All 11 chapters in a single article (Patreon patrons only)
Jane and Jessie proceeded downward apace, having learned the pattern in which the flamethrowers and cameras were arranged around the shaft. They got frantic attention from the guards and other staff whenever they crossed a glass region, but no attempts against them could be made while they methodically destroyed the weapons that enforced the turbine’s shape. Up above, the Magnemites increasingly strayed from position but didn’t leave the shaft or otherwise make their defiance known. From below, a disc-shaped Pokémon flew upward, stopping at the level Jane and Jessie had reached. Its raised head and the trio of horseshoe magnets on its rim identified it as a Magnezone, and it immediately began collecting energy to aim at the two humans.
“Chimecho, Protect!” Jane shouted, releasing the white and pink Pokémon to levitate next to her with a glowing blue energy barrier. Dustox erected a similar barrier for Jessie, just in time to absorb and dissipate some Thunderbolts. Cacturne pushed his legs into the wall and called hateful energy into a globe between his arms, flinging the black globe at the Magnezone. Jessie directed Gyarados to thrash Magnezone with her tail, flinging it into Cacturne’s Dark Pulse. Battered and sizzling with dark energy, the Magnezone tumbled down, crashing into the walls in several places. Jane and Jessie then watched in confusion as two Pokéballs fell past them from above. Dustox and Chimecho caught them, and Jane opened the one she recognized as not containing the still-recovering Tyrunt.
The Pokémon that coalesced from that Pokéball resembled a chandelier, with four blue-black metal limbs leading from a central frosted-glass head to ghostly blue flames. The Chandelure looked at Jane and Jessie in puzzlement. Jessie explained, “I think Flannery needs you up there,” and the creature floated upward, the air currents of its passing tickling Jane and Jessie like icy fingers that nevertheless left warmth behind.
A blast from below knocked the wall out from Cacturne’s limbs, and a second knocked Dustox from the air. Cacturne, Dustox, and Jane fell down the shaft, Chimecho rushing behind them. The flamethrowers on the walls below blasted Cacturne with fire, and two blasts later, Jane recalled the unconscious plant. The Magnezone levitated next to Jane and began gathering energy for another Thunderbolt, but Chimecho blocked with Protect and then concentrated, eyes glowing. A pulse of mental energy radiated from Chimecho, filling the shaft with the sound of jingling bells. Mind beaten, the Magnezone clattered against the walls, breaking more flamethrowers with its body. Chimecho continued to use Protect and Heal Pulse to maintain Jane’s health as they both fell, but could neither restrain Jane’s descent nor protect herself from the flames. Jessie rushed down to rescue her, recalling Dustox as soon as they could reach, and stopped short when they saw the Magnemites destroying the flamethrowers themselves. Two Magnetons caught Jane and Chimecho and brought them up to Jessie, singed and beaten but still conscious.
“I think we have help,” Jane exhaled, not feeling well enough to sit upright until she received another Heal Pulse. “Thanks, Chimecho.”
Dunkirk had time for little more than a raised eyebrow at Flannery’s odd question when Chandelure levitated into view behind her. Setting her ablaze with the ghostly flame of a Will-O-Wisp attack, Chandelure then launched a purple wave at the woman, filling her body with a hex of cursed energy. Dunkirk fell on her back, pulling Flannery out of the shaft and onto her feet. Plates of plastic armor crumbled out of Dunkirk’s clothing, the metal joints and hydraulics bursting into a damp mess. Dunkirk scrambled upward, her movements no longer bearing the weight they had before.
“Of course. An exo-suit,” Flannery noticed, pointing at Haxorus. “One more to go, Chandelure.”
Chandelure levitated out of the hole and rushed at Haxorus, and Haxorus in turn rushed at the ghost. As Flannery recalled the unconscious Macargo and Growly, Chandelure’s flames exploded outward halting the dragon’s advance. Chandelure flew in close again and issued another Flame Burst, knocking Haxorus though a door into someone’s office. The dragon crushed a desk in its last movement before fainting. Dunkirk recalled her Pokémon and ran. Once Dunkirk was out of sight, Flannery fell to her hands and knees, breathing heavily.
“That was way too close, Flannery,” she told herself out loud. “Way too close.” Her breath caught, she directed Chandelure down ahead of her, approached the hole in the glass wall, and incredulously received a Magnemite to carry her down.
“What did it feel like,” Elvis asked Lizabeth, “when you were me?”
The trio walked briskly down the hall, watching guards and engineers get trampled, flung, and flash-roasted by angry Steel Pokémon. It was a minor effort to avoid the freed slaves’ focused wrath, after the initial rampage, and Ortolan’s goons didn’t spare them any energy, so their path to the drill was unmolested.
“What do you mean?” Lizbeth asked, face quizzical.
“It felt…really good,” Elvis explained. “I felt more me than I ever have. I missed this,” he continued, flexing his robotic hand, “and I couldn’t walk because I’d never had a whole left leg before, but everything else felt amazing. It was…beautiful, and quiet, and everything smelled better. I don’t even know how to explain it.” Elvis began to blush. “It felt right.”
“It was weird. I didn’t like it.” Lizabeth’s face scrunched in recollection. “There was a buzzing in the background of my thoughts, and it felt like I was bigger than I actually was. It got more and more uncomfortable the longer it went. The second time was only better because I knew what to expect.”
Lucy quickened her pace to pull up next to Elvis instead of behind. “Manaphy picked an interesting way to tell you about yourself, Elvis.”
“How did—” Elvis stammered, face in shock, Lizabeth’s little different.
“I know a Heart Swap story when I hear one…and I know people like you, too. Like me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I wasn’t always Lucy.” Lucy’s look turned faraway and anxious, and then full of hope. “And you don’t have to be Elvis anymore if you don’t want to be. You could be Emily, or Livia, or—”
“Elena,” Elvis blurted out, turning bright red.
“You’ve thought about this,” Lucy responded, a smile of wry satisfaction crossing her face.
“More even than my own research,” Elvis admitted, his pace slowing. Lucy stepped in front of him and put both hands on his shoulders.
“Whatever you’re scared of, we’re here. I’ve been through all of this before and I know someone else who has, and when this is all over, we’re going to go shopping and paint our nails and eat on a sunny patio.”
Elvis’s eyes began to water.
“Your body doesn’t have to be a prison the way mine used to be.”
Elvis hugged Lucy tightly, and Lizabeth joined in. Lucy stroked Elvis’s hair.
“You’re going to be beautiful, Elena.”