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Gift of the Protector: Pristine Embrace

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Arc 1: Fractured Unity, Arc 2: Pristine Embrace, Arc 3: Radiant Heart


Gift of the Protector Arc 2:
PRISTINE EMBRACE


Prologue: "The Heist and the Embrace"


Gentle steps. Quiet pacing. Their echoes resonated through the long white corridor. Wells in the floor illuminated a pathway leading to mysterious annexes in the compound. Their dull light made it seem as though the corridor had been hewn out of sky itself. There was only one figure in the building, adorned in white.

He looked angelic, garbed from head to toe in the purest of apparel. His billowing white lab-coat draped down beyond his knees, following his steady procession down the hallway. Every step forward he made seemed to fill it with air and cause it to flow behind him like a cape. He was far from saintly and he knew it.

The amber haired researcher looked down at his crisp white lab-coat. His bright green eyes, clear and unadulterated, spotted a tiny red spill on the side of his left lapel. He glanced back up and looked further down the illuminated passage in the direction he was traveling in. Only a matter of time now.

He walked past numerous bluish-grey doors with narrow windows on either side of him. Their dark contents contrasted the brightness of the hallway. All of them were sealed closed save one at this late hour. Unsurprisingly, there were no people here. Why would there be? They all had left yesterday. And now, it was as if the place had only existed for him. Rooms were empty, monitor screens were pitch black, and the only sound was the dull hum of the air vents overhead. He continued to walk steadily and rhythmically down the hallway. The faint echo of his light footsteps perpetually shattered the silence.

He swung to the right near the end of the hall and walked into the only room that was open. Turning the handle and pushing the door, he grinned at the label on the glass reading: "Employees Only". Once inside, he flicked the lights on with a quick stroke from his thin index finger. The clock read four-sixteen in green digital above the thermostat. Running just on time.

The man smirked. It was all going to be over soon enough. He could leave this world behind him, and more importantly, his guilt would be absolved. The man strolled about the room, through a maze of personal lockers, to find his own. His unbelted lab-coat was already removed and in his arms by the time he reached his small personal storage space. He turned the knob three times imputing his unique combination. Seventeen, forty-two, three, and "Click!"

He wore a white sleeved shirt underneath and a pair of pleated scrub pants to match. Tossing the balled up coat into the containment cell carelessly, he removed his clothing until he was in nothing but his undershirt and boxer briefs. The young man put his hand inside the locker and removed a uniform freshly pressed and hung on a hanger. Its cool black fabric made him shiver slightly as he pulled the top over his head. It was a dark, tight fitting material, which adhered to his somewhat narrow frame. Perfect for mobility. The long sleeves were tight on his arms; he was more accustomed to wearing baggier lab-wear. Over his chest was a burgundy "R" embroidered into the smooth cloth. The pants, although less snug, were made of a similar material and matching color. He tucked the shirt top into his bottoms and rid himself of the excess fabric wrinkles. Finally, he grabbed the thin black belt with a holster attached and wove it through his pant loops. At the top of his locker was a small silver case. Opening it revealed his standard issue Gauntlet M-class sidearm. He swung the weapon about in his hand a few times almost playfully before taking the ammunition packets and loading the thin metal bullets into the chamber. Six in total. Good. It was no RAIL-Class weapon, but its rotating individual shells got the job done. As soon as he left this complex, anything was possible. He had a plan of course, but plans such as these rarely work out as expected. He needed to be quick on the draw. The portable metallic weapon slid barrel first into his holster, making an audible snap as it locked into place. Before garbing himself in a heavy black trench coat to conceal his loyalties, he looked up and gazed at his appearance through the locker's interior mirror. In moments, the young man had undergone a complete metamorphosis from light to dark, but his soul had not budged from its dark perch.

Prior to exiting the room, he put his hand into the pants pocket to be sure that the paper was still there. Sure enough it was, folded neatly into quarters. He opened it to read one last time before delivering it.


"Tim,

My friend, you will be receiving this letter from me at the conclusion of Operation: Semblance. It's with great reluctance that I'm passing this letter on to you, but I can think of no one else besides you, my personal adviser and friend. Although my time with the organization has been, on the whole, productive, for quite a while now, I have become less and less satisfied with the vocation. The direction of the company, the external group—Cipher—that I work with on Penta Island on behalf of the organization, and the new targets and the methods of accomplishing them are making it increasingly difficult for me to operate as a sovereign Pokemon researcher.

Therefore, I ask you to understand that this is my resignation from Team Rocket's organization and all of its affiliates, effective immediately. I'm prepared to relocate to an undisclosed location where you and the rest of the syndicate will never hear from me again. In preparation of this, I altered my name, using an undocumented middle name, Feyera, as a cover and an alias I used while working for Team Rocket (specifically under Cipher's direction). This will make it harder for anyone to track me.

Tim, you have been an adoptive father for me. Ever since the passing of my mother, I have looked up to you as my mentor and friend. When you joined the Rockets, I thought I too would find a place here. Sadly, this is not the case, I'm too weak for it, this life is not for me. In either event, thank you for providing me with the resources to further my personal goals and ambitions.

Tim, while I understand this letter may compromise my safety and well-being, I know you're the only individual I can trust with this information. Once again, thanks, I wish you all the best. Please burn this letter to ashes after you've read it. But before you do, I think you've earned the privilege to know who's beneath the façade of 'Doctor Feyera'.

A friend,

-Christian F. West"


The man looked at the neat and orderly hand-written letter one last time before stowing it back into his pocket. He was ready to dissent from the madness he had gotten wrapped into, but there was one final mission he had to undertake to ensure peace of mind. Operation: Semblance. It all culminated here. All the research, all the sacrifices, all the experiments, they could be redeemed with one marvelous discovery. Mercurius would make it worthwhile. He was sure of it.

If Cipher's Evercrest branch had taught him one thing, it was that science had taken a dangerous turn towards recklessness and disregard for test-subjects. Of course, he had at one point taken pleasure in such methodology. To play a part in the evolution of creation, that had merit. But Project Progenitor had pushed too far. Even he was not immune to compassion, despite such compassion being forced upon him. Ever since experiment Delta-two had "spoken" to him, he felt insurmountable guilt. It haunted him. His past haunted him. He wasn't sure of who he was, or who he was becoming.

Yes, a Pokemon had communicated to him. It was a Psychic type after all; the host graft for Progenitor EX. The Progenitor Serum was a strain of virus present in the outer irises near the limbic ring of Dark-type Pokemon. Beginning as a beneficial mutation, it allowed for this particular type of Pokemon to see things that the unaltered eye would never be able to pick up on such as spectral energy, and other very slight variations in the environment. The most fascinating part about this entire phenomenon is that it was possible for such a virus to be transferred over to other non-Dark Type Pokemon.

The sedatives he administered during the pre-op should have suppressed the Pokemon's telepathic capabilities though. He wasn't perturbed by the communication, such anomalies were always possible when dealing with Pokemon that broke the evolutionary mold by venturing outside their native territory. What troubled him was what was said to him and its aftermath. He was still feeling the repercussions to this day. It was strange and ominous, as if his very soul had been exposed to the Pokemon. For that brief moment, all his thoughts, memories, and feelings were able to be plucked from the tree of his mind at a whim. Everything was known and uncovered; his veil of privacy had been torn off, revealing everything from his earliest experiences, to his darkest fears. He had always been keen to keep to himself, ever since his mother tragically perished thirteen years ago, and his father abandoned him. All of this information, how he had tried to cope, and the way it made him feel was rendered visible. It was enough to drive him mad.

Stubbornly, he tried to avoid absolution for as long as possible. He turned to other avenues of life in the Rocket organization, distancing himself from Cipher and the scientists there. He even took some time off, but to no avail. The Pokemon had infiltrated too deeply into his consciousness. It pried into the depths of cognition he did not want to even confront himself and made those thoughts boil to the forefront of his mind ceaselessly. Nothing was right in his world. Ghosts of his past seemed to encroach around him every night before bed. How could he have robbed the lives of so many? For science? For fame? Was it worth it? Who was he? What had he become?

But now he had a chance to remedy everything. For the first time in history, Team Rocket and Cipher of Orre were collaborating on a joint heist: Operation Semblance. The element Mercurius was that important to the scientists at Cipher. In fact, the so-called "Reilken Mercurius"—literally "Mercury Relic"—could very well be the greatest asset to humanity's understanding of evolution, since in small quantities Mercurium could alter cellular composition through the gamma radiation sporadically emitted by a flash occurring at each half-life of the element. The Mercurium material itself was classified as a rare-earth element, past civilizations had gone to great lengths in order to collect it. Regardless of the element's history, the relic made out of it was of immense value and vaulted in Saffron for safekeeping following the Great War.

Scratching his thick hair, which was darkened in the sunless sky, he pondered. After snatching the relic, perhaps he could save the life of Delta-two and be rid of the cursed spell he had been placed under. And in the end, he would gain even more out of it if Mercurius was truly as amazing and crucial to evolution as he had heard from lexicons predating the last Golden Age; it was said to create advanced, multi-celled life as we know it though the binding of single celled organisms through radioactive pulses. Through studying it, he could perhaps one day write the perfect follow-up to the dissertation he had recently published on Psychic Type Pokemon! That would be the perfect end result!

Excited, he exited the complex through a stairwell leading into the back of a casino building. It was the Luxaira Casino in Celadon City. The place was a cover for the Team Rocket Headquarters. It even made a tidy profit on the side. People's risk adoration was always profitable—that's the one thing he remembered from the Economics Principles course he had taken back at Saffron University, but he was more of a science-minded person. As he walked out, he nodded to the man who was in charge of opening the next morning at ten. It was all really happening. He was going to help pull off the biggest robbery from the capital of the world. No one would expect it. He'd even dupe Cipher, and –although these people were dangerous to cross– he had it all figured out. In a faint whisper he encouraged himself saying, "Nothing will go wrong. I've calculated the odds of success to be higher than that of failure." To a scientist that was encouraging, it meant things were on his side. Little did he know, but preemptive evaluation would prove insubstantial in dealing with what awaited him; a future he could not predict nor escape from.

As he walked out of the casino doors into the morning air, he looked up at the clock tower across the street reading ten minutes to five. Perfect. He was early. He saw a figure approaching him in the distance. Unusual for this hour, the sun wasn't even out yet and the sky was still off grey. He wasn't sure who she was. As she walked past him on the deserted street, he locked eyes with her; two hazel eyes delicately fit on her small face's contour like two small almonds. She stared at him for a few moments, before he broke the stare and turned away. Bizarre yes, but nothing warranting dire concern, she was probably a nobody. The dew on the ground chilled his exposed ankles as he strayed off the main road to open up his radio patch link.

Now to receive orders. He removed a small communicator that was in one of his coat's inner confines and turned it on. Static buzzed in for a few moments before he heard the voice of his commander on the other end. "Firestorm Squad, dispatched to southern gate. Thunderstorm Squad, dispatched to infiltration via sewer system, Rainstorm Squad dispatched to infiltration via western gate, Sandstorm Squad dispatched to distraction site, Snowstorm Squad prepare for drop in on military posts marked Bravo, Charlie, and Foxtrot on air cruiser coordinates. Click."

The young researcher grinned. The adrenaline was beginning to kick in, and it sure felt good. He studied plenty of charts and diagrams about how the adrenal gland works, but it was much different to actually feel it course throughout his body.

The plan was simple enough. If he had been in charge he would have put himself on Firestorm, but here he was on Rainstorm, approaching Saffron City from Celadon rather than Vermilion. Not that it mattered; he had a rented vehicle parked outside the southern gate, would have been nice if he could have checked up on it before the mission began. Because he had gone to study at the Pokemon University in Saffron his student visa had not expired yet, giving him unrestricted access to the heavily guarded city. Basically, he had no intention of sneaking in per se, rather he'd be walking right in through the front door. This made him a valuable asset to the Rockets. In addition, he was young, just barely under nineteen—no one would expect him.

His pace quickened as he neared the gateway to Saffron, it was nearly six in the morning judging by the sun's position on the horizon's lip. Walking to the counter, he tossed his visa to the checkpoint guard and smiled showing his pearly teeth. His innocent smile often took him further than the most well-crafted words would. The somnolent guard looked at him, nodded, stamped the card saying, "Enjoy your day in Saffron City, sir."

His eyes narrowed into a pierce as he walked past the secure siding doors. "Oh I will." Whispering under his breath he mumbled, "…Today I'm here to make a big withdraw."

The guard had opened the huge gilded metal gate into the Golden City of Commerce. He was in! How exciting! Back again, but this time without the irksome need to study and attend classes. For his final year at the university, he had been working as an intern for Cipher's Evercrest Branch on Penta Island, which was mostly lab-work under the supervision of the lead developers of Progenitor. He was still fairly new to Team Rocket, joining on the side of school about year ago to help pay off his student loans. He did mostly petty jobs because of his position as a Saffron City student. Smuggling, keeping tabs on Silph Co., scouting out structural vulnerability, that kind of stuff. Small time crime. He had never killed outside of a laboratory for instance. Never stolen more than a Ragecandybar back when he was eight and a half. Holding a gun was a new experience for the young man. Yet, the Rockets needed everyone they could get, for a nice reward lay in store if they delivered the artifact to Cipher. He was lucky to be able to make the cut for this mission. He had to pass a few fitness tests and attend a course on marksmanship to carry the M-series Gauntlet. Both were manageable for the youthful man. Being selected for this mission would be the only practical way to get a hold of Mercurius before it changed hands.

The yellow painted brick glowed golden as the sun rose over Silph Co.'s massive skyscrapers. Yes, the Kanto based company had multiple skyscrapers. Twelve to be exact, two of which were connected on the one-hundredth floor conjoining them into a larger tower. Silph Incorporated was an obscenely rich monopoly; it owned Devon Corp., the Poketch Company, and had the government of Kanto as its puppet. There were no Anti-Trust laws in Kanto. Companies could grow as large as they wanted to while eating up smaller firms, and were even encouraged to do so by market forces. Nevertheless, the biggest market force happened to be the government itself.

In quick strides, the coated man walked to Southern Street. He saw two other Team Rocket members along the way. He recognized their faces, but couldn't remember their names to save his life. There were probably more on the way through the underground and being airdropped in. On this wide road lay two buildings, almost directly across the street from each other: the Kanto International Depository and the Pokemon Sanctum. The latter was his target, for it contained the Reilken Mercurius in its vaults. Saffron City was built over the remains of an older city, and its underground served as a natural location for bank vaults. Sandstorm Squad would feign a bank robbery in the Depository at six thirty, while the rest of them infiltrated the unguarded and vulnerable Sanctum. A simple plan. What could possibly go wrong?

He stood suspiciously against one of the marble pillars supporting the façade of the Sanctum. His foot nervously tapped on the ground. The morning gradually brought light to the city. Streetlamps were automatically extinguished. It was almost time. To his right were a few other concealed operatives. Across the street, he saw half a dozen black garbed figures moving towards the back of the bank. Suddenly, an alarm came from the depository. Only a matter of time before the local police arrived now! They'd be able to handle a few city cops though. He glanced down the alleyway on his left and heard a loud blast as a manhole exploded open, expelling dust and smoke.

"Bingo!" said the first man to surface out of the hole. He had a rough voice which matched his appearance as a muscularly built man, with thin brown hair, greyed on the sides that he combed back, a large and defined jaw line, and two dark hazel eyes. Quickly, he ran up to the young rocket and gave him a shoulder hug while shaking his hand. On his wrist was an opulently jeweled timepiece. That was probably from the last heist! "You ready to go, buster?"

"Yes," his voice was cool and collected despite the rapid pounding of his heart.

"Hey," the burly man put his arm around the researcher, "stick with me and you won't get hurt. Seven years accident-free!"

He laughed. His innocent laugh seemed out of place in this setting. Especially considering what he was about to go through with. "Haha, seven years is a long time now?"

"Well yeah sure it is, buster. It's almost half your age little one," Tim effervescently said laughing as he did so.

"You're calling me young? I'll have you know I'm just as qualified as anyone on this mission."

"I'm calling you a tyke. But…you're a tyke that gets the job done. Where's the rest of Firestorm?"

He shrugged. Most of Thunderstorm was already out of the manhole. There were about fifteen of them. Firestorm and Rainstorm served as auxiliaries to the main taskforce.

"Darn. They must've gotten held up. No matter, we have to move fella. Time's a 'wasting."

"Tim, I wanted to give you something," he reached for his pocket and the note.

"Save it!" the big man said breezing by him and releasing his Pokemon from its Poké Ball in a flash of light. "We got a job to do. Nidoking! Blast it open!"

The monster took its thick purple tail and swung as hard as possible into the Sanctum's sidewall. The concrete began to crack. Relentlessly the beast persisted to punch and whip the building with his powerful limbs. The noise of him thrashing was deafening. Eventually the wall shattered and a small hole led inside.

"Hold up, King," said Tim to his Pokemon.

However, the Pokemon growled eager to continue rampaging. "NIDO…KING…"

"Alright, well at least he'll be ready if any guards try to rain on our little parade." Tim smiled at his Pokemon. It was probably a foot or two taller than him, with even more muscle and meaty hide. Not to mention its claws, teeth, and horn suitable for joisting with. "Well there's our entrance. Hope Sandstorm buys us enough time to pick the place clean. The Kanto military will be coming in any moment now, but their first priority is always saving those fat little piggies in Silph's towers; that ought to buy us even more precious time! Let's get inside."

Clambering in, the young rocket found himself within the confides of a dark and dry section of the building. It looked and felt like the type of place where the deceased were kept. His nose twitched as he smelt embalming oils. "Oh great." He brushed some dust from a stone coffin embedded in the wall, "Corpses. Wonderful."

Tim laughed at his apprentice's sarcasm. "Well this used to be one of those weird religious temples back in the day before they made it a museum. Fairly sure it predates the city itself. Bet no one's been back here since…well who knows." Tim followed him in and recalled his Nidoking into the Poké Ball. The floor was very old stone and some sections were missing. It was as if someone had punched holes in the floor, although some were much larger than others.

"Not the most pleasant of robberies you've been on I'd imagine?" he asked Tim.

"Whenever you think you've seen it all, you're bound to be in for a surprise," he said with a faint chuckle. The Team Rocket member was perceptive to the young man's nervousness. "You're doing great, but we need to get to the interior. This way's a dead-end. I recon it's past that wall," Tim pointed to what looked like a thick rock wall with engravings and colored markings on it. The way the faded warm colored lines connected to various points made him think about star constellations.

"Yeah looks promising, hopefully no more dead guys in there." He had not taken two steps towards the wall before the floor from underneath him began to give way. "ARRRRRGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!"

It felt like the ground had just been ripped out from under him as the floor collapsed underneath the young researcher. He continued to yell as he tumbled down into a lower level. Spinning and falling in utter darkness, he was beyond disoriented. His feet could not grip anything; the tunnel was far too steep. Sliding further into the building, he rolled down the incline and deeper into the underground layer. He hit his hand against a rough scaly wall. "Oof…Ouch," he moaned. "ARGH! Uggghhh!" His maladroit plummet made him blush in frustration, but he was happy to be in one piece.

He saw flashlights above as he looked up. "Hey! Are you alright?" he heard. But everyone was far out of sight. How deep had he fallen?

Grunting, he felt a small scrape on his hand from the impact. A tiny bit of warm blood trickled out, but he couldn't see it. "Yeah! Fine. It's kinda a long drop. A really long drop actually. I don't have my footing yet though. Can't see a single thing down here." The crepuscular darkness surrounded him, engulfing his world.

There was a snap from above and he looked up to see a lit neon green glow-stick bouncing down the same tunnel he had fallen into. The shroud was suddenly lifted, and he glanced around the small confiding tunnel. "There ya go," said Tim's voice. "I'm gonna see if we can blast our way past this other wall. Skirting around the perimeter of the room above you now!"

He clumsily picked up the light; it was his lifeline in this dank crypt's underground tunnel. "Hey! What about me!?"

"We're gonna see if there's an easier way to get down there. There's no way I'm going for a tumble, I outgrew playground slides years ago."

"This isn't a laughing matter!" He gingerly massaged his stinging hand. "It's not funny! Send down a rope or something."

"Just hold tight, buster. I'll be back for you, I promise. Stay put and don't do anything stupid," Tim's voice seemed more distant suddenly.

"Don't leave me! TIM!" he shouted in agony. Staying still was the last thing he wanted to do. He had come this far only to be held captive by some stupid floor in need of repair? What if the authorities found him down here? That would be embarrassing. But it couldn't possibly be a dead end. Tombs and tunnels like these always had another route in case of partial collapse. He told himself, "Maybe there is a way to go further in…Gotta try…"

He had to get a hold of Mercurius before the rest of them. Now it was a race. Lifting the chemical torch above his head, he sat up slowly careful not to bump his head. He couldn't stand down here for the ceiling was too short to accommodate his six foot height. Getting down on all fours, he knew that climbing out of here was going to be a real challenge. Cursing, he turned back around towards the scaly wall. He leaned against the peeling wall. It didn't feel solid. He pushed against it. Miraculously, it gave way. It was a hidden chamber!

He walked into the opened decrepit room and almost tumbled down a series of stairs that came into sight out of nowhere. Had he not carried the light, surely he would have fallen down a huge drop. Judging from how steep the spiral stairs were and how they seemed to travel down for what looked like an eternity, he would have definitely died. He sighed in relief and caught his breath. This place looked more promising than the false floor he had fallen into earlier. The only way forward was down. That was a good sign. Treasure would always be at the very bottom of the vault.

He deftly began walking down the stone steps, holding his light high as he peered down into the depths that were all too eager to gobble him up. Some of the bricks were deceptive and rather loose, crumbling out even under his paltry weight. It took him a good few minutes to warily descend to the bottom.

Once at the bottom, he instinctively gazed up and saw nothing but darkness above him. He had made a steep decent and wasn't sure if any of the other rockets would ever even ascertain his location unless he had found a faster way to where they were heading. Despite being a man of adventure, he was beginning to feel just a hint of fear. He reached for his Gauntlet nervously and silently drew the firearm, and disabling the safety. One could never be too sure of what might be lurking in the deep. He had heard stories about ferocious monsters that made their homes in the bowls of the earth where the dead were laid to rest. No one ever got away from them alive.

"Children's tales," he whispered to himself, "How could you even hear about a monster if no one could get away from it?" He then heard a crunch beneath his feet and leapt into the air pointing his gun and light at the source of the noise. Seeing something in the shadow, he swiftly pulled the Gauntlet's small trigger, filling the room with a distinct "Click!" of the priming lever, and earsplitting "Bang!" of the shot being launched; the acoustics of the massive pit caused the gun's noise to resonate throughout the sinister chamber. He froze up, locked into his dramatic pose; arms outstretched each holding a weapon: one to vanquish the darkness, and the other to annihilate whatever else might be lurking in these ruins.

It was a rotting skeleton, nothing to worry about. "Hate those things…" he mumbled, slightly embarrassed and rather glad no one was watching. He could imagine Tim laughing and never letting him hear the end of the time where a dead body almost made him jump out of his skin. In fact he could even hear him saying in his burlesque voice, "Say buster, do ya remember the time you tried to kill that poor fellow again?!" Wait, what was he saying? It didn't matter, he was leaving the Rocket organization after this was all over. Tim would be just another memory of a guilty life left behind.

In the murky darkness, his eyes—nearly as bright green as the torch he carried—saw a small stone pedestal at the base of the spiral stairs. Eagerly, he walked over to it; the lean table was not much higher than his chest height. Putting his gun back into the holster, and resting the light on top of the stand, he exhaled and blew the dust off the engraving. Plumes of grey powder and ancient debris flew off. On it was a small plaque with an eight-pointed star with a wide indentation in its approximate center. On top of the pedestal lay a small set of stone cubes, not more than a centimeter wide.

"Curious…" Picking up one of blocks, he noticed it had a letter engraved on it. "Z" On the opposite side of the letter was a series of grooves and ridges. There were even more of these blocks on the ground scattered about the pedestal. There was another skeleton lying next to the pillar clutching a piece of tattered parchment, russet with age. He pried it out of the frozen bone hand. On it was a phrase written in jet-black ink:


"In the world above, whenever you stop and look you can always see me.

However, if you dare to touch, you cannot feel me.

I cannot move, but should you decide to give chase,

I then shall flee and you will be unable to match my pace."


It was a riddle. This was tricky. He played around with the blocks for a few moments. "Ah ha," said the researcher, "Simple. Spell out the solution by placing letters into the indentation." He couldn't guess the answer, there were far too many of the letter cubes. "Let's see…how many slots do we have for letters there in the indentation?" Counting, he checked, and there was enough room for exactly seven letter cubes. No spaces either so it was definitely one word.

"Okay. It's a seven letter word. And a tricky riddle. 'Always see'…hmm." He scratched his head. "'Stop and look'…" He pulled gently on a strand of his amber hair, a nervous habit of his he was trying to kick, but in situations like these, it was impossible to worry about ridding himself of petty habits. Besides, running a hand through his thick hair calmed his nerves. "So, what can always be seen but never felt? The sun? No…can't be right, you can feel the sun; plus it's not a long enough word. Is it vision? Glasses? Sight? The sky maybe? That doesn't make sense though…the sky won't move away. Come on…think! Light? Clouds? Air?" He vehemently vented out of his gently curled nose, and tightly braced his head with both hands. "Doesn't move, but flees…What is it!?"

Suddenly, like a glint of light, the answer came to him. "Ah ha!" exclaimed the researcher with delight. "Got it!"

"H-O-R-I-Z-O-N" As he nonchalantly placed the final letter, there was a loud clack. He heard the pedestal groan and something in the room shifted.

A huge stone slab behind him began to sink into the ground, revealing a large chamber filled with light. He felt like he was in a movie, discovering an ancient world!

"What on earth?" he asked. He must have been deep under Saffron, well below all of the city's sewage lines. But there was no doubt that whatever was in here had filled the entire room with its magnificent radiance, a sharp contrast to the dank foyer he had just been inside of. He almost dropped his light as he walked into the white room reminding him of the interior of a tall tower. It was cylindrical complete with an old steam powered elevator on the side, outdating him even. This couldn't be real. How could such a place be right underneath Saffron for all these years? Judging by the white brick and steam elevator, it wasn't too long ago since this chamber had been apparently remodeled. But why? It didn't matter. This had to be the place. It was here after all.

"Ahh!" Crepuscular rays covered his view of the elevated marble stand in the center of the room. Nervously, he tried looking up at the source of the light, only to be forced into covering his eyes. The blindness soon wore off, and he began to approach the altar upon which the miraculous artifact lay. He bit his lip.

As he climbed up the wide imposing marble stairs, he thought he heard something cracking from above. Quickly, his gaze shot up to see that now additional light had begun to pour in from the high vaulted ceiling of the room he was in. Some small bricks and dust fell down, crashing onto the floor. Maybe Tim and the rest of them had broken through. It didn't matter though. He was here first. By a stroke of luck, the Reilken Mercurius was now within his grasp.

The top of the altar was adorned with gossamer white laced cloth. At the top of this grand spectacle lay a single thin silvery ring, not much larger than his hand. It looked almost like a halo made of shiny flowing metal.

The young man swallowed hard. This was it. Here. He had it. His heart was pounding so fast that he felt his ribcage tremble. His breath became arrhythmic. Sweat formed on his palms as he extended his hand. He felt his eyes dilate in spite of the light it was giving off. The whole room began to pulsate to the drum of a steady heartbeat, as pastel hues that wrapped around every corner he peered at. There were steady tides of rose-colored light that could be felt all around him. "Huh?" he said looking at the "R" on his chest. Was that his heartbeat? Now that he was worried, the periodic thumping of palpable light increased its frequency. Why was it coinciding with the beating of his heart?

"This…is pure Mercurium?" he asked the ore. The arched piece of fluid-like metal radiantly shimmered and its composition seemed to flow freely while maintaining the basic shape of a ringed bracelet. However as his outreached hand approached it, everything about it began to change. It began to melt. It began to alter its very form right in front of his eyes!

First, one small protrusion stuck out of the form, creating an imperfect circle. The ringed object was already losing its circular properties, morphing into an ellipse. The longer he gazed upon it, the more it seemed to deviate from its original form. The drive to pick it up was now more powerful than ever. It was so beautiful. It reflected dazzling images and colors the young scientist had never even seen before.

As the young man touched the rapidly morphing relic with a single finger, the primal material reacted volatility, the side of the ring with the internal lever began to radiate a green aura. When his palm moved closer to the ring's bright jade side, the contour of the material changed, glowing brighter radiating palpable and foreign energy. Quivering, his hand was mere inches away from fully grasping the greenish section of the handle, the material changed yet again. The silvery metal trembled and shook in his hand; the metallic ring shuddered and hummed while shooting a large extension out of the side. Like a feral weed, the green spout grew rapidly, growing straight and gaining width at its base. When it had reached the approximate height of his arm, it solidified, becoming a crystalline shard of pure emerald attached to the elliptical silver ring of spiraling metal.

The researcher gasped at its unprecedented beauty. He would have called it a blade, but it did not have edges. Instead, it was a fearsome spike. But as he gripped his hand on the ring, and tightened, the artifact shown with such terrifying light that he had to avert his gaze. It was brighter than the midday sun and the heat it gave off was unbelievable. He felt his face flush uncontrollably. The light began to dissipate, and the young man lowered the nearly weightless relic. His hand still clutched its sleek material, unwilling to surrender its might.

It was his. Reilken Mercurius was with him. It belonged to him now and him alone.

There was an even louder crash from above, and he deftly jumped out of the way of some larger falling debris. The whole room violently shook; the rumbling persisted, dropping more pieces of the room's sides and ceiling. The rest of Team Rocket's operatives were nearly here. Instinctually, he ran towards the mechanized elevator that he noticed earlier. Clambering onto the open platform, he attempted to figure out the control schematics of the lift with his free hand. Another tremor shook the chamber and he glanced up to see what looked like daylight far above him. Huge pieces of rock tumbled to the floor, smashing the altar which he had all too recently been next too.

He had to get back to the surface world before he was outright crushed. He held on tightly to one of the platform's three railings. What could he do? He had to get out of here fast. He did not have enough time to fiddle with the engine. The steam power used prior to twenty years ago took at least four minutes to heat up to safe operating power. But he didn't have that kind of time! He looked up and saw that although mechanized, the core system was a simple pulley sheaved to a heavy counterweight about halfway up.

Another downpour of rocks and brick made his decision easy. Biting his lip, he gripped the cable attaching to the center of the platform and climbed a little above the ground. He then swung the Reilken Mercurius below his feet and effortlessly snapped the tense cable beneath him. He winced as the shift in weight caused him to shoot up into the air at lightning speed. The heavy metal counterweight whizzed past him, narrowly missing a full on collision.

In a matter of seconds, he heard the counterweight's distinct thud as it hit the distant ground far below. He felt like he was flying, even though the cable was not pulling up, the momentum was still sending him soaring upwards. Yelling, he released his grip on the cable and attempted to grasp onto the wall's edge, just below the hole in the ceiling. Swinging the Reilken Mercurius over his shoulder, he rammed it into the sidewall to give him leverage, so that he wouldn't slip. It worked, and after a great deal of strenuous lifting, he had managed to appear on the floor above. He situated his elbows on the ground and pulled his body up, still grasping onto the Mercury Relic. Prying it lose from the wall once he had tossed his legs over, he caught his breath as the chamber below began to fill with fragments of the crumbling walls and ceiling. "That…was…close," he panted. His irregular breath and panting made his chest rush up and down sporadically.

He heard voices coming from the room adjacent to his. Soon there were even more loud crashes and bangs as the wall in front of him began to crack. He backed away towards the edge of the shallow room, clutching the Reilken Mercurius defiantly, its faded luster growing lighter with every sound made by the excavators. None of them would have it. It was his and his alone. Sweating, the man grasped his Gauntlet, pointing it right at the largest of the black fissures in the breaking solid wall.

With one final crash, he saw a thick purple tail breach straight through the fortification. Nidoking. It roared as its master clambered into the small room above the deep chamber vault. Tim was grinning ear to ear upon seeing his partner. But it was a short lived welcome.

"Get back Tim," said the researcher, refusing to lower his Gauntlet.

The rocket looked stupefied, and his grin faded. "Well buster…" The muscular man glanced down at the relic held by his green-eyed partner, "Looks like you've been busy since you fell down that hole."

"A hole you didn't want to save me from!"

"Pah nonsense, I'd get you outta there…just why don't you lower the Gauntlet, buster? C'mon easy does it now."

He swallowed some excess saliva in his mouth, drying his oral cavity. "I don't want to hurt you," he said tilting his head ever so slightly as he did so. It was the same head motion he would make when aiming down the sights of a firearm. "Step out of the way and no one has to get hurt."

"Threatenin' me eh? You sure got nerve considering how much you used to look up to me, ah ha," Tim laughed nervously. "The rest of the squad is up in the main channel, I took a diversion route. You'll have to get past them if you want to get out of here. And in order to do that, you'll need to get beyond me. Ain't happening though. You don't stand a chance, buster."

He remained fixed like a statue, the barrel of his Gauntlet lined up perfectly at Tim's heart. "Last chance. Move. Now."

"And if I don't?" Tim asked. His jovial expression morphed into an incredibly serious glare.

The amber haired researcher's expression turned sour as he pointed the tip of Reilken Mercurius at his mentor, "I need this."

Tim looked over at his massive Pokemon, "And if HE doesn't?"

Nidoking let out a ferocious roar and smashed his enormously thick arms into the hole to widen it. The beast ruggedly scrambled into the small room, ejecting visible hot breath from its moist nostrils. It bent down on all fours and continued to aggressively growl and claw at the floor.

"Don't make me do this," he said. The researcher could feel Reilken Mercurius throbbing in his hand as he adamantly opposed Tim and his massive Pokemon. "You don't want it to end this way. It doesn't have to end like this."

"You seriously think you can get away?" asked the rocket.

"I have to try," he languidly responded.

"No," said Tim as he firmly clenched his fist. "No! You are going to relinquish that infernal device. It's made you irrational! You're not acting normal."

But he was normal. This was what he had to do. Tim didn't understand. It wasn't about the money, it was about the principle. Cipher wasn't going to get hold of this device. They had done so many atrocious things already. Their cruelty knew no bounds. Evercrest…Project Progenitor, were there any limits? No. They could do exponentially worse things with this type of power. Cipher could hurt more test-subjects and take more lives without thinking twice. He had to absolve his sins; he was driven to at this point. It was the insurmountable guilt. There was no other way to find peace in his volatile world. At least he could try to save Delta-two. Even if that meant dying on the way there.

"What has it done to you?" Tim asked the silent researcher, his voice lowering, and his concern growing.

"It has done nothing to me! NOTHING! The only thing that has done anything to me is this decadent organization!" he bellowed with fury, straightening his posture and feeling his muscles grow tense.

"WHAT?"

"You're in my way, Timothy Rallsen. So is your pet. I will not stand down."

"You fool! Drop the relic now!" ordered Tim, "It's taking over you!" His Nidoking's ears perked up sensing that battle would begin soon.

"No! No, no, no! No it's not!" The sensation Reilken Mercurius was giving him worsened. "It's mine! Mine alone!" He felt trapped. Cornered.

"Don't—"

"You've failed!" interrupted the green-eyed researcher. All he wanted to do was keep it out of Cipher's hands. "Don't you see? It's all over Tim!"

"You won't get away, this ends now. King, hold him down!"

"RARGH! NIDO—KING!" the Pokemon's cry echoed throughout the tiny chamber.

Now he had to confront his mentor. Everything was falling apart. Condiluted visions filled his mind as he saw Tim's monster rise up on its back legs, and begin to charge.

Everything happened so quickly. He swore, fired a warning shot into the air and saw that the beast kept charging at him. "Click, Bang! Click, Bang! Click Bang!" Although the next three shots were lined up perfectly well, Nidoking's reinforced hide caused the bullets to simply be deflected or cushioned by its engross mass. Besides, the Pokemon's head was down, and its vital organs well covered by hulking muscle mass. Its wickedly sharp horn was aimed directly at his center, ready to impale him.

"KING! DON'T! NO!" roared Tim, but it was too late. The monster's primal rage had taken over, there were no reigns left on the inexorable Pokemon. It had been shot; there was no peace left in its world. The beast would take the life of the man who shot him.

Fearing for his life the amber haired researcher hollered at the top of his lungs, "STOP!" As if it would actually do anything. The Pokemon had one mission, not even its somewhat mediocre trainer could halt him. In terror, the researcher took the relic in his hand and raised it above his head, cowering under its majesty, and hoping that this ancient artifact would somehow save him.

It did. An ineffable bright beam of light shot out of the thorn, its magnificent brightness covered the room with opulent light. Nidoking stopped dead in its tracks, and began to retreat. New sparks and waves of focused beams jumped out of the relic. The resplendent rays pierced through the room until everything was blanketed in white. He saw only shadows of where Tim and his Pokemon happened to be in the envelope of colorlessness.

Nidoking froze where it had been, completely motionless, it stood with its back to him. The Pokemon had been in full retreat before the overwhelming light had caught up to it. Tim was petrified from the shock of seeing his Pokemon paralyzed in time.

Tim ran over to his stationary Nidoking. "How did…? What was…?" he said completely stunned by whatever had taken place.

What had he done? He held the artifact in his hand confused and troubled as the harsh light waned. But the young man had no time to try explaining, he had to get back to Penta and use this amazing power to save himself from the maddening torture Delta-two had put him under. Tim was safe; he was the only one in the Rocket organization that even mattered to begin with. The young man didn't want to kill him, he only wanted him out of his way. He thought about giving the note to him now, but decided against it. He was running out of time, and time was of the essence. His essence.

Now there was an opening. Darting past the muscular man, he leapt over the low wall and up the ramp towards the exit. Daylight approached. The steeper the stone ramp got, the faster he ran. His light steps and long stride carried him up, back to the surface world. Thoughts raced through his mind. How would he escape? The rest of the Rocket Squads were right outside and so was the Kanto Police Force. By now, the Pokemon League and even the military might even be on their way to Saffron. The Rockets, although professionals, were in the very heart of their prey's territory. Odds were bound to turn for the worse after the initial surprise.

Jumping out the tunnel's exit, he heard, "FREEZE!" Surrounding him were rockets and their Pokemon. About thirty, maybe more. Their Pokemon's claws gleamed and an assortment of firearms aimed at his surprised figure. There was only one thing he could do in this situation. Once again raising the jade beacon above his head, he allowed the consuming flash of light to blind all who looked upon him. The beacon lit up the entire structure in its mystic rays, as a lofty lighthouse would cast out the darkness of a tremulous sea.

He heard screams of agony and Pokemon howls. A few of the rockets fired off their firearms in a myriad of directions. They all missed their target. Without sight, they didn't have a chance. They were completely blind to his lithe exit around the perimeter of their fortified containment. He was able to see their shadows, for the light came from where he stood. And he saw that a few of the members had even brought Electrode, made apparent by their spherical shapes. He put two on top of two. They were intending on leaving him down there for dead and blowing the place, once they had obtained Reilken Mercurius. How despicable. Emotion and rage soon blurred his once clear sight.

Overflowing with anger, he ordered the Pokemon to detonate themselves once he had cleared the area. "Use Self-Destruct!" Surprisingly, the Pokemon complied with his stern order; he didn't think it actually would have worked. He wasn't a Pokemon trainer after all, he thought it would be a fair deal more difficult to boss them around. A huge explosion rocked the very foundations of the Sanctum. The tremor following made him grasp a nearby marble pillar for support. Soon he noticed that the column itself was crumbling. He ran out the front of the building, past the overhanging marble visage before it began to collapse upon itself expelling huge clouds of dust and debris. He thought to himself, "serves them right," and ran south.

The scenery blazed past him. People were running everywhere in a panicked frenzy. Streets were packed. The capital of the world was under attack by a terrorist organization. As he reached the southern gate, he noticed it had been opened to allow for rescue teams and the Kanto Police Force to enter. Still concealed in his heavy coat, no one recognized that he was a part of the Rocket Organization. His innocently young face and quick pace amid the turmoil made no one question his motives. If they had, Reilken Mercurius would prove more than adequate defense.

A small caravan truck had been parked on the outskirts of Saffron. He ran through the low evergreen bushes and shrubs to reach it. Just where he had left it. Perfect. Jumping into the driver's seat, he reached for the keys in his pocket and jammed the bony key into the ignition. Turning it hard, it groaned, and then he heard the motor purr to life. Shifting the drive gear to "forward", he hit the accelerator switch and felt his body push back into the cloth chair's fuzzy embrace. The wide road ahead of him stretched out in a nearly straight path directly to Vermilion, for it was a major travel route. All sorts of vehicles and aircraft were heading in the opposite direction as he pushed south at blitzing speed. Turning on the radio, he adjusted to various frequency to listen to the madness unfold. Madness he had been responsible for creating.

Tapping the sound console, the on-board speakers buzzed to life. "Zzz…wehwuu…City has been attacked by the terrorist organization Team Rocket. Evacuation protocol has been put into effect by Silph Co. Federal marshals are guiding residents and Silph employees to rescue stations. Military forces approaching…zzz…a strange turn of events has sent Kanto's Capital into an uproar. Could Orre sympathizers and insurgents have instigated the assault? Under attack are: the Kanto International Depository and Pokemon Sanctum on Southern Street. The Sanctum has partially collapsed due to an explosion. More information to come as the situation becomes disclosed to us…zzz…Pokemon League intervention is imminent authorities tell us, but is it too late? Follow us for continuous coverage…"

"Guess there's not going to be any music on this ride," he muttered to himself as he lowered the volume. Hearing the result of his actions in the Pokemon Sanctum was not exactly music to his ears. He much preferred music he could keep a beat to with a tap.

While not a clean theft, it had been radically successful so far. The only thing that mattered is that Operation Semblance had failed. The Rockets, and Cipher for that matter, would not be getting their hands on the Mercury Relic.


About halfway through the hour journey, he became slightly warm. Maybe it was the high of adrenaline wearing off. Or it could have been just stuffy in the closed window cabin. The convoy truck didn't have any air conditioning, he had rented it at the base value for this mission specifically, and it was thoroughly lacking in amenities. He tried to take off the warm jacket he had been wearing. Strangely, it was stuck on his right arm. Just then, he realized that the Mercury Relic had not left his grip once since he had put his hand on it. Somewhat surprised, he laughed to himself. Large beads of sweat formed on his face, and his nervousness continued to grow while he struggled to relinquish it. Did he lack the willpower to resign this weapon? Shaking in convulsions, he dropped the artifact on the passenger's seat so that he could remove his jacket. Immediately afterwards, his hand felt around until it possessively held the artifact once more. Feeling cool again, he looked back at the road and noticed that Vermilion was only a little ways off.


The port city had all types of activity. Being in close proximity to Saffron, everyone was aware of the Sanctum Robbery. He drove the convoy truck straight to the port harbor itself. Most of the gates were left unbarred especially with all the commotion. His next leg of the journey would be a trip to the Southern Sea, so he needed to get himself in close proximity to the water. Exuberant to leave the road vehicle's claustrophobic confides, the young researcher leapt out and onto one of the large docks, smelling the distinct port smell. He walked towards the section for larger personal boats, searching for one with a big engine and hopefully an operator. Eventually his eyes fell upon a large narrow performance boat with a sky-blue underbelly near the end of the dock. He needed to get to Penta fast and this would be perfect. There was even a man inside the exposed command section, slowly parking the sea craft.

The middle-aged man docking his vessel heard his approach. "Y-Your're with the Rockets!" he cried out. His chubby figure pointed incriminatingly at the "R" over his black uniform's torso.

How did he know? He looked down and saw that indeed he was still wearing his Team Rocket uniform. "Drat, forgot to change clothes." Amateur mistake.

"Police!" yelled the balding man, his grey eyes full of worry. "It's a rocket! Help!" Desperately, he tried to steer the high profile boat away from the dock.

But the researcher jumped from the dock to the long power boat quickly, landing on its bow and shaking the vessel. Swaying slightly, he regained balance by using the Mercury Relic as a cane-like support. He didn't think he'd have to resort to hurting innocents, but this was too important. Penta Island was of upmost importance, he had to get there before anyone found out what he was up to.

The man struggled to defend his property; the speedboat was undoubtedly worth a lot considering that it was equipped with dual Samson engines. He soon backed off towards the stern as the Team Rocket garbed researcher held out the Mercury artifact and drew his gun. "Jump overboard now. I'm not going to hurt you; I just need to 'borrow' this craft from you. Important business."

"Make me, you criminal!" He stomped his foot on the boat as it lapped against the saturated docking boards. "You won't take me alive, this is my baby!"

He sighed. If he were being graded based on his first high profile robbery, he'd downright fail. "I said get off!" He lunged at the man and pushed him straight overboard with the butt of his Gauntlet. "Your life's more important than material goods…idiot."

"OOFFFFF! Argh!" The balding man splashed around in the murky port water cursing obscenities at the young rocket. It didn't faze him; As he undid the docking ropes, he turned around and tossed the flailing boat owner one of his life preservers before spraying him with water from the engine's throttle.

The unrivaled power of Samson turbo engines propelled him out of the port in no time at all. One engine alone was fast enough to out run most aquatic Pokemon. Two was just overkill. The sea was fairly choppy but at these high speeds, it was difficult not be bounced around. Vermilion water was usually a lot warmer than this. The splashing of the cold water doused his face as he looked up to the afternoon sun. It was a warm day, and he was heading straight for the topics. Ducking under the shallow glass panel, he looked at the instrument panel. "ARMOS operating system and programming. Excellent." This was going to be a breeze, he just had to plug in coordinates and the speed-craft would get him there in no time. He typed in the Penta Island Research Facility's latitude and longitude for port deliveries. They'd never expect him to be coming back there so soon. All was going wonderfully according to plan. His plan.

"Estimated time of arrival is one hundred and fifty-seven minutes, Captain," the computer interface said through the speaker. Although loud, it was still muffled because of the tremendous roar coming from the dual Samson engines in the rear. He must have been traveling fast to make that kind of time. He'd be out of the Vermilion bay an into open waters in no time.

"Captain," he said with a smile. "I like the sound of that." Fixing his eyes on the sunlit tropical water ahead, he forced a laugh. Soon he'd be free.


The young man had begun to doze from the hot sun above when the instrumental panel began to alert him. "Incoming destination. Nautical approach imminent, switching to manual override," said the speakers. Daydreams of saving the Gardevoir had put him into a mild trance. The researcher swiftly gripped the steering wheel and guided the quick boat into a slower state. Sharp rocks on his left and right made him nervous, so he slowed the boat even further. The compound was built straight into a tall cliff face surrounded by water. As he exited the ocean and entered Penta Isle's western channel, he felt the old familiar chill he had gotten when he first arrived here for Evercrest. It was exciting for him to be a part of something so monumental at the time. The tropical aroma of the indigenous large flowering plants filled his nose.

How that excitement had worn off in recent times. He wasn't here to experiment, he was here to release one of the most tortured experiments from Cipher's clutches, and he was here to release himself from the guilt planted within him by Delta-two. The facility was within sight. Its large metal gates guarding the port separated acknowledging a visitor. A friendly visitor, one who had worked here long enough in the past.

The aquatic portcullis had the Evercrest symbol engraved on the bars. It was a sideways eight, the symbol for infinity with two symmetric wave crests on either hoop. Waves cascading into each other for eternity. It was a simple poetic statement made by a poet years ago, but he couldn't remember who had said it.

The rocking of the boat was no more than a slight lapping from the safe harbor of the Evercrest base. Entering the roofed dock, he gazed at all of the other assorted vehicles stationed here. Evercrest attracted numerous scientists and researchers from throughout the world. They came from Kanto, Johto, Hoenn, Orre, Sinnoh, and other far off places he had never even heard of, but the majority were from the Orre region; at least the ones from Orre were running the operation. As the once swift boat slowed to a toddle, he disembarked onto a dry dock coated with beige anti-slip material. Clutching the Reilken Mercurius and smiling, he entered the laboratory door. He knew just where to go.

The walk took him around the labyrinth, deep into the base. Along the way, he saw no one. They had all left for the day. How auspicious. The vile smell of cleaning agents stung his nose as he entered the experimental section of the complex. How he wished he could have had those awful memories removed. However, it was not just the memories; it was the guilt which infested every fiber of his being.

Turning a corner and typing in his personal identification code and password into a wall mounted computer terminal, he waited for the massive door to open leading to the test subjects. It slid open vertically, splitting into thirds with a groan. Entering the dimly lit containment section, he walked past at least fifty of them. All were sleeping, moaning, or a combination of both. But he knew which one he was looking for. There was only one which had stood up to him. One who had managed to trap him under its curse.

Stopping outside of a cage not much larger than a changing room, he saw whom he had come here for. Delta-two. He glanced at the cage's electronic print of subject data.

"Subject Name: Delta-two

Species Name: Angelus Curator.

Lay Terminology Name: Gardevoir.

Original Type: Psychic

Gender: Male subject.

Date of Birth: Unknown.

Approximate Age: Seventeen years (young adulthood)

Origin: Penta (Chrono) Island, Sevii Isles of the Kanto Republic

Grafted Type: Dark (Progenitor E.X.)

Location of Graft(s): Limbic Ring, Ocular (2)

Comments: Poached on Penta. Found in habitat not native to species. High value on the evolutionary bell curve corresponding to elevated individual value. Demonstrated considerable resistance during capture. During initial testing, displayed incredible stamina prior to administration of Progenitor. Suppressed Psy-inhibitors and utilized minor short-wave telepathy prior to injection of local anesthetic. Following procedure, sight returned within forty-eight hours. Enhanced visual spectrum documented on day seven following Procedure. Suffered from acute high fevers and chronic delirium. Overcame mental trauma approximately seven weeks following the Procedure.

Concluding Words: Alteration successful."

"I'm here," he said to the caged Pokemon.

He saw the imprisoned creature move behind the thick steel bars coated in the most advanced psy-dampeners borrowed from Silph's Poké Ball technology. It slowly approached him, dragging itself on its knees. The white gown it wore was torn in numerous places. Its limbs were narrow and pale. As it opened its closed eyelids, he saw the glowing rings of light surrounding the irises. Those eyes. Those Progenitor infected eyes. The Gardevoir's natural scarlet eyes were separated from the white sclera by a thin golden light. It used them to stare into his soul once more.

"You'll receive no forgiveness from me. Not after what you've done to me," projected the peckish Gardevoir through telepathy.

He thought about pressing the button to activate the cage's psy-inhibitors and shock the Pokemon with electrical currents, but he decided against it. This Pokemon had every right to be angry with him. The researcher's gaze darkened, his brow lowered, and he pulled his lips into his mouth. The day's activity had begun to wear on him, but this was his objective. He would not fail after coming so far. "I'm setting you free," he said, waving the Reilken Mercurius as if it were a baton.

"Free? How can I be free of this?" The lean Gardevoir pointed at its eyes, drawing small circles in the air with its large finger. "I'll never forget what you put me through."

"You don't understand. I've changed. I'm different now. I've changed my ways. I need to do this. Ever since you did that…thing to me before the operation." He hated the exposure. The vulnerability. The guiltiness imposed on him.

"So you liked seeing inside your charred soul? You miserable whelp. All I did was show you yourself. Don't sing me any praise for functioning as your mirror. You are a cruel being; guilt is an emotion you've had far too little of during your existence," said the Gardevoir as it rubbed the narrow red shard protruding out of the center of its chest.

He once again fought the urge to fight back. The creature was trying to get a reaction out of him. It was sneaky like that. When Gardevoir had control over your emotions, they could even control your body through latent short or long distance Psychic. But he was better than its petty taunts. Besides, by showing rage and harming the Gardevoir he would almost guarantee that he couldn't be forgiven and saved. "I can help release you. I can save you from remaining here. I have the power to," he looked down at the glowing jade-pronged device in his hand.

The Gardevoir gaze also turned to the Mercury Relic. Intrigued, it and sat up crossing its wire thin legs encased in thin white silken guards as it did so. "That? What is that?"

"The Reilken Mercurius," he said with pride. While usually a modest man, after all the work he had gone through to get his hands on the Mercury Relic he felt somewhat entitled. It wasn't easy to do, a little recognition would be nice.

"How will it release me?" asked the Pokemon.

The researcher shook his head and rubbed a hand through his bronzed hair. It had been blown around quite a bit by the sea breeze on the way to the laboratory. "I'll be the one to get you out. I have the controls to."

The Gardevoir fought back a smile and kept a stoic expression. "You owe me more than your life. You owe me more than anything you can give to me. You took me away from her."

Afraid it would say something like this; the man turned his back to the Gardevoir, "I can only offer you this one chance. If you do not accept, I shall slip away into obscurity, never to be seen again. They'll continue testing on you. Ceaselessly. They'll run experiments on you until you are nothing but a sack of blood. I can get you out if you help me. If you…stop whatever it was you did."

He heard a Psychic laugh, "You are slave to an emotion I've 'instanced' onto you. That's why you are here. If you left now, then there would be no absolution. Nothing would change. You'd come crawling back here begging for the same thing. Maybe it would be a day from now, maybe a week, maybe even a year, but you'd be back. The real question is—as you so eloquently brought up—will I still be here to release you from instanced guilt?"

The Pokemon spoke the truth. The entire reason he was even back here was because of the guilt which haunted him day after day, each night before he went to bed, and whenever he looked into a mirror at himself. By releasing this Gardevoir, he had hoped to be rid of the spell or the "instancing" Delta-two had made a reference to.

"Do you have a name?" asked the researcher.

"Of course I do." His tone was ripe with resonating emotion. "But only one may call me by it. Who are you?"

He opened his mouth, ready to reveal his name, it was a shame he didn't get to tell Tim, but telling the Pokemon he'd injured might make this all a little easier. "I'm…my name is—"

"I know who you are, I was speaking rhetorically," cut off the Gardevoir. "Though why you shield yourself behind deception confuses me. Don't fool yourself; you're no one."

He could say nothing to the creature as it rhythmically stroked its mint green hair from within the cage.

"I've suffered because of you." It bowed its rounded head, smooth and clear of imperfection, "In fact, you're the one who took me away from her."

Uneasily, the researcher twisted the ball of his foot on the floor outside of the cage. "I can lead you out of here," he nervously used up the last bit of leverage he had left. "So that you can be with your mate again. You'd—you'd want that, no?"

"Oh?" The creature sighed with faint satisfaction. "Then don't speak of intentions. Do it. Fulfill your role."

Excitedly, the researcher hastily pressed the cage door sequence on the monitor screen. A dull warning began to sound. "Containment cell eighty-four opening in Block Delta. Please stand clear and take protective measures to insure safety!" He quickly turned back to the terminal and cleared the history of his most recent login. Computers weren't his specialty, but his brief stay with the Rockets had taught him how to leave a cold technological trail.

The bars squeaked open. The Gardevoir within stretched its body and gracefully bounded out, hardly making any noise. Its tattered gown, shredded and tearing followed its elegant figure. The frayed edges barely reached beyond the Pokemon's knees, exposing its skinny white-garment encased legs. Its clothing ran down to the Pokemon's knees, straight and not billowing at any point. The fabric reminded him of frayed paneled curtains, its torn composition undoubtedly a consequence of Evercrest. Despite its malnourishment, the Pokemon seemed to be rapidly gaining vigorous stamina. It was to be expected, Gardevoir could 'feed' off of the serotonin of others through empathy after all.

The Pokemon rushed next to him and brought its large eyes to meet his own. Then its smiled, bringing its red shard-like horn close to his arm. The researcher felt it brush against his bicep through the thick black standard issue Rocket uniform. It made him uncomfortable to be next to a creature of such resentment.

The Gardevoir stood at about his height, perhaps a few inches shorter. The Pokemon exhaled softly, humming a high-pitched cry. It was eager to escape from the confined prison the researcher had shackled him within. Nevertheless, strangely enough, the Pokemon had a way of binding his captor. Through the emotion of guilt, it had secured his aid during this hour of flight from Evercrest.

The researcher did not budge a muscle. He just opened his mouth and slowly said, "Follow me."

The creature nodded its head, blinking its haloed eyes and backing away from him. As its red shard left the man's uniform, he shuddered from an unprecedented chill. Pokemon were so strange sometimes. They weren't quite animals, but sometimes they acted even more human than most people. Warily, he gripped his Gauntlet and drew the weapon. An action that did not go unnoticed by the Gardevoir.

He ran at a brisk pace, the Reilken Mercurius gleaming at his side, its jade spine nearly brushing the floor as he ran. It was as if it were an extension of his arm since he'd never let it go of its alluring chakram-like handle. Behind him, he heard the soft taps of the Gardevoir's tipped feet, keeping perfect tempo with him. The two ran down the corridor towards a route leading to the south-west of the base. Coming to a fork, they ran right. Each passing second seemed like an eternity. No one was here at all; everything had gone in his favor, but why such serendipity? How could it be this easy?

They arrived at the main gate. Standing by its controls was a scientist garbed in a lab coat similar to the one he had worn during the beginning of the day. The man jumped hearing another person approach. Expecting to only see one figure, he was stunned to behold a Gardevoir behind him. The Pokemon had moved like a shadow.

Austerely, the Gardevoir ordered, "Kill him."

"No." He turned his head to meet the Pokemon's distraught face next to him.

It softly chuckled, "Aw but why?"

"I'm not an executioner. I'm not your executioner!" he replied to the Pokemon's icy expression.

"What are you doing here!?" exclaimed the Cipher scientist in bewilderment. "What is that Pokemon doing out of its cage?!"

"Then I'll do it for you!" The Gardevoir raised its slender arm and pointed it at the man guarding their exit.

"Don't!" yelled the researcher, half expecting Delta-two to unleash a Psychic attack. To his surprise, his own arm had been raised in unison by the Pokemon's Psychic control. "N—No!" In opposition, he desperately tried to fight the Psychic force and lower the weapon. But he couldn't defy, the longer he held his stance the more he became enthralled by bliss. Where was it coming from? And then he realized, he'd fallen into the creature's eyes, causing hypnotic control of his body!

"We're going to do this together, cooperate!"

"S—stop!" But he was too weak. The ecstasy his body felt from compliance was second to none. Every second he mimicked the Gardevoir, it transmitted a powerful dose of bliss-inducing neurotransmitters; it had captured him by using floods of 'instanced' emotion to manipulate his body like a puppet. In other words, just staring at the creature gave it the ability to control actions through brought upon feelings of euphoria. It only took three surges before his body completely gave in. His narrow index finger brushed against the trigger against his volition, and the weapon went off with a loud "Click!" and "Bang!" The echo resonated throughout the long hallway.

The other scientist clutched at his gut where he had been shot. "Guh…"

The Gardevoir laughed softly. "Nice shot."

The researcher gasped in horror. "What have you done?!" A pounding headache accompanied the smoking gun, he felt mentally exhausted from the massive releases of serotonin he'd endured.

"The mechanism fits your philosophy." Sensing emotion, the Pokemon grinned, revealing white teeth. "I understand why you use such devices; they're just perfect for your overly antsy human fingers—primitive, but effective. How comfortable you must feel holding it; in fact, I can derive a sense of your comfort through you. Isn't empathy a wonderful thing?"

"No! You used it to take control over me! I won't let you tell me what to do!"

"Your mind might say no at first, but that will change." Before the researcher could tend to the man he had shot, the Pokemon ordered that they be off before anyone else arrived. "Leave him, or else you'll find yourself killing more of them when they arrive." The green-eyed researcher wanted to comply; he was unwilling to take any more lives. And he didn't want to be put under the control of a Pokemon.

Nodding, the young man took one last look at the scientist, now wearing a crimson stained lab-coat. Who was he? He didn't recognize him. Probably some newcomer to Evercrest. No one important. Or at least no one he knew. The guilt of taking one life was enough. Thankfully, he hadn't known the dead man's background or his history. "I hope that he didn't have a family," whispered the researcher.

The Gardevoir turned his head and tilted it ever so slightly, squinting its eyes as it did so. "Care to find out?" it asked him with a roguish grin.

The stiffly posed researcher remained completely silent, unwilling to answer the offer or press the issue of how he was beginning to feel.

"You're slowly becoming quite the compassionate one!" Delta-two exclaimed with a smirk. "What a marvelous transformation."

"N—no," the researcher stammered out, "I was just thinking aloud. No more killing."

"That's what you think."

"Listen to me!" He pointed his revolver at the Gardevoir. "I'm not going to kill anyone! You forced me to. That wasn't me!"

The Gardevoir's eyes became blanketed in a coat of scarlet as it approached the researcher whose cement shoes had not budged since his firing of the Gauntlet. With a slight "tap-tap", its pointed feet, sheathed in white fabric, graced the tiled floor as it basically floated up to him. As it came close to him, he struggled to fight the sedation of happiness being imposed onto him. The Pokemon then stretched its back and raised its lanky arms beyond its head, rubbing its petite biceps on either side of its balled up mint green hair. It smiled when it sensed him shudder. "Suppose that wasn't you back at the Pokemon Sanctum either. That particular rocket who commanded the Pokemon to Self-Destruct certainly was a wicked man after all, unlike you. Haahhh," it said through telepathy. "Electrode have a nasty tendency to leave messes only undertakers will touch."

"N—No. I—I h—have no idea what you are talking about," stammered the researcher. What was he thinking though? Who was he kidding? He had executed the rockets in the Sanctum! They were trying to kill him though. Weren't they? What was happening to him? Then he saw the Pokemon smile and the aura covering its eyes dissipate.

The Gardevoir lowered its hands and leered at the researcher's Gauntlet. "I'd stow that device if I were you. You're empty." As the Gardevoir said it, his hand gracefully placed the firearm back into its holster. He wasn't sure if he had done it or the Pokemon, but it felt like a unified motion. Almost as if his mind had been absent from the decision due to the merger of minds.

"Eugh…" he murmured as his body slowly complied to the will of the Gardevoir. The Pokemon promised bliss in exchange for obedience.

"Good boy," it said with a smirk.

"…!" He wanted to counter the taunting Gardevoir, but instead he bit his tongue and puckered his lips. Sure enough, his firearm was empty. In his head, he did a quick recount of the shots he had taken. Six total. However, he still had the Reilken Mercurius. Delta-two had no idea about its potential. Or at least he hoped the Psychic Pokemon didn't know. He remained silent, posed in a similar position to the Gardevoir.

"Go. Now," the Pokemon ordered. "Lead the way, you have more meat on you than me."

"Fine." Running to the western exit, the pair climbed up various grated ramps and past partially opened gates. Up ahead, past the few external windows in this facility was the exit. He thought he heard the Pokemon say something under his breath. His head turned while still in transit and his pace slowed. The Gardevoir slowed down in unison with him. Its eyes pierced his essence and he felt compelled to look away from the creature. Taking a deep breath, he felt oddly lightheaded. He was starting to sweat. It had been a long day for the young man. It didn't matter though, they were almost there. A sign above a bulky metal door read, "Exit to Peak—High Altitude". Another computer terminal sat situated in the wall. Swiftly, the researcher typed his password and the door hissed open, revealing the beautiful scenery. The sun was just about to set over the western side of the island.

As they left the facility, the tropical air filled their lungs. The man almost wished that he could go back indoors just to experience the comforts of air conditioning. He looked over at the Gardevoir. "There, I saved you…See?"

The Pokemon looked back at him and frowned. "Hardly." It shrugged and began to move off into the foliage of thick vegetation towards the departing light of the sun.

"Wait! Where are you going?!" he asked the fleeing creature. It refused to answer so he followed it. He had redeemed himself; there was no reason for this to go on any longer. As his Team Rocket uniform brushed against the soft leafy plants, he felt the moisture seep through. Considering how well off the Rockets were, they should have made these things weatherproof.

Pushing the tropical plants aside, he saw why the Gardevoir had been in such a rush to leave. Standing next to Delta-two was another Gardevoir, obviously female, judging from her more stitched together dress, visible curves, and longer lashes. Her smile and soft posture greeted his more wayward features in beautiful contrast. The two embraced tightly. He put his arms around her and she tightly reciprocated around him. Their legs crossed and they began to speak to one another, their susurration a foreign tongue to the researcher. He watched the spectacle for a few moments in utter disbelief. A few times, they would move their arms interlocking them as they "spoke". It was all very foreign. He had only seen Pokemon in a laboratory setting. He didn't know the first thing about their relations in the wild. Although he understood little about the concept, one thing was for sure beyond all doubt: they were in love. What had he done?

Eventually, the male pushed the female back and looked back over at the amber haired man whose green eyes had begun to grow swollen from the emotional scene. "Turn around. And leave now."

"No." He dug his foot into the soil to make a stand, "Not until you absolve me of guilt! Take this spell away!"

The younger female looked at the male quizzically. He seemed to explain something to her, and she gasped, placing her two delicate hands above her tiny mouth.

The male Gardevoir looked at him with the sternness of a father he never had, "You'll bear that guilt until you die, wicked human."

"WHAT?!" he yelled. "NO! I saved you! I trusted you. You told me…you lied to me!"

"I never promised you anything, fool. It was you who thought you could change your fate by appeasing me!" the Pokemon said as it shut its eyes and shook his head. "I used you."

"No, it cannot be—"

"Ha, such naivety. How unfortunate for you. If you didn't want to be exposed to such guilt then you should have thought more about the potential consequences when you signed up for the vile organization which did this to me. You could have lived a blissful life. You could have made yourself into anything, and you chose the way of evil. It's all so simple in retrospect, isn't it?" the Gardevoir said whilst wrapping his hands together.

"No…" he said. He couldn't do this. His palms began to sweat furiously. "You have to forgive me! Take back whatever you did! I demand it! Release me from the guilt!"

The creature laughed. "Ha! You DEMAND it? How typical. Always so selfish. Using others for personal gain. You humans are all the same…you delude yourselves into believing that you are individualized rationally autonomous beings, when in fact you plague the world with your universal self-centeredness. How appropriate for this to be your punishment. Heh…" His laugh was mischievous, filled with scorn.

The female Gardevoir looked at her partner with disapproval. She said something to him, and the two began to argue. Their telepathic speech was riddled with various audible murmurs. She rose her hands a few times and traced his facial lines. Then she looked over at the Pokemon researcher, "You wish to be forgiven by my mate?" Her voice was gentle and restrained. Kind even. Perhaps she had some sympathy he could take advantage of.

"Yes. I…need to be. You have no idea. The guilt. I carry it everywhere with me. It courses through my veins, chafing my essence away. I'm sorry," he bent down on his knees, "please. Have mercy."

She looked at her mate with sensitively quivering cherry red eyes, "Seph…"

But the other Gardevoir simply shook his head in disgust, "He did this to himself. I saw his past. He's trying to use you. He's never been in a state of helplessness before and because of that, he's frightened. I'm showing him what it feels like to be powerless."

"You know what emotions can do," she tenderly spoke, "you know what they've done to others. You know what they've done to some of our own. You know what they've done to the Ashiel family. Don't let hatred cloud your sense of morality. I—I don't want this."

"Sana, you are mistaken. This human is no more worthy of life than the Dark types that roam our homeland. If I let you see the atrocious things he did to me in that facility, you would understand. Out of love, I keep such memories repressed. But you need to understand he should have known the price of evil."

She shook her head, "What I understand is that you are vengeful. Vengeance won't change the past. He still might have a future that you are inhibiting."

"He has nothing but his selfish ambitions. No family. No code. No ties to anyone but himself. The only thing that drove him to do any good was the gift of guilt I imparted onto his repulsive soul."

"Instancing is made for us to use in defense. Humans cannot bear it, their minds are too fragile. They are like us remember? At least…stop the instancing, please Seph," the female asked. "Don't let him die in guilt. Show him how to do what's right in life."

"It's too late to be teaching lessons, Sana," said the male Gardevoir, "The serum he injected into my eyes was not meant for me to bear! This man has done more harm than good and must be punished!"

"He's not yours to judge. We're together now Sephiteos thas Relius. The rest of this doesn't matter. You said yourself that our love transcended all obstacles. Don't let this mere human break everything we've fought for."

"It's not over, Sanaria," said the male as his hand began to shake.

"Yes. It is over," she hugged him tightly. "We're safe now, Seph. We're together again."

The man held Reilken Mercurius in his hand unsure of what to do or say. Why were they allowing him to hear their conversation?

"Fine. You want it to end?" asked the Gardevoir as he broke from his partner's embrace.

The researcher flinched, not expecting cooperation. "Y—yes."

Sensing his apprehension, the male Gardevoir turned away from his mate and glared at him. "I will…release you…human."

His pupils dilated as he saw the Gardevoir approach him. The Pokemon's stride slowed as he neared the cowering researcher. He was always mystified about how this species managed to balance themselves so well. It had something to do with acute gravitational manipulation. But all that didn't matter. Soon he'd be released and rid of ever encountering Pokemon again. Excitedly, he made a closed mouth smile. Freedom from guilt was almost here.

The graceful male sensed his hope. He had sensed it far before the man broadcasted it on his face. It reached out a three-fingered hand. The researcher grasped the Pokemon's palm. It pulled him up to his feet using a combination of muscle and telepathy.

Standing up next to the prisoner he had released, the Gardevoir studied his tormentor, releasing his sweaty palm. The tropical wind began to pick up. The researcher's gaze began to wander. He looked down for a few seconds. First at the soil, then noticing the creature's tattered gown was brushing against his uniform's bottoms in the breeze, he looked back up. He expected it to move, blink, or do something. Anything. But its contemplating face continued to not gaze at him nor past him, but through him. He fidgeted with the hand not holding the Mercury Relic by rubbing his index finger against his thumb. Back and forth, back and forth.

However, the creature just kept staring at him. Deep into his green eyes. Relentlessly. He tried to gaze back in response, yet he could not focus on the Gardevoir's scarlet eyes. There was too much hatred within them. Hatred he had placed there. Hatred he had injected there. He nervously looked past the three small clips on the side Pokemon's face at his female mate. She must have encouraged him to show mercy. Upon seeing this, the male turned around to look at his partner and then back to the Pokemon researcher.

The Gardevoir whimsically peered at his own hand as he slowly rotated its three fingers about. "This is what you want?" it said through closed lips.

Shuddering, the Pokemon researcher exclaimed, "Take the cursed spell off of me! I cannot tolerate the guilt for any longer. You have to let me go. Please…let me live."

A silken tendril of Psychic energy extended from the Gardevoir's hand reaching down to the soft earth, curling slightly as it did so. The Pokemon's eyes began to glow a deep scarlet. The center of the thread-like substance was a rich dark navy, yet it was surrounded by a light cyan aura. A vine of pure Psychic power, it followed the movements of the Gardevoir's delicate hand effortlessly.

"Don't worry. I won't," the Pokemon said as its large haloed eyes, coated in a red psychic shield, followed the ebb and flow of the slender lash. "Didn't you know that you were a dead human from the moment you released me?"

He gasped, "No! What?" But he froze up in disbelief. What did this mean? He was going to be killed? He had done everything the Pokemon had asked him to do. Was it all for naught?

The Gardevoir turned around and faced the setting sun over the cliff. Down below, a distant echo of the ocean waves could be heard crashing against the rock formation. "You see, I was trying to figure out when you would stop being helpful to me. Your particular use ended a while ago, when we exited that despicable laboratory," he said. The male's shrill telepathic thoughts frightened the young man. "But I let you live longer than that. Do you want to know why?"

He couldn't bring himself to say anything. There was no response capable of surmounting the sudden shock.

"Did you think I felt bad? Did you think I felt empathy?" The male's expression was hidden as he walked away slower than usual. "No…I didn't let you live past your time out of mercy. Not out of sympathy. You closed those avenues of…feelings…off when you injected that serum into my eyes."

"Seph!" The female Gardevoir grabbed his arm and tried to pull her mate back, but he pushed her aside with impunity. "Seph, no!" She tumbled down to the ground as he continued to walk towards the orange majesty beyond the edge of the cliff.

The Pokemon's persistent march towards the edge of the rock face went uninterrupted for the next three steps, the whip of Psychic energy gracefully following it. "I just wanted you to see what it was that you tore me away from. Who it was. My Sanaria. I wanted you to see her unyielding kindness. I want you to know that she would even be able to forgive a sullied human like yourself. I want you to know you tore me away from this love. And before I execute you, I'd like for you to feel that desire, and the awful pain you've brought into this world…"

"Sephiteos!" called the female Gardevoir.

"…But most of all, I want to make you feel false hope. It's the closest experience a human can have to wholesome emotion. Your species as a whole has a rather limited array of emotional perception and it is quite a shame. Imagine what you could do if you were more in touch to them…your understanding of life would be enriched beyond words. But I digress; here I am telling a helpless corpse how nice it is to read."

"You can't do this, you won't do it. She doesn't want you to! She won't allow you to do this to me!" shouted the researcher. He pointed towards the female.

Gazing out towards the tapestry of colors in the evening sky, the male Gardevoir continued, still not making eye contact with anything but the setting sun. "Hope is a marvelous contraption. For you see, hope is one of the strongest feelings a human being can have. Why, I would dare to say that possessing hope has allowed for individuality to be prosperous along your evolutionary road. It allows you to do incredible things, overcome impossible odds, and even pave the way for love. But when hope is torn away from you, it bizarrely becomes your own undoing, paving the way to death."

"Seph, don't!" the other Gardevoir shouted through her telepathy.

But it was too late, the Gardevoir, in its emotional rage, drew his hand over his head, raising the tendril of mental energy back and over the cliff. "How very…unfortunate for you."

"NO!" yelled the Pokemon researcher as the Gardevoir whipped the Psychic lash down towards him. He quickly raised the Reilken Mercurius to try to stop from himself from being cleaved in two by the strand. He desperately yearned for its marvelous power of light to halt the Gardevoir. Yet it wasn't glowing any longer. It was as if its power had been used up and only a physical shell remained. But its solid emerald material was still able to block the whip by causing the energy strand to coil around the spike, spiraling down until it met the center of the ring. Both Gardevoir looked confused. The male tugged back on the lash with a flick of the wrist, but it did not return to him.

"You deceived me!" hollered the man, his face askew with anguish. "I'll kill you and make sure you'll never live another day with your precious mate! You're done! Gaaaaaah!" Screaming, he rushed at his experiment, raising the spear to chest level. The Pokemon tried to move, but the connected tendril of energy restricted his flight by wrapping tighter around the relic. The wire of energy became tighter and thicker as the researcher approached the cliff. The Gardevoir desperately tried to unshackle itself from the Mercury Relic's possessive draw; it pulled using both hands, frantically trying to undo the extra-physical bondage, trying to release itself.

But it didn't take long. The charging man, full of resentment, took the spike and impaled the Gardevoir. It strangely made no noise as it dug into the Pokemon's narrow frame. Neither a crunch, nor a piercing noise. Everything became eerily quiet. And then an ear-splitting screech filled his entire head. The sudden uncomfortable sound made the green-eyed researcher twist the weapon. The Gardevoir's psychic scream softened as he did so.

He heard the female shriek in terror from behind him. But he didn't care. His bright green eyes were fixated on Delta-two's frightened face. Thoroughly enjoying his victim's change in expression, he laughed as the primal weapon sunk deeper into the wound. "If you…wanted…" he grunted and held the Pokemon's thin shoulder as he continued to burrow the weapon in, "If you wanted to be with her…you should have thought twice about crossing a human. I might die in guilt, but you'll never be able to be with her again." He nudged the weapon further and narrowed his eyes. "How does that feel?! You…you emotion-controlling-witch…!"

"Aah…" The arm's length protrusion was nearly fully embedded in the motionless Pokemon's torso. However, it did not exit the Gardevoir's posterior. The Gardevoir gasped and looked down at where it had been punctured. Straight into the heart. It only had moments left before the remaining energy present in its chest shard would be expended. "No…" it whimpered.

"Now neither of us will get what we want, no thanks to y—!" The researcher gasped as the device further sunk into the Pokemon's torso. The brilliant spectacle of the purple and orange sunset behind the creature momentarily captured his entire attention.

"Huuhhh…" the Gardevoir weakly sighed, and wobbled limply into the researcher's clutch. He unwillingly caught the Pokemon as it fell into his grasp, its light head resting on his bony shoulder with a faint thump.

As he stood there, transfixed upon the sight of a dying Pokemon, the Mercury Relic's base shone brightly. Its physical characteristics began to melt. Its form began to rapidly change from within the Pokemon it had impaled. Undergoing atrophy, it dripped and oozed liquid silver, pouring out of the dying Gardevoir's body. The runny metal spilled out as if it had been the Pokemon's blood, coating the man's chest with its lustrous sleek. As the shining warm mixture of liquid metal fell upon his uniform, he felt it burn as if it had scalded his skin. He shouted in pain and winced his eyes instinctually. He pulled hard on the Mercury Relic only to find that the jade shaft had disappeared within the Pokemon. As he tugged, the Gardevoir's wound opened up further leaking out more of the mysterious substance.

"What the devil?!" he asked in bewilderment. The Gardevoir was bleeding out too fast, and this noxious amalgamation of metal and blood seemed to be burning straight through his clothing. The man pushed the Pokemon away; he had to get it off him. Taking the arm not holding the relic, he tried to push the Gardevoir off whatever was left of Reilken Mercurius and down the cliff behind it. He only succeeded in pushing the Pokemon, for the draw of the relic kept his hand attached to its now semi-liquid hilt just barely attached to the violently erupting wound.

The Gardevoir vigorously worked in tandem with him, trying to release itself from the relic's imbedded clutch by using its remaining strength to pull away from his captor in a last act of free will.

The torrid goo continued to splash against the researcher, making him desperate to be rid of the Pokemon's body. He gasped, feeling his skin coil in agony beneath his uniform. "ARRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH! OFF! Get it off!" he screamed wide-eyed and afraid.

With a great heave, he pushed the creature away from him, but he couldn't detach his hand from the ancient artifact. His hand refused to relinquish whatever was left of the rapidly degrading Reilken Mercurius. He had fought too hard for it; even the inexplicable burning pain from Delta-two's body could not convince him to release the relic. As he saw the body of Delta-two fall in front of him first, he felt himself falling too, his sight went black in an instant as heated liquid covered his eyes in a splash of psychedelic colors.

Images and colors soared through his eyes as he fell, unable to tell which way was up and which way was down. It seemed like he was falling for hours. Gusts of upsetting wind whistled past his ears and through his hair. The shallow waters and sharp rocks below would certainly be his doom, if the impact with the water itself didn't kill him. It would probably be like hitting a cement floor from this height. Not even the Gardevoir's body could break that fall. As he waited for the seemingly infinite drop to end, he thought of all things people think of when they know they are going to die. He thought about an afterlife. Was there even an afterlife? He imagined what it would be like. What would he do with all of that time eternity promised?

He heard a dull splash from above, and his consciousness raced back to life. He had hit the water, yet didn't feel anything. It was like being in a daze. Nearly knocked out from the impact, he felt his body rise to the surface. As his face felt cool air against his wet face, he began to gasp in convulsions. His lungs greedily pulled in tropical air. What had just happened? How did he survive that drop? He wondered if he had an out of body experience. Coughing, he tried to swim, but couldn't see where he was. Dark lukewarm water covered his face. Something sharp scraped his leg. Must have been one of the pointed rocks at the base of the cliff meaning he was close to land. Still unable to see, he let the tide gradually push him inland. Then he felt his head hit sand as one of the more forceful waves tossed him to the shore.

The salty water had gotten in his eyes or something because he was unable to rid himself of a burning sensation. His knees touched the mushy sand. Reaching his shaking hands up, he rubbed his eyes. It was like he was looking through a kaleidoscope. The collage of colors overwhelmed him as he massaged the closed lids. Opening his eyes, he looked around. Colors zoomed around in an innumerable amount of patterns.

Eventually the light brown tones of a narrow beach came into sight. He was definitely on a beach. The wet sand below him rubbed between his toes as he tried to gain footing so the next wave wouldn't overtake him. He must have lost his shoes in the water. The dimly lit shore was completely vacant. No sign of anything other than the usual island fauna. The sun had set, and the moon shone down from above, covering the world in flecks of hoary. As far as he could tell, he was alone.

He looked down at his hand which once possessed the Mercury Relic. It still had the scrape mark on it from the Pokemon Sanctum Robbery, but the artifact itself was gone. He must have lost it in the fall along with his shoes. Maybe it was still embedded in the body of Delta-two. None of it mattered any more. He tried to lift himself up, but couldn't find the strength to. Using his quivering arms, he lifted his back up to sit so that the incoming waves wouldn't cover his face.

Panting loudly, he ran his hand down into the sand beneath the shallow water. The coarse material brushed softly against his palm, melting as the water mixed with it.

"What…happened?" He didn't know what he had done. But he had killed Delta-two. He didn't feel as guilty any longer. Had the hex been broken? Perhaps slaying the Gardevoir ended the so-called 'instancing'. It was over. Finally, he was set free.

Smiling, he lifted up his leg, and bent it up to his chest. As he did so, immeasurable pain rocketed throughout his entire body. He twitched and threw his head back in disgust. Vision blurred and faded. Scarlet images doused his perception.

Swearing loudly, he rolled over onto all fours. He crawled away from the water, back up towards the land. His slow procession through the shallow tide filled every muscle and joint with agony. He felt pain in places he didn't even know had nerve receptors. Every movement jolted him with soreness. His Team Rocket uniform was absolutely saturated and heavy on him. It and his undershirt had been torn up in various parts, exposing some of his beige skin. That burning liquid must have seeped through. Like acid, it had eaten straight through his clothing.

He pressed a finger into one of the tears and touched his skin, expecting to find his epidermis charred or something because of all the heat his chest now radiated. It hadn't been thankfully, but was warm to the touch even though the cool water and wet uniform caressed him. Feeling feverish, he shivered. He hoped the feeling would pass. He needed to find civilization amid this delirious state. Where could he go? Back to the laboratory? How could explain what happened?

He coughed, feeling warmth in his throat and tasting coppery blood in his mouth. Spitting up the awful liquid, his stomach lurched and he felt as if he was going to be ill. Wiping the thick substance off his shallow chin, he closed his mouth and tried to fight the urge. His entire stomach churned and ached. Groaning, he held his abdomen. His bent over posture seemed conducive to vomiting, but a sudden tight tug on his back muscles pulled his head up quickly before he could hurl and release the vile contents.

He heard the snap of a twig up ahead. The researcher looked up in fright, his neck muscles aching as he did so. It was the other Gardevoir. Her familiar form approached him swiftly, her immaculate white dress cutting through the dark night. Her face showed no more pity and no more remorse. It was as if he now looked upon an entirely different creature. One without sympathy. One without kindness. And it was to be expected. He had committed an inexcusable action. He had killed her mate.

The Gardevoir raised her hand and pointed at him. A small orb of dark energy appeared in her palm, pulsating violet waves as it floated in midair. She'd have absolutely unimpeded control over his body in a matter of moments.

He reached for his gun, but his holster had been taken away by the waves. It wouldn't have helped anyway, all of his ammunition was used up. He was completely without power. "Wait…" He grasped down for something; anything. His hands raced along his uniform's contour; there was nothing left in the tattered clothing. Shaking his head, he cursed; he was stripped of all his devices. No Gauntlet, no Mercury Relic, no Poké Balls, not even a flimsy pocketknife. His execution was now inevitable. She would continue to make it as painful as possible.

"What have you done?!" she firmly asked. He was sure she knew. She didn't expect him to answer. She was trying to cope with what had happened.

He continued to shake his head, but pain from within caused his neck to stiffen. "I…I…" his voice cracked and turned to simple exhales. His legs tightened and he felt locked in place. Was she taking over him? Is this what it felt like to confront death? "Aaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!" he shouted in disarray.

"You…killed him." Her stoic expression did not change as she winced her eyes shut, closing off telepathic communication as she did so. "You killed Seph…"

He tried to scream again as the pain escalated to new unfathomable heights, but he could not vocalize any sound. The terror was too much. He could only gasp in rapid convulsions. "Haaaaaaa…! Haaa …! …!"

Amid all of this fright was a new pain originating from his center. Strange sensations jolted his insides. All the while, he saw the Gardevoir staring at him, her glare tightened as he continued to jolt and buckle from the possessive agony. It had spread throughout his entire figure. Recoiling from the pain, his body went limp for a moment. All noise around him ceased and his heartbeat made the only sound, its elevating thumping a crescendo of organic percussion.

The entire world was shaking with his tremors. He couldn't keep a straight gaze. Everything was rocking. The maddening dizziness brought himself to his knees and he looked up at the approaching black clouds. They danced around the moon and veiled all but the brightest stars. The excruciating pain returned, confiding in his chest.

"AHHHGGGGGHHHHHH!" His vocal cords split and tremendous sound burst out. "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHRRRRRRGGGGGGGH HHHHHHH!" he continued to scream as if he were being split open. His body arched back. It wouldn't stop, the harrowing throbbing persisted. It drove into him, it broke him, it shattered very his essence. He felt his neck bend all the way back. There was nothing he could do anymore; he was being possessed by the mate of Delta-two's newfound vengeance. Paralyzed, all he could do was look up at the dark clouds above as his emerald eyes dilated from torture. The first droplets of slight rainwater touched his face. She was going to kill him by overwhelming his brain with more sensation than it could handle through emotion.

The man's body grew stiff; it was no longer just his arms and legs, but all parts of him. Every last fiber of his body stung with the resonating anguish. He exerted all of his physical energy to see the source of his convolutions. Slowly, bending his neck down to look ahead, he saw the female Gardevoir looking at him in confusion. The orb of thick dark energy once in her palm dissolved. Her mouth filled with awe and she softly lowered her arm below her waist. How could that be? Wasn't she the one exerting this Psychic torment upon him? Another cascade of painful aggravation caused him to take his eyes off her and peer down at where he felt the unbearable trauma.

"AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! ARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! NOOO!" he yelled in excruciating pain as a small red shard pieced out of his black uniform, splitting through the snug fabric. The thin, crescent shaped projection cleaved straight through the "R" in the center. It was a flat crystal of crimson, a translucent glass that riled him with pain by splitting clear out of his chest, tearing skin and bone as the new anatomy amassed cellular control over its host. He screamed louder and violently twisted his head back in rage as it continued to bring him unbearable discomfort. His eyes rolled backwards and he collapsed, his hands extending to break the short fall.

With a "thump!" he fell into the silky white sand, which plumed up in dusty clouds reflected by the moon.

But it was far from over. Rather than feel relief from surges of warmth radiating out of the crystal, each new pulse brought unfiltered agony along with the gradual expulsion of the shard. With every breath, every heartbeat, it pushed out further to the man's disgust. What was this madness? A curse? "DAMMIT!" he cried. Its slim form inched outwards from his chest's center creating unspeakable levels of torture. He brought his hands to it in effort to resist it, to push it back and stop the pain, but it radiated such heat that he could not keep his hands upon it for long. Recoiling, he brought his fingers down to where the narrow vertical metal had torn out of his body. The tissue around it was soft and warm, his skin joined to the base of the material, as if it were a part of him ejecting from his sternum bone. At first, the base felt semi-liquid, almost like quicksilver, but it soon solidified into what represented a seamless connection between two organisms. It was far from gentle, even with an increased concentration of neurotransmitters the physical agony made him feel as though he would explode; flames had been cast into his torso, filling his ribcage with horrendous burning that longed to be freed. He would have preferred death to this experience. His arms shot backwards, his mouth hung open in disbelief. Once again, he involuntarily cast his head all the way back, and felt the rest of his body follow in suit. Arching fully past his normal stretch, he could not bear any more, and still the conquering shard forced outwards and upwards for all to see.

The female Gardevoir ran over to him, and caught his body before he fell backwards. She held him in her hands, allowing his head to rest in her lap. He looked up, and his eyes met hers. She gently placed her palm against his forehead. Instantly, he felt calm. It was if all the pain had been sent through a strain and was very distant from him. All of his senses tightened focus and mellowed out. The taste of blood in his mouth had been replaced with briny warmth. He smelled the coastal fauna and the Gardevoir's faint aroma. The silken fabric of her gown brushed against his hair. He heard the softness of the shallow ocean water lapping against the seashore. His eyes, now more focused, looked up at her own. Her warm scarlet eyes were precious, so full of patina and comfort.

Feeling lost inside her gaze, everything that had happened began to fade away. He attempted to murmur a "thank you", but the right words to use seemed to escape him. "Huh…?" He had forgotten what he was trying to say. Everything was fading. Colors and images began to retreat to the peripherals of his dimming sight. He could not remember what he was doing here. Where was he? Who was he? What was he? The questions filled his consciousness with unease, but the Gardevoir's brilliantly beautiful eyes appeased even that terrible anxiety.

She nodded at him, as his eyelids grew heavy and weary. Who was she? Her face was gorgeous. He felt himself being pulled down, far below consciousness into a well of Lethe.

Amid the nebulous swirl of color and sensation, her two brightly shining eyes remained his focal point.

Those pristine eyes embraced him.