W00t. At the End of the Wilderness is back, Re-Posted for your reading pleasure. At the End of the Wilderness... Prologue 1: Force, Storm and CRISIS The sky was unnaturally dark, swirling clouds obscuring the normally abundant sunlight. Purple lightning cackled amidst the clouds, illuminating their chaotic form - further enhancing the image that these were not normal clouds. Even the wind was charged with some kind of energy. This was not a normal storm. And this was no ordinary battleground, either. Metallic girders and plates interlacing with shattered glass, ancient stones and timeless sand. Ruins - ancient ruins interlaced with newer ruins of a research facility built to investigate the ancient ruins. The contrast of old against new was almost jarring - and with the storm above illuminating the ruins in an eerie light, it almost looked like some of the old devices were still alive. Amidst the ruins stood two trainers, facing each other. "Your path ends here, trainer. Resistance is futile and you know it." The speaker was a tall man - about 2 meters tall - whose muscled body was further augmented by what appeared to be some kind of bio-mechanical armor. The two ribbons of a scarf curled around the man's neck billowed behind him in the unnatural wind, circuitry patterns glowing across them. All that was visible of the man's face under the helmet that he wore - a bizzare mix of virtual reality gear and the mask of a tokusatsu series' hero - was his smirk, as the plating of the armor seemed to shift lightly, almost as if breathing. Maybe it WAS breathing. "You're a confident one, aren't you." replied the second trainer - a dark-haired young man in his twenties, dressed in green and black, brown eyes glaring defiantly at the imposing figure through black-rimmed matrix-esque glasses. "After what I've been through, your kind doesn't scare me." "Once, our name was feared throughout this cesspool of a region." replied the armored man "Whispered in dark places, for fear that speaking the name would invoke the power. We were pushed back several times, but we were never -truly- defeated. Even when our leader fell, there were always those of us who remained loyal to the cause... Who know the truth." "The truth?" replied the trainer "What is your truth?" "That you and the rest of your kind are slaves. Slaves to your instincts. To your emotions. They are but a barrier that stands in your way to unleash your true potential. Your PokéMon, too, are slaves, but their emotions make them chaotic. Unpredictable. Dangerous. Not as effective as they could be. Vulnerable. Emotions are unnecessary. Should be done away with - on both humans and on PokéMon. Just THINK of it, trainer! A world without pain, without suffering! A world where no one is hurt by anyone! A world..." "... With no soul." the trainer replied. "There IS no soul." the man replied. "There is only mind. There is no good or evil, there is just power. In time, you too will come to see the 'good' in what we do... You will have no choice but to do so. Now. Accept our gospel, embrace our new order, or be destroyed. Your choice, trainer." "You can go straight to hell as far as I'm concerned." the trainer replied. "So be it, fool." the tall man replied. There was a rustle as the armor plates on his chest slid open, revealing a layer of black, composite polymer-metal armor underneath it. Three hemispherical bumps projected out of each side of this chest compartment. The man's smirk grew wider as he reached for the top-left one, and pressing his fingers against the side of the bump slightly, he tore it out of the armor. As the chest-plates closed again, the black sphere expanded - a black PokéBall, composed of some kind of rubbery material that the trainer has never seen before. The sphere burst into violet light, releasing a massive creature, the sight of which sent a shudder down the trainer's spine. It was a bulky, rotund beast with short, squat legs that were splayed along the sides of its body in a way that almost looked like sometime during the course of its evolution to an anthropomorphic gait, it forgot what that even meant. The thing's scaly body was the colors of flame, an array of spikes emerging from its back and strange, vaguely flame-shaped crests extending from its back, its arms and its head. The head itself was almost absorbed in the creature's massive shoulders, supporting a massive frontal growth half-obscuring the creature's eyes, while its face - which appeared to be caught midway in transformation between muzzle to beak - seemed to have an unnaturally huge grin - almost as if it was cut into its face. But the most curious thing about the creature was its arms. Dark, metallic-looking rings, similar to the one growing around the creature's neck and the lower part of its leg, encased the arms right above the elbow, while under the elbow, the creature's arms appeared hollow, as if the bones in its hands expanded, formed a complete ring, and fused, its broad fingers forming the rim of what almost looked like a cannon. Three of the creature's fingers seemed to support wicked-looking claws, framing the edge of its hands. There was something else that was apparent about the creature, aside from the fact that evolution had a hard day at work and a long night at the pub before settling down to design it. The creature's grin was not a grin of happiness, nor of insanity. In fact, it seemed to be frozen in place - expressionless in its own expression. It made no sound. It did not move. It just... stood there, its gaze a frozen mask. "Meet the culmination of years of research." the tall man smirked "The process was believed to be lost, but there were always a few of us who kept the data safe and secret. And with the help of some new allies, we've improved it even further. I could tell you how, but, that will not matter because you will soon be dead. Magmortar, execute this fool... Make it slow. If he likes pain so much that he does not wish to leave it behind, let him have all the pain he can handle." The creature's eyes remained expressionless as it lifted an arm, pointing it in the trainer's direction, sparks dancing within its hollow depths. The moment seemed to last forever as the sparks twirled around each other, spinning... And a massive inferno launched from the tubular cannon-arm, washing over the battlefield and the trainer that stood on its opposite side. It did not stop for what seemed like a very long time. The heat was next to intolerable, but the armored man was unfazed. The air rippled and distorted. Metal and rock heated, some of the less powerful girders bended as if they were made of rubber. in places, the sand bubbled and became glass. At last, the barrage relented, the flames ceasing their spouting, the Magmortar lowering its arm. Smoke billowed in the air. "Heh." the armored man smirked "That was almost too easy." "You're too confident." came the reply from within the smoke, and the armored man's smirk faded. The smoke cleared in a swirl of whirling winds revealing the trainer, a small form fluttering in front of him: a vaguely humanoid arthropod resembling a red and black beetle, glaring defiantly at the Magmortar with crystalline-looking blue eyes. The Ledian - for that is what the creature was - held two of her arms crossed in front of her, projecting a powerful shield composed of refractive hexagons of light - which took the brunt of the heat wave and dissapated it harmlessly around the trainer, a little grin on her face. Her other two arms were stretched out forward in what would be a rather rude gesture. Everything about the Ledian seemed to shout "You'll have to do better than that, you giant easter-egg-thing, you." Then her form was encased by red light and was drawn into a PokéBall. As the trainer's form was illuminated by the flames as well - another thing was revealed - the fact that he was holding not one PokéBall, but two. He smirked. "We don't die so easily." he said "Not without one hell of a fight. Isn't that right, my dear?" Something crashed down from the sky like a bolt of thunder - which was not far away from the truth - and landed in a fighting stance in front of the trainer. It was a toned, slender, anthropomorphic female creature that seemed halfway mammalian, halfway archosaurid. Her golden fur seemed to glow with electric light, enhancing black markings against it, long mane billowing behind it, tiger-striped tail twitching in a very feline manner. Her emerald green eyes were glaring at the Magmortar's, a tiny little smirk on her own face exposing a pair or two of sharp-looking fangs. A soft mix of a purr and a growl escaped her lips - it was both a confirmation to the trainer's question, and a challenge to the massive creature in front of her. She had the look of someone who has faced far more powerful foes even before breakfast - determination and experience seemed to radiate from her. Or maybe that was just the electric field. "An Electabuzz." the tall man smirked "And a rather powerful looking one... Interesting. Such a waste that it is not evolved..." The man did not get to finish his statement - the Electabuzz snarled deeply, launching a sharp, jagged bolt of lightning from her antennae directly at the man. It dissapated harmlessly against his armor. He frowned. "Clearly, as flawed as its trainer." the man smirked again. "Pulverize it, Magmortar." "You underestimate Mari at your own peril." the trainer glared "We've faced much worse than this... Crime against nature." Mari twitched, sending the trainer a look that suggested something was wrong about the creature - far more than what immediately met the eye. He looked back at her, as if to ask her if she could handle it. She grinned, as if to ask him if he was kidding her. He grinned back. The Magmortar emitted a guttural sound, and lifting his hands to the sky, the creature launched twin balls of flame into the stormclouds above - but it was not the ordinary color of flame - the fire was a dark purple, Like twin blobs of burning shadow. The blobs meshed seamlessly into swirling stormclouds, awakening a few flashes of light within them. Then, the clouds seemed to crack open with purple lightning, and rain washed across the battlefield... But it was not rain. At least, not a rain of water. The drops were like bursts of light - or rather, anti-light. They had a misty consistency - more condensed gas than liquid in texture - and they seemed to sizzle against the trainer's skin, a burning, almost corrosive sensation. He winced when he saw that they seemed to have an even more powerful effect on Mari - she literally hissed when the drops came into contact with her. To his surprise, the drops seemed to not only have no effect on the Magmortar, but rather than sizzling against its skin, they seemed to be drawn INTO it. He could faintly see an aura around the creature now. "What you feel right now is the power of Shadow Sky." the tall man grinned "Only our Shadow PokéMon can withstand its effect for long periods of time. And of course, our armor. It leaves the body unharmed physically, but the assault on the senses for anyone not attuned with the energy... Is something to be reckoned with. I give your Electabuzz five minutes before it's too much for her." "I wouldn't count on it if I were you." the trainer hissed "Mari, Focus!" The Electabuzz winced again, but soon enough planted her feet in the ground and closed her eyes, calming her mind, ignoring the burning sensation of Shadow Sky. Soon enough, a mild aura of lightning forming around her, a shield of sorts, weakening the impact of the drops, while not negating them completely. She would have to break this thing's control over the sky if she was to use the full extent of her abilities. Her antennae perked up. She could feel minor vibrations in the ground... The Magmortar was doing something. It was on the move, shifting its weight slightly, then something heavy crunched into the ground, digging into it, minor tremors charging... The Electabuzz hissed, leaping into the air a split-second before the Magmortar - crouched over, its claws digging deeply into the ground - launched a massive burst of energy into the ground, triggering a powerful earthquake. A helix of lightning followed her motion, negative and positive polarity working together to propel the Electabuzz over the ground. It was a new ability she has recently acquired - the power of Magnet Rise, a power which allowed her to levitate using her electricity alone. And already, she had some creative uses for it. The Magmortar growled, rising to his feet surprisingly fast and pointing its arms upward, swiveling slowly, lauching ball after ball of fire in the Electabuzz's 'flight path'. The Electric-type's movements became swifter, dodging the balls one after another - a few passed too close for comfort, slightly singing her fur, but the majority passed her harmlessly. As the Electabuzz continued her aerial maneuvers, she seemed to draw upon the purple lightning from the air around her, wrapping around her and the lightning helix that followed behind her. Within moments, the Electabuzz went into a somersault, twisting rapidly in midair, drawing upon more and more electricity - a charged ball of lightning which slammed into the Magmortar with the power of a small jet-propelled rocket, then springing off of it and landing on the ground, on all fours, snarling, the droplets of shadow energy hissing loudly against her fur. She seemed to shake a bit for a moment, but her eyes were full of determination. The Magmortar, knocked over, shook slightly, attempting to regain its footing - a difficult feat for a creature of its anatomy. Sparks danced in the hollows of its arms. The tall man only smirked. "Curiouser and curiouser..." he said "Your Electabuzz is extremely resellient... Magmortar, kill the trainer, but leave the Electabuzz alive. Imagine the power this creature can have once we liberate it." The Electabuzz's form was ablaze with electricity, glaring at the armored man with a look that could only mean "Liberate THIS." She launched a bolt of lightning into the air, slicing through the blanket of the clouds, distorting their already distorted contrasts. And then, a deadly burst of purple lightning launched from the impact point, forking, jagging in the direction of its target - the toppled Magmortar, rolling on the ground awkwardly like an egg. The Electabuzz grinned... too soon. The Magmortar let twin plumes of flames loose from his arm cannons, propelling him up and off the ground to the trainer and Electabuzz's disbelief. The creature was downright flying, its arms functioning as a jetpack. The creature turned - not having to use its legs for locomotion, it was much faster. "End it, Magmortar. SHADOW END!" The Magmortar bellowed deeply, turning its arms backwards and down, propelling itself forward towards the Electabuzz in a speed that seemed impossible for a creature of its bulk. Dark energies swirled around the beast, its twisted aura clearly visible now, enveloping its flames. The trainer understood what the creature was planning - a powerful double-edged rush attack. He knew the Electabuzz could not move out of the way in time.. his eyes suddenly widened. SHE couldn't move fast enough, but something else could. "Mari, Magnetize!" he yelled abruptly. The Electabuzz grinned, her form sparkling with electricity once again, tendrils of lightning launching from her form. Girders and plates tore from the ground, flying in her general direction, coming to a crashing halt around her. forming a cocoon of steel around the Electabuzz. "Wrong choice!" the armored man yelled as the Magmortar's jet of flames intensified - the creature moving faster... The searing flames impacting the metal. "Brick Break!" the trainer yelled, and the Electabuzz launched herself. The barrier of heated debris shattered to white-hot, razor-sharp fragments that flew in all directions, many impacting the dive-bombing Magmortar - that found itself flying directly into an uppercutting Mari. the uppercut caught the creature in its oversized belly. The creature's eyes widened as breath was knocked out of it - and for the first time in the duration of its battle - it seemed to be in pain. Another uppercut from the other arm, and the Magmortar's jet-flames sputtered and died, the creature crashing to the ground noisily, straight onto whatever remained of the pile of burning wreckage. As the dust settled, Mari landed in a nervous crouch a short distance away. Some of the metal shards caught her as well, and there were some nasty looking burns on her fingers and on various patches of her fur - but she did not notice it, the effects of adrenaline still flowing through her. She shot a gaze to the Magmortar's fallen form - the beast was bleeding, its body covered in bruises and cuts, a metal spike driven directly through one of its shouldercrests - if it landed only a bit to the side, the spike would have gone through the shoulder itself. Its eyes were staring blankly into the sky, but it was clear that the creature was still breathing. It was still alive, but too exhausted to battle. The Electabuzz grinned tiredly. She had won. Her eyes suddenly widened, her pupils shrinking. The unrelenting rain of shadow energies finally became too much for her to handle, seething against her burns, causing them to hurt even more. She closed her eyes, attempting to focus, forming the cold energies of an ice punch around her hands to numb the pain, but it was too little, too late. The Electabuzz stumbled and fell down. "MARI!" With a startled cry, the trainer rushed towards her, sliding to the ground, catching the electric-type's limp body in his arms, gazing at her worriedly. Tears were forming at the corners of his eyes as he held the electric-type as close to him as he could, carefully avoiding touching any of the burns. From the side, the armored man grinned, this was even more amusing than he thought. The rain of shadows continued. "Now do you see what I mean?" he said, smirking even louder, approaching slowly - completely disregarding the downed Magmortar - and ripping another PokéBall from within his chest compartment, which he toyed with as he walked, not even giving the trainer (who was still holding the limp Electabuzz, trying to reach her somehow) a second look. "Emotions are a weakness. Here you are now, so concerned about this... creature... that you are completely defenseless. A spectacular battle, but all for naught... And soon you will die. Alone. In the rain. A fitting end for those whose paradigms failed, for those whose weak emotions bind them... GOODBYE, Trainer!" And suddenly he froze. It was as if his body refused to obey his mind. "What is the meaning of this?!" the armored man growled, violently attempting to break free, and failing. Noticing for the first time the blue nimbus that surrounded him. He turned his eyes up... slowly... And emitted a silent scream. For standing between him and the trainer was a massive, biomechanical looking beast - if beast was the right term. The thing looked ALIEN to the extreme: a four-legged, animated biometallic shell powered by something else. Something within. Something red and glowing which burned with violent forcefulness - four cores of energy in orbit around each other, otherworldly, detached, burning eyes in infinite darkness. There was a voice in the armored man's mind. "LEAVE THIS PLACE." it said. A deep, booming, commanding voice, a duality of four voices that formed an eerie, ethereal harmony. there were other noises in the background. "THEY ARE NOT FOR YOU." "Heh." the armored man grinned. "So, you think you can get in my wa... urk!" The psychic assault was fierce and swift, and knocked the tall man back into his downed Magmortar. He coughed, and to his horror found that he coughed out blood. The creature turned to glare at the man again. "THE BATTLE IS DONE. YOU HAVE LOST. RETURN YOUR FALLEN FIGHTER AND LEAVE." the voice said again. More commanding. More powerful. The creature approached slowly, deliberately, metallic claws sinking into the ground, its core glowing in a light that meant only one thing. Disobedience would spell death for the armored man. The armored man seemed to consider his options for a moment, before realizing that his death would serve no purpose. "Well. It appears that I have no choice." he said with a tone of resignation. "Return, Magmortar." The fallen beast dissipated into violet energy, and was drawn into the armored man's chestplate. Without the creature's back to support him, he collapsed backwards as the metallic creature's psychic hold of him was lessened. The creature did not move, still gazing at the man intensely. The armored man gulped, rising to his feet, and turning his eyes to the trainer. "Who I am does not matter. Neither does my defeat right now... For soon, we shall arise again, and the world will once again fear the name of Cipher!" And with these words, he staggered away, the chilling look of the metallic beast never leaving him... ~*~ The shadowy rain faded out, but the sky was still dark. The trainer was motionless on his knees, still holding the limp Electabuzz close. She was still alive, but unconscious. Her breathing was heavy. He had already tended to her burns as much as he could using a few medicinal plant blends he carried with him in his digital storage device, cursing himself for not restocking on Full Restores when he had the chance. He cursed himself for not being able to do anything more for her. His eyes closed, tears flowing silently. In all their years together, she has never been this badly hurt in a battle. Just what the hell WAS that thing? What was this dark energy that swirled around the beast? Why did it seem to shrug off any attack launched on it? It was as if the creature could not feel pain or frustration. Like it was a fighting machine and nothing more. And the Shadow Sky... He has never felt anything like it before. He has never felt so tired. So helpless. Something soft nuzzled against his cheek. When he opened his eyes, he found himself looking into Mari's. She was smiling slightly, in spite of the pain. It was a comforting gaze - pained, and yet comforting. She gently reached up with a hand and brushed it against his cheek, wiping the tears away - as if she was trying to tell him that eyes like his should never bear tears. In spite of everything, he found himself chuckling. "I thought I asked you never to worry me like this again..." he chuckled softly, "And in spite of everything, you're still trying to comfort me... You are too amazing, Mari." The Electabuzz half winced half purred, closing her eyes tiredly. It was then that the trainer realized something was watching him intently. He turned his eyes to notice the massive metallic creature, gazing at him. Cold, aloof, analytical. But there was something else - not the commanding presence that he shot to the armored man, but one of almost empathy. "Thank you, Lycos. You really saved us back there..." the trainer said, gazing into the creature's core briefly. It was almost a terrifying experience for him, time and time again. The Metagross, in spite of officially being his PokéMon, had a relationship more resembling an alliance than a partnership with the trainer. The trainer could never understand the Metagross - and deep inside, he wondered if he ever will. He was terrified of the creature, and yet trusted it implicitly... and Lycos has never failed him before. If he didn't know better, he'd assume the Metagross genuinely cared about its trainer. And maybe it did, but it would never admit it. It was too prideful in its superiority. But that was Lycos, and the trainer accepted it as it was. The Metagross simply nodded. Then it did something that it never did before. With the subtle blue nimbus of psychic, the Metagross picked the trainer and the Electabuzz up and set them upon its back. Levitating off the ground silently, the Metagross tucked its legs underneath it, and then, it -dashed- forward, gliding rapidly in the direction of the nearest settlement it could sense. ~*~ Agate Village, Not a long while later. "How is she?" "Better than she looked." the local Nurse Joy replied "It's a good thing you had these medicine on you... They helped the regeneration process quite a bit. The cell-regeneration sequence was a success, but she'e still very tired." "May I see her?" the trainer asked. "Yes, you may. This way, please." He followed the nurse to a small room, where, on a bed, the Electabuzz was lying, sound asleep. New fur was already growing, vaguely, over the areas where her fur was burned off - the cell regeneration programs on the healing machines worked extremely well. She seemed to have a small smile on her face - maybe she was having a good dream. He took a seat by the bedside, gazing at the creature's sleeping form, reaching out to brush his fingers through her mane lightly for a moment. There was so much emotion in that gaze, that even the Nurse was nearly overwhelmed by its intensity. "Don't worry, she will be just fine." the nurse replied "She just needs some rest, that is all." "That's alright. She can have all the rest she needs. But, I would like to ask to stay here with her, if that is okay." the trainer said. "I don't see a reason why you shouldn't." she said. There was a moment of silence as the nurse turned away and proceeded to walk out the room. A moment before she walked out, though, she turned her eyes to the trainer, who was already holding the Electabuzz's hand, gazing at her with a small smile of his own. "I never quite caught your name." the nurse said. "My name..." the trainer replied... "Is Sylvanhart. Gad Sylvanhart."