CHAPTER 3: The Harsh Lessons of History
The night seemed to go by in a mere matter of minutes. Matt was so worked up about the extraordinary responsibilities he had to carry out that he barely got any sleep, even though Nekou and Olivia slept well. He rationalized it with the logic that they were not the ones who would have to struggle directly with the conflicts he'd face.
Daylight brought an uneasy tenseness to the town. The air was rife with the ominous feeling of something terrible about to happen, and the roads were empty.
That morning, Agenta and Matt met with Althea. While not revealing their plan in full, they did inform her that it would need the use of the real Life Orb to work, something that she was not completely sure about embracing.
"Agenta, you must think responsibly. The Life Orb must never be activated. That's a teaching that countless generations of our people have obeyed."
"This is our best chance, mother," Agenta politely argued, "and I'm not saying to activate the Life Orb. We simply must have its overflowing power available to us."
"If you insist…" Unexpectedly, Althea embraced Matt gently with her free arm. "Please take care of my daughter and see to it that our people are saved. I may not understand this ramble about coming from the future, but you may end up being critical to our survival. I'll be right behind you in support."
"Th-thank you," Matt nervously uttered, carefully extracting himself from Althea's embrace. "I will do everything I can to save your history and create peace here."
"Boy, you really are popular with the ladies," Nekou suddenly interjected. "All ages seem to want you."
"Now is not the time!" Both Matt and Althea flushed, but it was Matt that fought back against Nekou's provocations. "We not only have to save history, we have to rescue Bunny as well. This mission will be extremely dangerous. If either of you want out, now is the time to say it."
"Nope!" Even now, Olivia was cheerful. "You take me on fun adventures, so I won't back out of this one. I'm in to the end."
"I'll stick around too," Nekou added. "My help will probably be needed."
"Thank you, all of you," Althea said in gratitude.
Finding her interest in the conversation waning, Olivia started to wander off. She was eager for the action to get started and needed something to occupy her mind.
What she didn't expect, however, was to run straight into another person.
Though Olivia was rather tall for her age, the large-bodied man she ran into towered over her. Sky-blue hair and a scruffy beard of similar color framed his aged face, contrasting against his striking green eyes. The longcoat he wore also matched his hair color, featuring gold bands on the arms and around near the tails. Also, three fabric belts stretched across his chest diagonally, merging with a pattern on the top of his dark-green undershirt and his belt to form the illusion of a giant '0.'
"Good morning, Agenta, Althea, Catherine," the man said in his gruff but friendly voice. As he walked further inside, his heavy shoes and cane noisily struck the floor. "I see you have some guests?"
Olivia was more interested in what she saw perched on the man's shoulder, though – the Spiky-Ear Pichu. "It's you, you little troublemaker!"
"Chuuu…" The Pichu knew why Olivia was angry and reacted accordingly, acting timidly toward her.
"Olivia, don't talk to strangers," Matt scolded. "We have no idea who this is, how do we know it's not another of Nixon's men?"
"No," Agenta corrected, "this is not one of Nixon's men. This is the one who is more powerful in the military than even Colonel Nixon – General Bjorn Zerossen."
Matt looked at Agenta, then whipped around and reexamined Zerossen's appearance. Though he was slow to do so, he did catch on to a great resemblance between him and Zero, though Zero had wilder white hair and no beard. "I'm very sorry, sir…"
"Oh, think nothing of it!" Zerossen laughed, waving his hand. "So, Althea, what is the story for this unexpected influx of visitors?"
"It will have to be done with haste. Come in."
Gesturing for Zerossen to enter, Althea beckoned him toward the dining room in which she'd spoken to Matt's group the day before, with the others following. They all sat down at the table again, though the mood this time was a lot more tense than before.
"Please tell me about these guests of yours."
"General Zerossen, sir," Agenta said shakily, "you probably will not believe it, but these people claim that they came here from the future."
Zerossen took in what Agenta told him, then slowly turned and looked over Matt carefully. He then did the same to Olivia and Nekou.
"I believe you," he finally judged, much to the surprise of both Agenta and Althea. However, what he was about to say next would surprise all of them much more. "I believe you because they are the ones I sent for."
"Wait, what?" Olivia blurted out, while Matt, Nekou, Agenta and Althea looked at each other in confusion. "I know crap when I hear it, and on the surface, you, sir, are full of it."
"Olivia! Don't be so rude!"
"No, no, it's fine," Zerossen reassured Matt, cutting off his scolding of Olivia. "Let me explain how things happened exactly. You see, my organization discovered the secret of time travel. We don't understand everything about it yet, but we learned how to create the portal to travel through time."
"The Time Ripple we found!" Nekou's realization was accompanied by a short gasp that escaped her throat.
"I see… the Time Ripple is a portal of energy that has the essence of time travel in it. Normally it only appears as the end result of a successful time travel, but we have discovered a way to create an artificial one. I believe you may have already met the other part of my plan…" Lowering his shoulder, Zerossen allowed the Spiky-Ear Pichu to jump down onto the table. "My friend Pichu here has time traveled many times. In fact, she has time traveled so many times that she is used to it. When we discovered her, we realized what a valuable subject she'd be."
"But why?" Matt wondered. "You haven't put the pieces together for us yet."
"I was getting to that very point. You seem to already know about my subordinate, Colonel Nixon, and his rebellious intentions. Well, I have also learned of his planned treachery from Althea, so I took steps to help devise a resistance to it. I created a Time Ripple connecting our time with your future and sent Pichu through, with the intention that she would lead capable people back to the Time Ripple and thus to our past."
"That plan makes no sense," Olivia sullenly said. "If you're a general, why didn't you just use your soldiers to arrest him?"
"I intend to. But he was one step ahead of me, and he created a disturbance in the Cerulean District that I had to send my men to quell. They have done that, but they have not made it back here just yet. Therefore… people of the future, I ask you, please give me your help."
"We were already heading to do something about Nixon, so I will agree to have my team help you, but there's something I want in return."
Zerossen tilted his head at this unexpected demand from Matt. "What is it?"
"I want assurance you will help us. One of our friends was kidnapped and put in jail by Nixon when we arrived here. Agenta, Althea and the three of us already devised a plan to defeat Nixon, so what we need primarily from you is support."
"I will give you what you need for the mission," promised the general.
"Good. Here is the plan. Althea, I need you and General Zerossen to evacuate the people of Argyros as far away from the town as possible. If Nixon pulls a trump card and does something unexpected, I want the townspeople out of harm's way. Nekou, Olivia and I will take Agenta to Nixon so we can spring our trap and hopefully free Bunny at the same time."
Matt glanced around the table, laying his eyes upon each of the allies he had gathered. Zerossen appeared stonefaced, not an unexpected reaction for someone who already knew what was coming. Agenta and Althea, on the other hand, were quite obviously trying to suppress nervousness. They were the ones with the most in immediate danger from Nixon's plan, yet when Matt looked at them, he could perceive a sense of courage coming from them too, which lessened his own fear.
"Oh, before we go, I nearly forgot something." Althea rose from her seat and walked to a nearby pantry cabinet. From it, she extracted a basket, which she then delivered to the others. "Here."
Opening the basket revealed that it was filled with browned, roughly spherical confections, each one glazed over with a thin layer of sugar. A smell of honey drifted up from inside the basket as well.
"It is a traditional pastry of our homeland," she explained. "You can have these for good luck."
Before Matt could even come close to taking the basket from Althea, Nekou cut in front of him and pulled one of the pastries out of it. She hastily ate it, and then had to fight back smiling due to its taste.
"I'll be taking guardianship of this!" she declared, grabbing up the basket.
"I'm guessing she liked them…" Matt deadpanned to Althea.
Suddenly, Nekou flushed and pulled the basket closer to her body, as if protecting it. "I liked it a little, but not that much… you'll need more than sweet snacks to win me over."
Matt simply laughed, albeit somewhat bitterly. "Whatever floats your boat, I guess. I've got much bigger fish to fry right now."
"Don't ignore me!" Out of the blue, tears started to form in the corners of Nekou's eyes, much to Matt's surprise. "Don't think I can't do important things too…"
"Aha… don't worry, I don't think that at all." Though he was puzzled by Nekou's sudden change in mood, Matt wasn't in the frame of mind to argue about it. "Tell you what, change of plans. Olivia, how about you go with Althea and General Zerossen instead, and help them evacuate the town?"
"I'm up for it. Just don't cut me out of the action totally."
"Don't worry about it, I'm sure you'll get to have some fun. Anyway, Nekou, if you really want to put your money where your mouth is on this bodyguard stuff, here's your chance. Do this right and I'll forgive your debts and give you as many snacks as you want."
Nekou gasped; she hadn't expected the offer to be so generous. The stunning terms of the deal surprised her so much that she could only mumble in response, "I'll see what I can do…"
"Now, let's go, all of you. History awaits us. I know not how the terms of time wrote the end of this conflict in our future… but I do know how the new present will come to be."
In the present, Looker returned to the town square where he had been the previous day. This time, however, he had his newly-assembled team with him, comprised of Anabel and Blaine along with Trista and two uniformed police officers. The sextet arrived in the square and carefully evaluated it visually under their leader's supervision.
"There's nothing here," Trista pointed out with audible annoyance. "This is what you dragged me out of bed for?"
"See, are you seeing? That is being the problem in and of and of itself! They have gone and vanished!"
Anabel, for one, wasn't going to waste time. After her heavy drinking the day before, she had an even bigger hangover, and just wanted to find Olivia so she could go and sleep it off. "Olivia!" she called out, her voice gurgling as it got caught in her throat. "Olivia, where are you? Matt? Bunny? Nekou?"
"I see… it is true, they are gone." Noticing that Anabel was tearing up in grief, Blaine stepped over to her and set his right hand on her shoulder. "We'll find them soon, I assure you."
"What if something bad happened? What if they got attacked by someone and taken away?"
"I doubt that happened, but we'll have to investigate things and find out." Blaine drew two Poké Balls from within his vest, threw them into the air, and called out, "Ignite, Darmanitan and Volcarona!"
Both spheres burst open in bright flashes of light, revealing the Pokémon dwelling within. One released a bulky, fire-engine-red simian creature with wide eyes, long, muscular arms ending in large hands, stubby legs, a toothy smile and eyebrows made of flames. As for the other Poké Ball, it contained an oversized moth with a brown, wormlike body contained by white hair. Six blazing orange wings unfolded from its back, three on each side, granting it the appearance of an angel emerging from the sun itself.
"Darmanitan, Volcarona, I want you two to search this town for signs of where Matt and Olivia went. Look for anything unusual and report it back to us at once."
Both Darmanitan and Volcarona responded with affirmative cries before departing in separate directions via land and air. Blaine turned back to Anabel and nodded, communicating his confidence in his Pokémon.
"Thank you so much, Blaine," Anabel weakly said through the tears she was attempting to fight. "Look at me, unable to even watch out for Olivia… Rich would be so disgusted with me if he was here."
"Don't say such things," Trista scolded, albeit very gently. "Rich is here right now with us, and he's going to help us find Olivia. Right?"
"Right you are being," responded Looker.
Wiping away a small tear, Anabel bowed slightly to her teammates. "Thank you, all of you. With your help, she'll be safe."
In the past world, the next two hours brought an ominous cloud cover over the land of Argyros. It was as if nature itself could sense the rapidly-approaching danger and was adjusting itself appropriately to suit the setting.
The group split into two at the edge of the town. General Zerossen, along with Olivia and Althea, headed for the town square to begin the urgent evacuation of Argyros's people. Matt and Nekou, meanwhile, started for the other side of the huge lake, intending to deliver Agenta to Nixon aboard his ship.
Despite it being a simple, straightforward path to their destination, the latter trio took quite a while to finally reach Nixon's ornate ship. Built out of highly expensive and polished wood, the vessel commanded an intimidating presence that was well suited for its owner. The unusual traits of the ship, however, were its masts – instead of sails, a network of seemingly useless pipes and giant propellers were integrated into the structures.
Two of Nixon's soldiers stood guard at the gangplank going up to the ship's deck. Taking charge, Matt told them a fantastical story he'd concocted, claiming that he had decided to join Nixon's team after hearing the Argyros legends. Of course, this was all a complete lie, but when combined with the surprising acting skills both Nekou and Agenta possessed, it was enough to make the troops believe it.
The three were led into the innards of the ship by the two guards, passing by several other soldiers who paid them no mind. Before long, the carefully-maintained halls led them to Nixon's elegant door.
"Colonel Nixon!" called one of the guards as he struck the door with the heavy brass knocker attached to it.
"I'm busy!" Nixon answered from within. "This best be important!"
"I believe it is, sir. I've brought a new recruit and he's brought the sacrifice."
There was an instant, perceivable change in Nixon's tone when he heard this. "Send them in right away, then! Why are you waiting?"
Argyros's town square, when it was not ruined by age, was actually quite a stately place. The stones constructing it were neatly arranged to form paths separated by pillars.
Althea stood defiantly at the center of the square, with Olivia and Zerossen standing behind her, Catherine in her arms and three Sigilyph hovering overhead. With not one ounce of fear in her heart, she faced the crowd of townspeople that now stood before her after being rounded up by her Sigilyph.
"People of Argyros!" she thundered in a voice that carried great strength. "As you know, it is a momentously rare occasion that the guardian of the Argyros Shrine emerges to speak to the people of our land."
A murmur went up amongst the gathered crowd. Althea's statement was not incorrect; it really was extremely rare for the shrine guardian to leave the boundaries of the compound. This fact made it easy to tell that what was happening was major.
Continuing on with her address, Althea boomed, "Looming over our peaceful land is the shadow of Colonel Nixon, the deputy of Caitlin XVI's military executor over us. He intends to instigate a revolution against Caitlin XVI by breaking the cycle of sacrifice we, as the people of Argyros, must be dutiful toward. To him, we are nothing but the leverage in his plot. Well, I will not allow my people to be reduced to such a pittance! Our first concern must be to save our own lives. To that end, I hereby order the full and immediate evacuation of everyone in Argyros to the surrounding countryside. Together with this girl," Althea gestured to Olivia, "whose name is Olivia, I will personally escort you all out of danger. General Bjorn Zerossen will then lead the counterattack against Nixon's rebellion, allied with three others who came here for the precise reason of aiding us. Now, my people, now is not the time for simple-minded fear. No, now is the time for fortitude to fill our hearts. Today we may leave our land to save ourselves… but tomorrow, we will return stronger than ever!"
Olivia mentally noted the crowd's reaction to Althea's speech. They were extremely subdued; the most enthusiasm the crowd displayed was a slight smattering of applause. Mostly, they just bowed their heads in respectful silence before moving to assemble in groups for the evacuation. This struck Olivia as a bit odd at first, before she realized that it was simply cultural and time-period differences that led the crowd to not react to the rousing speech.
Althea approached Olivia and Zerossen then. "It's time. General Zerossen, I wish you luck in your endeavor. Olivia, you're coming with me."
After nodding his head slightly, Zerossen turned and started making his way toward the general direction of the dome temple. Olivia, meanwhile, followed Althea as she headed with her Sigilyph trio for where her people had gathered.
"How are you so brave?" Olivia questioned, without warning. She was plainly impressed by the steely determination she was able to read from Althea.
"Our history is one of struggle. We fought many struggles simply to reach this point. My people will not be wiped out by one military official with delusions of grandeur…" Althea's face darkened and her eyes narrowed as she added, "We won't be wiped out by him…"
Taking a second look at Althea's face caused Olivia to do a double-take. She had missed the secondary emotion hidden behind the outward courage filling Althea's eyes; beneath it laid a sense of fear of the unknown, a hopeless desire for things to just go back to the way they once were. It was that Olivia could identify with this emotion that she suddenly understood Althea completely.
"What are YOU doing here?"
Matt and Gideon were staring at each other from opposite ends of Nixon's office, and both had the same reaction to the other's presence. Nekou and Agenta could only watch the bizarre confrontation, which was quickly broken up by Nixon himself.
"Now, now, you two, there's no need for fighting. We're all on the same side, aren't we?" Gesturing to the chair in front of his desk, Nixon said to Matt, "Come over, have a seat. Let's have a talk about this."
When he lay eyes on Nixon, intense feelings of hatred rose up inside Matt's body and mind. He saw the colonel as a truly seedy individual and his physical appearance only served to reinforce that. His case also wasn't helped by the bits of light that still filtered through the window, casting dramatic shadows upon him.
"What's going on?" Matt asked as he took his seat, taking care to maintain the act to mislead Nixon. "Why is Gideon here?"
"I believe you said you've decided to join my side, have you not? Let us not waste time on such formalities." Nixon reached for the bottle of champagne in the ice bucket and poured himself a glass, before reaching under his desk for a second, which he filled as well. "Care for some champagne, would you?"
Matt briefly entertained the notion that this might have been a trap. He quickly dismissed it, though, and decided to accept the drink to continue the illusion. "Thank you."
"Let us dispense with all pretense, then. Gideon has come to my side just like you want to, but what is it that you can offer me?"
"I'll show you." Without turning, Matt raised his left arm into the air, prompting Nekou to come forth while restraining Agenta's hands behind her back. "I know what you are planning, Colonel Nixon. This is the girl you are planning to sacrifice as the leverage to call forth Zoroark."
"So you've done your homework. Most impressive." A slight smirk played upon Nixon's lips, and he leaned over and propped his head on his right arm. "I already had her, though. You'll need more than that to convince me."
This wasn't something Matt didn't expect. He anticipated Nixon asking for further proof, so he reached into his bag and set the Life Orb on Nixon's desk – that is, the fake one, though Nixon had no way of knowing.
"Here. I know this is key to your entire plot. The maiden of the shrine was planning to give you a fake Life Orb and lure you into a trap, but here's the real one." Lying so brazenly wasn't easy for Matt, but he fought to keep a believable look and managed to succeed.
"I see… this is a most interesting development. Welcome aboard, then. Now, before we get to the matter of summoning Zoroark, there's another piece of business to attend to. We rounded up another of your friends earlier, that girl who calls herself Bunny. She will be nothing but a burden of resources on us later, so I propose we eliminate her now."
The shock of Nixon's suggestion nearly made Matt lose his façade. Somehow, though, he managed to keep it up, and countered with his own idea. "We can't. Bunny Spruce is vital to our plan. I must interrogate her to learn the way to fully use the Life Orb."
Surprisingly, Nixon seemed to actually buy this bold untruth. "Take the sacrifice down to the cell and conduct the interrogation while you're there. All of my other men are needed to prepare for the execution of my plan."
"Yes... sir," Matt declared as he sprang up from his seat.
In the present, Looker and his group were following Blaine's Darmanitan and Volcarona to something the two Pokémon had found. They were led to the town square, which was now ruined like everything else, and now were surveying the area.
"Going on here, what is it?" the detective wondered aloud. "Blaine the Gym Leader, what are your Pokémon finding?"
"I'm not sure. Darmanitan, Volcarona, can't you show us exactly where what you want us to see is?" When the two Pokémon shook their heads, Blaine muttered, "I guess I'll have to teach you Psychic soon, Volcarona."
"We won't need it right now… go, my friend, Espeon!" Finally taking control of things for once, Anabel released her Espeon. The feline Pokémon stretched out its body, letting the light breeze in the air run through its purple fur. "Espeon, use Psychic and find whatever it is that's unusual here… please."
Espeon's eyes glowed with a purple light that radiated out all over the square, allowing it to carefully analyze everything about the area. Anabel, Looker, Blaine, Trista and the two officers all stood by silently while the Psychic-type did its work.
Abruptly, Espeon jerked its head to the left and started crying loudly, trying to tell the humans that it had found what it was looking for. Only Anabel, owing to her special bond with Espeon, was able to fully understand its message and follow the direction.
To the left of the team, pressed up against some buildings, was a row of bushes hardy enough to survive the harshness of both time and the brisk weather. Anabel slowly made her way over to them and started to carefully search inside their canopy, and she quickly found exactly what Darmanitan and Volcarona had sensed before it upset Espeon.
Lying under the bushes was an odd Pokémon egg, colored almost all black except for a shock of red at the very top. Intrigued, Anabel leaned down and picked it up.
"An egg?" Trista said in surprise once she had seen it. "I don't get it. That's what was so important?"
"Something feels strange about this egg." Anabel's voice was completely flat and empty. "It must be a key clue to what's going on…"
Bunny had been sitting in the cell for so long that it almost seemed to her as if time flowed more slowly in the past. Therefore, when she heard voices outside the door, she snapped back into a state of heightened awareness. She was even more surprised, though, when she heard just who could be conversing.
"Colonel Nixon needs you two topside to join in preparations for the summoning of Zoroark."
"Why should we trust you? You are one of the future people allied with the heathen natives of this land, are you not?"
"I've decided that Nixon's team is the winning team, so I joined him. Now, do you want to be late? Colonel Nixon will be very angry with the two of you!"
"If those are his orders…"
The sound of two pairs of feet could be heard distancing themselves from the doorway into the brig, while several others went right up to the entrance and slowly pushed it open.
"Matt? Nekou?" As she was out of the loop on the plan, Bunny actually believed that what Matt told the guards was true, against her better judgment. She panicked and began trying to think of ways to escape the situation. "How could you betray me? How could you sell out on Olivia?"
Without responding, Matt checked Nekou and Agenta against the wall and advanced toward the cell itself. Feeling an increasing feeling of terror, Bunny tried to scuttle away backwards, but soon found herself against the cell's back wall. When she saw the blade emerge from Matt's right sleeve, she shut her eyes, fearing it was the end of her.
A second later, the sound of metal crashing to the floor made Bunny even more fearful, as she now knew he was inside the cell with her, but his unexpected words made her freeze.
"You must get out of here as quickly as you can. Nixon wants to kill you, and it took all I could do to convince him he couldn't."
Bunny opened her eyes. She realized that he had cut down the bars of the cell, but because he had already retracted the blade back into his arm, he wasn't preparing to kill her after all. Her misplaced fear left her confused when it wasn't fulfilled.
"But did you really join Nixon?" she finally asked, quite weakly.
"Of course not. The whole thing's some bullshit story I made up. Olivia's safe with Nixon's superior officer, who is on our side. I'm going to need you to go with Nekou now, find him, and take shelter."
"You're sending me away now?" Nekou protested indignantly. "Why do I have to go find Zerossen and miss the action?"
"Your mission is of paramount importance. You have to make sure Bunny gets out of here unharmed. I will not let any more people I care about get hurt… and you're the best one to protect both yourself and Bunny. I need your abilities to make sure this gets done."
Nekou, quite unusually, was left silenced by the job thrust upon her. It wasn't because she felt overwhelmed by the mission, it was that she never actually expected to be given something so important to do in the first place. She suddenly felt like all of her instigation was worth it, that her annoyances actually somehow convinced him she was capable enough to be left responsible of such an important topic.
"You're right." The responsibility she now had triggered a more serious side of her to come out. "Bunny, stick with me. You'll be safe that way."
Despite being only newly acquainted with Nekou, Bunny trusted her. She knew that if Matt was willing to put his faith in her, it would be safe to do so too. "Don't get yourself hurt out there."
"This should be over before we even know it," Matt replied. "Now go! Nixon's men will be distracted with their preparations."
Nekou seized Bunny's arm and rushed her out the door in a hasty attempt to escape the ship. Once they were alone, Matt turned to Agenta and took up her hand in a shallow attempt at reassurance.
"This plan will work, I'm sure of it. After this, things will go back to normal and you'll be able to live in peace."
"I pray you're right… if there can be a future where I can be happy, please show me it."
The people of Argyros gathered in a grassy field relatively far from both their town and the temple. Althea, Zerossen and Olivia had guided them to this place during the evacuation, judging that it would be safe if something went wrong. With General Zerossen having already departed to tend to other matters in his own preparations, Althea and Olivia were left running an assessment on the completion of the evacuation. They sent Althea's three Sigilyph to collect a tally of the evacuated townspeople, and the three Pokémon had just finished up.
"Your job is complete, Sigilyph?" Althea asked of her trio of Pokémon. "Did every one of our people make it out of the town?"
The three Sigilyph responded with enthusiastic chirping, answering the question in the affirmative. Pleased by this, Olivia turned her head to look up at Althea – who was a bit taller than her – and said, "At least Argyros Town is cleared out. Do you think Matt and the others are okay?"
"We shall see," Althea uttered, wistfully rotating back in the direction of the town, the temple and the lake where Nixon's ship was. "We shall see…"
By the time two more hours had passed, the sky over Argyros was completely covered by the dark clouds. It was not raining, but the canopy looked threatening enough that it could be easy to expect precipitation at any time.
Stately, rigid lines of torches paralleled the path into the temple, and their light provided a suitably dreadful illumination to the area. Nixon was personally leading a procession down the trail, directing a group that included Matt, several soldiers and three Magmar. With them was Agenta, but her ankles were shackled while Matt had to hold her arms; she was also changed from her traditional clothing into rather scant white robes made from scraps of cloth. The members of the group who were walking produced sticky sounds as they stepped on the moist rocks comprising the path.
As they made their way into the temple, one big difference Matt noticed right away was that the darkness was broken by more torches, which he hadn't noticed before due to Tanya lighting the chamber up. The treasures were still all in place, but this time, they were not what Nixon was interested in. Taking charge of leading the group's direction, Nixon took them to the center of the chamber, then turned to the left and walked straight for the wall.
"Where is he going?" Matt asked one of the soldiers.
When he was within arm's length of the wall, Nixon reached out and touched it. As he ran his fingers over its smooth, cool surface, the wall suddenly reacted, causing a glowing frame to appear and form a doorway. A section of the stone then separated and slid back, revealing a secret passage behind the wall.
Matt's heart sank, as after he saw the passage open up, he looked to Agenta. She hadn't lost any of her brazen courage, but it was more and more apparent that underneath her bravado was a sense that she knew her time was running out. Her face looked ragged, like that of someone who hadn't slept. In fact, Matt realized that this may actually have been the case, as he didn't know if she did sleep the night before.
The torches in the passageway lit up by themselves once the doorway was fully open. His gait as wildly confident as ever, Nixon led his unit deeper into the temple, with Matt and Agenta bringing up the rear.
"Where is he taking us?"
"It's the tomb of Zoroark," Agenta flatly answered Matt. "Where Kratos and the past Tenganists sealed away the stone containing Zoroark's body and soul."
Matt snapped forward and gasped. Realizing that he was drawing within feet of the source of all of Argyros's troubles made him nervous, much more so than even Agenta was. The difference was that she knew and accepted what was about to happen. He had no way of truly understanding what awaited in the tomb, so it was only natural that he would be more frightened by it.
The hallway in the passage wasn't long, and what it soon stopped off at was quite surprising – a second underground dome, quite a bit smaller than the first but still rather large in size. The group had come out on a balcony overlooking a wide stage, and on the other side of the stage, resting on the floor, was the stone to which Zoroark had been banished. The lines on it were pulsing with light in an irregular fashion.
"Take the sacrifice down to the stage and place her in the middle," Nixon commanded, looking over his shoulder to Matt. "After that, stand off to the side, off the stage."
"Yes, sir." Just saying these words turned Matt's stomach, but he had no choice.
No words were exchanged between Matt and Agenta as he led her down the curving staircase to the floor of the tomb. There was no need for it. The man who came from the future and the woman who knew she might not even have a future at all – by combining their knowledge they had concocted a plan to stop what Nixon intended to do, and now all that remained was to put that plan into action. There truly was nothing else.
Once Agenta was placed at the center of the stage, Matt walked off to a platform raised slightly off its left side, then nodded up to Nixon. He then glanced down to his bag, where the key to stopping everything waited.
Nixon stepped up to an altar at the edge of the balcony, giving him a vantage point to oversee the proceedings. He then raised his right arm into the air, prompting a Xatu to fly in through the passage the humans had just used minutes earlier. The Xatu flew over Nixon's head and hovered high above the stage.
"Excellent. Everything is going as intended." Nixon placed the fake Life Orb he had received on the altar, then raised his arm again. "Now, Xatu, let us begin the ceremony! Miracle Eye!"
Obeying its master's command completely, Xatu looked down on the stage and opened its eyes as wide as possible. A rainbow of colors flashed through its stare, and soon, lines carved into the stage illuminated in a similar manner, forming the pattern of a giant, wide-open eye. Two arcs of the rainbow light cut off at the sides of the stage and ran up the walls to boxes that opened to release psychically-powered chains; the chains launched down and bound Agenta's wrists to spread her arms before pulling her slightly upward, leaving her trapped with no method of escape.
Throughout all of this, Matt simply watched, as per the plan. He knew he held the trump card in his bag, the true Life Orb, and was confident things would work. In preparation for the time when he'd need it, he started to reach down to get inside his bag and fetch the Orb out.
It was then that he suddenly froze and found himself unable to move his body.
From the corner of his eye he saw Nixon's henchmen and their Magmar standing near him. All three Magmar had blue light in their eyes and were employing it to immobilize Matt's entire body – this Psychic attack had come out of nowhere and was completely not a part of the plan.
"Ni…xon…" Matt groaned, struggling against the power of the Magmars' Psychic. "What are you…"
Nixon just laughed, an evil chortle that echoed through the entire tomb. "Foolish boy, did you really think I would be gullible enough to believe your contrived lie to me? I've known all along that you've been trying to thwart me. One doesn't get to the station in life that I'm at by being a fool, after all. Like for example, this Life Orb?"
Abruptly, Nixon seized the false Orb from the altar and raised it into the air. As Matt looked on in horror and Agenta listened, he flung it over the side of the balcony, sending it crashing to the floor, where it smashed into hundreds of pieces. At that point both Matt and Agenta knew that the worst case scenario was coming true.
"Judging by the look in your eyes, you seem a bit disappointed," the wicked colonel continuing rambling. "Do you think you'll not still get to see a historical moment live and up close? You see, about that… this altar is simply symbolic. The real Life Orb doesn't have to be on it for the sacrifice ceremony to take place. The real Life Orb simply has to … BE IN THIS TOMB!"
The moment that last syllable left Nixon's mouth, blindingly bright light began shining out of Matt's bag. He knew it was the Life Orb, reacting to the mechanism of the sacrifice despite being hidden, and all the color drained from his face.
It was happening again. Not only was Agenta about to die, she would perish because of his own actions. That day in La Ciudad Dorada six years ago, that day when Eleanor Laplace died in the collapse of a tower because he didn't stop her from entering it – it was all happening again. The guilt came flooding back into him, and he could no longer fight it off. In fact, the only reasons he wasn't broken down in tears already were the three Magmar holding him nearly completely still. They couldn't control his thoughts, though, and inside he was cursing himself. He hadn't changed or improved himself despite all his claims otherwise. He was still that weak, helpless flake of a scientist who couldn't protect even one person from meeting a horrible fate, someone only able to protect that which was written in a book.
History was certainly unfolding before him, without a doubt, and he was getting to play a role in it. Unfortunately that history was the resurrection and unleashing of Zoroark, which would likely end in the extinction of the people of Argyros. In his guilt Matt thought back to Nekou's earlier words on time travel – " Each universe has differences that make it unique from the others, and if time travel is carried out, the temporal plane will self-correct." – and realized that that was just what was happening. He'd tried too hard to save the past and now the plane of time was correcting itself to fulfill the future, through allowing an event that would destroy Argyros anyway.
With Matt reduced to watching in horror, Nixon was finally satisfied that his plan could proceed. Straightening up at the altar, he called out into the air of the tomb, "Now, the time is nigh! Come forth into the world and claim your chosen, Zoroark!"
A spark of light emanating from the stone tablet temporarily filled the room. Upon it fading, the lines carved upon the stone stopped pulsing, instead becoming consistent in glowing. Seconds later, wispy black smoke started to flow out of the cursed rock.
"No…" Matt managed to force out. He knew what this meant – it was the final straw that proved everything he'd tried to do amounted to nothing.
"Who… who are you?" a voice said in the murk, apparently inquiring Nixon as to his identity.
"I am Colonel Nixon, the understudy of the corrupt General Bjorn Zerossen… and also the leader of those dedicated to you, the Order of Illusion!" This bit of information came as a surprise to Matt, as he wasn't aware of it before. "My wish is to overthrow the ruler of this country and form an empire with you and I at the helm!"
The murky cloud floating from the tablet remained relatively still, as if it was in contemplation. "The Order of Illusion, eh? And who is this wench placed before me?"
Even now, with everything ruined, Agenta was still showing no fear. She was staring straight at the churning mist, wearing a face that communicated what could very well have been a dare to it. Whatever was awaiting her, she was challenging fate to actually make it happen.
Nixon could tell this, and carefully underplayed her in his response. "She is merely a descendant of the man who banished you away, and she is only good for paying the price that must be paid for your resurrection. Now, let us get started and waste no more time! Take your toll, Zoroark! Accept the sacrifice and arise into this world!"
Finally wrenching at least his head free from the grip of the Magmar trio's Psychic, Matt cried out, "Nixon, you don't have to do this! Stop!"
It was hopeless at that point, as things had already gone too far. The dark mist that contained Zoroark's essence loomed over Agenta for a moment, before simply assimilating itself into her immobilized body.
Matt could no longer bear to watch the horror of the scene unfolding before him, and shut his eyes in repulsed fear. That didn't prevent him from hearing the tormented scream Agenta let out, though, or the rattling of the psychically-powered chains binding her wrists as she thrashed violently against them.
Eventually, the chains' hold on Agenta's wrists weakened, allowing her to slip out and fall back down to the floor of the stage. At first, she simply writhed on the floor, desperately trying to fight against the powers that were overtaking her very being from the inside out, but before long she was back on her feet, holding her face with both of her hands and jerking her entire body around erratically. She felt like her body was being replaced by another, completely foreign person's, one piece at a time.
"No! Get out!" she screeched, her pain and desperation apparent on a very raw level. "Begone! You will not use me to do your evil, Zoroark! If nothing… if nothing else… you will perish with me!"
Almost as soon as Agenta made this declaration – which got Matt to open his eyes again – however, Zoroark's power completely overran her control over her body, forcing her to stand in a rigid pose with her arms spread and head stuck upward. She screamed in utter agony as a burst of black light forced itself upward from her body and launched through the ceiling of the tomb, then she collapsed.
"Agenta!" Matt shouted, with his voice breaking in panic.
Nixon let out a wicked laugh and looked up with insane ambition in his eyes. "Yes! Arise, Zoroark! Arise and destroy the empire of the tyrant Caitlin XVI!" Turning down to his soldiers, he then ordered, "Withdraw, now! Those two are of no further value to me!"
"Yes, sir!" the soldiers replied in unison.
The nondescript ground that actually acted as the ceiling of the underground tomb exploded open, and the light that had torn itself from Agenta's body shot high into the dark sky. It then burst apart, revealing the fully resurrected body of Zoroark within. His black fur bristled in the wind as he descended toward the earth, and his large, mostly red mane fluttered behind him with a strange elegance. When he landed, his sharp red claws created distinct prints in the dirt.
Raising himself onto his hind legs, Zoroark looked over the land before him.
"This land, you have changed little since I last laid eyes upon you. Now, prepare for my vengeance!"
Just then, Zoroark heard footsteps below himself, so he looked down to the entrance of the temple. He saw Nixon, the soldiers and their Magmar come running out, and carefully observed their next moves.
Nixon's ship quickly arrived to pick them up. It wasn't sailing, though – it was flying. Its masts were actually smokestacks and propeller mechanisms for a steam-powered machine that allowed the vessel to fly through the air, and it lofted down to near the group before Gideon appeared on the deck to lower the gangplank for them.
"Colonel Nixon!" called the scientist. "How did it go?"
"See for yourself," Nixon replied, pointing at Zoroark as he fully arrived on the deck. "Matt and Agenta should perish as the tomb collapses. Nothing can stop me now!"
Gideon narrowed his eyes. He could not see anywhere on Nixon's person where the Life Orb might be hidden, and he correctly assumed that Nixon had left it to be destroyed once he was done using it. Now, Gideon found himself having to figure out an exit strategy for himself on the fly.
Using a speaking trumpet, Nixon called out to Zoroark, "Now is the time, Zoroark! All restraint must be discarded! Unleash your incredible powers and destroy your enemies!"
Zoroark simply glared at Nixon momentarily before looking back down over Argyros. "That woman was not the one... is she here? Where are you, my angel of death… Azrael?"
Having seen the appearance of Zoroark and arrival of Nixon's flying ship from afar, Althea and Olivia realized that the plan had failed and an all-out war was inevitable. Expecting the battle to begin at any moment, Olivia had both of her Poké Balls ready.
"Agenta…" Althea uttered with great sadness. She knew what the failure to stop Nixon from resurrecting Zoroark meant and could not deny her grief for her daughter, but she still had to keep aware of the events still unfolding, too. She stepped carefully over to the townspeople and called a woman over to her, to whom she handed Catherine in her blanket. "Please keep my Catherine safe through what is coming. I will fight myself…"
Suddenly, a huge flash of light engulfed the entire field before the people of Argyros. It faded to reveal a massive army of Pokémon, comprised of many different species – Scyther, Scizor, Medicham, Marowak, Magmortar, Typhlosion, Granbull, Stantler, Zangoose, Shiftry, Grovyle, Sceptile, Breloom, Drapion, Primeape and Toxicroak were all present in the legion.
Olivia reacted reflexively upon seeing the giant crowd she was up against, releasing both her Minccino and her Roselia without a second thought. Behind her, the people of Argyros were in the first stages of irrationally fleeing in all directions.
Or they were, until Althea yelled, "Do not flee! This will be the war that decides whether or not we survive and it will not be affected by whether or not you try to escape. I will not try to run. I may be the guardian maiden of our land… but one of the duties I therefore possess is to protect it, and for that, I will do anything!"
Quite suddenly, and to the surprise of both Olivia and all of the townspeople, Althea pulled off her robes, revealing a suit of chainmail armor underneath. Without hesitation she pulled the sword at her waist out of its sheath and pointed it menacingly at the zombie-like army of Pokémon.
"This blade was the weapon of my husband, Agenta and Catherine's father, until you killed him, Nixon. Now, I hold it… so which of your military will be the first I will strike down?"
As if accepting Althea's challenge, one of the Scyther moved forward, while the rest of the army stood perfectly still. The fight was instantly on, with Althea attacking the Scyther with a surprising viciousness. She wielded the sword quite expertly, landing forceful blows against Scyther's blade arms while using nearly-acrobatic movements to evade its counterattacks.
Zoroark's breakout from the tomb caused critical damage to it, and its structural integrity was rapidly deteriorating. Just before the tomb itself collapsed, Matt managed to escape into the hallway back to the temple with Agenta in his arms.
He made it back to the shrine just in time, as the hallway collapsed right after the tomb did, eliminating the secret passage's existence forevermore. Before he could take another step, however, Agenta spoke.
"Matt…" Her voice was weak and sounded as if her voice box had been cut up with razor blades. "Stop Zo… Zoro… stop Zoroa…"
"Ssssh, don't talk. I'm going to get you out of this somehow. I won't let things end like this."
Agenta just rolled her head back. Her consciousness was slight. "It's too… late…" she whispered.
Nixon's ship wasn't the only craft in the sky during the battle. A large zeppelin also flew over the landscape, casting a wide shadow below itself despite the lack of sunlight. The zeppelin's passenger car was affixed to its bottom and constructed out of gold-plated metal, providing a suitable complement to the brown material comprising its body.
A soldier in a blue uniform and matching wide cap stood at the wheel inside the car, piloting the airship. The eight gold buttons on the front of his uniform stood out vividly against the garment's navy color.
"General Zerossen, sir! We are now in position over Argyros!"
Nearby, Zerossen stood at a window, observing the rapidly escalating war through a golden looking glass. Nekou and Bunny dutifully waited behind him, with Nekou nervously eating the pastries given to her by Althea.
"Look at that!" the general exclaimed, prompting Nekou and Bunny to rush to the windows themselves.
"I don't believe it…" Nekou said in wonder. "Where did all those Pokémon come from?"
"They're likely Zoroark's illusions," Zerossen explained. "Creating illusions is Zoroark's special ability. Logically, it is not hard to then see how having an army of illusion soldiers would exponentially increase the amount of damage Zoroark could do."
"And they can't even tell what they're up against down there, either…" While continuing to look over the landscape below, Bunny suddenly spotted something else. "Hey! You two, look down there!"
On the ground, Matt had emerged from the shrine with Agenta and was now running down the path outside. He had no idea where he was actually going, but he knew he needed to get Agenta somewhere safe right away if there was to be any hope of saving her.
Zerossen caught them in his sight right away too, once he pointed his looking glass in their direction. "Matt looks like he's okay, but Agenta looks grievously injured. We need to get them up here, but we don't have the terrain to land. Do either of you have any ideas?"
"Matt owns a Salamence," Bunny suggested. "If he knew we were here they could fly up."
"A capital idea, in fact!" Rushing over to where his follower was piloting the zeppelin, Zerossen commanded him, "Steady the ship and bring it toward the location of the two allies on the ground. Allow them the chance to make an emergency entrance."
Off to the side, Nekou was still eating the pastries, but stopped for a moment when a thought entered her head. After considering it for a moment, she reached into the basket, removed one of the pastries, and handed it to Bunny.
"You can have this."
"Really, Nekou? It's yours after all."
Nekou recoiled, and her face became slightly flushed. "I'm just saying, you're doing a pretty good job showing courage right now, so you kind of deserve it. Don't get too arrogant or I'll have to take it back!"
Bunny just laughed. "Don't worry about it. I appreciate the thought."
Outside, the zeppelin abruptly appeared in Matt's sight. He initially pulled Agenta closer, believing that the craft might have belonged to Nixon's forces, but he found himself quickly getting corrected.
"Matt!" Zerossen called, using a crude loudspeaker system incorporated into the zeppelin. "Bunny told me you possess a Salamence. Use it and come up here! Hurry!"
The distance to Zerossen's craft was obviously far too great for him to reply, so Matt simply reached into his bag and pulled out a Poké Ball, which he then opened. A Salamence was released, who stretched out her body and roared into the air.
Still clutching onto Agenta tightly, Matt heaved both himself and the maiden onto his Salamence's back. He then said to the Pokémon, "Sally, I need you to get us up to that zeppelin up there."
Sally grunted her affirmation, then used her powerful red wings to push herself into the air. It took less than a minute for her to get alongside the zeppelin's passenger car, and she assumed a gliding position next to a small platform with a doorway into the craft and a ladder up its outer body.
Luckily, Bunny was there to open the metal door almost immediately. "Hurry up and get in here!" she yelled over the near-deafening wind noise. "We're running out of time!"
Matt nodded, then tapped Sally on the back of the neck to let her know what he needed. Accordingly, Sally maneuvered close enough to the platform that Matt could jump off her back and onto it. While still holding onto Agenta, he managed to carefully recall Sally before rushing inside, with Bunny slamming the door shut behind him.
"Great Arceus in the skies above…" Agenta was being lied down on the long table in the center of the room, and Zerossen saw her for the first time since the sacrifice as he gathered around the table with Nekou and Bunny. "…what has happened to her?"
"Nixon anticipated the entire plan," Matt admitted, an obvious touch of guilt tingeing his words. He spoke as he removed the Life Orb from his bag and handed it over to Zerossen. "He tricked us into helping him complete the sacrifice, and Zoroark drained Agenta's life force in order to reconstitute his own body."
Lying on the table, Agenta shifted her gaze slowly over each of the four people standing over her. Even this simple action was a struggle, as her muscles were twitching every time she tried to use them. When she saw Nekou, her eyes slowly drifted to the basket in the dark-haired woman's arms.
"Ma…Matt…" she choked. "I want… just one last…"
"Don't talk. I understand." Turning up to Nekou, Matt said, "She wants one of the pastries. Remember, they're a tradition of her culture."
Initially, Nekou pulled the basket back, intending to not share even one more of her treasured sweets, but a second look at Agenta's weak form made her reconsider. Once he was offered the basket, Matt plucked one of the round pastries from it, taking great care to not damage it in any way. Agenta reached up for it, but she did not have enough strength, and her arm shrunk back. This prompted Matt to delicately help her by placing the pastry in her mouth, allowing her the relief of the simple pleasure the pastry provided.
"We have to face what's going on outside," Bunny remarked forcefully, interrupting this scene. "Zoroark summoned an army of illusion soldiers to do his bidding. Between him and Nixon, there's too much work to be done."
"Leave Nixon to me," Matt decisively declared. "I'll deal with him. It's not just business now… it's personal. Zoroark's illusion soldiers on the other hand…"
Suddenly, Zerossen chuckled before breaking out in a full-fledged, inappropriately-timed laughing fit. When he realized that he was being stared at, he simply explained it by saying, "Zoroark's illusion soldiers won't be a problem at all. I've got the finest possible solution for that."
Althea's duel with the illusionary Scyther was still raging on, and even though she didn't know the true nature of her opponent, she was more than holding her own. Her surprising nimbleness left Olivia and the townspeople speechless, while her skill with her sword pushed the illusionary Scyther to its limits.
"So this is your strategy, Nixon?" Althea growled as she sprung just high enough to cause Scyther's attack to sail harmlessly beneath her feet. "Bring a military force of as many as you want, our souls will not be broken!"
In a shower of sparks, Althea's blade and the Scyther's arm clashed once more, driving them both back. Even with the force pushing against her, though, Althea didn't lose her posture. As she gazed at her opponent with defiant anger in her eyes, she lowered her sword slowly until it was perpendicular to her body.
"If you want to destroy our land and then the whole kingdom… your path will go through me first!"
Taking dead aim at its target, the Scyther threw itself forward in an attempt to finish the fight. At the same time, Althea let out a primal scream and rushed forward herself.
The two met halfway, but only one of their attacks hit its mark.
Without spilling a drop of blood, Althea's sword ran straight through the Scyther's chest and out the other side, impaling it. In the background, Olivia gasped, partially at the decisive brutality of how the fight ended, and partially at how the Scyther did not bleed at all.
Things remained this way for only a moment before the Scyther's body cracked and faded, the specific illusion creating it fading away. Althea took a few steps back before staring at the rest of the illusion soldiers with a gaze as cold as the steel of her weapon.
Perhaps she was becoming irrational because of her passion for defending her people, but Althea was getting in far over her head. There was no way she could defeat the entire army herself, and Olivia recognized this.
"Everyone, get away from here!" she screamed to the townspeople. "This battle is about to get worse! Run!"
The townspeople by and large heeded Olivia's advice and started to flee the area. Meanwhile, the entire army of illusionary Pokémon started to advance on Althea, prompting Olivia to ready Roselia and Minccino for battle. Just then, though, a fireball came flying from the east, smashing into several of the Pokémon to push them back.
This Fire Blast attack had been launched by a Rapidash that was owned by another soldier dressed like the one piloting Zerossen's zeppelin. He wasn't alone, either – an entire battalion of men in identical uniforms stood behind him, accompanied by their own army of Pokémon. In their possession, besides numerous Rapidash, were several Heracross, Raticate, Poliwrath, Machamp, Tauros, Granbull, Loudred, Exploud, Swalot, Crawdaunt, Claydol, Electivire and Gliscor.
"On the orders of our honorable General Bjorn Zerossen," the leading soldier declared, "we hereby arrive to quell this rebellion!"
"Less talk and more action, then!" Althea insisted, taking several careful steps back. "Don't waste time talking, get to doing your jobs!"
The soldiers and their Pokémon complied with Althea's demand and charged forth, and with instinct they shouldn't have even possessed as illusions, the army created by Zoroark launched an attack as well. Althea and Olivia also joined the battle, with Althea's three Sigilyph attacking from the air while their master was in the midst of everything. Olivia's Minccino and Roselia clustered near their own trainer, acting as bodyguards that repelled anything that got near her.
War had begun, and the sound was sickening. An unintelligible racket was being generated, a chaotic soup of noise being fed by countless unrestrained Pokémon battles and Althea's sword striking blows itself.
While the soldiers who served Zerossen were used to being in such environments, this all was completely foreign to Althea and Olivia. Althea was somewhat blinded by the overwhelming drive she felt to protect her land and her people, so in the heat of the moment, she wasn't fully aware of just how dire her situation was. Illusionary Pokémon were swarming all around her, and if it wasn't for just how reckless her counterattack was, she would have been overrun. Olivia attempted to help, but she had her own problems – with a smaller but still dangerous detachment of the illusion soldiers pursuing her, she barely could keep up striking them back with Minccino and Roselia's moves, such as Aqua Tail, Tail Slap, Energy Ball and Sludge Bomb. Luckily for them both, the three Sigilyph were able to provide aerial support, with some aid from a few of Zerossen's army's Gliscor.
Quite a distance from the war, Zoroark stood on top of a tree, watching the events unfold.
"Well done, my illusion soldiers. You don't need my direct control right now. I'll leave you to your devices. Destroy my enemies while I find if Azrael is present here or not!"
With that, Zoroark screeched loudly and charged up energy, causing a red aura to envelop his body. He threw down his arms, releasing the Night Daze in a violent burst that destroyed most of the tree.
"General Zerossen, sir, the war has begun!"
Upon hearing his information from his subordinate, Zerossen rushed to the windows of his zeppelin and opened his spyglass again. "Bloody hell," he groaned, disgusted by what he saw. "Nixon, have you really gone this far? Are your ambitions really worth doing this?"
"I can't see anything…" Bunny was straining to make anything out through the windows, and she was noticeably annoyed by it. "I see the Pokémon but I can't make out what's going on."
"Leave it to me," Matt declared, stepping up to the window as well. "Eye of the Needle!"
The eyepiece on Matt's mask opened, revealing his artificial eye glowing with a green tint. It immediately locked onto the vast battle going on in the distance and magnified it, creating a crystal-clear, zoomed-in image that allowed Matt to see all its details.
"Oh… it's bad down there," he intoned, flatly observing the vicious battle unfolding on the ground. "Wait, is that… that's Althea? Althea's got a sword and is fighting down there herself! Wait… Olivia?"
"What did you just say?" Nekou was so startled when Matt brought up Olivia that she nearly choked on the pastry in her mouth. "Olivia's fighting the war too?"
"She is! Looks like she's holding her own with Minccino and Roselia, but she won't last forever out there. It's too harsh." Before he turned from the windows, Matt realized something else that caused him to widen his eyes. A blue tint glazed over his artificial eye, creating a filter of transparent static in his view from it. This filter removed all of the illusion soldiers from sight. "They really are fighting illusions."
"I only told you that a few minutes ago," Bunny said, sarcastically. "You didn't believe me?"
"No, I did. But… you see, my left eye can distinguish between reality and illusions. I designed it with the Illusion Canceller device because I thought it might turn out useful if I ever got attacked by a Pokémon that used such tactics." As the eyepiece closed, he added, "Looks like that was a good strategy."
"Forgive me for interrupting," Zerossen interjected, "but there are other things we need to strategize about right now."
"Right," Matt answered with a quick nod. "I'll go to fight Nixon first, then I'll help deal with the illusion soldiers and Zoroark. General Zerossen, sir, please look after Agenta and… do everything you can to help her."
This planning was quite suddenly interrupted by a loud and mechanical yet sad-sounding noise coming from just outside the doorway that had allowed Matt in a short time earlier. As she was the nearest to the door, Bunny returned to it and opened it, revealing Agenta's Golurk flying outside using the rocket jets in its arms and body.
"Goluuuuhhh!" it cried out, a surprising amount of emotion palpable in its voice. "Goluuuuuuhhhhhhh!"
"And what's got you so worked up?"
"I think I know, Bunny…" Matt answered, walking up closer to the door. "Remember that Golurk are created to protect humans, and this Golurk was Agenta's. It can sense that something bad has happened to her…"
"Is that true, Golurk?" Now armed with the knowledge of the Pokémon's motivations, Bunny lessened the severity of her tone.
"Goluhg…" replied the Ground-and-Ghost-type glumly.
"I'm sorry, but Bunny, you're going to have to get out of my way. I hate to interrupt this, in fact, I want to continue here, but I have to go put Nixon in his place before this situation gets any more out of control."
As he turned to go out the open door, however, Matt found his arm being held. Nekou, using the hand not holding her basket of pastries, was restraining him from leaving.
"You're not going it alone out there. I'm supposed to be your bodyguard and help you, so I'm coming."
Before Matt could react to Nekou, Bunny cut in with, "I'm also going. Those guys have something coming their way for locking me up."
"You two…" Once the true meaning of the pair's loyalty sunk in, Matt smiled warmly. "Thank you. For the sake of Agenta, Althea and all the other people of Argyros, I can use all the help I can get. Here's what we'll do. Nekou, Bunny, you ride Golurk to Nixon's ship, and I'll ride Sally." Looking over his shoulder, Matt called out, "Is that okay with you, Golurk?"
The golem Pokémon grunted its approval, then turned itself around so Bunny and Nekou could climb onto its back.
In his office aboard his flying ship, Nixon was standing at the wide window, watching over the proceedings using a pair of golden opera glasses. The leader of his soldiers stood behind him on the other side of his desk along with two lesser men.
"Ah yes, everything is going perfectly according to plan. Hmm? What's this?" When he glanced to Zerossen's zeppelin, Nixon noticed Bunny and Nekou climbing out onto Golurk's back. He lowered his opera glasses and abruptly commanded his men, "We're about to face an attack. Prepare the main cannon with THAT and fire immediately!"
"Colonel Nixon, sir, are you sure you mean THAT?" asked the lead soldier.
"Are you questioning me?" Nixon roared. "Take it and fire it immediately! That's an order!"
Sufficiently cowed, the lead soldier collected the cannonball that was on display in Nixon's office and rushed out with his two subordinates.
"Are you prepared to face my full wrath, Bjorn?" he uttered as he raised the opera glasses back to his eyes. "You will fall victim first, before Caitlin does."
Nekou and Bunny had made it onto Golurk's back, and were now in the air riding on the golem's hulking body. Having successfully collected its two passengers, Golurk now backed itself away from the zeppelin so Matt would have space to send out and board Sally.
"Are you two ready?" Matt called out to Nekou and Bunny as he stepped out onto the platform. When they nodded, he took out and threw the Poké Ball containing Sally, making the imposing, blue-bodied dragon appear gliding in the air next to the zeppelin again. "Sally, listen to me carefully. We have to get to that flying ship off over there, and it's up to you to get me there."
An approving roar from Sally confirmed her understanding of Matt's plan, so he prepared to jump the railing and get on her.
It was then that the sound of a single cannon shot interrupted everything. Matt froze, and along with Nekou and Bunny, he looked off in the distance toward Nixon's ship. Oddly enough, the shot didn't seem aimed exactly at the zeppelin, and it had exploded in midair between the two crafts.
From the smoke released by the cannonball's blast, a startling vision emerged. First, one large appendage that appeared to be an orange wing coated in fire unfurled, followed by a second opposite it. The wings connected to an avian body of similar coloration, and the beast's head blazed like a torch.
The Legendary Pokémon Moltres had been contained inside the cannonball.
"That must be the ancestor of all Poké Balls!" Nekou exclaimed from her perch on Golurk. "And now we have to fight Moltres too?"
Inside the passenger car of the zeppelin, Zerossen and his soldier were horrified as well. "This was your ace in the hole, Nixon?" the general bitterly postured. "I'm glad we fireproofed this craft…"
Spreading its wings and letting out a blood-curdling scream, Moltres discharged a huge fireball in the direction of the zeppelin. Its pilot managed to bank left quickly enough to dodge a hit, but the movement caused Matt to lose his footing on the platform and fall over the railing. He only did not plummet to the ground because he managed to grab hold onto the last bar of the nearby ladder, and he was now dangling off the zeppelin by his arms with his longcoat blowing violently in the wind.
Just when the situation didn't seem it could get any worse, it did. Matt could only hang off the ladder and watch Moltres flaunt its power. After dealing with the collapse of his plans, the vicious attack on Agenta and the resurrection of Zoroark, the last thing he wanted to deal with was an angry Legendary Pokémon under the control of Nixon… and that was exactly what he found in front of himself.
"Damn it…" he cursed under his breath. Knowing that he was in a terrible position if this battle got any more intense, he started to pull himself up the ladder, relying solely on his upper body.
Moltres wasn't waiting, though. It curled up its right wing and viciously snapped it back open, tearing out an Air Slash attack. When the blue blade of energy hit the zeppelin, the entire craft rocked violently, throwing Zerossen against the wall inside the passenger car and making Matt lose his grip with one hand.
Now barely dangling from the ladder by only one hand, Matt realized he had to think quickly. "Sally!" he called out, his voice cracking from the volume he had to force. "Sally, get below me! Hurry!"
Matt waited until Sally followed his direction and flew below him. He was lucky that she did not take long, as he was beginning to completely lose his grip. Once she was below him, though, it no longer mattered.
Much to Nekou and Bunny's shock, he simply let go of the ladder and started falling through the air. Sally caught him squarely on her back with little effort, and once he was situated in a sitting position at the base of her neck, she flew him alongside Golurk.
"Are you crazy?" Nekou yelled over the sounds of the wind blowing, Golurk's rockets flaring and the war on the earth below. "You're going to get yourself killed!"
"I'd ask you if you were angry at me or being protective but now is really not the time!" Matt shot back. "Focus on this battle!"
Even from the distance he was at, Nixon could see the relative disarray his enemies were in through his powerful optical device. Setting the opera glasses aside on his desk, he felt a wave of madness overcome his body, causing him to lurch forward at the window and upturn his hand as if holding something.
"Yes, this is how it must be… Moltres, they're your enemies…" Flinging his arm wide, he began shouting, "Destroy them! Burn them until nothing remains! This is the very essence of my rebellion!"
Hearing Nixon's ranting prompted Moltres to attempt another attack. It repeated its Fire Blast from earlier, this time aiming to take out both Sally and Golurk at the same time. However, they both moved out of the way quickly enough to escape all but the residual heat from being near the ball of flame.
"What moves do you know, Golurk?" Bunny questioned in a panic.
When Golurk didn't immediately respond, Matt decided he had to take charge. He had one attack that would work well against Moltres without having to get in close. "Sally, Hydro Pump!"
Sally opened her gaping jaws and burst out a jet of water, aimed squarely at Moltres's body. The legendary Fire-and-Flying-type responded with another Fire Blast, and when the two attacks struck each other, they cancelled each other out in a cloud of steam. Moltres was also pushed back a bit in the air from the backdraft.
Suddenly, Moltres found itself being assaulted by small, sharp rocks raining down from its right side. Golurk was flying there, having summoned the rubble up as part of its Stone Edge attack. Moltres's body was stung by the numerous wounds the super-effective move inflicted, and this just made it angrier.
Turning to face Golurk exclusively, Moltres pierced the air with another of its high-pitched cries, then flapped its wide, flaming wings to generate a huge gust of purple-tinged wind. Caught up in the harsh vortex of this Ominous Wind, Golurk tried to push back, but it was weakened by the energy charged into the air.
"I can't hold on!" Nekou screamed out. It didn't help, though, that one of her hands was still occupied with holding the basket of pastries.
"Not so fast!" Matt cried. With Moltres distracted, Sally had an opening to dive into close range and strike with a vicious Dragon Claw, using the sharp hooks on its foot to gash a rather significant wound into Moltres's torso. "I don't care how legendary you are, you don't threaten people I care about!"
Moltres heard Matt's words but didn't consider them. Instead, it screeched once more and opened its beak, allowing the spherical early stage of a Hyper Beam to take shape.
It never had the chance to fire, though, as Golurk rocketed into it from the side, shoving it off into the distance. From the Ground-and-Ghost-type's back, Nekou – her face flushed more than ever – looked down to Matt.
"Don't get all sentimental on the battlefield!" she scolded, though her voice sounded like her intensity was being forced. "Letting your feelings get ahead of your sense will get you killed, and what kind of bodyguard would that make me?"
"Fine, fine, whatever you say," Matt said as Sally flew up next to Golurk, at a point where both Pokémon could watch Moltres recovering from the golem's rocket-powered flying tackle. "We have to come up with more of a plan. It'll be impossible to win this with simple power."
"You're right," Bunny replied hastily. "We have to get to Nixon's ship clearly, right? What about if we get aboard the ship and then let Sally and Golurk fight without us?"
"Good thinking. That plan can work, but we'll need a third front opened in this battle in order to keep Moltres sufficiently distracted. Reuniclus, make your mark!"
Reuniclus was released from the Poké Ball that Matt threw skyward, and she immediately giggled, "Rankurururu!"
"Reuniclus," Matt commanded, thrusting his arm forward, "Psyshock!"
Just as Moltres got back into range, it found itself on the receiving end of the silver light shooting from Reuniclus's eyes. Instead of finding its body strained in any fashion, which would be expected for a Psychic-type attack like this, Moltres was damaged by its physical wounds becoming worse.
Yet, even this didn't abate Moltres's rage. The legendary Fire-and-Flying Pokémon simply loosed a Fire Blast that exploded when it hit Reuniclus, sending the gelatinous-bodied Psychic-type plummeting from the sky.
"Reuniclus!" Watching Reuniclus fall, seemingly fainted, Matt became upset again. He had no guarantee that Reuniclus survived the blow, meaning that it was possible he had just sent it into battle just to deliver one attack in a kamikaze effort – which was absolutely not what he wanted to do.
"You were right about needing more than just two Pokémon to do this. Sky, come out!" While Golurk shielded itself and Sally by launching a Shadow Ball into Moltres, Bunny sent Sky, her Drifblim, out again. "Thunderbolt!"
"Drifluuuuu!" Sky hummed while his body discharged large amounts of electricity, shocking Moltres to a significant degree. Though it did not cause paralysis in its target, the Thunderbolt left Moltres's body crackling with energy for a moment.
"Good work, Bunny," Matt complimented, as he noted Moltres's apparent slowing down. "The plan is working!"
"It's not exactly rocket science," Nekou interjected with one of her deadpan remarks.
"Oh, spare it! You're the one who said to leave emotions off the battlefield, right?" This sufficiently silenced Nekou for the moment, so Matt took the opportunity to order another attack. "Sally, Hydro Pump!"
"Sky, use Thunderbolt!"
While Sally and Sky moved in with their respective blasts of water and electricity, Golurk joined them by surrounding its body with the jagged rocks that would become another Stone Edge. All three attacks relentlessly barraged Moltres all over its body, consuming it in a cloud of dust created by the combining elements.
Just when Matt, Bunny and Nekou started to feel confident, though, a tremendous Ominous Wind shot back through the clouds, impacting Sally, Sky and Golurk with intense force. Moltres then darted through their midst itself, scattering the trio.
"Watch out!" Matt cried in alarm.
Golurk seemed to have its own idea, and took aim at Moltres with an attack using a beam of shining silver light. This Flash Cannon struck Moltres and exploded, but as a part-Fire type, Moltres effortlessly shook it off. Now at nearly point-blank range, the Legendary Pokémon unloaded a Fire Blast right into Golurk's body.
The vast, heated detonation of the fireball threw Golurk violently back and visibly scorched its artificial clay body. Bunny shut her eyes and held on for dear life, but she quickly realized that something much more urgent and immediate was happening.
She heard Nekou's screams. While Bunny had been holding on tightly, Nekou hadn't been, so when Golurk was rocked, she was thrown off and was now plummeting downward while screaming at the top of her lungs.
Or she was, at least until Sally cut through her path so Matt could catch her. In total she didn't fall more than ten feet, but she was caught so abruptly that she didn't realize right away that she had stopped. When she saw that Matt had saved her, she had no words. She only could react through the water that filled her eyes, giving them a glassy look.
Matt had no time to pay attention to her, though. Moltres was suddenly facing Sally and him down, looking ready to finish them off in the same way it had tried to destroy Golurk. He raised his arm to order an offense, but he never had the chance to verbalize a command.
From far below, silver light arced upward, shocking Moltres relentlessly. It was a Psyshock attack, and accompanying it was Reuniclus, who had recovered from her injury and was surging back into the battle.
"Reuniclus!" Matt exclaimed, feeling swelling pride in his Pokémon. "Well done!"
"This is the opening we need!" added Bunny, before calling out to Sky, "Use one more Thunderbolt! That should get us through so you can all fight Moltres yourselves!"
Sky complied, doubling the force of his usual Thunderbolt. Moltres couldn't fight back against the combined power of this and Reuniclus's continuing Psyshock, and its being stunned afforded the trio exactly the time they needed.
Sally and Golurk both flew around Moltres and then alongside Nixon's ship, allowing Matt and Bunny the range to jump aboard, the former with Nekou still in his arms. Their feet thumped on the wooden deck of the ship as they landed, and when Matt set Nekou down, her boots tapped on the surface as well.
As would be expected, Nixon's guards poured out onto the deck almost immediately. The lead soldier, now commanding a Magmortar, took the head of the group; once again, he sensed weakness in his foes and was ready to move in for the kill.
"You three are fools to come back here," he taunted, while Sally, Golurk, Sky and Reuniclus fought with Moltres nearby. "You deserve congratulations for making it past Moltres, however temporarily, but now that you're here, it's far too late. When you are defeated, there will be no escape this time."
Matt readied the Dusk Ball Tanya occupied in preparation for a fight, but he was stopped by Bunny, who had a Poké Ball of her own out.
"Matt, you have bigger fish to fry. Go on ahead with Nekou. I have a score to settle with this guy."
"Are you sure?"
This question was not answered by Bunny, but by Nekou instead. "You heard her! Let's get moving!"
Nekou seized Matt's arm and pulled him off, past the guards and through the doors they had just exited from. Bunny and the leader of the soldiers were left to duel with neither side having any interference.
"For a prisoner, you're quite feisty. Do you really think you can overcome me with your power? If you surrender now, I'll spare your life. In fact, I think Colonel Nixon will rather fancy you, so perhaps he will make you one of his consorts when he becomes ruler of this land."
To express her sheer disgust, Bunny gritted her teeth. "Yeah right. I would much rather die than become the consort of a man like that. And what did you say about my power? There's something you don't know on that subject… Kayla, come out!"
It wasn't Balin the Ninetales that Bunny decided to call upon. Instead, it was a mostly-light-pink, weasel-like Pokémon about four and a half feet in height. A long, thin tail extended from her body, and whiskers bookended her mouth.
"Miiiiiennn!" Kayla cried skyward, adopting a battle-ready stance and attempting to stare Magmortar down.
"That thing?" laughed the lead soldier, instigating a round of hearty laughter amongst his men. "Such a creature will stand no chance against my greatest weapon!"
"Underestimating my Mienshao will be your last mistake. Kayla, use Bounce! Let's go!"
Using her strong, blue-colored legs, Kayla sprang into the air, immediately gaining at least fifteen feet of altitude over Magmortar.
"Just back up, Magmortar. Don't let it hit you."
Magmortar followed its master's instruction, taking several steps back to ensure that when Kayla came down, she would not do so on its head.
"Oh, really? That's the best you've got?" Bunny's smirk suggested that she had many more tricks up her sleeve, and in fact, she did. "Use the Bounce to transition into a Hi Jump Kick!"
When Kayla landed just in front of Magmortar, she immediately used the force to propel herself back upward again, nailing Magmortar square in the chest with her knee. The rotund Fire-type was seriously wounded by taking this hit, reeling back and nearly completely falling over.
"Hit that worthless thing with Flame Burst!"
Recovering, Magmortar retracted its claws into its arms, then discharged a fireball from each of its newly-formed cannons. The fiery flash this created briefly enveloped Kayla, singeing her fur; however, she weathered it with surprising fortitude.
While Bunny staked her freedom on her duel with the lead soldier, Matt and Nekou were rushing through the now-empty halls of the below-decks area towards Nixon's office. The corridors now had a rather unsettling atmosphere once they were devoid of people.
There were no words exchanged between the two as they made their trek. First and foremost in both their minds was reaching the source of the revolution and defeating him as quickly as possible. Nekou was still nervously eating the pastries, but besides that, their thoughts were focused.
It didn't take them long to find Nixon's office, but there was still one possibility they hadn't factored in – standing in front of the door, blocking it, was Gideon. Though his plans to acquire the Life Orb were all but ruined, he still thought he could salvage the pieces of what started out as a simple heist against his former employers.
"So you two come at long last, huh? You know, it doesn't surprise me that the two of you would be drawn together. After all, the allure of history is strong…"
"Gideon, shut the fuck up already," Nekou blurted out, surprising Matt with her bluntness. "Do you even have a point?"
"My point is that you two are on the wrong side of history! Look, can't you tell that? The temporal plane has already corrected your efforts to deviate the timeline from the existing outcome!"
"And why do you not understand that your actions are illogical?" Nekou wouldn't even let Matt have an opportunity to talk despite the fact that he clearly wanted to. "You should be on our side, we're the ones trying to go back to our proper time! You could end up trapped here!"
"That's a good point. I'm not going home without something, though, so I'll settle for that Life Orb you've got!"
"How do you even know that I had that?" A second later, Matt realized the answer. "Nixon must have told you I had it, I guess. Oh well… either way, I haven't got it anymore. You're out of luck."
"Why, you… Porygon, go!"
Now clearly angered, Gideon sent out his Porygon in an attempt to confront Matt and Nekou. Once again, Matt was prepared to battle, but this time Nekou blocked him.
"The one you have to fight is just ahead," she encouraged, actually being genuine this time. "Gideon is small-time. I'll take him out."
"If you're sure…"
"Just go!" With that, Nekou shoved Matt forward, forcing him past Gideon and through Nixon's door. Now alone with Gideon, Nekou stretched out her arms, opened a Poké Ball and said, "Marie, come on out. It's your turn to battle."
Marie jumped out of the ball in a flash of light and piped, "Sneasel, snea!"
"As tiny a runt as ever," Gideon uttered bitterly as he looked down on Marie. "You won't be ruining me ever again. Porygon, Tri-Attack!"
"Don't get so cocky! Marie, smack him down with Ice Beam!"
From her mouth, Marie breathed a focused beam of freezing air, while Porygon created an energy field of electricity, fire and ice. Both attacks met halfway between their respective users, creating a rather significant shock wave.
Inside the office, Matt finally found himself face-to-face with the man responsible for the attempt to destroy Argyros's history, Colonel Nixon. Nixon was no longer watching the war outside or the ongoing clash between the four heroic Pokémon and Moltres; instead, he was calmly standing in front of his desk, awaiting Matt's arrival.
"You…" Matt growled, "…do you know what you've done?"
"I am going to remove a tyrant from power," Nixon rationalized, apparently believing that this actually made sense. "Caitlin XVI represents the downfall of the moral integrity of this nation and the lethargy the infiltration of the Tenganists into her government has created toward that greatest of all institutions, war. Without war we could not expand, without war, the world's boundaries would never be pushed! Can you not see this simple truth?"
"What I see is a sad, jealous man who desires power only for himself," Matt countered. "The Tenganists are not a warlike people, but the battle unfolding outside proves that they are not afraid to fight. As this world moves forward into a future you cannot imagine, the usefulness of war becomes less and less. Men like you will soon be left behind."
"War will always be an integral part of any nation. It is a shame you cannot see this. Once upon a time, this country had a backbone and stood for something. By controlling as much land as possible, we would be able to ensure that morality is never ignored. Yes, the morals of having some backbone and taking what is rightfully yours… however, it would take a courageous leader to do what is right and invade the country of Sinnoh to the north. The Order of Illusion, under my rule, will do what Caitlin XVI refuses to do and assert the moral dominance of the Tohjo Continent. It is truly a shame you cannot see the nobility of what I aim to do. So be it."
Nixon reached into his cape and slowly drew his well-polished saber from it. In response, Matt activated the blades in both of his arms. The two stared for what seemed like an eternity before rushing each other, with metal clashing against metal in the middle of the office in a shower of sparks.
The battle pitting Sally, Reuniclus, Sky and Golurk against Moltres raged on in the sky outside. Zerossen was observing the clash from afar in the relative safety of his zeppelin, but just because he was safe did not mean the situation was any less dangerous overall.
The four Pokémon allied with the heroes were working together to confuse Moltres by flying all around it in different directions. This strategy succeeded for a time, but Moltres was beginning to learn about its surroundings, and was picking up on the fact that Golurk was the slowest-moving of the four.
Turning its head upward to face the golem, Moltres roared and jettisoned yet another Fire Blast from its beak. Golurk's right arm got caught up in the flames, and it groaned mechanically due to the burning that consumed its limb, singing it to match Golurk's earlier wounds.
That attack Moltres took, however, also opened the opportunity that the other three Pokémon needed. Simultaneously, Sally, Reuniclus and Sky barraged it with Hydro Pump, Psyshock and Thunderbolt, creating a blend that resulted in a forceful blast.
Down on the ground, Olivia, Minccino and Roselia were engrossed in their own struggle for survival. Using Aqua Tail, Minccino managed to cut down an illusionary Typhlosion and two Marowak, creating a temporary lull in the onslaught of the illusion soldiers that allowed Olivia to assess her situation.
She had long since lost Althea within the chaos of human soldiers and Pokémon warriors; the temple guardian was still viciously cutting down illusions with her sword but Olivia had no way to know this. With Zerossen's men providing some guardianship for her, Olivia had time to look up into the sky, and she finally spotted Moltres locked in its own battle.
"Moltres, the Legendary Pokémon?" she exclaimed, her eyes widening as shadows overtook her face. "This is bad… if those four can't hold Moltres in check and it gets down here, there's no way we can win!"
Suddenly, an illusionary Drapion appeared before Olivia and raised its claws to strike her. Minccino and Roselia prepared to fight back, but the leader of Zerossen's troops appeared on his Rapidash's back and had it gore the Drapion with its horn, dispelling the illusion.
"Don't lose track of the battle here!" warned the soldier. "We still don't have an advantage!"
"Right, of course…" An illusionary Grovyle drew near to Olivia from outside of Rapidash's range, prompting Olivia to defend herself by calling, "Roselia, Sludge Bomb!"
Rapidash started to turn, but well before it had the chance to, Olivia's Roselia had struck the Grovyle back with a spray of sludge from her brightly-colored flower arms.
The air near Nixon's ship lit up with the many attacks flying between the combatants in the battle with Moltres. However, with the fight unfolding on the deck of the ship itself, none of the people currently aboard were paying any attention.
While Kayla, Bunny's Mienshao, possessed a slender body and the speed to go along with it, her enemy's Magmortar was – despite its girth and slow movements – holding its own. The fiery pools it was able to create with its flamethrower arms made Kayla's nimbleness even more important, if she was to avoid getting burned.
"I've had enough of dealing with you already. Kayla, go in and finish this up with Drain Punch!"
"Do you really think that you can win? If it's close-quarters battle you want, I'll give it to you. ThunderPunch!"
Kayla and Magmortar rushed each other; the whip-like fur around her arms was glowing a deep red color, while Magmortar's arms were encased in crackling electricity. They exchanged several deflected blows before they finally met in one final decisive clash. With all the energy between the two, a blinding flash was generated by the meeting of their moves.
Inside the commander's office of the ship, Matt was locked in his own grueling match with Nixon. The two had been fighting relentlessly, and between Nixon's saber and the two arm blades Matt possessed, they were evenly matched.
"You're not bad with that thing," Matt admitted as they broke apart from an exchange. "Your footwork is impressive, too."
"And I'll say that for someone who plainly has no swordsmanship skill, your running on pure instinct is still dangerous." Nixon continued his rambling even as the two foes drew near in combat again. "Your technique is raw and unfocused, though. It's plain to me that you have absolutely no idea what you're actually trying to do."
"But do I need an idea to do THIS?"
Catching Nixon completely off-guard, Matt brought both of his arm blades together so he could strike twice at once in a cutting motion. The force of such a double hit pushed the saber out of Nixon's hand, sending it clattering to the floor. Nixon stood in wide-eyed shock as he felt one of Matt's blades within inches of his neck.
"Now, Nixon, I'd say you were always on the wrong side of history. Order of Illusion? A theocratic state that replaces any type of normal government? Like I said, your time is up. People like you are anachronisms in the modern world." Retracting the blades back into his arms, Matt finished by saying, "Call off your rebellion and help destroy Zoroark, and I might have a reason to spare you."
It wasn't that he actually expected Nixon to cooperate, but when the colonel delivered a sinister chuckle, Matt realized that things somehow weren't over.
"Really? That is all you have to tell me? What rot!" Reaching up to his right side, Nixon undid the lock on the chain that held his shoulderplate in place. "You have not yet seen the half of my true power!"
With the chain unlocked, Nixon's shoulderplate separated into two halves and crashed to the floor, taking his cape down with it. Almost immediately, Matt jumped back and gasped at what he saw underneath.
Nixon did in fact actually have a left arm, but it was artificial, a crudely put together mess of metal, gears and tubing. The pipes that stuck out of his shoulderplate were actually attached to a water tank mounted to body armor affixed to him, meant to vent the steam produced from using the mechanical arm.
"You… you're just…" Matt was truly left at a loss for words. Of all the things he thought he'd find in the past, a man with mechanical parts just like himself was not one, even if Nixon's arm was grotesque and unsophisticated compared to the advanced cybernetics Matt possessed.
"Just like you?" Nixon finished, anger clouding his face and voice. "Now you see… this is what Zerossen did to me! We were fighting rebels together in the Blackthorn District years ago and my real left arm was destroyed, and Bjorn forced me to become this experimental abomination! But, but no… I don't have to force you to understand. Your body is a future version of what I've been made, so you know how it feels."
"But what I also know is that being like this is not an excuse for doing evil things!" Reasoning with Nixon was something Matt should have known was hopeless, but he attempted to do it anyway. "If revenge against General Zerossen is what you're after, then do it some other way! This doesn't have to happen!"
"Revenge? No, no, no, not at all… you see, this curse is actually a blessing in combat, because it grants me enhanced strength and other abilities… or maybe I should just show you?"
Nixon transitioned from talking to moving so quickly that Matt barely had time to react. Using his mechanical left arm, he seized a large axe that was leaning against the wall and hefted it into the air, causing steam to vent from the pipes on his shoulder. With stunning speed he lashed forward and swung the axe down, leaving Matt barely able to escape.
"You have got to be kidding me!" he gasped while dodging Nixon's relentless attack. He finally managed to get his arm blades back out and mount a defensive counterattack, but he was in a losing battle. Nixon's strikes were now more powerful than ever since he had a bigger weapon, and now Matt's lack of skill was coming back to haunt him.
The strength granted by his steam-powered arm gave Nixon the power he needed to attack relentlessly, swinging his axe with little effort or exertion. Matt could only use his blades to keep the axe from actually making contact with his body, but the unstoppable bloodlust Nixon was assaulting him with was pushing him back further and further.
"You will not stop my rise to power, demon from the future!" Nixon insanely raved, his voice hissing and making him sound like a rabid animal. "You die here!"
There was one factor Nixon had forgotten about, however – the ongoing battle between Sally, Reuniclus, Sky and Golurk against Moltres. Despite being a Legendary Pokémon, Moltres was nearly completely exhausted from having to fight against four opponents at once.
All the energy Moltres had left went into one last Ominous Wind, which washed over all four of its opponents but affected them little. More importantly, though, it kept going and struck Nixon's ship, rocking the vessel violently.
Inside his office, this sent Nixon reeling, causing him to nearly lose his footing under the top-heavy weight of his axe. Matt took advantage of this brief opening and delivered a forceful strike that knocked down the weapon, once again leaving Nixon unarmed.
But if Matt thought he had finally won, that emotion wouldn't last long. With no other choice, Nixon simply thrust his mechanical arm forward, seizing and lifting Matt by the neck of his shirt.
"Pitiful fool. No matter what you do, you cannot stop me. Even without a weapon, I still have one more ability up my sleeve. The water used to power my arm has another purpose. My arm is designed to be able to superheat it and then discharge it through the tubes in my fingers, which gives me the power to use deadly-hot blasts of water as a weapon. Have you got any last words before you die?"
"I've got something to say. Don't leave your fucking gear shafts open!"
Neither Matt nor Nixon expected that Nekou had made her way into the office at some point, meaning she'd beaten Gideon. Now with her knife in her hand, she screamed viciously, sprinted forward, somersaulted over Matt and jammed the knife downward into the exposed gears connecting Nixon's arm to his shoulder. A shock was sent through Nixon's whole body that caused him to let go of Matt, but Nekou wasn't done.
Whipping around, she screeched in a loud, bloodthirsty way, "Eat shit!"
In a surprisingly decisive move, Nekou simply plunged her knife down through Nixon's elbow, striking the weakest, most exposed part of his entire prosthetic limb. He was horrified when she cut it off at the midway point, and the sick feeling that overwhelmed him caused him to fall to the ground. The severed piece of his artificial arm hit the floor with a clang next to him, and a mixture of water and blood slowly trickled out of his shoulder.
"The… the fuck was that?" Matt gasped, trying to catch his breath. He stumbled to his feet, not paying attention to Nixon's groaning, and looked around. "Nekou?"
"I'm over here." Somehow, Nekou had already returned to the doorway to retrieve her basket of pastries, which she'd left behind. "Before you ask, Gideon decided he couldn't take me anymore and had his Electrode use Teleport to escape. Marie just made that quick work of him."
"And she's back in her ball, I guess?"
"Of course. Nothing but the safest for her."
Turning back around to face the defeated and humiliated Nixon, Matt said with almost a sad tone, "Did you really have to cut him up, though?"
"He was going to kill you!" Nekou angrily yelled in response. "I don't know what you think, but in my view, when someone threatens you, you stop them from doing it!"
"It doesn't really matter if he killed me though…"
"Is this about Agenta? You couldn't do anything more to save her. You did your best and fate just had something else in the cards. You can't just go trying to get yourself killed because of your regrets."
"I guess that's true… we need to get back to General Zerossen, either way. Where's Bunny?"
It wasn't hard for Matt to find what Nekou wanted him to see – there was a large explosion fading from the air outside Nixon's wide window, and Moltres plummeted down from it. The legendary Fire-and-Flying-type had finally been subdued, leaving only Zoroark and his illusion soldiers to be dealt with. Just then, Golurk flew past the window, and Matt could see Bunny riding on its back.
"So she beat the guards, eh?" Matt put his hands in his pockets and walked slowly in the direction of the window. "I knew she had it in her. She's someone you can really count on when the chips are down."
"You… you think this is over?" Nixon sputtered, rolling over on the floor. He'd lost enough blood to make him dizzy, and he could not see Matt clearly. He coughed and then continued, "Kill me if you so wish. It won't matter. I will be replaced within the hierarchy of the Order of Illusion, and there are more people who want to see Caitlin XVI overthrown. My dreams will not die, so do it! Finish me o…"
Nekou delivered a swift kick to Nixon's face, interrupting him and shoving him across the floor of the office. "I am really fucking sick of having to tell people to shut up today," she said in disgust as she joined Matt at the window.
"No, Nixon, I won't kill you," Matt declared calmly, activating the blade in his right arm. "At least, I won't directly kill you. I hope you survive the crash though."
With that, Matt cut down the window itself, opening Nixon's office to the violence of the winds outside. Without hesitating Matt then retracted the blade and took Nekou in his arms despite her protestations, then he simply jumped out of the ship.
The two were not in freefall for long. Hearing her trainer's call, Sally flew at near jet-speed to catch them, and successfully did so.
Unlike Matt, who did not seem rattled in the least by the risky maneuver, Nekou was trembling slightly. "I don't feel like dying out here, you know!" she spat, before her face suddenly turned red again. "Well, it was kind of badass, I'll admit…"
"Yeah, whatever, thanks." Matt's mind was elsewhere, and it was made clear where when he guided Sally to turn back around in the direction of Nixon's ship. "Hit the side of the ship with Flamethrower!"
He didn't want Sally to aim for Nixon's office, so she didn't. She instead targeted directly in the middle of the ship's side, and hit the ship with a jet of fire from her mouth that took to the wood immediately. With a hole burning into its side, the ship destabilized and started to descend as the mechanism keeping it airborne began to fail.
"General Zerossen, there's been a major development!"
"What is it, boy?" Zerossen grunted as he rushed back toward the head of his craft as fast as his aged, cane-reliant legs could carry him.
"Moltres is down, sir! Matt and his team have gained the upper… wait, is that what it looks like? Nixon's airship is going down! They've won!"
"We're not out of the woods yet…" corrected the general, now peering through his spyglass. "Nixon's already released a monster, and those illusion soldiers Zoroark created aren't going to defeat themselves."
"Our forces on the ground are currently engaged with the illusion army, with some reports of success thus far, sir. Althea and Olivia are also aiding our side in battle."
"Good, good." Suddenly noticing something about the sky around his zeppelin, Zerossen questioned, "Where did Matt, the others and their Pokémon all go?"
As if to answer Zerossen's question, the doors on both sides of the passenger car opened nearly simultaneously, with Sally dropping Matt and Nekou at one side while Bunny disembarked from Golurk on the other. Matt hastily made his way to the table where Agenta was lying, followed by Zerossen and the others.
"Agenta? Are you awake?"
Agenta was extremely weak, and her vision was becoming more and more cloudy with each moment. Her body felt like it was in the final stages of shutting down, and the damage Zoroark had inflicted on her soul itself caused her to have to struggle to even hold onto who and what she was.
"I must apologize," mumbled Zerossen, a wave of sadness softening the usually-hardened military man. "I'm not a healer, I'm a warrior and I've always been that way. I couldn't do anything to help her."
Nekou and Bunny could only join Zerossen in looking on with shared grief as Matt slammed his fists down on the table and leaned over it.
"Damn it! None of this had to happen! None of it!" In his anguish, Matt's hands were shaking and a line of tears dripped down from his uncovered right eye. He was truly ashamed of himself and could think of noone else to blame, as he believed he possessed all the tools to save Agenta and the town but instead failed like he did with Eleanor. "Nixon didn't have to do this… and as someone from the future, I should have known how everything was going to turn out so I could fix it! This is all my fault! I didn't know enough of the history of Argyros to change a thing!"
Matt's ranting was suddenly interrupted when he felt a soft hand touching his face, even through the scruffy five-o-clock shadow that covered everything below his nose. "Pl…please…" Agenta said quietly, pushing all her strength into one last chance to make an important statement. "Fate… this was… fated to... happen. Fighting fate is… useless… Don't fight fate… control it. Make it... your own. And don't let… yourself be… consumed by vengeance for…"
She never had the chance to finish.
Abruptly, she stiffened up and opened her eyes as widely as possible. All the color drained from her skin, and her eyes became blank. Finally, a black shadow lifted up out of her body, and she was still.
Matt bent over onto the table, completely unable to support his own weight any longer. Nekou, Bunny and Zerossen all felt helpless to do anything but watch in misery. Each of them felt like they'd failed in their own ways, as they each had a part in the failed efforts to save Agenta.
"It really is true what they say about history," Matt lamented into the table, his voice shaking. "If you don't learn from it, you're doomed to repeat it. I thought I had learned from my failures in La Ciudad Dorada, but even now, I still couldn't do anything! If I knew more about the legends of Argyros, I wouldn't have come up with a plan that just would result in Agenta dying anyway!"
"You can't blame yourself for that," Nekou said, showing genuine compassion. "I don't think Althea and Agenta even knew exactly how the tomb's designs worked. You really did everything you possibly could."
"I'm not done doing that…" As Matt raised his head, he clenched his hands into fists. A look of sheer rage covered his face. "There's still one being left. If I do not finish this myself, Agenta will have no justice."
Noticing just how angry Matt looked made Bunny become deeply worried. "Are you about to do something you're going to regret?"
"There is nothing like that left that concerns me," he replied, turning and slowly making his way back to the door. "I am defined by what happens to those around me. What happens to me is meaningless."
"But that line of thinking will only create a loop of hatred!" Nekou desperately tried to reason.
"I don't care. I only live now to seek justice and the truth."
Breaking into a run, Matt passed through the open door and jumped cleanly over the railing, sending himself into the open air once more. He then called out to Sally, who promptly flew back around and caught him once again. Together, they flew away from the zeppelin and towards where the war with the illusion soldiers continued to unfold.
The air was thick with a peculiar scent that Matt quickly identified as the smell of the wood forming Nixon's ship burning. He watched as the vessel lost all of its altitude and hit the ground near the edge of the lake, at which point the entire back end exploded and erupted in more flames, while the ship tilted over to the right.
Satisfied that Nixon was sufficiently finished off, Matt refocused his attention on the battle, where he could see that between the efforts of Zerossen's soldiers, Olivia's battling and Althea's vicious swordsmanship, a rather significant number of the illusion soldiers had already been defeated.
Deciding that it was time for the war to end, he guided Sally down so she would hover right over the battle. "Listen to me! Your enemies, they're all illusions summoned forth by Zoroark! Strike them down without hesitation, they aren't even real living beings!"
Though the fight didn't stop, the soldiers, Olivia and especially Althea doubled their attacks upon receiving this somewhat-surprising information. The illusion soldiers were unable to keep up with the now-unrestrained counterattack being leveled against them, and their numbers started to thin even further. This effort was contributed to further by Matt, who rode on Sally above the battle having her snipe targets with Flamethrower and Hydro Pump.
Extremely dizzy from the loss of blood through the wound on his shoulder, Nixon stumbled out of the hole that was once his elegant bay window. He could barely drag himself a few feet from the wreckage of his once-proud skyship before he collapsed from weakness.
However, he soon heard footsteps, and pulled himself up. Standing over him, of all people, was General Bjorn Zerossen.
"Damn you, Bjorn…" Nixon groaned. "You haven't stopped anything, though… this rebellion has just begun…"
"I fully realize that the revolution has just begun. My era has not yet begun, however, and it is for that reason that you must be eliminated from it now."
The voice, coupled with the fact that the supposed Zerossen's eyes suddenly took on an evil red glow, made Nixon realize that it was actually Zoroark in the guise of his superior officer. He widened his eyes as the illusion of Zerossen's arm gave way to Zoroark's claw, but that was also the last thing he would ever see.
With one swift, decisive motion, Zoroark slashed Nixon's throat, mortally wounding him.
The evil Pokémon then reverted back into his original form and ran back towards Argyros Town itself.
Within minutes, the illusion army was pared down to its last few soldiers – one Typhlosion, one Shiftry, one Scizor and one Breloom were all that remained. Zerossen's soldiers made quick work of the Typhlosion using their Rapidash, Raticate and Exploud, while Olivia faced off against Shiftry.
Althea, meanwhile, was taking on both Scizor and Breloom at once. She was holding her own against them, but she was also becoming tired from fighting so hard for so long. She eventually managed to overpower and impale the illusionary Scizor after dueling it for some time, but Breloom tried to move in on her before she could even reset her attention to it. Luckily, Matt and Sally flew by and evaporated it with one of Sally's Flamethrowers just in time.
"Thank you, Matt…" Althea gasped, her body's limits finally catching up with her. She quickly regained her composure, however, and moved right to the subject that was on both of their minds. "Is it as I suspect? Agenta is…"
"I'm sorry…" Matt answered, confirming her suspicions. However, he flew off to Olivia's battle before she could say anything more.
"Agenta, if you can hear me right now, I love you," Althea said to someone who was not even there. "I will see to it that we live on, in your name and for your honor."
Having nothing more to do, Althea started running in the direction of Nixon's wrecked ship, intending to see to it once and for all that he had paid for his actions.
Olivia, meanwhile, was rapidly gaining the upper hand on Shiftry. "Minccino, use Tail Slap! And then, Roselia, finish it off with Sludge Bomb!"
Using some of her boundless energy, Minccino leapt up into the illusionary Shiftry's face and whipped it three times in a cyclical motion. Once Minccino was out of the way, Roselia followed up on her attack by shooting sludge into the Shiftry's face, and it was this blow that overwhelmed it. The final illusion faded away, and the battle was over.
"Minccino, Roselia, you two did it!" Olivia squealed joyously, embracing her two beloved Pokémon. "It's thanks to you that we got through that!"
Minccino and Roselia both squeaked in response to this; they loved the affection their trainer was pouring upon them. Both hoped that they would receive rewards for their hard work – Minccino wanted nothing more than to have her fur brushed, hopefully for hours, while Roselia desired a warm bath in pure water.
Just then, Matt slowly but stiffly walked up while Olivia was thanking her Pokémon, clapping his hands. "Well done, Olivia!" He was plainly proud of her, and internally, he was hoping that Rich would be too. "You played a precious part in putting an end to this all."
"Of course I did!" Olivia was proud of herself, too, and made no effort to hide it. "This was nothing but good practice."
"I wouldn't doubt it. Listen, though, when you were battling, were any of the Pokémon actually real and not illusionary?"
"I don't understand what you mean," the girl answered, tightening her face in confusion. "But all of them went away the same way. They took a few hits and faded."
Matt realized immediately what this meant – Zoroark was not among his army, he was elsewhere. Though disgusted and upset by this news, he made his best effort to not be combative towards Olivia as he called Sally back to resume the search.
"Where are you going?" Olivia called out, suddenly concerned that something worse than the battle was about to happen.
"Don't worry about me," Matt replied from his vantage point atop Sally's back. "I'm going to put an end to the source of the whole thing that led to this war in the first place."
Althea, running on a second adrenaline rush, arrived at the wreckage of Nixon's ship relatively quickly. Right away, she found Nixon's body, with the three slash marks across his neck plainly visible.
"Justice has been done, then," Althea said while looking over the body of the man who caused her so much pain. "You took the lives of the people I loved, so the creature you desired to free so strongly ended your own life. Justice has been served."
Althea then noticed the trail of paw prints leading away from Nixon's body, which made clear where Zoroark had gone.
Zoroark ran into the town square and stopped, looking around in haste. He could sense that his illusion army was no more, and was smart enough to know that that meant he was in trouble. Resolving to do as much damage as he could if he was to be defeated, Zoroark took aim at one of the buildings in the square and used Flamethrower, shooting flames out of his mouth that blew away an entire piece of the structure's corner.
"This land will perish no matter my fate! My vengeance cannot be esca…"
A different Flamethrower attack suddenly came pouring down from the sky, cutting off Zoroark's declaration and forcing him to jump back. Despite his great power, he was shaken by the near miss.
"Who did that? Show yourself!"
"ZOROARK! There you are!"
Out of the blue, and far faster than Zoroark could process it, someone jumped from the sky and tackled him. It was Matt, and after rolling off of Zoroark's body, he simply picked up the evil Pokémon and, consumed with rage, threw him across the town square into a stone wall.
"You vicious animal!" Zoroark coughed as he stood back up. "Wait… you're that one who was with Nixon when I destroyed that girl's soul! No wonder you're after me… it's vengeance, isn't it?"
"So what if it is?" Matt growled, using every ounce of restraint he had left to just listen to Zoroark at all.
"You humans really are more like me than you want to believe. Attack me if you wish. Soon enough you will be consumed by the thirst for vengeance and become exactly like me!"
Matt rushed at Zoroark with his arm cocked back for a powerful punch, but Zoroark swiftly jumped out of the way, causing him to just punch the wall. After landing behind him, Zoroark sent a Flamethrower Matt's way, only for it to be intercepted by Sally, who protected her trainer by blocking the attack with Hydro Pump while circling overhead.
"Hold still! You can't escape me now!"
In a flash, Matt turned around and rushed again, this time successfully punching Zoroark square in the face. After falling back several feet from the blow, however, Zoroark laughed.
"You're already becoming an animal, just like me. Keep going! Once you go down this path you will NEVER escape! Although… your hatred for me is quite delicious… I think I might want to have that for myself…"
A white glow enveloped Zoroark's body as he began to transform again. His silhouette changed shape from that of a Zoroark to that of Matt himself, but there was then an unexpected turn of events – the glow shattered, leaving Zoroark still as himself.
Matt tackled Zoroark again, this time pinning him to the ground with one hand on his neck. "You are finished! Never again will you terrorize anyone!"
"Something I don't see on the surface, making my transformation useless?" Zoroark choked in a wide-eyed panic. "Just what are you?"
In a last-ditch defense, Zoroark pulled in enough energy to create a small Night Daze explosion, throwing Matt off.
However, as soon as he stood up, the sound of a woman's primal scream echoed through the entire square. Althea suddenly appeared, with her sword leveled for a charging attack, sprinting straight at Zoroark. He wasn't in the right frame of mind yet to get back to such rapid combat, thus rendering himself unable to escape. Althea simply ran the blade right through Zoroark's left shoulder and kept on charging, eventually pinning him to a wall.
"That pain you feel is just a fraction of what you did to my daughter!" declared the maiden. Her three Sigilyph soon joined her, and she then added, "And the pain you're about to feel is a fraction of what you've done to my people for so many thousands of years!"
Indeed, paralyzing pain was radiating through Zoroark's body, rendering him unable to move his limbs even though he struggled to do so. It was his turn to gaze upon his enemies with hate in his eyes, and with not enough strength to create another Night Daze, his last option was to try and open his trembling mouth and attack with Flamethrower.
The resulting stream of fire was pathetically weak, and Althea easily jumped back to get out of the way. As she raised her right arm upward, Matt, watching from the sidelines, noticed something that gave him pause – the look Althea wore, her face full of righteous, fearless determination, exactly matched the expression Agenta faced Zoroark with in the moments leading to the vicious assault.
He then realized exactly what she was about to do. Althea's sword was still pinning Zoroark into the wall and protruding from his body – like a lightning rod.
"Sigilyph, Thunder Wave!"
All three of Althea's Sigilyph followed her command and released electricity from their bodies. The sword acted as a lightning rod, just like Matt thought, and focused all of the energy into Zoroark's body. Thrashing and screeching in agony, Zoroark was helpless to fight back, a position he was nowhere near used to being in.
However, even when the Thunder Wave attacks ceased, Althea wasn't finished. "Do you really think that that was it? Thousands of years of terror on my people… I'm not playing games with you, Zoroark! You are going to feel exactly what my daughter did in her final moments when she faced you! Sigilyph, Miracle Eye!"
One of Althea's three Sigilyph moved forward and locked its uppermost eye's gaze onto Zoroark. This caused the image of an eye to open on Zoroark's chest, and as soon as he noticed this, he coughed up some blood and looked back up with sheer horror in his own eyes. He knew what was coming next.
"Now you understand, don't you?" Althea roared, somehow maintaining her composure even with all the anger she had. "The innermost feeling of having nothing you can do to stop what's about to happen to you… that's what she felt! Just like how I want to weep right now, and what she felt even though she never truly feared you… I've had enough of even looking at you. Sigilyph, finish Zoroark off! Psyshock, now!"
All three Sigilyph aimed their silver Psyshock bolts at the handle of the sword, which funneled all their power straight into Zoroark's wounds. As his body felt like it was being ripped apart, he screamed but quickly gave in, and tilted his head, his eyes rolling back.
The trio of Sigilyph ceased their attack, but Zoroark was still alive. Althea considered finishing him off, but in the time she took to ponder her next move, a red beam – similar to that of a Poké Ball's recalling beam - burst down from the sky. Zoroark was engulfed in it and converted into energy, then pulled skyward, where Zerossen's zeppelin came into view. Attached to the bottom of the passenger car was the capsule that Zoroark would be sealed within in the future. Zoroark was pulled into the capsule's confines before it closed up, capturing the beast forevermore.
"I had a secret weapon too!" Zerossen beamed over his loudspeaker. "This device, which is called the Lock Capsule, was created by my group specifically for the purpose of permanently containing the defeated Zoroark. The scourge of Zoroark will never again trouble the world!"
Matt found all the technical information fascinating and wanted to ask Zerossen about it right away, but he had something much more immediate to think of when he heard Althea fall to her knees.
"It's over…" she whispered, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. "Agenta, wherever you are, please be in peace now. It's finally over…"
"Yes, it is over," Matt repeated, pulling the brim of his hat down to shade over his face. "Nothing more can go wrong…"
END of CHAPTER 3.