Mom was right. I am reckless.
Red continued pulling on the tubes injected into the massive dinosaur's body, the ones that pumped neural depressants into it periodically to keep its instincts and brain activity at their absolute minima. Not for the first time, he glanced at the thick layer of carapace and metal covering the reptilian form. Its jaws could shatter a lairon's armor, and between its massive tail and sharp three-foot claws, he wondered if he could feel the life seep out of him if he were ever attacked by one.
No, he'd probably be cut to several pieces before his mind even registered what was happening.
If this works, we might have a chance. If it doesn't… Well, shit's already hit the fan anyways.
"Red?" Cynthia asked, wringing her hands fretfully. "Are you certain you want to do this?"
"It's too late now. The party's already here."
At her confusion, he tilted his head to the right, where a trio of houndours was belching torrents of crimson flames towards the glass that served as the last stand between survival and death. Behind them stood a whole host of Team Rocket grunts and their pokémon. He couldn't help but wryly chuckle at how quickly Cynthia's face lost all traces of color.
"A party— when did— what the hell are you dawdling around for then?!"
"On it!" Red laughed, yanking out the last plug.
Ritchie looked towards the glass wall ahead. It was massive. And translucent. Enough to make anyone wonder whether the League had its head too deep in its collective ass to even consider the potential ramifications of a security breach in the event of an invasion.
Kind of like what was happening right then.
But then a pair of machoke slammed their fists into the glass wall, only to be soundly rebuffed as a slight wobble was all they earned for their efforts. Come to think of it, it was probably why this section had no guards nearby. Maybe the League did know what they were doing after all.
"Assemble the houndours again!" he heard one of the junior Executives, a man named Falcon, issue orders. Butch and Pierce were both juggernauts in their own right, currently keeping up the fight on the eastern and southern fronts of the Museum. Even if they managed to make it past the glass, he doubted they could fight a Champion-class trainer like Giovanni, much less an actual Champion like Steven Stone.
But then it hit him.
The idea wasn't to defeat them. It wasn't to get into the Museum and kill everything in sight. It was simply to maintain an obstruction, isolating the Museum and, by extension, Lance Wataru and Lorelei of the Elite Four and all the other trainers inside. They didn't have their pokémon.
If they weren't in battle, they couldn't fight. If they couldn't fight, they couldn't turn the tide of the war.
"Follow up the Flamethrowers with Ice Beams!" Falcon yelled.
A trio of golducks and a pair of poliwhirls stepped up next, coating the now-superheated glass with frost.
"Again!" he ordered the machoke-squad. "Mach punch!"
The structure stood erect as ever.
At this rate, we may as well be sitting on our asses doing nothing but—
The glass wall exploded, hitting everyone with the force of a runaway truck. The first three ranks, Grunt, and pokémon alike, went flying back like they were on wires with shards embedded in them. As they collided with the people behind them, it all became a giant hodgepodge of confused grunts.
"Urgh!" Ritchie groaned. It was the only intelligible sound he could make as he tried to regain his bearings.
His head was pounding and he felt like he'd just been spun out of a washing machine. Shifting slightly, he realized he was feeling hard gravel underneath him. There was even a loose rock resting under his head, digging uncomfortably into his skull. On top of him was Astrid, her head resting on his chest. He felt her slowly get up and accidentally push her knee into his groin—
"Fuck!" he practically squealed. "Get off!"
But Astrid didn't answer, which Ritchie found odd. She was the type of person to always have the last caustic or teasing word, no matter the topic. It was deeply ingrained in her. Confused, he blearily looked around and—
He saw it. The blur behind the wall. It was a massive shadowed figure, longer than the eye could see.
And it was getting larger by the second.
He saw the maw next, an eerie mix of metal and bone large enough to swallow an entire human in one go. The flesh was dark brown with flecks of crimson and blackened silver, with horn-like protrusions jutting out at odd angles. The eyes shone with a mad, almost primordial light, contrasting with the ominous darkness surrounding it.
Slowly, the demented beast's full form came into clarity. It took a single step through where the glass wall once stood, causing tremors to spread. Then another step. And another. Its body was reptilian, with a tail thicker than three humans huddled together.
It lifted its maw and roared.
One moment, there was nothing. Then, violence permeated the air. The sound was loud— an inept description, as those closest to it dropped unconscious with blood trickling down their eyes and nose. Ritchie himself felt his heart throb against his ribs and his hands shake as pinpricks ran along his skin. He crossed his arms in front of him but still felt the hammer blow of pressure slamming into his face.
The monster tilted its head slightly downwards, and Ritchie saw its large, yellow reptilian eyes.
He could feel something wet below his belt.
Something told him, yelled at him, that he should run. But his muscles didn't obey his command. His legs spasmed as he tried and failed repeatedly to stand on his feet. None of it seemed normal, and his mind nearly slipped away in fear. He— what was he doing— he was forgetting something.
Right. That was it. Danger. He was in danger—
The monster opened its maw and roared again, and its eyes glinted like a predator. It wasn't calculating how many to fight or the best way to avoid combat. No, it was akin to a starving man looking at an all-you-can-eat buffet, with layers upon layers of delicious and exotic dishes laid out just for it to feast upon.
The gargantuan dinosaur took another step forward.
As it turned out, Tyrantrum could really haul ass.
The behemoth was about the size of a city bus, but despite its weight, it moved with power and grace. Its bellow was a basso shriek that shattered glass and rattled Red's eardrums, and the marble beneath its feet got crushed to bits, fractures spreading to adjacent tiles as it made its way to the asphalt outside.
The first unfortunate soul to fall into its sights was a machoke. Even from his hidden vantage point, Red could see the muscular creature meet the dinosaur's gaze with naked terror, covering its head with trembling arms.
Tyrantrum ate him. Snap. Gulp.
No more machoke.
The dinosaur made a sharp left turn, and ended up swinging its massive tail against yet another wall, shattering it like a sledgehammer flung through a sandcastle. The debris landed upon a group of grunts and their pokémon, and a spray of blood and gore filled the air like a bloody mist as bodies fell on one another like useless sacks of flesh.
A pair of beedrill rose up high, wings buzzing and stingers spinning with power and poison. The two insect pokémon speared their stingers into the tyrantrum's hide, and a third pokémon— a large, dark purple arbok —twisted its body around one of its ankles, using its steel-crushing strength to squeeze one of its legs.
Tyrantrum killed them as easily as a human wiping sweat off their brow.
Another swipe from its immense claws lifted an ursaring off the ground. The blow pulped its insides to mush, and the bear was dead long before the dinosaur had tossed it into its mouth. Small mercies.
Red wanted to look away in revulsion. He did this. He released this monster into the world. But too much was at stake. He needed a way to get out of the Museum and meet back with his team, and these people were the ones at fault for invading in the first place. Still, there was no quelling the foolish voice inside his head blaming him, calling it all his fault, proclaiming that the blood of all those people was on his hands and—
"Shut the hell up!" Red snarled. He glanced at Cynthia, who was busy throwing up against a wall. "Come on!" he hissed, pulling at her elbow. "We need to get going! This is the best chance we'll get!"
"But— but all those people—"
"They made their choice by being here at all," he replied, his voice masking his own doubts. "It's now or never. We can get out and make the best of this mess, or we can be that thing's next meal."
Ironically, it was the promise of death that pulled her out of her trance. A trace of color returned to her features. "Right," she swallowed. "Let's get going!"
The entire place looked like something straight out of a serial killer's basement, only dialed up to eleven. Red had a hard time looking away from the macabre remains lining the ground, or keeping from throwing up when Cynthia nearly slipped on the crushed, ragdolled form of a deceased electabuzz as they slipped out.
Another roar shook the premises.
"I can't believe this is the work of a single pokémon."
"A king of the ancient world," Red whispered, remembering the other King that was now let loose into the world. Coincidentally, that was also because of his own decisions. It made him wonder whether his grand role, as Mewtwo put it, was to let loose apocalyptic monsters into the modern world and let them tear it apart.
The old man would be so thrilled.
Red's gaze followed Cynthia's outstretched finger towards the ongoing fight. An enormous nidoking stood in the tyrantrum's path, its large muscular body tensed and hands raised. The purple creature slammed its legs on the ground in a heavy stomp, sending a ripple through the earth that cracked the floor beneath the ancient reptile's feet.
"CHARGE!" he heard someone yell, and a collective array of attacks slammed into the tyrantrum. A magmar lifted its maw and belched hot flames at the dinosaur's body, while a pair of Hypno was busy swinging their pendulums in an attempt to lull the psychic beast to unconsciousness. More poison stings, flamethrowers, ice beams, and pressure-based moves attacked all at once.
The tyrantrum took a step back, groaning.
"Yes!" the same guy exclaimed. He was tall, with a pair of sunglasses resting on his wavy brown hair. "Let's bring that monster under our control. We can use it to destroy the League!" His words filled the rest of the group with courage, as they slowly approached the dinosaur's location. Hell, some of them were even chuckling in a false sense of victory and accomplishment, as if the fight was already over.
A growing dread overtook him as Red realized what was about to happen. Seeing Cynthia's pallid expression and dilated eyes, he knew she'd arrived at the same conclusion. She only had the chance to scream for a split second and inform them of their mistake before Red clamped her mouth shut with his palm.
"Shut up!" he hissed. "You're drawing attention to us!"
She scratched and clawed at his hands, but it only made him hold her more tightly.
"I know! I know they don't know, but we can't do anything about it. Now keep your mouth shut!"
After a few tense seconds, though it seemed like an eternity, he felt her body sag in resignation. Slowly, he removed his hand from her face. "What the hell were you thinking?" he furiously whispered. "We don't want them to notice— oh, hell…"
The damage was done.
One of the grunts was looking their way.
No, not at them. Directly at him.
Why me? It was Cynthia who tried to scream.
And why did that guy seem so familiar? There was something about his brown hair, large eyes, and sharp jawline that seemed to spark something from his memories. But try as he might, he couldn't quite put a finger on it. Had he encountered him somewhere before? Maybe it was at the Trainer's Square?
"You!" the grunt cried out, rushing towards him like a madman. "You've ruined my life!"
"What?" Red yelped. "I don't even know who you are!"
That only seemed to aggravate the Team Rocket stooge further. Dramatically, he flung a pokéball into the air, releasing a butterfree that did an aerial somersault and flew towards Red.
"Use wing attack!" he commanded.
Not in the mood to deal with this new crackpot, Red grabbed a fist-sized pebble from the ground and flung it at the butterfree. But the bug weaved its way out of it, only to fly head-first into a broken marble plate that Cynthia had thrown like a makeshift boomerang. Red marveled at how the butterfly was sent flying, with one of its wings thoroughly bruised as it crashed onto the ground.
The bug wasn't getting up anytime soon.
"You!" the grunt snarled again. And just like that, Red remembered where he'd seen the boy before. It was the maniac from Pallet Forest, the one with a horrific naming sense. A part of him racked his brain for the boy's name, while the rest of him wondered with alarm why he had stopped running towards the ranch. He saw the grunt— Rick or something —take out a second pokéball.
"YOU WILL PAY FOR WHAT YOU'VE—"
There was a sudden snapping sound as Red looked past the guy and found the tyrantrum stepping on the lone magmar. The grunt turned his head in sheer horror and rushed back towards the rest of the group shouting obscenities. He released a charmeleon and raichu, and angrily ordered both to attack.
"Sorry, what did you say?!" Red yelled back. "You didn't finish!"
Cynthia punched him in the shoulder.
"That was mean! His pokémon just died."
"He's a terrorist," Red said, rolling his eyes. "You know what, this isn't important right now. Let's get going!"
Rubber tires screeched in protest as the truck turned a sharp corner despite the NO LEFT TURN sign. The engine growled gamely, as though it sensed what was at stake, and continued its valiant moaning and rattling as it zoomed down the street.
"Can this contraption not go any faster?" Proton voiced all too calmly.
"We can, sir," the grunt driver answered, "but any more jerking and it might affect the Pod."
The answer was not what Proton wanted to hear, and did nothing to quell the growing anxiety at the pit of his stomach. His mouth twisted in distaste. Things weren't going in a favorable direction. His team was supposed to take the Birth Pod and Oak to Diglett Cave, where his chopper was hidden underground. Between his pair of hydreigon and his ticket out of there, he should have been out of Pewter before the League could gather the strength to stand.
This was all assuming the League forces even came hunting for him instead of fighting for their beloved Champion and Elite Four members trapped in the Museum, with an army of grunts heading towards them. During that time, Sabrina would have performed the Initiation on several VVIPs, and possibly even on Lorelei herself.
Everything had been going according to plan.
And then somebody blew up Diglett Cave, causing his careful designs to come crashing down like a house of cards. If Proton didn't know any better, it was someone on the inside that did it. Someone with the power and resources to pull off such a stunt without chance of failure. Someone like—
His fists clenched. Could it? Could it be him behind the curtain? There had always been a shadow war among the uppermost echelons of Team Rocket. Proton knew how deeply the Boss empathized with Ghetsis's work. This mission was important to everything currently going on in Unova. The research from Project Nihilo, documents scavenged from Colress's works— all of it centered around Project Apotheosis.
My father's work.
But Petrel? He was a shadow.
Something about him had always bugged Proton, scratching a part of his mind that told him there was more than what meets the eye. It was something sinister, alien, twisted, wrong. Something that made even him, a Champion-class trainer, shiver involuntarily.
The fact that Petrel outright refused to become a Team Rocket Admin and work with the organization on a case-by-case basis, despite having the Venatori work for him, only irked Proton more. Here he was, trying to keep everything from falling apart. And yet, Petrel—
The shadow was nowhere to be found.
No one had heard from him ever since the Collapse Protocol began.
Proton shook his head.
Still, the situation was far from unsalvageable. Butch and Pierce were in charge of pressing into the Museum surroundings, and keeping it isolated from any Corps coming in to assist. Meanwhile, the Grunt Squad was invading the Museum and taking control of it— not that it was necessary, what with Ariana and Sabrina at work. Everything was technically still within the parameters of what he'd planned.
But then why did it feel like something wrong was happening?
Proton grabbed the transponder and dialed. After two rings, the call went through.
"What's the status, Ariana?"
"Everything is under control."
Proton froze. That— that wasn't Ariana's voice. That was—
"Lance…" he growled.
"The very same," came the amused voice on the other end. "It was a good plan, Proton, albeit a little risky. Leaving Ariana and Sabrina by themselves was too hasty on your part."
"What happened to them? Where are they?"
"Ah, so you don't know what's going on. I wasn't sure if that was the situation, but now I do. Thanks to you."
Proton gritted his teeth.
"Ariana is currently psychically disabled and asleep, and everyone else is free. I should also inform you that the Museum and the delegates remain completely safe. The same cannot be said about your poor grunts."
"What?" he exploded. What the hell is happening? "What did you do?"
Lance chuckled. "For someone running a coup this big, you are uninformed, Admin Proton. But you've given me a useful hint. Allow me to return the favor. You see, Sabrina is currently on her way to you. Flying. But she isn't our Sabrina. Nor is she yours."
"What the hell does that even mean?" Proton demanded. "Sabrina—"
The line had already disconnected.
"DAMN IT!" Proton roared, slamming the transponder back into its holder. "Drive faster!"
"Did I stutter?!"
"Then just do it," he snapped. This was getting out of hand. For him, Lance had always been a sour point. A figurehead who enjoyed all the rights that should have been his as Ghetsis's son. While Lance was trained to fight with Dragonite reared by the clan, Proton had meticulously raised a pair of deino to become the vicious hydreigon they were today. While Lance was practically handed the Champion's throne by Samuel Oak, Proton had shed blood, sweat, and tears to reach the heights he was at.
He was not going to let the likes of Lance Wataru have the last laugh.
And yet, Lance's last words rankled him. 'She isn't our Sabrina. Neither is she yours,' he had said. What did that mean? Did something go wrong with her personality implant? He knew for a fact that Sabrina had been activated several times before. Key moments to ensure specific cargo went through the Saffron Harbor, and the occasional Initiation rites.
But nothing went wrong in those instances. Maybe someone from the delegates had done something? His mind quickly went through the faces he'd identified. Giovanni. Lorelei. Lance. Perhaps Steven Stone? The psychic bonds between the Stones and their metagrosses were well-documented, but the Disable ward should have taken care of that.
If not him, then who else could it be?
The League forces? He'd kept an eye on the sky with his hydreigon, and there were no League forces on the horizon. But just to be safe—
"Call the squad on the other side. They better have the other chopper ready for take-off."
"They are, sir," the driver replied, " we are only one and a half kilometers away from the edge of the anti-teleport ward."
"Good. Keep going—"
Suddenly, something of titanic strength seemingly grabbed the front wheels of the truck, forcing it to halt. The sheer momentum of the large vehicle spun it to the right, the back wheels screeching as they were dragged in an arc. The instantaneous change of axis caused the vehicle to go haywire as it flipped over, a sudden shockwave of horizontal force that propelled Proton through the windshield, shattering it.
His back hit the head of the truck with terrific force, and then he bounced forward, flipped, skidded, and rolled nearly thirty feet. The first snap of bone was merely surprising. By the third, Proton was becoming slightly alarmed. Luckily, adrenaline and shock made sure he felt little pain. When he finally came to a stop, his face felt sticky and damp and was covered in red.
All he could see was the blurry form of a lithe girl.
Samuel Oak blearily opened his eyes and found himself lying down on a metallic floor. He coughed out some dust that had managed to get through his nose but flinched as every breath sent a jolt of immense pain through him. His chest hurt like hell, and his entire body felt like a giant bruise.
But… where was he? And what was going on?
He looked around. His memories were jumbled at the moment, but he knew one thing for certain. He needed to run. To escape from this… whatever this place was. Otherwise, he would die.
Pawing fitfully at the floor, Oak tried to push himself up. The metallic blue walls of the contraption were too smooth to offer any support. A constant high-pitched tone kept ringing in his ears while light danced and darted in his vision. His eyes couldn't focus enough to track them. There was something acrid in the air, and he could see all kinds of wires hanging around from the top and around him. None of it seemed normal, and the only thing in his mind was a recurring warning.
He was in danger.
He had to run. A moving target was difficult to hit, after all.
Oak clenched his fists and pushed himself up onto his knees. Just what had happened? Had he miscalculated Ghetsis's plans? Had there been a fifth prong of the attack left unguarded? Where was Bruno? For that matter, where was the Chayron Brig—
No. No, no, no, no. That wasn't it. That wasn't— it wasn't—
Oak shut his eyes and waited for his brain to snap back into focus. Slowly, he could feel himself remembering. This wasn't Ghetsis. It was not that battle. He was in Pewter City. It was under attack, with Team Rocket and—
The sound of crackling thunder shocked him out of his confusion as to the front door, a powerful several-inch-thick barrier, crumbled. It was as if fingers with the strength of a tyranitar grabbed at it, crushed it, then tossed it away with the same indifference as one would a paper cup. On the other side stood a woman— no, a girl, someone that felt oddly familiar, too. But who was she?
"AH," a voice that felt less human and more like the shifting of tectonic plates addressed him. "I REMEMBER YOU. YOU WERE THE ONE TO BRING ME OUT OF THAT DECREPIT CAVE. THE SPAWN REFERS TO YOU AS OLD MAN, DOES HE NOT?"
It took everything Oak had to not whimper as the words sandblasted against his mind. Whoever this girl was might as well have taken a sledgehammer to his head. Gritting his teeth, Oak squinted his eyes and tried to remember who this girl was. Pale eyes. Jet black hair. That heart-shaped face and an odd headache rising from the back of his head—
He remembered now. This was Sabrina, the one who was twisted by that man. That— Ghetsis's son— Proton. Yes. Proton had twisted her. Damn it! Why was it so hard to remember?
"PATHETIC. LOOK AT YOU. VERMIN YOU MAY BE, BUT YOU ARE OF SOME RENOWN. AND YET YOU STRUGGLE TO STAND UP ON YOUR OWN FEET? SURELY THERE ARE LIMITS TO HOW FAR YOU CAN SINK?"
Samuel could barely breathe. Every instinct told him he was standing in front of something hilariously strong. The throbbing energy around whatever was possessing Sabrina was so ancient and terrible that the world had forgotten its ilk. Moltres and Zapdos and Articuno were city-killers, their wrath capable of bringing entire countries to ruin. But this? This was a grade— no, a dimension —higher than them. A power the likes of which he had seen only once in his entire lifetime, when—
"IT APPEARS I WAS WRONG. EPHEMERAL YOU MAY BE, BUT YOU SHINE GLORIOUSLY. NOW, THIS I HAVE TO SEE."
Then, without any preamble, Oak was yanked out of the truck and tossed to the ground like a dishrag. By the time his pain-addled brain had caught up with him, dirt and grime covered his face while scrapes littered his elbows and knees. The last thing he could remember before his mind drifted away was something large and metallic being dragged out, followed by a blood-curdling screech.
AN: Merry Christmas!