Chapter One - introduction
The dream was a confusing one, as dreams usually are. She was aware of golden feathers, shattered glass, someone holding her and trying to explain something she couldn't understand, then suddenly she was shoved backwards and sent falling towards a great heat, just as someone in the real world pulled her out of bed.
She woke with a jolt the moment she hit the floor and could not suppress a cry of surprise. Disoriented, she rubbed her eyes and tried to recall the dream when it still burned brightly in her memory, but it quickly faded and she only knew that she had dreamed and it had been strange.
"Good morning, Rebecca!" her friend said all-too-cheerfully. "You did say you would come with me to Lavaridge, right?"
Rebecca had not said anything like this recently and her friend knew this very well, but she knew from experience that she was going to be dragged out of the hideout no matter what she said and it was best to go along with it. "Fine," she mumbled, picking herself off the floor. The arm she landed on was throbbing; she had no doubt it would bruise. "Keep it down. You'll wake up the others."
"No I won't," the sandy-haired girl replied. "The only others here are Deena and Morgan, who is not actually asleep and just lies awake in bed all day."
"Fuck off, Rachel," snapped a girl a few beds over. "There's nothing else to do anymore in this god-forsaken hellhole."
"You do realize that this is the same thing you've always done, right?" Rachel said. "Lie in bed all day until someone comes in and yells at you? The only difference now is that you have an excuse."
Morgan fired something back and while Rachel was busy arguing, Rebecca glanced at her watch and found that it was nearly ten thirty. Damn, she really was sleeping late these days. If it were a few months ago, she would have been up by eight, at least.
She glanced at the foot of her bed and noticed that her skarmory was somehow still asleep. She rubbed his crest and he stirred and blinked his eyes open. "Good morning, little guy."
The steel bird glared at her, ruffling his feathers with the sound of metal on metal. Although he was small for his species, he hated being reminded of it, whether it was his trainer doing the reminding or not.
"Okay, fine, good morning big guy. Is that better?"
He clacked his beak and pulled at her long black hair. Rebecca yelped and pushed him to the floor, and the clatter his talons made on the stone distracted Rachel from her argument.
"Right," she said, turning towards Rebecca as Morgan retreated under her blankets. "Do you need help getting ready? Because that's what it looks like."
"No I'm fine," she said. "You haven't been giving me much of a chance to get ready, that's all. Are you in a hurry or something?"
"You had enough time to start getting dressed at least." Before she had a chance to argue back, Rachel kneeled down and grabbed Rebecca's old trainers' bag and started rummaging through it.
"Hey!" Rebecca tried to grab it back and failed, as Rachel simply walked back a few steps out of her reach. "Goddammit, you can't just mess with my stuff whenever you want to!"
"I can when you're being too slow," Rachel replied, tossing her a pair of jeans, a purple shirt and her bag. "Now get dressed. I'm giving you five minutes until I leave without you."
"Do you honestly think I can get ready in five minutes?" Rebecca yelled at her as she walked away. "You know I never said I wanted to go! Rachel!"
"It's no good yelling at her when she's not in the room, little lady," came Morgan's muffled voice. "Now shut up and let the rest of us sleep."
Rebecca managed to restrain herself from throwing her comb at her and instead attempted untangling the knots in her hair. "Little lady" was her unfortunate nickname ever since she came to the team, since when she joined she was both one of the younger members, being sixteen, and squeamish at the mere sight of blood. Although she was eighteen now and mostly gotten over the squeamish part, names tend to stick and she had to put up with it.
After watching her struggle with her hair for a minute or so, Skarmory pulled at her sleeve and gestured with one wing at the clock.
"Yes, I know," she said impatiently. "But you know she won't really leave without us. I could wait half an hour and she would still wait. I know you haven't been outside for a while, but you can wait a few minutes, can't you?"
He glared at her and squatted down to tear at a red jacket that had fallen out of her bag. She snatched it up before he could make any more holes in it. "Stop taking out your anger on my clothes, please! I've already had to replace this twice and this one is already torn!" Fuming, Rebecca stuffed it into her bag with the rest of her uniform. Skarmory clacked his back again and turned his back to her.
He can't possibly still be angry at me, Rebecca thought to herself while gathering up her clothes. I joined Team Magma two years ago, he needs to get over it.
Skarmory, although her first pokémon and her most trusted, did not seem to understand when she tried to explain that what Team Magma was doing was good and right. Humanity needed more land, the world would be better for it. When that argument was met with scorn, she had tried again, saying that at the very least they needed to stop the other team, who wanted more sea for God-knows-what reason. He didn't want them to win, did he?
He thought both teams Aqua and Magma groups of very silly people who had very silly ideas and could not understand why his trainer wanted to be one of those very silly people. He did still trust her, accepting that she could do very silly things sometimes, but refused to go near any of the other members unless it involved harming them in some way. She called him overprotective, but he knew she needed to be protected from all the very silly people, because sometimes they could do horribly serious things.
Rebecca, as usual, ignored Rachel's time limit, and usually, Rachel was okay with this. This time, however, the grunt stuck on guard duty was an ex-boyfriend she was still angry at, and she stood as far away from his possible and stared down the passage, desperately hoping he wouldn't talk to her. Rebecca could not come sooner.
"So, uh, are you and Rebecca going to Lavaridge again?"
Rachel winced. "Of course not," she said, refusing to look at him. "We're going to Sootopolis. Jeez, Mark."
"Right." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "What, can't I talk to you anymore?"
"No. I still hate you, remember?"
"After this long? I – look, I said I was sorry, didn't I?"
"You said yourself that you didn't think you did anything wrong. So your 'sorry' doesn't mean much of anything, does it?"
"Well, I –" Mark raised his hands in defeat. "Fine, you're right, I'm wrong, can I at least say one thing?"
"If you're walking to Lavaridge, or Sootopolis or wherever, won't you be gone the whole day?"
"Probably. That's sort of the point."
"Well, what if there's a debriefing while you're gone?"
"Damn it, Mark, don't start with this again!" Rachel groaned. "We haven't had a debriefing since the whole ancient pokémon incident, we're not going to have one now. We haven't even had role call in almost two months now."
"Still! It could happen, and you'll get in trouble if you're not there."
This was when Rebecca chose to run down the tunnel towards them. "Hi! I'm here!"
"You're ten minutes late," Rachel snapped. Normally she wouldn't be so short with her, but being in close proximity to Mark gave her a temper. "What took you so long?"
"Skarmory wouldn't get in his pokéball."
"And it took you ten minutes to get him in?"
"Okay then. Alright, let's get out of here!"
"Wait a second," Mark said. "The door's been sticking lately, so –"
"Oh, just open it."
He rolled his eyes. "Alright, fine."
Mark pressed a rusted metal button, and the boulder shuddered and slowly ground towards the side until it was halfway open, where it stuck and refused to move, and no amount of kicking and swearing could make it budge.
"Stupid piece of shit." He kicked it a final time and sighed. "I'm going to have to get someone to fix it again. Did you see Ken on your way up here?"
"No. I don't even know if he's still at this base." Rachel stepped back and studied the narrow opening. "Rebecca, I think you can fit, you're pretty small. And I might be able to get through afterwards. Come on, give it a shot."
"Are you sure?" Rebecca stood beside her and frowned. "I mean, maybe me, but..."
"Yep! Let's go!"
Realizing that Rachel was impatient to get out of there, Rebecca managed to squeeze herself through the opening, with only mild discomforted when she scraped her already sore arm. Then it was Rachel's turn, and, with some help, they were both on the other side.
"Okay!" Rachel said cheerfully. "Bye Mark! We'll probably be back in a few hours, three or four maybe. Good luck with the door!"
"Yes," he said absentmindedly. "Damn it, if Ken's not here I'm going to have to fix this myself."
"Come on," Rachel said to Rebecca. "Let's get out of here."
They left Team Magma's base behind, carefully picking their way down the rocky slope of Mount Chimney, while all around them ash fell from the sky.
Their walk was uneventful, to a point. They didn't see any pokémon trainers on the road, even when they were out of range of the falling ash. and the only thing out of the ordinary that happened at first was that Rebecca saw a flicker of something in a puddle and stopped to look.
Rachel walked a few more steps before realizing this and looking back. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," Rebecca said, looking up. "I just thought I saw something. It was probably just a leaf, I guess."
"Alright, then. Let's keep going."
After that, whenever she saw a flicker of something out of the corner of her eye, she ignored it.
After another while of walking, a puddle blocked the road.
"Damn it," Rachel said. "I knew this would happen after all the rain we had last night."
"Oh, it's not that bad," Rebecca said. "If we go around this way, it's pretty dry."
"I guess so." Rachel shrugged and followed Rebecca, who was already picking her way over the mud.
This time, they both saw the ripples spread over the surface of the puddle. Rachel glanced at it briefly. Rebecca glanced at it and kept looking, because she couldn't couldn't help but feel that there was something off about it.
"Hey, are you sure you're okay?" Rachel said when Rebecca had stopped again, still staring at the puddle. "Nothing happened while you were getting ready, right?"
"No," Rebecca said, keeping her eyes on the puddle. "It's just... I think there's something wrong with the puddle."
"You think there's what?"
"Yeah, I know it sounds stupid, but... I really think we should get away!"
Then she stiffened, still staring.
"Hey, what's wrong?"
"Get away from the puddle," Rebecca said, backing away.
"What? Why?" Normally, she trusted Rebecca, but this? She had to be a little skeptical. This was a puddle, one that didn't even look deep enough to hold a magikarp or something. Rachel glanced at it. Ok, so there was something there, but... "Rebecca, it's just a reflection."
"Please, trust me! Get away from it!"
"It's just an ordinary puddle," Rachel said, and then very abruptly it wasn't.
The blast of air that came from it hit Rachel hard enough to make her stumble, and Rebecca grabbed her hand and ran. Rachel looked back long enough to see a vortex rising from the water and something big and dark writhing inside it, and then they were in the woods and she had to focus on where she was putting her feet.
Behind them, something screeched a long, horrible screech, and Rebecca pulled her down behind a rock. Rachel fell on top of her and they both lay down in the mud, listening as something crashed through the forest behind them. They both held their breath when it came near, but then it went past, and they let out a sigh of relief.
Once it was gone, and all was silent, Rachel finally dared to speak. "What was that thing?"
"It..." Rebecca took a deep breath. "Giratina. It's a legendary pokémon. It lives in an alternate dimension. Back when I lived in Sinnoh, there was a scientist who actually went in there. He wrote a paper on it, that's how I know."
"Okay. A legendary pokémon! That's great! What did it want with us?"
"Nothing, I don't think. We were probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Are you sure?" God, how could she be so calm? Now that the experience was over, Rebecca seemed to be back to her old self, while Rachel was still trembling. "What if it was after us?"
"If it had wanted us, it would have found us here. There's no way it wouldn't have heard us.
"Oh, well, good. Or not good. God, I don't know." Rachel leaned back and sighed. "Is it... violent? I mean, if we run into it again, is it going to attack us on sight?"
"I don't know. It's supposed to be territorial, but we're not in it's territory... look, if it had wanted to attack us, we'd be dead, violent or not. It's a legendary pokémon, for God's sake! And not one of the nicer ones, either. It was supposed to be the god of death, I think. I mean, in myths. The paper didn't say that. It called the myths 'hogwash', actually."
"Right. Hogwash." Rachel gripped the ground and tried to get her trembling under control. It didn't work. "I don't hear anything. Do you think it's gone?"
"Yeah, probably. Let's go back to base. I don't feel safe going to Lavaridge with it around."
Rebecca stood up and out of nowhere a black wing fell and pinned her to the ground.
Rebecca screamed. Rachel could only manage a choked gasp. Giratina was a huge basilisk of a creature, with a golden beak and crest, and red-clawed wings. It pinned Rebecca down in the mud, and as Rachel stared, it glared at her with red eyes and screeched.
Rachel's first instinct was to run, but it had Rebecca, and before she could do anything it cuffed her with its free wing and knocked her down. Rebecca yelled something, Rachel tried to get up but Giratina hit her again and she heard it fly into the air.
Rachel sat up.
Giratina was gone, taking Rebecca with it. She was suddenly aware of her shoulder hurting; she touched it gingerly and it was wet with blood. She realized then she needed to get back to the hideout and stood up.
She was hardly aware of what she was doing, she was so in shock. She followed the wreckage of trees that Giratina had left behind until she reached the main road, then she kept walking towards Mount Chimney. Her side was aching and she wanted nothing more than to sit down and rest, but she was dimly aware of the fact that her shoulder was bleeding a lot and if she sat down she might never stand up. So she forced herself to keep walking, until she was struggling up the slope of the mountain and she saw the fake boulder that marked the door of their base. When she reached it, she was exhausted and her shoulder was killing her and she barely had the strength to pound on the door.
"Rachel? Is that you?" came Mark's voice.
"Yes! Open the door!" she shouted.
"No need to yell like that, I'm just surprised you're back so soon –"
"I don't have time for this! I'm bleeding to death out here!"
It had to be Mark, she thought. Out of all the people who had to be guarding the door today, it had to be Mark. "Shut up! Let me in!"
"The door's still jammed, I can't! Look –" The door made a grinding noise and didn't move. "Are you seriously –"
"Yes, the fucking god of death tore my shoulder open and I am seriously bleeding to death!"
"The what – okay, I'm going to get someone to help, just hang in there, okay?"
"Just break the damn thing open, you have a camerupt, don't you? Damn it, Mark! If I die out here it's all your fault!"
No answer; he had already gone. Rachel swore at the door, sat down against the rock, and passed out.