IC - Kenneth Kyro - Kotahi Village, One Island:
Of all the times I could get called into work . . .
Kenneth Kyro sighed. For the past few days, he and dozens of others had been assigned to assist in evacuations across the Sevii Islands. His scheduled break following the full evacuation of Three Island had been some of the most peaceful and relaxing that he had had in a while, even without proper Pokémon abilities--and thus battles--to fill his time. One Island, after all, was a hub for entertainment and pleasure, so for a future work assignment, it wasn't a bad place to kill time. If all had gone according to schedule, he would have spent four days on One Island without work, before gearing back up and joining in the evacuation efforts there, and then moving onto Five Island.
Of course, he was an Agent of Team Liberty, which meant that nothing ever went according to schedule. Day two of his break had barely started, and he had already gotten halfway through a well-deserved massage when command had sent their emergency alert, calling for all available agents to provide emergency assistance to One Island's evacuation efforts. Just like that, his break came to an end, and he was back in his uniform, providing look-out duty on the island's southern beach.
So far, his list of recorded responsibilities had grown to cover the following:
- Stand around in the blazing sun under heavy-duty gear.
- Test personal resolve by resisting the persistent threat of heatstroke.
- Stare at the ocean until eyes bleed.
And so that is what he did, for the umpteenth time since the evacuations had started: Stand around, get really hot, and stare around. Occasionally, he would direct clueless civilians to their proper evacuation point, but Kotahi Village was so small that he was fairly certain he wouldn't have to do that at all, seeing as how the village had all but finished emptying out. At this point, it was a matter of double-checking housing and departure listings.
In fact, he was so certain that he wouldn't need to direct anyone that when he actually did notice a figure on the beach, he initially wrote it off as a heat-induced mirage--perhaps a hallucination, but he felt that particular word implied he was losing his mind. When it did not go away after a few blinks, Kenneth dropped his shotgun to his side and pulled off his helmet, wiping his forehead and shielding his eyes from the sun. Now it was clear that there actually was someone standing out there, their bald head glistening in the sun as they, too, stared out at the sea from the very edge of the water, unmoving save for the rustling of their black suit in the wind.
"Hey, buddy!" Kenneth called. "Evacuation zone is north of here--you're not going to find anything over there!"
The figure did not respond. Kenneth sighed, not entirely surprised--more often than not, the sounds of the ocean obscured what he was actually saying, prompting most stragglers to dismiss the fact that he was yelling at them. That was why he had started carrying around another, more effective tool to complement his voice: A whistle, which he now pulled from his shirt and blew through. The shrill noise cut through the air around him, echoing in the distance. Still, the man did not response.
What the heck are you doing, dude? Uneasy, but aware of what was expected of him, Kenneth replaced his helmet on his head and pulled up his shotgun. He began walking forward, and soon his boots no longer crunched along top of rocks, but sand. He pulled his shoulder walkie to his mouth, pressing it. "Captain Robins, this is Agent Kyro, approaching unresponsive figure on south beach," he muttered. "Possible Code Veronica."
"Affirmed, Agent Kyro. Sending someone to assist."
"Negative," Kenneth said. "Nearest additional unit is too far away to wait. I can handle it, Captain."
"Support is already en route. ETA five minutes. Keep your guard up, Agent."
"Roger that." Kenneth let his radio slip back into place. Gripping his shotgun, he slowed his approach. The figure stood a mere twenty feet away now, still unmoving. Perhaps their earlier appearance had been a distant trick of the light, but now that he was closer, Kenneth saw that it was not a bald man in a black suit, but a boy, bald and frail, clad in hospital scrubs. The sight of him sent a shiver down Kenneth's spine, bringing to light some unpleasant memories. With a stabilizing breath, he reluctantly pressed forward.
"Captain, ignore that last call--it's a kid. Must've missed him in the chaos at the hospital." He stopped a short distance away from the child. "Hey," he called gently. The boy's head turned slightly, finally acknowledging his presence. "What are you doing out here? This area was supposed to be cleared out an hour ago--you shouldn't be here." He stepped forward, reaching a hand out. "C'mon--I'll show you where to go."
Silently, the child nodded, and pushed himself to his feet. He muttered something.
"What was that?" Kenneth asked. "I'm sorry--I couldn't hear you."
"Thank . . . you . . . big . . . brother . . ."
Kenneth's blood ran cold. "W-What?"
The child turned around.
Oh my God . . . Kenneth froze. This isn't possible . . . The child's face was nearly identical to Kenneth's own, save for slight variations in the nose and cheekbones. His eyes were the same shade of murky green, his jaw receded at nearly the same distance, his ears blending at the lobe in the exact same way--it was like looking into a camera and seeing the last vestiges of a memory brought back to life, all of the smudges and errors repaired by some miracle.
"K-Kaleb . . ." Kenneth stammered. His whole body trembled, partially in fear and partially in stunned disbelief. "I-Is it r-really y-you . . .?"
The boy took a step forward. "Really . . . you . . ."
No . . . This isn't possible . . . His mind screamed at him, but the Liberty Agent couldn't move. How . . . How is he . . . "K-Kaleb," he managed to say. "Y-You're . . . d-d-dead . . ." His body quaked as he tried to raise his gun. "You . . . you s-shouldn't be . . . h-here . . ."
"Here . . . Dead . . ." The child moved forward, shambling toward Kenneth. "Dead . . . Dead . . ." The closer he neared, the less clear Kaleb's features became, his eyes dimming into a soulless black before beginning to fade away entirely. Before Kenneth's very eyes, the phantom of his brother melted into a pale, towering, blank-faced figure, a return to form for what he had seen earlier. By the time he had worked up the nerve again to train his weapon on the target, it was too late: The creature had taken hold of him with its long, slimy hands, gripping either side of Kenneth's head. Between its arms and body, he caught a glimpse of something red trailing behind it from the back, and leading back into the ocean like a bloody snake.
As he felt the bones begin to crack, Kenneth screamed, until there was nothing left to scream with.
The creature stepped over his body and proceeded up the beach, toward the abandoned Kotahi Village. Behind it, a red mass emerged from the water, slowly expanding until a piece of itself had engulfed the bloody remains of Kenneth Kyro.
IC - Kyle Eston/Levi Alaric - Cafeteria, The Alamo:
The first tip-off to Richie's approach should have been Kyle nonchalantly closing and hiding his laptop after a quick glance over Xander's head, though Kyle could not blame him for not catching on. He offered a look to Xander, as if to say Relax, and then nodded back at Richie.
"Yeah, everything's fine, Dad," he said. "Ford mentioned a few things about the Signs before we fought him in the Egg. We figured there might be a connection from when I ran into them in Kalos, but I really don't think it's anything to worry about--if there's any connection to be found, it'll be in the reports submitted after each mission."
IC - Goldhawk/Sleight/Skye Hall/Esen Windred/Jackson Sang - Approaching One Island:
Rearrangements had gone without a hitch, and afterwards Esen had positioned herself on Krow's back, figuring the help in flying might save her suit some energy for the coming battle. A tense atmosphere had overtaken the group, though no one said anything about it--at least not over comm. As she was not in a position to confirm that the choppers were equally silent, she had to trust that they were.
Regardless of whether they now sat in silence or argued amongst themselves, one thing had made itself clear to her already: This ragtag group would not coordinate easily. She could have kicked herself for not seeing that coming earlier, but it was an oversight that she would have to keep in mind. It was one thing for her to keep an eye on her teammates, but if others amongst them would not do the same . . . Esen did not want to think about what might happen if the group fell apart now or on the field. She turned her attention to Goldhawk's helicopter. Why hadn't the Liberty Leader simply made a decision and stuck by it? Had that invitation to interject been an attempt to forge trust and cooperation amongst the squad?
Or is he as lost as the rest of us? Esen looked forward again. Or maybe he's worn out from going and going for all these years . . . I guess I can't blame him . . . But if this is going to work, someone needs to be ready to direct us without hesitating--having eighteen voices pulling us in different directions is only going to get us killed, or worse . . . She sighed. For now, I'll just have to focus on doing my part . . .
"All Agents, we have visual on One Island. Prepare for landing."
Esen gently squeezed Krow's feathers, urging him forward. The Honchkrow complied, bringing her up to speed with Tier Climb. With a quick exchange between herself and Executive Arthur, Esen descended, taking her place below the helicopter.
"Alright, Krow," she muttered, bringing a hand to her helmet and zooming in her vision. "Let's see what we're getting ourselves into . . ."
As they neared One Island, the situation became clearer. Roughly half of the islet to the south of One Island's mainland shimmered with a strange, pulsing red--Missing Zero. It seemed to have taken over the entire east coast already, and had begun to spread along the southern side. The main island fared better, at least for the moment: While the southern beach had begun to disappear, and the channel of water between the two islets had turned bloodred from Missing Zero's presence, it had not yet made any significant progress on the island. Even so, there was clearly a town of some sort near its beaching point. Esen could only hope that the place had been evacuated, otherwise there would be a lot more blood on their hands than she was ready to accept.
Her radio buzzed with the voice of Tier Climb's pilot. "Ground Squad, we're headed to the clearings north of Kotahi Village," he said. "That should put enough distance between us and Missing Zero for a safe landing."
"Roger that," Goldhawk replied. "Tier Climb, EP-3, be prepared to enact defenses--Missing Zero may try to hit us as we descend."
"Affirmative," Esen replied. As one, she and the line of helicopters began the drop toward their landing zone.
For the most part, trouble seemed content to stay away from them. The lack of activity was beginning to make Esen nervous. While she could see movement on the islet below them, suggesting Missing Zero was busy engaging the remaining occupants there, it seemed content to allow the line of helicopters to fly above and past it. At least, that was the initial impression. They were nearing the border of the islet when Esen became aware of bright yellow lights approaching from below--dozens of them, small yet growing bigger the higher they rose and the lower the helicopters fell.
"Incoming, immediately below us!" she barked over the comm. "I can't tell what they are, but there are a lot of them!"
She had barely finished her message and begun to charge an Air Slash attack when they arrived--the entire swarm, all at once. They moved about the squad, zipping up and down and blinking different colors, but they did not attack. Krow slowed to avoid running into them, as did the helicopters, fearing for what the creatures' umbilical cords might do to the propellers.
"What are these things . . .?" Skye breathed over her comm.
That is a great question . . . Esen frowned, looking every which way. She froze as one of the things approached her, offering her the clearest view yet of one of Missing Zero's Instances. The creature before her was small, and looked very much like a light bulb save for the golden eye visible within its nucleus. It buzzed with four little arm-like wings, extending from its base close to where the cord connected to it from Missing Zero's main body. The thing flitted about in front of her, close and then far again, examining her. Above, the others did the same to the helicopters.
They're like living light bulbs . . . "They're not attacking," Esen said. "What do we do?"
"Whatever they're doing, it can't be good. EO-1," Goldhawk said. "The Dark-Type Suit is equipped with a scanner. Can you get a reading on these things?"
"Yes, sir--one second."
"That one second better be the quickest second that has ever--"
"Can it, Sang," Sleight's voice snapped over the comm. "EO-1, what have you got?"
"Not a lot, but I am getting their Typing," Ryan responded. "Electric-Bug."
"EP-3, get rid of them," Goldhawk ordered. "Now."
"Yes, sir." Esen raised her hands. "Hang on!"
Miniature tornadoes gathered around her arms as Esen activated Whirlwind. At the sight of this, the various bugs went crazy, fluttering all around and flashing red. Whatever they were attempting to do, Esen did not allow to happen. She released the Hurricane attack in a wide circle around herself, managing to catch the bugs and the helicopters in the attack's radius. While the pilots managed to stay steady, the Instances were sent tumbling back toward Missing Zero, tangling together and crashing into its surface far below.
"Targets eliminated," Esen reported.
"Good work, EP-3," Goldhawk said. "Let's get mov--"
"Wait," Esen interrupted. "Something else is coming up."
Where the bugs had crashed, two symbols appeared on Missing Zero's surface, both yellow in color. Spherical objects marked with blue lines emerged, followed each by four magnets--a corruption of what might normally pass for a Magnemite. The Instances turned upward, still for a moment before sparks erupted from their bodies. The magnets flew in a frenzy around their glowing bodies, and they barreled upward, straight toward Esen.
"Incoming, two hostiles!" she shouted.
Krow flew to the side, narrowly avoiding one and then the other. He turned in time to allow Esen to aim an Air Slash at them, fully intending to direct their attention back to her and away from the helicopters. She did not need to, however: Despite slowing to a stop right next to Tier Climb, the Instances automatically turned back toward her, launching Thunderbolts at her and Krow. Esen grimaced as one grazed her, followed by a direct hit to Krow from the other. The force of impact was enough to launch her from Krow's back, and she narrowly managed to activate her own jets before falling too far. Even as Krow regained his composure, the two creatures shot forward again, completely ignoring the Dark-Flying-Type.
"Entry Guard, provide covering--"
"LP-3, I think they're after me," Esen interrupted. She lowered her jets, dropping herself another dozen feet, and then shot toward the back of the line of helicopters. The Instances followed close behind, and Krow after them. "Those things must've--marked me as a threat when I attacked." She spun to the side, launching an Air Slash back at her opponents. "Get to the landing zone--I'll distract them until then. Do not engage further targets until you've hit the target."
"Esen, are you crazy!?" Skye called.
"Yes, now go!" Esen yelled. "Don't worry about me--I'll land as soon as you have!"
For a moment, the only sounds in the air were the rushing wind and the angry whirring from the Instances. Finally, Goldhawk spoke. "Roger that," he said. "Pilots, get moving! EP-3, stay close if you can--we'll assist as soon as we're on the ground."
Shifting into a wide arc, Esen steered away from the helicopters, bringing the Instances with her. She deactivated her jets as Krow flew under her, gripping tightly as the Big Boss Pokémon carried her through the air toward Kotahi Village. As the helicopters made their way over the village and toward the clearings, the Honchkrow darted between buildings, doing what he could to shake off the pursuing Electric-Types.
"Whenever you're ready, team!" Esen called. "We're headed your way now!"