So, absolutely nobody requested this, but I figured that some people would like to know what happened in the timeline where Nate's failed, but he's written back to his team. I affectionately refer to it as Timeline 3. As far as I can tell, it's going to be around three chapters, but it's going to be in rotation, so it'll be a while before it's completed.
Also, it may cover side events, but this is still a major spoiler for anybody who hasn't read For the Mission. If you read this before that, you won't understand most of what's happening. But, as usual for those who don't care, the story's right here.
Without further ado, let's take a peek into an alternate future.
Chapter 1: The Beginning of the End
Nate fell to all fours, desperate to catch his breath. He tried reaching for a berry, but collapsed to the ground.
'It's… too… much…!'
He looked up despairingly as Dialga was breathing hard himself. If he wasn't so exhausted, this would be the perfect time for Nate to retaliate.
He thought back to his team, counting on him to succeed.
'No…! I… can't give up…!' Nate tried to pull himself up, managing to grab half an Oran Berry. But he fell back to the ground, the healing item falling out of his grasp. Every muscle in his body screamed in pain from the basic action. He couldn't do this alone…
After almost a minute, Dialga roared, back to full strength. Nate could only lament his failure.
"Grovyle… Celebi… Martha… I'm… sorry…"
The Temporal Pokémon stomped over to Nate's broken body, clearing the distance in two strides before lifting his front leg up over the human-turned-Pokémon. Nate could only stare listlessly into Dialga's enraged eyes.
He huffed out a weak chuckle through his nose, 'How ironic that the guardian of Temporal Tower would assure its destruction…'
With a decisive stomp, the last hope for the future perished.
When Martha waited with her team until sunset, and still had no word back from Nate about success or failure, she immediately knew something was wrong. Nobody on the team wanted to admit it, but it was disconcerting that Nate hadn't written back after he promised he would.
Once the sun fully set, Bidoof came by, letting Martha know to come back to the guild for dinner. She grudgingly dismissed the team and went back with him. But on the way, she got an idea and asked if she could stop by Duskull Bank really quick, claiming that she needed to make a transaction.
After eating, Martha looked at the open Adventure Log from her bed, the moonlight filtering in through her room's window.
'Nate…' she thought. 'You're gone, aren't you? You failed… and that's why you haven't written back, isn't it?'
Letting out a breath, Martha stood up from her bed and took the Treasure Bag from the corner of the room. Leaving behind the Adventure Log, she dug into the wall before digging straight up to surface at the cliff's top.
Wattson lay on a bed of leaves gathered from the forests near his house, unable to get to sleep. He turned over and looked at the moon, wondering about Nate.
'He said he'd write back, and so far he's always been as good as his word,' Wattson thought as he got up and walked to his window. He knew that the police were still watching his house from a distance, so he didn't go outside.
Wattson sighed as he stared up at the moon, 'What are we supposed to do if you bought the big one, Nate?'
The Electric Pokémon stiffened, but he held himself back, knowing that any electricity fired would just raise questions. He stared at the moon for a few more moments before pretending to be done and turning to head back to his bed. When he turned around, he saw Martha standing near a hole in the ground.
Wattson held a hand to his chest, and whisper-shouted, "Please, don't scare me like that!"
"Sorry. I need your help," Martha said in a low tone. "Tomorrow morning, we're heading out for Brine Cave, and I need you to gather up the others. I don't know where they live, so I need you to get them there."
Wattson raised an eyebrow, "Why the secrecy? Can't you just wait 'til morning?"
She shook her head, "This has to be done as soon as possible, and I can't wait for the guild to take action. You always met up before Nate and I arrived at the café; the instant everybody's there, start leading them to Brine Cave. I won't be there at the morning address, and you all are the first group they'd question."
"Why Brine Cave?" Wattson asked.
"It's the last chance we have," Martha answered. "Even if we don't have the Relic Fragment anymore, we have to try! I…" The leader looked down, "I have a bad feeling that Nate's dead; I can just tell… But there's still a chance."
She looked up again, "Nate knows about Temporal Tower. He knew about something from the Hidden Land, and the Hidden Land itself, something that Torkoal said was tattered lore."
"Where are you going with this, Martha?"
"We won't be able to do anything here," Martha reasoned. "If the paralyzed future is where Nate is from, that means that at some point he and Grovyle will be born on the Hidden Land. We need to get there, so we can wait to help him."
Wattson's eyebrows shot up, "You mean we're going to… take the long way to the future? All for a slight chance that Nate might be born there again and we can help him?"
"It's not that simple, but it starts with getting to the Hidden Land."
Wattson received his police escort to Treasure Town the next morning, and he looked around to see that most of his teammates had already met. Only Tisha and Yrja hadn't arrived yet.
Everybody turned at the greeting, and Wattson raised his eyebrow when he saw Tisha and Yrja with two other Pokémon. He hadn't seen either of them before, but a female Nidoran stuck close to Tisha, hiding partially behind her at the sight of Terrence, while a Farfetch'd strode beside Yrja.
Tisha coaxed the other Pokémon out from behind her, "Everybody, this is Natalie. I don't think I ever got the chance to let her meet y'all."
"Chad," the Farfetch'd greeted, raising his leek in some sort of salute.
Wattson cleared his throat, "Martha gave me an assignment last night. She wants us to leave immediately."
Surprisingly, nobody asked questions. They just followed Wattson as he led them around the coast to Brine Cave.
Chatot looked around, not seeing Martha in the morning address. He let out a sigh, thinking that she still remained in her bed. He had hoped for her returning cheer after she came to dinner yesterday.
Once Chatot dismissed the other apprentices, Chimecho made straight for Martha's room, hoping to help her.
Mere moments later, the medic frantically rushed back into the briefing area. Chatot noticed her panic and asked what happened.
"Martha!" Chimecho said in a panic. "Martha's gone!"
"So we're heading off to try and help Nate," Augustus said once they traveled a distance from Treasure Town.
Wattson glanced over his shoulder in surprise, but Maribel added, "It doesn't take a genius to put two and two together. If Nate was going to write back, he'd have done it by now. Martha told you a plan?"
"We're going to the Hidden Land," Wattson explained. "She wants to be there when Nate is born to lend a hand. That's the short version; I'm pretty sure she's still ironing out the details herself. I have a question, though. Tisha, Yrja, why'd you bring those two along?"
Natalie looked down, and Tisha patted her on the back, "I had a hunch we'd be leavin', and no part of the world is safer for Natalie than by my side."
"Once Yrja told me, I insisted that I come along," Chad explained with a furrowed brow. "No girlfriend of mine is going into hostile territory without extra help."
"It's probably better this way," Psymon said. "We don't know when or if we'll be coming back."
With that thought in mind, the recruits of Team Rapid continued circling the coast and came upon Brine Cave. Martha stood by the Kangaskhan Rock, apparently waiting for them. (1) Once she noticed them, she smiled.
"Hi, everybody! Glad you could make it!" Martha greeted enthusiastically. She tilted her head at the sight of Natalie and Chad, "Oh? Who are you two?"
Natalie seemed confused, "You rescued me from-" She was cut off when Chad stepped forward, pointing his leek at her, "Who are you, impostor?"
Martha's eyes widened, but then she sighed with a smile when the team grew suspicious, "No good then…"
Martha disappeared with a puff of smoke and the ground beside the Kangaskhan Rock soon mounded and broke apart to reveal another Martha coming out of the hole.
The recruits blinked at the sight before Tempest stepped forward, "You tried fooling us with a Substitute?!"
"Practice," Martha said in response. "I get the feeling good Substitutes will be invaluable in the coming times. But I didn't know that Chad and Natalie would be coming by, so I didn't include that memory." The team looked at each other and accepted that it could be useful. They also realized how the flaws in Martha's clone were spotted right away.
Ferra grunted, "Huh. Guess those clones aren't as easy as Nate makes them look. They need every memory, but he needs to recall them with detail, and he needs every facet of the personality down."
"Yeah," Terrence added, "you might want to work on that second thing. You seemed a bit too cheery for what's happened recently."
Martha let out a sigh and nodded, "Right. Now, we'll need to split up to travel through the dungeon, but we're all working to get to the end. For supplies, we're going to use this Kangaskhan Rock."
"How'll that do any good?" Wattson asked. "We only have one bag."
Martha shook her head, "Not exactly. There was one other thing Nate taught us." She set down the Treasure Bag and said, "3,000 Poké." The mouth of a bag popped out of the Poké Pocket, and Martha pulled out a sizable bag of money in her teeth.
Once she threw it to the ground, Martha explained, "This was as big as I could make it without the bag being cumbersome for anybody besides Terrence. These things aren't bigger on the inside like the Treasure Bag. Take out a bag, empty the money back in, repeat. We can use another bag for fabric carrying straps. Now, if somebody with actual opposable thumbs could take care of that, I'd really appreciate not having to repeat that process over and over."
Tisha stepped forward and emptied the bag back into the pocket before repeating the process and pulling another bag of the same size out.
Her eyes glanced over the group, counting thirteen Pokémon including herself, "We'll need to form four groups. Wattson, Psymon, Yrja and I will be taking point for each one since we aren't weak to water or ice moves; Augustus, you'll be paired with Wattson to guard him from Gastrodon. Aside from that, it'll be three groups of three and one group of four; try not to bunch up types too much."
At that time, Tisha pulled out the fourth bag and Chad stepped forward after she emptied it. Slashing through with his leek, he rent the bag into three straps.
Terrence and Regina grouped with Psymon, the Water Pokémon accepting one of the bags to hold and moving to the Kangaskhan Rock. Tisha joined up with Wattson and Augustus, along with Natalie, and Wattson deigned to carry the bag after a brief discussion between the two. Yrja and Chad traveled with Ferra, Chad receiving the bag based on his prehensile wings. Tempest and Maribel accompanied Martha, the Treasure Bag back over Martha's shoulder.
All of them took turns filling up their bags with the essential supplies to go through, and the entire team stood at attention when they were done.
Once she noted the groups that had formed, Martha nodded and said, "All right, there's a large antechamber right before the end of the dungeon. We'll meet up there; whoever gets there first, wait for the rest of the group to arrive."
"Right," the rest of the team answered.
The guild's crew spent the past few hours combing Treasure Town and asking the residents if they'd seen any sign of Martha. Only Spinda had anything to tell, and he hadn't seen Martha. He'd only reported seeing the recruits of Team Rapid, along with two Pokémon he'd never seen before, meeting up in his café and then immediately leaving, apparently with a destination in mind.
Back at Wigglytuff's chamber, Chatot conferred with the Guildmaster about the current situation.
"Guildmaster, why have you assigned the apprentices to search Treasure Town?" he asked. "Surely you know where Martha's headed."
Wigglytuff nodded, "I do. But we need to let her do this. None of my contacts have reported time being restored. Martha's the only one who can still go to the Hidden Land. If she can find Nate again, she can save him, and help him."
Chatot looked worried, "Guildmaster…"
"If Nate's lost, then the planet's paralysis will accelerate," Wigglytuff explained. "Lapras told me about the sea of time. I'm not sure what will happen to it if time is completely stopped. If Martha's getting there, it has to be now. We can't stop her."
"…I worry for what will happen," Chatot admitted with a sigh. "Can we not go with her?"
Wigglytuff moved closer to his second-in-command, "We'd just get in the way, or change something that isn't meant to be changed. What matters most is that we stick together. You, me, the apprentices—we have to hold out and believe in our friends!"
Chatot stood upright and nodded determinedly, "Right! Nate said we wouldn't last an hour, so let's prove him wrong!"
Martha's group was the last one to arrive, oddly enough. But then, hers was the only one without any electric moves. Terrence had Thunder Fang while Psymon handled the Gastrodon with Confusion, Wattson had his Thunder Punch, and Ferra had her newly learned Shock Wave.
Martha powered through all of the Pokémon with just her strength, not good for saving time, but strangely therapeutic for the young Eevee. Despite the circumstances, she couldn't help but feel excitement at the possibility of going to the Hidden Land, and exploring always got her blood pumping.
With all of the groups met up, Martha nodded and led them across the chamber where Kabutops' gang used to hide out, "Beyond this chamber is where we found the pattern that matched my Relic Fragment's." Terrence had to fold his wings to squeeze through the corridor at the end, but the team moved through in single file.
When they reached the inlet, Psymon asked, "So what now?"
"I came here last night," Martha answered. "There was a guide that I met. He said he would be back here by the time I brought you all here…"
"And I am."
Everybody turned towards the mouth of the cove where the seawater came in and Lapras swam in from the open water.
"Greetings, everybody," he said with a bow of his head. "I'm afraid there's no time for introductions; soon the sea of time will be no more."
"Terrence, carry as many as you can," Martha instructed. "Those who can fly or swim, do so until we reach the final jump to the Hidden Land. Everybody else, climb on Lapras' back."
Martha, Tempest, Augustus and Ferra boarded Lapras while Terrence lowered his wing to operate as a ramp for Tisha, Natalie and Wattson to climb on his back. (2) Once they were situated, he, Maribel, Regina and Chad took flight while Psymon and Yrja jumped into the water. With all of them ready, Lapras turned around and swam out of the cove with his passengers and entourage.
The sun went from the eastern horizon to noon, to the west. As they traveled, Lapras seemed to grow more anxious.
Maribel noticed and asked, "Lapras? Are you okay?"
"I have an innate sense for the sea of time's state, and it won't last much longer," Lapras reported. "Temporal Tower has already collapsed and the Hidden Land is paralyzed."
"What?!" everybody around him shouted in surprise.
Wattson spoke up from Terrence's back, "Hey, hold on a minute, the mainland is still fine! Sure, time hasn't been restored, but-"
"Temporal Tower regulates time, and its collapse accelerates the destruction," Lapras spoke up over Wattson's protest, "but the sea of time is the manifestation of time itself. Once Temporal Tower collapsed, the sea of time started drying out. If I don't get you there soon, there won't be a sea to cross anymore."
After a pause of surprise, Martha spoke up, "Lapras… after the sea of time disappears, what happens to you…?"
"…I'm not sure," Lapras replied at length. "All that matters is that I get you all across before it's too late."
Once the sun touched down on the west, the light painting the ocean a teal color against the orange sky, everybody except Lapras stared at the horizon.
Martha sighed through her nose, 'I understand now, Nate. Why you would sacrifice everything and anything for your mission. I probably wouldn't pay this sight any mind if I didn't know it might be the last one…'
Similar thoughts crossed the minds of the rest of the Pokémon until Lapras announced with relief, "There. Up ahead, the gate is still working."
Everybody turned as the sun had almost completely set. Lapras continued, "If you stare at the sea ahead, you'll see the currents are all twisted. That's the border to the gap in time. Everybody, climb on. Only I can make the rest of this trip."
"Are you sure you can handle all of us?" Terrence asked in a concerned tone.
"I have to," Lapras answered. "Those who can't hold on, somebody secure them. I'm going to speed up."
The fliers and swimmers boarded Lapras' back, and Chad transferred his leek from his feet to his mouth so he could hold onto Yrja while digging his feet into one of the studs on Lapras' shell. Other teammates secured each other and as an extra precaution, Terrence stood at the back with his feet gripping the shell and his hands ready to catch anybody in danger of flying off.
Lapras let out a light breath of effort as he was bogged down slightly from the extra weight, but then he trained his eyes forward and started swimming faster to make the jump to the Hidden Land. As he felt himself enter the sea of time, he could tell that it was nearly depleted. It took longer for him to lift out of the water and he felt the strain wear on him.
'I must complete the journey!' he thought resolutely. 'It's the only way for hope to survive!'
Soon, he started swimming faster and the wall of light appeared. Lapras pushed himself as hard as he could and he managed to breach into the gap of time. The instant that the wall parted, he let out a breath and started panting, slowing down as he made his way to the coast.
Soon, he felt a considerable weight lift off his back and saw Terrence flying directly to the coast with Wattson, Tisha and Natalie on his back. The other flying Pokémon also took off, but Yrja and Psymon stayed since they weren't sure they could swim through the sea of time.
Straightening up again and trying to get his breathing under control, Lapras picked up the pace a bit, navigating the rest of the distance. When he pulled up to the edge, he turned to allow Martha and the other Pokémon still on board to join the others.
Martha looked around with her team at the ruined Hidden Land. The fact that time had stopped seemed to be the only thing holding the floating continent together, with the land itself fractured. Floating in the sky, Martha saw a black and grey tower that appeared to have been frozen mid-collapse. The ruined top half looked like it should've fallen ages ago and the derelict bottom would've caved under the pressure. Completing the image, the sky was black and the land was colored in different shades of gray.
"This is all I can do for you," Lapras said with a light pant. "Whatever your plan, ensure that the planet's paralysis never happens."
Martha turned around and nodded before taking in Lapras' exhausted state, "Lapras… will you be okay?"
"Yes," Lapras replied with a smile. "There should be just enough left of the sea of time for me to cross back to the outer world. It'll be easier by myself."
Martha looked Lapras in the eye before nodding. She turned back to the others and motioned for them to go to the Hidden Land, "Let's go. We need to find a place to dig a hideout before Dialga knows we're here."
They nodded and broke up into different groups, formed based on general type coverage rather than against specific types. Some pairs were still inevitable, like Tisha with her adoptive sister and Yrja with her boyfriend. Martha's group wound up being comprised of Maribel, Tempest and Ferra.
As they moved to travel through the first dungeon to the bulk of the Hidden Land, Maribel fell into step next to Martha, saying, "Martha? Lapras, he's…"
How could she not see it? Martha knew that smile all too well from whenever Nate had told her about their future.
As Team Rapid moved out, another set of eyes watched them from nearby.
"Why're we doing this again? We don't even like the guy."
"'Cause it was either this or rot on the continent."
"Can it, both of you. We need to stick close without alerting them so we can meet up with the Eevee alone."
Team Rapid met up again in the central part of the Hidden Land and Martha dug a tunnel underground before widening it into a chamber. The rest of the team soon went in and helped, though none were as fast without the move Dig. As they worked, though, Tempest revealed that he had learned Dig from all of the tough battles they'd gone through to get to this point.
Once they had finished, Martha and Tempest started working to add living quarters to the hideout. Soon, they had rooms carved out in the earth for all of them to sleep in. Martha said that they could pair up or pick a room to have to themselves. She and Tempest could always dig another room out.
With all of that settled Terrence looked up at the entrance and molded a cover from the earth inside the base with Ancient Power.
"So what now?" Psymon asked.
Martha turned to address the team, "For now, we train and grow stronger. Nate and Grovyle aren't due to be born here for who-knows-how-long, and then there's another 400 years to wait until the proper time to intervene."
"How will we know when to act?" Regina asked.
Martha gave a small smile and a wink and said, "You let me worry about that. We should focus on the essentials for the long wait. We can take turns foraging for food in the mystery dungeons around here, and Tempest and I can start work digging an arena further underground. We wouldn't want to draw attention with noise from underground."
"I'll go foraging first," Wattson volunteered. "I'm the fastest and I have experience getting in and out of dungeons without detection from my outlaw days."
Tisha raised an eyebrow at him, "Seriously?"
"How do you think a gang of henchman can stay off the radar for so long? It's the first slip-up that sinks the boss, and it wasn't me that made it," he answered as he re-adjusted his bag. Terrence made steps for him out of levitating stones and then moved aside the cover until he was out.
Maribel went into her own room, running a mental count in her head. She couldn't be sure of the exact time, since mystery dungeons warped it, but she could keep track of time that went by relative to her. The Flying-type already had a good idea of the plan from deduction.
She had been counting ever since they arrived at the Hidden Land, and it had reached the amount of seconds significant: 3,600 seconds.
With that milestone reached, she flew up to one part near the top of her earthen chamber and wrote a prompt in footprint runes with her claws before underlining it and making a mark.
'Hour 1…' Maribel thought to herself. 'Somebody should keep track after all. 9…10…11…'
If she lost count… well, nobody could deny her claim of how much time had passed since time didn't run.
While everybody else slept, Martha left a Substitute in her bed to feign sleep. She made sure to add in every relevant memory she could draw upon to boost its knowledge, and included memories of the recent events and the Nate's message.
'Really, it would just be better if I got back before anybody woke up,' Martha thought to herself.
She dug her way to the surface and looked around before another figure walked out from behind a nearby rock.
Martha wore a rueful smile, "You can't be sure."
The other figure let out a grunt, which Martha couldn't be sure was amusement or annoyance, and said, "So what's the big idea sending us here? What's in it for you?"
"You owe a favor, and I want to make sure you pay it," Martha answered plainly. "Either way, you're stuck here, so you might as well help to ensure you can just go back to doing your own thing."
He glared, but smiled, "You drive a hard bargain, using your own partner's memory to get something out of me. And I thought he was cold."
"This partnership isn't exactly pleasant to me, either," Martha replied with a slight glare of her own, "but your skills are better than mine in what I need you to do."
He let out a smug chuckle before saying, "Alright, I'll bite. What do you want out of us?"
"At some point in this future, a Duskull should be born," Martha instructed. "Find him before Primal Dialga does."
"The great Dusknoir, as a child? Molding him to your own purposes?" The figure laughed as he shook his head before saying, "You impress even me with these new levels of low."
"Stop that!" Martha ordered. "This is to save Nate and the world. I am nothing like you."
"If you say so," he replied tauntingly. "All right, I'll pass it on."
The smug tone grated on Martha's nerves more than anything else as the figure nodded, "Yeah, you've been talking to a Substitute."
"How?!" Martha demanded. "You only learned it-"
"Because unlike self-righteous chumps like you, Nate and I are honest with ourselves about who we are, what we want, and what we'll do to get it," the clone jeered. "The same can't be said for you, Martha, if you won't acknowledge that you're only in this for yourself. You said 'save Nate.' If you wanted to save him, you'd have to leave the world like this!"
The clone kept laughing at Martha until she used a Quick Attack and snuffed it out. She could tell that annoying laugh rang out somewhere else, but they had their orders.
Well. That happened. I'm not really sure what else to comment.
1. Seriously, look up a video of the cutscene outside Brine Cave. There's a Kangaskhan Rock that's never used in the game. Aside from that scene, you never see the outside of Brine Cave again, and never have the chance to use it. I dunno, maybe it's in case you get knocked out, so you can resupply.
2. Aerodactyl's weight (on average): 130.1 lbs. Combined weight of Elekid, female Nidoran and Cubone (on average): 81.5 lbs. Meanwhile, Aerodactyl stand at 5' 11" while Cubone and Nidoran female are 1' 04" and Elekid stands at 2' 00". Meaning it's totally plausible.
See you when I see you.