Jolteon (Nick)

Gardevoir (Alicia)

Houndoom (Erebus)

Sealeo (Boreas)

Breloom (Ceres)

Vibrava (Sarah)


Sylveon (Titania)

Teddiursa (Artemis)

Flaaffy (Voltaire)

Vulpix (Vixen)

Roselia (Lilith)

Togepi (Not named yet)

Key Lair 1

"Where is this place?" Michael asked rhetorically as they drove through the mountains, the hover pads of the scooter being a godsend in this terrain.

I remember that the guy at the Libra said something about the smell of sludge. I think we're getting a bit close. Something smells awful nearby, Alicia said.

Michael noticed the sickly-sweet, yet acidic smell in the air as Alicia mentioned it. Liz then noticed an almost violet stream of sludge trickling across the ground ahead of the scooter. "Over there!" She pointed to the stream, and Michael got closer.

"Good eye, Liz," he said with a smile. He paused for a second to see which way the liquid was flowing, and following it steadily, but going a bit slower to make sure they wouldn't hit any hazards unexpectedly. Unfortunately, as they approached, the smell became overwhelming. "Shit, where are the gas masks?"

I know, but I know I didn't smell this stuff while I was being held here, Alicia said. They probably have a filter inside. I think we can endure it.

Liz coughed a bit as they crested a hill and saw a massive glass pyramid off in the distance, surrounded by an equally massive moat of the toxic mud. Luckily, there was a bridge with what looked like a battlefield in the center. "Good news! We found it," she said almost sarcastically. "And we don't have to swim."

Michael chuckled before he noticed a guy standing on the bridge as they approached, starting to recognize the red shirt and blonde flat-top haircut. "Wait…is that…"

"The punk who scared Jovi in Gateon Port," Liz said. "Do you want to kick his ass, or can I?"

Wait, that guy made Jovi cry? Alicia asked.

"Yeah, a little before we met you. She accidentally bumped into him, and he went ape on her," Michael said.

Alicia's anger started radiating out. Liz, stay out of this one, she said. During Michael's hospitalization, Alicia had taken a liking to the sweet little girl, who reminded her a lot of Selena. After we're done, I'm tossing the bastard into the sludge.

Michael parked his scooter before getting to the start of the bridge, never taking his eyes off Zook.

Zook seemed to just maintain a permanent glare as the trio approached him. "Tch. You're that little punk from Gateon Port," the massive skater said.

Michael kept a cold glare. "And you're the asshole who tried to assault a seven-year-old girl just for bumping into you," Michael said.

Zook just shrugged. "What of it? Not like you did anything about it. I'm still fuming over that day." His face turned to fury. "I got my ass chewed out by Gorigan for using my Shadow Pokémon in public. I don't even know how he found out!"

Michael looked over at Alicia, nodding that he was ready. She levitated over to join Michael, while Liz watched, ready to jump in if the need arose. "Maybe because you were dumb enough to use one in the middle of the busiest port in the region," Michael said.

"You can fuck off," Zook said as he pulled out two Pokéballs. "Zangoose, and Dodrio! Get out here!" Once again, Michael saw the white and red Pokémon that looked like a cross between a bipedal ferret and a cat. Beside the Zangoose was a three-headed bird whose plumage was surprisingly well groomed for one of Cipher's Pokémon. And, as expected, the Zangoose triggered the Shadow Monitor.

"Funny. I was going to say the same thing. Nick, Alicia, let's put this prick in his place," Michael said, the Jolteon appearing with a bright flash of light. His body sparked with anticipation for the battle. There was just one problem that Michael could see: the Zangoose was almost ten levels lower than Nick and Alicia. He would have to fight it with less power to ensure a successful snag.

"I have ten Pokéballs, ten Great Balls, about six Ultra Balls, and two Luxury Balls, and three Timer Balls," Michael said softly. "Arceus, please let that be enough to snag the Pokémon here."

Don't worry. Liz should have enough to catch a few herself, Alicia said confidently. Now, let's win this. She wasted no time in closing her eyes and clearing her mind, her strength increasing steadily with her brief meditation.

Nick moved first, gathering static without a command. The electricity was almost purple as he fired it at Zangoose. The Normal-Type flattened his ears like he was annoyed at the very notion that Michael was trying to incapacitate him. He dodged to the side, then started running forward with Shadow aura cloaking his entire body. Nick dodged as quickly as he could, firing another Thunder Wave as the Shadow Pokémon passed.

"Dodrio, Drill Peck on that pansy ass Gardevoir!" Zook said.

Michael…permission to end him right now? Alicia asked as the Dodrio ran towards her, wind spiraling around his beaks.

Just don't hurt his Pokémon. Otherwise, you can do whatever you want short of murder.

Alicia smirked. You'd be surprised what a person can live through.

Michael's expression turned to one of joking worry. What have I just agreed to?

Nick seemed to laugh at Alicia and Michael as he fired a Thunder Wave, hitting the Zangoose directly. The creature winced as his muscles began to spasm with the electricity. Michael took that time to immediately program a snag, and threw a Pokéball. The energy hand flew out from the ball, making Michael smile at the return of the familiar action. The Zangoose glared and sprinted forward, swiping at the incoming hand, as if trying to fight it. The energy closed around Zangoose, pulling him inside the ball quickly. The ball closed and hit the ground, rolling around for a brief time before snapping shut. Alicia was quick to use Psychic to toss the ball back to Michael as she and Nick both fired their own Thunder Bolt attacks. The Doduo tried to run out of the way, but it wasn't fast enough to avoid the powerful attacks in time.

Zook stomped his foot angrily. "Seviper, and Barbaracle, kill these two!" The skater looked more than a little pissed. The massive viper had a bladed, spear-like tail, with an edge as crimson as the venomous fangs extending from its mouth. Its teammate was a massive cluster of barnacles, with one larger section for a head, two surrounding it, and four making the limbs. The Pokémon actually looked like it would be a troublesome foe…if it wasn't obviously a water type.

You both know what to do, Michael thought. Alicia smirked back at Michael, ready to make mincemeat of her opponent. Nick nodded as well, trusting his trainer with all his heart. Barely moving from where they stood, Michael's two Pokémon gathered their energy simultaneously.

"Seviper, Poison Fang on that Gardevoir. Barbaracle, use Mud Shot on Jolteon," Zook said, his voice showing that he still thought he could win.

Just as Seviper began moving, Alicia targeted the venomous snake, launching a powerful Psychic attack. Too slow! she said before using her power to throw the snake across the bridge, immediately knocking it out. Nick easily outpaced the rock-type, firing a Thunder Bolt at the creature and knocking it out just as quickly as the snake fell.

Zook growled. "FUUUUCK!" was all he said. "A pansy-ass like you has no business being so strong!"

Michael ignored the skater, walking over and petting Nick behind the ear. "Thanks buddy. You never stop impressing me with your battles," he said, getting a happy sound somewhere between a bark and a mewl. Michael gave one last pet before recalling the Jolteon.

"Hey, I'm fuckin' talkin' to you, little bitch!" Zook said as he got closer to Michael, not noticing Liz approaching.

Michael rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I heard you. But, why should I pay any attention to a guy who assaults seven-year-old girls?"

Zook sneered. "The little bitch messed up the hip and happenin' look of Zook! She deserved-" He was cut off as Liz got to him and drove her knee directly into Zook's crotch with all her strength, Michael and the Team Snagem Members watching from the ridge above all wincing at the impact. Zook just dropped to the ground, writhing in agony.

Liz knelt by Zook looking him in the eye. "If you ever mess with anybody again, especially little kids, I will find out, and I'll do so much worse. You understand?" Zook nodded with an agonized expression. "Good. Now sit here, rethink your life, then go home."

Michael and Alicia walked up to Liz as she strode over to the ramp leading into the massive pyramid. "Hey, Liz," Michael said. The brunette turned toward Michael with a completely normal expression of happiness.

"Something wrong?" Liz asked her boyfriend.

"Not really, just promise you won't make a habit of what you just did," Michael said.

"He scared Jovi, so he deserved it. Besides, you heard what he was saying just before I hit him. He was proud of tormenting her," Liz said with a shrug.

Still, hitting a man there…that just hurts too much, Alicia said.

Liz smiled. "I promise, it won't become common," she said. "Let's get inside."

As they got to the base of the ramp, two muscular guards ran from the building, blocking the path. "Alright, you two, we're not taking any chances. Neither of you are going inside."

"Well, we may have something to say about that," Gonzap said as he came up behind Michael and Liz, as silently as a ninja. Wakin was approaching behind Gonzap as well, a Gloom next to them both as well. "You won't stop either of these three from getting inside. Now, Wakin, if you don't mind."

Wakin nodded. "Sleep Powder," he said non-chalantly. The Gloom's body shook slightly as a cloud of green spores began to gather around the diaphragm of its flower, almost like a cloud as she launched it toward the guards. Their eyes both went wide as Cipher's guards tried unsuccessfully to not inhale the spores. A moment later, they were both on the ground, asleep.

"Go on in," Gonzap said with a smirk. "We'll play our part in keeping the members from leaving." Michael nodded, and they began heading inside without another word. Gonzap just began to smirk with respect as the trainers went into the giant glass pyramid. "That kid may not be one of us, but he has more spunk than Wes ever did. I think he's a legend in the making."

Wakin looked at Gonzap with a curious expression. "I don't know. They're good, but they're nowhere near Wes's level."

"Perhaps, but Liz seems to be more versatile than Rui," Gonzap said. "She may not have the Shadow Sight, but that girl is definitely a strong battler. That and having a Snag Machine of her own could prove to be invaluable."

Inside the base, Alicia was beginning to look around, the hallways looking hauntingly familiar. They took a left from the entrance, seeing a staircase toward the basement. It was a dark area, but Alicia recognized the scent wafting from the stairs. Michael…Liz…

Michael turned toward Alicia, seeing that she was on edge. "Are you okay?"

This isn't the way we need to go… she said. Not yet, at least…

"That's where you were kept, isn't it?" Liz asked.

Y-yeah…and I don't know if there are still others down there, she said.

Michael put his hand on Alicia's shoulder. "We'll deal with Cipher first, then get any Pokémon down there to safety."

Alicia nodded; her expression unchanged as they went back to explore the rest of the building. They passed the entrance, and were almost immediately met by a Cipher Peon leaping from the ceiling. The woman seemed to chuckle. "Oh, you two are getting in way too deep now. I can't let either of you leave here alive." The woman's voice sounded oddly familiar to Liz.

"Babe," Liz said. "Let me handle her."

"Give her hell," Michael said almost playfully. Alicia just seemed to keep staring into the distance, as if something extremely interesting was on the wall.

The woman grabbed two Pokéballs. "Come out, Seviper and Murkrow," she said, sending out both a massive venomous snake, and the black crow-like Pokémon with plumage like a hat on top of its head.

Alicia looked up a little, seeing the Murkrow. The species that killed grandma…

Michael looked at her with some worry, while Liz picked her lineup. "Artemis, Voltaire, it's time to battle!"

"Murkrow, use Assurance on that Teddiursa. Seviper, Poison Tail on that Flaaffy." Murkrow began to gather murky energy around his body as he flew toward Artemis. The Seviper's tail began to glow bright violet. It then slithered quickly toward Voltaire with his tail poised to slash. Michael watched as the Flaaffy was quick to fire a Thunder Bolt at the Murkrow, while Artemis ran and grabbed the Seviper by the tail, preventing it from swinging by grabbing near the base of the blade. Her claws began to glitter with a metallic sheen as she pulled the Seviper back to slash the snake across the face. She almost reminded Liz of Scorpion in Mortal Kombat. At the same time, Murkrow's assault on Artemis was halted as a Thunder Bolt made its wings seize, and the bird plummeted.

The Seviper, however, surprisingly toughed it out and began to coil around the Teddiursa, looking like he was about to crush the little bear. Liz's eyes went wide with fear as she saw the snake open its mouth as if it was about to swallow the Teddiursa. "NO, STOP!" Liz cried out. The little bear struggled fiercely, but when it became clear she couldn't break free of the snake's coils, she locked eyes with her trainer. Liz grabbed Artemis's Pokéball, wanting to recall the Teddiursa before anything went too far. The Seviper sadistically swung its tail to block the incoming beam repeatedly.

Seeing the sheer terror in Liz's eyes, followed by the Seviper's sadistic actions, Artemis's expression turned to resolve. Immediately, her entire body began to glow brightly. She quickly began to grow to well over six-feet, her arms extending along with her torso. As the glowing faded, Artemis made the Seviper release her, only to grab the snake by the neck. Her dark brown fur was now highlighted with a gold ring pattern on her belly. With a snarl, she slammed the snake headfirst into the floor. At the same time, Voltaire's electricity struck the Murkrow, knocking the bird from the sky.

Liz dropped to her knees in relief, realizing just how close she was to losing Artemis. "…Please, don't scare me like that," she said, tears welling in her eyes. Artemis looked to her trainer, nodded and prepared for the next opponent.

"Paras, go," the Cipher Peon said, smirking. The moment the red mushroom spider appeared, Liz's Shadow Monitor alarmed and revealed the aura around the Pokémon.

Liz nodded, sure that this would be an easy snag, with the next one being an easy victory.

"Now, you too, Growlithe," the Peon said with a huge smirk.

Liz's eyes went wide as the Shadow Monitor went off again.

We've never had more than one Shadow per trainer before, Michael thought.

Looks like they're getting more focused on fighting back, Alicia said, though an image of an odd blonde man with glasses, a blue swirl of hair, and a white lab coat flashed through her mind.

"Alright, Voltaire, use Thunder Wave on Paras. Artemis, use Lick on Growlithe!" Liz said, still trying to fight back tears from what almost just happened.

Without hesitation, both of Liz's Pokémon leapt into action, the Flaaffy gathering static electricity around her horns, and the Ursaring ran toward the fire puppy, reaching for the creature to pick him up.

"Shadow Blitz, both of you," the Peon said without any emotion. Both Paras and Growlithe began to gather their shadow aura before running forward. The rage in their eyes seemed to amplify the power and speed as they charged. Paras ducked under the incoming Thunder Wave, slamming into Voltaire with stunning agility. Growlithe was almost faster, leaping between Artemis's arms, slamming into her chest head-first.

While the attacks staggered both of Liz's Pokémon, and took a third of their health, Artemis took the time to wrap her arms around the Growlithe. At the same time, Paras began to seize up as electricity coursed through her body. Liz was already beginning to program a snag while Artemis licked the Growlithe across the face. The fire puppy seemed to freeze with a look of disgust as Artemis dropped him to the floor.

Holding out her arm to the side, Liz activated the snag, throwing the ball the moment it materialized in her hand. The target was Paras, but the creature seemed in no state to fight back as the energy hand grabbed her. The ball shook briefly before snapping shut.

"Great, now to get the next one," she said. For the first time, however, Liz noticed a new timer on her monitor. "A ninety-second snag cooldown? Damn it, why couldn't they shorten that?" Her Pokémon both seemed to understand the situation, getting ready to stall for time.

The Cipher Peon, however, had a look of livid animosity aimed at the Growlithe. "You weak, useless creature," she said as she walked onto the battlefield, swiftly kicking the Pokémon in the side. Growlithe yelped in pain, falling to the side.

"What the fuck are you doing?!" Liz yelled.

"Stay out of this, bitch," the woman said as she raised her foot like she was about to stomp on the Growlithe.

"Don't you fucking dare!" Liz screamed as she ran forward and used her shoulder to tackle the woman to the floor. Growlithe stayed on the ground, barely moving, but it was clearly whimpering from the impact. Liz, however, was working on ripping the helmet off the Cipher Peon, wanting to punch the bitch without hitting metal. When she got her grip right, the helmet came off and revealed the face of a woman Liz remembered from high school. "Kelly Ibsol…?"

The woman growled. "Get the fuck off me, you stuck up-!" Liz punched the girl across the face.

"I knew you were a bitch in school, but seriously? What the fuck is wrong with you?" Liz asked, not realizing that Growlithe was now watching intently, wondering why a random human would be helping him.

"What do you mean?" Kelly asked, spitting out some blood onto the floor. "I'm working for the only place that actually offers decent pay. I don't care about the Pokémon. I just need the money!"

Michael approached from behind. "Well, hope that brings you comfort in prison," he said. "Liz, go finish snagging Growlithe. I think he's going to need a doctor after what just happened."

Liz nodded, pulling Kelly's Pokéball belt away. "You don't deserve these. They're better going to those who actually care about them." The brunette stood up and programmed a snag on her machine, lightly tossing the Pokéball once the process was completed. Growlithe was pulled inside, not putting up a fight.

"Well, I'll be jobless after this, and nowhere will hire me," Kelly complained.

Liz glared. "And whose fault would that be? You know you could've gone to work for ONBS, the Realgam Tower, or even the HQ Lab. Instead, you chose to join a criminal syndicate that almost destroyed the region ten years ago," she said before sending Growlithe's ball to the Lab, pulling out her phone. "Hey, Dad, I just sent you a Shadow Growlithe. It may need serious medical attention, so please make sure it gets treatment quickly…Love you too, Dad. Bye." Kelly tried to get up, but Liz turned fast and kicked the woman again, knocking her out. "You're staying here until you're arrested."

Michael looked at Liz with slightly wide eyes. "So, serious note to self…never piss you off," he said. Liz just smiled and laughed before kissing Michael on the cheek.

"Glad you know the power dynamic of our relationship," Liz teased while hugging him tightly. "You could never make me that mad. I promise." She then led the way up the stairs.

"Master, Orison and Hanz arrived at the Key Lair. They are currently battling their way through the base," Ardos said as he knelt before Greevil.

"How many Shadows have they snagged?" Greevil asked.

"They're doing a surprisingly well in their battles," Ardos said. "The rats have snagged eleven so far. But, Gorigan has locked his office door, so his are safe…for now. He also set the generator to the perfect level, and took the adjustment dials off the machine, keeping them in his office. In short, our production will not be stopped, and Gorigan is preventing them from proceeding."

"What levels are their Pokémon currently?" Greevil asked.

Ardos smirked. "They are around level 30. Nowhere near strong enough to pose a threat."

Greevil smirked and looked at the monitor in front of him, seeing that his team was all sitting at level 100. "I would like to watch them struggle. Have the security footage and audio from the base sent to my screen."

"As you wish, Grand Master," Ardos said, standing and pulling a command remote from his sleeve. With a click, the screen changed to the security footage from the roof of the building, just as Liz was finishing a battle against a researcher. She was using an Ampharos and a Shadow Togepi, and it seemed that her opponent was being overwhelmed by the girl's skill in battle.

"Tell me, which Shadow Pokémon were snagged?" Greevil asked.

"Michael has taken Zangoose, Beedrill, Pidgeotto, Tangela, Butterfree, and Magneton. Liz has snagged Paras, Growlithe, Shellder, Venomoth, and Weepinbell."

"So, nothing worthy of mention. Just the fodder Shadows unworthy of the permanent power of a Shadow Pokémon. My XD001 shall reign supreme regardless," Greevil said with a smirk.

"Indeed, sir," Ardos said, before bowing respectfully and leaving the room. As he walked through the door, he noticed Eldes standing along the wall, like he had been listening. "Something to say, Eldes?"

Eldes just looked at Ardos for a moment, almost judgmentally. "So, the ones we lose are just expendable?" he asked.

"That goes without saying," Ardos said. "If they were stronger, they would've won or broken free."

"And what if the Pokémon don't want to break free?" Eldes countered.

"The stronger they are, the less will they have to resist their Shadow aura. You already know that. Questioning such things only makes me doubt your loyalty," Ardos said. "Now, get back to work. There must be some peons that need discipline." With that, Ardos left the room. Eldes sighed as he stood and walked back to his room.

"We can't get the door open," Michael griped, sitting against the wall.

"Yeah, I noticed," Liz shot back, both of them a little irritated. They were still on the roof, looking at an adapted diesel generator. They had noticed a weird gap in the machinery, but there seemed to be no way to stop it.

Alicia, however, was looking at the other sides of the machine. Hey, it looks like this thing is missing a switch, or something.

Michael perked up, seeing the Gardevoir standing by what he'd assumed to just be a gap in the machine. "You sure?"

It looks like a lever or dial needs to go here, Alicia said. But…we scoured every room in the base other than the basement. There was nothing that looked like it would fit.

"Do you think you could affect it?" Michael asked, thinking they might be able to cheat a little and break the main power source of the base.

No…but maybe Nick and Voltaire together could overload the generator, Alicia said.

"Actually, that could work," Liz said. "Batteries explode when they have too much electricity. But…the explosions can be pretty bad. We'll need to be a good distance away, and we'll need some cover." She pulled out Voltaire's Pokéball, while Michael sent out Nick. During their battles in the base, both of their teams had reached around level 40, with Nick sitting at 42, and Alicia at 41.

"Then we should have them at the top of the stairs," Michael said, pointing to a landing of the staircase leading to the generator. "We'll be right against this wall. Once they use Thunder Bolt on the generator, we recall them immediately and stay behind cover in case an explosion occurs."

"Sounds like we'll need to have perfect timing," Liz said. "It's risky…but what if Alicia teleported them to us. We could make it work faster that way." She looked at the generator, seeing the machinery and components through the cover. "It looks like it services a 200-amp circuit. They will likely need to generate 200,000 watts of electricity to overload it. I think we need to use something stronger than Thunder Bolt. Let's go with two Thunders."

"I think two Thunders and a Thunder Bolt for good measure would work better," Michael said.

I'll gladly help with that. You two get to cover, Alicia said, walking with Voltaire and Jolteon to the stairs, while Liz and Michael went to cover, then gave a nod to their Pokémon. Okay…ready…FIRE!

The electric types immediately fired large arcs of electricity toward the generator, hitting the machine perfectly, and making sure the energy got to the point of overloading the generator. "3…2…1…" Liz said. As if on cue, they heard the generator grind to a halt, with the sound of an explosion in the distance. Michael looked at Alicia, who ushered them up to the stairs.

It's safe. Their storage unit just exploded, Alicia said.

Michael and Liz got up the stairs and saw a huge arc flash in the distance. They had to shield their eyes from the incredibly bright lightning, curling in the sky almost beautifully before it dissipated. They then heard the door fly open below them, with footstep running out.

"WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!" the man who came out shouted.

Michael looked with understanding toward Alicia and Nick before turning around to face a Peon he recognized from the S.S. Libra. "Your factory is fucked now. You're welcome," he said, leading his Pokémon down the stairs. He focused on his opponent as he approached.

"Well, big man to think you're getting out of here alive. If not me, Gorigan will turn you to mince."

Liz waited until they were in the position to battle, neither looking her way. She recalled Voltaire and snuck down the stairs, seeing the door open leading to the office she assumed to be the boss's office. "Sorry, Michael…I'm taking this one," she said.

As she entered the ornate barely lit office, Liz immediately saw the almost apelike Gorigan sitting behind the desk at the far end of the room, with a small back-up generator whirring behind him. "So, you and Orison are finally here," he said as Liz got closer, sounding like he was barely containing an explosion of rage. "You seem to think you can just run around here and fuck with my operations." With a growing scowl, Gorigan raised his fist and slammed it onto the cherry wood desk, making massive cracks in the surface. With that, he leapt over the broken desk, getting so close to Liz that she could see his eyes through his sunglasses. "You're going to pay for all the damage you've done to Cipher."

Liz couldn't describe the primal fear that this man was creating in her right now. She backed away to a good distance for a battle, trying to steel her nerves, cursing herself for being too confident.

Wow…I can't believe how long that took. I gotta apologize for the wait, because I let myself get overwhelmed with work these past few months. I am glad to be back writing, though. And, yes, I know I skipped most of the base. That will be done with the follow-up.

Please let me know what you think of this story with a review. I deeply appreciate all feedback. Next time, it's the battle with Gorigan.

Well, I hope to make these chapters far more frequent. Until next time ~ jmoul18