Variations

(A sequel to Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness)

This story is copyrighted by the author. No duplication or reposting is permitted without express consent from the author. Pokémon and Pokémon characters are a trademark of Nintendo. All other characters, characterizations and the story plot are entirely of the author's creation, and any resemblance to any people living or dead is entirely coincidental.


[Skip down for the start of Chapter 1]

Foreword

"Pokémon? What's that?"

For those who are curious how this story came about…

How I got into Pokémon was truly a one-in-a-million chance. I didn't really use to pay the franchise much heed, considering basically "kid's stuff" that I wasn't too interested in. Then a couple years ago I was hiking with a friend in a park. On one of the deeper trails I spotted what I thought at first were some memory cards on the ground and thought "Oh, who dropped those?" Having a digital camera, I thought I might be able to use them since there was virtually no chance of finding the owner. Instead, I was somewhat dismayed on discovering they were games for the Nintendo DS, one of which being Pokémon Mystery Dungeon (Blue).

Ack! Useless!

Oh well.

Yet I picked them up rather than leave them (literally) in the middle of the woods.

As it happened, I ended up buying a DS for a different game not long after; still, the Pokémon game sat by the side for some time with little hope of ever making it into the card slot. So it looked to stay…

One night in the dead of winter I got pretty bored, and seeing the Pokémon card staring at me from the table, finally decided to at least give it a look and maybe find out just what this "Pokémon" stuff was about.

With low expectations and having no idea what I was about to unleash, I went through the setup, was matched up with a character, and plunged in. I had to admit the prospect of being turned into something non-human was a good hook, and getting further into the story I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Hey, this isn't so bad, I thought. Indeed, it was the first DS game I played that I didn't tire of within the first few days. The ending - as most who played it have noted - was hard to take in a sad, but good way.

When the next Mystery Dungeon game came out earlier this year (2008, for those of us in the United States), I didn't debate at all whether to pick it up. If it was going to be even half as good as the original, it'd be worth it. With high expectations, I became a mudkip and choose a chimchar as my partner, and away we went in solving the mystery of just what the heck was going wrong in the world.

To sum it up, Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness exceeded my highest expectations. The storyline was first-rate, keeping me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. And the ending, after saving Temporal Tower from collapse… Well, I was eyeing the tissue box on the table next to me. Without a doubt, it was the saddest ending I had ever seen in either a game or a book or a movie. Powerfully emotional stuff.

Wow, this was a kid's game?

At that point, I was fairly convinced it could have stood up to many other stories as good adult reading.

As in the original game, things were made right after the credits and the second story was quite welcomed, but that was only delaying the inevitable; the end did finally come. Even though Nintendo is currently putting out a steady stream of additional missions, they are just that: missions, with no extension to the story line.

To be frank, it was hard to say goodbye. Together with my partner, we'd been through a lot and many of the characters become almost as real as those of real people, which is another sign of a good story. With many ideas swirling around in my head about a new plot, about a month after completing the game I came to a decision: I was not yet ready to say goodbye. No, I was going to continue the story and see what happened.

I didn't make this decision lightly: Over the years I have written numerous other stories, a couple even being posted on the internet as a series over the course of a year and a half. I well knew the time commitment such an undertaking would require. Yet, in less than five months I managed to whip out over two hundred fifty pages of a first draft, a definite record for me!

Other then finishing at least one draft, I set some other goals for this story.

For one, I wanted to make things "slightly" more realistic. I say slightly, because I didn't intend to modify the Pokémon universe in any major way, but some things clearly had to change. First up was character appearances. I hate to say it, but flames constantly burning from one's body, such as an infernape's "mane", didn't strike me as very probable. Fortunately that was an easy, minor change (hair instead of flames) and one I thought worked rather well.

A more difficult challenge was Pokémon attacks. Some of them just aren't (scientifically) possible. One example is the water gun attack: just where does all that water come from? So I limited attacks to those where I could image a even slightly reasonable explanation could be had.

Another goal was to provide answers to a few lingering questions from the game's storyline. In fact, these provided the opening for this story. The first, I guess most obvious one, is just how did you and Grovyle travel to the Pokémon world? Closely related to that is where is this Pokémon world? Although as far as I know (and I don't pretend to know everything Pokémon), it wasn't explicitly stated anywhere where this Pokémon world or what it's relation to the human world (Earth) is, so I believe it's a reasonable assumption the Pokémon world is a different planet. The ending to the first Mystery Dungeon provided a pretty solid clue, where you are apparently traveling through space back to your own world. (Whether this Pokémon world is the same one as in the previous game is another question entirely.)

Back to the first question: How did you get there? In the television series, there was no real (realistic) evidence humans had space travel advanced enough to even journey to the nearest planets. In this story, I provide my own explanation how such travel was accomplished and the numerous ramifications from it.

Yet another question is who were you as a human, which I'll give my version of the answer to.

A third goal was to stay as canon with the game and television series as possible (excepting the changes I already noted above). At this point I should reiterate that I'm not a Pokémon expert, and I'm sure there is an inconsistency or two somewhere, some intentional. [One I know of is that a swampert is not supposed to be susceptible to electric attacks. However, by the time I found that out it was way too late to change things. Besides, realistically, just about any living thing is going to be affected by a direct hit from a bolt of electricity. I'm just saying by being a (partial) water type, a swampert is going to feel it no matter what. ]

Since in the game I evolved my character and partner, the two central characters in this story are a swampert and infernape. It goes without saying most readers who played the game will have had different characters, which probably will make this story more meaningful for some, but not others. Although I wish I could substitute other Pokémon in for the main characters to match whoever each reader played, that just wasn't possible. I still hope you'll find this story enjoyable.

Finally, looking to the future and perhaps dreaming a little (OK, maybe a lot), if anyone from the Pokémon franchise is reading this (especially anyone who is involved with the production of the series and movies), I certainly wouldn't mind seeing the Mystery Dungeon game (and, if I could be so bold, this story too) made into a television series or a movie. If I could go even further (since wishing costs nothing), I'd imagine this story being made into a live-action movie. I'd certainly be more than willing to talk to a producer about it!

Feel free to shoot me a PM through the FanFiction site anytime.


Chapter 1: A Meeting

Leo didn't know the place. It was terribly dark with few visual clues, but the trees rustling around him placed him in a forest. Other than the slight wind, it felt…wrong, like he wasn't supposed to be there. He also sensed someone else with him, confirmed when a smooth, slightly sticky hand grasped him gently on the arm. Instantly, he could tell his partner didn't like this place any more than he did and was just as tense.

His partner…in the darkness, he couldn't see him clearly, though he was right next to him.

Movement…a moan and a thud. He felt his partner's grasp release, but before he could do anything, a sharp pain came to the back of his head; he met the ground hard.

"Leo. Leo!"

He moaned, trying to move as a barely discernable face appeared over him, light from somewhere illuminating it. A human face… It was smiling, not kindly.

"Leo. Get up!"

How could he? Consciousness was fading…

"Come on, Leo. It's morning. Time to get up. We have things to do!"

Actually, he discovered he could move. And it was suddenly bright; too darned bright. Moving to cover his eyes with his blue skinned arm, he moaned, this time for real. Ugh…another dream…

"Wow, Leo. When you sleep, you really sleep." Blaze, his long-time partner and closest friend, was smiling as well as a red-faced infernape could, which was to say quite well.

"Uh, sorry," Leo replied, getting himself up with considerable effort from his bed of soft straw. A human face… Even as he tried to remember what it looked like, the image was fading from his memory. Darn.

While Blaze was busying himself in bringing out berries from the hard clay pots that represented their food stores, he sluggishly tromped to the small pool at one end of their abode. The shallow basin held a constant supply of fresh water, fed by a small spring in the side of the cliff, which was possible since their home was cut into the very side of the cliff that Treasure Town was located on, though still a short distance from it. It was the perfect home, never too hot or too cool, and the view of the sea below them was breath-taking.

The cool water in the basin didn't just help wake him up, it also just plain felt good on his skin. As a swampert, water was especially good for him, helping moisturize a skin that didn't always see as much moisture as it preferred. Such was the consequence of being a member of an explorer team, he briefly lamented. But really, he wouldn't have it any other way.

Leo finished by plunging his head further into the bowl, getting water up around his two head fins and using his fingers to splash the water around them, paying special attention to the sensitive skin stretched between the spines, before heading over the breakfast plate Blaze had prepared.

The morning meal was the usual quick affair, with the handfuls of berries and an apple downed in a mere moment. Unlike dinners, breakfasts and any meals in between were purely utilitarian. You ate because you had to. Dinners though, were more like social events and even now after having been graduated from the guild for well over a year, he and Blaze still occasionally showed up there to eat with their old friends.

This morning however, they had a different, much more common reason for going there.

The short walk to Treasure Town was as nice as any morning as of late; the grass was still sparkling with the drying dew, gentle winds were beginning to stir and rustle the leaves of trees that lined the path, the feel of the warming earth of the path on his feet was perfect. Yet…Leo found his mind wondering back to his dream, and it was with a start he found Blaze waving his purple fingers in front of his face.

"Another dream?" Blaze asked in the tone that he already knew the answer.

Of course, he had told his partner on other mornings when he had gotten one of these dreams that left him wondering. And as usual, he remembered little other than: "There was a human in it again. But this time, I saw a face. I just can't remember it though." He sighed, Blaze returning a gaze of curiosity and worry… No, mild concern, in his expression.

"Last dream you had like that was a week ago. But they're getting more frequent?"

Leo had to nod. "I was in a dark place with someone else…a Pokémon, I think. But there was also a human again. He…she, I don't remember, was right over me." The more he tried to remember, the more confused he felt.

"Did you recognize it?"

"Can't remember." He felt frustration as a result.

They fell silent as they approached town until Blaze spoke again, "Would be hard to believe Darkrai could be using his powers again and invading your dreams. Last we heard, his memory was still gone."

"Dunno, Blaze. This feels…different. Not like when he was actually in our dreams."

"Like how?"

"Just…" It was hard to put into words, exactly; he ended up shrugging. "Dunno. It just feels different, not like someone is actually in there with me or anything."

Blaze gave a wave and greeting as they walked past Kangaskhan and her warehouse. Now caring for her own infant, she was a bit more busy now than she used to be, but still returned a wave even as she was stooping over some kind of pot with something cooking in it. It smelled good…

All the other shops were in good order as usual and likewise, a couple other exploration teams were in town, either resupplying or trying to gather the next great hot tip on where to find some long-buried treasure.

"Sorry, don't know," Leo replied with a shrug as a nidoking came up to them, asking about where to find some type of special crystal before waving off a unfamiliar delibird peddling some "special" herbs.

But it wasn't as busy as it used to be. Since he and Blaze together saved the planet twice and defeated the plans of Darkrai to plunge it into eternal darkness, there just hadn't been all that many places to explore or great adventures to embark on.

Over a year of peace and tranquility… And most of what could be explored had been, with he and Blaze having done a lot of it, though mostly out of necessity. Indeed, even though there were other exploration teams with more experience, absolutely none had even close to their accomplishments. If they were human, they'd have a dozen medals pinned to their chests on some decorative uniform…

…!

Leo checked himself. Medals pinned to a chest? How would he know that about humans? Though he had been human at one time, the erasure of his memory was still quite complete, save for his name. So…was it really a memory, some buried knowledge he still had, or did he just make that up? It felt logical, though. Humans, he was told, wore clothes, so why wouldn't they pin medals to them?

Oddly, it wasn't the first time he felt as if he remembered something, or at least had some buried knowledge of the human world come back. In fact lately, it was almost every day, but all incidental stuff. Nothing that really mattered. Just very minor bits. Certainly he remembered nothing about himself.

Could it all be connected to his dreams?

Leo gave a wave to the bank, not sure if Duskull saw him or not.

"Wonder if they'll be any interesting criminals to catch today?" Blaze wondered aloud. "Seems fewer and fewer as time goes on."

"There are fewer," his partner's sentiments echoing his own earlier thoughts about new places to explore running out.

Outside town once again, Wigglytuff's guild appeared on the hill before them, and they waited patiently while Diglet identified and greeted them by name. Having been over the entrance grill so many times, the little groundling had no trouble recognizing them by footprint, and once inside, said their normal hellos to the various guild recruits they saw on the way to the job boards. It seemed so long ago when they were a mere chimchar and mudkip walking in for the first time, looking to become members of the guild (and to get some answers). A lot sure had happened in those three years since!

Their first stop, as always, was that of the wanted criminals. The gradual reduction in crime was both good and bad. Obviously, it was good to have less crime. On the other hand, it meant less available work.

"Ugh, only one new job since last week!" Blaze lamented.

Leo unpinned the paper with his three-fingered hand to have a closer look. "It's on the other side of the continent."

"Ha ha, by the time the job is posted here, every other team out there has already left in pursuit. Jobs from that side always get here last."

"I feel sorry for the criminal." Blaze was certainly right and Leo pinned the paper back before they went to the other board. Although it had jobs not anywhere close to exciting as the one with criminals, there were at least several more jobs posted. Yet very few held much promise.

"Could escort a bulbasaur," Blaze said with little enthusiasm, reading one.

"Or find a lost heirloom staff," Leo read from another. Looking over the others, none were really jumping out at him as anything different.

In a more-or-less bored sounding voice, "Maybe we should just pick a point on the map we haven't been to before and go," Blaze suggested.

Leo frowned, "Not many of those left."

"Always the other side of the planet," Blaze said. "Need a boat, though."

As if those were easy to get! "Suppose we could find Lapras and ask her to ferry us," he suggested after a sigh, though he was only being half serious. An undertaking as large as going across one of the vast outlying seas was a huge commitment, one that he wasn't so sure about.

"Hey, Blaze, Leo!"

Turning around with his partner at the more-than-familiar voice, "Hi Loudred," he greeted in unison with Blaze, covering his ears from the excessive volume that was Loudred's trademark.

"Guess what?"

"What?" Blaze asked in a clearly hopeful tone.

Leo was also hopeful that maybe their old friend had some exciting news to share.

"I'm going to be taking the graduation examine this year!"

Alright, not quite the news he had been hoping for, but on the other hand he felt suddenly happy for the blue big-mouth Pokémon, smile crossing his face. "Really? That's great! Second time around, you'll pass for sure!" trying to give their former fellow guild recruit some confidence.

Loudred licked his lips and wiped a big hand over one of his equally big ears for a moment. Then after looking around as if making sure no one was near, leaned closer. In one of the quietest voices he had ever spoken with: "Just between us, I'm glad you guys already graduated. They'd be no way I could graduate with you two as one of the Grand Master's henchmen."

"Mr. Loudred!"

Loudred visibly jumped at the only somewhat louder voice behind him, swinging around nearly as fast. The small colorful bird that was the owner of the voice didn't lose a beat though, as he flew down from the upper level to land before him: "Shouldn't you be down below, supervising Diglet?"

"Sorry Chatot," I just wanted to give the good news to Blaze and Leo."

"Right. But it will be bad news if you don't continue your duties for this morning. And you need to train this afternoon. The Grand Master, as you already know, isn't easy to get past."

"Same old Chatot," Blaze whispered.

Leo grinned. Wigglytuff's second was as much a sergeant as ever.

Loudred was off to the lower level in short order, leaving Chatot standing in front of them, clearly with some business yet. "Good morning, Blaze, Leo. I was actually looking for you, but I see you're already here."

"Oh?" Leo said, crossing his thick blue arms across his white chest, suddenly curious.

Chatot walked to stand almost directly underneath them, yet looked nearly straight upward with ease. "Yes, Wigglytuff asked me to bring you to the beach as soon as I found you. Something's up."

"Something?" Blaze asked, raising his eyebrows and making the white hair on his forehead stand up a little.

"Yes." In a little lower voice: "Dialga's here…"

Leo nearly coughed, "Dialga?"

"And another," the small multi-colored bird said with a flap of his wings that spoke of unease.


"Dialga, he is still a member of your team, is he not?" Chatot asked once they got outside on the path to the beach.

Blaze answered affirmative. "But about a year since we've seen him. He needed to go back to Temporal Tower to oversee final repairs and to attend to other matters, he said. I didn't think we would see him again."

Leo noticed the red and yellow hair that formed the long mane from the top of his partner's head seemed to puff a little, and he knew Blaze still harbored just a slight amount of resentment at the way Dialga had left them. Leo forgave him on the spot, but the annoyed tone Dialga had exhibited toward them still bothered Blaze, he figured.

"Hm. Still, quite an accomplishment to have an ancient deity walk with you, even if only for a few times. I only met him once before this morning, you know. 'Being an honor' doesn't begin to describe it."

"Too bad you haven't met Palkia yet," Leo teased.

"Yes, I heard you have him on your team too," Chatot said with a flutter of his wings, bringing the wingtips close together as if rapping the ends of fingers together. "If I ever get the chance to met him too, I surely don't know what else I could hope for in my life."

Leo couldn't help but feel proud. They had to be the only Pokémon in existence ever who had the privilege of not just seeing, but working with the two very powerful and deity-like beings. "Well, Palkia disappeared too a while ago," he finally admitted. "I think like Dialga, he needed to attend to important matters." Then sighing, "Going on explorations and catching criminals just doesn't compare in importance to holding time and space together, I guess."

"That's probably quite true," Chatot said, now more serious. "Since the incident with the near collapse of Temporal Tower and the almost breakdown of space, I'm sure both of them are keeping a much closer eye on things from now on. I know I would be. Not that I presume to know much about it, of course! Which makes me doubly curious what brings Dialga here this morning, and what he wants with you two."

"And Wigglytuff," Leo furthered. After all, if Dialga wanted to see just Blaze and himself, he certainly could have "popped" himself in without much trouble.

"Who is this other you mentioned?" Blaze asked, hopping over a small depression in the bare earth path like only a monkey could do and leaving a nice-size imprint in the still barely moist dirt.

"I've never seen her type before, but she seemed important. She also looked quite…serious. Not sure if even Wigglytuff knew her. He sent me to find you before I could ask for a name."

The beach stretched out before them as they strode down the path to near the ocean. Sure enough, not far away were three Pokémon. The first, towering over the other two, was none other than Dialga himself. Even in the shade of the cliff, the brilliance of his deep blue and sliver scales far outshone Leo's own pale-blue swampert skin. Next was Wigglytuff, the often playful pink and white Pokémon whose often cavalier and unserious attitude belied his great intelligence and knowledge. The last one…

He had to look carefully; it was small, light green, and floating in mid-air… At once, he took in a sharp breath at the same moment as Blaze.

"Is…that…"

"Can't be," Leo replied, knowing full well what his partner was thinking. "She was supposed to have been erased from existence like me and Grovyle!"

Chatot fluttered himself up in front of them. "Erased? You mean you know her?"

"We've met…I think," Leo replied, still stunned. Did Dialga bring her back, like he did for himself?

The three Pokémon seemed to notice their presence and Wigglytuff motioned them to hurry up, to which Leo and Blaze complied though the loose sand made running just a little difficult.

Dialga spoke first, in his deep, semi-raspy voice: "Leo, Blaze, it is good to see the two of you again. I see you've both evolved since I last saw you."

Leo gave a nod and a broad smile, noting Blaze barely giving any sign of greeting. "Good to see you too. And Palkia finally helped us to evolve. I do like walking on two legs instead of four much better," eliciting a small amount of chuckling around. Not that his days as a mudkip were bad, but not having use of full-time hands… "How's the repairs to the tower going?"

"They are complete, as are all vestiges of the damage to time from the event are also healed."

"Very glad to hear that." Truly, he was, but his eyes were for the moment on the smallest Pokémon in front of them. "Celebi. It's…good to see you too again."

The floating Pokémon widened her eyes just a bit. In a gentle voice that he almost couldn't hear above the roar of the surf, "I'm sorry, but I don't think we've met, though I have heard much about you two and what you did."

Blaze's face mirrored his own puzzlement.

"You know her, but she doesn't know you," Wigglytuff virtually sang out in his near sing-song voice.

From his expression, Chatot appeared to be the only one more confused then either he or Blaze.

"Maybe I should start explaining now," Dialga said with a cursory glance to both Wigglytuff and Celebi. Focusing down on both Leo and Blaze: "Before I tell you what's taking place, you first need to understand two concepts. The first is, even though the future had changed when you prevented Temporal Tower's collapse, those who were part of that future that no longer exists aren't necessarily gone. You, Leo, even though your existence had faded out and I brought you back, it isn't totally accurate to say you wouldn't have existed otherwise."

Leo spared a glance to Blaze, who clearly wasn't getting it any better than himself. "But I thought I…disappeared because we changed my past."

"That is true. However…" Taking a small step toward the two of them, the dragon used one of his large silver claws to scratch a long line in the sand between them. "Think of this line as time. Events that happen, all happen in a progression, one after the other. This," Dialga paused to make a small cross-hatch near one end, "was when Wigglytuff became headmaster of his guild."

"A long time ago," Wigglytuff retorted at his own expense.

Dialga made another mark further along. "At this point a storm knocked over a tree that crashed into Kangaskhan's storehouse in Treasure Town."

"That was also a few years ago," Chatot pointed out.

"Seven years, eight months and twenty-two days, to be a little more accurate."

Chatot let his beak hang open a little. "Um…yes, of course you would know the exact…"

Another couple cross-hatches, close together, "A drop of water dripped from a leaf in Fog-Bound forest nearly four years ago, and Blaze arrived at Treasure Town for the first time.

"Oh," Blaze exclaimed.

"And this," Dialga made a deeper cross-hatch nearer to the last event, "was your arrival here as a Pokémon, Leo, after having traveled back in time."

Being unable to help it, Leo looked to the very spot nearby where he had opened his eyes for the first time as a Pokémon, finding a worried Blaze standing over him. The words "Seems so long ago…" left him.

"This was the point where you and your partner Grovyle first entered this world from the human world in an attempt to investigate what was happening…"

Looking back to the sand, this cross-hatch was much further along.

"…and then left to go into the past not long after." Another cross-hatch virtually indistinguishable from the former. "Dusknoir brought both you and Blaze back into the future to this point…" Again, nearly on top of the last cross-hatch, "and you, Blaze and Grovyle then returned back to here." It was somewhat in front of the cross-hatch representing the point he had first arrived as a Pokémon.

"Hm…" Blaze said thoughtfully, "…so, when Leo and I succeeded in stopping the collapse of Temporal Tower was…"

With emphasis, Dialga slowly scored a deep line across the "time" line that was again, very close to the one representing when they returned from the future, escaping Dusknoir. "It's the same point where this time line changes with the creation of a new future, and the old one ceases to exist." From that particular point, Dialga scratched a short angled line and continued it parallel and below the old one. "We are now in this future."

Leo thought he got all that. In fact…it somehow made perfect sense. Not only that, once it had been laid out before him in the sand, he started guessing where Dialga was going with this explanation. Carefully and in a lower voice: "When was I born?"

"Huh?" Blaze's eyes widened as did Chatot's.

Looking up to the blue-scaled dragon's face, Leo swore there was a smile creeping across it. "HERE," he replied in a suddenly louder voice, putting the cross-hatch well before Wigglytuff's accession to Guildmaster.