Maxie was a middle-aged man nearing his forties with a well-defined jawline and a lined face. His neatly combed crimson hair was parted to the right and extended down to his shoulders. Additionally, he wore a pair of half-rim glasses with thick frames that extended down to his jaw on either side of his head. Slotted into these frames on the right side was a strange crystalline orb that glistened with many colors, an odd swirl present within its depths.

For clothes, he wore the same style as the rest of his team, but as opposed to his administrators, he wore a crimson topcoat with black trims, its lapels each marked with a blazing black M, overtop of a black dress shirt and a pair of crimson shorts.

At first glance, Maxie looked as though he could have been nothing more than an average university professor. Yet his calm, composed appearance coupled with the calm determination hidden deep within the burning coals of his eyes betrayed his extraordinary nature. Everything about him exuded an aura of menace so thick it caused Seth to tremble before him.

"Please…" Seth cursed himself immediately for how pathetic he sounded. He felt Kyra touching his leg and felt himself calm down as her strength flew into him. "Stop this. Shut down the machine. I don't want to have to fight you."

Maxie reached up with a hand towards his face, his every movement efficient and calculated. He adjusted his glasses briefly. "Who are you?" His voice was a smooth and refined bass, serving in stark contrast to Archie's gruff nature.

"I'm...my name is Seth Rhines. I'm here with the Hoenn League." Seth clutched his belt of pokéballs hard, trying to still his trembling fingers.

"A common trainer, then. Ordinarily, I would tell you to run, but it's far too late for that now. Skilled though you may be, you cannot hope to escape the Ascension." Maxie closed his eyes and shook his head with a sigh. He turned back around and walked up to the machine with purpose. "Remain there, then, and witness the birth of the new world with your final breath."

"Stop!" Seth reached out with a hand, a motion that Kyra mimicked. From the tips of her arms, an orb of violet energy appeared and shot forth in a beam of light.

The beam zipped by Maxie's head, singing his hair and grazing his cheek. Maxie paused, and the menacing aura surrounding him seemed to intensify. His head turned ever so slightly to transfix him with a single crimson eye.

"You are playing with forces you cannot hope to match, boy." Maxie's dangerously calm words sent a chill down Seth's spine. He reached for his belt and retrieved a duo of pokéballs, each held tightly between his fingers. "Do you intend to waste this moment railing fruitlessly against the inevitable?"

"What's inevitable? You can walk away from that machine right now and the eruption will never happen!" Seth pleaded with him, yet he grabbed his pokéballs as well. "Why are you even doing this? What do you gain from this suicide?"

Maxie's eyes narrowed. "Suicide? You understand so little about our goals."

"Then tell me! What's so important that you're willing to kill yourself and all these people!?" Seth pressed. Maxie didn't answer, his piercing eyes seeming to see right through him. Then, without a word, he pressed a single button on the machine. The meteorite within the apparatus began to glow as the monstrous construct rumbled to life. Seth's heart dropped. "No!"

"Ascension Protocol Activated: Charging...0%" A soft female klaxon voice emanated from a set of hidden speakers within the machine.

"I will not allow you to buy any further time. If you wish to converse, you may do so in the remaining time you have left," Maxie asserted coldly.

"Damn you!" Rage and desperation sparked from deep within Seth, spurring him into action. Completely out of options, he hurled his remaining pokéballs onto the ground before him, releasing Princess and Summer beside Kyra and Cairo. "Everyone, give him everything you've got! Destroy that machine before it can finish charging!"

"Come then, Seth Rhines. Show me how far you're willing to go." Maxie released his two pokémon before him with a flick of his wrist.

The first was a Mightyena like all the others Seth had seen so far, but the way it held itself was different. It was calm and collected, both in expression and in stance, much like its owner. As it took stock of the four pokémon before it, it lowered its body and summoned up a veil of darkness that licked up its body like a fire, seeming to steal the light from the air.

The second was a Camerupt like Courtney and Tabitha's, but unlike theirs, this one's mere presence on the field caused the temperature to noticeably increase. There was no doubt that this particular Camerupt put all the others Seth had seen to shame.

"Force your way through! All-out assault!" Seth commanded. His pokémon released their respective cries of confirmation.

Kyra took up a position behind Princess and began to focus, the fins on her head glowing brightly. She lifted several rocks from the ground with her telekinesis and mixed them with magical leaves, forming a rotating barrier around her as she prepared for her initial assault. Beside her, Summer burst into flames, summoning up her deepest reserves of power. Blazing balls of fire winked into being around her, and every step she made left behind a blazing pawprint.

Cairo took to the skies and brought her sand to bear, bringing it raining down upon Mightyena, where it began to form a rotating orb in midair with the foe directly in its center. Mightyena remained still and calm, even as the sand encroached upon its body more and more. Finally, the orb was complete. With an angry chitter, Cairo clenched her claws, and the orb began to constrict.

A soft growl was all the warning they got. The orb suddenly exploded, spikes of shadow erupting from within and dispersing the sand. Mightyena pawed the ground and bounded forward at a breakneck pace, leaving behind a trail of darkness as it ran. Kyra and Summer released their attacks together, bombarding Mightyena with a storm of rock, leaf, and flame.

Mightyena navigated through the incoming attacks easily, as if they were moving in slow motion. Seth could barely track it with his eyes as it zipped from place to place, twisting and turning its body to avoid being hit even once. Then, it was among Seth's pokémon. It navigated through Princess's flailing tail, bounded behind her, and struck at Kyra.

Seeing it coming, Kyra lifted an arm and split into four multiple copies of herself, each of them opening their mouth and releasing a charged echoing cry. Mightyena merely winced as the energy-charged sound waves coursed over its body before Mightyena split into twelve copies of itself, each one zipping downward to attack with darkness-coated claws in a staggered manner. As Kyra's doubles were felled one after the other, her eyes flashed with foresight. As the real Mightyena struck, Kyra teleported just to its right and thrust a rock towards it, only for Mightyena to pivot on its front legs and kick right through the rock and into her middle with its hind legs.

Kyra squeaked and tumbled backward into Princess as Summer seized the opportunity to breathe a stream of fire as thick as her own body at Mightyena. Mightyena turned towards her and broke into a sprint, lowering its head and coating itself with darkness. It charged towards Summer right into the stream of fire, which broke upon its shadowy aura like a river upon rock. Mightyena then butted its head hard into Summer's, stunning her. The impact resulted in a burst of darkness that knocked Summer clear into the air, towards the edge of the cliff.

Summer cried out for help, and just in time, Cairo swooped in and grabbed her in its claws, and carried her to safety. As they flew, Summer aimed down and hurled fireball after fireball at Mightyena, who had already turned its attention towards Princess. The first fireball managed to catch it unaware, striking it in the side and causing Mightyena's aura to weaken somewhat. After the first hit, Mightyena simply charged forward to avoid the rest, ducking under Princess's water-coated tail and leaping into the air to avoid a surge of water.

Princess let out an angry noise and rammed its head brazenly into Mightyena, meeting its charge head-on. Water burst from the point of impact, forcing Mightyena down to the ground within her coils as the canine let out a pained whine. Then, Princess began to slide in a circle, picking up speed with each revolution.

Mightyena looked puzzled at first, but when the wind began to pick up, it leaped forward and bit down hard into Princess's neck, its jaws crackling with electricity. Then, Mightyena planted its paws into the ground and dug in its claws. Its shadowy aura magnified in intensity before, much to Seth's shock, it lifted Princess clear off the ground and hurled her into Kyra and Summer, who had been trying to coordinate a counterattack. Princess sprawled across the ground, her body twitching and arcing with static electricity.

"Ascension Protocol: Charging...25%"

Maxie watched the combat splaying out before him without moving, his Camerupt making no indication of joining the battle. "You asked me why, didn't you?" Maxie asked calmly of Seth as Kyra teleported frantically around the field to avoid being caught by Mightyena's snapping jaws.

"Huh?" Seth was taken off guard as he had been too busy snapping orders to his pokémon.

"I shall enlighten you. I suppose it is the least I can do, given your valiant, if foolish, effort." Maxie continued, ignoring Seth's confusion. "I shall be blunt with you; humanity, as it stands, has no future. We were given a green and bountiful earth upon which to thrive by the grace of the gods, yet we suffer from overpopulation, hunger, and drought. There are simply too many of us for the land in which we inhabit. Ultimately, our resources will dwindle due to our own inability to keep ourselves in check and we will inevitably turn on one another to survive."

Mightyena zipped past Princess with its claws outstretched, creating several doubles to fool her. Princess made the decision to bunch its coils up together and coat itself with water to defend itself, but it was a feint. Mightyena didn't strike at all until it was at Princess's rear, where it conjured strange circles of shadow in the air that fired beams of darkness at Princess's backside, leaving behind angry burns.

"Are you trying to say that this is some kind of sick culling?" Seth couldn't believe the nonsense coming out of Maxie's mouth. "Over what's just a possibility in the far future?"

Maxie shook his head. "Nothing so barbaric. As I stated, humanity cannot keep itself in check on its own. We breed like rabbits, yet, unlike them, we have no natural predators. Our technology has come so far that natural disasters no longer counteract our multiplication. This is not something that mere humans can handle on their own."

Cairo then swooped down from above and formed claws of sand and struck down at Mightyena while it was distracted by Kyra's bombardment of rocks and leaves. Mightyena, however, executed a swift heel turn and struck back with similar claws of darkness, the two opposing forces meeting in the air with a thunderous crash. Despite her efforts, Cairo was swiftly overpowered. Mightyena leaped into the air, biting down with icy jaws onto Cairo's body, before somersaulting in midair and hurling her down onto the ground. Cairo squealed in pain but managed to right herself and tunnel into the ground to escape Mightyena's gnashing jaws.

"Therefore, I must do the unthinkable and summon the god of the land back to this world, Groudon!" Maxie's words caused Seth's jaw to drop in shock and incredulity. "With his power, we can return humanity to a sustainable population and ensure that we grow and expand at a rate we can handle, with access to as much farmland and natural resources as we could ever use!"

"That's just ridiculous! You're doing all this on the basis that Groudon will come back to help you? How do you even know he's even real!?" Seth demanded.

Mightyena dipped and weaved, none of Princess's water blasts even coming close to reaching it due to its speed and its doubles. It turned its attention to Kyra, but Cairo leaped out of the ground and struck at top speed with claws of sand hurled forward as projectiles. The arcs slammed into Mightyena but only caused its dark aura to flicker and die for a moment, leaving no lasting damage. Before Mightyena could counterattack, Cairo dived back into the ground again.

Maxie clicked his tongue as if disappointed. "The gods are very real. According to ancient legends, Groudon sleeps beneath the depths of the earth beneath Hoenn and surfaces in times of great volcanic activity. With the eruption of Mt. Chimney, the largest active volcano in the country, Groudon shall once again awaken to bring balance to the world."

"What about the people that die in the process!?"

Maxie's eyes grew cold and hard. "A necessary sacrifice."

As Mightyena bit and tore at Princess's body, a fireball slammed into its backside, giving Princess a chance to slap the canine aside with her tail, water coursing over its body on impact. Mightyena hit the ground and rolled, an annoyed growl escaping its muzzle.

"Wh...how can you think you're doing the right thing after saying something like that!? You're just a genocidal maniac!" Seth snapped at him.

"I wasn't asking for your approval. I was simply answering your question." Maxie stated with finality. "This conversation is over. Struggle as you might, Groudon will rise."

Mightyena gazed at Summer, whose body was swirling with so much fire that Seth could hardly make out her form through the blaze anymore. This intense fiery aura began to focus and condense around the tips of each of her tails, eventually forming into rotating wheels of fire. Mightyena snorted and lowered its body in preparation to pounce.

Suddenly, the ground around the Mightyena erupted with a massive amount of sand. Two lumps of sand formed on either side of the canine and formed the shape of a massive pair of jaws that proceeded to clamp down on its body tightly. Mightyena grunted and flared its dark aura to keep from being overly damaged. Then it tried to pry itself free but found that it couldn't. Cairo chittered from underneath it, the reptilian pokémon straining as hard as it could to keep the canine in one place.

Summer howled and swept forward its tails. The wheels of fire rolled out in all directions, spreading out to form a circle around Mightyena before swiftly converging on its body. Mightyena ceased its struggles to move and instead opened its jaws, a shadowy orb of black energy forming at the tip of its tongue. The ball shot forth with a charged bark, aiming for one of the six wheels of fire.

Recognizing the technique, Kyra teleported in front of it and brought up her barrier in time to block it. The ball burst into shadowy wisps on impact, hurling Kyra backward towards the wheel of flame. She winced and twisted her body upwards just enough that the wheel passed underneath her on its way to Mightyena.

More balls flew from Mightyena's mouth as it did everything it could to keep from being hit by the flame wheels. Princess and Kyra worked together to counter each one, whether it was through Kyra's barriers or through Princess's pressurized gouts of water. Mightyena howled in fright before it was struck by all six wheels of fire at once, the ensuing explosion causing sand to fly outwards in all directions, forcing Seth to cover his eyes with an arm.

"Ascension Protocol: Charging...50%"

When the debris cleared, Mightyena was revealed with Cairo in its mouth, the former sporting multiple burns and looking furious. It tossed Cairo aside and summoned up its dark aura to such an extent that its form became obscured from view, save for two winks of white light where its eyes were located. It turned its furious glare upon Summer, who squeaked and took several steps back, her eyes filling with fright. When Mightyena broke into a sprint, Summer's body emanated three black shadowy orbs for a brief moment. Only an instant before Mightyena struck her, the orbs were sucked back within her.

Seth cried out with anguish as Summer took the brunt of Mightyena's assault head-on, darkness erupting from the impact. There was so much power behind the attack that Summer hit the ground hard, rolling across the ground several times before coming to a halt. She lay still and didn't move.

But then...her bitterness and fury over being defeated struck, her body glowing with a malevolent aura that soon engulfed Mightyena as well. The canine barked in confusion which swiftly turned to alarm as both the new aura and its own shadowy aura that had protected it all this time was torn away and sucked into Summer's limp form.

"Get him now! He can't protect himself anymore!" Seth shouted out.

Mightyena growled and turned to where it believed Kyra and Princess were preparing to attack it, only to see Princess waiting patiently, her tail gently waving in the air behind her. Its eyes widening with realization, it turned its head to see Seth tossing a stun baton to a freshly teleported Kyra standing just behind it. Kyra's eyes flashed with foresight just in time to detect and avoid Mightyena's preemptive bite, and then she swung the stun baton at full force towards Mightyena's face.

Mightyena snorted and made to bring up its aura, only to find that it couldn't. It didn't even have a moment to wonder why before the baton smacked into the side of its face and activated, suffusing the canine's body with crippling electricity. Kyra didn't stop there. She swung the baton again and again, each time landing a hit on Mightyena's face and neck. Mightyena could do nothing but yelp and whine with pain as it was pushed back and repeatedly electrocuted by Kyra's merciless assault, until finally, it retreated within range of Princess, who promptly slammed her tail sheathed with water onto Mightyena's head, knocking it unconscious at last.

Seth let out a long and ragged sigh of relief. It was short-lived, however. His pokémon were battered and tired, Summer was out of the fight, and Cairo was weakly limping up to him, unable to fly. He recalled Summer to her pokéball. "That's one down. Hang in there, everyone."

"I see. An impressive show of teamwork and must be the trainer I've heard about from my administrator." Maxie observed, unperturbed by Mightyena's defeat. He raised up its pokéball and recalled its fallen form back within before replacing it on his belt. He nodded as if pleased by what he'd seen. "Very well. You have earned the right to face my Camerupt. Let us see how truly prepared you are to stand at the precipice of humanity's ascension."

"Get ready, everyone. What we just fought will be child's play compared to this," Seth warned. Kyra nodded and moved beside Princess, who simply crooned in confirmation as her wounds slowly regenerated. Despite her fatigue, Kyra's excitement was stronger than Seth had ever felt it, her small body practically shaking with the drive to fight. Yet, despite that, Seth knew he would be hard-pressed to win if such a thing were even possible. Seth turned to his front line. "Princess, you have the type advantage. Let's try to create an environment his Camerupt can't fight well in."

"Ascension Protocol: Charging...75%"

Princess nodded, and then she sent the water covering her body to spread out across the surface of the battlefield. Then, she craned her head into the air and released a stream of water upward, which burst at the apex of its flight, showering both Maxie and Camerupt with thick droplets. Camerupt stared at the coming sheet of water, blinking slowly. It snorted derisively and lifted a single cloven hoof and then slammed it back down. Several things happened at once.

First, its entire body ignited and the two humps on its back erupted with thick plumes of lava that surged high into the air whilst rotating around one another before converging into a single great orb of fire whose very presence in the sky caused a cloud of smoke and ash to spread outward. It was almost as if the two humps on Camerupt's back were actually volcanoes, and Seth was witnessing a full-scale volcanic eruption.

Second, the ground shattered around Camerupt's hoof, cracks spidering out in the direction of Seth and his pokémon. From within the dark depths of each crack, a brilliant yellow light shone. Such an attack rendered Princess's incoming attack useless, the water simply draining away into the ground. As the cracks reached Seth and his pokémon, the yellow light intensified and exploded, forcing Kyra to teleport to cover, and for Seth to leap backward, the light scorching his shoes.

Third, from distortions in the air high above, large boulders rained down upon them like a rockslide. At this rate, Seth could no longer give directions to his pokémon, as he was too busy looking out for his own skin.

"All of that from just one attack!?" Seth gasped from where he'd fallen, a boulder crashing down where he'd just stood. In front of him, Princess attempted to counterattack by firing forth streams of pressurized water from midair all around her like cannon fire, each one cutting through both the air and the raining boulders towards Camerupt.

"Skilled as you may be, you lack experience. Allow me to teach you this; when the power gap between two pokémon is wide enough, type-advantages mean nothing," Maxie dictated. He lifted a hand and snapped his fingers.

Camerupt nodded and the orb still hanging in the sky split into an array of fireballs so numerous that they blotted out the form of Maxie and the machine behind it. With a simple motion of its head, the fireballs zoomed forth in an apocalyptic rain of destruction. Princess's streams of water became nothing more than steam before it. The next instant, flame rained down upon the battlefield, each impact resulting in a tumultuous explosion.

Seth's half-formed exclamation was cut off as he looked up to see that he was directly in the path of the attack, along with his pokémon. There was no way he could possibly avoid them all. Thinking quickly, he threw himself towards Princess, rolling across the ground and into her body which coiled around him protectively an instant before the fireballs struck. For several seconds, Seths' world became hell. Deafening explosions filled the air all around him and his vision became red, heat and displaced air surging across his skin and hair. Princess cried out in agony as flame coursed across her scales, but she remained still and withstood the damage, letting nothing reach her trainer.

Beside them, Kyra chain teleported around the area as fast as she could, abusing both her foresight and her barriers to avoid taking any real damage. Yet, such an effort was clearly heavily draining on her, her breathing becoming increasingly more ragged and her movements growing sluggish.

When the air cleared, Seth emerged from Princess's coils and gasped in horror at the angry red burns covering her body. They were regenerating, but the process was much slower than usual, and Princess's head was hanging low, whimpers escaping the serpent's muzzle. Seth checked on Kyra, noticing her state as well.

The moment Kyra found she was free to act, she lifted up the remnants of the fallen boulders and hurled them right back at Camerupt accompanied by thin beams of psychic energy. It was an ultimately fruitless effort as Camerupt simply conjured larger boulders of its own and thicker streams of flame to negate each and every projectile, the impacts causing flaming cinders and shards of rock to rain down to the ground.

"You're insane! Are you trying to kill me as well!?" Seth demanded.

"I should think that would have been obvious," Maxie responded with one brow slightly raised. "I am not aiming specifically for you, however. It matters little whether you die by my hand or by the coming eruption."

Seth cursed in disbelief before looking at his pokémon who were giving it everything they had despite their fatigue and injuries. The battlefield before him was a storm of water, fire, rock, and psychic energy, but Camerupt had yet to be struck. The more he experienced, the more it became increasingly clear to him; he couldn't win this fight. He and his pokémon were as leaves before a storm.

"Ascension Protocol: Charging...95%"

Maxie shook his head, sighing as if disappointed. "Cease this pointless and unsightly effort. It is already over. In a few moments, Groudon shall awaken, and the world will change."

As soon as he'd finished talking, a pleased chitter sounded from behind him. He turned his head to see Cairo sitting atop the charging machine, blinking in a fashion that almost seemed smug. Confusion colored his face. "When and how did you get there, Vibrava?" Maxie questioned. Camerupt turned its head, spotted the Vibrava, and swept its tail, blasting a fireball from the tip towards Cairo, who promptly leaped forward and dug into the ground by Maxie's feet. The fireball splashed against the fire-resistant machine harmlessly.

"You're wrong about one thing, Maxie," Seth did his best to stand, leaning slightly on the exhausted Princess. He held up his hand. "It wasn't a pointless effort."

Cairo dug her way out of the ground a few feet away from where Princess and Kyra stood, deftly weaving through the rain of fire, rock, and psychic energy to alight upon Seth's shoulder. "Is it done?" Seth asked simply. Cairo blinked in confirmation, causing Seth to let out a helpless sigh of relief. Seth leaped back a good distance and chopped his hand down. "Princess! Stall Camerupt! Hold nothing back! Kyra, the hole!"

Princess let out a shrill cry and used up the remainder of her power to call forth a veritable whirlwind of water around her, more and more water streaming from her body with every passing second.

"What are you planning?" Maxie questioned, though he didn't seem worried at all. "Camerupt, prepare to counterattack."

With a sweep of her tail, Princess sent all of her gathered water across the battlefield at once in the form of a crashing wave. Camerupt rolled its eyes and summoned up a similarly sized wave of rock and flame and sent it forward, the two waves colliding with a deafening hiss. Princess squinted its eyes and struggled hard as she pushed her wave up against Camerupt's, though it was clear she was losing ground.

Kyra danced forward and teleported into the air, a point of darkness forming between her two arms. Kyra grunted in exertion, using all of her power to force the point to grow into a shadowy orb that hummed at a low frequency. Once it grew to the size of a basketball, she spun her body around and slammed it directly into the hole that Cairo had crawled out of not too long ago.

Just as Camerupt overpowered Princess's attack with its own and sent the remaining flames at Princess and Kyra, the ground shook beneath it and Maxie ominously. Maxie paid it no mind until the ground noticeably shifted beneath him. He looked down with alarm to see cracks spidering beneath his boots. The cracks spidered all across the battlefield up until Cairo's hole, and then the entire landmass beyond the hole began to slide backward with a grinding and cracking sound that seemed to resonate within their very bones.

"What did you do!?" Maxie demanded, his composure slipping at last as his face contorted with rage.

"I knew I couldn't beat you from the very beginning," Seth explained. "But Tabitha said something to me earlier; Strong as you may be, you're just like anyone else: human. And like any human, you can be outwitted."

The ground beneath the machine shattered with a momentous crack, and the edge of the cliff crumbled to pieces. With the creaking and screeching of metal, the supermachine that had once promised the deaths of everyone in Hoenn tumbled over the lip of the crater and fell down into the volcanic depths far below.

It wasn't over yet. More and more of the landmass tore itself apart until Maxie stumbled and realized the danger he was in. "Camerupt!" Maxie alerted his pokémon and the two of them broke into a run directly towards Seth. Seth watched them come, wishing more than anything that he could halt their approach, but his pokémon were almost completely out of energy. Instead, he directed his pokémon to retreat towards the other side of the summit.

Maxie and Camerupt made it past the hole just as the entire landmass behind him crumbled into the crater, leaving nothing behind.

"You asked me what I did," Seth said to him as Maxie came to a halt, panting. Seth reached up and petted Cairo, who chittered softly. Maxie's response was to look up and glare at him intensely. "While my pokémon distracted your Camerupt, I had Cairo dig tunnels beneath you and the machine. I guess you didn't notice, given that your Camerupt kept shaking the ground already. Once she was done, all I had to do was make a final push, and the result is as you can see."

"You…!" Maxie's face reddened and contorted with rage. He looked back at where the machine used to be, and then back at Seth. He looked as though he were about to go on a tirade, but then he straightened up and sighed, gathering his composure once again. "I see. My mistake was underestimating you. I'll admit that now. My plans to awaken Groudon are well and thoroughly dashed."

"However…" Maxie slowly reached up with a hand to his glasses and tapped the small gem set into the frame. Just that simple action caused it to glow. "The price for your victory shall be death. I hope you are prepared to pay it."

As if reacting to the glowing gem, Camerupt suddenly shone with a violet light so intense that it cast its body into shadow and forced Seth to squint. The light grew and intensified into a spherical shape that flickered like fire. The light then solidified into a greyish shell that completely obscured Camerupt from view. The shell slowly grew, royal purple wisps of light circling and wisping about its lustrous form. Then, the shell cracked like an egg and then blew apart in all directions.

What now stood in front of Maxie was no longer a Camerupt as Seth knew it. The two humps on its back had combined together to form a single active volcano with a crater so hot the very air around it seemed to distort and burn. It had lost the three blue circles on its body, and its fur had grown longer as well, extending down to just above its cloven hooves. Its face looked much the same, with the exception of a patch of fur on its head darkening into a black M shape.

"What in the…" Seth blinked, completely taken aback by Camerupt's sudden transformation. He'd heard of evolution, but this was something completely different. Yet, as the air burned blue around Camerupt's volcano, he suddenly realized what was going to happen. "Everyone! Prepare to defend! It's coming!"

The Camerupt's volcano exploded destructively, shooting fire, lava, and rock up into the air in all directions. The very landscape upon which Seth stood seemed to catch fire as pillars of lava erupted from the ground all around him. The battlefield was plunged into pure hell and Seth found himself struggling to breathe with the heat as well as the ash and dust filling the air.

Then, Camerupt sent a stream of lava and rock shooting forth from the depths of its body. Cairo flew beside Princess and summoned up a barrier of sand, while Princess brought up a shield of water. Lastly, Kyra stood on Princess's back and brought up her psychic barrier. The stream of lava burst through the barrier of sand instantly, the sand falling to the ground as shards of scorched glass. The water briefly held back the attack before it evaporated into nothing, and Kyra's barrier lasted for only a second before it too shattered before Camerupt's might. Seth could only reach out his hand, his mouth opening with horror, as the deaths of him and his pokémon loomed before him.

"Not yet!" Suddenly, Flannery's Torkoal appeared beside Princess, smoke shooting out from its every orifice. Torkoal's eyes narrowed as it summoned up a barrier of rock and fire before Camerupt's attack, resulting in an explosion as the two attacks canceled one another out. A battered and sweaty Flannery ran up beside Seth on his left and grabbed his arm, allowing him to lean on her. "Take it easy, Seth, I've got you. Together we can do this!"

"Maku! Full frontal assault! Take it down!" Brawly appeared on Seth's right with Maku right beside him, both of them looking equally battered and burned. Maku charged into the fight, its body glowing with stored up power.

"Wait! Stop! You're no match for him!" Seth called out desperately.

Maku's ability let him streak across the field at a blinding speed with tremendous force, its palm rising and sparking with inner energy. As it swung its palm, Camerupt simply turned its head to gaze briefly at Maku. Its eyes flashed, and then the ground simply erupted beneath Maku, and a pillar of lava as thick as a tree trunk shot up into the sky, engulfing Maku in a single, merciless attack. When the lava dissipated, a burnt and blackened Maku collapsed to the ground, completely and totally defeated.

"What…?" Brawly breathed in shock. He recalled Maku instantly to its pokéball. "But that's...I didn't think the power gap was that great!"

"What kind of Camerupt even is that!?" Flannery shouted as her Torkoal struggled to defend itself from Camerupt as the latter turned its attention to the former. She winced and covered her eyes from shards of rock and wisps of fire. "Do any of you have any pokémon left?"

"None that can fight," Seth admitted.

Brawly shook his head as well. "Me neither. Tabitha did a number on Arty."

"So, it's just me then. Fine. let's see how hot this battle can get!" Flannery passed Seth to Brawly and stepped in front of the two of them with Torkoal by her side. She flashed a forced smile at them in an attempt to be reassuring. "Don't worry, I'll think of something...somehow!"

"This is the end, for both you and Team Aqua. If not by the hands of Groudon, then by mine." Maxie raised his hand. Camerupt began to gather power, a small orb of fire forming in front of its nose. Each of the pillars of lava that had been continuously erupting from the ground throughout the battle curved in the air and converged upon the small orb, causing it to grow larger and larger. Camerupt fed the growing fireball with everything it had, supplying it with fire from both its mouth and the erupting volcano on its back. The fireball grew so large that Camerupt and Maxie were both completely hidden from view.

"Ahaha…" Flannery's smile faltered as she beheld the fireball before her. "I'm sorry guys...I don't know if that's something I can stop."

"That's okay...I did it…I brought down the machine. Hoenn is safe." Seth said weakly to them. He reached for Kyra and picked her up, holding her close to his chest and pressing his cheek to hers.

Brawly panted and let himself fall to the ground on his butt. He laughed heartily despite the impending doom growing before them. "So you're saying that this isn't for nothing, then. Guess you really were up for it after all, right Seth?"

"I guess so. I just wish I could have seen a little more of the world though," Seth lamented as he stroked Kyra's head. He chuckled. "I never did get to battle my dad, either."

"Hah, don't go getting ahead of yourself, buddy. You'd have had to have gotten through me first," Flannery joked. Before she could say anything, the apocalyptic fireball before them shot forward like a cannonball, the air filling with the crackling on its flames. "Alright, one last push! With everything you've got, Torkoal!"

Torkoal stomped on the ground and summoned up as much rock and flame as it could, but any defense it conjured up was simply swallowed up by the coming inferno. When Seth next looked up, he saw nothing but a blazing wall of death surging towards them.

The air above them lit up with violet light. A black torpedo hurtled down from the skies cloaked by a massive amount of water that swirled around its form like a raging tornado. It struck the impending fireball with a tremendous crash and completely halted its momentum. The ground shattered and formed a crater beneath the point of impact. So much air was displaced that Seth, Brawly, and Flannery were forced to huddle together with their pokémon to protect themselves and keep from being blown away. Water showered down upon their heads like a raging typhoon, each droplet causing their burns to sting.

The dark shape within the torpedo of water jerked its head, and the fireball that had once promised them all death was dissipated, leaving nothing behind but small wisps of flame and a thick rising cloud of steam. Seth hazarded a glance up to see a Sharpedo hovering in the air opposite Camerupt. Yet, it looked nothing like a normal Sharpedo, almost resembling a mini warship. It was longer than usual, and six horns had formed on its nose; three on either side. Its body was now covered with yellow stripes, giving it an even more menacing appearance than before.

"You've done well, everyone." Seth felt a hand on his shoulder. He looked up to look into the eyes of Archie, the Team Aqua leader looking sweaty but otherwise no worse for wear. Archie gave him a warm smile. "You just rest easy. I'll take it from here."

In front of them, Camerupt's volcano erupted with a plume of fire, which it sent at Sharpedo like a whip. Water burst into being from around Sharpedo, which it directed as though it were a part of its own body. Water met flame in a deadly melee, each impact resulting in a sound similar to a thunderclap, the earth tearing itself apart beneath them.

"I'm sorry it took us so long." Beside Seth, Winona dropped to the ground from her Altaria, looking relieved. "I wished to reinforce you, but I was forced to rescue Archie from their administrator's plot."

"I knew it! I knew Archie wouldn't go down so easy!" Brawly exclaimed, pumping a fist excitedly.

Flannery gave an unsteady laugh. "I really thought we were dead. Your timing is spot on, Sky Queen." As for Seth, he just held Kyra tighter, quietly sobbing into her hair.

"Archie," Maxie greeted his archenemy with narrowed eyes as their pokémon fought evenly in front of him.

"Maxie," Archie gritted his teeth. "You've lost this time, old friend. Your administrators have fallen and you weren't able to dispose of me as you planned."

Maxie surveyed the battlefield, noting that he now faced both Archie and Winona. Across the remainder of the summit, his forces were gradually forced back, as Roxanne and Shelly worked together to knock out the remainder of their pokémon. The ground was littered with the unconscious forms of Team Aqua grunts, Team Magma grunts, and SAT troopers. His two administrators were nowhere to be seen.

"So I see. It seems I have no choice but to retreat," Maxie replied with a sigh. He reached into his topcoat and retrieved a bright red flare gun. He pointed it into the sky and pulled the trigger. An instant later, a large Crobat zipped down from the skies. The bat chomped down on the back of Maxie's coat and lifted him into the skies. "The day is yours, Team Aqua. This will be the last time I underestimate you and your allies."

"You think you can get away!?" Brawly stood up with fury in his eyes. He produced a stun rod and reeled his arm back to throw it, only for Archie to stop him.

"Get down, you fool!" Moments after Archie opened his mouth, Maxie's Crobat flapped its wings powerfully. Just that one motion caused arcs of wind so strong they were visible to slice down at the ground where they stood. The arcs were accompanied by wisps of a strange purple liquid as well.

Archie directed his Sharpedo to form a wall of water between everyone and the incoming attack, which dissipated harmlessly against the wall. By the time the wall receded, Maxie was little more than a dot on the horizon. With him, other members of Team Magma that could move were making their escape on the wings of Golbats and Skarmories.

"We've got to chase him! He can't get away after what he almost did to Hoenn!" Flannery raged at the sky after him. She whirled to Winona. "You can fly too, can't you!? Go after him!"

"That would be unwise. As much as I hate to say it, his Crobat is far faster than my Altaria. That was clear to me when I briefly tangled with it in the battle above. Unfortunately, Team Magma survives this day," Winona revealed. Brawly clenched his fists in helpless rage, while Flannery let out a colorful selection of choice curses. "Yet, they are not without losses."

Winona turned to an SAT trooper that had landed with her. "Rendezvous with Roxanne and Shelly, and help them round up our defeated enemies. We'll have quite a lot to put behind bars, I feel." The SAT trooper nodded and went to do as he was told. She then turned to Seth, who was still hugging Kyra. She called out his name, but Seth didn't respond. She knelt down and gently grasped Seth's head, turning it to look at her. Seth gazed up at her weakly with tears streaming down his cheeks. Winona's eyes softened, and then she smiled in what was probably the kindest expression he'd ever seen her wear. She knelt down and hugged him, shocking Seth back to reality. "Come now, Seth. The battle has ended, due in no small part to you."

"I can't believe you took on Maxie alone like that!" Flannery praised Seth as well, ruffling his hair.

Seth finally found his voice. "The only reason I'm still alive is that he underestimated me. That's it." He shuddered, remembering just how close to death he had been. "By all rights, I shouldn't be here. If he hadn't..."

"But he did, and you are." Archie addressed Seth, grabbing him by the arm and forcing him into a standing position. A grin stretched across his face. "I knew you were made of strong stuff, Seth. I knew that when the chips were down, you'd step up and do what needed to be done. Facing Maxie alone and shaming him in front of his own team...hahahahaha!" Archie's booming laugh echoed across the summit. "I want you on my team more than ever. I'm almost disappointed in myself for doubting you!"

"I find myself agreeing with Archie. The true hero of this battle is you. You brought down the machine that would have caused untold devastation in Hoenn." Winona said without hesitation. To Seth's shock, she folds her hands in front of her and bows. "I apologize for doubting you when I first met you. I see now that you are a trainer and a man that I can respect."

"I…" Seth realized that everyone was looking at him with respect and praise. He flushed deeply. "I don't know what to say. I just did what I had to do."

"That you did, Seth. That you did." Archie clapped Seth's shoulder one more time, and then he strode past him, to where the exhausted forms of the remaining Team Aqua members were beginning to gather. Archie came to a halt, standing before his team with a grin stamped upon his face. He thrust his fist into the air. "Team Magma is defeated, and their leader has fled with his tail between his legs! Victory for Team Aqua! Victory for Kyogre!"

A thunderous cheer of triumph rose from Team Aqua as they whooped, cried, and hugged one another, while others simply let themselves fall into a sitting position and laugh in relief.

Seth felt his knees buckle, and he fell onto his butt. He laid back flat on the ground, gazing up at the blue sky. As the adrenaline left his body, he realized just how exhausted and in pain he was. His clothes were tattered, his skin was burned all over, and his limbs felt like sticks of lead.

"Kyra…" Seth whispered, and she came hobbling over to him, where she too fell back into the crook of his arm. Against all odds, they'd made it through the morning. Now, more than anything, he just wanted to find the nearest bed and sleep for years. "We did it."


Author's Note:

Whew, now it's all done. Do you see why I didn't just upload it all at once? Nobody would have sat through that, much less reviewed. It's an issue that I had with the Meteor Falls Chapter, where people never wanted to sit through it and read it all in one sitting.

Now, I'm nervous about this one, because I had to come up with a semi-realistic motive for Maxie, just like I did with Archie. In the game, Maxie wanted to blow the volcano to make more land, but that always struck me as odd considering that Mt. Chimney is a supervolcano, and that would basically kill the region, if not the whole country. The whole world would feel the impact too, possibly followed by global climate change and extinction events. If he was going to do something like that, he needed a good reason for it. So in this case, I adjusted his motivation to be more in line with the survival of humanity through drastic measures. With Groudon, assuming he could control it, he could be the force that keeps humanity alive and in check, guiding their expansion on the paths he desires. So it's more of a power trip and self-righteousness than just outright ridiculousness. I hope it makes sense in this context.

Anyway, time for me to work on the next chapter! I don't know when it'll be out, but it'll definitely be a return to the smut that's been missing for so long! There isn't any major story arcs to build up to for quite a while!

Thanks for getting this far, and if you have, please leave me a review! Every single one I get helps my motivation!