Chapter 1: Escape
Some would say that "barren" and "Orre" were the same thing.
It would only take any newcomer a brief view of the landscape to see why. The desert region sprawled for miles, seemingly without end, with little to no life in sight. The sun blazed down mercilessly on the copper sands as the winds whistled aimlessly across them. The only sign of life was the occasional tumbleweed that rolled lazily on by.
There was one thing that disrupted the flat expanse: a series of cliffs, tucked away from the sands, which formed a narrow canyon. At this canyon's mouth sat a large building - or, at least, something that almost qualified as one. The structure, though massive, almost looked more like a pile of poorly assembled pipes and scrap metal than an actual building. Like its surroundings, this, too, was a quiet and still place, with only the howling canyon winds to break the silence.
It wouldn't be quiet for long.
An earth-rending explosion shattered the stillness as flames burst from a section of the dilapidated building. The scene suddenly sprung to life with shouts and screams as people in dark uniforms emerged from the destruction, darting back and forth in panic and confusion. Among the chaos, no one seemed to notice one person in particular dashing from the building, with two Pokemon sprinting at his side.
"Go, go, GO!" the young man shouted at his companions as he ran straight for a massive hunk of metal that vaguely resembled a motorcycle. He sprang nimbly onto the seat and glanced into the sidecar to where his two partners should have closely followed. But instead of two, there was only one, his Umbreon, watching him tensely for further commands.
He glanced over his shoulder and found his Espeon a few yards away, yipping loudly at the people fleeing the burning building, tail waving triumphantly in the air. He didn't speak Pokemon, but the young runaway figured if he did, he would be hearing a choice selection of colorful insults.
"Neo, you idiot-"
"Espi-esp, esp, esp! Es-SPI!?" The Espeon's barks cut short in a yip of surprise as his Trainer hauled him off off his feet and shoved him under one arm. He sprinted back to the motorcycle and dumped the creature rather unceremoniously into the sidecar next to his brother, ignoring the Pokémon's cries of indignation.
"LEO! I'LL KILL YOU, BOY!"
A terrifying roar of rage sounded from behind the trio, and the Trainer turned his head to see his least favorite person in the world: a massive, hulking man with no hair (though he made up for that with impressive eyebrows and facial hair), charging straight toward them, his face red and contorted with unfathomable fury. A cluster of his employees streamed after him, their shouts and cries adding to the chaos.
Anger and bitter satisfaction alike swelled inside his chest. He faced his now-former boss with a growl.
"If you're going to threaten me," he said, "call me by my real name." He sneered. "It's Wes, by the way. In case you forgot."
The man roared again, this time too incensed to form any words. He barreled toward the Trainer and his Pokémon with a murderous expression.
It was time to go.
The motorcycle engine started with a roar, and in one smooth motion, the young man swept astride the motorcycle. He raised his left arm high above his head, sunlight glinting off a strange metal contraption that encased it. Holding a small remote in his hand, he looked his former boss dead in the eye, smirked, and pressed the button.
The second explosion was, if possible, even more impressive than the first, and nearly knocked every bystander off their feet. The giant man's screams of rage continued, but they were drowned out by a monstrous roar as the motorcycle kicked into gear. Its rider slammed on the gas and he and his Pokémon sped away, leaving the scene of wreckage behind in a cloud of dust.
The sun was sinking below the horizon and the temperatures had started to drop by the time their destination came into view: an old, rusty, seemingly abandoned train car. A wooden sign hung from a post near the door and was swinging lazily in the desert breeze. On its face, it read: OUTSKIRT STAND. The crusty thing had been converted into a diner, and though it wasn't much to look at, it was a place that Wes was familiar with. Most importantly, it was a place where they would be safe for the night.
The motorcycle puttered to a halt as its driver pulled up to the establishment. Dim lights shone through the train car windows as old Western music hummed from an outdoor speaker. Wes stood and stretched his limbs - speeding through the desert for hours did his joints no favors - as his Pokemon followed suit, leaping nimbly from the vehicle and stretching their lithe bodies.
"All right, who's hungry?" He pushed his mirrored goggles off his face and into his sandy-white hair, revealing a pair of golden colored eyes, and grinned at the two Eons. His Umbreon gave a yip of hearty affirmation. His Espeon, on the other hand, squinted at him, then sniffed airily and turned his head away from his Trainer.
A weary sigh escaped Wes' throat. He crouched down in front of his Espeon to be eye level with him despite the fact that the Pokémon was pointedly avoiding his gaze. "Neo. Is this about me manhandling you back there?"
The Pokemon, Neo, irritably flicked his tail in response.
Another sigh. "Look, I'm sorry. But there's a time and a place for gloating over a victory, and doing so while escaping from an exploding building is not it."
Neo flicked his ears back and looked at the ground, looking slightly abashed. "Esp." He then looked back up at his Trainer with a small glare. "Espi-esp!"
"I know, I shouldn't have been so rough. I'm sorry, bud, really. How can I make it up to you?" He glanced at the Outskirt Stand, then back at his Pokemon with a sly grin. "How about I get you a whole plate of bacon and we call it even. Truce?"
Neo's eyes grew wide and he leaped to his feet. "Es-PI!" He waved his tail excitedly in the air, all injuries to his pride forgotten.
"Bri!" There was a reproachful bark from the Umbreon.
Wes rolled his eyes, but was still grinning despite himself. "Fine, fine, bacon for everybody. Don't get used to it though, you hear? This is a one-time deal."
He wasn't sure if they heard the last line, as they were already bounding excitedly to the entrance of the train car. He snorted in exasperated amusement, then followed his companions into the warmth of the diner.
Muffled cries, the screams of Pokémon, a child sobbing quietly in a corner - images and sounds flickered and blurred together, one coming right after the other as if in a disorganized photo reel.
A flicker, and there was a dark room, in which a child was sobbing over the limp form of a Pokémon's body. He looked up, tear-stained face twisted with anger. "This is YOUR FAULT!" he screamed.
The scene dissolved into darkness, and a man's husky, menacing voice spoke in a snarl. "It's time you learned this lesson, boy."
Another shift, another dark room littered with Pokemon lying ominously still, and there was another voice, a kinder voice, accompanied with a sad, tired smile.
"Do good, kid."
He sat bolt upright with a gasp, drenched in sweat and shivering. Breathing heavily, he glanced around the room. It took a moment to remember where he was: Outskirt Stand. The diner cellar. Payment for a night's stay in the musty place, where he and his Pokemon would be hidden from prying eyes.
"Dammit-" He buried his face in his trembling hands. Again, he thought shakily. Again. When in Arceus' name will they stop?
He felt a gentle nudge at his arm, and raised his head to see his Umbreon looking up at him with wide, concerned eyes. "Umbri?" The markings on his coat glowed softly, gently illuminating the dark, dusty cellar.
He forced a feeble smile and placed a hand on the sleek black head. "I'm okay, Novo. Just some more bad dreams, is all." Beside him, Neo stirred and stretched out his legs before relaxing back into sleep with a gentle purr.
Novo, unconvinced, bunted into his arm again with his head. He placed a paw on his Trainer's lap, giving him a stern stare.
"I know it'll help, bud, but I've got to be able to sleep on my own sometime." Wes closed his eyes briefly. He was exhausted, and yet returning to sleep would undoubtedly mean more nightmares, more voices, more things he'd rather forget...he opened his eyes again and looked at his Umbreon. "All right...just one more night," he said wearily.
Novo purred in response and brushed his face against the Trainer's shoulder. The traveler laid back down in his sleeping bag and closed his eyes as his Umbreon touched his nose to his forehead and purred gently, using Hypnosis.
Just before drifting off to a dreamless sleep, he had one last coherent thought.
The sooner we leave this region, the better.