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Pokémon The Legendarian Chronicles

Chapter 8: Midnight Island

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
Gotta catch 'em all, Poke Bombs!
dammit
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.
Ah, I'm glad. The reason I did it like that was because I wanted to focus on what Jade herself was doing (since she wasn't exactly leading him into battle) and because he's so overpowered that I get more tension by separating them.
Wow, and here I thought my Charmander evolved early~ Still, good power boost. They'll need it.
As we'll find out soon, he was already pretty close to evolving at the start of the story. ;P



~Chapter 8: Midnight Island~


“This is your captain speaking. We have an emergency situation—all passengers must report to the main deck immediately to await further instruction. Recall all Pokémon to their Pokéballs and bring them with you. If you are in your cabin, please retrieve your personal flotation device. If you are not in your cabin, do not go down to the lower decks—additional flotation devices will be available at the emergency stations. I repeat, this is an emergency situation—”

The captain’s voice boomed powerfully over the ship’s PA system, and the crew immediately scattered in response to the orders. A desperate voice in the back of my head kept shouting at me to stand up, but I couldn’t process how to make that happen. I was probably in the way, collapsed on the floor like this, but… I just… I couldn’t figure out how to do anything about it.

A hand firmly grasped my right hand, and before I knew what was going on, a set of claws had taken hold of my left and both were pulling me upward at the same time. I blinked twice, trying to clear my vision before seeing that both a crewman and Firestorm had a hold of me. I clenched my teeth and fought to maneuver my legs under me. The movement was sluggish and awkward, but I managed to plant one foot heavily and lean my weight on it long enough to drag the other one into place. It felt ridiculous. But I really wasn’t in a position to care right now.

“Can you stand on your own?” the crewman asked, carefully letting go of my hand while keeping a close eye to make sure I wasn’t in danger of falling.

My brain told me to say no, but for some reason I nodded.

He gave me a stern look, like he didn’t quite believe me. “We’re gathering on the main deck to aid the rest of the passengers so I’ll escort you there. It’s raining pretty hard, so you should recall your Charmeleon.”

I squeezed Firestorm’s claw to let him know it was safe to let go, then rummaged through my pocket for his Pokéball before recalling him in a beam of red light. I nodded to the crewman, and we made our way toward the bridge stairwell, which was now rimmed with flashing emergency lights. Blasts from the ship’s whistle rang throughout the air as I forced my legs down one stair at a time, bracing most of my weight against the railing. More than once, my foot missed a stair and I would have been sent tumbling down if the crewman hadn’t caught my arm just in time. One stair at a time. Just had to focus on that—nothing else mattered right now. One stair at a time. At least I only had to conquer two staircases to make it to the main deck, while everyone on the lower decks had who knows how many to go through. It was a stupid thought, but it helped.

Somehow we reached the bottom without me noticing. From there, we only had to make it outside. The captain strode forcefully past us, continuing to repeat his emergency message into a handheld PA microphone. A mass of people was migrating up from the lower decks, and a huge weight settled in my chest from the sheer amount of panicked faces, many of them younger than me. Countless crew members got into place directing the crowd of passengers to the emergency area on the outermost portion of the main deck.

“Captain!” a young voice called. I turned to see a crew member sprinting up an otherwise empty staircase that had been marked authorized personnel only. “You were right, the lower decks are filled with explosives. There’s no way we could remove them all in time. Most of the lower decks have been evacuated, but many passengers still haven’t made it out yet.” She was holding the control device for the explosives, which was now flashing red with a large ‘30’ displayed.

Numbness swept over me just looking at it. Less than a minute left… but if everyone could make it up here before the bombs went off, we’d still have a shot of escaping. The ship wouldn’t sink that quickly, would it?

The captain pulled a radio from his belt and said something into it before racing outside. The man escorting me patted my shoulder and said, “Just follow this crowd outside to the closest emergency station,” before joining the nearest group of crew members directing the evacuation.

An awkward feeling swept over me as I stumbled over to the group. Most of them were still in their pajamas, having been asleep just five minutes ago. Now they were wearing life preservers and looking terrified. Half the crowd was tripping over each other, either pushing to get outside or running back to find their friends, all while desperately trying to be heard over the mass of panicked voices. The other half was tense, glancing around anxiously and clutching their Pokéballs with a death grip, ready to open them at any second. Part of me wanted to panic like the first half, but I’d used up the ability hours ago.

The instant we stepped outside, we were soaking wet. It wasn’t cold, but man was it jarring. I’d been running out to this deck constantly not even an hour ago—where had this come from? The water poured down on us like a torrent, the skies were a twisting, writhing mass of gray, and no sooner had I noticed it than a burst of wind knocked me into the nearest trainer. Because we really needed things to be harder now.

The crew inside the ship were still running around, directing everyone outside as quickly as possible. But the nearest crew members outside were shouting into their radios, looking flustered. What was going on? Wasn’t this where we’d board the lifeboats?

Wait. No… no, the Rockets, they couldn’t have…

“This is your captain speaking. Everyone needs to brace themselves.”

This was it. No time left. Everyone who wasn’t up here yet wasn’t going to make it. I dropped to the ground and clenched my teeth as hard as possible.

I still wasn’t ready for it.

A deafening roar and the squeal of crunching metal bombarded my ears, completely overwhelming the sounds of the ongoing storm. My hands and feet vibrated from the shockwave radiating outwards, and everyone still making their way outside was knocked completely off their feet. Within seconds, smoke started billowing up from the staircases, quickly filling the enclosed part of the middle deck. And on top of it all, the rocking motion of the ship grew more violent by the second.

“On behalf of the captain, I am relaying the order to abandon ship!” a woman close to my group shouted. “The lifeboats are gone, so the only way off is to jump overboard! If you have Pokémon large enough to carry you in the air or the water, release them now! And even small water-types should be able to assist both you and others while in the sea!”

At these words, countless trainers pulled out Pokéballs, and flashes of white light filled the air around the deck’s outermost edge. The crowd thinned as the trainers with flying-types didn’t hesitate to jump onto their rides’ backs and take off, flying in low circles around the ship. That just left the rest of us. Sure, we were already soaked to the bone and being in the sea wasn’t gonna be much different, but the waters below us had grown increasingly violent. And I didn’t have any water Pokémon.

Finally, a scattering of trainers worked up the courage to climb the railing and jump off. Several people gasped, but the effect was obvious—after the first few had done it, more and more had found the confidence to make the plunge as well. I couldn’t hesitate. Taking too long would only hold up everyone behind me. I grasped the edge of the railing and used my arms to swing my legs over. Then all I could do was close my eyes, grit my teeth, push myself over the edge, and oh god I was falling. I couldn’t possibly have been ready for it. The fall dragged on forever and the water was a million miles away and I was moving way too fast and my stomach turned inside out and—

The sudden impact stopped my thoughts cold as every inch of exposed skin burned like fire from striking the water. I thrashed my arms instinctively, trying to get my bearings. I was still underwater—no good, I had to surface! I opened my eyes and spotted the surface right above me before paddling as hard as I could to reach it.

My head burst out of the water and I immediately found myself gasping and sputtering for air. The water wasn’t frigid, but still cold enough that the tingling in my limbs didn’t want to go away. I flailed about, trying to control my movement and see was going on with everyone else. My legs wouldn’t move; it was just my arms doing all the work now.

Most of the passengers had grouped together around the trainers who had water Pokémon. I squinted back at the ship. From what little I could see, it didn’t look like anyone was still making the plunge from the upper deck… which had to mean that everyone who was able to had made it off by now. Now we just had to weather the storm. But the rain kept pouring down in violent sheets and the rush of seawater tossed us relentlessly. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep the salty water from finding its way into my mouth—I was spending more time choking and spitting out water than making progress.

A sudden flash of light nearby caught my attention. A girl had just released a massive blue sea serpent from its ball. The Gyarados let out a roar before leaning its head down, allowing its trainer to climb aboard. Already many of the nearby passengers were following her lead and climbing up the serpent’s thick, armor-like scales.

I wasn’t that far away. If I could just make it to her, I wouldn’t have to brave the storm by myself. I just had to make it over there.

Before I could do anything, the water forced my head under the surface and knocked the air from my lungs. I blinked frantically in the darkness, still reeling with shock. Which way was up? Why couldn’t I tell?!

I burst free of the water just in time to wish I hadn’t. An enormous wave had swept in from nowhere, now looming over me. I stared blankly, feeling my limbs turn to ice and refuse to move. Even if I’d had time, I couldn’t react—what on earth was I supposed to do? I couldn’t possibly avoid something like that!

The world dissolved into rush of water and the spray of salt and tumbling and disorientation and a burning pain now tearing its way through my lungs. I couldn’t tell how deep it had pushed me—direction didn’t exist anymore. I’d been flipped and tossed and my entire body felt like a ragdoll. Where was I? My surroundings had become an endless expanse of water and darkness. Even if there was anything to see, my eyes burned too much from the salt.

I suddenly remembered that my lungs were on fire—it was a weird contrast to how detached the rest of my body felt. My legs still wouldn’t move—it was almost like they weren’t even there. Were they there? I couldn’t see them. I couldn’t see anything.

Somewhere in the back of my head a voice screamed to get a grip but there wasn’t anything to get a grip on. Nothing was around me. Nothing except…

A huge, shadowy mass swept under me. Everything was dark, but this thing was dark enough to stand out… somehow. It slowly turned in my direction, and the only thing I saw was a pair of glowing blue eyes before it turned and dove further below me.

Wait… below me! It had to be below me, right? I had no idea if that made any sense, but I knew that it was below, I just knew. Without even thinking, my arms drove me in the opposite direction—upward. I shot through the water so fast it felt like I was flying. Almost there. Just had to reach the surface. Almost there—!

I broke free. My face hit the air and nothing had ever felt half as amazing. It didn’t last long—a round of coughing and sputtering took over as my worn-out lungs tried to expel all of the saltwater I’d taken in. Each breath sent another wave of fire running through my chest, but I didn’t mind—just breathing at all was relief enough.

Except… this was too easy. I was just floating here breathing, and my head wasn’t being forced under the water every five seconds. The sheer relief of being on the surface had been so great that I hadn’t even noticed. It was gone. The waves, the wind, the rain… everything was gone. Clouds churned lazily above us, giving no indication of the raging storm that had just vanished. Calm skies and waters now made it easy to see the S.S. Anne tilted backward at a harsh angle, slipping down into the sea’s murky depths.

I was close to the Gyarados now, so my main priority became drifting vaguely in that direction using as little effort as possible. Six or seven passengers were crowded onto the upper half of its body, but there was room for me to grab one of its lower fins.

Just as my brain was trying to work through if I should ask anyone what happened, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I turned to the right and stared blankly at the sight, now even more confused. A squad of rescue boats was speeding toward us as though nothing had ever happened.

Rescue boats. How on earth had they gotten here so quickly? An overwhelming flood of questions started to fill my head, but with my body now far beyond exhausted, I almost didn’t care if I got any answers. The Gyarados started making its way toward the boats, moving very slowly to avoid losing any of its far-too-many riders. By the time it was my turn to climb aboard, most of the passengers had been rescued, and I felt a wave of euphoric relief upon being pulled onto the deck and being able to sink to my knees.

A bustle of movement surrounded me as the officials went about gathering information from everyone who had been rescued. I glanced upward at the man nearest me; the first thing I thought to ask was, “Where are we?”

“Just off the southern coast of Fuchsia,” he replied. Fuchsia… that was… at the far south end of Kanto, right?

The man held a towel in front of my face. “Here. Are you hurt? Anyone with injuries should see the medical staff.”

Right… I was still sitting lamely on the floor, limbs shivering uncontrollably. I shook my head lightly before grabbing the deck railing and pulling myself to my feet. He raised an eyebrow, apparently not believing me but figuring that I had enough sense to get aid if I was injured (which, as I kept having to remind myself, I was not). I accepted the towel with a low murmur of “thanks” before pulling myself into the nearest seat.

Being able to dry myself was, quite simply, heaven after braving the ocean waters. I watched the group of shivering trainers being led around by the staff, my head slowly fogging up with fatigue. I was certain there was too much noise and commotion to fall asleep, but…

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

I opened my eyes slowly, then immediately blinked as my eyes burned with a bright light. I glanced around in confused before realizing that it was daytime—a glance at my watch told me that it was 8am. Well, that didn’t make sense… I could have sworn that I’d only closed my eyes for a minute or two…

I stretched long and hard, my limbs filled with a dull, throbbing pain, before looking around. The ship was now docked in the small harbor of a coastal town surrounded by rolling plains and gleaming white beaches. The staff was busy directing people off the ship, or at least some of them—about half of the trainers were being pointed back into their seats rather than onto the dock. Feeling a bit perplexed, I wandered over to the staff.

“What’s going on here?” I asked.

“We’ve docked near Fuchsia City. All of the trainers who were given a specialty invite to the party are to remain on the ship until we can relay a message intended for them,” a man explained.

Specialty invite… the tickets Stalker gave to the potential rebels? How could they tell which people he’d invited?

Sensing my confusion, the man said, “Let me see your card key.” I handed it over, and he scanned it through a device before handing it back. “Alright, please wait around here until we’ve finished with the remaining passengers.” As I walked back to my seat, a small group of trainers behind me started making a fuss because they had apparently left their card keys behind—the staff was attempting to sort through it.

I wasn’t sure what to think of the whole situation now. I had been frustrated at Stalker for having underestimated Team Rocket, but he clearly had a plan set into motion for an incident like this. Still, why couldn’t he have gotten an ally to make sure nothing went wrong with the voyage? Did he even have allies, or was he doing this alone?

I wandered around the ship’s deck as the number of passengers slowly started to thin, gazing at the ocean and admiring how calm it looked, with the bright sunlight reflecting off ridges of water. My thoughts strayed back to the previous night, and how impossible it all seemed now. Mere hours ago, we’d all been so close to death… it was obviously an uncomfortable thought, but it was slowly starting to become more familiar. And this was how it was going to be from now on…

I was just vaguely wondering how the Rockets had escaped, and if they’d had actual rockets in their backpacks, when a hand clapped my shoulder.

“Hey Jade.”

…What. Why on earth was I hearing that voice here?

I spun around to stare at the olive-skinned, dark-haired face behind me. And really, all I could do was let my mouth hang open in shock.

“…What are you doing here, Rudy?” I managed to say.

He gave a small laugh at the look on my face and said, “Guess I should explain myself, huh?”

“You think?” I asked, laughing a little bit myself, the air of anxiety gone just from being with a friend. “You… have no idea how glad I am to see you here… especially after last night.”

Rudy smiled weakly. “Yeah… that…”

I gave him an incredulous look. “I’m starting to think you have a thing for always showing up at my Team Rocket run-ins.”

“Hey, it’s not a coincidence,” Rudy said quickly. “You know the dude who gave out the tickets?”

I blinked. “You met him too?”

Rudy nodded. “Sure did. I met him after I got back to Viridian. He said he’d heard about our battle with those Rockets at the plane, and that anyone who’d gone against Team Rocket was important to have as an ally. He asked me if I wanted to train under him and learn how to fight Rockets, and well…” He forced a grin, some of his normal enthusiasm shining through for a moment. “You know I couldn’t say no to getting back at those guys. So he gave me the card and that was when he mentioned that you got one too.”

I couldn’t think of what to say. Stalker had said he’d been recruiting any new trainers with the guts to take on Team Rocket, but the idea of someone else I knew being a part of this felt very strange.

“Course… I sort of got in trouble for being gone all day,” Rudy continued, looking down. “It’s kinda hard to be afraid of something like that after making it through the Rocket mess, though. And I was gonna tell your mom that’d you’d gone on a training journey with Swift, but… she kind of already knew? I was expecting her to be way more upset about it, honestly.”

I smiled faintly. “Yeah, I, uh… I kind of wound up calling home later that night anyway.”

Rudy paused. “Wait seriously?”

I rubbed the back of my head. “Yeah. I was dreading it at first, but it worked out for the best.” I wasn’t sure if I should explain the deal that I’d made to get my license before I turned fifteen, but Rudy was still staring at me like he was waiting to tell the rest of his story.

“Go on,” I said, rolling my eyes. Though I didn’t want to admit it, hearing him ramble was definitely helping take my mind off things.

Rudy didn’t need telling twice. “Kay, so I started my training journey a couple days after that, and I made sure to grab the bus from city to city until I made it to Vermilion. I got there about four days before we left.” He paused for a bit and then added, “Y’know, I was surprised I never saw you around the Pokécenter or at the gym or anything.”

“Yeah… I spent most of my time at the campsite near the start of Route 6…” I mumbled, feeling slightly embarrassed.

“Catching Pokémon?” came the immediate reply.

I snorted. “You know I can’t buy Pokéballs.”

“No, but what you could’ve done was ask some random trainer to go buy them for you, and hope they don’t report you to the—”

“Thanks for the advice—I’ll file that away under ‘what not to do.’ But what about you, did you catch anyone new?”

“You bet! I got a Spearow and a Nidoran, and they’re made of awesome, and now I’m up to four Pokémon,” Rudy said, his voice slowing dramatically near the end.

“Oh yeah? Pretty cool. Although…”—I suppressed a snicker—“I seem to recall you saying—what was it again?—that you’d find Mew and team up to defeat the Legendary birds within the first month of your—” I had to stop because I was laughing too hard and he was smacking my arm with a fist repeatedly.

“Oh, oh yeah, and then at the League, the Johto guardians would be so impressed by your feat that they’d ask if they could join you, and—”

“Hey I never said any of that… and if I did I was like ten!” Rudy said quickly, his face reddening. “Besides, I’m doing better than you, aren’t I? Four against three, so there. And hey, that reminds me—how come I never saw you on the S.S. Anne? I wanted to battle you during the trainer’s party but couldn’t really find you.”

“I… spent most of the night in my room, actually,” I said sheepishly. I had forgotten about how I’d needed to hide after Chibi and I had discovered the Rockets.

Chibi. That’s right—the Rockets, they had… The thought was painful. He’d been captured because he saved me. And I’d just let them take him? Why hadn’t I done anything about it?

I was too lost in thought to pay close attention to what Rudy was saying after that. He went on about seeing me while in the ocean and trying to get my attention, but me not seeing him. In an instant, my memory flashed back to last night, and I immediately blurted out, “What made the storm clear?”

Rudy stopped and gaped at me. “You mean you didn’t see it?”

“No,” I replied a little uneasily. His tone made it sound like no one in their right mind would have missed it.

“It was a little creepy, but way awesome,” he said. “This dark shadow seemed to block out everything, even the moonlight, and there was a giant gust of wind and then suddenly the storm stopped and the waves calmed down. Then this huge… thing dove down into the water. It was so fast, I couldn’t tell what it was.”

The excitement plastered all over his face was almost too much to bear. It was enough to actually make me feel jealous that I hadn’t seen it happen, although Rudy was the one who had always wanted to run into super-powerful Pokémon. Then again… that dark figure I had seen in the water… could that have been the same thing Rudy had seen?

At this point, it seemed like everyone had finished transferring over to the new ship. I found myself idly wondering where we’d be headed, then heard a voice calling out through a microphone.

“Everyone here was given a specialty invite to the Pokémon trainer’s party. Those who managed to complete the invite-only event onboard the S.S. Anne were meant to be rewarded with enrollment into an exclusive training internship. In light of what happened… that event will no longer be taking place. Enrollment will be open to all of you, and we’ve been requested to send you all there now. But first, we need to relay the following message,” one of the rescue staff said. He paused for a few seconds, taking a deep breath before saying, “There’s no doubt that having to flee the S.S. Anne like that was a terrible ordeal for young trainers like yourselves to face. It’s advised that you think carefully about the special training you signed up for, and decide if you still wish to go through with it. If not, you should resume your training journey. Thank you.”

His words were like a cold splash of reality, right in the face. A reminder that even though we’d survived, joining Stalker’s team would only mean facing even more horrible situations like last night.

The announcement brought scattered murmuring amongst the trainers, and now that I looked around at all of them, I could see traces of doubt and regret streaking their faces. And, even worse… my heart crumpled inward when I saw a few of the kids crying softly away from the main group. The crushing realization slowly hit me—I had gotten lucky. I hadn’t even known that Rudy was on the ship, and both of us had gotten off alive anyway. But some of the trainers had to have lost friends when the S.S. Anne sank.

Time froze as a small number of kids scattered amongst the crowd made the slow walk off of the transfer boat with an almost tangible air of shame. Several others, upon seeing that they wouldn’t be alone in leaving, hurriedly stood to their feet and followed suit.

“Well… I know it’ll be dangerous, but… that’s the reason I joined. Fighting those guys and saving the Legendaries? I’m not giving up something like that. I can’t turn my back on something like that,” Rudy said with a decisive tone. His words had a slight edge, though. Like he was desperately trying to persuade himself that it was the right decision.

I already knew there was no going back for me. I couldn’t return to my old life, knowing what I knew now. This was my chance to make a difference. Had to keep telling myself that.

Around fifty kids were still on board. After several minutes had passed from the time of the announcement, the majority of the staff left the ship as well, leaving just a single young man behind.

“We’ve managed to secure a teleporter who has your destination memorized,” he said. “They’ll be sending you there two at a time, so please line up and wait your turn.” At his words, an Alakazam stepped forward alongside him. The golden humanoid, twiddled a pair of spoons in its claws and surveyed us with a bored expression before gesturing to the trainers at the front of the group. The first two kids walked forward uncertainly, and Alakazam touched a spoon to each of their shoulders before disappearing in a sudden flash of shimmering light. Around twenty seconds later it reappeared alone with a similar flash.

It would probably take over twenty trips for all of us, and after the first five or so, the psychic was already looking tired and had to drink some Ether. Wherever we were headed, it must have been pretty far for the jumps to tire the psychic out that much.

After around ten minutes of this, my turn came up. I stepped forward, feeling a small twinge of anxiety in the back of my head. This was my first time teleporting, and I honestly had no idea what to expect. A spoon tapped my shoulder. A tingling sensation quickly spread across my skin, my surroundings melting into rippling waves of light. Then, just as suddenly as it came, the feeling left, and the world suddenly snapped back into clear view. That was it? It was a lot smoother than I’d been expecting.

I glanced around at my new surroundings and found myself… on a dock. But it was obviously a completely different one—the sea was to the west rather than south, and the coastline was rocky and forested. Not to mention the nearby town was a lot smaller than Fuchsia. I still had absolutely no idea where we were though.

The Alakazam gave a nod before disappearing from view, and I jumped off to the side so I wouldn’t be in the way of the next trainer to arrive. Rudy appeared not long after I did, and within a few more minutes we were all here, stuck together in a large group and wandering vaguely towards town. As was typical of trainers, our group eventually honed in on the local Pokémon Center.

The center was small (it probably didn’t have to accommodate many trainers most of the time), so there was no way we were all going to fit inside. The lead nurse at the front counter blinked in surprise at our sudden arrival, but then she said, “You must be the specialty training group I was told about. If you follow the road that leads north to the edge of town, you’ll find Midnight Stadium, where your training program will be held.”

Midnight Stadium… so that was our destination. But then, where were we anyway?

“Where are we?” one of the kids blurted out before I had worked out whether or not it would look too stupid to ask.

The nurse gave an amused half-smile. “Midnight Island, just off the coast from Lavender Town.”

I wasn’t the only one who craned their neck to get a glimpse of the map on the side wall, as I had never heard of either of those two locations. It took me some time to locate Lavender Town on the large map of Kanto that adorned the wall, as it was a very small town on Kanto’s eastern coast. Sure enough, a tiny island alongside its shore was labeled Midnight Island.

“Why couldn’t he have just told us that to begin with?” Rudy complained as we made our way outside.

“The Rockets found out that we were meeting on the S.S. Anne, so if the headquarters hadn’t been a secret, they’d probably have targeted it too,” I said, a little exasperated.

Rudy gaped at me. “Wait, that was Team Rocket who sank the ship last night? How do you know?”

“I was there; I fought them, and—” I suddenly realized it. Swift and Firestorm—they’d been in their Pokéballs all night ever since I had to jump overboard. I retrieved the minimized spheres from my pocket and opened them, releasing the two Pokémon. I actually had to do a bit of a double take upon seeing Firestorm emerge from the ball—I still wasn’t used to seeing him in his larger, red-scaled form. Apparently, Rudy was surprised too, because—

“Whoa—your Charmander evolved? Awesome!” he exclaimed.

“Yup,” I answered, and I couldn’t help grinning. My face fell when I saw that Swift was still beaten and bruised from last night’s battle, though.

“Crap, do you have a potion?” I asked Rudy. He rummaged in his bag before pulling one out, and I immediately sprayed down Swift’s limp wings and crumpled feathers. The injuries weren’t too serious—within a few seconds, the Pidgey shook his head and made a relieved chirp.

“*How did we make it back to dry land?*” Firestorm asked, looking up at me expectantly. “*The ocean sounds like an awful place. Did you have to swim through it?*”

I was about to answer, but then Rudy cut in, “Okay, hang on Jade, you’ve gotta tell me—you battled Rockets? How’d you even know they were there?”

I sighed before launching into the events of the previous night. From when Chibi and I had eavesdropped on the Rockets to when Manectric initiated the automatic detonation. I explained everything as we walked down the road that led out of town, which eventually turned into a dirt road as the buildings grew sparse. I realized about halfway through my story that every trainer standing near us had now ceased their own conversations to listen in, but by that point I didn’t care if I had an audience.

The sun had climbed higher into the sky by the time we arrived at a wide coliseum on the edge of the forest. It was a lot smaller than the stadiums I’d seen on TV, but still larger than any building in town. The sign on the front read “Midnight Stadium” in dramatic purple lettering.

The front doors automatically opened as we approached, so the fifty or so trainers made their way slowly inside. We entered a large waiting room with a desk at the far end and two hallways branching off to the left and right. Posters of countless League events and training programs covered the far wall, while large computer panels lined the sides, most likely used for tournament registration or accessing the online storage system.

“Everyone line up facing the front counter.”

I almost jumped at the loud, booming voice that seemed to come from nowhere, realizing a moment later that it must have come from speakers. We all glanced around in bewilderment for a few seconds before arranging ourselves in several horizontal lines—I recalled Swift and Firestorm and took my place in the back line. At both far corners of the room, I spotted the cameras that were likely watching right now.

After some time, the voice came again. “Forty-eight. That’s how many of you survived the attack and still had the determination to come here.” It was a young voice, but it sounded hardened… mature… I recognized it from our previous meetings.

Footsteps echoed off the side hallways. We all held our breath in anticipation as Stalker walked into view, wearing the black mask and long cloak.

“You had to endure far more than you should have in order to get here,” he said. “But now you’re here. You’ll all become valuable allies in the fight against Team Rocket.” And with that, he removed his mask and cloak.

It was easy to sense the group’s surprise from the revelation that he was probably not much older than eighteen. Still, he gave off the impression of someone much older and more mature; in a strange sort of way, I felt childish by comparison. He surveyed the group with icy blue eyes and a reserved expression.

“So…” he said after some time. “You all have seen my face, so now I’m in the same position as you. If Team Rocket learns my identity, I’ll be done for. But I want to be on equal terms with all of you, so I believe it’s worth it.” He paused heavily, giving us time to process it all. “I’m sure all the secrets surrounding this were frustrating. I had thought that keeping you in the dark and having you gather together, surrounded by ordinary trainers just like you, would be the best way to keep you safe. I never expected the Rockets to go so far… just to get to me.” At this point, several of the trainers—the ones who had overheard my account of the previous night—now glanced back at me.

“You can call me Stalker,” he announced. No one commented on the strangeness of this. “And this is Midnight Stadium. It’s commonly rented for specialty training programs and casual non-League tournaments, so none of the locals will find it odd that there are so many of you here. Just remember to say that’s why you’re here if any of them ask.”

Stalker paused to make sure everyone was listening, but he hardly needed to—we were all hanging on every word. “The first thing to do is get you signed up. I’ve got the registration computers here connected to my own personal database.” He motioned to the large screens covering the front walls of the lobby. “Once you’re done, you should familiarize yourself with the battlefield while I finalize the Rocket information with everyone one-on-one. And then after that…”—he gave what was probably the first smile I’d seen from him—“then we can get started on that training.”






~End Chapter 8~
Not the best place to end the chapter, but the alternative was ending it on page 23. This means we’ll be having a couple of slow chapters in a row, but the upcoming arc unfortunately requires a ton of new information. I can say that Chapter 10 was a fan favorite, though.
 
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Namohysip

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You know, all things considered, I don't think this was a particularly bad chapter as you had been worrying about on discord. Yeah, there was definitely a tonal shift, but I think whatever revisions or adjustments you may have done either now or prior helped to make that shift a bit more gradual. I actually don't have a whole lot to complain about in terms of the broad strokes of how this chapter played out, except for--oh, right. One thing.

I think the first half had way too much narration. Like, I understand why, but particularly during the part where Jade was trying to get to the Gyarados, I feel like you could have slipped in a few lines like, "Get on!" or "You alright?" or, "Th-thanks, thank..." or things like that to ground the scene, instead of it being a sort of strange silence, which I feel might not necessarily be the case if that actually happened. Humans love to communicate, after all.

That aside, I don't have any major qualms, though I do notice that you did the whole thing with Stalker's reveal again where he was young, yet "seemed commanding," but I still have no idea what that actually looks like.

A hand firmly grasped my right hand,
Maybe "someone firmly grasped" so you don't have hand twice.

the only thing I saw was a pair of glowing blue eyes
Oh hi Lugia, fancy meeting you here. I think. Explains the storm at least, but whatcha doin' by this boat?

“To make things more convenient, you’ll be teleporting there,”
Wait. wait wait wait wait WAIT, WHAT?! You can DO THAT? Wh--wait a minute, then why did any of that boat stuff happen in the first place if they could've just covertly teleported there or something? If distance is a factor, why not just do some relays or something, instead of going on a very public and very Titanic ship? Or maybe have some kind of relay system to get that going, I dunno. Heck, Stalker's rich, right? Why not purchase those tickets as decoys, and then warp them over while the Rockets think the trainers are there, only to see that it was basically a half-empty boat?

At the very least, I would've liked if Jade acknowledged that in some way, because wow that was my immediate thought. Also, that reminds me -- the rescue boats coming suspiciously soon. If Stalker knew that the Rockets were going to attack, wouldn't he have done something else? That definitely puts a few sus pegs on Stalker right now until I see a better explanation, because that was too coordinated, especially with my above statements about Teleport.

How did we make it back to dry land?
Ah, okay, I think this confirms something that I've been trying to fully deduce for a while, and it seems that Pokeball mechanics in this one behave as full-stasis. I think this used to be ambiguous up until Gen 7 when it was jossed, but eh, as long as the rulesets are consistent or have ways that it can be bent, or something like that, I guess it's fine.

Small rant incoming, though, if only because I can't help but put my two cents on the matter, though. I'm sure you've heard it all by now, but I've never been a fan of "stasis" approaches to how they work, let alone ones where they can't free themselves, mostly because it almost always puts the shaft to the Pokemon characters. I'm starting to notice that here especially, where the Pokemon characters had very little spotlight, instead focusing on the human characters. Yeah, I'm biased, but I just wanted to point it out that Firestorm and Swift being "in stasis" and not really keeping up with the plot is a huge disappointment for me. I'm not sure if they're vaguely aware of their surroundings while inside, or if they're just sleeping, but... egh. I just don't care for it. Lots of things about it rub me the wrong way, but what I mentioned above is probably my most objective reasons behind it. It's just a me thing, of course.

Anyway, curious about how this training will go, and perhaps finally some longer interactions with Stalker in the next chapter.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
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somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
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pikachu-chibi
Yeah, there was definitely a tonal shift, but I think whatever revisions or adjustments you may have done either now or prior helped to make that shift a bit more gradual.
I did make a few tweaks to the tone and the pacing, in addition to the metric butt ton of passive voice and filter phrases that I already removed earlier this year (the narration used to be a slog in this chapter. I think Negrek's Serebii review for this chapter was like five pages long.)

That aside, I don't have any major qualms, though I do notice that you did the whole thing with Stalker's reveal again where he was young, yet "seemed commanding," but I still have no idea what that actually looks like.
Ah, we did get this description of him in Chapter 1, I just didn't want to repeat it:

"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."

But mostly I'm just really bad at describing people, so I'm not surprised it didn't stick.

Oh hi Lugia, fancy meeting you here. I think. Explains the storm at least, but whatcha doin' by this boat?
The reason definitely isn't really old and stupid and will never come up again! :V

Wait. wait wait wait wait WAIT, WHAT?! You can DO THAT? Wh--wait a minute, then why did any of that boat stuff happen in the first place if they could've just covertly teleported there or something?
Ding ding ding! You found the reason why this chapter took two years to write! :D (Well, actually, one year to write, another year sitting on it unwilling to post it.)

Here's the longest Tumblr rant I wrote about it. (It's missing the whole teleport thing, but that was a last-minute addition to shorten the chapter, and the plot hole still exists even without it.) But yeah, after having already published Chapter 7, I came to the realization that the S.S. Anne arc probably should not exist. I spent those years talking about it with anyone who would listen, but we never came up with a solution. Finally, I just swallowed my shame and posted the chapter.

In the years since then, I have toyed with a few tentative solutions. One was the idea that there was supposed to be an announcement for a special event on the ship, to get all the Special Invite holders into a private room where they would be out of sight from any potential spies, then they would teleport to Midnight Island from there. (And I still think this could mayyybe work, I just haven't hashed out the details yet.)

I'm sure the reason you zeroed in on this immediately is because your fic goes into such detail with teleporting, but before this chapter, I had literally forgotten that teleport exists lmao. The rest of the fic will go on to use it a lot, lot more.

I'm sure you've heard it all by now, but I've never been a fan of "stasis" approaches to how they work, let alone ones where they can't free themselves, mostly because it almost always puts the shaft to the Pokemon characters.
Huh! I actually haven't heard this before! Full-stasis (or rather, a dreamlike haze) has been the prevailing headcanon in trainer fics for a very long time (though apparently Gen 7 borked that? I must've missed it lol.) And this fic generally places a lot, lot more importance on the Pokémon characters than most trainer fics--that's why I've been so staunchly adamant about the whole fully-translated Pokéspeech thing (despite several reviewers suggesting I tone it down back in the day.) The main reason this arc didn't have a whole lot of Firestorm or Swift was because the purpose of this arc was to strip Jade of her support and have her go at things (mostly) alone. Since the next arc is about leaning to fight as a team, that's where we'll see a lot more of them.

Thanks for the review! Got me wanting to reply super-fast since you hit a lot of interesting stuff in this one, heh.
 
Chapter 9: The Rebellion Begins

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
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Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
Time for... what used to be the other half of Chapter 8! Which means it's also not my favorite. Oh well, only one more chapter before we finally hit the first mission arc!



~Chapter 9: The Rebellion Begins~


I had seen plenty of indoor battlefields on TV, but being inside one was an entirely different experience, even if Midnight Stadium was a lot smaller than the stadiums used for the Indigo League. The battlefield area was a huge, flat space with a smooth, densely-packed clay surface. Sheer concrete walls at least twenty feet high surrounded the entire area, and above that the audience seats were arranged in rows extending backward to the outer edge of the stadium. The ceiling was currently shut, though the surrounding machinery probably meant that it was capable of being opened.

Most of the kids had finished signing up in the lobby and had moved on the battlefield by now. I glanced around for Rudy, since he’d gotten registered before me, only to see that he had already located an opponent for a practice battle. I couldn’t help laughing a bit at his impatience. He was literally bouncing up and down as he pointed forward and yelled for his Spearow to attack.

“Hey there,” a voice behind me said.

I whirled around to see who it was and found myself looking down at a smaller kid, maybe a year or two younger than me. He had straight, dirty-blond hair, light blue eyes, and was currently giving me an “I know something you don’t” sort of grin.

Did I know him? His face did seem vaguely familiar, but I wasn’t sure why. He obviously knew I didn’t recognize him, but seemed content to wait until I figured it out. Where had I seen him before?

Oh right… he was that kid I’d seen when boarding the S.S. Anne. Meeting him was the first proof that there were other recruits on the ship.

“Oh, it’s you.” I said blankly. “Er, hello you.”

“Mm, close, but actually my name is Darren, not ‘you,’” he said matter-of-factly. “But anyways, how was the S.S. Anne trip for you? My team and I had fun. Well… aside from the sudden ending. I don’t think anyone much cared for that part.” Even though he was clearly being sarcastic, he said it with the same sort of tone that you’d use for something dead serious, which was a little off-putting.

“Can’t complain really. Fighting Rockets at 3am is one of my favorite things to do,” I said dryly.

“Ah, you too? I guess we’re in the right place for that, yeah,” he said, nodding his head in a “that makes sense” sort of way. I raised an eyebrow. He paused for a second before saying, “Yeah okay, actually… I don’t think I’d say fighting Rockets is my favorite thing. That’s probably not true. It’s okay if it’s yours though. I won’t judge.”

I really wanted to ask him to stop using that tone, but how do you ask something like that?

“So anyway, want to battle?” Darren asked, suddenly pulling out a Pokéball. I was really gonna have to get used to that being the default greeting for Pokémon trainers.

“Oh, uh… sure?” I retrieved my Pokéballs to let out Swift and Firestorm with a flash. I then had to mentally smack myself—you weren’t supposed to let out your whole team for a battle. Was this seriously my first ‘normal’ Pokémon battle?

“Oh. Or we could show off our team first… that works too,” Darren said, shrugging. I was about to say that I’d just made a mistake, but he had already grabbed two more Pokéballs and opened them along with the first one. When the light faded, an Ivysaur, Sandshrew, and Psyduck now stood before me.

“Cool, so you started out with Bulbasaur, right?” I hadn’t seen its evolved form up close before. As I knelt to get a better look at it, the flower-backed reptile drew itself up proudly and shook its leaves.

“Yeah, ever since he evolved he’s been kind of a showoff,” Darren said, rubbing the back of his head. “It’s even worse when we’re battling and he thinks someone’s watching.” Ivysaur folded his ears back and shot his trainer a glare for that comment. Darren ignored him and continued, “So, are we still gonna have that battle?”

“Oh. Uh, sure, we can battle. I’ll use…” I trailed off as I looked over my two Pokémon. Firestorm was obviously stronger now, which meant I should use—“Swift.”

Firestorm’s face fell immediately. “*What? I wanted to—*”

“You evolved last night, let’s give Swift a chance to catch up, yeah?” The Charmeleon didn’t much care for my explanation and folded his arms with a sulky expression. Swift glanced back and forth between Firestorm and me, looking conflicted.

I waved a hand dismissively. “Ignore him, this is your turn.”

The Pidgey blinked in surprise but then nodded before fluttering forward to stand between Darren and me.

“Alright… I’ll use Sandshrew then!” Darren called out, pointing forward. The yellow-scaled Pokémon at his heels struck a triumphant pose before leaping in front, baring its claws with an aggressive smirk that didn’t seem to fit such a small creature.

First real battle… okay. Didn’t have to worry about dying if I lost, so there was no reason to stress out over it. No reason to forget everything I’d ever learned in battling class.

Except I’d learned nothing from battling class.

“Sandshrew, use Defense Curl!” Darren ordered.

Crap, I had to order an attack! What moves did Swift even know? There couldn’t be that many—he hadn’t been trained before.

“Uh, use Quick Attack!”

Faster than I could see, Swift took off from the ground and shot forward like a bullet, striking Sandshrew dead-on and sending it reeling backwards. But as Swift pulled out of the dive, the yellow shrew quickly regained itself and rolled its body into a tightly curled ball.

“Alright, we got the first hit, now follow it up with a Tackle!” I shouted, already feeling my heart pound with excitement.

Swift swooped back around and aimed for his opponent again, this time going for a full-body slam rather than a quick passing strike. The Pidgey slammed headlong into Sandshrew, but the thick-scaled Pokémon was braced to endure the hit—the impact barely moved it.

“What? But why…?” I muttered.

“*Defense curl toughened its body. It won’t be hurt easily now,*” Swift observed.

Darren grinned. “Alright, now go for a Rollout!”

I just had the chance to see the ground-type’s hide turn rough and rocklike before it rotated at high speed and took off rolling across the stadium floor like a boulder. Swift was flying overhead, so there wasn’t any way he could get hit, right? Wrong—Sandshrew used its momentum to leap off the ground and hurtle through the air, aiming right for him. Tilting a wing, Swift banked to the left at the last second as Sandshrew barreled past. I would have sighed in relief if I weren’t still staring, unsure of what to do now. So Swift wasn’t safe in the air. What was the best option now? I’d have to order an attack if we were to get anywhere.

“Go for another hit, Sandshrew!”

Crap, I had to come up with something, anything. “Uh, Swift try another Quick Attack!” Maybe if he could hit Sandshrew before it hit him?

But Sandshrew was already mid-Rollout again. Swift glanced back at me with an uncertain look, but then dove forward too fast to see, closing in on the Rollout heading straight for him.

This was bad—Swift was going to get hit! Why had I told him to attack like that?!

I flinched hard when the two collided, but that didn’t block Swift’s pained cry as he tumbled backward, rolling along the stadium floor before coming to rest in a battered heap. I’d basically just told him to fly into a rock. Why?!

I grabbed his Pokéball, ready to recall him, but amazingly, the Pidgey was already standing to his feet, shaking his head to get his bearings. It had been a powerful hit, but it was the only hit he’d had to endure so far. So we might’ve still had a chance.

“Sandshrew, come back around for the second hit!” Darren called out, and I could have sworn its rocky armor grew a bit thicker. Was this attack seriously going to get stronger as the battle went on?

Swift glanced back at me expectantly. I stared at him, blank confusion plastered all over my face. He nodded softly, as if trying to say that I should do something. But whatever I said would only make things worse. My mind was racing, but it wasn’t coming up with anything at all. We only had a few seconds left!

Finally, Swift hung his head and turned back to face the oncoming Rollout. He stretched out his wings and hopped in place, waiting for it to get near to him. Then, at the very last second, he took off from the ground, letting the Rollout speed past. I watched with bated breath, knowing that it was about to turn around for another blow. But at that moment, Swift flapped his wings in a sudden frenzy, creating a blast of air that formed a spiraling whirlwind. Sandshrew’s rolling form had just leaped at Swift when the rush of wind swept under it and flung it around in the air, knocking the ground-type out of its balled-up position. It flailed its limbs in a panic, unable to resist being thrashed about by the whirlwind.

Of course—Gust. How could I have forgotten about that?

The Gust attack finally dissipated and Sandshrew was sent flying to the ground, too dizzy to land on its feet and instead crashing awkwardly on its back.

“Come on Sandshrew, launch a Poison Sting at it!”

But in that split second before it could regain itself, Swift dove forward too quickly to see and struck Sandshrew right in its vulnerable underbelly. The yellow-scaled Pokémon flew backward from the hit, and when it finally slid to a stop, it was clearly too dazed to move.

“Dang,” Darren said flatly. “I thought Rollout would make for an easy win.”

I’d won. But the victory didn’t feel like my own—I’d mostly just gotten in the way. I definitely had a lot more to learn from the training here than my team did. But then… the whole point of this was to make myself stronger, right?

Darren recalled his Sandshrew in a beam of light. “So I guess that’s the last time I’ll underestimate a Pidgey. Good job! Although,” —he laughed—“it kinda seemed like that was your first battle or something.”

I could feel my cheeks go red. I wasn’t sure if I should tell him that it was.

Swift had fluttered down to stand next to me, but he kept staring at the ground like he’d done something wrong.

“What’s up?” I asked.

He paused, unsure of how to put it. “*I used moves on my own. Is that allowed?*”

I almost laughed. “If your trainer doesn’t have a freaking clue what to do, you can’t just stand there, right?” The Pidgey blinked slowly, processing the thought.

“Hey Jade, I just got done with my battle, and—oh cool, you had a battle too? Nice! Who won?” Rudy said all at once, appearing from behind me and brimming with excitement.

“Swift won,” I answered. It would’ve been weird to say that I won.

“Awesome! Anyway, my plan is to like, at least double my Pokémon’s power within the first month here, and—” He stopped mid-sentence, eyeing Firestorm and Swift in confusion. “Hey, I just realized—where’s your Pikachu?”

My heart curled inward on itself, and I fought back the sudden urge to disappear from the conversation. Why did he have to ask about that? The memory burned a hole in my chest every time it came up. How could I have let the Rockets take Chibi? Why couldn’t I stop them? Why?

After several seconds, I finally replied, “He left. I told you I didn’t think he’d stay with me.”

“Aw… your cool Pikachu left?” Darren said, frowning. “I liked him.”

“That sucks. So now you only have two Pokémon?” Rudy asked.

I nodded, really hoping we could get off this topic as soon as possible. I got my wish when a large amount of the surrounding conversation died down suddenly. After a few seconds’ glancing around in confusion, I realized that Stalker had walked through the entrance to the battlefield, causing everyone in a twenty-foot radius around him to pause in silent anticipation.

“There’s no need to be like that. We’re all teammates now,” Stalker said, motioning for everyone to relax. “I asked a few people individually if they knew anything more detailed about what happened on the S.S. Anne. Some of them have mentioned hearing one of you say you were there during the Rockets’ mission.” He paused expectantly.

I glanced around the battlefield. Right… it looked like I’d have to reveal my actions. Hesitantly, I raised my hand into the air. Stalker scanned the crowd for a few seconds until his eyes fell on me. He then said, “Alright, come to my office.”

I hadn’t really been expecting that. I gave Rudy and Darren a bewildered shrug before motioning for Swift and Firestorm to follow me, only to be met with a wide-eyed look of disappointment from the latter.

“Oh fine, stay with Rudy and Darren if you want to battle so much, sheesh,” I said, waving a hand dismissively. Swift opted to stay too, though it was clear that he planned on observing more than taking part.

Everyone’s eyes were on me the whole time I walked to the front of the battlefield, though the only stare that mattered was Stalker’s. His expression was impossible to make out, which only fueled the prickles of anxiety starting to fill the back of my head. When I reached him, he simply nodded before turning and walking back up the stairs leading to the main entrance. I followed him out of the battlefield and back into the lobby before he turned down the right hallway and opened the first door we came to, motioning for me to enter. The room was fairly small, and taken up mostly by a large desk that was currently covered in a wide array of computer hardware, all hooked up to a laptop. Above the desk was a bookshelf that, at a glance, seemed to mostly involve Pokémon training and mythology. The few pictures on the walls were illustrations of Legendary Pokémon.

“So…” he said, sitting down at the desk. “I don’t know what you were involved with or how much you know. Can you tell me?” His voice was inquisitive but still had a firm tone like I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

I took a seat in a small black chair across from him, unable to keep from feeling at least a bit nervous at the idea of telling him what I’d done. I paused for several seconds, then finally said, “Alright.” And with that I recounted—for the second time that day—the story of my clash with the Rockets. He stayed silent the whole time, his expression inscrutable. When I finished telling it, he didn’t say anything, but simply sat there with a look of deep concentration on his face, carefully mulling everything over. I had to admit, I was feeling kind of anxious to hear what he thought of the whole incident. Heck, it would probably impact the role I would play on the team.

“So. You and a renegade experiment managed to stop them. You did what needed to be done, given the circumstances. I wouldn’t have expected that kind of initiative from you.” I tilted my head, unsure of how I was supposed to respond to that. He continued, “I’ll have to wait until the mission report to know for sure. But from the Rockets’ point of view, they either were able to take me and most of the rebels out, or send a strong message of ‘this is what happens if you try to oppose us.’ So either way, they’ll view it as a win.” He didn’t mention why the Rockets would have been so desperate to get at him, but I didn’t have the nerve to ask.

“So, enough about that. I might as well get you registered for Team Rocket now.” I almost laughed at how bizarrely matter-of-fact that statement was in this situation. He flipped open his laptop and began typing on it. “Your name?”

“Oh, uh, Jade Arens.”

He looked over his screen for a bit before saying, “Mm, here you are. Now, for your Rocket ID, I’ll be randomizing your name, birthday, hometown, and Rocket initiation, so…”—he paused to click a few things—“it looks like from now on, you’re Allie Farias from Cerulean City; first registered at Northern HQ, born on the 6th of September, 2983. Once you get your ID, you should memorize all of the information so you don’t slip up when an executive asks you about yourself. There are other things like evaluation status, rank, department, and commanding officer, but those aren’t the sort of info I can fake—they’ll be assigned to you when you make your first trip to an actual Rocket base.”

“How many bases are there?” I asked.

“There are four major ones in Kanto,” he replied. “Northern HQ near Cerulean, Financial HQ in Saffron, Operations HQ in Celadon, and Main HQ in Viridian.”

Viridian. The main headquarters for Team Rocket was in my hometown, and our representative gym leader was its boss. As if I needed more reason to take the fight against Team Rocket personally.

“I just need your photo now,” Stalker said, and I nodded. He tapped on a few things with his laptop, and it clicked when the picture was taken. “That should be everything for now. I’ll hand out everyone’s IDs before your first mission. By the way… you don’t have a trainer’s license yet, do you?” he asked.

“No.” My voice was a bit hollow.

“Mm, then you wouldn’t have gotten a room number registered to your license when you signed up. You’ll need this,” he said, handing me a small plastic card. “It’s a card key for a room here. And since I’m renting the stadium and letting everyone stay in it for free, you won’t be paid as much as I had originally intended,” he added.

“Paid?” I asked. We’d get… money for this? It hadn’t occurred to me that we’d be paid to fight Team Rocket.

“Of course. And depending on how well you act the part of a loyal, contributing member, you’ll get paid by Team Rocket, too.”

“You have… no idea how great that sounds,” I said with more than a little relief in my voice.

“Low on cash, I take it?”

“Yeah, I spent it all while waiting in Vermilion,” I said sheepishly.

Chuckling slightly, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a billfold before tossing a 5000p note onto the table. “Can’t have my team members starving. And I owe you for what happened on the S.S. Anne.”

I stared at it. “Seriously?”

He gave me a hard look and said, “Take it.”

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

My feet dragged against the road as I trudged back from my trip downtown, backpack loaded up with both groceries and Pokémon food. Sweat poured down my face, making me even more uncomfortably aware of how high the sun had climbed. And it wasn’t even high noon yet. But the air on Midnight Island was thick and stifling and not at all like the mountain breezes I was used to in Viridian. Part of me wished that I had made Firestorm come with so I could have had someone else help carry what I’d bought, but it was too late to do anything about it now.

A wave of relief swept over me as the stadium came into view, and I would have run the rest of the way if my legs weren’t still dead from last night. I was tempted to take the groceries up to my room and eat there, but Swift and Firestorm were probably just as hungry as I was. And so, ignoring the part of my brain that kept whispering promises of a shower and pillows, I walked straight to the battlefield.

It didn’t take long to find my Pokémon, even amongst the numerous battles still taking place. Swift was easy to spot, practicing some aerial maneuvers in a relatively empty corner of the battlefield. And below him was Firestorm, sitting on the ground with a miserable look on his face while Darren sprayed him all over with a potion.

Darren waved when he spotted me. “Hey Jade, I’m just healing him up after that last battle.”

The Charmeleon stared up at me with a sulky expression. “*I lost to Ivysaur. Ivysaur. I feel humiliated.*”

Darren gave me a helpless look. “I… tried to tell him that he’d be at a disadvantage without a trainer to strategize for him.”

Ivysaur muttered something that sounded suspiciously like, “*Even with a trainer, he’d have still lost,*” but luckily Firestorm didn’t hear him.

“*I want a rematch,*” the fire lizard said, standing up the instant Darren was done healing him.

“No, you don’t. Food. Now,” I said flatly, gesturing to my backpack. “Come on, let’s find a place to sit down.” I gave a small wave to Darren before heading off to the stairway leading to the audience stands, Swift flying close behind and Firestorm dragging his heels.

The view from the stands let me look out over all of the rebels in the battlefield, and from the looks of their Pokémon, most of them were about the same skill level. Over half of the trainers had the middle stage of their starter Pokémon: Ivysaur, Charmeleon, or Wartortle, though there were a couple of trainers who still hadn’t evolved theirs yet—Rudy among them. Quite a few trainers had the common bird Pokémon like Spearow, Pidgey, and Hoothoot or the common field Pokémon like Rattata, Sentret, Meowth, and Ekans. But every so often I spotted a trainer with a more uncommon team member like Magnemite, Slowpoke, Jigglypuff, and one kid who even had a Heracross.

I tore open the bags of Pokéchow and poured some out into a pair of plastic bowls I’d bought, then proceeded to hastily throw together a sandwich for myself. In between shoving fistfuls of food into his mouth, Firestorm mumbled, “*Never lost to any of the Bulbasaur at the starter house.*”

“Holy crap, are you still going on about that?” I asked, rolling my eyes. But the important bit of info in what he’d said jumped out at me. “Wait a second… did you say starter house?”

“*Yeah.*”

“As in, place where they raise starter Pokémon? You were a starter Pokémon?”

“*Yeah,*” the fire lizard said, as though nothing were more obvious.

“But then… why were you living in the forest? Did you get separated from your trainer, or did you never have one, or…” I trailed off.

Firestorm swallowed a mouthful of food and said, “*I had a trainer, yeah.*”

“…Had?”

He closed his eyes, as though he’d been expecting me to ask, but hoping I wouldn’t. “*We… only ever made it to the first city on our journey. That’s where I was stolen from him.*”

My mouth fell open. “Seriously?”

Firestorm nodded. “*I managed to escape eventually, but I couldn’t find him after that,*” he went on, a strange monotone to his voice. “*I didn’t have any choice other than running away into the woods.*”

I stared at the Charmeleon, lost for words. I never would have guessed that he’d gone through anything like that. I couldn’t think of anything to say that didn’t feel hollow and tactless. Finally, I managed to ask, “Did you ever go looking for any League officials? Even a Pokémon Center employee might have been able to help you find him.”

He shook his head. “*I was afraid to go back into the city again.*”

“I guess I can’t blame you for that… although it’s still sad. Now that I think of it, if I was able to capture you, then your old Pokéball must have been destroyed.”

Firestorm shrugged. “*Probably. I ended up meeting a group of Charmander living in the woods west of that city. I spent a long time there until… well, until that fire,*” he ended.

I nodded to show that I was paying attention, but I couldn’t think of anything more to say that didn’t feel empty. Then again, it had been a long time ago, and while he hadn’t wanted to tell me, he didn’t seem especially broken up by saying it. At least the revelation that he was a starter explained his behavior on the S.S. Anne.

“You know… I never did get to thank you,” I said distantly while lost in my thoughts. He looked up, confused. “For being so determined to protect me last night,” I clarified.

Firestorm stared at the ceiling. “*Pokémon are supposed to protect their trainers,*” he said simply. He then gave me a very serious look and said, “*But I wouldn’t have been able to keep them from shooting you.*”

I rubbed the back of my head a bit sheepishly. “I guess… but that situation was my fault. You can’t be expected to be able to save me from every impossible mess I get myself into.”

He didn’t respond—he just stared at the ground with a skeptical face, like he didn’t agree with what I’d just said, but couldn’t think of how to argue it.

“What about you, Swift? You’ve sure been quiet,” I said.

The Pidgey turned toward me quizzically. “*I don’t have anything to say.*”

I laughed. “Ah come on, I’m pretty sure you have a heck of a lot more on your mind than you let on.” At that comment, the feathers on his face ruffled with embarrassment, and he focused intently on his food bowl.

“C’mon. What are your thoughts on us being here?” I asked, giving him a light nudge. “It was my decision to come here, but you guys are affected by it too.”

“*I’m gonna get stronger right?*” Firestorm blurted out all of a sudden.

I slapped a hand to my forehead. “Yes, Firestorm, you’re gonna get stronger.”

“*I’d like to learn more about Pokémon battles,*” Swift said finally, looking up.

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

He paused thoughtfully. “*I want to understand all of the options in battle. It’s more complicated than just one attack and then another.*”

I sighed. “That’s what I’m afraid of. Even using the simulators at school—which are nothing like the real thing, they’re more evenly paced—I could never get a handle on anything other than just… random powerful attacks, one after the other. I also don’t know most Pokémon’s strengths and weaknesses—it’s too much to remember.”

“*Strengths and weaknesses?*” Swift asked, tilting his head. “*You mean how I would be harmed more by electricity than Firestorm?*”

“No, I mean like how some Pokémon species can take physical hits better than special hits, and vice versa. But not always—everyone’s different, and the trainer has to know everything about how their Pokémon fight, ‘cause that determines what the best moves are, and—” I was making the situation sound more hopeless by the second. “Man, I’m screwed.”

“*This is different from school. You’ll get it,*” Swift said, closing his eyes with a matter-of-fact nod.

I smiled weakly.

Firestorm was staring at the battlefield with a concerned expression, like he was still getting over the revelation that random power attacks were no way to battle properly.

I suddenly became aware that the trainers had begun to clear out the battlefield and were making their way up the stairs to the audience stands where I was sitting. Darren plopped down into a seat next to me without saying anything. Only a few seconds later, Rudy took the seat on my other side, saying way too many things.

“Oh man, what do you think the first lesson is gonna be, do you think he’s gonna use his Charizard, I’ve wanted to see that thing battle ever since I first saw him riding it, but then again, the rest of his team is probably awesome too, and—”

“You wanna try telling me what’s actually going on?” I asked.

Rudy paused, looking mildly embarrassed. “Oh, er… Stalker’s gonna start the first lesson, and he needed the battlefield empty for it.”

I turned to look down at the battlefield and saw that Stalker was now the only person down there. By now, everyone had found a seat and all eyes were focused completely on him. Even Firestorm had stopped sulking and was now staring intently.

“So, I’m sure the thing you’re all looking forward to most is your training,” Stalker said. “Getting stronger will be useful in more ways than one. As new members of Team Rocket, proving yourself worthwhile in combat will be the first step to making the Rockets view you as a valuable asset. This will increase how much of the team you have access to, which will make it easier to carry out your true mission of sabotaging them from the inside. As for the opposition…”

Stalker paced back and forth in front of us as he talked, considering his words carefully. “A lot of grunts are dropout trainers looking to make a quick buck. With enough training, you should be able to take them on. Officers, on the other hand… they’re ones most often called upon to fight rebels or Legendaries. To make it to that rank, they have to be skilled at taking down enemies, one way or another. In short, you don’t want to fight them.”

Here he paused, letting his words sink into us.

“But if you do find yourself fighting them… what do you think would be the best course of action?”

Honestly, I had no idea. I wasn’t sure if it was rhetorical or not either. A couple of the trainers discussed it amongst themselves for a minute before a kid two rows ahead of me stood up and said, “Exploit their weaknesses?”

Stalker gave a tiny smirk. “Not bad. But the answer, of course, is finding a way to escape.” A bunch of the trainers glanced back and forth at each other, murmuring confusedly. Our goal was to escape? How would that help us stop them?

Stalker closed his eyes and shook his head. “Until you’re decently experienced, you don’t actually want to be fighting any Rockets. The training for your Pokémon is just a general-purpose thing. The focus will be on your training, as a trainer. If you’re doing your job right, the Rockets should never even know you’re there.”

Everyone stared, and you could almost feel the disappointment. Stalker stared back at us coldly, content to wait until the group was done whispering its concerns.

“That being said…” he continued, “there are a few ways you can maximize your chance of success against a stronger opponent. How many of you watch League matches on TV?”

Well over half the kids around me raised their hands into the air. Even I had to admit that I’d watched them a couple times.

“How many of you watch matches from other regions?”

Everyone’s faces fell, and the majority of the hands sank slowly downward. Had I ever given more than a second glance to another region’s matches on TV? I couldn’t imagine I’d have ever cared—they used weird rules and their battles were hard to follow.

“I know that we’re awful fond of singles here. It’s the dominant format for all official battles in Kanto. But double battles are the primary format in Hoenn. Sinnoh runs a large number of tag battle tournaments. Unova has more than one format with six Pokémon on the field at once. These formats are collectively known as multi battles.” At this point, scattered bits of groaning could be heard from the kids around me.

“Come onnn… multi battles are confusing, don’t tell me we have to learn those,” someone called out.

“You’d better, if you want to stay alive.” That got everyone to shut up. “There’s a higher learning curve, but multi battles will let you get a lot more synergy out of your Pokémon.”

Everyone stared in silence. A lot of the trainers had that look like they wanted to protest, but couldn’t figure out how to without being shut down.

Stalker continued, “You’ll need synergy. It’s one of the things that can let you take down a foe with stronger Pokémon, which for the first couple months will be everyone. If you only have one Pokémon out, an enemy Rocket that is confident enough might only send one to meet you. But that is not always the case. If they send out more, you need to be ready to have a multi battle with them. It might be uneven.” My mind wandered back to the battles with Tyson and the executive. Huge melees with many Pokémon per side. It had been impossible for me to keep track of all the action. But after training here, would I be able to? Ajia had been able to keep her cool even in such a chaotic fight, and if I could reach that level too…

“I know this is hard to believe. So I’ll prove it to you—watch this battle.” And with that, Stalker pulled out four Pokéballs—two in each hand—and tossed one pair toward each side of the battlefield.

On the left side, two dragons emerged, one of which was the Charizard I’d seen him riding several times. The fire lizard flapped its wings and took to the air, swinging its flame-tail aggressively and exhaling scattered embers with each breath. The second was a tall, bulky, golden-scaled dragon with small teal wings, and the moment I registered what it was, my jaw fell open. A Dragonite. He actually had a Dragonite on his team. One of the rarest and most powerful Pokémon around, and the hardest to train at that.

Facing them down on the opposing side was a pair of armored dinosaur Pokémon. The first one, a Tyranitar (another rare and powerful Pokémon!) took a low bow before drawing itself proudly up to its full height, showing off the impressive spikes jutting from its green, rock-armor plating. Its partner, on the other hand, was clad in metallic plating with a trio of horns atop its head. It swung its heavy black tail side to side, looking excited to start the fight

A wave of murmuring filled the stands, and it wasn’t hard to see why—the latter side had the overwhelming advantage. Even I knew that two rock-types against two flying-types was a bad matchup. And Charizard was a fire-type too! Its flames would barely do anything here.

Stalker motioned to each of the four combatants in turn. “Charizard and Dragonite versus Tyranitar and Aggron. Battle start.”

Not even a second later, Charizard roared and began flapping its wings, sending a rush of superheated air toward the opposing side of the field, cloaking the armored dinosaurs in a haze of shimmering heat. Tyranitar regained itself first and stomped the ground, tearing loose chunks of rock and sending them hurtling through the air at the dragons. Aggron staggered backward from the first attack, parts of its armor glowing red-hot from the heat, but after a few seconds’ hesitation, it also managed to send a Rock Slide at its opposition.

Alright, so Charizard had been fast enough to get the first move off, but what was it supposed to do now? There was no way it could dodge all those rocks. But for some reason… it didn’t even look like it was planning to? Behind it, Dragonite had begun twisting and turning in midair, making a sort of rhythmic, tight-circled flight. Sparkling red and green embers quickly started to sweep across its body. At the last second, Charizard dove forward in front of the oncoming rocks and folded its wings tightly around its body. A shimmering translucent wall of white energy instantly formed in front of the fire lizard. I stared in awe—rocks smashed into the wall one after another, but none could even touch Charizard. Its partner was struck by a few of the more far-flung boulders, but didn’t look nearly as hurt by them as I’d have imagined.

Darren leaned over and whispered to me, “Oh man, I think Dragonite just used Dragon Dance. It’s gonna be way faster and stronger now. Ha, the other side better take it down fast or they’re screwed.”

I still couldn’t get over the fact that both dragons were still in the fight. I had thought for sure that the double Rock Slide was going to be the end of it.

Aggron charged forward toward the opposition, gathering a huge amount of flashing red energy around its head. Tyranitar stood its ground and took a deep breath before blasting out a jagged blue beam of ice crystals—what, Ice Beam? Seriously? Tyranitar could use Ice Beam? Dragonite didn’t look concerned, though. The bulky dragon just swooped low over the battlefield, folding its wings around itself, and then the same shining wall of energy formed in front of it. Jagged strings of icy energy shot off the barrier when the Ice Beam struck, but not a single one could touch Dragonite. Not a second later, Aggron smashed its head into the dragon with a sickening crack… and somehow the barrier absorbed the entire force of the attack? What?

A giant orb of blue and white energy flew in from the side, striking Tyranitar while it was preoccupied with its attack. The spiked dinosaur recoiled backward, howling in pain before sinking to its knees from the shock of the blast. I turned my head to the left side of the battlefield to see Charizard’s claws glowing faintly from having launched the orb.

Charizard was the one who had done it. Charizard had brought Tyranitar to its knees. It didn’t seem possible, but I’d just watched it happen.

Dragonite took that opportunity to shoot back into the air, its small wings carrying it impossibly fast. Without warning, it dove down and slammed its feet into the ground, letting loose a shock wave that rippled out from its center. The waves travelled across the floor striking both opponents and shattering the ground underneath their feet. Amazingly, we could barely feel the impact up in the stands. Then again, it made sense for modern stadiums to be protected against things like that.

Tyranitar was struggling to stand after two powerful hits in a row, but Aggron managed to stand up long enough to stomp the ground, sending jagged blades of stone ripping up from the ground and digging into Dragonite, stopping its flight cold and sending the dragon plummeting downward. But right at that moment, Charizard sent another wave of scorching heat flying at the opposition, and though both dinosaurs managed to weather it for a few seconds, eventually they both collapsed to the floor and didn’t get up.

No way. They’d done it. They’d actually pulled off beating two rock-type Pokémon.

Everyone burst into cheers and applause the instant the battle was done, and I couldn’t help but join them, clapping furiously until my hands hurt. Sure, I didn’t know what half the moves being used were, but what did that matter?

Dragonite slowly struggled to its feet and gave a curt nod, while Charizard spread its arms wide, letting the praise wash over it. I couldn’t help noticing Firestorm clapping even harder at that point, his eyes wide with admiration.

Stalker recalled the two fallen combatants, then waited a bit for the applause to die down before he recalled the two victors.

“I should tell you right now—that battle was staged,” he said, pacing in front of us. “But I wanted it to demonstrate something. Even if you have the disadvantage, there are still options in every fight. And you can exploit those options to put yourself in a better position. So, yes, while you shouldn’t really be fighting any Rockets… you are going to learn how.

“Over the next few months we are going to train—not just your Pokémon, but yourselves—physically and mentally. Some of you will be taking an active role in making sure their field missions don’t succeed. Others will take on a more covert role gathering information for us to use against them. Both are equally important. In agreeing to join this cause, all of you have shown a lot of nerve, and that’s already been tested with the S.S. Anne attack.”

And in that moment, for what felt like the first time, I felt a glimmer of pride for being a part of all this. Last night had been awful, but I’d managed to make a difference, hadn’t I? And I finally had an opportunity to make sure I’d be able to handle things better next time.

Stalker finally stopped his pacing and turned to face us directly. “Once I think you’re ready, you’ll get the chance to put everything you’ve learned to the test and infiltrate a Team Rocket base. It’ll be your first real mission as members of this team.”

“What are we gonna be called?” a voice called out from the crowd. Stalker paused, as though he hadn’t considered that.

“Yeah! We need a team name!” someone else yelled. And with that, more and more of the kids built up the courage to let their excitement pour through and start throwing out ideas.

“How about Team Midnight, ‘cause we’re on Midnight Island!” one kid exclaimed.

“No, we could be the Team Rocket Rebellion!” another shouted.

“That’s too long, just the Rebellion! It sounds more mysterious!” a girl yelled excitedly.

“I like the sound of that,” Stalker said all of a sudden, his face breaking into a grin. “All in favor of the Rebellion, raise their hands!”

Over half the kids shot their hands into the air.

“Well, that settles it. In a few months, the Rebellion will be a force to be reckoned with.”






~End Chapter 9~
Yes, I will admit it straight up: that battle at the end there was 100% me going "Double battles are AWESOME and single battles are lame let me gush about this." I can't help it, I love double battles, and the tactics involved in them really do strike me as the most useful thing for the rebels to learn.

Oh yeah, and this time around we'll actually get to SEE the rebels training. Unlike the old version which just unceremoniously skipped everything interesting with a single-paragraph recap.
 
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Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
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charizard
Was this attack seriously going to get stronger as the battle went on?
Jade, you gotta study up a bit more on basic attacks. If the Chinese can learn over 1000 characters as the basics of their language, surely you can learn a couple hundred common techniques!

--

Alright, so full disclosure: I liked this chapter a lot more than the previous one, mostly because this time we actually got to see more development from Jade's pokemon. So you've assuaged my concerns about their development for now, and I'm starting to actually get a feel for their personalities, particularly Swift, who at this point felt a bit less developed beyond being the loyal family pet.

“We… only ever made it to the first city on our journey. That’s where I was stolen from him.”
I figured it'd be something like this, so I'm curious if we'll ever run into that other trainer, or see what happened to them if they died, or something along those lines. This feels like a plot thread that is still waiting to be wrapped up, the way it's presented.

I couldn’t help noticing Firestorm clapping even harder at that point, his eyes wide with admiration.
That's right, Firestorm. Those wings will be yours one day, hopefully.

--

So, I thought overall this was a solid chapter, though one thing is nagging at me, even now, and I feel like an idiot because I can't figure out exactly what it was. The colored orb that Charizard used, and the shield that he put up... what was that? Protect? But what was the other thing? I have no idea what that attack was, and while I usually appreciate moves not just being called or named, it's weird that this strange move wasn't, and nobody really asked what it was or got an answer, either. Protect? Am I not the only person who has a fire lizard with Protect after all?! But still I'm left confused about that exchange. No idea. Maybe I'm just an idiot.

Anyway, that aside , was good. Doubles ftw, triples top tier.
 

NebulaDreams

Pokémon Trainer
Partner
luxray
Review of Chapters 1-4 (including Prologue)

Okay, so I thought I'd check this out, seeing how I've been interested in LC's progress for a while. While I heard a lot of good things about it, I also knew that it would constantly be under revision, and that I should probably wait to jump in until then. And 11 revisions, holy crap. So, now you've started revising it from the start again, I figured it was a good time to get started, and I'm glad I did, since this fic has so much potential and so much stuff to build towards. I can tell this is going to be one hell of a ride already.

There's some foreshadowing from Lugia at the beginning, which, while verging on exposition, provided a nice and atmospheric opening to the fic as a whole. And when we go into Jade's segment, I instantly identified with her and her worries with the trainer school, as well as how that sets up things for the later chapters with Starr from what I can tell. Certainly some ominous stuff going on there, but anyway. We get time to see what Jade is like by letting her bounce off the other characters as well as just enjoying herself with the bike ride and Swift. We know her goals as well as her fears, as her friends are all leaving her to go on their trainer journeys. All in all, it was a pretty peaceful way to start things off. Surely, nothing can go wrong here, right?

stopped dead. For whatever reason, I realized that the odor saturating the air was burning flesh.
Welp. Crap.

Okay, so the pacing of this story has been relentless so far. Of course, it has a good reason to be, and the early chapters do a great job to establish that this version of Team Rocket isn't fucking around. They have guns. They have experiments. They have plans of world domination, but they now have the means to do it, and we see the effects of just what they're capable of. There is a constant feeling of peril here, from how desperate they are in their quest to capture the Legendaries, as well as the stakes of the fights so far. This makes fight scenes all the more exhilarating, and also makes Jade easier to relate to, as she's suddenly thrust into a desperate situation while she's pretty much at the mercy of her teammates or the grunts antagonising them. That isn't to say she hasn't proved useful so far, as she does great with the tools she's been given. Overall, the choice of her as a protagonist has proven smart so far, as it eases readers into what's in store for future chapters to come while keeping that sense of danger. The side characters have been nice counterpoints to her, and I especially like Spencer. Even though he is a fountain of corny one-liners, I can't help but love him for it, and he alleviates some of the tension of the battles without being too annoying, since he's able to think on the fly under pressure.

The Pokemon characters have been great so far as well, especially the Zapdos-Pikachu experiment (however edgy he seems so far), and while there's still time to flesh them out of course, I'm interested to see where it will go and how much focus they're given as the story goes on. Still, I like it when Pokemon are actually given personalities of their own in fics, and they're definitely done justice here so far. It's actually the first time I've seen this take on Pokemon speech in a fic, but it's also refreshing, as the casual mentions of it in the trainer school segment establish how seriously the subject is taken and how they're pretty much essential for Pokemon trainers to learn. I also like how the Pokespeech mechanic is used and how little nuances like body language help readers to infer what they're saying without needing to be translated all the time.

I get the feeling that things have only just started for our characters though. These opening four chapters feel like an introduction to the world, since we've only seen a small part of it, given how the escape from Team Rocket's ship has been stretched out for 3 chapters. While these have been great so far, I'm hoping the chapters after this will provide more of a breather to develop the characters and the worldbuilding. Still, the confrontation was a good taster for the fic, providing enough stakes and action to keep the readers on their toes while also not being too harsh on the characters with Ajia's convenient intervention. From here on out though, I can only expect things will go downhill from here, and that the enemies will be much harsher the next time around.

Still, I'm really enjoying this, and have high hopes for the rest of the chapters so far. Good luck with the rest of the revisions.
 

Chibi Pika

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pikachu-chibi
Jade, you gotta study up a bit more on basic attacks. If the Chinese can learn over 1000 characters as the basics of their language, surely you can learn a couple hundred common techniques!
Bwahaha, she'll learn eventually. But yeah, she's starting from pretty much level zero.
Alright, so full disclosure: I liked this chapter a lot more than the previous one, mostly because this time we actually got to see more development from Jade's pokemon. So you've assuaged my concerns about their development for now, and I'm starting to actually get a feel for their personalities, particularly Swift, who at this point felt a bit less developed beyond being the loyal family pet.
Ahh, I'm glad! Swift in particular has been very difficult to develop because he's so quiet and shy, but I think it was around this arc where I first realized he was, in fact, a cinnamon roll too pure for this world, and future chapters show that off a lot better.
That's right, Firestorm. Those wings will be yours one day, hopefully.
Haha, those starry eyes of his were 50% envy, and 50% just him drooling over the sight of her. ;P
The colored orb that Charizard used, and the shield that he put up... what was that? Protect? But what was the other thing? I have no idea what that attack was, and while I usually appreciate moves not just being called or named, it's weird that this strange move wasn't, and nobody really asked what it was or got an answer, either. Protect? Am I not the only person who has a fire lizard with Protect after all?! But still I'm left confused about that exchange. No idea. Maybe I'm just an idiot.
First move was Protect, and it's going to come up a lot. But the second move was a bit of a weird one and I don't blame you for not getting it: Focus Blast.
Okay, so I thought I'd check this out, seeing how I've been interested in LC's progress for a while. While I heard a lot of good things about it, I also knew that it would constantly be under revision, and that I should probably wait to jump in until then. And 11 revisions, holy crap. So, now you've started revising it from the start again, I figured it was a good time to get started, and I'm glad I did, since this fic has so much potential and so much stuff to build towards. I can tell this is going to be one hell of a ride already.
Glad to have you on board! ^^ Now's a great time to jump in, since reposting the fic has given me an excuse to fix all the stuff I would have put off otherwise.
There is a constant feeling of peril here, from how desperate they are in their quest to capture the Legendaries, as well as the stakes of the fights so far. This makes fight scenes all the more exhilarating, and also makes Jade easier to relate to, as she's suddenly thrust into a desperate situation while she's pretty much at the mercy of her teammates or the grunts antagonising them.
The crushing feeling of being completely, 100% outmatched for a situation is probably the main feeling I was going for with this fic (my Animorphs influence showing again) and it's the reason I went with Jade as a protagonist instead of someone like Ajia. I'm always glad to see when that comes through for readers.
That isn't to say she hasn't proved useful so far, as she does great with the tools she's been given. Overall, the choice of her as a protagonist has proven smart so far, as it eases readers into what's in store for future chapters to come while keeping that sense of danger.
Half the fun with having a protagonist start out at level zero will be seeing how she slowly grows more capable as time goes on.
The side characters have been nice counterpoints to her, and I especially like Spencer. Even though he is a fountain of corny one-liners, I can't help but love him for it, and he alleviates some of the tension of the battles without being too annoying, since he's able to think on the fly under pressure.
Spencer is a real guilty pleasure of mine, and while later chapters won't have anywhere near the level of humor that the opening arc did, I do enjoy the way he lightens up the otherwise-overwhelming first arc.
It's actually the first time I've seen this take on Pokemon speech in a fic, but it's also refreshing, as the casual mentions of it in the trainer school segment establish how seriously the subject is taken and how they're pretty much essential for Pokemon trainers to learn. I also like how the Pokespeech mechanic is used and how little nuances like body language help readers to infer what they're saying without needing to be translated all the time.
Getting the Pokespeech to feel realistic and believable has been a long, long road (as I'm sure you know well), and I'm so glad that for the past few years, basically no one has so much as batted an eye at the fact that I have talking Pokemon in the fic.
From here on out though, I can only expect things will go downhill from here, and that the enemies will be much harsher the next time around.
Yep. ;)
Still, I'm really enjoying this, and have high hopes for the rest of the chapters so far. Good luck with the rest of the revisions.
Thanks for checking it out! :D
Thanks for the reviews, both of you! Chapter 10 would've been out last week, but I just had way too many things to finish before going on vacation, so I opted to hold it until this week. It'll be posted later tonight!
 
Chapter 10: Welcome to Team Rocket

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
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pikachu-chibi
I actually didn't like this chapter at all when I first published it, but since then I've grown to like it a lot (the fact that it wound up being a fan favorite helped.) Hope you enjoy!



~Chapter 10: Welcome to Team Rocket~


My feet pounded against the dirt as I ran, ducking and weaving around trees. The beating of wings and the thud of claws on the ground followed not far behind. I had to be nearing the end of the forest—it felt like I’d been running forever. A quick glance at my watch showed that twenty minutes had passed since we started. Alright, not too bad. I was making good time. Just had to keep going.

A rustle in the bushes to the left caught my attention and I froze. Swift noticed it and launched into a series of powerful flaps to stir up a Whirlwind in that direction. The force of the winds was a lot stronger than I was used to—I had to plant my feet firmly on the ground not to lose my balance. Still… nothing flew out. But I didn’t let my guard down. There was something nearby—I could feel it.

The crunching of leaves behind me. That was no mistake.

“Everyone dodge now!” I called out, jumping aside as a group of Pokémon leaped out at us from behind. I whirled around in an instant to size up our attackers. Nidorino, Spearow, Wartortle—alright, our opponent definitely had to be Rudy.

“Swift, use Sand Attack on Wartortle. Firestorm, Scary Face!”

“Water Gun, Fury Attack, Peck!” Rudy yelled, jumping out from his hiding place.

Firestorm stood his ground and flashed a horrifying snarl at Nidorino. Spikes quivering with fear, the poison-type’s movement slowed, letting Firestorm easily jump out of the way. Swift then swooped low over the ground to kick up a rush of sand at Wartortle before he could do anything. The turtle stumbled backward, rubbing his eyes. Spearow rushed in and jabbed Firestorm in the back with her beak while he was busy avoiding repeated blows from Nidorino’s spikes. The flame-tailed lizard whirled around to scratch with his heavy claws but was caught in the leg by the Fury Attack. Swift beat his wings forcefully to send a Gust attack flying forward, throwing Spearow’s flight off-balance and letting Firestorm focus on avoiding the—

I almost didn’t notice it. The soft padding of paws on the ground behind me. I lunged to the side just before Ebony went hurtling past me. The black firedog landed nimbly on the ground near the ongoing battle, looking rather disappointed that she’d missed. Judging by the mischievous grin on her face, she wasn’t planning on giving up so easily, though, and I had to duck behind the nearest tree to avoid another lunge from the Houndour. Meanwhile, Wartortle had just washed the sand from his eyes and proceeded to tackle Firestorm to the ground, pinning the Charmeleon under his shell.

Rudy grinned confidently. “Water Pulse!”

“Er—use Ember!” I blurted out, trying to keep a good view of the battle.

Firestorm was faster. As Wartortle was inhaling, the fire lizard spat a flurry of red-hot flares right into his face. The turtle recoiled backward instantly, coughing and sputtering in pain, feathered ears smoldering a bit.

The sound of excited panting turned my attention back to Ebony, who was still in hot pursuit. But then out of nowhere, Swift shot forward like a bullet and struck her with a Quick Attack. The Houndour was completely bowled over from being struck by a bird so much larger than her.

“Alright, that’s one hit on each of ‘em, time to run!” I called out.

Firestorm immediately jumped out of the battle area and rushed over to my side. Swift banked hard and soared back towards us, his crimson head feathers trailing in the wind. I spun around and dashed off with them. Rudy’s Pokémon weren’t far behind.

“Use Pursuit!” he ordered.

Crap, I should have been ready for that. Had to avoid it somehow.

“Use Smokescreen!” I called out.

Firestorm spun around and quickly spewed out a thick cloud of black smoke behind us, completely obscuring Rudy’s Pokémon. Alright, that would probably do the trick.

Nope. A red-winged bird shot clean through the smoke and struck Firestorm just as he had turned tail to run again. Swift pulled back to go for another attack, but Spearow had already vanished after getting her last hit in. Firestorm growled in frustration.

Great. Rudy was the second trainer in the lineup who had managed to land a hit while we were escaping. The whole point of this exercise was to not get hit.

“*Evasive tactics like Smokescreen won’t work on Spearow—she has Keen Eye just like I do,*” Swift pointed out.

“Right. I forgot.” Keen Eye. A lot of birds could see right through stuff like Smokescreen and Sand Attack. “But then how are we supposed to avoid Pursuit from them?”

Swift didn’t answer. He seemed to be in deep thought over the question. Either way, it was best if I didn’t focus on it right now. We still had to finish the exercise, and there were two more trainers to fight in this forest. At least Firestorm and Swift were still in decent shape after that battle. Good thing too, cause I didn't have many healing supplies left. Just two potions and a handful of berries.

Salty sweat stung eyes my eyes as we ran, and I brushed it out for what felt like the hundredth time. The burning hot August sun beat down us from above, and even the shade couldn’t keep out its oppressive heat. After about three minutes, I started scanning the trees for signs of our next opponent. They had to be around here somewhere, and I didn’t want to be caught off guard.

Twin blurs of orange shot out of nowhere. Swift barreled upward at the last second to avoid the first, but the second one landed a glancing blow on Firestorm, who spat out a flurry of embers reflexively. The attacker slowed to a halt after being scorched by the flares, and only then could I see the sleek, two-tailed otter now blocking our path.

Rustling all around us. I spun around in all directions, hoping to get an idea of what Pokémon we were facing. The shaggy-furred rat that had initially jumped out at us was still bouncing around, trying to land a hit on Swift. Swift kept a safe distance from it, dodging each of its tackles one after the other. But then a large, brown owl shot out of the trees straight for him, forcing the Pidgeotto to make an awkward dive straight down, only narrowly missing the ground.

“Use Quick Attack when you get the opportunity! Firestorm, back him up with Ember!”

Firestorm had just opened his mouth when he was suddenly tackled into the ground out of nowhere by the leaf-necked dinosaur that had been hiding in the bush right next to him.

Buizel, Raticate, Noctowl, and Bayleef… Liam? Pretty sure our opponent had to be Liam. He was the only rebel with a Johto starter.

Sure enough, a tall, pale boy with spiky black hair stepped out from behind a tree, pointed at us, and ordered, “Noctowl, use Hypnosis!”

“Firestorm, use Smokescreen!” I yelled back.

The Charmeleon immediately filled the clearing with a thick black haze. Alright, hopefully that would give us a better chance at dodging their moves. I could make out a large flapping shape hovering over the battlefield—probably Noctowl, judging by the forked crest on its head. It whirled around to face its opponents one after the other but couldn’t seem to lock eyes with any of them in order to pull off a Hypnosis. Good, one less thing to worry about.

“Not bad with that Smokescreen,” Liam said. “Guess we’ll have to kick it up a notch. Bayleef, Razor Leaf; Buizel, Aqua Jet; Raticate, Quick Attack!”

Swift made a last second lunge to avoid the Buizel surging toward him in a torrent of water, but wasn’t fast enough to dodge the Quick Attack from Raticate. Firestorm rushed forward to help repel his attackers but then was caught in a flurry of razor-sharp leaves, slicing him all over. The fire lizard growled and slashed wildly at the leaves before breathing out a burst of embers, burning up most of them.

“Come on, use Ember on Bayleef!” I called out.

Firestorm whirled around, sending a spurt of scattered flares in the direction he’d been attacked from, but Bayleef wasn’t there any more—it had retreated back into the shrubbery.

“Good job, Bayleef. Raticate, Buizel, don’t let the Pidgeotto get an opening. Noctowl, use Confusion,” Liam said calmly.

“Swift, use Gust behind you! Firestorm, aim your Ember upward!” I yelled, desperately hoping it would work. The fight was taking way too much time, and we’d be screwed if we didn’t finish it quickly.

Swift flipped backwards in an instant and flapped his wings to send a spiraling vortex of air straight at his pursuers. They were so close on his tail that they didn’t even have a chance to avoid it—Buizel and Raticate were both swept up by the Gust and thrown into the nearest tree, and the rush of wind thinned the smoky haze somewhat. Firestorm craned his neck upward and shot another Ember straight up into the air, scoring a direct hit on Noctowl, who was right in the middle of charging up a wave of psychic energy. And then, without me saying anything, Swift dove straight into a Quick Attack, aimed at one of the bushes nearest Firestorm. Bayleef looked up in alarm at being spotted, right before the tawny bird struck it headlong, throwing it to the ground.

“That’s all of them! Time to run!” I called out, my heart pounding with excitement. In an instant, the tables had turned in our favor. Firestorm spun around and didn’t waste a second running after me, and Swift didn’t take long to regain his flight speed and catch up to us.

Liam grinned. “Bayleef, Magical Leaf; Raticate, Pursuit.”

Crap. Not Pursuit again. No matter how many times we tried running from it, fleeing only made Pursuit stronger. What were we supposed to do? Running away wasn’t an option. That only left… standing our ground?

I locked eyes with Swift, and it was obvious we were thinking the same thing. The Pidgeotto banked hard in order to land facing our opponent, wings outstretched. He stood there, tensing up as the orange-furred rat shot forward, cloaked in dark energy. And then at the last second, he leaped aside and smacked Raticate with his wings, sending the rat face-planting straight into the ground.

I pumped a fist into the air. “All right! Now dodge the—”

Too late. A whirling storm of multicolored leaves zeroed in on Firestorm despite his best efforts to avoid them. The fire lizard sank to his knees, flailing his arms around trying to knock the leaves away, but they didn’t want to stop. Moving as quickly as I could, I dashed over and grabbed him roughly by the claw, trying to ignore the tiny cuts being inflicted on my arms by the leaves.

“Come on!” I exclaimed, pulling him to his feet and attempting to run with him in tow. And with Swift flying alongside us, we finally managed to flee the battle area without getting hit by anything else.

It wasn’t until we were a good distance away that we paused to catch our breath. I leaned against a tree before sinking to the ground, feeling dazed.

“Well, so much for our escape,” I said, still breathing hard. “Come on, let me spray you both with the potions.”

Swift fluttered over and I pulled the first Super Potion from my bag and sprayed it all over him. He shook his head and ruffled his feathers, looking relieved. Firestorm was still standing a ways away, staring at the ground.

“Your turn,” I said, and the fire lizard finally wandered over to let me spray him as well. He’d sustained a lot more injuries from the battle, but at least it looked like they’d all be healed by the potion.

“*That was stupid. Can’t believe I got hit so much,*” Firestorm muttered while the slices on his crimson scales closed up. “*And how did a grass-type’s moves cause this much damage?*”

“Ever think it might’ve been ‘cause we were caught off guard?” I asked, giving him a hard look.

The Charmeleon snorted but didn’t say anything.

I sighed. “In any case, that last part was my fault. I think Magical Leaf is a sure-shot move. They’d have followed you even if you dodged in time.”

I quickly guzzled some water from a bottle before replacing it in my bag with the empty potions. Time to run again. We set off along the marked path towards what would hopefully be the last battle. Within a few minutes I finally started to recognize the scenery. We were near the stadium—we had to be. That meant we’d almost reached the end of the course! But that also meant there was probably another fight coming soon.

Sure enough, in a clearing up ahead, I spotted my opponent.

Oh man—it was Ray. Figures he’d be one of the enemies—he almost always got assigned to that role. He wasn’t even hiding or anything. He was just standing there out in the open wearing the same frustratingly calm expression he always wore before completely destroying you.

My heart was pounding. “Swift, use Gust; Firestorm, go for a Scratch!”

His Charmeleon and Luxio lunged forward the instant we were within range. Swift flew into position and stirred up a blast of wind at the opposing fire lizard. But then he wasn’t able to dodge the electrifying tackle from Luxio seconds later. The Pidgeotto cried out in pain as sparks coursed through his feathers. Meanwhile Firestorm and the other Charmeleon had collided with each other, growling and slashing at each other in a ball of claws and flames and crimson scales.

“Scary Face,” Ray ordered. His Charmeleon responded by flashing a terrifying grimace at Firestorm; the latter recoiled backwards, his movements growing sluggish.

“Firestorm use your own Scary Face; Swift, get out of range and use Sand Attack on Luxio!” I called out, mentally smacking myself for not thinking of it sooner.

And then for whatever reason, it hit me. He was only using two Pokémon. Crap… that could only mean—

No sooner had the thought entered my head than a huge violet snake burst out of the trees above Swift, unfurling its hood and flashing the bright face pattern at him. The Pidgeotto dropped to the ground at once, frozen in shock. And then a crazed ball of tan fur and gangly limbs jumped into the fire lizard brawl, landing repeated blows on Firestorm.

What, seriously, Mai too? It wasn’t bad enough we had to fight Ray at the end here, but now Mai too? There was no way we’d be able to get past both of them! I mean… yeah, we were still fighting a total of four Pokémon, but… seriously Ray and Mai?

At least this exercise was in the woods so she couldn’t use her Gyarados.

Anyway… I had to focus. Swift’s best trait was his speed, so I desperately needed to cure his paralysis. I just hoped that Firestorm could handle being the only target for a few seconds. I whipped out Swift’s Pokéball and recalled him before immediately re-releasing him next to me and giving him a cheri berry. He gulped it down and then bolted back into the fray, already whipping up a Gust around the other combatants. The swirling winds pulled them apart from each other, allowing Firestorm to wrench himself free from the melee, looking bruised and bloodied. He lashed back at his opponents with his tail, striking both of them with the flame. Ray’s Charmeleon was barely fazed, though the Mankey’s fur was singed.

“Poison Sting,” Mai said coolly. And then I caught sight of Mai’s Arbok slithering up the tree nearest Swift while he was focused on the others.

“Swift, look out!” I yelled.

He whirled around in an instant, but it was too late. The snake opened its jaws and fired a wave of poisonous needles at him. The Pidgeotto recoiled backward, flapping his wings frantically to get out of the line of fire while also staying out of Luxio’s range. The thunder cat made another lunge at Swift, electricity coursing through its pointed black mane. But it couldn’t manage the height needed to land a blow.

“Swift, Quick Attack; Firestorm, Ember!” I called out.

“Dragon Rage.” Ray’s voice was confident, but intrigued, like he almost wanted to see if we’d make it through the fight.

“Karate Chop.” Mai, on the other hand, just looked like she just wanted the fight to be over as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Firestorm had to duck and weave in an attempt to dodge blows from Mankey, who wasn’t giving him a moment to breathe. The fire lizard’s movements were still slow and forced from before, and his injuries certainly weren’t helping. Swift barreled to the left to dodge the spurt of blue flames from Ray’s Charmeleon but then finally got the opening he needed to shoot forward and strike Luxio right after it landed from a failed pounce. The blue-furred cat was knocked reeling backwards.

And then Arbok made the mistake of closing in on the melee just as Firestorm spun in a circle, spouting embers all around just to keep his attackers at bay. A few flares managed to hit the violet snake and that was it—we’d landed at least one attack on all four of them! I couldn’t believe it. Swift and Firestorm realized it as soon as I did, because I didn’t even need to say anything before they both took off from the battle as fast as possible. Firestorm was still struggling to keep going. But before I could say anything, Swift whipped up a huge whirlwind behind us, knocking back our opponents and preventing them from giving chase. I still kept expecting a hail of sure-shot moves to follow us even as we ran.

And yet… nothing? I glanced over my shoulder, unable to believe it, but they really weren’t following us. Maybe they didn’t have any sure-shot moves? Or maybe the Whirlwind had worked better than I expected?

Well, the fight was miserable, but at least it was over quickly. I could see sunlight piercing the edge of the treeline ahead of us. We stumbled out of the forest weakly, and a rush of joy swept over me now that training was over. Except it wasn’t over. Stalker was waiting next to the stadium, his cold blue eyes focused on us, and a look of calm expectation on his face. I had no idea how he could still wear that long overcoat in this kind of heat.

“How many times were you hit while escaping?” he asked.

I took a deep breath. “Three. But that’s only because everyone was using Pursuit. And I figured out how to deal with that! But I still don’t know what to do about sure-shot moves. I mean… they’re impossible to dodge, right?”

He didn’t answer. He just motioned for us to step forward.

I swallowed hard. It wasn’t going to be a real battle. I knew that much by now. He could wipe the floor with the entire Rebellion at once, so a real battle would have been pointless. Even the idea of a mock battle was intimidating. But we still had to do it.

I pulled a handful of bright blue oran berries from my bag and fed them to both of my Pokémon. Firestorm in particular gulped them down ravenously, and his wounds slowly scabbed over.

“Are you ready?” Stalker asked.

I clenched my teeth and nodded.

I didn’t even see him throw the ball. There was just a sudden white flash, and then a tall, bright green reptile was bounding toward us. Firestorm rushed forward to meet it, brandishing his claws and slashing wildly. But Sceptile leaped straight over the fire lizard with a midair somersault before landing behind him and spinning in place, smacking him face-first into the dirt with its leafy tail. It glanced up suddenly to see a tawny-feathered blur closing in from above, but then dropped to the ground to dodge the blow before jumping up and striking with its pointed arm leaves.

Stalker shook his head. “Come on. Will a direct attack really work in this situation?”

No… no of course it wouldn’t. Why had I let them?

Sceptile landed nimbly from its attack and made a “bring it on” motion with its claws.

“Firestorm, use Scary Face; Swift, Sand Attack!” I really wished we had better disruption moves, but that was pretty much it right now. And even with its movements slowed and sand in its face, Sceptile was still impossibly agile and precise. Firestorm rushed in, mirroring the forest reptile’s leaps and bounds as best as he could. The grass-type grinned wildly and increased its speed slowly, seeing if the Charmeleon could keep up. Firestorm was panting hard but refused to let the opposing reptile get away from him.

“Good, now use a Metal Claw, I know you’ve been working on it!” Stalker called out.

Firestorm clenched his teeth and drew his arms back, claws glowing. He lashed out wildly, Sceptile blocking each blow with its leaf blades. It didn’t seem different than any ordinary attack, though.

The fire lizard growled in frustration. “*It’s hard to concentrate.*”

“Of course it is!” Stalker shot back. “You’re changing the composition of your claws—it’s going to be hard!”

The Charmeleon let out a snarl and pressed the attack harder. The sounds of frenzied slashing and the dull thud of claws striking leaves filled the air. Swift circled the battle overhead, waiting to see what the outcome would be.

And then the light faded from his claws to reveal a silvery sheen, and the strike against Sceptile’s block reverberated with a metallic clang. Firestorm froze in shock, staring at his claws with wide eyes.

“You did it!” I yelled, unable to keep the excitement from my voice.

Stalker nodded approvingly. “Good. Now it’s your turn,” he said glancing up at Swift. Sceptile suddenly jumped back from Firestorm and launched a flurry of leaves into the air, forcing the Pidgeotto to drop down to ground level to avoid them. With a powerful flapping of his wings, the tawny bird sent a vortex of air rushing at his opponent. The forest reptile crouched low to weather the attack.

“Put more power and rage into that Gust!” Stalker called out. So he was hoping Swift would be able to pull off that move finally?

The Pidgeotto closed his eyes in concentration, wisps of energy trailing through the wind from his wings. But it faded before it could reach the swirling column of air.

“Get closer to your opponent,” Stalker instructed. “Use the adrenaline to your advantage.”

Swift put on a burst of speed before making a tight circle around Sceptile, who made occasional swipes at the bird. Energy streamed off his wings once more, but with a final burst of flapping, the Pidgeotto was able to force it into the gust. The winds suddenly intensified into a cyclone of white energy tearing at Sceptile, who leaped out of its center and landed some distance away before flashing a thumbs-up at Swift.

“Not bad, I wasn’t expecting you to pull off a Twister for another week at least,” Stalker said, holding a hand up to show that the exercise was over.

Firestorm sank to his knees, still panting hard but with a look of crazed triumph on his face. Swift landed next to him with a reserved, yet clearly self-satisfied look.

“Oh man, I’m so proud of you guys,” I said, jogging over to them. It was hard to believe, but we were actually making progress.

Stalker walked over with what looked like a pleased expression, but as always it was hard to tell. “You’re improving. Keep practicing the things you know you need work on.” He paused, then continued, “Oh, and you shouldn’t even be trying to dodge sure-shot moves. Just brace yourself for it. They’re weak—enduring the hit puts you in a perfect spot for a counterattack.”

I nodded before recalling both of my exhausted Pokémon.

That was when I noticed the rest of the trainers that had already finished the exercise, all standing off to the side near the entrance to Midnight Stadium. I had been so single-mindedly focused on training with Stalker that I’d completely overlooked them. They likely had been watching my battle, but now that it was over, most of them had turned away and started chatting amongst themselves.

“There’s only one more person running the course after you, right?” Stalker asked.

I thought back to when the group of us had started the run on the other side of the forest. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I was second-to-last.”

We didn’t have to wait long. Within a few minutes, the final trainer in the lineup stumbled out of the forest—a small, skinny boy with scruffy blond hair and large green eyes, currently wearing the most frustrated and incredulous expression. Alongside him, a Meowth dragged its paws and a Zubat struggled to stay aloft. Even his Voltorb didn’t look like it could roll anymore.

After a few seconds he just sort of dropped all pretenses of finishing the training and sank to the ground. His Pokémon looked more than happy to stop.

Stalker folded his arms. “You don’t look very ready to fight me, Reed.”

Reed stared up at him in disbelief. “Why did we have to fight Ray and Mai at the same time? Everyone knows they’re the best.”

“You just answered your own question.” That got a few laughs from the crowd.

A girl with long, braided hair walked over to help pull him to his feet. “Maybe if you trained more often this wouldn’t happen,” she said, snickering a bit.

“I train plenty,” Reed snapped. “I’m just not crazy enough to do double time like you, Kris.”

“Well, since you’re in no shape to fight now, we’ll postpone our battle,” Stalker commented. “Next time there’s a training session, you’re getting special attention.”

Reed groaned but didn’t say anything.

Stalker turned to face the rest of us. “By the way, this was the last exercise limiting the Rocket players to double your team number. Next time they can use their full team—even if they’re tag-teaming you. Be ready for it.”

Figures that would happen eventually. I really had to think about adding another Pokémon to my team. Maybe Rudy could buy me some Pokéballs at some point.

Stalker turned to walk away from the gathering. “Have a rest, everyone. I’ll be giving an important announcement in the battlefield in one hour.”

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

After a shower on my part and a quick stop by the healing machine for my team, we were back in the stadium and eagerly awaiting the announcement. Even though he hadn’t explicitly said it, everyone was pretty sure it was gonna be a mission announcement. I mean… what else could it be? We’d been here for over a month, and the days of generalized battling lectures were mostly over and replaced by one-on-one training sessions like today. And I’d actually improved. That fact alone was mind-boggling. I mean… yeah, that was one of the reasons I’d even joined the Rebellion, but the idea of it actually happening was still weird and foreign.

“Hey Jade!” Rudy shouted, running over to me. “That was an awesome fight earlier! Ha, I bet you thought you were gonna escape from me without getting hit.”

I snorted. “Yeah, well, at least it went better than our previous battle. Besides, I figured out how to deal with Pursuit, so there.”

“Aw, you did? Lame,” he said, frowning. “Guess I’ll have to try harder next time. But anyways… what are the odds we’re getting our first mission now? I’m thinking at least 150 percent.”

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think it’s that high—more like only 110 percent.”

“You’re on!”

I stared. “How… how do we even tell who wins that bet?”

Rudy was spared the details of trying to figure it out when Stalker walked into the battlefield and waved an arm to get everyone’s attention. The entire crowd instantly stopped what it was doing and turned to face him. I was pretty sure he’d never be able to enter the room without it being a big dramatic deal to everyone.

“So, today’s the day you finally get your first mission.”

The reaction was immediate. The entire group let out a cheer, most of them throwing a fist or two into the air, and it wasn’t hard to see why. We’d finally be getting the chance to put everything we’d learned to use.

“I’ll be formalizing your mission groups now,” Stalker continued. “Rockets are generally assigned one or more partners for carrying out small-scale activity, and we’ll be doing the same. I’ve settled on groups of three, so there are sixteen mission groups. Twelve groups will be assigned to sabotaging the Rockets’ upcoming mission. The remaining four are going to be stealing some of their resources for us to use against them. Either way, you’ll all be infiltrating the ranks and putting on the appearance of a genuine Rocket. So this will test everything you’ve learned from me over the past six weeks.”

I clenched my fists. If this was a test, then I felt ready. As unbelievable as it was, I actually felt prepared to show that we could make a difference in this fight.

“When I call your name, come up and get your ID and a Rocket Communicator. Group 1—Ray, Mai, and Sasha.”

No surprise the two best trainers on the team would be in the same group. Sasha was a bit unexpected though. I’d seen her hanging out with the other two occasionally, but her Pokémon choices were… a bit weird. I mean, no one else had a Farfetch’d.

“In my absence, the members of Group 1 are in charge,” Stalker said. “I want everyone to report to them during multi group missions like this one.” He then proceeded to call out group members as the rest of us waited with bated breath for our names to be called.

“Think we’ll be in the same group?” Rudy asked after a few groups had gone up.

“It seems like he’s grouping people together based on their usual training partners, so yeah, I’m guessing we will,” I said.

We didn’t have to wait long to find out. After a few minutes, Stalker’s voice rang out saying, “Group 12—Jade, Darren, and Rudy.”

I barely had time to react to the high five that Rudy threw my way. We wasted no time in walking forward through the crowd to claim our IDs, Darren joining us along the way. Upon receiving it, Rudy stared at his ID like it was the coolest thing he’d ever seen. And then it hit me—here I was training Pokémon without an ID, and I had just received a Team Rocket ID first. It was ridiculous. But somehow kind of cool at the same time.

As for the R-com… I had already seen them before, on the Rocket plane and the S.S. Anne. Still, it would be interesting to actually own one. I pressed the only button on the front, waking the device up and causing it to display the message: “To begin, scan user RID card.”

I tapped my ID to the port on the top of the device and it immediately brought up a digital record of my information: “Name: Allie Farias; Born: 6 September 2983; Registered: 11 July 2998; Rank: Trainee.” Flipping through the various apps, it looked a lot like a cheap Pokégear from what I could tell, aside from the fact that the texting and calling was limited to other R-com devices.

“And lastly, Group 16—Reed, Wes, and Kris,” Stalker called out, snapping my attention back to what was going on. The last three trainers walked forward, Reed and Kris shoving each other lightly along the way and Wes looking like he desperately didn’t want to be involved in any of it.

“Take this moment to add your mission partners to the contact list on your R-com,” Stalker announced once they were done. “For security reasons, don’t add everyone on the Rebellion. Group 1 will be in charge of keeping contact between everyone on multi-group missions.”

That was easy enough. The contact number was just our agent ID. I punched in the numbers and the device showed that I had successfully registered “Toni” and “Andy” as their Rocket names were called.

“Which Rocket base are we going to?” one of the rebels nearest Stalker asked.

“Groups 1, 5, 12, and 16 will be going to Cerulean,” he replied. “Groups 2, 6, 9, and 13 to Viridian. Groups 3, 7, 10, and 14 to Saffron. And groups 4, 8, 11, and 15 will be going to Celadon—those are the ones that will be recovering supplies and Pokémon for us. With so many groups going, that does mean you won’t all be able to leave today. We’ll space it out over the next few days so you don’t all show up at the bases at once.”

He had warned us previously that we’d never all be going to the base at the same time. Obviously, it’d be completely suspicious if we did. But it was still kind of frustrating—I was almost certain out of the Cerulean groups it’d be Ray’s group going first, so ours would have to wait a few days. Rudy didn’t seem to have pieced that together quite yet, otherwise he would have looked way more disappointed.

But then… there was one important detail Stalker hadn’t exactly revealed yet. I glanced around at the crowd, and it was obvious from their wide-eyed stares that everyone was in suspense over the same thing. Finally, one kid spoke the words everyone was thinking: “What mission are we going to stop?”

The edge of Stalker’s mouth curled into a faint grin. “Within the next two weeks, Team Rocket will attempt to capture a Legendary Pokémon. Your job is to find out which one and do whatever it takes to stop them.”

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

Team Rocket’s Northern HQ was a rather unassuming office building right in the heart of downtown Cerulean. Stalker’s Charizard and Dragonite dropped us off in a nearby park and then we walked the remaining couple of city blocks to the base. It had been a while since my last time walking through such busy streets, and I found my attention constantly grabbed by all the sights and sounds of the city after spending over a month in a quiet island town. It felt even weirder to be here since we’d gotten dressed in our Rocket uniforms ahead of time, though at least we had vests to hide the signature logo on the shirt.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be so out in the open,” Darren said, tilting his head as the building came into view.

“Stalker did say that Team Rocket’s not exactly a secret, just the Legendary-catching regional takeover stuff is,” I said, shrugging.

“I wasn’t expecting it to look so boring,” Rudy added once we’d gotten a closer look at the headquarters. “Kinda wish we’d been sent to Celadon. I heard that base is inside a casino—how cool is that?”

I wasn’t even going to bother with a comment, but Darren countered with, “If we’d gone to Celadon, we wouldn’t be involved in the Legendary mission.”

Rudy’s face fell immediately. “Alright, forget I said anything! Let’s just go in.”

The front lobby was a stark contrast to the outside of the building, with shiny black stone tile floors and sleek, red-papered walls covered in gaudy decorations. Something glinted in my peripheral vision and I had to stop myself from jumping upon seeing the life-size Persian statue perched on a pedestal next to the entrance.

Alright, I couldn’t stare too much—any ordinary Rocket who’d gotten registered in Cerulean would have been here before. Though at least it would be expected that I hadn’t seen much more than the lobby and an office or two.

Straight ahead of us stood a glossy marble front desk with a lone receptionist seated at it. She hadn’t looked up when we entered, and still had her face glued to the book she was reading. I wandered forward vaguely, unsure if she had noticed us enter or not.

“Hi, uh… we’re new recruits and we’ve been assigned training at Northern HQ,” I said awkwardly.

The receptionist looked up at us slowly, and it was obvious that she’d known we were there but was just waiting for us to say something. In a flash, she shut the book and assumed a more professional posture.

“Do you have your IDs already?” she asked.

I nodded, and we each handed them over. She inspected them closely and ran them through her scanner before handing them back.

“Alright, I’ll call a recruitment officer up and they’ll give you the tour. You can wait over there in the meantime,” she said, gesturing to the couches along the side of the wall.

Well, that was easy. Not that we’d been assuming it would be hard or anything. The three of us wandered over to plop down onto the couches, which were unbelievably squishy and made of leather.

“We’re in a Rocket base right now,” Rudy said quietly, like he was still having a hard time believing it.

“Don’t say anything you’ll regret,” Darren warned him with the slightest bit of a taunting edge to his voice.

Rudy shrugged. “Wasn’t gonna. It’s still weird and cool though.” I almost laughed at how quickly he’d changed opinions of the base. Still… I had to admit that being inside one was a lot more surreal than just seeing it from the street. We were actually here, inside a Rocket base, and it was perfectly okay. I still half-expected someone to appear out of nowhere and chase us out.

After several minutes, the elevator on the far side of the lobby dinged, and out walked a man in his mid-thirties wearing a black Team Rocket uniform with white boots. He had rather frazzled brown hair and the worn face of someone with too much on his plate. The officer guzzled the remainder of a coffee before tossing out the cup and walking over to us, tablet in hand. He paused in mild surprise upon seeing how young we were but didn’t seem too taken aback by it. Rockets our age were a bit uncommon, but nothing unheard of.

“My name’s Warren, I’m a recruitment officer for Cerulean HQ, heard you were just assigned here?” It was all said a lot more quickly than I was expecting.

“Yeah, we’ve already been registered,” I replied as we held out our IDs for the second time.

“Right, that’ll make my job easier,” he said, tapping the IDs to a card scanner on his tablet. “Let me just pull up your files.” He swiped through a few pages on the screen, reading the stats out loud to himself.

“Toni, Allie, and Andy… looks like you all applied for membership a month ago, got your executive approval all in order, background check good…” He nodded approvingly. “Alright, welcome to the team. It’s my job to give the new recruits the rundown on how things work around here, so I’ll be showing you around and explaining things as we go. You’ve already been issued an R-com, right?”

I held mine up to answer his question.

“Alright, good. It looks like all three of you already have Pokémon, so we won’t need to loan you any. And before you ask, grunts are not issued firearms. Agents who reach officer rank on the combat unit can apply to receive one, but it’s no guarantee.” Owning a gun was not exactly on my priority list. Good to know that the average grunt shouldn’t be expected to have one, though.

He led us to the elevator on the far side of the room and pressed the down button. Once it arrived, he held the door open and motioned for us to enter.

“The top floors are mostly offices and public relations,” Warren said, pushing one of the elevator buttons. “You’ve never seen any of the floors where the real activity is, have you?”

“No, not really,” Darren said.

“Looking forward to it though!” Rudy added.

Warren chuckled. “It’s good to see enthusiasm in new recruits.”

The elevator doors opened to reveal a huge lower lobby full of Rockets going about their business—some of them carrying goods or paperwork around, some of them accompanied by Pokémon. They all sported a wide variety of uniform types, from the standard black clothes and gray boots, to white boots with red stripes, to white uniforms, to completely unique outfits with rank patches and equipment belts.

“Typically only grunts in training or on active duty spend a lot of time at the base,” Warren explained. “But since we have a high-level operation coming up in the near future, you’ll see more members than usual on active duty right now. Mostly combat unit types—we’ve got the second largest combat unit on the force,” he said proudly, motioning for us to step out of the elevator.

Warren led us through the bustling main room towards one of the hallways, which was significantly less crowded. As we walked, he continued with his explanation on the workings of the team.

“So, as a member of Team Rocket, you’ll be expected to serve the team’s best interests in whatever you do, whether it’s carrying out missions or performing base duties. The team is divided into several divisions all working to further the team in different ways. Of course, the majority of Rockets are assigned to acquisitions—obtaining and selling goods and Pokémon. But the others are equally important. The business division keeps large corporations in check and allows us to fund our projects. The tech division breaks new ground in science and technology, strengthening our forces with new equipment and enhanced Pokémon. And the combat unit enforces our will against those who would threaten us, as well as handling the acquisition of particularly rare and powerful Pokémon.”

It had a somewhat rehearsed feel, like he’d definitely said all of this many times, but still believed in it.

“All new recruits go through orientation and training, so I’ll be assigning you an officer to watch you and track your progress,” he continued. “Once initiated, grunts carry out tasks for their officer. All officers report to a senior officer, who reports to an executive. Everything a Rocket does is a reflection of those higher than them. So you see—you work hard not for yourself, but for those who have taught and guided you… and for the overall good of the team. And if you prove your loyalty and dedication, you could even become an officer yourselves… once you’re old enough, that is.”

“Old enough?” Rudy asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Age limit for officers is 15. For executives, it’s 17—adults only.”

“Is executive the highest rank?” I found myself asking. I’d already run into at least one executive previously… was she the toughest kind of opponent I’d ever encounter?

Warren paused. “Not quite… the boss has an inner circle of admins who run things behind the scenes. They plan most of the important missions and delegate authority to the executives in control of the different branches, bases, and units. Oh, and the head of the combat unit normally holds the rank of commander… though the Kanto force doesn’t have a commander right now. Executives are pretty much the highest ranked agents we’ll ever see, though.”

More questions were suddenly jumping out at my mind—the few things that Stalker hadn’t told us. “Have you ever seen the boss?”

“Well… he runs things from the Viridian HQ, so… no. And I’ve heard that he’s always surrounded by the top executives there, so even the Viridian Rockets don’t see much of him. But everyone says he commands the respect and awe of everyone around him.”

A bold feeling suddenly struck. This was the second time I’d heard mention of the commander, and I had to know. “Why doesn’t the Kanto force have a commander?”

Warren jerked slightly, taken aback for just a second before regaining himself. “He resigned. Apparently there was some drama involved, so it’s not talked about often. I don’t know the details.” He stared straight ahead as we walked and didn’t say anything more. Rudy flashed me a look that clearly read “what are you doing?” while Darren just gave a cheeky grin and a thumbs up.

Warren led us to the end of the hallway where a huge pair of double doors stood. He pushed through them, and suddenly we were in the middle of a battlefield, much smaller than Midnight Stadium, but a lot more high-tech. The walls and ceilings were lined with passive energy fields to absorb stray blasts, and the far corner had training dummies for practicing moves on. Warren glanced around at all the various faces in the room until he found who he was looking for.

“Hey Karen, I heard you were looking to train up a few subordinates.”

A young woman with waist-length black hair turned to face him upon hearing his words. She had a piercing expression and small, dark eyes that seemed to bore right through us. Her uniform was of the white clothes with dark boots variety.

“Did I say that? You’ll have to refresh my memory,” Karen commented dryly.

Warren raised his hands in a disarming manner. “I’m just here to make good on my offer. Got three new recruits for you.”

She gave us a dismissive glance before staring at him. “I wasn’t planning on training a bunch of kids.”

“All the lower-ranked officers currently stationed here are already maxed out on grunts,” he said simply.

“Send ‘em to another base then.”

“Their training in Cerulean has executive-level clearance,” he said, giving an innocent shrug with just the slightest bit of a smirk.

Karen stared incredulously. “Okay, now I know they’re just screwing with us.” She sighed. “Fine, I'll train ‘em. You owe me for this one, though.”

Warren chuckled a bit and then turned back to us. “This where I leave. Welcome to Team Rocket. May you and your Pokémon prove to be useful assets to our cause.” He gave a slight wave and then walked off. I kind of didn’t want him to leave—he seemed a lot friendlier than our new officer… even though that was probably because it was literally his job to be accommodating.

“Alright, you three, agent numbers, now.”

That got our attention in a hurry. I scrambled to pull my ID from my pocket, as she already didn’t seem like the sort of person we’d want to keep waiting. One by one, we announced our agent numbers. Karen whipped out her R-com and entered them in. She then pocketed the device and gave us a long, hard stare.

“Listen up, kids. The way this works is I train you, teach you how to succeed, you work hard for the team, and that reflects good on me. Mutually beneficial, right? And then maybe I can finally get that promotion I was promised six months ago only to have it withdrawn at the last second because I ‘didn’t have enough experience leading subordinates.’”

I gave Rudy and Darren sideways glances. I… wasn’t really sure what that had to do with us.

Karen sighed and regained her composure. “So why did you join Team Rocket?”

Easy, I’d had an answer prepared weeks ago. I had run away from home after failing the trainer exam, stolen some Pokémon, and then found myself unable to get by without being able to take part in League-sanctioned battles, so I had to turn to Team Rocket.

I opened my mouth to speak and got cut off immediately.

“Actually, I don’t care. You can keep your past to yourself because it doesn’t matter now. You’re a Rocket. All that matters is that you’re serious about serving us now.”

I stood there feeling more awkward by the second. I guess overall it was a good thing that she wasn’t interested in prying into our personal matters, but I still felt increasingly uneasy about having her as our officer.

“Pokémon out now!”

Okay, I was just gonna have to get used to sudden demands out of nowhere. I grabbed my Pokéballs from my pocket and fumbled with the buttons, trying to be quick. Rudy and Darren had theirs open first, and I let out Firestorm and Swift to join their teams. Firestorm took one look around the Rocket battlefield before drawing himself up in a tall posture with a very serious expression.

Karen paced back and forth in front of our nine Pokémon lineup, mumbling to herself.

“I don’t have time for kids who can’t battle. Lucky for you, it looks like you already know a thing or two about fighting. That’ll make things easier for both of us. Good type coverage going on here too. You’ll be a decent unit… once you’re cleared for actual missions that is. You’ve got a long way to go until then.” She stopped in front of us and paused, looking contemplative. None of us dared say anything unless she addressed us first. Finally, she crossed her arms and gave an affirmative nod.

“Alright, I think I can work with this. Get used to the way things work around here today. Watch and learn. You’re Rockets now. We’ll start your training tomorrow.”






~End Chapter 10~
I hope the rebels’ training was interesting! I tried my hardest to keep the battles quick and lively, and the exact format of the training was something I toyed with many times before finally settling on “try to escape the fight without getting hit.” Obviously they’ve all still got a long way to go before actually fighting any Rockets, but I’m a lot happier with the gradient of improvement in this Revision compared to the last one.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
So, I feel that the first scene went on for a bit longer than it probably needed to. We’ve kinda already seen fights going on, y’know? But that might just be my bias against repeats of mook fights/training montages. Definitely in favor of summarizing or having them happen offscreen at this point.

What, seriously, Mai too?
God, so many humans! I am not gonna remember what they all look like if that was described, let alone all their contexts. Maybe some of them aren’t important? I have no idea.

“How many times were you hit while escaping?” he asked.
Right here and perhaps shortly before it is when I feel like this chapter could have properly started, everything before being possibly merely summarized.

Entering the Rockets’ lair and all that was pretty interesting, although this chapter was surprisingly on the slower/mellow side. But not in a bad way—and I know there were battles, but they weren’t really high-stakes for me to call them frantic or anything. Overall, it was good setup for actually transitioning into the infiltration and sabotage!

Anyway, I’m actually going to add some extra notes here because it pertains to a word crawl prompt. I think the insight might actually be useful for you. So, as far as this story is concerned, I can’t say that it reminds me of any other story in particular. It’s very action-heavy, which isn’t something that I’m typically oriented toward, especially when some of the fights are, for lack of a better term, redundant. I don’t usually have such an in-depth covering of training, for example. But I also think that this mix of action and stealth—basically, being matched or outmatched, and how to react—makes for a very interesting mix that, while I feel must have been done elsewhere countless times, feels unique to me.
 
Chapter 11: Undercover

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
So, I feel that the first scene went on for a bit longer than it probably needed to. We’ve kinda already seen fights going on, y’know? But that might just be my bias against repeats of mook fights/training montages. Definitely in favor of summarizing or having them happen offscreen at this point.
Ahh, sorry, but the old version had the training happen offscreen, and it was definitely in the top five list of things to fix in the last revision. >< (There are few things I hate more than "we got stronger/learned X/figured out how to do the thing" without being shown it, and readers were in favor of adding it.) This was really the only instance of training for training's sake though. I generally try to have all fights serve a purpose in the story or character arcs (and recently cut a small battle from 17 that failed on both accounts, which basically everyone called out, haha.)
God, so many humans! I am not gonna remember what they all look like if that was described, let alone all their contexts. Maybe some of them aren’t important? I have no idea.
Ahaha, if it helps they should be regarded as basically the same as the miscellaneous Hogwarts students that get mentioned from time to time in Harry Potter. (And you definitely don't have to remember what everyone looks like--hell, I don't even remember it half the time.)
Entering the Rockets’ lair and all that was pretty interesting, although this chapter was surprisingly on the slower/mellow side. But not in a bad way—and I know there were battles, but they weren’t really high-stakes for me to call them frantic or anything. Overall, it was good setup for actually transitioning into the infiltration and sabotage!
Yeah, this arc is definitely a slower one, at least until we get to Chapter 12, but I'm glad it managed to stay interesting! I had a lot of fun with writing all the Rocket lair stuff.


~Chapter 11: Undercover~


“Come on, faster! Your target’s getting away!”

My legs burned as I willed them to keep going, despite every corner of my brain telling me not to. Firestorm sprinted alongside me, a look of fierce determination on his face—no clue where he’d gotten it from. Rudy, Darren, and their starters raced along with us, Wartortle’s cloudlike tail streaming behind him and Ivysaur taking big bounding leaps to catch up. Meanwhile Karen’s Houndoom was so confident we couldn’t catch it that it was practically running circles around us. Firestorm clenched his teeth in frustration and breathed out a blast of red-hot flares, but none of them came even close to hitting the dark-type.

Karen smacked a hand to her forehead. “Disable the target first, then go for the knockout, is that really so hard?!”

I locked eyes with Darren and it was obvious we were both thinking the same thing—he had the best Pokémon out of any of us for disabling.

“Sleep Powder!” he called out, and Ivysaur leaped forward into position, releasing a cloud of blue powder from his flower bud. But the black firedog was way too quick and dodged it easily.

And then it hit me. I felt like an idiot for not realizing sooner.

“Firestorm, use Scary Face!”

The Charmeleon twisted his face into a horrifying grimace, meeting Houndoom’s eye and making the dark-type flinch, its movements growing sluggish. Ivysaur took that moment to rush in close and let out another burst of Sleep Powder, and this time the firedog got a face full of the stuff. Its eyelids drooped, and it stumbled once before toppling over, sound asleep.

“Alright, now!” Rudy yelled, and Wartortle’s eyes widened, realizing it was time to make his move. The turtle planted his feet firmly and took a deep breath, spitting out a ring-shaped pulse of water at high speed… which flew clear over the prone form of the sleeping Houndoom.

“How could you miss a sleeping target?! What the hell is wrong with you?” Karen shouted, fixing him with an intense glare. Wartortle froze with a devastated look on his face before staring at the ground and not saying anything.

Our officer muttered incoherently to herself while striding over to her Pokémon, pulling out a bottle of blue liquid and spraying the firedog all over. At once, its eyes snapped open and it jumped to its feet with a manic expression, ready to resume the training.

“You’ve been discovered, make a getaway!” Karen announced with a smirk.

Oh crap, I hated this part. We immediately spun around and took off running towards the opposite end of the training field. Houndoom would be on us in seconds, we had to put as much distance between it and—

I almost tripped over myself as a pulsing shock wave of black energy shot past me, no more than two feet to my right! The attack was obviously intended to miss, but the sight of it passing so close still sent my heart jumping into my throat. We were supposed to get used to being in the line of fire—why did it still catch me off guard every time? I had to act now if we were gonna pull this off—a getaway never meant just escaping in this kind of drill.

“Firestorm, Smokescreen!” I shouted. Firestorm spun around while running and spewed out a thick cloud of black smoke behind us, hiding our pursuer from view. We only had a few seconds to act now. Rudy and Darren raced in opposite directions to take a stand on the left and right sides of the smoky area. Firestorm and I stood our ground at the front. Any second now…

Houndoom burst through the smoke cloud and our Pokémon all acted at once! Firestorm breathed out a shimmering ball of blue dragon fire, Wartortle spat another ring of water, and Ivysaur rushed forward and struck the firedog headlong in a full-body Take Down. The dark-type was thrown backward from the force of all three attacks catching it off guard, and when the smoke cleared, it was lying on its side, unconscious.

Karen raised her eyebrows, like she hadn’t expected to be impressed. “Not bad.”

I hated to admit it, but I was actually learning. And Stalker had probably been counting on that. Her lessons were similar to the things he’d been teaching us, just more… in your face. I didn’t even want to think about what enduring her training would have been like without the prior experience from Stalker.

“I suppose that was passable at the end there, so we’ll call it early…”

Rudy pumped his fist in the air a little too soon, but I knew by now that she had something else in store for us.

“…On your training,” she finished. “My unit brought back some new assets from a mission. They’ll need someone to catalog everything, won’t they? Sounds like grunt work to me.”

‘Assets.’ That was code for they’d stolen some Pokémon and needed someone to scan and sort the Pokéballs depending on whether they’d be sold or trained and loaned to other Rockets. Not hard, just tedious and time consuming, especially considering it was nearing dinnertime and food was starting to become the only thing I could think about.

Almost as if she’d read my mind, Karen handed me a tablet and said, “Better get started if you wanna eat anytime soon.”

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

Everything hurt. My feet dragged against the tile floor as I stumbled into the mess hall, Rudy and Darren not far behind. We swiped our IDs one at a time at the front counter, unlocking the fridge and allowing us to grab one of the cheap, pre-packaged lunch boxes available for grunts. I was pretty sure the cost of meals here just went on a tab that would eventually get taken from payments for successful missions… that is, if we were normal Rockets intent on doing any missions. Apparently it was pretty common for new recruits to rack up a sizable debt during their training, and we were told not to worry about it.

It was just a simple boxed lunch of meat, vegetables, and rice, but after the training we’d just endured, it was like a feast. All three of us wolfed down our meals like they were nothing.

“So far I think the best part about being a Rocket is the way-too-long hours and always getting yelled at,” Darren said in between bites of food.

I snorted into my bowl. “No, I think the best part is getting stuck with all the jobs that no one else wants.”

“Well I don’t know what’s wrong with you two, because I hate those parts,” Rudy grumbled.

I didn’t bother pointing out to him that we were being sarcastic. He didn’t care.

“It would be kinda nice if we could get through a lesson without someone’s Pokémon getting chewed out,” I said, knowing full well that “someone” in this case almost always meant “Rudy.” “She was really laying it on thick with Wartortle this time. Is he gonna be alright?”

“Ah, you don’t gotta worry about him, he’s tough,” Rudy said, waving a hand dismissively. “Well… as tough as a water-type can be, anyway.”

I rolled my eyes. More backhanded ways of saying he’d have preferred having Charmander as a starter. He only had himself to blame for not getting one. And it was more than a little ridiculous that he hadn’t been able to shut up about Ebony getting yelled at yesterday but barely acknowledged the same thing happening to Wartortle today. Then again, when our Pokémon weren’t completely exhausted, it was obvious that they were getting stronger. The training was working, no matter how much we didn’t like it.

At that moment, all three of our communicators buzzed with a text message alert. I pulled mine out and read, “Grunt quarters 7 is free. We’ll meet in 15 mins.” It was from Ray.

“Looks like we’re finally having that meeting.” He’d sent out another text to every rebel earlier that same day telling us to expect it. It was a bit exciting, knowing that everyone on the Rebellion was currently in a Rocket base and ready to start gathering information. And at the very least, it was something to focus on other than how much training sucked. The rest of the meal didn’t involve any more complaining.

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

It was late enough in the evening that we were all done with our tasks for the day, but early enough that most of the other grunts were still at dinner. Perfect time to get all the rebels from all the bases in on one chat.

We were huddled together in one of the grunt quarters, all twelve of us. Group 1 (Ray, Mai, and Sasha) had obviously been the first ones sent to this base, and Group 5 (Zoe, Alec, and Liam) had gone next. Then it had been me, Rudy, and Darren, and finally Group 16 (Reed, Wes, and Kris) a few days later. Mai stood guard at the door, her dark eyes scanning the hallway outside so no one could walk in on us without warning. Meanwhile, Ray and Sasha worked on getting a group call set up with the rebels at the other bases.

I was sitting on one of the many double bunks that filled the cramped space, Rudy and Darren alongside me. Across from us sat the members of Group 5. Zoe, a tall, pale girl with short brown hair and amber eyes, had volunteered to take notes, and was already scribbling furiously despite the fact that the meeting hadn’t even started yet. Liam had been trying to coax a conversation out of his teammate Alec, a short, chubby kid with curly red hair who I hadn’t really seen much of until now. Couldn’t really tell if they were a boy or a girl either. They were hunched over a book and every so often flashed a half-hearted smile at Liam, in that reluctant “I really don’t want to talk but don’t know how to say no” kind of way.

Reed and Kris were both hanging upside down off the top bunk nearest me, excitedly swapping battling tips. Their partner Wes, a short, quiet boy with dark skin and tightly braided hair, was busy brushing his Vulpix’s fur and occasionally shot an incredulous glance at his teammates’ antics.

“I think we got it,” Sasha announced, holding up her communicator. “We started a three-way video call. My R-com is linked to the Viridian groups, and Ray’s is linked to Saffron.”

“Awesome! Can you guys hear us?” Reed called out.

“Sure can,” one of the Viridian rebels replied, waving to us from the tiny screen.

“Sweet, I wanna be in the video call,” Kris said, rushing to climb down from the top bunk and nearly falling on Wes in the process.

“Not if I get there first!” Reed called after her, immediately falling straight to the floor with a loud thud.

“Can everyone be quieter?!” Mai hissed, eyeing the outside hallway suspiciously. “We don’t want everyone in the base hearing us, do we?” Zoe snickered a bit at the commotion but then stopped when she saw the look on Mai’s face.

“So how are things going in Viridian?” Sasha asked the group chat.

“Really tough,” one of them replied. “I swear everyone here is on the combat unit, and they’re constantly jumping in to make our training tougher—like our officer wasn’t doing a good enough job of that already.”

“What, really, you guys get to battle?” one of the rebels in Saffron asked. “We haven’t gotten to battle at all since we got here, and I’m pretty sure the other three groups in Saffron haven’t either.”

Another kid chimed in, “It’s all like… lectures on how to get goods and Pokémon for Team Rocket and, like… profit analysis crap.” That got a solid round of laughter from almost everyone in the room. Sure, I hadn’t been too fond of the training so far, but at least it was preferable to that.

“I wandered into a meeting on how to get businessmen to do what you want,” a third Saffron rebel added. “It was… uh… interesting?” Her teammates started snickering.

“You know it’s not that great, getting to train here,” Reed spoke up in a too-loud voice. “It’s crazy hard—makes Stalker’s training seem like cake.”

“Considering you couldn’t even finish Stalker’s most recent training, how are you still alive?” a Viridian rebel asked.

Reed’s face fell. “Ha ha, real funny.”

“Come on, guys, seriously?” Mai groaned exasperatedly. “We don’t have forever in here, we’ve gotta keep this short.”

Sasha chuckled a bit. “Gotta admit she’s right. Anyone heard anything about the mission?”

An awkward silence fell over the group, and everyone glanced around to see if anyone else had been successful.

Ray shrugged. “I didn’t expect anyone to have found anything yet.” About half the rebels let out a sigh of relief. It was kind of funny to see the reactions everyone normally reserved for Stalker being projected onto Ray now that his group was in charge and Stalker wasn’t around. It wasn’t hard to see why though—he had the same cool and collected air and intense expressions.

“At least it seems like we all got set up on the team without too much trouble,” Liam offered, and there was a murmur of agreement from everyone.

“We should focus on figuring out which of us have officers assigned to the mission,” Zoe added. “Then we know who to target for info. If you find out your officer isn’t on the mission, then just ask around. Play the noob card, like you just wanna know what’s going on with the higher-ups.”

That sounded doable. Granted, Karen wasn’t the most approachable Rocket around, but the idea of hunting for rumors amongst the other grunts didn’t seem too bad.

“I’ll send out a mass text when it’s time for the next meeting like this,” Ray said. “Hopefully by then we’ll have something to work with.”

Sasha nodded. “Sounds good to me—everyone else got that?”

“Yup!”

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

It was the middle of a training session. Karen had just shown us some tips for quickly ganging up on and incapacitating a target, and now we’d gotten a rare moment to rest and catch our breath. I just had to take advantage of it and try getting some info on the Legendary mission. It was the only opportunity to come up all day.

“So, we heard there was a huge combat unit mission coming up?” I said, trying my hardest to make it sound as casual as possible. Maybe a bit too hard. Dangit.

“Yeah? What about it?” Karen asked dully. Good, she hadn’t noticed.

“What kind of mission is it?”

She scoffed. “That’s not exactly the kind of thing they tell those of us who aren’t assigned to it.”

“You’re not?” Rudy blurted out.

Her eyes twitched. “No. Even though I’m more than qualified, some people don’t seem to think I should go anywhere on this team.”

I clenched my teeth. If there was one thing we didn’t need, it was Karen going on another one of her rants on how the higher-ups were determined to see her fail.

Darren jumped in with, “But you’ve heard rumors about it… right?”

Karen laughed. “Oh man, take it from me, kid, the kinds of rumors you’ll hear around the base are nuts. And what’s it to you? It’s not like you’ll be on the combat unit any time soon. It takes years to qualify.”

Well that was some shut down. Was there any way to ask what she knew without it seeming totally suspicious? Nothing was coming to me. I locked eyes with Rudy and Darren, but from their expressions, it seemed they were just as clueless as I was.

“Well don’t just stand there,” Karen said, giving us an impatient look. “Let’s run through that drill one more time.”

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

Every conversation with Karen ended the same way. There was absolutely no way we were going to get any information out of her, and I could only hope that the rest of the rebels didn’t have such disagreeable officers. Either way, it meant that grunts were our best bet.

Rudy, Darren and I were sitting in the mess hall during an ordinary lunch, watching the other Rockets. The problem was that none of us actually wanted to go first. We’d been sitting here staring for fifteen minutes, and it was starting to get a bit ridiculous.

“So we should probably try actually talking to people,” I finally spoke up.

“Do we have to? They’re Rockets,” Rudy whispered.

I put a hand to my forehead. “You were all excited about it yesterday. What happened?”

“Well… I was, but then I thought about it.”

“That’s gotta be a first.”

I winced from a sudden punch to the arm. Yep, couldn’t say I was surprised; I kind of deserved that one.

“You should do it, anyway. You’re the oldest,” Rudy said simply. Darren nodded in a “that makes sense” kind of way.

I groaned. “Fine, I was gonna do it anyway.”

At least it was easy to identify who was a grunt based on the uniform—black pants and shirt with gray boots. I scanned the crowd for any nearby grunts who were eating alone, and caught sight of one two tables down and across from us. Alright, now was as good a time as any. I got up from our table and wandered over, trying my best not to look completely awkward.

“Hey, uh… I’m new here,” I said, sitting down alongside the grunt.

“‘Sup?” she replied, not looking up from her lunch.

I paused for several seconds, not really sure how to proceed. “So, uh… is it cool if I ask you some things about how stuff goes around here? My officer’s not too talkative.” Not entirely true. Karen was plenty talkative—just not about anything we wanted to know.

“Sure. Fire away,” she said, finally looking up.

Alright, had her attention. Now I just had to think of what questions to ask. I hadn’t really thought that far ahead. The first thing that entered my mind was, “How long does it take before newbies can get assigned to actual missions?”

The Rocket paused thoughtfully. “I didn’t go on my first mission ‘til I’d been here for two months. And even then, it was just a simple heist.”

“What kind of missions have you done since then?”

She shrugged. “All sorts. Bigger heists, catching rare Pokémon, added muscle during business negotiations—I actually got to rough up a few guys on my last job, that was fun.”

It was… really weird hearing someone talk about Team Rocket activity so nonchalantly. Still, I kind of needed to expect that by now. Time to push the topic further.

“Do you know what kind of missions the higher-ups go on?”

“Depends on what department,” she replied through a mouthful of food.

“The combat unit, of course.”

Her face split into a grin. “You’ve heard the rumors, haven’t you? About the combat unit planning a big mission soon?”

I nodded. “No one seems to know anything about it. Is it really that big of a secret?”

“Well yeah. Course, word gets out anyway. You shoulda seen the base two months ago.”

Two months ago… I had a feeling I already knew what she was talking about, but I couldn’t let that on. “I take it there was a big mission then?”

She lowered her voice. “Hell yeah, the combat unit was gonna catch Entei.”

I widened my eyes to put on the look of shock that she’d be expecting. But I almost didn’t have to fake it at all—the memory still burned just as brightly as the day I saw the attack unfolding right in front of me.

“I know, right?” she said upon seeing my expression. “That was my reaction when I first heard. Sucks that those Johto assholes got to it first.”

I let out an exasperated sigh. “Okay, what’s the deal with the Johto force? Is there some kind of rivalry going on?”

The Rocket groaned and put a hand to her forehead. “Buncha crap went down last year—Johto force came out of it way better off, and they never let us forget it.”

Well that was… interesting. But none of this would help us on our mission—and we already knew the Johto force had Entei.

“Anyway, my break’s over, good luck with your training.” She grabbed her empty lunch tray and gave a small wave before walking off.

Well… that hadn’t gone terribly… but it hadn’t exactly paid off either. Might as well try again with someone else. I glanced around the crowd once more, searching for another conversation target. Eventually my eyes fell on a grunt who looked to be staring off into space. He seemed as good an option as any.

I wandered over, trying to look as casual as possible before sitting down and going, “Hey.”

“Shh!” He pointed forcefully at the TV in one of the upper corners of the room.

I blinked, a bit taken aback. The TV was muted and had captions on, since it would’ve been too hard to hear it in such a busy area anyway.

“There’s… no volume,” I said, confused as to why he wanted quiet when there was nothing to hear. The Rocket ignored me, staring intently at a pair of trainers on the screen. I shot a helpless glance back at Rudy and Darren, who just kind of gave a clueless shrug.

I turned back to the TV, where a Nidoking and a Blastoise were locked in combat, each of them shoving against the other, trying to get an opening for a move. Blastoise threw its weight around in an attempt to get Nidoking on the ground so it could aim the water cannons on its back, but the armored, rabbit-like beast refused to budge. Both fighters were panting hard with exhaustion, but eventually Nidoking pulled back enough to fire a sudden bolt of lightning from the horn on its head, and the opposing water-type collapsed.

The screen cut away from the trainers and switched to a pair of excitable commentators, and that’s when the Rocket came out of his trance and realized that I was still there.

“The hell do you want? The semifinals started today; I’m not missing a second,” he said.

I blinked. “The semifinals of what?”

“…The Indigo League?” he said, staring at me like I was super dense.

I barely had time to react before being shoved aside by Rudy rushing over and yelling, “That’s going on now?!”

The Rocket laughed. “Second week of August—when else would it be?”

Rudy grabbed my shirt sleeve frantically. “How did we forget?”

“I… we’ve been busy?” I managed in response, glancing back up at the TV, where slow-mo replays of key moments in the match were being displayed.

“I know Connie is the favorite to win this year,” the Rocket continued, “but I’m a fan of Derek. I’ve got a lot of money riding on him,” he said, laughing a bit nervously.

I tilted my head. “Do they take bets on the League here, or…?”

He laughed. “Are you kidding? Team Rocket makes a killing on bets during tournament season.”

Darren tapped my shoulder and pointed at Rudy, who was now staring at the screen with a level of wide-eyed enthusiasm that didn’t seem possible, even for him. I had to stifle a laugh. Guess we wouldn’t be getting anything done now.

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the semifinals. I had to admit, it was a nice change of pace, not to mention it had been ages since I’d watched any League battles (having missed them last year due to sulking in my room most of the summer.) Still, it didn’t exactly help us get any closer to our goal. During the intermissions, we tried chatting with a couple other grunts also watching the matches, but didn’t have much success.

Oh well. At least this was only the first day of trying.

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

It was frustrating. Two weeks at the base and we barely had anything to go off. Two weeks of intense training, Karen dodging all our questions, and random grunts not knowing anything we didn’t already know.

“Not looking forward to being the only ones who didn’t find anything,” I muttered as Rudy, Darren, and I walked down the hallway to the grunt quarters for our upcoming meeting.

“I don’t think we’ll be the only ones. There might be one or two other failures,” Darren said matter-of-factly.

“Yep. That definitely makes everything better,” I said, groaning. I don’t know what I’d been expecting, really. That Karen would just cheerfully tell us everything she knew, and also that she’d get assigned to the mission and ask us to come along? I knew that was ridiculous, but I still had imagined we’d be slightly more useful on our first mission.

“I guess we could have been caught—that’s one way things could be worse,” Darren added, shrugging.

I couldn’t argue with that. And with my luck, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

We arrived at the door to the grunt quarters and opened it to see the familiar sight of the other three groups of Cerulean rebels scattered across the bunks.

“Good to see ya!” Zoe called out brightly, waving to us from across the room. “We’re just getting the call started, so hurry on over.”

Mai shut the door behind us and took up her usual guard post. The three of us sat down across from Ray and Sasha, who were busy with their communicators. We didn’t have to wait long before hearing the voices of the Viridian and Saffron rebels coming from the speakers. From my vantage point, I could see several kids huddled together to be in view of the cameras.

“Everyone ready?” Ray asked. Upon hearing or seeing confirmation from all the rebels, he went on, “Alright, we’ll start. Since our last meeting, my group found out that our officer was actually being considered for a spot on the mission.”

“Unfortunately…” Sasha continued, “that means he’s super paranoid about messing up his chances and wouldn’t spill any details.”

Out of everyone in the room, the members of Group 5 were the only ones who didn’t look disappointed. They glanced back and forth at each other for a bit before Zoe stood up and announced, “Well I’ve already told some of you, but our group’s officer is confirmed to be on the Legendary mission.”

“No way!” several rebels cried.

“Not only that,” Liam added, “but whatever their target is, they’ve been following it for a while. He wouldn’t say what it was. But he said there’s actually a small team out there that’s been chasing it down for the past week. We think the full attack is gonna happen pretty soon.”

All eyes were staring at Group 5 in admiration. And here I’d gone and thought we’d be screwed, but this was already a promising lead. Zoe sat back down, beaming.

Sasha nodded. “That’s a good start. Anyone got anything on how the mission’s gonna go down?”

One of the Viridian rebels spoke up. “Our officer talked to another Rocket about their electric Pokémon being borrowed for testing their attacks against some new tech that had to be ready before a big mission.”

Sasha’s eyes widened. “Whoa, really? That’s huge. That narrows it down a ton, right?”

“Who knows the most about Legendaries out of us?” Ray asked, surveying the room.

“Alec does,” Liam said firmly, giving his teammate a light nudge with his elbow. Alec glanced up at him with an anxious look, but Liam just gave a reassuring nod.

“Right, so, uh… the only electric Legendaries that live anywhere near us are Zapdos and Raikou,” Alec said slowly. “Zapdos is… well, it’s thought to roost in Kanto, although it’s been spotted flying over a couple other regions. Raikou constantly roams across Johto, but it’s also been spotted in Kanto sometimes.”

Zapdos or Raikou… Either one would be a huge boost to their forces. But out of the two, my brain kept latching onto Zapdos. Team Rocket must have encountered it before—where else did they get the DNA to make a Zapdos-Pikachu hybrid?

“They’ve gone after Zapdos once before,” I said slowly. “They might be trying to catch it for real this time.”

“Wait what?!” Reed exclaimed, gaping at me. “How do you know that?”

“Jade used to have a totally awesome Zapdos-Pikachu hybrid!” Rudy exclaimed, jumping in front of me.

Reed snorted. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

“It’s the truth!” Rudy shot back. “How else do you think we escaped from that Rocket jet?”

“I never thought that story actually happened. Not the way you tell it, anyway,” Mai said, adding an eye roll for good measure.

“Actually… I have a picture of him,” Darren said all of a sudden.

We all turned to stare at him at once. Seriously? He’d gotten Chibi’s picture? On the S.S. Anne?

“I thought he looked cool,” Darren said, shrugging. “You don’t see a Pikachu like that every day… well, I guess you did, when he was with you. I didn’t know he was part Zapdos.” He grabbed his Pokégear and tapped a few buttons before holding it out to the rest of us. Sure enough, there was Chibi, standing on the boarding platform. The photo was blurry, but you could definitely make out the pointed head feathers and the intense, bird-like eyes.

Liam paused thoughtfully. “Well, okay… so if that’s true, then Zapdos is probably what they’re after.”

“Hey everyone, sorry we’re late!” a voice from the chat suddenly announced. “I kept messing up at training and our group got held overtime.”

“No worries,” Zoe said brightly, “we just figured out that Zapdos is probably the target.”

“Zapdos? Why Zapdos?” the rebel asked. “Hasn’t it been spotted flying over a lot of different regions? It doesn’t seem like the easiest Pokémon to find.”

Kris snorted. “And Raikou would be easier to track?”

“Why are we so sure it’s an electric Legendary?”

One of the other Viridian rebels shot back with, “You weren’t here so you didn’t hear the reason!”

And with that, the entire chat broke out into squabbling, most of it between the various groups of Viridian rebels, although Reed and Kris weren’t helping things much on our end either.

“Actually, I know another reason it’s probably electric!” a voice called out suddenly, forcing everyone to pause. It had come from one of the Saffron rebels.

“No offense, but are there even any Rockets on the mission in Saffron?” Kris asked. “They don’t exactly keep the combat unit stationed there. I’m not even sure why Stalker sent anyone there.”

With an exasperated groan, Mai stormed away from her watch post and growled, “Kris, for once in your life can you be quiet?

Kris froze, looking like she’d been slapped. Reed seemed to be using every ounce of willpower he had not to burst out laughing. For several seconds no one said anything, and Ray just kept his face buried in his palms.

“Uh, we’re good here now, you can keep going,” Zoe told the Saffron group.

“Oh. Right, so… in one of the ‘cost effectiveness’ presentations, they had a thing on using Pokémon energy. I guess electric Pokémon’s power is the easiest to absorb and use… that makes sense, right? And if we know they’re testing electric attacks on new tech, that prob’ly means they wanna use it on the easiest target before going for other types of Legendaries.”

There was a moment of silence as everyone paused to consider the new info.

“They didn’t exactly have the easiest time with Entei,” I added. “It would have escaped altogether if the Johto force hadn’t intervened.”

Everyone stared at the floor. The story of Entei’s capture was common knowledge amongst the Rebellion by now. The memory of it only served as a reminder of how we couldn’t afford to mess this up, otherwise the Rockets would have two Legendaries at their disposal.

“How did they catch Entei anyway?” a small voice asked. I looked up to see Alec glancing around at their teammates dejectedly. “It’s a Legendary. Pokéballs don’t… shouldn’t work on them.”

“Oh, um… I think I know how,” a voice piped up from the R-com. “There was some kind of budget meeting on that. Did you guys know that Team Rocket owns the Silph Company?”

“What?!” several voices exclaimed at once. The biggest brand name in trainer tech belonged to the Rockets? What?

“I know, right? And they’ve been dumping tons of money into mass-producing Master Balls.”

A chill suddenly fell over me. Master Ball. It’d been a long time since I’d heard that term.

“Oh. Guess that explains it,” one of the other kids replied blankly.

Pretty much everyone had heard the controversy—that Silph Co. had invented a Pokéball that could catch any Pokémon without fail. There’d been a ton of protests from Pokémon rights groups saying that it totally invalidated the training pact—it was practically the only thing our teachers felt like talking about for a few weeks way back when. Then Master Balls were banned in most stores, and they made it so you couldn’t even get one without a special license, so most of the chatter died down. Still, even now, it felt more like a myth than a thing that could really exist.

Zoe glanced around at all of the glum faces in the room and smiled weakly. “C’mon, enough pouting—how do we stop them?”

“Obviously the Viridian rebels sabotage the new tech.”

Someone in the chat snorted. “How do you expect us to do that?”

“We don’t even know where it is,” another added.

“You just find someone who looks like a scientist and follow them back to—”

“Okay, stop just… throwing out random suggestions,” Ray said, putting a hand to his forehead. “We need a solid plan.”

Sasha crossed her arms. “Ray, I don’t actually think we should be making too many plans ‘til we see how the mission is really gonna down. We need to know what we’re up against first. Blind strategies are useless.”

Ray frowned. “I like being prepared. And right now, we don’t even know where it is.”

“Why don’t we just have someone follow ‘em?”

Not the voice I had expected to hear. Everyone whirled around to see where it had come from, and eventually all eyes fell on Wes.

He glanced around sheepishly. “Well, we know at least one guy on the mission, right? Why doesn’t the group assigned to him just… tail him to the mission site, let us know where it is and what it’s like? And then while the Rockets are still getting set up, the rest of us head over and stop ‘em?”

Everyone paused to consider the suggestion.

“Well…” Liam said slowly, “that’d be me, Zoe and Alec. Anyone else?”

“Our officer’s on the mission,” a Viridian rebel replied.

“Good. Whoever gets there first, use your GPS app to get the location and send it to me. I’ll text it to everyone else after that,” Ray said.

“How do the rest of us get there once we know where it is?” another Viridian rebel asked.

“Same way we got here,” Zoe replied. “We might not have access to Stalker’s Pokémon, but I think between all of us we have enough fliers and teleporters to pull it off.”

Sasha nodded. “So long as it’s not like… clear across Kanto, my Kadabra should be able teleport everyone in Cerulean one at a time.” A couple Viridian and Saffron rebels voiced their agreement and their various methods for getting there.

“So it sounds like we have a plan,” Ray said, looking satisfied.

We had a plan. This was really happening. It had felt like we were just a bunch of random kids in over our head, and now we actually had a concrete plan for stopping Team Rocket from catching a Legendary. It was unreal.

Darren nodded. “See? Told you we weren’t going to singlehandedly ruin everything.”

I couldn’t help laughing. “I guess not.”






~End Chapter 11~
So fun fact, the old version used to just skip straight from them arriving at the base to starting the Legendary mission. Which was a little ridiculous, because it made the rebels…completely pointless in the grand scheme of things. Adding this chapter let me actually show the rebels doing things and allowed for a fun mixture of both childishness and competence from them.
 

Virgil134

PMD Writer
Partner
weavile
Chapter 4

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.
Pretty interesting how TMs work in LC. Since canon is so vague about TMs are applied, it’s always fun to see what different interpretations authors have.

“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.
Even more interesting! I see LC subscribes to the “Pokémon don’t instantly master TM moves” school as well.

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.
Well that’s not good.

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.
I had to go back to check who Ajia was, but the girl from the prologue, huh? That’s definitely unexpected, though will be interesting to find out how and why she showed up here.

“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.
… Wait Ajia just happened to pass overhead?

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.”
Ooh, this is clever. Very bad for the heroes of course, but still clever. Given how widely available these healing machines are shown to be in games, it only makes someone would use them like this eventually. Should make for a fun obstacle to overcome.

My Aerodactyl should be able to fly while carrying two people
I see you’re going with the anime size when it comes to Aerodactyl. I guess artwork already showed it a little bit, though was a little hard to say for sure since we only see Ajia partially in that.

She observed the plane’s wreck with a thoughtful look. “So we just need to figure out a way onto the plane
So the idea is basically to fight their way to the medicine, heal Pidgeot, and then use it alongside Aerodactyl to escape the Rockets? Alright, I like the setup. This is looking to be a fun action chapter.

“*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.
Hey, the experiment is finally gonna work with them! Nice.

“*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.*”
Beta Z-Move confirmed? :V

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.
Wait, how close are the Rockets standing to the hybrid for the lightning to be undodgeable? The description so far had given me the impression there was a good amount of distance between them. Also why were these Rockets standing out in the open in the first place if they weren’t helping the Executive?

But Ajia’s plan had worked—the bullets pinged uselessly off the pair of barriers.
Okay I know this is a matter of having different headcanons, but I found this part very unbelievable. Especially since it’s Reflect and not Protect. It also feels like too easy of a solution for an otherwise impossible hurdle to get past. I know you wrote this many years ago, but what’s the point of guns in the story if an attack that merely cuts the strength of physical attack in half already makes bullets harmlessly bounce off?

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’m gonna go ahead and guess this is the most kindness the hybrid’s ever been shown in his life.

“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.
I like how he didn’t give anyone the time to answer his question XD

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.
Heh, you definitely got me there for a second. Smart move to grab an X Speed from those supplies.

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.
Although I’m glad about this ending, how come none of the Rockets shot them out of the air with their guns? Even if we go with that Reflect can block bullets just fine, it no longer seems to be active here. And if a Raichu can shoot down a Pidgeot with Thunder (assuming no X speed is in play), then multiple people should definitely be able to shoot these ‘mons down with guns.

Anyway, I thought it was a fun chapter! It had some good action and, aside from the part with the guns, I liked how they managed to get out of this situation. I felt like the chapter made for a good climax to these first few chapters and Jade’s first encounter with Team Rocket, since I’m assuming next chapter will be more of a breather.

Though some criticism I do have is that I felt like we didn’t really see much of the Executive and Tyson, since they both only got 1 line of dialogue this chapter. Given that they spend the chapter battling the Executive’s Pokémon, it was a bit strange that the focus was almost exclusively on only one side of the battle, namely the protagonists. That said, all the focus on the protagonists does have the advantage of showing how much more developed Jade’s friends already are compared to her. Will look forward to seeing her grown and develop to get to the same level as them.
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
The Charmeleon twisted his face into a horrifying grimace
Gonna use this quote to zero in on the fact that this battle gave me serious flashback vibes to literally the chapter before. We had a fight scene opening that one and a fight scene opening this one and aaaa it's just a repeat and it was hard for me to not skim over it. Yeah, they're getting stronger, I get that, but... I guess I would have preferred if there was less emphasis on the battle and more emphasis on the strategy being changed, like how they're working more on stealthy fights or something? But then again, I feel like Stalker would've trained them for the exact same thing, so...

Group 1 (Ray, Mai, and Sasha)
Even with these parentheses, I dunno how important it'll be or if I even need to remember all the groups at once... or if I can~

It’s crazy hard—makes Stalker’s training seem like cake.
I feel like if it wasn't for the fact that they were a criminal organization, this would look great on a resume.

Mai stood guard at the door, her dark eyes scanning the hallway outside so no one could walk in on us without warning.
I wonder, what about cameras? Or hidden cameras? Surely the rockets would be aware of potential espionage, right?

Reed snorted. “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
Ah, I see you, too, subscribe to the act of having characters badmouth your own plot points.

Did you guys know that Team Rocket owns the Silph Company
Oh. Thaaat's an interesting little twist to drop right there. Makes sense, too, since I recall canonically the president had been held hostage or otherwise taken over by Giovanni in Fire Red or something. This just takes it a step further, conspiracy wise, eh?

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting chapter. It wasn't too slow or fast, and in my opinion, my favorite parts were when they starting gawking at the Indigo League, and when they started to deduce that it was Zapdos that they were after, whether they're correct or not. I personally would've thought it was Raikou just because, well, they had gotten Entei, y'know? But ah well. This was also a good deduction. Interested to see where it goes.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
Pretty interesting how TMs work in LC. Since canon is so vague about TMs are applied, it’s always fun to see what different interpretations authors have.
TMs are the best because every single form of canon does them differently. (CDs? Watches? Belts? Rings? Scrolls? Boxes??) I love that everyone has their own idea on how they work. ^^
… Wait Ajia just happened to pass overhead?
...nnnnnoootttt quite. ;)
Wait, how close are the Rockets standing to the hybrid for the lightning to be undodgeable? The description so far had given me the impression there was a good amount of distance between them. Also why were these Rockets standing out in the open in the first place if they weren’t helping the Executive?
Basically it was meant to be like a flood of lightning, rather than an individual bolt, which could be dodged. Like Discharge but waaaaay bigger.
Okay I know this is a matter of having different headcanons, but I found this part very unbelievable. Especially since it’s Reflect and not Protect. It also feels like too easy of a solution for an otherwise impossible hurdle to get past. I know you wrote this many years ago, but what’s the point of guns in the story if an attack that merely cuts the strength of physical attack in half already makes bullets harmlessly bounce off?
This is definitely something I need to fix. In the old version, I did indeed have a weird headcanon for Reflect/Light Screen. I ended up getting rid of it later in this version when I gave literally everyone Protect. So I really should go back and have Ajia's team use alternating Protects here.
I’m gonna go ahead and guess this is the most kindness the hybrid’s ever been shown in his life.
It probably is!
Although I’m glad about this ending, how come none of the Rockets shot them out of the air with their guns? Even if we go with that Reflect can block bullets just fine, it no longer seems to be active here. And if a Raichu can shoot down a Pidgeot with Thunder (assuming no X speed is in play), then multiple people should definitely be able to shoot these ‘mons down with guns.
Ah, I should tweak the way I describe the placement of everything, cause they definitely weren't meant to be flying anywhere that would give the Rockets a clear shot.
Though some criticism I do have is that I felt like we didn’t really see much of the Executive and Tyson, since they both only got 1 line of dialogue this chapter. Given that they spend the chapter battling the Executive’s Pokémon, it was a bit strange that the focus was almost exclusively on only one side of the battle, namely the protagonists. That said, all the focus on the protagonists does have the advantage of showing how much more developed Jade’s friends already are compared to her.
Yeah, it would've been hard to give them more focus, since we're locked to Jade's POV and can only see what she sees. But we will get to see more of the executive later! :D
We had a fight scene opening that one and a fight scene opening this one and aaaa it's just a repeat and it was hard for me to not skim over it. Yeah, they're getting stronger, I get that
Well, I did keep that scene really short for a reason (less than a page!) But the purpose of this training bit was less about them being stronger and more about character interactions (with a bit of foreshadowing sprinkled in).
I wonder, what about cameras? Or hidden cameras? Surely the rockets would be aware of potential espionage, right?
True, but I really only have cameras in high-security areas, not the dorms.
Ah, I see you, too, subscribe to the act of having characters badmouth your own plot points.
Number nine will never stop being the most ridiculous part of this fic, so I gotta have fun with him somehow. ;P
Oh. Thaaat's an interesting little twist to drop right there. Makes sense, too, since I recall canonically the president had been held hostage or otherwise taken over by Giovanni in Fire Red or something. This just takes it a step further, conspiracy wise, eh?
Yep! It seemed like the logical next step in a world where the Rockets didn't get thwarted by Red.

Thanks for the reviews, both of you! ^^ And now, Chapter 12~
 
Chapter 12: The Incarnation of Thunder

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
First Legendary mission. Here we go.



~Chapter 12: The Incarnation of Thunder~


I felt movement. My eyes snapped open suddenly, blinking in the darkness of the grunt quarters. The tiniest sound of something vibrating caught my ear. Somewhere in the back of my mind, beyond the cloud of sleep, I realized that it was important. But… why?

Wait. It was my communicator. That was definitely important. My hands fumbled around, trying to find where I’d stashed it, before brushing against the device hiding under my pillow. I cupped my fingers over the screen so it wouldn’t light up the room as I checked it.

I’d gotten a text from Liam. And from the looks of it, he’d sent the message to everyone on the Rebellion: “Just got to the mission spot. Check the coordinates on this message. I already told Stalker it’s on now.”

My breath froze in my chest. The mission was on. Right now? What time was it? 3 in the morning. No wonder there was a faint voice in the back of my head saying I shouldn’t be awake.

The room, though still dark, had a faint glow about it. I turned to glance around and saw a couple of other rebels checking their communicators. Suddenly, another message appeared—one sent by Sasha to all of the Cerulean rebels that were still here: “We need to leave one at a time to avoid suspicion, so text the group when you’re leaving, and then again when you make it outside. I’ll go first.”

Minutes crept by in the darkness. Every so often my ears caught the faint sounds of someone removing their covers and tiptoeing across the room. Then a small wave of light from them opening the door out into the hallway. I hardly dared to breathe. Part of me still expected a Rocket to barge in all of a sudden and demand to know why we were awake.

But nothing happened. Three rebels had left the room so far. Sooner or later, I’d have to join them. And then, if we made it out of the base, we’d have to make it to the mission location. And then, once we were there, we’d still have to be on guard to not get spotted. This was all way too much to handle at 3am. Yeah… the fact that it was 3am was the problem. I could’ve handled it at any other time.

Somehow, I still didn’t believe that. But I’d been able to keep my nerves on the S.S. Anne, and I’d been alone then, not surrounded by allies. Then again… I hadn’t been alone, had I? I’d had Chibi with me. Up until the point when he—no. I didn’t need to think about what had happened to him. Not now.

This wasn’t helping. No more thinking, just doing. I took a deep breath to calm my nerves and then texted the group that I’d be going next.

I slid myself out of bed as carefully as I could, taking care not to wake any of the grunts in the room that weren’t rebels. I grabbed my Rocket uniform and quickly got dressed in the locker room before slipping out into the hallway.

It was late enough that almost no one else was awake. I could hear the faintest sounds of a few Pokémon training in the battlefield, and some voices coming from the mess hall, but that was about it. Perfect, now I just needed to make it to the elevator without anyone seeing me, and—

The moment the thought entered my head, a Rocket stepped out from one of the side rooms and strode down the hallway in my direction. Almost every muscle in my body froze, save for my legs, which were on autopilot. What was the best way to not look suspicious? Should I walk like I had somewhere important to be? Try to keep it casual? I was just getting up for a midnight snack. No, that wasn’t it, the mess hall was in the opposite direction. Think! There had to be some reason I was out of bed. Anything? I was almost about to pass him with the most clueless and guilty face in existence.

But the Rocket walked right past me, his eyes glued to his tablet, not even giving a side glance in my direction. I blinked. That was it? He didn’t even care?

Then again… did any random Rocket going about their business have any reason to suspect anything of another random Rocket? I guess if I’d run into Karen or something, that would’ve been bad. But what were the odds of her being up this late?

I shook my head slightly. I was being stupid. As far as everyone was concerned, I was a Rocket. I had every reason to be here, and I was just going for a late-night walk to get some fresh air. That was it.

I swiped my ID to use the elevator back to the main floor, then cautiously stepped out into the lobby. It was dark and deserted… good. While there was nothing wrong with a handful of grunts leaving the base one after the other at this hour, it was still impossible to shake the fear that if too many of us were seen too close together, it’d raise some red flags.

The front entrance was locked for the night, so I slipped out the members-only side exit, emerging from the Rocket HQ into an empty city alleyway. Streetlights and the occasional car headlights illuminated the darkness. The sidewalks were nearly empty, with the closest person being two city blocks away.

I was outside the base. I leaned against the building and let out the breath I’d been holding. The warm summer night’s air swept over me, and I couldn’t help closing my eyes and inhaling deeply. I could actually feel the tension leaving my body from being outside and away from the constant need to be on guard.

Still, much as I wanted to, I couldn’t relax just yet. We had a mission.

I joined the Group 1 rebels in the park across the street, and within fifteen minutes, the rest of the Cerulean rebels had all gathered outside, glancing around nervously and waiting for Sasha’s Kadabra to return (it had gone with the Group 5 rebels to memorize the mission location before coming back to get the rest of us.) Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long until the golden humanoid appeared before us in a flash of shimmering light, twirling a spoon between its claws.

My turn came up sooner than I would have liked. There was no going back now. My heart pounded in my chest as I stepped forward to teleport with the psychic-type. Just like last time, my surroundings dissolved into light and all of my senses disconnected before everything suddenly snapped back into focus.

I now stood in a densely forested area. Darkness hung over the surrounding—there wasn’t even any moonlight. In fact, the only light at all was the glow cast by what looked like spotlights off in the distance, beyond the trees. The rest of the Rebellion was scattered in that direction; Liam waved the newcomers over.

“Okay, so here’s the deal,” one of the Viridian rebels said as soon as we had all gathered around. “They’ve got a strike team out there hunting it down right now, herding it to this location so they can nail it with all their Pokémon at once.”

I took my first look at the Rockets’ setup. Twelve flatbed trucks sat in a wide circle around a clearing not far from us. Each of them carried a large piece of machinery in the back, which opened at the top to reveal a tall, black antenna surrounded by thick, silver coils. The coils gave off a low hum. I shivered; just looking at them struck me with an uneasy feeling.

“That’s the new tech they’re gonna use to trap it,” Liam said. “I heard someone call it the Thunder Field.”

Which meant that our mission would almost definitely involve sabotaging it. The only question was… how hard would that be?

“Also… we were wrong about the target. It’s Raikou.”

Raikou? A guardian of Johto, just like Entei. Sure, Alec had said that it sometimes roamed Kanto as well, but why were the Kanto Rockets going after the Johto beasts? Wouldn’t it be better to leave that to the Johto force?

All around the clearing, officers and executives worked to finish setting up equipment. In the end, one Rocket each was left to man the Thunder Field components on each truck. That was a problem. How would we get over there without being seen?

Rudy wandered over to stand at my side, his eyes wide. “Holy crap, this is intense. We’re actually going to see a Legendary, right here.” His voice was shaking—with enthusiasm or fear, I couldn’t quite tell. Probably both.

“Try not to get too excited. We’ve got to keep it from getting the crap kicked out of it, after all,” Darren said simply.

“Not if Raikou kicks the crap out of the Rockets,” Rudy countered. I couldn’t really argue with that, although I highly doubted it. Not after what I’d seen happen to Entei.

“Alright, we don’t have much time left, time to get a plan together,” Sasha announced, grabbing everyone’s attention.

“Is Stalker going to be here?” a small voice asked. It had come from one of the youngest kids on the Rebellion. The question caught me off guard. It honestly hadn’t occurred to me to wonder whether or not he’d be helping us, but now it seemed like a completely obvious question.

“He’s not coming,” Ray said flatly. If he was frustrated or content with that fact, I couldn’t tell. “It’s way riskier for him to get caught than any of us.”

I raised an eyebrow. It… really didn’t seem right to put it like that. I mean, I guess in a way it was true—if Stalker was discovered, the Rebellion was over, while if one of us was spotted, the rest of the team would still go on. But… seriously? Our goal was to make sure that none of us got caught.

But no one said anything. Zoe patted a few of the younger rebels on the shoulder reassuringly, while Liam just glared at Ray, his usual optimism gone.

Mai groaned. “Come on, everyone. What do you think you’ve been training for? We can do this without Stalker.”

“What she means to say,” Sasha cut in through gritted teeth, “is that there’s a lot of us, and they’re not expecting any sabotage, so we’ve got the upper hand for now.”

I glanced around at the rebels. It was pretty obvious which ones, like me, hadn’t actually considered if Stalker would be here or not. Everyone else’s faces were streaked with fear and disappointment.

“I… guess if we’re making plans now, it’s a safe bet we’ll need to destroy the Thunder Field?” I asked, hoping to move things along.

Sasha nodded. “We’ll have to sneak over and knock out the technician manning each truck without being seen, so sleep moves are probably best. Which groups have at least one Pokémon with a sleep move?”

I raised my hand, along with several others. After all, Darren’s Ivysaur had Sleep Powder.

Sasha counted out nine groups from the rebels who had raised their hands. “Alright, you guys will take one truck per group. Sabotage as much as you can without calling attention to yourselves. As for everyone else…” She paused, looking uncertain.

“Someone’s gotta make sure Raikou doesn’t get caught by the time you guys get the Thunder Field down… right?” a Viridian rebel offered.

“How are you gonna do that?” another asked, tilting her head.

“Well, it’s gonna be chaos with that many Rockets all fighting Raikou at once, right? I hardly think they’ll notice if a few extra Pokémon slip into the lineup.”

Ray looked skeptical. “The fight’s gonna be brutal. Your Pokémon would have to stay out of Raikou’s way, and also not get spotted helping it.” I shivered. That sounded way more intimidating than just knocking out a single Rocket.

“My Pokémon all know Dig,” the same rebel replied proudly. “And I think a few ‘accidental misses’ aren’t exactly gonna be obvious in that kind of melee.”

“You’re in charge of that squad then. Make sure no one does anything stupid or obvious—I can’t be everywhere,” Ray ordered.

“Target is nearing our location. Pokémon out now!” an executive called out.

I tensed up instantly. Everyone on the Rebellion froze. This was it—the battle was starting. Every Rocket in the crowd on the opposite side of the clearing threw out two or three Pokéballs, releasing a massive lineup of enemy Pokémon. At least thirty or forty of them now stood in a widespread crowd off to one side of the area within the Thunder Field. And these were combat unit Rockets—they almost definitely had more Pokémon in reserve that were being saved for later in the battle.

A distant rumble of thunder echoed throughout the air. Gusts of wind howled over the forest, and between the rustling treetops, I could just barely make out the violently churning cloud cover rolling toward us. So it was true, then… what they said about Raikou being able to generate thunderstorms.

Sudden flashes of light, each one brighter than the last, caught my eye, dragging my attention to the opposite end of the clearing.

It was here.

A massive beast shot through the trees in a burst of lightning, skidding to a stop in the middle of the clearing and throwing a glare back at its pursuers. Its gigantic, muscular frame tensed up beneath a thick coat of golden, black-striped fur. A jagged, lightning bolt tail twitched anxiously. The beast swiveled around, taking in the details of the surrounding trap, and then I got my first good look at its face, from pointed black ears to steely blue whiskers to the nightmarishly long saber teeth. Piercing reddish eyes fixed on the Rockets’ Pokémon lineup, and the electric-type let out a deafening roar, echoing like the crashing of thunder and gripping every inch of my body. The sound faded, but my arms and legs wouldn’t stop shaking.

This was the Legendary Beast of Thunder.

The Rockets stood frozen on the spot. There was no way they could go through with this. Not now that they’d seen its terrifying presence firsthand. No way.

“Trappers at the ready!”

Several Pokémon within the lineup—most of them ghosts—started glowing with an eerie red aura before fixing Raikou with a piercing stare, causing the same red aura to form around the Legendary’s body. It was trapped now—that aura would prevent it from straying too far from the source.

I clenched my fists. They were seriously still going to try it?

Raikou didn’t try to run. It clearly understood what had just taken place, and shook its head ever so slightly. For the longest time it just stood there, staring down the Rockets’ Pokémon, daring them to make a move. Finally, the tiger opened its mouth and spoke, its words a low, reverberating growl, “*The humans are the ones responsible for this. Stand down, and you will be spared.*”

Some of the Rockets’ Pokémon shifted uncomfortably, but none moved from where they were standing. The front of the lineup took a fighting stance, the traces of fear in their eyes overshadowed by determination.

Raikou stared, its expression impossible to make out. It gave a slow, solemn nod.

“*Then I shall not hold back.*”

Sparks leaped off the violet, cloudlike mane on the tiger’s back, giving way to a flood of lightning shooting every direction and covering an area half the size of the clearing. But just seconds later, the electricity was wrenched towards the trucks encircling the clearing, absorbed into the coils of the Thunder Field. Raikou’s eyes widened with shock before narrowing again. It snarled and crouched low, gathering more electricity around itself, this time firing it in a single thunderbolt, striking the heart of the machine. Jagged strings of lightning leaped off the impact point, but within seconds, the attack was completely absorbed just like the first one.

Raikou bared its teeth, frustration crossing its features for just a second. It then turned back toward its opponents and let loose another blood-curdling roar before lunging. A golden blur shot forward almost too fast to see, colliding with the Rockets’ lineup and knocking down the first Pokémon it met with its oversized claws. The target, an Ursaring, lashed out at the tiger with a glowing fist, but couldn’t land a hit before seven-inch fangs tore open its neck. The bear’s eyes widened with shock as blood gushed from the wound, soaking the ground before it collapsed in a heap. Muzzle splattered with crimson, Raikou pulled back from its target right before a horde of five or six enemy Pokémon all leaped onto it at once. The beast fell to the ground, snarling viciously and flailing its claws at anything coming too close. A handful of enemy Pokémon recoiled backwards, clutching wicked gashes to the side or face, but sheer numbers won out, and the tiger was overrun.

I couldn’t look away. It was impossible not to stare at the spectacle unfolding before us. My eyes hurt from being open so long. Every inch of my body had gone numb. But I was still staring stupidly at the carnage, unable to think. What was I supposed to be doing? How could we possibly do anything to affect the outcome of a battle like this?

“Come on. They’re all focused on the battle, time to move,” Ray said bluntly.

I blinked, feeling like I’d been jerked from a stupor. Groups of rebels were breaking off from the main gathering and bolting towards the trucks. With their black uniforms and the cover from the trees, they were almost invisible.

Rudy shook my arm to grab my attention. I jerked suddenly, spinning around to face him.

“We gotta go,” he said urgently.

“You can panic later,” Darren added.

I took a few deep breaths to steady myself before nodding. No time to panic. We had to do this. The three of us crept towards one of the trucks that hadn’t yet been targeted by one of the other rebel groups. A single Rocket stood on the truck bed alongside the control panel for the Thunder Field. He faced away from us, watching the battle.

The chaos and commotion of the fight was easily loud enough to mask the sound of a Pokéball being opened. Ivysaur materialized in front of Darren, who motioned to the rest of us to step back. At his command, the grass-type crawled forward until he was right alongside the wheels of the truck before unleashing a cloud of sparkling blue powder from the flower bud on his back. The Rocket jerked slightly upon inhaling the powder. For a few brief seconds he glanced around as though trying to figure out where it had come from before slumping to the ground, out cold.

The problem was that now the entire truck was surrounded by sleep powder, and we couldn’t risk breathing it in ourselves. Except… wait, I’d fought enough powder users to have an easy fix for that. I whipped out a Pokéball and released Swift.

“We need a Gust to clear out the Sleep Powder over there,” I said. The Pidgeotto nodded wordlessly before taking flight and flapping his wings rapidly to produce a swirling vortex of wind around the truck. With the violent sounds of the ongoing battle and the rumble of the overhead storm, you could barely hear anything. That was at least one thing we had in our favor.

Once the last trace of powder had been swept away, I walked over and pulled myself up onto the back of the flatbed truck, now face to face with the massive, boxy machine at the foot of the lightning rod. Every hair on my body stood on end—the prickly feeling of the static charge around the machine was impossible to ignore.

“Alright. Sabotage. Sounds fun, where do we start?” Darren asked once he had climbed up.

Good question. I glanced around the glowing control panel on the front of the mechanism, which was covered in way too many dials and switches. Somehow I didn’t imagine pressing all of them at random would be the best course of action. But on the far back, near the grate that kept the antenna out of reach, I spotted a very large, important-looking switch. If any of these was gonna be an off switch, it was that one. I grabbed it with both hands and pulled hard. It swung heavily towards me and clicked into place.

I leaped back from the machine, staring up at the lightning rod. Seconds passed, but… nothing appeared to have happened. Lights still glowed on the console, and the machine continued to hum.

“Of course. I don’t know why I expected it to be that easy,” I grumbled.

“Good try though,” Darren said. I couldn’t tell if his tone was mocking or sincere, and honestly didn’t care at the moment.

Rudy stepped in front of me. “Alright, my turn! Water fries electronics, right?” he said, releasing Wartortle. “Water Gun, all over the controls!”

The turtle nodded and spat out a powerful stream of water all over the console with a violent splash. The spray of water filled the air as Wartortle kept up the blast, although after several seconds he tilted his head, looking a bit perplexed. He glanced back at Rudy uncertainly before stopping the attack. Water dripped down the front of the machine harmlessly; the lights continued to glow.

“What, nothing? That’s stupid!” Rudy stomped a foot against the truck bed. “Let’s just set it on fire, no way it’ll survive that.”

“I think the Rockets might notice something if we set it on fire,” Darren replied. “Which is cool if that’s what you’re going for, but probably not?”

Rudy folded his arms and didn’t say anything more.

A horrifying snarl snapped my attention back to the battle. Raikou had just broken free from the horde of enemy Pokémon and sprinted away from them as fast as its legs could carry. But it barely managed to clear thirty yards before crashing to a halt, its entire body gripped by the red aura of Mean Look. Raikou glared back at the Pokémon already charging at it before rushing in and locking its jaws around the gaseous body of a Haunter, fangs cloaked in dark energy. The ghost immediately cried out and went limp, but just as it was recalled, three more Pokémon leaped onto the tiger, pinning it down.

Raikou shook off its attackers and sprang back, crouching defensively and putting up a shimmering wall of light around its body. A Rhydon pulled back a glowing arm, slamming it into the electric-type. A resounding thud echoed from the barrier diffusing the force of the attack, and the tiger didn’t waste a second. It rushed forward and tore into the armored beast’s vulnerable underbelly, giant claws shredding through flesh and splattering blood onto its face until it was wrenched off by the rock-type’s teammate.

It hit me with a sickening realization. Raikou had no spread attacks other than its lightning. Without that, it was reduced to attacking things one-on-one, with a flurry of claws and fangs and even a distorted light attack I couldn’t identify. There was no way for it to take out all the Pokémon trapping it at once.

Then again… it wasn’t like the Rockets weren’t suffering either. Any Pokémon unfortunate enough to take even a single blow from Raikou was instantly knocked out. Some of them could still be recalled. Others couldn’t.

The chaos of the battlefield was working against them another way. The huge melee made it difficult for those on the outside to land a blow without hitting one of their teammates… but I could have sworn the ghost-types trapping Raikou were pelted by stray moves slightly more often. And by now the ground underneath them was littered with holes from Pokémon using Dig—it was hard to see, but when I fixed my eyes on one hole in particular, I caught sight of a paw swinging in Raikou’s general direction, but missing and tripping one of the Rockets’ Pokémon instead.

So a few of the rebels had managed to infiltrate the lineup. Maybe this wasn’t a lost cause.

“This is crazy, we should be doing something,” Rudy muttered through gritted teeth.

“Well yeah… but what?” I asked. But then I saw Darren fumbling with a panel on the console. He pulled it free, revealing a tangled web of wires in the heart of the machine. I almost felt like kicking myself. Of course we needed to get at its insides. How stupid could we be?

Darren grabbed a Pokéball off his belt to release his Sandshrew. The yellow-scaled Pokémon drew back its clawed forepaws and slashed repeatedly at the wires inside the machine, sending sparks flying everywhere. I leaped back to avoid a sudden wave of them, then glanced back at the machine excitedly. Several lights on the console suddenly went dead, and my heart skipped a beat. But then… the lightning rod continued to give off the same low, electric hum. The same static charge filled the air. Nothing had changed.

“Huh. I thought that’d work,” Darren said, frowning.

The brief glimmer of hope sputtered and died. What were we doing? We couldn’t even figure out how to sabotage one machine. Were the other groups doing better than us? I glanced back in the direction of the forest and could just barely make out dark shapes moving from the trucks back to the meeting spot. Great, the others were regrouping. That could only mean they’d succeeded… or that they’d failed just like we had.

“I’m thinking we probably should’ve come up with ideas before splitting up,” Darren said flatly.

I clenched my fists. He was right; we really hadn’t thought this through at all. I’d just figured we’d come up with something once we got here. But… wait. If any of the others had figured out how to take these things down, then they could let the rest of us know how to do it, right? It was worth a shot, at least.

“Come on, let’s regroup with the others,” I said, gesturing in that direction. “Maybe some of them figured out a way to take these things out.”

Rudy gaped at me. “Seriously?”

“Well it’s better than just standing here doing nothing!” I shot back.

He didn’t have a retort for that. He just folded his arms and muttered, “Ugh, fine.”

The three of us recalled our Pokémon. My legs were on autopilot as we jumped down from the truck and made our way back to the rest of the group. By now most of the rebels had returned, save for the ones still helping out in the battle.

“Any luck?” Sasha asked everyone.

“No good, we threw everything we could think of at it, but it’s still going,” one of the rebels replied. “We were kind of afraid to go too far and get captured or something.” Several other groups muttered similar excuses. I didn’t want to say anything. I kind of just felt like melting into the ground.

Anyone?” Mai demanded, looking more anxious than frustrated.

One mission group raised their hands. “All the lights went dead on ours and it stopped making any noise,” one of them said. “I think we broke it?”

“Same here,” a second added. Behind them a third group of rebels raised their hands.

“That makes… what, three of ‘em dead?” I asked. Three out of twelve. Would that be enough? How could we tell?

“Also, I’ve been thinking about something… even if the Thunder Field does go down, how do we let Raikou know?” Liam asked.

I blinked. That honestly had never occurred to me at all. No one else had an answer either. And all the while, the battle continued to rage on. The Rockets’ lineup was noticeably smaller now, but with fewer Pokémon to get in each other’s way, they were getting bolder. The rebel Pokémon amongst the lineup had no choice but to hang back now—there were nowhere near enough fighters for their sabotage to go unnoticed.

Chunks of rock tore themselves up from the ground, burying Raikou in avalanche of boulders. Muffled snarls resounded from underneath the rock slide just before the ground erupted with a burst of energy almost like magma. The electric-type struggled to pull itself free of the heap only to be struck by a blast of flames.

And then a Pokéball hurtled through the air toward the battlefield. Raikou’s eyes widened with shock right before it lunged out of the way, letting the ball fly past where it had stood not a moment earlier. The Legendary circled around the opposing Pokémon lineup as quickly as it could, putting as much distance as possible between itself and the Rockets. But its movements were slowing, its muscles quivering, pelt soaked red with blood in between scattered patches of blackened fur. More Pokéballs flew through the air.

I felt my insides vanish. The Pokéballs were purple. I’d only ever heard of one purple-colored Pokéball. The Master Ball. The Saffron rebels were right—Team Rocket had Master Balls.

None of this was supposed to happen. This wasn’t like last time, with me standing alone, watching Entei get mobbed and being powerless to stop it. There were thirty-six of us here. We’d been training for weeks. And yet we still couldn’t stop them?

“Why don’t we just blow up the antennas?” Reed asked.

I almost snorted. After all this time, somehow the concept of “don’t get spotted” still hadn’t sunk into everyone.

Mai facepalmed. “Are we trying to advertise ourselves to the Rockets now?”

With a shrug, Reed replied. “Not if they don’t see us do it. And that way Raikou will know it can go free.”

Sasha opened her mouth to protest, but then froze, like she couldn’t believe she was actually considering it.

I blinked. Wait… the whole problem with an explosion was that it would instantly give us away and we’d have Rockets on our tail. But if we could somehow destroy one from a distance and never be seen doing it, they’d have no idea it was an inside job. Plus, it’d mean that by the time they figured out what had happened, we’d all be long gone.

Realization dawned on Ray’s face. “That’s… actually not a terrible idea,” he said slowly. “How do we pull it off?”

“Launch all of our attacks at it at once?” Kris asked.

“Hyper Beam!” Rudy called out excitedly.

Mai rolled her eyes and turned to her teammate. “Got anything, Sasha?”

“So I’m the plan one now?” she replied, raising an eyebrow. “I never volunteered to be.”

“You’re good at it,” Mai said bluntly.

Sasha laughed. “A compliment? From you? I’ll take it.” She then paused, furrowing her brow in deep thought. “Does… does anyone have a Pokémon with Self-Destruct?”

A huge grin spread across Reed’s face. “I’ve got Voltorb!”

“I have a Geodude,” another rebel added.

“I actually caught a Pineco the day before we left for the base,” a third said. “I haven’t trained it much, but I can ask if it knows Self-Destruct?”

“But how do we recall our Pokémon after the explosion without being seen?”

Everyone paused. That was a tough one. While the rest of us could easily stay out of view, it wasn’t like we could just leave the Pokémon behind. But there had to be some way to recall them quickly without becoming a massive target.

“I’ll do it,” Ray said all of a sudden. “I can fly down, recall them all in midair, then fly away. The rest of you can all hide and they won’t ever have to know there was a group here.”

Sasha raised an eyebrow. “How will you escape?”

“My Fearow is fast.”

“Uh uh, no, that’s stupid. You’re taking Kadabra whether you like it or not,” she said, thrusting the Pokéball into his hands.

Ray blinked at it a few times, but then shrugged and pocketed it without complaint. Throughout the crowd, five rebels had released their Pokémon and were explaining the situation before recalling them and handing the Pokéballs to Ray.

And with that, the rest was up to him. Ray pulled his hat so low over his face that he was unrecognizable before sprinting forward to the closest truck and releasing his Heracross and Reed’s Voltorb. While Heracross dragged away the body of the unconscious Rocket at each truck, Ray planted the Self-Destructing Pokémon at the five lightning rods farthest from the main grouping of Rockets. When he was done, he recalled his bug-type and released his Fearow. The shaggy bird stood nearly as tall as he did, outstretching a pair of long, narrow wings as he climbed onto its back. It almost didn’t look like the Pokémon would be big enough to carry him, but with a few powerful wingbeats, the two of them were airborne.

Silence fell over everyone. Even the sounds of the raging battle in the background barely seemed to exist anymore. All eyes focused on the Pokémon on the trucks, which would have been barely noticeable from here if we didn’t already know where to look. Any second now…

Ray swung his arm into the air, and the reaction was immediate. Five explosions, one after the other, engulfed the Thunder Field machinery in a bright flash of yellow energy as a loud crunch and the squealing of metal filled the air. Waves of sparks shot out of the devices, and—holy crap one of them was actually tipping over! The lightning rod swayed side to side, metal groaning before finally giving way and swinging down towards the battle. It struck the ground with a heavy thud, sending half the Rockets’ Pokémon leaping into the air with shock.

I’d say that definitely got Raikou’s attention. It also got the Rockets’ attention. A loud string of curses rang out from the opposite side of the clearing as the Rockets immediately scattered, trying to find the source of the destruction.

And then Ray’s Fearow shot downward in a crazy dive, pulling up at the last second to soar just inches above the ground. In an impossibly fast motion, he whipped out one Pokéball after another, recalling the fainted Pokémon at each truck while still flying. I couldn’t help staring—even though he’d planned to do that all along, it was another thing seeing it in motion.

Fearow pulled up from the ground just in time to shoot over the Rockets’ heads, and Ray threw in a dramatic wave for good measure before the two of them flew off. The reaction was immediate. At least a dozen flying-type Pokémon appeared in a flash of white light, pausing just long enough to let their trainers mount before taking off in hot pursuit.

But the Rockets wouldn’t catch him. Ray was speeding away in the opposite direction of our main group. Now all he had to do was land and use Sasha’s Kadabra to teleport a safe distance away. And such a massive distraction would definitely give the rebels in the Rockets’ lineup the chance they needed to recall their Pokémon and quietly disappear into the forest. So as far as the Rockets knew, they were thwarted by a single rebel acting alone, and not the combined efforts of all of us. They had no reason to suspect it was really their new recruits.

We had actually done it. It didn’t seem possible, but it had just happened right in front of me.

All the nonflying Pokémon had stayed behind to contain Raikou, but the beast was now staring at the smoking remains of half the Thunder Field, eyes widening. It turned back to face its enemies, and I could have sworn I saw its face break into a manic grin right before a huge wave of electricity flowed out from every inch of its body. The remaining lightning rods managed to draw some of it, but there was just far too much for the few of them to handle. I screwed my eyes shut to block out the blindingly bright flash, but I wasn’t ready for the chilling screams of the Rockets and their Pokémon filling the air.

Raikou had every right in the world to do that. And we’d given it the ability to. So why did I want so badly for it to stop?

Seconds passed. Hesitantly, I cracked an eyelid open. Only a few electric or ground-type Pokémon remained standing in the clearing. The rest lay scattered across the ground—unconscious or worse, I couldn’t tell. All I knew was that my entire body was shivering. This was what it meant to challenge a Legendary.

The Legendary Beast of Thunder surveyed the scene with cold eyes and a face like stone. It then let out a deafening roar at the remaining Rockets and their Pokémon before bolting away from them in a golden blur too fast to see. It took several seconds for my brain to register that ‘away from the Rockets’ in this case meant ‘in the direction we were hiding.’ My stomach tied itself into a knot. Raikou was escaping this way.

We were all hidden amongst the trees. There was no reason for it to notice us. No reason for it to consider us enemies. Please, don’t notice us.

And then Raikou slowed to a stop the instant it neared the area where we were hiding.

Time slowed to a crawl. I couldn’t move. I hardly dared to breathe. It was right there. Standing not even five yards away from me, blood still dripping from its defeated face. I was frozen on the spot, staring at the fantastic beast for what felt like an eternity. It knew we were here. It knew we were here.

Finally, it spoke. “So. It seems the interlopers have arrived.”

And in the blink of an eye, Raikou disappeared, rushing off to the west in a flash of lightning, echoes of thunder trailing behind it.






~End Chapter 12~
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
Finally, some payoff! Took a while, but this chapter was well worth it, I'd say. We've already got the sabotage mission to thwart Raikou, and I have some overall thoughts about this at the end, but my initial impression of this chapter was a nice little good-job on getting this little arc kinda-wrapped up in terms of reaching the climax.

I think overall it lingered a little bit in the part where they were trying to figure out how to break through the machinery. And I'm sort of not sure why destroying a bunch of internal wires didn't break the thing, because I feel like pulling out organs would usually do it unless they had a ton of redundancies, and even then... Eh. It's whatever. It's a minor gripe compared to the rest of it.

What was the best way to not look suspicious? Should I walk like I had somewhere important to be? Try to keep it casual?
This was a really relatable line.

“Also… we were wrong about the target. It’s Raikou.”
I KNEW IT! Maybe they should grab meeee for the rebels.

The target, an Ursaring, lashed out at the tiger with a glowing fist, but couldn’t land a hit before seven-inch fangs tore open its neck. The bear’s eyes widened with shock as blood gushed from the wound, soaking the ground before it collapsed in a heap.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this the most brutal attack we've had so far? Goodness, it certainly came up suddenly, as far as I'm concerned. I don't necessarily mind, but I was a bit surprised to see it.

It turned back to face its enemies, and I could have sworn I saw its face break into a manic grin right before a huge wave of electricity flowed out from every inch of its body.
Ohoho this was a really good way to write out the reversal moment. Good job here.

Finally, it spoke. “So. It seems the interlopers have arrived.”
Ohh that's interesting for two reasons. First off, it's a good little hook into what might be the overarching plot, which had only really been hinted at in the prologue so far and then forgotten about... But you know what's more interesting? I don't know if this was on accident or not, but did Raikou... say that in the human tongue? Or was that a formatting error? I'm not sure. But it's so significant, I feel like this was intentionally done that way. In which case... that's just another interesting little layer.

Anyway, this was a nice chapter. Stuttered a bit during the actual sabotage part, but that did well to build up some suspense, even if it was in a "okay but why didn't that work" way, but I think overall it went really well. Good job~
 
Chapter 13: Encounter in the Hideout

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
I think overall it lingered a little bit in the part where they were trying to figure out how to break through the machinery. And I'm sort of not sure why destroying a bunch of internal wires didn't break the thing, because I feel like pulling out organs would usually do it unless they had a ton of redundancies, and even then... Eh. It's whatever. It's a minor gripe compared to the rest of it.
Yeah, the sabotage bit has gone through a few revisions and it's still a bit ehh. The general idea was that those wires were the controls for the thing, and cutting off the control unit just caused the antenna to default to its main program (i.e. sit there and absorb). If they'd wanted to power it down, they'd have needed to cut the lines between the antenna and the power cells, which stored all the energy that was taken from Raikou. I've been toying with a way to make that bit more satisfying.
I KNEW IT! Maybe they should grab meeee for the rebels.
xD Gotta admit, I liked that bit in your previous review.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but is this the most brutal attack we've had so far? Goodness, it certainly came up suddenly, as far as I'm concerned. I don't necessarily mind, but I was a bit surprised to see it.
You know, it hadn't occurred to me, but I think it was! Well, there's gonna be a lot more of it in the future. :V
Ohh that's interesting for two reasons. First off, it's a good little hook into what might be the overarching plot, which had only really been hinted at in the prologue so far and then forgotten about... But you know what's more interesting? I don't know if this was on accident or not, but did Raikou... say that in the human tongue? Or was that a formatting error? I'm not sure. But it's so significant, I feel like this was intentionally done that way. In which case... that's just another interesting little layer.
:) :) :)

As always, thanks tons for the review!



~Chapter 13: Encounter in the Hideout~


“When we made it to the mission location, we discovered that Team Rocket was chasing Raikou into a trap, and had machines to absorb its electric attacks. We split into groups with some of us focusing on helping Raikou, and the others attempting to sabotage the Thunder Field. When it didn’t work, we decided that the best plan would be to outright destroy part of the field, so Raikou could take out the Pokémon keeping it trapped there with Mean Look.”

Sasha’s words dominated everyone’s attention. Ray and Mai stood alongside her as she gave the mission report. The rest of us waited behind them at the entrance to the Midnight Stadium battlefield. And of course, Stalker watched all of us from the center of the room, his gaze intense and focused as he took in every detail of our mission.

“I took everyone’s Self-Destruct Pokémon and planted them in the trucks,” Ray continued, picking up where Sasha left off. “After the explosions, I recalled them and flew off on my Fearow to give the Rockets a target to chase. That way they wouldn’t suspect a whole group of their own recruits was behind it.”

“They never saw any of us there but Ray. And by the time they got back to base, we were already back in bed,” Sasha said.

In the end, it was Ray’s group that made the biggest difference, along with the trainers who had the Self-Destruct Pokémon. The rest of us had been there for support, but ultimately hadn’t contributed much. It was kind of expected, in a way. With thirty-six of us there, it wasn’t possible for everyone to share in the glory. The sheer numbers had just helped increase the chance that some of us could be useful. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t gotten to do much.

Yeah, I kept telling myself that, but I didn’t actually believe it. I just hadn’t let myself express how much it bothered me. Rudy was already doing a good enough job of that, anyway. He’d complained the entire way back to Midnight Island. Darren was the only one who seemed fine with it.

Everyone on the Rebellion was silent as Stalker carefully considered the mission report. He paced back and forth in front of us in deep concentration.

“I think…” he finally began, making everyone hold their breath, “you all did well.”

An audible sigh of relief swept throughout the crowd, myself included. I didn’t know why I’d felt so nervous. We’d succeeded. And how would Stalker know exactly which of us hadn’t done much? Even he wasn’t that good.

Stalker chuckled a bit under his breath upon seeing our reaction. “I’d already heard the Rockets’ story of what happened. I just wanted to hear it in your words.”

Rudy snorted next to me. “He could’ve told us that.”

“The next Legendary mission won’t go as smoothly as this one did,” Stalker said, folding his arms. “The Rockets weren’t expecting you—next time they will. You avoided a direct confrontation this time. Next time it will be inevitable.” His expression had hardened back into its usual intensity. The idea of fighting Rockets was still an uncomfortable one, even after all our training. But still—that’s why we were here, wasn’t it? To get to the point where we could actually do it and come out on top?

“Of course… that likely won’t be for a while,” Stalker went on. “There’s plenty of things to do in the meantime. Now that you’re established Rockets, you’ll need to make semi-regular trips to headquarters—don’t want to get flagged as inactive. But that’s a good thing, because it will give you opportunities for smaller missions, minor sabotage, and gathering information.” He paused upon noticing several rebels off to the side who were literally bouncing up and down with excitement.

“And while we’re on the topic of non-Legendary missions… I think the Celadon rebels have something to say.”

Of course—the Celadon rebels hadn’t even been a part of the Raikou mission. They’d had a mission of their own… something about getting supplies? Honestly, our mission seemed way cooler than that. Then again, maybe they’d all gotten to be useful during theirs.

The group of twelve all stepped forward, dragging two large boxes with them. From where I was standing, I couldn’t tell what was inside them, but apparently it was pretty great? Most of them couldn’t help glancing over at the boxes every few seconds and grinning broadly.

“So there we were, in the dead of night,” one of them began dramatically. “We followed an unsuspecting group of Rockets to their giant warehouse where they keep the Game Corner prizes…”

“We didn’t really need to. I mean, we already knew where it was,” a second rebel added. The first one shot her a glare before continuing.

“After several days of spying on them to find out the right time to strike, we expertly infiltrated the—”

“We had the access codes,” another rebel cut in flatly.

“That’s still infiltrating!” the storyteller yelled, face turning red. “And we had to have someone standing guard and everything, and we had to avoid the cameras. Totally infiltrating. But we managed to keep our cool and locate the goods, and sneak out before anyone saw!”

Everyone in our group was silent. Somehow not one of them had actually managed to get the point of the story across. I think one of them realized that, because they hastily added, “Right, so we got Pokémon and TMs for everyone, the end.”

I couldn’t help bursting out laughing at the suddenness of it. An immediate commotion ensued as everyone rushed forward all at once to see inside the boxes. We were seriously getting new Pokémon? Just like that? I was actually having a hard time believing it. Apparently a lot of rebels had thrown questioning looks at Stalker, because at that moment he said, “You’re not going to have much time to search for Pokémon anywhere other than on the island. I figured this would give the team a boost.”

Well, it was a boost I sorely needed. New moves and new Pokémon. I honestly wasn’t sure which one I was more excited for. Sure, I desperately needed a new team member. But new moves would be a huge benefit to Swift and Firestorm, neither of whom had many interesting tricks.

“Most of the TMs aren’t reusable, so be careful how you use them,” Stalker told everyone. “No more than one non-reusable TM per Pokémon. But more importantly, everyone has to learn this.” He held up a series 5 disc with a glossy white case. “This is a reusable copy of TM17, and it’s the most important move you'll ever learn—Protect.”

Everyone stared. I couldn’t quite remember what that move did, other than something involving protection, obviously.

Stalker went on. “It allows your Pokémon to guard itself from almost anything for a short time. You’ve been training for multi battles for over a month—you should be able to see the value in that. Protect is the single best way to buy yourself time, find out more about your opponent, land a free hit with another teammate, and allow your Pokémon to guard you from almost anything. We’ll be practicing all of its applications over the next few days.”

Well alright then. If it was really that useful, then I’d be sure to teach it to my team… after I got my new Pokémon. It just made more sense to get a new team member before deciding what moves the rest of your team needed.

“Everyone gets one Pokémon!” a Celadon rebel shouted. “And we’re all picking randomly, so it’s fair. So no cheating!”

Everyone in front of me had grabbed a Pokéball and retreated to somewhere away from the crowd, so I finally had a chance to reach down and grab one for myself. A new Pokémon. It felt unreal. I hadn’t gotten a new Pokémon ever since this adventure started. I barely had a chance to get five feet from the box before being ambushed by Rudy.

“Hey! All three of us should open ours at the same time!” he exclaimed, grabbing me and Darren by the shirt sleeve and dragging us away from the main group. I didn’t bother fighting—there was no point trying to protest once Rudy had his mind set on something.

“I’m guessing you just want someone to brag to,” Darren pointed out.

“Whatever,” Rudy said quickly, letting go of us. “On the count of three, we open ‘em, alright?”

I rolled my eyes. “If you say so.”

“One… two… three!”

Three bursts of light appeared in front of us at once. My eyes widened as the mass of energy in front of me took on its true shape. The light started to fade, revealing a yellow body. It was…?

My face fell. A golden-furred mouse now stood in front of me, stretching its limbs and raising a lightning-bolt tail. A Pikachu. I had another Pikachu. A replacement for Chibi, in other words. I felt a sudden tightness in my chest and turned away quickly. The last thing I needed was for the Pikachu to see my face and think it had done something wrong. And in any case… I did have a convenient excuse for what to look at right then—Rudy and Darren’s Pokémon.

“No. Way.”

At Rudy’s feet stood a small dinosaur covered in rocky green armor. It blinked its large, violet eyes and looked around, obviously confused by its surroundings. Rudy stared at the rock-type with a mixture of shock and total adoration.

Seriously? He’d gotten a Larvitar? I mean, in a way I kind of expected Team Rocket to be selling rare and valuable Pokémon, but… Larvitar?

“That’s it. I won. I got the best Pokémon.” Rudy reached down to pick up Larvitar and admire it, but got as far as wrapping his arms around it before realizing that the tiny reptile was much heavier than it looked. He then settled on kneeling down and shaking its stubby arms. The rock-type stared back at him, eyes half-lidded, looking totally bored with the attention it was receiving.

“I don’t think I did too bad. My team has a teleporter now,” Darren said. On the ground next to him sat a golden humanoid resting its claws in its lap with its thick tail wrapped around it. An Abra—not just a teleporter, but a powerful psychic.

“Mine’s got a type advantage, so I won,” Rudy said, smirking.

Darren didn’t really seem to care. “Once it evolves. Do you have any idea how hard it is to train a Larvitar to its final form? Cause I’m thinking you don’t.”

“Stalker’s got a Tyranitar.”

Darren shrugged. “He’s Stalker.”

Rudy didn’t have a comeback for that one. But at that moment he glanced in my direction, probably because I hadn’t been saying anything. He opened his mouth like he was about to say something, but then his eyes fell on my new Pokémon. “You got another Pikachu? Lame, I’ve always wanted one. Of course… Larvitar is still way better,” he added quickly.

Darren made eye contact and tilted his head with an odd expression, almost like he knew what I was thinking and wanted to comment. Then again, the disappointment was probably written all over my face. Rudy just hadn’t noticed because he was Rudy.

I glanced around the stadium to see everyone else meeting their new Pokémon excitedly. Pikachu and Abra looked to be pretty common amongst the prize Pokémon, along with the spiked Nidorino and Nidorina, the dainty Clefairy, and the six-tailed Vulpix. I only spotted one other Larvitar amongst the group. Similarly rare was the snakelike Dratini—only two kids had gotten one. A few rebels even looked to be trading their newfound Pokémon, probably in cases where they’d gotten a Pokémon they already had. In a way… that was kind of what my situation was. Would it be worth it to try to trade my Pikachu?

I looked back at Pikachu. The electric-type mostly looked weirded out by everything that was going on. “*Who are you all supposed to be?*” it asked.

Well this was awkward. What was the best way to explain it? “You guys were gonna be given out as Game Corner prizes, but then a few members of our team… rescued you and now… we’re your new trainers? If you want?” I finished lamely.

“*What?*”

I groaned. Should I even be introducing myself as its trainer? If I was already considering trading with someone? But the only reason I felt that way was because of Chibi, and I didn’t have him anymore, so it wasn’t like I could use the excuse that my team already had a Pikachu. And it wasn’t fair to this new Pikachu that I was still fixated on what happened to my last one.

But… what had happened to him? After they took him. I still didn’t know. That was the worst part.

“I’ve got to go ask someone something,” I announced suddenly, marching away from the group and leaving everyone staring at me in confusion.

Stalker. Stalker would know what had happened to him. Stalker knew everything about Team Rocket. Okay, that was a silly over-exaggeration, but I didn’t care.

I walked straight up to Stalker, painfully aware of how miserable I probably looked. “Hey, can I talk to you?” I asked.

Stalker raised an eyebrow but nodded all the same, and the two of us walked off to the side of the battlefield, away from the main group. Once we were a good distance away, he turned to me and said, “You look distracted. What’s on your mind?”

I fidgeted a bit, unsure how to bring up the topic without sounding ungrateful to get a new Pokémon. “I… it’s just… I got a Pikachu from the Pokéball box.”

The reply was immediate. “You’re worried about number nine, aren’t you?”

I blinked, completely taken aback. “How’d you know?”

“You stole him from the Rockets. Then you showed up here without him, and the Rockets reported his successful recapture. It wasn’t hard to put together.” I mentally smacked myself. Figures that he’d be aware of what happened. That’s what I’d been banking on, after all.

“You… mentioned we’d get plenty of chances to go on small missions.”

He nodded.

It suddenly hit me. I knew what I needed to do. “I… I want to rescue him.”

Stalker paused to consider my words, his icy blue eyes staring through me. For several seconds, he didn’t say anything, until finally: “Alright. But when you do, I’ll need you to do something for me as well.”

That was unexpected. But I didn’t really have much choice, did I? The only thing I could do was nod.

“I want you to get information on experiment number thirty-six.”

Thirty-six. I’d heard that number mentioned by Team Rocket before. But what was so important about it?

“I… sure? What is that?”

“Number thirty-six is the big one. Their most groundbreaking experimental Pokémon yet. And almost all the info on it is being kept completely hush. I need someone to get inside the room where it’s being kept and copy all of its data, especially regarding what its power is like, and whether or not they’ll be able to control it like they did the other experiments. Number nine is currently being used to test Legendary control technology, so getting it out of there will be additionally helpful for us, because controlling Legendaries is one thing we do not want them to be capable of.”

A chill ran down my spine. Controlling Legendaries. That didn’t even seem possible. But they’d apparently been controlling the other experiments—after all, Chibi was the only hybrid I saw on the plane that didn't have that creepily blank, expressionless stare. Still… controlling Legendaries? Somehow, I had never wondered how the Rockets planned to actually do anything with their captured Legends. Suddenly it all made sense. That was why they needed Chibi. And I’d let them take him.

“But first,” Stalker continued, “training. The next few days are going to involve some of the most important lessons yet. And Team Rocket base activity needs the chance to settle down a bit. You can go on your mission in three days.”

I gaped at him with what had to be desperation all over my face. Three days?

“I know this is important to you. But it needs to wait.”

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

Sparks flew as bolts of lightning shot through the air one after the other, crashing against a shimmering wall of energy that went up at the last second. Rudy crouched low behind the barrier as strings of lighting leapt past him on all sides. Wartortle stood firmly in front of him, arms spread wide and a look of anxious concentration on his face as he maintained the shield in front of them. Across the battlefield, Pikachu paused the offense for a few moments to let Wartortle recover before pressing the attack once more. The electric rodent lunged to the side and fired several more bolts at Rudy, who ducked back behind Wartortle in a flash. The turtle recoiled slightly from the lightning flying towards him, but still managed to throw up a shielding Protect at the last second. Scattered bolts flew past the shield, forcing Rudy to huddle closer to his starter to avoid getting hit.

“Might wanna tell Pikachu to ease up a little bit; that last one almost got you,” I said.

Rudy waved a hand dismissively. “Nah, she’s just making it tough for Wartortle, that’s all. And that’s the point, isn’t it? To make sure we can protect ourselves even when they’re trying to hit us?”

I got the feeling from the mischievous glint in her eyes that Pikachu wasn’t so much making the training tough as she actually wanted Rudy to get hit with a Thundershock. Not in a malicious sort of way, but in a wouldn’t-this-be-hilarious sort of way.

I’d let Rudy train Pikachu for now. It wasn’t fair to her that I was still hung up on losing Chibi and couldn’t handle battling with her. And besides… if all went well, I’d be returning to the base with Chibi later tonight, and then Rudy could go ahead and keep her.

“Dang. 45 seconds again,” Rudy said, glancing at the timer on his Pokégear and frowning. “Haven’t been able to break that with Wartortle.”

“Didn’t Stalker say that 30 seconds or so was the minimum before you can use Protect again?” I asked.

“I guess, but the rest of my team is down to 40 seconds.” Given that he trained the rest of his team far more often than his starter, that was hardly surprising. “What about you? How short of a wait is your Charmeleon down to?”

To be honest, I couldn’t remember. My upcoming mission was occupying almost every space of my mind. I still gave it my all at Stalker’s lessons, but after hours? No way. In any case, Swift and Firestorm had been practicing their new moves on their own (Shadow Claw for Firestorm and Aerial Ace for Swift).

“Well, enough with Wartortle for now. Time to train Larvitar some more,” Rudy said, recalling his starter and pulling out a different Pokéball.

I snorted. “Haven’t you been training Larvitar non-stop since you got her? I was actually surprised to see you giving Wartortle a shot at all.”

“Yeah, well Darren’s right, I’ll never get her evolved if I don’t train with her a ton,” he said resentfully. I was still pretty sure that even with all the training in the world, it’d be months before her evolution. In fact, it was pretty rare for the average trainer to get a Pokémon like Larvitar or Dratini to reach their final form at all.

I watched Rudy train for the rest of the night, offering commentary when he asked for it and taunting when he didn’t. At 10 pm, it was time to leave. I waved goodbye and set off for Stalker’s office, my heart already beating a bit more quickly in anticipation for the upcoming mission. I had just left the battlefield and rounded the corner towards the left hallway when I heard a voice behind me.

“You’re off to get your cool Pikachu back now, aren’t you?” I stopped walking and turned around. It was Darren.

I’d finally told Rudy and Darren the truth about Chibi. How he hadn’t really left, he’d been stolen. There was no getting around it—how else was I supposed to explain why I was going on a mission out of the blue?

“You didn’t really have to keep all of that a secret, you know?” he said. “I mean, you’ve known Rudy a lot longer than you’ve known me, and even he didn’t know.”

I bristled. “I don’t like dragging other people into my problems.”

He chuckled a bit. “Well that’s kind of dumb. As teammates, isn’t it our job to get dragged into each other’s problems?”

Teammates. I’d always been thinking of this in terms of myself. The things I had to do. Just like when I hadn’t told Rudy I was joining the Rebellion.

“I’m not asking to come with you or anything,” he said, holding his arms up. “It’s your business, and all that. I’m just saying you might want to try telling the people you’re fighting Team Rocket with about stuff that happened with Team Rocket?

Well, putting it that way made it sound really stupid that I hadn’t. Heck, the only reason he even knew about the plane incident was because Rudy had told literally everyone the first week we got here. The more I thought about it, the more I was unsure why exactly I’d been keeping so many secrets.

I sighed. “Okay, you’re right. When I get back, I’m telling everyone what happened, whether it goes well or not.”

Darren blinked. “Huh, that was easier than I expected. Alright, I’ll stop keeping you so you can go get him. Try not to die,” he said brightly, giving a wave before walking off. I stared as he left, at a loss for words. But then, I’d long since learned to not put too much thought into half of what he said.

Stalker’s office wasn’t far ahead. I strode down the hallway and knocked twice on the door before opening it. Stalker was seated at his desk, reading something on his laptop. He glanced up at me when I entered.

“You ready?” he asked.

I nodded. Stalker stood up and walked past me, motioning for me to follow him.

“I finished modifying the permissions on your Rocket account. You’ll have access to bases other than Cerulean now, plus high security areas that would normally reject your ID card.” He handed me the card along with a flash drive. “You’ll also need this. It has a script on it that will automatically copy all the relevant data on number thirty-six when it’s plugged into the computers in that room.”

The two of us stepped outside, and as always, I was never ready for the burst of warm, humid air that hit even at this time of night. It was probably my least favorite thing about Midnight Island, and it made me miss the cool, breezy nights in Viridian.

Stalker pulled out a Pokéball and opened it to release his Charizard. In a flash, the orange dragon appeared in front of us, her tail flame piercing the darkness. Darren’s Abra wasn’t quite experienced enough for long-range teleportation yet. So for now, flying was still the best option. I climbed up onto the fire-type’s back and wrapped my arms around her neck.

“The base will be quiet this time of night. But that’s no reason to let your guard down,” he said, his voice stern. “Don’t be seen doing something you’re not supposed to. This is a stealth mission.”

A stealth mission. I wasn’t going to be seen. The Rockets would never know I was there. All I had to do was grab Chibi, get the data on number thirty-six, and get out. Simple.

“I’ve got this,” I told him, and for once, I meant it.

Stalker nodded, and his Charizard spread her massive blue wings before launching into the air. The air rushed past us as the dragon flapped aggressively to gain altitude as quickly as possible, finally leveling off her flight once we reached a comfortable soaring height.

The flight to Celadon didn’t take long. That, or I just had really bad awareness of time right then. Either way, it felt like we had just left the familiar sights of Midnight Island before the dazzling glimmer of Celadon’s nightlife greeted me on the horizon. Stalker’s Charizard dove down in a wide spiral over the city, zeroing in on the most densely populated part of downtown before landing in a deserted alleyway. I climbed off the dragon’s back and waved as she took flight once more and disappeared into the night sky, leaving only her tail flame visible.

Watching my ride leave like that gave the whole mission an air of finality. I was here, and wasn’t leaving until I succeeded. No going back now.

I grabbed both Pokéballs from my pocket and opened them, releasing Swift and Firestorm in a flash of light. They glanced around at the unfamiliar surroundings apprehensively.

I took a deep breath. “I’m just letting you guys know that we’re at the base. The next time I let you out might be in a fight, so be ready to lead with Protect, okay?”

Swift gave me a quizzical look. “*Why do you think you will have to battle?*”

“I don’t think that,” I countered. “I mean, I’m hoping this will just be a run in, grab Chibi’s Pokéball, run out kinda deal. I just know something always goes wrong.”

Firestorm stared pointedly. “*Then you have to let us out if you get in trouble.*”

“I just said I was going to,” I said, laughing slightly.

Firestorm snorted in a ‘sure, whatever’ kind of way, and I rolled my eyes before recalling both of my Pokémon. Then I took a deep breath and stepped out of the alleyway.

Cerulean had been full of businesses, and even the downtown area by the Rocket base felt clean and open. Celadon was… nothing like that. The alleyway opened into a dingy street lined with the seediest clubs, casinos and bars I’d ever seen. Bikers, gamblers, and the occasional Rockets filled the walkways, and I couldn’t help stepping back to stay out of view. My pulse quickened. Nothing about this felt safe. I was a kid with only two Pokémon completely surrounded by adults in the shadiest place imaginable. Why did I think this was a good idea again? My limbs went rigid and refused to move, so I just stood there at the edge of the building, my mind swimming in anxiety and frustration. I hadn’t even made it to the base yet and I already had problems.

Then again… I was visibly dressed as a Rocket. That carried a lot of weight around here, right? No one was going to bother a Rocket heading to base. I didn’t have anything to worry about.

Nothing to worry about. I repeated it to myself three times. Finally convinced, I clenched my fists and stepped out onto the sidewalk, doing my best to appear confident and in my element despite feeling so completely out of place.

The Rocket Game Corner looked like it was trying its hardest to stand out from its surroundings, and it was succeeding. The building, with its sleek black walls and gold and silver-painted accents combined with flashing neon signs and cheesy posters everywhere, had a fake-elegant air to it. It also had a distinct lack of graffiti—but then again, who would have the guts to vandalize it? With how influential the Rockets were in this area and how well-known their presence was?

I ducked around the corner of the building and scanned the wall for the members-only side entrance, spotting the card reader standing out against the black paint. I retrieved my ID from my pocket and tapped it to the reader, which flashed a green light and caused the heavy door to swing open. Beyond the door lay a dimly lit flight of stairs leading down.

That was all it took for me, a rebel, to get into Team Rocket’s base. It was almost funny how easy it was. Then again, I could only do it with Stalker’s resources. And I still had no idea how he pulled off half the things he did.

My footsteps echoed off the walls as I descended the staircase. At the bottom, I was greeted with a red curtain—brushing it aside revealed the entrance to the base.

The main lobby looked just as fancy as the casino above it, with black and white tile floors, large monitors along the walls, and plenty of gold-painted statues of Pokémon decorated throughout. Honestly, it sort of looked more like a lounge than the entrance to a base. But I guess it fit the mood of the area? Not to mention it was after hours and everyone was off-duty. The few Rockets in the room were laid back on the couches and chatting with each other while having a smoke. A couple of them glanced up when I entered but didn’t pay me any mind. I took that opportunity to sit down on the nearest unoccupied couch and pull out my R-com, bringing up a map of the HQ.

This base was structured totally different from the Cerulean base. It was a lot bigger and more spread out, with fewer floors. Judging by the map, it looked like it was broken into divisions, with the main lobby, cafeteria, and acquisitions on the top floor; tech development, Pokémon experimentation and storage spaces in the second basement floor, and all the offices and quarters on the lowest floor. My eyes traced the map of the second floor, moving from one label to the next until finally settling on the experiment containment facility.

That had to be it. Time to do this. I set off down the stairs and into the depths of the base.

The fancy atmosphere was completely gone on the second floor and replaced with a high-tech, metallic appearance. And even with a map, the layout was confusing. The moving walkways probably made it faster for Rockets to reach their destination if they actually knew what they were doing, which I didn’t. Twice I found myself taking the wrong path at a branch and winding up in a storage room clear on the other side of the floor. Good thing there was no one else around, otherwise I’d have looked completely stupid and more than a little bit suspicious.

Finally, I was pretty sure I’d made it to the right area. I checked the map again. Yes, this was definitely it. There was no way an ordinary grunt would ever have access to a high-security room like this. Good thing I wasn’t an ordinary grunt. I tapped my ID card on the card scanner and the door slid open.

I flipped the light switch to reveal a room completely lined with computerized panels. The majority of the floor space was taken up by giant test tubes and strange machinery I couldn’t identify. A thin layer of dust covered most of them, although the computer workstations had clearly been used recently—unfiled paperwork and a few food wrappers sat alongside the keyboards.

On the far side of the room stood a heavy metallic door with a small window. I walked over and peered through it to see dozens of cells that were most likely for housing Pokémon. Each cell had a bed, a feeding station, and what looked like barrier projectors on the cell doors.

But no one was in there. And I was so sure I’d been onto something, too.

Kicking the ground in frustration, I turned around to try a different section of the base. And then I saw it: a sleek metallic case clipped to the control panel along the wall. It looked… familiar. As I approached it, recognition suddenly hit me. It was a Pokéball containment unit, like the one we’d seen on the plane. That had to be it… the experiments must have been kept in there.

My fingers shook slightly with anticipation as I reached out to undo the latches on the sides of the case before slowly opening it. Three Pokéballs. Two of them normal. One of them black like Chibi’s ball had been. Could it be him? What were the odds?

I clenched my teeth. Yet another instance where a Pokédex would be useful, and another instance for me to feel like an idiot for not having one. I didn’t have any way of checking the balls’ contents without opening them. And that was a huge risk.

I stared at the Pokéballs. It was a risk I’d have to take. Otherwise this whole trip would have been pointless. I slowly reached my hand out to grab the black one, fingers trembling. I grasped the ball and tugged it free from its slot, rolling it in my palm.

“Here goes nothing.” I pressed the button.

A burst of black energy surged out of the ball, taking the shape of… no. No, not that one, anything but that one. A glimmering green armor-plated exoskeleton… bladed forearms… a pointed, reptilian face…

I’d barely registered what I was looking at before it rushed me headlong and tackled me to the ground, knocking the Pokéball from my hand. My back slammed to the floor, sending a jolt of pain up my spine and knocking the air from my lungs, and then I immediately found myself faced with the razor edge of its scythe poised just inches from my throat.

My brain froze up and my limbs went numb. I struggled to pull away, but the Scyther had me completely pinned. I couldn’t even make a sound—I was still coughing and sputtering from having the wind knocked from me. Stupid! Why had I let this happen?! I couldn’t do anything.

Time seemed to crawl. I lay motionless, gasping and wheezing for air and waiting for a death that didn’t seem to want to come. All I could do was stare helplessly at my attacker’s face. Its piercing blue eyes glared back at me. And then they blinked, looking almost… skeptical. I didn’t understand. What was it waiting for?

But… wait. When we’d fought Razors last time, its eyes had been completely blank and soulless. The fact that it even had any sort of expression at all this time… if it wasn’t just a mindless slave, but instead more like Chibi…

I swallowed hard, trying to get better control of my breathing now that it seemed like I actually had a glimmer of hope. If I could just say something, anything, to let it know I was trying to help the experiments… But my mouth didn’t seem capable of forming any words, just random stuttering. And still the mantis held me down, considering me carefully.

“*I remember you,*” he said slowly, the words very meticulous. “*You’re not a Rocket. What are you doing here?*” His voice was… weird. It was a complete monotone, with no emotion whatsoever.

“I…”—damn it, why wouldn’t my voice stop shaking—“I came here to find Chibi.” It was really all the response I could give.

The experiment surveyed me all the more intensely after I had said that. “*You know him by that name?*”

“…Yeah?” Again, all I could figure out how to say. My heart was starting to hurt from pounding so hard.

He paused, as though considering something that he hadn’t quite realized until now. “*So then you were the one who took him that day. But how did he end up back here?*”

“He was taken from me,” I said, my voice a bit dead. An uneasy feeling had crept over me from talking to him. How could I know that he was on Chibi’s side, just because they were both experiments? Should I have even told him I was looking for Chibi?

“*Why did you let that happen to him?*” he asked.

“I didn’t mean to! He was just… trying to protect me…” I trailed off, again filled with the biting pain of that memory. And it was weird, but… was that an edge of concern in Razors’s voice?

The Scyther stared at me for some time, eyes boring right through me. Sweat dripped down the sides of my face. My mouth had gone dry, and I couldn’t swallow anymore. No matter how hard I tried to stop, my eyes kept tracing the edge of the blade hovering over my throat. I just wanted him to do something. The suspense was tearing me apart.

“*You’re obviously not on their side,*” he said thoughtfully. “*And he must have trusted you… for some reason.*”

And then he withdrew his scythe and stepped away. I sat bolt upright immediately, coughing hard and inhaling deeply as my brain suddenly realized how little I’d been breathing for the past few minutes. My fingertips tingled with numbness, and I had to clench my fists repeatedly to regain feeling in them.

Razors was still fixing me with an intense stare. “*Did he change… after you took him from the Rockets?*”

I flinched. “…Yeah?”

His eyes studied mine intently. “*That’s good.*”

“You seem different now… compared to back then.” The words were out of my mouth before I’d even thought about them.

A long pause followed. Something shifted in the Scyther’s eyes. They had a strange heaviness, almost like he was exhausted just thinking about it. “*Long ago, my mind was taken from me. I stopped existing. It was like a dream that I couldn’t wake from, with the Rockets directing my every move.*”

I stared. So he really had been under their control that whole time. But then… this changed everything. Chibi’s desperation on the plane. The anguish he’d shown when asked about it. The two of them… they’d once been close… hadn’t they?

“How do you have your mind right now?”

“*This was the first time I’ve been let out of my ball by anyone other than my handler,*” the mantis said simply. “*He carries a device that resonates with my mind. All the experiment handlers do. It’s how they control us.*” He paused. “*The same thing happened to all the hybrids except Chibi.*”

My face fell. “And now that he’s back here, they’re trying to do it to him too. All so that they can control Legendaries.”

Razors nodded.

One thing still didn’t make sense though. “What were you doing here?”

His eyes slid to the floor. “*I’m… not sure. I believe they borrowed me for mandatory testing. A lot of my memories are hazy. It doesn’t even feel like they’re mine. I suppose they’re not.*” I didn’t really know what to say to that. The Scyther stared downward for some time before fixing me with another piercing gaze. “*You want to find Chibi?*”

I nodded. “I also need to get into the room where they’re keeping experiment thirty-six.”

Razors paused, looking thoughtful. “*Then I’m coming with you.*” The way he said it made it very clear I didn’t get a choice in the matter. “*But we’ll need help finding him.*” He spun around, eyes landing on the other Pokéballs in the containment unit. “*Only two others? I thought there would be more.*” He sighed, reached out a bladed forearm, and gently tapped the front button of both Pokéballs.

Twin flashes of light burst out, taking the shape of two large Pokémon—an emerald-green dragon and a snowy white beast. The dragon glanced around in confusion, its dark green antennae swaying behind it. A pair of red-lensed, bug-like eyes fixed on Razors with an incredulous stare.

“*Did… you let us out? Where’s your handler? What’s that human doing here?*” The Flygon froze as though he had just realized something. “*Wait… are you conscious? I thought your mind got frozen.*”

“*This human freed me, and wishes to free Nine,*” Razors said matter-of-factly.

“*What?*” the Flygon blurted out, sounding completely baffled. “*The human…?*”

“*Stay on topic. You know about Nine, right?*”

The bladed, white-furred beast—an Absol, if I remembered correctly—stepped forward, looking unimpressed. “*What does that have to do with us?*” she said bluntly.

“*We want to rescue him. Will you lend us your help in exchange for gaining your own freedom as well?*”

The two experiments turned to face each other, looking completely taken aback. For several seconds they glanced back and forth between Razors and each other, almost as if they were having a wordless conversation. Finally, the two nodded to us.

“*I heard Nine was in the Legendary control testing facility,*” the Flygon said.

“*Then that’s where we’re going.*”






~End Chapter 13~
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
Good progress chapter! You didn't dabble too long with the training this time, either. I think you had a good balance of that, and a bit of world building for how Protect works in this world. That's pretty clever, though thirty seconds, oh boy. I wonder how fast-paced battles go if that's converted into "every other attack" or something like in canon, at least for total success. Either way, I don't know if having the specific number of seconds is necessary for the sake of narrative, but it's good to at least have a specific limit given.

“This is a reusable copy of TM17, and it’s the most important move you'll ever learn—Protect.”
And yeah. Protect. Good. I don't know how common this is for trainer fics, but I'm glad I'm not alone with utilizing this lovely technique.

I couldn’t quite remember what that move did
Are you daft

A replacement for Chibi, in other words.
Okay! So! I didn't quite realize this until now, but... Chibi! I'm sort of surprised that Jade hadn't really thought about her until now, like, at all. He's gone and I can't quite recall any idle thoughts about him even slightly, or if they were, they were so in passing that I felt like... I dunno. Like maybe even at night she didn't perhaps wonder about how he's doing? Might've bogged the pace a bit, but that's something I realize was oddly absent.

It has a script on it that will automatically copy all the relevant data on number thirty-six when it’s plugged into the computers in that room.
How much inside info does this guy have so easily?! This level of ease of hacking is crazy. A script that can lift specific files! Why not just make a script that can do it generalized if that's the case, put 'em in folders! Weh.

“*Long ago, my mind was taken from me. I stopped existing. It was like a dream that I couldn’t wake from, with the Rockets directing my every move.*”
Orre intensifies. Boy, this Pokemon Go Shadow Pokemon update must have been a hoot for you, eh?

--

Anyway, good chapter. But there is one little gripe that I want to bring up that I feel was glossed over, or maybe I missed the explanation somewhere in the hubbub, but... the Pokemon acquired from Team Rocket. I'm guessing that the Game Corner pokemon were stolen or something, or bred, or recovered in some other way, but... I just find it strange and perhaps almost offputting how the trainers are treating the Pokemon like prizes rather than, well, rescued creatures. And the Pokemon all didn't seem to care, either. So I guess they weren't stolen after all? No old trainers, what? That whole scene was weirdly surreal to read through and I feel like I'm missing something there. Or the Pokemon are. Or the trainers are? God I just can't get over how weird that scene feels to me.

Anyway, aside from that, I liked where this is heading. Finally, we have a shot at seeing Chibi again! Aside from Firestorm, he's probably my favorite.
 
Chapter 14: Double Agents

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
That's pretty clever, though thirty seconds, oh boy. I wonder how fast-paced battles go if that's converted into "every other attack" or something like in canon, at least for total success. Either way, I don't know if having the specific number of seconds is necessary for the sake of narrative, but it's good to at least have a specific limit given.
It's basically my way of doing the 'every other turn' thing yeah! I've waffled a bit on the timing over the years--it used to be 20 seconds, now it's 30, I'll probably bounce it back to 20 at some point--the exact number isn't too important, only the fact that it's not spammable.
And yeah. Protect. Good. I don't know how common this is for trainer fics, but I'm glad I'm not alone with utilizing this lovely technique
I'm not sure how common it is either, but it was a great day when I realized just how amazingly useful Protect was going to be in this kind of fic.
Are you daft
do not underestimate just how godawful I was at battling when I was 14. :V
Okay! So! I didn't quite realize this until now, but... Chibi! I'm sort of surprised that Jade hadn't really thought about her until now, like, at all. He's gone and I can't quite recall any idle thoughts about him even slightly, or if they were, they were so in passing that I felt like... I dunno. Like maybe even at night she didn't perhaps wonder about how he's doing? Might've bogged the pace a bit, but that's something I realize was oddly absent.
I did have her think about him a couple times (when arriving on the island, when meeting Darren, and when going on the Raikou mission.) I wasn't sure how often would get too tiresome, especially with so many other things for her to worry about.
How much inside info does this guy have so easily?! This level of ease of hacking is crazy. A script that can lift specific files! Why not just make a script that can do it generalized if that's the case, put 'em in folders! Weh.
leaving this here for later~
Orre intensifies. Boy, this Pokemon Go Shadow Pokemon update must have been a hoot for you, eh?
ahaha, it sure was!
I just find it strange and perhaps almost offputting how the trainers are treating the Pokemon like prizes rather than, well, rescued creatures. And the Pokemon all didn't seem to care, either. So I guess they weren't stolen after all? No old trainers, what? That whole scene was weirdly surreal to read through and I feel like I'm missing something there. Or the Pokemon are. Or the trainers are? God I just can't get over how weird that scene feels to me.
This is 100% a fair point, and I waffled on how I wanted to address this, because on the one hand, I kind of wanted to characterize the rebels as immature kids who are caught up in the excitement of getting new Pokemon. But I went way too far in that direction. Immature or not, the kids have still been raised to view Pokemon as people, and I can have them be excited to get new team members without jumping the gun on consent. I think the easiest way to fix this is simply to say that the Celadon group who stole the prize mons actually... y'know... talked with the mons and released anyone who wasn't cool with having a trainer.
Anyway, aside from that, I liked where this is heading. Finally, we have a shot at seeing Chibi again! Aside from Firestorm, he's probably my favorite.
Ah, glad to hear it! :D He's one of my faves too~



~Chapter 14: Double Agents~


I couldn’t figure out how to feel about the fact that I was surrounded by three experimental Pokémon willing to help me find and rescue Chibi. On the one hand, three new powerful Pokémon as allies was undeniably reassuring. On the other hand, the fact that Razors was the friendliest of the lot wasn’t exactly comforting.

Flygon kept tilting his long neck to look at me from different angles, sizing me up. “*So, uh, what’s your deal, Rocket? How’d you get all buddy-buddy with Eight?*”

I folded my arms. “I’m not a real Rocket, and number nine was stolen from me, so I’m trying to get him back.”

“*Wait, you’re the one who stole him?*” he asked. I nodded, and the bug-eyed dragon gave a swish of his tail fan. “*Well, aren’t we lucky? We’ve been graced by the presence of Nine’s rescuer.*”

“*Shitty rescuer if he just ended up back here anyway,*” Absol added.

I bristled. But at the same time, I didn’t feel like arguing. Not with experimental Pokémon whose good side I really wanted to stay on. My eyes couldn’t help tracing the obsidian blade running along the left side of her face… but no. It was no use thinking of all the things they could do to me, and besides—they needed me. I could walk around the base freely—they couldn’t.

“So… you two are also experiments, right? What were you mixed with?” I asked.

Flygon gave me a puzzled look. “*Huh? We’re experiments all right, but we’re not hybrids. We’re clones.*”

I blinked. “Clones?”

“*Copies of other Pokémon,*” Absol clarified. “*Though I believe all of the clones that came after us were modified or enhanced in some way.*”

The emerald dragon turned his head sharply toward her. “*Hey. Just because we’re copies doesn’t mean we’re not stronger than the Pokémon we were copied from.*”

“*No, actually, it kind of does,*” she muttered dully.

If it wasn’t crazy enough that Team Rocket had created genetically modified hybrids, turns out they’d been making clones too? And these were just the regular clones—there were also super clones? This mission just got weirder and weirder.

“*Let’s focus on our task,*” Razors cut in. “*Do you know the layout of this base?*”

“I’ve got a map here,” I offered, pulling out my R-com.

The two clones moved in close to look at it, and I couldn’t help flinching a bit. I didn’t really want to get any closer to either of them than necessary.

“*So we’re here? That means take a left, a right, go that way… and it should be down this hallway,*” Flygon said, pointing a claw at a point on the map. “*It’s usually full of humans though.*”

Razors nodded. “*I’ll have to be careful. If an experiment handler shows up, they could easily take control of me again.*” A chill ran down my spine. I hadn’t considered that.

“*Right, right, so we’ll be the muscle if it comes to that, yeah?*” Flygon said dismissively.

“If we even have to fight,” I pointed out. “With how late it is, I should be able to just walk in and grab him.”

Absol snorted. “*You must be new here.*”

“*Wonder how long it’ll take for that optimism to get crushed,*” Flygon added, leering.

I scowled at them. Come on, I’d gotten this far without being discovered. They had to realize that much.

“So if that’s all, then I should recall you now. You’d kind of be spotted instantly,” I said flatly.

The two clones hesitated, throwing skeptical glances at Razors. “*I don’t like this. Even if she did steal Nine from them,*” Flygon said, his wings buzzing with agitation.

“You don’t think this is a trap?” I said exasperatedly. “It should be obvious I’m not a Rocket.”

“*That’s not it—competency is the concern,*” Absol said, her face completely deadpan.

I closed my eyes and exhaled through my nose, trying my best not to let their comments get to me. Even if they did have a point.

Razors ignored their concerns. “*This is our best option, both for freeing Nine and escaping from this place,*” he said firmly.

They both stared at him for some time, flickers of anxiety and uncertainty crossing their features, before finally—

“*Alright, you’re the boss here. You better be right about this,*” Flygon said with a defeated tone. He tapped a claw against the button of his Pokéball and dissolved in a beam of red light. Absol followed suit right after him.

I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding and pocketed the two Pokéballs before walking over and picking up Razors’ ball from where I’d dropped it earlier. The Scyther nodded, and I recalled him.

Next thing I knew, I had slumped into the nearest chair, letting out a huge sigh of relief. That had gone way, way differently than I thought it would. But not in a bad way. It could have gone a lot worse.

I sat there for some time, letting my heart rate settle back to normal. Even after the immediate danger with Razors had passed, the entire conversation hadn’t stopped feeling tense. Especially with the new experiments who didn’t exactly seem too keen on helping a human. Still, selfishness had to win out in the end—I mean, I was helping them too, right? Either way, I couldn’t keep thinking about that. I had to keep going with the mission. Mainly because the sooner I finished it, the sooner I could get out of here. And I really didn’t want to spend any more time here than I had to.

With that, I forced myself out of the chair in one swift motion and took another look at my R-com to remember where my destination was. On the other side of the floor, apparently. Great. Time to get going, then.

It didn’t matter that I was in uniform and technically had all the permissions to be here—it was impossible to shake the feeling that I’d be in big trouble if I was spotted. Of course, slinking around like a suspect and checking the coast at each corner was arguably more noticeable than just walking around like I was supposed to be here. But it made me feel better, at least trying to avoid running into anyone. Besides, a random kid grunt still had no business being in the experimental division at this time of night. So stealth was definitely not pointless. Yeah.

I glanced at my communicator. Looked like I was getting close. And sure enough, the sign on the door ahead of me read, “Legendary control testing facility.” This was it.

I crept closer to the door, keeping my back to the same wall. Almost there… I reached the edge of the door and slowly craned my head up to peek over the edge of the window.

The room was empty.

Pfft, of course it was. What was I so worried about? I shouldn’t have let the experiments get to me. I tapped my ID to the card scanner, feeling more than a bit self-satisfied as I walked in. The lights automatically flipped on when I entered, revealing a large computer lab with at least a dozen workstations. Half of them were in sleep mode, so this place had probably been in use recently. The usual giant monitors covered the walls, and what would have been the few bits of open wall space had spreadsheets pinned up all over the place. I took a closer look at one and it seemed to be some kind of Pokémon energy level chart. Or something to that effect, anyway.

Alright, I’d gotten here without any trouble. I pulled out the experiments’ Pokéballs, both because they deserved to know and also because I kind of wanted to rub it in their faces. The three of them appeared in a flash of white light, scanning the room apprehensively but then relaxing upon seeing that the coast was clear.

“*Huh, you weren’t kidding when you said you could do it,*” Flygon said, fixing his red-lensed eyes on me. “*I dunno what kind of magic you pulled to get in here without tripping an alarm, but keep at it.*” Holy crap, a compliment. Now that felt unreal.

Razors glanced around, his face the same neutral as it had been, but his movements anxious. “*We need to find Chibi.*”

Right, where was he? I whirled around, scanning all the machinery until my eyes fell on a black Pokéball housed within a glass chamber hooked up to one of the computers. There were no other Pokéballs within sight.

“This has to be him,” I said, reaching forward and flipping the glass open before removing the ball. An angry beeping suddenly rang out from the nearest computer. I nearly jumped a foot in the air. What the hell? Why had—I froze, feeling my face go numb. Flashing violently on the screen were the words: “Unauthorized Experiment Removal. Admin Clearance Required.”

“*Nice job,*” Absol said flatly.

What?? No, not now. Not after things were finally going right! I practically threw myself into the chair, yanking the keyboard toward myself and hammering on it. A login prompt appeared. I punched in my ID, feeling like an idiot. Password… I didn’t have a password. Trying to guess anything to put there wouldn’t even make sense. And trying to guess the admin password was useless without an ID. What was I supposed to do?!

“*Fix it!*” Flygon cried.

“I don’t know how!” I yelled back. They couldn’t read what it said—they had no idea I couldn’t do anything about it. Without a card scanner, I had no way of getting access to anything. And I’d only gotten access because of… Stalker! Like lightning, I whipped my R-com from my pocket and flipped through my contacts, searching for his name. He’d know what to do. He’d be able to fix this.

I froze. The sound of footsteps… right outside. If anyone saw me here, I was done for. Without thinking, I dropped to the floor under the desk just as the door suddenly burst open. Holy crap, that was too close for comfort. I wormed my way around, hoping to get a look at what was going on. A pair of officers stood at the door, Pokéballs at the ready, but they froze in their tracks upon seeing three experiments who were very much not supposed to be here.

“What the hell?” one of them blurted out. “How—”

Flygon flipped the closest table straight at the door, sending a wave of electronics flying around the room, crashing into monitors. Both Rockets jumped back out the door to avoid the cascade of sparks shooting through the air, right before Absol leaped over the fallen table, her body melting into shadow. Panicked footsteps and shouting echoed through the doorway, and then—

Flashing lights! And a blaring alarm out of nowhere. What now?! Several seconds later, Absol strolled back through the door, looking nowhere near as concerned by this as she should have been.

“*I could have got them before they triggered the alarm if this idiot hadn’t scared them off,*” the dark-type said, fixing her crimson eyes on Flygon with an annoyed stare. The latter rolled his eyes and smacked her with his tail fan.

“*What now?*” Razors asked, calmly turning to me.

‘What now?’ How could he ask that like it was such a simple question?! What to do. What to do. Could I just recall the experiments? And be discovered standing here in the middle of a trashed room with no other possible culprit? Maybe if I wanted to be an instant suspect. As it stood right now, I had to keep up the appearance of a Rocket at all cost. That was my only chance on getting out.

“*In case you hadn’t noticed, now is the time to be doing something,*” Absol said.

I bristled at her tone. But she was right, I couldn’t freeze up. Not now, dammit. Not after all my training. Had to get away from here. I vaulted over the table in front of me and dodge-stepped around all the ruined computers, aiming for the door. If we got out of here in time, we could find a place to hide, and—

“Not that way!” I shouted, jumping back from the door like it was on fire. Another squad of Rockets was already racing down the hallway toward us. “We need another path!”

“*Don’t gotta ask twice!*” Flygon exclaimed, turning around and charging up a pulsing ball of violet energy in his mouth. The bug-dragon waited until it was as big as he could handle, then blasted out a writhing shockwave of dragonfire at the opposite wall, tearing a gaping hole through it with a loud crash.

I stared at the wreckage, speechless with shock. Had he seriously just done that?

“*The hybrids never had me along on their escape attempts, otherwise they would’ve made it for sure,*” the bug-eyed dragon said proudly. He vibrated his wings and shot through the hole, shortly followed by Absol. Razors paused just long enough to tilt his head in a “come on” gesture before following the two clones. I sighed and pocketed Chibi’s Pokéball. No turning back now.

The experiments sprinted down the hallway ahead of me, and the moving walkways had been deactivated, so I had to fight to keep up. But then… did I really want to catch up? Wouldn’t it look better if I was chasing them instead of running with them?

“Stop right there!” I yelled with as Rocket-like a tone as I could manage. Hopefully that would sell the act harder.

Footsteps behind me. Apparently the Rockets had already discovered the convenient hole we’d left behind. Which meant I definitely wouldn’t get a chance to recall the experiments now. Not until we managed to get out of sight and—

“Out of the way, grunt!” a Rocket behind me shouted.

Crap. Something told me I did not want to ignore the order. I threw myself to the ground right before the high-pitched whistle of tranquilizer darts tore through the air. Ahead of me, Absol whirled around and raised a shimmering Protect around herself at the last second, causing the darts to ping uselessly off the barrier. And then more Rockets appeared at the end of the hall. This was impossible. We were trapped.

Flygon shot forward and launched a spurt of dragonfire at the second group of Rockets, forcing them to release their Pokémon immediately to block the attack. The pause that followed seemed to last forever—both clones looked at Razors imploringly, and then he made eye contact with me. I stared back at his deep blue eyes that betrayed no emotion whatsoever. And then, without warning, the mantis shot forward too fast to see, flying straight over the scattered Rockets ahead of us. I caught a glimpse of a green blur rounding the corner at the end of the hall, and then he was gone. Flygon and Absol glanced back at each other and nodded before they both melted into shadow, slipping under the Rocket lineup, reappearing on the other side, and rounding the corner.

I stared, unable to work through what I’d just seen. I kept blinking, expecting I’d just imagined it or something. They’d left me behind? Had that seriously just happened? Why? I’d trusted them.

Except… my cover hadn’t been blown. None of the Rockets were charging toward me, weapons at the ready. They were just… standing around, arguing, completely oblivious to my presence. Maybe being left behind was a good thing. And Razors had known that. That final look he gave me… he knew our only chance was to split up. But how would I find them again?

I was vaguely aware of one of the officers now shouting at me to join one of the other squads to help locate the experiments. Fine by me. I mumbled something that hopefully sounded like an affirmation before pulling myself to my feet and wandering over to stand next to a few other grunts, trying my best to give off ‘don’t talk to me’ vibes. I didn’t plan on sticking with them long. The first chance I got, I slipped away from the rest of the squad and wandered off in the opposite direction. There were Rockets scattered all over the floor by now—no one was going to notice a random grunt off on their own.

First things first—I had to know what had happened to Chibi. It couldn’t wait, especially now that I’d lost the others. I would probably need his help getting to them… if he was capable of it. In my quest to find a secluded place to talk to him, I basically just walked in circles until I located an empty hallway, then ducked inside the closest storage room I could find. I found myself in a dingy concrete room lined with shelves containing practically everything—old machinery, Pokémon enhancements, ammo, you name it. This would work. I grabbed the black Pokéball from my pocket and then, as a bit of an afterthought, grabbed my other two Pokéballs as well. Just… something felt comforting about having Swift and Firestorm by my side when I finally saw Chibi again. Mainly because I was afraid of what I would find.

I let out those two first. The Charmeleon and Pidgeotto materialized in front of me, tense at first, but then relaxing when they saw that the coast was clear.

Firestorm’s eyes immediately fell on the black Pokéball in my hand. “*You got him?*”

I nodded wordlessly. Swift must have noticed the hesitation in my expression, because he asked, “*Is he alright?*”

“We’re about to find out.” I shakily held out the black Pokéball and opened it. The burst of light took the shape of a small, yellow-furred rodent lying on the floor. Pointed head feathers, no cheek markings—it was definitely him. He wasn’t moving.

“…Chibi?” I asked hesitantly. Nothing happened.

I clenched my fists, a knot starting to form in my stomach. What had they done to him? I repeated his name, and this time the hybrid’s ears twitched. Several seconds passed, and then finally: “*That name… how do you know…?*”

I let out a sigh of relief. “It’s me, Jade. Can you stand?”

The Pikachu very slowly pulled his arms under his body, struggling to lift his upper body from the floor. At the same time, he turned to face me. His eyes had a dull and distant look, heavily glazed over. They hadn’t succeeded in taking his mind… had they? The fact that he’d said anything at all seemed to disprove that, but still…

“Can you understand me?” I asked cautiously, not sure I wanted an answer. Either way, I didn’t get one. Chibi just collapsed back to the ground, breathing heavily, his eyes wide and staring.

My heart sank. I turned helplessly toward Swift and Firestorm. The latter walked over and crouched low next to the hybrid’s crumpled form, poking him with a single claw.

“I don’t think that’s going to—” Before I could finish, the Charmeleon had gone and touched Chibi with his tail flame. The Pikachu sprang into the air with a pained cry, clutching the scorched fur on his back.

I shot the fire lizard an incredulous glare. “Really, Firestorm?”

“*You wanted him to react,*” he mumbled defensively. Whatever, that wasn’t important right now. I snapped my attention back to Chibi, who blinked a few times and jerked his head around frantically as though he’d just come out of a trance. Suddenly, his eyes snapped onto me in disbelief. His mouth fell open.

“*You? It’s really you?*” The hybrid stared at me for several seconds before collapsing against my knee, muttering, “*It’s too late. There’s no hope now… I wasn’t strong enough. I should’ve fought harder… it’s all my fault.*” He buried his face against the fabric of my jeans, continuously mumbling, “*It’s all over…*”

I recoiled slightly, completely unprepared for this kind of reaction. I’d never seen him like this before. How was I supposed to deal with it?

“Er… it’s okay,” I said awkwardly. “What happened? What did they do?”

He didn’t answer. He just kept shaking his head and making a strangled sobbing noise.

I gave Swift and Firestorm another pleading look. Firestorm just responded with a clueless shrug. But Swift slowly walked forward and rested his head on the Pikachu’s back.

“*Try to calm down,*” the Pidgeotto said. “*We have to leave this place. Are you out of power?*”

The experiment stared up at us with a look of crazed desperation. “*Ha, I wish. I can feel it, I’ve charged up some since I was taken off the machine. It’s not much, but it already hurts. It was kind of nice being hooked up to that thing. No pain, for the first time in so long.*”

I gaped at him. “What??”

Without warning, Chibi’s eyes rolled into the back of his head, and he fell forward flat on his face. I stared at him miserably. That wasn’t exactly how I’d hoped our reunion would go. I had come here to help him… I just hoped that he wasn’t beyond help.

“I’m not sure what to do now,” I said to no one in particular.

Firestorm folded his arms. “*You can’t just recall him and leave?*”

I sighed. “That would be nice, but… I haven’t finished Stalker’s mission. And what about the other experiments?”

Swift tilted his head. “*Other experiments?*”

“I got help from Razors and two clones.”

Firestorm gaped at me. “*Razors? The mad Scyther from the plane? Seriously?*”

“He’s not mad anymore, he was being controlled back then,” I explained.

“*What?*” The Charmeleon’s face scrunched up with incredulous skepticism. “*How did you figure that out?*”

“I… talked with him,” I said, immediately realizing how that made it sound worse.

“*That was really stupid.*”

I groaned. “Whether it was stupid or not”—and it was, it definitely was—“he helped me get this far and we had a deal.”

“*Then you should honor that deal,*” Swift said firmly. Firestorm gave the Pidgeotto a sideways glance.

Thank you,” I said exasperatedly, just happy to be done with the topic. “Now come on. I’m gonna go find them.” I was just about to reach into my pocket for their Pokéballs… but then I paused. Why did I suddenly get the feeling we were being watched?

“Heya, kiddo. What do you think you’re doing in our base, huh?”

My blood ran cold. The voice was right behind me.

In an instant, I leaped up from where I’d been sitting and whirled around to see a Rocket standing there—a slender girl with pale skin, long, curly hair, and a pointed face, currently fixing me with a devilish grin. How long had she been there? How did none of us notice her walk in?!

My eyes fell on the red stripes on her boots and gloves—officer rank. And really young for an officer. Like, right at the age limit young. Which pretty much meant one thing—she was a powerful trainer.

“Firestorm, Smokescreen!” I called out. No way I was gonna fight her if I didn’t have to.

“Not a chance!” the Rocket yelled, and a dark green lizard shot out of nowhere, punching Firestorm square in the jaw right as he inhaled for the Smokescreen. The Charmeleon recoiled backward, coughing and sputtering as the opposing lizard backflipped away before he could counterattack. It landed nimbly in front of the Rocket, bouncing lightly on its hind legs and leering at us with bright yellow eyes.

Fine then, if she wanted a fight, she’d get one. My eyes traced the leaves on its head, arms, and rear—a grass-type, most likely. Both my Pokémon had the advantage against a grass-type, so if they could tag-team the lizard with both close and long-range moves, it’d be screwed.

“Firestorm, Ember! Swift, Aerial Ace!” I ordered.

“Dodge ‘em, Grovyle,” the Rocket said playfully.

Growling, Firestorm shot out a flurry of red-hot flares at the green lizard, who leaped aside at the last second with a smirk on its face. Behind it, Swift shot downward like a bullet, beak glowing white. Grovyle spun around, its eyes going wide for a split-second right before launching itself out of the way. No chance! Swift pulled out of the dive the instant Grovyle leaped, then followed up with a blindingly fast down-up strike, clean across the lizard’s back.

All right! I knew it couldn’t dodge the Aerial Ace! But then the grass-type spun around in midair and… grabbed hold of Swift’s talon? What? Grovyle drew back a forearm and its leaves lit up with green energy, extending into long blades right before slashing Swift’s underside. The Pidgeotto cried out and kicked his legs to shake the reptile free, but it had already jumped down to avoid more embers from Firestorm.

Dammit—it knew it couldn’t dodge the Aerial Ace so it took the attack and went for the immediate follow-up. The same technique I’d learned from Stalker.

“Swift, pull back and go for Gust; Firestorm, get in close and use Fire Fang!” Firestorm could take hits better and Swift had better aim—they needed to switch roles.

Firestorm opened his mouth wide, fangs glowing like hot iron, and lunged forward at the grass lizard, who immediately jumped up and clung to one of the topmost supply shelves, out of reach. It stuck its tongue out at the Charmeleon, but then was forced to cling tighter as a sudden burst of wind whipped all the air in the room into a swirling vortex. Swift hovered in the center, adding more power to the frenzied winds, knocking scattered objects off the shelves while Firestorm attempted to climb up and reach his opponent.

I held my hair tight against the wind and squinted at the action as my eyes dried out. I saw Firestorm lose his grip and drop to the ground. Saw the Rocket observing the battle with a carefree expression. And her Grovyle still leaping around like a madman. Why was it just running away?! I thought we were the ones trying to escape! If it was going to keep doing that, then could I just make a break for it?

And then Firestorm suddenly dropped to all fours, eyes wide and limbs trembling. The fire lizard coughed a few times, his tail flame rapidly dimming.

“What?!” I exclaimed, throwing a glance at Swift. The Pidgeotto had landed on one of the shelves, clutching it with quivering talons.

“Lucky me! They’re both poisoned!” the Rocket sang.

Poisoned?! When had the Grovyle used any poison attacks? I shot hurried glances between the two of them—sure enough, both Firestorm’s jaw and Swift’s legs had a sickly purple tone. But how?

I had pecha berries—I could heal their poison. But by now the Grovyle was advancing on me, blades lit. I jumped back from where I was standing, then suddenly found myself pressed up against the wall, both the Rocket and the Grovyle between me and my Pokémon, both of whom were struggling to stay standing. All while the Rocket kept leering at me with a devilish grin.

“You’re part of that rebel team that started up recently, aren’t you?” she asked. “Sneaking into our base, messing with our plans… I bet the executives will be pretty happy with me for catching you.”

Oh hell no—she knew I wasn’t just some random thief, but part of the Rebellion?! What else did she know about us?

And then she burst into a fit of laughter out of nowhere. I stared stupidly at her, unable to process what had just happened. She was… laughing? Why?

“Oh man! You should see the look on your face! It’s freaking gold, I swear!” she cried, doubling over. Even her Grovyle was laughing now.

I stood pressed up against the wall, my breathing heavy and my heart pounding at a million beats a minute. What the hell kind of game was she playing?

“I… don’t get it,” I said finally.

She took a few seconds to wipe her eyes and get her laughter under control before saying, “Come on, it’s not obvious? I’m just screwing with you. I’m not gonna turn you in, dumbass.”

I blinked, my head starting to hurt. “You’re—you’re not?”

“No, but could you imagine? You’d be totally dead if I were anyone else!”

I stared blankly. “What’s your deal?”

The Rocket giggled slightly before standing up straight. “Alright, alright—your team leader’s an old friend from when I was a newbie on the force. He asked me to join his resistance, and I had to decline, but I agreed to help out where I could with the new rebel team.”

What? Was that true, or just another trick? “So… you’re also trying to stop Team Rocket, or—?”

“Leeeet’s not get ahead of ourselves,” she cut in. “I’m just trying to stop the Legendary project, and if that ends up causing a bit of chaos with the higher-ups, then all the better. Things have gotten a little boring around here with most of the other double agents gone.”

I tilted my head. “So you’re… a Rocket who’s against Team Rocket’s main goal?”

With a dark grin, she said, “This wasn’t always Team Rocket’s main goal, you know. It started as nothing more than just a Pokémon crime gang.” It was bizarre hearing her nonchalant tone. “Course, that was long before I joined,” the Rocket continued. “Ya see, for a long time, the whole Legendary conquest deal wasn’t out in the open. Sure, the executives knew about it, but it wasn’t until recently that the team was openly pushed towards that goal. That’s when I started having second thoughts.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“I’m not looking to be a part of some Legendary war—screw that,” she replied with a scoff. “So if I get to keep my position, screw with the higher-ups, and throw a wrench in that crazy-ass scheme, then that sounds pretty good to me. Besides, it’s not like you guys are aiming to completely destroy the team, not that you could even if you wanted.”

I didn’t really know what to say to that. Nothing about this girl made any sense at all.

“So then why did you join Team Rocket in the first place?”

“Because it’s fun,” she said simply, curling a lock of hair around her finger. “I wanted to get stronger, have some power, and make easy money doing it. Simple as that. I follow orders, do ‘em well, and when I was old enough, I got promoted to officer. You prob’ly noticed, but I’m also a qualified experiment handler.” I hadn’t noticed. I hadn’t exactly seen enough Grovyle to know what was different about hers. Unless it had something to do with magically poisoning my Pokémon without using any poison moves.

“I always did feel kinda bad for the experiments—that’s why I offered to train two of ‘em. So fortunately for you, I want to help the ones that got loose.” Her face split into a grin. “Call it a common interest.” An endless list of Team Rocket activities to object to, and testing on experiments was somehow the only thing that registered. Okay.

“What’s your point in telling me all this?” I asked, folding my arms.

“My point? Not everyone’s satisfied with the direction Team Rocket is going in these days. The fact that your rebel team even exists is proof of that.”

“So if you’re gonna help, then help,” I said, unable to shake the feeling that I was still being toyed with. That this entire conversation was a game somehow. “Do you know where the experiments are?”

“Not at the moment,” she said in a singsong tone. “But I could probably find out.”

I groaned. “Alright, then text me when you do,” I said, holding out my R-com. She shrugged and pressed a few buttons on hers before holding it out. The lights blinked a few times as the two devices swapped info, then my screen displayed a message that I had added Stracion Decora to my contacts. I looked back at her face and was met with yet another trollish grin. It didn’t exactly make me feel any better about all of this.

“I get the feeling you just wanna watch me make a mess of things.”

She snorted. “That’s true. Anyway, you’re good to go, yeah? Cause I should be getting back to the others.”

Good to go? Seriously? With Chibi out cold and both my Pokémon poisoned? “I… don’t exactly have any Pokémon to battle with.”

Stracion leaned over to get a look at look at the unconscious Pikachu lying behind me, as well as the Charmeleon and Pidgeotto who had been watching her very carefully this whole time, the former giving her a nasty glare.

“Right… you should probably wake up number nine. Try this.” She pulled a revive out of the pouch hanging from her belt. “Suppose I owe you an antidote too, while we’re at it. Sorry to say, I’m fresh out.”

“Yeah, you… really didn’t need to poison them,” I said flatly.

Stracion shrugged and tossed me the revive. “Nope, I really didn’t. Laters.” She gave a quick wave before running off.

I just kind of stared at the doorway after she had gone, still trying to wrap my head around what had just happened. I’d been cornered by a double agent whose only real agenda seemed to be causing discord. And she was willing to help me… kind of. If poisoning my Pokémon for no real reason was helping.

Firestorm scowled at where she had left. “*I don’t like her.*”

“Not too sure how I feel about her myself,” I admitted.

“*Likable or not… I do not believe she lied to us,*” Swift said, turning to face me. “*And you will need her help to find the others.*” He was right.

I sighed and pulled some pecha berries from the pouch on my belt. “Here, I’ve got these at least… sorry I couldn’t give ‘em to you sooner.” I waited for them to finish eating before I recalled them, then refocused my attention on Chibi. He was still lying in a crumpled heap, breathing irregularly. Well, here goes nothing… I knelt down and cracked the shell of the revive crystal to activate it before gently holding it against his forehead. Then I waited. It wouldn’t take long to react with his energy signature and wake him up, but time had slowed to a crawl, and the suspense was agonizing.

And then the Pikachu’s eyes snapped open.

“Chibi!” I exclaimed, feeling my spirits instantly lift.

The hybrid blinked at me a few times before slowly pushing himself into an upright position. “*Nnn… what’s going on…? My head feels like it’s in a vice,*” he said, rubbing a paw over his face.

I clenched my teeth. “You were practically delusional earlier. How are you doing now?”

Chibi paused. “*I… I don’t remember that. Everything feels hazy.*” He shook his head as though trying to clear it before looking up at me intently. “*How did you find me? And… why?*”

I smiled weakly. “I met up with Razors and two other experiments. They led me to—”

“*Razors?*” he gasped incredulously, his mouth hanging open. “*How—what… Razors??*”

“He… was being held in a containment unit. I guess they borrowed him from Tyson so they could do tests on him or something,” I answered. From what Razors had said, it was obvious that at one time they had to be fairly close. Which made Chibi’s blind rage during the plane incident all the stranger. Hadn’t he tried to kill Razors?

Chibi stared at the wall, eyes wide with a tortured expression. “*It’s been so long. I’d… after he was taken from me, I’d lost hope. I took him for dead, so having to constantly fight his mindless shell… at the time, it seemed better if he actually were dead. But now…*” It was really weird to see him looking so… vulnerable.

“They’re loose in the base right now,” I pointed out. “If we find them, we can all escape, and then he’ll finally be free.”

Chibi nodded distantly, his expression inscrutable. Again, he asked, “*Why did you come here for me?*”

“Why? What does that mean? You think I’d let them keep testing on you if I knew there was anything I could do about it? I never forgave myself for letting them take you that night.”

The hybrid raised an eyebrow and surveyed me intensely. “*Don’t try to pretend we had some deep trainer-Pokémon bond. Why risk yourself for me?*”

“You… saved my life that night.” It was all I could bring myself to say.

A long pause followed. Finally, his expression softened somewhat. He seemed to consider the matter settled, because he then asked, “*So, who were the others?*”

“An Absol and Flygon,” I replied.

Realization spread across his face. “*Twenty-four and Twenty-five… *”

I tilted my head. “Why do the experiments call each other by numbers?”

“*It’s what the Rockets always called us,*” the Pikachu said simply. “*Of course… Razors and I did have specific names that we used around each other. The head experiment handler heard us once and jokingly referred to Razors by his nickname for a while, but then it stuck.*”

Huh… I guess that made sense.

I jumped at a sudden buzzing against my leg—oh right, it was just my R-com. Which meant I’d hopefully just gotten a text from Stracion? Sure enough, the message read: “Experiments last seen in D block on B2. Better go now before everyone else gets there!”

Chibi tilted his head at me. “*What is it?*”

I pocketed the R-com. “We’ve gotta go now. I need to find the others as soon as I can, and I might need your—” Wait. I’d just been assuming that Chibi was going to come with me… just because I’d found him again. But had he ever really been on my team to begin with? Sure, he’d stayed with me during Vermilion, but he had even admitted that was only because he didn’t know what to do with himself yet.

I took a deep breath. “I might need your help saving the others. Will you come with me?”

The Pikachu blinked, looking taken aback. Then something like realization crossed his face. “*I’d forgotten how many stupid questions you like to ask. Yes, I’m with you.*”






~End Chapter 14~
In case you feel cheated by the “threat” in this chapter turning out to be a non-threat… next chapter will fix that. Trust me. We meet the primary antagonist for the rest of Part 1 very, very soon. >:D
 

Namohysip

Dragon Enthusiast
Staff
Partner
charizard
I blinked. “Clones?”
OH COME ON!

--

Anyway, that aside, this is an interesting chapter that covers a few story beats in rapid succession. I'll go over those later, but I don't have anything particularly remarkable to comment on other than the fact that this is the first time we see Chibi in a truly vulnerable state. He's not quite as stoic anymore, so we've got a good bit of characterization sprinkled in with this otherwise action-progress chapter.

I threw myself to the ground right before the high-pitched whistle of tranquilizer darts tore through the air.
Ah yes, the magical tranquilizer dart. Always way more instantaneous, all-purpose, and useful in fiction than in real life.

“I’m not looking to be a part of some Legendary war—screw that,” she replied with a scoff. “So if I get to keep my position, screw with the higher-ups, and throw a wrench in that crazy-ass scheme, then that sounds pretty good to me. Besides, it’s not like you guys are aiming to completely destroy the team, not that you could even if you wanted.”

I didn’t really know what to say to that. Nothing about this girl made any sense at all.
Yeah I'm with Jade on this one. It sort of feels like you wrote a character that's chaotic-neutral and ran by the textbook. I'll see more on this in later chapters, I suppose, though from Jade's perspective, it's yet another odd coincidence of luck of her being able to not get captured or worse.

“My point? Not everyone’s satisfied with the direction Team Rocket is going in these days. The fact that your rebel team even exists is proof of that.”
...That's an odd way of phrasing it. Did Stalker defect? Is he a former Rocket in that way, or does he want to be the True Rocket Leader of some kind? Rival evil organization? I dunno. This line stood out to me, because the implications are backwards.

Anyway, good chapter. Curious to see how the escape plan rolls out.
 

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Staff
Location
somewhere in spacetime
Pronouns
they/them
Partner
pikachu-chibi
Yeah I'm with Jade on this one. It sort of feels like you wrote a character that's chaotic-neutral and ran by the textbook. I'll see more on this in later chapters, I suppose, though from Jade's perspective, it's yet another odd coincidence of luck of her being able to not get captured or worse.
Yeah, Stracion's character is meant to foreshadow some things regarding Team Rocket. (Worth noting that she was on the lookout for Jade, though.)

And Jade's luck should be worse, you say? :) Oh good, you'll like where chapters 19-23 go.
...That's an odd way of phrasing it. Did Stalker defect? Is he a former Rocket in that way, or does he want to be the True Rocket Leader of some kind? Rival evil organization? I dunno. This line stood out to me, because the implications are backwards.
some good questions here
Just a quick reply there before the moment you've all been waiting for! That's right, I've finally written up a extra for the teleport mechanics in LC! This is a brand-new extra that wasn't part of the original Serebii thread. Enjoy the exclusive content! (Before I inevitably port it over there too.)

Teleportation mechanics in LC
“Because the people demanded it!”

Teleportation, like most things, costs energy. Pokémon, being energy-based beings, are pretty good at the whole “throwing energy at something to make stuff happen” thing.

Pokémon have a pool of energy that their bodies naturally produce which can then be applied to produce certain desired effects. This can be thought of as analogous to Power Points, but more global. (If you spend all your lightning on ten Thunders, do you really have any power left for a Thunderbolt?) Teleportation uses psychic energy, of course, therefore using other psychic skills will cut into the pool of energy available for teleporting. Psychic-types are the only Pokémon that can learn to teleport naturally, but a select few non-psychics can learn it artificially.

The skill level required for teleporting scales with distance:
  • Line-of-sight: Very easy. Costs such a small amount of energy that it’s almost negligible. Basically a cantrip.
  • Up to 10km: Not too hard. Most low-level psychics can manage this with only a little practice. Barring no other use of psychic power, the average Pokémon can do 40 or so of these before growing exhausted.
  • Up to 25km: Probably the maximum for non-psychic types. These take an increase in focus and spatial awareness, but not that much more energy, making them ideal for breaking a longer jump into shorter chunks. (Worth noting that having multiple jumps requires multiple memorized locations—see below.)
  • Up to 50km: More difficult. Takes some real dedicated training to learn. This reaches the category of “long-range teleport.”
  • Up to 100km: Only the most advanced psychics with years of specialized training can pull this off.
Anything beyond 100km is nearly unheard-of, and mostly pointless when you can just make multiple smaller jumps anyway. The way teleportation works is that the psychic projects its awareness outward, reaching with its mind across space to locate a memorized location, ‘grabs’ onto it mentally, and then exerts energy to force the physical body to that location. Past a certain distance, however, the limiting factor is not so much the energy cost, but simply the fact that the mind can’t project that far.

Extra people increases the energy cost exponentially. Now, of course this varies based on the mass involved, but as a rule of thumb:
  • +1 person: x2 cost
  • +2 person: x4 cost
  • +3 person: x8 cost
Anything beyond that starts to run up against the point where it’s not a matter of having the energy, it’s being able to manifest it at once. (Pokémon don’t make a habit of expending most of their energy in a single instant, save for our favorite mutant Pikachu.)

The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s all relative—stronger Pokémon can not only teleport further but also have a larger pool of energy to work with. So it’s not quite like the games where teleport always has 40pp regardless of the user’s level (barring pp up of course). A weaker psychic might only have 20, while a stronger one might have up to 80.

The additional restriction, of course, is that teleports outside of line-of-sight require the Pokémon to have visited the location and “memorized” it: concentrating very hard on the feel of the location to produce a strong special awareness of it. This process can take anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute, but once complete, the Pokémon can return to it at will (provided the distance/energy cost are not too great.) Memorized locations can fade over time unless regularly visited. Stronger psychics can remember more locations at once. (An Abra’s max might be two, but an Alakazam might be able to handle up to ten.)

The act of teleporting itself also requires a solid focus, but is of course much faster than the memorizing. Again depends on the skill of the psychic, but a good five seconds should be all it takes. This does mean that it’s possible to interrupt a teleport though.

Teleporting within city limits is regulated by the League. It’s prohibited to teleport to anywhere other than one’s own property, or a designated public teleport stop (traditionally at Pokémon Centers, though some larger cities might also have them in parks). Secure locations will almost always have anti-teleport fields installed.

Also worth noting is the fact that psychics are notoriously proud, and unlikely to stay with a human that only uses them as glorified transportation. (All Pokémon have the legal right to leave their trainer for any reason.) It’s simply uncommon to see anyone with a teleporter other than a dedicated psychic trainer or a competitive battler. Well-trained psychics willing to lend their strength to human society are highly-valued, and most often employed by emergency response teams.
 
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