Falkner stared at the gun. Maybe he should just end it all now. That
would be all that it took. His hometown, of which he was the unofficial mayor,
was in ruins, and struggling to survive, but more and more people were leaving
each day. He wondered if there was any hope left for his town.
He stared at the gun on the table in front of him. It would be so easy. Just pick it up, put it to his head, and pull the trigger. He sighed and glanced around his gym. Even it hadn’t escaped the battle unscathed. The arena’s roof had collapsed, and now trainers were just passing through, or bypassing the town altogether now that the word was out that he couldn’t battle anymore.
But he was in his room. A room dedicated to the Legendary birds of the world. But more recently, he’d become more and more engrossed with a single bird. If tales were true, it could right the wrongs that the sudden attack had done to his town.
The main problem was that the huge Bellsprout that supported
They had told him that it had gotten so old—so powerful that it was what kept all plant life in a two-mile radius of Violet City blooming all year ‘round, with or without snow. That was, after all, how Violet had gotten its name. The founder had come across a meadow of Violets in the dead of winter, after he had left
Falkner’s gaze returned to the gun. It would be so easy. Should he do it? It wasn’t like he could exactly save
Bugsy looked up as the heavy door opened, and Blizzard soldier stepped inside the squat, low-ceilinged cell. He carried a high-powered stun gun, that would have the same effects as a Thunderwave on a human body. Bugsy knew this quite well, having tried to escape several times. Whoever had invented the weapon was brilliant, and it was a shame that he was working for these criminals.
His hand unconsciously rubbed his shoulder, and grimaced as he remembered the stinging blast of the weapon. His arm was still a little numb from his last escape attempt the day before, but he was sure that he’d be able to escape somehow. He just needed to wait for another opportune moment. Unfortunately, these people knew that he was a Johto gym leader, and were watching him like a Pidgeot would watch a Caterpie.
That meant that anyone he talked to would be watched just as much, if not more than he was. He sighed. For now, it looked like there was no way out. He glanced up at the gray ceiling as the Blizzard put the plates filled with gruel on the floor for everyone but those few who had tried to escape, and wondered how much longer it would be. It looked like his only possibility for escape was from the outside, and that didn’t appear to be in the hand he was dealt.
The sharp command of the guard in front of him jolted him back to reality. He wearily looked up at the guard, and sighed. He might as well acquiesce to his get to his feet, or he’d be paralyzed and dragged out of the cell. Who knew, maybe he’d be able to escape once he was outside the cell. But then again, if security was like anything he’d seen on his previous trips to The Questioner, there probably wouldn’t be.
He shuddered as he thought of previous interrogations. He wouldn’t wish anything like it on his worst enemy. It was as if someone were peeling back parts of his skin, and forcing him to divulge information he wouldn’t otherwise have divulged. Anything from his first kiss, his first girlfriend, where he hid his socks when he was two years old—things that he didn’t even remember anymore—he was forced to tell. Fortunately, he was pretty sure that he didn’t have any information that they would want.
Of course, this would probably mean that his session would be rougher than anyone else’s. If only he could hold on until someone came to rescue him. Someone would come to rescue him, wouldn’t they?
Lorelei sighed, and readjusted her goggles. It was the third time that day she had had to do so. The Nuschantians at the Prito Ski Resort had been kind enough to give them to her, to protect her from the sun’s glare off the ice, but the stupid things didn’t fit. She’d be half blind if she didn’t use, them, of course, so she used them anyway.
But that didn’t mean that she had to like them.
And the snowshoes she was wearing? If she had had a choice, she wouldn’t have taken them, and just worn boots, but the people at the Lodge had insisted. It had taken her twenty minutes just to learn to stay upright with the annoying things on, and another hour to get the hang of walking with them.
And then there was her guide. He wouldn’t shut up, no matter how many times she told him to be quiet, shut up, put a cork in it, or shut his pie hole. He would just natter on and on and on about anything and everything. Although, she had to admit, she did find some of it fascinating, although this only amounted to roughly one percent of what he said.
She sighed and glanced down at the Pokeball that contained the kid’s Smoochum. Well, technically, it was hers, but she didn’t feel right taking it. In fact, she didn’t feel right carrying it. But the boy insisted that she keep it.
Her mind wandered to the fact that she was still alive at all. She had been pushed out of a plane at least a thousand feet in the air, going hundreds of miles an hour. By all rights, she should have died on impact, her body crumpled to nearly the point that it would be unrecognizable or torn apart by the sheer velocity, but, somehow, it was both still intact and alive, and she had no idea how that was even possible. Neither did the people at the ski lodge. She had asked everyone how it was possible, and they all had said that they hadn’t thought it was.
She shook her head. However she was still alive, she’d find out how someday. She wasn’t sure how she knew it, but she knew it deep within the very essence of her being.
She took out her Pokedex, flipped it open, and waited the few seconds it took for it to boot up. It wasn’t that attractive, now that she really looked at it. It was just a block of metal, much like some calculators, and had a simple digital screen. Fortunately, it could hold a lot of information. She manipulated the buttons and initiated a general search on information about Nuschantz. While she waited for the list to compile, she swiped at her nose, which had been running non-stop since nearly the time she’d started her journey in the frozen wasteland, and looked out over the horizon at the vista sitting before her.
Snow-covered mountains stretched as far as the eye could see, but here and there Pokemon moved, or people skied down the side of a mountain in well-marked ski trails, lit by lights illuminating the still-bright night. Sometimes one or the other would be in packs, sometimes they would be traveling solo.
Lorelei frowned. There was one thing she’d forgotten to consider. How would she rescue Bugsy from the Blizzards if she only had the one Pokemon, and that a rather inexperienced Smoochum? It would be nearly impossible. She’d need to get more. Not that there would be many around but Ice types, and even those would be rare.
Of course, she’d need to find the Blizzard Base, first, but that wasn’t the point.
She’d need to catch more Pokemon, she decided, then use the rest to battle against to give both of her Pokemon experience in battle. But first, some rest. The little brat had made a snow cave for her, and she crawled inside. “If you stay inside,” he said, “it’ll fill up with your own body heat, and be kinda warm.” Lorelei eyed the walls, expecting them to cave in at any moment, and closed her eyes for some much-needed sleep.
The boy watched her long enough to be sure that she would be comfortable, then moved away, presumably to make his own cave. Of course, she wouldn’t put it past the little bugger to kill her in her sleep.
And, of course, she knew that she wasn’t paranoid.
Except that that Stantler on the ridge several thousand yards away looked pretty suspicious.
Eltan paced the room, waiting nervously for his commander to enter the room. The strike on the Verin Retreat had gone brilliantly, and Gertal had been rescued. Of course, the Blizzard Strike Force had taken enormous casualties, but that had been expected in a teleportation retreat. It was an acceptable loss. It would stand out in Nuschantz as one of the pivotal moments in the country’s rather haphazard history.
Eltan leaned heavily on the desk, and smiled, remembering the almost traitorous dissapointment and envy he’d felt when he learned that he no longer had command of Team Blizzard. He’d grown fond of the team during Gertal’s absence, and had done a good job with it. He had, of course wrestled with the option of making the leader a martyr, but had realized that his men would never forgive him if he did that. And then, he wouldn’t have had a team to lead at all.
Yet, still, there was something in the organization that had an almost siren call. He needed to be back in charge of Team Blizzard, or, as Gertal called it, the Blizzard Party. He couldn’t explain it. He only knew that he HAD to regain control of the team somehow. The so-called government of Nuschantz needed a serious overhaul, and the leaders of the various retreats around the country showed that they had no intention of bringing one about. Team Blizzard was committed to ensuring that it did, in fact, occur.
Eltan thought about how the team had evolved over the years. The Team Blizzard movement had started with a few disgruntled men from various retreats around the country, led by Gertal, who held a conference that attempted to change the way things were run in Nuschantz, but the leaders of the family retreats refused to listen to them.
For fifteen years, Gertal and his men tried unsuccessfully to institute a series of reforms, but was rebuffed each time. With each attempt, however, the number of his followers grew. Then Gertal had realized that it was impossible to instate reforms while the current leadership was in power, and that it was impossible to oust them from their positions.
So he had gone into the mountains for ten years, and built part of the base that he was standing in today. Then he had emerged, and recruited hundreds of men and women to his cause, as well as thousands of Pokemon to defend themselves when the Nuschantian Resorters, as they were called, began to attack his men when they appeared to discuss politics. That had been three years ago. The leadership of Nuschantz still refused to listen to them, so now, they were forced to take militial action. None of the Blizzards liked it, but they all knew it had to be done, for the sake of the country. Well, maybe some of them liked it. Eltan knew that he had enjoyed it.
The hijacking of the plane had become necessary when Gertal had been captured on the last of his recruitment tours, and the Verin family, the most powerful retreat in Nuschantz, had refused to release him. Eltan was almost disappointed that an opportunity for further battle had not presented itself.
But now, the Blizzards would plan an offensive against the twelve major Nuschantian Retreats. If they planned it well, it would be a relatively bloodless coup. If they planned badly…thousands of humans and Pokemon would die. None of the Blizzards wanted that. Well, he amended silently, almost none.
Eltan was brought out of his revery by the sound of a door opening. He snapped to attention in his crisp, dark-blue uniform, and felt a swell of pride as Gertal himself stepped through the doorway. “I am told,” he said in his low, gravelly voice, “That I have you to thank for destroying Verin Retreat’s defenses and bringing me back here.”
Eltan nodded eagerly, “Yes sir, I did. I hope that you will be proud of me.”
Gertal’s eyes narrowed, and the man himself bristled. “I did not know how you managed to do it before I got back here, Eltan. When I had left you in charge, I hadn’t thought you’d go this far. I had INTENDED to stand trial!” the man exploded, “I wanted to present to the Nuschantian courts the tribulations that the resorters have put us through, so that every resorter and the international community would know what we face every single day! With your single action, you have brought us down to the level of the Rockets! Now people will view us as criminals. You killed in cold blood, Eltan, to free me from prison, and you would have killed more. You hijacked a plane. You all but razed the Verin Retreat! That is not what I want people to remember when they look back on history and write about us.”
Eltan felt the sting of the words, and hung his head, but internally bridled. He had done his duty. He had rescued his leader. And now he was being rebuked for it? “I am sorry, sir. I did what I thought was best.” He managed to get the words out and apparently Gertal believed him.
He felt Gertal’s hands on his shoulders. “But we cannot change the past.” The elderly man said in a somewhat calmer voice. “Perhaps, however, in the future, we may be able to atone for what you have done. But it will take time to regain the people’s trust. And until we do, we must stop our plans for political reform. The people have to want us to change things. If we go forward now, they will see us as carrying out a vendetta. Treat the hostages for any injuries they may have, and send them to the Verin Retreat.” He turned to walk away, then turned back to Eltan, “But I would like to speak with them, before they return.”
Eltan waited until the leader had walked out of the room, and engaged the soundproof pseudo-barrier. With all of his might, he voiced his all of his frustration to the empty room. He had done what any true Blizzard would have done, and he had been reprimanded! For carrying out the goals of Team Blizzard!
Eltan could feel the anger swelling within him, and knew that now it was time to take the path that Ghrenda had been suggesting for months. It was time for him to take Team Blizzard for himself.
Eltan swiped at the holographic controls for the screen in front of himself. If the Blizzards didn’t need to follow their pathetically pacifist leader, Team Blizzard could be freed up to bring about their second goal. A goal that Eltan had worked for his entire life.
What would it be like, he wondered, to have the power to live forever? If his plans worked, it would be within his grasp. But he would not give up the strikes that were planned against Nuschantz. He had worked far too hard to give up now. And the Blizzards would win.
Or die trying.
All it would take would be one extremely powerful Wipe Ball.
Bugsy blinked at the fire, not exactly understanding how he had gotten there. He remembered the feeling of teleportation, after being blindfolded, and then he had collapsed. He remembered someone talking to him, and the man’s face, apologizing and telling him that he never intended for anything like what had happened to happen. But everything past that point was a haze. He had fallen into unconsciousness, and when he had awoken, he was in the ruins of the Verin Retreat.
Physically, he was fine, but he just needed some time to gather his faculties. He glanced over at his Pokemon. They had been returned to him, apparently, when he had been teleported here. He had sent home his Butterfree and Pinsir because he had heard that his sisters were losing nearly every battle they fought, but his Scyther, Beedrill, Heracross, and Forretress remained with him. Scyther hovered in front of the fire, its scythes crossed over each other, and looked deep in thought, staring into the red-orange flames. His Beedrill buzzed back and forth across the room behind Bugsy’s high-backed chair, its stingers crossed behind its back. Heracross lay underneath Bugsy’s feet, asleep, as usual, while Forretress sat propped up in a corner, where it was trying to sleep despite the incessant buzzing from both his Scyther and Beedrill.
Bugsy rested his head on one of his arms, and he stared into the fireplace, deep in thought. He had gotten word that a young woman matching Lorelei’s description had left the Prito Retreat the day before, and he was pretty sure he knew the general area where she would be heading. It was a shame that it couldn’t be her, however.
He needed to figure out what to do. According to the reports that he had heard since regaining consciousness, that the Blizzards were preparing another attack force to stage a military coup de tat. He was now faced with the decision of facing off against their attack, which might not come, or go help one of the other many resorts.
The buzzing in the room came down to nearly silent qualities, and Bugsy felt a weight land on the back of the chair. He knew, without looking up, that Beedrill had landed on the chair, and was staring down at him.
Bugsy looked down at his hands, debating what to do. He’d been trying to decide for hours, now. But then, he realized what he had to do. He got up from the chair, careful not to touch Heracross, who, he had learned the hard way, automatically Mega Horned anyone who woke it, and got to his feet.
His Scyther detected the motion and turned ever so slightly so that it faced him. The two looked at each other, and the Scyther suddenly bowed slowly, splaying out his scythes as if it were a soldier of old, showing allegiance to his master.
Bugsy nodded slowly, “Very well then,” he said quietly, “We stand and fight.”
Lorelei sputtered through the swirling snow, squinting to try to see the shape of the canine whom she had attacked. She had no doubt that unless she took care of the creature soon, her little Smoochum would be toast. She also knew that there was no way that her Smoochum could faint it, and that, until the Blizzard was over, there was no way she’d be able to capture it. Whatever it was.
All she had known was that a cloud of snow had come after her, and she’d been forced to send out her Smoochum. “Confusion!” Lorelei yelled, and instantly regretted it, as snow filled her mouth. She spat it out, and glared at it as it turned into ice before it swirled away out of her vision.
Once again the wave of Psychic energy spun out from a small point where she guessed her Smoochum was, so powerful that it rippled the very fabric of the space-time continuum, and struck the creature.
There was a momentary pause in the Blizzard as it was forced away by the Confusion, and then it was back with a vengeance. Lorelei wasn’t early knocked off her feet. Then she had an idea. “Confusion!” she yelled, and spat out the snow that filled her mouth again, this time pulling out a Pokeball and threw it just behind the attack. It struck something solid, there was the muffled sound of a Pokemon entering a Pokeball, and the wind died down for a moment. Then the Pokeball broke open and for the first time, Lorelei saw her opponent.
It was lupine, and it was beautiful. Its light blue fur seemed to glisten in the sun, and the purple, dark blue, and white strands that were interspersed throughout its coat made it even more beautiful. Its sharp, bared teeth, however, were not so beautiful. Then it was gone as snow swirled up all around it, and once again it pressed its attack.
She had glanced over at her Smoochum just before it was obscured, and she was pretty sure that she couldn’t take much more of any attacks. “Confusion,” Lorelei shouted again, this time blocking the snow with one hand, and readying a Pokeball in one of her pockets with another. Instantly, the snow ceased its endless flurry, and a beam of pure ice reached out from the cloud and struck her in her stomach, sending her flying back. She had counted on something like this, however, and called out again, “Confusion!”
The dog, unprepared for an attack, was sent skidding as well, and staggered to its feet, disoriented. Lorelei pulled the Pokeball from her pocket and hurled it at her opponent, who was sucked inside by the familiar red beam, and, after shaking furiously for thirty seconds, a ding could be heard, softened by both distance and the snow that still hung in the air, falling lightly to the ground.
Lorelei gasped for breath as the pain of the Ice Beam finally hit her full force, and she could see Lukas running up to her. Her Smoochum swooned, and dropped to the snow. Then, a sudden wave of elation made her cry out. The victorious cry didn’t last long, however, and she curled up into a nearly fetal position, holding her stomach, hoping that she wouldn’t throw up.
But inside, she was celebrating. She had done it. She had caught her first Pokemon. Now, she’d be able to pose a slightly more significant threat when she next faced the Blizzards. She pulled the Smoochum’s Pokeball from her belt and held it out. The baby dematerialized out of her sight range, and she felt the slight recoil that always accompanied the return of a Pokemon, then she reattached the Pokeball to her belt.
She was a real trainer now, and she felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. This time she’d be sure to be careful, and she’d try not to take too many risks. She would make sure that they survived, and that they would be the best.
“Are you all right?” she heard Lukas ask, and she looked up, and forced herself to sit up, despite the throbbing pain.
“Yeah,” she said, and was instantly upset because of the effort it took just to breathe and say a word, not to mention sitting up. Steeling herself, she stood up, walked over to the dog’s Pokeball stiffly, and promptly collapsed.
Lukas was there, instantly, offering to help her back up, but she shook him off. Instead, she stared at the Pokeball in her hand, and the small light that indicated that it was occupied. “Where’s the nearest retreat?” she asked, knowing she had to get both her Pokemon healed as soon as she could.
Lukas consulted his Pokedex, and Lorelei got to her feet wearily and walked over to her backpack, which she had taken off to help give her ease of mobility back when she thought that the small blizzard hadn’t been a Pokemon.
She put it on slowly, wincing with every movement, and looked at Lukas expectantly. He pointed in the direction they had been going, “One and a half miles, this way,” he said, and started walking. “I saw the tail end of that battle. I’ll handle any battles we may come across,” he said and Lorelei nodded, in too much pain to argue.