Locked Away, Chapter 59
After nearly twenty-four hours floating adrift, twenty water pokemon, and several near-drownings, Paul and Dawn practically collapsed onto the shore of Unova. Unlike Ash and Misty's experience, their arrival was met with no urgency to move—the beach carried an eerie silence that the sound of crashing waves occasionally broke up. Dawn hardly recalled the story that Ash glazed over regarding his travel between Unova and the former Kalos region, and wondered how exactly he survived what she considered to be hell.
They both wanted to hurl as they looked back at the storm-covered distance. The storm spread faster than either of them could have imagined, and it did nothing to cull the rage of the water pokemon present. Lucky enough, Paul wrestled away the worst of them: rampaging gyarados, seakings, and
qwilfish, while Dawn used Zoey's borrowed lumimeon to find several friendlier, and less effected water pokemon, willing to take them part of the way. They spent the majority of the time submerged in water, given the few pokemon large enough to carry them were too busy fighting with one another.
They were both exhausted, and even as the water pushed them into the sand, and threatened them adrift once more; they couldn't move their bodies.
Dawn groaned, trying to ignore the pain in hers sides from hours of moving, and not eating.
"I didn't think it would take that long." she whined.
"Hopefully, we haven't missed our window of opportunity yet."
Paul forced himself to his hands and knees, and looked onward at the dark island. In the distance, he could see a few remaining trails of smoke where fires had burned out. The sun was still about an hour from rising, but the warmth of the island removed any chill from their bodies.
Now, they were only sore and tired, with no time to rest.
Paul was on his feet first, and then he helped Dawn to hers.
"You know," Dawn wheezed. "Maybe we should have thought this out a little bit more. I mean, we don't know where Iris is even located."
"Couldn't be much further than the facility that Ketchum torched. I'm more concerned about what we're going to find in the forest."
Dawn grew silent, looking ahead—they had agreed to save their best pokemon for arrival, simply because there was a chance that a few Team Rocket members survived the initial destruction of the facility—but also because Unova was home to some of the most fierce dragon pokemon on the planet. Throw in a few angry legendary pokemon, and their plates were overflowing with crap to deal with.
Dawn tried to wipe away the salty ocean smell with her forearm as they trudged forward cautiously.
"So follow the fires? Got it."
"Seems simple enough."
So they walked in silence, one foot after another into the dark forest. They watched the smoke in the distance, their only guide through the darkness, and kept their wits about them. At some point, when Dawn could hardly see an inch in front of her, she placed her hand on Paul's shoulder so they wouldn't get separated. However, no relief for the encompassing dread emerged. Twigs breaking and leaves rattling echoed in their ears until Dawn could no longer keep her cool. She had to speak.
"So...you uh, seemed pretty set on coming to Unova with me—why's that? I thought you didn't care about anything?"
Selecting proper words in improper situations was a gift, sure, insult the only friend she had on this stupid island!
"I care." Paul responded coolly, probably with an eye roll that she couldn't see in the dark. Having believed that was the end of their conversation, Dawn sighed, grateful that they wouldn't be in disagreement and her comment dodged several bullets, but then he spoke again.
"My brother, Reggie." His voice was so quiet, Dawn was taken aback by the unusual softness. "This was the last place he was heading before he disappeared."
Blue eyes glazed over the forest floor in thought, she squinted. "That was back when the attacks first started, wasn't it?"
"I'm sorry, I didn't know." She also had no idea they were so close, though it did explain Paul's sudden belief change so many years ago. Cold and hostile demeanor suddenly replaced by someone who actually gave a damn about the welfare of Sinnoh, and its trainers. He rose to the ranks of an Elite Four member quickly, though when Dawn met him prior, he showed no interest.
"No matter how much I tried, I could never reach this stupid chunk of land." His anger was back, and Dawn found the familiar tone more comforting than the soft tone prior.
"To think it would require an act of war to actually get here..."
Paul must have been furious—something he had been working on for years, obtained, then destroyed in a mere week by someone he wrote off as a lunatic coma patient. Dawn heard the frustration in his voice, mixed with mild depression that he hadn't been brave enough to come here sooner. When he was about to elaborate, Dawn squeezed his shoulder harshly, urging silence.
"Shh... Something is out here with us."
Paul stiffened, this is what happened when he talked. Dawn started to regret speaking—a low growl was much worse than snapping twigs and rustling leaves. As Dawn slowed to look into the distance, seeing a faint glow of green stalking them, Paul suddenly jerked her forearm, and broke into a sprint moments before a large, lavender creature ripped through a low hanging branch, spraying green liquid everywhere that ignited the leaves.
"Can nothing be simple!?"
Dawn shouted, looking back as the creature snapped his head around, baring large teeth and chased them. It was utterly terrifying, how angry and disturbed the pokemon looked. Blood ran down his eyes and scalp, framing the leathery skin with shredded flesh and claw marks—something, or itself, had been trying to dig into his head. Dawn saw all of it in a flash of flames, a flicker of moonlight, and the glow of the rising sun as Paul ducked into a ravine, landing across a small river bank and coming to a stand still. He lost the smoke trail, and was now running blindly.
Dawn was still fixated on the dragon stalking them.
"What was that thing?" She asked as she jerked Paul to a path he overlooked that brought them a few steps out of the ravine, and to their joy, a marked, concrete path. Once the tree line fell away, they sprinted.
"A goodra, but I've never seen one so pissed off before!" Paul hissed back at her.
Ignoring the pain lingering in their bodies, they pumped their legs with adrenaline and were on the run again. Slightly wet shoes squeaked against brushed gravel and ruined concrete, and finally, in the distance they saw what remained of the facility and came to a screeching halt.
What they saw before them was far worse than any lavender, acid-spraying monster.
Together, at the center of the facility, cocooned in a nest, were three of the legendary birds, that until three seconds ago, Paul and Dawn believed were nothing more than myths. They froze as one eye on Moltress creaked open, scanning the horizon. Instinctively trying to hide themselves, they both hit the ground. Fear rocked their bodies and Dawn had fallen into swearing incoherently under her breath.
They didn't sign up for this, and Misty had spared no detail of how terrifying Moltress was. Now, there were three. The great bird of lightning, Zapdos, and the frozen bird, Articuno. Together at last. At least they weren't fighting.
Now, some part of their minds believed that maybe Iris wasn't in Unova at all—maybe that announcement that they made was some prerecorded mind game for Team Rocket to turn the tides, confuse their enemies. With goodra screeching horrors behind them, and the wing of Moltress rising, Dawn figured now was a better time than any to get the hell out of here!
"Paul, shush!" Dawn whined, though he looked at her with concern—it wasn't him who made the noise.
Again, the hiss followed them, surprised either of them could hear it. Ducked behind a nearby bush, eye-level to the ground with them, was a figure dressed all in black, waving them over.
"Move very slowly." the mysterious figure whispered, and after a quick, panicked glance at Paul, Dawn slowly inched herself to the tree line. Paul followed, and for a little while, the earth shaking screams fell on deaf ears, as the rest of the island creatures woke up one by one, and they heard for the first time, the dragons come to life.
From every cranny of the forest behind them, large, hundred-foot dragons ripped into the sky, and others peeked their heads over tree tops and sprayed fire. Igniting the tops of trees that they couldn't see in the shadows. Paul shoved Dawn gently to pry her eyes away, and keep moving.
Once in the security of the treeline. The mysterious figure shushed them both, and then shoved them forward to crawl back into the shadows. The sun crept in enough to keep their path lit, but they remained hidden to any large pokemon—not that any of the dragons had time to attack them. Their attention was primarily on one another again, and from what Paul and Dawn could see, attacking the three legendary birds was high on their list of priorities, because Moltress was circling the sky.
"What's happening?" Dawn asked, trying to sound less scared than she was.
"You must be new to the island, huh?" The figure laughed, indistinguishably a man behind the mask.
"What gave you that impression?" Paul sarcastically answered, unimpressed by their savior's rhetoric.
"Running through the forest at daybreak—stirring the dragons from their slumber.. Man...it will be another long day thanks to you guys."
"Another long day?" Dawn murmured. "How long do they usually sleep?"
"If undisturbed, sometimes they'll sleep a couple days if we're lucky."
"What about the legendary pokemon?"
A pause, then he grimly replied: "They're nesting. Since they popped out of that facility, we thought they would go back to where they came from, but they started to make a home here—the dragons aren't too happy about it. The birds are just playing with them now, reducing their numbers."
"But I thought Reshiram and Zekrom were the mythical—I mean, legendary pokemon said to reside in Unova? Surely they wouldn't be happy about the legendary birds making their home here."
The figure shrugged, less enthusiastic. "Guess they left."
Dawn shared a grievous look with Paul. "So what are you doing here? How did you know we were here?"
"I was scouting around this morning when I heard screaming from the forest. I was trying to get into the ruined facility to see what kind of pokemon were still inside. We think that... Never mind." He chuckled. "I don't even know you—I shouldn't be saying anything."
Dawn's back straightened, and she rushed to walk beside the tall man, extending her hand. "I'm Dawn Matthews, the Sinnoh Region Champion—if you live here, I'm here to speak with the Dragon Master, Iris. Do you know where we can find her?"
All together, the figure came to a halt, staring behind his dark mask at Dawn, whose eyes showed more fury and passion than ever. Whether or not this man knew anything meant nothing to her—she was expediting her plans, though Paul was as frustrating as ever and shook his head at her for revealing who they were. This could have been anyone—Team Rocket, for all that they knew.
"If you're the new champion... I can only assume Cynthia has stepped down?"
"She's dead." Paul grunted while Dawn shifted her feet, and looked away.
Without reply, the man removed his mask, revealing slivers of long green hair combed back with styling gel, and a kind expression marred with a large scar from the top of his forehead, down to his lip. His expression was somber, possibly even sad.
"...I'm so sorry to hear that. Cynthia was one of a kind." He paused with a slight bow. "I am Cilan Dent, a former member of the Elite Four here. It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Matthews."
"Cilan?" Her brows furrowed as they started forward again. "We thought you were dead."
The man hummed, tilting a sore neck to one side. "Yes, many people would think that, I suppose. We haven't been in a good place here in Unova, you see."
"We had no idea."
"I suppose not. Those Rocket members did run a tight ship." Glancing over his shoulder at the mess that Moltress was creating, he huffed. "Not tight enough, apparently."
"Were you guys imprisoned here on the island?"
"Unfortunately." Cilan groaned, smacking his lips. "Now enough questions. If you need to know more, you can get them from Iris."
"So she is really here? She's alive?" Dawn sounded hopeful, there was no reason to hide her emotions, even if Paul clammed up.
"That's great.." Dawn hummed, pressing her hand to her chest in relief just as another dragon shrieked and fell out of the sky. Cilan pulled his mask back on, and waved them forward, picking up speed.
"We shouldn't stay here much longer. If you could please follow me..."
Maybe it was because Iris excreted so much power, but Dawn actually expected more than an old, falling apart league building. Like a castle. Not a rotten brick-layout with vines running up and down the windows and seals, taking hold of the land that uprooted it. Cilan approached the large building with no hesitation, and insisted that Dawn and Paul would both be fine.
"Yeah, but who says Iris won't?" Paul grumbled, Cilan laughed.
"Well, I do?" He responded, and that was good enough for Dawn who allowed the man to lead them through a make-shift wooden door, through a crumbling hallway, and into the vast remains of the league hall. Around them, Dawn saw very few members of the league, or people in general. Most people were injured, wrapped in bandages, or worse, laying in beds and being tended to by people that weren't injured. Around her, Dawn saw a few men in black, baring the 'R' on their shoulder, and felt very cold.
"You're helping Team Rocket members?" Dawn whispered, keeping Cilan's pace.
"They were injured, and looking for help. Most of them were just acting on someone's orders. They aren't bad."
"Sure they are. They work for Team Rocket!" Dawn argued, but Cilan shook his head.
"Believe me. Evil or not, they're still humans. And we need as many as we can get of those."
Cilan pat her on the head in a child-like way, and then pushed through the last remaining metal doors, revealing a ruined, oak table, and several chairs strewn around the room. Dawn recognized this room. It was the main hall where meetings were held, and they served coffee and gabbed about trainers.
...Now, it looked more like the remains of a war camp.
At the very end, surrounded by the little technology she had to create the now infamous video declaring war on the Kanto region, and wait for phone calls, Iris turned at Dawn with a stoic expression. Her maroon eyes glistened, but were hardened by the hardships she recently faced.
As a gentleman, Cilan introduced Dawn and Paul with a slight bow, and extended his hand.
"Iris, I would like to introduce you to the new champion of Sinnoh, Dawn Matthews and her assistant, Paul."
Iris's wide eyes narrowed dangerously as she folded her hands below her chin, and leaned against the large table. Usually, Paul might have corrected Cilan—he was not an assistant, but instead he found himself awestruck... maybe a little scared of the woman sitting across the room from them. Her gaze was solid and intimidating.
Dawn, however, hadn't been fazed.
"I'm so glad to see that you're okay."
A grin as wide as either of them had seen all day pulled across Iris' lips as she chuckled, and shook her head. When she stood up from her chair, she pushed her palms against the table, revealing her full height to be close to six foot, and her long purple hair cut off above her shoulders. She lifted the white shirt she was wearing and Dawn felt vomit rise to the back of her throat.
"Yeah, I'm okay." Iris commented, showing off the many scars she was no-doubt given by rocket members. Some of them looked fresh, but Dawn didn't look away.
"I...I didn't know. I'm sorry." Dawn corrected herself, but then Iris laughed again, and sat on her table with folded arms.
"I have to ask, how in the world did you get on the island?"
"We swam." Dawn shrugged. "well... we struggled I should say. It was no easy task."
"Ah-ha." Iris nodded. "And I'm assuming you're here to talk about my announcement?"
"Yes, I am actually."
"And are you on my side, or not?"
"Well... I don't think..."
"Are you, or are you not?" Iris asked again, clearly not interested in any story Dawn wanted to share.
This was what a true champion was, standing before Iris made Dawn feel like a child all over again. Their disposition, behavior and mannerisms were complete opposites. While demanding respect, Iris also demanded complete loyalty and Dawn wasn't sure she could speak until Paul nudged her in the back, and she took a step forward.
"It depends on if you listen to me or not."
"It depends, does it? Does it depend on if I throw you to the dragons?"
"You wouldn't." Dawn bravely answered, hiding her fear the best she could by clamping her hands shut and digging her nails into her palms. "I saw what's going on here, and I'm guessing I'm your best link to the outside world."
"Right!" Iris exclaimed sarcastically, "Because I want a link to the outside world. The same outside world who forgot about us, and left us here to rot. That outside world?"
"We didn't know. Someone, I don't know who, kept us updated with false information about Unova, we had no idea you lost the war."
"Lost?" Iris laughed. "We didn't lose. That monster that man with red hair used on us—that...abomination. It turned my pokemon and my friends into stone... instantly."
While she spoke, her eyes softened, and she looked to the corner of the room, remembering the moment painfully.
"We were winning and then..." Gathering herself. Iris inhaled and shook off the emotion. "It doesn't matter. Kanto betrayed us. When we called for help, they didn't move. They believed capturing Giovanni was enough to end the wars."
"Right. But that was Team Rocket's fault, not Kanto. They covered everything up to suit their needs."
"That doesn't change anything! Was it Team Rocket's fault that the Elite Four started taking payouts? They're still evil."
Dawn, frustrated with Iris' behavior, finally shouted. "Shut up and listen to me!"
Taken aback, Iris leaned, and glanced at Cilan for support; but he only offered a vague shrug, encouraging Iris to listen to her story. After all, she did come all this way.
"Kanto isn't evil, and there are a ton of good people that live there who aren't part of Team Rocket. My friends are there right now trying to stop the mess that Rocket created and right now... Kanto is my region's only chance of survival unless we can fit everyone on a boat, and bring them here."
Iris' face softened as Dawn inhaled, and started again. "There's a massive blizzard in Sinnoh that has overtaken the best parts of the region. It's thrown out nearly all of our residents. According to Ash, Team Rocket took Palkia and Dialga and I think that has something to do with it."
"So you need Kanto to save your people?"
"Yes. That's why you can't go there and start attacking people."
Iris wilted. "I...I don't have the power to take the entire region, we just wanted to start something. Get them talking."
"Create a panic? There are towers out there raging mayhem and destruction on the world since your announcement. People are dying, pokemon are dying and they're blaming you!"
Iris's jaw locked. She was clearly offended and unaware. She threatened war, but she had nothing to do with towers. "I won't be their scapegoat."
"Then you need to work with me. Don't attack Kanto. If we go there together, we might still be able to help Sinnoh and Unova."
Iris licked her lips, and sat back.
"If the towers you speak of are destroying the rest of the regions, then think about what has happened to the people here. Team Rocket has been trying to impose control over the dragons and the rest of the pokemon for years now. It's driven some of them to complete insanity."
Paul leaned forward, and whispered to Dawn; "I don't recall Drew mentioning a tower in Unova."
Dawn glanced to Paul, then at Iris. "How are they controlling the dragon pokemon?"
"It was microchips at first, but then it was something else. Cilan and I have been scouting the entire island and have turned up nothing."
"It can't be the facility, either. That place was just a prison." Paul added his two cents.
"That's what we've discovered, unfortunately, that means we have no leads on how to fix the creatures here...which means we need to get off this island before we're snuffed out." Cilan explained, and then shook his head.
"Which brings us back to the problem. We can't go to Kanto if those corrupted idiots are still running it."
"They... they aren't." Dawn gestured with her hands for emotion. "Or they won't be soon. Misty and Brock are changing things. They have a plan to get ride of the rest of the Elite Four and stop Giovanni for good. You don't need to resort to violence and playing their game."
"Misty...? Where have I heard that name before?"
"Misty Waterflower, she was the Cerulean City Gym Leader."
"Right, she's a member of the Elite Four now?"
"Yes." Dawn nodded. "And she doesn't intend to let them go about ruining the league anymore."
"...and is she there now?"
"...Well...no..." Dawn fidgeted. "...she had an accident and people think she's dead."
Iris crossed her arms and looked forward at Dawn, clearly unimpressed. "So a dead person, not unlike my own reputation these last few years, is expected to turn Kanto around before the rest of my people are killed?"
"You don't sound so sure."
"I'm not, but I've seen Misty in action, and I know between her and Ash they will succeed."
Blinking in what Dawn thought was amusement now, Iris shook her head. "Ash?"
"Yeah. Ash. He's...he's..." Dawn looked to Paul for some help, but that was clearly a bad idea, as Paul shook his head and scrunched up his face.
"He's why this whole thing started. He was in a coma for ten years...and when he woke up, he...um...he sort of knew that Team Rocket infiltrated Kanto and shined the light on that. He's currently being hunted down as a terrorist because Lance doesn't like him very much."
Iris snorted. "I like the sound of that. I always did like to see that wannabe in a fit."
Dawn was impressed that there was no questioning Ash's coma—or who he was. For everything that she was, Iris was very accepting of new ideas. Accepting of the truth. Maybe that could work in Dawn's favor.
"It was actually Ash and Misty who came here originally and destroyed that prison. They released Moltress by mistake, but they came here looking for answers—for proof to use against Giovanni and the rest of the Elite Four members."
"...and did they get it?"
"No. This place was a disaster, but they unknowingly freed you, and that's worth something."
A long pause filled the room as Iris exhaled, swiped at her short hair and let her head fall backwards in thought.
"I don't want to go to war with Kanto," Iris mused. "I only want what is left of my civilians to be safe. After that, Cilan, Bianca and I can handle what is left of that prison, as well as the legendary birds... just as soon as we find out what's making the dragons crazy. With them behaving as they are, this place is a constant war zone."
"I understand that." Dawn nodded, and looked to the ground. "I want everyone to be safe, too, and that includes helping the people of Kanto from their crazed leader."
"Dawn, was it?" Iris asked, her eyes were closed thoughtfully so Dawn answered with a quick yes.
"I had almost given up hope. When Kanto never reached out to speak with me, I believed the last chance to survive was to come in kicking and screaming—that the rest of the world had been lost. Until Garchomp and Haxorus found us, we had no idea what was happening around us. We've tried to put together bits and pieces, but if what you have told me is true—then I will help you."
"Yes, but only if you help me."
Dawn wasn't sure she liked the sound of that. "...what is it?"
"I have never been very good about waiting for other people to succeed, so I would like you to set up a meeting with Lance, and I want to bring him a gift unlike anything he has ever seen. If what you say is true, maybe he'll hear you out, and if he doesn't, then we have no other way but mine."
"...what kind of gift?" Dawn's voice was weak, despite her attempt to hide it.
"Now that would ruin the fun." Iris leaned forward, narrowing her eyes at Iris. "You get that meeting with Lance, and I promise not to start a war. That's enough, isn't it?"
Dawn felt like she was still being cornered, that if she said yes, she was walking into a trap, but if she said no, she was walking away from preventing the greatest war in recent history. The last thing they needed was more violence and blood shed.
"...I can't promise anything, but I'll try to speak with Lance."
"Good, then we'll get ready to set sail. Cilan will show you how to work the comm system."
"I'll be back shortly."
Iris waved with two fingers, then skittered around Dawn who felt a massive weight leave her shoulders when the door shut behind the Dragon champion, and Cilan gave a soft chuckle.
"She's a bit hard to warm up to, isn't she?"
"She's ice cold." Dawn rubbed her arms for comfort but found little. She was freezing, showing how anxious she was only after Iris was gone.
"She's been through a lot. We all have. Now, let's get you on call with Lance."
Dawn followed through damaged marble floors to the end of the long table where Iris was sitting, and watched as Cilan flicked through a couple of numbers. Even if Unova couldn't receive phone calls, they could still pin-point a number, and call out.
"...you're sure about this?" Paul questioned, his arms tightly crossed and his face screwed up.
"No. But we at least avoided war... for now. That's what we came here for." Dawn took a seat just as the intercom started to ring, and Cilan raised a finger for everyone to be quiet. Hopefully, Lance would not only answer, but listen to them.
Since old communication phones connected to a land-number, it felt like they waited for hours for the line to connect to Kanto, and then begin ringing. The sound was about to drive Dawn nuts as she bounced back and forth in her seat, impatiently waiting, and deciding what she would say.
"Why, if it isn't Dawn, the champion. Hello." Lance answered the video call with a grin, sitting back in his pristine chair in the Saffron Tower. Clearing her throat, Dawn nodded. She was ready for this.
"I see you're calling me from a place in Unova—is there a reason for that?"
"Yes. I've spoken to Iris, and she has agreed not to attack Kanto."
Lance laughed at this. "Under what circumstances?"
"That you allow both Sinnoh and Unova's remaining residents to take refuge in Kanto's borders until it's safe to return home."
Lance still had a smug expression. "And the dragon champion, is she there?"
"I am here, Lance." Iris approached the camera until she was visible at the corner.
"Well," He shook his head. "On one hand, I have a woman who threatened all of my people, and on the other, I have a woman who condemned my reign and told the world I was working for Team Rocket... why on earth would I allow either of you behind my borders?"
Think fast, think fast, Dawn! "Because I'll renounce what I said. I'll take it back, publicly. Iris and I will both renounce our titles."
Her speech surprised Lance, who leaned back thoughtfully, considering the idea. "You will, will you?"
"Pride is nothing if it means people are dying."
"Hmm..." Lance smacked his lips. "...I will think about this discussion, and get back to you. Behave girls."
The screen went black as Dawn looked up at Iris, a new flame in her eyes.
"That gift for Lance, it better be a one-way ticket to hell, because if he won't do this with diplomacy, I'm getting my people into Kanto one way or another."
Iris was impressed, Dawn changed her mind so quickly.
"Lance is evil, but he doesn't have control over Kanto, he can't. If someone else challenged him, he would surely fall to his knees."
"And Dawn may be popular enough to pull that off." Paul added watching Iris who was pacing, and nodding her head.
"By tomorrow, whether he has said a place to meet or not, we will not attack Kanto—but it's false leader."
"That's an idea I can get behind."
I tend to ramble on these things. And since next chapter's A/N is longer, I just really, really wanted to express my thanks to the people still reading this story after two and a half years. I originally intended to wrap it up quickly, but life changes, things happen.
So, thank you. THANK ALL OF YOU SO MUCH. I still plan on finishing this, and with any luck, hopefully very soon.
See you at the end guys. Thank you for all the support.