The bonfire burned brightly.
Within the flames, as they lashed out over the broken tree branches, I saw everything that'd happened over the last few weeks. My resurrection. The first time I met Malcolm at the Dewford sanctuary and I found out that Soledad was Artemis. My reunion with Drew. Joining the Hoenn Resistance. Meeting General Deryn Abraham and riding the Monoliths through the Leviathan attack. Fighting alongside Drew, Max, Paul, Dawn, and Lionel at the Battle for Emerald Harbor. Finding out that I was a hybrid – a fusion – and that Harley had survived his sacrifice down in Enfer City through becoming Fenrir.
Reaching to the sky, the fire colored everything in a warm, orange glow, running along the dirt ground and spreading across the outer wall of the Johto Resistance's base. The evening air was cold; it fit with the dystopian state the world had plunged into five years ago, when Kruismara, the fusions, and the Arbiter Corporation stood tall to carry out Verdana's legacy. For a long time, the people had thought Arbiter Corp had won, but now, with Emerald Harbor and Odysseus destroyed, we were one step closer to ending this war, even if the horizon wasn't in sight quite yet.
I grabbed the stack of photos on the bench beside me. They were photos of comrades and pokemon that had lost their lives during the Battle for Emerald Harbor. Nameless faces to those who didn't know them, but important pieces to a revolution that had only once been a dream. I'd received these photos from the soldiers stationed in the base alongside the Hoenn Resistance. These had been their friends, their family, their pokemon, their memories, their raindrops that fell with every storm, their reasons to fight this war, their voices to speak against the dark future ahead.
Gently, I tossed photo after photo toward the fire. The flames consumed them, converted them into the very ash we'd risen from when the Arbiter Corporation had burned us at the stake. A phoenix, whose end only brought new life. I'd had permission from the owners of these photos to do this, of course; it was my own way of honoring the memory of every voice that had played its part in our revolution. They had sacrificed themselves – they had faced the fire head on – and we were the product of their ashes, with the promise of a new future glistening across our wings.
When all the photos had joined the fire, I closed my eyes for a second and felt the flames' heat caress my face.
It had been a few days since the Battle for Emerald Harbor, with the Johto Resistance still caught up in Orre with business regarding the destruction of Odysseus. The fusion bite Paul had suffered during the Battle had healed; the cure for the Chimera Virus had done its job. Dawn stayed by his side and made sure everything else was okay. Drew helped Max and Lionel with determining our next move, or sending his insight to the rest of the Resistance on where At Hell's End could possibly be. Malcolm was safe and well. I'd last left him asleep on the couch, curled up in the pokemon Soledad and Harley had given him, which included Soledad's pidgeot and lapras, and Harley's cacturne and banette. When Soledad had come clean about the destruction of the Dewford sanctuary and the death of Cary, Malcolm had taken it hard, but he wasn't mad at Soledad, and Soledad had managed to bring a smile to his face by telling him stories about his father, Harley – who was still Fenrir and who was still in the midst of changing back into a human, always exhausted from the process, where he'd spent most of the time asleep.
I turned and looked at Soledad as she walked up to my side. The flames, still cackling and reaching, painted its warm colors across her face, deepening her green-blue eyes and reflecting off her new Resistance armor. She kept her hands behind her back.
"How's Harley?" I asked.
"Still asleep," she said.
"You took the fact that he was alive rather well."
She chuckled. "I know. I'm surprised I did, too. But, I guess..." She looked at the bonfire. "When he first saved me, four years ago, and I looked at that wolf as he looked at me...for one split second, a voice inside me said, 'It's him'. But, I forgot it as fast as it came, because there was no reason for me to believe that, when every other wish I'd had since this war began had crashed and burned."
"We all need a reason to believe." I smiled. "It's good to have the both of you back."
Soledad stayed silent. She moved her hands from behind her back – and pulled out the helmet to the Artemis suit. "Ratchet sent me this," she said, "with a note that I would know what to do with it." She looked back at the bonfire. "I don't have any photos of Cary, or any of the other residents of the Dewford sanctuary. So, I thought...I don't know, if it's alright, to put their memories to rest with this."
She stepped forward and looked at the one-way visor of the helmet. Then, she tossed the helmet in the fire, until the flames consumed its maroon-colored surface and it was gone from sight. She exhaled, as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
"If Harley was awake," I said, "he would've told you that he's proud."
She met my eyes. "I still don't know his reaction to Artemis, though. I mean, I'm lucky that the soldiers here didn't know much about Artemis. And Drew...I don't know if he's ever going to fully trust me again."
"We'll cross these bridges when we get to them. We may have problems," I added, "but we're family."
"Yeah." She smiled with me. "Family."
An hour later I'd put the bonfire out and had retreated back into the base. Ellis and Moira contacted me then and told me they would be in the area by morning. With that in mind, I wished everyone goodnight and headed for the staying room I shared with Drew, who was still working with Lionel and Max.
I put my pokeballs on the nightstand, walked into the bathroom, and looked at myself through the mirror. Red-colored eyes looked back at me; and, in the far reaches of my mind, I heard the thoughts of the fusions and Kruismara. I'd trained myself over the last few days to not let the Hivemind overtake me, to where I could join and listen to it on my own free will. Still, their voices were loud. The rest of Arbiter Corp's council were probably searching for me after the death of Alistair. Since I didn't know whether Alistair or my commands to the fusions during the Battle for Emerald Harbor had managed to inform anyone from the council that I was a hybrid, I tried my best to stay quiet through the Hivemind, though I doubted anyone could pinpoint coordinates through it. Yeah, such fusions as operators would be able to tell any fusions nearby to come to its location, but when it came to finding a fusion without any guidance, I didn't have the power, and I didn't think Arbiter Corp had it, either.
Otherwise, fusions would've been knocking on our door already.
I sighed, dropped my clothes, and turned on the shower. When I stepped in, the hot water cascaded through my hair, down my skin, across the scars from the bullets that should've killed me for good, and washed away the cold, outside air that had clung to me. Steam hugged the walls and fogged the mirror. I closed my eyes and let the water run over my feet.
Minutes later, I heard something push the shower curtain aside. Before I could open my eyes, an arm wrapped around my abdomen from behind and a familiar scent filled my nose.
Drew brushed his lips along my shoulder. His palms trailed up my side, following the water, his fingers warm against my breasts. I leaned back into him, arched my neck, heard him whisper "I love you" into my ear, his voice smooth. I turned my head, I met his eyes, and he didn't look away, even when red clashed with green. He never looked away. I shifted in his arms, faced him, pushed my mouth against his, tasted him, smelled him, felt him, held him.
His fingers traveled between my thighs. One entered me. I groaned into his hair. His lips followed the slope of my neck, his goatee prickly against my skin.
The water fell onto us, traveling over us, gathering along our skin as if we were one being. One voice. One reason. One memory that hadn't been killed off by the fusions. No matter what happened, I wasn't alone. Drew would always be right beside me.
The steam weaved in between us. My mouth to Drew's, my hands on his back, his fingers left me. I was still wet and ready for more. He smiled, and, pushing his hips against mine, he slid into me.
I arched into him. The fusion in me purred with contempt and hunger. My lips skimmed the skin of his face, tasting the water along his jaw, tasting the sweat that trailed down from his nape, tasting everything that was him. He moved his hips. I gasped and moved with him. He thrust again. That fusion growled, its satisfaction growing in the pit of my stomach, hot and fiery and delicious and wanting. Needing. I buried my face in Drew's neck, still moving with him, still feeling the water caress our skin, pooling at out feet, the air thickened with steam and heat.
Drew's name left my lips, when I climaxed in his arms. He came with me shortly after, my thighs around his hips and his mouth against my shoulder, muffling his cry for me. Afterward, we just stood there, with him still inside of me, with the water still over us. Our foreheads touched as we panted. The fusion in me closed its eyes with fulfillment.
By the time we got out, the water was ice cold.
Drew and I woke to the roar of a drop ship's engine, as the ship flew over the base and probably toward the landing area on the far side. The clock on the nightstand read nine in the morning. We got out of bed and made our way to the base's living room, where Dawn, Paul, Max, Lionel, and Soledad had gathered (Malcolm was asleep in Soledad's room, she informed me), as various soldiers and pokemon walked past and performed the daily chores around the base. Seconds later, Ellis and Moira were escorted to us with the help of a soldier's infernape.
As soon as Ellis saw my eyes – my red eyes – he yelped and backed away. "D-demon!"
Meanwhile, Moira paled. "Oh no..."
"Yeah," I said, flashing an assuring smile at Ellis to try to calm him down, "can you guys figure out why I'm a hybrid?"
Ellis and Moira looked at each other. They both swallowed, like problem children with another hidden secret. "Well..." Moira sighed. "First, tell us what happened at Emerald Harbor."
I nodded and told them everything that had happened, with the help of Drew and the others. (Ellis blinked at Soledad, raising his finger to point out that a person who was supposed to be dead stood right next to me. I brushed that off with a wave of my hand; that would be a story for another time.) Though I hadn't contacted them much since I'd reached the Hoenn Resistance base, I had sent them any information we'd received through the flash drive Soledad had given us, so they knew about Arbiter Corp's plans, including the Hybrid Phase. I told them about our encounter with the Leviathan on the Monoliths, where I'd first tapped into the Hivemind and became part fusion. Then, I told them about the Battle for Emerald Harbor – how I'd managed to turn the fusions Alistair controlled against him and use pokemon-like powers to do such things as encase his arm in ice. (I didn't tell them much about Harley, either; again, we needed to focus on the task at hand.)
When I finished, Ellis and Moira shifted awkwardly. Then, Moira opened her mouth:
"We...we were wondering when this would happen."
I paused. "What?"
Ellis looked at me with a nervous grin. "Busted."
"Alright," Paul said, with a bit of a snarl, "what the hell's going on?"
Moira sighed. "Remember, May, when we told you that we struggled to find the right substances and mechanical therapy over the past five years you were dead to bring you back to life? Well, the truth is, none of them worked. Whenever we managed to stabilize something in your system, it only broke down again. At one point, we were losing hope. But, then..." She looked at Ellis. "We heard about the Hybrid Phase. It was the original plan of Verdana's to become part fusion, and, thus, a head of the Hivemind, so she can eventually kill Kruismara and become the true leader of the fusions. We thought this had died with Verdana, but when we found out that Jericho and the rest of the Arbiter Corporation had perfected the process and consisted mostly of hybrids, we made it a side task of ours to investigate the project, since an effect of being a hybrid can be a fast and successful recovery time from mortal wounds that would otherwise be fatal.
"With Ellis and our pokemon, I managed to ambush a small Arbiter Corp outpost not far from our vault in Slateport that had samples of this altered Chimera Virus. Then, with you hanging on a thread through our machines, we injected you with the Virus."
I shook. "I'm a hybrid, because of you?"
"Please understand, May." Moira frowned. "We were hesitant on telling you, in fear of your reaction. But, it was the only way we could stabilize your system to function on its own. Our methods weren't enough. The Chimera Virus is what brought you back."
"This week just keeps getting better and better," Max said, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger.
"Ellis and I weren't sure when the Hybrid Phase would kick in, though," Moira said. "But, we were hopeful, when you finally stabilized and we were able to wake you. It just proved that this altered version of the Chimera Virus, when applied at the right time, is a life saver, and it also could give you the upper hand in the fight against Arbiter Corp, since you would technically become a head to the Hivemind like they were. You would be able to control your own fusions and have pokemon-based powers like fusions did. So, in a way-"
"Climbed two mountains with one rope," Ellis said, with that same nervous grin. "You're alive, and you're proof that that icky serum isn't so bad when good people use it!"
I turned away. "I was a test subject to you..."
"Well," Paul said, "when you put it that way, you make them sound like total douche bags."
"Yeah," Dawn added. "May, you wouldn't be here, if it wasn't for the Chimera Virus. As Moira said, it saved your life. It saved a lot of things. We would've died beneath Alistair's powers if you hadn't been there to rival him."
Moira sighed again. "Also, May, your ability to turn Alistair's fusions against him was pivotal. The Hybrid Phase is a complicated process, and even then it's not assured that you'll become a strong enough head to command even more than a few fusions. You were stronger than Alistair, May. You were a higher rank than he was in the Hivemind. I wouldn't be surprised if you'd be able to command an army by now."
I looked at Drew, whose eyes had darkened. "Our original plan," he said, "was to kill off Kruismara, so that, without a head to the Hivemind to keep organization, the fusions would turn on each other. But, you're making it sound that the Hybrid Phase is complete, so that killing Kruismara won't end the war now."
Ellis shook his head.
"It won't," Moira said. "From your story, we can already tell that the council to the Arbiter Corporation has finished the Hybrid Phase. They're the new heads, and though killing off Kruismara is still an important step, the minds of the fusions will only fall to the next head in line, or the head that they're closest to. If you want to end this war, you have to kill all the heads."
Drew closed his eyes. "So that means, if May's a head-"
The alarms went off. I jumped. Warning lights flashed along the ceiling, painting the room in red. It's eerie call echoed from down the hallway.
A soldier ran out of one of the computer rooms. "Sir," he said to Drew, "dozens of fusions are heading to this location right now! The radars are filled!"
Paul snarled. "What? They found us?"
The blood drained from my face. Even though I'd stayed quiet in the Hivemind, was I wrong about the other heads' abilities to find members through it?
"Gear up!" Drew ordered.
Slots in the wall opened, revealing weapons and ammo. Drew, Lionel, Max, Dawn, Soledad, Paul, and I armed ourselves and headed for the door.
"Oh my Arceus..."
I almost ran into Dawn's back when she stopped in place as soon as she ran out the door. Beside her, Lionel and Max stepped back, while Paul swallowed, his machine gun almost falling out of his hand. Soledad stayed close to Drew, her face white. I stepped forward and looked ahead.
Dozens of fusions ran across the expanse of land that stretched out from the base's front. Scouts, linebackers, lashers, rogues, harpies, operators, all kinds of fusions, even a colossus. They emerged from the forest that surrounded the base, from the dark clouds above, from behind the base, where they almost seemed to surround us. Soldiers stationed on the rooftop of the base froze, their hands shaking.
No, I said to the fusions, to all of them, through my thoughts, though the Hivemind. Don't attack.
The fusions growled. But, they didn't step forward. They didn't attack Drew and the others. In fact, it seemed as if their red eyes were all focused on me. Their voices invaded my head, all saying the same thing:
As you command.
Paul raised his gun.
"No," I said to him.
He looked at me – everyone looked at me – and I stared back at the fusion horde before us.
I walked forward. Toward the horde.
The fusions snarled at me. Then, when I was close enough to touch one's face, they parted, allowing me to walk through. As soon as I passed, they enclosed around me, following me, paying attention to only me, because that was what I asked for.
In the center of the horde was a large rock. I walked to it, relaxed; even with the fusions that surrounded me, I didn't feel afraid. The fusion in me growled with the others, like a mother calling her young, and they all listened. They all obeyed. They came, because they knew I needed help. They looked at me as if I was really the fusion that called for them, their red eyes meeting my red-colored irises. When I reached the rock, I stood on top of it, until I could gaze over the entire crowd of fusions that surrounded me, Drew and the others staring from the base's front.
A large roar shook the air. A shadow swam across the ground – across the fusions – until the owner landed behind me, the fusions parting to make room. With another smaller roar, the Leviathan curled its long neck around me, almost protectively, its red eyes flashing. Gently, I raised my hand and brushed my fingers along the feathers on the Leviathan's head. It licked my palm affectionately.
I looked back at the fusions.
You were stronger than Alistair, May, Moira had said. You were a higher rank than he was in the Hivemind. I wouldn't be surprised if you'd be able to command an army by now.
I smiled, as the Leviathan roared, as the fusions roared.
AN: Be sure to check out the sequel, "Finding Home"! And thanks for reading!