nandosagi: (Minene Uryuu)
[personal profile] nandosagi

CHAPTER 3: The Price of Victory

-:-

A window headed by the text "Secure Video Stream" prominently displayed on Giovanni's computer. Inside the square was a shoulders-up shot of an elderly man whose white hair, lab coat and blue undershirt were all unkempt.

"Gabriel," Giovanni whispered, filled with a mix of anger and confusion that Stacia could detect while standing next to him, "explain to me what just happened."

"It appears from observing the readings that a thermal plume has been released throughout Whitegold City," the old scientist stated with great care. While he spoke, his mouth barely became visible beneath his thick white moustache. "The measured water temperature and air humidity have already spiked drastically and are not showing signs of imminent reduction. Should this trend continue, the possibility of a severe storm developing is highly likely."

Giovanni clasped his hands together and rested his head against them. He stared at the computer screen, carefully considering every bit of information he'd received. Gabriel, meanwhile, just stared back at his boss through the video link in uncomfortable silence.

Something wasn't adding up to Giovanni. He kept trying to reconcile the appearance of Darkrai with the sudden thermal plume, and no scenario he considered made much sense. That is, there was no sensible scenario until something clicked and prompted him to reopen the stock market window.

When he saw the roughly thousand-point plunges on just about every non-commodity stock, and the similarly-sized increases on those few precious investments, Giovanni slammed his hands down onto his desk in anger. Both Stacia and Gabriel visibly jumped from the crash.

"It's an act of economic terrorism," he growled. "With just an investment in the Icirrus Mineral Collection, which right now has gone from 322 points to 1248 points, you could take a ten thousand dollar initial investment and turn it into two million, eight hundred and seventy six thousand dollars. Someone who knew that the disaster in Whitegold City would happen could have predicted this chaotic shift on the world's markets and prepared for it."

"Sir," Stacia cautiously ventured, "Are you actually suggesting…?"

"Of course, what else would I be suggesting? The circumstances are too perfect. Liam Everton may have engineered the events in Whitegold City so he could make untold millions of dollars cheating the stock market. Well, I for one will not stand for it. Gabriel, continue monitoring the weather conditions in and around Whitegold City for any developments."

"Of course, yes, sir!" Having received his instructions, Gabriel disappeared from the screen.

As Giovanni reclined in his chair and wiped a bead of sweat from his brow, Stacia shakily asked him, "Is… there anything I should do, sir?"

"Did you contact the governor's office yet?"

"I couldn't get through, sir…"

"Then why haven't you kept on trying?" he thundered. The last thing Giovanni wanted to deal with at the time was foolishness from his followers, even if it was from Stacia, his most competent. "Go call them again! This is a red-phone level emergency! Someone in a position of power has to try to get the trading day suspended before Liam Everton completely wrecks the global financial system!"

"Right away, sir!" Stacia flinched. She then turned and quickly made her way out of Giovanni's office, walking swiftly on the red rug.

-:-

A sense of defeat hung over the passengers of the hovercraft as it cut through the murky waters of Whitegold City's swamp.

Lying in Olivia's lap, Victini breathed heavily. It was badly injured from Everton's vicious attack and could barely move. Olivia and Katorena were trying desperately to tend to it.

"Please hang on, Victini," plead Olivia, "I beg you! Don't die because that mean old man had to do what he did!"

"It needs medicine," Katorena added, turning to the others. "Please, do any of you happen to possess some medicine?"

"I've brought some supplies, so hopefully I've got something that'll work…" As he rooted around in his bag, however, Matt quickly found that he did not, in fact, have anything that fit being called medicine. It was all bottles of water and various snacks, so out of need to choose something, he held up a round, red-and-orange cookie. "I've got this…"

"A Lava Cookie!" Nekou exclaimed. "Ordinarily, if I knew you had a Lava Cookie, I'd already have eaten it, but this time Victini needs it more… so do what has to be done."

"Would you like this, Victini?" Matt asked of the Pokémon while holding the cookie near it.

"Kuticu…" answered Victini with a very weak voice. Taking up the cookie, Victini took tiny, slow bites out of it.

"When we get to my home, I have a Full Restore I can give Victini." Woods did not turn around at all as he spoke, instead opting to stare straight ahead.

Rowena, however, would have none of this. She forced the issue by grabbing Woods by the collar and getting right in his face. "Why should we believe you now when it's your fault Everton has gotten this far?"

Her anger at Woods went deeper than the simplest sense of being sold out to the enemy. That was bad enough. But to Rowena, the relationship between reporter and source was one of the most important things possible, so Woods's actions – leading her on with the bait of a big story, then betraying her for the person she was trying to thwart – infuriated her and made her feel profoundly violated.

"I didn't know that Liam was going to go this far, I swear. I really, truly believed that he had good intentions behind what he was doing. I believed in him and I was naive."

"Why should I trust you?" Rowena screamed, right in Woods's face.

Just as Woods opened his mouth to answer, however, he was cut off. Something impacted the bottom of the hovercraft from beneath the water's surface, throwing it and its passengers onto the bank of the marsh.

"What was that?" Matt frantically looked around, quickly spotting Olivia, Nekou, Bunny, Victini and the others scattered about the small area near the crashed hovercraft. "You guys! Are you all alright?"

"I'm fine!" Olivia called back. "I think we're all fine! But what the hell was that? What hit us?"

A low, guttural croaking sound materialized in the air, as if answering Olivia's question. The voice belonged to the Seismitoad that had been attacked by Darkrai earlier; he was now standing on the marsh bank, staring at Matt rigidly in an almost zombie-like state.

"That Pokémon, what is it?" Matt wondered aloud.

"It's a Seismitoad," Nekou answered. "A Water-and-Ground-type originally from Unova."

"Do you have any Grass-types right now?" Bunny asked of Matt. "Those would be best, because this fight looks unavoidable."

"No, but that tip did help anyway. Ayingott, make your mark!" To battle Seismitoad, Matt sent Ayingott out again. She spread her wings and chirped to announce her presence. "Hurry, use Energy Ball!"

A faint aura appeared around the trees and brush in the area, and Ayingott drew this natural power toward herself and focused it into a single green sphere. Seismitoad's response was slow, so when he spit up a stream of boiling-hot water to try and push it back, it was all but too late. The Energy Ball and Scald attacks pushed against each other for a moment before Energy Ball won out and crashed into Seismitoad.

Strangely, though, despite his visible injuries, Seismitoad did not react much at all. He still stood there and stared.

"Something is not right with that Seismitoad," Katorena pointed out, perhaps stating the obvious. "Why did it not react? And why is it that I cannot sense much of anything from that Pokémon? Usually, I can sense the mood of a Pokémon unless they're sleeping…"

"Wait…" Matt breathed, his eyes widening as the true realization of the situation hit him. "Pink smoke that induces a trance-like state in its victims… a seemingly zombified Pokémon whose mood cannot be sensed, as if it was asleep… this is the Dreamyarn Inceptor!"

"What are you saying?"

"He's saying that Everton is controlling Pokémon like this Seismitoad remotely through their dreams," Bunny explained to Nekou. "He must only have to put them to sleep within range of the machine, and then he can enter their dreams and control their actions!"

"That's right…" Rowena confirmed with noticeable nervousness. "It was always claimed that the Dreamyarn Inceptor was an energy source and I always thought they were lying… but I never expected it to be used for this… Everton could create an entire army of Pokémon to do his bidding without question…"

"This Seismitoad is just a victim, then… I have to save it. Woods, get the hovercraft back in the water while I do this!"

"Good idea, I'll do that…" Woods gestured to Nekou, Bunny and Rowena for help in fulfilling Matt's suggestion.

"Ayingott, use Ice Beam on Seismitoad!"

Flying right above Seismitoad's head, Ayingott focused a concentrated ray of ice onto him; he did not look up or flinch at all. He simply stood eerily still as the freezing energy coursed through his body.

Seismitoad's behavior disturbed not only Matt but also Olivia, who was watching from nearby with Victini in her arms. She called out, "Matt, you can't just stand here and keep hitting it, it's not working!"

"I'd say you're right about that," Matt responded, furrowing his eyebrow. "Maybe I'll just need to put an end to this now. Ayingott, Psychic!"

The blue light that glowed from Ayingott's eyes surrounded Seismitoad, constricting his movements. Matt was satisfied that the Water-and-Ground-type was subdued, so he reached into his back and took out a special Poké Ball printed with a blue wave pattern.

"When everything comes together, the answer becomes clear… Dive Ball, target Seismitoad! Go!"

Right to the end, Seismitoad still didn't flinch, even when the Dive Ball hit him in the forehead. The ball opened and converted Seismitoad into red light, which it then absorbed before closing and falling to the ground.

Several factors were in Matt's favor. The Dive Ball was a special Poké Ball that was designed to capture Pokémon which lived in the water, and because Seismitoad was still sleeping despite being controlled, it was even more susceptible to being captured. Before long, the ball stopped shaking on the ground and gave off a pinging noise to indicate success.

"Well done, Matt!" Woods called out from his hovercraft, which was back in the water and refilled with its passengers. "Hurry, we must get going!"

"I guess I'll have to name you later, then," Matt said to the Dive Ball after picking it up.

A small rumble of thunder sounded in the sky as Matt rushed back to the hovercraft, and just as it pulled away from the bank, rain began to fall.

-:-

"I see…"

Everton was floating on his hoverboard outside the church, with Hydreigon floating nearby. Foster, Baker, Throh and Sawk were all already back inside their truck. On the dashboard-mounted screen, Everton had the Dreamyarn Inceptor control screen open; a window marked with Seismitoad's silhouette was filled with static.

"Captain Everton, what has happened?" Baker's voice came through a speaker on the hoverboard's dashboard.

"Seismitoad responded to the controls of the Dreamyarn Inceptor," Everton replied, with his voice being transmitted back into the truck, "but Matt captured it, and the reception was cut. It appears to be a design flaw in the system."

"We can get to reprogramming that right away," Foster spoke up in suggestion.

"No, it's more important to pursue Victini." The rain, while not heavy, was falling hard enough for Everton to notice. "We're on the clock now. I suspect I know where they will go, but to be sure…" Widening his left eye, Everton called out, "Victory Star!"

The glowing star in the man's eye transformed; it went from a simple pattern to a shimmering, tunnel-like projection in the same shape. When this happened, the sight being transmitted to Everton's mind changed. He now saw a run-down house on the swamp's edge, one that was nearly falling apart but still somehow inhabitable.

Having seen the path to his desired victory, Everton blinked and leaned over onto the control panel of his hoverboard to support himself as he caught his breath.

"Captain Everton, what happened?"

"Baker… the Victory Star has shown me the way to my goal. Come, follow me!"

Everton pulled on the handles that controlled the hoverboard, turning in the direction of the deepest part of the marshland before gliding off. Baker and Foster followed him as closely as possible with their truck.

-:-

The house that Everton saw with the Victory Star was Woods's home. It was as dilapidated as it seemed, but the insides were neat enough, albeit quite dark. Inside was filled with simple living implements, including a bare-bones kitchen, an aged bed on a rusting frame, an old television set that still used rabbit-ear antennae, and various wooden furniture.

Rain fell steadily on the windows as the group took shelter inside the dwelling. While Rowena stared out at the weather, Matt, Olivia, Nekou, Bunny and Katorena all worked to tend to Victini, a task that got much easier when Woods returned to the room with a boxy spray bottle filled with green liquid.

"Here," he said while leaning down to level with the others, "a Full Restore, as promised."

Victini cried lightly when Woods sprayed the substance onto it, as despite it being medicine, it stung Victini's body. However, the pain didn't last long, and Victini quickly began feeling better, even jumping up and beginning to fly around again. Its energy level wasn't back to one hundred percent instantly, but it was an excellent start.

"Tini! Tini!" it squealed in front of Matt.

"What, Victini? What is it?"

"I think that Victini desires one of those confections you gave it earlier," Katorena suggested.

"The Lava Cookie? Of course, that makes sense."

Matt handed over one of the cookies, and Victini flew off to a corner to eat in peace. This prompted Woods to smile halfheartedly, an expression that did not last for long.

"Rowena… please come over here. I'm going to tell everything."

"What do you mean?" Though she was still angry, Rowena was intrigued by Woods's promise, so she followed his request and joined the others with him.

"I'll tell you everything. The true story of why Victini came to the city, the truth about Darkrai and Cresselia, everything."

"How will knowing any of this help us now, though?" Bunny peevishly questioned. As much as she liked history – and indeed, she did want to hear the story – she didn't think it held any relevance to the danger they were currently in.

"Please, I know I haven't done much to earn your trust so far…" Woods nodded to Nekou and then Rowena as he said this, vaguely referencing his recent poor actions, "…but you have to listen to me this time. Everything is connected.

So, as you know, Cresselia and Darkrai battled in Whitegold City fifty years ago, and when Cresselia won, she and Victini took up residence in the city with Cresselia becoming Victini's protector. What you don't know is just how connected I am to it all. Back then, as a boy, I was a young assistant navigator on the ship helmed by Liam's grandfather, the great Captain Becket Everton."

"You were with that arrogant, foul man's grandfather?" Nekou repeated, physically showing less interest than she actually had.

Bunny added to it, saying, "What was he like?"

"Completely different than Liam, that's for sure. Captain Becket Everton was a generous and kind man, a fearless and true leader. Like Everton family members before and after him, he helped bring success to Whitegold City through his continuing development of the city as a shipping hub for the entire world.

He conducted his voyages under the light of Victini, who he encountered in a far-off land long before we met. While he did not possess the power of the Victory Star, Victini still travelled on his ship to explore the world. The two of them… they truly loved the thrill of adventure, and sailing to new and exotic places was the joy that made their lives worth living."

"Victini exploring the world with Everton's grandfather…" Matt said in wonder. "It sounds like they were very good friends."

"Indeed they were. Becket Everton and Victini bonded over their love for adventuring and exploring the world. But, the story isn't that simple. One day, while resting between voyages here in Whitegold City, Everton found that Victini had befriended a young girl who lived here. The two were playing together enthusiastically, without a care in the world." After pausing a moment to make sure his audience was still with him, Woods continued, "Well, Becket just couldn't break them up, so he invited the girl to sail on his ship and be with Victini.

Things went well for many years, even as that girl grew into a young woman. However, not long after I joined Becket's crew as an assistant navigator – my first job in the maritime field – something happened that changed everything…"

~:~

On that night fifty years earlier, a raging storm battered the ocean. A ship shaped out of silver iron was being tossed on the churning waves, with sheets of rain falling on its decks like relentless bullets from the roiling black sky.

Up on the ship's bridge, an aged man very similar in appearance to Liam Everton stood looking out at the chaos his vessel was embroiled in. He had his gaunt arms crossed behind his back, and his navy-blue suit hung loosely on his thin frame. From his face, one could judge that he wasn't someone who got enough sleep, judging from the dark shadows under his eyes.

"I've never seen a storm like this, not in my many years sailing the seas," the man said to his companions on the bridge.

Besides Woods, who at the time appeared like a much younger version of his future self without an eyepatch, there was the young woman in the story, who had shoulder-length black hair, pale skin and a typically masculine sailor's suit. With her was Victini, acting nervously due to the crisis at hand.

"Captain Everton, sir," Woods gasped, looking over charts and radar readings, "our speed has decreased to near zero, and the waves are showing no mercy on us. She's a fine ship, but I'm not sure we'll last out here like this."

Without turning, Becket Everton removed his silver captain's hat and ran his hand through his gray hair, ending with him brushing through his thick beard. "We'll get through it just fine, Woods. The guiding light of Victini has blessed…"

A bolt of lightning suddenly descended from the sky and struck the roof of the ship's cabins, briefly shorting out the power and causing the entire vessel to rock violently. Everton had to steady himself against the railing he was standing at, while Woods, the girl and Victini were thrown to the floor.

"Vikutiii!" cried the Pokémon. It scrambled over to its friend in an attempt to find security.

"What should we do, Mister Everton?" the girl begged. "Can we get home?"

Before he could answer, Everton was distracted by the ringing of a bright red telephone mounted on the wall nearby. He walked over to it, picked it up and said, "Captain Everton, what is it? Are you seriously saying…"

The air outside became unsettlingly still and quiet for a moment, a tranquility that was broken with rumbling that indicated the dropping of an even bigger lightning bolt. It struck the main deck of the ship near the side, which when combined with the continued impact of the violent waves caused a hole to tear open in the ship's hull.

Everton hit his head when he was thrown against the wall, and a slow trickle of blood leaked from the wound onto the floor. Woods struggled to his feet and stumbled over to his captain.

"Captain Everton!" he exclaimed. "Sir, are you hurt?"

"We've got worse things to worry about than me getting a little bloodied." Just as Everton said this, an alarm started going off throughout the ship, indicating the hull breach. Managing to pull the receiver for the ship's intercom off its holder, he sent out a message, "Attention all crew members, this is your captain speaking. The hull has been breached and we are going down. I repeat, we are going down. An evacuation order is now in place. Make your way to the life boats at once. This is an order!"

"We're not going to make it!" the young woman shrieked, embracing Victini tightly in fear. "We're too far out to sea!"

"No, we can survive, but we have to evacuate the ship now!" Woods attempted to help the young woman stand, but another violent rocking of the ship threw him back again. "What about you, sir?"

"The captain must always be the last man off the ship. I have a duty to see this through."

"But, sir, you will not survive!"

"This is not up for discussion, Woods. Save yourself and…"

Everton's statement was silenced when a bright light began to shine around Victini's body, filling the entire bridge with its glow.

"Do you wish to survive?"

"W-who said that?" Woods exclaimed, frantically glancing around in the blinding light. "Who's there?"

Feeling as if she was the one being addressed by the voice, the young woman answered, "Yes, I don't want to die! Help me!"

"I will grant you a power that will give you that victory. But in return you will make a contract with me and you will be in my debt. Do you accept the contract of the Victory Star?"

"The… Victory Star?" Becket Everton knew what this was, and that knowledge helped him realize who was speaking as well.

"I accept the contract! Please, save me and my friends!"

The moment that the pact was accepted, the light got even brighter, completely blinding and overwhelming the senses of Everton and Woods.

~:~

Some time later, the storm had cleared up, but the ship was gone. All that remained were pieces of wreckage scattered about the surface. The bright crescent moon in the sky reflected in the water with strange, stunning beauty.

Within the wreckage field, Woods awoke, finding himself clinging to a large, broken plank. He hastily looked around, and upon spotting Becket Everton slung over another piece of flotsam, swam to his captain.

"Captain Everton, sir!" exclaimed the young navigator, shaking his superior officer's body with one hand while clinging to the wreckage with the other. "Please, wake up!"

"Ugh…" Drowsing awake, Everton coughed violently, hacking up a spray of water that he'd swallowed during the disaster. "Woods… you're alright? Where is everyone…?"

"Sir…" The news Woods had to deliver was incredibly painful, and he didn't want to have to be the one to tell it to Everton. However, given the facts contained within it, he had no other choice. "It doesn't look like anyone else made it… I can't see any other crew members… I think we may be the only survivors from when she went down."

"Impossible!" Everton spat, refusing to accept this. "My ship was a true jewel of the seas. She was a fine vessel staffed by finer men, and you're going to tell me not even Christina made it? Young, innocent Christina who only sailed with us because she loved the journey?"

"Kuruu!"

Another bright light appeared behind Everton and Woods. They could see enough of it being cast over their shoulders, so they maneuvered to turn while still holding on to the wreckage buoying them on the surface.

Slowly descending from the sky, seemingly from the crescent moon itself, was a glowing, angelic figure. She soon took the form of Cresselia to the two survivors of the sinking, and Victini was sitting upon her back.

~:~

"…and with the guidance of Victini and Cresselia, Becket and I made our way back home to Whitegold City. From there, as you know, Cresselia and Darkrai battled, and when Cresselia drove away Darkrai, Victini took up permanent residence here under her custody."

Matt and the others were all clearly enthralled by Woods's story, staring with wide eyes and open mouths. There was more to the tale, though, and it was Bunny that realized it.

"If I'm interpreting the story correctly," she stated with a tone of matter-of-fact wonder, "did that girl, Christina, become Cresselia?"

The others all gasped. They hadn't realized the possibility of Christina having become Cresselia, but they all collectively realized how much of a logical guess it was once they heard it. The final confirmation of their suspicions came when Woods nodded.

"Indeed, that is the case. Christina contracted with Victini for the power of the Victory Star, her desired victory to be survival during the disaster. That manifested itself by transforming her into Cresselia, and her obligation on the contract was to use her newly-granted power to protect Victini forevermore."

"To think Victini has so much power…" whispered a stunned Matt. Slowly lifting his head, he uttered, "But what does this have to do with why Liam is taking all of these actions? If Cresselia is really a person, that means all the things he's done to her… forcing her to fight Darkrai, electrocuting her in that trap…"

"Don't go down that line of thought," Woods interrupted. "It is impossible to distinguish in this day and age how much of Christina's humanity still remains inside of Cresselia, or if she is just driven by the contract to protect Victini."

"That's no excuse for what Everton's done!" Matt argued in response, raising his voice angrily.

"I didn't say it was! But to get to answering your other question, let me tell you more of my story. Like I said, it was fifty years ago that Becket Everton's ship sank, setting in motion the chain of events that resulted in Victini and Cresselia taking up residence in Whitegold City. Ten years after that, or forty years ago, that was when I first met Liam Everton. He recruited me into the position of first mate aboard his own ship based on my own experience working for his grandfather. Even back then, Liam was different than his grandfather in every possible way… he was consumed by greed and ambition."

"Why did you trust him back there, then?" asked Bunny, alluding to Woods attempting to align himself with Everton at the church.

"I should have known better. I thought he had changed in the years since I last dealt with him."

"Well then, you're just a bad judge of character, aren't you?" Nekou sniped. "But there is one thing… what do you mean by 'years?' What was the last time before that?"

"And that was the part of the story I was dreading coming to. After I joined Liam Everton's crew in the year 1972, we spent the next five years researching all possible leads regarding the whereabouts of Victini. We couldn't locate the Victini that was living in Whitegold City, but the leads we found brought us to another one…"

~:~

Roughly thirty-five years earlier, on July 7, 1977, the younger Liam Everton and Woods walked into an urban garden that somewhat resembled Balise Park. On the path they were walking, a sign offered the information of their location; it read "Welcome to Castelia City Northern District!" in finely-painted letters.

Everton, who back then had thick hair, an even more substantial beard than in the present and a prominent moustache, looked around carefully. His immediate surroundings were verdant, but tall buildings towered all around the park's outskirts.

With them were three Pokémon. Everton's shiny Cryogonal was one, and the other two were the previous, less-evolved forms of his other Pokémon. Klang was nearly identical in appearance to Klinklang, except for the absence of the red core gear and spiked frame, while Zwelious was a quadruped creature in similar colors to Hydreigon, but land-bound and with only two heads instead of three.

"Victini!" he called out after what seemed like forever. "I know you are here, Victini! Show yourself!"

"What exactly will you do, Liam?" Woods asked nervously.

"I will make Victini appear and then I will complete that contract, what else?" Everton's answer oozed confidence. He acted as if he knew exactly how everything would happen. "Now, Victini, appear! I wish for the contract of the Victory Star!"

After a few minutes of no response, a shimmer appeared in the air six feet from Everton and Woods's position, which materialized into a Victini. This Victini was a different one from the Victini in Whitegold City, so its behavior was somewhat different – it was more serious and composed, simply floating before the man who had called out to it.

"Tinicu?"

"I've searched long and hard for you, Victini!" boasted Everton, spreading his arms wide. "Long have I desired to enter into your contract for the power of the Victory Star!"

Despite Everton doing his best to sound sincere, Victini sensed something was amiss and did not approach him any further. Seeing this made Everton smile broadly.

"What's the matter, Victini? You don't trust me?" Abruptly lowering his head and smiling even more, Everton viciously finished, "Good choice. Cryogonal, Acrobatics!"

"Cryooo~"

Cryogonal cut through the air with such speed that it briefly became invisible, reappearing right before it struck Victini with its sharply angled body. When the legendary Psychic-and-Fire-type hit the ground, it left a charred outline of itself.

"Victinii!" the Pokémon angrily screeched. A ball of flame enveloped its body in the beginnings of the attack called Searing Shot, which it intended to use to strike vengeance against Cryogonal.

Out of nowhere, however, an electric blast descended upon Victini, causing the unfinished Searing Shot to explode and injure Victini even further. It was a Thunderbolt attack from Klang that had caught Victini so terribly off guard.

"You do not have a choice!" bellowed Everton, who was lording over the clash with his right hand in his pocket. "I will bring the power of the Victory Star home to Whitegold City! Cryogonal, use Frost Breath!"

An intense blast of icy wind gusted out from the opening in Cryogonal's face where its ice chains hung. Victini wasn't hurt much, however, and in response hit Cryogonal with the flaming tackle known as Flame Charge.

Woods had to jump out of the way of Cryogonal, as the Ice-type was violently thrown in his direction. The situation was getting nerve-wracking for him, and he decided to vocalize his concerns. "Liam, there must be a better way. This is too much…"

"Men like us who will change the world do not give up when victory is at hand! Klang, Thunderbolt, now! Use it relentlessly!"

Taking on an even altitude to Victini, Klang started rotating at a rapid speed and saying its name repeatedly. An even bigger electrical shock was generated, and it sustained itself for quite a long time in order to damage Victini.

"Now, Zweilous, it's time to put Victini in checkmate." Pulling his right hand out of his pocket and thrusting it forward, Everton commanded, "Crunch!"

Zweilous started running toward Victini on his stubby legs as Klang finished up its attack. Once Klang's Thunderbolt finally ceased, Victini – its body battered and fur visibly burnt – fell weakly to the ground. Almost instantly Zweilous was there, biting Victini savagely with the fangs of his left head.

In the past, however, Everton hadn't done as much research into Victini as he had done in the present, so he didn't expect what happened next. Once it was hurt enough, Victini used a discharge of fire to blast itself out of Zweilous's grip. It stumbled through the air and happened to land in Woods's arms as he stood by watching.

Woods suddenly couldn't perceive Everton, Klang, Cryogonal, Zweilous or anyone or anything else around him. The only presence his mind could sense was Victini; he couldn't even tell if he was in the park anymore.

"This is not your fault, human. I will give you power. One day may you use it for good."

"Power?" Woods gasped, clearly frightened by his not knowing what was about to happen. "Just make all of this stop!"

Blinding light completely consumed Woods and Victini, spreading through the entire park. Its brightness forced Everton to use his arm to shield his eyes.

Soon thereafter, a fiery explosion swept over the entire area.

~:~

"…the northern part of Castelia City completely burned to the ground, and that Victini disappeared."

"I don't care about that!" Olivia shouted, having gotten on her hands and knees so she could get right in Woods's face. "I paid attention to your story, and I caught your dirty little secret! You have a Victory Star, don't you?"

"He did imply that he got one…" Matt concurred.

"So what is it?" Rowena demanded with her arms crossed. "What other secrets have you been keeping?"

Woods sighed. "You got me," he said sadly, removing his eyepatch as he did so.

Indeed, underneath, his left eye was filled by the eight-pointed star symbol, just like the one Liam Everton now possessed. It wasn't until they actually saw it that the group experienced a collective shock over this surprise, with a disjointed series of gasps, mumbles and simple staring greeting Woods's revelation. Rowena was the one showing the most interest, as with this development, her story suddenly became a lot more interesting.

"But why did you hide it?" the reporter finally managed to ask.

"I couldn't figure out how to use it. The contract I was forced into wasn't clear to me. All I can understand of this power is that I cannot leave Whitegold City, as every time I try to, I black out and invariably end up back inside."

"I would hypothesize," Matt stated while staring at the floor, "that your contract has some connection to either Liam or Victini. If you can't leave this city, you're obviously bound to something inside of it."

"What were you thinking of when Castelia City's Victini forced the contract onto you?" Bunny asked, evidently having come up with a possible solution.

Woods shut his eyes and reflected back upon that night thirty-five years earlier. "What was I thinking of?" Despite being three-and-a-half decades old, the scene was still crystal clear in Woods's mind, making it easy for the old man to recollect his mindset at the time. "Just before Victini forced the power onto me, I said that I wanted Liam's vicious attack to stop…"

Without warning, the entire house was rocked by a violent explosion, and the building's roof was torn off by a blast of purple energy, allowing the increasingly-heavy rain to pour in. Everton's Hydreigon flew into view overhead shortly thereafter.

"Shit, he found us!" Nekou shrilled the second she saw the dragon.

Jumping to his feet, Matt shouted out, "Everyone, get out of here! This house is a death trap!"

The group scattered in their haste to escape the imminent danger Hydreigon posed. Woods, Rowena, Bunny and Katorena immediately fled for the exit, while Matt, Nekou and Olivia went in the opposite direction, hoping to pull Victini safely from where it was eating first.

Focusing on the latter group, Hydreigon turned and took a deep breath, then exhaled a jet of crimson fire. At first, Matt, Nekou and Olivia seemed like sitting ducks for this Flamethrower, but they found help from an unexpected source when Victini floated into the space between them and Hydreigon's attack.

"Victini?" Olivia had no idea what Victini was doing, and therefore her knee-jerk reaction was that Victini intended to sacrifice itself to protect them.

Luckily, that was not the case. The tiny Legendary Pokémon's eyes flashed and emitted arcs of silver light that pushed back against the flames. However, even Victini's Psyshock was not strong enough to completely neutralize Hydreigon's Flamethrower.

"Maractus, Energy Ball, let's go!"

Having suddenly reappeared in the doorway with his Maractus, Woods ordered her forth to save the three. She pointed her right arm directly at the point where Psyshock and Flamethower were combining and launched a crackling green Energy Ball into the mix, causing an explosion that used up the power of all three.

"Why'd you come back, old man? We didn't ask for…"

"Nekou, stuff it!" Matt scolded, grabbing her arm in his left hand and Olivia's in his right. "We have to get out of here, now!"

With his two female companions firmly in his grasp and Victini floating in front of him, Matt hurried across the room to where Woods and Maractus were standing. Behind him, in the hallway leading directly to the exit, were Rowena, Bunny and Katorena.

The reformed group hastily headed for the door once their full numbers were collected, but before they could escape, Hydreigon snapped out of the daze that the explosion had placed him in. Enraged by his targets' attempt to escape, he inhaled using all three of his heads and expelled a triple-strength Flamethrower into the house. The resulting fiery blast was so forceful that it threw all seven, screaming and flailing, outside into the driving rain. All that remained of Woods's house, meanwhile, was a wooden wreck completely engulfed in flames.

"It's good to see you again, Matt Chiaki," Everton said with his best forced politeness, having disembarked his hoverboard a few feet away. "I believe we have some outstanding business to attend to. Give me Victini."

"And why would I do that?" Matt countered, bringing himself back to his feet while the others did the same behind him. "Besides, you've gotten what you wanted already…" Matt's stomach turned as he admitted this, but he had no other choice. "…so why do you still want Victini itself?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

Just then, Baker and Foster finally caught up with Everton, pulling their truck into the clearing. Its tires squished in the mud as it stopped to allow its two occupants, as well as their Pokémon, to jump out.

"Captain Everton!" Baker called. "We've arrived!"

"Stand down," was Everton's order to them. Turning back to Matt, he spilled his plans. "Victini is necessary because it can produce unlimited energy within its body. It's the ultimate future energy source… completely clean and limitless. But before I initiate the system to provide the world's energy with Victini, I will first use my Victory Star to find all untapped oil fields on the planet. With control over all of the world's oil, the vast wealth I will obtain will bring me power, and when all the oil is gone, I'll simply put Victini's energy into use. At that point, I will have massive wealth and control over the entire world's energy!"

"It… can't be…" stuttered a wide-eyed Rowena. "You wanted… all of this?"

"Yes, my dear Rowena! I will have money, the ability to see my way to any victory I wish for, and complete control over the world's energy market! I have no need to exert any political control, no need to launch any war, no need to do anything beyond what I do now as president of Everton International! By controlling the one thing all people of all countries, colors and creeds need and just that thing alone, I will have the ability to control the entire world!"

As Everton let out an insane laugh, Matt and his allies could only look on and attempt to comprehend just what he aimed to do. Between them, they had to confess that his plan actually was solid – he was completely right that if one person controlled the world's energy, they would have all nations at their beck and call with that influence. It quickly felt that the odds were stacking themselves in Everton's favor beyond hope.

"You've got one problem, Liam," Woods spoke up, a smug grin appearing on his face. "Everyone in this city will know that you have done something here today. Before you can take control of the planet's energy sources, the people of Whitegold City will bring you down. Beware of underestimating them."

Everton was unfazed by this threat; in fact, it almost seemed to make him more cocky. "I've already covered that angle!" he exclaimed, his eyes widening while their pupils and irises shrank. "Do you see around you right now? This storm that you see developing right now is my ultimate weapon, which I will destroy Whitegold City with!"

The meaning of Everton's declaration hit the group instantly, making them all step back in horror. That one sentence – the warning that he would control the weather to destroy Whitegold City – completely changed their impressions of Everton. No longer was he the cruel-natured executive who would do anything for business success, he was now a psychopathic megalomaniac with no qualms about committing mass murder for his goals. Even Woods, who had known him for forty years and had held some faith in him until just earlier that day, could no longer see him as anything but a monster.

"The entire…" Bunny whispered, her shock rendering her barely able to breathe. "All of the people…"

"You're a madman, Liam Everton!" blared Katorena, now trying to mask the overwhelming fear she felt. It was something she'd never dealt with before – prior to this, she'd never had to face such danger in life. Despite her fear, however, she knew that breaking free from her sheltered past would involve risks and she resolved to fight to the end. "What gives you the delusion you can exercise control over the weather and manipulate it to wage war on your own city?"

"It's very simple! When I obtained the Victory Star, a thermal plume was released into the city, which increased the temperature of all the water in the city as well as the humidity in the air. The result? The storm that's already developing right here as we speak. It won't be long before the rain intensifies enough to breach the seawall protecting the city, and at that point, Whitegold City will flood completely! Everything and everyone will be destroyed, while my select few survive aboard my ark to head into a brand new world!"

"Have you no compassion in your heart at all?" Olivia had heard enough. Everton's horrifying ramblings had pushed her too far, and with all of this piling on the significant stress she already felt, she snapped. "Maybe you have a chip on your shoulder at someone in this city, Mister Woods maybe? It doesn't matter though, because if you have a problem with someone, you deal with it with that person! There are innocent men, women, children and Pokémon in this city that you have just threatened to kill! None of them have done anything to you, why, most of them probably don't even know much about you! They're all different, but one thing that they have in common is that they want to live! They want to live, and there's no excuse for you trying to make yourself the judge of who gets that right! Every one of them…"

"I've humored you long enough," Everton coldly interrupted. "Shut up. Whitegold City's residents disgust me and they always have. Gambling, drinking, partying… the moral failings of this filthy city have gone on long enough. I am the one who will purge deviancy from this planet once and for all. My world will be controlled and the behavior that goes on in this city will never be tolerated anywhere again."

"You? Purge deviancy from the world?" Matt had to bitterly laugh, but not fully because of how brazenly hypocritical Everton's claim was. The laugh was born instead from the complete crushing pressure laid upon all his other emotions at the time.

"How did you avoid making a specific contract?" Woods managed to choke out. It was a good question, but he was the first of the group to think of it; Rowena, specifically, mentally noted that she wished she had come up with it before anyone else.

"I suppose I owe you trash an answer on that, at least." Reaching up to his ear, Everton freed a thin headset and held it out for the group to see. It was so thin that it was nearly invisible when on his head, and it remained difficult to see in his hand due to the heavy rain. "This device connected me to the Dreamyarn Inceptor at my building."

"It had a second function?" gasped Rowena.

"So you did know about it… I thought you would. Well, the Dreamyarn Inceptor is a machine powered by the Pokémon Musharna. Musharna ate my thoughts before I entered the energy field with Victini and continued to do so until I fully acquired the Victory Star, therefore keeping my mind blank. With nothing in my mind, Victini could latch onto nothing to force a contract onto me! Now, one more time, I'll say it… give me Victini."

"Olivia…" Matt whispered without turning around. "Take Victini and go with the others. Get out of here while you still can."

"You're going to fight them alone?" Olivia was hesitant to accept this plan. She was smart enough to know that Matt stood no chance against Everton, Baker and Foster alone by himself, and that was a situation she couldn't leave him in.

"No, the ruffian is not alone, for I am going to fight alongside him."

Boldly stepping up to face the challenge of Everton's team, Katorena surprised Matt, Olivia and all of the others. She wore a look of sheer, fearless determination that reflected her refusal to fold before the threat posed by Everton and his allies.

"Katorena, what are you…"

"Silence, you scruffy vagabond. You're not refusing my help right now, when you need it more than ever."

Matt gulped, resigning himself to the fact that Katorena was going to risk herself to try and help him. He wouldn't accept the others placing themselves in harm's way, though, so he turned to them and yelled, "Take Victini and go! Get out of here now! Go somewhere safe!"

The situation was so serious that even Nekou listened to Matt immediately. She, along with Rowena, Woods, Olivia and Bunny fled with Victini in tow. They hurried to Woods's hovercraft and sped off further into the marsh.

"Hah!" Everton chuckled evilly. "Let them flee. Do any of you really think that it will make a difference?"

"We will stop you, vile man," Katorena warned, doing her best to sound threatening.

"Will you, now? Your futile resistance is amusing to me. Baker, Foster, go forth and battle them!"

"Yes, Captain Everton!" the two security officials chanted in unison, pointing forward to send Sawk and Throh into battle.

Saying nothing and remaining blank-faced, Matt reached into his bag for the Poké Ball he needed to sent out Ayingott, while Katorena flung out the ball containing Beheeyem. The two female Psychic Pokémon growled, eager to go at their Fighting-type opponents.

"Ayingott, Air Slash!"

"Sawk, use Strength on Beheeyem!"

Baker's Sawk pulled back his right arm and lowered his body, then sprinted through the rain toward Beheeyem, leaving clear footprints behind in the muddy ground. He was cut off when a blade of air Ayingott formed with her wings crashed down on him, knocking him back and making him flinch.

"That Sigilyph is open, Throh," Foster pointed out to his Pokémon. "Stone Edge!"

Dozens of sharp-edged pebbles appeared around Throh in a ring shape. He looked directly at Ayingott before pulling his arms back; when he thrust them forward, the stones flew through the air at their target.

"How boring. Psychic!"

Beheeyem held up both of her arms, allowing the red, green and yellow lights on her hands to flash. The psychic power she generated took hold on some of the stones and halted them from hitting Ayingott, effectively halving the injury the Sigilyph suffered; as for the stones that Beheeyem took control of, she used them to craft what functioned as psychic bombs she rained back down onto Throh. This left the stout red Fighting-type with cuts all over his body, including holes sliced into his robes.

"Now you're in my line of fire!" taunted Baker as he made the shape of a gun with his thumb, pointer and middle fingers on his right hand to gesture at Katorena. "Try Strength again!"

Because Ayingott was still shaking off her minor injuries from Throh's Stone Edge, she was unable to stop Sawk from running right up to Beheeyem. He punched her in the face, sending her crashing into the trunk of a nearby tree with a loud thud. The bark of the thin tree even cracked slightly from the impact.

"Give it up!" Everton shouted from just behind Baker and Foster as Beheeyem pulled herself up off the ground. "I can see the path to my victory, so it is impossible for you to stop m…"

"Gluhgug!"

Barely two seconds after the deep voice cut into the clearing, an unknown object struck the ground near Everton's group with such force that the three were thrown in differing directions. Matt didn't have to wonder for long what the source of the ambush was, as it came into view almost immediately.

"Hethna, you're back!" he sighed in relief upon seeing his Golurk flying overhead. The immense Ground-and-Ghost-type had used its Shadow Punch to stun Everton's group and buy its trainer time. Taking advantage of this opening, Matt pointed to Everton's abandoned hoverboard on the other side of the clearing and said, "Ayingott, use Psychic and bring that over here. Hurry!"

"Glyph!" Ayingott chirped in compliance, illuminating her eyes with her power.

The hoverboard had been knocked over onto its side when Hethna struck the ground with Shadow Punch. It rose up and floated toward Matt and Katorena just as Everton, Baker and Foster regained their composure, but by the time they were able to do something to stop its theft, it was out of reach.

"Katorena, let's go! We can't dawdle here anymore!"

"I'll trust your judgment this time, lout. Don't disappoint me."

Matt stepped onto the hoverboard's platform, and Katorena quickly jumped on as well, wrapping her arms around his midsection to brace herself. He wasted no time in lifting the hoverboard off the ground, and then piloted it off into the marsh in the same direction the others had gone earlier. Ayingott, Hethna and Beheeyem all followed.

Left behind with his bodyguards, Everton took several steps forward and simply stared out at the marshland.

"What should we do now, sir?" Foster shakily asked.

"You're lucky there is a now for you two at the moment," Everton growled. "I gave you a simple task, to take out those two punks, and you couldn't even manage that. They got away from you and stole something that belongs to me!"

"I'm sorry…"

"Shut up, Baker, I'm not interested in hearing your whine. Hmph… they think they've gotten away from me? I'll show them how wrong they really are. Foster, go get the helicopter and return to our base. I want you to collect Fennel, all her data and Musharna, then head to the ark and prepare for launch. Round up the sleeping Pokémon as well, because they will be valuable resources in the new world."

"Yes, my captain."

"What are my orders, sir?"

"I'm tempted to tell you to drive off a cliff, Baker, but I'll give you a chance to prove that you're still a worthwhile investment. Follow me in the truck and remain on standby for further orders."

While Baker watched in silence, Foster turned and jogged out of the clearing, and Everton climbed onto the back of his Hydreigon.

"Now, Victini, you will not escape me!"

-:-

Giovanni and Stacia stood side-by-side in front of a videophone screen in his office. The Gym Leader and secretive crime boss was connected on a call to another man, and appeared agitated from how he clenched his teeth.

"You're a difficult man to get ahold of, Tobias," Giovanni said, his voice lowering into a growl.

"I'm very busy," Tobias replied. When he moved his head, his long, flowing blue-gray hair shuddered subtly, with a thick lock of it settling over his left eye. "Obviously, you can understand, being in a similar position to me yourself. I'm taking time out of a very important meeting with Angel Corporation chairwoman Gabriella for this."

A middle-aged woman completely cloaked in vivid golden hair burst into the picture from the side of the screen. "Hi, Giovanni! Keeping busy?"

It was evident that Gabriella was avoiding Giovanni's recent legal troubles, so he did not bring them up himself. "Of course, Gabriella. Things are always busy here at Viridian Gym. Now, if you don't mind, I really need to talk to Tobias."

"Sorry!" Nodding profusely, Gabriella disappeared as quickly as she had entered.

"So what is this urgent emergency that you called me about?" Tobias inquired matter-of-factly. "I am expecting to hear something actually important."

"I'll cut right to the chase," responded the rigid-faced Giovanni. "I am sure that you have been following the events unfolding in Whitegold City today, Tobias."

"I'm aware of them, yes. What about it, though?"

"Have you checked the stock market today, then?" When Tobias didn't reply, Giovanni continued, "I've been watching the numbers for several hours now. Everything is going down dramatically except for shares in precious goods. Now tell me, is it not suspicious that all these things are happening on the very same day in conjunction with each other?"

"I agree that today is a peculiar day," Tobias concurred while shutting his one visible eye, "but I can't take action based on sheer speculation. What is it you expect me to do?"

"I think you should get in touch with officials over in Unova and at the Black City Exchange." Giovanni's tone changed slightly, reflective of the rising tension and anger he felt. The change was too subtle for Tobias to pick up on, but Stacia perceived it and cringed. "Have them check for any accounts in Liam Everton's name and what investments are on them. I strongly suspect he is causing the events in Whitegold City in order to manipulate the stock market and make a fortune in profit."

"I'll have to see what I can do."

The video cut out on Giovanni's end as Tobias abruptly terminated the call. Realizing just how pointless it likely was to appeal to the governor, who was someone he hated, Giovanni was overcome with a sudden fit of rage that drove him to pound his fist into the wall. Persian jumped up in shock from the sound that reverberated through the office and meowed loudly, but Stacia remained nearly completely still.

"Mister Giovanni," she said in a voice laced with eerie calm. Her face darkened and her glasses filled with light as she lowered her head slightly. "Would you like me to go to Whitegold City and deal with Everton?"

"That won't be necessary, Stacia. This incident has already gone long past the time for your skills. All we can do now is sit back and watch while we hope that Tobias figures out a way to do something."

-:-

Meanwhile, in his own office – very similar in appearance to Giovanni's, but noticeably higher-tech – Tobias stood staring at the blank videophone screen for several moments before turning around. The red half-cape that hung on his shoulders ruffled subtly over his tight gray suit as he moved.

"You know more about what's going on in Whitegold City than you told him, don't you?" questioned Gabriella, who was sitting in an ornate chair in front of Tobias's desk.

"I've been had. Everton told me he was going to research a new energy source, but he never specified what it was. I was stupid to trust him… Giovanni's suggestion is sound. I must do something to reverse the mistake I've made."

-:-

With Matt and Katorena now aboard, Everton's hoverboard glided over the marsh water at a high speed. Hethna and Ayingott flew alongside it, just able to keep up. Beheeyem, meanwhile, had to hang onto Hethna's back because of her lack of actual flight skills.

Ordinarily it would have been easy for anyone, especially a newcomer, to get lost in the labyrinth of the marsh's offshoots, but with the hoverboard at his disposal, Matt had access to one of Everton's most convenient tools. The map of Whitegold City installed into the dashboard provided a convenient resource on the routes they needed to follow, and the sensor of Victini's heat signature made it possible to follow where the others had gone.

"Do you know where they're going yet?" Katorena had to strain to raise her voice over the wind and rain buffeting her and Matt, while still maintaining her grip around his torso.

Matt looked down at the map and pondered briefly where it appeared that Nekou, Bunny, Olivia, Woods, Rowena and Victini were going. Almost immediately the answer came to him. "We're heading for the home of Aurelie the fortuneteller. I'm beginning to think that may be the one safe place left in this city."

"Nowhere is safe for you!"

Matt and Katorena nearly fell off the hoverboard in terrified shock when Everton roared up alongside them on his Hydreigon, shoving Hethna and Ayingott out of his way as he did so. The increasingly harsh weather didn't faze him at all; in fact, he almost seemed invigorated by every drop of water that made contact with him. Sanity was visibly fading fast from his eyes, his irises and pupils narrowing while the eyelids around them twitched.

"Damn it!" Matt choked out. He didn't have time for an emotional reaction to the continuing struggle, however – he quickly realized that Everton was guiding Hydreigon to ram the hoverboard with the clear intent of downing it. "Katorena, hold on!"

By pulling back on the hoverboard's control handles, Matt was able to abruptly pull the craft upward, enabling a last-second escape from Hydreigon's attack. Katorena screamed, despite realizing that the alternative of the maneuver was much worse.

Together, they mutually realized that Everton was indeed right about one thing – nowhere was safe. Escape was impossible. Accepting and resigning himself to this reality, Matt made mental preparations for an aerial fight.

"Ayingott, put him down quickly!" he yelled out to his Pokémon in the storm as he stabilized the hoverboard. Delegating the responsibility of defeating Everton and Hydreigon to his Sigilyph, Matt gave the order, "Ice Beam!"

"Do you really think that feeble attack will be enough to stop me?" Everton taunted, pulling his own Pokémon back slightly. "Hydreigon, use Tri Attack!"

Ayingott's one shot of ice energy was met by a triple counterattack made up of three rays; Hydreigon's left and right heads launched electricity and ice respectively, while his central head added fire to the mix. The three blasts easily overpowered the single one opposing them and plowed into Ayingott.

"Sigilll…" she squalled weakly as her burned body fell from the sky.

Gritting his teeth, Matt decided that he would not let Everton harm his Pokémon further, and pulled out a Poké Ball. "Ayingott, come back now! Have a rest!"

"That was a smart move, boy!" Everton menacingly bellowed as the Sigilyph was pulled back to the relative safety of her ball. "You two no longer have Victini with you, so I don't need to concern myself with preserving you any further. All you two are is a pair of speed bumps to me. Hydreigon, finish them off!"

Opening the mouth of his central head wide, Hydreigon began gathering the energy for a Focus Blast attack. He was not particularly fast about it, which afforded Matt and Katorena the chance to reposition themselves outside of his targeting range.

However, just before the pulsing red orb was loosed by the dragon, Everton called out, "Victory Star!"

The Focus Blast was fired, and it missed Matt and Katorena by a wide margin. Instead of careening out of control into the ground like one would have expected, however, it curved around and began going back up toward its target from behind.

"Aww hell…"

"What is this right debacle?" Katorena shrilled, still holding onto Matt for dear life as he attempted to fly away from the Focus Blast. Neither of them could believe what they were seeing.

The pair were only saved when Hethna rocketed into the way and intercepted the attack, which did not affect it at all. Still, though, Everton laughed at the courage exhibited by the Ground-and-Ghost-type.

"My Victory Star not only allows me to see my road to victory, it makes sure my Pokémon will be victorious as well. Your Golurk's feeble resistance has done nothing but ensure its fate before even your own!"

Removing his focus from Matt and Katorena, Hydreigon turned his attention to Hethna. The energy of Dragon Pulse took shape near his center head's mouth and swiftly grew in intensity, burning away every drop of rain that hit it in a tiny burst of steam.

"Brick Break, now!" Matt desperately cried out. He could see that the only chance he had was to stop Everton's attacks before they could be executed. Even if it was only a narrow opening, he had to take it.

Hethna deactivated the rocket in its right arm and returned its hand to its place. It then cut through the downpour on its remaining two rockets with a powerful punch readied. Though the situation was overwhelmingly dangerous and the attack incredibly risky, Hethna followed through with undying loyalty. Likewise, Hydreigon showed his master that same stiff allegiance, and hovered still in the path of Hethna's swing, not backing down from his Dragon Pulse.

With neither Pokémon backing down, Hethna used its Brick Break to strike Hydreigon's Dragon Pulse. Because it was unfinished, Hydreigon's energy blast was still highly unstable, and it exploded upon being hit.

Leaves from the nearby trees flew everywhere as Hethna and Hydreigon were pushed back. Everton gripped the back of his dragon's neck to hold on, while Hethna fell down near the ground before managing to launch back up again. A circle was blasted out of the underbrush where Hethna powered up its rockets, but the small fires that ignited were quickly snuffed out by the rain.

Hethna refused to fail in the struggle, and thus blitzed Hydreigon again, this time without orders to do so. This time it tried to restrain the Dark-and-Dragon-type by grabbing hold of his two undeveloped side heads. It worked as a surprise tactic to a degree; Hydreigon began thrashing, unsure at first how to handle the restraint placed on its extremities. The two Pokémon spun in an intense midair dance, moving violently enough to throw Katorena's Beheeyem off of Hethna's back. Luckily, Matt was able to fly the hoverboard into a position where Katorena could catch her Pokémon with her arm before she fell.

"Beheeyem, are you injured?" Katorena tenderly whispered, showing concern for her Pokémon that belied the stuffy attitude she usually directed at others. She smiled faintly when Beheeyem nodded in affirmation of her safety.

"I've had enough of you, Matt Chiaki!" Everton yelled, breaking up the odd calmness of the scene. "Hydreigon, dispose of this pest Golurk!"

Pulling his center head up and away from Hethna, Hydreigon expelled a stream of fire from his mouth, completely engulfing the Golurk at point-blank range. It was pulled off of its opponent by this Flamethrower attack and significantly weakened, being sent plummeting downward with burns all over its gray body.

"Hethna!" Matt cried out, his hand immediately going to the Poké Ball his Golurk belonged in. Before Hethna could hit the ground, its trainer made sure it was pulled back into the confines of the ball, which would ensure its safety.

However, that insurance came with a price. By making sure that Hethna would remain safe, Matt had removed from the equation the last defense he and Katorena had standing between themselves and Everton's Hydreigon. It was a price he was willing to pay for the security of something important to him, but even with that, Matt still shivered when Hydreigon assumed an even level with the hoverboard in the air.

"Are you finished yet, boy?" taunted Everton, who was overwhelmingly ready to claim his final victory over Matt's efforts. "I'd say you are. Now, it's time you stopped standing in the way of the future of energy and this planet! Have you got any last words?"

"I do," Katorena suddenly interrupted, tossing Beheeyem upward. "Beheeyem, Hypnosis!"

Stabilizing in the air about a foot above the heads of Matt and Katorena, Beheeyem locked her gaze with Hydreigon's. Then, while the lights on her fingers flashed, waves of purple energy floated out of her eyes. Hydreigon instantly became drowsy and fell asleep, causing him to fall from the sky; this sudden turn of events left an angered Everton to deftly jump off of his Pokémon's back before he crashed on the swamp bank.

"Good thinking, Katorena!" Matt hastily complimented to express his gratitude for her actions.

"Don't waste time groveling at my feet," she scolded in response while calling Beheeyem back to her Poké Ball. "We must reunite with the others in our group at once! Make haste!"

From his vantage point on the muddy bank of the marsh, Everton watched in seething silence as Matt and Katorena disappeared from view on their stolen hoverboard, heading off deeper into the swamps to join up with Rowena, Woods and the others. That was where Victini was too, and Everton knew he had to get there somehow. He simply clenched his fist tightly, only stopping when he heard the sound of a truck engine followed by hurried footsteps.

"Captain Everton, are you alright?" Baker choked as he burst from the foliage, soaked from the rain. "What's happened?"

Suddenly relaxing, Everton chuckled. He recalled the still-sleeping Hydreigon to his Ultra Ball, then answered Baker's question. "That bitch with the royal attitude pulled a fast one on me and managed to put Hydreigon to sleep. It doesn't matter, though. If they think they've won, I pity them."

END of CHAPTER 3


May 2012

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