~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 1 ~~~~
The sky was red and orange from the setting sun. Atop the highest cliffs around Treasure Town lay Wigglytuff's Exploration Guild. The outside appeared to be a tent, except that it had an iron gate instead of a front panel. In front of the gate was a pit covered by a metal grille, the sentry post.
Standing before the sentry post was the Eevee who lived in the cave within Sharpedo Bluff. "Hmm..." the Eevee murmured. "No. I refuse to be paralyzed by this any longer! This is it. I have to steel my courage today." She stepped forward onto the sentry post. Instantly, a voice shouted from below. "Pokemon detected!"
Another voice shouted, "Whose footprint?"
The first voice shouted back, "The footprint is Eevee's!"
Instantly, the Eevee leapt backwards off the sentry post. "Eeep!"
After a few moments, she sighed. "I just can't do it. I told myself today's the day, but... I'm such a coward."
The Eevee climbed down the cliff and south to the beach.
Looking towards the ocean, the Eevee watched as a group of Krabby blew bubbles over the ocean. She said to herself, "All those bubbles, catching the setting sun's rays off the waves... It's always beautiful." A Krabby looked at her, and smiled. Then he went back to blowing bubbles.
Thalia though aloud, "This is where I always come when I'm feeling sorry for myself. But it makes me feel good to be here, like always. Coming here is uplifting. It cheers me up."
Looking down the beach, she then noticed a large yellow object down by the rocks. "Hey, what's that?" she wondered. "What's going on down there?" She scampered down the beach.
As the Eevee approached the yellow object, she realized that it was an unconscious Pikachu. "Ahhh! Someone has collapsed on the sand!" she cried, running over to the electric mouse.
Shaking the Pikachu, she asked, "What happened?! Are you okay?"
The Pikachu opened its eyes, and groaned. He got to his feet, looking around.
The Eevee smiled. "You're awake!" she said with a sigh of relief.
The Pikachu looked around. Where was he?
"You weren't moving at all. I was seriously worried!" the Eevee explained. "Do you remember how you ended up zonked out here?"
The Pikachu frowned. He was zonked out? What happened...?
The Eevee smiled again. "I'm Thalia. Glad to meet you!" The Pikachu nodded.
Thalia asked, "And who are you? I've never seen you around before."
The Pikachu said, "Um, I'm just a human that-"
The Eevee interrupted, "What? You say you're human? You look like a totally normal pikachu to me!"
The Pikachu frowned. He looked at his body. "It's true!" he gasped. "I've become a pikachu!" But how? How did he become a Pikachu? For a split second, a green face with a red chest and a leaf for a ponytail flashed in his mind, and then disappeared. What... what had happened to him? He couldn't remember anything... wait... his name. Sparktail... yes. He was Sparktail.
Thalia frowned. "You're... a little odd... Is this some kind of joke?"
Sparktail shook his head vigorously. "No, I'm telling the truth! You can trust me!"
Thalia shrugged. "Well... do you remember your name, at least?" she asked.
The human-turned-pikachu said, "My name... I'm Sparktail..."
Thalia nodded. "Okay then. Well... you don't seem to be a bad Pokemon at least. Sorry that I doubted you."
Later that day
"So, you wanna become an exploration team?" Wigglytuff asked. "Then let us register your team's name!"
Thalia and Sparktail looked at each other. Thalia said, "Uh? we hadn't thought of a name."
Sparktail suggested, "How about Team Retrievers?"
Thalia thought about it. "Hm? Team Retrievers? yes! That fits us perfectly!"
Turning back to Wigglytuff, Thalia said, "We're Team Retrievers!"
Wigglytuff closed its eyes. "Registering? registering?" His eyes flew open. "Done! Your team is now registered!"
Two years later
It was a new day of exploring for Sparktail and Thalia as the two awoke in Sharpedo Bluff. As the sun rose over the horizon, Sparktail reflected vaguely on the team he and Thalia had built.
Team Retrievers had come a long way since their beginning. They discovered more than five new mysterious dungeons, fulfilled Sparktail's original mission to prevent the paralysis of time, graduated from Wigglytuff's Guild, and achieved Master *** Rank. They stopped Darkrai from shrouding the world in eternal darkness, and had captured no less than fifty-seven outlaws. Five members of Chimecho Assembly were members of Team Retrievers. One of those five, Sir Tane of the Absol pack, was even a full-time member now. Neither of them had evolved yet, but they were happy all the same.
Thalia picked up the Explorer Bag from its place leaning against the cave's wall. "I've just realized, our bag must have been made from Dragonite skin," said Thalia. "No ordinary leather could survive five years, not to mention all the explorations we've been on."
Sparktail shrugged. "Dragonite skin's pretty rare, though. What about inventory?"
Thalia opened up the bag. "Let's see, three reviver seeds, a pair of x-ray specs, the usual orbs, and oran berries."
Sparktail asked, "What about apples?"
Thalia replied, "We've got two for breakfast, but that's it." She pulled both apples out of the bag. "Catch!" she called, throwing one apple at Sparktail. Sparktail leapt up and caught the fruit before it smashed against the rock wall. "Intercepted!" he called back. Sparktail and Thalia starting eating their apples, watching the ocean far below them. When both of them had finished, the two went up the staircase leading outside. The sky was clear and bright, except for the occasional cloud which kept things cool and steady. Thalia and Sparktail followed the main road which led through town. After a quick stop at Kangaskan Storage to pick up more apples, Sparktail and Thalia went through the central plaza and reached the crossroads. They stepped off the path, and went down an underground passageway leading to Spinda's Caf?.
Sparktail and Thalia went up to Wynaut's counter, the Recycle Stand.
"How's it going?" Thalia asked.
"Excellent, why not?" said Wynaut. "By the way, we've got a new offer today."
"What for?" asked Sparktail.
"Today, we've got a bottle of protein."
Thalia set up the item swap, while Sparktail went over to a table where Tane, a fellow Retrieverwas eating.
"Yo, Sparktail," said Tane between bites. "How's it going?"
"Hey, Sir Tane," said Sparktail. "What're you eating?"
"Calamari. Tasty calamari."
On the other side of the caf?, Octillery shouted, "You're eating WHAT?!"
Sir Tane slapped his forehead. "Calamari, not octopus. Siddown." Turning back to face Sparktail, he started to say, "So where-"
Thalia bounded up to the table at that time. "Hi, Absol."
Sir Tane rolled his eyes. "Thalia, I prefer Tane."
"So what are you eating?" asked Thalia.
Sparktail answered for Tane. "Calamari."
"Oooh!" said Thalia excitedly. "Say, Sparktail, I went around the whole caf?, and no one was offering a job."
Sparktail nodded. "Okay then. Tane, see you later." They walked off.
Sir Tane called to them, "Whoa whoa, where are we going next?" But the two had already left.
Back at the crossroads, Sparktail and Thalia took the path to Wigglytuff's guild, where they had lived, trained, and graduated, all to become the best explorers they could be. Passing over the sentry post safely thanks to their explorer badge, Sparktail and Thalia entered the guild.
Near the Outlaw Notice Board, Officer Magnezone was giving a short speech to a few explorers, including some of the guild apprentices. "What's going on?" Thalia wondered. They approached Magnezone, who was saying, "Infernape is very dangerous. Bzzt! He is, in fact, a four-star outlaw. Bzzt! No team below Gold Rank should attempt to arrest him. Bzzt! That is all!" The crowd of explorers dispersed.
Thalia and Sparktail exchanged a glance. Then Thalia asked Magnezone, "Who is Infernape?"
Magnezone turned around. "Ah, Team Retrievers! Bzzt! You've come at a good time. Bzzt! Infernape is a dangerous outlaw. Bzzt! He is from several years ago. Bzzt! His nickname is Time Tripper Infernape. Bzzt! He escaped from jail recently. Bzzt! Some of his followers escaped too. Bzzt! Furthermore, he is not alone. Bzzt! He is known for making allies. Bzzt!"
Sparktail asked, "So he hides in monster houses?"
Magnezone's lights flashed. "No. He's the sort of outlaw who makes secret hideouts. Bzzt! In addition, Infernape is also a special kind of outlaw. Bzzt! He is the sort of outlaw who makes hideouts. Bzzt! He also makes many hideouts. Bzzt! His hideouts are also in many places. Bzzt! Due to this, we have not found him yet. Bzzt! Many of his followers have been apprehended, however. Bzzt!"
Thalia asked, "So where is his warrant?"
Magnezone said, "We have not yet gotten one. Bzzt! We have gotten too many sighting reports. Bzzt!"
Thalia and Sparktail exchanged another glance. Sparktail said, "You said he was called 'Time Tripper' Infernape. Isn't the Time Tripper IQ skill one of those long-lost talents that no one, save Dialga himself, could use?"
Magnezone explained, "Infernape has been sighted so many times. Bzzt! He has acted so instantly. Bzzt! He set up so many hideouts so quickly. Bzzt! We officers joked that he must have Time Tripper. Bzzt!"
"You said he was a four-star outlaw, right?" asked Sparktail.
Magnezone responded, "Affirmative! However, we still do not know where he is. Bzzt! However, if you see him, catch him. If you can't, tell us you saw him. That is all!" With that, the officer floated off.
Thalia and Sparktail exchanged glances. "Hey... isn't the Time Tripper that one Infernape that keeps escaping us?"
"It sounds like it," said Sparktail, nodding. "I think the rest of the team needs to hear about this."
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 2 ~~~~
Back at the Caf?...
"Okay, Tane, we've got an idea of where to go now," said Sparktail
Sir Tane, who had finished his calamari, widened his eyes. "Finally! So where to?"
"I'll explain in a moment," said Thalia, who leapt onto one of Spinda's recently cleaned tables. Ignoring Spinda's protests, the Eevee called out in a clear, bright voice, "Okay, all members of Team Retrievers! We're having a meeting now! Calling all members of Team Retrievers, calling all Retrievers, calling all Retrievers!" Sparktail and Sir Tane both doubled over laughing as Spinda ran up to the table and pushed Thalia off of the wooden surface. "My tables! Only I may stand on my tables!"
Just then, a Scyther, a Shaymin, a Manaphy, a Mareep, a Mudkip, and a Sneasel came running into the Caf?. "Answering the call!" said Shaymin brightly, her mossy back twitching.
"Yep, what are we doing to-day guys?" asked Manaphy cheerily.
"And, can I change my name yet?" asked the Mareep. The young ram's tail twitched with annoyance, his name being that of "Fluffycake."
Sparktail held up his paws, grinning. "Whoa, whoa! One at a time, mkay?"
Quake, Sparktail, Thalia, and an Absol hiked through the grasslands of the Amp Plains. "Tee hee, we haven't been here for ages," said Thalia excitedly.
Sparktail's eyes went wide. "I wonder if the Luxir clan's back."
The Absol, Sir Tane, shrugged. "Whatever. We're all tougher now."
Quake, a Mudkip, looked down at his paws nervously. He'd always wanted to prove something to his teammates, wanting to show that he wasn't just a rookie who needed to be taught. About a year ago or so, Sparktail and Thalia had defeated the evil Darkrai, the villain who had tried to destroy the dimensions and plunge the world into darkness. And, when Wave had heard about their adventures, he knew that he wanted to become an explorer!
So Wave had set out for Wigglytuff's famous Exploration Guild. After five months of travel, Wave arrived in Treasure Town. But as soon as he approached the guild, Wave was attacked by Chatot, who mistook Wave for a rather elusive outlaw Mudkip. Luckily, Sparktail, who was passing by at the time, noticed what was happening and rescued Wave from Chatot.
Now Wave was a part of Team Retrievers. The other Retrievers had accepted Wave into the group warmly, but... they still treated him like a rookie, after five months. And today, they were in Amp Plains, of all places!
"Something wrong, Wave?" asked Sparktail.
Wave glanced up at the sound of the Pikachu's voice. "Eh, Sparks, I'm just uncomfortable being in a place where electric-types gather, since I'm a water-type and all."
Sparktail patted Wave on the head. Wave repressed a scowl. I'm not a little kid anymore! He wanted to scream. But it seemed Sparktail's motive was completely different. "Ah, don't worry about it. We're actually here to take down a nasty Infernape." Thalia and Tane both shivered. Sparktail pulled a piece of paper out of his dragonskin bag, unrolled it, and smoothed it out for Wave to see. "He's gotten away from us about three times now. The cops have started nicknaming him... er...'"
"Time Tripper", Thalia put in helpfully.
Wave's eyes lit up. "Oh, an Infernape?" At last! This was it, his chance to prove his worth to Sparktail! Infernape was a fighting-type, so Thalia and Tane would be at a disadvantage. But he, Wave, would be at an Advantage!
Sparktail and Thalia chuckled together. "Cheered up, then? Well, we'd better get going!"
Suddenly, Sparktail abruptly stopped as they were about to enter a room. Wave bumped into Tane, who in turn bumped Thalia, who bumped into Sparktail. "Ooof!"
"Oops, sorry," Wave apologized.
"Sparks, why've you stopped?" asked Thalia, annoyed. "The stairs are right there!"
Sparktail held up a paw for silence. "Shhh! I think it's a monster house!" He pulled the X-Ray Specs down to cover his eyes. "Yep. There's way too many items in there. You guys all hang back; I'll go clear out the room."
Tane frowned. "Uh, you're not using Discharge, are you?"
Sparktail shrugged. "Of course not. I've got a plan, don't worry."
Wave and Tane nodded and watched as Sparktail entered the room alone. Wave stared as an siren began to wail, and square holes in the ceiling suddenly opened. Four flaaffies, several Electrikes, two Luxios, and an Electabuzz fell through the openings and landed in the room.
Sparktail reached into the treasure bag and pulled out a Petrify Orb. At once, all of the Pokemon in the room were petrified.
Sparktail motioned to the rest of his team. "Okay, now just don't attack them or anything. Just grab the items, and we can get out quickly."
"Why can't we attack them?" asked Wave as he, Thalia, and Tane entered the room. "They're just standing there..."
Tane and Thalia went around the room and gathered up all the yellow gummis and TMs lying strewn about the floor.
Wave approached a petrified Shinx. All his life, shinxes had beaten the crap out of him. Now he could get revenge on them! He tackled a shinx, ignoring Sparktail's warnings.
Suddenly, the shinx came to life once more. "Ahhhhh!" cried Wave, leaping back. The shinx growled at him angrily and slammed into him with quick attack. "I said not to touch them!" said Sparktail, both annoyed and amused. The Shinx began to chase Wave across the room. Tane sighed and tackled the shinx as it passed him. The shinx fell over.
"Sorry, Sparktail!" apologized Wave, walking up to the Pikachu. "I couldn't resist!"
Sparktail patted Wave. "It's okay, Wave. Just listen to me next time!" With that, the four of them went up the stairs, ignoring the glares from all the petrified Pokemon around them.
The ringing peals of a forge rang out from the center of a forest clearing in the Amp Plains. An Infernape stood before an anvil, a hammer in his paw. He brutally struck the red-hot bar of copper with his tool, pausing only to exhale his frustrations in a sweeping flow of searing flames. Then he would stop, examine the staff closely, and resume his continuous pounding. All the while, he chanted in a hoarse but harsh voice,
"My fires and flames shall burn on
While the fool's tent shall be gone.
I shall eliminate the hated hero for good
That shall be my legacy forever as it should."
"Sir!" called a voice. At once the Time Tripper threw down his hammer and grabbed the red-hot pole of iron and copper. He flourished it in an arc around him, his eyes shifting wildly. "Who's there?"
"It's just us, sir!" called a Monferno, bounding into the room with a Mankey and another Monferno. "You have no idea, sir, how hard it is to lose track of the explorers these days. I mean, now-"
"What news do you bring me from Treasure Town?" asked Infernape coldly.
The Monferno answered, "The houndoom has accepted your alliance, sir."
Infernape's eyes filled with a vicious joy. "Excellent, excellent... and as for our friend the 'Big Boss?'"
The Mankey rubbed his hands together. "Sir, you'll never believe this... He's about to get out on parole."
Infernape cocked his head sideways. "Is that so? Then perhaps tonight is the time..."
Suddenly, they all heard a loud crash off in the distance. All four monkeys stared at each other. "Watch OUT, Wave!" called a deep voice.
"Sorry!" squeaked another voice, this one much younger. "I tripped!"
At once, the younger Monferno and the Mankey threw themselves at Infernape's feet. "Sir, we apologize! We thought we shook all pursuers-"
Infernape shook his head, and the other Monferno kicked the Mankey. "Get up, you fools. They're obviously after me." He glanced at the other Monferno, the one who had not spoken yet. "Captain, can you identify that team?"
The Monferno nodded. "I think that's Team Retrievers, sir. They passed the guild graduation exam and carried out two fifteen-star missions about a year ago!"
Infernape's eyebrows raised. "Guild graduates... interesting." He walked around the anvil, grabbed his mallet, and approached the stairs. "Captain Propane and Seargent Tinder!" Both Monfernos leapt to their attention and saluted the Time Tripper. "Rally the others. We're about to have a battle."
Sparktail, Thalia, Wave, and Tane looked around. "Well, that's odd. I can swear that I heard someone here," commented Thalia.
Sparktail pulled out the job paper from his pack and scanned it. "Well, this is it, everyone. Let's go take down the Time Tripper!"
"Yeah!" cheered Wave, Thalia, and Tane, sharing looks of triumph.
"Whoa, whoa!" called three voices. Wave and his teammate turned around to see Shaymin, Manphy, and Vulcan approaching them. "Wait for us! We don't want Infernape to get away this time, do we?" called Shaymin as she and the others approached.
"Oh come on!" groaned Tane as he saw Vulcan. He glared at Vulcan, who glared back just as angrily. "Are you serious?!"
Wave felt a sweatdrop roll down his face, and Sparktail and Thalia exchanged an uncomfortable glance. "Um..."
"Okay, this is what we think," said Shaymin. "Yes, there's way too many of us to be a single team. But all that matters is that Infernape gets arrested, right? The more Pokemon that fight him, the better chance of us taking him down."
Tane backed up against the wall, glaring at Vulcan. "No. No way am I ever exploring the same dungeon as him."
Thalia chuckled. "Tane, as far as the guild should be concerned, we're just two different teams from the same team roster that teamed up to complete a mission."
"And that's the problem," growled Vulcan. "Tane's as annoying a Pokemon you'll EVER find."
"Hah! Me, annoying? You're one to talk!" said Tane angrily.
Sparktail walked between the two pokemon, his paws up. "All right, you two can fight out back in town. For now, we gotta focus on the mission."
Manaphy's eyes lit up. "Oh right, Sparktail! We completed our mission, and we got a light bulb-"
"Light Ball," corrected Shaymin.
"-a light ball for a reward! Maybe you know what a light ball is?"
Sparktail glanced at Shaymin, who glanced at Vulcan, who looked at Wave, who looked at Tane, who looked at Thalia, who looked at Sparktail. Sparktail sighed. "Remind me to take a look at this 'light ball'."
Shaymin and Manaphy grinned. "We will."
"Now let's get going!" said Thalia, approaching the stairs, the other Retrievers following close behind.
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 3 ~~~~
"Hah, Team Retrievers! I've been expecting you!" called a voice.
Sparktail and the others tumbled down the stairs and landed in a heap. After a few minutes of them all groaning in pain, Thalia leapt up. "Okay, sound off! Sparktail!"
"Abs- I mea, Sir Tane?"
"Okay... that's everyone. Anyone else hear that voice?"
"Haha, you mean me?" called a voice. Sparktail and all the others leapt to their feet as an Infernape and a gang of Monfernos approached them. "Hah, Team Retrievers... we've been waiting for you!" The Infernape held up his bronze staff, and twirled it around him. "Attack!"
The Monfernos ran towards the Retrievers. "Okay, team, let's go!" called Sparktail. He and Thalia leapt on either side of three Monfernos and both struck them with wide-slashes on either side.
The Time Tripper rolled his eyes and dealt a fire punch to Shaymin. Shaymin leapt back and shot an energy ball at the Infernape. Two monfernos jumped at Shaymin on either side of her. Shaymin quickly fired a switcher orb at Infernape, who dodged. The beam of light shot past Infernape and struck a Mankey just as the Monfernos were about to double-fire-punch Shaymin. Both punches smashed into the Mankey, leaving two red angry burns on its forehead.
Another Mankey ran at Manaphy and Rush. "Water... bad!" it screeched. Manaphy sighed and shot a bubblebeam at her attacker. The Mankey screeched loudly as the stream of watery spheres smashed into it. Four more Mankeys fell from the ceiling, surrounding Rush and Mapnahy. "Okay, Rush, be on your guard!" called Manaphy, her body performing a rain dance.
Four Monfernos quickly surrounded Tane, who could do little but duck and dodge their strikes. Blaze kicks and fire punches flew as Tane leapt and evaded, his body a blur of motion as he tried to find an opportunity for attack. Vulcan sighed and barreled right into one of these Monfernos with rollout. As he shot a hidden power at another Monferno, he hissed at Tane, "I still don't like you!" Tane rolled his eyes and slashed at a Monferno.
"Get them, you fools!" yelled the Time Tripper, shaking his fists. Five monfernos and a Manectric entered the room and surrounded Shaymin. The infernape ran at Thalia while more Monfernos surrounded Sparktail.
Thalia tackled the approaching infernape, who bashed Thalia's side with his staff. Thalia winced, and shank her teeth into the Time Tripper's leg. Infernape howled in pain and pulled his leg from Thalia's jaws. He then leapt back and hit Thalia with mach punch.
Tane slashed and stabbed Monferno after Monferno while Vulcan rolled right into a Monferno attacking Shaymin. Wave dodged a Mankey's furious barrage and tackled it. The Mankey fell on its back and collapsed. Beside Wave, Manapahy completed her rain dance, and raindrops began to fall from the ceiling. Moments later, all of the Mankeys found themselves trapped in minature whirlpools.
Infernape's eyes twitched, and he screeched loudly. The Manectric howled and fired a shock wave across the room at Manaphy.
"Yes! We did it, Manaphy!" cheered Wave, excited that all the Mankeys had been defeated. "Mana-"
"Aieeeee!" yelped Manaphy as the shock wave hit her, and she flew back into the wall.
Wave stared, his mouth agape. "MANAPHY!" he yelled, running to Manaphy's side.
Meanwhile, Sparktail unleashed a thunderbolt, knocking out all of the monfernos surrounding him. He looked up as the Time Tripper kicked Thalia aside. "Thalia!" cried Sparktail, leaping at the Infernape.
Tane felt three successive mach punches strike the back of his head, and he collapsed on the ground.
"Oh no, you don't!" yelled Vulcan as he slammed into the Monferno looming over Tane's unconscious form. The two Pokemon rolled over and over and landed in a rapidly forming pool of water. "Aw, crap," spluttered Vulcan.
"Yah!" yelled Shaymin as she touched the Gracidea and became Sky Forme. There was a blinding flash of light as she transformed, followed by several waves of air slashes that quickly cut down the Monfernos. Shaymin flew to join Sparktail. "Sparktail, I can hold him off! I think you should send the others back!"
The Time Tripper laughed. "Hah, yes, send them back! Let the world know that even the great Team Retrievers cannot defeat me!"
"LIES!" yelled Wave as he leapt over Sparktail's head and slammed into the Time Tripper. Shaymin and Sparktail exchanged glances nervously as Infernape's arm shot across his face to slam into Wave, sending the mudkip flying as well. "INSOLENCE!" screeched the Time Tripper. He turned around, only for Sparktail and Shaymin to hit him with lightning and an Air Slash at once. The infernape fell over. "Grarrrrr..." he groaned.
At once, the few Mofernos still conscious glanced up and looked around. "Oh my..."
"The boss was arrested!"
At once, the Time Tripper's gang fled the scenes, leaving Sparktail and Shaymin to heal up their comrades and escort their outlaw back to Treasure Town.
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 4 ~~~~
Sparktail and Thalia stood across the room from Officer Magnezone and two Magnemites who had the Time Tripper cuffed. Magnezone's lights flashed excitedly. "Team Retrievers! Bzzt! Unless I am very mistaken, you've brought us an outlaw! Bzzt! And I know this outlaw! Bzzt! It is the Time Tripper himself! Bzzt!"
"Yep," said Thalia, her tail wagging. "He's a vicious one. Careful."
A few hours later, in Spinda's Caf?...
"Are you serious? You guys went after them?" said Fluffycake, laughing his head off.
"We sure did," said Vulcan, swaying from side to side with a cup of totter seed tea. "Heck, I dunno if we would would have caught that... hee hee, the Tripper!" He fell over laughing.
"*Indeeeeeeeed*" sang Sir Tane, who leapt onto their table and began to dance.
"Not again!" cried Spinda, running towards the drunk absol. "I told you already, only I may stand on my tables!"
Around this time, Sparktail glanced at Thalia, who was staring off into space. "Eh, Thalia... what's on your mind?"
"What's on my mind?" echoed Thalia. "Well... I'm just thinking about our adventures through the Hidden Land." Thalia turned around and looked at Sparktail."Good times, eh?"
Sparktail nodded. "Yeah... good times."
Thalia turned around, smiling at Sparktail. "You know, it feels like those events happened a long time ago..."
Sparktail thought about it. "You're right... hee hee, I guess we've been really busy." He and Thalia laughed together.
"My fires... shall burn on..." whispered Infernape as he lay in his jail cell. "And the fool's tent shall be gone..."
"Silence," growled a voice in the darkness. A chill ran down the Time Tripper's spine as he looked beyond the bars of his cell. Two malicious red eyes, burning with bloodlust and a violent joy. Two curved horns, each curved like the crescent moon, each on either side of the face's head. A dark red muzzle which held command over fire and death...
"You must be Night Fury," said Infernape, eyeing the bronze staff in the houndoom's jaws. "You took the staff. Does this mean that you have accepted my alliance?"
The Houndoom chuckled nastily. "Us, allies? You have no army and no power, Tripper. You are a captive. So what, if you hate Wigglytuff more than I? You are an example of what happens to those who defy the pink fool. I have no record with the police force. I should let you rot here like the scum you are." He laughed.
To the Houndoom's surprise, the Time Tripper laughed as well. He clutched the bars and bent close to Night Fury's face. "This was a part of the plan, fool. I am an outlaw! I could not possibly approach Treasure Town on my own... don't you know the old saying amongst the police?"
Night Fury rolled his eyes and sighed. "'No outlaw shall ever enter Treasure Town, except in handcuffs.'" He then added, "But you know the other half of the saying, right? 'And no outlaw shall ever escape Treasure Town, except as a dead body.' Is that what you want for both of us? You want us both dead? You can always wait for your execution."
Infernape's face twisted into a snarl. Night Fury turned away and walked off. "Heh. Give me a reason to join forces with you, and I will."
"Stop!" shouted Infernape.
Night Fury halted in midstride. "I'm listening."
"I have a plan, fool. I am the strategist. You are the stronger of us, but I am the more intelligent! Now listen carefully to my plan..."
"For the love of Celebi, this monkey is insane," muttered Night Fury as he walked up the cliff's sloping path. The Houndoom came to a large outcropping of stone, where the Time Tripper's gang of monfernos waited anxiously. Beside the monkeys were Big Boss Torterra and his grotles, and then King Cahdril the empoleon and his prinplups. Torterra approached Night Fury. "Well, houndoom, what does the clown want?"
Night Fury glanced around nervously and gulped, his voice escaping him. The bronze staff fell from his mouth, he shivered. Together, Infernape, Torterra, and Empoleon were the three most wanted pokemon in the land. Cahdril glared at Night Fury and clapped his fins upon the houndoom's neck and lifted him into the air. The king bellowed, "You, dog! Tell us the Time Tripper's plan!"
Night Fury croaked, "He... agreed... to... your... idea."
"Excellent," said Cahdril coldly, releasing Night Fury. With a signal to his troops, he and the prinplups all dove into the ocean.
"And what of us, Night?" asked Big Boss snidely,
"He said... to attack from the south," gasped Night Fury, trying to regain his breath.
The torterra turned to face the grotles. "You heard him! Let's go!" Big Boss and his gang marched up the sloping path.
Night Fury slowly got to his feet. Looking at the Monfernos, he asked, "Which one of you is Captain Propane?"
"That'd be me," said Propane, bounding forward. "What does our leader have to say for us?"
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 5: Outlaw Invasion ~~~~
Sparktail bolted upright in his coarse straw bed. Something in the air unsettled the pikachu, prickling at him like a sandslash's back.
Sparktail walked over to the edge of the cavern, and stared out towards the navy blue blanket of the night sky, a few pinpricks of light glittering in the sky's fabric. A rippling, smooth canvas of ocean mirrored the sheets of evening as a full moon ascended into the heavens, the light shining from it not of its own. Sparktail inhaled the salty air, the slightest hint of ocean spray in the oxygen he breathed. It was refreshing... and yet still unsettling. "Something's still wrong," murmured Sparktail. "But what?"
He looked around. "I disappeared once from this world, because it was not my own. But what happened that day, when time whisked me away? How did I return, and why?"
Suddenly, Sparktail heard the sound of gravel tumbling down the cliff's slopes. His eyes widened. Holding tightly onto one of Sharpedo Bluff's "teeth," the Pikachu peered down the cliff of his home.
Sparktail's heart began to beat frantically. Climbing up the slopes was a massive gang of Prinplups, with an Empoleon in the lead. "Oh my..." he breathed. Sparktail got up and ran over to Thalia. "Thalia! Thalia, the town's under attack!" he yelled as he shook the Eevee awake.
Thalia's eyes opened. "Mm... Sparktail?" She glanced out towards the oceans. "Gosh, Sparktail, it's still dark outside."
"I know! But treasure town is about to be attacked!" repeated Sparktail.
Thalia leapt up, her drowsiness gone. "What?!" She ran over to the wall and grabbed the explorer bag. "Oh, Arceus, no... then there's no time to lose!" Sparktail and Thalia sprinted towards the entrance, up the steps, and out of the cave.
Three outlaws were preparing to launch their attack upon Treasure Town. Atop Sharpedo Bluff, King Cahdril and his soldiers stood in perfect formation as they looked down towards the sleeping village. On the other side of Treasure Town, Big Boss Torterra and his grotles halted as they entered the main square. Up on the guild's hill, Night Fury and Captain Propane led the Time Tripper's gang to the front gate of Wigglytuff's Exploration Guild.
"The town is up ahead," cried Cahdril to his minions. "Tonight, we shall assume our rightful rule over the oceans forever."
"The explorer teams shall forever be trampled beneath our feet, and the lands shall be ours," spat Big Boss Torterra.
"Tonight, the guild shall be destroyed once and for all, under orders of the Time Tripper," growled Night Fury.
"Tonight, Treasure Town shall fall!" declared the three at once. "Attack!"
Wave awoke abruptly to the sounds of shouts and screams, and cries for help. His eyes shot open in horror, and the mudkip ran out of his leather tent.
Outside, the central plaza of Treasure Town was packed with grotles stampeding through the town. All around Rush were the furious roars of Torterra and his grotles, sending barrages of seed bombs smashing into tents and windows. The ground shook with countless earthquakes. Massive trees shot up from the ground and collapsed on tents and pokemon alike. Pokemon after pokemon fled their tents, screaming and yelling as energy balls smashed into every structure around them, sending them toppling over.
The other side of town had erupted into just as much pandemonium. Prinplups and sharpedoes bashed into tents and barricades and structures, destroying all they saw. Vulcan and Fluffycake awoke to find the trident of Cahdril himself bearing down upon them.
Suddenly, a Prinplup gave a shriek of pain as Sparktail zapped him from behind. Sparktail and Thalia leapt over heads and under legs, striking with wideslashes at every prinplup. A ponyta whinnied in triumph as it ran into the town with a bellsprout on its back, lighting as many grotles around it on fire. As Torterra was about to slam a heavy tree into a sandslash, a scyther and a zangoose leapt out from behind several bushes and slashed at Torterra furiously. One by one, explorers throughout the town took their stances and joined the battle.
Captain Propane and the monfernos and mankeys surrounded the tent. "Fire on my count," whispered Propane. "One... two..."
"Stop!" hissed Night Fury, tackling Propane. "You fool, don't you know about Wigglytuff's security system?"
"Say what?" said Propane, annoyed. "We burn the tent, then we burn the guild. It's that simple!"
"Quiet," said Night Fury. "Which of us has been in here before? That, you idiot, would be me." He stared at the the tent. "There is a metal ring coated with flammable oil on the inside of this tent. This oil burns up quickly, too quickly for the tent to catch. There is a trail of this oil which will trigger the guild's alarm, and awaken everyone inside! Do not burn the tent... yet."
Propane glared at the Houndoom. "Now you listen! I am the second-in-command of the Time Tripper's gang, second only to Infernape himself! No one talks to me like that!"
Night Fury clamped his jaws on the monferno's arm, and Propane gave a squeal of pain. "Now you listen, you idiot," said Night Fury. "You can't get into the guild that way. As I'm accompanying you, I refuse to be captured with you... rabble."
"So what's your plan, hm?" Propane snarled.
The Houndoom stepped back to stand by the gatekeepers' grate. "Listen carefully, and we'll get out of this safely," hissed the Houndoom. He motioned to two Monfernos with his head to lift the grate. The two Monfernos tenatively obeyed. Night Fury looked around, and then leapt down the hole.
"Now whuu, jest whuu da you think yau are?" croaked Big Boss Toterra. Sparktail stared defiantly into the eyes of the Torterra. "We're explorers! We don't give up! You chose the wrong town to attack, Big Boss!" He swung around, slamming his tail into the Toterra's head.
"Insolent fool!" roared Big Boss. Two Grotles on either side of Big Boss leapt at Sparktail, who slid under Big Boss to avoid the attackers. The pikachu quickly whirled around and struck all three with a thunderbolt.
"Gughh! No lighting ever did dat before!" croaked Torterra, whose eyes bulged as the lighting coursed through his body. He turned around. "Okay kid, playtime's-"
"-has just begun, yes it has!" called a Wurmple as it shot a signal beam at Torterra from a Swellow's back. The Swellow did a barrel roll as a hydro pump shot from a prinplup's mouth. An energy ball flew at the prinplup from Shaymin as she joined the fight.
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 6: Attack on the Guild ~~~~
The Time Tripper's eyes flew open in the bleak darkness of the prison, hearing the sounds of bloodshed in the town above him. He saw none other than Captain Propane running towards his cell. "Excellent work, Captain," whispered the Time Tripper. "I trust that everything is going according to plan?"
Propane nodded. "Yes, sir. The attack on the town is going smoothly. Cahdril and Big Boss have launched their attacks."
The Time Tripper gave a malicious grin. "Excellent. I knew, captain, that I could count on you." Together, the two monkeys melted the iron bars of the Time Tripper's cell. Then together, they fled the prison.
"Attack! Attack! Attack!" screeched Chatot, flying around the guild's bottom floor in a panic as Monfernos and Mankeys wreaked havoc around him. "The guild is under attack!"
Throughout the guild, doors flew open as apprentices stampeded into the main hall. Sunflora, Corphish, Croagunk, Loudred, Diglett, Dugtrio, Chimecho, and Bidoof all came running at Chatot's cry.
"What on earth?!" bellowed Loudred. "Sentry Diglett, HOW on EARTH did ALL THESE INTRUDERS GET IN HERE?"
"Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" cried Sunflora, running around in panicked circles. "We're under attack!"
"Yup yup, someone seems to have left the gate open," piped up Bidoof.
"Well it sure wasn't me," called Diglett indignantly. "I didn't see anything at all-"
"Cut the crap!" yelled Chatot, ducking a foul 'fireball' hurled by a Monferno. "Snap to it! Fight to defend your guild!"
"Yup yup, I'm doomed," gulped Bidoof as four Mankeys surrounded him, forcing him into a corner.
"I'm here to save the day!" sang Chimecho, flying at a Monferno beating up Loudred. A Mankey tackled her to the floor.
"AHHHHHHHHH!" screamed Sunflora, still running around the room, her leaves now on fire. "OH MY GOSH! OH MY GOSH!"
"Yooooooom-TAH!" called Guildmaster Wigglytuff, his door flying open and knocking over a pair of Monfernos. Grabbing a Primeape and throwing him out the window, Wigglytuff said, "Oh friends, we seem to have left the door unlocked! Now, you new people are mean! Can't we just be friends?"
"That's enough out of you," spat the Time Tripper as he and Propane landed at the foot of the ladder. Clutching his bronze staff, the Time Tripper sprang at Wigglytuff. Locked in a fierce embrace, the two pokemon tumbled head over tail into Wigglytuff's private chamber.
Infernape leapt back and away from Wigglytuff. He slammed the door shut, securing its bolt. The Time Tripper struck Wigglytuff in the head with his staff, ducking a mega punch from the guildmaster. He grabbed Wigglytuff's arm, slipping under and behind Wigglytuff. Wigglytuff slammed his arms back in an attempt to grab Infernape, but the Time Tripper had already nimbly leapt over Wigglytuff and punched him in the gut.
Wigglytuff doubled over. "Agh, I remember you, outlaw! You're that Monferno who-"
"The one you arrested when you first began your exploration career? Yes," said Time Tripper viciously, dealing three sucessive fire punches to Wigglytuff. "You destroyed my life, Wigglytuff. I spent thirty years in the Shade Cavern Penitentiary because of you. And tonight, I take my revenge." He kicked Wigglytuff harshly in his side several more times. Each time, Wigglytuff let out a groan of pain, shaking more than the last. Soon, the Guildmaster was reduced to a moaning, quivering pink mound of fur. "Had enough, Guildmaster?" taunted Time Tripper. "I'm afraid your health is low."
"STOP!" yelled two voices in unison. Infernape froze and raised his head. Outside, Chatot and the apprentices were still unsuccessively attempting to break down the door. He looked around the room for the source of the yell. "Who's there?!"
"We are!" shouted the two mingled voices. Two bursts of light flashed in the room as a Gallade and a Gardevoir appeared in the room. "Gallade of Team Raiders! Gardevoir of Team Charm! Together... the Epsilon Twins!"
"Oh, CRAP!" spat Infernape furiously as the two well-known explorers raised their hands at him to unleash a double Psychic attack. He leapt over their heads and out the window.
"Oh CRAP!" yelled Time Tripper, his voice growing louder as he approached the window. Below the window, on the sloping path leading to the Treasure Town overnight jail cells, Night Fury opened one eye and got to his paws. He positioned himself directly below the window, bracing himself.
The Time Tripper leapt out of the window, fell about twenty feet, and landed smoothly on Night Fury's back. As soon as the Infernape landed, Night Fury howled and charged up the sloping path towards Treasure Town. "So how was the reunion with your first captor?" snickered Night Fury.
"It was... heartwarming," hissed the Time Tripper. "Unfortunately, he's not quite dead yet."
Meanwhile, Night Fury's howl carried to the Monfernos and the Mankeys in the guild. At once, Propane whistled and led them all up the ladders and out the front gate, leaving behind Chatot and the apprentices thoroughly beaten.
"You see, I don't like outlaws," called Sparktail, firing a thunderbolt at Cahdril.
"Hah!" snorted Big Boss. "And what separates us 'outlaws' from yew 'explorers?' Not much, hah!"
"We're the police force, the peacekeepers," whinned Ponyta of Team Vulcan as she bathed Big Boss in flames.
"Police force, my arse," sneered Cahdril, ducking a magical leaf from Shaymin. "And just who precisely made laws in question that you defend?"
"All that matters," declared Sir Tane, slashing at a Grotle, "is that YOU don't follow them!"
Wave's eyes lit up. This was his chance... his chance to prove himself at last! He leapt at Big Boss, and fired an Ice Beam at the Torterra. "Gahhhh!" roared Big Boss, collapsing to the ground.
"Silence!" shouted a dark and hateful voice. All of them froze as Night Fury charged into the center of the town with the Time Tripper on his back and a long procession of Monfernos and Mankeys following after.
The Time Tripper leapt off of Night Fury's back, approaching Sparktail. Sparktail looked around, realizing that he was now facing the true ringleader of this entire attack. "So, Time Tripper," said Sparktail firmly. "You're behind this."
"Indeed I am, rat," said Infernape, the staff clenched tightly in his hands. All of the Pokemon, villagers and outlaws alike, stared at Infernape, Empoleon, Torterra, and Night Fury. "Foolish explorers," sneered Infernape. "You enter other the homes of countless other Pokemon, beating them into a pulp and pillaging their belongings- all under the guise of 'exploration'. And you think by any means that you are better than us?!" The last statement was a yell of fury, a shout of anger. "We of the wild too have our governments, our police forces and jails, our libraries and our schools, and our exploration teams. Yet our teams are gangs, our jails are 'abductors', and our libraries and schools are treasure troves to be plundered?!" He lowered the staff at Sparktail. "Sparktail! The only difference between us lies in that of our species!"
All of the Pokemon gasped at this outrageous statement, knowing who Sparktail was really, and of the sacrifices he had made to stop the destruction of time. Yet Sparktail was unfazed by Infernape's words. "Time Tripper, you know all too well, that many explorers have been arrested as outlaws. Explorers are not above the law, any more than anyone else is. But what crimes, really, are punishable by prison? Only those outside the dungeons, in the places of safety: extortion, preying on the helpless, conspiracy, and above all..." He pointed at the Time Tripper. "Murder."
The Time Tripper snarled and lunged at Sparktail, who darted aside and shot a Hidden Power Water into the Infernape's head. Infernape thrust his staff at Sparktail, knocking the Pikachu flying four feet back to land neatly on his paws. Infernape swept at him with the staff as Sparktail rose to his feet, forcing him to duck and roll aside. He fired a thunderbolt at the tip of the staff to electrocute the Time Tripper once more. Sparktail ducked another strike from the staff, and then threw a blast seed at Infernape. As the Blast Seeed exploded, Infernape fell back, shrieking in pain, collapsing onto the ground.
All of the villagers closed in on Infernape. Wave stared as Sparktail and Thalia stepped forward towards the fiery monkey. "Infernape!" declared Sparktail. "Tonight, you shall be brought to justice once and for-"
"I don't think so," snarled Night Fury, leaping over the crowd and lunging at Sparktail. Sparktail's eyes widened in shock as the Houndoom tackled him, the force of the dog's leap propelling them both back through the air. They rolled over and over, kicking and biting and clawing as they struggled. Then, as Wave stared in horror, the pair tumbled over the edge of the cliff, and down towards the churning oceans below.
"SPARKTAIL! NO!" yelled Thalia, leaping up and sprinting towards the cliff where the two vanished. Villagers and outlaws alike, the horrified multitude joined the horrified Eevee at the edge of Sharpedo Bluff. They stared down the face of the cliff towards the falling Pokemon below, a terrified expression on Sparktail's face. Night Fury gave a furious roar, and a black hexagon with glowing white edges appeared beneath them. Sparktail and Night Fury fell into the hexagon, and then the hexagon vanished into the wind.
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 7: Grief ~~~~
Note to self: Change Vulcan's name to Vulcan
Treasure Town lay in shambles. Houses and buildings were smashed in and upturned, burned and broken. The bodies of the victims were stacked high up against the old barricades which once ringed the town, and the ground was torn up in countless places. Thalia stared numbly in horror at the ravaged village around her, the wounded and pained faces of the injured, the ashen pale faces of the barely conscious. Standing in a circle around her were the other members of Team Retrievers: Tane, Vulcan, Shaymin, Manaphy, and Wave. She closed her eyes, a powerful wave of grief rippling through her body. Sparktail was gone, taken from her yet again. Tears gushed forth from her eyes, soaking the brown fur on her cheeks. They'd been through so many adventures together, and now, when she believed they woud never be separated again... Sparktail was gone. "Why, Sparktail?" sobbed Thalia. "Why again?"
Sir Tane closed his eyes, his grey face solemn and quiet. His head was bowed towards the ground, the flat of his horn parallel to the earth. Sir Tane remembered sorrowfully that fateful day when Thalia returned alone from Temporal Tower, her tail limp and her eyes downcast. He and the other Retrievers had stared, bewildered, as Thalia trudged away from the beach, towards the guild. And it was only then that he had known that Sparktail was gone.
"Sparktail," murmured Manaphy. "Whever you are, I hope that you're safe." The Seafarer blinked and closed her eyes, remembering the Pikachu who found her as an egg in the Surrounded Sea, who raised her as if she were his own child, and who accepted her into his team.
Next to Manaphy, Shaymin's nose twitched sadly. She recalled how Sparktail, Thalia, and Sir Tane had arrived in Shaymin Village one morning, seeking a guide to the top of Sky Peak. She remembered how Team Retrievers had seemed different from the other explorer teams, more confident and likely to reach the top. Shaymin recalled how she led them up the mountain which her kind considered sacred, the skirmishes against the various Pokemon who took up residence in the interlude camps. Most of all, she could remember how she and Team Retrievers were the very first to climb to the very top of Sky Peak in two centuries.
Next to Shaymin stood Wave the timid Mudkip, youngest of all the Retrievers. The world seemed to have become a darker and more terrible place in his eyes, no longer friendly and inviting, the thrill of adventure no longer exciting. Wave's head fin waved from side to side, his mouth twitching. He stared blankly off into the distance, no longer sure of what was right and what was wrong. His heart beat steadily against his ribcage, and Wave felt more aware of his surroundings. He felt fragile and mortal, the world around him filled with danger.
Wave sighed lamentedly. He'd done what he thought was the best decision for him, the choice to join an exploration team. When he first joined Team Retrievers, Wave had felt that he was in control of his life at last. Despite the fact that most of his teammates disliked him, Wave felt... noticed. He was significant, a person who could others' lives. Wave knew that eventually, he just might come to earn some level of respect, even if it was a long and arduous journey to achieve that goal. And yet, there was something in the workings of the world that caused his newfound luck to turn upon him.
The only one who might have respected Wave was his leader. Sparktail listened to Wave's complaints, showing concern- or at least the illusion of concern- for the young Mudkip's issues. When there were issue, Sparktail stepped in and intervened with the jockish bullies in Team Retrievers. And now that Sparktail was gone, how would Wave be able to get along with them? "What if they abandon me halfway through an exploration, with no food or water?" thought Wave worriedly. "What if they tie me to a tree and leave me out for the mightyenas?" He gave another sad sigh as he stared at the ground from beside Manaphy. Being a Retriever had been a wonderful experience for Wave. He'd become self-confident, braver, and stronger in his time with the team. But now, it seemed there was no place for him in Team Retrievers, not without Sparktail. The Mudkip got up onto his paws, knowing that there was only one thing that he could do now for the good of the team: to quit Team Retrievers forever. Wave approached Thalia warily, and opened his mouth to tell her that he was resigning.
And then it hit him that Thalia was crying. Wave froze in place, stunned to see the normally strong-willed Eevee sobbing, tears gushing freely from her sapphire-blue eyes of sorrow. The mudkip looked around, his eyes flickering to each of his teammates, stunned to see such levels of emotion displayed by the same Pokemon who scorned and teased him- Sir Tane, Thalia, Shaymin, Manaphy, Fluffycake, and even Vulcan. Their eyes brimmed with grief more deeply than any other Pokemon Wave had ever seen, their fur disheveled and distraught. For the first time, Wave was able to see his teammates as fellow Pokemon, Pokemon with emotions and thoughts and feelings like himself. 'I can't quit now,' realized Wave. 'The entire team was shaken by Sparktail's disappearance. It's unstable now, and if anyone leaves, the team will collapse...'
"We can't just stay here," said Manaphy suddenly, drawing the startled stares of all her teammates. The bright-eyed Seafarer continued, "Look at all of us now, cowering in fear like a swarm of Dunsparces. If the Time Tripper could see us now, he'd be cackling! Is this the way Sparktail would want to be remembered, with mourning and weeping?"
"I know what you're trying to say, Manaphy," said Thalia uncertainly, her head still bowed. "He'd want us to keep Team Retrievers alive... but-"
"Of course Team Retrievers will keep going, Thalia," said Vulcan adamantly. "Even without Sparktail, we can keep the team alive. YOU can keep it alive."
"But that's just the problem," said Thalia, raising her head to stare at the other Retrievers who stared back at her with alarmed expressions. "Sparktail was the one who bound us together into cooperation, who encouraged us to reach for success time and time again, and who kept us going in the face of defeat. How will we keep the team going without him?"
"Thalia," said Sir Tane firmly. "Remember what Sparktail was once like. Once, he was no more of a leader than any of us. But over time, he grew into one of the best leaders of any exploration team in the world! I have no doubt, Thalia, that you can become as good of a leader in your own right."
When Thalia did not reply, Shaymin stepped forward towards her. "Thalia, forgive me if this sounds harsh," said Shaymin. "Sparktail was only one Pokemon. He might have been the leader who unlocked our potential, but we still have that potential in ourselves. We are still Team Retrievers, and we can survive." Fluffycake and Wave nodded in unison.
"Sh-Shaymin," said Thalia softly, her eyes beginning to well up with tears again. "Tane... Manaphy... Vulcan... Fluffy... Wave... Th-thank you..." The Eevee shook her head and dried the tears from her eyes. "You're right! We can't stay here, moping around like this! We've got a team to manage!" declared Thalia, leaping up with a cofident expression on her face. "Calling all Retrivers! Calling all Retrievers to the guild!"
"Thalia!" exclaimed Shaymin happily, her eyes brightening as she ran after Thalia. "That's the Thalia we all know and love!"
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers - Chapter 8: Ramblings of Insanity ~~~~
As Thalia and the other Retrievers made their way up the stone steps towards the top of the cliff where Wigglytuff's Guild stood, they found the entire hilltop packed with townspeople and guild apprentices, a massive crowd gathered around some unknown speaker. Giving Shaymin a confused glance, Thalia left the other Retrievers behind and made her way through the crowd towards the Pokemon who had the town's attention to see Police Chief Metagross standing proudly in the guild entrance. Three Magnezones hovered in midair in a row in front of the Metagross, each holding one of the three outlaws who had led the attack on Treasure Town the previous evening. On the Metagross' left was 'Big Boss' Torterra, on his right was King Cahdril, and in front was the Time Tripper himself, his eyes narrowed and his teeth gritted in anger at his imprisonment. A few feet off stood Guildmaster Wigglytuff, heavily bandaged and on crutches, with Deputy Chatot perched on a rock beside him. The Metagross rumbled, "Pokemon of Treasure Town, these three criminals you see before you here and now have been arrested for crimes aginst the state, highest treason, attempted rebellion, attempted murder, conspiracy, and endangering the public. For their crimes, they have been sentenced to twenty years of imprisonment." The Metagross paused to hear the roar of cheers and applause from the crowd around him. "It is thanks to you, the Pokemon of the town, that we were able to capture these dangerous outlaws, and prevent them from fulfilling their takeover last night. Tomorrow morning, they will be shipped to Hydrocave Penitentiary and placed in maximum security. As Chief of Police, I will personally see to it that these scoundrels are under tight guard tonight until daybreak. This concludes our message. Thank you, and have a good day."
"Huzzah!" cheered the crowd as Chief Metagross slowly turned around and lumbered into the guild, Thalia and the Retrievers loudest in their applause. Torterra, Infernape, and Empoleon all scowled and hissed at the crowd furiously, making useless attempts to struggle out of the three Magnezones' grasps.
Deputy Guildmaster Chatot hopped down from his perch and walked over to stand on the gatekeepers' grate. Facing the crowd as he flapped his wings, Chatot announced, "The attack has taken a great toll on the Guildmaster, and he is currently badly injured. However, I promise to you that the legacy he set down, the will to explore the unknown and to enforce the law, shall never come to an end." Chatot paused to take a deep breath, and then called out, "Guild apprentices, let's get to work!"
"Hooray!" chimed the voices of the guild apprentices in unison. Thalia and the rest of the crowd looked around for the sounds of the apprentices' voices as Bidoof, Sunflora, Loudred, Corphish, Diglett, Dugtrio, and Chimecho emerged from the crowd and proceeded into the guild, followed closely by Chatot and the crippled Wigglytuff. Thaliia gave a grim smile as she watched the Magnezones drag the three outlaws off towards the sloping ledge which led down towards the town jail. "I guess... there still is justice in the world," said Thalia distantly as shopkeepers and villagers turned around and headed down the hill to return to town, the other Retrievers rejoining her side.
"Don't think this is over," snarled the Time Tripper, whipping his head around to glare at the remaining townspeople as he was led off, his voice echoing across the hilltop. "Night Fury shall return soon to avenge us and set us free! Mark my words!"
At the sound of the Infernape's words, Thalia froze in horror. "Night Fury... isn't he that Houndoom?" uttered Thalia faintly as the Magnezones led the Time Tripper away and out of sight. She stumbled back, her knees weakening in shock. "He... he can't be alive. He and Sparktail both fell off of Sharpedo Bluff to their deaths last night... he can't be alive!"
"Don't let him worry you, Thalia," said Shaymin gently. "No Houndoom can fall off a cliff, land in the ocean, and possibly survive. Night Fury's body is floating somewhere in the ocean by now... The Time Tripper's just trying to get to you."
Thalia ignored Shaymin, lost in her own thoughts. Night Fury had surely been working with the three outlaws all along. Of all the Pokemon who had been a part of the attack, only Night Fury had been outside of the three outlaws' gangs. Who and what was Night Fury? Why had the Houndoom been a part of the attack in the first place, and what connection did he have with the Time Tripper? Was there some chance in the world that Night Fury might still be alive?
"Thalia," said Shaymin, her blue eyes filled with concern as she waved a paw in front of Thalia's eyes. The Eevee sighed and looked away, trying to gather her thoughts together. If there was the slightest possibility that Night Fury was alive, then she would have to know.
Because, if Night Fury still lived, then so did Sparktail.
Thalia padded down the sloping ledge path which led down towards the town jail beneath the guild's cliff. A Feraligatr with his police badge on a metal necklace blocked the way to the cellblock, clutching the Time Tripper's bronze staff tightly as he gazed down at Thalia warily. "Entry to the jail is forbidden beyond this point," said the Feraligatr curtly, adjusting his police officer's cap as Thalia approached him.
"I want to talk to the Time Tripper," said the Eevee defiantly, her fur bristling with anxiety.
The Feraligatr sighed. "Miss, I'm guessing that the Time Tripper has done some sort of personal wrong to you," said the guard. "But we can't let in every criminal's victim so they can get even with them. What justice is in that?"
"You don't understand," said Thalia through gritted teeth. "I need to talk to the Time Tripper. He knows something..."
"An interrogation, is that it," said the Feraligatr skeptically, letting out another sigh. "Well... if that's the case, miss, then I'm going to have to see your explorer badge before I let you inside." Thalia nodded and took the Team Retrievers' crest from her bag, and handed it to the guard.
The guard examined the badge, and his eyes filled with sorrow as he saw the word Retrievers engraved upon the crest. "I understand now, Thalia," said the guard gently, handing the badge back. "The Time Tripper... he's in the third cell on the right. I hope you find Sparktail... he was a good Pokemon."
"T-thank you," replied Thalia, her voice trembling with emotion as the guard stepped aside, allowing her to pass. The Eevee placed the explorer badge in her bag, and then continued down the path towards the jail, her fur slowly relaxing.
She made her way to the cave entrance in the side of the cliff and proceeded into the cellblock within the chamber where the three outlaws were locked up. Passing by the sleeping prisoners in their cells, Thalia halted at the third row and turned to her right to see the Time Tripper laying on the stone-cold floor of his cell. The Infernape yawned and stretched lazily with his head resting against the foot of the back wall, his eyes blinking open to stare at Thalia. "Don't think I don't know why you're in here," said the Infernape, his eyes seeming to bulge slightly as he slowly rose to his feet. "You're here because of the rat, who fell off the cliff with Night Fury." As he spoke, the Time Tripper stepped towards the firmly planted Eevee who stared willfully into his own fiery eyes. Thalia could see the thick orange veins on the old outlaw's eyes, and a shiver ran down her spine as she realized just how much the Infernape knew about her. "H-how do you know all this?" whispered Thalia, stepping back from the Time Tripper's cell as his claws curled around the iron bars.
"It's too obvious," growled the Time Tripper, his lips curling into a playful snarl as he gripped the bars of his cell tightly. "From the way you shrieked out with such horror at the rodent's fall, from the way your eyes lit up when I spoke of Night Fury's return... any fool could see that your heart burns with love!"
"Shut up!" yelled Thalia, her eyes wild and the blood in her veins flowing hotter than ever. The Eevee gritted her teeth and gave the Time Tripper an aggressive scowl. "Where's Night Fury?" asked the Eevee furiously, getting up onto her hind legs and placing her forepaws on the bars of the jail cell. "He's alive, isn't he? Where did he go?"
The Time Tripper let out a burst of laughter. "You have no idea who Night Fury is, do you," hissed the Infernape with an insane grin. "Night Fury has lived longer on this earth than any other Pokemon.Night Fur's a tricky sly dog, yes he is, ha hah!"
"So where is he now?" asked Thalia irritably, beginning to feel quite annoyed.
"You're such an impatient pup," said the Infernape with a mock stern air. "Back in my day-"
"Tell me where he is!" cried Thalia angrily, baring her teeth at the old villain.
"Hah ha! You know, that mouse is lucky to have such a spicy girl like you!"
"TELL ME WHERE HE IS, DAMN IT!" shrieked Thalia, the Time Tripper's words striking a raw nerve.
In an instant, the Time Tripper immediately stopped his laughter, his demeanor changed. He drew back from the bars of his cell and gave Thalia a savage grin, his eyes lit up with a nerve-rending joy. "Aha, now you feel the joy of bloodlust and violence coursing through your veins, do you. You know what it is like to feel wild, to be beyond all hope of control."
Thalia glared at the Time Tripper, and slowly forced herself to calm down. She took a few slow deep breaths and regained her composure. "You know where Night Fury is," said Thalia through gritted teeth, staring into the Time Tripper's eyes. "You've been in league with him all along, Time Tripper. Who is he?"
The Time Tripper snickered. "Aha, now you're ready to hear my out, are you now," said the Infernape, his torch-like hair gnarled and filthy. "You know, this isn't the first time the town's been attacked by three outlaws... heh heh... it's the fourth time, in fact!"
"The... fourth time?" echoed Thalia, confused. "And what does this have to do with Night Fury?"
"Ah ha! You'll have to meet him to figure that one out, pup," cackled the Time Tripper. "He's in the Concealed Ruins. Say hello to him for me!" Then he swung forward towards Thalia again, his eyes burning brightly from behind the iron bars. "Hah! But how do you know he's even alive?" said the Time Tripper, his teeth bared as he tilted his head sideways, sending shudders down Thalia's spine. "I have connections, you know," hissed the outlaw. "For all you know, I could be sending you into a death trap, miss 'Thalia of Retrievers.' Hoh hoh! Why ask me? It's a trap, ha!"
"Why protect Night Fury?" pointed out Thalia, mustering all her courage. "I've been to the Concealed Ruins before. Either he's there or he's not. And you're the only one who knows where he is. Why protect him, when he runs free, and you're in jail?"
The Time Tripper let out a deranged cackle. "Oho, you're too smart for me," smirked the Infernape, stepping back and leaning against the back wall of his cell. "Too brilliant, heh heh! You should earn a medal! Now shoo, the nasty old outlaw has some plotting to do, and you have a horned mutt to chat up. Say hello to Night Fury for me!" Thalia hesitated, slightly unnerved by the Infernape's words, and then slowly padded off and out of the jail. The Time Tripper let a smirk grow across his face. "If you ever come back, that is... hah hah!"
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 9 ~~~~
Wave made his way down the dirt path which sloped down from Treasure Town towards the beach, the tall trees looming high above him on either side of the trail. The Mudkip's orange cheeks twitched as he padded past the place where the forest thinned out and came to an end, glancing up towards the starry skies high above him. Out of the corner of his eye, Wave could see the candlelights of the sleeping Treasure Town, the warm and cheery lanterns of Spinda's Cafe where the other Retrievers were still gathered. Pausing for the briefest moment to imagine the lively activity within the team's favorite haunt. From the shadows of the lantern light, Wave could visualise a drunk Vulcan dancing on a tabletop while Fluffycake and Tane rolled around on the floor with laughter, Shaymin and Wynaut applauding Vulcan's dancing. He reflected vaguely that his teammates had seemed, if not friendly towards him, then at least polite today during their missions. Today had been a simple trot through Mystifying Woods and nothing more, none of his usual blunders to remind the others that he was still a rookie in a way. Maybe, just maybe, I'm not a rookie anymore,
thought Wave. Wait... no... it was only a few days ago that I was screwing up, right? But maybe... maybe I changed after Sparktail's death... we all did, in a way.
Wave shook his head to clear his thoughts. This wasn't why he came down to the beach at all. He had to stay focused tonight, or he would ruin all his hopes and dreams in an instant. Earlier tonight, as Team Retrievers rested and relaxed in Spinda's Cafe like usual, Wave had noticed Manaphy slipping out the door of the cafe, floating up the wooden steps which led up towards the surface and off towards the beach. At once, the Mudkip's heart had leapt with opportunity. It would just be him and Manaphy, just the two of them on the beach together... the perfect opportunity to ask her out. Driven by an impulse, Wave had gotten up and followed Manaphy down to the beach. Watching the beautiful Seafarer who now gazed far out to sea from the edge of the beach, Wave mustered all of his courage and approached the fellow Retriever.
"Manaphy," called the Mudkip softly, his heart racing as every pawstep brought him closer to the girl of his dreams. Manaphy let out a small gasp of surprise and whirled around to face the approaching Wave with startled eyes. "Oh... hey Wave, um, I didn't see you there," said Manaphy, her cheeks slowly taking on the slightest tint of red, the surprise evaporating from her eyes as she recognized Wave. "So... uh... what did you want to talk to me about?"
Wave gazed deep into the Seafarer's sapphire-blue eyes which were adorned with golden eyelashes, the red oval gemstone on her chest, the two long locks of hair which swayed in the evening ocean breeze like tails. She was just so beautiful, so wonderful, so polite... "Um... well, the truth is, Manaphy," began Wave nervously. "I've wanted to say for a long time that... I'm in love with you."
[cue: FFCC Ring of Fates, Tower of Destruction
Thalia looked around nervously as she hurried through the now-empty town square of Treasure Town, her eyes flicking around nervously for signs of life. Stepping lightly but quickly, the Eevee made her way across the bridge which connected the two halves of the town, finally coming to a stop in front of the Kecleon Market. Her heart pounding in terror at the thoughts of what she was about to do, Thalia leapt up onto the shop's counter and scanned the rows of wooden shelves and cabinets lining the back wall of the thick canvas tent. Thalia's eyes flicked to the labels on each of the drawers and compartments, her tongue silently pronouncing the names of each catagory. Orbs. Ribbons. Keys. TMs. Seeds. Berries. Apples. Boxes. Stones. Gummis. Gritting her teeth, Thalia leapt down from the counter and approached the drawer marked "Reviver Seeds". Pulling the drawer open with her jaws, the Eevee reached a paw into the explorer bag which she wore and took out five Reviser Seeds. Laying the Reviser Seeds on the ground, Thalia reached into the drawer and took out five Reviver Seeds, placing them in her bag. "And those cheapskates only put up ten items for sale each day," muttered Thalia under her breath as she placed the Reviser Seeds in the Reviver Seed drawer. "At any rate, this should keep the Kecleon brothers from wondering why they're five seeds short."
She looked around the Kecleon brothers' wares, and then began to pull open the other drawers and compartments, one after another, whisking out scarves and supplies and orbs, her jaws clenched tightly as her paws dove into the shopkeepers' stores again and again, taking supplies into her leather bag. When at last she was done, the Eevee fastened her bag, hopped up onto the counter and down onto the ground, turned around towards the bridge, and sprinted off across the town towards the road which led out of town.
Shaymin laughed as she watched Vulcan dancing on the table, her laughter merry and cheerful as her grassy pelt rippled with vibrant green waves of life. Smirking as Spinda angrily grabbed at the Quilava's legs to yank him off the table, each attempt failing as Vulcan's legs darted in and out of the cafe proprietor's reach. "Nooooo, only I may dance," protested Spinda as he desperately grabbed at the explorer.
Still continuing to dance on the wooden surface, the Quilava glanced down at Shaymin with a mischievous grin. "Spinda seems kinda annoyed," commented the Quilava as he did a backflip and started a cossack dance. "Should I stop?"
"Nah, it's funny to watch him," said Shaymin, winking. "I'm sure if he was really angry, he'd kick us all out."
"Arrrrgh!" cried Spinda, clutching his head in frustration. He turned around and tottered over to a cardboard box which stood beside his counter, a gift from an exploration team returning from Dark Crater. Lifting the empty box upside-down over his head, the bear hid within the crate's depths. "Note to self, hire some woopers," muttered the Spinda, trembling on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Shaymin yawned and blinked drowsily. The festive air in the cafe seemed warm and stale, and the pink flowers adorning her forehead seemed to be drooping with sweat. "Aha... I'm going to go get some fresh air outside," said Shaymin sheepishly, getting to her paws.
"I think I'll come with you," said Tane as he got up, looking rather uncomfortable beneath his thick white coat of fur. The two exchanged amused glances as they made their way out of the cafe, up the steps, and out into the crossroads.
"Ahh, that's better," sighed Shaymin, taking a deep breath of the cool night air and ruffling out the grass fur on her back.
"I'm with you there," said Tane happily, laying down in the dirt and rolling over onto his back. "It's... so... refreshing..."
Suddenly, Shaymin detected the faintest echoes of Thalia's voice as the Eevee padded down the road which led out of Treasure Town. Immediately, Shaymin ducked low to the ground, giving Tane a silent but sharp look to do the same.. "I'm coming after you, Sparktail," called Thalia to the evening sky, a joyus gleam in the Eevee's eyes, wearing her the dragonskin explorer bag as she passed the watering hole and continued down the road. "Don't worry... I"ll come and find you!"
As their leader padded off into the distance and out of sight, Shaymin and Tane exchanged bewildered glances. "Where is Thalia going at this time of the night?" hissed Tane sharply, wide-eyed and his fur bristling. "This isn't good... she doesn't know what she's doing. What in Arceus' name is Thalia thinking?"
Shaymin gazed off down the road where Thalia had disappeared into the night. "I'm worried now," said Shaymin quietly, her sapphire-blue eyes filled with streaks of fear as she and Tane got to their feet. "We've got to go after her... and talk some sense into her before she kills herself." She reached a paw into the leather explorer bag on her shoulder and withdrew a pink flower with six petals that formed perfect triangular tips, and touched the tip of her nose to the stigma in the center of the Gracidea. There was a flash of brilliant light, and a whirlwind of pink-and-white petals engulfed Shaymin, transforming her into the canine-like Sky Forme. As the petals settled down in a circle around her, Shaymin glanced at Tane, adjusting her red scarf and twitching her wing-like ears. "Let's go," said Shaymin confidently. Tane nodded, and the two sprinted off down the road after Thalia, unaware that they would never see their leader again.
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 10 ~~~~
Note: School begins on Tuesday, so next chapter might be the last. Also, that's why I didn't do all 29 floors.
Shaymin stared at the entrance of the Concealed Ruins up ahead into which Thalia had disappeared, the doorway that had lain buried for unknown centuries before Thalia, Sparktail, and Team Charm had exposed the secrets of the Aegis Cave. She recalled how the ancient mechanical entity at the depths of Aegis Cave had awakened to Sparktail's aura, and caused the earthquake that forced up the cliff which now loomed high over her head, carrying with it an ancient buried trove of untold treasures. Since then, she and the other Retrievers had returned to the Concealed Ruins many times, carrying away immense piles of treasure each time, their wallets bursting with gold and their bags packed with loot.
Yet this time, no treasure would stray her from her quest, no pile of gold or silver, no long-lost amulet, no precious stone. She had to find Thalia, and bring her friend to her senses. For no ancient trove, no echoed lonely quest would bring back Sparktail from the depths of the oceans. Sparktail's death had shown Shaymin just how fragile life could be, and young Thalia could not afford to waste her lifetime amongst the dead. Glancing at Sir Tane beside her, Shaymin reflected vaguely that the only treasure that was worth bringing back was Thalia herself- a brave and true friend.
Some time later...
As her pawsteps traversed the all-too-familiar and yet paradoxically ever-changing hallways of the Concealed Ruins, her path bordered by numerous stagnant pools of water and half-collapsed walls, Thalia reflected on the odd phenomena that seemed to make so many mystery dungeons alike. The walls always seemed to follow a pattern, whether they were covered by tangles of roots, or intricate designs not unlike the Relic Fragment she had once carried, or formed of tightly packed and gnarled tree trunks. The hallways were always just wide enough for her and Sparktail to cross in a single-file line. Each chamber was always rectangular, and at least five yards long. Each dungeon's floor seemed to always have the same type of tiling in a single floor, and the stairs were always made of concrete, no matter what dungeon they were in. "It's almost... almost as if someone built this world for their own amusement," thought Thalia aloud as she entered a room, sidestepped a trap, and continued into the next passage. "It's like... like someone made the world to be uniform. And yet.. it's not symmetrical or perfect... and each dungeon changes each time someone travels through it. Are we Pokemon really in the self-sustaining world that we think we're in? Is there some being out there... someone who know what will happen, and changes that each time? Are we really free-willed beings, or are all our actions predetermined by an omnipotent entity?"
The Eevee stopped dead, trying to make sense of the ideas which were forming in her mind and then shook her head. "No... that can't be right," said Thalia to herself. "After all, Night Fury should be dead, and he's alive... I'll find him. I'll learn the truth of what happened that night when Treasure Town was attacked, and where Sparktail is now..." And that truth, that key piece of knowledge, would light joy in her heart far more than any plunder.
Some time later...
Shaymin and Tane glanced around nervously as they entered another room with root-tangled walls, their eyes scanning the walls and water-filled ditches in the walls' gaps. Shaymin adjusted her X-Ray Specs, the walls almost transparent before her deep blue eyes. "Any Enemy Pokemon seem to be too far off to catch up," commented the Retriever, glancing at Sir Tane. "I think we'll be good." The Absol nodded, and they continued down the passage.
Some time later...
Thalia descended down the staircase and came to a larger room with two passageways. As she approached the closer passage, a Loudred emerged from the far entrance and came towards her. The Eevee gritted her teeth and tackled the Pokemon as it drew close to her, which was followed by a quick retaliation blow to her leg. Wincing in pain, Thalia opened her mouth and sank her teeth into the Loudred's chest viciously.The Loudred let out a great booming yelp of pain, stumbled back, and vanished in a burst of golden light. Thalia took a deep breath, and continued onwards.
Some time later...
Sir Tane and Shaymin came to a larger room where a cross-shaped pool of water lay still in the center of the floor. An Umbreon stood by the edge of the pool, his head lowered to the surface of the pool as he drank. As Sir Tane entered the room, however, the Umbreon caught sight of them and began to approach the pair, his teeth bared in a sign of aggression. Shaymin glanced at Sir Tane and shot an Energy Ball into the Umbreon, striking its flank in a burst of green energy. The Umbreon gave a vicious hiss and lunged forward at Shaymin faster than her eyes could see, slamming into her with a quick attack. As his teammate gasped in pain, Sir Tane slashed his crescent hornblade across the Umbreon's shoulder, leaving a bright streak of light in the air along his blade's path as he dealt a critical hit. The Umbreon recoiled in pain, collapsed on the floor, and disappeared in a flash of light. With that, the two continued on through the dungeon after their friend.
Some time later...
As Thalia proceeded down yet another flight of stairs into the very last and lowest chamber of the Concealed Ruins, she could see the tall sillouette of a canine standing in the center of the great hall which was almost perfect in its symmetry, down to the shapes of the pools of stagnant waters and the cracks in the walls. The Pokemon had two large gnarled horns extending from its forehead, and three bone-white ridges gleamed from its back, a triangular arrowhead on the tip of its long black whiplike tail. Though the beast stood with its back to Thalia, it rose to its paws as she stepped down from the bottom step of the stairs, revealing the two ghostly-white bands around each of its four ankles. Her heart pounding wildly with anxiety, Thalia padded down the long hall towards Night Fury, both fearful and hopeful at once at the thought of facing the Pokemon who tumbled over the cliff with Sparktail.
"The fall from the cliff was the most perilous endeavor I ever undertook in all my years," growled Night Fury viciously as he turned around to face Thalia, revealing the infant's skull which hung on the deathly-pale bone collar adorning his neck, his fiery muzzle glowed faintly like coals in the cavern's shadows. The Houndoom's gaze burned with a hungry, consuming look as Thalia approached him, its tail flicking about from side to side. His voice echoed across the long chamber's decripid walls, and the echoes rolled like churning smoke in the Eevee's ears. As she drew close to the Houndoom, Thalia's eyes detected the mysterious symbol that had been traced into the chamber's floor, a five-pointed star in the center of which the Houndoom stood in the center. "Never before in my life have I tested my powers so freely against the forces of nature," continued the Houndoom, narrowing his eyes to blazing slits. "To cast myself into the realm of certain death the way I did is beyond anything I have ever done before." Night Fury locked eyes with Thalia, baring his teeth. "Who are you, and why did you search for me?" snarled the Houndoom, his voice rising in intensity.
"I came to find my partner Sparktail," said Thalia as she came to a stop less than a foot away from the bright orange muzzle, her fur bristling with anger at the Houndoom's seemingly uncaring attitude towards Sparktail. She gritted her teeth and drew back from Night Fury, glaring at the hellhound. "You and Sparktail both fell off of Sharpedo Bluff that night, but you survived! If you're here, then where's Sparktail?"
The Houndoom snorted at the indignant Eevee. "Sparktail? You want to know where he is, that rat?" scoffed Night Fury, throwing his head back towards the ceiling of the long hall with a howling laughter. "Oh, he is most certainly safe and sound!" thundered the Houndoom, his voice seeming to rumble with all the powers of the earth. "Sparktail is farther out of your reach than you could ever imagine, Thalia!" The Houndoom barked and whooped with a fiendish cackle.
"Where is he!?" cried Thalia desperately, horror and fury mingling in her throat. "WHAT DID YOU DO TO HIM?"
The Houndoom fell silent, and lowered his gaze to stare down at Thalia. "Tsk, tsk, little pup," said Night Fury sternly, shaking his head as he stepped towards Thalia, who backed away from her adversary in stunned anger. "Someone needs a lesson in obedience, I think," hissed the Houndoom, narrowing his eyes as a vicious grin spread across his fiery muzzle, still advancing upon Thalia. "I have lived longer than you can possibly imagine... I shall not be slain by a foolhardy rodent or a anger-blinded tanuki pup! I am Night Fury, and I am Death itself..." The dog's muscles rippled beneath his jet-black fur, and he sprang at Thalia, his jaws opened wide. "And your soul is mine!"
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Chapter 11 ~~~~
Thalia leapt aside as the Houndoom lunged at her, his body streaking past hers as she whirled around to face Night Fury, whose eyes burned with death and malice. The Eevee reached into her bag and pulled out a Vile Seed, hurling it into the Houndoom's open mouth. Several green streaks of light shot down around the Houndoom's body, and he let out a howl of agony as wisps of toxic fog escaped his maw. The Houndoom opened his mouth and shot a massive flamethrower attack at Thalia, engulfing her in a massive blaze of fire and agony. As the flames dissapated, the singe-furred Eevee struck Night Fury with a Quick attack, a Dark Pulse slamming into her moments later from the Houndoom's maw. Shaking her head in exhaustion, Thalia pulled an Oran Berry from her bag and ate it, letting its cool refreshing juices run down her throat, Night Fury's paws striking the side of her head moments later. Slamming into Night Fury with a tackle, the Eevee barely ducked the Houndoom's jaws which was aimed at her neck. The two locked eyes once more, Night Fury breathing deeply and wildly. Slowly, Thalia backed away from her dark-hearted opponent until she stood on the pentagram where Night Fury had stood in wait for Thalia, her foe pursuing her with a feral gleam in his eye- the gleam of a hunter spotting his prey. She drew a silver spike from her bag, spun around on her hind legs to gain momentum, and hurled the spear at Night Fury, who let out a shrieking howl of pain as the spike embedded itself in his neck. The Houndoom bunched up his muscles and leapt at Thalia once more, this time pouncing on the Eevee, bowling her over onto her back with his paws weighing down upon her cream-colored fur collar.
At once, Thalia's heart skipped a beat, and the world seemed to turn icy-cold around her. She stared up into Night Fury's burning eyes with unfathomable horror, unable to struggle free from the Houndoom's iron hold. She lay pinned on her back, un "What a pity," snarled Night Fury, snapping his jaws at Thalia's throat to send a shudder of fear through the Eevee. "Sparktail's still alive, and I was about to send you after him..." He opened his jaws wide and dipped his horned head towards Thalia's neck. The Eevee let out a shrill scream of horror, her eyes closed in terrible dread and despair, knowing that she was at the point of death. With a final surge of adrenaline, Thalia kicked up with all four of her paws at Night Fury in a desperate attempt to throw him off, and lashed out with a single blade of light and hope.
"GAHHHHHHHHH!" roared the Houndoom, his voice now a terrible screech and a gurgle mingled together into a horrible sound, thrown back by the many facets of the long halls' crumbling walls. Thalia's eyes shot open to stare up at Night Fury, who had reared back onto his hind legs with a deep wound in his neck from the Eevee's Wide Slash attack, a ghastly crimson fluid dripping from the deep gash as his fiery orange eyes widened in shock, blazing with fiery horror. Thalia rose her paws and stepped back from the Houndoom, staring up at Night Fury in wide-eyed confusion. The Houndoom clawed at the air wildly, gave a shudder, and then collapsed on the ground, his lifeblood ebbing away.
Thalia approached the dying Houndoom warily, staring into his still-burning eyes. "Night Fury! Where is Sparktail?"
Night Fury stared back at Thalia from where he lay, the flickering flames in his eyes refusing to die as he bled. "I... told... you," hissed the Houndoom, slowly rising to his paws, his speech halting with every step as blood continued to leak into his sleek jet-black fur. "I am... the grim reaper!" As the hellhound stepped into the very center of the pentagram, the entire outline of the five-pointed star flashed a brilliant white, then glowed crimson red. Thalia stared in horror and shock as a massive flare of violet light shot up from the pentagon in the center of the pentagram, engulfing Night Fury in black fire. There was a brilliant, blinding flash of light which filled the entire room, blinding Thalia.
When at last the light and the black fire had dissapated, Thalia stared at the center of the pentagram where the Houndoom had once stood to see a horrific creature of shadows and darkness, paralyzing her with fear. The Eevee let out a terrified gasp. In the heart of the pentagram was a creature in a rippling, dark black cloak, its arms made of shadowed spectres, each hand bearing four long and razor-sharp claws. The torso was shaped like an upside-down bell, round and perfectly smooth. Most eerily of all was the glowing red collar or red spikes where the being's neck should be, its jagged tips pointing inwards. "I am Darkrai," hissed the creature as it hovered in the air. "I am all that Night Fury is and ever was, the eternal bringer of Death itself!" Darkrai let out a fiendish cackle at the sight of the fearful Thalia, and brought its hands together. A sphere of dark energy materialized between Darkrai's palms, his cloak rippling wildly despite the lack of wind. The Reaper gave a sinister chuckle as Thalia began to back away warily, and fired his Dark Pulse at Thalia, striking the dragonskin explorer bag and exploding it.
As Thalia skidded back across the floor from the force of the explosion, the remnants of her bag's contents scattered across the floor, another Dark Pulse shot over her head from Darkrai's palms, seeds and berries and spikes all strewn about the room. Rising to her paws yet again, Thalia suddenly caught sight of a shimmering portal behind Darkrai. It was a shining expanse of silvery light with jet-black bars to form a diamond, a brilliant blue sapphire embedded into each of the portal's corners.This... this was surely her only means of escape, wherever it might lead to. The warp tile which should lead to the surface was deactivated, possibly by Darkrai.. If she tried to travel back up through the Concealed Ruins, Darkrai would only find her all the more easily.
No longer sure of what she was doing, Thalia bent down and grabbed a Stun Seed from the ground. Dodging another Dark Pulse, Thalia ran at Darkrai and hurled the Stun Seed into the smoking crater that was his mouth. Immediately, Darkrai's body went rigid, and he collapsed to the floor, unable to move. With a grim smile, Thalia padded around the petrified Reaper and his pentagram, and approached the diamond portal warily, staring into its unfathomable depths. At once, the Eevee gasped. In the image of the portal, a familiar Pikachu ran through a forest, looking around frantically for someone... or something. Was it possible that this was Sparktail?
"Thalia!" cried a voice from the direction of the stairs. At once, Thalia and Darkrai both whirled around towards the sound of the speaker to see Sir Tane and Shaymin sprinting down the room towards them. Thalia stared at the two Retrievers, stunned to realize that they had followed her all the way to the Concealed Ruins. "Don't go in there!" cried Shaymin, her sapphire-blue eyes filled with tears. "You don't know if you'll ever come back!"
"Shaymin, I'm sorry," called Thalia, her heart pounding. Tears were forming in her eyes as she spoke, realizing just how much of her life she might be throwing away to find Sparktail. "I don't want to leave you behind... but I can't give up on Sparktail! Forgive me!"
"You can't leave us," uttered Sir Tane, his voice filled with worry. "We need you, Thalia! Don't go!"
At the Absol's words, Thalia froze again, and then ripped the scarf and explorer badge from her neck willingly for the very first time since her graduation from the guild. The Eevee leapt up and hurled the badge through the air towards Sir Tane, who reared up onto his hind legs and caught it in his teeth. "I'm... I'm really sorry," called Thalia, the tears beginning to flow from her eyes freely. "I really wish... that I could stay by you guys forever. But... I have to go. Don't let Team Retrievers die... Sir Tane, it's up to you now. Watch over the team for me... Tell them that I'm safe! Farewell, my friends!" With that, the Eeevee turned around and leapt into the portal, never to be seen again.
"Please... don't leave us," cried Shaymin softly, beginning to sob. "You're... you're my best friend, Thalia..."
"Oh... Thalia... why did you do it?" whispered Sir Tane, her final gift to him still clutched in his claws. "Why, Thalia?
Suddenly, a low growl rumbled from the paralyzed Darkrai on the floor as the effects of Thalia's Stun Seed began to wear off. Darkrai slowly rose up into the air, giving off a terrible and furious shriek as he realized Thalia had entered the portal. Giving the cavern that had once been his hiding place a final look, the Darkrai whipped around and flew into the portal after Thalia. As the portal shrank away into nothingness, Shaymin and Sir Tane both stared at each other in horror, knowing that at last, Thalia was truly dead to them forever.
~~~~ Calling all Retrievers, Epilogue ~~~~
3000 years later...
[cue: EoS 55]
Sparktail awoke in the middle of a thick forest on a mountain slope, his eyes slowly opening as he slowly got to his feet. The Pikachu looked around the forest dazedly, his eyes scanning the trees looming high into the air above his black-tipped ears for some sign of other life. These woods seemed too wild, too unpredictable to Sparktail, unlike anything he had ever known. If the paralysis of time had frozen the world into an organization of feral harshness, and the brightened future had structured itself into a natural order of peace, no system had tamed this world in any way. The trees followed no pattern, no law, no hope. Sparktail stared in fear and loneliness at the wild lands which he stood in, slowly turning around in a circle to see the world that had overtaken the time he had once known.
A single shimmering object in the ground a few feet away caught Sparktail's eye, and he approached the object to find a glass sphere filled with golden light and crackling with electricity laying in the dust. The Pikachu's eyes widened in surprise at the sight of the object, and his heart was overwhelmed by conflicting emotions. A tear formed in Sparktail's eye as he bent down to pick up the Light Ball, rolling down the side of his red cheek as he gazed upon the only memorandum he had left of Team Retrievers.
[cue: EoS 57]
Fifty miles across the continent, on the shore of the Lake of Rage, an Eevee slowly rose to her paws, yawning and blinking her confused sapphire-blue eyes. "Where... where am I?" mumbled the Eevee, looking around in confusion. "I... how did I get here?" She ruffled her brown fur coat and her fluffy cream-colored collar of fur, and began to pad away from the lake and into the woods, thinking to herself carefully. "I... I can't remember," whispered the Eevee to herself, coming to a halt. She closed her eyes, rapidly forming tears emerging from behind closed eyelids. "Oh Arceus! I can't remember anything!" cried the Eevee. beginning to cry. 'What's happened to me...?"
After a few minutes, the Eevee began to calm down. She opened her eyes and stared glumly down at her paws, trying desperately to break free of the amnesiatic curse that had left her in the future with nothing. "I... 'm... my name... it's... it's- it's- it's- Thalia," murmured the Eevee. "Tha-li.-a... that's it! I'm Thalia!" She hesitated and closed her eyes again, trying to gather her thoughts. "And... Spark... Spark- Spark- Sparktail," exclaimed the Eevee. "Sparktail... he's the... the... he's my... my..."
And then she stopped, and a look of determination slowly spread across her face. "Wherever or whoever you are, Sparktail," said Thalia, staring up towards the daybreak sun intently. "I'll find you... I swear by Arceus, I will!" With that, the amnesiatic Eevee ran off into the wilderness with a wild cry.
Meanwhile, back in the past...
[cue: EoS 103]
As the sun rose over Treasure Town that morning, Wave and Manaphy came trotting up the path towards the end of Sharpedo Bluff, their cheeks both rosy with embarrassment and a shared foolishness. And yet, Wave felt as if he was the happiest Pokemon alive as he padded up the trail, exchanging sheepish grins with the girl of his dreams who hovered through the air beside him. The grass rippled on either side of the pathway in the cool morning breeze, the lively waves in the ocean far below them rolling in the sea merrily as the sun ascended into the sky far above Wave's head.
As they reached the very end of the cliff, Wave heard the sound of mingled voices deep in conversation, echoing from beneath the clifftop on which he and Manaphy stood. The two water-dwellers exchanged bewildered glances as they recognized the low husky voice of Sir Tane, and approached the hidden stairway beneath a bush which led down towards Sharpedo Bluff's cavern. "I wonder what Tane's doing in here," whispered Wave, glancing at Manaphy, Sir Tane's voice more audible from where they now stood.
Manaphy shrugged in indifference, her yellow-beaded eyelashes blinking. "Maybe he's talking to Thalia," said the Seafarer, floating down into the passage. "I haven't seen Thalia in a while now... I wonder where she is."
[cue: EoS 73]
As the rising sun's brilliant light shone down into the cave within Sharpedo Bluff, Sir Tane rose to his feet from his bed of straw and looked around the room with a yawn. The Absol's eyes fell upon the small pool of running water by the rock wall where crystal-clear groundwater flowed from a minature cascading waterfall. Approaching the pool, Tane gave another yawn, and submerged his face into the natural basin.
"Do you do that every morning, or something?" asked a cheery voice from a few feet off. Immediately, Sir Tane pulled his head out of the water, shaking his head vigorously and spraying water droplets from his snow-white fur and obsidian hornblade and face. The Absol glanced towards the sound of the speaker with a jolt of mingled joy and surprise to see Shaymin standing there in her Land Forme, her nose twitching with amusement. "Of course I do... hehe... I always have," said Sir Tane with a nervous chuckle. "Why, don't you?"
"Hehe, no way I could do that," said Shaymin, shaking her head. "Back in the village, the only source of water was the river, you know. And usually, only the very young and very old were allowed to get water. We guides had to train on less water to build up endurance and all."
"Aw, poor Shaymin," said Tane softly, gazing deep into his teammate's brilliantly blue eyes. The Absol's heart beat intensely as he stared intently at Shaymin, his eyes running down the light green pelt of grassy fur on her back, the two pink flowers on eiter side of her forehead blooming with vibrant life. He twitched his tail and padded towards Shaymin, one paw feeling for the Team Retrievers' crest which hung on the leather necklace around his neck. "Say, Shaymin," began Tane as he approached his teammate.
Shaymin glanced up at Tane as he approached her. "Er, yes?" replied the grass Pokemon, her ears twitching.
Sir Tane hesitated uncertainly for a moment, before continuing. "Well... I was wondering if-"
Before the new leader of Retrievers could finish, he was interrupted by the arrival of Wave and Manaphy as they arrived at the bottom of the stairs. "Oh, hey Tane," greeted Wave, waving a paw. Shaymin and Tane exchanged glances as Wave looked around the cave and frowned. "Say... where's Thalia?" asked the Mudkip, glancing up at the two senior Retrievers, his tail wobbling from side to side. "I thought she lived here, right?"
Tane hesitated as he glanced at the confused Mudkip, feeling reluctant to share the truth with him, and yet knowing that it would be best in the end if he said it here and now. Manaphy floated towards Sir Tane, her eyes falling on the explorer badge on his neck. "Tane, what's going on?" asked the Seafarer, confused. "Why do you have Thalia's badge?"
The Absol lowered his eyes and looked away, unable to look directly at the other Retrievers. "She... she went after Sparktail," mumured Sir Tane sorrowfully, speaking just audibly enough for Manaphy, Shaymin, and Wave to barely hear. "And... she's not coming back..."
[cue: EoS 57]
"I don't understand," said Officer Magnezone, staring at the destroyed bars on the jail cell as he hovered in the cellblock's corridor. The officer glanced at the four Magnemites hovering on either side of him, his lights flashing back and forth. "How the devil did the Time Tripper escape?" wondered the officer. The three of them looked back into the jail cell, unable to figure out just how the Time Tripper might have blown his way out of the jail cell. The cell door's bars were almost completely obliterated, leaving only the stumps of the iron bars to line the door frame of the cell behind. The floor of the corridor a foot below the three officers was littered with shrapnel from the destroyed cell door, a trail of footprints visible in the sand from the cell which led out of the jail.
"This isn't good," said Magnezone, the red light on his front plate flashing brightly. Gesturing towards the jail cells in which the Empoleon king Cahdril and Big Boss Torterra were still sleeping, the officer ordered, "Let's get these two criminals shipped out to Hydroterrane. We need to make sure these two don't escape as well." The Magnemites exchanged glances, nodded, and proceeded to unlock the two jail cells and shackle the still sleeping criminals in preparation for their transportation. Meanwhile, Magnezone's antenna crackled with electricity as he sent out a wide-range transmission into all available channels for all the world to hear: "The Time Tripper's on the loose."