nandosagi: (Marco Ikusaba)
[personal profile] nandosagi
Be advised that this chapter contains dark themes and periodically intense violence.

-:-

CHAPTER 5: The Battle for Whitegold City

-:-

With his arms crossed behind his back, Giovanni stood at the videophone screen embedded in the wall of his office. Stacia stood rigidly behind him, holding a thick folder of paperwork against the fronts of her legs.

On the screen, which was divided into two halves, Tobias occupied the left side. On the right sat a woman wearing a white lab coat over a white shirt and diamond-shaped red earrings that matched well with her thick ball of light-brown hair.

"I'm pleased that you found the time to join us, Giovanni." From his shadow-covered face and weak voice, Tobias appeared quite weary. "Perhaps you've met before, but if you haven't, please allow me to introduce Professor Aurea Juniper," the woman nodded when her name was mentioned, "who will be assisting us tonight."

"Think nothing of it," Giovanni responded. He placed great care in restraining his actions, in order to not give any of his agenda away. "Have you managed to stop the collapse of the Black City Exchange?"

"We'll open with that subject, then." Tobias made sure to exaggerate the annoyance in his voice just enough to reveal how he felt about this constantly coming up, but he also knew that getting it out of the way immediately would put it to rest. "I've gotten through to the directors of the Black City Exchange, and they've initiated a search into any accounts related to Liam Everton. If they find suspicious activity, the trading day will be stopped and safety measures will be activated."

"Well, I guess that's better than nothing."

"I don't know what more you'd want me to do. Now, the bigger issue at hand – the storm enveloping Whitegold City and its potential consequences for the rest of the world. This is why I have summoned you here, Professor."

"Yes, Tobias, thank you," Professor Juniper said, her gaze remaining fixed straight ahead. This rendered Giovanni's side of the conference a bit disorienting, as instead of addressing him, she was addressing Tobias, who was to her left. "A few hours ago, a huge thermal plume was released in Whitegold City."

"Did you know anything about this, Giovanni?"

Tobias's question made Giovanni hesitate. He had to choose his words carefully, for if he said the wrong thing, his dealings with Dr. Zager could potentially be exposed. After thinking on what to say for several tense seconds, he finally partially lied by responding, "Not much aside from the fact something happened."

"I see. Well, here is what is happening," Juniper continued to explain, "the storm in Whitegold City formed after an instantaneous climate change that took place following the release of the thermal plume. At its current rate of growth, not only will the storm inflect devastating, cataclysmic damage to Whitegold City, it may grow to the point where the global weather flow is altered."

"It will be an unprecedented disaster on a global scale," added the governor.

"Based on analysis of the thermal plume's heat signature, I have concluded that the reason for its formation is the power of the Pokémon Victini. That power, the Victory Star, is part of Whitegold City's history. Based on available research, if Victini's power were sufficiently destabilized, some of the Victory Star energy could have flowed out into the atmosphere and the city itself, creating a self-sustaining cycle that continually strengthens the resulting storm at an alarming rate."

"The Victory Star…" The pieces of the puzzle quickly fell into place within Giovanni's mind. It was not long before he had a large portion of Everton's plan figured out, but knowing what was going on only enraged him further. "Liam Everton is causing everything currently occurring in Whitegold City. The appearance of Darkrai… the vicious storm… the suspicious stock market outcomes… all of it fits perfectly to distract from his true goal, obtaining Victini's victory-seeking power! The potential applications of such a power would be truly revolutionary!"

"I know that all too well," grumbled Tobias.

-:-

"Is Matt Chiaki okay? Please tell me he's okay!"

"I won't let anyone hurt him!"

"I'm sure he's fine. He's so amazing, nothing bad would ever happen to him."

"Right? Nothing bad could possibly happen!"

"If someone like Liam Everton tried to hurt him, I'd put a curse on them! Same goes for those whores around him if they let it happen!"

"I'll protect you, Matt! There's nothing you need to be afraid of!"

Zager sighed as he scrolled through the laundry list of bizarre posts he'd come upon while scanning RChannel. All of the posts containing the unsettling messages about Matt had been made less than three minutes apart from each other, and all were written by a user with the name 'The Second Diary Holder.'

"What is with all the people trying to get the admin in here today?" lamented the user 'Troll of Nugget Bridge.' "Did this basket case forget what happened last time? She installed Rickroll as background music on the entire site for a straight fucking week to punish a guy who spammed good threads!"

Suddenly, an alarm started going off on the computer, pulling Zager away from the oddly engrossing spectacle of the unfolding Internet drama. It was being generated by a window that was running a simulation of the storm's growth, but what greeted him was horrifying news that he was nowhere near expecting.

"I-Impossible…" he gasped breathily. Just considering the implications of what he was quickly discovering rendered Zager simultaneously scared and excited for the new scientific opportunities arising from the storm. "The growth of the storm isn't linear, it's exponential… at this rate…"

-:-

Using the map on Rowena's phone as a guide, the group hurried down the tunnel toward the blinking red dot on the diagram. The last Teleport hadn't dropped them at the exact location, so it came down to a frantic race to reach the mysterious warehouse before things got any worse.

"We're almost there!" she called out, gesturing ahead with her right arm. "Hurry! This is our best chance to get the proof Everton was behind all of this!"

"I'm carrying myself as swiftly as my feet will allow!" huffed Katorena, who was running alongside Olivia and just ahead of the floating Victini.

Sooner than they expected, however, they arrived. In fact, because the group was so close to what they were looking for in the first place, they nearly ran right past the large doorway within the tunnel wall.

"Wait, I think this is it!" Matt abruptly shouted, stopping his dash seconds before his allies did. "Woods, is this what you wanted us to find?"

After looking over the doorway, Woods walked to the keypad directly next to it and deftly entered a series of codes into it. Almost immediately, the lock on the doorway disengaged, allowing it to open and reveal the insides of the freight elevator.

"Oh you, Liam, never changing your security codes even twenty years later…" Finding a bit of humor in this, Woods smirked to himself as if mocking Everton internally. Turning back, he said, "This is the place. Even though this warehouse isn't one that I'm aware he ever used during my tenure at the company, he used the same codes in his security programming for so long that getting in was a piece of cake."

"And it's that wit that made them call you this city's greatest gambler." A momentary lapse of Matt's intense concentration allowed a smirk to escape onto his face, but it was only there for a fleeting second. Resuming his focus on the task at hand, he pulled open the freight elevator's doors and stepped inside. "What is this?"

"There aren't any buttons," Olivia flatly pointed out, having made her way up next to Matt. "How are we supposed to get anywhere with this thing?"

"Here's the problem." By this point, the others had all filed into the elevator, and Woods was examining the platform where Everton's Klinklang fit in. "Each general employee of Everton International is issued a Klink, the first evolutionary form of Klinklang, as part of their training package. Likewise, the freight elevators for most every warehouse are powered by Klink-activated mechanisms. This one's different, though… this mechanism clearly will only work if a Klinklang is installed, and of course, we know who the only person with one is."

"How horrid!" spat Katorena. "Does this mean we cannot progress further?"

"Now, not necessarily." Kneeling next to the mechanism's console, Rowena pointed at it and said to the others, "Bypass the Klinklang key altogether and funnel electricity directly to the system. Essentially, hotwire it."

"If that can work, Gothitelle can do it," Aurelie volunteered, producing the appropriate Poké Ball from her robes; all the Pokémon had earlier been recalled following the Teleport in the tunnel.

"It won't be that easy. The key can't be bypassed," Woods sighed. "The other elevators won't operate unless the key is present, so I see no reason why this one would."

Silence hung over the amassed team within the lift, but it only lasted for a mere second before Nekou abruptly broke it. "Once again it falls to me, doesn't it? Fine, I'll show you boys how it's done. Zorua, prepare yourself!"

In a flash of light, Nekou's Zorua burst from her Poké Ball and deftly positioned herself on the platform, barking sharply as she did so.

"Zorua, ready to show off just how awesome you are?"

"Zo!"

"I thought so! Now… take the shape of Klinklang!"

After barking once more, Zorua jumped up into the air and enveloped herself in a bright purple glow. In the blink of an eye her shape changed into that of Klinklang, and once the light faded, it became impossible to distinguish that she actually was a Zorua and not a Klinklang. One thing she couldn't do in this form was float, however, so she fell straight down and fit into the mechanism.

"Impressive," Matt complimented, "I wouldn't have thought of that."

"Zorua's powers of illusion go as far as changing her own physical appearance," Nekou smugly boasted, before she lowered her head to allow a shine to fill her glasses. "Not that you should expect anything less when I get my hands on the problem."

"I suppose you're right, being the mad scientist that you are," he mocked through gritted teeth. Matt then stepped back over to the console and kicked the bottom of it with his cybernetic left leg, dislodging the metal panel covering the circuitry within. Finally, he reached down, and with little effort he pried it off, exposing the machinery's insides. "It's up to you now," he said, turning to Aurelie.

"Right. Gothitelle, come out and use Charge Beam, my dear."

Immediately after being released from her Poké Ball, Gothitelle brought her hands together. A small amount of electricity sparked from them, followed by a thin, concentrated flare of energy that connected with the circuitry of the elevator's power supply device.

This was the solution the group needed. The elevator accepted the energy, and once power spread throughout its systems, it started to move upward. Zorua, as Klinklang, rotated in the mechanism as the lift rose up toward the warehouse.

-:-

A bolt of lightning lit up the skies above Whitegold City, casting a flare against the two creatures floating in the air. One was a ragged-bodied Pokémon colored mainly black and white, while the other had the shape of a purple swan with translucent wings.

Both Darkrai and Cresselia apprised each other with exhaustion in their eyes for a brief, tense second; the hatred between the two was palpable. It was Cresselia that made the first move, shakily aiming her Signal Beam at Darkrai. Because of the tremors shaking her body, however, it went widely off-target, instead coming down and hitting a fountain just on the rich side of the city. A flock of Ducklett and Swanna, undeterred by the torrential downpour, had been swimming in it; the blue ducks and curvaceous white swans panicked and scrambled for cover.

Darkrai seized on the momentary opening that Cresselia's miss afforded and rushed forward, grabbing hold of the Psychic-type's body in its dark claws. Straining greatly, it threw her down to the street and then rained a wide Dark Pulse upon her.

-:-

Once again, Giovanni was back at his desk, and Dr. Zager was speaking again to him via the secure video link. What was different this time, though, is that a look of worn agitation was fixed on his face.

"Giovanni, sir, you must listen to me!" he gasped, his voice becoming raspy.

"You have no authority to speak to Mister Giovanni in such a way, Zager," Stacia coldly reproached from over her boss's shoulder. She had no tolerance for anyone disrespecting Giovanni, and as such, she stared down at the scientist's image with great scorn. "If it was not for him, you would have nowhere to go. You owe him your life, so speak to him in a more respectf…"

"That's enough, Stacia," Giovanni cut in, waving his secretary off. "I'm interested in what Gabriel has to say."

"Thank you, Giovanni, sir." Leaning forward into the screen, Zager hurriedly continued, "My calculations on the storm's growth rate were wrong. The algorithm was assuming that the growth rate was linear, and it's not. It's exponential."

Though he could judge that this was not good news, the exact meaning of it was just slightly above Giovanni's head. He was by no means an uneducated man, but there was a reason he had trained scientists like Zager in his employ. Not only that, but he also wanted to confirm a suspicion he had after his call with Tobias and Professor Juniper. Leaning back in his chair, he said, "I'm sure there's a reason you're so upset. Explain it to me."

"Sir, because the growth rate is exponential, we are now facing imminent global disaster much sooner than expected. Do you remember anything of any astronomy classes you ever took?"

"Enough to know what to tell you what to do. What of it?"

"On the surface of the planet Jupiter is a phenomenon called the Great Red Spot. It's a storm that has raged for possibly three hundred and fifty years or more. Granted, the type of storm the Great Red Spot is is usually associated with snowstorms, but the principle is the same."

The facts of the situation were beginning to dawn fully on Giovanni, and he lowered his head to disguise his growing concern over what was increasingly appearing real. "I get where you're going with this, but let me ask you something. If Victini's power, the Victory Star, leaked out into the climate, would it be possible for that to lead to this situation?"

"That's it!" Zager exclaimed. "That's the variable that's made this storm grow on this scale! The power of the Victory Star gone awry combined with a sudden thermal spike in the area could in fact lead to this! All that energy released into the climate could easily create an endless, unstoppable storm."

"You're saying that the Whitegold City storm could become Earth's Great Red Spot?" Stacia guessed, adjusting her glasses nervously on her face. "I understand now. The consequences would truly be dire if that were to occur."

"It's not that simple. The Great Red Spot remains largely still and doesn't move much. If this thing continues growing, it will soon completely reshape the planet's jet stream, leading to an apocalyptic shift in weather patterns. I've run a simulation, and based on my projections, the new weather pattern will first lead to violent thunderstorms throughout the world… and Viridian City is right in the way of one of them."

Giovanni sat back again. Though he didn't show it, this news brought an emotion he didn't usually feel – fear. When he had the full might of Team Rocket behind him, he would have never feared anything, not even this. But in the present, he only had Zager, Stacia and a few remaining Executives and agents to rely on. Despite his usual confidence, Giovanni was a realist, and he knew that the remnants of his team wouldn't be enough to fight back against the weather going out of control.

"What's the timetable, Gabriel? I must be prepared to activate emergency contingency measures if things get completely out of control."

"That's what I was dreading having to show you, sir. Here it is…"

At that, Zager pressed a button on his end that caused a countdown to appear on Giovanni's screen.

Zero hours, Fifty-one minutes, fifty-two seconds.

"This is until the rest of the world is affected?" Finally, Stacia's façade cracked. Just how close the world was to its impending doom terrified her.

"The countdown until we enter a new and terrible era for the entire world," Zager coldly declared. "When this finishes, there may be no turning back."

00:51:23….

00:51:22…

00:51:21…

-:-

The roughly fifty thousand evacuated residents and tourists still remained confined inside the Whitegold Dome, completely unaware of what was going on outside. Their one source of information was the news broadcast by Midori Makise, which had been covering Darkrai and Cresselia's fight, but even that had been disrupted some time earlier.

One thing they could hear, however, was the sound of the relentless rain on the roof of the stadium. That was more than enough for the existence of an intense storm to be clear to the evacuees, and scattered murmuring was circulating among them.

"You hear that rain, right?"

"Sure has gotten nasty out there fast. I wonder what's going on?"

"Do you think the floodgate will hold?"

"Of course it will. It was designed for that."

"We'll be safe here. Captain Everton brought us here because it's safe."

This fractured discussion was interrupted when Midori's news broadcast abruptly returned to the giant screen inside the stadium. "This is the Everton News Channel's coverage of the disaster in Whitegold City. I'm Midori Makise, and we have some breaking news. After their sudden disappearances a few hours ago, Cresselia and Darkrai have returned, and once again are fighting it out, possibly to the death."

-:-

Pitch-black darkness greeted Matt and his group as the freight elevator arrived at its destination. The lamp inside the elevator's platform could only throw enough light to illuminate roughly a foot into the warehouse, past which nothing could be seen at all. Not only that, a foul, musty odor filled the air, making it difficult for them to breathe.

"We have to search in the dark now?" Olivia complained, her voice filled with clear irritation. "When is this day going to cut us a break? It stinks in here too!"

"Let's not be so negative just yet. If Everton was doing anything in here, there must be a light switch somewhere."

Playing off of Matt's thought, Katorena tossed out one of her Poké Balls, releasing her Espeon. "Espeon, I ask of you, use Flash."

"Espeh!" With a shrill cry, Espeon cast a bright burst of light from her body. This illuminated the gloomy warehouse, though only temporarily.

"Just what we needed." The heavy steel box that contained the light switch was actually only a few feet away, so Rowena quickly strode over to it and turned it on.

Now with a stable light source available to make the warehouse's interior visible, the group was able to take stock of what they faced. An empty cage with only its corners still intact occupied the center of the relatively small space, but aside from that, there was nothing.

"Either we just went on a wild goose chase or we're right where we need to be," Nekou guessed. "Matt, are we where we need to be or did you screw things up again?"

"Oh, be quiet. It wasn't even my idea to come here."

"Both of you shut it." Sick of hearing the two of them argue, Bunny abruptly interrupted, intending to state her own observation. "This has to be it. Why would Everton have a warehouse for one empty cage, hidden in the middle of nowhere no less? He was up to something here that he didn't want anyone knowing about, I'm sure of it."

"That makes sense, Bunny." Turning to his partners, Matt started gesturing around the chamber with his arms. "All of you, pair up and fan out across the warehouse. Scour every square inch you can for anything suspicious."

"Yes," replied all the others in unison.

The groups started to take shape almost immediately. Woods and Aurelie went off to the far end of the warehouse, while Katorena and Rowena investigated an area closer to the middle. Olivia and Bunny remained close to the elevator, as did Butler and Diane. Finally, Matt entered the cage itself to search for clues.

Because the cage was simply an enclosure, Matt had little to do but lean down and examine the floor. Something had glittered briefly in the light, and though it took him a moment to find it, he eventually managed to wrap his fingers around it.

"Hair?" he questioned openly, holding the three thin, silvery strands between his fingers. "I wonder what this means exactly…"

"So we're in a cage together. I thought it would take longer than this."

Matt jumped nearly a full inch into the air because of Nekou startling him. She'd snuck up behind him while he was busy examining the floor of the cage and was now intent on riling him up once more.

"You're the one who followed me in here…" he muttered, trying not to take the bait she was pushing.

"You're no fun, you boring ass. You say you found hair? Obviously it's from whoever was in this cage."

"That's a good point. Let's find out what this is from."

After taking his computer out of his bag, Matt held it in his left hand and the three strands of hair in his right. He then opened the eyepiece on the mask covering his left eye, revealing the artificial organ with its red coloration underneath.

"Now that's interesting," Nekou commented over his shoulder. She was watching the results of analysis being carried out on the hair, with the strands themselves getting scanned by Matt's artificial eye into the computer's database, which then evaluated it against known records.

While the examination of the cage went on, Rowena and Katorena were in the middle of making a discovery of their own. They'd zeroed in on a video screen mounted on the wall directly across from the cage, and were carefully inspecting its sides.

"I observe nothing over here," Katorena stated with her voice slightly raised. "What about you?"

"Hold on…" Nothing seemed apparent at first, but as Rowena ran her hand down the right side of the screen, her fingers suddenly slipped into a tiny depression near the bottom. The doubt she felt immediately gave way to a near-predatory thrill as the allure of a blockbuster headline returned. "Wait, I've got something! Everyone, get over here!"

Katorena wasted no time in hurrying over to Rowena's side of the screen, and they were soon joined by Woods, Aurelie, Butler, Diane, Olivia and Bunny. Matt and Nekou, on the other hand, remained inside the cage to complete the analysis of the hair.

"What's this about, Rowena?" asked Butler.

"There's a port for a computer cable right here in the screen," the reporter explained, "and it should be no problem at all for me to hack in and see what's been broadcast by this thing. Olivia, come here and help me."

"Sure." Walking right up next to Rowena, Olivia tilted her head and questioned, "What exactly do you want me to do?"

Before Olivia could even finish her question, Rowena thrust a silvery cable into her hands and quickly produced her notebook computer. "Plug one end of that cable into the screen and the other into the port on my computer. This should only take me a minute."

Without another word, Olivia complied and carried out these instructions. Immediately upon gaining the connection, Rowena entered a command code to infiltrate the video screen's systems. However, as soon as she entered the system, a window stopped her progress with a demand for a four-digit passcode.

"It wants four digits," she said to the others without taking her eyes off the screen. "Hit me with some ideas."

"Eight, six, eighty-two," Woods said without skipping a beat.

"How are you so confident in that?" Bunny gasped, stunned by Woods's swift decisiveness.

"One thing Liam was never very good at was inventing security codes. August 6, 1982 was the day he became president of Everton International, so it's as good a choice as any to try."

"Eight, six, eighty-two," Rowena dutifully repeated as her fingers touched each numerical key on her computer.

Not even a full second after she finished typing the code in, a beeping sound indicated that the system indeed had accepted it, and was now allowing her full access. Encouraged by this success, Rowena quickly started probing the secrets contained within, almost immediately coming upon just what she was looking for.

"Darkrai!" the previously recorded footage of Liam Everton thundered from Rowena's computer after being downloaded from the monitor. "I see you're doing well, Darkrai. Listen well. Your mission is about to begin. When I release you into Whitegold City, you are to attack as many Pokémon as possible and put them to sleep. Continue doing that until Cresselia, your hated enemy, is drawn out. At that point, you are to fight Cresselia and do nothing more. Lest I remind you… if you disobey me at any time, that collar you're wearing will enable me to punish you. Am I understood? Now go, Darkrai! Fulfill your purpose and bait forth Cresselia from the shadows!"

"This is it," Bunny whispered, her mind overwhelmed by this discovery. "The smoking gun… Matt! We found someth…"

Just as she turned around, though, Bunny was cut off. Matt and Nekou were already solemnly standing right behind her and the others, wearing looks that made clear the severity of what they'd uncovered.

"Darkrai's hair was inside that cage," Nekou stated flatly. "That smug little fucker was keeping Darkrai in here so nobody would find out."

"That and the video are exactly what we need to use to prove his guilt!" exclaimed Rowena excitedly. "How should we carry on from here?"

"The first thing we need to do is inform the evacuees of the truth." Once again, Bunny was taking charge of the tactical planning for the group's next moves. "Rowena, you can hijack the broadcast frequency of the Everton News Channel, right?"

"It might take a bit of work, but I should be able to pull that off."

"Good, because I have a plan to distract Everton long enough for us to get the evacuees to the ships. It's going to require the splitting up of our team, though, so Woods, that's where you come in."

"What?" the old man grumbled.

"For this plan to work, we're going to need to drop at certain points in the city to occupy Everton long enough. In order to determine those exact points, only you have the power to figure it out."

"Are you saying… my contract?" Suddenly, Woods's eyes lit up, and he gasped deeply. Bunny had accidentally brought him to a huge realization. "I understand what my contract was now. It must be that when I contracted with the Victini in Castelia City… it read my wish for Liam's cruelty in the situation to stop… and thus, my Victory Star is leading me to stop him now. That must be it… and in that case, I'll gladly use it. Victory Star!"

Almost immediately after activating his power, Woods clutched his face in pain. He did an admirable job of fighting it, though, as he knew how important it was for him to use the Victory Star at this point. Soon enough, his visions came into focus.

"A map," he demanded, "give me a map, now!"

Hearing Woods's need, Matt loaded a map of Whitegold City onto his tablet computer, then passed off the device to Bunny, who held it before the convulsing man. "Olivia goes here," he revealed, hitting his finger against a point on the map. "Rowena and Katorena go here. Matt, Nekou and Bunny go here."

That was the limit of Woods's power; he could force no more information out of himself and fell to his knees, though he quickly recovered. Bunny, meanwhile, apprised the map and smiled.

"This is just what I needed," she said through her grin. "One last thing we'll need. Butler, do you feel like proving that there's something to the concept of magic?"

Raising an eyebrow in confusion, Butler replied, "Always, but what does that have to do with anything?"

"You'll see." Finally, Bunny turned to Victini, who had been floating around the warehouse during the entire investigation. "Victini, you're the key to everything. Please, for all of us and for your friend Cresselia, be brave. We can help you."

"Tini…" Victini softly and apprehensively cried.

"We can't waste any more time," Rowena bluntly pronounced. "I managed to get the frequency we need to hijack set up already. If we're going to save Whitegold City, we must go on the air very soon."

-:-

The Humvee from Everton International still sat on the docks, having gone nowhere with its passengers since Baker and Everton picked up Foster.

"Where are you, Victini?" Everton growled, staring at the thermal readout map on his computer. "This is the one downside of using a thermal radar for a plan like this. It's all but useless with the way the atmosphere is in this city now, unless Victini appears right out in the open."

"Why don't you use the Victory Star to find Victini?"

Foster was sincerely trying to be helpful when he suggested this. However, Everton immediately laughed and began mocking him.

"Why don't I use the Victory Star, you ask? You hear this, Baker?" Everton only continued his tirade after Baker nodded curtly without turning his head. "You idiot, did you ever think that maybe I already tried to use it and it led me here? Victini will appear, it's just a matter of when, so shut your trap and do your job."

Baker couldn't answer. He was too stunned at the vile outburst he'd just been the target of, doubly so because it was from the boss he'd served so faithfully for years. Luckily, though, Everton wasn't interested in pursuing it further either, instead opting to open the tab containing Midori's news broadcast again.

"We still do not have any conclusive information on why Darkrai and Cresselia appeared, disappeared and then reappeared again. Security measure D-10 is still in effect, until further notice."

"I don't need to hear you anymore," Everton mumbled as he sharply struck the key that shut off the broadcast window, eliminating it from his sight and hearing.

Cutting off his view of the broadcast at that exact time would prove to be one of Everton's biggest mistakes. He had no time to come to realize this, though, as an alarm from his computer prompted him to quickly reopen the thermal imaging map.

The heat signature indicative of Victini's presence was back, but there were two of it.

"What's this?"

"Captain Everton?" Baker wondered, turning. "What's wrong?"

"Victini's on the radar… twice. Will one of you two explain this?"

"In two different places?"

"Yes, Foster, in two different places… you're really making me wonder about your salary."

While Foster shrunk back in his seat, Baker asked, "Shall I pursue the closer of the two signatures, sir?"

"Do it. We've got a fifty-fifty chance."

That was all Baker needed to hear. He slammed his foot down on the truck's gas pedal, causing the vehicle to tear off into the storm.

-:-

The coverage of Darkrai and Cresselia's battle still hadn't ended, but Midori was exhausted and in need of a break. That was one point where she'd gotten lucky – her coverage was never stipulated to be uninterrupted, so she had the occasional luxury of a commercial to rest.

It just so happened that she was on one of these rare breaks at the moment when the videophone installed in her broadcast desk's computer started to ring. Curious about who could possibly be contacting her news desk directly at such a time, Midori put down her teacup and touched the phone icon on the screen.

This action brought an image of Rowena up onto Midori's computer. "Hello? Hello?"

"What are you doing, calling me?" Midori awkwardly demanded. She really had little patience for such interruptions while she was working, doubly so when her work involved an emergency news situation. "Oh, don't even bother telling me who you are, Rowena, I know already. Your freelance reporting for ONBS's online division is pretty well known in our circles. Just tell me, what kind of reason have you got for bothering me now?"

"I'll level with you, Midori. Liam Everton has left you and the entire population of Whitegold City to die. As part of our solution, I have already gained the ability to seize control of your broadcast frequency to speak to the citizens. I'm contacting you first, though, because I want to ask you a question. Would you rather face death as a number in a casualty count, or go down in history as part of the effort that tried to save this city?"

This question and the facts leading up to it gave Midori pause. Given that she was one of the most important employees of Everton International – or at least believed she was – she had no reason to think that she would also be a target of Everton's plot. Suddenly, the very events Midori had been covering that day took on an entirely new meaning, once she realized the possibility of it all being orchestrated.

-:-

Having materialized very near to the Whitegold Dome, Woods, Aurelie and Butler's Gardevoir quickly got inside the complex without being noticed and began rushing down a long corridor toward the main stadium.

"This… this is all my fault…" Woods gasped as he ran. "I could… have stopped this…"

"What… are you… talking about?" Aurelie shouted back. Unlike Woods, who had the Victory Star providing him with some extra vitality, Aurelie's body was being pushed to its limits by the sprint. Accordingly, her breath was even more labored than his. "How could… it be your fault?"

"I should have recognized… that Liam was becoming an evil man…"

~:~

Even in the past, the inn where Matt and the others were staying still existed. It was still run by the same woman, even back then.

Little had changed inside the building in the intervening decades; modernization clearly wasn't the owner's main concern. One thing that stood out at that point in the past, however, was the fact that posters covered the walls. All of them were identical, bearing a picture of a younger Liam Everton standing with his arms spread and outstretched, with the words "VOTE EVERTON 1983" scribed beneath.

Sitting at the bar was Woods, still young but now having the familiar eyepatch covering his Victory Star-afflicted left eye. He was quietly sipping at the small glass in his hand, which held a pair of ice cubes submerged in an inscrutable drink, while watching a news broadcast playing on the bar's television. The newscast depicted Liam Everton giving a speech from behind a podium, the headline "Liam Everton Elected Whitegold City Mayor" displayed beneath him.

This quiet scene was interrupted by the sound of a heavy clomping noise against the floor, then by a gruff, weary voice. "So he won the election after all. It doesn't really surprise me…"

"Captain Everton!" The owner of the inn had been brushing her black hair in a nearby mirror, but she quickly rushed back to her duties as Becket Everton lowered his aged, weary frame into the chair. "What can I get you?"

"Bourbon," he replied. "I need it."

While the innkeeper set about retrieving Becket's drink, Woods moved closer to his former captain, consumed with worry for him. He had never seen Becket in such a way, and it alarmed him.

"Becket, what's wrong? Has something happened? Is it your leg again?"

"This rotten thing is bothering me, but it always has." Becket stiffly moved his right leg, then tapped against it with the gnarled cane in his hand, creating the sound of wood hitting wood. "That's not it, though. It's that Liam got elected mayor…"

"Is it bad that he won?" Woods asked in near-complete confusion. "He is your grandson, after all."

"He is my grandson," Becket repeated listlessly. "I taught him that nothing was impossible for a man with a dream… and his ruthless rise to the top of Everton International speaks volumes to that."

The glass of bourbon was ready, so Becket took it up and downed its entire contents in one deep gulp. After shaking his head to work off the shock of the alcohol hitting his system, he reached into his jacket and produced his travel log.

"What's that book?" the innkeeper questioned as the book was pushed toward her.

"It's a log of my adventures on the sea," he explained. "In it are a variety of tales of Legendary Pokémon which I collected over the years. I want you to take it and hold on to it until there is someone who can make use of it."

Looking up at his former captain as he slowly rose, Woods whispered, "What are you saying, Becket?"

Becket did not answer. Instead, he took another look at the television screen, on which Liam Everton was still speaking. He then said out loud, "Arceus help us all."

Without even paying for his drink, Becket Everton turned away from the bar and lurched awkwardly toward the stairs, his cane and wooden leg creating dueling crashing sounds against the hardwood floor. Woods and the innkeeper, both left stunned by the old man's bizarre and unsettling behavior, could only watch as he struggled up to the second floor.

About one minute after the thumping noises of Becket Everton's cane and wooden leg stopped echoing down to the ground level bar, the quiet scene was completely shattered by the sounds of a single gunshot and something heavy crashing to the floor.

~:~

"…you do remember that time, right?"

"It was right after… right after that when… Liam abolished the five-year election cycle…" Aurelie recollected through her labored voice. "He gave himself full control… by winning the mayoral election… and then he cancelled any further elections, and… none of us did anything about it…"

"Stop! Hold it right there!"

As they had anticipated, Woods and Aurelie found themselves accosted by two dark-suited Everton International guards just as they broke through to the main arena; two Klink, the Steel-type Pokémon that would ultimately gain larger gears upon evolution into Klang and Klinklang, floated behind them. With the crowds of evacuees being distracted by Midori's ongoing broadcast, their job seemed quite easy.

"What are you two doing outside?" demanded the second guard. "Security measure D-10 stipulates all evacuees remain within the safety of the Whitegold Dome. You two have committed a crime by disobeying this order!"

"Silence yourself, you ignorant fool," Aurelie scolded, ignoring the man's command. "None of the people in this building are evacuees, including you. You're all hostages."

"Hostages? What nonsense do you speak?"

Instead of immediately answering the first guard's question, Woods walked to the railing past him and thrust his finger forward, pointing at the giant video screen in the stadium. "Watch for yourself… right about… now."

"It is at this point that we must bring you a special statement regarding this emergency," Midori said, her voice and usual resolve noticeably shaken.

At that moment, the screen changed. No longer was it filled with images of Darkrai fighting Cresselia and Whitegold City getting destroyed being presented by Midori, but instead, a simple view of Matt from the middle of his chest up materialized. Even though many of the evacuees didn't recognize him, this abrupt change of events in their information stream arrested their attention.

"Citizens and tourists of Whitegold City, my name is Matt Chiaki," he introduced, using a voice laced with steely determination. "As you know, earlier today, Darkrai appeared in the city, prompting a fight with Cresselia that has in turn led to a spiraling series of disasters engulfing the area. At that time, a security measure was put into place that resulted in your mass evacuation under the orders of Captain Liam Everton.

Ladies and gentlemen, please listen to what I have to say. Liam Everton is lying to you all."

The chatter that went up amongst the citizens was immediate and alarmed.

"Captain Everton's lying to us? What does that mean?"

"It can't be. He'd never do such a thing."

"But what if Matt Chiaki is telling the truth? What happens to us?"

The recording of Matt continued on, "Please, listen to what I have to say and consider my warning carefully. Liam Everton is not the altruistic man he has presented himself as. He is a tyrannical megalomaniac ready and willing to use the lives of everyone in the city as a payment for his true goal.

Liam Everton's true aspiration is, or should I say was, the Victory Star, the power controlled by the Pokémon in your city's folktale, Victini. At this point, Everton has, in fact, captured the Victory Star and made its power his very own. However, at the same time, he also created a thermal plume that formed an incredibly intense and still-escalating storm. His intention, and this is difficult for me to say, is to leave the entire populace of Whitegold City to die when the storm becomes too strong and overtops the seagate, leading to the complete flooding of the city."

Alarm turned to panic at the exact second this revelation left Matt's mouth. The townspeople and tourists began screaming at each other in mortal terror, with some on the game field beginning to look for ways to get into the stands and leave the stadium.

"But what if this is all a lie?"

"You fool, the news wouldn't be in on it! We're all going to die!"

"But he's claiming Captain Everton was lying to us, and the news reported all of that, too! So what is it?"

"It's not worth arguing! Save yourself now and worry about the details later!"

"I'm afraid of water and I most definitely can't swim!"

"We have to get home and get our heirlooms before this city sinks into the ocean!"

"Do not panic!" Though the statement was prerecorded, Matt evidently predicted the exact scene that was unfolding. Not all the citizens calmed from his first proclamation, though, but they slowly did return to attention bit by bit as he continued. "I have a plan that will save you all from certain doom. Please, do not panic, and listen to what I have to say! I have appointed two of my allies, Woods and Aurelie, to assist in the evacuation of all of you from the Whitegold Dome to ships in the harbor. There, you will be safe from danger, and if the worst happens and the city floods, the ships will carry you to safety. Again, please, do not panic. Your safety can be assured! Please, work with us as we try to save this city and your lives!"

Matt disappeared from the video screen at that point, but even though his message was over, the frenzy it provoked was just beginning. Though the citizens and tourists stopped trying to escape, it was not out of a lack of a desire to do so; instead, no one trapped inside the stadium knew just where to run to at all.

Up in the stands overlooking the relative chaos, Woods observed the situation for a moment before turning back to confront the two speechless guards. He opened his mouth to give them an order, but was interrupted himself by the sound of numerous footsteps approaching. It was the trio of men that Woods gambled with that arrived before him, the guards and Aurelie.

"What is the meaning of all this, Woods?" demanded one of the three, gasping for air after running up the stairs. "What has your old captain gotten us into?"

"Woods…" Unlike the first man, the second was a lot more composed and spoke in a rigid voice. "Is what Matt Chiaki says true? You must understand, the idea of Whitegold City disappearing into the ocean is no laughing matter."

"It's all true, sad to say." Actually having to brush a single tear out of his eye as he spoke, Woods cleared his throat, then continued, "I was the source for a reporter's investigation of Liam Everton, and I got roped into this whole thing. It's happened before my very eyes. Matt Chiaki's claims are true."

"Then tell me, is his evacuation plan correct?" Before he could get an answer, the third of the elderly gamblers realized something and pointed straight at his friend's face. "Where's your eyepatch? Your eye is…"

Knowing there was no time to fully explain the meaning of the Victory Star in his left eye, Woods merely ran his hand over it. "Some other time, when there's not as big a hurry. But to answer your other question, the plan is sound."

"In fact, you three can help," Aurelie added. "Do any of you have Pokémon with Teleport?"

"I have two, in fact!" responded the second of the trio, throwing two Poké Balls out. "Go, Electrode and Exeggutor!"

Aurelie and Woods both smiled; the large white-and-red ball and three-faced coconut tree Pokémon were just the help they needed.

Once again turning to the guards, Woods set his gaze on the megaphone in one of their hands. "Give me that. I'm going to need it."

"Um… oh, right, sure."

After a moment of hesitation, the guard acquiesced to Woods's request and passed the megaphone to him. Woods nodded curtly to signal his thanks, then walked with the megaphone in hand to the railing overlooking the chaos on the field.

"Everyone, listen up!"

It was useless; the crowd was far too agitated for Woods's words to have any effect. In fact, they couldn't even hear him even with the megaphone.

Knowing he had to do something to resolve this, and that he had to do it quickly, Woods spent a moment pondering his options. An idea quickly came to him, and he tilted his head slightly to direct a suggestion to the two guards. "Use your Klink to get the crowd's attention."

After they both grunted and nodded, the guards stepped forward and simultaneously called out, "Klink, Zap Cannon!"

The bodies of each of the two Klink were made up of two small gears with the evolutionary line's signature face on them. On the orders issued by their trainers, the two Steel-types rapidly rotated their gears to general electrical energy in the form of a pair of sparking spheres, which were then launched into the air over the field. When the two blasts collided, they exploded in a spectacular display of light, garnering the attention of the evacuees in the stadium for just long enough.

"Everyone, listen up!" Woods once again boomed through the megaphone, this time to much greater effect. "Please, I implore you, do not panic! Matt Chiaki is telling the truth. I am here to help evacuate you all to the safety of the ships in the harbor, with assistance from the Gardevoir, Exeggutor and Electrode I have here with me. You will be taken out in groups of as many as we can take at a time, so please be calm. This will be the day Whitegold City survives!"

-:-

Sitting at his desk, Giovanni had also seen Matt's broadcast, having returned to watching the live feed of the Everton News Channel. Leaning forward with his right hand curled in front of his mouth, he took a deep breath, contemplating events as they now stood.

There were several factors to bring under consideration. He hadn't spoken to Zager in a short while, but as of his last update, Giovanni knew that the public at large was beginning to take notice of the disaster's full scope. In turn, there was still no word on any potential solutions Tobias could have come up with to stop the many unfolding situations. Because of these factors, Giovanni arrived at only one possible conclusion.

"Stacia," he quietly said to his loyal secretary, who was standing next to him, "prepare a secure communication line. There's someone I need to contact."

"Right away, sir."

-:-

Clutching Victini in her arms, Olivia was running up the path to an abandoned, decrepit mansion that sat alone on a large piece of land. Her shoes mashed into the soft dirt of the trail that led from the opening in the rusted fence around the property all the way to the mansion's front door. She intended to hide inside the building, which would buy her time to escape from Everton and also serve to buy time for the evacuation efforts.

When she was about two-thirds of the way up the trail, however, the sudden flashing of bright lights from behind caused her to stop dead in her tracks and turn around.

She'd been caught.

After bringing their truck to a screeching halt in the mud, Everton, Foster and Baker streamed out, trailed closely by Foster's Throh and Baker's Sawk. In accordance with his station in the group, Everton took a step forward to confront Olivia.

"I'm guessing that you've been abandoned again." Everton's snide tone made his intent – to push Olivia's buttons and ultimately trigger her snapping – more than clear. "If you want me to spare you, hand over Victini. I haven't got time for any more of your juvenile games."

"I know what you're trying to do!" she shot back, unwilling to play Everton's game. "Besides, even if I did give up Victini, you wouldn't spare me."

"You're right, I wouldn't," Everton replied, smiling sadistically. "Baker, go forth!"

"Yes, sir! Sawk, use Low Sweep!"

Almost immediately, the blue, robe-wearing Fighting-type descended upon Olivia and undercut her footing with his right leg. Though not hurt badly, she screamed as she fell, and when she hit the ground, Victini bounced out of her grip and rolled away from her by about a foot.

"Neutralize and capture Victini, Sawk!" At this point, Everton was unwilling to even allow enough time for Baker to command his own Pokémon, and began giving Sawk orders himself. "Use Strength now!"

A white aura surrounded Sawk's right arm as he tightened all of the muscles in it. For a brief second, he towered over the immobile Victini – who was lying face-down on the ground – before hitting it with a punch thrown with crushing force.

"Victory is mine!" Everton arrogantly declared. He could see no possible way for this not to be true; at this point, Victini was defeated and the group resisting him was fractured. There truly was no way for him to lose.

There was truly no way for him to lose unless something completely outside his calculations happened. When Olivia started laughing at the top of her lungs, he quickly realized something was wrong.

Upon being hit by Sawk's Strength, Victini didn't react in pain or fear or any other way. Instead, it simply dissolved into thin air.

Continuing her smug laughing to mock Everton, Olivia finally said to him, "Did you really think it would be that easy? You will never get Victini!"

"You impudent little bitch… I've had just about enough of seeing your spoiled little face! Klinklang, Gear Gri…"

Though he had pulled out the Ultra Ball containing Klinklang, as Everton prepared to throw it, Foster seized his arm to stop him.

"Captain Everton, sir, we must keep searching for the real Victini! Time can't be wasted here!"

Foster was not lying, to a degree. While it was certainly true that the time until the destruction of Whitegold City was running out, that actually wasn't the biggest thing on Foster's mind. Truthfully, he knew what Everton was about to do, and despite all of the other horrible things he'd done under his captain's command, Foster couldn't let him go wild on Olivia using Klinklang.

Overtaken by rage, Everton slowly turned to look at Foster over his shoulder. Luckily for the redheaded bodyguard, however, Baker interrupted at this point, holding his tablet computer.

"Captain Everton, the heat signal broadcast by this Victini has disappeared, but another appeared elsewhere to replace it, so there are still two signatures being picked up. We must continue our pursuit immediately!"

Everton growled loudly in anger, but then acquiesced to his bodyguards' urging and put Klinklang's Ultra Ball away. "Fine. We'll go follow the signatures and get the real Victini." He wasn't looking at Baker and Foster as he said this; instead, he was looking down on Olivia with a livid, murderous intent in his eyes, as if directing his words at her as a threat. "Once we do, this city and all inside will rest in a watery grave."

"I have to get to the meeting point…" Olivia quietly groaned to herself as Everton and his forces retreated. Her legs ached where Sawk had hit her with Low Sweep, and a desire to rest washed over her body. "He's even madder now… be careful…"

-:-

One thing no one in the city would have thought was a good idea was flying in the storm consuming the entire area. Yet, that was precisely what Butler and Diane were doing, riding on his Salamence on their way to a destination of their own. The Pokémon's draconian body was not impaired by the intense weather conditions, but the powerful winds did somewhat hinder his flight.

"Butler!" Diane howled, holding onto Salamence with her right hand while shielding her face from the wind and rain with her left arm. "Are you sure those illusions will work?"

"They'll hold until an attack strikes them, and they can confuse heat radars! Until he hits one, Everton won't be able to tell one apart from the real thing. They'll do the job!"

"Watch out!"

Butler barely had time to pull Salamence back before an errant Dark Pulse cut skyward less than a foot from the dragon's face. Darkrai and Cresselia swept into view, the attack having gone astray during their fight. They continued to clash, paying little mind to the two humans they were putting in danger.

"Salamence, we must escape from here and get to the seagate!" the magician shouted over the howling wind and noise from Darkrai and Cresselia's battle. "Search for a way out and cut through!"

The still-escalating exchange of blows between the two Legendary Pokémon made it difficult for Salamence to find the opening Butler had called for. They were fighting at close range now, trading Dark Pulse and Ice Beam against Signal Beam and Energy Ball.

When Darkrai used Thunder, however, the opening appeared. Cresselia was stunned by the electric bolts Darkrai launched from its hands, creating a stalemate that Salamence interrupted using the purple rings of Dragon Pulse. This triggered an explosion that threw both Darkrai and Cresselia back from each other, which in turn allowed Salamence to fly right through.

Salamence's interruption of the fight and subsequent departure had no influence toward stopping the violence, however. Once they shook off their respective dazes, Darkrai and Cresselia viciously attacked each other again. Taking advantage of the close range of the battle, Darkrai seized hold of Cresselia and used a point-blank Thunder attack to electrocute her while pushing her through the air over the business district of the city. When she broke free from its grip, she flew a half-circle around Darkrai and struck with a swift, precise Aura Sphere before simply ramming her foe with the full force of her body.

Cresselia attacked so recklessly, in fact, that their tangled masses crashed through a window on the thirty-seventh floor of the Everton International building. The two Pokémon tumbled through several cubicle walls, desks and shelves before separating amidst a ravaged mess of paper, computer parts and other office supplies. Before Cresselia could recover, Darkrai used Thunder again, devastating the entire area in addition to painfully shocking its enemy. Because of all the electricity flowing through the room, the circuit breaker for the floor was tripped, shutting off the main power to the entire floor. In the place of the regular ceiling lights, wall-mounted emergency floodlights went on, creating an unevenly lit and unsettling atmosphere for the two.

Immediately upon recovering from the Thunder attack, which had left her body tingling with static electricity, Cresselia flung an Energy Ball in Darkrai's direction, but Darkrai escaped by moving into the shadows between areas lit by the floodlights. Cresselia looked around in panic for a moment before realizing a way to find Darkrai and launching an Aura Sphere.

The pained roar from within the darkness confirmed that Aura Sphere had successfully sought out its target, even in this setting. Darkrai was far from beaten, however, and shot forward out of the shadows, tackling Cresselia out through the windows in much the same way as she'd tackled it on their way in.

As they descended toward the roof of a shorter office building, Darkrai and Cresselia stared at each other with burning hatred in their eyes, fueled by two different reasons. In the case of the former, it had completely given up on its life by this point, resigning itself to the fact that it would not get out of being Everton's slave until it died; for Cresselia, the battle was entirely because of the threat she perceived toward Victini, whom she had sworn so many years ago to protect at any cost. Both were consumed not only by hatred for each other but pain in their own bodies as a result of the protracted struggle, but both also were unable to back down from the fight.

-:-

Katorena and Rowena had been dropped off at a dock separate from the main harbor, where a large and intricate yacht was moored. Sixty-four feet in length and two stories in height, the vessel was an impressive sight, and Katorena was extremely proud when she got to admit to Rowena that it was her property.

The two were hiding under a canopy on the yacht's first-level deck, accompanied by another Victini. Nearby was the hoverboard that the group had stolen from Everton earlier. It was from here that Rowena had broadcasted the message from Matt, and now was where she continued monitoring the evacuation from the stadium.

"Is everything progressing according to our calculations?" Katorena asked her reporter companion while sipping from a pale green can of lemonade she'd recovered from a refrigerator nearby.

"Very smoothly," Rowena replied, nodding slightly. "They've already got about forty percent of the people out of the stadium, if you want my rough estimate."

This relatively peaceful scene, broken only by the storm at first, would not last. The sound of tires screeching on the concrete of the dock alerted Katorena and Rowena to Everton's truck spinning out. As soon as the vehicle stopped moving, Everton, Baker and Foster jumped out, the former two not discouraged by the pouring rain soaking them. In order to buy Rowena time to keep monitoring the evacuation, Katorena stepped out into the storm to face them.

"Take my advice, now is not the time to be a badass," Everton threatened, his words taking on a sort of melodramatic flair. "Give me Victini right now, or you'll end up just like the little bitch with the blue hair did."

"You're bluffing, cretin." During her condescending response, Katorena prepared a Poké Ball in her hand. "That Olivia might be a commoner compared to me, but even then, she's still a lady compared to a mere jester like yourself."

Something about that remark caused a switch in Everton's mind to snap. He began twitching erratically and his eyes shrank back into his head as anger overtook him. "After all the obstacles I've overcome…" he snarled, "you say that being a so-called lady makes you better than me…" Suddenly lashing his head up, Everton locked his bloodthirsty gaze squarely on Katorena. "You ladies don't even have enough power in you to be allowed to see what I've seen! Cryogonal, Flash Cannon!"

Thoroughly frustrated and enraged, Everton threw his Ultra Ball with the force of a baseball pitcher's fastball, setting loose Cryogonal in a flash of light and shining sparkles. The Ice-type Pokémon immediately looked down at Katorena, gathered up light energy from the surrounding area, then fired it at her in a concentrated shot.

However, what Everton expected to see afterward – a charred Katorena suffering from significant injury – was not what greeted him. Katorena's Poké Ball had contained an Alakazam, which was now standing between her and Cryogonal and holding back the Flash Cannon with his Light Screen.

"Captain Everton, please! Allow me to take care of this one!" Baker took a single step forward, stomping his foot down on the concrete. "Sawk, Poison Jab!"

Everton's Cryogonal overheard this command and pulled back, ceasing its Flash Cannon. Sawk cut in to make up for it with his right hand overturned and glowing with a sinister, dark purple hue. He plunged it through Alakazam's Light Screen and straight into the Psychic-type's chest, sending him flying back into the wall behind Katorena.

"Oh, what fun this is! I haven't had a good chance to go wild like this for too long! Sawk, get her out of Captain Everton's way!"

Pivoting on his heel, Sawk faced Katorena down. His intent became crystal clear when he pulled his arm back in preparation to use Strength, but he never got the chance to strike her. A blast of electricity cut him down, causing him to roll across the deck of the yacht to a spot near the dock.

It was Rowena's Cinccino, standing off to the side with her fur sparking following her usage of Thunderbolt. She growled angrily, warning Sawk, Cryogonal and their trainers to back off while showing no fear of her extremely powerful adversaries.

"I've had just enough of this foolishness!" bellowed Everton, firmly putting Baker back in his subordinate place. "We take Victini, head for the ark and set sail for our destination! Cryogonal, use Acrobatics and send Victini this way!"

Slicing through the air at blinding speed, Cryogonal first moved behind Victini, who was merely floating nearby and watching the unfolding brawl. It next rammed its body right into the Psychic-and-Fire-type Pokémon, sending Victini flying through the air. With a broad smile, Everton lifted his right arm and opened his hand in preparation to catch it.

What happened next was something not expected by Everton, Baker or Foster – while spiraling through the air, Victini completely vanished. Just like the one Olivia had, it was part of Butler's magic trick. Everton was left staring at the empty space where the illusionary Victini once was with his face slowly contorting more and more as the truth set in and his internal fury escalated.

"My victory… won't be held up any further… and you obstinate idiots will not stop me! Cryogonal, punish her!"

Cryogonal turned its Acrobatics on Katorena, even if reluctantly, and battered her down with a single swift, decisive strike. Just as Katorena hit the deck of her vessel, though, a baseball-sized rock smashed into it, followed by four more similar rocks. Each one landed an effective strike, pushing Cryogonal all the way to the front of the yacht.

"Excellent job, Cinccino!" Rowena said, congratulating her Pokémon on her success with Rock Blast while running down the deck. As the reporter helped Katorena up, she asked, "Are you okay?"

"Despite how horrid this is, I've never been better."

Everton wouldn't let that remain. "Cryogonal, what are you waiting for? Finish her off, you useless Pokémon!"

"Captain Everton, wait!" Baker called out, interrupting things before Everton could force Cryogonal into another assault. "There's only one heat signature left now! We must be on the trail of the real Victini once and for all!"

This update prompted Everton to stop. He chuckled under his breath for a moment, then broke out into a full-fledged hysterical laugh as he brought Cryogonal back into its Ultra Ball.

"It's all over for you now. Try as you might, you cannot stop me. Enjoy your grave at the bottom of the ocean!"

With Baker and Foster in tow, Everton retreated, and less than a minute later the truck screeched away again in pursuit of its final target. On board the yacht, Katorena wrenched herself out of Rowena's grip in just enough time to watch her three enemies leave.

"Do you think they'll be alright?" Rowena wondered.

Katorena did not answer directly. Instead, she turned and ran to the hoverboard as fast as her thin legs would allow her to.

"Katorena, wait! What are you doing?"

"I've been sheltered for so long, hidden away from what this world truly contains, and now death is staring me in the face. I am not going to turn down a chance to spat upon its door! Alakazam, go find Olivia and bring her to the yacht. I have something I must do myself!"

There was not even an ounce of fear evident in Katorena at all as she lifted the hoverboard into the air. She did feel somewhat clumsy with its controls, but she'd seen Matt using it enough to understand the basic functions. Once she had enough altitude, she turned toward the city and began flying off.

-:-

Somewhere deep in the heart of the city's business district, Matt, Nekou and Bunny ran down a deserted, rain-drenched street, finally deciding to take shelter in the covered plaza in front of a large office building. Nekou had been the one carrying Victini, and she continued to hold it in her arms even when they stopped. Unlike the two illusions, this Victini was more animated and actually moved around.

"Do you.. think it's working?" he gasped, trying to collect his breath. "We need to buy time for Woods and Aurelie to complete the evacuation."

"Everton hasn't found us yet, so I'd say so," Bunny offered, before quickly adding, "Watch. I bet I just hexed us and he's on his way."

"Don't tell me you want to give up already, Matt." Nekou was obviously going out of her way to be sarcastic, even at a bad time. "You can't count on me forever."

"Oh, shut up. I'm just trying to be practical here. We need to have a plan for once the evacuation is complete… if we don't know what our next move is, Liam could pull this out still."

"I think we have to just ride out the storm once we've beaten Everton and gotten the citizens to safety," Bunny explained in a levelheaded fashion. "Butler and Diane will deal with keeping the seagate intact, so once the storm dissipates…" Quite abruptly, Bunny froze and stopped speaking. It seemed that something had garnered her attention. "Do you hear that? That beeping?"

"That's my computer," Matt revealed, removing the relevant device from his bag. A blue-and-white telephone icon was blinking on the tablet's screen. "A video conference? Who would be calling me for a video conference now?"

Shrugging, Matt tapped the button with his finger, and promptly jumped in shock at who he was greeted by. The rigid, narrow-eyed face with carefully carved lines, well-kept brown hair and dark suit were all far too familiar.

"It's a good thing I was able to get a hold of you."

"Giovanni," Matt sighed, acknowledging the presence of the Viridian Gym Leader and Team Rocket boss. "Look, I'm not in the mood for this right now. I've seen enough fucked up shit today to last me a year. I do want to know how you got my contact information, though."

"It was given to me, but where I got your contact information is the least of your worries right now. Judging from the speech you just gave on the Everton News Channel, you're fighting against Liam Everton, aren't you?"

Now Matt was intrigued and somewhat worried by what Giovanni was saying. He hadn't factored in the possibility of others outside the city watching the broadcast.

"Yeah, I am. He's trying to sink this city into the ocean in order to cover up his stealing the Victory Star from Victini, but we've got a plan to evacuate the residents and ride out the storm he caused."

"I thought as much," Giovanni said, grimacing. "You cannot simply ride out the storm. It won't be that easy."

"What are you talking about? And why are you giving me this information? I'm telling you now, I'm not working for or with a criminal like you."

"This is a completely legal partnership." Giovanni allowed a slight condescending tone to slip through as he clarified his intentions. "I'm going to level with you here. I have information that you need to be successful in what you are trying to do in Whitegold City. I am more than willing to give you this information, but you must use it to accomplish a goal that will benefit not just you and me but the entire planet. That goal is defeating Liam Everton, and your group is the only selection of people still able to do that."

Matt sighed again. He still didn't want to hear Giovanni out, but given the situation, there really were no other choices. If Giovanni wasn't bluffing and Matt chose not to listen, the result could potentially destroy any chances left of stopping Everton, and even if Giovanni actually was lying, it couldn't make anything worse.

Armed with this reasoning, Matt nodded and said, "Fine, go on."

"All you can see from your point of view is what's going on in Whitegold City. What you don't know is that this is rapidly developing into a global crisis. Liam Everton manipulated the stock market and drove it into the ground to make himself a large profit off of this disaster, but that's something I am dealing with. What you need to worry about is the storm currently consuming Whitegold City. What is your plan for tackling that problem?"

"We're just going to ride it out after the citizens are safely evacuated to ships in the city's harbor. It'll pass."

"No it won't," Giovanni warned, his voice becoming more severe. "You cannot simply ride out this storm. Right now, it's only destroying Whitegold City, but in under an hour, it will have grown to such a scale that it will begin having profound and disastrous effects on global weather patterns. What you see in Whitegold City right now will spread to the entire planet, and the world as we know it will be destroyed. Something must be done to stop the growth of the storm now."

"This is going to happen worldwide and destroy everything?" Matt gasped in sudden fear. "Is there even anything we can do? This is just too big…"

"Nobody's ever stopped a storm before," Bunny commented in a restless voice, crossing her arms as she spoke. "That's the kind of thing they try to pull in B-rated science fiction movies."

"What about cutting off its power source?"

Matt jumped; he had no clue until it was too late that Nekou was leaning over his shoulder with her head only inches from his. She had a slight smirk on her face, and her glasses were fully covered by mischievous light.

"What did you say?"

"The storm was triggered once Everton released the thermal plume into the city, right?" she reasoned. "That caused the heat and humidity in the city and its water to spike, in turn creating this self-perpetuating storm. What if we used Pokémon with Ice-type moves to reverse that effect?"

"It would kill the storm right at its roots!" The realization of this was like a light bulb going on in Matt's head, but his mood quickly darkened once again. "It could work, but we don't have the sheer numbers it would ta…"

A memory washed into Matt's mind, forcing him to pause. He was suddenly remembering the previous day, when he battled Katorena in Balise Park. That day, their battle was surrounded by spectators, other trainers who were in the city for the Pokémon Bowl that were now being moved en masse to the ships in the harbor. What was truly important and most vivid in his memory, however, were the Pokémon themselves gathered there – not only Ice-types like Weavile, Walrein, Glalie, Froslass, Lapras, Cloyster and Vanilluxe but Pokémon with Ice-type moves as well, such as Empoleon, Dusclops, Aggron, Porygon2, Slowking and Carracosta.

"The trainers who are here for the Pokémon Bowl!" he exclaimed to his companions. "Just from what I saw in Balise Park, there were plenty of Ice-type Pokémon and Pokémon that could use Ice-type moves. We can actually pull this off!"

"Good thinking," Giovanni complimented, a rare thing for him to do when speaking to someone outside of his organizations. "This is no longer about me, you, Team Rocket, the police or any other single entity. If the world does not survive the disaster brought on by Liam Everton, there will be nothing left for any of us. We will all fall under his rule, which, despite our differing backgrounds, will destroy us both. That's why I'm telling you to set aside your usual perceptions of me and use what I've told you to defeat Liam Everton. You are now the last people who can do it."

"I guess I'll take it as a compliment and accept the faith you've put in me and my team," Matt responded, his mind easing ever so slightly once he came to accept Giovanni's honesty in the situation. "If there's anyone who can do this job, it's the Triad of Revenge. Thanks for the intelligence."

Just as Matt pressed his finger against the red 'X' at the corner of the video conference window to close it, the sound of footsteps sank his heart in addition to Nekou's and Bunny's. They all knew what the steps meant, and had only seconds to prepare.

"You're a difficult man to catch up to, Matt Chiaki," Everton taunted. Just as he, Foster and Baker arrived before Matt's group, they had recouped and were facing them directly. Once his gaze settled on the Victini in Nekou's arms, his face stretched into a satisfied smile. "I see you have something I need. The little bitches you call friends thought they could pull the wool over my eyes, but I know for a fact the one you three have is the real one. Give me it and I won't hurt you like I did to Olivia and Katorena."

Matt hesitated. He was unsure how seriously to take Everton's claim of harm being inflicted upon Olivia and Katorena; on one hand, if something bad had become of either of them, Matt fully intended to personally exact justice upon Everton for it, but given his behavior throughout the entire incident, the possibility of his bluffing was not an impossibility. Though the truth was a mix of both possible scenarios, Matt had no way of knowing this.

"Let me tell you something, jackass," scoffed Nekou, as she took the initiative to reply to Everton first. "Bitches get shit done. Maman taught me that. And you know what? Olivia and Katorena fooled the hell out of you with our magic trick, just like they were supposed to. You're just having a colossal pissy fit because those bitches got shit done on YOU."

"How dare you speak to Captain Everton in such a way! Sawk, punish that vulgar…"

Everton stopped Baker from progressing his attack by thrusting his arm in front of the blue-haired guard. "Don't waste your time, Baker."

"But Captain, sir… I really would have had so much fun making mincemeat of her!"

"I'm handling this on my own." To back up his threat, Everton threw one of his Ultra Balls, releasing Klinklang once again. "Klinklang, use Discharge!"

Klinklang hovered over the plaza while repeating the first half of its name, eventually accelerating its rotation so electrical energy could shoot out of the spikes on its rim. The numerous bolts arced aimlessly around the area, prompting Matt and Bunny to jump back out of their way when they got too close.

However, one shot of Klinklang's lightning struck less than an inch from Nekou's foot, causing her to slip backward and fall. As she went down, Victini slipped out of her arms and crashed to the floor in front of her.

"Victini, no!" Though Nekou reached her arm out, from where she had fallen, Victini was far from her grasp. She put on a look of panic as Klinklang lowered itself near Victini, awaiting Everton's next order.

"I can see you're out of tricks to pull on me. Klinklang, show Victini the consequence of disobedience! Flash Cannon!"

There was one thing Everton didn't see – the smirk that suddenly appeared on Nekou's face. Matt and Bunny held back from interfering but showed similar expressions.

Once again rotating at high speed, Klinklang gathered light energy from the air and charged it in the gray circle at the center of its large gear before releasing a bright blast. Victini made no effort to dodge or counter the attack, instead opting to take it head-on. Nekou got up quickly and ran to a place where she could catch Victini, but there was one other development as the Pokémon descended.

It was not Victini that Nekou caught in her arms. While it fell down toward her, it took on a bright glow, and its shape changed.

"Zororororo!" Zorua laughed from her trainer's arms. Despite being a newborn Pokémon, she was already quite strong and extremely intelligent, giving her the ability to not only weather Klinklang's Flash Cannon but to also find amusement in Everton's near-comical reaction.

"What?" screamed the oil tycoon, his voice peaking in an angry snarl. "That wasn't Victini either? Baker, give me an update! Where the hell is it?"

"I… I don't get this, sir!" Baker was looking intently at the tablet computer in his hands, but he was clearly puzzled by what he was seeing. "There's still a signature right here! Victini must be here, but where?"

"Where indeed…" Abruptly turning, Everton thrust his finger to point at Matt. "Tell me where Victini is right now!"

Instead of giving in, Matt simply blew Everton off. "You're out of luck. Look all you want."

"I guess I'll have to persuade you, then… Klinklang, Flash Cannon!"

Responding quickly to Everton's command, Klinklang fired off another beam of silvery light, this one directed squarely at Matt. Unlike Zorua, he made use of some swift footwork to get out of the attack's way, but it sailed so close to his head that a gust of wind struck him. He hadn't expected this, so he wasn't ready to hold down his hat. When it blew off his head, it revealed Victini curled up and hiding underneath.

"There you are, Victini. The chase is over." Extending a hand toward Matt and Bunny, Everton said, "I've gone through a lot of trouble to combat folks like you who would deny the very future of energy and this planet. Now, I'll ask nicely one last time… hand Victini over to me!"

"Not on your life!" Bunny immediately shot back, pulling her arm up into the air with a Poké Ball in her hand. "Kayla, come out!"

-:-

Giovanni leaned back in his chair, ran his hand down his face, and sighed. "It is done. There is nothing more we can do about this now."

"Mister Giovanni, if I may…" Though she maintained her usual timid demeanor, Stacia was breaching sensitive territory, and she knew it. "Why are you helping him? He stands against everything Team Rocket exists for. His success will only set our own goals back."

"Stacia, you must understand the nuances of being in my position. Today, Team Rocket and Matt Chiaki have a common enemy in Liam Everton. Yes, it is true that Matt Chiaki is someone who opposes the goals of Team Rocket, but if he should fail to stop Everton, the result for us would be far worse than if he succeeded and we dealt with him later." Quite unexpectedly, Giovanni then smiled. "And besides, who said I was helping him? He just happened to be there."

-:-

"Kayla, use Hi Jump Kick!"

"Klinklang, Rock Smash!"

Bunny's Mienshao and Everton's Klinklang came together in midair, clashing in an exchange of fast-paced blows. They both were pushed back from each other, drifting near their respective trainers.

"Sooner or later," Everton taunted, "you will have to face the future. Stop resisting."

"You're the one who's deluded, old man!" Nekou shouted back. "Bunny, fuck him up but good. Show him what we're capable of."

"I have every intention of doing just that. Wait and see."

Scoffing, Everton removed his hand from his pocket and upturned it. "A man like myself has no reason to fear anyone, let alone the dregs of society such as yourselves. None of you even understand what it is I'm trying to accomplish, let alone my reasons for doing so."

"I understand enough to know that your actions are about to cause a global disaster," Matt apprehensively said, taking a wary step back. "And for that reason, you won't be taking another step toward Victini. This ends here!"

"You're right," a smiling Everton declared, raising the hand he had just removed from his pocket into a two-fingered point. "It does end here. Klinklang, I'm leaving the finishing blow to you. Flash…"

"C-Captain Everton!"

"What, Baker? Can't you see I'm busy here?" The bone-chilling growl in Everton's voice made plain his irritation at Baker's interruption. With no order given, Klinklang simply remained in place floating before him.

Baker's hands were trembling around the tablet computer in his grip, and likewise, his eyelids shook subtly as well. Many of the windows he'd previously been looking at were rotated to the background of the screen, bringing forward a single box that displayed a security feed from the Whitegold Dome. Now nearly empty, the stadium presented an image that completely stunned Baker, even more so when he actually spotted Woods coming back in with Exeggutor to collect one of the few remaining groups of evacuees.

"I said, what is it, Baker?"

"Captain Everton, sir, they've evacuated the Whitegold Dome!"

"What did you just say?" Everton did not change his stance, preferring to remain standing confrontationally toward Matt, Victini, Nekou and Bunny. He did turn his head, though, roaring so loudly that it echoed through the plaza. "Where have the citizens been sent?"

"It looks like…" Baker paused his speech for a moment while he scanned through multiple windows of surveillance feeds from throughout the city. "…they're being sent to the ships in the harbor!"

"That means they'll survive the flood…"

It was then that Matt made what would turn out to be a terrible error. Thinking he had won, he began to taunt Everton. "That's right, the citizens and tourists are going to survive the flood, and the world is going to find out about what you've done here today. Even with all the power and resources you've accumulated so far, if the world learns the truth about you first, your rise to power will never come to pass!" Matt reached up with his right hand and stroked Victini, who was still hanging on to his head. "It just goes to show you, even when you think you have the power of victory itself… what you had was merely a shadow of that power, and the real form of victory was against you. That's why you have lost, Liam Everton."

"My dream… my dream… it won't…" With every syllable he choked out, Everton jerked his head lower and lower, while bringing his hands toward his face in equally abrupt motions. His eyes became hidden by the brim of his hat, but at the same time, a narrow trickle of blood started to run down his face from his left eye. Finally, he lashed his head violently back up and shouted, "My dream does not end here!"

Noticing that the Victory Star in Everton's left eye was not only activated but trembling and filled with static, Bunny realized that something had changed. She hypothesized in her mind that the power was beginning to reject him, then said to the others, "I think something has changed about the Victory Star. By moving the citizens, I think we might have rendered it so that he's trying to see a victory he can no longer attain."

"Shut up!" This level of rage was uncharacteristic even for Everton; ordinarily, he usually at least maintained his composure, but even that was now beginning to leave him. He continued fuming while unbuttoning his jacket, "I have a dream and the Victory Star is my path to that dream. I'll eliminate anyone in my way. Anyone… through any means necessary!"

His suit jacket fully unbuttoned and open, Everton was now reaching for something he had tucked into his belt. Whatever it was, it was too small for Matt, Bunny or Nekou to see at first.

It was not until a brief second later, when Everton raised the object into the air in his right hand, that a glint of light revealed it to be a small, metallic revolver.

"Holy shit, you have to be fucking with me!" Nekou screeched, her eyes becoming the size of saucers. "It's gone THIS far?"

"Matt, he's after you! Run!"

There was no time for Matt to pay heed to Bunny's warning, as due to his own fear and shock over just how far Everton was willing to go, he couldn't mobilize himself. Everton was already lowering the gun in his direction, with time seeming to slow to a halt as he did so.

For the second time, though, Everton found himself stopped by Foster grabbing his arm. "Captain Everton, get a hold of yourself! Look at what this has come to… I can't stand by and watch you sink further and further into the depths of your own madness!"

Everton said nothing in response to Foster's impassioned plea; he had no need to, as Baker's Sawk took care of the problem for him by using Strength to punch Foster several feet away. A large bruise took shape on Foster's face as he lay prone on the floor, conscious but barely moving.

"Are you really going to disobey the great Captain Everton's will?" Baker questioned menacingly of his counterpart. "Anyone who stands in our way truly will be eliminated."

"Well done, Baker," Everton congratulated, not moving from his raised-arm position. "Your courage and dedication to me is truly righteous. For that, I hereby promote you to first mate of the ark and my right-hand man. Your first duty is to take Mr. Foster here into custody…" Turning back to Matt, Everton smiled. "…while I take care of my final order of business."

This wasn't the first time Matt had faced down the barrel of a gun, so his visible fear was completely unsurprising. Bunny understood exactly what was going through his mind particularly well; it was during a crisis in the Sinnoh Region spurred on by her former mentor, Jacob Alexison, that the professor had shot Matt on his way to the Snowpoint Temple. Because of this, even though Everton's pistol was not aimed at her, Bunny could only stare nervously at the weapon in his hand.

"Now, come on, Liam, we can talk about this, can't we?" It was a feeble attempt on Matt's part to reason with someone he knew was far past the point of being stopped, but he still did it anyway. His voice was wracked by his nerves.

"You're right," Everton responded while not lowering his gun, "let's negotiate. You're going to give me Victini right now, and in exchange, I'll give you this."

Intending to make the terms of his so-called negotiation clear, Everton lowered his aim slightly and pulled the trigger, sending a single bullet straight into Matt's left knee. Perhaps the only upside to this spiraling crisis was that Everton had made the mistake of aiming at Matt's artificial leg, resulting in metal bouncing right off of metal. However, the shot was enough to send a shockwave through Matt's entire body, causing him to fall to his hands and knees with a sick groan.

"Matt, are you alright?" screamed Bunny as she rushed to Matt's side.

"I'm fine. He's not going to easily damage this body. But…" After feeling around on his now-unoccupied head, Matt spotted Victini lying several feet in front of himself, having tumbled off when he fell. "Victini!"

Matt feebly reached out toward Victini, and in turn, Victini reached out to him with its tiny arm, but both froze at the sound of someone walking right up to the Pokémon.

"It's the end of the line for all of you!" Everton bellowed as he towered over them, his gun still in his hand and the Victory Star still going out of control in his eye. "Victini, this is what you get for defying my dream!"

With a single swift, brutal motion, Everton swung his right leg like a club, smashing his foot into Victini. Before three pairs of horrified eyes, the squealing, screeching creature was sent flying a dozen feet into one of the plaza canopy's pillars, where it crashed weakly into the ground. However, before Victini could recover at all, Everton descended upon it a second time, seizing it in his left hand and smashing it up against the pillar a second time.

"You will never escape me, Victini," he said in a vicious whisper.

"Captain Everton, we must begin finishing up here!" Baker called out. "Pass me Victini so I can seal it up!"

"Good idea." Everton tossed Victini to Baker with a casual flick of his wrist, allowing the guard to shut Victini in a large, black briefcase specially reinforced to contain it. With that done, Everton turned back to his audience, who were so disgusted by the scene playing out that they were speechless. Slowly raising his pistol toward Matt's head, he growled, "It's only now, at the end, do you truly realize just how wrong you were. I didn't think I'd have to do this myself… Polaris should have finished this. Nevertheless, even your cybernetic body has weak points. Checkmate."

Before he could pull the trigger, though, a black-and-red blur cut between him and Matt at incredible speed, far too fast for Everton to tell who or what it actually was. What he was more stunned by was the fact that the blur cut three streaks across his face somehow, bloodying it further.

"I'll kill you, motherfucker!"

Everton, Matt, Bunny and Baker all turned in the direction of the voice, discovering that the blur was actually Nekou; however, something was wrong with her. She was standing slightly hunched over, and her fingers were hooked, almost like claws. Once again, it seemed like her hair had grown longer, just like when she was trapped in Cryogonal's Bind.

Finally, she whipped her head around, revealing an expression of frenzy best captured by the bizarre yellow glow in her deranged eyes. "You're fucking dead!"

"Really, am I now?" While Matt and Bunny remained speechless at what they were seeing, Everton seemed completely unfazed by the strange, animalistic appearance Nekou had taken on. "Or could it be yourself that you are speaking of?"

Turning fully to Everton, Nekou let out an uncontrolled, primal scream that caused all others around her to cringe, then lunged straight at the captain with her finger-claws ready to strike.

All of it came crashing down the moment the sound of the gunshot rang through the plaza. The bullet pierced straight into Nekou's left shoulder without exiting, kicking back a splash of blood.

"NEKOU!" both Matt and Bunny shrieked in unison.

As she fell backward, the changes that had so abruptly appeared from within Nekou vanished just as swiftly as they had come. The glow faded from her eyes, her limbs straightened to a more normal human posture, and her fingers became limp. The only change that didn't reverse itself was the growth of her hair. A faint, pained gasp escaped her slowly-widening mouth, and she hit the floor with a weak thud.

"Don't move or you're next!" Everton immediately shouted, pointing his gun at Matt and Bunny, who were too horrified and fearful to move even without his threat.

Matt and Bunny were both sickened by what Everton had done and how far he was willing to go, and both of them were fearful not only for themselves. Though his first shot had inflicted what appeared to be a non-fatal wound in Nekou's left shoulder, Everton was approaching her prone body with the clear intent of finishing the job and all Matt and Bunny could do was watch. They were powerless to save her.

"It really is pitiable, isn't it?" The irrational, almost desperate tone Everton's voice took on completely mismatched with the still-sane words he spoke. "You thought attacking me like some beast would give you an advantage. I almost have to give you credit for having the guts to come at me like that. But, like I've told you all along, my victory is absolute. Goodbye."

Everton began slowly raising his pistol toward Nekou's forehead, clearly intending to kill her with the next shot. Unable to take any more of this, Matt shut his eyes in one last attempt to reject what was happening around him. He felt an overwhelming sense of failure, as for what was now the third time, someone he was supposed to protect was going to die for his weakness.

"Halt, you scoundrels! Thunderbolt!"

Everton and Baker whipped around just barely fast enough to jump out of the way of the electric blast launched at them by Katorena's Beheeyem. Seconds later, the Psychic-type Pokémon and her hoverboard-riding trainer descended to the entrance of the plaza.

"Katorena!" Bunny sighed in relief. "Please, help us!"

"Insolent brat! Klinklang, destroy h…"

"Captain Everton, we're out of time!" interrupted Baker. "We have Victini now, there is no need for us to linger any longer!"

"You're right… pack up Foster and let's go. We're heading for the ark now."

Everton recalled Klinklang and sprinted for the truck, but before Baker followed him with the briefcase containing Victini, he had Sawk pick up Foster and carry him over to the vehicle as well. Katorena let them go, as she was more concerned with the disastrous state her friends were in. After landing the hoverboard carefully, she noisily ran over to Nekou and kneeled down.

"You two! Explain this tomfoolery to me at once!"

Matt and Nekou managed to understand what Katorena was demanding, even though she had used an inappropriately accusatory tone and thrust her finger at them. Managing to wobble back up to his feet for the first time since Everton's attempted kneecapping, Matt made his way to Nekou's body. She was wracked by subtle spasms radiating from the rather messy injury on her shoulder.

"That son of a bitch Everton shot her," Matt explained to Katorena, who reacted with an uncharacteristically emotional gasp. "It's lucky you came. He was about to execute her and then us."

"What do you propose we do about her now, though?"

"Let me go see if there's a first aid kit inside this building," Bunny interjected. "If I have the right supplies, I should be able to treat her wound at least temporarily."

-:-

At the dam separating Whitegold City from the water, Butler and Diane had arrived via Salamence and hurried into the gatehouse where the controls were located.

Once inside, they carefully appraised what they were faced with. On one side of the room, the wall was covered with surveillance monitors observing the dam, and below them, three computer terminals allowed operation of the dam's systems. Opposite the monitors was a wheel made of red metal sticking out of the floor.

Butler immediately dashed over to the control panels and typed in a series of commands. "This isn't good. The dam is going to be forced open soon at this rate. That wheel controls the relief floodgate, but if that gets forced open right now, the city will flood anyway."

"What can we do, then?" Diane inquired. She was full of concern for the people of the city as well as the city itself, as she thought both were unique. Obviously, she would never want anyone to die in any unnatural way, but she couldn't help but think that it would be even worse for such a unique people and place to be eradicated.

As an answer, Butler had a Poké Ball in his hand. "Go, Conkeldurr!"

The sphere erupted in a bright flash of light, giving shape to the hulking brown beast and his concrete pillars. He leaned on the pillars for a moment to stretch his back, then grunted in acknowledgement to his trainer.

"Conkeldurr, use Strength to hold that wheel in place."

Conkeldurr released the concrete pillars and lumbered over to the wheel, walking with an ape-like gait that employed his huge arms for balance. The rusted iron of the wheel groaned sickeningly as the brawny Fighting-type Pokémon set his massive hands on it, but Conkeldurr did not need to exert much strength at all to keep the valve perfectly where it was.

"Conkeldurr is going to keep the relief gate from opening for as long as possible," Butler explained to Diane. "I really don't know if this is going to work, but the alternative is just to let the relief gate and then the main floodgate be forced open by the storm, so this should at least buy the others some time to figure something out."

"I hope you're right…"

-:-

"I found the first-aid kit!"

Indeed, as Bunny hurried out of the building's doors back to Matt, Katorena and the injured Nekou, she had a white box of moderate size held in her arms. Once she reached them, she bent down and placed the chest on the floor, showing that it had a red cross on its cover.

"Are you a medical expert?" Katorena questioned, this time out of actual concern instead of her usual sarcastic manner.

"Well, I'm no doctor, that's for sure. But, given the right tools, I can take care of things just fine." Shifting her gaze to Nekou, who was still lying spread out on her back, Bunny asked, "How is she doing?"

"She doesn't seem like she's getting worse," Matt offered in response. He could only base his assumption on what he could see, so this was about the best he could muster.

"That Everton… when you guys fix me up… I'll fuck him up like never before…"

"I guess she's doing better, then?" he chuckled, humorously amending his answer.

"Now is no time for joking," Bunny warned in a manner a bit too dramatic for the situation. She busily searched through the first-aid box, looking for the supplies she needed to treat Nekou's wound. "Ah, here we go. First step."

The top buttons on Nekou's coat being open made it easy for Bunny to pull down the material, exposing the skin of her left shoulder where the wound was. Matt and Katorena both flinched upon seeing it.

"Okay, you got that wretched thing before our sight…" Katorena's words were labored, as she was cringing away from looking at Nekou's wound, not to mention that the disgust she felt was impeding her thoughts. "…now what?"

"Um…" Fidgeting, Bunny choked on her own words, making it clear that she wasn't entirely sure herself of what was next. "I'd say that it would probably help if we could get that bullet out, but we have no way to do it. I'm not a surgeon."

"There is a way," Matt spoke up almost immediately.

"What is it?"

"It's not going to be pretty, though…"

To further illustrate his point, Matt threw a Poké Ball upward to release Ayingott, his Sigilyph. The subtle widening of Bunny and Katorena's eyes conveyed that they understood exactly what he was about to say next.

"I could use Ayingott's Psychic to get the bullet out of her, but it would be at the cost of an extreme amount of pain. I can't imagine that it would be plea…"

Matt's explanation of his proposal was cut short by a tugging he felt on his sleeve. Looking down, he found Nekou nodding toward him. "Do it," she said in a raspy, forced voice. "I'll kick your ass if you think a little pain is going to bring me down."

"If you say so," he gently answered before turning to his Pokémon. "Ayingott, use Psychic to get the bullet out, but be careful about it, okay?"

As she slowly spread her wings, a soft blue glow filled all three of Ayingott's eyes. The same glow could then be seen peeking from Nekou's wound, at which point her entire body started to involuntarily convulse in pain.

"Bunny, help me hold her down!"

Nekou had to hold still if Ayingott was to successfully extract the bullet, so Matt and Bunny each seized one of her arms to hold her. She briefly struggled but settled down relatively quickly, allowing Ayingott to continue.

However, once the bullet was on the move again, Nekou's pain returned. The sickening squishing of the muscle tissue it was being pulled from told the others with her that it was painful, but just how much Nekou was suffering was known only to her. Just when the bullet reached the point where Ayingott could completely extract it, a sudden spike of pain caused Nekou to scream at an ear-splitting volume and begin thrashing again. Her mind was a jumbled mess, but if anyone could look inside it, they would surely be left horrified by the grotesque visions she was having.

And yet, right after that, the pain started to subside.

"It's over, we got it out," Matt updated her, smiling weakly as he did so. After processing what she had been told, Nekou returned the gesture, but said nothing. He was satisfied with this, and asked Bunny," Is there disinfectant in there?"

"Got it right here." Bunny displayed the plain black bottle as she replied to demonstrate her possession of it.

"Okay, good. Nekou, this might hurt a little, but compared to what you just went through, this should be no problem."

"Bring it on," she whispered, her familiar brash smirk returning ever so briefly.

True to her cockiness, Nekou did little more than flinch when Bunny poured the transparent liquid onto the wound. Even though it burned her as it foamed up, Nekou was able to tolerate it.

"And now, bandages, correct?"

"That's right, Katorena, well done." Taking the medical tape and gauze from the box, Bunny quickly fashioned a well-crafted, heavily protective patchwork bandage across Nekou's shoulder to shield the wound from outside interference. She then pulled Nekou's coat shoulder back up to cover the bandage before producing a white sling. "I think you should put this on and keep your left arm immobile for a while, to avoid putting stress on the shoulder muscle."

Matt took the responsibility of getting the sling onto Nekou upon himself, but as he worked at it, she started talking to him. "Why are you helping me?" she whispered bitterly. "You have more important things to be worrying about. Go after Victini."

"Shut up."

Just as she was managing to get back on her feet, the way Matt reacted to her comment nearly surprised Nekou enough to make her fall down again. "W-what?"

"I'm not going to screw it up a third time. I won't let anyone else I care about get hurt… so we're taking you to Katorena's yacht where it's safe first."

It wasn't easy for Nekou to take in just what Matt meant by what he said. She had made the remark about being left behind completely seriously, thinking that he'd do the subjectively right thing and pursue Victini instead of worrying about her. Getting told that someone had her back was a thorough shock, so she had to reconcile herself to having others watching out for her.

While Nekou simply stood there trying to process the rapid series of events that had just unfolded, Katorena's Alakazam phased into the plaza. Katorena immediately skittered up to him.

"Alakazam, did you find Olivia and escort her to safety?" When Alakazam responded with an affirmative nod, Katorena turned back to the others. "Now. What is our next destination?"

"I heard Everton say something about an ark," Bunny returned, "so, a ship. He must have a flagship."

"Come to think of it," the blonde added, "as I was coming into port aboard my yacht, I happened to sight quite a massive vessel moored in the city's shipping piers."

"That must be where Everton's gone with Victini," Matt concluded. "So that means we must go there as well."

"Alakazam, I wish for you to escort Nekou and Bunny back to my yacht, where they will be safe."

Surprisingly enough, it was Bunny, not Nekou, that objected to being left behind. "Hey, what about me? Why do I have to stay behind?"

"And you think you can handle yourself out there?"

Answering both Bunny and Matt simultaneously, Katorena explained, "You will be of the most use for us if you stand guard at my yacht. And Matt, I'll give you fair warning not to patronize me. I desire to be a part of the final battle of this adventure, and I am vastly powerful enough to hold my own."

"Okay, I'm swayed." Matt spun around on his heel to address Bunny, asking her, "When you get to Katorena's yacht, radio to Woods and have him make an announcement to all refugees aboard the ships. Have him tell them to send out any Pokémon they have that can use Ice-type moves, then use those Ice-type moves to cool down the air and water."

"Will do. Be careful out there."

"Yeah…" Nekou put in, "if you can't prevent yourself from getting wrecked without my help, that just shows how much you need me around."

Chuckling, Matt replied, "Yeah, it would prove that. Come on, let's get this show on the road."

"Alakazam, I beseech you, use Teleport!"

In a bright flash of light, Alakazam vanished, taking Nekou and Bunny with him. Once they were gone, Matt and Katorena knowingly glanced at each other to confirm their next strategy, and then Matt threw one of his Poké Balls.

"Hethna, make your mark!"

-:-

Everton's vast ship in the harbor had an equally vast bridge constructed inside of it. One third of the immense chamber was taken up by a two-tiered platform structure; the edge of the lower level had a large, three-screened computer against it, at which Fennel was being forced to stay. Baker and his Sawk saw to it that she cooperated while simultaneously guarding Foster, who was tied up and bound to a chair nearby.

In the middle of the bridge chamber was an empty space, and finally, at the other end, a nightmarish device had been constructed. Musharna was imprisoned on a cylindrical pedestal in the center of the device, behind a wall of glass, and around her were all the sleeping Pokémon gathered from the city. The group included several of the Pidgey and Pidove, a pair of Palpitoad, the brown garbage bag Pokémon Trubbish and Garbodor, Poliwhirl, Poochyena, Zigzagoon and Linoone. All of these slumbering Pokémon of various shapes and sizes were slumped in a ring around the pedestal Musharna was trapped upon.

The sound of footsteps on the top level of the platform attracted the attention of Fennel and Baker, prompting them to turn their heads upward. It was Everton entering the bridge with the briefcase containing Victini in his right hand. As he walked to the control panel spread out just ahead of himself with deliberate steps, the door he entered through slid shut.

There was a slot next to the main control panel that was shaped perfectly to hold up the briefcase, and Everton accordingly placed the luggage there. Once it was in place, the sides of the briefcase retraced into the desk, creating a smaller version of the cage Darkrai had been trapped in to contain Victini.

"Captain Everton!" Baker called upward, his voice echoing in the open air of the bridge. "My captain, sir, all preparations are complete, as you can see. The sleeping Pokémon and Musharna have been installed in position and all of the Dreamyarn Inceptor data is now programmed into the ship!"

"Well done. We will waste no further time here. Activate the Dreamyarn Inceptor!" As he gave this order, Everton thrust out his arm, giving the image of a king lording over his land.

"You heard him," Baker coldly said to Fennel. "Turn it on."

"And what if I refuse?"

Fennel had made this remark in such a sullen and halfhearted way that it would be entirely believable if Baker didn't hear her. However, he did, and in response he took a step back.

"Refuse if you wish, my dear. Just don't blame me for what'll happen to you."

As if to back up his trainer's threat, Sawk stepped up, getting right on top of Fennel and lowering his fist next to her head. This was enough to frighten Fennel into obedience, and she started typing lines of code into her computer.

Once triggered, a series of changes took place inside the machine that held the sleeping Pokémon. A half-circle made up of dozens of blue hexagons lit up on the wall of the machine, and dozens more brightened the shape of a full ring on the floor. Both above and below Musharna's pedestal were five large, coffin-shaped panels arranged in circles around the Psychic-type's position; circuitry patterns illuminated on these with an earsplitting cacophony of windchime-like noises. Small amounts of pink smoke surrounded Musharna and the other Pokémon, and a periodic bolt of electricity arced around the machine's confines at random.

"Dreamyarn Inceptor system activated," an emotionless, robotic female voice intoned. "Current power output is ten percent of full capacity."

"See that, Victini? That is my system, and soon you will be a part of it yourself." Victini didn't respond to Everton at all, choosing to instead stare at the Dreamyarn Inceptor with sadness in its eyes. Disregarding the Pokémon , Everton announced, "Raising the anchor now!"

Using one of the keyboards at his own control panel, Everton entered in a complex string of characters, triggering a command that caused the entire ship to shudder. A screen on the console displayed a diagram of the ship's anchor being raised, explaining why the vessel had been shaken.

Right in front of Everton's position at the center of the platform, a hologram of a ship's steering wheel appeared from a projector in the control panel. Meanwhile, a large projection just above the Dreamyarn Inceptor turned on, showing the ship's view outside. Satisfied with all of this, Everton tapped another key, then faced rigidly forward and began speaking.

"All hands, this is your captain speaking. Our voyage is about to begin! The destination is Indigo Plateau. We're on our way!"

Turning off the transmission, Everton crossed his arms behind his back and turned ninety degrees, facing the wall with his eyes closed and Victini behind him. He was lost in thoughts of the past as his fateful voyage went underway.

"Tobias… you never did understand, no matter what I said…"

~:~

"They're gone… they're all gone…"

On September 9, 1975, a chaotic scene was unfolding in Tobias's office at the Indigo Plateau. While the governor himself looked as if he hadn't aged or changed his appearance at all since then, Liam Everton and his first mate, Woods, were both much younger. Both naval officers were facing Tobias in his office, but surprisingly enough, it was Liam Everton who was on his hands and knees on the floor, shaking violently.

"We're the only survivors… the entire unit, Governor…"

"Liam, your service to me has been invaluable," Tobias intoned. "After all, that's why I made you a captain and then promoted you to be the top naval commander in my entire military." At this point, the governor's expression darkened significantly. "But… it was under your orders that my men went into battle when they didn't have to, and now they're all dead. Because of this defeat, the Tohjo Continent has lost so much ground against Sinnoh that we have no choice but to give them independence. This happened under your watch. What do you have to say for yourself?"

"I had a dream…" Everton never lifted his gaze from the carpet of the office as he desperately tried to justify his actions. "That's what Grandpa always told me… I dreamed that we would find an advantage by engaging those Sinnoh rats there…"

"Well maybe you need to realize that dreams don't always come true!"

Something about that comment caused Everton to snap even further, and he was immediately back up on his feet and gesturing wildly. "Shut up! You don't understand a thing! Were you out there fighting alongside us?"

"Captain Everton, sir…" Woods tried to bring Everton down to Earth by setting a hand on his shoulder, but Everton immediately threw it off.

"No! That's what Grandpa told me – if you believe in your dreams, nothing will stop them from coming true! And he's a great man who's never wrong!"

"You're right about that, Liam," Tobias commented calmly, despite being shouted at. "Your grandfather is a great man. That's why I'm telling you, go home to Whitegold City for a while and work for Becket at your family business. Clear your head. I think you've seen enough war for a while."

"No…" Everton gasped, his body contracting as it went into convulsions. "My dreams are never wrong… we'll find victory over those rats somehow… victory…"

"We're done here. Liam, Woods, please see yourselves out."

Everton was in no shape to carry himself out of the office, so Woods propped up his captain on his shoulder and helped him.

Once they were both outside, Woods asked Everton, "What do we do now, sir?"

"We're not going back to Whitegold City, I'll tell you that much. This war is not over. We're going to find Victini, the only thing on this planet that can guarantee us the victory we will have."

~:~

"I've been working to find Victini ever since that day, and now, victory is finally within my grasp. Tobias, I'll prove to you that what I said was right by winning this war once and for all!"

An alarm went off, snapping Everton out of his daze. He returned to his control panel overlooking the lower level, where Baker was observing a radar screen.

"We've got three live targets within radar range, sir!" Baker reported. "They appear to be flying, all three of them. What are your orders?"

"So they're coming… the only question is which ones of them are on their way here." Smirking, Everton called down to Baker, "Give me another report on their movements. Which way are they coming in the ship?"

"They're…" The dots on Baker's radar split out of their closely-knit formation, with one heading for the bow of the ship and the two others toward the stern. "One on the bow, two to the stern. They're probably looking to board!"

With irritation in his voice, Everton responded, "Obviously, Baker. Based on that pattern I'd say they're heading for the sub-decks." Activating the transmitter, he announced to the ship, "Attention all crewmen on the sub-decks… prepare for a combat situation! At least three intruders are on their way, from both the bow and stern!"

-:-

The refugees from the Whitegold Dome had been taken to a cluster of cargo ships a fair distance down the docks from Everton's flagship, where they were distributed amongst three similar vessels lined up next to each other. To shield themselves from the storm, the refugees hid within the ships instead of staying outside on the decks.

Woods, Aurelie, her Gothitelle and Butler's Gardevoir were gathered in the bridge of the center ship, overlooking the pathway out into the ocean. Unlike the bridge of Everton's flagship, which was cavernous and more like a laboratory, on this craft it was simply an office with bay windows. Sonar equipment was installed in some of the computers, while a large desk opposite the windows had a naval map of the world's oceans spread across it. Fluorescent bulbs mounted in the ceiling gave the room a dull, sickly pallor.

Having spent the last several minutes on the ship's radio, Woods put down the receiver and spoke to Aurelie. "Bunny says we have to have the refugees use their Pokémon to cool the air and water, which should head off the growth of the storm."

"That just might work," Aurelie replied, her voice weary with exhaustion from the day-long struggle. "Give the order."

"Gothi," Gothitelle added in her own language.

"Working on it now." In order for the plan to go out to all the ships and thus all of the refugees, Woods had to enter a specific programming code into the transmitter, which took him some time. Once he finished, he held the receiver to his mouth and pushed down on its button, then spoke. "Attention all Whitegold City evacuees, this is evacuation manager Woods. We have developed a plan to try and save the city, but it requires your help. Anyone with an Ice-type Pokémon or a Pokémon that can use Ice-type moves, report to the main deck of your respective evacuation ship. We are going to use Ice-type moves to cool the air and water, which we hope will help cut off the storm!"

Once he was finished with his broadcast, Woods put down the receiver and turned back to a very pleased Aurelie. Both Gothitelle and Gardevoir seemed similarly impressed by his work, judging from their broad smiles.

"Thank you," he said before any accolade could be voiced, "but there's no time now. Gardevoir, Teleport us down to the main deck. We must oversee this directly."

With little more than a slight grunt of agreement, Gardevoir used her psychic power to create a curtain of light around herself, Woods, Aurelie and Gothitelle before they all vanished.

-:-

"They really shot you?"

The cabin of Katorena's yacht was an unexpectedly posh place, furnished with three finely upholstered couches, a large red rug from a foreign land and an ornate wooden table on which a tea set of fine china awaited use. There was also a large and obviously expensive flatscreen television on the wall, but nobody was paying it any mind at the moment. While Bunny watched, Rowena was helping Nekou to lie down on one of the couches. Olivia was resting on another with ice on her ankle where Sawk had kicked her.

"Everton did," Nekou answered, her voice and mind still rattled. "That son of a bitch… he saw something he wasn't supposed to see, they all did, and I'm ashamed they did… but that son of a bitch would have given me one more right in the fucking head if Katorena didn't save me."

"Surely Everton knows how harsh the restrictions on gun use in this country are… even a man as rich as he is wouldn't be exempt. What if…" Abruptly coming to an epiphany about Everton, Rowena gasped and her eyes lit up. It was her sense that told her when she had a big story developing. "He did it because he knows how to get off with never following any laws but his own. He isn't planning to merely hold Governor Tobias hostage using oil and monetary resources, he's going to completely dismantle this country's existing government! But why? What is the true root of his motivation?"

"What are you saying, Rowena?"

Responding to Bunny question, Rowena said, "Do you think there is a GPS system on this craft?"

"Of course," answered the woman while furrowing an eyebrow in confusion, "every seaworthy vessel in this day and age has one. But why would you have need of such a thing?"

"I can connect my computer to the yacht's GPS, which will allow me to use the GPS satellite as a signal booster. With a signal that strong, I can get into even the Everton International network, which we should find an answer within."

"That's a brilliant idea!" Bunny exclaimed. "Let's hurry and do that right away!"

-:-

In order to move the ship, Everton was gesturing with his hands over the holographic steering wheel, controlling it with motion-sensor technology. Below him, Baker continued to monitor their surroundings on his radar screens, while Fennel stared out of the corner of her eye at her beloved Musharna, who was writhing in pain within the Dreamyarn Inceptor. She imagined that her Pokémon must have held feelings of hatred for her at this point, as she had subjected Musharna to Everton's torturous whims, but that could not have been farther from the truth. In reality, Musharna was actually aware of Fennel being forced to do everything she had done, and desperately wished to reunite with her. Though Fennel would never be able to know, Musharna was doing everything she could to be closer to her trainer again, even then.

"Captain Everton, something odd is happening," Baker reported, having caught sight of something while reviewing his collected video feeds. "There are a whole bunch of people and Pokémon on the decks of the ships the citizens evacuated to. It looks like they're collectively using Ice Beam on the waters and Blizzard, Icy Wind and Frost Breath out into the air."

"Put it up on the big screen, Baker."

"Yes."

One brief computer command later, Everton's request was fulfilled. A giant projection of the scene appeared between the platform and the Dreamyarn Inceptor, revealing that in addition to the Pokémon Matt had seen earlier, some of the citizens had contributed two Snorunt, a Glalie, an Azumarill, two Bibarel and an Empoleon to the effort. Much as Baker had described, the Pokémon were divided roughly into two groups – one group was using Ice Beam, directing their freezing energy blasts downward into the water below the ships, while the Pokémon in the other group sending the frigid gusts of their Blizzard, Icy Wind and Frost Breath attacks into the open air.

Without stopping moving his hands over the holographic wheel, Everton said in confusion, "What are they doing? Are they just showing off at this point?"

Unexpectedly, an alarm started going off, sending Baker back to his surveillance monitors. It took him some time to find the source of the problem, but when he did, he exclaimed, "Captain Everton, sir! They're trying to force the anchor back down!"

"What?" Everton gasped, lowering his hands away from the wheel. "Bring it up on the big screen right now!"

A second window materialized on the holographic projection screen, covering the one that showed the refugees and their Pokémon. It was a view of the anchor's opening on the port side of the ship; the double-sided hook was still in its retracted position, but the psychic power employed by the Sigilyph was causing sparks to shoot out from its motor mechanisms as it shuddered up and down by slight margins.

Both Victini and Everton recognized this Sigilyph as Ayingott, but their respective reactions could not have been any more different. While Victini leaned forward and widened its eyes hopefully, Everton stopped steering the ship and slammed his fist down on the control desk, enraged.

At about the same instant that the anchor mechanism completely failed, scattering electricity all over as the heavy iron fell back into the depths, the Victory Star forced another vision into Everton's mind, causing him to collapse forward onto his instrument panel.

-:-

Matt and Katorena were stalking through the cold steel corridors of the ship's subdeck, having entered from the stern after reaching it with Matt flying on the hoverboard and Katorena on Hethna's back. They remained silent until the ship violently rocked, nearly throwing them off their feet.

"It looks like your Sigilyph has managed to accomplish its mission," the rich girl observed. "She should be commended. She is a fine example of her species."

"You sure do know a lot about Psychic-types," Matt joked in response, before adding, "Thank you. Be careful and keep your head down, though. We never know when…"

"All hands, this is your captain speaking!" Everton's voice was thundering from the intercom speakers and echoing down the halls, forcing Matt to cut off his sentence. "The intruders have entered the subdeck from the stern side! Any and all men responsible for their defeat and capture will be rewarded!"

Almost instantly, roughly three dozen men, all in matching black suits branded with the Everton International logo, poured out into the corridor. They did not immediately notice Matt and Katorena, and it took about a minute of the group looking around in confusion before they all collectively spotted their targets.

"There they are!"

"You heard what Captain Everton said! Take them down!"

Bursts of light like erupting stars flashed through the hallway, blinding Matt and Katorena briefly. Once the light faded, the shapes of twenty Klink clogged the air in the passage, each one busily rotating its gears.

Katorena readied a Poké Ball of her own, but Matt gestured for her stand down with his arm.

"You don't need to trouble yourself for this one. I've got this handled, easily. Tanya, make your mark!"

Tanya burst from her Dusk Ball to face the horde of Klink, landing on the floor with a loud crash. Taking up much of the width of the hallway, she growled menacingly, as if daring the Klink to attack her first.

"Don't be discouraged!" one of the employees at the head of the group cried out. "Klink, Flash Cannon!"

Apparently, the Klink would all listen to people other than their own trainers if they were Everton International employees. Each one took aim at Tanya and released a burst of light, peppering the Heatran's body with small hits.

Despite the number of attacks Tanya got struck by, she shrugged them off with little a care. She stood her ground steadfastly, then grunted to Matt, asking him to give her a command.

"What? Oh yes, you're right, it's our turn now. Tanya, use Magma Storm!"

Opening her gaping mouth as wide as she could, Tanya expelled a tornado of searing scarlet flames that washed cleanly over the Klink. They could be heard screeching to each other within the vortex unleashed upon them, and outside of the fire, their trainers were in an equal amount of disarray. Finally, the flames dissipated, allowing the steel bodies of all twenty Klink to drop to the floor.

"Well done, Tanya. Return." Matt held up the Dusk Ball, allowing it to convert Tanya back into red energy and draw her back into itself. He then put it away in his bag and said, "You lot were no match for me. Now tell me, how do I reach this ship's bridge?"

Some of the employees in the mob were furious with Matt and Katorena and didn't want to let them go. However, because they all only had a single Pokémon – the standard-issue Klink every Everton employee received – none of them could actually continue to fight. With defeat in his heart, the guard who commanded the Klink army stepped forth to face Matt.

"Just continue the way you're going. The bridge is not far, just continue following the path you're on."

"Thank you. Now, Katorena, let's hurry!"

Without hesitation, Matt and Katorena rushed past the lead guard, through the crowd of his colleagues, and away down the corridor. Once they were gone, the man said to himself, "Captain Everton's going to kill me."

-:-

"It's no good!" Rowena exclaimed, throwing her hands up in the air while sitting at her computer.

"What's wrong?" Bunny had been sitting on the couch with Olivia to keep track of the girl's recovery, but Rowena's declaration attracted her over. "Didn't the linkup with the satellite work?"

"Oh, it worked perfectly fine," the reporter answered, gesturing to the cable connecting her computer to the yacht's navigation unit, "but it's what I'm after that's evading me. The Everton building's mainframe is locked up tightly with a firewall so strong that even I can't break it. I'd need a direct link into their systems to even have a shot."

"Am I the only one who knows how to use a little thing called the internet?" Nekou piped up behind them, pulling herself up despite the pains she still felt. Shuffling over to Rowena and Bunny, she continued, "The internet's a magical little place where you can find everything your mind could possibly want, and trust me when I tell you I know what I'm talking about. Intelligence is something you can find, too…"

"Wait, what are you doing?" Rowena was hesitant when Nekou pulled the keyboard away to begin typing with her one good hand, even if the idea she'd come up with made sense.

Nekou's typing brought up a website with a black background. A banner hung on the top of the site, designating it with the name "RChannel" in an elegant red script font, and chains of posts in pale blue bubbles were listed beneath.

"What?" Bunny said in confusion. "How is this going to work?"

"You can find anything on here," Nekou explained. "Everything from recipes to dirty pictures to everything in between. You could say that this website is a sort of black market on information, and the best part is, it's one hundred percent anonymous. Type in whatever username you want, and they'll never know who you actually are. If there's anywhere that can get you the information on Liam Everton's background, it's here."

Rowena and Bunny looked at each other and realized that Nekou's idea made sense. Together they looked at the screen and thought for a moment, then Rowena began typing, beginning with the username 'Cinccino Mistress.'

"Hello, I am trapped in Whitegold City right now and I need some information. Liam Everton is planning to overthrow the government of the Tohjo Continent for some reason, and in order to try and stop him, I need to know more about his background. Who is he? Why would he want to do something like this? Please help us!"

Once she was satisfied with her message, Rowena scrolled her cursor over to the button marked 'New Post' and clicked it.

-:-

"We're completely immobile, Captain Everton!" Baker nervously gasped while looking over his status reports. "With the anchor down, we're going nowhere…"

Up at his control deck for the ship, Everton was shaking all over. When he raised his head, it could be seen that blood was dripping even more from his afflicted left eye.

"How long is it going to take to repair that?" he growled.

"It could be an extensive job, sir… all the electronics are fried."

"Damn it! Damn it all! This is only going to give Tobias more time to organize a defense… but still, that doesn't affect me at all. I have the Victory Star, so my dreams will come true…"

Down on the first level of the bridge platform, Foster spoke up for the first time, weakly saying, "Baker, you know you two are going to lose. This was never what we should have used the Victory Star for…"

"Sawk, shut him up." After his Pokémon delivered a crushing punch that left a large bruise on Foster's face, Baker continued, "This world exists for Captain Everton. You know that! Evidently you have forgotten that we swore our lives to the glory of Captain Everton and assisting him in reaching his objective of changing this entire world! What a shame it is that you can't see that. Your shortsightedness will be the reason for your end!"

"I say, it is indeed quite a shame. However, you blue-headed freak, it's you who is shortsighted."

Baker and Sawk whipped around, discovering that at some point, they had been joined by Katorena, who'd arrived without Matt. She was smiling confidently, two of her Poké Balls at the ready.

"You!" roared a surprised Baker, with Fennel and Foster looking on. "You've been evading your rightful fate for far too long. Sawk, go forth and destroy her!"

"Espeon, Beheeyem, appear in my court! Espeon, stop Sawk with Psychic! Beheeyem, use Psychic to free the redhead!"

By this time, Sawk was bearing down on Katorena with his arm cocked back in preparation to hit her with Strength. Espeon came out just in time to use her Psychic to blow him back, while Beheeyem floated over to where Foster was held prisoner. By pointing her arms at his binding and flashing the lights on her fingers, Beheeyem used Psychic to undo the rope and free Everton's now-former employee.

Immediately, Foster jumped up. "Thank you, Beheeyem." Turning his head upward, he rumbled, "Baker, now we have a score to settle. Go, Throh!"

Opposite Baker and his wiry-bodied Sawk, the stout red Throh owned by Foster appeared. Even though Foster stepped up behind his Pokémon to support him, though, Baker just laughed.

"Do you really think you can defeat me, Foster? There's a reason why I'm the one Captain Everton favors! Sawk, use Brick Break right now!"

"Espeon, hold it down!"

Sawk barely had a chance to get ready to hit Throh with his fist before Espeon was set upon him again, this time using her psychic power to merely hold him down. Realizing this was an opportunity, Throh flexed his muscles, creating a ring of jagged rocks around himself. By gesturing toward Sawk, he threw them at his newfound enemy, and this Stone Edge attack cut several gashes into Sawk's blue skin and white robe.

"Keep going, Throh! Use Strength, then Storm Throw!"

"Thuh-roh!"

Throh kept repeating a grunted version of his name as he rushed straight up to the immobilized Sawk, followed by a single loud howl when he delivered a powerful punch to Sawk's face. Finally, he seized Sawk by the arm, pulled him down while simultaneously tripping him, and finally smashed him into the ground.

By the end of all this, Sawk was defeated and lay on the ground fainted.

"Impossible!" Baker cried out, throwing his gaze skyward. "For I, the chosen right hand of Captain Liam Everton, the next ruler of this world, to lose in such a way… I absolutely cannot abide by this!"

"Your rambling is boring to me, cretin," Katorena took a swipe at Baker. "Silence yourself."

While the fracas on the lower level played out beneath him, Everton simply stood over it and observed everything playing out. He was ignoring the blood dripping down his face from his eye, because he knew that Matt was likely on his way to carry out a sneak attack.

In fact, his prediction was right. He heard a voice over his shoulder, which said, "You're a hard man to catch up with, Liam Everton. Now, did you expect me to say that?"

The doorway Everton had entered through earlier was open, and Matt was now standing just in front of it. Though he had open shot if he wished to attack Everton directly, Matt opted to instead stare daggers at the old man's back. Part of this was due to the fact that being so close to the villain who so desperately wanted to destroy and enslave the world for his own selfish gain left Matt a bit stunned.

"Victiiii!" Victini cheerfully squealed upon seeing Matt from its cage. It believed that it would soon be saved from Everton's clutches.

"I didn't expect you to say anything," Everton answered with an eerie calm while refusing to turn around. All Matt could see was the captain leaning stiffly on the control desk with both hands. "I knew you were on the subdeck and that you would come here, though. My Victory Star showed me that… and my Victory Star will be the light that guides me to my dreams."

"Let me ask you one thing, Liam. What did you mean when you said back there that Polaris should have finished me?"

"Just that. I gave those protestors a pass to be at your speech so they would dispose of you. Those cult idiots will try to eradicate anything that doesn't fit in their obsessively narrow worldview. If you were assassinated while presenting the plan for the ALEA system, the world would become nervous and refuse to use it. It's folks like you who stand in my way by denying the future of energy!"

"So that explains it…" Suddenly, everything made sense in Matt's mind. The speech itself was a trap, which meant that if he hadn't agreed to give it, Olivia, Nekou and Bunny would never have been brought into danger from Everton's plan. "I lied, answer another question for me. Why? Why is all of this necessary, just to influence the world's energy market?"

Though his movements were subtle, the way Everton's body constricted communicated the rising anger he was experiencing. "You think in too small of terms… but I would expect nothing else from a piece of Sinnoh scum like you!"

Everton suddenly whipped around, pulled his gun from his belt and pointed it at Matt. His face was contorted into a look of sheer madness, obviously fueled by the flickering Victory Star in his left eye.

"What are you…"

"Shut up! I'll answer no more of your questions!" It truly stunned Matt to see just how fast Everton could go from reasonably sane to completely irrational and screaming hysterically, but he quickly pieced together that his mental state was deteriorating because of the malfunctioning Victory Star's effects. "I've been fighting you filthy snow people for thirty-seven years... be honored that you will be the first to perish on my road to justice!"

With that, Everton pulled the trigger. Matt quickly flinched and closed his eyes, but he realized that something was strangely different – while he had heard the click of the trigger, no bullet was ever actually fired. He reopened his eyes to see Everton repeatedly pulling the trigger to no effect, becoming more and more panicked with each failed shot.

"What is this? Why won't it fire? Damn it!"

After two more failed attempts, Everton tried to fire again, only for his pistol to backfire and explode, pitching him backward over his steering control. He fell screaming right on top of Sawk's already prone form in front of stunned gazes from Baker, Foster, Fennel and Katorena. Up on the top level, Matt first spotted Beheeyem floating in the air behind where Everton had been standing, and pieced together in his mind that she had used her psychic powers to jam Everton's gun. After acquiring that piece of knowledge, he walked briskly over to where Victini was held prisoner and shut off its cage.

"There you go, buddy. That old creep won't be bothering you again." Matt was hopeful that this was not just something he was saying to reassure Victini but the actual truth. He had no intention of complaining at all if this were to be the end of the conflict in Whitegold City.

"Tini!" Victini happily exclaimed, jumping back onto Matt's head and playing with his hat.

His work finished, Matt climbed over the controls for the ship and jumped down to the lower level with Victini, where he spotted Baker, who was helping Everton recover from his fall, and Baker, who Matt didn't realize was now on his side. Reasoning that this fight would be three against two, meaning he and Katorena would be outnumbered, he decided that a strategic retreat would be the best idea to protect Victini.

"Katorena, call back your Pokémon. We have to get out of here!"

"Wait!" Fennel pleaded, tears streaming down her face. "Take me with you!"

"I don't think so," Baker cut in, having suddenly maneuvered next to Fennel. "You leave and Musharna's life is forfeit."

"We'll come back for you, I promise! Musharna too!"

It pained Matt to leave Fennel and Musharna behind in Everton's clutches, but at the moment getting Victini away from Everton was the top priority. Katorena had already recalled Beheeyem and Espeon, so Matt grabbed her arm and pulled her away through the exit.

They retraced the path they'd taken to reach the bridge, past the point where the hall split to lead to the upper and lower portions of the bridge's platform and then the corridors where the battle with the army of Klink had taken place. All the while, their minds were racing – Everton would surely be after them in a desperate last-ditch bid to recapture Victini, and time had to be running out to do something about the storm. On that note, the only thing they could do was pray that their idea involving the refugees and their Pokémon would actually work.

Finally, they broke out onto a small opening at the very back of the ship. The stolen hoverboard still awaited them where it had been left, so Matt boarded it; as for Katorena, Hethna soon appeared to allow her onto its back. Together with Victini, this group departed Everton's flagship, with Katorena's yacht their intended destination.

What they didn't know was that back on the ship's bridge, Everton had recovered. Without so much as a word to Baker, Foster or Fennel, he had walked back up to his control panel and carefully typed in a new command, one which caused the top portion of the platform to rise upward.

A pair of doors on the roof of the part of the ship containing the bridge opened, allowing the platform to rise all the way up until it was fully outside. Despite the raging storm, Everton lowered his head slightly and looked upward with eyes full of vengeful bloodlust.

-:-

"The storm isn't stopping, Butler!" Diane cried out.

While Conkeldurr was holding the relief gate's valve closed, Diane was charged with observing the floodgate visually. Butler sat at the controls of the dam, carefully monitoring the conditions of the structure and the weather for any significant changes.

"The temperature growth has only dropped off by a slight amount, according to this reading. We might be in trouble…"

"Butler! Get out here, we've got an emergency!"

In a flash, Butler was out of his chair and over at Diane's side. She pointed up at the dam, and when Butler squinted at the exact point she'd indicated, he could see a single crack.

"I was afraid of this…" Turning around in a fresh panic, Butler yelled back, "Conkeldurr, let the wheel go! We have no choice but to let the relief gate open!"

Conkeldurr obeyed and jumped back, freeing the wheel up completely.

However, a new problem erupted – after decades of disuse, the old valve was completely rusted over, and at the one time it was completely needed, the wheel jammed and refused to move. Quickly putting two and two together, Conkeldurr tried to help push the wheel in the other direction to open the gate, but it still barely budged.

Right in front of the horrified eyes of Butler and Diane, that first crack in the dam became two. Two became four, four became eight, eight became sixteen, and before long, the entire structure was laced with the jagged breaches.

A terrible, ear-splitting crashing sound indicated the arrival of the worst possible scenario any of those trying to stop the disaster could have envisioned. Unable to stand any further pressure, the dam completely crumbled into bits, leaving nothing standing between Whitegold City and the wall of water that would bring its end.

END of CHAPTER 5



May 2012

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