The Team Rocket operative standing at the corner of Summer Street and Third Avenue watched the passing traffic. He grew a little apprehensive when he saw the tank among the cars. He got downright worried when it stopped right in front of him and the barrel swung to face him.
"Team Rocket is losing its hold on Saffron City. Please surrender. It's easier for both of us."
Soon the tank was continuing on its way, the operative in a safe place. If the Silph Co. scientist driving had happened to look behind the tank as it was leaving, he might have noticed the intercom plummeting to the street, reporting beaten street guards all the way to the shattering end of its flight.
Five stories up, Santiago shouted imprecations through the brand new hole in his picture window. "ˇDejad! ˇFracasadores!" He backed up and ran his fingers through his hair with a loud sigh. "I am calm, I am collected, I am in control...CENSORED!"
"Things not going your way?"
Santiago whirled to face the double door. There were two kids and an Alakazam standing there. The kids were actually shorter than the nearly-five-foot pokémon, but if this was who it probably was, the biggest threat in the room was the boy. How had they gotten in? Santiago pressed the silent alarm to summon his Rocket Elite bodyguards, hoping someone showed up.
"Gary Ford, is it? And let's see...Kate something. And I suppose the Alakazam is your miraculous Ditto I've heard about, copying something from the city Gym? I think you'll find you're in over your heads this time."
"That's what the guards around both the Gym and the Fighting Dojo felt. They were wrong."
"Oh? I understand the rowdy bunch from the Dojo helped you there. I don't see them here. And you're not up against a group of simple operatives now."
The door burst open and six Rocket Elite members entered with raised Pokéballs. The Alakazam focused and six Pokéballs dropped to the ground while the Rocket Elites clutched their smarting hands. The Alakazam focused again. Two bodyguards flew into the air and slammed into each other, knocked out. Two more were thrown into the side walls and a fifth sailed into the wall above the double door. The sixth managed to grab his Pokéball before the Alakazam returned to him. The Pokéball was yanked out of his hands and flew around to pound him in the head several times. The man fled from the room with his own Pokéball in hot pursuit.
Then, the Alakazam turned back to Santiago, who belatedly remembered that one of the main uses of bodyguards was to take the fall while the boss escaped. Before he could take more than a step, he was telekinetically grabbed and pressed against the cieling.
Gary spoke up again. "I want you out of Saffron City with all your people by this time tomorrow."
Santiago forced words out of his trapped lungs. "And...what...if I...don't?"
Suddenly his mind was flooded with an undescribable horror that shattered his defiance, and a voice filled his awareness. I have the sense of your mind now, Santiago, and I can locate you anywhere you go. If Team Rocket is not out of Saffron City in twenty-four hours, I will be back, and with worse than this. Santiago was not aware of falling until he was caught in the floor's embrace. Remember, an Alakazam never forgets... and all three were gone.
Shaking from more than the fall, Santiago raised himself from the floor and faced his bodyguards who were just coming around. He tried to keep the fear out of his voice as he barked orders. "Call Silph and have them close up shop. Contact Headquarters and tell them we're pulling out."
"Oh, and arrange a meeting with our solo Gastly." He'd probably catch hell for this, but he intended to throw some of his own hell first.
The clerk looked up as the door to the Pokémon Center opened to admit a man and two kids. The man looked like he worked at Silph Co., and unlike the kids he had no Pokéballs.
"We need overnight rooms. Two will do."
"Forget that, we can give you three. They just aren't used much now that no one can get into the...city...say, where did you come from, anyway?"
"Oh, everywhere. We made our own way into the city. I think visitors should be picking up soon enough."
The clerk chuckled as they reached the overnight rooms. "If you say so. Visitors can pick up if they want to...I'll just be happy if Team Rocket picks up--and moves out!"
The scientist smiled around the door of his room. "Exactly." And with that, the stunned clerk was alone in the hall.
Ditto leaned against the door and sighed. After today, he needed a rest. Today he had tried out his Venonat form for the first time, carried Gary up and over a tall wall as Pidgeot, teleported all across Saffron City, learned firsthand how to drive and fire a tank, picked up Alakazam, Hitmonlee and Mr. Mime forms from the Gym and Dojo, and immediately used the Alakazam form in a close combat situation, and then threatened Santiago--whose name he had only just found in the man's mind--with horrible torture. He still felt a little dirty from that.
Gary saw the bed and the entire night caught up with him. He got ready for bed as quickly as he could. He avoided looking at the clock. He really didn't want to know.
Gary was asleep by the time his head hit the pillow.
Kate turned off the light and thought about what came next. There would probably be a lot of official people who would want to thank them, and after that...the Gym? She was having trouble picturing herself battling the people who had just recently been allies.
Gary had talked about taking a rest after freeing Saffron City. Maybe this would be a good time to go back to Cerulean City and look into those courses on pokémon speech.
"So...are you a family?"
"No, sir, none of us are related."
"Just traveling together? I understand the two kids are on a badge-collecting journey, but why do you stay with them?"
"Oh, well, sir, I stay because I've found we make a very good team. Wouldn't you agree?"
The mayor of Saffron City leaned back in his chair and blew out an airy chuckle. "Yes, I'd have to say so! You three certainly gave the Rockets that impression! In any case, there'll be a public congratulations and all that. Custom, you know, and the citizens won't take a rescue without some celebrating. Hope you don't have plans for today..."
"Oh, believe me, sir, we're not going anywhere soon."
Gary contemplated his Pokédex. He had switched back to his raising party for whenever he got back to raising. Butterfree wasn't in it anymore, because Gastly was low enough to join the group and Butterfree had grown a few levels in the Battle of the Dojo. Drowzee had also joined when Pidgeotto evolved. There was a three-way tie for Nidoran's spot when she evolved, though. Gary would have to think about that.
He had plenty of time to think. Before any of them left a Pokéball again he'd have to go through the ceremony the mayor was going to have later this afternoon. There'd been talk of a reward or two...Gary wondered what that could be. He hoped it wouldn't be one of those huge checks people won on TV. He had no idea what to do with that kind of money.
Gary pocketed his Pokédex and stepped out into the hall. Kate met him shortly down the hall. She was wearing a dress Gary had forgotten she had; in fact, Gary couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her in a dress. "Wow, you're going all out for this ceremony, aren't you?"
"Well, I'm being congratulated by an entire city...I thought it was appropriate."
"Too bad I didn't think to bring anything that fancy...hey, wait a minute, where have you been carrying that? Your backpack's no bigger than mine..."
Kate giggled. "My mother paid for an Item Storage account so I could have access to what she called 'a proper wardrobe.'"
"Clothes by Computer, huh? That's a cute idea..."
Ditto came into the lounge. "Hi, guys! That's a nice dress, Kate."
Gary looked at Ditto more closely. He was wearing a black bow tie and his lab coat had changed subtly to make it slightly more formal. "How'd you get dressed up like that? Aren't you kinda...stuck in your usual lab coat?"
"I've been experimenting with the limits of my Transforming power. I can make little changes to my forms if I work at it enough, but it's really taxing."
Gary looked down at himself. "Great. I'm going to be the only one who isn't dressed up for the event."
"Well, think of it as 'looking natural.'"
Far from Saffron City, Bonnie and Clyde steeled themselves and entered Vladimir's office. Clyde worked up his courage. "You...wanted to see us, sir?"
"Yes, I understand that you and your former teammate Gastly were partially responsible for foiling each other's attempts to dispose of the child Gary Ford in the vicinity of Lavender Town."
Clyde gulped. "Yes, that's right, sir..." Bonnie supplied.
Vladimir smiled like a Persian playing with its kill. "I have decided how best to prevent that from occurring again. You will, of course, abide by my decision."
"What are we to do, sir?"
Gastly moaned in the room it had been sent to. Those traitors in Pokémon Tower had simply let the kids and the Ditto pass unharmed, despite its plea for help and the fact that they seemed to have caught at least one Gastly. It had learned that from the reports of the last big encounter between Gary Ford and Team Rocket in Saffron.
Disposing of Gary had been Gastly's assignment, and it had failed with disastrous consequences for Team Rocket. Now, Gastly had been dealt the greatest punishment it could think of; it had been handed the assignment it dreaded most.
The next time Gastly met Gary, only one would walk away.
Brad slumped in a chair in the lounge of the Vermilion City Pokémon Center. The Gym had reopened, and a lot of people were coming there now. Battles were harder now that Brad couldn't trust Charmeleon to do what he wanted. He had barely managed to beat the jolly door guard.
That was another thing. Everyone there seemed to be annoyingly happy. Brad's training had gone downhill since somewhere around Cerulean City. Almost nothing was going his way anymore.
The television in the lounge suddenly turned to a news broadcast, interrupting the televised League battle that had been playing. "Big news from Saffron City: the gates to the city, recently closed for unknown reasons, have been reopened and the mayor has made a statement. What we know so far is that Saffron City was the target of a hostile takeover by the notorious crime syndicate Team Rocket. A group of three travelers, who had previously routed Team Rocket from Vermilion City, was instrumental in ending Team Rocket's control of Saffron city. They are shown here in an amateur photograph at the scene of a major victory against Team Rocket's ill-gotten arsenal. This station will be sending reporters to the public speeches this afternoon which will feature the three saviors of Saffron City. We now return you to the scheduled program."
Brad stared at the photo of the three people before the screen returned to the League stadium where the battle had just ended. He recognized one of them, the boy about his age...yeah, the guy in Pewter City who beat him with the Poliwag! He'd seen the kid in Cerulean City, too, putting up those posters for the class on pokémon talk. That kid had rescued two cities from Team Rocket? Well, it explained why everyone here was so darn cheery...but if that kid could do so much, what was Brad doing in this stupid slump?
Brad needed a way to redeem himself...and beating that kid would be perfect. Kind of poetic justice to it. After all, he'd come pretty close to beating the kid in Pewter City...hadn't he? Well, he'd had some chance...all right, so the kid had trashed him, so what? Everyone had his good and bad days.
Brad headed back to his room to gather his stuff. He only hoped what's-his-name was still in Saffron City when Brad got there, or he might never find him.
Hoping the mayor's long-winded speech would wind down soon, Kate had turned to her friends...and seen Gary turning a light shade of blue.
"You can breathe, Gary," she whispered.
A surprised look crossed Gary's face and he quickly exhaled. "I didn't even realize I was holding it!"
"A little tense?"
"Who, me? A member of the group that freed two cities from Team Rocket? Tense? ...Like a coiled spring, why?"
Kate giggled as softly as she could.
"...for this impressive performance. We have the Leader of Saffron City Gym, Sabrina, here, and she has a few words for us." The mayor stepped away from the podium as Sabrina stood.
"People of Saffron City, as a Gym Leader I am quite aware of the trials that pokémon trainers must face on their journeys. Sometimes, the challenge is too great for the trainer to continue. No challenge is fully insurmountable, however. Some trainers are able to push forward no matter what lies in their way. I feel that Gary Ford and Kaitlyn Fields are two such trainers. Although neither has faced me in battle, we have fought side by side, and I deem both worthy of Saffron Gym's mark of ability, the Marsh Badge."
Gary and Kate jumped, and then stepped forward as Sabrina presented both with the Psychic-type Badge. "Thank you, Sabrina!"
"On behalf of Saffron City Gym, I commend your skill and wish you success on the rest of your journeys." Sabrina returned to her seat to the applause of the crowd.
The mayor returned to the podium. "Also here is the president of Silph Corporation, Ken Sugimori." He stepped back again as President Sugimori stepped forward.
"First of all, I'd like to assure all concerned citizens that the various tanks and high-powered lasers Team Rocket forced us to build will be melted down and remade into more peaceful technology. Also, since Team Rocket has obviously not given up the idea of controlling us, the anti-Rocket security measures installed some three decades ago and just recently relaxed will again be implemented--most likely for good this time.
"Like Saffron City Gym, Silph Co. would like to express our appreciation for this selfless act by presenting the three heroes of the Team Rocket Repulsion with items that will no doubt aid in their pokémon journeys. I have here certificates for Gary and Kaitlyn worth three free Technical Machines of their choosing, redeemable anywhere they are sold. As for Tod Frost, who is not raising pokémon, I confer on him the status of honorary member of the Silph Scientific and Technological Society. As an honorary member, Mr. Frost is entitled to special privilege in scientific centers as diverse and distant as the Pewter City Museum of Science, the Center for Paranormal Research in Lavender Town, and Cinnabar Island's Pokémon Labs." There was more applause as President Sugimori gave Gary and Kate the certificates and gave Ditto a membership card.
The mayor was about to start another long speech when the sky darkened. Gary looked up and saw a shadow covering the sun.
It looked like the world's biggest Beedrill, but without the back legs. Judging from what he could see of it, Gary decided it must be some kind of aircraft made to look like a Beedrill. A voice called down from a loudspeaker.
"Team Rocket would also like to offer a little something: some free advice. You have already done much. Rest on your laurels. If you cross us again, all three of you will deeply regret it!" Before anyone could respond, the back stinger erupted into flame and the Beedrill-shaped aircraft shot eastward over the wall and out of sight.
Worried murmurs filled the crowd until Gary strode forward and took the microphone.
"A fascinating display of anxiety, right folks? Too bad they fled before I could deliver a courageous retort!" The murmurs were replaced by a sprinkling of laughter. "Seriously, though, my friends and I are taking that warning with a jumbo-sized grain of salt, and will certainly continue to thwart Team Rocket's evil plans every chance we get. And that's a promise!" His impromptu speech was greeted with some of the most enthusiatic applause of the day.
"I knew he was going to say that."
Bonnie scowled at the sulking Clyde. "Would you stop whining? You're getting on my nerves!"
"You think he's getting on your nerves? Both of you make me sick!"
"Aw, lay off." Bonnie turned back to the window. "The speeches are running down. We'll ambush him on the way to the Pokémon Center, all right?"
Clyde stood. "It's about time. I'm glad I wasn't standing up like all those people down there."
"Yeah, you'd be whining even more. Thank God for small miracles!"
BDEEP BDEEP BDEEP
The MIB glanced at his laptop. It was running a standard cross-referencing program, and it had just come up with something worth notice. He pressed a button and two pictures came up.
One was a man who had once been under the employ of Cinnabar Labs. After the Mewtwo incident, he had been found near death, but an exact copy of him had also been found in perfect health. The copy had gotten away, and his info and picture had been put in the Possible Security Risk files.
The other picture was Tod Frost, a scientist who had recently been inducted into the SSTS. The SSTS was one of many organizations whose databases were checked regularly against the Possible Security Risk items.
The program had caught the similarity in the pictures. Despite thirty-odd years of separation, there was no doubt about it. They were the same man.
The MIB pulled up a detailed account of Tod Frost. Other than the SSTS membership, it was empty. It was as if Tod Frost had come into being just to join the SSTS. If that were true, he might very well cease to exist now that he had.
There was no time to lose.
"So who do you suppose that was in the Beedrill jet-thing?"
Gary cocked his head at Kate. "Team Rocket? You mean who in Team Rocket? Well, it didn't sound like Clyde or Santiago...or Gastly, for that matter...it could have been any of the hundreds of lesser members...operatives, Santiago called them..."
"I can't really picture an operative being trusted with such an important message, can you?" Ditto commented. "It must have been a Rocket Elite at least."
"Anyway, it's no one we know." Gary summed up. "Why do you ask, Kate? Think we'll end up meeting him some day?"
Kate shrugged. "I didn't recognize the voice either...but it sounded like he had something against us personally."
Gary chuckled. "I'd be surprised if any big shot in Team Rocket didn't have something against us personally by now!"
The walk back to the Pokémon Center continued in silence for a moment. Then, Gary turned to Ditto. "So, what do you think about your newest name?"
"Frost, you mean? Well, it's okay...it actually makes Tod sound a little better." Then, with a grin, "It keeps reminding me of Ice-types, though."
Gary smiled. "Too bad we couldn't find anything that used every letter..."
"Hey, Tod doesn't use all the letters in Ditto, either...besides, I don't think there is anything you can make out of every letter in Transform that would sound good as a last name."
"So, what are we going to do now?" Kate piped up.
Gary considered. "Well, the nearest Gym we haven't been to is in Celadon City...but I think both of us could use a rest from heavy-duty battles, right? You'd like to see Cerulean City and points north...I've got low-level pokémon to train, I could do that anywhere...Ditto, do you have anything you need to take care of?"
"Actually, I've been meaning to get in some practice in my different forms. I don't need 'raising' per se, but I was...reminded twice yesterday that my first use of any form is more difficult than subsequent uses. I haven't had to worry about that sort of thing for many years..."
"So you could do that anywhere...as long as it's private, right?"
"Yes...but I seem to remember you two having something other than Gyms to think about in Celadon City."
"Oh, right!" Gary took out the certificate for three TMs the president of Silph Co. had given him. "I almost forgot that's the whole reason I headed south from Cerulean City in the first place!"
Kate took a look at hers. "Hmm...I don't have a clue what kinds of TMs there are!"
"Well, there are a lot to choose from...Ditto, how many did you say there were?"
"65 total, but that counts RMs. Does the certificate say whether you can use it to get RMs?"
While Gary searched through the fine print, Kate asked, "What's an RM?"
"Reusable Machine. Normal TMs are good for one use only. RMs can be used over and over."
Gary surfaced. "It doesn't mention RMs, but it does say 'all' TMs. Maybe that includes RMs."
"Do you know what TMs you're going to get?"
"As a matter of fact, there are three TMs I've had my eye on. There's a strong Grass-type move that restores the user's life that I want for Bellsprout, and I want to teach Sandshrew Dig and Drowzee Dream Eater."
"If you want to see a list of all available TMs," Ditto mentioned, "your Pokédex probably has one."
Kate checked that and found the list. "Okay...I'll look through that at the Pokémon Center."
They rounded a corner and the Pokémon Center came into view, right behind a low fog bank.
Fog bank!? It wasn't foggy anywhere else...
"Prepare for Trouble!"
"Make it double!"
Gary put a hand to his forehead. "Wonderful."
"To protect the world from devestation!"
"To unite all peoples within our nation!"
"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"
"To extend our reach to the stars above!"
Gary watched the 'fog' dissipate, right on cue...forming at the center?
"Team Rocket! Blast off at the speed of light!"
"Surrender now or prepare to fight!"
The 'fog' had completely concentrated between Bonnie and Clyde now, and formed into a familiar face.
"Would it be asking too much for you to get your line right just once?" Bonnie grumbled.
"Yes, it would. Now focus on them!"
Gary interrupted. "Wait a minute, since when are you three working together again?"
Gastly burned a little darker. "After I failed to get rid of you in time to keep Saffron City in our clutches, I was stuck back with these two jokers as punishment!"
"But Vladimir said it was so we wouldn't mess up each other's plans again!" Clyde threw in.
"You think They don't keep in touch with each other? Santiago and Vladimir came up with this torture together!"
Vladimir? Someone on the same command rung as Santiago? These three had mentioned a "They" before...Gary couldn't remember when...but why were they saying this in front of Gary and the others?
Kate answered that in a low whisper to Gary and Ditto. "Is it just me or have they forgotten about us again?"
Ditto nodded. "Maybe we can get away if we move quickly and quietly."
"...yeah? Well, I didn't see you doing very well without us, either..." Bonnie was commenting.
"Shelve it!" Gastly said abruptly. "They're getting away!"
So much for that idea...Gary whipped out his Pokédex in mid-stride to bring his power players back in for the now-inevitable battle.
"Hah!" Clyde cheered. "There's nowhere to run now!"
Well, duh, Gary thought as he surveyed the blind alley they were in.
"What's the matter?" Bonnie chuckled as she, Clyde and Gastly closed in. "The great Team Rocket fighters are afraid to face us?"
"Please don't do this..." Gary said. "Haven't your pokémon been tortured enough?"
As that sank in, Bonnie's evil glee evaporated. "...say WHAT!?"
"Why, you..." Clyde glowered. "You were just buying time, weren't you?"
"Well, time's up! Sandslash, tear them apart!"
"Poliwhirl, hose it down!"
Clyde added his pokémon to the fray. "Ekans, win this one!"
Kate countered. "Spearow, take Ekans!"
Gastly, meanwhile, confronted Ditto. "I don't know how you contribute to this team, Mr. Frost, but you'd best not try anything funny! You haven't got a tank to fire at us now!"
The man with a secret or three smiled. "Who, me? I use the ancient and powerful art of selectively activated obfuscation to envelop the fundamental nature of my specialty in mind-beguiling obscurity. However, it isn't me you should worry about; if I were you I'd be careful of the Alakazam who just Teleported behind you. Young Gary's almighty Ditto, I believe."
"Hah! I won't fall for that old trick! You're obviously trying to distract me!"
"No, seriously, if you're not careful you'll be hit with a psychic blast very soon."
Meanwhile, the pokémon battle behind them raged. Poliwhirl wove, ducked and leaped to avoid Sandslash's flashing claws and back spines, getting in a Water Gun whenever it got an opportunity. Sandslash was getting very frustrated. Ekans, who had been marked by Spearow's talons several times already, decided to try to Wrap up the irritating bird. It shot up at Spearow to coil around it, but Spearow just flapped harder and managed to get too high for Ekans to reach.
"Mirror Move!" Kate called. She had no idea how a Spearow could use Wrap, but Ekans was a poor enough fighter for Kate to take risks, and she wanted Spearow to practice duplicating the enemy's moves.
Spearow kicked into high gear, translating its altitude into speed. Ekans folded nearly upside down in a desperate attempt to get at it. Spearow banked hard, nearly crashing into Sandslash, who was now largely on the defensive from Poliwhirl's watery assault. Ekans wove all over itself in a mad attempt to catch Spearow. Finally, Spearow stopped to observe its handiwork. Ekans drove forward to grab Spearow before it could move again--and the knot it had tied in itself drew tight. Spearow had Wrapped up Ekans quite nicely.
Sandslash tumbled to Bonnie's feet and got up woozily. Bonnie ran out of patience. "Sandslash, use Buzzsaw on it!" Sandslash quickly shook its head to clear it and then curled up and rolled toward Poliwhirl.
Gastly waited until it had backed "Mr. Frost" into a corner before looking back to see if he had been telling the truth. No Alakazam. Triumphantly it turned back to its prey--and saw itself reflected off two spoons.
Poliwhirl sprayed the ground in front of Sandslash with water and then did a double backflip out of the way. Caught in the water, Sandslash hydroplaned forward, losing all control of its roll.
Gastly tried to use Confuse Ray on Ditto, but Ditto rippled the air in front of it and Gastly's wavelength collapsed. Then, Ditto started using Psychic to rip Gastly apart.
Sandslash connected, its back spines chewing the Alakazam's right leg into a bloody mess before it finally hit the wall at the alley's end. Ditto fell to the ground. Gastly began trying to pull itself together.
Bonnie crowed in delight. "Now, Sandslash, S--"
Two men in black suits had appeared at the alley's entrance. Both had guns.
Everyone but Gastly froze.
One of the men pulled out a Kadabra-style spoon, pointed it upward and squeezed the handle. A Psybeam shot toward the sky.
Now everyone froze.
"We're looking for a man calling himself Mr. Tod Frost. Our business with him does not concern you. We know he entered this alley with you. Cooperate with us and you will not be harmed."
Gary had the distinct impression that if he cooperated with them, Ditto would be harmed. He glanced again at his fallen companion, saw Ditto was in no shape to answer, and told the truth...somewhat. "My Alakazam put Tod somewhere safe for this battle. He doesn't carry pokémon."
The black-suited man frowned. "Didn't have a tank handy? Where is he?"
"I really don't know. You'll have to ask my Alakazam."
The men looked at each other. "We have a man on the Island who can translate pokémon speech..."
That won't be necessary. Ditto was fixing them with an intense gaze, and his battered leg was fleshing out. I can use telepathy and Recover at the same time.
The black-suited men shared another glance.
You want to know where I've hidden Tod Frost? The man is inaccessible until I say otherwise.
Ditto climbed to his feet as his right leg healed enough to put weight on.
And I don't feel it wise to reveal him until I can be sure your intentions are not hostile.
The black-suited man who had been speaking frowned again.
To tell the truth, from what I've seen I'm almost certain you don't come in peace, so if you want Mr. Frost you'd best have a very convincing refutation of my viewpoint.
"I think I can be very convincing, yes." The man raised his gun at him.
Riiiiight. The gun barrel was hammered near the muzzle until it was far too narrow for any bullet to fit through. The second man fired at Ditto. Ditto leaned into it and the bullet slowed to a stop and fell at Ditto's feet. Then, Ditto spun his spoons in his hands and struck the pavement with them. A second bullet was left to whiz through empty air, striking the wall.
The MIBs turned quickly in the empty alley.
The main streets were filling again as the spirit of celebration was slowly replaced with the hubbub of daily life, so chaos reigned for a brief moment when two of the city's saviors, two members of Team Rocket and six pokémon suddenly appeared in the northwestern residential sector.
Gary recalled Poliwhirl. "Well, it was fun battling you again, but we've got some real opposition now, so you'll have to excuse us." Kate recalled Spearow, and with a flourish of spoons, Gary, Kate and Ditto disappeared.
"NO! Get back here!" Gastly cried out, frustrated. "I swore when next we met that only one would walk away!"
Clyde thought about that as he recalled Ekans. "Actually, he didn't walk away; he teleported. Besides, you don't walk anyway..."
Bonnie recalled Sandslash. "How dare he say to our faces that we aren't real opposition!? He'll pay for that!"
"It's those men in suits."
Bonnie stopped. "What?"
"Those stupid men in suits!" Clyde repeated. "Just because they've got guns and a spoon and they can frown like that, they think they're better than us! Gary was content to fight us until they came along! They're hogging our territory!"
Gastly's darkflame drooped. "You have a point. Whatever those two want with Frost, as long as they're around, our enemies won't take us seriously!"
"Grr...let me at them!" Bonnie growled. "I'll teach them to show us up!"
"Time to get out of here!" Gastly generated its smoke illusion at the crowd, and they all left the area to find the black-suited men who'd upstaged them.
Gary, Kate and Ditto landed just outside the Pokémon Center. Gary recalled Ditto and they went in, heading straight for their rooms.
"Who do you suppose they were?" Kate asked.
"They weren't with Team Rocket, that's for sure!" Gary said. "I've got a very bad feeling about this."
Once he was in his room, Gary sent out Ditto, who Transformed into Tod to help Gary pack.
"You don't have anything to pack, right, Ditto?" Gary asked.
Ditto chuckled. "That's right, isn't it? That membership card is my first personal possession since becoming a Ditto. I hadn't thought of it that way." He stopped. "That was it, wasn't it?"
"What was what?"
"I suspect those agents we met today are from Cinnabar Island. They must know who I am. I don't know if they're aware of my ability, but given that spoon weapon they had, I'll bet they're ready for anything. It may have been my picture in the files of the Silph Scientific and Technological Society that told agents in Cinnabar Labs that I was in the open again."
"Why would a laboratory have guys like those?"
"They're called Men In Black, or MIBs for short, and any organization with equally large amounts of resources and nasty secrets has them. Their appearance is deliberately generic, but the agents themselves are anything but. Omniscience is in their job description, and that Psybeam weapon is typical of the technology they wield--technology Silph would flip over.
"It is the duty of Men In Black to prevent the populace from learning certain things they don't need to know. Cinnabar Labs must consider me a security hazard, and they've sent MIBs to remove the evidence."
"Hey, what's your hurry?"
Brad saw the other trainer on Route 6, but if he took time out for a battle, he might lose his chance...
"I've got someone to battle in Saffron City."
"How'd you like a warm-up, then?" The other kid raised a Pokéball.
Brad hesitated, but time was of the essence.
"Sorry, no time!"
"Hah! Maybe you're just afraid to face me!"
Brad froze in his tracks.
The other kid put on an innocent look as Brad slowly turned to face him.
"All right, let's go!"
Brad arrived at the Saffron City Pokémon Center, and after turning over the pokémon who had fought with that kid on Route 6, asked, "I have business with the kid who chased Team Rocket out of here...is he still around?"
"You mean Gary Ford? I believe he and Kaitlyn came in here a while ago and went to their overnight rooms...they haven't come out since."
"Great! I'll just wait here for him."
Brad went to a seat in the lounge and waited, with an eye on the hall toward the overnight rooms. He wondered how Gary had been doing with his Charmander and Poliwag since Brad had seen him last. Maybe he'd gotten Charmeleon, too...maybe Brad could ask Gary for tips on making a Charmeleon behave.
Kate looked over her shoulder for the fifth time since leaving Saffron City.
Gary sighed. "Kate, Ditto Teleported us right out the window in my room, remember? The MIBs have no way of knowing we're out of the city, much less in which direction!"
"Yeah, I know...but they still creep me out."
"Thanks for the offer, but I don't want to get through Route 7 too quickly. I want Nidoran to evolve before I get there...Nidorino's been complaining..."
Kate chuckled. "You've been through...four cities now since the male evolved, and the female is still stuck as a Nidoran? If I were her mate, I'd complain, too!"
"Yeah, I know, but things keep interrupting. Freeing Vermilion City...no wild pokémon on Route 12...freeing Saffron City...stuff like that..."
"Great. Oh, while we're here, are there any pokémon here we might want to catch?"
"Growlithe and Vulpix?" Gary checked Pokédex entries for both.
"Growlithe. This Fire-type pokémon is very protective of its territory, barking loudly at all intruders. Like most Fire-types, it is rare in the wild."
"Vulpix. This Fire-type pokémon is born with one tail that divides as Vulpix ages, to a limit of six. Vulpix are prized for their gentle beauty."
Growlithe had more life and attack power than Vulpix, but Vulpix had better special ability. Growlithe had more physical attacks, Vulpix more special attacks. Both had a move called Roar, that could make other pokémon run away of fright. Would that work on trained pokémon? If so, that could make raising against them difficult.
Gary didn't need to catch either of them, though. He already had Charmeleon. On the other hand..."Kate, you don't have a Fire-type yet, right? Want to catch one of these?"
"Hmm...yeah, if I find a Vulpix I'll try to catch it."
"Oh? Why Vulpix? Growlithe has better stats overall..."
"Not by much...and Vulpix looks cuter."
Oh. Of course. Gary looked back at their entries to compare further, and found two more reasons for picking Vulpix. For one thing, both evolved with a Fire Stone, meaning they didn't learn any moves after evolving, and since Vulpix learned its final move before Growlithe did, there would be less wait before it could be evolved. For another, Growlithe started out knowing Roar, which could make catching one difficult, to say the least, but a low-level Vulpix might not know it, so Vulpix could be easier to catch. Satisfied that Kate wasn't making a mistake, Gary put his Pokédex away and headed over to the field of tall grasses where wild pokémon could be found.
Gary sat in the grass and watched his Nidoran totally dominate the wild Bellsprout he had run into. Either this Bellsprout was exceptionally low-level for the area, or Nidoran wouldn't have much in the way of challenges around here.
Finally, Bellsprout fainted. Gary scanned Nidoran with his Pokédex and found she was getting very close to the level she would need to reach to evolve. In fact, one or two more battles would probably do it.
"Meowth, get back here!"
Gary turned toward Kate's voice and saw a Meowth scurry past a rock. Kate leapt over the rock and managed to snag the Meowth in a recall beam.
Seeing Gary's questioning look, Kate panted, "Growlithe...Roar...getting...annoying..." She sat on the rock to catch her breath.
"Have you found a Vulpix yet?"
Kate shook her head. "That's the third Growlithe I've met, and all three have frightened my pokémon away. I haven't found any Vulpix yet."
"That's too bad...they must be good at hiding. How are you doing with the pokémon you've got now?"
"Well, Diglett and Meowth are my lowest right now...Meowth's gone up a level, but Diglett's having trouble. The only pokémon here that it's strong against are Bellsprout and Oddish, which are also strong against Diglett, and Growlithe and Vulpix. I haven't met a Vulpix and the first two Growlithe scared it away before it could get more than one hit in."
"Ouch...uh...Nidoran's doing okay..." Gary really needed a subject change, so when he heard a low noise from somewhere nearby, he pounced on it. "Hey, what's that sound?"
Kate looked around. "What?...Oh, great. Not another one..."
A Growlithe emerged from under a bush to Gary's left, growling at the two humans in its territory. Kate looked at it and frowned. "Tell you what; why don't you face it? I'm ready to give up on them..."
Gary considered how best to face a Growlithe. Given Kate's bad luck with them, the important thing would be to find a way to keep it from using Roar...
Gary hoped Growlithe was worth a good amount of experience, because Nidoran wouldn't be facing it alone. "Go, Drowzee!"
"Drowzee, you hungry?"
"" Drowzee focused on Growlithe and began to use Hypnosis on it. Growlithe tried to Roar, but it was soon too sleepy to manage much more than a growl. Eventually, it dropped off.
Drowzee waddled over to it and began to focus again. It still didn't know Dream Eater, so Gary could let it eat Growlithe's dreams and still have Nidoran finish it off.
Under Drowzee's commanding gaze, a thin film of something too flimsy to make out was pulled out of Growlithe's head and into Drowzee's snout. Growlithe tossed and turned in its sleep as the dream it had been having was eaten by Drowzee.
Drowzee tossed its head. "" it said, glancing at Kate.
"Frustrating dream? What's a frustrating dream like?"
"I see." Gary recalled Drowzee then, and sent out Nidoran. Growlithe was just rousing now. "Nidoran, don't let that Growlithe Roar at you!"
"" Nidoran ran for Growlithe. ""
Growlithe saw her coming and snapped awake with a start. It was too late to stop her advance. Nidoran whirled as she reached Growlithe and hit it hard with Tail Whip, keeping it slightly dazed. When she finished turning, her side facing Growlithe, she rolled onto and over its head, scoring a Poison Sting on the way, righted herself on its back and started using Scratch.
Growlithe yelped in protest, and shook Nidoran off. Before she could get up, it attacked, getting her in the side with Bite. Crying out in pain, Nidoran curled into the wound, and caught Growlithe's ear with her front claws. Seeing opportunity, she yanked Growlithe's head to hers and turned her pained cries into a loud Growl straight into Growlithe's ear.
Growlithe backed off, its ears ringing. Nidoran got to her feet, trying to ignore the wound in her side. The two faced each other, neither quite up to attacking right then.
Growlithe recovered first. It planted its feet in a commanding posture and let out a loud Roar that Gary felt as much as heard.
Nidoran gasped suddenly and shrank back. "" Frozen in fear, she quivered in place.
Trying not to spook Nidoran, Gary knelt, fought back the brief terror the Roar had caused in him, and whispered to her. "Easy, Nidoran...don't r--" hastily he corrected himself, he mustn't mention running-- "don't worry, you can take care of this, I know you can, take it easy..."
Growlithe, not satisfied with the result of its last Roar, moved closer to Nidoran. A low rumble started in its throat.
Nidoran panicked. "" More in desperation than anything else, she unshrank, drew back and struck a vicious blow to Growlithe's muzzle with one claw. Growlithe fell back in shock, its second Roar lost. Gary fell backwards and Kate's jaw dropped.
"" Still fueled by unthinking rage and fear, Nidoran leapt at Growlithe, claws flashing, and pummeled it into the ground with repeated Scratches and Growls. Fearing for Growlithe's life, Gary recalled Nidoran and then sent her out in another direction.
Nidoran stared wildly at her new surroundings, then blinked, shook her head and took several deep breaths. "" She turned to the crumpled Growlithe, lying motionless on the ground. ""
Gary walked to Growlithe. It was breathing shallowly. Gary took a Super Potion from his backpack and carefully applied it to Growlithe's wounds. Then he went back to Nidoran and tended her Bite wound. "Growlithe's alive...it should be okay."
"Don't blame yourself. You weren't thinking straight. That Roar even unnerved me; I can imagine the sort of stress you were under."
"Hey, Gary!" Kate hissed. "Look at this!"
Gary froze and turned slowly. A Vulpix was walking toward Growlithe from a hollow in a nearby tree. A second Vulpix was just emerging from the same hollow. As the first started sniffing at Growlithe, who was still too weak to react much, Gary remembered Drowzee's comment on Growlithe's dream; could one of these be the Vulpix Growlithe had chased back to its hole?
Apparently so. The Vulpix' faces turned mean, one started using Ember on it and the other prepared for a physical attack.
"" Nidoran rose in challenge and started for the vengeful Vulpix.
Nidoran confronted the two Vulpix. ""
One Vulpix answered her protest. ""
"" the other chimed in.
The first Vulpix tossed Gary a disapproving glance. ""
Both Vulpix turned on her angrily. ""
Nidoran bristled in anger. ""
"" The two Vulpix leaped over Growlithe and both executed a Quick Attack.
Nidoran was too slow to dodge, but the Vulpix had to avoid hitting each other and weren't attacking as strongly as they could have. Nidoran aimed a Scratch at each, and was just in time to catch them by one of their tails. Their momentum from the Quick Attack caused them to swing around by the caught tail and they knocked into each other in front of Nidoran.
As the Vulpix got to their feet, Nidoran pivoted and tagged each with a Tail Whip, then Growled at them. The two Vulpix handled their lowered attack power differently; the one on Nidoran's left switched to special attacks and started using Ember, the one on the right aimed a Tail Whip of its own to put them back on even terms. Nidoran thought fast and ran to the right, dodging the Tail Whip. The left Vulpix tried to follow with its Ember attack and ended up scorching its partner's tail.
"" The Vulpix on the left sidestepped the other Vulpix and attacked with Quick Attack. Nidoran leapt into the air as soon as the attack started, did a half-somersault and came down right on top of Vulpix, poison spines first. Vulpix stumbled under Poison Sting and tumbled into the dirt, throwing Nidoran a few feet away.
Vulpix made it to its feet again. "" It crouched in a threatening posture.
Gary looked up from his Pokédex display of Vulpix' stats and phrased his warning to get the message across as fast as possible. "It knows Roar!"
Nidoran charged forward, and going for the most effective attention-getter, Tackled Vulpix. The Vulpix with the singed tail flew past in a Quick Attack, a little too late to catch Nidoran. Gary scanned that one, and found it wasn't a high enough level for Roar.
The higher-level Vulpix shook itself, steamed at the missed chance, and used Ember again. Nidoran ran through the flame as fast as she could and Tackled again. Vulpix was definitely weakening. Nidoran quickly ran to the side in case the lower-level Vulpix tried the same trick twice--and sure enough, the lower-level Vulpix came racing in with a Quick Attack. It saw the other Vulpix in the way instead of Nidoran and tried to stop, but was still moving at a little faster than a walk when it ran into the other Vulpix and both sprawled on the ground.
Nidoran Growled continuously until the two managed to unscramble and get up, and by then neither was fit for any kind of respectable Quick Attack. Nidoran had taken a fair amount of damage, but the higher-level Vulpix was in worse shape than she was, and neither Vulpix had managed to pin her with a Tail Whip.
With very few alternatives, the lower-level Vulpix attacked with Ember. The special attack, unmarred by Growl, remained at full strength, so Nidoran frantically dodged the flames and came in for an answering Scratch. The higher-level Vulpix tried to hit her with its own Ember attack, but Nidoran dodged behind the lower-level Vulpix, who once again got hit.
Out of desperation, the lower-level Vulpix got Nidoran with a Quick Attack. The two rolled for a few feet, but all of Nidoran's Growls had reduced Vulpix' already low attack power to a paltry thing indeed. Nidoran came back with another Scratch that knocked Vulpix onto its side. Vulpix struggled to get up, but it had been too weakened.
Gary coughed, and then winked at Kate. Caught off guard, Kate grabbed a Pokéball, then sent a questioning look at Gary. Gary nodded and Kate threw the Pokéball.
"" The higher-level Vulpix got to its feet and stumbled toward its partner. Nidoran finished it off with a Scratch to the side of its head.
As the higher-level Vulpix sank to the ground, the lower-level Vulpix struggled with Kate's Pokéball. Eventually it, too, gave in.
Nidoran began to glow.
Kate picked up her Pokéball and watched Nidoran grow to almost twice her former height. Gary pulled out his Pokédex to make a switch. Nidoran's front legs grew longer and her back spines larger. Her whiskers disappeared as her head grew wider and tougher.
Gary threw a Pokéball. "Go, Nidorino!"
Nidorina turned to him. ""
Nidorino and Nidorina ran toward each other and play-wrestled in their joy. Kate brushed off a happy tear and smiled at Gary.
Gary knelt. "Okay, I think you two need a vacation for a while. I'm sending you both back to Trainer Valley for now, and I'll give you a week to enjoy yourselves. Okay?"
After watching Growlithe stumble off into the forest, Gary and Kate left the area. Joined by Ditto at the edge of the tall grasses, they continued toward Celadon City.
"Any thoughts on what TMs you might want?"
Kate pondered. "I should probably teach my Sandshrew Dig, too, but I'm not sure beyond that...my pokémon already have pretty good moves."
Ditto looked around, and when convinced no one else was around, Transformed to human form. "If you can get RMs, you might want to consider them. The moves they teach can be helpful outside of battle. RM 3, for example, will teach a Water-type pokémon Surf. That's a very strong Water-type attack, but it will also let the pokémon carry you across large bodies of water."
"Can you tell me about the different RMs, or are there too many to go through?"
"Oh, there are only nine of them. Let's see...RM 1 teaches Cut. Normal-type move, not very strong, but it can help you get through dense underbrush. RM 2 is Fly, a very powerful Flying-type attack that will let a large-enough Flying-type carry you across long distances, like I did with Gary when we entered Saffron..."
"...and like Bill's Pidgeot and Fearow did when we met him?"
"That's right, Gary. I've already explained RM 3, Surf. RM 4 teaches Strength, a good Normal-type attack that will let pokémon move large boulders and other difficult obstacles. RM 5 teaches Flash, a Normal-type technique that makes the pokémon glow brightly for a moment to blind the enemy. It can be used to light dark areas, more brightly and steadily than Fire-types like Charmeleon and Magmar can.
"Now, those five moves can only be gotten by RMs. No pokémon learns them naturally, and they don't come in regular one-use TMs. The other four can be gotten in regular TM form, though, if you can't afford an RM, and most are learned naturally by some pokémon.
RM 6 teaches Dragon Rage, which Gyarados and the Dragon-type pokémon learn naturally. It can also be learned from TM 23; I believe Lance, the famous Dragon trainer, created the RM version as his swan song before turning over the position of Pokémon League Champion to Ash Ketchum. Dragon Rage is the only Dragon-type move currently known, and it removes a certain amount of the target's life force no matter what the target's defensive or special abilities.
"RM 7 teaches Dig, which both of you are familiar with. Only Diglett and Dugtrio, Diglett's evolved form, learn that naturally, but there are several different pokémon that can use RM 7 or TM 28 to learn the move. What you may not know is that Dig can also be used to get yourself out of a cave if you've lost your way and can't get out.
"RM 8 teaches Teleport, which can also be gotten by TM 30. Abra and its relatives know that move. I use it as Kadabra or Alakazam all the time, so you know how helpful that is. Most Psychic-types can learn it, and even a few Normal-types and scattered other pokémon.
"RM 9 isn't learned naturally, but it can be learned from TM 41. It's called Softboiled. It's a special technique that only one pokémon, Chansey, can learn. It can be used either to restore health to Chansey, like Recover, or to transfer health from Chansey to another pokémon. Chansey who have learned Softboiled can usually be found serving as backup in Pokémon Centers.
"...And that's it! Any sound interesting?"
Kate mulled that over. "Well, unless I find a TM that interests me more, I guess I'd get Fly for my Pidgeotto and Spearow, and Flash for whoever can learn it; Gary has Charmeleon, but I don't have a pokémon that can do that sort of thing, and I might want one for emergencies."
"Can I ask a question?" Gary cut in. "My Pokédex says Chansey are really hard to catch. If Softboiled can only be learned by Chansey, why did they bother making an RM of it? Who's going to have a ton of Chansey to teach it?"
"Well, an RM 9 would be good to have on hand at Pokémon Centers so they can recruit Chansey as needed. Other than that, I think it was just made into an RM because it can be used outside of battle." Ditto shrugged. "All RMs can, but not all such moves used to have RMs. I believe Softboiled was the last really versatile move to get an RM made."
"So, someone just created an RM because they felt like it? How hard is it?"
"How hard? For making an RM out of an existing TM...not terribly. I think most of Silph Co.'s employees could pull it off with enough work. The only reason there aren't RM versions of every TM in existance is that it's a costly process. They're not going to mass-produce RMs of a move unless a lot of people would be willing to pay the extra cash for an RM version, and they're not going to bother giving an RM an official number unless it's going to be mass-produced."
"And there's enough of a demand for a Softboiled RM?"
"Like I said, they're handy at Pokémon Centers." Ditto shrugged again.
Kate looked around at the eastern entrance of Celadon City. "Looks...friendlier than Saffron somehow."
Ditto took another look at the scene. "Probably because it's not really as big a city, so it's not as crowded...by either buildings or people."
"Good!" Gary stretched. "I swear the only open space in Saffron City is on the rooftops!"
"Yeah, we'd know..." Kate giggled.
"Hey, look! A Pokémon Center!" Gary pointed down the street. "And right near the entrance to the city!"
"Wait, isn't there another road out of Celadon City?" Kate asked. "Why would they put the city Pokémon Center right near one entrance?"
Gary checked out his map. "Uh, that other route leads to a bike trail called Cycling Road...maybe not a lot of pokémon trainers come here by that way."
"Okay, I guess that explains it..."
Ditto nodded toward the Pokémon Center. "Shall we spend the day here? Give you time to check out all the available TMs, and get your pokémon settled with their new techniques..."
Later that afternoon, Gary and Kate set off west toward Celadon Department Store, the largest store to be found for a hundred miles in any direction. There was a TM counter there in the Pokémon Training Supplies department.
Ditto set off east, back to Route 7. He used the eyes of Venonat, the nose of Arcanine and the mind of Alakazam to detect and avoid passersby. The local pokémon were soon bewildered at the amazing variety of pokémon they had never seen, who seemed to appear suddenly in the forest and then vanish without a trace.
After their shopping trip, Gary and Kate would be joining Ditto in the wild, to give their pokémon practice in using their new moves.
Gary and Kate were much relieved to learn that their certificates were good for RMs. They hadn't thought of that since shortly after getting them. Kate was especially glad since all three of her choices were RMs; after going over the 56 different one-use TMs listed in her Pokédex, she had decided to stick with the choices she had made in Route 7.
Gary had known what he wanted since Vermilion City. As Kate picked up RMs 2, 5 and 7, Gary took a TM 21, a TM 42, and, at Kate's suggestion, an RM 7 (a Dig RM was more useful than a Dig TM.)
After that, they looked around the other counters. Gary had heard in the Pokémon Center that Celadon Department Store was the easiest place to find element Stones, so he had flipped through his Pokédex and found that he had three pokémon who could evolve from element Stones (not counting Nidorino and Nidorina, for whom he had already found a Moon Stone.) Kate only had one pokémon who could evolve with a Stone (again, not counting her Jigglypuff; she had picked up a small Moon Stone near the tunnel exit.) Between them, they needed one of every kind of Stone available, except the Moon Stone; they saw the price of one here and were very glad they'd each gotten one straight from the source.
After restocking basic supplies like healing items and travel necessities, Gary and Kate left Celadon Department Store. They ate supper at a local restaurant and then returned to the Pokémon Center.
Since they would be carrying the RMs for the rest of their journeys, Gary and Kate had gotten them in the Standard version, the data cards stamped with the TM number and "Produced by Silph Co.--the Leader in Pokémon Technology". They asked the clerk at the Pokémon Center where the TM booth was, and she led them into a room with five doors, and card slots next to each.
"Since Celadon Department Store is the most popular place to buy TMs, our TM booths are often in use. We have five of them so you don't have to wait as long," she said. She showed them the operating instructions on the far wall, and then returned to her desk.
As it happened, Gary and Kate had five pokémon to teach moves. Two of them, however, needed to use the same RM, so there'd be a longer wait after all. After putting them in their parties, Gary sent out his Sandshrew and Kate sent out her Sandshrew, Jigglypuff and Pidgeotto.
As their pokémon entered the TM booths, Gary fed his RM 7 card into a slot, and Kate put in her RM 2, RM 5 and RM 7. Then they sat back as the booth machinery read the data cards and started instructing the pokémon within on the finer points of the RM techniques.
The booths were airtight, probably to protect the trainers from Fire Blasts and the like. It occurred to Gary to wonder how the booths could teach Fly and Dig; was Sandshrew tearing up the floor? Gary knew that the booths were not open to the sky; how could Pidgeotto fly anywhere in there? Then he shrugged; apparently it was working anyway. After all, Silph Co. knew what it was doing.
By the door of the booth Kate's Sandshrew was using, a red light turned green. The door opened and Sandshrew walked out, looking a little dizzy. Kate's RM 7 popped out of the slot.
Kate walked over and knelt in front of Sandshrew."Are you okay, Sandshrew?"
As soon as Gary finished translating that for Kate, the light on Pidgeotto's booth turned green. Kate picked up her RM 7, recalled Sandshrew, checked that all was well with Pidgeotto, recalled it, sent out Spearow, ushered it into the booth, popped the RM 2 back into the slot and flopped back into her chair.
Gary's Sandshrew was the next to finish. "Hey, Sandshrew, how was it in there?"
Did the TM booths teach such awkward moves with virtual reality programs? That would explain it...Gary recalled Sandshrew and picked up his RM 7. He was done here. He would use the two TMs he'd gotten in the Travel version when they entered Route 7.
While Kate waited for Jigglypuff and Spearow to finish, Gary reviewed all that had happened lately. There was undoubtedly a Pokémon Gym in Celadon City, but they would wait on that for now. Their next destination was Cerulean City, where Kate would travel to Bill's cottage and study pokémon speech. They would have to pass through Saffron City for that, though, and then the MIBs from Cinnabar Island might find them, if they weren't already hunting them down in Celadon. Then, too, Bonnie and Clyde's attack suggested that Team Rocket was fully aware of Gary's continued resistance. In his imagination, he saw again the giant Beedrill jet blotting out the sun. Suddenly he felt restless. How long did they dare to stay here?
Just then, a bright light flooded the room. Gary jumped up, trying to see what was happening...
Gary sagged. Jigglypuff had come out of its booth still using Flash. Shielding her eyes from the glare, Kate recalled Jigglypuff. She took the RM 5 from the slot, sat back down and gave Gary a strange look.
"Are you okay? You looked like a Vulpix in headlights..."
Gary sat down. "I'm a little jumpy. Those MIBs after Ditto...the Beedrill jet in Saffron City...it's all getting to me. I hope we can get away from all that in Cerulean City, but the MIBs at least will probably follow us."
"They don't know where we are now, do they?"
"They might find us any time. Who knows what kind of ultra-radar they have? Besides, the only way to Cerulean City is through Saffron City, unless we can find two bicycles we can afford and then travel a very long way through Fucshia City and that mountain pass north of Lavender Town..."
Spearow's booth light went green. Kate thought about the situation as she went to retrieve Spearow and her RM 2. When she returned, she was smiling.
"How far can an Alakazam Teleport?"
Gary eyed the dark shape of Ditto, in Golbat form, hanging from a tree branch as Kate's Spearow used its Fly attack on a wild Oddish. "How long do you think we can escape the MIBs' notice? From what I've seen, they may be tougher than Santiago to stop, and we can't keep running from them forever."
Ditto shifted his folded wings restlessly. "" He made the Golbat equivalent of a sigh. ""
A bright light flashed behind Gary, startling Ditto, who fell out of the tree. While he Transformed again, Gary turned to see what had happened. Kate's Jigglypuff had used Flash on a wild Pidgey.
"" Ditto said, climbing up Gary's back to crouch on his shoulder.
"So did I, the first time it did that."
"Sorry about that," Kate said as Jigglypuff, who had stopped glowing, Doubleslapped the blinded Pidgey.
"I just hope they're not looking for us now," Gary said. "That Flash would bring them straight--"
"Everyone freeze!" Another burst of light accompanied those words.
The two MIBs who had intercepted them in Saffron City stood by a clump of trees, with a spotlight between them. Each had his gun in hand.
Almost everyone froze. The wild Pidgey tried to fly away. One MIB raised his gun and fired a shot, breaking a tree branch at its base. The branch clobbered the Pidgey and both hit the ground. The MIB blew the smoke from his gun barrel and turned his attention back on Gary, Kate, and Ditto and Jigglypuff.
"Alright, you know what we want. You know who we want, and you'd better know where he is."
"" Jigglypuff screwed up its face and then hit both MIBs with an overwhelming glare from its huge eyes.
One of the MIBs' gun hand went numb, and his gun slipped out of his deadened grasp and dropped to the forest floor. The other MIB had avoided Jigglypuff's Disable attack, however, and fired. The ground in front of Jigglypuff exploded, showering it with dirt.
"That was a warning shot. Recall the Jigglypuff before I take another." Kate hastily complied.
The other MIB picked up his gun with his other hand, and pointed it at Gary. "Recall the Mankey, too. I'm not in the mood to kid around." Gary recalled Ditto.
"Now, unless a certain Alakazam was very inconsiderate to Mr. Frost, he's out and about again and we would very much like to meet him. Talented enemies of Team Rocket are useful to have in society, so we don't want to have to remove you from circulation, but we will if you don't cooperate."
"It looks to me like you wouldn't really mind," Gary answered, "or have you forgotten Tod Frost was instrumental in freeing Saffron?"
"You got along without him in Vermilion, and Team Rocket seems happy to lie low in Celadon. You probably won't encounter as difficult a situation again as you did in Saffron, so no, my conscience wouldn't be much troubled. It's really in your best interest to--"
"Wait!" The other interrupted. "Do you hear something?"
Both MIBs were abruptly as still as statues. Then, they took one step back--and the ground collapsed under them. Gary had one glimpse of a yellow arm ending in a wicked claw before everything fell into a deep hole.
Gary ran forward and looked down the hole, shielding his eyes from the MIBs' spotlight, which was on its back and shining straight out of the hole. The two MIBs were securely trapped. An Ekans was tightly wound around one, pinning his arms to his sides. A Nidorino stood on the other while the Sandslash who had dug the hole held its claws less than an inch from his throat.
"Prepare for trouble!" A familiar voice called.
"And make it double!" Another chimed in.
It didn't take Gary long to find the speakers. Bonnie and Clyde stood on a tree branch, as far into the light as they could get without floating over the hole. Oddly, the light didn't seem to touch them; they were black silhouettes on the branch despite being in the spotlight.
"To protect the world from devestation!"
"To unite all peoples within our nation!"
"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"
"To extend our reach to the stars above!"
"Bonnie!" As she said her name, the illusory darkness left her.
"Clyde!" On cue, he was caught in the light as well.
"Team Rocket! Blast off at the speed of light!"
"Surrender now or prepare to fight!"
A new darkness formed in front of them as the special effects manager revealed itself.
"Guess which is in your best interest," Gastly gloated.
"Very nice, but I believe you've missed your targets," said Ekans' MIB.
Bonnie chuckled. "Oh, no, we got the people we wanted."
"You two are interfering with our assignment to dispose of those kids!" Clyde called down to them. "We can't allow that to continue!"
"Right now you are interfering with our business with them," the MIB responded, while the other fixed a baleful glare on Sandslash. "We're not going to stand for it either!"
Gastly floated toward them. "You're in no position to argue!"
"Maybe we aren't..."
A gunshot suddenly echoed through the forest. Bonnie and Clyde's branch snapped in a fair imitation of the one that had caught Pidgey, and they fell to the ground near the hole.
"But I am." A third...uh...Person In Black walked into the light. "You didn't really think my compatriots had gone in with no cover? And speaking of covering, I suggest you have your pokémon uncover them now." Her gun barrel added emphasis to her direction.
Gary looked back and forth between Team Rocket and the Cinnabar agents. Three parties, with enmity on all sides. This could get interesting.
"Gastly, teach her a lesson!" Bonnie called. There was something odd about her voice, but Gary wasn't sure what.
Gastly swooped at the female agent. With incredible speed, she pulled out another of the spoonlike Psybeam guns and fired. The Psybeam hit Gastly, who was totally vaporized--but it reappeared immediately, further to the left! It had used its hypnotic power to hide itself!
The agent fired again and again, but Gastly kept moving around...and getting closer. Finally, she fired a prolonged beam while swinging the weapon from left to right, and tagged the real Gastly at last. It reeled from the blow, becoming visible--less than two feet from her. Bonnie and Clyde suddenly shifted about five feet to the right--Gastly had also made a false image of them.
Gastly quickly faded from view entirely before the agent could pin it again. Angrily she swung back on Bonnie and Clyde and pointed her normal gun at them, little noticing or caring that they had moved. "If my partners are not released by the time I count to five, I will fire. One."
Bonnie and Clyde abruptly realized that Gastly's false image had vanished. They hastily recalled Sandslash and Ekans, and then Bonnie switched Pokéballs and recalled Nidorino.
While the female agent kept her gun trained on Bonnie and Clyde, the two MIBs in the pit picked themselves up, set the spotlight against the wall of the hole and climbed up it and out of the hole.
They turned back to Gary--and saw empty forest. Just in case Gary and Kate had not yet made their escape, one fired into the treetops in that direction and called out, "Get back here, both of you!"
Bonnie smirked. "They're good at that; you gotta watch them all the time or they'll chicken out."
The female agent, with her gun still pointed at them, said, "I'm not in the mood to hear you." She put a finger on the trigger.
Bonnie shut up.
Gary and Kate appeared again. They had tried to escape while Gastly and the female agent were busy, but they hadn't had enough time; Gary didn't dare risk sending out Ditto and having him Transform to Alakazam until he was sure they were far enough to hide the flash of Transforming. They also didn't dare to underestimate the MIBs, so when the gunshot rang out, followed by the demand to return, they obeyed.
One of the MIBs who had fallen pointed his gun at them and they stayed put. The other agent walked around the hole and toward them. "Since you don't want to play by our rules, we're going to have to detain you until you feel like telling us what we want to hear."
It occurred to Bonnie that if Gary was "detained" permanently, Team Rocket would be out two enemies. "Don't tell them anything!" she called to him. The female agent growled and fired a shot that whizzed right past her ear.
Bonnie shut up.
The MIB, who had paused at Bonnie's words, continued walking toward Gary and Kate. He holstered his gun, reached into a pocket of his jacket and pulled out two sets of handcuffs.
A Growlithe chose that moment to leap from the forest between Gary and Kate, and landed in front of the MIB. It used Ember on the MIB, burning his hands and making him drop the cuffs.
"" it barked at them. The female agent was still covering Bonnie and Clyde, and the MIB who had been covering Gary and Kate did not have time to get a clear shot around the other one before Growlithe took its next action. It used Roar on everyone in the clearing.
The female agent was briefly overcome with shivers. Seeing this, Bonnie and Clyde, who had been filled with a desire to escape the turmoil, took their chance and fled off into the forest. Gastly, lurking around to help somehow, decided they had the right idea, became visible again and flew off after them.
The MIB behind the hole flinched, but was not affected beyond that. The MIB Growlithe was facing, however, held his head in his hands, trying to fight off the effect.
Gary took that opportunity to use something less resistable. "Go, Drowzee!"
"Drowzee! It's time for a human dream buffet!"
"" Drowzee's attempt at an evil tone was ruined by the audience's failure to understand it. Drowzee soon got its point across, though. It focused on the nearest target, the MIB who was still struggling with the Roar. He went down fast.
Both other targets had shaken off the effect of Roar, and both had guns, so Drowzee used a Disable on them first. The female agent was affected the same way Jigglypuff had Disabled the MIB earlier, but the MIB facing Drowzee from behind the hole was farther, and Drowzee got his legs instead of his hand. It worked out anyway; when the MIB lost his support, he fell forward and toppled into the hole again. He grabbed onto the edge with one hand, holstered his gun and managed to climb out with just his hands. By that time, however, Drowzee had put out the female agent, who was a lousy shot with her other hand, and was waiting for him.
Gary crouched by Growlithe. "You're the Growlithe I met earlier, aren't you?"
"I'm glad you did, but why did you decide to help me?"
Growlithe gave him a lopsided grin. ""
Drowzee had begun focusing on the female agent (the MIB it had just hypnotized had fallen into the hole yet again on falling into slumber,) and now it used its new Dream Eater attack on her. As with the Growlithe, a thin film was pulled out of the agent and into Drowzee's muzzle, but this time, with Drowzee using the actual attack, the effect was strong enough for Gary to see what the film looked like; an ironed-flat picture of the agent.
Kate blinked. "Is that supposed to be her subconscious mind?"
Gary shrugged. "Could be."
The nearer MIB stirred briefly and Gary, Kate and Growlithe all jumped. Kate tossed Jigglypuff's Pokéball again. "Jigglypuff, keep an eye on the three in black and Sing to anyone who wakes up!"
Gary sighed. "One of them is in that big hole."
"" Jigglypuff bounced over to the hole to check on the MIB within, then sat down at the edge where it could see all three.
Kate gave Gary a look of long suffering. "You know, some day I'll be able to explain my own instructions to my pokémon."
"Yeah, but until then, I couldn't leave our resident cave man with no surveillance, could I?"
Kate stuck out her tongue at him.
Gary recalled the sated Drowzee. The three agents, significant amounts of their life force drained, were in no shape to give chase if they happened to wake up.
Gary turned back to Growlithe. "Thanks again for your help. I think we're ready to move on."
"" Growlithe turned back toward the forest, and then called, ""
A Vulpix stumbled into the clearing. ""
Gary looked curiously at the Vulpix. After pausing a moment, it turned to him. ""
"" Then the Vulpix turned to Kate. ""
"" Growlithe walked back into the forest, Vulpix trailing behind.
When Gary had finished translating the last parts to Kate, she looked thoughtfully at her Vulpix's Pokéball. "They're not really bad, are they? Just trying to survive...I don't know how much better a life I can offer Vulpix, though. Our war with Team Rocket and these Cinnabar agents isn't much gentler than life in the wild..."
Gary looked around them. "That's true. Most trainers must have a calmer life than this...but if we pause to regret, they'll catch up to us again and they won't care about how things might have been."
While Kate recalled Jigglypuff, Gary sent out Ditto. "There's not much we can do now but move on."
"Ditto, I think we're ready to go to Cerulean City now."
Ditto crossed his spoons, focussing on their destination.
Gary looked around. They were standing on the long bridge of Route 24, just north of Cerulean City. "Isn't this a little too far?"
"Oh, so you went here so we could just walk in instead? I guess that's a good idea."
"Where are we?" Kate asked.
"Route 24, north of Cerulean City." Gary recalled Ditto. "This river runs right to the sea. North of here, and then east along Route 25, is the cottage of Bill the Pokémologist."
"Oh! So this is the way I'll be headed tomorrow?"
Night had well and truly fallen by the time Gary and Kate reached the Cerulean City Pokémon Center. The only person in the front room was the clerk on the night shift, who showed them to the overnight rooms.
It occurred to the clerk that he had seen those two kids somewhere, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it. He went back to his desk still trying to place them. Musing, he turned on the radio behind the counter.
A news broadcast came on. "Today in Saffron City public speeches honored the three heroes of the Team Rocket repulsion: Gary Ford, Kaitlyn Fields and Tod Frost. Guest speakers included President Ken Sugimori of Silph Corporation, and Sabrina, the leader of Saffron City's Pokémon Gym. The occasion was marred by an open challenge from Team Rocket, delivered from a strange Beedrill-shaped aircraft. There are also reports that Gary, Kaitlyn and Tod confronted members of Team Rocket in Saffron City shortly after the speeches, and later vanished from the city Pokémon Center to points unknown."
Points unknown? The clerk looked back at the hall to the overnight rooms, and felt pretty sure he knew where one of those points was.
'Points unknown'? Of all the nerve...Brad grumbled to himself in the overnight room. Somehow, for some reason, Gary had disappeared from his overnight room, either before Brad had gotten there or while he was waiting in the lounge.
Brad still had to find and challenge Gary. He'd be listening for any news of Gary's whereabouts tomorrow.
"Keep listening for any news of their whereabouts," the MIB said. "They're our only lead. We can't keep letting 'Mr. Frost' escape us."
It had been quite humiliating to be so abjectly defeated in the forest near Route 7. They would have to take more precautions next time they encountered the two children.
Clearly Gary and Kaitlyn felt a need to protect Frost from them. Were they assuming, or did they really understand that once the MIBs had Frost, the children would probably never see him again? Gary had said something in Route 7 which indicated he was aware of the possibility...was there an emotional attachment, or was there more to Frost than there seemed?
Frost's contribution to the victory in Saffron City had been infiltration and the undermining of Team Rocket's control over the employees of Silph. In theory, anyone could have done that. Also, Frost did not seem to play any role after the battle with Silph's war machines. Had Gary and Kaitlyn somehow subdued the Team Rocket commander by themselves, or did Frost somehow figure into that as well? For that matter, what were the chances that Frost had secretly come to their aid in Vermilion City?
Remembering the debacle three years ago with the trainee who had stumbled into a cloning machine and ended up with Omastar beaks and tentacles, the MIB began a search for the most recent project 'Mr. Frost' had been working on when Mewtwo escaped.
"And we almost had them, too..."
"Next time, before we trap those agents," Clyde mused, "we should be sure to scout the area first to make sure there are no more of them around. We would have been fine if that other one hadn't shown up."
"What about the Growlithe that stopped the agents?" Bonnie grumbled. It had been embarrassing to fall for such a cheap trick. "Could we have avoided that any better?"
"No doubt that was Gary's Ditto again," Gastly said darkly. "We'll have to make sure of where it is, too, so it can't surprise us."
"First, we'll probably have to find the kids again," Bonnie pointed out. "They have a habit of popping in and out of places...after that encounter they probably won't stick around."
Clyde nodded. "We'd better contact the Rocket Spy Network and ask them to keep a look out for news of them."
A disgruntled trainer, a Cinnabar agent and a Team Rocket ghost all nodded. Somehow, Gary and the others would be found.
"You're really Gary Ford!?"
Gary sank into his chair, accepting the inevitable. Every young trainer in the Pokémon Center lounge crowded around and started pelting him with questions.
"What's it like to battle the Team Rocket big shots?"
"Do you have a lot of rare pokémon?"
"Hey, I heard you whupped Sabrina the Psychic!"
"Hey, I'll bet that girl I saw leave earlier was that other one, Kaitlyn Something! I knew she looked familiar!"
"Hey, can I battle you?"
"Yeah! Let me too!"
"Yeah, I know you! You and Gary Ford knocked the stuffing outta Team Rocket in the Big City, right?"
"Yup, that was me," Kate said. She and another kid named Chuck were heading for Bill's Cottage to take the classes on pokémon speech.
"Wait, I thought you two were supposed to be able to talk to pokémon! Why are you coming here?"
"Gary can. I can't. He always has to translate for me."
"Oh. Hey, how does Gary know how to do it?"
"He took this same class."
"No kidding!" Chuck mulled that over with a grin. "I gotta remember to tell my big brother I'm taking a class Gary Ford took!"
Gary stood on the grass near the Pokémon Center. A crowd of young trainers eager to battle stood across from him. It was the only way he'd get rid of them, and besides, he had low-level pokémon to raise.
Most of the kids here were probably training against the Gym, which Gary remembered used Water-types. They would probably be using Grass-types or Electric-types. Gary would have to keep that in mind.
"All right, you in the front with the blue hat! I'll start with you! Drowzee, go!"
The other kid, who had never seen a Drowzee before, took a look at it and decided it looked like a Ground-type. "Go, Oddish! Absorb it!"
"Drowzee, do what you do best!"
The kid in the blue hat realized he must have made a mistake. "All right, use PoisonPowder instead, then!"
He was too late. Oddish couldn't adjust in time to avoid Drowzee's Hypnosis attack. As the Oddish's trainer watched the Drowzee focus and put his pokémon to sleep, he came to a horrible conclusion. "Oh, no, it's Psychic, isn't it?"
"Sure is. Drowzee, Dream Eater!"
"" Drowzee focused on Oddish again and began pulling its dream out.
The kid in the blue hat recalled Oddish. "What's strong against Psychics...? Right, Bugs, I remember!" He tossed another Pokéball. "Go, Weedle!"
"Hey, check it out!"
Kate looked where Chuck was pointing. There was a small building on the opposite bank of the river they were crossing. It had the Pokémon League symbol, the Golden Pokéball, above the door.
"Wow! I wonder what's in there?"
"Gary didn't tell you?"
Kate stopped. "Hmm...good point...he probably would have. Maybe you can't get there from here."
Gary watched as the Bellsprout belonging to a girl in a dark purple shirt ran around trying to get away from Beedrill. Before long, Beedrill caught up and hit Bellsprout with another Twineedle. Bellsprout fell to the ground, out like a light.
Drowzee had learned Confusion by this time, which meant it could use a Psychic attack without having to use Hypnosis first. That could come in handy.
The girl withdrew Bellsprout and sent out a Rattata. "Just do your best!"
Gary withdrew Beedrill. "I'll fight this round on even terms. Go, Rattata!"
The crowd of people murmurred in excitement as Rattata squared off against Rattata. This would truly prove who was the better trainer.
Both Rattata shot forward in a Quick Attack. Gary's was a little faster, though, and won the opening attack. The other Rattata aimed a Tail Whip at it, but Gary's jumped over it and then scored a Hyper Fang. The other Rattata, who hadn't learned the move, didn't know it enough to defend well, and took a lot of damage. Gary's Rattata finished it off with a Tackle.
As soon as they were sure which had won, the crowd cheered Gary's victorious Rattata. Rattata drank in all the admiration, but Gary just shook his head. He had thought originally that it might be a good idea not to attract attention.
So much for that idea.
As the morning approached noon, and the sun got high and bright, Kate and Chuck reached the forest of Route 25.
Chuck stepped into the forest. "Ah, thank goodness! Some shade is just what I need about now!"
Kate, right behind, took a look around. "Gary said this forest was creepy...though he did go through when it was dark..."
"Ah, with what you two have accomplished, I don't see why a bunch of trees should be a problem, unless there were something big and mean living here. He didn't mention any Primeape or Muk here, right?"
"Besides, even if this place was dangerous, they would have taken care of it before inviting us through it."
A watchful eye tracked the two trainers through the Route from the treetops.
Pidgeot took another glance around to make sure the forest pokémon were keeping themselves hidden as usual, and then headed back to the edge of the forest to await the next new students.
Gary had whittled down the challengers facing him. He had beaten many pokémon already, and some kids had decided to skip it when they saw how little a chance they had. Now, he watched as Beedrill finished off an Ekans, much to the disappointment of its trainer.
"...but Poison-types are strong against Bug-types! How could Ekans lose?"
Gary recalled Beedrill. "What a lot of people forget is that Bug-types are strong against Poison-types, too. It comes down to who's faster and stronger."
The kid recalled Ekans. "Oh, no! All I've got left is Metapod!" He sent it out, saying, "Metapod, give it your best shot!"
Gary shook his head. "Metapod, by themselves, are useless in battle. You have no way to win."
"What, you think you can win against my pokémon?"
The Metapod's trainer gave a start when he realized Gary was speaking to the Metapod.
"All right, I suppose you need this lesson...battle is the only way to find out how strong you really are!" Gary picked up a Pokéball he hadn't used yet in this challenge. "I'm going to prove to you why Metapod need help evolving!
"I don't get it..."
Kate and Chuck stood in a clearing, looking in every direction. They saw nothing but trees.
"We were walking in a straight line! How could we get lost?"
Kate looked at the sun through the leaves, but it was too high in the sky to tell where east or west were. "Sometimes all the trees can confuse your sense of direction because they look the same as all the other trees..."
Chuck shook his head. "You know, somehow I was thinking people like you didn't get lost...in the stories, they always know just where they need to go, right? Real life sucks sometimes..."
Kate paused at that. Did people think of her and Gary as storybook heroes against the Team Rocket "bad guys"? She wondered if Lance the Dragon Trainer ever got beaten time after time in the same Gym when he was just starting out...if Golbatman ever had to deal with pokémon that wouldn't obey him...if the Mighty Machoke ever did get lost!
A movement in the ground caught her eye. "Chuck, look at that!"
Chuck turned to see a Sandshrew tunnel up out of the ground. "" The Sandshrew used one claw to dig an arrow in the ground, then dove back into its tunnel.
Kate and Chuck shared a glance.
"I think we should trust it."
"I'll go with you on that. You're the one who deals with that kind of stuff, right?" Chuck put the Pokéball he'd automatically drawn back on his belt and followed Kate past the arrow's point.
With any other trainer, the crowd might have laughed at the pokémon before them. But this was Gary Ford, a hero at least twice over, and if he wanted to send out a Magikarp, that was his business.
"Metapod, Harden so it can't hurt you at all!"
"Magikarp, Tackle! You can do it, I know you can!"
Magikarp flopped toward Metapod as Metapod worked to Harden its shell. Finally, Magikarp reached Metapod and started flopping all over it. Head and tail alternated smacking Metapod's shell even as it Hardened.
"Keep up the Tackle, you'll beat it eventually!"
"No kidding? Wonder what he's doing there?"
The two members of the Team Rocket Spy Network shrugged. It didn't much matter why Gary Ford, and presumably his female friend, were in Cerulean City. The important thing was simply that they were.
"Say, the Seven are up in that area, right? Maybe we should tell them to handle it."
"Not so fast. We've got to get clearance to so much as hint at a mission for the Seven."
"Yeah, I know, I know...I'm trying to reach Vladimir now, he's the closest to that area...hello? Spy Network, put me through to Vladimir, okay?"
Metapod finally collapsed. Its trainer recalled it, beaten.
Gary recalled Magikarp and looked around. "Anyone else want to try their luck?" Silence. "All right then, I guess the show's over. Enjoy the rest of your day, folks." Gary crossed the field and reentered the Pokémon Center.
He had never used Gastly; it seemed a little too exotic for public exhibition. Everyone else had fought well, though, even Magikarp, and could use some refreshing. After lunch, he'd train in the surrounding areas; wild pokémon didn't usually care if so-and-so had such-and-such a rare and unusual pokémon unless it was beating them up at the moment.
"Ah, Vladimir, my noble leader, how may I be of service to you?"
"Tell me, how is your current operation proceeding?"
"The locally advertised classes seem to be in session today, so we will artfully dodge the masses and infiltrate the Valley in secret. Have no fear, for we will soon have all the strong pokémon you need in our war against Ford and Fields."
"Speaking of whom, the Spy Network has located Ford in Cerulean City. I will not underestimate Fields, and it is unknown if she is there as well, so you will not abandon your current mission, but once it is complete, I thought you might like the honor of looking into this matter. It would be nice to take him alive, but I suppose it isn't really all that necessary, if you catch my drift."
"Oh, thank you, sir! I promise you, we will not let you down in this most prestigious matter!"
"See that you don't. Your continued success is all that allows me to tolerate your constant boasting. Vladimir out."
Bill the Pokémologist stood in the doorway of his cottage. Some kids from Cerulean City were gathered in the front yard, and more would show up occasionally. By Bill's watch, there was still about half an hour before things got formally under way.
Two more children, a boy and a girl, appeared in the forest, chatting as they arrived.
"He didn't really tell me how it went, just that he took the class."
"Well, I suppose that means it wasn't horrible...I guess we'll have to find out for ourselves." The boy turned to Bill. "Hi! Are you the teacher?"
"Yes, I'm Bill. Welcome. What are your names?"
"I'm Chuck Mitchell, and this is Kate Fields."
The other trainers gasped nearly in unison.
"No Way! The Kate Fields?"
"One of the kids who ran Team Rocket outta Saffron City?"
"Yeah, I'll bet that's her!"
"Man, I wonder if Gary Ford's gonna be here too?"
"No, he's already taken this course, back when it was just starting out," Kate cut in.
"Is that what he told you?" Bill grinned. "Modest fellow."
"Huh? What do you mean?" All the students were silent, awaiting Bill's answer.
"It was largely through Gary Ford's efforts that this course exists. If I hadn't met Gary, I don't imagine I'd be standing in front of you all today."
"Wow! That rocks!"
Kate was stunned. "I had no idea!"
Chuck grinned. "Now I've got an even better story to tell my big bro!"
"In other news, the newest pokémon training hero, Gary Ford, made an appearance in Cerulean City today, where he single-handedly defeated a large group of would-be contenders..."
Aha! Brad didn't know why Gary Ford would want to go back to Cerulean City, but he didn't really care. Soon, he and Gary would battle again, and all would see who was the top trainer around here!
Vermilion City Gym...he hated to leave this challenge behind, but the greater challenge of Gary Ford was worth it. He'd return here and get the Thunder Badge he deserved when he'd rid himself of this slump and put Gary in his place!
Brad stood and raced out of the Pokémon Center, almost bowling down someone in his path. He might have cared a little more if he'd noticed the blue suit and badge.
Officer Jenny of the K-9 division of the Vermilion City Police looked back at the dust cloud rising beyond the door. "What's his hurry?"
The nurse on duty, who happened to be the local member of the Joy family, smiled in amusement. "Gary Ford was just on the radio again. I understand the boy who nearly ran you over wants to challenge him." She took the proferred Pokéball. "Hm..another Ekans bite, huh? Maybe you should start carrying Antidotes!"
"Good idea. So, that kid thinks he could beat Gary Ford? I don't know...he looked a lot like a kid named Brad I've been seeing a lot by the Gym. I don't think he's doing very well there, either."
Joy shrugged. "Young trainers think in odd ways sometimes, don't they?"
"He's in Cerulean?"
"That's what Vladimir said." The man with the communicator nodded.
"Now what would he be doing there?" the woman he faced wondered.
"Fine with me. We don't have to go so far to catch him." A second man said.
"Wait, he's already won himself a Cascade, right? Why does he want to be there?" a third asked.
"You're right," the woman said thoughtfully. "Why should he waste his time?"
A second woman looked up from her box lunch. "Hey, what if he's here for these classes of Bill's?" she threw in.
"Hello? We know he already talks to pokémon! He doesn't need the stupid classes!" a fourth man shot back.
"Well...maybe he knows some, but hasn't finished the term?"
"Ah, leave her alone. She might be right," a third woman said. "Or maybe he's helping teach. We can spy on the classes and see if he's there. If he is..." She licked her lips. "We pounce!"
The first man smiled, eager for a dramatic last word. "I do like the way you think."
The seven figures crept through the hidden cleft they'd found, into Trainer Valley.
"Now, learning to communicate is always easier with a pokémon you know rather well, which is why the advertisements asked you to bring a pokémon of your own to practice with..."
A blip sounded from Bill's pocket. Raising an eyebrow, he pulled out a square electronic tablet. A white dot on one edge of the screen magnified at his touch and resolved into seven separate blips. Humans in the valley.
"Ahem. You'll have to excuse me for a moment; I believe something has happened to one of my recent inventions." It may have proven its usefulness, he thought as he strode into the cottage.
At the controls of the video system monitoring the valley, Bill quickly found the spot the scanner had found seven humans in. Sure enough, there they were...and while he didn't recognize the uniforms they wore, it was immediately clear that they were somewhere high in the hierarchy of Team Rocket.
Bill reached for the intercom system.
Golem lay snoozing in the noon sun, oblivious to the danger sneaking up behind it...
"Attention all pokémon in the savannah sector! Seven hostile intruders have been spotted! Stop them any way you can!"
Golem rose with a start, looking around. Golem was in the savannah sector. It looked behind it just in time to see the glint of sun off metal before the intruders ducked under brush.
Golem had been having a great nap up until now. Now it was grumpy and felt like making some intruders wish they had never intruded. It leapt into a Rock Throw at the bushes.
The students looked up from playing with their pokémon as Bill returned. "I think it's been taken care of, though I may have to disappear again. Now, where was I? Ah, yes...one might consider the ability to translate pokémon speech as being a highly refined version of perceiving emotion. Can everyone here manage that?"
"So he knows we're here."
The man picked up the fallen Pokéball, containing a furious Golem.
"So he thinks he can stop us with the very things we came here for? How dare he presume to squash us like a technical oversight!?"
"I think the man needs a lesson, don't you?"
"There!" The woman kneeling on a rock outcropping lowered her binoculars. "A cleft in the south, too big to go unnoticed...Bill must be there hiding it somehow!"
"All right then. Let's head that way, taking any strong pokémon we find along the way, and teach Mr. Wizard some respect for Team Rocket."
"Go, Gastly! Use your Night Shade attack!"
The pleasantries over, Gary's Gastly struck the wild Sandshrew with its mind-bending power. Darkness flooded the spot for an instant, and then Sandshrew was digging into the ground.
Wild Sandshrew wouldn't know Dig; this one was just trying to escape. "Gastly, don't let it get away!"
Gastly struck again with Night Shade, and Sandshrew very nearly gave in, but soon started feebly trying to dig again.
"Lick, then!" Gastly caught Sandshrew straight across the back with its ethereal tongue. Sandshrew shivered for a moment, and then collapsed. Gary recalled Gastly.
Night Shade's power was directly tied to Gastly's level. It had the potential to be a devestating attack, but wasn't much use in the early levels. He'd have to remember to have Gastly open the battle with Confuse Ray next time; that would buy time to finish off the opponent.
It was good to learn this sort of thing in the wild instead of against an enemy trainer, Gary thought. Sometimes, in a trainer battle, every second counted.
About half an hour later, Gary would remember thinking that.
He'd find it wonderfully ironic.
"You're ours now!"
The Dodrio was sucked into the Pokéball, and after struggling for a while, was caught. The ball was added to the dozen others already taken.
"Fools! Every one that tries to stop us just helps us accomplish our task!"
"I like this! All our assignments should be this easy!"
"Uh, but then they wouldn't need us as much..."
"Ah, shut up! And we've still got the know-it-all to straighten out!"
"Mmm...I wonder how long he'd stand up to torture..."
"Hey, we don't have time for that, the Ford brat might get away before we catch up to him!"
"Nah, he doesn't know we're here...unlike a certain old fool who has too much time and money on his hands...Boy, what I could do with scanning technology like that..."
The seven Team Rocket members reached the cleft in the valley wall and walked through.
"A wall? I'll have Tentacruel Acid through it..."
"No, wait. This is dumb. Why would he put a wall here? There's got to be more to it..." The woman speaking walked forward and touched the wall. Her hand passed through. "Just as I thought. This is a hologram!"
"All right then, I won't have Tentacruel Acid through it." The man put back his Pokéball and joined the others through the wall.
This time both of Bill's eyebrows shot up. The bdeep, as opposed to the blip, meant someone had just passed through the holo-wall.
"Something else wrong?" Kate asked.
"Uh...yes, something more serious, I believe. Hold on a moment." Bill walked back into the cottage. Before long, however, he came out again, walking backwards, facing a tall man in a glittering Team Rocket uniform.
All of the students got up and backed to the other edge of the clearing. Kate pulled out her Pokédex to put in as many of her strongest pokémon as she could get.
"What do you want here?" Bill demanded. Why were they out here instead of in the valley?
"We're not fans of your method of pest control, smart man," the Team Rocket member said, as more began leaving the cottage. "We've taught all the pokémon who tried to stop us a lesson, and now we feel you could use one as well."
"What were they doing in Bill's cottage?" some of the students asked.
"They were stealing pokémon from Trainer Valley, weren't they?" Kate said.
Bill looked back at her. "So Gary told you about that, eh?"
A female Team Rocket member pointed at Kate. "It's Fields!"
The lead man turned to her. "Why, so it is! An unexpected bonus. I don't see Ford here, but we know he's in the area. We'll get to him. As long as you're here, we'll just eliminate you while we have the chance."
Kate stood. "Who are you, anyway? Rocket Elites, by the outfits, but they don't usually come in groups of seven..."
The lead man burst into cruel laughter. "Elites! We are no mere Elites! For your information, you are up against Pride..." he took up and threw a Pokéball.
"...Avarice..." The woman who had spotted Kate threw one as well.
"...Gluttony..." Another woman tossed.
"...Anger..." A stormy-faced man threw a Pokéball.
"...Lust..." A woman with a mischievous grin lobbed one in.
"...Envy..." Another man threw.
"...and Sloth." The last man tossed his in.
As their pokémon appeared, Pride spoke again. "We are Team Rocket's ultimate warriors of terror, the Seven Deadly Twins! Cower before our evil might!" The seven pokémon formed an impressive group battle pose.
Every one was new to Kate. She scanned them on Quiet mode, and made small talk to buy time. "Seven Deadly Twins? What kind of name is that?"
Nidoking. This final stage of male Nidoran has a tough exoskeleton that protects it from attack. It can crush enemies in its powerful tail.
"You know, like the Seven Deadly Sins!" Pride said impatiently. "The religious tenets of evil!"
Nidoqueen. This final stage of female Nidoran, despite the bulk of its tough exoskeleton, fights agilely with powerful techniques.
"But you're not twins...you'd be...septuplets!"
Muk. Built of solid sludge, it gives off a foul reek but has no sense of smell of its own. So toxic that even its slime trail is deadly poison.
"Yeah, well, Twins rhymes! No one's impressed by The Seven Deadly Septuplets!"
Weezing. This poison-type is filled with poisonous gasses and liquids, which may explode if they are allowed to mix.
"I'm not all that impressed by The Seven Deadly Twins."
Victreebel. This final evolved form of Bellsprout gives off a honey-sweet smell, but will devour any creature it can reach with its long vine.
"What!? How dare you say that!?"
Vileplume. This final evolved form of Oddish holds poisonous pollen in its giant petals, which are so heavy it must work to keep its head up.
"And don't you think the names are taking it a little far? I know I wouldn't want to be called 'Gluttony' or 'Envy'..."
Tentacruel. A Water/Poison-type pokémon with dozens of tentacles that can be pulled into itself or extended to great distances. Each is tipped with a poison stinger.
"All right, that does it! Nidoking, show her who's boss around here!"
Kate quickly countered. "Ivysaur, stop Nidoking!"
"Hmph. Nidoking, Fury Attack!"
Ivysaur prepared to fire a Leech Seed at Nidoking, but Nidoking reached Ivysaur first and pummeled it into the ground with his fists.
"Ivysaur!" Kate quickly recalled Ivysaur and sent out something that could handle such an assault. "Get'm, Graveler!"
Nidoking jumped into the air and came down solidly in the same place he'd left. His heavy landing sent shock waves through the ground as his Earthquake attack took effect. Graveler got bounced up and down, getting severely rattled. ""
Graveler was in just as much trouble as Ivysaur. Kate recalled Graveler and sent out the only pokémon that seemed to have a chance.
"All right, Gastly! Go for it!"