Santiago – Slowking
Zuko – Quilava
Diana – Pupitar
Link – Bellossom
Xena – Hakamo-o
Sunny – Meinfoo
Off Roster: 5 Rockruff
Merri – Professor Oak's Alakazam
Prince – Victoria's Persian
Perhaps one or two more lines would have made for a better ending for last chapter? I probably could have added what I needed to into the chapter before posting, but in my defense, I thought it would take six thousand words to finish things up, not the three or so it actually took. I don't like chapters over 12k, and last chapter was already at 11k. They're too long for both the reader and the author. Regardless, this was always the way it was going to go.
A maelstrom of emotions whirled through Leo's chest as he stood there, fists clenched and teeth gritted as he stared at where Faba had been. He got away. How did he get away?! Hadn't they put reliable guards on him? Was Faba really that entrenched into Aether that he could escape no matter what?
"Maaaa," Lusamine's Mismagius cried softly, earning herself a glance from Leo. Then he did a double-take, because she didn't look right. Her face was contorted into a savage grin, the wisps of her ghostly hair billowing ominously as grey light glowed from her eyes. The brim of her hat flickered with ghostly fires – and he furrowed his brow.
"Lusamine, what's Mismagius doing?" he asked, glancing to the blonde woman. She whirled at him, face contorted into a snarl that he hoped wasn't directed at him, and locked eyes with Mismagius. Immediately her snarl lessened, then morphed into a frown, and then her eyes widened.
"Destiny bond," she whispered, her expression tightening into one of grim determination. "We need to get Victoria up here, so long as Mismagius is holding that bond we may be able to track him," she said with urgency, patting her pockets in search of something. Hastily she whipped out a small radio, smacking it against her palm a few times and speaking into it.
"Victoria, you need to get topside. This is Lusamine, Faba's escaped. I repeat, get topside," she said, and waited a few moments before repeating the message. "I hope this thing is working," she muttered, turning to Leo and making a shooing motion, as she repeated the message once again. Leo got the gist of what she wanted and immediately turned to sprint to the nearest employee or intercom, intent on telling them to call or find Victoria. He got three steps before a small pop alerted him to a teleport, and whirled back around half-prepared for another fight. But it was only Victoria, with Merri floating beside her looking a little tired. The Alakazam's moustache drooped, and the bags under her eyes indicated that she needed sleep – or had expended a great deal of power recently, and still needed rest.
"Victoria, Merri, Faba teleported away. Mismagius marked his Kadabra with a destiny bond, can you trace it?" Lusamine barked out immediately. Merri's moustache twitched in amusement, her eyes lighting up.
"It would be my pleasure, dear. Teleporting halfway across the world is a difficult task for any psychic, even specialized teleporters, but this? This I can do," she said telepathically, letting go of the spoons she held. A glowing eye composed of multicolored light appeared on her forehead and her spoons floated into the air, spinning in a slow circle as she closed her eyes. Mismagius' expression remained an eerie snarl, her fires flaring as Merri did…whatever it was she was doing.
"Sage, aid her. Instruct," Victoria said, letting her Oranguru out of his pokeball. The large psychic ape grunted and walked around to situate himself in front of Merri, reaching his long arms out to grasp her comparatively frail-looking hands. Together they just sat there in silence for a tense few moments, until Merri made a noise not unlike a chuckle.
"Thank you, Sage. They teleported multiple times in rapid succession to try and throw any pursuers off, an old but relatively effective trick, but it appears they have made it to their destination," Merri said, moustache twitching in amusement. "Thanks to your Mismagius' bond I have now locked onto Faba's position, and – oh, dear. He's psychic," Merri said, flinching slightly.
"Excuse me?" Lusamine asked. "Faba's psychic?
"Faba has minor psychic abilities. They are so minor I did not notice them at first, but I managed to avoid detection I believe," Merri said. "That explains part of his escape. Kadabra was piggybacking off of his psychic power to avoid the disruption of your Mismagius' ghostly abilities. Quite clever, actually, but wouldn't work if a true dark type pokémon was there,"
"Where is he now?" Victoria demanded.
"A safehouse in the jungle. He appears to be waiting for someone or something – I cannot get a clear picture from here," Merri said.
"Can you teleport me there?" she asked.
"Yes, but I advise against it. He and his Kadabra are on high alert – you will be detected the moment you arrive, and he will teleport away again," Merri said. Victoria scowled as Merri's gaze settled on Leo. With a short nod he recalled Diana and Sunny, clipping their balls to his belt and preparing himself for what was going to come next. Victoria and Lusamine both looked at him as well, the former with a scowl.
"What do you need me to do?" Leo asked. Merri frowned, the glowing third eye increasing in intensity as she focused on him. In a matter of moments she relayed a plan to him via telepathy, connecting with Victoria and Lusamine at the same time and sending the former scuttling off. Lusamine just frowned at Merri as Leo prepared himself.
From what Merri could glean by using Miracle Eye and Future Sight, the power of both bolstered by Sage's aid, Oranguru being among the only species capable of bolstering another pokemon's power outright, Kadabra was not a fighter. Its specialties lie in subterfuge and teleportation – it made a heck of a getaway pokémon for it, even if it couldn't quite teleport all the way between regions yet, but through its training it could detect and escape threats almost as good as an average Alakazam; and it wasn't even a fully grown Kadabra yet.
But it didn't know miracle eye, and therefore would be blind to Leo and Spiritomb.
So he needed to get in, take out Kadabra, possibly subdue Faba, and call in reinforcements in case any collaborators showed up. They didn't have long before Faba teleported away again according to Merri's prediction, so they needed to move quickly. Thankfully, Sunny had proven to have a very special move meant just for delaying opponents from acting. She'd shown it on the Kadabra before, and they'd practiced with it a few times. She would be the crux of the operation here, unless Leo could get close enough to the two to let Spiritomb hit Kadabra. The problem would be getting Sunny close – while in a pokeball Kadabra wouldn't be able to detect her, but as soon as she was let out…
That meant Leo had to get within throwing distance, or close enough, and hurl Sunny's pokeball (and probably Spiritomb's keystone) at the psychic at the same time. Sunny would delay, and Spiritomb would annihilate.
With Faba likely hyper-aware thanks to his recent escape, and paranoid of any tails, it would have to be a blitz from the get-go; a stealthy blitz, but once again Leo was on a time limit.
"I'm ready whenever," Leo said, rolling his shoulders and gripping Spiritomb's keystone in his hand. Merri met his eyes and nodded, but waited patiently.
"The moment I teleport you, go full dark. Let no psychic see you, even myself. I will be watching via future sight, but Mismagius is the key here. The moment Kadabra goes down, destiny bond will fail and I will teleport Victoria, Lusamine and whoever else Victoria gets to your location. Understood?" she asked. Leo nodded, drumming his fingers over the few pokeballs on his belt. He wished he had his entire team, but unfortunately didn't think it made a difference.
The members who could contribute to this were already here.
"Do it," Leo said, kneeling and allowing Merri to project an image of where he would be teleported to into his mind.
Silently he vanished, and silently he appeared in the middle of a dense, dark jungle, only slightly disoriented by the sudden transition. The sun was hidden behind a large hill, shadows stretching in the dense undergrowth and Leo remained perfectly still. The safehouse's roof was just within view in front of him, but mostly hidden in by the mess of bushes and ferns that covered the jungle floor.
Nothing moved in the jungle either, no pokémon, no bugs, nothing. It was still as a mouse, which was both a boon and a problem. He wouldn't disturb anything, but there was nothing moving to mask his sounds either. Leo glanced down at his clothes – a green t-shirt and brown pants – and thanked himself for liking earth tones. Though his shoes were a problem – good hiking boots they may be, he was far quieter without shoes on. So, he took them off, along with his socks, and slowly moved forward, digging his feet into the damp, loamy soil.
It had to have rained recently, because as he moved moisture from the plants around him soaked his clothes and let dirt and other jungle debris cake his feet – this was a blessing though, because it made moving much easier to do without making too much noise. Leo crept forward, keeping his eyes peeled for any sentries but spotting none. That seemed suspicious, but if Faba's entire team had been taken out earlier it made a bit of sense. He probably only had Kadabra out and able to do anything, which would make sneaking up on him far easier. And the battle far easier – he wouldn't have to have Spiritomb take out any fighting 'mon, and both it and Sunny could focus on Kadabra.
Pushing through the undergrowth, Leo finally was able to fully see the safe house. It was less of a house and more of a one-room shack, the log walls simple and plain, with a rickety-looking wooden door facing Leo with a cloudy window beside it. Clearly it had not been maintained all that well, and was fairly old.
Through the window, from where he lay hidden in a dense cluster of ferns, Leo could see Faba pacing back and forth in the middle of the room, occasionally pressing his face close to the glass to glance around outside. With a mental curse Leo backed up a bit and worked his way around the left side, where there was no window for Faba to peek out of, and made his way to the wall of the cabin. Vaguely he could hear muttering through the wall as he circled around the outside, Spiritomb's keystone in one hand and Sunny's pokeball in the other, sneaking up on a second window on the other side of the shack.
Taking a deep breath and stilling his nerves, Leo peeked in the window for a split second before hiding again. Faba had his back turned and Kadabra, who was sitting silently in the middle of the relatively bare room, was focusing on its psychic powers. Probably trying to detect anyone nearby – actually, now that he thought about it, it was probably a really good thing there weren't any pokémon in the immediate area. Kadabra would've noticed their distress, which might have alerted it to his presence.
"Ok, Spiritomb, I'm going to set you on the windowsill. When I throw Sunny's pokeball you head straight towards Kadabra, ok? Take it out before it can teleport," he whispered to the keystone, the ghost whispering in his ears in response. He could practically taste the ghost's agitation, feeding off of Leo's own anger and frustration with the man in the cabin as it was. With a short nod Leo placed Spiritomb's keystone in a corner of the windowsill, doing his best to hide it behind the wooden frame, before moving back around to the front door. Bracing himself and placing his thumb on Sunny's release trigger, he mentally started to count down, preparing for the hopefully brief fight to come.
That was when a phone rang, startling him and nearly sending him into the door.
"Yes, yes! Hello, I'm here!" Faba all but shouted frantically, calming Leo's racing heart for a moment. That had surprised the crap out of him! "Where were you?! I had to escape myself – I know I pressed the panic button, so where was my extraction?! Do you know how many plans I burned getting out of there? Now that my physical escape routes are exposed, it will be all but impossible to get back in and recover the rest of my research!"
Leo paused, filing that information away for later. So…Faba didn't have any help escaping? He found that hard to believe. Static answered Faba, and although Leo strained his ears as hard as he could, even lying down to listen at the crack of the door, he couldn't hear what was being said over the…phone? Radio? Whatever it was.
"What do you mean burned?! I have valuable information!" Faba protested. More static answered him. "I don't care how much of a risk you're taking – you were supposed to help me take over Aether! What happened to that?" he demanded. More static answered him, and Leo worried his lip, wondering when to step in and take out Faba. He really wanted to…but this seemed important as well. Faba was receiving outside help, and those people needed to be taken care of as well.
"Wait! Wait, wait, wait, I have – I have information! On a legendary pokémon – a mythical class, even! If you help me out of here I can give it to you," Faba said, suddenly desperate. "No, it's not part of my project, I already have a flash drive with some of the research notes on them. It's not the complete experiment but I can recreate it – ok, ok. Look, I can't tell you until you help me out here. I have very valuable information for you and your organization – just get me out of here, please. If you can't help me take over Aether then get me out of the region. What? No, of course I haven't been followed. I've been planning this escape ever since I first started my work, just in case I got noticed. Please, I'm begging you. Please,"
Silence, then the sound of Faba moving.
"Right, ok. Ok. Ok. Thank you, yes, I'll be there on time. The hotel on Route 8, at four tonight. Got it. In the meantime I'll keep moving, to make sure no one's on my trail. Trust me, your bosses will thank you. Yes. Ok," Faba said, and no more static answered him. "We're in the clear, Kadabra. They'll have a boat ready by four," he said, letting out a sigh of relief, and Leo chose that exact moment to strike. He'd heard what he needed and there was no time to lose.
Winding up like a baseball pitcher, Leo hurled Sunny's pokeball through the window, the metal sphere shattering the glass and letting the Meinfoo out of her ball mid-air.
"Fake out!" Leo shouted, bursting through the front door in the next moment. Sunny was on Kadabra quicker than either it or Faba could blink, slapping it across the face and sending the psychic type stumbling back. Spiritomb wailed hideously, shadows taking over the entire other side of the room as it burst forth, phasing through the glass window with a vicious, unforgiving snarl.
To Faba's credit, he reacted quickly, even if he did scream in a very undignified manner. With a flick of his wrist a pink fish burst from its pokeball, the Bruxish flopping on the ground uselessly.
"Protect!" Faba shrieked, a green shield flickering into existence around him, Kadabra, and the Bruxish. Leo almost cursed, but Sunny was on top of things. Namely, that she was inside the protect shield, and wasn't letting up on Kadabra for a moment. The little fighting type slammed force palm after force palm into the psychic type, beating it into the interior of the protect shield and keeping it stunned just long enough for the protect to fail, and Spiritomb to fall upon them with a vicious savagery.
Kadabra fell first, a tendril of darkness wrapping around its neck and a shadow ball blasting it in the face to knock it out, allowing Spiritomb to descend on the flopping fish next, which flailed and snapped its fangs uselessly against the ghostly aggressor. Leo focused on Faba, who was pale as a ghost and staring at where Kadabra was now unconscious, Sunny growling and advancing towards him threateningly.
"Surrender," Leo began, and Faba screamed, jumping out the window nearest to Spiritomb, heedless of the potential injuries the glass it may cause. Leo cursed and plucked Prince's pokeball off his belt, throwing the Persian out after Faba. "Stop him!" he bellowed, only just catching sight of the tan feline appearing, yowling, and pouncing on something. A cursory glance out the window showed Prince sitting on Faba's chest, one massive paw planted beside the scientist's head while he himself gently placed his fangs on the man's throat, daring him to move.
With a short nod Leo stepped back, vaguely aware of a sharp pain in his foot that, when he glanced down, showed how stupid it was to run into a room full of glass with no shoes on. He was bleeding now, thanks to breaking the windows. With a sigh he sat on the ground, grabbing his foot and turning his head only when the sound of crashing in the jungle indicated Victoria had arrived once again. Sunny whined at him, walking up and placing a paw on his bleeding foot, a wide shard of glass sticking out of the sole, looking up at him worriedly.
Leo pat her on the head, smiling reassuringly, and watched as Spiritomb finished off the Bruxish, tossing the psychic fish against the wall with a shriek. He shook his head. Let's not let Faba escape this time.
"I hope you understand that you won't be going with us," Victoria said, arms crossed as she stared down at Leo. He was currently sitting on a bed in the medical wing of the Aether Paradise, having been teleported back by Merri after ensuring Faba was secured once again. Just moments ago he'd had the glass shard removed from his foot, which was then wrapped in bandages. He'd already given the debriefing of what happened to Victoria and Lusamine, telling them about Faba's planned extraction, and a punitive strike team was promptly formed to take care of it.
It would, of course, be spearheaded by Victoria, but consisted of local Rangers and police officers, and one InterPol agent who had been teleported in only recently, instead of Aether staff.
"I don't want to," Leo said honestly. "Not after stepping on glass like an idiot. Plus, half my team is down. Spiritomb seems ok, but fighting the Nihilego still tired it out a bit – which leaves me with Diana, who is the opposite of subtle, and Sunny, who has more than proven her worth but still needs training. It would be stupid of me to go," Victoria grunted, nodding her head and visibly relieved she didn't have to argue with Leo about it.
"We figured out how Faba escaped, by the way," she said. "Replayed the security footage. Unfortunately there weren't any cameras in the room he was being held, but there were cameras where he emerged. Want to go see?" she asked. Emerged? What did she mean by that? Leo figured he'd find out soon enough.
"Yes, please. I don't want to stay here any longer than I have to," Leo said. "All being in this room is doing is reminding me that, after all that – the Ultra Beasts, Faba, everything – that the only thing that actually injured me was my own idea," Victoria stifled a snort of amusement, watching Leo carefully as he swung his legs over the bed and carefully put some pressure on his injured foot. A sharp pain interrupted that, making him wince. The glass shard was bigger than he'd thought it'd been, and would probably take some time to heal. So he begrudgingly reached for the crutches he'd been given, and followed after Victoria like a three-legged goblin.
"I do need to talk to Lusamine after this, though," Leo said on the way.
"We both do," Victoria agreed. "But I have to wait until later. You should be able to find her in her mansion. She, uh, still needs some time to recover, though Nanu posted some troopers outside to keep an eye on things while he and Holly make sure Faba doesn't go anywhere,"
"Nanu?" Leo asked.
"The Kahuna of Ula'Ula Island. He's also the head of the police for all of Alola, though with all the complaining he does about the job I expect he'll find a replacement soon," Victoria explained. "He's still here somewhere, I think. Helping the investigation – InterPol was trying to make this their thing and keep everyone else out, but Nanu stepped in after Faba's escape attempt. InterPol has its uses, but…I don't know. I haven't been all that impressed with the way they handle things recently. It's like they're trying to handle too many things at once, and therefore can't find the time to focus on what they're doing. Shoot, part of the reason Faba escaped in the first place was because the InterPol officers were arguing with the guards we posted outside his holding area,"
Leo hummed at that, testing his foot again because he hated the crutches and finding that, as he expected, it still hurt.
"That sucks," he said, but it made sense in a way. InterPol was a relatively new organization, only having been founded a dozen or so years ago, as a result of increased traffic and communications between regions. If everything he'd heard about them was right then they were still experiencing growing pains, and struggling with the bureaucracy that came with dealing with interregional politics. "Bet they're thinking that if they take charge of this situation and help 'solve' it, that will help further legitimize their authority in other regions. I understand they've been having trouble with that everywhere outside of, like, Sinnoh,"
"Most likely," Victoria said, a little bitterly. "Which would certainly help them do what they were created to do, but they don't have to be such jerks about it. Anyway, here we are. Go inside and see if you can find the issue," she said, gesturing towards a small, relatively empty room. Two mechanics stood outside, talking to each other and scratching their heads as Leo pushed the door open, examining the interior.
There were no windows. The door was sturdy, but not overly thick or anything. This wasn't a room designed to hold prisoners – Aether Paradise was not a prison, it was a place for research and healing. This room had clearly been repurposed, though the metal lock in the door indicated it may have once been for keeping supplies.
"Why wasn't Faba immediately moved to a prison cell?" Leo questioned, shaking his head. Victoria didn't answer as he moved about, kicking the walls and looking for anything obvious. A closer inspection of the room revealed not much either, and Leo admitted that he was stumped. Faba hadn't just teleported out?
"Look here," Victoria said, coming up behind him and moving him out of the way. She bent and very carefully dug her fingernails in-between two of the metal panels that made up the floor – there was no carpet or linoleum covering the floor like there was most of the rest of the manmade island, it was just metal – and pulled up. The steel sheet lifted with a bit of effort from Victoria, revealing a narrow crawlspace lined with pipes and wires. Leo whistled, setting his crutches aside and lying on the ground, sticking his head down there and looking left and right.
"How far does this go?" he asked.
"A ways. So far it seems to be a maintenance crawlway, Lusamine has some people looking into the building plan to see if it was added later, or if this was part of the design," she said.
"What are the odds that Lusamine chose this exact spot to keep Faba?" Leo muttered, horror gnawing at his gut as a terrible thought occurred to him. It wasn't coincidence, was it? "No one helped him escape?"
"Not that we can tell. Security footage shows him emerging close to medical, where his pokémon were being kept, and teleporting topside from there. His timing was impeccable – he slipped in and out of the holding area with his pokémon without being noticed. Some of Nanu's people are questioning the medical staff about it, but we're not holding out hope," Victoria said. "He's been planning this escape for years, and no one knew he himself was psychic. Lusamine said to put him in this room specifically to hold him until InterPol or whoever came to get him – do you want to know what her two backup plans had in common with this one?" Victoria asked.
"No way," Leo said, appalled at the implication. "You can't be serious. They all have access this?" Victoria nodded and Leo pushed himself up, letting her close the hole up. That was…
That was meticulous planning from Faba. Hypnotizing Lusamine so that his escape route was secured when things went south, on top of everything else he did? He should've broken at least one of Faba's bones while he had the chance. Preferably multiple.
"Lusamine has a long road to recovery ahead of her," Victoria said softly. Leo sighed heavily and nodded. He wished he could do more – because that was just not right. On so many levels. With a sigh he grabbed the crutches and stood back up, rubbing his face tiredly. It had been a long day and he wanted to sleep now, but there were still some things he wanted to do. "But she's tough. She'll manage,"
"Yeah. I hope so," Leo said. They were silent for a moment longer before Victoria clapped her hands together and cracked her neck.
"Right, well, just wanted to catch you up on that. I've still got to go to the briefings and prepare, so I'll see you later," she said, patting him on the shoulder as she passed him by. Leo wished her luck as she left, then, with another heavy sigh, headed towards the elevator. He wasn't necessarily looking forward to meeting up with Lusamine again to drill her for information, but his curiosity was burning him up. Because if Faba was desperate enough to go after Lusamine right after escaping, then whatever she had was important.
"Come in," Lusamine called from inside her office, prompting Leo to enter. She must've known he was coming because the door had been unlocked, and the officers guarding the front door let him in without a word. Gladion and Lillie had been there to greet him, the Rockruff piled at their feet in the entry hall, but they were subdued. Understandable, of course, but it still pained Leo to see them like that. A few quick jokes and riling up the Rockruff quickly solved that, and the two kids ran off to play with the puppies.
"Hey," Leo said, hobbling his way into the office and keeping his eyes on Lusamine. Her eyes were a little puffy but her expression was a stiff mask – had he not been looking for it, he doubted he would've caught her distress. She might've been crying even, not like Leo could blame her for that.
"I suppose you're here to ask about the mythical pokémon?" she asked, raising an eyebrow and drumming her fingers on her desk. Mismagius floated behind her, hiding in the curtains and smiling mischievously at him, witch fire dancing along the brim of her hat.
"Among other things," he said, nodding. Leo had told Lusamine what Faba had said about mythical pokémon, and she had immediately stiffened. She knew what was going on there. "Medical wanted me to tell you that Fluffy was going to be fine. The venom didn't have enough time to sink fully into his system, same as my team. Give them a few days, and they'll have the toxins completely flushed out,"
"Good. Good. I suppose I owe him some treats now, for all the helping he did," Lusamine said, forcing a smile on her face. Silence reigned for a little bit, before she reached down, opened a drawer on her desk, and pulled out a dull, steel-colored pokeball. Leo frowned. He'd never seen anything like that, in or out of the games. Was it an unpainted pokeball? "This is what Faba was after,"
"You caught a mythical pokémon?" Leo asked, raising his eyebrows. Since when?!
"No. This is just a shell that my late husband found right after Lillie was born. Its name is Magearna, a mythical pokémon said to have been created over five hundred years ago by an ancient civilization," Lusamine said slowly. "Though we never found a way to activate it. It's missing a key component – the thing that gives it power. The shell itself is still a marvel, however; despite studying it for the better part of six years, we still don't completely understand how it works," to emphasize her point Lusamine pressed a button on the pokeball, the release trigger, and tossed it to the side.
With a snap and a hiss the ball expanded, cracking open and metal pouring out of the now-opened ball, the golem-like body of the pokémon expanding from the inside while the ball itself increased in size, splitting apart until finally it formed a three-foot-tall metal being with a hole in its chest and eyes without light.
"Best we can figure, its body is also its pokeball," Lusamine said. "And this thing was made five hundred years ago, back when pokeballs were made from apricorn shells,"
"Faba was after this?" Leo asked, circling around the shell of a pokémon and raising an eyebrow. Lusamine nodded.
"That, or the Type: Null. I didn't have them on me at the time though, they're in their pokeballs in the medical wing under heavy security, so I can only assume he was after Magearna. Ever since Mohn brought this home – to be a gift to Lillie, once she was old enough and if we ever found out how to turn it on – he's wanted to run more dangerous tests than I was willing to allow on it to see how it was made. Despite everything that's happened, that was one thing I never let him do," Lusamine said sadly, a bit of life entering her voice despite that. Leo smiled at her and nodded, though he was thoroughly blindsided by this turn of events.
Who'da thunk that Lusamine had a mythical pokémon? Even if it wasn't functional. Hell, Leo only vaguely remembered Magearna from seeing it standing there now, not knowing any of the lore or history behind the pokémon at all. He didn't even know what type it was.
"Well, at least Faba's well and truly behind bars now," Leo said. "He escaped the first time because of luck and bureaucracy. That won't happen again, and now Nanu's taken a personal interest in him. Victoria said he's got a tracker on him now, too,"
Lusamine huffed and bit back a comment, rubbing her face. Obviously she had something to say about that, but thought better of it and let it be. Leo, on the other hand, now had very little to really say. He wasn't sure where to go from here, so turned and headed toward the door.
"What you said, before all this, about you being older than you look," Lusamine started, stopping him at the door. "Were you being serious?"
"Yes," Leo said, looking at her over his shoulder and readjusting his crutches. He should really stop being a baby about the cut in his foot and toss the crutches but…he put some weight on it again, and winced. Painful things were painful. "It's been an interesting few years, reverting to a child,"
He thought for a moment about his past, and smiled. "Funny, I haven't really talked to anyone about my old life since coming to this world. Sure, Victoria and Professor Oak know but…they don't know, you know?" he asked.
"I do believe I understand what that feels like," Lusamine said, readjusting her position in her chair. She hesitated briefly, then gestured to one of the armchairs across from her. "Will you tell me about it? I find the idea hard to believe, fascinating, and entirely plausible considering the crazy things that can happen in the world," Leo nodded and hobbled back over to the chair, setting his crutches on the floor and settling down, wondering where to start. Most of the places, names, and things wouldn't mean anything to Lusamine, so he started with simple stories about his family, friends, and life. Silly things, funny things, and after a few minutes he and Lusamine were swapping stories about life that had them both chuckling.
And that was how they spent the night. She couldn't sleep, not even after everything that had happened, so after she made dinner for Lillie and Gladion, played with them a little, and put them to bed, they resumed their conversation until late in the night. Leo couldn't do much beyond that. He was not therapist, and he was no doctor to help her work through whatever Faba had done to her mind. The only thing he could do was distract her from the weight of what happened, because agonizing over things like that didn't help. And if he could make her forget her woes for a little while, then he considered that a success.
The raid went about as well as could be expected, from what Leo learned after the fact. About a dozen people were apprehended, and a number of names of conspirators within Aether revealed. Said people were quickly arrested and set to be put on trial at a later date, while the Alolan Police Force collected evidence against them, and the trial was prepared. There were no immediate connections to organizations outside Alola, but both Leo and Victoria suspected there were. He couldn't quite remember right the details right, but there should be a number of synthetic pokémon made by humans in other regions.
Mewtwo was an obvious one, and one of the first conclusions he jumped to, but there was also the likes of Porygon and Spiritomb…he was pretty sure Genesect from Unova was a synthetic pokémon? Maybe not, but this kind of research would be valuable to a lot of people. Faba created pokémon capable of battling very, very powerful extradimensional beings – and while only three of the however many dozen test subjects are actually viable, he still did it. Outside collaborators and investors were all but guaranteed, but the initial search hadn't turned up any solid leads.
Maybe they'd find something with further investigations, but not yet. As it was, it was out of Leo's wheelhouse. He wasn't a detective, and involving himself further into the situation would likely cause more problems than it solved – simply because he wouldn't know what he was doing, and he had to know when to take a step back. As much as he wanted to be a part of things and help fix this issue, he couldn't. Even Victoria stepped aside, letting Nanu take the reins because she is, and he quotes "a hammer – great for hitting nails, but not much else." On the flip side, she was spending a lot of time with Lusamine and the team she'd left behind in Alola, as well as "training" Leo once his foot healed up by routinely beating him and his team into the ground.
It wasn't until about three weeks after Faba's arrest – who remained in custody to this day, with very little hope of ever getting out. Super Max prisons, where Faba had been moved to, were no joke here. Armed guards, powerful pokémon, lots of ghosts, dark types, and psychics…yeah, it was actually insane how much security went into those kinds of prisons. Either way, it wasn't until three weeks after Faba's arrest that the big changes started to settle in.
"So, care to explain what your thought process here is?" Professor Oak asked, watching Leo train his team. The old professor had arrived two weeks ago, taking a "business trip," as he called it, to come to Alola and help out. He didn't actually do a whole lot of meddling besides taking a keen interest in Faba's research notes and helping to decode those, but his presence did give everyone a bit of peace of mind. He was THE Professor, after all.
"He's trying to up her agility," Gary said from off to the side, where he was wrestling with two Rockruff. Leo watched him out of the corner of his eye for a moment, then turned his attention back to Diana.
"Try again, girl, you've almost got it. Remember what I taught you about being in stance? It's not about taking a stance and holding it, it's about being able to unleash powerful strikes no matter what position you're in – or, rather, having a strong stance no matter how it's held so you can strike," Leo advised. Diana hummed and stared at the thick metal pole lodged in the ground. With a blast of air she shot forward, a second blast diverting her from hitting it and arresting her momentum and, in that same instant that she stopped right next to the pole, shooting her to the side to crash into it with a metallic clang. That was close, but not quite what they were looking for. Her adjustments of movements were still a little slow.
"Ever since she's evolved she's had a bit of trouble with mobility. Not that she can't move, but that she can only move in straight lines. If we can adjust that her utility will increase tenfold, and she'll be better equipped to handle situations. She's got the power to do it, we just need to practice," Leo said, watching Diana closely. The Professor nodded, scratching his chin.
"You really think it will work?" he asked for the umpteenth time.
"You tell me, you're the professor," Leo quipped with a smile, showing there was no real meaning to it. "Yes, it will work. You've already seen the progress we've made – when we started, she would've just crashed into the pole,"
"True, true. Merri saved millions in structural damages by stopping your Pupitar from crashing into walls in that first week," he said with a laugh. Leo grinned and glanced stretched, glancing around the room. A few days ago he, Professor Oak, and Gary all went to Melemele for some relaxation and to see the islands, but now they were back at the Aether Paradise.
With a glance at the clock hanging on the wall Leo sighed and recalled Diana, telling her good job and letting Xena out of her ball next. The dragon yawned, glanced around, then butted her head against Leo's shoulder.
"Yes, yes, hello to you too," he laughed, scratching the side of her neck as she grumbled at him. "Sorry but we're not going to be training quite yet. It's time to go see Type: Null," Xena whined and pushed harder against him, earning herself another chuckle. With a gentle shove he pushed her away, the dragon shaking herself and stretching not unlike a cat, yawning as she did so.
"She's quite affectionate," the Professor remarked, glancing at his watch. "But yes, I do believe it's about time to go. Gary! Recall the Rockruff and let's go,"
"But gramps, they can follow me!" Gary protested, one Rockruff tugging on his shirt while the other gently held his arm between his jaws, pulling him in the opposite direction.
"No buts," Oak said, and though Gary whined some more he pulled himself out of the Rockruff's grasp and recalled them. The Professor hadn't said he'd let Gary have one, nor had he said anything about Ash, but all it took was letting Gary play with the Rockruff once and Leo knew the old man would succumb eventually. Even in the pokémon world, the "boy and his dog" trope was well and truly alive – Gary would be getting a Rockruff, one way or another.
With that, Leo led the way through Aether and up to the conservation area, where the Type: Null were being released to socialize with other pokémon. This would be their fourth introduction – the first two times all three had just stood around, ignoring everything but commands from their handlers, but on the third time they'd showed a little bit of a reaction when a group of Ribombee fluttered by an started harassing them playfully.
Hopefully this time they'd be a little better.
"…but, like I said, Spiritomb's showing surprising growth," Leo explained as he walked, Professor Oak having started asking about Spiritomb. The ghost in his pocket whispering in his ears at the mention of its name, but quieted when it realized Leo wasn't addressing it. They stopped walking in front of the conservation area doors, and were waiting for them to be opened. Because of Type: Null the area was currently off-limits to non-essential personnel. Leo was, thankfully, considered essential. "Not only is it much calmer now than when I first got it, but it's even started playing pranks on me. I think that's Froslass' personality starting to shine because, if you remember, she was absorbed into it, but it's still nice to see," with a ding the doors to the conservation area opened, letting them step through.
"I see. You mentioned the spirits themselves merging in one of your reports, any progress on that front?" Oak asked speculatively, eyes forward and scanning the area.
"Last I checked, we were about halfway done. The number of spirits are hard to count, but I think we've gotten down to the fifties. The merge rate actually spiked after dealing with Faba and helping Type: Null," Leo said, recalling the last time he'd managed to meditate and merge a spirit with Spiritomb successfully. That…had not been a fun night. Doing that meant reliving the memories of that particular spirit and, fragmented though they were, that spirit was a soldier. Leo learned what it felt like to be slashed with a sword that night. But, imagine his surprise afterwards when the number of spirits were vastly different from last he recalled.
"Why do you think that is?" Oak asked as they walked along the metal walkway, coming into view of the medical staff, pokémon handlers, and various other employees who were watching Type: Null as they roamed the enclosure.
"Spiritomb was created by someone, Professor. There was no name to this creator, but that's what the memories of the ghost and Leader Morty's records point to; a real mad scientist sort that experimented on people and pokémon to combine them into what we see know. What was Faba? A mad scientist. The parallels helped it, I think. We couldn't stop what happened to Spiritomb and caused the burning of the tower – we could stop Faba, and rescue the Type: Null," Leo reasoned. Gary, at this point, darted past the two and ran to the railing, oohing and aaahing at the chimeric pokémon below.
"Leo, you're a little late," one of the handlers said, turning to him. Leo nodded, patting Xena as she squeezed between himself and the Professor, staring down at the Type: Null as they cautiously sniffed Santiago, who stood still as a statue and just let them assess him. The Slowking had taken an intense interest in the Type: Null, and always insisted on being present and awake for when Leo got to interact with them. It was to the point where he left Leo alone to go interact with them by himself.
"I see Santiago got a head start," Leo said dryly, walking up to the woman and waving the Alolan greeting. "They're clearly more active now than before,"
"Therapy is starting to have positive effects on them," the handler said, waving back and gesturing down to Santiago. "Your Slowking has been very helpful in that regard; he's very gently been coaxing reactions out of them, and encouraging them to interact with each other and other pokémon. It's been very interesting, especially when he brings the guitar out. The music seems to be having a positive effect on the Type: Null,"
"Good, good. Do you want me to hop down there, then?" he said, Xena already launching herself over the handrail and into the conservation pit. She landed with a thud and, though the Type: Null whipped their heads towards the newest pokémon didn't bristle or move to attack. Instead one of them moved over to inspect her, jumping up and putting its claw-like front legs on her shoulders, sniffing at her through its metal helmet.
"Not quite yet," the handler said. "We want them to get used to other pokémon too, not just humans. Let them have some time to roam a bit, and we'll be watching with their pokeballs," Leo nodded and took a step away from the railing, a little disappointed but understanding of the situation. Interacting with the Type: Null was like talking to a brick wall at times, or a robot because they were perfectly obedient, but that made the moments they surprised him or reacted outside their established norms all the more rewarding.
"Got it. I'll stay back then," he said, and just…watched for a moment. Now that their inspection of Xena and Santiago were done, the three Type: Null cautiously began to move about the rest of the enclosure, investigating the fences that separated them from the rest of the conservation area and shuffling through the dirt.
This went on for about thirty minutes, just letting the Type: Null socialize and observing them, until Lusamine finally appeared. Leo had to do a double-take when he spotted her, walking hand-in-hand with her children and wearing something that wasn't stark-white. Instead she wore a simple green dress, of similar make to her other, flared dresses, but still different enough to surprise him. She motioned her kids forward and, preempting the demands he was sure to be barraged with, Leo let out Zuko and Sunny on the platform to distract the children.
Lillie squealed and welcomed Zuko with open arms as he leapt at her, butting his head up against her chin, Sunny joining in by wiggling into her hug as well, while Gladion was distracted primarily by the Type: Null.
"Leo, it is good to see you," Lusamine said, approaching him with a smile. Leo nodded to her, having not seen her much the past few days. She'd been pretty busy dealing with the fallout of Faba the past few weeks, but the last few days had been hectic in particular.
"Lusamine, how are you doing?" he asked, exchanging pleasantries with her.
"Good. Better. I was hoping I'd find you here," she said, looking over Leo's shoulder at Professor Oak, who had taken notice of the conversation and was approaching. "There are a few things I'd like to discuss with you," she said.
"Shoot," Leo said.
"I'm going to be stepping down from being the President of Aether," she said bluntly, and Leo blinked at her. What? "Wicke will be taking my place as the interim president until I return, but…I'm going to be taking a few months to go to therapy, and," she paused there, as if not sure how to continue.
"That's a great idea," Leo said, filling in for her. "Take some time to be with your kids, your team, to relax, and focus on healing. Don't let yourself get too bored though, not having an entire company to run and children to raise at the same time,"
"I will be taking time to recuperate, yes. Some vacation time is long overdue for me. Of course, I will still be assisting Wicke, but I will be stepping away from the primary duties of the president," she explained. "That said, I do have a few requests for you. If you are willing, I will be giving you more responsibilities within Aether. You won't be managing anything, I wouldn't want to take you away from your journey, but we will be giving you more tasks to complete. As in; the conservation efforts part of your sponsorship contract will finally come into play,"
"So like, I'd finally be able to go around helping you all deal with problem pokémon and such?" Leo asked, and Lusamine nodded.
"Yes, but in a much higher capacity than I was originally going to give you. If you've proven anything, it's that you can handle yourself. This rise in position will come with a few benefits, of course, including access to a few ride pokémon, for ease of travel around the island. At least until you have your own," she said.
"That sounds awesome, thank you," Leo said gratefully. He'd been needing reliable transport, badly.
"Wicke will give you the contracts you need to sign later. Secondly, I want you to represent Aether in an upcoming tournament on Akala. It's a tournament held in celebration of the Tapus, a yearly holiday that's turned into a massive event. The details will be given to you later, but you should have a month or two to prepare," she explained. Leo nodded. He could do that. Come to think of it, he hadn't been doing much competitive battling recently, had he? There had been a bunch of fights that he'd gotten into and he'd done a lot of training, but not much in the way of trainer-on-trainer one-on-one battles.
"I can do that," Leo agreed, glancing down into the enclosure to see a handler slowly lowering himself down and greeting one of the Type: Null as it approached. He wore thick leather gloves that went all the way up past his elbows, which was necessary because the Type: Null had sharp claws and little sense of gentleness. Many a lab coat had been torn to shreds by them until that lesson was learned. "A tournament sounds fun – I've never actually competed in one. Are there prizes?"
"Of course," Lusamine said. "The winnings will all be yours, but you will be required to wear something more…appropriate than your usual clothes. Something with Aether's logo on it," Leo chuckled at that and nodded in agreement. Since Aether was his sponsor, it did only make sense for him to at least have some sort of logo visible when making public appearances like that. It was like being an athlete in that regard.
"One more thing," she said slowly. "I want you to train a Type: Null, both for your own safety in case ultra-wormholes start to open again, and for the sake of the pokémon itself,"
"Really?!" Leo asked, unable to hide his surprise and excitement. She'd let him take a Type: Null?! That was awesome! He wasn't going to lie and say he hadn't been hoping for this though, that was part of the reason he tried to be so involved in the process of rehabilitating the pokémon themselves. Plus there were three of them, which meant Gladion could still get his own if and when the time came, if he managed to snag one.
"Under conditions," Lusamine said sharply, curbing Leo's excitement. "You must make frequent reports on the pokemon's progress and abilities, you must aid in the research, and you can't always take it with you on your journey around the islands. They will need time here for routine checkups. And if anything untoward starts to happen – its too unstable, it starts to get sick, anything like that? It's back to us. Professor Oak, our own Professor Kukui, and my own advisors all agree that letting one travel and train with a human could give us valuable insight into the species, but we must be careful,"
"Got it. Understandable," Leo said, nodding vigorously.
"Good. Now, I'm going to be going public soon about stepping down, and telling the press what happened to Faba. They're already starting to catch wind, and it'd be best to come clean before this blows up," she said. "It's honestly a miracle we've managed to keep things quiet so far,"
"That's true, I'm surprised it hasn't been all over the news," Leo said. It was a stark contrast to what happened with Boone – that was all over the news even before Leo realized he'd been filmed. This was the exact opposite, he kept waiting for it to hit the news but it never did.
Either way, things were rapidly changing now. And, as he stood there leaning over the railing of the walkway watching the Type: Null, his team members, and listening in as Lusamine and Professor Oak struck up a conversation about the bonds between pokémon and human, and how they were beneficial to both human and pokémon, he came to a quiet realization. He actually could change things.
As of now, it seemed like the events of Sun and Moon had been averted – at least, in the main vein. Something might still happen, but it didn't look like Lusamine was on track to becoming the main antagonist anymore. Faba was behind bars, and the corruption that had snuck into Aether was slowly being purged. And Leo had started it all. He allowed himself a small moment of pride at the thought, a smile worming its way onto his face as he watched Xena bat playfully at the head of a Type: Null, the chimera not quite understanding what to do about it. The dragon was insistent though, and Leo had faith that it would figure it out.
Still, there was work to be done. This crisis had been averted, but there was still the mess that was Kanto. Leo frowned at that thought. He wasn't quite ready to tackle that can of worms, but before he'd felt entirely helpless. Now he was starting to think otherwise. He sighed as that thought entered his mind, and stuck there.
Damn his sense of duty. He'd have to try to do something about Kanto now, wouldn't he? But that was for later. Now he just wanted to enjoy some time with his team, and with his friends.
Two days later, Leo received a package from Unova. It was small, and when he opened it glitter exploded all over his face, sending him, Santiago, and Link spluttering and reeling away from the offending package.
The sender was one Jack Spalding from Opelucid City, the address neatly stamped in the upper corner of the package. Leo spat glitter out of his mouth and cackled, pulling out the small letter Jack had written, calling him all kinds of names and asking him how he was. Now he had an address. Now was time for war.
I know it was only one line about Santiago playing the guitar for Type: Null, but do look up musical therapy. It's a fascinating subject – I actually did a research paper on it a few years back. I don't know much about it beyond what little I researched, but it's still cool.
That said, hope you enjoyed. Faba didn't escape – he needed to get away so more people could be caught, but not for good – and Leo is getting a few more tasks for the future.
As well as a new teammate. I never actually knew Type: Null was a legendary until someone mentioned it in the comments/reviews, but guess what? It's classified as a legendary. The more you know.