Back to Introduction

     Now it was Gary’s turn to look elated, “What the hell am I doing here!?” he returned, giving the other a amiable clap on the shoulder (which he immediately found himself apologizing for, as Ash winced severely) “What the hell are you doing here!? Goddess! What happened to you anyway!?”

     Somehow, Ash didn’t feel so weak anymore. “No time for that now,” he replied, assuming a more stable posture. “Do you have your team with you?”

     Gary patted the six spheres strapped to his chest piece. “Never leave home without’em!”

     “Alright,” Ash turned, heading toward Gypsum’s open gateway, Gary following . “It’s payback time.” He growled.

     Bending down, he picked up his discarded Pokèballs, reattaching five of them to his waist. He tossed the sixth into the air above him. “Articuno! I choose you!”

     To his relief, the storage device exploded open in a brilliant flash of light.

“Move out!” The Talwar roared, “All of you! NOW!”

     Grumbling amongst themselves, the undead company nevertheless began to shuffle hastily from the room, shambling in rows of two back through their original entryway.

     “What are you doing?” The Siren glared up at the bullheaded hulk.

     “You too!” He growled down at her, pointing his katana at the exit.

     “Excuse me?” She sneered at his command, “I was about to finish my victim; who are you to tell me what to do?”

     The Minotaur loomed over her. “Is that a challenge, bitch?” he snarled disdainfully, “Our captain just got himself blown to who-knows-where! Move your shit-hole through that door or I’ll hurl you clean through the same wall his faceless adversary did!”

     She drew a pair of sais. “Oo, I’m so scared! Make me asshole!”

     “Insolent whore!” The Talwar roared down at her. “Do you want to die right this instant!?”

     “Ha! Kiss my ass, you dense son of a bitch!”

     “If you’re so keen on destroying that worthless human,” he replied striding after his retreating deadmen, “then take her with you!”

     “So, you’re just going to leave then? Running away with your tails tucked between your ass cheeks?” she shouted scathingly after him.

     His last nerve snapped. Whirling around, the demon champion brought his sword crashing down to the concrete floor. “HHRAAA!”

     The Siren nimbly dodged, her steel footwear screeching on the gray surface as she brought her flight to a halt. Running along the adjacent wall, she launched herself into the air, hurling her tridents ahead of her.

     The Talwar roared angrily. Knowing he’d be too slow for anything else, he tossed his sword ahead of him, casting the ebony blade at a horizontal angle. His treasonous partner’s sais struck the long weapon, imbedding themselves in the flat of its blade. Unencumbered he swiftly brought up both forearms, catching the Siren as she closed for a flying kick to his face. Quick as lightning though, she spun free of his grasp, landing on the ground and giving him a nasty shot to the shin. It did nothing in the way of actual damage, but the force of it knocked his leg back, temporarily putting him off balance. She shot like liquid silver up his breastplate brining her foot up and then down again, delivering a nasty ax-kick to his skull. Or she tried to, anyway. The Minotaur moved his head to the side, taking the blow to his armored shoulder, his fist coming around to deliver a punishing hook shot. Again, the lithe demoness twisted out of the way, flipping over and under the strike, twirling away across the floor and out of reach.

     “You know,” The Talwar bellowed after her, his approaching footsteps causing the ground to quake, “that I am stronger than you! I will eventually win!”

     “Oh, is that so?” The hell-bred seductress smirked disdainfully, “Well, you just come bring it on then!”

The two continued to mouth off at one another, each approaching from their ends of the room, sparring, backing off again, and then clashing once more. Brock scratched his head; this looked like your typical sibling feud, though on a more nefarious scale. He slung his rifle across his back. Maybe these two would kill each other and do his work for him. That would be nice, indeed.

     Then, as he watched, an idea popped in to his head. Grinning devilishly, he beckoned to his Sandslash, alternately putting a finger to his lips.

     Nodding, the Pokèmon followed its trainer from out of their hiding place.

“Oh yeah!? Well, I’ve had enough of you!” The Siren screamed, throwing a double flying kick, spinning away again as her attack was blocked and the lumbering counterattack came hurling back at her. “Go stick your face back in the blender it came from! I think they forgot to mix you up enough!”

     “Resorting to lame humor, are we?” The Talwar scoffed in return. “You stupid bitch! The only thing funny that comes from you is that bloody, man-eating worm head you keep hidden up your-!”

     “Oh, shut your damn hole!” She snarled.

     “Bitches first!” He roared back.

     “Sandslash, Fissure!”

     “What the hell!?” The two quarreling demons simultaneously roared as the ground suddenly imploded form underneath them, creating a massive, gaping hole. Screaming in surprise and rage, they fell, the attack's vacuum force sucking them down into the bottomless abyss.

     Brock stared down the steaming hole. Satisfied, he patted the jubilant ground rodent on its head. “Good shot there, buddy! And thank God,” he concluded, sighing with relief, “Fissure usually misses terribly.”

     From deep within the ground, he felt a small, but discernable tremor.

     “Uh-oh. Time to scat!”

     “Slash!” His Pokèmon agreed.

     “Rhyhorn!” he plucked the storage device from its clip and tossed it to the ground.

     “Rrhyrr!” The stone and earth elemental rhino bellowed, exploding from its confinements.

     First, the threesome trotted over to Samurai, who was lying on the ground, beaten, bleeding, and almost completely comatose.

     “Stone,” He smiled weakly up at the rock trainer, “you’re still alive.”

     “Yep,” he grinned back, “and now its my turn to save your ass!”

     “Thank you,” the fallen warrior replied. He winced, gritting his teeth as Brock helped him to his feet and placed him across the Rhyhorn’s back. “Giselle?” He asked hopefully.

     Brock swung up into the saddle position. “We’ll find out,” he replied. Grimly, he looked across the room at the half-crucified figure, still hanging from the wall, her wrists firmly pinned. “This ain’t gonna be pretty,” he grumbled to himself.

     They reached Giselle, Brock trying to re-convince Samurai that he’d be fine, that he should just lay back and take it easy, that his girlfriend would be okay, too. Of the first fact, the rock trainer was certain. Sammy was resilient enough, and showed no signs of any serious, internal damage. He’d need a good patching up and then he’d be fine. But Narcissa….

     Brock dismounted, crossing the small space from him to the hurt. He approached, with an odd mix of thoughts and emotions suddenly churning through his mind. The stronger part of his conscience told him this was the right thing to do; yet something else still insisted that the arrogant, snotty tech graduate (and what in the world does that prove anyway? He thought disdainfully) fully deserved what she’d gotten, plus some.

     Exasperated with his own internal division, he just shook his head and pushed the thoughts to the back of his brain.

     Carefully, Brock kneeled beside the fallen heiress. “Hey,” he offered softly, “you alright?” He immediately moved back a pace, fully expecting Giselle to lash out, screaming something to the tune of, “Alright!? Do I look ‘alright’ to you!?”—or something along those lines, plus a few other choice adjectives.

     But she said nothing.

     Relieved, and perplexed, Brock nevertheless eased back over. Cautiously, he gripped one of the sais that held Giselle in place. He tugged experimentally on it. It didn’t twist, wobble, or budge even a fraction of an inch.

     Bracing his legs against the wall, Brock wrapped both hands firmly around the steel handle, and with all his might, he pulled back on it, alternately pushing with his thighs and calves. Every muscle strained against the stubborn implement, but no matter how hard he tried, it simply would not move.

     Sides heaving with exhaustion, Brock just stared incredulously at the glinting, steel object.

     Again, the tremor rumbled up from below, but this time, it was stronger, and he could hear it.


     Desperately, Brock wrapped his hands around the steel object again and pulled. “You stupid piece of junk!” he growled through clenched teeth, “Come on!” But it didn’t come.


     “Oh, God; I don’t have time for this!” he cried.


Through the pillars of crimson fire, he reemerged again, his abhorrent darkness reborn to the fullest of its diabolical abomination. Black robes billowing out behind him, he took up his new staff, its gleaming death-headed tips refashioned, twin images of hell-wrought doom. Fire eyes burning hateful crimson, he glared down at the small pile of ashes that lay at his feet.

     Slowly, the Chameleon Necromancer reached to the floor, scooping up the blasted remains of its sooty, silver façade. The new mask of precious metal, flawlessly forged to the original state of the first, smirked disdainfully at the remains of its predecessor.

     “Did you really think,” he whispered into the solitary darkness, “That I would be so easily disposed of?” Crimson fire erupted from his steel-clad hand, consuming the remains of his second defeat and burning them to nothing. “As long as there is hatred and deceit in the world, my spirit will be there, and I will fill this earth with my gospel of vengeance and animosity!

* * * * * * *

The screen hung before them a moment longer, then, slowly, it evaporated back into the serene atmosphere. Everyone nodded gravely. The last thing they’d seen was Maxim blast a Necromancer clear out of the picture, presumably to its nightmarish hereafter.

     For a moment, total silence pervaded.

     Then, a thunderous wave of earthshaking applause rocked the whole arena.

Ferdinand Carlos joined them, the exuberance of the moment raising his disposition. He turned to Sable. “Who was that?” He shouted above the roar.

     “Eh?” The Elite Head shouted back, “I don’t know! But I intend to find out!”

     “We must have that trainer and his dragon!”

     “I agree!”

After a minute or two longer, the Lugia brought order to the assembly again. “I would not celebrate so soon,” he advised solemnly. “Chameleon Necromancers are not so easily vanquished.”

     “What!?” Carlos was incredulous,. He waved for the Lugia’s attention, “How can you say that? Did you not see anything at all? Maybe we should just play the whole thing over again for you! Surely you-“

     “In time, chairman,” The Lugia replied stoically, cutting the rant short, “You will know a thing or two more about the enemies you have fought for so long.”

     He returned his attention to the angelic guardian, “Your human is rescued,” he stated flatly, slowly lifting his head to face her again. “But if The Shadow…” Eyes narrowed, the Lugia trailed off.

     He, and the two top officials of The Elite still stood alone upon the dais.

     Methodically, he scanned the surrounding pillars, searching for the evidence of her passing , as did all the others in attendance.

     There was none, just as he’d expected. She had already gone.

* * * * * * *

“GRRAAHH!” Brock roared, pulling back, straining against the obstinate trident. His hands were slick with perspiration.


     The ground quivered again, and high above him, pieces of the ceiling began to work themselves free, raining small slides of dust and other debris to the floor below.

     “Gotta…get…c’mon!!” He yelled, trying again to work Giselle’s spikes free. He’d tried both sais, and neither would budge. He was running out of time, energy, “Piece of shit!” and patience. With a sudden cry, he lost his grip on the smooth metal, dislodged via the veneer of sweat that coated both hands. He tumbled backwards, landing hard on his posterior.


     Now the whole room shook, making everything that held to anything else by less than a few hundred railroad spikes come crashing down.

     Brock shielded his head, rolling away before a sizable chunk of the ceiling shattered right where he’d just been . Waving the dust clouds out of his face, he returned to the wall, kneeling again beside its hapless captive. He paused for a moment, rubbing his chin, trying to think. Then a twinkle came into his squinted eyes and he snapped his fingers. He pulled another Pokèball from his belt.

     “Golem!” The massive boulder of a creature landed with an earth-moving thud, kneeling and steadying himself with one great, stone-shod arm. Spotting his trainer, he came fully to his feet, his harsh, yellow eyes expectant, ready for orders. “Golem.”

     “Hey,” Brock greeted, motioning to his crucified predicament.

     “Gol!” The rock titan’s menacing brows narrowed in abhorrence. His golden stare flared with rising anger, and steam began to leak dangerously through the minute fissures between the plates that composed his rocky hide. Growling, he scanned the room, his balled fists ready to punish whoever was responsible for this atrocity.

     “It’s too late for that,” Brock said, putting his Pokèmon’s apparent search for vengeance aside. “We just need to get her out.” He pointed to the twin metal sais holding Giselle in.

     “Golem!” Clomping unceremoniously over, the giant boulder grasped both steel handles firmly between his index and middle knuckles, “GOL!” and with a mighty heave, he yanked them both free.




     Pokèmon and trainer alike stared in horrified disbelief at the two broken off pieces of metal, still sparkling from where they’d been freshly ripped from their original structure.

     Silently, Brock recalled his Pokèmon. The sais were now gripless. Their handles gone, Golem’s claws would be too big to get a hold on what was left of the them. Giselle was still trapped, and now, it looked like nothing short of amputation would set her free.

     Down on his knees, he put his head to the concrete face, just above the heiress’ right shoulder; above her own bowed head. Her shallow breathing echoed in the hollow cavity between herself and the wall. He shook his head, closing his eyes against the frustrated tears that threatened to overwhelm his vision.

     He’d been defeated, again…strike two.

     “Giselle,” Brock groaned, “Do you have to be such a pain in the ass?”

     Her eyelids fluttered open. “I…I don’t know…” she replied weakly, “…It’s kind of become a habit.”

     Brock’s own lids shot up.

     She smiled, a wry twist of the mouth, fraught with bitter irony. “I guess you’ve finally got me now, stoner.”

     Brock immediately backed away. He held up his hands. “What? No! I don’t take advantage of people like that!”

     “I guess…that’s the difference between you and me,” she breathed raggedly, “If I were you...” she paused, “…well, if I were you, Id’ve killed me already.” Giselle sighed wearily. “…I’m finished Brock.”

     Brock just looked at her. That hadn’t been a statement, but a suggestion. He hung his head. Regardless her consistency for being the perpetual snot, he couldn’t just put her callously to death.

     But could he also just let her suffer?

     “What do you want me to do?”

     Giselle swallowed hard. “Make it quick.” She closed her eyes. “Say goodbye to Samurai for me; he’ll understand.”

     “What? No!” Brock was beside himself with consternation. “C’mon; there’s gotta be another way!”

     “Forgive my arrogance…” Giselle replied, “…but I can’t stand to be like this any longer, and I’d rather walk into hell with both hands still on me.”

     There was a long pause before Brock finally relinquished. Drawing his sidearm, he flipped the safety off and chambered a fresh round. “You don’t have to go this way,” he tried again, even as he put the barrel to her head. “Give yourself another chance!”

     A single tear rolled down Giselle’s plush cheek.

     “I don’t give second chances…” she replied bitterly, “In my book…you loose…or you win…nothing more, and nothing less.”

     “Can’t you amend that?” Brock pleaded.

     “…Do it, Brock.”

     “No.” Brock pulled his weapon away. “Absolutely not! I can’t believe you’d even suggest such a thing!”


     “No!” He repeated determinedly, “I will take this wall down before I just let anyone die!”


     “Maybe you’re not listening,” He leaned in close again, whispering harshly in her ear, “I said ‘no’! You’re coming out of this alive, weather you like it or not!”

     “…You sound like Ash.”

     “Good. One of us has to.”

     “You son of a bitch…”

     “That’s right, miss! Now I suggest you just suck in that pride of yours. I’ll drag Harris Methodist in here if I hafta! You’re-!”


     Brock’s head was slammed into the wall.

     Groaning, he rose to his feet, sweeping the room with his gun’s site.

     “Looking for something, human?”

     Gulping, Brock’s eyes trailed up the massive pair of armored bull legs standing solidly in front of him.

     The Talwar grinned wickedly down at the dumfounded trainer. “Nice try, shithead.” He sneered, drawing his sword from behind his back. “Let me show you how a real hole is made!”

     “Holes are my department,” a licorice-coated voice intoned seductively from behind him.

     “So they are,” The Talwar chuckled, standing aside, taking Brock’s bellowing Rhyhorn from the Siren as she passed it to him (an odd sight, considering the vast difference in size between her and the Pokèmon). Callously, the towering demon slammed his katana’s hilt into the rock rhino’s temple, “Shut up, dog!”

     Brock’s Pokèmon roared in pain, convulsed once and then went still, its horned cranium hung limply to one side, displaying a massive crack that ran from cheek to crown.

     “You son of a bitch!” Brock roared, opening his weapon on the Talwar. To his horror, the demon simply shoved his own Pokèmon into the line of fire. “No!” he screamed.

     It was too late.

     The Rhyhorn hit the ground hard, multiple, smoking pits riddling its armored hide, oozing crimson.

     Brock’s head spun. The whole room seemed to loom up and overwhelm him, its walls, pillars, the floor, the ceiling—all of it crashing down on him in one thunderous, chaotic landslide. He stared at his gun’s led display, horrified disbelief chiseled appallingly into his features. It flashed him a bright, red double-zero.

     He’d just emptied the whole clip on his partner.

     “Oh God…” the gun clattered to the floor, “…what have I done?”

* * * * * * *

Oak marched and Ash limped into Gypsum’s front door, expressions hard and unyielding. Ash’s Articuno strutted in behind them, ducking under the widened frame, ruffling its ice-hued head plumes fussily. A giant, black cat-like Pokèmon perched on the bird’s back, its amber eyes and circular golden body stripes glowing ominously. They waited just inside the doorway while their trainers continued on.

     Ash paused. “Alright,” he whispered hoarsely, scanning the dimly lit lobby, “Where is everyone?”

     Then he heard someone yell, followed by automatic gunfire.

     “This way!” He growled, taking two more Pokèballs in his hands as they headed toward a stand of pillars on their left. Between the massive cylinders, he could make out several dark shapes moving, the largest of which he immediately recognized. “You’re goin’ down, asshole!” He snarled. “Gary.”


     “Use Magneton. Lock-on, then Zapcannon.”

     Gary smiled knowingly. “Good call.” He replied, pulling a gold sphere from his left strap. Expanding the device, he tapped its deployment port.

     Nothing happened.

     “Hey.” Gary frowned, tapping it again, and then again, “What the hell?” He examined the port, breathed on it, rubbed the fog away and turned it over a couple of times.

     “Hey! What’s up!?” Ash whispered harshly.

     Gary scratched his head, and then tried one more time. Still no response from the golden orb. “Damn thing won’t open!” He replied incredulously.

     Déjà vu.

     Ash tapped his own pair of red and white spheres. “Oh no…” Neither responded.

     “Having trouble are we?

     Hands trembling, Ash turned to face the far back end of the room.

“You two were close, weren’t you,” a sweet voice cooed with honey-coated empathy.

     Brock had had just enough wit to return his injured Rhyhorn to its Pokèball. After that, he’d collapsed to the floor, his face buried in his big hands. “What have I done,” he repeated, his voice quavering, “Oh God…What have I done!?”

     “There now,” a pair of soft arms enfolded him, drawing the sobbing man into their comforting embrace. “It’s not your fault.”

     “Oh God!” Brock cried, “I just tore up one of my own Pokèmon!”

     “Look at me.” The voice lured.

     Slowly, Brock lifted his head, “Who thu…?” and found himself staring into a pair dazzling, prismatic retina.

     Surprised, he pulled back. “…Giselle!?”

     The heiress’ immaculate likeness gazed radiantly back at him, perfect pink lips parted in a winning smile. “My, you look better already!” she beamed amiably.

     “But…how did you-?”

     Before Brock could turn to verify his tenacious suspicions, he was pulled abruptly in the other direction, falling awkwardly atop the voluptuous female, catching himself just before his head slammed into hers. “What in the world are you-!?”

     She put a finger to his lips. “Hush. It’s just you and me now!” she winked.

     Brock was speechless.

     “Come on, baby,” she cooed enticingly, “You know you want me.”

     He felt her legs close around him, and every facet of his body went screaming into overdrive.

     Slowly, the Siren pulled Brock’s face close to hers, their noses barely inching passed one another.

     “Let’s make this a night to remember.”

Through the shadows, the dark Necromancer melted ethereally into existence, hollow laughter reverberating from his shadow-clad frame.

     “I’m back.” He hissed, crimson eyes flaring.

     “What in the blue…!?” Gary croaked, clipping his storage devices back on and redrawing his magnums.

     “Oh my God…” Ash began to backpedal. “Oh my God! Not you again!”

     Gary couldn’t believe his ears.

     “Wha-!?” he stared in disbelief, a chill running down his spine as he watched the color drain from his former partner’s face. Ash? Afraid?

     He stared at the ghostly specter. “Ash, what is that thing?”

     “All of you!” Ketchum screamed in reply, “RUN!!”

     Turning tail, Ash promptly followed his own advice. After half a second of contemplation, Gary darted after him.


     The other kept on running.

     “Dammit, Ketchum! What-!?”

     “Don’t ask! Don’t look back!” He cried, “Just get out of here!”

     The Articuno squawked incredulously as a panic-stricken Ash sprinted by, followed immediately by a consternate Gary. Exchanging a quizzical glance with the Umbreon on his back, the towering bird strutted into the room, rose-hued eyes tentatively searching the shadows.

     “What’ve we here?” The Necromancer chuckled, his hollow voice echoing ominously through the empty lobby. “More Guardians?

     “Who’s there?” The Umbreon growled.

     Show yourself! The Articuno demanded.

     “Here.” The Necromancer’s voice rumbled hauntingly from every dark corner of the room.

     The two Pokèmon howled in dismay as the air abruptly rippled in front of them. There was no time to summon a shield.


     “Ash! Quit babbling and tell me-!”

     “Gary! Get on your Dragon! Get Misty! Get us outta here!”

     “Why!? Who was that back there!? What’s going on!?”

     The two skidded to a halt, Ash finally loosing his balance and tumbling head over heals in the swaying turf. Painfully, he tried to get back to his feet. Something in his leg snapped.

     Crying in pain, Ash fell again, Gary rushing to catch him before he hit the ground.

     “Damn it!” Gary swore, “I knew I shouldn’t have let you go running in there like that!”

     “Goddess!” Ash swore, his fractured shin throbbing. “I’m sorry I got you into this…maybe you should just leave me here.”

     “Hey, don’t start that!” Gary rejoined obstinately. With a strained heave, he helped Ash back on his one good leg. “Let’s stick with the original plan—we’re all getting out of here!”

     “God bless you, Gary Oak.” Ash groaned.

     Gary smirked. “Save that for when I sneeze!”

     Ash was still trembling. “Hey, where’s Articuno and Umbreon?”

     Before Gary could answer, one of Gypsum’s walls exploded in a shower of granite and concrete.

“I…I don’t understand,” Brock tried again to reason through the flood of sensations—sensations, he had to admit, he’d never really felt before. “I thought you hated me.”

     The Siren smiled again, but this time, there was no mistaking the animal hunger in her eyes. Brock gasped as her arms locked around his upper back, pulling him in tight. “Oh, hate is such a strong word,” she replied throatily.

     Brock could hardly breath. He felt her legs somehow get around and inside his, forcing them apart and pinning them down. Panicking, he tried to break free. To his dismay, he found himself completely immobilized.

     The demoness’ body abruptly convulsed as several screaming tentacles erupted from her sides, their black, tubular bodies sticky with resin mucus. They arched over their freshly captured prey, snapping their faceless jaws, needle teeth grinning with anticipation.

     From where he lay on the floor, Samurai saw what Brock could not. Slowly, and still keeping one eye on the nearby Minotaur, he drew his pistol.

     Brock cried out, more in fear than actual pain as the last slithering appendage shot out from between his captor’s legs.

     It was the largest of the seven, with an actual head, instead of just a black tube with a toothy mouth, though it was still really nothing more than an elongated, bean-shaped portion shielded with an ebony skull plate (grisly science fiction come to life, Samurai thought disdainfully).

     There you are…hold still…

     Carefully, he took aim.

     “I’ll hate you tomorrow…” The Siren purred, licking Brock’s lips greedily. Her real head bent over him, resting its grinning maw against his shivering face. “Bleed for me now, mortal,” It hissed menacingly, “Scream for me, as I strip the flesh from your body!”

     Brock felt the air being sucked out of him as the Siren pulled his mouth to hers in a passionate, hungry kiss.

     Above him, all seven heads reared back, letting out one final scream before they plunged.


     The demoness shuddered, her body becoming rigid and her eyes flaring wide.

     Then she went still.

     Shaking like a leaf, Brock lost no time breaking out of the Siren’s slackened grip. He stood and just stared in horrified silence at the monster that had come so close to devouring him. It’s primary head lay on the ground, a gaping hole blasted through its black skull.

     The sight of it sickened him; how could something so outwardly beautiful hide such a hideous thing within itself?

     Then his eyes found their way to the real Giselle, still pinned to her wall.

     A tear trekked its way down his cheek. He fell to his knees beside the fallen Siren.

     Now he understood.

     His gun still smoking, Samurai turned away. He shook his head. This was becoming too much for him. If he was to endure pain, let it be completely physical—a beating, the scourge of the whip; rake his body across hot coals; hang him, even. Anything…but this…it was just perpetual torture.

     He closed his eyes, even as the ground quivered under him.

     Horrendous glee spread across his bull’s face, the Talwar bent down, grabbing the wayward gunman by the front of his shirt. He hoisted Samurai into the air, alternately snatching the short warrior’s pistol and crushing it in the palm of his steel-shod hand.

     “Time to say goodnight,” he sneered, pulling his fist back, “This party’s over!”

* * * * * * *

“Getting back to where I left off,” the Lugia rumbled, cocking a brow at the row of pillars from which the Pokègoddess had arrived. The massive, cylindrical structures continued to billow indifferently in place.

     “We have a very grave predicament before us,” he continued, letting his gaze wonder slowly around the assembly, from face, to face, to face… “The Shadow was concocted nearly two centuries ago, and its cult has been increasingly active, on and off again for approximately the last hundred years. From the day they were conceived, the Catalysts of The Shadow have always been a force of evil to reckon with, and until now, The Elite has done a superb job of keeping the demonic cult’s ambitions at bay. However, nearly a decade ago, The Shadow chose for itself a new emissary, a young collector of rare Pokèmon by the name of Lawrence. Some of you,” he cleared his throat, exchanging glances for a moment with a particular trio of legendary birds, “Will know who I mean.”

     A column of fire erupted from the middle of the assembly. Everyone scooted aside as a large Moltres marched to the foot of the dais, his eyes blazing furiously. “I told you,” he crowed, “We should have destroyed that man!”

     The Lugia nodded gravely. “Indeed, that might have saved us some trouble now.”

     “I think ‘some’ is somewhat of an understatement, High Lord Guardian—and a little late in coming.”

     “Is that so, Guardian of Wind and Fire?” The Lugia leaned forward a foot or so. Even then, he still towered over the firebird.

     The Moltres seemed to reconsider his words before answering. “Well, we might have done so sooner, anyway—if we’d been permitted.” He finished acridly.

     “Lack of permission seems to be our perpetual bane,” a melodious voice sang out form behind him. The Moltres stepped aside, admitting a sparkling Articuno into the conversation. “No offense, High Lord,” she cooed, somewhat testily, “But if we cannot slay this treasonous human, how are we to stop his incessant mischief?”

     “Mischief!?” Another voice squawked indignantly, “Is that all he’s been up to!?”

     The Articuno and Moltres parted, allowing a burly Zapdos into the circle.

     “Try deliberately bringing hell to earth on for size!” he thundered. “Why do we let this fool run rampant on our planet any longer? If it’s hell he wants, I say we give it to him!”

     The assembly roared to its feet in agreement.

     “Excellent,” the Lugia nodded approvingly.

     The room fell silent again, a perplexed look on everyone’s face.

     He noted their questioning glances. “Destroying the human Lawrence,” he intoned in a hushed rumble, “We are not permitted to do. His fate will be in the hands of another. In the meantime, there is nothing to stop us from demolishing the works he was striven to achieve.”

     There was another moment of deep silence.

     “So,” the Moltres finally spoke, “what are you saying?”

     “The Shadow has reached the pinnacle of its iniquity, straying far outside the bounds set for it, even defying The Elite, whom we instated to hold it in check. Humanity can protect itself no longer. It is time for us to rise up. We are Earth’s Guardians!” The King roared, “I have called you here, not only to make you aware of these events, but to hear your voice on this urgent matter. You have let me know your thoughts, yet even so, I am not sure you fully understand the graveness of our plight. This is not a struggle against physical forces of evil. The Shadow is a sprit. If we defeat Lawrence, it will not die; if, however, we allow humanity to be consumed by its allure, it will grow stronger, and eventually, its earthly hordes will overrun the Realms. We are faced with a pressing dilemma, not because our foe is undefeatable here in the physical realm, but because we cannot reach the true source of The Shadow’s malignance.”

     “Then why are we here,” The Zapdos crowed. “if we cannot do anything!?”

     “Because, despite what we cannot do, we are obligated to respond to our adversary’s insurgence in the one and only way we can.”

     “And that would be?” The Articuno cocked her flowing plumes back.

     The Lugia spread a wing, holding it out toward the assembly. “Lords and Ladies of the Realms,” he bequeathed, “You are here today to grant us permission to go to war.”

     There was another pause.

     Silently, the Moltres raised his wing toward the Lugia’s. “Well,” a wry smile crooked the corners of his long beak, “Why didn’t you just say so?”

     The arena shook with thunderous approval, and from every direction, arms, wings, and what other appendages were raised toward their leader’s.

     The King nodded. “It is settled, then. The Guardians of the Realms are committed; from this course of action, there is no turning aside. I ask of each and every one of you, if you have any reservations, make them known now.”

     Every face was set in stone. No one moved.


     Turning, the Lugia descended the dais. “We will take the portal which has its egress in the grand palisade of The Elite. From there, we will launch our offensive. It is my wish,” he intoned, “that The Elite themselves not be involved. Their role in this coming storm-.”

     “No! Wait!”

     Slowly, the Lugia turned his face toward the disheveled Ferdinand, who was following at his heel. “What is it, Chairman?” He rumbled.

     “Please, don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the help! This is far more than I could have dreamed!…” he rubbed the back of his head, nervously glancing around as every eye fell upon him. “…But…can’t you give us just one more chance?”

     The King chuckled. “Are you still so eager to redeem yourself?”

     “I am a man of honor! I must!”

     The Lugia closed his eyes and turned away. “You cannot.”

     Carlos caught his jaw, just as it was making a beeline for the crystal floor. “No, wait!” he pleaded again. “I insist you use me! Please believe in us!”

     “The Elite has done all it can, my son.”

     “No! You don’t understand!” Determinedly, Carlos stood directly under the towering bird’s piercing gaze, lifting his own to face him. The Lugia came to a halt. “This is what we do! We were made for this! Our lives revolved around this single calling, to guard the whole earth from all forms of destruction, and we will die before we concede defeat! I beg you, on the honor you yourself say you bestowed upon us, don’t discard us! The Shadow is our enemy, too! We must be there to see it defeated!”

     A long silence fell upon the assembly as the King mulled the heartened request over.

     Finally, he lifted his regal countenance. “What do the Lords of the Realms say to this?” he inquired, spreading a wing to the other radiant beings around him.

Stay here. Mewtwo advised, releasing Ki’s arm from his.

     Hmm? She obliged but followed at his heel. What are you doing?

     Getting involved. He replied simply. He took her hand again, accepting her presence. He smiled to himself; no matter the danger of the adventure, she’d always be right there.

     Isn’t that what we’re trying not to do? She asked ironically.

     He turned to look into her eyes. I don’t think we have a choice about this anymore, love.

     What are you going to do?

     He shifted his eyes back into forward gear. I don’t exactly know yet. Come with me, Scooping her up, Mewtwo catapulted high into the air, sailing over the heads of his exalted colleagues, We’ll just see what happens.

Carlos shook his head. All around him, his plea was being met with incriminating silence.

     The Lugia shook his head. He could feel a small sliver of sympathy for the human executive coming from the hearts of his fellow Guardians, yet the verdict was unchanged. Like him, it was not that they didn’t want The Elite involved or even thought the humans incapable of helping in some small way. It was just that, some small way was really all there was to offer. It would be better to spare his mortal elect the trouble of more bloodshed and loss.

     “Let him fight with us.”

     The King’s brow furrowed. “Hmm?” Methodically, he turned around.

     The Lord of Perraldra lowered himself and his confrere before the Lugia. “Let the human and his armies fight with us.” He repeated, “We’ll need all the help we can get.”

     “Mewtwo and Lady Ki,” the Lugia returned the psychic lord’s bow. He raised a critical brow. “Tell me, what would be the wisdom in this?”

     Stoically, Mewtwo and Ferdinand Carlos regarded one another, Pokèmon Guardian and human Elite. They could not have been more different these two, one short and stocky, the other tall and fluidly built—again, Pokèmon vs. Human. Their eyes narrowed, looking the other over with a sidelong, almost adversarial stare.

     Carlos’s brow furrowed as he finally locked eyes with the psychic lord. Team Rocket’s operations were not unknown to him. He knew exactly who this was. And he knew this creature’s troubled history with humans…

     Why are you sticking up for me?

     Mewtwo nodded at the question. He knew The Elite. He knew who Ferdinand Carlos was. After Giovanni, he’d made it a point to learn all he could about every human on the planet who held the same level of clout and power. He knew how they operated. He detested how unscrupulous they could be.

     Yet, after living under a decade as a being entrusted with such responsibilities himself, he understood something of their common predicament and their incessant condition.

     Because you are like me.

     Carlos’ eyes narrowed.


     Mewtwo gave the Elite chairman a wry smile.

     Because we both have been charged with the authority to watch after the lives of others, and in doing so, we are weighted with the trust of wielding our power responsibly.

     Ki looked on, silently listening, trying to ignore the knot of apprehension she felt wadding up in the pit of her stomach.

     Mewtwo and Carlos nodded in agreement

     The Lugia cocked his head thoughtfully to one side. “Hmm. Well said.” He looked around again, “I believe that settles things?”

     The Moltres nodded. “Let him come.”

     The Zapdos shrugged. “Can't possibly make things worse!” he grinned.

     The Articuno smacked the thunderbird upside the head, turning an apologetic smile to the Elite. “Maybe,” she intoned maternally, “You will find a way to redeem yourself after all.”

     Carlos bowed generously, “I thank you! We will not fail; you have my word!”

     “So,” The Zapdos queried, rubbing the back of his head, and casting a scathing glance at the now innocent-looking Articuno, “Who’s gonna lead this blasted thing?”

* * * * * *

     The Talwar brought his fist down with all the force his powerful body could summon, aimed straight at Samurai’s still bloodied face, intent on turning the stout warrior into an oozing mass of jellied entrails.

     A foot before he could make contact with his target, a radiant, slender hand caught the demon’s final strike, stopping it dead.

     The Talwar stared in disbelief at the tall, shining woman hovering above the ground at his side, her comparatively small appendage holding his back with impossible ease. Rage welled up inside him and he tried to strike again, to take it out on her now, but he found himself unable to move.

     “That,” the angelic guardian stated flatly, “will be enough, demon.”

     “Y-y,” A small leak of steaming saliva trekked its way over his snarling lower lip as he tried to force words through his paralyzed mouth. “Y-you!” He managed falteringly.

     She nodded. “Yes demon, I have come myself this time.”

     “R-release me-” he tried to growl, but his voice was immediately sealed from him.

     “I have come, by the authority of my Father, to reclaim these captives from you.” And saying thus, she gently took Samurai from his hand.

     The battered man tucked paternally over her shoulder, the Pokègoddess waved her free hand before the Talwar’s furious countenance. “Sleep, fallen Guardian,” she intoned softly, “and do not stir again till I leave.”

     The earth shook once as Minotaur hit the ground, front first, his sword landing with a resounding clang atop his armored back. Then all was still. The demon champion’s upper body lifted and fell with the gentle rhythm of deep slumber.

     Slowly, she approached the wall, stopping only to touch the distraught figure, still on his knees before the slain Siren. Her hand grazed his hunched shoulder and the air shimmered and sparkled about him, enclosing him with glittering particles. He turned, lifting his face to meet hers.

     “You…are you?”

     She smiled, “Yes, I am your friend’s Guardian.” and waved a hand before his dazzled eyes. “Send Ashura my peace.”


     But before he could say anything else, Brock Stone vanished from his place.

     She continued on, slowly, methodically approaching the wall.


     She turned around again, unhurried. “Necromancer.”

     The demon sorcerer’s eyes narrowed dangerously. He pointed his staff at the still figure in her arms, “Put the human down,” then aimed the nefarious stick out the door, “leave.

     She shook her head. “I cannot leave.”

     “Then I will cast you out. This is our kingdom.

     “Would you do battle with one of my brothers?”

     The Chameleon Necromancer paused for a moment, mulling that suggestion over. “Is that a threat, angel?” he finally sneered.

     “That,” she replied, leaning down to touch the fallen Giselle on her lowered head, “is a promise.”

     “I was one of you once. I can fight you. I have the power.

     “You will not lay a finger on me. You do not have the authority.”

     And with that, she touched each of Giselle’s wrists. The gleaming, bloodied metal spikes slid free from the vertical face of concrete, all of their own accord and fell, ringing ominously on the ground.

     Taking the unconscious woman up in her arm, the Guardian turned, nodded once to the Necromancer and disappeared.


     He heard the word echo in the silence.

     Soon…it is finished.

* * * * * *

“The King will, of course,” a small Celebi chittered amiably from the thunder lord’s shoulder.

     “No,” A Jirachi countered, landing behind the saffron bird’s other collarbone. “He has to stay here and maintain the balance of this realm.”

     “Oh, well, maybe the Zapdos will!”

     “Not a chance!” The Articuno immediately interjected.

     “Why not?” The Moltres rejoined. “Can you do better?”

     “No, that’s not what I mean at all!” she retorted.

     “Thanks,” The thunderbird rolled his eyes, “Thanks a lot!”

     “Enough of this nonsense!”

     They all turned to face the massive Groudon that plodded in their direction. The earth quaked under his heavily muscled bulk.

     He regarded them with an air of undisguised exasperation. “You three are insufferable! I’ll lead this thing myself if I have to!”

     “What a mess that would be.” A massive Kyogre floated up beside the ground master and finned him in the ribs. “What’s your plan then? Raise every tectonic plate on the globe!?”

     “Oh, and you’d sooner flood everything I suppose!” The Groudon returned testily.

     “Water rules!” The dark blue orca nodded emphatically. “Think of it! We’d just wash everything out-”

     “You’d also kill everything.” A stoic voice answered from above them both.

     They glanced up at the Doexys as he floated languidly to the ground. “You need a more calculated action.” He concluded, his phonation still devoid of affect.

     “Yeah, see?” The Groudon chided, jabbing the Kyogre back.

     “I still think that’s better than your dry ideas!” the Pokèmon lord of The Deep shot.

     “Whatever Shamu!”

     “Oh, shut your trapnich!”

     A thunderous clap rippled through the air, startling everyone and shutting the debate down like a silent tomb.

     “I,” The King replied, his wings still held together as all eyes returned to him, “have another idea.”

     “And that would be?” The Groudon rumbled.

     The Lugia searched the immediate crowd for a moment, finally locating Mewtwo. The psychic lord’s arms were crossed forebodingly, his head bowed and silent, and he still stood beside Ferdinand Carlos. He was one of the few in that immediate circle who had not joined the trifling arguments.

     “Lord of Perraldra.”

     The psychic master lifted his dark, violet countenance; his eyelids slid smoothly open. “Yes, Lord Guardian.”

     “Would you put yourself on the line for the human race?”

     “For mankind?” Mewtwo rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “What do you want me to do?”

     The Lugia approached, retracing his steps to where the young lord stood. “If you are ready,” he intoned gravely, “I will give to you the charge of carrying my authority into this battle, not as a mere bearer of standards, but as chief in my stead.”

     “What is the weight of this role?” Mewtwo asked cautiously.

     “One thing,” The Lugia replied. “Save the world.”

     Oh no. Ki inwardly groaned. Here we go!

Mewtwo lifted his hand to meet the Lord Guardian’s outstretched wing.

     He swallowed hard.

     “I will.”

* * * * * * *

Riding atop Ash’s Tauros, he and Gary galloped up to their fallen Pokèmon, both of whom were still shaking their ringing heads.

     With Ash in tow, Gary slid to the ground, retrieving his Umbreon as he did so.

     “Kwa!” The Articuno greeted. He was still blinking the spots from his vision as Ash gently put a hand on the ice bird’s side.

     “Easy, boy.” Ketchum soothed, wincing between words. “At least you didn’t break anything!”

     “Kwa!” Gingerly, the towering legendary scooped his trainer up and placed him on his back.

     A pair of slender arms suddenly found their way about Ash’s waist.

     “Huh?” He turned his head and got a mouthful of red-orange hair. “What thu-?!”

     “Hey,” Misty smiled weakly back at him, “Quit gawking and get us out of here.”

     “I thought you-”

     She shrugged. “I’m resilient. I got better.” Nevertheless, she could still hear bells ringing in her head. She let out a small cry when Ash tried to adjust himself in front of her. “Hey, careful!” Misty admonished testily. She groaned. “My head feels like a pumpkin.”

     “Sorry.” He apologized curtly, “Brace yourself; this’ll be a-”

     “Where’s Brock?” Misty searched the grounds below them, apprehension wadding up in her stomach, “Giselle, Samurai—where is everyone? Then she gasped. “And what the hell is Gary Oak doing here? I thought-”

     “Never mind what you thought,” Ash cut her off, rolling his eyes. This was not going to be an easy ride home. “Gary just showed up out of the blue. We need his help.” He winced inwardly at that last statement…that last disclosure. “As for the others…”

     Misty fell harshly silent.

     “Hey! Anybody got room for one more hitchhiker?”

     Ash and Misty both gasped in unison.


     The Rock trainer came toward them unsteadily. “Is this for real? I thought you guys were toast!”

     “Same for you!” Ash replied, a smile plastered to his blood-streaked face.


     Brock spun around. “Oak!?” He exclaimed, and was about to pulverize the League champ with a massive bear hug when Gary held up his hands.

     “Hey! No time for that!” He chucked a thumb over his shoulder, alternately observing Brock’s jaw go to the floor as the rock trainer spotted the towering Rayquaza approaching from behind them. “You can ride, I hope. This’ll be our ticket outta here!”

     “Damn right!” Brock fairly drooled at the sight of the mightiest and most rare of all Dragon kind. “Hell, count me in!”

     Gary paused for a moment before boarding, “Are there any others inside?”

     Grimly, Brock shook his head. “No.” he replied, “They’ve already been accounted for.”

     Gary nodded, turning away. “I’m sorry.”

     “Don’t be.” Brock followed Oak up the League man’s Machamp’s stair-stacked arms. He allowed himself a rueful smile.

     I’ve a feeling they’re in good hands.

     Recalling Hoist, Gary heeled Galadrius, and Brock held on for dear life as they rocketed away. Close behind, Ash and Misty followed on Ketchum’s glimmering bird of ice. They’d finally escaped Gypsum’s deathtrap. They were free.

     But at what price? Ash sullenly wondered. Try as hard as they might, they’d failed to retake the Elite fortress from its demonic captors. No, they hadn’t just failed; they didn’t have a chance to begin with!

     Bitterly, he shook his head.

     What will become of the world now?

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