Oh hey, I abandoned LC again… :P Blah, and on the last chapter of Part 1, too. I'm not sure whether or not I'm going to post Part 2 as a separate story, or keep it in this one, since on most forums and whatnot, I've continued Part 2 in the same thread. Oh well…

Chapter 20: The Resistance

I opened my eyes slowly, unsure of what I would see. It felt as though it had been forever since I had lost awareness. Was this what it was like to be dead? Could I still move? I tried to raise my hands in front of my face, but my arms ached…every inch of me ached.

Wait! If I could still feel my body's pain, then—

I sat up immediately and looked down at myself, trembling. I was alive. I had been so sure that I was dead that it was difficult to believe. Still unsure, I checked my pulse and felt my heart racing.

"I'm not dead," I whispered, feeling an odd combination of relief and residual panic. Lying back down slowly, I breathed out a long sigh of relief, not caring about any pain I was in.

It wasn't until several seconds later that I wondered what I was laying on. I sat up again and glanced around, confused. I wasn't in the forest—actually, I had no idea where I was. It was a large, rather empty room with twin hallways branching out at one end and double doors at the entrance. In a way, it reminded me a lot of the old Midnight Stadium lobby.

I stretched long and hard before getting up off the bench I had been lying on and walking over to the doors. Pushing one of them open, I glanced through and was stunned to see a balcony overlooking an immense mountainous valley, with steep cliffs and jagged rocks leading up to where the building was. It seemed apparent that the only way to get here was by flight.

"Where is this place…?" I muttered to myself.

I turned back toward the other end of the room and walked over to glance down the hallways. Surprisingly, the walls were mostly bare and a little forlorn in some areas, with occasional doorways leading to other areas.

"Jade! You're awake!" I heard Ajia say. I turned to see her exiting one of the rooms in the left hallway.

"'Bout time, really…" Starr added, walking up behind her

"Ajia, Starr!" I exclaimed, glad to see that I wasn't alone in some random abandoned building. "What happened? How'd we get here?"

"When we finished destroying the L.A.R.s, we wondered where you'd gone when we saw the Absol and Pikachu experiments causing a mess over where the Rockets were gathered." Starr explained. "The Pikachu said that you'd flown off on your Flygon, so we went back to where Suicune had been."

"By then the Rockets were escaping with the last of their trucks, but we still didn't know where you were, so your Pikachu went off on his own to try and find you," Ajia continued. "He…came back a few minutes later screaming that you'd been killed by a Legendary. We ran over and saw you lying there, but you were still breathing, so I asked him what had happened."

I was immediately filled with dread when she said that. He had told them—what would they think of me now? Starr probably wouldn't care much, but Ajia was so anti-Legendary catching…

"What did he say?" I asked slowly, trying to hide my anxiety.

"He said that one of the Rockets had captured Lugia, but that you'd gotten to the Master Ball first and opened it. He told us how Lugia mistook you for a Rocket and tried to Hyper Beam you, but he blocked it with Light Screen," Ajia explained grimly. "But…then you got hit with a Psychic…didn't you?"

I was filled with a horrible, sickly feeling—he had lied to them, and in a way that made it seem like Lugia's attack on me had been a mistake…that I was an innocent victim of circumstance. Realizing that I needed to confirm his story, I nodded slowly, trying not to betray the guilt inside me. Almost unable to speak, I barely managed to say, "But Lugia's a Legendary…why didn't her attack kill me?"

Starr shrugged. "Lugia was low on power by then, wasn't it? Maybe the attack wasn't strong enough. Either that, or it misjudged its attack strength."

Ajia looked puzzled by that. "No…I don't think so… The Legendaries would know the extent of their own power." Giving me a sympathetic glance, she added, "There's no way you should have been able to survive that…unless Lugia didn't actually want it to be deadly."

I raised an eyebrow. "You think that Lugia spared me?" My mind suddenly filled with the image of Lugia soaring high in the air, her eyes filled with fiery rage.

Ajia simply replied, "I guess there's no way to tell for sure."

I realized that she was right, and there really was no way to be sure, but it still bothered me.

"You've gotta be kidding me," Starr mumbled all of a sudden, glancing through the doorway that she and Ajia had come through. "They're doing another report?"

"Another report of what?" I asked, stepping forward to glance around the corner.

Rolling her eyes, she replied, "Every freakin' news channel on TV has been talking about the Legendary attack nonstop. It's kind of annoying, really." She reentered the room and Ajia and I followed.

The room was small and unpainted like the rest of the building, with a few chairs and a TV hanging in the corner showing scenes from the Legendary attack the previous day. I was surprised by how close a lot of the footage was—Lugia and Ho-oh blazed in full glory on the screen, as filmed by one of the helicopters that hadn't been shot down. It then switched to show what appeared to be an investigation of the wreckage.

"Yeah, like they're gonna find anything," Starr scoffed. "Honestly—once the Legendaries totaled enough of it, the Executives would've destroyed the rest themselves."

Several of the reporters were now crowding around someone who I soon saw to be Giovanni himself.

"Giovanni's there?" I asked incredulously.

"What'd you expect, his gym was the center of the destruction," Starr answered. "But it's not like they'll figure anything out from him being there."

"Come on," Ajia said, turning and motioning to me. "I doubt they'll show anything we don't know already and I wanna show you the base."

"Base?" I asked, following her. "Where are we, anyways?"

"From what I've heard, it was supposed to be a League headquarters, but it was abandoned before it was even finished. That was around twenty years ago, so now the Resistance uses it as a base," she explained.

"Are there any other members here right now?" I asked curiously.

Ajia shook her head. "Nah, only on certain occasions. It's not very officially run—just a few head members who try to keep track of Team Rocket and some lower members. We keep in touch over our PokéGears."

Smirking, Starr added, "You know—you guys really aren't that much of a threat. Honestly, I'd join the Inside Resistance if it weren't run by Stalker."

"You've already told us that," Ajia said, annoyed.

I raised an eyebrow. "You really don't like him, do you Starr?"

"Yeah, and I expect you two are great pals," she responded dully.

"I didn't know what he was really working toward," I countered. "Actually…I still don't."

"Enough, you guys," Ajia cut in, laughing slightly.

We continued on down the left hallway and rounded a corner where several windows shone light in from the outside. Peering downward, I caught yet another dizzying view of the canyon's bottom.

"Most of the rooms along this hallway were meant to be quarters for the League officials. The last one down here is our control center, though," Ajia said.

She opened a door on the end, revealing an assortment of computers and equipment almost completely lining the walls. Large monitors shone from all over the room.

"Wow, this room is high-tech at least," I commented.

"Yup. A couple of our members were on the Rocket Technology Division, so they fixed it up good. Hey, if you want, I could register you for the Resistance now," Ajia offered.

I bit my lip—I had been hoping to avoid the subject of my joining the Resistance. At this point, I was almost certain that I didn't want to join, but after my previous willingness to side with Stalker, it would almost look as if I were against the Resistance's cause.

I nodded distantly for the sake of having a response and then, attempting to change the subject, blurted out, "How do the computers get any power?"

"Whenever anyone comes here, they have to charge the generator. My Pichu, Starr's Raichu, and your Pikachu have it set to last for a few days," Ajia explained.

Chibi! I couldn't believe that I had actually forgotten about him. "Where are my Pokémon?" I frantically asked. "Did you guys recall them, are they—?"

"They're fine," Ajia replied quickly. "They wanted to stay out of their Poké Balls until you woke up. They're all waiting in the second lounge, down the right hallway. Oh, and…you should probably talk with your Charizard…he kept insisting on being the one to fly you back, and it took us a while to get him back in his Poké Ball for the trip here."

I felt my stomach knot up. Just great—Firestorm still hadn't calmed down. But then…I still wasn't entirely sure what had gotten him so worked up. My mind was so focused on other things that it wasn't until after I had already exited the control center that I realized that I had left without saying anything to Ajia or Starr.

My footsteps echoed off the walls as I headed back toward the main lobby and down the other hallway. After passing the first door, I cautiously glanced through the window of the second one to see all five of my Pokémon inside, sprawled out on the many chairs. Firestorm was sitting in the corner and looked to be asleep, with his head resting against the wall and tail flame a calm flare. I opened the door and waved awkwardly as a sort of greeting before waiting to see the reaction.

"You're okay?" Firestorm asked, immediately standing up.

"Told you all she wasn't gonna die," Stygian mumbled nonchalantly, not looking up from where she was lying down.

"What happened? We heard from Chibi that you'd been attacked by a Legendary, but he wouldn't tell us anything else," Aros said, shooting the Pikachu a nasty look. I noticed, much to my dismay, that Aros still looked worn and kept his left eye shut most of the time.

Chibi turned away slightly, but then said to me, "I gave Ajia and Starr a cover-up story, but I figured that you'd wanna tell everyone else." Actually, I had to admit that he was right—that was what I would have done, although I wasn't looking forward to explaining it to anyone. One thing was for sure—I definitely was glad Ajia wouldn't have to find out…not with her being both Chosen and very against the capturing of Legendaries.

I realized that all of my Pokémon were looking at me expectantly, and knew that I would have to begin. After taking a seat, I started with what had really happened when I had gone to meet Stalker. I told them how Starr had shown up and how the two of them had told me about the original Team Rocket revolt. But when I got to the part with Ajia, I couldn't help but emphasize what Stalker had said concerning the Legendaries. I quickly breezed over the background of the Legendary attack, since most of them had the gist of it already anyways. But then…upon coming to the end… I felt almost numb as I recounted what had happened with Lugia, and somehow didn't even care to justify any of it.

Stygian's expression was like a mix between intrigue and suspicion, a stark contrast to Firestorm's confusion. Aros was both surprised and slightly puzzled. Oddly enough, Swift looked disturbed, but mostly from the revelation concerning how Legendary catching would affect everything. He kept furrowing his brow and mumbling things like, "If it were possible without that…"

After a while Aros spoke up, shaking his head, "Everything that's gone on…all the sides and plans that everyone has…how the hell are you supposed to make any sense out of it?"

I laughed slightly, feeling as though he had hit the subject dead on. "You're not. I honestly don't think I'll ever really know why everyone has chosen the side they're on."

"So don't think about it," Stygian replied. "Follow your instincts. You care too much about what motivates everyone. Ignore everything else, and go only with what you think is right, given the situation. Stop thinking like a human."

I raised an eyebrow. Stop thinking like a human? How was I supposed to think?

"I—I'll keep that in mind, Stygian," I answered, still not entirely convinced. "Now come on, I gotta get back to Ajia and Starr."

I couldn't help noticing, however, that Firestorm kept glancing over at Swift with a pained look on his face. The Pidgeot nodded solemnly each time, looking at him expectantly as though waiting for him to say something. Suddenly, the Charizard burst out, "I'm so sorry Jade, I didn't mean to! I should have told you, but I didn't know what you would think—I…thought you'd think I was a failure!"

Taken aback slightly by the random outburst, I could only reply, "What are you talking about?"

"Back on Midnight! You asked me—and I lied, and I never told you what happened! I never told anyone…" Firestorm continued, looking very distraught.

At first I had thought he meant something to do with what had happened after his battle, but now I was completely lost. Unsure of what to say, I asked, "Could you…explain…?"

He didn't give any sign that he had heard what I said. It was really strange seeing a Charizard looking so feeble—sitting in the corner and staring at the floor with his wings drooping. After a long pause, however, he finally managed, "You're not my first trainer…"

"I know that…you told me way back when that you were a League-raised Starter," I said, confused as to why he was telling me this.

"Yeah, but…I never told you why I had to leave my trainer."

"Er, didn't you?" I asked, struggling to remember the details of his original story. "I thought you got taken from him, or something, and then escaped."

The Charizard clenched his teeth and muttered, "That's not what happened. We—Zack and I—came to the first city on the path. We couldn't find the Pokémon Center, and I…I guess we wandered into an area you're not supposed to go through… These older guys showed up and…their Pokémon attacked me. I didn't stand a chance…it was pathetic…"

Up to that point, his story seemed to match what he had told me before. And just like last time, he paused heavily at that part, but his overall expression this time was radically different.

"I wasn't strong enough…" he almost whispered, his voice quivering. "I was supposed to protect my trainer. I failed. And it would have been me if he hadn't tried to save me…"

Even though he avoided saying exactly what had happened, I realized the one crucial difference in what he had told me.

Trying not to sound too blunt, I slowly asked, "Zack…he's dead, isn't he?"

Firestorm nodded slowly.

"Were the two of you very close?"

Much to my surprise, the dragon let out a low, raspy laugh. "No…he was only my trainer for a few days. But why should that matter? I didn't serve my trainer well, I didn't protect him, I didn't do anything. I never have—even with you."

I was confused as to why he would say anything like that. "I don't get it—how have you failed me?" I regretted the question almost immediately.

Standing to his feet, the Charizard exclaimed, "With the Rockets on the ship, I couldn't do anything! Even when he pulled out the gun, I just stood there. I thought that being a Charmeleon would help, but I was still useless in battle. How many times were we in danger and I couldn't help? Every time the Rockets cornered us, I'd relive what happened on that day—only I'd see you lying there dead."

His words penetrated me, but what really got me thinking was what Swift had said previously about him evolving. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Firestorm had been greatly affected by evolving into Charmeleon, though it hadn't seemed like it at the time. And all those months training with Stalker's Charizard probably made things worse.

"You were able to save me back there in the forest, though," I pointed out, hoping to cheer him up.

"Yeah…that time I did it."

I had to admit, I found the response a little unnerving. What he had done after the battle…he considered that his only success? Even worse perhaps was the fact that he had thoroughly convinced himself that to do anything less than risk his life for me made him a failure as a Pokémon. All five of my Pokémon had done so much for me…

"You guys?" I started, hoping to finally resolve something I had been wondering for some time. "Do you think I've been a good trainer?"

My question was followed by a long silence, in which my Pokémon gave me odd looks.

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Stygian asked, looking positively bored. "Your battling doesn't suck ass as much anymore, if that's what you mean…"

"No, not that…" I muttered. "Firestorm kept talking about what it means to be a good Pokémon. Well you guys have risked your lives for me so often, and what have I ever done in return?"

Stygian rolled her eyes and said, "I wasn't aware that I was supposed to obsess over getting something out of helping you."

With a groan, Aros added, "What she means is…there isn't any reason for us not to." I couldn't believe that he was the one saying that—the same Flygon that had once refused to even let me ride him.

Some time afterward, Chibi stood to his feet, glanced at Aros and Stygian, and then said, "Jade…I really think that should be the least of your concerns. You remember the day we met, right?"

I nodded slowly, knowing that the day would be burned into my memory forever. His crazed desperation on the plane…

Chibi stared downward. "That wasn't the first time I tried to kill myself. There were other times…like after Razors was taken…"

I saw Aros suddenly open his mouth as though something had occurred to him, but he didn't know how to say it. Stygian also looked interested, which I found surprising. Finally Aros said, "So then…that was what you meant when you said you would avenge him…both of you…?"

Chibi nodded solemnly. "I didn't follow what you said in the containment cell… I should have—Razors never gave up…he wouldn't have wanted it…"

I realized that they must have been talking about something that occurred long before I met any of the experiments. Stygian scoffed and said, "Better to go that way… But then, considering the end result, not always." The Absol nodded in my direction.

"That's what I meant. I would have given anything to be free. You know…even just sitting around talking like this. I guess you don't think about it much when you can do it anytime."

"Was being with the Rockets really that bad?" I asked

Aros shot a glance at Chibi before answering, "Looking back, not really… The training was tough, punishments were pretty harsh, and there was nothing else we could do, so most of us lived for the missions. But there was always food, and nothing to worry about...other than the constant threat of The Room. I guess the hybrids had it worse, though."

Apparently, Stygian was again losing interest in the conversation. "He didn't have to get all emo about it just because Razors was the experiment created before him. I mean really…it wouldn't have mattered to me."

I don't think she quite realized what that implied. Several seconds later, however, she widened her eyes suddenly and turned towards Aros quickly, saying, "I—that is…I didn't mean…"

"Forget it," the emerald dragon replied, looking away. He was the experiment created before her.

Hoping to end the discussion, I pulled my Poké balls out of my pocket and announced, "Alright, come on. We should get outta here." When none of them protested, I recalled all of my Pokémon. I stared down at the five Poké balls in my hand, reflecting on everything for some time.

Follow your instincts… Ignore everything else, and go only with what you think is right, given the situation.

Ignore everything else…and everyone else? Go with what's right…but was I simply going with what was easy?

I shook my head to clear away all my thoughts. I had made up my mind a long time ago, and that was that. Walking back to the control center, I tried to make myself more confident in the decision.

"Hey Jade…did you get everything settled with your Pokémon and all?" Ajia asked once I had returned.

"Yeah," I replied.

"Alright, I've got everything setup here. Want me to register you now?"

"I don't really wanna join the Resistance."

Despite all my dread, the reaction to that statement was not particularly significant. Starr raised an eyebrow, noticeably intrigued, while Ajia looked puzzled.

"You don't want to? Why not? I mean…you don't have to or anything, but I figured you would since you've been so involved in the fight against Team Rocket," she said.

"Actually, that's kind of the reason why I don't want to," I replied, almost surprised by the lack of emotion in my voice. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it, I was filled with the thought that Ajia had likely gone through the same things I had.

"Oh, well…that's okay…" she said. "Are you gonna train Pokémon normally, then?"

I shrugged. "I'd need to get my license first, in any case."

Starr snickered. Ajia looked surprised and asked, "You don't have your license yet?"

"No, not exactly…" I said, chuckling despite my embarrassment.

"Alright then…well, once you do, we should keep in touch more. We shouldn't only have to meet up when there's some Team Rocket situation on hand," Ajia said, smiling.

"Sure thing—I'll see you guys later," I said, waving before I left.

I forced a smile as I walked down the hallway, trying to cheer myself up. Everything was settled between Ajia, Starr, and me. They didn't care that I wasn't joining the Resistance; everything should have been fine, and yet I still felt guilty inside. Ajia hadn't backed down after the original revolt. What possible excuses could I come up with for abandoning the fight against Team Rocket?

I clenched my teeth, my footsteps slowing. The night on the S.S. Anne…getting shot off Aros…the deadly chases though the maze of hallways…the interrogation…the ambush… But could all of that really justify anything, or was I just being a coward?

"I want out!" I yelled to no one, slamming a fist against the wall.

"Do you really?"

I spun around suddenly, not having expected to see Starr walking up behind me. It wasn't until several seconds later that I questioned the cool, taunting expression in her voice.

"What are you talking about?" I muttered.

"Double agent to the end," she answered, smirking. "You plan on joining the Inside Resistance, don't you?"

I raised an eyebrow. "No I'm not. Why would I?" I tried to sound innocently surprised, but my reply came off hollow-sounding. Why did she still think I was going to side with Stalker? I wasn't going to…was I?

With a laugh, Starr said, "On come on, there's no way you'd ever stop playing rebel. And Stalker's got you warped into seeing his side just like everyone else he's manipulated into joining him."

"I don't want to choose sides," I shot back immediately. "Maybe you still want to be involved, but…" I froze as my mind again filled with the memory of my capture of Lugia. The whole incident was a blur, but…that whole time I had thought only of what Ajia and Stalker had said about the matter.

"Well why does it matter to you, you don't even care about the Legendaries," I finished, hoping to somehow justify my semi-support of Stalker's ideals.

"What the hell do the Legendaries have to do with this?" she asked.

My face fell and I looked away immediately. I hadn't realized that she didn't know about my uncertainty concerning the use of Legendaries.

Hoping to resolve the argument, I said, "The only reason you still want to be on Team Rocket is because you're so convinced that they're going to win." It was a bit of a random subject change, but I didn't like the way the conversation was going. "You'd switch sides otherwise, wouldn't you?"

"So would you," Starr said coolly. But then she widened her eyes and added, "So then you don't think the Resistance has a chance either?"

I bristled, unsure of how to react. It took a few seconds, but I finally said, "I'm not going to assume anything. Ajia knows what she's doing, and I'll stick with that. She has Mew on her side, anyway."

"Right, I forgot that little detail…" Starr commented dully. "And that's the only reason she's against Stalker? Legendaries? Honestly…they're all just being hypocrites."

I didn't ask what she meant by that, but rather started walking toward the lobby again. I really didn't feel like debating with her any longer, and was tired of being proven wrong on so many things.

"So I suppose that's it, then?" Starr called after me. "The three of us were only on the same side for a week and now things are back to the way they were?"

I stopped walking. At first it seemed like she was right—we had come to a sort of resolution and were already feeling bitter and suspicious again. I almost didn't want to respond, but had to say something, anything, to deny what she had said.

"Neither of us is on a side. This stupid Team Rocket mess isn't everything, you know…" I rounded a corner and didn't look back.

"You don't seriously think that you can just ignore it all, do you?" she asked, running after me.

"Watch me," I said, nearing the entrance doors and releasing Swift from his Poké ball.

Starr sighed. "Alright, fine then. You don't want to be involved; I can't be involved the way I'd like to. Want to call it even?"

With a relieved half-grin I replied, "That'll work."

I was about to walk through the doors when I heard Ajia calling after me, "Hey Jade!" I turned suddenly to see her round the corner and walk towards us.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Before you leave, I wanted to apologize. You've seemed tense ever since we got back, and I shouldn't have just decided for you that you were gonna join in the conflict."

"Don't worry about it," I replied, holding up a hand. "It's not your fault, and even if you hadn't taken it as a fact that I would join that, well…mission, I've always been too rash with things like that, and in that situation, backing down wasn't an option."

"Either way, I didn't mean to make you feel like you had to join the Resistance," she added.

I grinned. "For starters, I'm calling it the outer Resistance from now on—honestly, the whole name similarity was the reason I got so mixed up in the first place. And secondly, it's thanks to you and Starr that I didn't join the Inside Resistance."

Starr shot a glance at me when I said that, and that reminded me of our previous conversation, which made me again wonder how I regarded the team.

Pushing open the double door entrance, I once again looked out over the vast expanse of mountains. "Come on Swift," I said, motioning to him.

"You're not flying on Aros?" he asked, surprised.

I shook my head. "He's still hurt from yesterday, and Firestorm doesn't know how to fly yet." Still, when I looked at Swift again, I realized that he was a lot smaller than Spencer's Pidgeot, seeing as he had only just evolved. "Do you think you'll be able to carry me?"

He looked uncertain for a few seconds, but then nodded.

I climbed awkwardly onto his back, gripping his shoulders and kneeling behind the wing joint. Swift outstretched his broad wings, which had to be at least three times as long as they had been when he was a Pidgeotto. I gave one last wave to Ajia and Starr before Swift announced, "Um, you'd better hold on tight."

"Why?" I asked.

"With so little room to take off, I'll have to dive."

"Dive…?" Just saying it seemed to make my insides melt.

I hardly even had time to react; Swift gave a flap of his wings to jump up the balcony' edge. One second we were there, the next we had plunged over the side. The Pidgeot tucked in his wings and shot downward like a rocket, and I clutched his feathers for dear life as the air rushed past us. Faster—faster—impossible speeds! The ground rushing up toward us!

"Ohhhh crap!" I yelled, screwing my eyes shut from the insane rush. I could feel Swift's wings angling outward but wasn't ready for his pull out of the dive, which left me feeling flattened against him from the change in direction. With more than enough speed, the Pidgeot shot outward, now parallel to the ground and used the momentum to soar upward until we could ride the wind.

My breath was shallow and my arms shook as I managed, "Don't…don't ever do that that again." Almost immediately afterward, however, the shock wore off, and I couldn't help but laugh in exhilaration. "Well, maybe again someday."

"I've always wanted to do that as a Pidgeot," Swift said, but despite his reserved tone, I could tell that he was beaming inside.

End Part 1. And onward to Part 2, which skips to a year later.