeling that Ben’s mother was somehow watching him. Letting a deep breath escape, he set his bag on the counter and cautiously peered into it. The Light Stone has been sitting in that old tower for centuries, and when it’s finally taken out it gets shoved in a bag and thrown in a bathroom. I hope it will forgive me; I’d hate to meet an angry Reshiram.

    The water felt warm on the boy’s back, rejuvenating him and allowing him to unwind. In that moment, only Dragon and the cascading wall of water existed. He was free from the stress of his Pokémon’s injury and Mandy’s qualms, and he didn’t have to worry about his responsibility of bringing the Light Stone to his leader. Without his Team Plasma uniform on, he might as well have just been a normal kid. Though the serenity was refreshing, he eventually forced himself to shut off the water, figuring it’d be rude of him to dawdle for such a long time. He was suddenly transported back to his hectic world when he stepped out of the shower and saw his bloody uniform in the bottom of the hamper and the swollen bag resting on the counter.

    These are Ben’s clothes, he reminded himself, holding up the sweatshirt and jeans in revulsion. Though Dragon felt sympathy for the hybrid, it was a stretch to say they were acquaintances. Ben’s haughty, hotheaded nature tended to annoy the more aloof grunt; having to wear the disagreeable boy’s outfit perturbed him. With a sigh, he closed his eyes and fought to squirm into the clothing. Ben had a notably small and gaunt figure, and his clothes didn’t agree very well with Dragon’s taller height and broader shoulders. The grunt could hear the sweatshirt’s seams popping as he struggled to get comfortable.

    As soon as he took a step out of the bathroom, Dragon was greeted by Mandy’s frenzied voice. “Some green-haired hooligan just parked an airplane in the yard! He knocked on the door and said he was looking for a dragon!” The boy’s heart dropped. Lord N is here? How… how did he find me? Seconds after the question surfaced in his mind, he remembered that C-Gears were equipped with a function that acted as a tracking device. Those who had registered each other had the ability to view where in the Unova region they were located. Why didn’t he wait for me to get back to headquarters on my own? I guess he must’ve seen that I was visiting the IPMC and figured that something bad happened to my Pokémon… or maybe he doesn’t trust me and wanted to get his hands on the Light Stone as soon as possible. What does this mean for Archeops?

    “What?” It was Rodger. “Should I call the police?”

    Dragon raced down the stairs. “No, it’s fine! He’s my friend!”

    “I suggest you find some new friends. I certainly wouldn’t want my Ben palling around with a freak like that.” Mandy appeared from the room Archeops was being kept in, her arms crossed. “I take it that plane is your ride? Well, don’t forget to check back in a day or so. I don’t think Benny would be happy if he came back to find that his clothes had been exchanged for… whatever the hell you were wearing.”

    “Yeah, okay, I will,” Dragon rashly responded, anxious to leave the clinic. “Thanks for everything.” He gave Ben’s mother one last look before exiting the building and rushing up to the small plane as quickly as the undersized jeans would let him. As he boarded the airplane, which he noticed was the same one N had used to leave the P2 Laboratory, he was surprised to find an older man in place of the young female pilot.

    The replacement pilot, who had apparently detected the boy’s confusion, said, “Were you expecting to see my daughter? Piloting two consecutive flights in the middle of the night really wore Skyla out.” Dragon took a moment to digest what the man had said. It was pretty late when we arrived at headquarters. Who in the world would’ve arranged a flight so late at night? Using anything other than Pokémon for transportation was almost unheard of in the Unova region, so flights were more often than not scheduled for more convenient daytime hours.

    As Dragon marched into the cabin of the plane, it didn’t take long for him to find that Skyla’s father wasn’t the only parent standing in for his child. Ghetsis was seated in the front row, and resting next to him was the unmoving body of Genesect. The unfortunate creature had fallen onto its side, despite the official’s efforts to keep it upright. Ghetsis grinned at the sight of the apprehensive grunt. “Good afternoon, Drake. Are you surprised?”

    Dragon stood frozen, unsure of how to react. What in the world does Ghetsis want with me? Panic swept across the boy’s heart as he was struck by a realization. He’s here to take the Light Stone! Good Arceus, what am I supposed to do? What would Lord N do if I told him Ghetsis stole the Light Stone? He’d never trust me again! When Dragon had encountered the man while he was out searching for Genesect, he had made it clear that his ambitions differed from N’s. Had he merely manipulated N so he could use the Light Stone for his own intentions? Trembling with fear, the grunt protectively wrapped his arms around his bag.

    Ghetsis frowned. “Is something the matter?” He glanced out the window, noticing that the airplane was rolling down the field. “Take a seat, Drake. The plane is about to lift off.”

    His heart hammering in his chest, Dragon seated himself as far away from the man as he could. He placed the bag on his lap, staying alert to make sure Ghetsis wouldn’t swipe it from him when he wasn’t looking.

    “There’s no need to be so jumpy,” Ghetsis chided as he pulled Genesect up. “I don’t want anything from you. I just have a proposition to make.”
    A proposition? Dragon repeated in his head. What does he mean by that? He’s not going to try to con me out of the Light Stone, is he?

    The green-haired man reclined in his seat. “See, I’ve already told you so many things that your ears weren’t supposed to hear… and you’ve been doing a great job of keeping the information safe! Not only that, but you were the first grunt to bring back a hybrid alive! You’re the ideal model of a Team Plasma member, and I thought I’d reward you for your good behavior. Now, if you’re willing, I could let you in on another little secret. What do you say?” Ghetsis was uncannily cheerful, which made the boy uneasy.

    What do I say? Dragon nervously asked himself. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to listen. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he was awfully curious about Ghetsis’s so-called secret. “What… what is it?” he stammered.

    “It’s becoming more and more apparent that normal grunts are too incompetent to hunt down the hybrids,” Ghetsis told him. “There have been multiple reports of grunts nearly losing their Pokémon while trying to take them down. As an organization that advocates the wellbeing of Pokémon, this is completely unacceptable… which is why I’ve devised an alternate solution. A better option may be to fight fire with fire—in other words, use hybrids allied with Team Plasma to combat the hybrids created by the traitor. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to become the first of this new batch of hybrids, would you? You could be combined with any Legendary Pokémon of your choosing!”

    Dragon’s heart skipped a beat. He couldn’t believe his ears! What is he thinking? This is madness! The hybrids were being hunted down simply because their abilities were deemed too dangerous—what would be the sense of deploying an equally dangerous squadron of hybrids to fight them? If Team Plasma’s hybrids were going to be allowed to live, then why couldn’t the traitor’s creations just be spared? “How… would that work?” was all he managed to utter.

    “I did make it sound rather hypocritical, didn’t I? Well, after we obtained the recipe for creating the formula, several adjustments were made. One of the most dangerous features of the traitor’s hybrids is their unpredictability. They change randomly, which isn’t the case with the improved formula. If someone were to be injected with this formula, they could choose to never assume their Pokémon form! They have complete control over their bodies, meaning they’d have no problem fitting in with society. If I only bestowed these powers upon responsible individuals like you, there would be nothing to worry about.” Genesect slumped over again in the middle of his explanation.

    If you put it that way, I suppose it makes a bit more sense. Dragon tried to get himself to calm down. That doesn’t make it right, though! Pokémon getting hurt at the hands of the hybrids is wrong, but to do something like that… it’s unspeakable! When N rebuilds the Great Dragon, there will be no need to hunt the hybrids. The world will be at peace, so there’s no need for unnecessary bloodshed before then. What will Ghetsis do if I refuse? It’s not like he could just kill me in the middle of this plane. I’ve got to speak my mind; there’s no way I could agree to this! Straightening his back, the grunt bravely declared, “I could never do that.”

    The smile didn’t fade from Ghetsis’s face. “It’s fine if you disagree, but… don’t you forget what I told you earlier. Don’t turn your back on me now, Drake. GMP156 may have acted docile the first time you saw it, but now that it’s in my control, I can make full use of its arsenal.” He grabbed Genesect’s back, twisting it so its cannon was pointed at Dragon’s head. “It’s unconscious now, but it will spring to life as soon as I reinsert its drive. I won’t have to do that, now, will I?”

    “No, sir.” Dragon swallowed hard. He’s awfully confident in his ability to make threats, which works because he really looks like the kind of person who would act upon them. This is out of control. How can I continue hiding all of this from Lord N? I need to do something… I need to tell him all of this. The words he had used to reassure himself earlier echoed in his mind. It’s often necessary to make sacrifices for the greater good. Maybe that’s the role I need to play. Maybe there’s a reason I’ve made it this far; why I was able to climb the ranks and become what Ghetsis considers “an ideal model of a Team Plasma member”. I may not know what to do about Archeops, or what to tell Ben’s parents, but I do know that I can do this. The grunt inhaled, making up his mind. After N awakens Reshiram… I’ll warn him about Ghetsis. I’ll tell him everything he’s told me about the true purpose of Team Plasma, and Genesect, and what he plans to do about the hybrids. I know it will kill me, but this is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.



  4. #49
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly

    Barriers


    As refreshing as it was to not have to listen to Destiny's shrill voice, there were times Aurelia wished her Pokémon form had the ability to communicate. It was obvious that the insect had been trying to tell her something specific, but the Arceus hybrid hadn't a clue what to make of her garbled speech and abrupt gestures. All she could tell was that Destiny didn't want to return to the abandoned building, which she thought was a moronic idea. One of the first things she had learned about the blond girl was that she struggled to cope with stressful situations, and Aurelia turned her nose up at the behavior. She needs to conquer her fears and move on. What I think she doesn't realize is that when a bad experience is over, it's over. There's no need to cling to the memories and continue wallowing in dread.

    While it was true that Aurelia was more conditioned to tragedy than some, her assertions hardly expressed what she was really going through. She often boasted that she relished freedom and the ability to move from place to place, but a part of her yearned for the warmth and comfort of her now broken family. She longed to listen to her mother's pompous accounts of her life and past romances, and she even missed the constant background noise of her brother's favorite science fiction movies. She craved the impossible dream of reliving her childhood; a time when she hadn't yet been exposed to the harsh realities of the world. With no way to regain her innocence, the cold hybrid had forgotten how to respect the bliss of those who had not yet been touched by the cruel hands of fate.

    Why did Aurelia insist on following the girl she clearly deemed inferior? Did she take pleasure in seeing herself proven right as the world crumbled down around Destiny? Did she hope the positive attitude Destiny initially presented would rub off on her in the same way the insect was beginning to pick up her pessimism? Or did she simply want to appease fate by sticking with the person it had led her to? Perhaps there was something reassuring about knowing that she wasn't the only shapeshifting freak in the world, or maybe it had something to do with her deep-seated desire for company. Even Aurelia didn't know for certain why she had chosen not to abandon the other hybrid.

    Those jets of hers certainly compensate for her walking speed. She's gotta be going at least fifty miles per hour. Good thing she usually doesn't make it very far, Aurelia thought sourly as she raced to catch up to the runaway insect. She was thankful for the noisy roar of her jets, which gave her a pretty good idea of which direction Destiny was going. The idiot's heading straight for the city. Didn't she learn her lesson the first time? That's not even stubbornness—it's plain stupidity. Among all her other reasons to follow Destiny was Aurelia's urgency to stop the girl before she ran into the gun-wielding man again. It was a miracle that he had decided to let them go; surely he would change his mind if one of the hybrids broke their promise. Not only that, but perhaps he would feel the need to bring his senseless massacre to the forest—meaning that Aurelia would be at risk as well.

    The Arceus hybrid grinned when the sound was abruptly cut off. Good. That means she stopped. I just hope she didn't make it to the city. Concerned, the weary girl sprinted faster. She had been unable to catch even a glimpse of sleep after the commotion of the hectic day, and she prayed she'd be able to strike an agreement with the insect so they could both return to the shelter of the building. I wonder what time it is. If I only had my C-Gear, I'd be able to check. Aurelia contemplated that there may have been another advantage to having a device that could tell time: it could be used to determine whether or not their transformations lasted for a set amount of time. That knowledge could be used strategically: while the maniac with the gun had seen Aurelia's true form, he only knew Destiny by her vile insect shape. Therefore, the blond-haired girl could sneak into Mistralton and look for help.

    How long has she been that bug for this time? The sooner she changes back, the better. It'll be so much easier to work with her when she can talk and can't fly away with those stupid jets. Aurelia had already been in her Pokémon form for a while the first time Destiny had reverted to her human shape, which gave her reason to believe the frequency and duration of their transformations were random. Aurelia hadn't been there to witness Destiny's first transformation, but she couldn't imagine it had occurred long before her own.

    If the changes didn't occur at even intervals, then what could possibly be triggering them? Was it a response to environmental factors in the way that some Pokémon evolved when exposed to certain stimuli? If Aurelia could isolate a cause, then perhaps there would be a way for her to stop the transformations altogether. Now that I think of it, this hybrid stuff is a lot like evolution… except when Pokémon evolve, they don't return to their original shapes. I should be thankful it doesn't work that way with us hybrids. As a seasoned Pokémon trainer, Aurelia had watched the Pokémon on her team undergo evolution several times. Evolved Pokémon were much more powerful than their lesser forms, so she had pressured them to change as soon as possible. It makes me wonder if they really wanted to evolve… I certainly never want to "evolve" into Arceus again. There really aren't any downsides to when normal Pokémon evolve, though. A Gigalith, a Darmanitan, and a Haxorus could walk into a city without being shot at.

    When Aurelia could make out a faint outline of the purple creature, she angrily shouted, "Des!" in a hushed voice. Destiny, who was standing unstably on two legs, flashed the other hybrid an indignant look before doggedly turning away and taking a step forward. "Get the hell back here!" Aurelia growled. "Don't make me—" She cut herself off, not wanting to let Destiny know what she had found out about her drive. It was indeed a useful discovery; the only problem was that the insect's metal body was most likely much too heavy for Aurelia to carry. It will come in handy once we get back to the building… but that's the entire problem.

    Destiny resumed glaring at her suspiciously, questioningly tilting her head. Aurelia had a feeling that she suspected her of causing her "deaths", but she figured she couldn't have done anything to prevent that. The Arceus hybrid tried to imagine what the insect experienced when her drive was removed: did she feel any pain? Was she actually dead, or had she merely entered a state in which it seemed that way? If the latter were the case, was she aware of what was going on around her? It was hard for Aurelia to form any guesses, simply because the event was so bizarre and otherworldly. You can't ask a toy what it goes through when you take out its batteries because it isn't alive, and therefore it wouldn't actually be able to die in a literal sense. A living thing, on the other hand… this just shouldn't be possible. Why in the name of Arceus would anyone think it'd be a good idea to drag something out of a crappy sci-fi movie and into the real world?

    Aurelia irritably gritted her teeth. I just don't know what to do. Des won't be able to tell me what she wants until she's back to normal, and I think she's already made it clear that I'm not going to have any luck trying to reason with a robot bug. It's too late for this. I need sleep. She almost considered yanking out Destiny's battery then and there and hitting the hay right where she was standing, which led her to wonder what would happen if Destiny returned to her human shape while her drive was missing.

    "Come on," Aurelia sighed despairingly, softening her tone. She spoke down to the hybrid, as if she were dealing with an unruly Pokémon rather than a human being. "You can't tell me you aren't tired. You know, I bet that's why you're so cranky. Maybe if you got some rest, you'd realize that you're making a big fuss over nothing. Can we please just go back to the building? I'm begging you."

    Destiny seemed perplexed by Aurelia's sudden change in demeanor, but it didn't make her any more willing to fulfill her wishes. She resentfully treaded another step forward, but then froze in her tracks when a roaring noise split the air. The insect turned her head to the heavens eagerly, shifting her face so her eyes followed a dark object across the sky—an airplane. "Wrraaarrgghoorrr!" Destiny shouted excitedly, feverishly flailing her arms.

    The brunette took a moment to absorb what had happened, and, just as quickly as it had occurred, everything made sense. The insect's gesticulations had been in mimicry of an airplane taking off, and she even attempted to impersonate one herself by launching her body into the air. Well, it was a valiant effort. For all I knew, she could've been suggesting that we scale Twist Mountain. But is that really what's driving her to act like a stubborn little brat? What good would hitching a ride on a plane do us? Or rather, how in the world does she expect us to go about doing that? Heck, I think we'd have better luck going through Twist Mountain. At least there wouldn't be any psychos with guns down that route.

    Aurelia couldn't grasp why Destiny thought it would be a good idea to leave the forest entirely when everything they needed was already available there. The abandoned building provided them with shelter, and it was stocked with enough rations to keep them well-fed for a long period of time. The only thing they were lacking was security—their encounter with Lynn proved that the forest was by no means safe. While the particular grunt's bark was far worse than her bite, running into more skillful, experienced members of Team Plasma was a looming possibility. Colby had insisted that the area was under investigation, which was what compelled Aurelia to return to the mysterious building in the first place. As she never did find what she had been searching for, she and Destiny were left unarmed and defenseless to the dangers that may have been lurking in the woods.

    While it was true that leaving the area would eliminate the threat of Team Plasma, doing so wouldn't be possible unless the hybrids risked putting themselves in jeopardy. Aurelia didn't know if Mistralton City was included in the area Team Plasma was investigating—no matter, the intent of the gun-wielding man had been enough evidence to support her theory that entering civilization would be a dangerous endeavor. When people meet someone strange or different, they never look past the surface. Humans are visual creatures, and that holds true in the way they perceive others: it all comes down to the way people look and act, whereas what's inside—what truly makes a person who they are—is merely an afterthought. They see things in terms of "what" rather than "who" and jump to conclusions without paying heed to anything but their own prejudiced notions. Yeah, maybe we hybrids really are a menace to humanity, but is anybody going to listen to what we have to say? That's how society always has and will operate as a whole, and that ignorant lunatic proves my point. Destiny must understand that if she thinks we should go somewhere else, but she's not putting two and two together. We can't just go strolling into Mistralton, even if we're only going to be there for a few seconds. We'll be met with that same degree of intolerance—intolerance strong enough that it might just be fatal.

    Even Aurelia was susceptible to the behavior she appeared to detest so strongly. Of course, she had no way of knowing the passive purple insect was fitted with a human brain until she revealed her true form. If Destiny truly were a Pokémon, would it have been any less wrong to make those assumptions about her? Was that state of mind justified when applied to anything other than a human? This impetuous instinct most likely served as a reminder of mankind's archaic past: throughout prehistory, "strange" was synonymous with "dangerous" and thus anything that deviated from the norm was viewed as a threat. This allowed man to fear hostile Pokémon in an era prior to when domestication was conceived, but was this intuition still necessary among the advancements and developments of modern times? Why did humans continue to judge Pokémon simply by what they saw on the outside? Was there more beyond their outer layers? Aurelia had been convinced that Destiny was a non-sapient creature purely because she did not look human and could not speak her language, which were traits carried by most Pokémon of the world—what did this say about what divided people and Pokémon?

    Despite Aurelia's objections to the idea, the prospect of leaving all her troubles behind her and starting anew—something she had so heavily relied on throughout her life—was especially tempting. If she survived the trip through the city and made it onto a plane, she'd never have to worry about Team Plasma and the vengeful father again. It didn't necessarily mean she would be able to escape prejudice, but it'd at least allow her to slip under the radar of the two groups specifically hunting her down. Let's suppose we do make it out alive. What are we supposed to do for food and shelter? Something tells me that there's not going to be anything like that building wherever we end up, and even if there is, the supplies won't last forever. Of course, that's also a problem where we are now. Well, the airport is run by Skyla, isn't it? Just thinking about the magenta-haired girl was enough to make Aurelia grimace. As pushy as she is, she's still a Gym Leader, and Gym Leaders are figures of authority. If anything, that whole spiel about seeing Pokémon for their true selves should mean that she'd be more willing to accept us. If we can reason with her, we might be able to arrange something: a designated safe place, or some sort of special protection. Anything would be nice.

    Another thing stood out in Aurelia's mind: the arrival of the airplane itself. Who travels by plane at this hour? What a coincidence! I mean, I would've never made the connection between Destiny's movements and an airplane if the thing hadn't shown up overhead. Being a highly superstitious person, Aurelia was inclined to believe the aircraft's chance appearance was more than just a coincidence. Could fate be pointing her in the right direction for once, or was it merely leading her into a trap? It's a sign. It's gotta be a sign. I don't know if it's a good omen or a bad one, but there's no other explanation for this. I guess there's only one way to find out what it means.

    "The airport," the Arceus hybrid finally remarked, looking into Destiny's hopeful eyes. "That's what you've been trying to tell me—you want to go to the airport."

    The insect let out a noise that Aurelia could only describe as a cheer, bobbing her broad head vigorously. She then came to an abrupt halt, as if she detected a hint of apprehension in the other hybrid's tone. Destiny clicked her metal claws together and raised them to her face, and Aurelia wasn't sure if she was pleading with her or praying.

    Figuring it would be a waste of time to explain herself, Aurelia smirked at the sight and turned her back to the insect. "Well, what are you waiting for? Let's get moving."

    Destiny was taken aback. She absently lowered her arms to her sides, unsure what to make of her uncannily compliant companion.

    When Aurelia noticed she wasn't being followed, she spun on her heel and shot the hybrid a quizzical look. "Make up your mind, will you? You went through all that trouble to tell me where you wanted to go, and now you're just going to stand there and stare at me like I'm an idiot?"

    Caught off guard, Destiny cringed at the girl's harsh retort. Once she had recovered, she questioningly moved forward a step, afraid that Aurelia would snap at her again.

    "Come on, hurry up!" the Arceus hybrid urged. She paused, mulling over what she had said. "Well, don't use your jets. If we want to make it through the city without being caught, we'll need to be as discreet as possible. I won't hesitate to drag you along again if that's what it comes to." Aside from that, what else could Aurelia do to better their odds of survival? It would help if I knew exactly where the airport is. I've been to Mistralton before, but I never thought it'd be important to memorize the layout of the city. Des seemed to know where she was going. Thinking back, she asked, "Hey, didn't you say you're from Mistralton?"

    The insect confirmed the girl's suspicion with a dip of her head.

    "Great," mumbled the other hybrid approvingly. Pointing in the direction Destiny had been travelling, Aurelia said, "I take it the airport's that way?"Destiny nodded again. It would've been much more helpful if she could've provided more elaborate details about the airport's location, but Aurelia settled for the information she had been given. She hoped Destiny would step in and deter her if she tried to go the wrong way. There are times where she seems so oblivious to what's going on around her, like when I was making fun of her. I don't think she picked up a thing. I wonder if it's some kind of defense mechanism.

    Aurelia hung close to the edge of the forest, keeping an eye out for anything that resembled a runway. From what I remember, that airport takes up a good portion of the city. It shouldn't be too hard to miss. As it housed only a couple of planes, Unova's sole airport was relatively small compared to those used by commercial airlines in other regions. In spite of this, the girl had thought the sprawling runway was an impressive sight to see.

    Aurelia's progress was impeded by her maddening paranoia. She couldn't shake the feeling that deciding to follow through with Destiny's plan was a bad idea. The hybrid constantly had to remind herself that the plodding footsteps behind her belonged to Destiny, and she still found herself glancing over her shoulder with every few steps. She made sure to tread lightly, even though her attempt to keep a low profile was made pointless by the insect's lumbering movements. She'd flinch every time one of them snapped a twig or rustled tall grass, and she nearly toppled over when Destiny suddenly screeched at the top of her lungs.

    "Great Arceus, what the hell was that for? You've already done enough to tell that madman where we are! Be quiet!" Aurelia scolded sharply, her voice reduced to a whisper. The purple creature, whose legs were shaking violently, limply pointed at a small shape by her feet. Aurelia held her breath as she studied the lifeless figure.

    The child—Aurelia couldn't tell if it was a boy or girl—looked to be around Colby's age. Though it was human in shape, several of its features looked odd and unnatural. Its body was abnormally petite, and it was covered with a fine layer of pale pink hair. Positioned high on the sides of its head were a pair of pointed ears, and its large, baby blue eyes stared vacantly. A slender tail poked from the small of its back. The most disturbing detail was the tiny bullet hole carved into the side of its skull.

    Fate just doesn't want to let anyone grow up, Aurelia observed, biting her lip. I guess this means the hunter's already covered this area, but that doesn't mean he won't be coming back. It's astonishing that he was able to kill a hybrid while they were changing—the process only takes two minutes at most. I suppose a half-transformed hybrid makes for an easy target, since it's not like they can get up and run away. She gazed out into the city, taking notice of her proximity to a neighborhood. If that weirdo fired a gun this close to where people live, surely someone must have called the police. Well, unless they see him as a hero and think he's doing the right thing. The thought made Aurelia feel ill.

    Destiny let out a series of whimpers as she hid her face behind her pillar-like arms. Aurelia groaned in annoyance. Wonderful, another thing for her to freak out about. We don't need to go through this again. She sternly grabbed one of the insect's arms and shoved it away from her head. "Knock it off," the girl hissed. "What's in the past is in the past, and there's nothing we can do about it. Unless you want to end up like that kid, you better get walking." Destiny squealed softly as Aurelia tugged her forward, nearly causing her to trip over the child's corpse.

    Relief filled Aurelia's mind when she made out a long, flat clearing in the distance—the runway. Much to her vexation, she saw that there was a chain link fence protectively wrapped around the stretch of land. Not daring to leave the shelter of the trees to get a closer look, she carefully scouted the barrier for a gap or break. When her search turned out fruitless, she shook her head disdainfully. I guess we'll have to climb it. I can manage, but I'm worried about Des. She can barely even walk as that dumb thing.

    Aurelia glanced both ways before darting toward the fence. Catching her breath, she clenched her teeth and thrust herself up. The fence rattled noisily as she climbed, causing fear to spike in her heart. Motivated by the thought of the man shooting her from behind, she furiously clambered to the top. The hybrid swung her legs over the fence and let herself drop to the other side, hitting the ground hard on her knees. She gripped the fence and pulled herself to her feet, peering out into the forest. Destiny was staring back at her, her head cocked in its usual pitifully clueless way. Knitting her brows, Aurelia beckoned her forward in frustration.

    Destiny skeptically pressed forward, her gaze locked on the Arceus hybrid. Too concerned with making sure she didn't fall down, the insect didn't bother to double-check her surroundings. Destiny's painfully slow movements kept Aurelia on edge; she was just waiting to hear a gunshot and watch the purple creature keel over. The girl wondered how much, if any, protection her metal exoskeleton offered. I think it helped with her fall earlier. She probably would've ended up as a pancake otherwise. Aurelia didn't know if that meant she was bulletproof, but she found it amusing that a Pokémon that was pathetically ineffectual in every other attribute was so incredibly durable. I guess it's necessary. I can't imagine she'd live very long if her armor was as useless as the rest of her. Aurelia laughed to herself at the thought of the creature tripping and shattering like glass.

    When Destiny finally reached the fence, she tipped her head back, intimidated by the height. She then began to stare at Aurelia again, as if she were awaiting instruction. "Go for it," the Arceus hybrid muttered coolly, not sure of what else to tell her. If they weren't risking their lives, Aurelia would've thought it'd be entertaining to watch Destiny try to scale the fence, but as this clearly was not the case, she didn't look forward to seeing her struggle. The insect had only one inflexible digit per hand, meaning that she wouldn't be able to hold onto anything. Additionally, the weight of her cannon would most likely result in her tipping over and falling backwards.

    Destiny kept still, pondering the same possibilities. For several heartbeats, they both stood in silence, puzzled. Growing impatient, Aurelia finally blurted, "Use the jets." She regretted her words as soon as they came out of her mouth—the sight of the insect blasting herself into the sky so close to the city would undoubtedly act as a signal fire to the gun-wielding man. That appeared to be the only option, though—surely they couldn't turn around after making it this far.

    Destiny appeared to share her apprehension, as she replied by rapidly shaking her head. "Just do it," Aurelia begged, fighting off her uneasiness. "You just need to make it over the fence. After that, it won't matter if anyone saw you. We'll run for it. Once we find Skyla, we'll be safe. No one would think of firing on a Gym Leader's property." At least, that's what I hope. Aurelia swallowed hard, still worried that the residents of Mistralton City were as enthusiastic about slaying the hybrids as Team Plasma was.

    The insect whined, cowardly taking a step back and continuing to shake her head. "Do it," Aurelia repeated angrily, tightening her grip on the chains. "There's no other choice. If you want to live, use your jets." When Destiny didn't do anything, Aurelia shook the fence and screamed, "Are you listening to me? You need to use the jets! Please, use the jets!" She took a moment to calm herself, and then stammered, “Every person in my life has abandoned me, and the same thing is going to happen with you! But you—you’re different. You have a chance to prevent it. You can tell fate to go screw itself! All you need to do is get over the fence. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Please, I’m sick of watching everyone around me die! Use the jets!”

    Stunned by the desperation in Aurelia's pleading voice, the trembling Destiny let out a choking sob. Dropping her gaze to the ground, she sullenly approached the fence and poked her claws through the chains. Aurelia backed away hurriedly as flames ignited in the soles of the creature's feet, forcing her body into the air. Destiny scrambled to keep her hands on the fence, which did little to slow her propulsion. The insect shrieked as she shot past the top of the fence, momentarily forgetting how to deactivate her jets. When she came to her senses, she leaned to the side before extinguishing both jets simultaneously and plummeting feet-first. Tucking in her legs, Destiny twisted her body and landed on her side. Dazed but uninjured, the hybrid flipped onto her belly and made a timid croaking noise.

    "That wasn't so bad, was it? I knew you could do it." Aurelia marched up to the hybrid once she had landed, and, in spite of her amiable words, fiercely yanked her upright. "We're almost there. We just need to start running." When Destiny was on her feet, Aurelia raced down the runway with all her might, dragging the stumbling insect along behind her.

    It then became evident that Aurelia had not yet fully conquered the cruelty of fate.
    Last edited by Ahnyo; 4th August 2013 at 09:24 PM.



  5. #50
    Your mind is a world AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly

    Congratulations on winning Best Dark Fic! This is my post-awards review. Normally I'd write more, but I've been so busy lately that I'd never get around to a proper review, so here's more or less a copy/paste of my judging. I was more critical in judging than I normally am in reviews, so keep that in mind.

    The plot is well constructed and fairly original. The idea of hybrids that transform randomly adds a great element that can stir up any situation. There are also plenty of good sci-fi explanations for things that I quite enjoyed. The pacing, however, is a little odd. Maybe it's because there are so many characters to follow, but it seems a little off. I'm not going to take too many points off for that though.

    You provide an interesting depiction of Unova, but we don't really see much of it. Description is present enough so that it's possible to understand what's going on, but it doesn't show off the setting as much as it could. I'm a bit anal about environmental description though, so keep doing whatever you want.

    The characters are interesting and varied, but I have a really hard time identifying with any of them. We seem to get dropped in the middle of a story rather than at the beginning. We only really get to see the backgrounds of two characters, and the one that gets their background decently explained dies off fairly early (Colby).

    Your prose is notable but not really extraordinary. I don't have much to say here besides that the writing was enjoyable to read but not really outstanding in any way. With practice, though, I can see it becoming quite good. I only noticed a few errors here and there. Just typos, nothing serious. Nothing jarring or memorable.

    I hope this didn't come across as too harsh, since I quite enjoyed the story. You definitely deserved the award. If you have any questions or want examples, then just say the word. You've gained a new reader, so I look forward to more.
    Last edited by AetherX; 3rd August 2013 at 08:12 PM.

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    Platypus Saleswoman Ahnyo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly

    Thank you for the review! I don't mind if it's harsh, as long as it isn't outright rude (and it wasn't, haha). I'm always looking for ways to improve.

    I think the way I cut up the older chapters is partially to blame for the uneven pacing. For instance, I could fuse "Tribulations", "An Enigmatic Creature", and "Alpha and Omega" together and the resulting chapter would be around the same length as what I put out today (but that would involve having to rewrite two of the three chapters, as they are all told from different perspectives). Having the chapters spread out like that seems to really make the story drag (or at least that's how I feel), and I regret not doing what I'm doing now from the beginning. I've also noticed that the chapters involving Destiny/Colby/Aurelia are sort of slow compared to those featuring Dragon/Ben/N, but I guess it sort of comes from how the former are focused on the reactions between the characters while the latter are more plot-based. I'm hoping to move things along more steadily as the plot progresses and the two sides of the story start to intertwine.

    I'm actually quite surprised that you're disappointed by my lack of environmental description, because when I did put a lot of effort into describing a setting in a different story I started not too long ago, I was heavily criticized for it. That's probably the reason I've made my descriptions so limited, though I suppose I should work on finding the middle ground instead.

    I didn't really delve into any of the characters' backgrounds in the beginning because I didn't want to make readers sit through unnecessary exposition. For instance, Destiny and Dragon's upbringings really have no relevance to the plot and going into detail about them would sort of make things drag. The characters whose backstories are crucial to the plot (primarily N and Aurelia) will be given flashbacks that contain a lot of important information. Looking back, I do regret not establishing Ben's relationship with his parents outside of his thoughts about them (I sort of failed to abide by the golden rule of writing: "show, don't tell"), as the extent of their love does become quite important later on. I also wish I had introduced Destiny's dad earlier on. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I do agree that the characters' backgrounds should've been expanded on, but at the time I started writing I thought they wouldn't be important and now it's too late to go back and fix things. However, I've been planning a rewrite (possibly a non-Pokémon one... yeah, it sounds like it would be impossible, but I actually have almost everything figured out) and one of my top priorities for it is to give a lot more insight on the characters' backgrounds.

    Well, I guess average is better than terrible. I personally find my writing style to be super awkward, though I think it's come really far from how it was just a few years ago. The stuff I wrote in seventh/eighth grade, the year before I started this story... man, is it embarrassing! I've definitely learned a lot while working on PF, not just in terms of prose, but also when it comes to incorporating literary elements into my writing. I've never really thought about strong themes or foreshadowing or anything like that before: the pieces I wrote before PF were all very linear "good vs. evil" fantasy stories with no special twists or defined characters. There's been a lot of experimentation involved in writing this story, but I think overall it's really helped me to hone my skills as a writer. Getting back on subject, I really should be more careful while proofreading... I frequently make mistakes that spellcheck doesn't catch, such as writing 'and' instead of 'an'. In fact, I literally just found a spot in chapter nine where I wrote 'though' instead of 'thought'. I wish I had one of those programs that reads your writing out loud.

    I do have one request, if you're willing: what predictions do you have for the story? I feel like the things I've put the most work into are the twists, but I'm still sort of paranoid that the plot is too predictable. I've asked quite a few people what they think will happen, and so far I'm pretty confident in my ability to mislead my readers... Still, I enjoy hearing what people think. Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed PF, and thank you for taking the time to read it!



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    Your mind is a world AetherX's Avatar Moderator
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly

    As you seem to be very aware of the issues I raised about flow and character backgrounds, I don't really have anything more to say on that. As for description, I end up having this conversation with pretty much every author I leave a review for. I am a description-whore, so not enough description for me is probably still fine for everyone else. That's why I said that it's ultimately up to you. I will, however, leave you with a link to a post I made in response to another author's misgivings about description. This sums up my feelings about description really well, and it all applies to you (with the exception of examples), so I don't really want to type it all out again xP

    Predictions? Hmm... You've thrown so many wrenches into the BW storyline that I obviously can't look to it for hints. I don't think Ghetsis' plan nor N's will end up working, and I'm not too confident in many of the hybrids making it out of this alive. No mention has been made of a cure, but there's also only one non-hybrid POV character which would make things awkward if everyone kicked the bucket. I figured Aurelia's past was pretty significant and you just confirmed it, but it's hard to make anything of that. We don't know what happened to her mom, but the only twist I can see being a possibility is that her mom is Genesect. No hint has been made in that direction though, or any other as far as I can tell. Maybe I'm not paying close enough attention. That's all I've got, so I hope it's helpful. I always like reading people's predictions for my work (although in my case people usually end up guessing much more exciting twists than what I planned).

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    Platypus Saleswoman Ahnyo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly

    Resurrection


    The eighteen years of N’s life had been spent building up to this moment. Every cold day he had been forced to sit through in isolation; every tireless hour he had dedicated to his research; every fleeting minute he had used to educate himself about the nature of Pokémon and the state of the world—they had all been steps in his path to reach such a lofty achievement. And now, all his hopes and aspirations were firmly in his grasp—they were bottled up in the form of a resplendent white globe, and he was only a stone’s throw away from breaking it open and unleashing his dream upon the world.

    N could see his reflection in the milky shell of the orb, shifting and swirling along with the cloudy essence trapped within. The leader of Team Plasma was almost convinced that the distorted image of his face, which was placidly moving on its own, was a separate being—could Reshiram possibly be peering at him through the guise? He wondered if the dragon’s soul was even conscious, and if it knew it was being held by the fated hero of the Unova region. Of course that’s true. How else would it know when it’s time to arise? N smiled at the Light Stone, watching as his reflection mirrored his jovial expression.

    “My lord?” The sound of Dragon’s anxious voice brought N back to reality. The king of Team Plasma slowly looked up from the glassy relic, having nearly forgotten where he was. The black-haired grunt had slipped into the headquarters moments ago, his arms tightly wrapped around what couldn’t have been anything other than the Light Stone. N had been restlessly waiting by the entrance ever since he learned that Dragon had left, too excited to think about doing anything else. He had finished all of his preparations the night before, and now all that was left to do was awaken Reshiram. Yet, he couldn’t shake the feeling he was forgetting something.

    Earlier, another grunt had handed over a blood-stained stack of papers she had discovered while searching for hybrids. It made N feel bad that the members of his organization were still partaking in such a revolting campaign, but the king planned to settle things during his ceremony. The papers, which had reportedly been found alongside the mysterious corpse of what appeared to be a Lugia, contained written instructions on how to produce the formula used to create the hybrids. Though they were spattered with dark red specks, the neatly-typed recipe was still completely legible. We can’t afford to leave this abominable information available to the world, N had thought. I’ll have Reshiram set them ablaze as part of the ceremony. He had placed the instructions beneath his script in preparation for the event.

    “Yes?” the king replied. Much like the first time Dragon had returned from a mission, he seemed peculiarly nervous and jumpy. N didn’t understand why—was he afraid of failing his leader? Though he didn’t manage to bring back Genesect, this time he had successfully retrieved the Light Stone. N couldn’t think of any reason for him to be afraid.

    Holding out a Poké Ball, Dragon shyly stammered, “Can you take this for me?”

    N blinked in confusion. “Is that Archeops’s? Why would you want me to take it?” Hadn’t he explained to the grunt what he planned to do once he was in control of the Great Dragon? Why couldn’t he simply wait until then? N thought back to his conversation with the Zekrom hybrid, when he had scolded the grunt for overworking his Pokémon. Before he recalled that Dragon hadn’t been present during their argument, he suddenly remembered what he had been forgetting.

    I promised the hybrid that I’d check in on him once in a while, but I haven’t done that since I gave him his supper. I’m sure he’s fine, though, and I’m positive all that food would’ve held him over for at least a day. I can’t think of anything else he would’ve wanted. Despite his reassurance, he couldn’t help but feel bad for the neglected hybrid, who he promised would be treated like a king. I’ll make sure he has a special place in the ceremony. Both Reshiram and Zekrom are needed to rebuild the Great Dragon—it would be wrong to celebrate one and not the other.

    “No, it’s not Archeops’s,” Dragon corrected, stretching his arm out farther. “It’s my Druddigon’s. Please, just take it. She’d be much better off with you.” N didn’t feel like the grunt was giving him much of a choice.

    Securing the Light Stone in the crook of his arm, he skeptically accepted the Poké Ball. “Very well, I promise to take good care of her.” The agitation in the boy’s tone made the king uncomfortable, and out of fear that he would upset him, he decided against asking why exactly he was so eager to give up his Pokémon. N also thought better of questioning why he wasn’t wearing his uniform. He’s done so much for me. Even if he didn’t succeed in rescuing Genesect, just the fact that he went out of his way to volunteer for that is very admirable. I may not know why he insists on having me hold onto his Druddigon, but if that’s his wish, he deserves to have it granted. He stuck the object in his pocket before asking, “Are you ready for the ceremony?”

    “Ceremony?” the grunt repeated timidly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    Of course he doesn’t know what I’m talking about. I only came up with this last night, N scolded himself. “I want all of Team Plasma to witness Reshiram’s revival. I shouldn’t be the only one who gets to see such an extraordinary event take place. I would also like to use the opportunity to announce my plans regarding the hybrids.”

    “Oh, I see.” Dragon didn’t sound nearly as enthusiastic as N had hoped. The king wondered if he was jealous of him—after all, he had gone through all the trouble of finding the Light Stone only for someone else to awaken the Legendary Pokémon inside. Well, it can’t be helped that I’m the one destined to be the hero of the Unova region. I’ll be sure to recognize his right alongside the Zekrom hybrid. Speaking of which…

    “I apologize if I’m asking too much of you, but I have one last request,” N declared. The king felt as if he could truly count on the black-haired grunt; Ghetsis and the other six Sages seemed to have gone missing, leaving Dragon as the most trustworthy member of Team Plasma. N still didn’t know what the officials were up to, but in spite of the Zekrom hybrid’s warnings, he was sure they hadn’t betrayed him for good.

    “Yes, my lord?” N thought he heard a hint of irritation in the boy’s voice.

    “Don’t worry; it’s nothing major,” the king affirmed. “Once the ceremony has begun and everyone is situated in the gathering hall, I’d greatly appreciate it if you could bring the Zekrom hybrid backstage. See, I’d prefer if he was kept a surprise. If I led him to the gathering hall myself, someone might see him, so it’d be best to bring him there after all of Team Plasma is seated. Since you’ve already seen him, it would be ideal if you were the one to escort him.”

    “Will do, my lord,” Dragon replied firmly. “When will the ceremony be taking place? And where is Ben?” The grunt seemed to put emphasis on the hybrid’s name, causing N to realize that up until now he had no idea what it was. The king immediately felt guilty—he had gone through the trouble of coming up with something to call the creature previously known as GMP156, and yet he hadn’t even considered referring to the hybrid as anything other than what he was. How depressing. I’ve been talking about him as if he’s merely a token in my plan; something for me to use. It’s like how trainers treat their Pokémon, or like how that scientist wanted me to use Genesect. I don’t want to become that way. Ben is more than just a Zekrom hybrid. At heart, he’s human, just like me. Even if he wasn’t, no living, breathing, thinking organism deserves to be spoken about in such a way, regardless of whether or not its natural form has been corrupted. It made N feel as if he was ignoring the value of the boy’s life; the person he had been before he was twisted through science.

    I believe that names are very important to one’s identity. No matter what variables a person encounters in his life, his name will remain constant. A person’s name is a lot like his destiny: they’re both assigned at birth, and they both tell a story about who he is. N wondered if his own name held any underlying significance. A person can change his name, though. I changed GMP156’s name to Genesect. I suppose that’s what makes one’s name different from his destiny.

    N held up the white orb proudly. “Now that the Light Stone is in my possession, we have no reason to wait. I’d like to get the ceremony underway as soon as possible.” Echoing Dragon’s emphasis, he answered, “Ben’s in the chambers at the bottom level of the headquarters. Do you know how to get there?” Saying the hybrid’s name aloud made N notice just how similar it was to his nickname.

    Dragon bowed his head dutifully. “I’ll find my way,” he asserted.

    The king let out a chuckle. “Well, you found the Light Stone. I shouldn’t have anything to worry about. I’ll announce the ceremony over the intercom. When you feel as if everyone has been given enough time to converge at the gathering hall, you can head upstairs.”

    “Right.” Dragon loathly cracked a grin. Watching the grunt stalk off in such an averse, moody fashion brought a frown to N’s face. What was upsetting him? Didn’t he consider it an honor to carry out tasks for the king of Team Plasma himself? Maybe he thinks of me as an equal, N considered. If that’s the case, I understand his point of view. We’re both humans, and our basic biological makeup is the same. In that respect, we are no different from one another. Our destinies are what set us apart, though we have no say in whether we are born kings or whether we are born subjects. I suppose it is unfair. But is everything truly black and white? Are we able to change our destinies in the way that we may change our names? Can we defy our intended purposes and become something new?

    N didn’t know what to think of the prospect. It reminded him of the hybrids, who had been born human only to be transformed into abhorrent monsters—and Genesect, a creature that wasn’t even meant to exist in the modern world. Were those really their destinies? If I were to throw myself off a cliff right now, would that have been my destiny all along? There are so many variables in my life that could produce outrageously different outcomes if they were altered ever so slightly. How could this be my destiny if any number of events could’ve taken place and prevented me from reaching this point? N’s ponderings created a paradox in his mind, so he shook his head and forced himself to move on. None of those events have occurred in my life, however. If I’ve made it this far, then this must be what was intended of me. And now, I must take up this opportunity to fulfill my destiny and make my dream a reality.


    Dressed in a ceremonial beige robe, N stood behind the podium, firmly gripping his script and the thick packet of papers beneath it. He pawed through the instructions curiously as the last few grunts piled into the gathering hall, marveling at the amount of effort that had gone into crafting the vile formula. It’s a pity all of this knowledge was invested in such a horrid project. Had this scientist not succumbed to his own selfish desires, what kind of great innovations could he have brought to the world? It’s disheartening to think of how many times this cycle has been repeated: it’s always the best of us who lose themselves to ambition.

    The king took a mental count of the assembled grunts, noticing that the hall was not even close to its capacity. Where was the rest of Team Plasma? They must be out hunting, N concluded bitterly, but surely this will be the last time any of them partake in that depraved carnage. Once word of this ceremony spreads, the true purpose of Team Plasma will be restored. N studied the audience in front of him, wondering if they had any idea what was about to take place. The faces in the crowd seemed to be staring at him contemptuously, as if they believed he was to blame for the tragedy they were caught in the middle of.

    Swept by a sudden feeling of unease, N experimentally prodded the microphone before raising his voice. “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,” he proclaimed uncertainly, trying his hardest not to stumble over his words. The king felt insecure in front of the prying, judgmental eyes of the audience, and suddenly the excitement of realizing his dream faded into the background. The grunts—who were supposed to be his subjects—appeared to be questioning his authority and spreading silent messages of discontent among themselves. What would happen if N failed to appease them? Swallowing hard, he forced himself to continue.

    “I have gathered you here today for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I would like to announce that there has been a misunderstanding involving the beings referred to as Pokémon hybrids.” N kept his eyes locked on the crowd, occasionally flicking his gaze down to his script for less than a heartbeat at a time. His proposal appeared to capture the grunts’ interest, allowing N to gradually regain his confidence. “Despite what Ghetsis may have told you, I in no way approve of the extermination of the hybrids. I was absent at the time, and I was not given any say in the decision. As this campaign violates the basic moral code of Team Plasma, I am deeply offended by this mishap and I would like to apologize for unintentionally subjecting the loyal members of my organization to such violent misdeeds. As the king of Team Plasma, I would like to officially terminate this treacherous campaign.”

    A quiet round of applause resounded through the hall, and N was hit by a rush of relief as the place’s cold atmosphere began to thaw. The people in the crowd were no different from him—they had all joined Team Plasma for the same earnest reasons, and they all had the same goal of establishing equality between humans and Pokémon. To have been given such wildly different orders and being expected to act upon them must have been traumatic to the dedicated peacemakers.

    “Now, you may be wondering what I intend to do with these hybrids instead, as they still pose a considerable threat to the environment. That’s what brings me to the next part of my announcement.” N had purposely made his script short and concise, not wanting to bore the audience with a longwinded speech before the peak of his ceremony. “As you all know, Team Plasma’s mission is to liberate Pokémon from humans. However, the prevalence of Pokémon training in the Unova region and support for the industry makes this a nigh impossible task—that is, if we continue merely protesting the activity and publically standing up for our beliefs. See, in an endeavor as ambitious as this one, I propose that we must resort to measures more potent than human perseverance alone. To separate Pokémon and humans, I plan to call upon a Legendary Pokémon for assistance.”

    The king paused momentarily, taking in the grunts’ reactions. Their bright, hopeful expressions dramatically transformed into looks of awe and incredulity in a matter of seconds. N hid a smile as a warm surge of pride coursed through his veins. “Being citizens of the Unova region, I am positive we are all familiar with the tale of how our homeland was born. The myth about the Great Dragon and the two brothers is so deeply engraved in our history that it difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. With no solid proof of the Great Dragon’s existence, why should we believe that Reshiram and Zekrom were once a single Pokémon if the legend itself states that they were unable to recombine? Do we even have any evidence to support the belief that Reshiram and Zekrom were real Pokémon? According to the story, their souls were turned to stone. If this is true, then why has no one managed to find either of these relics? Well, my friends, I would like to present you with one of the products of nearly a decade’s worth of research. In all its fabled splendor—the Light Stone!”

    Gasps rang out through the hall as N withdrew the white artifact and set it on the podium. “Every legend holds at least a grain of truth, but as with most folktales, most of the reality of the Great Dragon’s tale has been lost to the sands of time. Fortunately, I have been able to reconstruct what has been lost, much like how I intend to reconstruct the Great Dragon itself. The white dragon Reshiram and black dragon Zekrom are commonly perceived as polar opposites, and their original unity parallels the notion that we humans are driven by conflicting incentives. It is the choices we make that determine the kind of people we are! Now, you may have noticed that if this were related to Reshiram and Zekrom, something would be missing from the equation. If Reshiram and Zekrom are analogous to our varying motives, then what represents—for lack of a better term—us? How can morals and ideas be brought to life without a mind to conceive them? It turns out that we have forgotten a third component of the Great Dragon, and it may very well be the most important of them all.

    “I theorize that the third entity making up the Great Dragon is none other than Kyurem, the beast that purportedly terrorized Lacunosa Town. It may sound like a bizarre concept, but if you take the time to analyze the facts, everything adds up. Zekrom and Reshiram, thunder and flame, can be thought of as sources of energy that powered Kyurem’s body. When the Great Dragon broke apart, Kyurem was reduced to a hollow, empty husk. Perhaps the reason Kyurem has not made a reported appearance in centuries is because it used up what little energy it had left after the split and entered a coma-like state. It’s not unlike a brain that has lost the ability to think. But now that I’ve obtained the Light Stone, I may be able to replenish Kyurem’s energy and restore it to its former glory. One problem persists, however: how can I hope to recreate the Great Dragon without the Dark Stone? Well, folks, I may not possess the Dark Stone, but that is because I’ve already brought Zekrom back to life!”

    Even though N had clearly established that hybrids were not to be seen as enemies, he wasn’t sure if the grunts would be willing to accept a counterfeit Zekrom. N himself wasn’t particularly enamored with the idea, but he had no other choice.

    “That’s right!” the king exclaimed elatedly. “With both Reshiram and Zekrom by my side, all that’s left to do is reintroduce them to Kyurem. We’ve lived in a gray, muddled world of disorder and unbalance for far too long, and it is my duty to put an end to that once and for all. I’ll show the people of Unova the truths of their injustices, and I’ll enforce my ideals to rightfully divide humans and Pokémon. And then, black and white will truly be distinct!” He sauntered to one side of the stage, activating a mechanism that slowly drew back the curtains. Returning to his position in front of the podium, the king threw his arms into the air and shouted, “I present to you Zekrom, the Legendary black dragon of ideals!”

    N’s heart turned to lead when the hall instantly became dead silent and looks of bafflement spread among the crowd. Had Dragon been unable to locate the holding chambers? Had he simply decided not to show up? The king grudgingly spun around, and to his horror he found an oddly familiar brown-haired boy standing in place of the Zekrom. He was hunched over with his hands on his knees, looking green in the face. Dragon was sheepishly standing in a corner, pressing his palm against his face in shame.

    The brown-haired boy tentatively lifted his head, giving the audience a weak smirk. “Legendary black dragon of ideals… yeah, that’s me. If somebody could show this Legendary black dragon of ideals where the men’s room is, that would be great.”

    What is this? N cried in his mind, unable to take his eyes off of the scene in front of him. After several moments, he was hit with the realization that the boy was none other than Ben’s human shape. N had only seen him in that form for a few minutes, but his appearance and stance were unmistakable. He was dressed in the same black sweatshirt and jeans, and much like how he had appeared during their first encounter, he looked woozy and faint.

    N couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing. Hybrids can change back to normal? The discovery reminded him of just how little he knew about the altered creatures. He had never been given an opportunity to sit down and have the hybrids’ physiology explained to him, and instead took them for what they were: humans who turned into Legendary Pokémon. Did the hybrids decide when they changed? It added a whole new layer of complexity to the situation, and N couldn’t bring himself to think about it under the pressure of the confused audience.

    His face hot with embarrassment, the king wordlessly closed the curtain before addressing the crowd. “I sincerely apologize for this,” he proclaimed coyly, cutting off the hushed conversations that filled the hall. “Please disregard what you just saw. I’m afraid Zekrom wasn’t able to be here.” His statement was promptly followed by a stifled yell from backstage. N immediately lamented what he had said—would these people honestly be willing to believe that a Legendary Pokémon was unable to show up? Where else could it possibly be? Without his script for guidance, the king was left feeling lost and incapable.

    N’s anxiety relapsed, and he began to feel small and weak in front of the large mass of people gathered before him. He felt the heat of their penetrating stares, calculatingly assessing each misstep and waiting for him to correct himself. This was why he preferred the company of Pokémon—loyal Pokémon would turn a blind eye to his faults and accept him unconditionally. Humans, however, were an entirely different species. But what good was a king who couldn’t confront his own subjects? Swamped with self-resentment, N forced himself to speak. “With that behind us, I would like to move onto the highlight of this ceremony. To prove my worth, I will summon Reshiram’s soul from its eternal slumber here and now!”

    Compared to his earlier assertions, his tone had grown particularly cynical and appeared to reflect the doubt that had overcome the majority of the grunts. The king closed his eyes as if to block out the scene in front of him, placing his hands on the Light Stone. “I, Natural Harmonia Gropius, king of Team Plasma and destined hero of the Unova region, beseech you to rise from your dormant state. Together, we will restore equality among the people and Pokémon of the world. I bid you to awaken, Reshiram, Legendary white dragon of truth!” He raised his arms a second time.

    After several heartbeats of silence, N warily opened his eyes. The Light Stone was still resting atop the podium, the white mist jeeringly brewing inside. Too scared to see the audience’s reaction, N couldn’t bear to lift his gaze from the orb. “Come on, Reshiram,” he whispered despondently, “what more do I have to do? Please, Reshiram, this is your time to rise!”

    When nothing happened, N tucked the unresponsive Light Stone into his elbow and grabbed a hold of his half-read script and formula instructions, still staring down at the podium in anguish. “All of this was a mistake,” he mumbled dejectedly. Mortified, he exited the hall without saying anything more.



  9. #54
    Platypus Saleswoman Ahnyo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Plasma's Folly


    Sanctuary


    The feeling in Aurelia's stomach started as a slight tingling sensation, but it grew stronger with each step she took. Even though she was fully aware of what was about to happen, she attempted to convince herself otherwise. I ate too much, that's all. All this running must be giving me a cramp. No, it's no use! Why does this have to happen now of all times?

    The girl let go of Destiny's arm, forcing herself to ignore the churning in her belly and sprint faster. She had no clear destination in mind—she just knew she needed to run, putting as much distance between the forest and herself as possible. She didn't care about reaching the airport or finding Skyla; those problems would have to wait.

    Aurelia doubted the bumbling insect would follow her lead, but she couldn't afford to let herself be slowed down. Destiny's durable armor and powerful jets gave her a pinch of reassurance, though after what had taken place minutes ago, she didn't think she'd be too willing to use the latter even in the event of an emergency. She'll be fine, Aurelia doubtfully told herself.

    The hybrid held back a squeal when her legs seemed to tangle together and she was thrown to the ground, scraping her hands and knees on the rough asphalt. The stinging pain swiftly subsided, merging with the uncomfortable feeling of her imminent metamorphosis. No, she groaned in her head, unable to move. Aurelia hated transforming even more than she hated being stuck in the shape of a Pokémon, and seeing what had become of the unfortunate Colby only made it worse. The image of the boy's broken corpse instantly came to mind when her bones began to lengthen and her expanding organs pushed against the walls of her abdomen.

    Aurelia's body seemed to morph in slow motion, contrasting with her throbbing heartbeat and the panic pulsing through her mind. Every tedious second her transmogrification wasted was another second she was left completely vulnerable. She wouldn't be much better off once she was fully changed, but at least then she'd have means of fleeing or defending herself. The hybrid hadn't actually had an opportunity to test out the moves of her Pokémon form, but she decided that if Destiny could figure out how to harness her abilities, it couldn't have been too difficult to understand.

    Once she regained control of her body, the Arceus hurriedly picked herself up off the ground. Standing on wobbly legs, she stretched her neck to survey her surroundings. Aurelia rotated her head as she carefully examined the area, squinting to see past the chain link fence in the distance. She let out a mental sigh before turning her attention to Destiny, who was standing exactly where she had last seen her.

    "Des, get over here," she ordered telepathically, lightly tapping her hoof against the ground. The insect groaned and took one step forward before being interrupted by Aurelia. "No, scratch that. I have a better idea." Destiny watched in confusion as the Arceus speedily trotted up to her. Aurelia gradually lowered her back, gawkily folding her forelegs under her chest. "Get on."

    As much as Aurelia disliked the idea of being used as a mount, carrying Destiny on her back would allow the two of them to move much faster. She wouldn't have to worry about the other hybrid suddenly stopping and staring at something stupidly, and if she spotted danger approaching, she'd be able to bring both Destiny and herself to safety. Aurelia snorted when she imagined Skyla's reaction to such a bizarre sight, which reminded her of how difficult it would be to approach her now that she had transformed.

    Even if Destiny were with her, she'd have no problem confronting the Gym Leader as a human. She could use the same story she had told the gunman, and since Skyla wasn't exactly known for being perceptive, she'd have a greater chance of believing it. In the event that she did happen to be aware of the strangeness surrounding the forest, Aurelia had met Skyla before—she'd have no reason to believe she was anything but human. Besides, she could easily make it seem as if she had come from somewhere other than the forest.

    Now that she was assuming the shape of a deity, things wouldn't be as simple. Everyone in the Unova region knew what Arceus was, and considering the story of its origin, it would make no sense for it to randomly appear on Mistralton City's runway. As long as the man with the gun wasn't the only person who knew about the hybrids, Skyla would certainly suspect something. Aurelia doubted that the incident was undisclosed—having fifty teenagers disappear without warning wasn't exactly a minor issue, and by now the case must have been heavily publicized.

    So many families must've been affected by this tragedy, and yet no one in the world cares that I'm gone. I might as well not exist. She thought back to Destiny's words of encouragement; how she had tried to convince her that her mother was still alive. For a second, she felt a faint spark of hope—what if her mother was missing like she was, and no one was looking for her? Maybe it was wrong of her to jump to conclusions and assume she was dead; maybe she should've done something about it while she had the chance. Aurelia then remembered that Destiny had denied that Colby was dead when his corpse was right in front of her, which quickly made her lose faith in her reassurance.

    I'm probably over thinking this. Recalling Colby's death reminded her of how he was completely oblivious to what she and Destiny were, and yet he had been in Mistralton City the whole time. Even if word of the hybrids' disappearances had spread, it didn't necessarily mean it was known that they were stuck turning into Legendary Pokémon. Even if Skyla didn't believe Aurelia was truly Arceus in the way Colby had, it was likely that she'd have no reason to perceive her and Destiny as threats. For all I know, she could think I'm a Ditto, she concluded, feeling a surge of confidence.

    Destiny glanced down at her body and then at Aurelia, letting out a gurgling noise. "Stop gawking and get on before I fall over," hissed the Arceus, beginning to lose her balance. Destiny whined and stepped closer to the Alpha Pokémon, throwing her stiff arms over her side. She hooked her elbow into the wheel-like structure on her back and kicked at her belly as she struggled to pull herself up. "Watch it back there!" Aurelia snapped, wincing at each blow.

    Destiny continued to slither up her side, eventually planting her foot on the lower portion of the wheel. Though the insect had to have been less than a third of Aurelia's weight, the Arceus had to prop herself up with one of her forelegs to prevent herself from tipping over. Aurelia glanced over her shoulder at Destiny, who was clinging to one side of the golden protrusion and still trying in vain to climb onto her back. "Close enough. Away we go!" The Arceus's subdued exclamation was answered by a terrified cry. Ignoring the other hybrid's concerns, Aurelia shakily rose to her feet and galloped down the airstrip.

    With her hooves clacking against the asphalt and Destiny's incessant wails filling the air, Aurelia gave up on trying to proceed stealthily. She charged forward with her head held low, slightly careening to one side due to the uneven weight on her back. Aurelia was grateful that she was running across a flat stretch of land; she couldn't imagine how she'd fare if she had to weave between trees or leap over obstacles, especially with Destiny hanging from her side. If I'm fast enough, maybe I'll catch Skyla getting off the plane. She scowled in frustration. Forget it. Des took her sweet time getting over the fence, so Skyla's bound to be gone by now. Let's just hope she didn't leave for the city.

    Aurelia slowed when she approached an airplane, which was most likely the one she had seen flying overhead. She tiptoed around it, ducking down and examining the windows. I wonder if I'll even fit in there. Not wanting to get distracted, she raised her head and promptly crashed into a furry shape.

    "Use Flash, Swoobat! Who's there?" Before the Arceus had a chance to figure out what was going on, searing light blasted her eyes and she stumbled backwards, blinded. She heard Destiny let out a shriek and crash to the ground behind her. Could things get anymore inconvenient? Blinking furiously as she attempted to regain her sight, a woman's scream pierced her ears. Oh boy, here we go.

    Following her ears to the source of the noise, Aurelia snarled, "Listen, we don't have time to watch you freak out. Yeah, I'm Arceus and my friend here is a bionic bug. That's all irrelevant. Well, no, actually it isn't, but that's beside the point. Can you kindly shut up and hear us out?"

    "W-what are you?" Skyla stammered, her voice coming out in the form of a high-pitched whimper. The pilot's baffled voice came as a huge relief to Aurelia; perhaps it meant that Team Plasma and the gunman really were the only ones who knew about the hybrids in the woods. That will make things a whole lot less dangerous, but I've still gotta make her buy the whole hybrid thing if we want to get anywhere.

    The Arceus rolled her eyes, her vision still hazy. She could make out a faint outline of Skyla through the green and black patches dancing around her eyes, and realized she was standing directly in front of her. Her Swoobat was fluttering over her head, fiercely zipping from side to side as if it meant to intimidate the more impressive Pokémon. That ugly fur ball is just as annoying as I remember it to be.

    "I'd appreciate if you addressed me as a "who" and not a "what", but that's not important. Anyway, I'm Aurelia. Remember me? It took me two tries, but I beat you. Gigalith, Darmanitan, Axew… yep, that's me. I'm guessing you're wondering how I ended up looking like this, yes?" When Skyla didn't respond, she kept talking. She selected her words carefully, speaking hastily but going into enough detail to stir up feelings of sympathy. Impressed that the Gym Leader hadn't run away screaming yet, she described all of the events that had taken place earlier, focusing expressly on her encounters with Lynn and the man with the gun. Her sight had returned in full by the time she had finished, allowing her to see Skyla's horror-struck expression.

    "Oh, Arceus," was all she managed to utter. Aurelia was tempted to throw her a witty retort, but she thought better of it. Skyla had taken the explanation surprisingly well, which led Aurelia to wonder what kind of oddities she had come across throughout her career as a Gym Leader.

    "That's why we need your help," the Alpha Pokémon declared adamantly. "It's too dangerous here. I don't care where you take us, but we need to get as far away from this place as we can." She stared down at the human sternly, half expecting her to refuse.

    Her hands cupped over her mouth, Skyla stuttered, "Team Plasma… why would anyone do this to them? How could everything spiral out of control like that? Oh, no, all of this is my fault!" She rapidly shook her head in denial.

    "Wait a second," Aurelia interrupted harshly, "what are you talking about? What do you know about Team Plasma?" Skyla's apparent guilt made her suspicious. She still had no idea what the original purpose of the organization was, but why would a Gym Leader, a figure intended to be a role model for young trainers, be involved with a group prone to such needless violence?

    Skyla took a deep breath, regaining her composure. "I work with Team Plasma," she confessed. "The things you said about them… none of that should be true, but with you standing right in front of me, how could it be false? All of this is the complete opposite of what Team Plasma stands for! We want to create peace between people and Pokémon; that's why I don't understand why anyone would want to put an end to us. And for Team Plasma to react in such a disgusting way… how could this be happening?"

    Aurelia reeled back in shock. Skyla's response to her account had been conclusively genuine, and she had no reason to question the authenticity of her claims. When she thought back to what the Gym Leader had said during their battles—nonsense about birds flying free and the importance of forming friendships with Pokémon—it was reasonable for her to be acquainted with an organization of the sort. However, it didn't explain why the only other member of Team Plasma she had met was bent on murdering her, but since Skyla seemed to be equally perplexed, she allowed her to finish her story.

    "I've been away for the past week. The leader of Team Plasma, Lord N, doesn't believe in using Pokémon for transportation, so it's my job to bring him wherever he needs to go. That's how I learned about Team Plasma—he approached me about a private flight one day, and he ended up telling me all about his dreams. I've been a member ever since." Aurelia wondered whether this confrontation had taken place before or after their battles. If she was so strongly opposed to using Pokémon, why in the world had she decided to become a Gym Leader?

    "This time, Lord N needed me to transport him to Nacrene City. He said he wanted to visit the museum and the library so he could research Legendary Pokémon. That was his goal: he wanted to resurrect Reshiram and Zekrom and recreate the Great Dragon. He told me all about his plans, and the whole time we were blind to what was going on back at headquarters. I only just brought him back there about an hour ago, and he was so happy. He had Zekrom with him, and… oh Arceus, I can't imagine how he's going to react to all of this. He's probably just finding out about it now.

    "I don't know how all of this hybrid stuff happened, but if Lord N had been with his people, maybe it could've been prevented. And I was the one who pulled him away from them… it's my fault. I may not remember battling you, Aurelia, but no one deserves to be put through this. If there's anything I can do to make up for it, I'm at your beck and call."

    Much like how Skyla seemed more concerned about the whereabouts of Team Plasma than the fact that she was talking to someone who had the ability to turn into Arceus, Aurelia didn't put much thought into what she had said about Lord N and his plan. The resurrection of a long dead mythical dragon was nothing to sneeze at, but it paled in importance to the fact that the pilot had agreed to help her and Destiny. "Thank you," she remarked, having gained a little respect for the irksome Gym Leader. "Like I said, it doesn't matter where we go. You're a pilot, so I'm guessing you know a lot about the region. Where do you suggest we go?"

    Skyla paused to think before replying, "There's a place in eastern Unova called White Forest. It's mostly been left untouched by humans, so I think you'd be safe there."

    Great, another forest, the Arceus thought resentfully. In spite of her experience as a Pokémon trainer, Aurelia had never had the opportunity to visit the remote forest. It gave her a bit of comfort—if someone as well-travelled as she was had never explored White Forest, chances were not many people had. The fact that it was on the eastern side of the region was reassuring as well, seeing as Mistralton City existed in the western half of Unova. "Sounds good," she commented, dipping her head approvingly.

    "Okay," said Skyla, pulling out a Poké Ball. She called back her Swoobat before stepping over to the airplane and unhinging the door. "Hang in there a second; I've got to pick up some supplies for you. There's a Pokémon Center right outside of the forest, but it'd be safer if you avoided it. I'll be back in a minute. In the meantime, you can get yourselves seated in the Aeroblast."

    "It has a name?" Aurelia snorted in ridicule, contemptuously glaring at the white and gold aircraft.

    "Why, yes, she does," Skyla affirmed in a sing-song manner. "Aeroblast is a powerful Flying-type move that only the Legendary Lugia is capable of learning." Destiny released a dismal sob, and Aurelia didn't have to guess why. "The name suits her well—this baby cuts through the air like a bullet! I don't understand why this technology hasn't caught on. There are so many advantages to flying in airplanes, and… oh my, I'm sorry! I'm just so passionate about flying, and it's easy for me to get carried away."

    Now I remember why I didn't like dealing with her, Aurelia grumbled to herself as the magenta-haired woman abruptly turned and darted toward the city. What's so bad about using Pokémon for transportation? It's not like you can fit an airplane in your pocket. Did Pokémon mind being ridden and dragging humans around the region on their backs? Though she had willingly volunteered to carry Destiny on her back, Aurelia hadn't particularly enjoyed being used as a mount. How did trainers' Pokémon, which usually had no say in the matter, feel about this?

    Aurelia gracefully bowed her head as she approached the Aeroblast and squeezed her upper body through the door. She continued to pull her body through the tiny opening, only to find that she could no longer move. Shooting a quick glance over her shoulder, the Arceus angrily yowled, "Oh, come on!" The golden wheel encircling her midsection was too broad to fit through the entrance, and the sturdy appendage had gotten caught against the walls of the airplane. Taking a step back, she twisted her torso to the side and thrust her body through the doorway, shifting back to her normal position after she had forced herself in. Slightly embarrassed, she trudged down the aisle and to the rear of the cabin, the corners of her wheel bumping into the seats.

    When we arrive in White Forest, nothing's going to stop me from taking the longest nap ever. There was something soothing about the prospect of being able to close her eyes while knowing she'd wake up the next morning. The things she valued prior to becoming a hybrid were superfluous compared to what she needed now. It didn't matter what kind of trainer she was or how many Badges she had, because she had withered into an emaciated animal whose sole interest was survival. Though she had physically changed into a Pokémon, the true culprits responsible for transforming her into an inhuman beast were the people who perceived her as such. Aurelia and Destiny may have looked different, but they were human beneath their imposing exteriors—they were only monsters in the eyes of those who weren't willing to understand them. Skyla, however, had taken it upon herself to listen to her and treat her like the person she was on the inside, and Aurelia didn't know how to thank her for that.

    The way Destiny held herself as she entered the Aeroblast gave Aurelia the impression that she didn't feel like she belonged there. She walked with a slouched posture, like always, and she looked from side to side as if she were expecting something to spring out from behind the seats. The hybrid tentatively plopped down in the front row, setting the base of her cannon over the back of her chair. Destiny squirmed in her seat uncomfortably, fitfully sliding forward and rolling her shoulders. The purple insect's fidgety movements made Aurelia feel agitated herself.

    What would've happened if Destiny, who had limited means of communication, had approached Skyla by herself? It had been Aurelia's telepathy that allowed Skyla to understand what the hybrids truly were. Her ability to express her thoughts aloud was seemingly the only thing that made Aurelia stand out from a normal Pokémon—but did Destiny's inability to speak make her any less human? It was impossible to tell what the insect was thinking behind her expressionless visage, and if the Arceus hadn't witnessed her changing shape, she'd have no reason to believe she had the brain of a teenage girl. Maybe Team Plasma wanted to do for Pokémon what Aurelia had done for Destiny: provide a voice for those who were unable to speak.

    Before Aurelia knew it, the Aeroblast had taken flight. She peered out the window drowsily, gazing at the blur of woodland below her. It's all in the past now, the hybrid whispered to herself. I survived. As the plane soared over the trees, Aurelia could almost see her memories disappearing along with them.



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