This is now my WWC entry. I hope you like it.
MOBILE SUIT METAGROSS
It was a perennial question: what were Steel-type Pokemon, really? Were they organic? Were they robotic? Were they... magic? No matter how the world's Pokemon researchers poked and prodded, they couldn't come to a firm conclusion. Even asking the oldest and wisest of the Steel-types, and Steel-types could become very old and very wise indeed, wasn't any help... they didn't know either. After centuries of effort, the scientists decided that Steel-type Pokemon were in a difficult-to-describe middle ground between meat and machine. They hated to leave things hanging, but science could only go so far. The argument shifted, becoming a dispute about whether to keep investigating or leave it alone for a decade or two.
When all the ghost Pokemon rose up against humanity, this became a moot point.
(Oscar Six! This is November Three/Four! Come in, please!)
An interminable moment of silence.
(November Three/Four, this is Oscar Six. I read you.)
The Kirlia designated November Four slumped in relief. She ducked down into her makeshift cockpit, a cavity bored into the top of November Three. Wiping away some snowflakes still clinging to her flak helmet, she mentally homed in on the distant Oscar Six and thought about what to say next.
November Three was a Metagross, quickly trained and evolved in order to take the standard cybernetic upgrades. When the humans discovered that Steel-type Pokemon were oddly compatible with cybernetic implants, they had turned as many of them as would agree into walking war machines. November Three was fitted with arctic-pattern camouflaged composite armor, jump jets, one machine gun over each limb, a head-mounted laser, and a small missile battery on its back. Also on its back was the cockpit.
In order to increase battle performance, the Earth United Defense Front had paired up each upgraded Steel-type Pokemon with a Psychic-type pilot. This had the advantage of eliminating the need for communications equipment; the pilots could just use telepathy to communicate. Since large Pokemon like Metagross, Aggron, and Steelix could lose quite a bit of body mass before complaining, cockpit chambers had been carved from their backs to hold their pilots. In this case, the third member of the all-Metagross November Heavy Armor Squadron piloted the fourth.
November Four finished gathering her thoughts and spoke. (Oscar Six, we are requesting immediate evacuation. The spooks generated some kind of anti-teleport field, split us up, and then let us have it. They took out almost the whole squadron!)
By tradition, the sixth member of each squadron was its commander. Four didn't know what species Oscar Six was, but his mental voice was cool and calm, reflecting his special training. (Casualty report?)
To report clearly, she had to think clearly. A brief moment of meditation did that for her, and she replied. (We think we can recover Eight, but everyone else in November Squadron is just gone, sir. Heavy armor, pilots, everyone. Even with us spread out all over town, I could see the explosions. I have minor injuries and half of Three's weapons are disabled. Its armor plating's taken a beating, too.)
She closed her eyes and remembered. Earlier, a Dusknoir leading a swarm of ghosts had popped out from underground and split up the squadron, effectively ending its mission of scouting this city. They had had to fight for their lives instead. Three and Four had done well, managing to eliminate the Mismagius after them, but the others hadn't had it as easy.
Oscar Six paused before answering. (Not good. I'll get on the line with Command to secure you some evac. Grab Eight, fire off a beacon, and sit tight. Keep yourselves together. Oscar Six out.)
November Four let out a deep breath. Now that she and her partner had a way out of this mess, they needed to get their comrade. Pokemon heavy armor squadrons had a consistent numbering system: an odd-numbered cyborg Pokemon was paired with a pilot with the next highest number. In this case, November Eight was a jittery Xatu who had also served as the squadron cook. With all of them dead now, especially November Six, did it really matter—
November Four shook her head. She had a mission now. She couldn't just go into shell shock and let her surviving comrades down.
"We're going to fetch Eight," she told November Three in the language all Pokemon shared. "Oscar Squadron's going to get us some evac."
"Good," Three rumbled. Even though it didn't have vocal chords, the Metagross still managed to generate a voice. It was deep, harsh, and ringing, but to November Three it was familiar and friendly. Their partnership had been forged in the fires of battle, after all.
"What's the bearing?" it asked.
It was an efficient division of labor: the psychic pilots handled targeting and navigation while the cyborg heavy armor units did all the moving and shooting. November Four unfolded a survey map of the battlefield and concentrated.
"I can just barely feel Eight's mind," she said. "He's... yes, I think it's map square 42-17."
She pulled out a protractor from a battered sack lying in the cockpit. Her wrist-top tactical computer had broken a month ago, and a replacement had not yet arrived. She'd learned a lot of applied geometry as a result. "Fifteen and a half degrees, maybe three kilometers."
"Fifteen point five, acknowledged. Ready to move out." Four was mildly jostled as her partner stretched its legs in preparation for action.
She closed the cockpit hatch to shield herself from the biting cold and the falling snow. There was no need to look outside for now. Fighting in the ruins of Snowpoint City was truly a thankless task. It wasn't even the constant snow. Just seeing all the ruined buildings, the haunted burnt-out husks of civilization, was enough to make her cry. She didn't have time to cry.
Three sat tight for a moment as Four searched with her mind for any other Pokemon in the vicinity. They couldn't discount the possibility of other enemies lurking near the abandoned apartment building they'd been using for shelter, though. Once Four gave the all-clear to Three, it stepped out of the now-doorless entrance of the building and started their journey with one of the Pokemon heavy armor squadrons' famous aerial maneuvers. Gathering its strength, Three used Magnet Rise to slowly rise into the air, then kicked in its jump jets for a quick assist. It rose to a height of two stories and went soaring out over the battlefield.
"Keep me advised on targets," it said as it flew through the air. A landscape of toppled buildings and stained snow silently unfurled beneath them with deceptive tranquility.
"Right," Four replied. She tightened the bandages around a gash on her left arm and reached out with her mind again. Any ghost that tried to approach them had to be extremely clever to get past a Psychic-type's vigilance. Unfortunately, the spooks could learn, just like anyone else. Overwhelming force from all directions made up for any amount of vigilance, and Psychic-types also often forgot to search for underground enemies. The spook leadership had taken advantage of this, and so their squadron had been destroyed.
"Contact at two o' clock!" she exclaimed, seeing it in her mind. "Froslass in a tree!"
"Acknowledged," Three said. Using the direct neural interfaces that connected its nerves to its weapons' control circuits, it swung its machine guns into position and fired a short burst down at the trees below. The Froslass was forced out and up, twitching in pain as bits of ice were chipped off of her body. Even though Ghost-type Pokemon were immune to Normal-type attacks, bullets would be somewhat Steel-type if they bore any type at all. High explosives, of course, worked on everybody. Human weapons didn't fit well into the elemental classification system, something that the EUDF forces had relied on time and again.
"Die," Three said. It switched tracer rounds into its ammo feed belts. The tracer bullets made bright streaks of light as they flew at and through the Froslass. This dazzled her long enough for Three to fire a missile at her unnoticed.
An explosion swallowed the Froslass and she fell to the ground, cracked body already beginning to dissipate. Three made a parting shot with its laser that burned away what was left.
"Clear," November Four confirmed. "I don't like the looks of that skyscraper just ahead, though. Too many holes in it, so it's probably swarming with ghosts. We should land before we get too close."
Letting its Magnet Rise fade away, Three landed softly in an abandoned street and used its remaining forward momentum from the flight to break into a run. It and Four had traveled two hundred meters in that one leap and destroyed a Froslass within fifteen seconds. The EUDF often said that they put the "heavy" in "heavy armor," and it wasn't just propaganda.
Four flipped the hatch up and popped her head out. Three had lost many of the maintenance neural links to its weapons systems, meaning that it was left to her to keep track of them instead. She inspected the ammunition belts for the machine guns, then laid eyes on the boxy missile launcher and frowned.
"Easy on the missiles," she told Three. "We've only got two left."
"How did that happen?" Three asked. "I have only fired five missiles since last resupply, and my original loadout was twelve."
Four ran a finger along a newly jagged edge. "It looks like that Dusknoir commander did more damage than we thought. There's a big hole in the launcher's side. I'm surprised that the missiles fell out instead of exploding."
"Must be the new safety fuses," Three remarked. "HQ finally got serious about addressing enemy sabotage."
"And a good thing, too," Four said glumly. "That Dusknoir's still around somewhere."
If she was after them, though, the deadly ghost didn't show it. Things were relatively quiet as November Four pounded down the street. A Shuppet came towards them at one point but hastily retreated after Three shot him in the face with its laser.
"How's the injury?" Three asked Four as they passed the remains of a Pokemon Center. The destruction had been particularly thorough in this district; the only indication that this building had been a Pokemon Center at all was that some of the random bits and pieces in the pile of debris were bright red.
Four grimaced and picked once more at the bandages on her left arm. "Stupid shrapnel. At least the wound's stopped bleeding. Still hurts like anything, though."
She sealed herself back inside the cockpit and, after directing machine gun fire at a Haunter that got too close, reached out for Eight again.
(November Eight, this is Three/Four. We're positioning ourselves for extraction. Status report?)
(F-Four! Thank goodness you're there! Status is okay. I'm injured but stable, and I'm hiding in a building just now. The Drifloon attack group that got us looks like it moved out to the north, so the area is clear.)
(How about Seven?)
(Seven... Seven didn't make it. The last thing it did was throw me out of the cockpit before the Night Slash hit.)
Four took a moment to commemorate the fallen.
(Sit tight, Eight.) she told the Xatu. (I'm directing Three to your position using your psychic signature. ETA... five minutes tops. Oscar Squadron's going to get all three of us out.)
His voice filled with relief. (Roger. Standing by.)
Three and Four continued down the street at the best pace the battered Metagross could manage. The steely spikes on the bottom of its four feet kept it from slipping on the snow and ice. Four kept her head poked out of the cockpit. Even though she didn't really want to see the ruins of Snowpoint City spread all around her, she needed all the tactical information she could gather in order to keep tabs on Eight. If that Dusknoir was shadowing them, he'd definitely try to interrupt the rescue, probably shortly before they found Eight. Just using her psychic sensing abilities probably wouldn't be enough.
Looking at the ruins around her, Four thought that the snow only made the desolation worse. The spooks had burned and razed Snowpoint at the very beginning of the uprising in a successful bid to control the remote northern prefectures of Sinnoh. Ten years had passed before the great amphibious landings at Canalave City had brought soldiers back up through the snow and mountains towards Snowpoint. November Squadron had come here to clear the way for them.
Ten years was a long time to the soldier Pokemon. The Pokemon life cycle, when pushed to its limits, could produce eggs at a frightening rate; Four came from a line of over thirty generations of heavy armor pilots, a line that had started three years after the start of the war. Three, with the emphasis on rapid Metagross evolution, was of the fifty-first generation since the start of Steel-type cybernetic augmentation. Neither of them were more than six months old. The rapid proliferation of combat Pokemon, however, was counterbalanced by the spooks' own population boom. The Pokemon death toll surpassed that of the humans' by a factor of several thousand, something that caused much disbelief and hand-wringing among the higher-ranked officers. Those ten years of war had changed the world entirely.
That decade had not been kind to the devastated port city. Though the fires and smoke were long gone, Snowpoint was still an assault on the senses. Even the constant snowfall didn't have the expected effect of covering everything in pure-looking white. Three kicked up clouds of filthy snow, more brown than white, as it marched smartly down the street. Both of them were treated to the taste of ashes and oil as they passed through those clouds. The wind suddenly increased, howling around them now that there were no tall buildings to blunt its force. It drove even more of the stained snow in their faces and made it difficult to see, but they did their best. November Four wrapped a ragged scarf around her face to keep the snow out. She'd felt bad about taking it off of a dead woman several days ago, but this battlefield had hardened her enough that she didn't worry about it now. At least the snow shielded them from the more gutwrenching sights near them.
They had been unfortunate enough to see them on previous days: the crumpled wreckage of cars, pulverized concrete spilled like blood, various domestic items strewn here and there, and the skeletons. Skeletons in all shapes and sizes: children, Pokemon, the bent bones of the elderly. No life but ghosts, and all of them hostile. Three and Four definitely knew what they were fighting for.
Issues of revenge aside, it was genuinely important for them to take Snowpoint City. The EUDF divisions fighting for their lives in Japan desperately needed a safe sea link to the Asian mainland. If they took Snowpoint and the relatively intact harbor complex there, they could link up with the forces at the fortified Battle Tower in the northern resorts and control the Sinnoh strait between them. This, combined with operations in Hoenn and elsewhere, would mean total control over every entrance to the Sea of Japan and the beleaguered Pacific navy could finally come into play. Once they'd cleared the Sea of ghosts lurking around underwater, they could safely link up to the Trans-Siberian Railway on the other side and thus to the rest of the world. The refugees could finally be convoyed to the safer Asian mainland while the fighting continued all across Japan. Much-needed reinforcements would also be brought in form the mainland. Since Japan had had the best Pokemon technology and the most developed Pokemon culture in the old days, the spooks were strongest there. It was expected that the war would be won— or lost— in the ruins of Johto and Kanto.
Four kept her eyes peeled, doing her best to match up the snow-blurred surroundings around her with whatever psychic emanations she could pick up. Infrared visuals were less than useless here; Ghost-type Pokemon were reported to chill the air, but in an arctic climate that didn't count for anything.
They passed some fresh graffiti on a still-standing wall: a monstrous figure and the letters "SD" in an inhuman scrawl.
Three lashed out, burning off the graffiti and a thin layer of the wall's surface using his combat laser. SD, the Shadow Dragon— Giratina— was the claimed leader of the rebellious Ghost-types. Nobody knew where it was, but a corps of elite Pokemon Trainers and minor Legendaries had spent several unfruitful years hunting it down. Everyone hoped that if a showdown could be forced with Giratina, the war would end. In the meantime, the spooks took malicious pleasure in plastering its likeness across the world's battlefields, and EUDF soldiers took equal pleasure in destroying such images.
Four felt a psychic signature and reached out. Another enemy.
"Gastly, one o' clock, twenty meters, target not active," she told Three.
"I will not engage. Keep me updated," her partner replied. Small and weak targets that weren't doing anything were a waste of time, especially on a rescue mission.
"Target's still not moving. All right, turn left when we reach the tracks, and three more blocks."
The street ahead of them widened as they approached what once had been a train station. Any day now, Four thought, the main thrust of the advance would finally reach here and there would be traffic on the railway again. It would be all repair cars and troop transports, true, but that was better than nothing. Some life, any life in this frozen wasteland would be a blessing. Spooks didn't count, and there weren't very many of them here either anyway, besides that accursed group that had attacked them.
They discovered a minute later that November Eight had holed up in the remains of a Poke Mart. A smart choice— if any of the merchandise was still left inside, he more or less had an entire field hospital at his wingtips.
The Poke Mart was in surprisingly good condition, with only a few holes in the walls and ceiling and most of the merchandise still lying in piles on the ground. Some of it was even still on the shelves. Eight had made the best of it. The Xatu sat hunched behind the front counter, a few freshly-used potion spray-bottles lying in a pile beside him. He held up a pair of cans when he saw them, his short-beaked mouth wavering in an almost-smile.
The three of them caught up with each other as they refreshed themselves with looted Pokemon merchandise. Four justified this to herself by noting that all of it was way past its sell-by date. The various items wouldn't go bad in this wintry environment, though, so even if they'd have been thrown out in the old days, she and her comrades were perfectly fine with using them. Waste not, want not. They were out of their own medical supplies, anyway.
She gritted her teeth as Eight carefully probed at the wound in her arm. Concluding that there was no shrapnel still trapped inside, he sprayed it with a Hyper Potion and wound the bandages back around it. The medicine meant that the wound would heal quickly, but the bandages would make sure it wasn't disturbed. In the chaos of war, both were needed.
"Thanks," Four said.
"You'd do the same for me," Eight told her.
There were a few duties to be performed before they could be extracted. Four located the nearest shrine on her city map and went out to have a look. Since it was only two blocks away and there were no powerful spooks in the immediate area, she went by herself. She came back a few minutes later, a bundle of rags in her arms. She unrolled them to reveal the few unbroken sticks of incense the abandoned shrine still contained. On the way back, she'd also checked on Seven's corpse, now in several pieces. It was too heavy to move, so she left a marker there for possible later pickup.
She and Three stood aside respectfully as Eight stuck the incense upright in the snow and lit the sticks with a cigarette lighter he'd found in the wreckage. Thin streamers of smoke wafted up into the frigid air and out through the holes in the roof as the three of them bowed their heads. Three approximated the gesture by extending his rear legs to pitch himself forward.
None of them knew very much about religion, but they knew that incense was a must at funerals. Thanks to the war, they'd seen enough of those back at the barracks to learn that much. Eight mumbled a prayer for his fallen partner. Three and Four remained silent in honor of its memory.
As the incense continued to slowly burn, the reddish light weakly illuminating the ruined Poke Mart, Eight lifted his head, unshed tears in his large normally-blank eyes.
The Kirlia and Xatu later crept out of the Poke Mart again to plant the still-burning incense next to Seven's final resting place while Three set up a communications beacon.
"Catch your breath," it told them when they returned. Four had managed to scavenge a fresh ammunition belt and a few missiles from Seven's remains. "Once the spooks sense the radio waves from the beacon, they will probably gather here. The flare will make things worse. We may expect combat before the relief force arrives. I will send up the flare now."
It concentrated, and a small box on its back opened up. A small cylindrical object was launched out of it, flying up through a hole in the roof. Red light bloomed suddenly through the hole and the gently falling snow.
"Weapons check," Three intoned. As Four installed the new ammunition, Eight went to inspect the armor.
He shook his head at the massive damage all along the left side. "What happened here? Everything's all melted."
"Remember the Dusknoir in charge of the group that broke us up? We had to fight her," Four explained. "She was good enough to have some Fire-type attacks. We had to fire missiles point-blank into her face to make her retreat, which damaged the armor even more. Three and I are going to tear her apart the next time we see her, even if we have to do it with our bare hands."
Eight stiffened. "Drifloon inbound! It might be the same group that hit me before!"
"Anti-air anti-air anti-air," Four muttered as she checked Three's machine guns. She relaxed after a second. "I think we should be fine. The equipment's still working and we've got extra ammo now."
She climbed into the cockpit and waved to Eight. "Get in, too. We might have to make a running firefight out of this."
"Right," Eight said, and got in beside her. It was a tight fit, and they had to keep the hatch open, but they managed. Eight looked extremely uncomfortable to be riding in a Metagross so soon after his own had died, but he kept quiet about it. The mission came first. He buckled his flak helmet down with a grim look on his face.
(November Heavy Armor Reconnaissance Squadron survivor elements, this is Coronet Command,) Four and Eight heard in their heads. (Oscar Squadron has requested evacuation on your behalf. We have confirmed the location of your beacon. Be advised that orbital reconnaissance suggests numerous contacts converging on your position. Engage if necessary, but stay alive until your relief arrives. Estimated time of—)
The message melted into mental static. Eight winced.
"More psychic jamming! They've got some half-Dark-types somewhere!"
"From the information in our briefings, these are probably Mismagius," Three added. "They are probably also responsible for the teleport-denial effects that are keeping us here."
"Heads up!" Four hissed. "Drifloon dive-bombing at eight o' clock!"
Three swung his machine guns toward the appropriate hole in the roof and opened fire. Tattered remains of the balloon-like spooks drifted down.
Shadows gathered elsewhere, though. Eight sighed. "Oh, great. Now they're flooding all the holes."
Three made the decision to withdraw. With Drifloon coming down through every hole in the Poke Mart's roof, it would be impossible to keep at least one of them from getting close enough to detonate itself. It was such suicide bombing that had crippled November Seven and allowed it to be finished off by a Night Slash.
The three of them burst through the doorway of the Poke Mart. Three picked a street and started running down it. His machine guns and laser swept through the air, trying to keep the Drifloon above at bay.
"Banette!" Four squealed. "Coming off a roof, dead ahead and above!"
"Can't hit it," Three replied tautly. "My targeting abilities are being overwhelmed by the Drifloon. Get it yourself."
"Manual override confirmed," Four sighed, and reached for the missile launcher. She pointed it in the direction of the Banette, made sure the exhaust port wasn't pointed in her direction, and pressed the button for manual launch. The missile leapt out of the launcher and hit a wall next to the Banette. The explosion was large enough that the near miss still knocked the Banette out. Three made sure to trample it after it fell to the ground, adding a laser blast for good measure.
A group of Gastly burst out of a nearby basement and swarmed over the Metagross. Four and Eight were forced to resort to close-range combat to defend each other. They had been told in training that close-range combat was essential to defending their cyborg mounts, but also that having to do it at all meant some sort of tactical failure.
Four hefted her service revolver while Eight shakily held out his cooking knife. The two of them leapt out of the cockpit and went to work, dueling ghosts on the Metagross's back. Four and Eight had been trained to put a thin veneer of psychic energy on the tips of bullets and edges of blades for extra damage. They made quick work of the Gastly, but at the cost of multiple wounds and all of Four's remaining ammunition.
Eight regarded his now-bent knife mournfully. "It looks like we're down to physical attacks now. I can't remember the last time I used Psychic."
Four shrugged as she tended to some of her more serious wounds with some potions they'd taken with them. "It can't be helped. At least we were indoctrinated with TMs during training, so we've got several attacks to choose from. Hold still and I'll spray your wounds too."
"Drifloon squadron depleted," Three told them. "We should have a small amount of breathing time. Have you managed to raise Coronet Command?"
Four sighed. "Mental static is still up. Much more of this and I'm going to get a nosebleed. I've detected a large concentration of enemies two blocks east, though. Do you want to make a pre-emptive strike?"
"Can you get me better targeting data?"
Four laid out the map again and concentrated. Her nearly-invisible nose indeed began to bleed. Eight held a rag to her face so she could keep using the map. "Okay, I've got it. They're in the second story of this building."
She marked the map, dismounted, and held it forward in front of Three's face.
"I see," it said. "Opening fire."
Three elevated its missile launcher and sent every missile it had left screaming skyward. They described a steep arc in the sky before hammering down on the building in question.
The explosion echoed through the streets, drawing the other spooks' attention. Three took the opportunity to double back into the Poke Mart.
"I hope we got them," Eight said as he hopped off to see if there was anything for Four's nosebleed.
"We got something, all right," Four said. "There's fewer lifesigns now."
"And there shall be three fewer by the time we're finished here," a new voice said.
"Heads up!" Three barked as it brought its weapons to bear.
The Dusknoir that had been plaguing them stood in the main entrance with a honor guard of Gengar. They practically boiled with dark energy.
"Spineless thralls of humans," the Dusknoir sneered. "You are an abomination. Look at you: some of you even have machinery inserted in your bodies! We shall rid the earth of you in the name of the Shadow Dragon!"
She seemed intent on giving a good dramatic speech before killing them. In this time, Four had an idea. A large crate full of assorted Poke Balls sat nearby, having never been unpacked for the Poke Mart's use. She reached out with psychic power and tore it open. A small burst of energy sent the balls flying up at the approaching spooks.
Three, catching on, sent a jolt of electricity at them. Although it hardly fazed the ghosts, it was enough to set off the Poke Balls' automatic systems.
There was a flash of red light and the ghosts were gone. Nothing was left except for a pile of Poke Balls, a few of them shaking from side to side.
"Whoa," Eight said. "Nice thinking."
"Now we run," Four said. She and Eight climbed back into the cockpit so Three could make tracks before the Balls failed.
They had only made it half a block before there was another explosion from the now quite-battered Poke Mart. The Dusknoir and her cohorts emerged from the door, shadowed by the flames behind them.
"Fools! You thought that ridiculous tactic would stop me?" The Dusknoir reached out with one hand and the pavement beneath Three buckled. The other hand twisted its jump jets until they fell off its armor. Three tried to use Magnet Rise to escape, but its feet had jammed in the newly-cracked pavement and wouldn't allow it off the ground.
"Get away!" it hissed to its passengers. "I'll cover your retreat!"
"We're not going anywhere, Three," Four told him fiercely.
The Dusknoir raised her hands again—
Everyone turned to look at Eight, who had a wing raised.
"Did you know? There's a red dot of light on your forehead."
The Dusknoir blinked.
An object, blurred with speed, came falling out of the sky and exploded above her.
"That was a laser-guided bomb," Three said almost reverently as it and the other two fired wildly into the resulting smoke cloud. They didn't let up until the otherworldly screaming stopped.
The smoke cleared to reveal the already-dissolving corpse of the Dusknoir and her Gengar honor guard. A loud thrumming noise from the sky above heralded the arrival of several helicopters and aerial Pokemon flying in formation. There were many dots higher up in the clouds: soldiers in parachutes.
The main invasion force had arrived. Bursts of light and sound bloomed all around them as bullets, bombs, and the odd Pokemon attack sought out any surviving enemies nearby. Ghost-types all around them, more than they had expected to be there, took to the air in an attempt to flee. Most of them didn't succeed.
Four doffed her cracked flak helmet and held it to her chest as they admired the sight. "I love the Air Force."
Eight had lost his helmet and Three didn't need one, but they echoed the sentiment.
One of the helicopters, the words "Command Transport" painted on its side, landed near them. Several officers in the uniforms of various armed forces emerged. About half of them were human. The other aircraft fanned out to cover them.
A woman wearing an army major's insignia came up to them. They saluted each other, though the Pokemon soldiers' salutes were much shakier.
"You three are the last of November squad, Pokemon heavy armor recon, aren't you?" she asked.
She folded her hands. "There's little I can say about what you've gone through, and I won't offend you by trying. Just know this... we honor what you have done."
The major bowed deeply. They tried to bow back, but she held up a hand to stop them.
"There's no need to do that. We are in your debt," she told them. "Your reconnaissance mission was ultimately successful. You've delivered a good beating to the spooks over the past few days, true, but drawing them together like that just now was what gave us the perfect opportunity for a final decapitation strike. The Dusknoir was the last regional commander to fall, and Mike and Oscar Squadrons report that most of the rest of the enemy formations are in disarray now. This was just what we needed to clear out the last enemy resistance, land the Fourteenth Airborne, and form a beachhead. Snowpoint City's as good as ours. You'll receive commendations."
Three's legs went weak. From near-certain death to a medal— even though Metagross weren't known for their emotions, they could be overwhelmed the same as anyone else.
"Withdraw to the docks," the major told them, smiling. "All the Pokemon armor/reconnaissance teams are being pulled out as the infantry moves in. We don't have the assets for an airlift right now, so you'll have to walk it— don't try to teleport in your fatigued condition. By the time you reach the harbor, the amphibious landings for the rest of the army should be underway. Meet up with whoever's arrived and make yourself known to the local chain of command. They'll decide where to send you... probably back to Kanto, if I guess right. Goodness knows you've earned leave. Understood?"
The Pokemon saluted. They couldn't speak human languages such as Japanese, but they could still communicate.
The major dismissed them. Three marched off for the docks in the south part of town.
"Wait," Eight said.
Three froze. "Oh. Yes, we'd better do that first."
They proceeded to where they'd left Seven's mortal remains.
Two soldiers, one human and one Pokemon, were already standing there. The Pokemon, an elderly Medicham whose pink skin had faded, waved them over. The human stood back to let them talk.
"I'm on the graves detail," the Medicham said quietly. "Since you were just fighting here, can you identify this soldier?"
"This is November Seven," Eight told him, "from the Second Pokemon Heavy Armor... my partner."
The soldier closed his eyes and took a deep breath. It was always difficult to come across good friends of the deceased.
"Well," he said eventually, "you would know... how would November Seven have liked to be put to rest? If there's going to be a burial, we can call in an airlift. I have to warn you that it might take several days to free up an aircraft..."
Eight looked on his old comrade, his eyes still dry.
"Burying it here would be enough," he murmured. "It's what it would've wanted. It told me once... a soldier is content to rest on its final battlefield."
"Steel-types, always so stoic," the Medicham said with a sad smile. "It brings closure, though. Would you like it to be performed now?"
Eight nodded slowly.
"As you wish," the Medicham said. He wrote a brief report and handed it to his human partner.
The human read it through and looked at the Medicham. "Field burial?"
The Medicham nodded.
"So you'll dig."
The Medicham nodded again and struck the ground. The already-cracked pavement yielded to his pounding fists. He bashed through underground pipelines and defunct sewer tubing until there was a large cavity about five feet deep in the middle of the street next to November Seven's remains.
A Shedinja emerged from a shattered sewer pipe below and glared up at them silently, preparing to attack.
"I'll handle this," the human said. "You four save up your strength to lower Seven in."
He dropped a grenade into the hole, dropped to the ground, and covered his ears. The Pokemon followed suit.
The explosion caught the Shedinja unawares and left it cowering at the bottom of the hole, writhing in silent pain.
The human soldier pulled out a military-issue Poke Ball, painted in camouflage, and tossed it in. The ball hit the bottom of the pit and swallowed the Shedinja in a burst of light. The ghost Pokemon, severely weakened by the grenade blast, wasn't able to break free. The Poke Ball returned to the hand of its thrower, now containing a captive.
It had long ago been decided that the EUDF wouldn't try to convert enemy Pokemon using capturing technology. As a result, military Poke Balls now had three functions: Open, Close, and Annihilate. While the first two used the large button on the front, the third involved a small keyhole on the top. The soldier inserted and turned his key, causing the Poke Ball to turn warm and vibrate gently in his hands as its prisoner was incinerated. Its cycle complete, the Poke Ball opened itself for inspection. The soldier checked inside to make sure that everything was still working properly, then returned it to his belt. Any thoughts of mercy towards defeated enemies had died during the war's first brutal year.
"There we go," he said. "Ready to move Seven?"
The Pokemon soldiers were already in position. They pushed carefully, Three doing most of the work due to being the biggest, and moved the twisted metal of Seven's corpse into the hole. The wreckage hit the bottom with a dull boom, splintering bits of pipe.
The human used his shovel to help the Medicham cover Seven over with dirt and debris. A small marker was placed over the makeshift grave.
"If— when— we resettle this city," the human told them, "there will be a proper cemetery for November Seven. But until then, it should be fine to leave it here."
The Pokemon nodded in agreement. Eight bowed once more to his late comrade and hopped back on board Four.
"Let's go," he told the other two. "We should get ready for the next fight, whenever it's going to be. It's what Seven would've wanted."
The three Pokemon started back on their way to the sea, Four and Eight still sharing the cockpit.
November Four took a long look at the blasted city, now theirs again. She'd heard stories of how her distant ancestors had fought battles not for survival, but for friendship and entertainment. Perhaps in another ten years, such battles might take place in this city once again. Until then, they would keep fighting to keep that dream of a peaceful future alive.
She glanced at the miserable-looking Xatu beside her in the cockpit, thought a moment, then slid a thin white arm around his shoulders. He needed solace, and as his comrade she'd do her best to help him.
The three Pokemon faded into the snow in a slow march.