Curse of the Miasma

"Questions Lead Only to More"

A pair of natu sat next to each other on the only tree available in the vast field. The frail branch swayed under their weight, threatening to break after the next icy gust. Even still, they continued to rest there, their feathers fringed gold with the setting sun's glow. High above them a fearow circled and screeched, its mighty wings gliding like a paper airplane on the breeze. Elsewhere, a houndour could be heard greeting the rising moon.

Samantha continued to observe nature from the small window, while Brock continued to massage his head from his seat on the floor, next to the untouched plate of food. He woke up with a heavy headache an hour or so ago, and he and Samantha conversed about Toprika Village and... other things that greatly disappointed him, until both their minds drew a blank.

That's about when Derek, the Miasma member who had visited earlier, delivered their supper and something else. He gave Samantha a meaningful look as he handed her a small, folded up slip of paper. She gave him a questioning look, but his glare stopped her from speaking. She looked down at the paper and unraveled it. She read the cryptic message then closed her eyes slowly and nodded. He patted her shoulder sympathetically and then left the cell. Brock had watched the scene in silent uncertainty, still holding the supper plate of bread and water.

He glanced around the cell unsure whether or not he should ask her what just happened. She quietly made her way over to the window, placed her arms on the windowsill, and rested her chin on her arms. Deciding to break the silence, Brock cleared his throat and asked her if she was all right. She had turned her head slightly away from him and said it didn't concern him and there was no need to worry.

'You didn't answer my question.' He said softly, instantly regretting it. She looked at him with tearful eyes and declared in a spiteful tone that the matter did not concern him. She had looked at him a moment longer as if ordering that no more questions be asked, then turned her gaze back out the window. Hurt, Brock turned his back to her and sat on the floor, then set the plate of food next to him and began to massage his throbbing head.

They've been like this for almost fifteen minutes now.

Samantha watched as the two natu began to chirp loudly at each other, eventually causing such a ruckus that another natu came up and sat next to them, causing the branch to break. All three then flew off into the distance, the two still bickering.

She sighed.

"I'm going to be leaving soon." She said suddenly, still looking out the window. "I won't be coming back."

Brock glanced over his shoulder at her, but didn't say anything.

"I don't know how long you'll be in here, but they'll take care of you. The food's not too bad, just a little stale. If it's green, don't eat it. They put a special season in the green stuff when they need to... um, free up more cells if you know what I mean. And with their lack of space and growing number of prisoners, I got a feeling they'll be serving more green stuff than they usually do. So if they give you any, don't eat it, alright?"

"I take it you've encountered Miasma before?"

"Yeah, I have. Many times actually." She chuckled grimly. "I've been here so often, it's almost like a second home."

"Wait... you know where we are?" Brock turned to face her.

"Well, not this exact hideout. Miasma has hundreds of them all over the country. And since I've been all over the country, I've had the displeasure of staying at many of them.

"And you escaped every time?"

"Yup. Sometimes I had help, though. But I doubt he's still here."

"He? You mean, someone on the inside?" Brock whispered. Samantha brushed a hand past her eyes then turned to face him. She nodded.

"Said he didn't like what the Boss was up to. That it wouldn't work like he wanted." She said in a low voice. Seeing the questioning looks on Brock's face, she continued. "I don't know what he meant, but whatever it is, my family was somehow involved." She took a deep breath. "I don't know anything past that."

A silence fell between them.

"But If you ever get the chance to escape, take it, and never look back."

Brock looked up at her, but she was looking at the door, her eyes narrowing.

"See ya."

Brock opened his mouth to speak, but paused as the door suddenly swung open. A huge beast-of-a-man stood in the doorway, his features shadowed from the amount of light behind him and the lack of it in front of him. Brock looked up at him in surprise, then glanced over at Samantha. She had her arms crossed in front of her and glared dully at the large man, as if she knew that he would be coming.

"Well if it isn't Lard Boy himself. Took you long enough. Whad'ya do, stop at McDonalds first?"
"Listen missy, don't you be givin' me attitude or you'll be singin' a different tune." He threatened, his hand hovering over a crowbar tied to his side.
"Puh-lease, Lardy. You can't hurt me and you know it."
"I'd be damned if I didn't do it, you little wretch."
"Oh, stop your crying. Now move it, I have an appointment."

Victor grumbled angrily to himself as he stepped out of the doorway, allowing room for Samantha to get through. Brock stood up and began to follow her, but Victor shook his head at him and closed the door.

{: | :}

The woman in uniform glanced at her notes again before looking at Ash and Misty, who sat across from her at the small table in the kitchen. The bags of groceries had been placed on the floor to make room on the table, although it didn't really matter. Most of the food had spoiled by now anyway. Although there was a bag of Doritos near the surface that had caught Ash's eye...

"So neither of you saw the attacker?"
"No Ma'am."
"And neither of you saw the vehicle that they got away in?"

After some thought Misty shook her head, but Ash's stomach answered for him. Sighing, Officer Jaime leaned over to grab the Doritos and handed it to Ash.

"I'm really sorry, I haven't eaten all day." Ash said sheepishly before tearing into the bag of chips.

"Yeah, same here. But I don't understand... from what you've told me, it sounds like the attacker had been waiting while you were in the house, then kidnapped your friend and Samantha and then left in a vehicle, but neither of you saw their vehicle when you came?"

"No, there were no cars or anything in the driveway." Misty said.

Ash looked up.

"But... if there was no car, how did Samantha go shopping?"

They all glanced down at the bags of groceries around them.

"Good question." Officer Jaime said and wrote in her notebook.

Misty was about to show the officer Samantha's driver's license that she had found earlier, but a shiver down her spine stopped her. Misty looked warily to the left and right, getting the strangest feeling... as if she were being watched. She finally turned around and standing behind her was a rather large dragonair.

"Whoa!" Misty exclaimed, jumping out of her seat. Ash and Officer Jaime also stood up to look at the dragonair, who continued to glare at Misty. "Uh, nice dragonair..." She whispered, slowly stepping backwards. Ash pulled out his pokédex, but the dragonair glared at it quickly before returning it's angry glare at Misty.

"I wonder where that dragonair came from?" Ash asked and waited for Dexter to give some information. But it never gave any.

"What the? Hey, what happened?" Ash looked down in confusion at his non-responsive gadget. "We've seen a dragonair before, so why isn't it working?"

"Did the batteries die?" Misty asked. Ash looked up at her.
"It uses batteries?"

Misty stared at him for a few moments before muttering 'never mind' and returned her focus to the dragonair that was trying to turn her to stone with its glare. But when she looked back, the dragonair wasn't there. They all looked around, but the dragonair was gone.

"...What was that about?" Misty wondered, turning toward Ash and the officer.

Ash shrugged and looked back at his pokédex, which surprisingly enough, was working again. He punched in the code for Dragonair but strangely, the entry could not be found, as if it had been erased. "Weird" He said to himself before putting it away.

"Do you know where that dragonair came from?" Misty asked Officer Jaime. She pondered it for a moment, then shook her head.
"No, but I bet Jenny would. Right after the tragedy, Jenny stayed here for a few years to take care of Samantha and help with the ranch."
"Tragedy?" Ash asked. Officer Jaime nodded.
"Maybe 4, 5 years ago, Samantha's father was murdered. Terrible day that was, one of the worst gang-related shooting accidents this city's ever seen. Or, at least that's what the newspapers reported."

"It wasn't an accident?" Misty asked quietly.

"Not even close. It was thought that whoever took out her father would also be after her, but when the city's best cop is staying at her house, you could imagine it would be hard for them to find a good shot."

"But... who are 'they' and why would they be after Samantha and her family?"

"I..." Officer Jaime looked up to catch the stern glance of another officer in the kitchen doorway. "...uh, don't know. But I guess that'll wrap up this interview. If I think of any more questions to ask you, I'll let you know. Thanks for cooperating."

And with that she picked up her notebook and followed the other officer out of the kitchen.

"But - hey! Wait!" Ash and Misty called after her, but it was no use. They looked at each other and sighed. "Guess we won't be getting any answers from her."

{: | :}

Officer Jenny parked in front of the Pokémon Center and jumped out, carrying Sandslash and Meowth in her arms. She rammed through the doors and carefully laid the two on the front counter, when Nurse Joy came running in from the back room.

"What the-- Oh, hello Officer Jenny! What are you doing here?"

Jenny unraveled the two pokémon from the bloodstained blankets, and Joy gasped.

"Oh! The poor things! Where did you find them?"
"Upstairs at Luna Ranch."

Joy looked at Jenny confused.

"They found Samantha." Jenny said gravely.
"Well that sure is strange. I can't imagine why Samantha's own pokémon would turn on her--"
"No! Miasma found Samantha. I'm sure of it. From what I've gathered, these two were just trying to protect her."

Joy nodded and walked to the front doors to lock them. Two chanseys came into the room with stretchers, and took the injured pokémon to the back.

"But how did they find her? Samantha was always so cautious."
"I know, but it was bound to happen. Those snakes find their way into everything."
"Do you know where she is?"
"No, not yet. Some kids reported that she and their friend went missing this morning."
"Yeah. Miasma has to be the cause. The Station has been getting reports all week of burglaries using a strange, paralyzing white powder."
"Yep. And only one gang knows that formula."
"Now that you mention it, the Center has been getting lots of pokémon that have been injured beyond repair, and the only type that hasn't been in here, are dragons."
"The only element that can resist M93."
"You're right. It has to be Miasma. But what do we do? Where do we begin? How do we find Samantha?"
"I'm not sure. But I'll find a way, I have to."

{: | :}

Loud footsteps echoed down the long hallway, despite the carpet lining. These footsteps, pounding themselves angrily into the ground, made their way to the large double doors at the end. A secretary-like woman came up to the enraged man, saying how he couldn't see 'him' right now, but he continued down the hallway. Finally reaching the doors, he pushed them open as hard as he could and stormed into the dimly lit office, glaring at the man who sat behind the desk.

"What the HELL do you think you're doing?" He shouted at the man. The doors slammed shut behind him, emphasizing his anger. The man behind the desk chuckled to himself and lightly smiled at the younger man before him.

"I thought you would stop by. No need for a temper, though."

"Answer me, damn it! You have no right to take her! If you hurt her, I swear I'll..."

The man behind the desk dropped his smile and folded his hands beneath his chin.

"You'll what? You know nothing of which you are speaking of. And you will address me as 'Sir' just like everyone else. Don't think you can get away with speaking to me like that."

The young man closed his eyes and took a deep breath then opened them again.

"Why did you take her, Sir?" He said through gritted teeth. The older man nodded.

"Much better. She was taken captive because she is needed for some very important plans of mine. Nothing personal, kid. Now go, you've got duties to tend to."

The young man continued to stare at him bewildered. The Boss sighed and hovered his finger above a red button. "Don't make me call security." He said. The young man glared at him a moment longer before turning around and walking back towards the doors. He put his hand on one of the handles and stopped.

"This isn't over."

With that said he opened the door and left the office. The Boss swiveled around in his chair and rested his hands behind his head. "I knew he wouldn't take it easily. I better call in more security for her. Wouldn't want him to pull anything funny. I can't afford to lose her again."

{: | :}

Holding her arm firmly, Victor led Samantha down one of the many hallways in the elusively large building. Fluorescent lights glowed from the low ceiling and each conjunction just lead to more hallways and more doors. The doors were made of a dark wood, while the walls were a creamy-white cement color; although some of it was chipped off in a couple places, revealing a darker gray color. A few of the doors they passed had candles on the walls next to them, some of them orange, yellow, or red. Victor and Samantha walked through a door with yellow candles near it.

"I'm not going to see the Boss tonight, am I." Samantha asked, looking up at Victor. His dark-gray eyes glanced down at her but he remained silent. "Because if I was, I bet those candles would have been blue."

"Well aren't you the little psychic." Victor muttered. They turned down another corner, where a few more members waited. "More security, eh?" Victor asked them when they reached them. The three members nodded.

"Boss wants to make sure she doesn't get away this time. So she's going to a different room. Follow us." One of the larger members said. Samantha looked at him curiously. '...I've seen him before, I know it.' She thought.

The three members led Samantha and Victor through more doors and winding hallways until they came upon a narrow staircase and stopped.

"You'll be staying in the room at the top. Go on, get." Said the same member from earlier. Samantha nodded her head and made her way up the stairs. At the very top was a door. She glanced back down at the members again before entering.

The room was circular. On one side there was a little table that held a familiar-looking hairbrush and lipgloss, and on the other side was a small mattress with a folded blanket and a note on top. There was a window between the mattress and the table, with four thick metal bars inside the frame. Across from the window was another door, which led to a very tiny bathroom, with a toilet and a sink. Samantha walked over to the mattress and picked up the note.

Hope you find it comfortable here. There are some clothes under the blanket. You'll meet the Boss in the morning. Don't show up looking like you crawled out of a car accident, you hear?
- Ryan

'Ryan...? Ah ha! I knew he looked familiar! I can't believe they kept him around!' Samantha thought. She took another good look around the room before picking up the blanket. Under it was her favorite pair of jeans and a black shirt, along with other necessities, just like the note promised.

"I can't believe they raided my room. How, uh, considerate. But why the special treatment...?" Samantha shook her head and looked out the window. The stars twinkled lightly in the icy night air. But from the window's position, she couldn't see Toprika Village or any significant landmarks. Just miles and miles of empty fields.

* * * * *

Written by Jade Smith
Originally July 2000/March 2001; rewritten August 2003