Chapter Eight – Rescue
Wally watched the Pidgey squawk above a sedated sea where foamy waves crashed against the pier then licked up in an attempt to climb onto land. He dangled his legs over the edge of an unused dock peering across a bustling harbour full of yachts, fishing boats, cruise ships and a variety of other vessels all bathing in the gleaming sun. The young man from Hoenn returned his gaze to his PokeNav where Gabby was in the midst of broadcasting the startling news of Johto’s defeat in their war against Kanto.
“A great victory in the war for Johto,” Gabby announced whilst Ty’s camera scanned the scene. The lense trailed from the newsreader with her short brunette hair and mud-brown eyes to Courtney commanding Kanto her troops to guide their hostage to a specified location. Two Rocket operatives held a man clamped in their arms. He featured charcoal coloured hair that was slicked back which was a contrast to his piercing, authoritative eyes swathed in a silver hue. Dirt and grime covered his grey suit showing Wally that he had defiantly fought back against the Kanto army before Courtney managed to obliterate his insubstantial defenses and thereafter taken the man captive.
“This won’t be the end,” the man promised, his deep voice sending shivers racing down Wally’s spine.
“Oh it is for you,” Courtney chirped, almost skipping towards a van which awaited the prisoner. “Raven has fallen,” she declared. “Raven has fallen!” she repeated with a squeal.
“As you can both hear and see,” Gabby spoke flatly. “Lord Raven has been captured by our glorious army to signal the end for Johto. Kanto has won the war.”
“Poor little Raven,” Courtney chimed. “‘Vanni pushed you out of Kanto,” she sang to a tune she had clearly just invented. “And now you’re out of Johto. Where will you go…to?” She finished, confusing her words and clearly giving up on the song with a shrug.
“Rumours of Johto’s last-minute hunt for Megastones in an effort to save themselves have been strongly denied,” Gabby continued. “But evidence to the contrary has surfaced and we can exclusively revealed information garnered from an unnamed source within the Johto constituency that a team of volunteers were sent to Mt. Moon in Kanto but their plans were foiled within.”
“Bye bye Raven.” Courtney waved to Lord Raven as he was shoved forcibly into the back of the black van. “Bye bye Johto!” she screamed whilst cupping her hands to her mouth and shouting into the region’s rich blue sky – “You’re ours now.”
“We all know our government collected all the Megastones from Mt.Moon years ago anyway, but we thank the people who put a stop to Raven’s plans within the tunnels,” Gabby finished.
“Wally!” a voice screamed from across the dock. He flicked the off switch on his PokeNav and turned to see Leaf and Blue, the former racing towards him with outstretched arms. Leaf embraced him, wrapping her arms around Wally and causing him to both blush and feel nervous.
“Hey Leaf,” he squeaked.
“Where have you been?” she demanded to know.
“I’ve made us some new friends,” he said with a grin. He was proud to announce the alliance, happy with being able to help.
“They call themselves ‘The Servants’. They’re a strange lot, wearing robes and preaching to some unknown god, but they’ve been nice to me. They said they’d help us defeat Rocket when the time is right.”
“What does that mean, when they time is right?” Leaf asked as a confused expression painted her face.
“I don’t know to be honest. Hi Blue,” he added as the third Resistance member approached them. He received a smile and nod in response.
“Can you trust them though?” Leaf asked.
“I think so,” Wally said, suddenly feeling embarrassed he couldn’t tell them much more.
“Sounds promising,” Blue said sarcastically.
“Don’t be mean,” Leaf snapped. “At least Wally has done something for the Resistance.” Blue just shrugged at the jibe.
“Look, I know how it sounds,” Wally spoke so quietly he realised Leaf had to lean slightly closer to hear him. “But all my life I’ve been on my own. I tell people I used to live with my uncle because I was ill, that’s not true. It’s because my parents didn’t want me, they never said those words but I always felt that way. I always felt that they saw me as useless and a hindrance to them. I tried becoming a trainer in Hoenn but wasn’t good enough.”
“Wally stop it’s okay,” Leaf smiled at him.
“No I want you both to understand,” he continued although he intended the message to be more towards Blue than Leaf. “Then Erik offered me a chance with you guys in the Resistance, to go to Kanto and help liberate the region from Team Rocket. For the first time in my life I’ve felt wanted, felt that I could be of use to someone and not only that, but I’m making a difference now.”
“We know Wally, we do value you,” Leaf said softly.
“Then in my first battle I nearly let everyone down straight away, until the Servants saved me. They took me in and were kind to me and again I felt part of something, I felt useful. I just have this good feeling about them. They’re my friends like you guys are.”
“Wow,” Blue said. “All I said was ‘hello’ and you give me your life story.” He winked at Wally to show he was joking. Leaf punched him on the arm.
“It’s okay Leaf,” Wally said then laughed.
“So is it your turn then Leaf?” Blue asked. “Are we going to hear about how the mighty Leaf was loved so much by mummy and daddy and is now the greatest trainer the world has ever seen, or are we going to go save Erik?”
“Come on you two,” Wally interrupted as Leaf growled at Blue, unsure why Erik was mentioned. “Rocket has just conquered Johto, they’ll be turning their full attention towards us and Hoenn now. What do we plan to do?”
“Have you sighted the SS. Anne?” Leaf asked Wally.
“Yes,” he responded and pointed at a pearl white luxury liner in the harbour swarmed by Rocket grunts, like black ants surrounding their nest.
“Eriks on board, imprisoned on the lowest level,” Leaf informed him, to his shock. His pulse raced as adrenaline surged through his system.
“Then there’s no time to lose!” Wally almost shouted. Erik was his best friend, the person who had picked him up from his lowest point and given him both a chance and genuine friendship. He was also the greatest trainer Wally had ever known and to defeat the full force of Rocket and ‘Kanto’s Army’, they’d need him. As Leaf bolted across the dock, Wally followed in close attendance. Blue simply strolled casually behind them.
“How much time do we have left?” Wally enquired, peering over a stack of crates.
“The ship is due to leave a midday,” Leaf answered whilst also nestled behind the wooden boxes. “Which gives us just over two hours.” She looked ahead to the ship in all its glory. It appeared to be a highly expensive cruise liner painted solely in a rich pearl white and topped with two giant funnels. Hordes of Team Rocket grunts swarmed the dock, gangplanks and the SS. Anne’s wide deck with legions more spotted through the many windows which ran down the vessel.
“You called Archie didn’t you? Are we waiting for him now?” Wally asked. Leaf could sense his apprehension, so much so that it emanated off him like a strong perfume. She also knew that Wally already had the answer to that question but was asking to reassure himself.
“Archie is coming with a strikeforce from Hoenn including his lieutenants Mylos and Grant.” Leaf smiled at him to aid the reassurance. “But we can’t risk waiting for them the ship may leave earlier than expected or they may not even make it in time.”
“With Johto fallen Rocket will go after Hoenn next,” Wally spoke to himself for what seemed the one hundredth time. “We need to strike them first and save Erik.”
Leaf looked back to see Blue hovering near the edge of the harbour seemingly performing his own reconnaissance. He moved from pier to pier whilst talking to some sailors along the way in an effort to discern any possible weak points they could exploit but from where Leaf stood the ship looked impenetrable.
“What are they loading onto the ships?” Wally thought out loud. Dozens of large steel crates were being hoisted onto the ship by large cranes then lowered deep within through a large opening in the SS. Anne’s deck.
“It’s not just a cruise liner,” Leaf realised. “It’s being used as a cargo ship.”
“Why use a cruise liner as a cargo ship?” Wally replied.
“To hide what they’re carrying?” Leaf guessed. She was tempted to open up one of the wooden crates before her but couldn’t be certain that the boxes were intended for the SS. Anne. “We have to move closer to the ship,” she said whilst casting her gaze across the cluttered but short pier.
“I have a plan,” a voice from behind startled the two. It was Blue. “These steel crates that are being loaded onto the ship, we can get inside one of them and be lifted in.”
“You’re right,” Leaf agreed whilst looking to see where the crates were being loaded from. “There,” she gasped, seeing a crate being lifted from the back of one of a group of flatbed trucks.
“The trucks are lightly guarded,” Blue informed them as they began their trawl towards the trucks. They would have to go back to the end of the pier and passed the cranes towards a parking lot intended for large vehicles.
“Why would they have the ship so heavily manned but leave the trucks with so few operatives,” Wally asked what Leaf thought to be a good question.
“Because those grunts aren’t there to stop anyone getting in,” Blue said whilst pointing to the ship. “They’re to stop anyone getting out.”
“Erik,” Leaf agreed. “They aren’t expecting anyone to try and steal one of their trucks when they own both Kanto and Johto now.”
“They may be getting complacent,” Blue said cheerfully. “This could be our one chance.”
“Don’t say that,” Wally squeaked.
“Don’t worry Wally,” Leaf said and smiled at him again.
“This’ll be easy,” Blue said then laughed. “We’ll go for one lorry each. Divide and conquer.”
“I don’t want to do this my own!” Wally said as fear threatened to overwhelm him.
“I assume all the crates are going to the same place,” Leaf attempted to reassure him once more. “It’ll only be for a little while. As soon as the ship sets sail we all burst out of the crates and take down any grunts in the cargo hold.”
“Agreed,” Blue said as they neared the trucks which were indeed very lightly guarded in contrast to the ship which swarmed with figures cloaked in black and purple. Leaf clambered onto the back of one of the trucks and opened a crate, Wally doing the same to the lorry located next to hers.
“What is this?” she blurted as Wally and Blue climbed into their selected containers. “Like dark grey grains of sand.”
“This is so uncomfortable,” Wally complained. “It’s all hard grains of something.”
“Mine are soft.” Blue chuckled. “Same as you guys though it’s all powder or something.”
“Mine are hard too!” Leaf groaned as she felt the powder cling to her body. “This is so uncomfortable. What even is it?!”
“Try eating some and find out,” Blue called across. “Or dig to the bottom maybe there’s treasure inside.”
“You were being so pleasant until now,” Leaf growled towards him.
“Someone’s coming!” Wally announced as all three of them closed the lids to their containers and lay unmoving in the total darkness. A few minutes later Leaf heard a strong metal clamp onto the edges of her crate before feeling her container being hoisted into the air.
It felt to Leaf as if she had been inside her crate for days when the SS. Anne finally set sail. Her cramped muscles ached and felt stiff to move whilst the dark grey grains of an unknown substance trickled down her skin as she attempted to stand up. She had thought of her Pokemon, the newest of which was a Caterpie she had named Giggles for the fact he seemed to find even the smallest things hilarious. The loss of Jab still haunted her but she knew she needed to keep moving forward and save Erik, that was all that mattered now.
Leaf pushed against the lid of the container with some force, first hearing a creak, then a crack, until the top of the box slid off allowing her clamber to freedom. She almost tumbled to the wood planked floor as her legs gave way from underneath her such was their ache. The room she had emerged into was dank, crowded and only faintly lit from light creeping in from underneath a wooden door.
“Wally!” she whispered so loudly it was more of a hiss. “Blue?”
Leaf waited a moment for a response but her calls were left unanswered. She concluded her friends must have been taken to a different room, so she released her team ready for war and advanced out of the storage room through the doorway and out into a bright, white corridor. Paintings of powerful Pokemon littered a hallway flanked by an abundance of wooden doors and small portholes which stared out into the ocean.
“I’m only halfway down,” she said and sighed as she peered out into the sea hoping for any sight of Archie and the Hoenn strikeforce. Seel leapt out of the sea playfully as schools of Goldeen hastily fled from an abnormally large Tentacruel who shot poison through the water that chased down its prey like a deadly purple torpedo.
“Are you one of the serving girls?” a voice called from behind Leaf. She turned to see a tubby man who was clearly a chef by the plain white outfit he wore along with toque atop his head. “What you playing at, we’ve departed and you’re not even in your uniform!” His face flushed a deep red until he noticed the Pokemon at her feet.
“Serving girl?” she replied with hands on her hips.
“The only people allowed Pokemon on this ship are the Rockets…” he started to figure out as Dino directed a small amount of spores emitted from his bulb towards the chef. “But all Rockets would be wearing uniform so that means…” his facial expression morphed from fury to horror as he finally figured out that Leaf wasn’t one of his serving girls nor Rocket, but here to raid the ship.
“Sleep tight,” Leaf smiled as Dino’s sleeping powder swirled around the chef.
“Pirates!” the chef attempted to bellow but the words came out of a tired squeak before he slumped to the floor.
“Right,” Leaf turned to her team to convey the plan. “Erik will be on the lowest level. So we must proceed through these corridors and find stairs wherever we can whilst taking out any Rocket grunts that stand in our way. Once we find Erik, Blue and Wally we shall escape with them on Archie’s speedboats once he arrives.” Dino, Moon, Snake and Fury yelped in approval, desperate to help the cause. Giggles somehow found it humorous and let out a quiet chuckle whilst Fin appeared lost and afraid.
Recently refurbished wooden planks splintered and cracked as the floor beneath Leaf’s feet threatened to burst. Snake whipped venom from her tail working in tandem with Giggles who tackled a Rattata through one of the many doors which littered the hallway. Rocket grunts fled in terror as their Pokemon fell to Leaf’s inspired battlers.
“We’re under attack,” more shouts echoed from floors underneath.
“Resistance is everywhere!” a further cry reverberated from even deeper into the bowels of the SS. Anne.
“How many of you are there?!” a grunt growled towards Leaf.
“Dozens,” she lied in response. Herself, Blue and Wally attacking from three different angles were making the assault seem somewhat coordinated by a number of aggressors. A half dozen grunts still stood before her defiantly refusing to retreat as a score of their colleagues had.
Leaf and her team had descended their fifth staircase now and had met fierce Rocket resistance at every level. Snake and Giggles had led her vanguard eager to prove themselves, the latter especially impressing her showing that he had steel to match his usual lightheartedness. Leaf felt her Caterpie on the verge of evolution. They had bonded rapidly and all it would take was one final push for Giggles to morph into a Metapod.
Leaf’s ears pricked up as a faint hum began buzzing outside the ship. The six Rocket grunts turned to each other as their faces lit up from looks of despair to unsettling grins as the sound grew gradually louder.
“Reinforcements,” the grunts said and chortled. “You’re done for now”. The humming had established itself to emanating from some type of speedboat which the grunts evidently presumed were lined with elite members of Team Rocket. Leaf allowed herself a smile of her own which painted confusion on her opponent’s faces because she knew the truth of the sound.
“Look out the window,” she said playfully to which all six grunts looked out a single porthole. Leaf glanced out of one closer to her and sighted three dots on the clear blue ocean which remained calm and still as the sun beat down upon it. The momentary distraction granted an opening for the grunts’ Pokemon to tilt the scales in their favour. A Zubat latched onto Giggles with its blood sucking fangs and began to leach the life from Leaf’s Caterpie, the action akin to a parasite slowly absorbing the bug’s soul through horrendous fangs.
“We don’t own blue boats do we?” One of the grunts asked his colleague, oblivious to the unfolding battle beside him.
“Giggles,” Leaf called out to her friend. “You’re ready. Evolve,” she ordered him, knowing that the Caterpie just needed slight encouragement to make the leap. Her command was followed promptly, a blinding light caused her to shield her eyes as it engulfed her Pokemon.
“What is that?!” a grunt cried before stumbling back.
“We don’t own blue boats they’re not ours,” another called as he backed away from the light.
“I’m out of here,” a further Rocket member added before fleeing the scene, his allies close behind him.
As the Zubat hesitantly joined his master in retreat the light faded to reveal a Metapod looking joyous. Snake spat venom towards the Zubat but her shot narrowly missed the creature and instead splattered across the glass of a porthole causing Leaf to notice the three Team Aqua dinghies nearing the ship. “Reinforcements,” she said to herself and smiled.
“Please,” Wally begged the trio of grunts before him. “Don’t. He’s my best friend.” Tears filled his eyes as fear rendered him immobile as it mercilessly gripped his body. He stood on the lower deck just above sea level, the stairwell he had descended lay to his left and a further set of stairs led downwards to his right. Before him stood three Rocket members and a large open window where waves reached up over the sides and splashed onto the ship. Outside this window a duo of Zubat clutched onto his Pikachu where they dangled his friend above the open sea.
“Recall your Eevee,” a grunt snapped to which Wally instantly obliged as his Eevee re-entered his Pokeball.
“Now call off your friends,” another of the grunts growled. “Or we will drop your poor little ‘friend’ into the sea where he will drown.”
“I can’t,” Wally cried. “I would but I don’t know where they are and we haven’t got anything to talk with,” he spoke the truth. His PokeNav received no signal this far from land.
“Then it’s bye bye Pikachu,” the third grunt said with a gruff voice.
“No!” Wally screamed. “I’ll try something just please don’t-”
“Too late,” the third grunt spoke again. “You’ve already told us you’re useless.”
“I’m not useless,” Wally said downheartedly almost trying to convince himself, but the truth was he had felt useless his entire life and now his best friend was about to be granted a watery grave and he knew it was all his own fault.
“Yep you are,” the third grunt said again before nodding to the two Zubats who released their grips of Wally’s Pokemon. The Pikachu plunged towards death and Wally’s Pokemon had never learned to swim. The result of him plummeting into the depths would result his beloved electric type drowning.
“No!” Wally cried out once again before seeing his Pokemon flailing helplessly in terror and crashing into the ocean to disappear forever. A soul searing pain tore through Wally as the bond between him and his closest friend was severed. He collapsed to his knees as his entire body became overtaken by a feeble numbness.
“Let’s chuck him in the ocean too,” the third grunt commanded.
“Bit far don’t you think?” the second questioned him but was just laughed off by his colleagues.
“Will be funny,” the first added. “Let’s do it.”
What happened thereafter came as just a blur to Wally. The three grunts grabbed his arms then hauled him to his feet before dragging him to the edge of the window where they began to lift him over the edge. They stopped suddenly then turned to face their new opponent whilst Wally slumped to the floor, released from the grunts’ hold. A Clefairy named Moon took down a Zubat before a Metapod named Giggles evolved into a Butterfree and began to use Psychic attacks against the Rocket Pokemon.
The grunts eventually fled when Leaf approached Wally. She spoke to him but her words were just noise to his ears. Tt wasn’t the fact that he felt so helpless or even that he had lost his closest friend. What kept replaying in his mind was the look of horror in his Pikachu’s eyes as his friend plummeted towards his death, and that Wally had been too useless to save him.
Creaks and groans resounded around the ship’s old walls whilst it gently bobbed up and down. The sight of Wally haunted Leaf as she progressed through the ship’s underbelly with her team. She had never seen him so distraught or lifeless. At least Archie was on his way now and would surely have one of his men take Wally to a dinghy but Leaf knew she must press on to save Erik.
She ghosted through a hallway laden with mould and grime whilst descending deeper into the ship, heading for the Orlop deck which was the lowest level of the SS. Anne. Light struggled to pierce through the wooden beams as dimness gripped the area. The dank wooden walls were bare of anything other than dirt, barren of any of the impressive paintings that glamorously stretched out across the corridors of the upper decks.
The din of battle directed her through a growing darkness which threatened to impede her. Cries of fury echoed from a level below her, shouts of Rocket grunts furiously struggling to maintain order and keep the resistance at bay were conjoined with taunts from Blue who had seemingly managed to reach the lowest level before anyone else. Leaf turned a corner where light ascended from the end of the next hallway to partially perforate the gloom.
“Come on,” she roared encouragement to her team whilst heading towards a staircase now revealed by the light. “We’re almost there!”
Leaf almost tripped as she half-sprinted down the stairs with her team keeping in close proximity. She emerged into a large wooden room filled to the brim with Rocket grunts and Pokemon facing off against Blue. Recessed lights shone on the battle as sunlight pierced through the veil of water afront a series of portholes to further illuminate the scene. Leaf, however, kept her sight firmly fixed on the bolted steel door at the far side of the room.
“Finally,” Blue joked to Leaf. “Could use the help.”
“Thought you think everything you do is easy?” she retorted whilst directing her Pokemon into the fray
“You it?” he asked moving his eyes to the staircase she had descended alone.
“For now,” she said solemnly as she scanned her opponents. She counted nine grunts and around two dozen Rocket Pokemon from Zubats to Rattata to Koffing and Grimer.
“Then let’s go save Erik.” Blue smiled confidently. His Rattata had evolved into a Raticate causing it to double in size as well as power whilst its previously lean frame had exploded into a ball of fat and fur. The newly evolved Pokemon had formed a good relationship with Blue’s Charmander and the duo worked in unison to defeat a Koffing. His Abra zapped foes with psychic attacks from afar whilst his Pidgeotto battled aloft with Zubat aided by Giggles.
Fury entered his primal state whilst Dino sent spores floating through the air towards a cluster of Rocket fighters. Snake spat poison from afar now preferring to hang back with Dino rather than follow the lead of Moon and Fury by charging into the fray. Fin remained immobile preferring to let others do the work for him.
Moon skipped over a flailing Rattata which had been pummelled by Fury then ducked over another who had met the same fate, finding herself face to face with a Grimer. A vine from Dino whipped overhead and caught a Zubat who tumbled from above as Giggles swooped by. Moon hopped from one foot to another in preparation for the Grimer’s attack but her opponent stubbornly waited for what the Clefairy assumed was for her to make the first move. Pain arrived before realisation of her mistake as a Rattata plunged his fangs into her side. The Grimer completed the double act by launching a stream of poisonous ooze towards the startled Clefairy who collapsed as both agony and venom consumed her.
A wail of desperation reached Fury’s ears first causing the Mankey to spin on his heel to the sight of Moon failing. He grabbed a Zubat in his path and flung the creature out of his way whilst marching towards the prone Clefairy. The Rattata which had preyed on Moon now turned its attentions to Fury who refused to hesitate like the Clefairy had done. The Mankey almost flew as he leapt towards his foe, his fist connecting with a crunch before he dived to the side and rolled to avoid sludge launched by the Grimer. He climbed back to his feet to hammer a series of strikes into the Rocket creature then followed up with a wild kick on the Rattata who had since regained his senses. Both creatures fell to Fury’s feet, defeated.
“Moon,” Leaf whispered as a tearing sensation ruptured through her. “You were too late, Fury.” She smiled sadly towards her Mankey who returned her look wearily. Moon had perished. The quick concurrence of her own failures and losses were stabbing at her like a knife. She had only just caught and grown to known her Clefairy, an elegant and joyful creature, and now she had lost yet another friend in her own personal crusade to rescue another. She needed a distraction from her emotional ailments and it came in the form of a titanic figure.
“Don’t you think you’re doing this without me,” a gruff voice called from behind Leaf. A man wearing an aqua-blue bandana strolled up beside her. She noticed his navy-blue suit failed to hide his bulging muscles and the cape he wore trailed down to his ankles.
“Archie,” she gasped then smiled to the man whilst meeting his piercing brown eyes. He had aged since she had last seen him, now slight wrinkles had begun to crease his dark skin.
“Good to see you again,” he said and grinned at her, his smile still full of charisma
“Better late than never,” Blue joked to the new arrival. “Where’s the rest of your team?”
“Whilst you were playing about down here,” Archie snapped to Blue with a hair raising fierceness. “My boys were securing the rest of the ship and helping out poor Wally who’s now with my main men Mylos and Grant at the dinghies making sure of our escape.”
“Ah,” Blue replied, taken aback by Archie’s intimidating demeanour. The former Team Aqua boss had been a strong ally of Erik in Hoenn and Leaf knew that Archie respected the leader of the Resistance immensely. It was due to Erik, after all, that he had risen to prominence within Hoenn’s government structure.
“Right,” Archie snapped to the Rocket grunts before them. Half of their Pokemon had fallen and the rest appeared either battered or fatigued. “You have two choices.” He pointed towards one of them. “Either recall your Pokemon then run and hide in your cabins. Or die with them,” he spoke so coldly Leaf felt a chill creep up her spine.
“I…” the Rocket grunt he had pointed to was frozen in place.
“Let’s get out of here!” another screeched and bolted past Leaf. The rest of the grunts followed shortly thereafter with some even forgetting to recall their Pokemon, the creatures moving out of the way of Archie, Blue and Leaf.
“How we going to get through this door?” Leaf turned and asked Archie as she spied several locks and bolts firmly in place across the heavy steel door.
“Look like you could punch through it,” Blue joked to the well built man to receive nothing but a glare in return. “Alright, alright. How about my Charmander melts the locks?”
“No,” Archie responded before picking a Pokeball off his belt and summoning a Goldeen to join them. Blue laughed at the contrast as the petite fish bounced harmlessly next to her gigantic trainer who just pointed towards a section of wall next to the door. The Goldeen shot a stream of water at the wall and continued for close to a minute before running out of breathe.
“I don’t think that’ll work somehow.” Blue rolled his eyes.
“Shut up,” Archie said forcefully as he walked towards the soggy and soft section of wall.
“What’re you do-” Blue began as Archie pulled back a fist. “Oh,” he finished as the titan punched straight through the weakened wall. A gaping hole appeared where the wood once lay.
“After you,” Archie said and smiled to Leaf.
“Thank you.” Leaf smiled back and cautiously moved into the next room, pushing aside loose splinters of wood which remained.
“Greetings,” a hollow voice welcomed them. The trio stepped into a cramped room dimly lit by failing light fixtures which only added to the depressive atmosphere and were met by an aged, hagged woman. Many boxes and crates lined the walls and each was brimming with the powder-like substance the Resistance has encountered previously.
“Who’re you?” Leaf enquired whilst searching the room for any signs of Erik, of which there were none. She was forced to recall her Pokemon as all six were unable to squeeze inside and Archie followed suit by recalling his Goldeen. Blue, however, refused to relinquish his entire set of defences and withdrew only his Abra and Pidgeotto, leaving Charmander and Raticate as the trio’s protection.
“My name is Agatha,” the lady announced. Her dark eyes sunk inside her protruding skull which was covered with wisps of white hair. She bore an old fashioned purple dress that covered the entirety of her frail skin. “And I did not expect you to make it this far,” her voice not only cracked as she spoke but her face winced as if the task took her great effort. She used a cane constructed of old wood which her frame almost sloped over.
“Where’s Erik?” Leaf growled. “We were told he’d be down here.”
Agatha released a slight cackle when she attempted to laugh.
“What’s funny?” Archie spoke for the first time since entering.
“The man on the phone who told you Erik was down here,” Agatha began, causing a shockwave to pulse through Leaf. “That was all a set up I’m afraid my dear.”
“It can’t have been,” Leaf said as panic took her.
“Why?” Agatha continued. “Because he was right about the attack on Bill’s cottage? Well my dear that was all staged especially to earn your trust.”
“Why,” Leaf squeaked as she struggled to catch her breath.
“Why?” Agatha repeated in a higher pitched tone. “To get all you Resistance in one place. The grunts were meant to defeat you in their numbers, dearies. If they failed then I would be the last bastion.”
“You?” Archie laughed.
“She was one of the Elite Four ‘til they disbanded,” Blue warned him. “Don’t underestimate her.”
“She has no Pokemon,” Archie said as he turned to him.
“I have one,” Agatha said to their confusion. All three Resistance members quickly scanned the room but sighted no Pokemon other than Blue’s Raticate and Charmander. “And you have one between you.”
“We have two?” Leaf managed to say.
“My my,” Agatha tutted. “Have you not heard of possession?”
“What?” Blue spoke nervously, he had been uncharacteristically quiet until this point. “I have a real bad feeling about all of this. Let’s get out of here, Erik’s gone,” he said to his two allies.
“We take the old hag down,” Archie declared. “Those crates must be valuable,” he nodded to the boxes full of grains that surrounded the room.
“Possession,” Agatha continued as if noone else had spoken. “Is a result of Rocket experimentation. Attempts to splice the powers of Pokemon with the genetics of mankind. I was the first success, patient zero. Phoebe of Hoenn was the second. As yet, we are the only two. Every other candidate died in the process.”
“What you talking about,” Archie said, enraged.
“I shall show you.” The old lady’s pupils began to glow a deep violet before the air around her seemed to distort slightly.
“Get your Pokemon to stop whatever she’s doing,” Archie roared to Blue, which seemed to shock the young trainer.
“Ye-yeah,” Blue said. A look of apprehension had affixed itself to his features since he had entered the room. “Raticate stop her,” he ordered his Pokemon who stood motionless. “Raticate?” he repeated before the creature turned to face them. Blue nearly fell as he stumbled backwards in horror and Leaf almost joined him such was their shock. The Raticates eyes were violet.
“Attack,” Agatha hissed to Blue’s Pokemon who responded by baring his fangs towards Blue and charging towards his trainer. Charmander reacted quickest and spewed flamed towards the oncoming Pokemon setting its fur ablaze. A deathly scream filled the room before Blue’s fire type released the creature from Possession by engulfing the Raticate in fire.
“Raticate,” Blue cried, he had clearly been close with his Pokemon. “What have you-” he began before being interrupted by Agatha’s hysterical laughter.
“Enjoy that?” Agatha cackled. “Your Charmander is next,” she announced as her eyes turned purple once more.
“Enough!” Archie boomed. The titan stormed towards the elderly woman and shoved her to the ground before the Possession could take hold. “Any more of that and I’ll toss you into the ocean. We’ll see how your tricks do in there!”
“You’d strike an old lady?” the frail woman whimpered. “Then allow me to introduce you to plan B.”
“What now?!” Archie roared.
“If the grunts and I were to fail,” she began as she crawled towards one of the crates. “We had to stop the Resistance somehow.”
“Stop,” Archie commanded her when she reached the crate. When she ignored the request he marched over to her but it was too late. Agatha reached into the box and pulled from it a device shaped like a remote with one button coloured blue, another red, as well as a small blank screen on top. Archie reached down as she pressed the blue button which caused the screen to light up with the numbers “180” glowing red. He grabbed the remote from the woman before she was able to press the red button and began looking for an off switch as the numbers began to tick down by one with every second.
“It’s a timer,” Leaf gasped.
“Three minutes?” Blue realised. “‘Til what?” he asked of Agatha.
“See these crates?” The woman looked around the room. “They fill certain key sections of the ship and now I’ve activated the timer.”
“Timer for what,” Archie grumbled and stamped on her hand causing the women to shriek in agony.
“They’re all set to explode!” she conceded before Archie landed a fist on her skull, rendering the elderly lady unconscious.
“Was that really necessary?” Blue asked him before the former Team Aqua boss stormed past the duo.
“We need to go. Now!” Archie commanded. Leaf and Blue followed whilst releasing their Pokemon ready to battle their way through grunts attempting to stop them fleeing to the dinghies and escaping.
Several Rocket grunts appeared blatantly oblivious to the danger they were in and instead of joining Leaf, Archie and Blue in abandoning the ship they instead attempted to block their escape. Fury lashed out at a grunt attempting to bar the Resistance’s path whilst Archie grabbed and threw another.
“You all need to get out of here,” Leaf shouted to a duo of grunts which barred a doorway at the end of a hallway.
“You wish,” one of the Rocket members snarled at her in response before being greeted by a threatening whip from one of Dino’s vines. “You get your Pokemon to attack us!” he followed. “That’s immoral.”
“That’s rich coming from you.” Blue laughed at the stricken grunt then told his Pidgeotto to chase away the other.
“Not when it’s life or death!” Leaf bellowed.
“Move!” Archie roared to the first grunt before shoving him to the floor like an animal on the charge. “I reckon we have about a minute left.”
“We’ll never make it,” Leaf gasped whilst struggling to catch her breath after sprinting through several hallways and climbing numerous stairwells.
“Keep going,” Archie responded. Leaf glanced out of a passing porthole and sighted the ocean below had begun to lose its calmness as grey clouds rolled overhead to darken the world below. They reached another set of stairs where she climbed them two at a time in haste.
“How many more?” Leaf asked.
“More what?” Archie said impatiently.
“Times you’re going to complain?” Blue said sarcastically from behind her.
“We’re going to die and all you can do is a make a joke?” she snapped.
“Stairs?” Archie ignored the brewing argument. “Not many. Two more flights at most.”
The stairway arched round a bend then exited into a corridor packed with grunts. Leaf recognised this hallway as the one she had first appeared in once she had exited the storage room her box had been taken to. As she once more remarked the walls that were a pristine white and decked with many paintings she realised the extortionate cost Team Rocket were going to just to decimate the Resistance.
“Get out the way!” Archie boomed towards a cluster of grunts which had set up a human barricade at the end of the hallway. He continued his charge unimpeded, refusing to allow the Rocket members satisfaction of causing their deaths.
“Archie!” Leaf squealed as both her and Blue stopped dead in the tracks, counting eight grunts positioned in the only exit.
“Don’t stop!” Archie shot at them before colliding with the eight men attempting to stop them. A couple flew backwards like pins after being struck by a bowling bowl whilst the rest collapsed to the floor with titan upon them. He pummelled one then smashed his forehead against another but the sheer numbers soon began to overwhelm him, pinning him to the floor. “Run you idiots!” he bellowed to Leaf and Blue whose Pokemon were now attacking the grunts to save Archie. “Run!”
“Let’s go.” Blue nodded to her. “Our Pokemon will catch us up.”
Leaf nodded then followed Blue’s lead, both jumping over the battle at the exit. They ascended the next staircase, then galloped through a hallway until a terrifying boom caused them to freeze in their tracks. The entire ship rumbled and shook violently, causing both Blue and Leaf to collide with walls as they struggled to maintain their footing. Paintings fell from the walls with a crack as their frames snapped, the walls creak and splintered as the roof began to split. More booms resounded, some louder than others and Leaf felt the ship noticeably begin to sink into the ocean’s unforgiving depths.
“We seriously need to move,” Blue said whilst clinging onto a pipe which had come loose. The ship was beginning to tilt slightly as it took on water and it wouldn’t be long until the entire vessel was either completely submerged underwater or consumed by flames.
“But Archie and our Pokemon,” she panicked. “We need to-”
“They’ll catch up,” Blue said before she could finish. He released his tight grip on the pipe and started to wobble before regaining his footing and bursting into a sprint towards the final set of stairs. Leaf followed swiftly after. They exited the top of the staircase into the outer deck where they were met by Mylos and Grant. The former was a hefty man with a slight pot belly and a bright smile upon his aging face. Grant was his opposite. Young and lean but beset by a constant look of worry. Leaf peered across the sun deck and sighted ropes tied around the sides.
“Dinghies are at the end of the rope,” Mylos spoke in a similar voice to Archie’s. “Wally’s on there waiting. Proper shook up, that kid.”
“Who else?” Leaf asked as another explosion rang from underneath.
“What you mean who else?” Mylos replied as Blue walked over to the edge of the deck and waved down to Wally below. “They’re all in there with you!”
“We’ve only seen Archie and he should be here soon,” Leaf said and smiled at Grant who gave her a shy half-smile in return.
“The rest of our boys are still inside. They were to defeat as many grunts as they could to hold them off whilst Archie went after you lot,” Mylos spoke in Grant’s place. Another explosion sounded which seemingly caused a chain reaction when a further boom echoed from the far end of the ship followed by more which seemed to crawl ever closer to where they stood.
“We need to go,” Mylos announced.
“We wait for Archie and our Pokemon,” Leaf said stubbornly.
“Archie told us in case of an emergency we was to leave him here,” Grant spoke having finally found his voice. “Erik, Wally, Blue and Leaf are our priority,” he spoke as if reciting instructions word for word.
“Where is that little scamp?” Mylos asked, implying Erik. The explosions sounded ever closer.
“It was a trap, he wasn’t here,” Leaf said solemnly.
“Right, we need to move. Now,” Mylos spoke with authority and marched towards the rope which Blue had already descended. Grant followed obediently behind him. Leaf walked hurriedly to the edge of the ship and peered downwards to sight three dinghies, one to be manned by Grant, one Archie and the other by Mylos. Wally currently sat in Grant’s boat whilst Blue took his place on Mylos’s.
“I’m waiting for them,” Leaf decided as she stood by the ropes.
“Won’t have to wait long,” Mylos said as he descended the rope with Grant in tow. Leaf turned back towards the exit where Fin bounced towards her. Giggles flew out carrying Dino on her back with Snake wrapped around her abdomen. Blue’s Pidgeotto carried his Abra within its talons as a Charmander rode his back.
“To the boats,” Leaf ordered them awaiting sight of both Archie and Fury whilst the explosions grew ever closer.
“They’re dinghies,” Grant shouted up from below to receive a furious glare from Leaf. Fin hopped off the side into the ocean as the two airborne Pokemon took their passengers to the dinghies below. It was then Archie and Fury emerged covered in blood and bruises, half-helping the other to walk. An explosion burst out of the ship from beside them sending pieces of wood rocketing into the sky.
“I’m coming,” Leaf told the injured duo.
“No!” Archie bellowed. He knew what was coming. Fury released his grip on the former Aqua boss and charged towards Leaf using all the energy he could muster. The final bomb exploded from directly below them, the fires catching the fallen Archie and engulfing him in a tomb of flames. It all seemed to happen in slow motion to Leaf. She froze in horror as Fury raced towards her as planks of wood flew into the air. Flames from the explosion shot through exposed wood and licked up to catch the Mankey, causing his fur to catch fire. Fury refused to stop despite the agony, he had entered a primal rage borne not of battle but a sheer desperation to save his trainer’s life if it was the last thing he would ever achieve. Leaf turned her eyes from the deathly screams of Archie being consumed by flames to Fury and locked eyes with him. “I’m sorry,” she managed to whisper before the wooden plank beneath her shot up. Fury dived through the air and shoved Leaf over the side of the ship.
She tumbled downwards towards the ocean with sorrow gripping her heart as she watched Fury collapse before the explosion took him. She smashed into the ocean’s raging surface and was pulled underneath where she found herself rendered motionless by her wistful emotions. Chunks of fiery wood sunk past her as the ocean claimed the lives which the explosions could not. She sighted Aqua grunts entwined with Rocket members whilst Pokemon from both sides joined their trainers in a watery grave. Leaf closed her eyes as she prepared to join them before feeling a startling bump on her side. It was Fin. The Magikarp pushed her towards the surface where vines wrapped around her and pulled her onto the dinghy.
“What a mess,” Blue said then sighed at the burning remains of the ship.
“I never thought Rocket could be capable,” Mylos spoke softly. “Archie…”
“Is gone,” Blue said coldly. “And Rocket won’t give us time to mourn.” He looked across the Wally and Leaf aboard Grant’s dinghy. Both were distressed and devastated.
“The war on Johto is finished,” Mylos said with a grimace. “And now they’re focusing on Hoenn.”
“They want the Resistance gone first,” Blue corrected him.
“War is coming to Hoenn.” Mylos locked eyes with him. “I’m afraid the Resistance is on its own now. We need to retreat to our homeland and prepare our defences, you lot are welcome to join us.”
“Never,” Blue said instantly. “Our war is here.”
“I’ve not seen you before,” Mylos said then looked away to the fiery wreckage. “Who are you?”
“My name is Blue Oak.”
“And why do you fight, Blue?”
“Something to do I suppose,” he said and grinned at the man opposite who failed to share his humour.
“Don’t pretend you don’t care,”
“I want to be Pokemon Champion,” Blue said.
“No, there’s more,” Mylos pressed him.
“You never struck me as a perceptive man,” Blue joked.
“I’m not. But I know a liar when I see one,” Mylos spoke sharply.
“Careful,” Blue said whilst taken aback by the accusation.
“I shall take you to shore, as shall Grant with Leaf and Wally,” Mylos moved the conversation on. “But then we must all retreat to Hoenn. I hope the Resistance succeeds.”
“Me too,” Blue agreed. “Honestly. Me too.”