All 11 chapters in a single article (Patreon patrons only)
Jane, Jessie, and Flannery received their Pokéballs from the Lavaridge Pokémon Center’s attendant. Jane and Jessie listened dutifully to the nurse’s instructions for their Pokémon’s long-term care, with emphasis on avoiding repeat burns for Hippowdon before his recovery was solid, but Flannery was visibly impatient. Once the discharge summary ran its course, Flannery determinedly exited the building, barely waiting for Jessie and Jane to follow. A few meters outside the Pokémon center, she stopped, and looked around frantically. Her panic was undeniable by the time Jane and Jessie caught up with her.
“What am I doing? I can’t just run off to save Hoenn with some people I met a few days ago!” She fell to her knees on the volcanic valley soil. “I’m the youngest Gym Leader Lavaridge has ever had. I’m not ready for this.”
“No one’s ever ready to be a hero,” Jessie responded as they knelt down next to Flannery and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Take it from us.”
“There are just the people who show up when someone’s in trouble,” Jane added, kneeling on Flannery’s other side, also offering a hand, “and do what they can to help.”
Flannery looked at them both, weakly smiling.
“The three of us have been on the run, around the world, for years.” Meowth encouraged. “You could have picked much worse partners for the day you were the one who showed up.”
Flannery began to stand up, heartened. Jessie leapt to their feet and struck a dramatic pose. “And we’re going to start with figuring out where the heck we’re going. Hippowdon, go!”
The sandy beast formed of the Pokéball’s red energy and looked up at his trainer.
“Hippowdon, see if you can’t feel where that tremor came from.”
Hippowdon dug his feet into the ground, pressing it aside until he looked to be a beige and brown crocodile in an ocean of soil, huffing in satisfaction. The three of them stood silently around the Pokémon for a minute.
“Well, he’s not going to figure it out until there’s another one,” Jessie admitted. The next step is figuring out how we’re going to get there.”
Flannery asked, “How’d you get here?”
“Mostly on foot,” Jane answered. “It’s…easier to stay out of sight that way.”
The ground shook, cracking some building facades and sending the handful of people who had come back outdoors after the last one diving to the ground. Hippowdon raised his head and let out a small roar.
“It’s that way,” Jessie pointed. “Southeast…far southeast. The exact spot is blurry, which means water. I think I know who we have to talk to.”
“You’re saying I felt like I was someone else, and then I asked you who I was,” Lizabeth asked Corsola and Gorebyss, now standing next to her window.
“I was scared,” Gorebyss explained. “For a moment, I didn’t know who you were, and it was like you’d never seen us before.” Corsola jumped into Lizabeth’s lap and hugged her, face scrunched in concern.
“It’s good to have you back,” Corsola added. “I don’t want you to go away.”
Lizabeth put her arms around Corsola, and Gorebyss slid over to her and wrapped her long pink body around the two. They sat in quiet embrace for a long time. Then, Lizabeth spoke up.
“I was somewhere else for a while.”
Gorebyss and Corsola looked up at her in shock and worry, waiting for the rest of the story.
“I was in a metal room, with a metal hallway and a window looking out over Ever Grande City. There were a lot of Pokémon I’d never seen before, working on something. My body was…different. Someone else’s.”
As Lizabeth’s thoughts moved forward, the ground beneath her shook and cracked.
“Red lightning. Manaphy was trying to tell me something.” She stood. “Girls, the bad news is, I’m going away again. The good news is, you’re coming with me.”
Elvis sat in that position, head in his hands and elbows on his knees, for longer than he should have. Every time he tried to get up, the awful familiarity of his movements stopped him. He released Swadloon from her Pokéball into his lap, holding the cat-sized yellow insect in his hands. Before he could even say anything, he broke into tears, hugging his Pokémon and slowly dampening her leafy cloak. She put a tiny hand on her trainer, alternately looking up at him, looking away, and leaving her eyes closed. A few times, she tried to speak, but no sounds came.
“I was so happy, Swadloon.” Elvis hugged tighter. “Why was I so happy? It wasn’t the arm and leg. That felt wrong. Why was I so happy?”
Swadloon looked up at Elvis, and then looked down again. “Pokémon have dreams like that about evolving.”
Elvis stared into his mirror, and tried to imagine her face instead of his. The thought made him smile, and then his room’s buzzer returned him to the present. Walking up to the panel next to his door, he answered, “Elvis here.”
“Ortolan wants you in the control room,” a male voice informed Elvis. “It sounds important.”
“Right away, Daigo.”
Elvis walked to his mirror, adjusted and smoothed his clothing, washed his face until most of the redness was gone, and returned Swadloon to her Pokéball. “One more day.”
Lucy clung to Milotic’s back as the piscine serpent jetted across the surface of Hoenn’s southeastern sea. A protective black suit and helmet, meant for motorcycle riders, protected her from wind and grit. As the island Lucy sought came into focus, she signaled her Pokémon to slow down. With the flaring of its fuchsia head-tassels and pink-and-blue tail, the long creature complied, and settled gently into the water. Lucy lifted the visor on her helmet and looked out at the island.
“Exactly where I thought it would be,” she muttered, gesturing for Milotic to circle around the island as she produced binoculars from her backpack. What was wilderness and the occasional tour group the last time she was here was now host to a tower built in a metal and concrete spiral, many stories tall. Around its base, groups of humans and Pokémon milled about. She nudged Milotic to approach for a closer look.
Lucy’s binoculars showed her the extent of the crowd. Neat square regiments of Pokémon—she recognized Mawiles, Honedges, Steelixes, Probopasses, and more—formed under the supervision of men and women in green uniforms. The humans held radio-like devices that they pointed at any Pokémon that stirred from its place in line. Other Pokémon arrived from various directions, walking directly out of the ocean, levitating across its surface, or arriving from inside the building. From what Lucy could see, some of the formations were mixed, others single-species, and most of them were on the same freshly cleared ground to the tower’s east, facing its entrance. Milotic carried her around the island, far enough away to avoid sight, and no other entrances showed themselves.
“This is going to be harder than I thought.”