nandosagi: (Druddigon)
[personal profile] nandosagi

CHAPTER 4: Everton's Dream

-:-

An old coffee cup, yellowed from years of use, sat on the desk in the dilapidated lab. The research facility's location was unknown, but no matter where it was, it would have appeared in bad shape compared to other buildings. Wood paneling lined the walls, but was cracking and peeling off in places, and the red curtains covering the windows were riddled with tears and holes. Some of the ceiling tiles were even missing, allowing wires to hang down sloppily over the room. Just about the only thing not in disrepair was the scientific equipment itself – the computers, microscopes, test tubes and other implements were all spotless, clearly from having been kept lovingly well.

A nearby door creaked open, and the owner of the laboratory entered. It was Giovanni's underling, Doctor Gabriel Zager, and he'd gone out for a short walk after speaking to his boss. As he discarded his bright yellow knit cap and thick brown coat onto a small table next to the door, a large yellow-and-blue spider Pokémon covered in hair skittered cheerfully up to him. All six of her eyes, even including the four simpler ones on her forehead, communicated the happiness she felt at Zager's return.

"I'm glad to be back too, Galvantula," Zager said in a polite manner. He patted Galvantula's head and added, "Have you done a good job watching my lab while I was out?"

"Tula! Tula!" Galvantula happily responded. She gripped Zager's arm with her mandibles when he tried to lift it in an attempt to keep him from stopping petting her.

"Now, now, Galvantula, you've got to let me get back to my work. Giovanni is counting on me to keep all the Whitegold City data in line."

Apparently understanding, Galvantula relented and released Zager's arm. He walked over to the computer console where the coffee cup was sitting, sat down and sipped the still-hot drink, then pressed a key on the wide keyboard before him to bring up his thermal imaging and weather radar maps of Whitegold City on the console's large screen.

One item in particular caught Zager's attention immediately – a simulation of the worsening storm over the city and the potential effects of its growth. What he saw alarmed him, and he had to put down the coffee cup before the tension he was overcome by made him drop it.

"I've… never seen anything like this before," Zager said aloud, though only Galvantula was sharing the room with him. "Mister Giovanni is going to have to do something right away."

With much on his mind, Zager set about his work, typing busily on the console's keyboard.

-:-

"What's going on? Let go of me!"

"I'm afraid I can't do that. Captain Everton's orders."

Foster had Fennel firmly in his grasp by her left wrist as he led her toward the elevator out of her basement laboratory. Nestled under her right arm was a laptop computer containing all the data on the Dreamyarn Inceptor, dumped from the building's mainframe servers.

"Fine, don't let go of me, then!" Looking back, Fennel desperately pleaded with Foster, "But please, don't hurt Musharna!"

Nearby, Foster's Throh had Musharna ensnared within a ball-shaped capsule he was carrying. Throh wasn't actually trying actively to cause Musharna any pain, but the Psychic-type Pokémon writhed inside her prison anyway. Seeing this caused Fennel to become overwhelmed with worry for the safety of her beloved friend.

"I told you," Foster stated flatly, "I have no reason to want to hurt you. I'm just doing my job. Captain Everton's given me the order to clear you and your data out and get you to a safe location, so that's what I have to do."

"A… safe location? Just what is Everton planning? Why am I important to it? Hasn't he held me hostage here long enough?"

The barrage of questions Fennel unloaded on Foster would have annoyed Baker or Everton enough to prompt a violent response, but luckily for her, Foster had enough patience to field the queries.

Unfortunately, however, he could only sigh and answer, "You're valuable to Everton's plan. He doesn't want to let you go yet."

"He promised he'd let me go when the Dreamyarn Inceptor was finished!" Fennel shrilled, desperate tears of terror welling up in her eyes. "I already sent the sleeping Pokémon where you told me, too!"

"Look, Dr. Fennel… I can't give you any more information because I don't have any more. Please, just calm down and cooperate."

Fennel was able to see that she would not be escaping from the situation no matter how much she pleaded with Foster, even if he was sympathetic to her. She simply went silent, with her face and eyes turning red, and dejectedly followed Foster and his Throh to the elevator.

-:-

The storm was continuing its gradual intensification as Matt and Katorena arrived at Aurelie's home, however, it was not the harsh rain that was weighing the most on Matt's mind. As he guided the hoverboard to land on the muddy ground, he knew that Everton would not be far behind, meaning they could not stay in one place for long.

"What a foul mess!" Katorena exclaimed. Her feet were sinking slightly into the mud, causing her shoes to get dirty. Even though Matt's dress shoes were actually nicer than her casual footwear, she was the one to be bothered.

"Now is not the time!" Matt scolded her. "We have bigger things to worry about than keeping our shoes clean!"

The door on Aurelie's house swung open with a loud crash, and the old fortuneteller came charging out. She skidded to a stop on her porch and caught her breath with long, labored gasps.

"You kids shouldn't be out in this storm!" she harshly groaned, struggling to keep up her energy. "Hurry, get inside!"

Without a word, Matt seized Katorena's arm and pulled her up into Aurelie's home. Katorena didn't speak either, but she did pull against Matt's grip and try to get free.

Nevertheless, they ended up inside the dark interior of Aurelie's house once more. Nothing had changed, and the environment was as oddly unsettling as ever. A sudden flash of lightning outside cast a light throughout the dwelling that didn't help matters any.

As Matt and Katorena followed Aurelie into her main room, they discovered Nekou, Bunny, Olivia, Rowena, Woods and Victini there already. All looked rather somber, though they had had a short time to dry out a bit.

"I guess they didn't die out there in the storm after all," Nekou mumbled sarcastically, apparently addressing Olivia.

"And I thought my dad was a fish," Olivia added before giggling nervously.

"How about you two calm down and catch me up on what's going on?" As he spoke, Matt sat down on a nearby chair and stretched his limbs in an attempt to relax a little.

"Matt, Katorena, you're both alright!"

Two pairs of wide, surprised eyes greeted Diane and Butler as they entered the room from an adjoining room together. They too carried themselves with a palpable, serious focus, standing rigidly in front of the doorway they'd just passed through.

"Diane, you and Butler got out of the stadium?" Matt said, his voice reflecting how little he expected their appearance. "How, though?"

"We actually followed you," Butler explained. "My Mightyena followed your scent to the maintenance hall you exited through."

"What's going on outside?" Diane added, her voice quivering. "Someone needs to just explain what is happening in Whitegold City today…"

"Liam Everton was after Victini, and…"

"We already told them that part," Bunny interrupted Matt to say. "What happened after we left?"

"Well, my Golurk, Hethna, came back from New Bark Town just in time to help fight Everton, but even with its help, we couldn't overpower his Hydreigon."

"My dear Beheeyem managed to put that foul dragon to sleep," Katorena chimed in, the pride in her voice not being masked very well.

"So we battled him even as we tried to flee here after stealing his hoverboard. What we've learned is that he is so single-mindedly after Victini that he no longer wanted to keep us alive once we didn't have it."

"I knew something terrible was going to happen in this city," voiced Aurelie, attracting the others' attention. She walked back into the room with her Gothitelle following behind, carrying a crystal ball on a pillow in her tiny purple hands. The two came to stand behind a table with a blue, star-lined sheet draped on it, at which point Aurelie took the crystal ball from Gothitelle and set it down on the desk. "Whitegold City is a place steeped in tradition and folklore, and behind every tale is a piece of this city's soul. Gothitelle and I are connected to that soul, enabling us to read it like the soul of a living thing."

"Fascinating…" While listening to and absorbing Aurelie's explanation of her powers, Olivia simply stared at her, enthralled by her words and their meaning.

"Your powers aren't too different from the ability of Transcendence used by some Tenganist priestesses," Bunny realized aloud. "From your description of what you can do, it resembles the powers I've read about."

Though she remained silent, Nekou was also quite clearly drawn into the conversation. Unusually for her, she was sitting calmly and attentively, treating the words of those around her just like they were a book.

Matt, on the other hand, had something to add. "Don't forget Sheena. I used to be close friends with a modern-day Tenganist priestess, so I think I know exactly what you mean."

"That is because the Tenganists and the People of the Vale of modern times share common ancestry," the fortuneteller revealed to her audience. "Both groups are of heavily spiritual descent. That spirituality simply manifested itself differently between the two. Now, let me have a look at what the city will tell me about the events of today that are yet to happen."

Aurelie spread her hands over the crystal ball and focused her mind, drawing out a power that manifested itself as a glowing black light from the orb. Within the sphere, a cloudy image gradually cleared itself up to reveal itself to the observers in the room.

Inside Aurelie's crystal ball, Everton could be seen standing alongside his Klinklang and Cryogonal as well as Baker's Sawk. He had his hand tucked into his pocket and was talking to someone, though whoever it was was outside of view.

"It looks like we fight him again," Bunny astutely observed. "We should have expected as much."

Suddenly noticing something worrying in the image, Matt leaned forward, closer to the sphere. "Look at where this seems to be happening. That's…"

When Matt abruptly interrupted himself to turn and run for the door, it alarmed the others. Olivia was the first to rise and follow him, calling his name in a hopeless attempt to pull him back. She didn't understand what was going on, but Nekou and Rowena did see the same thing he saw in the crystal ball, and immediately left in pursuit. Bunny, Katorena, Woods, Aurelie, Butler and Diane all followed, out of reflex.

They found Matt standing on the front porch of Aurelie's home, staring out at the clearing in front of her house while frozen in fear, and quickly gathered around him.

The cause of his uncertainty became clear to each and every one of them. Standing there in the clearing, his hand in his pocket just like in the crystal ball's prediction, was Everton. From the way he held himself, it did not seem as if the vicious rainstorm bothered him in the least. His hair blew in the wind, and Klinklang and Cryogonal floated on either side of him while Sawk stood nearby. Behind him, meanwhile, Baker stood near their truck.

"You're a hard man to find, Matt Chiaki," he said mockingly. He then pointed at Olivia, or more specifically, Victini in her arms. "I think your little troublemaker has something that belongs to me. Give it up."

"Why shou…"

"Excuse me, HIS little troublemaker?" Not only did Matt visibly jump when he was interrupted, Olivia's brash episode of lashing out noticeably shocked even Liam Everton, who stepped back in surprise. "Let me tell you two things, you jerk. One, I'm not anyone's troublemaker, and two, if I was, the one whose troublemaker I was abandoned me!"

"Olivia…" Knowing that Olivia's outburst was over her father made it hurt Matt twice as much. It was bad enough that she was directly putting him down, but he could feel her pain over the absence of her beloved father as well.

Nekou, on the other hand, simply pushed up her glowing glasses on her face. She masked her pride in Olivia with a simple remark, "I see someone learned just how much of a weapon her mouth is."

"You're quite the little firebrand, aren't you?" It took a moment for Everton to regain his composure, but when he did, his overconfidence returned. "I don't have time to deal with any of you any further. Klinklang, Cryogonal, Sawk, go forth!"

As the trio of Pokémon in Everton's employ moved in on Matt's group, Matt himself froze once more. He realized a dangerous truth – of his six Pokémon, only Tanya was still in a battle-ready state. Hethna and Ayingott had been injured just earlier in the fight with Everton's Hydreigon, while Subzero was newly evolved and not ready for a fight like this. Matt also had a Reuniclus with him, but it had been badly injured in the battle of Argyros Town mere days earlier, and Matt was trying to let them rest. Agnetha, meanwhile, was worn from battling with Katorena the previous day. Even though two of Everton's three Pokémon would be weak to her, Matt knew that with just Tanya alone, he stood no chance against them as a team.

Taking a nervous step back, Matt said quietly to Bunny, "I'm going to need you to take care of this…"

"I'll have to do my best. Sky, Balin, Kayla, come out!"

The three Poké Balls thrown by Bunny released three very different Pokémon. Sky and Balin, her male Drifblim and Ninetales, contrasted strongly with each other; whereas the former had a bulbous and rubbery body colored in mostly hues of purple and blue, the latter cut a dashing figure with his foxlike body and nine flowing tails, all covered in luxurious golden fur. Kayla, her Mienshao, also was rather unique in her appearance. Her lithe weasel-like body, colored mostly light pink, granted her outgrowths of fur on her arms that were similar to whips, along with a thin, purple-tipped tail and whiskers ending similarly in yellow.

"Klinklang, Flash Cannon!" Everton commanded, waving his hand in a dramatic sweeping motion. "Cryogonal, use Frost Breath! Sawk, Low Sweep!"

Cryogonal moved swiftly into an attacking position, forcing Bunny to realize that she had to think quickly. Pressure on her came not only from the evil man facing her down and his Pokémon, but also from her perception of her friends standing behind her, who were counting on her to win.

"Balin, hit Cryogonal with Flame Burst!"

Bunny's attack order came too late to stop the chilled air Cryogonal exhaled from sweeping over Sky in a super-effective hit which made him groan and start shivering. Despite that, when Balin expelled a dense fireball from his mouth, it struck Cryogonal with enough explosive force to throw the snowflake-shaped Pokémon back by almost eight feet. Cryogonal's significant defensive power against special attacks and the intense rainstorm were the only reasons it didn't suffer critical damage.

"Now, Kayla, it's your turn! Use Hi Jump Kick against Klinklang!"

In order to charge up the energy needed for its Flash Cannon, Klinklang had begun rotating the gears comprising its body at a more rapid rate, and now it had the power it needed. A blast of silvery light shot out of the gray circle in the center of the smaller gear at the Steel-type's middle. Before it could hit, however, Kayla jumped out of the way, causing Klinklang's Flash Cannon to impact the ground to no further effect than singeing the grass. She landed right in front of Klinklang and then sprang up a second time, striking the spiked rim around its body with her knee.

With Klinklang being repelled back, Sawk sprang out from the sidelines and immediately took Balin in his sights. He made a beeline straight for the Fire-type, his gaze locked onto her spindly legs. Balin's legs were quite the inviting target, especially for a Pokémon that liked to fight dirty as much as Sawk had learned to, so he altered his charge into a sliding kick meant to undercut Balin's stance.

"Shadow Ball!"

One disadvantage of Sawk's bold attack strategy was that he was wide open to being interrupted, and that was exactly what happened. Having sufficiently recovered from the bone-chilling effects of Cryogonal's Frost Breath, Sky flew right in between Sawk and Balin and formed a sphere of dark energy in front of himself.

Sawk saw the Shadow Ball blocking his way but couldn't get out of the attempted Low Sweep, and he ended up crashing right into it. The resulting explosion didn't hurt Sky in the least, but Sawk went backflipping through the air to right back where he started.

"Well done, Bunny, you're fighting well," Matt complimented, much to his friend's appreciation. Turning toward the relentless antagonist they faced, his tone became a lot less composed as he said, "Everton, you must stop this! What would even possess someone to do such things?"

"Isn't it obvious?" Everton answered with a hint of sarcasm, spreading his arms as he spoke. "Just like anyone who wants to do anything, this is my dream!"

"You're kidding, right?" Olivia angrily countered, not finished with her earlier rant. "A dream is something someone has that is dear to them, something that is the most important thing in their life! Like, for example, my dream is to find my dad and tell him just what I think about his abandoning me. That's a dream. What are you doing, exactly? Committing mass murder against an entire city? You call that a dream?"

Matt had his own feelings about Olivia's anger, but his sadness for her and disappointment in himself had to wait. Everton, who was the direct target of the outburst, reacted in a way that was quite surprising to all opposing him – he actually tensed and moved back slightly, while gritting his teeth in rage.

"I'll tell you, you little brat…" he seethed, his glare becoming unfocused as he got caught up in his own emotion. "That's what I was raised to know… believe in your goals and anything becomes possible… that's what my grandfather told me…"

"You're on that still?" gasped Woods, immediately realizing he knew what Everton was talking about. "Now I understand it… all those times you spoke of accomplishing the dream Becket gave you, it was this you meant, wasn't it?"

"Now you understand. At the end, you finally understand… since that night when I was just a mere pup of eleven, when my grandfather told me of Victini…"

~:~

One year after the naval disaster that only Becket Everton and Woods survived with the help of Victini and the newly-transformed Cresselia, the beginnings of the dreadful fate in the future were beginning to take shape.

The elder Everton sat at the bedside of his then-young grandson Liam, holding his weathered captain's log while the boy stared at him with wide, bright eyes. The room was filled with naval equipment, books and charts, all reflective of Liam Everton's interest in them even at the age of eleven. A calendar on his desk revealed the date – July 19, 1963.

"Victini is the most inspiring Pokémon I have ever found, and that is why I am honored to have it as my partner aboard my ship. The warmth radiating from Victini… it is Victini's power, the Victory Star. The power to find any single victory so desired by the power's user. Oh Victory Star, shine the light on the path I must take to my dreams. Victini, turn my road into one of fortune…"

"Your stories are always so exciting, grandpa!" exclaimed the young Liam Everton.

"The story is true," Becket wistfully replied. "Victini and I had many glorious adventures on the seas of the world for years, even if those days are over now. But, don't be discouraged, Liam. Perhaps if you believe in yourself when you inherit the family business, you too can come to be blessed by the light of Victini's power. All you have to do is dream and believe it to be possible, and you can accomplish anything you set out to do."

~:~

"…after that night, I often dreamt of obtaining Victini and the Victory Star, both during the day and at night. It became my life's goal, and just like I was told, I believe I'll win, which means I will!"

"You know that's not what your grandfather meant!" Matt shouted back. Sick from hearing Everton's excuses to justify it all, he finally was running out of patience and snapping. "He's probably spinning in his grave right now!"

"Silence, you ignorant fool! Klinklang, shut him up!"

Taking Matt in its sights, Everton's Klinklang began charging up energy for another Flash Cannon attack. Before it could fire, however, Matt was surprised by Aurelie's Gothitelle floating over his head, nearly knocking him over in the process.

"Gothitelle, Charge Beam!"

Showing surprising boldness and courage in jumping into battle, Aurelie's Gothitelle brought her hands together, allowing a bolt of electricity to shoot out of them and into Klinklang. The energy overwhelmed Klinklang's body, cutting short its Flash Cannon.

"You won't get away with this…" snarled Everton. "Cryogonal, punish that thing! Acrobatics!"

In the blink of an eye, Cryogonal tore through the air with a shrill cry, tackling Gothitelle back into a supporting column of the house before it could even be seen. The wood cracked from the impact, even though Gothitelle wasn't extremely heavy, and she fell to the ground with a loud thump.

"Gothitelle!" Aurelie howled, rushing as quickly as she could to the side of her fallen friend. "I'm sorry I made you fight," she said sorrowfully while helping Gothitelle stand back up.

There was no time for the group to lick their collective wounds, as literally seconds later, Sawk was back in the fight. With his right hand upturned, glowing purple and cocked back for a stabbing motion, he had Olivia and Victini in his sights.

"Olivia, watch out!"

Though Nekou threw herself in the direction of Sawk's Poison Jab's trajectory, her movement had been too sluggish. There was no way she could have reached a point in between Olivia and Sawk in time. Around them, Matt, Bunny, Rowena, Woods, Aurelie, Butler and Diane could all only watch in helpless horror as the Fighting-type Pokémon closed in on his target.

Things would not end that simply, however.

Before Sawk had drawn within arm's length of Olivia and Victini, the small-statured Psychic-and-Fire-type floated up out of her grasp. After pitching a shrill scream into the sky, it unleashed a Psyshock attack. Bolts of glittering silver light flowed from Victini's eyes and into Sawk's body, stunning him in midair; he convulsed for several seconds before physical damage became apparent on his being, from gashes and bruises on his blue body to cuts in his robes.

Sawk was eventually thrown back by Victini's Psyshock. As he skidded through the mud, Klinklang floated ahead to take his place, and without an order, the Steel-type aimed its Flash Cannon at Victini.

Victini escaped the Flash Cannon by flying out of the way, and barely got away from the main force of it. The light cut Victini's foot, but it made it through with just a wince.

"Tiiiiniiiii!" it cried after turning around to face Klinklang. With its stunned audience looking on, Victini became shrouded in a cloud of steam generated from the rain water hitting its heated body. Despite that rain, a giant fireball entrapped within two opposite orbital rings formed over Victini's head.

By waving its finger, Victini brought down this unusual and catastrophically powerful move down upon Klinklang, sending the Steel-type Pokémon flying through the air, right past its dumbfounded trainer, until it hit a nearby tree.

Everton only looked back at his stunned Klinklang for a brief moment. His reaction to Victini's sudden and violent counterattack was completely devoid of anything resembling pity or concern for his own Pokémon, instead being fueled by surprise and jealousy over Victini's strength.

"Don't think you can escape me! My victory is at hand! Cryogonal, cut it down, now!"

Cryogonal made use of the sharp edges around its body to enhance its power when it used Acrobatics. In addition, before directly attacking, it grabbed hold of another tree using one of its ice chains and swung around in a circle on it, building up momentum for when it tackled Victini at incredibly high speed.

Being struck sent Victini spinning higher into the air above the clearing. However, it caught itself and managed to stop its out-of-control course, then growled forcefully as its vicious lashing out continued. A pair of intercrossing rings composed of blue electricity formed around Victini's body, which soon began exuding a vast excess of this same power. Using all of this electrical energy, Victini fought back against Cryogonal by returning the tackle, smashing the shiny-bodied Ice-type into the tree right next to Klinklang.

"Victini, you're amazing!" Olivia beamed excitedly to the Pokémon, who had returned to floating near her. "I never guessed you had such powers!"

"I never knew either…" Woods mumbled, "…those attacks looked like Fusion Flare and Fusion Bolt, the signature moves of Reshiram and Zekrom… did Becket help you learn those?"

"We don't have time now!" interrupted Butler. He knew that despite the fact that Sawk, Klinklang and Cryogonal had presently been neutralized, Everton was still a threat, and the looming danger posed by the storm needed to be resolved as well. "Gardevoir, come out and Teleport us to a safe place!"

Events were beginning to progress too quickly for anyone to keep up with. While Matt barely managed to register that Butler was sending out Gardevoir to Teleport the group to safety, Olivia was completely overwhelmed and no longer had any idea what was going on. Butler's Gardevoir produced a bright flash of light immediately upon being released, enveloping the entire clearing in its blinding glow.

Once it faded, only Everton, Baker, their Pokémon and the truck remained. Butler's Gardevoir had used her power to transport herself and her trainer along with Matt, Nekou, Olivia, Bunny, Victini, Diane, Katorena, Rowena, Woods, Aurelie, Gothitelle, Sky, Balin and Kayla away to safety. The hoverboard Matt had stolen from Everton also was taken away by the Teleport.

Everton was visibly confused by this turn of events and stepped forward as he looked around, his foot squishing down into the soft, muddy ground.

"I don't understand," he said to Baker, without turning around to face the henchman. "Where did they go?"

"Couldn't you use the Victory Star to find them?" suggested Sawk's trainer while he recalled his weakened Fighting-type to his Poké Ball.

"Capital idea! I'll find out right where they've gone… Victory Star!"

The shining depths reflective of the Victory Star's power returned to Everton's left eye when he activated the ability once again. He doubled over in order to fight off the headaches using the Victory Star brought him, but those were a price he'd long decided to pay in exchange for such an awesome power.

Inside his vision, however, he did not see a clear location as he expected. Instead, Everton saw himself riding in the truck with Baker, operating his ultra-thin laptop computer. The thermal radar of Whitegold City could be seen on its screen.

At that point, the vision ended, and Everton slowly straightened up while gasping for breath. "The path… to victory… the path is a little less direct. We must simply monitor for Victini's heat signature right now. Wherever they've gone, it's some place where we would have too hard a time following. They have to come out of hiding eventually."

"Let's get back into the truck, then! This rain is getting to be too much!"

"Agreed, Baker."

Before he headed for Baker's vehicle, Everton stopped briefly to return Klinklang and Cryogonal to their Ultra Balls. Once he had done that, he walked across the clearing with wide steps, reaching the truck in no time. He pulled the right-hand passenger-side door open and entered, only closing the door once he had sat down on one of the seats, which were made of a heavy rubber-like material.

"So what do we do now?" Baker questioned in earnest. "Where do we go?"

Everton did not answer at first. He instead stared out the windshield at the storm, which was pelting the glass with a steady, relentless downpour so powerful that windshield wipers would have trouble clearing it. The sound of the raindrops striking the transparent surface, coupled with the ripples a steady rainfall created as the water flowed downward, relaxed him. Even though his plans were going perfectly, he knew himself that he was becoming too intensely engrossed in them, and so the mental breather was appreciated.

"We'll just wait for Victini's heat signature to return," Everton finally said, his anger subdued into a menacing calm. He took out his laptop and began booting it up while continuing, "They went somewhere where Victini's heat signature isn't detectable, if I'm interpreting the path to my victory correctly."

"We don't have tons of time left," Baker reminded his boss. "The plan must be complete before the storm causes the gates to reach the critical point."

"They're on the same clock I am. If they want to survive, they have to come out of hiding eventually, before time runs out." Suddenly remembering something, Everton reached for a transmitter attached by a cord to the dashboard of the truck, held it up to his mouth, and pushed in the button on the silvery-colored device's side. "Mr. Foster, come in. This is Captain Liam Everton."

"Foster here!" replied a crackling, static-distorted voice from the other side of the radio. "Captain Everton, what is it?"

"What is the status of the order you were given?"

"Dr. Fennel and Musharna have been moved to the ark, while all of her data has been dumped onto the ark's servers. Of course, that includes the sleeping Pokémon."

"Well done, Foster. What is your current location?"

"Whitegold Harbor, sir."

"Very good. Wait there. Baker and I are heading your way to pick you up." Hanging up the transmitter, Everton said to Baker, "You heard me, we're heading to the harbor to get Foster. Get going."

Baker had no words to give back to his superior, so he simply pressed several buttons in the dashboard's control panel, turning on the truck's lights and windshield wipers to their highest settings. With their lights cutting through the stormy murk like two beacons and the windshield being kept desperately and barely clear by the furiously-moving wipers, the Humvee from Everton International set off on its mission.

-:-

Giovanni sat at his desk, staring into the screen of his computer. A live video stream displaying Dr. Zager in his lab was visible on it, but Giovanni seemed to almost be looking past him.

"Go over it again, Gabriel." Giovanni's command wasn't as forceful as his orders usually were. His voice cracked while he spoke, indicative of the growing nervousness in the pit of his stomach. "I want to make sure I've got the whole thing understood."

"Well, Giovanni, sir…" The burden of explaining the emergency to his boss overwhelmed Zager, forcing him to cough and clear his throat before continuing. "The intensifying storm over Whitegold City is on track to begin disrupting the weather on a global scale. There is not an exact reason that is clear to me for why this is, but Whitegold City's position right on a critical point in the jet stream causes it to make some logical sense. Unfortunately, however, it appears that the contextual amount of time we're looking at for this scenario is hours, and not a lot of them at that. I can't understand why this storm is growing so violent so quickly… no existing data shows any precedent for a weather pattern like this."

Giovanni ran his hand down his face to release his dismay. Under his guidance, Team Rocket had undertaken experiments with potentially world-changing consequences before, but one thing he always tried to remember was to not do anything that could lead to the destruction of the world. That wasn't the goal of his organization or Giovanni himself. What they aimed for was merely profit through the manipulation and control of the world's functions, and for that to succeed, they had to make sure society's way of life remained preserved.

"What are we potentially looking at if the worst-case scenario unfolds?" he finally inquired.

Zager's face darkened, the shadows calling attention to the grave alarm the unfolding disaster instilled in him. "Catastrophic shifts in the global weather pattern. We will soon see hurricanes happening completely out of season, tornadoes all over the world, illogical snow, rain, drought… it will be complete chaos, a change in the planet that mankind has never seen before."

"I was afraid of that," Giovanni admitted, leaning forward in such a way that his clasped hands covered his mouth from sight. "For now, Gabriel, monitor what the public notices about this incident. If the government cannot do anything to soothe public worry, we may have to take action."

"Understood, sir."

Once Zager disappeared from Giovanni's computer, the office was eerily silent. With his hands tied by the actions of the government and the International Police, Giovanni did not have access to the kind of manpower he needed to do something about the problem. That was something he wasn't used to – ordinarily, as a crime boss, Gym Leader and wealthy businessman, he usually got what he wanted done with little controversy within groups of his followers. Now he was completely helpless, and it was a feeling he hated.

His tightly-enclosed bubble of anger and frustration was broken by the feeling of Persian nudging his hand. When he looked down, Giovanni found his trusted friend staring up at him with worry in his eyes, accompanied by a nervous meow. Persian definitely could sense that something was wrong, though this didn't surprise Giovanni, considering all the years they'd been together.

"Don't worry, my friend. I'll make sure everything is okay."

The sound of his doors creaking open suddenly hit Giovanni's ears, causing him to jump in his chair. It was Stacia nervously edging herself into the office, her glasses glowing to obscure her eyes and a cordless telephone in her hand.

"What, Stacia? What happened now?"

"You are needed on the videophone, sir," Stacia flatly informed him. "You have been summoned by the governor for a conference call regarding the Whitegold City disaster."

-:-

In his run-down lab, Zager leaned back in his chair, feeling many of the same nerve-wracking thoughts that Giovanni did on the matter; however, unlike his boss, he didn't have a partner to console him. Galvantula was too busy sucking electricity out of an open socket in the wall to pay attention.

"Well, it's about time to get started on the job, then."

Leaning forward again, Zager tapped a key on his keyboard several times, switching the window displayed in the front of his screen until the one he desired was prominent. Its border designated it with the name "RChannel," and it appeared to be a message board website. A chain of new posts greeted Zager's eyes, and he scanned them until he spotted one relevant to his concerns, posted by someone using the name 'Slowpoke Tail.'

"Hey, have any of you heard about what's happening in Whitegold City?" the post read. "A freak storm showed up there, and they're saying that Darkrai and Cresselia are fighting in the city on the news!"

Directly after that post was a reply that came within minutes, from a user called 'RAGECANDYBAR.' "Yeah, I heard about it. I'm really worried, some of my friends just went there and are trapped! Isn't there anything anyone can do?"

"Pansage," the next message simply read.

"You know about Pansaging important topics, you fool!" Slowpoke Tail reprimanded the third poster. "Are you trying to get that scary admin in here?"

An anonymous post followed that. "Whitegold City? Isn't that where that Chiaki guy was making that speech that Polaris interrupted? Think they're connected?"

It was that post that made Dr. Zager completely freeze. "Polaris…" He knew the name of the group, and that knowledge struck fear deep into his heart. Hastily, he typed in his username – Galvantula Man – and entered the message, "What's this about Polaris? What are you talking about?"

Almost immediately after Zager posted his question, a reply popped up. "Pansage for not watching the news."

"I told you you're going to get that scary admin in here! Shut up! Galvantula Man, if you didn't see the coverage, a group of Polaris members disrupted Matt Chiaki's speech and attempted to kill him. There was a camera dropped by one of the reporters covering it that broadcast the entire thing. They tried to short out his body using a bunch of Magneton, but this woman saved him by beating the shit out of the three of them. They were ranting about a pure world and someone named Father, or something."

Zager's eyes were trembling in fear by the time he finished reading the message. He raised his fingers to type a response, but could not think well enough to do so. Instead, he turned his chair away from the computer and stared blankly at the wall.

"They've begun… Arceus help us all…"

-:-

Butler's Gardevoir's Teleport had ended up moving the group to a tunnel beneath Whitegold City. Unlike the environment topside, where the vicious weather made it difficult to be outside for more than a few minutes at most, the underground area was quiet and dry aside from the stream running down the center of the passage.

Taking advantage of this reprieve from the harsh realities of the danger aboveground, Matt and the others tended to their injured Pokémon while they had the time. In addition to Sky, Balin, Kayla, Butler's Gardevoir and Aurelie's Gothitelle, Hethna and Ayingott were present as well, all being healed by their trainers using various medicinal goods.

"I'm sorry these Revival Herbs are so bitter," Matt said apologetically, looking over his Pokémon as he returned the gnarled, green herbs in his hand back to his bag. "They're remarkably good medicine, so please try to look past how they taste."

Hethna and Ayingott grunted their agreement with his request, so Matt nodded, smiled and returned them to the safety of their Poké Balls. When he turned around, however, he was greeted by a sight he didn't expect or hope to see – Olivia sitting against the wall, crying. All the others were looking at her, but none of them knew what to say to make her feel better.

"It's impossible!" she fumed, tears rolling down her face until they dripped onto the cold stones of the floor. "Nothing we do works against him! I don't think we're going to get out of this!"

"Don't talk like that!" Though he didn't like the harsh tone his words took and had some trouble scaling it back, Matt felt that to some degree it was necessary to do. "We will expose the truth and save this city!"

"Shut up!" the girl shot back, her face red and eyes cloudy with water. She was afraid, but had no outlet to direct her fear into nor a figure she truly felt comfortable turning to for comfort. "What gives you the right to talk to me that way? You aren't any more able to stop this than I am!"

Matt froze, not out of any offense he might have taken to Olivia's latest explosion, but out of how true it really was. He knew she was right, that he didn't have any power to stop Everton or save the city, so therefore, he recognized her point about not having any right to speak with authority in the situation.

"Maybe Matt isn't able to stop Everton or the destruction of Whitegold City," Rowena entered with a surprising amount of focused calm, "but all of us as a group should have just the abilities we need to do the job."

Nekou set her hand on Matt's shoulder. "I can tell what you're thinking. You don't have to be able to solve everything by yourself all the time."

"You're right," Matt answered, his face brightening slightly. "Olivia, don't cry anymore. It's all of us against Everton, I'd say that even with his Victory Star we've got the numbers advantage. Okay, the first thing we need to do is come up with a plan, and the first step to that is figuring out where we are now."

"We're in the underground tunnel network," Rowena helpfully informed.

"Everton had these tunnels built over a decade beginning in the early eighties," added Woods, making good use of his inside knowledge of Everton's operation. "Ostensibly it's a sewer system, but it also links several warehouse properties he owns throughout the city."

"Okay, so we're underneath the city. We should be safe for a while here, which will buy us time to develop a plan for fighting back. So what do we know right now?"

"That horrid man plans to flood the city and destroy every living thing within it to cover his wicked tracks," Katorena correctly pointed out.

"And we're the only ones currently outside of the death trap he's turned the Whitegold Dome into," Matt continued. "We must consider the possibility that if that seawall fails during the storm, we may be the only ones who can survive."

After loudly clearing her throat, Bunny interrupted, "Or we can consider another option. Save the townspeople and tourists."

"Is that even possible?" Turning to Aurelie, Diane repeated her stress-fueled question. "Is that possible?"

"The city is angry," explained the venerable mystic. "Liam's actions have enraged the city, and she is unleashing a righteous punishment upon the wicked."

Aurelie stopped speaking for a moment, allowing all of the others to absorb what she was saying. Aside from Woods, who knew what her words meant, Aurelie's allies all looked at her with stunned expressions. Normally the idea of a city being a living thing would be something all of them would dismiss, but after everything they'd already seen that day, it didn't sound as crazy anymore.

Having given her audience plenty of time to catch onto her story, she finally continued, "When the earth became enraged and its power turned against the people, the great vessel carried them to a point of salvation, and the land became calm once more."

"Tell me what you're actually talking about!" Olivia demanded. She had stopped crying, but her emotions were still raw, and trying to exert even a little thought at the time put far too much stress on her, overriding her usual etiquette.

"The People of the Vale, right?" Bunny gasped, her voice rising in excitement over being the one to understand Aurelie's cryptic words. "When the People of the Vale were threatened by the destruction of their land following a terrible war, they all gathered into a sword-shaped flying castle that carried them to safety and ultimately restrained the land's anger. This city was founded by their descendants, so if history can teach us a lesson about how to deal with the crisis we have now… vessel, vessel… the ships in the harbor!"

"That's actually a pretty brilliant idea. Maybe I underestimated you." As usual, Nekou's compliment to Bunny, while sincere, was delivered with complete sarcasm.

"We've got like fifty thousand people in that stadium, though," Matt pointed out. "How do we efficiently move them without putting them in danger?"

"The same way we got here," Bunny said. "Gardevoir's Teleport."

"With that many people involved, could we pull that off?"

"It would be challenging, but I think she could do it," Butler replied to Matt.

"Butler, please, lend me Gardevoir," proposed Woods. An apologetic look filled his eyes, and he was undeniably sincere. For his role in getting Everton's plan to this advanced point, he was clearly remorseful, and had every intention of fixing it. "What happens to the people of this city is my responsibility. I'll get them out."

"Don't go getting yourself into worse trouble," Aurelie scolded. "I'm coming along. I've lived in this city even longer than you have… I cannot abide by someone like Liam threatening the good people who live here."

"Now, let's not be getting ahead of ourselves. Matt, give me your computer."

Bunny's sudden demand caught Matt off guard, as while he was indeed listening to the entire conversation, he didn't expect to be made part of it. She was in an uncharacteristic hurry and simply reached into his bag to take out his tablet computer, all behavior that he, despite their short time as a group so far, would have expected out of Nekou instead. Stunned by the way she forcefully seized control of the chaos, Matt stood back as Bunny tapped her finger lightly against the device's screen.

"The people won't believe our evacuation order unless we can prove that Everton is behind everything," Bunny explained to an enraptured audience. "We need to find proof of his guilt."

Turning to Rowena, Woods gulped loudly. Having to face the woman he'd stabbed in the back wasn't an easy matter, and he knew quite well that she was being extremely generous in giving him another chance. "Do you have a map of these underground tunnels?" he inquired. "I have a hunch about some of Liam's actions."

"Yeah, I do. Hang on." Much to Woods's relief, Rowena wasn't as concerned about the problem from earlier as he was. She remained straight-to-business, producing her cutting-edge portable phone and sorting through the files on it by sliding her thumb across its screen. "Ah, here we go."

With the press of one more button, Rowena triggered a projection of the image currently displayed on her phone's screen. It was a map of Whitegold City, but a blue line cut through it, twisting and turning and breaking off into many side paths; that line was also accentuated with periodic red, green and black dots.

"This is a map of the underground tunnel network," elaborated the reporter, making sure that her allies were able to keep up. After all, if they got lost, there would be no point for Rowena to speak. "The blue line is the track of the tunnels. Each color dot denotes something different along the system; the red dots are Everton's warehouses, the green dots are openings to above ground to get into the tunnel network, and the black dots point out where the drain gates that can empty the water from the tunnels are."

"I want to know more about that one." Woods locked onto a red dot that was far from all the others, in the upper-left corner of the projection, and pointed at it to show the others. "That's the poor area of the city, so I don't know why he has a warehouse there. Suspicious activity has been reported in that area lately, too."

"That could be a great opportunity for us." Though her fear had mostly passed, Olivia still remained weakened, a state that was reflected in her shaky voice. "Butler, please, take us there."

"Will do, Olivia. Gardevoir, use Teleport!"

All of the assembled humans and Pokémon were engulfed in the shining light Gardevoir produced, along with the stolen hoverboard, which had been lying on the ground nearby. A mere second later, they were all gone, having departed for deeper into the tunnel system in pursuit of an answer to the answers they sought.

-:-

Whitegold City's harbor was a bit further up the river from the seaport where Matt and his friends had entered the city the previous day. Countless shipping containers lined the docks, hued in many different rusted colors and bearing the insignias of numerous cargo companies. The rain created a relentless cacophony of shrill tapping noises with each drop that struck the containers' iron surfaces.

Many ships, big and small, sat moored at the piers, but it was one particular vessel that stood out. This one was at least twice the size of the typical cargo ship in the harbor, nearly approaching the size of a cruise ship. The upper half of its hull was painted red while the bottom half was left in the silver tone of the metal, creating an image like a Poké Ball. Daubed in yellow paint near the ship's bow was an oversized representation of Everton's anchor logo, making the craft's ownership impossible to miss.

It was in the shadow of this towering ship that Foster and his Throh awaited their pickup. While waiting, they took cover underneath a tarp attached to some of the containers on the wharf to hide from the rain. They'd been there for some time, so when they heard the characteristic roar of Everton's Humvee's engine, their moods brightened considerably. The glow of the truck's headlights appeared shortly thereafter, beckoning them.

Though Foster and Throh only had to run a short distance to the truck, it was more than enough time in the storm to leave them soaked to the bone. For that reason, the dryness and relative warmth of the vehicle's interior was much appreciated by the pair.

As if he could read Foster's thoughts, the moment he got in the truck, Everton said to him, "You can't be afraid of the water with where we're going. This storm is nothing."

"I'm… not afraid of the water, sir."

"Is that so?" After letting out a hearty laugh that was loud enough to make Foster and Baker cringe, Everton opened his laptop again. "Let's check in on how the rest of the world is taking this."

A swift motion of Everton's hand over the computer's controls summoned the Black City Exchange data window to the forefront, revealing his current investment information.

Brick Piece Reserves, which he had originally invested $550,500 in, had gone up by one hundred and sixty percent. His $679,000 in Star Piece Trading had gone up one hundred and seven percent. Finally, his investment of $825,650 in Icirrus Mineral Collection saw an increase of one hundred and seventy-five percent.

Finally, the stunning number displayed next to 'Current Total Balance' in the window – two hundred and twenty-five million, nine hundred forty-nine thousand, seven hundred and fifty dollars.

For someone who had turned around a profit of over ten thousand percent on an initial investment of two million, fifty-five thousand, one hundred and fifty dollars, Everton's response was relatively muted. After clenching the top of his head with both hands, he smiled so broadly that his face could stretch no further, and even his Victory Star-absent right eye filled with a glitter of sinister satisfaction.

"I've done it," he growled, his voice getting stuck in his throat due to how eager he was to gloat. "I'm one step closer to complete victory! With the funding for my dream now secure… all that remains is Victini itself!"

"Has it appeared yet on the radar?" Despite speaking to Everton, Baker did not release his tight grip on the truck's steering wheel, nor did he turn from his rigid gaze out into the pouring rain.

"No, unfortunately." A look at the thermal scan of the city confirmed this, as the readout had not changed at all from the last time Everton checked it. "Wherever they went to hide, they haven't come out yet. I think it would be wise here to create a bit of a diversion while we wait it out…"

A low, chilling chuckle escaped from Everton's lips as he clicked his right hand over several keys on the computer.

-:-

Somewhere on the borderline between the wealthy and poor areas of the city, a flock of Pidgey and Pidove clustered under a wood awning to hide from the storm. Despite the differing origins of the two species, one thing they both shared was a strong dislike of getting their feathers wet.

Their peace was violently disturbed, however, when a sudden electrical flash lit up the entire darkness beneath the canopy, startling the bird Pokémon and causing them to scatter and flee.

"Raaa…"

Clutching the collar affixed around its neck, Darkrai roared out of the shadows, where it had been hiding to recover its strength. It had hoped that Everton's need of it was finished, but it knew that the shock meant that wasn't the case. Having long resigned itself to being broken as Everton's slave, Darkrai flew off in search of Cresselia in order to restart their battle.

END of CHAPTER 4


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