Of Sand and Shadows @helloyellow
Chapter 6

Chapter 6: Lockdown

This is definitely not how I thought today would go.

Rui said these words to herself as she sat beside a grumbling Wes in the Phenac clinic. Their visit had taken roughly two hours from start to finish, much to the Trainer's chagrin.

He was in quite a sour mood, although Rui couldn't exactly blame him, given the day's events. She glanced at the sling on his right arm; she couldn't believe he'd had a dislocated shoulder ever since leaving the mayor's house. He'd hardly shown any pain at all, and even after the nurse set it back in place, he was prepared to leave and skip receiving pain medication altogether.

Rui had, with some considerable effort, convinced him to stay for just a little longer. Good as he was at masking it, there was no way he wasn't in pain. She shook her head to herself. What kind of person brushed off a dislocated shoulder like it was nothing?

As a peace offering and in an effort to temper his mood, she'd taken his Pokemon to the Center, healed them, and brought them back while he waited. This seemed to ease his stress a little.

Rui looked around the room. She couldn't help but notice there was a tense atmosphere in the clinic. Nurses and doctors were muttering to each other in worried, hushed tones, and clients were whispering to one another. News about the break in at the mayor's estate must have been reported and was spreading around the city. Rui just hoped the mayor would be found safe and sound...she sighed and slumped in her seat. She found herself wishing she could do more, so much more.

At long last, the nurse emerged with the medication and they were able to get on their way. Rui bit her lip hesitantly as they walked out the door. She knew she'd told Wes that she would go her own way after this, but she couldn't help but wonder if those men, Trudly and Folly, were still in the city. They were still after her, and the thought of being left alone was terrifying...but she couldn't possibly ask more of him. He'd made it clear that he had his own plans, and he'd sacrificed so much for her already...

She blinked in the sunlight as they stepped outside. The hospital was near the upper elevations of the city, so they had a clear view over the sloping buildings and cascading waterfalls. The sun was getting low in the sky, tinging the light blue with gold and glowing off the city below. Rui basked in the breathtaking sight; bad memories of Phenac aside, it still managed impress her.

She shot Wes a sideways look. "I...guess this is it, huh?"

"Yeah." He wasn't looking at her. Rui wondered if he was having the same thoughts as her about Trudly and Folly, but if he was, he said nothing. Instead, he sent Neo and Novo out of their Pokeballs. "All right, guys. Time to say goodbye."

Novo cast her a sideways glance, chuffed, then turned his head away to look out over the city. Rui smiled wryly; she'd been expecting as much from him.

Neo's eyes widened in dismay as he looked from his Trainer to Rui. "Esp? Spiiiii?"

"It's time for us to go, bud, and she needs to get home. Say goodbye, okay?"

Neo's ears drooped in disappointment. Rui crouched down, and he wandered over to place his head on her knee with a loud sigh.

Wes rolled his eyes. "Such a drama queen."

Rui giggled at the Espeon. "I'll miss you too, Neo," she said as she stroked his head. "It was fun to get to know each other, wasn't it?"

Neo rubbed his chin against her knee. "Spi."

She got back to her feet. "So, um...thanks." She looked down at her feet and clasped her hands behind her back.

"...yeah." Wes mumbled and shifted awkwardly. "Well, uh, see you, I guess - "

"Umbri!" A bark from Novo made them both jump. The Umbreon was on his feet, looking at something in the distance. He turned to his Trainer with an anxious growl. "Bri!"

Wes raised a hand to his face and let out a groan. He looked as though he might throw something. "For Arceus' sake," he said weakly, "What now?"

As if in answer to his question, a loud, booming voice echoed through the streets, making them both jump. Rui glanced around for the source of the sound and found it was coming from speakers all throughout the city.

"This is a public announcement to all citizens of Phenac!" Rui perked up - that was the mayor's voice!

"All citizens are to return to their homes immediately. All visitors are to take shelter in the Pokemon Center. We ask that every individual remain indoors until further notice. There will be no exiting or entering the city at this time. We thank you for your cooperation."

She heard Wes groan beside her. "Well. Fantastic. We chose a great day to come back here." His voice was dripping with annoyance.

"What do you think is happening?" She turned to face him, fear creeping into her chest.

"Probably trying to chase down whoever broke into the mayor's house...which doesn't put us in the best position," Wes replied grimly.

"Why not?"

"Because we were there. If anybody saw us going in or out and reported it, we could be suspects."

"We can just tell them the truth, right? And I bet if we could find Dash or Marla, they would vouch for us!"

"You're forgetting that I stole a Pokémon while we were there. If that gets found out..."

"...oh. Right..." Rui bit her lip. "Then...what do we do?"

Wes didn't answer immediately; he seemed to be wondering this himself. Then he turned and looked at her. "We're getting out of here."

Rui blinked. "'We'?"

"You're welcome to stay here for hours and possibly get arrested, but personally, I have other things I'd rather be doing."

"O-okay, but how are we getting out? The mayor just said-"

"Forget what the mayor said. We can at least check out the entrance and see if we can sneak out somehow. It's not like they have a police force to guard the exits."

Rui frowned at him. "All right...but if we can't find a reasonable way to get out, I think we should go to the Center and wait things out."

Wes scowled. He clearly didn't like her counteroffer, but rather than argue, he simply sighed. "Fine. Deal."

They headed towards the southern entrance. Rui had to admit that, her rising anxiety and pounding heart aside, she was grateful they hadn't parted ways just yet. It was nice not to be alone, and, gruff though he was, she was starting to enjoy Wes' company. She watched Neo and Novo weave around their Trainer as they walked, and she felt a little more at peace in their presence.

They eventually rounded a corner and the south gate came into view. Four men stood in front of it, forming a human blockade of sorts. One man in a white and gold uniform stood in front of the other three and was repeating directions into a microphone.

"All citizens please return to your homes! There will be no leaving or entering this city until further notice! I repeat, all citizens return to your homes immediately..."

There weren't many people in the small square, but those who remained were quickly hurrying about in varying directions to their homes. Rui caught a glimpse of a few faces as they bustled by; each one looked tense, worried, and fearful.

She then got a closer look at the men standing in front of the entrance. They each wore distinctly colored uniforms and carried an air of authority in their posture.

"Are those...officers?" Rui asked uncertainly.

"The guy in front is some kind of Town Hall member," Wes answered as he surveyed the scene, "but I don't recognize the ones behind him...they can't be officers, I know Phenac doesn't have..." he trailed off with a frown.

Rui then made a prompt decision and approached the man with the megaphone. She heard Wes hiss her name behind her, but she ignored him. She hadn't been with the Trainer that long, but knew him well enough that he would probably come up with something brash and reckless to get them out of here. Rui, however, had a little faith in the power of negotiation.

"Excuse me!" Rui raised her voice in an attempt to be heard over the megaphone. "Can you tell us what's going on?"

The man lowered the megaphone and threw her a thoroughly disgruntled look. "Look, lady, I can only repeat myself through this damn cone and be ignored so many times. Now get gone. Go home."

"Please, sir..." Rui put on her best pleading face. "I'm just a tourist, you see, and I don't live here-"

"Bah!" He waved a hand in frustration. "Then go to the Center or something!"

"Care to tell us why we can't leave the city?" Wes surprised Rui by stepping up beside her and addressing the man sharply. She held back a sigh; she'd been going for the sweet and innocent angle, but Wes' glare would quickly ruin that.

Out of the corner of her eye, Rui saw one of the three men nudge his neighbor and whisper in his ear.

The Town Hall member turned to scowl at him, but then quailed slightly under Wes' fierce gaze. He huffed and shook his head. "Look, I'm not at liberty to share details, but I have it on good authority that there's an armed and dangerous criminal in this city, and nobody's going anywhere until we find the culprit." His face darkened. "You've heard the orders from the mayor and myself, so stop wasting my time and get inside somewhere!"

"Excuse me." One of the uniformed men stepped up. His face was obscured under a helmet with a dark visor. He wore a scarf around his neck, a crisply fitted button-up uniform, and thick gloves. Every piece of clothing, from his visor to his boots, was a solid oceanic blue. His two companions behind him wore identical uniforms, except that one was in all red, the other all green.

He seemed to be glancing between Wes and Rui - she couldn't see his eyes, so it was hard to tell for certain. He then clapped a hand on the Town Hall member's shoulder. "You can go on home now, sir. We'll take it from here."

The man balked. "But-as a Town Hall official-"

"No need to worry, this area's been cleared of civilians save these two. You've done your duty."

The staff member sighed in relief. He pushed past Wes and Rui further into the city, and she thought she heard him grumble as he passed, "Don't get paid enough for this."

The man in blue turned his head to Wes. "You, sir. I'm going to need to see your Trainer I.D."

Wes narrowed his eyes. "What?"

"No worry, it's only a precaution. We've got a Pokémon thief running somewhere through this city, so we need to be sure no Trainers are carrying unregistered Pokémon."

Rui's heart raced in her chest. Wes had tucked the Makuhita's Pokeball onto his belt, next to the other two...

"My Pokémon are right here," Wes said cooly, and gestured to the Umbreon and Espeon that stood loyally his feet.

"I'm sorry, but I still need to see your I.D."

Wes raised an eyebrow at him. "And who are you, exactly? I don't remember Phenac having officers."

"We are volunteer transfers from Pyrite who have offered their services to keep Phenac safe." An edge crept into the man's tone. "Now, for the last time, show me your I.D., or things will get difficult."

Rui glanced nervously at Wes. What do we do? What do we do? But the Trainer merely sighed and shrugged his shoulders. His face was perfectly calm as he reached into his coat and handed his Trainer card to the...officer? Supposedly? Rui still wasn't exactly sure what to call these men. She'd never heard of authorities transferring from Pyrite before - but then again, she supposed she didn't know much about a lot of things.

The man in blue pulled out his P*DA and scanned the card. After a moment's pause, he read aloud, "Wesley Lycas, twenty-two, native Orre citizen, three registered Pokemon. An Espeon, an Umbreon, and a Makuhita." He pocketed his device and handed the card back to Wes. "Looks like everything is in order. You're all clear, but we still can't allow anyone in or out of this city until we do a thorough search."

Wes heaved another sigh of exasperation. Rui could tell from his clenched jaw that he was trying very hard to maintain his patience. "Look, we really need to be on our way. Can you just let us go?"

"Sorry, sir. No exiting or entering until the lockdown is lifted."

Wes looked ready to argue, so Rui quickly stepped in. "Thank you," she said, "we'll be on our way now!" She grabbed her companion by the arm and pulled him away.

"I can't believe this-" he mumbled under his breath as they turned to go. "We are never getting out of here..."

But we aren't arrested, either, she thought. She looked up at him and was about to ask what sort of stunt he'd pulled when she heard a series of distinct sounds from behind them:

Several Pokémon being unleashed at once.

Wes stiffened. "Oh, hell-"

Rui was suddenly wrenched to the side as he dove, pulling her down with him. She didn't even have time to shout before she heard Wes call to his Pokémon. "PROTECT!"

And then everything around them exploded.

A maelstrom of Pokémon attacks engulfed them. Rui heard herself scream as she saw flames, leaves, water, psychic energy - but none of them reached her or Wes.

Neo and Novo flanked the two of them on either side. Novo's rings flared as Neo's jewel gleamed, a white silvery shield forming around them. The attacks subsided, and the shield evaporated like mist.

The dust settled. The three uniformed men stood with empty Pokeballs in their hands. Five growling, rumbling and snarling Pokemon loomed right in front of them -

Rui choked out a cry.

Dark. Angry. Black.

It was Pyrite all over again - but worse. Much worse. Rui trembled as she took in the sickly sight of purple-black flames engulfing the aura of - not one, not two, but three of the five Pokemon before them.

A Quilava twitched and clawed at the ground erratically as though trying to get at an itch it could not scratch; a Bayleef breathed heavily with raging hatred in its eyes; a Croconaw snapped its jaws and looked horrifyingly eager to tear something in two. A Spoink and a Grimer flanked the three creatures on either side, and although their auras were clean, they were tense and ready to fight.

These men were certainly no officers.

There's more of them, she realized as she took in the corrupted Pokemon with growing horror. Lots more. Then she realized something else.

We are so, so dead.

"So this is how you want to play?!" Wes was back on his feet and roaring at his opponents. "Just who the hell do you think you are!"

The man in blue smirked at him. "Play dangerous games, win dangerous prizes, my friend." Wes snarled a curse at him.

Rui rose shakily to her feet. "W-Wes-"

"What!" He snapped his gaze to hers, and Rui flinched a little; he looked thoroughly pissed.

"Those - those - those Pokemon are like that Makuhita!"

He stared at her in disbelief. "You're joking."

"The - the -" Fear made her words were jumble together. "Quilava-Croconaw-Bayleef!" She hoped to Arceus she made some sort of sense in her panic.

"Briii!" Novo stalked forward with a growl, utterly undaunted by the number of foes. One of the Pokemon, a Spoink, squealed a challenge back at him.

A volley of cries reached Rui's ears as each of the men hollered commands at their Pokemon. Rui ducked, Wes shouted for another Protect, and this time the shield barely held against the vicious barrage.

She was not convinced it would hold a third time.

"Novo, Dark Pulse on that Spoink! Neo - Confusion on the Grimer!" The Eons lunged into the fray at the command, and chaos ensued. Wes ripped the third Pokeball from his belt and unleashed the Makuhita.

The Pokémon's aura was no different from before. The darkness shifted around it eerily, unnaturally, like a sickly specter. The Makuhita blinked as he took in his surroundings. The dark flames of aura burned higher as he noticed the fighting.

"Makuhita, Vital Throw!" Wes called from behind. The Makuhita turned to give him a blank stare.

"Does...does he know you're his Trainer now?" Rui asked nervously. The sounds of the battle raged in front of them, and she heard Neo shriek in pain.

Wes must have heard this, too, because his jaw clenched. "Dammit, we don't have time for this -" he stepped up to the Makuhita. "Look, I'm your Trainer now. Long story. I need you to fight for me now or we are all dead."

The Makuhita seemed to understand this. He blinked and nodded his head slowly.

"Right, then - Vital throw!"

The Makuhita continued to stare.

Wes growled in frustration. "For the love of - you know what, I don't care what you do, just get in there and throw down, and don't hit the Espeon or Umbreon. Go!"

The Pokémon didn't need to be told twice. As if a switch had been flipped, the Makuhita went from a blank, lifeless slate to a raging machine. His head snapped to the battle and he lunged into the chaos with a terrifying bellow. "Ma-KU!"

Things were not going well for Neo and Novo. The Espeon was panting heavily as he clashed with the Bayleef, Quilava and Grimer all at once. He finally landed a solid Confusion on the Grimer, launching it several feet and taking it out of commission, only to be buried beneath the attacks of his other two foes. He wailed as the Bayleef battered at him with its vines - and then said Bayleef was blasted off its feet as Makuhita slammed into his side with terrifying force.

Novo was snapping his jaws at the Spoink with Croconaw hot on his heels. He finally landed a Bite on its tail, and while the Pokémon shrieked, he knocked it out with a Dark Pulse before flinging it away from the battle. The Croconaw was upon him immediately, and the two engaged in a whirlwind of fangs and claws.

Shouts rang across the battlefield as one command after another was called. Rui heard one of the men, the one in green, laugh smugly. They knew who would win this fight; they had made sure of that before the battle had even begun.

The playing field was even now, but Wes' starters had taken a beating. Neo's fur was charred from the Quilava's flames, Novo was limping badly, and both of their attacks were rapidly weakening. They would not last much longer.

The Makuhita, on the other hand, was thriving.

He slammed the Bayleef off its feet once more. The grass Pokémon let out a cry that was cut short by another brutal blow - then another, and another. The Bayleef's cries transitioned from ones of frustration to bellows of pain.

Rui noticed this with horror. "Wes, stop him!" she shrieked.

Wes had left Makuhita to his devices as he called commands to the struggling Eons. At Rui's cry, he followed her gaze and swore at the sight.

He had a Pokeball in his hand with lighting speed; Rui caught a gleam of light as the machine on his arm lit up and emitted an orange glow along its seams and edges. With a fluid motion, the Trainer lunged forward and hurled the ball at the Bayleef, and the Pokémon vanished in a beam of light.

She heard one of the men shout in alarm.

The Makuhita barely seemed to notice that his foe had vanished. He immediately hurled himself at the Croconaw with a roar, and Rui saw his aura bursting with aggression.

Rui didn't hear the ball click in all the chaos, but she saw it fly back to Wes' hand. No sooner did he tuck it away than he hurled another one, this time at the Quilava. The fire Pokémon had barely disappeared into the ball before he chucked another at the Croconaw.

The Trainer in red roared; his companions balked in fear and confusion at the sudden turn of the tables. He lunged forward - and the Makuhita, fresh out of opponents, charged at him.

"Holy-" Wes choked as he fumbled for his Pokeball, but he wasn't quick enough. There was a loud thud and a scream as the fighting Pokémon landed his blow and threw the man back ten feet. He landed hard on the white stones and moaned in pain as his companions backed away with shouts of terror.

He's out of control, Rui thought as she watched in horror. And Wes just caught another one like him! Merciful Arceus -

The Makuhita bore down on him again, black aura billowing about him, but Wes managed to return him just before he could slam his mighty fists down on the man's chest.

"That Pokémon," he said shakily to a pale Rui as he tucked away the ball, "is insane."

"You know," she replied weakly, "you're not wrong."

Crack!

The ominous sound rang out like a gunshot. The Quilava reappeared in a burst of white light, snarling with dark fury. The flames roaring from its neck and tail contrasted starkly with the black cloud of aura around it.

It fastened its eyes on Rui and lunged.

She stumbled backward with a yelp. A black and yellow blur shot from the side and rammed the fire Pokémon, sending it rolling across the stones. The Quilava staggered to its feet and faced Novo with a snarl of rage.

Rui felt a hand on her arm tug her back and away from the fight. She heard Wes' voice beside her. "Dark Pulse!"

A wall of dark energy flowed from Novo's pelt as he charged at his foe. The Quilava belched flames at him; Novo darted under them, and his Dark Pulse knocked the Quilava onto its side.

Another crack; the Croconaw burst from its Pokeball and immediately lunged at a weakened, barely standing Neo.

"Novo, Bite! Neo, Return!"

"Es-PIIII!" Neo yowled as he launched his assault on the rapidly approaching Croconaw. His pelt gleamed with white energy, then blasted from his forehead jewel into the other Pokémon's chest. The Croconaw bellowed as it was sent sprawling across the white stones.

The trainer in blue screamed at the Croconaw as it struggled to rise to its feet. "You pathetic little - SHADOW RUSH!"

"Shadow Rush?" Wes scoffed. "The hell kind of move is-"

Rui wasn't listening. The moment its Trainer gave the command, she watched in horror as the Croconaw rose unsteadily to its feet. The aura pulsed brighter, stronger, bigger...

And then consumed the Pokémon.

For a moment, it felt as though time had slowed. Rui saw the sickly flames flickering around the Croconaw as it rushed at its opponent. Dark, black tendrils snaked about its body, as though binding it, suffocating it. Her chest ached.

Wrong. Wrong. Whatever had been done to this poor creature, it was wrong.

The Croconaw slammed into Neo. Rui heard him screech in pain as he was sent flying through the air, then landed with a gut-wrenching thud.

Wes moved past her in a blue blur as he launched another ball at the Croconaw. It disappeared once again into the ball, and this time, after several shakes, it did not reappear.

The ball had barely flown back to Wes' hand before he launched another at the Quilava. Novo staggered away as his foe was sucked into the Pokeball, his fur singed.

Click.

The third and final ball landed in Wes' hand. He shoved them both into the bag with a furious mutter.

A roar rang out. "YOU!" The Trainer in blue screamed at Wes. "HOW DARE YOU!"

Wes gazed back at him in cold fury. "Play dangerous games, win dangerous prizes, I suppose," he spat.

The blue Trainer looked ready to lunge at Wes when a moan came from his companion lying on the ground. He spat at him before turning away to help his fallen comrade.

"Es...pi..." A weak mew reached Rui's ears. She and Wes turned to see Neo limping to his Trainer. He looked up at him with dull eyes before collapsing to the ground.

A quiet, frightening rage appeared in Wes' eyes. "Alright," he hissed as he returned his Espeon and Umbreon, "That. Is. It."

The tails of his coat streamed behind him as he turned and, without a word, stalked to the front gate.

"W-Wes?" Rui followed him cautiously. His anger scared her a little.

"Come on," he said crisply. "We're leaving this damned city."

They strode past their attackers; the two men were busy helping their wounded colleague to his feet. Rui turned her head away from them and continued after Wes.

He didn't say anything as they walked to where his bike was parked. Rui hesitated as they approached it. What was the plan now? Where would they go?

"Let's go." Wes' voice made her jump. He was already on the bike, pulling his mirrored visors over his eyes. She noticed he'd already ditched his sling, and she vaguely wondered when that had happened.

Rui took a shaky breath. "Where are we going?"

"Anywhere that isn't here."

It was a good enough answer, for now. Rui climbed into the sidecar once again, still only just managing not to trip, and once she was settled in, they were off across the sands once more.


Author's Notes

It has not been a good day for these two.

I wanted to give a HUGE thank you to all you readers and reviewers! You have no idea how much I love seeing your comments and reviews. As always, questions, feedback and constructive criticism is appreciated :) Thanks for your support, and see you next week!

1. Chapter 1 1410 0 0 2. Chapter 2 5251 0 0 3. Chapter 3 5829 0 0 4. Chapter 4 4974 0 0 5. Chapter 5 4853 0 0 6. Chapter 6 4209 0 0 7. Chapter 7 2825 0 0 8. Chapter 8 4413 0 0 9. Chapter 9 4921 0 0 10. Chapter 10 6786 0 0 11. Chapter 11 8458 0 0 12. Chapter 12: Belonging 8085 0 1 13. Chapter 13: Evolution Origins 3204 0 1 14. Chapter 14 8911 0 0 15. Chapter 15 6157 0 0 16. Chapter Whatever: Of Fools and Aprils 2946 0 0 17. Chapter 16: Blue 7401 0 0