Prologue: Our Hell

Catina Reynolds had been eighteen when she realized that being a nurse in a Pokemon Center was just not for her. A clefairy had come in, unconscious after an attack by a bunch of particularly vicious zubats in Mount Moon. The clefairy's trainer, a young girl with stick straight red hair and wide green eyes, was in hysterics. She, too, had been bitten a few times by the zubats in trying to save her pokemon, but ultimately all she could do was just run as fast as she could towards a Pokemon Center. Catina was too afraid to touch the small pink pokemon, as she didn't want to worry it further, so the head nurse, a kind woman named Joy, told Catina to stay with the trainer while Joy took care of the pokemon.

As Catina sat with the sobbing girl and tried to sooth her fears and grief, she found that she was much more successful at healing emotionally wounded people than physically wounded pokemon. Within moments, the girl was no longer crying and instead was chattering on, and telling Catina her life story. Of course, not all people were so easily consoled as a scared young girl, but that day was the main reason why now, at age 38, Catina Reynolds now sat in a desk behind a door with her name on it instead of in a Pokemon Center.

The door with her name on it creaked loudly whenever it opened, causing Catina to look up from whatever she was doing at the moment to see who wanted to see her. When the door creaked open at 1:30 on a Monday afternoon, Catina had been scribbling down notes on a regular patient back home who had called her in hysterics upon learning she was in Hoenn for awhile.

He walked in before Catina could look up from her notebook. Though he wasn't of particularly formidable stature, he still carried an aura of power wherever he went. His steel gray eyes held a certain shine whenever he spoke. "Good afternoon Dr. Reynolds," he said pleasantly.

"Good afternoon, Champion Steven," Catina said, her eyes wide in surprise. She hadn't been expecting anyone until two, when her first appointment was supposed to show up, much less the Champion of the Hoenn region. He had been the one to hire her, yes, but she hadn't realized she would be dealing with him directly. Most with his level of power only dealt with her through secretaries and assistants.

"Please, Steven is fine," he said cordially. "I understand you have the first of your appointments today."

"Yes, sir," Catina said, nodding. She turned to her appointment book to look for the names.

"I really appreciate you taking the time to come up here, Dr. Reynolds. I know how busy you are with your practice in Celadon. I know it's quite a journey for you to be coming out here, but this is a special case and you came highly recommended." Steven sat down on the couch where her patients usually sat.

"Thank you, Steven," Catina said with a smile.

"The five individuals that you will be meeting with all come from one of the three regions that have been under attack. They have all been through some degree of trauma, though some are dealing better than others. All of them are taking administrative positions here in Evergrande, Dr. Reynolds. I want to make sure that they're getting treatment for all of the issues that come with the distress they've endured."

"Of course, sir. I will make sure they get the treatment they need," Catina said, again grabbing her leatherbound notebook that she used to take notes during her sessions. "Is there anything I should be aware of with any of them? You didn't give much information on the phone."

"I apologize for that," he said with a small grimace. "One of my gym leaders was in a panic. I'm sure you heard about the damage caused by Teams Magma and Aqua awhile back?"

"It was all over the news, sir. What a tragedy," Catina murmured, shaking her head.

"It was a horrible time for Hoenn," Steven said sadly. "But we're rebuilding. Some areas were hit particularly hard though, and the gym leaders in charge are having a difficult time trying to get their city back up to par."

"I can imagine it would be a difficult task," Catina said, shaking her head again. She glanced at her watch. 1:45. "Sir, my two o'clock appointment should be here soon. Is there anything I should know about any of your employees?"

Steven appeared to be in deep thought. "It's hard to know where to begin. They've all been through so much. Who are your appointments today?"

"At two o'clock I'll be seeing a young lady named… Flannery…?"

"Oh yes, Flannery," Steven said. "Pardon me, I forgot who we set up for when. Flannery is the only person from Hoenn on this team. She was a gym leader in the small mountain town of Lavaridge, but her house was destroyed in the eruption of the volcano caused by Team Magma. In addition, her close friend Winona's town of Fortree was destroyed in the storms caused by Kyogre. Nobody has seen or heard from Winona since. Her gym has been relocated to the city of Lilycove."

"Poor girl," Catina said sadly. "It must be difficult for her to be faced with this all at once."

Steven nodded. "Her grandfather has said there's been days where she can't even force herself to leave the house. She's a strong girl though. Very… feisty, if you will. She's very excited about the prospect of helping out in the rebuilding. She'll be in charge of the complete rebuilding of Fortree."

"That sounds like a good project for her," Catina said as she took down quick notes. She glanced at her watch again. 1:50. "In addition to Flannery, I have a four o'clock with a… Delaney, I believe her name is…"

"Delaney Caldwell," Steven said with a nod.

"Oh, that Delaney Caldwell?" Catina asked, her brown eyes growing wide.

"Yes, that Delaney Caldwell. She may be the biggest challenge of them all," he said with a grimace. "I'm sure you know the basic story. Defeated Team Galactic at age 15 in their first incarnation, and then left for Unova six months later. She lived with her mother for a brief time before going out on another journey. She was becoming rather well-known in the Unova region for fighting Team Plasma under the name Christa White until an incident in Icirrus City caused her to leave the region. After that, Teams Galactic and Plasma took hold of both Unova and Sinnoh under the united front of N, the boy who captured Reshiram, a man named Ghetsis and Cyrus, the leader of Team Galactic."

"It's horrible that they allowed him to break out of prison," Catina muttered, her pen flying across the page as she wrote down the key points of Steven's information. "What happened to her after she left Unova?"

"I'm not quite sure," Steven said carefully. "When I asked her, she said she had been training in Johto, but there are no records of her battling any of the gym leaders, nor the Elite Four. I checked the records of other regions as well but it seems like she just... disappeared."

"There's a lot of information missing then," Catina said thoughtfully. "Sir, pardon me for asking, but I'm curious- this girl obviously has quite a lot of… issues to work out. Why did you choose her for this position?"

"I told her that the new Elite Four I was putting together was strictly for the purpose of helping to rebuild Hoenn." Steven paused, appearing to be in deep thought. "Miss Caldwell is a strong trainer, yes, but most of all, she's a survivor. Something tells me she's going to be essential to this rebuilding."

"She definitely sounds interesting," Catina said, glancing at her watch. 1:58. "I hate to cut you short, sir, but my two o'clock should be here any moment."

"Of course, Dr. Reynolds. I mainly just wanted to say thank you for coming, anyways. Thank you for allowing me some of your time," Steven said politely.

For being the reigning champion of the Hoenn region, that Steven Stone sure was courteous. "No, thank you, sir," she said, taken aback by his politeness. It was easy to understand why the entire region of Hoenn adored him. "I'm glad to be able to help."

"I have the utmost confidence that you're the best person for the job, Dr. Reynolds," he said with a warm smile. "Now I'll let you get to your appointment. Good day, Dr. Reynolds."

"Have a good afternoon, sir," Catina said with a smile.

He smiled and nodded her as he opened the door. It creaked as he turned the handle. "Good afternoon, Flannery," she could hear him say as the door shut. "I think Dr. Reynolds is expecting you."

In the hour between her two appointments, Catina had gotten four emergency phone calls from Kanto that needed to be dealt with immediately. It was about fifteen minutes after four when she instructed Brenna, the kind young nurse's aide that Steven had hired to escort his new Elite Four around Evergrande, to tell her four o'clock appointment to "come on in".

Catina had seen pictures of Delaney Caldwell, seen her on TV. She knew that the girl had long, straight light blonde hair and violet eyes, that she had a thin build and was about average height. She dressed nicely (which was to be expected, considering who her father was) and was extremely polite, and not very talkative. In the handful of interviews Catina had seen around the time of Team Galactic's downfall, she had only talked when spoken to, and blushed easily. She was, all in all, a nice young girl with a bright future. Of course, this was four, almost five, years ago, but Catina couldn't imagine her changing that much. Girls like Delaney had years of proper upbringing ingrained in them.

She wouldn't have known the girl that walked into her office was Delaney Caldwell had she not just asked for her, but the violet eyes gave it away. She was still rather thin, though more muscular than she had been, and she had grown a couple inches. Her hair was no longer almost platinum, but instead, dark brown and wavy. Her nose was crooked and bent to the left side and there was a scar on her chin. The façade of niceness was gone too- she stared at Catina almost like she was trying to mentally burn a hole through her. It was clear she did not want to be there.

It was her job, though, to fix whatever had gone wrong with Delaney Caldwell over the years, so Catina put on a bright smile and held out a hand to greet her. "Hello! You must be Delaney. Nice to meet you!"

The brunette stared coolly back at Catina. "Likewise, I'm sure," she said stiffly. She did not extend her hand.

"Please, take a seat," she said, gesturing to the couch. She did not take a seat. "Steven tells me you're quite the trainer. Why don't you tell me a bit about yourself, Delaney?" she asked nervously, taking a seat in the oversized chair.

"I think you know pretty much all there is to say." Uninterested, the brunette leaned against the bookshelf and looked down at her.

"I want to hear it in your words, though," Catina said, trying not to snap. Steven hadn't said anything about how hostile this girl was.

Delaney sighed. "I'm Delaney, which you already know. Four years ago, I defeated Team Galactic, which you already know. After they came back, I left Sinnoh for Unova and traveled around there. I made a few enemies in Team Plasma. When Plasma and Galactic joined together, I failed to beat them, which you already know. That's really about it."

"That was three years ago, Delaney," Catina said gently. "What did you do after you left Unova?"

"I went to Johto," she said curtly.

"Did you battle there?"

Delaney paused. She was no longer staring down at Catina, but instead staring off into space. "No, I just traveled," she said, her voice carrying off. "Battling just seemed so trite after…"

"After what?"

"All that happened," she finished, straightening up. She took a seat on the edge of the couch. "I stayed there by myself for two and a half years, and then my friend Sawyer came to find me. I've been here in Hoenn for about three weeks."

"Is Sawyer your boyfriend?" Catina asked with a small smile. She hoped he was. This girl needed at least a shred of normalcy.

Delaney was quick to react. "No! Arceus, no. Can't a girl and a guy just be friends without there having to be anything else to it?"

"Oh, of course they can," Catina responded. "I'm sorry, I just thought…"

"Well you thought wrong," she said, pursing her lips and glaring at Catina. The question, for some reason, had angered her. There was definitely something that Delaney was not saying. Why else would she have gotten mad?

"There's more to you than just this whole Galactic-Plasma nonsense, Delaney," Catina said gently. "What else is there? What makes you happy?"

"What makes me happy?" she repeated, a bit of a laugh coming into her voice. "You know, what would make me really happy is getting the hell out of here. You know we're just wasting each other's time."

"I don't believe that at all, Delaney," Catina said quietly, though secretly, she suspected she was right. She wanted to help Delaney Caldwell, she really did, but she was beginning to believe there wasn't much she could do until Delaney was ready to talk. "But if it will make you happy, we'll cut today's session short. You can set up a time to see me again with Steven."

"Thank Arceus," Delaney muttered as she whirled around and headed for the door.

"Wait, I'll call Brenna to come and get you," Catina said, surprised.

"I can find the way back myself!" Delaney called back, dismissing her with a wave of her hand.

"It was nice to meet you!" Catina called hopefully.

The only response to that was silence.

Author's Note (7/06/12): Hello, and welcome back to those who are here from TCatG! If you are new, a) welcome, and glad you're here! And b) you should probably know that this is a sequel to The City and the Ghost and it would probably be good to read that first.

At any rate, this is SYOF, which is going in a completely different direction than most of you expected. Welcome! You're in for a bit of a crazy ride. (:

As always, thanks for taking the time to read this. Chapter 01 will be back up to my usual chapter length, but this is just a small glimpse at what's to come. Questions, concerns, reviews and (constructive) criticism are always welcome.

Chapter 01 will more than likely be posted Monday, just as an FYI.