When I’d first met Loki he’d been a slender man with silver-white hair and a pinched, fox-like face. Now, a handful-or-so of drained Mews later, and he had changed – and not for the better. He still had the fox-like face and piercing blue eyes – although his pupils now blazed with his dominant element, fire – but his body – or at least the visible bits, and there were quite a few of those, given he wore nothing but the towel wrapped around his waist – was entirely devoid of hair. No eyebrows, no stubble, no chest hair. His skin held a faintly greenish-tint, probably chlorophyll inherited from the rainforest Mew. Fiery, feathery wings wrapped his shoulders like a cloak.
“Ah,” he said, as those alien eyes focused on me. “I see my sleeping beauty has finally woken. Took you long enough. And I see you’ve met young Evangeline. I’m very proud of her.”
His smile was still as wickedly charming as ever. Eva beamed back. For all that she wanted to escape, she clearly had a fondness for her evil, vindictive and malevolent father. This could put a dampener on our relationship.
If only I had something to throw at him. “I can understand why,” I replied, as calmly as I could manage (although I am afraid to say, there was a certain edge to it, my body might be crippled, but my tongue still had its barbs). “She’s kind, considerate, and displays a level of empathy which she certainly didn’t inherit from her father.”
Eva looked faintly shocked, which made me really wonder what Loki had told her about our relationship. Did she not, perhaps, realise that we were bitter enemies? That from the first moment we’d met he’d tried to first, steal my Maki, then, on numerous occasions, to kill me? Until, finally, he took it upon himself to harness elemental powers (stealing it from the seven Mews) and transform himself into a being of ultimate power? And that’s not even mentioning his experimentation with the shadow stones, warped stones that tore the Pokemon’s soul from its body and casting it into a terrible half-life?
Yep, you’ve probably noticed, I’m pretty good at bearing grudges and feel a tad bitter about things.
Loki merely shrugged it away, regarding me with his head cocked to one side. “Like mother, like daughter then?” he queried. “Thank Arceus she didn’t inherit your tongue. But I suppose that’s all you’ve got left now, isn’t it? I mean, look at you?”
I hugged the bathrobe tight about me, as though that might somehow protect me from the scorn in his penetrating eyes. “You did this to me,” I replied.
He stepped closer, and I shrunk away from his hand, but all I had to throw was one of the cushions – well, they do call them ‘throw’ cushions, right? He caught it, his reflexes lightning quick before stepping forward and grabbing my wrist with his hand. Squeezing so I could feel the bones grinding together. “I did, didn’t I? All it took was a daily infusion of sleeping dust in your drip. But alas, sleeping dust has become rather a scarce resource now. I drew it out as long as I could but, well, I suppose we all have to wake up to reality some time.” He snorted. “I always liked you, Kataryna. Oh, you frustrated me endlessly, interrupting my plans and sticking your nose into places where it really should have got chopped off, but I admired your determination, your stubborn desire to never give up, even when it would have been better for you in the long run.” He turned his attention to Eva, who had been watching the display in wide-eyed fascination. She’d probably never seen this side of her precious papa. “Evangeline,” he suggested, his tone sickeningly sweet, “it’s time to do your chores, sweetie. Take Ampharos with you, he’ll need to charge the sun stone.”
Eva gave me a faintly startled look, and I really, really didn’t want to be left alone with Loki. He’d already, obviously, violated me once, and the thought that he might do it again – and this time I wouldn’t be asleep – made me shiver. And when I say shiver, I’m not talking that chill you get down your back when you’re a wee bit cold – I’m talking about the involuntary, incessant shivering that comes when your adrenaline has peaked, warning you to ‘run, run, run’ but you cannot. I was shivering so hard that my teeth rattled.
“Go Evangeline.” Loki’s words were cold and hard, and Eva must have been at least a little afraid of her father, because she cast me a pleadingly look, almost begging my forgiveness, grabbed Ampharos by the hand, and departed.
Loki waited until the curtain fell behind her. Then he folded himself elegantly into the couch beside me. I crawled into the corner as far from him as possible and pondered trying to run, but my limbs felt so brittle that I was afraid I might fall and break something, putting myself entirely at his wicked mercy. Instead I tried to hermit myself into the dressing gown, like a shuckle retreating into its shell.
“MY daughter,” he said, emphasising the “my”. “Has been brought up with everything she needs and is happy here. Now that you are awake, you may wish to enforce your negative attitude upon her. Don’t. I brought you here because I had a use for you. That purpose has now been fulfilled, and I kept you alive out of compassion and asleep because once you were awake I knew you’d prove to be endlessly frustrating.” He reached over for the remote and flicked a few buttons, then a few more. Ash and his friends and their colourful adventures disappeared, replaced with a grainy image that jerked and blurred every other second. “Would you wish for her to be exposed to this?”
It was difficult to focus, as buried amongst static as it was, but I could make out a city in ruin, smoke and fire billowing forth from the skeletal remains of the broken buildings, tumbled like a child’s playthings into a shimmering, rippling pool.
“That is Cerulean City,” he replied. “And that, I think you will realise, is what happens when a peaceful seaside city is struck by several earthquakes – magnitude 8.4 and 8.1 respectively – followed by a 10m tsunami wave.” He pointed. “Look.” Between the buildings, some distance from the ocean, lay the carcass of a wailord, its ribs exposed to the sky and being picked at by… murkrow? Dark avian shapes that I could not quite discern as they blinked and blurred in and out of focus. “Seven kilometers inland,” Loki grinned, proud at his gruesome achievement. “Of the 240, 000 people that lived there, only 326 survived.”
I gaped at him. “You destroyed it?” He was lying. He had to be lying! I’d been to Cerulean City. It was beautiful, with its water parks and fountains. Now, almost everyone… dead. “Why?”
“Oh dear Kataryna,” Loki replied, running his fingers down my cheek, tracing trails of fiery heat. I slapped them away. “You’ve been away a long time. The world, well, it’s changed, I think you’ll see.”
“But… why?” My shivering was now so bad that I had to struggle to get out the words. “Why destroy a city?”
“Why not?” Loki leaned back and crossed one foot across his thigh. This is not, I should point out, something that any respectful member of society should do whilst clad only in a towel. “Because I can? To make a point? All valid reasons, so take your pick.”
“None of those are valid.” I clenched my teeth to stop them chattering. Oh my god. Cerulean destroyed… Where else had Loki destroyed? Loki flicked the switch again. A mountain, or what had once been a mountain, now crumpled in on itself, slopes burning with bubbling magma.
“Alola,” he said. “A series of islands created by volcanoes, that brought land forth from the sea. And what the fire brings, the fire can take away. Population, prior, 1 million. Now, a mere 457. Ain’t population control grand?”
Another flick, and a new image appeared, this one mainly churning ocean studded with a few black rocks. “The Orange Islands. Gone!” He laughed. “I melted the ice caps, and threw in a tsunami for good measure. What fun. Now only the mountains remain above water.” He sighed. “Unfortunately, most of the islands were unoccupied.”
My heart, almost stilled from panic exhaustion, gave a frantic kick. There was one special island amongst the archipelago, an island of freed Pokemon, ex-captives unable to fully release their domesticity. They were watched over by one of the most legendary Pokemon of all, Mewtwo, and several of my friends – including the drained Mews – had been offered sanctuary there. What had become of them? The island had featured a tall mountain; I could only hope that they had sought sanctuary up its slopes.
Again and again the image flicked, and Loki repeated his tales of massive natural disasters, vast numbers of casualties. “Why?” I kept asking. “Why would you destroy everything?”
Finally, Loki ceased flicking and, with one hand, twisted my eyes to meet his. I fought to look away, but his grip was powerful, infused with the energy of almost all the Mews. “Because they wouldn’t take me seriously,” he said. “I offered them the choice: surrender to me, worship me, but they just laughed in my face.”
“Who did you offer?”
“All of them: presidents, prime ministers, even dictators. No-one would believe me. Not even when I sent earthquakes and tsunamis and hurricanes to prove to them that I had the power! Oh, some of them fought back. Some president fired a nuke, but I blew it away, and it destroyed most of Liechtenstein instead. Oops. That caused a bit of conflict, upped the political-ante, you might say. Then they were too busy bickering amongst themselves to pay attention to me.”
“If you’ve destroyed the world,” I said, my voice growing increasingly frantic, even as I sought for calm – I didn’t want to antagonise someone who could, literally, flatten cities. “Where the hell are we now?”
“Oh,” he said with a shrug, “Aotearoa.”
“Where?” I thought back to what felt like only a few weeks ago, when we’d been pouring through maps to try and track down the Mew sisters. “Isn’t that near Tasmania?”
“Correct,” he said, rather flippantly. “Tasmania’s gone. Ground zero, more-or-less. But Aotearoa, a forgotten, abandoned island in the South Pacific.”
“Isn’t it occupied? And two islands?”
“More than that actually,” Loki grinned, exposing his sharp canines. “Historically, in any case. Now? Not so much. Had a couple of advantages over the other islands – no wild Pokemon, for a start, just some ferals released by unscrupulous traders. And as for the occupied bit? Well, it is on the ring of fire.”
“Quite. Tore the southern island in half with an earthquake, erupted a couple of volcanoes in the north, and their government declared a national evacuation. Not sure what happened. Australia wouldn’t take them, they had enough problems of their own, what with all the fire storms and hurricanes. Probably still floating about in their cruise ships, but good luck to them with finding an inhabitable island in the South Pacific. Well, there’s always Antarctica. It’s warming up nicely now I’ve melted away the ice.” He stroked his chin. “Now where was I, before I digressed? Oh yes. Anyway, they abandoned their islands – or what was left of them – and I moved in with my daughter to raise her in peace and relative harmony.”
Something over his shoulder caught my eye, a quick flick of an image on the television. A group of people, standing on a pile of rubble, digging with spades and their hands. Amongst them was a houndoom. And beside it, a figure with long dark hair and wearing a long trench coat. My heart lurched. Kameron? Lucifer? Could it be? Lucifer had been a tiny houndour pup last time I’d seen him, with big feet that it was likely he’d grown into. I tried not to show too much reaction – I didn’t want Loki to look too hard, to maybe recognise them too. “Where is this?” I asked, trying to sound shaken.
He laughed. “Your old town. Siryntown! Didn’t you recognise it? That was the college. I must confess, I paid it special attention. Of course, this was filmed oh, six years ago now. My time does fly when one is having fun.”
I cringed and shuddered. Six years…that was a long time when the world was falling apart. Still, Kameron, if it were indeed him (and I really shouldn’t let my hopes get too high), had survived the original onslaught; there was a good chance he was still alive now. I sought the other figures, seeking recognition: Rowan, Doctor Francis? But the closest I got was a glimpse of a beautiful ninetales that could, plausibly, be Rowan’s Mercury. But what did it matter? Six years… A lot could have changed.
“Oh dear.” Loki faked sympathy, patting me on the shoulder. “I’m afraid I’ve given you rather a lot to deal with. I hope you’re not feeling too overwhelmed.”
My stomach felt like a hollow pit – and not just because I was half starved – my pulse and heart raced like a rapidash, and the dread rested heavily in me, bringing with it a hearty dose of nausea.
“What happens now?” I ventured. “What are you going to do to me?”
Loki studied me, flames flickered in his pupils, a sharp contrast to the vibrant blue of the iris. His forehead furrowed and his lips twisted into his characteristic mischievous grin. “Why, my dear, I think we might just have to fatten you up and get you back on your feet. But why? Well, that is not your business, not yet at any rate! Let’s just say, that there’s a rattata out there somewhere, and you’re my cheese.”
So, I was to be bait then… Still, at least that brought some hope – if he needed me for bait, then there was clearly someone out there that might actually take it. Not that I planned on waiting around for it. No, my plan was: Get healthy, get fit. Get out.