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The ship went into alert in the upper atmosphere of an unfamiliar planet. The stowaways were agents of violence.

Deoxys could have stopped them before. They had known they were there, they had informed the pilot of the unofficial passengers.

The pilot had told them they were all refugees, official or not. So long as they caused no harm.

They caused harm.

The engine was on fire, the pilot was unconscious, the parachute was deployed but there was no way they'd make a soft landing, even with Deoxys's help.

"The children," Deoxys heard sharply in their mind as they carried the pilot to a pod. Mara. Mara was calling them. "Protect the children."

They wanted to protect everyone. The pilot was secure; there were only eighty-four more passengers--

"The children," she insisted, a desperate plea. "My son. The twins. Please. Please, Deoxys."

They changed trajectory and found her son first, as he made them fastest. The fear on his face caused Deoxys to wrap his arms solidly around their middle. They tried to convey that he shouldn't worry, but they knew he already understood what was happening.

The twins he found a split second later. The girl joined Mara's son at their waist, and for a moment, Deoxys considered disobeying. With the strength that rushed through them, they could easily defeat the interlopers.

But what would be the point? The ship was still going down. They picked up the second boy, and their only thought was to protect. Their wide arms shielded them.

Mara spoke to Deoxys again. "Thank you. Thank you. Now get them away, to safety. Teleport away."

But...

"Go!"

As they did as she said, they saw a flash of the pod room, where all the remaining passengers were heading, hostile or not. The pods would give them a chance of surviving impact. A chance.

Away, to safety.

Deoxys teleported into the lower atmosphere with their three charges. They surveyed the mountainous land. Not safe. A vessel was bearing down from the sky and the explosion would put them in danger.

Away, to safety.

They teleported lower, to a desert. No impending crash, but the sandstorm made their eyes water. Not safe. The rocky particles would hurt the children more, and who could say if the ground was stable?

Away, to safety.

Deoxys touched down in a valley. There was ash raining down gently from an active volcano to the east. Just as they were about to deem it unsafe as well, one of the children tugged at their arm. They unfurled as they returned to normal form. It was just as unsafe to keep teleporting with them. They would just have to make this place safe.

The children slid down and pulled on their arms. What happened to the ship?

Deoxys looked up to the sky. The ship was falling in the distance, breaking into pieces. They quickly knelt beside the trembling children. They exuded pain and fear even though they weren't physically hurt.

They had to protect the children, so until they knew there were survivors, Deoxys wiped their memories. They couldn't be afraid of what they couldn't remember.

They gathered the children up again, one twin on each shoulder and Mara's son in their arms. The children were calm now and fascinated by the soot in the air.

Deoxys began to walk and found signs of intelligent life soon enough. Buildings. Homes. Were they trustworthy? Could they leave the children to go to the crash and find survivors?

Protect the children.

They couldn't leave them, trustworthy or not.

The child in their arms pointed out a person, who stared at them incredulously. The children waved at him in unison.

"Hello," he said faintly.

Deoxys stretched their arms overhead so that they were in between the man and the child. These aliens used auditory rather than psychic language. They pushed curiously. He had a mind. That was a start. They pushed concepts: help, protect, shelter, children.

His eyes widened, so he got something, at least. After a moment, he nodded and led the way deeper into civilization.

"This is Fallarbor Town," he told them. "I'm the sheriff, Jim, along with my wife, Michelle. I think our sons are your age. How old are you children?"

That was an awful lot of words, but between them, they figured out some of them. Maybe. Deoxys psychically offered him the day cycle number from the ship as they stopped in front of a cozy house.

"Well, that doesn't sound right. Come on in."

They shrunk themself to make sure the twins didn't hit their heads on the door frame, and then they finally helped them down. A woman appeared from another room, and she, like her husband, stared at the tall Pokemon guarding the three children who had their arms wrapped around Deoxys's legs like anchors.

"Jim! What..."

"They need help."

"Clearly. Where'd you come from?" she asked the kids, who had no answer.

Deoxys raised an arm to indicate space, another planet, so far away now.

Sheriff Michelle pinched the bridge of her nose. "How do they all find you, Jim?"

Sheriff Jim shrugged sheepishly.

"Mom! Dad!" A young boy came from the same room as his mother had, and another boy bumped into him when he stopped to gasp. "Can we play with the Pokemon, Mom?" he asked reverently.

"Wow," said the second. He waved at Deoxys's wards with a smile. "Hello!"

They waved back.

"Maybe, er, not just now, Kyle. Why don't you and Alex go back in the kitchen and decide what you want to eat for lunch?"

"Okay!" They gave a temporary goodbye and retreated.

"Have you ever seen them before?" Michelle asked.

"No." Jim shook his head. "Never seen a Pokemon like that, either. But it's psychic."

One of the twins squeezed their leg, and Deoxys looked down. She stuck her tongue out. They focused on Jim again. Food, children, hungry, feed.

"They're hungry," he said.

Michelle sighed, and they all followed her to the kitchen, where the young boys sat at a dining room table, dwarfed by the chairs.

"We should have pinap pizza," said Kyle.

"But you just pick it all off," said Alex.

"Pinaps and pizza, then."

They nodded and repeated this decision to the adults, then excitedly looked to Deoxys and the other children again.

"I'm Kyle, an' this is Alex. What's your names?" Kyle asked.

Alex pushed at his shoulder. "What are."

He pushed back. "What are your names? Come sit with us! Tell us about your Pokemon!"

Deoxys gently pushed their trio to the seats, where they climbed up hesitantly. Other children had to be safe, at least enough that they could keep a close eye as the sheriffs began to put together a pizza. Deoxys crouched down next to the table, alert.

"I don't think they talk," Alex said after a minute of only kitchen noises.

"No," Kyle agreed. He looked at Deoxys. "Maybe the Pokemon does. What's your name?"

Everyone in the house heard their psychic answer. Deoxys.

The boys repeated the name aloud and nodded. "Do they have names?"

The three looked at them expectantly, startling them. They... may have erased too many memories. They had not been with the children much and so didn't know their names. Deoxys shook their head.

"Here, kids. Berries while the pizza bakes," Sheriff Michelle said, placing a large basket in the middle of the table. She eyed the Pokemon. "Don't worry, they're good to eat."

They stretched their arms to take one first, soft and pink, just to be sure.

"That one's a pecha berry," Alex said, pulling out a blue one and taking a bite out of it. "This one's rawst."

"This is the best kind, pinap," said Kyle, showing them a yellow, scaly berry.

The children waited for Deoxys's go ahead. They gave the boy twin the pecha berry, and the other two each picked one out of the basket hungrily.

"Oh, good choice," Alex said of the second boy, who had taken a red berry with a long stem. The girl found an pinkish one. "That's cheri. And your sister has a nanab berry."

"You really don't have names?" Kyle asked as he picked his berry apart.

Deoxys shook their head again. Perhaps names were necessary, would make them easier to protect, but they didn't know the first thing about naming.

"We watch the Name Rater on TV! Maybe we can come up with some. What do you think, Alex?"

"Hmm," Alex replied.

The boys scrutinized the trio as they ate the berries with fervor.

Kyle snapped his fingers and pointed at the boy twin. "Max."

"Oh, yeah, that's a good one."

He looked up and nodded after a moment.

Kyle elbowed Alex in the arm. "Girl names?"

"Girl names... What about your mom?"

"Her name can't be Mom, that's already my mom's name!"

Alex rolled his eyes and took another berry. "I think there was an Isabel? Or maybe Isobel? On the show last time."

"Yeah, Isobel is pretty. Do you like it?" he asked the girl.

She thought about it, then nodded like Max had.

The last boy tied the stem in knots nervously. Deoxys tried to comfort him with gentle pressure on his shoulder.

Alex squinted at him. "Michael," he said.

He looked up from his knots with a shy smile. The other boy smiled back.

"Great! Deoxys, Max, Isobel, and Michael. Do you want to be friends with us? You can hang out in our secret base."

"It's not a secret if you tell them about it," Alex pointed out.

"Well if we keep secrets from them how can we be friends?"

"I'm not saying we should keep it secret, just call it a base."

"Okay, okay. Dad's mightyena found it for us in the backyard with secret power. Do you want to see?"

"Not now," his dad interrupted, placing a pizza on the table. His mom set a plate before each of them, even offering one to Deoxys, though they shook their head. "Lunch first."

The boys gave a cheer and Kyle's parents joined them at the table.

"We decided their names," Kyle announced when given a slice of pizza.

"We heard," Sheriff Michelle said dryly. "Not sure we have the right to, but it is what it is. Now, these are hot, be sure to cool them before eating."

They weren't sure what that meant, but they saw the other kids blowing on their slices before taking a bite, so they mimicked that. They listened raptly as the boys babbled on about this and that.

The adults gave Deoxys a unified push in their mind. Parents, children, event, location.

They pushed back. Protect, children, attack, above.

Jim and Michelle exchanged a look and a whisper. Then it was, location, help, parents, vessel.

Deoxys looked to the ceiling. Crash, survive, protect, children.

Location, crash, survive, help.

They sunk lower into their crouch, squeezed their eyes shut, and tried to send an image of the first teleport. Mountain, crash, unsafe, children.

"Maybe Meteor Falls?" Sheriff Michelle mused.

Kyle gasped. "Field trip? Field trip?"

"I wanna find a moon stone," Alex said. He explained to the newcomers, "Meteor Falls is a cave with a bunch of meteors in it. It's got waterfalls, and it's really pretty."

"It's dangerous, and children shouldn't play there alone," Sheriff Jim said firmly. "I'll check it out."

Sheriff Michelle took a red and white ball from her belt and gave it to him. "Take Abra in case you need to make a fast getaway, and be careful."

He nodded and accepted the capsule. "I'll look out for any stones. You want anything, Kyle?"

"Bagon!"

"I'm not catching a Pokemon for you. We'll go together soon, and you can catch one for yourself."

"Fiiine, I want a cool rock, too, then."

"All right. I'll be back tonight." He whistled, and a large black dog Pokemon bounded into the room. Deoxys watched warily, but she ignored them, eyes only on Jim. "Come on, Pooch."

Michelle watched her husband leave, then looked over the children again. "Are you guys comfortable in those clothes? They seem thin."

Max, Isobel, and Michael were perfectly okay with their usual ship-issue white tunics.

Sheriff Michelle sighed and gathered the empty plates. She addressed Deoxys. "The backyard is safe. Fenced in. They can play back there. I'm going to do some research on the computer and try to help."

They nodded, and the boys jumped out of their chairs to lead the way. The trio followed more slowly, making sure Deoxys was with them.

The backyard had several big berry trees and butted up to a sheer cliff with a small opening in a back corner. Kyle and Alex ducked inside, and Deoxys went ahead, with some difficulty due to their size. They stuck their arm back out and waved the children in once satisfied.

"Deoxys is really cool," Alex said once everyone was inside. "It must be nice to have a Pokemon looking out for you."

Deoxys decided that these children were also under their protection, and they ruffled his hair.

"It likes you!" Kyle said, amazed. They ruffled his hair too. "It likes me!"

For the first time, Michael piped up. "They. Not it." He realized he'd spoken aloud and hid behind their leg in embarrassment. The twins patted his shoulder.

"Deoxys is they?"

They all nodded.

"Ah! You talk. They can talk," Alex said to Kyle, who grinned. He held his hand out to Michael. "Come on, we'll show you around."

Deoxys gently pushed him forward. Their wards should be friends. That way they would stick together, and they'd be able to keep track of them all better. The twins joined hands like Alex and Michael, and they all followed Kyle on the tour.

He spread his arms before a metal contraption. "This is a slide!" He climbed the stairs two at a time and slid down to demonstrate. "Try it," he offered.

Deoxys inspected the welding, then waved them on. The children crowded at the top, and the Pokemon caught each one when they arrived at the bottom.

The next object of interest was a small trampoline. Kyle used it to hop into the next section, and Alex released Michael's hand to do the same. Deoxys tested the stretched fabric with an arm, then carefully stepped over it. Michael hopped across, but the twins were unwilling to break apart, so Deoxys lifted the trampoline so they could walk straight through.

This section was much comfier. Blankets covered the ground, along with plushies. Kyle and Alex sat on the floor beside the largest pile of dolls, so everyone else followed their lead, Deoxys crouching awkwardly at the back.

"We're too young to have our own Pokemon yet, so this is the next best thing. Here's one of the Pokemon I want, bagon!" Kyle said, showing them the blue dragon plushie.

"We want just as many Pokemon friends as these," Alex said, digging through the pile until he found a particular one, white and dog-like aside from the blade on its face. "Aha! This is absol."

"What do you like him so much for?"

"I saw one before Mom left, so he reminds me of her."

Kyle patted his shoulder. Again, the others followed their lead, and Alex was quickly being comforted by everyone in the base, including Deoxys.

"Guys!" He swatted them all away despite his smile. "Do you see any you like? We can tell you about them."

They didn't so much like what they saw as much as they were insatiably curious. It took a couple hours to go through almost every plushie, and Kyle and Alex switched off being human Pokedexes (an expensive electronic they both wanted but doubted they'd be able to obtain).

"Kyle! Alex?"

"Babies!"

Deoxys touched Max's forehead to go into defense form and turned to block the children from view.

"It's just Rosa and Liz," Kyle said hastily.

"Whoa," said the older girl on the other side of the trampoline. She stepped onto it to make herself taller. There were smears of color across her face and arms. "What happened to 'you have to be ten to have a Pokemon'?"

"They're not ours, Rosa, they're with our new friends. Deoxys, they're all right," Alex said.

They shrunk back to normal form and crouched back down, though they didn't take their eyes off the girls, even when they joined the circle and got introduced.

Isobel pointed at the smears on Rosa, question clear on her face.

"She wouldn't wash off the pokeblock residue," said Liz, exasperated.

"How else will people know I'm an artist?" She jerked her head at Isobel. "That's what you thought, isn't it?"

Isobel ducked her head.

"What?"

"They don't really talk yet," Alex said. "You should tell them what a pokeblock is. Do you have any? Maybe Deoxys would like one!"

Rosa considered the Pokemon carefully before she pulled a green cube from her smock. Liz explained, "They're Pokemon treats that make them better at contests. We make them from berries with our dad."

Deoxys took the cube offered to them and turned it over. The children watched them with bated breath. They squished the cube and rubbed it on their arms.

"That's new."

They turned their head.

"Maybe they don't have a mouth," Kyle said. "They don't talk out loud."

"That doesn't make sense," Liz said. "They have to eat somehow."

"They haven't so far. 'Sides, they're an alien Pokemon, who even knows what they need," Alex says.

Deoxys liked the feeling of the block and decided to take these nice children under their protection, too. They patted their heads.

"Yay, they like you, too!"

"Yeah, we're just missing Maria," Alex said.

Rosa snorted. "They'll like Maria, too. Or else."

Liz gently smacked at her sister. "Maria's a dragon psychic, and we were supposed to meet her for dinner, that's why we came to find you."

"Oh yeah!" Kyle said, jumping up. He sat back down after a moment. "But what about them?"

"It wouldn't be nice to leave them behind," Alex said.

"Mama DeLuca is always trying to make us fat," Rosa said, rolling her eyes as she got up. "There will be plenty of food. Of course they can come."

Deoxys gathered up their original trio as everybody stood and headed for the entrance, where they met Sheriff Michelle.

"Oh, good," she said. "You're all acquainted. It's a party. Great."

"We have dinner with Mama DeLuca, remember, Mom?"

She rubbed her forehead. "Yeah, I'll go with you. I'm not going to make her deal with eight children and an overpowered Pokemon by herself. Your dad's not back, and I haven't come up with any useful information yet."

Max reached for Isobel's hand and squeezed for strength. Then he said, quietly, "Thank you for helping us."

The other three aliens nodded their heads in agreement.

The sheriff gaped at them for a moment before she nodded back. "Of course. That's our unbreakable code. Help children."

She led the strange parade through town, and the other kids alternated in pointing out landmarks, the Pokemon Center, the Mart, the Contest Hall, the meteor fanatic's house, and finally the home of the Dragon Society, where Maria and her mom lived. They were waiting for them outside.

Hello, Deoxys heard, a light, curious voice not so different from Mara's. What have we here?

Finally, someone with the proper ability to communicate. They put the children down again carefully, once they checked out the surroundings, and then went straight to Mimi DeLuca.

Deoxys replayed their memories for her from the moment the alarms on the ship sounded until Jim left for Meteor Falls. The children surrounded Maria to introduce her.

Mimi offered a soothing hand to their shoulder and spoke to Michelle. "Call Jim back. They went down on the other side of the mountain."

"Where it's uninhabited. Of course." She sighed and unhooked a large phone from her belt, drawing the antenna all the way out. "Found anything?"

The speakers crackled before emitting Jim's voice. "Nothing out of the ordinary. You?"

"Mimi says they landed on the other side. Teleport back and meet us at the Dragon Society House so we can make a plan."

Without their notice, Maria had come to touch Deoxys in greeting, and they automatically picked her up, still watching the two adults.

"Told you," Rosa said.

The girl giggled and tugged on their arm. Nice to meet you. Let me down.

Deoxys placed her back on the ground and entered the large building ahead of the children. It was structurally sound. The kids went about setting a large table, and Deoxys urged their original trio to help.

Jim arrived shortly and returned Michelle's pokeball. "Will we have Deoxys's help?" he asked.

They shook their head. They couldn't leave the children, and they couldn't bring them to the danger of a wreck. But they could warn them about the interlopers.

"They can't leave the children. But some of the survivors may be hostile," Mimi explained in a low tone.

Find Mara, they suggested. She would know the difference. It was on her orders that they prioritized Max, Isobel, and Michael, after all. She was definitely good.

How to free them from the pods was another matter entirely, assuming any had even made it in one piece-- they shook their head. They were getting ahead of themselves.

Step one, find the site of the crash. These adults could surely do that without their help.

Mimi relayed a good amount of Deoxys's thought process like a translator. "Don't worry. We'll find out what we can, first thing in the morning."

"You're going, too?" Michelle asked.

"If you don't mind. How else will you communicate with survivors?"

"We were getting along okay with them," Jim grumbled.

Mimi patted his shoulder reassuringly and got to setting out food.

The conversation seemed to be over for now, so Deoxys went to crouch behind their children. The kids were chatting and even managed to coax a few squeaky words out of Isobel. She leaned into her twin and grasped Michael's hand, embarrassed, but they were all just glad to hear her talk.

As they finished their dinner, the adults wondered where Max, Isobel, and Michael should stay.

"Big secret base sleepover!" Kyle said excitedly. The other children virtually vibrated in agreement.

"What-- Rosa, Liz, you have to have your father's permission first," Michelle said quickly.

"Okay. Come on, Liz." She hopped down from the table and her sister followed. "We'll meet you there with extra pillows and blankets."

"Maybe we can bring Growlie to help keep us warm, too," Liz said. They waved a temporary goodbye.

Deoxys looked at Mimi, and after a moment, she nodded. "Deoxys will look after them while we're gone," she relayed. "All of them."

"We'll need to make sure Arturo is okay with that, but fine." Michelle took out a notepad. "Gonna need mountain climbing equipment... Were there any other Pokemon onboard?"

Deoxys shook their head. Just them, they supposed.

"Okay, bring your tangrowth in case of hostiles."

The adults continued to plan their tools and Pokemon as the table was cleaned up. Mimi sent her daughter along with a couple extra pillows and sleeping bags, too.

The sheriffs led the parade back through town, with one detour to check in with Arturo, whose house was situated not far from the Contest Hall. His daughters were already gone with his growlithe, but he repeated his approval and gave Deoxys another bright green pokeblock.

"Have fun," he said to the kids with a bright smile. To the sheriffs, he said, "Stay safe. I'll come around and make them lunch."

"Thanks, yeah."

Deoxys decided to save the cube for later. Back at the secret base, they helped set up sleeping bags and blankets, and they also made sure the puppy Pokemon following Liz around was safe. They plucked the growlithe up off the ground and pressed their foreheads together.

Love Arturo. Love Rosa. Love Liz. Love their friends! Love you!

Deoxys blinked and put her back down, where she began to follow Alex around instead, tail wagging. They checked the perimeter of the cave -- only one entrance. They sat in front of it and stared up at the stars.

Hours of quiet later, a sliver of moon high in the sky, Max, Isobel, and Michael joined them, apparently unable to sleep inside. Deoxys pointed out their home star, and they nodded. One by one, the children fell asleep in their lap.