All 11 chapters in a single article (Patreon patrons only)
Flannery’s Torkoal wreathed himself in flames and spun into the guard’s Nidorino with echoing force. As Torkoal skidded to a stop, the bright purple rhinoceros-like creature clutched its belly and fell on its side, and Torkoal landed on the other side of the guard. Torkoal’s flesh bore the marks of a few horn and poison attacks, but the igneous turtle remained in fighting condition. Two other guards exited the nearest door on the outer side of the hall, immediately calling a Lairon and Feraligatr into battle, and the first guard released a Pidgeotto. Behind Flannery, Jane and Jessie fought off four other guards with their Cacturne and Seviper, and Meowth tried to wrestle and scratch another away from her intercom. The three Pokémon bore down on Torkoal, snapping jaws and gathering power. Flannery offered a one-word order like a curse: “Overheat.”
Torkoal’s shell vents glowed once more, visibly alarming the guards and their Pokémon in the instant before the light became a blast of superheated energy. Pidgeotto and Lairon instantly fainted from the assault, and the beam continued across the hall to obliterate the intercom handset, knock out the operator, and singe Meowth’s claws. The first guard recalled his unconscious Pokémon and raised his hands in surrender, the second fell over and stopped moving, and the third watched in satisfaction as her Feraligatr advanced.
Torkoal stood, visibly tiring, and faced the Feraligatr. The bright blue bipedal reptile was burnt and scratched, but had resisted enough of Torkoal’s attack to still want to fight. The beast’s tail began to glow with watery power, and Torkoal braced for impact. The Aqua Tail attack flung Torkoal to Flannery’s feet, most of his vents dark and sodden, whimpering.
“That’s enough, Torkoal. You were amazing,” she told her Pokémon, petting his head to earn a weak smile. Returning him to his Pokéball, she glared at the Feraligatr’s trainer. He still had another Pokéball on his bandolier, which he removed to release his next Pokémon, a bipedal cat that Flannery recognized as Meowstic, a Psychic type. As Flannery weighed whether to risk her Macargo’s health on another Water-type battle, Feraligatr suddenly stood shock-still and glowed with electric light. The behemoth fell over, and Jane’s Joltik scampered off of his foot and fixed her four blue eyes on the psychic cat. The cat lashed out with a mental barrage meant to disorient, but Joltik nimbly dodged and fixed Meowstic’s eyes with a coruscating beam of light from her own. Meowstic fainted, its mind scrambled by the Signal Beam attack.
As Joltik turned her eyes to the no longer ebullient guard, Cacturne cracked a Graveler’s shell with the slam of his Needle Arms and Seviper’s venom worked its last on an outmatched Tangela. Seviper rushed to entangle two of the guards before they could run, and Cacturne hefted the other two in his prickly arms. Joltik and Flannery encouraged the remaining two conscious guards to approach their captured co-workers with demonstrative sparks and glares.
“The next intercom station is about ten minutes of walking in either direction,” Jessie explained, their deadpan explanation offering only hints of strategic glee. “The one in that direction is currently drenched in venom and may or may not still be on fire. The one in this direction is where we’re going next, unless you suggest a better room for us to visit.”
None of the guards spoke.
“We’re not here to hurt you,” Jane offered, her tone warmer than Jessie’s. “I mean, we did, but that’s not what we’re here to do. We’re going to put a stop to everything that is happening in this tower. Everything. Whatever you’re doing to those Magnemites, however you’re keeping that army of Aggrons outside in line, the earthquakes, it’s all over by the time we’re finished here. If we can, we’re going to level this place and let it start being a Winggull nesting ground again. But we’re not here about you, and we’re not going to hurt you again if we don’t have to.” She paused. “And we’re really curious to see something more interesting than a group of security guards playing cards and drinking sake on the job.”
Seviper hissed and tightened her grip on the two guards she held, but relaxed when Jessie glared at her. Flannery watched her two companions, too impressed by their process to provide her own confident display.
“We are here to be the first among men in Ortolan’s new world,” one of the men in Seviper’s coils spat at his interrogators. Seviper coiled tighter and Jessie let her.
“Speak for yourself, Kumai!” shouted the woman Joltik held at bay. “You want the fossil lab. Two floors down. It’s the entire outer ring. They’re doing something awful in there. You’ll hear the screams long before you find it.”
“Thank you,” Jessie answered, checking the woman’s name badge, “Katsunobu.”
“Are there other points of interest you all would care to share?” Jane asked.
“There’s a drill,” the other man in Seviper’s coils offered venomously. “You’ll never get to it, though. All the way at the bottom, and crawling with guards all the way down. Get yourselves killed in there somewhere; it’s what a real hero would do.”
Jane recalled Joltik with the reassurance, “You find yourself someplace safe, Katsunobu.” The woman returned her defeated Feraligatr and Meowstic to their Pokéballs and ran down the hall. After five minutes of silence, Seviper and Cacturne released their four prisoners.
“Now, get lost!” Flannery shouted.
“Before I got mixed up in all of this, I was a Pokémon researcher,” Elvis narrated as he led Lizabeth and Lucy through deserted tunnels deep inside Ortolan’s tower. “I was interested in Pokémon communication. We all hear them talk, but some of them have other methods that they don’t always know how to share with us. I figured out that Steel-type Pokémon can talk to each other, sometimes over long distances, via magnetic waves.”
The group turned a corner, passing by two engineers so deep in discussion that they didn’t notice the two conspicuously out-of-place women determinedly walking past them.
“That’s so cool,” Lizabeth responded. “A private channel just for them.”
“I figured out how to make signals that Steel-types could sense,” Elvis continued, “and how to receive messages from them. I tested my idea, and it worked. That’s when Ortolan noticed me.”
“Ortolan?” Lucy asked, noticing the occasional dropped jaw and whispered comment amongst the people Elvis was leading them around, and hiding her face in her hair.
“It’s a codename, as far as I know. Some Kalosian reference I never bothered to look up. He never told me his real name. Anyway, he funded my research and then some. Thanks to him, I was able to build a bigger, better magnet wave that could transmit across whole continents. But I think he changed something.”
“Oh?” Lizbeth asked, in rapt attention.
“My magnet wave is supposed to be just a message. Pokémon should be able to ignore it the same way you can ignore someone talking to you. But I’ve seen Ortolan use my work to compel Pokémon, to make them do things they don’t want to do, I’m sure of it.” And if I check the transmitter, I can figure out how he did it, and stop it.”
Ahead of them, a trainer in a green uniform with a single fringed epaulette on his tailcoat, flanked by a steely, dragon-like Aggron and floral, dinosaurian Meganium, extended a baton and pointed at the trio. In a deep and dramatic voice, he announced, “Halt! Your treachery shall find no pardon here!”
“We don’t have to do this, Hobbes,” Elvis hoped out loud.
“I believe we do, Elvis,” Hobbes insisted, “for even if Ortolan calls you his protégé, he will not tolerate you opening the path of his glorious future to these…ruffians.”
“Okay, this guy has to go.” Lucy’s face scrunched with irritation. “Seviper, I choose you! Sludge Wave!”
No sooner did Lucy’s giant, sabre-toothed serpent coalesce from her Pokéball’s energy than she vomited a cone of foul-smelling chunky purple goo. Aggron lunged between its two companions and the hideous wave, which sizzled harmlessly against its armor plates.
“This violence does not become you, ladies,” Hobbes sneered, raising his baton again. “But fortunately for you, I am prepared to render lessons in decorum upon you when I have you apprehended. Aggron, Iron Tail!”
The steel dinosaur stood still. Hobbes growled, and pressed a button at his baton’s base. With a jerking motion, Aggron resumed its aggressive posture and raised its tail, the creaking of steel against rock providing a hint of its monstrous weight. It slammed its tail into the floor where Seviper used to be, and looked down in angry puzzlement. Seviper had already slid behind the group, rearing up for another attack. Meganium closed its eyes and erected a barrier of light, which Seviper’s next Sludge Wave passed through as though nothing had been there. Meganium’s herbaceous skin bubbled and frothed as the Pokémon shrieked in pain, but it remained shakily standing. Aggron’s arm kept the wave from striking Hobbes.
“Gorebyss, it’s time to help!” Lizabeth shouted, releasing her giant pink fish from storage. Elvis touched her arm to get her attention, and whispered something in her ear once he had it. Lizabeth directed her Pokémon, “Water Pulse!”
Gorebyss’s orb of vibrating water struck, not Aggron, but Hobbes, knocking him off his feet and into Seviper. Seviper opened her mouth and emitted a burst of star-shaped energy motes, taking the rest of the fight out of Meganium. The floral sauropod collapsed in a poisoned heap. After Hobbes recalled his defeated Meganium, Seviper held him down with her body and Gorebyss took aim one more time. The second Water Pulse shattered the baton. Aggron shook its head in confusion, and immediately went on a rampage. Its first stomp put a hole through the wall, and its second landed on Seviper’s tail. Seviper tried to get away, but could not drag its damaged body fast enough to escape Aggron’s rapidly descending tail. Lucy recalled her giant snake, already unconscious.
A steel ant fell out of the ceiling and onto Aggron’s back, tossing a ceiling tile aside and into Hobbes’s chest. The Durant did not move or make any sound, yet its presence seemed to calm the creature’s rage over the next twenty seconds. Elvis walked over to Aggron and put a hand on the still-shaking Pokémon while Lizabeth looked around for other attackers. Lucy walked over to Hobbes and hoisted him off the ground by his lapels.
“What are you going to do to me?” Hobbes asked, ceasing to reach into his pockets for more Pokéballs once Lucy drove her knee into his groin.
“Please, violence does not become us,” Lucy snarled, “but fortunately for you, I am prepared to render lessons in decorum upon you now that I have you apprehended. Lizabeth, I’m going to need you to open the door to that custodial closet we walked past a few minutes ago.”
Meanwhile, Elvis kept looking gently at Aggron, and nodded at Marciela once he recognized her. Marciela clacked and Aggron quietly roared, their forms of speech.
“Hobbes and the others are using smaller transmitters to amplify the main array,” he repeated, not sure if Lucy or Lizabeth were listening while they strung up Hobbes in the custodial closet upside-down with his own tailcoat. At least Gorebyss was attentive. “Hobbes put his in his baton, but the others use them as-is.”
Lizabeth walked back to the group, looking unnerved. “Lucy kind of scares me,” she explained, without offering more detail. Behind them, Hobbes’s noises of muffled complaint grew fainter as Lucy built a wall of cleaning solvents in front of him.
“The Pokémon can sometimes assert themselves against the signal from the main transmitter, but they can’t deal with that and the smaller ones,” Elvis continued. “I was right. Ortolan is using my magnet wave for mind control.” He clenched his fists. “Marciela is going to help us make this right.”
Aggron roared again. Elvis translated: “Aggron is sorry about hurting Seviper. She’s going to guard the airlock for us. Hardly anyone uses it, so it should be a safe place for her to hide. We should get Lucy and get to the main transmitter quickly, though. Sooner or later, they’re going to notice that the captain of the guard isn’t checking in.”
Lucy rejoined the group, sliding her hands against each other in satisfaction. “The only people who get to talk to me about ‘decorum’ know my safe word. So that was satisfying.”