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Pokémon The Legendarian Chronicles

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
The story of an inevitable war, the humans that tried to stop it,
and all the reasons their failure was written into the universe itself.




Hello everyone, and welcome to LC, a trainer fic that was first started on December 14, 2001. Yes, you read that right, this fic is seventeen years old. You might have seen it floating around various other fanfiction websites over the years. After twelve revisions, four rewrites, and multiple hiatuses, I'm finally on track to actually finish this ridiculous, over-the-top story about Rockets, Legendaries, betrayal, conspiracy, war, destiny, timespace, and infinity.

LC is rated PG-13 for violence, blood/gore, language, and dark subjects including torture, trauma, emotional abuse, and suicide. Individual chapters with an elevated rating will be given content warnings.

The first six or so chapters of the fic are absolutely loaded with clichés. Don't worry, it's intentional. This definitely isn’t a normal trainer fic, and I’ve done my best to realistically explore the repercussions of the tropes that I’m using. If you like seeing characters pushed to their breaking point in increasingly bad situations, then this is the fic for you.

LC doesn't take place in any particular canon, and is mostly an excuse to show off my various headcanons on how the Pokemon world functions. If you're curious, this fic was heavily inspired by Pokemon Special, Mewtwo Returns, and Animorphs. So if you like any of those things, you might like this.

LC will update once a week, on weekends, until it catches up with Serebii, FFN, and AO3. Since my updates are biweekly over there, that means we'll eventually catch up here, although it will take some time. If you ever get impatient, feel free to read ahead on those sites.

This is gonna be a long ride. So strap yourselves in and get ready, because I’ve reached the point where the plot don’t stop.




This story began with the human who rejected infinity.
It will end with the human who accepted it.


~PROLOGUE~

A pair of eyes snapped open, radiating a cobalt aura and piercing the inky blackness within the depths of the sea. The true blessing of light had never reached the ocean floor, and even the rare glow of life could not break its concealment. The creature to which the eyes belonged knew this better than any other. The deep was always dark and always would be. The deep was always calm—not like the surface. The deep could always hide those who wished to be hidden. But the time for hiding was at its end.

At once, the creature shot up from the ocean trench like a silver torpedo. The crushing depths released their hold as it flew through the water, scattering countless tiny water Pokémon in its wake. Piercing eyes adjusted to the rapid increase of light just in time to be met with the inviting glimmer of the surface right above. And then the beast rocketed out of the sea. Cool, salty air washed over its body, a sharp contrast to the water’s embrace. The sensation prickled like needles against its feathers, but still… there was something almost freeing about being able to beat its wings through the currents of wind and take gulps of sweet air that burned its unused lungs yet felt so good.

It was so wildly different than the deep, but somehow felt just as right. Flying was, indeed, one of the simplest joys in this world. The creature effortlessly sailed through the skies, its wings stealing bits of silvery cloud from all around to shield it from the view of any onlookers, had there been any. One could never be too careful, especially these days.

The ancient creature had spent much time within the realm of its dominion, reflecting upon the state of the world. The Order had been empowered to protect the balance, and protect it they had. For so long they had kept watch over its course. Caring for it. Guiding it. But there was a time when the balance had fallen, and the flames of war consumed the world. The creature had not witnessed that time itself, but the tale was well known amongst the Order. Even the humans had their stories from that era.

The time for careful observance was at its end. That cataclysmic era had left its mark on the world—one that had lain dormant for nearly 3000 years. Soon the conflict would resurface, and the Order would face its greatest challenge yet. The creature had not wanted to believe it, but the events of the past few years had confirmed those fears.

It was a strange thought, knowing that the balance of the world would soon unravel again. Would they be ready? It wasn’t as if the Order had no course of action before them. They all knew what was required. They’d known for ages. And now the search had been set into motion.

Even as the fires of the Revolution subside, the balance that the Order fought so hard to preserve is already on the inevitable path to being torn apart once again. Seven among them—the ones who dedicated both mind, body, and spirit toward ending the war—shall be empowered to forge an alliance with humankind so that both might endure.

Such a strange course of action, joining the two sides together. But the legend knew just as well as the others that it could not refuse to follow that path. It had seen the threads of fate with its own eyes, much as it hated to admit it. The real question was… when would the conflict reach a point that the interlopers would be forged?

Lugia gazed down over the mainland, its mind swimming with conflicted feelings. The next seven years would be interesting, that much was certain.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A loud ringing filled the air, which meant the end of class for the day—and it was about time, too. I quickly stuffed my books into my backpack, following after my classmates and pretending I hadn’t heard the last-minute assignment that we’d been given. It would have been just as normal as any other afternoon, except my head was still filled with rumors from earlier that morning.

I glanced down the other end of the hallway just in time to spot my friend Ajia, a small fifth-grader with dark hair and eyes. Well, that was good—at least I’d get to talk to someone before the end of the day.

“Hey Ajia!” I called out, waving to her from the crowd of my fourth-grade classmates before quickly making my way over to where she was standing.

“Heya, how was class?” she asked.

“Meh… failed a Pokéspeech quiz—you know, as always,” I replied with a smirk.

Ajia laughed. “Yeah, that class is confusing doom when you first start out. It gets better later on, though,” she said.

“Yeah…” I replied, my mind wandering back to what had been bothering me most of the day. “So, uh… have you seen Starr? I didn’t even see her at lunch.” I fidgeted a bit—how was I supposed to bring up the topic? “Is it really true, that…?” My words sort of died before the end.

Ajia sighed. “I think she didn’t want to talk about it with you ‘cause she knew you’d take it the hardest.”

“What? What does that even—ugh, I’ve got to talk to her before she leaves.”

“She’s right outside, actually,” Ajia pointed out.

I blinked. “Huh? She’s not taking the bus home?”

“No, her mom’s picking her up. If you hurry, you might catch her.”

“Okay. See you on Monday!” I yelled, immediately taking off through a pair of double doors behind me.

The bright afternoon light stung my eyes as I raced past the areas where the younger kids would get picked up by their parents. I quickly glanced over all of the groups sitting along the ledges by the parking lot… and then spotted a girl dressed in a purple shirt and jean skirt sitting by herself off to the side. My footsteps slowed. I paused, hesitating for a bit before walking up to her.

“Hey Jade,” Starr mumbled as I neared. She was leaning forward so that her short brown hair fell across her face—probably to keep from looking me in the eye.

I sat down next to her, but didn’t say anything at first. She had only hinted at what was going on, and I had no idea what I was supposed to think. “So… this is really your last day at school here?” I finally asked.

Starr nodded slowly without looking up.

“Where’re you moving to?” I asked cautiously. She obviously didn’t want to talk about it… and I almost didn’t want to know.

With a blank voice she replied, “Cianwood.” I had no idea where that was supposed to be.

Everything fell silent after that. It was like nothing around us even existed. I couldn’t get my thoughts straight—all of this had come up too fast. Sure… I’d known that she was going to leave at the end of the school year, to start her Pokémon training journey. And I’d been trying not to think about it. But I’d thought we’d have three more months together. Not… this.

“It’s not fair!” I yelled, burying my face in my arms. “Why’d this have to come out of nowhere? And moving on your birthday? What’s up with that?”

“I don’t know… it’s all my mom’s idea, and she didn’t tell me anything. But my dad’s staying here in Viridian.”

I slowly uncovered my face, turning toward her. “You never really see your dad much anymore… do you?”

She shook her head.

“Still… it’s dumb that your mom won’t tell you why all of this is happening,” I added.

“Yeah… she keeps saying that she wants me and my brother to have a better life that we couldn’t have gotten here. Or something like that… she never really explains,” Starr mumbled.

“Hey, that’s right—what does your brother think about all of this? Isn’t he friends with Ajia?”

Starr sighed. “I don’t know, Lexx has been acting weird and not talking to me much lately,” she said with a bit of a scowl.

Neither of us said anything else for a while. I stared at the floor as the time went on, feeling sort of lost.

“Why didn’t you want to talk to me before you left?” I finally managed.

She sighed again. “I didn’t want you to make a big deal out of it, okay?”

“Who says I was gonna?”

Starr laughed. “What do you think you’re doing right now?”

I opened my mouth to say something, but realized she’d got me with that, so I glared and didn’t say anything.

“Pfft, see what I mean? You’re such a little kid,” Starr said, smirking.

“Don’t call me that!” I exclaimed, punching her in the shoulder, but then she just laughed even harder. Yeah, I was annoyed, but I was also glad to see her smiling.

“So… since you’ll be in Johto when you get your trainer’s license, what starter are you gonna choose?” I asked.

“Probably Totodile. You know how much I like water Pokémon.”

I smiled. “Yeah? That’s cool. It just sucks that I won’t be able to start my journey for three more years. Then I could meet up with you and—” The realization hit me out of nowhere. “Hey, wait! If you’re gonna be a Pokémon trainer, that means you can travel anywhere you want, right? So then you can come visit way before I become a trainer!”

She paused, blinking in surprise. “I… hadn’t thought of that,” she said slowly. “It’ll have to wait until I get strong Pokémon to protect me while traveling so far. But… yeah. I’ll do that.”

My face fell. Why wasn’t she more excited about it? Starr was just kind of… staring into the distance, like she was thinking about something. She looked like she wanted to tell me something else, but didn’t say anything.

We sat there for some time after that. It was probably only a few minutes, but I wanted it to last forever. And then Starr glanced up suddenly at a blue car that had just parked along the curb. She stared at it for a few seconds, then stood to her feet and threw her backpack over her shoulder before walking towards the car, her feet dragging a bit. She had only taken a few steps when she paused, turning back towards me one last time.

“Bye.”

Just hearing that one word made me feel weirdly numb. I forced a smile—it felt fake, and I could tell from her face that she wasn’t fooled.

I didn’t watch as she got in the car.





~END PROLOGUE~
A bit of an unsual prologue, I admit. Two halves that have nothing to do with each other, but which both lay important groundwork for the plot later on. And speaking of the plot, this fic might be a long runner, but the plot kicks into high gear immediately in Chapter 1. So if you're at all unsure right now, well... you'll know pretty soon if this fic is for you.
 
Last edited:

Negrek

Spindrift
Staff
Ah, it's nice to start off on this journey again. And with wonderful new chapter art, too! Lugia has always been pretty heavily emphasized in the art you do for the fic, but aside from this prologue it has a pretty small presence in the early story, so now that we've gotten to the Lugia chapter I'm really curious to see how they will end up influencing things from now on, since evidently they've got a big role to play!

Anyhow, I definitely don't have a head for keeping track of revisions, so I don't know how much has changed here since the last version (does this revision get its own version number? What are we on now?) and I won't dwell on it! But I don't think I recall the previous version being quite so explicit about the prophecy and "the search" (presumably for human partners?). If that is a change, I think it's a good one--no real reason to be coy about that (it's still quite vague) and it gives a better idea of why all the legendary stuff from the get-go.

...actually a fair amount about this seems different after the very opening bit? Hmm, not sure if that's just my memory acting up or what. Definitely the mention of Lexx is new. Very interesting! Taking a different approach to setting up the character relationships, huh? It's definitely nice to get a more fleshed-out view of Starr here. Arrgh, "stood to [x's] feet," though, there's a peeve of mine that remains. :P

The little comment about "unused lungs" makes me wonder how Lugia deals with stuff when it's hanging out on the sea floor. Are there gills hiding under those feathers? Or do they just kind of not need oxygen, somehow?

The time for careful observance was at its end.
I think you want "observation" rather than "observance;" usually I think observance is about, like, observing a particular holiday tradition.

Although the two halves of the prologue don't obviously connect, that's never something I've seen as a real problem. Better than the classic bait-and-switch "it was just a dream" prologue you see a lot, although it helps that I know the portentious legendary stuff is going to become relevant quite soon and this isn't the case of some dramatic event getting set up and then not returned to for tens of thousands of words. If anything, a tiny bit more direction in Jade's section (as a bad example, "Even if Starr didn't come to see me, once I had a pokémon of my own, I could find her myself!") might be a little nice. The traditional "go to professor 4 mon" opening is bland and done to death, but it does have the advantage that it's extremely clear what kind of story this is and where it'll be going next. How the prologue is going to progress to Chapter 1, as far as the Jade storyline goes, is a little less clear here.

Glad to see this posted here, and I'll have fun following along again!

(Are you going to do something special to celebrate your fic being a legal adult at the end of this year?)
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
This story began with the human who rejected infinity.
It will end with the human who accepted it.
This might be one of the best opening lines -- or I guess foreword? -- I've seen in a work here so far. Sure, it's a little cliche, but something about it has me intrigued so quickly. So, kudos for that.

--

Hoo, and here I am! Finally beginning whatever this crazy ride is gonna turn out to be, eh? I'm curious to see where this story goes, and this also doubles as the very first trainerfic that I'm ever gonna run across that I think is established enough to considered long-term. So any of those cliches you keep talking about that are seen in trainerfics? I won't be aware of them! I'll just see normal cliches instead.

Overall, I thought this was an interesting dual-prologue. I guess the savvy side in me knew immediately it was a Lugia, but I suppose good job on not revealing that until the end, if only to confirm. It seems that those mythical creatures have a sort of awareness of the world even if they're holed up underwater or hidden away otherwise. And then we jump over to the totally-normal trainers who are totes not gonna be the heroes mentioned in the previous half. I think you did some nice setup and a good prelude to what's coming next. Still, I have no idea what to actually expect, so I guess we'll see.

The sensation prickled like needles against its feathers, but still… there was something almost freeing about being able to beat its wings through the currents of wind and take gulps of sweet air that burned its unused lungs yet felt so good.
This sentence feels a bit long winded for me. The final four words in particular seemed egregious; I felt my mind's breath running out just saying it all.

It had seen the threads of fate with its own eyes, much as it hated to admit it.
Ah, threads of fate, are we? I'm generally not a fan of "fate" tropes, but hey, I've seen it work before. When I read something, I always go in optimistically, so don't fret over this one.

I quickly stuffed my books into my backpack, following after my classmates and pretending I hadn’t heard the last-minute assignment that we’d been given.
Wh--oh. That's right. First person. Huh. Threw me off for a second~. Also, either my reading comprehension has a huge gap, or I don't know the speaker's name yet.

failed a Pokéspeech quiz
This was a nice one-line drop of worldbuilding that implies so much. Good work.

“It’s not fair!” I yelled, burying my face in my arms.
I felt like this scene was a bit too quick / emotionally charged for what little buildup it had. I don't really have much investment in this, so when I see that reaction, I sorta felt it was a little overblown without knowing anything else, y'know? Or maybe I'm just more a fan of subtler reactions. Could be either, but this definitely needed more buildup, even if it was in the form of just a paragraph about a heart racing or a sinking stomach or... anything. Thoughts were good, but it still felt fast considering the yell and actions right after. I'm sorta envisioning it in my head and it's just a big reaction after walking up. Talk about making a scene!

I'm nitpicking at this point.

Overall, nice start. Looking forward to chapter 1 proper.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Ah, it's nice to start off on this journey again. And with wonderful new chapter art, too! Lugia has always been pretty heavily emphasized in the art you do for the fic, but aside from this prologue it has a pretty small presence in the early story, so now that we've gotten to the Lugia chapter I'm really curious to see how they will end up influencing things from now on, since evidently they've got a big role to play!
It sure is great that it took over a third of the fic's runtime to make Lugia a character, isn't it. :T

Anyhow, I definitely don't have a head for keeping track of revisions, so I don't know how much has changed here since the last version (does this revision get its own version number? What are we on now?) and I won't dwell on it! But I don't think I recall the previous version being quite so explicit about the prophecy and "the search" (presumably for human partners?). If that is a change, I think it's a good one--no real reason to be coy about that (it's still quite vague) and it gives a better idea of why all the legendary stuff from the get-go.
Ahh, I'm just lumping this round of edits in with Revision 12. 12 changed a ton of future plot things, but didn't involve any changes to earlier chapters, and these edits mostly just exist to bring the early chapters in line with 12. This means that 12 is the final revision, unless I somehow feel the need to revamp the plot again, which is highly unlikely considering how much I like it now.

...actually a fair amount about this seems different after the very opening bit? Hmm, not sure if that's just my memory acting up or what. Definitely the mention of Lexx is new. Very interesting! Taking a different approach to setting up the character relationships, huh? It's definitely nice to get a more fleshed-out view of Starr here.
New version is definitely a lot less vague/more explicit! And it takes full advantage of the fact that I've already written the ending to the fic (a few lines up there are actually direct references to the ending.)

but I do have to let you know that people have been theorymongering about Lexx since 2010. :V

Arrgh, "stood to [x's] feet," though, there's a peeve of mine that remains. :P
Oh? Do tell! I'm not familiar with that one, and I have no qualms with changing it.

The little comment about "unused lungs" makes me wonder how Lugia deals with stuff when it's hanging out on the sea floor. Are there gills hiding under those feathers? Or do they just kind of not need oxygen, somehow?
Ahaha, well I won't pretend to know the mechanism behind it, but I have always headcanoned Lugia as being able to breathe underwater (it just spends way the heck too much time down there for it to not.)

I think you want "observation" rather than "observance;" usually I think observance is about, like, observing a particular holiday tradition.
Ah, good catch!

Although the two halves of the prologue don't obviously connect, that's never something I've seen as a real problem. Better than the classic bait-and-switch "it was just a dream" prologue you see a lot, although it helps that I know the portentious legendary stuff is going to become relevant quite soon and this isn't the case of some dramatic event getting set up and then not returned to for tens of thousands of words.
So I had to go check, and it turns out the portentous Legendary stuff doesn't come back into the fic until 109k words from now. xD; well at least there's Rockety stuff in the meantime lol.

If anything, a tiny bit more direction in Jade's section (as a bad example, "Even if Starr didn't come to see me, once I had a pokémon of my own, I could find her myself!") might be a little nice. The traditional "go to professor 4 mon" opening is bland and done to death, but it does have the advantage that it's extremely clear what kind of story this is and where it'll be going next. How the prologue is going to progress to Chapter 1, as far as the Jade storyline goes, is a little less clear here.
Ahh, that's a good idea, I'll add something like that.

Glad to see this posted here, and I'll have fun following along again!
Ahaha, well, I hope you're not expecting this run to be too different than the previous one, as this round of edits has basically just involved tidying up the writing style. Nothing's really changed (though maybe it's been long enough since you read the early chapters that it won't be terribly boring, idk.) ^^;

(Are you going to do something special to celebrate your fic being a legal adult at the end of this year?)
(I'm reminded of Amby's comment of "oh god it's old enough to drive" during LC’s 16th.)

Honestly, I kinda reached my peak with that poster for the 17th. ^^; There’s no way to up the ante from there. Although I was thinking of making a new banner for Serebii since the old one is outdated (and if I do, that might be right around the time I start Book 2 here, so that will line up nicely.)
This might be one of the best opening lines -- or I guess foreword? -- I've seen in a work here so far. Sure, it's a little cliche, but something about it has me intrigued so quickly. So, kudos for that.
Thanks! I came up with that line shortly after I wrote the ending to the fic, so it seemed like a nice way to tie it together. Although I'm surprised it reads a bit cliche, as I haven't read too many other stories that deal with infinities

Hoo, and here I am! Finally beginning whatever this crazy ride is gonna turn out to be, eh? I'm curious to see where this story goes, and this also doubles as the very first trainerfic that I'm ever gonna run across that I think is established enough to considered long-term. So any of those cliches you keep talking about that are seen in trainerfics? I won't be aware of them! I'll just see normal cliches instead.
Oh boy, well, in that case, I’ll let you know that the trainerfic cliches are:
  • Kids starting their journey
  • Protagonist rescues dying Pokémon
  • Protagonist can talk to Pokémon
  • Charmander (yes, this counts as a trainerfic cliche)
  • Kids fighting Team Rocket
  • Legendaries
  • ~Chosen Ones~
  • Hybrids and genetic experiments
And those are just off the top of my head!

…it should go without saying that this fic hardcore deconstructs all those things. Well… except maybe the Charmander one. I have no excuse for that. :P

This sentence feels a bit long winded for me. The final four words in particular seemed egregious; I felt my mind's breath running out just saying it all.
Ah good catch, I've been trying to break the habit of too-long sentences.

Ah, threads of fate, are we? I'm generally not a fan of "fate" tropes, but hey, I've seen it work before. When I read something, I always go in optimistically, so don't fret over this one.
ahahaha

Without spoiling too much, you’ll be happy to know that this fic doesn’t play fate straight at alllllll. A core theme is whether or not fate even exists.

This was a nice one-line drop of worldbuilding that implies so much. Good work.
Since the idea of Pokéspeech itself it pretty divisive, I figured I'd warm the reader up to the fact that it exists before I actually have it happen onscreen.

I felt like this scene was a bit too quick / emotionally charged for what little buildup it had. I don't really have much investment in this, so when I see that reaction, I sorta felt it was a little overblown without knowing anything else, y'know? Or maybe I'm just more a fan of subtler reactions. Could be either, but this definitely needed more buildup, even if it was in the form of just a paragraph about a heart racing or a sinking stomach or... anything. Thoughts were good, but it still felt fast considering the yell and actions right after. I'm sorta envisioning it in my head and it's just a big reaction after walking up. Talk about making a scene!
Ah, you're right. For some reason, that line in particular has given me the most trouble out of that scene, and I still haven't nailed the mood I was going for.

Overall, nice start. Looking forward to chapter 1 proper.
Glad to have ya on board!

Thanks for the reviews, both of you! Since the prologue is short, I think I'll post chapter 1 a tad earlier than I was planning~
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
In this fic, most kids start their Pokémon journey around age 12. It used to be a hard age limit, but I decided to remove that in favor of a softer “take two years of Pokémon handling classes and then pass the training exam.” Most kids leave at the start of summer with the intent of challenging the Pokémon League the following year.

And with that out of the way… here we go. Get ready to dive into the plot straight away. No looking back.

~Chapter 1: Ravaged Mountainside~


June 5

Summer days were made for this—made for the blast of wind in my face and the rush of exhilaration as my bike flew down the street. The slightest twinge of fear pricked at the back of my head, but it was easy to shove aside. My eyes focused straight ahead, blocking out everything else. Teeth clenched. Fists tightened on the handlebars as I closed in on my target. Just a few more seconds and I’d pull back on the handlebars at just the right moment and—

“Aw yeah!” I yelled, throwing a fist towards the sky as my bike flew through the air. No matter how many times I jumped that same ramp, those precious few seconds of being airborne were the greatest thing in the world. I landed several feet away with a thud and immediately veered my handlebars to double back in a wide arc, waving toward the top of the hill.

“Did you see how much air I got?!” I yelled.

“Big deal, I can beat that!” Rudy called out to me while speeding downward on his bike. The usual determined grin covered his tan face; his dark eyes were wide and full of confidence as he raced downward. Neither of us were really experts at this whole biking thing, but who cared? It was by far the best way to spend the after-school hours, and summer offered the promise of biking every day.

I sluggishly pedaled upward, still watching him race toward the ramp. Which is why I never saw it coming.

Out of nowhere, a black blur shot into the street, skidding to a halt right in front of me. I swerved instantly to avoid hitting it, but then—crap, I was heading for a parked car—had to turn! I spun way too far, my front wheel hit the curb sideways, and then I found myself toppling over into a sprawled heap on the grass.

Well, that was random. But there was really only one thing that could have done that. Sure enough, only a few seconds passed before I felt heavy paws on my chest. Black fur covered my entire field of vision, and the air was filled with musty, hot breath and uneven panting.

“Ow… get off, Ebony!” I yelled, shoving the Houndour away. She lumbered off, but sat down less than two feet from me, apparently fighting the urge to jump on me again.

I sighed exasperatedly. “You’re never gonna get tired of this game, are you?” Sure, she knew me, but still felt determined as ever to ‘protect’ her home and her owner—who was now standing next to his bike, cracking up.

“Pfft—shut up, Rudy,” I laughed, climbing to my feet and wiping the grass from my baggy shirt and jeans. “How’d Ebony get out this time?” I glanced back at the energetic puppy, who was now wagging her stubby tail with the hope that she could play with us.

“Dunno,” Rudy said, shrugging. “I guess I didn’t close the backyard up good enough. At least Chloe didn’t follow her.” He grabbed Ebony’s collar and led her toward his backyard. The Houndour followed without struggle, though she made an exaggerated show of dragging her paws as heavily as possible.

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you—I get to bring Ebony with me when I leave,” Rudy spoke up casually, like I already knew what he was talking about.

“Huh?” I said, not really sure what he was getting at. And then my brain clicked into place. “Wait, wait… You’re leaving on a training journey?”

“Yeah, didn’t I tell you?” he asked.

“No. You didn’t,” I said flatly, a sinking feeling growing in my stomach. Really, he waited until now to tell me something like this?

“Yeah? Er, sorry… but you can’t be surprised. I mean, school just got out, I passed the exam—why would I wait? It’s like the most perfect time to start training.”

Unfortunately, he was right. Summer really was the best time to start a training journey, even though you could apply to take the exam at any time after passing the required two years of Pokémon handling courses beforehand.

“You realize you’re pretty much the only person I know who hasn’t left on a journey yet?” The words were out of my mouth before I’d had time to fully think them through.

He shrugged. “I guess? But that’s only because I’m starting late.”

“Getting your license at thirteen isn’t that late. My not having a license at fourteen? That’s late,” I grumbled.

“Oh come on,” Rudy said, looking kind of bored with my complaints after having heard them a dozen times. “I still say you should just take Swift and leave, license or no license.”

I stared at him. “I’m not gonna train Pokémon illegally. I’m not that stupid.”

“Alright, alright, it was just an idea,” he said, waving a hand impatiently. “I’m just saying if I failed the exam twice, that’s what I’d do—just take Ebony and leave. Though it would kinda suck not getting a starter.”

“Yeah, that’s definitely the worst part about training illegally,” I said. Then again, this was a nice place to change the subject. “So… which starter are you gonna pick, anyway?”

Rudy gave me a look like I was the dumbest person in the world. “Do you seriously think I would pick anything other than Charmander?”

“Right,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Because already having one fire Pokémon just isn’t enough. This way you can light even more random crap on fire.” I guess the flame-tailed Charmander would be a perfect match for him, in that case.

“I just hope they don’t run out of starters at the League registration building…” Rudy mumbled to himself as we led Ebony along a rock path to a fenced-off area of his backyard. “Maybe if Dad takes me there today—it is Friday—but so many trainers have already started…”

“Heyy, that’s right—Charmander is the most popular Kanto starter. You might get stuck with Bulbasaur,” I said tauntingly.

“Shut up,” he laughed. “I don’t like grass-types.”

Really? I had no idea.”

We stepped onto the grass and over to the fence where Rudy opened a gate and let Ebony in with Chloe. The latter wagged her fluffy tail nonstop as she nosed up against the fence, obviously hoping for a chance to play with us. When neither of us responded, the Growlithe turned around and immediately decided roughhouse with Ebony instead. Rudy threw a glance around the rest of the backyard before suddenly clapping a hand to his forehead.

“Oh crud! I forgot to do my chores—my dad’s gonna kill me!” he exclaimed.

“I could help,” I said, shrugging.

He considered the offer for a bit, running a hand through his spiky black hair. “No, if my dad gets home and sees that you’re here… I wasn’t even supposed to be playing in the first place. Help me get the ramp in and then I gotta get to work.”

I groaned mentally as we ran back to the front yard—figures that something like this would come up. We grabbed opposite ends of the ramp and carried it to his garage, setting it in a corner next to the large pile of boxes that took up most of the space. He wheeled his bike in and slammed the garage shut.

“I’ll see ya, Jade,” Rudy said, running to the backyard.

“Later,” I said, swinging a leg over my bike and riding down the street to my house. Well, a perfectly good day of biking had been cut short. The only thing I could think of to pass the time was… bike some more. It seemed like a nice day to go riding around town for a little bit, in any case… just to take my mind off things.

I grabbed my wallet from my room, quickly scribbled a note to my mom on the first piece of scrap paper I could find, and was about to head outside when a fluttering noise from the other room made me stop. The source of the noise was the Pidgey sitting atop his wooden perch in the corner, flapping his wings lightly. He gave a few chirps, not saying anything in particular but hoping to get my attention in the smallest way possible.

“You don’t have to be so shy, Swift—you know you can come with me whenever I go for a ride,” I said, smiling and holding out my arm as the tawny bird flew over to perch on my shoulder. With that, I walked outside and mounted my bike once again, and the Pidgey took flight overhead, chirping contentedly.

I wandered the streets of Viridian City, glancing around at the various storefronts that I passed, half tempted to stop by the card shop or the c-store, but deciding against it. I mostly just wanted to ride aimlessly under the shade of the trees, enjoying the cool breeze and the empty sidewalks that came with it still being early in the afternoon. Every so I glanced up at the sky through the trees, hands drifting from the handlebars as my mind wandered back to the previous conversation.

Rudy was leaving. Going on a training journey, like everyone else. And as much as I hated to admit it… I was glad when he didn’t have the credits to take the exam last year.

I’d never had all that many friends, but it seemed like for each one that left, I always had someone still here. Starr had been the first to leave, five years ago. Then Ajia three years ago, then all the aspiring trainers in my year, and then everyone I knew in the year below me. I didn’t even want to be a professional trainer; I just wanted to go with them. First I screwed up by failing Pokéspeech so many times that I didn’t have enough credits the summer after I turned twelve. Then failing the test the summer after I turned thirteen. And now this year. The crushing feeling of seeing that failing score… for the second time.

I hated to think about it, and yet I didn’t want to do anything but think about it.

I was now nearing the edge of Viridian city; the trees and buildings on either side of the road had grown further apart, replaced with open stretches of tall grass. I’d just reached the point where the road merged with the highway to Johto, with trails leading north branching off into the forest—this was usually where I turned around. I glanced up at the sky and was about to call Swift, but he wasn’t there.

“…Swift?” I called out hesitantly, half expecting him to hear me and suddenly fly into view, even though the sky was completely open. Where had he gone? He had never done this before.

“Swift!” I yelled, pedaling hard to power my bike along the route. A feeling of unease was spreading through the back of my mind. This wasn’t like him. Had something happened to him? There was no way, but I couldn’t see any sign of him in the entire… sky. I’d just realized. The sky was empty. No birds anywhere within sight, and these fields were usually full of Spearow.

“That’s… weird…” I muttered to myself. My eyes traced the horizon, hunting for any possible clue, when I spotted a plume of smoke within the trees to the north. What was that?

Feeling almost compelled to head that way, I turned and rode along a trail leading north—towards the forest. I reached the treeline within minutes and kept going, unsure of whether I’d be any nearer to finding Swift when I could barely see the sky anymore. Still, I kept getting a vague feeling of significance, like this was important somehow. I couldn’t explain it, and the more time passed, the more stupid I felt.

I was just about to turn around when I caught sight of a winged figure passing over the trees above me.

“Swift?!” I yelled, not expecting much. It could have been any bird.

Except it wasn’t. It was him.

“Swift!” I exclaimed, holding out my arm for him to perch. “Why’d you fly off like that? What’s going on?”

His expression was reserved like usual, but distinctly troubled. He motioned a wing in the direction I’d been heading.

“Did you check out the smoke or something? Is there a fire?” I asked.

The Pidgey nodded. I glanced over my shoulder, but now that there was a thick canopy of trees above us, I couldn’t make out the smoke anymore. Then again… weren’t there a lot of fire-types living in the area? Fires had to be pretty common.

Swift gave a low string of chirps. This time they had meaning, and I knew at least enough Pokéspeech to catch the words, “*It’s bad… come see.*”

He took flight again towards the ridge north of us, and I followed in silence for several minutes. In time, the air was filled with a thick haze, and a horrible stench burned my nose. And still we continued on until we reached the edge of the destruction. One moment we were within the thick of the forest, and the next, there was nothing but the charred remains of tree trunks and blackened bits of what had once been grass and leaves. Flurries of ash saturated the air, stinging my eyes. And that noxious odor just wouldn’t go away.

I stopped dead. For whatever reason, I realized that the odor saturating the air was burning flesh. These woods had been filled with Pokémon, all of them now dead. My brain really had no idea how to process any of it. Who on earth expected to see something like this on an ordinary day?

“C’mon…” I muttered to Swift. “We don’t need to be here. We shouldn’t be here.”

But then I caught a glimpse of flame amongst the ashes, burning feebly at the edge of a dark mass. I leaned my bike against a tree before approaching it hesitantly, my eyes widening once I got a good look at it.

It was breathing.

The mound was alive. It was a Charmander.

I stared, unable to believe it. The lizard’s orange scales were burnt black, and with each breath its body shuddered, almost as if it were cold. The flame that should have burned bright yellow on its tail was little more than a tiny scarlet ember that flickered constantly.

Shaking slightly, I reached a hand towards it. I didn’t know why—it was like my arm was moving on its own. So far, the Charmander hadn’t reacted to my presence. I took a deep breath before awkwardly attempting to pull the blackened scraps of wood and leaves away from it. The lizard jerked suddenly upon having its skin exposed to the air, and I snapped my hand back. Okay, so trying to clean its wounds was a bad idea; what was I thinking. It wasn’t like I had any water or bandages anyway. In fact, water probably would have made things worse.

The fire-type didn’t move again after that. It was still breathing though, so I could only guess that it was out cold.

“I wouldn’t stay here much longer if I were you.”

I jolted at the sudden voice. Someone else was here? I threw a glance over my shoulder and sure enough, a figure was approaching me. The smoke obscured him at first, but eventually he came into view. He was several years older than me—at least eighteen or so—and quite a bit taller than me, with wavy brown hair and icy blue eyes. He was dressed in a black shirt with a long gray coat, navy blue cargo pants, and thick, gray boots. And he was currently examining me with a reserved expression that made me feel like I was being x-rayed. Somehow, his overall air was that of someone much older.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“You shouldn’t be here,” he repeated. “They wouldn’t want any witnesses, and”—he paused mid-sentence and suddenly asked, “Are you a Pokémon trainer? You look old enough to be one.”

“Um, no… not yet,” I admitted. After a few seconds of awkward silence, I asked, “Are you?”

“I’d have to be if I wanted to carry these around,” he replied, pointing to the small red and white spheres clipped onto his belt. Right—only licensed trainers were allowed to use Pokéballs.

Now gazing at the ravaged landscape, he muttered, “Amazing how much damage humans can cause. The fire’s spread too far, though… how do they plan to keep it unnoticed?” I wasn’t entirely sure whether he was talking to me or just commenting to himself.

“Who did this, do you know—?”

“There’s no point trying to explain it,” he interrupted, walking further in the direction I had originally been going. “Just follow me.”

I glanced back down at the pitiful form of the unconscious Charmander. I didn’t want to risk hurting it by moving it, but what choice did I really have? Was I supposed to just leave it here to die? I hesitated as long as possible, but then finally wrapped my arms around the lizard’s limp body, taking care to avoid its tail flame, tiny though it was. Its skin felt raw and sticky against mine and gave off a radiating heat.

The trainer was now just a hazy figure in the distance with all of the soot clouding the air, and I had to walk quickly to catch up with him. “How recently did all of this happen?”

“So recently that it’s still happening,” was the only response. We reached the edge of a ridge that overlooked an open valley between the forested hills. It was there that I saw what he was talking about.

A brilliant flash of fire tore across the mountainside before stopping suddenly in the middle of the clearing and unleashing a blazing heat wave outward. When the flames cleared, I saw it. A fantastically bizarre beast stood before us, shaking its head and ruffling its long brown mane. Jagged spikes framed its back, and a silky, cloud-like tail billowed constantly. The creature whipped its head around to take in its surroundings, and when it turned in our direction, I couldn’t help but stare openmouthed. Its face was, in short, amazing—rimmed by brightly colored crests of red along the side, blue over the muzzle, and a crown of yellow over its eyes.

Entei. The Beast of the Volcano. A Legendary Pokémon of Johto. Right here, right in front of us, for real.

Suddenly, I heard a roar of engines to the right. A huge group of jeeps and trucks burst into the clearing, filled with countless armed adults. Entei recoiled backward, pelted by bullets—they were shooting it? The auburn beast slammed its shackled paws to the ground and let loose a wave of fire, incinerating everything within the valley. But then the flames cleared, revealing the vehicles’ protective energy shields. Around two dozen Pokémon charged forward from behind the jeeps, unleashing torrents of water at their target. Entei stood its ground with a determined glare, but I could still see it wincing in pain as steam poured off its body. I could still hear the fury in its roar as it tried to flee, gripped by the glow of something preventing its escape.

“What… how can they…? Why…?” I stammered.

There was a pause. Then came the reply, “Have you heard of Team Rocket?”

I tilted my head. “Well… pretty much everyone has heard of Team Rocket, right?” The notorious organization that had run this region’s criminal underworld for as long as anyone could remember. But knowing anything about them—that was a different story.

“To the general public,” he continued, without acknowledging I’d said anything, “Team Rocket is nothing more than a widespread group of criminal gangsters. What the public doesn’t know is that for the past twenty years, the team has been making a slow push for total control over all of Kanto and Johto. On the surface, they’re still the same thieves, smugglers, and traffickers they’ve always been. But that just hides the fact that there’s another side to the team that no one knows about.” He motioned to the ongoing struggle down in the valley.

Words failed me. Everything he had said was kind of overloading my brain, and the only thing I could manage was, “How did you find out about this?”

The corners of his mouth turned up slightly. “Not all Rockets are satisfied with the direction the team is headed. Some of them have their own plans. Some of them are working against Giovanni from within the team.”

“Giovanni?” He couldn’t mean… the Giovanni? Leader of the Viridian Pokémon Gym?

“The current boss,” he clarified.

I shook my head. “Hang on, hang on. You’re telling me those crazy rumors that he’s involved with Rockets—they’re not just true, but he’s the boss?!

He nodded.

I couldn’t help staring. “You’re serious? That’s supposed to be, like… tabloid fodder for conspiracy nuts. If it’s actually true… shouldn’t more people know?”

“You underestimate the team’s influence,” he replied with a slight laugh. “They have agents working all over. Turning him in wouldn’t do anything.”

Well that was… unnerving. Really, what was I supposed to say to that? With a glance back at the blazing hillside, I asked, “Shouldn’t we do something? I mean, if we don’t—”

“We?” he said, his voice tinged with amusement. “You have a pet bird and a half-dead lizard; I’d be the one doing everything. And I know my limits. I can’t stop them alone.”

I glanced down at the dying Charmander in my arms, feeling rather miserable about all of this. Really, why did he even bother explaining anything only to flat-out tell me I was useless?

“What would you say,” he began slowly, with an unusual tone, “if I told you that a large-scale takeover might soon be within their grasp?”

I whirled around to face him, gaping in shock. “What?”

“That’s why they’ve taken to capturing Legendary Pokémon. If the heads of the combat unit had Legendaries at their disposal, there would be no stopping them.” His tone was perfectly casual, as though Team Rocket being on the verge of a regional conquest was normal, everyday conversation.

I was frozen, unable to process all of this. “…What do we do about that? Why are you telling me this?”

He gave me a very serious look. “Are you interested in helping stop Team Rocket’s Legendary project? Would you be willing to fight them?”

I stared. How exactly was I supposed to fight them, and how did he expect me to? Didn’t he just say that there was no way I could help? I kept waiting for him to say something like “it would be nice if it were possible,” but his expression was cold and unflinching.

“How… what do you mean?” I asked.

“If you were able to stop Team Rocket from catching Legendaries, would you?”

I wanted to say “well, who wouldn’t?” but that didn’t seem like a very good answer. I found myself simply nodding.

He considered me for a while before reaching into his coat pocket and pulling out a small card. “This is your formal invitation to join a team against the Rockets,” he said, handing it to me. “I’ve been handing these out to people just starting their journey. Once you become a trainer, I want you to meet me at the location specified on the card, and I’ll tell you more.”

“But how—?” I began.

“What’s on that card is all I can say for now,” he said firmly. “Don’t lose it, and don’t reveal it.”

He unclipped a ball from his belt and pushed a button on it, causing it to enlarge and open. A flash of white light burst from inside and took the form of a tall dragon. Shiny, flaming orange-colored scales covered most of its thickly muscled body, save for a massive pair of blue wings. My eyes widened—it was a Charizard, the fully evolved form of Charmander. I’d never seen one in person.

He replaced the Pokéball and climbed onto the dragon’s back. It flexed its wings and outstretched them, flapping against the air and sending flurries of soot into my face. I shielded my eyes reflexively until the reptile had lifted off.

“I’ll see you,” the trainer said before soaring out of sight.

“Later…?” I said, more to myself than him. How and why I’d see him later was beyond me. I looked at the small card he had given me and read.

If you have received this card, it is because you have been recognized as either a beginning trainer with the potential for skill, or an ambitious young trainer willing to face danger for the sake of stopping Team Rocket. If you are serious about joining a rebellion against the Rockets, then meet in Vermilion harbor prior to July 3 for further instruction.

Talk about vague. Still, it made sense, just in case Team Rocket got a hold of one of the cards. But was he really just giving them out to random trainers? Why was he doing this? And how on earth had I gotten myself mixed up in all of this?

I turned back to the battle that was still continuing. Everything about it was completely mind-boggling. The ridiculously powerful fire beast was still struggling to ward off its attackers, but its strength was waning. I still wanted to help it somehow, even though I knew I couldn’t do anything. It was frustrating, and I felt stupid about it. With a sigh, I sat down and continued to watch.

And then it happened. The Rockets and Entei were now only about a hundred yards away from where I was sitting. One of the jeeps near the front of the formation suddenly broke from the group and began speeding up the hill in my direction. I stared stupidly at the vehicle racing towards me, unable to work though what it meant.

“Don’t… don’t tell me they…” My eyes widened as the realization hit me like a brick.

I’d been spotted. And they were coming for me.





~End Chapter 1~
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
I sighed exasperatedly. “You’re never gonna get tired of this game, are you?” Sure, she knew me, but still felt determined as ever to ‘protect’ her home and her owner—who was now standing next to his bike, cracking up.
I wasn't sure who was talking in t his line, since at first I thought it was Jade, but it was surrounded by lines from Jade, too. So it was someone else, and I had to reread a few times to figure that out.

“I’ll see ya, Jade,”
Also, just a personal nitpick of mine, but it took way too long for us to know her name!

For whatever reason, I realized that the odor saturating the air was burning flesh.
Oh! Well. There we go, then. A minor delay, but at least now we have a feel for the fact that it won't be a very simple tone for this one~

Its face was, in short, amazing
I feel like this is an odd descriptor to use as an opener, when the more objective descriptions came afterward. I think I'd prefer to have the judgement of how amazing its face was happen after the actual description happened.

He gave me a very serious look. “Are you interested in helping stop Team Rocket’s Legendary project? Would you be willing to fight them?”
Huh, just like that? I mean, we certainly had to get the plot started somehow, but I wonder just how secure those kinds of cards are when you think about it. For one, I mean, Jade just got spotted, so that's not good, and what happens if they see the card? What if a young, naive trainer happens to blab about it, and Team Rocket already knows the meeting that's about to happen? There's almost a whole month until the meeting date, after all, so... oof.

--

Anyway, interesting start! Things are already rolling, though much like Jade, we don't know the full context, and just the "what if I told you" Matrix premise of the conspiracy that's happening under the public's nose. I found it a bit entertaining in a morbid way that a Charmander of all things is the one burned, especially considering how they're known to deal with lava. Still, since Pokemon attacks are a different thing to deal with, what with the implicitly ethereal nature of it all, not to mention it being Legendary fire, it makes more sense. But I can't help but nitpick that Fire Types can't get burns. I'd've been more inclined to see a waterlogged Charmander due to a stray water cannon in peril instead, which would've added extra foreshadowing for what happened right after.

Overall, though, interesting start proper, getting right into the plot!
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
I wasn't sure who was talking in t his line, since at first I thought it was Jade, but it was surrounded by lines from Jade, too. So it was someone else, and I had to reread a few times to figure that out.
Ah, good point, I'll just make that the same paragraph.

Also, just a personal nitpick of mine, but it took way too long for us to know her name!
Oh, you might have missed the bit where Starr called her by name in the prologue!

Huh, just like that? I mean, we certainly had to get the plot started somehow, but I wonder just how secure those kinds of cards are when you think about it. For one, I mean, Jade just got spotted, so that's not good, and what happens if they see the card? What if a young, naive trainer happens to blab about it, and Team Rocket already knows the meeting that's about to happen? There's almost a whole month until the meeting date, after all, so... oof.
Are you telling me that this meetup is going to go terribly, terribly wrong? :) Why, I never--

I found it a bit entertaining in a morbid way that a Charmander of all things is the one burned, especially considering how they're known to deal with lava. Still, since Pokemon attacks are a different thing to deal with, what with the implicitly ethereal nature of it all, not to mention it being Legendary fire, it makes more sense.
Heh, yeah, I was mostly just going for it being the sheer strength of Legendary fire. (On a related note, in a chapter I'm writing currently, there's the line, “I’ve always wanted to know just how much lightning it would take to hurt a ground-type. Should we test it?”)

Thanks for the review! And now, chapter 2:


~Chapter 2: Reinforcements~


I immediately took off back the way I came, mind racing. They were coming for me—why were they coming for me? Swift flew nearby as I sprinted though the woods, still completely floored by everything. I could feel my heart pounding and my lungs burning as I choked on ash, but the sudden burst of fear kept me running onward. I threw a glance over my shoulder—I wasn’t running nearly fast enough. They were gaining on me.

My only hope was to reach my bike—nothing was more important than that. If I managed to, then I could make it to town before they caught me and then lose them on the side streets. Just that tiny bit of hope was enough, but was I too far away?

I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder again, and—they were right behind me. What was I supposed to do now?! I wasn’t going to make it in time!

The jeep sped past me and skidded to a stop in my path. I spun around and tried to run in the other direction, but the driver threw open the door and grabbed me by the back of my shirt.

“No! No, stop, damn it—” I yelled, flailing as hard as I could, but it was no use. The Rocket flung open the back hatch and threw me into the rear of the jeep without saying a word. And then he climbed back into the front seat and drove off as though nothing had happened.

I lay there in a crumpled heap, my heart racing and my breath shallow and my brain still trying to work through what the hell had just happened. I hadn’t meant to be there—I had just… been there. I willed myself as hard as I could to at least sit up and figure out my situation. But nothing in my body would respond. Not for the longest time. Until finally, clenching my teeth as hard as I could, I managed to force everything out of my mind for one moment and look over the back seat without drawing attention to myself.

Four… there were four Rockets in the jeep. The driver was tall, burly, and looked older than most of the others—probably more experienced too, judging by a number of badges pinned to his vest. My eyes slid to his reflection in the rearview mirror—he had thick black hair and dark eyes surrounded by a stern and commanding face. Just looking at him was intimidating; I couldn’t help ducking behind the seat.

For some reason, my brain finally registered that my arms felt warm. Right, I was still holding the wounded Charmander. It was still unconscious, but also still alive. Then my eyes wandered to the window… and caught sight of buildings? We were nearing Viridian. But why? Why hadn’t we rejoined the group going after Entei? If we drove through Viridian instead… would it be possible for me to yell for help?

No. The windows were up now, and each of the Rockets was armed. There was no way out of this.

I sank back against the seat, still numb with shock. How on earth had I managed to get myself into this? It was the sort of thing you always imagined would happen to someone else. I still couldn’t help trying to come up with something, anything that I could do, even though there was nothing. Nothing—that fact alone was the most paralyzing.

After some time, I pulled myself up to look out the window again. We’d just passed the outskirts of Viridian, now heading into the forests to the east of the city. And then I saw him. Swift was still flapping his wings quickly to follow the jeep, struggling to keep up—it was almost a painful sight. Upon seeing that I was watching him, he soared downward to fly alongside the window, his eyes meeting mine.

“Just go,” I mumbled, though he couldn’t hear me. “There’s nothing you can do…”

I jumped suddenly at the sound of a gunshot and whirled around. My stomach melted into nothing—one of the Rockets pulled out a small handgun and began shooting at Swift. But then just as quickly, the driver held a hand up to stop him.

“Don’t waste your bullets on a Pidgey,” he said.

I quickly turned to look out the back window and saw Swift flying high up in the sky. When he was sure that the Rockets weren’t paying attention, he swooped low again and waved his wing at me. And I could’ve sworn I saw him nod to me before taking off to the north. I stared after him; part of me couldn’t help feeling more alone now. But what was he planning to do?

Upon reaching a small clearing that had been stripped of tress, the jeep suddenly skidded to a halt. I couldn’t see anything more from the back window, and the Rockets in the front seats were blocking my view in front of the car. The driver got out and slammed the door.

I leaned forward to peer out the backseat window and watched as he kneeled and lifted up a small hatch in the grass. Underneath were a keypad and a small screen. He punched in a long passcode and pressed his hand against a scanner before closing the hatch.

And then, amazingly, the ground starting to sink, revealing a wide ramp that descended into darkness. He walked back and got into the car again before driving downward. As we neared the end of the tunnel, the entrance behind us closed, and I could see lights far ahead in the distance. And then we emerged into a massive, dimly lit underground hangar, filled with trucks, small aircraft, and on the far end, a huge jet. I stared around at it all, the realization slowly dawning on me—Team Rocket was every bit as huge as the Charizard trainer had implied.

The driver parked the jeep in an area to the side, and the Rockets all exited the vehicle. I watched as the driver walked off toward one side of the hangar, where a heavy computerized door stood. He pulled a card out of his pocked and touched it to the scanner, unlocking it before entering what looked like an office hallway.

And so, I was left alone in the jeep. Well, not quite alone—the Charmander was still here, after all. I looked down at where I had set it. A tiny flare flickered at the end of its tail, so it was still alive, at least. It probably wouldn’t survive much longer though. That fact made the already bleak situation feel even more crushing.

I jolted at the loud bang of a door being thrown open. A young man stormed out wearing an irritated expression, closely followed by the driver, who was looking weirdly submissive. The former Rocket had to be higher rank or something. If they were arguing, then this would probably be a chance to find out more about my situation, at the very least. Acting more on impulse than anything, I threw myself over the back seats so I could open the back door a crack and hear them.

“Of course no one ever feels like telling me a damn thing about the mission status,” the higher-ranked Rocket snapped. “And what the hell made you think it would be a good idea to grab some random kid who happened to see it? Sure, she reports someone poaching a Legendary, big deal. No one would have any idea that it was us. But now she sure as hell knows too much. Honestly, Tyson, I don’t even know why I—”

“That’s not all,” the driver continued defensively. “I saw him. The one we’ve heard rumors about from the new recruits. Course, he was far off so I didn’t see what he looked like, but I know she did.”

A very heavy pause followed.

“Don’t tell me you’re taking that crap seriously?” his superior asked. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but all I’ve heard is that some dumbass is going around gathering a bunch of twelve-year-olds against us.”

“I heard he was a part of the revolt.”

Yet another pause. This time the other Rocket seemed at least slightly intrigued. “So he might know more about us than we figured. But how many others left us that day? Have any of them accomplished much? I don’t see how this is any—”

He was interrupted by the ring of a cell phone. Tyson answered it and proceeded to listen for nearly a minute while his superior watched, still looking a bit irritated. After some time, Tyson gave a short response quietly and hung up.

“Well?” the other Rocket snapped.

“Shortly after I left, it was looking like Entei was going to escape into the Tohjo Mountains. And then—you’re not gonna believe this—the Johto combat unit showed up,” Tyson reported while his superior made an exaggerated sound of disgust. “They took control of the situation, and of course one of their agents was the one who threw the ball that caught Entei. Only now he’s refusing to hand over; he’s waiting for orders from the Johto commander.”

I felt myself go rigid with shock. They had actually caught it? They’d caught Entei?

“The idiot. Boss’s word isn’t enough for him?” his superior muttered, folding his arms.

Tyson shrugged. “It’s the Johto force. You know how they are.”

“Tch… always making their own terms for everything…” he scoffed. “Anyway, we’re almost ready to ship the experiments to the secondary headquarters for testing, along with the supplies and machinery.” The higher-ranking Rocket jerked a thumb toward the black plane on the far side of the hangar. “Since you’re back, and you have a… vested interest in that program, I want you on board.” At this point, he let out a sigh. “Now, about the kid…”

“Should I just kill her?” Tyson cut in, and my heart stopped.

“Well, if you’re convinced that she knows anything, it could be useful. But I don’t have time to question her, and I know none of the admins do.” Rather unexpectedly, he laughed. “I know, this is perfect—most of the department heads are at Celadon HQ right now. Stick the girl on the transport jet; let them deal with what to do with her.” With that, he walked off to discuss things with some of the other Rockets.

I collapsed into let out a huge sigh of relief. My situation hadn’t improved, but just knowing that I wasn’t dead yet was enough to make me feel better. But then a few seconds later, I spotted Tyson walked back toward the jeep. I immediately climbed into the trunk and pretended like I hadn’t moved at all.

“Well, it’s your lucky day,” Tyson said with a sneer as the back hatch opened. “If you keep your head down and answer the executives’ questions, they might not mind letting you live after all, though I’m not offering any guarantees.” He grabbed me by the wrist and jerked me out of the jeep. I racked my brain for something to do—some sort of resistance to show that I wasn’t just some helpless kid. I couldn’t think of anything.

“Here,” Tyson said, handing me off to one of his subordinates. “Throw her in one of the containment cells on the transport jet. Don’t forget all the standard procedures.”

“What about the kid’s Charmander?” the Rocket asked with a glance back in the jeep.

“That thing isn’t dead?” Tyson said, raising an eyebrow. “I don’t know… we’ve got tons of Pokéballs—I’ll have someone else put it with the stolen Pokémon.”

Tyson walked off in another direction, and the Rocket holding me started heading for the large, black airplane in the opposite corner of the hangar. Several mechanics looked to be making sure everything was in order, and other Rockets were loading supplies into the cargo hold; Tyson’s subordinate escorted me in that direction. Large crates of machinery and boxes of various supplies filled the area, and more were being loaded in. The Rocket paused to unlock a panel along the side, and then I was thrown into a small metal room. He proceeded to check that I didn’t have any weapons or Pokéballs on me—pretty much the only thing I did have was my wallet.

“So…” he said, flipping through it and pulling out my school ID, “Jade Arens, fourteen years old. I’ll be sure to get that on file. And… what do we have here?” I felt like kicking myself when he pulled out the wad of cash I had stuffed in there. It was my birthday savings, which I’d intended to use on a training journey someday, though I had never quite figured out how exactly. A part of me had known all along that it was a stupid idea to carry it around like that, but… there wasn’t much I could do about it now.

After having found the money, the Rocket didn’t bother looking anything else I had in there and simply tossed the wallet into a bin with what I assumed were other stolen items. He then chained my hands and feet to the wall before shutting the door.

I was alone. For how long, I had no idea. I couldn’t see my watch. I had no way of knowing how long I spent in that cell with the only sound being the occasional clunk of more cargo being loaded onto the plane. It was nerve-wracking just standing there drenched in sweat mixed with soot and not knowing how much longer until something happened, or even what would happen. I almost just wanted to get it over with… but then immediately drove the thought from my head when I realized what it meant. Couldn’t afford to think like that—I wasn’t going to die. I was going to figure a way out of this. Except… there was no way out. What was I supposed to do?

After what felt like hours, I heard another door shut and then the heavy thud of what must have been the cargo hatch closing. My body tensed up; the air was now filled with the steadily growing roar of engines. I felt movement—the plane accelerated suddenly, and I felt myself slant backward as it sped up the long ramp that exited the hangar. And with that, we were airborne, and I was heading off to an unknown fate.

I wanted to clear my head, but the thoughts wouldn’t leave. What would I have done differently if I had the chance to redo this day? Going into the forest… that was probably my biggest mistake. Or maybe following the mysterious trainer I’d met. But if what he said about Team Rocket’s imminent takeover was true…

A sudden clang jarred me from my thoughts. Footsteps neared my cell, and I tensed up instinctively. What did they want now? I had no idea what I expected to see when the cell door handle turned and opened.

…But I definitely wasn’t expecting what I did see.

A teenage boy about a year or two older than me stood in the doorway. He was about my height, with thick, dirty-blond hair, baggy clothes, and was currently looking rather pleased with himself.

“Hello there,” he said. “It looks like I’m rescuing you. My name’s Spencer—I think we’re gonna be good friends.”

I blinked. I had about a million questions, but about the only thing I could say was, “What?”

He frowned. “That’s all the response I get? Boring.” He stood aside, allowing a sleek tan and black-furred beast to step in front of him. The final form of Johto’s fire-type starter, if I recalled correctly. “Alright Typhlosion, I need you to melt these chains, so we’re gonna need it hot.”

The Typhlosion leaned down and grasped a bundle of the chains, holding them behind its head. Suddenly, a blazing ring of fire burst out from the red burners around its neck, torching through the metal with a wave of sparks. The room instantly filled with sweltering heat.

Still trying to make sense out of this seemingly random turn of events, I asked, “What are you doing here? And how did you know I was here? Who are you?”

“I already told you my name,” Spencer said matter-of-factly, folding his arms. “And, uh, I guess if you wanna know how I’m here, you’ll have to ask him.” He motioned a thumb over his shoulder.

A voice behind him said, “Yeah, Jade, I hope you’re happy, because I hadn’t planned on getting stuck on some stupid Rocket jet like this.”

What. That voice… it couldn’t be…

Spencer stepped aside, revealing a rather disgruntled Rudy standing in the cargo bay.

“How did you get here?” I asked, completely floored.

He groaned slightly, putting a hand to his face. “Well, Spencer needed to find his Pokémon first, and luckily it was the same place they’d taken you, so we snuck on board and then we came here for you.”

I would have clapped a hand to my forehead if it hadn’t been chained up. “Okay, just… what? That doesn’t answer my—how about you actually start at the beginning? How did you know I was here?”

“Alright, alright,” Rudy said impatiently, as though details like that didn’t matter and he wanted to get them out of the way as quickly as possible. “It’s because of Swift. I’d walked to your house to show off my license, and I saw him pecking the windows in a fuss, and—what’s with that look?!” My jaw had dropped upon hearing the word “license.”

“You got a license. Already?!”

“Oh, come on. Enough questions already,” he said, waving a hand aside. He wasn’t totally paying attention, though, and was now preoccupied with staring at the ongoing blaze. The heat was getting a bit overwhelming.

“Hey, uh, is Typhlosion almost done?” I asked.

Almost right after I said that, the fire beast extinguished its blaze and pulled the chains apart with a snap, which was a relief. I took a few steps to stretch out my legs, the chains clattering around as I walked.

“Guess you’ll have to deal with those for a while,” Spencer said as I stepped out of the cell. “Any closer and he’d have melted your hands and feet off.”

I didn’t really mind—just being free was enough. Really, just them being there was enough to make the entire situation feel better somehow. I wasn’t alone in this; with three of us there was no way we wouldn’t find some way out.

“So…” I said turning towards Rudy. “Am I even gonna get the full story as to how you got here? And how the heck do you already have a license for that matter?”

“Oh, er… right. See, my dad got home right after you left. He would’ve been upset with me for not finishing my chores, except my test results had come in the mail and I passed everything,” Rudy said, beaming. “So, my dad took me to the place and he signed the form and I got my license and a Pokémon and everything.” He stopped there, but then realized that I was looking at him expectantly, wanting to hear the actually important part of the story. “But yeah, uh, I went over to your house, and no one was home, and Swift was flying around like crazy. From what little I could make out, he was saying you were in trouble? So I followed him out into the forest and that’s when I ran into Spencer here.”

“Yeah, my Pokémon were stolen from me a few days ago,” Spencer explained. “I’d been scoping out the entrance to the hideout for a few days, but I had no idea how I was ever gonna get inside. Rudy showed up in the area, and then about an hour later a bunch of jeeps were returning to the base, so we took the chance to sneak in behind ‘em.”

I stared, impressed. “You guys snuck into a Rocket base? What was your plan?”

“No plan, really. Just kind of improvising, y’know?” Spencer said, laughing awkwardly. My face fell somewhat. Okay, so maybe my newfound ally wasn’t the most capable.

“We hung out by a cargo area where we could avoid being seen, but still hear what all the passing Rockets were talking about,” he explained. “Then I overheard stuff about transporting Pokémon and supplies and a prisoner.”

“And just look at this awesome mess it’s gotten us all into,” Rudy added, half-jokingly, half-accusingly.

“You didn’t have to come and get me,” I said, a little bit insulted, even if it was true that he wouldn’t have been in this mess had it not been for me.

He sighed. “I didn’t know any of this would happen, so that doesn’t matter now. We’re here now. This Team Rocket crew sounds like bad news, so we’ve gotta do something.”

Easy for him to say. He hadn’t seen how dangerous they could be.

“Well…” I said, “I guess we’re not really in any danger right now, so we’ve got time to plan.”

“Exactly. Anyway, why don’t we start by screwing up as much of the crap on this plane as possible.” It struck me that Rudy had almost exactly the attitude that the Charizard trainer had been looking for in his anti-Rocket recruits.

With a glance around at the crates surrounding us, I replied, “Screw up things how? I don’t think we can just go around blowing up random crap while flying.”

“Well, for one thing… what do we do about the rest of the stolen Pokémon?” Spencer asked, motioning towards an open box filled with Pokéballs. “I already got mine back, and—”

“Hey wait, that’s right!” I exclaimed, running over to the box. “I had a Charmander with me before I was captured. It should be in there!”

Now it was Rudy’s turn to gape incredulously. “You have a Charmander? What in the—how?”

“I found it out on Route 22, where I got captured. It’s… kind of a long story.” I shifted through some of the Pokéballs in dismay. “How am I ever gonna figure out which one it’s in?”

“Here,” Spencer said, pulling out his Pokédex and opening it. I stared in fascination as he held the Pokéballs up one by one to the device’s scanning lens. After about twenty or so of them, he announced, “Here we go. Low-level, unregistered Charmander. Heh, it’s asking if I want to register it to myself. And, uh… its energy is reeaally low. I know they always say you have to defeat the Pokémon before it’ll let you train it, but come on now.”

“I didn’t catch it,” I said a bit defensively, despite his joking tone. “It was half-dead when I found it. I’ve gotta like… find some healing items or something.” I turned to gaze vaguely around all the supply boxes in the cargo hold.

“Alright. You fix your Charmander, I’ll go see if I can find anything useful,” Rudy said, taking the opportunity to wander off. I could have sworn I heard him mumble, “We should totally set some of this junk on fire at least.”

I headed in the opposite direction, opening boxes and scanning their contents as I went. I’d wondered what jet was intended to transport, but now it seemed like the answer was almost anything. Most of the crates were filled with heavy machinery and old computerized devices, but then others were packed with battle enhancements for Pokémon or stronger variations of the Pokéball. Finally, I scored—a box near the front of the plane was packed with medical supplies. I picked up the first thing I could find and read the label.

“‘Full Restore: Guaranteed to soothe burns, frostbite, poison, rashes, close open wounds, and heal any other damage done to your Pokémon’… sounds great.” I noticed the rather unappealing price tag of 3000p—good thing I wasn’t buying it.

I held out the Charmander’s Pokéball and carefully pressed the button on its center, making it split open down the middle and let loose a burst of white light that condensed into the fire lizard’s unconscious form. It shivered, but looked to be in the same condition it had been earlier.

I kneeled down and sprayed the liquid all over the Charmander’s skin. The lizard flinched, but soon enough, the charred flesh slowly regained its normal color, leaving only patches of scabs on some parts of its back. It was honestly amazing how quickly Pokémon could heal when given a bit of help. Still, it wasn’t enough that the Charmander’s injuries were gone. It was likely still exhausted and drained of power.

“Hey Spencer!” I called out. “Do you know the name of the stuff that fully restores energy?”

“Hyper Potion?” he said, in a tone that sounded more like he was asking me.

“Not injuries. Energy.”

“Oh right… uh, I think it’s called Elixir? Never used one before—not a lot of stores carry ‘em.”

I dug through the box some more. “Got it,” I said, pulling out a yellow bottle labeled “Max Elixir.” I flipped the cap open and poured a small amount into the fire-type’s mouth. Within seconds, the tiny flare on its tail burst into full flame. Slowly, it opened its bright blue eyes and stumbled to its feet.

“Hey, how’re ya feeling?” I asked.

The lizard spun around, eyes wide with alarm. It gave a light whimper, clutching its tail tightly and glancing around at the strange surrounding.

“This has got to be a pretty big shock. And, uh… you’re probably wondering how you got here. I didn’t mean to take you from your home. It’s just that… you were sort of… dying,” I finished lamely. The Charmander relaxed slightly, but didn’t give much of a reaction to my words. Could it even understand me? As a wild Pokémon, it might never have heard human speech before.

“Can you understand me?” I asked.

It stared, apparently confused at my confusion. “*Yes…*” it said slowly, in a tone suggesting that it found the question very strange.

“Well, uh, okay—so you’ve been around humans before. Have you ever been named?”

The fire lizard gave me a long, quiet stare, something shifting in its eyes. After several seconds’ hesitation it replied, “*Firestorm.*”

“Alright then,” I said. “So, are you male or female?” I wasn’t quite sure if this was an offensive question or not, but I wasn’t used to Pokéspeech enough to tell a Pokémon’s gender by its voice.

“*Male,*” he answered simply.

I nodded, not really sure what else to ask him. After having gotten over his initial shock, Firestorm was calmly glancing around at his surrounding, seemingly unconcerned with having been taken from his home and not even very curious about his situation.

The Charmander then said, “Mander char charmander char’charrman?” But it was longer than the previous one-word statements, and I didn’t quite catch most of it. It sounded like a question—something to do with a Pokémon trainer? I was about to ask him if he could repeat it, but then I heard Rudy call out, “Hey Jade, come check this out!”

I stood to my feet and motioned for the Charmander to follow, although on second thought he didn’t really have to—it wasn’t like he belonged to me or anything. After navigating back through the maze of boxes, I found Rudy and Spencer, the former sitting on the ground and undoing the latches on a long metal case.

“Oh hey,” Spencer said, giving a small wave. “Normally I’d say that warnings are meant to be ignored, but I don’t know about this.” He flashed a skeptical look toward Rudy.

I stared blankly. “Huh?”

“Check it out,” Rudy said, holding up the case. Engraved on the top in sleek lettering were the words: “Pokéball Containment Unit.” Beneath that, a label read, “Caution: Experimental Pokémon are extremely unstable and must be kept in the containment unit at all times unless removed by an experiment handler.”

“Experimental Pokémon?” I said incredulously. Then again, Tyson’s superior had mentioned something like that…

“Yeah, yeah! Just think—these could be like, super-powerful mutant Pokémon. If we used them to fight the Rockets, we’d be able to get out of this for sure!” Rudy said excitedly.

I hesitated. “That… does seem like our best chance to get out of here, but… we don’t even know if they’ll listen to—hey, don’t let them out now!” I yelled frantically. He had opened the case, revealing several black Poke Balls encased in holders, each labeled with info on the experiment within.

“I’m just looking,” Rudy countered. “I’m not gonna let them out. Huh… these are weird looking, aren’t they?” He pulled one of the black spheres out of its holder and rotated it in his palm.

“Okay, okay, just wait. We’re not gonna have to fight until this plane lands, wherever it’s going. Spencer, how many Pokémon have you got?”

“Six,” he replied, posing importantly. “Typhlosion here is the strongest, but the rest are pretty powerful too.”

“Alright, that’s good since, uh… Rudy and I will be pretty useless in a fight.” It felt rather lame to admit.

“Hey, what do you mean?! I’ve got two Pokémon,” Rudy shot back.

I clapped a hand to my forehead. “Don’t be stupid, these Rockets are dangerous.”

“How about when the plane lands, we confuse the experiments into attacking the Rockets, and then we run away during the commotion?” Spencer interjected.

“How do we do that—?”

Out of nowhere, an explosion of black light shot out from within our circle, knocking the three of us backward into a pile of boxes. I sat up shakily, completely stunned. What on earth had just happened?

Spencer looked about as flustered as I felt. “Okay, just… what was that?

I glanced around rapidly, my eyes falling on Rudy, toppled over in a heap with his eyes wide, clutching an opened Pokéball.

“What did you…?” I gasped.

“I didn’t open it, I swear!” he yelled back. “It—it let itself out!”

“Wait, where’s the experiment?!” Spencer cut in frantically.

The three of us whirled around in a panic, all eyes falling on the Pokémon that had appeared behind us. A jagged, lightning bolt-shaped tail twitched. Four paws slowly lifted a small, golden-furred mouse off the floor. No… it couldn’t be…

“It’s… it’s a Pikachu?” Spencer blurted out, stifling a laugh. “A Pikachu?

Except something looked… off about it. It was missing the familiar red cheek markings. And… the fur on its head was long and stiffly pointed, almost like feathers. And then its eyes snapped open, revealing a pair of piercing, birdlike eyes.

I hesitated. “Guys… I don’t think—”

At once, a flood of lightning poured out of the rodent’s body. I jumped backward without thinking and tripped over a box as a bolt flew dangerously close to where I’d been standing. Right after that, the experiment shot past me in an instant, bolting up to the highest point it could find before unleashing waves of electricity all around.

“Let me see that!” I shouted, practically shoving Rudy out of the way so I could get a look at the label on the Pokéball slot.

Experimental Pokémon 009: Hybrid series - Pikachu / Zapdos. Possesses abnormally high power level and untamable disposition. Experiment classified as failure due to undersized power capacity, unstable energy signature, and immunity to standard experiment control procedures.​

My face fell with dread. “This thing was mixed with the Legendary Zapdos.”

“What? No way… That is awesome!” Rudy exclaimed.

“Hey, focus! If we don’t stop it, it could end up taking down the plane!”

“Er, right, I’ll put it back in the ball—”

The Pikachu turned suddenly at the sound of our voices and sent a string of lightning flying toward us, shattering the black Pokéball before we could do anything. I gaped in horror—what were we supposed to do now? Firestorm clutched at my leg in fear. Typhlosion leapt in front of our group and snarled defensively, igniting its neck blaze.

And then, in the midst of all this, I heard the sound of a door opening.

“WHAT. THE. EVER. LIVING. HELL?!!

My stomach sank even lower as I turned to see an extremely pissed-off Tyson standing in the doorway to the cargo area, his jaw hanging open from shock.

“Uhh, hey…” Spencer said awkwardly. “Could you leave for a bit? We kind of have a situation here.”

Tyson stared at us in a sort of stupefied rage before turning his gaze on the experimental Pikachu and clenching his teeth. He then pulled one of the black Pokéballs from his belt and opened it. The flash of light from within took the form of a huge green mantis with an armor-plated exoskeleton. Blank, pupil-less eyes flared mindlessly from a vaguely reptilian head. Light glimmered off a pair of scythe-lined forearms that looked sharp enough to cut the air. Wings twitched, ready to strike at any moment. And from its perch atop the mountain of supplies, the Pikachu stared at the Scyther, eyes wide with what looked like both anger and dread.

“Thought you’d play with the hybrids did you?” Tyson asked with a sneer. “Then have fun facing the strongest of them. Kill them, Razors!”

The three of us couldn’t do anything but sit there, frozen in horror as the blade-armed nightmare shot toward us, too fast to even see.






~End Chapter 2~
Why yes, experiment number nine IS a ridiculous concept straight out of DeviantArt, thank you for asking. Please enjoy the fact that this overpowered shockrat with the dumbest possible name (to be revealed later) will be a major character throughout the entire rest of the fic.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
You weren't kidding about getting thrown right into the plot!

So, yes. Very fast pacing right at the beginning, isn't it? she got captured, kidnapped, and now in a reversal of fortune, she got rescued all in the same chapter! Unfortunately, since I just met her, all of this perilous movement is hard to get fully invested in since, well, the story just started, and there isn't a whole lot that I really know about, but I suppose that can't be helped. It's a balancing act between a slow start to get invested, or a fast start to get interested, and you went with the latter pretty hardcore. I'll just see if I can get more invested as time goes on. The Charmander is some bonus points, though I'm curious what the little guy's past is. I feel like there's more to it; after all, you don't just see a random Fire starter (haha pun geddit) in the middle of a forest...

Anyway, some quotes on standout thoughts from this chapter -- many of which actually center around how your ultra-fast start may have hindered you a bit.

I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder again, and—they were right behind me.
I feel like you could have done a bit more showing than telling here. I didn't really get a good idea of what the jeeps were like. Were the bouncing haphazardly over the unstable ground that is a forest? It's not like it's a traditional road, right? Or did they have really, really good shock absorbers? Stuff like that.

one of the Rockets pulled out a small handgun and began shooting at Swift.
Okay hold up. A few passages earlier, it was said that the windows were closed. I dunno about you, but shooting a gun in an enclosed area is going to deafen literally everybody in the place, especially if it was built for taking down Pokemon. And they'd also have shattered the windows, or... I dunno, man. In an effort to make the Rockets seem ruthless, none of the repercussions for such a stupid move were explored.

“Hello there,” he said. “It looks like I’m rescuing you. My name’s Spencer—I think we’re gonna be good friends.”
Ahh, and here comes one of my personal gripes with first person -- we saw none of this coming aside from Swift flying off, and due to the pacing, I didn't fully realize how much time had actually passed for this to all be possible. If perspectives had switched to Spencer or something to depict what had happened a little, the pacing might have evened out a little, but as it stands, it all sort of just... happened. Since this is the beginning, it's a bit more okay to get away with it, but I hope this isn't a trend in the future.

“How did you get here?” I asked, completely floored.
Another instance of telling and not showing, I think. I'd be much more interested in some of Jade's thoughts here, etc, than the fact that she's completely floored, which I can already infer.

these could be like, super-powerful mutant Pokémon.
Stares.

“Let me see that!” I shouted, practically shoving Rudy out of the way so I could get a look at the label on the Pokéball slot.
Quick thing! Ironically, I felt like this part went too slowly! I don't really know how someone can reasonably read all that follows and have a conversation while we have a raging Zapdos-Pikachu mutant on their hands.

--

Okay, so, anyway, despite my nitpicks, I actually did enjoy the chapter. I can't complain that things aren't rolling, after all, and one of my concerns from the previous chapter have already been answered -- i.e. that Team Rocket surely would have figured out by now that some sort of rebellion was going on. So, kudos for that. Now to see where the rest of this takes us...
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
I feel like you could have done a bit more showing than telling here. I didn't really get a good idea of what the jeeps were like. Were the bouncing haphazardly over the unstable ground that is a forest? It's not like it's a traditional road, right? Or did they have really, really good shock absorbers? Stuff like that.
Oof, sometimes when revising old-as-hell chapters, segments like that slip through the cracks--my current writing style isn't like that at all.

Okay hold up. A few passages earlier, it was said that the windows were closed. I dunno about you, but shooting a gun in an enclosed area is going to deafen literally everybody in the place, especially if it was built for taking down Pokemon. And they'd also have shattered the windows, or... I dunno, man. In an effort to make the Rockets seem ruthless, none of the repercussions for such a stupid move were explored.
See, this is what happens when you revise a chapter that was written in 2004 (even if it's been fixed up since then)--you become blind to certain things. I have read this chapter a billion times, and yet I never realized that the friggin windows were up. xD Needless to say, shooting the window was not my intent.

Ahh, and here comes one of my personal gripes with first person -- we saw none of this coming aside from Swift flying off, and due to the pacing, I didn't fully realize how much time had actually passed for this to all be possible. If perspectives had switched to Spencer or something to depict what had happened a little, the pacing might have evened out a little, but as it stands, it all sort of just... happened. Since this is the beginning, it's a bit more okay to get away with it, but I hope this isn't a trend in the future.
Heh. See, the problem there is that this story lives and breathes by concealing information from its characters. Fully exploring the feeling of having no idea what's coming next and having to roll with it--that's one of my primary reasons for writing the fic, and I can't immerse the reader in that feeling if they know things that Jade does not. That said! Most of the unexpected turns that come after this arc are the sort that get foreshadowing. Spencer showing up is probably the most wtf moment in the whole fic.

However, if the passage of time was unclear, that's a problem, because I did go out of my way to specify that Jade spent a long time in that cell. (And in general, tracking the passage of time in-story is something I'm a tad bit obsessed with.) If that didn't come across, I'll have to further emphasize that.

Another instance of telling and not showing, I think. I'd be much more interested in some of Jade's thoughts here, etc, than the fact that she's completely floored, which I can already infer.
Yep, definitely worth fixing. The early chapters had a lot of that, it goes away later.

In any case, thanks for sticking with it! Only two more chapters in this arc, and then things will get a lot better.


~Chapter 3: Clash of the Experiments~


We didn’t even get a chance to move. The Pikachu immediately bolted down the crates and across the steel floor like a bullet, cutting off Razors with a string of lightning. The mantis darted out of the way at the last second before whirling around to slice at the other experiment. Too late—the electric-type was already out of reach. Both combatants raced around with such blazing speed, narrowly avoiding the other, that it was almost impossible to follow the action.

I stood there blankly, unable to believe our luck. The Pikachu was willing to fight Tyson that fiercely, even if it wasn’t actually trying to help us. Just minutes ago, it had seemed like we’d be better off if the electric-type was taken down, but now I wasn’t so sure. If the Pikachu was able to defeat Tyson…

“Scyythaaar!” Razors cried, slicing boxes in two. In its rush to attack the Pikachu, it was shredding through everything in its path. The electric rat leaped away just as the Scyther slashed apart the crate it had been standing on, sending a wave of debris flying toward us.

“Whoa! We’d better hide behind here, quick,” Spencer called out, ducking into a corner behind a mound of crates. “You know, if we want to keep our heads and all.”

“What should we do?” I asked, trying not to sound too panicked.

“Er… I was actually hoping you’d have a plan…” he said sheepishly.

Great, so both of us were relying on the other, who was equally clueless.

“Ugh, what does it matter?!” Rudy exclaimed. “We’re not gonna get anywhere by just hiding!” Before I could protest, he pulled out a pair of Pokéballs and opened them, letting both of his Pokémon out. I wasn’t surprised to see the familiar black firedog taking shape, or her subsequent attempt to tackle me. No, what caught me off-guard was the small, bright blue turtle now standing next to us. What the heck he was doing with a Squirtle?

“Oh hey, you should probably take this,” Rudy said, handing me a Pokéball unexpectedly. “I had to put Swift in a ball before sneaking on board, or else just leave him outside.”

“This is Swift’s Pokéball?” I asked, blinking at it.

“Well, yeah—it can’t be used on any other Pokémon now so you might as well take it,” Rudy explained. “Now, come on! We’ve got to battle our way out of this!”

“What are we supposed to do?” I asked, throwing my arms in the air out of frustration. “We’ll just end up getting our Pokémon killed! We’ve got to leave this to Typhlosion, okay?”

Rudy paused, gears slowly turning in his head. Like the thought of losing the battle honestly hadn’t occurred to him. He then turned away sharply, fists clenched. It was weird seeing him so determined to do something, even in a situation like this. It might not have been the smartest idea, but still…

Meanwhile, Spencer had ducked around the corner, motioning to Typhlosion. The fire-type crept forward to get into an attack position where it would still be concealed amongst the blackened remains of boxes that now littered the makeshift battlefield. And then all of a sudden, I felt a tug on my leg and glanced down to see Firestorm standing alongside me. A twinge of guilt hit me—I had forgotten he was even here.

“Yeah? What is it?” I asked him

He didn’t seem to know how to say it. He kept glancing up at me, then toward the raging battle. I couldn’t help noticing the conviction in his eyes.

“What, you want to help? No, no no no, that’s not—I mean, it’s great if you want to help and all, but that’s a bad idea, trust me. You wouldn’t stand a… well, they’re too strong; I don’t think we should get in their way.”

Firestorm turned away, nodding distantly. So now even he wanted to help in some small way. I wasn’t the only useless one here, but I was the only one who had just given up on being able to do anything. That realization was aggravating.

Another blast of lightning dragged my attention back to the ongoing battle, where Tyson was barking orders constantly to his Pokémon, who couldn’t seem to land a hit. The Pikachu, however, was quickly starting to wear out. It sparked uncontrollably and gasped for breath, struggling to stay in the fight. The fire was now all but gone from its eyes, and it almost looked… desperate. It was a strange contrast to its appearance just minutes earlier, and I couldn’t help feeling a sudden twinge of pity. It had been raised as a lab specimen before finally being branded as a failure. Was this mad blitz just out of trying to get free?

The Scyther continued to hack away mercilessly, responding instantly to Tyson’s every command with an amount of precision that was almost scary. And then a sudden burst of flames shot toward Razors, striking the mantis dead-on. Yes! Typhlosion had landed a direct hit! There was no way the Scyther could withstand—but even as I watched, Razors stood up and turned sharply in Typhlosion’s direction, preparing to leap at it.

“No! Ignore them!” Tyson barked, lunging away from a lightning burst that shot toward him the second Razors had let down his guard. The experimental Scyther obeyed instantly and pressed the attack against the Pikachu once more, while its trainer pulled out two more black Pokéballs.

Spencer clenched his fist. “Well, crap. I thought that would be, well… super effective.”

“I… I don’t get it… how did it withstand an attack like that? I thought Scyther were weak to fire,” I muttered, still staring in shock.

“We’re up against freaking hybrids, what did you expect?” Rudy exclaimed like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

With that attack’s failure, there wasn’t much else we could do while still keeping our cover behind the wall of supplies. I heard Tyson yell, “Afraid to come out of your hidey hole? That’s fine by me, Razors isn’t my only experiment!” followed by the sound of him opening the other two Pokéballs, but then—

Lightning flew wild. The Pikachu let out a cry and sent waves of electricity flying all around—it didn’t seem to appreciate the other experiments’ arrival. Seizing the chance, Razors streaked toward it, blades flashing—but then Typhlosion took the opportunity to fire another spurt of flames at Razors. The Scyther stopped just short of slicing the Pikachu to attempt to avoid the Flamethrower. But that left it wide open. The Pikachu turned and refocused its attention on Razors and finally struck the Scyther with all its power. An overwhelming rush of fire and lightning collided against each other, with Razors caught right in the middle.

“Scyy!” it cried out pitifully, dropping to the floor, twitching in pain.

“We got it!” Spencer cried out, his eyes wide with relief. “I was really starting to worry there, y’know?”

Tyson pulled out the Scyther’s Pokéball and recalled it, swearing again before ordering his other experiments to refocus their attention on the Pikachu now that Razors was down. I hadn’t even noticed them until this point, having been occupied with the rest of the chaos going on. I caught sight of the Pikachu hammering away at a Rhydon with its tail, which gave an oddly metallic clang with each strike. The rock-armored beast had its arms out in a defensive position, looking like it could endure the hits all day, while a spiky brown blur shot around the scene, landing small hits on the Pikachu that seemed to be adding up quickly.

“Strong enough to take down my best Pokémon?” Tyson called out. “You’re more of a nuisance that I gave you credit for.”

“Razors was your best guy? Awesome, that means we’re in charge now,” Spencer said, standing up. “Tell the pilot to land this thing and let us off. And also get us pizza,” he added as an afterthought.

Tyson stared incredulously. “You think you’re hot stuff just cause you managed to beat one of my Pokémon with help from a crazy overpowered rat?”

“Nah, Typhlosion is the one made of hot stuff.” How Spencer managed to keep a straight face on that comeback was beyond me.

“What the hell are you even doing here?!” Tyson roared. “I don’t have to take this crap from some random-ass kid!”

I glanced up at Spencer just in time to see his eyes widen with panic. Then he practically shoved me aside as he dove behind our hiding spot right before an earsplitting crack tore the air. Had—had Tyson just—?

“He shot at me?” Spencer blurted out, picking himself up from the floor, completely stunned. I couldn’t do anything but stare back. “He actually shot at me. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but… yeah, I… I wasn’t ready for that. Er… Typhlosion, stay behind cover and only use your long-range moves,” he added distractedly.

Fine, keep hiding, it doesn’t matter!” Tyson spat, motioning to one of his Pokémon. “Back there, kill them!”

The spiky brown blur instantly stopped fighting the Pikachu, and in that second, I finally got the chance to identify it as a shaggy-furred rat before it bared its teeth at us and shot forward, again too fast to see. He was using a Raticate? But how the heck was it so fast?! Before I could even blink, it had cleared the length of the room before being tackled by Typhlosion, who had curled into a ball of flames. The Raticate couldn’t possibly strike back without suffering a Flame Wheel in return. But what could Typhlosion do once the experiment managed to target us instead?

Spencer seemed to realize this at the same moment I did. “Backup, backup, definitely time for backup,” he muttered quickly, fumbling with the Pokéballs on his belt. He grabbed the first two he could get his hands on and opened them. His first Pokémon, an Electabuzz, gave a swish of its striped tail and began swinging its heavy arms in a windmill motion, causing sparks to leap off the prongs on its head. Alongside it stood a Pokémon I couldn’t recognize off the top of my head—a gray wolf with long capes of black fur running down its back. Its yellowish eyes held a bit of uncertainty, but it crouched defensively, ready to fight just the same.

“I thought you had six Pokémon,” Rudy said, sounding a bit let down.

With a weak smile, Spencer replied, “We’d be starting one crazy party if I let out all six of my guys in here. I don’t think the plane could handle it—this battle’s probably dangerous enough as it is.” He motioned forward, and his two Pokémon got into a defensive position on either side of us, ready to lash out at the experiment if it dared to come close. The Raticate shot toward us, recoiling backward when faced with Typhlosion’s fireball.

And then I caught sight of its eyes, which sent a shiver running through me. They were eerily blank and soulless, almost like there was nothing there. And thinking back—I could’ve sworn that the Scyther had the exact same mindless look. What was the deal with these Pokémon?

While I’d been staring at the ongoing action, Rudy had taken the opportunity to duck out of the small range of safety that Typhlosion could give us. He returned almost as quickly, dragging a box by its corner.

“What was that for?” I asked, blinking in surprise.

“Well come on, it had just been sitting over there—I’ve been wanting to grab it for the past five minutes or so,” he said, proceeding to dig through its contents.

Really, couldn’t he ever explain anything in a straightforward way? But before I could reply, I noticed the “Technical Machine” stamp on the side of the box. Rudy was now sifting through a massive pile of discs, each of them designed to teach a different Pokémon move.

“I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines,” Rudy continued, occasionally pulling out a disc and looking it over before throwing it back in the box. “I know my Pokémon wouldn’t stand a chance if they got hit,”—the words sounded painful for him to admit—“but if I use these to give them sweet moves and have them attack from behind cover like Spencer’s doing, they might have a shot.” I had to admit that it was a good idea. We were completely surrounded by the Rockets’ supplies—using them to our advantage would be a major help.

A wide grin crossed his face as he pulled out a blue TM. “Dude, Surf—I gotta teach this to Squirtle.” He fumbled with the buttons on the disc’s case, but nothing happened. “Hey… it’s not working.”

“Isn’t Surf a locked move? Like, you can only use it if you’ve registered a certain number of badges?” I wasn’t really sure of it myself, but it sounded right, in any case.

“Tch, well it was worth a shot,” Rudy said, tossing it back into the box before digging through the TMs again. “Hey Jade, bet you’ll be more excited to see this,” he said, holding up a TM with a glossy red case and the words “Series 5: No.38” written on the front. I blinked, unsure of how I was supposed to respond.

“It’s Fire Blast,” he said, pointing out the writing on the side. “Now hurry up and use it on Charmander before I take it and use it on Ebony.” I took it, unable to come up with a reply. It hadn’t even occurred to me that this plan was something I could get in on.

At this point, Spencer was glancing back at us to see what we were up to. “Are those TMs?” he said in surprise. His eyes went wide as he grabbed a yellow Series 2 disc from the top of the pile. “I thought they stopped making this series! I always wanted to teach Thunderpunch to Typhlosion.” We all jumped suddenly at the sound of the Raticate’s Swift colliding with Electabuzz’s barrier—a startling reminder of the battle that was still raging.

“Er, that is, I’ll use it once there’s a better chance,” Spencer said, laughing nervously before motioning to his Pokémon. “Electabuzz, Thunderpunch; Mightyena, Crunch!”

In the midst of the ongoing battle, only adding to the chaos, the experimental Pikachu had given up on trying to get at Tyson and was now letting loose strings of lightning at anyone that came too close. Its movements had grown shaky. Sparks shot out of its fur at random. It honestly seemed like it had worn itself out solely by running out of power, not by getting hit by its opponents.

The hybrid made one last attempt to jump over the Pokémon and blast them all, but came up with nothing but sparks. Its eyes rolled back, and it landed in a crumpled heap off to the side of the cargo bay.

I stared at it while the battle raged on behind me. At first the experiment had seemed like our only hope. Then more like a violent wild card in the ensuing battle. But I couldn’t help sort of feeling sorry for it, and what it must have gone through to have ended up like this. Not that what I felt made any difference, but…

Time seemed to crawl as I cautiously edged toward the experiment. I couldn’t explain why I was doing it… I just was. Five feet away, an ear twitched. I flinched. Suddenly, its face snapped toward me, fur standing on end. But the hybrid was out of power—there wasn’t much it could do to me now. Nothing came out but sparks.

“What’re you doing?” Rudy called out. “Didn’t you see how crazy and powerful that thing is?”

“It’s out of power,” I said defensively. “And it’s not like it’s on Tyson’s side or anything. The Rockets just tossed it off as a failure, so we might be able to—”

My words died as the Pikachu suddenly lifted its upper body from the floor, fixing me with a murderous glare and yelling, “Pikaa’pi! Pikapi ‘chuu pipiika—”

“Wait, wait, talk slower!” I stammered, unable to sort through the Pokéspeech quickly enough in my head.

I honestly didn’t expect it to listen. But it paused. It actually paused, and it gave me a skeptical glare before saying, slowly and deliberately, “*First of all, I’m a male, not an ‘it.’ And I don’t need your sympathy, human. This is my problem, not yours; stay out of it.*”

“It’s not like we asked to be involved in this,” I shot back heatedly. I was just trying to help him… and admittedly hoping that he would help us in return.

The Pikachu didn’t reply. In fact, he was mostly ignoring me now, staring transfixed at the front of the plane with a pained look on his face. He muttered something under his breath. And then, without warning, he leaped to his feet and dashed away.

“Wait, come back!” I yelled, but he continued racing toward the front of the plane.

I stood there blankly, lost for what to do now. I really hoped he knew what he was doing… because I sure didn’t know what I was doing. It felt really uncomfortable just standing around and watching the ongoing battle, unable to help at all.

“So… think it’s gonna help us?” Rudy spoke up all of a sudden.

I shrugged. It was the only response I could give.

Out of nowhere, something knocked me off my feet and sent me crashing to the floor. What the hell? What had just—it was like the floor had suddenly tilted forward and—my brain clicked into place. The plane. It had just violently pitched downward. Shakily, I pulled myself to my feet just in time to get a glance at Tyson storming off to the front of the plane, yelling an incoherent stream of profanity. He threw open the cockpit door and was about to rant some more but stopped short.

“What the hell?!”

I couldn’t resist stepping over to get a view of what was going on. I was met with the sight of the pilot on the ground, out cold. The Pikachu stood in his seat, forcing the control wheel forward, sending the plane into a nosedive.

“Get the hell out of here, number nine!” Tyson demanded. The Pikachu glared back, sparks leaping from his fur, but he still didn’t have the power to fire any lightning. Seeing that he wasn’t in danger, Tyson grabbed the hybrid by the tail and hurled him to the ground before throwing himself into the seat and wrestling with the controls.

“Are we gonna crash?!” Spencer exclaimed.

“No, we’re not, now shut the hell up!” Tyson roared back, still struggling to bring the plane under control. The Pikachu’s ears twitched at his words, and a pained look crossed his face. Without warning, he took off running out of the cockpit.

And then, for whatever reason, it hit me. Had… had he wanted us to crash?

Tyson spun around to stare back at us in horror, like he’d just made the same realization. “Stop that thing now or we’re all dead!!”

The Pikachu shot past me towards the back of the jet. Without thinking, I ran after him, not even sure what was driving my legs forward.

“No, please don’t!” I yelled, unsure of what else to do.

He paused suddenly. No way—had he actually listened to me? For some time, no one moved. Then he shot toward Spencer’s Electabuzz.

“What is he—?” I gasped.

“Electabuzz, stop him!” Spencer called out in confusion.

The striped beast threw up its arms defensively and unleashed a blast of lightning right in the experiment’s face. The Pikachu didn’t even attempt to dodge—the electricity surrounded him, and he cried out in pain, tail raised high. But he just stood there, taking the attack. Almost like it was what he’d wanted. Electabuzz glanced back at Spencer confusedly before releasing its hold over the lightning. The rest of the blast flowed into the hybrid’s body. His eyes snapped open with a newfound fire, and he took off again.

“Did… did he just absorb the lightning?” I muttered, awestruck. No one else said anything. None of us knew what to do now. Tyson’s Raticate shot past us in a blur, but even with its impossible speed, it wouldn’t catch up in time. The Pikachu glanced back at me with… almost an apologetic look and drew more energy from within himself than should have been possible. Then with a blinding neon flash, he fired all of his power into one massive lightning bolt and collapsed.

Everything happened too fast to process. First lightning, then an explosion ripping through the back of the plane. Air rushed out, pulling me toward the hole. My arms flailed in a panic, struggling to find something, anything to hold onto. But Spencer was on it—he whipped out a Pokéball to release an icy white seal. Just seconds after it formed, its horn shone with a blue light as a jet of water streamed from its mouth, dousing the flames. Then the Dewgong followed it up by firing a bright blue beam from its horn, quickly sealing the hole with glittering ice crystals.

I stared openmouthed. “That… that was quick thinking.”

“Yeah? It happens sometimes,” Spencer said, rubbing the back of his head before turning to his Dewgong. “Awesome job,” he said, recalling it.

Except… the opening may have been closed, but that didn’t change the fact that the jet was missing an engine, and we were quickly losing altitude. I whirled around, desperately hoping that Tyson had some way of making sure we didn’t crash. There had to be a backup plan, right?!

Back in the cockpit, Tyson was hurriedly flipping switches on the panel above him. All of a sudden, large rockets on the wings flared to life, bursting out jets of stored energy. The plane rocked slightly, but then slowly began to even out, though it was still descending. Tyson gave a huge sigh of relief before flipping one last switch on the control panel and standing up. As he exited the cockpit, he glanced in our direction, sneering.

“Not so hidden anymore, huh…” he commented to himself. His words had a menacing air.

The horrible realization hit me—after all of the commotion, we weren’t behind cover anymore, and that meant… I threw a glance at Spencer, but he didn’t seem concerned—why not?! My eyes snapped back to Tyson; he’d just pulled out his gun. And then all I could do was stare dumbfounded as Typhlosion leapt out of nowhere and grabbed Tyson in a bear hug, knocking the gun aside.

“What? Just… what?” I said stupidly.

“Hey, that worked even better than I expected,” Spencer said, giving a massive sigh of relief. “It’s always great when that happens, y’know?”

I stared. “How… how did you…?”

“Well I knew we’d never get anywhere with him having a gun and all, so with all the insanity the Pikachu caused, I told Typhlosion to hide and take him down the first chance he got,”

I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was too shocked by how much the tables had turned in our favor with just that one move.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?!” Tyson raged, struggling against Typhlosion’s hold.

“I think we’re dealing with someone I just beat,” Spencer said. “You should probably recall your Pokémon now, it’ll make things easier.”

Typhlosion flexed his claws threateningly to emphasize the point, letting waves of heat shimmer around them. Clenching his teeth, Tyson managed to unclip a Pokéball from his belt and recall his Pokémon in a beam of black energy.

“So, how about you tell us if there’s any chance we can land this thing,” Spencer said simply.

Tyson glared. At first it seemed like he wasn’t going to say anything. But after several seconds, he finally replied, his words extremely slow like it was painful just talking to us. “The backup jets are too weak to make it all the way to the base. They’re only for emergencies.”

“Eh, well, the Rocket base didn’t sound fun. Anyways, you should probably figure out if we can land it anywhere else.”

I know I would have flinched if I’d been at the receiving end of the venomous glare that followed. But still… Tyson must have realized that his only chance at survival meant saving us as well. Taking a deep breath, he said, “If I scan the area with my GPS to see if there’s a big enough clearing ahead of us… we might have a chance at making a rough landing, at least.”

“Alright, sounds like you’ve got it under control. Typhlosion, you be his copilot, m’kay?” Despite Spencer’s bright tone, Typhlosion understood the serious intent behind the request, and released his hold, still keeping a menacing eye on Tyson.

“And that’s that,” Spencer said rather matter-of-factly, walking back to me and Rudy.

I stared openmouthed, still unable to believe it. “I… you… I can’t figure you out, you know that?” I said, unable to keep from laughing. “That’s it, then. We’ll be miles away from any other Rockets when we land—there’ll be nothing stopping us from getting out of here.” The shock was wearing off and my voice grew more and more excited with each passing moment. I just couldn’t believe we’d done it. We’d won. Well, Spencer had, anyway.

“See, Jade?” Rudy said, elbowing me lightly in the ribs. “Told you we’d be able to get out of this.”

I couldn’t help giving a relieved laugh. “You never had to see what the Rockets could really do… but I’m glad.”

Still a bit lightheaded, I found my way over to the nearest crate that hadn’t been smashed, grateful to finally have a chance to breathe. I lay there for who knows how long, the adrenaline slowly dying down and that crushing feeling of certain death finally disappearing. We were going to make it. Now the only problem was figuring out what to do once we landed.

Eh, I’d worry about it when the time came.

Rudy had gone back to digging through the TM box for more moves to power up his Pokémon. It made me realize that I hadn’t even used the Fire Blast TM on Firestorm. With a glance down at the floor, I saw that the Charmander was still standing alongside me.

“You holding out okay?” I asked.

He nodded. Though I couldn’t figure out why he’d been glued to me throughout the whole ordeal, in an odd sort of way it felt… reassuring. It had to be the same feeling that trainers had when traveling in dangerous places with their Pokémon by their side.

Only then did it finally hit me—I had Swift here as well. I grabbed his Pokéball from my pocket, figuring I might as well let him out. With a flash of light, the Pidgey appeared, ruffling his feathers. That was his first time being in a Pokéball, so it was probably a weird experience.

It struck me that I should probably say something. “Uh… Swift, this is Firestorm. Firestorm, Swift.” Lame, but I couldn’t think of anything else at that point. Swift had been with my family since before I’d learned any Pokéspeech, so I’d gotten used to him being more of a pet than someone to talk with. And, well, he’d never been one to talk much anyway.

Despite my apparent failure at figuring out how to hold a normal conversation with Pokémon, Firestorm took it upon himself to start one. “*How did you get involved in this?*”

I laughed a bit. “Wrong place at the wrong time. Just like you, I guess.”

He nodded softly. “*I’ve had lots of that.*”

I wanted to know more about what his perspective was on everything that had gone on before the Rocket mess, but there didn’t seem to be a delicate way to ask. After a while I just said, “Did… did you even see what caused the fire?”

He hesitated a bit before speaking slowly. I was glad that his words were so meticulous, otherwise I would have had a much harder time understanding him. “*The others all ran away. Some of them were shouting about the Great Fire Beast. I never saw it though.*”

I stared downward, images from the incident still burned into my memory. The entire situation seemed even weirder when looking back on it. “That fire was caused by humans trying to catch Entei. I actually saw it happen, but I couldn’t do anything about it.”

Firestorm looked a bit puzzled at first. “*Catch? Humans can… catch Legendaries? Just like Pokémon?*”

To be honest, it was not something that had really crossed my mind before this point either. Sure, every school-age kid in the world had their dream team complete with their favorite legend, but that wasn’t something that could ever actually happen. And yet… it had happened. And it would probably happen again, unless…

“You know… I met someone who was trying to stop it. He couldn’t do it on his own, but he was trying to get people to help him,” I said, more thinking aloud than actually hoping for a response.

“*Were you planning to help?*” a voice chirped, catching me off guard. I had been so focused on the Charmander’s words that hearing a different form of Pokéspeech was a bit disorienting. I turned toward Swift and was met with a very intent look.

“I… hadn’t really considered his offer until now,” I said, my words a bit weak. “I mean… what could someone like me do to help?”

“*Legendaries shouldn’t be captured,*” the Pidgey replied simply. I couldn’t help staring—where had he gotten that opinion from? The topic of Legendaries had never really come up in my house, barring that two-month-or-so period I wouldn’t shut up after reading about them in social studies.

I couldn’t think of anything to say in response to his firm statement, so I just found myself looking away sheepishly. The lull in the conversation suddenly made me aware that I could feel the plane descending quickly. It didn’t seem like we’d been flying for very long, but I’d lost track of how much time had passed since Spencer had beaten Tyson.

Rudy had spent the time debating over training methods for his Pokémon. Spencer, meanwhile, was having an amusing discussion with his Pokémon where it was obvious that he couldn’t understand then much, yet kept responding to everything they said as if a split conversation like that were completely normal. I couldn’t help chuckling a bit at it.

Swift twitched slightly, perking up like something was about to happen. I turned toward him in confusion, about to ask what was wrong. Then I was knocked flying headlong into the side of a crate, clutching onto it instinctively and screwing my eyes shut as loose items smacked into me. I could hear shouting and the frantic cries of more Pokémon than I could count. Claws gripped my shoulder and I cracked an eye to see Firestorm grabbing hold and refusing to let go.

Not more than thirty seconds later, the plane grinded to a halt. I would have sunk to the floor in relief if I hadn’t already been on the floor.

“What the heck was that?!” Rudy yelled, shoving a crate aside and standing to his feet.

“He told me to land the plane. I landed it,” Tyson replied coldly, a smug edge to his voice. He was now standing in the doorway to the cockpit. Typhlosion immediately jumped back into position to make sure Tyson still couldn’t pull anything against us, though the latter didn’t seem to care anymore.

“Well I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t think I’ll be flying Rocket Airlines again anytime soon. I say we get out of here now, and worry about spamming them with bad reviews later,” Spencer said, walking over.

“Where is here, exactly?” I said, glancing around for a window. I spotted one on the far end of the hangar and started walking toward it, but Rudy beat me there. It looked like we had crash-landed on the edge of a forest, with a rocky outcropping not more than twenty yards from the plane.

“Alright, so… for starters how do we get out of the plane?” Rudy asked.

“Well, we could try melting through the ice,” Spencer said, jerking a thumb toward the hole that the Pikachu had caused earlier. “I’ve got two fire-types, so—”

“You have another fire-type?!” Rudy said, looking shocked. “Why didn’t you use it earlier?”

“I didn’t need to?” Spencer said, shrugging as he recalled his Electabuzz and Mightyena and opened a different Pokéball. The flash of light took the form of a huge striped firedog, not much different from Rudy’s Growlithe, though much bigger and stronger. The Arcanine tossed its head with a bit of a proud look upon seeing the admiration it was receiving; the motion sent a graceful ripple through its thick, fluffy mane.

“No way…” Rudy breathed, staring at the firedog with more amazement than I’d ever seen from him. “Maybe I should’ve tried to convince my dad to let me bring Chloe too…”

“Come on, let’s get outta here,” Spencer said cheerfully, motioning to his Arcanine.

“What are you doing?!” Tyson demanded all of a sudden.

“Getting out of here. Why, do you like having us around?” Spencer asked tauntingly.

Tyson clenched his teeth. “You idiots don’t even know where we are. What are you supposed to do, wander around the forest?”

I raised an eyebrow. What was he trying to accomplish—getting us to stay here? How on earth would that help him, given his situation?

Even weirder was the fact that until we had tried to leave, Tyson had seemed oddly okay with everything that was going on. Earlier he’d been trying his hardest not to explode with rage. Now he just seemed… impatient.

“You guys?” I said, lowering my voice to a whisper. “Anyone else think it’s weird that Tyson’s not pissed at us anymore?”

“Maybe he found his anger meds?” Spencer said with a weak grin. Rudy and I glanced at each other, then back at Spencer, unimpressed.

“Yeah, okay, that was stupid,” he said, putting a hand to his forehead. “Anyways, think he’s planning something?”

I couldn’t really tell. He wasn’t really doing anything, although every so often he’d glance down at the small red and black handheld that he’d been using as a GPS.

Wait… his GPS.

“Oh crap, that’s not a phone, is it?” I said, my mouth dropping.

Spencer and Rudy looked up at him immediately. Tyson seemed to notice that we were staring at him because he said, “It’s a GPS, idiots,” before going back to fiddling with the buttons.

“Hey Typhlosion, I really need to have what he’s holding. Like, right now,” Spencer called out.

“Oh, come on!” Tyson roared before being promptly tackled by the fire beast. After a few seconds, Typhlosion tossed the black device to Spencer, who caught it.

“Give that the hell back, what do you need it for?!” Tyson raged at us from under Typhlosion’s hold.

“I don’t think you understand—I just really love GPSs,” Spencer said as he pressed a button on the device, which had the letters “R-com” inscribed on the front. Both Rudy and I leaned in to get a look at the screen. A half-finished text message read, “Landed on schedule. Requesting your current location and—”

“What,” I said flatly, staring at the message. “Don’t tell me…”

Spencer flipped through the previous messages in the conversation. “Team dispatched. ETA 1815.” “Coordinates sent. Crash time approx. 1810.”

All three of us looked up at each other incredulously. I glanced over at Tyson to see an incredibly smug grin. “I was able to call for backup as soon as I figured out where we’d land. Since we were both converging on the same spot, I bet they’ll be here any second.”

It felt as though the air had been sucked from the room with that one statement. For several seconds, no one said anything. There wasn’t anything to say. I could already feel a hole in my stomach from dread. We had been in the clear. We were going to make it. And then this.

“Actually!” Spencer exclaimed suddenly. “I just remembered I have somewhere very important to be, so y’know, I’m just gonna have to take a rain check on the whole battling Rockets to the death thing, so sorry I can’t make it, very urgent, hope you’ll understand, hey guys you’re invited too, let’s go now, Arcanine!

On that last word, Arcanine barked out a blazing Flamethrower, instantly bursting clean through the ice at the back of the plane and filling the cargo hold with steam.

“Alright, get on board everyone, or we’ll be late for our date with getting-the-frick-out-of-here!” Spencer exclaimed, recalling his other two Pokémon. Rudy nodded sharply, recalling his Pokémon and jumping up onto the firedog’s back. I motioned for Swift to follow us in the air before glancing around my feet and seeing Firestorm standing there, looking wary. And then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of the experimental Pikachu’s crumpled form, still unconscious from having destroyed the plane’s engine earlier.

It was more of an impulse than anything—I didn’t even know why I was doing it. I dashed over, snatched the Pikachu with my right arm before scooping up Firestorm under my left and throwing a leg over the Arcanine’s back.

I threw a glance back at Spencer, who motioned to Typhlosion, who threw Tyson into a pile of boxes and hurriedly dashed forward on all fours, pausing just long enough for Spencer to leap onto its back. That was all I saw before Arcanine sprung through the hole in the ice, landing nimbly on the plane’s tail fin before bounding down to the ground.

And then the screeching of tires and what sounded like gunfire tore the air. I couldn’t process any of it. Spencer shouted something as he and Typhlosion jumped through the ice hole, and then I was nearly thrown off as the firedog bolted forward with an impossible rush of speed, apparently trying to avoid something. More yelling, more gunshots. Trees flew by as Arcanine dashed up the side of the rocky ledges alongside the crash site, finally ducking down behind a large rock, closely followed by Typhlosion.

I slid off the Arcanine’s back, feeling slightly numb as I set Firestorm and the Pikachu on the ground. “What… what is going on,” I gasped, still disoriented from the sudden rush of speed and chaos.

“The Rockets were on the other side of the jet,” Spencer managed. “They tried firing at us; couldn’t really get a clear shot, though.”

“What do we do now?!” I panicked.

“I don’t know, I didn’t think they’d be here already!” Spencer exclaimed. “We could just try making a break for it?”

“Can your Pokémon outrun jeeps?” Rudy asked, sounding honestly optimistic and enthusiastic about the idea.

“I don’t know—maybe over a short distance?”

At that moment, the jeeps pulled up and skidded to a stop on our side of the jet, throwing dust into the air. I peeked around the corner of the ledge to see one of the Rockets riding in the back jump out in one smooth motion and proceed to look over the damages done to the plane.

“You know, Tyson, when you said the transport jet was gonna crash I never would’ve guessed it was because of some random stowaway kids and a prisoner you were supposed to bring to me,” she said icily. Was she the executive I was supposed to be interrogated by?

“I—but—don’t go blaming this on me,” Tyson called out. I glanced up to see him now standing on the tail fin, looking bruised and battered. “And why didn’t you bring more backup?! Just a bunch of grunts?” He sounded on the verge of losing control.

“Cleaning up after the mess you made of the jet sounds like grunt work to me,” she replied lazily. “That leaves me stuck taking care of the idiot kids.”

“They’re not just kids,” Tyson said defensively. “One of them’s older than the others, and his Pokémon are a match even for my experimen—”

“Tyson, your experiments were never all that amazing anyway,” she cut in, waving a hand dismissively. “I don’t even know why you still bother training them after all the progress that your division’s made on number thirty-six.”

“Better than using regular Pokémon,” Tyson shot back. “And I think you’re forgetting that it’s what I was assigned to do. Of course, you wouldn’t know what that’s like because the second you joined you were—”

“Still going on with that crap about how I was always an executive, is that it? I think you should watch what you say there Tyson, unless you feel secure enough in your position to pick fights with me.” Tyson flinched and didn’t say anything more.

I really had no idea what they were talking about. Especially confusing was the fact that the executive didn’t sound much older than seventeen or eighteen. Could someone so young be ranked that highly on Team Rocket?

“Anyway, if you’re done whining, time for me to fix this mess,” she said, turning and walking toward us, her heavy combat boots kicking up dirt. That was when we got our first real look at her. She had a hardened and mature look about her features, which almost made me forget that she was probably younger than most of the other Rockets there. Somehow, before she’d even done anything, she just felt more dangerous than the rest.

“Spencer… uh, we need a plan. Like now,” I muttered, my voice shaking.

“Gimme a sec. At least they can’t shoot us while we’re back here, right?”

I heard the sound of several Pokéballs being opened and looked back at the Rocket to see—“Oh crap, here they come!”

Spencer clenched his teeth, eyes wide with panic as he motioned for his two fire-types to get on our other side so they could attack our opponents from around the corner. A fierce snarling suddenly filled the air—it sounded like an Arcanine, but… it wasn’t Spencer’s.

I glanced around the corner again to see another striped firedog, this one flashing a horrifyingly vicious expression. Typhlosion and Arcanine recoiled slightly, losing some of the tension in their muscles.

“Crap, gonna hit us with Intimidate, is that it?” Spencer mumbled through gritted teeth. “Time for ranged moves then. Typhlosion, Arcanine, Flamethrower!”

Simultaneous blasts of fire flew down the hill, striking the other Arcanine right in its front. It snarled as it endured the assault, noticeably bothered despite its natural fire resistance. But then a tan horse jumped in front of the blaze, scattering flames everywhere as its whole body glowed with a fiery sheen. It didn’t even seem to notice that it was being hit. In fact, the flames on its mane and tail only intensified.

“Did that just make it stronger?! Oh crap, it must have Flash Fire. Typhlosion, stop the Flamethrower and use Dig! Arcanine—” And then Spencer’s face lit up like he had just made the best realization of his life. “Dude, I’ve got it! Typhlosion, quick—use Flamethrower on Arcanine!!”

Typhlosion paused its sudden burst of digging to breathe out a lick of flames at the striped firedog before disappearing underground. Arcanine seemed empowered by the flames, pulling them into itself before glowing with a red aura.

“Her Arcanine might have Intimidate, but mine’s got Flash Fire!” Spencer exclaimed, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. “Now for reinforcements,” he said, opening the rest of his Pokéballs. “Electabuzz, keep them from getting close with non-stop Thunderbolts. Dewgong, use Brine; Pidgeot, Air Slash; Mightyena, Dark Pulse!”

All of his Pokémon got into position upon hearing the commands, Arcanine already throwing a Fire Blast into the fray, its firepower scarily bright now. But then my eyes lit up when I fully grasped that he had just let out a Pidgeot.

“Wait! You have a Pidgeot! Can’t we just fly out of here?!” I exclaimed, pointing at the massive tawny eagle taking flight.

Spencer paused, smiling weakly. “It’s cool that you think he’s that hardcore, but… yeah, no way can he pull off carrying all three of us.”

“Crap… okay, how about one person rides off on Pidgeot while the others stay here protected by the rest of your Pokémon, and then Pidgeot comes back to get the others?”

“I… guess that could work?” Spencer said, rubbing the back of his head.

And then a flash of light blinded my eyes as an earsplitting crack tore the air. I could just barely make out a giant bolt of lightning flying overhead, striking right through the Pidgeot before it even got the chance to do anything. Feathers scorched black, the bird let out a pitiful cry before falling limply to the ground. At the bottom of the hill, a Raichu stood, clearly smirking, with sparks still leaping off its yellow cheeks. It swished a long, inky-black tail before dashing forward into the fray.

Spencer was staring wide-eyed at what had just happened, his mouth agape. Slowly, he reached down to his Pokéball belt and recalled Pidgeot in a beam of red light. In that one moment, the real weight of the situation crashed down on me like a bucket of cold water—it had felt like we had a fighting chance to get out of here, but… we really didn’t, did we?

“Yeah, that would have been us if we’d tried flying away,” Rudy pointed out. No one said anything as the implications of what he’d said sunk in.






~End Chapter 3~
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
And now, chapter 3! The pace just keeps going at full speed, doesn't it? Overall, I thought that this was a very exciting battle sequence sprinkled with (a bit odd at times) moments of levity and idle conversation. I wasn't really sure what sort of tone you were going for with some of those scenes, but more on that later. First, some standout quotes:

“What should we do?” I asked, trying not to sound too panicked.
Okay but to be fair, this is a super good time to start panicking, or at least sound mildly worried.

“He shot at me?”
Oh. I mean... yeah. Why don't they just do this from the beginning, anyway? The power dynamics between magical monsters and a freaking gun is still a bit murky here, in addition to the general durability of humans in this world. Still, it's only chapter 3. Lots of time to fully establish that.

The Pikachu stood in his seat, forcing the control wheel forward, sending the plane into a nosedive.
This is the most hilarious image in the entire chapter.

I told Typhlosion to hide
Okay hold on HOW do you hide a Typhlosion in a cockpit?

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?!” Tyson raged, struggling against Typhlosion’s hold.
I felt like this line of dialogue was a bit delayed -- there was a bit of banter beforehand and Tyson kinda just... paused in time for a second, in a way.

“Maybe he found his anger meds?”
This earned a snort from me.

I dashed over, snatched the Pikachu with my right arm before scooping up Firestorm under my left
So two of her Pokemon are now rescues, more or less. Starting to see a trend. You sure she didn't want to be a Ranger?

Somehow, before she’d even done anything, she just felt more dangerous than the rest.
Ahhhh I don't like this line. Show don't tell; maybe show a bit of how the other grunts seemed intimidated by her, or perhaps that her stare was intense, or maybe even just a pressure in her aura? Anything but this.

--

Anyway! This is an incredibly fast-paced chapter, but there's one thing that has been bothering me for a while regarding it and the past chapter. Everything is really fast, and characters are rapidly being introduced, but ironically the most character explanation that I've seen so far is from... Firestorm. Or maybe I'm just Charmander-sensitive. But my point is -- we've jumped into the action, and stayed in the action for so long, that I can't actually get a feel for who the characters are beyond their species and perhaps skill level. I know more about Tyson than I do about Rudy at this point. I'm hoping for a moment of calm soon so I can actually... get to know them more? I don't know. But right now, it's so rushed that I can't.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Oh. I mean... yeah. Why don't they just do this from the beginning, anyway? The power dynamics between magical monsters and a freaking gun is still a bit murky here, in addition to the general durability of humans in this world.
So the Serebii thread is full of me complaining about just how hard this chapter was to choreograph on account of Tyson having a gun, but the abridged version of it is that I had to bend over backwards to make this bit the first moment in the chapter where Tyson actually had a clear shot at any of them. ^^;

Okay hold on HOW do you hide a Typhlosion in a cockpit?
Ok you're not the only one who thought that, but he totally wasn't supposed to be in the cockpit! xD He jumped Tyson after Tyson re-entered the cargo hold.

I felt like this line of dialogue was a bit delayed -- there was a bit of banter beforehand and Tyson kinda just... paused in time for a second, in a way.
Jade wasn't paying attention to him, so it wouldn't have made sense to describe him during that bit.

So two of her Pokemon are now rescues, more or less. Starting to see a trend. You sure she didn't want to be a Ranger?
It's really funny that you say this as I'm currently writing chapters that revolve around Pokemon Rangers. xD

Ahhhh I don't like this line. Show don't tell; maybe show a bit of how the other grunts seemed intimidated by her, or perhaps that her stare was intense, or maybe even just a pressure in her aura? Anything but this.
While I’m not married to that line and have no qualms with changing it (I quite like that aura suggestion), I do want to point out that the narration should be taken as Jade’s subjective opinion. There is no narrator feeding us objective truths and expecting us to take it as fact (which obviously should be supported by evidence). It’s all her subjective experiences, sometimes based on nothing more than gut instinct.

Anyway! This is an incredibly fast-paced chapter, but there's one thing that has been bothering me for a while regarding it and the past chapter. Everything is really fast, and characters are rapidly being introduced, but ironically the most character explanation that I've seen so far is from... Firestorm. Or maybe I'm just Charmander-sensitive. But my point is -- we've jumped into the action, and stayed in the action for so long, that I can't actually get a feel for who the characters are beyond their species and perhaps skill level. I know more about Tyson than I do about Rudy at this point. I'm hoping for a moment of calm soon so I can actually... get to know them more? I don't know. But right now, it's so rushed that I can't.
Huh! It's interesting you say that, because last chapter really didn't have much action at all. The battle pretty much started in this chapter, and only runs through the next chapter. But I should warn you that this is an action fic, and my primary way of developing character is showing how they react to the crap that gets thrown at them. I don't think there's ever more than two action chapters in a row though (at least not until the hell that I'm currently writing, haha.)

Anyway, thanks for the review! It's really interesting to get perspectives from such a different era of fanfiction. I'm also glad I don't have to write an essay justifying why there's a Charmander in this fic (god you have no idea how big of a turnoff the fandom used to consider that.)


~Chapter 4: Ace from the Past~


I couldn’t do anything but stare at the ongoing battle, all hope dying rapidly. Really, the only advantage we had was our defensive position. That was it. Spencer’s Electabuzz tried keeping most of the executive’s Pokémon at bay with scattered bolts of lightning fired from its palms, but it constantly had to duck back to avoid the ridiculous amount of fire being thrown around. Mightyena’s ash-colored fur was now charred black; by this point, all of its moves were sluggish, and every so often its limbs would tremble from the burns. The executive’s Rapidash galloped around the outskirts of the battle, still glowing from its earlier fire boost and clearly trying to get close enough to attack us. The only thing keeping it back was the bursts of water that Dewgong sent flying into the air and crashing down on the opposition. Spencer’s Arcanine had clearly been forced to endure the most hits, and yet it still darted around the battlefield, using its Extremespeed technique both to land rapid blows and block its teammates from the relentless flames being thrown around. Even from where I was standing, the waves of radiating heat caused sweat to drip down my face constantly.

A small bit of movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention, and I looked down to see the experimental Pikachu twitching slightly. I had almost forgotten that I’d brought him with us—now I wasn’t quite sure if it had been a good idea or not. He pulled his limbs underneath his body and attempted to raise himself from the ground, but couldn’t stop trembling from sheer exhaustion.

“You… you probably should save your strength,” I said tentatively.

He turned toward me sharply, looking disoriented. Like he was trying to lash out at me, but couldn’t figure out how or why. After a few seconds, the experiment looked away to gaze at the brawl taking place and the scattered bolts and flares flying past us nonstop. The sparks intensified. Small strings of electricity started coursing through the rodent’s fur, intensifying slowly. But then they gave out at once, and he collapsed, muttering incoherently to himself.

I let out a breath that I didn’t know I’d been holding. It was weird—I didn’t want to risk the Pikachu going on a mad rampage, but part of me knew that he was still our best chance at getting out of here.

I heard the sound of a Pokéball opening and looked over to see Rudy giving instructions to his Squirtle. He pointed at the opposition, and his starter nodded determinedly. I wasn’t sure what he planned on doing until the turtle spat out a lopsided ring of water, sending it flying across the battlefield. It splashed into the executive’s Rapidash, who shook it off, looking annoyed.

Rudy folded his arms. “Huh, that kinda sucked. Try it again—Water Pulse!”

Of course—he’d been teaching his Squirtle all kinds of moves while we were on the plane. I immediately reached into my pocket and pulled out the Fire Blast TM that Rudy had given me, running a finger over the glossy case that enclosed the red disc inside. Any little bit could help turn the tide of the battle in our favor… I had to use it.

“Firestorm… could you come over here?” I said.

He turned toward me, looking a bit puzzled. I held out the TM, pausing so I could go over my words carefully.

“It’s a Technical Machine,” I explained. “Spencer’s Pokémon can’t handle this alone—if we’re gonna get out of this, we need to help too—” I stopped. We? What was I going to do? Nothing—that was just it. Heck, I wasn’t even the Charmander’s trainer. I attempted to shake the thought from my head and continued, “This thing will let you focus your power into a huge burst of fire. Would you be willing to learn it to help us fight them?” I was trying not to sound too forceful, even though we couldn’t afford for him to say no.

Firestorm nodded almost immediately. I blinked, surprised at how willing he was to fight. Did he realize what kind of dangers this would involve?

Still confused, I held the device several inches from the lizard’s forehead, flipping a small switch on its side to unlock it and then pressing the largest button. The disc glowed for a few seconds and began spinning—giving off a sort of wave that would react with his energy signature, from what I had once read on TMs. Firestorm froze, looking like he had been seized by some invisible force. Different parts of his body started to glow faintly at varying intervals. After nearly a minute, the disc slowed; I pulled it away, but he still had a blank stare on his face.

I stepped back so that he could get into position with a good view of the battle that wouldn’t put him out in the open. The Charmander still looked a bit dazed though, like he was locked into a trance that he couldn’t pull himself out of.

“…Firestorm?” I asked slowly, raising an eyebrow. I’d never actually seen a Pokémon’s reaction to a TM, so I had no idea if this was normal. I took one hesitant step towards him.

And then his gaze sharpened instantly. His eyes snapped open with unexpected ferocity and shimmering waves of heat began to leak from his mouth. At once, he spewed out a column of raging flames, sending his small figure reeling backwards from the force. With a roar, the blazing stream of fire split off into five branches, twisting off wildly in different directions.

I stood frozen. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Firestorm’s eyes went wide, and he jerked his head, trying desperately to control the blaze, though nothing he did seemed to make any difference. Flames pouring relentlessly from his mouth, even when he tried to force it shut.

“Did you teach the Charmander Fire Blast?!” Spencer exclaimed, running over to me.

“Err—yeah?!” I yelled back, now frantic.

He clapped a hand to his forehead. “Aw, crap… I should’ve warned you—pretty much everyone tries it at some point… Arcanine, make sure no one on our side gets hit!”

The firedog let out a bark and leaped to the front of the lineup, allowing one of the branches of the Fire Blast to hit it directly. The force of the attack pushed it back slightly, but otherwise the Arcanine was unaffected. By this point, the other four strings of fire had flown off into the air, dissipating uselessly. Firestorm was finally able to sink to the ground, coughing and sputtering with brightly glowing flares still dripping from his tiny fangs.

“Using a TM just gives a Pokémon the ability to do the move. They’re not suddenly gonna be an expert at it without any practice. That goes double for the uber ones that’re hard to control,” Spencer explained while directing his Pokémon back into battle position.

I felt like shrinking back into a corner somewhere. What had seemed like the only way I could help had backfired completely. I glanced down at the TM case, now noticing the label along the bottom corner that read “Rating: 120 (Highly Advanced).”

“I… I’m sorry—I didn’t know…” I mumbled.

“It’s okay,” he cut in, trying to look optimistic. “Arcanine blocked it from hitting the rest of my team. We’re still behind, but I’m not counting us out yet—”

Suddenly, we had to shield our eyes. A blinding flash from what looked like a raging flurry of steam and scarlet energy shot straight through the middle of the fray. The executive’s Pokémon stepped back. That gave it the opening to plow straight into the completely unsuspecting form of Spencer’s Arcanine, sending brilliantly orange shock waves digging deep into the firedog’s body. A sickening howl filled the air, and the canine’s proud and powerful frame collapsed limply.

“I… what? What the heck move was that?” I stuttered.

Spencer was frozen, unable to process what had just happened as he slowly reached for a Pokéball to recall his fallen team member. Now visible in the middle of the battlefield, a stout crimson fox stood panting hard, its long ears drooping and steam leaking off its body. Was… was it the one who had just attacked?

“No. No, no, no, whyyy? That’s not fair… I didn’t even see that she had a Flareon out,” Spencer said, his words strained. He pulled out his Pokédex and pointed it at the fire-type, smacking his forehead upon reading something. “Superpower. Really? It used Superpower? Can I just forfeit now or get a handicap or something??

No one said anything. With Arcanine down, the executive’s Pokémon were now free to throw as much fire around as they wanted. Not even Dewgong’s water was making a dent in them now—the icy white seal cried out in pain, constantly bombarded with flames.

“I’m… I’m out of ideas,” Spencer said. “Any time you two want to reveal that you’ve secretly been ace trainers all along, I’d love to hear it.”

I looked miserably down at Firestorm. The fire lizard was still panting badly with embers dripping from his mouth. Swift, who was standing next to him, looked almost embarrassed at being unable to help.

“I don’t know what to do.” Just saying it made my blood run cold.

“Stop talking like that, you guys—we can’t lose!” Rudy cried out, but even his voice was starting to break. His Squirtle was out of breath from attempting the Water Pulse move so many times.

We all just stared at each other hopelessly with the sound of fire raging in the background. What else could we do? We could try to signal a passing trainer for help? Flying on Pokémon was a popular method of travel, after all. But there was no way Firestorm would be able or willing to use Fire Blast again, and we couldn’t afford to have any of Spencer’s Pokémon leave the fight, even for a moment. Already my brain was trying to grasp at ways that we could convince the executive to let us go, all of them equally stupid. There had to be some way out of this. There just had to.

And then suddenly, a high-pitched sound filled my ears as a piercingly orange and yellow beam tore through the air. The beam zeroed in on the Rockets’ Pokémon, striking them with a blinding flash of light and sending shock waves running through the earth.

“H-hyper Beam?” I muttered, my knees shaking from the beam’s not-so-distant impact. I turned my gaze upward, where I could barely make out a gray form with a long, thick tail trailing behind it. Leathery purple wings beat rapidly, pushing it towards us with incredible speed. It was an Aerodactyl. And as it neared, I could see that it had a rider.

“Hey, Jade!” the rider yelled.

I jerked in surprise. I couldn’t see them clearly yet, but I could never, ever forget that voice.

“It can’t be…” I muttered. I couldn’t help staring upward, lost for words. When the winged Pokémon got within view, I could finally make out a petite teenaged girl riding on its back—fair-skinned with a bright, confident face and short, black hair blowing back with the wind.

It really was her.

“No way… Ajia?!” I yelled.

I couldn’t believe it. Ajia was here. How? Why? It didn’t make any sense. But there was no doubt in my mind that the trainer flying toward us was my old friend, even though I hadn’t seen her in so long. Really, the only thing I could do was raise a hand to wave, still in shock. Grinning slightly, Ajia waved back from atop the gray-skinned pterosaur.

“Who invited you here?!” Tyson shouted.

“Shut up. I’m the one handling this,” the Rocket executive said, looking rather intrigued by the new arrival.

Ajia’s Aerodactyl swooped down to land behind the rocky ledge that we’d been using as cover, easily swerving around a burst of lightning that the Raichu had shot toward it. After unbuckling herself from the Pokémon’s flight harness, she slid off its back, now standing next to me at about my shoulder in height.

“What’s wrong, Jade? I thought you’d be happier to see me,” she said, laughing and elbowing me lightly in the ribs.

That broke me out of my trance a little. Still, I felt more than a little overwhelmed as I struggled to find my words. “You… how… how are you here? I haven’t seen you in… over a year, at least. Not since you left to train in Johto.”

“I wanted to visit Viridian sooner, but I got caught up with things. And… from the look of things, so did you…” Her voice trailed off as she looked over the bizarre setting, from the mangled jet plane to the crowd of jeeps, the executive still glowering at us, and the mutant Pikachu lying a few feet from me. The look she gave me next made me suddenly aware of the fact that I was still covered in soot and wearing chains around my hands and feet. “…How did you even get involved in this mess?” she asked, rubbing the back of her head.

I put a hand to my forehead. “I don’t even know anymore.”

“Hi guys, I love reunions, and the best way to bond at a reunion is to beat the crap out of the people that want to kill us with awesome top-class Pokémon that you totally have, am-I-right?” Spencer cut in rapidly with an overly hopeful look on his face.

“That’s why I’m here,” she said simply, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’ve got this.” Spencer looked ready to collapse from relief.

Ajia turned sharply to face the battlefield, already pulling out several Pokéballs and quickly taking in the details of the battle with an expression that had shifted into intense determination. I looked over to see Spencer recalling his battered Dewgong into its ball. Now it was just Electabuzz and Typhlosion left in the fight—the former still desperately using its lightning to keep the opposition at bay, and the latter avoiding blows by popping in and out of the ground and striking when it was least expected. The far edge of the hill had an indent cut into it from the Hyper Beam, but none of the Rocket’s Pokémon had fallen from the attack.

“She probably had Raichu put up a Light Screen at the last second—at least, I wouldn’t expect anything less from her,” Ajia said to herself, almost in response to my thoughts. She turned to me and added, “Aerodactyl’s Hyper Beam isn’t the strongest—he’s better at physical moves. It was the best long-distance option I had at the time, though.” She paused slightly, contemplating something. “Raichu has to go down first—Pichu, you’re up!”

She swung her bag down from her shoulder, and out leaped a small, pale yellow mouse who instantly dashed into the fray. Memories flooded my mind upon seeing her—memories of the day that Ajia had received Pichu from her dad, nearly four years ago.

“She still hasn’t evolved?” I asked, watching the nimble rodent skillfully ducking under her opponents and letting loose small jolts of electricity at them.

“She didn’t want to,” Ajia replied, shrugging in a way that seemed to imply that she didn’t mind. “We’ve focused all our training on getting around it.” She was already pulling out two more Pokéballs, letting out a pair of foxes. The first one, an Espeon, outstretched its lithe frame and gave a flick of its forked tail, focusing its vibrant purple eyes on the battlefield. Alongside it, an Umbreon pawed at the ground in anticipation, its long ears twitching and ring-like markings glowing faintly.

“Umbreon, use Toxic; Espeon, Calm Mind; Aerodactyl, fly overhead and use Air Slash—be ready to dodge lightning!”

Umbreon charged forward, squirting out a noxious liquid from its pores and hitting the Arcanine right on target. The dark fox was way too slow to dodge the overwhelming blaze that followed. But it just stood its ground against the firedog, wincing slightly from the intense flames, but looking like it could endure them all day. Overhead, Aerodactyl was ducking and rolling through the air, forcing the Raichu to waste all its energy just trying to land a hit, all while sending blades of air flying from its wingtips, keeping the Rapidash from breaking through the lineup.

“Alright good, looks like I was right—this isn’t the worst situation to be in. And with them already being weakened by your friend, we should be able to come out on top without too much difficulty.”

I stared, chills running down my spine. Everything that she’d said was starting to come together. “Ajia, you’ve… have you fought Rockets before?”

The question made her pause, but then she nodded. And from the sound of things, she’d had much worse fights than this. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but the top members of Team Rocket had to be incredibly skilled trainers, fighting strong enemies and honing their skills for years, just like any other ace trainer.

“Pichu, dodge and use Swift; Espeon, Confusion!” she called out.

My attention snapped back to the battle at once. Pichu darted past the executive’s Flareon, easily evading the fire fox’s attempt to bite down with fangs glowing like hot iron. The Raichu kept trying to pause and charge up the power needed for one of its huge lightning bolts, but couldn’t seem to concentrate with Pichu intermittently sending stars of white energy homing in on the larger rodent’s face. Meanwhile, any of the opposing Pokémon trying to land a hit found themselves held in place by blue psychic energy from Espeon. Though it was easy for them to shake off the telekinetic control, the moment’s pause made them easy targets for the blades of wind being thrown around by Aerodactyl, who had its tongue hanging out as it looped through the air, almost lazily enjoying its role.

I couldn’t help staring in awe of how well Ajia’s Pokémon were working together. Even though she hadn’t been giving any commands more than just the attack names, it was like they already knew what sort of strategy she wanted them to employ. Like she had already spent time training them in this sort of melee tactics. Half her team was darting around using small, scattered blows to draw attention and distract. All the while, half of the Rocket’s Pokémon were now covered in a toxic film, gradually dulling their movements the longer they had to struggle against the annoying and indirect tactics. Despite the ridiculously overpowered nature of the opponents’ attacks, they just weren’t able to pull anything off.

A pitiful cry drew my attention to the executive’s Arcanine. It had just collapsed, having finally succumbed to the wounds and exhaustion and poison. Seconds later, a red beam drew it back into its Pokéball and out of view.

“All right! One down!” Rudy exclaimed.

I had to admit, it was a huge relief. Finally, a real sign that it was possible for us to win this. Ajia grinned to herself before pressing the attack—her Pokémon had switched to more direct offenses now. Aerodactyl finally got an opening to soar low over the battlefield, slicing through parts of the ledges and sending a Rock Slide cascading down over the opposition. Raichu tried to send more lightning toward the rock-skinned pterosaur, but Umbreon had taken to fighting it up close, unfazed by the electric mouse’s attacks. Espeon had leaped onto the Rapidash’s back, and though the fire horse desperately tried to buck the violet fox off, the latter continued to hit it with blasts of psychic energy.

And then I heard the sound of a Pokéball opening, followed by a vicious howling that caught Ajia’s Pokémon off guard. No… no, it couldn’t be… I edged over to get a better view of the Rockets and—there it was. The executive’s Arcanine was back in the fight, barking out Flamethrowers and looking completely refreshed. I stared at the sight in disbelief.

And then I noticed one of the Rockets sitting in the jeep nearest the executive, who was holding a sleek, capsule-like device almost like a rounded briefcase. I couldn’t make out what it was at this distance, but also couldn’t help feeling like it was important.

I pointed it out to Ajia, who slapped her forehead upon seeing it. “A portable healer. They would have one of those, wouldn’t they? Those cheats.” She clenched her teeth, worry crossing her face for the first time since she’d gotten here. “Alrighty then… so they’re going to play that game. My Pokémon haven’t had to expend too much energy so far, but they can’t keep this going forever.”

“Could… could we try to destroy the healer?” I asked tentatively.

“Those are combat jeeps—they’ll have shields. We need to figure out a way to retreat. My Aerodactyl should be able to fly while carrying two people, at least.” She motioned to get Spencer’s attention. “Er, sorry, I don’t know your name.”

“Spencer Dailey, at your service,” he replied with a mock bow.

“Right, then—do you have any Pokémon that could fly while carrying anyone?”

Spencer’s face fell immediately. “I… er, well, I did. My Pidgeot got taken out at the start of the battle. If I had some way to heal him…” He paused, looking ready to smack himself. I wondered why, but… then it hit me. We were complete idiots; there had been a massive box of healing supplies in the plane. If we’d only thought to grab some of them—I felt like kicking myself.

Ajia raised an eyebrow at the expressions of horror suddenly crossing our faces. “Let me guess—things just got worse? Really guys, this is enough surprises for one day.”

“It’s not that,” I said, putting a hand over my face. “We left behind a huge crate of potions and such in the plane. If we’d thought to bring ‘em with us, we could have done the same thing the Rockets are doing now. Or better yet, we could have figured out a way to escape.”

Ajia nodded, her expression tough to make out. She observed the plane’s wreck with a thoughtful look. “So we just need to figure out a way onto the plane. It’d be too difficult for us to make it over there while they’ve got any Pokémon out.”

“And guns. Guns are pretty bad too,” Spencer piped up.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan for that. But as for the Pokémon… since they’ll just get healed anytime we take one out…” Her eyes lit up at once. “We just have to take them all out at the same time. Then we can storm the plane while they’re being healed and get out of here no problem.”

Her enthusiasm was rubbing off—I couldn’t help feeling a jolt of excitement, though it was swept away with doubts almost immediately afterward. “We have to knock them all out at once? How the heck are we supposed to do that?”

“*I know how.*”

The sudden voice in Pokéspeech caught me off guard, and I whirled around to see the experimental Pikachu finally pulling himself to his feet. He swayed a bit but fixed his eyes on us intensely.

“…What?” At first it was all I could figure out how to say. It took me several seconds to really register the fact that he was trying to help us. “How… how are you supposed to—you’re out of power, what could you possibly do?”

I hadn’t meant to say it so bluntly. The rodent’s lightning bolt tail twitched angrily, and he didn’t dignify my comment with a response. Instead, he called out, “*Pichu, come here!*”

Pichu twitched her large, diamond-shaped ears upon hearing his exclamation, but otherwise didn’t respond, though she did shoot an inquisitive glance at Ajia.

“She’s not gonna leave the battle just like that—let us know what you’re planning,” Ajia said with a faint smile. I tried making a face to warn her to be careful what she said around him, but I really had no idea how to communicate that.

The hybrid turned away sharply, his expression fierce but twisted—like he didn’t actually know how to make any other face. Several seconds passed with no one saying a word. Finally, he started to explain. He spoke much too quickly for me to make out what he was saying, though Ajia seemed to have no trouble with it. Every so often I caught a phrase like ‘can’t hold power’ or ‘take them out.’

Throughout all of this, Ajia remained silent, though she glanced at the battle frequently, using hand signals to direct her Pokémon’s moves. After the Pikachu finished relaying his plan, Ajia motioned to Pichu, who raced over to us.

The experiment briefly explained something to Pichu, who glanced up at her trainer in surprise. Ajia nodded, looking serious. And then the Pikachu put a paw against one of the electrical generators on Pichu’s cheeks, screwing his eyes shut in concentration. Strings of lightning began surging across his arm, flowing into him from the smaller mouse. He recoiled in pain. Still, he kept his paw firmly in place, giving no sign that he wanted to stop, though his breathing was heavy and his limbs trembled occasionally. Sparks leapt off his fur erratically as the electricity surrounded him, causing the hybrid to grit his teeth before slowly and forcefully pulling the energy into himself.

“Can someone tell me what is going on here?” I asked, feeling horribly lost.

“You couldn’t understand him?” Ajia asked, looking genuinely surprised. “Oh, right… you always had trouble with Pokéspeech class.”

“Er… well, I’m decent at it now… maybe not fluent, but I’m way better than I used to be,” I mumbled, feeling my cheeks go a bit red.

Ajia nodded, realizing I didn’t want to talk about it. “Well, Pichu is channeling her power supply into him. He said he could absorb it—does he have the Lightningrod ability or something?”

“I… don’t know?” I said, shrugging. What he’d been doing didn’t seem to match with any kind of special ability I’d heard of.

Several minutes passed, during which Pichu relayed all of her remaining power supply into the experimental Pikachu. She was forced to pause frequently, as the strain of keeping a continuous flow of electricity was too much. When it was finally done, Pichu slumped to the ground, exhausted. And then the Pikachu slowly rose to his feet, fur standing on end and eyes filled with a renewed vigor.

Still, something about his plan just didn’t make any sense. “I don’t get it,” I said to him. “I understand that your power is—I don’t know—more intense from being part Zapdos and all, but… If she’s just giving her power to you… what can you do with it that she can’t?”

He paused heavily. And then, for the first time I’d seen, he managed to wrench his face into something other than pain or rage: an ironic smile. “*Most Pokémon can’t drain their whole power supply into one move. It’s not natural. Their bodies aren’t designed to handle it. But me? I have a hard time not doing that.*” His words were slow and strained.

Ajia kneeled to pick up the small, sad form of her unconscious Pichu, pulling out a Pokéball at the same time. “She normally prefers being outside the ball, but with what we’re doing now…” Her voice trailed off as she recalled her first Pokémon. “So, is everyone ready?”

The Pikachu was the first one to nod, saying, “*Raichu is the only problem. He’ll be able to make electric barriers.*”

“Alright, so we pretty much have to screw strategy and just take out that Raichu however possible. Sounds fun. Time for sure-shot moves?”

It took Spencer a second or two to realize that she had addressed that last bit to him. “Oh? Oh, yeah! Typhlosion, Swift! Electabuzz, Shock Wave!” he yelled, pointing straight at the executive’s Raichu.

“Umbreon, Faint Attack! Espeon, Swift! Aerodactyl, Aerial Ace!” Ajia commanded.

The orange rodent tried to make a break for it, but was hilariously unprepared for the barrage of attacks now honing in on him, despite his best attempts at evasion. The Rocket executive jerked backward in surprise, clearly not expecting that kind of strategy. She could only watch as her Raichu was completely overwhelmed by a flood of energy discs, strings of electricity, Umbreon phasing out of shadow right alongside him, and Aerodactyl pulling out of a dive with a rapid upward slice of its wings. Raichu cried out in pain, smacked in between one attack after another, and his trainer had no choice but to recall him.

“Alright, it’s now or never!” Ajia exclaimed to the Pikachu, recalling her Umbreon and motioning for her other two to pull back from the battle. At Spencer’s command, Typhlosion ducked underground again and Electabuzz stumbled back to where we were standing, looking horribly exhausted and sinking to its knees the first chance it got. Rudy recalled his Squirtle, which made me realize that I’d need to do the same for my Pokémon, even if one of them technically wasn’t mine. It felt a little awkward recalling the Charmander into the ball, but I didn’t have much choice.

And then it was only the experiment standing between us and the Rocket’s Pokémon. The executive had already passed her Raichu’s Pokéball to the grunt with the portable healer, so we only had a small window of opportunity.

“*This ends now,*” the Pikachu said. A flash of hate flickered in his eyes.

He raced forward into the fray, an explosion of sparks leaping off his body. It wouldn’t have even been right to describe it as bolts of lightning; it was like a flood of electricity was pouring out from every inch of his skin with no way to hold it back. The Rocket’s Pokémon tried to counter it with a rush of fire, but it was just too much. The wave of lightning broke through the flames like they were nothing, then completely enveloped the enemy lineup. One by one, all of the Rocket’s Pokémon collapsed to the ground.

But there was no stopping the outpouring of electricity. At this point, I don’t think the Pikachu could have controlled it if he’d wanted to. Massive bolts shot out from the hybrid’s body at random, most of them flying into the air, but the others hurtling toward the Rockets. They didn’t even get a chance to move—all of them in or near the closest jeep collapsed instantly. I couldn’t help wincing—it was strange to see our attackers suddenly rendered so helpless.

And then, without warning, the flood of lightning lessened. The shock waves thinned, giving way to erratic bursts of sparks before the Pikachu collapsed. The whole thing couldn’t have lasted more than thirty seconds, but it had felt like ages. I felt myself tense up—time for us to act.

“Alright, that’s our cue!” Ajia said. “Espeon, use Reflect!”

The psychic fox promptly raised a shimmering barrier of energy around us. Upon seeing it, Spencer recalled Typhlosion and turned to his Electabuzz, “Just a little more, buddy—we’re gonna need another barrier.” His Pokémon grunted a bit out of fatigue, but still managed to produce a shining yellow force field.

“Alright, you two hop on Aerodactyl, the rest of us will follow on foot,” Ajia said to me and Rudy, gesturing to the winged reptile. We didn’t need telling twice—both of us jumped up and got positioned on her Pokémon’s back, holding tight to the straps on its harness.

“Everyone ready? Let’s move out!”

Aerodactyl vaulted into the air, and Spencer and Ajia raced forward beneath us, making their way down the rocky ledges as quickly as possible while surrounded by the twin barriers. Most of the Rocket grunts in the far jeep had run forward to check on their superiors, who were struck by the tail end of the Pikachu’s assault. Some of them were armed; I gripped Aerodactyl’s side when they fired at the group on the ground. But Ajia’s plan had worked—the bullets pinged uselessly off the pair of barriers. I let out the breath I’d been holding, then immediately had to hold it again as Aerodactyl tucked its wings and swooped forward, shooting straight through the hole at the back of the jet before flaring its wings outward and slowing to a stop in the middle of the cargo bay.

My limbs shaking, I slid off the reptile’s back alongside Rudy, who looked a bit nauseous and muttered something like, “That would have been so cool if we weren’t running for our lives.”

Not far behind us, Ajia and Spencer leaped through the hole almost weightlessly, like they’d been levitated up with Espeon’s telekinesis. Ajia paused just quickly enough to recall the psychic-type before racing forward to meet us, holding the experimental Pikachu under one arm.

“I grabbed him from the battlefield,” she explained, handing the spiky-furred rodent to me. “I wasn’t sure if you had stolen him from the Rockets or what, but we couldn’t just leave him there.”

I blinked confusedly, my brain taking several seconds to register the weirdness in what she had just said. I attempted to say something to the degree of, “He’s not really mine,” but Ajia cut me off by asking, “So where are the healing supplies?”

“Oh, oh right! They were near the front of the plane last I saw them.”

She motioned to Spencer to follow her and the two of them dashed off through the maze of boxes and crates, most of them disheveled from the crash landing. I stood there with Rudy, unable to do anything but wait. The portable healer had taken a couple minutes to heal the Arcanine, so we had at least a small window of time on our side. But the Raichu had been knocked out first, so it had a head start on being treated.

“Found them!” Ajia exclaimed, and I heard Spencer open a Pokéball to release his Pidgeot immediately. For the next minute or so, the two of them sprayed the massive bird with nearly every medicine they could get their hands on. Slowly, the blackened skin and feathers began to heal as the potions boosted the Pokémon’s natural healing ability. When it was done, Spencer poured something into the bird’s beak, and it snapped awake in an instant, struggling to stand to its feet. The Pidgeot had a slight tremble to its movements—clearly still sore from the lightning bolt—but it was healed.

“Alright! Time to get out of here and never get captured by Rockets again! Sound good? I thought so, now get over here Rudy!” Spencer exclaimed.

Not wasting any time, Rudy sprinted over and jumped on behind Spencer while Ajia ran over to me and the two of us mounted her Aerodactyl. Both Pokémon outstretched their wings, and I barely had a few seconds to brace myself for the rush before we were off. Aerodactyl shot forward, straight through the opening at the back of the jet, nearly throwing me off with its speed. I struggled to lean forward and keep my grip on the reptile’s harness straps while holding the Pikachu under my arm.

And then Aerodactyl suddenly barreled to the left to avoid a streak of lightning that tore past us, rending the air with an earsplitting crack. I barely managed to catch a glimpse of the Raichu beneath us, sparking wildly before we sped out of its range. So they’d managed to heal it in time. But then the sickening realization hit me—Pidgeot hadn’t been fast enough to avoid the mouse’s Thunder last time.

I threw a glance over my shoulder to see Spencer and Rudy trailing behind us on the eagle’s back. Time slowed as the Raichu prepared for another attack. There was no way. They weren’t going to make it.

And then without warning, Pidgeot accelerated out of nowhere, speeding forward to catch up with us and narrowly avoiding the Thunderbolt that was sent hurtling straight for them.

“Hah, yeah! I knew it’d be good to give you a dose of that X Speed in there!” Spencer exclaimed wildly, patting his bird’s neck.

I couldn’t even see the Rockets anymore, that’s how fast we were zooming away from them. My eyes were wide and my breathing hurried and I could barely believe what had just happened, but none of that mattered because we had made it.






~End Chapter 4~
Got some rambles on how exactly number nine's ability works~

Ajia asked if he had the Lightningrod ability, and the answer is... kind of. He has to be hit by an electric move in order to absorb it—sort of like Volt Absorb. However, this is not passive—he has to exert a lot of effort to do so, and it does hurt him. But he uses the power to fill up his own power supply in addition to getting the power boost from Lightningrod, which makes the tradeoff in pain easily worth it. Remember that he has an unnaturally small power supply as a side effect of his mutations (his energy signature has the natural intensity of Zapdos, but his body isn't able to handle this.) So he has to be very careful to conserve his power supply in battle. Unfortunately, this is inherently difficult for him since letting out even a small amount of power opens the floodgates—his body naturally tries to expel all of it, and it takes a lot of effort to prevent this. What he did in this chapter was deliberately take advantage of this weakness.

What happened was: Nine was out of power and absorbed Pichu’s electricity, putting him at a nearly full power capacity, as well as giving him a temporary energy spike (the 1.5x SpAtk boost). He then used all of his power to create basically the equivalent of ten Thunders in one move. And with the side effect of Struggle (so in game terms he lost 250% of his HP and yeah this move sucks.) This technique is incredibly painful and will always knock him out, so the number of situations in which this move would even be useful are very limited.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Okay, it looks like we're finally getting a bit of a breather, maybe, after this chapter?? Some time to talk?! Gah! I'm not used to fics starting off with an explosion and I still barely know them! That being said, the main newcomer here feels like the biggest ace of them all, so I'm curious on where that's going to go. Jade is the main character yet is totally outclassed by pretty much everyone else in the story. Boy doesn't that sound familiar~

I don't have a lot of thoughts on this chapter overall that I hadn't already covered in the previous one. There were a few moments that made me a little uncertain, particularly the TM session where it took a literal minute or so to activate during a raging battle. It seemed to be strange. As far as a multi-participant battle is concerned, a minute is... a while. That aside, though! Lots of highs and lows to Jade's circumstances, but they finally managed to escape, at least for the time being. Maybe now they can actually try to catch up.

Firestorm nodded almost immediately. I blinked, surprised at how willing he was to fight. Did he realize what kind of dangers this would involve?
I'm like 90% certain Firestorm has hidden depths and used to be someone else's starter, or something along those lines. He's so... stoic, in a way.

I couldn’t believe it. Ajia was here. How? Why?
I can't, either! Small world. But hey, all your old friends are showing up anyway, so get used to it.

Pichu, dodge and use Swift
Pichu then proceeds to bludgeon all of the enemy forces with a Pidgey.

Most Pokémon can’t drain their whole power supply into one move. It’s not natural. Their bodies aren’t designed to handle it. But me? I have a hard time not doing that.
Oh, so he's a nuke-class unit! Sweet.
 

Virgil134

Active member
(Crossposting from Serebii)

Heya! Been a while since last time, but here to review chapter 2 and 3 just like I said I would.

Chapter 2

They were coming for me—why were they coming for me?
Well you did just see them doing something illegal, Jade.

I jumped suddenly at the sound of a gunshot and whirled around. My stomach melted into nothing—one of the Rockets pulled out a small handgun and began shooting at Swift.
Whelp, that escalated quickly. From kidnapping to worse. Though given that Jade saw buildings earlier and she said they were near Viridian City, how come nobody is hearing these shots? You’d think this would be a fast way to get the cops on you.

Honestly, Tyson, I don’t even know why I—”
Wait, Tyson? Does that mean the driver is that Team Rocket member from the anime’s Lake of Rage two parter?

After having found the money, the Rocket didn’t bother looking anything else I had in there and simply tossed the wallet into a bin with what I assumed were other stolen items. He then chained my hands and feet to the wall before shutting the door.
Man, Jade’s day is just getting worse and worse by the minute, huh?

“Hello there,” he said. “It looks like I’m rescuing you. My name’s Spencer—I think we’re gonna be good friends.”

I blinked. I had about a million questions, but about the only thing I could say was, “What?”

He frowned. “That’s all the response I get? Boring.”
Hey will you look at that! Finally something going her way. Seems like her rescuer even has quite the personality.

“Alright Typhlosion, I need you to melt these chains, so we’re gonna need it hot.”

The Typhlosion leaned down and grasped a bundle of the chains, holding them behind its head. Suddenly, a blazing ring of fire burst out from the red burners around its neck, torching through the metal with a wave of sparks.
Objection! Red and orange flames aren’t hot enough to melt steel, meaning Typhlosion shouldn’t be able to break these chains. (Though more seriously, I did think the problem of Jade being chained was solved a little too easily)

Spencer stepped aside, revealing a rather disgruntled Rudy standing in the cargo bay.

“How did you get here?” I asked, completely floored.
Certainly didn’t expect Rudy to come back like this. Though hearing the explanation how he got here certainly made sense. Swift is a clever birdy.

“Hey Spencer!” I called out.
Should she really be shouting like this? Since I assume the Rockets would be able to hear the group if they talk to loudly.

It gave a light whimper, clutching its tail tightly and glancing around at the strange surrounding.
I know Firestorm is obviously stressed here, but I’ve seen the artwork and I gotta say he’s adorable

“Alright, that’s good since, uh… Rudy and I will be pretty useless in a fight.” It felt rather lame to admit.

“Hey, what do you mean?! I’ve got two Pokémon,” Rudy shot back.
Rudy’s a confident rookie I see.

My face fell with dread. “This thing was mixed with the Legendary Zapdos.”
Well that ain’t good. Also wasn’t expecting this fic to have hybrid Pokemon in it. I admit that’s something I typically wouldn’t read about, but the fic’s still keeping me entertained regardless.

Edit: Heh, just read the notes. A good dose of self-awareness certainly never hurts
:p


“WHAT. THE. EVER. LIVING. HELL?!!”

My stomach sank even lower as I turned to see an extremely pissed-off Tyson standing in the doorway to the cargo area, his jaw hanging open from shock.

“Uhh, hey…” Spencer said awkwardly. “Could you leave for a bit? We kind of have a situation here.”

Tyson stared at us in a sort of stupefied rage
Lmao, Spencer.

“Thought you’d play with the hybrids did you?” Tyson asked with a sneer. “Then have fun facing the strongest of them. Kill them, Razors!”

The three of us couldn’t do anything but sit there, frozen in horror as the blade-armed nightmare shot toward us, too fast to even see.
Looks like thing just got so much worse. This should be fun.

Chapter 3

“What should we do?” I asked, trying not to sound too panicked.

“Er… I was actually hoping you’d have a plan…” he said sheepishly.
Spencer’s such a great rescuer.

And then a sudden burst of flames shot toward Razors, striking the mantis dead-on. Yes! Typhlosion had landed a direct hit! There was no way the Scyther could withstand—but even as I watched, Razors stood up and turned sharply in Typhlosion’s direction, preparing to leap at it.
Whelp, it was a good attempt. Though now I wonder what sort of hybrid Razors is.

“Strong enough to take down my best Pokémon?” Tyson called out. “You’re more of a nuisance that I gave you credit for.”

“Razors was your best guy? Awesome, that means we’re in charge now,” Spencer said, standing up. “Tell the pilot to land this thing and let us off. And also get us pizza,” he added as an afterthought.

Tyson stared incredulously. “You think you’re hot stuff just cause you managed to beat one of my Pokémon with help from a crazy overpowered rat?”

“Nah, Typhlosion is the one made of hot stuff.” How Spencer managed to keep a straight face on that comeback was beyond me.
This exchange is amazing but I have a feeling this attitude of Spencer is gonna blow up in his face so hard lol

“He shot at me?” Spencer blurted out, picking himself up from the floor, completely stunned.
Alright that was sooner than I’d expected. Guess they’re not gonna beat Team Rocket by 100% sticking to game logic, eh? :V

I had to admit that it was a good idea. We were completely surrounded by the Rockets’ supplies—using them to our advantage would be a major help.

A wide grin crossed his face as he pulled out a blue TM. “Dude, Surf—I gotta teach this to Squirtle.” He fumbled with the buttons on the disc’s case, but nothing happened. “Hey… it’s not working.”

“Isn’t Surf a locked move? Like, you can only use it if you’ve registered a certain number of badges?” I wasn’t really sure of it myself, but it sounded right, in any case.
Heh, using Team Rocket’s supplies against them is pretty clever. Also it’s interesting to see how you have incorporated the game’s mechanics here by Rudy not being able to teach his Squirtle Surf. Same for there being different series of TMs representing the different generations. The latter is actually a headcanon I have myself. ^^

I couldn’t resist stepping over to get a view of what was going on. I was met with the sight of the pilot on the ground, out cold. The Pikachu stood in his seat, forcing the control wheel forward, sending the plane into a nosedive.
Okay… I’m gonna be honest, this part broke my suspension for disbelief quite a bit. I’m not sure what felt improbable to me: the Pikachu somehow getting into a locked cockpit, knocking out the pilot while having no power left, or not only knowing how to crash a plane, but also somehow being capable of it with his tiny body. It’s probably the combination of all those things that makes this moment feel a bit… ridiculous. I’ve been enjoying the story so far, but this moment really made me scratch my head a little. I’m sorry.

I know you said in the notes before the prologue that the first six or so chapters had some issues, but were moments like this what you were referring to? Regardless, I’ll look past it since you did warn about these early chapters having problems.

I couldn’t think of anything to say. I was too shocked by how much the tables had turned in our favor with just that one move.
That makes two of us, Jade… Though is this a lampshade to you not being happy with how some of the stuff in the first six chapters go? ^^;

Anyway, I’m not sure how Typhlosion overpowered Tyson that easily given that Typhlosion weigh about as much as humans but are a little shorter. Surely Tyson could have pushed or even kicked Typhlosion off of him for a second and either grabbed his gun again, asked help from his Pokemon who were still out, or even retreated into the cockpit. Also how come there were no other Rockets helping Tyson? Seems strange it was just him and the pilot on that plane, especially since chapter 2 gave the impression there were more people onboard. Overall it really did feel like the tables got turned a bit too quickly and too easily.

“*Legendaries shouldn’t be captured,*” the Pidgey replied simply. I couldn’t help staring—where had he gotten that opinion from? The topic of Legendaries had never really come up in my house, barring that two-month-or-so period I wouldn’t shut up after reading about them in social studies.
Gotta say, I quite enjoyed this talk between Jade and her Pokémon (Yeah I know, they’re not officially owned by her yet since she has no license, but I can see where this is going lol). I like how you’re giving the Pokemon some personality, since I feel like trainer fics typically tend to gloss that over. Also I’m curious about Swift’s opinion, since it’s definitely not something everyone agrees on. I wonder if there’s more to it given how surprised Jade was about it.

Spencer flipped through the previous messages in the conversation. “Team dispatched. ETA 1815.” “Coordinates sent. Crash time approx. 1810.”
Clever move from Tyson’s part. Not so fortunate for the heroes of course, but hey.

I dashed over, snatched the Pikachu with my right arm before scooping up Firestorm under my left and throwing a leg over the Arcanine’s back.

I threw a glance back at Spencer, who motioned to Typhlosion, who threw Tyson into a pile of boxes and hurriedly dashed forward on all fours, pausing just long enough for Spencer to leap onto its back.
Although it’s nice to see Jade going back for the Pikachu hybrid, how is Spencer riding Typhlosion? I’m starting to think Spencer’s Typhlosion is a hybrid himself with the stuff he’s been able to pull off so far lol.

“They tried firing at us; couldn’t really get a clear shot, though.”
Also how come the Rockets solely resorted to guns and didn’t use their own Pokemon? Surely it would be more effective to use both.

Especially confusing was the fact that the executive didn’t sound much older than seventeen or eighteen. Could someone so young be ranked that highly on Team Rocket?
Ooh, is this a reference to Ariana saying in GSC and HGSS that the player can become an executive after beating her in battle despite his/her age?

I heard the sound of several Pokéballs being opened and looked back at the Rocket to see—“Oh crap, here they come!”
Hey, at least the executive didn’t forget that she has Pokémon. Maybe she could give some tips to the grunts.

“Wait! You have a Pidgeot! Can’t we just fly out of here?!” I exclaimed, pointing at the massive tawny eagle taking flight.

Spencer paused, smiling weakly. “It’s cool that you think he’s that hardcore, but… yeah, no way can he pull off carrying all three of us.”

“Crap… okay, how about one person rides off on Pidgeot while the others stay here protected by the rest of your Pokémon, and then Pidgeot comes back to get the others?”

“I… guess that could work?” Spencer said, rubbing the back of his head.
So, I really like this. Aside from it being smart thinking (yeah I know this plan instantly fails, but there’s no way they could have predicted that so I’m giving them a break lol), I like how Pidgeot can’t carry all three of them and Jade has to think a way around that. It sets up some limitations and forces her to think around that as opposed to a quick and easy solution like we’ve for example seen with Typhlosion destroying Jade’s chains.

Alright, and that’s the end of chapter 3. Overall I did quite like both chapters, despite my criticism of chapter 3’s second half. Sorry if it was a bit harsh, but I do want to give my honest opinion to what I read. That said, I’ve definitely seen your comments about the first six chapters, so I won’t judge you or the rest of the fic for not and I’m sure the more recent chapters are a lot better. I’ll look forward to what comes next!
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Thanks for the reviews, both of you! I'll cover Virgil over on Serebii, but here's the reply for Namo:
Okay, it looks like we're finally getting a bit of a breather, maybe, after this chapter?? Some time to talk?! Gah! I'm not used to fics starting off with an explosion and I still barely know them!
No worries, next chapter is a breather! Although the funny thing is, when it was posted on Serebii, I actually apologized for Chapter 5 having no action and reassured everyone that the plot would be kicking back into high gear in Chapter 6. (Back then, breather chapters risked losing your audience.) Shows how the times have changed~

That being said, the main newcomer here feels like the biggest ace of them all, so I'm curious on where that's going to go. Jade is the main character yet is totally outclassed by pretty much everyone else in the story. Boy doesn't that sound familiar~
The fact that the main character of this story is neither strong, nor smart, nor brave, nor particularly skilled in any way is a huge part of this fic's themes, and it's the reason I have so much fun with her character arc. As much I love Ajia, this story would not work from her POV.

There were a few moments that made me a little uncertain, particularly the TM session where it took a literal minute or so to activate during a raging battle. It seemed to be strange. As far as a multi-participant battle is concerned, a minute is... a while.
I'd consider it pretty sketchy if Jade were actually participating in the battle, but as it was, she was just standing on the sidelines, so her focusing on something else for a few minutes didn't change much.

I can't, either! Small world. But hey, all your old friends are showing up anyway, so get used to it.
ahaha, you better not be thinking that Ajia's arrival is a coincidence. ;P

Pichu then proceeds to bludgeon all of the enemy forces with a Pidgey.
I love this.
After looking through Bulbapedia’s list of names commonly used to refer to pokédollars, I decided to go with “pyen” as Kanto's monetary unit in LC. I wanted something without the “poke” prefix (too silly), but starting with a p (to reference the canon in-game symbol), but also referencing the Japanese games just having them as yen (which also makes it more obvious that 20,000 pyen, while a decent sum, is nothing extraordinary.)


~Chapter 5: Deliberation~


“All in all, great job today, everyone. I’d say we’ve graduated to top class as far as not-getting-killed-by-Rockets goes,” Spencer said, stretching widely and flopping to the ground.

We were resting in a small, shaded clearing in the woods some thirty minutes west of the crash side, after Spencer’s Pidgeot had proven too sore to make the full journey back to Viridian—especially with two passengers. Still, none of us protested the chance to stop and catch our breath after the harrowing escape. I hadn’t moved from the spot I’d collapsed onto after sliding down Aerodactyl’s back, utterly numb. It would have been nice to just lie there with the wind rustling the leaves and watch the sky slowly melt into red as the day drew to a close. I still had too many thoughts swirling through my head to appreciate it, though.

I heard the sound of a Pokéball opening and then suddenly felt a strange tingling near my hands and feet. I looked down to see a blue psychic aura surrounding the shackles that were still clasped around my wrists and ankles, causing them to snap open suddenly. I had stopped noticing that they were there, what with all the fear and adrenaline that had been flooding my system all day. Now that they were gone, I was suddenly aware of the aching and itching and couldn’t help rubbing my wrists extensively.

“That’s better, isn’t it?” Ajia asked. I noticed Espeon now sitting next to her on Aerodactyl’s back, flicking its forked tail. “So Jade… you’ve really got to tell me how you got mixed up with those Rockets in the first place.” She gave me a sideways glance—or at least, what looked sideways, given that I was sprawled out on the grass looking up at her. It was hard to tell with everything upside-down.

I couldn’t help letting out a laugh. “Me? What about you?! How did you even know we were there?”

“I asked you first,” Ajia replied with a playful smirk.

Oh come on. That wasn’t fair.

I sighed, unsure of how much I wanted to say about it. “I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and saw something I shouldn’t have. That’s really all it was.” Okay, so that wasn’t the whole truth. Still, I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to bring up my conversation with the Charizard trainer—not just because he told me to keep it a secret, but because I was afraid of the reaction I’d get.

Ajia raised an eyebrow, looking confused. “They kidnapped you just because you saw them doing something? That seems like a waste of time. A big organization like them shouldn’t care if some random kid saw them doing something. It’s not like you could exactly do anything with that info.”

I paused. “Well… it wasn’t just ‘something.’ I saw them trying to catch Entei.”

This revelation got a noticeable silence out of everyone. Rudy sat up immediately, eyes wide and jaw hanging open.

“You actually saw Entei?” he said after some time.

I nodded blankly, unsure of what else to do.

“Entei. As in, Legendary beast, Entei? Makes volcanoes erupt, and all that?” Spencer said incredulously.

“Has anyone ever captured a Legendary before?” Rudy asked, furrowing his brow like he was trying to figure something out.

Almost immediately, Ajia responded, “No. Never.”

I closed my eyes, now feeling oddly miserable about the topic. “They succeeded. They actually caught it. There wasn’t anything I could do.”

Ajia gave me a weird look, like she found my comment to be completely bizarre. “Well, come on. It’s not like you could have done anything.”

I couldn’t have done anything. It was the same way with the Rocket situation we had just been in. In both cases, I’d been powerless.

“What would you have done in that situation?” I found myself asking, not entirely sure why.

“What? That’s—what kind of question is that?”

I sighed. “Never mind. It was stupid, forget it.”

“Scary organization that tried to kill us now has an ultra-powerful fire-breathing weapon. I hope I’m not the only one bothered by this,” Spencer commented.

I didn’t really know what to say in response so I just stared back up at the sky. It was almost night—pinpricks of starlight had started shining above us. If we didn’t get back to Viridian soon, I’d have a world of explaining to do. The idea of returning home after all of this was somehow very strange and foreign.

“Even if you saw them going after Entei, I still don’t get why they cared so much,” Ajia continued to herself, apparently still trying to figure out the missing link in my story. “It just seems weird that they had to kidnap you even if you didn’t know all that much about them.”

“Can… can we not talk about this anymore?” I asked, looking away. “And in any case… what about you? You never said how found us there.”

“I saw the Fire Blast from the air. It was pretty hard to miss, actually.”

I gave her an incredulous stare. “Um. Yeah, right. You just happened to be flying by and see us?”

Ajia chuckled slightly. “Okay, okay, I already knew you were in trouble. I heard about the situation from a friend. It’s kind of a long story, though.”

I raised an eyebrow. “We’ve got time. And does this have anything to do with the fact that you’ve fought Rockets before?”

She considered the question for a bit and then nodded. “I don’t want to end up dragging you into that mess, though.”

I couldn’t help staring in disbelief. “I’m already involved in this Rocket mess after today, so what’s the difference?”

“Jade, be glad that what happened today didn’t pull you in too deep,” she said, suddenly looking very serious. I blinked, a bit taken aback by her sudden change in expression. It was still just too weird that she’d apparently gone through situations like this before.

Ajia paused, seeing the look on my face. “I’m sorry. It all happened a long time ago.”

I didn’t say anything. It was kind of obvious she didn’t want to tell me anything anyway, and I couldn’t help feeling annoyed, even if she had a good reason.

“So… what are you going to do now? Were you on a training journey before this all started?” Ajia asked.

“Eh… not exactly… I still don’t have a trainer’s license, so—”

“You don’t?” She paused, suddenly looking confused. “Hang on… how did you get a starter Pokémon, then?”

“He’s, uh… not my starter. I found the Charmander in the woods before I ran into the Rockets.”

“Which is completely unfair, if you ask me,” Rudy interjected.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You know, I really wasn’t expecting you to choose Squirtle as your starter.”

He clapped a hand to his forehead. “Yeah, about that… I should have known that the League registration place would be out of Charmander, so—hey, don’t give me that look, I didn’t want to wait, okay?” I almost burst out laughing at his impatience. Finally it made sense that he’d been so jealous of my finding a Charmander. Of course, then I couldn’t help feeling a prickle of annoyance—was he really that desperate to leave as soon as possible while I was stuck in Viridian?

“So, think we’re ready to head off now?” Ajia asked, recalling her Espeon back into its ball. “Back to Viridian, right?”

I hesitated. After the events of today, the idea of returning home like nothing had ever happened felt… strange. One thought was stuck in my mind: I hadn’t been able to do anything, either to help myself or anyone else, all day. Sure, maybe I was too weak to do anything about Team Rocket’s Legendary catching now. But wasn’t that what the Charizard trainer was aiming to change? How could I go home and do nothing after knowing what he had told me about Team Rocket catching Legendaries and seeing proof of it right before me? It was stupid, but I couldn’t help feeling that I’d met him for a reason… and that I needed to take that opportunity.

I hadn’t wanted to get involved because I didn’t think I could make a difference. Now I wanted to join because of that. Maybe I was just insane.

“Hey Ajia, can I talk to you about something for a bit?”

“Sure?” she said, looking a bit puzzled when I stood up and walked away from the clearing. I guess it was kind of weird that I wanted to talk about it in private. But I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone to begin with, and I’d known Ajia the longest, so it just felt right.

“What is it?” Ajia asked once we were a good distance from the others, who were now looking very confused.

I took a deep breath before pulling the card out of my pocket and handing it to her. “I want to know what you think of this. I’m honestly considering joining a group against Team Rocket.”

Something flickered in her eyes when I said that, though I couldn’t quite figure out what. “So you really want to fight the Rockets, huh? Even after what I said.”

I nodded. Much to my surprise, she just smiled and shrugged. “Hey, if you’re set on trying to help stop them, I’ll stop trying to talk you out of it. I’d be lying if I said I regretted my decision to get involved way back when. It’s been hard… but it’s worth it.”

Ajia proceeded to read the card several times, repeating certain bits out loud to herself as though trying to discover some hidden meaning that I’d overlooked. “This is… really vague. Though possibly just to protect the leader from being found out. It doesn’t even say where you’ll be going… I guess you’re supposed to figure that out in Vermilion. Overall, it’s suspicious, but I don’t think it’s a trap.”

“A trap?” I said blankly. The thought hadn’t really occurred to me.

She nodded. “There’s always the possibility, but that’d be very unlike the Rockets. What would they gain by going and finding a bunch of kids, pointlessly feeding them info, and then killing them? No, I think it’s real… though I can’t say I know what the motives are.”

The motives? What other motive could there be other than stopping Team Rocket for its own sake? Before I could ask, Ajia said, “Who exactly gave this to you? The leader of the team, or someone working for them?”

“Um, I’m pretty sure he was the leader. Tall guy, late teens… er, I’m not very good at describing people.”

Ajia paused, deep in thought. She considered something for several seconds, and then said, “Make sure he really does tell you more when you get there, before you commit to anything. And I hope you’ll get to train for a while before actually fighting any Rockets. Then again, only an idiot would throw newbie trainers against them and expect anything good to come out of it. So depending on how good the training is… this could actually be a really good opportunity. But… do you need to get a license first…?”

I clenched my fists. “I failed the test again, so I can’t. But I don’t care. I’ve wanted to be a trainer ever since you left. Heck, even before that, back when Starr left. So… I’m doing this, with or without.”

Ajia’s expression faltered for just a second. But then her face split into a wide grin. “I don’t know whether to tell you that’s a bad idea, or tell you that’s the best thing I’ve ever heard you say.” I couldn’t help laughing slightly. “So I guess you want to go to Vermilion now?”

I paused. This was it.

“Yeah. To Vermilion.”

As we walked back to the clearing, my mind already felt lighter from finally making my decision. Spencer and Rudy perked up slightly upon seeing us return.

“So Jade, mind telling us what your ultra-secret talk was about?” Rudy asked with a bit of a laugh.

I didn’t say anything for several seconds. Then: “Rudy, tell my mom I’m leaving on a training journey.”

He stared at me, unable to work through what I had just said. “…Wait, seriously? Hey, I told you it was a good idea! But seriously, this is kind of out of nowhere. What changed your mind?”

I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone. I repeated that excuse in my head, but it wasn’t the whole reason. This crazy plan was my choice, and he didn’t need to be involved. I kind of already knew he’d want to be involved if I told him.

“I guess you could say that today changed my mind.”

I glanced around the clearing, then down at the ground where I had placed the limp experimental Pikachu. His back rose and fell lightly with each breath, but there was no sign of him waking up any time soon.

I didn’t really know what do with him at this point. It seemed cruel to just leave him here where a predator could find him out cold. And even if it had been for his own reasons, he had helped us.

“Well, we lost his Pokéball on the plane, so I guess I’ll just have to hold him again,” I said, picking up the rodent as gently as possible.

“Wait a minute… you’re actually gonna keep that thing?” Rudy asked, staring wide-eyed at the Pikachu with a mixture of incredulous fear and envy.

“Of course not,” I replied. “I’m just going to hold onto him until he wakes up, then explain the situation to him. He’ll probably leave afterwards.” At least, I hoped so.

Ajia climbed up onto her Aerodactyl’s back and strapped herself into its flight harness, prompting the reptile to stand up and stretch its wings. I climbed on behind her, taking care to hold the Pikachu as best as I could while still keeping a firm grip on the Aerodactyl’s straps.

“Leaving now, huh?” Spencer asked. “Take care! Nice fighting with you, or… alongside you, I guess.”

It wasn’t like I had done much, but his words still made me smile. “Thanks for everything. I don’t know what I’d have done if you hadn’t shown up.”

Aerodactyl launched from the ground and in an instant, we were off. The air was dusky and cool, and the wind whipped at our faces and through our hair as we flew onward. I lost track of how long we had to fly, but the sky had deepened into black by the time I first caught a glimpse of city lights reflecting off the ocean in the distance. Finally, the winged reptile swooped down low over Vermilion City, eventually landing alongside the Pokémon Center. I let myself down from its back slowly, my hands now sore beyond belief from all the flying we’d done today. It was difficult just holding the Pikachu now—I had to constantly shift his weight between my arms.

“Wait here,” Ajia said, dismounting her Pokémon and running inside the large, red-roofed building. Only a few seconds afterward, she returned with a pen and a scrap of notepad paper. She scribbled something onto it and then handed it to me.

“It’s my Pokégear number—in case you ever find yourself in too much trouble.”

She climbed onto her Aerodactyl once more and waved lightly to me. “Good luck. I hope things work out for you. I mean it.”

I waved. “Thanks, Ajia.”

And with that, they were off, soaring into the night sky and out of sight.

So now it was time for me to figure out how to handle myself on my own. Though I suppose I wasn’t on my own—I did have my Pokémon.

And then it hit me. I had made this decision without even thinking about the fact that I still had a confused Charmander that didn’t even really belong to me. I pulled out Firestorm’s Pokéball slowly. I’d have to tell him what had happened eventually… and attempt to apologize for taking him here without his consent. No sense putting it off. A flash of white light formed into the flame-tailed lizard, who glanced around, looking puzzled.

“*Are we safe now?*” he asked.

I nodded. “We’re far from your old home, though. I’m not sure what you want to do, but—”

He cut me off: “*I don’t get it. Aren’t you my trainer now?*”

I blinked stupidly at him. If I’d been expecting anything, it wasn’t that. “I guess? I never really captured you, but…” I trailed off awkwardly. Did wild Pokémon normally act like this? I’d always heard they wouldn’t go with any human that hadn’t proven they could make the Pokémon stronger. After all, that was the entire point behind the tradition of battling a Pokémon before catching it. But then… if he did have a family and a home in that forest, it was likely all gone. There wasn’t much he could go back to, even if he wanted.

“If you’re sure it’s what you want, then fine, you can come with me,” I said, smiling afterwards. Even though it probably wasn’t right to think of it in this light, I couldn’t deny that having a Charmander was really cool.

An overwhelming sense of anxiety still hung over my head, but underneath it all, I couldn’t help feeling excited. Though this wasn’t the way I wanted it to happen, I was now a Pokémon trainer. An illegal one off on a mission to join a secret rebel team, sure… but a trainer nonetheless.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A cool, salty ocean breeze ruffled through my bangs as I strolled down one of Vermilion’s coastal walkways, shopping bags in hand. I had put it off as long as possible, but eventually I’d needed to buy more clothes, no matter how much I hated clothes shopping. Would have been nice if I’d somehow known to grab some spare outfits when I left home. Of course, I’d had no idea that any of this would happen; I had just planned on riding around town while Rudy finished his chores. It was almost crazy how something so small had led to all of this.

Almost absentmindedly, I found myself thumbing through the money in the new wallet I’d bought. It was a good thing TMs were so valuable; I’d held onto to the Fire Blast TM after I made the connection that Series 5 discs were the reusable ones. Pawning it off the second I got to Vermilion had managed to land me 20,000 pyen—probably far less than it was actually worth, but I was far too desperate to care. I had spent well over half of it within my first two days in Vermilion, but hopefully I wouldn’t need to buy anything more than food for the remainder of my time here.

I paused just long enough to stuff the bags into my new backpack before continuing down the road alongside the bay, occasionally shooting a glance out over the horizon. I couldn’t help staring in awe at the endless stretches of sea that surrounded half the city—it was so much more open than the hilly, forested setting I was used to seeing around Viridian. Still, rolls of fog were starting to drift in from the ocean, and the day had grown more overcast as it went on. I shivered a bit as an unusual chill swept in. Better to head home for the day.

I felt a slight pang in my chest as I walked past the Pokémon Center and its promise of a roof and a warm bed. Those things were for licensed trainers—without being able to receive the trainer’s discount, I’d have gone broke within days. I’d had no choice but to settle on… much cheaper arrangements.

I had just reached the northern edge of the city when I felt the first few raindrops hit my arm. Breaking into a run, I took the training path away from the roads and toward the trainer’s campground that sat amidst the grassy hills of Route 6. It had the basic rest stop amenities like water pumps and restrooms, but otherwise left food and shelter up to the trainers. It was there that I’d set up the tent that I bought the first night I arrived. Because of all the trainers, camping supplies were fairly cheap and thankfully didn’t require a license to purchase. That was at least one thing that had gone in my favor.

“I’m back,” I announced upon entering the tent, taking care to close the flap behind me.

“*Hello,*” Firestorm replied. He was sitting patiently on the non-flammable, waterproof tarp that I’d bought to cover the floor of the tent. Swift was huddled in the corner. That just left…

“…Where’s Pikachu?” I asked, glancing around apprehensively. Given his intimidating air, it felt extremely weird just calling him ‘Pikachu,’ but I couldn’t think of what else to call him.

“*He went out to train,*” Firestorm answered. “*Sometimes you can see a Thunderbolt out in the field.*”

“Just so long as he doesn’t make actual lightning strike,” I said with a nervous laugh, though there really probably wasn’t much risk—the sky was covered in more of a misty haze than storm clouds. I felt a bit relieved that he hadn’t decided to take off, but I couldn’t figure out why. Why did I care if a random Pokémon that didn’t even belong to me just decided to up and leave one day? It wasn’t like he’d said a word to any of us; he hadn’t even agreed or disagreed to staying with me.

Firestorm was now sniffing at the shopping bags I had set down. “*What’s that?*” he asked.

“I already told you guys that I needed to buy clothes,” I replied, sitting down. “And hey, I thought I said that I wanted you to talk fast so it’s harder to catch what you’re saying. I wanna be sure I can understand you in any situation.”

“*Again?*” he said, raising an eyebrow. “*If you can understand me enough, then why—?*” The Charmander said all of this much more quickly, and my brain didn’t really have time to register the second half of his words.

“See, that’s what I’m talking about!” I exclaimed, as if he’d somehow read my thoughts. He stared at me confusedly.

“I only got through two semesters of Advanced Pokéspeech, and before that I was completely horrible at it,” I explained. Sure, I’d been doing okay with understanding my team for the past few days. But I wanted to be as fluent as possible, and the only way to do that was to practice.

Firestorm put a hand to his chin, looking puzzled. “*Huh, that’s weird… why does it take you humans so long to learn it?*”

“Pfft, we’re not like Pokémon; our brains don’t just ‘pick up’ languages like that.” I snapped my fingers to emphasize the point.

“*Well alright… then couldn’t you talk with Swift?*” he asked.

Rubbing the back of my head, I answered, “Er, not really…” Swift had never exactly been one to talk very much. Upon noticing his name come up, the Pidgey turned away shyly.

“Now say something completely random or illogical,” I instructed Firestorm. “You know, so I don’t have context to help me out.”

The fire lizard rolled his eyes, but then spat out a rapid string of words in Pokéspeech: “Char’ charmann‘der charmaan ‘charr.”

Okay, sharp cutoff on the first syllable, the sentence was about me. Next the object: full syllables, a trill, a sharp pause, tone shifting down, then back up. The verb was easy. Then the first syllable repeated with that trill at the end, that switched it to a negative, so—

I raised an eyebrow. “Did you seriously just say, ‘you’re bad at Pokéspeech’? I wanted something illogical.”

“*That was,*” he said promptly.

I snorted. Alright, I kinda walked into that.

“*Why don’t you try talking in Pokéspeech?*” Firestorm asked me. “*You humans can make any sounds you want, right?*”

I shook my head. “That won’t work. There’s no way I could get the tone changes down. It’s a lot easier for humans to learn how to hear them than to actually make them, and that’s saying something.” It was impossible to appreciate just how different Pokéspeech was from human speech were before diving into it firsthand. It hadn’t made a lick of sense at first. How could a tiny handful of syllables make up every word in an entire language? How could every Pokémon species use an entirely different syllable set to make the exact same words? ‘Char’ alone could mean a dozen different things. But eventually they’d trained us to ignore the sound itself, and notice only the way it was said. I’d been awful at it for the longest time. Even fumbling through slow and awkward conversations with Firestorm would have been completely unthinkable a year ago.

Firestorm took that opportunity to end my practice and resume his investigation of my purchases. It didn’t take him long to grow bored of that and start digging through a bag of Pokéchow instead, though.

A sudden flash of light drew my attention to the outside. I crawled forward and peeked out the tent flap to see scattered bolts of lightning coming from a field north of the campsite, twisting and flailing wildly into the air. When I stood up, I caught a glimpse of the experimental Pikachu darting around the grass as though tangling with an invisible opponent. Part of me suspected that he’d already defeated all the willing combatants on the route and scared away all the unwilling ones.

“Pikachu!” I called out, feeling rather silly. “Hey, Pikachu!”

He didn’t give any indication that he had heard me at all. The hybrid simply continued ducking and weaving throughout the grasses in a very precise and streamlined motion, occasionally leaping out and slicing his tail through the air.

“You know, I heard when you snuck into the tent last night to steal food. You could have just asked.”

Not a word. Not even a look. His spiky fur stood on end as he leaped forward and tail slammed the dead remains of a tree, unleashing a wave of electricity from the impact and scorching the trunk even more than it was before.

“Seriously, I know I’m not your trainer but could you at least give me a reason you haven’t left yet? I have no idea what to think about you!”

The rodent’s breathing was starting to grow heavier from the intense training. With each wave of sparks that leaped off his fur, he let off a narrow string of lightning straight along the ground. Compared to his previous moves, this was a lot more precise and controlled.

“You know, in a few weeks, I’m gonna be leaving to join a group fighting the Rockets! Are you going to follow me then too?”

His movements faltered. It was only for a moment, but he definitely paused before leaping back into the tall grass and out of sight. I waited several seconds, but didn’t see any more signs of his training.

“Ugh, forget it,” I muttered, climbing back inside the tent and flopping down onto my sleeping bag. My eyelids started to droop and my muscles went limp, even though it was the middle of the afternoon. I’d felt similarly exhausted throughout the past few days too. Maybe it was stress—I didn’t really know.

The wind whipped against the tent as I looked out toward the overcast gray sky. Three more weeks in Vermilion…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My footsteps dragged as I walked down the boardwalk for what felt like the hundredth time. I paused to lean against the railing and pulled out the card I had been given, reading it over for what must have been the thousandth time. It had seemed like a good idea when I’d first made the decision to come here. But as time went on, reality was starting to set in. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing here, or how I was even supposed to find the guy with the Charizard. For a while I’d wondered if I needed to board the S.S. Anne, but if that was the case, how was I supposed to afford a ticket? For now, my only plan was visiting the harbor each day, hoping to run into the trainer again.

I had just turned to leave when I heard the rushing of air behind me. I spun around and was met with the familiar sight of a blue-winged fire lizard descending from above. And on its back was a tall, cloaked figure wearing a dark mask that completely covered his face. My heart caught in my chest. Finally. It had to be him—the one I’d met in the forest. Although the mask hiding his face threw me off somewhat.

“I assume you’re here learn more about the team I’m creating,” he said as his Charizard landed alongside me.

“What’s with the mask?” I blurted out without thinking.

He tilted his head. “That’s right, you saw my face back then,” he said distantly. “I hadn’t been planning on picking up any recruits that day, so I didn’t take care to hide my identity. Everyone else I approached only saw me in this.” After he said that, I expected him to remove the mask, but he didn’t. It felt a bit strange being stared at by someone whose face I couldn’t see. Then again, even without being able to see his face, I still couldn’t help feeling like I was being x-rayed. Just like when I’d looked into those icy eyes of his back in the forest.

“First of all, I need to make sure you’re willing to go through with this.”

The words snapped me out of my thoughts. “Well yeah. I mean, after you first told me about it, I wasn’t so sure. That was because I didn’t think I could do anything, but…” My words trailed off. I wasn’t exactly doing the best job at selling myself here.

The masked trainer considered me for some time before he next spoke. “I don’t want anyone joining because it sounds interesting and then quitting after they realize that there’s danger involved,” he said, his words slow and deliberate. “Of course, I’m not going to throw you into the fire until you’ve been trained. But one way or another, this is going to test your resolve.” His voice was harsh. Even though he had probably said this same thing to all of his potential recruits, for some reason I felt like a perfect target for it.

And yet… I’d already been through danger with Team Rocket, and I still wanted to do this. That had to count for something, right?

I took a deep breath. “I… I can’t just ignore what happened that day. I want to be able to make a difference.” I hoped he didn’t notice the slight quiver in my voice.

A few seconds passed. “Alright,” he said, pulling a small, stiff sheet of paper out of his coat and handing it to me. I took it and skimmed the text quickly. No way… this was…

“This is an S.S. Anne boarding pass?” I said, staring blankly at it.

“How else would you be allowed on the ship?”

“Yeah, but… if you’re giving tickets to everyone who’s joining the rebel team, then—”

He cut me off with, “I told those in charge of the ship that I wanted specialty invites for the Pokémon trainer’s party on board and then bought a hundred and fifty of them.”

I gawked at him. “Holy crap, you must be rich.”

“I wouldn’t be starting something like this if I weren’t prepared,” he said simply. “Still, I spent most of my funds on the tickets and renting the stadium we’ll be using as headquarters.”

“Which is where…?” I asked, as I’d been wondering it for a long time.

“That’s classified until you arrive.”

I stared. But… couldn’t anyone just check the ship’s records if they really wanted to know? This whole situation was starting to seem kind of strange, but then, there was something else that I had wanted to ask him.

“You said you were recruiting beginning trainers,” I said. “Why? Why not more experienced ones that would have a better chance when fighting Team Rocket?” I couldn’t help thinking back to the way Ajia had battled.

He paused, mulling the question over. “I suppose I just preferred having a blank slate to work with. I want to be able to train you all from the start in the battle style that will be most useful for our missions. As opposed to forcing an experienced to trainer to relearn everything.” That didn’t fully make sense to me. But before I could say anything, he asked, “Have you caught any more Pokémon?”

“Oh, um… I kept the Charmander that I found that day, and I also have a Pikachu,” I said. I wasn’t entirely sure if it made sense to include Pikachu, or tell the guy about the hybrid’s nature. But it didn’t seem right to leave him out either.

The masked trainer nodded. “Your Charmander could be a pretty good fighter once it evolves. Of course, I can’t say I’m not partial to Charizard,” he said as he mounted his fire lizard once more. “It sounds like I’ll be seeing you with the others.”

This was it. This was really happening.

“Yeah. I guess I’ll see you later then,” I said as his Charizard spread its wings. But before they could take off, a random thought struck me. “Hey! What’s your name?”

He paused to consider the question. “I suppose you guys will need something to call me…” He turned away, and the last thing he said before taking to the air was, “Stalker.”

Stalker… dodgy name for someone who wasn’t totally free of suspicion himself. Still, when going against Team Rocket, it probably wasn’t best to reveal too much. So as much as I wanted to know more, I’d have to be patient.

I glanced back over the harbor, my thoughts swimming with both anticipation and anxiety, and the realization that I was now definitely bound to this crazy, spur-of-the-moment adventure. I had long since given up my opportunity to return home and put things right from the moment where they had first gone very wrong in the forest that day.

But that almost didn’t matter anymore. There was no turning back now, and in a weird sort of way, I didn’t mind.






~End Chapter 5~
Allllright, I think here's a good point to let everyone know that I love any and all speculation on this fic. Go nuts. :)

Also, the following post contains a bonus scene that didn't fit in this chapter!
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
(Chapter 5 is in the previous post!)

This is the first of several extras in the fic—scenes that either didn’t fit in the chapter, would throw off the pacing, or require a POV other than Jade. This scene didn't really fit in Chapter 5, and was actually written many years later, after I’d finished the entirely of Book 1. This fact shows from the obvious shift in writing style (much closer to my modern style) and the dramatic irony that was aimed at people who had already read the outcome of Jade’s journey.

But since it’s intended to take place not long after Jade arrived in Vermilion, I’m posting it here chronologically.


~Chapter 5 Extra: The Phone Call~

What was I doing? Why did I think this was a good idea again?

My shoes repeatedly tapped the carpeted floor of the Vermilion Pokécenter while I continued my staring contest with the videophone. I was lucky the center even had a videophone. Lots of places didn’t carry ‘em since pretty much every trainer had a Gear these days. For years, I’d stubbornly insisted I didn’t want one if I couldn’t be trainer, but I was kind of wishing I hadn’t done that now.

But that was beside the point. I couldn’t just leave on an impromptu journey off to fight Rockets who-knows-where and expect it not to bite me in the rear if I didn’t call home first. The last thing I needed was for my face to be on every missing kid list in Kanto.

That was what motivated me to finally put the coins into the console and dial my home phone number. The seconds that ticked by with the dial tone seemed to drag on for an eternity. Twice I fought back the urge to slam the end call button. But no, I had to do this.

And then my mom’s face appeared on the screen, flushed with worry that immediately melted into relief.

“Jade! I was starting to worry. You know I don’t mind you going out biking all day with Rudy, but I’d like a check-in if you’re going to be—” She paused, frowning. “Are you… in a Pokémon Center?”

I swallowed. “Yeah.”

“Why?”

Why? To make this phone call. It wasn’t as if I could stay here without a license. But that wasn’t much of an explanation. So I steeled myself as hard as I could and opened my mouth to say the five words I’d been practicing for the last hour which suddenly felt impossible to actually say:

“I’m going on a Pokémon journey.”

There it was. I’d made my decision hours ago, when talking to Ajia, but saying it now made it feel that much more real.

My mom raised an eyebrow. “Oh, really?”

I nodded, forcing my face to look way more confident than I felt. “Yeah.”

“And how exactly do you plan to do that?” she asked in that calm, parental, “I’ll humor you even though you have no idea what you’re saying,” kind of way.

“Well, uh… we both know I’m never gonna pass the test. So, I decided that the best way to learn all that stuff was to experience it myself in the real world. So that’s what I’m gonna do.”

My mom gave an exasperated sigh. “Alright, that’s a good joke, but I’m coming to get you now. Which Pokécenter are you at? It better not be the northside one, you know I don’t like it when you and Rudy bike over there.”

“I’m, uh, in Vermilion City.”

The amusement slowly faded as it dawned on her that I wasn’t joking, and had already taken this idea way further than I should have for just some dumb joke.

“Are you serious? You don’t even have any Pokémon for protection, and—”

“Yes I do!” I immediately shot back.

My mom paused, processing what I’d just said. “You took Swift, didn’t you?”

I nodded eagerly, glad to have proven my point.

She sighed. “Having a Pidgey doesn’t make me that much more comfortable with you being on your own.”

“I’ve got a Charmander and a Pikachu too.” Did I? Did I really have a Pikachu? He was unconscious. I was sure he’d run off the instant he woke up. And yet…

Mom frowned. “How did you catch them?”

“Rudy gave me a Pokéball,” I said. “And plenty of kids travel around with a Charmander for protection, so it’s not a big deal.” Wow, I sure sounded a lot more confident than I felt.

“Well, it’s nice that you don’t think so, but yes, Jade, this is a big deal.” And there it was. The inevitable shutdown that bypassed everything.

“I’m gonna be hanging out with a bunch of other kids!” I immediately protested. “It’ll be safe because there’s a lot of us and we’ve all got Pokémon.” God, I sounded like a twelve-year-old, and I knew it, but I almost didn’t care. Almost.

“How did you meet all of them?”

I paused. “There was this one kid who’s really good at training, and he’s been gathering this big group to help train all of us.”

‘Kid’ was maybe not the best way to describe the Charizard guy, who was clearly at least eighteen or nineteen. Sure sounded a heck of a lot less dodgy, though.

My mom exhaled slowly. “Jade… it’s one thing to spend the day away from home, but this is a little more extreme than that. Have you really thought this through? Where will you sleep? How will you buy food? I can’t exactly put money in a trainer account if you don’t have one.”

I clenched my fists, willing myself not to back down. “I’m just gonna be camping out with the rest of the kids at the trainer grounds, so I don’t need to stay in the Pokémon Center.” Well… it was just gonna be me at the campsite for now… but the other kids that he’d recruited would be here soon, right? “And, and for food, I’ve got my birthday savings.” Actually, the Rockets had stolen all my money, but it wasn’t as if I didn’t have a plan to replace it—that TM I’d stolen from them was pretty valuable, after all.

She folded her arms. “And what if you get caught?”

I paused. That hadn’t occurred to me yet, but… “I’d just get sent home and put on probation, right? I’d be no worse off than I already am.” Hey, it wasn’t as if I didn’t remember anything from the League unit in class. Just not enough to pass the test.

My mom put a hand to her face, still struggling with the enormity of this revelation. “How… how did you even get to Vermilion?”

“Ajia gave me a ride. And that’s where the training group is meeting up.”

“Ajia’s in on this too?” she asked with a weary look. “I was expecting Rudy, but I thought she was a better influence than that.” My mom sighed deeply, taking off her glasses. “Well, I’m glad you’ve at least put some thought into all of this. But there’s a right way to do it, and this? This isn’t it.”

“What is the right way, then? Waiting until I’m old and I can’t even do it because I’m too busy with adult stuff?” Oh geez, now the emotions were rushing to my face. I could feel my cheeks heating up and a prickle at the corners of my eyes.

My mom’s face relaxed. “Jade. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to go on a Pokémon journey when you’re a kid. It’s probably one of the most important parts of growing up. But you’ve got to get your license first.”

“I’m never gonna get a license if I just stay in Viridian and fail the test every year. Doing it for real is a way better way for me to learn all this stuff firsthand,” I insisted.

For several seconds, neither of us said anything. I couldn’t tell what my mom what thinking. Her expression didn’t give any indication.

“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever heard you so serious about anything in your life.”

Of course I was serious about it. I’d wanted this ever since Starr left. Wanted it even more when Ajia left. With each passing month, the odds of being able to go on a journey felt more and more distant. And now, with the opportunity to join the anti-Rocket team handed to me on a silver platter, I could actually learn from a master trainer, and have the chance to put those skills to use actually helping save Legendary Pokémon. I could stop wasting my time at home and actually make a difference in the world.

“I always thought, if getting your license meant so much to you, you would have…” My mom shook her head, ignoring that thought. Then she fixed me with a hard stare. “Do you know where the nearest League office is?”

I sat up straight. “I could look it up on the internet.”

“If I let you go through with this crazy plan of yours, you can’t just train Pokémon illegally forever. You can only do this if you go take the exam and get your license the moment you think you’re ready.”

My heart jumped into my throat. “Yes! Definitely!”

“And that doesn’t mean just putting it off forever, either. I know how you can be.” What was that supposed to mean? “I want to see you with a license by your fifteenth birthday, otherwise you’re coming straight home, you hear me?”

I nodded even more vigorously as my entire body suddenly felt lighter than air. This was real. This was actually happening. I was starting a Pokémon journey. Finally.

My mom’s expression softened, just a bit. “You know, I would’ve preferred if you’d told me this plan before you’d just gone and done it,” she said, shaking her head.

“I wasn’t planning on dropping it out of nowhere like this,” I admitted. “It just sort of… happened. And before I knew it, I was… out here.”

“Just don’t expect me to cover for you if the League sends your butt back to Viridian, alright?” she added, bringing back the hard stare. “You get put on probation, that means no license until you’re sixteen, got it?”

I nodded.

“And I want updates on how your training is going. This is supposed to be a learning experience, isn’t it?”

I grinned. “Sure, I can do that.”

“Lastly… stay safe, alright?”

And for the first moment since I’d scored this victory, I felt my face falter just a bit. “Safe.” My mind flashed back to the moment that had kickstarted all of this. Kidnapped. Fighting for my life aboard a Rocket jet. And now I was becoming a trainer solely to learn how to fight back against the Rockets, which would no doubt involve even more deadly situations. It was probably the least safe thing I could imagine. But to stop them from capturing the Legendaries and taking over our entire region… it was worth it.

“Yeah. Of course.”
 
Last edited:

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Still, none of us protested the chance to stop and catch our breath after the harrowing escape.
Including me! FINALLY!

--

Real talk, I know that in the past apparently people hated when fics had an early breather chapter, but geez, I really needed this. I think this was the first chapter that I actually felt like I was able to actually ground myself and get to know everyone a little more, or at least Jade. Hoo. So far, this is my favorite chapter, and maybe I'm biased by saying that, but it's definitely something that I hope can happen between the action chapters.

I’m pretty sure he was the leader. Tall guy, late teens…
Still baffles me how all the movers and shakers here are so young.

He’ll probably leave afterwards.” At least, I hoped so.
Nah bruh. Pikachu has way too much plot floating around him to just run off.

But eventually they’d trained us to ignore the sound itself, and notice only the way it was said.
Huh, this kinda reminds me of how Mandarin works but even more extreme, unless I'm not remembering my language mechanics right...

Three more weeks in Vermilion…
Wow, what a time skip. A lot can happen in three weeks that I feel were a bit glossed over. Bonding with Fierstorm, maybe talking to Pikachu or wondering where he went, or something? Hopefully that gets alluded to or something.

“Stalker.”
Bruh.

it was worth it.
Okay so... is it just me, or is this an arc line? I'm not sure if I'm remembering wrong, but I think this came up, like, twice so far in the past few chapters, maybe three times. I think I'm gonna keep an eye out for this line in the future, just in case that wasn't a coincidence.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Real talk, I know that in the past apparently people hated when fics had an early breather chapter, but geez, I really needed this. I think this was the first chapter that I actually felt like I was able to actually ground myself and get to know everyone a little more, or at least Jade. Hoo. So far, this is my favorite chapter, and maybe I'm biased by saying that, but it's definitely something that I hope can happen between the action chapters.
Man, it's still wild to hear you say, since this is one of my least favorites. It never occurred to me that the plane arc could feel overwhelming, especially since there were lengthy gaps in both chapters 2 and 3 with no action at all. Well, I can say the majority of the Rocket chapters from here on tend to lean more toward suspense than action--there's a lot more hiding and sneaking around.

Huh, this kinda reminds me of how Mandarin works but even more extreme, unless I'm not remembering my language mechanics right...
Ahaha, yeah, I've often described Pokéspeech as Mandarin + morse code + sign language + crack.

Wow, what a time skip. A lot can happen in three weeks that I feel were a bit glossed over. Bonding with Fierstorm, maybe talking to Pikachu or wondering where he went, or something? Hopefully that gets alluded to or something.
Ah, don't worry, those character arcs aren't remotely over and will get a ton of focus as time goes on.

The number of jokes that have been made about Stalker's alias over the years will never not be hilarious to me.

Okay so... is it just me, or is this an arc line? I'm not sure if I'm remembering wrong, but I think this came up, like, twice so far in the past few chapters, maybe three times. I think I'm gonna keep an eye out for this line in the future, just in case that wasn't a coincidence.
You know, I hadn't thought of it before, but yeah, it kind of is. This fic is going to involve a lot of Jade questioning whether this fight is worth it.
Time for the S.S Anne arc! This one is a lot better than the plane arc for a lot of reasons, the main one being how much better-researched it was. I spent a truly ridiculous amount of time researching ship layouts, engine rooms, emergency protocol, etc, and my browser was stuck with fifty ship tabs open for well over a month.



~Chapter 6: Aboard the S.S. Anne~


The S.S. Anne was huge. It towered over nearly everything else around it, which was saying something, as the rest of the cargo ships that frequented Vermilion harbor were the biggest I had ever seen. (Not that I’d ever been to a port town this large before, but still.) I had to crane my neck upwards just to get a look at the uppermost deck and the orange-rimmed smokestacks rising from the top.

I’d been standing in line for the S.S. Anne for about half an hour and still found myself staring at the ship. But then again, it was mostly to distract myself from the anxiety of having to stand in such a large bustling crowd. Adding to the anxiety was the experimental Pikachu, who stood at my heels with an indifferent sort of expression like he was trying to pretend he wasn’t following me, even though he clearly wasn’t here with anyone else.

I was kind of afraid to question him at this point, as I couldn’t afford any unpredictable reactions with all these people surrounding us. Honestly, I didn’t even know if someone stepping on his tail would be enough to send him into a violent rage. It was a valid concern given how often people were shuffled between lines, getting bags checked and Pokémon registered and ID cleared and—oh crap.

It hit me like a brick to the forehead. I had no ID on me whatsoever. No Pokédex, no passport, no anything. This single realization managed to instantly shove any vague concerns about Pikachu clean out of my head. What would they even do if they encountered someone trying to get on board with no ID? I couldn’t possibly be arrested for that, could I? My eyes immediately flew over to the armed security staff. And then, if it were even possible, my stomach melted into even more of a black hole than before. I was carrying Pokémon inside Pokéballs without a license. That was definitely illegal. But if I left now, staying in Vermilion would have been entirely pointless. This had really felt like my one chance to get out into the world and do something.

“Boarding pass?”

Oh crap, now I was done for. I hadn’t even noticed that I was now first in line. For several seconds I just stared at the woman at the check-in stand, completely unsure of what to do, or if it would even make sense to run away now before they could find out I had Pokémon without a license. The expression of dread covering my face must have looked ridiculous as my legs slowly carried me to the check-in booth without me telling them to. At this point I didn’t really know what else to do but hand my ticket to the woman behind the stand. She paused slightly before looking it over, apparently a bit confused by my behavior.

“Ah yes, a specialty invite. You’ll be joining that line over there.” She pointed off to the right, at a much smaller line in front of a different entry staircase onto the ship.

I blinked stupidly, unable to do anything but take my boarding pass back from her and mutter a distracted, “Thanks.”

My footsteps were somewhat shaky as I wandered away from the main registration lines and down the pier toward the separate check-in booth. I glanced down at the boarding pass in my hand, vaguely recalling how Stalker had mentioned that it was a specialty invite. Still, with my luck, this had probably only delayed the inevitable ID check. I craned my neck to get a better look at the people in the front of the line, and if they needed to show ID, but I couldn’t quite tell from this angle.

The people in this line were almost all my age or younger, which felt extremely odd. What were a bunch of kids like us even doing boarding a cruise ship, as if we were old enough to do things like that. But then… trainers were able to travel the region with only their Pokémon by their side, so I guess it wasn’t that weird.

And then it hit me. Most of the kids in this line had to be potential recruits for the rebel team, just like me. It was a strange thought. Of course, I’d known all along that there would be others, but this was the first real evidence of it.

After several minutes, I reached the front of the line. The uniformed man at the check-in booth gave a welcoming smile, and I attempted to look like I wasn’t dreading what would happen next as I set my boarding pass on the table. The attendant scanned it into a machine and then typed something for a bit.

“Are you a Pokémon trainer?” he asked.

This was it. The moment of truth.

“…Yes?” I said tentatively, wincing.

“I’ll need to have the Pokémon you’re bringing onto the ship recorded here.”

I paused. I hadn’t been expecting that. “Er, Charmander, Pidgey, and Pikachu.”

The man typed a bit more, and then a small printer next to the computer spat out a plastic card. He hooked it onto a cord and handed it to me along with an instruction booklet.

“This is the card key for your room and we request that you wear it at all times during your stay. Welcome to the S.S. Anne.”

And that was it. That was all it took for me to be admitted onto the ship. My mind was in a sort of stupefied shock as I slowly walked away from the check-in booth and approached the giant metal staircase that led up from the pier and into the ship.

“They… they didn’t check ID?”

I didn’t even realize I had said it out loud until the kid behind me in line said, “Yeah, specialty invites aren’t pre-registered or anything, so they don’t need to.” I jumped a bit at his voice, as I hadn’t been expecting a reply. Then I immediately had to banish the look of intense guilt from my face as I turned to look at him. He was a small and skinny kid, maybe twelve or thirteen, with straight, dirty-blond hair that fell to his ears and light blue eyes. He gave me a bit of an inscrutable expression, like he was trying to figure something out. “What did you do?”

I stared blankly. “Huh?”

“You just have this look like you did something wrong.” He laughed slightly. “What is it? Don’t worry, I won’t tell.”

Great, just what I needed—some random kid interrogating me. I racked my brain for the best explanation that wouldn’t give anything away.

“I just… thought they’d do a Pokéball inspection, and right now I don’t have one for my Pikachu.”

He waved a hand dismissively. “It’s a trainer’s party, they don’t mind if Pokémon are out and about, so long as they’re not too big. Weren’t you paying attention when they announced all of this?”

No, I really hadn’t. I had been too busy wondering if my Pikachu was going to kill anyone or not.

“By the way, I like your Pikachu. He looks cool.”

I didn’t bother to point out that he wasn’t actually mine, as my previous statement had sort of made it seem like he was. And really, what else could I say? No, sorry, this isn’t my Pikachu; he’s a violent half-Legendary genetic experiment that sort of just decided to follow me around.

The kid raised an eyebrow. “You’re kind of weird, you know that? Either you have a lot bothering you or you just don’t like talking. Try to have fun at the party, m’kay? I’ll see ya later.” Here he lowered his voice to a whisper and said, “Or maybe at the place where we’re all going, yeah?”

I blinked, unsure of how to respond. At this point we had reached the top of the staircase and were now taking our first step into the S.S. Anne. The kid gave a light wave before walking off. I waved absentmindedly, still caught off guard by what he’d said. So that confirmed it—there definitely were other recruits here.

I took several slow, uncertain steps into the main entry lobby, immediately floored by how massive it was. I never really had any expectation for what the inside of a cruise ship would be like—it almost looked like the lobby of a fancy hotel, with bright red carpet and massive circular staircases winding their way up past rows and rows of elaborate wooden banisters. At the far end of the room, several uniformed crew members were standing on a podium and directing the passengers around. The room had to be filled with nearly a thousand people already, and there were still others entering from the registered passenger entrance to the left. It didn’t seem like we’d be able to leave the room until everyone had finished boarding, so I found the nearest staircase and walked up to the second level so there’d be more room in the entrance.

After about twenty minutes, a voice finally rang out over the intercom. “Welcome to the S.S. Anne! We all hope you enjoy you have a fun and relaxing stay on our inter-regional cruise, no matter where your destination may be. We will now take a moment to relay the mandatory safety briefing before leaving port.

“This ship is specially designed to accommodate and entertain Pokémon trainers, and as such, has a comparatively lax policy regarding Pokémon on the ship. However, there are still rules that must be obeyed at all times. No more than two Pokémon per trainer may be out of their Pokéballs at any given time. Pokémon taller than 6’5” or weighing in excess of 500 lbs. should only be released on the upper deck in the training grounds and battlefield C. Please ensure that your Pokémon stay by your side at all times, except in the training grounds where it is specifically permitted otherwise.”

Well, that wouldn’t be a problem. I only had three, and they were all small anyway. Making sure that they stayed close to me, on the other hand… I glanced down at my heels to make sure that Pikachu was still there, still anxious about having him this close to a crowd of people.

For the rest of the hour, the crew explained the remaining rules of the ship, gave a brief rundown of what events would be taking place, and demonstrated what to do in an emergency—where the exits were located, how to use the personal flotation devices, stuff like that. Finally, after what felt like forever, the crowd was dismissed and we were free to roam about the ship. Almost immediately, life returned to the crowd as everyone in the lobby began chattering excitedly, making their way to the doors that led to the rest of the ship.

I had no idea where I wanted to start. The idea of participating in one of the many trainer’s events just felt awkward since I wasn’t a real trainer. I mean sure, they probably wouldn’t check ID since it wasn’t an official tournament or anything, but it still seemed weird. I’d have to shake that feeling if I ever wanted to learn how to battle, but it didn’t want to leave.

I unfolded the info booklet and browsed the list of events. Even if I couldn’t work up the nerve to enter any of them, they would at least be entertaining to watch. My eyes settled on the special event starting tomorrow morning. Apparently, there would be an exclusive challenge open only to invite holders. Would that be when we found out more about the rebel team?

As I read, I couldn’t help glancing down at the Pikachu more often than before. He was staring intently into the crowd on the floor below us. Every few seconds his ears twitched.

I sighed and forced myself to look away. Come on, enough already. Everything was going to be fine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Everything was not fine.

My heart was pounding and my breath racing as I charged away from the battle I’d been watching. I kept my pace to a fast walk to avoid looking suspicious, despite the fact that I wanted to scream.

The Pikachu had stayed by my side the whole time while I got food and browsed a shop—why had he disappeared now?! Just when I’d gotten comfortable and thought I could watch a battle all the way through without checking on him every thirty seconds. Had he seriously just been waiting for a chance? But really, he could have left at any time—whether I saw him leave or not was irrelevant. So why now?

What was I supposed to do? My violent, unstable Pikachu was now loose because I was an idiot with no Pokéball for him. I didn’t even want to think about what they’d do if a trainer’s Pokémon attacked someone on board the ship. It was stupid for me to even bring him with me—what on earth had I been thinking? Granted, it wasn’t so much that I was keeping him as that I was afraid to tell him to leave. But that fact didn’t really make me feel any better.

Alright, had to find the Pikachu now. Where could he have gone? My fingers were almost a blur as I unfolded the info booklet and skimmed the map of the S.S. Anne, desperately hoping for any kind of clue. The ship’s entry level was the middle deck, on the same level as the restaurants, shops, lounges, and dance room. Just above was the Pokémon Center, small arenas, contest hall, spa and suites. The lower decks held the engine room and all of the basic cabins and none of this was helpful, argh.

I folded up the booklet and shoved it into my bag before storming off in a hurry, attempting to navigate the crowded halls. I found my way back to the main lobby pretty quickly and took a turn for the front of the ship—that seemed like as good as any place to start.

Working my way through groups of passengers, I scanned all of the shops and training areas one after the other, stopping just long enough to get a good look at each one. It quickly became obvious that between all the trainers and the sheer number of areas, if he was trying to hide, there was almost no chance of finding him. I could only hope that hiding wasn’t his goal. Then again, I didn’t want him out in the open where it’d be more likely for someone to run into him either.

This never would have happened if I’d just told him to go be free in the wild. I’d been afraid to say it the whole time. But did I even have a reason to be so afraid? He hadn’t attacked me or anything yet. I just didn’t know.

At some point I made a wrong turn and found myself near the back of the ship, in a hallway devoid of passengers with only the occasional crewman walking past. I was about to turn around when it hit me. All of the areas I had searched were packed with people. And yeah, I’d been most worried about him being around people, but a sudden gut feeling told me that I should be searching the empty areas. I couldn’t explain why. But my brain latched onto that hope and wouldn’t let go as I walked further towards the back of the ship, passing scattered crew members here and there. I glanced down each hallway branching off from mine one after the other, most of them leading towards lounges or souvenir shops. I didn’t see him anywhere.

“So much for that…” I muttered, turning around in all directions. I was just about to head back; it was my only option at this point, but then—

I caught a glimpse of yellow out of the corner of my eye and spun around immediately. Standing at the edge of a doorway was a Pikachu—the very spiky-furred hybrid Pikachu I was looking for.

“There you are!” I called out, running towards him and feeling more relief than I had in a long time. He gave a light glance in my direction but otherwise didn’t seem too concerned with my arrival. My footsteps slowed as I neared him, and it struck me that I’d have to do something about what had happened. Not later… now. I’d been putting off talking to him, and it couldn’t wait. Even if I was really dreading his reaction.

“We need to talk. Now.” I winced slightly, knowing that he would hate being ordered around. Still, this wasn’t a situation where I could afford to seem weak-willed.

The hybrid turned to glance at me over his shoulder, looking more annoyed than angry. “*Does it have to be now?*”

I stared at him incredulously. “Kind of, yeah!”

Much to my surprise, he merely raised an eyebrow and turned his back to me. I stood there for several seconds, not really sure what I expected him to do next, but he didn’t move. Was he… actually waiting for me? Hard as it was to believe?

“Alright, so…” I said uncertainly, kneeling beside him. How exactly was I supposed to start this? I still felt uneasy around him, but the lack of any clear reasoning as to why made it difficult to put into words. “I honestly have no idea what to think of you; I don’t even know why you’ve stayed with me. I’ve seen too many different sides to you, and the violent, raging, mad part stands out the most.” His fur bristled slightly at my words.

“There’s no reason why I should assume you aren’t dangerous to bring around people. And… I can’t really have you with me if I don’t know what to expect,” I finished somewhat awkwardly.

For the longest time, the Pikachu didn’t give any sort of indication that he was even going to reply. Nearly a minute passed with only the occasional ear twitch. I couldn’t even see his face since he had his back to me.

Finally—without looking at me—he said, “*I didn’t give you a reason for staying with you because I hadn’t decided why myself.*” His words were very slow and meticulous. “*I don’t owe you an explanation. So don’t treat me like some kind of mindless raging beast.*”

I blinked. I guess he did have a point, in a weird sort of way. Why did I deserve an explana—no. I shook my head. No, I had to be firm on this. Even though I was already starting to question why.

“I won’t treat you like that if you give me a reason why I shouldn’t. If you’re going to be staying with me, then I want a reason.”

Again, he spoke incredibly slowly, with a deliberate emphasis on each word: “*You’re not in control of me. Why should my actions concern you?*”

“If you’re with me, then I’m responsible for you, that’s why. I know I’m not in control of you. Why on earth would I think that?”

At that point, he finally spun around to face me, staring with an expression I couldn’t read. I had no idea how he felt about my words until he said, “*You’re… strange.*” I stared blankly. His piercing, hawk-like eyes stared back. I was just about to come up with a response when he continued, “*Or maybe I just need to learn more about humans. You’re not all the same.*”

I really had no idea what to say in response to a statement like that.

“*I still don’t have a reason for why I followed you, but…*” He closed his eyes. “*You have my word that what you saw of me on the plane is not normal.*”

I exhaled slowly. Alright. That was a good sign. And it did match up with what I’d seen of him the past few weeks. He’d been cold and elusive and aggressive… but he hadn’t actually attacked anyone. So even though I had no way of knowing if he was telling the truth… I still felt like I could trust him more now. At least a little bit.

“Well… thanks for that… Pikachu,” I told him.

His ears twitched. “*Don’t call me that.*”

I hesitated. “Do you want me to call you number nine like the Rockets—”

“*Anything but that,*” he immediately cut in. “*And I do have a name. I only ever used it with… But that doesn’t matter now… Call me Chibi.*”

I couldn’t help snickering a bit. Chibi? The name sounded sort of… small and cute. Not really fitting for his personality.

He glared a bit at my reaction. “*What’s so funny?*”

“Nothing, nothing,” I said, not wanting to ruin the moment, since it must have taken some amount of trust for him to be willing to tell me his name.

“*So, you’re going to show me more of the world outside of Team Rocket.*” It was a statement, not a request.

“I… guess I am?” I said with a bit of uncertainty.

Chibi nodded. “*Alright then.*”

I stood to my feet, a sense of relief washing over me. “Well… should we attend the party now? You’d get to battle—and it wouldn’t be for your life or your freedom or anything,” I added with a half-smile.

The Pikachu’s expression hardened. “*That would be nice. But there’s something you should know. The reason I wandered off—I saw someone I recognized.*”

It took several seconds for the implication of his words to sink in. “But… you were raised by…” My voice trailed off. He’d never been around any humans other than Rockets.

“*What’s more… *” he continued. “*I overheard a few kids reporting that their friends had gone missing.*”

I stared at him in disbelief. They’d found us. The Rockets had found us before we’d even gathered together as a team. Before we’d even started training to oppose them. Why did this have to happen?

“You… you can’t be serious,” I finally managed.

“*Come on,*” Chibi said, turning to walk further down the hallway. “*Before you found me, I was searching for them. I want to see if I can find out what they’re doing here.*”

It was obvious he was going to look into this with or without me. My legs were on autopilot as I shuffled after him, my mind still reeling with shock. It didn’t seem possible. He had to have made a mistake. But I didn’t dare question him as I followed—I could only desperately hope that we wouldn’t find anyone.

The hybrid walked several yards ahead of me, stopping at each corner to glance in all directions before motioning that it was safe to follow. His expression was wary, but calm and collected at the same time—it had the effect of calming me, in any case. Chibi knew what he was doing. I had to put my trust in that.

And then the Pikachu’s ears stood bolt upright. His eyes focused with laser intensity onto a supply closet before he bounded over to press a black-tipped ear against it. Not more than second later, he motioned for me to join him. My stomach twisted into a knot instantly. This was it. No losing my cool now. I cautiously tiptoed forward and put my ear to the door as well.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about! I’ve never heard of anyone called Stalker and I don’t know anything about any rebels!” a voice cried out. A young voice—couldn’t have been any older than thirteen.

“That’s what everyone we’ve asked has said. Why should we believe you?” This one was a lot older. Mid-thirties at least.

“Because it’s the truth!” The voice was now growing desperate. “I’m just here for the trainer’s party! Why else would I be here? And if there really are dangerous rebels hanging around, then shouldn’t everyone know about it?!”

So they were interrogating passengers. This had to be why Chibi overheard some kids reporting missing friends. How many Rockets were elsewhere on the ship, kidnapping more trainers?

Several seconds passed. I could almost hear my heart thumping, and part of me was afraid they’d hear it through the door. Footsteps paced back and forth inside the room, until finally—

“Knock her out, Machoke.” The voice was dripping with disappointment. I winced as I felt the dull thud of an impact vibrate across the floor.

A second Rocket, younger than the first, sighed. “This is the fourth kid who’s had no idea what the hell is going on. Starting to think this is a lost cause.”

The first one chuckled. “Don’t let any executives hear ya say that.”

“There are hundreds of trainers on board for the party,” the second countered, sounding frustrated. “Even if the rebels are here, what’re the odds we’d find one? We can’t possibly question everyone without giving ourselves away.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like we can just pass up this opportunity. You should’ve seen it—the head executives were freaking out when they heard that the guy organizing this was going around calling himself ‘Stalker.’”

I heard the younger Rocket give an unimpressed snort. “Yeah, that narrows it down. Wasn’t it all but proven that the original Stalker was multiple people? I mean, I know that all happened before I joined, but—”

“That’s just the point. We have no idea who it is, and that’s why we can’t afford to ignore him. Whoever it is knows about the revolt. He could be a deserter. He could be the former commander. Do you have any idea how important that is? If there’s even a chance we could get him, or any of the others working with him, we can’t ignore it.”

The revolt? Former commander? Tyson had mentioned something like that at the Viridian base, but I hadn’t paid it any mind at the time.

Chibi nudged me with his elbow. “*So you and the rest of the potential recruits aren’t their concern,*” he whispered. “*They’re trying to flush out the leader, or anyone in his group.*”

“Huh. Well from all the times I talked with him, it seemed like he was doing this alone. I don’t even think he’s on the ship right now.”

“*That’s good for us. They can’t act too suspiciously or else risk tipping him off and losing their chance to get him. But they can’t just do nothing. They’ve got the disadvantage here. And if I know the Rockets, they wouldn’t have started this mission without a fallback in case things didn’t go as planned.*”

Just then, I heard a buzzing sound like a text message alert, followed by one of the Rockets rummaging through a pocket. A few seconds passed in silence. Suddenly, the older Rocket let out a low whistle. “Well then! Looks like one of our teammates caught one!” My heart jumped into my throat.

“Really? Did they get any info?”

“…Doesn’t look like it. Sounds like the rebels were kept in the dark about everything. The kid doesn’t know the leader’s real name, where they’re going, what they’ll be doing. Can’t really say I’m surprised.”

The younger one’s voice broke. “So this was all for nothing?”

“It’s too early to say that. Once we get everything set up tonight, the leader will have no choice but to reveal himself. And if he doesn’t, we can just end the threat anyway. Now come on, let’s meet up with the others.”

Chibi leaped back from the door at once, jerking his head in the opposite direction and taking off for the nearest corner. I scrambled to my feet as quietly as I could and jumped after him, ducking out of sight the instant before the door swung open.

Now that I got a good look at the two Rockets, I couldn’t help but stare—both of them were dressed as crew members. No wonder Chibi was the only one to notice them. And with a sinking feeling, it hit me—I wouldn’t be able to warn the crew that Rockets had infiltrated their ranks. How could I know that the person I reported it to wouldn’t be a Rocket themselves?

Chibi was fixated on the two Rockets now walking away from us, deep in concentration. I gave him a puzzled look, but he just nodded sharply to himself. And then without warning, the spiky rodent shot forward in the blink of an eye, unleashing a blast of lightning at the older of the two Rockets ahead of us. I didn’t move from my spot on the tile floor. I could only stare in horror as the man gave an awful sort of garbled cry and sank to the floor instantly.

The younger Rocket spun around with a look of terror on his face, but the hybrid didn’t even hesitate. He lunged forward and—no, no I couldn’t watch. But the sound of the man’s screams still gripped every inch of me.

Several seconds passed. Hesitantly, I opened my eyes a crack. The Rocket was cowering against the wall, and—what on earth was Chibi doing?

“Chibi?! What—?” My words just died.

“*Tell me your mission!*” he demanded. The experiment was standing on the Rocket’s chest, holding a brightly glowing tail right up to his neck. The young man was shaking all over, eyes wide and pleading.

“What do you want from me?!” he yelled. “I’m just a grunt!”

Chibi hesitated slightly, raising an eyebrow in confusion. After several seconds, realization crossed his face. He turned to me and called out, “*Translate for me!*”

What?”

“*Come on, we need this information!*” he shouted.

I stared at him weakly, my brain too muddled by stress to really work out what he meant. It took several seconds to process that the man wasn’t fluent in Pokéspeech.

I opened my mouth to speak, but the words felt hollow and lifeless. “What’s your mission?”

The Rocket gave a frantic glance between Chibi and me, but didn’t say anything. Chibi glared before shooting out a wave of sparks, causing the man to jerk backward and shout, “Our mission is to identify the rebels and their leader!”

“*And how exactly do you plan to do that?!*” Again, I repeated the question.

The Rocket stared at him, sweat pouring down his face—he was clearly afraid to say too much. Chibi pressed his tail harder against the man’s neck until it was nearly digging into the flesh. I had no idea what move he was using, but I had the sickening suspicion that he could have ended the man’s life right then and there.

“We—we’re gonna use explosives to hold the ship hostage and force the rebel leader to reveal himself,” the Rocket finally managed, in between panicked gasps for breath.

I jumped suddenly upon hearing hurried footsteps echo off the walls down the other end of the hallway. Was it just the crew coming to investigate the commotion, or was it more Rockets? Or both?!

“Um, Chibi, I think we need to—”

“*I hear them,*” the Pikachu said. He had just pulled a small, red and black cell phone from the man’s pocket with the label “R-com” inscribed on the front. Chibi slid the device across the floor to me, and I caught it. He then gave one last look at the captive Rocket before slamming the flat of his tail into the man’s temple and running off.

I sat there frozen, still too stunned to work through what I was supposed to do. Chibi stopped running and turned back towards me with an exasperated look on his face. “*It’s only a matter of time before the others figure out what happened here. We need to go somewhere they won’t find us!*”

I shook my head, trying clear the haze of panic and just think straight, for the love of crap! Somewhere they couldn’t find us… somewhere they couldn’t—

“My room!” I exclaimed, jumping to my feet and bursting into a sprint to catch up with Chibi while grabbing the card key hanging from my neck. “It’s room B120!”

“*Alright!*” he called out. “*I saw the stairs this way!*”

We continued to race down the hallway, turning a corner leading to the elegant staircases nearest the main event room and bolting down them. I couldn’t hear if any footsteps were after us with all the battle sounds from the trainer’s party. Either way, had to keep running. I jumped two or three steps at a time, desperate to catch up with Chibi and constantly throwing frantic glances over my shoulder.

We reached the right floor and didn’t waste any time sprinting down the hallway lined with cabin rooms. Just a little bit more, and—there it was! I held my card against the scanner on the door handle, unlocking the door, throwing it open, and bolting inside with Chibi before slamming it shut behind us.

I stood there, doubled over and panting hard and trying to work through if we were safe or not. This was insane—we weren’t supposed to be in danger on this ship. How had this even happened?! How did they find us already?!

My brain was too wracked by frustration and stress to think logically at this point. I threw my backpack to the floor and stumbled toward the bed, now completely lightheaded. I had no idea what to think about all of this, least of all if I should do anything or not. The whole thing was insane, and I really just wanted to pretend I had never found out about it.

I vaguely realized that I’d been staring at Chibi since we got to the room. I tried to convince myself that I had no reason to be afraid of him anymore. We’d sorted things out. And now I couldn’t stop shivering just from being in the same room as him. I needed to say something—anything. For about the millionth time that night, the words wouldn’t come.

“*I know what you must think of me,*” he said.

I almost jumped. The hybrid gave me an incredulous look, and I immediately tried to rearrange my expression into one that was less freaked out.

“I… just… that was kind of brutal back there.”

His expression hardened. “*They were Rockets. I did what I had to. I’ve always done what I had to.*”

I sighed. He did have a point. I didn’t like it, but it was a point. But then…

“…Does that include what happened on the plane?”

I had no idea why I said it. His eyes widened immediately—I tensed up, expecting him to lash out without warning. But I was completely unprepared to see him turn away with a tortured look on his face, body quivering slightly.

“*Don’t bring that up. Again. Ever.*”

“I… I’m sorry?”

Chibi continued to face the wall, his expression torn. Slowly, he forced his eyes shut. “*Why did I think he would have wanted…?*” He shook his head sharply. “*Never mind.*”

He didn’t say anything else after that, so it seemed best to give him a moment. His words still echoed in my mind, however. And I had to admit that until now, I hadn’t realized that opposing Team Rocket and living through it would sometimes mean striking back at them violently. I didn’t have any reason to be bothered by that… and yet it still bothered me. I clenched my teeth, feeling kind of stupid—it was the sort of thing I’d have to get over during my time on the rebel team. Ajia had done it. It only made sense that I’d have to as well.

Ajia…

“Ajia!” I exclaimed, bolting upright and whipping my wallet out of my pocket to grab the small, torn piece of paper she’d written her Pokégear number on. In an instant, I grabbed the phone off the bedside table and punched in all the numbers before realizing that I didn’t have a dial tone.

Instead, a recorded voice said, “We thank you for staying aboard the S.S. Anne. If you would like to place calls during your trip, please register your bank card or trainer’s license, and you will receive the bill at the end of your—”

I slammed the phone back on the receiver and buried my face in pillows. “Great. There goes my only hope.”

“*Don’t tell me you plan on hiding in here all night,*” Chibi said, leaping up onto the bed. I detected a bit of scorn in his voice.

“What else am I supposed to do? If I leave, they’ll find me. I’ll be captured, killed, whatever, end of story.”

He gave me a piercing, unrelenting stare. “*You don’t honestly think you can just ignore Rockets being on this ship when it’s filled with potential enemies against their cause? They want to hold the ship hostage with explosives. But you said it yourself—the rebel leader isn’t here. What do you think they’ll decide to do when they figure that out? Leave and go home? Or teach him a lesson by ending the threat right here and now?*”

Almost as if on cue, the R-com in my pocket vibrated, making me jump. I retrieved the device and tapped the main button, causing the screen to light up with a new text message.

“Primary mission potentially compromised. All agents meet at the rendezvous point immediately. Secondary mission to commence at 0300,” I read aloud.

Chibi nodded. “*Thought so. Do you still think you’ll survive the night even if you hide in here?*”

I shivered slightly at his words, unwilling to look him in the eye. “What am I supposed to do to stop them?”

“*Anything. Whatever we can.*”

I raised an eyebrow, both incredulous and hesitant. “Are… you saying you’ll help me?”

“*If I’m with you, then I’ll be helping you. Simple as that.*”

I paused, taken aback by how straightforward he was being now. “I… wasn’t sure if you’d get angry if I asked for help. You were pretty angry about the idea of me being in control of you.” In retrospect, it made sense. He was raised by Team Rocket, probably without any free will.

The Pikachu scoffed. “*It’s only fair. And even though I don’t need a human in order to battle well, it can still be useful having one around.*”

He didn’t need a human to battle well? What was that supposed to mean? It was just sort of a basic fact that humans were better at strategic thinking. But I guess he wasn’t exactly a normal Pokémon.

I took a deep breath. “Alright, so we’re going to stop them.”

Chibi paused slightly, but then nodded.

We were going to stop them. I repeated it again in my head, but it still felt fake and it was hard to ignore the fact that I just plain really didn’t want to do this. I had agreed to join the rebel team knowing that my life would be in danger, but now that it actually was, I couldn’t handle it.

Chibi’s words still gripped every inch of me, though. No matter what, I had to do something. If I was killed while trying to stop this (I went numb just thinking about the fact that it was a very real possibility), then it didn’t matter, because if I didn’t do anything, we’d all be doomed. Yes—I kept telling myself that I had no choice. No matter what, I had to do something.

“So the mission begins at 3am,” I said, swallowing hard just to get the words out. “That’s when we’ll make our move.”

Chibi turned to face me, his expression softening. *Then I suggest you get some sleep.*”






~End Chapter 6~
A bit of a slow chapter, but at least it sets up a lot, and brings Chibi into the spotlight, finally. Oh yeah, have I mentioned his name is stupid? Yeah? Alright, just checking. (I named myself after a comic character and then I named him after the comic character too, if you’re wondering why this happened.)
 
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Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
I suppose your first half was on the slower side, but I think enough happened in this chapter to make up for it in the second half, all things considered. Overall, I see what you mean about this being more stealth-based than the plane arc. I'm not really sure where it's going to go or exactly how Jade will be able to pull this off with Chibi, but hey, I guess we'll see. That's one thing that has me curious about this story -- just how Jade can possibly pull it off, and, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, who it will be that steps in to save her. I mean, hey, that's what's been happening the whole time so far!

Pikachu, who stood at my heels with an indifferent sort of expression like he was trying to pretend he wasn’t following me, even though he clearly wasn’t here with anyone else
Chibi is tsundere confirmed.

It hit me like a brick to the forehead.
Okay yeah! Why didn't you think about this during those two whole weeks, not even, like, a stray thought?!

a sudden gut feeling told me that I should be searching the empty areas. I couldn’t explain why.
This seems to happen a lot, and I feel like it's starting to wear on me. Even a little passing sentence on why she'd get that sort of hunch would be better than "a sudden [unexplained] gut feeling." Or at the very least, if this is plot relevant, a remark on why she seems to be getting these gut feelings.

Call me Chibi.
Oh.

You should’ve seen it—the head executives were freaking out when they heard that the guy organizing this was going around calling himself ‘Stalker
Plot twist: Team Rocket is actually a team of good guys now, and they're trying to save kids from a Stalker before he takes them to a mysterious location that they have no idea about to do who-knows-what with them.

It’s only a matter of time before the others figure out what happened here. We need to go somewhere they won’t find us!*
Wow, I mean, talk about going from uncontrolled anger to the Main Ace. I'm both surprised at how it happened, yet not surprised that it did, regarding Chibi's spike in demonstrated competence.

Why did I think he would have wanted…?
Mmmm why you gotta do these "I'll explain to you later" mumblings~ Hopefully we'll get more info on that soon.

“So the mission begins at 3am,” I said, swallowing hard just to get the words out. “That’s when we’ll make our move.”
Wouldn't it be better if they started trying to do something at, maybe, 2, or 2:30 or something, rather than precisely when it begins? For all they know, the mission is to escape before the place blows up at 3!

--

Anyway, interesting chapter. It went at a pace that I personally don't mind, at least the second half. First half was a little slow, but I don't really mind it.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
That's one thing that has me curious about this story -- just how Jade can possibly pull it off, and, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek, who it will be that steps in to save her. I mean, hey, that's what's been happening the whole time so far!
Haha, well, this is the story of a helpless kid being thrown into danger and learning to be not-so-helpless. So the evolution of that over time is half the fun!

Chibi is tsundere confirmed.
He really, really is. :P

Okay yeah! Why didn't you think about this during those two whole weeks, not even, like, a stray thought?!
Jade is both 14 years old and also not very smart. :V (Also I know for a fact that that wouldn't have occurred to me when I was 14... given that I wrote the chapter when I was 14!)

This seems to happen a lot, and I feel like it's starting to wear on me. Even a little passing sentence on why she'd get that sort of hunch would be better than "a sudden [unexplained] gut feeling." Or at the very least, if this is plot relevant, a remark on why she seems to be getting these gut feelings.
Huh! I was curious, so I did a ctrl+f on various words related to that and couldn't find any other than the "this seems important" bit where Jade spots the fire in Chapter 1. Well, I have no problem with rewording this one, though I'm not sure how it happened enough to be grating. :S

Plot twist: Team Rocket is actually a team of good guys now, and they're trying to save kids from a Stalker before he takes them to a mysterious location that they have no idea about to do who-knows-what with them.
This almost wins best joke about Stalker's name. But this post on Serebii already exists:
Sid87 said:
It's funny to me, because I, too, have created a heroic character and gave him the alias "Stalker". It's really about the least noble name someone can adopt except for, say, "The Child Molestor". So I got a laugh out of this.
Mmmm why you gotta do these "I'll explain to you later" mumblings~ Hopefully we'll get more info on that soon.
Ahaha, this fic is 90% characters hiding things. But this one, like most of them, comes up within Book 1.

Wouldn't it be better if they started trying to do something at, maybe, 2, or 2:30 or something, rather than precisely when it begins? For all they know, the mission is to escape before the place blows up at 3!
Maybe! But then I'd have to describe Jade wandering around aimlessly for a half hour until the Rockets actually show up. :P
Hey look, it's the first actually good chapter in the fic! Thanks for sticking it out!



~Chapter 7: Into the Fire~


A faint beeping pricked at my ears. I blinked in the darkness before groaning and rolling over, trying to block out the sound. It wouldn’t go away… why not? And then somewhere in the cloud of sleep, my brain registered that it was, in fact, my alarm. I reached over to hit the watch button that turned it off, and then sat up, trying my hardest to clear the haze of tiredness and stress from my head. But it didn’t want to leave. And part of me kept screaming that I was insane. I was insane, I was trying to oppose Team Rocket, and I was going to fail miserably.

But I’d already made my decision.

By now I could see a roughly Pikachu-shaped figure in the darkness walking across the covers toward me. I blinked a few times, trying to get a better look at him.

“*Time to go,*” he said.

I put a finger to my mouth. “Quiet. We don’t want to wake the others,” I whispered.

He tilted his head. “*Why not?*”

I didn’t answer. I turned to look at the floor where Firestorm was curled up on the tarp, which was the only thing I hadn’t sold out of the camping supplies. Swift was perched on the back of a chair with his head resting under his wing, yet somehow I got the feeling that he might have been awake. I couldn’t tell.

Chibi gave me a sideways glance. “*What good is a trainer without their Pokémon?*”

“I’ll have you with me. So you’ll kind of be like my Pokémon, for right now anyway.”

I watched him for a response, but he didn’t give one, so I slipped on my shoes and grabbed my room key before carefully stepping over to the door. I opened it and peeked around the corner—slowly at first, then gradually leaning my whole head out after a few seconds. The lights in the cabin hallway were dimmed and there was no one to be seen. Then again… three in the morning, most everyone was probably either asleep or in one of the all-night lounges or bars. (And with trainer’s party attendees making up the majority of the passengers, that would leave most too young for the latter.)

I took my first tentative step outside, content with the lack of Rockets within sight, and waited until Chibi had stepped out before I shut the door behind us. We walked down the hallway in silence—I had the vague urge to say something but couldn’t really figure out what.

“*You didn’t tell them what we were doing,*” Chibi said slowly. His tone was rather deadpan, so I couldn’t tell why he said it.

I didn’t respond. I just stared at the floor as we walked, hoping the elaborately patterned carpet was a believable enough distraction for me to ignore his statement. I could tell he was still eyeing me, though. It was weird—even without any force from the hybrid, there was that one look that unfailingly could get me to give in and answer him.

“It’s just…”—the more I thought about it, the more stupid I felt—“this is something I have to do. I don’t want to drag them into it pointlessly.”

“*But if you fail, they’ll die anyway, so it doesn’t make any difference.*”

I froze, feeling an uncomfortable tightness in my chest. “…Yeah. I guess you’re right.” He sure had a knack for jumping right to the unpleasant truth of any situation. After that, Chibi looked away, either satisfied at getting to me or content to let the topic die. Not long afterward, we arrived at the staircases that led to the other decks, which had the effect of yanking my attention back to why we were here. I had to focus—we were going to stop the Rockets. It was just a matter of how.

“So… we know they’re going to set up explosives. What else do we know?”

The Pikachu paused, looking contemplative. “*Not much. Though with remote-activated bombs, they could leave the ship and blow it before anyone had a clue what was going on.*”

I mentally smacked myself. Of course he’d know about Team Rocket’s standard operations, being created by them and all.

“*… It’s just a matter of where they’d be.*”

“Well, we’re on one of the lower decks right now. The engine room isn’t too far away. We could start there. Blowing up the engine room would be the fastest way to sink a ship, right?”

“*Let’s go, then.*”

We continued down several flights of stairs until we reached the right deck, then followed the hallway to the ship’s aft. I’d spent most of last night perusing the S.S. Anne info booklet repeatedly, so at this point I knew the ship’s layout by heart. The lights were off in this area—I wasn’t sure if that was because the engine room was unmanned, or because the Rockets had done it. I could feel myself already starting to tense up. I knew I couldn’t afford to get nervous, especially before anything had even happened, but couldn’t help it.

We were nearing the end of the hallway. Various metal hatches lined the walls, but our goal was at the end. I was only vaguely aware that I’d started glancing over my shoulder every ten seconds. Of course there was nothing there—why did I keep looking?

Had to keep my focus—that was the only way I was going to get through this. Focus

“*Don’t lose your nerve now,*” Chibi said, jolting me out of my thoughts.

“I’m trying not to,” I replied, a slight edge to my voice. Still, I’d definitely noticed that he’d said it with concern, not scolding. Then I had to pause as my brain processed the fact that I wasn’t ready for his words, and hadn’t been anticipating them… but I still understood them. I really was getting better at Pokéspeech, wasn’t I?

A dull roar of machinery was slowly starting to fill my ears, but I was honestly surprised we had gotten this close before being able to hear the engines. A few more steps and we reached the end of the hallway. A large, rounded metal door lay in front of us. Time seemed to slow as I reached out to turn the wheel. It didn’t move. No, don’t tell me… we’d be screwed if it was locked. I braced myself and turned it more aggressively, willing it to open. Come on, it had to.

Finally, after a few metallic creaks, the door swung open, and I couldn’t help letting out my breath. We stepped inside, and I closed it behind us. From the faint illumination cast by a small, blinking light in the corner, I could tell that we were in some kind of changing room filled with goggles, gloves, and other safety gear. The door on the opposite end of the room was cracked open. I blinked at it in the darkness, seeing a dull glow coming from the other side.

“*Careful,*” Chibi said sharply.

I nodded, walking forward with slow, controlled steps. I pushed the door open as gradually as possible and extended a leg through the doorway.

The engine room was huge. I mean, I was expecting big, but this was just crazy. A system of metal platforms spanned the area, with massive generators on level with me, and from what I could tell, countless tanks and pumps covering the platform below us. I couldn’t even tell what was overhead, but I couldn’t make out the ceiling—the room just seemed to keep going. The noise from the engines overwhelmed any other possible sound, and the air was hot and sticky and uncomfortably thick.

“Well, nothing we can do but start search—oof!” My foot struck something and then I was falling. I hit the platform hard, sending a jolt of pain through my knees where they’d collided with the metal. Fueled by a burst of panic, I rolled over in a hurry and kicked the ground to push myself away from whatever I had tripped over. Except… it was soft. I froze, my blood running cold. I’d tripped over the motionless body of a man in engineer’s clothing. And… something told me he wasn’t a disguised Rocket.

I pushed myself away from him, now breathing hard, which wasn’t very easy in such thick air. Chibi bounded over to me, looking mostly unfazed.

“*This proves they’ve been here,*” the Pikachu spoke into my ear. I nodded weakly, my mouth still hanging open. I wanted to say something to the degree of, “Is he alive…?” but couldn’t manage the words.

“*Come on. Don’t go losing yourself already.*” He grabbed my hand and pulled it, willing me to stand. I shook my head roughly, trying to clear my mind. The hybrid’s words kind of stung, and I didn’t want him to think of me as weak. I couldn’t let him.

I stood to my feet in one swift motion before continuing down the platform, ahead of Chibi. I couldn’t hear anything over the roar of the engines, so I just turned in every direction, looking for anything out of place. Where were they? Had they already left this area? I rounded the corner at the far end of the room and scanned the lower level… and then got my answer.

From this angle, I could finally see where the dim, ambient glow in the room was coming from. Its source was a small light piercing the darkness on the far end of the bottommost platform. Within it, I could make out several human figures dressed in black, and a four-legged Pokémon standing with them—most likely generating the light. I motioned to Chibi before carefully maneuvering down the stairs as low and slow as possible. It may have been fairly dark in there, but any sudden movement could be fatal.

I reached the platform and crept closer alongside one of the many tanks inhabiting the space. My heart was pounding now, almost painfully. I ignored it and kept going. Step by step I closed the gap between us, keeping out of view until I was in position to glance around the corner of the tanks.

I could finally make out the Pokémon with them—it was a Manectric. The blue and yellow dog stood firmly alongside a female Rocket, its spiky fur standing on end. Every so often, a string of electricity coursed through the long mane on its head.

The Rockets were huddled closely in a circle, probably discussing something, though it wasn’t like I could hear a word they were saying. I caught sight of Chibi approaching from behind, and turned towards him.

“Can you hear what they’re saying?” I asked.

He scoffed. “*Just because I have better hearing than humans doesn’t change how loud it is in here.*”

“Well then what do we do?” I hissed, my teeth clenched.

“*Just look there,*” he said, pointing to one of the Rockets. I suddenly noticed that the man was holding some sort of small, black control device. “*I’m betting that’s the remote detonator. I can’t knock them out without the risk of shorting that thing and blowing this place up. So as soon as I get it from him, I want you to take it and run off. See if you can use it to find the explosives.*”

I stared. “What?”

Without another word, the Pikachu raced off into the shadows and out of sight.

“But… what are you doing…” I whispered to no one, still staring at where he had disappeared.

I sat there for what felt like minutes, not sure what I was supposed to be doing. Time dragged on, and all I could do was wait. It looked like the Rockets were preparing to move out—where was Chibi?

And then I spotted him. He was… clinging to a metal overhang? How…? A crackle of electricity swept across his paws as the Pikachu slowly crawled forward, stopping to position himself above the group of Rockets. Just a few more inches…

And then the Manectric barked out, “*Up there!*”

Half the Rockets snapped their attention upwards. With a look of frustration, Chibi dropped to the floor suddenly, shooting out strings of lightning and forcing the Rockets to jump backwards, colliding with one another. With a wave of sparks, the hybrid Pikachu rushed off into the shadows.

“What the hell was that?!” one of them shouted, loud enough to be heard. Most of the Rockets had pulled out guns and were preparing to run after Chibi, but then—

“I didn’t say weapons at the ready, now did I?” a male voice called out. It wasn’t angry, just decisive—the sort of voice that wasn’t to be argued with. The Rockets immediately obeyed, halting on the spot and turning to face the one who had issued the order. “Looks like number nine has graced us with its presence after all. Firearms down. Pokémon at the ready—electric-types for defense and physical attackers for offence. Don’t want to blow the place yet, do we?”

But before any of the Rockets got a chance to grab a Pokéball, a yellow blur shot out of nowhere, right into the heart of their lineup. The Manectric snarled and put up a shimmering electrical barrier, but the Pikachu wasn’t aiming to shoot any lightning at them. At the last second, he leapt upward, swung his bolt tail, and smacked the control device from the hand holding it. The device hit the ground with a clatter right as several flashes of light burst out of Pokéballs, but Chibi darted forward and grabbed it in his mouth, tossing it away from the group.

“*Now go!*” Chibi cried out before a newly-materialized Nidoqueen landed a punch on him.

I clenched my teeth and sprung forward, pausing just long enough to grab the controls before darting back the opposite direction. I could hear the crashing of lightning against a barrier, which faded amidst the constant engine noise the further I got from the conflict. As soon I reached the end of the platform, I ducked behind one of the tanks and sank to my knees immediately. My heart was pounding, but I couldn’t help feeling exhilarated—we’d gotten the controls from them. We honestly had a shot now.

I took the moment to finally get a good look at how the device functioned. It didn’t actually have any buttons, just a small touch screen that was currently blinking with some technical statistics. I tapped the corner of the screen, hoping it would bring me to some kind of menu, and instead was met with some sort of grid-like layout peppered with small, blinking red dots.

“Hang on…” I muttered, sliding my fingers along the screen to scroll throughout the grid. “Chibi was right. These are the coordinates for all the bombs they’ve set.” One of them was close by, from the looks of it. I held the device out like a flashlight, using the small glow of the screen to scan my surrounding for anything out of the ordinary. And then… sure enough there it was—a smooth, circular device about the size of a CD was innocently sitting on the side of the tank. And yet it was a bomb poised to blow this whole place. I gingerly reached out a hand toward it, feeling the hair on my arms raise the instant my fingertips touched it. Nothing happened.

I let out a breath. Come on, it wasn’t like these things would blow that easily, right? Slowly, I curled my fingers around the edges and tugged at it. It detached easily.

I held the bomb in my palm delicately, throwing a glance back at the screen to get a better idea of how many of these things there were. Too many to count… they were everywhere. I swallowed hard before gently sliding it into a cargo pocket and jumping to my feet. I didn’t have a choice—I had to get them all. Or at least… as many as possible before I was caught. I took off sprinting again, using the control’s grid as my guide and stopping just long enough to pry each bomb from the wall before aiming for the next one. It wasn’t long before lungs burned and legs went numb from exhaustion, and yet I still couldn’t think about anything other than finding the next one… and the next one…

Several times I caught scattered flashes in my peripheral vision, probably from electric barriers. Chibi couldn’t attack effectively in such a dangerous space where one stray bolt could kill us all. And the Rockets had known that, which was why they were sticking to physical offense. But then, even if he had his electricity, how long could Chibi last through that?

With one final tug, I pulled off what appeared to be the last bomb placed in the engine room, and by now all of my pockets were stuffed full of bombs—at least twelve or fifteen of them. It almost would have been hilarious if I weren’t running for my life. I had to get rid of them somehow… and throwing them overboard seemed like the best bet.

I threw open the door to the engine room and sprinted back down the corridor that led there. It was like a wave of cool water washed over me, leaving the hot and stifling environment of the engine room, but my lungs still felt like they were on fire. Couldn’t pay attention to it though, had to keep going. My footsteps echoed off the walls as I flew up the staircases one after the other, finally reaching the closest deck with no walls surrounding the outermost edge. I was met with a gust of wind in the face and what felt like the early onset of a rainstorm. I stumbled over to the edge railing and began the long process of emptying my pockets, made longer by the way my hands just couldn’t seem to stop shaking. After what felt like ages, I had finally thrown the last fistful of bombs into the sea, where they sank to the ocean floor.

And then I sank to my knees, doubled over and gasping for breath. Couldn’t stop… had to keep going. I glanced at my watch—it had been fifteen minutes since I’d last seen Chibi. I’d heard scattered bursts of electricity as I ran; they were probably outside of the engine room by now, but he was still managing to keep them from following me. I grasped the edge of the deck and pulled myself to my feet. There was no time for me to stop; I hadn’t even started on the cabin hallways.

Except I’d just spotted a man striding towards me, dressed in the standard white crew shirt. His walk was forceful—not too quick, as if to avoid drawing attention, but with a definite sense of purpose.

I backed away slowly, feeling a prickle of apprehension crawl up my neck. He couldn’t be…

The man’s walk quickened. You had to be kidding me. Come on! There was no way the entire crew was Rockets! Heck, I wouldn’t even assume a tenth of them were. Why did I keep meeting all the fake ones?!

I immediately took off sprinting in the other direction, back down the staircases and jumping four or five steps at a time. My mind was racing—had to think of some way to get him off my trail. Chibi was right. I’d been stupid, and now I desperately needed help.

I cleared one staircase after another before arriving on the right floor. When I reached my cabin, I snatched my card key and waved it across the scanner on my door, then burst inside, slamming the door behind me.

“Firestorm, Swift, wake up!” I immediately shouted while flipping the light switch. The noise and sudden light woke them instantly.

Firestorm jumped to his feet. “*What’s going on?*” Then his eyes widened like he had just realized that my sudden arrival meant I had left the room secretly. “*Where did you go?*”

“Team Rocket was”—I gasped for breath—“planning to kill everyone, and Chibi seriously needs our help,” I said in a hurry, grabbing my Pokéballs and wallet and sticking them in my pockets.

“*What? Is that why you were so quiet last night? Why didn’t you tell us?!*” Firestorm demanded. I’d never heard him speak with that much conviction.

“I didn’t want to drag you guys into this mess and wind up getting you hurt,” I managed to say as I hastily shoved all of my belongings into my backpack, just in case I never got a chance to come back here.

“*Pokémon are… they’re supposed to project their trainer,*” Firestorm muttered. I ignored him.

“Come on, we’ve got to go,” I said, throwing open the door and waiting for them to follow me. Firestorm had a weird mix of hurt and dread on his face, but he followed just the same. We stepped out into the hallway, and I threw several hurried glances in both directions. “…Alright… we should be g—” I was cut off by the sound of rapid footsteps to the left. And then I saw him—the man who had been chasing me earlier had just reached the bottom of the staircase leading to this deck. Had to do something. Had to do something.

And then out of nowhere, without even thinking, I found myself pointing forward and shouting, “Swift, use Gust!”

From behind me, the Pidgey’s tiny, feathery form fluttered into view, flapping his wings quicker than seemed possible. In an instant, it was like all the air in the hallway had rushed forward, throwing my hair into my face and nearly knocking me off balance. I brushed a few strands out of my eyes just in time to see the Rocket struggling against a whirlwind before it swept him off his feet and sent him crashing into the wall. The wind ceased, and he slumped to the ground, looking dazed.

Swift fluttered down to the ground and turned to face us, tilting his head. “*I think that worked out well,*” he said, rather matter-of-factly.

I gaped. “Not just well… brilliant. Come on, let’s get out of here before he gets up.” I motioned for the two Pokémon to follow me and then took off down the hallway. Firestorm had to struggle to keep up on his short legs.

“*How come you didn’t have anything for me to do back there?*” the fire lizard said in a small voice.

“The heck? What, you think I wanted to set him on fire? What could I have had you do?” The Charmander didn’t say anything else.

I glanced back down at the control device Chibi had stolen—there were still a lot of bombs left to collect in the cabin area. I took a deep breath before resuming my search, stopping briefly to grab each bomb one by one. After a while, it was like I was incapable of thinking about anything else. Just one bomb after the next, filling my pockets with them.

And then I had to stop and blink when I first felt my pockets full to bursting. It barely felt like I’d spent any time gathering them. Either way, time to go back to the upper deck, and hopefully not run into any Rockets for once.

My pace was slower than normal as I made my way up the stairs, both so my Pokémon could keep up and also because my legs were nearly done transforming into jello. And then my feet had to go and catch the edge of the steps, because obviously that was what I needed right now. I had to finish this soon, or else I wouldn’t even be able to.

My movements were on autopilot as I navigated back to the first open deck I could get to, going through the motions of disposing of the bombs yet again. When I was done, I began the descent back to the lower levels of the ship. It had been nearly twenty minutes since I’d left Chibi in the engine room. Where was he now… and was he still alright?

I stopped suddenly. Had I just heard that? I’d been thinking about him, so it might have been my imagination… but I could’ve sworn I heard the pained cry of a Pikachu echoing throughout the deck I’d just passed. Slowly, I backtracked a couple of stair steps and approached the nearest room to find that it was the main lobby we’d first entered on the S.S. Anne. It was completely dark aside from the moonlight shining in through the windows.

“Chibi! Are you there?!” I shouted, hoping my voice wouldn’t grab any unwanted attention.

Suddenly, I tensed up. Footsteps. Lots of them. Heading this way.

“Crap,” I muttered, whirling around to take off in the opposite direction. And then out of nowhere, a burst of flames shot into my path. What the heck?! I recoiled backward, narrowly avoiding the sudden blaze as waves of heat rushed into my face.

“*Jade!*” Firestorm yelled, dashing forward to stand by my side.

Shaking slightly, I turned to look behind me. I was met with a view of the dozen or so Rockets that had infiltrated the ship, half of them in crew uniforms and the other half dressed in what was probably a standard black mission outfit. In front of them stood the Manectric from earlier, now joined by a Ninetales. And then a crushing pain spread through me when I saw what one of the Rockets held under her arm: the burned and beaten form of a spiky-furred Pikachu.

The lead Rocket chuckled a bit at the look of my face and said, “I suppose I should thank you for returning number nine to us.” Now that I actually had a full view of him, the lead Rocket was tall and thin, with an angular face and dark circles under his eyes, which gave his face a cold look in contrast to his ironic grin.

“You know, we were rather… upset when you took him,” the man went on. “We need him for our experiments, otherwise we might never figure out how to break those overpowered, undeserving monsters you call Legendaries. That said…”—he held out a hand—“you have something else that’s ours.”

I hesitated, clutching the remote. “…You’re not getting this back.”

“*You’ll have to go through us,*” Firestorm said in a broken voice, stepping in front of me.

I stared at him. “What. No, there’s no way you can take down their Pokémon.”

To my surprise, Swift was the one who replied, “*You’re standing against them. It’s too late to back down. So we have to be brave too.*”

“*We don’t have a choice,*” Firestorm added through gritted teeth. Where on earth had he gotten that determination from?

The lead Rocket closed his eyes and chuckled slightly at our inane attempt at resistance. “Still want to play games? Alright. Ninetales, attack!”

The large, cream-colored fire fox rushed forward, tails swirling dramatically as it leaped into the fray. It let out a battle cry and unleashed a plume of white-hot flames at its opponents. Swift took flight while Firestorm lunged to the side, barely dodging it at the last second. While Ninetales dashed forward, closing in on Firestorm, Swift down toward its face, talons outstretched. But it saw him. In one smooth motion, the fire fox turned aside and struck him on the back with its slender paw. I flinched as the Pidgey smashed into the floor with a pained cry. He just managed to flutter into the air before another spurt of fire hit the spot where he’d landed, but the superheated air prevented him from approaching his opponent.

Firestorm tried to take advantage of the enemy’s distraction by breathing scattered embers, but Ninetales didn’t even look fazed. In fact, the embers just sank into its fur, making its whole body glow with a fiery sheen. The fox smirked, then unleashed a pitch-black pulse of energy from its body, striking the fire lizard and knocking him back. Swift saw the opening and dove down from above, ready to strike. But upon hearing its trainer’s order of “Hypnosis!” the fox lunged to the side, eyes radiating with a creepy red aura and tails swaying rhythmically behind it. Swift caught its gaze and crashed to the floor, fast asleep.

I stared at the ongoing battle, a wave of dread slowly spreading through me. The sheer difference in skill—both between the Ninetales and my Pokémon, and between the Rocket and me—was starting to sink in. I pulled out Swift’s Pokéball and recalled him before yelling, “Firestorm, we have to get out of here!”

Firestorm shook his head resolutely and turned back to Ninetales.

“Here’s a fun move—Ninetales, Fire Spin!” the lead Rocket ordered.

My eyes went wide. Ninetales breathed out a narrow stream of flame, which circled around Firestorm no matter how he scrambled to get away. It caught his leg and snaked around his body, pulling him to the center of a swirling inferno.

“Firestorm!” I yelled, panic shooting through me. I pointed his Pokéball forward, but the flame blocked the recall beam. I could barely see his silhouette in the midst of the vortex, curled into a ball as Ninetales added more and more fire with repeated Flamethrowers. Sure, he had a natural resistance to fire, but how much more of this could he take?

And then out of nowhere, the vortex exploded. Ninetales jumped back, fur standing on end. I shielded my eyes from the flash of light as a flood of embers dissipated into the air. And when I opened them again, I saw Firestorm standing to his feet, wreathed in a raging red aura. He growled at the Rockets, gathering a large fireball in his mouth. And then the Charmander was engulfed in white light. I blinked, staring in awe as his body doubled in height and completely changed in shape. Limbs stretched outward, heavy claws bursting from their tips. His face stretched into a dragonish snout, a single horn sprouting from his skull. The light faded, revealing deep crimson scales…

“He’s… evolved into a Charmeleon,” I whispered in awe. I’d never actually seen a Pokémon evolution happen in person. Part of me couldn’t believe that lanky red fire lizard was really him, even though I’d seen it happen, right in front of me. Firestorm glanced back at me, his eyes smaller and more angular now. His expression held a strange ferocity.

Ninetales blinked in stunned shock for a few seconds. But the surprise quickly wore off, and the fire fox crouched defensively and snarled.

The lead Rocket eyed the Charmeleon with a sigh, shaking his head. “Just don’t know when to give up, do you? How are you supposed to attack us with nothing but a fire-type, even if it’s evolved now? I doubt you’ve taught it how to do anything beyond biting and scratching, and Ninetales can absorb all of its fire attacks.”

What? It could—what?! Something in the back of my mind told me I should have known this—Ninetales had the Flash Fire ability, just like Arcanine. What on earth were we supposed to do now?!

Thoroughly enjoying the look on my face, the Rocket said, “As much fun as it would be to slowly beat the lizard down, I say we cut playtime short.” He recalled his Ninetales and continued, “We’ve got a job to do, after all, and you’re in the way.” I tensed up. His words held a dangerous air, contrasting with his previous smooth attitude.

He paused and reached into his belt pouch to pull out a small item, hidden by the darkness, but glinting with a metallic sheen as it caught the light of the moon shining through the windows. “I don’t think running would be such a good idea. In fact, you shouldn’t be thinking about doing anything, really… besides handing over that remote.”

I froze, unable to do anything but stare mindlessly at the gun pointing at me. I wanted to do something, anything, but I was paralyzed, terror spreading like ice in my veins. I was trapped. There was no way out of this. If I gave the remote to him, he would probably shoot me anyway, and even if he didn’t, everyone on the ship would still die. I tried to manage some sort of response to the Rocket’s demand, but I couldn’t remember how to speak.

“I… my pockets are full of bombs. I’ll activate this. So don’t try anything.” Words were coming out of my mouth, but I wasn’t sure I was the one saying them.

“Mmm… somehow I don’t believe you.”

I’ll do it. You’ll just kill all of us anyway if I give it to you. This way everyone else will still make it.”

The man laughed. “At least they would have if we hadn’t reapplied explosives to the engine room after you so thoughtlessly ruined all our hard work down there.”

It was like my insides just stopped existing. I tried to keep my reaction off of my face, but I already knew I’d failed because of how much the Rocket was enjoying my expression.

But then I noticed it—Chibi had just opened his eyes. He moved his head side to side ever so slowly, so none of the Rockets would notice. And then he kept throwing meaningful glances toward the lead Rocket with just his eyes. I stared blankly, confusion now added to the mess of emotions running through my head. But then somehow it clicked into place. There was a spark in his eyes. He had to have charged up some energy in the past few minutes.

“Well, what’s it gonna be?” the Rocket said. “You’ve got five seconds.”

“*Now!!*” Chibi yelled, discharging all of his power into the Rocket, who slumped to the floor instantly. While I took off running with Firestorm, Chibi wrenched himself free and followed us.

“Someone tranquilize the damn thing already!” the lead Rocket yelled, all amusement gone from his voice.

Seconds after he said it, I heard the high-pitched whistle of something shooting through the air. Then a pained cry from Chibi, followed by the sound of him dropping to the ground. I threw a hurried glance over my shoulder and saw the hybrid sprawled out with a dart sticking out of his shoulder. Without hesitation, I turned back for him, but he yelled, “*Get out of here! They need me brought back alive, but they’ll kill you in a second if you wait around!!*”

I recoiled backwards, staring in disbelief before snapping myself out of it and running the in the opposite direction. My legs were on autopilot, sprinting onward for what seemed like the millionth time that day, making as many turns around corners to make it both harder for the Rockets to find me, and harder to shoot if they did. I had to get away, but… to leave him back there like that…? I constantly glanced over my shoulder—mostly to see if I was being pursued, but also out of hope that I’d somehow see Chibi catching up to me. How was he planning to get away?

Suddenly, I heard a high-pitched cry behind me and only barely turned around before I was struck down by a flash of yellow, a jolt of pain tearing through my body. I rolled over in a panic and found myself staring face to face with the Rocket’s Manectric glaring down at me, sparks leaping off its fur. Firestorm snarled at the thunder dog, daring it to make another move. But all it did was fire a small string of lightning at the remote and race off before either of us could move.

I held an arm around my stomach as I struggled to stand, wincing in pain at the ache spreading through my insides. Seriously, what the heck was that about? Without warning, sparks leapt off the remote and I jumped back, letting it fall from my hand and clatter to the floor. I blinked at it, clutching my hand. Its screen was jumbled and glitchy, but I could just make out the words—

“No… you’ve gotta be kidding me…” I mumbled weakly. “I spent all that time… this can’t be happening.”

Automatic timed detonation activated.

The screen stuttered a bit before displaying a countdown, starting at five minutes. My mind flew into a frenzy, struggling to think of something, anything to stop the detonation. The engine room was too far away; I couldn’t possibly remove all the bombs in time. I stared hopelessly at the screen, crushing despair filling every inch of me.

It was over. The Rockets had won, and the ship was doomed.

The ship… but if we managed to make it off in time…

The idea hit me, and once it was there, it slowly started to spread throughout my entire mind like wildfire. Could I even do it? No, whether I could or couldn’t didn’t matter—I had to.

“Come on Firestorm,” I said hoarsely, once again dashing for the nearest staircase. He had no trouble keeping up—in my current state, the newly-evolved Charmeleon was faster than me.

We reached the main deck, and I froze at the sight of the rain pouring down in violent sheets outside. Somewhere in the back of my mind this seemed strange—there hadn’t been any news of a storm like this. But I couldn’t afford to focus on that right now. I hadn’t seen any of the upper decks yet, but I knew I was aiming for the topmost level.

Only a few more staircases now. Soon I found myself in front of the sign for the ship’s bridge and couldn’t help feeling the slightest glimmer of joy at having made it this far. I grasped the door handle, threw it open, and—

And then my legs gave out and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I was falling face first, only barely able to throw my arms out to catch myself from faceplanting into the ground.

“What in the world—?!”

“Kid, what are you doing here?”

“Someone radio security, and get a medic while you’re at it.”

Voices surrounded me. I craned my neck upward to get a look at the four crew members standing around me with mixtures of concern and surprise streaking their faces. I couldn’t tell which one was the captain. For all I knew, he might not even have been awake at this hour.

There wasn’t much time left. I had to warn them. “Explosion… in the engine room. We have to get off the ship. Now.”

“An explosion in the engine room? Why wouldn’t we have noticed? What were you doing down there?”

In the background, I could hear a voice saying, “Bridge to engine control, what’s your status?”

I felt a hand grip my shoulder, not hard enough to hurt, but firm. I couldn’t do anything but extend a shaking arm, still barely grasping the control device, and hope that someone would look at it. Less than four minutes left.

“Captain, I’m not getting any response from engine control.”

A heavy pause filled the room. The man nearest me—apparently the captain, now that I got a good look at his hat and stripes—turned to face someone sitting at a control monitor and said, “Run the fire emergency alarm. Send the engine crew to perform emergency response procedures on any damaged areas.”

Fire emergency?! They’d all just be heading to their deaths!

“There’s no time!” I shouted, tears now stinging the corners of my eyes. “There are bombs all over the lower deck! We have to get out of here!”

In my blurred vision, I could barely make out the captain taking the control device from my hand. The color drained from his face as he stared at it. “Where did you get this? Answer me, now!”

My head felt hazy and distant. Words didn’t feel like something I was capable of. “There’s… no time…”

Everything hurt. I couldn’t think anymore. But we had to get out…

The room was silent for several seconds. I had no idea if they were going to listen to me or not until then the captain stood to his feet. And I couldn’t help letting out a long, slow breath when I heard him say, “Gather all the passengers at the emergency stations. Send someone with this device to check the lower decks and report back to us the instant they can confirm anything. If that’s the case, we must be prepared to abandon ship.”






~End Chapter 7~
This arc used to be riddled with all sorts of evidence that I Did Not Do The Research on ships at all. Well…now I’ve done the research, and my Google search history is filled with such odd things as “cruise ship layout,” “where do you board the ship,” “what to do if a ship's lifeboats are faulty,” “where is the engine room on a cruise ship,” “engine room layout,” “ship emergency alarm types,” “are ship engine rooms loud,” “where are the lifeboats on a ship,” and “ticket for a cruise ship looks like.” Also it might seem kind of suspicious that I’ve looked up “if the engine room explodes will a ship sink?” (I’m not a terrorist, I swears.)

I mean, seriously. In the previous revision, they found the Rockets in a random dark hallway leading to a featureless room with the ubiquitous Storage Boxes™ that serve no purpose other than cover (hey, on the cargo jet it at least made sense.)

So yeah, by then end of it, I was sick and tired of having three million tabs of ship research open, and not sorry to be nearly done with this arc. :P Unnnnnfortunately, the next two chapters are so bad they proceeded to kill the fic for two whole years. ><
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
I didn’t have a choice—I had to get them all.
Gotta catch 'em all, Poke Bombs!

--

So, I don't have a lot of overall thoughts on this chapter -- we're approaching another tense action chapter that can more or less be quickly summarized with its action beats. But overall, I thought it was a clever combination of stealth and actual fighting, and I thought it was a good call to not depict much of Chibi's actual fighting. But that's just another personal preference of mine.

This went not necessarily predictably, but understandably, all things considered. They managed to get quite a bit of success for just being a single trainer and her pokemon trying to resist an entire organization. I'm curious where this will turn out and exactly how they'll be able to rectify the situation, or at least not die. Since these are still the beginning chapters, it's very possible that the boat will explode with countless casualties. Guess we'll see.

But yeah, overall, pretty good chapter, but I don't think it quite sets itself apart from the others just yet. But I will say that it's a good blend of stealth and action, which makes it different from the plane arc.

Anyway, quips:

“*Pokémon are… they’re supposed to project their trainer,*”
*protect.

And then the Charmander was engulfed in white light. I blinked, staring in awe as his body doubled in height and completely changed in shape.
Wow, and here I thought my Charmander evolved early~ Still, good power boost. They'll need it.
 
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