Gary's Story

Chapter 141

An Indespensible Guide to the Famed Northeastern Cavern

The cavern known as the Rock Tunnel was created over many centuries by tunneling Diglett and Onix. Much like Diglett's Cave, the branching paths here are small and few, suggesting the pokémon used the Tunnel as we humans do today; as a route of travel rather than a home. However, the path twists in such confusingly random directions that some pokémologists wonder as to the true function of this ancient construction.
Further complicating travel for the average person is the fact that most of the length of the tunnel is cloaked in utter darkness. Unlike the caverns within Mt. Moon, the bedrock through which the Rock Tunnel winds makes artifical lighting highly impractical. Thus, travelers must bring their own light sources, such as the Official Rock Tunnel Flashlight that comes free with this Guide.

"Official, huh?" Kate said as she examined the flashlight in the late morning sun. It had the words KNOW:NG THE RCCK TUNNEI painted on the side, and some of the letters that were still whole didn't look to remain that way for long. "Where did you find this, anyway?"
"There was a rack of them in the Pokémon Center lobby," Gary answered, gesturing back towards the building they had left behind. "Hang on, I found something important."

Travelers should keep in mind that the Rock Tunnel was and still is used regularly by wild pokémon. Watch, or watch out, for the following species:
Zubat (collectors' species #41.) This flying Poison-type loves to confuse its enemies, so be careful around these. They can also drain a pokémon's life to replenish their own.
Geodude (collectors' species #74.) A Rock/Ground-type pokémon that resembles a stone and is every bit as hard. Trainers carrying Normal-types are advised not to fight these, but they can also be a bother to other travelers. When they sleep, they are indistinguishable from rocks, and when they wake up and move, travelers who have mistaken them for rocks could easily lose their footing.
Machop (collectors' species #66.) A humanoid pokémon whose body is built entirely of muscle, this Fighting-type enjoys training itself more than anything else, and is known to approach pokémon trainers, seeking a chance to battle. They are rare, but be prepared for them just in case.
Onix (collectors' species #95.) The largest of all known pokémon, this Rock/Ground-type is rare and extremely dangerous when provoked. If you meet one, take great care not to disturb it. If you are a pokémon trainer and cannot avoid combat, please keep in mind that special attacks work far better on Onix than physical attacks. Even Fire attacks, for example, are a better choice than Normal attacks. This information could save your life.

Gary looked back at Kate after reading that aloud. "Poliwhirl, check."
"Gastly, check." Kate wasn't raising Ivysaur because it wouldn't help much against the Celadon Grass-types, but Gastly would do just fine. Gary nodded and looked back to the guide book.
The next page of the book was a map of the Rock Tunnel's ground floor, and on the facing page was a map of a lower level. Sure enough, there was really only one path in the Rock Tunnel, but it was ridiculously twisty; it moved between floors four times, making a five-part trip that looked about as long as the trip here from Cerulean. It looked like Gary and Kate would be spending another night in Lavender or Saffron.
Gary closed the book as they approached the entrance to the Rock Tunnel. "So, you ready to explore the deep, dark unknown?" he asked with half a smile.
Kate frowned at the 'official' flashlight in her hands. "I'm still debating whether we should trust this thing."
"Well, we don't really have to, but you might want a light of your own, and you're not using Jigglypuff right now," Gary replied, drawing a more heavy-duty flashlight from his backpack.
"Hey, where'd you get that?"
"This? I took it off a guard while Ditto and I were rescuing you from that casino in Saffron City," Gary answered casually.
Ditto flew out of a nearby bush and landed on Kate's shoulder. "What he means is, the guard dropped it when I scared the living daylights out of him, and then our hero picked it up off the pavement." Kate giggled, and Gary just tried to ignore them.
"Anyway," Kate said, getting back on track, "I did teach Jigglypuff Flash for just this sort of thing. I don't think the rest of my party is going to catch up to my Pidgeotto by the time we get through the tunnel, so I can switch Pidgeotto for Jigglypuff while we're in there."
"Sounds like a plan."

The Team Rocket spy cursed to himself as Fields sent out her Jigglypuff in the tunnel entrance and it brightened. Unlike the flashlight Ford had swiped, the Jigglypuff would provide three-sixty-degree lighting, which would make it hard for him to follow them without being noticed.
Fortunately, he had a solution to this. When Ford and Fields had gone far enough into the tunnel so that he couldn't see the Jigglypuff's light, he sent out one of his own pokémon.
"Gah! Light!" The Zubat quickly flew into his shadow and then waited there.
The Team Rocket spy drew a miniature video recorder from his jacket pocket. "Zubat, there are two humans in that cave, with a flashlight and a Flashing Jigglypuff. Track them with the usual cave spying routine, and report to me at the other end of the tunnel. Got it?"
"I'm on it!" The Zubat took the recorder and darted from his shadow to the darkness of the cave mouth as fast as it could.
The Team Rocket spy picked up his radio to call for transport to the Lavender Town entrance. He prefered to do the spying himself, but Zubat had a pretty good track record for cavern snooping. He was confident that nothing important would be missed.

Chapter 142

"Agh! Bad light!"
"Another Zubat!"
"I see it! Get it, Pidgeotto!"
Just about all of the battles Gary and Kate had faced so far had been against Zubat. Machop and Onix were quite rare, and the Geodude seemed to be avoiding the light. The Zubat, of course, having no eyes, didn't notice the light until they could feel it shining right on them.
That was just fine for Gary. None of the four pokémon he was raising here could confidently take on a Rock-type. The Zubat were no problem for Pidgeotto, and Nidorino, Nidorina and Beedrill could take them if they kept alert. Any Machop they might stumble into could also be handled, but if an Onix showed up, Gary would have to resort to Poliwhirl. He might have to even for Geodude.
Kate was looking worse. Her Beedrill wasn't strong enough to handle this many Zubat without healing, so she had to hope they met some Machop deeper into the cave or Beedrill wouldn't get any raising. Spearow and Vulpix were doing well against the Zubat, and Ekans wasn't doing too badly, but if Geodude or Onix showed up, Gastly would have to make an appearance.
"Another down! Hey, are we getting close to the exit yet? I'm not much for this place."
"Well, let's see...I think we should be getting pretty close..."
"...to the first of the two places where we have to go even deeper."
"Tell you what, as soon as you learn Wing Attack, I'll let you stay in your ball until we get back in the sunshine. Deal?"
"Attacking with wings, huh? Heck, I think I'll learn that right now! Let's see...I'd...um...attack with...my wing?"
Gary chuckled. "That's the spirit...if not quite the method." While Pidgeotto tried to curl up its pinions and punch, Gary just raised its Pokéball, and recalled it for the moment.
"Why are you focusing on Pidgeotto so much if it doesn't like caves?" Kate asked as they set off again.
"Because Pidgeotto is the only one I have a goal for. It's close to learning that attack, and I need it to know that by the time we get to the Gym, but the other three just need level-ups."
"Hmm...I wonder what my pokémon could learn..." Kate got out her Pokédex and started looking up the pokémon in her party. "I know Ekans and Vulpix just learned moves, but...whoa!"
Kate pointed to the entry she had opened. "Spearow's going to evolve soon!"
"No kidding? How many levels does it need?"
"Just a couple more...and right after that it'll learn that Drill Peck move they were using!"
Gary chuckled. "So, how much raising are Ekans and Vulpix going to get for the moment?"

"Hey Kate, when you're done, there's a ladder here!"
"Ah, good!"
"Whew. Are there more Zubat in this part of the cave, or are you just giving me more of them?"
"Uh, yeah, I thought this would be a good time to work more on your power level." Kate recalled Spearow, and then went to join Gary by a large hole in the floor. A metal ladder was firmly attached to the near edge. "Why is the hole so big?"
"Onix used this path, remember?" Gary held his flashlight in his mouth and climbed down the ladder to the lower level.
Kate turned to her confused Jigglypuff. "Oh, you can't use the ladder, can you? Well, you're rubbery enough, right? Just jump down when I call to you, okay? It's not too deep."
Kate climbed down, and then called for Jigglypuff to jump down. Jigglypuff looked down the pit, and its eyes widened. It sucked in as much air as it could hold, then jumped into the pit, bounced off the bottom and almost made it to the lower level's ceiling before coming back down into Kate's arms. "@_@"
Gary, Kate and Jigglypuff continued on the lower level. A certain distance from Jigglypuff's light, two silent Zubat followed. One, carrying a video recorder, kept far enough from the light to avoid being noticed, but close enough for the recorder to see what was going on in the light.
The other simply watched the one with the video recorder, biding its time.

Chapter 143

"'Bout time!"
The Team Rocket spy watched the helicopter descend. The door opened and an operative leaned out. "All right, hotshot, let's go!"
"Took you long enough! We're not that far from Vladimir's, are we?"
The operative grunted as the helicopter lifted off. "We're not from Vladimir. Samori wants total control over the operation now. So what gives? I thought you were supposed to be on their tails twenty-four-seven."
"Couldn't follow them through the cave and be both observant and unobserved. I've got an agent in there, and I'll meet it at the Lavender end."
"Leaving the mission to your pokémon, eh?"
"You got a problem with that, operative?"
"Who, me? No, sir. In fact, I know a certain other operative who owes me 500."

The Zubat in question shifted to get a better angle. A Machop had just shown up to challenge Kate as the owner of the Jigglypuff, and fights were good places to learn things about people.
Kate couldn't believe her luck. Machop were probably worth more experience than Zubat, and as Fighting-types they were weak against the Flying-type Spearow. "Get'm, Spearow!"
"Hmm, this one looks new!"
"Aw, fnord, it's a bird...Hm! I'll beat it anyway!"
"First Peck!" Spearow launched at Machop to Peck it, and Machop got ready to Karate Chop Spearow when it got close enough.
The ground began to rumble.
Machop noticed and turned several shades lighter. It was so distracted it forgot about Spearow and got nailed by its Peck. After that, Machop tried to focus on its own battle, but it wasn't easy with that rumble growing louder. The Team Rocket Zubat had to force down its own urge to flee several times.
Gary turned toward where the rumbling seemed to be coming from, and saw the cave wall buckle just before a huge craggy head burst from it. "Ah, the Big Windi--humans!"
Gary gulped and put his hand on Poliwhirl's Pokéball. This had to happen now?
Onix noticed Gary's hand. "I won't let you take me!"
"I don't want to catch you!"
"What, I'm not good enough for you? I'll show you I'm worth it!" Onix slithered all the way out of the side tunnel it had dug and tried to stare him down.
It didn't want to be caught, but it was going to show Gary that it was a good catch? Gary tried not to think about it.

Seeing Onix was busy with the other human, Machop put all of its concentration back into beating Spearow. It lashed out with quick Karate Chops that knocked Spearow to the ground. Then it crouched and swept a leg forward in a Low Kick, but Spearow had already gotten back into the air and the attack missed.

"Go, Poliwhirl!"
"Here to help...out...whoa, big."
"Remember the last time you faced an Onix? Let's do it properly this time!"
"On it!" Poliwhirl ran to meet Onix.
"Hah! You'll never beat me!" Onix lowered its head to right in front of Poliwhirl. "I'm just too big for you, pipsqueak!"
"Don't be too sure!" Poliwhirl answered, firing a Water Gun at the big target right in front of it.
Onix backed off quickly. "Bleah! Guh, Htoo! I hate water!"
"That's the idea, big shot!" Poliwhirl fired more Water Guns at whatever part of Onix was closest, and Onix writhed in an attempt to avoid the shots.

Kate decided it was time for more Mirror Move practice. "Use Mirror Move, now!"
Taking in the Low Kick Machop had just tried on it, Spearow dove at Machop's legs, banked and raked a talon at them, scraping them out from under Machop. Machop hit the ground hard as Spearow rose again.
"Good work! Now, finish it with Fly!" Spearow flapped hard, and made it to the cave ceiling as Machop rose to its feet again. Then, it folded its wings and dropped like a bomb straight for Machop.

Onix lunged forward, trying to stop the watery attacks, but Poliwhirl leapt up and back and Onix' head slammed into the ground under it. Machop, sent hurtling back by Spearow's Fly attack, passed under Poliwhirl and smacked against Onix' head before Poliwhirl came down.
Shaking the fainted Machop off of it, Onix bellowed in rage. Poliwhirl remembered a trick it had used as a Poliwag in the Pewter Gym Battle, and angled a Water Gun so that it jetted upwards, arced and hit the roof of the bellowing Onix' mouth. Onix choked and convulsed.
This Onix was weaker than Grant's, and Poliwhirl was stronger than it had been. Onix didn't have enough fight left in it to turn those convulsions into an attack. Poliwhirl hit it with another Water Gun and it sank to the ground, causing a rumble as its head slammed into the dirt.
Spearow settled to the ground and looked at the fainted Onix. "You coulda let me get a parting shot!"
"Against an Onix? What good would that do?"
"I want experience! I'm just about to evolve, I can feel it! If I can't battle something real soon, I swear..."
Team Rocket's Zubat heard that and quietly got a little farther back, but stopped when it ran into another Zubat right behind it!
"You heard the bird, little spy. I think it's time for another battle!"

Chapter 144

The quick light of a Transform was more noticable in the darkness outside Jigglypuff's light. Gary swung his flashlight around and revealed a Magneton forcing a Zubat towards them.
Surprised, Gary took a closer look at the Zubat. It held a small item that reflected the flashlight's light like metal. As Ditto/Magneton drove the Zubat closer, Gary saw a round glassy panel on the front.
"That thing's been following us through the whole cave?" Gary translated in surprise.
"It's a camera, isn't it?" Kate added. "What the Zubat's holding, I mean?"
"No! I am a wild Zubat! I am not recording you for my master!"
"You're a poor liar, Zubat," Gary retorted. "Never actually been caught until now, have you?"
"No, I'm too good to be caught! Er, I mean, why would someone want to catch me? I'm innocent!"
Gary sighed. "So Team Racket is spying on us now?"
"That's Rocket! ...oops..."
"That's what I thought." Gary turned toward Kate's Spearow.
"Waay aheadaya!" Spearow took off for the Team Rocket Zubat, who turned and tried to get away, but ran into Ditto again.
"Eep!" After about a second's thought, Zubat decided to stick with the opponent it had any chance of beating. It opened with Supersonic, leaving Spearow dazed. Then, knowing Leech Life wouldn't help, it started using Bite.
"Ugh, what am I doing?" Spearow tried to recover its task. What really came to mind, though, was the strength, as Fearow, that it could almost feel within it. Evolve! That was what it needed to do! It should battle something...and there was something attacking it now!
Good enough! Spearow met Zubat's next Bite with a hard Fury Attack, lashing out at its head once, twice, three times! Zubat backed off and used Supersonic again, but the urge to evolve was too strong in Spearow now to be shaken. It drove forward, Pecking madly, forcing Zubat to defend as best it could.
Zubat kept using Supersonic in the hope that it would eventually get through. What registered, though, was that Zubat was being insistent about keeping Spearow from beating it. Kate's training focus on Mirror Move paid off as Spearow automatically responded to the Supersonic by raising its Growl's pitch high enough to use Supersonic right back.
Zubat, its nerves frayed, was a lot more vulnerable to the mental mess-up than Spearow, and succumbed in short order, dropping the video recorder. Then, while it was confused, Spearow selected its strongest attack, another move Kate could take credit for: Fly. Fighting its way toward the ceiling, Spearow paused to relish the moment, then swooped.
Gary bent to pick up the video recorder and Zubat sailed over his head on its way to the cave floor. Walking near Jigglypuff, he examined the device while Kate congratulated Spearow on its victory.
There was a switch with settings labelled REC, OFF and PLAY, but it was designed so that it wouldn't move unless one really wanted it to; Gary would need something hard and thin to move it. A pen would be ideal, but Gary didn't have one. Digging into his backpack, he found Ditto's membership card for the Silph Scientific and Technological Society, and used a corner of that to move the switch to the right, up, and then back to the left.
A whirring noise came from the camera, and Gary quickly turned it to face a wall that Jigglypuff wasn't shining brightly on. A picture appeared on the wall, and Gary walked forward until it came into focus.
Ditto Transformed into a Machop and watched the same view unfold on the cave wall that he had 'seen' himself after noticing the one Zubat that seemed to be tailing them, and was holding something unnaturally squarish. Gary watched himself, Kate and Jigglypuff walking through the Rock Tunnel, beating several Zubat, climbing down the first ladder, going up the second, meeting the Machop and then the Onix, and defeating both.
"That's me!"
"Yeah, i--woah! Hi! Don't you look nice!"
"Check out the wingspan!" Kate's Fearow proudly thrust out its wings, and the left one fwapped against the cave wall.
"Still not used to it yourself, huh?" Gary chuckled. While Fearow nursed its wing, he turned his attention back to the video recorder, which had ended its display and started rewinding again. "What do we do with it?"
"We can't let Team Rocket learn anything we can keep from them." Ditto answered. "We should probably destroy it so they don't get their hands on it."
"What if it's already too late?" Kate asked nervously. "Maybe that thing broadcasts everything it records to their base!"
"Good point to bring up, but it's doubtful. You noticed the playback was silent? They probably couldn't cram a microphone in there and keep it small enough for a Zubat to carry easily. A transmitter couldn't be any easier."
Gary nodded thoughtfully, then came up with something else. "Besides, why bother to have a playback feature on the thing itself if it could be viewed more easily somewhere else?"
Ditto nodded. "So we're probably safe as long as this recording doesn't get back to Team Rocket intact. Maybe we should tape over it first just in case."
"Yeah...say! I've got an idea!"

Chapter 145

The Team Rocket Zubat slowly picked itself up off the cave floor. It felt like a Rhyhorn had trampled over it, then gone back, used Stomp and just stayed there.
Blessedly, the annoying sensation of light on its skin was not part of its torment. A few pained bursts of ultrasonic waves told Zubat that it was alone in the cave now; the two kids had left, and taken their Jigglypuff, flashlight and Zubat/Magneton with them.
Wait...a small cube on the ground! The recorder! They had left it behind! Zubat didn't bother to ask why. It had a mission to complete. It might have lost its subjects, but it had recorded them this far, and it should get that information to its master.
Desperately wishing for a nice fat Paras it could Leech Life, Zubat slowly rose into the air, picked up the recorder and limp-flew after the kids.

"Wow, it's bright out here!"
Kate recoiled from the Lavender entrance to the Rock Tunnel. Ditto flew out of the cave, but soon came right back in again.
"Couldn't take it either?"
"Had a solution, but echolocation tells me there's someone in the bushes...probably another spy."
"That's okay," Gary said a little louder, "you're a good fighter when you're in caves. I don't need to catch any Zubat from in there when I already have you." With that, Gary recalled Ditto and discreetly nudged Kate.
Kate sighed, also rather loudly. "I don't know what you see in those things," she said. "I'd never want to get a Zubat in my team." With that, they walked out squinting into the sunlight and headed for Lavender Town.
The Team Rocket spy waited for his Zubat to emerge so he could get the recording and resume following them, but it didn't show. The spy fidgeted. The longer it took for Zubat to return, the farther ahead Gary and Kate would get. He might lose them at this rate.
What was taking Zubat so long? What if it had been found? They might have captured it...no, judging by what they'd said while they were here, they wouldn't have. Zubat was still in there, and would come out eventually. It had to.
Just when the spy was thinking of going into the cave to look for it, Zubat emerged, looking worn out. By now, the sun was behind a mountaintop, so it flew right out and to its master, dropping the recorder.
"You look awful! Something in there beat you up, huh? At least you got the recorder back to me. Good job." The Team Rocket spy gave a Super Potion to his Zubat, recalled it, took out a stylus, turned the recorder off and pocketed it. He could watch the recording later. Right now he had to catch up.

"...nice save, by the way. From now on, though, we'll have to be extra-careful. Not just about me, but any information that might help Team Rocket, like Kate being afraid of bugs or something."
"What!? No, I'm not!"
Tod Frost nodded. "I know, I was just giving an example of the sort of thing Team Rocket might be listening for. If I'd given a real example, it would have ruined the point of my warning to be careful."
"Oh, I see!"
Gary rounded the next corner in the mountain trail. "I can't wait to get to the Pokémon Center. I could really use some rest."
"Fear not! There's no place like Lavender Town to Rest In Peace!"
Gary froze.
Kate giggled behind him.
"You again!?" Gary turned to the man who had spoken. "Don't they have more than one town greeter? And why do they still have a town greeter? I thought the economy would get better now that you can trade with Saffron again..."
The man grinned. "Actually, things are better here now. I'm just working on my routine on my own. I think I could have a future as a comedian!"
Gary resisted the urge to comment, as Kate and Ditto joined him.
"Say, aren't you Gary Ford, and Kate Fields and Tod Frost?" the man asked.
Kate nodded. "Yeah, that's us!"
"You looked familiar on the TV, but I didn't put it together until just a minute ago. Wow, the three F's told me my jokes were bad!"
"The three F's?"
The former town greeter blushed slightly. "Uh, yeah, that's what some of us call you three...because your last names all start with F...it's nothing much..."
"Hey, there's something I hadn't thought of!" Kate said. "If we're going to keep on defending the people from Team Rocket's evil and all that, we should have a team name that people can call us, like the Elite Four have!"
"Oh? Like what? The Mighty Three? Team Justice?"
"Bleah, nothing like Team Rocket. I don't know, there's got to be something cool we could call ourselves..."

The Team Rocket spy glowered at the display before him. The mini-recorder was projecting an image of a cave wall that looked like Machop used it regularly for Karate Chop practice...except that the indents happened to spell "WE KNOW" in dauntingly large letters. The recorder had obviously been rewound and restarted; he had been staring at this glove-in-the-face since he had started the playback.
Eventually, the chilling words faded from view as Gary and Kate left the area and the light dimmed to blackness. Several minutes of black told the spy that nothing else would be shown until Zubat came to from its obvious defeat at their hands and carried the recorder back into the daylight.
Enraged, the spy chucked the recorder at the wall, and was only further angered when the rugged device landed intact. So they wanted to get smart, huh? Team Rocket would show them smart!

Chapter 146

The next morning, Gary gathered his equipment, ready for the journey to Celadon City. Today he would battle for the Grass-type Gym badge, the Rainbow Badge.
Gary met Kate in the Pokémon Center lobby. "We set to go?"
"Yes, I think so," she answered, discreetly handing him a folded piece of paper with the words DON'T READ ALOUD written on it. "Tod gave me this last night."
Gary flipped open the paper and started reading. "Ah, he got today's schedule worked out?" Remember we're being watched now. "Oh, that sounds like a good idea!" Must be more careful than usual. "Is he sure we can get that far today?" Suggest Saffron City, not Tunnel. "Hmm, I guess that'd be enough training time..." Make life harder for TR tracker. "Yeah, this looks good to me!" Gary folded the paper again and put it in his pocket, returning Kate's amused grin.
"Well, I'm fine with it too," Kate said meaningfully, "so I guess we're ready!"
The two left the Pokémon Center with an air of purpose. Baffled, the Team Rocket spy left his shadowed table to follow them. He was sure that paper was more important than it seemed...
"Hey, Charmeleon! Time for some target practice! Get that paper airplane!"
The spy grimaced.

"Now THAT was evil. Do that sort of thing enough and we'll leave them all nervous wrecks...as long as you do it properly." Ditto commented later, on Route 8.
"Well, we handled Vladimir's little test in the end, so maybe we can win here, too."
"Keep in mind this isn't the same sort of skill--"
"But that helps us, doesn't it?" Kate cut in. "You know how good Gary is at mind games."
"Team Rocket's no slouch either. They've tried things you don't even know about." Ditto finally filled them in on what had happened the two nights after their victories in Cerulean City.
"They did?" Kate asked, suddenly holding her Pokédex as if she meant to shield it from the cruel outside world. "Why didn't I hear anything? I don't think I slept too well that night..."
"Because they're that good. The battle between the MIB and the Elite was almost as silent as that recording we watched in the Rock Tunnel, and the encounter the night after WAS that silent."
"So you're saying we can't take them lightly at all?" Gary frowned.
"Yes. They may know too much already. I shifted to Persian in that battle with the Fearow because I knew the spies had been driven off by the Spearow already, but seeing that Zubat with the camera made me realize it may have been unsafe anyway."
"Say what!? We could be finished here!"
"Well, at least we've gotten those MIBs off our backs, right?" Kate asked, seeking some good news in all this.
"Well, they've been silent for a good long while, but--"
"Do me a favor and don't even start, hmm?" Gary interrupted. Ditto nodded silently.

Pidgeotto had learned Wing Attack in the fourth leg of the trip through the Rock Tunnel, so Gary was focusing on the Nidos now, and Beedrill when it didn't have a disadvantage. The wild pokémon here were mostly the same fare as on the other side of Saffron, near Celadon, though no Vulpix or Growlithe showed. One occasion, though, completely surprised Gary. With their Teleport ability, he had never gotten a chance to see an Abra, but midway through Route 8 a wild Kadabra Teleported to them in order to guage the threat they posed. Stunned, Gary reached for a Pokéball until he realized all three of the pokémon he was raising were weak against its attacks. He sent out Charmeleon, his back-up muscle, and when Kadabra sensed Charmeleon's power, it quickly Teleported away again.
Nidorino and Nidorina each gained a level, and Beedrill gained two, which put it only a level away from another good attack, Pin Missile. Kate's Vulpix improved as well, and Fearow got closer to learning Drill Peck. They were at Saffron City before either Beedrill or Fearow could learn those moves, though.
After recalling Ditto, Gary and Kate followed his suggestion and walked up to the eastern gatehouse of Saffron City. Gary knocked on the door, and when the guard slid the small hatch open, said, "Two travelers intending to pass through here, sir..."
"Okay, just a--...hold on..." the guard squinted at them, then opened the door. "Well, I'll be! Mr. Ford and Miss Fields, am I right? Haven't been here in a while, have you? You think you'll be staying long?"
Gary shook his head. "Sorry, but when I said 'pass through' I meant it. We have to go through Saffron City to get where we're going next. We would have used the Saffron Tunnels and spared you the trouble, but they're not built right for our needs right now."
"Oh, that's okay, no problem at all. Yeah, you can go on ahead, no problem here!"
Gary walked through the guardroom and into the city, confident he'd just scored another victory against Team Rocket's spies.

The security guard watched the two young heroes enter Saffron City, and wondered where they were headed. He'd said they couldn't get there by the Tunnels, so it couldn't be Celadon. They'd just come from Lavender's direction, and they'd been in Cerulean so long they couldn't have any reason left to be there. They must be on their way to Vermilion, he decided.
There were people he knew in Vermilion City who would be overjoyed to learn that Gary Ford and Kate Fields would be showing up there sometime soon.

Chapter 147

"K, G, T...Garkaytod..."
"Oh, I'm looking for a good team name for us. You have any ideas?"
Gary rolled his eyes. "I...haven't been thinking about it."
The bus they rode rolled down the busy streets of Saffron City, heading north. They'd boarded it at the first bus stop they'd found, but it hadn't been the first bus; they'd let the first one go by, with any passengers who recognized them gawking and then talking amongst themselves. For that matter, the passengers on this one were trying not to do the same thing right in front of them.
"I wonder if I could make something out of the three F's the Lavender folk noticed..." Gary tried to ignore Kate as he watched the streets. From the faces of the people there, you'd think nothing special had happened in several months. They gave themselves the lie if and when they recognized Gary or Kate, but that wasn't too often; people here didn't seem to care who happened to be walking beside them, let alone who was in a bus passing by. It didn't matter, though. The few who noticed would talk enough. He just hoped they mentioned where they'd seen the two heading.
The bus pulled in at a station near Saffron City Gym and the Fighting Dojo, Gary nudged Kate and they stood to leave.

The path they drew around the city was a windy, dawdling one. After hanging out outside the Dojo long enough so no one could have seen them both arriving and leaving, they boarded another bus, one that promised trainers a direct trip from the Gym to the city Pokémon Center. They stopped for a while in the Center lobby, where people recognized them almost immediately, and then took another bus to the Silph Co. corporate headquarters, staying there only long enough to make sure someone saw them who was likely to talk about it.
They walked this time, making sure plenty of people saw them heading directly south. Gary had worked out that what he had told the guard at the gatehouse suggested Vermilion City, so he had decided to let that idea spread a little. Since their tour of Saffron had taken up some time, they stopped for lunch at a deli that was a stone's throw from the south gatehouse. Kate, amused at all this, was by now giggling at the tiniest things.
After lunch, Gary and Kate left the deli and turned down an empty alley. A pair of twenty-something tourists walked out the other end and strolled west, virtually unnoticed in the crowd.
"Team Rocket might realize it's a false trail when no one in the southern gatehouse remembers you." Ditto pointed out. He was too busy maintaining the illusion of the pokémon-less tourists to bother with the illusion of English. "It depends on how savvy our current Team Rocket shadow is."
"Well, unless you'd like to keep up this disguise all the way to Celadon, it was either this or Teleport from Route 6, where they might be watching for us after all the signs to Vermilion we left."
"What good is this going to do?" Kate asked suddenly. "If we were planning an attack on Celadon like we did last time we came here, it would be good, but they have no reason to worry about us being in Celadon, do they?"
"If they knew we were coming to a certain place they could set up a trap there." Ditto replied. "Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and we want Team Rocket as powerless as possible."

The guard at the western gatehouse let the "tourists" through easily; his job was to keep unsavories out, not to keep anyone in. As soon as they were out of sight of the gatehouse, the illusion vanished.
"Now," Gary said, "My Beedrill's got Pin Missile to learn, and your Fearow needs to learn Drill Peck. We don't have a whole lot of time, but I think we can hang around in the forest long enough to get those moves."
"I wonder if we'll get to meet the Growlithe and Vulpix from before?" Kate asked.
"Probably depends on whether they feel like showing themselves." Gary said. "And if they do, they'd better identify themselves before I send out someone to battle them!"
"I'll see you when you're ready to move on." Ditto called, swinging into the trees.

The Team Rocket spy growled.
It had been hard enough work to trace Ford and Fields' circuitous route through Saffron City to the southern gatehouse. Now, however, there was more trouble. The guard swore up and down that he would have noticed if Gary Ford and Kaitlin Fields had come through here, and they hadn't. The trail went practically up to the door and stopped. He had checked all of the shops around that delicatessen and come up with nothing but a rather large set of odd looks.
The spy blinked as he remembered that message, hammered into the wall of the Rock Tunnel. They knew they were being tracked. Was this a false trail, left to throw him off? It would explain the way they had seemed to cover nearly the entire city before coming here and vanishing. In fact, it made so much sense he wanted to kick himself quite hard for not seeing it before. He had underestimated them again. He'd have to stop doing that.
Now, where were they most likely to have gone? Certainly not Cerulean again, or back to Lavender; not unless the entire trip from Cerulean was to shake him. Not likely. Since it was apparently not Vermilion either, that made it Celadon. Now that he'd reasoned it out, the trip made sense; to Saffron by way of the Rock Tunnel and Lavender so they could take the Saffron Tunnel and avoid this bustling city; then through the city after all, to lose him. Celadon made perfect sense as a goal, too, since they hadn't visited the Gym last time they had come here.
Then again...the spy shuddered as another possibility hit him. How much did they know? Did they know what else lay in Celadon City? But that didn't make as much sense; He wasn't up to anything right now. In fact, He was deliberately avoiding them. Had they grown tired of merely protecting the people from Team Rocket's attacks?
The spy called for another helicopter. The sooner he got to Celadon City, the better.

Chapter 148

It was late afternoon, close to evening. The sun was an orange ball hiding in the tops of trees when Growlithe emerged from his burrow to look for dinner.
He could smell other pokémon about, but couldn't see them. Probably hiding from a human pokémon trainer. He dug up the nearest pokémon, a Bellsprout, to ask about the situation.
"Human battlers here...two...wielding Flying Stinging Bug and Big Beak Bird...must hide..."
"Hang on a minute! How long has it been since you saw them? Do you know where they are now?"
"Mustn't see them...they see me if I see them...hiding..."
Growlithe briefly considered toasting some sense into this leafbrain, but decided there wouldn't be any point to it. He had been studying his past life and had come to see that violence didn't always solve problems.
"What's going on?"
Growlithe turned to the Vulpix who had just followed him out of the burrow. "Humans. Sounds like they're training a Beedrill and a Fearow. Or were. I have no idea yet."
"I'll find out." Vulpix slunk off into the shadows. She'd always been great at staying hidden, a skill that used to vex him to no end.
She came back soon after with reports from two different pokémon who lived near the forest's edge that the humans had left a short time ago. Satisfied, Growlithe set off to hunt...after finally drilling it into the Bellsprout's head that all was safe again.
Vulpix watched him go before heading in another direction for the same reason. Funny how life worked out sometimes. Growlithe's burrow had been the one place to avoid above all others for a long time. Now, with her sister off training, her own hole under the tree had become lonely, and now that the two were no longer at each other's throat, grudging respect for the other's abilities had developed into something more.
Idly she wondered where the two humans who had changed their lives were now. Pokémon trainers seemed always on the move; they were probably somewhere she'd never heard of.

Gary and Kate entered the Celadon City Pokémon Center, conveniently close to Route 7.
"Shame we didn't get to see Vulpix and Growlithe again..." Kate said.
"You can look for them tomorrow, if you want. I want to get at least as far as the door guard today."
While their pokémon were being restored to health, Gary unfolded his map and looked for the Celadon City insert. There were a few places of interest marked: the Pokémon Center, Celadon Department Store, Celadon Game Corner, Celadon Mansion...Gary quickly grew bored with the local theme.
There was one building marked, other than the Pokémon Center, that did not have the city in its name: Rainbow Perfume Co. The city Gym was not marked. That was odd. Why would the map mark a perfume shop when it didn't mark the Gym?
"Excuse me," he said, approaching a clerk. "Can you tell me were the city Pokémon Gym is?"
The clerk gave him a blank look for a moment. "Uh...well, I think...hm..." She turned to a co-worker. "Do we have a Gym?"
"Of course we have a Gym. Every city has a Gym."
"Where is it, then?"
It was the same with anyone else Gary, or Kate, asked, be it clerk, nurse or fellow trainer. No one seemed to know where Celadon Gym was.
Gary sighed as he looked out a window at the big city. Not as crowded as Saffron, by either buildings or people, it was nonetheless pretty close to the same size. Night might fall before he found the Gym if he went looking for it.
With another sigh, Gary left the window, heading for the main desk.
"What are you doing now?" Kate asked.
"I'm going to get an overnight room. I'll need a fresh start if I'm going to comb this city for that Gym."

"Can I...help you?"
"It'd be nice. I was sent to work with the team tracing Ford and Fields?"
"Hm...yes, here it is. This way."
The receptionist walked down the hall and opened a door into what was assumedly a normal room. All that could be seen was wiring and electronic equipment.
"You in there? The...translator just got here."
A man appeared from somewhere in the mess, taking off a pair of headphones as he came. His eyes widened at the newcomer, and he lifted an eyebrow.
"What's the matter? Don't think I fit the bill?"
"Uh, no, you'll do fine! Just fine!"
"I was told there were two people working on this project. Where's your partner?"
"Following them. We decided it would be best for one of us to track them and the other to stay here to monitor."
"I should probably join him, then. Where are they?"
"He requested transport to Celadon City just a minute ago."

Chapter 149

"You didn't go to the Gym?"
"No, I didn't. I don't know where it is. It's not on my map and no one here could tell me. I don't have time tonight to go looking for it."
Ditto pondered that. "Odd..."

"I have an idea." he said the next morning.
Gary looked up from filling his pack. "Oh? What's that?"
"As Alakazam, I should be able to scan the mind of everyone in this city in short order. Not actually reading the whole thing, just searching for references to a Celadon City Gym. Then you two could go there without wasting your energy searching."
Gary brightened; he hadn't even realized he was feeling gloomy about it. "That sounds like a good idea!"
Ditto Transformed and began to concentrate, closing his eyes. Before long, though, they shot open again. "Now THAT I wasn't expecting..."
"What? Is something wrong?"
"Do you remember...what I said when we met Santiago in Saffron City?"

I have the sense of your mind now, Santiago, and I can locate you anywhere you go...

"I just located Santiago. He's here in Celadon."
Gary froze. "Is...is he going to attack us?"
"I said I wasn’t really reading anyone’s mind." Ditto answered. "I could go back and read his...but I might accidentally tip him off that we're here if he doesn't already know." He grinned ruefully. "After what I did to him in Saffron, feeling me in his mind again might panic him into doing something dangerous."
Gary tried to think. "All right...what do we do, then? Just watch our backs?"
"Works for me. After you've settled with the Gym, maybe the three of us should discuss looking into it."
"Right. This could be a great opportunity."

"Hi, Gary! Got your fine-toothed comb ready?"
"We won't be needing it," Gary answered, making Kate stop halfway up from her seat in the lobby.
"Why not? Did you find out where it was after all?"
"Yeah, and I learned something else, too," and he lowered his voice a trifle, "that we can discuss later."
Kate nodded slowly. "Oookay...so where's the Gym?"
"Turns out that's why that perfume company is marked on the map," Gary explained while they headed for the door. "The Gym is owned by that company. People have forgotten because not many folks have wanted to go there lately. Apparently Grass-types are easier to train than most other types, and what with Sabrina or Sydney to deal with, trainers going for Badges haven't gotten this far in a while. The perfume company doesn't advertise the Gym because they care more about cosmetics than pokémon. There are people in that company who have forgotten."
Kate frowned. "Well, we straightened out the problem with Sydney, and if Sabrina's too tough for them, couldn't they come here in case this Gym is easier?"
"Did you?" Gary stopped and looked straight at Kate. "When Sydney held his own against you time after time, did you give up and go looking for an easier Badge? That's not a good trait in a determined trainer."
Kate sighed. "Point."
"And, of course, we freed Saffron City only two or three days after Sydney left Vermilion Gym, so there was no time for someone to beat the new Leader there and then not be able to reach Sabrina."
Kate nodded again. "Okay, so no one's gotten to this Gym on their Badge journey, no one comes there to train Grass-types...say, how did you find out about all this if no one remembers?"
"Tod covered the city this morning. You know how he can sometimes just pull answers out of people's heads..."
"Okay, I get it. And did he also find out about this other thing you won't mention in public?"
Gary sucked in his breath at the reminder, even though he'd just recently hinted at it to her. "Yes...the usual trouble, in a way."
"Eh? What do you...never mind, public place, I know." She grimaced. "Pardon me while I come to a slow boil over this..."

The Team Rocket spy paced anxiously outside Santiago's office. He knew for certain now that the two kids were in this city. Santiago needed to know. Surely he couldn't have anything else in his busy schedule more important than this.
The longer the spy was kept waiting, the more he missed of the kids' actions. They could be anywhere in the city by now. The Department Store, the Gym...what if they were on their way here? The fool could make his warning useless if Ford and Fields walked in right on his heels!
"Sir? Santiago will see you now."
The spy's head snapped up so fast he winced. "About time," he gruffed.

Chapter 150

"Welcome to Rainbow Perfume, how may I help you?"
Crossing his fingers hoping she would know what he was talking about, Gary told the receptionist, "I've heard this company owns the city Pokémon Gym?"
"We want to meet the Gym's Leader," Kate threw in.
The receptionist blinked in surprise and searched an electronic list of departments. "R&D, Production, Marketing, Sales...Pokémon Gym!? Well, I'll be! Let's see...that's located at...the mezzanine? We have a mezzanine?...Well, where's the mezzanine?" Gary rolled his eyes and sat down to wait for the receptionist to get everything straight.
"Gary Ford? Kaitlyn Fields?" He quickly stood up again and followed Kate's eye to a woman in a green dress who was striding across the lobby toward them. "Am I right?"
"Yes, I'm Gary Ford."
"I actually prefer Kate..."
"Excellent. I'm Rose, the Leader of Celadon Gym. I've been waiting for you!"
While the receptionist looked on in embarrassment, Rose led Gary and Kate to a stairway at the back of the lobby. "You may have noticed the place doesn't get much attention."
"I'll say! I've met Gym Leaders who were less of a challenge than just finding this Gym!" Kate gave him a sidelong look at that, one that Rose missed as she came to an unobtrusive door halfway up the staircase.
"It wasn't always that way. You see, the last Gym Leader, Erika, was also the original owner of Rainbow Perfume. She named the business after her Gym Badge. That's why the Gym is here. After she retired, the new management of the company hired me to run the Gym, and then just forgot about it." She opened the door and flipped a switch. "I think only Accounting remembers, because they pay my salary. I could walk out of here tomorrow and no one would ever know."
The sound of gears that needed oiling filled the room as the ceiling folded back to reveal a clear greenhouse roof. Gary and Kate looked around at the sunlit room. It was filled with flowers, ranging from common, to exotic, to downright strange. Gary's eyes widened as he recognized the top half of a Gloom in the dirt among the plants. "That's how they sleep," Rose explained when she noticed. "There are a few other Grass-type pokémon about if you look hard enough."
"Oh, here's a couple of Bellsprout!" Kate exclaimed from across the aisle. "They're cute."
Gary remembered something. "Say, if this is the Gym, wasn't there supposed to be a door guard? Maybe standing in the hall or something..."
"Door guards weren't added to Gym Staff until after Erika left. The company just didn't care enough to fit one in their payroll," Rose sighed. "I'm it." Then she reconsidered. "I suppose finding your way here is enough of a test, really. When I found out you were in the city last night, I was going to go to the Pokémon Center myself to find you, but you beat me to it."
"Yeah, I wanted an early start to search the city. I didn't find out it was here until just this morning."
"You know, I'm curious...just how did you find me? You came to that front desk knowing the Gym was here, didn't you?"
Gary paused, and Kate looked up from the Bellsprout she was still playing with.
"Erm...I have my ways. No one accomplishes what Kate, Tod and I have without getting ways." Kate giggled, and the Bellsprout wriggled with her.
"Tod? ...Frost, right. The scientist. And speaking of which...the Leader's arena is through this door when you're ready. I'll be warming up in there; I'm afraid I haven't had a good match in a while." Rose waved and disappeared through a door in the back.
"'I have my ways'? You sounded like some sort of secret agent."
"Well, what else was I going to say? So, you want to go first, or should I?"
Kate mused. "Well...I don't know if I want to fight a Gym Leader who's this out of practice..."
"Okay. I don't really mind, so how about I go first, and Rose'll learn from her mistakes in my battle so she'll fight better in yours?"
"Sound good to me," Kate answered. "Doesn't it?" she suddenly asked the Bellsprout, poking one of its leaves. The Bellsprout poked her back and swayed happily.
Gary rolled his eyes again. "All right then, Rainbow Badge, here I come!"

"...okay, and Acid is strong against bugs, but only normal on poisonous ones..." The door opened and Rose quickly put away the piece of paper she'd been studying. "Ah, hello, Gary! You're ready to try for the Rainbow Badge?"
"That I am. How many pokémon each?"
"Hm? Oh, that's right. Is a three-on-three okay?"
"Fine with me." Gary took his place on the grass-covered ground that made the room's floor.
"All right, then! Let's get started! Victreebel, let's go!"
"Finally, another trainer!"
"Okay, Beedrill, go get'm!"
"I think I can, I think I can..."
Rose's face fell. "That's it?"
"What do you mean?"
"I was expecting something...you know, special..."
Gary shrugged. "Beedrill's who I want to train right now."
Rose gaped at him for a moment. "You treat a Gym Battle like a practice match!?" Shock faded into amusement. "Now, that's closer to what I was expecting!"

Chapter 151

"Victreebel, Slam!"
"Beedrill, Twineedle!"
Beedrill raced in to attack as Victreebel coiled its leaf-tipped vine. Victreebel could reach farther, though, and lashed out to strike Beedrill, knocking it back before it could attack.
"All right, then, Pin Missile instead!" Beedrill pointed all three stingers at Victreebel and fired a spray of needles. Victreebel reared back as its bell and leaves were punctured.
"Victreebel, Acid!" Rose called. Victreebel shot a spray of Acid at Beedrill, who was unable to dodge. It dropped halfway to the floor as it struggled with the pain.
"Now, Slam it!" Victreebel prepared to strike.
Gary hesitated, then called, "Fury Attack now!" Beedrill jumped into action, jabbing repeatedly with its front stingers, recognizing the urgency of the command...even though there was nothing right in front of it yet. Victreebel's attack came--and got turned aside by the flashing stingers. Twice more it tried to get a Slam through to Beedrill. The second time the vine was turned aside again, and the third time a stinger actually punched through the leaf at its tip. Rose gasped.
Gary followed up on his advantage. "Now Twineedle!" Beedrill drove forward, bringing the vine with it. Victreebel couldn't Slam Beedrill away this time, and if it used Acid again it would hurt itself as well.
"I know! Use Slam to shake Beedrill off!" Rose said. Beedrill struck then with Twineedle and Victreebel recoiled from the attack, taking heavy damage. Then it used Slam, whipping the vine away from Beedrill and pushing it back beyond Twineedle range.
Gary considered Victreebel, and decided it was weak enough. "Another Pin Missile," he called, and Beedrill launched another barrage of barbs. This time, Victreebel tried to use its vine to block the attack.
When the pins stopped flying, Victreebel's vine hung limp, nearly severed in some places. Its sacrifice hadn't done much to protect the bell, either. Victreebel reared up, trying to gather energy for another attack, hung there for a moment and then fell back on itself, out for the count.
Rose nodded weakly and recalled Victreebel. "I'm impressed. I don't think most trainers get Beedrill up to learning Pin Missile." She took up another ball. "Let's see if it can handle Vileplume! Let's go, Vileplume!"
"You up to the challenge?"
"Beedrill, Twineedle it!" Beedrill dove in for the assault.
"Vileplume, Sleep Powder!" Vileplume blew a puff of light blue powder into the air toward Beedrill. Beedrill tried to fight off the effects, but Victreebel's still-smarting Acid was wearing away at its willpower. Beedrill hit the grass in slumber.
Gary recalled Beedrill and threw another Pokéball. "Playtime, Pidgeotto!"
"Play dead, Vileplume!"
"Make me!"
"If you insist."
"Vileplume, Sleep Powder this one, too!"
Gary couldn't afford to let that happen. "Pidgeotto, counter with Gust!"
"Well, YEAH...ahem. 'Gosh, JUST what I was thinking!'" When Vileplume released its Sleep Powder, Pidgeotto flapped hard and stirred up a wind that blew the powder back toward Vileplume. It settled all over Vileplume's flower, where it did nothing.
"In that case, try a Petal Dance!" Vileplume spun into action, twirling like a ballet dancer closer and closer to Pidgeotto, intending to smack it with its large petals. Pidgeotto started backing away.
"Pidgeotto, hit it with Wing Attack! The right wing!"
"Now? And what's the diff--OH, I gotcha!" Pidgeotto came in to meet Vileplume, and gave it a hard whack with its wing, knocking it out of its spin. Vileplume tottered dizzily, stumbled a few steps and then crashed onto its side.
Pidgeotto, meanwhile, had taken the brunt of Vileplume's attack in halting its spin, and was currently nursing its smarting wing. "NOW I see why I didn't think of that..." Then it saw what had become of Vileplume. "...eh, but I guess it was worth it." It flew over and settled where Vileplume could see it. "You're good at playing dead."
"I'll show you how dead I am!" Vileplume waved its arms and legs like a maniac, trying to do something.
Gary looked at Rose, wondering why she didn't recall the Vileplume. She looked like she was waiting for something. Did she expect Vileplume to right itself?
"No, but seriously, folks, I have to wonder which is less of a threat: a Vileplume on its side or a Magikarp who hasn't yet--"
"All right, I get the idea already!" Vileplume shot. It looked like it was swelling with anger. In fact, its petals did seem to be bigger now, and brighter...
It all clicked. "Pidgeotto!" Gary called, "move!"

Chapter 152

"Huhwha!?" Pidgeotto shot up halfway to the ceiling...and Vileplume's Solarbeam passed under it. With a string of vegetable curses, Vileplume tried to roll to get the beam aimed at Pidgeotto, but it still couldn't move.
"Oh, so you've still got some fight in you!" Pidgeotto dove into a Quick Attack, and then struck with another Wing Attack that sent Vileplume rolling along the floor, still trying to get up or else attack from where it was.
Finally, Vileplume's roll put Pidgeotto in the line of fire for an Acid attack. Seeing that, though, Pidgeotto raced in with a Quick Attack, flipping over Vileplume so the attack missed. Then, one more Wing Attack finally put Vileplume out of the fight.
Rose recalled Vileplume. "Wow, you're really pasting me! Let's see how you do against my last pokémon..." She tossed her third and final Pokéball. "...Exeggutor!"
"Hey, this room again!Ooh, battle!Nice day out!"
"Pidgeotto, Wing Attack!"
Rose closed her eyes. "Exeggutor, Hypnosis!"
"Hold up, Pidgeotto!"
"No, it's okay, I can get it!"
Gary sighed and closed his eyes. To Pidgeotto's merit, he did hear the sound of a wing striking Exeggutor, but the sound of a bird hitting the ground followed soon after.
Gary recalled Pidgeotto. "You sure like putting pokémon to sleep, don't you?" He reached for another Pokéball--and realized Nidorino and Nidorina were weak against Psychic-types. Exeggutor didn't learn much in the way of psychic attacks, but Rose might have taught it one via TM. Not worth the risk. Gary sent out his reserve heavy-hitter. "Charmeleon, time for action!"
"And the crowd goes wild!"
"Whoops, problem...Fire BAD!You guys smell something?"
"Exeggutor, Hypnosis again!"
"Charmeleon, Flamethrower interrupt!"
Charmeleon reared back and blew a jet of flame straight at Exeggutor, scorching it in the faces and cutting short its Hypnosis. Pained, Exeggutor began to stomp in place, its coconut-like heads wobbling.
"Exeggutor, Egg Bomb!" Rose called. Exeggutor stopped stomping about, whirled its top part around and let loose a coconut to fly toward Charmeleon.
"Bomb, huh? Can't block it, can't toast it..." Charmeleon jumped back as the Egg Bomb came in, trying to dodge the blast. It underestimated the move's range, though. The bomb detonated with enough force to knock the landing Charmeleon off balance from a couple feet away, and Charmeleon fell back and landed on its back.
Grumbling, Charmeleon righted itself. Gary checked its tail flame, not from any worry for Charmeleon's health but from a sense of déjŕ vu...and saw that Charmeleon's tail had set fire to the grass on the ground there.
Pidgeotto was asleep, and the Nidos couldn't help. Neither could Exeggutor, which meant neither could Ditto with Rose there. "Charmeleon, freestyle mauling!" he called as he turned his attention from the battle to put Poliwhirl back into his party. Rose turned a slight shade of green.
Charmeleon got ready for another Flamethrower. "Stomp!" Rose cried out in desperation. Exeggutor raced in, too late to avoid the attack, and planted a foot squarely on Charmeleon's head as fire wreathed it. Charmeleon squacked indignantly and tried to shove the foot off, and in the end, both pokémon went sprawling. Charmeleon started another fire, but it was nothing next to the fire spreading from Exeggutor to the grass.
"Hey!" Gary cried out. "I already have one fire to put out here!" Rose noticed the earlier fire and eeped. Exeggutor, confused and in pain, jumped up at Gary's outburst and started running around the room, trailing flame.
Gary recalled Charmeleon and sent out Poliwhirl. "Guess what we get to do again! I can't send out the help I used last time, so just do the best you can!" Then he called to Rose. "Recall Exeggutor! It's not helping things any!"
Still burning, all of its heads wailing discordantly, Exeggutor tried to run in two different directions and slammed into a wall. Tottering, it fell back into the grass, finally out. Rose recalled it, but it was too late. The wall was now on fire.
Poliwhirl surveyed the situation in something approaching panic. "I have to put out all of this by myself!?"
"No one else can--wait a minute, yes, there is someone else!" Berating himself for his mistake, he sent out Ditto. "Ditto, Transform into Poliwhirl! It's just the two of you against this blaze!"
"Swell." Ditto Transformed and called to Poliwhirl, "Smaller ones first! Reduce the number of fires!"
The two set to work, putting out fires they could put out quickly, banding together to put out larger ones. Ditto ran to the wall and tried to confine that fire.
"I'm going to run dry at this rate!" Poliwhirl called.
"Try to hold on!" Ditto gritted.
Just then, water descended from above. The emergency sprinklers had kicked in. Poliwhirl and Ditto paused to let the water re-energize them, then set back to work with a will.

As the fire alarm wailed, Kate waited anxiously in the greenhouse. She jumped when the door opened and Gary and Rose emerged, wet and coughing, with smoke trailing after them. She got a good look at the arena, and turned to Gary.
With a grim expression, she said, "Tell you what. Next Gym we go to, I battle first." Gary just nodded weakly.

Chapter 153

"There's no problem, though, right?"
Gary nodded in answer to Kate's question, watching the people surrounding the Rainbow Perfume Co. building, now empty save for firefighters answering the fire alarm. "At least as far as I know. It was the fire in the Gym Arena that set off the alarms, and we put it out."
"He put it out," Rose corrected. "That was clever, sending out the Ditto to help the Poliwhirl. I'll bet that kind of resourcefulness helps against Team Rocket, right?"
"Got that right. Strength just isn't enough most of the time. In fact, strategy can give you the win even when strength is sorely lacking." Thinking of Beedrill and Gastly's role in the second battle against the Seven Deadly Twins, Gary was reminded of Beedrill's present condition. He sent out Beedrill, and tended to its Acid wound.
Beedrill woke. "Mm...what happened?"
"Rose's Vileplume put you to sleep with Sleep Powder," Gary said gently. "It's all right, though; Pidgeotto beat it afterward."
"Pidgeotto is stronger than I am..."
"Well, you're decent yourself. You beat Victreebel on your own! That's an accomplishment there."
"Hm...I suppose it is..."
Gary finished with Beedrill and recalled it. Then, he sent out Pidgeotto and just waited.
"Snrk...huh? What? Where?"
"We're outside the building because there was a fire...caused accidentally by Charmeleon, who I had to send out because you let yourself be caught by Hypnosis."
"Oh...erm...yeah, I suppose I did at that...but at least I hit it!" Pidgeotto came closer to a nervous grin than Gary had ever seen on it before.
"Yes, you did. Good for you. Why, if you'd listened to me, you might even have been able to beat it on your own instead of getting humiliated." Pidgeotto flinched. Gary recalled it, and moved on to the last participant in the battle.
"Why are we outside now?"
"Well, the fire's out, but the city fire department likes to be sure."
Charmeleon got quiet. "Oh...did I blow the battle?"
"Hmm? What do you mean?"
"I was last in a three-on-three, right? You had to recall me when I set the place on fire. Does that mean we lost?"
Gary thought back. "No...Exeggutor fainted before Rose recalled it. You didn't lose." He glanced at Rose. "I'm not sure we won, either, but..."
"No, no, you're right. That was a win, whatever the...side effects. The Rainbow Badges are still in there, though."
"Well, you've still got Kate to deal with," Gary said, and chuckled. "We got our last two Badges together, might as well keep up the tradition."
"Woohoo! Another win for the home team!" Charmeleon jumped, relieved that it hadn't cost Gary the win. Gary recalled it and waited for the all-clear from the fire department.

Santiago's door burst open. "Secretary, a message to all operatives in Celadon! Find Ford and Fields somewhere in the city; I want their whereabouts sooner than humanly possible!"
"Y-yes sir!"
Santiago had been humiliated in Saffron City by those two, with their scientist friend. It had been mollifying when Vladimir had done little better against them, but his failure still stung. Ditto/Alakazam's threat a distant memory, he had been toying with the idea of attacking them in force to try to wipe them out when they weren't expecting it, and learning that they were in easy reach of his base of operations had decided him. He struck now or they might find him and make sure he couldn't cause any more trouble.
"I'll join the search, sir, if you don't mind; it is my job, after all." The Spy Network man said.
"Very well. Get back to me as soon as you learn anything. Teleport if you can manage!"
A new voice answered. "That won't be necessary."
"Huh? Who's there?"
The speaker faded into view. "Remember me, Santiago? Looks like I'll be staying with this matter after all; now I'm supposed to be translating pokémon speech for the tag-alongs." He indicated the spy. "There was a fire recently at Rainbow Perfume Co., and after terrifying the right people, I've learned the place has some connection to pokémon trainers. Suspicious, isn't it?"
Santiago's eyes narrowed. This one deserved part of the blame for Saffron, as well. "For your sake, this had better be a useful lead."

Chapter 154

"Here's hoping this one goes better!"
"Same here," Kate answered Rose, glancing at the charred portion of the grassy floor of the Gym Leader Arena. She reviewed what she'd gotten from Gary's conversations with his team. Two Grass/Poison-types and one Grass/Psychic. So much for Ekans. She'd also have to be careful with Vulpix, given the terrain.
"Victreebel, you're up!"
"Here we go again..." Victreebel twitched its restored vine in irritation at its recent loss.
Gastly and Beedrill would not be as useful against Exeggutor if it knew any Psychic attacks, so Kate would use them on the Poison-types...like this one. "Beedrill, go for it!"
"You, too? I don't suppose yours knows Pin Missile, too?"
"No, I don't train Beedrill as often as Gary has recently. Beedrill, Twineedle!"
Rose remembered how she had handled Gary's Twineedle attacks. "Slam to block!"
Victreebel's vine whipped forward, but Beedrill was alert and flew over it. Then it struck with Twineedle, and Victreebel reared back before bringing its vine around again and smacking Beedrill across the back. The blow sent Beedrill tumbling a short distance, and it paused to reorient.
"Acid!" Rose called, still drawing on her battle against Gary. His Beedrill had not enjoyed the move at all, and if Kate's was weaker...
Beedrill took the attack in the belly and shot up toward the cieling, getting a hold of itself just in time to avoid crashing. It settled back down toward Victreebel, and used Focus Energy to try to take its mind off the Acid clinging to it. Then it drove forward to Fury Attack Victreebel.
Last time, Victreebel had tried to Slam Beedrill while it was Fury Attacking and had regretted it. "Acid again!" Beedrill had to be right up near Victreebel to Fury Attack, so the Acid hit it again, on the back this time, and it hit the ground. It tried to get up, and managed to get back into the air, but couldn't do anything else right then. Victreebel Slammed and Beedrill went flying across the room.
Shaking her head, Kate recalled Beedrill. It was overmatched here. She'd already lost one pokémon in a three-on-three match; she couldn't afford mistakes now. Gastly would have to wait. "Get'm, Pidgeotto! We need to gain some ground!"
"We WANT this ground?" Pidgeotto looked at the burn marks until Victreebel harrumphed. "Right, right, prepare to suffer..."

Outside, a man in a Team Rocket uniform clambered onto the roof of Rainbow Perfume after a tiring climb. Walking to the far edge, he peered down at the greenhouse below him, and took out a pair of binoculars.
"Yup, that's him all right..." A cell phone followed the binoculars. "I found Ford, sir. He's in a greenhouse at the back of the building. No Fields, though. Not sure what he's doing...maybe he's waiting for something?"
"Hang back, and keep an eye out for Fields. We'll give them something to wait for!"

Give them something to wait for? That didn't make any sense...Santiago shrugged uncomfortably. His nerves must be getting to him again. The more he thought about his defeat in Saffron, the less he liked it. This needed ending pronto. A sudden tidal wave of power to crush Ford and Fields like Bug-types.
"All Rockets to the roof of Rainbow Perfume! Do not strike until I give the order!"

Gary paced in the greenhouse outside the Leader Arena. Now that he was basically done here, the next important matter was Santiago in Celadon. He'd already rearranged his party for anti-Rocket action, just in case.
Should they try to find out if Santiago had any tricks planned for the near future? That might be dangerous, but Gary wasn't sure whether it was more dangerous than the other possibility; attack Team Rocket for once, rather than just defending. Was that necessary? Was it wise? They might just find out today.
Gary looked through the greenhouse roof at the midday sky, hoping today would go well...and caught a glimpse of a man in a Team Rocket uniform standing on the brick part of the roof? Quickly he looked down again, in case the operative hadn't noticed his cover had been blown. That was odd...usually the spies were more subtle than that.
Ditto thought the spies didn't come from Santiago or Vladimir; that there was a third mastermind in Team Rocket. If that were true, it would explain the less talented spy above; one of Santiago's men instead of the spy master's, now that they were in Santiago's territory.
Was Santiago planning a strike now? While Kate was busy? This building had already seen one near-disaster. It would actually be rather fitting; Gary had made a royal mess of Pewter Gym's Leader Arena, hospitalized one of the Cerulean Leader's pokémon, and chased the Vermilion Leader out of town. Sabrina had probably been very smart not to challenge Gary. Celadon Gym had gotten away with just a minor fire so far, nothing to keep Rose from another battle shortly afterward; Santiago storming the building might be considered poetic.
No, things like that really needed to be avoided. Gary just hoped Kate wouldn't take too long in there. Some time soon, wherever Gary and Kate were was going to become a battlefield, he just knew it.

Chapter 155

"This oughta do you!"
For the third time, Pidgeotto swooped down, and having given up on Acid, Victreebel tried to intercept with a Slam. Pidgeotto rolled away from the vine and then back in to smash into Victreebel, completing its Fly attack.
Victreebel slumped to the ground, beaten. Rose recalled it, and sent out Vileplume. "Sleep Powder!" Maybe Kate wouldn't know the strategy Gary had used here; it was really a helpful manuever, as had been proven with Gary's Beedrill...
"Gust it away!" ...but not against either Pidgeotto. In fact, this time Vileplume's luck was even worse; Pidgeotto, who had started climbing back upward in case Victreebel didn't faint, blew the Sleep Powder down as well as back, with the result that it cleared Vileplume's flower and hit it in the face.
Vileplume were nocturnal in the wild; the chance was slim that Vileplume would wake up before Pidgeotto knocked it onto its side and reduced its fighting power to a joke. With a sigh, Rose drew on her battle with Gary once again; she emulated Gary by simply withdrawing her sleeping pokémon and moving on.
"Exeggutor! Hypnosis!" That had worked against Gary's Pidgeotto...
"Look away!" Kate thought fast. Something to stop Exeggutor from using that gaze..."Sand-Attack!" Still not looking at Exeggutor, Pidgeotto started blowing sand at it.
"Move aside and keep it up!" Exeggutor danced clumsily to one side and kept its Hypnosis power on. Pidgeotto had to open its eyes to see where to blow the sand now...and was caught.
"Oh, great!" Kate complained as Pidgeotto dozed off. "Hurry up and wake up!"
"Egg Bomb!" If Kate wasn't going to recall Pidgeotto, Rose wasn't going to wait until it did wake. Exeggutor swung its heads and leaves and lobbed an Egg Bomb at the sleeping bird. It hit dead on, exploding and leaving Pidgeotto severely damaged...and still under Exeggutor's spell.
Kate got the hint and recalled Pidgeotto. "Get'm, Fearow!" Fearow emerged and, without even waiting for the order, drove at Exeggutor with a Drill Peck.
That kind of enthusiasm was useful, but could be dangerous if Fearow got careless. The very last thing Kate needed now was carelessness; the battle had become one-on-one.

Gary quietly closed the door behind him and looked around. Everyone was in their offices, or at least no one was using this staircase.
A flash of light marked Ditto's emergence from his Pokéball, and another immediately followed as he took on his Tod Frost form. "Something's wrong, I can tell. Mr. Saffron?"
"Exactly. There's a bunch of people staring at the ceiling, the wrong way around. Kate's still busy with the Leader; I haven't even told her what's going on yet. Nowhere's been private enough."
"Hmm. That's the trouble with a large city; you never know who's in earshot. Case in point," Tod added as a woman came down the stairs in something of a hurry, muttering about the time that alarm had cost her.
When she was gone, Tod brought up another point. "Something that occurs to me is, are the folks staring at the ceiling the wrong way still sitting there staring, if they can't see what they came for?"
Gary whistled a long, low note. He'd avoided reacting to the Team Rocket operatives watching him, despite catching glimpses on a shiny metal watering can of more joining the first. He'd finally left, though, so he could consult with Ditto and so he could escape the eyes. Might they decide to break in and search for him now?
"Tell you what," Tod said, watching the nearby landings intently. "I'll join you in there as soon as I make myself good at hiding." When the landings remained empty, he Transformed into Haunter.
"...Plus I can put them to sleep if I have to..." he noted as he faded into invisibility. Then he floated straight through the door into the greenhouse, leaving Gary with the task of opening it.

Invisible, Gastly floated through Rainbow Perfume, searching. There seemed to be no evidence of the fire, and no sign of a pokémon either. Instinct insisted, however, that this was the right place.
Instinct scored a point when Gastly passed through another wall, emerging in a stairwell, and spotted Gary looking at some kind of disturbance in the air before it disappeared. Gastly opened his supernatural senses and detected a Haunter in that spot, now gliding through the door Gary was standing near.
As Gary opened the door and stepped through, Gastly pondered. What was Gary doing with a Haunter? Memory flashed of a Haunter associated with Gary; that cursed Ditto scaring him away in Route 11. Surely there couldn't be a Haunter hidden around here for Ditto to Transform into, could there? Not unless Gary was somehow carrying around a Haunter for Ditto...could they Transform based on a photograph, without just becoming the photograph? Gary with that Ditto and a scrapbook could be a very dangerous opponent then...
Then a more sensible answer came to Gastly. Gary was known to have captured a Gastly on the way to Saffron City; perhaps he'd trained it enough to evolve. If that was so, the Haunter was new to its greater power; perhaps Gastly could wile a defeat out of it.
Gastly slipped through the door, still invisible, to continue his new assignment: spying on Gary & Co. to find an advantage for Team Rocket. Maybe not the sort of advantage Samori and Santiago were expecting, but if Gary Ford fell, the ends could justify any means.

Chapter 156

"Stand still, whydoncha!"
"Well, THAT’S no fun..." Fearow taunted the distraught Exeggutor. Tired of trying to dodge Drill Pecks, it had started lobbing Egg Bombs at a furious pace. Flying around the room dodging those projectiles kept Fearow too busy to attack further.

Gary studiously avoided looking up as he entered the room. A lone flower wiggled nearby, and as he approached it, furrowed words began forming in the dirt below it: STILL THERE.
THANKS, he wrote back, trying to look bored enough to doodle in dirt.

The operative risking a peek through the roof breathed a sigh of relief. Ford was doing something with the greenhouse flowers, and not looking up at them. Maybe he wouldn't notice the panel of glass that they had removed so they could drop into the room, and had not had time to replace when they saw the door reopening.

"Ha HA!" Fearow cried out in triumph as Exeggutor realized it had run out of Egg Bombs. Fearow took the opportunity to strike with yet another Drill Peck that sent Exeggutor sprawling.
Lying on its side, any other ungainly, no-armed pokémon would be in trouble, but Exeggutor was a Psychic-type, as it proved by lifting itself telekinetically until it could stand again. Unfortunately, Exeggutor were much better suited to telepathics. By the time it had completed the exercise, Fearow was swooping down with another attack.
"Leech Seed!" Rose called. Exeggutor bent towards the oncoming Fearow and fired a large seed from the center of its leafy fronds.

Invisible, Gastly floated through the door and soon located the Haunter, still hiding from human eyes even though it should have believed Gary the only one here...it was looking upward, at something beyond the cieling, it seemed. Curious, Gastly rose to the cieling and through it, and paused in surprise. What looked like at least half the operatives in Santiago's base were gathered on the rooftop, with more arriving every so often. They were watching Gary through a hole they had put in the roof. Santiago must have planned an assault...but surely there were enough here to take the boy down. Why did they not attack?

"Why aren't we attacking?" an operative hissed quietly.
"Because Santiago hasn't given the word yet." The second paused a moment; if Santiago was not here to watch, what would make one point in time any better than another for him? He radioed the base again. "Sir, when do we move?"
"Is Fields there now? Is Ford still waiting?"
"No, sir. Yes, sir."
"Then keep waiting. I don't know how much they know, but I will not give Fields any more warning than she has now. Attack when Fields shows up or if it becomes clear she won't."
"Yes, sir." Click. "That answer your question?"

This was an attack Kate was familiar with. The Leech Seed could not touch Fearow's body or she'd lose for sure. Fearow was coming in too fast, though; she didn't have time to warn it beyond a knee-jerk "No!"
Fearow reacted. Suddenly rising from its original course, it snatched the oncoming seed out of the air with its talons. Then, before the seed decided it could manage to take root there, Fearow did something rather nasty. It used what had become its second-favorite move short of Drill Peck: Mirror Move. Streaking past Exeggutor, it dropped the seed like a bomb, and the seed got wedged between two of Exeggutor's heads, where it took root.
Having energy flowing from itself to itself was far too disorienting for Exeggutor to handle. It stumbled and fell on its rump, all of its heads jabbering incoherently in their confusion.
It was certainly in no condition to defend against Fearow's follow-up Fly attack.

The Haunter could make trouble, Gastly decided, if and when Santiago's operatives made their move. He slipped back through the cieling to deal with it.
Still invisible, Gastly came down behind the Haunter and used Night Shade--a very weak Night Shade, that would just feel like a twinge if the target didn't know better. It was the way to deliver an open challenge.

Ditto spun around, feeling the almost-attack; the Haunter body recognized its import. He quickly caught 'sight' of the Gastly; like him, it was invisible to Gary.
Using its hypnotic power, the Gastly spoke in a way that made Ditto certain Gary would no more hear than see them. "You like staring at humans on rooftops? Well, I'm afraid I can't let you interfere with these."
Oh. This Gastly. Ditto wondered where Bonnie and Clyde were. The last time Gastly had encountered Ditto as Haunter, it had been made quite plain that Gastly could not handle him. Why was he so bold now?
What Gastly had said came into focus. Gastly thought Ditto was just a normal Haunter. Ditto decided not to disillusion Gastly; the last thing he wanted was the loud alarm that would probably result.
Recalling as much as he could from the incident at Pokémon Tower, Ditto answered in the same secretive mode. "...De Sade. De Sade the deserter. Who consorts with the living by his own choice. It will be a joy to bring you down."

Chapter 157

"Still...sure you...want to...take me?"
"You haven't...won yet!"
By the strain in Gastly's voice he was using a very great amount of his power in the push-and-shove of ethereal forces this had become. Ditto inserted the same strain into his own, faking it entirely. Gastly must think little indeed of him if he felt confident enough to challenge a Haunter. Ditto would give him little...right up until the sneak attack he was readying even then.
Gastly's power was no real match for Ditto's in Haunter form. He marveled that they had been equals as two Gastly. If the Haunter he'd met in Bill's Valley had had the gift of hypnotic English, he would forget his Gastly form entirely. For that matter, how likely was it now that he would wish to talk to someone as a pokémon, someone who should not see him as Tod Frost? In fact, someone who would not understand him as any other pokémon?
"Your mind wanders!" Gastly cackled. "You'll never beat anything that way!"
"It's not all that wanders." The trap snapped shut as Gastly was suddenly squeezed from top and bottom by the one advantage of Haunter over Gastly that any fool could see.
"Fascinating things, are they not?" Ditto chuckled as Gastly squirmed in his hovering hands. The surprise had cost Gastly in the battle of wills, and now he could not muster the ability to batter them away.
His eyes went wide as Ditto came in for a Lick. Ghost-types could be fascinating at times; for one thing, they had the rare condition of being weak against their own type attacks. Ditto's ectoplasmic tongue, that would have given most targets the shivers for a good long while, left Gastly positively spasming.
"Come near my trainer again...", Ditto said, "...and I won't stop here." He drew back his hands...there was the windup...and the pitch! Gastly went soaring toward the ceiling, wailing all the way.
With no concentration remaining to mask the noise from mortal ears.
Gary looked up in confusion. Rocket Operatives zipped back from the hole at about the same time that they, too, heard the noise; Gastly had passed right through the ceiling and was still climbing.
Ditto quickly wrote GASTLY. DEALT WITH in the dirt, but Gary wasn't looking now.

Several operatives frowned at the formless cry that echoed in their ears. "Maybe...we should go?" one timidly suggested.
The one with the radio frowned deeper. "I don't know...Ford didn't do it from what I could see, so it probably isn't related." Then he glanced about and licked his lips. "Of course, we could just claim Fields never..."
"Gary! I won!" a girl's voice echoed from the room below. "It was close, but...Gary?"
"Too late now," someone muttered. "Now it really would be disobeying."
"All right, three teams!" the one in tentative command hissed. "One swarm Ford, another bury Fields...and a third find out what made that noise. Maybe we just heard it leaving." Anxious nods met that.

"Is something wrong?" Kate asked a trifle nervously.
"Several somethings," Gary answered quickly. "Santiago's in the city, a small army of operatives are on the roof and I think something just happened to Ditto."
Kate swayed before getting hold of herself. "Sant-!?" she shrilled. Pause. Okay, now she had hold of herself. "I take it that's what you wouldn't say in public?" She whispered, whipping out her Pokédex. Beedrill and Pidgeotto would have to go, and Ivysaur and Graveler made fine replacements.
She did not have time. Operatives began dropping from the ceiling...without a rope or even a parachute or anything. Gary half expected them to land with twisted ankles or worse.
He hadn't reckoned on the training even an operative would have under his or her belt. Some positioned legs to absorb the shock while others turned the dive into a roll, to spring to their feet afterwards.
The Rockets, on the other hand, hadn't reckoned on landing in a greenhouse. A good many of the rollers fetched up against the aisles of plants, messing up their landing. The crouchers had to move quickly lest their teammates land on top of them, and there wasn't a lot of room to maneuver. One unlucky fellow even landed among the plants. By the time they were somewhat straightened out, Gary and Kate had made it to the far end of the room and two of Kate's Pokéballs were glowing in transition.
A shape appeared between Gary and Kate. Both gasped, but Kate's fear settled when she realized Gary's was of relief. "I thought something had happened to you!" Kate put two and two together and realized why Gary hadn't named the Haunter who only shrugged in answer.
Ditto's appearance did nothing to stoke the operatives' confidence. Those with pokémon they felt could handle Ghost-types sent them out, but most backed away a step or two.
Then, the operative who had landed in the plant life made it to his feet...and saw what sort of life he'd encountered.
"Wake me at this hour!? Take this!" The Gloom Gary had noted earlier registered a complaint that quickly filled that half of the room, leaving operatives and pokémon gagging for air.
It was just too much. Grinning widely, Gary sent out Pidgeotto. "Pidgeotto, your Whirlwind can keep that Gloom's stench away from us!" he said, in a tone that all but shouted that it might do other things as well, given a chance. Pidgeotto took one look at the absolutely priceless situation, and decided it simply couldn't resist. The wafting odor started pressing back against the Rockets.
"I know that smell!" The door on that side opened and Rose stepped out of the Leader Arena. She took her own one look at the choking gang in Team Rocket outfits, and tossed a Pokéball. "Vileplume! Sleep Powder!"
"Not ag--oh. Okay!" Rose ducked back behind the door again, and Vileplume added bright blue powder to the already thick air. Some operatives managed to throw Pokéballs before they succumbed, but then succumbed before they could give orders. The pokémon were left with nothing to do but recoil from the stench, and drop off to sleep.
Rose walked back in again and recalled Vileplume, then frowned at the mess. Comforting the distraught Gloom, she looked at Gary and Kate. "They were after you, right?"
"Yes," Gary said. "Thank you for finishing them...but..." Kate looked a little queasy.
"But how can I stand it around here?" Rose laughed. "I don't mind Gloom's scent. It's something rare and genetic, I'm not sure what, but it doesn't smell that bad to me." She watched Gloom rebury itself in the sod.
Gary looked up at the operatives' entrance. "There may be more, though. Their leader wasn't here, and he really doesn't like us. We should probably leave before he brings a real battle in here."
"And what's wrong with battling in third-party property?" a voice asked from behind.
Santiago stood in the door to the hall, with operatives, Elites and two or three hostages behind him. "It puts the 'good guys' in such a delightful pickle."

Chapter 158

"...Take them."
The operatives and Elites swarmed around Santiago and into the greenhouse, save for those who were keeping the hostages close to hand. As the operatives lined the walls, blocking any potential escape, the Elites sent out pokémon to bring down Gary, Kate, Ditto and Rose.
Boxed in by a Nidoqueen, Graveler and Aerodactyl, Gary sent out Poliwhirl and Golem to deal with them as best they could. Kate, pressed by a Pinsir, Sandslash and Hitmonlee, sent Fearow back out and added Gastly as well. Rose was less lucky; the Rockets knew what type she used, and used Magmar, Dodrio and Jynx to keep her from aiding them. Ditto found himself confronting a Venomoth, Gengar and Kadabra.
Before even trying to take on her opponents, the wide-eyed Rose backed against the wall--and hit a switch. Clear material rose from the aisle edges to form domes over the greenhouse plants. "Those were designed to shield against pokémon battles," she said. "So much for your 'delightful pickle'!"
"Thanks, Rose! Earthquake, Golem! Poliwhirl, cover the Aerodactyl!"
"Gastly, put out the Sandslash! Fearow, Drill Pecks away!"
"Exeggutor! Hypnosis! Give it all you've got!"
Ditto scanned the crowd. He was sunk in this form, but couldn't revert to Ditto until he knew what to move to from there...the Gengar approached, eager to prove its superiority over Haunter. Whoops, out of time. Ditto focused on the Hitmonlee trying unsuccessfully to fend off Kate's Fearow, and was a Hitmonlee himself in short order. Gengar, thrown off by this new development, couldn't think of a reaction before Ditto charged right through it, confusing it further. Leaping into the air, Ditto lashed out with Mega Kicks from both feet at once; one slammed into the Venomoth and knocked it into a dome while the other made a disturbing crunching sound against Kadabra's face.
His legs quickly under him again, Ditto spun to face Gengar, who had by now decided that, in the end, it really didn't matter how it chose to react to a Hitmonlee.
Except that it now had to react to a mirror image of the fallen Kadabra, albeit healthier.

Nidoqueen and Graveler were still trying to regain their footing after the punishing Earthquake, but Aerodactyl had no chance to gloat. Poliwhirl's Water Guns were pushing it slowly back. It hissed in anger at the irritant. Poliwhirl's answering shot hit it right on the snout.
Finally, Aerodactyl decided it had had enough. It dove straight for Poliwhirl in a Take Down. About to fire another Water Gun, Poliwhirl saw Aerodactyl coming in and changed its mind, leaping up and back. Aerodactyl squacked in irritation as it passed under, and then squacked again when Poliwhirl came down--right on Aerodactyl's back!
Aerodactyl, a Rock-type, took little damage from Poliwhirl's Body Slam, but the momentum was too much for it to counter in its water-weakened state. It hit the floor jarringly. Poliwhirl bounced off, landing right in front of Aerodactyl. Aerodactyl snapped at it angrily, trying to get up--until a final Water Gun put it out.

The Hitmonlee Ditto had copied had had rather less success against its opponent than he had. Now it lay stretched out on the floor, and Pinsir, its pincers clacking weakly, looked ready to join it there. Fearow paused in the air, considering how best to finish the distressed bug, while Gastly hovered in front of the slack-jawed Sandslash; the pointy pokémon was strong-willed and only continuous effort on Gastly's part kept it from shaking off the Hypnosis.
Finally, Fearow dove down and, taking in Pinsir's feeble clacking, opened its beak and struck with a Mirror Moved Vicegrip. After the Drill Pecks Pinsir had already taken, its carapace cracked in Fearow's beak and it fainted at last.
"Great work, Fearow!" Kate called. "Now, start on Sandslash!" Fearow dropped Pinsir and circled back to finish the job.

"Doo..." "Doo..." "Doo..."
"Jynx, Jynx!"
Eyes closed, Rose nodded. Magmar and Dodrio down, Jynx still active. Its Psychic-type qualities must have helped it resist. No matter; the Jynx was physically the weakest of the bunch. "Egg Bomb!"
"Jynx! Ice Punch!"
Exeggutor lobbed an Egg Bomb, but missed as Jynx was already gliding forward, one fist glowing blue. Jynx connected with Exeggutor's trunk, sending a chill through it. The tree pokémon yelped and shuddered at the cold, and two more Egg Bombs dropped from its fronds, knocking Jynx back into an aisle.
"Before it recovers! Stomp!"

"Thanks for the save!"
"No problem. You'd have done the same."
Since both Nidoqueen and Graveler were Ground-type, Golem's Rock Throw didn't do much to them, and it couldn't keep up Earthquakes all day. With two opponents to deal with, it hadn't managed to do more than hold them off. Now that Poliwhirl was finished with Aerodactyl, it could step in and take care of Graveler so Golem could focus properly on Nidoqueen.

"Well, fine, ignore me then!"
"Shut up, loser, I'm busy!"
Being attacked by Fearow had proven enough to break Sandslash completely out of Gastly's Hypnosis, and now that it had a physical enemy to defend against, it was able to keep its focus straight on the battle. Fearow hovered uncertainly overhead; Sandslash couldn't attack it from down there, but it was very good at blocking Fearow's attacks.
"No one but NO ONE calls me loser and gets away with it!" Gastly struck Sandslash with a different move, one it couldn't resist no matter how strong-willed it was: Confuse Ray. "Let's see how well you block now! Hahahaha!"

"Oogh..." "Ugh..." "Hey, neat! I can think again! Isn't that great? ...Hey, guys, wake up!"

Chapter 159

"Hey, mind your own battle!"
"Already over. 'Sides, that's rich coming from someone who was content with a two-on-one gang-up!"
"Grr, I'll teach you to mess with me!"
"What are you gonna do, Mr. Doubly-Weak? Force me to pity you?"
"That does it!" Graveler closed its eyes, wrapped its longer arms around itself and squeezed tightly.
Poliwhirl wasn't sure what to make of this. Golem could have warned it if it hadn't been busy with Nidoqueen. As it was, when Graveler erupted into a ball of fire, Poliwhirl was caught wholly off guard.
The blast from Graveler's SelfDistruct knocked Poliwhirl back into Gary and both hit the ground. That Golem noticed, and it stood gaping until Nidoqueen, who needed an advantage, scored a Body Slam on it.
Gary tried to push Poliwhirl off of him until he noticed the burn marks. "Poliwhirl! How bad is it?"
Poliwhirl's eyelids fluttered. "Cheap trick..." It forced itself up and yelled at the blackened husk, "It's called GIVING UP! Just couldn't...handle me...couldja..." It sank back down.
Still plenty of fight left in it, but Poliwhirl was in no shape for battle. Gary recalled it and stood.

Gengar lay in front of Ditto/Kadabra, trying to hold on to consciousness. One more Psybeam would put it out.
Suddenly, Ditto felt weight on his back, and as he was turning his head to see what it was, pain shot through him. The Kadabra he had copied had been laid out with one Mega Kick, but the Venomoth he'd attacked the same way had not actually fainted. Now, adjusting to the new situation, it was using Leech Life to rescue Gengar.
Ditto filled the area around him with a Confusion attack, which, after the Mega Kick, was enough to faint Venomoth despite the life it had regained from Leech Life. Nearly snarling, he turned back to face Gengar--and met a Confuse Ray head-on.
Gengar needed energy badly. As a rule, it wasn't easy to catch a Psychic-type with Hypnosis, but now that the enemy was confused, Gengar had more time to try. It set to work, looking forward to the upcoming Dream Eater.

Exeggutor gave the beaten Jynx one last Stomp before turning back to its other opponents.
"Good work, Exeggutor!" Rose said. "Now--"
"Do! Do!" "Drrrio!" "Do do drio do!" Dodrio suddenly shot forward, the head that had shaken off the Hypnosis having succeeded in rousing the other two. Poor Exeggutor, not a terribly fast mover, was pummeled with Drill Pecks before Rose could react.
"Hyp--no, Egg Bomb!" Rose called out desperately. By then, though, Exeggutor was hurt badly enough to interpret that as Hypno Egg Bomb, which it obviously didn't know. With three or four final discordant cries, it fell under the flashing beaks.
"Blast it!" Rose said crossly. "Vileplume! Sleep Powder!"

The Team Rocket operative slowly picked herself up off the floor. The Sleep Powder and that Gloom's toxic stench seemed to have cleared. Around her, other operatives from the rooftop drop were also coming to.
The scene that met their eyes gave most of them pause. Santiago himself stood in the doorway looking on as his bodyguard of Elites battled Ford, Fields, the Gym Leader and...it looked like the Gengar slowly putting a Kadabra under Hypnosis was a separate battle as well.
However the battles had started, they seemed to be nearing a close. Ford's battle was one-on-one and his Golem seemed to have an edge over the enemy Elite's Nidoqueen. Fields also seemed to be facing a one-on-one, but aside from her Fearow strafing a Sandslash that looked to be in real trouble, there was a Gastly on the side cackling every so often at the Sandslash's misfortune. The Gym Leader was not doing so well, with a Vileplume against a Dodrio and a Magmar, though the Magmar looked oddly vapid. As for the fourth battle, the Gengar seemed to have the upper hand, but who could tell what that meant in the overall struggle? A Haunter had appeared to join Ford and Fields before the Gloom had struck; could it have evolved?
Santiago caught their eye and gave them Meaningful Glance #37: Stay Where You Are and Wait For My Instruction. Obediently, they blended into the background; if no one else noticed they had awakened, the element of surprise would be with them.

On the rooftop a lone figure crouched, unnoticed by anyone in the greenhouse below. Unlike Santiago's operatives, he knew how to stay that way. It was his specialty, after all.
He had no intention of joining the battle; he knew full well that he hadn't been raised to Elite for his skill in combat. To Samori's Elites, battle was only for those who weren't good enough to escape notice.
Samori had taken control of this matter. Santiago's attack was wholly uncalled for. It would be suitable if he failed again, and maybe learned his lesson this time. Nonetheless, it would be unfortunate for Team Rocket to suffer another defeat.
"Ah, here you are. I hope you're easier to find in the future; I am supposed to be working with you."
The Spy Network agent frowned. "I should be saying that to you. Where have you been?"
Gastly flinched. "There were...events elsewhere that needed my attention."
"Events more important than the dismal failure of the operatives' first wave here?"
"Um, well...Ford! He was most clever, distracting me with a cunningly wrought decoy..."
The agent rolled his eyes. "Just shut up and watch."

Chapter 160

"You have no idea how much I get that."
"No...can't...too much...aarrrghhh..."
"Well, that was fun. What next?"
The beaten Elites recalled their fainted pokémon and retreated to Santiago's side.
"Kate, you doing okay?" Gary called.
"I'm fine," Kate answered.
"Lucky. One down on my side." Gary turned to check on Ditto and Rose, and frowned. "Rose isn't doing well...where's Ditto?"
"There! The Gengar beating the Kadabra...I'll bet one of those is Ditto...but which?"
"I don't think he--" Gary began, then stopped. It didn't matter whether Ditto had the Gengar form coming into this battle; there was a Gengar involved in one way or another, and if it wasn't Ditto, then Ditto had seen it and could now Transform into it. He raised his Pokédex.
"Gengar, currently using Dream Eater."
"Ditto, currently Transformed into Kadabra. Status: Asleep. Confused."
"Problem!" Gary hesitated, a hand floating near his belt. "Can't use Golem, it's too likely to hurt Ditto in the process...Pikachu, then!" He sent out the Electric-type. "Pikachu, get that Gengar! Thunderbolt!"
"Finally, some action!" Pikachu charged up and blasted Gengar with electricity.
"Yaaagh!" It had taken Gengar no little time to put Ditto fully under, and then Dream Eater was weak against Psychic-types. Gengar had not regained enough energy to take this attack. It puffed into a cloud of smoke, reformed in midair and fell to the ground, out of the fight.
"What, that's it? What a wimp!"
"Want more, huh? Go help Rose, then!" Gary nodded toward the beleaguered Gym Leader and approached Ditto. "A Full Heal will wake him up...but he's confused, too. I just read up on curing confusion a couple nights ago...what was it...right, recalling is the only way short of time." Regretting the necessity, Gary recalled Ditto.

"Rgh...go to sleep already!" Rose and Dodrio were at a stalemate. Vileplume could never quite catch all three of Dodrio's heads with Sleep Powder, and then the head that was still awake was able to wake up the other two. Fortunately, that took long enough so that Dodrio couldn't attack before Vileplume's next try with Sleep Powder...but sooner or later Vileplume was going to run out, and then it would be in trouble.
"PIka! Pii pi CHUUU!" A Thunderbolt abruptly broke the stalemate as Gary's Pikachu zapped Dodrio. The crispy-fried Dodrio wheeled to face this new threat.
"Now, Vileplume!" Rose called. Vileplume used Sleep Powder one more time, and the distracted Dodrio was unable to avoid the attack. The three heads dropped.
"Pika...pi chaa Kachu!" Pikachu scolded Rose.
Rose blinked. "Um...okay...I guess Gary's pokémon are used to being understood, huh?" Pikachu deflated, then fainted Dodrio with a Thundershock and headed back to Gary.
Rose watched it leave, then shrugged. "Vileplume, Acid! That Magmar isn't going to stay under all day!"

Santiago sighed and gave the back-seat operatives Meaningful Glance #14: Prepare to Swarm. Then, when Magmar snapped out of the Hypnosis just in time to faint from Vileplume's last Acid, he gave them Meaningful Glance #5: NOW.
The operatives all jumped up and sent out pokémon. "Get'm!"
Turning in surprise, Gary and Kate sent out all of their pokémon in response--except Poliwhirl, who was still injured, and Ditto, whom Gary belatedly remembered he hadn't actually woken.
Santiago sighed again. "You know, this really isn't my usual style, but..." He suddenly grabbed one of the hostages from the building--the secretary who had failed to help Gary and Kate that morning--and lifted her into the air by the throat. "Congratulations! You've just been promoted...from police repellant to trump card!"
Gary and Kate turned again, facing Santiago in shock. Rose tried to say something and got shoved into the Leader Arena by an operative.
"If you won't be beaten the usual way, I'll just have to compromise!" Santiago declared. He pointed behind them, ignoring the secretary whose face was taking on a bluish tint. "You! Take them away!"
From the operatives' ranks a Pidgeot and a Fearow darted forward, recognizing Santiago as their masters' master and a man to be obeyed. Before Gary and Kate could turn a third time to face this new gambit, the Flying-types had each seized one's shoulders in their talons and were heading for the operatives' hole in the cieling.
"Stop their pokémon!" Santiago barked. In short order a Weepinbell had Pikachu Wrapped and was dragging it toward its mouth while Kate's Fearow and both Pidgeotto were grounded by a Dewgong's Ice Beam. Gastly tried to follow the Flying-types and got taken down by a Parasect's ever-well-aimed Spore.
No one else could do a thing.

Santiago's Offensive concludes on Page 9!