Sorry for yet another loooong delay between parts! I became caught up with school work and exams that never seemed to end, but I am happy to say that I am getting back into the swing of things. I hope you enjoy the latest part, and there is the usual warning of violence and language to those that may be offended.

The Eye of the Storm

February 15th

"Rise and shine cupcakes, it's time to battle!"

Xavier opened his eyes instantly. He had had little sleep over the past dew days, a mixture of troubling images from Solaceon Town and the terrible weather that had made the ground beneath them soggy, and felt tired already. Yet Xavier ignored the feeling as he sat up and stared towards the gap in the tent that had suddenly appeared. Vanessa stood in the entrance with her rustic coloured hair clinging to her face, water dripping from the tips. Xavier noted her dress was shaped like a water drop, with a tight collar and a flowing bottom, with matching boots that covered her knees. She wore a malicious smile on her face and laughed at disturbing them as she stepped inside.

Vanessa's outfit may have changed overnight, but the weather had stayed the same. A curtain of rain was visible behind the bright blue dress, and the heavy droplets pounded against the thin fabric of the tent. The wind roaring outside sounded enough to tear the tent apart, and Xavier wondered again how it had survived this long.

"What do you want?" Matthew grumbled sleepily to his left, and their portable lamp was switched on: yellow light cast obscure shadows across, and Vanessa's dress glittered as she moved further in. Xavier saw the look in her eyes and moved aside, giving her space before she flopped down onto his sleeping bag. Water began to pool across the surface, and Xavier flicked heavy strands of her hair away from him.

"Why Matthew, there's two handsome lads in here, and I am wearing a soaked dress that I really must take off! Put the pieces together, big boy," Vanessa said with a wink, and her laughter filled the tent. Xavier shifted uncomfortably aside, and saw that Matthew looked shocked. "Bet that'll woke you up!" Vanessa cackled, and prodded Xavier in the ribs as she laughed deliriously.

"Did Abra take Sahara to shelter yet?" Xavier asked, ignoring Vanessa and addressing a question that was more likely to gain an answer.

"Yeah, he took her to the café and away from the rain," Vanessa said, her laughter slowly down as her voice and breathing returned to normal. "The coffee there is awful though, and I don't have anything to do alone in our cramped little tent, so I thought I would come and annoy you in this 'imperfect' space of yours." She uttered her last words with a glare in Matthew's direction, and Xavier glanced around to see his reaction. Matthew was not pleased to be stuck on the muddy route … with the foul weather howling outside, even though their tent was obviously nicer than the smaller and tattered one Vanessa and Sahara shared. Neither of the girls had been happy when Matthew had complained during training two days ago, and they both brought it up mockingly whenever the duos met again.

"Well, don't expect us to be in any fit state to entertain you!" Matthew snapped, throwing his covers aside and grabbing his blue jumper. "We only just woke up, and the weather seems worse than it was last night! I am not training when it is this bad!" Matthew had been complaining a lot since the weather had turned, Xavier had noticed, and he wondered what exactly had brought it on. Was Matthew angry that his contest win had been overshadowed by Giratina and Jaki's destruction of Solaceon? Was he annoyed about being in the wet, the foul weather ruining his plans? Or was he irritated that he was stuck with Xavier for the majority of the day in such close quarters with nothing to do?

"Oh come on you rich snob," Vanessa sneered. "Prinplup will get a boost from a rain and Monferno will get weakened. I will still have the upper hand, naturally, but it may be fun… for me!" Matthew glared at her as he slipped into his shoes and moved towards the door.

"I am going to see if there are any berries for our Pokemon, their running out of food," he said, though Xavier could see it was only an excuse to escape them both. The wind tore at the flaps in the tent as he stepped through, rain falling like shards of glass onto their floor, but within a second it was zipped up again and Matthew had gone.

"Thank god!" Vanessa bellowed, and she leapt off Xavier's bed and fell down dramatically onto Matthew's. "I want to know what that boy has got shoved up his arse that makes him such a snobby little prick!"

"I highly doubt Matthew has anything 'shoved up' there. I imagine he would be unable to walk if he did so," Xavier replied, and caught Vanessa rolling her eyes out of the corner of his. He fell silent and began to search around the end of his bed for something to wear, listening intently to the rain and the wind as it battered against the sides of the tent.

"The weather sounds angry," Xavier said as he searched through his bag for clean socks, but remembered they had been unable to wash and dry their clothing properly since leaving Solaceon. "If you listen carefully, you can almost hear a roar behind the wind. My father told me a story once about how the weather is controlled through the Sky High Pokemon Rayquaza, and he sends good weather to the places that deserve it, and casts storms across land where the people have done wrong."

"I never expected you to be the sort to listen to myths, especially from your father," Vanessa said. "I saw our great Tower Tycoon at the café. It seems there is some event happening later today and he was hanging around as if it was all going to be for him." Xavier shut his eyes and nodded, slowly silencing himself and pushing away the negative thoughts that had arisen when Vanessa spoke. Should I really be surprised? This is typical Palmer… no, focus… listen to the weather… focus on the rain and the wind….

"If the story is true, I wonder what we have done to have wronged Rayquaza," Xavier continued calmly. "This storm has lasted for several days now and it shows no signs of lessening."

"Maybe he is just bowling? That was something my fath – a friend always use to say…," Vanessa said, though her change in words had not covered up the stutter and stumble. Xavier made a mental note of this and stored the information away, adding to the information Vanessa was slowly and unwilling revealing about herself.

"That is a nice thought, but there is something that has enraged Rayquaza and he is taking it out on Route 215, unless whatever has upset him is located on this route," Xavier said. He slipped into his own green jacket and shoes and stood up, and turned to Vanessa to find the joy had slipped from her face as she stared to the side of the tent, watching as it strained against the wind in several places.

"You're pretty emotive for a person with no emotions," Vanessa mumbled as the rain and wind sounded louder amongst the silent tent.

"I may not have emotions, but I have spent such a long time around emotive people that I am slowly building up a basic understanding," Xavier replied. "It is easier to analyze the emotions of the rain and the wind: they are more adapt then humans with making their emotions and intentions clear." He caught Vanessa staring at him oddly from the corner of his eyes and decided to stop, not wishing to frighten her away like Matthew. He tried to think of a new conversation starter, but was thrown when something heavy thudded against the tent directly above him. Xavier leapt to his feet and watched as something circular rolled down the front of the tent and came through the gap in the zip, landing directly at the entrance.

"It's a Pokemon, clearly," Vanessa said, rushing to his side with her PokeDex in her hands, "though I am not sure which one…"

"It's a Hoothoot," Xavier replied, getting down to his feet to examine the brown ball of feathers. "I have seen them on nature documentaries before." Xavier rolled the small Pokemon onto its back, allowing him to examine its face. Black markings surrounded pink eyes that were only half open, and a tiny beak was the main point on a patch of lighter feathers. The Hoothoot groaned softly whenever Xavier near its right wing or talons, and he quickly pulled his bag over.

"In my studies of emotion, I have begun to properly understand Pokemon," Xavier explained as he rummaged through his many contents, "but it doesn't take any level of analysis to know that this Pokemon is in serious pain." Without waiting for Vanessa to respond, Xavier got to work gathering Potions and various berries together to make the Owl Pokemon feel better. Silence fell as Vanessa watched him work, and Xavier listened to the roar of the wind as it sent the rain through the gap the Hoothoot had left, and was glad to have a distraction to keep his mind off wondering why Rayquaza had chosen to punish this route.

Sahara had only been trying coffee for a few days now, but already knew that it wasn't for her.

She pushed the small white cup of caffeine across the miniscule table, recoiling from the bad taste that lingered on her tongue, and stared longingly out the window next to her. Sahara wanted nothing more than to move on and make it to Veilstone, but the weather was holding her back. Vanessa's Abra had never been to Veilstone before and did not know the way by teleportation, so their entire group was held up as they waited for the foul weather to stop.

It is their fault I can't leave, Sahara thought bitterly. Eden, Crystal… Jaki… how am I going to be able to finish my journey when that trio of sluts plans to pop out whenever it suits them… Sahara sighed and turned away from the rain, grabbing her cup and drowning the last of the coffee in a single gulp. She needed all the caffeine in the world to keep her going if she was expected to stay trapped in here for another day, watching enthusiastic ten year olds talking excitedly about their quests, or watching young love blossoming between the mouths of every couple that strutted in here. Sahara envied and pitied all of them for different reasons, and wished she could finally escape them.

"Pachi Pachi Risu Pach Pachi!" Sahara turned to the opposite seat and smiled, watching as Nutty attacked a small bowl of Pokemon food that the kind chef always gave them. Nutty was happy running around the café every day, playing with the other Pokemon that came in and occasionally with Sahara's, yet Sahara wished she could be outside, putting Hammer's new body and skills to the test, as well as learning what her latest capture could do.

Spiritomb promised to answer any of my questions, Sahara thought, instinctively reaching into her pocket to feel the PokeBalls between her fingers. She better stick to that promise… I have plenty of questions for her, and only someone of her age and knowledge could answer them…

"Pach Pachi Pachi!" Nutty suddenly squealed excitedly, and Sahara snapped out of her day dream and watched in shock as Nutty leapt onto the table, bound across the surface and jumped onto the window ledge.

"What is it, has it stopped raining?" Sahara asked in hope, even though the rain still echoed around them against the café's roof. She stared through the condensation, rain splattering against the glass, and saw figures rushing towards the café, a number of cars suddenly parked outside.

"Those weren't here when we arrived," Sahara mumbled, and she cast a suspicious glare towards the entrance. As the door swung open, her fingers clasped around one of her PokeBalls and she turned around, expecting someone to come bursting in looking for her.

"Professor Rowan, is today really the best day to initiate your rocket lunch?" A familiar voice said as the group entered, and there were several flashes of camera bulbs. Sahara let go of the PokeBall at the sound of her grandfather's name, and her jaw dropped as she spied him amongst a crowd of reporters. It felt like months since they'd last seen each other, but he still looked the same: hair and beard as white as snow, dressed in a long brown trench coat to fend off the rain, his permanent scowl still embedded into his face.

"This date has been set for months, and I am not the sort of scientist to simply change things because of a little weather," the Professor growled, pushing through the army of raincoat clad reporters and cameramen. "However, Miss Miller, if you feel the rain is not suited to your career, then why don't you come back when its sunny and see if we've waited for you? No further comments until the launch has occurred." The reporters moved away, twittering to themselves, and Sahara caught sight of Clarisse Miller, the reporter Vanessa had made an enemy of, shooting daggers at her grandfather. However, unable to do anything, she simply turned and strutted off to a table with her cameraman following behind.

"That arrogant cow deserves every insult she gets," Rowan grunted. "She has made everything harder after she did that Dex Holder story. Mason, if the rocket starts to fall from the sky, make sure it lands on her."

"Yes sir," someone laughed, and Sahara was even more stunned to see Mason emerging out from behind her grandfather as if me had suddenly teleported there. Her grandfather's assistant looked shaggy, with his black hair creeping down towards his shoulders and his clothing displaying several tears and burn holes, but it was still amazing to him.

"Pach Pach Pachi!" Nutty cried excitedly and quickly rushed towards them. Sahara wanted to call out and stop her, not ready to face her grandfather just yet in case he had heard about Solaceon Town. However, the white haired man turned at the cry of a Pokemon, and his face lit up as Nutty jumped up into his arms.

"Sahara!" Mason gasped. Sahara instantly put a smile onto her face and got to her feet, not sure what else to do and mentally crossing her fingers that her grandfather didn't know everything.

"Hello Mason, Hi Granddad!" She said overenthusiastically and rushed forwards, squeezing Nutty as she gave her grandfather a hug.

"Oh Sahara, it has been too long! How have you been!" Professor Rowan boomed, hugging her tightly back and making Nutty squeak. "It has been too long! We must sit, you have to tell me everything that has happened! Mason, bring some drinks over would you."

"You don't have to make a fuss," Sahara said as she was led back to her table, Nutty leaping onto her shoulder with a grim look in her wide eyes. "I battled Fantina while she was staying with us and got my latest gym badge… um… my Meditite, Hammer, evolved into a Medicham, which is pretty exciting, and my egg is close to hatching! I thought it had been crushed when the Pokemon Center collapsed, but it turned out alright!" It wasn't until Sahara paused that she realised what she had revealed, but Rowan gave her shoulder a firm squeeze as they sat down.

"I know about Solaceon Town, dear, no need to hide it from me," he said in a rough voice, though there was sympathy in his eyes. "There is nothing to be ashamed of, none of it was your fault!" Sahara nodded, though a thought that had been plaguing her for days was stirred up once more: if I hadn't run away from Vanessa, then would Giratina had been able to empower Jaki and make her come out? Sahara had spent the last few nights awakening from nightmares of serpentine creatures screaming at her, and as the rain and wind tore at their tent she had watched Vanessa sleeping, wondering if things had gone differently earlier that night, than maybe the destruction may not have happened.

"The manager gave us some juices on the house," Mason said excitedly as he sat down, giving them each a glass of orange juice. "He says that this is the most customers he's had all week due to the storm, and its all because of us!"

"Oh yes, what are you two doing here?" Sahara asked quickly, taking the lead to change topics. "I heard talk of a rocket. Is your space program nearly done?"

"It is done!" Mason said with a childish grin across his face. "We have built and designed a rocket to launch Solrock and Lunatone up into space, and we will finally be able to monitor and see if these two Pokemon did originate from somewhere within the galaxy, depending on how well they react to the environment and what readings we can gather while they are up there."

"That sounds amazing! Can I see the rocket?" Sahara asked, though her own enthusiasm disappeared as Rowan frowned.

"Well… it is outside right now…," her grandfather said, an awkward silence settling between them. "We are waiting for the weather to clear up a bit before we carry on, so you will be able to see it soon!" Sahara nodded and smiled, though secretly felt useless: the rain was stopping her from doing anything she wanted, and she wished more than ever that her personalities would just leave her be so she could get on with life.

"So… caught any new Pokemon?" Mason asked, his eyes flickering between her and Rowan. Sahara shook off the negative thoughts and kept her smile on, deciding it best to discuss catching Spiritomb in order to clear away her bad thoughts. As she began explaining, Sahara's eyes glanced towards the window, longing for the rain to stop so she could step outside again and see what life had to offer.

As the trio continued to talk, with Nutty going back to her bowl of Pokemon food, none of them paid any attention to a lone figure at the back of the café, buried in the shadows of his booth with the foul tasting coffee going ignored before him. The whites of his eyes were the only thing visible, and if anyone had paid him any attention then they would have seen exactly who he was staring at.

"Sahara has captured Spiritomb," the man whispered, his voice going into a microphone attached to the collar of his trench coat. "Rowan and his assistant are here as well, their planning to go through with their launch." He paused, listening to the reply coming through an ear piece. "I know it is dangerous, but what can I do to stop him? There is a crowd of reporters in here that will leap at any sign of something bigger going on here. And if Sahara decides to stop them, then who knows what Spiritomb might try to do." He paused again, anger burning in his eyes as his orders were reported back to him.

"Fine, I will keep them away from the forest as best as I can, but if things backfire than know this isn't going to be my fault!" He angrily pressed a button on the earpiece, cutting off all communication. The man pulled the coffee into the shadows and took a sip, letting another bad taste fill his mouth. A door swung open to the side, and the man pushed himself further backwards, watching as Palmer strutted past as if he owned the place, the end of his green cloak floating behind him.

It was important that no one recognized Looker for the time being. If anyone knew he was here, than questions would be raised about what was going on. And the spy couldn't let anyone suspect something was up: his mission today relied on letting others fix the serious problem afflicting Route 215, and if anyone else tried to stop it, the results could be catastrophic.

But, as Looker thought to himself with a smile, there never was any stopping these Dex Holders…

"Shadow Ball!" Charles shouted, though the wind was loud that he could barely hear the words himself, and wondered if Elle would be able to hear them either. He looked down through the torrent of rain and saw a black ball form in the Eevee's mouth, and was relieved that she had heard. However, he couldn't hear the command Brody had given his Weezing, and stared in anticipation towards the floating purple heads, toxic smoke protecting the Pokemon from the rain.

"Eva Eve!" Elle cried, and the Shadow Ball was fired through the veil of water. Weezing coughed green smoke as the attack exploded against his joint, and Charles cheered as the Poison Gas Pokemon was sent spiralling off into a tree. Black smoke was emitted from his pores, and Charles cursed the SmokeScreen, the weather already playing havoc with their accuracy.

"Come on Elle, we can fight through this! Secret Power!" Elle looked back at him, giving him a reassuring smile, and Charles felt bad for making her battle in this horrible weather, her brown and cream fur heavy with wetness. Yet there was nothing to do otherwise, and the Pokemon seemed fine with it.

"ZING WEEZ WEEZ!" Weezing bellowed in its strangled tones, floating back towards the field, and a ball of purple sludge formed in the mouth of the larger head. Elle quickly responded by summoning a white ball of energy, which glowed blue and shimmered with ripples. Both attacks were fired, and the Secret Power met the Sludge Bomb in between, causing both to explode. Elle leapt backwards into Charles' shins to avoid the splattering of purple poison, while Weezing floated up into the tree tops, the black smoke moving with him.

"This one needs to hit, so use Swift!" Charles commanded. Elle nodded and leapt back forward, ready to fight, but both she and Charles were stunned as Weezing suddenly soared forwards, moving so quickly the SmokeScreen had to waft up hurriedly to catch up.

"Weezing Weez!" Weezing grumbled in his two toned voice, and a ball of fire formed inside the larger mouth, instantly a size big enough to engulf Elle. Charles was surprised by the move and wanted to change commands, or pull Elle out of the way before it was too late.

"Vee Eva Eve Eevee!" Elle chorused below him, and Charles gasped as she stood up on her hind legs, a rectangle of orange light forming on her paws. Weezing seemed stunned as well and paused, his mouth closing against the flames. "VEEEE!" Elle shouted as the rectangle blazed with energy, and she brought it down against Weezing's larger eyes. There was a flash and Weezing was sent flying backwards, tearing the branches off several trees before sliding through the mud and crashing into Brody.

"What move was that?" Charles asked, his mind reeling at the unexpected win. He had never seen a move like that used before, and desperately wanted to fix it. However, Elle looked up at him with innocent eyes and gave a little shrug, and Charles smiled and bent down to pick her up. "Well, whatever it was, it won us the match, and that's what counts!" He said with a smile, and Elle gave an enthusiastic nod that flicked him with water.

"OI, Cyrus wants you two to head back!" A sharp voice called, cutting above the roaring wind. Charles glanced through the grey rain and saw Samuel, a black haired and thick cut grunt, standing angrily a few metres away. There were several other grunts moving back the way he had come, clearly annoyed with having their own brief training interrupted. Charles gave his fellow grunt and a false smile and a wave before moving towards Brody, who had returned Weezing and was back to his feet, now with a large brown streak down his uniform.

"Great battle!" He said with a genuine grin. "What move was that? That came completely out of nowhere, but it was amazing all the same!"

"You have just as much of an idea as I have," Charles replied, and together the two headed back towards where they had teleported a few hours earlier. The path was completely muddy from the downpour over the past few days, and it was about as slippery as walking on ice. The thin and dying trees at least provided some support, and Charles used the bare branches to cling onto as they made their way back, following the grunts in front of them.

"You have been doing plenty of training with Roshonda and Addison lately," Brody said. "Elle must have picked up a new move through that."

"She must have, but whenever my Pokemon learn a new move I at least know what it is," Charles replied, giving the squirming Eevee in his right arm a curious glance. "But this time, I have absolutely no idea."

"Addison is a really good trainer," Brody said, ignoring everything Charles had just said. "Her Nidoqueen is really powerful, and so is her Victreebel. I tried battling her last week before Solaceon, and Weezing got defeated in one move. It was so wonderful…" Charles smirked to himself as he splashed through a puddle, the sound sending a trio of Staravia flying away. He could clearly see a glazed over look in Brody's eyes, one he had seen in plenty of male friends before, and knew what had been truly wonderful about that battle.

"You should talk to her outside of getting your butt kicked," Charles said, smiling knowingly at his comrade. "Addison may act like she hates you, but I have seen a certain look in her eyes every so often whenever your around, and I think there could be a similar connection." Brody was stunned and began stammering out a response, his cheeks going red and his hands nervously fidgeting with wet blonde locks that covered his eyes.

"Like you can talk!" He huffed as Charles began to laugh. "You and Roshonda have been best buddies since the moment you arrived from what I heard! How long before you two starting acting on your connection!" Brody looked proud about this, and he swaggered ahead, leaving Charles behind and alone in the rain.

Is this the answer I've been looking for? Charles asked himself, slowing down to a stumbling pace. Is Roshonda the reason I'm staying? Ever since he had talked with the ghost of Winston Diamond, Charles had been questioning himself and his intentions to stay with Team Galactic. Despite what the ghost thought, Charles could not think of a reason why he was staying here, which was a bigger issue than he realised. If he had no reason to stay, then why not just leave? He knew it was not that simple, but the thought occurred to Charles all the same. And yet he was still here, once again getting caught up in one of Cyrus' schemes, only just able to walk and sit and stand properly after the last one. ! "

So could it be Roshonda, the only true friend he had inside this demented organization? They had not spoken in the past few days, not while they both recovered from their injuries, yet they were still friends all the same.

A friend I have only known for just over a month, Charles reminded himself, though it felt like he had spent years trapped inside Team Galactic. He shook his head and kept moving, leaving thoughts of Roshonda behind. They were friends, yes, but there was nothing special about this one month friendship, nothing that would keep Charles within this organisation. The thought made Charles feel sick and selfish, and he wondered if he could easily cast her aside when it came to a tipping point as easily as he had shoved thoughts of her aside now.

"There has to be something Elle," Charles whispered to the Eevee in his arms, casting a nervous eye around in case Samuel appeared suddenly before them. "I wouldn't be putting us through this if there wasn't some reason for it." Elle gave a nod, but if Charles had no idea why he was staying, then what would Elle have.

The thoughts lingered with him as they followed after the other grunts and made it back through the forest. Charles noticed that the rain was pelting down more the further they moved back in, the rain the size of golf balls and were painful when they landed against the multiple wounds Charlotte had left him with, and the wind was tugging at his clothing, threatening to tear it off.

"What the hell is going on?" Charles growled to himself, and wrapped a squirming Elle inside his coat. The temperature was dropping rapidly, his breath rising in a cloud before him, and Charles could see the other grunts were struggling to walk safely across the unstable ground.

What the hell is keeping me here? Charles thought bitterly as a bolt of lightning blasted the branches from the tree next to him. These people are insane and every one of their plans is more deluded than the last. Why am I risking my life for them when they have such little care for what happens to me? Flecks of sand began to fall from the storm clouds above, and Charles sighed to himself as he made his way further into the forest towards a gathering crowd about twenty metres ahead, knowing he had no choice but to simply follow his orders until he finally found the answers he was looking for.

And once he had found his purpose, than Charles might just find a way to survive these freaks.

The sudden change in weather was so shocking that people instantly scrambled to their feet and rushed outside. It was still cold and bitter, and the ground thick with mud, barely any grass showing through the brown, but at least the rain had stopped. Professor Rowan and Mason quickly rushed to set their rocket up before the storm started again, and Sahara breathed a sigh of relief as she finally stepped outside again. It was wonderfully cold and relaxing, and she smelt the moistness in the air and felt the ground squish beneath her shoes.

"I never thought I would ever be so happy to step outside," Sahara said with an euphoric grin across her face as she and Nutty stepped gingerly away from Café 215 and moved towards the rocket. The reporters and camera people lingered under a sodden fabric shelter outside the café's entrance, and Sahara was happy to see a scowl across Clarisse Miller's face.

"My finger's are crossed that someone knocks her into the mud," Sahara whispered, and Nutty giggled as they moved towards the shelter of one of the few trees that still had leaves, just in case the rain started again. She could see Xavier, Matthew and Vanessa moving over from they had set up a miniature camp, and waved them over.

"Hello Sahara!" A voice boomed behind her, and Sahara turned in surprise to find Palmer suddenly standing next to her. "I would rather be with a familiar face than stuck under that shelter with those blasted reporters!" Palmer boomed with laughter, and Sahara forced a laugh, but felt uncomfortable to be alone with someone she barely knew. After they had left Cynthia, Bebe, Fantina and the army behind to clean up Solaceon Town, Palmer had come with them, still wanting to keep up his relationship with Xavier, but had not been making any efforts. Honoured to have the Tower Tycoon nearby, the café owners allowed him to stay at their house to escape the weather, and there Palmer had stayed, not communicating with them at all. Sahara had many bitter thoughts about absent fathers from the non existent relationship she had with hers, and this only added to her disliking of the muscular blonde.

"This weather has been a right bitch, hasn't it?" Palmer bellowed, glancing up at the skies. "It seems something has put old Rayquaza in quite a foul mood! Any wonders what might have pissed him off?" Sahara merely shrugged in response, but she glanced up to the slate coloured clouds that loomed over her in a giant, never ending pack. This weather was quite unnatural, especially as winter was meant to be drawing to an end, and after everything else that had happened, Sahara could only presume that there was something sinister behind it all.

"Is there a reason why your grandfather is going to set off a rocket in the middle of a route?" Xavier asked bluntly as soon as he, Vanessa and Matthew had arrived. "It seems quite unsafe and rather unnecessary in my opinion. Hello father," he added, almost as an afterthought.

"Mason said something about the position of the moon and the sun over this area that makes for optimum readings, or something like that," Sahara replied, taking the opportunity to shimmy away from Palmer. "Or maybe it was something about avoiding crashing into a satellite… I sort of drifted off when it became too science related." Vanessa and Matthew both smirked, and Xavier gave a nod as if it was a satisfying nod. Sahara noticed that he was holding a Hoothoot in his arms, the Owl Pokemon sleeping soundly with a thin bandage around a wing.

"Don't ask," Vanessa muttered. Sahara left the subject alone, but as she tried to think of something else to talk about, she realised that nothing came to mind. She had been separated from her friends a lot recently, with being trapped in the café and spending a week before that studying up on Spiritomb. The only that had happened recently had been what Jaki and Giratina had done to Solaceon Town, and that was a subject Sahara didn't want to touch upon. However, it felt strange being surrounded by a group of people with so little to talk about, and Sahara was compelled to go back inside the café for another two days and wait for something more interesting to happen to them.

"Wow, look at that!" Matthew said with a gasp, and they all turned: a large metal sphere that was about twice their heights was floating majestically across the storm ruined fields. It looked like a large silver ball, with four, far too thin support legs sticking out at the bottom on all sides of the four rocket boosters. The surface was sleek and shiny, with a number and name scrawled across the bottom. It would be a tight squeeze for any person, but Sahara knew only Solrock and Lunatone would be going inside. The two Pokemon were in fact psychically moving the rocket, a pink glow surrounding the machine as it was taken across from the truck it had been brought in.

"Shouldn't we be inside so we don't get toasted by this?" Matthew said nervously. "I saw a rocket launch from Mossdeep City when I was six, and it was all filmed from inside, and I think the entire city had to be shut down to make sure everyone was out of the way."

"Does that thing look like it would have the power to fry you?" Vanessa snapped as the rocket landed delicately on the mud, a hatch opening from the top. "I will be surprised if that thing even makes it into space!" Sahara stared at the rocket as Rowan moved towards the reporters and Mason led his Pokemon to the capsule, and doubt began to settle in. Mason had explained how they had worked with the Mossdeep Space Research Centre to build the rocket, and he had roughly tested the mechanics and seen how things worked, but this would be the first proper flight. The excitement was evident through his entire body, and Sahara hoped that he had a clear enough mind to make sure everything went smoothly.

"… years of research into space, its connections to the origins of Pokemon and its effects on them will all come to a head today." Words of Professor Rowan's speech to the reporters drifted back to Sahara, and she turned in interest, hoping to put her mind as rest. "It has been a strenuous but exciting project, and Mason and I are looking forward to see what results will come from this: if the project proves a success, which I am certain it will be, then we hope to divulge into the origins of countless other Pokemon. At this point, are there any questions?"

"Mr Rowan, what are your views on the recent incident in Solaceon Town?" The voice of Clarisse Miller chirped from within the crowd of reporters, and Sahara froze, staring towards the rocket but her mind drifting away towards the conversation, and she felt the others tense around her. "That event was very unnatural and many people are questioning the cause. Is there anything you wish to say on the matter?" Sahara looked over and saw her grandfather pause, his face grimmer than usual and a look in his eyes that resembled her mother's whenever she struggled to answer a question. Sahara wanted to run over and punch the reporter in the face, but she knew better than to get involved and expose herself to the world as a freak harbouring murderers in her body.

"That little bitch!" Vanessa hissed, and she pushed past Sahara with her umbrella in hand, beginning to twist the handle. However, Palmer moved in front of her and held out a hand.

"I don't think that will be wise," the Tower Tycoon growled in his deep, low voice. "Those reporters are looking for Rowan to crack, but if you try attacking them then you'll just be handing them a front page article." Vanessa looked up at him with a smile on her face, and her hand twisted anyway, the sword sliding out from the tip and making Palmer leap backwards.

"Vanessa, he's right, don't bother with it!" Sahara said, her eyes flickering towards the reporters. "She will get what's coming to her, but it won't be today, and especially not while she is surrounded by cameras." Vanessa glanced back over at her, and Sahara saw longing and pity deep within the red head's eyes: the two had never properly discussed what had happened after they had fled Emerson and the burning club, and though Sahara was contempt to forget about it, she still knew there was some feeling in Vanessa that would always be between them.

"Fine," Vanessa sighed, and with a swift twist the sword was gone once more. "Let's just watch the rocket launch and see how badly it stuffs up!" A rumble sounded all around them, and Nutty squealed and clung to Sahara's leg in fright at the thunder. Sahara wanted to comfort her, but she was afraid as well. The clouds were nearly black above them, and more thunder roared within them, hinting at a further storm to come.

"I think Matthew's right," Sahara mumbled. "Maybe we would be safer inside and away from any –" but she froze as something loud snapped behind them. Sahara and the others all turned around towards the trees, and she half expected some Galactic grunt to leap out and try to kill them. But for a second she thought nothing was there, with no one standing obviously behind the thin and dead looking trees.

"Is that… Ninetales?" Palmer whispered, and Sahara stared down. Though it was dark and cloudy, the Fox Pokemon's pale yellow fur still glittered and shone, her long tails brushing against the fallen leaves but not seeming to gather any dirt. Sahara knew within a second that this had to belong to Carolina, and could see Ninetales fierce eyes focussing on her former trainer's son. Xavier was staring back at Ninetales with his version of a surprised expression, and Sahara could only imagine what was going through his mind.

"Nine," Ninetales whispered, and turned swiftly around, her tails twisting in a beckoning motion before the Fire type sprinted off.

"She wants us to follow her," Matthew said, his voice quiet and stunned.

"Obviously," Xavier replied in his drawl, and he quickly moved forwards without another word, the Hoothoot still in his arms, and quickly disappeared into the forest.

"SON, WAIT!" Palmer bellowed, and he quickly ran after. Matthew glanced at Sahara and Vanessa in confusion, but shrugged and ran forwards as well. Sahara watched them all running off, Ninetales shining fur still glittering even as she disappeared. Sahara turned to Vanessa, confused by the sudden appearances and disappearances, but before either of them could talk there was a bang that echoed around the silence. Thoughts of guns and bullets rushed through Sahara's mind, but than she spotted another figure running out from behind the café, sprinting after the others with a brown trench coat flying up behind him.

"Isn't that Looker's coat?" Sahara said, her heart and mind filling with dread: if he was here, that could only mean bad news. There was a click and suddenly Vanessa's sword was back out, the silver blade shining as brightly as Ninetales coat.

"I am going after," Vanessa said, moving towards the trees. "Ninetales would have wanted something from us, and if Looker is here my thoughts are that something bad is happening in there. Do you want to come with?"

"No, I should stay here and support Mason and my grandfather," Sahara said quickly, the excuse forming in seconds, "but good luck, and try not to get killed!" Vanessa smiled and quickly ran off, her water themed dressed bouncing and shining as she moved. Sahara watched her go for a few seconds before turning back to the rocket, scooping Nutty up and pulling her into a hug. She wished she could go help her friends, but after what had happened with Jaki, Sahara didn't trust herself in battle. With the storm surrounding her, any unexpected drop of rain would bring Eden out, and Sahara would not risk the consequences of that.

"Now, I believe Mason has nearly finished setting things up, if any of you would like to move across," Rowan boomed, and Sahara followed him with her eyes as he moved across to the metal sphere, only a few of the reporters bothering to go across. She could see Clarisse had stayed behind, and hatred burned through her body. Yet after finally having company for the first time all week, Sahara and Nutty were alone once again, standing solemnly by a dead tree as the threat of bad weather hung overhead.

"Don't you just wish we had a normal life Nutty?" Sahara whispered mournfully. "Imagine if I didn't have these personalities and if we had never met Team Galactic or Char…, well, that wasn't so bad… but imagine it! We could be having a nice proper journey, just you and me: we would still have Virus, and none of those dark things that have happened would have even occurred." A tear streaked down Sahara's cheek as she imagined the life she could have had, and Nutty gave her a gentle pat. Sahara wanted to run over to the rocket and go up into the space instead of Solrock or Lunatone, leave all of this behind and live a life of peace.

All of sudden, the peace was shattered.

The sky seemed to explode above them: the clouds flashed a blinding white that forced Sahara to cover her eyes, and deep echoing booms sounded simultaneously. Reporters screamed as the sky continued to flicker, and Sahara felt a surge of heat against the back of her neck. She stumbled blindly forwards and glanced back, a tree barely ten metres away suddenly erupt with flames. The flashing continued, and Nutty squirmed and squealed in fear. Sahara had to hold onto her tightly as she blinked furiously, trying to rid her eyes of the white that seemed branded to her sight. She stumbled in the direction of the café, but the screams and thunder were disorientating, and Sahara had no idea where she was going.

A wind blew throughout the entire route, and small particles began to pelt Sahara. They were painful, like miniscule knives digging into her skin, and Sahara cried out and paused. It feels like sand, but we're no where near a beach or desert, Sahara thought, feeling it creep through every gap in her clothing. She tried to ignore the feeling and soldier on, but Sahara felt her foot slip, and before she could stop or prepare herself she was flat on her back. Her head banged painfully against a solid bit of ground, and Sahara shut her eyes as her world began to spin, thunder continuing to sound.

I knew something was going to go wrong… I should have stayed inside… Sahara thought as she held onto a frightened Nutty, feeling sand piling up around her as she lay in the mud. She thought it could not get any worse, and then an explosion louder and closer than the thunder tore through the route, and Sahara tensed as heat and flying metal crashed against her skin.

Matthew was right… I'm toasted… Sahara thought again, something throbbing above her eye, and that was the last thing she felt before everything went black.

Charles could feel Elle squirming against his chest, both in fear and discomfort, but he had to protect her whether she appreciated it or not. A frozen wind was tearing through the forest, sending leaves, branches and their supplies soaring. Something had hit his right leg and Charles could feel it bleeding, but it was more bearable than what Charlotte had done to him and he managed to focus.

"TURN IT FOF CYRUS, TURN IT OFF NOW!" Charon roared above the wind, but even though he was only a few metres from Charles, it sounded as if they were world's apart. If Cyrus responded, Charles didn't hear it, and focussed on holding onto Elle and making sure she wasn't harmed any further.

The sudden blast of weather had been so sudden and unexpected that Charles had nearly let himself be blown away. He had been patrolling the area, wondering what Elle's new move was and wondering what Charon and Cyrus were doing behind him with their large machine, when a sudden burst of sand attacked him. Charles was instantly blinded but shielded Elle with his arms and leapt behind the nearest tree, finally a sharp and nearly hot wind tugging at his clothing. The thin tree had begun to creak and Charles had been certain it would snap in two and expose him to the weather. He dived to the ground inside and hid Elle inside his uniform just as the sandstorm turned to the freezing wind that was afflicting them now. If it didn't stop soon, the entire dying forest would be torn to pieces, and Team Galactic's latest plot would be exposed to the world.

Finally, the bitter touch of the wind began to soften, and the cold howl slowly decreased until only the faint groan of Cyrus' machine could be heard. Charles quickly got back to his feet, blinking the last of the sand out and pulling a disgruntled Elle out from his jacket.

"I had to protect you, so don't give me that look!" He said, his eyes still stinging.

"Eva Eve!" Elle huffed, and Charles rolled his eyes as he adjusted her in his arms and turned back towards the clearing. Grunts were scattered across the leaf strewn ground, which was now covered in sand, and many were struggling to get back up. One Grunt had been knocked out by a flying crate, and Charles could see Samuel had sustained a cut across his back. The entire scene was chaos and Charles felt like he should help, but he was more interested to see how Cyrus was reacting.

"I told you that this project wasn't fully ready yet!" Charon yelled, his voice echoing in the otherwise quiet forest. "We should never have tested it in public yet!" The scientist was red in the face and looked like he had just been caught in a storm, his white coat only on one arm and his grey hair giving him an electrocuted look. Cyrus stood next to him, looking just as storm struck with several cuts from the flying branches and boxes, but his face was blank of any emotion or reaction. The Galactic Boss stared off into the distance, his face as bare as if it had been from stone, and Charles wondered what was making him have this un-reaction.

Behind the two stood the reason why they were here and the reason why they were struggling. A machine slightly taller than Cyrus stood in the centre of the clearing. It was a perfect square, with a metal bottom for the computers and controls and the rest was made of glass. The glass was filled with water and a series of insulated pipes and wires that converged in the middle, where they feed into a glass tube. The tube ran up to the top of the machine, where a large gun that looked like a cross between a children's toy and a mad scientist's laser rested, pointing at the sky.

"Charles, get over here and help me fix this!" Charon barked. Charles jumped at the sound of his name, and quickly moved over, seeing that the scientist was in too much of a bad mood to mess with. As he moved closer, Charles could see something white in the middle of the glass tube, in the spot where all the wires meant. It looked almost like a ghost of a small Pokemon, pale and unmoving, with the outlines of closed eyes and mouth. Yet it was no Pokemon Charles knew, and he had not caught any name.

"Grab me a box to sit on," Charon snapped once Charles was near, and Elle leapt out of his arms so they were free. "I am going to have to shut this down properly before we head back to headquarters."

"Are we not testing it any more?" Charles asked, placing a dented crate next to Charon.

"It should never have been tested in the first place," the scientist growled with a glaring look at Cyrus. "Our lovely boss here is trying to find a way to control the weather as part of our plans, but unfortunately he would rather go in guns blazing rather than actually wait to see if it works first. All we have done today is harmed Castform and added some more damage to the local area. I want us out of here within the hour, so tell the others to pack up anything that needs it." Charles nodded, and he and Elle moved to find Brody, Samuel and the others. He glanced at the machine again as they passed and wondered if Castform was the small Pokemon trapped inside. If the Pokemon was responsible for the sudden burst of weather, it seemed like a lot of power for such a small thing to have, and Charles was not surprised that it had become uncontrollable.

Suddenly, the glass cracked. Charles froze in surprise and watched as a second shot crack appeared, but this time he heard the faint sound of a silenced gun. He spun around as the other grunts erupted in panic, fleeing out of the line of fire as a third bullet was fired, this one barely passing Cyrus as it struck the glass.

"Don't just run around you headless morons, FIGHT!" Charon yelled, and Charles scooped Elle up and moved as the scientist grabbed his own hand gun and fired it wildly and repeatedly into the trees. More bullets were fired back, but these ones struck several of the grunts in the arms and legs, sending them sprawling to the ground. Flashes of Pokemon being released lit up the grey forest, and Charles ducked behind a pile of boxes as a series of Zubat took to the skies.

"Whose firing at us?" Brody hissed in Charles' ear, appearing suddenly out of nowhere. Charles shrugged, resisting the urge to snap back an insult. "Why isn't Cyrus doing anything? Shouldn't he be commanding us?" Charles hadn't noticed this, but could see that the green haired man was standing in the same spot, staring just as blankly off into space as he was a moment ago. Charles wondered if he could run out and snap some sense into him, but as his legs bent, something suddenly moved out from behind a tree and landed in the centre of the clearing.

"Is this supposed to be Team Galactic's idea of subtlety?" The figure said, laughing, as he got up to his feet. "Hiding in a forest is a good idea, but unleashing a sandstorm? You might as well have a neon Groudon towering above you." The man laughed at his own jokes, and he cast an eye across all the Grunts as he examined the area. Charles recognised the man's red and black coat as the uniform of an Environmental Ranger, but the man himself stirred up no memories. He was taller and well muscled, with bronze skin that made his electric blue eyes stand out. A pale scar was the only thing that disrupted an otherwise arguably chiselled face, curving from above his right eye down to his lips. A gun was clasped tightly in a gloved hand, and a green Net Ball in the other, and Charles knew it was best not to get involved yet.

"It's Niles, isn't it?" Charon said coldly, walking out to meet him. "I don't believe there are many other rangers with such a hideous scar like that, are there?" Niles smiled, making the crescent shaped wound twitch, and he raised his gun up. Charon did the same, and both men stood there with their weapons aimed at each other's heads.

"Why don't we just agree to make this easy, shall we?" Niles purred. "You, Cyrus and this machine will come with me and no one else needs to get hurt. I see several of your goons have been harmed, and I will have them tended to as well, as a gesture of good will. But if you try to resist, I can't promise that any of you will make it out of here alive."

"I would be more worried about your own life," Charon growled back, and he raised his own weapon higher. Charles tensed up, not sure what was going to happen next, waiting for one of them to shoot, though secretly wishing it would Niles and he would have his chance to flee.

A bang sounded, and several grunts gasped, expecting to see blood. However, both Charon and Niles turned to face the machine, and Charles glanced over as well. Sparks were flying from the bottom, and chips of glass were falling from the bullet holes. Cyrus was standing over the controls furiously tapping buttons, and the entire machine was lighting up.

"CYRUS, NO!" Charon yelled.

"I have to do this, I must!" Cyrus yelled back, and Charles could see a maniacal look in his eyes. "No one is taking Castform from me, NO ONE!" And he slammed his fist against one button. The gun on top was flashing and whirling, and Charles abandoned all sense of hiding and began to run. Elle and Brody followed after, and many of the grunts were beginning to flee as well, leaving the wounded sprawled across the leaves and sand. Charles glanced back, watching as the entire machine began to glow white, and a scream sounded deep within. He grabbed Elle and sprinted, watching out for roots and fallen branches but trying to put as much distance between himself and the clearing before the machine exploded.

Yet the further away they got, the scream only got louder and more painful until it reached a point of silence, and that was when Charles felt the heat across his neck…

No matter how hard Vanessa blinked, all she could see was white and orange. Her eyes were in pain, and it seemed as though the strongest torch had just been shone directly into her face, except a thousand times worse.

She had no idea what was wrong with the weather lately, but knew that the cause was both unnatural and unnerving. Only a few minutes ago, right before Vanessa had caught up with Looker and the others, a sand storm had torn through the forest when there was no desert or beach for miles. Vanessa had been buffeted right into a tree, scraping her skin against the bark, and her eyes and clothing were filled with sand. Even though it had only been brief, Vanessa could still feel sand all over her body, clinging to the moisture left by the earlier downpour of rain, an extra layer of skin she couldn't get rid of.

Once the sandstorm had cleared, Vanessa found herself amongst Xavier, Matthew, Ninetales, Looker and Palmer, a strange little group amidst the repetitive pattern of winter-dead trees, matching the same confused looks covering everyone but Xavier's faces.

"None of you are supposed to be in here, we must go back!" Looker had protested, looking furiously at them as he glanced nervously around the empty forest. "There is a mission on at the moment to put a stop to all of this weather mayhem, and any appearances from you lot could seriously affect this!"

"Why aren't you there then?" Vanessa replied with a smile, and Looker had shot her back a look of pure loathing before continuing to look around. There was no one around, and no where for them to hide anyway, so it was unlikely anyone was around. However, there were faint screams and bangs echoing in the distance, but Vanessa could not say if there were from the forest and back the way they came. Talks of missions and putting a stop to the weather only made her think of there being people behind it, and there was no doubt in Vanessa's mind who those people might be.

"I am not going back!" Palmer boomed, looming over the spy with a few inches of his messy blonde hair. "Ninetales belonged to my late wife, and she has called us into this forest, and I want to know what that reason is!" Looker went to talk again, but Ninetales let out a furious growl, sparks and smoke coming from her mouth, and she turned and began to run east, kicking sand and leaves into the air. Everyone turned to follow her, and watching as her golden fur somehow managed to shine within the darkness, and that was when Vanessa realized the fears Looker had.

"Something is glowing over there!" She gasped, and watched as the light began to glow brighter and brighter, figures stirring around it, turned to silhouettes the white beam.

And before anyone else could register it, the glow exploded. Vanessa tried to turn in time to avoid the shockwave that they felt before it hit, but it had such an intense brightness to it that it nearly lifted her off her feet. Skin irritation was nothing compared to being blinded, and the heat that engulfed them seemed to suck all the water from Vanessa's body, leaving her a hollow, dried up shell.

The feeling of heat soon passed, and Vanessa felt cold by comparison. She had collapsed to the ground, covering her boots in mud and sand, but for once fashion was not her main priority: her eyes were open, but she could see nothing in front of her except for the strange bleak colours.

"What the hell was that?" Matthew yelled, and Vanessa could not tell where it came from. "It felt like the sun just exploded in front of us!"

"That is highly illogical Matthew. If the sun had just explo –"

"Shut up Xavier, you know that's not what I meant!" Matthew roared back. If Vanessa could see, she would have gladly punched the rich snob in the face, but at the moment she had no idea where anything was. Shakily, she got back to her feet and continued blinking, starting to make out rough shapes looming over her, but still everything was blurred together.

"Looker, what the hell is going on!" Vanessa yelled. "Is this Team Galactic again? Do you know what they are planning? Answer me!" She cried, and spun around, trying to make out where the spy had gone, but though her eyesight was starting to improve again, everything just looked like ghostly trees blurring around her. Vanessa saw something move and turned back towards it, her hands reaching towards her umbrella. Shouts were beginning to fill the air, and the sound of dozens of stampeding footsteps helped determine how many people were coming their way. Vanessa drew her umbrella and continued blinking, dull colours slowly slipping in, and readied herself for whoever approached them.

"NINE!" Ninetales suddenly shrieked, and Vanessa was taken aback as several trees suddenly erupted into flames. The shouts turned to screams, and the stampede suddenly increased. Vanessa could now make out Matthew and Xavier only a few feet away, the two moving backwards as the figures raced towards them.

"Getting your Pokemon out and fight back!" Vanessa hissed to the pair, and turned the handle of her umbrella. The fire made the blade shining and shimmer with reds and oranges, but Vanessa only admired the reflection for a moment before swinging it around. The first person she came across had been looking back at the fire and didn't notice the sword until it had cut across his side, sending him yelling and flailing to the ground. Vanessa looked down and growled as she saw the familiar white uniform she had come to despise so much, and angrily slid her sword further into the Galactic Grunts stomach, his blood spilling across the sand and mud. Her sight was nearly back now, and Vanessa looked up to see about a dozen Grunts had appeared before them, many of them still running from the fire or something else, a few stopping to engage in battle. Ninetales leapt out from the fire, which was rapidly spreading, and sunk her teeth into the leg of a fleeing Grunt, while Palmer yelled and threw a PokeBall into the air as a flock of Zubat and Golbat began to surround him.

"Eva Eve Eva!"

"No Elle, we need to keep moving!" Vanessa turned towards the voice, and saw a figure fleeing past her, something small clutched in their arms. Anger flowed through her body, and Vanessa took after them even though she was still half blind and covered in sand. The figure glanced back at the sound of her boots squelching through the mud, and Vanessa smiled at the look of pure fear on Charles' face.

"Shit," he hissed, and he raised his wrist up and began tapping and fidgeting at something that looked like a watch, but when it began to glow blue Vanessa knew what it was.

"OH NO YOU DON'T!" She roared and leapt forwards, knocking Charles to the ground as the blue glow cast sapphire shadows against the trees. Vanessa smashed her fist into the watch and dug her fingers into his other hand, clinging on as tightly as possible as the glow engulfed her body.

Vanessa had teleported with Abra on multiple occasions, but this felt stranger. She shut her eyes but blue still burnt through them, and her entire body felt like it was shaking and twisting, falling apart and coming back together again. Vanessa held onto her breathe, not daring to let it go, and felt Charles and her bag banging against her body.

The blue disappeared and Vanessa smashed into the ground, rolling for a few metres before coming to a halt. She was breathless and felt tired, but her vision returned normally, showing her the granite coloured clouds above her and the same skeletal looking trees that surrounded them. It was evident they were still in the same forest, but when Vanessa looked up none of the others were around them, and neither were there any grunts, only a few flecks of sand that crunched under her feet.

"Eva Eevee!" Vanessa groaned as she turned to face the voice, but felt a lot more agile as a beam of energy shot towards her. She quickly dived and spun away, and the attack exploded against a tree stump, turning it into pieces of bark.

"Oh, we're battling, are we?" Vanessa said, a smirk crossing her face as she turned back towards Charles' Eevee. "I'm sorry, fluff ball, but you aren't going to win this one." She grasped her umbrella tightly in her hands and swung it around, letting the blade slice through the nearest tree. It cut cleanly through, and the skinny tree tumbled backwards, falling with a soft thud to the ground. The Eevee still glared at Vanessa though, and she began to move forwards.

"Elle, here!" Charles called with a groan, and Vanessa turned her blade towards him, the smirk being replaced with rage. Elle didn't run away, but she had no care for what the Normal type would do, her own Pokemon only a few seconds away from defeating her.

"It never ceases to amaze me how stupid Team Galactic is," Vanessa hissed. "You try and destroy Sinnoh in the most obvious ways possible, but the majority of the time you fail, getting your asses kicked by either some teenagers or their elderly companions with less than a fifth of the numbers you have. But you are the stupidest of the lot: you decided to disobey my commands when you know what I can do to you, and I think that makes you stupider than any of your commanders."

"What is this about, exactly?" Charles growled, staring back at Vanessa with equal anger that only annoyed her more. "You cannot blame me for everything Team Galactic has done to Sahara since we had our little talk! Her turning into Jaki the two times and that club explosion had nothing to do we me!"

"You still could have done something!" Vanessa hissed back, stepping forwards, ignoring Elle as she growled at her. "You cannot deny your involvement at the … Park, and you were probably mingling around in the crowd when Jaki first rose up from that cave!"

"You wanted me to stay away from her, not protect her, make up your damn mind!" Charles yelled, and Elle gave a tiny but anger-filled roar as well. Vanessa realized he had a point, but she was not likely to walk away from this. She hated Charles for what he had done to Sahara and for what he was doing for Galactic, and it would not be right for her to let him walk away.

"I don't care what you say, I'm the one with a sword," Vanessa replied, and she charged forwards. Charles ducked as she swung the blade, a silver blur skimming over his head. She jabbed it down towards his stomach, but Charles rolled away faster than she expected and flung a handful of mud towards her. It splattered against her dress, obscuring the blue with the sodden brown.

"You little bastard," Vanessa yelled, and she swung it around again.

"EVA EVE!" Elle cried, and Vanessa leapt backwards angrily as a Shadow Ball shot past her. She reached into the side pocket of her bag and flung two PokeBalls to the ground. Dustox and Murkrow burst out, and she pointed towards the Eevee with her sword before moving towards Charles. However, a kick came out of nowhere, sending her sprawling to the ground with a bone shuddering thud, and a second knocked her umbrella away.

"You should know that I have been fighting people like me for a lot longer than you have, and I've picked up a few moves," Charles replied as he loomed over her, his own anger dancing in his eyes. Vanessa smiled as she sent her own kick up, feeling his balls move beneath her foot and smiling as he fell down.

"It'll be nice defeating an experienced person for a change," she replied with an angry smile, and she leapt towards him, jamming a fist into his stomach as his own caught her in the shoulder, thunder rumbling overhead and the cries of their fighting Pokemon echoing above their kicks and jabs.

As another battle erupted around him, Matthew couldn't help but wonder how many more of these he was going to have to suffer through.

His vision was slowly returning, but at the moment all he could see was red and oranges as fire spread between the trees, leaping from one branch to the next and consuming the lot. The roar of Palmer's Rhyperior was loud enough to make the whole world shake, and Matthew turned around to try and see where it was coming from, but ducked down as a hoard of Zubat dived towards him.

Why does this always happen to us? Matthew thought angrily as he covered his face with one hand and fumbled for a PokeBall with the next. Solaceon Town was full of enough despair, can't we just have a week off to relax? Something hot burnt the back of his neck, but there was a screech and the Zubat dispersed. Matthew watched Ninetales run past as she chased down two Grunts running side by side, but he turned away before watching them get dragged down and destroyed. Everything was starting to look normal again, but the air was thick with smoke, a new layer of grey obscuring the clouds above.

"Prinplup, I am going to need you!" Matthew said, stifling a cough, and threw a PokeBall onto the ground. With a burst of light outshone by the fire, Prinplup quickly materialized before him. "Clear a path, we need to get out of here!"

"Plup!" Prinplup yelled, and a spinning torrent of water came from her beak. Matthew got back to his feet as the tornado of water washed across the trees around him, stifling the fire and leaving scorched black trees in its path. By the time the attack had worn out, there was a clear path away from the battle. Matthew turned back and watched as Palmer engaged in a fist fight with several grunts as Rhyperior tore through their Pokemon, but there was no sign of Looker and Ninetales, and only Xavier's voice was drifting through the haze of smoke. Matthew wanted to wait for them, but the smoke was getting thicker and the fire was starting to spread again.

They have been in enough of these themselves to know what to do, Matthew thought solemnly, and grabbed onto Prinplup and began to run, heading between the charcoal-coloured trees and moving towards what he hoped was the way back to the café. The forest was still a dull, blank grey, matching the clouds above, and it was hard to tell with the identical rows of trees what direction was which, but Matthew thought it was best to keep moving away from the flames and risk getting lost.

"Come on Prinplup, we need to get out of here!" Matthew cried, and pulled the Penguin Pokemon forwards. He glanced back to see a Galactic Grunt rushing out as well, but they sprinted off in another direction. Matthew hoped Looker would be able to arrest a few of them: if he did, then maybe they could put a stop to Galactic once and for all. He was sick of being constantly chased and getting into these battles that risked his life every other day. He kept running, kicking leaves and sand up into the air, practically pulling Prinplup along the ground in his desperation to put as much distance between himself and the battle…


"GAH!" Matthew jumped and came to a halt, clutching at his chest. A giant brown ball had suddenly appeared before him, nearly bowling him over, and it took him a moment to realize the ball had a tiny beak, tiny, impractical looking wings and wide red eyes with black markings.

"Hello Matthew, nice of you to join us," Xavier said in his usual bored tone as the Hoothoot flew away from Matthew and landed on his shoulder. "I thought it was best to check out what is happening with the weather and Team Galactic, and Hoothoot woke up and was happy to help me search in return for fixing his injured wing." Matthew nodded, still taken aback by the fright and only half registering what he was being told. Xavier began walking the way Matthew was going, and the coordinator found himself being pulled as Prinplup followed after.

"Hoothoot's ability is Keen Eye, and he has been able to spot something suspicious up ahead," Xavier explained as they crunched through the forest.

"HOOT HOOT!" Hoothoot cried, his voice echoing. Matthew glanced around, the amount of noise they were making enough to alert any 'suspicious' people still hanging around. The horrified faces of the Galactic Grunts as they ran towards them were not reassuring either, but Matthew was not in a mood to argue, and there was no point either. No matter how much he protested, the coordinator would only get dragged into yet another battle against the same old people, and most likely lose once more.

"Hoothoot Hooot!" Hoothoot suddenly cried, quieter than before, and the quarter stopped. The Owl Pokemon fluttered forwards towards a tree branch that had lost its end, and he peered around a corner. "Hoot," he said, and gestured them forwards with a wing. Matthew was surprised Xavier was willing taking commands from a Pokemon, but watched as his friend walked blankly forwards and moved between the trees.

"Plup!" Prinplup cried and dragged Matthew forwards, who found his legs seemed just as unwilling to move as the rest of his body. Hoothoot took off above their heads, and Matthew's eyes went to follow them. That was when he saw the bark on the trees was all black and burnt on one side, and more branches had been torn from their bases. The leaves crunched beneath his feet, and Matthew looked down as they crumbled into ash.

"Have Whirlpool at the ready," he whispered to Prinplup, and quickened his pace. More leaves disintegrated as he stood on them, and the further in he went Matthew found it had all turned to ash. He started around at the trees, wondering where the fire was that had caused this, but instead all he saw was a figure lying face down on the forest floor.

"Oh my god, Xavier, look!" Matthew cried as Prinplup came rushing up behind him, and he got down on his knees and pushed the person onto their back. There was a crescent scar across his face that was oddly familiar, and Matthew looked down at their red and black uniform. "Xavier, this is Niles, that Ranger guy Vanessa and I –"

"Oh, is it? I met him in Jubilee," Xavier said, his tone bored. "Pity that he got involved, but there are far more interesting things over here." Matthew rolled his eyes, not surprised by Xavier's casual ignorance of an energy person. However, Prinplup grabbed him by the arm again and twisted him around, and Matthew gasped at what he saw.

Cyrus and Charon lay sprawled across the ground, face down in the mud and sand , their bodies unmoving. The pair were around a large metal device planted firmly in the ground, and Matthew only had to look at the pattern of ash and clumps of sand around the machine to know what was causing the weather. The glass surface that made up the majority of the device was cracked, and a dark liquid was oozing out from the bottom. Matthew couldn't make out what was inside, only strands of colour moving towards the middle, but he suddenly felt a chill crawl down his spine.

"We need to go back and find Looker, this must have been what he was talking about," Matthew said as Xavier and Hoothoot approached the machine. "Team Galactic has been doing something with the weather, and Looker and Niles were working –,"

"There's something inside, I think it might be a Pokemon," Xavier said, cutting off Matthew's thoughts, and he pulled his PokeDex out. Matthew was annoyed, but he and Prinplup moved to where he was standing near Cyrus' unconscious body. Matthew looked down at the turquoise haired man, the outrageous burst of colour unnatural amongst the grey of the rest of the world. We could stop him, Matthew thought. If we could tie him up and get him back to Looker, this might all be over, we would never have to fight again. Or we could just live him abandoned here in the cold, and make him suffer, just like he treated us…

"It is a Castform, the Weather Pokemon originating from Hoenn," Xavier read aloud, his voice so robotic and bland it could have been the device talking. Matthew snapped out of his thoughts, and felt another chill spread through his body, though this had nothing to do with the weather. "I wonder if the Pokemon is the cause of all of this. Do you think we should free it?"

"What? Oh, yeah… sure," Matthew muttered, his eyes drifting back towards Cyrus as he recoiled at the dark thoughts that had just passed through his mind. He didn't notice as Hoothoot flew past him, his mind slowly disappearing from the situation, but he came back in as soon as he heard the shattering of glass. Matthew looked up and jumped backwards as the large shards crashed against the ash covered ground. There was a flash of lights and a burst of sparks from the machine, and Matthew saw cracks creeping up along the other panes of glass. A strange antennae-like object on top looked in danger of falling down on the now unstable surface, but Matthew saw Xavier was oblivious to this as he peered in amongst the giant tangle of wires and pipes.

"Fooooorrrrmmm…" One of the weakest moans Matthew had ever heard in his entire life came croaking out from the machine, and he moved in next to Xavier in shock. A small bundle of grey was wrapped up amongst the wires, looking like a dirty piece of cotton that had been put in the wrong place. There were flickers of white as dull eyelids slowly opened and closed, and Matthew was stunned. Cherubi was probably taller and heavier than the wispy Castform in front of him, and a gust of wind could stand a chance of destroying the Pokemon, let alone the giant pane of glass above them.

"We have to get it out before this machine collapses on it!" Matthew shrieked. Xavier glanced up at the roof and gave a brief nod, and then glanced at Hoothoot and nodded again.

"HOOT HOOT!" Hoothoot cried, and his eyes flashed pink. Castform moved forwards for a moment, but than it suddenly let out a cry and Hoothoot paused. More sparks flew, and several wires came crashing down with bright yellow flashes.

"CAST!" Castform cried, and Matthew saw it was crushing its eyelids together and squirming around. "CAS CAS CAST!" It yelled, and it began to twist and turn violently, more wirings collapsing and crashing to the bottom of the creature's cage.

"It's in pain, we have to do something!" Matthew cried in shock. "Prinplup, use Metal Claw and cut through the wires!" The Weather Pokemon nodded and her fins flashed silver, but before she could move there was a groan at their feet. Matthew leapt back as if he'd been shocked, and his eyes widened as they watched Charon begin to stir, his wide frame slowly rising up.

"CAS CAS CASTFOOOOORM!" Castform screamed, the temperature dropping with each cry. Matthew began to shiver violently as the antennae flashed brightly in the gloom, the wires leading up to it shaking more than most. There was an intense glow from within the machine itself, and Matthew moved backwards as fast as possible, Castform's screams getting louder and longer as the Pokemon shone brighter and brighter.

"What is going on?" Charon groaned, getting to his feet as Xavier, Prinplup and Hoothoot wisely moved away. The scientist turned to face them, his face and front covered in sand and wet from the mud, his glasses cracked and sitting askew on his nose, but the look of pain and curiosity was replaced with shock as he turned to the machine. "You fools, what did you do!" Matthew wanted to say it had been Xavier, pass the blame to someone else and leave them to deal with it, but he was so shocked that he had no idea what to say. He forgot that Charon was his enemy and that he should have stopped him from rising up, and forgot that this was a Team Galactic machine that he and Xavier had foolishly tampered with. All Matthew could hear was the high pitched scream of "FOOOOOOORM" from within the machine, a cry so pitiful and pained that it tore at his heart.

"We have to move, NOW!" Charon yelled, the scientist already turning to flee. But Matthew was too cold to move, yet he hadn't noticed the frost creeping up on him. His legs felt frozen, and when he looked at his hands, the coordinator saw they were blue. He tried to tell Xavier, Prinplup, Charon, someone this, but over a shivered stutter came tumbling out from his lips, lips that felt like ice when he pressed them together.

"CAAAAAAAS!" The scream was short but louder and more pained, and Matthew winced at the pain of the noise. He watched as a beam of pure blue and white energy rose gleaming out from the glow, and Matthew followed it as it shot off into the sky and spread across the grey clouds, coating them in light. It was such a beautiful sight that Matthew forgot for a moment all about the situation they were in, and his mind drifted off to the clouds after the beam, for a brief moment wondering what the energy was and where it was going.

Than a shockwave colder than anything Matthew had ever felt before washed over him, and he shut his eyes against the cold, blinding light, his mind coming back to him and telling Matthew that he should have seen this coming… it was how it always ended.

Thunder continued to boom overheard, the giant, shaking sound becoming more frequent and more aggressive. It sounded like some great beast coming slowly towards them, and Sahara glanced at the sky and wondered what was to come. There was a chill in the air that the hair on her body on end, and the threat of rain clung to her skim. She wanted to find shelter and flee the coming storm, but she could not go inside just yet.

Route 217 was deserted once again. Only Sahara and Nutty stood where the mass of reporters had been barely half an hour ago. A layer of sand buried the grass and mud with flecks of brown and yellow, and Sahara had no idea what had caused it. Everyone had fled indoors to escape the sandstorm, and Sahara had briefly gone inside after awakening from her fall to tend to a graze on the right side of her face. However, one person had remained outside, and Rowan was leaving it to her to tend to Mason's feelings while he dealt with reporters.

A piece of twisted metal had made its way over to the café, and Sahara traced its path back to the crater in the middle of the route. Mason sat amongst the ruins of his rocket, parts still smouldering from the lightning that had destroyed it. Chunks of earth had been torn from the ground and lay in heaps all around. Solrock and Lunatone floated in a daze, their hard bodies saving their lives but they had been left confused and shaken. Mason looked more hurt than them though. He stared blankly at the remains of his pet project, ignoring the small cuts and bruises that covered his body, let disappointment and devastation engulf him.

"Look at him," Sahara mumbled to Nutty, who thankfully was uninjured. "I have seen him this way before. I remember he broke a miniature helicopter he had invented one of the first years he worked for my grandfather, and no one was able to make him feel better." She looked across at her old friend with a sad sigh escaping her lips. Words would not fix his rocket, but they had to at least try. She took a tentative step onto the route, watching nervously for any signs of broken glass, but the ground beneath her squelched rather than crunched, and Sahara moved out.

"Pachi Pach Pachi," Nutty said, and bounded forwards over tiny shards and tumbled pieces of wires, not as fearful as her trainer and went straight for Lunatone and Solrock. Mason looked up briefly as Nutty passed, and Sahara smiled encouragingly at him and moved quicker.

"Everyone has moved inside. Rowan thinks there is going to be another storm soon, and it would all be best if we were out of the way," she called out as she approached, finding a lot of the grass had been burnt away the closer she got to the crater. "It is nice and warm inside, even if it is a bit loud from all those reporters. Do you want to come in?" Sahara finally reached him, and stood on a piece of cracked and uneven ground that wobbled as she stood on it. For a moment, she thought Mason hadn't heard, as he continued to stare into the crater with a blank expression on his face.

"If I go inside, they will all ask me what caused the explosion," he whispered back in a hoarse voice, "and they will all blame me for endangering their lives."

"That is nonsense!" Sahara gasped. "The explosion was not your fault! It was the lightning striking the machine, Rowan saw it with his own eyes. You cannot be blamed for the weather!"

"It shows what a bad scientist I am," Mason replied. "I helped design the machine, and if it couldn't stand up to even a single bolt of lightning, than how could it withstand going into space? I have wasted millions of dollars on designing a rocket that wouldn't survive, and I could have killed my Pokemon in the process." He glanced briefly at the Meteorite Pokemon, but looked away as if they would attack him in the look lingered too long. Sahara was stunned by how defeated Mason sounded, and she sat down next to him, moving close and pulling him into an one armed hug.

"I have known you for years, and I have never thought of you to be a bad scientist. Making mistakes is all part of the job, is it not? The rocket looked pretty impressive to me, and I am sure it would have survived in space." Sahara looked up at the sky, a grim look on her face as the granite clouds flashed white in the distance. "This storm is to blame. There is something very unnatural about it, and if you ask me, it wanted the rocket to fail for whatever reason. You have to blame the clouds, not yourself." Her eyes met with Mason's as they turned towards each other, and she was proud to see he was smiling. Mason suddenly began to laugh, tipping his head back and letting his joy echo around them. Sahara began to laugh as well, unable to control herself, and the two were reduced to hysterical giggling messes in seconds, letting a few snorts creep in that made Nutty, Lunatone and Solrock exchange looks.

"Oh yes, blame the clouds, that's the best way to fix this," Mason said when he finally calmed down, though he had gone red in the face. "If only I could go to the reporters and tell them that, than it would be as if none of this ever happened." The laughter quickly died from his face as Mason stared back at the ruined rocket, sighing softly at the burnt and twisted metal that lay scattered around them. "I really should go and face them, shouldn't I?" Sahara nodded, silently pleased that she had won him around. She leapt to her feet and extended a hand.

"I will be there for you if you need my support," she said with a smile, and Mason managed to smile back at her as he grabbed onto her hand. Sahara hoisted him up, satisfied with the turn of events. However, she didn't notice that the ground she stood on was uneven. As she pulled Mason up, the ground moved, and Sahara wobbled backwards. She cried out, and heard the shocked cries of those around her, but nothing stopped her as she fell backwards. Sahara feared landing on jagged metal or broken glass, but than her eyes fell upon what looked like part of the engine sparking directly below her, and all she could do was curse as her back landed directly upon it.

"SAHARA!" Mason shouted, and he collapsed to his knees as Sahara's head snapped backwards, the sound of something exploding beneath her back reaching his ears, her body twitching and flailing, before her eyes shut. "No, Sahara… wake up, come on Sahara, wake up!" Mason cried, and quickly dragged her away, being careful to hold her neck steady after the unpleasant snapping it had made. Nutty, Solrock and Lunatone surrounded him in shock as the assistant pulled Sahara onto a clear and flat section of land, where he softly lay her down, though she still did not stir.

No, this can't be happening Mason thought, and he tried shaking Sahara to see if she would wake. I can not lose my rocket and Sahara in one day, that is too cruel! "WAKE!" Mason yelled, his eyes starting to water as a pain formed in his chest. He pressed down on her chest, wondering if it was resuscitation she needed. As soon as her body jerked though at the force of his hands, Sahara's eyes burst open, and her left hand clasped both of his.

"My my, if you wanted to touch me there, you only need ask," she whispered in a purr.

"Oh Sahara, I thought we'd lost you!" Mason cried in relief, and he pulled her into a hug. He felt reassured and began to calm down, wiping his tears away before they could fall. Mason went to stand up, but Sahara was holding him tightly, and he could hear her breathing deeply near his ear as she nuzzled her shoulder. "Um… Sahara, what are you doing?"

"Sahara's checked out for now darling," she replied in a voice thick with seduction. "It's time you and I spent some quality time together." Mason gasped and pushed backwards, and stared directly into Sahara's eyes, his heart sinking as he saw laughter and joy dancing in the pink that now filled her stare. "Y-y-y-your n-not Sa-Sahara…," Mason stammered, his heart racing once more, and Crystal laughed as she moved a hand up his chest.

"Clever boy, you're a true scientist," she said sarcastically and laughed again. Mason wanted to say something, but was left breathless and wordless as he suddenly moved back to his feet, his body pressed against Crystal's as they both rose simultaneously. Her lips suddenly seemed darker and fuller, and they twisted in a smile once they had stopped moving.

"Pach Pach Pachi!" Nutty suddenly cried from their feet, and the Pachirisu made to move forwards, sparks flying from her body and an angry look on her face. Crystal merely laughed and rolled her eyes, and then flicked her wrist casually. Nutty stopped moving as the air around her shimmered, and Mason gasped as the Electric type pounded against thin air, causing pink vibrations that surrounded her and his Pokemon.

"What have you done?" He cried, trying to pull away but finding himself trapped in Crystal's grasp. "Let me go!" Mason tried to push her away, but Crystal only laughed and pulled herself closer, wrapping one leg around his and pushing her chest close to his, and Mason slowly began to freeze.

"There's a good boy," Crystal whispered, moving her lips close to his ear once more. "Now surely you can put the pieces together, science boy, so it's time we made some chemistry," she continued in a purr, and let out a laugh that echoed all around, a sound so loud that it nearly outdid the thunder that followed, a great boom that sounded like an explosion. Mason wanted to pull away, knowing it was right, but there was something about the pinkness that filled Sahara's eyes that drew him in, and slowly a smile began to cross his face to match Crystal's. Neither of them noticed the clouds changing colour above them, nor did they register the flecks of snow that landed in their hair as they moved towards the trees.

Rowan scowled at his computer. He faced the screen and would have looked invested to the outside world, but his attention was the reporters the filled the café behind him as many filmed their pieces. Terms like 'dangerous', 'unprepared' and 'deadly' drifted back to him, and the professor wanted nothing more than to put them in their places, but knew that was exactly what they would want from him.

Gossiping, pathetic cretins, Rowan thought bitterly. There was nothing dangerous or unprepared about that rocket, and the only deadly thing out there was the lightning. Rowan turned his attention back towards his laptop and the weather maps that lay before him. The only thing that the mix of colours and lines could tell him was that there was rain along Route 217 and along the surrounding routes and parts of Veilstone City, but that was nothing he didn't know. The Weather Institute's website had no mentions of the sudden electric storm though, nor the strange sandstorm that had forced them inside.

Surely we didn't imagine it, Rowan thought angrily, and he opened his own weather programme, which was a small device on the roof of the van he had put up this morning to examine the route's storm. The device had picked up the lightning, and Rowan was stunned to see that over one hundred strikes had occurred during the sandstorm. What was stranger though was that it had reported a sudden increase of heat, showing temperatures that he would only expect during the hottest days of summer, but now it was coming close to freezing.

This is too unnatural, something else is afoot here, Rowan thought, and he quickly closed his screen and got to his feet. He would have to find a quiet spot and contact the right people to consult about this. Rowan had a dreadful feeling that they may need to evacuate the area while they sorted the matter out, and he wondered where Mason, Sahara and her friends had all gone.

"Ronald, what are you doing hiding in the corner?" A voice said with a hint of a smirk behind him, and Rowan stifled a grunt as he turned to face Clarisse Miller and her perfectly made up face. The reporter was smirking at her own private joke, and Rowan wanted to be the one to wipe it off. She had endangered Sahara and the Dex Holders with her report on them, and Rowan knew that she had to be put in her place before she did something like it again.

"What do you want? There is no story here of the gossipy crap you specialize in, so why don't you go and stalk some celebrity about their latest partner or nose or whatever you want to make headlines." Rowan made to push past, but Clarisse held a microphone out in his way that thumped into his chest, and he angrily looked towards the smiling reporter.

"Look, we all know there is some story in what is going on here, and I am willing to cut you a deal," she purred. "Give me an exclusive interview, and I can provide you with enough money to get your rocket project going again." Rowan angrily knocked her microphone out of the way, and Clarisse's face twisted up in rage.

"Listen here Miss Miller," Rowan growled. "I do not want your dirty money, and I would never give you an interview even if you were the last reporter in the world. Why don't you try being a real journalist for once and contact the people that will know more on the situation, rather than jumping towards the first person you see. I'm a Pokemon Professor, not a meteorologist." Clarisse looked shocked, and Rowan smiled beneath his snowy moustache as he moved away. The look on her face was priceless, and Rowan could see the others were moving asides to avoid him as he headed for the public phone. Rowan had never liked reporters, and frightening a few of them was enough to make his day.

"Look everyone, it's snowing!" Rowan paused and turned around, and the reporters all turned as well. The female owner was standing next to the window, right near where Sahara had sat earlier, and was pointing through the glass. The reporters all murmured in excitement as the white flecks danced past the windows, falling softly and slowly.

How can we go from having a sandstorm to heat to snow all in an hour? Rowan thought suspiciously, and he placed his laptop down on the table as he followed everyone outside. There was a definite chill in the air that made him do up his coat, and Rowan saw that the muddy ground was becoming blanketed in white, hiding all signs of the previous weather. He glanced around and saw Sahara and Mason were nowhere in sight, and the ruins of the rocket were becoming buried as well.

"This is most unusual," the scientist murmured aloud, and scowled at the reporters that were starting to record their pieces against a backdrop of winter. "These fools should be hiding inside, not frolicking in the snow. This is not natural weather!"

"I believe I have to agree you with," Clarisse said by his shoulder, and Rowan turned to glare at her. "I may be a trashy journalist, but even we can figure out when something's wrong. Off the record, do you think that this is man made?" The reporter looked up at him curiously, and Rowan had to nod. He knew that there would be some exterior cause to this, and he had several suspicions as to who it might be.

That was the world shook.

Rowan glanced up at the sky as it seemed to exploded, a noise so loud and bitter shaking throughout the world. The reporters all froze and looked to the sky, and it appeared as though the clouds were shaking. Rowan went to shout for everyone to move indoors, but there was no need: bolts of lightning burst through the clouds, smashing into the ground and trees, sending snow scattering and setting trees alight. Journalists screamed and headed for the doors as the sky continued to explode, but Rowan could not take his eyes off the clouds. They were stirring, moving in circular motions, and appeared to be glowing blue. The clouds flashed with each burst of lightning that was released, and Rowan was becoming blinded.

"We have to get inside!" Clarisse yelled, and she turned to follow the other reporters inside. However, before Rowan could follow her, the roar came again, this time sounding as if it had come from next to them. Rowan looked back at the clouds and watched as they began to move aside, three long green fingers forcing themselves through the grey.

"Miss Miller, would you mind sending your Pokemon out and asking everyone else to release theirs?" Rowan boomed, trying to keep the fear and shock out from his voice. "I feel we are going to need them." Without waiting for a response, he reached into his pockets for his own, but froze as the hand moved the clouds aside, and Rowan looked up as the long, lizard-like face the colour of emeralds pushed through, and the scientist knew there was hope.

You only had to look at Sootopolis City to know nothing would stop Rayquaza enraged.

Thunder crashed and boomed around them, and the lightning smashed into the ground and set the trees alight around them, but Vanessa and Charles did not seem to notice the storm and snow raging around them.

"SIGNAL BEAM, AERIAL ACE!" Vanessa bellowed as she drove a fist into Charles' stomach.

"FIRE FANG, THUNDERBOLT!" Charles yelled back breathlessly, and brought a knee up to meet Vanessa's chin. As her head snapped backwards and her mouth filled with blood, the Pokemon continued their battle around them. Elle lay injured and whimpering beside a smouldering bush, leaving Ampharos and Mightyena to fend off Dustox and Murkrow. Dustox unleashed his rainbow coloured beam, blasting Mightyena backwards before fire could form in his mouth. Murkrow dived down from a scream, her wings glowing as she aimed for Ampharos' long neck.

"Pharooooooo!" Ampharos screamed, glowing yellow. She let Murkrow fly into her before letting loose her own blast of lightning. Murkrow screamed more painfully, and Vanessa turned to watch her Pokemon soar steaming towards a tree. She looked away before watching the Darkness Pokemon suffer anymore, just in time to catch Charles' punch before it caught her in the face.

"Fighting while your foe is distracted, how very noble," Vanessa hissed as she twisted the hand and kicked Charles in the right knee, sending him crashing into the mud. She kicked a wad of sodden leaves and dripping mud into his face before grabbing a PokeBall and throwing it into the field. It had been a random grab, but Vanessa was satisfied when Luxio landed fully formed before her.

"Swift and Signal Beam," she said, and quickly rushed back to where her umbrella had fallen. The black fabric was covered with mud and parts of the handle where chipped, but Vanessa was pleased to see no lightning had been attracted by it. She picked it up firmly in her hands and turned back grinning, twisting the handle as she did so. The silver blade shot out, reflecting an explosion of gold and yellow as Swift and Thunderbolt combined. Vanessa was dismayed to see Mightyena leaping up at Dustox, teeth bared and flames dancing from his mouth as the Signal Beams simply shot past, and she was tempted to leave Charles groaning on the ground and deal with his vicious Pokemon. However, there was a rustle from the bushes, and Vanessa turned to see Murkrow slowly rise up from the charred remains, her black feathers lit up by the red fire burning in the tree behind her.

"Are you injured?" Vanessa said fearfully, moving towards the Dark type. Murkrow shook her head, looking tired and battered but still able to fly. "Good, then give them hell for me."

"MUUUUUR!" Murkrow yelled in triumph, and she shot forwards with her wings glowing silver, flying directly into Mightyena as he tried to catch Dustox. Vanessa smiled widely as she followed after, casually ignoring the lightning that continued to strike the forest and barely registering the snow that was slowly falling from the skies, gathering in small heaps on the ground that she scattered aside with her blue boots. Little of the blue still showed though, now stained with mud and blood, and Vanessa noticed that her dress had been torn in several places and was smeared with blood from a cut near her right breast, an attempt by Charles to stop her with a broken branch.

All he did was annoy me and ruin my dress, Vanessa thought angrily as she stopped in front of the groaning boy. I will add that to the list of what he has to pay for. She forced the blade up against his throat, and Charles turned to look up at her, his lips curled in a snarl and his eyes wide and burning. The defiance made him look rugged and attractive, and Vanessa smiled to herself as she nicked his throat, sending tiny beads dripping down his neck.

"If your going to kill me, than get it over with!" Charles yelled, his voice rising above the thunder, the exploding moves and the roaring wind that swept through their small section of the forest. "You've defeated me, you've finally won, congratulations. If you are expecting me to beg for mercy or forgiveness, than your dreaming! Just hurry up and be down with it!" Vanessa smiled, wanting nothing more than to slide the sword into his throat and end his life. However, there were questions that she wanted answering first, things she wanted to get out of him, answers she knew that Sahara deserved.

"Why did you never leave Team Galactic?" Vanessa yelled over the explosion of thunder that was closer than ever. She glared down at Charles as her words echoed, though he fell silent, letting the cries and explosions from their warring Pokemon fill the air. Vanessa stared into his eyes and saw the anger fading, and the rage disappeared from his face. The question did not seem difficult, and Vanessa was surprised to seem he was struggling with it.

"I… I don't know," Charles admitted at last, and he pulled an expression that made him look weak and pathetic, just a young man caught in a storm he didn't expect. "I never wanted to get involved, but when they caught me and forced me into their organisation, for some reason it never crossed my mind to leave. I guess… I guess there is some reason why I am staying, but I haven't figured it out yet." He looked up at Vanessa with wide sad eyes, and for a moment she sympathized with him, but than she caught her senses and kicked him in the stomach.

"That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard," Vanessa hissed as Charles twisted in pain, the sword catching his throat again. "You seriously expect me to accept that? That only makes me want to kill you in slower and more painful ways than I had planned. How can you not know why you are staying there? I imagine even your fellow mindless fucking grunts know what they want: fame, glory, power, all the typical Tauros crap. Come on Golden boy, look inside what shrivelled heart you have and find me answer." Vanessa sprayed him with spit as she hissed over him, and Charles squirmed but still did not give her a response. She thought a tear crossed his cheek for a moment, but Vanessa simply rolled her eyes.

"Alright then, a simpler question!" She yelled, leaning backwards to avoid ricocheting Electric attacks. "You claim to love Sahara, yet you have helped Galactic try and kill her multiple times. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't slit your throat right now and drag your corpse back to her so we can be done with you?" Charles stared back at her angrily, and Vanessa smiled to herself, glad to bring the rage back.

"I only did what I had to do on orders, I would never intentionally harm Sahara!" He shouted. "I don't want to hurt or kill anyone, but I am given my jobs and do what I have to do. Frankly, I wouldn't even hurt Xavier or Matthew if I had the option to avoid doing so, though you're a complete different matter."

"Glad to know I am an exception," Vanessa giggled, and stamped down on his right hand. Charles groaned and clutched his hand, but the fury continued regardless.

"I have feelings for Sahara, as you know. The only trouble is that I don't know what to make of them. How can I love someone I am supposed to be hunting down? How can I have feelings for someone that can turn into a murderous, supernatural demon so easily? Cyrus, Charon, Mars, they all convinced me she was a monster that had to be stopped, and frankly I wanted to stop her, as then she would not be on my mind anymore, and I wouldn't have to deal with the pain of falling for her and then lose her. I was never meant to stay in Sinnoh, I want to go back to Johto! There are… friends waiting for me, and some of my Pokemon. The incident that brought me here…" Charles drifted off, his eyes widening again as if he had seen something shocking, and Vanessa was tempted to look behind, though did not want to show him her back. They fell silent again as Vanessa dwelled over his words, tossing them around in her mind. Charles made since to a degree, and Vanessa could understand fears of committing to people you were afraid to lose, and for a moment she lost herself, seeing fires dancing before her eyes, seeing a shadowed figure looming over Staraptor's body, seeing gravestones planted in the snow…

"You owe her an explanation," Vanessa croaked, shaking her head to clear the thoughts away before she lost herself. "You should find her and make her listen to what you have to say and put the poor girl out of her misery! She has enough problems without worrying over you, and if she knew you weren't committed, it would do her a great deal of good." Vanessa put acid into every single word, but was stunned to see Charles smiling up at her, a completely different look to the vicious glares she'd received only a minute before.

"I am sure Sahara would rather know about your own feelings for her," he replied in a whisper that was nearly lost amongst the noise next to them. "We both know what this is about. You love her but know Sahara will never go for me, and you know she either loves me or has some strong feelings for me. Don't stand there and try and tell me what to do when you are lying to her about your feelings and building a false friendship between the two of you, and we both know you are going to kill me before I will ever get a chance to talk to her. Just hurry up and kill me, you hypocritical bitch." Vanessa wanted to, her hand tightening its grip on the umbrella, pressing the blade against the bump of his throat and wanted to draw it across before Charles could say anything else. Yet his words had lingered in the air, and Vanessa's mind was drifting elsewhere as she debated what he had just thrown back at her. What he had said was true, and Vanessa found the words had frozen her, leaving her incapable of carrying out the act.

"Duuusss… tooooox…" Vanessa turned at the sound of the hoarse cry, and she suddenly realised that there had been no sounds of battle for the last few minutes. All six Pokemon from either side were collapsed in the middle of the clearing, none of them looking capable of carrying on the fight. Dustox and Murkrow both appeared to be scorched, and Luxio was limping as he moved towards his trainer. Ampharos was completely covered in mud and looked cut, but was tending to Mightyena who was whimpering in pain.

"We shouldn't have forced them to fight for us," Vanessa said, and she lowered her sword so the blade touched the mud. Charles made to move and she turned to shoot him a look that froze him as he tried to sit up. "I am not going to kill you today, but I will if you do not tell Sahara what you told me the next time you meet. She deserves the truth, and she wouldn't believe me if I was the one to tell her. You are going to teleport me back to Route 217 so I can find care for my Pokemon, and then you are going to go back to your so you can work out exactly why you are being a horrible human being and never speak a word of this conversation again, agreed?"

"Agreed," Charles said with a slow nod as he got back to his feet. "We wouldn't want people thinking you have a heart now, would we?" He flashed her a smile, but Vanessa only wanted to tear his lips off and stop him from ever doing that again. She scooped Luxio up and stroked his head and moved towards Dustox and Murkrow, keeping a weary eye on the back of Charles' head as the pains of their battle started to sink in. Part of her wished she had finished him while she had the chance, but the other part of her was too distracted by her own thoughts and feelings. His words were not fading away, and they seem to be imprinted at the front of her mind. Vanessa hated him even more for that, but she knew what he had said was true. She needed to fix her relationship with Sahara before it got any worse, and killing Charles would not bring her any pleasure until that was sorted.

Yet in a brief moment when the two trainers looked at each other, Vanessa saw something new in Charles' long, sad face, and knew that she wasn't the only one with issues to dwell over.

Despite everything that had happened to them, from the first battle on their first day of travelling to the destruction of the Valley Windworks, the Oreburgh Mine and almost every other building they had touched, when Xavier awoke to find they were flying, even he had to admit this was the strangest thing to occur.

He eyes opened suddenly, and he looked up to see the clouds were still grey, but they had been tinted with blue and were flashing in odd spots. The giant mass of blank colours were unmoving, but from his position, the skeletal, unhealthy trees were all moving past, their branches battering against Xavier's arms and tearing through his clothes. Something was howling , and frightened murmurs stirred nearby. Xavier was puzzled, and his head was ringing, and a chill spread through his body… everything seemed quite unnatural, and Xavier went to stand up to see what was happening.

He managed to stand, yet his feet did not touch the ground.

Xavier turned around and found he was flying. The ground was nearly a metre below him and flying by, a mixture of mud, snow, sand and hints of grass all blurring into one. Matthew, Prinplup and Hoothoot were floating as well, their bodies moving and twisting by force of whatever carried them.

"Unusual…," Xavier pondered to himself, and he glanced behind, trying to see where they were going. His body moved as his head turned, and Xavier felt his stomach tip as his whole body rocked and shivered from the cold. A breeze tugged at his jacket, and it was then that Xavier realised they were not truly floating: they had become caught in the wind, though it was a strange mix of strength and calm that was keeping them airborne but not pushing them into a tornado.

Xavier spun around to try and see a source, and was not surprised to see the machine floating close to the ground, the gun device on top glowing the colour of lavenders. The device was coated in frost and fog, making it resemble a large floating ice cube, and Xavier remembered the machine flashing blue before he had passed out. He looked back to the clouds and their strange blue tint, and could only wonder what sort of machine Team Galactic had created.

A roar tore through the eerie silence that surrounded them, a noise so loud and terrible that Xavier jumped. Around him, Matthew, Prinplup and Hoothoot all awoke at the sound, and suddenly the three were squirming and gasping as they realised they were flying.

"Hello there," Xavier said. "In case your wondering, Castform and the machine are causing us to fly, I believe. I can always check with Charon or Cyrus if they are moving as well," and Xavier peered through branches and trunks towards the other side of the machine and its spiralling wind, and saw three figures floating limply across from them. "Yes, they are there. I presume at once one of them is alive as I can hear groaning. Anyway, I believe we should find a way to get back on solid ground."

"Well actually Xavier, I am starting to get the hang of this, I wouldn't mind flying for the rest of my life!" Matthew hissed back sarcastically, and Xavier rolled his eyes, knowing he would resort to this level of immaturity. "We should attack the machine and see if we can knock Castform out of this! Prinplup, use –"

"That is a stupid idea," Xavier said, stopping Matthew in his tracks. "Any attacks could either badly harm Castform or set it off into doing some more bizarre form of weather. I believe I should send either Lapras or Drifblim out, they would be able to settle this properly."

"Just do whatever!" Matthew yelled hysterically, and he pulled Prinplup close for comfort. Xavier rolled his eyes at Hoothoot, who agreed with a nod, and then reached into his pockets. As he debated using Lapras or Drifblim though, the roar sounded again. This time it sounded like it was coming from right behind him, and Xavier covered his ears to try and silence the painful and booming noise. Matthew, Prinplup and Hoothoot squirmed in discomfort as well, and Xavier saw something flash behind the frosted glass. He turned around to try and see what Pokemon it was, and he saw the trees thinning up ahead, and a wide expanse coming close towards them.

"We're nearing Route 217!" Xavier cried out over the roar, though it appeared his words had been lost in the wind. He tried to focus on the route appearing up ahead, and paused on releasing any Pokemon until he had a better idea of what to expect. Xavier stared to the route, wondering if the roaring creature would be found there, and thought back to his father, Looker and Vanessa and where they had ended up during all of this.

Than he noticed the trees were flying.

Xavier quickly grabbed one of his PokeBalls without properly considering it and threw it behind him into their own wind current, watching as the trees on the very edge of the forest were ripped from the ground and pulled away onto the route, dirt flying and their roots waving like flailing arms. Xavier turned back to the flash and was satisfied to see Grotle had formed, though the Grove Pokemon seemed quite stunned by what he had come into.

"Grab onto him!" Xavier shouted to Matthew, and noticed his friend and Prinplup were staring blankly in shock at the flying trees before him. Xavier pushed forwards and grabbed onto Grotle's shell, and Hoothoot soared over, nestling in ones of his bushes.

"Grot?" The Grass type asked, visibly confused.

"Dive towards the ground and dig your claws in," Xavier commanded, "as if you are using Earth Power." Grotle was heavy and was barely floating, and Xavier hoped his weight would save them. He turned towards Matthew and was briefly irritated to see he had not moved. "Prinplup, get over here!" The Penguin Pokemon was quicker to respond than her trainer, and she kicked out with feet to move them through the wind. Matthew shouted as they spun around, but Xavier grabbed them and forced them down onto Grotle as more trees before them were sent flying as easily as plastic bags.

"GROOOOT!" Grotle yelled, and he dived down, his claws glowing a muddy brown. Their combined weight was enough to push the Pokemon down, and Grotle forced his front feet into the ground to anchor them. The wind tried to tug at them, and for a moment Xavier thought they were going to flip over until the ground around them glowed brown as well. There was an earth shaking explosion that sent chunks of ground and mud flying through the air, and suddenly the rest of Grotle smashed down, sending the rest of them spilling onto the cracked and mud filled earth.

"Good job Grotle," Xavier called, brushing the mud off and getting back to his feet. Grotle gave a weary nod, and Matthew looked grumpy as he climbed back to his feet, a large brown streak down the right side of his face. Prinplup and Hoothoot both stifled sniggers, and Xavier would have been mildly amused himself, but the roar sounded once again, sounding like a deadly creature combined with a jet engine right next to his ear. Xavier flinched and turned around, wondering what he would find behind him.

Even though his name had been on his mind all day, Xavier did not expect to find Rayquaza staring directly at him.

The legendary giant was floating only a few metres away, the end of his long jade body hovering over the ground that was now a mix of the remnants of different weathers. Xavier had to crane his neck up in order to properly see the Sky High Pokemon. Rayquaza's skin was a dazzling green, so full of the colour that the trees and grass should have been showing. Yellow and black patterns covered his body, along with thicker sections of skin with red tipped fins growing out. Rayquaza's only limbs were two arms that looked big enough to crush anyone or anything easily, with sharp claws for added murder.

But the most frightening feature was his face. It was wide like a endless meadow, but had small, beady eyes by comparison that were focussed entirely on Xavier, seeming to stare directly into his body. Xavier could not tell if Rayquaza was smiling or not, but his mouth was twisted in some expression, with two lone jagged teeth like stalactites prodding through.

This is going to be interesting, Xavier thought, just as Rayquaza let out another roar. He stumbled backwards from the force of it, and found Grotle, Prinplup and Hoothoot rushing to his side. The three Pokemon stared back up at the Dragon type, and Rayquaza stared widely back at them for a moment, but than the beast turned aside, waving his giant hands as he did so. Wind whipped up once again, scattering dirt across them, hard brown rain that blinded them. Voices sounded nearby though, and the group moved away from the torrent of dirt towards the sounds.

"Xavier, Matthew!" Palmer boomed as he raced towards them, followed closely by Professor Rowan, Looker, Clarisse Miller and several other reporters and camera people, with Ninetales and assorted Pokemon already out, the café sitting behind them. "Oh boys, where did you get to? When we stopped the fire, we thought you had perished!"

"We thought we'd try and see what Team Galactic was doing," Matthew said, though his nervous expressions and a slight twitch revealed the lie if anyone else had paid attention. "Team Galactic has a Castform inside a giant box and they seem to be controlling the weather through it." Xavier saw Looker's eyes widen in shock and wondered if the spy already knew this or suspected it.

"This is starting to make sense," Professor Rowan said, his moustache shaking as he spoke. "Their unnatural weather control would be why it is not showing up anywhere, and it explains Rayquaza's anger as well. It is likely he is trying to fix the problems with the weather that are disturbing with his area of control." There were murmurs of agreement from the others as if they had expected this all along, but Xavier was more interested by the fact Ninetales was moving away from the group unnoticed, crossing the cracked ground as she neared Rayquaza and the machine.

"What is Rayquaza going to do to fix this issue?" Clarisse asked, a notepad in hand.

"I am not sure, but I do not imagine it will be beneficial to us," Rowan replied glumly. "I think it would be best if we all move inside before anything worse happens, and we should leave Rayquaza along. If he wanted to truly harm us than he would have done a lot worse than roar and spray us with dirt. You can all return your Pokemon now." A look crossed Palmer's face for a brief moment that resembled anger and disappointment, a look Xavier knew all too well from his childhood, and he followed the tycoon's annoyed gaze up towards the serpentine legendary above them. Xavier looked down at Grotle and knew it would be wise to return him, but than saw Hoothoot sitting on one of his bushes, smiling up at Xavier with wide red eyes. It did not seem right to leave Hoothoot out in the bad weather to get harmed again, especially with the wind playing up. But before Xavier could get any sort of PokeBall out, Looker pushed past him, a gun in one hand and a PokeBall in the other.

"What is Rayquaza moving towards?" He asked nervously, and everyone turned to face him. A deep growl filled the route as Rayquaza put his back to them and leaned down to the ground. Xavier could see Ninetales fur gleaming golden beneath him, and other figures rising up. Rayquaza let out another angry growl, and that was when Xavier spotted an unmistakable head of turquoise head barely a metre from the Dragon's mouth.

"NO!" Cyrus yelled, waving something like a gun into the air, his voice carrying across the silent group watching. "YOU WILL NOT HARM CASTFORM! THIS PLAN… THIS PLAN HAS BEEN IN PLAY FOR TOO LONG TO BE RUINED! LEAVE US, YOU WILL NOT CAUSE US ANY HARM!" Three loud bangs than sounded, and Rayquaza let out a roar that made Xavier think he had been shot. But the beast merely reared up, mouth open in a furious scream, and raised his claws. As he did this, Xavier heard and watched as Ninetales yelled as well, shooting flames at something hidden by the wreckage of Castform's machine. The machine itself was flashing multiple colours at once, and Xavier had a feeling it was shaking.

"What the hell is going on?" Clarisse yelled. "Someone needs to do something! Rayquaza is going to attack!" Xavier looked up, and his heart sank a bit to see the reporter was right. A ball of white energy the size of a house was forming in Rayquaza's mouth, and if the attack was unleashed than it could have enough power to defeat them all at once.

"I can stop this!" Palmer boomed. "Dragonite, use your –," he began, but he froze as bolts of blue electricity crackled between them and Rayquaza. Everyone fell silent and watched as the air shimmered and distorted, and then there was a blue flash bright enough to distract Rayquaza. A moment later, the light was replaced with Vanessa and Charles, both of whom had appeared out of nowhere. The two had the looks of someone being caught out, and they exchanged confused looks with each other before noticing something much larger behind them, and looked up to find Rayquaza staring down at them.

"Well, it looks like we've just walked into the middle of something, so maybe we'll leave you to it and come back later," Vanessa said with a weary smile, and she groped at Charles' wrist for a watch-like device. Xavier looked at the others, wondering why no one was doing anything, and glanced down at Grotle to give him orders. Suddenly, though Xavier had expected more to happen, there were the simultaneously sounds of PokeBalls opening and the Pokemon energy pouring out. Everyone looked back towards Cyrus and the Team Galactic base as Houndoom, Gyarados, Weavile, Crobat, Honchkrow, Magnezone and Bronzong formed around the machine, Ninetales being blasted aside by an unseen Psychic attack.

"IF YOU WANT TO HURT US RAYQUAZA, THAN GET THROUGH THEM!" Cyrus yelled. "POKEMON, DESTROY ALL OF THEM!" And before anyone could do anything, the seven Pokemon unleashed a barrage of attacks. Rayquaza roared as Ice, Fire and Water attacks exploded against him, while chunks of earth and rubble were sent soaring through the air towards them. The reporters screamed as they were attacked, but nothing could be heard above Rayquaza's own roar. Xavier looked up the sky as the legendary Pokemon screamed up at the clouds, which seemed to darken and thicken at the sound. In an instant thunder was sounding again, and lightning flashed across the sky like bright cracks in the clouds. Castform's snow continued to fall, but rain was hammering down upon them, coming down so hard that the water almost felt solid, and a furious wind tore through the route once more.

"Razor Leaf at anything that comes close!" Xavier shouted over the roar of the wind and its master, and Hoothoot flew aside as glowing green leaves were unleashed towards Gyarados. The Atrocious Pokemon barely noticed them though as he flew towards Palmer's Dragonite, and within seconds they were engaged in a fight, their attacks exploding in the sky and blasting into Rayquaza. All around Xavier there were people screaming, fleeing from the scene as the wind threatened to blow them away and the rain dared to drown them. Palmer, Rowan and Looker were being attacked as well, despite their own Pokemon rushing forwards to engage Galactic's: Rowan's Arcanine exchanged fire with Houndoom, and Looker's Jolteon leapt up and fired Thunder at Gyarados before crashing into Weavile. And all the while, Rayquaza roared and thrashed about, flinging his long and thick tail around as a weapon, and he tried to fire a Hyper Beam down at the Pokemon that were attacking him, but he was being attacked so much that he could not focus. Xavier watched as the beam was fired into the already dead forest, and there was an explosion that swallowed near half of what remained, trees being blasted into the sky.

"We have to find a way to stop this before he does that to us," someone hissed behind him, and Xavier turned to face Vanessa. He noticed that she was wounded, bleeding and bruised with her dress torn but made no point of it. "The wise men around us are intent on battling Cyrus' Pokemon, but that isn't going to stop Rayquaza. You're the logical genius: got any ideas?"

"Only inklings unfortunately" Xavier replied, watching as Dragonite and Gyarados encircled Rayquaza as part of their fight, nearly getting knocked aside by the beast's claws. "Rowan believes Galactic's machine is to blame, so I believe if we can destroy that, than Rayquaza may be inclined to leave us be. We need to get close to the machine and destroy it safely without harming the Castform they have trapped inside." Vanessa nodded and looked towards where they were, but the guards of Pokemon were protecting it from sight.

"Someone will need to get close while the other two try to hold off Galactic and Rayquaza at once," she said. Vanessa turned to Matthew, but he and Prinplup seemed too distracted by Rayquaza roaring and flailing above to notice. Xavier went to offer his services, but paused before he could talk, eyeing someone approaching them from behind. Vanessa must have seen the look in his eyes as she turned around, umbrella in hand, and paused as the sword touched Charles' chest.

"If you stop pointing that thing at me for one minute, I may be able to help you," he said with a slight growl, eyeing the weapon. Xavier did not know the Grunt very well, though he had gathered that there were some lost feelings between him and Sahara that had made him more of an enemy than the others. Vanessa was indeed staring at him like a piece of filth, though Xavier wondered where the two had teleported from.

"If you are going to destroy the machine, make sure you leave Castform alone," he said, a serious look in his eyes. "Cyrus will leave as soon as he finds Castform exposed and weakened in this weather, but if you kill him, than Cyrus will not stop until everyone hear is dead in revenge. You'll have to psychically pull it apart and get out of there before Cyrus sees you."

"That sounds like it could work, I can use Lapras for that," Xavier said with a nod of agreement. Vanessa looked over at Matthew for help, but the coordinator was only half paying attention and looked away before answering. With an irritable sigh, Vanessa gave a curt nod, though poked Charles with her sword.

"We'll stay here and hold off Rayquaza and the Pokemon," she said, and Xavier gave a brief nod before turning to move. Grotle and Hoothoot had heard, and they followed after him into the storm around them. There was no time to waste as there were Pokemon raging on all sides, attacks being exchanged that exploded upon contact, causing smoke to rise up in the rain. His father's Rhyperior stomped past them, his giant feet of rock destroying the ground he passed on as he charged towards Bronzong, and their bodies met with a metallic clang.

This will turn into a bloodbath soon, Xavier thought as he saw the reporters trying to flee from the destruction, one cameraman collapsed on the ground with his hands to his face, crimson blood dripping through his fingers. The roof of the café was being torn off in the wind, and the heavy rain was turning the route into a thick brown soup. It would not take long before the fighting and the storm would destroy everything, and Xavier knew that the right thing was to end this now. He looked up at the roaring Rayquaza, briefly wondering if there was a way to stop him first, but was taken aback to see blue flames forming in his mouth.

"Look out!" He cried to Grotle and Hoothoot and unleashed an Ultra Ball onto the field. Lapras formed before them, but before she could register the scene around them, the Transport Pokemon saw the Outrage being unleashed above them, and instantly her eyes turned pink. The blue flames exploded against the earth, unleashing a shockwave that seemed to engulf everything, sending the Pokemon of both allies and foes flying. Lapras' Psychic barrier managed to protect them from the worst, but Xavier could see the flames skirting across the edges of their shield and scorching everything it touched.

You always bring me out whenever everything is turning to shit, Lapras said with an angry sigh. Xavier had a feeling she was right, and a thought

"We need to keep moving. Outrage is continuous and Rayquaza will be unleashing it again soon," he said, eyeing the thrashing tail of the legendary warily. They took off as soon as the flames had cleared, Lapras skidding forwards through the mud. Xavier and Grotle splashed through besides her and Hoothoot soared alongside as the freezing roan soaked them all. It seemed like less than a minute had passed since leaving Vanessa and Matthew behind, but Xavier was already covered in mud and drenched through his torn clothing, the wet fabrics weighing him down. It was a struggle to keep moving, but it would be over soon, and Xavier willed himself to keep moving.

"Lapras, can you sense if Ninetales is near?" He called out after nearly stumbling over a large crack in the earth. Lapras paused for a moment, giving Grotle time to breathe, the Grove Pokemon up to his shell in mud and his bushes sagging from the water.

Yes, she is just up ahead, Lapras said. She knows we are coming… she is in trouble. Xavier nodded and ran forwards, his limbs flailing as he hurried towards his mother's last Pokemon. He still had no idea why Ninetales had come to them, but Xavier would not let her get harmed when he had come so close.

The rain had created a grey veil between them and anything more than a few metres away, and all they could only hear small explosions, gunfire and shouts and saw nothing but rain. Xavier moved quickly, ignoring the fact he was nearly sinking through the mud, and looked for any sign of Ninetales.

She's over there! Lapras cried, and Xavier turned. Through the haze, he could see flames dancing across the sky and fading quickly, and there was golden light that seemed to sparkle despite the weather. Xavier was satisfied that they had found Ninetales, but as he moved closer, he saw that she was locked in battle with Crobat, leaping asides to avoid Confuse Rays and Cross Poisons while still trying to struck him down with her own moves.

"HOOOT!" Hoothoot cried, his eyes glowing pink, and Crobat made a gagging noise above them. Ninetales stopped moving as the Bat Pokemon fell to the ground with a splash, and she huffed and sprayed him with embers before turning to face them.

"Hello Ninetales," Xavier said as his team approached her. "This is Hoothoot, he defeated Crobat for you." Hoothoot beamed brightly despite looking like he had just been swimming, and Ninetales briefly registered him before turning back to the battle. "We have to find the machine that Team Galactic is using and destroy it, though it must be done safely. Do you know where it is?"

"Nine," Ninetales said huffily, and Xavier imagined she wanted to blow the device up. She turned and lead them across more mud as roars sounded overhead. Xavier watched as a Tropius flew past, firing an Air Slash at Honchkrow, and could tell Niles was now involved in the fight. Rayquaza let out a furious yell, and blue flames lit up the sky once more , but the Outrage seemed to have been fired in another direction and they were left unharmed.

Suddenly, out through the rain, Galactic's weather machine appeared. Xavier came to a halt in front of it, and was amazed that it was still intact. The glass was still cracked and damaged, yet it had not fallen out, and the baser was dent but still looked usable. The rain had caused condensation to cover the glass, and Castform blended in, though there was no doubt he was still inside.

"Lapras, use Psychic and tear this thing apart," Xavier ordered. Lapras nodded, and her eyes glowed a brilliant shade of pink. The machine began to groan, and small pieces of glass began to jump from their spots. "Thank you for leading us here," Xavier said to Ninetales, doing his best to smile. "You may go now if you wish." Ninetales nodded and within a second had disappeared into the rain, flames instantly appearing through the haze. "Grotle, Hoothoot, be guard for anyone approaching us," Xavier added, and the two Pokemon nodded, stepping backwards as larger shards of glass crashed against the forest floor.

"On guard, eh?" A voice sneered. "Looking out for people like me?" Xavier turned, and Grotle and Hoothoot appeared on either side as a figure emerged through the rain. Charon appeared with a leer on his face and a gun in his hands, as well as streaks of mud across his soaked and torn lab coat. Xavier glanced to the machine and saw that Lapras was only just starting on the base, tearing buttons and screws out to weaken it, and mentally urged her to hurry along.
"What do you think your doing?" Charon growled, staring at the machine. "If you destroy this and harm the Pokemon inside, Cyrus will have your head."

You have the chance to take my life now, why aren't you taking it? Xavier thought, staring at the gun in hand and at a loss as to why Charon was hesitating. "Don't worry, Lapras will not harm Castform. But we cannot say the same for you. Grotle, use –"

"HOOOOOOT!" Hoothoot screamed before Xavier could finish, and his eyes flashed pink. Charon yelled out and clutched his head, the gun crashing to the ground. Grotle looked stunned but recovered, and his claws glowed brown as he raised up on his back legs. Xavier cried out, eyeing the machine nervously, but as Grotle slammed his front claws into the ground, there was a fireless explosion as the metal panes of the machine were blasted aside and the remaining glass shattered into particles. Xavier dived down, dragging Hoothoot with him, and felt the ground rumbling as the Earth Power moved through it. Mud and dirt were blasted into his face, and Xavier spat out brown gunk as shouts sounded all around him.

Nice one Grotle, Xavier heard Lapras snarl. He got back to his feet, clutching a dazed Hoothoot in his hands, and turned back to see what remained of the machine. Earth Power had blasted all the remnants away, leaving only Castform floating in front of them, a few wires and pipes still attached to his body. Xavier glanced at Lapras to see she was still using Psychic to keep the Pokemon afloat and nodded at her with another twisted smile. He then stared at the ground around Grotle, though the heavy rain turning everything to mud had led to less damage. Only Charon appeared injured, lying half buried in mud, his gun possibly lost forever.

Already they were feeling the effects. There was no snow falling from the sky, the strange antennae lying broken on the ground. Xavier was feeling the chill from his drenched clothing, but the temperature was not as bitter as it had been.

What do we do now? Lapras asked. I am not holding this thing up forever. Xavier tried to look through the rain, but the watery barrier still hid everything except for flames and the glow of certain attacks. Charon's name was being called out though, and Xavier thought he could see turquoise hair moving towards them.

"Lower Castform to the ground and move, quickly," Xavier said, and turned to leave. Grotle and Hoothoot followed, and Lapras came behind a few seconds later. Rayquaza was still roaring in pain, and Xavier knew he would not stop until the attacks had halted, but half of their plan had succeeded. Xavier looked at the three Pokemon around him and gave them all nods, which each one returned: they had all done a great job, and Xavier was satisfied with their performances. He eyed Hoothoot, who was flying without showing any signs of pain for her damaged wing, and reflected on him helping to stop Charon. As a painful, loud and angry scream shook the air behind them, Xavier wondered if there was a place for the brave Pokemon upon his team.

"He's done it!" Charles shouted to Vanessa. "Look!" He pointed towards the sky around Rayquaza, where Palmer's Dragonite and Cyrus' Gyarados were locked in battle. However, just as Dragonite gave up with a Dragon Claw, Gyarados disintegrated into energy. Dragonite paused, looking around in confusion, but Vanessa and Matthew cheered to themselves.

"Excellent, I knew that emotionless genius would pull it off," Vanessa boomed. All around them, Cyrus and Charon's Pokemon were disappearing, leaving Palmer's, Looker's and Rowan's all standing around looking stunned. Up ahead, Vanessa's Monferno and Staraptor stopped trying to battle Magnezone, and Matthew's Prinplup and Misdreavus let Bronzong fade away. Charles stared over at Gliscor, who he had sent out for Vanessa's benefit but was wisely not sending him in to battle their own side.

"The weather should be stopping soon, and then we can escape before they notice," Charles whispered to Gliscor. The Fang Scorp Pokemon smiled at this, though he always seemed to be smiling. Charles stared up at the skies above that seemed to be sucking any colour out of the world, and he thought lovingly of having a nice hot bath back at the headquarters, tend to his latest wounds and escape the freezing rain that made his cuts burn.

Rayquaza roared once again, and Charles covered his ears, sick of the furious screaming that made his head shake. He looked up at the legendary Pokemon, watching as the Dragon continued to squirm, thrashing his tail against the already battered ground. No one was attacking him any longer though, and Charles was confused as too why he was still angry.

"Go and ask Professor Rowan what's wrong!" He shouted to Vanessa, knowing Sahara's grandfather would be one of the last people he should talk to. Vanessa gave him an angry glare at being given orders, but turned towards the old man all the same. She had barely moved two metres though before Rayquaza roared, and Charles was stunned to see flames the colour of sapphires dancing in his mouth. The last Outrage had blown apart a previously undamaged group of oaks, and the one before had destroyed a walking bridge further down the route. Rayquaza stared down at all the people around him and spat the ball out, the flames spreading out as they fell.

"DRAGON!" Palmer's Dragonite flew in front and briefly glowed yellow before firing a thin bolt of electricity at Rayquaza. The beast screamed again as electricity flowed through him, and the Outrage exploded against Dragonite. The blue flames lit up the sky for a moment, but the brilliant light faded quickly, and they all watched as Dragonite fell to the ground, landing with a thud and rolling through the mud. Thunder boomed and lightning crackled, but all Charles could focus on was how easily one of the more powerful Pokemon around had been so easily knocked out.

"He sacrificed himself to paralyze Rayquaza," Matthew shouted. "That was Thunder Wave, I've seen Dragonite use it before. But I think Rayquaza is just going to be angrier now!" The Sky High Pokemon indeed roared and performed, his scream loud enough to frighten his friends back in Johto.

"What is his problem, why isn't he stopping? I thought Xavier defeated Cyrus?"

"He probably did, but Rayquaza is be too enraged now to stop," Vanessa explained. "Dragonite attacking him hasn't helped. He probably thinks he is still under attack." They all watched Rayquaza yelling, and saw a hint of blue flames trickling over his lips. "We need to defeat Rayquaza, that's the only way to stop him. Once he is unconscious, maybe Rowan and his assistant can use some technology to send him back to space."

"It's a legendary!" Matthew shrieked. "How are we going to defeat a legendary?"

"Easily. I did stab one in the eye the other day," Vanessa said with a smirk.

"Oh yes, brilliant idea, stab the Pokemon that can control the weather in the eye!" Matthew snapped. "Maybe he'll thank you by HITTING YOU WITH LIGHTNING!" Vanessa slapped him, causing Matthew to stop and stumble backwards, and she turned towards Charles, who flinched, expecting his own beating.

"I let you live earlier, so you can be the one to defeat him," she said with a sweet smile. "You've been a trainer for longer than us, so you are far more experienced to deal with this." She laughed, and Charles wanted to hit her again in his anger. He looked up at Rayquaza as the Pokemon released blue embers with his shouting, and his heart sank down to his stomach. Suddenly, he was back at the Pokemon League against Lance, his Pokemon falling one by one before him, nothing he had able to stop the onslaught of Dragons. Charles had never defeated a Dragon properly, and felt another painful stab as he thought of his battle with Clair, and he certainly had never defeated one quite like Rayquaza.

But maybe to defeat him, he would need a move not quite like others…

"Fine, I'll do it, but we have to draw Rayquaza down to ground level first, can you do that?" Charles said. Vanessa shrugged and grabbed her umbrella tightly, turning the handle so the sword was replaced with the energy gun she had stolen from Ursilla.

"I think I can manage," she replied with a devious smirk, and she fired the gun into the air. Rayquaza stopped yelling and looked down as the beam flew through the jagged points off his head, and Vanessa signalled to the others. Monferno, Staraptor, Prinplup and Misdreavus fired attacks, and Gliscor even sent a Stone Edge flying, smiling in delight. Charles let that slide now that Cyrus was gone, and focussed on the PokeBall in his hands.

"Eva Eve!" Elle huffed once she was formed, looking down at the mud that she was instantly sprayed with, and her fur was wet within seconds. She looked grumpily up at Charles, but he knew that she would be grumpier once he gave is orders./

"Elle… I know this may sound insane, but I need you to use that new move of yours on Rayquaza." Elle stopped looking grumpy and looked at him in confusion, and that only made him feel worse. But he had seen the Eevee use the move against Dustox before she had become too weak, and it had nearly tripled in size since she'd used it against Brody's Weezing. It was a long shot, but it was the only plan Charles had.

"You only have to do it when Rayquaza gets close, and Gliscor is going to help you," he explained, and Gliscor turned at the sound of his name. "I know the move is strong and that you are stronger, and you are the only one that can stop him from destroying us. Do you think you can do it?" Elle looked at Rayquaza, and Charles saw that the creature was falling for the taunt, beginning to twist his body around to dive down and destroy those annoying him. Charles looked back at Elle, and she looked back at him, and a smile crossed her small, cute face.

"Vee," she said simply, and moved towards Gliscor. Charles felt emotional, and ignoring the pain throughout his body, he bent down into the mud and gave her a hug. She squirmed at first, but settled into the embrace, and Charles felt reassured. He passed her over to Gliscor, who cradled her within his claws before springing up. The wind was strong, and for a moment it appeared they may blow off course, but Gliscor controlled his wings and floated. Charles beamed, but than he saw Rayquaza coming for them. The legendary looked even more intimidating as he got closer, his head growing in size the closer he got. There was nowhere to hide if this went wrong, and Charles hoped that his plan would work. He moved out of the way, along with Matthew and most of the Pokemon, but Vanessa and her team stayed, keeping Rayquaza coming towards them. Gliscor rose up as Rayquaza came down, so focussed on Vanessa that he flew straight past them.

"RAAAAAAAAAAAY!" Rayquaza screamed, now so loud that Charles was certain his ears would bleed. He watched as Rayquaza began to straighten up, mouth open wide as blue flames roared up his throat. Vanessa, Monferno and Staraptor jumped before he got closer, and the opportunity was there.

"NOW!" Charles roared. Above, Gliscor dropped Elle, who fell down to meet the Dragon as he skidded past. A rectangle of orange light formed on her paws, and Charles gasped as he saw it was the double the size of an average house door, and it seemed to consume all of Elle's body as it shone brightly on her paws. Rayquaza looked up at the source of the light, but it was too late for him to stop.

"VEEEEEEE!" Elle screamed, and she landed on top of Rayquaza. The Dragon roared as the energy from the attack sent him crashing to the ground, his long body falling and nearly causing an earthquake. Mud was sprayed metres into the air as the Dragon ploughed through the earth, and a small jets of blue flames rose up to the clouds. Charles was covered in mud that made his open wounds scream, but as suddenly as it had started, the rumbling stopped, and he turned to face the destruction he had caused.

Rayquaza lay struggling in the mud, pushing weakly up with his arms, but he seemed unable to lift his own weight out of the mud, the paralysis keeping him weak. Charles could not contain himself and let out a shout of delight, a cry that was carried on by Gliscor, Matthew and his Pokemon.

I did it… I defeated a Dragon… sort of… Charles thought in delight. He watched as Rayquaza pushed the upper half of his body up, growling within his closed jaw. The rain was starting to stop now, and Charles felt relief as the wind died down, though the cold of his clothes still clung to his skin. He smiled to himself, pleased that Rayquaza had given up, and wondered if there was a way to heal the beast. However, as the thought crossed his mind, Rayquaza let out a yell. Charles thought for a moment that the Sky High Pokemon would burn them all, but suddenly, Rayquaza turned into energy. Everyone watched as the giant Pokemon were turned into a few particles, and the energy was sucked inside some type of PokeBall that fell back to the mud with a squelch.

What's going on? Charles thought, and looked around at Vanessa, Palmer, Rowan and Looker, wondering who had thrown the ball. But before an outcome was revealed, there was an excited squeak, and Charles turned to find Elle rushing towards him.

"YOU WERE AMAZING!" Charles yelled, and he scooped her up into his arms, a beam lighting his face. "I have to learn what that move is, that was incredible!"

"Eva Eve Eevee," Elle replied with false stubbornness, and Charles laughed as he hugged her, and laughed louder with joy as Gliscor joined in, beaming brightly at them both. It felt good to have done something good, and for the first time in weeks, Charles knew that he had done the right thing.

"What is a Galactic Grunt doing here?" A voice angrily shouted out, and Charles made the mistake of turning towards the speaker. Rowan's eyes bulged from across the deep trench Rayquaza had left, and he pointed an accusatory finger. "YOU!" He roared. "ARCANINE, GET HIM!"

"Oh shit," Charles hissed, and he slammed his palm down onto his teleportation watch. He watched as the flaming beast roared and sped towards them, mud flying in his path, and Charles desperately pressed the BASE button on his device. His body shook and blue filled his eyes, and as Arcanine neared them, flames shooting from his mouth, Charles realised he should have known better. It would take a while for him to get back on the right path and have people believe them, and as the world turned blue, Charles wished that could happen sooner.

Yet fleeing back to Galactic would hardly change their minds…

Outside, a storm was raging. The dark grey clouds were rumbling with thunder, and occasionally would flash with lightning that made the whole world glow. Rain was lashing the windows, hitting the glass so hard you'd think it was trying to break it. Roshonda eyed the weather nervously as she walked briskly through the corridors of Galactic Headquarters. She walked all the way over from the Grunt Training Division, travelling through the underground tunnels beneath their facilities, and had managed to avoid the storm. Looking out at it as it raged above Veilstone City, Roshonda could only wonder what had happened on the mission to end so badly and leave Rayquaza so furious.

It had been two hours since they had arrived back, but it took time for word to reach the training facilities. Roshonda had left as soon as she heard Charles had been injured, knowing that he would need a friend during this time. It was a long journey to the proper headquarters, but Roshonda was willing to make the journey for Charles…

The corridors beneath headquarters were empty when she arrived, ringing with eerie silence. Roshonda nervously made her way up in the lift, her stomach lurching as he moved, entrapped in a cube of silence. The lift stopped with a shudder on her floor, and opened to yet another quiet pathway. The floor was taken up mostly by the medical ward at one end and the secret boardroom where the admins usually discussed their issues. Roshonda stepped out onto the plain tiled floor, the sound of her breathing echoing off the walls. Everything was so white and unnatural that it made her skin crawl, but Roshonda kept moving, knowing that Charles needed her.

"This was NOT how it was suppose to happen!" A voice yelled out from a door to the side, so sudden that Roshonda jumped. "You TOLD me that Castform would handle it, that the machine was ready, that no one would notice! Now the machine is destroyed, Castform is close to death, our plans have been revealed and it is ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT!" There was the sound of glass shattering, and Roshonda edged her way past the door to avoid being noticed. She had heard rumours of Cyrus and Charon planning a machine that would control the weather, and it was clear that the device hadn't worked for them yet.

"You rushed me into this project!" Charon shouted back as Roshonda moved past the doors and picked up her pace. "The machine would have worked well if I had the chance to fix those faults, how was I suppose to know Looker would be right around the corner waiting for us?" Their shouts continued as Roshonda turned a bend, but they grew fainter as she neared the double doors of the medical ward. There were rows of seats against one wall and a large office space behind a glass window, but no one was there monitoring the desk, and Roshonda could not wait any longer. She pushed through the doors into another corridor, and she began to peer through the doors on either side.

The first few rooms were large wards, designed to hold up to fifty Grunts. Only one was in use at the moment, and Roshonda was taken aback by the people inside. Grunts she had trained and fought alongside lay groaning on the beds, their faces and bodies covered in hideous burns. Their clothes had been torn away, leaving many half naked upon the beds, their blackened skin and raw pink flesh showing instead. Many of them were squirming and yelling in their pain and discomfort, while others, the ones that were more severely injured, lay passed out on their beds. Nurses and doctors were rushing between the patients, and there was a mix of shouting and screaming as orders were thrown across the rooms. Roshonda had to stand aside to let a nurse rush past with a large trolley, and once she had stopped, doctors rushed forwards to grab pots of creams and ointments from the silver surface.

"What the hell happened?" Roshonda mumbled to herself, and she walked into the bustling room, fear starting to settle in. She had heard Charles and others had been injured, but there were always injuries with nearly every mission that they went on. She had no idea that it would be like this. Roshonda looked at all the scarred and burnt faces, waiting to find Charles lying on one of these beds, but all she got were sad and pained faces staring back at her for mercy, faces she recognized and would have comforted at any other point, but she needed to find Charles…

"Roshonda, over here!" A voice cried out, and she turned around in happiness, not registering the voice was feminine. Addison was standing in a corner, out of the way of all the chaos, waving for her to join. Roshonda wanted to turn away and keep looking for Charles, but another figure was waving to her from behind, and Roshonda's heart skipped for joy.

"Charles!" She cried, and ran as fast as possible, nearly colliding with several nurses and knocked at least one jar to the floor, but nothing else mattered to her now, all the injured people fading from her mind. Roshonda rushed to the end of the ward, past Addison, and stopped at the foot of Charles' bed. She gasped as she saw him lying before her, but calmed down when she saw there were no burns. However, the nurses had stripped him, exposing a series of colourful bruises scattered across his body, along with fresh red cuts caked with blood and dirt around them. The injuries were a harrowing sight, but they began to fade away as Roshonda's attention diverted to the toned muscles beneath the wounds…

"Hey," Charles mumbled, his voice hoarse but high pitched at the same time. "I had… I had a fight with… with a… with a… uhhh… Vanessa! That's who… Vanessa... I don't think she likes me very much, does she?" Charles began laughing, but even though he was smiling, it was a tragic image that tugged at Roshonda's heart.

"They gave him some medicine to help with the pain," Addison explained. "All the grunts fled when the machine began to malfunction, but they ran right into those Dex Holder fuckers, the Tower Tycoon and some spy guy that set the forest on fire. Most of the Grunts were able to teleport back, but Charles didn't come in the initial lot. Cyrus and Charon arrived later, and Charles followed behind about ten minutes later. A doctor came to look at his injuries, but I was focussed on Brody so I cannot tell you anything."

"Brody?" Roshonda whispered, tearing her eyes away from Charles' smile. She had not noticed anyone in the bed next to him, but there was Brody, lying unconscious on a blood smeared bed, bandages stained crimson wrapped around his left shoulder and upper arm. Roshonda was stunned that she hadn't seen him, nor noticed the sadness in Addison's face.

"Is it severe?" Roshonda asked quietly, her eyes now turning towards the other burn victims around her, many having come out a lot worse than either Charles or Brody.

"He will live, and his arm should work again, but the burns will stay," Addison replied back in a sad whisper, her fingers carelessly caressing Brody's right arm. "One of the other grunts that got away unhurt said that Brody tore his jacket away before the burn could spread, but some of the others freaked out and just let themselves get burnt." Roshonda saw one she recognised as Samuel two beds across, groaning as a nurse tended to the burns that covered his chest and lower jaw. The one directly next to Brody had a face as pink as a flower, but was raw and smeared with blood. Roshonda wondered if the person was actually still alive, and she began to feel sick as well as guilty.

"They are all going to get better," she said aloud, trying to comfort herself. "The doctors will heal them all, and no one else will die." Yet Roshonda had thought this countless times before when they had returned from a failed mission, the corpses of her fellow Grunts being taken away. Many had been slain from by Vanessa and her sword, while others had been caught up in gunfire, explosions, and the psychotic and supernatural actions of Sahara. Even thinking about them made Roshonda's skin crawl, and she angrily punched Brody's bed. Addison turned around in shock, and Roshonda faced her, angry coursing through her body.

"They are not going to do this to us again!" She hissed to her friend, and clutched Addison by the shoulders. "If Sahara or Vanessa or any of them come near either one of us again, promise me that you will kill them! I want every last one of them to suffer! They may have hurt the ones we love, but they never will again!" Roshonda had not noticed that her voice had risen as she spoke, nor that she had begun shaking Addison, but suddenly the brunette beauty pulled back and slapped Roshonda, and the sound echoed across a suddenly quieter room. The doctors and nurses had paused and were staring towards them, some angry, some curious, while only a few of the injured grunts seemed to register the commotion.

"Never do that to me again!" Addison hissed into Roshonda's ear as the black girl straightened up. "I will not be embarrassed like that! And you may be so obviously in love with Charles, but do not start accusing other people of feelings they don't have!" Addison pushed past her and stormed from the ward, but Roshonda caught her staring back at Brody, a look of longing in her eyes.

"Ha ha… you got slapped!" Charles laughed, and Roshonda turned back to face him, her cheek stinging. He continued to laugh for another minute, and Roshonda began to smile herself as she stared into his smiling face, watching the joy overcome his injuries. Addison didn't know what she was talking about. I am not t in love with Charles… at least, not obviously. Besides, she was the one that had started to fawn over Brody over the past few days, despite hating him when he first arrived. Next time I see her, I should give her a slap!

"Ah… Lyla…," Charles mumbled as the laughter died down, and he shut his eyes, shifting in a sleepy manner on his bed. "I finally worked it out… it is all for you… I will come and find you soon…" Roshonda collapsed into a chair between the two beds, listening to his mumblings and watching as he fell asleep, his chest slowly rising up and down. Maybe there was some truth in what Addison had said, Roshonda thought as she began to stroke his left hand, a shiver running through her body. Maybe I do love him… Roshonda smiled at the thought, and she shut her eyes, for a moment imaging what had happened between the two in Solaceon Ruins. She had dreamt of it every night since then, the way he had touched her, the way it had felt, his lips against hers, their hearts beating as one…

And she remembered him saying her name.

Roshonda opened her eyes, the joy fading away, her anger making her dig her fingernails into his arm. Sahara always got in the way, right since the very beginning. There was no way the two of them could be together when she was still in the way. Roshonda stared at the wounds across his body, and she thought of Vanessa and her sword swinging through the air, and knew that the Dex Holders would always be there as well, that neither one of them would be able to live forever.

If Sahara or Vanessa or any of them come near either one of us again, promise me that you will kill them…

"I promise," Roshonda whispered to Charles, and she let her anger turn to happiness, and leaned back in the chair and imagined her and Charles kissing once again, Sahara, Vanessa, Xavier and Matthew piled beneath their feet.

Sahara's eyes opened with a start, and she knew right away that things were not right.

She was lying on a muddy field, surrounded by trees that had more life in them than the ones her friends had disappeared into. Sahara sat up, seeing Starly, Staravia, Combee and Burmy wondering around the branches and through bushes, and realised that she had not seen a wild Pokemon in days, not since the weather had started up.

But this isn't right, Sahara thought, looking around the forest clearing in confusion. I was just with Mason by the rocket, wasn't I? Suddenly, Sahara remembered falling backwards, a surge going through her body, her mind going blank.

"Crap," she hissed, and leapt to her feet. She looked at the PokeGear on her wrist, wiping mud away, and saw that at least two hours had passed. "Crap crap crap crap crap!" Sahara swore, and she wheeled around, trying to find the exit. She should have realised sooner, having woken up in wet mud that would have turned her to Eden if she hadn't been Crystal. Sahara continued to swear and mutter under her breath and she stumbled through the mud and the undergrowth, trying to find her way back out. An Aipom swung past and nearly hit her in the face, and Sahara angrily shrieked and kicked a clump of dead leaves.

"Pachi!" A voice shouted, and Sahara turned as something small and white leapt out from a bush and tackled her back into a tree. Her head was spinning so much that she didn't realise it was Nutty at first, and allowed herself to laugh as she pulled the Pachirisu into a hug.

"At least I know I haven't been taken somewhere else!" Sahara chortled. "But where are we? Did you find out what caused the weather to act so weirdly?" Nutty nodded, and she leapt from Sahara's arms and raced back the way she came. Sahara quickly followed after, beginning to calm down now that she knew she was still nearby and that Nutty was still with her. The trees and bushes quickly began to thin out, and Sahara could see a head of ginger hair in the distance, as well as Solrock and Lunatone bobbing around in the sky. Sahara smiled, and she emerged from the forest, ready to find out what everyone was doing.

But than she saw the trench. Sahara paused as her eyes came upon the deep scar in the ground, a long and wide semi circle that had destroyed the landscape. It stretched out for nearly a fifth of the entire route, and torn up earth was piled high on either side of the groove. Sahara looked around in shock, and she saw the entire area had turned into a thick brown soup of mud, with large craters everywhere, trees lying upside down across fields, the roof of the café across from her torn off and lying in pieces along the route.

"What the hell happened here?" Sahara gasped. And how did I not notice this? For a moment, she feared this had been her work, the destruction at levels Crystal had achieved. Heads turned towards her, and Sahara found Vanessa, Xavier, Matthew, Mason and her grandfather all standing before her. They rushed towards her, crying out welcomes and worried questions, and Sahara smiled as she let Rowan embrace her, knowing then that this was not her fault.

"We had no idea where you were! We were about to send out a search party until Nutty found us!" He boomed, his white beard scratching her face, but Sahara appreciated the hug all the same. She saw Mason was looking away though, and wondered why he didn't know where she was, considering she had been near him when Crystal had come out.

"I am fine!" Sahara insisted, laughing it all off for the benefit of the others. "Nutty and I wandered off to look around while there was no weather, but I slipped over and knocked my head." The lie came so quickly to her that Sahara was stunned with herself, but she smiled it off, knowing that it was better than making them worry about Crystal. "Now, what exactly happened here?" She asked, turning their attention towards the ruined route.

"You really must have been out to it," Vanessa laughed, though it was a nervous, nearly grim laugh. They all quickly explained about how Team Galactic had built a machine to control the weather, and how they presumed this angered Rayquaza and caused him to come down. Galactic attacked Rayquaza, leading to a battle, with Xavier destroying the machine, but Rayquaza remained enraged. Palmer paralyzed Rayquaza with Dragonite's Thunder Wave, and their combined forces caused the Dragon to crash.

"My father has caught Rayquaza, and has left to the Battle Frontier to use their medical facilities to heal him," Xavier explained. "We believe he should release Rayquaza afterwards, but I highly doubt that my father will do such a thing. He already has one legendary, but I doubt that he is satisfied with that." Rowan grunted at this, and Sahara could understand his annoyance. It was not right to capture a legendary that had such an important role as Rayquaza, and she could imagine Palmer being forced to release him if he did not do so willingly.

"Sounds like I missed a lot then," Sahara said, smiling awkwardly to try and break the tension. "Looks like we have a major clean up job ahead of us though. Anything you need me or my Pokemon to help with?"

"Oh, not at all dear," Rowan said, shaking his head of white hair. "The route has been closed to all travellers trying to come in, and teams are coming in the morning to deal with the mess. We were just having a quick look around at everything, but we were about to head inside and plan a rescue party."

"Can we still go inside anyway?" Sahara said, and the others laughed, more from relief and exhaustion than from any sense of humour. The group began to move across, the trainers all bringing back their respective Pokemon, though Sahara left Nutty out, smiling as she watched the squirrel run around so excitedly. She was pleased to see someone in their group happy, and her eyes flickered back to the silent and solemn figures she walked with. Rowan seemed lost in his thoughts, an angry scowl across his face. Xavier's face was blank, but Sahara wondered if he was thinking about his father, the two never getting the chance to catch up like they were meant to. Matthew seemed paler than normal, his eyes wide with fear. Vanessa kept her head held high and showed no signs of worry, but Sahara caught the red head staring at her and then quickly looking away. Sahara wondered if she was hiding something, as Vanessa had interrupted Matthew to say that they all had defeated Rayquaza, and the way they had all looked when it was said drew suspicions.

Sahara put thoughts of Vanessa aside, the topic still hard to think about with their relationship not quite confirmed, and she turned to Mason instead. Her oldest friend in the group smiled slightly back at her, and Sahara was relieved to know she always had him to rely upon. They may not have seen each other as often as they use to, but as today had proved beside his rocket, they were still good friends.

"Do you mind if I talk to you for a moment?" Mason said. "In private?" Sahara nodded, glad for any excuse to get away from the agonizing silence, and the duo moved off towards the dead trees as the others headed into the café. Nutty raced after them and skidded ahead, splashing through the mud. Sahara laughed as her white fur became soaked brown, but was put off when Mason didn't even crack a smile.

"What happened to me after Crystal came out?" Sahara asked, trying to make it sound like no big deal as they passed the café. "I do remember the last few seconds before I blacked out, and I know I must have turned into her, or at least Eden. When I saw all that destruction, I thought that I might have been to blame, but it seems I just passed out. But what was I doing in the forest?" Sahara studied Mason's face as she spoke, and she watched as sweat crept down his face, and his eyes flickered from side to side, his fingers flexing. None of these signs were reassuring, and Sahara stopped, glancing back to the café that stood about five metres behind them, no one there to watch them.

"Mason, what happened?" Sahara said, sternness slipping in, and Mason began to breathe rapidly, the way he always did whenever he was in trouble. "Mason, tell me!" Sahara growled, and she saw Nutty pause in her playing, the Electric type looking curiously over at them. Mason tried to look away, but Sahara followed him whatever he turned, and when he tried to leave, she grabbed his shoulders and held him still. "Tell me! What did Crystal do!"

"I didn't mean for it to happen!" Mason blurted out, a tear streaming down his face. "She came on to me first. I…I…I tried to resist, but she has… she has this way about her that takes control of you. She put our Pokemon under some sort of trap, and then we went into the forest… it was only quick, I swear, and I promise that I tried to get away, but she was the one in control…" Mason drifted off, silently crying as he stared back at Sahara. Sahara was lost though, trying to piece together his words, not sure what he meant by any of it. But than his ramblings began to slot into place, and Sahara felt as if a Snorlax had just sat on her stomach, squeezing all the air and life out of her.

"Mason… are you telling me that… that you… slept with her?" She whispered, struggling to control the hurt and the anger. She looked up at Mason, even though the very sight of him disgusted her, and watched as he gave the tiniest, saddest nod she had ever experienced. Sahara clutched her chest, struggling to breathe. She felt as she had been stabbed. She thought she could rely on Mason… how could he have done this… he was one of the last people he trusted…

"I am sorry Sahara, I couldn't stop her!" Mason cried, his voice a whimper as the tears poured down his face. "I tried to stop, but –"

"Are you saying she raped you, is that what your saying?" Sahara hissed, glaring back at him. "Are you telling me that you had no part to play, that this was all Crystal's doing, that there was no part of you that wanted to sleep with me?" Mason froze at this, looking as if he had been slapped, but he gave her no answer. Sahara screamed, making it sound as painful as possible to ensure Mason felt her wound.

"I TRUSTED YOU!" She screamed, and slapped him across his wet face. "YOU PATHETIC, WEAK BASTARD, I TRUSTED YOU! How could you do this me! I thought we were friends!"

"We are friends!" Mason cried, his voice shaking, but Sahara screamed and leered towards him.

"You are no friend of mine!" She yelled. "Crystal may not have raped you, but you certainly defiled my body! I NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN!" Sahara spun her leg around and kicked him in the stomach, hoping he would get the same feeling as her. Mason's eyes bulged and his mouth dropped, and Sahara froze as her grandfather's assistant flew backwards. She watched as he soared above the mud for metres, looking almost graceful for a moment despite the stunned look on his face. And then there was a sickening crack as his head hit the back of the café, the sound echoing throughout the forest. Mason slumped to the floor, leaving a smear of blood behind him amongst a crack at least a metre wide.

"No," Sahara whispered, and she found herself struggling to breathe, her chest tightening as she collapsed to the ground. There was no way she could have done something like that, not under normal circumstances… but Sahara was well aware how abnormal she was. She looked down at the ground beneath her and saw brown water had seeped into one of Mason's footsteps.

Do I dare? Sahara thought, staring into the water and wondering if she could bring herself to test it. If she didn't, the thought would haunt her forever, and Sahara would only try it again later. Slowly, she moved a shaky hand over the small puddle of water, and, fearing what would happen, she tightened her grip over it.

Laughter sounded within her head, not just one voice, but three of them, cackling away at the back of her mind. Sahara could barely hear them, but they were there, mocking her, teasing her, celebrating against her. Sahara wanted to make them stop, but she knew that there was no way she could stop them now.

As she made the small ball of brown water float before her, Sahara felt a tear streak across her cheek, and stared at the tiny reflection of a girl who had finally lost control.