Saylee Pokémon: 16 Deaths: 3
Key Pokémon: 21 Deaths: 2
Saylee sat by the side of the pond in the garden of Petalburg Gym, watching Molly and Manami swim around happily. Teddy was sitting behind her, leaning against the side of the gym and dozing. He was still moulting some of his yellow Combusken feathers—the adrenaline surge in the desert had made him evolve faster than usual and some of the less major physical changes were still ongoing. Saylee brushed some soft yellow feathers away and then reached out to stroke William's wing. He was sitting on her knee, morosely staring into the middle distance.
"You miss Wanda, don't you?" she said, gently stroking one of his feelers.
He nodded. "It's weird," he said softly. "I thought we were invincible one we'd evolved. You're really vulnerable as a Wurmple, and I've seen plenty of others die before ever evolving. But you'd never see a Dustox or a Beautifly die. I thought they were invincible. Now... I just kinda feel scared."
"Nobody's invincible, William," Saylee said gently. "Everyone dies. We just have to try to do what we can while we're still here." She lifted her hand away and fiddled nervously with her glasses. "You know, I could put you in your pokéball and send you to my mum in Kanto. You can hang out with Yvonne. She's a Yanma, a bug-type like you, and she flies all over. You don't have to stay with me if you're scared, or if it's hard without…"
"I don't want to leave!" William said quickly. "I miss Wanda a lot, but… I don't not feel safe with you, or anything. I guess I just noticed that I can die for the first time, and it's kinda freaking me out." He fluttered up onto her shoulder. "I like you. You're a nice trainer, and you make the best food I've ever eaten, and you take such good care of my wings!" He flapped said wings a few times to underline his point.
"Key said that she told you about Raphael."
Saylee looked back to see Norman wandering out of the gym. He nodded at Teddy and then sat down at the side of the pond, watching Molly and Manami play. "She did," Saylee said. "After Wanda died. It explains a lot. She really exploded at me when Winnie died..."
"It was a very bad time for her," Norman said sadly. "She and Raphael were inseparable, and they hand a bond in their mind that was shattered very violently when Raphael was killed. She was practically comatose for days, and her recovery was…" he pressed his lips together tightly and shook his head. "It was a few years before she wanted to train Pokémon again, but… well, we were scared that if she lost another Pokémon..." He sighed heavily. "Thank you for giving her Thomas."
"I didn't exactly give him to her," Saylee clarified. "We were just both there when Professor Birch needed help. Two people, two Pokémon. The Professor encouraged her to keep him afterwards. I don't know... maybe I encouraged her to as well. She was pretty reluctant to pick up Thomas' pokéball, but I just kinda pushed her to help me protect the Professor. I didn't even know her, we were just both there when there was trouble and we both responded. Then I was going her way anyway..."
"Well, however it happened, I'd like to thank you for it," Norman said, shaking her hand. "Even losing another Pokémon, Key seems a lot more alive with the rest. She's a lot happier. And she's getting to see the world. It's wonderful." He scratched the back of his neck awkwardly, looking out across the water. "You've lost Pokémon yourself, she said. How did you get past it?"
"I didn't, sometimes," Saylee said, also looking away. "Sometimes I just ground to a halt. Sometimes I just wanted to run home. Part of me will never get past it. I can't ever forget any of them. But all of them died for something. All of them died fighting for something that both they and I believed in. I learned to push through my grief because I had to finish the fight that they died for, otherwise they died for nothing. I always found something to fight for on their behalf… I need to believe that no death is meaningless, I guess." She frowned. "I guess that's why I've been so unsettled by the three I lost here, more than any other. I thought Hoenn was so much more peaceful, nobody like Team Rocket here. But two died in stupid, avoidable accidents, and then there was Team Aqua and Team Magma..."
"I've heard rumours about Teams Magma and Aqua," Norman said, scowling. "Extremist environmental groups. I don't know what they think they're up to, but if either of them try to start trouble around here, I'm not letting them get away with it like Roxanne and Flannery did. Don't know what those girls were thinking..." He smiled at Saylee. "I really don't know whether to be proud of you girls for kicking their asses or to yell at Key for doing something so dangerous!" he laughed. "But you're both alright, and I feel like she's safe with you looking out for her..." He patted Saylee on the shoulder and stood up. "We've got a bed set up for you in Key's room. Don't be out too late."
"Thanks," Saylee said, watching him go.
"Real nice of 'im," Teddy commented. "He sure do love his daughter, don't he?" He frowned at Saylee's distant expression. "Somethin' wrong?"
"Just jealous of Key, a little," she sighed. "Her parents love her a lot… even if keeping her Pokémon from her wasn't really the right thing for her, they did it out of love, you know? There's… not a lot of that back home."
"Why in th'hell not?" Teddy asked.
"Because nobody can, in Kanto," Saylee sighed. "Collective memory in the region around the Indigo moutains goes back no further than twenty years, eleven months and..." she checked the calendar on her pokégear. "Six days. With four human exceptions and a small number of Pokémon, nobody remembers a thing before then. Psychic ground zero."
"...How?" Teddy asked incredulously. "How's everyone gone and forgot everythin'?"
"It's... pretty complicated, and parts of it are… unknown…" Saylee said, shivering a little. "The point is, one morning everyone in the country wakes up in a wasteland without any personal memory. Functional memory, yeah—everyone can walk and talk and brew tea and so on-but nobody remembers their birthday, where they live, their family, nothing. A nation of people who are having to deduce who their relatives are on involuntary emotional responses and things like photos, diaries, matching wedding rings..." She rubbed the back of her neck, looking, to Teddy, far too old and tired for a human that wasn't fully evolved. "Some people found matches. Some people didn't. Never found out where we lived, originally. My mum woke up standing on a dockyard, as if she'd just gotten off of a ship, with a baby girl in her belly and a little boy sitting by her side that she couldn't be sure was hers… well, it was just a couple of years ago that we found out that he was for sure, and that we were siblings. That was when we found out who our father was."
"You didn't know before?" William said curiously. "I mean, that's a big deal for you humans, isn't it?"
Saylee nodded "How could we know, though?" she sighed, running a hand through her hair. "Mum had a ring, but no photos, nothing, and we had no idea where we lived… it was only when we found a photo belonging to him, with him and Mum and Red in it, that we knew for sure. He turned out to be a bastard, anyway, and he'd gotten together with another woman since. I've got a little half-brother. He's seven years younger than me. His name's Silver. He lives with my Mum now. His mother's in prison and… and he's missing."
"Goddamn," Teddy murmured. "Did yer mom ever get hitched again?"
"Oh, yeah," Saylee said, nodding and looking happier. "A couple years ago. He's a guy from Sinnoh named Byron. She and Silver went out there to live with him."
"So where do you live, with your family so far away?" William asked.
"Right now? Here," Saylee laughed. "Well, I suppose that right now, 'home' is…" she pulled a photograph out of her pocket. A young man with spiky brown hair was talking to a Blastoise. He wasn't quite looking at the camera and didn't seem to know his photo was being taken. "I spent years looking for Red. Then I spent a while living at home… after my mum moved to Sinnoh, I moved in with my boyfriend Blue. We've been living together in Viridian for two years now..." She looked up at the clear night skies, smiling at the stars that you still couldn't see in the Kanto sky. "I can't wait for Kanto to look like this again. I'm sure it will, someday, with enough work put into restoring it."
Maybe even with the help of the gods, she thought, thinking of the stone fragments in her bag. Earth and sea… can they purify them even better than Suicune? If I assist and befriend the avatars of Groudon and Kyogre, would they be able to protect Kanto, and any other country like it?
I wonder if there are other countries like Kanto? The world just keeps getting bigger and bigger. She could still remember her shock the first time she'd seen a full map of the entire world. Kanto and Johto had been such a small part of it. So much land, so much sea… I can't imagine who's going to be responsible for all of that. I just hope to hell it's not another ten-year-old kid.
Since Mr Briney wasn't in his hut and the weather was baking, Key and Saylee decided to swim from Petalburg to Dewford with their Pokémon. It would only take them half a day, plus a little time to practice swimming with Manami and Molly. Saylee was mostly quiet, which Key likely put down to Steele leaving the night before. The timid bird had confessed that he wasn't really into travelling and fighting, and would much rather settle down. Saylee had offered to store him in her Hoenn PC storage and send him back to Kanto at the first opportunity to live In Pallet with her female Skarmory, Sheska.
"It might be a while, until the bug that stops me transferring Pokemon across countries gets fixed," Saylee explained, "but I don't think you can perceive time in there anyway… are you sure you don't want to stay?"
"I'm not cut out to be a fighter, Saylee," Steele said, ducking his silvery head. "Never have been. Your training regimens are good exercise and all, but I can just tell that they're for battle. You guys are fighters, and I respect that and all, but... I'm not. You need to work with fighters, and that's not me. Besides," he added shyly, "Sheska sounds like quite a chick."
"I'm sure you'll just love her," Saylee laughed, stroking Steele's head. "I'll miss you, Steele. Be happy."
"Be safe," Steele said, nudging her hand. "If at all possible."
"We'll work on it," Key promised. Steele bowed his head to her, and Saylee returned him to his pokéball, pausing to give the pokéball a little kiss before putting it in the PC upload box.
"Are you alright?" Key asked after a long while of swimming in silence.
"Fine," Saylee said. "I think I'll give Lanette a call and retrieve Skye, that sweet little Swablu I caught near Meteor Falls. If I can evolve her, she'll be part dragon, you know? Should come in handy." She swam over to cling to Molly as they hit some choppy waves. She didn't speak much for the rest of the day, although holding a conversation would be difficult while swimming anyway.
That night, while camping on the beach at Dewford, Saylee focused on starting to train and care for Skye, whose cottony wings required a lot of maintenance. Key hoped that she would be cheerier tomorrow. After all, as much as nobody liked losing Pokémon, at least Steele was definitely alive and safe, not dead like Winnie, Nina and Makoto. Not like Wanda and Raphael...
After a few days of travel and training, both girls had pretty much brightened up back to normal when they were accosted almost the second they set foot back in Mauville City.
"Key and Saylee, right?"
"Mr Wattson?" Key called, recognizing the old man striding up to them with a broad grin. She couldn't summon up one to match, and neither could Saylee, she noted when she glanced back at her friend; hardly surprising, considering that the last time they'd seen Wattson, Makoto had died because of the lack of control of one of his pupils.
"You girls are just the kind of help I've been looking for!" he said brightly, clapping his hands onto their shoulders. "Listen, girls, I need some help."
"And nobody else in the city can help because...?" Saylee asked, looking at the hand on her shoulder.
"Because I need a couple of powerful trainers, and the only ones here are all electric trainers," Wattson said, winking at them, ignoring their frosty looks. "This is very important. I need someone to go in and shut down New Mauville."
"New... what?" Key asked. A card key was pressed into her hand.
"South of here, out on the water," Wattson said, steering them back down towards the Mauville Lake. "There's an entrance to New Mauville. There's a power complex down there, supposed to send this town into the future!" He laughed boisterously, but abruptly grew sombre. "But it's running out of control. Driving electric Pokémon nuts. There's a bunch of pissed-off electrics roaming around down there. It needs shutting off, now, before it goes critical. I'm begging you, girls, help me out here!"
"By critical..." Saylee asked quietly. Wattson nodded, all joviality gone.
"The blast radius will take out the southern part of town at least," he murmured, looking back at the houses, the shops, the casino. "Please, girls, you're the only ones I can ask."
"Shouldn't this be a job for, y'know… the actual techs involved with building the place?"
"I was the tech involved with building the place," Wattson muttered guiltily. "But I don't have any Pokémon that aren't electric… anyway, I made it simple, so any fool can shut it down!" He smiled brightly again. "Card key opens the doors, press the big-ass red button in front of the generator to shut it down. Nothing to it!"
"Fine," Key agreed with a sigh, releasing Manami again. "Get outta here, we'd better get changed. I'm not swimming out in my clothes."
"This was clearly a bad plan from the start," Saylee muttered, watching Wattson jog back to Mauville City while she headed for the Pokémon Centre to get a changing room. "New Mauville, I mean. Having to swim to an electric power complex never ends well."
"You've done something like this before?" Key said incredulously.
"Well, it wasn't me, but… fingers crossed for no pissed-off titans," Saylee said, raising her crossed fingers in the air.
"Okay, you definitely have to give me the story behind that one," Key shouted, running after her. "C'mon, titans?"
"Well, I heard this second hand off of Lt Surge, and for a soldier that guy's got a real flair for the dramatic…" Saylee sighed.
New Mauville was an almost entirely automated facility, but the fluctuating power must've caused the doors to break down at least once, because the halls were full of electric Pokémon running wild and feeding off of the sparking electrical equipment lining the walls on the path to the main reactor.
"Don't touch that!" Saylee said sharply. Key, who had been reaching for a discarded pokéball, withdrew her hand.
"What? It looks in good shape," she complained. "And hey, Wattson didn't say that we couldn't have free stuff."
"That's not a pokéball," Saylee said. "Zac, use Dig." Zac immediately smashed aside some of the tiled flooring, burrowing through the bedrock below and coming up to smack aside the pokéball. It crackled violently with electricity and then rolled over to give Saylee a steely glare. Saylee hit it with a real pokéball, and it vanished.
"It was a Voltorb?" Key said in surprise. "It's tiny!"
"Baby Voltorb are only about the size of a pokéball," Saylee explained. "I made the mistake of picking one up once and got zapped. They're not powerful enough to kill you, but damn does it sting."
"I'll think twice about picking up free stuff in future," Key said, side-eyeing the pokéball that Saylee was now holding. Saylee grinned.
"You only see them in high-electricity environments like this," Saylee said, looking around at the crackling control panels. "Electrically-charged caves under mountains, generally. Feel free to scaff away anywhere else."
"You seem to know your way around here," Zac said as Saylee flipped a switch to let them through another door. She was wearing the rubber gloves that she wore when she was washing camping dishes in the river. "You been here before?"
"I've been to a disused power plant before," Saylee said, "and I went back later when it was renovated. It's the first power plant in Kanto in over twenty years. They showed me around. I know how these places function. We'll get to the main generator soon."
"The first in twenty years?" Key asked. "Is that anything to do with… what was it, Psychic Ground Zero?"
Saylee looked surprised. "Where did you hear that term?" she asked.
"I heard Molly trying to explain it to Manami," Key said with a shrug. "When I asked she said that she didn't really get it, but she'd heard you talking about it to Teddy and William. What is it, really?"
"The end of a war and the beginning of the world," Saylee said quietly, fiddling with a control panel to bring up a flickering complex map.
Key groaned. "Cryptic shit? Really? Again?" she complained. "C'mon, I'm curious. It wiped everyone in Kanto's memories, right? And Johto, too, I heard something about that before. What could do that?"
Saylee sighed, staring at the map and chewing her lip for a long moment. "A cloning project," she said eventually, "that went horribly, horribly right."
"Um, what?" Key asked in surprise. "A clone of what?"
"It's complicated," Saylee said, "and I'd really rather not talk about it… he'd rather be left alone. But he's the reason that humans and Pokémon can communicate now, too. Extremely powerful psychic, and could do with being left in peace and quiet."
"Oh…" Key decided to change tack. "And you've got a little brother, too, they said? How come you didn't mention that?"
"I didn't know myself until a couple of years ago," Saylee said evasively.
"That's no excuse!" Key said. "You didn't know me until a month ago! So come on then: how old is he? What's he like?"
"He's thirteen," Saylee said, watching Polly and Python rolling Voltorb out of the way. "His name's Roark, but I call him Silver. He asks people that he likes to call him Silver. He's my half-brother through our father, but he's living with mum and her new husband in Sinnoh."
"Why doesn't he live with your dad?" Key asked.
"He used to, when he was little," Saylee said, pointing at a particular door. Teddy started wrenching it open. "But his mother's in jail and our father will be if he ever shows up again, so… ah, here we go. This looks like a generator room, doesn't it?" The room was dominated by a huge, glowing generator, humming loudly and crackling with electricity.
"In jail?" Key said, following Saylee into the room. Saylee started walking around the generator, examining it. "Why?"
"Because they ran Team Rocket, okay?" Saylee said, a little more sharply than she'd intended to. "That gang of thieving, murdering bastards that I told you about? That my brother and I spent nearly five years fighting between us? They were controlled by my father!"
"Hey," Key said quickly, stepping back with her hands in the air, eyes wide and face pale, either startled by Saylee's sudden anger or by the reason she hadn't talked about her family before. "I'm not accusing you of anything. Even if your dad's a bastard, that doesn't mean you are, does it? You're the opposite, from what I've seen."
"Thanks," Saylee said, relaxing a little. "I'm sorry I snapped, I just… well, it's been three years since I found out about all this, and it's still hard to get a handle on sometimes, y'know?" Key nodded. Saylee turned back to the generator. "Now, how to turn it off?" She glanced at Teddy, who was still getting the hang of his new Blaze Kick and was a little overeager to use it. He backed away from the generator when he caught her expression.
"You could use this," Thomas called. He was standing by a control panel. "This big red button here? The one that says 'OFF' in big white letters?"
"That's what Wattson said to do," Key agreed, going over to press it. The generator immediately began to quiet, the buzzing and glow dying down as it turned off. "That should do it." She grinned at Saylee. "There are other ways to fix things than breaking them down and rebuilding them, you know."
Steele actually died in New Mauville, but I had other things I wanted to do with that section and anyway I liked him too much to let him die. So, like Elric, he's still around but will never appear on a team. He's kind of a zombie. Which is a little creepy.
Name: Vinny. Species: Voltorb. Nature: Mild. Ability: Static. Level: 24
RIP Steele the Skarmory, level 16-33