Self: The Calm Before

"Hey Kid."

Wehc stumbled onto the observation deck, a little disoriented.

"You get much sleep?"

Celadon remained unresponsive. She was leaning on a railing, staring out at the clouds rushing beneath them.
"I'm guessing you haven't spoken to Hari yet."

"I can't."

Celadon's face looked up at Wehc, and he sighed. Eight years old, thought dead for much of it. Experimented on and locked in a room.

"You got the short end of the stick. He'd understand that."

She turned away, still staring. Still watching the clouds move steadily beneath them.

"Hey, Wehc, have you seen Krystal?"

Hari appeared from behind a door, smiling. Wehc turned and waved him off.

"I dunno. Try finding Roy. She's probably with him."

"Alrighty then."

The door shut behind him quietly as Wehc turned back to the girl. Her face had dropped slightly, her gaze staring outwards lower than before.

"He didn't even know who I was. We're meant to be linked."

"You lived in the same town for three years with no contact. I reckon' he probably got thinking it's just background noise."

"Still..."

She sighed deeply, slowly, stretching out the moment.

"Can I ask you a question?"

Wehc turned to her, removing his hat and placing it on his chest.

"Ask me anything. My honesty is my promise."

She looked up, seeming more worried than upset.

"When did you die?"

-

"It's daybreak."

"Yeah."

Roy pulled on his hoodie and adjusted the strings. It had been freshly laundered for him. Even warships had laundry departments.

"It's almost time."

"Yeah, I guess it is."

Krystal rolled up the blinds and stared out at the clouds rolling out behind them.

"Do you have to go?"

"We need to get ready."

Roy stepped over to the door and gripped the handle tightly.

"Can't we just ignore it?"

"Krystal."

She turned to face him. Smiling weakly. Foreboding in her face. Intimate knowledge of what's to come.

"Promise me you'll remember me."

-

"Everything begins in the morning."

Sepia was pacing before the crowd amassed. At the front, his generals. Behind them, the troops. His own private army, handed to him. At the front stood Captain Hyperion, a haughty man who, despite knowing Fujitsu, was the highest-ranked newcomer. Next to him stood Hari and Fuschia. Hari was sitting on his newest toy, a robot shaped like a Mew. Fuschia was nervously straightening out her uniform. Max was the only one wearing the uniform as it should be. Sepia wasn't happy with the idea of using uniforms, but even he conceded that in a battleground situation, they needed to be able to identify each other. It was simple - deep blue, military-esque garb. It even had the little shoulder straps traditionally reserved for Epaulettes that Sepia liked. His own outfit remained his standard brown suit. He wasn't alone. Next to Max stood Wehc, who also retained his own brown suit. The man had taste.

Celadon had opted to wear a standard Richtog Psychic uniform. It was similar to a purple three-piece suit, the major difference being that the jacket was replaced by non-closing robes. Krystal was wearing a very non-standard version. She'd attacked her uniform with a pair of scissors, it seemed, turning it into a shadow of it's former self. If nothing else, she'd be identifiable. Roy, on the other hand, had only opted to wear the pants. His normal blue hoodie remained part of him.

Fair enough, Sepia thought.

Lavender also refused to wear the uniform. Instead, her normal business-casual clothes served to highlight her purpose. She wasn't equipped to fight. She was purely there to assist. There were also Stoenn's generals, fighters he had hand picked. They were former competition fighters, each with their own nickname. Howard Long, the Dark Fox, whose Ninetales and Zoroark were said to have the stare of the damned. Heather Morris, also known as Gemini, who specialised in using Pokemon often seen as being in opposition to one another. Thomas Jerry, the Generator, so known for his legion of Electric-type Pokemon. Johnny Q, the Enigma, a masked man with a penchant for Ghost types. Private Wilhelm, the Gunner, whose Pokemon fight with incredible speed and military-like precision. Lastly, there was Stan Smith, the Psy-Lord, one-time contender for the role of Saffron City Gym Leader. Sepia didn't like his name.

Off to one side stood Bruno and Lance, Max's recruits. Bruno had joined looking for a fight, or so Max had claimed. Lance didn't seem to have the same reasons. He was covered in rags, which had made Sepia first assume he was homeless. He'd mentioned something about being 'Lance Sr.', so he had come to believe he was doing the standard hero act. Fighting for the child he'd left behind. It had made Sepia a little disheartened by the movie-of-the-week-ness.

"You all know your designations, but I'd like to go over them one last time. We have three Invasion Forces. Team Charmander consists of the Richtog Psychics. They will be assaulting the Fel City Government Buildings. We'd like to keep that building in one piece, so mental neck-snapping is preferred, people. Team Bulbasaur consists of the Titan Corp. Private Militia. They will be securing the city centre. Make sure no civilians are wandering about. This may be a war, but we're not here to commit crimes. Team Squirtle, you'll be tackling the Fel City Memorial Tower. It was built by Rocket, so we need to make sure it isn't housing anything that might cause us issues. Squirtle consists of the rest of our forces. Trainers, civilians, you're the ones who haven't had the most formal training. We don't know what's in the Tower, but we do know that it's a tight space. Use the funneling strategies that you were shown and you'll each have the strength of ten. Team Pikachu, you're our air units. Your Valkyrie units will allow us to ensure nobody gets in or out. You're also our frontline troops. You'll have the task of breaking through the enemy's defences."

Sepia turned to Stoenn, who was similarly awaiting orders. He nodded, and Stoenn stepped forward.

"Charmander, you will be lead by Hari, Celadon, Johnny and Stan. Most importantly, you'll also be lead by myself. You'll be following me and my Dialga. Answers to the name of Amser. Bulbasaur, you will be under the command of Max, Fuschia, Lance, Bruno and Thomas. Roy, Krystal, Heather, Wilhelm and Howard will be leading Squirtle. Pikachu, you report to the Champion and the Elite Four."

Oak, Elm, Birch, Rowan and Cinnabar all stepped forward.

-

"I don't like this."

Sepia was standing in cafeteria with Stoenn. Both of them were uneasy.

"Look Sepia, I know it's a problem. But the League know exactly what we're going up against. They're the ones that oversaw the creation of the FEAROW and CROBAT systems."

"Full Engagement And Reaction Online Weapons..."

"And Cell Response Open Battle Action Teams."

"You sure we can trust them, though? What if this is a ploy to get their hands on our tech?"

"Then we call a Code Seven, and they're shot from the sky."

"I'm still not convinced."

"Better to be overprepared. If there's nothing there, there's no harm. But if there is, we need their knowledge."

Sepia's face remained unenthused.

-

"A reminder to all Valkery Pilots." Cinnabar turned to the group. Sepia interrupted him.

"Valkyrie. You're pronouncing it wrong."

"It's the official designation."

"It's the wrong official designation."

"Anyway, moving on." Cinnabar made a sweeping gesture. "The systems are touch-sensitive. You've had training, but panicking on the day will cause your system to react. Be calm. Your ship is safe as long as you want it to be."

"Thank you, Cinnabar." Stoenn waved them off with a gesture and turned to Sepia. "This leaves just one final thing."

"What's that?" Sepia asked, confused.

"This ship." Stoenn turned to face the troops again. "As you are all aware, our entire strike force is named except for this ship. Our Warships, the Kyogre, The Groudon and the Rayquaza. Our Fleet Carriers the Raikou, the Entei and the Suicune. Our Zapdos, Moltres and Articuno models of Valkery. All that remains unnamed is our flying fortress, oh fearless leader. So, I hand this to you. On the eve of war, what are we gonna designate our base?"

Sepia paused for a second, looking outwards. He saw a familiar glimmer in the corner of the room. A bluish hue in the shape of a person.

"The Vermillion."

-

"Oh, hey Roy." Hari said, a little bit excited. "Where's Krystal?"

"In the room." Roy curiously looked behind Hari. The young boy was clutching a pink orb. "What's that?"

"Something I want Krystal to look at. If she can get it working, I think it'll be a big help. One of the psychics brought it. It's a post-molecular entropic reconfiguration unit that works by..."

"Okay." Roy shrugged his shoulders. "Forget I asked. Go on, kid."

Hari rushed past him and into the room. He continued on down the hallway, a little tired. He hadn't slept much, for various reasons. Who could?

"Hey." A voice called out from the shadows. Max was just about to enter another set of sleeping quarters. He turned to face Roy.

"What's up?"

"A word of warning." Max narrowed his gaze. "Some of my former associates are in that group you're commanding. They're not particularly friendly guys, and I don't expect total loyalty from them. Use them for troops, not for leadership."

"Uh, OK. Understood." Roy looked slightly bemused as Max disappeared into the room. He carried on down the hall, eventually entering the Cafeteria. He saw Stoenn and Sepia at one end, talking in whispered tones. He sat at another table, only to be joined by Wehc.

"Looks like they're planning a war."

Roy laughed.

"So I understand you have another job in this fight?"

Wehc removed his hat and sighed.

"Yes indeed. I've got orders. Need to know, of course."

"I hear there's a few like that."

"Yep. We few, we happy few."

"We band of Budew..."

-

Max took off his coat and looked at his neat, pressed uniform hanging on a hook.

"Guess Laundry's been by."

"They aren't bad at all, are they?"

He turned to see a Mismagius floating before him. He shrugged and moved over to the bedside table, picking up his cigarettes.

"There's no smoking in here."

"What do you care? Do you even have lungs?"

The Mismagius smiled and floated over to the window.

"Have you done what I asked?"

"Yeah." Max lit one of the cigarettes and took a long drag. "I set your arcedamn coordinates. Don't know how you managed to get me the trinket, though." He waved his wrist, a Poketch sitting on it.

"Trinket? That's something even I'm unsure about... But honestly, if you're so unhappy working for me, then why do it?" The Mismagius floated up to him, grinning madly. "Whyyyyyy?"

Max swatted it away, lit cigarette leading the charge. "Because you picked Vermil for something. He died, and somebody had to pick up the slack."

"Just like that, though? I never even said which side I was working for." The ghost floated across the room, spinning playfully in the air. "I might be the villain."

"I think it's pretty obvious who you are, Origin."

"Oh." The ghost stopped dead in it's tracks. It turned to Max, a blank look on it's face.

"Why the Mismagius?"

"When I first approached Vermil, way back when he'd only just left Aurrand Island, I didn't have a body. I chose to manifest in a form that would surprise him, not terrify him."

"Why the ghost, though?"

Origin moved over to Max's bed, passing through it. "I'm still non-corporeal. A ghost pokemon allowed me to avoid any confusion."

"Why lie at all?"

"Because Vermil did something back then. I approached him in the PinHaDiZ museum in Regens in an attempt to slow him down. If he had not waited for you all, he would have been killed by Hastings' trap."

"Instead, he got killed by Kiss."

"He defied fate. The first paradox was of Vermil's own creation."

"What?" Max was confused. He didn't quite understand it. "But you just said you slowed him down. That's what saved him."

"No, it wasn't." Origin turned to face the window. "Vermil waited. He was meant to rush in. He was meant to play the hero. The first time in all his life."

"But, how would you know this?"

"This scenario has played out many times before now. Each time, the world is completely annihilated. Not by the meteor, but by Deoxys' control of the world. Eventually, all life ends."

"So?" Max crossed his arms. "Why's it repeating itself, then?"

"Because this world is too important."

"I don't like the sound of that." He sat down. "A little too sci-fi for me."

"The desire of the universe is to exist. Religions, philosophers, scientists, people throughout history have tried to understand why reality itself exists. The truth of the matter is, the universe was born from a desire to not not-exist."

"Try parsing your sentences a bit better there."

"You understand me, though? The will of all things is to live. When they do not, it is contrary to the very nature of the universe."

"Doesn't explain death."

"Hmph. How arrogant." Origin's ghostly face smiled a little. "All life simply comprises the mechanisms that maintain reality."

"And we're the thing that ends it."

"Perhaps. When the world ends, the universe manifests itself. It's colloquially known as the Celestial Avatar."

" 'Colloquially'? Enough people know about this to make up slang terms for it?"

"What do you think the cult at Garre worshiped, hm? Simply their Firebird? No, they understood the Process, and knew that they were insignificant. Their worship of Moltres was simply a manifestation of their desire to keep the Universe alive."

"So, hang on, let's get back on track. Vermil was meant to die."

"Yes. You and your friends would fail to find him. Hastings would have appeared, lauded his victory over you, and then fled to Terrut. In chasing him, you would then return there one hour early. As it happened, Hastings still did this."

"And he, just like we were supposed to, got caught in your... what was that?"

"When I took over Saffy's body, I needed energy. It wasn't conscious. I had no control. Everything in a particular radius was absorbed into my being to maintain me."

"That's why the Captain was missing limbs, huh? Poor guy was sitting on the very edge of it. Still, you'd hardly notice. Those Titan replacements work wonders."

"I went into hiding after that."

"Because you knew we'd have to kill you?"

"No, because I was ashamed."

"How the mighty fall."

"With Team Temporal being removed, the timeline would follow it's inevitable course. The government would fail to destroy the meteor in time. Life on this planet would be practically wiped out. All remaining living things would be bent to Deoxys' will, the last embers in a world where nothing could survive. Ultimately, everything would perish. Then, the Celestial Avatar would appear and reset existence. The Loop begins again."

"But Vermil created a paradox without knowing?"

"Somehow, he made that fateful decision that would lead to Team Temporal's persistence. Rocket, diverting their attention to this, would eventually cause Deoxys to manifest itself in this world and simultaneously deal with the meteor."

"But why Saffy? That's what I don't get."

"She was, geographically, the closest being to myself."

"What?"

"On a genetic level, Saffy was very similar to me. Missing my particular deific traits, of course, but I need a host and she was the most suitable."

"Kinda like a paradox merge, huh?"

"Yes, I suppose it is."

"So what now?"

"Now, you all fight. Some will die, some will live. But it's irrelevant."

"And why's that?"

"Because things will loop back to how they were."

"What?" Max stood up. "But, we were winning!"

"Calm down. This time, things are different."

"You've told Sepia this, haven't you? That's what he meant?"

"No. Vermil did."

-

"Why? Why do you keep haunting me?"

Silence. No speech from the blue ghost.

"Answer me!"

Sepia slammed his fist into the wall.

Echo. Hollow sound.

"Why do you keep taunting me?"

Gengar's Tree at Rabata City.

The thing that made the dead reappear.

The spirit of Vermil, ever watching the hero.

The mouth finally opens.

Conversations with dead people.

-

"Thank you, Cinnabar." Stoenn waved them off with a gesture and turned to Sepia. "This leaves just one final thing."

"What's that?" Sepia asked, confused.

"This ship." Stoenn turned to face the troops again. "As you are all aware, our entire strike force is named except for this ship. Our Warships, the Kyogre, The Groudon and the Rayquaza. Our Fleet Carriers the Raikou, the Entei and the Suicune. Our Zapdos, Moltres and Articuno models of Valkery. All that remains unnamed is our flying fortress, oh fearless leader. So, I hand this to you. On the eve of war, what are we gonna designate our base?"

Sepia paused for a second, looking outwards. He saw a familiar glimmer in the corner of the room. Vermil's ghost, in the corner. Telling him what to do.

"The Vermillion."

"An excellent name." Stoenn clapped his hands together. "Now..."

"Wait." Sepia motioned to Stoenn, who stood down. "There is one more thing. Something will happen tomorrow. I'm not exactly sure what it will be. I'm not sure how it will happen. But something will change. You may all forget things. Who you are, what's happened, everything. So, if you can, spend some time with your loved ones. Send a message home. Go back to your cabin. Anything."

"Why?" Max called out. "What's going to happen?"

"We're going to win."

 

CHAPTER SIX: SELF.

The End

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