"Shit, SHIT!" The words were a hushed mumble as he ran. His beige trench coat billowing out behind him.
Where were they all coming from?
He surveyed the area, hoping desperately to find somewhere to take cover, anywhere he could escape.
There was nothing, no way out.
"Come...In. Agent Looker, do you read me?"
"Loud and clear, boss! Crap, Growlithe, try a Flamethrower, we'll attempt to clear a path." The canine Pokémon complied immediately, but the jet of flames had little effect.
"What's your position Looker? We'll send backup immediately"
The Agent swore as another wave of grunts appeared out of nowhere, Golbat positioned for attack.
There were too many of them.
"It's not looking good Annabel, I'm surrounded."
"How the hell did you blow your cover?!"
"This mission was doomed from the start. They'd been watching us, longer even than we'd been watching them. They knew exactly what we were planning. They knew everything, about me, about the Federal Investigation Bureau, about the prophecy- -"
He sighed in defeat, finger hovering over his Xtransceiver, prepared to end the call at any moment. "There's no way Growlithe and I are getting out of this one, boss. Not a chance, Not this time."
"Don't say that Looker, send me your location so I can get backup to you immediately. It doesn't have to end like this-"
With great effort he stumbled into the hallway, knees threatening to buckle with every step.
"No- Don't," A pain-filled cry erupted from now pale lips as he crashed to the cold, concrete ground. His hands seeped in crimson from his blood-slicked shirt. "Listen to me Annabel, sending more agents in here right now would be a suicide mission. Cyrus knows I'm here. Whatever they're up to has been years in the making, we've lost… I've lost…"
He gave a breathy chuckle, one that was filled with tears. "I don't have much time, I'm sending you every ounce of data I have now."
"I'm sorry… I'm so sorry."
Once more the line crackled, then there was nothing but deafening silence.
The Beasts of our great world shall clash,
And hence the world will turn to Ash.
Through darkness, light it shall prevail,
But stand alone and he shall fail.
For when he opens heaven's door,
This world's brave hero will be no more.
He said the words slowly, as though testing how they'd sound. Trembling hands were shoved deep down into his pockets, cloak obscuring his features, allowing only the odd, wayward lock of flaming red hair to be visible in the pale moonlight.
"Hope you don't mind me interrupting your daily brooding, Lance!"
The man, Lance, gave a half smile as he turned to face the source of the teasing voice.
"Jackie! So glad you could make it on such short notice!"
"But of course, things are finally getting interesting around here. But it's good to see you again!"
Lance smiled sadly, raising his head to meet the blonde's blue eyes; "Indeed. However, I do so dearly wish it were under better circumstances, old friend."
It was cold, their breath coming out in puffs and visible in the freezing winter air.
"How bad is it exactly? Like the end of the world bad or...?"
Lance shook his head solemnly, raising his left hand slowly and effectively ceasing the ranger's ramblings. "I promise I will explain all in due course, so please, follow me."
A series of wooden torches led him down a long, winding hallway, dimly lit, as he followed the redhead blindly. "Jeez, you'd think the Johto champion could afford more modern decor… It's like you're leading me to a dungeon, it's giving me the creeps." The ranger glanced around distastefully, his nose wrinkled, lips pressed together in a thin, white line.
Lance didn't grace him with a response, merely rolling his eyes as he tugged open the large oaken door that lay before them. Behind it, around a long beechwood table, sat several of the world's champions, exchanging hushed, hurried whispers. Jackie glanced around quickly with curious eyes, gaze eventually resting upon Alola's professor Kukui who seemed almost out-of-place amid the others.
"Forgive me if I'm wrong Professor, but if I recall correctly young Ash Ketchum is the Alolan champion now, is he not?"
"You would be correct,"
"Yes, well, we would endeavour to have him here as well were this meeting not about the Alolan champion in question!"
Immediately Kukui's entire being tensed, and Jackie's eyes widened slightly. "Oh my…" The Ranger said, "Well now you have my attention. What sort of trouble has the lovely King of the Seas gotten himself into now?"
"Trouble of an omnipotent nature it would seem…"
"What exactly do you mean by that, Lance?" The Alolan's tone was as icy as a Weavile, his amiable smile gone, replaced instead by something akin to a glare.
Heaving a hefty sigh, Lance sat heavily upon the chair at the head of the table, rustling the series of papers he'd clenched tightly in his hands. "Strange things have been happening, Professor, things we can't quite explain. Our research team recently unearthed this old scroll, it seems to relate to a prophecy centuries in the making-"
"Wait, is this the same thing I heard you mumbling to yourself when I arrived, about clashing beasts and the world turning to ash?"
"Yes Jackie, that is correct."
"Well, what exactly does that have to do with the Alolan champion?"
"The Elders of Shamouti island believe it may refer to the young man who'd saved them all before-"
"Why do I feel this may tie in with the rumours of a newly formed team Galactic?" Cynthia's voice was soft, though alarmed.
"Because it does. And it's not just them either, Rocket, Plasma, Galactic, Flare, they seemed to have formed some kind of Alliance…"
"Ah, the elusive Team Vires…"
"Jackie? You've heard of them?"
The ranger smirked. "I hear of a lot of things and pay little heed to any of them. Though judging by your expression I take it these rumours are no mere rumours."
"Oh, how wonderful!"
"We're awaiting Agent Looker's report for more information, but such a threat is not one we can afford to take lightly!"
The sound of Kukui's fist connecting with the wooden tabletop made the occupants of the room jump.
"Get to the damn point. What the hell has any of this got to do with my son?!"
"I understand your concern, Professor Kukui, but you must understand, Ash- he seems to be the key to all of this. I've been watching him for many years, ever since our paths first crossed. I believe his previous adventures, the connections he's made with the legendary Pokémon all around the globe… It all was to prepare for this moment, for the prophecy. He's the one the prophecy refers to, I just know it!"
"HE'S A CHILD!" The chair screeched against the hardwood floor as Kukui stood furiously to his feet.
"No offence Lance, I've seen how capable the kid is with my own two eyes, but I don't exactly know how I feel knowing the fate of the world is in the hands of a sixteen-year-old-"
"Did you even tell Ash any of this?!"
Lance exhaled shakily. "I didn't want to tell him anything until I was sure... And even so I could be wrong but..."
"He's our best chance." Cynthia finished.
"Exactly. Whether he is indeed the one the prophecy refers to or not, I'd like him on our side."
A series of murmured agreement echoed through the room for a moment before Cynthia spoke. "I think you're right… I believe Ash Ketchum is someone we need, regardless. You have my support…"
"So we are all in favour of recruiting Ash Ketchum then, yes?"
All hands but Kukui's rose.
The man's hands were clenched by his sides, as though to quell their desperate shaking.
He seemed to gather himself for a moment. "Nothing I say can stop you…" he trailed off, "And should Ash get wind of the matter, nothing I say could stop him either…" He paused, "But I beg of you, please, until you are completely certain, tell him nothing of the prophecy…"
Lance gave a quick nod. "I accept your conditions, Professor Kukui. Now please, if you are willing, would you accompany me to Pallet Town?"