Title: Sabaku
Author: Shadow/Phantomness
Pairing: Championshipping (Lance x Red/Ash)
Fandom: Pokémon
Theme: Sixty-four damn prompts Theme Set

Rating: R
Disclaimer: Pokemon belongs to Nintendo and Shogakukan Comics. This non-profit, non-copyright infringing fanfiction belongs to me under international copyright laws and taking it is plagiarism. Thank you. Phantomness bows

Notes: Bold for telepathy, italics if a pokemon talks

Warnings: AU, Shonen-ai, fanon, drug use, sex, dark


(Part I)

Sand and grit went flying as he hopped on his hoverbike, leaving a trail blazing behind him. He hastily pulled his goggles over his eyes as he accelerated, the pokémon sitting in the side seat hanging on tightly as he sped over the dunes.

George looked up as Red pulled in on his hoverbike. "Howdy, Red."

"Yo." Red waved. He recalled Eevee and Pikachu with a flick of his wrist as he swung his legs off his bike. "Has Lance been in recently?"

"Your friend? No, I don't think so. I haven't seen him in two weeks. Why?"

"No reason." Red sighed. "Thanks for your help."

"No problem, Red. So, any supplies you need?"

"Actually, I ran out of water filter packs, so I'll take a ten-pack of those, and, let's see… you got any poke balls?"

"Sure, a new shipment just got in."

"I'll take a dozen of those too, and two Potions."

"Coming right up!"

Red poured himself a glass of water as George made small talk in the background. What was Lance doing? They had promised to meet up today, before they carried out their next tactical strike against Team Snagem.

He hoped his partner was all right…

The whine of an engine sounded outside, and Red poked his head outside, just in time to see Lance fall off his hoverbike. He rushed outside and helped his friend stagger inside, wincing.

What happened?

Someone tipped them off. I knew I made it through their security system without problems, but there were eight of them waiting for me.

Ouch! Are you all right?

Nothing Viridian's Power can't cure. Lance half-smiled. And you? How did your mission go?

Red grinned as he rolled up the sleeve of his long red jacket, revealing a small silvery structure strapped to his arm. Lance whistled.

So you got it after all.

Yes. No worries.

I am worried about you-.

You should be worrying more about your own safety, Lance! Are you sure you're all right?

I need to heal. Can you distract anyone that comes in?

Of course.

Lance pressed his free hand to his bleeding shoulder, as a faint blue glow surrounded the wound. A moment later, it was gone along with all his other injuries and save for his disheveled appearance, he looked perfectly fine.

George returned with Red's purchases a few moments later, and then the two of them ordered lunch. They continued to talk, telepathically of course, though with a bit of normal conversation to cover the silence.

I'm glad you got the Snag machine safely.

Now we just need to test it. "This macaroni is quite good, George."

"Now don't tease an old man! You know it's just out of the box!"

Red winked, and George laughed. Kids.

You know I can't see Shadow pokémon very well, Red.

It's a heck of a lot better than having nothing. Red shot back.

"Could you pass me the butter?" Lance asked out loud.

"Of course." Red handed the little dish over, and Lance eyed the puddle of oil sadly. The desert heat could be devastating.

"Thanks." So what do you think our first move should be?

These… Coliseums they are building are a bit suspect.

All right. We'll check out the nearest one.

That's in Phenac City, I believe.

Great.

"Say George, do you know anything about Phenac City?" Red asked.

George grinned. "It's a beautiful town. Expensive too, what with water fountains all over the place. Are you off to try the new Coliseum?"

"Definitely." Red nodded.

"Where did you say you were from?"

"Ah… Johto."

"Woo-Ee! That's a long way from here! I hope you enjoy your stay in Orre. Yep, if you're touring, you should definitely head to Phenac first. The Agate Village is quite pretty too, and I've heard they're building a new Battle Mountain for trainers to test their skill!"

"Cool." Red smiled disarmingly. "Thank you for all the information."

"No problem. I've got a map of the region here, only fifty pokeyen."

"I'll take it!"

After their meal had concluded, Red and Lance left for Phenac City. George waved goodbye. It was always nice to have money flowing into the region, and if tourism was the best bet, well, there were plenty of exciting battles to keep the trainers happy!

He began to whistle as he polished the countertop, barely paying any attention to the newscast about Team Snagem.

Snagem. Bah. Every region had it's own problems though. Team Rocket ran rampant in Kanto and Johto, and he had heard in Houen there were two evil teams named Magma and Aqua up to no good. Still, Orre was a pleasant enough place, despite the harsh desert climate. Maybe that explained the lack of wild pokemon.

"So, what do you think?"

Lance frowned. "I think we had best be careful."

"Besides that." Red grinned as they parked their bikes outside the Phenac City gates. The sound of running water filled the air.

"We'll see. I'll tell you if I see any suspicious pokémon, ne?"

"Okay." Red nodded. "Coliseum first then?"

"Sure."

They walked inside.


(Part II)

"You know, I never expected there to be a city of water in the middle of the desert." Red remarked, as they glanced around the Phenac City Square.

"I understand your astonishment." Lance remarked, scanning the area for Snagem Grunts or Cipher Administration. Finding none, he and Red walked towards the Pokemon Center.

Suddenly, a shrill scream sounded. All the people walking around, exercising, or just enjoying life immediately ducked into the nearest building, be it a Poke Mart or hotel. Red and Lance exchanged looks.

Something was definitely up.

Red nodded, and then they went to see what was going on. A man in a grayish uniform was holding a struggling girl down, while another grabbed her pokémon. He couldn't immediately tell what type of pokémon it was, but that didn't matter.

Petty thievery should be dealt with.

Lance crossed his arms and watched as Red released Eevee. A flick of his wrist, and then…

"Hey!" One grunt yelled as his pants caught fire. He immediately dropped to the ground and began to roll around. The other Grunt, seeing Red, released two pokémon – a Spoink and a Zigzagoon.

Red tsked, as Eevee transformed into Vaporeon and froze Spoink solid with an Ice Beam. Then she turned back into Flareon and used Flamethrower on Zigzagoon.

The Grunt recalled his pokémon with a shocked look, and then both of them ran away as fast as possible, leaving the girl and her pokémon alone.

"Are you all right?" Red asked.

Mira nodded. "Thank you for saving me."

"Was that Team Snagem just now?" Lance asked, as he checked her pokémon over. It was an Oddish.

"Definitely. They just steal people's pokémon, and they do something to them so they won't obey their trainer anymore… thank you so much!"

"No problem." Red grinned.

"Now that you've done me a favor," Mira continued, "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Actually, there is." Lance smirked. "What can you tell us about the Coliseum?"

"Oh, that? I don't know. Well, you battle trainers with pokémon of a preset level there, and if you beat four trainers in a row you win a Technical Machine."

"But is Cipher behind it?"

Mira shivered. "I'm not sure. Really! I don't know anything!"

Red glanced at Lance, whose eyes were glinting faintly blue.

"I'm sorry if I'm making you uncomfortable, Mira." He soothed.

Mira melted. Red was so cute up close…

Lance finished scanning, shaking his head.

Red leaned a bit closer. "I hope we meet again." He smiled. "I'm going off to the Coliseum now." With that, he and Lance walked on, leaving Mira a blushing heap.

She is truly frightened. Lance sent. And she knows no useful information.

Well, it was to be expected.

Lance narrowed his eyes. Did you have to sweet-talk her?

Are you jealous? Red winked.

Perhaps.

Don't worry about it. Red shot a quick look around, saw no one watching, and stood on tiptoes, kissing Lance quickly. I only have eyes for you.

I dearly hope so. The Dragon Master warned ominously, as they came up before the great double doors of the Phenac City Coliseum.


(Part III)

The trainers who were in the Coliseum were pathetic. Red whipped all four of them easily, though he had to admit, it was a bit of a change double battling instead of single. However, he was talented enough to control six pokémon at a time in a battle with multiple contestants, so it wasn't much of a stretch.

Using Vee and Pika would have been too obvious, so he used some of his relatively less-well-known pokémon, Diglett and Victreebel and Murkrow.

The Snagem recruiters who watched were very impressed though, but they weren't sure who he was or where he was from, so they decided not to offer him a Shadow pokémon just yet.

Besides, the Phenac Coliseum – Pfft! Nothing special! Now if he managed to win at the Pyrite Coliseum, well… that was worth more.

"You're the best trainer in this town." Lance said in an undertone as Red pocketed his new Rain Dance and Bullet Seed technical machines. He had beaten the Coliseum twice in a row, before the secretary politely but firmly told him to go somewhere else.

"Not as good as you."

"Nonsense," Champion.

And you're the Dragon Master.

Lance shrugged lazily, feeling Red's eyes on him. So, what do you want to do now, my dear conquering Champion?

Why don't we go check out that Hotel… Red almost purred.

Lance just smirked in response, as Red led him away.


(Part IV)

Red groaned as Lance worked over his body. He hadn't known that battling could make one so tense, but as Lance massaged the soreness out of his muscles, he went limp and enjoyed the sensations.

"Did you see anything, Lance?"

"If you're asking about Shadow Pokemon, I watched all your matches but saw nothing. Though, there was that one girl in the crowd…"

"A Team Snagem agent?"

"No, I doubt it. She was… glowing, almost. It's similar to the aura around a Shadow pokémon, but wholly different. Light."

"Light…" Red mused for a second, before he grinned. "Lance, we may not be the only two Champions scouting Orre out."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"Charlotte."

Lance thought for a minute, before he nodded slowly. "Yes, it might be her." The Cosmos League Champion was a good friend of theirs, and if not for that ugly yellow hat hiding her hair and the big pink sunglasses, he could have sworn… well, mystery solved.

Charlotte had developed some secret method to make certain pokemon 'Light' type, like her Eterneon – a new Eevee evolution. It made sense that they would also have an odd aura normal pokemon did not possess. And Light and Shadow were natural enemies, so no doubt she would be inspecting Orre for strange pokémon, just as they were doing.

Red grinned; glad he had solved the mystery.

"Well, now that that's over," Lance said, setting the massage oil on the nightstand with a glint in his eyes, "Are you loose enough?"

"Oh yes." Red purred, as Lance sank down upon him kissing his throat, hands beginning to rove over his body.


(Part V)

"Please?"

"I-I don't know." Jenny blushed at the sight of the cute boy with red eyes standing in front of her. "It's highly irregular for you to visit someone else's room without their permission, and…"

Red turned up the charm, and Jenny blushed, looking down. She could actually feel the temperature rising, and sweat began to stand up on her brow.

"Okay. But only five minutes!"

With that, she unlocked the door to Room #21.

Amused blue eyes met red ones. "Fancy meeting you here, Red. Do shut the door behind you."

Red obeyed, and Jenny blinked. They knew each other?

Then it should be okay.

"Hiya, Charlotte!"

"Fancy meeting you here in Orre." Charlotte glanced around, before she switched to telepathy. I must say you look tired. Did Lance keep you up too late last night?

Charlotte! Red blushed to match his namesake.

I guess I conjectured correctly. Are you here about the Shadow pokémon too?

Yes. Red nodded. I knew it was you Lance saw in the stadium!

Yes, well, we can chat later. First, I need to tell you some things.

All right.

Shadow pokemon are dangerous. Charlotte said bluntly. From what I've gathered, the process to create a Shadow pokémon is almost exactly opposite what one uses to create a Light-type pokémon.

Oh?

Yes. How do you think I made my pokémon Light-type, Red?

Um… by being nice to them?

Close enough. You're actually very good. All you need is a Sunstone, and a very happy pokémon.

… That's all?

Of course, one does have to make one's pokémon very loyal, and happy, which is usually expensive, requiring grooming treatment, vitamins, berries, and lots of battling experience. But I've pretty much got those bases covered.

I see…

Shadow pokémon are a bit different though. You don't need a Moonstone to make a pokémon a Shadow pokémon. If there is enough hatred in the pokémon's heart, it will evolve on it's own.

But why did this never happen in Kanto? And I thought it was Cipher who was making these strange pokémon…

In Kanto, the Legendary Pokémon watch over the region. The same happens in Johto and Houen, and Cosmos. Charlotte said bluntly. And the guardians watch over the regions as well. Here, Cipher and Snagem well… they are making the pokémon, by filling their hearts with hate, wouldn't you agree?

Oh… I forgot about that. And that explanation makes sense!

Sometimes I think you'd forget your head if it weren't attached to your shoulders, little brother.

Hey!

In any case, I want you two to be careful.

Eh? You're not helping us with this investigation?

Red, I can't risk Shadow contamination.

It took Red a few minutes to puzzle it out, before he nodded. I guess I understand.

I mainly came to give advice, but now I've seen the Shadow pokémon for myself-.

Where? We haven't found any yet!

Then you're not looking carefully enough. I thought Lance would be able to see them…

He can, it's just that he says they're not that clear.

Ah. Well, give Lance this bit of advice from me. Charlotte got up, nodding to Red. Tell him to unlock Lugia-sama's psychic blocks. That will help. Besides, the Darkness belongs with him anyhow.

Okay!

I only stayed around because I thought I'd get a chance to talk to you. I'll be leaving now. Call me if anything comes up.

I will! Bye, Aneki!

Ja ne.

With that, Charlotte released her Eterneon and they teleported away. Red went back to his room, where Lance was waiting.

"Well?"

"I learned a lot of stuff, but Charlotte said to unlock Lugia-sama's psychic blocks to see the Shadow pokémon better."

"Interesting." Lance mused. "Well, it's worth a try, and she never lies. Her foresight is probably good as well – I've never heard of her divination failing at any rate. I'll give it a try."

Red nodded, as Lance closed his eyes and began to concentrate.

Slowly, the blocks in his mind fell.

"Are you all right now?"

"Hold me."

"What?"

Lance opened his eyes. "Those memories are painful ones. Hence the blocks Father put up in my mind. Now hold onto me so I don't go mad."

"Oh." Red hastily complied, and for a long time, the two just sat there together in silence, with Red stroking Lance's hair to keep him calm.


(Part VI)

"So, where's our next stop?" Red asked the next morning.

Lance consulted his map. "I believe it is Pyrite Town."

"Pyrite…" Red nodded. "Well, there's really nothing more to see here, is there?"

"I don't think so." Lance agreed, and after a quick breakfast in the Hotel dining room, they headed out to where their bikes were parked.

They were just preparing to leave when Lance froze, one leg thrown over his bike.

"Lance? What is it?"

"That man over there, the one with the green helmet and gloves, standing next to the palm tree… there's something about him… I can see it." The Dragon Master hissed.

"See what?"

"There's the aura of Shadow around him."

Red nodded grimly. "Well, I trust you. Let's go talk to him." Without further ado, the two walked over.

The man looked up, frowning. "What do you want?" He growled.

"Let's battle." Red grinned.

The man laughed. "Sure, it's your funeral, kid. I don't know who you're trying to impress dressing up all fancy-like, but it's not fooling me."

Lance shook his head as Red pouted. Your cute looks can get you in trouble, it seems. But I like them.

Red colored for a second, but readied his pokémon, as two flew out.

The man had released Zubat and Grimer. He himself sent out Espeon and Umbreon on a whim. They were both Vee's children; she had given birth to eight baby Eevees in total, and they had all evolved differently.

A quick Psychic took care of Grimer, Umbreon happily bit Zubat to null HP, and that was when the man sent out a third pokémon.

It was a Bayleef, but judging from the sudden narrowing of Lance's eyes, they had found their quarry.

This is it?

That pokémon is definitely Shadow.

Good. Then this Snag Machine ought to work on it.

Red took out a poke ball, even as Umbreon used Mean Look on Bayleef to freeze her in her tracks and Espeon sprayed her with Swift. The female eevelution flicked her ears gracefully, gauging.

Well, Master? Umbreon asked, baring his teeth. Are we to continue?

One more hit ought to do it. Red sent, and Umbreon happily rushed forwards with Faint Attack.

Bayleef staggered, and then as the Poke Ball in his hand took on a bluish tint, Red threw it forwards at the Bayleef.

It was sucked in, and the ball rolled to his feet.

"W-Who the hell are you and what did you do to my pokémon?" The man in green demanded.

"I should think it was obvious." Lance advanced on the man. "You're from Team Snagem, am I correct?"

"I'll tell you nothing!" The Trooper turned to flee, but a spray of needles stopped him dead in his tracks.

Lance opened a hand, revealing four needles like claws flickering between his fingers. He smirked.

"I won't miss next time…"

The Trooper cursed, and threw a smoke ball down. However, several yelps later confirmed that Lance had indeed not missed. It was a bit difficult to run with needles through one's kneecaps.

Red summoned Beautifly, calling for a Whirlwind Attack. She obligingly flapped her wings, clearing the smoke away, revealing the Green Trooper lying there, groaning.

Lance already had another set of needles in hand.

"Ready to talk now?" He asked sweetly.

"Screw you! I'm not telling you anything!"

Lance shrugged. "Well, if you're not going to do this the easy way…"

Red nodded, turning to Espeon and Umbreon. The two growled in tandem, ready to play their parts. Their eyes now flashed ruby in unison.

Ready!

We are initiating the scan now, Master. Umbreon added.

Red smirked. The Green Trooper gaped, freaked out, but it was too late. His memories and mind were now open for inspection.

A minute later, he fainted. Lance tsked, as he pulled out his needles.

"Where to now?"

"Pyrite, as planned. It seems the Coliseum there is much more interesting."

"Oh, that so?" Lance smirked. "All right."

Seeing no more danger around, they took off for Pyrite Town.


(Part VII)

"My, this place looks dumpy." Red commented, as they pulled up in front of Pyrite Town.

Lance was inclined to agree. The few people hanging around looked truly disreputable, the buildings were made out of rusting metal and rough-hewn stone, and the ground was reddish dirt and dust that stained one's clothing horrible, as he was rapidly finding out.

Lance had been forced to discard his night-black gear, simply because it was too hot in the desert. Instead, he wore form-fitting white leather and a long trench coat of lavender with silver buckles.

Red rather liked it.

"Hmm." Lance agreed tactfully, just in case any nearby citizens happened to overhear them. There were two kids wearing rollerblades talking in loud voices close by about the merits of different kinds of in-line skates, and not far off was a seedy looking motel and a Fortune Teller's tent.

Interesting.

Off in the distance, the Coliseum's dome glittered.

"Should we head there first?"

"I'm not sure if we should." Red frowned. "Do you sense anything?"

"I'm afraid not, but that does not mean there are no shadow pokémon here."

"That's true…"

Well, back to the tried and true method, Champion?

Of course. Red grinned back, and went to talk to the skaters.

They refused to battle him, but told Red that if he wanted to battle, there was a square full of trainers looking for challengers near the Coliseum, so Red and Lance thanked them for the information and headed on their way.

Indeed, the Duel Square loomed formidable above them, with many trainers itching to battle.

Lance sighed and put his sunglasses on as Red began to battle the first trainer.

That one!

Sunflora? Or Oddish? Red asked, as Beautifly and Dustox busily tested their skills against the two grass-types. They were winning easily.

Neither. It's the last pokemon in her belt.

Wow, you can tell even from inside the poke ball?

Now that she's close to me, I think I can. I'm not positive, but there is definitely a Shadow pokémon in this vicinity.

Great. Red sent back, and as the two grass pokémon collapsed, the girl switched for a Pichu.

That's it!

Red's Dustox quickly used Toxic, poisoning the baby mouse. Beautifly followed with Silver Wind, as Red readied a Snag Ball.

Pichu was caught!

The girl who had just lost her pokemon did not look particularly distraught. Lance frowned as Red walked to him.

Is something the matter?

They all seem a bit… dazed.

What do you mean?

Never you mind. I'll just observe. Do you mind fighting the rest of the trainers?

Of course not! Hmm… maybe I should train these new pokemon I caught.

They will obey you now, because you are more than capable enough of handling them. I doubt they will disobey, in any case.

My badges, you mean?

Yes.

Lance, do you think that maybe… if we raise the Happiness of these pokémon, they will lose the taint of Shadow?

It's certainly worth a try.

Okay then!

As Red walked up to the skateboarder, who grinned and called out Seadra and Psyduck, Pichu and Bayleef were let out onto the field.

Red commanded a Razor Leaf and Thundershock. Bayleef obeyed, but Pichu suddenly began to glow with a dark purple aura.

"Well, that's odd." Lance commented. "It seems that Pichu isn't listening to you."

"… I know that." Red muttered. "Hey Pichu, snap out of it!" He yelled.

Pichu seemed to shake itself, before it sat back on its haunches.

Bayleef's Razor Leaf sent Psyduck flying away. The trainer scowled and swapped for a Qwilfish. Lance twitched.

"Oh, don't tell me…"

"Sorry, Red."

"Guess I'll be expanding my team at least…" Red mentioned in an aside. He ordered a Thundershock from Pichu again, but Pichu just started at him.

"What? Come on, youmust know Thundershock… well if you can't, then attack with what you do know."

Pichu shrugged and dashed forwards, glowing purple. Seadra quailed back a bit, and then began to use Dragon Dance.

Bayleef spat out another wave of Razor Leaves, sending the spiky finned seahorse into the land of the fainted pokémon.

"I don't recognize that attack." Red muttered, but decided not to dwell on it until after the battle was over. Pichu tackled Qwilfish this time, and then he threw a poke ball.

Qwilfish was also stolen – er, captured.

The boy continued to stare straight ahead. It was almost as if he didn't realize his pokémon had been taken.

Lance walked up to him and waved a hand in front of his face. There was no reaction.

"Interesting…" The Dragon Master mused.

"What?"

"They… they seem drugged."

Drugged? Red yelped mentally. That isn't good.

At least it might explain how Team Snagem can operate without interruption. I daresay drugged, or perhaps hypnotized not to react unless they are challenged to a battle.

That could be it.

Well, we can discuss it later.

Okay. To the next trainer! Red cheered.


(Part VIII)

Something strange is going on. Red frowned.

What do you mean?

Red pointed at the three poke balls that lay on the desk in front of him, as they sat together in the motel. Lance had paid for a room, despite his initial misgivings, and while small and dirty, at least the room was private. They contained the Bayleef, Pichu, and Qwilfish he had captured.

"These pokémon are all level thirty, yet they know none of the moves they should have learned."

"That's impossible!"

"Well, I'm exaggerating. Bayleef knows Razor Leaf, but nothing else, and Pichu and Qwilfish only know Shadow Rush."

"Shadow Rush?" Lance blinked.

Red pointed to his pokédex. "Look."

Lance peered at the data screens, frowning.

"Well, whatever Cipher did to these pokémon is truly heinous. To suppress their normal emotion and to make them so angry they lose all their skills…"

"I know! What are we going to do?"

"Why does Bayleef know Razor Leaf though?"

"Perhaps they were not as careful with the procedure on her?"

"Perhaps. In the meantime, we'll continue to battle and observe."

"Okay!" Red nodded.

At this point, what else could they do?

But since Red was looking morose, Lance gave him a quick kiss, and then they ordered out for dinner, deciding to continue their investigation tomorrow morning.


(Part IX)

"YATTA!"

"Nani desu ka?" Lance asked, half-asleep. He cracked an eye open as Red stared at Pichu like she had grown another head.

"Sorry, I'm too excited. Demo, Pichu ga… Atarashii attaku desu!"

"Hontou ni?" Lance looked excited. "Subarashii!"

Red finally switched back to English once his emotional high had worn off. "Pichu knows Thundershock now."

"… How?" Lance demanded incredulously.

"I don't know, but isn't it cool?"

"… Well, Red, did you do anything special to Pichu?"

Red blinked. "Well, I fed her a couple of Berries… do you think…"

"Charlotte did say that Happiness created Light-type pokémon, so it makes sense. I also noticed a slight lessening of Pichu's aura of Shadow when you called her earlier."

"Interesting…"

"So if we do some more battling with them, and some treats, it ought to bring them back to normal pokémon."

"Great!" Red cheered, and glomped Lance as they fell backwards onto the bed.

Pichu yawned and ate another berry.


(Part X)

The receptionist sighed as she stared at the boy. He had already defeated the trainers in the Duel Square, and now, he was going to challenge the Pyrite Coliseum.

She blushed as he handed her his pokemon to heal.

Lance watched, and Red grinned as he felt Lance wrap mental arms around his shoulders in a possessive hug. I know she's making eyes at me.

Yes, but I don't have to like it, do I?

No…

Mmm… Lance purred, and Red stifled a groan as he felt invisible hands caressing him.

Not now, Lance! I have to concentrate on battling!

Very well, but you owe me later.

Oh, I'll make sure to repay my debt. Red winked, collecting his poke balls as he followed the lady into the Coliseum. Lance headed up to the stands to keep an eye out.

This… Coliseum stank with Shadow Energy. The entire place was saturated with shadows, but he was unsure as though it was the presence of many Shadow pokémon, or just angry emotions from losing trainers…

Well, he would have time to watch and see.

Pichu and Bayleef did their best, and after Bayleef looked tired, he swapped for Qwilfish, but all of the pokémon his opponents used seemed perfectly ordinary.

What a pity…

Afterwards, a woman in blue came up to him.

"Your battling progress is amazing. We would like to award you a pokémon for your earnest efforts."

Red raised an eyebrow, but nodded, and followed her. Lance did not, though he did watch their progress. The woman tapped a code in the garage of a building, and she and Red went inside.

The door stayed open.

Lance slipped his needle holsters onto his arms and jumped from the rooftop he was perched upon to the other building. Releasing his Aerodactyl, he grinned.

"Ptera dear, let's make a quick check…"

Master, this building is full of trainers. Aerodactyl reported a moment later.

Oh? Is Red in danger?

I doubt it. He can take care of himself.

He can indeed, but it would be careless of us to leave him alone. I suppose we can work from the top down…

Aerodactyl grinned, and its razor sharp wings glinted, as Lance directed it to cut a hole in the roof. He slipped inside, landing on his feet, just as a startled Snagem Grunt sucked in a breath.

"Intruder-." He shut up as Lance knocked him out. Lance eyed the man, and then swiftly stripped him of his Team Snagem Uniform. He put it on, and grinned. Now it would be much easier to sneak inside.

After hiding his hair beneath the uniform cap, he checked the digital map that had been in the Grunt's pocket. It showed that the building had three floors and a secret basement that could only be accessed from the top floor. Fascinating.

Poke ball inspection revealed no Shadow pokémon, so he left the man alone.

Meanwhile, Red had just walked inside when the woman released a Poochyna and a Magneton to attack him. Not being dense, he countered with Charizard and Qwilfish. There really was no contest, though having to call Qwilfish out of Hyper Mode twice was irritating. The woman fled upstairs, and Red followed, only to encounter two more trainers blocking his way.

Seeing that they all used flying types, he released Pika and ordered a Thunder. The air around them crackled with electricity as all four birds fell.

One of the birds looked slightly odd, so Red threw a Snag Ball at it. A moment later, he was in possession of a Noctowl.

Upstairs, there were more trainers waiting. It took him about fifteen minutes to sweep that floor, than another twenty the floor above.

The last Grunt seemed busy reading a book, so Red decided that since he was in a hurry, to forego battling and clonk him over the head.

"OW!"

"… Lance?" Red blinked.

Lance glared as he turned around. "Yes."

"Oops." Red blushed. "Sorry, I didn't recognize you since…"

"Since I was wearing the Team Snagem outfit. I get the point."

"Are you not mad then?"

"Eh, nothing a little ice and aspirin won't cure. You beat everyone else?"

"Yep!" Red gave Lance a 'V' for victory.

"Excellent. I found the card key for the elevator in that Grunt's pocket over there." Lance indicated the man who was tied up and gagged with rope. Red didn't bother to ask where Lance had gotten the rope.

"Great."

The floor above contained a lone grunt with a Shadow Huntail. Red snagged it, before he and Lance took the elevator down to the bottom floor.

"I bet there are more trainers there."

"Oh well." Red sighed. "I guess it was to be expected."

"Mm. What should we do?"

"Deal with it?"

"Well, just in case…" Lance released Aerodactyl, and Red Pika and Vee, and they waited as the elevator came to a stop and shuddered.

The doors opened.


(Part XI)

The moment they stepped out, an attack came flying at them. Red grinned from behind Vee's Reflect barrier, as Pika countered with a Thunder. There were several yelps.

"Ptera, Supersonic!" Lance called. Supersonic waves blasted through the lab, and more shouts sounded.

Red and Lance stepped out carefully, still behind a barrier of Reflect. Ptera scanned quickly, before he nodded.

No trainers are still standing, Master. We got them all.

Unconscious?

All but two, yes.

How far away are they?

A hundred yards or so.

Good. Lance released Dragonair. "Hyper Beam!"

The two who had been standing wound up blasted through a wall. Red winced.

What now?

I'm scanning to see if any of them have Shadow pokemon. Lance replied matter-of-factly. A moment later, he walked towards one of the men. Taking three poke balls, he tossed them to Red.

Red inspected them, finding a Yanma, a Clefairy, and a Zigzagoon.

"These are all Shadow pokémon?"

"Yes."

"Great." Red pocketed them, glad that being Champion gave him the ability to carry as many pokémon as he desired. Of course, he was somewhat limited by the weight of poke balls, but thanks to his special belt and pokédex override chip, he could hold as many as he wanted.

It was an unfair advantage, but he was using it for good, wasn't he?

Besides, the pokémon would have a new beginning now. He would take good care of them and make them normal pokémon again. He would feed them berries and vitamins and groom them and battle with them.

He smiled as Lance winked at him, and they walked on.


(Part XII)

Red stifled a groan.

We're supposed to be quiet. Lance hissed. They had ducked into a storage closet when an important-looking scientist in a white lab coat flanked by four guards had been spotted coming their way down the hall.

Red felt his back hit the wall as Lance pressed his lips to his. A flush began to rise in his cheeks.

You're the one seducing me!

I'm only kissing you so you can't make noise. Lance purred mentally.

Yeah right. Red muttered. You're like an animal, Lance. Honestly!

Well, you are adorable. Lance conceded. He closed his eyes for a moment, before he grinned. Ptera says they've left. They didn't even notice him perched up in the rafters.

So we can get out of this closet now?

Yes.

Red pressed against Lance, smirking. Well, if they're gone

Ah, and you call me randy. Lance dropped to his knees, though Red didn't want to think about what strange contortions his lover was bending in, what with the lack of space. He groaned as he felt hot breath ghost over his erection. Very well, love. I shan't leave you unsatisfied…

Red closed his eyes and sighed, lost.


(Part XIII)

"This does not look good." Red muttered. He and Lance had made it through the basement without being molested, as Dragonair and Aerodactyl had disabled or knocked out all the Grunts, but now…

Now, a Scientist with six Electrodes faced them.

Lance smirked. "Bring it on."

"Traitor!" The man yelled at him. "How dare you ally with the enemy?"

Red looked insulted, but Lance chose not to answer. After all, if he confused his opponents, so much the better!

The nearest electrode began to glow, and Red winced as Vee shielded them with a Reflect Barrier. It exploded seconds later, sending the lab tumbling down in dust.

Lance tsked. Sure enough, the scientist and his bodyguards had fled.

"Do you think…?"

"I doubt they got everything useful." Lance smirked. "After all, this lab didn't have a self-destruct mechanism. Some of the data might still be salvageable."

"Great."

Red released Porygon to hack, and as the pokémon began to work, he and Lance looked around for useful evidence.

Lance held up a small data disk, frowning.

"What's that?"

"I don't know. I found two things like it at the lab I raided…"

"They might be pretty important."

"Mm." Lance agreed. He put them in his belt pouch and continued to rifle through the rubble as Red did the same. Red found a crate full of untouched Full Restore, so he shrugged and added the contents to his backpack. There was nothing that resembled the Snag Machine here though, so it might be safe.

Dragonair and Aerodactyl helped search, though they found nothing useful.

Master.

"Yes, Porygon?" Red asked.

I believe I have found something that may interest you and your mate.

Red flushed as Lance raised an eyebrow. They stood next to the monitor as it flickered to life.

A video clip came on, showing a tall man with steel-gray hair cropped close to his head and wire-rimmed spectacles in a white lab coat, talking while in the background, a circular machine with strange indentations hummed, giving off random bursts of rainbow light.

"Hmm." Lance mused. "This is interesting."

"I think we need a better look, but don't those slots look like-."

"Gym badges? Yes."

"Gym badges do have a lot of power, but Orre has no gym system."

"That's what makes me a bit leery. They may be heading to Kanto or Johto to obtain those badges. Oh, if only we could be in two places at once!"

"Don't worry Lance." Red grinned. "We have help!"

"We do?"

"I'll call Lorelei and the others! I'm sure they can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity in our region!"

"True, that." Lance nodded. "Anything else, Porygon?"

I'm sorry, but I cannot get the sound to work, only the video.

"It's all right. We know you tried your best." Red hugged his pokémon.

There is one other tidbit of data… I'll bring it up as well.

This time, the screen showed a list of procedures used to create Shadow pokémon. Both Lance and Red looked rather ill as they read through it, but finally, they were done.

"So that's how to make them."

"I wish it told us how to cure them." Red sighed.

"Yes. Even though the pokémon are now… well, they have normal attacks and stats, but they still have a trace of Shadow aura around them, no matter how happy they are. Poor things…"

"Don't worry, Lance. We'll figure it out."

"Always hopeful, ne, Champion?"

"One of us has to be!" Red chirped and Lance chuckled as they left the lab, teleporting back to Phenac City.

It was not safe to stay in Pyrite any longer…


(Part XIV)

"… That's odd." Red remarked.

"Hmm?" Lance asked, putting his binoculars down to look at his lover.

Red pointed to the strange cave behind Pyrite Town. That caught Lance's attention, and he grinned.

"Guess we'll be going back."

"Pyrite is… mysterious. Maybe that's the source of the Shadowy aura you felt?"

"Perhaps. But the aura was underneath the Coliseum. Wait a minute…"

"You don't think…" Red stared at Lance. "It's too perfect."

"Perfect enough! We can check the Cave out later, ne?"

"I guess you're right. But how are we going to get in?"

Lance smirked. "That's easy…. All we have to do is sneak a pokémon in, and than teleport to its location."

"Brilliant!"

"We should probably use one of your new Shadow pokémon, as not to arouse suspicion…"

"Works for me." Red grinned.

Yanma buzzed softly as he flew around, looking. Who could have imagined there was so much underneath a floorboard?

"And… we're in." Lance said, as his eyes glowed blue and they teleported.

Looking around, they spotted a doorway. Lance turned to Red.

"Would you like to do the honors?"

"Certainly."

Red walked up to the door and pulled it open.


(Part XV)

The first thing they noticed as they walked in the door was the sound of loud rap music. The second was the man in the yellow zoot suit with curly pink hair dancing with his Ludicolos.

This was their opponent?

Red cleared his throat, calling the man's attention to them.

"What are you two doing here?"

"Are you with Team Snagem?" Lance retorted.

The man grinned manically. "Indeed! I am the Cipher Admin Miror B!"

Red did not look very impressed. Neither did Lance. However, they did prepare to battle as the man called his four Ludicolos forwards.

"Double battle then?"

"Looks like it." Lance grinned, throwing out his twin Dragonair.

"Thought so." Red smirked. His new Noctowl could use some experience, and so could … ah yes, Pichu.

Pichu fried the nearest one with Thunderbolt, and Noctowl flew up into the air. As Rain Dance continued to rain merrily on the contestants, one of Lance's Dragonair used Sunny Day to cancel out the rain, while the other happily Flamethrower-ed the poor Ludicolo. It fell over with its skin boiling.

Noctowl used Fly on the last Ludicolo, and Miror B scowled mightily, releasing two more pokémon. One was a fifth Ludicolo, but the other…

Lance sucked in a breath. "That's-!"

"Yes." Red nodded. "How did they capture Raikou? They must have been in Johto!"

"This bears looking into." Lance murmured, "But first things first. It's Shadow pokémon now, Red."

Red nodded, readying an Ultra Ball. "I'm ready."

"Hakuryuu! Thunderwave! Dragon Rage!"

One of the Dragonair paralyzed Raikou with a Thunderwave attack, while the other began chipping off Hit Points with Dragon Rage.

Mirror B glared. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Defying Team Snagem?" Red grinned, as Noctowl and Pichu finished off the Ludicolo.

"Indeed." Lance watched as Miror B healed Raikou with a Full Restore, before he smirked. "Hakuryuu, Blizzard!"

Both Dragonair spat out the requisite attack, freezing Raikou into a solid block of ice. At this interval, Red quickly threw the Ultra Ball. It glowed faintly as it left his hand, becoming a Snag Ball before sucking Raikou inside.

Eyes widened behind star-shaped sunglasses. "Who are you?"

"Not telling." Red chirped.

The man ran, and even as Dragonair spat Twister at him, he vanished through a warp portal in the floor.

Lance cursed. "Well, one got away, but at least we have Raikou now."

"Yes…"

"I'm going to call Lorelei and the others as soon as we get out of here. Maybe they'll have some useful information."

Red nodded, clipping Raikou's Ultra Ball to his belt. Things just get more and more complicated, don't they, Lance?

Most unfortunately, yes.

At least we don't have to do everything alone, ne?

Looking on the bright side, are we love?

Hai!

Lance pulled Red into a hug. Daijoubu desu. We'll get through it together. I promise.

I'm glad you don't leave me out of your investigations any more.

You're old enough and talented enough to take care of yourself now.

Ahh…

But I'll take care of you if you want me to.

I do want you to!

Very well. Lance kissed Red's forehead, and then Red yanked him down into a proper kiss.

Their pokémon just chuckled, watching.

(Part XVI)

"Hello, you have reached the Pokemon League Indigo Plateau Headquarters. This is Lorelei speaking. How may I help you?"

"Hi Lorelei!"

"Oh, hi Red." Lorelei switched from her saccharinely sweet official tone into a more relaxed one. "How are you? Are you and Lance still in Orre?"

"Yes we are, and something just came up."

"Ahh. Wait then. I'll switch to the protected line."

Red nodded, and after a moment, his pokédex beeped to life as Lorelei's face appeared on the screen.

"So tell me, what's come up?"

"Quite a few things." Lance said, taking the pokédex from Red. "We have discovered that Team Snagem – or Cipher, I could never quite tell the two apart – have developed a machine that seems to run on the power of Gym Badges."

Lorelei sucked in a breath. "Which gym badges?"

"We're not sure, but we suspect it uses badges from all four regions. Kanto, Johto, Cosmos, and Houen."

"I see."

"We've also discovered that Team Snagem had Raikou in their possession until recently. Entei and Suicune may also…"

"Yes. Those three are rarely found apart." Lorelei nodded. "Well, we have not received any reports from the gym leaders. It seems that – oh wait a minute. Misty just sent me this email this morning. Please wait a minute."

Lance and Red waited, and Lorelei came into view a few minutes later, looking rather shaken.

"It seems that the Cerulean Gym was attacked last night, and the culprits stole Misty's Starmie and her Cascade Badge."

"It may be unrelated, but just in case…."

"Please keep an eye out."

"We will." Red promised.

"I'll warn the Kanto and Johto Gym Leaders."

"So you're sure nothing else?"

"Yes." Lorelei nodded. "If you want my suspicions, I'm guessing that their machine has not been completed yet, or was only just completed, so they're only starting to acquire the badges now."

"I suppose this makes sense," Lance mused.

Red nodded.

"Well, I'll email you immediately if something else happens. I'll call Glacia and have her look into Houen too."

"Great. Thanks a lot, Lorelei."

"Oh, it's nothing." The Ice Master grinned. "So how are you two otherwise?"

"This isn't much of a honeymoon." Red murmured, causing her to laugh.

"I guess not. But you always did enjoy playing hero, Red. I hope you come back to Kanto soon."

"Me too." Red said. "Good-bye."

He hung up, and then dialed Charlotte in Cosmos.

The fire trainer picked up on the third ring. After checking to see that it was really Red, she grinned.

"You two are still investigating?"

"Yes."

"Well, did you find anything interesting?"

"Quite a bit, actually." Red coughed, before he resumed speaking. "We've figured out how to restore Shadow pokémon to normal, for the most part, though they still have a bit of an aura and the Shadow Rush attack. I did have a question for you though."

"Well, shoot."

"There's something strange going on here. They seem to have made a machine to run on the power of gym badges."

"Including the ones from Cosmos?"

"Yes."

"Well, I haven't noticed anything, since you know, it's downtime right here right now, and nobody's challenging the Gyms, but if anything comes up, I'll call you right away."

"Great." Red hung up and looked at Lance.

"What do we do now?"

"Continue our investigation and try to Snag the other pokémon they have corrupted, I imagine." The Dragon Master said dryly.

"Sounds good. Agate City next?"

"Yes, why not."

They left Pyrite and headed for Agate.


(Part XVII)

Agate City was lush and green and verdant, an oasis in the desert. It rather reminded Red of Fortree City. The same style of architecture prevailed, with houses built high above the ground in the leafy canopy.

However, he did learn some useful legends – like the fact that Serebii apparently frequented a shrine in the Center of the forest.

"Maybe it is similar to the shrine in the Ilex Forest..." Red commented. The small town was full of old men and women, with almost no trainers amongst them. It was obviously a good place to retire. Quiet… relaxing…

"Perhaps." Lance agreed.

"It's really pretty here."

"Mm."

"Lance? Would it be selfish of us to take a break from our investigation?"

"I don't see why not." Lance shrugged. "Besides, we're doing this of our own free will, so no one has a right to complain."

"Oh good." Red flopped down onto the grass, grinning. The clouds were very pretty today.

Lance grinned as he sank down next to Red. "A bit stressed, are we Champion?"

"Well, nothing some rest and relaxation won't cure." Red stifled a yawn. "Lance?"

"What is it?"

"Can I cuddle you?"

Lance blinked twice, a bit puzzled. "Sure."

Red happily clambered onto the Dragon Master's lap, and for a while, they just sat in silence, watching the sky.

It was very pretty today, and now that they weren't riding their bikes across the desert at fifty miles per hour, he could appreciate it.

He smiled.


(Part XVIII)

After wandering Agate City for a few days and finding absolutely nothing of importance, Red and Lance decided to check out the newly complete Battle Tower nearby. If it was anything like the Coliseums, Cipher probably had a hand in it.

Red frowned.

"I know you don't like the idea, but I can sneak in more easily than you can."

"You are the Champion no one ever sees…" Red frowned.

"Yes."

"Fine. But I'll be right behind you every step of the way!" He declared.

"I would not have it any other way." Lance replied softly, and Red sighed.

"Let's do it."

"Ah, you're here to challenge Mount Battle?" The receptionist asked, eying the trainer. "Well, it's quite simple. You'll just have to fight your way up through all ten trainers without any healing in between."

"I see."

"However, there is no restriction on Hold Items or what you have in your pack. I suggest buying some potions now while you can."

Eying the steel doors that led up into the Mountain, Lance nodded grimly.

They would be sealed in once they entered, so… he turned to Red.

You do have a pokémon that knows Teleport, correct?

Espeon!

That will do nicely then…

Lance, are you sure about this?

Yes. And no second-guessing! Since we already have a plan of action, we'll follow it through until it becomes infeasible.

I hope you're right…

They walk in, and face the first trainer, who is, thankfully, normal. It isn't until they get to the tenth and last one – who is being beaten up by a tall man with bulging muscles and an aura of absolute Shadow around him that things get strange.

There's something about Serebii being able to purify pokémon that have been tainted with Shadow, which actually makes a lot of sense to Red. After all, Serebii is one of his guardian pokémon and his element is Shadow.

That doesn't explain why only Lance, whose element is Dark, and Charlotte, who is Light, can see the Shadow pokémon and he can't.

But he listens, and then silently applauds the man as he refuses to give up a flute that can summon Serebii.

Something like that would be really dangerous in the wrong hands.

In any case, the muscleman finally turns around and spots them, and he laughs and releases Entei, and from Lance's glare it's enough to tell that it's shadow but Lance's Dragonair have been out and waiting to fight, and their weather combination works even inside a building, and Entei almost drowns before Red snags him with a Ultra Ball.

That only leaves Suicune unaccounted for, and Red is willing to bet that another Cipher Administrator has her.

Lance smiles, and it's a frightening smile, and Red calmly closes his eyes and puts his hands over his ears as the man falls outside of the Battle Tower, and splatters on the cracked lava below.

How interesting.

He's never noticed the volcanic formation in this part of the desert. It makes no sense, but perhaps this place was once over a plate boundary…

As the thankful man gave Red the Time Flute, Lance frowned, and began to scan the area for Suicune's aura…


(Part XIX)

"Lance, wait!"

Lance frowned. "What is it?"

"I think we should go back to Agate Village."

"Why?" The Dragon Master frowned. "Suicune's aura is in the completely opposite direction."

"I know, but you know how the Leader of the Battle Tower told me about Serebii? It can… I think we can use Serebii's power to bring the Shadow pokémon back to normal!"

"It would be worth investigating, Red. Unfortunately, we have scoured Agate Village for Serebii's shrine and found nothing."

"Well, perhaps we're not looking hard enough?" Red suggested. "Or I could play the Time Flute…"

"It's worth a try." Lance conceded, and they left Mount Battle for Agate Village. When they arrived a few minutes later, Lance tensed.

"Is something wrong?" Red asked.

"I suddenly feel an immense aura of darkness." Lance gasped. He genuinely struggled to draw breath into his belabored lungs.

Red hesitated. "Should I go by myself then?"

"I'm afraid you'll have to." Lance grimaced. "I'm sorry I can't keep you company."

Don't be. I'll call you immediately if anything comes up. Red promised.

In that case, I will wait for you in Phenac City.

All right.

Leaving Lance behind, Red headed into Agate Village. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a man in the Team Snagem uniform dart down a grassy path.

Fascinating.

He followed, running down a slope, and soon found a cave with a mass of vines blocking the way.

Frowning, Red released Umbreon. "Umbreon, do you sense something wrong about this?"

Umbreon laughed. You are sharp, Master. The vines are but an illusion.

"Ah, no wonder we did not notice it earlier. "

It does take a Dark or Ghost pokémon to see through some illusions. Umbreon preened, as Red stroked his ears.

"Yes, thank you."

Serebii's shrine may very well be hidden here.

Then we will check it out.

As Red and Umbreon walked in, a trainer dropped down from above them, riding on the back of a Golbat.

Speak of the devil. Red muttered, as Golbat and Muk were revealed. Umbreon barked angrily, as Red added Yanma to his team, calling on the bug's Shadow Rush. It was such a useful attack, having no weaknesses…

A few minutes later, the trainer had been defeated.

Red looked curiously at Umbreon, unsure of whether he should have captured the last pokémon. The Haunter had felt a bit off, but it was a ghost pokémon, so that might be residual fear…

He walked in, and was promptly ambushed, this time by two more trainers. They released four Magnemites.

Red sighed mentally, calling out his new Entei to Flamethrower them all.

Entei just looked at him blankly, before Red remembered belatedly that it's heart was still sealed and it had no access to any of its original moves.

He quickly just ordered Shadow Rush instead, and spent the rest of the battle calling Entei out of Hyper Mode, ticked off.

How dare Cipher do this to innocent pokémon!

Red.

What? Red sent back, watching as Entei Shadow Rushed a Shroomish.

That one's a Shadow pokémon.

… Oh. I should have known.

The Carvanha the other one uses is Shadow as well.

Just peachy. Red swapped Entei for Pichu, watched as Thunderwave crackled over the Carvanha, and then repeated the process with Shroomish. Then he released his Scyther.

Scyther was more than happy to use False Swipe. It had been a good idea to add her to his Team…

The two pokémon were rapidly snagged, and then onward he walked. When he felt his aura begin to hum, he knew that he was quite near.

Serebii was one of his guardians, after all, and the bonding went both ways.

He strode ahead confidently, and before long, he reached a small, rough-hewn stone. It rather looked like an egg in a basin.

Green energy tingled at the edge of his vision, and he laughed as he placed the poke balls of happy pokémon in front of the basin. With that, he knelt and closed his eyes.

There was a sound like the rustling leaves, and then when he opened his eyes again, his pokédex cheerfully informed him that they had all gone back to normal.

No…there was one point of contention.

Entei, Raikou, and his two newest acquisitions were untouched.

Fascinating. It seemed that Serebii's power could not heal pokémon. Their hearts must be unlocked first.

He would remember that. He foresaw making many more trips to this shrine in the future.

Chosen.

Red jumped, before he noticed Serebii floating above the shrine, her wings fluttering slightly.

"Oh, you were here."

Yes. As you have seen, my power is limited. I cannot raise pokémon's happiness. Only you can. So befriend those you have caught… and bring them back to them selves.

I will. Red promised.

Serebii half-smiled. I wish I could give you more information, but telling the future would be cheating…

We all bow to fate, so I do not blame you overmuch for events beyond your control. It is only when you seek to control our lives that I get angry. Red responded.

We understand each other then. Serebii smiled.

Red nodded, and watched as she faded from view.

When he returned to Lance moments later, the Dragon Master had a strange expression on his face.

Is something wrong?

You saw Serebii, didn't you?

Yes. He saw no reason to lie.

I suspected as much, but she does not seem to be under undue influence, so I have nothing against her.

I'm glad. Red hugged Lance. Where to now?

Lugia knows. I have no idea.

Well, then let's just keep our eyes out and our ears open.

That will do nicely.

After a visit to the Pokemon Center, they found a grassy knoll to rest and relax on.


(Part XX)

"Hello?"

"Red." Charlotte's voice sounded shaky, as her face appeared in the mirrored portion of his yellow compact. "I have bad news."

Red snapped awake, frowning. "What's wrong?" He asked.

"Someone's run off with my Solar System Badge."

"B-But how?" He stammered. "I mean… they'd have to get past all your traps and everything…"

"Well, perhaps it was not a single person, but a team. I was unsure how many of them there were."

"Did they… hurt you?"

"Of course. But now they have all nine badges of Cosmos."

"It must be Snagem." Red cursed. "Lance isn't going to like this."

"My power is limited. He knows that as well as I do."

"Well… I'll tell him, but… I'm worried. Are you sure you're all right?"

"No, I'm not. I'm putting myself into Sleep of Death to recover. I'm sorry I won't be able to help you more for a few days at the very least."

"It's all right." Red soothed.

He said goodbye, and then cursed.

Poor Charlotte.

Lance would not like this new development though. Snagem was becoming stronger. They could not afford to waste time any longer.


(Part XXI)

"And so, the board is set." Charlotte sighed, closing her eyes. "Snagem is truly vicious. Even the Realm Guardians may prove no match."

You should not be so disheartened, my Chosen. Her guardian's voice rumbled smooth flame in her mind.

Charlotte turned to face Moltres, a frown on her face as she brushed her skirts off. But it was my carelessness.

You fought as well as you could, with your Light, and it is not your fault Light falls before Shadow.

Still… they now have nine pieces… for the elements of my Gyms number thus. Ice, Normal, Ghost, Fire, Lighting, Dark, Flying, Water, and Psychic…

Do not worry. I am sure the two Chosen left can take care of the problem. Now sleep.

Yes, Mother. Charlotte's form was enveloped in a cocoon of yellow flames.

Moltres watched her sleep with a sad expression, before she flew away.

Indeed, the pieces were moving, and it was not a game they enjoyed.


(Part XXII)

"So that's what happened?" Lance asked.

Red nodded morosely. "What are we going to do, Lance?"

Lance shrugged. "What we have to, of course. We cannot abandon this quest halfway."

"I almost wish Charlotte could come and help us. Maybe after she recovers…"

Lance shook his head. "It will be impossible for her to leave Cosmos unless we manage to steal her Solar System Badge back."

"What? Why?" Red blinked, confused. A badge, even a Champion's badge, was just a badge, right?

"It is not that she needs much time to recover. Chosen always heal very quickly. But Charlotte built Cosmos. She put her power into the Gym System. Now that the badges are gone… if she leaves, everything will collapse into chaos and dust."

Red stared, open-mouthed. "All of the people and pokemon there would die?"

"Exactly. That is exactly what a Guardian cannot do."

"I…it seems incredible. It's hard to believe. She must be powerful."

"Ah yes, but she tied her life to it, and that is why it exists still."

"So it's her duty to stay there now?"

"Right. That's why she doesn't meddle in Kanto and Johto much. She has her own Island to take care of."

Red finally understood. He turned to Lance.

"Where are we off to now?"

"Well, I managed to mind-read a few of the Snagem Grunts you defeated, so… I have found the location of one of their Secret Labs."

"Ohh…" Red nodded. "So there now?"

"Yes."

They set off.


(Part XXIII)

"I'm scared, Father."

Koga smiled as he took Janine's hand. "It is a foolish man who never worries, daughter."

Aya frowned. "Lance will not like this news."

"I fear none will, not even Red, our Champion. The loss of a badge is not to be discounted, in a fair battle, but these villains chose not to fight fair…"

"They will laugh." Janine cried. "Ninja bested by a Team of grunts? Inconceivable!"

"That is not the problem. It almost seemed as though they had inside information on the gym's layout and traps."

"But… no one knows our home besides the Elite Four and ourselves."

"That is what troubles me." Koga let out a breath he had been unaware of holding. "We are walking into a dangerous time."

"Father…"

"I would have Aya take you to Johto, but I fear that region is just as dangerous as Kanto now."

"What can we do?" Aya asked.

Her brother shook his head. "Hope and wait."

"In the meantime," Janine said, trying to cheer them up, "Shall I tell a story?"

Both of the older ninja smiled, and as Janine began to spell a tale of heroes against insurmountable odds, they felt better, even if it was just fantasy.


(Part XXIV)

Lance adjusted his infrared goggles as he and Red peered through the smokescreen Red's Koffing had thoughtfully provided. "It seems safe enough."

"Strange… I'd expect people here, or maybe for an alarm to go off, but there is almost nothing…"

"I know." Red blinked. "What if they've already abandoned it?"

"That is, of course a possibility." Lance stopped suddenly, as he gazed at a machine with a peculiar expression. It was a small, flat thing, with two or three blinking lights on it.

"I wonder…" Lance said thoughtfully, as he took one of the disks he had found earlier and inserted it into the device.

Immediately data flashed upon the screen.

"This is data for… Entei's DNA?" Red blinked. "It… it can't be…"

"It could very well be." Lance tried the other two disks. One was Lapras, but the other was Bayleef…

"So you think this is…"

"Yes. The disk will probably tell us what pokémon they have managed to turn into Shadow pokémon." Lance cursed. "It seems to have no set pattern, but we'll never know for certain until you Snag all of the ones Snagem has corrupted!"

Red laid a comforting hand on his arm. "It's all right, Lance."

Lance sighed. "Well, at least now we know a little more about how this works. I don't suppose anyone will fault us if we take this." He slipped the machine into his backpack. It fit easily.

They continued down to the lower labs, but alas, it seemed that all of the data had been wiped out. Red's Porygon returned with a negative answer, and Lance grimaced.

"Maybe they knew we were coming."

"But how?"

"That is what I wish to know…"

Laughter sounded, as four men in black jumpsuits jumped down. As if on cue, they released eight pokémon, two from each of them.

Red smirked. "Well, well… looks like we have company."

"Perhaps a rear guard was left behind to guard this place." Lance concluded. The area was far to small to battle in with his larger dragons, so…

"Ptera! Larvitar! Pupitar! I choose you!"

Red quickly followed with his own team. Espeon and Umbreon, Vee, and his new Shroomish and Carvanha.

Eight on eight…

Ptera blasted all of the pokémon with Supersonic, and with the exception of Loudred, confusion swirls went around their heads. Espeon and Umbreon swiftly dispatched of the Muk and Grimer in the front lines, along with a Zubat. Vee transformed into Flareon and flambéed the opponent's Sunflora, before she went Vaporeon and froze a Cacnea solid with Ice Beam.

Meanwhile, Larvitar and Pupitar had knocked out Voltorb, Electrode and the Loudred. One good Fissure was all it took.

Lance frowned. "Red…"

"I know, which one?"

"Sunflora."

"Got it!" Red threw a Great Ball, which transformed into a Snag Ball in midair and sucked Sunflora in.

The four men stared, before they fled down a hallway. Red turned to Lance. "Should we pursue them?"

Lance shook his head. "Let's have your Ditto follow them. They may only be decoys... it seems there is still some activity in this lab."

Red nodded, and Ditto swiftly transformed into a perfect duplicate of the fallen Zubat, flying after the fleeing Grunts.

Somewhere, an alarm began to sound, and that reinforced Lance's suspicion. There were still people in this lab. Now, the just had to find them…


(Part XXV)

"So, what do you think is waiting for us on this floor?" Red asked, as he and Lance walked down through the hallway, ignoring the blaring alarm. It wasn't particularly loud, simply very irritating.

Oddly, there had been an explosion from somewhere else a few minutes ago, but it hadn't affected them much.

"Oh, no doubt another mad scientist or two. These Teams usually have a large team of them."

Red grinned ruefully. "I can't fault your guess."

They had searched the rooms they passed through, but found nothing save two more loose data disks. Lance had identified one as Clefairy, and another as Zigzagoon.

Those two pokemon, at least Red had already Snagged…

They now knew they could purify the pokémon in Agate Village, with Serebii's help. That made sense – Serebii and Shadow and Red all went together, though the fact that Red could not see the Shadow pokémon's aura was troubling.

Perhaps it was because he was Shadow. Lance had accepted that without question.

Shadow was a union of Light and Darkness.

Charlotte was of Light. He was of Darkness. They could see the subtle nuances of the other taint, for Light and Dark were enemies.

But Shadow itself was some strange mixture where the two could coexist. It was much like Red, who was a blend of his ice-cold nature and Charlotte's passionate flames.

He would protect Red as best he could during this investigation…for in truth, Red was in the most danger.

Power, too much power, could corrupt, and in Orre, if this power counted as Shadow… it might give Red a boost he was not prepared for.

Power was always dangerous when the user was not strong enough of heart!

"Lance?"

"Yes?"

"… We've got company." Red said. It was odd for the Dragon Master to space out, but he had to admit the situation was very distracting!

Those evil teams, making poor pokémon into Shadow by hurting them… unforgivable! He clenched his fists as the Scientist released his pokémon.

They were not going to get away with this!

Electrike, Electrode, and Voltorb… Diglett could use some exercise. With that thought, Red released the mole. But just in case Diglett alone was too weak against three, well…

Lance smirked. "Pupitar… you know what to do."

The pokémon nodded. His job was mostly to guard. He made a good shield, because though he did not have Larvitar's agility, he was a strong pokémon.

In case any enemy pokémon or their attacks came close, his job was to protect Master Lance's mate.

Pupitar liked Master Lance's mate. He had a good heart, maybe not a dragon heart, but a heart close to dragon, and that was good enough. Master Lance cared for him too, and mated him frequently, and they hardly fought, so it was a good arrangement all around. Also, Master Red tended to carry delicious berries with him, and was very generous to share them.

He watched as Master Red's Diglett and Shroomish drove the opponents crazy. Shroomish simply rained a mixture of Poisonpowder and Stun Spore down upon the orbs, while Diglett burst out of the ground with Dig.

Scientist Myron cursed. "Who are you people anyway?"

"Wouldn't you like to know?" Lance asked, as steel flashed on his fingertips. "But you won't be telling."

Red closed his eyes and put his hands over his ears. Pupitar watched impassively as Master Lance disabled the man and slit his throat.

This man had hurt relatives of his; hurt them badly! He would pay!

"Well?" Red asked, as Lance stole the man's memories, even as the last of his life ebbed away.

Lance shook his head. "We already know the procedure. All I got was a bit of a blurry layout of this place. It's quite sad, but we know they've changed at least fifty different species of pokémon, including the legendary beasts of Johto…"

"Yes." Red nodded.

"This can't be their only lab of course. However, we should probably make of thorough search of it. I also noticed that there was a train from here to somewhere else…"

"You think the others might have escaped?"

"Yes, though from the Explosion we heard earlier, they may have tried to block off the way."

"Ah. All right." Red grinned. They split up, but after searching the remaining rooms and floors, found only a few more DNA data disks. They now headed down to the ground floor, where, sure enough, a mountain of rubble was blocking what looked like a futuristic steel boarding platform.

Lance tsked.

"Careless of them…"

Red released Diglett, and the mole happily dug through the rubble, clearing a path for them. Sure enough, at the end, a single train compartment waited.

"How are we going to use this?"

"All we have to do is follow the tracks." Lance explained with a grin.

"Oh, that's right. The tunnel is wide enough for us to ride our pokémon in."

"I am a bit concerned about the air… but if it's safe enough for a train, there should be enough oxygen for us."

"I hope so." Red muttered. "Just the same…"

They checked the supply closet nearby, but found nothing of use or worth, so Lance released Gyarados, who immediately began to streak down the tunnel, in search of the missing Grunts and Ditto.


(Part XXVI)

"Something's coming." Red warned, hearing an ominous rumbling sound. Lance smirked, as he grabbed Red's wrist. His eyes flashed blue and they teleported. Below them, they suddenly saw the ground collapse.

"A landslide? Here?"

"No." Lance shook his head. "Snagem is being very careful. I think they intended to bury us alive in there."

Red shuddered, before something startled him. He flipped open his pokédex, gaping when he saw the message.

"Lance… it's from Lorelei. She says that the Soul Badge was stolen, and just moments ago, they got a call from Cerulean and Pewter. It seems that Mount Moon has inexplicably collapsed!"

"They are certainly being thorough. With this 'natural disaster', no one will be guarding the gyms."

"You think they are after those badges then?"

"That is what I surmise from the information?"

"What will we do?"

"I'll call Lorelei." Lance said, twisting his golden earring studs backwards.

Back in the Plateau, Lorelei jumped. The Elite Four had not used their subcutaneous interfacing technology for many months. "Lance?"

"Lorelei, I want you to go to Cerulean. Send Bruno to Pewter. We need to prevent the theft of any more gym badges."

"Understood."

"Any new news from Houen or Johto, Lorelei?"

"No. I contacted Steven to check, but he says everything is still as peaceful as ever. Even Team Magma and Aqua have been very quiet latterly."

"Strange…" Lance mused. "But no matter. Please continue to keep an eye out."

"I will." Lorelei promised, and hung up.

"At least they haven't stolen any of the Johto or Houen badges yet."

Lance frowned. "But they have the entire Cosmos set, and a few of ours."

"I wish…"

Lance suddenly shook his head. "It could be that they are planning to use a wave-like mechanism."

"What?"

"Like the Elite Four have used at Cerise in the past. You use the gym badges to amplify power, and that source of power, whether it be Lugia or a machine, can cause great change…"

"You mean…!"

"Yes! They want the gym badges as an energy source!"

"It could work."

"I can't believe we didn't think of this earlier." Red swore.

"Well, at least we can jam up the works a bit."

"What do you mean?"

"One fake badge ruins the whole setup, ne?"

Red began to smile. "I see what you mean… but it would be tricky to make a substitute…"

"Not at all. You'll see. They'll have to head to Johto or Houen eventually." Lance twisted his earrings again, and began to speak to Morty. The Ghost Gym Leader was more than willing to help.

Yes, it might slow destruction just a bit, and give Red and Lance enough time to finish in Houen before all the pokémon in the world became Shadow pokémon…!

Now, where should they head?


(Part XXVII)

"What do you think we should do now?" Red asked, peering at the expanse of desert around them. Leaving their bikes in front of the Snagem Lab had perhaps not been the wisest thing to do…

Lance held up a hand, seemingly listening. Red caught the implication and nodded.

"Well, well… they are moving remarkably fast. They took the bait, by the way. Olivine's badge is now missing."

"Was that one of the fakes?"

"I daresay it was easy for Jasmine to substitute something for her badge, being as she works with metal in her free time when she isn't training pokémon. She's rather taken a shine to it."

"Oh, excellent." Red grinned brightly.

"Besides, I left Tyranitar to guard our stuff. No sense in leaving things half-done."

"Then now we follow the trail?"

"Do you happen to have a Growlithe?"

"No, but I've got something that should be equally good." Red released Entei. The Shadow pokémon huffed, but he was fairly caught.

"You can follow the tracks, I presume?"

The legendary dog shot Red a truly poisonous look, but obligingly began sniffing the ground. Red and Lance followed on Gyarados.

Soon, they reached… Pyrite Town?

"Well, that's certainly not what I expected."

"Perhaps the cave we investigated in Pyrite was not the only base."

"I feel like we're wandering in circles." Red groaned.

Lance frowned. "There is still a magnificent Aura of Shadow around. I suppose a second look can't hurt."

Red chuckled, and they began to investigate, starting with the old windmill nearby. It seemed wholly ineffective as a source of electrical power, but as Red looked, he saw that several wires had been cut.

Interesting…

This may bear looking into…

He released his new Electrike, who obligingly welded the wires together. As the windmill began to whirr, Lance grinned.

"There."

He pointed to a small board. It was slightly less dusty than the others.

"A trapdoor?"

"Yes. They probably disabled the windmill to prevent people from coming here, though that's almost ridiculous…"

Red nodded, and he and Lance pried up the board. Sure enough, down below there was a tunnel. It looked like a steep drop, but their Aerodactyls would keep them from falling.

They landed with a soft thump, and glanced around. It looked like a natural cave, but they could hear the rumble and hum of machines far off.

Red and Lance nodded to each other, and went to search.


(Part XXVIII)

It was almost laughably simple as they walked through. Snagem grunts awaited, they defeated them, snagged a few more pokémon…. Nothing out of the ordinary, until they reached the back room, where, predictably, there was a more powerful leader with a legendary pokémon. Suicune.

Lance smirked. "Red, I'll take it on."

"If you're sure." Red said. Lance could handle himself, but Suicune was one of his guardian pokémon….

Lance released Hakuryuu, both of them, and they were more than enough to defeat Suicune and the Tyranitar the woman had.

He laughed then, high and sharp and chill, and Venus had no time to react before they tore her throat out.

"Shhh…" Lance purred. "My perfect one." He held out his hands, as Suicune walked closer, laid his hands on the pokémon, concentrated…

Suicune howled, an almost human scream, as Lance leeched the darkness from her body, for the Dragon Master also held Darkness in his heart, and he could purge so easily…. But only from so many pokémon, before the Darkness subsumed his personality. Suicune was easier, since they were linked, as Guardians.

Red watched, but Suicune seemed to recover quickly enough.

"I will send you to the Dream Realm, for it will take time for you to recover."

The legendary cat nodded, her form fading into mist as the portals of the Dream Realm opened. Red grinned.

"She'll be all right now?"

"I don't see why not…"

Red hugged Lance tightly. "That will help, won't it?"

"Yes… but when I find the person who did all of this…. They will pay."

Red hugged Lance, and nodded.

Soon, the storm of wrath would break over Orre…


(Part XXIX)

He holds Lance close, pillowing his head in his lap, as he presses his hands against the bloody wound in Lance's chest, wishing for once that he had power to heal. He's never wanted anything much before, content to let the Nurse Joys and Chanseys take care of things, but now they are in the middle of the Orre desert and Lance is dying.

Red cries, and his tears fall and soak into skin, and Lance blinks his hazy golden eyes at him and tries to speak.

Things aren't supposed to end this way!

Red plays the Time Flute, and watches as Serebii appears, and she nods as she bathes Lance in green light, and he heals.

And then he remembers.

They stand then, two of them, and he feels the wings grow out, silky black feathers, and he understands now, that what they do in Orre may turn out to be worthless.

But as long as Lance is with him…

He's willing to walk into hell, and Lance smiles when he says this.


(Part XXX)

"This is it." Red took a deep breath, as he pulled open the double doors. Clad in their white coats and disguised as scientists, he and Lance entered the room.

He felt more than heard Lance suck in a horrified breath at what lay there.

It was not any ordinary pokémon.

"F-Father…!"

Lugia's eyes were red-glazed open, white feathers replaced with jet-black… the mouth was open as it breathed laboriously, and they could see crooked white teeth, an alien brightness against the dark coat.

Lance collapsed to his knees, and Red gaped as black lightning began to crackle over his form. At this close range, the bond between parent and child could not be denied.

An alarm began to sound, somewhere, and almost in a daze, he released his pokémon. Entei and Raikou snarled and spat out fire and lightning, even as the rest of his team burst free from their poke balls.

For how long the battle raged, he did not know, but soon all Team Snagem's pokémon lay fallen, and the scientists released Lugia.

How… how could he fight now?

Lance hissed, his eyes crimson ruby, as he released his own dragons. His twin Hakuryuu tore into the men like a scythe through a wheat field, and Red winced in almost-empathy as Lugia reared up and blasted Aeroblast through the ceiling, trying to escape. So. Lance had managed to undo the restraints while he was battling…

The last of the steel cables snapped as the pokemon tore free.

It flew off, and as Lance smirked, he turned, and Red's breath caught at the sight of the steel wings rising jaggedly from his lover's back.

"You will all die." He crooned sweetly, before he moved.

Red did not bother straining his eyes to see the truth. He knew well what would happen – almost reveled in the disaster, and moments later, he and Lance were the only breathing, living souls left. Their pokémon had wisely retreated, waiting for the Dragon Master's rage to burn itself out.

"I like your eyes." He murmured.

Lance pulled him into a kiss, and he tasted blood and hot sweet desire. The changes would not easily be undone, though perhaps Serebii could help…

It mattered little.

Lance was still the man he had fallen in love with, and despite the carnage that covered the metallic plates on the floor, despite the madness in his lover's eyes, he kissed him back.

Lugia was free. They had reclaimed all of the legendary pokémon.

Things were different now, and the world would be safe… or at least this region, though Orre was not under their control.

Perhaps in the future, the Guardians would reclaim it. Who knew?

But for now, they flew back to Kanto, silently on wings of night, and did not think about what lay behind.

The future waited.

The past did not exist any more.

Lugia help us all…


End Fic

Created 9/17/06

Completed 10/22/06

So, the ending is kind of Brave New World-esque, ne? And yes, I wanted Lance to slowly become corrupted throughout the story, become more vicious as Lugia was turning into a Shadow pokemon, but I'm not sure how well that turned out or if it got conveyed at all!

Lance: Sigh

Phantomness: Anyways, enjoy and please review! And Championshipping's fifth anniversary is on October twenty-first!