First and foremost, a large thanks to Zarrelion for betaing this chapter, especially with his polishing of several lines in this chapter that couldn't have sounded better had he not tended to them.
Rows of gondolas flanked the vacant stone walkways they were tethered to, the waters within them deceptively still, like solid paths of sage green glass. Glaucomatous skies hung above the island. Clotheslines once festooned with vibrant articles of clothing now hung barren and lifeless like cobwebs between buildings. The once busy canals that extended through nearly all of Altomare were empty.
Fishermen and sailors who had attempted to leave the island had been quickly dispatched by the ocean's denizens, their vessels torn apart and lying in pieces on the ocean floor. Attempts at electronic communication with the outside world were equally dismal — all they got was dead silence. A messenger Pidgey had been sent out days ago, but with each passing day hope for its return withered and eventually died. It saddened Tral to see his home in such a state but he knew today was important and would require all his focus on this particular moment in his life.
Tral did not see the world like other humans and pokémon. In fact, he had ceased to see it the same way since his evolution from a Natu. The past, present, and future were all viewed at same time through his eyes. It wasn't until he looked back at his experiences as a Natu that he realized how limited and narrow his vision had once been.
Attempts at describing his experience to his offspring were difficult at best. He had found that the closest analogy he could use to give them a general idea was a wall composed entirely of the human instruments known as televisions. All the boxes would be playing the same story, but each screen would be showing a different scene. Some would be near the beginning; others were near the end. The story in question was the Xatu's entire lifespan or the life of anyone that they looked upon.
Tral had witnessed his own birth and death, as well as those of his offspring and his mate. Like many of his kind he had come to terms with it; although the concept of death for Xatu was a difficult one to understand for many. To a Xatu, when someone died, they were not truly gone, for they were still alive in the past. Their indifference towards the event often made seem unfeeling and cold to others.
Xatu could revisit and relive entire memories whenever they wanted; all they would need to do was focus on a particular screen on the wall. The emotions and sensations would come and go as they had lived them, feeling fresh and new regardless of the amount of times they had relived a specific memory.
As a result, they were rarely bored. Should monotony ever bare its ugly head, a quick peek into the future or past remedied such feelings. It could be easy to get lost as Xatu were known to stand still for days at a time, peering into their future or reliving the past. The longer one spent sifting through their own life, the harder it was to find the present.
Tral stood beside the fountain within the secret garden that housed the Soul Dew. His children hopped along the grass, pecking experimentally in hopes of finding seeds.
Perched along the other side of the fountain was a Honchkrow that went by the name of Kawpone, his entire murder of Murkrow scattered amidst the surrounding trees in watch of anything that might threaten the safety of their boss.
"Youse betta not be screwin' wit me an' mah boys," the Big Boss pokémon grumbled, unaccustomed to leaving the safety of his hideout in the shadows of Altomare.
"She arrives a few seconds from now," Tral replied, knowing it did not sate the bird. Seconds after the comment, the surface of the water from the fountain broke, two figures emerging from its depths. The crimson Eon Legendary stared in bewilderment at the sight, not expecting an audience for her arrival. Mew did not share her sentiments.
"Wow, so this is your place? Cool! Oooh, you've got a swing set! I love swings. It's been like a gajillion years since I played on one. I mean not really a gajillion but it's been soooo long. I get first dibs!" Mew cried, spinning around Latias' head.
The red dragon smiled, wondering how someone who'd lived for thousands of years, traveled the world in that time, and dwelled within a structure as magnificent as the Tree of Beginning, could still be so enthused by her simple little garden.
"Lati, Lati, play with me! You push and I'll swing, then you'll swing and I'll push. Please please please pleeeeaaaseee!" Mew begged, twisting in the air as he spoke.
"Von, Ku, Egut, please play with Mew while Kawpone and I speak with Latias," Tral whispered, ushering his children forward with a wing.
"Yay! New friends!" Mew cheered, gliding over to meet his new playmates, temporarily forgetting Latias' existence.
Latias silently mouthed a thank you before floating over to her mysterious savior.
"Sorry about him, he can get pretty riled up when he gets to a new place," she whispered.
"It's quite all right," Tral began, dipping his head towards her before he continued into introductions. "My name is Tral and this is Kawpone, leader of Altomare's Murkrow." The ocean city's shadow king gave a curt nod and a bow, surprising many of the nearby Murkrow by the rare display of respect.
"Our fathers knew each otha and I knew yer brother personally. I'm sorry fer yer loss," Kawpone's tone was low as he reached up with a wing and dipped the fedora-shaped crest of feathers upon his head.
"Thank you," Latias whispered back, surprised that someone else was part of the small group who had known her brother. Latios had never mentioned Kawpone to her, but then there were a lot things that he had neglected to tell her before he'd died. "I wasn't expecting company. I'm actually back he—"
"—ere to appoint a steward to officially govern Altomare in your extended leave," the mystic bird interjected, leaving the Legendary stunned. Kawpone's eyes widened with interest, shifting ever so slightly closer to hear the conversation better.
A brief look of confusion played across the Eon Legendary's face before it was replaced by a neutral expression. "Uh…yeah. Did you know I was coming?"
"Xatu can see the entirety of a lifespan of an individual, including their own. It can be construed as seeing one's own future. I knew the purpose of your arrival in this moment," Tral replied.
"Guess you saved me a lot of time then. So…am I picking your or…him?" Latias said uncertainly, her gaze shifting between the mystic and the big boss.
"You pick both," Tral explained, earning himself a loaded glare from the Honchkrow beside him.
"Both?" Latias replied warily, psychically sensing the sudden resentment emanating from Kawpone.
"Yes. You come to this conclusion when assessing both of our strengths and abilities. Kawpone is an excellent leader, commanding the complete respect and loyalty of his underlings. Few, if any, pokémon in Altomare can lay claim to this asset. The other pokémon will rally under a banner bearing his name. They provide the muscle necessary to defend the island from attackers. In addition, their knowledge of the island's layout is unmatched."
Despite Kawpone's best efforts, his grimace gradually curved into a small smile.
"However, left being the only one in charge, the position will become eventually become abused," Tral added.
One of the Murkrow flared his wings and glared at Tral. "Youse got a lot of nerve tawkin' 'bout our boss like dat!" When the Murkrow made a move to lunge at the offending mystic, Kawpone swung his wing in a swift punch that left the bird on the ground.
"B-b-b-but boss, he was disrespectin' you!" the Murkrow offered feebly as he scrambled to pick himself off the ground.
"Da boid's said nothin' but da truth. I know myself well enough ta know da power would get ta my head. Dis boid's gotta lotta moxie sayin' what he's sayin'." Kawpone then let a smile split his beak. "I like'em." His smile then vanished and was replaced by an icy scowl as he turned to his cowed subordinate. "You, on the other wing, are gonna hafta do somethin' 'bout dat beak o' yours. Youse crow outta turn again and I'll personally bust yer beak an' leave ya swimmin wit the Remoraid."
Latias didn't know feathers could grow pale until Kawpone turned away from his subordinate and glided over to them. "Sorry 'bout him, keep goin'."
"As for myself, I lack the subordinates and strength Kawpone and his murder hold," Tral began, unfazed by the tongue-lashing and threat the big boss had dished out to his subordinate. "Yet their strength will mean nothing if speed and preparation are not present. I can work with Kawpone to coordinate preemptive strikes against assaults on Altomare. Aside from strategy and tactics I can also serve as a check and balance to Kawpone to the denizens of Altomare, thereby providing those fighting for us a sense of calm and protection that otherwise could not be promised outside of Kawpone's murder were he solely in charge."
"You're making me wonder why I even bothered with this trip at all," the Eon dragon replied with a sigh, a mixture of relief and frustration evident in her voice.
"Your approval of this appointment is paramount. As the last Guardian of Altomare and strongest pokémon on the island, your word carries much more weight than either of ours will. If the remaining pokémon inhabitants of Altomare know that you support this plan, they will readily join us to defend the city."
Latias shifted her gaze to Mew, currently having a staring contest with one of the Natu.
"It seems like they've got everything figured out already. Saves me a lot of the trouble of having to go around searching and deciding. What would you do brother? This seems like the best choice right now." Seconds ticked by as Latias was left to her thoughts, the sound broken only by soft crunch of grass as Mew hopped across the garden with Tral's children.
"Okay," Latias finally said with a sigh, "I'll leave you guys in charge while I'm gone."
Kawpone nodded, turning to Tral before repeating the gesture and taking off to the skies with the rest of his flock following suit.
"This trip ended up being a lot shorter than I anticipated. I was kinda hoping I'd have an excuse to meet with Bianca and Lorenzo while I searched, but now…" The crimson dragon glanced over at Mew, psychically pushing himself on the swings he had seen earlier while the Natu watched. "Meeting with them might just be wasting time. Altomare seems like it'll be safe for now and the others are waiting for Mew and me back at the tree. I shouldn't keep them waiting if I don't need to."
"Mew, we have to go," Latias said with a sigh betraying her own reluctance to leave this place.
"What!? Already?" Mew cried, stopping halfway through his swing.
"Yes, Mew. The others are waiting for us and this trip didn't end up being as long as I thought it would be. I promise you can come with me when I come back here again."
"Whenever that is," a voice in the back of her mind seemed to add darkly.
"Awwwww. Come on Lati, can't we stay a little longer?"
"Mew," Latias replied flatly, doing her best to give him the sternest gaze she could muster.
"Okay," Mew said sullenly, his entire body slumped as he started turning. "Can I at least say bye to my new friends?"
"All right." she relented, a small smile emerging from her once firm expression.
"Is this what being a mom would be like?" Latias wondered, the scene of a miniature Latios and Latias cuddling with her flashing through her mind. The fantasy quickly turned bittersweet at the realization that aside from her brother and father, she knew of no others of her kind. Latios had never mentioned the existence of other Eon pokémon, for all she knew she could be the last of her kind.
"Huh? Oh, sorry," the psychic dragon said, turning to face the mystic bird that had now drawn closer to her. "Tral, right? I can't thank you enough for what you've done."
"This has been my home since I was hatched, and it is the home of my children. It is an honor to serve and protect it. I know you are worried, but know that there is a good chance we will meet each other again," Tral replied.
"A good chance? I thought you already knew your future?"
"The future is rarely set in stone. Xatu do their best to avoid altering the events of their life and the lives of others too heavily. Knowing what is to come can often change the outcome of a series of events that have yet to happen. Looking at your life, I can tell you what awaits you in the years that are to come. However, just in telling you your fate, your entire future could be rewritten and the things I'd told you would suddenly become meaningless. With your newfound knowledge you would make different choices, and in turn replace an old future with a new and possibly entirely different one."
"So you can't tell me anything in the end, or you could, but it wouldn't mean anything the second you told me?
"From a certain point of view, yes. Your future right now is…difficult, and although telling you may help in some ways, it may make other situations worse to the point of shortening your life and the lives of others."
"But what about you and Kawpone? You did everything for me; wouldn't that change the future as well?" Latias countered.
"The changes I witnessed by taking matters into my own wings was minimal at best. You would've come to the same conclusion eventually. I was simply speeding up the process, much like Celebi has done for you by divulging the information she knew. Those of us who know of matters that have yet to unfold for others must be careful of the ripples we make. Before you leave here, I leave you with two messages. One you must impart upon Mesprit. These words will be the key to turning the future battles that will come slightly in your favor."
"What is it?" Latias implored, nervous and exhilarated at the same time.
"You must listen closely to what I'm about to say. Divulging these words to her too early risks changing the future for one that has harsher outcomes. You may tell her half a month from now, give or take a few days. You will know when the time is right. Do you understand?"
"Yes," Latias nodded, listening intently as Tral spoke.
"Status," Uxie calmly inquired the instant he felt Alakalossal's presence behind him.
"My lord, our agents regret to inform you that…that Gengiga has been…defeated at the coast of Kanto. Their poison type population appears untouched," the giant psi pokémon replied, his voice strained as if he had fought to force every word out of his mind.
Uxie was silent for several seconds, beeps and whirrs from the various machines surrounding them left to fill the pregnant gap of silence.
"Acceptable loss. Can imagine utilization of golem trio to counteract his natural abilities. Insufficient time and targets to practice upon with newly uploaded moveset potentially led to downfall. Will simply have to redistribute strike teams to attend to poison types in Johto. Can allow others to handle situation in Kanto," Uxie said, his earlier silence attributed to a series of calculations and mental notes he had felt the need to complete before responding.
Alakalossal simply stood behind the sprite, allowing the silence to lengthen after Uxie had finished speaking. There had been other news, but some part of him couldn't help but wait for something else to be said about Gengiga before he continued. As the seconds ticked on the psi giant realized that Uxie had said all he cared about regarding the subject.
Although they had never been friends or comrades, there was a grudging respect for the life engine, one that had been forged through several battles they'd had in the past. News of his passing had taken several seconds longer to acknowledge than updates on the complete genocide of several other species on the planet. As much as he hated to admit it, a part of him still couldn't comprehend his rival's elimination.
The news had…affected him, creating a brief lag in his ability to efficiently process information. For a moment, the world around him seemed…inexplicably different, as if the steel that the facility was composed of had been replaced with some kind of plastic or some other material that lacked any form of luster. The sun, the air, the sky, the sea, and even the others of his kind that surrounded him felt less real. Updates of other teams that had carried out Uxie's other missions continued to be spoken to him, only to be repeated once more as he regained his bearings.
"Are you sure that he was…eliminated? I will not bring inaccurate information to lord Uxie. Did you see his destruction? He may have survived despite lacking a visible form. It's been known to occur when he's been whittled down to only a few…well check again! What do you mean they can't sense him?! Search the waters; maybe his artifact survived the attack! I've battled with him; an attack of that magnitude would not have finished him off so…well check again once the terrain has cooled and the Legendaries have left." Thoughts regarding the circumstances of Gengiga's death swirled within in the psi giant's mind as he struggled to formulate his words.
"Anything else to report?" Uxie asked, breaking Alakalossal's train of thought.
"Uh…y-yes my lord. I was simply concerned for the success of our project with Gengiga's absence."
"Hardly a loss. Subtraction from the group requires the rearrangement of certain steps on our schedule. Anticipated and calculated probability of failure of his mission and created several contingency plans. Performed adequately within mission parameters. Served intended purpose." Uxie's tone made his thoughts on the subject clear.
"Very well, my lord," Alakalossal replied, his voice hollow as he spoke. "Progress reports of the lava species' elimination is moving at the expected rates you predicted. Mewtwo's autonomous performance also to specifications. Genesis chamber complete and indexing process has begun."
"Excellent. Will inform Ho-oh," the Sprite of Intellect said as he finally turned around to face the psi giant, floating past him without a word.
Uxie quickly found the sky's guardian perched atop the highest point of Mewtwo's former sanctuary. There was a disheveled look about him, the vibrancy that once illuminated his feather had vanished as he brooded and roosted.
"How might I be of assistance," Ho-oh spat bitterly at the sprite, refusing to face him as he hovered closer.
"Would like personal input on a project being developed in Sinnoh," Uxie calmly replied, ignoring the barely disguised contempt in Ho-oh's voice.
"Why not ask any of your countless worshippers?"
"Reverence for me creates biased opinions. Rayquaza and Kyogre preoccupied with respective missions. Prospect of contacting them difficult considering lack of known whereabouts on planet. Giant Gengar has been defeated and destroyed upon attempt of infiltrating Kanto region. Fortunately, was able to recruit ghost pokémon population in Sinnoh to our side and eliminate remaining poison pokémon population within the region. Mewtwo incapable of giving desired criticism."
"Where is Mewtwo?" the phoenix muttered, lazily searching the general vicinity for him.
"Have sent him to Hoenn region to handle new atmospheric erosion situation that has occurred due to undampening. Will return shortly. Have made substantial improvements with battle autonomy and overall abilities. Can demonstrate for you once mission is complete and returns. Until then, will teleport through use of Alakazam."
As if on command, a dozen or so of the psi pokémon teleported into their midst, floating in the classic lotus position as they formed a ring around them.
"So be it," Ho-oh replied dully, watching as the eyes of the psychics surrounding them glowed. Ho-oh blinked and immediately found that the Alakazam had now been replaced with walls of mirrors and a panoply of Metagross.
Flying back and forth within the large reflective dome were several Iron Leg pokémon, busying themselves on electronic terminals housed behind a sliding glass panels. The size of the facility easily dwarfed that of the metal tower coliseum he'd flown over in Orre. The floors beneath them were also made of mirrors, making it impossible for Ho-oh to escape the haggard reflection that stared tiredly back at him.
"Uxie, what is this?" he asked.
"Have designated this facility as the genesis chamber," Uxie replied as he "looked" at one of the terminals.
"Meaning?" Ho-oh asked testily, watching the sprite float towards one end of the room.
Uxie approached one mirror in particular among the rows that lined the entire dome. Ho-oh watched as the sprite drew closer and closer to his own reflection and stopped just inches from the glass. The reflective panel slid into the ground, revealing a terminal behind it like the ones he had seen the Metagross access earlier.
"Aside from collecting samples of DNA from clone candidates, have also taken liberty of securing and indexing genetic code of pokémon designated for genocide." The Sprite of Intellect elaborated; a screen upon the terminal winked to life, displaying the image of a Grimer.
The phoenix's eyes widened, each reflective panel within the dome now taking on a new meaning.
"Have taken copious samples to account for vast genetic variation. As can be seen, have dedicated small group of Metagross to process and memorize strands of genetic sequences. One of few pokémon capable of undertaking task of this complexity. Species known to be capable of computing faster than human supercomputers. In time I intend, through genetic manipulation, to alter the negative aspects unlocked through the undampening. Hopefully can rework code without altering core specimen too drastically and reintroduce modified subjects back into wild."
"So when you ordered the genocide of the Muk and Grimer…" the rainbow pokémon trailed off, realizing the magnitude of what Uxie was planning.
"Intended to archive and start over with modified specimens. Have never desired to see complete and total extinction of species, regardless of origins. Universe demands diversity."
"So behind each of these mirrors is the essence of every pokémon?"
Uxie shook his head. "No. Genetic library still largely deficient of samples. Several species elusive and difficult to attain samples of. Ghost pokémon samples will be difficult to attain covertly and without losing continued cooperation. Loss of Gengiga makes already fragile alliance difficult to maintain. Other pokémon have mysteriously undergone massive migrations. Plan to eventually find and capture several specimens. Also, despite ease of replicating several pokémon found in wild; have encountered difficulties when attempting to clone Legendaries. Have postulated reasons as to why, but will require more in depth research to ascertain actual reason."
Ho-oh felt an icy chill run through his body. He froze in place, pupils dilating as the blood that flowed through in his veins suddenly ran cold. After several seconds of wide-mouthed gaping, he spoke. "You…you've attempted…to clone us?"
"Have not utilized your genetic samples specifically but have made attempts with Lugia's sibling. So far, every trial has ended in failure. With time, may eventually discover method to produce viable Legendary clone," Uxie replied, the utter nonchalance of which he spoke made it sound like he was running a simple chemical reaction.
Ho-oh's eye twitched as he felt anger rising within him. "You've gone too far this time, Uxie. When the others hear of this they will not stand for it. They will put an end to all of this madness and stop you!" Ho-oh growled as his voice, like his rage, grew in strength.
"I do not understand your logic, thought processes, or how you have come to this conclusion. High probability of dissension among remaining lab members upon learning of attempts at cloning them. But would first require their awareness of this particular experiment," Uxie said as he floated towards the phoenix, his voice positively saturated with curiosity and wonderment, "Awareness which requires you to leave this facility to inform them. Would require you to leave this facility…alive."
Uxie's calm and even tone chilled the Legendary to the core to a degree that no tone — no matter how malicious or threatening — was able to. Ho-oh backed away slowly from the All-Knowing. The phoenix's first instinct to unleash a sea of flames was doused by the knowledge that damaging the sprite before him signed the execution order for the intellect of every being in existence.
"Am curious as to how other lab members would stop me." Uxie continued, heedless of the terrified Legendary before him. "Have calculated possibility of success. If shown, you will find that the numbers do not strongly support your claim. Must factor in psychics under my command as well as take into consideration that I am in the midst of mitigating the damage done by ill-advised and accelerated removal of dampeners. Am ensuring continued existence of several species, rather than complete and total genocide. Am extending longevity of planet's ecosystem. Am successfully maintaining experiment that you started."
Ho-oh frantically scanned his surroundings, unable to find a viable escape route. The horrified expression that was mirrored back at him from every direction did not help matters. Metagross that had once busied themselves around the the chamber now stopped and starred at the spectacle unfolding before them. His thoughts were jumbled and disorganized; lacking any cohesion as he clumsily stepped away from the sprite in panic.
"Can ensure with utmost certainty that my removal from the experiment, from the grand equation, will no doubt compromise the continued survival of all living entities on planet. If allowed to work, planet has hope of maintaining semblance of stability over time. Have gone through a considerable amount of scenarios revolving around your continued existence since our meeting at Mewtwo's facility. Majority of scenarios resulted in hindered progress of experiment."
Before Ho-oh knew it, his feathered back was pressed against the frigid surface of the wall of glass on the other end of room. "Y…Y…You cannot kill me Uxie!" the sky guardian shouted in a feeble display of bravado. "A…A…And y…you know it!"
Uxie remained utterly passive as he continued speaking. "Am well aware of revival capabilities. Considered several methods of permanently removing you from the equation. Could erase memories through eye contact, though find option distasteful. Considered dedicating team of psychics to hold you and restrain you with status afflictions. But utilizing unnecessary resources on you seemed inefficient. Then considered possibility of repurposing you into something beneficial to the experiment. Do not wish to waste a potential resource. Your continual resurrection combined with Gengiga's energy consumption ensured an endless energy reservoir for the life engine. Had considered your absorption at Hearthome, but did not want to risk possibility for failure on Gengiga's behalf. With his removal from the grand equation, have needed to alter and accelerate plans."
Dark ripples pulsed within the mirror directly behind Ho-oh, the epicenter of the undulating rings darkened and expanded to fill the mirror's surface. The air within the room rushed past Uxie, seeking to fill the vacuum that was suddenly created behind the phoenix, drowning out his screams. Ho-oh's talons scraped across the surface of the glass below him, finding purchase for only a few seconds before being sucked into the dark portal behind him.
With a series of mental commands the Metagross of the facility answered Uxie's summons, doing their best to hold the portal open with their combined psychic abilities. Once secure, Uxie began to float away from the gate to the reverse world, hypothesizing the amount of time the Metagross would be able to keep the portal open.
It wouldn't be long before Rayquaza was brought to him to ensure the next phase went smoothly. Until then, he would pass the time scheduling the several new experiments he had come up with. There were so many scientific mysteries to uncover, resources to exploit and field tests to be done. Once the current matter was dealt with he would be able to ensure a considerable lack of monotony for the next foreseeable century.
Next, Chapter 8: Fallen From Grace