Guess who's baaaaaaaaaack!
Chapter 14: Recovery
Landon’s mind was restless. It was dark...blurry images passed in front of his mind’s eye...It was impossible to focus on a single one...then...
Red faded over the void. It was awful...He was swimming through blood, leagues of blood...The blood vanished as quickly and as mysteriously as it had appeared, and the Pikachu was standing on solid ground again...infinite shards of bone fell from the sky, piercing his body, making him shriek in pain...the pain and the shards were gone, replaced with a soft light, and he was filled with a peaceful serenity...Landon was in a temple, his arms held out, as an orb of light absorbed into his chest...
And then, the vision faded again, replaced with the sight of the ground far below, as though he were moving quickly…but it was more than that, far more. He was flying...flying over the skies of Kivistal. Landon glanced around and noticed that he was not on Sivaris, but he was flying with wings of his own...powerful, foreign-feeling wings. He flexed his body and turned acrobatically in the air, and loved the feel of it, the rush it brought him, enjoying it. He urged himself faster with his new, strange body, feeling the bliss he had always dreamed about, but never like this.
Suddenly, He was flying straight over battlefields towards Monaraca; Landon had seen the palace and the surrounding city once before, so he could recognize what he now flew towards. Next to him were Juno and Blazewing, flying along the same path; in Juno’s grasp were weapons of untold origin and strength, though he could not make them out, their forms seemed to be ever-shifting, and glowing with a bright light.
They blasted through the windows of the throne room, right at Skepter...
And then all was darkness, and two horrid, flaming, evil eyes opened...
Landon opened his eye and jerked into a sitting position, chest heaving as he panted for breath. The Pikachu looked around where he was jerkily, shivering constantly; his fur was matted to his skin with a cold sweat. As his shaking mind took stock of where he was, Landon calmed down.
The white sheets, white walls, and clean atmosphere (among other tell-tale signs) were evidence that he was in the infirmary.
Landon sighed in relief and lay back down on his bed, resting his head on the soft pillow. It was very comfortable, and his body was still noticeably a little sore...He turned his head a little and looked down at his arms and chest. While his chest was free of bandages and clean, his arms and waist were all wrapped up tight in white gauze. The wrappings needed to be changed, by the looks of them, because there were dark red spots showing on them where his injuries were most severe.
"Looks like he's finally awake." said a familiar voice. He turned to see the speaker, blushing slightly.
"Zhunjai...what're you doing here?" he asked, a little quieter than he normally would.
Zhunjai smiled as she walked up next to his bed. "I came to see you, of course, silly." She hopped up and sat on the side of the bed. "How're you feeling, Landon?"
He flexed both his arms and felt no stinging pain from them whatsoever. "I feel great, Zhunjai! The medics really know their stuff." A sudden thought came to his mind. "Hey, what happened after I fell into the ocean before we could reach here?"
"Well...lucky for you, a Marill named Zarin saw you and Sivaris fall out of the sky, so she knew obviously something was wrong, and swam out to get you two," Zhunjai explained. "She brought you out of the sea and got some others to help her get you guys here. I was one of them. You guys...you looked awful. I swore you were dying..." She looked down at the floor, tears flashing in her eyes. "We got you into the infirmary, and we medic's did what we could. I was the one who handled the surgery on your waist…That bullet wound was very infected, Landon, you were just lucky we caught the infection when we did..."
"Yeah, I was wondering about that..." Landon murmured, patting where the wound was patched up absentmindedly. "How long was I out?"
"You've been the rest of the week, Landon," Zhunjai said, her voice still sounding as worrisome as before. "It's been four days, and it’s already dusk."
"Ah...and Sivaris, where is he?"
Zhunjai sighed, her eyes growing a bit more watery. "He's still asleep in the bed in the avian room; he was awake before you were, though still dead tired, so he went back to sleep."
"Well, that's a bit longer than I would've liked, but not unexpected." Landon said, scratching the back of his head a bit.
"A bit longer?!" Zhunjai cried suddenly, her head jerking to look at him. "Don't you get it?! You almost died out there today! You were the only one who made it back, but barely! How can you act so calmly about something like this?!" she demanded.
"Zhunjai, I've learned to look at life with a more positive look, really," he responded, looking into her teary azure eyes. "It's not good to think about what bad could've happened when it didn't; I learned that the hard way...You know this."
"Yes, it's just...Oh, Landon, I just don't know what I'd do without you!" the Sandshrew maiden cried, leaning into him and wrapping her arms around him. She sobbed silently as she grasped him closer.
Landon blushed at this closeness she exhibited; it had been a long time since he’d been held like this, mostly because of the tense situations going on around them, and their ever-differing schedules. So, while bashful at first, the Pikachu gently eased his arms around the Sandshrew maiden and held her close as she sobbed softly, patting her back softly while trying to calm her down. “There there, Zhunjai…I’m alive, it’ll be alright…” He smiled. “I swear, whatever happens, I’ll be fine.”
The Sandshrew sniffed, pulling back and wiping her eyes. “Are you sure…?”
Landon nodded. “Promise.”
Monaraca was eerily silent under the moon and stars. Even in the capitol of the most powerful nation in the world, sleep’s embrace was absolute. Factories, shops, and every house adhered to the call of the Sandman, and slept soundly.
All, that is, except for five prominent figures in the palace.
Inside the dark, otherwise empty throne room, the Ampharos King stood before the window, gazing over all in sight that was his, and gazing longingly at the moon. One day I shall have Mighty Luna, as well…
he thought possessively. Even the sky will be in my grasp. Soon…
The creak of the throne room’s door announced the entrance of the summoned soldier. It was a moment before the Charmeleon Captain Zanix, came into the light and knelt before his King. "You summoned me, my liege?"
"Rise, Captain," hissed Skepter’s insidious voice, a command that was instantly followed. Skepter’s gaze remained outside the window. "Captain, of course you remember that I have sent a massive attack against the Azure Islands only days ago, led by my new General?"
Zanix nodded. "Yes, milord. That day was met with much celebration from your people, knowing those who defy our law will soon fall.” Zanix forced himself to say that with false pride.
The celebration was grand as the citizens gave the marching soldiers a ‘proper’ send-off, complete with a ticker-tape parade, music, a feast, and much merry-making. Very few did not attend the celebration. Mostly because of yet required duties, but this particular Charmeleon and several of his subordinates did not; they did not feel in a celebratory mood, considering they felt this attack was more overkill than anything ever before.
"Good. However, I'm not stupid, Zanix."
The Captain looked up to him with a look of genuine confusion; he wondered if his King knew of his absence from the celebrations, and, if so, whether or not he had a problem with it...”What do you mean, milord?"
Skepter frowned. "Aries will still be looking for more good targets to cripple us; the closest one I could find would be the Black Onyx Industrial District, and I won't have that."
Zanix nodded. "Would you like me to go be a protector of it?"
A smile crept across the Ampharos' face, and his eye shifted to look to the Charmeleon from the corner of his vision. "I'm glad at least one of my Captains is smart. Yes, Zanix, I need you to go and protect the District from any attack that might be put against it. Take one Royal Enforcer squadron with you; that should be enough to benefit the ground troops I sent there. Understood?"
Again, Zanix nodded. "Yes."
Skepter looked outside again, and his brow creased, his frown returning. "Also...this absence of Juno is disturbing.” Obviously, this, of all things, was what was on his mind the most this night. “If he'd been with the Silver Apex soldiers, our attack might've been discovered and halted by now," he growled. "Therefore, if Juno is one of those who would attack the Black Onyx Industrial District...crush him and his pathetic Latias."
Zanix could tell by the tone of his voice that Zanix was not expected to be so successful against that legend. However, loyally, he nodded once more. "As you wish, milord."
"Very well, Captain Zanix. Now, go forth."
Zanix knelt once more. "Your will is my command, King Skepter." With that, he rose and turned around, leaving the presence of the despised ruler and the Hall. The doors closed neatly, leaving the Ampharos to his silent thoughts once more.
“Arceus, I am so tired of saying ‘milord’ every two seconds…” he growled lowly and mockingly, keeping his voice quiet, even though the doors to the throne room were closed behind him. Zanix sighed. “I was told stories of Skepter’s gracious grandfather, and neutral father, and had such high hopes when I was young. Who’d have thought royalty would have gone to that idiot’s mind so deeply and made him so stuck-up and greedy? If I hadn’t sworn duty to my country I wouldn’t be so against the tempting ideas of rebelling…”
His spoken musings were, thankfully, unheard because of Monaraca’s guard detail being currently asleep, just like everyone else in the capitol; Skepter was so comfortable with his dominance of the world that he did not fear the attack of a silent assassin in the dead of night.
Zanix headed quickly through the hallways towards the barracks, already having an idea of who he’d take taking with him. His trusted squadron would certainly be up to the task of keeping the nation’s greatest power supply alive. And one in particular seemed perfect for the job…
The Captain reached the door to the barracks quite soon, and opened it quietly to not cause any undo noise for soldiers sleeping elsewhere. He glanced around. The barracks was empty, save for one soldier lying down in her bed; lucky for him, it was the one he wanted.
"Zyrina, wake up," he said, walking towards her bed. "I'm sorry, but we have a mission, directly from King Skepter himself. We're going to the Black Onyx Industrial District."
The Zangoose’s eyes snapped open, as if she had never really been asleep. “Why the Power Plant?”
“Because there may be an imminent attack, possibly from Juno himself,” he explained. “You’d be the best if the fight turned nasty, after all. Wake the rest of RazorDragon Squadron, and be ready within an hour and a half for departure. We leave at dawn.”
Landon remained in the medical ward for a few more days, much to his displeasure. Several other members from his squad came around on the second day after he awoke, to check on him and hear how those who went with him met their end, wanting to find out just how badly the attack went. Landon recounted the battle as accurately as he could, keeping himself together until he had finished for the squadron. Looks of sadness and shock at the horrors that were involved at the Southwest Manufacturing Plant were evident on each of their faces, making it all that much worse for Landon; he already felt so down for failing to keep those soldiers alive as their leader in the first place, but the reaction from the rest of the squadron just compounded the pit in his gut. He kept a straight face for the rest of them as well as he could, but it was obvious to all what kind of hell their Captain was going through.
Sivaris awoke the soon after the squad left Landon in peace, irritated already that he had to stay in the infirmary one more day before he would be allowed to fly again. Landon was deemed healed enough to go visit him (but apparently not well enough to leave the building, according to one particularly irritable Chansey...), so Sivaris wasn't completely alone in his room all the time.
Landon was constantly in Zhunjai's company, since his near-death experience had apparently scared her more than it did him, and he wasn't complaining one bit. When Zhunjai wasn’t on duty by checking his vitals, replacing his bandages periodically, and keeping him as healthy as possible during his recovery, they were constantly talking about things that were going on in the Azure Islands, what missions had been successful, and the apparent disappearance of Juno. Most of the rest of Gamma squad had come back, but there was no word from the Legend of the Silver Apex.
"Y'know, I was always afraid of hospital food before," Landon said to Zhunjai, finishing up the meal that he'd been given. It was late afternoon at that point, and the sun was shining with an orange light through the window. "However, this stuff's good."
That made Zhunjai giggle. Her head turned to the door and gave a small squeak of surprise, standing up and saluting. Confused, Landon followed her gaze to see that Aries had stepped in. Starting suddenly, he, too, saluted...though this threw his tray and whatever leftovers of food that were on it to the floor with a loud clatter.
The Sceptile chuckled at the instant reaction to his presence. "At ease, you two." They lowered their paws back down, and Zhunjai sat back on the side of his bed. "Nice job with the mission, Landon; though I am aggrieved to hear of the loss of the other four in your group..."
Landon nodded somberly. "They fought bravely to the end, chief," he said. "We should be proud to have Pokémon in our forces like that."
"I am, Landon," Aries said with a smile. "Still, with yet another successful mission under your belt, you're quite the Typhoon Runner."
"Oh, come on, chief, you know it's all Sivaris," Landon replied truthfully. "I just point and shoot."
Zhunjai and Aries both laughed. "That may be, but you two are a good duo," the Sceptile continued. "Anyway, I have another mission for you."
"Already?!" he said, shocked. "I'm still in a hospital bed from the last one!" However, Aries knew the young Captain was joking (it helped that the Pikachu grinned); he'd definitely be ready for any mission he gave me.
"Yes, Landon. I feel emboldened by this slew of successful mission, and have decided to go on the offensive as well," Aries explained, "We need to take out a massive target that wouldn't be as heavily guarded as some others." He gazed at Landon with one eye. "Can you think of one such place?"
"The Black Onyx Industrial District..." he murmured immediately, Aries’ idea dawning on him.
"Bingo." Aries began slightly pacing. "It's a key asset to a lot of the Black Onyx Kingdom; one main reason behind this is because it produces the power for most of the Kingdom there, especially the factories producing more and more of Skepter’s War Machine. Recon has discovered that it is not as heavily guarded as places such as the Southwest Manufacturing Plant."
"So, there won't be another Mox Assault Engine there?"
Another?" Aries asked, stopping suddenly and staring at the Pikachu. "You're telling me they had a MAE at the Southwest Manufacturing Plant?!"
"Yeah, I'll tell you about it later," Landon sighed, waving a paw through the air a little. "Please, continue."
Aries cleared his throat before doing so, though without pacing this time. "I've decided that now would be the best time to strike at it, with all the confusion from the Ganson Industrial Wing and the Southwest Manufacturing Plant utterly destroyed. It will be a seriously critical blow to the Black Onyx Kingdom."
"So, what do you have in mind, sir?" he asked, leaning forward a bit.
Aries grinned a little. "I'm sorry, but it'll be another covert mission."
Landon groaned and flopped over his lap; obviously, the prospect at putting on black clothes and paint again wasn't enjoyable.
"I want you and the rest of the Brotherhood Squadron to protect a similarly-sized force of ground troops who will infiltrate the District's facilities and destroy them," Aries explained. "I want everyone to be ready for it by morning. I have already informed the rest of your squadron to be ready. Will you be ready?"
It was Landon’s turn to grin. "You kidding, chief? I'm ready for anything, sir."
The Sceptile nodded. "Good, good. I will see you off in the morning, then." With that, Aries left the room.