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Frontier Town Sand Veil Archives

Ch03: Catching Up [Koa & Archie]
By now, Koa was beginning to feel like he'd run dry of relevant material to read at Frontier Town's library. He'd looked over the texts about legendaries more than once, and tried to read anything relevant about the world itself. So for once, today, he decided to just read for fun. Which meant reading about more legends. The idea of the Wandering Light and Stormbringer fascinated him, especially the idea that normal pokemon could somehow ascend to such a status.

Plus noon felt rather warm for his tastes, and he'd rather be indoors at the hottest time of day. The battle with the rangers had gotten his spirits up and he was in a particularly good mood. Maybe with the rangers help they stood a chance at whatever was coming next. And they could hopefully have a team meeting soon to actually figure out what was going on. He felt unfortunately certain by now that these 'shadow pokemon' were tied to it all...
Shadow Pokemon. Ever since Ayda had brought up the so called Witching Beasts, Archie hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it. The Oshawott kept playing his conversation with Wes and Corey over and over again in his head, adding in the new information the Dewott had given them. Shadow Pokemon were caused by humans, who did something to the Pokemon to cause it to lose the ability to feel any emotion but pure aggression. Eyewitnesses report that the Shadow Pokemon attacking them resembled known missing persons. These Shadow Pokemon attacks were mostly being reported around the Blaguarro area. Archie had been out that way as part of jobs he’d done, but he’d never stuck around very long. He needed more information.

Frustratingly, he hadn’t seen Corey or Wes since returning from Silver Ravine. The former wasn’t answering his door at the Haus, and the Oshawott had no idea where the latter was staying. But, he did know one other member of the Blaguarro group; Koa had said he was part of the team that encountered the Charmeleon back at the ravine. And, he also knew where Koa often spent time, as the Electrike had told him back when they’d gotten ice cream together with Wes, Ridley, and Astrid. So, Archie found himself at the archive. Thankfully, finding the blue puppy Pokemon wasn’t too difficult. The Oshawott knocked on a nearby bookshelf to announce his presence, before speaking.

“Hey, Koa?” He said, before clearing is throat, “I was wondering if we could talk, about what happened to you and Wes, on the road to Blaguarro that night?”
At the sound of the knock, Koa looked up from his book, wondering who else might be here. He smiled amiably when he saw Archie. He hadn't had the chance to have a full proper conversation with the Oshawott, but he liked how Archie fought, and he liked what he'd seen from him during their impromptu ice cream social.

He masked the reflexive edge that he felt anytime someone brought up what happened with the wagon. Archie didn't sound like he was trying to criticize anything at least, or complain. Besides, it was better that the more people on the team knew what happened, the better. The more people knew the better chance they had at surviving.

Although he couldn't help but feel a slight knot of caution at the mention of Wes. Had Wes said something to malign him over what happened? No. He didn't want to assume anything yet.

"Sure," he said slowly, shrugging. "Although I don't know if it'll be any help," he muttered. "I don't know what the Thing actually was. It looked like a Charmeleon but..." there never felt like there was an adequate word to describe the sensation of looking at that thing. Ayda's words came back to him. What if that Charmeleon had once been thinking? Turned into a frenzied beast... "Changed, somehow."
The Electrike greeted him pleasantly, which felt like a good start. Though Koa claimed to not know much about what exactly the Charmeleon that he’d faced was, that was fine too. There was plenty of other questions Archie felt he could ask.

“Well, I’m mostly just looking for a more complete perspective, on the events of the night,” the Oshawott explained, “When I talked to Wes about it, it was shortly after it had happened, and he was still recovering. Physically, but also mentally and emotionally, I think. I didn’t want to push him too hard, at the time.”

He folded his arms, and leaned against a nearby bookshelf, “And, that goes the same for you. If there’s anything you’re not comfortable sharing, or if it’s, you know, too painful to remember, then we can talk about something else.”

“That Charmeleon…” Archie said with a frown. He wasn’t exactly sure where to begin. He hadn’t seen the thing himself, and he still had no idea if Shadow Pokemon in this world worked like they did in Wes and Corey’s. Still, he wanted to share his thoughts, compare notes, as it were. “I learned some things about Shadow Pokemon from Wes and Corey. The long and short of it was, that the humans of their worlds had some kind of method to turn normal Pokemon mindlessly violent. Neither was particularly certain of all the details of how it worked, or why it was done. Or at least, they didn’t share it with me if they did.”

His frown deepened, “But, something Wes said has been bothering me. He said that Shadow Pokemon can’t follow orders; or that if they could for a time, they’d eventually snap and become uncontrollable. Which suggests that you all running into one was random bad luck. That could be, especially if there are a lot of them like Ayda was suggesting. But something else he said was that it had you all on the ropes and could’ve killed you, but it got spooked and ran shortly before Sonora showed up. Which, I’m not personally able to square with the idea that it’s mindlessly violent and beyond all control.”

Archie shrugged, “Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but my brain keeps going to the same place. Someone sicced that Charmeleon on you, and then called it off. The timing of Sonora’s arrival seems convenient, but I don’t want to discount the possibility that it was a third party with eyes on you from afar saw her coming and called the Charmeleon back thinking her and her gang would tip the fight against the Shadow Pokemon.”
Koa listened as Archie spoke, nodding along as he considered what Archie was saying. At least Archie was significantly more considerate than Wes. It was unsettling, but he'd considered it before, when he spoke to Laura. That it had been sent, or used, as some kind of test. His mind roved over the possibilities. What did Wes know about 'shadow' pokemon? Was this some kind of recurring thing across different worlds? He dug his paw into the table in frustration.

"The thing we fought was beyond reason. Or at least, it felt like that. The way it fought was unnatural. Vicious. And then I think our Voice friend was trying to help but it couldn't reach us very well for awhile. It mentioned something about that thing being disrupted by the thing." He still remembered how scared the Voice sounded.

Maybe a trip to try and contact the Voice was in order. And to ask it about the dream he'd had...

"It didn't seem like it was following orders it..." He frowned. His thoughts circled as he tried to find a good answer. "It killed their own driver. Why go through all that just to run? Maybe it was being controlled but the way it ripped us apart I don't even know if Sonora's crew could have fought it," he murmured.

"If those were orders I don't see what point there was."
Archie placed his paw against his muzzle, listening intently. So, the Cloud had been disrupted by the Shadow Pokemon? Was it something that the Pokemon did consciously? Was it simply an effect of its presence? It was a concerning thought either way, not only because the Cloud helped them coordinate in battle, but also because it was the only thing that was keeping them all mutually intelligible. If the connection got too disrupted, would they be able to talk to one another? Or to the locals? Could they still read and write intelligibly? Maybe they would have to consider working out some kind of agreed upon system of non-verbal communication, hand signs and the like? But then, how would that help quadrupeds like Koa and Wes? Or ones that lacked digits – or worse, forelimbs – all together?

“We may need to come up with some way of counteracting that disruption,” Archie said, “I remember when we planted the Silver Ravine Dungeon Sapling, the Cloud said it would strengthen their connection across the region, especially nearby the sapling itself. It had something to do with it being a piece of the heart of the dungeon, I think, and that Mystery Dungeons are where the walls between realities are thinnest? I don’t know if it’d be as simple as every group making sure they keep a heart piece with them, but…”

He sighed, again. This sort of thing was well beyond his pay grade. And, for now at least, it kept circling back to the actions of this Shadow Charmeleon!

“I feel like we’re missing an important piece of the puzzle,” the Oshawott said, “Because you’re right, if it’s following orders, why kill someone allied with its supposed master? But if it’s mindless, why run when it was inches away from killing the rest of you?”

Unless the one controlling it wasn’t allied with the driver. Once again, his thoughts drifted to Sonora, just so happening to turn up right after the Charmeleon left. It just felt way too convenient, to the Oshawott, but it also felt circumstantial at best. Without more to tie her to, it was better to keep that theory in his back pocket. He needed to keep an open mind, after all.

He started pacing, back and forth between the two nearest shelves. “The Ranger Chief said that the descriptions of Shadow Pokemon match those of Pokemon that have gone missing, right? And based on what Wes and Corey said, Shadow Pokemon are normal Pokemon made unnaturally aggressive. So, if we assume the missing Pokemon and the Shadow Pokemon are one in the same, maybe they’re having moments of lucidity? Running before they lose themselves again?”

Next time he saw the Ralts or the Rockruff, he would have to ask them if they knew anything about bringing a Pokemon back from being Shadow. At the very least, it would be handy to know if such a thing was even possible.
Koa watched Archie pace, his own mind still running in circles. He couldn't help but be reminded of the many fruitless nights spent theorizing about the legendary pokemon attacks back home, and making no progress. There was never enough information...

"It seemed that way maybe," he said slowly. "It did start acting weird right before it ran away."

Maybe they were asking the wrong questions. Why would anyone make these shadow pokemon? Who benefitted? What did they hope to gain? This didn't seem the same as back home where it could be someone trying to make legendaries look bad these were... ordinary mon. Controlled against their will.

Koa realized he'd been staring at the table in front of him, lost in thought. He turned back to Archie. "If someone really made then then why would someone here want to make shadow pokemon? Everyone here is a pokemon already, so they're pretty strong. What do they get out of making these things?" Doing this to other people?
Why would anyone want to make a horde of mindless violent Pokemon? Why would they want to do it in a human dominated world, either? Normal Pokemon were powerful as is, and could be ordered reliably. Was it just to inflict terror? If people were afraid, they became easier to control. Scared people would give up their freedoms if it made them feel safer. So, certainly, the powerful members of society had a lot to gain by using fear to control others. An enemy might also use acts of terror to demoralize. If an attack could come anywhere, at any time, the constant state of vigilance and the stress of not knowing where or when an attack might occur could sap the will to continue fighting out of a populace.

But why go through the effort of creating Shadow Pokemon for that? There were much easier ways to make people live in fear; more convenient scapegoats, other populations that could be demonized. Kidnapping random people and turning them into monsters seemed like much more effort than actually necessary.

“Maybe the Shadow Pokemon aren’t the end goal? Maybe they’re just the first step in a longer plan? Or a byproduct of some kind?” Archie wondered aloud. It would explain why they’d been allowed to wander the desert, if they were failures, somehow. No longer necessary or interesting to whoever it was that originally kidnapped them. At the very least, based on what Wes and Corey had said, it didn’t seem like Shadow Pokemon were a thing that could happen naturally, it was something that someone else did to a Pokemon.

“I think maybe I’m going to have to go to Blaguarro,” the Oshawott said, “I’m no help to anyone sitting here in Frontier Town talking about possibilities.”
"Some of the group went with Bellatrix-" It was hard to keep the bitterness from his tone just speaking her name "-recently, but I'm not sure what they found," he murmured thoughtfully. If they could have that team meeting soon though. Something else nagged at him though, from what Archie said. There was an angle they were missing. This wasn't just ferals, it was thinking mon being taken. His memories drifted back to the attack, the way it fought, and the way it felt. And if it wasn't the end goal, to make mindless pokemon to attack...

His scattered musings finally began to coalesce into something coherent. "Maybe its not about making something to be controlled. Maybe the end goal is to be able to control it."

That savagery, the precision it fought with. "I think you have a point about the end goal. If step one involves something mindless, what if step two is being able to use that? To have that kind of power and instinct but be able to think. Fight like that and keep your mind intact. You could be almost unstoppable in battle. Stronger even than even ordinary mon." But for what end, then? Control? Power? he hated to think what wicked mon like Ignatius could do if they wielded that kind of power.

The thought made him shudder. Unease crept into his voice. "Why else kidnap thinking pokemon and not just ferals."
Koa’s theory was definitely an ominous one. That kind of power behind the mind of someone willing and able to use it to its full, terrible extent? If even a mindless Pokemon was able to tear apart a group that outnumbered if multiple times over, imagining that same power with purpose and direction was almost too terrible. And even the alternative, of trying to make Shadow Pokemon that were capable of following orders, was barely any better. The perfect soldier, with no morality or pesky consciousness to get in the way. One that would never refuse an order, that would do whatever it took, that would be willing to kill even former friends and family. And then, to imagine an army of such soldiers on top of that.

Koa made a good point though. If they could warp any Pokemon into the perfect mindless soldier, any old feral would do, and no one would notice the absence. There had to be something specific about the sapience that the missing Pokemon had that made them the preferred target even though their disappearances wouldn't go unnoticed forever. So, keeping them sane though the Shadow Pokemon process certainly seemed the likeliest goal. Who even wanted this kind of power, though? For what purpose? Were they Human Supremacists? Other visitors from other worlds?

“I really hope we’re wrong about all this,” Archie said, folding his arms. Maybe he needed to add Bellatrix to his list of Pokemon he needed to reconnect with. He hadn’t spoken to her much beyond the occasional job invite since the Gala, which already felt so very long ago. The Oshawott shook his head, and looked back at the Electrike again.

“So, what do you think our next move should be?” He asked. This was a question he asked Spencer a lot back home. Even when the Treecko was just as lost as Archie was, he always had a different perspective, a position the Oshawott hadn’t thought about. It didn’t help that, back home at least, Spencer had a lot more experience being a Pokemon of their world than Archie ever would. This place was just as alien to Koa as it was to Archie, but even so, he didn’t want to discount the Electrike’s own insights.
Somehow, Koa doubted they were very far off base, which unnerved him thoroughly.

Archie's next question caught him somewhat off guard. He hadn't really been expecting the older mon to ask what he thought the team should do.

He considered the question carefully. Even though his opinion probably didn't matter to anyone else. Or at all...

"I mean we have to have the team meeting first but," Koa paused. That was a given, but what else could they do? "We need to contact the Escarpa, and try to head east," he said finally. "Find whoever called us in the first place. It sounds like someone asked our Voice friend to call for help. Finding them is our best bet."

Whatever was going on, they would probably know something.

"Of course, we have to keep training and getting stronger," he added.
Team Meeting… The thought made him cringe inwardly. The last time a bunch of them had gotten together to try and hash out a plan, it had not gone well. Too many competing egos, and a lack of clear, decisive leadership. Everyone had their own plans and none of them were willing to compromise. And that wasn’t even all of their number, just a handful. Imaging that, but with several dozen of them in the mix? Archie was not looking forward to it.

“Joining the Rangers will definitely give you plenty of opportunities to get stronger,” the Oshawott nodded. As for the Escarpa, he’d originally intended to seek them out himself, since they were some of the few that were able to regularly access the region’s Mystery Dungeons. If he understood correctly, they were the native population of this area, and likely did know things about the region that the more recent settlers did not. They were outsiders though, who knew how willing the clan would be to share that information with them. Still, it probably was at least worth a shot.

“If I remember right, the railhead is at Blaguarro, and it connects east towards the imperial core,” Archie said. It was kind of weird for him to imagine Pokemon inventing trains, but here they were. “It’s probably the quickest and easiest way to travel, and will likely connect to a major city if you travel far enough. As for finding who summoned us, we could try to quiz the Cloud for information. Best place for that is probably right outside of Silver Ravine, where we planted that Dungeon Sapling. The connection's strong there, and we wouldn't have to worry about also fighting, or keeping an eye out for phantasms and wild Pokemon in the Mystery Dungeon.”
Koa let out a weary sigh and rested his head on the table. "Somehow I don't think the Voice knows any more than us why were brought here. I asked it before and it seems to not know anything." He couldn't remember who, but maybe it was Leaf who'd mentioned it after the dungeon trip? And he remembered that bizarre dream he'd had where he'd spoken to the Voice. It was as if the Voice simply didn't know anything somehow. "The only way we find out why we were summoned is to find the source."

It was maddening, but he could never find it in himself to be at the Cloud-Voice. None of this was their fault, they were just a... well, they were something, and they were trying to help. Contemplating the Voice reminded him of something else though, something more troubling.

It always burned him to bring up, but he needed to know. Steven hadn't had it, but he needed to know more to be sure. And he still wanted to talk to the other members of the wagon crew... "Hey so this might be a weird question but... You didn't happen to have any uh really strange dreams. Maybe like you heard something odd? Like in the past several days?"
“Strange dreams?” The Oshawott folded his arms, and tried to think back. To be honest, he often didn’t remember very much about his dreams, but, he’d thought he’d heard the Cloud speaking to him in a few of them. The last time he’d heard anything on that front through, was some time ago! “Not since the night after the Gala, I think? Why, have you?”

Plenty of Pokemon had all kinds of nasty powers over sleep and dreams. Maybe Koa was being targeted by one? They’d probably made their fair share of enemies the night they toppled the mayor. It was honestly kind of surprising that there hadn’t been more of a move made against them already, especially since Laura had gone and outed them all as offworlders – something the Oshawott had been very frustrated to learn after picking up an old copy of the Gazette the other day. Maybe news traveled slowly this far out in the frontier, but it seemed like everyone around here that mattered was certainly up to date on it, at least. What a way to paint a giant target on all of their backs, as if they didn’t stand out enough already!

The Oshawott finally approached the Electrike properly, and in doing so finally got a good look at what it was Koa had been reading. It seemed the blue puppy Pokemon was studying up on Legendaries? That reminded Archie of his own theorizing, about the potential identity of their mysterious benefactor. Archie honestly wasn’t much of an expert in that sort of lore, but, maybe Koa was?

“So, random question of my own. What do you know about the Wishmaker?”
"Nevermind," Koa murmured after a moment. "Thought I heard something weird. But I still have to figure some stuff out." Whatever it was, Archie didn't seem like he'd had a similar experience, and it wasn't like they knew enough yet to figure out what it was. But the fact that Ridley seemed to have had the same experience meant it was relevant. Maybe that was worth asking the Voice about.

Archie's next question provided a more pleasant change of topic. "You mean the Wishing Star? Or at least, I think thats what mon here call it." he asked curiously. Was Archie interested in local legends? It was still weird realizing he didn't have to avoid the topic or be cautious about it. "I'm not sure if your world has a legendary called Jirachi, but I think this is similar. It sounds like people here see it as a sort of patron. There's a sanctum in town and travelers visit there to pay respects or make prayers. I've been a couple times myself, its really... interesting." It was hard to decide on a proper word for how the Sanctum made him feel. Probably the one place he'd found so far that he felt most at ease.

"You should check it out sometime." He paused a moment, hesitating before he asked, "Does your world have legendaries?" It seemed like everything he'd heard from the rest of their group had either been... less than ideal, often. Even if part of him dreaded the answer, the rest of him needed to know.
The Oshawott frowned. Why was Koa suddenly being evasive? Hopefully there wasn’t something serious going on. Still, it was probably better not to push the Electrike too hard, so he let it rest with a simple, “If I do have any weird dreams, you’ll be the first to know.”

The topic of Legendary Pokemon did seem to bring some life back to Koa, thankfully. Archie nodded along with the Electrike’s description. He’d never been to the Sanctum, but it was definitely interesting to know that this Pokemon – Jirachi – was held in such high regard here. And, giving its other name of Wishing Star, it seemed likely that it was the same one as the Wishmaker back home.

“Aah, no, the Wishmaker is… What we call it where I’m from,” he said, scratching the side of his muzzle. “At least, I imagine it’s the same as this Jirachi? The legend back home is that it sleeps on a comet, and only descends to the world once every thousand years to grant wishes. I was trying to think of what kind of Pokemon would have the power to draw us all here from across the multiverse, and then I remembered the Cloud saying they did it on behalf of someone else, and I got to thinking, what if bringing us all here was someone’s Wish?”

He nodded again at Koa’s next question. He’d heard plenty of, well, legends, about all kinds of Legendary Pokemon! A bunch of them were said to guard a set of amazing treasures, that the current proprietor of Spinda’s Cafe was attempting to gather. That was where the Corey of his world actually worked! Of course, Archie had never actually seen a Legendary himself-

The stars went out one by one, vanishing suddenly, as if their light was interrupted before it could even reach them. Was it by random chance that theirs was the last to die, or was it the result of some malicious intent? It was noontime in Castelia when the sun started to dim. The world grew darker, colder. That was when the monster appeared. It was very quickly apparent that if they couldn’t stop it, that the remaining lifetime of their star would be measured in days, rather than billions of years.

The Oshawott stiffened, his mouth drawing into a thin line as his hackles raised. Were it not for his coat of fur, Archie would’ve visibly paled. He took a deep breath, shuttering a little, and shook his head.

“Uh… Sorry, um. Yes,” he eventually forced out, “There’s lots of legends, of course.”
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Koa couldn't help but eye Archie with mixed curiosity and concern. The response felt all too familiar in a way, the same kind of answer he was used to giving... Did Archie have a history with legendary pokemon as well? A bad one, maybe. Or at least, maybe not all legendaries in his world were not as good.

"It definitely seems possible," he said after a few moments, tapping his paw against his chin. "The Wishing Star here seems a little different, but it sounds pretty close to your Wishmaker and to Jirachi from my world. A pokemon that wakens only at certain times and can grant wishes." He brushed his paw across the book as he considered. The Voice certainly seemed very legendary. "The Voice said it thinks its a pokemon, but I never got the impression it knew what pokemon it was. Although I suppose it could be a Jirachi..."

"That, or something unique to this world I suppose. Although nothing I read about quite fits for sure."
He shook his head, trying to banish any lingering dark thoughts from his mind. It was nice to hear that Koa at least seemed to think his speculation wasn’t completely baseless. Still, for now though it really was mostly just that, speculation. Arguably there were more important things for them to be focusing on, as well. And for all Archie knew, Koa could very well be correct that the Cloud was a species of Pokemon neither of them had ever seen before.

“I’ve run into a few species around here I’ve never seen before,” the Oshawott conceded, “Like that strange masked chimera.”

Archie leaned against the table, and folded his arms. At this point, they’d probably discussed all the most important things, aside from maybe the strange dreams Koa was having, but he didn’t want to push the Electrike too hard on that front if he wasn’t willing to share. Well, he supposed there was one more topic the Oshawott might want to broach, though if he wasn’t careful it had the potential to sour the whole interaction. Still, it was probably better to talk with Koa privately rather than have it escalate to a group confrontation.

“So, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but I was wondering,” he began, cautiously, “What happened between you and Wes?”
Koa bit back a groan and resisted the impulse to roll his eyes. Why did Archie care so much? Just because he was buddies with the guy or something? He found himself suddenly skeptical. Archie seemed like a decent guy, but he also only barely knew him. Speculating about theories and information was one thing but this was a whole other matter. And he recalled Archie had seemed friendly with Wes...

Even beyond his annoyance at Wes's behaviour after the wagon issue, there was Wes being rude, condescending and cruel after their first encounter. Catching attitude after he asked for a fight. And of course, Wes apparently assumed Lucien was bad just because Ignatius was. Judgemental, without even knowing the Prinplup. Just remembering that made his hackles rise slightly.

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay down until I’m gone. And next time you want to play hero, think twice before making a mess of things.”

"We got off on the..." wrong foot was an understatement. And not very accurate. "We don't see eye to eye," Koa replied tersely. "And I don't trust him." And he insulted me and judged people and acted like a condesceding jerk. He turned away, feeling very much annoyed. Would Archie just dismiss him as a whiny kid? "But it doesn't matter, if we get stuck in a battle, I can work with him."
Whoops, definitely seemed like a sour subject for the Electrike. Koa’s whole demeanor changed really quite abruptly, which made his, to be honest, really nothing of an answer all the more concerning. Clearly something had happened between the pair. To be honest, Archie really sucked at being a mediator, but he would like to consider both the blue puppies friends, and he disliked it when his friends fought. Plus, he’d managed to at least help clear some air between Wes and Corey, so, who knew, maybe somethings lightning could strike twice!

“I’m not too worried about your fighting ability, you guys already showed that you can work well together in a pinch back during the Gala,” Archie said, “I’m just trying to understand, because, from the outside at least, it seems like it’s more than just you two don’t see eye to eye. Can you tell me what happened that caused you to not be able to trust him?”

Maybe he should try to acknowledge some of Wes’s faults, so it wouldn’t seem like he was biased towards the Rockruff? He didn’t want Koa to feel like he was being interrogated, or ganged up on. “I know Wes tends to speak without thinking. And he can seem judgmental sometimes. I don’t think he’s a bad person, but he is… Prickly.”

He injected a bit of levity into his voice, “Emotionally constipated, if you prefer.”
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