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RPG The Great Rebellion

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[SIZE="1"][COLOR="Indigo"]It didn?t take long for the center to be flooded with injured Pokémon. Kendra wasn?t a doctor herself, but she recognized the signs of poison. She helped to sort those that needed more serious attention verses those that an antidote was the only requirement. It was clear to her that many of them wouldn?t be returning to battle anytime soon.

She knew it hadn?t been that long, but the controlled chaos made it seem like they had been working for hours. Kendra was curious to know how the fight was progressing and yet at the same time she wasn?t sure she wanted to find out. [I]What if we?re losing? [/I]

A commotion from the direction of the main doors gave her pause. Startled gasps and exclamations of disbelief reached her ears, though she couldn?t quite make out what they were saying. Kendra waded through the people milling about, gently pushing them aside until she could see what the fuss was about.

[I]What the??[/I]

One of the two trainers standing just inside the door had been hastily bandaged up around the chest. Blood was seeping through the cloth, and he was leaning heavily on the other for support.

[I]How did he get hurt?[/I] She wondered as she watched the one sustaining him talk to an assistant before handing over their Pokémon for treatment. The pair turned to leave.

?[B]That?s enough with the gawking people.[/B]? The woman declared sharply. She fixed them with a glare and then waited for a moment to make sure everyone was returning to their duties. Then she turned and took the injured Pokémon back to the other room to be treated.

Kendra flushed, embarrassed that she had engaged in [I]gawking[/I] as well, she should know better. She turned to continue assisting others who had entered the center when out of the corner of her eye, she saw the two stumble. Kendra quickly ran over to steady them.

?[B]What happened?[/B]? She asked once they regained their balance. ?[B]How did he get hurt?[/B]?

?[B]He was attacked by a Pokémon.[/B]? He answered her.

?[B]What??[/B] She exclaimed in shocked disbelief.

?[B]They?re attacking trainers.[/B]? He repeated, sounding dazed.

?[B]But? I?ve never heard of that before.[/B]? She protested.

He just gave her a puzzled look before turning to leave and head for the medical center. At that moment, the lights to the center went out. Within a few seconds the emergency lights came on.

[I]Now what?[/I] She looked to the two who were heading out the door. Neither one of them looked up to the task of getting to the medical center. [I]Someone needs to help them.[/I] She thought.

Kendra grabbed the sleeve of another assistant passing by. ?[B]Would you let the others know I?m going to help those two get to the medical center? I?ll come back as soon as I?m done.[/B]?

The girl nodded. ?[B]Okay.[/B]?

Kendra let go and ran after the trainers who hadn?t gotten very far. [I]What the hell is going on?[/I] [/COLOR][/SIZE]

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[COLOR=Green][SIZE=1]Violet City was surprisingly peaceful.

Freya wandered the city, Emmi at her feet, taking in the sights. It had been years since she'd been back home. Ever since Falkner took over the city gym, Violet City had taken on a completely different mindset. When she was younger and had gone out walking with Emmi, people would always stop to pet the small Eevee, or ask how she was doing. Not anymore. Now, walking around with a pokemon outside its pokeball got nothing but shady glances and people turning away to mutter something to each other in hushed voices.

Freya's parents had been more than happy to let her (and Emmi) stay with them, so for the past couple nights, Freya had slept on the couch in the office that was once her room. It wasn't the most comfortable place to sleep, but she couldn't afford to stay at a hotel for who knew how long, and Oberon wouldn't pay for it either. It was either stay with her parents or sleep outside, and since most of the clothing she had brought with her was expensive business suits, it was an easy decision to make. And, as an added bonus, her parents allowed her to use the office, and Oberon was willing to let her work remotely for a while.

[B]"Well, Emmi, I don't really like it either, but we don't have much of a choice."[/B] She sighed. [B]"Even if Mahogany Town were safe right now, we'd have no way to get there. The ice path is apparently off limits, and it seems like Ecruteak's about to turn into a battlefield. The world is collapsing around our feet..."
[/B]
[B]"Well, we've got somewhere to sleep at night. Sometimes, that's all you can really hope for."[/B] She crouched down to scratch Emmi behind the ear, and the little Eevee squealed in delight. [B]"Who knows how much longer we'll have that, even... Anyway, I've got a mountain of paperwork waiting for me, so we should probably head back."[/B] Freya sighed.

Freya was about to turn around, when Emmi tensed, and started growling at a rustling bush. The young woman blinked at it a couple times, and decided it would be best if she didn't investigate it herself. Instead, she released her Misdreavus.

[B]"Ven, would you mind checking that out?"[/B]

[I][B]"Sure thing, Miss Freya."[/B][/I]

[B]"...Ven, you don't need to call me Miss."[/B]

[I][B]"But why wouldn't I want to, Miss Freya?"[/B][/I]

[B]"Ugh, I don't have time for this... Ven, just see what's in that bush, okay?"[/B]

[I][B]"Certainly, Miss Freya."[/B][/I] Ven smiled, and floated around the back of the bush, peering in. [I][B]"Hm, there's a Gloom back here. It looks hurt..."[/B][/I]
[/SIZE][/COLOR][SIZE=1][COLOR=Green]
[B]"Hurt? Come on out..."[/B] Freya crouched, trying to lure out the hiding pokemon. [B]"I'm not scary, I promise... Emmi, Ven, see if you can get it to come out."

--[/B]

After a lot of squeaking and cooing sounds, eventually Emmi emerged from the bush, followed by a Gloom that looked like it had taken more than its share of hits. Ven floated overhead, a slightly worried look on his face.

[I][B]"She's not doing very well, Miss Freya. We should get her help quickly."[/B][/I]

[B]"Okay. You two, stick by me. It's easy to get seperated in Violet, and I don't want to think about what might happen to either of you if the wrong person finds you wandering around alone."[/B]

Emmi and Ven nodded, and followed their trainer to the pokemon center as she carried the injured Gloom.

Pokemon centers were interesting places nowadays. You never knew what you might find. Some were still fully operational, some were running on borrowed time, and others still had just shut down completely. Fortunately, the one in Violet City was still running smoothly. The League may not have cared much for pokemon, but they couldn't fight without them. Freya was seated in a rough plastic chair that had clearly seen better days, stroking Emmi nervously, Ven floating around her head.

[I][B]"She told me her name was Dori, Miss Freya. But if she has a name, then doesn't that mean she has an owner?"[/B][/I]

[B]"Etheridge?"[/B] The nurse called, carrying the Gloom, now in much better shape.

[B]"Yes?"[/B] Freya stood up, carrying Emmi, who snuggled into her arms.

[B]"Your Gloom is going to be fine. She must've run into a Pidgeotto. She'll need a little rest, but she's doing much better. Although, I found something interesting..."[/B] The nurse gently stroked the leaves on the Gloom's head, as she settled down onto the countertop.

[B]"That being...?"[/B]

[B]"Her ID number doesn't match yours."[/B]

[B]"Oh. I was expecting something bad. That's because she isn't mine, we found her. So she's registered?"[/B]

[B]"Yes, but it appears the registration number has been cancelled... She must've been somebody's pet. It used to happen every now and then that a spoiled child would get a cute pokemon as a pet, and when the pokemon would evolve, the child wouldn't want it any more. It didn't happen often, because most kids become attached to their pets, but nowadays, with the League's ideals spreading, it's happening a lot more. That was probably the case with this one. Many children have Oddish as pets, but Gloom are a bit harder to care for, and aren't seen as being as cute. Anyway, this one's going to need somebody to watch her, and we're already operating beyond our capacity, I'm afraid... Would you mind taking her?"[/B]

[B]"Well, one more traveling companion won't hurt, will it?"[/B] Freya asked Emmi and Ven. Ven floated down, making lazy circles around the Gloom.

[I][B]"Of course not, Miss Freya."[/B][/I]

[B]"Why not?"[/B] Freya got out a pokeball. She'd request a custom one from Oberon later, but for now, she just needed an inconspicuous way to get the Gloom home. [B]"Dori, would you like to come with us? I'm busy all the time, but I promise I won't forget to take care of you."[/B]

The Gloom smiled, and happily allowed herself to be called into a pokeball by her new trainer.

Freya sighed as she called Ven back into his pokeball. [B]"And now, it's paperwork time..."[/B][/COLOR][/SIZE]

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[FONT="Franklin Gothic Medium"][SIZE="1"][COLOR="Navy"][B]Everyone get ready! This is where we stand! The resistance must not fall! For the sake of peace and for the welfare of humans and Pokemon alike, we must stand firm and defend this city!" [/B]Terry exclaimed to his troops.

In the distance, Terry could see the flag of the approaching League army. Then he heard the whir of wings. Insect wings."

[B]"Oh no. Beedrill. EVERYONE TAKE COVER!"[/B]

Right as Terry uttered those words, showers of Poison Sting needles came hurtling towards their location at the frontier of Ecruteak city. Everyone pressed themselves against the walls of the trench and hoped for the best. If not, this shallow hole in the ground would become their grave.

[B]"Sir, don't you think you should retreat back to the rear? If we lose you, this battle may be lost."[/B]

[B]"Scott, how long have we known each other?"

"About 4 months, sir."[/B]

[B]"Then you must not know your leader too well, because I will not sit idly by and give orders while my troops are fighting and dying for their cause. I would rather die with my men then after them."[/B]

Scott was a grunt, fresh out of the rudimentary "training facility" the hodge-podge army had created in order to train new recruits. Very young and very green. Scott was a native of Goldenrod City, but joined the rebellion when he heard news of the League's approach. He was very passionate in defending his way of life, but that often times led him to make rash decisions. Compassion was his biggest strength, but at the same time, it was his biggest downfall.

[B]"Wait till I give the signal men. This is only the first wave. They will bring the rush after this volley is over. This was just to soften us."[/B]

[B]"YES SIR!" [/B]The unit cried in unison.

Terry held his breath and collected his thoughts for a moment. Not even fifteen minutes ago, the city had been peaceful.
~~~~~~~~~~

Kimono Dance Theater, the cultural center of Ecruteak City. It was also a hot spot for the rebel army. Trainers would sit and tell stories of their previous exploits and hit on the waitresses who worked the floor. It could get pretty rough there, but the owners welcomed the patronage and the patrons welcomed the chance to have some R&R. Terry walked into the establishment and immediately heard his boys, the First Squad.

Rag tag bunch of misfits, they were. From every corner of Johto. Cianwood City to Mahogany Town. Azealea to Olivine. But each person shared a common idea. The desire for peace.

[B]"WHATTYA MEAN MY RHYDON IS SLOW?!" [/B]One bellowed.

[B]"I'm tellin ya, Schultz, your Rhydon is slower than mollasses. I don't why you taught him to use Take Down."[/B]
[B]
"You'd better take that back, you little punk."[/B]

[B]" It seems like you guys are in high spirits, given that we're compeltely surrounded right now."[/B] Terry said from the behind the group.

[B]"Oh, sir, Keslowski was just saying my Rhydon is slow."

"Well, he does seem on the slow side...."

"HA! I told you, Schulz"

"But his Take Down causes some major damage. So, I think it's an even trade."

"HAHA Didja hear that, Keslowski?!"[/B]

Raymond Schultz and Ryan Keslowski. Those two couldn't be more like night and day. Keslowski was a number cruncher from Olivine City who did more thinking than acting. However, in a battle he was always capable of outsmarting his opponent and finding a strategy to win. Schultz was a no-nonsense brawler who was a product of the Cianwood Gym. Although his specialty was Rock pokemon, he had an affinity for a direct battle style. This caused intimidation and fear in his opponents. But his brash style rubbed people the wrong way.

[B]"Listen up, you silly Aipom, we have been instructed by our fearless leader to defend the city from the impending attack from the League. We are to initially defend the southern entrance to the city. Then, we are to disperse and help whatever lines need reinforcing. Is that clear enough for you?"

"Crystal, sir."[/B]

[B]"Alright, gather your thoughts and your possessions. They will attack at any moment."[/B]
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Terry exhaled, and then peered over the lines and saw that the bombardment of Poison Needles had susbisded. Time to go to work. As expected, Pokemon were rushing towards the city. In typical Bugsy style, he sent a wave of Spinarak and Ariados, to tie up any enemies with String Shot.

[B]"First wave. Let's establish a perimeter"

"YES SIR!"

"Sypus, you're up!"

"SNARRRLLLLLL!" [/B]Sypus, Terry's Typholsion bellowed. Sypus was Terry's first Pokemon, and his greatest ally. There wasn't anything they had not been through together. Sypus was a major contributor to Terry's success as a trainer. They had a deep sense of trust in the other's insticts and operated almost as an extension of the other. Never, in recent history, have a Pokemon and trainer been so in sync.

As the other members of the squad released their pokemon, Terry smirked.

[B]"Wait for it. We want to create some confusion. Wait for ittttttt.........NOW!"[/B]

As Terry gave the signal, all of the pokemon released a Fire Spin directly in front of them. The resulting blaze sent a wall of flames sky high that made a barrier in front of the southern entrance. The resulting wave incinerated a few unlucky Ariados who were unfortunate enough to be caught in the blast radius.

[B]"Excellent, now fall back. Schultz, you and Keslowski reinforce the eastern entrance. Scott, come with me. The rest of you, keep this wave up!"[/B]

[B]"YES SIR!"[/B]

[B]"May Ho-Oh protect you all."[/B][/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]

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[color=darkblue][size=1][b]"I want essential lighting, and only that, up in an hour."

"What about the support structures?"

"Dual-layer. Have the 'Shrews set them down an extra six inches."[/b]

The young man making notes quirked an eyebrow.

[b]"Let me get this straight. You want minimal lighting and above-average precautions?"

"That would seem to be the logic, Evan."

"I suppose you want only half the number of personnel on site covering the charges."

"Actually, I want double. And no charges. Only the Gravelers and Golem."[/b] Evan shoved his pencil behind his ear quickly and fixed the woman scoping the entrance to the tunnels with an odd stare.

[b]"What the hell is this job supposed to be, Val?"

"A covert one. Besides, I don't want to stress the walls too much since I'm not entirely sure a large fracture wouldn't bring some ceiling down on our heads. Blasting tends to make with the fractures, whereas the Pokémon work more with the stone than just obliterating it."[/b]

Evan paused for a minute, pointed at her, opened his mouth and then closed it again with a sigh.

[b]"Okay, whatever. You're the project manager. I'm just here."

"Glad we understand each other,"[/b] Val said with a smile as she clapped him on the shoulder. [b]"Now make with the organization. Thanks much."

"Why do I let you treat me this way?"

"Because I have a large part in you getting a check."

"...Oh, yeah."[/b]

Val couldn't help but smile as she watched Evan stride off into Mt. Moon, muttering under his breath about something or another. She liked to give him a hard time, but only because she knew she could get away with it with him. The two had been friends for more than a few years, having met when Val first came on as a consultant. Even though she was his boss now, the two shared an easy camaraderie that lent itself well to not only making projects going smoothly, but also to a very interesting stand-up routine they ran on overnight jobs during the dinner break.

In all honesty, Val didn't know what she'd do without the guy. He had come to know her so well that he typically didn't have to ask how to set things up on a token job. He knew the drill, so things went that much more quickly. Trying to break in a new guy to her routine now would only prove frustrating to everyone involved, especially corporate, since they would likely receive a lot of belligerent messages.

She was especially glad to have him now. Taking on opening up a new path in Mt. Moon was a huge undertaking. There had been no plans on trying to reopen a path to Cerulean Cave after the collapse so many years ago because of the possible dangers it presented with the naturally strong Pokémon still skulking about in the shadows. For a young trainer, it could easily lead to bad headlines in the morning paper.

But as it stood now, there was little choice that her new client had. A war was brewing and he needed a central place to plan and gather troops. He needed a place to hide and that place was Cerulean Cave. If they managed to get the population under control, it would give them plenty of space for troops, a bit of lodging and a lot of other things. It was the ideal location...and the only one immediately available. Val sighed.

[b]"Open the way to the place where the good guys won't get slaughtered. No pressure at all."[/b]

The Magmar standing beside her a small pat on the hip as a sign of encouragement.

[b]"It's okay, Cecil. No sense being worried now."[/b]

As she started to go and check the link to determine when secondary materials would arrive, she noticed a young man with a Venusaur coming in behind the trickle of support staff Flint had sent to assist with the dig.

[b]"Man,"[/b] he muttered. [b]"Excavation. So fun. Seriously, of all the things I'd get stuck with."[/b] The amount of sheer sarcasm in his voice made Val smirk in her head.

[b]"I take it you didn't like digging in the dirt as a kid,"[/b] she said has he came to pass her.

[b]"No, no! I didn--wait."[/b] He turned to regard her somewhat sheepishly. [b]"Eh... You wouldn't happen to be the one in charge here, would you?"

"How ever did you tell?"

"Just a wild guess. Anyway, I'm Haru Corbel. I was ordered to help out with the excavation."

"Ah, another set of spritely young muscles. Wonderful,"[/b] Val said with a testing grin. [b]"Valencia Marsters, but you can call me Chief."[/b]

Haru nodded. [b]"So then, Chief. What is it that I need to do?"[/b] The Venusaur let out a sound that if listened to closely, one might think it was laughing for some reason. The young man mumbled something and it stopped with a bemused sort of look.

[b]"Well, you're a nice little greenhorn, so I won't make your body scream at you too badly at the end of the day,"[/b] she said with a joking smile. [b]"What you can do for now is take your Venusaur on into the tunnels to the site and help move the beams around to make the support structure. Just to make sure we don't get crushed and all that sort of thing."

"Yes, ma'am,"[/b] he said smirking at his partner. [b]"You hear that, Venusaur? You'll be helping too."[/b] The creature seemed to frown a bit, but nodded all the same.

[b]"Good,"[/b] Val said clapping him on the shoulder. But she suddenly caught a serious and worried look in her eyes. [b]"But if you two get tired, don't be afraid to take a sit down for a spell. I don't actually want you working yourself to the brink."

"We'll keep that in mind. All right, let's get moving, Venusaur."[/b] Haru gave a brief salute and trudged up the path, the Venusaur following behind at a noticeably less-than-eager pace. Val chuckled to herself as she patted Cecil.

[b]"He reminds me a little of you when you were young, that Venusaur."[/b]

Cecil swatted her hand away and blew an indignant puff of flame, then moved to head to the small recon post that was set up outside the tunnels to keep an open line of communications with Pewter.

[b]"Oh, my,"[/b] Val laughed as she followed. [b]"I seem to have insulted his pride."[/b][/color][/size]

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[SIZE=1]The Match had taken quite a long time, the evening had shifted to night. Tina was still jumping around like a jack-rabbit showing any passerby her new badge. its not like he was surprised she always gets so excited.
"[B]My mom is gonna be so proud[/B]!" Tina exclaimed.

"[B]yeah, well she is gonna kill me, its almost 9 and your not back yet... and... stop jumping, and your hyper[/B]." Silver put a hand on his face. she probably wont kill him, but Tina did get her emotion range from her.

the two approached the door to Tina's house, silver gave it a knock before it opened.
"[/SIZE][FONT=Fixedsys][SIZE=1][I]Hypnosis[/I][/SIZE][/FONT][SIZE=1]." the words were sent telepathically by the Hypno that was apparently waiting for them. It held out an odd pendant and its eyes glowed bright white. Silver instinctively shielded his eyes but Tina was asleep on her feet.

Tina's mother then emerged from behind the yellow pokemon."[B]Oh rattataz! that was suppose to hit you too! do it again Walter...[/B]"

"[B]No! STOP[/B]!" he uncovered his eyes when he thought the threat had passed, "[B]I will carry her to her bed for you[/B]!"

"[B]You just want me to invite you inside[/B]," she smiled, apparently she wasn't that mad. "[B]You wouldn't want to know were you would have woken up at if Walter got you[/B]."

"[B]Probably partway through a wood-chipper[/B]."

"[B]I guess it didn't matter if you knew or not... okay bring her upstairs. after that we can have some tea, but thats it[/B]." Silver raise his arms as if he were staring down a gun, then grabbed Tina. they headed upstairs and tucked her in. her mother then kissed her head and they left the pink and baby blue themed room."[B]So... any word from Flint?[/B]" she sounded much more sullen all of the sudden.

"[B]No he still is off on his... hike. Your just waiting for me to get sent out aren't you[/B]."

"[B]This is serious, The league seems serious, I don't want them to rule the world, but people are going to get hurt[/B]."

"[B]Right now I am not going anywhere, but when my time does come, I will fight, because people [I]are[/I] going to get hurt, and I'd rather be the one who does if the alternative is Tina or yourself.[/B]"

"[B]Fine, get out then![/B]" she grabbed the tea cup before he could blink let alone drink it. she then pulled the chair out from under him, threw his jacket on his face, opened the door and pushed him out. he just laid there, thinking about how much he loved her.[/SIZE]

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[FONT="Lucida Sans Unicode"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"]Allan had hoped to get a little more conversation out of Maya since he had a lot of questions. However, the moment he was in sight of where he was supposed to go, she had directed him to someone overseeing some work and then vanished once it was obvious he could get there on his own.

There was quite a bit of activity as personnel rushed about. Some seemed to be running patrols while others were carting materials and supplies about. It wasn?t hard to guess that they were setting up defenses for the town.

He thought about letting Tess back out and changed his mind when the appraising gaze of the person Maya had pointed out met his. The dark haired man was wearing what looked like weathered fatigues. One eyebrow went up as Allan approached and then lowered as his expression became a bit more resigned.

?[B]So, what?s your name kid?[/B]?

?[B]Allan Shepherd.[/B]?

?[B]Since you were with Maya, I assume you were sent by Claire?[/B]?

?[B]Yes, she said I was to come to the south regiment for drills and duty.[/B]?

His eyebrow shot back up and Allan hastily tacked on a sir. He waited while he looked him over, taking in the finely woven navy pants and white buttoned shirt with the dark jacket he was wearing. He shook his head slightly as if disappointed over something.

?[B]I don?t suppose you brought something a bit more practical to wear for down time?[/B]? He inquired of Allan.

?[B]I have some jeans and t-shirts[/B].?

The man stifled a sigh, ?[B]Well that?s something I suppose. We?ll get you some fatigues for work and you can keep the jeans and t-shirts, but you?ll want to send the rest of your clothing like that back home.[/B]?

Allan opened his mouth to protest but the man raised a hand indicating he wasn?t finished.

?[B]You won?t have room for both in your quarter?s kid and if you keep something like that and it gets ruined? you?ll just be out of luck since the only thing we replace around here is work related gear.[/B]?

Allan?s mouth snapped shut and he nodded, ?[B]Understood, sir.[/B]?

?[B]Good.[/B]? He motioned for Allan to follow him. ?[B]Now what kind of Pokémon do you have and what kind of experience do you have with each one?[/B]?[/COLOR][/FONT]

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[font=Calibri][b]â??Weâ??ve received reports of our people engaging hostile trainers here, here, here, and ... here, sir,â?[/b] said one of Mortyâ??s leaders, indicating locations on the map spread on the meeting hallâ??s center table, [b]â??and more forces have been spotted in these regions here and here advancing on the center of the city.â?[/b]

Morty wiped his brow. [b]â??Theyâ??ve already surrounded us?â?[/b]

[b]â??It looks that way,â?[/b] said another. [b]â??They must have been planning this attack for some time.â?[/b] Morty grimaced.

[b]â??Weâ??re going to need a defensive ring around the gym, then,â?[/b] he mused. [b]â??It needs to be large enough to minimise the risk of proximity to the gym itself, but small enough to not use all our forces so we can shift fresh teams in for relief.â?[/b] He turned to the first leader. [b] â??Whatâ??s the largest we can make that formation with our current forces?â?[/b]

Before he could get an answer, the door to the meeting hall flew open and a stricken-looking trainer burst in, stumbling and catching himself on the doorknob.

[b]â??Sir!â?[/b] he rushed, gasping for breath, [b]â??theyâ??re attacking us!â?[/b]

[b]â??Yes, theyâ??ve ringed us,â?[/b] answered a perplexed Morty. [b]â??We expect to be engaged on all sides soon.â?[/b]

[b]â??No, you donâ??t understand. Azaleaâ??s trainers are ordering their pokémon to attack [i]us[/i], not our pokémon.â?[/b] The boy gulped. [b]â??Two of us are dead, and there are eleven more wounded in the medical ward. I just came from there,â?[/b] he added, [b]â??and itâ??s bad. Thereâ??s one kid who got gored by a Heracross. They donâ??t think ... he, uh, he might not....â?[/b]

The boy trailed off, and Morty stared at him aghast.

[b]â??...you mean,â?[/b] he managed after a moment, [b]â??that [i]people[/i] are being attacked?â?[/b]

[b]â??Yes sir,â?[/b] said the boy.

[b]â??Sir, if thatâ??s true, we need to think about civilians, too,â?[/b] offered a leader. [b]â??If Azalea is attacking people, they might attack anyone. The shelters are no longer safe, and we canâ??t defend them all [i]and[/i] the gym as well without stretching ourselves dangerously thin, and if we keep losing menâ??â?[/b]

[b]â??I know,â?[/b] said Morty, sinking into a chair. He cupped his jaw in his hands and stared at the ground.

[b]â??We have to counter-attack,â?[/b] another spoke up. [b] â??We might not be able to defend, but if we push them back, force them to retreat, we might be able to save most of them.â?[/b]

[b]â??No,â?[/b] Morty answered. [b]â??No, weâ??re already surrounded. If we attacked them now, the farther we pushed outward the more thin weâ??d have to spread, and then theyâ??d find a way in through the holes. The defense line has to be airtight.â?[/b]

[b]â??Itâ??s the ring thatâ??s killing us,â?[/b] said the first leader. [b] â??We canâ??t defend because we have nothing to put our backs against and no definite point to stop their advance at. Weâ??re just going to keep shrinking farther and farther in towards the center until weâ??re overwhelmed.â?[/b]

[b]â??Unless we broke out,â?[/b] the other countered. [b]â??If we break through their lines and come at them from behind, we donâ??t have to drive them back. We can pin bits of them, and then deal with the rest bit by bit.â?[/b]

[b]â??But we donâ??t have the strength to counter-attack. Weâ??re already losing forces, and Iâ??m not ready to start telling my pokémon to kill other people yet. Itâ??s too risky.â?[/b]

[b]â??We canâ??t just sit here, though!â?[/b]

Morty stood up suddenly.

[b]â??No,â?[/b] he said, [b]â??heâ??s right; we canâ??t attack. We have to get out. Protecting the citizens is our main focus now.

â??Weâ??re going to have to break out, but not necessarily all at once. If we can rupture Azaleaâ??s line at [i]one[/i] point and hold it open, we can secure an escape route out of the city, and then our defenders can let the ring collapse in on them and fall back at the last minute through the breach.â?[/b]

[b]â??So ... we let Bugsy [i]push [/i]us out?â?[/b]

Morty nodded. [b]â??Pretty much. But that means our line opposite the breach has to hold for the longest time and risk being surrounded themselves right before they get out. Itâ??s the most dangerous spot to be in and will require our best and freshest fighting teams.

â??You!â?[/b] he said, motioning to the messenger. [b]â??Find Terry Nimitzâ??s unit, tell them to head for the east side of the city. Tell him I said to find a way to force Azaleaâ??s line open on that side and hold it open wide enough to evacuate civilians.â?[/b]

The boy saluted and fled the room.

Morty was galvanised. [b] â??I want you three to get to the civilian shelters,â?[/b] he continued,[b] â??and start moving the people there through the city towards the breakpoint. Get people from the medical staff to help you as needed. If youâ??re attacked, engage long enough to ward your enemies off, but stay with the civilians at all costs.

â??You two, gather your people and come with me. Weâ??re going to buy some time.â?[/b]


[center]- - - - - - - - - - - - - -[/center]


Saul wasnâ??t sure who he had expected after hearing Raâ??s message, but the dark-haired woman waiting on his front porch wasnâ??t on the list.

[b]â??Sayo!â?[/b] he exclaimed.[b] â??What are you doing here? Ra told me you were someone from Blackthorn.â?[/b]

[b]â??I [i]am[/i] from Blackthorn,â?[/b] Sayo replied. [b]â??Claire recruited most of Viridianâ??s old members a while ago, not long after Blue left.â?[/b]

Saul didnâ??t think his eyebrows could go any higher.

[b]â??So Viridian is closed again? When did this all happen? And where did Blue go off to?â?[/b]

[b]â??Most everything happened a month or two after you said you were leaving for Hoenn,â?[/b] said Sayo, [b]â??so Iâ??m not surprised you donâ??t know. That was when Red disappeared, and Blue vanished shortly afterwards.â?[/b]

[b]â??Whereâ??d they go?â?[/b] asked Saul.

[b]â??No one knows where Red went. He just turned up missing one day, went out for an excursion and didnâ??t return. No signs of foul play or struggles or anything. The League searched for almost two months.[/b]

[b]â??And then Blue said he was shutting down Viridian Gym for a while, and he left, too. There was a lot of tension building between certain leaders by that point, too, so Claire pretty much snatched all of us up as soon as she could. She heard you were due back in today, and since youâ??re one of the last few trainers left who isnâ??t associated with anyone, she sent me out to see if youâ??d come back.â?[/b]

[b]â??But Iâ??m retired,â?[/b] objected Saul.

Sayo nodded. [b] â??We know. Did I mention thereâ??s a lot of tension right now?â?[/b]

[b]â??Uh.â? [/b] The journalist frowned. [b]â??Can we talk about this inside? I have something I want to take care of real fast, and from the vibes youâ??re giving me I think it might interest you.â?[/b][/FONT] Edited by Allamorph

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[SIZE="1"][B]“You've completed basic training, haven't you, Roland?”[/B]

Cam, still a bit steamed about the previous revelation, answered in a less than respectful tone of voice. [B]“Yeah.”[/B]

[B]“Watch your tone, Roland,”[/B] warned Claire as she marched onward.

[B]“Look, Claire, I don't see-”[/B]

Claire stopped abruptly, then turned and jabbed a finger directly into Cam's chest. [B]“Listen and listen well. You are now a member of what is essentially a militia. We may not be as organized as the League, but we have regulations to abide by. Do. NOT. Disrespect your commanding officers. From now on, you will address me as 'Ma'am', do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, Ma'am,”[/B] grumbled Cam.

[B]“Furthermore, you will speak clearly and calmly without a hint of sarcasm or dissent. If I detect any such mannerisms in your speech, you will quickly learn exactly how hard a taskmaster I can be. Now, do you want to try your reply again?”[/B]

Cam was quick to note the glare the gym leader had fixed on him. [B]“Yes, Ma'am.”[/B] he replied as correctly as he could manage.

[B]“Good, now come along. We're wasting time.”[/B]

[CENTER]. . .[/CENTER]

[B]“Roland, this is Colonel Robert Finn. From now on, he is your commanding officer.”

“Pleasure to meet you, son,”[/B] the man greeted Cam, offering his hand.

Cam took the hand and shook. [B]“Pleasure to meet you too, Colonel,”[/B] he replied, sizing up his new leader. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with blonde hair and a strong jaw. He was not lacking in charisma and very friendly, but it was clear to Cam that this was a man who was far better to have as an ally than an enemy.

[B]“Well, he seems polite enough,”[/B] chuckled the Colonel, addressing Claire directly. [B]“Really got to him, didn't you?”[/B]

Clair ignored the jab, instead indicating smaller, black-haired, professional-looking man next to Finn. [B]“And this is Lieutenant Evan Hawkins. He is also your superior, answering to Colonel Finn, who answers to me.”[/B]

[B]“Hello, Cam,”[/B] said the Lieutenant, also offering a handshake.

[B]“Hello, sir,”[/B] Cam said as he accepted the gesture.

[B]“Insubordination towards either of them will reap dire consequences, up to and including expulsion. You will not eat, sleep or blink without their approval, do you understand?”

“Yes, Ma'am.”

“Good.”[/B] Claire then turned to the Colonel. [B]“Finn, we've received news. It seems Bugsy has made his move on Ecruteak. Morty is under attack and in dire need of reinforcements, but fortifying Blackthorn's defenses has left us with little to spare. Your unit will fly directly to Ecruteak from here. With any luck, you'll arrive in time to prevent larger-scale catastrophe than the one already happening over there. You're to report to Morty and receive his orders from there.”

“Understood,”[/B] nodded Finn.

[B]“As for you, Roland, you will fall in with Colonel Finn's unit. You are now an official League resistance soldier at the rank of Private. Better get used to high altitudes.”

“Yes, Ma'am.”[/B] Cam listened to himself say those words, wondering slightly how long it would be before he said anything significantly different from them again.

[B]“Well, you heard the lady,”[/B] said the Colonel as Claire started back towards the Gym, [B]“fall in, son. We'll assign you a Skarmory and from there you'll get some hands-on training. We've got a long flight ahead of us.”[/B][/SIZE]

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[size=1][color=darkblue]The winds in the skies above Johto were never known for their warmth, but the cold that Faulker felt as he flew toward the north seemed more bitter than usual. He didn’t think it an omen; he’d never believed in superstitious things like that. A simple Northern wind was cutting down toward him and his troops, which only served as a minor inconvenience in the long run. That was the beauty of coming unannounced: you could come any time you wanted.

The Pidgeot he rode on took a slight dip at a small kneading in the back, the years of training allowing it to understand the simple gestures Faulkner made as simply as being explicitly told what to do. The rest of the flock, fivescore strong with trainers aboard, followed suit. The winds bit a little less at the lower altitude, but they were still steady enough to warrant a shiver from everyone in the air.

It wasn’t long before a trainer, a girl with long dark hair flying behind her, signaled someone had been spotted coming from the northwest. Faulkner nodded and waved her back into the regiment. He knew it was the scout he’d sent out late the previous night to find a roost outside their target area. The scout flew neatly over the flock, the Skarmory diving down and pinwheeling to come back under Faulkner and falling easily into parallel flight with the larger bird. His fingers flashed intricately, part of the sign language Violet trainers used while flying in high winds.

[b]“Bluff 15 miles southeast of target. Sheer. Groundblind.”

“Good work,”[/b] Faulkner signaled back. [b]“Lead the others. Find me at the old man’s place.”[/b]

The scout gave a nod of acknowledgement and broke off back the way he’d come. Faulkner pointed after him and gave a broad sweep of his arm, watching behind him to make sure the entire flock followed as ordered. There wasn’t a need to make a grand spectacle of things. At least, not yet.


[center]------------[/center]

Pryce didn’t like a lot of things. Cocky young Leaders demanding a meeting with him out of the blue ranked highly among those things. Nevertheless, Pryce moved slowly out to the lobby of his Gym, leaning a little more heavily on his cane these days. The wintry air had been blowing hard the past few weeks, and his old body didn’t react to kindly to it. But Pryce was a tough old bird and he wouldn’t complain. Much.

[b]“Old Jack trying to work another number on me, I see,”[/b] he muttered to himself as he hobbled down the hall and looked out the interspersed windows. His old oak cane giving him a slightly rolling gait, which was slightly stuttered as he considered the flurries that had begun falling outside. [b]“Well, I won’t give him the satisfaction of hanging it up just yet. There’s still some creak in these bones.”[/b]

The cane rapped soundly as he finally entered the lobby and saw who’d come calling: Faulkner out of the south. He let out a humph as he looked the man up and down, noting his posture to be just a cocksure as he’d been told after Faulkner had arrived. The light smirk on his face and the look in his eyes told him everything he needed to know: there was about to be trouble.

[b]“I don’t know what you’re after, but looking like you’re sure to get it ain’t helping you,”[/b] he said, looking the younger man straight in the eye.

Faulkner shrugged innocently. [b]“That’s Pryce. Quick to judge and quicker to grumble.”[/b] Leaning on the wall behind him, he folded his arms, looking back casually. [b]“Maybe I’m not actually after anything.”

“And maybe Swinubs’ll start flying to your neck of the woods for the winter. What do you want, boy?”

“All right,”[/b] said the young Leader with a laugh. [b]“We’ll play it your way. The world’s starting to change, Pryce. But you should know as well as anyone that some people don’t like change. We progressive types can’t have that lying around.”

“…You’re trying to recruit us into your little regime?”

“You could look at it that way. This little berg is situated in quite an ideal area. It’d be nice if we could count it among our places to call home.”[/b]

Pryce considered for a moment. He knew that there had been tension building in the region and in Kanto about the recent changes made in the League‘s structure. Apparently things had finally come to a head and the line in the sand was starting to be drawn. He made an unimpressed sound. [b]“And what if I were to say we aren’t interested?”

“Then I would have to say you’re being difficult. But that’s not all that surprising.”

“Guess not, since you think you can read this old book.“[/b]

Faulkner pushed off the walk and walked over to the elderly man, the look on his face a far cry from the casual smirk he had before. He loomed close to the man and bent slightly to come within inches of his face.

[b]“You really don’t want to go down this path, old man. You’ve got what, five? Ten years left? Let us in and you can live them.”[/b]

Pryce looked steadily back at him, his eyes taking on every aspect of their icy namesake. [b]“I’ll be living out my years just fine, boy. Without some wet-behind-the-ears scamp, or anyone else, for that matter, breathing down my neck.”[/b]

Faulkner clenched his jaw and stared at Pryce for a long second. Then he backed off a step and gave a slight nod of the head.

[b]“If that’s the way it gonna be, then that’s the way it’s gonna be,” he said with a sharp shrug. “You be sure to take care of you and yours. I’ll be seeing you.”[/b] And then he simply left.

Pryce stood and looked at the door for a long moment before heading back to the trainer’s quarters. He looked about at a group of confused faces and sighed slightly again in his heads. Then he rapped his cane on the floor once and straightened himself as best he could.

[b]“Shift yourselves. Storm’s brewin‘.”[/b][/color][/size]

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[FONT="Franklin Gothic Medium"][SIZE="1"][COLOR="Navy"][B]Hurry Scott, there's not much time. We need to stave them off as much as possible."[/B]

[B]"Yes sir!"[/B] the young grunt replied. The two raced towards the western entrance to the city. The city had been already begun being bombarded by wave after wave of attack from the League's forces. Buildings that once stood tall and served as a reminder of the harmony between people and Pokemon now served only as heaps of flaming rubble. The League wasn't here to make friends, and obviously Bugsy's idea was to scare the scarce opposition into submission.

As the two arrived at the western rampart, Terry was agahst at the site he was met with. He saw trainers lying dead next to their Pokemon partners, some the victims of poison. Others screamed out in pain, burns covering their charred bodies. Who could bring themselves to attack people! Terry trembled with a quiet anger. But this wasn't the time to let emotion control his actions. Terry rushed to one of the injured soldiers.

[B]"WHAT HAPPENED HERE!"[/B]

[B]"S-sir, they started attacking....out of nowhere...surrounded....t-t-too many..."[/B]

[B]"Don't worry, you're done fighting. Go join Ho-Oh in the skies above" [/B]Terry clasped the young trainers hand before feeling the life drain from his body. Terry stood up and faced his young recruit.

[B]"Scott, are you sure that you want to remain my soldier?"

"Yes sir, why?"

"You are an only child, correct?"

"Uh...yeah...but sir... I signed up of my own free will...we can't let the League have their way! I won't be able to live with myself if I just went home and sat there while others were fighting for freedom!"[/B]

Terry saw the resolve in Scott's eyes. He wasn't going to back down, even if he was ordered to. Terry half-smiled.

[B]"Fair enough. We need to hold this line, Scott. Find any survivors of the attack and mass them on me. We need to push back. This is our city, our freedom."

"YES SIR!" [/B]The young boy yelled.

Terry was startled by the ground trembling underneath his feet. Scott stopped and turned back towards his leader with a worried look on his face.

[B]"HURRY SCOTT, WE DON'T HAVE MUCH TIME!"[/B]

Scott nodded and ran off into the distance. Terry turned around and saw a fleet of charging Rhydon advancing towards him. It was small compared to other Rhydon stampedes he had seen, but it only takes one Rhydon to stomp a person.

[B]"Espeon! It's your turn!"[/B]

[B]"Mrawwrrrr"[/B] the pokemon bellowed as it was released from it's pokeball.

[B]"Thin 'em out Espeon."[/B]

The pokemon nodded before it's eyes began to glow an eerie blue. The Rhydon were enveloped in a blue aura and began to levitate off of the ground. Their trainers, charging behind them, stood appauled at the site of their two ton Pokemon floating so effortlessly in the air.
[B]
"Do it."[/B]

Espeon used it's psychic power to fling the Rhydon back to their masters. Return to sender. The Trainers ran away screaming as their Pokemon crashed into the ground a large thud. Terry and Espeon went to go inspect the damage and found one soldier with his leg pinned underneath his fainted Pokemon. His face was filled with dread as Terry and Espeon emerged from the dust cloud that resulted from the impact.

[B]"N-NO! DON'T COME ANY CLOSER!"

"Tell me just one thing. Why are you attacking Trainers?"

"I-I-I don't know. I'm just a grunt. Our seargeant said it was an order from Bugsy himself."

"Hmmm, that's not like Bugsy."

"P-p-please dont hurt me!" [/B]The trainer pleaded.
[B]
"Oh I won't. I'm not like you." [/B]Terry turned away before giving a motion to his Espeon. Espeon's eyes glowed blue again and the trainer fell into a deep sleep. Hypnosis.
[B]
"SIR!" [/B]Scott yelled from the distance.

[B][I]'Good, he wasn't hurt.'[/I][/B] Terry thought to himself.

[B]"S-SIR! They want us....to....evacuate the line and head towards the Eastern Entrance. Morty is abandoning Ecruteak!"[/B]

[B]"What?" [/B]Terry was puzzled by his friend's decision. But then it hit him. Morty loved Ecruteak City, but he loved its people more. The news of Pokemon attacking trainers must have reached him.

[B]"Yes sir. We're to go there immediately! We are supposed to break a whole in the enemy lines and then hold the whole open while everyone else evacuates the city. Keslowski and Schultz are already there."

"Well, then I guess we'd better stop yapping and go there, huh?"

"YES SIR!"[/B]

The two ran towards the eastern entrance to the city. Terry only glanced back once in the direction of Olivine City.

[b]"Soon...I promise."[/b][/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]

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[SIZE="1"][COLOR="Indigo"]Kendra hurried back to the center after helping yet another group of trainers get to the medical center. After the first pair had shown up, even more kept trickling in, some with minor injuries, and others who were more seriously hurt. Smoke, drifting across the city from fires along the edge, got into her eyes, making them water and she reached up to brush the tears aside.

[I]Why did they have to attack people?[/I] Her foot caught on something and she stumbled, falling to her knees. Exasperated, she got back up and continued towards the center, or towards where she thought it was. The smoke was making it hard to see anything. Not only that, it sounded like the fighting was getting closer.

Had she taken a wrong turn? Was that why she could hear the fighting so clearly? Kendra stopped to get her bearings. The slight breeze shifted and the smoke cleared enough for her to see the center further down the street. She breathed a sigh of relief as she rushed to get inside and out of the smoke. To her surprise the place was nearly empty. [I]What in the world?[/I]

“[B]What are you doing here?[/B]” A sharp voice accosted her. Startled she turned to face the assistant coming from one of the back rooms, her hands full with some bags carrying pokeballs.

“[B]Didn’t they tell you at the medical center that we’re to evacuate immediately?[/B]”

Kendra shook her head. “[B]I didn’t go inside.[/B]”

“[B]Didn’t you notice the others heading out on your way back?[/B]”

“[B]There’s smoke everywhere,[/B]” Kendra started to explain but the woman cut her off.

“[B]It doesn’t matter.[/B]” She handed Kendra several of the bags as a few more people, also carrying them, joined them in the front room. “[B]We need to hurry.[/B]”

Kendra followed them out and then stopped at the door, shocked. The lines of trainers fighting were close enough that she could see some of them through the smoke, several streets down. They hadn’t been there when she entered the building just five minutes ago.

How had they gotten so close to the center so quickly? Movement caught her eye, a few were coming towards the center, a harried look on their faces.

“[B]What are you still doing here?[/B]” The closest demanded. He sounded tired to Kendra.

“[B]What does it look like?[/B]” The assistant answered sharply, motioning towards the bags they were carrying. “[B]We couldn’t leave them behind. We’re the last ones, the others have already left.[/B]”

What the trainer would have said next was lost when they all turned to look when the sound of something approaching filled the air. It took Kendra a moment to realize that she was hearing insect wings. The others were looking at the sky and she followed suit. A wave of what looked like Beedrills were approaching the line; it took her a moment to realize that they were carrying something.

“[B]Take cover![/B]” One of the trainers shouted even as he ordered one of his own Pokémon to attack.

Kendra barely had time to catch a glimpse of what looked like Pinecos being dropped onto buildings and people before ducking back into the center and hiding behind the thick walls. The doors shook upon closing and then the glass shattered when the building across the street was struck. Screams filled the air as even more Pinecos were dropped, destroying whatever they hit by exploding upon contact.

“[B]This way![/B]” The trainer shouted when the wave had passed.

The group followed him out and then up the street in the direction of the medical center. Kendra couldn’t help but glance back towards the fighting. She could see both Pokémon and trainers partially buried under the rubble and some… she choked… were clearly dead.

“[B]What are you doing?[/B]” Someone caught Kendra’s arm when she instinctively stopped and then turned to go help someone who was partially buried. “[B]You can’t help them.[/B]”

“[B]But,[/B]” Kendra tried to pull free and stopped when she saw yet another wave of Pokémon approaching. This time it was a bunch of Ariados, shooting out lines of webbing, trapping those who were trying to free the others or anyone within reach.

“[B]I’m sorry.[/B]” She said contritely. She hadn’t even seen the Ariados. They let go of her arm and once again the group hurried away from the fighting. As they ran, she wondered if her parents were alright.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

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OOC: Man, I didn't think this was still going.

Also, just to make sure it's clear, the characters I introduce in this post, Tala and Turner, are female and male respectively.

----------------------------------

Aesera's Pidgeot landed in formation behind Brand's Fearow. She'd found the flight from Violet fairly odd, mainly because she didn't know the signs people were using; Brand had shown her the basic ones, but just the basic ones. "Just stay in formation," he'd told her. "There shouldn't be any problems, but if something does happen, just stick with me and do whatever I do." And indeed, the flight was quite uneventful; the only ones who broke formation were scouts and Falkner himself, heading off on his own for some reason.

"Well, that went well," Brand said as the team dismounted. "I take it there weren't any problems on your end."

"Nope, no problems," Aesera said. "Hey, any idea where Falkner went off to?"

"No. I'm wondering that myself."

"He's probably off to demand Pryce's surrender," Tala, another member of the team, put in.

"I don't know about that, Tal," Brand replied. "Isn't this supposed to be a surprise attack? Telling Pryce we're here kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think?"

"I was a Gym trainer, remember. I've known Falkner a lot longer than you, and trust me, it's something I'd expect from him. Besides, it's not like Pryce'll have too much of a warning. Sure, he'd know we're here, but, well, we're here. He won't exactly have much time to prepare before we attack."

Another team member, Turner, spoke up. "I'd still prefer he not know we're coming at all."

"I'd have to agree with that," Aesera said. "Plus, if Pryce knows we're coming, it'll likely mean less rest for the birds, since waiting would give Pryce more time to prepare." She turned to her Pidgeot. "What do you think?" Pidgeot gave a cry. "Yeah, I'd image you could use some rest after that flight."

"You know, Aesera," Tala said, "you may be new to this, but I can tell you're an experienced trainer just by the way you talk with your Pokemon. I watched you and Pidgeot talk before we took off; you've got an impressive level of understanding."

"I like to think so," Aesera said. "I can have Espeon translate for me if needed, but that's not a need I usually have with my team."

"Yeah, but there is a limit to that," Brand said.

Aesera chuckled. "I'd say so, too, but my brother would disagree. He has a truly amazing level of understanding with his Absol. Of course, they've been together for over ten years now, and Absol is his only Pokemon, so that helps-and incidentally, he'd have my head if he knew I'd called it his. He hates it when people apply posessive statements to Pokemon. Says it helps foster a mindset of Pokemon as just things. I don't know about that, although I certainly agree with him on a Pokemon-as-tools mindset being bad, and I'm kind of rambling here, aren't I?"

"Yeah," Brand said, "but there's no problem. We're just waiting around right now, anyways. So, you don't see Pokemon as tools?"

"That's right."

"Odd that you'd be fighting for the League," Turner remarked.

"Well, I agree with the League's stance otherwise, and as far as I know, the Pokemon-are-tools thing isn't actual policy, just a mindset. Which is actually another reason I'm here; I figure that the more voices for treating pokemon as equals among League forces, the better."

"That what you were doing while waiting for the order to move out?"

Aesera nodded. "Yeah. Brand showed me the basic flight signs, but yes, other than that, I was basically wandering around telling people to treat their Pokemon better. Not that bluntly, though. And I was always careful to somehow mention that Pokemon who are treated well, and thus like their Trainers, are more effective."

"I assume," Brand said, "that that's in order to preparing a defense in case Falkner decides to chew you out again?"

"That is why I'm always mentioning that, but it is true."

"Yeah. you should still be careful, though, after the incident with Mathis."

"Well, I'm making sure not to start any confrontations," Aesera said. "I know there'll be something eventually, no matter how I approach it, but I'm hoping to have distinguished myself in action by then."

"And if you haven't?"

"Then I haven't," Aesera replied, "but I'm doing this regardless."

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[FONT="Lucida Sans Unicode"][COLOR="RoyalBlue"]By the time they were done asking him questions about his Pokémon and what they could do, Allan felt like his mind had been turned inside out. He thought he knew his way around battles but now he knew he had barely scratched the surface. He understood why his parents pushed for him to learn more but he didn?t like the underlying feeling of rigid control.

The League was worse, or so he had thought. It was hard to put it into words, it just felt wrong to him. Allan tried to pay attention as one of the aides took him on a very short tour of the compound as he pointed out where everything was located. But his mind kept wandering back to his decision to join.

?[B]These should fit you just fine. If not we?ll get you something else.[/B]? A voice cut through his thoughts.

Allan came back to where he was with a start when the aide shoved a bundle of clothing into his arms. The brown and green fatigues were made of a sturdy yet rough material. Allan stifled a sigh and tried to keep his disappointment from showing. It wasn?t necessary; the man was already on his way down the corridor towards yet another part of the complex.

?[B]You?ll find the mess hall down that direction,[/B]? he gestured with his right hand. ?[B]Up ahead is where all of you sleep.[/B]?

It took Allan a moment to realize that they wouldn?t be giving him his own room. An open door showed a double set of metal bunk beds in the small room. There were small narrow lockers along the back wall. Unless another room had larger ones, there was no way his stuff would fit in just one.

?[B]Here we are.[/B]?

Allan followed him into one of the rooms. It was easy to tell which bed would be his. The bottom bunk on the right as they entered was the only one with nothing on it but a set of sheets and blankets and a pillow, waiting for him to make the bed with. He set his duffle bag on the floor and accepted the small piece of paper the man handed him.

?[B]I?m sure I don?t have to tell you to keep your combination to yourself[/B].?

Allan shook his head.

?[B]Once you get things settled, bring the rest with you to the mess hall and we?ll get it sent back to your home.[/B]? He smiled kindly.

Allan nodded. ?[B]Thank you.[/B]?

He waited for him to leave before he turned with a sigh and got started. Like most lockers there was a little shelf at the top. He placed his personal items like soap and shampoo up there along with other basic necessities.

There were some hangers on a bar just below that and he hung up his t-shirts and fatigues. The pants, jeans, underwear and socks went on one of the little shelves at the bottom, along with his extra shoes under that.

There was barely enough room left for his over jacket and supplies for his Pokémon. Just like he?d been told, there was no room for his nicer clothing. He had hoped there would be but the small locker was too narrow for that. With another resigned sigh he changed into one of the new sets of clothing he had been given and then stuffed his pants and shirt into the duffle bag.

It was nice with all of the pockets for carrying stuff but the material was rough, unlike what he was used to. Allan wasn?t going to let them know he didn?t like it though. He had told that imposing woman that he would pull his own weight. He wasn?t going to back out now over something as silly as clothing. Allan closed the duffle bag and hefted the strap over his shoulder before he left the room to find the aide.[/COLOR][/FONT]

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[SIZE="1"][COLOR="Indigo"]Kendra was worried sick and wanted nothing more than to look for her parents. She didn?t dare. She knew she couldn?t afford to wander off and hunt for the other civilian groups. She had to trust that they too were being evacuated. Kendra tried to tune out the cries of pain, the sounds of orders and angry oaths being shouted, mingled in with the heated sounds of Pokémon battling as they ran. She couldn?t.

Buildings would rattle violently and the ground would tremble whenever more Pinecos were dropped on the lines, forcing the trainers back further. And every time the smoke cleared enough for her to get a glimpse of the city, all she saw was more shattered buildings and fires raging out of control as they swept further in. She saw no sign of the others.

Over to the left she could see what had to be the Tin Tower, its tall majestic form a mere shadow in the heavy smoke as they ran up the street. Another gust of wind cleared the haze enough to give her a fairly clear view of where they were going. Kendra saw other groups bringing the civilians as close to the eastern exit as possible. She wasn?t close enough to see if her parents were with them. Smoke rolled back in as the brief breeze died, but not before she saw something that made her heart sink in despair.

The city was surrounded. In every direction she had looked as they fled, she had seen nothing but fighting as the trainers tried, in vain, to hold the attackers back. Every time someone fell in battle they were forced to retreat in order to close the gap. Those that tried to help the fallen were either trapped in webs or downed as well. Clearly it was taking everything they had just to keep them from overrunning the city while the civilians headed for the eastern exit.

Kendra wasn?t a fighter like the others. She had taken an interest in her parents work and moved from training and battling her Pokémon, to learning how to run the family business when she was still in her early teens. But in spite of that, even she could see that they lacked the manpower to break their way free of the noose that was tightening about their necks.

It was as if madness had swept the city and taken hold. She felt like she was drowning in a nightmare that she couldn?t wake up from. A scream threatened to spill forth and Kendra hastily shoved it down as best she could. Now was not the time to panic. Somehow she knew that if she did, she wouldn?t be able to stop screaming.[I] Lord help us.[/I] She prayed as she ran. Was their effort in vain? Had all of those people died for nothing? Why? Why? [I]Why[/I] did they have to attack people? Kendra choked back a sob.

Smoke made her eyes water and she stopped as a row of coughing seized her, making her double over in pain. What good did it do to head for the exit if they couldn?t leave the town? At this rate they would have no choice but to surrender and hope for the best. The mere thought of doing so filled her with dread. They hadn?t hesitated to attack trainers. What if they attacked civilians as well? Dear Lord, she didn?t want to die.

She straightened back up after bringing the coughing under control. Angrily she brushed the tears out of her eyes and nodded at the others who had halted briefly to wait for her to recover. Kendra held a small cloth to her face to help filter out the smoke. She took a couple of deep breathes while some of the others took a moment to do the same. She could feel her hands shaking in spite of her attempt to remain calm.

A hand grasped her shoulder and she looked over at one of the trainers who was escorting them through the city. He smiled reassuringly at her as if to indicate it would be alright, but he couldn?t hide the fear in his own eyes. Somehow, knowing that even he was afraid made her feel a little better.

Kendra forced a tiny smile back and nodded to let him know she was ready. He let go and they hurried on their way. She still couldn?t get her hands to stop shaking though. Kendra grasped the straps to the bags she was carrying as tightly as possible to hide it.

[CENTER]-------------------------[/CENTER]
Morty?s gaze swept the city as he took in the crumbled buildings, the raging fires and the teams fighting with all their might to hold the invaders back. Thick smoke drifting across the city obscured his view but it made no difference. He knew Ecruteak like the back of his hand. He had seen enough to know that they were going to lose the city. Too many had fallen already.

To the east he could see Terry?s unit as they valiantly strove to break through Azalea?s lines. Bit by bit they were making progress. But they were hindered by their unwillingness to harm the enemies? trainers and he could not bring himself to order them to do so.

He needed a way to thwart the approaching forces. If he could somehow seal off part of the city to keep them from advancing, he could send those forces to help hold a path for the evacuation. The only question was how. How could he stop them? Every tactic he knew would only hold for a few minutes at best. Morty needed something more permanent.

Smoke churned and moved sluggishly as a morning gust swept down from Mt. Motar across the city. For a brief moment the top of Tin Tower was visible before it was once again shrouded in haze. An idea began to form in his mind. Morty started to dismiss it and then stopped. Could he really afford to ignore it? The very idea was ludicrous but if it worked?

He whirled to face the others who were with them; the glint in his eyes was all they needed to know that Morty had an idea. When he told them what he wanted them to do, their eyes widened in shock.

?[B]Is there no other way?[/B]? One of them finally stammered.

?[B]We have no choice. If we delay much longer it will be too late.[/B]?

The leader stared into Morty?s eyes and then nodded reluctantly before whirling about to begin issuing orders.

Morty turned back around to survey the city, clasping his hands tightly behind his back. He could hardly believe what he had just ordered them to do. The thought of it was enough to bring tears to his eyes.

?[B]May Ho-Oh forgive us.[/B]? He whispered.

[CENTER]-------------------------[/CENTER]
Kendra was glad to finally stop running and catch her breath. They had made it to where the other civilians were grouped together as they waited for further instructions. Though they were in the same area they were still separated to minimize damage should stray fire hit near their location. Her parents weren?t in the group they joined but that didn?t mean they weren?t in one of the other groups.

She looked past them to see that they were fighting to open a path out of the city but their progress was painfully slow. She turned back to look down at the city proper to see how close the enemy lines were. In the short time it had taken them to get to their location, they had overrun where the center was located. At this rate they would get to them before they could break free.

A loud whoosh filled the air as fire raced along the streets for several blocks from north to south, blocking the advancing army. To her surprise the force that had been holding them back turned and fled, running as fast as they could towards the east.

[I]What in the world are they doing?[/I]

Kendra fought the urge to panic as it threatened to surface once more. Such a move wouldn?t hold for more than a few minutes. Kendra waited for them to regroup as the flames started to die but instead another line of fire, right behind the first, sprang up.

[I]What madness is this?[/I]

Kendra couldn?t make sense of why they were retreating. Already the enemy was moving to subdue the fires blocking their paths. Once they did so there would be nothing to stop them from following the trainers who were almost to their location.

A sharp crack filled the air, startling her with it suddenness. [I]What in the world?[/I] She looked about wildly for the source. Another crack sounded, followed by a whooshing boom that echoed over the town. A short shockwave of air slammed into them, startling everyone. All eyes turned towards the direction it had come from.

For a long moment time seemed to stand still. Then to her horror, the Tin Tower began to fall. Cries and gasps of horror came from those around her. All Kendra could do was stare in dumbfounded shock as the graceful building slowly toppled over.

The ground shook as the building slammed into the ground. A deafening roar filled Kendra?s ears and she hastily closed her eyes and thrust her hands up in a futile gesture to protect her face. Air slammed into her and she tasted dirt when she gasped unexpectedly. A few moments later it died down and she cautiously opened her eyes before lowering her arms.

The remains of the Tin Tower stretched from the north to the south, covering a number of the streets between them and the enemy. The few buildings that had been in the way had been mercilessly crushed under the weight of the massive building when it fell. [/COLOR][/SIZE]

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[FONT="Book Antiqua"][SIZE="1"]Cam had gotten some experience flying during training, but his legs were still not accustomed to gripping a Skarmory's saddle for any length of time. As such, when Colonel Finn called for a short landing to rest and re-secure equipment, Cam nearly collapsed when his feet hit the ground.

[B]"Whoa there, soldier,"[/B] chuckled the Colonel, putting one arm under Cam's to halt the fall, [B]"You'll get used to it in time. Better get the feeling back in your legs, we'll be taking off again in ten minutes."[/B]

[B]"Y-yes, sir."[/B] Cam started to stagger around his new mount, inspecting it thoroughly. He had decided that the creature's name was Solo. It seemed to like the name, clucking approvingly when Cam used it. [B]"These feathers are huge!"[/B] Cam commented, [B]"Is it true they used to be used as swords?"[/B]

Finn gave out a burst of booming laughter. [B]"Not exactly, son. We still use' em! A Skarmory can be your best friend in a dangerous battle, Roland. Those feathers are sharp as a razor and perfect if a trainer needs to arm himself."[/B]

[B]"Arm himself? In a Pokemon battle?"[/B]

The Colonel suddenly grew very serious. [B]"Son, these ain't your silly little trainer scuffles. The League is seizing control and we're fighting back. Both sides are playing for keeps, and that means Pokemon attacking humans."[/B]

Cam grew silent, eyes widened with horror.

[B]"Don't worry, kid. I hear you're an exceptional trainer for your age. At the very least you should be able to hold your own if you follow my orders."[/B]

[B]"Attacking people...."[/B]

[B]"Cam,"[/B] said the Colonel, [B]"If you really can't handle that, it's not too late to back out. You're a volunteer, Claire will understand. Just fly back to Blackthorn and return your Skarmory."[/B]

Slowly, Cam shook his head. [B]"No, I signed up for this. If I can't bear the consequences, I can't call myself a trainer. I'm prepared to fight."[/B]

[B]"Well in that case, better mount up,"[/B] said the Colonel, returning once again to his jovial demeanor, [B]"Your legs workin' yet? Good."[/B]

[CENTER]---[/CENTER]

The sensation of flight itself was actually rather amazing. The wind whipped at Cam's face, blowing through his hair and giving him an overwhelming sense of freedom. He watched the trees pass by below him and took in the lush landscape as far as the eye could see. Behind him, the majestic mountains which he knew were keeping his home just out of sight. Just ahead of him, he could see a tiny speck, which he assumed was the regiment's destination, Ecruteak.

The nearer to that speck the regiment got, the more ominous it seemed. Soon they could see the smoke rising from the area, and soon after that the buildings became visible, with one notable exception.

[B]"Colonel, the tower is missing!"[/B]

Finn turned back to face his Lieutenant. [B]"Of course it's missing, Hawkins! The Brass Tower burned down years ago!"[/B]

[B]"No, sir,"[/B] replied Hawkins, [B]"The Tin Tower! It's gone!"[/B]

[B]"No it's not,"[/B] interrupted Cam, staring at the city below in shock, [B]"It's right there. The tower's collapsed across the middle of the city."[/B]

[CENTER]---[/CENTER]

[B]"What the hell happened here?"[/B] demanded Finn of a fleeing trainer wearing Ecruteak's colors.

[B]"We've lost the city. If you're the reinforcements, we need help evacuating the civilians to Mt. Mortar."[/B]

Finn turned to his men. [B]"You heard him, boys! Get your asses in gear! I want those Civvies out of the city yesterday!"[/B]

Cam rushed to guide a straggling citizen, gently helping her stand and guiding her on her way. As he turned his back to the city, he heard a sudden cry from one of the Ecruteak trainers.

[B]"Look out, kid!"[/B]

Cam turned just in time to see Solo dive in front of him, extending a wing to parry the dangerous forearm of a Beedrill.

[B]"Damn,"[/B] sneered the Beedrill's trainer, [B]"lucky little bastard."[/B]

Cam stood to face his opponent. [B]I'll hold him off, Colonel. I'm the one he attacked."[/B]

The Colonel nodded and continued barking orders to the rest of his men. [B]"Don't die, kid."[/B][/SIZE][/FONT]

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[FONT="Franklin Gothic Medium"][SIZE="1"][COLOR="Navy"]By the time that Terry had arrived to the Eastern Gate to the city, he could see the rest of his squad had arrived and had begun to disperse the enemy lines. Schultz's Rhydon led the charge with several Tauros and Miltank by stampeding through the enemy lines, crushing through wave after wave of troops like some sort of wartime bowling game.

[B]"Schultz! That isn't gonna work, you're gonna be surrounded!" [/B]Keslowski yelled close behind him. Keslowski's Spinarak followed closely behind him, wrapping up any stragglers with String Shot.

Terry let out a shrill whistle, which was the signal for his men to assemble on him. They called their Pokemon back and ran towards their leader.
[B]
"Yes sir?"[/B] Schultz said, out of breath. Apparently the charge had lasted longer than he anticipated. No one accused Schultz of thinking three to four steps ahead.

[B]"Look men, if we're going to make a path for Morty to get the people out of the city, it's going to take a single concentrated effort."[/B]

[B]"But what about the buildings?"[/B] Keslowski asked defiantly. The city had come to grow on him, as it did all of the soldiers. Terry could see that they wanted to evacuate the people without hurting the city. Terry smiled hesitantly.

[B]"Listen men, cities can always be rebuilt, but we cannot rebuild the lives lost here. People is what makes a city, not the other way around."[/B]

Terry could tell that his words had stirred his men. They looked at him with renewed vigor. In the distance, Terry could see a thin dust cloud from the advancing forces. No matter how what his men did, it only seemed to make a small nick in the armor of Bugsy's army. The League didn't mess around.

[B]"Now, we have to do something that's going to disorient them so much that they will be re-assembling their forces as we hold the line open. We're going to assemble our Fire Pokemon and blaze through their lines."[/B]

[B]"Hoorah!"[/B] The soldiers said in unison. They understood what it was going to take to save their city.

Terry and his men slowly advanced towards the stampeding enemy forces, who were bogged down in the treeline that surrounded the city. It was a kind of natural defense against invaders.

[B]"Sypus! We need you again my friend!"[/B]

Typhlosion bellowed as it bursted from it's Pokeball. Several other Pokemon released their various fire-type Pokemon- Charmelelons, Arcanines, Vulpixes and the like. The Pokemon assembled together.

[B]"NOW!"[/B]

[B]"USE OVERHEAT!" [/B]The trainers screamed in unison. The Pokemon reared back and unleashed a giant blaze that rivaled the Tin Tower in size. The inferno roared through the tree-line and scorched through the line of advancing Pokemon and dispersed the trainers nearby. The soliders began to flee from the destruction, obviously caught off guard from the sudden blast. After the smoke settled, Terry saw the charred remains of scorched forest that was left after the attack. There was a clean cut path towards Mount Mortar. If there was any time to leave, it'd be now.

[B]"Scott!" [/B]

[B]"Yes sir?"[/B]

[B]"Tell the Pokemon Center staff to start evacuating the people from the city. We'll hold the lines open."[/B][B]
"Yes sir!" [/B]Scott said as he raced off towards the city.
~~~~~~
Terry was startled when the ground shook and a deafing thud rumbled from behind him. Terry wheeled around and saw a giant cloud of dust that had erupted from the city.

[I]'Oh no, please tell me that wasn't Tin Tower."[/I]

Terry's fear was realized when the dust cleared and where Tin tower once stood was now clear sky. Terry's heart sank into his stomach. Tin Tower stood as a pact between Pokemon and humans for harmony. Now the symbol of peace now lay strewn across the city. Nothing more than a pile of rubble.

But now wasn't the time to dwell on that. Terry had to keep the evacuees safe as they fled towards Mount Mortar. Sypus and staved off any advancing forces with sweeping blasts from his Flamethrower, but Terry wondered how long he could keep this up.

[B]"Morty, please be ok."[/B][/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]

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[SIZE="1"]“[B]I keep telling you, it's EK-ANS![/B]”

“[B]And I keep telling you, you're completely wrong! It's pronounced E-CANS[/B]!”

[B]“No. No, no, no, NO! It is Ek-ans. You know, like you're neck, which I'm about to wring if you don't stop acting like an idiot.[/B]”

“[B]I'm the one acting like an idiot? You don't know proper grammar and here you are calling me an idiot?[/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]Haru sighed as the debate continued. He honestly didn't know why it mattered how Ekans was pronounced, but apparently these two gentlemen found the subject to be of the utmost importance. After all, it wasn't like there was a war going on or anything.

Venusaur was also slowly growing annoyed by the pair's constant bickering, and it showed. Haru was almost certain he saw a vein appearing on Venusaur's forehead, and occasionally he would let out small growls. [/COLOR]

“[B]Dammit, it's E-cans![/B]”

“[B]...you know what? I'm done with this. We're obviously getting nowhere here.[/B]”

“[B]HA! I win. You know I'm right, so you're backing off![/B]”

“[B]No, I'm backing off because you're being an annoying bastard[/B]!”

“[B]You mad?[/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]Venusaur growled yet again and picked up a nearby stone with one of it's vines. He started to raise it and was just about to chuck it at the two, but Haru quickly grabbed the vine to prevent him from doing so.[/COLOR]

“[COLOR="Red"]Don't bother. Trust me, I want to wring their necks as much as you do, but we can't get into any trouble.[/COLOR]”

“[B]It's E-CANS AND YOU KNOW I'M RIGHT![/B]”

“[B]Have you seen the spelling? It's Ek-ans, just like it says.[/B]”

“[B]You obviously can't read. It's E-cans- even a schoolboy could tell you that much.[/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]The other man rolled his eyes.[/COLOR] “[B]Okay, now you're just being annoying. I'm done.[/B]”

“[B]You want to settle this right now? Alright then,[/B]”[COLOR="Red"] said the other. He then turned to Haru and Venusaur.[/COLOR] “[B]What do you think? Is it E-cans, or Ek-ans? I'm right aren't I?[/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]Venusaur made some sort of sound that seemed to be a combination of a sigh and a moan. Haru looked from Venusaur to the two men. “Well, I, uh...don't...really...”
[/COLOR]
“[B]GUYS, BIG NEWS![/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]All three men turned towards another who was running towards them. He looked panicked, his face pale and his eyes wide. He stumbled and nearly collapsed as he came to a stop, causing Venusaur to let out a quite audible laugh and provoking a quick smack on the head from Haru.[/COLOR]

[B]“Easy there, man![/B]” [COLOR="Red"]said the E-cans man,[/COLOR] “[B]What's got your britches in a knot?[/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]The man inhaled deeply several times, attempting to catch his breath. After stammering a few times, he finally managed to stand up straight and talk clearly, though still panting.[/COLOR]

“[B]Ecruteak...it...it's under attack![/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]The two men gasped, Haru's eyes widening.[/COLOR] “[B]Under attack? You mean, by the League?[/B]” [COLOR="Red"]asked the other man.[/COLOR]

“[B]No, by a breakdancing Snorlax. Who the hell else?![/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]“[B]Where did you hear this?[/B]” Haru asked.[/COLOR]

[B]“Claire sent a message,[/B]” [COLOR="Red"]the man replied, now breathing properly.[/COLOR] “[B]They're just trying to get the citizens safely evacuated, but the city is most likely lost[/B].”

[COLOR="Red"]Haru was now highly concerned. Ecruteak was soon to be under the League's control, and at the cost of God knows how many lives. It also concerned him that it was so close to Goldenrod, the place he had been born and raised during his early childhood. It was now surrounded by the League, and although Goldenrod was currently neutral, he had a feeling that it wouldn't take the League long to seize it by force if they had to. He was concerned for his old acquaintances there and hoped they would be alright. Haru also got an urge to go to Goldenrod in order to help protect his former home, but knew his place was here.
[/COLOR]
[COLOR="Red"]At least, for the moment.[/COLOR]

“[B]What are you idiots doing?![/B]”[COLOR="Red"] came a voice from deeper in the cave, making all four men jump in surprise,[/COLOR] “[B]Break ended five minutes ago! Get back to work![/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]The man who had brought them the somber news instantly took off into the cave. The other men paused to gather their equipment.
[/COLOR]
“[B]...I still say it's E-cans.[/B]”

“[B]This again? I keep telling you-[/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]Venusaur growled and looked at Haru, his expression easily giving away his thoughts at that moment-[I] Can I kill them yet?[/I]

Haru chuckled. “[B]Come on, Venusaur. Let's go see how Graveler's doing- he most be tired after taking over for us this long.[/B]”
[/COLOR]
“[B]Wait, we never got an answer from that kid. Hey, what's your opinion on this?[/B]”

[COLOR="Red"]“[B]Run.[/B]” Haru said to his partner, and both instantly took off, the other two men quickly taking off after him.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

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[FONT="Calibri"]With a heavy heart, Morty surveyed the fresh rubble, still partially obscured by the thick cloud of grit that now permeated most of the city. Azalea's smothering advance had been halted for a time, and the day might not end in a total rout. But at what terrible cost had survival come?

[B]"This—this is [I]sacrilege[/I]."[/B]

His second's pronouncement intruded on Morty's morose reflections and pulled him out of his trance.

[B]"Yes,"[/B] he said, sobering as he saw his people's morale on the verge of failure. [B]"Yes it is. And we will make amends in full. But we have a town to protect still."[/B]

He cast one more glance at the tower's remains. The spirit of Ecruteak may have been destroyed, and it might have been his doing, but he was still its head, and he couldn't afford to stand still.

[B]"Pack it up, boys. Let's move."[/B]

His crew pushed itself reluctantly to action, shouldering supplies and regrouping in small units, moving off in silence towards the point of retreat a unit or two at time. Morty lingered to satisfy his last few lingering concerns—mainly that his crew would pull through—and then, securing the pack on his shoulder with a short jerk, ducked his head and followed.

With military precision, the teams moved in total silence through the streets; stooped low, they crossed open stretches swiftly, pausing in each new cover to scan for enemies and potential ambushes. The dust from the tower's collapse choked the air and cast the city in an eerie, portentous light. Looking around, Morty could see the same grim mask on the face of each leader and trainer, and from the way the atmosphere hung thick and heavy on him, he knew his own countenance mirrored theirs.

Already plans for after the escape were filtering through his head. Once outside the city, where would they go? If Bugsy was acting on behalf of the league, heading south was out of the question; Falkner would crush the survivors in a heartbeat. West was Azalea's forces, and even if they managed to brave that slaughterhouse the sea would meet them soon enough. To the east was Blackthorn and Claire—but only if they could push through Mount Mortar and the Ice Path, and to the north....

The gym leader shook off the train of thought. He would worry about such things after they were at least partially safe. For now, the mountains east would provide shelter and protection.

A thrumming sound had been itching at the edge of his hearing for a while, and just as he realised it was there he heard a cry from the boys in front.

[B]"Air raid! Beedrill at four-thirty! Get down! Get down!"[/B]

Morty cursed. His musings had let him lag behind, and he was at least forty yards from any reliable cover. Already he could hear detonating pineco off to his right; he hunkered down into a controlled sprint.

He had cleared half the distance when the beedrill reached them. Dozens of three-foot blue cones began crashing into the streets, exploding seconds after impact. In the distance he could hear screams, and the knowledge of their source chilled him to the bone. He saw a door to a shop burst open, and one of his leaders beckoned frantically from just inside the threshold. Morty redoubled his pace.

Three pineco struck down directly in his path; he had just enough time to veer down an alley before they exploded, throwing chunks of pavement dozens of feet back the way he had come. His heart racing, he leaned against the building and breathed, attempting to throw off the shakes of the new adrenaline coursing through his body. Had he been any less quick on his feet he would be dead right now, of that he had no doubt.

He snuck a look out of the alley's mouth, and immediately ducked back in as the sidewalk and street were riddled with thousands of deadly pins. The beedrill must have been ordered to run strafing sweeps, he realised, and had his suspicions confirmed as a swarm of the creatures buzzed by overhead. Aiming for that shelter was now out of the question; Morty turned and sped down the alley, looking for another way around to meet up with the rest of his team.

The next street appeared to be clean, and Morty risked the open space, hoping that the dust cloud would keep him well enough concealed to avoid attracting the attention of the beedrill patrols he suspected were now active. It seemed to be the correct choice; the detonations came close, but not dangerously so, and he heard no squadrons on wing towards him. He reached the first alley without incident, but it was blocked by rubble, so he moved to the next one.

This one was clean, but a movement at the other end caused him to draw back. It was a pair of heracross just nosing out of the opening; they appeared to be scouting the streets. For them to be across the tower this soon after its collapse meant Bugsy was serious and wasting no time at assessing and adapting to the situation. It also meant that he was probably already ordering his troops around the ruins to pincer the escaping civilians. Had their terrible sacrifice amounted to little more than a stall tactic?

A thump behind him made his heart stop. He didn't have to look behind him to know what it was, or how little time he had. He lunged desperately for the alley, but only managed a step before the concussion blast whirled him off his feet, slamming his head into the building's corner.[/FONT]

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[color="darkblue"][size="1"]The northern winds had started to turn harsh as Falkner and his men made their preparations on the cliff side. Many had already put on their goggles reserved for high winds just to keep the drifting snow for stinging their eyes. Falkner looked as he saw some of his men huddle together, flashing signals between them about the turn in weather so they wouldnâ??t have to lower their shawls.

[b]â??Sir, it may not be wise to launch a full attack now,â?[/b] signed one of Falknerâ??s lieutenants, a slender young woman with sharp-cut hair and narrow eyes. [b]â??I know this region. The storm will only get worse from here.â?

â??I realize that, Gloria,â?[/b] Falkner signed back with a reproachful glance. [b]â??Thatâ??s why this isnâ??t a full attack.â?

â??Sir?â?

â??This is only a scare tactic. Pryce is old and stubborn, but striking a few key points may help him get the message. If not, we can always come back once the conditions are more calm.â?[/b]

The woman stood still.

[b]â??Do you not trust my judgment, lieutenant?â?

â??I was only trying to present the facts, sir.â?

â??And while thatâ??s appreciated, donâ??t forget whoâ??s in command. I know what Iâ??m doing.â?[/b] The dangerous gleam in Falknerâ??s eye received a sharp salute.

[b]â??My apologies, sir.â?

â??Go ready your birds and tell the others to do the same.â?

â??Sir.â?[/b]

Falkner looked up at the clouded sky. It was true that a storm was coming and a big one at that; the gray pallor of the clouds was steadily becoming black. They already didnâ??t have much time to make the strike and their window was getting smaller by the minute. If there was a time to send a message, this was it.

[b]â??Everyone, prepare to take off!â?[/b] Falkner shouted, turning to his gathered force. [b]â??Strike near the Center and the homes, but leave the Gym to me!â?[/b]

[center]*[/center]

[b]â??We need more girders in here, unless you like having brain damage!â?[/b] Val was monitoring the progress of the tunnel from inside the excavation, making sure the Graveler stayed on target and had a good pace going. Cecil stood beside the Machoke hefting girders into place along the sides of the tunnel, helping to weld the beams together.

[b]â??Cecil, double torch those beams,â?[/b] Val said after moving her dust mask out of the way. [b]â??We need to make sure theyâ??re going to hold for a good while.â?[/b]

The Magmar puffed a shot of flame in response and waddled back to beginning of the tunnel to redo his work.

The work had only been doing on for a few hours, but the energy the workers presented had surprised Val. They were on a fast pace to break through the eastern wall of the mountain and while it wouldnâ??t shave too much time off her estimate, Val figured any extra time they gained off the project would probably benefit her client.

It was shaping up to be a fairly wide gateway. While the roof itself wasnâ??t very high, it was wide enough to fit four people shoulder-to-shoulder fairly easily. The floor was still a bit rough underfoot, but once the basic structure and supports were done, Machop would stomp the ground flat to make for easy trekking. The steel girders that were placed along the sides were connected along the top, with criss-crossing mesh setting on top of the frame to ensure any loose pieces of rubble wouldnâ??t knock someone unconscious.

Val had begun marking the progress of the tunnel on her plans when Evan kneeled beside her.

[b]â??You know, if I had a hammer in my hands, you would probably have a good-sized knot on the side of your head or worse,â?[/b] Val said with a sideways glance.

[b]â??Then youâ??d be in the weeds without such a great assistant. But Iâ??m not here to shoot the breeze. Iâ??ve got some news.â?

â??Please tell me itâ??s good.â?

â??I wish,â?[/b] Evan said as he sidled closer and lowered his voice. [b]â??Seems like thereâ??s trouble over the mountains. I heard someone shouting over in the Gym that they needed to help over in Ecruteak.â?

â??â?¦thatâ??s not good at all.â?

â??No. I think weâ??re working on a smaller time frame than you thought, Chief.â?

â??It seems that way, doesnâ??t it.â?[/b] Val sighed heavily and began to weigh her options. If her client was stressed, that was going to put stress on her. It was probable that a request to complete the project faster was forthcoming, which wasnâ??t too unreasonable. However, if they expected anything within half a day, they would be fooling themselves.

[b]â??So. What do we do, Val?â?

â??Weâ??re not going to pre-empt the speed order until we have to. Once we get there, weâ??ll have to forego integrity for a little bit and just get the tunnel dug, then put in the supports as quick as we can.â?

â??Val, youâ??re frowning.â?

â??No, Iâ??m not.â?

â??You kinda are.â?

â??Go get me more Graveler, Evan.â?

â??Okay, but if you donâ??t stop, your face is gonna get stuck that way,â?[/b] Evan said as he stood.

[b]â??Do you want me to go find a hammer?â?

â??Iâ??m going, Iâ??m goingâ?¦â?[/b]

Val sighed as the turned over her plans and began making new calculations. This was going to be difficult.[/size][/color]

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[FONT="Book Antiqua"][SIZE="1"]Solo blocked another barb, then brought up a talon to pin the Beedrill assailant. A swift peck to the abdomen left the creature critically wounded.

[B]"Screech!"[/B] commanded the mercenary. The Beedrill emitted a piercing buzzing noise, which caught Cam's Skarmory off-guard and reverberated painfully inside its metallic head.

Both combatants withdrew their Pokémon.

The mercenary sent another, this time an Ursaring. Atlas would be its opponent.

Cam snapped his fingers once, and the Larvitar nodded in response. It charged at its adversary and fiercely headbutted its stomach.

[B]"That's cute,"[/B] laughed the rogue soldier, [B]you taught it code! Did that help confuse all the kids at school?"[/B]

Silently, Cam urged Atlas to carry on. Atlas charged its adversary again, only to meet the Ursaring's paw. Hard. The Larvitar stumbled, clearly in pain.

[B]"HA! That's what you get, kid! Plenty of Pokémon can be disciplined to break rocks, and Larvitar's rocky skin is no exception!"[/B]

Atlas stood once more, its eyes burning with determination. It charged the Ursaring once more, making itself temporarily oblivious to its own pain. It flailed its limbs about, buffeting the Ursaring in a flurry of blows. The Ursaring collapsed, as did Atlas, exhausted by its own berserk assault.

[B]"And plenty of Pokémon can be disciplined to temporarily ignore their wounds,"[/B] replied Cam, recalling Atlas to its ball, [B]I was raised by breeders, I know a thing or two."[/B]

The Mercenary had stopped laughing. He angrily withdrew the Ursaring, then threw out two more Pokéballs, a Crobat and a Sandslash.

[B]"You can't do that!"[/B] objected Cam angrily, [B]"This isn't a double battle!"[/B]

[B]"League rules be damned, kid,"[/B] replied the mercenary, [B]"This is a war, I'm here to win."[/B]

[B]"In that case,"[/B] called a theatrical voice, [B]"allow me to even the odds!"[/B]

The owner of the voice stepped out of the surrounding forest. He was oddly well-dressed for a soldier and wore a white cape as an accessory to his violet ensemble. Cam thought it strange that this man of all people would be able to hold his own against this mercenary.

Cam thought wrong.

While the two combatants were distracted, the mercenary's Sandslash suddenly chattered fearfully. Cam turned to look, and it appeared that some kind of shadow was holding it in place. Two red eyes and a sinister grin appeared in the air in front of the Sandslash, and then a dark, rotund body materialized to hold the face. The Sandslash collapsed of a mixture of shock and sudden fatigue.

[B]"Alright, boy, what else do you have?"[/B] demanded the newcomer. Cam, still shocked at the sudden display of competence, silently presented his Pokéballs.

[B]"Hmm, not much here at all,"[/B] muttered the mysterious stranger, [B]"How well-trained is this Quilava?"[/B]

[B]"I've had her for 8 years...."[/B]

[B]"She'll have to do, then. Do you think you can have her distract that Crobat for me? I'm going to have to finish this battle in one shot."[/B]

Cam released Ruby, who instantly charged for the Crobat. She somersaulted in the air, ignited herself and attempted to tackle her enemy. The Crobat evaded, but its lower wing was badly singed. Infuriated, it flapped lopsidedly at the Quilava, fangs bared to strike.

Meanwhile, the newcomer's Gengar had disappeared once again. The mercenary, in shock, reached for his belt and called back the Sandslash. [B]"Let's see how you like this,"[/B] he muttered, pulling four more balls from his belt and preparing to release their contents.

The eyes returned.

The deep, sinister red eyes materialized once again before the mercenary. No matter how much he wanted to, the mercenary could not look away from those eyes. They drew him in and held him there, as if to tell him some deep, dark secret.

[I]Sleep.[/I]

That actually didn't sound like such a bad idea.

[I]Sleep.[/I]

He was feeling rather fatigued....

[I]Sleep.[/I]

[CENTER]. . .[/CENTER]

[B]"Sorry for the lack of introduction,"[/B] said the mysterious man as he patted his Gengar on the back for a job well done, [B]"My name is Eusine, I'm a Legendary researcher and an old friend of Morty's. I rushed back to Ecruteak as soon as I could when I heard about the attack. So who are you?"[/B]

[B]"I'm Cameron Roland, you can call me Cam,"[/B] replied the boy. [B]So you're a Legendary researcher? Does that mean you're famous?"[/B]

Eusine laughed. [B]Not exactly, actually I'm a researcher of the Legendary Pokémon of Johto. Specifically, I have an interest in Suicune."[/B]

[B]"Suicune?"[/B]

[B]"Yes, Suicune is one of the three Legendary Beasts of Johto. It's a somewhat dog-like creature, graceful and slender, yet majestic and noble as the pure blue of its fur. Legend says it can purify even the most polluted waters with ease. It is said to only appear before those of pure hearts or in times of great strife. I've always been fascinated with Suicune in particular. I guess you could call it an obsession, really. I really would like to meet it face to face someday."[/B]

[B]"Well with all the great strife around here, it's almost bound to show up,[/B] quipped Cam.

Eusine sighed. [B]"Indeed. I feel terrible admitting that I hope I may at least catch a glimpse of Suicune in all this devastation. Still, that's not why I've come here today. I am here to offer my aid to my old friend, Morty."[/B]

[B]"You'd better get moving, then,"[/B] cut in Colonel Finn, dragging along the now tightly bound mercenary. [B]"Morty hasn't shown his face at Mt. Mortar and I hear Bugsy's boys are starting to run air raids on the city."[/B]

Eusine turned pale. [B]"I must find Morty, then. Good luck with your efforts, Colonel, and you too, Cam. May Ho-Oh be with you!"[/B] With that, Eusine turned and ran in the direction of the city.

Finn's regiment continued to escort civilians to the shelter in Mt. Mortar. Cam looked toward a nearby cliff. He couldn't be sure, but he though he caught a glimpse of light blue fur retreating.[/SIZE][/FONT]

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[SIZE="1"][COLOR="Indigo"]It wasn't over yet, no matter how much Kendra wished it was. There seemed to be some new arrivals who were helping the civilian groups escape. At least she assumed they were newly arrived since unlike the others, it was obvious that they weren't exhausted from fighting. She couldn't imagine Morty holding trainers back if they could have been keeping the city from being overrun in the first place. So they [I]had[/I] to be reinforcements. It made sense, to her, that help would have been requested as soon as possible.


It was comforting to know that assistance had arrived, however, the urgent clamor of more air raids behind them made it clear that the invaders had no intention of letting them slip away, reinforcements or not. She didn't need to turn and look to know that more of the trainers were being taken down. Nor did she need a breeze to clear the smoke enough to show her that they were moving swiftly around the fallen tower to cut off their retreat.


It was only a matter of time before they did just that. Kendra was exhausted. She had been on her feet and running about all morning. Smoke was making her cough and getting into her eyes, making her even wearier, and with every step it seemed like the weight of the pokeballs she was carrying in the bags increased. If she was this tired then those who had been fighting all this time had to be worse off than she was.


She spared a brief glance behind her, but smoke made it impossible to see the store. She decided it was better that way; she didn't want to see what had become of it. Tears threatened to spill forth and she shoved them back. It wasn't easy, Kendra still didn't know if her parents were okay or not. She had looked when she could, but had seen nothing. She took a couple of deep breathes when they halted briefly, though it did little to ease her weariness.


When they started up again she spotted a familiar face among the trainers holding the escape path open for the evacuees. She didn't know him personally, but she had seen Terry many times at the store. He was always making sure the squad he worked with had everything they needed to take good care of their Pokemon. She felt oddly comforted to know they were doing their best to get them out of there, and at the same time it made her anxious for all of the trainers who were risking their lives so they could get clear.


Once again she pushed the feelings aside as best she could. Tired or not, she couldn't stop now. She held the straps to the bags she was carrying tightly and hurried as best she could.[/COLOR][/SIZE]

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[FONT="Franklin Gothic Medium"][SIZE="1"][COLOR="Navy"]Terry and his unit made their way through the forest on their way to Mount Mortar. The forest was almost a welcome escape from the nightmare they had just experienced earlier. The sun was setting on the route, and the warm glow on the tree line made the leaves shimmer with a white light. The air had become cool, almost chilling. Hoothoot were signaling the end of the day with their song. Terry could see their red eyes illuminating the shadows of the forest.

But, despite all the beauty of the surroundings, Terry was uneasy. Moving with such a large group of refugees was already dangerous, but it was even moreso with moving the injured. Terry saw a few of the Pokemon Center workers treating the critically wounded and could see a familiar face among them. She met his eyes with a strained look in her eyes. She smiled, as if to ease any worries that Terry had about being able to protect them.

[B]"Don't worry, we'll get you out safely."

"Yeah, I know."[/B]

Terry returned her smile and then looked in the crowd of refugees. While tired and weathered, you couldn't tell that they just had their city destroyed. Some of them had been joking and the majority of them were smiling. Maybe it was the fact that they escaped alive, or perhaps it was the prospect of finding solace in the mountain range of Mt. Mortar.

But the safegaurded feeling didn't last long. Terry heard shuffling in the area around him.

[B]"EVERYONE GET DOWN!" [/B]

As the group hit the forest foor, Poison Sting needles flew over their heads. Terry looked to see a fluttering group of Beedrill in the distance. Ambush was always the biggest obstacle to escape, but with the injured, the group's pace was at a crawl. It would be child's play to surround them and ambush them. But why was the League attacking injured and helpless civilians? This was it. The kid gloves had come off. Terry yelled out in anger as he charged head first into the stream of Poison Stings. A few grazed his shoulder. Terry picked a Pokeball from his belt and threw it.

[B]"Scizor! Use quick Attack"[/B]

[B]"HISSSSSS" [/B]Scizor bellowed as he burst from the ball. As Scizor launched his attack, he seemed to dissapear into thin air. Terry watched as swarms of Beedrill fell in droves. Scizor returned to his master as Terry fell to one knee. A few of the poison needles had found a home in Terry's arm and he had finally begun to feel the effects.

[B]"SIR!" [/B]Terry's unit, in the confusion following the attack, had finally caught up with him.

[B]"He don't look good, Keslowski."

"We have to get some help!"

"But there's League trainers crawling all over."

"You keep em busy while I get him outta here."[/B]

[B]"OH YEAH! NOW YOU'RE SPEAKING MY LANGUAGE!" [/B]Schultz said with a smile. He released his Rhydon and made the ground tremble with an Earthquake.

Terry faded in and out of consciousness as Keslowski dragged him back towards the group.

[B]"Don't worry, sir. We'll get ya patched up in no time."[/B]

[B]"Why?" [/B]Terry muttered quietly.

[B]"What?"

"Why do they have to do it?"

" I don't know sir, but we have to stop them."

"Yeah." [/B]Terry said as he passed out. It was a race against time. Beedrill stings could be dangerous to Pokemon, but to humans it was more dangerous. Left untreated, a sting from a Beedrill could kill an adult human in less than 2 hours. Keslowski rushed his leader back to the camp, where Terry was immediately lifted onto a gurney and checked over by Nurse Joy.

[B]"He got hit by some Poison Sting needles."[/B]

[B]"Oh dear. We're running low on anti-venom. It's a good thing you brought him in now."[/B]

Terry's surge had pushed back the ambush party, so the camp had been able to continue to move forward with the rest of Terry's unit. They slowly trekked towards Mt. Mortar as the ground shook underneath their feet.
[B]
"KEEP MOVIN! We'll make it there by midnight if we don't stop!" [/B]Keslowski yelled.

~~~
Terry awoke several hours later, feeling like he had got hit by a dynamicpunch from a Machamp. As he slowly opened his eyes, he saw the face of the girl from earlier.

[B]"Oh good, you're ok. I was worried."[/B] she said with a smile

[B]"Uhhnn. Is everyone ok?"[/B]

[B]"Shouldn't you worry about yourself first, mister Hero? Not many people would charge [I]into[/I] a stream of poison needles."[/B]

Terry mustered a smile.

[B]"I've seen you around town before. Kendra, right?"[/B]

[B]"Yeah. And you're Terry"[/B] she said with a laugh.

[B]"I guess that someone has to worry about everyone,"[/B] she continued. [B]"That's what makes you a leader. I wish I was half as strong as you."[/B]

Terry looked away with a dissastified look on his face.

[B]"I'm not that strong. The tower fell and they overran the city."[/B]

Kendra smiled and looked at a hole in the treeline. The moon had been shining brightly on the grove where the group was located at.

[B]"There was nothing else you could do. I think that the fact that we saved so many lives is more important than Tin Tower. Ho-Oh will understand."[/B]
Terry staggered to get back on his feet and almost fell getting off of the gurney.

[B]"Hey! You shouldn't get be walking around so soon."[/B]
[B]
"I've got to.... protect everyone..."[/B] Terry stuttered as he stumbled towards the front of the group.

Something had to be done about the League. They had attacked innocent, helpless people. This was beyond just trying to unite people under one order. The League wasn't making any distinction between civilians and soldiers. Everyone was a threat. And if left to their devices, no one would be safe. [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]

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The teams prepared quickly and took off as soon as they were ready. Everyone was leaving most of their supplies behind, which made sense; why carry extra weight if you don't need to? Everyone was taking the standard field equipment, of course, but that was it.

"Okay," Brand said, "we don't have a lot of time here. We get in, do some damage, and get out. Our target is one of the outer residential areas."

"As long as we're not the ones hitting the Center," Tala said. "I do not want to be part of that."

"They're not actually going to damage the Center facilities, are they?" Aesera said.

"I don't know," Brand replied. "It really depends on which team is hitting it, and that's something I don't know. In a way, I wish it was us hitting the Center. At least then we'd know."

"I'd still rather not," Tala said.

"Well, we're in agreement on that. Okay, people, mount up. Let's go."



The team landed in the middle of the target area and dismounted their birds. "Okay," Brand said, "let's do some damage. Looks like there's a convinience store over there. Tala, take Jan and Cain, and go wreck it. Everyone else, we'll just make a mess for now. As for people, if they run, let them, but if they try to fight, they're fair game. Incapacitate them however you can, but let's try to minimize casualties. All right, go!"

Tala's team released Pokemon and headed off. The others also began releasing their Pokemon of choice. "I think we've got a couple trainers behind us," Aesera told Brand as she released a couple Pokemon of her own. "I spotted them on the way in. They may be coming at us."

"Good to know."

"Actually," Aesera said, "I plan to take care of them."

"You- wait, excuse me? You want to take them on solo?"

"Don't worry," Aesera said as she turned back to her Pokemon. "Okay, we're going to do a chase routine. Tyranitar, you're on pursuit duty."

"Hold on," Brand said. "You're going to just fake danger and hope they assume you're on their side? No, Aesera. They're not going to fall for that."

"Well, I certainly hope not. If they're really that stupid, I'll be quite dissapointed."



The two trainers were indeed heading towards the team's location, but they came to a halt as Aesera came running into view, Tyranitar chasing after her. A blast impacted the ground behind her, the 'Hyper Beam' as many called it, although Aesera never used the common 'move names' herself. She didn't like the implication of rigidity, that a pokemon could only use its abilities in certain, specific ways. That, and using the names told people what to expect.

Another blast hit, and Aesera knew what the two had to be thinking, that there was no way Tyranitar's blasts would be as far off as they were if it was actually trying to hit her. which would mean it was a trick.

One of the two started to move, but was stopped by the other. And Aesera knew exactly why. The one trainer had moved presumably to attack, but his companion had stopped him, and Aesera knew exactly why he'd done so: the trick was too obvious. What if she wanted them to move in and attack? And then the inevitable counter-thought, that what if she'd planned on them realizing that? What if the trick was obvious because she wanted them to think it was a fake-out?

As Aesera and Tyranitar closed in, one of the two stumbled and fell over, while the other dropped to his knees. Aesera and Tyranitar slowed to a walk as the pair collapsed.

"Well, that was dissapointing," Aesera said. "Rhydon, we're done!" Rhydon, who had dug his way underneath the street, emerged from the ground behind the two unconcious trainers. Espeon also showed herself, emerging from a narrow alley with Brand following her.

"What do you know," Brand said, "it worked."

"I told you it would. Actually, it was easier than I expected. they must not be very experienced. There's no way Espeon would've gotten them so easily if they knew what they were doing."

"What do you mean?"

"Start breaking things," Laresa told her Pokemon. She turned back to Brand. "It takes time and concentration to put someone to sleep."

"I've never seen it go anything but quickly."

"You probably haven't seen a Pokemonactually put someone to sleep. You've seen what I like to call 'battle sleep'. It's not really sleep at all, actually. More like a... well, I'm not really sure how to put it. Kind of a half-sleep, I guess. Anyways, the effect is to briefly render the target unconcious, but, as I'm sure you know, the effect is in fact quite brief. It's often enough to get a couple good hits in, though, although sometimes the target recovers almost immediately. Anyways, it's not real sleep. That takes a lot more time and focus. And even if you don't know what it feels like, it should be pretty easy to tell that something's happening. But these two didn't seem to react at all until the effect actually started to show, which is not what I expected."

"Wait, but wasn't the Tyranitar thing to distract them from Espeon?"

"No," Laresa said. "It was just to distract them. When they saw me coming at them, they knew I was up to something. I'd have thought it was to keep me looking one way while someoneone else ambushed me, but I don't know about them. Anyways, instead of let them reach some unknown conclusion, I gave them a riddle. They knew I was trying to trick them, and were occupied with trying to figure out if I wanted them to come at me or stay back. Of course, I didn't care what conclusion they reached; I just wanted them to focus on that problem. I did think they'd notice Espeon's attempt to put them to sleep, though. Then they'd have reacted. Rhydon's job was to handle the reaction and ensure that Espeon had enough time, although this turned out to be unnecessary."

"I... see," Brand said. "Anyways, let's get back to the others."

Aesera nodded. "Okay," she called out to her team, "we're moving! Rhydon, bring these two."

"Wait," Brand said as Rhydon picked up the two unconcious trainers, "you're taking them prisoner?"

they headed back towards the others. "Of course," Laresa said. "Why wouldn't I? After seeing them in action, I doubt they're anything but the bottom of the chain, but they may still have some useful information. And even if they don't tell us anything, will Pryce know that? No, they'll probably assume we'll get information from these two."

"Then they'll change things, won't they? Won't that defeat the purpose?"

"No. They can't just say to go to plan B, cause that would require that everyone know what plan B is, including our prisoners. They may have secret backup plans, but they'd have to be known only by a few. So most of them wouldn't be familiar with the backup."

"So either way, we come out ahead. Good thinking."


The team returned to the encampment and dismounted. They weren't the first team back, but there weren't too many others back yet. Which made sense; their target had been one of the outer areas, so they'd had less travel distance, although not very much less.

"Damn it, you're supposed to do what I say!"

Aesera turned towards the source of the voice, and was not surprised to see that it was Mathis. He was yelling at a Pokemon again; a Fearow this time. "That was your fault, you worthless bitch. They almost had me because of you!" Fearow chittered in response. "Shut up!" Mathis shouted as he punched Fearow in the face. "Just shut up!"

"We'd probably be better off if they did get him," Brand remarked to Aesera. "The guy's as much of an incompetent as he is an asshole. Although you may have noticed that he doesn't ever think it's his fault."

"Stay here," Aesera said. "And have the others watch."

"You're going to confront him again? That's probably not the best idea."

"Don't worry. This time, there are witnesses." She left Brand and walked over to Mathis. "You know, that's really not a smart thing to be doing."

Mathis spun to face her. "You again? I though I told you to stay the hell out of my business."

"One person can drag a lot more down with him. It's the entire force's business."

"Bullshit. You're just upset 'cause I'm giving another useless piece of shit what she deserves. You got a problem with that?"

"Yeah, actually," Aesera said. "You're the one at risk, though. Or did you not realize it might be a bad idea to hit something that's perfectly capable of killing you?"

"Enough shit. You're just spewing out bullshit to justify the huge stick you have up your ass."

"Or maybe I'm thinking about something other than myself and my ego. Which, judging by what I've seen, is a foreign concept for you."

"Shut up. Just shut the hell up."

"You know, I'm not sure what I'm doing to deserve the anger. I'm just trying to give you some advice. I mean, what do you think would happen if one of your Pokemon decides it's had enough?"

"They know who the boss is."

"Oh? Haven't you been getting pissed off at them for ignoring you? That suggests to me that they don't know who the boss is?"

"Oh, yeah? And what, you think your way is better?"

"I've certainly never had obedience problems. Besides, just think about it. If someone who treats you like shit asks you to do something, you're not going to want to, now, are you? And if you do do it, you're not likely to put in as much effort as you would for someone who treated you better."

"And?"

"And Pokemon are the same way. The better you treat them, the harder they'll work for you."

"Whatever," Mathis said. "Just get out of my business."

"Sure," Aesera said. "I've said everything I had to say, anyways." She left him and returned to Brand and the others.

"That could have ended up a lot worse," Brand said. "For a while, I though he was going to hit you."

"He could've tried."

"Well, whatever. Just try not to pick any more fights, all right?"

"I'm not going to stop speaking up," Aesera said, "but yeah, I'll try not to start any fights."

"Just don't say I didn't warn you. Anyways, good job out there, everyone. Especially you, Aesera. You did good, especially considering you've never even practiced with us before. Nice bit of trickery, too. I didn't know what to expect from you, but now I do, and it's good to have you on the team."

"Thanks," Aesera said. "Okay, let's get the prisoners secured before they wake up. then we'll wait for everyone's return and see what Falkner wants to do with them."

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[font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]The howl of the winds from the snowstorm; the flapping and screeching of birds all over the skies; the explosions from successful hits on the ground; the crumbling and crackling of buildings and homes as they either collapsed or were consumed by flames. All of these noises combined together in Mahogany Town to create a deafening din that no one could escape. [/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]The fight that had erupted from the air raid Falkner had ordered was far more than either side had expected it would be. What was meant to be a simple air strike had become an all-out battle between the two forces, the squadron from Violet City using their mount's abilities and Delibird to bomb the ground below and the few citizens and trainers from Mahogany fighting back with their own Pokemon using Ice Beams and any other attacks that could possibly reach their high-flying opponents. The flying assaulters were fairing much better than the people on the ground, being able to dodge most of the attacks, but the noise and the violent winds from the storm were beginning to take their toll on the troops, as evidenced by more and more people being hit by attacks from the ground.[/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]Faulkner kept to his small detachment and observed the mess below as they flew along the outskirts of the battle.[/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"][b]â??I didn't expect them to put up this much of a fight,â?[/b] he thought to himself.[b] â??I guess an old dog can still have some bite to it.â?[/b][/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]Gloria flew her Fearow under the right wing of Faulkner's Pidgeot, flagging his attention.[/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"][b]â??The winds are getting stronger,â?[/b] she signed. [b]â??If we're going to strike, we should do it now and get everyone back on the ground, sir.â?[/b][/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"][b]â??I agree,â?[/b] he signed back. [b]â??Things are starting to get out of hand. Spread out in formation and drop when I give the signal.â?[/b][/color]

[/size][/font] [center][font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]*[/color]
[/size][/font][/center][font="Tahoma"][size="1"]
[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]There was nothing but confusion on the ground. No one knew where to run for cover thanks to the unpredictable attack patterns of the troops in the skies. Women and children were running in the streets, too frightened to stay out of open areas, while the braver citizens with Pokemon were trying to help the trainers that were fighting back against the air raiders. But the results were nothing but a hodgepodge of sloppy attacks that were barely doing anything but scattering the attackers for a short time before they reconverged and struck back a lot harder, though they had scored hits here and there. Several civilians and trainers were being injured, and it only looked like things would be getting worse.[/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"][b]â??Sir, we don't know where they're wanting to hit next. We can't pin 'em down,â?[/b] shouted one of the trainers on the outside balcony of the Gym.[b] â??And they're moving too quick to hit. We can't do nothin' against 'em!â?[/b][/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]The crack from Pryce's cane rapping on the floor made the entire group stationed on the floor look at him.[/color]

[b][color="#000080"]â??Nothin' worse than losin' your head in the middle of a battle. Only helps your opponent. Calm down and wait for a crack at 'em.â?[/color][/b]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]Pryce hobbled his way out on the balcony, pulling his muffler up a bit higher on his neck. He set a hand on the head of his Piloswine, idly giving it a scratch. The beast gave out a small snort and shuffled closer to the old man, trying to give him a comforting nudge. It had noticed the frown that had settled onto its master's face and knew a high-bad temper was on the horizon.[/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]The old man gazed out over the western portion of the town, random attacks and skirmishes dotting the snow-packed streets. Nothing about the scene looked good and Pryce couldn't help but think that if things kept going the way they were, there were going to be more people dying than surviving the encounter. The people of Mahogany weren't used to battles and destruction on this scale. Mahogany was usually only a resort town at the most, a place for people to stop and stay for excursions to the Lake of Rage up north. [/color]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]But now, they had to fight to keep what was already theirs. There were people getting hurt and worse just because they were in a convenient area for strategic attack. Pryce knew that no one in the city would be able to cope with the change and things would go straight to hell quicker than someone could spit. He knew he had to put a stop to it before things went any further.[/color]

[b][color="#000080"]â??Sir, there's a flock of people flying straight at us!â?[/color][/b]

[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]Pryce snapped out of his thoughts and looked at the troop coming rapidly toward them.[/color]

[b][color="#000080"]â??Line up along the railing and get ready to back me up, then.â?[/color][/b]

[/size][/font] [center][font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]*[/color]
[/size][/font][/center][font="Tahoma"][size="1"]
[/size][/font] [font="Tahoma"][size="1"][color="#000080"]Faulkner had just enough time to raise his arm to prepare to give the signal to send an attack wave toward the gym when his Pidgeot started bank to the right, trying to avoid the light blue beam of sheer ice cutting through the sky toward them. The rest of the detachment watched in shock as the left side of its breast and part of its wing, along with Faulkner's leg, got coated in a sheet of ice and the pair started falling from the sky, their speed and the howling winds carrying them toward the northern part of the town.[/color][/size][/font]

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[font="Calibri"][b]â??This?â?[/b]

Saul raised himself from beside the small lounger, stepping back beside the unimpressed Sayo. As if sensing the release of ownership, the modest-sized Persian stretched across the sunroomâ??s doorway uncurled and padded inquisitively to the other side, beginning a thorough olfactory examination of his own.

[b]â??Yeah,â?[/b] Saul replied. [b]â??What do you make of it?â?[/b]

[b]â??Make of it?â?[/b] Sayo sighed in mild annoyance. [b]â??Make of [i]what[/i], Saul; itâ??s a half-dead pokemon, for Lugiaâ??s sake!â?[/b]

[b]â??Itâ??s from Hoenn,â?[/b] said Saul. [b]â??Itâ??s not native to the continent.â?[/b]

[b]â??So someone with a bit of money imported it. Happens all the time.â?[/b]

[b]â??It has no registered trainer,â?[/b] the journalist insisted.

[b]â??Then the owner was probably incompetent and abandoned their exotic pet.â?[/b] Sayo refused to be taken in. [b]â??Saulâ??,â?[/b]

[b]â??I found it in a Silph Company dumpster in Saffron.â?[/b]

His former Viridian teammate drew up short.

[b]â??Well, I didnâ??t find it [i]in[/i] the dumpster, to be honest,â?[/b] Sail explained. [b] [/b][b]â??It fell out of a rust hole and rolled over to my feet. But I saw another dumpster being emptied into a processing truck, and there was almost a rain of red and white coming out of it, so I checked around and....â?[/b] He shook his head. [b]â??Sayo, there had to be at least six hundred discarded balls in there.â?[/b]

Sayoâ??s eyes narrowed. [b]â??Empty or full?â?[/b]

[b]â??I only checked about fifteen or twenty on top, but I didnâ??t find any that werenâ??t occupied,â?[/b] Saul answered. He grimaced and broke eye contact. [b]â??I actually released four of them, and this one was the only one alive,â?[/b] he added.

Sayo whistled gravely through her teeth.

[b]â??Okay,â?[/b] she allowed, [b]â??you might have found something serious here.â?[/b]

[b]â??Iâ??m a reporter,â?[/b] Saul threw in. [b]â??Itâ??s what I do.â?[/b]

Sayo snorted, then frowned. [b]â??But itâ??s not going to do you any good sitting on it here. Come to Blackthorn with me and Iâ??ll talk to Claire about it. We have the resources and the means, and Iâ??m not certain how much longer a paper is going to do anything.â?[/b]

Saul didnâ??t answer right away. She had a fair point, he knew, but she was also still trying to recruit him. It was a smooth pitch, he had to give her that, but it was still a recruitment pitch, and there was a small knot inside him that continued to protest the thought of combat. What had initially been simple battle-weariness had slowly become a love for just living with his creatures, and he wasnâ??t sure he was ready to give that up.

But he didnâ??t know what to make of this odd discovery in Saffron, and with Sabrina apparently turning it into a fortress and Claire obviously nervous, he wasnâ??t sure how much he could do if the entire continent started falling apart.

[b]â??Saul, look.â?[/b] Sayo seemed to have run out of patience with him, but she addressed him with fatigue, not anger. [b]â??Donâ??t drag this out. Somethingâ??s happening up north. The rest of the recruitment team has all been recalled. The only reason Iâ??m even here is because Claire is fixated on getting all of Blueâ??s team, and youâ??re the only one left.â?[/b] She crossed her arms. [b] [/b][b]â??I know her; if you send me back alone, sheâ??ll just send someone else, over and over until you give in, and the longer you wait the less likely sheâ??ll be to listen to anything you might have to say.â?[/b]

[b]â??Like this,â?[/b] Saul offered, still staring at the lounger.

[b]â??Like this,â?[/b] agreed Sayo.

Saul considered a moment longer, and then sighed.

[b]â??All right. Iâ??ll join up.â?[/b]

[center]- - - - - - - - - - - - - -[/center]

Morty came to slowly, his thoughts thick and slow as if he hadnâ??t slept in days. Groaning, he tried to raise his hands to his face to press the grogginess out of his eyes, but after several attempts and a too-long bit of confusion he realized they were bound at his sides.

Opening his eyes yielded him little information. Something white covered his face; from the smell of it, and from the weird grasping sensation on the backs of his hands, he gradually identified it as webbing, probably from a . . . spinarak. Thatâ??s what they were called. He couldnâ??t move his legs, either, so he guessed the webbing covered his entire body. Only his nose seemed to be free; Morty was suddenly very thankful that his sinus infection had cleared up a week ago.

Around him were the muffled sounds of people. It sounded moderately busy, but Morty couldnâ??t make out any distinct noises that might tell him what was going on, and even though he heard a shouted phrase now and again, the webbing obfuscated the words. From the feel of the ground he considered that he might be outdoors somewhere; was he at Bugsyâ??s camp? That answer made the most sense, just as it sent his spirit plummeting down a proverbial mineshaft.

Bugsy had already ordered his forces to attack and kill human trainers. Morty had assumed that such tactics would mean the youngster wouldnâ??t be taking prisoners, but apparently he had been wrong. And if the kid was willing to kill to accomplish his goals, what might he do with those he captured?

The stomp of approaching boots halted his thoughts, and he had just enough time to brace himself before a rough hand grabbed the webbing on his face and ripped it off of his head.

[b]â??Afternoon, pal,â?[/b] said a swarthy-looking man. A nasty grin split his face. [b]â??Yer cominâ?? with me.â?[/b][/font] Edited by Allamorph

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