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It was all a blur. The phone on his desk had suddenly buzzed to life, the message crackling with static, a panicked voice telling him Kyogre’s hold had been compromised. He barely managed to order the security detail to the hold when there was a bang and he was thrown from his position from behind his desk.

His ears were ringing, that shrill echo of the alarm like daggers through his head. His back hurt from whatever force threw him forward and his arms from landing on them.

What was that?

Had he been hit? Was it an explosion? Another act of sabotage?

Maxie’s vision swam as he fought to claw himself up from the ground and tried to make sense of this. The ringing and the pain did not help at all. The blaring sirens and alarms made it even worse. The cacophony in his head was deafening. He could not think. He could not focus. What-

Another explosion shook the room and Maxie reflexively squeezed his eyes shut, clawing at the ground to keep himself in place with a grunt. However, this time, his disorientation was short lived.

“The Blue Orb!”

Maxie’s head snapped up as he heard that cry, following the children’s line of sight upwards to see that the second explosion had sent the orb flying.

“Pikachu! Get it!”

That was more than enough to snap Maxie out of this stupor.

“I want that orb back! Now!” Maxie yelled, watching from the corner of his eye as his wincing admin scrabbled to get himself off the ground, commanding the three Mightyena in the room into battle. Tabitha's injuries looked worse than his own, but the admin still forced himself to his feet and, despite his obvious limp, immediately rushed over to Maxie, trusting the Mightyena to act on their own.

With a flurry of worried questions, Tabitha was immediately by his side, bent down on one knee, helping Maxie to stand. But Maxie merely brushed the questions off with a quick “I'm fine.” He was more interested in the fight the unfolded in front of him.

The first Mightyena leapt into the air, its fangs narrowly grazing the Pikachu’s short fur, as it was then hit with Pikachu’s quick attack. The second launched itself into the air with an angry growl, almost managing a hit as well, but was instead incapacitated by a quick thunderbolt and it crashed into the floor with a quiet whimper. The last one was cautious. It launched a shadow ball to counter the Pikachu’s next attack, causing another loud explosion as the two attacks collided, sending both pokemon flying back.

The orb was sent flying as well, and, this time, Tabitha was ready. With a quick command, the first Mightyena that had already recovered dashed forward and sprung off the fallen desk, leaping over the carnage to catch the Blue Orb in its mouth. Once its feet touched the ground, it darted back over to its trainer, handing the orb to Tabitha before anyone could stop it.

“I got it, Sir!”

With that confirmation and his admin holding the orb out for him to see, Maxie laughed as he finally pushed off Tabitha and dusted himself off.

“Hah! You pesky little children thought you could ruin our plans with the help of that little accident?” Maxie said, smirking and holding his hand out for the orb to be passed back to him, “No such luck, I’m afraid. No one messes with Team Magma.”

But, before he could feel the smooth surface of the orb back in his hand, Maxie heard a sharp gasp of pain from his right and attention was immediately on that instead. Tabitha was frozen, his eyes wide, staring at his hand that was midway in handing Maxie the orb. A glowing pattern pulsed across the surface of the orb and it rapidly disappeared. Straight into Tabitha’s hand.

“Tabitha, what-”

Then the admin collapsed onto his knees with an agonised cry, his hand that had previously held the orb clenching into a tight fist and the other clawing at his chest as strange, glowing patterns pulsed across his skin.

But Maxie simply sneered.

“Tabitha, this is not funny. Hand the orb over. Now!”

When there was no response from Tabitha but another pained gasp, Maxie stormed over and grabbed his admin by the scruff of his uniform. He had meant to yank his admin back up to look at him, but, before he could, Tabitha’s head snapped up with a vicious snarl and Maxie immediately let go, stumbling back.

Something was not right. This was not his admin.

This was not Tabitha.

Glowing yellow eyes, so bright that they were almost white, stared straight at him. But it was only the irises that glowed. The whites of his admin’s eyes were black, black like basalt, like the very rocks formed from lava that Maxie so loved. And yet, all these demon-like eyes did were send icy cold waves of pure fear down the great leader’s spine. And that was not all. No. Those now-bared teeth were no longer human. Those were fangs, sharp, pointed, perfect for tearing him to pieces. Not to mention the yellow marks that now marred the admin’s skin, pulsing and glowing as the admin glared, glowing so bright they could be seen through the thinner portions of the admin’s uniform.

One of the children finally screamed and what used to be Tabitha immediately had its attention on them instead, snarling again, letting out a noise that sounded like a roar out of a mangled human throat.

It was a petrifying noise. Every hair on Maxie’s body stood on end.

And the children ran.

However, there was no time for Maxie to stop them from escaping and running for their lives, and neither did Maxie want to. Right now, all he was concerned about was his own fragile, mortal, soul as the beast’s head snapped back round to face him once those children had fled.

Slowly, it turned to face him fully, its mouth now shut but teeth still bared for him to see. It growled softly now and put one hand forward, then the next- No. It was moving towards him, stalking towards him on all fours, still growling, watching, planning who knows what-

Before Maxie could take another step back, the creature pounced, sending Maxie flying backwards and landing on his back with a loud thud. The air was knocked from his lungs and Maxie gasped, instinctively struggling before more weight was pressed down onto his shoulders and the leader froze.

Tabitha was right on top of him. It was pinning him down. And it was leaning down towards him.

With that beast now so close, it was even more terrifying. He could see its insides glow equally as brightly as those patterns on its skin through its parted lips. He could hear, no, he could feel every breath mere inches from his face. The breath was not just warm. It was hot. Far too hot. Any hotter and it would start to hurt his delicate skin.

And it continued to move even closer still, growling softly, until its face almost touched Maxie’s, until he could feel more little puffs of hot air as the creature seemed to sniff him.

Wait, sniff? Coupled with that pounce and this proximity? Arceus, it was going to eat him, wasn’t it? It was going to eat him and this would just be how Maxie’s life and his grandiose dreams of a better world would die with him.

Maxie squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the final blow that would finally rip him from this world. Cowardly, he knew, but he could not care less at the moment.

Then he heard the click of teeth of a quickly shut mouth and, instead of feeling pain, he instead heard the angry snarls of the beast and his eyes were quickly opened once more.

“Leader Maxie, sir, the damage has been contained. The- AAAAAAAHHHHH!!!”

A few grunts had come running into the office, seemingly bearing reports, but barely made it past the door before they were frozen in their tracks, some petrified and others screaming at the sight before them. And that was the distraction Maxie so desperately needed.

With an adrenaline-fueled bout of strength, the leader managed to force the creature off him, throwing it off. He scrambled to sit up and yelled for the Mightyena, ordering them to use yawn on their master as said ‘master’ let out another angry roar and was immediately back on its feet.

The poor Mightyena whimpered, ears pressed back and tails between their legs, They slowly stepped back, moving away as the beast now rose to stand on its legs, snarling and moving closer, fingers twitching, claws ready and itching to dig into some flesh.

“Mightyena, now!” Maxie ordered and finally that seemed to snap the dogs out of it. They somehow managed to gather their wits as they all yawned, but what used to be their master simply roared once more and shook it off.

But, if even that didn’t work-

Maxie’s blood ran cold as he watched the beast as it simply looked even more enraged, snarling and those patterns pulsing, glowing even brighter than before as it slowly closed the distance between it and the now cowering Mightyena.

It was going to eat them too. It was going to kill all of them. It-

It finally twitched and collapsed into a heap. It finally fell asleep.

__________

“...the bulkheads have remained largely intact, keeping the water intake due to the explosions fairly controlled. A few teams are in the midst of draining those pockets of water now, sir.”

Maxie made a noise in acknowledgement, not wanting to move his head as one of the medics worked on him. For him it was just a minor scratch on his face, but the doctors had insisted that they at least disinfect it. The medic had already checked the rest of him once over and now gently swabbed his scuffed cheek with some antiseptic, drawing a soft hiss from the leader.

“Sorry, Leader Maxie,” the medic quickly mumbled and Maxie waved it off before asking the grunt still standing before him to continue.

The grunt continued his report, now reporting the fact that there was an obvious attempt at sabotage that was likely aimed at freeing Kyogre. Fortunately, whoever had tried had failed and the process of waking Kyogre had been interrupted before anything too drastic could happen. Then there was a long pause as the grunt hung his head and apologised before he continued, saying that the saboteur had escaped without a trace, and so have the children.

“No, it’s fine. The situation is under control and we have made no serious losses. There is no need to apologise,” Maxie said and the grunt visibly relaxed with a quick, “Thank you, sir!” However, Maxie did not relax. The leader looked as stern as ever and frowned as he dismissed the medic that was done with him.

“However, what is not fine is the fact that it has been four hours and no one, not a single one of you, can give me an answer as to what happened to my admin and how we can get the Blue Orb back!”

The sudden outburst from Maxie was accompanied by him slamming a hand down on the medical bed beside him, sending a few of the medics into a fearful panic as the bed in which a sedated Tabitha laid was disturbed. The poor grunt cowered and apologised while, thankfully, one of the doctors managed to bring a member of the science division who was also in the infirmary over. Maxie glared daggers as the stammering scientist was pushed forward and simply continued glaring until the scientist decided to say anything useful.

“S-s-sir, well, you see, u-uh… You- you see, we’ve… We have… No…. N-n-no idea what happened... Sir...” the scientist managed to force out, barely above a squeak, wringing his hands together as he waited for a response and did not even dare to look up at his boss.

It was quiet for a few moments.

Too quiet.

It was quiet just long enough for the scientist to decide to take a small peek to see what was going on, just long enough to get a glimpse of Maxie’s face before he exploded, yelling once more and slamming his hand on the bed again, demanding to know how they all knew nothing despite years of research into these orbs and ancient pokemon.

But, just before Maxie could continue shouting at his scientist about how Maxie no longer knew why he even paid this useless division, the man finally spoke again.

“W-wait!”

And Maxie barely managed to hold the next string of verbal lashings in, his mouth already open, but he managed. He shut his mouth with an audible click of his teeth and growled for the scientist to speak. Quickly.

“Y-yes, si-sir…”

Now.”

“O-of course, sir!” The scientist was visibly shaking now and Maxie nearly smirked. “Well… Sir… One possibility might be that the Field Commander might have… bonded… with the orb…”

Maxie’s frown did not waver, but he raised an eyebrow. Having worked under Maxie for long enough, most of Team Magma knew that that meant he was ready to explode again unless given a satisfactory explanation. The scientist knew that too. But all he could do was gulp and avert his eyes, not wanting to meet his boss’ murderous gaze.

Well?

One last chance for the scientist to redeem himself. One last chance before Maxie yelled again. So he tried.

“We… We know this was a phenomenon in the past, whe-where there were records of humans trying to control ancient pokemon and ending up being controlled by the orb instead. B-b-but… But we… we don’t… we don’t know what that means or how to retrieve the orb.” the scientist stammered, looking down once more, this time with his eyes squeezed shut, prepared for whatever Maxie’s response would be.

And it was a good thing he did.

There was one last slam on the bed where Maxie hit the bed and, this time, he rose to his feet.

“Out.”

The scientist blinked, finally daring to look up again at that surprisingly calm order. Timidly, he asked, “S-sir…?”

Then Maxie sneered, his hands balling into fists and shaking at the sheer force he held them with. “I said,” he hissed, “Get. Out. Now!

That finally had the scientist scared out of his wits and he quickly forced out a squeaky “Y-y-yes, of course, sir!” as he scrambled out of the infirmary.

“You will have a satisfactory report for me tomorrow! Or you will sorely regret it,” Maxie barked at the retreating scientist before he sighed and collapsed back into his seat, exhausted.

All of this was far too tiring. Too many things had gone wrong at once. Too many things to think about.

With another sigh, Maxie leant one elbow on the bed and rested his forehead against his palm, massaging his temples. He needed to calm down. There was no reason for him to be so… unreasonable. But, in his defence, he was calm most of the time.

Sometimes. He tried to be.

...Well. What mattered was that he tried.

Maxie let out yet another sigh as he sat up this time, leaning back into his chair and looking around. The infirmary was still busy with the doctors rushing back and forth to tend to the last few grunts there. The most seriously injured had been treated first, but a few were still there, resting on the infirmary’s beds. Some of the grunts had pretty bad burns from the explosions and one had even broken his arm. It pained Maxie to see his men hurt like this, but, at least they had not lost anyone. He would never allow that to happen. Never.

With that train of thought, Maxie looked down at the admin laying before him. Though sedated, those patterns on its- his? The patterns on his skin still glowed, though much more dimly now. But what was truly troubling was the fact that Tabitha was sweating, whining softly in what sounded like pain as he tossed and turned in his artificially-induced sleep. Or rather, he tried to toss and turn. The admin had been bound to the bed as a precaution after the medics had heard just how dangerous he had been in Maxie’s office.

Maybe it was better this way. It certainly kept Tabitha from rolling off the bed with how he started to struggle even harder whilst clearly still asleep. It also made sure he did not hurt anyone and could not get hurt himself in the case he woke up. Or, at least, that’s what Maxie tried to tell himself.

There was nothing ‘good’ about seeing his own admin tied up like this, clearly suffering despite being unconscious. To make matters worse, in the last hour that Maxie had been there, Tabitha had been fairly peaceful. All this grimacing and whimpering had only started a little while ago, probably when Maxie had lost his temper and shook the bed. And, coupled with the fact that Maxie knew that he had not cared when something had obviously gone wrong back in his office, that he had only cared about Tabitha giving him back the orb despite collapsing in pain, Maxie felt guilty.

Well… Maybe not guilty, but he certainly did not feel good. After all, this was not his fault, was it? He never wanted this to happen. It’s not like he knew Tabitha touching the orb would make this happen. Technically, he had not even asked Tabitha to touch the orb. It just… happened. There was no reason to feel bad about this. None. None at all.

Maxie’s frown returned, knowing he did not believe that one bit.

He really did not have the time to feel guilty. He needed to reorganise the team and find a way to get that orb back. Without the orb, they couldn’t do anything. Deciding to settle with telling himself that he was simply concerned for his admin’s wellbeing, he looked down at his admin again.

The discomfort had not stopped. Tabitha continued to whimper, still sweating and struggling against his bonds.

That was not good. Not good at all.

As a reflex, Maxie reached forward, gently placing his hand on Tabitha’s forearm, hoping to either calm him or somehow relieve him of his obvious discomfort. However, he soon realised that was a grave mistake.

The moment Maxie’s hand came into contact with the admin’s skin, those glowing eyes snapped open and were immediately trained on Maxie. The leader yelled in shock as he instinctively drew his hand back, staring with wide eyes as he watched Tabitha attempt to raise his arm, seemingly wanting to catch hold of Maxie, only to be stopped by the tight restraints around his wrists. Then the beast growled and began to struggle.

The bed shook and rattled, the noise quickly alerted the medics in the room, but none dared approach. Instead, they just watched, their legs paralysed, leaving them frozen in place.

Then the creature screeched. It was another inhuman noise and that action bared all its sharp fangs for Maxie to see as its back arched off the bed, making the leader jump, leaping out of his seat. And it began to thrash against its restraints in fury. Those patterns on its skin and its yellow irises pulsed and burned with renewed vigour in its rage.

But, it- It was fine, right? Tabitha was held down. They had bound him for a reason. This was that reason. He was incapacitated now. The beast was incapacitated now. Maxie had no reason to be afraid. There was no way anyone could break free of those bo-

Snap.

Maxie’s blood ran cold as the restraint around Tabitha’s wrist finally gave way. And, now with one free hand, it snarled and clawed at the other bonds, its sharpened nails helping to wear through the fabric, quickly freeing its other hand and soon its legs too.

He could do nothing but slowly step backwards as the creature finally rose and leapt off the bed, landing with a triumphant roar before its attention was once again solely on the Magma leader.

A low growl emanated from the beast’s throat. Slowly, it stalked closer, each step making Maxie’s heart pound harder, faster, making each of his breaths shorter. Maxie only managed one step back before his leg hit the next bed behind him, blocking his escape, and then he truly panicked.

There was nowhere he could go. He could try to run, but where to? There was no one to help him. None of his employees had come to his aid. None of them had their pokemon with them at the moment and neither did he.

The leader’s mind raced, his breaths somehow still getting quicker and quicker and until his vision began to blur. But he could still see well enough, well enough to know his admin was closing in. He had to do something, anything.

“T-Ta-Tabitha!” Maxie suddenly shouted, not entirely sure what he was doing. “Stop! Y-yield!” He knew this was not Tabitha, he knew this was hopeless. And that was proven when the beast simply growled louder and snapped its sharp teeth again.

But he was desperate. He had to keep trying.

“Tabitha, i-it’s me, your leader, Maxie!”

At that, the beast actually stopped, still growling, but now glaring at him with a confused and then frustrated expression.

It worked. Somehow. Maybe something clicked? Maybe… Maybe there was still some part of Tabitha left in there? Maxie hoped that was the case. His life now depended on that hope.

Swallowing hard and plucking up whatever extra courage he could manage, Maxie straightened his back and stood at his full height, attempting to stare his admin down with the most authoritative look he could muster whilst he was shaking in his boots, before he spoke once more, “Tabitha, as your leader, I- I order you to stop this at once.”

Then the creature truly faltered, its expression falling and growl stopping, before it suddenly grabbed its head, collapsing onto the floor again.

This time, Maxie did not dare to get too close, only moving slightly closer to see what was happening. He watched as it curled up into a ball, clutching tightly at its head, rapidly alternating between growling and whimpering while grimacing and trying to curl up further.

Was it in pain? Was this similar to what had happened in Maxie’s office? Did that mean Tabitha would be unbound from the orb?

Finally, Maxie had a sliver of hope. Maybe he would get the orb and his admin back after all.

However, as soon as that thought had made him slightly less fearful, the beast fell limp on the floor and Maxie panicked, frozen on the spot.

Was Tabitha- No. No, he could not be. He was fine. He has probably passed out again. It was just-

The doctors seemed to finally snap out of their fear-induced stupor and rushed over as well, one crouching beside the admin, quickly checking if their Field Commander was still breathing or even had a pulse for them to save.

Thankfully, just then, there was a soft groan and the beast stirred, grimacing before its eyes slowly fluttered open. Those glowing eyes seemed unfocused, slowly looking around until they settled upon Maxie once more. However, this time, Maxie was not afraid. Something seemed different. Those eyes glowed less brightly and seemed... softer somehow.

“...Maxie… sir…?” came Tabitha’s voice, slightly hoarse and sounding more like a soft croak than anything, but Maxie sighed in relief. His admin was back. Tabitha was back.

“W… what… what am I… Why am I on…”

Maxie then shushed the disorientated admin and, with the help of the doctor, helped Tabitha back onto his feet and then onto the bed. The admin seemed completely at a loss as to what he was doing or what had happened, so much so that he did not even know what to ask.

Unfortunately, before Maxie could tell Tabitha anything, the infirmary doors slid open and a grunt rushed in, panting as he announced that he was looking for Maxie.

“What is it now?” Maxie snapped, making the poor grunt flinch.

“You are,” he panted, “needed,” another pant, “sir.” When Maxie did not look amused, the grunt continued, “There are a few issues regarding- regarding the repairs of the base and how to proceed with them, sir.”

At that, Maxie grumbled before agreeing to meet with the other members soon, dismissing the tired grunt. Then he turned back to his admin, who was now being checked over by the medics and still frowned, seemingly trying to piece everything together with nearly nothing to work with.

Somehow, the admin did not look that confused. He looked more angry than anything, frowning down at his own hands as he inspected them, clenching and unclenching them into loose fists. Taking into account the fact that what he saw was glowing lines down his arms and hands, and claws tipping his fingers, Tabitha was taking this surprisingly well. He simply turned his hands over and over again, hoping to make sense of this whole fiasco.

“Tabitha,” Maxie said and the admin immediately perked up, the confusion dropping from his face as he looked up at his boss. “Unfortunately, I am needed elsewhere. The medics will fill you in on what happened,” he continued, flashing the doctors a quick stern look as an indirect order, “However, I will return by tomorrow morning to check on you.”

Tabitha’s eyes went wide for a moment before he quickly replied, “No, sir, I’m fine. I’m sure you have more important things to do. Please don’t-”

“And ensuring my employees are in good health is one of those important things,” Maxie stated, cutting Tabitha off. “So I will see you tomorrow.”

Tabitha seemed shocked for a moment, before he quickly remembered to reply, “Y-yes, sir! Thank you, sir.”

With that, Maxie nodded and took one last look around before finally stepping out of the infirmary. He had much to do before tomorrow morning. And then he sighed once more. He had far too much to do.

__________

The corridors were strangely quiet that morning, the only sound being Maxie’s shoes clicking against the smooth flooring of the base, echoing down the empty hallways. It was strangely eerie when it was so quiet. Usually there would be grunts and other staff alike rushing back and forth, talking to each other, giving the base some warmth. Not that it wasn’t warm, no. Temperature wise, the base was very warm. Maxie liked warmth. But, somehow, with no one around, the base felt cold despite the warmth under his clothes.

Most of the grunts were probably mostly still in the lower levels, busy fixing and draining the damaged parts of the base. That would explain the emptiness.

Speaking of which, the repairs seemed to be going fairly smoothly. There had been a small shortage of materials, but that had been mostly sorted out the day before. Other than that, Team Magma’s recovery seemed to be well underway. Now all he needed was the Blue Orb back.

With that in mind, Maxie finally approached the infirmary.

Maybe he did not need to be so worried. Everything seemed to be falling into place and there were only a few things left to settle, the health of his admin and injured grunts being one of the major ones.

The door was just within his view before he heard a loud crash, followed by screaming, footsteps, then more crashes. And Maxie froze.

What was that? That did not sound good. It sounded like-

Oh merciful Groudon, not again.

With newfound panic wringing his stomach tight, Maxie broke out into a sprint towards the infirmary.

Hopefully, he was not already too late.