A/N: Hey, everyone! I apologize if any of you felt this chapter was late by a day, even though I announced that it would be out by yesterday. However, I made that announcement before a development occurred in my life in late May. Now, if you've been keeping track of my profile updates, then you'll know that I just got a job. It's a part-time job, and nothing all that special (it's three days for fifteen hours per week, honestly), but I intend to take it seriously. Anyway, I was able to get through my first week in that job, and it's left me with a bit of a burnout. Every day, I come home exhausted from all the manual labor that I have to do, and I go to sleep first thing. Because of that, I don't really have a lot of time and opportunity to set aside for my writing like I used to. I am still trying to gauge what kind of impact this will have on my writing schedule in general.
So yeah, we're diving into a realm of unknowns with my new job. Do keep your fingers crossed for me as I try to sort all of my things out and continue updating this fic in a timely manner. I'll keep you all in the loop as we move along. But for now, just keep these developments in mind as you await further updates to this fic and others. Keep them in mind, and be patient with me. That's all I'm asking from you right now.
Also, before we begin, I just wanted to inform all of my viewers and followers who have accounts on here that there was a newly-registered account on this website that had been attempting to impersonate me for a few days. They had gone by the names of "A TheCartoonFanatic01" and "The Real TheCartoonFanatic01", and they had been registered since May 16 of this year. Since that time until the end of this month, they left trolling and accusatory reviews on two of my stories before I blocked them; I reported both reviews as well. After that, it came to my attention today that the user reviewed two "Phineas and Ferb" stories under that username, unnecessarily bashing their stories and referring them over to "Evil Phineas", claiming it was better than theirs. Those are the only reviews that I am aware of, and I'm not sure if they also left behind unflattering reviews on other stories that just flew under my radar.
Anyway, I quickly felt the consequences of this impersonation, sadly enough. One of the authors that were targeted by these terrible reviews confused me with the impersonator and sent me a PM because of it. I sent the author a response in which I explained the situation to them, told them what to do to get the impersonator off of their back, and apologized to them for getting them caught up in the situation. In addition, I PMed the other author to inform them of the situation as well, and I have reported both offending reviews.
Fortunately, by the end of May, the situation just sort of resolved itself. After I left behind a status update on my profile that addressed the impersonator directly and that said online impersonation was a crime (oh, it most certainly is based on my research), said impersonator approached me on yet another alternate account to apologize for their behavior. I've let it go now, but I still STRONGLY urge you all to be on the lookout for any reviews or PMs from someone, anyone with my own username in theirs, a review or a PM that contains any sort of harassment, unusual accusations levied against me, strange behavior, or just plain awful writing in general. Once you observe such behavior, I need you all to REPORT THEM. In fact, the same applies to anyone who you suspect might be impersonating any authors you know on this site.
The funny thing is that I had experiences with this person before they chose to set up that offending account. They used to be an unsigned reviewer active in the Marvel fandom, who thought they were some kind of gatekeeper, and therefore, they had been VERY critical and nitpicky with how I was writing another one of my stories. Ever since I began deleting their reviews through the site's review moderator function, they had an absolutely hilarious fit and trying to harass me here and at Archive Of Our Own, even though I was deleting their reviews at every turn before they could even become publicly visible. But I will repeat, it's over now, and we've buried the hatchet. I just found the whole thing more hilarious and overblown on the user's part than anything else.
So yeah, long story short, an entitled troll and gatekeeper was mad that I wasn't writing a story the way they expect me to, and that I wasn't giving them the time of day; they initially acted out on it by attempting to impersonate me; I called them out publicly on their bull; they got alarmed by my outing and apologized to me; and I still need you to report ANY suspicious activity that you see from accounts apparently impersonating authors on this site, like myself. After all, online impersonation is NOT something that anyone wants to deal with AT ALL.
Outside of that, I do have further news to announce to you all, but writing it here will make the Author's Note even more lengthy than it should be. So, I will be saving that for the ending Author's Note. Don't worry, though! I'm not planning on discontinuing this fic or anything like that. It's good news, I tell you!
Alright, that concludes this unnecessarily lengthy Author's Note! On with the chapter. ENJOY!
P.S.: Due to the ever-worsening situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, I'm going to have to remind you all about the basic steps you should take if you want to stay healthy, courtesy of my university's reminder emails:
-Wash hands often with soap and water for 20-30 seconds at a time, and/or use hand sanitizer
-Avoid close contact with people who are sick
-Keep your hands away from nose, eyes, and mouth (I can't imagine how difficult this part is probably going to be)
-Eat well, get adequate rest, and exercise regularly
-Get a flu shot if you haven't already and are able to
-Stay informed on the COVID-19 vaccines and get shots if you're able to
And if you ARE sick (I hope you get better if you are), please be a good sport and save other folks the trouble of getting sick. You can do this by:
-Covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve, elbow, or a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough
-Not sharing food and drinks with others
-Avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes (Again, I understand this is probably going to be difficult)
-Avoiding close contact with others
-Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects
-Staying at home if you're unwell (PRIORITY NUMBER ONE!)
-Staying calm and keeping yourself well-informed (My personal advice)
If you already know this, then great! If you didn't know any of this beforehand, please keep that information in mind as we all go through this trying time. It's a realm of unknowns at this point, and I wish myself and all of humanity well.
LAST TIME ON "JUDGMENT'S FALL":
Giovanni: The Syndicate. An alliance between the six most dangerous organizations in recent memory: Team Rocket of Kanto and Johto, Teams Aqua and Magma of Hoenn, Team Galactic of Sinnoh, Team Plasma of Unova, and Team Flare of Kalos!
Baraz: The full version of the Shamouti Prophecy... I've always suspected there was more to it than some tribal island sport from the ancient times.
Ash: Remember, buddy? Th-That's the Shamouti Prophecy that we solved when we were in the Orange Islands!
Petrel: ...You have amongst you a certain boy that Team Rocket is, shall I say, interested in retrieving.
Meowth: Ya know, I've been waitin' fer dis fer a looooong time! You've always been blastin' us off, but now it is YOU who'll do da blastin'!
Goh: It's alright, Cinderace. Th-This is temporary. Th-This is nothing t-to worry about.
Dawn: I rang her three times a few minutes ago, but she hasn't responded. S-She's probably busy with her Coordinating seminar, but I just wanna see how she's doing.
Jupiter: Alright, girlie. Since you're obviously not taking this situation seriously, then I'll have to present you with some serious stakes. Fortunately, I've got the perfect one, right here...
Serena: DAWN! We'll come for you! You hear me?! We'll come for you! Until we do, hang in there!
Lillie: My dad bought it for me. As a gift.
Brock: Now I remember! You're that Domino girl from Mount Quena!
Gladion: If you think Silvally's going with you, then no WAY! Silvally's my Pokémon, and it's staying with me!
Ritchie: We'll let you know when we've got Brock back, Misty.
Ash: Goh blames me for what happened to Cinderace. I'm definitely sure of it.
Rose: We have to take their offer. This is our second chance at a sustainable future. We've already made sacrifices the first time, and we are still suffering from them.
Ash: You're one to talk about transparency! How?! How could all of you just stand back and continue to leave these people in harm's way?!
World Coronation Series Chairman: It's no wonder why Team Rocket wants you. You're a magnet for such rare and exotic Pokémon.
Professor Elm: If these are what you think they are, then you've made an invaluable contribution to the research of Mega Evolution.
Vincent: Even after you entered your teens, you've been more single than a childless Kangaskhan, and what's worse, you're still pining after one girl, even after she's become waaaaay out of your reach!
Jimmy: I...I don't believe it... It's Raikou...
Gary: COVER YOUR HEADS!
Ash: Are you two just gonna stand there and taunt me? Or are we gonna go and do whatever your stupid, crazy lil' boss wants you to do?
Professor Sebastian: Rest assured, dear, your friends aren't in any real danger. After all, the three of you are the keys to a brighter, better future for this world and the Universe. We wouldn't want to jeopardize any of that.
Jessie: NOW THAT WE HAVE THE TOOLS TO SMASH YOUR PRETTY, COCKY LIL' SELVES IN, YOU TWERPS WILL PAY DEARLY FOR ALL THE INTERFERENCE YOU'VE DONE TO US FOR THE PAST EIGHT YEARS!
-Team 1 (Sinnoh): Ash, Serena, Dawn, Zoey, Kenny, Ursula, Paul, Trip, Leon, Verity, Cynthia, Gardenia, Crasher Wake, Bertha, Flint, Lucian, Reggie, Johanna, Professor Carolina
-Team 2 (Galar): Goh, Chloe, Bea, Sheena, Baraz, Raihan, Sonia, Nessa, Kabu, Milo, Mustard, Allister, Opal, Melony, Piers
-Team 3 (Kanto): Lillie, Gladion, Lusamine, Brock, Misty, Tracey, Ritchie, Daisy, Violet, Lily, Agatha, Scott
-Team 4 (Johto): Gary, Jimmy, Vincent, Lyra, Khoury, Barry, Tyson, Silver, Professor Oak, Professor Elm
-Team 5 (Alola): Kiawe, Lana, Mallow, Sophocles, Hau, Mimo, Professor Kukui, Wicke
-Team 6: TBA
-Team 7: TBA
-Team 8: TBA
"Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh! It's alright, you two; Mommy's got you. E-Everything's gonna be alright..."
The shaky coos did little to assuage the identical twin girls, both of them sporting blue hair and eyes and wearing nearly-identical clothing, differentiated only by the different logos of Pokémon heads on their shirts. They merely shuddered and held on to their mother's sides even more tightly, while the beautiful young woman, identical to them in appearance, was crouched under the family kitchen table. All three could hear nothing but the sounds of roaring, yelling, screaming, and a variety of attacks being exchanged. It was pure pandemonium out there.
Eventually, the mother and her daughters heard the front door to their home burst open. The two girls tried to scream in terror, but the mother knew better and clasped her hands over both of their mouths.
A palpable tension formed in the air and hung over the kitchen table like a looming storm-cloud. The girls trembled even more while their mother trained her hearing to try and figure out who had entered her home. Was it one of the strange, horrible people responsible for the chaos outside? Or was it someone she knew, someone that she trusted to take care of her and her family?
Moments later, two pairs of legs entered the kitchen, and the mother immediately recognized the sandals they wearing.
"Honey!" she cried in relief.
The owner of one of the pairs of legs knelt down, his face peering underneath the lower edges of the table. The twin girls beamed almost immediately.
"Daddy!" they cried simultaneously.
The man placed a finger over his lips. "Shhhhh!"
Then, at her husband's beckoning, the woman crawled out from underneath the table, followed by her daughters. There, they quickly identified the man's companion, a petite teenage girl who bore an uncanny resemblance to the woman and her daughters.
"It's alright, Mom, Harper, Sarah," the new girl said in a hushed voice. "There's help now."
"Help?" the mother repeated. "We've been hiding under that table for hours since this whole thing started, and we heard everything that's been going on outside! How could there still be help to be found?!"
"Now who said anything about finding help?" a new voice asked.
The family looked towards the open doorway, where a familiar, shirtless teenage boy was now standing. He was lean and muscular, and he sported dark skin and dark-orange-and-brown hair styled to resemble fire. He was wearing red shorts and sandals, a necklace with a small golden badge as a pendant and feather decorations, and a red Z-Ring.
"Help's found us," the boy continued. Then, he motioned towards the outside world. "Now, come on, you guys! We've got no more time to waste!"
It was chaos everywhere.
Many pedestrians and their Pokémon screamed loudly in terror and ran for their lives as Syndicate grunts and their own Pokémon relentlessly attacked them on a variety of fronts.
Armies of enemy Pokémon operating on foot swiftly subdued any townspeople that were in immediate sight and defeated their Pokémon, allowing the Syndicate to take prisoners left and right.
Flocks of hostile Flying-type and Bug-type Pokémon observed the lands from their stations in the skies, their keen, sharp gazes on the lookout for anyone who had managed to escape, or anyone plotting a sneaky counteroffensive, so that they could all be deftly dispatched.
People and Pokémon who were attempting to escape by boat or any other sea vessel were quickly intercepted by squads of Team Aqua grunts and their own Pokémon, who were assigned to patrol the seas.
Buildings were set on fire by Team Magma grunts and their Pokémon, literally smoking out anyone who had been taking shelter inside.
And finally, anyone who responded to the sudden Syndicate invasion by fighting instead of fleeing was engaged with and defeated almost immediately. This was a fact attested by the broken, badly injured man strewn across the ground in the town square alongside his defeated Hariyama and Crabominable, intentionally positioned there to be on display for all of the civilians taken prisoner.
Hau'oli City, Melemele Island
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, behold!"
The tough voice rang out, amplified by the megaphone and bringing chills to the terrified townspeople, men, women, and children alike, as they were forced to kneel.
"Behold, and understand!"
A man wearing a full-body Team Rocket uniform paced around the ever-growing crowd of restrained prisoners, his large and beefy musculature bringing them additional intimidation. Unlike the other Team Rocket members, this man's uniform was colored in shades of scarlet and gold, reminiscent of a Shiny Gyarados's color scheme. The other grunts present did nothing but make way for him with a common posture of submission, signifying the man's higher rank and stature.
"You've all borne witness to the power and the might of the Syndicate," the man continued. He continued to slowly circle around the crowd; those who were closest to him ducked their heads out of fear. "Do not grieve the loss of your greatest guardian, your Island Kahuna. Rather, this should be a cause for celebration. You have all been liberated by the shackles of your longstanding yet outdated traditions, and you are about to enter a new era of progress, unimpeded progress for all of humanity and civilization. An era that is being gifted to you by the Syndicate, and its humble, graceful leader..."
The high-ranking grunt gestured towards the opposite end of the town square, closer to the location of the injured man with the Hariyama and the Crabominable. Another man wearing a sharp, black suit and red tie had just approached the defeated, broken man's form, towering over him with a menacing triumph.
The Team Rocket leader stepped over the groaning form of his defeated opponent, his grin emitting absolute malice.
"Thank you, Tyson," the executive replied.
The high-ranking grunt bowed his head in response and folded his arms behind his back. As for Giovanni, he confidently strode towards the crowd, and as he did, tiny, choked sobs could be heard sweeping through the hostages. Smirking, the Team Rocket leader spoke, having no need for his inferior's megaphone.
"There's no longer any need for your tears. You are all very lucky to have lived to see this day." He held out his arms in a grand gesture towards all of the fiery chaos and destruction happening around them. "Despite all the pain and suffering that you have seen and endured today, today is also the day where humanity flips the newest page of its own storybook and encounters the beginning of the newest chapter. And rest assured, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, this newest chapter is our last, for it is a happy ending!"
Everyone's heads turned towards the barking speaker, who had just shot up to his feet.
"First, you come on in and interrupt a good start of the day for my restaurant!" he barked. "Then, you have the audacity to just round us all up like a bunch of Tauros! And now...now, you start spouting a whole bunch of..." The man hesitated briefly. "O-Of Tauros-shit about how this is a good thing?! The only good thing that's gonna happen today is me burying my fist in your stupid grin!"
A hand suddenly shot up beside the man, gently grabbed his wrist, and tugged at it urgently. "Dad, no! Please!"
It was a teenage girl with tanned skin, long green hair styled into two plant-shaped twin-tails, and light-green eyes. She had a fake pink flower attached to her hair courtesy of a dark-green, vine-like strap with two plant accents; and she also wore a pink tube-top and light-gray overall shorts with spiky white frills.
However, Giovanni's smirk became more pronounced as he lowered his arms. "I understand your anguish, and your rage, kind sir. After all, you've just lost everything that you've familiarized yourself with, everything that you hold dear in just less than an hour." He scanned the entire crowd with a glint shining across his eyes. "All of you have. And trust me, I do understand the feeling that this kind of loss inflicts upon you."
"TAUROS-CRAP!" Abe shouted. "You know NOTHING about what we f- URK!"
A faint blue light suddenly surrounded his outline, and the restaurant owner could do nothing to resist as an unseen force manipulated his body to sit down submissively. Mallow's eyes widened in horror, for she recognized the familiar effects of a Psychic move.
"Loss..." Giovanni continued, totally undaunted by Abe's interruption. "It is truly an unbearable pain to endure. Especially when it concerns the ideals you cherished and held dear. I know what it's like to lose as well. Loss can be overwhelming, debilitating. You could feel it eating away at your soul.
"But loss is not an excuse to submit to those who defeated you and declared your ideals to be without meaning. Instead, it is merely the next step of your journey towards salvation. It evaluates your commitment towards your ideals, reaffirms your concerns for the state of the world, hardens your resolve into iron. After all, without the pain of loss, of invalidation, you cannot claim to know the meaning of victory.
"So I implore you, people of Alola, to not toil in your grief. Rather, I urge you to thank Arceus, for this loss that you have all suffered is simply the opening of a new chapter in your lives. The chapter-" He held out his arms again. "Of salvation, at the warm, gentle hands of the Syndicate."
At that moment, a being came into the prisoners' view, slowly, unnaturally descending towards the ground while keeping itself suspended in midair. It was bipedal and humanoid in appearance, with dashes of feline features thrown in. It was mostly encased in a set of shining, terrible black armor, and whatever wasn't covered revealed grayish-purple skin that seemed to be bizarrely biomechanical in appearance. Its body emitted a sinister aura, and all of the captive townspeople shuddered coldly in fright at the sight of it.
After all, it was the very thing that was responsible for defeating their Island Kahuna and his Pokémon.
And right now, said Island Kahuna stubbornly tried to move his old, badly broken body, resisting the debilitating pain and the forces weighing him down. However, luck was not on his side, and the best he could do was lift his head, revealing all the scarlet blood and dark bruises decorating his tanned face.
"You... You bastard..." he gurgled.
Giovanni's lips tugged into a subtle smirk, and he looked back at the fallen Island Kahuna. "I must say, I do admire your steely resolve, Island Kahuna. You and your Pokémon lasted a grand total of five minutes against my best weapon, and even then, you can still muster the courage to speak up against our vision. It certainly is a commendable trait to observe from a man of your age."
"A man...of my age?" Despite the evident agony in his voice, Hala flashed the Team Rocket leader a small, bloodied grin, showing off his broken teeth. "Surely, then...a man of...my age...would be...qualified...to...teach you...a lesson...in some manners...youngster..."
Giovanni's smirk widened, and he chuckled malevolently in amusement. "You sure seem optimistic of your home region's outcome despite your current circumstances, Island Kahuna."
Hala gave him an amused chuckle of his own. "My current- Ack! Circumstances? What...about...yours?"
The executive simply blinked in interest as a response.
"You seem...to have forgotten..." Hala suddenly paused for a moment to wince from abdominal pain that he sustained in the earlier battle. "That you're...in...Alola!"
All of a sudden, a familiar cry filled the skies, and a powerful blast of saltwater barreled through the skies, right towards the humanoid being aligned with Giovanni. However, the being sensed the attack coming, like an extra sense. Its feline body moved in an almost indiscernible blur, easily evading the incoming attack...
Only for it to be struck from behind by a Solar Beam, which knocked the wind out of it.
"Huh?!" Giovanni looked up at his most powerful weapon, momentarily stunned by this newest development. "Mewtwo?!"
"M-Mewtwo...?" Mallow thought, confused.
Just then, a Psybeam emerged from the air as well, striking the ground in front of Giovanni and forcing the executive to jump away.
"B-Boss?!" Tyson exclaimed. "Wh-What hap-?!"
But before he or any of the other Syndicate grunts and their Pokémon could react to the sudden ambush, a yellow-and-orange Pokémon with strange ancient markings descended in front of the captive townspeople. Then, with an aggressive cry, it released a yellow dome of energy that enveloped the entire area. Upon coming in contact with the yellow energy, the grunts' Pokémon were severely electrocuted, with a number of them being quickly knocked out.
"B-Boss!" Tyson cried as he watched his peers' Pokémon fall from left to right. "W-We're losing our numbers, a-and fast!"
But Giovanni's lips curled back into their original smirk. "Relax, Tyson. There's no reason to fear. After all..." He looked at the Pokémon that had stepped in on the townspeople's behalf. "We can now initiate Operation: Eclipse."
Meanwhile, Mallow recognized the Pokémon confronting Giovanni. "Tapu Koko!" Then, she looked up at the sky, towards the Pokémon's three compatriots, all of which had joined its sides. "Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu, and Tapu Fini too!"
At the same time, Mewtwo recovered from the Solar Beam's effects, its dark suit of armor looking almost untouched, and it began lifting itself into the air, propelled by its Psychic abilities. The four guardian deities also started to hover higher in the air simultaneously, facing down the Genetic Pokémon. A feeling of palpable tension quickly developed around the five Pokémon.
Meanwhile, Giovanni looked down at Hala, who was still giving him a broken-toothed, bloodied smile. "Sooo...is this what you've been anticipating?"
"Not exactly..." Hala replied with another wince. "What I've been...anticipating...is you sorry youngsters...getting... What was...the term? Getting...your sorry butts...kicked."
"I see..." The Team Rocket executive gave a casual shrug, stunning Mallow, Hala, Abe, and all of the other townspeople. "Very well, then. It shall be a fierce, passionate battle between the Syndicate's vision and Alola's traditions!"
He then looked up towards the skies, where his Mewtwo was still facing down the four guardian deities. With a widening grin, the Team Rocket executive slowly pulled back his black right sleeve, revealing a gauntlet of shining, gunmetal-gray metal that stretched all the way from his hand down to his elbow, encompassing his entire forearm, not unlike a piece of futuristic armor. Embedded at one end of the metal, directly over his hand, was a tiny, whitish-silver marble with a light-purple-and-blue symbol inside.
Upon spotting this marble, Mallow's eyes widened in horror, as did Hala's. Both of them recognized for what it truly was. Then, they looked up at Mewtwo, just in time to see a small section of its helmet open up and reveal a hatch, from which a Key Stone emerged, gleaming brightly and brilliantly with the sunlight.
"Mewtwo!" Giovanni called. As he raised his arm in the air, the marble started to glow and hum brightly, before it began loudly crackling with energy. Waves of electricity swept through the entire gauntlet, but the executive's arm was wholly protected by the armor. "MEGA EVOLVE!"
The Genetic Pokémon was instantly enveloped in a sphere of light surrounded by purple electricity, and the townspeople watched with shock as its outline struggled to grow and change in shape. An unearthly scream of agony pierced the air, giving pause to the guardian deities' collective advance.
Then, after a minute or so of what appeared to be a painful and unnatural transformation, the light disappeared in a flash that resembled a slightly distorted double-helix symbol, thus revealing Mewtwo in its Mega Evolved form. It had become larger and bulkier, especially in regards to its limbs, while its horns becoming more pronounced and now extending from V-shaped ridges on its forehead. It also sported a second tube behind its neck and large, purple, armor-like growths over its shoulders. Finally, its tail had become slightly shorter and stiffer than before and sported a newly curled tip. All of this was clear even as the Genetic Pokémon continued to don its suit of black armor.
"That...That's Mewtwo's Mega Evolved form?!" Mallow thought in horror. "N-No way!"
Upon recovering from the after-effects of its transformation, Mega Mewtwo directed its gaze back on the guardian deities and took on an offensive posture.
"Now then, Mewtwo," Giovanni instructed, his grin becoming more malevolent, "how about we give the people of Alola a demonstration of...a third of your power, shall we?"
A millisecond after Giovanni uttered the final word of his final sentence, Mewtwo's body turned into an indescribable blur, and Mallow struggled to keep up with all of the Shadow Balls that were being hurled at the guardian deities. In response, Tapu Koko moved at a similar blur, outmaneuvering the incoming Ghost-type attacks and retaliating with Discharge after Discharge. Tapu Lele was not as lucky as its brethren, being struck and severely injured by a number of Shadow Balls. In contrast, Tapu Bulu took on the Shadow Balls with its own body, emerging unscathed, while Tapu Fini enshrouded itself in its special fog to easily evade Mewtwo's line of sight.
"Mewtwo!" Giovanni barked. "Focus all of your Shadow Balls on Tapu Lele! It's the only guardian deity that can overcome your Psychic and Fighting abilities!"
"Mega Mewtwo is Psychic- and Fighting-type...?" Mallow thought, quickly making a mental note of this information.
Meanwhile, Mewtwo obeyed its master's instruction, focusing the full wrath of its Shadow Ball barrage upon Tapu Lele as it tried to recover from its injuries. Realizing what its opponent was about to do, Tapu Bulu went on the offensive, firing a second Solar Beam at the Shadow Balls. The Grass-type move intercepted the threat, triggering several explosions that blanketed the air with smoke.
"Focus up, Mewtwo!" Giovanni called. "Hone your abilities!"
The Genetic Pokémon closed its eyes and enhanced its remaining four senses with its Psychic abilities. This allowed it to sense the incoming Tapu Koko, who was charging through the smoke with the intention of downing its opponent with its Steel Wing attack.
But Mewtwo was faster: first, it activated its Barrier, knocking Tapu Koko back, before using Psychic to seize control of its body and throw it into Tapu Fini. Then, with its eyes still closed, it resumed firing its Shadow Balls through the billowing cloud of smoke. All of them landed their targets, defeating the badly wounded Tapu Lele with ease.
"NO!" one of the townspeople cried in disbelief. "Tapu Lele! The guardian of Akala Island! No!"
"This...This can't be!" another hostage screamed. "I-I don't believe it!"
"Believe it, people of Alola," Giovanni replied with a triumphant smirk, "for progress always wins in the face of tradition!"
Seemingly on cue with its master's proclamation, Mewtwo used its Psychic to clear out the airborne smoke, dissipating it in mere milliseconds. Then, it opened its eyes, which were glowing a bright bluish hue, just as Tapu Bulu lunged at it, its right arm transforming into a Wood Hammer. But before the guardian deity could reach its target, Mewtwo raised one of its arms and used Psychic to stop it from landing the attack.
Just then, with a loud, shrill cry, Tapu Fini, recovering from the collision with Tapu Koko, fired a Hydro Pump at Mewtwo. However, the Genetic Pokémon raised its other arm and used another Psychic to stop the Water-type attack and leave it suspended in midair. Tapu Fini squeaked in shock at the display of power, while Tapu Bulu growled defiantly as it tried to resist the hold that Mewtwo's Psychic had on it.
Then, Tapu Koko sprung into action for its brethren, enveloping itself in a rainbow-colored sphere and lunging straight at Mewtwo. But Mewtwo reacted just as quickly, using Psychic to shove Tapu Bulu's paralyzed body between itself and the Dazzling Gleam-enveloped Tapu Koko and effectively use it as a shield. As expected, the Grass-type guardian deity took the hit from its Electric-type counterpart's attack, leaving it momentarily stunned.
Stunned by what had happened, Tapu Koko then tried firing a Discharge at Mewtwo, but the Genetic Pokémon then put Tapu Fini's Hydro Pump to good use. First, with the help of its Psychic, it maneuvered the water to absorb the entirety of the Electric-type attack. Then, once the Hydro Pump was powered up with electricity, Mewtwo hurled it back at its point of origin, Tapu Fini. Before Tapu Fini could try to dodge it, it was already struck by its own attack, and the electricity that was being conducted by the water relentlessly zapped the Water-type guardian deity, easily defeating it.
But that still was not the end for Tapu Fini. As its unconscious body fell through the air, Mewtwo deftly caught it with its Psychic and hurled it at Tapu Koko and Tapu Bulu. Tapu Koko dodged its incoming compatriot, but the still-stunned Tapu Bulu was not as lucky. The Grass-type guardian deity was swiftly knocked out of the air, leaving it vulnerable to the grip of Mewtwo's Psychic. Sensing what had just happened again, Tapu Bulu tried to resist against Mewtwo's grasp, but the Genetic Pokémon began to effortlessly slam it on the ground and from flaming building to flaming building. With its Grass body being exposed to the flames of Hau'oli's wreckage, Tapu Bulu was badly burned, and it lost consciousness in mere moments.
Feeling its victim's body go limp, Mewtwo brought Tapu Bulu back to its position to double-check. Once it confirmed its opponent's quick defeat, the armored Pokémon slammed its body down on the ground one last time, leaving the stunned and horrified people of Hau'oli City to behold the fallen forms of three of Alola's guardian deities.
As for Tapu Koko, it released a cry of rage and then fired a particularly powerful Discharge at Mewtwo. When the Genetic Pokémon dodged it, Tapu Koko seized its chance, lunging at its opponent with Dazzling Gleam. This time, it landed the hit and sent Mewtwo hurtling toward the ground, cracks adorning its suit of armor and chips of metal flying everywhere.
Upon landing, Mewtwo grunted in agony, just as it came to a rest at Giovanni's feet. But the Team Rocket leader was not daunted by the turn of events. Instead, he raised his arm in the air, the one bearing the Mega Stone-carrying gauntlet, and clenched it, causing additional waves of electricity to course through said gauntlet.
"Alright, Mewtwo!" he declared at the top of his lungs. "Let's not waste any more of our guests' time, shall we?!"
Milliseconds later, similar waves of electricity swept through Mewtwo's body, and it forcibly stood back up on its feet, its teeth gritted tightly. Mallow blinked in stunned awe at how the Genetic Pokémon seemed to move despite taking on what appeared to be a super-effective hit from Tapu Koko.
However, with Mewtwo now on the ground, Tapu Koko saw its opportunity. Flying towards the surface, the guardian deity slammed one of its hands into the earth, triggering a pink shockwave that violently erupted from underneath, while the ground began to shine from the multiple wisps of blue aura that materialized. The shockwave headed towards Mewtwo, but it reacted seemingly on instinct, sticking out its right hand.
When the shockwave made contact with Mewtwo's open palm, it triggered another, smaller shockwave that knocked the townspeople and the Syndicate grunts to the ground. When Mallow sat back up, she watched in a mixture of horror and awe as Mewtwo literally held Tapu Koko's greatest attack in its outstretched hand, multiple bolts of pink, blue, and yellow electricity harmlessly shooting off it in the process. Tapu Koko too was dumbfounded by Mewtwo's astounding power.
So dumbfounded, in fact, that it was unable to react once Mewtwo deflected the Nature's Madness and sent it flying back to the guardian deity, roaring.
A loud, horrified, single gasp erupted from all the captives as Tapu Koko was struck by its own signature move, its power magnified tenfold by Mewtwo's Counter. The Electric-type quickly fell to the ground, beside its brethren, with a soft and anticlimactic thud, its bruised, battered, still form signifying its defeat. The captives stared upon their fallen guardians, all of them unable to say another word of protest or utter another sound of discontent. For a long, horrible moment, there was just silence in the air.
Then, it was broken by the sound of derisive tutting.
"How disappointing," Giovanni said, just as Mewtwo reverted back into its original form. "I expected...better from Alola's guardian deities. But for all of them to be downed in less than three minutes? I suppose the battle between progress and tradition will be a terribly one-sided affair." Then, he reached into his pockets. "But...I suppose the progress of humanity is an inevitable and undeniable part of life."
The executive pulled out four strange-looking Poké Balls from his pockets; they were colored dark-purple and had black, metallic stripes lining their circumferences. Before Mallow, Hala, or any of the other captives could protest, he threw all four devices in the air.
"DARK BALLS, GO!"
The captives watched with stunned looks as all four guardian deities disappeared into the devices, following brief flashes of purple, electric light.
"NO!" one hostage screamed.
"OH, MY ARCEUS!" another wailed.
"THE GUARDIANS!" an elderly woman screeched.
"Are now in the custody...of the Syndicate," Giovanni completed mockingly. Then, he glanced at Tyson. "Tyson, summon Pierce, Agent 009, Cassidy, and Butch here. Inform them that I have the perfect gifts for their fierce and undying loyalty to the cause."
"Yes, Giovanni sir," the high-ranking grunt replied.
"N-No!" a voice gurgled, suddenly and defiantly.
Giovanni turned and smirked as he watched Hala struggle to stand back up on his two feet. "Ahhhhh. I understand you're mightily disappointed in your guardians, Island Kahuna. But surely a part of you has admitted defeat-"
"Like hell I'll admit defeat!" Hala glared at the executive, trickles of blood dripping down his face. "I'll take you down with my bare hands if it means protecting our guardians from the likes of you!"
Giovanni's smirk widened, and he raised his hand, purposefully slowing his movements for dramatic effect. Hala's squinty eyes widened as much as they could, right before the executive snapped his fingers.
Then, Hala's body became outlined in the same faint, blue light, and the Island Kahuna was lifted into the air. A number of the townspeople gasped in horror, while a couple of older women wept in despair. Mallow and Abe both looked upward at the humanoid being aligned with Giovanni, and they noticed its eyes glowing brightly with the same blue color. Hala's body was lifted higher and higher, and it became clear to everyone that the longtime Island Kahuna would eventually be suspended from a height no one could survive.
And judging by the widening smile on Giovanni's face, that was exactly the plan.
Mallow and several others turned towards the source of the familiar voice. A dark-skinned teenage boy with dark-green hair, tied into a short ponytail with an orange band, shot up on his feet, his onyx eyes, normally bright and upbeat, now enlarged with terror. He was wearing a black shirt, yellow board shorts with orange and white flower patterns, a pair of orange shoes, and a silver Z-Ring. This boy stood deep in the middle of the kneeling crowd of prisoners.
"PL-PLEASE!" Hau pleaded, his voice shaky. "D-Don't hurt my grandpa! Pl-Please..."
The humanoid being stopped, keeping Hala's motionless, paralyzed body suspended by several feet, but still a dangerous enough height.
"Ahhhhh?" Giovanni turned towards the boy with a quirked eyebrow. "Your grandfather, huh? Sooo...that must make you Hau, correct?"
Hau let out a tiny gasp of surprise. "H-How'd you-?"
"Know who you are? My dear, dear Hau..." Giovanni calmly walked towards him, forcing any civilians between the two to scurry away as best as they could. "Did you really think we'd come here without conducting our research beforehand? I know all about you, your grandfather, and your entrenched familial history with these Alolan traditions."
"L-Look," Hau pleaded, "I-I'll do anything! Anything! J-Just please, don't do anything to my grandpa!"
Giovanni quirked an eyebrow. "Hmmm. Anything, you say?"
"Yes, yes, anything!"
"My boy, there is one thing you could do."
Hau's eyes shimmered slightly with hope. "Th-There is? What is it?"
"Get the message."
"M-Message? Wh-What message?"
"That any and all dissent will be crushed. Or..." The Team Rocket leader's eyes glinted mischievously. "In the case of your poor old grandfather...dropped."
On cue, Mewtwo released its hold on Hala, causing the elderly Island Kahuna to fall through the air. Several townspeople screamed, Mallow let out a strangled gasp of horror, and Hau stiffened, his mind unable to process what he was seeing.
A millisecond later, Hala landed on the ground, and everyone heard a sickening snapping noise, followed by the old man's howl of absolute pain. Mallow would never forget the sound of it for the rest of her life.
"GRANDPA!" Hau screamed.
In the distance, a group of Flying-type Pokémon observed the entire battle from the shadows. Upon witnessing the swift, methodical defeats of the guardian deities, the Pokémon at the head of the flock, a Rowlet, squawked in disbelief. Then, it turned to its brethren, a Toucannon, a Trumbeak, and several Pikipek.
"Row, row, row!" it squawked.
"Touuuuu..." Toucannon rumbled in defeat.
– BEGINNING OF ACT II –
The Pokémon School, Melemele Island
"Thank Arceus we made it!"
Kiawe led a relieved Lana and her family into the classroom, after which Lana's mother began scanning the interior and became stunned by the low number of people occupying it. Many were seated at the desks, looking either worried about the situation or impatient that nothing was happening in their favor. Others were leaning against the walls, drifting in and out of consciousness induced by paranoia or simple boredom.
At the head of the classroom, a young girl with dark skin, cyan eyes, and pinkish-red-and-brown hair noticed the arrivals and ran up to Kiawe. Before the teenage boy could react, she was already hugging his legs.
"Kiawe!" she wailed.
"Told you I'd be back," Kiawe replied confidently while giving his younger sister a couple of consoling pats on the head.
"She was worried sick about you, Kiawe," commented a woman with features matching Kiawe's and Mimo's. She walked up to them alongside her husband, a man with entirely dark-brown hair cut off at the temples.
"She was just holding in all of that fear and worry," the man added.
Meanwhile, a small, rotund teenage boy and his Togedemaru also noticed the new arrivals. He instantly ran up to them, breaking off from his parents, who were sitting at a corner in the classroom.
"Lana!" the boy greeted with immense relief. "Thank Arceus you're alright!"
"Togede!" Togedemaru squeaked in agreement.
"Soph- EEK!" Lana was cut off by a tight, protective hug from her classmate. "I-I'm glad to see you too, So-Sophocles."
Meanwhile, a tan-skinned man wearing a white lab-coat but no undershirt, along with cargo shorts, also took quick notice of Kiawe's group. He stood from a chair with a relieved sigh and approached them with an unsuccessful attempt at a wry smile. Beside him were two Incineroar.
"Hell of a way to come back from a fishing expedition, am I right?" he asked.
"Pr-Professor?!" Lana squeaked in surprise, just as her father stepped forward.
"Damn straight," the man grumbled, acknowledging Kukui's attempt at an upbeat greeting. "We still couldn't even find a Manaphy to make a fish-print of..." Then, he cleared his throat. "A-Anyway, what's the situation? Kiawe just told us that help's arrived."
"Yeah, Professor!" Kiawe exclaimed, approaching the shirtless Pokémon Professor with a clenched fist of determination. "I wanna know how the guardian deities fared!"
"Wait, the guardian deities?!" replied a flabbergasted Lana. "Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu, and Tapu Fini?!"
"Yeah," Sophocles said. "We just heard from Rowlet and Toucannon's flock."
"Yes," a new voice responded, and everyone turned their gazes to a tan-skinned woman with chin-length white hair and yellow eyes, who was trying to operate a laptop on the head desk. "They volunteered to monitor the situation in the air. They should be back any moment now."
Then, a split-second later, she lightly slammed the desk with a clenched fist, angrily muttering, "Damn."
"What is it, honey?" Kukui asked. He approached his wife, taking a quick look into the baby stroller parked next to her as he did so.
"Our Internet's still not working."
Kukui glanced at two older men who were standing nearby. "You guys checked the backup generator, right?"
"Yes," replied one of the men, who had chocolate-brown skin, a mat of brownish-white hair, and a lively aura despite his advanced age. "It's running, just as you said it would."
"I even pumped the charge handle myself," added the second man, a prim and proper-looking butler who was even still wearing his work clothes.
"Well, then it's confirmed..." Kukui replied, looking down at the polished desk with a grave expression. "It's not just the main power that those goons knocked out. It's our Internet."
"W-Wait, so the main power was knocked out?" Lana asked.
"Yeah," Kiawe replied with a curt nod. "I saw it myself, when those Syndicate guys arrived. The moment they showed up, they fired some sort of pulse from their ship, and it fried all of our electronics."
"Oh, yeah!" Lana's mother cried with a horrified realization. "So that was why I couldn't call for help!"
"So Melemele's Officer Jenny is already down," Kiawe commented, his eyes narrowing. "She's not gonna be of any help. And given all the manpower that came out of that huge ship, we gotta assume the same happened with the other three islands. That means all of Alola's police resources are out for the count, which leaves us with outside help."
"But all electronics are down," Kukui replied, "including the phones and the Internet. No phones, no emails, nothing."
"We're cut off from the outside world," Burnet concluded gravely.
"But there's no way these guys could take over Alola without someone noticing!" Kiawe shouted. "I mean, did anyone see the size of that ship?! Someone's gotta have seen it while those guys were on the way here!"
"But the only way to fight a force of that size is the military," said Kukui. "And no region has activated its military force in decades."
"Well, it can't be that hard, right?! All they have to do is show images of that ship patrolling the skies of Alola, and-!"
"Don't you remember our history lessons, Kiawe? Much of the world has been under a peace accord for over a century." Kukui sat down at the nearest chair and tapped his fingertips together repeatedly and uneasily. "No one, and I mean no one, is allowed to activate its military force without a very compelling reason."
"For the love of Arceus, Alola's under ATTACK!" Kiawe's roar of outrage startled Lana and her family. "That's...That's not compelling enough of a reason?!"
Kukui released a deep sigh and buried his head in his palms, surprising Kiawe. "Well...I know I was gonna cover this next week, but...I suppose now's a good time to-"
"Uhhh, Pr-Professor?" a meek voice asked.
Kukui lifted his face from his hands, slightly alarmed. "Yes, Lana?"
The blue-haired girl looked away from the other people taking shelter in the classroom. "I...I don't see Mallow anywhere. Where...Where is she...?"
Kiawe pursed his lips and reluctantly approached his classmate. "I'm...I'm so sorry, Lana..." He clenched his fists tightly with regret. "I... I wasn't able to get there in time..."
"Wh-What?" Lana's eyes grew wide with increasing horror. "Kiawe, what're you-?"
"She got captured by them, alright?!" Kiawe violently, furiously slammed one of his fists on the nearest desk. "She's with those goons! When I got to Aina's Kitchen, it was already up in flames! There...There was nothing I could do..."
"Don't blame yourself, Kiawe," Kukui said consolingly. "There was nothing you could do to change that."
"But..." Lana replied, "you say she's captured, right? So that means she's still-"
"If you're thinking about going into Hau'oli and saving her," Burnet interrupted from the head desk, "then that's a no-go, Lana. Not until Rowlet and the others return and give us the go-ahead. And that's if they-"
"Rowlet!" a familiar voice squawked. Everyone turned towards the open window beside Burnet and saw Rowlet settle on the windowsill.
"Rowlet!" Kiawe cried in relief.
One of the Incineroar huffed at Rowlet in greeting.
Burnet approached the windowsill first, taking a cautious peek out of the window first. "Rowlet, were the guardian deities able to take care of the situation?"
To everyone's horror, the Grass Quill Pokémon shook its head sadly. "Row..."
"What?!" Kiawe shouted, nearly pushing aside Burnet in order to confront Rowlet. "H-How?! What happened?!"
The starter Pokémon immediately started squawking, its voice rapid and frantic. "Row, row, row, row, ROWL! Row-row, row, row, rowl, ro-!"
By that point, Kiawe's head was already swimming. "Alright, I already lost you, Rowlet. Jeez, I wonder how Ash did it-"
"If you don't mind, Kiawe," Samson said, stepping forward with a slightly raised hand, "I can translate for you."
"You?" The boy arched an eyebrow. "With all due respect, Principal Oak, how are you gonna-?"
Samson quickly silenced him with a raised finger. "Hey, I don't make Pokémon faces just for show, young man. I think I can use Rowlet's facial expressions and body movements to make sense of his language." With that, Samson approached Rowlet and crouched down so they could be at an equal level. "Okay, Rowlet. Tell us what happened, and please, take a few deep breaths first."
Rowlet agreed, breathing in and out slowly for a few moments before speaking again. "Row, row, row. Rowlet, row, rowl."
"We were at Hau'oli City. The people living there were being held captive by the invaders."
"Rowlet, rowlet, row-LET! Rowl, rowl, rowlet!"
"Then the guardian deities arrived and BOOM! It started fighting them!" Then, Samson blinked in surprise. "Wait, it?"
Rowlet nodded frantically. "Rowlet, rowl-rowl!"
"Could you describe 'it'?"
"Rowl-rowl, rowlet, rowl, rowlet, row-LET!"
"What'd Rowlet say, Principal Oak?" Lana asked.
"Apparently...Rowlet doesn't have a description for...'it', other than it just defeated the guardian deities in seconds. Wait, seconds? Is that right, Rowlet?"
Rowlet nodded again. "Rowlet, rowlet!"
Samson's eyes went wide in horror. "That's...That's impossible! The guardian deities are absolutely powerful!"
The Grass Quill Pokémon slumped its wings in sadness. "Rowlet, rowlet..."
"Seems like Rowlet's pretty sure of what it saw..." Kukui commented.
"Whatever 'it' is," Burnet added gravely, "it had to be powerful enough to bring down all four guardians at once."
"This can't be good..." remarked Sophocles.
One of the Incineroar beside Kukui hung its head in sadness.
Just then, the group heard the high-pitched sound of a chair's legs grinding against the floor. They turned around to see that one of the other people taking shelter in the classroom had stood up.
"Oh, HELL no!" Hiroki shouted. "I did not come here expecting things to take an Arceus-damn turn for the worst! I came here hoping you guys would solve this crud like you main characters always do!"
"Relax, Hiroki," replied Kukui. "We are going to solve this-"
"Then why the heck are you guys still around here like a bunch of sitting Ducklett?!"
"Because we're still trying to figure this whole thing out, Hiroki," Kiawe snarled. "Now calm down! We can't afford anyone making a scene now-"
"It's a little too late for that! Those people are out there making the scene, and it won't be long until they come bearing down on this place, looking for us! I-I mean, I don't know if any of you noticed, but we live on a frigging archipelago, for Arceus's sake! There's not a lot of good places to hide!"
"They're not gonna come bearing down on this school," Kiawe snarled. "Not if we can help it!"
"Wait, are you saying we should hold them off here?" Sophocles asked fearfully.
"Toge..." Togedemaru squeaked apprehensively.
Kiawe glared at his classmate, just as Rowlet flew into the room and landed on his shoulder. "Yeah, well what else are we supposed to do, Sophocles?! We cannot just wait around for outside help to arrive! We gotta make a stand, and we gotta make it now! There's no way in HELL we're gonna just hand over our home to the likes of them! Not when we've still got the power and the will to fight back!"
"Fight back, huh?" Hiroki laughed hollowly. "I appreciate the optimism and the enthusiasm, Kiawe, but...heh heh heh, y-you seem to have forgotten one little, teeny-weeny, itty-bitty fact."
Kiawe crossed his arms with a scowl. "Oh, really? And what's that?"
"THAT THEY'VE TOTALLY KICKED THE BUTTS OF ALL FOUR GUARDIAN DEITIES, WHAT ELSE?!"
Hiroki's outburst startled several others in the classroom and nearly caused Rowlet to fly off in fright. Then, a couple of seconds later, a tiny wailing emerged from the baby stroller next to Burnet. With a concerned gasp, the woman reached inside and took out a teary-eyed, wet-cheeked infant, just a few months old.
"Shhhhh!" Burnet said while giving Lei several soft, consoling pats. "It's okay, sweetie, it's alright..."
"Look at what you've done, man!" snapped one of the other people taking shelter in the classroom. "Now you've got the baby to start crying!"
"If they haven't found us already," a woman added in outrage, "they're most certainly gonna find us now!"
"How in the world are they gonna hear a baby crying?" snapped Sima.
"We can't afford to take any chances!" Lana's father exclaimed. "Professor Burnet, quiet the baby, for the love of Arceus!"
"Hey, you're not in charge here!" Burnet growled while continuing to pat Lei.
"If it were up to me," snarled Hiroki, "I'd just leave the damn baby to the Houndoom and make a run for the hills!"
"Hey!" Kukui barked, marching up to the student. "Don't you DARE talk about my son like that!"
"Now, now, everyone," Hobbes said calmly, stepping out into the middle of the room and holding out his arms as a sign of peace. "Let's settle down and not fight. Quarreling will not resolve this situation."
As the classroom started to descend into chaos, Kiawe, Sophocles, Mimo, Rowlet, and one of Kukui's Incineroar suddenly noticed subtle movement in their peripheral vision. They glanced at the doorway, just in time to see Lana silently slinking into the hallway outside, going unnoticed by her mother and younger sisters.
"Was that-?" began a stunned Sophocles.
"Yep," Mimo whispered. "I hope she's not doing what I think she's doing..."
"There's no doubt," Kiawe whispered back. Then, his lips curled into a determined grin. "And I'm all in."
"Huh?!" Mimo glared at her older brother. "Kiawe, where are you-?!"
But it was already too late: in the midst of all the quarreling and bickering, Kiawe and Incineroar had followed Lana out into the hallway. Sophocles and Mimo looked at one another, then at the others as they continued their arguments. Not wanting to make things any more worse than they already were, the two followed after him.
The Shady House, Melemele Island
For once, the area surrounding the Shady House wasn't in its usual dark, damp, gloomy state; rather, it was alight with a destructive energy. Fires raged in the distance, and the skies were lit in hues of red and orange, sending all sorts of wild Pokémon running about in the more immediate vicinity. The ashy, ember-infused glow of the distant fires illuminated the graffiti and grime adorning the dilapidated manor. It was something straight out of a horror movie's climax.
Inside the Shady House, a number of Team Skull grunts were hunkering down in wait for someone. The heads of some of the grunts were lolled to the side, signifying their paranoia-induced exhaustion, while others were unsuccessfully trying to operate on the rundown TV set they normally used.
Eventually, one of the grunts, a slim, punkish girl with hot-pink hair, noticed a gaze upon her and growled, overtaxed by her extreme alertness.
"Stop looking at me like that, idiot," she grumbled.
One of her colleagues, a slim man with light-blue hair, raised his palms in alarm, prompting Rapp to glare at him.
"Sorry, sorry!" he exclaimed. "You...You just looked tired, Rapp. I-I could take over your watch i-if you wa-"
"I don't need any help," Rapp interrupted. "Right now, I want Guzma and Big Sis Plumeria to come back here from their patrol and give us our new orders! I mean, we gotta do more than just stand guard here!"
"Okay, I'd hate to crash your party, Rapp," a bushy-haired, rotund grunt interjected, "but did you see the ship that came in? Or did we see two entirely different things?"
"I saw the same thing as you, Zipp," snapped Rapp. "But that doesn't we can't just sit around here and do nothing like a bunch of scaredy-Glameow! We're Team frigging Skull, for Arceus's sake! We can do better than just cower in our HQ like a pack of fools! We can take those punks on!"
Zipp merely let out an apprehensive chuckle in response, causing her to moan angrily.
"Ya think this is funny, Zipp?!" she demanded.
"Oh no, ohhhhh no, no, no! It's just... It's just..." Then, the rotund grunt couldn't help himself, and he burst out laughing like a maniac. "You think we can bring down the likes of them?! After that epic entrance they just pulled?! That's just-"
"Hey, cut it out, man!" Tupp spat angrily. "R-Rapp's right! We can take those goons on!" He gestured around the room in search of support. "Right, guys?!"
But an awkward silence filled the Shady House. Some of the grunts made uncertain, noncommittal noises of agreement, while others blushed and rubbed their heads apprehensively. Zipp blinked in morose affirmation, Rapp's expression fell, and Tupp's eyelid twitched in disbelief.
"Aw, come ON, you guys! It's like Rapp said, we're Team frigging SKULL! We're the strongest Trainers that're out there in Alola! We're feared across all four islands! Alola's our TURF! And we're not gonna hand it over without a fight! Who's with me on that?!" When he was met with silence, Tupp yelled more forcefully and encouragingly, "WHO'S WITH ME?!"
"Dude, shut up!" one of the other grunts wheezed, looking out of one of the windows exasperatedly. "GAH! My Arceus, if those guys find us here, man, then we're most certainly gonna hand over Alola without a fight! Worse, we're gonna do it without Guzma and Plumeria by our sides!"
Before Tupp could retort, some of the other grunts heard a noise outside. They peered out of the windows and gasped in delight.
"Hey, guys!" one of them whispered in excitement. "They're back!"
The other grunts rushed to the doorway, with Zipp opening it to let the newcomers in. The first one was a young woman with yellow eyes and pink hair with yellow highlights, who donned a black, sleeveless tank-top with an X-shaped pattern under it; a pair of black, baggy pants with white zigzag patterns at the sides; a gray locket with the Team Skull logo; and a pink Team Skull tattoo on her belly.
The other was a a young man with dyed-white hair, gray eyes, and black eyebrows, who wore a black jacket with zigzag patterns on the sides and the Team Skull logo imprinted onto the back; a white undershirt; black sports-pants with two white, X-shaped patterns under his knees; gold-framed sunglasses; a purple tattoo of Team Skull on his left arm; and a locket with a yellow Team Skull logo.
"Yo, Boss!" one of the male grunts greeted.
"Big Sis Plumeria!" greeted one of the female grunts.
Guzma gave his followers a small smile. "Hey, everyone. I, uh...I heard my name being tossed around on the way in. You guys called me over?"
The grunts were briefly stunned by their leader's casual informality, but nevertheless, they began scrambling for any and all instructions from their superiors.
"So, tell us!" Tupp exclaimed, jumping in front of Guzma. "What's the situation out there?!"
"Are we gonna be fighting those goons that waltzed in on our turf?!" asked Rapp.
Guzma and Plumeria slowly looked at one another. Though their expressions were mostly shrouded in the darkness of the Shady House, the grunts already took notice of their despondent, defeated postures. Coming on high alert, Zipp stepped forward with a degree of uncertainty.
"Uhhh, Boss?" the rotund grunt asked. "Y-You got something for us, o-or what?"
Sighing, Guzma opened his mouth, ready to announce something, but someone else already began speaking for him.
"Ohhhhh, we've got something for you, alright."
The Team Skull grunts glared at the doorway and immediately took on defensive postures in response. Stepping into the Shady House was a stunning woman with blonde hair and violet eyes, who was wearing an all-black uniform with a pink R logo emblazoned on her chest. She was quickly followed by a squadron of Syndicate grunts.
"Greetings, Team Skull!" Domino greeted. "I am pleased to be here on your..." Her voice trailed off, and her malevolently upbeat expression turned sour at the sight of the Shady House's rundown interior. "Ehhh...humble...domain..."
"The hell do you want, bitch?!" Rapp demanded furiously.
"What do we want?" Domino focused on the grunts again. "What we want is Team Skull's undying cooperation. After all, your organization is about to become a part of history, for we at the Syndicate are planning to pave the pathway to the future!"
A shocking realization dawned upon Tupp, and he glared at Guzma and Plumeria in horror. Their downcast reactions were enough confirmation for the blue-haired grunt.
"You...You sold us out?" he asked.
"What?!" Rapp also looked at her superiors in stunned disbelief, only to be dismayed by their faces. "Why?! How?! H-How could you do this to us?!" She focused on Plumeria in particular. "Big Sis?"
"I'm so sorry, everyone," Plumeria replied, holding back a choked sob. "They cornered us as soon as we left. They...They overpowered us...th-threatened you all..."
"We don't have any real power against them, everyone," Guzma growled, grimacing. "We...We have a better chance if we just...just go along with what they say..."
There was no protesting or outrage from the Team Skull grunts. Instead, they stared at their former superiors with total incredulity, and their hearts started to fill with a singular feeling of self-doubt, questioning their places in life once again.
Upon observing Team Skull's submission, Domino smirked in triumph. "Shed no tears, Team Skull! For the time isn't one of grief and suffering, but one of celebration and jubilation! After all, you are all now under brand-new management! The Syndicate will guide your ranks through the greatest trial the world has ever seen, and into the grace of a new era for all of humanity!"
Matori loyally bowed her head, just as Giovanni softly landed on his feet by the concrete entrance of Aether Paradise. The entirety of the complex was crawling with Syndicate grunts and Pokémon, patrolling through the walkways and going into and out of the building itself. Unlike the rest of Alola, Aether Paradise escaped relatively unscathed from the Syndicate's onslaught, but only by design, not by mere coincidence.
After all, the Aether Foundation possessed the means to access the Syndicate's greatest prize from the region, and that was a thought that brought a smile of elation to Giovanni's face. So, he began walking towards the building, his gait full of unmatched confidence. As for Mewtwo, it remained outside, observing the entire area while remaining suspended in the air, courtesy of its Psychic.
"I just received the latest status report from 009," Matori announced as she followed after her superior. "She just tracked down Team Skull at their HQ and brought about their surrender. They've now been inducted into the Syndicate's ranks."
"Excellent," Giovanni replied, his grin widening. "I knew I could count on here to subjugate those lowly thugs."
With that, the two entered Aether Paradise and passed through the lobby, which was currently swarming with a number of Syndicate grunts searching through the clothes of Aether Foundation employees; some of the grunts bowed at them as they passed by. Then, the executive and his secretary entered a winding hallway, walked down it for a few moments, and then came across their intended destination: a large doorway leading into the laboratory.
"They're waiting in here, sir," Matori said, politely opening the door for Giovanni.
The executive stepped inside and was greeted by the sight of about a dozen or so Aether Foundation employees kneeling submissively on the floor. They were surrounded by additional Syndicate grunts, many of whom immediately stood rigidly at attention upon registering their leader's presence.
"Giovanni, sir!" they chorused.
"At ease, ladies and gentlemen," Giovanni replied.
He then stepped further into the lab, surveying its contents. The executive could see notes and diagrams on a number of Ultra Beasts and Ultra Wormholes, as well as a holographic image of three certain Legendary Pokémon, centered right in the middle of the laboratory. But before he can make any sense of the Aether Foundation's findings, a malevolent-looking scientist wearing a monocle approached him, and Giovanni gave him a curt nod of acknowledgment.
"Dr. Zager," he greeted.
"Giovanni," the scientist replied with a bow of his head.
"So, what is the status of Operation: Eclipse?"
Enthusiastically, Dr. Zager led Giovanni towards the holographic image. He quickly took control of the electronic keypad and swiped it to the left, causing the images of the Legendary Pokémon to switch out and be replaced with an image of a strange, foreign-looking landscape.
"We've reviewed all the notes the Foundation has compiled on Ultra Space," Zager explained. "They've all confirmed what we suspected for almost a year, but what we really haven't scratched the surface of is this." He pressed a button on the keypad, triggering a handheld recording of a bright, electric portal opening up in thin air. "Ultra Wormholes. The gateway to vast, untapped scientific potential-"
"And Pokémon beyond our comprehension..." Giovanni completed, his sharp eyes glinting with hunger. Then, he twirled around to face the captive Aether Foundation employees. "Alright, then! I know your employer is currently away, so what I want to know is who's in charge here right now?"
A tense, unnerving silence settled into the room, with the captive employees shifting and fidgeting uncomfortably, unsure if they should expose one another in a desperate bid for survival. However, Giovanni chuckled in amusement and raised his hand.
"Very well, then," he said. "I have my ways of making people talk."
He snapped his fingers, and a loud, low-pitched, ominous purr flowed through the lab. Giovanni's Persian emerged from a murky corner in the room, leaving the watch of a Team Rocket grunt, its slinky, silent movements nevertheless catching the eyes of the employees. The Persian approached the first group of employees hunkering down on the floor and slunk past them, its purr slowly growing louder while it softly rubbed its tail against some of their shuddering bodies.
At the corner of his eye, Giovanni could make out someone moving uncomfortably amongst the captive workers but not making even one sound. With a smirk, the executive began innocuously pacing around, his movements just as calculated and predatory as his Persian's.
"To the supervisor in charge," he addressed, "speak up now...or risk the consequences."
In emphasis, Persian stopped beside one female employee and abruptly yowled at her, causing her to let out a terrified squeak. The Classy Cat Pokémon then growled at her, seemingly zeroing in on her as its prey, before slinking off several seconds later with one last, sassy swish of its tail. Giovanni could still see movement in that same corner of his eye.
"Don't fret, everyone," Zager said ominously. "Persian doesn't bite...too hard, that is. Heh heh heh..."
Some of the employees shuddered uncomfortably, just as Persian passed by them, still purring in anticipation. They could see its claws slowly emerging from the fingers of its paws, ready for use.
"Scratching, on the other hand..."
"OKAY!" a voice screeched, and Giovanni smiled as a woman with mauve hair and wearing white-and-pink clothing stood up. "Okay! I'm in charge! I'm in charge..."
Giovanni turned towards the woman and greeted, "It's a pleasure to meet you in person, Ms. Wicke..."
Wicke blinked in shock. "You...You know who-?"
"Of course, I do. I knew all along. I was just...testing you." Giovanni chuckled evilly. "Stand down, Persian."
The Classy Cat Pokémon gave one last purr to Wicke's underlings as it slunk back to the corner from which it came. The Team Rocket executive then began to circle around Wicke, like a Persian cornering its prey.
"So," he said, "you're in charge while the Foundation's President, Lusamine, is away, is that correct?"
"Why else would I be here while she isn't?" Wicke asked, trying her best to stay composed.
"You tell me." Giovanni stopped in front of the female researcher, scanned her body from head to toe, and then grinned greedily. "Tell me, what do you think about joining the Syndicate?"
Wicke blinked. "What?"
"Huh?" Matori asked, suddenly becoming even more alert.
"Ohhhh, trust me." Giovanni stepped closer to the woman, who felt her skin crawl in his presence. "I could definitely use someone of your...talents...by my side..."
The executive's grin suddenly took on a more lecherous quality, and everyone else understood what was going on. Wicke struggled to hold back a retch of disgust, Zager snickered playfully in the background, and Matori's face turned as red as a Tamato Berry.
But before Wicke could reject Giovanni's disturbing advances, another voice exclaimed in exasperation, "Ohhh, come on! Y-You gotta be frigging kidding me!"
Everyone looked at the speaker, who had shot up to his feet in outrage and was now struggling with the Team Aqua and Galactic grunts who were trying to get him to sit back down. He was a scientist with a more nefarious quality compared to Wicke, and his futuristic green glasses gleamed from the light of the holographic images shining overhead.
"She can't do Tauros-shit!" the man protested before letting out an amused laugh. "I-I mean, her, having talents?! I can do all the things she can tenfold!" He shrugged off the grunts' grasps and gestured to himself with a quality of arrogance so oversaturated that it made the other employees sick. "I was the head scientist of the Aether Foundation, after all! It is I who you should be finding tons of good uses for, n-not her!"
Giovanni smiled, the man's outburst impressing him so much that he forgot all about Wicke and his advances toward her. He walked away from the stunned woman and approached the self-proclaimed head scientist, closely surveying him.
"So," the executive said, "you must be the famous Faba."
"Ye-Yeah, damn straight!" Faba puffed out his chest with pride. "D-Don't rely on that woman to carry out what you need! She worships the very ground our so-called boss walks on! But me? I hold the keys to everything that you desire! All you have to do is ask, and you shall receive!"
"F-Faba?" Wicke asked, stunned by her colleague's unexpected shift in behavior. "What're you doing?"
"What I should have done a long time ago!" Faba declared. "I only went along with my so-called 'redemption' because I knew that I needed a second opportunity to carry out my master plan! And..." He shot Giovanni a devious grin. "It looks like I found that second opportunity...with the Syndicate!"
"Ohhhh, yes," Giovanni replied. "I'm so glad you could see eye-to-eye with our ambitions, Faba. I suppose you do indeed have more uses for the Syndicate than your colleague."
Off to the side, Matori breathed out a sigh of relief, while Wicke stared on at Faba, flabbergasted by the revelation.
Elsewhere in Aether Paradise, at the Pokémon conservation area, many of the resident Pokémon were still being chased and rounded up by the Syndicate grunts and their own Pokémon. Not a single inch or corner of the area was spared from scrutiny, and any effort at fight or flight by the resident Pokémon was always rendered utterly pointless by the power and might of the evil conglomerate organization.
However, as the wild Pokémon continued to be corralled mercilessly and endlessly, the Syndicate grunts seemed to miss a peculiar palm tree that loomed above them, one of many. Perched atop that palm tree was a single Shiny Rowlet, who had taken shelter there as soon as the invasion started. Its light-green color scheme afforded it some easy camouflage in the palm tree's leaves, allowing any Flying-type Syndicate Pokémon to pass by it without giving it a second thought...
The Pokémon School, Melemele Island
"And just where do you think you're going?"
Kiawe and Incineroar stopped, watching as Lana yipped in surprise from the former's voice. They, Rowlet, Sophocles, and Mimo weren't surprised even in the slightest when they saw Lana freeze up as rigidly as a board, her skin becoming florid within seconds. But then, the petite blue-haired girl settled down and sighed.
"I'm going to save Mallow," she said resolutely. Then, she began walking away from the premises of the Pokémon School again. "And there's nothing you guys can do to stop me."
"Oh, who said we're gonna try and stop you?" Kiawe asked, grinning in determination and anticipation.
Catching on in an instant, Lana turned around. Everyone was surprised to see her face was still red, while her blue eyes were becoming shiny with tears.
"No," she said with a shake of her head. "No, I...I can't let you guys come with me. It could be dangerous."
"You're going on your own," Kiawe replied. "It's already dangerous enough. You might as well have backup."
Incineroar growled and grinned at the blue-haired girl in encouragement.
"Besides," added Sophocles, "Mallow's not just your friend, Lana! She's our friend too! We have every right to help her as much as you do!"
"Maru!" Togedemaru squeaked with a nod of agreement.
"But if anything were to happen to any of you, then..." Worry filled Lana's blue eyes. "Then-!"
"Then what?" The tanned Fire-type specialist approached her, towering over her smaller frame while giving her a gentle smile. "Lana, don't forget. We're the Ultra Guardians. We've faced many threats before. We fought against Necrozma, for Arceus's sake!"
"Yeah!" Sophocles added in encouragement. "This is nothing, nothing at all!" He joined Kiawe's side and grabbed Lana's hand. "You can count on us to have your back, Lana!"
"Row!" Rowlet squawked affirmatively with a shake of its plumage.
Incineroar nodded with a huff.
Lana looked between Kiawe and Sophocles, her eyes still shimmering with tears. Then, with a sniffle, she used her elbow to wipe the tears away and then gave her classmates a wide, bright smile.
"Thanks, you guys," she said.
Then with one last sniffle, she held out her clenched fist. Smiling, Kiawe, Sophocles, and Incineroar all held out their own fists, and the trio bumped them together.
"ULTROGER!" they chorused.
"ROW!" Rowlet squawked happily.
"TOGE!" Togedemaru squeaked in agreement.
Incineroar huffed out some steam from its nostrils.
"Ultroger!" Mimo cheered, a little late on the mark.
"Huh?" Kiawe glared at his younger sister in shock, as if he never noticed her following him. "No, Mimo. You're not-"
"Aw, come ON!" the girl cried angrily. "Is it because I'm little?! Kiawe, I can help too!"
"No, you can't." Kiawe crossed his arms with a frown. "This isn't you lifting heavy objects and doing other manual labor at the farm, Mimo. This is a very serious situation-"
"Oh gee, like I hadn't noticed before." Mimo then stomped her foot down. "I wanna help, Kiawe! I know I can be of use for your Ultra Guardian mission!"
"I'm not gonna have this talk with you, Mimo. It's simply too dangerous for you to tag along. If those people were able to defeat the guardians, then who knows what kind of power they have in store for a little girl like you?"
"I'M NOT LIT-!"
She was cut off by Kiawe, who pointed at the Pokémon School. "Go back to Mom and Dad. We'll be back in an hour, two tops."
"NO!" Then, Mimo grinned mischievously. "If you don't bring me along, Kiawe, then I'm gonna tell all the grownups what you, Lana, and Sophocles are planning on doing!"
"By that time, we'll already be in Hau'oli, so the point is moot."
The little girl's frown turned back into a scowl. "I wanna COME! Please, Kiawe!"
"For the last time, NO." Kiawe pointed at the school building again. "Go back to Mom and Dad. Now."
"You can't tell me what to do!"
"I can, because I'm your older brother and I care very much about you! So go, now. Don't make me say it again."
With a furious huff, a red-faced Mimo turned on her heel and stomped back towards the school. "You can't pull the 'older brother' excuse on me forever, Kiawe! You can't!"
Kiawe didn't say anything else, instead watching Mimo as she did as she was told, retreating into the school. As soon as she turned a corner and disappeared from view, he deeply sighed with relief and turned to look at Lana, Sophocles, and Incineroar, all of whom were looking up at him hesitantly.
"Sorry about that, you guys," he said. "Now, let's get going, shall we?"
"O...Okay..." But Lana looked uncertain now. "Ummm...m-maybe we should've brought her along, Kiawe-"
"And what? What use would she have had for us anyway, Lana? Hm?"
"It's just that, well... I can tell Mimo's pretty unhappy about you just telling her what to do."
Kiawe sighed again and crossed his arms. "Okay, tell me, Lana, would you have brought Harper and Sarah with us if they wanted to come along?"
Lana's response was instantaneous. "Let's get going, guys. Mallow isn't gonna wait on us forever."
Hau'oli City, Melemele Island
Mallow was shoved into one of the passenger aircraft that had descended from the Syndicate's gargantuan airship, called the Rocket Frigate based on what she had heard. She tried in vain to resist, but the Team Plasma grunt roughly nudged her into one of the available seats, beside her father and directly next to a window. The tan-skinned girl frantically looked around, examining her fellow captives, and recognized some of them right away.
"Pierce," a voice greeted in the distance. "It's good of you to join us."
"Tyson," another voice replied coolly.
"Tyson, summon Pierce, Agent 009, Cassidy, and Butch here. Inform them that I have the perfect gifts for their fierce and undying loyalty to the cause."
Acting on immediate impulse, Mallow looked out of the window and saw the same high-ranking grunt from before, Tyson, approaching a quartet of who she assumed to be higher-ranking Syndicate members, two of them men and the other two women.
"Before we can proceed," Tyson said, "the Boss requires status updates from each of you. Let's start with you, Pierce."
The calm, stone-faced man with long dark-blue hair and olive-green eyes stepped forward. "It was a more protracted and complex operation than expected," he said, "but Poni Island is now under our control. The Island Kahuna put up quite an admirable fight, but alas, she has fallen like all the others."
"Oh, no..." Mallow whispered to herself. "Hapu..."
"Good. That's gonna go into the report..." Tyson typed down Pierce's account into his tablet. "And what of Ula'ula Island, Mulch?"
"THE NAME'S BUTCH!" the green-haired man snapped, before recomposing himself seconds later. "Ahem... My unit's just reported to me. The last of Malie City has fallen to us, and in record time too. Ah, a-and I've just had their Island Kahuna transported to Aether Paradise, p-per the Boss's request."
"I still don't understand what the Boss would want from a mere cop like Nanu..." the blonde woman commented.
"Do not question the Boss's motives, Cassidy," Tyson replied sternly. "Speaking of which, I hear you're having a little bit of difficulty locating the Kahuna of Akala Island."
"Heh. The bitch sure knew when to fold 'em and scurry about." Then, the woman raised a tightly clenched fist. "But rest assured, Tyson, I will locate her and see to it that she's punished."
"Oh, thank Arceus," Mallow thought with relief. "So Olivia's gotta be out there somewhere, thinking of a way to help..."
"I sure hope so," Tyson said, his brow furrowed as he jotted down additional notes, "for the Boss's sake. And Agent 009, how goes Team Skull's cooperation?"
"They've joined us in our efforts to track down the remaining stragglers from Hau'oli," the second blonde woman replied. "No true subjugation was necessary to ensure their association with us. As if they ever needed it, anyway."
"Excellent. Now then, on to the real reason why I've summoned you here. I'm sure you've heard of the Boss's battle with the guardian deities of this region?"
"Battle?" Domino smirked. "Heh heh heh. More like a curb-stomp."
"Regardless of terminology, he has confided in me his wish to reward you four for your fealty to the Syndicate's cause."
"Wait, hold on a sec," Butch interjected, his eyes widening in realization. "You don't mean-?"
"I believe he does mean it, Clutch," interrupted Pierce, his expression unmoved.
"IT'S BUTCH, ARCEUS-DAMN IT!"
Then, to the pleasure of Domino and Cassidy, and the awe of Butch, Tyson procured four Poké Ball-like devices from his pocket. Mallow instantly recognized them as the same devices that had captured all four guardian deities. Each of them had a unique symbol engraved on the front: a yellow lightning bolt, a pink wisp-like flame, a green blade of grass, and a blue raindrop.
"The Boss has entrusted you four with control over an individual guardian deity," Tyson explained.
Unable to stomach witnessing anymore, Mallow looked away from the window, just as another voice spoke up.
"Mallow? Did you see anything? What did you see?"
The girl sighed and glanced at the speaker, an elderly woman who would've looked so gentle and friendly if it weren't for the fact that they were both being held captive.
"N-Nothing," Mallow replied immediately, not wanting to worry the fruit stall owner anymore than she likely already was. "I didn't see anything."
"I can't believe this is happening," Anela replied, trying to stave off her worries as she leaned back on her own seat. "The Island Kahuna has been defeated, the guardians are being controlled by these people, and now..." She looked toward the entryway to the passenger aircraft, just as a small group of Syndicate grunts escorted more hostages in. "Whe-Where do you think they're gonna take us...?"
"Definitely up to that damn ship of theirs," Abe responded angrily. "Who knows what's gonna happen after that?"
Anela immediately bowed her head in prayer. "Ohhh, please Arceus," she whispered gently, trying her best to stay calm. "Please, forgive us for our sins and send us a miracle that will absolve us all... Please..."
Mallow narrowed her green eyes, outraged by the air of terror that hung over her fellow townspeople. Then, she glanced at the nearest grunt, a Team Magma grunt.
"Hey!" she snapped, catching her attention. "Yeah, you! Let us go, right now! You've got no use for us at all!"
The female grunt then cracked a devious grin. "Heh. Don't be silly! Of course we've got use for you all!"
"Oh, really?" Abe asked, gritting his teeth tightly. "And that is?"
"Well, for starters, a new civilization cannot build its foundation without slave labor."
The other grunts within earshot started to snicker and cackle jeeringly, with a Team Flare grunt patting the Team Magma grunt in the shoulder with acknowledgment. Mallow's and Abe's eyes widened at the same time, while some of the other captives started weeping in despair and even more others, like Anela, continued to pray fervently for salvation.
Kiawe and Incineroar led the way, with Rowlet flying overhead to keep watch, as their group sneaked into Hau'oli City. A shudder swept through each member as they quickly beheld the destruction of Melemele Island's largest, greatest city.
"Oh, my Arceus..." Kiawe whispered. The dark-skinned student took in the horrifying sight of burning buildings, just as he and the others stopped in an alley between two houses.
"I think I just wet my pants..." Sophocles whimpered.
"Togede..." Togedemaru squeaked softly.
Then, Kiawe recomposed himself. "We can't turn back now, guys. We're here to save Mallow, and hopefully, we can also get a handle on what's really going on, and what we could do to stop these punks ourselves."
"I'd prefer if we do the former over the latter- OW!"
"Sophocles!" Lana snapped under her breath, as she withdrew her stinging palm.
At that moment, Kiawe peered out of the alley and looked both ways down the walkway. He didn't see anyone occupying it, only more fires, ashes, and destruction. Staving off his anger and horror, he withdrew his head back into the alleyway and faced his companions.
"Alright, clear," he said. "Let's get going."
The group wandered out onto the walkway and proceeded deeper into the blazing city. As they did, their eardrums were filled with the noises of crackling fire, howling winds, and the occasional scream of terror. Eventually, upon reaching the Hau'oli Police Station, Kiawe and the others heard footsteps approaching and hid behind the building with bated breaths.
"How goes the patrol?" a voice asked.
"Found a couple of stragglers hiding in a house," replied a second voice. "Heh. Did they really think they'd be able to get away with finger-painting themselves and trying to camouflage?"
"Now that's priceless," a third voice commented.
Three Syndicate grunts and their Pokémon appeared from behind the corner: a petite female Team Aqua grunt and her Wingull; a stout, rotund male Team Plasma grunt and his Zebstrika; and a tall, tan-skinned male Team Flare grunt and his Houndour. Kiawe, Lana, Sophocles, and the Pokémon immediately quieted down and glued themselves to the exterior wall of the police station, waiting for the trio to pass by them.
"So, how about we do one last round in this precinct and then head back?" the Team Plasma grunt asked. "Everyone else should be waiting for us."
"Yeah, sounds like a great plan," replied the Team Plasma grunt.
"Can't hurt to quintuple-check," added the Team Aqua grunt.
Kiawe, Lana, and Sophocles watched the trio of grunts go. As they did, Kiawe's eyes suddenly lit up.
"Hey!" he whispered, catching his friends' attention. "I've got an idea! Listen up..."
With a huff, Incineroar casually tossed the Team Flare grunt's limp, nigh-naked body behind the police station, next to his unconscious brethren and their Pokémon. It then turned to face Kiawe, Lana, and Sophocles as they continued to put on the grunts' stolen clothing.
"Good job, Incineroar," Kiawe replied with a smile of acknowledgment, just as he put on the Team Flare grunt's red shirt. "I know I'm not Ash, but I think we sync just fine."
Incineroar nodded in agreement, just as Sophocles moaned in exasperation.
"Hey, Kiawe?" the Electric-type specialist asked. "I think this guy's clothes are a size too small for me..."
He showed the Team Plasma grunt's shirt to Kiawe as proof of his misfortune. It was squeezing down on the rotund boy's body, looking rather uncomfortable, and his flaccid stomach was almost falling out, putting his belly button on display. A red-faced Lana turned away from her friend, not wanting to see such a sight any further while she continued putting on the Team Aqua grunt's uniform.
"It's alright, Sophocles," Kiawe replied. "Just stick close to me and Lana, and don't talk to anyone. Don't even make eye-contact with anyone unless it's absolutely necessary."
Sophocles looked down at his skintight clothing in dismay. "O-Okay..."
Soon, Kiawe, Lana, and Sophocles got done dressing up and had gone out in the open in their new disguises, followed by Incineroar, Rowlet, and Togedemaru. As soon as they reached a fair distance away from the police station, a new person peeked their head out from the alley and into the walkway to monitor them.
"I'll show you, Kiawe..." Mimo grumbled while stepping out onto the walkway. "I can be an awesome Ultra Guardian too! Just you wait, big brother."
"You think they'll fall for these disguises, Kiawe?"
Kiawe tugged at the tight-fitting collar of his uniform, just as he and the others entered the Hau'oli City square. They had finally found the epicenter of the invasion, where dozens of Syndicate grunts and Pokémon were herding up the residents like cattle and loading them up into passenger aircraft of futuristic designs. Once they were fully loaded, each individual aircraft would then lift off and head towards the massive airship in the sky.
However, it was clear to the group that their strategy of using disguises was ill-advised. Most of the Syndicate was using a plethora of Pokémon native to the outside regions, with few Alola-exclusive Pokémon in sight. Those Alolan species that they could make out were all under the ownership of Team Skull grunts, much to their immense surprise, and they knew that those grunts would see through their disguises almost immediately.
"It's just the Pokémon that we have," Kiawe replied. "If anyone asks, uhhh...j-just say we have them under Hypnosis or something and that's why they're out and about."
"Let's just hope that works..." Lana whispered reluctantly.
"Hey!" a voice barked. "You!"
Lana straightened up as rigidly as a board again, while Kiawe and Sophocles turned to see a Team Rocket grunt walking up to them, flanked by a Koffing and an Ekans.
"About damn time you got done with your patrol!" the grunt snapped. "You just so happened to miss roll call!"
"W-We're sorry, man- eh, sir," Kiawe replied, correcting himself at the last second. "W-We encountered some trouble with these Pokémon here-" He gestured to Incineroar, Rowlet, and Togedemaru. "But we have them under control now."
"Under control, ehhh?" The Team Rocket grunt scanned the three Alolan Pokémon. "Why aren't they in Dark Balls? Or in handcuffs, at the very least?"
"Dark B-?" Then, the Fire-type specialist cleared his throat before he could ask one too many questions. "W-We have the Pokémon under Hypnosis, sir. Rest assured, it's under control."
The grunt examined the Pokémon's eyes, causing Kiawe, Lana, and Sophocles to begin sweating. But to their relief, their Pokémon acted quickly, with Incineroar and Togedemaru looking drowsy and Rowlet lolling to the side, its eyes closed.
"I...suppose they are-"
Lana's voice came out as a blurt, and Kiawe followed his friend's gaze. Several feet away, he could see Hau kneeling by Hala's side. A pair of Team Galactic grunts were forcing the local Nurse Joy and her Blissey and Comfey to operate on the fallen Island Kahuna. Upon hearing Lana's voice, Hau looked around before spotting the disguised trio.
"Guys?" he asked incredulously.
"Guys?" the Team Rocket grunt repeated. Then, he glared at Kiawe, Lana, and Sophocles again. "Hey, hold up a min-!"
"Crap!" Kiawe cried. "Incineroar, use Fire Blast! Rowlet, use Seed Bomb!"
"Togedemaru, use Zing Zap!" ordered Sophocles.
All three Pokémon used their respective attacks before anyone else could react. Rowlet's Seed Bomb knocked the Team Rocket grunt out, while Incineroar's Fire Blast and Togedemaru's Zing Zap knocked out Koffing and Ekans, respectively.
"Hey!" cried a Team Magma grunt.
"We've got people resisting!" called a Team Plasma grunt.
"Well, there goes the whole disguise strategy!" Kiawe growled before pulling out three Poké Balls and throwing them. "I call upon your assistance, guys!"
"Primarina, Sandy, come on out!" Lana called out while throwing two Poké Balls of her own.
"You too, Vikavolt!" Sophocles added as he threw his own Poké Ball.
The six Pokémon emerged from the devices, with Incineroar, Rowlet, and Togedemaru joining their sides right after. But Kiawe, Lana, and Sophocles continued to sweat profusely as many of the Syndicate grunts present started to advance on them, their growling, aggressive Pokémon at the lead.
"How cute," another Team Rocket grunt remarked.
"Did you three really think you could fight the likes of us?" asked a Team Aqua grunt.
"Look around ya, kids!" a Team Magma grunt added triumphantly. "You're outnumbered-"
"Outmatched-" continued a Team Galactic grunt.
"And outgunned!" completed a Team Plasma grunt.
"The power of the Syndicate can never be rivaled!" a Team Flare grunt declared.
None of the Team Skull grunts spoke, with some of them looking at each other with ambivalence. But none of them ever bothered to protest as the Syndicate and their Pokémon started to close in. Kiawe, Lana, and Sophocles huddled close to one another, prepared to fight until the bitter end.
Then, all of a sudden, a new voice spoke up, echoing through the air and catching the group's attention.
"Well, well, weeell! I admire your tenacity, you guys. Not to mention your audacity. You have most certainly been making quite a show out of yourselves these past hour. The eyes of the world are all on you right now."
"And all the better for us to succeed!" another Team Flare grunt barked. "Society is at a crossroads, and the Syndicate is prepared to lead all of civilization away from our archaic ways and towards a beautiful new age of prosperity!" Then, she looked around in search of the speaker. "Where are you, anyway?!"
The voice continued, unbidden. "Well then, I'm sure you'd be perfectly cool with having the people watch you gang up on a bunch of helpless, cornered kids!"
"If it means teaching the people a lesson!" replied a Team Galactic grunt.
A scoff filled the air. "Another point of your audacity. After all, what makes you guys the ones qualified to usher that age in when you feel the oh-so-desperate need to put a bunch of kids in line? From where I'm standing, you guys are coming up against forces that you can't even begin to imagine."
A Team Rocket grunt sneered. "Ohhhh, we know. Fortunately, we have contingency plans for all of those forces...and the same goes for you, Island Kahuna Olivia."
"Olivia?!" Kiawe, Lana, and Sophocles cried at the same time.
"So!" the voice replied. "You've figured out who I am!"
"You're the only Kahuna still out there!" the same Team Rocket grunt spat. "It ain't that hard to put two and two frigging together! Who do you take us for?!"
"Well, a bunch of cowards, for one. Oh, and kids? Don't worry about me. I've still got a grand entrance pla- Whoa, whoa, WHOA!"
Everyone looked towards one of the nearby rooftops, just in time to see a certain bronze-skinned woman stumble in her step and nearly topple over, only to reach out and grab onto the chimney right at the last second. Unfortunately for her, a megaphone fell out of her other hand and landed on the ground with an anticlimactic shattering sound. The sweat-drops were instantaneous and unanimous.
"That's supposed to be her grand entrance?" Kiawe, Lana, Sophocles, and Hau all thought at the same time.
"GET HER!" ordered a third Team Rocket grunt.
"Boss. He's here."
Giovanni smirked widely, his body exuding a particularly strong aura of triumph. He turned away from the working Faba and watched as a Team Galactic grunt and a Team Plasma grunt escorted a late-middle-aged man into the laboratory. He had gray hair, red eyes, and thick eyebrows; and wore a burgundy shirt under a black jacket with two yellow emblems on the sides, along with long black pants and a Darkinium Z serving as a necklace.
"It's been a long time, old friend," Giovanni greeted, sounding unusually friendly.
The other man scoffed as he suspiciously eyed his escorts and then the nearby Matori. "It...most certainly has..."
"I do apologize for the manner in which I disturbed you-" began Giovanni.
"Disturbed?" Nanu scoffed again, with more bitterness this time. "I'm pretty sure it's more than just that, old friend. The last time we had a face-to-face meeting like this one, I believe I told you that I didn't want to see your shadow darkening my doorstep ever again."
Giovanni nodded nostalgically. "Yes, I do recall that meeting."
"Then you should also recall me saying that I consider all of Alola my doorstep." Nanu narrowed his eyes ominously. "You should NOT have come back here, Giovanni, let alone bring your business here."
"I know I shouldn't have, but unfortunately..." Giovanni gestured towards Faba. "Destiny called my name from here, and it was imperative that I heeded that call, Nanu!"
Nanu followed Giovanni's gaze and realized what he was talking about. Right now, Faba was working on a machine that he could vaguely recall from reports given to him by the Aether Foundation months ago.
"We are about to open the gateway to a new world filled with vast, untapped potential!" Giovanni declared. "And..." The executive refocused on the Island Kahuna, his face looking surprisingly tender. "I was hoping you would be there to bear witness to it, old friend!"
Unbeknownst to everyone else in the lab, Faba's eyes were wide in fear and apprehension as he continued his tinkering.
"Sweet, sweet Arceus..." he thought. "This better work..."
Tyranitar, the Armor Pokémon. Its body can't be harmed by any sort of attack, so it is very eager to make challenges against enemies. Extremely strong, it can change the landscape. It has an insolent nature that makes it not care about others.
Giovanni: Did you really think you could get that one by me?
Lana: Did you really think I was gonna leave you behind?
Kiawe: MIMO! Again! Again! Again! Ag-
Matori: The power of the Blinding One...
Mallow: We gotta get outta here, NOW!
Zipp: I can't believe you just frigging did that!
Hau: We'll come back with help, everyone. We promise you that...
Unknown: Welcome, everyone! To paradise!
A/N: And that concludes this chapter! PHEW! Including this Author's Note, this is EASILY the longest chapter of this fic by far, not to mention one of the longest chapters I've ever written in my nearly ten years of writing on here! WOW! I do hope this chapter and its depiction of the SM cast was passable. I know I was recommended a website that I could use to watch the SM saga episodes, but I never found the time to take a look at that website and give those episodes a try. In-between writing and job-searching, I was pretty swamped, to put it mildly.
Well, anyway, as you could see in this chapter, I chose to rip off a certain opening scene from a certain Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. As to why I decided to skip the actual Syndicate takeover of Alola, there are two reasons. One: writing a lengthy description of the Syndicate's movements, from island to island and corner to corner, would've been quite a drag, in my opinion, and given the preset lengths for these chapters, I can't afford much lollygagging. Two: I wanted to prove exactly how powerful the Syndicate could be when they were at even 75 percent of their potential (the other 25 percent is elsewhere in the world right now). Obviously, 75 percent of the Syndicate's potential equals the swift, effortless, easy conquest of an archipelago region.
So yeah, Alola was pretty much screwed from the get-go. And let's not forget to mention the guardian deities! Obviously, none of them were of any match against Giovanni's Mega Mewtwo X. Now they are under the control of Pierce, Domino, Butch, and Cassidy! Talk about crazy! Oh, and Faba and Team Skull have joined up with the Syndicate! Let us not forget that! D:
Alright, now I'd like to thank the following people for reviewing:
-bankerrtx01: It'll take a while for that to happen.
1) Yeah, there's no way I was going to cuck you guys like that after making you all wait for so long!
2) Actually, I've got something pretty interesting planned when it comes to Serena and Dawn's friendship. ;)
4) Indeed, let's hope this major incident gives Cynthia and Verity the bonding time that they deserve. And yeah, I'm 50 percent sure Yuyama is just trolling around to prevent some sort of spoiler. We'll see if anything about Verity is revealed for "Pokémon: Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl".
5) Ohhhhh yes, I just heard. While I'm neutral towards Iris overall, I think this is a GREAT setup for the story arc that I already have planned for her. ;D
6) I'm well aware that Normal-types can't be affected by Ghost-type moves, but I actually picked that move for another reason. And just because Meowth wasn't hurt by the Shadow Ball, it doesn't mean he was hurt by the subsequent body impact to the ground. ;)
1) Wait, complicated? In what way?
2) You'll see. ;)
3) Well, there's no way Ash is EVER going to forget that farewell kiss Serena gave him when they last met. ;D
4) Yep, this is gonna be a mess, and THAT'S putting it mildly.
5) Only through the art of love and Pokémon battles. That's all I gotta say about that. :P
6) Yeah, it's definitely going to be hilarious once Paul and Trip learn the startling truth about the boy they once wailed on during their respective journeys.
7) But the main difference is that Mustard isn't fully lost yet. As long as he still keeps his eye on the moral ball, there is a chance that he could usher in a new era of reform...
8) Most DEFINITELY! :D But that reunion will take a bit of a while to get around to, so just keep your fingers crossed for that in the meantime.
9) Looks like your greatest fears have been realized! :O :O :O
10) Sorry. As I mentioned earlier, I got too swamped and was unable to check up on the website that was recommended to me. Hopefully this chapter was alright and met your minimum expectations, at the very least.
11) Thanks! I appreciate it! :D
-The N01 Master: I am so glad to see you so ecstatic about the AmourShipping reunion! :D :D :D And yeah, it took me long enough! XP
1) Yeah, we're definitely living in different time-zones.
2) Oh, okay.
3) Okay, that's good to know.
4) Yes, more Legendary Pokémon will be appearing, as this chapter can attest to. :D
5) It's a cipher. What kind of cipher, though, I won't be telling. That'll ruin the purpose of the cipher. Just look closely at the entry and try to connect the dots. ;D ;D ;D
1) And I'm glad that you're glad! :D :D :D
2) Yeah, me neither. XP
3) Well, that's BS if I've never seen it.
-Emily (guest reviewer):
1) Yeah, Ash has got the power of the main character. Can't discount that. XD Well, then again, it didn't save Spider-Man in "Avengers: Infinity War"...
2) Gotta love Paul and Trip suddenly going into a childish argument about who is the bigger edgelord. XD
3) I personally pegged Cynthia to be in her mid- to late-30s, approximately. Also, Verity is a teenager here, just like all of the other main characters.
4) Well, the pressure of the Syndicate's actions and the Institute's corruption is getting to Ash's head, without a doubt.
-Sam (guest reviewer): Well, as this chapter can testify to, Alola's going to require a LOT of defending...
-Pierrot (guest reviewer):
1) MAN, your review's long! I'll see if I can address all of your points as succinctly as I can.
2) Like I said above, Ash never really forgot that fateful farewell kiss Serena gave him back at the airport. XD
3) Stay tuned and you'll see what drama ensues from all of these complicated feelings. ;)
4) Looks like all the main characters that you mentioned are primarily on the defensive in this case, because right now, the Syndicate is just kicking a whole load of Alolan ASS to the Moon. :O :O :O
5) Well, what you just revealed about the anime thus far sounds pretty interesting, but unfortunately, those events won't be canon here, obviously. I sort of already laid out what Gary's doing nowadays in this canon, which is far from what he's doing in the actual anime. But I do hope we get to see more DP characters down the road, since remakes are on the way.
6) I've already taken care of those users, but thanks for the heads-up!
7) Thanks for the tips! But honestly, though, given the seriousness of the situation, puns would've just been off-color in this chapter. But I'll see what I can fit in once the SM gang gets their well-needed cooling-down period.
Well, hope you enjoyed this LONG chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!