"You don't have to keep your feelings bottled up, Cass," Trevor said, digging in to his pancakes and adding a bit of his scrambled eggs to the bite already on the fork. The diner around them was crowded. Noisy, but with good-hearted morning activity. It was the kind of place Cassidy Rhodes had enjoyed once upon a time.
Now the boy sat deeply in thought, picking idly at one of his sausages with his fork. He swept a hand nervously back through his hair, which was dark and a bit too long, but not messy. He looked sadly up at his gigantic friend. The man was large, barrel-chested, but with muscle rather than fat. He somehow always seemed to have a bit of stubble, and yet that looked okay on him. He was dressed neatly in a polo shirt and slacks, while the boy was dressed in jeans and a red t-shirt, a dark vest over that.
"How is school?" Trevor asked, trying again to strike up a conversation as he ate. "Your principal has had great things to say about your grades."
"It's fine," Cassidy said with a wistful sigh. He knew he was being difficult. He wasn't trying to be obstinate, but he just didn't have the words. "I guess I'm just missing my friends, is all..."
Trevor nodded, seeming to find this admission something of a success on his part. Nevertheless, he took a chance and pressed further. "You didn't sign up for any of the sports teams this season... Are you still upset about your accident?"
Cassidy shook his head and cupped his hands over his face. "I don't know... I'm just... I'm so confused and I'm not sure what to think..."
The waitress came to refill their drinks and ask if they would like anything else. Trevor politely shook his head, smiling his thanks to the leggy blonde. She smiled over at Cass, and gave him a wink. It wasn't conspiratorial; merely a friendly gesture. Cass faked a smile back, hating that he felt so naked and visible to everyone. Sighing, he went back and began to eat. Once he'd finally managed to do so, he found himself enjoying the meal.
The sun outside shown brightly and warmly down on them through the picturesque windows; the booth they sat at red and vaguely glittery in the light. Cassidy found that he used to love places like this as a child. And much to his surprise, he found he loved them still, now that he was 15 years old and feeling one heck of a lot older.
He felt like he was in a dream. He hadn't really wanted to come along, but his headmaster... or, for the sake of this vacation, his "principal," Mr. Steele, had insisted. And he HAD enjoyed his time in the company of his mother's childhood friend, but some deep-rooted feelings of unfinished business nagged at him. That, and an overwhelming sense of dread. Some half-concealed feeling that something was about to go terribly, terribly wrong.
Cassidy shook himself and forced another smile for his friend. Trevor smiled back, seemingly eased by the expression. Cass had found that he'd grown to love this man, thinking of him as an uncle and a friend, just as his mother had before him. Trevor was a man of thoughtfulness and courage, and always seemed ready to do the right thing at a moment's notice, no matter the cost.
They paid the bills for the meal and lingered quietly in the diner for awhile; Trevor sipping a cup of unsweetened, decaf coffee and Cassidy staring out the window at nothing in particular. This world... this HUMAN world... had it ever seemed real to him? Cassidy honestly wondered.
"So, where would you like to go now?" Trevor asked as they stepped out of the restaurant and headed toward their van, "Maybe you'd like to go for a nice long swim?"
Cassidy looked at the man with a stunned expression and Trevor winked. Cass rolled his eyes. It always surprised the boy whenever Trevor broke from his usual serious demeanor and teased him a little. But it was a welcome surprise. As they piled into the van, they were both smiling.
They drove nowhere in particular for awhile, riding in silence at first. Then Trevor finally said, "You can't blame yourself for what Misty did during your battle, Cubone. You did so much more good than harm by keeping her here and showing her that she has a place amongst us. With her own kind, the other Pokeumans."
Cassidy - or rather, Cubone; for that is who he was and would always be - looked down at his mother's keepsake ring as he idly played with it on his finger. The special humanizing ring was "lent" to him for the purposes of his vacation by Mr. Steele, who was one of the only Pokeumans that knew Cubone had carried the ring with him all along. When wearing the ring, a Pokeuman would take on the guise of their former human body - though their physical attributes as well as their minds remained the same. The skull the boy normally wore on his head as well as the tiny club made of bone that he carried around were still available to be called upon, but were not visible while he was in human form.
"It's not that, really..." Cubone said non-commitally. Then after a pause, he added the admission: "But... I really wish you could have just told me what I was up against. You could have warned me and prepared me..."
"Cubone... you of all people need to understand that the things we deal with on a daily basis often defy expectation. If we had told you Misty Carlile was an energy channeler... If we'd have explained what an energy channeler was or the stigma associated with them... would you have behaved any differently than you had? Would you have fought any less fiercely or trained any less tirelessly for it?"
Cubone hesitated, feeling the usual sense of vertigo in his fake human body. Finally he shook his head. "I... I guess not.."
They rode on in silence for a little while longer, Cubone staring out the window and Trevor silently making turns throughout the rural road. Finally, Cubone spoke up again. "Were... were y-you testing m-me...?" The words came out in a stutter. He often stuttered when he felt he was overstepping his boundaries; which was often.
Trevor looked at Cubone with unhidden surprise. That was answer enough for Cubone, and they both knew it.
Cubone looked down at his hands, which were clasped together between his legs to keep them from trembling. "I... I d-don't mind... Really. But... could you p-please tell me if you need to do that to me again...? I... I want to know when I'm being a help in some way..."
Trevor looked at him a little longer, lingering at a stop sign for a moment. Finally he nodded. "Yes, Cubone, you deserve that much. However... we don't always know when we're testing one of our students until after the fact. Someday you'll understand. But for now... try to enjoy your vacation, okay?"
"I hope my father is okay," Cubone said, looking back out the window, unable to see Trevor visibly wince.
"Leave it be, Cubone. You know why he had to leave," Trevor finally said. "I'm sure he's just fine." The lie tasted sour and wrong in the large man's mouth. But he stuck to it for the sake of the little student, who did not need to know that he had once again become an orphan. Cubone's father had broken free of the Pokextinction brainwashing because of the boy. And he had died protecting Cubone from a murderous, brainwashed Pokeuman. Cubone needed to be completely ready in body and mind. Things were beginning to happen with greater speed in the battle between Pokemon and human, and he had to trust Mr. Steele's hunch about the tiny Pokemon with the infinite well of courage. There would be time to tell Cubone later. There would be time.
Whether Cubone would ever forgive them for the secret or not would be a question for another day.
"I like book stores," Cubone quietly said.
Trevor raised an eyebrow and the small child, surprised.
"Book stores," Cubone said again, rubbing his arm nervously. "I like to go to book stores and look at comics and stuff. Or... I mean... I did."
Trevor nodded. "I know a mall nearby. There might be one there."
There was, and Trevor was happy to see Cubone - in his guise as the human Cassidy Rhodes - smiling and finally seeming to relax and enjoy himself. That was good. Not only did Cubone deserve this vacation for saving the Denver Pokeuman base on multiple occasions, but Trevor knew that Cubone needed to know the other side of the world he would soon be fighting to save. Perhaps sooner than he wished, if the rumors from the northeast were to be believed.
The day passed relatively uneventfully. Cubone did some window shopping alongside Trevor and then they drove around a bit. These were the only activities Cubone really had much interest in, and Trevor didn't mind. He knew that Martha's child had always been a shy and quiet sort who enjoyed quiet activities. And he kept Cubone company into the evening, until Cubone asked to be allowed to step out on his own onto the porch to look at the moon.
Trevor nodded, not having the heart to refuse Cubone this. And he sat stalwart in his living room as he pretended not to hear the quiet sobs of the all-too-small even while disguised Pokeuman. Privately, he said a prayer to Arceus that Cubone be spared any more hardships. For he was one that had endured more than his share for a lifetime. Yet he knew that such a hope was in vain. For Cubone was a Pokeuman. And more importantly, Cubone was his mother and father's child. The same quiet compassion as his father, the same protective courage as his mother. He wouldn't run from danger or pain. He wouldn't want to stay safe and sound when others were suffering.
Perhaps Cubone knew what was best better than he himself did. Perhaps it was find that Trevor found out for sure.
Mr. Steele, garchomp headmaster of the Denver Pokeuman base, sighed as he went over his notes. Half a year after the catastrophe at the Summer Solstice tournament, he was still dealing with the ramifications, not the least of which being an utterly unrepentant meowstic, who had been brainwashed into working for Pokextinction and attempting to kill one of her own. Though she had regretted turning arms against Misty, it was only because she felt like harming and killing one of her own would have been too far.
She hadn't intended to kill anybody, at the very least. She had honestly thought that the gun she'd received from Pokextinction had been set to the green "stun" setting. However, when she had been temporarily disarmed by the headmaster's Sand Tomb attack, the gun's setting had shifted to the red "kill" setting. When Callahan charged at her that final time, she had meant to stun him and then fire at the medical staff so she could take Misty out of the base.
And yet, she still seemed bitter and unapologetic over her murder as she sat in her prison cell in a seldom-used wing of the base, accidental though it was. And much to Mr. Steele's horror, he found that her predisposition against "normal" humanity had started long before she had shown dangerous signs of brainwashing. Many of her coworkers had noticed it, yet none had said anything about it, finding it not sufficiently noteworthy to mention officially.
To Diane the meowstic, humanity was the weaker species, jealous and brutally animalistic by nature. She felt that all humans desired to use Pokeumans because they were jealous of their abilities and selfish enough to want them for themselves.
Madness. And yet, it had that dangerous thread of logic that could potentially mislead others if such an idea caught on. If it was possible for one person with such a mindset to work in this base, how many others would...
...No. Mustn't think of that, he chastised himself. Above all else, he had to have trust in those he commanded. For if he didn't trust them, they in turn wouldn't trust him. And then they'd fall apart from the inside. And this of all times, he could not afford that.
Things were happening up north. He'd been in earnest discussion with Lady Asula of the Long Island Pokeuman base. Mr. X's forces had become significantly more bold, plotting dangerous things for Pokeuman-kind. And if that weren't enough... there was the new energy channeler there. The lucario. What would this mean for their base? Would he nearly destroy it as Misty had? Or would he be able to contain it and make it a part of him? If he could take control of his powers, he would be perhaps the most powerful Pokeuman in history.
However, that was a matter that was beyond the garchomp headmaster's capacity to decipher. All he could do was hope for the best and prepare those he trusted most for the tasks they might soon be facing. If only he had the time to...
"You can come in, Matthew," he finally said in a sardonic tone of voice.
The door slid open and Matthew sheepishly flew into the room, latching onto a wall hanging with his twin tails. The little zubat had become a wealth of information with his exceptional hearing, and always seemed to be listening in on one thing or another. But he still had lessons to learn in subtlety.
Mr. Steele set down his papers and smiled kindly at Matthew. "And to what do I owe the pleasure of this late-night visitation?"
Matthew visibly blushed. "Sorry, sir... I just heard you muttering and I thought-"
"You thought you might get an earful, did you? You are quite the incorrigible lad, you realize. I ought to confine you to quarters for a week." But his smile deepened as he said so. They both knew he would do no such thing. Mr. Steele legitimately liked Matthew. Yes, the boy was a snoop, but he was also trustworthy and kept what he heard to himself. He was, in fact, one of the only Pokeumans in the base that understood the fate that had befallen Callahan Rhodes that terrible evening. The fact that he never held the secret against the headmaster further ingratiated Mr. Steele to him.
"Make sure the quarters are soundproof. People are noisy during the day!" Matthew joked back. Having no eyes, no hands, and no feet, Matthew had had more to adjust to than perhaps many new Pokeumans in the base. And yet he did so with flying colors, due in no small part to Callahan's perception of his unusual gifts.
"Perhaps I shall confine you to the Normal-type arena, and our venerable exploud coach can soothe you with his dulcet tones. Now, our witty repartee aside, you did not come simply to spy on me. Speak your mind, child."
"Sir, I would like to become a PRT member," Matthew said, still hanging as he did so. His face had a simple, serious expression to it.
"And why this sudden interest, lad?" Mr. Steele asked. And yet, he felt he knew. A lot of Pokeumans had been stepping up for the Pokeuman Rescue Troop lately; most of which he'd needed to turn down for one reason or another. There had been a growing sense of tension in the bases, and more activity from Pokextinction as the number of Pokeumans increased.
"I want to help Cubone," Matthew said, again in that simple, direct tone of voice.
Mr. Steele blinked. That had not been the answer he'd expected. "Is that so? Perhaps you would be so kind as to elaborate on this assertion?"
"Well, if that's your way of asking me to explain, sir, I feel like I owe it to him... I don't really know him very well, but I know OF him. And his dad was my first real friend here at this base. If I hadn't freed his dad from the prison cell, maybe he wouldn't have-"
"I'll not allow you to blame yourself for a tragedy that could not have been predicted, Matthew," Mr. Steele said more sharply than he'd intended.
"I'm not," Matthew answered quickly. "No... but I still want to help out Callahan's son. And maybe get to know him. Callahan was the first person to really 'get' me. Maybe Cubone might feel the same way...?"
Mr. Steele looked down at the paperwork on his desk, not really seeing any of it as his mind was deep in thought. Finally he sighed. "You understand the risks of such an endeavor, right? If you were equipped with a humanizing ring, it would only change your appearance and body size. You would still be blind and would further be hindered by the lack of flight. Are you prepared for such a burden?"
"I'll still have my hearing," Matthew answered simply, smiling. "That's another thing I owe to Callahan. He showed me that I can 'see' better than most anyone here. I don't think I've really missed my eyesight for months."
Mr. Steele smiled at this response. "Very well, Matthew. I shall look into the matter and consider a training regimen for your unique situation. However, the same criteria for qualification shall apply to you as anyone else, as do the same rules and regulations, should you be accepted into training. Is that understood?"
Matthew dropped of of the wall hanging and did a midair cartwheel, swooping into a flying position in the air. "A chance is all I want," Matthew said, smiling.
"Then that's what you shall have. And please... do try to keep a lid on your curiosity now and again. Your eavesdropping can be more than a little tiresome." Mr. Steele bore his sharp teeth in a grin, which in spite of the normally ferocious appearance of a garchomp, always managed to show his inviting kindness and compassion.
"Okay, I'll forget everything I've seen here tonight," Matthew said with an impudent grin, swooping out of the doorway as Mr. Steele chuckled, unable to help himself. Matthew wasn't a fighter and certainly had physical handicaps based on his species, but he had something that qualified him for training more than the hundreds of Pokeumans with better physical abilities in the base. He had the one thing Mr. Steele sought after the most in his charges. Matthew had spirit.
Cubone awoke with a jerk, pulling himself off of the bed and the covers on top of him as he did so. There was some kind of alarm going off in Trevor's room. Dazedly, the little Pokeuman quickly fumbled on the headboard for his ring. He'd tried sleeping in human form, but found it absolutely impossible. He felt happiest as a cubone. He felt right and comfortable. And if he wasn't safe enough to be one in Trevor's house, then he likely would have already gone back home to the Pokeuman base.
Taking the ring in hand, Cubone made a dash into the large man's room. Trevor was in his normal form, and he was already conversing on a smart phone, listening with great concern on his face to the voice on the other end.
Seeing the little Pokemon, Trevor held up a hand to request silence as he listened. Finally he simply said "Okay," and hung up the phone. Reaching for the ring and quickly putting it on, he paused for a span of about three seconds, looking at Cubone. Finally, he pointed. "Got your ring? Good. You're with me, then. Come on."
Cubone was stunned. He might have asked a question, but the Rhydon - now in full human form - was already quickly walking past Cubone and into the garage of his house. Taking the cue, Cubone quickly ran to keep up with Trevor, donning the ring as he did so.
As he placed the finger on his mitt-like hand, something odd happened. Did his disguise... flicker a little before activating? No, it was Cubone's imagination. Had to be. The ring had its effect on Cubone after a moment, changing him back to his human form. Now disguised as Cassidy the human, he piled into the passenger seat of the van, which was already running.
Trevor turned to Cubone. "You will mind me and obey my direct commands without hesitation. If I say 'jump,' you'd better already be in the air by the time the word is spoken. Understood?"
Cubone blinked. "No, not at all! What's happening?"
Trevor put the van into gear. "A rescue is happening, Cubone. Right here, right now. Yesterday you asked me to tell you when I'm testing you. Well, now is that time. Do you understand?"
Cubone suddenly felt like his stomach was full of lead shot, but he nodded. He'd barely even begun the most basic, fundamental PRT training. He was nowhere near being a full member. And yet he was suddenly thrust into a rescue with one of the most senior members of the entire troop. What gave him the right? What would happen if he screwed up? Cubone wasn't talented or strong. He was a lonely, motherless creature.
But he held firm, clasping his hands between his legs again to stop them from trembling. He had to trust Trevor, no matter what. If Trevor felt this was best, then he just had to try his hardest and hope it worked out.
Much to Cubone's surprise, Trevor drove his van along a rural road, away from the city. He drove intently and with great speed, seemingly completely unworried about potential police notice.
"They're taking the side streets out of town," Trevor said, eyes still intent on the road, "They're probably taking their time so as not to arouse suspicion, but once they leave town, they'll be far less subtle, and they'll be driving a lot faster than we'll be able to."
"So, what do we do? How can we catch up with them?" ask Cubone apprehensively.
"We won't have to," Trevor answered evenly, "I know where they're going." And with that, he continued driving, winding up narrow foothill roads and even some dirt paths that were only barely vehicle-worthy. Finally, he came to a full stop on the side of a particularly steep grade at the base of a winding hill.
Trevor got out of the van, removing his humanizing ring, and Cubone did the same, confused. There they stood in the middle of the street in full Pokemon form.
Trevor turned to Cubone. "I know that this came very suddenly and I didn't give you a lot of chance to say anything, but if you would like to back out now, you have my permission to do so. I understand your fear and will let you wait in the van. However, once things go down, you won't have the luxury of making that decision anymore. Understood?"
Cubone nodded. "I'll... try my best, sir..." he answered.
Trevor nodded, then went to the back of the van. Opening a compartment inside, he brought Cubone his mother's Thick Club, placing it in the Pokeuman's hands and taking Cubone's own club to set into the compartment. Cubone hefted the club which was slightly bigger than he himself was, and it felt as familiar and comfortable as ever.
They stood still, facing the direction they'd come from. They stood for a long several minutes, each of them saying nothing, when Cubone began to feel an inexplicable quiver in his stomach, his ears twitching under his skull mask.
"Get ready, Cubone," Trevor said, not taking his eyes off of the road ahead of him.
Cubone gulped, shivering. All at once he WANTED to back out and hide in the van. As if sensing this, Trevor placed a hand on Cubone's shoulder. Cubone looked up at the rhydon, then steadied himself. He remembered the one word his mother had told him when she'd said her final goodbye to him: "Courage."
There was a rumbling sound coming from in front of them, distant, but coming on fast.
Finally, Trevor darted to the side of the road, far faster than Cubone had expected the lumbering behemoth of a rhydon could do. As he did so, he screamed, "CUBONE, BONEMERANG NOW!"
Cubone almost... almost paused to ask him a question. Had he done so, he might have been smashed into by the oncoming vehicle. As it was, Cubone leapt forward and, with the grace and ease of long practice, he hurled his mother's club forward. Just as he had done so, a speeding grey van of another model came tearing around the corner. The bone club smashed into the windshield, splintering it into countless shatter patterns.
By this point, Trevor had already made his way a good distance toward the vehicle and away from Cubone. Suddenly he let out an inhuman, ear-smashing cry and slammed his huge fist into the asphalt, causing it to crater underneath his weight. Cubone didn't need to look twice to realize Trevor had performed an Earthquake attack.
The driver, already unable to see the road, was unable to avoid the sudden depression in the land and his vehicle slammed downward and to its side, coming to a rest in a mist of steam and soot.
"Back door, Double-Edge!" Trevor called to Cubone, running after the upturned passenger door.
Cubone obeyed immediately, leaping high and landing on the side of the van, running along it and jumping off behind it. Swiftly turning around, he rammed himself with full force into the heavy metal door, which snapped open, causing Cubone to stumble into the darkness inside.
There he saw two kids, a boy and a girl, laying in a heap on top of one another. They were quite young from the looks of things; perhaps not even 10. They seemed to be coughing quite a bit and were unconscious, but apart from that they seemed unhurt.
"HOW MANY?" Trevor called from outside.
"Two!" Cubone answered back, just as the boy started to come around a little.
The little boy blinked, his eyes trying to focus, then he let out a gasp. He looked like he wanted to let out a scream of fright, but another coughing fit took hold.
"STILL OUT?" Trevor asked.
"One is! The other is starting to come to!" Cubone called back, feeling very conspicuous in front of this confused youth.
"CARRY THE OTHER OUT! WE'VE GOT TO GET THEM TO SAFETY!"
Cubone took a step toward the unconscious girl, but the boy - dazed though he was - rolled in front of her protectively, holding his hands up to ward off Cubone as best he could. Small sparks rose from his fingertips.
"No, wait! Please!" Cubone said, holding his hands up. "Please, I'm not here to hurt you! I want to help!"
The boy didn't say anything, nor did he move. He hovered so firmly in front of the girl that Cubone could only assume that...
"Is she your sister?" Cubone asked quietly, holding his left hand - the one not holding his club - out to the boy in a soothing way.
The boy's eyes flickered and his expression altered slightly. He looked down at the girl and then up at Cubone. Finally, he nodded. "My twin..." he said in a quiet, strained voice. "We learned a magic trick we wanted to show everyone... But some bad people came and sprayed us..."
"We'll protect you from them," Cubone said, slowly edging forward to the boy as he spoke. He had NO idea what he was doing, and was eternally grateful for his skull mask, which seemed to hide his fear from the child. The boy still seemed to still be afraid, but was ever so slowly lowering his hands again.
What to do now? Cubone didn't know, and Trevor wasn't saying anything. Cubone let his instincts take over and just improvised as best he could. "What's your sister's name?" he found himself asking, still slowly walking forward.
The boy blinked, then turned toward her. "Ava..." he finally said. "And I'm Aiden..." He looked up and seemed surprised that to see the skull mask next to him. He might have jerked away and tried to run in that moment, had Cubone not gently placed a hand on him.
Transfixed, the boy looked at the mitt-like hand of Cubone. He seemed to take into account the clawed thumb, the size, the soft, slightly rough texture of it. He looked back up and at Cubone's eyes, seeming to be suddenly calmed by him.
"Everything will be okay," Cubone said, "I promise. But we need to get you out of here, okay?"
"So... you're not a bad guy? Even though you wear a skull on your head?" the boy asked.
Cubone blinked, then blushed. No WONDER the kid was so scared. In this darkened, overturned truck, about the only thing visible on Cubone was his skull mask.
"No," said Cubone, "I'm one of the good guys. But let's get going now, okay?"
"What ARE you?" the boy asked. But even as he did so, he was moving off of his sister.
"I'm a cubone," he found himself answering, even as he checked on the girl. She was thankfully still breathing, albeit fitfully. Before he realized he had done so, he found himself calling out, "TREVOR, I CAN'T CARRY HER WITHOUT HURTING HER! CAN YOU HELP?"
From outside, he heard massive footsteps. Then he all at once winced at his stupid move. If the boy had been scared by a tiny skull-faced Pokeuman, how would he react to a massive hulking brute like a rhydon? Cubone immediately felt that he was completely and utterly not cut out for rescuing when Trevor appeared at the entrance, relieving the boy's fears at once.
Looking back to the door, Cubone saw with infinite relief that Trevor had donned his ring again, and appeared as totally human to the child. He looked at the boy. "Can you walk?" he said with the same simplicity and deep compassion Cubone knew in the man so well.
The boy nodded.
"Then, take Cubone's hand and follow him. He'll take you to safety." And Trevor gave a little smile that seemed to melt the boy's heart.
The boy reached out, then gasped, pulling his hand back. Cubone cringed, wondering what ELSE he'd done wrong, but when he turned to the child, he saw that it wasn't CUBONE he was afraid of. The little boy was looking at his own hands, which were giving off sparks against his will. "N-no... I can't touch him... I'll..."
"You won't hurt him," Trevor said, already carrying the girl out, "I promise. You physically CAN'T hurt him like that. Now come along."
This time the boy did as Trevor asked, taking Cubone's hand and carefully making his way out into the nearly blinding late-morning light. Cubone guided the child out of the Pokextinction van and across the crater toward their own van. The boy let out a little gasp of alarm, but Cubone waved a hand in front of him and shook his head, letting go of the boy's hand and opening the side cargo door to reveal that this was a simple passenger van with three rows of seats and not the same dark and evil vehicle their enemies had used.
Hesitantly, the boy crawled into the far back seat, next to his sister, who was placed in a sitting position and leaning on his shoulder. They were INDEED very clearly twins. Cubone could see the incredibly pale skin on their bodies, which seemed that they would normally be full of color had it not been for this experience. Their same lips and nose as one another, and the exact same blonde hair, the hue of deep, rich caramel.
At first they seemed completely and fully human to Cubone, and he wondered how they could have alerted Pokextinction. Then he remembered the boy's fears of hurting Cubone and looked down at their hands. On his hands he saw a hint of a pretty, red fur beginning to line his fingers. And suddenly everything was made clear. Man... were they EVER twins! What a strange twist of fate that the two of them would be so irreversibly entwined that they-
"Front seat, Cubone. Humanize," Trevor said, and Cubone obeyed, surprising the boy by changing into his human guise, which in spite of having around 5 years on the twins, was not much larger than either of them. He looked apologetically back at the boy, who seemed neither scared nor offended, thankfully.
As Trevor entered the driver's door he asked, "Did you see both of their tells, Cubone? If so, what are they?"
Cubone wanted to divert the subject, not being quite sure what Trevor meant by a "tell," but he just couldn't bear to ask that sort of question and look confused in front of the boy, who was watching closely.
But suddenly the meaning clicked in his head, and he chided himself for missing the obvious. "Their hands; both of them. He's a..." Cubone turned and smiled his best reassurance to the boy before continuing. "Aiden is a plusle, and his sister is a minun."
Trevor smiled too as he started the car. Then he, too, turned to the twins. "You two are very special and truly blessed. You belong to each other."
"I know," the boy said simply. He didn't seem to know what they meant by what he was, but he already seemed to take his relationship to his sister as a matter of fact that didn't need restating. His sister was beginning to come around as Trevor put the car in gear.
"What about the Pokextinction van driver?" Cubone asked, surprising himself.
"Doesn't matter," Trevor said. "There will always be more of them."
Cubone found himself opening the passenger door, just as Trevor was about to pull out.
Trevor cried out in alarm as Cubone leapt out of the van. "CUBONE! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?"
"The van is too dangerous!" Cubone called back, "If someone comes around the corner, they'll hit it!"
"Cubone, he DOESN'T MATTER! We have to save the kids!" Trevor was utterly stunned.
"Then YOU go!" Cubone frantically called as he ran to the overturned vehicle, "I... I'm going to save him!"
"He's the ENEMY! He'll try to kill you!" Trevor called back, stepping out of the car.
Cubone didn't listen. Still in human form, he leapt onto the passenger side of the van and saw the driver, knocked unconscious, his head bleeding from the crash, or perhaps the impact of his Bonemerang into the windshield.
The door of the passenger side was locked and the window was closed. Feeling around in his mind, he materialized the bone club and shattered the window after two smashes.
The driver groaned and looked up at Cubone, who looked down at the man, his bone club again invisible. Cubone reached out his hand for the driver, but the driver recoiled away, reaching for his gun.
"Wild monster..." he gargled before coughing up phlegm and what appeared to be a little bit of blood, "Inferior, feral, runaway, slave creature..."
"Grab my hand," Cubone said. In his mind, unbidden, thoughts of his mother's death flashed through his mind. He didn't know why, but...
"You," he said, pulling his hand back. "You... were the one that killed her. It was you..."
The man coughed up again, and this time it was distinctly blood. He showed not the slightest hint of guilt or pride at Cubone's statement. In his eyes, Cubone could only see fear and contempt, as if the man were staring at a hopelessly disgusting, wild, feral creature. One frothing at the mouth; utterly pitiable if it weren't so disgusting to see.
And it was the one that had shot his mother with the final shot. Cubone knew it. The scene of his mother's death was etched in his memory for good.
He killed her. He was a murderer. He deserved to die. Cubone hated him. He hated the man that took his mother from him.
Cubone found himself materializing the bone club again, his human-looking hand clenched tightly to it. But then... another seemingly random image popped into his head. That of his best friend Jason, sitting in the cell he'd been placed in and saying that he wanted nothing more than to sit in math class with Cubone again.
He's the enemy. He killed her.
"No," Cubone whispered to himself. And the club vanished again.
He's not the enemy. He's a victim, just like me.
Cubone reached his hand out again. "I won't hurt you," he said. "I'm here to help... Please... take my hand."
His eyes locked on the driver's. At first only murderous, fearful disgust could be read on the Pokextinctionist's face. Pure hatred. Pure loathing.
Fear. Cowardice. Revulsion.
The man's finger loosened on his gun, worthless though his hand seemed at the time. Though he looked at Cubone as if he were nothing but animal excrement, the gun dropped from his hand.
"Why...?" he asked.
"Because you deserve it. Let me help you," Cubone answered quietly.
His mind kept flashing through the moment of his mother's death. It was as if the moment was being rammed down his throat. Cubone could hardly breath through the rage that seemed to arise out of nowhere. A sense of malevolence that wanted him to smite this evil, horrible person from...
Cubone reached again for the man's hand. He was a victim, not the enemy. Why did that word appear to him now? Why did it seem to push those feelings of hatred back away from him and make him feel like himself again? Cubone felt calm, compassionate, the way he truly was deep in his core. And hearing his mother's word amplified it like a loudspeaker, driving away the foreign thoughts of hatred and revenge from his mind like a gust of wind blowing away and obscuring fog.
Suddenly, when they locked eyes one last time, they finally saw each other totally clearly. Tears rose to the driver's face, and he tentatively reached out his hand. He mouthed a single word, now unable to speak.
Why wasn't Cubone getting angry? Why wasn't he taking his revenge? This should be working! Listen to me, Cubone! He's the ENEMY! He killed your mother! KILL him! KILL HIM! KILL HIM!!!
Cubone clasped the man's hand, only vaguely aware of the angry, hateful, HORRIBLE voice pounding in the back of his mind like a kettle drum.
He was about to pull the driver out when suddenly a large, heavy bone club slammed through the broken windshield, smashing into the driver and sending Cubone flying off of the car and onto his back.
Cubone looked up in shock, CERTAIN that he hadn't called upon the bone club. Certain, in fact, on some instinctive level, that it wasn't his OWN bone club at all, nor was it the Thick Club he'd received.
Cubone got to his knees. Trevor was standing outside of the van, looking at the top of the hill in astonishment. Cubone followed his gaze and his whole body ran cold.
A marowak stood there, staring at Cubone with a sort of twisted love in her dark, blue eyes. She held her hand up without removing her gaze from the boy and the club flew back into it. After a moment more, she bounded off again, immediately out of sight and into the shadows of the trees.
"Trevor... was that..." Cubone began.
"No, it most certainly was not your mother," Trevor said with a tone absolute conviction in his voice. "We'll find out who it was later! We need to get going."
Cubone looked doubtfully at the van and saw that it was now too late to save the driver. Tears leaking from his eyes, he ran to the van and entered it.
Trevor was absolutely right. It was NOT his mother. He could tell at a glance that the marowak wasn't the person that had raised him from birth. How could it have been? But... then again... if it wasn't her, who WAS it?
"Let's get these two to safety, Cubone," Trevor said, "Then you and I will need to have a talk."
Cubone nodded, not saying a word. He suddenly felt the hatred cloud melt away as if it were never there to begin with. He even tried to call back the hatred and feel contempt or victory at the death of his mother's killer, but nothing came.
As Cubone and Trevor made their way to the Denver Pokeuman base, Cubone felt nothing but an overwhelming sense of loss and dread.