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Katsunobu’s directions weren’t very precise, but they helped Jane, Flannery, Meowth, and Jessie avoid a guard post anyway. The fossil lab was clearly marked, and as massive as the guard had claimed. The door opened automatically as soon as Jessie had stepped in front of it, revealing a series of benches covered in lumps of rock. Some of them bore obvious fossils in various stages of excavation. The handful of scientists using tiny drills to remove the excess rock raised the occasional eyebrow at the intruders but neither said nor did anything to prevent their self-directed tour.
The next set of rooms contained the complex machinery used to revive fossils. The facility included several classes of such machines, including a chronolaser, in its rotating housing; a gene bath, trademark of the Cinnabar Island lab in Kanto; and even a life force reconstructor, based on techniques invented by the mediums of Lavender Town. The room was deserted, but each of the three had clearly been used recently, to uncertain success. The next door was tightly bolted, but Joltik was able to coax the electronic lock into opening for them and Cacturne and Hippowdon helped swing the heavy door. Flannery’s eyes went wide with horror, Jessie looked around frantically, and Jane glared in resolution.
A long section of hallway was lined with rows of cages barely big enough for a large Pokémon to turn around in. As the three walked through the dismal place, they could see that about half of the cages contained Pokémon that looked to have been revived from fossils, and the other half were empty. A Kabuto paced across its cage, switching directions when it touched the bars and received an electric shock. A Craniodos rammed into the bars and flew back from the electric recoil, hitting the ones behind itself before falling to the ground. A Lileep hung listlessly forward, too sad to wave its fronds. A Tirtouga and Relicanth shared a cage floor, both moving only in pathetic imitation of swimming.
“What do they even want all of these for?” Flannery asked no one in particular.
Jessie and Jane sighed knowingly. “For some people,” Jessie began, “having a Pokémon is more important than what happens afterward.”
“People who do this want an army they don’t have to go through the trouble of catching,” Jane explained, voice resolute. “Revive them in a place they can’t escape from, hurt them if they don’t listen, keep going…” Her resolve cracked, and the tears came. She leaned on the wall next to an Amaura too dissolute to stay near the ice blocks that kept it from overheating. “So much pain,” she repeated between sobs. “So much pain.”
Jessie put their arms around Jane, holding her tightly. “We’re getting them out.”
Flannery walked past them, looking at the wall. She pulled on a wall hanging, revealing an even more imposing door than the one they had forced open to find this fossil dungeon. Jessie and Jane nodded, and released Cacturne, Froslass, Joltik, and Hippowdon. Froslass and Meowth immediately got to work helping Amaura feel more comfortable, while Joltik, Hippowdon, and Cacturne opened the door.
Inside, a series of crude barricades and sandbag walls had been erected and partially demolished. Pieces of other cages lay strewn about, twisted and crushed. The same food and water bowls that sat mostly untouched in the other prisoners’ cages were banged to uselessness here, their contents tossed around the room. Further ahead, the culprit was making sure his presence was known.
Black and gray in color, this dog-sized dinosaurian creature had strong legs, two tiny arms, and a big head with large eyes. He squalled, stomped, and tore across the back of the room, attacking the walls, the makeshift extra walls some hapless handler had tried to use to slow him down, and even his own body, leaving scratches and bruises. Throughout, his tears ran, stopping only when he rolled onto his side and whimpered plaintively.
Jane immediately looked away, holding herself against the back wall of the cell and breathing heavily. She released Sylveon, and she, Meowth, and Froslass hugged her with assurances that Amaura would make a full recovery. Jessie watched the Tyrunt’s helpless rage and explained to the uncomprehending Flannery:
“There are two reasons for a tantrum. One, you never learned a healthier way to deal with not getting something you want. Two, you have needs that the people around you won’t acknowledge, let alone meet, and it wore down every part of you that could act any other way.”
Flannery looked at the beast, now pounding the floor with its tiny arms, eyes streaming, sniffling without a voice.
“And when you’re born in a lab and immediately put in a cell, with handlers instead of parents,” Jessie continued, voice heavy with memories, “your entire life is both.”
Flannery took a deep breath and walked toward Tyrunt. She kept walking, slowly, and Tyrunt stayed where he was. When she got close enough to reach over and touch him, he glared at her, and she stopped where she was. Jessie watched her, but spared a few looks for Jane, processing her pain and horror at the other end of the room with her Pokémon. They knew that look…how Jane looked when she remembered the things she had done for Team Rocket, long ago.
“None of this is okay, Flannery told Tyrunt, her voice soft enough that only the two of them could hear it. Tyrunt moaned. Flannery sat on the floor.
“They always start these talks with ‘it’s okay,’ and I hate that. It’s not okay. It’s never okay. It’s awful.” Flannery’s voice cracked. “But I’m here now. I didn’t come here for you, but that doesn’t matter, because I’m here, and if I can help, I want to.”
Tyrunt reached over a little, and closed his eyes. Flannery reached for his hand. He grasped it so hard it hurt. She edged closer, and started stroking his head. He seemed so much bigger from across the room, she thought. He’s barely bigger than Torkoal. A wracking sob suddenly contorted Tyrunt’s body, and the tiny dinosaur stood and fell on Flannery, hugging her tightly. Flannery kept stroking his head as she put her other arm around him.
“You don’t have to stay here anymore.” Flannery reassured the emotional reptile. “The three of us are getting all of you out of here. After that, it’s up to you where you go next, whether you stay with—”
Flannery was cut off by Tyrunt hugging her tighter and nodding, tears still welling in his inflamed eyes.
Flannery produced a Pokéball and continued, “I’m glad you want to stay with me.” Tyrunt accepted it without a challenge. Jessie sat cross-legged on the floor and took a few deep breaths of their own.
Lizabeth held Corsola’s Pokéball, Lucy held Milotic’s, and the two stood on either side of the door Elvis was trying to open.
“This is the one door in the transmitter area that my passcode doesn’t open,” Elvis explained as he tinkered with the wires behind the keypad. “That means it’s the part that Ortolan doesn’t want me to see. After the third electric shock from the wires, Elvis stepped back to contemplate the problem, and Marciela climbed the wall and dug her entire head into the mass of cables and plastic. A sizeable shock made smoke issue from the metal ant’s joints, but the door slid open. Lizabeth and Lucy released their Pokémon and told them to wait at the door. Corsola conjured an array of levitating rocks and hid them on either side of the door frame as Milotic wrenched the door back into place. Corsola beamed with pride, and Milotic commented, “Stealth Rock. Clever.”
Inside, Elvis found a light switch. The room flickered into view, a series of dark pipes and twisted bundles of wire. The wires all led to a central metallic globe, set into the floor. At the joint between the wires and the sphere, small computers blinked and clicked. The other end of each bundle was a nondescript metal box set into the room’s walls, whirring softly. Lucy examined the metal boxes, intent on something. A metallic whimper echoed dimly through the orb, and Marciela climbed atop it in visible agitation.
Lucy noticed something and motioned to her associates. “Elvis, Lizabeth…these markings are Old Enoh.”
“Of course!” Lizabeth exclaimed, looking closely at the nearest box. “I knew they looked familiar.”
You can read Old Enoh?” Lucy asked, incredulous.
“It’s a family hobby, part of our troupe’s mystique,” Lizabeth answered, not elaborating. “Let’s see…this one says ‘magnemite turbine,’ this one says ‘drill,’ this one says ‘fossil lab,’ this one says ‘assembly plain’…”
“The regions of the tower, sorted by…the commands Ortolan is giving to the Pokémon there,” Elvis mused aloud. Suddenly frantic, he released Pangoro from his Pokéball. “Pangoro, smash this open with your Hammer Arm.”
Pangoro nodded, closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, waited for Marciela to get behind him, and raised both of his arms. With a thunderous crash, Pangoro slammed his arms into the sphere, warping it so badly that its two halves pinched apart at the top. Pangoro reached in and wrenched the halves open. Inside, a blue-green being lay on its back, rolling softly from side to side. Covered in filigreed linework, the creature resembled a rusted copper bell, of the size a church might use, the red eyes on its rim tightly closed. Its two metal arms sagged limply against the bent floor of the sphere, and wires led from various parts of the sphere to most of its body. The inside of the sphere was covered in red and black crystals, connected to a second set of wires apparently set inside the existing bundles.
“Bronzong, the rainbringer,” Lucy noted, eyes wide with horror, hand covering a gasp.
“And a Psychic type,” Elvis observed. “Tortured into sending commands through my magnet wave by fire and darkness.”
“So Bronzong is how Ortolan is controlling the steel Pokémon?” Lizabeth asked.
“Yes,” Elvis concluded. “And if we get them out of that machine and out of this building, his people won’t be able to compel them anymore.”
Lucy and Marciela got behind Bronzong, bracing to lift, when a rocky crash brought all of their attention to the door. A blue and black, doglike humanoid figure stood at the door, surrounded by the rubble of Corsola’s Stealth Rock and not bothering to look at Milotic as she raised her heavy tail in retaliation. The Lucario held Corsola by one of her horns, and her cracked, broken body offered no resistance. Behind the Lucario, a guard smiled sardonically.