"We-we're not doing anything wrong." I stammer, kneeling down to check on Scarlet. The red-headed girl narrows her eyes and steps forward, her Raichu creeping close behind. Scout tenses at my side but stays still, watching carefully for any sudden threats. Colin stays just as silent, his tail held heavily to the artificial grass.
"You're stealing. Last I checked stealing was wrong." Scarlet's eyes flick toward the Raichu and she snarls, lifting her head to see him. Sparks shoot up her neck and she winces, shutting her eyes tightly. I pull her close to me, placing her warm head in my lap.
"We didn't know it was your stuff. It's not like you left anyone here to protect it all." The uneven turf beneath my legs is starting to sting, the little black beads cutting into my cold skin. I reach for Scarlet's PokeBall and the girl cocks her gun, pointing it at my chest.
"Don't move. Can I assume that girl over there is with you?" I nod and she looks over at Cheryl, keeping her gun aimed at me. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" She calls out, her voice icy and harsh.
I turn slightly to look at her and a loud shot explodes in the gym. Turf blasts into my face hard and fast enough to cut my skin. I flinch and bury my head in Scarlet's fur, my ears ringing as the bang echoes against the walls. Scarlet's body spasms and she whimpers. I hold her tightly and look up at the red-head, my blood suddenly racing with a surge of fury.
Her gun is pointed at the floor and there's a small crater mere centimeters from Scarlet's paws. I can feel thick, warm blood on my partner's pelt. I prod her belly as gently as I can, feeling for any signs of serious injury. There are several patches of fur missing from where the turf sliced her, but other than that she seems physically fine.
Anger rises in my chest, hatred of the girl holding my life in her hands. The pain of helplessness shoots through me and I grit my teeth together to keep from saying anything that might get me or my team mates killed. "I told you not to move." She hisses from between barely-moving lips. "I meant it."
She steps away from me but her Raichu stays behind. It stares at us with a strange happiness in its eyes, its scarred ears twitching with excitement. Scarlet glares at it angrily but does nothing, her pride too wounded to let her risk any more. I give her paw a squeeze and try to be reassuring, to tell her everything will be okay without actually having to say it. But she's too hurt; too insulted from losing that she doesn't care. She looks away from me pointedly, her eyes shivering with sparks.
"Well?" The girl has focused herself on Cheryl again. "Answer me, what the hell do you think you're doing?" I can't see her, but I imagine exactly how Cheryl will react. She'll get angry, and she'll say something terribly stupid, and she'll-
"We were just- I mean- we just wanted the gym badge from here. And we saw some food so we decided to take it…" Her voice vanishes into the space between us, and I close my eye as if it'll actually help stop this madness.
One of the other people in the girl's group, a dark-skinned woman with thick braided hair, steps past us and speaks to the redhead in a voice so low I can barely hear it. "Erin, don't you think you're going a little overboard? I really don't think they've-"
"You are in no position to question what I'm doing. Do you have any idea how long it took to get all that food and water? No, because you've had it easy the past six months while the rest of us have been barely scraping by." Her voice gets even lower, and I strain my ears to hear her. "You forget too easily what a bunch of thieves did to you. If you were smart you'd have learned your lesson. Now shut up and wait with the others, I know what I'm doing."
The other woman falls silent and whispers something inaudible before walking back to where the other members of her group wait awkwardly at the entrance. I hold Scarlet's tired little body tightly and breathe deeply, trying to hold back my urge to stand up and fight her. Even if I knew for sure her team mates wouldn't protect her, she could still shoot me dead before I could get close enough to even pull her hair.
I hear the rusted mechanism creak loudly and, unable to stop myself, I whip around to see what's going on. Cheryl has stepped out onto the first platform with Dracula hovering beside her. She holds her arms out to the side, teetering back and forth. The red-head is no longer interested in me; her attention is instead focused on Cheryl's shaking form. Colin stands suddenly and his tail stands straight up in the air.
Raichu reacts instantly, sending a massive shockwave through the Espeon's tired old body. He cries out in pain and stands for a few moments before suddenly collapsing. His muscles twitch violently and his eyes are wide and filled with agony. Scarlet pushes against my arms but I keep her held down, my hands clinging tightly to her dirty fur. She snarls and growls, struggling to free herself from me. "Scarlet please, please stop… I don't want to hurt you, Scarlet, please. It'll be okay, just please, stop fighting me Scarlet!" I keep my voice quiet so that only she can hear, and it's enough to calm her down. Her body falls limp in my arms and she closes her eyes tightly in pain. I run my fingers gently through her pelt, ignoring the mild shocks that jolt through my hands.
"C-Colin?" Cheryl's voice reverberates throughout the building. She repeats his name, and I watch in horror as she bolts forward. She slips and cries out in pain, barely catching herself on the slippery metal. Dracula helps pull her back up, and for a moment she just sits there staring back at us, her foot hanging off into the abyss below.
The red-head turns back to us and locks eyes with her Raichu. The electric-type goes quiet and pads toward his trainer with each paw letting off little spurts of lightning into the ground.
Suddenly there's a massive burst of flame, and I cry out as heat floods the air around me. Scout's tail blazes and her eyes gleam with a savage anger. I try to call to her but my voice is too weak. It cracks and my throat stings, tears springing to my eye as the overbearing sensation of uselessness takes over. She holds the Raichu down, her paws covered in brilliant fire. He struggles beneath her, his tail whipping about and barely missing hers as it slices through the air.
She presses a flaming paw against the Raichu's face, and with both of his own paws he can hardly hold her back. He screams and thunder shoots out from beneath Scout's small body, washing through the already-charged air and sending a wave of agony through every muscle. Scout flies backward and slams into the wall, leaving a smoking crater in the decaying concrete. She doesn't get up.
The Raichu stands up slowly, his fur singed but his body overall unharmed. He turns a furious gaze on Scarlet, Colin, and I, charging for us faster than we can dodge him. Something huge and dark slams into him and knocks him down, hovering before us and glaring back at him; her stare filled with rage.
I hear the platforms creak loudly and I tear my eyes off the battle to take in Cheryl's hastened attempt to reach us. She slips again and lands hard, the cold metal beginning to give beneath her. The red-head watches her silently, her gun poised to fire if she makes one wrong move. Cheryl chokes out her Espeon's name and forces herself back up, her face glazed with tears.
The red-head turns back to us, smirking slightly as Dracula faces down the furious Raichu. Cheryl leaps off the platform and tackles the girl to the ground, digging her fingernails into the red-head's face. But there's no way she can win, as Cheryl is maybe half the other girl's weight and much shorter. I place Scarlet gently on the ground and stand up to help her, but before I can take one step I hear the roar of thunder and feel a powerful jolt of pain shoot through me. I fall to the ground, my lungs struggling for air and my vision blurring violently. I try to speak, to call out to Cheryl, Scarlet, anybody; but my mouth is sealed shut, my jaws locked tightly with an incredibly throbbing.
I can barely see the fights breaking out around me. A blur of purple swoops and spins through the air with startling grace, avoiding blast after blast of powerful electric energy. The Raichu runs for the flying-type and slams into her, hard. She screeches and struggles to escape the Mouse Pokémon's grasp, flapping erratically against the electrified air. He pulls her onto her stomach and jumps on her back, making her cry out in anguish.
I can only feel a constant, incredibly pain from my legs. They refuse to support me, and my fingers barely quiver when I tell them too. My back aches terribly, and my chest feels like it's collapsed in on itself. My thoughts are chaotic, completely controlled by sudden urges and the desire to break free from my helplessness.
Raichu wraps its tail around Dracula's left wing and pulls back hard. She screams so loud it nearly drowns out the awful crack that bursts out of her body. One of the red-headed girl's other teammates rushes forward to split them apart, but the dark-skinned girl from earlier grabs his arm and yanks him back. She shakes her head slowly and after a moment of hesitation he nods quietly. They watch in silence, and for the same reason I hate myself I hate them too.
Do something! I want to order them, I want to cry out and make them listen. I can't be this useless; I can't be this unable to do anything for my partners. And these people can't possibly be so selfish. They watch with those worried, inactive eyes, hoping we'll be able to break free on our own. But they don't help us; don't bother to stop their leader from hurting us.
The red-headed girl throws Cheryl off her, and the smaller trainer hits the ground hard. She scrambles away from her assailant, shooting me a desperate glance. The red-head raises her gun to Cheryl's head, then stops herself.
There is an instant where I think she's had enough. Maybe she's proved her point; maybe she'll let us go. For this short moment I see a tiny degree of mercy alight in the girl's eyes.
Then she sweeps her arm out toward her Raichu, and he unleashes an incredible stream of electricity into Cheryl's body. Dracula sinks her teeth into the electric-type, but it's too late. Cheryl falls to her side at an awkward angle, her body twisted uncannily.
Blackness starts to pull at the edges of my vision. I struggle against it; fighting to make my legs work and bring me to Cheryl's limp body. They don't move. They hardly shiver when I tell them to hold me up. Something soft and wet presses to my face and I hold it closer to me, feeling tiny, gentle sparks tickle my cheek.
Unable to hold it off any longer, I let the weight of the numbness envelope me in darkness. The pain begins to ebb as my mind recedes, allowing me to shut off the world around me and finally sleep in peace.