Chapter 15 – The Swarm
There came a point in her pursuit of Esaax when Ntairow’s patience for Karo’s speed—or rather for his lack thereof—finally ran out. Without warning, she broke away from the party at a very fast run, ignoring the other two pokemon’s shouting pleas to let them catch up.
Syr might have at least been able to keep not too far behind Ntairow, but he would not abandon Karo. Likewise, Syr would not abandon the search for Esaax, but having completely lost sight of him and now separated from Ntairow and her empathic connection by which they’d been tracking Esaax, Syr could really only hope to still be moving in the right direction.
It was by pure chance that he and Karo eventually managed to reunite with Ntairow, several minutes after she’d left them. She was standing with her back against the front doors of none other than the Hope Institute.
“Of course…” Syr rushed to Ntairow’s side. “He’s here?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she answered.
is where it started,” Syr said, his eyes wide with realization. “Esaax got sick right after
he left from here…” The arbok shook his head in disbelief and shame. “I should have figured it out much sooner, but I’d already made scapegoats out of the poor staff at the Haven… Looks like Esaax knew, though. And now he’s come back for answers.”
“Or blood,” Ntairow said grimly.
Syr immediately found himself having to struggle to drive out an image presented by his brain of a massacre at Esaax’s hands. “…So how long have you been just waiting out here?” he asked Ntairow.
“Too long. All the doors are locked, and I couldn’t force any of them open. Esaax opted to take a shortcut through one of the walls, but the hole’s been covered over with ice. And not normal ice, either. I was able to chip away at it somewhat, but it immediately grew back, almost as if it were alive
Syr shuddered, feeling his throat go dry. “Living” ice needed no further explanation—he could already imagine the sort of creatures that could be responsible for such things, could all too easily picture their hellishly glowing eyes, their massive teeth…
Nonetheless, he tried to brace himself as well as he could for what he might have to face within the building. You’re doing this for Esaax,
he reminded himself.
The arbok studied the door for a moment. “I think I can help you get in,” he said. He motioned Ntairow out of the way, then spat a dark spray of full-strength acid at the doors. The attack caused the metal of the barrier to soften and deform slightly, as well as to give off harsh, stinking fumes, but the poison-type technique failed to burn its way completely through the doors.
“I’m sorry,” Syr said. “It normally burns right through…”
“You’ve actually weakened the metal quite well,” said Ntairow. “I could certainly tear it open now were it not for what the lingering acid would likely do to my hands in the process.”
“The acid won’t bother me.” That was all the warning that Karo gave before plowing into the doors. His large nose punched right through the softened metal, and the rest of him followed.
The others entered after him, careful to avoid the sharp, torn, acid-coated edges of their makeshift entrance. Once they were all in, Ntairow managed an impressed smile at Syr and Karo. “Great job, both of you,” she said. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Syr and Karo said, almost in unison.
As the three of them began making their way into the building, Karo turned back briefly to look at the hole that he and his nose had just helped to create. “Wow, that’s even bigger than the last one,” he remarked. “Awesome.”
* * *
Purposefully, Moriel made her way through the corridors of the Hope Institute. The glalie kept a mindfully quick pace as she moved; she had a fairly important task to carry out.
Their employer was apparently not quite the good guy that he’d made himself out to be. Solonn had told Moriel, as well as the rest of the glalie and the claydol who lived among them, that DeLeo had tricked one of his clients into evolving and that this was against the law in Convergence. As such, someone needed to go and alert the authorities of this transgression, as well as to contact the staff at the Haven so that they could come to the aid of the distraught and possibly unwell victim.
Moriel had readily volunteered to take care of this matter. Having once been in league with their enemies, she still wasn’t entirely certain that she had gained the full trust of all of the other glalie with whom she now associated, even after having fought alongside them. Any help that she could provide for any of them was an opportunity that she gladly seized.
As she navigated the winding halls of the building, she found herself feeling grateful that she’d been working there for as long as she had. The Hope Institute’s internal layout could be a bit confusing for newcomers, but by that point, Moriel had memorized it fairly well. It also helped that the building was presently closed; it was easier to focus on where she was supposed to be going with the building being largely empty.
Then she rounded a corner into a rather large room and found that the Hope Institute wasn’t quite so empty as she’d thought it was.
Moriel had stumbled upon Ntairow, Karo, and Syr. The former two looked upon her with largely unreadable expressions, but the arbok looked distinctly and increasingly afraid, his mouth hanging open and his eyes wide.
“Whoa, hey!” Moriel exclaimed. “Who are you, and wh—”
She was cut off as first a terrified shout and then a spray of acid escaped the arbok in a moment’s panic. Moriel shrieked in pain as the burning fluid struck her face, and she retaliated immediately and automatically: in an instant, the room was filled with a small army of illusory glalie, and at the same time, three loud cracks rang out in rapid succession.
All three of the sheer cold strikes hit their targets, but only Syr was affected. As he dropped to the floor, unconscious, the swarm of glalie began rushing about in circles around Ntairow and Syr—independently
, at varying speeds, with some moving clockwise and others moving counterclockwise.
Then Moriel and her illusory copies all turned inward toward their targets for just long enough to fire ice beams in unison, sending jagged, bright blue bolts of ice-type energy flying in a crisscrossing web around Ntairow, Karo, and the insensible arbok at their feet. Most of them passed inconsequentially through or around the nosepass and the kwazai, but one of them—the real one—struck Karo on the left side of the head, causing him to swear explosively and stagger.
A pale bluish-purple light filled Ntairow’s eyes as she tapped into the source of her psywave technique. The branches of her tail were fanned out and moving around independently, their oculons trying to pick out the telltales that would distinguish the real, living glalie from the nonliving copies, but something about the glalie was confounding her psychic senses. Unable to pick out her target directly, Ntairow instead went into a spin on one foot, firing a quick volley of psywaves in a circle around her—but succeeding only in causing three illusory glalie to vanish before a protect aura went up around the remaining copies and their maker, foiling the rest of the psychic strikes.
Another web of ice beams was fired from the swarm then, hitting Karo once again—Ntairow scowled, wishing that she’d been able to tell from which direction the real ice beam had come so that she could have dived in front of it. Using the glalie’s attacks to fuel mirror coat responses—and ultimately to fuel a devastating anguish attack once the kwazai had taken enough of them—seemed to Ntairow like the best hope for taking her out at this point. Psywaves were much slower, much easier to avoid than the instantaneous reactions that her retaliatory attacks were, and for all the help that Karo was providing in the fight, he might as well have been in the same state as Syr presently was.
“Why aren’t you doing anything?!” Ntairow demanded of the nosepass.
“I’m trying!” Karo insisted, and he was indeed trying. The trouble was that he had a very limited selection of techniques to bring to bear against their adversary, the consequence of his trainer having decided to limit the number of attacks that he could learn to a mere four out of a sense that it would make Karo hone those four to a greater potency than usual and learn to use them more creatively.
Karo might not have minded this so much at the present moment if one of the moves that he’d been left with had been a nice rock-type attack, preferably one that would simply drop rocks on all of the glalie at once and thereby perhaps weaken the real one enough to render her incapable of keeping up her double team illusions, at least. His zap cannon technique was terribly difficult to aim and terribly easy to dodge, and being unable to pick out his actual target in the first place meant that he couldn’t use lock-on to overcome those drawbacks.
The only hope that he could see lay in his remaining two techniques, one of which he was presently bringing to bear not against the glalie but rather against Ntairow, Syr, and himself. Specifically, he was trying to the best of his ability to impose a block field around all three of them. Blocking more than one target at the same time was never easy, and the pain from the ice-type strikes that he’d already suffered was not helping matters.
But then he saw Ntairow go completely rigid, halted right in the middle of unleashing another series of psywaves, taking on a look of alarm. Satisfied as he could be under the circumstances that the field was secure around its targets, Karo focused on intensifying it so that it would not only prevent anything from breaking out of it but also prevent anything from breaking into
A third ice beam was fired Karo’s way—only to dissipate harmlessly against the force field that he had summoned. Karo felt a spark of pride burst into being within him—he’d succeeded. With a faint sense of relief, he let the block field withdraw from him, leaving it clinging to Ntairow and Syr as he unleashed the last of his four techniques.
All at once, the space was filled with blazing light and thunderous noise.
Next time: Ntairow and Syr have some explaining to do… See you then!
- Sike Saner