From: Spawn <nmvds@aol.computers> Subject: [PW!] Counter Earth: Broken Promises, P2 Date: Wednesday, November 10, 1999 4:28 PM Steve watched from a distance as the cars pulled up to the house. He wanted with all to come back to see Karen one more time, but he knew it would be difficult at best to do with all these people around. Surely one of them would recognize who he was--and the last thing he wanted to do was turn the media on him during this time of crisis. Still, Steve wasn't sure what to think. He wondered if things would have been different had he not shown up. "It's not your fault, you know," Al tried to tell him. "There's no way you could have known. Nothing you could have done. These things... they happen. Life doesn't always have a reason." Steve wasn't so sure, and stood in the same spot with binoculars in hand until the crowds died down. Afterwards, when he finally felt the coast was clear, he used an escape rope to scale the wall and enter through her window. "Hello Karen," Steve greeted. She opened her eyes slightly and a tiny smile came to her face. As she turned her head, Steve noticed the bite marks on her neck. It was Vlad's work. "Steven..." she replied. "Try not to speak," said Steve, "you'll tire yourself out." "The doctors... said they could try transfusions..." Karen mumbled, "but can't... cure the poisons..." Steve quickly understood. Golbats were half poison type Pokemon, and would probably leave some residual poisons in their victims. Often times, it might be treatable. Apparently not, however, when the mutations were factored in. "Don't worry," Steve said assuringly, even though he had no idea how to help her. And the realization of that was tough to deal with. "Don't think about that for now. Just try to get better." As Steve starred at the frail girl lying in front of him, he suddenly felt a bond. One stronger than anything he had ever felt in his entire life. Just looking at how helpless she seemed to be brought about feelings of his own situation. And yet both of them, in their own state of desperation, found one last ray of hope. Eachother. In reality, they were complete strangers. Steve didn't know the Karen of this world any more than she knew him. And yet none of that seemed to matter. Not today. And today seemed to be all that mattered. For today at least, she was still alive. "Steve..." Karen struggled to say, "I would like to thank you..." "For what?" Steve asked. "For..." Karen continued, "trying to make me feel... special. No one ever did that for me before. Not with the family I had." Steve understood. With a grandfather who was a genius in the field and a cousin who was a the Pokemon League Champion, it was easy to feel left out. He began to come closer to her and run his fingers through her hair "You *are* special," he corrected. And it was true. To him at least. "More special than you can ever imagine." "Will you be able to come back to visit me later?" she asked, getting weaker by the second. "I will," said Steve, "I can promise you that. And Karen... I have one last thing to tell you..." But by then, she had already fallen asleep. Steve gazed at her as she closed her eyes and laid to rest and he kissed her on her forehead. She had an almost angelic look to her face. And it pained Steve deeply that there was nothing left he could do for her here. Nothing he could do at all. Suddenly, a new feeling began to fill Steve's soul: Rage. A rage which combined grew from his compassion he felt in order to form some sort of twisted amalgam of emotion. While he couldn't save Karen, he could at least try to avenge her. Slay the man responsible for her agony. Who was probably responsible for the agony of dozens of people in the past and hundreds more in the future if he wasn't stopped. Glancing over at Karen's desk, Steve realized he was seriously under powered and snatched a few of her Pokeballs. He knew they would be willing to help him on his upcoming mission. To help stop the man who brought harm to their trainer. ******** "Where is he, Mewtwo?" Steve asked. "How would I know?" Mewtwo responded. "Aren't you Mewtwo?" Steve asked. "Aren't you all knowing? All seeing? He's a half poison type, Mewtwo, meaning he's especially prone to any psychic probes you send out to search for his location." "What do you hope to accomplish if I do this favor for you?" "Vampiric lore," Steve explained, "to save the victim, slay the head vampire." "And are you sure that that will work?" Mewtwo asked. "Watcher's Clan badge or not, you are still a novice in this field. You do not know what the outcomes of your actions will be. They may, for instance, be far more sinister than you expect them to be. Some men spend their lives seeking the answers to the unknown, Steven, and often come back empty handed. So can you be sure, beyond any doubt, that your actions will end up proving beneficial?" "Nope," said Steve. "But I wouldn't be able be able to live with myself if I didn't at least try." "Very well then," said Mewtwo, "your wish has been granted." "Huh?" ******* The next thing Steve remembered was waking up in a dark cave. The air around him was cold, but the lining of Seel skin in his outfit protected him from being too affected. From above, Steve could hear thousand upon thousands of bats doing their high pitched screams. On one hand, he wished he had brought Al along. Al was more prepared to handle such a thing. Al was familiar with the unkown. Al could lead his Pokemon without showing the slightest ounce of fear. And what was Steve doing? Shivering in the night. Al, from what Steve had seen, could probably take Vlad down. Single handedly. Without breaking a sweat. But Karen wasn't Al's problem. She wasn't Al's responsibility. She probably had no idea who he was. And most importantly of all, it wasn't Al's fault that Karen was got in this mess in the first place. That honor went straight to Steve. This wasn't just a mission of vengeance. It was Steve's way of trying to redeem himself for what he did. Perhaps it was foolishness, arrogance, or stubbornness. But Steve had to prove something to himself. That he could handle the situation on his own, without the help of others. Or at least not much. "Charmeleon, light up this place!" said Steve as he pressed the button on one of Karen's pokeballs. "CHAR!" it growled, it's tail blazing brightly. Yet in the vast spacce of the pitch black cave, only a dim light shone. But even in the shadows, the figure of one person was still visible. "Vlad." "Steven." Steve withdrew his sword. Vlad didn't even take him seriously as a threat. "Do you really believe I would be completely unprepared for your attacks?" he laughed with sinister delight. Suddenly, Zubats came crashing from the ceiling and went for Steve's neck. Dozens of them. Hundreds of them. Steve couldn't count them even if he wanted to. Even if he had the chance to despite their beast-like ferocity. His Dratini skin outfit was tough, though he wasn't sure if it was tough enough to hold them back. Steve had his sword in one hand and tried to fend off the onslaught, covering his neck with the other. "Charmeleon, fire spin around me!" Steve ordered. "Char?" the Pokemon asked, confused. "DO IT!!!" Steve yelled. "CHHAARRRRRRR!!!" it replied. The room was pitch black again as the Pokemon prepared the attack. Charmeleon encircled Steve in a wall of solid flame which slowly began to die out. The high pitched screams of the Zubats grew as they felt the heat upon them. Before, they had Steve trapped in one of their attacks. He was eager to return the favor. Steve covered himself in his trenchcoat, knowing that the Dratini skin would protect him, and ran through the flames, sword in hand to absorb some of the stray energy. The bats who were foolish enough to remain on him all this time burned to cinders. Steve raised his sword up high, only to find that Vlad was nowhere to be found. Figured. Vlad wasn't about to just let Steve go ahead and kill him. Especially not after that show Steve just pulled. He wanted to savor the attack, to make Steve's suffering last as long as possible. And when he was through making Steve suffer... he would kill him. It was that simple. He had already been stabbed by Steve before. He knew he could handle him. Steve looked around him. He would be scared out of his mind if he wasn't so full of rage for what Vlad had done to Karen. But he realized not that this was not the time for rage. This was the time for careful thinking. He had to realize that this was about life and death. When Steve first got to this new world, he had been told to fight with little to fight for. Now he had something. And he was putting everything he had left in his life on the line without even putting in the extra effort to secure it. Steve made a promise to Karen. A promise to come back to her and see her again later. And he couldn't let anything, not even the threat of death itself, stand between him and his word. He couldn't just be reckless anymore. He couldn't just run full force into every battle. He had to be careful. He had to-- "AAGGGHHHHH!!!" Steve yelled as he felt something reach down for him from the ceiling. Instantly falling to the floor to put some distance between him and Vlad, Steve leapt as far away as possible and quickly spun around to find Vlad waiting for him. Vlad licked his lips as he starred into Steve's eyes. Suddenly, the transformation began. Vlad's fangs grew and his skin turned blue. His arms began to transform into wings. He was never a man to begin with. Now his outward appearance confirmed that. Vlad began to flap his wings wildly, and Steve braced for cover. Apparently Vlad was using a razor wind attack, and the powerful winds left scratches across Steve's face. Steve covered himself in his coat, testing the very limits of the protection it offered. Finally, however, the winds died down. Steve reached for his sword again, more cautious this time. This time, however, Vlad was standing right in front of him. Or was he? Steve sensed a trap, but knew of no way to make sure his intuitions were correct. He extended his sword and charged straight at Vlad. And then he passed straight him. Steve was caught off guard for obvious reasons, but had problems stopping. That was his first mistake. The second was charging in unfamiliar territory in a poorly lit cave. "Ummmf!" Steve muttered as he landed after falling off a ledge 20 feet high. He tried his best to roll with the impact instead of taking it all in a single instance. As he rolled, the jagged rocks began to cut into his skin. Steve had to learn to expect the unexpected. To account for elements of surprise. But he was new to this. He wasn't a hero, or at least he didn't think of himself as one. No matter what Mewtwo or Giovanni or Al said. He was just a guy doing the only thing he could think of to for the sake of someone whom he had known, someone close so close to him that the bond seemed to stretch across dimensions. "Abra," Steve said as he opened another Pokeball, "teleportation! Take me back up above." "Abra..." it said as it obeyed. Steve became energized as he instantly teleported to his destination. "Welcome back," Vlad snarled. Steve looked straight ahead and felt there was something wrong. He glanced behind him and noticed that another Vlad was standing on the other side. As he glanced back in front, there two now instead of one. "Golbats can learn double team with the right TM..." Steve realized as he quickly spun around and swung his sword at the nearest figure he could see. The sword passed straight through. Another illusion. Earlier today Steve had to fend off hoards of Zubats. Now he had to do the same thing with their evolved form. Only this time, he couldn't tell which ones where real so that he should spend his time on them and which wasn't. Suddenly, every one of them transformed into humanoid form. Steve then realized something: Illusions don't cast shadows. In the dim light emmitted by a single Charmeleon, the shadows were as clear as day. Figuratively speaking, of course. But by then it was too late. A lone arm grabbed Steve from behind. A solid arm. As Steve turned around in surprise, Vlad brought his neck up to his fangs and began to start the blood drinking process. Steve had to react quickly. Sword in hand, he stabbed deeply into Vlad's stomach. Vlad let go, and Steve fell to the floor. Steve was aware of his opponents endurance, however, and withdrew the blade: Ready to strike again. "Ah, my dear Steven," said Vlad, satisfied with his latest meal. "A direct hit. Painful, I'll grant you, but only temporary and eventually futile. Yet how does that compare to the poisons I have placed into your body? The toxins slowly getting stronger and stronger?" Steve had had enough of this. Just then, he remembered what Mewtwo told him. About his sword Masamune being able to absorb energy--such as the flames from Charmeleon earlier--and redirect it. It was a risky venture, granted. He had no idea how to tap into this property. He had never tried to do it before. But life was about risks. And at that moment, for the first time since longer than he could remember, Steve wanted to live. "Burn in hell, Vlad," said Steve as he channeled the flames straight at Vlad and covered him in fire. Cliché as the line was, it fit the purpose. The sword behaved like an extension of his body, following the orders of the master through force of will and concentration alone. For a second, it looked like Steve was winning. For a second. Vlad morphed back into bat form and flapped his wings. The frigid winds managed to quickly put out the fire, and the burn wounds healed almost instantly. "I'm at full power," said Vlad, "for the same reason I know that you are weaker than ever: I have sapped your strength from your life giving veins. That, along with the blood I have drained from Karen..." Steve was getting madder than ever but didn't know how to react. Vlad was right, Steve was getting weaker and weaker. All he could do was stand his ground and wait for Vlad's next move. The only strategies Steve could think of were defensive ones. And he had serious doubts on whether that would let him win. "You know Karen, right?" Vlad continued. "Of course you do. You have feelings for hurt, don't you? That's what Scope told me. But none of that really matters. I have no more concern over the emotions and feeling of humans than humans have of their livestock. For that is all you humans are compared to me, Steven, a simple meal. Do you have any idea how good it felt when I drank your blood just now? Good enough to outweigh those pathetic wounds you inflicted on me afterwards..." No reaction. Steve knew that Vlad was doing his best to torture him, and he was doing a damn good job at it. He was getting more and more furious by the second. "How about this," Vlad asked, "do you know how good it felt to drain the blood of Karen Oak? To watched her life as it seeped from her body only to revitalize my own? To watch her lifeless body lie in the dark night, and knowing that the only thing to curse her to such a fate..." Vlad took a short dramatic pause as he starred into Steve's eyes, watching the feeling drain out of them. He knew that he was getting to him. And Steve knew, deep inside, what was coming. "...Was knowing you?" Steve couldn't take much more of this abuse. Vlad was beating him physically earlier. Now Vlad was going for the psychological victory. Steve couldn't let him do that. Otherwise, that would mean he died for nothing. He died with Vlad completely conquering him in all shape and form. Which would mean that Karen was on her death bed for nothing as well, because the only reason for her current state was for being someone important to him. That the reason he couldn't be there for her now was because he was foolishly wasting his own life. And he couldn't let that happen to her. "Or just answer me this last one question, Steven," Vlad grinned. "Do you have any idea how good it *will* feel..." Steve watched as Vlad raised his wings high over his head. "...when I completely destroy you with my hyper beam?" Vlad finished. His body began to accumulate energy and surround itself in an aura of sorts as he prepared himself for delivering the powerful attack. Steve had to think quickly. There was only one possible option for him. In a sudden burst of energy, Steve ran towards Karen's abra. "DIE!!!" Vlad yelled just before firing. "Abra, teleport!" Steve yelled just in time. A split second after teleporting 10 feet behind Vlad, a hyper beam destroyed the spot where Steve was just standing. Debris was flying everywhere and dust was filling the room. He had been lucky. He wasn't sure if he could do the same act again. "I can hear you panting and gasping for air," Vlad said a moment later. "Which means that you are still alive--just not to a large degree. No matter. All your actions are succeeding at doing is forcing the toxins to circulate through your body more quickly. You are merely speeding up your own death, Steven. Can you feel it, Steven? Can you feel it as your muscles grow limp? As your senses dull? As your very mind grows more and more irrational? I have seen the affects on my poison on men before, Steven. Men stronger then you. We can keep playing this game all day, and but we all know how it ends." Steve knew that Vlad was right. He was still growing weaker and weaker and he had to act quickly if he had any chance of winning this battle before collapsing. But what could he do? Nothing. Any plan he could think of in his weakening mind would end up in Vlad's favor. Worse yet, Vlad was charging up for another beam. "You know the sad thing, Steven?" Vlad snickerred. "I don't even care how you survived the last incident anymore. No one will. Just so long as I can kill you know." It was then that Steve realized his one last hope: Vileplume. Karen's plant Pokemon, and the most well trained of the bunch. Steve released the Pokemon with as little effort as physically possible as Vlad was about to fire off another beam. Steve had to time this perfectly. A split second off either way and he would be dead.. "Goodbye, Steven..." said Vlad as finished recharging and was preparing another blast of energy. Steve waited for him to aim his arms and prepare the attack, and then... "Petal dance!" Steve ordered. Vileplume surrounded Vlad with thousands of petals, disoriented the undead foe. In many tales of vampirism, scattering seeds could be done to keep vampires busy. Steve had hoped that petals would have a similar effect. The petals overwhelmed Vlad, made it damn near impossible for him to zero in on a target. The bombardment of petals made it hard at best for Vlad to aim. The force of them, after all, was intended to take down the toughest of pokemon. To make it harder for them to aim was child's play. As Vlad's wings flailed wildly, the fact that he had not released his hyper beam drifted further and further from his brain. Vlad hit right at the ceiling, the beam steadily breaking through the surprisingly thin roof. How truly thin of a line it was between darkness and light. As rocks and dirt tumbled to the ground, sunlight began to creep in. It was then that Steve, weak as he was, realized his opprotunity. Vlad began to approach Steve, but Vileplume stood its ground. The reason garlic was thought to repel vampires in the past was because of the smell. Vampires had a terrible smell themselves, and the strategy was basically fighting fire with fire. Poison with poison. In this particular case, the Oddish series of Pokemon included some of the worst smelling of the bunch. As Vlad stepped back, Steve whispered to the pokemon and told it to prepare its solar beam. With a new hole in the ceiling, such a move was now possible. The vileplume agreed, slowly absorbing what little sunlight crept in. "Well, well, well, Steven," Vlad snickered, "you prove to be a forminable foe yet. So before one of us die, I would like to tell you a secret. Would you like to hear it, Steven?" Steven felt the toxins still coursing through his blood. His was getting too weak to even speak at this point, even if he wanted to. "Remember when I told you the origin of my abilities?" Vlad asked. "How some Zubats were hit by some sort of ray which mutated their DNA and caused them to somehow pass their abilities onto me, changing me into the being that stands before you? Well, Steven... it was you who developed that ray. Back in the days when you were still working for Silph Co." Steve was horrified at the idea. Knowing that the monster in front of him was his creation. Knowing that it was him who made Vlad what he was. Why hadn't Mewtwo told him this? Why hadn't Mewtwo told him about the time he had spent on the side of Silph Co.? Steve's world was turning upside-down. It was his alter-ego, granted. His doupleganger of this dimension. But that didn't make the news any easier to swallow. "Why the look of surprise?" Vlad continued. "What's so different about you now that you don't seem to remember your past?" Steve understood what was going on. Vlad was just buying time, getting better from his healing factor while Steve was getting worse. "Because I'm not the Steve you knew about," Steve mumbled, "I'm not some hero or some leader. I'm just a guy who you pissed off. And most importantly... I have a promise to keep to someone dear to me." Vlad smiled and decided to run towards Steve, smell or now smell. Suddenly, something miraculous happened. Karen's Abra realized that Steve was in danger and desperately wanted to help. It was then he finally evolved. "KA-DA-BRAAAA!!!!" it yelled as it fired a confusion attack straight at the poison pokemon's head. Vlad screamed in pain, but he was little more than phased. "Charmeleon, flamethrower!" Steve shouted, no longer needing the fire Pokemon to illuminate the cave with the new sunlight. The pokemon was able to focus its full attention on Vlad, who was now covered in flame, Finally, Vileplume was ready, and fired a beam of pure light at the vampire. It has been said as creatures of the night, vampires hated the light in all forms. The sun and light of God emanating from religious icons symbolized the ultimate forms of it. The light hit him hard and in combination with the other two attacks, he staggered. But he was not yet beaten. Steve realized just how strong his enemy was and knew that there was only one option left. One chance to stop him once and for all. Steve could barely see clearly and his arms felt like jelly. He lifted the sword, which now felt like it weighed a ton. And even if Steve succeeded at what he knew he had to do, he would pay dearly afterwards in helping the poison circulate further into his body. But Steve had to ignore all that for now. He knew what he had to do. For Karen. Karen Oak, who never wronged him in the slightest bit. Who helped him out in his time of need. Who was dying because of him. That to him was worth than losing his own life many times over for, and so much more. For his feelings for her extended past his physical body and into something far, far more complex. Steve breathed in deeply as he prepared himself for the attack. One shot. That would be all he would get. He focused every bit of will his weakened mind could muster. His body ached and screamed for mercy, but he had no time to listen. One shot. Steve leapt toward Vlad, pain shooting through his legs. He leaned forward because he knew that he wouldn't be able to maintain balance while swinging. Even though his Dragon still outfit was resistant to grass and fire attacks, he could still feel the power of the attacking Pokemon. But that didn't matter to him. Not right now. One shot. Steve breathed in hard and starred at the target. In his new agony, every second seemed like an hour, and he had an eternity to consider this next move. He wanted to just give up. To collapse on the floor and meet the creator. But he knew he couldn't do that. Because now he had something that he could live for. That he could fight for. To able to stare into her face and find new hope in his life, in his very existence. Steve closed his eyes and swung with all his might. One shot. As Steve fell towards the ground, Vlad's head fell shortly afterwards. Vlad and Steve laid side by side, Vlad's body slowly detoriating and dissolving away. Disappearing from the world. If Steve's eyes were still open, he would smile at knowing Vlad was now dead. Even if it meant the cost of his own life. And if he did, by some miracle or another, manage to live through the ordeal--than all the pain and suffering would be worth it. Because he would be able to do the one thing he knew he had to do, deep down inside... And keep his promise. ******************* TBC