Author's Notes: A swifter update than usual this time! I'm hoping to post Chapter 34 in about the same amount of time, too. Thanks to everyone who took the time to comment on the last chapter, and I hope you enjoy this one, too. Coatl, I added a reply to your Chapter 32 review, as well as some earlier ones, to the guestbook. Mal, I'm glad you enjoyed this chapter! I always enjoy reading your reviews.

Here we go with the shortest chapter in a while, then...

Chapter 33

You reappear a second later on the plateau, trading packed and roaring stands for empty, silent distance. Eskar's here, just like she said she would be. The sableye perches on a rock beside the black-glass lake at your training spot, a dark mirror for the feathery clouds high overhead. You nearly groan at the sight of her, slumping with exhaustion. This isn't over yet.

"Okay," the great Nathaniel Morgan says, sparing no more than a cursory glance for the dusty rocks around him, "Okay. Ask the damn clone where Steelix is, and then I'll get the hell out of here."

Steelix? Mewtwo says in his tiny captive's voice, and you tense, expecting him to give you away. You don't even know why—why, other than the embarrassment of being caught in a lie—why it should matter. Why you should care. It's not like it'll make a difference either way.

But Mewtwo sees the whole situation written in your thoughts, comprehends it in under a second and replies, Oh, one of your precious slaves, is that it? Mixed in with this creature's? How terrible that you lost him. I can't imagine why you'd expect me to help you get him back.

"We fucking saved your worthless ass, you cocksucking son of a bitch," the great Nathaniel Morgan snarls.

I suppose, Mewtwo says blithely. But I seem to recall that the creature here once saved your life, and afterwards you were adamant that you owed it nothing. Can you explain how this situation is different? Is it because this time it's you who stands to gain?

"It's different because you're a lousy fuck who fucking stole from me! No bullshit! Where is he?"

You laugh but hardly get the chance to enjoy the great Nathaniel Morgan's frustration before Eskar speaks up. "Hello, Lazurite-eyes. Could you spare a moment for old Eskar?"

The great Nathaniel Morgan can't understand the words, but he must recognize the sibilant voice. He spins around with his hand already going to his belt, but it's no good; his pokémon are all fainted. Eskar's smile glitters up at him, dazzling in the late afternoon sunlight.

"Fuck!" the great Nathaniel Morgan spits, turning a furious look on you. "You bastard!" And he starts to run, even though he must know it's pointless.

Eskar doesn't even move. A thin black ribbon of shadow stabs up from the ground under the great Nathaniel Morgan's shoes, wraps around one leg, and pulls him down hard. Before he can try to stand it's stretched and slithered up his side, wrapping him in bands of darkness ankles up to shoulders. Only his head stays free, and he thrashes it around for all the good it does him, rocking slightly side to side.

Eskar hops down and saunters over to him, unhurried, while he spits vicious curses and struggles twice as hard, to no obvious effect. "Shhh," the sableye purrs, putting a hand on the great Nathaniel Morgan's neck. He stops moving immediately, eyes rolled way down sideways to try and see what she's doing. Eskar strokes the vein standing out on the side of his neck, smiling her widest smile.

"Eskar," you say, and when she doesn't reply, "Eskar!"

"Careful, careful, Lazurite-eyes. Shouldn't move too much. Wouldn't want me to slip." She moves her claw lightly back and forth across the great Nathaniel Morgan's neck. "Very quick. Very messy. But not much fun, hmmm?" She lays her other hand down on the great Nathaniel Morgan's face, claws resting casually to either side of one eye like they just landed there by chance. You can hear the great Nathaniel Morgan hyperventilating from where you stand, see him trembling in his cocoon of shadows. "Eskar!"

"Hmmm?" She makes a slow, exaggerated show of turning towards you, in the process dragging her claws through the orbit below the great Nathaniel Morgan's eye. You grit your teeth against his scream, and Eskar holds up her blood-soaked claw, staring at it as though shocked. "Cordierite-eyes! Oh, but look at what you made me do!"

"Are we done?" you ask. "You wanted him, you got him. If that's all, I'm leaving."

The great Nathaniel Morgan opens tearing eyes and blinks rapidly. It takes him a moment to realize he's still got both of them, and then he slumps against the ground in exhausted relief, breath coming hard and ragged. Blood wells slowly down the side of his face.

"Oh, no, no, no," Eskar chirrs. "No, no! Stay awhile, yes? Let's talk, just us friends." She smiles brightly.

"I don't have long, Eskar. What do you want to talk about?"

"Oh, I don't know. This and that. Little things. Eyes." Her own sparkle as she cocks her head. "Perhaps you have some more to give me?"

"Goodbye, Eskar." You turn to go. And don't.

"I think you should stay, Cordierite-eyes."

There's something holding you back. You think immediately of Leonard Kerrigan, think wildly that he must be here somehow, that he's been working with Eskar all along. You don't see him, though, and after a moment's panic you sternly remind yourself that Team Rocket could easily have bought a teleport-blocker like he did. But where is it?

You try to teleport again. Still nothing.

Your fingers tighten around Mewtwo's master ball. "Eskar," you say. "I want to leave now. If you keep trying to stop me..." You raise the ball so she can see.

"No!" There's no way the great Nathaniel Morgan knows what you said, but the gesture's clear enough. "Don't let him out!"

"Oh? Well, we would love to meet one so famous, oh, yes indeed, but—" Eskar pelts towards you, claws out, and makes a startling leap. You cringe away, and she lands on you in the moment her fake out provides, climbing up your side, out along your arm to your hand. She grabs the master ball and tries to wrench it from your grip. It doesn't budge.

Eskar struggles and fumes, chittering in irritation as she twists and tugs. The master ball refuses to come loose, almost as though it were bound in place by a sticky hold—one you might have just put there, say.

You raise your arm so Eskar's level with your face, and she turns a broad, innocent smile into your glare. "Ah, Cordierite-eyes!" she says without a single trace of shame. "So suspicious! So suspicious of your friend."

You tighten your grip on the master ball, thumb over the button.

"Don't do it! Don't you fucking dare! He's going to fucking murder people, you know you can't stop him, don't—"

You press the master ball's button. White light spills out, rising, growing into Mewtwo's lanky shape. Then the clone's standing there in full, stretching and rolling his shoulders. But there's something wrong. He's alone, not accompanied by the sizzling power of his psychic field, his looming less ominous without the feeling of incipient headache to back it up. You see him realize, too, head turning sharply side to side as if looking for someone he expected to be right by his side.

There must be a psychic damper somewhere. That would have stopped your teleport, too. Your chest tightens with unease, but even if Mewtwo doesn't have his psychic abilities, what can Eskar hope to do to him?

Mewtwo holds his hand out to you, and after a couple seconds of confusion you pass the master ball over to him. He wraps it carefully in a coil of his tail, and then he turns his gaze on Eskar.

"Hello, Amethyst-eyes," she says in her most innocent voice.

Mewtwo lunges and grabs her, his hand glowing with the beginnings of a fire punch. The energy flames form a buffer between him and Eskar so the ghost doesn't slip between his fingers. Mewtwo keeps the fire going and raises Eskar to eye level.

"Rocket scum," he says in a weirdly high-pitched voice, much too young for his tall and muscled body. The words come out slurred, with a strange singsong cadence, and you realize this is the first time you've heard him make a sound. "Betrayer of your kind. I won't let you stop me."

Eskar smiles despite the flames blackening her ectoplasm. "It's an honor to meet you, Amethyst-eyes," she says, "but Eskar's not the one you should be worrying about, oh no indeed."

And then there's people all around, crowded in close for a mass teleport. You let out a nervous hiss, and somewhere near ground level the great Nathaniel Morgan breathes a quiet curse. Even Mewtwo stops to stare, allowing Eskar to slip free with shadow sneak, rematerializing at her trainer's feet.

"Mewtwo," the boss starts, but she's cut off by a rattling noise from the clone, what you realize is supposed to be a roar. Mewtwo charges, and a ripple passes through the assembled Rockets as people break formation and scramble away. Even Rockets standing shoulder to shoulder with the boss, who must be admins or other high ranks, shift and maybe shuffle back. Only the boss herself remains completely still, staring straight at Mewtwo as he barrels towards her.

Pokémon take shape in front of her from hastily-thrown pokéballs. A rhydon is the first to step into Mewtwo's path, and the clone hits him with a rock-shattering uppercut, then sweeps out with his tail to knock the legs out from under a hitmonchan creeping up behind. You watch, mesmerized, as Mewtwo battles like a normal pokémon, without the power of his mind to brush aside everything in his path.

That reminds you: the psychic damper. You have to find it and destroy it, and then you can get away. Now, where is—

A blast of freezing water puts an end to that thought, and you turn, already launching a thunderbolt at whoever's behind you. An arbok rears back, hissing, and the tentacool riding with tentacles knotted under the snake's chin convulses with a pained gurgle. More pokémon press in behind them, grimer and pinsir and golbat and at least a dozen others. You back up, gathering energy between your hands, and glance at the sky. You can't teleport, but you could fly, and surely Mewtwo will be able to take care of himself.

But you can't lose him again, can't take off knowing that once he's done here he'll probably fly away somewhere and leave you to chase after him again. For a few seconds you try to convince yourself that you can run away and not look back and everything will work out fine.

You can't, though, and you know it.

You throw a blinding mirror shot into the middle of the advancing pokémon and race towards Mewtwo, ducking under a tauros hurled by one of the clone's attacks. He's a purple blur amidst a jostling mass of pokémon, lashing out with all five appendages, ducking and sidestepping projectiles without breaking stride. He's not as fast without his psychic abilities to augment his movements, much worse at dodging without being able to read the intents of his opponents, but he's still one of the strongest pokémon in the world. He drives the pokémon back with a wide-flung rock slide, then knocks a lickitung to the ground with a backhand strong enough to crack concrete.

You struggle forward, yelling for him to stop, to get back in the master ball so you can grab it and leave. Mewtwo doesn't slow down for a second, and your own opponents have caught up, closing ranks on you in a whirl of tearing claws and glowing streamers of energy.

You knock a fearow out of the air with an ice beam, break the ensnaring vines of a weepinbell with a flamethrower. But there's a sandshrew crawling on your back, digging in stubby claws, and a venomoth making your eyes water with wave after wave of poison powder. No matter how many you knock down there are always more pressing in. There must be fifty, sixty Rockets here, and how many pokémon with them?

You kick aside a hissing persian you could swear you already knocked out, and with a horrified cold sinking realize that the Rockets can just heal up their fainted pokémon and send them back in. You stop fighting towards Mewtwo and start struggling to get away, but they're all over you now and holding you back with their very bodies.

There's another shaky roar from Mewtwo, and through the chaos you see him turn, snatching at a purple-black and sparkling shadow. Eskar holds the master ball up over her head, cackling as she disappears into the press of limbs, tails, and tentacles around Mewtwo. The clone charges after, but the pokémon close ranks around him, and he can't fell them fast enough to catch up with Eskar. She scurries up to the boss, climbing cane and arm and coming to rest on shoulder, dropping the master ball into her trainer's hand.

The boss flips the ball open, unhurried, like she doesn't notice Mewtwo howling in her peripheral vision, bodily lifting the nidoqueen in front of him and throwing her aside. "Subdue the transforming creature," the boss says. A knife appears in her hand, a slender, elegant thing you don't waste time admiring.

You throw yourself forward, hoping impossible speed will let you break out of the pack. But there are so many they obstruct you by blind luck alone, so you trip over tails and knock down oblivious pokémon, slowed enough that those with high-speed attacks can grab you. They drag you down bodily, and you thrash half-formed wings, because maybe if you can get airborne—there aren't as many that can fly, they—pokémon pile atop you from all sides. You kick, and struggle, and still the weight increases, crushing you against the rocky surface of the plateau. You can only fight so long and finally lie still, resolving to save your strength, to use this respite to heal and recover energy. And change—slowly, subtly growing more feathers, arms shifting ever more towards wings.

Forced to lie still and listen, you finally notice the noises.

Nothing stands between Mewtwo and the boss now, but he isn't standing, either, crouched on all fours with his head down. He makes an awful screeching sound, back arching in pain and seizing muscles showing all down his body. You wince and dull your hearing a bit, one eye tight shut while you watch the boss probe the inside of the master ball with her knife. She pauses a moment, and Mewtwo slumps forward, making funny whining noises, like a kitten that hasn't properly learned how to meow. But as soon as he raises his head, fangs showing in a snarl and muscles bunching to lunge, the boss makes a flicking motion with the knife and he's cowering again.

"More effective than I expected," the boss says mildly. "Return." And in a flash of red light Mewtwo's gone. The master ball in the boss' hand clicks shut, and she holds it casually, like it doesn't contain one of the most powerful pokémon in the world. "Now what, exactly, is that noise?"

By rights you should have heard it long before any human, but Mewtwo's screams distracted you somehow. No question what it is—airships, headed this way. It takes a few seconds for a Rocket to push through from near the back of the group, and she stands a moment looking flustered under the eyes of what must be top executives. "League contingent," she gasps. "Big one. Should be here in five minutes, maybe a couple more."

"The League?" the boss says in a deadly mild tone. "I was made to understand the League would be occupied elsewhere this morning." She taps one finger on the top of her cane and turns her head to look at Eskar on her shoulder.

The sableye sits bolt upright, hissing a cascade of quick, vicious invective. You catch something about "backstabby humans" and "last-minute changes," but that's all. The boss doesn't even try to make sense of it. She leans heavily on her cane, glacially serene as she says, "We're done here. Get that other thing ready for transport. Chang, stand ready with Morgan. Start sending back the assault squads, but retain the sixth and twelfth in case we need to delay the League."

The Rockets come alive, recalling pokémon and clotting in small groups around people calling orders. A primeape comes towards you with a jumble of metal objects in her arms. You can't identify any of them, but you can guess what they're for. You grit your teeth and shift to get your limbs under you, tense and ready to move.

"Okay, okay, let's move out of the way, here," the primeape grunts. "Left arm first." There's a disorderly shifting among the pokémon holding you down, and you wince as someone's claws dig into the small of your back. Finally your left arm's exposed. The primeape sets her burden down with a clatter and chooses one piece, a metal ring like a handcuff but not connected to anything.

You watch her from the corner of your eye and put up only a token resistance when she grabs your arm. Don't let her know how much strength you have left, and when you see your moment, make it count...

The primeape slips the cuff around your wrist, cold against your skin, and you shift uneasily, not sure whether you should let her lock it on. You want her to think you're completely defeated so she'll let her guard down, but who knows what that thing might do?

The primeape pauses while fiddling with the ring's catch, snuffling faintly through her piggy nose and turning her whole body to look at something off to the side. You turn your head, too, towards a flicker of movement in your peripheral vision. For a second you're confused: how is Absol here—is that your Absol?

It is, and she must have arrived the way she always does, stepping out of a shadow in front of all these Rockets. She sweeps up to the boss, blade flashing in the sunlight. Somehow she twists her head sharply and catches the master ball as it falls from the boss' fingers, all without breaking stride. Another two steps and she's vanished into darkness again. The whole group of executives is left staring at the boss' empty hand in a clear-edged moment of stillness filled by the drone of approaching ships.

"Find it," the boss hisses, pressing her bleeding wrist against her chest. Shouts go up from all directions, and the pokémon around you thin out as those who can walk the dark ways disappear. The primeape's still watching the boss. You wrench one wing forward with all the strength you can muster and punch her in the face, so hard she shoots backwards and bounces on landing. You shake yourself, thrashing both wings and rising to a crouch as surprised pokémon scatter, then release a blistering overheat that sends most of the remainder running. With a few heavy flaps, you're airborne.

You have a few blessed seconds of free air before anyone realizes what's happening, and you spend them accelerating as hard as you can, throwing yourself into an extreme speed straight up. At the peak of the attack you try to teleport again, but it's as though you're only human, closing your eyes and wishing hard to be away. The world stays resolutely as it is. And now you have to spread your wings, actually catch the air instead of relying on momentum, and throw up a protect against the first volley of attacks. Aura spheres and ice beams and crackling streams of lightning race up from below, from above, from all sides as Team Rocket's fighters rally against you.

You spend as little time actually flying as you can, zigzagging in one quick attack after another, higher and higher, trusting speed alone to carry you away from most of the attacks. You grunt as an aura sphere hits you between the shoulder blades, a magnet bomb knocking the air out of you a second later. And then they're on you, flying pokémon swarming the air so thick you can't beat your wings without striking one. You scatter them with a burst of shock wave, all except a gliscor who only takes that opportunity to slice half the feathers off your right wing. You fire an ice beam in her face and let yourself tumble while you grow new feathers in their place, catching half-second whirls of the sky, the distant massing of League forces, the swarming Rockets below, and at their edge, the great Nathaniel Morgan, hands cuffed behind his back and face turned towards the sky, watching you leave him behind.

You catch air again and break away upwards, spiraling around a diving pidgeotto, outracing a climbing fearow, up and up until a thunderbolt stalls you out. You fire back as soon as your vision clears, more lightning, more ice, heat wave and razor leaf until the air around you is empty and you can climb once more. You try to teleport, so hard you feel like you're going to go cross-eyed, but the world refuses to dissolve.

You're up high, now, so high that you don't have to worry about attacks from the ground, even aura spheres falling apart before they can reach you. Team Rocket is nothing more than a dark patch of ants, and the great Nathaniel Morgan's given up on watching you, staring at the ground instead. He probably can't even tell which whirling shape is you anymore, with those inadequate human eyes of his. But even this high isn't high enough, because when you try to think yourself away you stay, and stay, and you rise and rise but the other pokémon are gathering again, swirling up from below.

You cast a frantic look farther out, and yes, there they are: the psychic dampers, or at least some mechanical devices on tripods, set up in a broad ring around the place where you met Eskar, tucked away behind rock piles and outcroppings so they're hard to see from the ground. They must be much more powerful than the ones they used back on Cinnabar, if their effects reach you even up here.

The mass of Rockets down below shrinks as groups teleport away, somehow shielded from the effects of their own dampers, but there's still enough left, to rally the fliers, to heal them and send them back at you again and again. One Rocket's dragging the great Nathaniel Morgan off, probably to take him away, too, and he's not even making them work very hard at it.

Your vision whites out, then comes back in a sudden grainy rush, and you smell chlorine. When the pain catches up to you you realize that the gliscor got you on the forehead as she sped past in a quick attack, and then the warm rush of blood starts trickling down your face. You swat the gliscor aside with a burst of wind, but there's a noctowl hurrying after her, and then, to your irritation more than anything, a pidgey you shoot down with a jolt of electricity that could hardly be called an attack.

There's no way you can win this battle, and trying is only going to tire you out. You spin out a whirlwind of air, battering away the flying-types closing in on you. The roar of approaching vehicles is growing ever louder, and maybe if you can hold out long enough for the League to arrive, Team Rocket will have to pack up and leave without you. On the other hand, you're not sure you really want to meet one of the League's enforcement squads, either.

You take another glance at the psychic dampers, trying to memorize where they are. In another second the Rocket pokémon will be on you, laboring against unfavorable winds to attack with teeth and claws or energy beams and flame, but you allow yourself a moment nonetheless, just one moment to feel the fatigue of this crazy scramble-fight right after the terror and exertion of the championship, one moment to resent the unfairness of it all, one moment to feel more tired yet at the thought of what comes next. Then you tuck your arms tight to your body and dive.

You plunge between pokémon still rising to meet you, scattering them in confused whorls and tatters. Some might recover and come diving after, but you can't turn back to look, hardly care anyway. The ground seems to zoom towards you like in a dramatic camera shot, and now you can easily read the puzzled expressions on Rocket faces turned up towards you. The red earth races closer, and at the last second you flip over, pull out of your dive and land hard, a shock of seismic energy radiating from the point of impact.

You let yourself fall to you knees while the ground around you groans and buckles, deep fissures snaking across the rocks as the earthquake shudders up to full strength. Ignoring both the Rockets' screams and the ground-bound pokémon they send to attack you, you dig your fingers into the sparse dirt, clutching tight and reaching deep, feeling the sluggish churn of magma far below. It takes some finesse to direct the rising tide of molten rock, make sure it encompasses the full ring of dampers, but it's not like you need to be careful about only hitting them, not anything else. Well—only a little careful.

A few seconds later you're rewarded by another great heave from the earth, an explosive roar as rock buckles away upward and lava jets high into the air. The ring of burning rock turns the air scorching and wakes renewed screaming among the Rockets unlucky enough to still be around. You leap into the air just in time to avoid the powerful swipe of a tyranitar, flap heavily to gain height, and take a brief look around to confirm that, yes, the psychic dampers have disappeared into the tephra. Only one thing left to do.

Another dive, and your braking wingbeats accidentally clobber the Rocket who was hauling the great Nathaniel Morgan away over the head. The man goes down, and your target yelps in surprise as taloned feet close around his midriff and haul him into the air. He's lighter than the last time you had to carry him this way, but so much squirmier. It's like he wants you to drop him. Fortunately you only need a second to spread your wings, concentrate, and teleport at last.

Or don't.

Now, finally, panic takes hold, somehow soaking your laden body with even more adrenaline. You clench your claws tighter by reflex, to the great Nathaniel Morgan's vocal displeasure. No, you got rid of the dampers. Are there more? How can there be more? You must have messed up. Maybe they were shielded somehow, you think despairingly, heavy-duty. If one or all or some are left still pumping their weird energy waves into the air, then you're stuck here, and again the pokémon are gathering. They'll be on you soon. Should have just kept climbing. The dampers could never reach all the way into the sky. Now you're as doomed as the great Nathaniel Morgan.

A stabbing pain in your leg makes you roar and get moving again, taking off in no direction in particular in a labored hammering of wings. Twisting around you catch sight of Eskar clinging to your leg, claws sunk deep and blood welling up. You wrench around in the air, trying to kick her off, but all that does is bring you into the path of a croconaw's hydro pump and cause discomfort for your passenger.

The sableye works her way up your leg, dragging her claws through your flesh as she goes. You flutter erratically, trying to kick her away without dropping the great Nathaniel Morgan. She hangs on with vicious determination, and you falter as a blast of poison needles hits you, courtesy of a beedrill diving from above. Not long now before you're trapped in a horde of enemies again. You grit your teeth, and your lips bulge out around them, your face lighting up in pain as you force bone out and ever outward, skin keratinizing, forming a hooked sort of protuberance jutting from your face. You duck your head, rooting with misshapen, makeshift beak through the fur on your chest, which is distorted by reconfigured muscle and bone but still has the colors of an infernape stretched across it. You beak clacks against something hard, and you pull the gemstone free and let it drop, spinning through the air towards Eskar.

The sableye catches the glint of sunlight off polished stone and reaches out to grab it, letting go of your leg in the process. You give an huge kick, and the great Nathaniel Morgan manages to swat her with a flailing arm, and you're free of the sableye at last, angling up into the air.

So there it was, you think grimly, your one favor from Team Rocket. Eskar was as good as her word after all. And now, you fly.

You leave everything behind, the pain shooting up your mangled leg, the great Nathaniel Morgan's weight dragging you to the earth, all the useless thoughts of what if the full damper field is still there, what if it's more than a couple flickering devices left, what if you can never get past their range. You discard everything, fear and thought and all of it that doesn't matter. All that's left is speed, every part of you straining forward towards the patch of clear blue ahead. You race towards it, mind and muscles both, the blue that grows narrower and narrower as dark shapes close in on all sides, start to pace you, start to pull ahead. Still you fly on, through burst of leaves and lightning and sick-making poison, reaching towards the blue ahead and the blue beyond that, the blue in your mind, endless rolling waves and zephyr skies of home, home, all your thoughts turned to reaching, reaching far away.

A shadow dives for you, and you react without thinking, turn minutely so it falls away beside you. Something drags at one wing, tingling, burning, sends you wobbling, but you correct and keep going, not bothering to look for the source, not bothering with how the blue shrinks behind the shadows of more and more wings, how the weight gets heavier. No reason to worry about why you haven't jumped away from here yet, no reason to look back. All that matters now is speed and the blue in your mind, and you fly on straight, twist around shadows and duck under their claws but always move forward, always, always, even as shades grab your wings, sink claws into your sides, try to drag you back, back, but you can't think of them, have to keep flying forward, forward, nothing matters even if you are slowing, even if the weight is too much, even if there's blood in your eyes and you can't see the blue in front of you, you keep moving, keep straining, reaching for that other place.

And then you're in it, sun dazzling from above and below at once, sky glaring almost painfully azure, the waves below flashing silver-white. Your mind crashes back into your body in a jumble of confused signals, wings spasming and the world spiraling end over end, blue above, blue below. You strain to make sense of it. The great Nathaniel Morgan's yelling helps, actually, gives you something to hang onto besides the abstract whirling of sea and sky. His weight drags you down, which means the other way must be up, and suddenly the world around you resolves into something ordered again, sky above, sea below, and you hanging in between. You steady yourself in the air, take a proper look around. This is the sea, and there is the shore—Cinnabar. You know where you are now, and this time take a moment to concentrate properly before teleporting again.

When you reappear the ground's solid under you and the sky firmly overhead. You let the great Nathaniel Morgan fall, resulting in another yell and a plume of sand as he hits the ground at speed. You're too tired to try for a proper landing, too hurt to care about a few more scrapes and bruises. You plow into the beach, dragging a long furrow in the sand.

Slowly you draw in splayed, disordered limbs, and start to feel properly again. There's not an inch of you that doesn't feel lacerated, burned, or acid-eaten. Your clawed left leg is a searing brand of pain as you drag it in close. It only gets worse when you start trying to get up, but then you realize—why? Why not just lie back and let the sun warm you, and worry about your injuries after you've rested a bit? You let your head fall back to the sand and your eyes droop half-closed, staring up into the sky while the last of the terrified energy ebbs from your body. The air's warm and full of the rattle of wind through palms, the crash and hiss of waves against shore, the great Nathaniel Morgan groaning somewhere nearby. There's nothing to worry about, nothing at all.

After a while the great Nathaniel Morgan gathers himself and rolls sideways, getting up in awkward stages as works around his handcuffed arms. When he's finally on his feet he stands gazing around at the jungle, the ocean, the wide golden stretch of sand arcing off in either direction, foamed around the edges where waves crash against knobbly piles of volcanic rock. Then he turns around and kicks you in the side.

"What the fuck is this?" the great Nathaniel Morgan snarls. "Where the fuck are we, asshole? What, you decide Team Rocket ain't good enough, you'd rather drag me out here to finish me off yourself? Fuck! You!" He punctuates each word with a kick, and you grimace as they jar aching muscles and throbbing bruises. You snap your wing into the great Nathaniel Morgan's chest and knock him over on his side, but he's back up a second later, spitting sand and angrier than ever.

"Oh, so that's how you want to play it, is it, you little fucker? You think I'm gonna just let you lie there after all that bullshit you tried to pull? I am going to fucking murder your—"

But you let your eyes fall closed and with another thought are on your bed, in the cool dimness of your own room, the trees outside your window throwing shifting patches of light and shade across your ceiling. You sigh and drag yourself up to the head of the bed, hugging one pillow and curling comfortably atop another, reveling in blessed quiet. As you let your mind drift, muscles unknotting slowly, an image comes to you unbidden of the great Nathaniel Morgan stewing out on the beach, under his own personal storm cloud while the surf eats up the sand and the sun shines down from a perfectly clear sky. You smile to yourself as you sink into exhausted sleep. It feels like everything is just as it should be at last.