A few days had passed since the Nidoking incident at the Team Galactic laboratory, and only more horrors were found within the deserted concrete halls. The human death toll was, currently, capped at thirteen, twelve of whom were unlucky enough to have had to bear the brunt of the Nidoking's fury. The thirteenth had been discovered as a casualty number on their roster, being in one of the experiment labs trying to save 'unworthy' Pokemon from liquidation when the act began. The Pokemon casualty number was innumerable, impossible to count because records of how many were kept in each experiment were nonexistent; but the corpse and skeleton count had reached triple digits, an excess of three hundred.
The Search and Rescue had been here so long that a semi-permanent rescue camp had been set up. The bus they had been using before couldn't support the amount of finds, and it had to be resupplied with fresh water and soaps twice before they'd managed to set up the large, barn-like marquees. Officers still patrolled the site, and went with the search and rescue wherever they went into the building; if there were any more dangerous Pokemon inside, it would be better to be safe than sorry.
One search and rescue officer was currently sat at a table with his laptop making a list of all the experiments he'd seen. None of them had been legal, and they all bordered the line of unethical and downright disgusting; though he wasn't sure Galactic even had an ethical standard to adhere to when it came to treatment of Pokemon. He'd helped rescue an Espeon from one lab, and the psychic had put up quite a fight, he'd had his left arm put up in a sling as a result. The Psychic, none too pleased to have been encountered by humans, had dislocated his arm telekinetically before an Umbreon could be brought in to subdue her. She'd been through much; a breeding regime, several psychic enhancing experiments and a dozen serious injuries to see how she healed, it was no wonder she hated humans. She'd calmed down once they'd told her that they were opposed to those who did these things to her.
He took a sip of his tea, black with two sugars and a teaspoon of lemon juice, before noting that not only was there very little left, but that it was cold. He gave an irritated sigh, saving his work before closing his laptop and taking his tea back to the refreshments tent. He emptied his foam cup and went to make another when he was handed a thermos bottle.
"It'll stay warm longer in this." His co-worker, Rachael Dawns squeaked. She was a short girl, built like a lamp post and about half as durable, but she had a pleasant and cheerful attitude, and had managed to work her own team of Pokemon through four gyms, one of which was Viridian City. How she managed to take out a high-profile gym like Viridian was anyone's guess.
"When did we get these?" He asked, looking at the thermos sceptically. It did have 'Police' written around the side in white with a blue background.
"About an hour ago, they've only just been handed out though." Rachael replied. "Why? Don't you want it, Cain? I already cleaned it."
"I didn't say that." He said, giving her a sarcastic smile.
"Well, whatever." She huffed. "Hey, I've some news about hall fourteen Alpha."
He tilted his head in her direction to indicate he was listening, all the while filling his thermos with piping hot tea.
"They've found something strange." She said. "And by strange, I mean really strange. They took one of our science guys with them to figure it out, and they still don't know what it is. They were wondering, what with you being the technology savvy guy that you are you might want to have a look?"
Cain shrugged, popping the lid on his thermos. He'd put a string teabag in, and the lid held it in place firmly as he shook the container to mix it all.
"I don't see how it could hurt to have a look at it, would be a change from documenting all these fatalities." He said, popping the lid back open and lifting the abused teabag out. Amazingly it hadn't broken. He took a moment to tip in two sugars and some lemon juice before closing it again and turning to her.
"Alright, let's go then." He said. "Find us an officer that'll take us to them."
About ten minutes later, the pair was about five basement floors underground and being led by an officer and his twin Growlithe, Jane and Doe. Rarely did he get asked why he'd named his Growlithe this, though his twisted sense of humour usually worked as a good indication. They stopped outside the door and read the experiment details.
Subject: Dome-shaped fossil.
Experiment: Superior Re-sequencing.
Subject No#: 14.
No information on what was actually happening inside was written, which only made Cain nervous. This could be some sort of twisted prank for all he knew. Carefully he edged his way inside, noting where the other humans were. There was even a Nurse Joy standing in the room, probably summoned in case a Pokemon were in distress in this lab. One of the search and rescue turned to him.
"Ah, Cain, good to see you've shown up." Drew said. "We're having trouble figuring out what all these controls do, you want to take a look?"
Cain shrugged and took a sip of his tea. "Don't see why not." He mumbled, stepping over and looking at the control panel. "Let's see..." He mumbled. He knelt down and opened a panel, taking a quick look at the wiring, before looking the buttons. "Well this looks like it's on it's own, separate power source." He said. "Let's see, ah, this one should turn on the lights." He prodded a button, and the lights above them flickered on. More lights turned on in a room beyond a glass window, illuminating a large metal vat full of slimy orange fluid. A single pipe extended from the ceiling into the slime, the smooth surface of which showed no indication of what might be within. Cain gave the slime a thorough look.
"Interesting," he mumbled, looking down at the panel again, "this button should activate something in that room, but I'm not sure what." He gave a worried look to his co-workers. "You want me to try it?"
The others nodded hesitantly. There was a door between the two rooms, a thick iron plate that looked like it could withstand a mighty blow or two, but the glass window was what worried them most. Several Growlithe materialised around the room; clearly no-one was comfortable without a little extra security. Cain flicked the button's case open and pushed it.
There was an audible clunk.
The pipe descending into the vat of smooth slime ascended, pulling odd apparatus with it. A second loud clunk echoed through the room, and an odd obtrusion on the side of the vat slowly lifted to a grinding of gears and joints. The sound and movement continued for roughly a minute until it came to an abrupt stop. The humans, crowded around the glass, stared in fascination as something sat up in the orange goo. It dripped and blinked in the light, light shining off of its smooth, grimy carapace, glinting off of the scythe-like blades on its forearms. Joy leaned through the humans, getting close to the glass, and ran her expert eye over the Pokemon as it struggled to stand.
"That's a Kabutops." She affirmed expertly. "They're supposed to be extinct, but a fair number have been arising since the Re-sequencing machine came into working order. He looks young, possibly only just evolved, look at how he's flailing the flukes on his back to gain balance; he's not used to using his tail to counterbalance himself."
Cain looked again at the Kabutops fumbling in the vat, and for a moment the Pokemon seemed to look right at him, but its eyesight was moved away when he slipped and slid beneath the slime once again. Joy sighed.
"He's certainly young, he can barely stand." She said, glancing at the young Pokemon's face. "He looks confused."
Cain moved through the crowd he had around him and gingerly pushed open the solid steel door dividing the two rooms.
The Kabutops gave him a frightened look before sliding beneath the slime again, and Cain put his Persian's Poke ball into his slung arm; if the Kabutops attacked, he wanted to have some sort of defence. He eased his way into the room, watching the vat. The Kabutops fell into the slime once more, still struggling to stand, and when he didn't come back up, Cain hurried to the vat and looked in worriedly. Without warning, the Kabutops burst from the foul smelling slime and threw its scythe-tipped arms around his neck, holding onto him for dear life. Cain, slightly startled, froze up. When it became apparent that the Kabutops was breathing with sharp, ragged breaths as he clung to him, Cain eased his hand onto the Pokemon's side and, with what grip he could muster, lifted him from the vat. The Kabutops seemed to thankfully nuzzle his cheek as he was put on the solid concrete floor, lying weakly trying to catch the breath he had been running out of.
Nurse Joy moved through the door, looking over the Kabutops male with practiced calm.
"No damage to his outer carapace, eyes are colourful and dilate well..." She rolled him over gently and ran a finger along a sweet spot near his spine, making the flukes on his back flick wildly. "Good recoiling," she mumbled, running a hand along his smooth tail before checking his scythes. "Impressive, he's very healthy." She said, rubbing her thumb on the sharp edge of one of his blades. "Keen edge too, I don't think I've seen a healthier Kabutops, this is one to share with my family."
"He needs to get cleaned up, but I don't think I can carry him." Cain hissed into the nurse's ear. Joy nodded, and gently lifted the Pokemon's torso.
"Alright, c'mon boy, up you come." She said sweetly. She hung one of his arms around Cain's shoulders, letting the Pokemon use him for support as he struggled to stand. She walked around him carefully, seeing how he stood.
"No, no, sweetie;" she said, smoothing the male's flukes as he flailed them, "use this to balance yourself, here." She gripped the tip of his tail and held it up, allowing him to move it to see how his centre of balance changed to its location. He managed to find his balance, and Joy stepped next to him.
"Now; one after the other," She instructed, showing him how to walk. "Keep your tail where it needs to be for balance; go slow, there we are."
He shuffled one of his feet forward, mimicking her as best he could. He clung to Cain, who moved alongside him, letting the Pokemon use him as support. Eventually the scythe-tipped arm came off of his shoulders, and the Kabutops tried without support. Joy moved over and stood next to Cain, watching the Kabutops with a smile.
"He's a fast learner." She mumbled.
Cain nodded and shifted to the Pokemon, tapping him on his shoulder.
"C'mon, come with me."
The young male Kabutops sat in a plastic brown tub, roughly five inches high. He was following instructions. He'd been told to sit, and he didn't want to upset the one who had saved him from drowning in that... weird slime. It'd been proven to be slightly organic in nature, a biohazard, and he'd been warned that he could have been poisoned, so Cain was going to get a cure-all called Antidote for him to drink before he was washed. He nervously looked around the room at the other Pokemon that were here, the few that were here anyway. He didn't like being alone here, it smelled weird and that made him nervous. Luckily he didn't have to wait long.
"Here we are," Cain said as he approached with a bottle containing some weird purple fluid that smelled faintly of fruit and a bucket, "drink this and I'll clean you off." The Kabutops nodded and drank the fluid, only recoiling from its foul taste when the bottle had been finished. Cain chuckled. "Yeah, it's kinda bad tasting, isn't it?" The Kabutops nodded, and Cain put the bottle down.
"Okay, let's get you clean." He said, taking a rag from the steaming hot, soapy water in the bucket and rubbing it against the Kabutops' arm roughly. He shifted to get a better angle at the oddly docile predator, which gave him a view of the board on the wall behind him covered in lines. It was bisected in two, one side noticeably more populated than the other and with numbers at the bottom. He made a noise, which got Cain's attention.
The Kabutops motioned to the board accompanied with a curious noise, and Cain sighed when he looked at it.
"The daily Tally," He informed, which only got him a curious look, "of all the rescues and discoveries of the facility." He said. "Each rescue gets a mark on the left side of the board; the discovered dead go on the right." He sighed as he scrubbed the Kabutops' chest. "We've found over three thousand so far, you're one of the few lucky ones, one of about eighty..." He trailed off, wanting to get off of the sad topic as he cleaned his charge thoroughly, he was just about done with the Pokemon's front when he felt something drip onto his head, and he looked up.
The Kabutops was crying, staring at the board.
Cain could think of little else to do but put the rag down and carefully wrap his arms around him, hoping to somehow comfort the Pokemon. For a supposedly ruthless predator, this was odd behaviour indeed. An Espeon from a nearby tub watched sadly, tapping into Cain's mind.
"You embrace a pure soul, human." He said telepathically. "His sorrow over the hundreds that have died is real."
Cain looked over at the psychic, who only stared back.
"He wishes that he could have taken their place; to have somehow lessened their suffering. Though it is a silly thought, that somehow he could have made a difference, it is... pure. He is one in a million; a gentle predator."
He nodded faintly, pulling back from the crying Pokemon and wiping a tear from his face.
"Don't cry young'un." He said quietly, aware of the glances he was getting from all around the room; Kabutops were not known for crying, even when seriously injured. "While the world is full of sadness, the good is still what we strive for." The Pokemon looked at him hopefully, and he gave a faint smile. "Though we will hold an official funeral for all of the Pokemon at Mt. Pyre, each discovery of a new survivor is a celebration in its own, each rescue is a life that will be cherished." He picked up the rag and dipped it in the bucket of water again, warming it up before returning to bathing his charge. "Though their lot in life wasn't fair, remember that what goes up must come down; karma will return to those who have done wrong here, and they will get exactly what they deserve, whether by our hands or their own devices." He smiled to the Pokemon again, who watched him silently. "Now dry your tears, this isn't a day you should be crying on." The Pokemon nodded sadly, closing his inner eyelids when Cain dipped water over his head and started wiping his face off. "Today is your day, be proud that you can be here to enjoy it."
The Kabutops followed Cain wherever he went that day, watching him do his daily work curiously, sleeping peacefully when they pair stopped so that he could fill in some paperwork, even helping to cut up some firewood for the bonfire they had roaring for rehabilitating Fire types. He never made a sound, save for a gentle snore while he slept; something that had worried Cain a little. He'd asked Joy about it, but she had told him that the Kabutops was in prime physical condition; he could speak, he just chose not to. Cain had treated him to some fish, bought from a local fishmonger in the town; one of the other officers was cooking lunch for the day's rescued Pokemon and the officers on scene, and Cain had asked that a large bass be bought and cooked specially. Several of the rescuing officers had made similar requests for the Pokemon they had saved, clearly wishing to treat the malnourished Pokemon for being fortunate enough to have survived the week and a half, and none of the requests had been denied. After his own treat, the Kabutops had nuzzled Cain happily, showing him his thanks as best he could.
Eventually Cain was called back into the facility, and the Kabutops reluctantly followed. Another officer, this woman with a blue Mew on her shoulder that wore a pure white blindfold, accompanied them. Cain had been handed a Silph Co. Pokemon translator headset by Joy, and he was eagerly waiting for a Pokemon to test it for him. Kitten, the name of the Mew on Michelle's shoulder, turned out to be as quiet as Kabutops, seemingly sleeping on her master's shoulder, and they walked in near silence until they arrived at yet another corridor of experiments. Door after door read that the experiment had been liquefied, none of them had been in any way ethical; one even describing the effects of long-term re-exposure to poisoning on a number of Pokemon, the results of which had been catastrophic for the unfortunate test subjects.
"This place is endless..." Michelle grumbled.
Kitten's head turned down the hall, seemingly looking right through the blindfold as she surveyed the corridor of steel doors.
"There is a Pokemon at the end of the hall." She purred, her voice translating perfectly letting Cain know his translator was working. "It is a Dark type; I cannot read its presence clearly."
The humans nodded faintly, continuing down the hall until Kitten told them to stop.
"This door," The psychic told them firmly, her face looking at the steel, "He is behind this door."
Michelle nodded, affixing her key card hacker to the door's lock and grabbing the handle.
"Ready?" She asked Cain.
Michelle pulled the door open, hiding behind it, and a large black mass leapt out.
The Houndoom was angry; he'd been the alpha of a large pack until humans had killed or captured them and slung them into labs like his own. To compound that problem with another, he had been left alone in a dark room for over a week, and he was eager to get payback. He bolted towards Cain, only to be stopped mid-lunge by Kabutops' large scythes, crossed and holding him back. With a powerful flick of his body, he managed to push the Kabutops onto his back, but the killing blow against this opponent was stopped by a green barrier put up by Kitten.
Cain dropped a Poke ball.
It sprang to life, releasing a powerful looking female Persian. She took one look at the Houndoom and charged him, slamming into him powerfully and knocking him back.
"Sphinx, he looks strong, keep an eye on him!" Cain shouted. She growled back at him.
For a minute or two, the pair danced in combat, swapping blows and staying in a stalemate the whole while. Eventually Sphinx slipped up, and the Houndoom bucked her into a wall, using the force to leap towards Cain, teeth bared.
In a flash, Kabutops was there.
The Houndoom bit into his side, spilling his blood across the floor and cracking his chitinous exoskeleton. He dropped to the concrete heavily, his eyes wide in pain as the Houndoom readied to kill him for interfering. Cain, now running on the adrenaline that being charged by a predator and seeing a friend fall to the same beast provided, used the momentary distraction to knock the Houndoom down with a harsh kick to his side and slammed several fierce blows on his head, knocking the Pokemon out in his fury. He pushed the Houndoom towards Michelle, who dropped a Prison ball on him which locked loudly, and he knelt to the fallen male laying in a pool of his own blood.
"Hold on, you're going to be fine!" Cain shouted, pulling his jacket off and forcing it onto the gaping, bleeding wound. His face snapped to Kitten, worriedly watching from Michelle's shoulder. "Tell Joy! She needs to be here as soon as possible, I don't know how long I can keep him alive!"
"I shall do you one better!" She replied.
Kitten's mask shone where her eyes were, and soon Joy popped into existence next to them, holding a large bag of medical equipment. She pushed Cain out of the way, releasing a Chansey, and opened her bag.
"Chansey, irrigate the wound; see how extensive this is, we need to..."
Her voice trailed off, becoming fainter and fainter to the Kabutops as his eyes shut and his world became dark.
He awoke on a soft surface, covered in fabric. He shifted faintly, barely recalling why he felt so weak, and groaned when his still painful chitin shifted. Cain appeared in his view.
"Don't move too much, young'un." He said quietly. "You were seriously injured; I'm impressed you survived at all with your chitin as damaged as it was, you need to recover your strength." Cain smiled when he nodded, and he stroked a palm over the Pokemon's smooth head gently. "You had me worried there for a minute," Cain mumbled, "but... thank you for saving me." The Kabutops nodded with a smile, sighing and staring at the ceiling. He didn't know why he'd done it, thrown himself in front of the Houndoom without a second thought, but it felt... right. He didn't want to see Cain get hurt, he knew he felt that much, but...
"The Houndoom is going to the rehabilitation centre." Cain informed him. "If they cannot take the mean streak out of him, he may be put down; as stubborn a species as he is, it's more likely that he'll learn not to be quite as vicious towards humans."
He blinked at Cain, aware of what he'd said. He didn't know what to think of this piece of information; happy, maybe? What he felt about it didn't matter much, and he shifted in the bed to get more comfortable, fain pain accompanying his movement.
"You should be ready to leave the bed within the hour." Cain said, giving him a gentle shake. He nodded in return, nuzzling the human's hand gently when he moved it away.
After an hour or so of each sitting in the company of the other, Kabutops was ready to leave and climbed out of the bed to show it. He still bore a slight imprint of where he'd been bitten, but Joy assured that his carapace would be smooth again within a week or so. He followed Cain keenly, jumping at most every shadow and holding an offensive stance as if daring it to attack them. Cain found this cute, until he'd pre-emptively leapt on a shadow that moved, which turned out to be Officer Jenny. Once her Lucario, Vere, had let Kabutops back up, having easily floored the rather young predator, Cain apologised for his jumpy behaviour.
"It is quite alright," Jenny affirmed honestly, waving a hand, "It's nice to see that Vere's reflexes are advancing."
"I was only startled for a moment," Vere mumbled, "I didn't think someone with such a pure Aura would so readily jump me." He smiled a little at the Kabutops. "Normally those with Aura such as his are gentle souls."
"After the attack from the Houndoom down in the labs, I'm not surprised that he's become more jumpy." Cain said calmly. "He'll be alright though; we'll get some warmth in him and then... dunno. Maybe I'll take him in." He looked down at the Kabutops who only glanced back hopefully "Would you like that?"
He struggled to stay standing and not get gouged by the Kabutops' blades when the Pokemon burst into a hug, the added weight almost pushing him on his ass. He carefully hugged back before pushing the Pokemon off of himself and taking a Poke Ball from his pocket. He tapped the sphere to the Kabutops' head, the mechanics pulling him in with a bright flash of light. It rocked for a moment, most likely in his shock and confusion at the sudden turn of events, but went silent and clicked to signify that he'd be caught.
Cain tossed the sphere into the air, and it exploded with light as it released his Kabutops, who landed in a combat-ready pose facing away from him. Cain smiled as he caught the sphere, tucking it into a pocket.
"Gareth, come here." He said, patting his thigh. Kabutops turned and looked at him, tilting his head curiously. "That's you, Gareth," Cain said calmly, "c'mon, let's go to the bonfire to get some warmth into you and you can meet Sphinx."
Gareth meekly moved towards his new master, who wrapped an arm around his shoulders.
"You'll be fun to introduce to my family." He said. Gareth nodded before nuzzling Cain gently and trilling quietly.