Chapter 17: Bambi’s Worth

When Bambi and the others found Zakana, the Eevee he held was still safe. Curled up inside Zakana’s now crumpled frame. Houndour kept a flame lit for all of them to see. Bambi looked at him, inside that great big warehouse, watched the way her cousin breathed up and down, rhythmically but with small hiccups too. Despite his sudden disappearance, he hadn’t been hard to find. He had dragged himself, screaming, shouting in frustration until his voice died, all through the great city of Fuchsia. People had seen. They had noticed—how could they not? It wasn’t everyday that crazy distraught teens visited them and lay alone on the ground in the rain. Lucky for Bambi and her family, the residents who told them where to go didn’t know who Zakana was. Not yet at least.+

“He’s here,” Isaque said. “So now what?”

Bambi had gotten to know the boy twice her height in the 24-hour period they’d spent looking for Zakana. He seemed genuine but Bambi still wouldn’t tell him anything. She needed to heed her mother’s words. And that was family first. And don’t tell anyone anything.

“We should stay here for the night.” Farore spoke as if the answer were obvious.

Bambi studied the vast space around her, or at least all that she could see, which wasn’t all that far.

“Poor thing,” Farore said.

Zakana shivered and shook, but whatever possessed him seemed to have passed.

Pain shot through Bambi as she imagined what Zakana had seen. Her very own cousin—gosh, he’d be about sixteen now. Her parents wouldn’t tell her much, but she could fill in the pieces. She’s wondered which bug Pokémon had done it, and if Zakana saw such a Pokémon in Farore’s line up.

Her throat tightened, and without any more words she left the cousin she wanted to wake, and the Eevee that slept so soundly beside him as Farore and Isaque studied the sight further. Suddenly, Bambi felt a surge of loyalty when Farore’s words rang in her head. She could say things about her cousin but no one else should be allowed to.

What did they say when she wasn’t there?

Night passed into early morning, and with it came nightmares and groans. Bambi sat awake, leaned against heavy boxes, and tried to drown Zakana out. He was still in pain—after all these years. And why shouldn’t he be? Bambi had no memory of him. They had met of course a few times when she was 1 or 2 years old, probably hugged and played and fought over things, but it wasn’t enough to leave a mark. All the marks of that boy had been pressed, like a scalding brand, upon Zakana.

Bambi pulled blankets around her chin. She pet Houndour and felt its natural warmth. Nearby, across from her own set of boxes, was Farore—quiet, unmoving, elegant even as she slept. Isaque was somewhere in this cold place. Probably somewhere long and narrow where his whole body could stretch out to its full bazillion foot length.

Tomorrow, or rather today, Bambi realized as light flickered in through high windows, they would find Makua’s older brother. They would find out if there had been any sign of him. They would meet Farore’s Gym Leader colleague, Glaukus, see if he had any answers. Bambi needed to be reunited with Yumin and Makua and Isaque needed to be reunited with his friend Lyres. That was the arrangement. They needed to get Zakana somewhere safe and out of Pokémon battles. Those were the immediate goals.

All these things and others plagued Bambi with their varying degrees of importance. She couldn’t sleep. She’d wait until the others were awake to start talking business. In the meantime, she walked around to see where exactly she was in the grand scheme of things.

Boxes, both metal and cardboard, and crates, zip lines running haywire through the air above—all of it had been used once, recently it seemed. Open-mouthed machines outlined the walls connected by conveyor belts. They had made or manufactured something here.

Because the place Bambi slept in seemed to be sealed tight, she noticed when a door opened somewhere and cold air swept in. Her hair moved from its forever position of soft and straight, strands of auburn red moving on her periphery.

“It seems to be a grand place for our work,” said a man from beyond a mountain of boxes and stationary.

“It’s what I thought, sir,” said a second man. “We’ll get our guys in here and get it in top-shape in Palkia-time flat!”

“Good. Our moves need to be direct and decisive. Everything is going as planned . . . more or less.”

Bambi wanted to jump, wanted to act and let these guys know that they were interrupting very precious sleep. Something held her back. Maybe it was the fact that Makua had named her a fugitive. She said the word to herself and smiled for all its secrecy and excitement.

The door opened again and Bambi heard soft whispers from the wind. A third man spoke, now with more urgency than the first two.

“Sir,” he said. “They believe the girl is here in this city.”

The man who’d spoken first, and was being called sir, said in exasperation, “Who is they?”

“Unit 11, sir. They were stationed on Cycling Road after Bambi Hayline escaped from the Academy. She had a friend with her when she escaped and seemed to meet up with others.”

Great Celebi! They were talking about her!

She needed to see their faces. She needed to know who they were. A hand, warm and quick, grabbed Bambi by the wrist. She turned to see Farore staring back at her, neither fear nor surprise in her eyes, only recourse. She shook her head.

“Well, where is she then?”

“That’s just it, sir. Some of the residents here said they saw a young man walk right into this warehouse. He fits the description of one of the members traveling on the road with Bambi.”

“What of her brother?” said the second man, the one who’d been showing off the warehouse from the start.

“He’s been a pest since diving out that window at headquarters. He knows too much and doesn’t sit still.”

“Right, sir. He’s been intercepted in the Celadon Forest. Radio transmissions went down over there last night. No word since that. There seems to be a disturbance.”

At this Farore nodded and closed her eyes gently as if she knew. Bambi realized she had never gotten the full story of why she’d come back from her solo mission running for Cycling Road like there were Durant in her pants.

“If we want to get Professor Durin to talk, we have to go after things a little closer to his heart,” the leader of them said. “It seems beating him down and taking all his Pokémon is not enough.”

Both men agreed dutifully.

In the span of a single second, silence as loud as hurricanes filled that space. Bambi worried for Yumin now, and her uncle. They had said her uncle’s name too! And since when was Uncle Durin a Professor? What was happening!

“Kirish is impossible to pin down as ever,” the man continued. “Things are waxing and waning on the Orange Islands for her band of misfits. She could hold out for another day, or another year. I’m not sure.”

“And Yumin. He’s as wily as ever.”

“Bambi it is then,” the man said, as if the decision were something as easy as choosing a pair of underwear. “She’s young and weak and Durin will not negotiate for such a precious prize. Especially after what had happened to his own.”

Things happened quickly in those next few moments and Bambi did everything she could to keep up. It seemed Isaque had become privy to the conversation as well. He had woken Zakana. Zakana—who hadn’t made a peep, swayed aimlessly in Isaque’s soft grasp, eyes sunken into yellow sockets. Something had changed in him. There was a deadened look there. And Bambi suddenly realized: through all the talk of the Haylines, from Durin to Kirish to Yumin to Bambi, there had been no mention of Zakana. What did it mean? Were these men just completely unbothered by him, or . . . no. Bambi reconsidered, thought to herself in those few quiet moments she had left. To them, Zakana didn’t exist!

Farore seemed to understand this as well because she wrapped Zakana’s neck and face with a blanket to hide most of his face. He didn’t ask questions. At this time in the early morning, he had none.

Being called young and weak came as a blow to Bambi and she wanted to battle right then and there. But it didn’t matter as much when they were talking about taking Pokémon away. Was all that really true about her uncle?

The man leading these other two seemed to change his mind about preparing the warehouse and instead said, “search this whole place. Find whoever or whatever is here.” The door opened and at least one of the men walked outside.

Behind those boxes, everyone looked to Farore for an answer. What were they going to do, about Bambi, about Yumin, about Zakana?

“Listen carefully.” Farore looked them in the eyes one by one. “We need to get out of here. We need to get to Glaukus first, and figure out what comes after that later.”

Bambi wondered if this constant running from point A to point B would ever end. Would they ever stop being fugitives? And what were Farore’s and Isaque’s place in all of it? Once Farore safely delivered Bambi to someone responsible would she disappear? Would Isaque find Lyres and go on his way? That would leave Bambi with Zakana only and she wasn’t sure she could protect him with the line up she had.

Pokémon came from their Pokeballs. Searchers. Trackers. Seekers. Bambi heard the sniffs, the calls, and knew that it was only a matter of time.

The Eevee in Zakana’s jacket cried out.

Something big and reckless appeared in Bambi’s periphery and as soon as she saw it, the thing recognized her as well. Donphan, an elephant that lives in the ground, screeched, swung its dirt-stained trunk in both directions and rolled into a tight ball before speeding at them.

Hell broke loose.

They had been discovered. And when Bambi ran away from the thing that planned to flatten her, the men saw her. Without mistake they knew who she was and who she was with now, the same members she was with on Cycling Road.

Farore grabbed her hand and ran toward the exit. “Get moving!”

“Stop!” said one of the men. The two of them released more Pokémon.

Farore released her own. It didn’t matter that Zakana would see them. They needed to get out of this place and the only way to do that was through Farore and her buggy, buggy, bugs with one million eyes and slicers and pincers as sharp as a ship’s hull.

Heracross and Scizor hissed and buzzed and fought toward the door. Feraligatr and Magneton plunged ahead to join the fray. Bambi sent Bayleef and Houndour to help. Blasts of fire, waves of thunder, surges of water. Bambi felt freezing one moment and then like she would burn up the next. Zakana stood near Isaque in his blanket, swaying but never falling over, a blank look in his eyes.

Something changed in the scene of battle because Farore looked to Isaque as the men shouted to each other. Bambi strained to listen.

“Isaque! Don’t let them get away!”

It was odd to want to contain and capture men that wanted to capture you, but Bambi didn’t ask. Maybe there was a reason. She heard the men.

“Lock this place down. Get every bolt, lock and chain from this town and keep them at bay!”

A smokescreen went up. Noise and commotion became best friends in that fight. And then wind. Gas was sucked out of the warehouse on account of the door being opened, and the men were gone.

“We lost them!” Farore ran to the door. She opened it, looked out, and studied the scene before her. “Shoot!” Shoot! Shoot!”

Bambi trembled as Farore flew back to the group.

“If they want to have a lock down, we’ll show them what we’re made of.”

“Why don’t we just get out now, while we can?” Isaque asked.

“Because,” Farore said, “men and Pokémon are already out there waiting for us. We won’t make it very far without flyers.”

“So then . . .?”

“We hold out until I can get a message to Glaukus and the other leaders.” Farore paused and seemed truly troubled by what she had seen, not just in the past few days but especially today. “This is a matter of national security. The Viterals . . . they’re completely wide out in the open and no one seems to be showing any signs of stopping them.”

Isaque and Farore looked down at Bambi. They both knew what had happened to her family. They knew Zakana hadn’t been mentioned but that they were cousins. They knew about Kirish. They knew nearly everything, except the one thing they all shared, and that was the location of Yumin.

Bambi had to believe her big brother would come. He’d save them for sure.

“No one gets in or out,” Farore said. She moved around wildly, and with the help of Isaque, began securing all the windows and doors.

“How do you know they won’t just send a big fire blast at us?” Bambi asked.

“For one, they want you intact and alive,” Farore said. “And the other is they want this warehouse. They aren’t going to destroy it.”

Zakana stopped swaying and finally said something audible.

“It may not be much. But those are the only advantages we have to work with.”