Chapter 14: Survive
He watched the blood pour from Sid's neck, the typhlosion collapse onto his knees. This was a nightmare. It couldn't be happening. It couldn't.
"SID! SID!" He thrashed against the officer holding him and, somehow, the pangoro let him go. He ran to his friend's side.
Sid had one paw on his throat, but it was impossible to stem the flow of blood. He looked up at Raskin. The nickit had never seen such sorrow, such anguish in a person's eyes. Especially not from the one pokémon who was so often his shining beacon of joy and hope against this horrible world.
Sid opened his mouth. He seemed to suck in all the oxygen his body had left before saying, "I'm sorry, Rasky…"
"Sid, please! Please don't go! Please—"
He was suddenly yanked backwards, away from Sid. But he recognised those paws—it wasn't an officer. It was Lyco.
"Stop!" Raskin cried, still trying to look back at Sid. "Lyco—!"
In his periphery he saw the pangoro barrelling towards them, but Lyco miraculously managed to shove him away. Now they were at the tunnel. She practically hurled Raskin inside.
"Go!" she said. "If you want to live, go!"
That was enough to stir his legs into moving. He heard Lyco following after him, then she suddenly gave a howl like her fur was being ripped off.
Raskin looked back. Behind Lyco, where the tunnel entrance lay, the wall began to collapse, great chunks of rock falling over the hole they came through.
Then she was shoving him forwards again. As rocks started raining onto them he feared they might never reach the end of the tunnel, but then the ground suddenly disappeared and he hit the shallow water of the sewer with a thump.
A moment later, Lyco landed on top of him. "Sorry," she gasped, scrambling off his back.
Raskin lifted his head out of the dirt to look at her, wincing as he picked up the sewer's stench. "What's happening?"
Lyco was already getting back to her feet. "I made the tunnel cave in," she said. "It was always fragile. Now come on, we won't have much time…"
Raskin could still hear Shadow's muffled voice through the rocks, barking frenzied orders. He knew Lyco was right—Shadow wouldn't let them escape this easily. But as he turned back to Lyco, she doubled over, gasping for breath.
"I'm fine," she said, hobbling forwards again. "Just… used a lot of energy."
Raskin looked behind him. They were moving the opposite way from the path he knew to the manhole cover. "Where are we going?" he asked.
"Wherever this path goes. Doesn't matter as long as it's away from them."
"But…" Raskin trailed off. But what? He didn't know. What was the point in trying to get away? What was the point in doing anything? They had killed Sid. Sid… his dearest friend in the whole world… he was gone forever…
"Raskin, come on!" Lyco tugged at his foreleg impatiently. "I know you're upset, but if we don't get moving then—"
"Oh, I'm upset!" Raskin spat, his voice quivering. "And you're not? Do you ever feel anything?!"
"Of course I'm upset!" Lyco said. "But right now, unless we get out of here, our lives are as good as dead!"
Raskin blinked at her. Lyco was right: if they were caught, it would surely mean life imprisonment. Plus whatever other horrors Shadow would do with them…
His muscles were still on fire from that blinding attack the officer had used on him, but he could just about hobble through the sewer tunnel. Lyco looked in even more pain—every few steps she gave a quiet moan. Seeing her in such an awful state sparked something within Raskin. If she wasn't giving up, neither could he.
So they limped through the sewer tunnel together. With his night vision, Raskin was the only one who could see in the tunnels, so Lyco held onto his tail with one paw to guide her. The noise from behind them slowly dissipated, though they weren't taking that as any reassurance of safety.
Sometimes the tunnel split into diverging paths, and with neither of them having any idea where they might be, Lyco always took the path going straighter. Alternatively, if one path had a particularly rancid stench, the choice was more obvious. Occasionally the dim, fragmented light of a manhole passed above them, which they hurried past as quickly as they could.
For a while, moving forwards was the only thought, only instinct in Raskin's mind. It was as if his body had shut down every function except the one that might help it survive.
He had no idea how long they had walked for when this started to recede. The thoughts in his head slowly grew, all screaming SID, SID, SID at him. The next thing he knew, he was on his knees.
Sid was dead.
How could Raskin's world exist without him? It didn't feel real. But he had seen it right there; watched Shadow cut his throat like it was just a piece of cloth.
Would Shadow have done what he did if Sid didn't keep fighting back? Raskin thought back to when they had locked eyes. He had given Sid a look of desperation, attempting to say, 'We've already lost. Don't make things any worse for us.'
But Sid didn't back down. He must have misunderstood. Oh, why didn't he just try speaking? Even with a hand over his mouth, Sid would have gathered what he meant.
"Raskin?" Lyco said. He tensed, anticipating a yank upwards from her. But it didn't come.
Raskin remembered the very first thing Sid had said when he'd raised the idea of staging a fight.
"It's a brilliant idea. I bet every 'mon in Deepden would pay for something like that. But it's very illegal, bro. Being involved in a street fight is bad enough, but staging one, charging people to watch… what would the punishment even be for that?"
You were right, Sid, Raskin thought. I should have just listened to you from the start. But I didn't. Losing dad wasn't enough—I had to go and fuck up my best friend's life, too…
"Raskin," Lyco said gently, putting a paw on his head. "Raskin, whatever you're thinking—"
"It's all my fault!" Raskin burst out, and then he couldn't stop the sobs coming. He felt Lyco's paws around him and he squeezed them desperately. Lyco wasn't Sid, but she was someone he could hold onto, at least for now.
"Of course it isn't," Lyco said. "You had no control over what happened down there."
"But Fight Den was my idea, and without that he'd still be alive!"
"There is a difference between having an idea, and being responsible for everything that follows it," Lyco said sternly. "Sid made his own decisions."
Raskin said nothing. He wasn't up for debating things.
"Sid was so happy," he murmured after a while. "So proud of himself. I thought that nothing could bring him down." He sniffed. "He'd only been a typhlosion for one day. There was so much he was excited about—that everyone was. So much that I'll never see..."
"Raskin, I know how you feel," Lyco said, "but we have to keep moving."
"Oh, fuck off!" Raskin cried, shoving her away. "We're standing in the middle of a fucking sewer! Where do we need to move to? What's the point anymore? Might as well curl up and die right here."
"Raskin, please! Listen to me!"
Raskin got a look at Lyco's face and flinched. There were tears in her eyes.
"You must not give up," she said slowly. "I'm not stupid, okay? I know where we are right now. But even this is better than being dead."
Raskin he lowered his gaze to the tunnel beyond Lyco, staring into the abyss. "How's it better?" he said, his voice raspy. "Everything I had is gone. My best friend, my family, my apartment, my savings." He felt his chest tighten as all those things he sunk in, one after the other. "Everyone I know, except you."
Lyco gave him a hurt look at that. He didn't really care.
"We haven't lost everything," she insisted, running claws through her mane. "Not yet."
"Oh? What's your master plan, then?"
Lyco shut her eyes. "If my inner compass is correct, we've been travelling roughly towards Oldden. If we make it there, we'll be able to find somewhere to hide. And rest."
Raskin blinked. It would have been nice to know sooner that Lyco actually had a plan. "And then?" he said.
She gave him a tired look. "I don't know. But that's a good place to start. Next time we pass a manhole, let's get out, find out where we are. It must be past curfew by now."
She helped Raskin back to his paws and, slowly, they walked on. It wasn't long before another manhole and ladder crossed their path. Raskin pointed it out, and Lyco stopped.
"You go first. Your night vision's far more useful than I am out there," she said.
Raskin understood, even though the thought of getting separated from Lyco made him tremble. Climbing up the ladder brought out even more aches in his body, but he reached the top and managed to shove the manhole cover to one side.
He poked his head out and looked around. It was hardly lighter than the tunnels, and there were no streetlights on, so it must have been past midnight. No signs of life at all.
"Looks safe," he said. Lyco followed him up.
When Raskin heaved himself out of the manhole onto a road, he felt an unexpected wave of relief. The night sky above them, and the vague, non-offensive scents in the air didn't feel like things he could take for granted anymore.
"Do you recognise this place?" he whispered.
Lyco stifled a snort. "Seeing as I can't see anything… no."
Raskin blinked. He'd been using night vision for so long, he'd forgotten it was on.
He walked to the side of the street, treading as lightly as possible, until he found a sign. "Blossom Street."
Lyco thought for a second. "One of the tunnels into the new venue is in this street," she said. "I'm pretty sure."
Raskin frowned. "That's not Oldden."
"It's probably better than Oldden," Lyco said. "No one will be searching those tunnels, unless Shadow found out even more about us than I thought." She hesitated. "No. He didn't say anything about our planned move while he was gloating. Let's go."
Somehow, miraculously, Raskin spotted the manhole they were after. Lyco was correct—it was right on the doorstop of their huge underground space. The two of them trudged to a corner of the room, kicked the ground free of as many stones as they could, then collapsed into sleep.
When Raskin woke, he was still in the cavern. Still safe. That was something, at least.
He lit up his night vision again and looked around. Though he was grateful to be able to see at all, the relentless muted-grey colours of this dark world were starting to make him anxious. He wanted to see colour again. If only Sid were here, he could light up—
Raskin stopped, his mouth beginning to quiver. He took a deep breath. Hold it together.
"Raskin?" Lyco called from behind him, sounding hoarse. "You awake?"
The lycanroc was sitting up against the wall, eyes staring listlessly into the distance. She must have hardly seen a thing since they entered the tunnels, all that time ago. And I was feeling bad for not getting enough colour, Raskin thought shamefully.
Sid. He couldn't think about Sid. Had to distract himself, somehow…
"Lyco?" he said.
He opened his mouth, trying to find something to say. Nothing inspiring came to mind.
"Um… what do we do now?"
Lyco was silent for a while. "At some point, we'll need to find food and water," she said. "I think the Dividing River water is drinkable. Food-wise, it'll be trickier. Showing our faces anywhere public is a no-go, so we'll probably have to sneak out at night. If it isn't night already."
And… beyond that? Raskin thought.
But before he could raise the question, they heard pawsteps echo against the stone tunnels.
Neither of them moved. Please, Raskin thought, clenching his paws, not now, not after everything we went through last night…
A flashlight appeared in the cavern entrance. "Raskin? Lyco?"
Raskin exhaled. It was Tyler's voice.
"What are you doing here?" Raskin demanded.
Unexpectedly, Tyler let out a yelp of surprise. "Rasky! I'm looking for you! In a good way!" he squeaked. "Is Lyco there too?"
"Answer the question," Raskin growled.
"D-don't worry, no one knows yer here. No one even knows yer alive, least as far as I know." Tyler paused. "I was… really worried…"
Worried that you might have killed us as well as Sid? Raskin thought darkly.
He took a deep breath. There was no point exploding on Tyler now, not while he was their one potential ally.
"We're on the left," he said.
Tyler scuttled forwards, then stopped a few feet away once he located them. "Lyco!" he exclaimed. "You both made it…" The nidoran shifted his feet. "So, um… is Sid really dead?"
"Yes," Lyco said. "Shadow cut his throat in front of us."
Raskin winced. Did she have to describe it in such detail?
"He did?!" Tyler sounded shocked. "But… the story all over the city is that Sid was killed as like, an act of self-defence. They didn't mean to kill 'im, but he was attackin' the officers so violent that they had to stop him however they could."
Lyco growled under her breath. "No. He was barely breathing when Shadow killed him. Clearly Flygon thinks preserving that fuck's name is more important than telling people the truth."
Tyler gulped. "W-what about you two? How'd you end up here?"
"We escaped," Lyco said. "Is that not obvious?"
"Well, the newspaper didn't even mention you two!" Tyler stammered. "It said 'several senior members of the cartel were arrested'. That's it. Nothin' about Fight Den, either. Just kept saying 'cartel', wha'ever that is."
"The government must have covered it up," Lyco murmured. "Makes sense." She raised an eyebrow at Tyler. "But you can't read."
"I'm staying with Luis," Tyler said. "He was kind enough to give me his sofa f' now. And, um… read me the newspaper."
Lyco nodded. "Anyone else from Fight Den living with you? Or easy to contact?"
Raskin groaned internally. What are you doing, Lyco?
Tyler hesitated. "Not sure."
"Well, try and find out. Or maybe it would be easier to contact Willow. You know—"
"What are you talking about?" Raskin burst out. He turned on Lyco. "What are you still scheming for? Fight Den is over!"
Lyco blinked at him. Something passed across her face that Raskin couldn't decipher, or he might have just been too tired to.
"Right. Sorry. Uh—did you bring anything else for us, Tyler?" she asked, keeping one eye on Raskin.
"N-no," Tyler said. "Is there anything you need?"
"Food and water would be extremely appreciated," Lyco said. "Lots of it. Some matches, too, so we can light the torches in here."
Tyler nodded. "I'll, um… come back soon then."
"Oh, but leave the torch here," Lyco said. "I'm blind without it."
"But I can't…" Tyler trailed off uncertainly. "Um. Right. Sure."
He took a few slow steps into the darkness towards the cavern entrance, then spun around. "About last night… I think I know how—"
"Shadow explained it to us," Lyco cut in. "You let him in, didn't you?"
Suddenly, Tyler's whole body was trembling. He couldn't look at them. "I'm so, so sorry… I never thought—"
"Yes, we get it," Lyco said. "But for now, the best thing you can do is make sure we don't starve to death. Okay?"
Tyler gave a shaky nod without looking at them, then scurried out into the vast darkness once more. Lyco put the torch between her legs, lighting up her face and a few feet around them. Raskin switched off his night vision. It was nice to see Lyco in colour, at least.
"We shouldn't have given him a job," Raskin muttered, once all trace of the nidoran's pawsteps had disappeared.
Lyco sighed heavily. "In hindsight. But he was also the easiest person to convince to work."
Another silence stretched between them, until Lyco broke it suddenly.
"What makes you think that Fight Den is dead?" she asked.
Dead. The word alone sent a shiver down Raskin's spine. "What makes you think that it isn't?" he snapped. "Do I really have to spell all the reasons out for you?"
Lyco shrugged. "I'd like to hear your perspective on it."
"My perspective?" Raskin jumped to his feet, anger coursing through him. "Oh, I don't know. How about: my best friend is dead because of Fight Den? My friend who was the life and soul of everything Fight Den was about?"
"I understand that," Lyco said. "But—"
"How about, Fight Den has ruined my life forever?!" Raskin shouted over her. "In fact, what the fuck were we even thinking? Was life really this bad before that we were willing to put everything, literally everything, on the line just to have a few dozen pokémon enjoy playing police officers in the basement of a pub?"
"We are not playing at being police officers!" Lyco hissed, standing too so she towered over him. "Is that what you thought all this was? The chance to live out some fantasy?"
It was Raskin's turn to backpedal. "That was an exaggeration—"
"Fighting should never be a fantasy!" Lyco said. "It should be central to our lives, to who we are! Not something only a select few can indulge in, to help them control the rest of us!"
"I get it!" Raskin snapped. "I agree, alright? I've heard enough philosophy from you."
Lyco huffed, though it seemed to be more in amusement.
"Go on, then," Raskin said, when she didn't respond. "Tell me why Fight Den should survive despite everything. I'm fascinated."
Lyco thought for a long moment, sitting back down against the wall. She spoke slowly. "I agree that I have no appetite to try returning things to how they were before last night. But that doesn't mean Fight Den should simply be disbanded. We're still a group of pokémon determined to oppose the fighting ban. Sid's death isn't going to make that determination vanish. In fact, think how angry people will be when they hear about how the government has covered it up."
Raskin looked at her sceptically. "What are you proposing?"
"We give Fight Den a new purpose. To fight against that government."
Raskin stared at her. Lyco's face didn't have a flicker of humour in it. "You can't be serious," he said.
"Why not? The police only have authority because they're stronger than everyone else. Sid showed last night that we're already close to—"
"Can you stop talking about Sid like he's still in the room with us?" Raskin cried, tears suddenly welling in his eyes. All the despair he felt last night rose back to the surface. He put his head between his knees, trying to keep the sobs from escaping his throat.
There was another lengthy silence. "I know how much his death hurts you," Lyco said. "I know it's unfair, and really horrible, to have to confront it so immediately. But—Raskin, listen to me!" She put a paw on his face, just gently enough that he didn't jerk away. He looked up reluctantly.
"We don't have a choice," Lyco said. "We have to react now, while we still can, while people still remember Fight Den. Remember, with this location, we can upscale everything—more members, more training, more strategy, even. We can make up the gap that separates us from the police, then use that power to pressure the government into reforming. We'll use Fight Den to change Deepden for the better. Sid's death won't have been in vain."
Raskin's head was spinning. He couldn't disagree with Lyco's sentiment, but… could they really go up against the government? The all-powerful force that controlled what they could do, what they could think? To defy it seemed unthinkable.
As he tried pulling his emotions back together, he looked at Lyco again. Something suddenly clicked.
"This is what you've wanted all along, isn't it?" he said. "This was always your plan for Fight Den. You came up with 'rebels' as the collective name… you were obsessed with never letting things close down, not wanting people to forget about us… even your speech last night was essentially propaganda."
Lyco leaned back, considering him. Was Raskin imagining it, or was there a glint of admiration in her eyes?
"That's all true," she said. "Though of course, I didn't want things to happen as they did… Now you know, is that a problem?"
Raskin hesitated. It felt wrong somehow, but no words came to him.
"I imagine you two would have stayed well away from me if I told you my ambitions," Lyco went on. "Same reason I didn't want to talk about my past until I thought I had your trust."
Raskin's mind latched onto something else. "Then there's still something I don't understand."
Lyco nodded. "Go on."
"You told me that your parents trained you to fight as a child. In Oldden, away from the police. Yet once you left school, you joined the police. Suddenly, you went from opposing them to wanting to be one of them. It doesn't add up."
Lyco sighed. "Well, that's technically still true," she said. "But I didn't join the police because I wanted to be one of them. I still believed what I do now about fighting, I always have. I hoped, naively, that by joining the police I might be able to make other officers, important people, believe that too. Start a revolution internally."
That… made sense. A lot of sense. Raskin felt a tinge of relief. Lyco really was good. If a little crazy.
"But it didn't work," he guessed.
Lyco shook her head. "Not in the slightest. I hoped that my cell would be open to different ideas, but they were all awful. As I've said before."
"So—if the police is where you met Shadow, then—"
"It's no wonder why he hates me so much?" Lyco grimaced. "It's even worse than you think. You know my syndrome, my EFS? He did that to me. He attacked the night I escaped our compound. Never been able to figure out what exactly he did, or why I never fully recovered. Even then he was far too strong."
Raskin stared at Lyco, stunned. Shadow… how could any person contain such evil? Such vicious contempt? And most importantly, how did a person like that climb to the very top of the government hierarchy in just a few years?
Because the government is the real problem.
He was beginning to come round to Lyco's thinking.
"Is there anything else you haven't been truthful about?" he asked.
"Hmm… I don't think so. That should be everything." A smile flickered across Lyco's mouth. "What about you? Anything you're hiding?"
Raskin thought for a moment. "No. Before I met you, I had nothing to worry about."
Tyler returned a short while later with a much larger bag. All he could offer was a loaf of bread with jam and a canteen of water, but after nearly a day of deprivation, Raskin and Lyco wolfed the food down like it was peeled chestnuts and oranberry juice.
Tyler, still being oddly evasive towards them, was ready to leave as soon as they began, but Lyco waved a paw at him.
"Just wait f' us to fimish first," she said through a jawful of bread.
So, Tyler sat close but not too close, twiddling his claws awkwardly until they polished off the last of the bread.
"Right. We're going to hold a funeral for Sid," Lyco told him. "Two night's time, eight PM, down here, since we obviously aren't safe anywhere else. I need you to get in touch with everyone you know from Fight Den. Willow should be able to help, the delivery bird. You know where she works?"
Tyler shook his head, eyes wide.
Raskin wrote it down for him, along with the funeral details. Tyler might not be able to read, but at least Luis could.
"So, um… what message should I give everyone?" Tyler asked when he had finished.
Lyco opened her mouth to answer, but Raskin spoke first. "Tell them that we'll be celebrating the life and soul of Fight Den. And we'll be making it clear how he really died, rather than what the government wants you to believe."
Shadow had not slept well last night.
That was in part because he hadn't laid his head on the pillow until long past midnight. Somehow, improbably, Alexia and that runt of a nickit had escaped. He had ordered search parties for hours, scoured the police for every dark and fire type on duty, but even they had been no use. A crushing victory had been in the literal grasp of his men, and they'd let it slip. The only arrests they'd managed to secure were of the Entei's bartender, and the ivysaur who had somehow stalled his men in the tunnels long enough for everyone else to escape.
The last thing he wanted, then, was to be woken at the crack of dawn and told that President Flygon demanded his presence.
As soon as he got up, he checked the morning paper, anxious what it would say about him. But, to his delight, the way his raid had been reported made it sound like a great success. The typhlosion's death had not mentioned him, nor how that moment had triggered those two rats escaping.
As he hastily washed and smartened up, he wondered what kind of mood the President was in. Demanded didn't seem a good omen, nor did an eight o'clock meeting. But had the newspaper been her call? If so, she had to be happy with him. And even if last night hadn't gone perfectly to plan, the fight club as they knew it was dead in the water—all thanks to his hard work.
As he made his way through the Governmental District, he noticed several workers and ministers sneaking looks at him. As he crossed paths with another, they gave him a nod and a smile.
They must have read the news, Shadow thought with satisfaction. Maybe now I'll finally get some respect around here.
He walked through the long hallway to the president's office and knocked on the door. The answer was immediate. "Enter."
To his surprise, Flygon wasn't behind her desk, but standing right in the centre of the room. She held a thin file of papers in one hand. One look at her face told Shadow exactly how she felt.
"What the hell were you thinking?" she said.
"I…" Shadow paused. For once, he didn't know how to respond. "Regarding… what exactly?" he tried.
Flygon made an exasperated roar and slammed her tail against the desk, throwing papers into the air. "Killing that typhlosion!" she said, jabbing a claw at him. "I've heard everything that happened. Your officers were so shocked that they lost concentration for a split-second. You don't give a pair of wanted criminals a split-second to escape!"
"In fairness," Shadow said, "no one could have foreseen the lycanroc collapsing the wall—"
"Don't argue with me!" A pencil hurtled through the air, hitting the wall a few inches from Shadow's ear. He froze.
"I should have been praising you this morning," Flygon said. "You have demonstrated your competence so many times over. Even on this mission, you tracked down and infiltrated this fight gang flawlessly. But then, when there's only the simplest job to finish, you get in over your head and somehow fuck it up!"
The words jolted Shadow. He had never heard the President swear. Though he'd never heard her raise her voice either before today.
"You're lucky, Shadow," Flygon went on. "If you were almost anyone else, I'd demote you several ranks immediately, if not throw you out of the force altogether. But since most of the people I must work with are so useless, you're too valuable to throw into some menial labour. So, reluctantly, you will remain a commander for now."
Shadow barely managed to contain his sigh of relief. "Thank you, President," he said reverently. "I promise I will not give cause for you to regret—"
Flygon held up a hand. "I haven't finished." There was a glint in her dark grey eyes. "I know that it's my job you're really after, Shadow. Your craving of power is obvious."
Shadow stared at her. How could she deduce that? I haven't been that transparent, have I...? Flygon hardly even knows me!
"But unfortunately," Flygon went on, "after last night… well, put it this way: I won't have a murderer be my successor. Nor anyone's successor, I should think. So you should consider that avenue closed. And, if you ever try anything to the contrary…" Flygon waved the file in her hand and smiled. "I'll let the whole of Deepden know what really happened last night."
Shadow was dumbstruck. It felt like pieces of his world were falling away. I'll never be president. I'll never reach the top. It couldn't be true. He was the best president Deepden could ever have! Why wasn't he saying anything? He had to do something!
But he knew Flygon would not be convinced, whatever he did. She controlled everything at this level, including who her successor would be. He was powerless.
"Shadow," Flygon prompted. "You are dismissed. Go."
Slowly, Shadow managed to back away, until the heavy doors slammed shut behind him. He walked trancelike through the long corridor, gazing at the portraits of past presidents along the wall.
Only the sight of Flygon at the end of the hall broke him from his stupor. He had to get out of here before he tore it apart.