Gary's Story

Chapter 161

"Someone. Take. Him. Out. NOW." Glaring at Santiago, Charmeleon's eyes flashed as its flame began to grow.
"No prob!" When there was this much violence in the air, Ivysaur was happy to help bring it about. Turning suddenly, it launched a Razor Leaf volley at Santiago.
"Hahaha! At long last, I've got them in my YAI!" Santiago dropped the Rainbow Perfume Co. secretary while trying to get away from the attack. Kate's Graveler took the opportunity to bound forward, over the heads of surprised operatives, to grab the secretary and put itself between her and Santiago.
Charmeleon was a blur. Razor-sharp claws dealt brutal Slashes to faint the Dewgong, and Flamethrowers clocked both Weepinbell and Parasect. Lacking Santiago's leadership, the operatives were too stunned to react in time.
"Cuttin' it a little close!?" Pikachu's voice echoed from within Weepinbell before it started wriggling out.
"Ah, shut up." Charmeleon snapped. "I'm not there yet...there!" It streaked over to a Hypno and dealt a Slash that sent the psychic flying back into the wall.
"Thanks for the experience, chumps!" it called as it began to glow.

"Wasn't expecting that one..." the Spy Network agent panted from his new vantage point. He'd had to scramble to avoid being seen by Gary and Kate on their way up.
"Well, howbout that. Santiago actually did it. Team Rocket's saved. I wonder how Samori's gonna..."
"What the..."

"Hey, leggo of me!" Gary rocked and kicked wildly, trying to free himself from Fearow's grasp.
"Darn good thing I wear pants..." Kate grumbled, trying not to look down. "What do you suppose is happening to our pokémon?"
"Well, I heard Santiago say 'stop their pokémon'...I just hope they can avoid getting captured by Team Rocket."
Kate gulped at the thought of that sudden attack by the operatives from earlier. "You think any of them will make it out to save us?"
"If the Rockets are smart, they'll begin with the ones that could, like your Fearow or my Pidgeotto..."
"or my Charizard!?"
In a burst of flame, Charizard shot up through the cieling. The sound of glass tinkling behind it testified to its haste in catching up. "Let them go and you might live!" it roared.
Pidgeot and Fearow shared one glance and sped east, away from Rainbow Perfume Co.
"So be it!" Charizard pumped its wings and raced after them.
"Woohoo!" Kate called. "Go, Charizard!"
Gary grinned, then joined in, "Yeah, show 'em what you've got!"
Eating up the cheering, Charizard pressed harder and caught up to Fearow. A Flamethrower across its back made Fearow drop Gary and dive for the ground, feathers ablaze. Charizard dove and grabbed Gary out of the air.
"Great job, Charizard! One down!" Gary called. "Now for that Pidgeot!"
"On it!" Charizard transferred Gary to its back legs and pumped like mad, trying to catch up to the Pidgeot, who was now considering how close it could come to its maximum speed without damaging the goods.
Even with cargo, Pidgeot are fast when they want to be. The chase continued halfway across Celadon City, with Charizard getting madder and madder the whole way.
Finally, Pidgeot arced down towards a building. A sign on the front read "ROCKET GAME CORNER--BLAST OFF TO GOOD TIMES!"
Pidgeot tried to find an open window, or bulkhead, or something...
...Charizard caught up.
A bloody pile of feathers hit the ground.
Gary's eyes widened. Kate covered her face, trying not to feel the blood on the claws holding her.
Charizard's bestial roar of triumph shook the sky.

Chapter 162

"It's still asleep!"
"I've got a Full heal in here somewhere..."
"Zz--huh? Wha?"
"Ditto! We've got a situation here!"
Hearing Gary's voice, Ditto snapped out of it. "What's going on--Oh! What happened to that Pidgeot!?"
"Long story. Can you...find out if it's..."
"Yeah." Transforming into Alakazam, Ditto took in Pidgeot. "She's alive, but only just. We'll need to act fast to save her." He opened his mind to his surroundings, figured out where he was and Teleported Gary, Kate, himself and the motionless Pidgeot to the door of the Celadon Pokémon Center.
"Our pokémon!" Kate exclaimed. "We're going to be too late to save them!"
"Where are they?"
"Hopefully back at the greenhouse..." Gary answered.
Ditto quickly broadcast a mental command into the building. Kate was caught by the fringe of it and was momentarily confused by an urge to rush outside (she was outside) and tend to the emergency there. The three of them were gone by the time the first confused visiting trainer ran out.

"Take them all!" Santiago ordered.
"I'm running out of electricity!" Pikachu complained as it Thundershocked another incoming Pokéball.
"At least you can attack them!" Golem answered, bounding out of one's way and then quickly rolling away from its landing site as another closed in. "All my attacks are melee!"
"Think you've got it bad?" Ivysaur retorted. "I've got almost all of Kate's other pokémon counting on me 'cause they can't stop OR dodge the things!" It fired yet another Razor Leaf volley to knock out Pokéballs heading for Ekans, Vulpix and the still-frozen Fearow. "At this rate we're all gonna find out if he loves me or he loves me not!"
Just then, a red flash caught their attention. Gary's Pidgeotto, also frozen and without Ivysaur's protection, had been captured. The ball wiggled like mad and rolled along the floor as Pidgeotto fought it.
"[gulp] He wins.[gulp] He wins.[gulp] He wins."
Then, another, different, flash struck the center of the room. The ball holding Pidgeotto exploded and Pidgeotto reformed face-down on the floor.
Gary and Kate raised Pokéballs and recalled two pokémon each as Santiago, the operatives and Elites reacted to the voice in their heads.
"No! Someone stop them! I don't care how!"
The operatives jumped to action, giving their pokémon commands. Some even decided to get involved themselves. A Jolteon's Pin Missile, an Electrode's Swift, a Cubone's Bone Club and an operative who had climbed the wall and jumped down from above--all bounced off the impenetrable Reflect dome that was becoming a sort of signature move for Ditto. Santiago facepalmed. "Should have gone with the Meaningful Glance..."
"Um...but now our recall beams can't reach our pokémon," Kate protested.
"That's our Kate. Always thinking." Abruptly all of Gary's and Kate's pokémon that were still out were inside the dome. Gary had to take a step back when Golem appeared right in front of him.
Santiago looked at the operatives--and realized with some chagrin that he didn't have a Meaningful Glance for 'Anyone With Psychic-Types Use Them To Try To Penetrate the Dome.' "Anyone with Psychic-types, use them to try to penetrate that dome!" Grumble...now he felt stupid. "...it worked in Vermilion!"
Gary and Kate recalled pokémon as fast as they could while Kadabra and Drowzee gathered to hammer at the psychic shield. The dome started thinning, and just as Kate finally recalled Gastly, a sizable hole opened up. Santiago grinned triumphantly.
Until Ditto fed the rest of the Reflect force through that hole like a large telekinetic fist. Team Rocket's Psychic-types went bouncing back into the far wall.
"But we won in Vermilion," Gary answered Santiago's earlier comment.
"With the help of the Vermilion Police! You couldn't defeat all of us on your own! And in Saffron, you were backed by the City Gym and that Dojo..." Santiago drew a breath. "...and both times...it's you again, aren't you! The Ditto! That Ditto every time!"
Ditto's eyes flashed. All right, I'm really getting sick of this. He turned up the telepathic 'volume.' In the end, does it matter!? I am Gary Ford's pokémon, and if you won't accept that, then think of us as equals on a team!
"Ask Vladimir some time what sort of crutch Ditto is for us! Or maybe you should ask Charizard instead?" Gary snapped. He opened his mouth again--and stopped. Pidgeot's blood-soaked body was still too fresh in his own mind; he wasn't up to baiting Team Rocket with it. He changed what he'd planned to say. "How do you get so much respect in Team Rocket if you keep searching for excuses, huh?"
Growling, Santiago turned--and stopped. The operatives who had been keeping the hostages comfy were out cold save those who had started to come to, and the hostages were long gone. He whirled back and pointed a shaking finger at Ditto. "You!"
Ditto spread his hands. Sorry, it wasn't me this time. He poked into the mind of one of the more conscious operatives. Seems you should have paid more attention to Kaitlyn's Graveler. He gave Santiago a big grin.
"Hah! See that?" Kate cheered. "We're all just too much for you!"
Santiago fumed.

Chapter 163

"[pant pant pant] Ow..."
All eyes looked up as the scorched Fearow finally made it back to the greenhouse. Seeing it was not at all well, its trainer recalled it.
"Hey, where's my Pidgeot!?" A woman near him demanded. "She should have gotten here first!"
"Afraid to admit my Fearow is better?"
"Why you little...I'll show you who's better! When Pidgeot gets back here I'll bet she's in much better condition than that ragged pile of feathers you train!"
Gary winced at the reference to Pidgeot's condition and then again at the words 'pile of feathers.' That was what the Pidgeot had looked like, hitting the ground just outside...hm..."Hey," he whispered, "I think we're done here, so what say we check out that building Pidgeot wanted into so badly?"
"Good point. Sounds like a plan." Ditto twirled his spoons, taking in Gary and Kate.
"We're out of here!" Gary said as they vanished.
"Hey, wait a minute!" The Pidgeot's trainer suddenly broke off from her argument with the Fearow's trainer. "Get back here! I demand to know what happened to my Pidgeot!"
Santiago gave the lot of them Meaningful Glance #1: You Idiots.

Gary, Kate and Ditto appeared in front of the Rocket Game Corner. Gary recalled Ditto and they entered the building.
A thin, nervous-looking man in a red suit approached them. "Ah, Mr. Ford and Ms. Fields, is it? An honor to meet you, but this place really is for adults only..."
"We're not here for the games. We have reason to believe Team Rocket has an in--"
"I'm innocent, I swear! They made me do it!" Gary, stunned, stared at the man who was now on his knees in front of him and Kate. A couple of patrons looked on, bemused, as the man continued to babble. "They said they'd shut us down if we didn't let them move back in! I've got a family to consider! It's not right how they push people around these days...I don't like it, having them here, but they'll shut us down..."
Gary, tired of trying to get a word in edgewise, opted for the direct approach. "All Right!" The man went silent. "I happen to know the boss here is at the other end of the city right now, so he doesn't have to know if you let us in to see about getting them out of your hair. Get it?"
"You...you'll do that?"
Kate rolled a Pokéball along her arm. "It's what we're known for."
"Ahem." From out of nowhere a tall, stocky man in a pinstripe suit was looming over Kate. She flinched and dropped her Pokéball.
"Minors belong on the other side of that door," the man said in a low boom that suggested bad things happening to minors on this side of the door.
"Don, it's okay, Mr. Ford and Ms. Fields are here to help us with our...problem..." the nervous man said.
"I know," Don answered, flexing his muscles. He grinned evilly. "Did you know the Rockets have a very good medical plan?"
"Don!? You didn't!"
"And you won't, either!" Gary added. "Golem! Stop him!"
"Stop who now? Hey--woah!" Don, going to lift the both of them and toss them out the door, grabbed Golem instead and staggered to the floor under close to 700 pounds of rock. "Oh, him I guess."
"Graah!" Don heaved Golem off of him and stomped toward Gary and Kate again, only to have roles reversed on him as Golem righted itself and picked him up by the waist.
"You don't make a very good rock, but I can throw you all the same!" Golem wound up and sent Don flying through the casino entrance.
"Now, could you show us where the Rockets hang out before someone else decides to play?" Gary asked the nervous man. He squeaked, nodded and hurried down an aisle, glancing over his shoulder more often than he looked forward.
"Move out!" Santiago called. "Find out if they're still in the city!"
"Boss! What about her?" One operative called, jerking a thumb toward Rose's room.
"Is she Ford or Fields?" Santiago asked slowly.
"Uh, no..."
"Then I don't give a Rattata's tail about her, is that clear!"
Operatives scattered, some going through the main building and others climbing a rope back through the hole. One figure came in that way, though.
"My, my...whatever would you do without us?" Samori's agent chuckled.
"Don't tempt me, spy boy, out with it if you've got something!"
"Did I mention how good I am with lip-reading? For example, just before they left I'll bet no one in the building heard what Ford said to Fields, something about checking out a 'building Pidgeot wanted into'...?"
Santiago stared at him for a second. What he said next is unprintable, but it was followed by a roar of "Back to base on the double!" that could be heard in the farthest corner of Rainbow Perfume Co.

Chapter 164

"Oof. Haven't done that in a while..."
Samori's agent stretched after scaling the rope to the greenhouse roof. Then he headed for the side of the building.
"Well, come on! We can't let Ford and Fields get away from us just because they've got Santiago's entire platoon on their case!"
Gastly faded into view--at the bottom of the wall. "You come on. And I'll have you know that whoever Ford said that line to, it was the Alakazam who responded as if he'd been addressed."
The agent landed beside him. "Your point being?"
"Ford fought well in his rematch against the Seven Deadly Twins, it's true, but perhaps the concept of Ditto as more dangerous than we realize needs a revisit..."

In the back of a dimly lit room, a man idly sketched on the back of his clipboard. A stick figure was getting burned, stabbed, shot, hanged and generally poorly treated; the scribbled damage was so great it was next to impossible to make out the label "G. Ford"...
"Well, what am I, chopped liver?"
The man jumped a good foot and a half before realizing who the girl peering at him was. "Hey, you're Fields!"
"I've got a first name, you know..." Kate replied. "...no, on second thought I think I'd prefer Ms. Fields out of you."
The Team Rocket agent recovered and tossed a Pokéball. "Arbok, apprehend her!"
"Get'm, Graveler!"
"You won't resist long..." Arbok fixed Kate with a paralyzing Glare, rooting her to the spot. It slowly advanced toward her, still mesmerizing her with that stare...until Graveler whacked it upside the head with Rock Throw. Its gaze torn away from her, Kate snapped out of it and tried to focus back on the battle.
Angered, Arbok used on Graveler the attack it had been about to use on Kate: Wrap. Coil after coil zipped around Graveler, holding it in place. Then Arbok began to squeeze.
Nothing happened.
Arbok came to a sudden realization regarding the squeezing of boulders, and looked helplessly to its trainer for a new command. Graveler took the opportunity to use Tackle on the nearby wall. Arbok's expression cycled from the "what now?" plea through confusion and into pain as its coils were caught between a rock and a hard place.
"Uh..." The Team Rocket agent wasn't really equipped for a battle; like Don, he had only expected to deal with police or too-curious patrons, not a capable trainer who would fight back intelligently. "Poison Sting it!" Arbok lunged, fangs exposed. Arbok drew back, fangs chipped.
"Gosh, was that a mosquito? Or just a really weak attack from a hopeless washout--"
"Shut up already!" Arbok Glared at Graveler. Graveler lost its concentration under the attack, wobbled and fell forward--crushing more of Arbok's length against the floor.
"GAck! Gll Gckl!" Since Arbok had been looking into Graveler's eyes, its neck was now caught under Graveler's front. The Team Rocket agent recalled it before the poor thing was strangled.
"Um..." The agent gulped and glanced around nervously. He'd had only the one pokémon, and now he noticed Ford here as well, no doubt ready to stop him if he grabbed Fields. The Graveler made it back to its feet and shot him a dirty look, pounding together the fists of its longer arms and cracking its knuckles on its shorter arms at the same time. Oh, yeah. He was in trouble.
He slowly backed against the wall...and pounded one fist squarely on the sign on a nearby poster. A section of wall quickly rotated, swallowing him up as it clicked smoothly back into place.
"Hey!" Gary dashed forward too late. "A secret passage?"
"So that's where Team Rocket hides out around here?" Kate asked the nervous man in the red suit, who'd been trying to hide behind Gary. He nodded. "All right, then." Kate recalled Graveler and walked to the rotating wall.
Gary joined her. "The Pokébuck symbol, right?"
"Right." Kate pressed the poster, and the building seemed to whirl around them...

"Hey, aren't you the bouncer in there?"
Don turned to see the Team Rocket operative standing on the sidewalk in a TR outfit in broad daylight. "You nuts!? Get in there, quick! Ford and Fields are attacking the base!"
The operative nodded and dashed into the building. Don could already see two more approaching...apparently a fair number of them had been out on a mission.
"Hey, aren't you..."
"Yes, Ford defeated me and they're aiming to shut us down. Get in there!"
The operatives hurried into the casino. Don looked around, counting. Two more down the street, another on that roof...and two more on the other roof over there, all converging on him.
"Yes, I'm the bouncer, Ford and Fields are attacking, please get in there and help stop them, yes, I'm supposed to be in there but Ford's pokémon bested me, please move along and defend the base, yes, I'm one of you and Ford and Fields are attacking so get in there." Don wiped his brow when the glass doors closed behind the last of them.
Then the hijacked city bus showed up.
It was going to be a long afternoon.

Chapter 165

Gary and Kate stood at one end of a narrow hallway. There was a simple door at the other end...and a security camera just above it.
Gary chose a Pokéball. "Pikachu, fry that camera!"
"Stop...looking at me!" Pikachu let loose a Thunderbolt that shorted the camera and partially melted the casing.
"I hope they didn't see too--what are you doing?" Gary looked back at Kate, who was feeling along the wall they'd come in by. It looked the same on both sides, and a little out of place in this hallway.
"I'm trying to find a way to lock this or something...what if that Don guy radios Santiago that we're here?" Finally, however, she gave up. "Ivysaur!" She said, bringing forth the flower pokémon. "I guess this secret door doesn't have a lock; can you gum up the works with Razor Leaf?"
Ivysaur grinned. "Now THAT'd tick him off!" With close to perfect accuracy it fired leaves into the crevices that the passageway's designer hadn't bothered to hide on this side. It had gotten a fair amount in when suddenly the leaves stopped coming and Ivysaur got a pained expression on its face. "Hope that's enough, 'cuz after facing the Rockets I'm all out of ammunition!"
"That's right," Gary groaned. "We never had a chance to heal our pokémon! Poliwhirl's in pretty bad condition...Pidgeotto's frozen!"
"So's my Fearow...and I think someone's asleep...I hope we don't have too many more battles ahead of us here."
Gary opened the door at the far end of the hall--and stared at a blank wall. "Wha...?"
"Okay, I'm clueless," Kate volunteered.
Gary sent out Ditto. "We need help with this one!"
Ditto looked around, then Transformed into Alakazam and pushed his awareness through the wall. It's automatic...it can be withdrawn into the floor when friends come. Evidently we're not friends, he added with a smirk. Then he telekinetically activated the mechanism, and the wall sunk into the floor.
"I guess that's what the camera was for," Kate commented.
Gary frowned. "If they put that up because they noticed us, what else do they have in store?"

Deedle-deedle-deedle. Santiago, in the back seat of his limousine, took out his cell phone and answered the call. "What is it!?"
The frantic voice of his secretary answered. "Sir, those kids are in here!"
"I know that!"
"What do I do? There's no one here to send at them and the Wall's not going to stop them, I just know--"
"Get out of there. Use the back exit. I'm coming and it'll be messy." Santiago hung up.

Gary heard a door slam and hurried the rest of the way down the stairs that had been right behind that wall. He came out in what looked like a waiting room. No sign of which door had slammed.
Kate came down right behind him. "Was someone in here?"
"Must have been...but now there's no sign."
"What do we do now, then?"
"...good...question," Gary answered. Then, to the air around him, he asked, "Any ideas?"
Ditto/Gengar faded back into view. "While the Meowth's away...we may be able to find information here that will help us take down the rest of Team Rocket."
Kate eyed a computer sitting on what was probably a receptionist's desk. "Like hacking into their files?"
"I don't believe any of us have that talent," Ditto said after Transforming to a more human-shaped form, "but I'm hoping it'll be easier than that." He sat at the desk, careful not to sit on his tail, and quacked happily. "Not only was this left on, there's a file still open on the operatives' assignments!"

Santiago stormed past the blind fools visiting the Game Corner to the back room where the passage was--and was surprised to find the room full of operatives. The secret door was standing ajar, not open enough to let anyone through...that wasn't even supposed to be possible for this door! "What's going on!?"
"It's jammed," one brave soul managed.
"Well, take it down then! Somebody must have a pokémon capable of breaking through that door!"
A few operatives volunteered, but the ones near the door didn't quite get the hint at first. "Out of the way!" Santiago elaborated, and the room seethed as people tried to get as far from the secret door as possible without crowding Santiago.

Gary cautiously opened the door and peeked through. Then, satisfied that the room was empty, he recalled Golem and entered Santiago's private office. "Wonder what'll turn up in here?"
Boom. Boom.
Gary raced back into the waiting room and knew without asking that Kate had also heard the noise.
Ditto shifted in his seat to Alakazam and scanned the way they'd come. What he found made him so nervous he tied knots in both his spoons. Santiago's up there with a few dozen TR members! They've got a Rhyhorn trying to knock down that secret door, and if I know Rhyhorn it won't take long!

Chapter 166

Gary grabbed Pokéballs at random...and groaned. "We're still not healed..."
"Oh, yes we are!" Kate answered, running into a side room. "They've got their own Rejuvenator here! I'd just found it when they showed up!"
Gary followed her. Sure enough, there sat one of the machines used in Pokémon Centers to heal pokémon in Pokéballs, no doubt stolen from Celadon Pokémon Center at some point for Team Rocket's private use. A ding sounded and a tray popped out of the slot, filled with Kate's newly healed pokémon.
Kate dumped out her Pokéballs on the counter and handed Gary the empty tray before returning her Pokéballs to their usual places. Gary filled the tray as fast as he could. "How are we doing for time, Ditto?"
I've just bought us some by fainting the Rhyhorn with long-distance Psychic attacks, but they've got backup! The door won't last much longer!
Gary started the Rejuvenator. "Can you put the mechanical wall back up?"
Already done!

"Kya!" Another operative's Machoke began striking the wall with Karate Chops.
"Pick up the pace!" Santiago announced to the room. "Who's next if they zap this one, too?"
"I've got a Hitmonlee," an agent offered.
"Another fighter...that had to be a Psychic-type attack to come out of nowhere like that..."
"Ooh, howbout Scyther to slice it apart...when the others have weakened it?" another called.
"Well, it's worth a try!"

Kate faced the stairway. The dull thuds had started again. They broke off again before long, though.
Tagged a Machoke, Ditto commented grimly.
Kate turned to face Ditto...and noticed a flurry of activity on the keyboard in front of him. He was telekinetically typing faster than fingers would allow. "What are you doing?"
I wish we'd had more time to search the place, but the next best thing'll have to do. I'm E-mailing every important file I find to the Celadon City Police Department.
"Wow, quick thin...king, she says to the Alakazam," Kate said, finishing on a rueful note.
Ditto chuckled. Speaking of which... The thuds started up again and Ditto cut himself off to whallop the TR pokémon. Speaking of which, I'm also displaying the whole file for about a second each. Alakazam never forget anything, so I can do the actual reading later.
"Wow, great!"
"Sounds useful," Gary nodded as he entered the room. "What are they up to?" He asked with a nod toward the stairs.
Odd...Blast! Ditto stood and leaned into his attack. The booms stopped coming because they sent out a Scyther to slice through it instead!

The Scyther finally staggered, but it didn't matter. The attacks from the four pokémon had left the door weak enough so that humans could break it down the rest of the way. "All right, recall it!" Santiago commanded. "Operatives, knock down that door!" Operatives began shoulder-ramming it. The cracks widened, and the first piece fell out...

"...so can we assume they're through the door?"
Disgruntled now, Ditto 'looked' again. They will be within a minute. It's coming down.
Gary nodded grimly. "So all that's left between them and us is the wall section. How fast can they get through that, assuming they still have enough conscious pokémon to bring it down despite your attacks?"
Depends. We didn't jam that one. If Santiago has some way to open it from outside...
"Then we need to be ready for the attack." Kate took up Ivysaur's Pokéball.
"Okay, we've got a bottleneck in those stairs," Gary reviewed. "They can't come at us all at once. Pretty much any of our pokémon should be able to stop a human from entering...maybe we should have all of our pokémon ready to use long-range attacks on pokémon they send in. Your Ivysaur can Razor Leaf any Water-, Rock- or Ground-types; my Charmeleon can..." he stopped himself. "...be a potentially uncontrollable Charizard..." he finished lamely.
"We'll work it out," Kate reassured him. Then she started sending out pokémon. "Ivysaur for Water, Rock or Ground..."
Gary nodded. "Pikachu for Flying, Poliwhirl for Fire..."
I can take out Fighting and Poison fast enough...
"...Vulpix! She's not as strong as the others, but at least she's got an edge on Bug, Grass and Ice-types!"
Gary watched a Pokéball glow as a pokémon was called back from Trainer Valley. "Beedrill, for Psychic-types!"
"And for the rest of them..." Kate tossed a final Pokéball. "Gastly's Hypnosis. Not bad!"

The door crumbled and operatives began to pass through. Then a voice called back, "Um, what do we do about the Wall?"
"What?" Santiago strode forward and the Red Sea parted before him to give him a look. "It's intact!? How did they get through it?" He noted the ruined camera, but grunted when it failed to hint at the answer. "All right, then, find a way! They did it, so can we!"

Chapter 167

"Aaany time now..."
"What's taking so long?"
I guess it's a safe bet he can't open it from that side.

"I don't get it, sir! No traces of any interference other than that camera! You don't suppose they had an inside agent..."
"No!" Santiago snapped at the Rocket Elite. "I run too tight a ship for betrayers, as you well know! Fine, I don't care any more, we'll just break it down like we did the door!"
"Well? Who's up? You know the drill!"
"Um, we, uh, lost three strong pokémon last time..."
"This thing's tougher than the door was..."
"Most of us operatives aren't too strong..."
"Don't look at me, sir," the Elite added. "All of our pokémon fainted in the greenhouse."
Santiago's face got a little redder. Operatives started backing even further away from him, and then scattered when he swung an arm. "Move aside!"
Reaching into his pocket, he went on, "I guess it's true what they say about wanting a job done right..."

"Then he says to the Weedle, 'that wasn't MY nest!'"
"...um, this is the point where you laugh?"
"...I think you lost me somewhere around 'Okay, there was this Weedle'."
"Well, I thought it was funny..."
Nine pairs of eyes shot to the staircase.
Ah, yes, the tried-and-true bulldozer method again. Seems to be Santiago's favorite.
"I guess they gave up on trying to get it open," Kate remarked. She stepped closer to the stairs. "I wonder what they're—" Ditto's eyes widened, and suddenly Kate was six feet to the right of where she'd been. "—using—" A large round shape came crashing down the stairs and shot into the room. "—this time!?" Kate turned and watched it barrel right between Poliwhirl and Gastly to slam into the far wall.
"Go! Go! Go!" Santiago's booming voice echoed down the stairway, quickly followed by operatives with Pokéballs.
"Time for action!" Gary shouted. The ever-eager Pikachu unleashed a Thunderbolt at the operatives who were just entering the room and taking in the seven pokémon and two trainers. As they went down, the ones behind them readied Pokéballs.
A small wave of Ground-types to ward off Pikachu started the attack, but Ivysaur's Razor Leaf and Poliwhirl's Water Gun quickly convinced the Rockets that this wasn't enough. After a brief attempt at Grass-types that Vulpix and Beedrill discouraged, the operatives simply sent out one type after another in a random jumble.
At first, Gary and Kate's pokémon were able to handle the invasion; the Rocket's entrance was narrow and each defender knew its targets. Then a Mankey appeared...and no one hit it. Realizing nothing was happening, they looked back at Ditto/Alakazam, who was supposed to be handling Fighting-types, while Mankey chose an opponent to attack.
"Sorry...a bit busy..." Ditto managed to say while straining against the earlier intruder; a massive Golem with a thick jaw, who, despite its species' usual poor Special, seemed to be resisting Ditto's psychic power fairly well.
"Wha-OWW!" Pikachu complained as Mankey hit it with Karate Chop. It turned, ominously slow, to face Mankey. "YOU HIT ME!" it yelled as its electric sacs crackled. Mankey realized it had erred in simply choosing the smallest target, and tried to bound away, but the Thunderbolt caught up in the blink of an eye.
Of course, the operatives immediately decided to focus on Fighting-types, but their window of opportunity was already shut. The indignant Pikachu had added Fighting to its list of targets and quickly fried two Machop and a Hitmonchan in rapid succession.
"All right, I've had enough!" Ditto dropped his attack and Transformed. Golem, confused but recognizing opportunity, bounded forward for a Rock Throw, but a Hydro Pump from the twin cannons of a Blastoise pushed it back. "Let's see you laugh THIS off!"
The operatives, intent on their attempts to breach the first line of defense, never noticed the switch.
Someone else did, though.
Up near the ceiling, an invisible observer's eyes widened. "...and without even the scrapbook!"

Chapter 168

The operatives were running out of options. Some looked longingly at the room with the Rejuvenator, but to reach it they would have to get through the lobby first, and Gary and Kate weren't letting them.
Just as it seemed that the operatives would all be beaten, however, a flurry of activity from above was followed by a fresh round of pokémon attacks. Even without access to their ill-gotten Rejuvenator, the Team Rocket agents were somehow healing their pokémon!
"Now, wait, I know I've already fainted that set of Exeggcute before!"
"Oh, great, and I was keeping a tally! Do I get another point for fainting the same Staryu again or not!?"
"Hey, you got a Staryu? Darnit, I let one get by me!"
"Well, you shouldn't try to tag too many anyway..."
"Yeah? Why not?" Pikachu took aim at its next target, a Farfetch'd. fizzle... "...oh...shoot."
"*sigh*...That's why not." Pikachu watched glumly as Gastly put the Farfetch'd to sleep with Hypnosis.
Gary dug through his pack until he came up with an Ether...and paused. Poliwhirl and Beedrill had to be getting low on Water Gun and Pin Missile, too...he didn't have enough energy restoratives to keep all three of them going strong. He looked at Kate, who shrugged; her Vulpix was starting to tire as well, and Ivysaur had a look on its face that said its tally was taking on new meaning for it.
Gary looked back at Ditto again. Ditto/Blastoise stood panting over the fainted Golem; it had taken a second Hydro Pump to finish it, and it had gotten in a couple hits in the meantime.
The Transformation to Blastoise had been bad enough; Gary didn't want to risk it again. "Good job, Blastoise," he said, recalling Ditto. Then, still facing away from the Rockets, he pretended to switch Pokéballs, and sent out Ditto again. "Gengar! I need you now!"
Ditto Transformed so fast even Gary barely noticed his true form. "Pretty slick. What now?"
In a low voice, Gary answered, "Team Rocket's healing their pokémon somehow. Can you slip out and find out what's going on?"
"Ouch. I'm on it!" Ditto faded out.
Gary used the Ether on Pikachu, warned it to take it easy and tried to ignore the look on the operatives' faces of victory assured.

"Not if I can help it, you're not!"
Ditto paused in shock. Their old pal Gastly hovered near the ceiling, hidden once more from mortal eyes and ears. "Didn't you learn your lesson last time?"
"Maybe I'm a slow learner...and then again, maybe I'm not, DITTO!" Gastly wore a look of satisfied triumph. "It's just as I suspected, isn't it? I'll bet you haven't actually seen an Alakazam since the Saffron Repulsion!"
"That was you in the greenhouse, wasn't it? And that day in Route 11! There was no Haunter behind me, was there? Just you remembering one you saw in Bill's Valley...or before that!"
"Now look, pal--"
"I should have known there would be more to an unusually intelligent Ditto than you let Bonnie and Clyde see! I wonder just how many of Ford and Fields' victories would have been failures without you in the picture? I think perhaps it's time to find...out...uuh..."
Ditto watched Gastly drop off from his subtle Hypnosis attack. "Dimwit." He proceeded to use Dream Eater until Gastly fainted, then set off on his original mission.
This wouldn't be the end of it, though. Whenever Gastly came to, it could report the first half of Ditto's secret to the Team Rocket higher-ups, and if it hadn't figured out the second half--that he was Tod Frost--one of those leaders just might work it out for themselves. Only time would tell what would happen then.
Ditto shelved those thoughts when he emerged in the casino's back room and the hidden hallway. Operatives were using various healing items from a pile of Celadon Department Store shopping bags. Team Rocket had gone shopping? No, Ditto knew better than that. They must have been stolen by the few operatives with conscious and powerful pokémon to wield.
One of the Elites stood, pokémon fully healed. "I'll go pick up another load, just in case," he said. Santiago nodded gruffly and the Elite marched into the main part of the casino. Ditto followed, and noted that with all the obvious Team Rocket activity, the regular clientele had cleared out.
Just outside the building, the Elite sent out the Aerodactyl from the greenhouse battle. "To the Department Store! Time is short!" Aerodactyl grasped the man's shoulders in its talons and took off. Ditto took off after it, slowly caught up and went visible right in front of it. Caught by surprise, Aerodactyl dipped for a moment and tried to go around, but Ditto stayed with it doggedly until Aerodactyl finally swiped at him with Wing Attack.
"Whoa, steady there!" the Elite called, feeling Aerodactyl's grip on him start to slip. "Just ignore it if it's not attacking!" Which was Ditto's cue to strike with Night Shade. Aerodactyl reeled and fell halfway to earth before regaining control. Then Ditto used Confuse Ray and it lost control again, finally flying straight into a brick wall. The Rocket Elite was left hanging onto a ledge with an unconscious Flying-type and cursing a blue streak. Satisfied, Ditto headed back to the casino to see what else he could accomplish.

Chapter 169

"This sucks--Oww..."
Beedrill took down a Weepinbell again...using Twineedle. "I'm--I'm running out of steam here..."
"Look, stick to psychics! I've still got some flame left for the weeds!"
Too dry now to use Water Gun again, Poliwhirl moved forward to attack a Growlithe with Doubleslap instead--and Beedrill 'tripped' over it on its way to a just-appearing Drowzee. The Growlithe took the opportunity to score an Ember on Beedrill. "Yow! Hothothot!"
Gary facepalmed, recalled both of them from the firing line and sent them back out right near him. "All right, I guess that's not going to work out," he said as he prepared a Super Potion for Beedrill. "Poliwhirl, can you join Gastly to hypnotise all the Rocket pokémon? Not necessarily getting them fully asleep, just enough to give the hand-to-hand fighters enough breathing room so that doesn't happen again."
Wincing a little at Beedrill's pain, Poliwhirl nodded. "Worth a shot!"
As Poliwhirl moved to Gastly's side and the healed Beedrill went cautiously toward the Drowzee again, Gary glanced anxiously up the operative-filled stairway. How's Ditto doing?

"...came out of nofzzz attacked me! fzzz halfway up fzzz building now!" Uh oh, Ditto thought as he returned invisibly to the casino.
Santiago seemed to sift through a few choice curses, but time was too short to select one. "You! You, and you!" he pointed at two Elites and an operative at random. "Something--the Ditto's broken our supply line, it must be! Go out and repair it!" The Elites seemed to flow out of the door, the operative trailing them and wondering why she was here.
So it's a battle you want? Ditto thought as he followed them in turn. All right then, I'll defend the Department Store as long as I have to! Ducking into an alley, he Transformed to Alakazam again and prepared to Teleport.

"Drat! I can't hit squat with this move!" Pikachu complained as a Doduo dodged its Slam yet again. While it glared at its speedy foe, another operative sent out a Cubone right behind it. The Ground-type raised its bone...
Whoosh! Pikachu looked back in surprise and saw the Cubone staggering. A red blur resolved into Vulpix on the other side. "Always watch your back, rodent!"
The Cubone growled as it raised its bone again; either target would work. The vine that snaked up behind it caught it completely by surprise. "Whuph! Aagh!" Ivysaur grinned at its latest conquest.
"Vulpix! Behind you!" Kate called.
Vulpix struck out blindly with Tail Whip--and quickly regretted it. "Bhleh! Ptoo!"
"Heh! Should have been watching your back!"
Vulpix spun in place and nailed the Gastly with Ember, then shot Pikachu a look that said pain. "If I WANTED my own advice handed to me--"
"Hey hey!" The Doduo suddenly hit the ground between Vulpix and Pikachu, having tripped over a well-placed Beedrill.
"Whew! You guys ought to watch your backs or something!" Pikachu struggled heroicly not to burst out laughing as Vulpix bristled.

"I can handle a shoplift myself!" One of the Elites said to the other. "You can take the grunt and find the guy who got his wings clipped!" With that, she ran off without waiting for argument.
"'Does that sound like a good plan?' 'Yes, I suppose it does,'" the other Elite grumbled to himself. Then he turned to the operative, who was glaring after the departed Elite. "All right, he's clinging to a building side? He's going to need rescuing. If we head toward the Department Store and keep an eye out we should spot him." The operative nodded and they set off.

"All right, there it is...okay! An open window!" The Elite sent out her Kadabra. "What we need's a surprise entrance! Teleport me in through that window!" The Kadabra nodded, squinted at the open window, paused...and then leaned forward as if straining against something. "Huh? What's wrong?"
A shape separated from the shadows in a nearby alley. What's wrong is that I'm currently surpressing your Kadabra's powers. It goes nowhere and does nothing until I let up.
The Elite flinched; there weren't many things more disturbing than an Alakazam's grin. "Y-you're the Ditto, aren't you!?"
You didn't think I'd be satisfied with just one of you, did you? Gary and Kaitlyn aren't the only ones entitled to some fun.
"You want some fun? Let's see you stop Dodrio!" The Elite sent out the three-headed bird, and then told her Kadabra, "As soon as it lets up on you, get us up there!"
Ditto's grin faded.

Chapter 170

Too tired by now to say anything cohesive, Pikachu slumped to the floor. Gary recalled it and sent out Golem, having given up on long-range attacks.
"Aagh!" Kate's Vulpix took a hard hit from a Geodude's Rock Throw and staggered. Kate recalled it and sent out Fearow.
Ivysaur lashed out with a Vine Whip, but the enemy Sandslash turned it aside with its claws. Ivysaur took a step back and fired a Leech Seed that lodged in Sandslash's claw when it tried blocking again. As the seed sprouted all over the panicking Sandslash, Ivysaur paused to savor the much-needed energy it was getting from the deal. The scent from its flower started getting stronger as it finished off the Sandslash with another Vine Whip.
As Golem and Fearow added their skills to the dangerously long battle for occupancy of the Team Rocket Headquarters, Gary took out another Pokéball and just looked at it. It was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened...

Dodrio crowed a challenge, then started running toward Ditto. In a flash, the Alakazam brain had the answer. Ditto Teleported directly behind Dodrio, and then started pressing harder on the psychic restraints blocking the Kadabra's powers. Much harder. Kadabra grabbed its head and started moaning in pain.
Skidding to a stop, Dodrio had to look around for a second before finding Ditto in the last place it would have guessed. It moved to attack again. This time, Ditto picked up Kadabra by the restraint and swung it into Dodrio, connecting powerfully. Dodrio stumbled and fell on its side. Kadabra screeched in agony.
Finally, Ditto picked up the both of them and pitched them straight into a wall, knocking both out cold and then letting go to allow them to drop a story or two to the street. Then he turned to face their trainer, causing his eyes to glow an eerie shade of purple that violently clashed with his Alakazam body.
The Rocket Elite gulped, recalled her pokémon and took off running away from the department store.
Ditto sank to his knees for a moment. This sort of thing couldn't be healthy. Windows opened as people investigated the thump against the wall. Ditto looked up at the people, and then Teleported away. He needed to check on the Elite with the Aerodactyl; those other two might be rescuing him. That wouldn't do.

"Oh, so now I get to be beaten by a Golem!?"
"That's the way I hear it." Golem answered the Team Rocket Ekans.
"Well, you know what? Forget it! I'm sick of this!" Ekans suddenly turned and lunged at its own trainer with a Poison Sting. It was recalled before it could hit, though.
Gary looked hopefully to the other Team Rocket pokémon now out, but no others rebelled. They had already learned the harsh lesson Ekans would be learning tonight.

"There he is!"
The male Elite followed the operative's arm. "Good eye," he said on seeing a TR-suited man on a high ledge. "I don't suppose you have any pokémon that could fly up there and get him?"
"Um...no, sir."
"Shame, me neither. I suppose we'll just have to go the long way!" The Elite jogged to the building. The operative followed, but paused as she noticed a quick flash of light in a nearby alley...
The Elite reached the building's glass double door and went to open it. To his surprise, it didn't budge. "Eh? Locked?" He took a step back to check what building this was. "Seaking Shipping? Why would a parcel delivery service be closed now?" He tried the door again. Still no luck. Finally, he tossed a Pokéball at it. "Hitmonlee, 'unlock' that door!"
Hitmonlee nodded; it got the meaning. It threw a Mega Kick at the glass--and was wholly shocked when its foot bounced off. "WHATNTHE-!"
The Elite's jaw dropped. "The heck is that door made out of!?"

The operative nervously approached the alley where the flash had been. Caressing a Pokéball, she took a step in.
"!" Giving up on her Nidorina, the operative packpedaled and then ran to the Elite at the door. "H-Hey! Mr. Elite Guy!"
The Elite turned to her. "Something else up!?"
"I-In that alley...a flash when we passed...there's an Akala--Kazala--K-Kamazalalam--"
"Alakazam," the Elite said flatly. "That might explain it." He withdrew Hitmonlee and strode for the alley in question.
Ditto appeared outside the alley, floating in a lotus position. Here to rescue your 'fallen' comrade, to use the term loosely?
"Ha ha. Pinsir, Sandslash, get'm!"
"Anything but the bird..."
"...and the ghost..."
"How about the really strong psychic?" Without waiting for a response, Ditto fired a volley of Psybeams that slammed into Pinsir and Sandslash.
Pinsir rushed forward for a Vicegrip. Ditto Teleported out of the way--and right in front of Sandslash, who aimed a Slash. Ditto was already elsewhere, however, and Sandslash ended up stumbling into Pinsir. Then Ditto picked them up, drew them apart and then slammed them into each other. High attack is good against most Psychics, he mentioned almost as an afterthought, but high speed needs to go with it! He slammed the two pokémon together again for added emphasis.
An alarm rang in his head just then. He opened his mental senses, and realized the operative had entered the building while he was distracted with the Elite's pokémon! He fainted Pinsir and Sandslash with a Psychic attack each, then Teleported to intercept. Seeya!
Surprised, the Elite looked around, realized the operative was gone and pieced together what had happened. He made a dash for the door.

Chapter 171

"Aiee!" Beedrill, weary from battles, was tagged by the Elite Venomoth's Confusion before it could strike. Gary recalled it and turned to Poliwhirl. "How are you doing?"
"I wouldn't mind another turn in the battle if you need me. I need a break from this half-way hypnotizing." Gary nodded, Poliwhirl wished Gastly good luck and then moved to intercept an Ember that the Elite Magmar had fired at Kate's Fearow.
"This isn't good," Kate fretted. "Now of all times they start pounding us with the Elites' pokémon again..."
"Maybe it's a good sign!" Gary said hopefully. "If Ditto's still preventing them from getting more healing items, they may be running low. They'd have to start rationing!"
"A lot of good it does us to know that..." Kate sighed as the Elite Jynx got a good hit on Fearow with an Ice Punch. Gary had no reply.

Santiago snapped off the radio, then turned it on again on a different channel. "Report! What's going on!?"
"The Ditto's preventing us from rescuing the Elite it tagged before. The operative you gave us slipped past while it was defeating me, but it's trying to catch up to her!"
"Stop it any way you can! It's already defeated the other Elite I sent with you!"
"What!? But it's--it's an Alakazam, never mind..."
"Alakazam? Last I heard it was a Gengar...where'd it find an Alakazam in Celadon to copy on such short notice!?"
"*sigh* You've got me, sir, all I know is it's an Alakazam now!"

The operative screeched to a halt at the top of a stairway as Ditto stepped out of a room in the adjoining hallway. She stood there facing him, unsure of what to do, until curious office workers leaned out the same doorway Ditto had just come from and spotted her in her Team Rocket outfit. "CENSORED!" She dove back down the stairs, only to run into the Elite at the bottom. "It's up there waiting for me!" she screeched.
"Ow, jeez!" The Elite winced and covered his ears for a moment. "All right, let's split up and take different ways up! It'll have a harder time stopping both of us!" he pointed down the hall on this floor to the set of stairs at the other end, then went down another floor. He'd seen an elevator somewhere...

Well, you could try calling the police, though they might all be busy responding to the activity at the Game Corner, Ditto told the nosy employees. Then he did a mental scan. They'd split up...wait...! The Elite with the Aerodactyl was up to something! He jumped up four stories, Transformed and moved into what was currently the noisiest office suite on this floor.
"Nobody move!" The Elite barked...as if anyone would while the Nidoqueen who had just fallen through the window from outside was looking at them. "I'm having a really bad day and I promise to take it out on anyone who...no!"
Confused, the employees turned to the hall door and saw a Gengar standing there. Ditto waved at the Elite, as his grin stretched even wider than usual.
"Nidoqueen, destroy that thing!" Nidoqueen just looked at her trainer; she knew what would and wouldn't work on a Ghost-type. Frustrated, he recalled her and sent out Graveler. "Graveler...do something!"
Intruiged, Graveler started arm-wrestling itself until a red-faced Elite pointed at Ditto. "You want I should arm-wrestle the Gengar? But they cheat." The Elite just stared at it, and finally it took the hint. It got ready to use Earthquake. Concerned for the building, however, Ditto hit it with Night Shade and then used Hypnosis while it was recovering.
Quivering with rage, the Elite tried a new tactic. He threw Nidoqueen's Pokéball straight at Ditto. Ditto jumped back into the hall as Nidoqueen formed right where he'd been. Nidoqueen, still with no way to damage Ditto, decided to Growl at it just in case it would satisfy her trainer.

The elevator opened, and the Elite stepped into the hall and saw a Gengar looking into a room. A Nidoqueen's Growl sounded. Realizing something was up, he approached cautiously; his only conscious pokémon was a Hitmonlee, but there might be something he could do.
The operative on the stairs stopped to catch her breath, but then heard the Growl and jogged out into the hall. She saw the Gengar, and the Elite approaching it from the other side, and jogged forward to join in.

Ditto looked around. Nidoqueen in front of him...Hitmonlee to one side, and the Elite probably didn't have anything else...he didn't know what the operative used, but she had already backed off twice. Nothing to worry about. He waited to see what they would do.

The Nidoqueen's trainer looked past his pokémon into the hall and saw what had given the Gengar pause. "About time! This's the pest that dropped me. I can't beat it with what I've got, would one of you do the honors?"
The Elite with the Hitmonlee and the operative looked at each other. Then the Elite said, "I've already fought Ditto once, all I've got's a Hitmonlee now..." Turning to the operative, he added, "What do you have, anyway?"
"A...Nidorina..." the operative lowered her head, embarrassed.
Ditto rose into the air, lay down and started rocking back and forth as if he were on a hammock. "I know a Nidorina who's a mighty fine warrior...though I suppose even she'd balk at this..."
"No one asked you..." the Elite with the Nidoqueen shot, "...whatever you just said. Look, you've got us beat, you've had your fun, now go play somewhere else, all right!?"
"Oh, I don't think you understand..." Ditto replied, "...so I'll just have to show you." With that, he reverted to Ditto, and as jaws dropped all around, Transformed again into a copy of the Nidoqueen facing him. It meant giving up his perfect advantage, but otherwise this would get nowhere.
"So that's why you're bugging me! You're Ford's!"
"Hey, you were an Alakazam a minute ago! Where'd you find a Gengar in Celadon to copy on--" the Elite shut his mouth as he realized he was echoing Santiago.
Since a taunt now would be completely missed, Ditto ignored the man and faced off against the Nidoqueen who had assumed a battle stance without waiting for the order. "Let’s get this over with!"

Chapter 172

Gary watched as Golem took out the Elite Magmar again. Then he turned to Kate as Magmar was recalled. "Hey, you noticing something?"
Without taking her eyes off her own Graveler's attack on the Elite Jynx, Kate responded, "Like the fact that we're only getting Magmar, Jynx, Gengar and Venomoth?"
"Something like that." Gary noted the Gengar returning and sent Poliwhirl, who had been given a Max Ether for just this purpose a couple of Gengar ago, to handle it. "You suppose the other Elites are all busy with Ditto?"
"I hope so. It's either that or they're sneaking in a back way." Kate considered her Ivysaur, who was crouching to one side of the door in readiness for the next combatant. It had almost gone for Gengar before noting what it was. "Ivysaur's in a pretty bad way here, actually..." She raised its Pokéball.
"DON'T YOU DARE!" Ivysaur shot. The scent from its flower, which permeated the room by now, seemed to sour a tad. Surprised, Kate lowered the ball. The re-healed Elite Venomoth showed up just then, and its eyes widened as Ivysaur fired a hail of Leech Seeds at it. Quickly netted in sprouts, it struggled to stay airborne, but lost the struggle when it was hit by Ivysaur's follow-up Tackle.
Venomoth struck back with Confusion, and Ivysaur reeled, but stubbornly hung on. Another Tackle and then a hard Vine Whip left Venomoth weakened to the point where the Leech Seeds finished it before it could pull together another Confusion.
As Venomoth was recalled, Ivysaur seemed to strain against something. "Ivysaur, you're overexerting yourself!" Kate called. Ivysaur gave her a flat look as the leaves on its back began to stir. Then, the red petals on its back slowly parted as a glow built in its body.

After getting hit by Graveler's Rock Throw, the Elite Jynx was nearly down for the count, but it managed to catch Graveler with an Ice Punch counterattack that left Graveler in much the same condition. The two paused, eyeing each other; whoever managed the next good hit would win.
Graveler blinked in surprise as Jynx was bowled over by a triumphant Venusaur! Jynx cried out in despair as Venusaur's Tackle ground it into the floor. The Elite at the stairs recalled it with a groan and left for more healing items as Venusaur roared in victory. "BOO YEAH!!"
Kate rubbed the back of her head. "Oh, yeah...now I remember...what that smell means..."
"Yup, now I'm all set to REALLY start...whuppin' some Team Rocket...losers..." Kate watched with an odd expression as Venusaur's grin faded and it slowly sank to the floor.
"I told you you were overexerting yourself." Kate shook her head resignedly and recalled her tired pokémon.

"Come get some!"
"Curse it all, how can something so massive move so fast!?" The Elite with the Hitmonlee complained. He and the operative had sent out their pokémon to corner Ditto when he'd started combat with the other Elite's Nidoqueen, but rather than failing to defend against all three at once, Ditto had used their lack of coordination against them. Even between the three of them they hadn't gotten as many hits on Ditto as they had taken in total.
"Well, that's...uh..." The Elite with the Nidoqueen was caught; right now he couldn't boast about the species he raised without also complimenting Ditto. He glared at Ditto as if to say how dare you trick me into lauding you. His own Nidoqueen sniggered at him.
The operative's Nidorina wavered uncertainly; she was an evolutionary stage below the enemy, and, being across from Hitmonlee, she'd taken the most friendly fire of the three from Ditto's manuevering. This battle was not going her way. Hitmonlee, meanwhile, was really starting to get concerned about hitting Nidorina, and annoyed at Ditto for making it hit its ally. Never mind that it wasn't looking likely to win; its enemy was making it look downright nasty!
Nidoqueen gave Ditto a challenging look, one that said let's see what you do with this! Nidorina caught it; Hitmonlee didn't. As a result, when Nidorina slunk back further to stay out of the way, Hitmonlee decided it was safe to attack, and launched a Mega Kick as Nidoqueen sprang forward. Ditto leapt backwards, keeping the distance, and Hitmonlee's foot caught Nidoqueen in the back, propelling her towards Nidorina. Nidorina screeched and barely managed to jump out of the way of the falling hulk.
Nidoqueen's ploy actually succeeded; Ditto misjudged the space he had to work with and hit the wall. With Hitmonlee's interference, however, Nidoqueen was unable to follow through. Hitmonlee and Nidorina were, for their own reasons, too distracted by Nidoqueen to pick up on the opportunity, and Ditto was able to recover undisturbed. A sweeping Tail Whip and four Fury Swipes finished off the surprised Hitmonlee before the Nidos could get themselves organized.
Cursing, the Hitmonlee's trainer recalled it and dove for the stairs, leaving the other two to their own devices. He'd had it. It was clear to him now. All who fought the Ditto were doomed to failure, that was all there was to it. Team Rocket was going down. He wouldn't stick around to watch. He'd burn his uniform, deposit all of his pokémon and then smash his Pokédex, and move to Lavender under an assumed name...
He got out the door and found a Celadon City Police car waiting, parked right up on the sidewalk to block the way. "I, um, don't suppose it'd help if I were already planning on quitting?" The officer shook his head. "Thought not."

Chapter 173

Kate looked at the Pokéball she'd just taken up to replace Venusaur and Graveler. No way was she sending Ekans into this battle. Gastly was still busy hampering the Rockets' fighting ability...and surely it would also be tiring by now. She could deposit Ekans for Pidgeotto...but how much better was Pidgeotto?
She eyed Gary's Golem, who was beginning to show its own signs of fatigue. "I'm in trouble...Golem and Poliwhirl can't hold them off alone, can they?"
Gary looked again at his own remaining Pokéball. "They've got to be running near empty by now. I'm gonna go ahead and try it."
"...try what?" In answer, Gary simply opened the ball.
"I'm sorry I swear it won't happen again and please please  don't release me!"
Gary blinked. Whatever he'd been expecting (and he himself wasn't sure,) this wasn't it. "Don't worry. I don't abandon pokémon."
Good grief, the poor thing was actually starting to cry. "I lost all control over myself...too much drama, too much pride...too  much power...oh, the power..."
Not sure how to respond to that, Gary let Charizard play out its monologue. He glanced at the battle to see how Poliwhirl and Golem were faring. Gengar was just coming out again...but instead of trying to defend itself against Poliwhirl's Water Guns, it immediately started hitting Golem with Night Shade! By the time Poliwhirl had it out for the count again, Golem was stumbling about in weakness and confusion.
Charizard noticed Gary's attention was elsewhere, and turned in time to see the TR Jynx gleefully faint Golem with an Ice Punch. The Elite standing in the stairway let out a cheer that abruptly faded when Charizard bathed Jynx in flame. Almost imitating her own victim, Jynx tottered and hit the floor. Only then did Charizard realize what it had just done, and it turned guiltily to Gary. "Um...I don't suppose you'd mind if I entered this  shindig?"
Gary had to smile. "As a matter of fact, I could really use you about now."

Ditto blocked another set of Fury Swipes, then followed through with a Bite that the TR Nidoqueen dodged. With Hitmonlee out of the picture, Nidorina had decided that smart Nidorina stay out of battles between two Nidoqueen, and now Ditto and Nidoqueen had only each other to focus on. The battle was rather even so far.
Since they were busy with each other, it was the operative who first noticed the Celadon City Police officer coming up the stairs. "Omygod Cops!" she screamed. All involved stopped to look, and then both Ditto and Nidoqueen tried to take advantage of the other's surprise. They collided and fell back, briefly stunned.
Finally Nidoqueen burst into laughter. "You're good, I gotta hand it to  you! Too bad we've gotta run..."
Then her trainer sent out the still-sleeping Graveler and gave it a swift kick in the rear. "Huhwha!?"
Clutching his smarting foot, the Elite ordered, "Flatten that cop!"
"...and then again, maybe we don't! Let the fun continue!" Ditto nodded in reply; not that he was sure he'd call this fun, but by keeping Nidoqueen busy, he was keeping her out of the fight with the policeman, and slowly tiring her in case that changed.

"S-sir!" Santiago turned to see Don, the casino's bought-out bouncer, emerging from the group of confused operatives in the outer room. "Celadon Police have shown up with enough squad cars to seat a busload!" The operatives, who hadn't heard that yet themselves, promptly panicked and fled toward the back of the main building.
"Sir, the Charizard just got sent in, and it's still fresh!" The Jynx's trainer reported from the stairway.
The other Elite still participating in the battle watched Santiago's face from the bag of supplies, intruiged to see just how dark a shade of red he could manage. He was disappointed when Santiago shifted gradually from maroon towards white. Was this finally it? "Uh, sir? What should we do?"
Hoarse by now, Santiago slowly answered, "One last try. All four of them attack the Charizard at once."
"We, um..." The Elite at the bag summoned up the courage to utter his reply... "we don't have enough Revives left for that."
"How many?" Santiago's rage was finally spent by now.
"The Gengar and the Magmar, then. Use whatever else is in there to make sure they're at full power...oh, have the Gengar start by taking out that CENSORED Gastly." Okay, maybe not all of it was spent yet.
"And what if that fails?"
"Do whatever you need to." Santiago stared down the staircase. "I'm not leaving without my Golem."

Chapter 174

"What are they doing up there?"
"You don't suppose they finally ran out of healing items?"
"Either that or they're about to, and they're getting ready to go out with--"
"Yaagh!" Gary's reply was cut off by a cry from Kate's Gastly, who had let its guard down during the long pause. A flash of darkness had struck it, and as it convulsed, a dark shape slowly formed on the spot.
"The Gengar! Not again!" Gary complained, ignoring Kate's 'stop doing that' look. "Po-Cha--argh..." Neither Poliwhirl nor Charizard could attack Gengar right now without finishing off Gastly as well. Finally Kate just recalled it.
Unnoticed in the commotion, smoke had begun to fill the stairway, obscuring whatever could be seen there, and as Gastly was recalled, the Elite Magmar leapt out of the concealing smoke and hit the surprised Poliwhirl with a one-two Fire Punch combo. Poliwhirl was resistant to the attack, but after the drying heat of the first punch, the second left Poliwhirl with a burn to cope with.
Charizard opened its mouth, and then hastily reconsidered. A Flamethrower wouldn't hurt a Magmar all that much, and the chance to hit Poliwhirl was there. Instead, it pushed off with its feet and flew straight at Magmar, catching it with a Slash. Inside a room this small, however, flying turned out to be trickier than it had expected, and it landed sloppily, buying Magmar time to recover.
Charizard wheeled about to face its opponent...and Magmar's calm orange glow flared up, passing through yellow into a brilliant white. Charizard reeled, covering its eyes. The glow faded, and Charizard looked back only to discover it was seeing spots. It shook its head, but the spots remained. In fact, they grew worse!
Poliwhirl fired off a Water Gun at Magmar, but trying not to disturb its burn made it too slow to catch Magmar unaware. Magmar dodged nearly all of the attack...and then the Gengar abruptly appeared in front of Poliwhirl and started using Hypnosis to put it out of the fight.
The Hypnosis power of a Gengar couldn't be avoided by closing one's eyes...but Poliwhirl had another defense; the pain of the burn barely kept it from dozing off despite Gengar's efforts. Unceremoniously thumping the damaged area to jolt itself fully awake, Poliwhirl attacked Gengar with another Water Gun, ending the Elite pokémon's attempt to dispose of it.
With Charizard distracted by the effects of its Confuse Ray, Magmar swung a Mega Punch, knocking back its dazed opponent. Charizard roared in protest and reached out with a Slash, but Magmar danced back away from the clumsily aimed attack and Charizard ending up pitching forward onto the floor in its effort to hurt Magmar.
Gengar decided Charizard looked like an easier target than Poliwhirl, and it moved over to try its Hypnosis again...leaving Poliwhirl unattended. Burns were not something Gary had to deal with often, so even after this disasterously long battle, he still had an unused Burn Heal item available. He quickly dealt with Poliwhirl's wound. "Focus on Magmar for now," he told it. "It's the only element advantage we have." Poliwhirl nodded and slunk around the now-snoozing Charizard. Gary dug through his pack, looking for a way to wake up Charizard.
Magmar was just winding up for another Mega Punch right to Charizard's snout when Poliwhirl hit it full-blast with a Water Gun. It screeched and turned to face Poliwhirl. Gengar saw what had happened and flinched guiltily.
Magmar fired off its Confuse Ray again just as Poliwhirl started its Hypnosis. Despite the glare, Poliwhirl hung on with its manuever, and the overconfident Magmar was caught. Poliwhirl, however, now couldn't think clearly enough to follow through, leaving Gengar the only pokémon on the field with full freedom. The Ghost-type gleefully considered its options...and decided that the no-longer-burned Poliwhirl did not deserve to stay awake any longer. It began using Hypnosis on the confused Water-type.
C# C# C# C# C# C#
Charizard bolted awake. Poliwhirl snapped out of the stupor Gengar had gotten it into and fired a Water Gun blindly in front of it, just grazing both Gengar and Magmar, who woke too late to dodge properly. Charizard's Flamethrower on the Gengar, however, was considerably better-aimed.
Charizard then looked back and saw Gary holding a Poké Flute he'd found on a shelf in Santiago's office. It grunted. "Do us all a favor and take lessons, huh?" Gary shrugged.

Ditto and Nidoqueen faced off again. Sure, this was slowly tiring Nidoqueen, but it was also slowly tiring Ditto...something needed to happen or they'd finish each other off simply through exhaustion.
Something happened...in the form of the Team Rocket operative recalling her Nidorina and taking off down the hall. The Elite, who'd long since given up on telling his Nidoqueen how to battle, looked for what had spooked her and saw the police officer recalling a Vileplume from in front of the fainted Graveler.
"Hmph!" he answered, recalling Graveler. "You lucked out! You won't beat my Nidoqueen so easily!"
The police officer looked between the two Nidoqueen in mild confusion...at which point Ditto reverted to his true form, giving the real Nidoqueen a look that somehow managed to say "gotchya" despite using a Ditto's features. The officer sent out an Arcanine, and Nidoqueen suddenly realized just how much of a workout her battle with Ditto had been. Arcanine grinned maliciously.

That's all for now, but come back later for more as the story continues!