Target Mons: Aron x2
[Author’s note: As these Aron, Lairon, and Aggron live their entire lives underground, the day/night cycle, yearly cycle, and other such things have no real impact on them; their main unit of time is hours, which are about three times longer than the hours we’re used to. As their standard chunk of time, they use hundredhours; a hundredhour is about 12 days, and a thousand hour is about four months. This does make the main two characters quite young, but they mature much more quickly than humans do; I’ve tried to present them as being the maturity equivalent to a ten year old.]
“Once upon a time, a brave Aron known as Rivet went on a long, difficult journey. Its hometown was threatened by a volcano about to erupt, and it had to get help to save the town. He set off through the mountain tunnels in search of someone who could save his town, who would help them in their time of need.
“It set off that day from home, and walked for hours, and hours. It finally came upon a Lucario, who was practicing his fighting. ‘Excuse me, sir,’ Rivet said. ‘My hometown is going to be destroyed by a volcano, can you help us?’ ‘No, I will not help you, for I am too busy with my fighting. Find someone else.’
“So the little Aron kept walking. He walked for hours, and hours, until finally he came upon a Steelix who was polishing his body.
‘Pardon me, sir,’ Rivet said to him. ‘My hometown is going to be destroyed by a volcano, can you help us?’ ‘No, I will not help you, for I am too busy with polishing my body. See how it shines!’
“And again, Rivet set off to find someone who could help. He walked for hours, and hours, and finally met a Forretress who was sleeping in a dark cavern. ‘Excuse me, sir,’ Rivet said. ‘I’m sorry to wake you from your sleep, but my hometown is going to be destroyed by a volcano. Can you help us?’ ‘No, I will not help you, for you have woken me from my sleep. Begone with you.’
“Now, the brave Aron was getting tired. He had walked for many hours without food, without water, without sleep, trying to find someone to save his town. He set off once more, but his spirits were sinking, and he despaired that he would ever find someone to help his hometown.
“But just when he was about to give up, he walked into a massive cavern. The ceiling went higher than he could see, and it would take him hours to cross it. However, in the middle of the cavern was the largest Pokémon he had ever seen; it was big, and red, and had a giant plate of metal where its face would be. Little Rivet was scared of the big Pokémon, but knew he had to save his hometown.
“So he went across the cavern to see this new Pokémon. He’d never seen anything like it; it was at least ten lengths high, and twice that across; it had large metal claws for feet that dwarfed poor Rivet’s whole body. Gathering up his courage, he spoke to the Pokémon. ‘Excuse me, sir,’ he said. The larger Pokémon didn’t seem to hear him.
“So he did a very brave thing. He shouted as loud as he could. ‘My hometown is going to be destroyed by a volcano!’ he said. ‘Please, sir, can you help us?’
“The big Pokémon turned to him, then, staring at him through the jagged holes in the metal. Rivet realized it wasn’t a mask, but the Pokémon’s face! This, then, must be Heatran, the legendary Pokémon that lived in the mountain.
“Heatran spoke, and it was as though the whole mountain was shaking with his words. ‘You are small, and lost, and all alone. Yet you have crossed the mountain to help your hometown. Do not fear, little one, I will help you.’ And he offered little Rivet a spot to ride on his back.
“Brave Rivet climbed onto his back, and they set off back towards his hometown. The Heatran’s back was as hot as molten rock, and Rivet’s feet were burned, but he held on tightly; he had to get back home in time.
“As they went, they passed the other Pokémon that he’d asked for help.
The Forretress was woken by their passing; but he hid deeper in his cave, ashamed that he would not help the little Pokémon, but the master of the volcano would.
“They passed the Steelix, who was still polishing his body; he realized that no matter how long he polished his body, he would never be as impressive as the Heatran, and he fled in shame.
“They passed the Lucario who was still fighting, shattering boulders with well-placed kicks; but when he saw Heatran crush a rock into powder simply by striding on it, and knew that he was the inferior, and fled in sadness.
“Finally, they returned to the town. The Pokémon that lived there were panicking, for the volcano was about to erupt. Heatran, however, dug trenches around the city, and made a tunnel for the poison gases; when the volcano erupted, the town was saved, all because Rivet was willing to do whatever it took to save it.
“All the Pokémon who lived in the village celebrated little Rivet; and that is why we still celebrate Rivet to this hour. And speaking of hours,” the storyteller interjected with a significant glance, “I’ve kept you here long enough. I’m sure your parents will be mad if you stay out too late. Run along, little ones, I’ll still be here tomorrow.”
Aaren and Bessemer sighed loudly. The storyteller always stopped after one tale, no matter how short or long; and they knew from past attempts that no amount of begging would cajole him to tell another.
“Thank you, Storyteller,” Aaren told the aged Aggron. Though its armor plating had lost its luster, and its steel didn’t have the sheen of the other adults, a keen intelligence twinkled in its bright blue eyes. “Will we be able to hear another story later?”
“Certainly, children, you are welcome at any hour. Just don’t go skipping chores to come listen to me ramble.”
The two young Aron bowed before the storyteller and set off across the town, back to their respective homes. “Boy, Bess,” Aaren said. “I’d sure like to be as brave as Rivet. Going all that way by himself? Mom won’t even let me leave the cavern unless someone goes with me.”
Bessemer was quiet for a while, pink eyes roving over the buildings they passed. Her metal plating reflected the different structures; some had been carved out of stalagmites, others were made of piled rocks brought in from other caverns. “I think that Rivet was brave, yes, but I don’t think exploring was the first thing on his mind when he set out. He was trying to save his town, after all.
Aaren nodded, blue eyes fixed on the ground. He knew he shouldn’t be so annoyed at his parents; they were just trying to make sure he stayed safe. “All the same, though, I want to see more of the world than this little cave. I’ve never even been upground, did you know that?”
Bessemer nodded. “I haven’t either, Aaren, but we’re only a dozen thousandhours old. You have a birthhour in another couple hundredhours, right? Maybe you can ask your parents if they’ll take you to the surface then.”
He smiled. Bess always managed to cheer him up, no matter how miserable he felt. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Let’s go ask them now!”
They put on a burst of speed, but halted almost immediately; a loud blast echoed around the cavern, and the far wall began crumbling inward. Clouds of dust and smoke began billowing inward, obscuring the already dim light that came from luminescent lichen on the walls and stalactites.
Peering through the murk, Aaren could make out human forms blending in with the dark tunnel they came from; after a moment, he realized it was because they were wearing black outfits, save for crimson letters on their chests.
“How did humans find us down here?” Bessemer asked. Aaren’s reply was cut short as the adults of the town began streaming into the streets; though this was resting hour, they charged toward the invaders to defend the town from this invasion.
Gouts of fire and torrents of water erupted from the Pokémon of those attacking the town; the adults retaliated by hurling boulders and knocking stalagmites toward them, but the invaders were numerous and some were throwing Pokéballs, capturing the brave elders defending the city.
“Children, you must get away from here! Go, find somewhere to hide!”
The storyteller shouted as he charged past them to join the fight.
Aaren, taking this sage advice, dashed off between the dwellings toward a small entry to the cave. Bessemer followed closely behind him; when she realized where they were going, she cried out to halt.
“Storyteller said to hide, not to leave the city!”
Aaren slowed, but did not halt his charge. “We need to go get help; look how many of them there are! I remember Dad saying that there was a cave of Skarmory nearby, maybe they can help us!”
“Aaren, this is a bad idea. We shouldn’t leave the city? What if your parents are looking for us?” Bessemer cried, but seeing that her words didn’t slow her friend, she began running after him. “At least wait for me, someone may need to save you from your bad choices!”
They dashed into the side tunnel unchallenged; the two guards that normally stood here were trying to help repel the invaders, though as Aron looked over his shoulder, he saw one of those Lairon knocked aside by a blast of icy wind.
The sounds of the battle raging behind them diminished as they sped down the tunnel; though it seemed excruciatingly long, it was only a few minutes until it emptied into another cavern.
This one had niches scraped into the side walls where shiny metal birds had built nests; at seeing two small newcomers charge into the room, a several of those birds lifted from their perches and swooped down to confront them.
The largest landed a few feet in front of them, and they stopped their headlong charge. He tucked his scarlet and silver wings against his rounded body and eyed them menacingly; a jagged scar traced a line across one yellowed eye.
The others landed behind him, and he took a hop towards Aaren and Bessemer. “What are you two doing in our cavern?” he asked; his voice was high pitched and scratchy, but not unkind.
Aaren took a step toward him. “Our village is being attacked by humans! They broke in through a wall, and they’re hurting our families! Please, we need help!”
The lead Skarmory considered this quietly for a moment. “How far away is your village?” it finally asked, after a long period of silence.
“It isn’t far, only a few hourtenths. Please, we must hurry!” Aaren cried in desperation. These Skarmory seemed to be getting less and less interested by the second; he couldn’t think of anything to say to make them see the urgency. For all he knew, his parents were already captured by the invading humans.
“But how important is that to us?” the Skarmory asked again. One of its fellows was already turning away, steel claws leaving noisy indents on the floor as it began trudging toward the wall. “The tunnel between your village and our nests is small, and we can easily defend ourselves if they follow your route.”
Aaren couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “But what about us? Even if they don’t come here, our village could still be wiped out! We need your help?”
The Skarmory shook his head slowly. “We must look after our own before we worry about others. We would be in just as much danger as you if we were there. We cannot help you.” With that, he leapt into the air, winging back to a high perch where he began grooming his feathers.
All but one of the other Skarmory followed suit; the remaining one, who was smaller and less lustrous than the rest, hopped slowly to the small Pokemon. “I think there’s something that I can do to help you. They aren’t willing to send others, but I’m sure they wouldn’t miss me; I don’t even have a nest of my own, yet.”
Aaren dared to let himself hope. “You’re very kind, but will only one of you be enough to help?” he asked the steel bird before him.
The Skarmory sighed, and dipped his head. “I fear not, especially as I am one of the weakest of my kind, here. But do not give up hope,” he continued, seeing Aaren’s face fall. “I know where we can find more allies to save your town.”
“Where?” Bessemer asked. “There aren’t any other tunnels nearby that we can take, and we’ve never heard of any other Pokemon nearby.”
“That’s where I come in,” the Skarmory said proudly. “If you hop on my back, I can take some of the high paths; they’re like tunnels, but high up near the ceilings.” He bowed low and stretched a wing to the ground, giving them a ramp to climb.
Bessemer looked at it uneasily. “We’ve never been off the ground before. Is it safe?”
Aaren looked at her, then climbed quickly up the Skarmory’s wing. “Who cares if it’s safe, we have to do something to save our home. You don’t have to come if you’re scared,” he goaded her.
“Of course I’ll come. Make some room, you meanie.” She too climbed quickly up the proffered wing, butting against Aaren a little harder than was necessary to fit on the Skarmory’s back.
“Hold on, you two- it’ll take me a little longer than normal to get airborne, with the extra weight.” The Skarmory stretched both of his steel and scarlet wings, then flapped them quickly as it hopped across the ground; when it had built up speed, it made one final, mighty leap and was flying.
It circled the cavern a couple times, staying far from the perch where the leader looked at them disapprovingly; he said nothing, however, and soon the Skarmory ducked through one of the large tunnels near the roof of the cavern.
They passed through several such darkened pathways, occasionally startling a Zubat or Golbat into flight; they made good time, however, and ultimately emerged into a cavern much the same size as the Aron’s home. This one was much warmer, however, and the glow in it came from open pools and rivulets of superheated magma along the walls.
“Here we are. The large hut in the middle belongs to the Chief; you can ask him for help.” The Skarmory circled around, landing directly before.
Before the Aron could even dismount, they were surrounded by several bipedal figures; almost as tall as a man, they were colored with blue and yellow, with black legs, arms, and stripes on their faces. Sensitive, pointed ears flicked about constantly, and piercing red eyes regarded them with mistrust.
The Skarmory spoke up. “I’m sorry that we weren’t able to observe the standard greeting ritual, but we are on a task of some import. Noble Lucario, we wish to speak to your Chief.”
“I have not forgotten the task you have performed for us, noble bird.” The voice came from behind the ring of warriors; two of them stepped aside as a third, much older than the rest, stepped forward.
“You helped us save many of our young that day; when we told you that we were in your debt, we meant it. Have you come to ask that favor of us, then?” he asked, kind eyes focused on the Skarmory.
“In a way, I have. These two Aron I bear tell a tale that their home is under assault by humans; a great many of them have apparently penetrated our mountain. We must awaken the sleeper to repel these invaders.” A small smirk crept onto his sharp face as the Lucario around him stepped back in shock.
“Waking the sleeper is quite a request; were it anyone but you, I would refuse, and what you ask me is almost too much. But we have our honor, and I will do this for you.”
“I assure you, this is not asked lightly. My kin were too foolish to understand, but if these humans were to continue, they would pose a great threat to all of us that live under the mountain.”
The aged Lucario nodded. “We will do as you ask, young one. Please, wait here.”
All of the Lucario comprising the ring around the four figures struck their chests with their fists, striding into the large building that Skarmory had pointed out as the Chief’s hut. The leader himself bowed before them, then turned and followed them.
“What are they doing?” Aaren asked the Skarmory. “Who is the sleeper?”
The Skarmory turned his head to the side, regarding the two Aron with a beady, red eye. “They are going to wake a creature that has slept for a long time. As for who, well, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Just watch, and you’ll see.”
Several minutes went by before the Lucario exited the Chief’s hut; when they finally did, they carried with them a large golden disc. Several of them also carried a frame, and one was burdened with chains; working together, with a sort of reverence in their actions, they began constructing a gong in the large clear area that was the center of the town.
The Lucario Chief finally exited the hut once they had finished and stepped back from their work; in unison, they knelt before the gong. Extending their arms forward, they began to focus intently; spheres of distorted air gathered between their outstretched palms.
They stood slowly, and the spheres moved before them to circle around the gong; the Chief strode forward solemnly. Saying something that the three couldn’t make out at that distance, he leapt into the air and struck the gong at the same time the distorted air bubbles did.
The resulting noise was louder than anything Aaren had heard of before; a single, pure tone rang out, reverberating through the mountain. It resonated from the stalactites, stalagmites, rocks, even the walls; Aaren realized it wasn’t simply the rock that was resonating, but veins of metal in the walls. The echoes went on for many seconds, pitch rising and falling as the sound traveled to all reaches of the mountain they lived within.
Several rocks fell from the ceiling; one of them crashed near the three, shattering into fragments that pinged off the steel of their bodies. A large rock face on the far end of the village began behaving similarly, shedding large boulders to splash into a magma pool at the base of the wall.
As holes began opening up in the rock face, a lurid orange glow emanated from the holes; magma began spilling from the lower ones, splashing into the pool and causing several of the pools to form a temporary river of lava.
Something massive began pushing at the rock, causing large boulders to break free; eventually, a leg larger than Aaren’s parents pushed into the open. It was followed by a massive body and three other legs; each ended in a massive clawed, steel foot.
The legs and body were mottled with orange and yellow, nearly as bright as the lava it trod through; a giant steel mask covered its face, its gleaming eyes showing a keen intelligence.
It stood atop the pile of shattered rock and molten lava, looking around at the assembled Pokemon. It opened its mouth; its voice rumbled and echoed through the entire cavern. “You have called, and I have awoken. What is your need of me this day?”
The Lucario Chief bowed before the massive Pokemon, which Aaren realized finally was the legendary Heatran. A rushing sounded in his ears, causing him to miss the first part of the Chieftan’s speech. “…which these three you see before you have brought to our attention.”
The Heatran spoke again. “Long have the Aggron been my friends. If they are in danger, it is my joy to come to their aid. Especially at the request of one who so resembles my dear friend.” He turned to look directly at Aaren.
“Tell me, young one. By chance are you related to the mighty Gridiron?” His voice still rumbled, but Aaren realized it was kindly and strong.
Aaren replied haltingly, still somewhat awed by whose presence he stood in. “My father’s brother is named Gridiron, if that’s who you mean.”
Heatran smiled even wider. Well, at least, Aaren thought he did; the steel mask made deciphering the expressions a tad difficult. “Then you are truly a descendant of Rivet, one of my oldest friends. I will be glad to help your town.”
Aaren stood flabbergasted. He had heard the legends of Rivet all his life; to think he was actually related to the great hero made his head spin. He now knew why he’d always had an affinity to those legends, and why he always pestered the storyteller for more.
His resolve crystallized; he would save his town. He knew that nothing could stop him, armed with the knowledge that he now had.
The Heatran watched the parade of emotions flicker across his face with something like approval. “Then I suggest we leave at once, for the battle has been raging a while for us to get here,” Aaren said.
The Heatran nodded his assent. “I will lead the Lucario through the lava runs; they are agile enough to keep out of the magma. I suggest the three of you fly ahead to bolster their resolve that we are coming.”
He turned toward the wall he had entered through. “I wish our meeting could have been under happier circumstances, but I am sure you will acquit yourself well in the coming battle. May your steel be strong, young friend.”
Aaren and Bessemer climbed carefully back onto the Skarmory’s back. They lifted off toward the ceiling; all three were subdued about what they’d just been through.
“Did you hear that, Bess?” Aaren said quietly. “Heatran said that I’m descended from Rivet.”
Bess turned and regarded him with a bright pink eye. “I heard, Aaren. I guess that means you’re famous.”
None of them said anything more as they flew through the high paths back to the Aggron’s cavern, busy with their own thoughts. When they finally emerged near the ceiling, they saw with amazement that the battle still raged.
“That battle must have been raging for an hour! See, we can put up a good fight!” Aaren said with enthusiasm.
Skarmory swooped around the stalactites, winging towards the center of the town where fighting was fiercest. Aaren saw his father joining with the storyteller in hurling large rocks at the fierce Rhyperior and Dragonite that were assaulting their home dwelling.
“We’ve got to help them, Skarmory!” Aaren said, alarmed at how scratched and battered his father looked. “Is there anything we can do?”
In response, Skarmory furled and unfurled its wings, launching a slew of razor-sharp feathers at the offending Pokemon. They struck home, causing the Rhyperior to scream in surprise and anger; the Dragonite took a much more direct route and blasted a gout of fire at them.
Skarmory banked sharply; Aaren and Bess clung to its back as it looped around a stalactite to come about for another pass.
The three of them heard one of the humans leading the assault call something out; moments later a barrage of elemental energies flew through the air at them, and it was all the three of them could do to avoid the attacks.
They couldn’t do so forever; swinging wide around a vast outcropping, they were hit with a double torrent of water from a Blastoise across the cavern. The impact threw them bodily through the air; they crashed into a stalactite, the impact jarring the Aron from Skarory’s back. Tumbling through the air, they hit hard against the unforgiving stone of the cavern floor.
When things stopped spinning and hammering, Aaren stood up shakily from the ground; before him stood a small human with blonde hair. He wore dirt-stained black jeans and a sweat-soaked gray t-shirt; at his side stood a proud Arcanine, glaring at Aaren.
A larger human in an all-black jumpsuit and cap stepped up beside him. “Here’s your chance, Evan. They’re already even weakened for you.” He ended his sentence with a cruel laugh.
The smaller human scowled. “I don’t need the help! Watch! Legend, hit ‘em both with a Heat Wave!”
‘Both?’ thought Aaren. Turning his head slightly, he saw Bessemer staggering against a stalagmite. The horrifying realization hit him a moment before the searing blast of flame.
Agony turned his vision to a thick haze; it cleared slightly when the blast of flame dissipated into the air. He could barely focus as he saw a red-and-white orb go flying and hit Bess; he almost didn’t feel it when another orb struck him. It faded completely to red as he felt his body numbing from some sort of strange energy.