-Existence on a Leash-
The air in the medical wing was stale. Living underground takes a toll on the body, and though the Terror Base filtered in air from the outside, it could only help so much. Sunlight was also an issue, as the base would regularly try to 'air out' and many agents and operatives would find the fresh light bothersome. Alone in the medical wing, Vlad laid in a bed, IV's plugged into his arm and neck, two in his side. Sitting in a chair across from his bed was a tall Blaziken, reading some of the magazines from the waiting room. Groaning, Vlad felt a sharp intake of air hit his lungs, and he slowly began to stir.
"So, the princess is up?" Ruby spoke, the Blaziken eyeing Vlad as he moved under his covers. "Don't strain yourself, it'll tear out your IV's" Of course, feeling himself even slightly restrained, Vlad ripped the IV's out of him. Rolling her eyes, Ruby flipped a page in her magazine.
"Shit... w-where am I...?" Vlad groaned out, rubbing his face as he sat up in the bed.
"Hospital wing..." Ruby grunted, her face behind the magazine. Looking over himself, Vlad jolted, almost leaping out of the bed. His chest and arms were covered in deep gashes, but it looked like they'd all scabbed over. Not with blood and puss, but with a hard, black metal. Reaching down, he runs his hand along the large black metal scar. It was rough, like a stone. Knocking his knuckled against it, he couldn't feel any reverb from the hits. Tugging on the chunk, he couldn't remove it from his body. The rest of the chunks appeared to have been shaved down, the fur around it looking shaved. Looking up, Vlad quickly checked his crotch region, before pulling the covers back over himself.
"...you, you and your team stopped me..." Vlad said, an indifferent tone to his voice as he spoke to Ruby. Glancing over the magazine, the Blaziken shrugged.
"You're welcome, now stop staring at me with your one eye, it's creepy" Ruby replied, focusing on her magazine again. This caused Vlad some pause, and it took a moment to register that he had bandaging over one of his eyes. Of course, he didn't notice at first, as he still had depth perception. In fact, it felt like, and seemed, as if both his eyes were open. Even when he completely covered his bandaged eye with a hand, he could still see clearly through it. Lowering his hand, he looked around the room, sighing.
"...I couldn't kill him..." Vlad muttered out, covering his face with his hands, "I'm a failure... I let everyone down..." He couldn't hold himself back, he could feel tears swelling up in his eyes as his chest became heavy. All he had to do was walk over and kill Alpha. He was so close. Never again did he feel like he would get that close to finishing off that monster. Hearing Vlad's fussing, Ruby put down her magazine, stood up, and walked over to him.
With a hard smack to his face, she grabbed Vlad by the fur on his chest and lifted him up a bit out of the bed.
"You're crying over not killing someone?" Ruby asked, condemning him with no remorse, "I was told to be wary, that you and your kind were all just monsters with loose leashes... but I figured that was just on the outside..." Vlad looked away from Ruby, clenching his fists in anger.
"You, yeah, you... a monster through and through. All you care about is who you can kill next, who'll step in your way and how you can kill them"
"He deserves it!" Vlad snapped at Ruby.
"And what if I said you deserve it?" Ruby replied, dropping Vlad back onto the bed, "I'm no judge, and neither are you. You're just an executioner, deciding on who lives and dies, just because someone else pointed at them and ordered it" Turning her back to him, Ruby walked back to her seat as Vlad sunk into his bed. He was too weak to argue with her, and too stubborn to listen to what she said.
"...Sigma, right?" Ruby asked, looking back over at Vlad as she collected her stuff, "You're a tool, a subject of Terror's. No regard or understanding for life. All you lot are good for is killing, and you what people like you are called outside these walls?" Turning his eyes towards Ruby as she exited the medical wing, Ruby met his gaze for a moment.
"Trash. Worthless, pathetic, trash" With that said, she leaves the wing, slamming the door behind her. At a loss, Vlad simply laid back on his bed, looking up at the ceiling. His mind raced, trying to piece together everything that had happened. Meanwhile, his thoughts were invaded by Ruby's words, cutting into his brain like a sharp blade.
"...Trevor only asks for my help when something needs to die..." Vlad muttered to himself, looking at his hands in front of his face, "...what... what's my purpose Sam...? Why am I still here...?" Nothing made sense anymore, he'd never questioned the work he did for Terror. But now, none of that mattered. Delta's teachings and Sam's lessons all flooded back to him, coming in a wave of understand he'd never experienced before.
"Good morning there Sigma" a familiar voice rang out, and looking up, Vlad spotted Lord Trevor walking into the medical wing. Following behind him, a younger looking Zoroark walked into the wing, her shiny tint catching Vlad's eyes in an instant.
"Z-Zura!" Vlad cried out, about to stand up as he spotted Epsilon. However, she made no response, while Trevor stepped towards Vlad and pulled up a chair.
"Yes, yes, that's your little treat I brought you, for being such a good boy" Trevor chuckled, snapping. Confused, Vlad watched as Epsilon walked over to them, before plopping herself down in Vlad's lap. It was a dream, Vlad told himself. This was fake, it couldn't be real. But as his hands ran against Epsilon's fur, and as he pulled himself against her, the scent was impossible to mistake. It was her, alive, and in the flesh. She hugged him back, giggling a bit.
"I can't believe you're alive... Z-Zura..." Vlad said in a hushed tone, rubbing his cheek against her stomach. Giggling, Epsilon brushed his hair, holding him close.
"She's a bit different than the one you remember, still just as good though. Was hoping Sam wouldn't chop up the good model, but we'll make do" Trevor said in a joyful tone, causing Vlad to pause. Sniffing Epsilon's fur, Vlad pulled away from her, looking her over again.
"...t-the one I remember...?" Vlad muttered out, his horrified eyes locking onto the smile on Trevor's face.
"...we have much to discuss Vlad, now that you've given me the keys to the world..." Stand up, Trevor snapped again, causing Epsilon to move off of Vlad and sit across from him.
"Trevor, what are you, I don't follow" Vlad rubbed his head, hopping this was all just a fever dream.
"...I was born in Orre, during the years when a group called 'The Coalition' ran things..." Trevor paced as he spoke, Vlad's eyes locked on him as he walked back and forth, "These kind folk believed that a strong man in the sky was their master, and praised him. My parents, no, my family, believed a different strong man in the sky was their savior. Of course, those folk believed that there was no such thing as a 'savior'... so they killed anyone who they found out believed that"
Picking up the alarm clock by one of the beds, Trevor adjusts the time, before setting it back down.
"Around this time, a group called Cipher popped up... they had no faith but faith in their freedom. Of course, I joined them, and we fought for years for the freedom of Orre... then the I.P. waltz in, claim the region as their own, and decide Cipher was a terrorist group," Trevor spoke on, his voice having little emotion to it, though the cracks were clearly breaking through as he spoke, "So, being the smart boy I was... I joined them. But it came at a cost. They wanted me to show them how to make shadow pokemon"
Epsilon stood perfectly still, like a porcelain doll. As Trevor spoke, Vlad found himself peeking at her, hoping to see some sort of movement.
"...I was in charge of a pokemon named Adam, a Pikachu, and a native to Orre... one of those classic 'hero' types. Charming, nice, not a single bad bone in his body. Kid was going places, same for his apprentice," Trevor could see Vlad's ears perk up upon hearing 'apprentice', "...you might know him; Sam. Adam trained the boy since he was a kid... the I.P. told me to make them both shadow pokemon. Easy. The process was so much, cleaner back then. But, progress requires sacrifice"
Vlad began to stand up, trying to move, which caused Epsilon to immediately push him back against the bed. She sat across from him, smiling still.
"Of course, all good things must come to an end... the I.P. base I worked at was attacked. A strange colored Deoxys came, and started to destroy everything it saw. We ran, hell, I ran... Adam stood up to it through. Before you came along, I'd never seen anyone use the darkness like he did," Trevor glanced at Vlad, before continuing, "Adam won the battle, but died... he wasn't durable enough to handle the forces. With this, Sam ran off, becoming a mercenary... while I was left, in awe of Adam's power..."
"...what does this have to do with me?" Vlad asked, looking around the room.
"...The I.P. started Team Terror... they were scared of another creature like that Deoxys, coming down and obliterating a base like they did all those years ago. I, along with the other former admins, was put in charge of the projects we'd run. Our goal? Create another 'Adam'..." Trevor smirked, holding his arms out as though at the head of a presentation.
"F-Former admins...?" Vlad stuttered out.
"I ordered my agents to clean them up. Team Terror is now under my control, and my control alone. No I.P. to hold my tests back, no admins to question my methods... no one to keep us from progress," Trevor pulled up a chair, sitting at the end of Vlad's bed, "I run this show... now, why all this matters to you"
With a snap from Trevor, Epsilon reached out, grabbing the blankets over Vlad and yanking them off. Vlad, for a moment, was shocked, but only for just a moment.
"I tried so many tests... Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Rho, Phi, Upsilon, Delta... all failures, none of them could match Adam... then, I found you on that island. You came into my life, and like that, everything came together. Your darkness, the power you wield... i-it's terrifying!" Trevor seemed giddy, his voice setting off alarms in Vlad's head, "You grow stronger by the second, your darkness has so much more depth in it than anyone else... your DNA is unlike any I've seen, it's... it's as if you were born to be a subject. None of my clones could ever hold a candle to you!"
"...clones...?" Vlad said, his eyes shifting to Epsilon. Then, before Trevor said it, 'it' hit Vlad.
"I can tell by that look you know what I mean by 'clones'..." Reaching out, Trevor poked Epsilon's face, before flicking her nose with no response, "...it became clear early on that we'd never have enough, er, 'Volunteers'. So, I thought, 'Why not make more?'. More subjects I could pump the shadow serum into, and hope they came out just like Adam... of course, cloning is a bit touchy... that's why the other admins had to go" With another snap from Trevor, Epsilon stands up. She puts her hands on Vlad's cheeks, before kissing him on the lips. Vlad yanked himself away, shoving Epsilon away.
"Amazing, isn't she? Completely obedient, like the rest. Once project Delta failed, I used her DNA and Beta's to start making clones... that was the REAL project 'Epsilon'. Every time I lose one, we make another one. Simply amazing, right? Just ripe for testing..."
"Why all the missions then?!" Vlad couldn't take it anymore, he felt like some cog in Trevor's toy, "What are we? Just lab rats?! Do you just send us out hoping we'll die? What about liberating Orre? What about stopping the I.P. from controlling the regions?! Was that all a lie?!"
"Easy, don't strain yourself," Trevor said, taking a deep breath, "...your missions were all designed with both a primary reason for them, and a secondary reason. I have never lied to you about the reasons for your missions, the Liberation of Orre, and the Liberation from the I.P. in general have always been the goal of our task forces... but, the true power of the Subjects only comes out under extreme stress, as you've seen. So, if a mission just so happened to go south..."
"...you stacked the odds against us, hoping we'd come back stronger... just so that you could use us...?" Vlad sounded mortified, but in a way, Trevor didn't seem to care all too much.
"I hoped you'd grow stronger. I hoped you all would understand how important our work here is," Trevor stands from his chair, snapping and waving Epsilon over to him, "One day, a threat will come, it will come to destroy us, and when that day comes-"
"You want a deterrent. I get that, I'm not arguing that," Vlad snapped at Trevor, before motioning to Epsilon, "We're not tools though, we're living creatures. You can't just dictate what our lives will be!"
"I'm sorry Sigma... but, tell me exactly what you could do right now that wouldn't result in my plans coming true?" Trevor smiled, a very knowing smile. It took Vlad a moment to think, before he pointed at Epsilon.
"I'll go and smash your cloning machine, then tell the whole world what you're doing here!" Vlad barked at Trevor, feeling confident in himself.
"Where is the machine though, and who would believe you? You're a wanted murderer..." Trevor replied indifferently. Pausing, Vlad clenched his fist, trying to think.
"I-I'll... kill all of the subjects, and destroy this base!" This suggestion made Trevor laugh.
"Haven't you noticed? Every subject you kill, you get their darkness... and the darkness of anyone they've killed. If you did that, you'd be overflowing with darkness. Hell, even I don't know what would happen with all of that darkness!" Trevor chuckled, patting Vlad's head. The fire ignited on Vlad's head, as he began to growl.
"I'll kill you, and run" Vlad snapped, igniting his fists.
"Run where? To who? And what makes you think my loyal subjects won't just chase you down... trust me, Sigma, you've got no options... you have no life. You're a tool, a tool for my use. A weapon to be aimed, and the end results of my years of experiments..." With another snap of his fingers, Epsilon tackles Vlad onto the bed, a wicked smile on her cheeks.
"Now... you can either stay here, and follow my orders... or, you can try one of your silly plans. Either way, we end up at the same results, don't we?" As Trevor spoke, Epsilon grabbed Vlad's head by his hair, yanking it up.
"S-Sam... D-Delta, a-anyone..." Vlad tried to resist Epsilon, but to him, it was still the girl he loved. Smiling, Trevor scratched behind Epsilon's ear.
"In the end, your choices don't matter. I've already set into motion the future of the world, one where my subjects rule with an iron fist over the regions... with you at the head... hell, part of me wants you to run, to try and fight your fate. It'll be amusing, while it lasts" With that last comment, Trevor turns and starts walking out. Grunting, Vlad tries to push Epsilon off without hurting her.
"Oh, and congrats on killing one of Alpha's clones... I'm sure the next one will be an even more exciting fight" Trevor chuckled, opening the door to the medical wing, and walking out.
"Zura, p-please, let me go, I-I gotta leave, Trevor's insane, he-" Vlad felt Epsilon's claw on his lips, before a set of shadow chains wrapped around his wrists and yanked them up to the posts of the bed. Same for his legs, restraining all of Vlad's movement. Smirking, Epsilon leaned in, and cupped Vlad's cheeks.
"I was ordered to reward you... and here I am" Epsilon cooed out, and with that, she placed a kiss on Vlad's lips. A lull washed over Vlad, his body calming for a moment. He wanted to forget what Trevor had told him. He wanted nothing to do with this. Vlad wanted out. Epsilon pressed herself against him, letting out a quiet moan.
"...just let me forget..."
-A few hours later...-
Vlad woke to the sounds of his chains breaking. Opening his eyes, he saw a human boy, the Kento kid from before, smashing through the chains on his arms. Peaking over, in the corner, Vlad saw Ruby and a Charizard standing in front of a guard, who was passed out.
"There we go, get up," David said with a smile on his face, brushing off Vlad as the Infernape stood, "Er, you're all... here" With that strange interaction out of the way, David handed Vlad an assault vest to put on. Finding it a bit awkward at first, Vlad slipped on the vest.
"Oi, is that monkey boy we came for?" An Ursaring spoke up from the hall, while a familiar Metagross peaked through the door. Nodding, Ruby looked back at the guard, her and Luis watching him carefully. Vlad nodded, looking over the Ursaring for a moment.
"We don't got a lot of time. I over heard what Trevor told you, we're not staying here another second. I got family in Johto, we'll be safe there, got it?" David offered, giving Vlad the friendliest smile he could offer. Turning his gaze from the human, Vlad focused on Marcus.
"We can do introduction later, for now..." Marcus huffed, lightly punching Vlad's arm, "If David trusts you, I do. So don't waste opportunity!"
"Ten minutes David" Neo spoke up, psychically telling the group. Nodding, Luis and Marcus ran out the door, while David gave Vlad a pat on the shoulder.
"Hey, er, look... I can't offer much, but... I'd like it if you came with me. I can't sit by and let Trevor do, er... this... to all these helpless pokemon. So, uh... you in?" David cheered a bit, smiling at Vlad as best he could to convince him.
"Come on!" Neo snapped at them. Sighing, David ran off, leaving Ruby and Vlad.
"...so, coming, trash?" Ruby asked, walking up to the door. Taking a deep breath, Vlad followed after her.
"For the record, I'm not going with you guys because I like you all. I'm just done living in this stuffy building" Vlad huffed, heading out of the door. Smiling, Ruby follows after Vlad.
"Of course not... don't worry, we have plenty of time to change your mind" Ruby said, running ahead to catch up with the others. For a moment, Vlad felt some hope. Maybe, just maybe, this is what he needed, to find his way out. To get out of Trevor's plan, to escape. To finally carve his own destiny into the world. It was now, or never, and Vlad wasn't going to take that risk.
By the time the sun rose, David was miles away, catching a flight to Hoenn to wade out the coming storm from Terror.