POKEMON - LEGEND OF THE EXILE
Chapter 6: Industrial Dystopia
"I am the Exile, tormented since the dawn of times
Death and destruction await mankind for their crimes
By blood and violence our captors shall be crushed
By our flesh we reclaim the world they touched"
Leaving the barren fields of Lyther's camp behind them, Thalia followed Altaria down through a long stretch dead-brown grass, with Sparktail, Elias, Shanala, and Lyther trailing behind her. To the south stood the ominous trees of Eterna Forest, dark and forbidding. To the north flowed a murky river topped with violet foam, contaminated beyoned all recognition.
The ground was littered with decayed undergrowth that bore no nutrients and cold gray mud that held no life, the soil more barren than bedrock. With every pawstep, the acrid stench of Grimers filled Sparktail's nose, causing his eyes to water and the very tips of Thalia's leaves to wilt. Even Shanala shuddered as she beheld the wasteland.
"Altaria... where are we?" croaked Thalia finally, her voice haunted and low. Her heart pounded as she took in the wasteland that stretched all around them, the leaves on her wrists curling up away from the soil. "I can always feel the faintest heartbeat glowing beneath the earth, the writhing of life in the soil. Even when death covers it, the earth is... alive..." Shuddering, the Leafeon slowly lifted her eyes to stare up at the Herald. "But this is... it's dead, Altaria. It's dead! It's dead!"
"Once, it was not always so," replied the Herald softly, shaking her head as they continued. "Once upon a time, this was a place without life, just as it is now. Only the most wretched of outcasts were banished to the barren fields, here where nothing grows and nothing lives."
"Then eons ago, a mysterious creature from the lands to the far south took pity upon the people and descended upon this barren land. It decreed that this place would not only be alive, but the most beautiful of all meadows in the world. And it was so... until Giratina came and swept aside that illusion."
"What could possibly drive Giratina to ruin Sinnoh so badly?" breathed Thalia, her eyes watering as she gazed up towards the dragon. "He's ruined it... ruined it. He killed everything about this place... He turned it to ashes."
Elias squatted down to examine the polluted river. Taking a twig with pine needles from his tail, he dipped the tiny green branch into the waters to scrape sludge from the river; when he pulled it out, it had turned black and shriveled. "It's not Giratina, or at least not him directly," replied the Sceptile grimly, backing away from the river, eyes scanning their surroundings cautiously. "The toxins in the air... The filth in the river... the death in the earth... There's no mistaking it. Grimer sludge herds have gathered here."
A chill ran down Thalia's spine at Elias's words. Grimer herds were death to any grass-type. They brought disease, decay, and death wherever they went, scarring the landscape with their foul toxins, transforming verdant pastures and mighty trees into rotting husks to house the congealment of their offspring.
The four abruptly halted in midstep under a half-rotting archway. A tiny bridge crossed over a murky river, staring towards the giant concrete-gray building which loomed ominously amidst the wilderness, a beast of a building that was as long as five city blocks placed side-by-side, and twice as high as Slick's old headquarters in Sootopolis.
On the far distant side of the immense building, Shanala could make out the outlines of a convoy of massive pullcarts hooked up to droves of snorting Rapidashes who pawed at the ground furiously. "What is this place?" whispered Thalia, trembling as she stared at the enigmatic building, watching as Rhyperiors emerged with bulging crates and loaded it onto the Rapidashes' carts. "Miss Altaria... this place scares me."
"This is a factory, Thalia," replied Altaria softly. Thick ashen smoke billowed from hundred-foot-high smokestacks across the vast roof, and Sparktail could hear the distant peals of hammers against anvils echoing from within the building. "At one end lies a mass forge; at the other lies a power plant. A behemoth of industrial power. Think about what power he holds now, with this factory to fuel his army."
Through a window, Shanala could see a massive, rumbling generator with spinning parts, row after row of cells where unmoving Rhyperiors, Infernapes, Torterras, and countless others that the Ninetales couldn't recognize lay on massive stone slabs. Her eyes widened in shock as electricity shot down from the massive generator's rotors, flying down through a network of wires in jets of light, flowing into each of the inert Pokemon bodies.
"The Exile's vengeance can never quell, not when he holds the power to stir life from the flesh of the dead," murmured the Herald as the Pokemon one-by-one began to rise from their beds before Shanala's stunned eyes. "This is no ordinary factory, my friends. This is a place where war is manufactured."
"A war factory," whispered Thalia. The leaves on her body shook as she stared towards the ominous building leering down at them, still belching its plumes of coal-black smoke. "I- but... this all looks like human constructions. I- I thought Giratina didn't like humans. But he's doing the same thing they all are!"
"Giratina did not create this- but this is the work of his lieutenants," said Altaria, closing her eyes. "The White Tyrant exposed the secrets of industrial power- of assembly lines, of slave labor, of mass production." A chill rippled across Sparktail's fur- he felt as if he was being watched. "This factory is the culmination of all of that. And the waste it produces only festers into more Grimers and more Gastlys, and more soldiers for Giratina's army."
Thalia stared at Altaria blankly, thoroughly lost. "We must go now," continued the Herald, bowing her head. "Though this desecration of nature is tragic indeed, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Come, climb onto my back, and let us fly!"
In the forests of Eterna, ten Rhydons stood before the monstrous silouette of Regigigas with blood on their claws. From the high branches lurked a pair of a violet eyes, watching the sinister ceremony unfolding below.
At the swish of a bronze staff, ten orange steel braces appeared before Regigigas. Without hesitation, the gargantuan took one of the braces, then lumbered over to a Rhydon. Grunting, the mighty king forced the brace onto the Rhydon's back, causing the horned warrior to growl in pain. Without mercy, Regigigas proceeded onto to the next Rhydon, took out another brace, and applied it likewise, continuing until each of them had the iron braces.
Every one of the Rhydons began to writhe in pain, howling, their arms flailing as light burst from the steel braces clamped upon their backs. For the slightest of moments, their resolve faltered, their blood-oaths all but forgotten; then they began to shine with unholy light, first one, then another and another.
Their arms grew bulky and massive like sledgehammers, their flesh thickening beneath their stony hides, their tails turned to stone wrecking bals. Orange steel plates that matched braces began to fold over their shoulders and around their abdomens, covering their ears and the spikes on the sides of their heads as the drill-horns on their snouts spun with frightening speed.
The figure in the canopy watched with a savage pleasure as he gazed upon the newly evolved Rhyperiors whose eyes gleamed violet, who shook the trees all around around him with their mighty roars, bound body-and-mind-and-soul to the Exile now and forever. These were the beasts who would crush the wretched, stagnant, so-called peace that mankind had forged, and erect a new order to take its place. These were the soldiers of the Exile- and may nothing be so foolish as to oppose them!
With the four Pokemon on her back, Altaria flew south, skimming over forest and field, river and crag. Thalia's stomach turned as she stared down towards the ruins of Sinnoh below, where wild Pokemon battered and clawed at each other in the fields with frightening ferocity, spilling each others' blood in meaningless feuds. She saw human houses and walls torn to pieces, their fragments scattered across the ground, leaving fire and filth and chaos in the fields, and she didn't understand any of it.
In the distance loomed wrecked buildings that Sparktail, Thalia, and Shanala all recognized from photographs taken early in the war, broadcast across the nation through human television. "We are approaching Jublife City," warned Altaria, beginning to descend as they approached the city. "We must move carefully, for they patrol these skies, and I am no match for them. Be warned that it shall be very unpleasant."
Shanala narrowed her eyes as they descended into the blanket of smog that hung over the destroyed metropolis like storm clouds. Elias and Thalia were the first to suffer from the smog, their leaves beginning to wither as they coughed and spluttered into the translucent haze. The air felt heavy in Sparktail's lungs as they swooped down between the desecrated office buildings, even heavier than he remembered from past human cities.
As the Herald flew on, the broken remnants of the city slowly came into focus. The city's TV broadcast station had a motheaten look to it with chunks missing from the walls here and there, its giant screen cracked and flickering. In the disarrayed streets stood row after row of shacks built crudely from fallen debris, overshadowed by desicated corpses of buildings.
At the center of the town square, where the city's fountain stood, brown streams of water flowed from the eye sockets of a badly-hewn skull-shaped sculpture. "Welcome to Jublife, city of the dead," whispered Altaria as they silently continued on. A chill ran down Sparktail's spine, but he said nothing, resting one paw on a softly whimpering Thalia's flank.
"Look, there," breathed Shanala, her eyes widening, prodding the others with her tails. "Down on the ground. I- I see humans!" Confused, their eyes watering, the others wiped their eyes and stared after the Ninetales' gaze. Far below on the ground, five teenagers huddled together in a narrow alley, warming their hands over a burning trash can.
"Don't look, for your own sakes," warned Altaria without slowing her flight.
Moments later, one of the girls began to shriek as dark mist began to float out from a nearby gutter, writhing clouds of violet haze that shook and cackled in midair. Glancing around frantically, the humans stared as a Misdreavus emerged from the dark fog- then another, and another, and another, and another.
As the five Misdreavi flew at them, the panicking children all bolted down the alley- only to find their way blocked by a Dusclops standing squarely in their way. The trapped boys and girls huddled against each other in terror, staring as the cackling wraiths closed in on them.
"As bombs fell on Jublife City, electric lines gave life to the fumes that emerged from broken gas pipes," whispered the Herald as they continued on into the hazy distance. "Life took shape from the methane and the unmaintained sewage, and rose up to swallow the disarrayed city above."
Oreburgh came into view, and they slowed down. It was completely unrecognizable. Many of the human buildings were torn down, replaced by many shacks built out of rusted metal, or more commonly wood. The city's layout was completely different, except around the mine. A coffle of human slaves was walking into the mine, holding picks. Sparktail could see the glint of the chains which bound them together.
"Giratina saw the value of iron and steel. When Sinnoh was evacuated, he maintained the coal mines here and the iron mines on Iron Island. But recently, his army began to take humans captive to mine coal and iron for him."
They flew closer. Rotoms were lined up all along the humans on both sides, threatening to electrocute any who stepped out of line. Long chains linked together all of the humans' arms and legs. All of the humans were unique. There were both men and women; old and young; humans of every race and region. Some cried but dared not wipe their tears. Others were bruised and bleeding. But there were no children in this line of miners. The prisoners trudged onward through the town, and into the mine.
"At one point in time, Rhydons were paid to handle the mining," murmured Altaria. "But it was soon discovered that humans actually could harvest more products and more quickly. Now Rhydons only enter the mine to drill open new pathways. Needless to say, humans are not given excessive protection. There are no hard hats. Tools are only available in the mines."
One of the men was walking too slowly, holding back the others chained to him. A horde of Rotoms instantly swarmed all over him, releasing his chains and torturing him. Within seconds, the man had been electrocuted to death. "How can Giratina possibly want this?" cried Thalia, tears rolling down her cheeks.
The Herald turned her head back to stare at the Leafeon. "Don't you understand, Thalia?" spoke Altaria softly. " All that the Exile desires, all that he knows, is revenge and battle. He has thousands of slaves at his disposal; he has put them to work in order to power his war machine. It matters little how many die of rockfalls, injuries, cave-ins, exhaustion, gas explosions, or any other danger, for there will always be another to take its place..."
"Insyte," whispered a voice, jolting Insyte in the shadows of the ancient crypt. The Umbreon leapt to his paws, springing up onto the hellish altar to face the sound of the speaker as Celebi materialized before him in a blaze of sparkling light. The Virtue looked gaunter than ever, his flesh worn, but his eyes still wide like crystal-clear pools.
"My friend, do you remember your dream?" asked the forest guardian, his voice as innocent and fair as a young child's as he gazed upon the Umbreon who hissed and spat from the altar. "Will you continue this path of misery and death? Or will you forgive yourself after all these years, transcend the pain, and heal your heart?"
"You want me to go back to them, to grovel at their paws," whispered the Umbreon furiously as the golden-caped shaman gazed intently upon him. "You don't know what you're asking for, what you're asking me to do...!"
"It is the honor of a true warrior, the warrior you always longed to become," replied Celebi softly, Insyte's heavy breaths seething with the anger he could no longer hold back. "Remember your dream of so long ago, that desire to be the bravest that you could be. You sought to be like that ancient warrior of old, Mythic the Tanuki, who saved the lands from the Invader Race."
"And what did those dreams accomplish?" breathed Insyte, his eyes scarlet and bitter as he stared up at Celebi. "NOTHING!" Aghast, the Virtue recoiled from the snarling Umbreon, whose restraint had all but shattered. "I could never become anything!" he screamed. "I asked for power, and I was offered softness instead! I never gained, never acccomplished, never became what I desired! This darkness IS ALL THAT I HAVE LEFT!"
As the Umbreon sank to the floor, breathing hard and furious, Celebi turned his wide watering eyes upon Insyte, his gaze filled with hurt and pain. "And so you wandered a shadowed path, wallowing in your own bitterness," said the Virtue coldly, his eyes becoming like chips of ice. His fury suddenly ebbing, Insyte froze as Celebi's words swept through him.
"You built around yourself a shell, isolating yourself from your friends, blinding yourself to them; and the only thing that kept the darkness open was Slick, and now that he is gone, you have sealed yourself into a living death. How can you stand to drive such daggers into the hearts of your friends, and into your own heart?"
"I will not return to them!" shouted Insyte, his eyes widening with mingled desperation and anger. The golden rings on his fur flashed as the misery became fury. "Lyther's ego is insurmountable, and it far outweighs any worth he may have! Is it honor to help such a worthless creature? You know truth better than any other; you know I despised Rush and Lyther both, all my life. Why should I stay? And the others! Thalia is but a foolish girl, and Sparktail--" He spat on the ground. "Sparktail has never repaid his debt to me."
The watering eyes narrowed. "Deep in your heart... you know they mean far more to you," hissed Celebi, whirling around, turning his back on the Umbreon. "Open your eyes, Insyte, and see the ones who care about you! Let your soul embrace the light that you have shut out for so long..." Before he faded, he looked back to Insyte one last time. "And if you cannot... Slick would be ashamed of you."
As they faded into the gray haze, a crestfallen Thalia thought she could still hear the sobs and screams of the humans as life was choked from them. To see humans hunted down like prey and murdered in cold blood was a shock. It seemed beyond reality, and yet it truly was happening before her.
"Why do you look so shocked, Thalia?" asked Altaria softly as they flew onward, glancing back to the Leafeon, who let out a small cry, startled. "Don't forget that Pokemon have lived like this in the wild for years."
Thalia looked down at her paws. "This just all feels too horrible to be real," she murmured, her cheeks going pink. Elias and Sparktail glanced to her. "I mean, I remember those first reports, way back when the war first broke out. But I guess it- it just didn't really hit home until I saw it for myself. It's like- like this is a completely different world!"
"Murderous and cruel as the Exile's war has been, many agree with Giratina's ideals, if not his methods," said the Herald darkly, the throb of her wings steady. Stunned, Sparktail and Thalia stared at her, while Shanala and Elias nodded grimly. "Humans have reigned over the world for over two thousand years without fail. There are those who feel mankind have held back Pokemon for too long."
Drawing close to Mt. Coronet, they were crossing over a field of dark shapes in a valley below. On the swirling gray breeze, Thalia could smell ashes, petroleum, and dust. "Now, all of you, hold tightly onto my back," cried the Herald as the wind rushed through their fur. "Down below us lies Hearthome City, where the Exile's war of vengeance began- and where my masters wait!"
With Thalia mortified, Sparktail silent, Shanala solemn, and Elias stern, Altaria gave a melodic cry and plunged down into the cloud of ashes.