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Hero

By: dragonaire on Aug 4th, 2012  |  syntax: None  |  size: 63.56 KB  |  hits: 1,811  |  expires: Never
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  1. Hero
  2. A story by Daniel Ernston
  3.  
  4. --- Scene 1: The Setup
  5.  
  6. As an eight-year-old kid playing Pokémon Gold, I knew what the cloning glitch was and what it would do to my Pokémon. I had also heard of Game Sharks, but never did I even think of using them. I mean, come on, it was too easy to enter a code and just directly make your Pokémon appear the way you wanted them to. There was no challenge in that! It wouldn't be any fun. At least with the cloning glitch, you were manipulating the game in some complex way.
  7.  
  8. As time went by, my badges racked up, and the game got easier, though, I found that there was a lot of stuff I wanted to do that I couldn't because I either didn't have another game or somebody to trade with or an event to go to, not just because it was too hard for me or I hadn't done something to unlock it. There was specifically one Pokémon that I wanted, that I thought was super-cool. And that Pokémon was Skarmory.
  9.  
  10. One night, I had an idea. Computer geek as I was at the time, I realized that I could search online for stuff such as this. And so I went, bringing up an MSN search window to look for "how to get Skarmory in Pokémon Gold".
  11.  
  12. The top forty results that weren't about trading from Silver were all either cheat codes or advisories from people to trade them, as it did not actually appear in the game. As I kept looking, suddenly all the results were pointing to a single cheat code – 91E304D2. It was as if the Internet was conspiring for me to cheat.
  13.  
  14. I kept searching. Two hundred results flew by. Three hundred. Soon, I was convinced that there was no other way to go about it. I gave up, and went to sleep, thinking, "I'm going to continue the game anyway. Who cares about a stupid Skarmory."
  15.  
  16. --- Scene 2: The Dream
  17.  
  18. But then I started dreaming. Before I knew it, I was in the Pokémon world. I was at the Lake of Rage. I looked at myself – I was wearing Gold's getup. I looked at my hands and feet, and they seemed much different from my little self. I was taller, too. There were six Pokéballs in my belt. I got a good look at them – they seemed real enough.
  19.  
  20. Gingerly, I removed one of them, and pressed the button. The ball suddenly expanded in my hand. "Whoa!" I shouted. "Totally real."
  21.  
  22. Thinking why not, I threw the ball into the air. It opened, and out came Ramya, my Ampharos from the game. She bleated once happily, and I proceeded to stroke her furry body as she nuzzled me. I was more bewildered that even though this was a dream, everything seemed so real. The feel of Ramya's fur under my hands... Ramya didn't seem to think any differently, though.
  23.  
  24. I decided to pull out another Pokéball to see what would happen. Out came Perkele my shiny Gyarados that I had just caught at the Lake of Rage, Scipio my Scyther, Birta my Pidgeot, Laplace my Lapras, and lastly, Kafka my Typhlosion.
  25.  
  26. This was incredible – I had my whole team with me. If only this were real! I could walk and train with them for real, instead of just as part of a game.
  27.  
  28. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a seventh ball, on the other side of my belt. As I reached to grab it, Kafka growled at me. "What's wrong, boy?" I asked him.
  29.  
  30. He made a face at the Pokéball. "I shouldn't open this? That's silly, it's just a Pokéball." I threw it in the air anyway, and Kafka roared loudly.
  31.  
  32. I saw what had come out of the ball. It was in front of me, facing Kafka. Suddenly, it turned its head towards me – and I immediately fell in love.
  33.  
  34. It was the Skarmory of my dreams. Its red, steely wings and streamlined face were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen up to that moment. It had a look on its face harder than a Lugia's, as if it were determined to protect me from Kafka. I noticed a scar mark on its right eye.
  35.  
  36. I walked up to it slowly, as Kafka watched in bewilderment. It cooed at me, and then we embraced each other in a hug.
  37.  
  38. I then woke up. The light was starting to pour in from the window. I read the alarm clock. 6:51 AM. Almost time to get up anyway, because today was Saturday.
  39.  
  40. --- Scene 3: The Catch
  41.  
  42. That dream left me no doubt in my mind – I must get a Skarmory for my game, by any means necessary. I took out the Game Shark that one of my friends had given me as a birthday present the year before. "I might as well use you now... just this once." I inserted the cartridge into the Game Shark slot, and turned on my Game Boy.
  43.  
  44. The Game Boy startup screen came up, and then a different menu appeared altogether. A bunch of pre-selected codes came up, but I wasn't interested in that. I scrolled up and down until I found an "enter code" menu, and I proceeded to enter the code I found the other night – 91E304D2.
  45.  
  46. Then, I started the game.
  47.  
  48. I found myself where I was before – in Mahogany Town, about to enter the Lake of Rage. I knew that you couldn't enter the building, because then those nasty Team Rocket punks would take 1000 pyen as a toll. So, I took the grassy path. As soon as I entered the grass, a wild Skarmory appeared. Lo and behold – it had the exact same scar mark as the Skarmory in my dream! I took out just a regular Pokéball and threw it at it, without thinking.
  49.  
  50. Without shaking even once, the game noted that the Skarmory had been caught. I gave it the nickname "Scar", again without thinking.
  51.  
  52. It felt so good to have that Skarmory in my game file. I trained it so hard over the next few hours, that it was almost as if all other Pokémon had fallen short for me. If you had been watching, I had practically neglected the other five Pokémon in my team, though I noticed a while later that Kafka had mysteriously been displaced.
  53.  
  54. When I got back to Mahogany Town, all that played in the background was a bit of static, followed by some very high tones that I barely noticed.
  55.  
  56. After walking around a while, I realized that my PokéGear's radio was on and tuned to a "?????" channel, and I turned it off. The music still didn't change. It was then that I realized that I had already talked to Lance, and was supposed to be going back to Mahogany Town to complete the Team Rocket mission.
  57.  
  58. Completing the mission made the music return to normal. However, I still had a bad feeling about the fact that the music didn't change when I had turned the radio off. At any rate, it was time for breakfast, so I left the game there and went to eat breakfast and play with my friends.
  59.  
  60. --- Scene 4: The Consequence
  61.  
  62. That night, when I came back, I booted up the game again. But when the game started, the game was on that horrible static sound again.
  63.  
  64. Changing my location put the sound back to normal. I kept playing, and finished the arc with Mahogany town, making my way through the Ice Cave and getting to Blackthorn City, easily defeating Clair with my still properly trained Pokémon. I wasn't about to make them all turn into Pidgey like I heard one girl did two years ago with a copy of Pokémon Blue. She sure got the scare of her life.
  65.  
  66. When Clair was defeated, she held a tempter tantrum. But this one seemed a bit more sinister than I had expected. "You lousy cheater," said Clair. "You only won because of that Skarmory of yours. And I *know* you didn't get it the right way. As punishment, I shall send you to the Dragon's Den."
  67.  
  68. I was a bit scared. Did the programmers *actually* have something in the coding that could determine which Pokémon you had hacked into existence rather than caught or traded from another game? Nevertheless, I thought that whatever challenge Clair had on the way should be pretty interesting.
  69.  
  70. "You must go to the Dragon's Den and collect the badge from there. If you can cheat, I can too. Now go!"
  71.  
  72. I rolled my eyes at this, and got sent out of the Gym. I walked over to the lake, and sent out Laplace, getting over the lake. The old man asked me what my business was, and I told him that Clair had send me to get the badge.
  73.  
  74. "Ah, you must be the cheater! Come in, come in! The badge is waiting for you in the middle of a shrine in the Dragon's Den."
  75.  
  76. I came in, a bit offended by the old man's label at me, and walked downstairs.
  77.  
  78. When I walked in, I immediately noticed that something was wrong. The static music was back. In addition, the *scenery* was horrible. The lake water was stained red, as if a bloody battle had gone on here. And on one of the walls was spelled in bright red the word "CHEATER".
  79.  
  80. I tried to ignore all this, and my Lapras appeared to almost reel in disgust when I sent it out to surf in the reddened water. It got in anyway, and we surfed around, looking for the shrine.
  81.  
  82. It didn't take long to see it in the middle of the shrine, but I needed to find a way around all the obstacles. At last, I came to a whirlpool, and after passing it, I managed to land on the piece of land next to the shrine.
  83.  
  84. I entered it, and almost exited again out of terror.
  85.  
  86. Inside was scarier than outside. Three lit candles dimly lit the area inside the shrine, enough for me to see that there was a pentagram, drawn in dark red ink, on the floor. On the walls were strange inscriptions, also in bloody red ink, and what appeared to be the heads of horrified Pokémon.
  87.  
  88. I swallowed a lump in my throat and walked forward, passing through the pentagram.
  89.  
  90. A single man was standing at the other end of the shrine. said, "Hmm... Good to see you here. No need to explain why you came. Clair sent you here, didn't she. That girl is certainly a handful. I have a few questions for you to answer. If you can answer them honestly, I will give you the badge."
  91.  
  92. "Firstly, what are Pokémon to you?"
  93.  
  94. A menu of three options popped up, saying "Pal", "Underling", and "Friend".
  95.  
  96. *They're obviously my friends!* I thought when selecting "Friend".
  97.  
  98. "And what helps you to win battles?"
  99.  
  100. Another menu of three options popped up, saying "Strategy", "Raising", and "Cheating".
  101.  
  102. I didn't have much strategy as an eight-year-old kid, but I took pride in raising my Pokémon to the levels they needed to be at to beat other trainers. I selected "Raising".
  103.  
  104. A single word stared back at me on the screen in the text box.
  105.  
  106. "LIAR."
  107.  
  108. What? Had I lied? I didn't think so; after all, I had raised all my Pokém--
  109.  
  110. Scar. My beloved Skarmory. He was the one everyone was picking on. Was it really that bad to want a Skarmory in a game where it wasn't obtainable?
  111.  
  112. I pressed A, advancing the text.
  113.  
  114. "What *really* helps you to win battles?"
  115.  
  116. The same three options from before. I tried selecting "Strategy" instead.
  117.  
  118. "Wrong again," displayed the text in the box.
  119.  
  120. Both of the desirable answers seemed to be wrong. I pressed A, making the question text reappear, and, sweating a little now, selected "Cheating".
  121.  
  122. "That's right, you filthy cheater," chided the old man, in a tone I didn't think was befitting of an old man. He then appeared to throw the badge at me, which actually knocked my player sprite back one square the way Silver did at the beginning of the game. He spat, "Here. Take the badge. I only caution you that the Elite Four will not be as forgiving."
  123.  
  124. I exited the room in indignation. How dare the old man scold me for simply making getting things a bit easier? It wasn't as if I had made every move a one-hit KO, for example.
  125.  
  126. Once I exited, I found that I couldn't enter again, which was fine with me.
  127.  
  128. I worked my way down Route 45, and found even more Skarmory awaiting me at various levels. They were no match for Scar, though, and as I fought down the route, I grew fonder and fonder of it.
  129.  
  130. I made it back down to Route 29 when I looked at the clock and it was way past my bedtime. I tucked the game away and went to sleep.
  131.  
  132. --- Scene 5: The Confession
  133.  
  134. In my dreams, I was back in Blackthorn City. It was nighttime, and the stars twinkled above me.
  135.  
  136. Scar had reappeared. This time, he was visibly distressed. "What's wrong, Scar?" I asked.
  137.  
  138. The Skarmory pointed at Kafka, who was a short distance away, all alone by himself, head hung down. I motioned to walk up to him, but Scar put a wing on my shoulder. I turned around and asked, "What's wrong?"
  139.  
  140. Scar cawed once. I understood what he meant, but couldn't believe that my friend of a long time would be that angry at me. I walked over to Kafka anyway despite Scar's frantic cawings, and reached over and touched Kafka.
  141.  
  142. He suddenly swivelled really quickly at me, and I was totally shocked. There were angry tears in his eyes, as if he also believed, like Lance and Clair, that what I had done was wrong. "It's okay," I said. "I haven't forgotten about you."
  143.  
  144. I tried rubbing Kafka on the back, but his back suddenly blazed in flame, burning me and making my hand flinch back in pain. "What's gotten into you, Kafka?"
  145.  
  146. "How about what's gotten into *you*?" he retorted back. He turned around and lumbered away.
  147.  
  148. I stood there, shocked. Although to tell the truth, I was more shocked that Kafka had talked rather than simply roaring like he usually did.
  149.  
  150. Scar, as if he had read my thoughts, said, "We can all talk. You've just never heard us utter anything more than the ugly sounds on the Game Boy."
  151.  
  152. "This is a dream," I said, starting to feel that I had lost it. "I'm just imagining voices in my head because this is a dream."
  153.  
  154. Scar put another wing on my shoulder, which calmed me down. "This is as real as any dream gets, of course."
  155.  
  156. The next question instantly popped up in my eight-year-old head. "Are *you* real?"
  157.  
  158. "As real as I can get," said Scar. "I'm in this dream, aren't I?"
  159.  
  160. "You're not real," said a cold voice. Out of a patch of darkness I didn't realize was there came a caped, red-haired trainer that I recognized immediately as Lance.
  161.  
  162. "What are *you* doing here?" I asked.
  163.  
  164. "You," said Lance. "You created this, this..." he pointed at Scar. "This *freak* that shouldn't exist."
  165.  
  166. Scar cawed indignantly. "I'm not a freak! I'm no less real than you are!"
  167.  
  168. "Oh, if that were only true," chuckled Lance. "Go on, trainer, tell your Skarmory how he was created."
  169.  
  170. I suddenly realized that I had only assumed that Scar knew where he had come from. Scar looked at me, tilting his head curiously.
  171.  
  172. "I... I..." I started sobbing as I realized what I had done. "I created you from a hack code."
  173.  
  174. Lance smirked in indignation. "You see, Skarmory, you are nothing but a fake. A counterfeit Pokémon created by dirty, scandalous methods."
  175.  
  176. Scar, however, seemed to take my revelation as if I had just told him the weather. "Well, I'm here, aren't I? That's good enough for me."
  177.  
  178. Lance shook his head in disappointment. "Be warned," he told me. "When you battle the Elite Four, they will not take kindly to your cheating."
  179.  
  180. Lance held a staff out at me. It had a ball at the end that started glowing, and suddenly a flash of white light enveloped me.
  181.  
  182. I woke up in a cold sweat. I looked at the time on the alarm clock - 3:25. Too early to wake up. I tossed and turned and eventually fell back into a dreamless sleep, waking up on Sunday morning with a headache.
  183.  
  184. --- Scene 6: The Apparition
  185.  
  186. The following day, and the entire school week afterwards, I didn't dare touch my Game Boy. My mom found this surprising, because little kids my age loved to play video games and she often had to confiscate it from me because I played it too *much*. What had caused the sudden turn in behaviour? I lost myself in my schoolwork during this time.
  187.  
  188. Then, Friday evening rolled around and I once again had nothing to do.
  189.  
  190. I lay sprawled on my bed, thinking about the things I could have done. My mind turned to the Game Boy, but I immediately shuddered at the thought. I, once again, could not turn on my Game Boy, because I, once again, was too afraid to see what lay within anymore. I had cheated, created a fake Pokémon, and I was afraid to see what consequences that entailed on my game. In other words, I was a coward. A filthy coward, one who couldn't own up to his mistakes and follow through with them.
  191.  
  192. "I'm surprised you realized that," said a voice, coming from behind me.
  193.  
  194. I looked backwards, and fell out of my bed, knocking my back against my desk in fright.
  195.  
  196. "Is everything okay?" called my mother's voice from downstairs.
  197.  
  198. "Yes," I shouted back, even though I knew it was a lie.
  199.  
  200. In front of me were four people, standing in an arc in front of me.
  201.  
  202. "You ran away from us," said a purple-haired man, dressed in a tuxedo and wearing a mask. "You know there's no running from the Elite Four."
  203.  
  204. "There is no honour in cheating," said an old but fit man in dark clothing that looked like a ninja's. "But now you have run away too? You are not only a cheater, but a coward."
  205.  
  206. A younger, topless man simply gave a disappointed sigh. "Two years ago I had somebody like you come in to our Gym. You are no different. Neither cheating nor running away are the actions of a real Pokémon trainer. You must realize that."
  207.  
  208. A blue-haired old woman, the last in the row, spoke next. "Strong Pokémon. Weak Pokémon. That is only the selfish perception of people. A truly skilled trainer would not simply *fabricate* a Pokémon like you did."
  209.  
  210. "By creating a fake Pokémon, you've irreversibly corrupted our world," said the purple-haired man.
  211.  
  212. "The only way to have any hope of salvaging it is to destroy what was wrongfully created," said the dark-clothed man.
  213.  
  214. "If you want to see any of your precious Pokémon again, you will have to restore the world to its rightful order," said the topless man. "Think about it."
  215.  
  216. "We'll be waiting for you in the room of the Elite Four," said the blue-haired woman. "Expect no mercy."
  217.  
  218. The four elites disappeared back into the shadows from where they came.
  219.  
  220. Suddenly, I was aware of a jabbing sensation in my back, which was on the floor. I yelped in pain and got up to see Scar, lying there with his head under my back. Apparently I had been too scared to notice the discomfort it was causing me.
  221.  
  222. I got up and dusted myself off. Scar asked me, "Are you okay?"
  223.  
  224. I turned my back away from him. "Go away," I told him. "Go away, you... fake, cheated-to-life FREAK!" I yelled while sobbing and running out the door of my room, downstairs, and outside of the house.
  225.  
  226. I ran outside, where I saw Kafka, my Typhlosion, sitting. He looked at me with a tired scowl. "Have you come to your senses?" he asked.
  227.  
  228. I cried all the way into his side. "I don't want to ruin my game! All my Pokémon... Birta, Scipio, Ramya, Perkele, Laplace..."
  229.  
  230. As if waiting for their cue, all five of my other team members walked, flew, or slithered out from behind my house.
  231.  
  232. A sixth, apparently unwanted member also flew down - Scar.
  233.  
  234. "You're not welcome here," said Kafka to Scar. "You're not a member of his team."
  235.  
  236. "I am just as much a member of his team as you are!" cawed Scar indignantly.
  237.  
  238. Scar then turned to me. "We have to talk. I need to explain something to you."
  239.  
  240. I turned away from Scar. "Go away. You're the one who caused all this mess. But I'm the one who caused you. I'm sorry you ever existed. I never should have created you."
  241.  
  242. "Do you remember that night, in your dream, when you asked me if I was real?" said Scar soothingly. "How real do you think I am now?"
  243.  
  244. "Real enough to cause problems on my game," I retorted back.
  245.  
  246. "Listen, the Elite Four are lying," said Scar. "I don't actually cause your game any harm."
  247.  
  248. I sniffed. "And how would *you* know that?"
  249.  
  250. "You hacked me into existence. Sure I'll never be a 'legitimate' Pokémon, but who says that 'legitimate' Pokémon are the only real ones?"
  251.  
  252. "I mean, come on," said Scar, now turning to the other five members of my team. "You guys all know me. For the past week I've been with you guys, I haven't harmed the game a single bit. Nothing's gone wrong in battle, the world hasn't collapsed, nothing of that sort. I'm just not harmful to the game. I'm just a poor old Pokémon who got born in a place he wasn't supposed to."
  253.  
  254. "Then why did the Elite Four say--"
  255.  
  256. "The Elite Four are lying," repeated Scar. "They were the ones who set up those displays. Any vandalism was all their doing."
  257.  
  258. "Yeah, that's right," said Ramya, standing up defiantly. "Scar *is* a real Pokémon, like the rest of us! We watched him grow strong, and we know what he's like! And I know, in *my* heart, that he's *not* a phony! Who's with me?"
  259.  
  260. One by one, my other Pokémon except for Kafka, gave cheers of agreement.
  261.  
  262. Laplace said, "I'll defend him to the end!"
  263.  
  264. Scipio cackled, "My swords will back him the whole time!"
  265.  
  266. Birta screeched, "My talons will gouge three eyes for every eye of Scar's!"
  267.  
  268. Perkele simply roared in assent.
  269.  
  270. "What do you say?" said Scar, looking up at me with a lowered head and fanning his wing toward the rest of my team.
  271.  
  272. I paused for a moment, considering all that Scar had told me. "No, I can't do it," I said. "I can't trust you, who I don't really know I really know anything about, over the Elite Four, the people of this game who are the best battlers and people trust the most."
  273.  
  274. "If you need any more proof that I'm real, simply touch my wing," said Scar, holding it out.
  275.  
  276. I reached my hand out, afraid that Scar might simply dissolve away if I did.
  277.  
  278. My hands found themselves resting on soft metal, and I knew now that Scar was here to stay.
  279.  
  280. "But what about cheating?" I asked Scar. "That's definitely true."
  281.  
  282. "So what if it's cheating?" Scar retorted. "It's *your* game, and I think you should play the game as you see fit. After all, you got *me* out of it, and I think you raised me well."
  283.  
  284. I considered that silently for a moment.
  285.  
  286. "Let's get that Elite Four," I said finally, placing my hand on his wing.
  287.  
  288. We all performed a team cheer, while Kafka trudged away dejectedly. I didn't even notice.
  289.  
  290. --- Scene 7: The Resolution
  291.  
  292. Before I knew it, it was night time, and I trudged back into my bed, now ready to face the Elite Four for the liars they were. They thought they could intimidate me with their scare tactics of corruption and deceit... no longer. Not now that I knew I could trust Scar more than them.
  293.  
  294. I turned on my Game Boy once again for the first time in almost a week. But then the world turned on around me as well.
  295.  
  296. The next thing I knew, I was back on Route 29, in Gold's clothing.
  297.  
  298. "That's right!" I said. "I'm dreaming again."
  299.  
  300. With that realization I should have woken up, but my dream self stayed firmly put. I pinched myself. "Ouch!"
  301.  
  302. Except the pain wasn't from the pinching, it was from something poking me once in the backside. I turned around. "Scar?"
  303.  
  304. "The one and only," said Scar. "Welcome back to our world."
  305.  
  306. I felt Scar's wings again. "I wish I could take you back to the real world," I lamented.
  307.  
  308. "But you already have," Scar replied. "I'm always with you."
  309.  
  310. We walked onwards, into the tall grass where Sentrets and Hoothoots awaited like they did at the start of my adventure.
  311.  
  312. As we walked, Scar simply blowing away any Pokémon that came my way, I wondered what New Bark Town must look like now. I went back the old way to Route 29. It was much harder to find your way when you'd been looking from a bird's eye view the whole time you were playing the game, so I took about twice as long to navigate my way through the tall grass.
  313.  
  314. But eventually I made it to New Bark Town. When I got there, what I saw was scarier than any bloody display.
  315.  
  316. Parts of buildings were covered in visual artifacts. Some appeared to have disintegrated, parts shimmering in and out of view.
  317.  
  318. "Remember," said Scar, "This is all the Elite Four's doing."
  319.  
  320. I ran into Professor Elm's lab, its location hammered into me through having to go back so many times. "Hello? Professor Elm?"
  321.  
  322. I walked in. The inside was even worse than the outside. All around, strips of the building walls were starting to shimmer in and out of existence.
  323.  
  324. I found Professor Elm in one corner of the room, huddled in a fetal position. "Why did you do it?" he asked me. "Why?!?"
  325.  
  326. I walked away, and he suddenly sprang up and grabbed me by the collar. "Why, damn it! Why did you doom us all?" He started crying, and let out a cry of anguish that eventually became distorted and staticky itself, before passing out on the ground in front of me. I walked away. Whatever the Elite Four had done to brainwash him, I promised then to avenge twofold.
  327.  
  328. I found a special purple ball on the desk, and snatched it up. That Master Ball would be useful sometime.
  329.  
  330. I ran outside again, and the static was back, as a faint buzzing. The buildings were still flickering, and I knew that I had to go surf on the lake. I took out Laplace, and we forded the small lake, Scar flying close behind.
  331.  
  332. On the other side, the static grew louder. A trainer greeted me and said, "Welcome to Kanto! Although things have changed while I've been here..."
  333.  
  334. I walked onwards, encountering more trainers and battling them with the rest of my team - Scar was already high enough of a level (it seems that I had trained him so hard that he was already more levelled than any of the Elite Four's Pokémon would ever be). It felt good to actually see my Pokémon in battle. As I battled, I felt more and more like I was one of them.
  335.  
  336. Eventually, I found myself on Victory Road. I was a bit bummed - it was empty, and there were no trainers here.
  337.  
  338. I walked across and passed through three corridors, and found Silver there waiting for me next to the exit. "So you decided to show up, cheater," he told me. *He's in on this too?* I thought.
  339.  
  340. "I'm not going to battle you," he said. "Not with that faker Skarmory of yours."
  341.  
  342. "Why I oughtta..." Scar started to charge at Silver, but I held him back. "Don't do it," I told him. "He's not in on this."
  343.  
  344. Scar backed down, giving Silver a glare that would have melted steel. I walked away, and Scar continued training his glare on Silver, who simply returned a look of smug moral superiority.
  345.  
  346. As I exited the cave, my eyes took a moment to adjust to the light. What I saw was even worse than before.
  347.  
  348. The Pokémon League building was suffering what had happened to New Bark Town. Parts of windows had strips and blocks that shimmered in and out of view.
  349.  
  350. I opened the door, and headed inside.
  351.  
  352. "Welcome, cheater," said the nurse at the front counter. "I'd heal your Pokémon for you, but you've probably got a hack in there that lets you never take a single point of damage." She turned away and walked back in.
  353.  
  354. Because this was no longer the game, limited by game mechanics, I vaulted over the desk. "Nurse, you've got to heal my Pokémon!"
  355.  
  356. The nurse turned around in shock. I let the rest of my team out, a tired, injured heap. "Do you see how tired they are?"
  357.  
  358. "What did you do to them?!?" shrieked the nurse in horror.
  359.  
  360. "This is just the result of regular battling! I really do train my Pokémon properly! Am I suddenly an abusive trainer just because I brought *one* Skarmory into existence?"
  361.  
  362. "Whatever," said the nurse. "Give them over."
  363.  
  364. I returned Scar to his Pokéball as well, and the nurse took them in to heal them.
  365.  
  366. I vaulted back over the desk, but when I landed, my leg suddenly felt a numb, buzzing sensation. I looked down, and found that my foot was touching one of the disintegrating areas. Man, if I didn't deal with this soon...
  367.  
  368. The nurse returned my Pokémon, and after taking a deep breath, I went into the door leading to the Elite Four.
  369.  
  370. --- Scene 8: The Battle
  371.  
  372. The door led into a hallway, which led into a room. As I walked towards it, I noticed that this room was also starting to disintegrate, and even worse than before. Whole chunks of the room were now replaced by random blocks.
  373.  
  374. As soon as I crossed the threshold, the ground started shaking violently, almost knocking me to my feet.
  375.  
  376. As suddenly as it had started, it stopped. I looked back, and found that the entrance had been sealed off. Also, the static that had been faintly buzzing seemed to be in full force now.
  377.  
  378. "So you finally came to face your fears," said a man that I recognized as the purple-haired man. But his voice was all distorted like a bad radio signal. "There will be no running away here," he added, pointing to the blocked-off entrance. "My name is Will. Shall we begin?"
  379.  
  380. I took a ball out. "Bring it on."
  381.  
  382. First, Will sent out a Xatu, and I brought out Ramya. They circled each other for a moment, and then Ramya called down a Thunder attack that struck his Xatu, leaving it on a heap in the floor. Will withdrew it, and sent out his Exeggutor. I brought out Scar.
  383.  
  384. In this fashion, switching a new one out each time, I managed to defeat four of Will's Pokémon, as I had trained mine quite well as well.
  385.  
  386. Then, Will's fifth Pokémon came out as a glitchy, shimmering mess. "What happened to that?"
  387.  
  388. "*This,*" cried Will, "is what *you* did!"
  389.  
  390. The shimmering mess attacked Scar, as I had sent him out twice for type-based purposes. As it hit Scar with some completely unknown attack, Scar countered by slashing at the air with his wings, sending blades of air at the shimmering mess. It fell almost like a bird. I managed to see patches of colour that made it seem like it was the shape of... another Xatu?
  391.  
  392. "Scar! Come back! It's another Xatu!"
  393.  
  394. I returned Scar and put out Ramya. She was confused for a second, and I told her what was going on. Ramya sent another large lightning bolt down from the ceiling, which struck the Xatu with hateful precision.
  395.  
  396. Will seemed displeased. "I'm just the first. You may have defeated me, but you will never defeat all of us."
  397.  
  398. I scoffed at that as I walked into the next room.
  399.  
  400. Again with the ground rumbling, and the entrance being sealed off. It wasn't quite as scary as the first time, but I had more things to be scared of.
  401.  
  402. The second room was even more glitchy than the first. Half of the back wall consisted of nothing but columns of black lines with white and black dots in the middle, buzzing in and out of view.
  403.  
  404. "You see what the Elite Four's house has become, child?" said the man in a ninja outfit. "My name is Koga. And I will destroy that monstrosity by rotting it from the inside out!"
  405.  
  406. "Not likely," said Scar with a smirk. It was then that I realized that Steel-types couldn't get poisoned.
  407.  
  408. I exploited this to its fullest, by letting Scar deal with all of Koga's Pokémon. He polished them off without a hitch because he knew Swords Dance and I was determined to actually use some strategy here.
  409.  
  410. The look on Koga's face upon his defeat was even more disappointed than
  411. Will's. "Don't you see?" said Koga. "The more and more you use that Skarmory, the more and more our world starts to disintegrate and be destroyed! Think about what you're doing, boy, as you face the next challenge."
  412.  
  413. The third room was more glitch than non-glitch. Bruno sat there meditating, finally standing up and saying, "Let's get this over with."
  414.  
  415. For this next battle, I knew I couldn't use Scar because he was a Steel-type and even though he was a Flying-type, it would be a bad idea to tire him out *too* much. I gave Birta and Scipio a chance for this battle, and they breezed through the three Hitmons with relative ease.
  416.  
  417. The next one that Bruno sent out, though, was glitchy just like that one Xatu that Will had.
  418.  
  419. With a single sweep of its glitchy tail, it brought a barrage of rocks falling down on Scipio. Under the rocks, Scipio lay, spiral-eyed and unable to battle.
  420.  
  421. I was still able to make out a shimmer of colour, almost like it was gray... "Laplace!" I called. "Use Surf!"
  422.  
  423. Laplace sent a wave of water crashing down on the glitch. I noticed something... it seemed like all of my attacks were real (not a single black-and-white shimmer in sight in the tidal wave Lapras brought down), but when the glitchy Onix (which was what I had deduced it to be) sent down its attack, the rocks that had materialized were themselves all glitched up.
  424.  
  425. The Onix was unable to move, but Bruno had one more.
  426.  
  427. "Laplace, stand your ground."
  428.  
  429. The last one was one who was literally *radiating* static and blocky pixels. A single Ice Beam brought it down, and I never had a chance to see what it was before Bruno withdrew it.
  430.  
  431. "Karen," said Bruno, after he withdrew it, "is the master of playing tricks. You won't finish her off so easily."
  432.  
  433. "Thanks for the warning," I said lazily, as I walked through the last pair of doors.
  434.  
  435. This last room was almost completely glitchy. The door rumbled, and the block that sealed the entrance off was itself a shimmering mess.
  436.  
  437. "I see you've come this far," said Karen. "Do you think you can win against me?"
  438.  
  439. Karen sent out her first Pokémon, which was already a small glitchy mess that I couldn't figure out. I sent out Scar.
  440.  
  441. But every time Scar dived, the glitchy blob appeared to actually blur into the floor beneath it, and appear on Scar's back to knock it down. This happened about five or six times, while Scar got noticeably weaker with every hit.
  442.  
  443. "Strength is not everything! Nor is raising your Pokémon! Your cheats will not help you now!" laughed Karen, as Scar suffered blow by blow.
  444.  
  445. I took Scar back, and brought out Ramya. "Fire out a thunderbolt that will hit the whole field!" I told her.
  446.  
  447. She did so, and no matter where the glitchy blob dodged, the bolts would hit.
  448.  
  449. "You think brute force will help you like this, do you?" mocked Karen.
  450.  
  451. "It certainly worked on your... whatever that thing is."
  452.  
  453. "Return, my Umbreon!" said Karen.
  454.  
  455. The rest of the battle continued like this - I had to use the all-sweeping attacks quite a few times, and it was starting to tire Ramya out really badly. I didn't even know what I was attacking, so how could I use any strategy?
  456.  
  457. "You are not the only one who can take advantage of the consequences of these cheats!" said Karen. "We Elite Four are not only stronger, but smarter than you think."
  458.  
  459. I growled in frustration, and returned Ramya, sending out Birta instead.
  460.  
  461. "Birta, use Swift!" I hollered. Swift was a move that could never miss, and I was going to abuse this for all it was worth. As Birta fired out Swift after Swift, I saw that Karen had a worried look on her face. This wasn't the kind of turn-based battle she was used to, and it seemed like the rest of her Pokémon couldn't out-speed Birta.
  462.  
  463. I counted how many times she returned her Pokémon after Birta's endless rampaging... two, three, four, five. That was the last of them.
  464.  
  465. When I looked at Karen again, it seemed like she was ten years older. "You have defeated me, but the Champion will put you in your place!"
  466.  
  467. The fourth set of doors burst open. "Go on and meet your misery!"
  468.  
  469. I didn't look back before entering. That was a mistake - I might have noticed that Karen was secretly smirking.
  470.  
  471. --- Scene 9: The Revelation
  472.  
  473. But when I entered the fifth pair of doors, what awaited me wasn't another battle room. Unlike the last room, this one *was* entirely glitchy, with white and black squares and pixel patterns shimmering in and out of view faster than I could look at them. The static and distortion blocked out all sound. The ground rumbled again, but I couldn't see anything sealing the back door.
  474.  
  475. A single caped trainer, whose cape was also on the glitchy fritz, was kneeling in front of a similarly derezzing Pokémon - a Typhlosion. In fact, it looked like...
  476.  
  477. "Kafka!" I ran up to the Typhlosion, my first Pokémon that I had ever had since I was a Cyndaquil. He was breathing heavily, and it appeared that the parts were affected by glitchy smearing were actually bleeding, as patches of dried red stuff appeared on his fur.
  478.  
  479. "Kafka... what did I do wrong?"
  480.  
  481. "What you did wrong, young trainer," said Lance, "was to keep that damned Skarmory in your team."
  482.  
  483. Scar popped out of his ball. "That's not true!" he cawed. "I did nothing of the sort! I'm just as real as any other Pokémon!"
  484.  
  485. "Look around you, foolish Skarmory," said Lance, motioning his hand to the whole room. He then turned back to me. "This is the effect that your beloved Scar has had on the world that it lives in."
  486.  
  487. "No..." I said. "No, I won't believe it..."
  488.  
  489. "You'll take the word of a faker... a Pokémon that was never meant to be... this *bastard* of a monster, over the word of the Elite Four?" roared Lance. "How insolent."
  490.  
  491. "Your Typhlosion here," continued Lance, "was affected by the glitches himself, like you probably saw with some of the Elite Four's Pokémon. Those simply gave themselves completely over to the glitch nature. Kafka, on the other hand, was loyal to you, and did not want to give himself over because he couldn't bear for you to lose him. You can see the marks of that struggle," said Lance, pointing at the caked blood coating parts of Kafka's fur.
  492.  
  493. Kafka opened his eyes weakly, and uttered a low moan.
  494.  
  495. "He is calling for you to destory the Skarmory, so that he can die in peace!"
  496.  
  497. Kafka moaned more loudly, blood now spurting out of his mouth. "Do you not see his suffering? Do it now!"
  498.  
  499. I hesitated. Who *could* I trust? I didn't know whether Lance or Scar was lying. One of them was, but how did I know *who*?
  500.  
  501. "I see," replied Lance. "You still do not believe me. In that case..." Lance stood up, drawing himself up to his full height. "As Champion of the Kanto and Johto Leagues, I, Lance of Blackthorn City, challenge you to a Pokémon battle!"
  502.  
  503. "And I accept your challenge!"
  504.  
  505. Lance sent out a Charizard first. "You may not be such a coward," said Lance, "but you are still a cheater. And cheaters will never win in the end."
  506.  
  507. "We'll see about that! Perkele!"
  508.  
  509. I sent out my Gyarados, who hadn't been in any of the past battles.
  510.  
  511. "Perkele! Hydro Pump!"
  512.  
  513. "Dodge whatever it throws at you, Charizard!"
  514.  
  515. But I had tricks up my own sleeve. Perkele managed to fake her Hydro Pump to aim where Charizard was headed rather then where it was at the moment.
  516.  
  517. When the Charizard fell to the floor, Lance did not return it. "What are you doing?" I asked, as he sent out his own Gyarados next.
  518.  
  519. "Still the fool, are we," said Lance. "Just look at it."
  520.  
  521. The Charizard lay on the ground, starting to both bleed out of its tail and glitch up. The black and white squares were now tainted with red as well.
  522.  
  523. "You killed my Charizard," said Lance. "The glitches have spread around so much that they have removed any protection these Pokémon may have had. This is a fight to the *death*."
  524.  
  525. The last word struck me straight in the chest. So if I lost even one here, they would be removed from the world *forever*?
  526.  
  527. I returned Perkele and sent out Ramya. I knew how I could deal with this. But I was killing *Lance's* Pokémon too. This wasn't what a Pokémon trainer did!
  528.  
  529. Ramya shot out a single Thunderbolt and the Gyarados was done for. Lance then sent out his Aerodactyl. He seemed almost gleeful - almost mad. How could a Pokémon trainer be so cruel, sending his Pokémon out when he knew, and I didn't, that it would be a fight to the death?
  530.  
  531. I brought out Laplace again, and she used Surf dutifully. The Aerodactyl brought a barrage of rocks down, but the Lapras simply volleyed them back at the Aerodactyl with a Hydro Pump.
  532.  
  533. The Aerodactyl was also down for the count, and now three bodies were in a heap on the side of the field. Three beautiful dragons, their lives wasted because Lance was mad and had challenged me to a deathmatch that neither of us could back out of.
  534.  
  535. Now, Lance sent out a Dragonite. I knew how I could win this - a simple Ice Beam from Laplace would do the trick in all cases.
  536.  
  537. But the Dragonite was faster, and managed to perform Outrage on Laplace. Although the Ice Beam froze it to death, Lance had another one ready. Another Outrage, another Ice Beam.
  538.  
  539. "So you think you can win, eh...?" said Lance, grinning. "Not with this last one."
  540.  
  541. Lance sent out yet another Dragonite, which immediately used Outrage to send my Lapras into her own side of the field, starting to bleed to death herself.
  542.  
  543. Immediately, any other Pokémon I sent out was immediately Outraged into oblivion. The Dragonite seemed to be pumped with adrenaline, and not even mind that it was supposed to become confused with fatigue after a few times of unleashing the attack. I watched as Scipio, then Birta, then Perkele, then Ramya were all flung off to the side with Laplace.
  544.  
  545. The only Pokémon I had left now was... Scar. My beloved Skarmory. It had probably rested up enough that it could attack the Dragonite one more time and win the battle for me, as the Dragonite was now quite properly tired out itself and looked like it might commit suicide entirely by fluke.
  546.  
  547. I sent out Scar. Kafka moaned loudly again at the sight of him.
  548.  
  549. "So, it comes to this," said Lance. "My most prized Pokémon against your most prized Pokémon. Except..." he mused. "Mine is real and yours is a *fake*." He spat the last word with so much venom it could have poisoned Scar. "Even Kafka reacts in pain at the sight of him. Will you not trust your own starter Pokémon?"
  550.  
  551. Kafka moaned again, and I realized that something wasn't right.
  552.  
  553. "Send your Skarmory to attack my Dragonite, or tell it to stand down. The choice is yours," said Lance. "Remember that Kafka's life is at stake too."
  554.  
  555. I stood there for thirty seconds, paralyzed in thought. Lance *was* right. Those dead Pokémon were doubtless. The glitches really *had* screwed up something fundamental in the game. Even if I liked Scar, my first allegiance was with Kafka.
  556.  
  557. Kafka moaned at me one more time before resting his head down in pain.
  558.  
  559. Finally, I made my decision.
  560.  
  561. "Scar, stand down," I said.
  562.  
  563. Scar turned back, looking at me in bewilderment. "But what about--"
  564.  
  565. "Wise choice, young trainer," Lance said. "Dragonite, Thunder Punch."
  566.  
  567. As Scar watched in total fright, the Dragonite got up, flew forward, and with a blinding punch to the abdomen, hit him with a lightning bolt--
  568.  
  569. Kafka moaned once as Scar fell into the pile of dead Pokémon, and as I watched in silent despair and fright. I started feeling woozy, and blacked out before I could hear Kafka muster up the strength to say, "It was a setup."
  570.  
  571. --- Scene 10: The Aftermath
  572.  
  573. The next thing I knew, I woke up in a hospital bed in some sort of emergency room. Lance swam into view.
  574.  
  575. "Wake up, our hero," said Lance.
  576.  
  577. "Wh...wha...?" I woke up woozily. I tried to pull myself up, but I found that my back was in some sort of brace, and I couldn't move my arms and legs at all.
  578.  
  579. "The world is back to normal. After your Skarmory was destroyed, the world reverted back to its non-glitchy state. Although at what a terrible cost..." he stood up and bowed his head. "Both of our remaining Pokémon died in the end. My Dragonite has passed away, achieving its goal, and Kafka is resting in peace, having his own little memorial at the Indigo Plateau."
  580.  
  581. "And what about my team?"
  582.  
  583. "They, too, are sadly dead. There is no way to get them back."
  584.  
  585. "But," added Lance, "the important thing is that we saved the world. It may have come at the cost of a few lives, but sometimes that is unavoidable for the greater good."
  586.  
  587. "You should feel good for yourself," continued Lance. "Many another trainer would have simply fought to the end, and let the world become completely corrupted, destroying it and starting over. You did the *right* thing."
  588.  
  589. Somehow, I wasn't convinced.
  590.  
  591. Then, at that moment, a nurse walked into the room. "Doctor, come quickly!" said the nurse. "The quadriplegic patient is awake!"
  592.  
  593. Quadriplegic...? What? Wasn't I in the Pokémon Centre? I turned my head to look for Lance, but he had disappeared.
  594.  
  595. "Good morning, Josiah Eltavan," said a man who walked up to me and looked over me once.
  596.  
  597. *How did the doctor know my name?* I thought, in a panic.
  598.  
  599. "How are you feeling?" asked the doctor.
  600.  
  601. I honestly didn't know how to answer. I wasn't feeling much at the moment except sadness. "I lost all my Pokémon. All of my Pokémon are dead."
  602.  
  603. "I mean, how do you feel physically?" said the doctor. "How painful do you feel now?"
  604.  
  605. Suddenly, I realized that I wasn't dreaming anymore.
  606.  
  607. --- Scene 11: The Meantime
  608.  
  609. Josiah's mother, Hilda, heard a crashing noise from upstairs.
  610.  
  611. "Are you okay?" she shouted upstairs.
  612.  
  613. But there was no response.
  614.  
  615. Suddenly very worried for her son, she bolted upstairs and found that he was lying on the floor, convulsing, appearing to be having what appeared to be a seizure. His desk was slightly dented, as if he had knocked his back into it.
  616.  
  617. He was murmuring things - random things, things that horrified his mother to no end. Hilda quickly ran to the kitchen, yanked the phone from the receiver, and dialed three numbers - 9, 1, 1.
  618.  
  619. * * *
  620.  
  621. Kafka was trudging along by himself, along Route 45. Why had his trainer done it? He knew what would happen, and besides, his trainer had all but forgotten about Kafka.
  622.  
  623. "I see you are thinking about your trainer," said a calm voice.
  624.  
  625. Kafka looked around and saw Lance, standing to the side next to a mountaintop.
  626.  
  627. Kafka pricked his ears up and faced Lance. What did he want with him?
  628.  
  629. Lance approached him sympathetically, arms wide open. "You, like us, know that what your trainer did was wrong. Now, you must help us get him back on the path of truth and righteousness."
  630.  
  631. Kafka sensed that something wasn't quite right about Lance's smile. It was too thin... his embracing posture too stiff...
  632.  
  633. "Come to us," said Lance. "We'll help your trainer."
  634.  
  635. Kafka was slowly backing away, but suddenly Lance had his Dragonite out who pounced on Kafka and the last thing he saw was a blur of orange and then a flash of red light--
  636.  
  637. * * *
  638.  
  639. The ambulance quickly arrived at Hilda's house, and a pair of paramedics immediately got out a stretcher and marched into the house.
  640.  
  641. "He's this way," cried Hilda. "Oh, my poor son..."
  642.  
  643. "What happened to him again?"
  644.  
  645. "I don't know what happened, but all I remember is that I heard a crashing noise and the next thing I know he was having a seizure on the floor..." Hilda started sobbing. She couldn't take it anymore.
  646.  
  647. "Thank you, ma'am."
  648.  
  649. They climbed upstairs, where Josiah was now lying there, unconscious.
  650.  
  651. One paramedic started checking his vital signs. He was breathing, but when they looked at his back, they saw two vertebrae sticking out of his back at a very odd angle.
  652.  
  653. The paramedics put Josiah on the stretcher and hurried him down and into the ambulance. Hilda followed, and the ambulance turned on its siren as it sped down the road.
  654.  
  655. * * *
  656.  
  657. When Kafka woke up again, he found that he was lying sprawled on his back. He tried moving, but found that his limbs were bound by metal clamps to whatever he was lying down on.
  658.  
  659. Then, Kafka saw Lance walk in, wearing a pair of rubber gloves.
  660.  
  661. "Don't worry, Kafka," said Lance. "I'll take good care of you. All I need from you is one small favour..."
  662.  
  663. Kafka's eyes suddenly widened. *What was Lance going to do to him?*
  664.  
  665. Lance brought out a scalpel. "Don't worry, the changes that will happen to your body are minimal. We just need to... ah, how do I say this, glitch you up a bit."
  666.  
  667. Not only did Kafka's eyes widen even more now, but his heart started pounding. He struggled now, to break free of the clamps holding him down, but it was in vain.
  668.  
  669. Then, in a moment when time slowed down, Kafka had a flash of realization. Scar was *right*. The glitchy setup *had* been the doing of the Elite Four. They *were* lying about the game being fake. And most of all, Kafka had been wrong about fake Pokémon being bad. For a moment, if you looked closely, his ears even lowered in guilt. But it was too late now. Kafka knew that Lance would never let him speak again - never let his pawn, his enemy's best friend, let anything slip to his enemy about the situation.
  670.  
  671. Then, Kafka felt a moment of blinding pain as the scalpel cut into his side, slowly peeling off his skin.
  672.  
  673. * * *
  674.  
  675. "Is he going to be okay?" cried Hilda.
  676.  
  677. "I can only promise that the doctor will do whatever he can and must," said the paramedic.
  678.  
  679. Hilda started crying, and the paramedic put his hand of Hilda's shoulder as the ambulance pulled into the hospital's emergency centre.
  680.  
  681. * * *
  682.  
  683. Professor Elm had been doing some ordinary filing work, and thinking about Josiah and that dreaded boy who had come in and stolen another one of his Pokémon.
  684.  
  685. Suddenly, the door was kicked open, and a team of people wearing masks and what appeared to be haz-mat suits ran in.
  686.  
  687. "What's all this ab--" Professor Elm was about to say, but he was rudely interrupted by one of the masked bandits knocking down a filing cabinet.
  688.  
  689. "Stop! Vandals!" Professor Elm took the last remaining Pokéball from the display table and released the Pokémon within. "Meganium! Solar Beam!"
  690.  
  691. But before the Meganium could do anything, one of the bandits had taken it, and started carrying it away.
  692.  
  693. Another bandit knocked down a whole bookshelf, this time the one containing all of Professor Elm's research notes, including his current work on a longevity formula for humans like he had seen in many Pokémon.
  694.  
  695. Then, the vandals began spraying a strange substance into the air. The fumes were too much for Professor Elm, who choked at the smell of it. Wherever the substance landed, it started congealing and creating a strange glow that seemed to make the affected objects shimmer and crackle like a distorted video signal.
  696.  
  697. "Be aware," said the bandit, "that this was Josiah's doing. Were it not for him, we would not be here today."
  698.  
  699. Then, the vandals left just as quickly as they had come, leaving Professor Elm alone in his lab, his life's work having been destroyed in a flash.
  700.  
  701. * * *
  702.  
  703. Lance took his sweet time performing his little plastic surgery, knowing that Kafka was probably paralyzed by both fear and pain. He had done this to seven other Pokémon already, except that for them, their whole bodies were covered in the distortiform, as he called it.
  704.  
  705. It was an ingenious substance, when Lance thought of it. The substance made it appear as if a part of what it was applied onto was fizzling in and out of existence like a faded video feed.
  706.  
  707. As Lance cut away more and more of the Typhlosion's skin, some blood started flowing out, trickling onto the Typhlosion's fur and caking it. Lance knew exactly what he was doing, and what effect he wanted to achieve. If Kafka was in a state of debilitating pain, he would garner more sympathy from his trainer.
  708.  
  709. He finished the treelike pattern that the distortiform would be applied onto, and stepped back to admire his work.
  710.  
  711. Now it was time to apply the distortiform. He took a jar of the substance, shimmering in and out of view, and a butterknife.
  712.  
  713. If he had been looking at Kafka's head, he would have noticed that the Typhlosion's eyes were squeezed shut and tears were trickling out.
  714.  
  715. * * *
  716.  
  717. A trauma team came out with a gurney, and the paramedics carefully put Josiah on it.
  718.  
  719. "What happened to this guy?" asked the general surgeon.
  720.  
  721. "He somehow managed to suddenly back up, knocking the back of his neck into his desk so hard that it resulted in spinal cord damage," said the orthopedic surgeon, who was busy getting Josiah's back into a brace.
  722.  
  723. Suddenly, Josiah started talking, which surprised all of them. "Why?" he said, his voice suddenly getting louder. "Why did you do it? Why?!?"
  724.  
  725. "The patient's blood pressure is rising," said the anesthetist. "He's losing it!"
  726.  
  727. Josiah screamed, "Why, damn it? Why did you doom us all?"
  728.  
  729. He then slumped back down, now completely nonresponsive. The doctor in charge of writing things down scribbled a note about this.
  730.  
  731. * * *
  732.  
  733. Kafka thought that the pain he felt while Lance slowly and deliberately peeled off parts of his skin was excruciating.
  734.  
  735. But when Lance applied whatever strange lotion he was applying, he felt new waves of pain, a hundred times as intense as whatever he had felt before. The substance was seeping into his body, becoming a part of him. He truly convulsed now, straining at the clamps that still stayed there, firmly holding him down.
  736.  
  737. Kafka then heard a faint buzzing noise coming from the side of him that the strange lotion was being applied to, but only barely over the tinnitus that the pain was causing him.
  738.  
  739. Whatever Lance was doing to him, it wasn't for his good. Whatever cruel, twisted fantasy Lance was acting out, it wasn't for *his* own good either.
  740.  
  741. Kafka slumped back, resigning to his fate as Lance scooped up another knifeful of the painful lotion.
  742.  
  743. * * *
  744.  
  745. The doctors wheeled Josiah into the operating theatre, where they started performing a diagnosis.
  746.  
  747. The radiologist performed an X-ray, and found that Josiah's spinal cord had been torn apart at the spot where he had hit his desk.
  748.  
  749. "How did this happen?" said the general surgeon. "This is the first ever case I've seen of such a thing happening. How could a little boy back into his desk so hard that it actually snapped a backbone...?"
  750.  
  751. * * *
  752.  
  753. Lance looked at his finished work. He looked, as one side of Kafka appeared to be buzzing and pulsing in and out of existence.
  754.  
  755. "You will be a great help," said Lance. "Your trainer cheated, and you will be of great value in teaching him the lesson that he so deserves."
  756.  
  757. Underneath all the pain showing in Kafka's face, there was a look of "If you so much as hurt one hair on his head, I'll..."
  758.  
  759. "The distortiform takes some time to seep in," said Lance. "I'll let you sit here for a while."
  760.  
  761. Lance turned and left Kafka on the operating table, still held down by metal clamps and whimpering in pain, fear, and now anger.
  762.  
  763. * * *
  764.  
  765. Lance left the operating room, and admired his work. He closed the door behind him, wearing gloves so as to not trigger the piezoelectrical stimulation that distortiform provided.
  766.  
  767. The entire Champion's room was now covered in the stuff, as if it was simply a new layer of paint.
  768.  
  769. It was the perfect setup. When Josiah saw what had happened to the Pokémon League building, he would see the consequences of his actions, courtesy of the distortiform. As Josiah made his way further and further into the Elite Four's rooms, battling with that stupid Skarmory, he would find that the world was more and more distorted. And finally, Lance would bring Kafka out, and eke out that stupid trainer's sympathy. He did not have to worry about Kafka rebelling in any way... Kafka would definitely be too weak to do so for quite a while.
  770.  
  771. And if the trainer refused, he would battle. He had had his Pokémon actually *ingest* the distortiform - it was not poisonous, at least not as long as it didn't get into the bloodstream undigested. The wounds that his Pokémon could inflict would definitely have this effect. It meant that any Pokémon that was defeated would die, but Lance didn't care. He needed to teach this lesson. He *wanted* to teach it so badly.
  772.  
  773. He walked forward into the previous rooms, carefully stepping around the floor mat sensor that would seal the entrance, and walked through the set of double doors into the room of the fourth Elite Four, who was simply sitting there, admiring the artwork.
  774.  
  775. "Karen," said Lance.
  776.  
  777. "Lance," said Karen.
  778.  
  779. "How far is the trainer toward coming here?"
  780.  
  781. "Not very," said Karen, looking outside the window of her room. "It seems like he's made it into Victory Road."
  782.  
  783. "Prepare yourself," said Lance, suddenly drawing Karen into a kiss. "It won't be long, my dear, before we have our revenge."
  784.  
  785. As Karen returned the kiss, Lance ran a finger through Karen's hair. "Me, for my own death two years ago. You, for the death of your mother, Agatha."
  786.  
  787. * * *
  788.  
  789. Will was fumbling with the voice recorder he'd been given by Lance. *So,* he ran through it in his mind, *I've got to play the recording of a distorted voice, and at the same time, lip sync what I'm saying.*
  790.  
  791. He really did not understand what Lance was doing, nor did he care. All he knew was that he was to follow Lance's orders, and battle the trainer who was coming.
  792.  
  793. He didn't even object to Lance applying that strange fizzly substance to his Xatu. Lance had told him that the application was painless, and his Xatu didn't seem to mind when Lance spreaded the paste on its body.
  794.  
  795. The things he had to do as a member of the Elite Four... he regretted ever joining, if *this* was the kind of shenanigans he was getting into.
  796.  
  797. * * *
  798.  
  799. In the darkened room, Koga meditated. He was one of the only ones in his family who could meditate with his eyes open, and was fiercely proud of this ability.
  800.  
  801. He had been given instructions by Lance, and had agreed to them. A ninja always carried out the task he was given, no matter what sly tactics it took. But even with a ninja's underhanded moves, he still would never, could never, resort to outright cheating. This was the lesson that the trainer who was about to come here needed to learn.
  802.  
  803. * * *
  804.  
  805. Now that Bruno knew the feel of death, he wondered why he kept on living. What kept him firmly anchored to this earth?
  806.  
  807. Had it not been enough that he was defeated once, two years ago, by that one girl with a Mewtwo? And now, to be yanked back to life for another plot by Lance, this time even more sick and twisted than the first one, to ward off another cheater who hadn't even done anything so bad?
  808.  
  809. Bruno decided that the only thing keeping him here now was an obligation. An obligation that he now hated with all his heart, but an obligation it still was. One to Lance, to his Pokémon, and to the trainer. It was the reason he had been reborn, and the reason he would die in peace after its fulfilment.
  810.  
  811. * * *
  812.  
  813. Karen watched Lance leave, going back into his own room to prepare for the incoming trainer. She continued staring up at the ceiling and walls, watching the patterns fade and fizzle in and out of view.
  814.  
  815. And then her thoughts turned to Lance. She would do anything for him, including follow this plot that Lance had told her about. She shared his feelings on the subject, which made it much easier. And she also had her own plans, her own ickle strategy for dealing with an unruly trainer. And thirdly, if her own plan failed, although she'd be very disappointed she couldn't do anything herself, she knew that Lance's was foolproof.
  816.  
  817. Karen smirked. *Oh, how fun this would be.*
  818.  
  819. * * *
  820.  
  821. All that Kafka knew now was pain. As he lay there, immobile, the distortiform seeped further and further into his skin, reminding him of the literally blinding pain he had suffered earlier.
  822.  
  823. Suddenly, the clamps holding Kafka's limbs down were released. But it didn't matter now. Kafka was too weak from all the pain to move by himself.
  824.  
  825. A pair of thin but rough hands picked Kafka up, and he felt more sharp waves of pain, although they were smaller then before. "The time has come," said Lance.
  826.  
  827. Kafka no longer minded. The pain echoed through his mind, preventing him from moving at all.
  828.  
  829. Then, he was set down on the floor.
  830.  
  831. Kafka knew what was going to happen next, and he was powerless to stop it. Suddenly, the doors in front of their room burst open, and Josiah came in, rushing over to kneel in front of Kafka.
  832.  
  833. He tried to tell Josiah to run away, and that everything was a setup, but all he managed was a moan of pain.
  834.  
  835. "He is calling for you to destory the Skarmory, so that he can die in peace!" Kafka heard Lance say. The lying bastard. He tried again, but this time, blood squirted out of his mouth.
  836.  
  837. Kafka could do nothing but watch helplessly as Josiah battled Lance, killing each other's Pokémon - Josiah in helplessness, Lance in deliberate malice.
  838.  
  839. Then, Josiah sent out Scar. Now that Kafka saw him again, he was no longer angry at him, but sorry. Sorry that he *had been* angry at it, sorry that he had ever doubted the Skarmory in the first place, sorry that he had abandoned Josiah's team because he thought Scar was a terrible influence. He let out another moan, as if to say sorry.
  840.  
  841. Scar heard the moan, and acknowledged it with a lowering of his head.
  842.  
  843. Kafka had to tell Josiah. He just had to. He strained, drawing every last bit of energy he had to resist the pain, and move his jaw muscles in order to utter the last four words he would ever say in his life. "It was a setup."
  844.  
  845. "I don't think he heard you," Lance said to Kafka, as he watched Josiah fall to the ground, unconscious with anguish.
  846.  
  847. Kafka bowed his head in resignation, being unable to do anything else. He had failed. Failed to tell his trainer what was going on. Failed to remain loyal to the end, and failed to be a friend, the friend that Josiah took him as. As his own vision started to go black, the last thing he wondered was whether some divine punishment awaited him for what he had done.
  848.  
  849. * * *
  850.  
  851. Josiah was now in stable condition, although the doctors had managed to conclude that the damage in his spinal cord was irreparable, and that he would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.
  852.  
  853. He woke up, and the nurse on duty had overheard him talking to things that weren't there.
  854.  
  855. * * *
  856.  
  857. "The important thing," said Lance, "is that we saved the world. It may have come at the cost of a few lives, but sometimes that is unavoidable for the greater good."
  858.  
  859. After Lance finished his talk to Josiah, he whirled around, and in a flash was back in the operating room where he had smeared distortiform on Kafka.
  860.  
  861. Kafka had died, very shortly after Josiah had been sent to the Pokémon Centre to recover.
  862.  
  863. And so it was for the rest of his Pokémon. They truly were dead, the distortiform within them having leaked into their bloodstreams, causing circulatory shock and killing them. So it was for Josiah's Pokémon, whose various cuts and bruises had been laced with the substance.
  864.  
  865. *But it had been worth it,* thought Lance, as he looked on the pile of dead bodies that were being carted away, and the distortiform that was being removed from the walls. Lance had taught the trainer a lesson that he was not soon to forget.
  866.  
  867. Eventually, it would be spread out, in all the newspapers, that a trainer named Josiah had both doomed the world, and saved it in the end. Endless controversies would be started, and endless confusion would be stirred over what had really happened. But Lance was proud of Josiah, or rather, the work he put into him. In the end, they were all pawns, to be used and exploited for his *real* aims.
  868.  
  869. --- Scene 12: The Motive
  870.  
  871. Professor Elm sat there.
  872.  
  873. It wasn't entirely clear what he felt at the moment, but he simply sat there, looking upon the shambles that was once his lab. A few crumpled papers remained in his hands. The distortiform was especially good at dissolving paper, and all that was left of the good doctor's life's work was a mess of pulp.
  874.  
  875. He had heard about Lance's battle with Josiah. How in the end, all of their Pokémon had died. Elm had cried at first. What a waste of those beautiful animals' lives! But Elm knew better. He was a biologist. He eventually knew that all lives were to be wasted in a self-perpetuating loop. So he felt nothing now.
  876.  
  877. The door burst open. Elm didn't turn around.
  878.  
  879. "You know why I've done this, don't you?" said a familiar voice that Elm knew was Lance's.
  880.  
  881. "H-how..." stuttered Elm. "How c-could you..."
  882.  
  883. "Humans don't deserve to live for a long time," said Lance. "They've done nothing to earn it."
  884.  
  885. "How could you abuse Josiah like that..."
  886.  
  887. "Don't you get it, old man?" said Lance. "Josiah never really meant anything. His escapade was the perfect cover-up for what I've done. Making sure *you* don't give people what they shouldn't have."
  888.          
  889. It was then that Elm realized that it was not Josiah, but Lance, who had doomed them all.
  890.  
  891. "You... you monster!" said Elm. "You're insane!" he cried.
  892.  
  893. "Nobody will know that this is what I *really* meant to do. Everyone will write it off as collateral damage. After all, nobody can miss what they've never had."
  894.  
  895. "How long?" asked Elm. "How long were you waiting for someone to do this?"
  896.  
  897. "Oh, quite some time," said Lance. "There are a lot of trainers out there who did what Josiah did, but none of them have done quite exactly what I've wanted them to do, and none of them came from your lab."
  898.  
  899. The professor's eyes widened in anguished realization. Lance wasn't on a moral crusade. He simply acted the part to have an excuse to destroy Elm's lab.
  900.  
  901. Lance brought out a Pokéball, and let out the Pokémon inside. Elm looked at the released Pokémon, and realized, horrified, that Lance still had a single Dragonite left from his battle with Josiah. It hadn't died after all. Lance lied about that, just like he lied about what had happened to the Pokémon world - twice.
  902.  
  903. "You've tried to cheat death," said Lance. "And you know how much I *hate* cheating." Lance quietly said two words to his Dragonite, and Elm knew what his fate was. "Dragonite, Guillotine."
  904.  
  905. Elm's life flashed before his eyes as an orange blur raced towards him, holding an outstretched claw aimed straight for his head--