A Grimm Clefairytale

Nettle had completed her first pokebot, a cute little bot she had dubbed the Mach 0 Smile-go. It served little purpose, being able to walk, and lift light objects, but little else, but it was adorable, and it responded to her, its mouth turning up into a grin every time it saw her. Morality Gradient, her Beldum companion, had taught her the theory of how to build little robots like this, but it was the long trip between Odd-15h, the forest world she had just visited, and Helios 9, her current destination that had given her the time to build the little creature and program its personality, giving it that little spark that made it more than just an unthinking machine. Nettle had been pretty down after leaving Odd, it being her first experience with real nature, and she had almost broken down upon returning to space. Building Smile-go had given her a chance to think about other things, to add a new member to the tiny family that was on board MISS Rock-ette, the meteor shaped spaceship she piloted. Knowing she would be returning to Smile-go when her mission here was finished gave Nettle the strength she felt she would need to go down to another planet, and then leave once again.

Most of the inhabitants of Helios 9 lived in the clouds above the planet, floating towns and villages constructed from materials lighter than air. The most common pokemon on the planet, and its original inhabitants were a race of blue birds with fluffy wings called Swablu. Nettle was looking forward to exploring these cloud villages, but she hoped she would get a chance to go down to the ground below as well, she wanted to see some more plants. She was careful in her descent, knowing she had to slow the landing so as not to break the fragile structure of the spaceport she would be arriving at. With Morality Gradient keeping track of the velocity exactly, the two were able to stick the landing, and the two of them popped the hatch and exited their ship, greeted by a small welcoming party of Swablu, as well as a lone Pidgey with an ugly scar across its left eye.

The conversation was pleasant as the group led the space fairing pair on a tour of one of the few cities on Helios 9. This was the first city built for organic life that Nettle had ever seen, her previous city experiences being restricted to the massive living complexes of the Beldum, and the Voltorb blast domes. It was also the first time she had ever seen anything like this cloud architecture. It was a beautiful sight, and it took a lot of concentration for Nettle to keep herself in the conversation instead of drifting off into wordless wonder. As they neared the building where Nettle and MG would be staying, the Pidgey departed, saying something had come up at the orbital sensor station, and she had to go check it out. The Pidgey said it would meet up with them again tomorrow. Nettle checked into the hotel while MG went off with the Swablu to discuss the communications array they he was going to help them set up. Nettle went up to the room and could not help but fall back onto the bed, a large white mattress of solid fog, which was indeed as soft and fluffy as a cloud.

Nettle woke up a bit later, having not realized she had been that tired. She went down to the front desk, and asked about transport down to the surface. The Swablu at the front desk told her that their was transport three times a day, a large gondola that moved between the cloud city and the surface. The next trip was in an hour and a half, so Nettle got a bite to eat, something that was also a relatively new experience. Her body was capable of digesting food just like most organics, but most of her life she had spent in the depths of space, absorbing starlight as sustenance instead of this somewhat bizarre eating business.

One of the Swablu from the delegation that had come out to meet her was at the food court. Nettle managed to both tell him apart from his compatriots, and remember that his name was Swaint, something that impressed him, most foreigners having problems telling the blue birds apart. They got to talking, and Nettle mentioned her intentions of visiting the surface. Swaint insisted that he accompany her, saying that he did not spend much time on the ground, but he knew his way around. Nettle was happy for the company, and after finishing the meal, as well as a strong sweet flavored beverage that Nettle had never heard of before, the pair departed for the gondola.

The ride was a bit bumpy, the turbulent winds of Helios 9 rocking the gondola this way and that in a way that Nettle did not feel entirely comfortable with. Swaint said it was perfectly normal however, and he was apparently correct for the ride concluded in an orderly fashion a half an hour later.

For the second time that day, Nettle had her breath taken away. The forest of Odd-15h had been a vibrant green, crawling with vines and ferns. The forest on Helios 9 was very different, but just as wonderful, with pine trees reaching up further than Nettle could see into the thick fog, disappearing into the mist. Its was a more subdued, colder forest than Nettle had seen before yet she felt as though it was majestic beyond words. Swaint seemed to sense that she wanted to just take in the sight of the place, and he did not talk much, just directing her this way and that, pointing out interesting features here and there.

The pair encountered one of the surface pokemon, a large four legged creature called a Stantler, and exchanged greetings. The Stantler quickly moved along however, and Swaint explained that a lot of the surface dwellers had a distrust for anyone who came from the sky, a relic of ancient wars between the flying pokemon and the surface pokemon of this planet in ages past. Because most spacers ran into the Swablu first, and heard their side of the story only, there was a history of space fairing groups who allied against the surface dwellers. Swaint explained that it had been a long time since these wars had gone on, and things were gradually getting better, but it was still a stigma that persisted. Nettle nodded her understanding, and the pair continued there walk.

After a few hours, they stopped, Swaint pointing to some Orange spheres set atop green stalks growing from the ground. The spheres were a type of fruit called the Oran Berry, and they grew incredibly fast and tasted delicious, as well as being incredibly healthy, capable of fixing wounds and recovering energy. Nettle bit into the fruit tentatively, unsure what to expect, but the sweet juice made her cast away her doubts, and soon she had eaten the whole thing. The pair sat and chatted, talking about Helios 9’s history, and about Nettle’s obsession with plants. Nettle was having more fun than she knew what to do with, and this Swaint character seemed to quite the gentleman. Eventually they had to get back, not wanting to be stranded on the surface during nighttime, and thus needing to catch the last gondola back up. It was just as bumpy on the way back up, but Swaint wrapped Nettle in his fluffy wings, and she did not feel nearly as bad this time around.

When Nettle got back to the hotel, she met Morality Gradient, who immediately began talking about the communications array, all the problems this backwards world had with its technology, and all the things the pair was going to have to do if they wanted to get this place hooked up to the Beldum Net. Nettle half listened as she once again laid down in her cloud comforter, but most of her thoughts were on the forest, an on Swaint. She and MG figured out the schedule for tomorrow, then she laid back, and drifted off into sleep, her usual dreams of sunflowers now including majestic pines and a gentlemanly blue bird.

Nettle was woken up by the usual beeping of Morality Gradient, who had grown bored with her sleep and wanted to get going. As she opened her eyes, she noticed something that had not been in the room before, a strange device with a metal base and a large glass dome over top it. It had a small note attached.

This device lets you grow plants anywhere you are, even in space. You should take a piece of Helios with you, something to remember us by. —Swaint

Nettle was touched, vowing right away to go back down to the surface later that day and collect one of those Oran fruits she had eaten yesterday. She and MG went downstairs to meet up with the delegation. When they got there, there were only two Swablu to meet them. The Swably explained that there had been some kind of trouble with one of the satellites, it had stopped communicating after sending some strange signals, and just to be cautious a lot of the reserve military had been called in to work today, which included most of the delegation. They apologized for the inconvenience, and assured Nettle and MG that the project still had the full support of the planetary government. Nettle was a little upset that Swaint had been called away, she had wanted to thank him for the gift, but she figured she could be patient. Maybe they could go down to the surface together again, after work. Nettle cast such thoughts from her mind, turning her focus to the communications project. She carefully worked through the list of problems that MG had told her about the night before, making sure to explain it in much kinder terms than he had. The Swablu listened, then they all got to work fixing the problems.

A few hours later, Nettle was in the middle of explaining that the idea of cloud computing was not meant literally to one of the engineers, when a low rumbling sound interrupted them, followed by a number of loud and terrified squawks from outside. Everyone rushed outside and looked up at the sky. Nettle was not certain what it was she was seeing. Huge black spheres of all different sizes, each blazing like a meteor, were falling through the cloud layers. There was something weird about these things, apart from there sudden appearance. She could not tell what they were made of, the surface almost seeming to move. A comparatively small one crashed into a building a few blocks away, and she did not hear the crashing sound she had expected to hear. Wanting to check and see if everyone was alright, Nettle set off quickly, towards the crash site of the strange object.

When she arrived, she still was not sure what she was seeing. The object was deflated and deformed, as though it had been an empty bag, and the material making it up was bizarre, almost looking organic. She stared at the strange deflated black mass, trying to understand, trying to run this data through all the many models she had about space objects. It was not until she heard a terrified squawk, and saw a Swablu tackled and bit into by a twisted Houndour-like creature that her mind made sense of the space object. She understood, and in that moment she froze, too caught up in the horror of it all to act or react.

Another creature, like the one that was now tearing apart the downed Swablu, appeared from around a corner, advancing upon her slowly. She knew she needed to run, to get away from it if she did not want to join the Swablu, but she couldn’t, she could not move her body. The creature snarled and pounced, and would have ended her life right there, except someone pushed her out of the way, snapping her back into a conscious state. Swaint dragged her to her feet as fast as he could, then pulled her away, flying as fast as he could, Nettle running after him.

“They were Grimm.” she spoke, as they ran, the pronouncement barely loud enough for Swaint to hear.

“Yeah, I know. We managed to figure out that they had destroyed our satellite, but not fast enough. Just as we had figured it out, they started falling into the atmosphere. We still are not sure how they are surviving the fall, some sort of weird black things.”

“No, I meant- Yes, that’s what I am talking about. The black things they came down in are Grimm as well. They just cling together in giant balls, like ants floating across a stream. The ones on the outside melt together from the heat of the entry, and these dead, melted Grimm make a cushion for this living ones inside. I couldn’t see it at first, but you can see the twisted shapes of the Grimm mixed together in those black spheres.”

Swaint looked sick upon hearing this pronouncement. “Have you encountered them before? Did you know about this?” He asked in a sort of distant voice.

“No, I have never seen one before, only read about them. This is my first encounter.”

The two move in silence, Swaint flapping, and Nettle running. They hear squawks of pain and terror, see more and more of the amorphous balls of melted Grimm splattering across the city as they move. At last they arrive at a large building, one of the few composed of something more solid than cloud in the city. They are waved in by a couple of Alteria, the much larger evolved form of Swablu, and they make their way to a large room filled with video screens, each one showing different parts of the city, or even bits of space. The Pidgey with the scar appears to be in charge, giving orders and sending pokemon this way and that. Nettle looks at the screens, trying to get a handle on the scale of this attack. She had heard of Grimm attacks wiping out whole planets, driving civilizations into the stars, or simply ending them if they lacked the ability to flee. Those planets had always seemed far away to her however, with most Grimm activity she had heard of in recent times being much smaller in scale. She had never imagined it would happen to her.

The screens painted a depressing portrait. The Grimm seemed to be falling in giant globs upon every major population center this world had, both in the sky and on the ground. The number of Grimm was astounding. Even the satellights and spacecraft orbitting the planet were not safe, massive Fearow and Wailord like Grimm crashing through the void of space, destroying the few bits of life present in space surround the planet. Most terrifying of all was the origin of all these Grimm, an absolutely colossal wedge of stone and ice, coated in Grimm, and pushed by creatures more massive than the entire city she was currently in. Every time she thought about how many had died, how many would die, her mind shied away, refusing to let her dwell on it. She was shaken from this dismal reverie by the sound of the commanding Pidgey.

“Did you hear me lass?” the Pidgey asked, “All civilians are too be evacuated. You have a ship. Get on it and get out of here. If you can send word to your Beldum allies, see if we could get any help that would be wonderful, but your first priority is getting off this planet and away. You are our guest, any you are not going to die on my watch.”

Nettle wanted to object, wanted to help these pokemon, but she stopped herself, thinking. She couldn’t do anything. The best thing she could do would be to get out of here and call for help. She nodded to the Pidgey, and began moving out of the building, back towards the hotel. Swaint stopped her.

“You can’t go through the city alone, let me escort you. Once I get you there, I can fly back safely.” Nettle nodded, happy to have company as she began moving through the battle torn landscape of the cloud city.

The pair were careful, avoiding the Grimm they could, and running from the Grimm that spotted them. After a terrifying half an hour or cautious stealth and all out sprinting they made it to the hotel where Nettle’s stuff was stored. As they arrived, Nettle spotted Morality Gradient, who had apparently been hiding in the hotel, waiting for her. She was overjoyed to see him, and ran to give him a hug. She heard something running and then heard Swaint shout.

“Watch out!” She turned, just in time to see a large Grimm with a long, viscous horn jutting from its head bearing down on her. She ducked down, and rolled under the creature as it charged over top of her. She saw Swaint flying ahead of the beast, shouting and egging it into chasing him, drawing it away from the hotel. As he taunted the creature, she saw other Grimm, ones with wings drawn towards him as well. One clipped him, and she lost sight of him as he fell behind a far building. She started to run towards him, but Morality Gradient beeped at her, telling her to hurry, and grab her things. If they were going to be able to call help fast enough, they needed to get off the planet now. She knew he was right.

Nettle ran up the stairs, and quickly packed her small set of belongings. She saw the portable grower again, and picked it up, determined to take it with her. She and Beldum left the hotel. Morality Gradient attached to her bandoleer in the back, and took off, carrying her like a jetpack. They sailed over the city, but stayed low in order to avoid being seen by the flying Grimm, which were now appearing in great number, apparently taking a gentler path down from space compared to their ground based companions.

They reached MISS Rock-ette, and climbed aboard. Smile-go tried to give them both a hug, but Nettle quickly turned it off, not having the time for its antics at the moment. MG informed her that the planet had a weak magnetic field, so it would take half an hour before they could launch the magnet drive and blast out of the gravity well. Nettle stared at her portable grower, thinking about Swaint. Then she asked MG if it mattered where they were when the magnet drive was ready, if it would work just as well from the surface. The Beldum seemed to find the idea silly, but confirmed that it did not in fact matter where they were. It would actually be a few seconds faster if they were closer to the ground. She nodded and fired up the thrusters, shooting the little pod off the edge of the cloud, and letting it drop down through the mist, into the forest below. After MG beeped some angry beeps at her for the bumpy landing, she popped the hatch, telling him she would be right back. As fast as she could, she scampered through the cool grass of the forest, looking this way and that, not wanting to run into any surprise Grimm while she was down here.

She almost ran out of time, but at the last instant, she spotted what she was looking for, grabbed it, stuffed it into one of the pouches on her bandoleer, and ran back to the ship, as fast as she could. Morality Gradient made a number of irritated noises as she ran the last few yards to the ship, and the door hit her as it closed, MG having closed it so fast. She barely had time to secure herself before the magnet drive in her little ship shot the whole thing right into space, hurtling them many times the speed of sound, like a bullet out a gun. The ship transitioned from the magnet drive to the stardust drive as they hurtled through space, Morality Gradient sending messages over the Beldum net, communicating with his peers about the disaster on Helios 9, even as Nettle charted their course to the next planet on the journey.

Once the computer understood where they were going, Nettle was able to relax a bit. She put her hand into her bandoleer pouch and pulled out the object she had crashed into the planet to find. It was smaller than the one she and Swaint had eaten, but it was just as bright orange. She checked the computer database to make sure she was doing this correctly, then she opened up her portable grower, and planted the little berry.

Time passed, the ship traveled through space. Nettle turned Smile-go back on, and began working on another little bot, maybe one that could fly this time. News came over the Beldum net about Helios 9. It could have been worse. The quick actions of the military were able to buy enough time for most of the civilian population in the cloud cities to make it into space. A number of the fleeing civilian vessels were destroyed by the colossal space Grimm, but many of them escaped the system. Several nearby planets had deployed ships to come to Helios’s aid, but by the time they got their it was largely too late. Most of the military had been either killed or driven to the surface, and all the sky cities and sky towns destroyed. The massive Grimm ship in space was driven away, but with no place to land, the other planets were unwilling to drop combatants with no clear way of getting them back off planet. Communication was made with the military force on the ground, and they were holding on, having allied with the native surface dwellers who were surprisingly prepared for this sort of space invasion. It would be a protracted affair. No one was sure if the military would be able to wipe out the Grimm, who had covered the planet at this point, but they were holding on, creating safe places. The planet was marked as a Grimm occupied world, pending self-liberation, and the other forces departed, leaving the planet alone to fight the Grimm.

Nettle thought about Helios 9, about its cloud beds, and its impossibly tall trees, about it fog and its berries. She thought about Swaint, about how she had seen him disappear behind the building, surrounded by winged Grimm. She thought about these things, and she tended her Oran berry. At least she had a piece of Helios with her, at least she had that.

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