Apollo had swung on Mikita's ponytail after another half hour of sleep on the man's part. The sudden upheaval having the Pikachu scream momentarily before hanging onto Mikita for dear life.
This had made the man laugh, which had always been a pleasure to both him and Apollo. It hadn't befit the situation however.
"…What…What did we do last night?"
"You did me sweetie." Apollo had purposely purred into his ear. Jokingly of course.
'Of course!' Mikita reasoned, prayed in the haze of the morning wake up. Those extra thirty minutes of shut eye had gifted him another dream, one which had been buried, far far in the past for him.
"Come on you fucking baby. Stand like a man!" The hook that followed went into his ribs and threatened to pull them out. His teenage body had crumpled to the floor as the men around him had discussed the matter of him.
"He's fourteen. Does the experiment apply to him?"
"The scenario of the experiment shall apply to him as well. His age is no matter."
Mikita had hurled as the memory of his first night as a UNGA officer in training had come back to him, Apollo jumping off of him as Mikita doubled over onto the ground.
Those words had brought him down to be made into a career soldier. But they had done something else to him. It made him grow old, to discard who he was just so they couldn't hurt that part of him anymore.
In the training, in the war, in the life he lived since then, he had just now remembered he had hid himself, and forgot about it.
"Micky?!" Mikita waved off Apollo, wiping his mouth off with his forearm.
Apollo blinked as Mikita had doubled over, his face blank, even as he store into that bloody, brownish puddle he had made on the ground.
"You don't remember what happened last night?"
"My mind was somewhere else." The man didn't lie.
"Angels came." Mikita had blinked at the assorted bodies around him. Apparently they had fought their way to a clearing further south, the way his hands had smelt like gun powder and his ears seemed to numb out had spoken toward a large scale firefight.
Slowly, very slowly, the forest woke up with the two, and the living started to regard the dead. They paid no mind to The Father of Sin, nor the Sun Soul. They did not fear him at that moment, they had no need to.
They knew in general before Mikita had shown up that no one had to fight if there was nothing to bother about. That was the definition of peace to a degree. No one bothering anyone. The independence of the various Pokémon, the accommodation of each other, there was no need for fighting. That was the way of monsters in that forest. A rather functionalist view of an ecosystem, if Mikita could've judged.
He might've been a more peaceful soldier if he hadn't been beat into having his first instinct be of killing. The fact that he had been beat into it (or at least, he had told himself he had been beat into it) had been very apparent to him that morning.
For one, he had been remembering, for two, killing was what he did last night.
Torn, shot, dead bodies of Valks and Godfathers astrewn that field. Another flat, grassy field, mounds of black and tan rising from where crushed grass was. The occasional hump of a Pokémon corpse, a Nidoking or a Seviper, also joining them.
He went for where he would usually have his 590 and FAL.
The weapons were still there, albeit the FAL had its magazine missing and the 590's barrel had looked burnt with carbon and dirt and, presumably, rust.
The lightness of his pack was apparent, and further apparent was the fact he had burned through a lot of ammo that night he apparently missed out on.
As his hands patted himself down, his hands had hurt unto themselves.
He remembered this feeling from a Vietnam long ago, a mortified glance down and his knuckles were messy, scabbed pulps, the back of his hands scratched, his palms raw. This was how it began. This was how he became a man: With his bare hands.
The last time he looked at his hands like this, it had been when he had beat in a Vietnamese man's face. A man that had been twice his age at the time. A man that had dared come at Delta with an ancient sword during the fighting of Hanoi.
When someone gets their face beat in, it's not ever like the type of beating in a more domestic world: at a bar, disagreements between two civil men thrown with punches, black eyes and bloody noses. Their faces get disfigured, plumped with red, purple and blue, the flesh either ready to pop or sunken in with a skull: a very purposeful result. For an injury like that to happen, the man behind it had meant to kill.
For perhaps the second time in those last twenty four hours, Mikita had collapsed on the ground, his ass cemented on the ground as he remembered what he was becoming again.
'I came here to start to become a new man. I was granted new blood. And yet I still repeat my mistakes.' That's what his heart said as he felt himself go.
'But you were forced to kill. Don't blame yourself.' That is what 2nd Lieutenant Mikita Noelle answered back to Micky.
"How bad was that dream?" Apollo brought him back, his paw not only holding, but squeezing his shoulder.
The question went up into the morning air, unanswered as Mikita fought his own psyche, only coming out with a tired sigh.
"Are we in the clear Apollo?" Apollo went to answer Mikita's inquiry with an actual noise, but the sound of bone being snapped from a Godfather by one of the vengeful children had answered instead. Apollo had only nodded instead.
The bone breaking, the body picking, the disregard for dead fathers, it slowly built up as the forest came alive again.
The bodies of Angels, they were treated differently than those of the Godfathers. They were treated with a fair amount of respect, or fear, not many of the Pokémon daring to touch, and none desecrating. This was in stark contrast to the bodies of the Godfathers which were torn apart by teeth and vine and fire with pleasure.
As it went on, as Mikita and Apollo listened to the phenomenon, the fruits that could only be picked by them were thrown, sometimes presented respectfully, toward them, the Pokémon coming and going in a flash. Naturally they indulged themselves.
"I've never seen a fight like last night." Apollo had said with his idle mind, otherwise his mouth busy with a Pecha berry.
"Hmm?" Mikita had been otherwise devouring an Oran. He ate more like an animal than Apollo, the two realizing this with a chuckle.
Apollo described a battlefield as they ate, how a platoon of Valks had led a company of Godfathers to intercept Mikita after he dealt with the group with night optics. How the Pokémon of their side had ran through the forest and ran at Mikita, intent to kill, but the Pokémon of the forest took their stand with Mikita and all Hell broke loose in a fight that had not been seen in the world yet, Mikita suspected.
Apollo had been good at describing Mikita actually enjoyed the description. It was perhaps not as good as Covey's sultry attempts, but Mikita enjoyed listening to himself in words.
It was war, and Mikita did what he did best last night. Not only as a soldier, not even as an officer, but as a former Pokémon Trainer.
Several of the trees, and the bodies for that matter, had fist sized holes made by fist sized pieces of seed. He remembered the order as he recollected: ordering several Grovyle, Breloom, and anyone who was listening to paint the entire forest with Bullet Seed, Apollo having constantly pumped electroballs in the air as illumination flares.
The rest of the Pokémon, they didn't need orders, they just went out there and did what needed to be done. Unfortunately some didn't make it through the night, judging how a Ludicolo and a Tropius had taken bodies on their backs to be moved.
He should've been out there, counting bodies. Even outside the military his inclinations as an unofficial medic had called out to him, but Apollo stayed his feet as Mikita took a step away.
"They can handle themselves. I'd worry more about you."
Still, Mikita made his shift with his right foot, and suddenly he felt his side squirt and a sharp pain send him stumbling back down to his knees.
'5.56. Bullet went cleanly through. I got careless, had my backed turned to a Valk as I punched buckshot into something.'
He remembered turning around just fast enough not get gut shot from the back, but not fast enough to dodge it. Apollo had his back however in a lightning strike.
Apollo flicked his ears. "What?"
Before he could fully get what Mikita was asking, the man had been half naked.
Mikita had always had high muscle density. It was a fact he had learned a bit more in depth in his extracurricular medical training. A matter of half genetics and half training had made his back rather taut and some form of abs cross his stomach. This was even before the Dreamwater had washed him over and tightened the flesh up. The man never bothered to bench, but as long as he was able to hurl hefty Arcanines or Nidoqueen over him, he figured he'd fair good at weight lifting. Living his life in war tended to give him a body capable of such a life.
Before that, had been the travelling, the training, the way he physically took on his Pokémon in training to Valentine's disapproval. He actually wrestled and sparred with his Pokémon. He actually fought himself as a trainer, which had been a rarity. His back and bone had been molded appropriately.
Besides, he was rather out of place in the weight room. People stared at the scars he once had. At his age. He was once told he looked like a kid just by his face. Needless to say that Mikita had stared at his face in the reflection of his wrist computer to perfect an "adult" face. The silver had helped.
Apollo could appreciate that as he saw Mikita again naked from the waist up, checking his wounds diligently. His dog tags were still there, sticking against his skin with sweat.
An awfully obvious farmer's tan had come over Mikita, but he was still pale as far as forest standards went. The bandage that went around his mid-section had covered up skin however.
"You know, my family tells me I'm strong. I don't know if they're just flattering me or what, but you seem like the guy to ask."
Mikita muffled a confused grunt at Apollo through tearing the bandaid with his teeth, the new fang rather handy considering.
"Am I strong Micky?"
"You're small and fast." Mikita gave an answer dryly. "Sometime's better than strong." Mikita had pulled his arms in one direction, hands clasping, his back muscles tightening.
"Besides." Mikita had grunted as he tightened his bandages once, taking the straw from the hydration pack and spreading that precious liquid onto his hands. His knuckles mended themselves in a fuzz, and Mikita was reminded still of that special water that had been graced by dreams. "You're a scout. Scouts do not need to fight."
Apollo had contemplated for a second, but he nodded, pleased with the answer as he sat across from Mikita.
"Duck." Because he sat opposite of Mikita, he saw what Mikita wouldn't.
The ex-soldier and did one better and twisted, his bullet wound reddening the bandages because of it. With one hand raised up he had caught the flying black boxes of ammo. Apparently the Pokémon knew what magazines were, unseen as they were.
The ammo came in waves, and Mikita caught them all.
After the fifth black box had been tossed aside ontop of his armor he had shouted only as he could:
"Spasibo!" A gargled roar had responded to Mikita's acknowledgement.
"They enjoy having someone kill in their name, you know." Apollo blew out as he went over to Mikita's pack, playing with one of the black cigarettes. The Pikachu had rubbed the tip against his cheek and lit it. There was contemplation as Apollo held it to his lips, but he looked up at Mikita for confirmation.
Suddenly Apollo was wondering why he had wanted Mikita's confirmation.
He had followed Mikita's shouts and orders to a T last night, and Mikita gave them out like old hat, naturally.
"No." was Mikita's answer, though he plucked the stick out for himself. He looked at his watch.
It was his policy to not smoke before noon if he could help it, so he had put the stick down in the dirt and let it fizz out.
"A waste, don't you think?" Apollo pondered.
"Perhaps." Mikita had stated, cycling his FAL, a noted grit to it that had spoken to heavy use last night. His Mossberg had been cleaner however, just by design.
"You see, one of my brothers, older than me, he can't get enough of those things." Apollo had gone onto his back as he took a blade of grass and mocking put it between his lips.
"Ain't he the one who spit in my face?" Mikita recalled, pressing his dirty hand over his face to wipe away grit and sweat. His single gloved hand had still been there, but the iron balls in its knuckles had been a bit loose.
"…Well, best I'll save some for him when I double back around."
Mikita shuffled, tucking in his legs, laying his head on his knees.
"Well, he talked to me, led me to your home there." Mikita said kindly. "Wouldn't have met you and your smart ass otherwise."
"Yeah…" Apollo bashfully rubbed his cheeks.
"He your actual, blood brother, or are you just using honorifics?" Apollo had hunched his back in a sad breath. It was Mikita's turn to be curious, grabbing his rifle, guiding in a mag and pulling back the bolt to chamber a round.
"I don't got any of those… I think."
"I don't know anyone who's blood related to me."
"Ugh. The way you say it Buddy, it's like old hat to you." What Apollo had meant to say is that he sounded like he didn't care. Though he did, which was why Mikita mentioned at all.
"Well, with a response like that, is it old hat to you?"
Apollo played with that odd tuff of fur in between his ears, stringing it through his dirty paws. "….Aww, come on. Why you gotta ask questions like that?"
"Because. A real injury is only half physical." Mikita had palmed over the bullet wound as if making a point. He knew that point all too intimately however. "The other half is…" Mikita had trailed off, his free hand tapping at his temple knowingly.
"It's not really something I can fix, you know?" Mikita had cupped his hand over the hydration straw and squeezed a portion into his hand, bringing it over to Apollo. The Pikachu had taken the drink with no qualm.
Apollo had smacked his mouth once over after taking in a gulp, Mikita throwing his outfit back over him in the meanwhile.
"My parents." Apollo had simply stated as he gazed up at the newly colored sky.
"What?" Mikita had choked out as he put his thermal combat shirt back over himself.
"You know people say I'm a really, really good finder of things."
"I'll believe that." Muscle memory came back around and Mikita had found himself grasping an officer's sword near him when his mind wanted a blade. It was black, it was rather long, and it had made him remember how much he had missed his own officer's sword. The straight blade was pulled out barely, and he saw the reddish rusted running of use.
In a world where the modern firearm existed, the sword remained as a symbol and a tool that was still respected, and whenever Mikita drew his, and it happened more times than he thought it would, it meant that the drama of it all had reached a boiling point.
A Toxicroak, probably unrelated to the one they met earlier, had let out one bellowing croak before rising its pad up into the sky and bringing it down into something flesh a few meters away from the two, the forest bellowing in celebration as another survivor was put to death.
Mikita had bolted the sword and the sheath to his belt as Apollo played with his fur still, hard pressed to spit out words for once.
"The one thing I haven't been able to find is a lick of my parents…" His paws had hit the ground in emotional frustration. His eyes had been closed, his usually smirking, mischievous face upset with himself. Another breath had lightened it however, wrinkling his black nose as Mikita stood up, casting his shadow over him.
With an extended arm, Apollo climbed up again, propping his face on one of his paws as he found a good place to ride on Mikita's shoulder.
"I've searched and strung out a thousand rumors. Never really had an opportunity to see if they're among those at The Well. The Godfathers tend to use established mates to father more children within their family. Wouldn't be strange to think they're alive down there, eh?" Apollo's enthusiasm was a depressive lie.
"You've been there before though, right?" Apollo's reasons for coming with him had been acutely apparent to Mikita.
"Yeah, well…" Apollo scratched his nose. "I've gotten within a stone's throw of it maybe once or twice during my life."
Mikita raised an eyebrow. Half disappointed. Half not knowing any better.
Apollo caught on. "Hey, that's closer than most of the Landwalkers have been you know?"
Another time Mikita had readied himself, tightened his pack and his gear as best he could as he stood straight again on Guyana ground.
"Why didn't you just straight up tell me this earlier Apollo?"
"You don't seem like the type to care." A blow had hit his stomach.
"Don't say that."
"Have you ever wondered why I fight like I do?"
"I wonder why you're so good at it."
Mikita had taken pause as he was reminded of his own caliber, ignoring the comment.
"I fight because I care. Because I want to make a difference. That's what I want to fight for." Otherwise he'd be fighting just because he needed to in a maddening cycle he thought he had escaped. "Fighting for you to see your parents again if there's a chance. Yeah, that's as good a reason as ever."
"What if the reason is false? A lie?"
"My intentions are true hearted, I'd like to think….Anyway," Mikita got off the topic. "How many days out from The Well are we?" He had pulled out the map and Apollo had pointed to where they were.
Mikita looked at his wrist and read off the date to line up an ETA. "March 11th, 2325."
"What?!" Apollo had almost fallen off his shoulder. "That's what cycle it is?!"
"Year. And is there a problem with that?"
"I thought we were only a thousand 'years' out from The Coldest War." Apollo had meant the 1960s.
Admittedly Mikita would've thought a few hundred years would've been enough time for the world to reset itself from a nuclear war, but that hadn't been true, if only because of the irradiated ruins of man staying, persisting. A lot can happen in a year, Mikita knows from how old he felt as someone who had been barely been in his mid-twenties.
Yet still, a wasteland was a wasteland, and there was only so much a gem of a civilization could do with it.
There had always been colonies propping up and dying along the old world, but the UNG was always careful in expanding.
Mikita had often reasoned as he sometimes brought in adventurers of the old world into camps and bases skirting along southern Turkey or Mongolia, was that they were scared.
It took a few thousand years for the white man to find the New World at first, and perhaps it would take a thousand more for the survivors to rediscover the old one.
That was one of Mikita's straying thoughts in the recent days: Of what he could become.
Maybe he could be one of those explorers for the UNG. Never again with the Army, obviously, but for his nation, for his government. He was a man of the UNG after all, discharge or not.
If anything, his time in Guyana proved that he could to an extent.
Still, he was better at something else.
They started walking out forward, through the grass, and the forest moved with them.
"Do you ever wonder what a world without war is like?"
Another question. Another hypothetical situation, several hours into the day. Mikita had made a note that, when the Pokémon of Guyana could help it, they'd get behind him when danger was near and vacate the immediate area. That was his initial warning sign to look out for. Apollo was the other one.
"It's a world of which I have no right belonging in."
Apollo flicked his ears at him, at an abstract answer that dodged way too many bullets.
"No. I don't wonder about it." Mikita had shifted his rifle uncomfortably, it weighing down his tired arms even more in that moment. "This is a world born from war. Everything in this world is touched by it. Me, the Earth, my country, my blood and especially you. We were all born from it."
"Well, how you are born is of no matter, Buddy. It's what you do with your life that defines you." Apollo repeated Chief's lesson; repeated Mikita's mother's lesson to him. The Chatot had hammered quite a few things into Apollo's head after all this time, but he listened when it was worth it.
Dirty palms passed over his eyes. Those eyes which had been a cancer of their own.
"I was born for war. War has been my life…I live and breath it, I subsist on my actions." I. Such a distinct concept. I as in the man that Mikita Noelle had turned into. But not the one that had his feet on Hoeannic dirt and lived as a Pokémon Trainer.
There had been such a sad tone to Mikita's answer. It made even Apollo fade away for a second.
"Hey. Look at me." Apollo had jumped off Mikita's shoulder, onto a tree, on a branch just over Mikita's head. "Look at these things." The Pikachu rubbed his red sacs on his face, rubbing them, electricity coming off.
"I was born to use these things. But how I use them is up to me. Whether they hurt, defend, put on a show. It's all up to me, Micky." As he was talking, he had drifted on the branch over to a particular leaf, tearing it off with his mouth, but not holding on. It drifted all the way down to Mikita's hand.
"You hear?" Apollo had flicked his paw toward Mikita as he reflected with a stare at the foliage.
Why did the Valks choose to use their prowess in the way they did? Why did the Reformers fight a war with such ferocity? Why did the UNGA choose to train the 2319 cohort in such a brutal fashion? The greater good was always the justification, disturbingly.
"Yeah. I hear." His arm had gone up, and Apollo rode it back down to his shoulder.
It took a moment for Mikita to keep walking, but before he had, he had remembered a very specific feeling. One that went back all the way to when he was first handed his Starly by Winona all those years ago.
"What is it, Buddy?"
It was the feeling of being a Pokémon Trainer; of ownership and care for a Pokémon of his own.
He looped his hand around to Apollo's back, running his hand down his back in reverence.
"Thanks." And the two kept moving down.