Chapter 6: In the Darkness
"There's no one here!" exclaimed a Sandslash.
The cave was darkening. The sun dipped behind the horizon shortly thereafter, refusing to give any more light to the players. Eventually, the lanterns on the various buildings were triggered and ignited, but this did not cause any major 'hello's from NPCs or even some kind of welcoming party. For the minute and a half, they were not doing anything.
Then the whole wonder of the moment died down and those that were in teams decided to do what they do best: explore.
At the center of the main square was placed a large-scale proportion Mew statue, which seemed to be in a twirling state and looked out the open view of the cave entrance. At the foot of the statue were words, scribed professionally:
Seek only good will, health, and what is to come. The guardian will show you the way.
Brett stared once more, not in awe, but certainly reassured. Only from what exactly, he couldn't guess.
He turned around. Claire was beside the boat. She waved, and motioned for him to follow. It took him no more than a second to reach her.
"We need to get our supplies. They're in the cargo."
Brett understood. Upon returning to the boat, they found it to be quite unstable. To begin with, there were already a few players who were either going to or had already received their items and were shuffling around the surface and boardwalk. The shifting of weight as the boat rocked made it hard for a few others to walk straight, including Claire. Brett stuck his scythes into the ground and used them as his support.
When they entered the boat, nothing changed about the balance. The lamps that hung from the ceiling were at an angle, some of them swinging slightly because of the constant churn of the waters.
In the open hallway were several doors, either open or broken apart, with only one close to the front of the hall closed correctly. At the very end of the hall there was a crowd as Pokémon players scrambling to get what was theirs and attempt to leave without harming the others. Unfortunately, there was no order, and as thus, there was not one player who was not bumped or scratched by another player.
The wait was long, and because of the shoveling around, Brett was worried. At the beginning, he only thought about somebody else taking his items, but now he had rooted a deep seed into his mind which told him that if he didn't reach his items fast enough, they would be stolen. The first chance he got to move ahead, he did, and it was hard for Claire to break through that same crowd as Brett did because she wasn't worried.
"Slow down!" she said.
"You don't understand—," Brett tried to explain.
"We'll get there when we get there!"
She didn't let him explain, and it was only her command that kept Brett from trying to shove like the others. The doorway was close now; he could touch it with his scythe if he wanted to. The light directly above the doorway went out, and there was another shift in balance which dropped a good number of Pokémon against each other.
It seemed the hassle would never stop, but finally, Brett had made it through. He looked at the containers at the floor, watching as a Pachirisu took something from another container to place it in her own. He clenched his teeth in fury. The nerve that some players have, he thought to himself.
He made his way towards the wall of containers and looked for his, but upon twice a glance, it wasn't on the wall. Anywhere. He turned and watched the floor, seeing the many containers scattered. If his was not on the shelf, then the floor was the only other place it could be. That is, unless someone stole it.
He would be able to tell the difference of the containers only by their color. When he and Claire made Team B.C., their team containers automatically changed to a default color, white. His and Claire's would be the ones that were colorless. But upon the floor, he found none of their containers, and he was getting anxious now.
Then at the corner of his eye, he spotted one. It was at the edge of the room, probably dropped when the ship rocked. He rushed to it and opened it. The container belonged to him. All of his items were still intact, and he sighed, relieved.
But in his rush to his items container, he had kicked another towards Claire, who was now entering. The container that landed on her front paws was indeed hers, even if Brett hadn't known it. But when she pawed at it, the container's top easily opened. There was nothing in it.
Immediately, her ears drooped and her indifferent expression faded to a frown. She pawed at the container once again, as if turning it around would somehow bring out the hidden items. But no matter what she did, she wasn't going to get back her items.
Brett was beside her then, looking down at the container. Claire turned away facing the doorway with the struggling Pokémon. The crowd had lessened, because most that had wanted their items had already gotten through.
"I'm sorry, Claire," Brett offered.
"It doesn't matter," Claire responded meekly. "We should go."
Nodding, Brett led the way. It was by far, easier to get by, but when they reached the end, towards the steps leading to the top deck, the boat made an involuntary churn, this time blowing out all of the lanterns.
The floor tilted, and the two found themselves tripping up on each other as it continued to arch, the steps reclining to a higher position. With a yelp, Claire slid back towards the other Pokémon. She landed beside the doorway, most of the others having fallen through the door and into the container room.
"I'm coming Claire!" Brett exclaimed, fluttering his wings to keep himself balanced in the air. He flew quickly to his partner and landed on the other side of the doorway. It was crowded with four others who left almost no space for him to stand. Excusing himself over the others, he reached his scythe out to her. "Hold on!"
So close to the threshold, Claire jumped at the scythes. She winced when she experienced the pain it induced on her forelegs as she tried to hold a grip.
With his wings kicking up, Brett flew towards the stairs. The added weight was hurting his arm, and so close to the exit, his wings were beginning to give out and feel weak. Even Claire couldn't hold out much longer. She slipped off the scythe, but in a quick moment, and to the best of her abilities she hugged onto his clawed feet. The sudden shift in balance caused him to crash into the wall, but he regained his composure.
Just a little more, he encouraged himself. Come on, I can make it!
Then he made it on deck, and at the top, he could see the last of the Pokémon on board jumping onto the wood path boardwalk and watch in awe as the boat reared its back towards the cave ceiling, its front deck swallowed by the water.
Under heavy pressure, the boat's end shifted towards the right, and fell to the wood path, where there were many Pokémon who ran away from the contact point. The boat, once it destroyed that part of the walk, then tilted to its side, towards land.
Having lost his flight balance along the way, Brett had crashed with Claire onto the main deck. He had no control when the ship begun to tilt, and he slid towards the edge and fell onto the river flow, a deep and cold body of water.
He couldn't swim. He could never swim in real life, and now as a Pokémon, he still couldn't do it. He struggled to reach the surface, but the flow pulled him under. Too far under, he let out his breath, and was left choking on the water. He struggled violently now, his head becoming cloudier as his body panicked.
Claire too had fallen to the water. She was above it, kicking her legs with lots of energy to keep her afloat. The boat finally stopped turning, and remained as it was on its side. She swam towards the destroyed section of the boardwalk, and once on the land, shook herself dry and overlooked the path.
"Brett!" She called out. There was no answer. The path brought the rushing water types who were probably going to help the remaining Pokémon in the boat.
Now she looked out to the water, and once again, she called out to him. "Brett! Where are you?"
She spotted the gurgling bubbles a short distance from her spot, and without even thinking to ask one of the rushing water types for help, she dove in.
She kicked and squirmed, using new muscles in her body to dive further under. Holding her breath wasn't good enough; she could feel the water begin to drown under her wet nose, and a prickly feeling began to set in. The worst of the feeling was the water entering her ears and making her even more light headed then she already was.
But she found him, thrashing wildly, his scythes kicking everywhere. There was only one moment where she got a good look at his eyes, and saw the fear in him like she's never seen in anyone before. She paused, afraid.
Swallowing her fears, she swam for him and clamped down her jaw on his arm, a section without the blade. With strength she knew she didn't have, yet sought nonetheless, she kicked and pawed and tried her very best to bring him to the surface. His thrashing was not helping, but still, she concentrated and moved onwards, the goal only being to make it to the surface of the water.
It wasn't far, yet the swimming felt like it was getting her nowhere, and she was already running low on inner oxygen, her lungs about to collapse. The lines ahead of her began to blur, and her struggle to swim faster became frantic.
Only a little further…
She reached the surface, and the first breath silenced out all the sounds around her as the locked feeling inside her was released. Brett sputtered water as well, still flailing dangerously, though there was nothing she could do to stop him.
Claire bit down harder as she dragged him towards the waters edge, the safer, shallower portion of the river. She pulled him onto dry land, almost dragging him because of how worn out he was. And once they were both out of the water completely, they fell on each other, unable to do much else. Not a word was said; only the heavy pant of the two Pokémon reaching for oxygen.
It has been about ten minutes, and Pokémon were beginning to notice there was something wrong. For one, no one could log off. Something was blocking them, and they couldn't control it nor know how to overcome the obstacle. Night has come, and the majority remained within the center of the square, surrounding the statue, talking amongst themselves. The exploration had stopped for most of them. And the night grew darker.
The water Pokémon had managed to swim to the boat and rescue many of the others. Brett and Claire seemed to have gone by completely unnoticed because of the overturned boat, and the stories that the others were listening to were of those that had been inside the thing the entire time. Nobody found either of the Team B.C. members; they had to stand and move to the crowd surrounding the statue on their own.
Nobaer Falls was evenly spread throughout the cave indention. Overall, there were ten shacks. There was a Bank, a link shop, a storage place, and a shop, separated into two shacks; one for health items, and the other for attack and defense items. Those were the major buildings needed in any Mystery Dungeon town. In the darker half of the cave there was a fighting dojo, with a tunnel covered in complete blackness right next to it. To the left of that same tunnel was another building, which was a new addition meant only for the Isle of Devalore, and had a sign that pointed to the same tunnel by the dojo. There were three more buildings at the main entrance of the cave indention: a post office, and two rescue team bases, evenly separated so that the team bases were at the ends of either entrance and the post office was at the middle.
A team had already come across a team base during the whole boat fiasco, and since the bases were set at a first-come first-serve basis, the shack was automatically theirs. Another Pokémon player was returning from the base to the main crowd. He cut into other conversations to spread the news; it wasn't long until he reached Brett and Claire.
"Team Fire Nation Eleven set up a base at the abandoned shack up there," said the Sandslash, pointing towards the distant base. "The bases go down three floors, and there are about, roughly, fifteen rooms. The only problem is they need more fire types to help light the lanterns in the halls." He looked at Claire specifically when he said that. "Mind helping out?"
Still drying from the water, she cocked her head to the side. "What about the other team base?"
"Last I heard, it was still free, but by now, someone probably owns it," he shrugged.
Claire looked up at Brett, trying to get an answer from him now.
"If it's taken, then there would be no point in going over there other than to help turn on the lights," Brett said. "We might as well go to this Fire Nation base. It's closer, and to be honest, I like how it's further from the water."
The Sandslash left them, and the two walked up the small hill, away from the main square and to the shack by the small edge. It wasn't as dark as it looked from far away, but that was probably because the lanterns outside were being ignited by a Charmeleon. The Pokémon looked at them as they neared, and the two stopped. Then it ignited the final lantern outside and went in.
"I don't think we'll be of much help with all these lights on already," Brett mused.
"That's only up here. Can you imagine down there?"
They entered the team base, under a flag decorated plainly with a flame and the words Team FireNation11. Inside were five lanterns alit at the corners of the polygon shaped room. To the left was a wall of mailboxes, much like the one back at Team Beasties, and to the right was a help desk. Up ahead of them were the spiraling stairs leading downwards, with a Zangoose standing by the top step, seemingly having not noticed Brett or Claire. He leaned against the wall coolly. Beyond him, Brett briefly glimpsed the Charmeleon's head as he walked down the steps.
Upon noticing them, "Hello there," said the Zangoose with a sharp predatory smile. "What can I do for you two?"
"Really, it's what we can do for you," said Claire.
"We're here to help out with the base," Brett continued. "Is this place yours?"
"No," the Zangoose replied, shaking his head. "My name is Niboli. People call me Nub. I'm part of Team Never Look Back: that's N-V-R-L double zero K-B-A-K. I sent my partner, Dirt, to look for others to help Team Fire Nation."
"The Sandslash?" Brett asked.
"Correctemundo. I take it you guys are the response team?"
"We're just here to help," Claire said. "Just tell us what to do so we can rest and put this night behind us."
"You don't plan on logging off anytime soon?" Nub questioned.
"You must have not been outside for the last thirty minutes, then," Claire replied.
"A minor accident; don't see anything wrong with that."
"That was a minor accident to you? Alright, let me explain. What happened out there was not something like we've experienced. The shifting balance and headache were far too real, not to mention the water. Brett can vouch for me too. Everything is too real."
"Calm down, I see where you're coming from," nodded the Zangoose. "I know; just awhile ago, the team captain of Fire Nation was complaining about his ember stinging his tongue and teeth, as if he just downed hot sauce. Even when he was firing up the lanterns in this room, I too could feel the heat coming from him, especially when he passed with that flaming tail behind him. What's your point though?"
"Do we have to spell it out for you?" Brett stated. "We have to start thinking that maybe this problem will last longer than we think it will."
"All I'm trying to say is not to lose hope. This is just a game after all, and yeah, I think there's something wrong too, but it'll be fixed probably in the next hour, so no need to get worried about nothing." He yawned, then directed himself towards Claire. "So, if you're going to go help out, then go on through."
Claire walked past him. The stairs weren't a steep descent; she could easily trot down them with no trouble. But when she realized Brett wasn't following her, she turned back, wondering why. Brett was stopped by the Zangoose on the first steps.
"You should just stay up here," said Nub.
"Why?" Brett retorted.
"Because you're a bug type, and we got fire types down there lighting up everything. Even if you would be able to help with something, the chances of you getting burned are pretty high. It's a safety precaution."
Brett gritted his teeth. He tried to find something to counter the argument; something he could be helpful with. He didn't want to leave Claire.
He turned to his companion, and it was obvious from her expression that she too was looking for a way that he could go down as well. But it wasn't going to happen because of what he was.
Pouting, he turned and left. "I'll be outside."
Claire didn't try to stop him, and neither did Nub.
Outside, he waited in the darkness. Two more fire types came and went in. Of the ones that were not fire types, he told should leave because they weren't going to be allowed in. They didn't listen, of course, so he had the privilege of saying, "I told you so," as they came back out of the base. The two fire types that had gone in came out with the rest. Brett merely shrugged.
From his spot, he could oversee Nobaer Falls completely. There were less and less Pokémon at the center of town as the base near the river seemed to be the main attraction. He wondered who owned it, and what they were doing to attract a lot of attention.
Then closer to the darker side of the town, he could see a few Pokémon by the cave entrance next to the dojo.
Now why would there be a sudden interest over there? Brett thought.
He decided to fly to the spot. He was quick and swift, almost invisible in the darkness. He nearly tripped up over himself when he landed, and on the site, he found a crew setting up and getting ready to enter.
The five powered group turned, unfazed by Brett's arrival. Then they returned to their organizing.
"What's going on here?" Brett asked.
"A little exploring," said an Infernape, slinging a belt strap from a sleek and thinner items container than Brett's own over his shoulder. He had the appearance of the leader in the group.
"Scyther, we're doing our own thing over here. If you want to tag along, fine, but don't stop us."
His statement was nothing more than the definition of command, though he couldn't have been older than fifteen by his voice. He relayed some information to a Rampardos next to him, and then assessing individually to the Gabite, before speaking to the two Linoone.
"Wait," Brett cut in. He tried to stop himself, but it was already out, and the Infernape was already looking at him now. He had to move forward. Clearing his throat, he asked, "Can I join you?"
The group stopped what they were doing. None but the Linoones started immediately whispering amongst themselves. The Infernape turned back, and after receiving a shrug from the Gabite, he said, "Alright, join us if you want."
Though he didn't show it, inside Brett was jumping. Sitting outside of that shack made him feel like he was not really doing anything, so joining a group like this in a search seemed the most fulfilling job he's had all night.
"What's your name, Scyther?" the Infernape asked.
"Brett," he replied. "Brett Parker."
The first landing came to a relatively well lit split hallway, one going to her left and the other going to her right. In both halls were only three doors, making six rooms all together. Claire took a whiff, and her nose picked up the scent of the Charmeleon, though he was not on that floor. She could also pick up the scent of another Charmeleon, though this one, if she was not mistaken, was female.
Strolling through both halls and finding every room lit, she trotted for the stairs and continued downwards. The second down floor was only a straight hallway, with two doors facing each other and one at the very end. Claire had just caught the female Charmeleon in time as she noticed her closing the end hall door, satisfied with her handiwork of lighting the rooms.
"Hello?" Claire called.
The Charmeleon acknowledged her and grinned, dusting off her shoulder as she walked towards her. "I see we have someone else to join the party."
Her voice; it was choked and restrained, as if she had just escaped a coughing fit, or finished with a packet of cigarettes all on her own.
Claire cleared her head before continuing. "I'm here to light up the base, though to me it seems you have everything covered."
"Well, my brother and I had to cooperate more than we would have liked to," she said. "My name is Miranda." She reached out a clawed hand to Claire as she said this.
Not wanting to be rude, Claire let Miranda shake her paw, though she wound up coming off as rude anyway when she said, "Are you sick?" as her first words instead of introducing herself.
Miranda cocked her head to the side, puzzled. Claire had just understood how wrong she was, and corrected herself.
"I'm sorry—I—I didn't mean it like that," she fumbled, "it's just—I mean—," she paused. Then, she sighed. "My name is Claire. Sorry."
"Don't worry about that," Miranda laughed. "I understand. My throat hurts right now; I don't know why, but I feel like it's on fire."
Claire forced a laugh at the pun, but it hadn't come out right.
"Everyone's feeling a little unease here," Miranda continued. "For now, it's all about fixing up a room for some breathing."
Claire nodded understandingly. She looked back towards the remainder of the way down. "Should we go on now?" she asked.
"Of course," said Miranda. "Follow me."
Down the spiral stairs led to a very dark chamber lit only by the stairway light. Two other sources were from the hall towards the left of the stairs, which its lanterns were already alight. At the entrance of the halls were a Magmar and Quilava, talking amongst themselves. At the very center of the room stood the Charmeleon, as indicated by the light on his tail.
He was breathing heavily. In a quick steady breath, he shot out flames towards the ceiling, though they failed to reach the chandelier up top.
Acknowledging the two newcomers, the Charmeleon grunted as they stood by the stairs, sizing both up.
"Late to the party, as usual," muttered the Charmeleon. He too was losing his voice.
"Your brother?" Claire whispered.
"Yes," Miranda replied, and then to her sibling, "Why do you always have to be such a downer, Ray?"
"I am not," Ray stated firmly.
It was at this moment when the Quilava found it right to scamper, quick with his speed and jump at the Charmeleon, cursing at the force of the sudden attack. The Quilava used the momentum and climbed to his head, and pushed against the cranium, seconds away from being swiped by the fire type. Towards the ceiling he had jumped, and let loose a flame thrower upon the chandelier, sadly only lighting one candle. Yet, it made him happy, and he laughed at his little success until he landed with his back upon a fresh wooden table, collapsing it.
"Damn it!"Ray shouted, already stomping towards the little stoat. He proved that there was a way for one person get even redder in the face as he clenched his teeth and blew his top off. "What the hell were you thinking!"
The Quilava stopped giggling and said nothing, his jaw agape, surprised and suddenly scared of the intensity in the fire type's voice.
"Look at this!" he exclaimed, referring to the splintered woodpile surrounding him. "Who knows when we'll get another one! All for what, so you could attempt to turn a light on? You better be ready to—,"
Miranda came to shove, and literally pushed Ray to the side. When they looked to each other, they each had the same level of heat leaving their bodies.
"And just what is your problem?" Miranda interjected.
"My problem?!" Ray shouted. "Like I had ANYTHING to do with this!"
"Are you stupid or something? Look at who you're screaming at; he's obviously a little kid, you asshole!"
"Don't call me an asshole in front of the children, bitch!"
Then they were upon the floor wrestling against each other. It had not taken much for their temper to rise in them. Now Claire understood why they were both the same Pokémon. The game was never wrong in deciding the personalities of the players, but then it brought to light a new situation, and made her wonder what would eventually happen to the Quilava kid? As she looked upon him now, his dazed and expression of relief dazzled her. Should he not be more charged, or more closely...self-centered?
Then again, maybe she was attributing his personality only to the one other player of the same evolution line who she hated, J.J.
The Magmar was already beside the Quilava, in which he carried him and walked away from the continued pair of fighters, who were not giving up their match. Since the situation between brother and sister sibling was out of her reach, she turned heel and trotted towards the Magmar.
"Don't worry about none O' that," said the Magmar, once they were in last hall of the underground base. "They always that way to most friends too."
"Are you in their team?" Claire asked.
"No," the Magmar replied as they entered a team member room. It was a small room, with two straw beds at the ends and nothing more. "They okay, for training, but most of the time, they don't get stuff done."
"Why do they have to be so mean?" the Quilava cried, not willing to remain resting on the bed.
"It's only their temper," Claire said to herself, as if just realizing it.
"You got that right," The Magmar nodded. "I don't think we've done ourselves in yet. The name's Bobby." he extended a hand to reach for her paw.
Not wanting to repeat the rudeness of the previous introduction with Miranda, Claire extended her paw for him to shake. "My name is Claire." His clawed touch was very warm, and burned her slightly, though she hid the sting from her expression.
"I'm Kevin," the Quilava interjected.
Once the three were on a first name basis, they were able to speak more comfortably with one another. As it turned out, Bobby, a fifteen year old in real life, had at one time been a member of Team Fire Nation Eleven, but had quit on his own merits because of the brother and sister bickering which apparently still lingered on the team. Kevin was from his own team, Team Stryker, worded Stry-ker, and had no other team members. Claire and Bobby were surprised to hear Kevin's tale of his solo journey, but as soon as he begun his yarn their thoughts filled with doubt, because according to the young Pokémon, he's been playing the game for over four years, meaning he would have had to been six when he begun playing, and the minimum age for playing was ten. He also happened to be ten years old.
As soon as their conversations died down, the two Charmeleon entered the room, Ray scratching the back of his neck and walking with an obvious limp and Miranda following behind him, with noticable bruises below her eye and on her arm. Ray licked his chops, clearing away some of the blood slipping out of his lip and spoke more gently to the three.
"Sorry for—what just happened," he coughed. As he spoke Claire noticed his teeth, much more sharp and blood stained as well. She turned to Miranda and took note of the bite marks on her neck and arm, and felt a sudden chill.
"Are you two okay?" Claire asked.
The siblings only returned one glance towards each other, before turning away that very same split second.
"Fine," Ray replied for the both of them.
"But you really don't look good," Bobby continued for Claire. "This doesn't seem like the fighting I remember you getting into a lot."
"We're fine," Ray repeated, though his expression showed otherwise.
"We have another problem to solve anyway," Miranda said. "Since Ray made a deal with that Nob guy, we don't have anyone to light the main chandelier on this floor." Ray rolled his eyes at Miranda's accusation. "We need a flying type to carry one of us, most likely Kevin, up there."
And then the answer of who that flying type clicked in the Growlithe's mind. Who else but Brett could pull it off? He had proven before that he could carry considerable weight, her own to be exact, and Kevin couldn't be any heavier than herself. He was the perfect choice.
"I know who we can get," Claire responded.
"Who?" Ray asked.
"My partner. He's outside waiting on me."
"What is he?"
She told him, and he contemplated. "He's carried me before; it doesn't hurt."
He was still skeptic, but the choice wasn't left for himself to answer.
"Go get him," said Miranda. Ray gave her a stern stare, obviously not approving, but whether Miranda saw or cared did not show.
Claire nodded, and without further approval from the other Charmeleon, she trotted off on her own. She smiled as she made her way up the stairs, remembering to savor the expressions on both Brett when she brought him and Nub when she told him.
The Infernape's name was Martin. He introduced Brett to Carlos the Rampados first, since they were from the same team, and then brought him to Dante the Gabite whom was, according to Martin's word, his first best friend in the gaming world. The two Linoones were twins, the only difference being one having their eyes blue and the other brown, and took aliases in the game from their previous evolved forms as Ziggy and Zigza.
"Have you two ever thought of changing your names again to, you know, make sense with your new form?" Brett asked the Linoones.
They laughed. Ziggy, the blue eyed Linoone, replied, "Yeah, once, but why change who you are, huh?"
Quickly, Martin got the attention of the group. "Alright, let's stick together now. To tell you guys the truth, I have no idea what we are looking for, but since we're stuck here for who knows how long anyway, we might as well get some exploration done."
Once given the approval of the group, he made one final checklist, to which Brett checked his own items. He did not have much other than than a few berries, two orbs (luminous and totter orbs) and a stealth scarf.
He felt at first that he had everything he needed, but upon seeing the items that the others had, he realized how heavily under prepared he really was.
Martin the Infernape wore lock-on goggles, which would give him more accuracy to attack enemies, and had a sneak scarf twirled around his neck. While those were the only two he wore, he had plenty more in his items container.
Carlos was ready with a trap scarf fashioned and holding onto an invisify orb, also one of the many chosen from his bag of tricks.
Dante did not use a scarf, but did use x-ray specs to find and pick up items along the way.
The twins both wore scope lens, and had the Tight Belts wrapped around their waists. Hanging from their necks were sitrus berries, so they can easily find a source of health when needed, and though their containers were small, they, as well, had more items than Brett did.
Brett asked Martin if he could borrow or trade for a better orb or throwing attack item, but he denied him.
"Sorry, but I've got to save what I have," he said. "Don't worry about it; we'll find something in there you could pick up."
As reassuring as he sounded, Brett felt confused; cheated, but knew it was his own fault.
"You don't look under prepared," said Ziggy, coming up close to examine him. "I mean, you are the only one here with permanent Katanas anyway."
That comment was a better reassurance than Martin's.
The group picked up their gear and headed off into the cave, with Martin in the lead. There was no light, but the problem was resolved when Martin picked up a stick from the ground and lit the tip by swiping it over his head.
The tunnel did lead into a dungeon, but it was not like any dungeon the group had seen before. This dungeon was jagged with sharp rocks on the walls and ground, making the path dangerous. It also did not seem to have a floor system. When their tunnel would end and lead them into another room, it was uneven, and there were tunnels going straight up or down, or diagonal and straight.
Martin marked the entrance tunnel with a burn and then addressed the group.
"Okay, this doesn't seem to be like any other dungeon we've been through before," he said. "We're going to have to go about this one very differently, since we don't know where it goes or where to go." He paused. "Zigza, you're staying behind."
"What?" Zigza protested.
"You have to," Martin continued. He pulled an orb from his container and put it in Zigza's paws. "This is a Call Back orb. Give us from thirty minutes to an hour before using it, and it will, no matter where we are, bring us back together." He then said to the team as a whole, "We're splitting up. Find out as much about this cave as possible."
When their break was settled, Martin jumped and used as much rock climbing skill as he could muster to climb up the ceiling tunnel, while Carlos, Dante, and Ziggy chose from the four diagonal tunnels. Brett fluttered down the 90 degree drop until he reached a surface with two paths to take.
So far so good, Brett thought to himself. No monsters out of the dark yet.
He took the path to his left, which twisted slightly downward. It was a very narrow tunnel, and he had to duck several times to squeeze through.
He wound up in a large chamber, but there were still more paths to choose from. He decided to continue going down, since he figured that was what would get him somewhere.
But the tunnel twisted all the way back to the same chamber, further frustrating Brett. The strange part was when he decided to take the diagonal path going up, only to have it twist back down and go in another direction entirely. It was a much roomier path and gave him good space to breath and walk properly.
Once again he was met with a twisted chamber, but did not let that bother him again. He chose another path and was on his way.
This continued for the next twenty minutes, and while he was beginning to get a good understanding on how the dungeon was mapped out, he still had a nagging question at the back of his mind, that while he appreciated, was still puzzling.
Where were all the Pokémon?
"And you didn't see where he went?" Claire demanded.
"Why should I even care? Ah!" yelped Nub.
Claire had been civil at first. She asked the Zangoose where her partner had gone off to when she realized he was not outside, but all she was getting from the big walking cat were excuses to not give her a direction. 'it's not my responsibility,' or 'does it even matter?', and now, 'Why should I care?'
Since that last one, she decided her friendly nature had to be overwritten for just a second, and she jumped on him. She had her paws down on his arms, and her teeth were bared and growling.
"Well what am I supposed to say?" Nub countered, "He left down the path and didn't come back!"
Once given a direction, she calmed her mind, and backed off. The wild side was coming out, and though she never gave into her impulses, at that time she wasn't feeling that a cooperative solution was the right one.
She left Nub on the floor, and left the base entirely to search the town.
She asked several of the Pokémon around town if they had seen a Scyther, but none of them could give her a definite answer. Then finally, she came across a Sneasel with a red scarf, the very same that made the crash landing with the boat.
"I saw a Scyther," he said. "I was looking around the training dojo when I stepped out and saw a group heading into the tunnels over there. The Scyther was one of them."
"Are you sure?"
"My eyes can see everything. Trust me, I'm sure."
"Thanks," she said, and was ready to trot off, but then felt something eerie. She turned and saw the Sneasel still looking at her, with a slight smirk. "What?" she called back.
"Nothing," he replied. "I just—nothing." Then he walked away into the crowd of Pokémon.
It hadn't gotten to her until just then, but she was beginning to realize something. The Sneasel—somehow, though she had never met him before—felt familiar.
She trotted with a certain quickness, not fast, but fast paced. The tunnel in appearance was very dark, but when she descended, she could better see the path ahead. Yet, she had to be more careful the more she traversed. The ground wasn't meant for dogs to easily walk, and the rocky surface made her wince in the sting they supplied her.
But eventually, she found a Linoone, curled up in a sleeping position and at ease. She trotted up to him, studying the Pokémon. He certainly wasn't wild, and she knew so because of his gear.
The Linoone opened only one eyelid and looked directly into Claire. Before Claire could get a word out, she was attacked.
The Linoone swiped at her face and climbed on her back, causing her to fall to her side in pain.
"St—stop," Claire cried.
The Linoone cut deep on her stomach and neck and then clawed on her face once he had her down, punching and clawing with his paws and giving no mercy. Left, right, left, right, he attacked with the furiousness of a wild Pokémon, but as calculated as a human player, not letting Claire let out a word.
In response, after taking so many hits and feeling beyond weakness, Claire bit the Linoone's right arm and then rolled him over. Once she had him on the ground she let loose a flamethrower and burned everywhere above his belt. The screams he emitted throughout the tunnel were immense, and was the only thing that made her stop her attack.
Claire rolled to her side, and remained there. Tears were in her eyes. Her body hurt everwhere, and she could see heavy red blood on her snout from the wounds he had given to her head. The Linoone was writhing in pain and crying out for help, his fur charred.
She couldn't think. Her mind was racing, and she was bleeding, from her sides which the Linoone gashed and all over her neck and head.
This isn't real, she told herself. This can't be real; it shouldn't hurt so much...
"Please," Claire tried to say. She spat blood with her words. "Don't attack...I'm human...I'm real..."
And the words struck her. I'm real...we're all real...
Brett was finally lost.
He couldn't make sense of the maze he had gotten himself into. At first, he thought he was mapping things out correctly in his mind, but when he tried to retrace his steps, the rooms were unfamiliar. He thought he could find himself again, but each turn he made led to a dead end or the same room. Then when he tried remapping the place in his mind, he found all the tunnels leading in circles, back to the main room he kept getting stuck in.
But he told himself that he wouldn't be lost for long. Zigza had to call him back some time. He would be warped out of the maze along with the others in no time. He was beginning to think it was only a matter of time since he'd been searching for well over an hour.
Time slipped, and the more time passed, the more anxious Brett got. He began to panic.
What if the Call Back orb doesn't work here? He thought. What if it only works for Ziggy and Zigza, since they're on the same team and the others are not?
Yet Brett remained calm and collected. He wasn't going to let the dungeon beat him.
But then another problem came. He was getting hungry. He needed to find something to eat, and so far, had found nothing.
He reached another dead end. Angry with himself, he swiped at the rocks with both scythes, wanting to get out as soon as possible.
He stopped after the first paired strike and listened. He swiped again, and found a strange noise when he did so. The rocks sounded metallic. He did the same with the rocky hall he had come from, but found no similar sounds. It was only to the dead end he had found.
He knew then that there was something wrong with that dead end. He sat there, thinking about it.
A flash of light from within himself shined bright. He was transported out of the dead end without even a thought about it.
Zigza had crawled to his items container. He knew now that Claire wasn't a wild Pokémon. He regretted his decision to attack without question not just for his pain, but for hers as well. She couldn't stand, and it was his fault she was on the floor in as much pain as he was.
He called back the others.
They were all there within a split second after the call back.
"What took so damn long?!" Martin shouted, but then calmed quickly when he saw the scene.
"Zigza!" Ziggy cried, running to his brother. "What happened? Are you alright?"
"The—girl—," Zigza muttered.
Brett only then noticed Claire, on her side, blood matted. Already a pool of blood had begun to form below her. The sight was terrible to watch, but it only brought him closer to her.
"What happened?!" Brett shouted. He rushed to her side. "Claire, can you walk? What happened here?"
Trying to speak she winced at the pain of the words, and more tears mixed with the blood. "Accident...it was an accident..."
Zigza spoke up, Dante and Ziggy at his side. "I thought she was wild...I'm sorry..."
Martin pulled out two berries from his items container. "Brett," he called, and tossed a sitrus berry to him, which landed nearby Claire. "Ziggy," he tossed a rawst berry to him. "We need to get these two out of here right now. Dante, you take Zigza. Be careful with him. I'll take the Growlithe. Carlos! Carlos?"
Carlos was behind everyone and hadn't moved. Not until his name was called twice, and he only winced. After a few seconds, he turned and looked over the group. He had a different kind of look in his eyes. He was haunched more like the dinosaur he was supposed to look like, and not given much thought, roared at the group.
Martin was the closest. He head butted him and pinned him against the wall. Once he had him, he bit with a harsh crunch on Martin's neck.
Everyone with the exception of the downed Pokémon were on their guard. Martin was punched fiercely and thrown across the room screaming. His scarf was removed, now in the teeth of his attacker.
Just as Carlos was going to attack again, Brett and Dante intervened and fought back. Brett sliced vigorously, pushing him back. He gave him a nasty gash around the stomach, but it didn't seem to affect him. Dante slashed equally as powerful as Brett, but wasn't able to completely stop his charge.
Carlos instead aimed at Brett and cut through the hard shell of skin he had. Brett didn't feel it right away, but it came slowly and forced him to collapse on his knees, rubbing his shoulder with the hilt of his blade. Dante continued to slash and dodge all counter attacks expertly.
"Back off!" Martin shouted to Dante, and with that being his only warning, he flamed up and blasted the ground in front of Carlos, creating an infernal between the beast and the players.
The wild eyes remained on the Rampardos, but he stopped his charge. He was blood stained all over his maw from the bite he had given Martin, and the slashes across his stomach and back were thick.
The beast retreated, going into the tunnels and disappearing from sight.
Everyone was left speechless. There was nothing left to be said. Aside from the bright flames created by Martin, everyone truly believed they were left in the darkness.
Morning had come. The sun was rising from the other side of the cave town, so they couldn't see it, but they saw the rays land in the forest outside. The story of what happened that night spread like wildfire. All of a sudden, the Pokémon players of the island were edgy. The cave was sealed off; rock types collapsed it.
Claire and Zigza were being taken care of, as well as Brett and Martin. But that morning, nothing felt right.
Still, no one could log off successfully. What a few thought was a minor inconvenience turned into a problem with a question no one could answer.
Were they truly alone, on their own with only the wits and instincts of the animals they were not biologically born as to sustain themselves?