Pokémon: 34 Deaths: 11

"The problem with Fuchsia is that we can't fly into it," Saylee told Tobias as they approached the grey, sprawling Fuchsia forests from the air. "It's impossible to find from above…"

"With your eyes, yes," Tobias said. "I can sense it. Hang on."

The Fuchsia forests were so dense that no light fell on the ground below the trees, but somehow Tobias managed to weave his way through the thick branches without either of them getting too badly scratched up.

People stared as they reached the ground level of the hidden village. Janine came running up, looking prepared for a fight, but she relaxed when she saw Saylee climb off of Tobias' back.

"Saylee!" she said in surprise. "Greetings! What are you doing here?"

"Looking for someone," Saylee said, shaking Janine's hand. "How are you, Janine? I heard from your dad that you're head of the village now! Congratulations! He seemed really proud."

"He was?" Janine said happily. "Oh, I heard from Will that you found your brother! Is it true?"

"Not Red, but a brother," Saylee said with a little shrug. "The search for Red is ongoing. Right now, though, I'm looking for Blue. Did he pass through here?"

"Blue?" Janine said in surprise. "He was here a week ago… he said he'd deal with it before you got back."

"Deal with what?" Saylee asked, confused.

"Well, when the Cinnabar volcano erupted, there were some earthquakes and stuff that smashed down a ton of trees at the south part of town," Janine explained. "While we were clearing out that area, a big flock of Zubat and Golbat from the Seafoam Islands came flying in. They said they'd been driven out of their cave by a mad old human with a Rapidash. A bald old man with a big moustache, they said…"

"Blaine!" Saylee gasped, stiffening.

"You know him, Lee?" Tobias asked curiously.

"Know him?" Saylee said bitterly. "The last time I met him, we got into a fight, the Cinnabar Volcano erupted and Miranda died!"

"I'm guessing that's why Blue wanted to deal with him before you got back," Janine said with a frown. "If this guy Blaine got him…"

"He can't have," Saylee said shakily. "Miranda wiped the floor with him before, according to Chaz… if the volcano hadn't gone off… Sam, his Blastoise, she's much stronger than Miranda was, she…"

"Lee, calm down," Tobias said gently. "We'll go find him."

"Damn straight we will," Saylee said, climbing onto Tobias' back. "C'mon. Thanks for the news, Janine! See you!"

"Good luck!" Janine called as they flew off.

{}

"It's a good thing we're flying instead of surfing," Tobias commented, looking down at the murky sea.

"Why's that?" Saylee asked, looking down. She couldn't see anything but sea.

"There's something in the water," Tobias explained. "Something… odd. We shouldn't go in it."

"Fair enough," Saylee agreed. "Look, there they are—the Seafoam Islands."

The islands were twin lumps of rock jutting out of the otherwise empty sea. They both had large, dark caves in them that supposedly connected underground in a vast, subterranean labyrinth.

They landed in the cave mouth of the nearer island and almost immediately had to dodge a fire blast that shot for their heads.

"More come for me, eh?! Going to feed me to it, ARE YOU?!"

"Bone Rush, Surf, Water Pulse, QUICKLY!" Saylee yelled, releasing Calvin, Nicki and Valentino. Their attacks were only barely in time to counter the attacks of a Rapidash, Macargo and Magmar.

"Is this a criminal?" Nicki asked, landing on a rocky outcrop and casting a wave of Surf at the Magmar to drive it back.

"He must be, we're fighting him!" Calvin shouted, landing on her shoulder and flinging his bone at the Rapidash, which dodged it narrowly.

"Less talk, more fight, you two!" Valentino called, vanishing into the waves only to reappear behind the Macargo.

Blaine was exactly as Saylee (very fuzzily, through the haze of a concussion) remembered him: old, skinny, filthy and completely batshit insane, screaming about how "they" were coming for him. "You know, if you'd just calm down and not attack us, we wouldn't be fighting you!" Saylee yelled, clinging to Tobias' back.

"Hah! That's how you fool 'em, is it?" Blaine roared. "Get 'em, Pyralis!"

"This is for Paytah, you bitch!" the Rapidash bellowed, blasting out a wave of intense heat. It was powerful enough to knock Nicki, Calvin, Valentino, Tobias and Saylee into the water.

Saylee's first instinct was to grab desperately for Calvin's pokéball; the ground-type stood the greatest risk of drowning. She was stopped when something wrapped around her arm and grabbed her, something cold that made her skin buzz as if a thousand tiny Weedle were crawling round under it. It pulled her away from her struggling Pokémon…

…and into chaos.

{}

"What in the name of Lugia was that?!" Valentino sputtered, trying to pull Calvin's head above water. "C'mon, kid, swim, it's not that hard… kid, c'mon…"

"He's gone," Tobias said, struggling to get out of the water so that he could flap the water out of his wings. Calvin and Nicki floated out of the water, wrapped in pink glows, levitated by Tobias' power. "Dammit… Nicki too… the burns…"

"Toby?!"

Tobias looked around and was surprised to see Blue's Blastoise, Sam, surface not far away. "Sam! You're here! Where's Blue?"

"Hell if I know," Sam growled. "Something under the water grabbed him… I've been trying for days, but I can't even get near the damn thing. Did you see it?"

"That odd presence? It just got Lee too," Tobias said, flying a bit further above the water and nearly being knocked down by a fire blast. "Agh! Blaine!"

"I've had enough of that old coot," Valentino snarled, rearing up as a wave and splashing into the cave. There was a blast of steam.

"You know, I'd forgotten about that mad bastard," Sam said, her cannons clacking out of her shell. "Hydro Cannon incoming!"

"What's a—" Tobias flew back sharply, psychically dragging Calvin and Nicki's limp bodies with him, as Sam blasted the cave with a wall of water that actually managed to shatter and crush stone. It was like a tidal wave.

Valentino came floating out with the outflow. "I don't know what that was, but I want one," he declared. "Oh, shit!"

The corpses of the Rapidash and the Magmar came floating out of the cave. "Not one damn word, Toby," Sam said shortly. "They killed most of the Pokémon in those caves. When some researchers came to get Blaine, I'm pretty sure he fed them to whatever's down there."

Blaine came floating out of the cave. He was alive, but barely. He grabbed a rock and floated next to it, coughing up blood. "…Escaped the lab…" he coughed. "…won't get me… no… NO!"

He vanished sharply underwater, as if grabbed and yanked. Same and Valentino dived after him and saw him being dragged towards…

…they had no idea what. Its shape and form seemed to change by the moment, now a sphere, now a cube, now a shape without a name. Skeletal Pokémon seemed to be scuttling around it, but when looked at directly they vanished, like a magic eye puzzle that can only be seen out of the corner of the eye.

Sam and Valentino surfaced and reported what they had seen to Tobias. "I have no idea what that is, but at least it hasn't killed them," Tobias said with concern. "I haven't felt their spirits pass. We should…"

"Wait."

A Pokémon was flying over the water towards them. It had four legs, a body like blue steel and a shining silver cross over its face.

"You're Bozider, right?" Tobias said, recognizing the Metagross. "What are you doing here? Are you alone? Where's your human?"

"He's busy," Bozider said placidly. "I'm observing. I was directed to this immense psychic irregularity to observe it… something else is interfering with it, however. It may well vanish soon…"

It did exactly that several minutes later. Sam and Valentino, having dived under the water again in search of their trainers, saw it collapse in on itself and disappear, while Tobias cut off in mid-recital of prayer for Calvin and Nikki's souls as he felt it vanish. "Where the hell did it go?" Sam demanded, surfacing. "Where the hell are Blue and Saylee?"

"They will have been deposited somewhere, I suppose," Bozider said. "Perhaps whatever psychic was interfering with it has retrieved them… I will alert my master. We will see to it that you are informed when they are found. Go tend to your dead." In a flash of pink energy, he vanished.

"What the hell was that?" Valentino asked.

"A foreign Pokémon who seems to know what he's doing, which is more than I can say for us," Tobias said quietly. Sam and Valentino yelped as he levitated them out of the water. "Come on… let's go to Lavender and put poor Calvin and Nikki to rest."

{}

Saylee staggered down the slope, a difficult task when every step changed the material and gradient under her feet. Ground suddenly vanished entirely under her, and she fell up until she splashed headfirst into the water. She thrashed around for a few seconds before she found the surface. She'd fallen like this four times before, and every time it had been impossible to determine where the surface was by using air bubbles, because they went in every single direction. She lucked out this time; she felt one of her hands break the surface while she flailed. Once she was sure of air, she took a few gulps of water while she could; it tasted foul, but it didn't seem to be salt or poisonous, and she had no idea when she'd next see water. She was trying to stretch what she had in her bag as long as she could. Her pokégear had shut down entirely, and wherever she was had no sun, moon, stars or any other reliable marker of time. There wasn't even anything above her half the time, not even sky. Sometimes there were forests, or cities, or sands, and sometimes there was just… nothing, not even darkness. There wasn't even a reliable marker of space, let alone time. She had to guess at the time, and based on her hunger she guessed that she'd been there for three days. She was good at measuring time by stages of hunger, and was somewhat unsettled to find that she retained that weird time sense even though it had been a couple of years since she'd last been hungry enough to employ it.

After a while, she reached up out of the water, and her hand closed around a tree branch. The water vanished, leaving her dangling in space. She hauled herself up, clinging tightly to the branch and staring intently at the tree rather than the visual white noise that surrounded her.

Once she was on the branch, she noticed that all of the leaves had been stripped off of several of the lower branches, and long strips of bark were missing too. Could somebody else be here? She wondered, excited beyond words. She hadn't seen anyone else, living or dead, since being dragged underwater.

Saylee climbed the tree, expecting it to vanish at any second, but it didn't. She was able to climb high up the tall trunk and into the red-and-orange leaves. She climbed even faster when she spotted a leg dangling from a branch above her. The leg was clad in a familiar pair of scruffy brown cargo pants and a filthy black shoe.

"Blue!" Saylee cried, climbing up onto the branch he was sitting on. He had his eyes closed and was leaning back against the trunk, chewing very slowly on a leaf. "You're alive?"

"Saylee…?" he said, slowly opening his eyes and staring blearily at her. He swallowed the leaf. "'zat really you…?"

"Is it really you?" Saylee asked, inching forwards towards him. He looked worryingly thin and weary. "You look awful."

"Well, no shit, I ran out of food three weeks ago…" Blue muttered. "Been living in this tree for a week or so… s'food at least…"

"I've got food," Saylee said, digging into her bag. "How long have you been here?"

"Ran out've a week's worth of food three weeks ago, and I stretched it, so…" Blue rubbed his forehead. "Five weeks? Could be guessing wrong, no damn way to tell the time here…"

"Blue, you'd been gone a week when I went looking for you," Saylee said, handing him a loaf of bread, "and I think that was three days ago, but…"

"Time's fucked up here," Blue sighed. "Everything's fucked up here. Thanks!" He bit off a big chunk of the bread and chewed furiously. "Have you run into any of the corpses?" he asked between bites.

"Chew slowly!" Saylee admonished him. "You'll make yourself throw up. What corpses? I haven't seen anyone, living or dead, before you. My pokéballs won't open…"

"Nfhr wll mnnn," Blue said, swallowing a huge lump of bread. "I've nearly tripped over three or four. I'm pretty sure they're the researchers who came looking for Blaine and went missing. They were dry skeletons, like they'd been rotting for years…"

"There has to be a way out of here," Saylee said, glancing out between the branches and quickly looking back at Blue. "It changes with every step we take, but I don't think I've ever ended up in the same place twice, so sooner or later we have to stumble onto the exit…"

"Or we wander until we die," Blue said darkly. "I never stepped in the same place twice either, for what felt a hell of a lot like over a month. We should stay here, Saylee." He reached out and grabbed her arm, as if desperately trying to keep her from leaving. "There's food, and it's impossible to tell when we'll find any next, or water…" his grip wasn't very strong, and he let go of her arm after a moment. "You shouldn't have come looking for me, moron. When both of us die here, who the hell's going to look after Pallet?"

"We're not going to die here, jerk," Saylee insisted. "And looking for people is what I do. Sometimes, I get lucky and I find them. What we need to find right now is a way out." She started opening and closing pockets on her bag, looking to see if there was anything of use. The moment she pulled out her dreamcatcher, Alan's spoon and the coins from Sabrina and Daisy began to rattle violently. They began to pull and struggle in one direction. Saylee pulled them off of the dreamcatcher and wound the string around her wrist. "Looks like they think there's a way out."

"Fine, then… let's go," Blue said, slowly pulling his leg over the branch so he could jump off. Saylee took his hand. "I don't think we'll be separated so long as we don't let go…"

"I won't," Saylee promised, gripping his hand tightly. They pushed off of the branch together, although in Blue's case it was more of a collapse. The tree vanished the second they were no longer touching it.

They landed in soft grass. Blue had a visibly hard time getting to his feet; he was a good eight inches taller than Saylee, so it wasn't the easiest thing for her to prop him up, but she did her best with one arm around his waist and his arm slung around her shoulders. After one step, they were on slippery gravel, which nearly sent them both sprawling; another stumbling step, however, put them back on firm concrete. Saylee focused on putting one foot in front of the other, following the spoon and coins that were tugging at her wrist.

After a few minutes of stumbling walking, they nearly trod on someone. Saylee moved her foot quickly, nauseously expecting the filthy lump to be one of the corpses that Blue had mentioned, but it was Blaine.

He was still alive, but barely. His body was contorted by a multitude of broken bones—Saylee could see several places where they poked jaggedly through flesh and clothing, and it made her nearly double up herself in sympathy pain—and he was choking out blood.

"What the hell?" Blue said, staring at Blaine. The old man's sunglasses were gone, so when he cracked open his eyes to peer at them, Saylee saw for the first time that they were so clouded that she couldn't see what colour they were. Blaine was practically blind.

"Wanted… strongest… Po… ke…" he coughed. "…succee… ded…" he had another violent coughing fit, accompanied by a surge of blood, and then, as if he had been waiting for them, he died.

His body decomposed almost instantly, shrivelling rapidly down to skin and bone and then the skin cracking off into dust. Saylee had to lean away to heave at the sight.

"Well, that's okay, I never wanted to sleep again anyway," Blue croaked, rubbing her back weakly. He grabbed her shoulders tightly as the ground shifted under them. There was a sudden wailing screech, like a million nails on a thousand blackboards crossbred with the shriek of tearing metal, with a little screaming-of-lost-souls thrown in for good measure. It was a sound that rattled along the inside of their bones.

Then it was gone, and they were kneeling in shallow water in what felt like a dark, dripping cave. When Saylee's eyes adjusted enough to see by the faint light given off by Daisy and Sabrina's coins, she could see dark shapes in the water around them that looked like the corpses. Blaine's was still directly in front of them.

"It should not have killed him. He could have… explained… YOU!"

Saylee and Blue were suddenly picked up and flung forcefully against the cold cave wall by an invisible force. "Explain!"

"Explain… what?" Blue croaked.

"What are you?"

"We're humans!" Saylee called. "Are you a psychic Pokémon?"

"That is what I must know! What am I?"

"It's pretty simple, dude," Blue coughed. "If you're not a human, you're a Pokémon. Are you going to put us down already?"

"The other Pokémon here… they are not like me. I can find no Pokémon like me anywhere. How can I be a Pokémon?"

Saylee looked around as much of the cavern as she could see through the gloom and caught sight of Blaine's corpse. The strongest Pokémon… It triggered a faint memory of hastily scrawled madness, something she'd read before she first met Blaine, and she desperately scrambled through her memories until she found a name. "Are you… Mew… Two?" she asked tentatively.

The force on them lessened slightly. They were still held up, but not borderline crushed. They both gasped for air.

"You know my name? Is that my name? Mewtwo?"

"Mr Fuji told me about you," Saylee gasped. "And I read about you on Cinnabar… We won't hurt you, I promise."

"You? Hurt me?" Mewtwo said scornfully. The force tightened again slightly. "Unlikely."

"Y'know… if you wanna ask questions…" Blue choked out, "maybe killing… the people you're asking… is a dumb plan…"

The force lightened again. "You could just say please?" Saylee coughed. "There's probably been nobody to tell you this, but saying 'please' gets you a lot further than threatening people."

"I do not understand. What is 'please'? Is it a command?"

"Is this guy for real?" Blue muttered.

"Saying please is good manners," Saylee explained. "It's a word that means that you respect the person you're talking to… pretty much. If you ask a question, say 'please' and the person you're asking will like you and answer."

"I don't like him, even if he does say please," Blue grumbled. "Nothing is gonna make me like you after you've dicked somebody around for weeks in some fucked-up other world and then chokeslammed them against a wall."

"That place was not of my doing," Mewtwo said. They still couldn't see him, and his voice didn't seem to be coming from any particular place; it resonated throughout the cavern and inside of their heads. "That was… something I recall from the lab. It used to be like me, but then its body died. It did not. It was too powerful..."

"What was it called?" Saylee asked.

"I do not know. Its number was missing."

A failed attempt? Saylee wondered. "Mewtwo, could you set us down please?" she asked. "We're not going to run away or anything. Blue's in no shape for that, and I'm not tall enough to carry him."

"That's what I have Pokémon for," Blue growled. "Among other things."

"…I will set you down. Do not run away. Please."

Saylee and Blue were dropped somewhat roughly to the cave floor. A purple glow rose in the gloom before them and moved towards them. When Saylee's eyes adjusted, she saw Mewtwo in the middle of the light.

It stood tall on two legs, like a human, but those legs were very feline, with long feet like a Meowth's. It had three bulbous fingers on each hand, a skinny torso and a long, skull-like head with odd little protrusions like a Charizard's horns. Almost its entire body was grey, save for its fat purple tail.

"So this is it?" Blue asked, reaching slowly for his pokéballs. "The Mew clone they made on Cinnabar Island?"

"The one responsible for wiping everyone's memories, right?" Saylee asked, putting her hand on Blue's shoulder, willing him to let her ask questions first and attack later. "Why, Mewtwo?"

"You do not understand," Mewtwo said. It spoke entirely telepathically; Saylee couldn't see if it even had a mouth. "I have spent time watching young humans and Pokémon grow, watching how their minds develop, in the hope of understanding my existence. But they are different than me. They are not born with the knowledge that I was… but they are born with understanding. They learn and comprehend. I have so many things that I know and cannot understand… when I reached out to other minds, seeking help, all I found was endless pain and hate and fear."

"A civil war will do that," Blue sighed. "Especially total war. I saw the war records in the Indigo Plateau. That war was every kind of messed up."

"Mr Fuji said that you were a powerful telepath," Saylee said, fighting hard not to break contact with Mewtwo's intense purple glare. "That you were born with all of that in your head…"

"I could not shut it out, and it hurt," Mewtwo admitted. "I only wanted for it to go away. I wanted, very strongly, for it all to go away, and my power… I could not control it. I do not truly understand what it was that I did…"

"Wiped everything," Blue said. "Hey, it worked. Nobody remembered that they'd been at war, or that they'd hated one another…" he sighed. "I can't see it as a really bad thing. After all, if everyone had still had their memories…" he glanced at Saylee. "You and Red might have grown up with a real bastard for a father. I only spent a few days with that Silver kid and it was enough to see that he is well and truly messed up. He mentioned one time that his mum regularly dumped him with the sellers that worked Viridian for Team Rocket. I don't know what's more messed up, that or the fact that apparently some of the sellers were his age and they were the only kids he ever played with."

"That is not okay on so many levels," Saylee said with a frown. "Mewtwo… are you also responsible for humans and Pokémon being able to talk now?"

"I could hear the voices of every heart around me, human and Pokémon. I truly wanted someone to hear my voice… the scientists did not…"

"All of those scientists are now insane, dead or both," Blue pointed out, glancing at Blaine's corpse.

"I did not understand… I failed. I did not end suffering. Before I learned to block out the voices of others, I could hear it, so much of it…"

"You can't make a perfect world in the blink of an eye like that," Saylee said, standing up, "but I think you helped, Mewtwo, I really do. I'm really happy that I can talk to my Pokémon. Thank you."

"What does this mean… 'thank'?"

"It means she's grateful, alright?" Blue said, trying to pull himself to his feet and ending up having to lean on Saylee's shoulder to remain upright. "Like, she's happy that you did what you did. So am I, for what it's worth. Y'know, it just hit me that you two are about the same age," he added to Saylee, "but he's like a little kid… have you been holed up in this cave the whole time?"

"For a… long time," Mewtwo said uneasily. "I… really helped?"

"We can argue about that 'til the end of the world, but for what it's worth, I don't think you made things worse," Blue offered.

"I think you should go to Lavender Town and see Mr Fuji," Saylee suggested. "He helped create you, right?"

"He did…" Mewtwo nodded. "I shall go, then. Thank… you. I had only meant to retrieve Blaine from the missing one, but I am… happy… that you are safe. I will send you somewhere safe now. There is something else here that made it vanish…" Mewtwo raised one thin hand and vanished in a flash of light.

The cave vanished around them; Saylee and Blue immediately grabbed each other tightly, fearing briefly that the other would vanish along with it, but they were deposited onto dry grass along with the corpses. Looking around, they saw that they were between the cave mouth and a river. On the far side of the river, Cerulean was distantly visible.

"What even was that?" Blue asked, staring at the cave.

"Which part of it?" Saylee muttered, reaching for her pokéballs.

"All of it," Blue sighed. "Hey, something's coming out of the cave…"

A human came out of the cave a moment later, pulling night-vision goggles off of his face. "Sar Kanto?" the silver-haired man said in confusion.

"Steven Stone!" Saylee gasped. "What are you doing here?"

"Well, I'm a keen spelunker, so after concluding my business in Saffron I decided to have some fun!" he said with a grin. "I heard there are some really rare stones you can only get in Kanto. But I'd barely gotten into the cave when there was this flash of light from the cave mouth…" he froze. Saylee looked around and realized that his gaze had fallen on the skeletons. "What are those… what happened?!"

"When we figure it out, we'll let you know," Blue muttered.

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I hate Overheat. I hate Explosion. I HATE EVERYTHING.

Name: Pat. Species: Psyduck. Nature: Brave. Ability: Damp. Level: 28

RIP Nikki the Nidoqueen, level 23-43

RIP Calvin the Marowak, level 13-56