Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ Awakening ❯ Part 8 ( Chapter 8 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter 22: Burning Passion (Part 2)

When Jonathan and Zero caught up to Ashimi, Jaina was already gone. They exchanged stories about what happened but decided not to go after her. Jonathan thought that if Jaina really wanted anything to do with him, she would find him herself. If it was a peaceful life of high society she had her eyes on, he wouldn't stand in her way.

"You must be really stressed," Ashimi observed as they walked to the pokemon center.

"I'm okay," Jonathan replied. "I mean, it's stressful, yes, but Jaina is alright, so that's a relief."

"No, I mean, it's like my abilities with aura have improved lately and I sense something is off." Ashimi paused in thought, checking her senses once more. Maybe she imagined it because she was tired. She tried to focus on the unusual flow of Jonathan's energy that she wasn't skilled enough to notice earlier, then she felt the world spin and stumbled.

"Ashy?" Jonathan and Zero reached out to steady her from either side.

"I'm alright, just really tired. I had to use the aura a lot," Ashimi explained. "Let's just go to the pokemon center for now, all of us could use some rest. I'm sure I'll be all better tomorrow and so will the pokemon. I also need to get this Dragonite some help, his energy is disturbing, like he's been mistreated his whole life. I think he's been through enough, I'll send him to uncle Gary, he'll be happy living at Pallet Town."

xoxox xox xoxox

When the next day came, Ashimi, Jonathan and Zero headed to the gym again, yet they found nothing but a recorded message waiting for them on the same helicopter hologram from before. "I expected to battle you yesterday, since you didn't show up, I left on my usual training trip, I'll be back next month. If you insist on finding me, I left you a map, but this invitation is for you alone, young madam."

"I think he's getting back at me for letting Jaina escape," Ashimi frowned. "Well I'm not waiting a month! I'm pretty sure he knows I'll be using that map, or else he wouldn't have bothered to leave it." She took a picture of the display with her phone. "I'll meet you guys later and I'll be back with a new badge!"

"The gym leader can be pretty ruthless in battle, be careful Ashy," Jonathan cautioned. Other than being the Cinnabar Island gym leader, he was the top ranked Rocket executive, thus when people spoke of 'the' Rocket executive, they mean him. Voicing his name was not something to be done lightly, least he take it as a challenge. While he put up a front and handed out a few badges now and then at the gym, when it came to other Rockets he battled all out as if to make his rank clear to them.

"Do you want information about his pokemon from the Rocket database?" Zero offered.

"Nah, it's okay, I'll improvise, I've been training a lot lately after all. Honestly, I can't wait another second!" Ashimi released Chari from her pokeball. The Charizard was truly a majestic sight to behold. "According to the map, the gym leader went to a small Rocket owned island south of Cinnabar. Let's go!" Ashimi jumped on her Charizard's back and with a flap of her powerful wings, the fire pokemon took to the sky.

xoxox xox xoxox

After flying full speed for some time, Chari reached an island covered in hot springs with a small volcano in the middle. The volcano didn't look like it would erupt any time soon, but its presence was enough to keep all the bodies of water on the small island hot. Chari flew around until they spotted the executive down below. She landed next to him and her trainer got off, "thanks for the ride, Chari, return." After recalling her pokemon, Ashimi stepped forward to face her opponent, his hair was the same color as Ariana's and he held the same plotting look of Archer's eyes. "I'm here," Ashimi stated the obvious, hoping that he would quit looking at the distance and stop ignoring her.

The executive slowly turned his head towards her. "Is the future leader of Team Rocket so weak that she must take the rest of the day off after a single battle?" Ashimi was surprised that's what bothered him and that he didn't mention Jaina's escape. He didn't wait for her to reply. "I returned to Team Rocket for this?" He began to walk away. "The boy has been training, I'll let you battle him first, then you can battle me." With a red beam of light he released a Salamence and got on his back, then flew off to the top of the small volcano.

"Oh well, at least I get an extra battle, that might actually be good practice, but where's my opponent?" Ashimi looked around but didn't see anyone, so she tried sensing and felt the presence of someone in the hot spring near by.

A head full of light green hair emerged from under the water and the boy removed his breathing mask and took a deep breath of normal air. He never did get used to those things. "Is it time for the battle yet?" He looked around, realizing that the executive was nowhere to be found. Then he spotted the red-orange haired girl looking at him with questioning eyes. "Princess!" He jumped out of the hot spring, embarrassed that his skin was so red from being in the hot water so long, and ran off behind a bush to change from his swimwear into his Rocket uniform. Then he jumped out, fully clothed, standing at the other side of the hot spring and released a pokemon from its pokeball. "Tentacruel, go! I shall give you a good battle, lady Ashimi!"

"Firion? You're my opponent?" Ashimi stared in disbelief. 'He was supposed to be training and his pokemon evolved. I better not underestimate him.' "Pichu, I choose you!"

"That's right, my lady, I am your opponent, but my name's not Firion," the boy replied. "Never mind that, let's just focus on the battle for now. Let's see if all my training paid off! Tentacruel, use hydro pump!"

"Pichu, dive!" Pichu reacted quickly and dove into the hot spring between the trainers, dodging the incoming attack.

"Water is Tentacruel's element, jump in after him and use poison jab!" Tentacruel jumped into the hot spring too, hurrying after the little yellow pokemon.

"Thunder!" Ashimi cheered. Pichu filled the hot spring with electricity that went out from him in ripples.

"Get out of there, Tentacruel!" The water pokemon managed to crawl out of the hot spring, but he was looking dizzy and burnt from the big electric shock. "How did Pichu not shock himself?" The green haired boy asked in disbelief.

"Lots of practice in controlling his electricity. We've been training hard at the beach. I even got Chari a tail flame protective bubble so she could swim with it. I guess it must have really toughen her up, since she evolved," Ashimi revealed.

The boy felt himself twitch in frustration. Was he destined to always be a step behind? He managed to get some pointers from a Rocket executive, but not even that was enough to prove himself. "Water training for a fire type... Gotta hand it to you madam, no one's as tough as the Rocket princess!" He looked at Tentacruel with hopeful eyes. "Think you can still fight?" The pokemon nodded and turned around to face Pichu, who seemed to be amused, splashing around in the hot spring. "Tentacruel, use-"

"Get out of there, Pichu, wild charge!" Ashimi interrupted. Pichu swam as fast as he could and crashed into Tentacruel, who was taken by surprise by how fast the yellow rodent came at him.

The boy's mismatching colored eyes went wide, "are electric pokemon even supposed to be able to swim that fast?"

"Anyone will swim fast if it's to avoid being in a hot spring full of acid," Ashimi pointed out.

Her opponent stared in disbelief, "how did you know that I was going to tell Tentacruel to use acid? Are you a psychic or something?"

"Not at all, but if Pichu turned the hot spring into a death trap, it's only logical that you would try to turn things around by taking away that advantage," Ashimi theorized.

"And here I thought I actually came up with a clever strategy," the boy grimaced. "What good is it to think of a good move if it's that easy to guess? Tentacruel, be careful and... Tentacruel? Oh oh..."

Seeing as the water pokemon was paralyzed, Ashimi decided it was time to end the match. "Finish him! Thunderbolt!" Without further ado, Tentacruel fainted. "Well done, Pichu!" Ashimi cheered.

"There goes round one," the boy recalled Tentacruel into his pokeball. "Maybe I can still win this, I managed to get my hands on a pretty good pokemon. Go Milotic!"

"Get ready Pichu, let's win this round too, use- huh?" Ashimi paused and looked at the bushes behind the boy.

"Milotic, counter attack with... with... Not to complain, my lady, but how am I supposed to think of an effective counter attack if you don't finish your sentences?"

"Get down!" Ashimi suddenly exclaimed. Her voice was so urgent and commanding that the boy dropped to the ground immediately. A barrage of razor leaves flew over his head to be disintegrated by Pichu's electricity before they could reach Ashimi on the other side of the hot spring. A pair of vine whips suddenly emerged and wrapped around Milotic, pulling her behind the bushes from where a toxic scent came. Ashimi ran around the hot spring and jumped over the bushes on the other side. In a shaded area behind the hot spring, she found Milotic being held captive by Venusaur. "I heard about yesterday, looks like your Venusaur recovered."

Pichu emerged from the bushes to stand next to Ashimi, along with the boy whose name no one could remember. "I see you have a different lackey with you today," Daala replied in her usual mocking tone.

"Let my Milotic go!" The green haired boy complained. He saw that his pokemon had already been poisoned and her face was turning a sickly shade of purple.

"Make me," Daala challenged.

"Enemy of Team Rocket, you will regret this!" The boy tried to look brave for his future boss. "Milotic, use hydro pump!"

"Venusaur, venoshock!" Milotic found herself unable to retaliate as she was trapped in Venusaur's vine whips that were choking her. The attack hit Milotic extra hard because of the poison already affecting her.

"That's not fair!" The green haired teen complained.

"Pichu..." Ashimi paused, if she had Pichu attack Venusaur, then Milotic would be caught in the attack and she had already been weakened. Without warning, a red light emerged from one of the pokeballs on her belt and Magikarp materialized in front of her.

Daala stared at the fish that flopped around helplessly. She blinked in surprise as her features began to form a smile until she burst out in a fit of laughter. "That's your counter attack?"

"Don't make fun of the princess' pokemon!" The boy complained. 'I have one more pokemon I can use, I haven't had this one for long, but I have been training her.' "Go Weedle!" Instead of the Weedle the boy expected to emerge from the pokeball, a Kakuna appeared. "Kakuna... She evolved? She evolved! Atta girl, well done!"

"Um... Zidane..." Ashimi let out an annoyed breath while Daala laughed at their efforts. "It's great that your pokemon evolved and all, but it wasn't the best timing."

The boy, who was not called Zidane either, was hit by a harsh realization. His look of happiness, then confusion, finally settled into an expression of horror. "Kakuna can't battle..."

"This is pathetic, go Houndoom!" Daala released another pokemon into the fight. It was the fact that Houndour had evolved while training on that very morning that filled her with the confidence to challenge Team Rocket again so soon after her recent defeat. "Boy, recall your sad excuse for a pokemon or I'll burn her to ashes!" She warned.

"No!" The teen yelped in alarm. He quickly called back his Kakuna, holding the pokeball protectively. "It's okay, Kakuna, I won't let them hurt you, and that goes for you too, Milotic, return!" The red beam of light surrounded Milotic, but she didn't disappear into her capsule. Venusaur's vine whips were holding on to her so tightly that she couldn't be recalled. "Milotic!" The sea serpent yelled in pain as her breathing slowed and the poison continued to assault her. "I'm coming, Milotic!" The boy dashed towards his pokemon recklessly.

"Get back, it's dangerous!" Ashimi tried to stop him, but it was too late.

"Razor leaf!" A shower of sharp leaves assaulted the boy, covering him in painful cuts.

"Daala, stop this!" Ashimi tried to think of a way to attack Venusaur without further injuring Milotic.

Impatient at the lack of instruction from his trainer, Magikarp flopped towards Venusaur and attempted to tackle her, but his movements felt short of the attack, as he didn't have the strength to boost himself forward. Instead the fish fell helplessly on the grass dinosaur's mouth and was chewed. "You're eating that thing raw?" Daala shook her head. "Honestly, Venusaur..."

"You can't turn my fish into a meal!" Ashimi panicked. "Pichu, quick attack!"

"Razor leaf!" Daala countered. As Pichu rushed towards Venusaur, another rain of leaves assaulted him. The small yellow pokemon dodged out of the way, but instead found himself in the path of a fierce looking Houndoom. "Flame thrower!"

"Dig!" Ashimi shouted at the last second. Pichu buried himself out of the reach of the flames and began to tunnel away from his opponent.

"I'm not falling for that again! Venusaur, earthquake!" Daala commanded. "Houndoom, inferno!"

"Hurry out Pichu!" Pichu tunneled to the surface in a rush, he stumbled out dizzily from the earthquake and was met face to face with Houndoom, who wasted no time in attacking with massive flames. "Pichu!" The little yellow pokemon was tossed aside, unconscious. "Pichu... I can't believe this, he fainted, return!" Ashimi called back her loyal companion, "don't worry Pichu, I'll get you to the pokemon center soon."

Suddenly, Venusaur let out a big roar of pain and started running widely. She waved the unfortunate Milotic around like a flag, refusing to loosen the grip of her vine whips. "Venusaur, what's wrong with you?" Daala watched the rampage in alarm. Venusaur cried out and opened her mouth, Magikarp, looking quite beaten, was biting her tongue. "I told you, you shouldn't try to eat food before its cooked! Stay still," Daala reached into her whimpering pokemon's mouth and pulled off the Magikarp, tossing the fish harshly aside, he fell between the bushes on the side of the battle field.

"Way to go Magikarp, you're a real fighter!" Ashimi cheered.

"But Milotic is still trapped," the green haired boy complained. "She can't battle like this, why won't you let her go?"

"I kind of wanted a Milotic for myself," Daala admitted. "I think I'll keep her."

"You will not turn my precious Milotic into an enemy of Team Rocket!" The boy went on the attack again.

"Houndoom, stop him!" Daala ordered.

Houndoom caught the Rocket by the leg and bit him hard. The boy yelped in pain and fell to the ground, but didn't stop trying to make his way towards his distressed pokemon. "Milo... Milotic..."

"Let him go!" Ashimi was clearly enraged. The last drop of her patience had been used up. Daala didn't look like she would cooperate. Far from it, she looked like she was ready to order Houndoom to use a fire attack, while still keeping his fangs on the Rocket agent's leg. "Chari, I choose you!" The ferocious Charizard made her appearance looking imposing and fierce. "That's your target!" Ashimi pointed right at Daala, whose eyes went wide in shock. "I will say this one more time, let Farron go."

"You're really not kidding... fine," Daala growled in frustration. She knew that there was no way she could overpower the Charizard. "Houndoom, release that idiot." The canine let the human go and rushed to stand beside his trainer.

The boy, whose name was not Farron either, crawled forward, unable to support himself on his injured leg. "Stay still, you can't walk like that!" Ashimi called after him, but he didn't stop.

"Milotic is at her limit, she's not moving, please let her rest from all this, I beg of you!" He cringed and held his injury. A dark red stain was visible through the ripped black fabric of his Rocket uniform, seeping rapidly into his once white gloves.

"You're a real Rocket, aren't you?" Daala growled. "Abusing power rather than battling."

"You're one to talk, hypocrite!" Ashimi spat in return. "You want a fair battle? Fine! Thank you Chari, you can return now," she recalled the Charizard. "Milotic is unable to battle, she has already been knocked out. Plus Sephiroth surrendered, so you can let his pokemon go now. I won't let you steal her!"

Daala paused as if considering something. "It all comes down to this, does it? What's the point of letting Milotic go if you'll just sick your Charizard on Venusaur again? When you find out about her plans, I'm sure you'll be quite angry since I intend to help despite disagreeing."

'What in the world is she talking about? Jaina was rambling strangely too.' Ashimi quietly thought.

"I guess I'm helping out of pity or a long forgotten sense of compassion that surfaced for my only human friend," Daala continued. "I'll have to face your wrath eventually, so it might as well be now! Venusaur, finish this with-ah!" Daala yelled as she felt a sharp pain on her leg. "You again?" She kicked off the stubborn Magikarp. "What does it take for that thing to stay down? Houndoom, fry that fish!"

Ashimi was about to take action, but stopped when a glow caught her attention coming from Milotic. Her body had gone limp and Venusaur lowered her guard, assuming that Milotic was unconscious, but she was actually sleeping, using her rest ability. The sea serpent took her captor by surprise and escaped from the grip of the vine whips. "Wait a minute, when you said let her rest, you were actually telling Milotic what to do," Ashimi realized.

"That's right," the green haired boy grinned, he was pale and dizzy from the loss of blood, but he was determined not to faint. "Real Rockets don't beg, unless it's to the boss, but never to the enemy! Milotic, iron tail!" Milotic stretched her body, her tail glowing silver. Milotic's tail smashed against Venusaur's head with great strength.

Venusaur stumbled back and fell unconscious. Daala recalled the grass type while Houndoom took to the front lines. The canine focused on Milotic and disregarded Magikarp. Magikarp flopped back to life and bit Houndoom's tail. The canine howled and smashed his tail against the ground, ridding himself of the nuisance. It seemed that was all Magikarp could take, because he was no longer flopping around. "Oh no! Return!" Ashimi tried to recall him, but as she feared, Daala's pokemon refused to allow it. Houndoom stood in the way of the red beam from Magikarp's pokeball, blocking Ashimi's attempt to call him back. "Do I have to call Chari out here again?!"

Milotic screeched in a mix of anger and sadness and attacked Houndoom with aqua tail. The dark fire pokemon jumped back, avoiding the hit. Milotic wrapped herself around Magikarp, gently lifting him up. She knew what it was like to be weak and helpless and felt compassion for him. The Magikarp's eyes slowly opened and he wheezed in pain. He looked at the wondrous creature that held him with great gratitude and admiration. She was very strong, kind and beautiful, but clearly, she was also very tired from the long battle's efforts.

"Houndoom, use crunch!" Daala refused to give up. Her loyal Houndoom dashed towards the water pokemon fearlessly, bearing his long sharp fangs. Magikarp jumped out of Milotic's embrace before she could react and with a bright glow surrounding his body, he became larger until he towered over Houndoom. The enormous Gyarados snatched Houndoom in his mouth, chewed him, then spat him out in a colossal hydro pump. Houndoom went flying through the air with the force of the hit and landed some distance away. "Houndoom!" Daala still had Donphan, Rapidash and Exeggutor, but it was clear she wasn't making any progress. "Go Rapidash!" She jumped on the pokemon's back. "Let's get out of here!" They galloped away to find Houndoom.

"Coward!" Ashimi shouted after her, tempted to give chase.

"Aren't you going after her?" The green haired boy asked. "She must have gone to find Houndoom. She probably has a boat or something hidden near by, so she shouldn't be too hard to find, especially if you get a bird's eye view with your Charizard."

"Yeah, but if I leave you to your own devices, you'll bleed to death," Ashimi examined the wound on his leg. "Don't move, I have a first aid kit in my bag," Ashimi dug around for it and began to work.

"Lady Ashimi, you mustn't! I got hurt because of my own incompetence. A princess shouldn't lower herself to do this," the boy complained.

"Shut up, Balthier," Ashimi applied a little more disinfectant than what was needed, making the boy, who was not called Balthier either, cringe from the sting. "What kind of a future leader would I be if I don't take care of my Rockets? You're weird and obsessive, but you mean well and you do take good care of your pokemon. If you try to get along with Johnny, we might just all be friends."

"Jonathan..." he growled between his teeth.

Ashimi tightened the bandage on his leg, making him cringe from the pain again. "He's my best friend, I don't see him ever not being a part of my life, so you'll have to learn to deal with him if you want to work for me."

The boy sighed hopelessly. "I guess I don't have a choice. Alright, I'll try."

"Good," Ashimi finished the improvised first aid. "This is just basic first aid, I want you to go to a real doctor, understand?"

"Yes ma'am..." The teen sighed.

Ashimi looked at the two sea serpent pokemon that were cuddling each other. "Well, they seem to be fond of each other. Hey you two, make sure he's okay, got it?" The pair of water pokemon nodded in unison. "Gyarados..." Gyarados looked at his trainer, then back at Milotic. "Be a good boyfriend to Milotic." Gyarados gasped in surprise and nodded eagerly, he gently nuzzled Ashimi then went back to cuddling Milotic.

"Her boyfriend?" Milotic's trainer blinked in confusion.

"Yeah, look at them, it's obvious they like each other." Ashimi handed over Gyarados pokeball. "I can't part those two, I'll feel bad if I break Gyarados heart after he's been enduring all the hard training I put him through."

"Then you should take Milotic," the green haired boy insisted. "She's a great pokemon, a perfect gift from a loyal Rocket agent to the Rocket princess!"

"No," Ashimi refused. "You need a strong pokemon like Milotic by your side, besides, you risked yourself for her and I'm sure she appreciates that. Make sure to continue training all your pokemon well." Ashimi began to walk away. "Gyarados, Milotic, take care of each other and make sure Edgar is alright." She ran off, disappearing into the foliage of the surrounding vegetation.

"Thank you, princess!" The teen called after her, not really minding that his name wasn't Edgar either.

Ashimi ran as fast as her legs could carry her, until she reached the base of the small volcano. A bittersweet feeling invaded her senses. She had grown fond of that Magikarp during their time together and she had been looking forward to his evolution, but letting him go felt like the right thing to do. She now truly understood the stories her father had told her about when he released his pokemon. He would miss them, but he knew he was doing the right thing. Ashimi took a deep breath and called out Chari, "another battle awaits, to the top of the volcano!"

xoxox xox xoxox

Chari carried her trainer up and they landed on the edge of the volcano's mouth. The formation was small, but had just enough space to comfortably battle in. However, there was no battle arena, instead several rocks protruded from the calm darkly colored lava. The lava wasn't as hot as the volcano at Cinnabar Island, but falling in would still be lethal. Were the pokemon expected to jump from one rock to another? Well, that wouldn't be necessary, because Ashimi knew what pokemon she would choose. Chari could stay in the air if needed, so the lack of places to land didn't really matter.

The Rocket executive walked around the mouth of the volcano until he stood next to Ashimi. "Recall your pokemon," he ordered. Ashimi was about to say Chari would be battling, but decided to see what this was about and called her back into her pokeball. "Turn around and shuffle your pokeballs." Ashimi did so, a feeling of dread washing over her. "Now hold them out... The second from your right. Ashimi held up the pokeball, it wasn't Chari. "That will be your pokemon, here's mine... Arcanine!" A ferocious looking Arcanine jumped out of the red beam of his pokeball while the executive calmly walked around the volcano to the opposite side. The Arcanine landed gracefully on one of the stones protruding from the volcano. "You must win this with the pokemon in that pokeball randomly selected. All of your pokemon should be strong, or else there would be no point in taking them with you. You get one chance, no arguments."

Ashimi looked from Arcanine to the pokeball in her hands in distress. Well, at least Pichu wasn't chosen, that would be a problem since he fainted not long ago, and she had not been able to take him to the pokemon center yet. Ashimi took a deep breath, she had to trust in her pokemon if she wanted them to trust in her. They were listening to the conversation and she didn't want to make the chosen one doubt his confidence. She released the pokemon from his pokeball. Squirtle materialized in front of Ashimi, shaking in fear from head to tail. "Squirtle..." The little turtle worriedly looked up. "It's okay, you don't need to do this if you don't want to."

"Squirtle!" The little pokemon protested. He held up his tiny hands as if holding something small between his fingers. "Squirtle squirt squirtle!"

"Your safety is more important than a badge or the Indigo League. I'm not going to force you to battle." She patted him on the head gently. It's okay, if it's over, it's over. Maybe we can get some badges at Johto or something. It's not the end of the world."

"How disappointing," the Rocket executive huffed. "After I took time off from my personal training to battle you, you're just going to give up? Can't you get your pokemon to obey? You did get lucky with the type advantage, but your pokemon is still in the first stage of evolution. How weak. Are you not strong enough to make it evolve or is it too useless to get stronger?"

"Squirtle is my friend and I won't put his life in danger!" Ashimi argued. "He's strong, loyal and braver than he realizes, and he's more important than a stupid flame badge!"

"Squirtle!" Angered by how his trainer was being put down despite how nice and understanding she was, the small turtle stepped forward and daringly shot a water gun right at the Rocket executive's face. His Arcanine interfered with a breath of fire that intercepted the liquid and reduced it to steam. "Squirtle!" Unfazed, the tiny turtle dashed towards the edge of the volcano and jumped, but his short legs couldn't carry him the distance to the next stone. He retreated into his shell and propelled himself the rest of the way with a strong water gun, landing on one of the stones.

Ashimi let out the breath that had been uncomfortably caught in her throat. 'I've lost count of the times I've been close to having a heart attack today. Well, Squirtle wants to do this, so we might as well do our best... No, I can't think like that, we won't just do our best, we're going to win this!' "Go get 'em Squirtle, we're going to win! Water gun!"

Arcanine jumped out of the way, gracefully going from one stone to the other with ease. The rocket executive didn't seem to care about the Squirtle's antics. He simply voiced, "overheat." The flames that the Arcanine spat out were so abundant that they covered the entire area in the center of the volcano.

Seeing no way out, there was only one thing to do, "retreat into your shell, Squirtle!" a massive pillar of fire stood atop the volcano. Ashimi had to step back away from the sparks. She couldn't see what was happening because of the bright flames. After what felt like an eternity, the fire dissipated and revealed the area. Arcanine was standing proudly atop one of the rocks, howling as if he had already won. Squirtle peeked out from his shell and got on his feet a little shakily. He looked to Ashimi and nodded, as if to indicate he was ready for her next command.

"What's that? Your Squirtle's shell is melting? Is it fake or something?" The Rocket executive inquired with a mocking air.

"So what if it is?" Ashimi argued as fiercely as she could. She could think of no way to help Squirtle realistically win this and it was frustrating her. "It doesn't matter, Squirtle is still strong!"

"Oh yes, I'm sure," he gave her a mocking grin. "That's why you're panicking right now."

"I am not!" Ashimi growled. She paused took, a deep breath and tried to achieve clarity of mind. 'Okay, do this step by step. Taking down Arcanine with direct attacks is not going to work, type advantage aside, he's simply too strong. Arcanine can fill the whole area with fire and can dodge Squirtle's attacks easily. I guess I should start by evening out the field. Should I put ice on the stones to make them slippery? No, it'll just melt and the puddles will evaporate. Some rain would be nice, but Arcanine is not going to give Squirtle time for a rain dance, I need to buy some time.' Ashimi stared at the area's layout. "Squirtle, use water gun on the lava and be ready to switch targets!"

The executive laughed, "I've heard about your father modifying the battle arena to his advantage, but surely you don't mean to cool this entire volcano." Then he realized it, the arena was covered in a thick fog from the steam coming from the evaporating water. "Overheat!"

"Now!" Ashimi called out urgently. Squirtle switched his target to Arcanine, who got a mouthful of water gun when he tried to breathe fire. The fire pokemon coughed uncomfortably and was delayed for a moment. "Get the lava!" Again Squirtle switched targets and covered the arena in steam.

'Trying to make Arcanine exhaust his energy, are you? It won't work, maybe I should turn the strategy against her. Arcanine can't dodge what he can't see, but Squirtle can't see either. If Arcanine keeps shooting fireballs, Squirtle will have to keep up the steam to hide since I doubt he's fast enough to dodge, and this way there's less of a chance of Arcanine choking on any more water if he only opens his mouth on intervals.' The gym leader went on the attack again. "Arcanine, flame thrower, rapid succession."

"Squirtle, jump!" Ashimi called out, she closed her eyes and focused, forward, forward, forward, a little to the left, land! Water gun the lava again quick! Then when the steam is thick do a rain dance!" Ashimi instructed.

The gym leader tried to see through the steam. 'Did her Squirtle just jump blindly? But her directions sounded as if she saw everything. How could anyone see through this steam? Either way, I can't let her complete the rain dance. There's no time to locate Squirtle.' "Arcanine, use overheat, fill the entire arena with fire!" The fire took a little longer to spread because of the wet mist hanging in the air. The flames cut through the moisture like knives and spread across the surface of the volcano. It was logical that Squirtle would hide in his shell again, but the rain dance would have to be stopped. Shadows overtook the arena as clouds gathered in the skies above and rain began to pour. Arcanine's flames were put out and he could no longer fill the arena with fire. Plus the rain created more steam to hide Squirtle.

"Way to go, Squirtle! I know you'd be fast enough! We're turning this battle around!" Ashimi cheered.

The gym leader struggled to see through the steam but he couldn't. He knew he couldn't just wait, Arcanine was trapped under the rain and it would only get worse. "Interesting, it seems we are at a stand still. I assume Squirtle's jump range improved because of the same trick used before and you guided Squirtle to be propelled in the right direction seeing with the aura," he finally concluded.

"You know about that... I guess I shouldn't be surprised given who you are in Team Rocket," Ashimi admitted. "Is it considered cheating?"

"Not at all, it is only fair that you use what is at your disposal, young madam," his tone, as always, was sarcastic when he called her young madam.

"So... Aren't you going to attack?" Ashimi asked.

"Attacking blindly would be useless, plus Arcanine would have to put a lot of effort in terms of range, it's nearly impossible to perform a decent ranged fire attack in this weather. Squirtle could be continuing the rain dance as we speak in its hidden perch, so waiting it out isn't an option either. My only choice is to have Arcanine jump to a different area and hope to land on one of the pillars," the gym leader considered the option. "Jump, Arcanine!" No howls of pain were heard from within the mist. "Looks like he made it, of course Arcanine is quite familiar with this area, so even with the discomfort of the rain he should be able to calculate the jumps just fine."

"So it's a test of endurance, how long can Arcanine blindly jump under the rain without fainting? Hey Squirtle, looks like we got this one in the bag," Ashimi laughed.

"I doubt it, my Arcanine can endure a lot. Arcanine, search all the stones in the surface of the volcano, you'll have to find Squirtle eventually!" The executive decided.

Some time passed and all that could be heard were the soft thuds of Arcanine's paws on the stones protruding from the lava. Ashimi yawned, "it's taking a while, isn't it?"

"Keep searching, Arcanine. Squirtle can't move without her directions or else the risk of falling into the lava will be too great. Plus I haven't heard any suspicious sounds recently. Squirtle must be in the same place this whole time!"

More time passed with nothing but the same sounds of Arcanine's movements. "Now this is what I call a challenge, patience isn't my forte," Ashimi yawned again.

Arcanine howled, he couldn't find Squirtle at all and he was soaked to the bone. "The rain hasn't stopped, that Squirtle must still be there, dancing. There's no way the pokemon also has the sight of aura, it must be in the same place." 'But how is that possible if Arcanine has been all over the arena? Wait, the same place, could it be?' The scent of the volcano was too strong for Arcanine to use his nose to track Squirtle. The sneaky little water pokemon could have been standing right next to him without being noticed. "Arcanine, go back to where you were before you started jumping!"

"Ah, so you figure it out," Ashimi giggled. "Yup, since you already know, I'll admit it, Squirtle did the rain dance between Arcanine's paws. He didn't need to worry about being burned because there was no fire directly under Arcanine's body."

The gym leader laughed, "forgive my near sightedness, young madam, I should have paid more attention to your initial directions and pinpointed Squirtle's location. I didn't expect him to be able to go that far when you kept telling him to go forward." Though the sarcasm was still evident in his voice, it sounded as if he was actually having fun. He had gone a long time without any kind of battle that could be called a challenge.

"Well I guess I won't be able to use that trick now. But that's alright, Squirtle, Arcanine is tired, let's finish this! Hydro Pump, give it everything you got!" As Arcanine jumped towards the rock where Squirtle stood, he was assaulted by the water pokemon's attack. Arcanine struggled to make it to his target landing spot, landing right next to Squirtle, taking on the full force of his attack until Squirtle had nothing more to give.

"Arcanine, fire fang, crush that Squirtle!" In a fast movement before the small turtle could dodge, Arcanine scooped him into its mouth and bit hard on his shell.

Squirtle could feel his shell crack as his most frightening memories resurfaced and he froze. He remembered the pain of having his original shell broken, he was an inch from death when that pokemon researcher from Pallet found him and took him in. "Squirtle!" The voice came as a distant echo at first, then it became clearer as Squirtle went out of his scared trance. "Squirtle! Use skull bash!" Squirtle abandoned his shell at the last second, right before Arcanine crushed it, narrowly avoiding the same fate. The turtle bashed his head into the canine's with all his strength. Arcanine stumbled back dizzily. "Again Squirtle! Don't stop now, we're going to win this, go Squirtle!"

His fear was gone and Squirtle felt his power returning to him, for once in his life he felt strong and confident. The gym leader was saying something and Arcanine was growling something else, but he only heard his trainer's voice full of confidence and love. His body was surrounded by a bright light as he repeated the skull bash attack once, then twice again. Arcanine finally had too much and collapsed. The clouds above began to clear, the rain stopped and the steam dissipated. There stood a victorious pokemon beside the defeated Arcanine, but it was not Squirtle, it was Wartortle. Ashimi had sensed the evolution, but other than silhouettes, her aura wasn't strong enough to see colors or details, so it was only when the steam cleared that she saw the color of his shell.

"Wartortle!" The water pokemon looked at his trainer in surprise at being called differently, he didn't even notice the evolution until then. "We did it Wartortle, we won and look, you have a new shell, evolution restored it just like I knew it would!" The newly evolved pokemon smiled as he went into his cozy new shell and popped out again. It felt so much stronger and comfortable than the fake one. He jumped and pushed himself to jump to the edge of the volcano with his water gun, evolution had restored some of his energy and though he was tired, he wasn't ready to collapse anymore. He ran the rest of the way into Ashimi's arms. She hugged the water pokemon and ran her hands on his smooth shell, "that's a really nice shell you have there and it's green, you're handsome and rare." Wartortle grinned sheepishly, blushing at the compliment. Ashimi hadn't even realized just how rare her pokemon was before, since his fake shell was the same color of any normal Squirtle shell. But surely Gary and Laiki had known, they were pokemon experts after all.

The gym leader and Rocket executive had recalled Arcanine and made his way to Ashimi's side of the volcano. "Perhaps there was a point in returning to Team Rocket after all. It does look like the organization might have a future, take this badge as proof of that."

Ashimi received the flame badge with a big smile. "My seventh badge! Thanks, and thank you for reminding me that no matter what, there is always away to win and that all pokemon are truly strong." In the beginning she had feared the situation was entirely hopeless, but the battle took a sharp turn and ended in victory.

The gym leader laughed, "I wasn't trying to teach you that at all, it's such a childish and optimistic sentiment, but I suppose I shouldn't try to shoot you down for it if you can actually back it."

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 23: Grudges of the Heart (Part 1)

Ashimi returned to Cinnabar Island and met up with Jonathan and Zero. It was a sunny afternoon and since she only had one more badge to win, she thought it would be okay to relax and wait for the evening ferry. As fun as it was to ride the Gyarados, it made her a bit nostalgic about her own Gyarados, plus she had heard the large ferry's snack bar had the most delicious icecream-filling cookies in Kanto. She was at the poolside at a hotel with her pokemon when the need for a cold drink hit. "Did you guys see where that employee with the drinks cart went, I could really use a soda, or juice, or something."

"I'm not sure..." Zero looked around until he spotted the drinks cart on the opposite side of the pool, "over there."

"I'll go get the drinks," Jonathan got out of the pool and caught his breath, "I think I'm done giving Foxtrot swimming lessons." The Flareon looked to be alright, paddling around in the pool. Though his trainer had a bit of a rough time at first when the fire type panicked and kept jumping on him, making him sink. But Foxtrot just had to be tough and refuse to give up on swimming, after all, his younger siblings could do it.

"I'll go! Let me!" A male voice suddenly called out, but just as suddenly, the owner of the voice went out of sight, only to return a minute later with a very large cup of juice. "Here you are, princess, all for you!"

"Hi, Kain, what are you doing running around already?" Ashimi eyed the bandage still wrapped around his leg. She took the big glass cup in both hands, it was like a fishbowl filled with juice, 'did they have to use the entire juice bottle in one serving?' She wasn't sure she could drink the whole thing.

"I'm not Kain, but never mind that, I'm not doing too badly. It was just a flesh wound, so I should be fully recovered soon," the green haired boy smiled big. "Anyway, I'm eternally grateful to you, my lady, so if you need anything at all, I'm here to serve!"

"Ah, well, the drink is enough, I don't need anything else at the moment," Ashimi laughed nervously, she didn't like being the subject of the boy's extravagant devotion, especially in public places where he was too loud about it and people stared.

"Very well, your highness, just say the word and I'll do whatever you ask!" With his duties fulfilled, it was now time to brag. He looked at Johnny purposefully and cleared his throat. "Did you know that the princess gave me a pokemon? Yes she did, and it's a really strong pokemon too. I bet she's never given you a pokemon."

Jonathan glared daggers. "I'm perfectly capable of catching my own pokemon," he growled, never mind that his pokemon were actually given to him, despite the fact that he had caught many for Team Rocket. "Besides, Ashimi only gave you her Gyarados because she felt sorry for you, and I'm not one to inspire pity." He sat at the end of the pool, looking away in annoyance.

"You're jealous! " The boy proudly declared.

"I am not!" Jonathan pouted and crossed his arms, kicking at the water on the edge of the pool.

"C'mon guys... don fight... hick!" Ashimi, looking rather dizzy, tried to step between them and nearly fell into the pool. "Let's all be friends... friends! He he he!"

"Ashy..." Jonathan honestly wasn't sure what was so funny. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, hick, peachy..." She let out a stream of giggles for no apparent reason.

"Golbez," Jonathan stood, already starting to investigate before waiting for an answer. "What's in this drink?" He took the near empty cup from Ashimi and took a sip of what was left.

"Pineapple juice, I asked for a refreshing cold drink and it looks and smells like pineapple, so what else could it be?" The other boy answered.

"It's spiked, really spiked," Jonathan accused, while Ashimi continued to giggle.

"Don't be ridiculous!" The green haired teen defended. "There's no way I would get the boss drunk, that's treason! Besides, they didn't ask for my age or anything."

"Idiot!" Jonathan shouted, "you're a Rocket, it doesn't matter if you're young, people around here are scared of getting on Team Rocket's bad side! Don't you know Cinnabar Island is known among rookie Rockets as the best place to get drunk!?"

"Really?" The green haired boy stammered. "I've been so focused on my duties I haven't been attending any social events, so..."

"Hey! Hey, listen!" Ashimi suddenly yelled. "Listen! Hey! Hey, Listen!" She flailed around a bit until she was sure that both boys were looking at her, then she pushed them into the pool, "watch out!" And continued to giggle. Zero couldn't help it but to laugh at the scene. "You think it's funny, eh?"

Zero nodded and answered between laughs, "pretty funny."

"Not funny!" Jonathan and the other teen chorused.

"Hey! Hey! You're cute!" Ashimi ruffled Zero's hair. He he he, hick, he he, I'm gonna kidnap you for ransom, cause you're cute, so you gotta be worth a lot, and I'm a yakuza, so I should be doing gangsta stuff!" With that warning left in the air, Ashimi swiftly picked up Zero and ran off with him.

"Wait a minute, Ashimi, put me down!" The virtual boy struggled to no avail.

'Aniki!' Nidoran dashed after them.

'This is crazy!' Pichu ran off in pursuit as well, followed by all of Ashimi's pokemon. Jonathan rushed to stop Ashimi from doing anything crazy, his pokemon dashed after him and at the end of the parade was the boy whose name no one could recall, who was in no conditions to really run.

Jonathan followed Ashimi to the hotel, she and her pokemon crammed into the elevator, but there was no room left for more. "Ashy, stop!" The doors closed before him and he was left behind. He went into the elevator next to it, though it took a while to get down.

Just as the doors to the second elevator closed with Jonathan and his pokemon inside, the green haired boy made it to the door, only to watch them go. Sore from his injury, he sat down on the lobby, and tossed the forgotten bags aside.

xoxox xox xoxox

Jonathan emerged at the seventh floor, that was the number he saw flash on the elevator Ashimi escaped on, so she should be around. They were not planning to spend the night, so they didn't really check in. The hallway was clear, save for the wet footprints leading to a door at the end of the hall. Jonathan leaned against the closed door, holding his ear up to it and hoping the room was empty, despite the odds being against it, as the hotel was usually pretty full. He heard female voices from inside, one of them had to be Ashimi and the other one sounded familiar too. He began to turn the doorknob slowly, hoping to surprise Ashimi and... He didn't know what he would do, maybe get her to drink some coffee or something. The door opened a little and he leaned close to take a peek through the small space, but before he could see anything, the door was slammed shut when he was so close to it that it hit him on the nose. "Ow!" So much for the element of surprise.

Just as Jonathan recovered, the door was thrown opened and an angry Dorme slapped him. "Peeping tom!"

"What?! I didn't do anything!" Jonathan defended. "What are you doing here anyway? I was following Ashimi!"

"So you admit it? You were trying to spy on Ashimi while she was changing? You're terrible, it's not like you've ever tried to spy on me!" Dorme accused.

"Yes I-what? Wait no, no I haven't. But why are you accusing me of spying and then accusing me of not spying as if it was just as bad? I haven't been spying on anyone!" Jonathan argued in confusion.

"Oh... Well, I guess it's not so bad if you honestly weren't spying on anyone," Dorme considered. "But why did you try to peek in this room if not to spy? I was helping Ashimi change into her kimono, since she's a bit too dizzy to do it herself." Dorme stepped aside to give Jonathan a full view of Ashimi twirling around in an orange kimono with flame patterns, with her pokemon standing around her. She also wore a matching mask over her eyes. "I saw her running in the hallway and asked her what was going on. She said she wanted an orange kimono because orange is a very gangster color, I'm not sure where that came from. Anyway, kimonos in fiery colors like orange are not hard to find in Cinnabar, and it just so happened that I had recently purchased one, so I'm letting her use it. Is she drunk or something?"

"Yes, actually," Jonathan admitted. "It was all Zack's fault!"

"Zack?" Dorme questioned in confusion. "Who's Zack?"

"You know, the guy with green hair and weird eyes," Jonathan reminded. "Butch and Cassidy's son."

"Oh!" Dorme exclaimed in realization. "You mean Barret?"

"Yeah, him, he got a drink for Ashimi without realizing it was spiked. He thought that they would actually ask for his age or something," Jonathan accused. "This is all his fault!"

Dorme rolled her eyes. "Seriously, doesn't he know the reputation of Cinnabar Island?"

"Excuse me for not knowing what no one told me in the first place?" The green haired boy made his appearance behind Jonathan on time to catch the last part of their conversation. He dropped the bags in front of him. "After I came all this way with the bags you guys forgot next to the pool, I find that you're gossiping about me!" He pouted, then took on a proud expression, his mood doing a full one-eighty. "I know, I know, you're jealous because the princess gave me a pokemon!"

"Would you drop it already?" Jonathan snapped. "I am not jealous of you and I don't care that Ashimi gave you a pokemon!"

"Oooh, she gave him a pokemon!" Dorme teased, she clapped her hands together and giggled.

"I already said I didn't care about that!" Jonathan growled in a 'drop it or else' tone. "Ashimi's given me gifts too, like on my birthday and on Christmas and I don't care that they're not pokemon!" He took a deep breath and tried to ignore Dorme and his rival snickering. "Anyway, Dorme, you haven't mentioned why you're in Cinnabar." He hoped she would just let him change the subject.

As fun as the teasing was, it was a valid question. Dorme decided to give Jonathan a break and answered it. "Headquarters thought Sabrina might be hiding here, even if the flame gym leader assured the only fugitives in his territory were two adolescent girls, none of which was anything like Sabrina. I'm not sure what the details are on them, but I'm guessing Daala and Jaina. Either way, I was sent to search for Sabrina, so any other information was considered irrelevant and not shared. I haven't been able to find any clues though. It looks like it's another false lead. I can't blame HQ for being suspicious, only the high ranked Rockets that have a lot on the line actually do their jobs around here, unless the gym leader throws some threats around. But with the gym leader going off on his yearly month-long private training session, the grunts are drunk more often than not."

"What was that?" Ashimi suddenly interrupted in the most aggressive slur she could voice. She hiccupped and made a determined pose. "The Rocket grunts are slacking off and getting drunk? Unforgivable! Death to the traitors!" She spotted her bag and dug her pokeballs out of it, then recalled her pokemon except for Pichu, Furball and Chari. "I'm putting on my pokemon master hat and showin' them who's boss!" She placed Pichu on her head and ran to the balcony. "C'mon Persian!" She called the Meowth, you gotta look all intimidating while you stand next to me and hiss at the grunts. "And you, my legendary, let's give them a taste of your power!" She jumped on Chari's back.

"Wait, Chari, you can't leave! Ashimi's drunk!" Jonathan tried to reason with the pokemon.

Yet the Charizard was too amused to stop now. She shrugged as she approached the railing. Ashimi hiccupped and giggled incoherently. "So this Ashimi person is drunk, is she? Well, she's going to feel the wrath of my legendary!" She patted Chari's shoulder.

"Um... you're Ashimi..." Dorme pointed out.

" I am Madam Boss, queen of Team Rocket!" Chari took off, laughing as she flew.

"I can't believe her pokemon are actually into this!" Dorme dramatized.

"This can be a problem... ow..." The green haired boy flopped on the bed in exhaustion.

"Who said you could rest in my room?" Dorme pouted and placed her hands on her hips.

The closet door suddenly flew open and Zero and Nidoran fell out, tied together. "I can't believe Ashimi stuffed us in the closet!" Zero complained.

'She's so gangsta!' Nidoran cheered.

"This is no time to be admiring her mobster heritage!" Zero argued.

A series of panicked screams coming from outside caught the groups attention. Setting their differences aside, they focused on the task at hand, stopping Ashimi's drunken rampage. She was flying all over the place with Chari shooting fireballs.

xoxox xox xoxox

Stopping Ashimi's rampage was easier said than done. For the most part, Jonathan, Dorme and Zero just ran around getting lost in the panic of the fireball rain. The situation looked hopeless until three Jigglypuff appeared. The panicking crowd looked to them as an eager crowd and they began to sing. All those in the sound radius slowly fell asleep, which included Ashimi and her pokemon. Chari gently landed, her passengers already sleeping and she soon followed.

Zero looked at his friends and the people all around, Jonathan and Dorme were sleeping too and the green haired boy was back at the hotel, as he couldn't quite join the chase. The Jigglypuff trio puffed up at the sight of the sleeping crowd, clearly upset, until the sound of clapping reached their ears. The three pink pokemon flocked over to Zero, who had remained awake through their performance and bowed as if thanking an applauding crowd of many.

xoxox xox xoxox

As the ferry made its way slowly across the waters, Ashimi complained for the millionth time about her aching head. She had her head resting on Dorme's lap because the blond didn't want her to rest on Jonathan's lap, so before the idea was even mentioned, she quickly offered herself as a human pillow. Ashimi's feet were propped up on the green haired boy's head, as he kept begging for her forgiveness on his hands and knees and claiming he would accept any punishment she gave, so she thought she might as well humor him to make him shut up.

"It was lucky that Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup arrived when they did, nothing like a triple Jigglypuff lullaby to stop a rampage," Zero voiced.

"How come you didn't catch them?" Dorme curiously inquired.

"They're not really battlers, they said they're traveling artists, so it was best to let them continue their tour," Zero explained. "They said their mom used to travel all over the world singing for many different audiences. It was hard to find an audience that wouldn't fall asleep in the middle of her song, but she never gave up."

The news was spread among the Rockets who frequented Cinnabar Island, that anyone who slacked off on the job would feel the wrath of Giovanni's granddaughter, who had remained semi-anonymous until then. Thankfully, because of her clothes and mask, she wouldn't be easily recognized if she went out as a regular civilian. With the sun setting in the horizon, the group left the ferry, all save for the green haired boy who still had Rocket business at Cinnabar Island and went back. Tired from the day's endeavors, Ashimi, Jonathan, Zero and Dorme retreated to the Fuchsia City pokemon center for the night.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Rise and shine, time to get up, Ashimi!" Dorme shook the other girl awake and practically dragged her off the bunk bed. She slept at the bottom that night, unlike other times.

A loud thud from the bed on the other side of the room caught the blonde's attention and she turned her head to see Jonathan picking himself off the floor. "I did that on purpose." It was obvious he didn't.

Dorme shook her head. "Forgot you were on the top bunk this time?" She finished setting the yawning Ashimi on her feet. "Yesterday during your rampage you got my kimono all messy, so it's only fair that you make up for it by getting me a new one. Besides, I helped you, who knows what trouble those boys would have let you get into."

"That's not true! I would have kept her out of trouble!" Jonathan argued.

Ashimi shook her head from side to side as if to wake herself. "Honestly, I rather not talk about what happened. Zero told me Nidoran wouldn't stop going on and on about how badass I apparently was, but I don't remember any of it. If I do something cool, I want to remember it, forgetting it feels like a rip off. Let's just drop it already and never pick it up."

"I emailed Laiki, as you requested," Zero informed. "The rumors in headquarters are that you got angry because the grunts were slacking off. They were all too busy running for their lives to notice you were drunk. No casualties occurred, but some were pretty beat up and burnt. I guess they learned their lesson about slacking off."

"There goes party central," Dorme sighed. "Oh well, never mind that, we have some shopping to do! Get ready quickly everyone, I don't want to waste a second!" She cheered.

xoxox xox xoxox

Dorme was the first to be ready for the day. She went to find a table at the pokemon center cafe, so they could have some breakfast, when she spotted Volt at the counter. Joy returned all his pokeballs and it looked like he was about to leave, but Dorme stopped him. "Gym leader Volt," she voiced to get his attention.

"Yes, but I'm not handing out badges right now, my father is taking care of the gym at this time. I'll still battle you if you want a challenge anyway," Volt offered.

Dorme wasn't in her Team Rocket uniform since she didn't expect to do any work today. "Maybe some other time, I have a shopping trip to attend soon." She walked around him, examining him from every angle.

"I see... Well then, I won't delay you," Volt attempted to leave, but Dorme stood in his way. "What is it?" He asked a bit impatiently.

"You're really nothing like your brother," Dorme stated curiously.

"What?!" Volt glared, taking it as an insult. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Dorme laughed, "relax, it was a compliment. A bit insecure, aren't you?"

Volt glared, "I am not." He eyed the counter, where Joy shifted nervously, before deciding she had something to do in the back, then he looked back at Dorme. "You're that Rocket, I didn't recognize you right away without the uniform. What do you want with me?"

Before Dorme could reply, Ashimi called out to him, "Volt!" She approached the pair along with Jonathan and Zero. "I haven't seen you in a while, how are you? Had any interesting pokemon battles lately?"

"I've had a few good battles," Volt commented, though it was clear he wasn't really up to the conversation with so many Rockets around. "I see you're traveling with several Rocket agents now."

"I've been traveling with them for a while," Ashimi smiled, Volt's discomfort completely flying over her head. "Dorme comes and goes, but we run into her often, so I'm kind of traveling with her too."

"Say, Ashimi," the cunning look of a good idea shone in Jonathan's eyes. "Why don't we invite Volt to travel with us?"

Volt gave Jonathan a suspicious look, while Ashimi immediately agreed. "That's a great idea, how about it, Volt?"

"Well..." Volt considered. He had been wanting a rematch. "I can tag along if you want," he finally decided.

"Great! Then let's have some breakfast and we can go shopping afterwards!" Ashimi announced.

Volt paled then shot a deadly glare at Jonathan, who only grinned victoriously. He should have known the blue-violet haired teen had some kind of evil intention in the suggestion of inviting him to the group. Now he would be stuck helping carry a mountain of shopping bags again. "Don't look so smug," Volt whispered to Jonathan, "you'll have to help too." Jonathan frowned, all traces of a victorious look gone from his face.

Zero calmly sat down along with the others, the virtual boy laughed, while the two older boys frowned at him. Surely he would escape any grim bellhop fate because it was obvious that Ashimi and Dorme thought he was so cute. Zero took another moment to look smug while they typed their orders into the touch-screen menu and passed it around. The tablet-like device was inserted back into a slot at the side of the table and after a while, a Chansey waitress brought their food. Needless to say, the pokemon centers and their services had expanded over the years.

"Don't you worry Zero, we'll get you some presents," Ashimi petted his blue and orange hair affectionately.

Dorme mimicked the other girl's action with a smile. "We won't forget because you're so cute. It's a pity that I won't get to spent the shopping trip with you."

"It's okay, you girls go have fun, we'll manage," Zero smiled sweetly.

Jonathan and Volt exchanged perplexed looks, which evolved into expressions of realization when Dorme finally clarified. "From what I heard, the Fuchsia mall finally got a proper delivery system to try to compete with online malls. It costs extra, but I have some extra spending money due to my latest mission and Ashimi always gets a juicy allowance, so we'll be fine. That means we won't be needing any assistance with the bags today, which is good because we need to do this on our own."

Jonathan's jaw dropped and Volt looked very relieved. "I still don't see what all the secrecy is about," Ashimi shrugged.

"I already told you, when it comes to grand galas, it is best if the gentlemen don't see the ladies' dresses until the big night," Dorme insisted. "The first meeting on that special night will be much more memorable that way," she emphasized with a dreamy expression. "Since boys are so easy to shop for, you can leave the tuxedos to us, I'm pretty sure I can tell what would fit you. Volt, since you're traveling with us, you can come too."

"What?" Volt summarize his and Jonathan's confusion in that one word.

Whatever was going on, the girls must have discussed it at some point in the previous night when they were alone with Zero. 'Must have been when I went out for supplies last night.' Jonathan had ran out of Nya's favorite poke-treats and she wouldn't stop crying for them. A tiny, fluffy, lavender kitten in tears was a heart breaking sight, so much that no matter how troublesome it was, Jonathan went out to get the treats, even if he was tired.

"The wedding gala, it's just a few days away!" Dorme exclaimed with a huff, as if saying 'boys never know anything.' "The grandson of some rich big shots is getting married, and since they want to stay in good terms with Team Rocket, they invited the boss. Giovanni is too busy to attend so he delegated the task. Thankfully, my mother was present at the meeting when the subject of public relations came up and she volunteered me. The invitation said it was okay to bring extra people, so you guys can tag along, but you need to be on your best behavior. That especially goes for you, Ashimi, no battling!"

"What's the point of any social gathering if not to battle?" Ashimi complained.

"I mean it!" Dorme scolded. "It's simply not proper!"

Ashimi huffed, "fine! But there better be good food!"

"How did I get dragged into this?" Volt muttered under his breath.

xoxox xox xoxox

With Ashimi and Dorme gone, that left Volt, Jonathan and Zero to occupy themselves. "I'm going to go hang out at the yacht," Zero announced.

"Yacht?" Jonathan and Volt asked simultaneously, glaring at each other for the copy.

"Wait, you mean with Luke?" Jonathan realized.

"Yup, you want to come?" The virtual boy invited.

"Count me in! Sounds like fun," Jonathan immediately agreed.

"Luke... I've heard of him. He's the father of Comet, whom I've heard my brother dislikes... They say that Comet is a lot like his father, so..." Volt paused and the other two wondered if he would refuse to go. But instead he smiled and concluded, "that must mean he's pretty cool, mind if I tag along too? Hanging out in a yacht does sound like more fun than waiting for the girls to get back so I can battle Ashimi."

xoxox xox xoxox

That evening at the pokemon center, Jonathan, Volt and Zero were resting, though the girls were not back yet. "So let me get this right. You're a virtual android and you feed on electricity. It actually takes energy to disintegrate food once you consume it, so eating drains your energy rather than restoring it," Volt recited.

"Yup, that's pretty much it," Zero nodded.

"Then why in the world would Luke give you such a massive amount of candy?" Volt pointed at the four bags on the table of their guest room.

"Because he's nice?" Zero logically suggested. He shrugged and pulled a pink lollipop with a yellow star out of one of the bags. "I can still taste food, so I can enjoy candy."

"Okay..." Volt decided not to try to find the logic in it any further, they had candy, why would he want to question that? Luke was certainly relaxed and carefree. It was like nothing could make him mad and no one dared to find out what could, because it would suck to have to think of him as anything other than carefree and nice. That was certainly a different way to train pokemon than what Electro's strict disciplinary tactics were like.

The door opened to allow passage to the tired looking Ashimi and Dorme. They had a few bags with them, but not such a heavy load that would make it difficult to carry. Dorme had two zipped up dress bags, which she insisted Ashimi was too much of a tomboy to know how to properly handle. She placed the dress bags inside the closet and began to sort through the other bags Ashimi had just set down in the middle of the room in favor of focusing her attention on the candy bags. "Whose candy is this?" Ashimi curiously peeked into one of the bags, this was some good candy.

"Mine," Zero smiled sweetly.

"Aw, you adorable little chibi, let's eat candy while you see the presents we got you," Ashimi ruffled his hair playfully.

"Well, I'm really tired, so after we're done putting things away and give Zero his presents, I think we should get some sleep, right Ashimi?" Dorme grinned, giving Ashimi a scheming look.

Ashimi wasn't sure what that was about, but her instinct told her to play along, "right."

"There are two bunk beds in each room, enough for four people, and there are five of us here," Dorme pointed out. Zero was about to say that he didn't need to sleep, but Dorme patted him on the head and discreetly pushed his hand up to return the lollipop to his mouth and silence him. "Since we're going to need two rooms anyway, it's only proper to divide them between the men and women, so you two should go to another room." Dorme made a shooing motion with her hands, telling Jonathan and Volt to leave.

"What about Zero?" Volt asked in confusion. "He's a boy," he pointed out. Virtual or not, he was still clearly a boy.

"Zero is young and innocent, so he can stay here," Dorme decided.

Ashimi grinned, catching on to the plan. "That's right, Zero can stay, but you two have to leave."

"Go on now, it's improper for young men to be sleeping in the ladies' room," Dorme began to push them to the door.

"But I've always behaved... properly..." Jonathan argued.

"Yeah, and I don't have a death wish either... Er, I mean, I'm a proper gentleman too," Volt added.

"No arguing, out you go!" Dorme closed the door, leaving the two boys standing in the hallway. A silent moment passed and then a sound of blissful pleasure was heard from the other side of the closed door. The two teenagers in the hall put their ears against the door in curiosity. "Oooh... This chocolate is to die for!"

Jonathan and Volt gasped in grim realization, "the candy!" They tried to open the door, but it had been locked from the inside.

"They're so sneaky, I bet they're buttering up Zero with compliments so they can eat his candy!" Jonathan glared at the door.

"Unbelievable!" Volt grumbled in indignation. 'I thought my stupid brother was only bragging when he said he who has the sugar gets the girls, but it sounds like it was true.' Although Electro was actually referring to a metaphor about riches and rank, in this case it could be applied literally. Defeated and disappointed, the two boys made their way to the pokemon center counter to request an extra guest room.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later that night, everyone was sleeping peacefully when Daala peeked into the girls' room through the window. She didn't have any pokemon out and Zero's pokedex abilities didn't detect humans. She looked around the dark room unnoticed. Ashimi was there along with two others, but neither of them were her target. The younger boy was awake and Daala assumed he was guarding the others. She checked the other rooms, wondering why Jonathan wasn't with them. In a different room, he located Jonathan, there was also another boy there, both were asleep, how convenient. She tossed a small sphere into the room and it began to emit gas, from which Daala was protected with a mask. She waited a moment for the gas to clear up before finally letting herself in through the window.

She placed an envelope on the center table, then approached the bunk bed, both boys were sleeping on the top bunk of the two beds in the room. She carefully began to drag Jonathan off the bed, her face a tad red with the combination of effort and proximity. She had to take him back to her clients unharmed, so she tried not to let him fall. She stumbled as she tried to readjust his weight on her back, he was heavier than he looked. She could use some help from her pokemon, but she didn't want to make any unneeded noise. Besides, her getaway vehicle was parked near by, so she wouldn't have to carry him far. Just as quietly as she came, she was gone.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 24: Grudges of the Heart (Part 2)

The next morning, the girls were woken up by the loud noise of Volt pounding on their room's door. Dorme opened the door, half asleep and Volt burst in. "Sheesh, what's the rush?" Dorme scolded. "And by the way, do you make it a habit to run around in shorts when there are ladies present? Not that I don't appreciate the view, but-"

"Never mind that!" volt interrupted, embarrassed. "You locked the bags in here and it was more comfortable to sleep like this than in day clothes, and it was just us guys in the room anyway, but that's not what matters right now!"

"So why didn't you just put the clothes from yesterday back on?" Ashimi logically suggested.

"Because I was in a hurry!" Volt waved a piece of paper around. "I woke up and Johnny wasn't there, but I found this!"

Seeing as Volt continued to flail around, rather than actually read the paper, Zero snatched it from him. "This appears to be a ransom note."

"Ransom?" Ashimi and Dorme exclaimed in unison.

"Has Johnny been kidnapped?" Dorme panicked.

"By who?" Ashimi demanded to know.

"No, sorry, I was wrong, it's not a ransom note," Zero corrected. The girls gave him questioning, slightly relieved looks, and Volt was confused. The Vermilion gym leader had concluded that it was a ransom note, so he wasn't sure why Zero was now saying it wasn't. Seeing the looks he was getting, Zero elaborated. "Ransom notes provide instructions on how to recover the kidnap victim. This letter is basically saying there's no way we'll get Johnny back and isn't demanding any sort of payment for his safe return." He paused as the girls' expressions became more and more horrified, then quite accurately added. "This really sucks, it doesn't even have clues about where we can go to rescue him."

"Johnny!" Dorme cried out in a panic. "He was stolen because of you!" She tackled Volt in a fit of rage.

"Get off me, you crazy girl, it's not my fault!" Volt argued.

"While you two wrestle, we're going to save Johnny," Ashimi decided. "Let's go, Zero, to the scene of the crime!" She ran out of the room along with Zero to find the boys' room.

Volt and Dorme knocked several things over in their fight and were making a lot of noise. "Ouff... Where did you learn to kick so hard?!" Volt choked out. He grabbed on to Dorme's wrists and tried to pin her down before she killed him. "Calm down! I told you it wasn't my fault, if you could just be reasonable we could-" A loud clang resonated through the room and Volt felt his vision fade.

An angry looking Joy stood over them with an iron frying pan on hand. "Is that gym leader Volt? The nerve of him, trying to steal a kiss like that. I would assume a well known man like Surge would teach his son some manners, and some decency! Are you alright, miss?"

"Um... yeah, I'm fine, no worries," Dorme laughed nervously. She didn't even want to think about what this looked like to Joy, especially since Volt could pass for being two or three years older than he was. "Sorry about the noise?"

"Don't worry about it," Joy gave Dorme the frying pan, "here, keep this just in case."

Dorme nodded uncomfortably and accepted the cooking utensil that doubled as a weapon. "Um... thanks... I'm okay now, so... yeah."

"Alright, call me if you need anything," Joy left.

Dorme let out an exasperated breath and looked at the unconscious Volt on the floor. She ran her hands on the smooth surface of the frying pan. "Joy's swing could use some practice," she mused. "But if I hit him with this I'll crack his skull like an Exeggcute."

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, Ashimi had been called to Saffron City by an urgent message from Jessie and James. They were told about Johnny in case they had any clues, but didn't know anything at first, until recently. Ashimi hurried to Saffron with Dorme, Volt and Zero. As they went through route six, the sound of a police siren reached their ears. "Oh no!" Dorme exclaimed as she stepped on the gas.

"I told you I should be driving," Ashimi complained. "Why does everyone get to drive my car but me?"

"Forget it, with Johnny missing I'm the oldest," Dorme turned a corner out of the highway and through the smaller streets that led to the paths where people traveled on foot or bicycles. "I was just getting a little impatient and went a bit fast."

"A bit?" Volt complained. "This is a car, not a jet!"

"Pokemon detected, looks like some trainers are having a battle in the middle of the dirt path ahead!" Zero warned.

"What? Don't they know that's no place to battle?" Dorme swerved around to avoid the two surprised pokemon trainers.

"It's no place to drive either!" Volt pointed out.

Dorme ignored him, "Pidgey versus Rattata? They call that a battle? My Pidgey didn't stay a Pidgey for long." She straightened the car and rushed down the path, followed by Jenny on a motorcycle.

"I'm really glad I have a few extra fake license plates," Ashimi breathed.

"You do?" Dorme had not known about that detail. "That's convenient."

"That's illegal," Volt pointed out the obvious.

"It was Johnny's idea, in case we got into trouble," Ashimi shrugged. "Would you rather be the one who gives the explanations?"

"No..." Volt admitted.

"Stop in the name of the law!" Jenny sped up as much as she could.

"Ugh, she's still coming!" Dorme accelerated.

"Switch to all terrain mode and lose her between the trees," Ashimi touched the correct area on the control panel and the car's suspension switched modes.

"It's a lot smoother now, okay, here I go!" Dorme left the path and drove through the grass. "We're not going to get a flat tire with all these twigs and rocks we're running over, are we?"

"Nah, they're airless tires, the covers that make them look like regular air tires are just for decoration," Ashimi explained.

"Jenny is still after us!" Volt sunk into his seat. "If my father finds out all the trouble I've been involved in lately..." he didn't even want to think about it.

"Relax, they won't recognize us like this," Ashimi assured. They were all wearing black Team Rocket uniforms complete with hats and masks.

"We're almost to Saffron City!" Dorme announced. "It'll be troublesome if we continue the chase through there."

"That's it! Releasing smoke screen!" Ashimi pressed the commands into the control panel and a stream of smoke emerged from the back of the car. Jenny yelled and the sound of a crash was heard, followed by a stream of not so nice or proper words. "Sounds like the crash wasn't too bad if she still had the energy to insult us, but I don't think she'll be able to follow us anymore."

"Why didn't we do that from the start?!" Volt questioned.

"Yeah!" Dorme exclaimed.

"I try not to rely too much on Rocket resources unless it's an emergency," Ashimi excused herself. "Never mind, the important thing is that we're in Saffron City. Slow down so we don't get another Jenny's attention, we're almost there anyway."

Dorme slowed to a normal pace and soon parked in front of Jessie and James' pokemon day care center. Ashimi, Dorme, Zero and Volt exited the car and rushed inside, despite the closed sign on the door. James' voice came from the back room, sounding quite upset. The way he paused, then continue speaking, hinted that the person he was arguing with was on the phone.

Jessie emerged into the counter upon hearing the sound of the front door being opened and the ringing of the little bells attached to it. "They have him..." Jessie informed. She slammed her fist into the counter angrily.

"Nya!" Meowth came running to them, his pink Purrloin wife following after him. "She's here, all the pokemon are here." Ashimi released the lavender kitten from her pokeball. She looked quite sad, as she missed her trainer. "She's worried about Johnny, we all are."

Meowth hugged his daughter. "Don't you worry, Johnny's a tough Rocket, he'll get through anything. Besides, we know they don't plan to hurt him."

"Not physically at least," Jessie growled in frustration. "But they do plan to keep him prisoner."

The sound of something being thrown against a wall in the back room was heard and a very frustrated James emerged into the front of the day care center. "They're impossible!" He declared with great frustration.

Ashimi had known Jonathan's parents for a long time, but she had never seen his father so upset. "What's going on?"

"Where's Johnny? If you've already found him, tell us where he is so we can save him!" Dorme urge, her enmity with Jessie forgotten for both her and the older redhead.

"It's not that simple," James sighed. "My parents insist that Johnny is with them of his own free will. Plus we don't know where exactly he's being held. I already contacted some friends at headquarters, someone from Team Rocket must have seen something."

"Johnny is with his grandparents?" Ashimi didn't even know he had any living grandparents. "But I thought that..."

James nodded solemnly, "after I left the family to escape an arranged marriage and joined Team Rocket, they eventually decided I was dead to them, so I felt I had no choice but to return the favor. The last time I tried to fix things was when Johnny was a baby, but they said, and I quote 'we want nothing to do with you or your peasant brat, you're all dead to us,' so I stopped trying to contact them after that."

Volt's mouth hung open in silence, things kept getting more and more complicated. Dorme tried to assimilate all the information, "it's like a soap opera in real life..."

"Now they're planning to marry him off to some girl, we don't know who." Jessie's anger and frustration was evident, she looked just about ready to explode like a volcano filled with bombs. "They already made an announcement on the radio and the media is all over it. They decided to keep a bit of an air of mystery to it, to keep the media paying attention. They said they would celebrate the wedding of the Kojiro heir and left it at that."

"Kojiro?!" Dorme loudly exclaimed. "The wedding gala we were supposed to be attending to represent Team Rocket was for him? I always thought his lastname being the same as those rich big shots was only a coincidence! I can't believe this, we've been getting ready to go to the wedding not knowing whose wedding it was, Johnny was supposed to go too. Ashimi and I even went shopping and got him a tuxedo, and now it turns out that it was planned to be his wedding all along?!" The blond girl was feeling quite frustrated at not having realized it sooner.

"All those things that Jaina and Daala said, they must have been hinting at this," Ashimi mused aloud.

"Jaina? Daala?" Dorme questioned. "What did they say? What did I miss?"

"Daala is the girl who has been chasing you, I remember Johnny mentioned her in an email," Jessie recalled. "But who is... Jaina?" The fact that the girl apparently had the same name as her dead daughter gave her an uneasy feeling.

"Some trickster from Tornado, an enemy of Team Rocket!" Dorme huffed angrily. She glanced at Ashimi, who was shifting uncomfortably. "You know more, don't you?"

Every set of eyes in the room looked at Ashimi expectantly. "Well... She... Um..." Ashimi felt trapped with so many eyes on her. She didn't know what to say. "You... you once had a daughter by that name, right?" She started, unsure. If Jaina was cooperating with the Kojiros, then her true identity would be revealed soon anyway.

"Yes, but she... never made it," Jessie admitted.

"And you're... sure?" Ashimi asked nervously.

"Yes," James ascertained. "I was there when Jessie gave birth, I saw her, I held her, Jaina didn't make it."

This put things into a whole new perspective. Jessie might have been distracted by medicine and the pain of birth, but if James was there, then his story had to be true. If he saw Jaina be born and confirmed that she did not live, then the one who claimed to be Jonathan's sister had to be a liar. "Jaina is..." Ashimi felt herself getting angrier than she had ever been before. How dare that girl play with their emotions and trick Johnny? He had gone through so much stress because of her. "She's a liar!" Ashimi angrily shouted. "She's been pretending to be Johnny's long lost sister, claiming that grandpa tricked you into thinking she was dead so he could steal her away and send her to be trained as Miyamoto's successor. She's nothing but a horrible liar," the pulse of Ashimi's aura resonated within her and her earrings glowed and vibrated in response.

A catchy melody came from the back room, "Team Rocket's rockin'! Talkin' trouble, walkin' trouble, double trouble, gonna follow you! Team Rocket's rockin'!"

James snapped out of his shock and went to retrieve his phone, then rejoined the others. It was not a standard phone that shattered when being thrown against a wall, this was a state of the art Rocket communication device built to be very strong. He glanced at the name on the screen and accepted the call in a hurry, putting it on speaker for Jessie and the others to hear. "Laiki, did you find anything?"

"Sure did, Pixel said the Kojiros were on record as having rented the Lavender Town radio tower and Comet mentioned seeing some suspicious activity in that area, but no signs of a struggle," Laiki revealed over the phone. "If the Kojiros are there, it is possible that your son is with them, but it's not a sure thing, since everything seems to be calm and nothing like an escape attempt has been reported."

"They did say Johnny was there willingly, but that's obviously a lie, they must be threatening him with something to keep him in line," James theorized. "Thanks for the info!"

"Anytime, Rockets gotta stick together!" Laiki voiced. "I would suggest going about this as quietly as possible, but backup is on standby just in case, just say the word and good luck."

James looked at the call ended screen on the cellphone, not really reading it, but thinking. "If Johnny was taken without a trace from the pokemon center, then maybe he thinks all or some of you were taken as well."

"That makes sense," Jessie agreed. "I doubt they're letting him have access to the media or any sort of communication, he must think there's a hostage situation and that's why he can't leave." The theory was logical.

"Then we'll have to show him we're okay, he'll have no problems in escaping then!" Ashimi declared, full of determination.

"Right! Next stop, the Lavender Town radio tower!" Dorme agreed.

"I'm driving," Jessie announced. No one really questioned her, though James visibly paled.

xoxox xox xoxox

"Ow... my head..." Jonathan slowly woke up, he had been kept asleep by his captors for some time. He felt stiff and uncomfortable, then realized he was tied to a chair instead of laying on a bed. His stomach growled, he felt like he hadn't eaten anything in days. He looked around frantically but didn't recognize his surroundings. He was in a digital storage room, it seemed, because he saw several racks of servers near by, humming softly. His eyes landed on a Machoke that stood by quiet and motionless.

"So you're finally awake," A girl around his age approached. She had long crimson hair that hung limply to her mid-back and bright yellow eyes.

Jonathan stared at the girl, she didn't look like Jaina but something in his head told him that she was. He felt that he should logically question her sudden arrival while he found himself in such inconvenient circumstances, yet at the same time he felt that he should just be happy to see his sister. "Jaina..." The feeling of serenity won over and he smiled. Surely she was there to save him from whoever had imprisoned him. It was rather disturbing that he didn't remember how he got there and didn't know where his human or pokemon friends were, but his twin was there, so everything would be alright now.

The girl he knew as Jaina leaned over, locking eyes with him in an intense gaze. "I hereby release you from the hypnotism."

Panic hit Jonathan all at once and he began to struggle against the ropes that held him in place. "What's going on? Where am I? Why aren't you untying me?" For some time, whenever he ran into this girl, he felt a deep connection with her, but now she felt like a total stranger and he suddenly distrusted her. She said something about hypnotism, it reminded him about what Ashimi had mentioned about something being off with his aura. Maybe it was something that had been going on for a while, but she was too inexperienced to notice before. As he struggled with the ropes and tried hard to remember what happened, he realized that he was wearing a suit. That didn't quite fit with his last memory which was of going to sleep in shorts. "Um... who dressed me?"

"Huh?" The girl blushed, the question taking her by surprise and making certain mental images resurface. "Oh... I didn't see anything, I mean, no more than what you'd show at the beach. your grandfather said a young gentleman shouldn't be running around in his underwear and had his bodyguard dress you," she motioned towards the Machoke. "You may leave now, Alice."

"Alice?" Jonathan's blush deepened. "That Machoke is a girl?" The pokemon turned around at the door, away from the crimson haired girl's line of sight and winked before leaving the room. "Hypnotism, kidnapping, and this? I feel like my privacy and personal space has been seriously invaded in every way possible!"

"Calm down, let me explain," the girl offered.

"Well, I'm glad you're willing to explain, because I could really use an explanation," Jonathan voiced with impatient sarcasm. "Mind untying me first?" He hoped against hope that she would agree.

As he suspected, the girl shook her head. "Listen to me first," she insisted.

"Fine," Jonathan knew he didn't really have much of a choice in the matter. He wanted to ask what she meant when she mentioned his grandfather. As far as he knew, his grandparents had all passed away before he was born. Yet he didn't ask the question, instead he remained quiet and listened.

The girl took a deep breath and began her tale, "my name is Janebelle," she revealed. "This is what I really look like, no disguises. I'm not your sister, in fact, I'm not related to you at all. My mother and your mother kind of look alike, but that's just a coincidence. As far as I know, the story you were told is the truth, the real Jaina died at birth. If you felt any sort of brotherly emotions towards me you can forget them, I hypnotized you to feel that way. I'm not a very powerful psychic and can't really use telekinesis, but I can hypnotize."

"Sabrina," the name came out of Jonathan's mouth before he could stop himself. As he had already broken his initial decision not to speak, he inquired, "are you involved with the Espers too?"

"No, just Tornado," Janebelle replied. "Has your father ever told you the story of his ex-fiance?" Jonathan silently shook his head. "I thought so. Well, to make a long story short, your father is the son of a particularly influential high society family. He was engaged to marry Jessiebelle ever since they were children. But he ran away and ended up joining Team Rocket. He then met your mother in the organization and, you know how that ended. Before we were born, my mother, Jessiebelle tried to get James back, but obviously it didn't work. In the end she met a man who happened to be a psychic and ended up with him, though they were never married. My father was not a member of high society and it was only a matter of time before Jessiebelle tired of him and ran off to marry some rich widower, who did business with Team Rocket and could add to her fortune."

"Later, I was born, and it wouldn't have been a problem if I only looked like my mother, but my eyes are exactly like my father's. No one in mother's family or her husband's family had eyes like this and he had heard the rumors that she had been seen with a 'peasant' shortly before they married. My DNA was tested and it became evident that I was not his daughter. He divorced mother and she, ashamed of her peasant child, decided to send me away to my father and forget about us entirely. Father was upset about all this, of course. He wished he had never met mother, never served as her consolation. If she had just married her first fiance whom she always went on and on about, then the whole mess would have never happened. But then if she had not ran off to marry that man, it wouldn't have been so bad. Both of those men were involved in Team Rocket and the organization was already on his bad side as they had once tried to recruit him for his psychic abilities and discarded him saying he wasn't good enough. Thus he decided to train his power and one day get his revenge on Team Rocket. He later came to be known as Tornado."

"Then Tornado isn't about saving the world from Team Rocket or being vigilantes?" Jonathan realized.

"Does anyone really care about that anymore?" Janebelle shook her head. "For someone to go that far it has to be for a personal reason, if it's not about riches and power, then it's about love or vengeance or both. Daala is different, she truly believes in Tornado's goal to free the world from Team Rocket, but look at the general public. They are quite content consuming Rocket made products, knowing that their perfectly safe as long as they don't have a particularly strong pokemon to lose. The rich make alliances with Team Rocket to protect and increase their fortunes and more influential figures continue to join the organization. Pretty soon there will be nothing of interest for Team Rocket to steal unless the Rocket steal from themselves, and to stop the organization from collapsing in itself, I believe that was forbidden a few years ago."

Jonathan took in all the information that was offered to him, but one big question still remained. "You mentioned my grandfather?"

"Yes, your grandfather and grandmother are here," Janebelle revealed.

"That is... a bit hard to believe," Jonathan admitted.

"I thought you might say that," to his surprise, she began to untie him. "I'll trust you not to run away, and if you do, I'll sick Alice on you."

"I won't run..." Honestly, he couldn't run away until he got to the bottom of this, besides, he didn't have his pokemon with him and he really didn't want to make that creepy Machoke mad. "My pokemon, are they alright?"

"I would assume so, they were left back at the pokemon center. Daala left a note for your roommate," Janebelle explained.

"So Daala was the one who brought me here..." That girl just kept popping up everywhere and Jonathan was quite tired of it. "What kind of ransom did you ask for? I hope you're not planning to try to make Ashy give herself up, because I won't allow that!"

"You don't have to get so defensive," Janebelle frowned. "I said it was a note, not a ransom note. It basically let them know that they would never get you back. But don't worry, once the announcement reaches the media, they'll know you're okay and hopefully leave you alone. Then you'll never have to worry about being a servant to Giovanni's granddaughter again. You'll have a new life and you'll only ever see the Rocketto during rich social events."

"Ashy is my best friend, she'll always be a part of my life," Jonathan defended. "She hates fancy social events, so if I'm in one of those, it's to keep her from being bored" he added. "And I'm not her servant, I happened to be a high ranked Rocket!" His voice was filled with pride.

"Forget that!" Janebelle insisted. "You are now the heir to the Kojiro financial empire!" She opened the door to the digital storage room and began walking down a hallway, keeping a watchful eye on Jonathan. "Maybe your grandparents will talk some sense into you." Jonathan doubted that he would be convinced, but he wanted to see the people who claimed to be his grandparents.

xoxox xox xoxox

Jonathan was led to a control room with digital consoles and microphones. "This is a radio station," he realized. With so much going on, the answer to where he was had not yet been addressed.

"Yes," two of the chairs in the room were occupied, they turned around to reveal an elderly man and woman. "This is the Lavender Town Radio Tower, one of the few transmitter towers left on the surface of the planet. I am James the second, your father was named after me and my father," the elderly man spoke.

"And I am Elizabeth," the woman introduced herself. "We've rented this radio tower to make a very important announcement." She explained, pausing dramatically. "To welcome you into our family."

"To welcome me?" Jonathan stared in confusion.

"Oh, look at you," Elizabeth examined him, taking in every detail. "You look so much like your father, but I do hope you'll be better behaved. We can't let you turn into a delinquent too."

"You people are... my grandparents?" Jonathan could see the physical resemblance with his father, but the way they talked and their general atmosphere was entirely different. He had always thought his lastname being Kojiro, the same as that financial clan that sometimes came up in the media, was only a coincidence and he wasn't quite convinced that it was otherwise. "I hope you're not expecting me to believe this so easily."

"That is understandable," James Sr. took an envelope out of his suit pocket. "To make sure the person we contracted for your rescue brought our genuine grandson, we took the liberty of testing your DNA. We anticipated that you would have your doubts, so here are the results of our DNA as compared to yours."

Jonathan examined the medical paperwork. The DNA test showed a high similarity between their genetic structure, so much that the couple could almost pass for his parents, especially since he took after his father so much in the physical aspect. "This doesn't prove anything," he argued. "My grandparents died a long time ago, I never got to meet them."

"I suppose he would say that," Elizabeth sighed. "We were the ones that told that stubborn boy that he was dead to us. We tried to reason with him, we really did, but he refused all logic and lived as a criminal."

"Aren't you allied with Team Rocket?" Jonathan questioned their apparent hypocrisy.

"Yes," James Sr. admitted. "But we have no relation with the low-ranked foot-soldiers. Our alliance is to Giovanni's noble family. If only our unruly son had listened to us and married Jessiebelle, he would be living a life of luxury and so would you."

"Listen to yourselves! You can't just force your son to marry for riches! It's no wonder he left!" Jonathan could feel the anger rising in him, on his father's defense. "When I asked about my grandparents I was told they passed away. My mom told me about her mother's adventures, but dad always looked sad. He said his parents didn't go on any adventures, but that they were kind to him as a child. He said the kind parents he knew died when he was a teenager, I guess he didn't mean it literally. He looked so sad that I never asked for more information and thought some sort of tragedy had happened, but this is what truly happened?" It was so ridiculous that it couldn't be a lie. If they were trying to trick him, surely they would come up with something more believable.

"Don't you see?" Janebelle interjected. "This is your chance to live a rich happy life, and it's my chance too. Father only ever tried to use me, but I was never good enough because my psychic abilities are not at the level of his. Mother is willing to take me back as her daughter to unite our families, we'll be happy together!"

"Unite our families?" Jonathan did not like the sound of that.

"That's right!" Janebelle cheered. "You and I will be married soon, the grand gala has already been planned and even Giovanni was invited. You'll behave in front of your former boss and properly say 'I do,' won't you?"

"I'm not marrying you!" Jonathan exclaimed and backed away until he was against a wall.

"I already told you," Janebelle placed her hands on her hips impatiently."We're not actually related, so it's fine! Would a DNA test reassure you?"

"You think that's the only problem? I get it, we're not related, but I still can't marry you," Jonathan argued. "I hardly know you, and you tricked me, and kidnapped me, and you and your friends totally invaded my privacy, and you used to work for the enemy of Team Rocket, and I don't love you!"

"Stop it this instant!" James Sr. scolded. "Miss Janebelle's unfortunate past with Tornado is not to be mentioned. It does not exist, do I make myself clear?"

"Pretending something didn't happen doesn't make it better," Jonathan refused to back down.

Elizabeth sighed helplessly, "well, no one can say we didn't try. I'm sorry, this is for your own good, James the forth."

Jonathan didn't even bother pointing out that his name wasn't James, he was too worried about the look of resignation in his grandparents' eyes. It wasn't the kind of look of one who gave up, it was the kind of look people got when they were done playing nice. "A pity it had to be this way," James Sr. released his Machoke from her pokeball. "Alice, restrain young James."

"No! Let me go!" Despite all his struggling, Jonathan couldn't free himself from the Machoke, who appeared to be enjoying this.

"Don't struggle so much, you're wrinkling your suit," Elizabeth scolded, as if that was the biggest issue at hand.

"It's okay, honey, very soon you'll be filled with warmth, happiness and love!" Janebelle's eyes began to glow.

xoxox xox xoxox

Later, the indigo sports convertible came to a screeching halt in front of the Lavender Town radio tower in record breaking time. The tower looked normal, aside from the fact that there was a helicopter on the roof, but that wasn't all that rare when there were rich tourists in town. Jessie had no qualms about using the car's weaponry on the officers that dared to give chase, so by the time they reached their destination they were clear of any pursuers. Jessie, James, Meowth, Ashimi, Zero, Dorme and Volt quickly exited the crowded car and dashed into the radio tower. A Machoke came to meet them in the first floor, clearly intent on stopping their progress.

"Flare!" "Growly!" Jessie and James called out their pokemon, but before they could attack, the Machoke found herself the target of another series of attacks.

"Pidgeotto!" Dorme called upon the newest addition to her team, "hurricane!" The bird flapped his powerful wings rapidly, forming a twister strong enough to lift Machoke off the floor.

"Pichu, Thunder!" The electric mouse released his attack, catching the target in the air.

The Machoke was thrown across the room, twitching in pain. She crawled away into the elevator and retreated to the top floor. "Come back here!" Ashimi and Dorme chorused as they took to the emergency stairs to give chase.

Volt stared in shock. Two against one wasn't even fair and the Machoke didn't have anyone to give her directions, but the girls didn't seem to care, they were relentless. "A bit aggressive, aren't they?" James commented, and Volt nodded in agreement.

"They have the right idea!" Jessie exclaimed, rushing after them, "charge!" James, Zero, Volt and Meowth exchanged concerned looks, then dashed after them as well.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the top floor of the radio tower, when James, Zero, Volt and Meowth caught up with Ashimi, Dorme and Jessie, they found that they had already finished the Machoke, who lay fainted on the floor. "There was no need to be so harsh with Alice," Jonathan spoke in a sleepy voice. The crimson haired girl clung to his arm possessively. Next to them on one side there stood an elderly couple and there was a woman on the other.

"I don't get it, why is he just standing there?" Dorme asked impatiently.

"I don't know!" Ashimi replied. "Look Johnny, we're alright, you don't have to stay here anymore. your pokemon are with us, there are no hostages, so come over here!" 'His aura is so strange, it's like he's in some kind of trance.'

"Why would I leave my fiance?" Jonathan asked, still sounding half asleep. "Janebelle and I will be married soon, everything has already been announced."

"That's right, we'll be very happy together. As you can see, Johnny, I mean James the forth, is here of his own free will, so you stop making such a ruckus, you're being rude!" Janebelle insisted.

"Mother, father, Jessiebelle," James glared at the woman. "Something seems very wrong here, what have you done?"

"Nothing at all," Jessiebelle feigned innocence. "Our children are in love and we're just going to have to set our differences aside and let them be together. You want your son to be happy, don't you?"

"Mom, dad, please understand, this is what I want, so just be happy for me." Jonathan spoke in a monotone.

"You don't know what you're saying!" Ashimi shouted. "Your aura's completely messed up!"

"Maybe he'll wake up from his trance with a kiss from his true love!" Dorme was all too willing to volunteer herself to try.

"I am his true love!" Janebelle screeched.

Suddenly, Nya popped out of her pokeball without warning. "Nya, no! You can't come out until it's safe!" Meowth tried to stop her, but it was too late.

The lavender kitten rushed to her trainer and jumped into his arms. Soon Foxtrot, Vaporeon and Jolteon were all around him too. "You... you're all my pokemon, did you come to congratulate me for my wedding?" Jonathan smiled in a daze. Nya purred and licked his face. "Ha ha that tickles..." The feline's eyes began to glow and Jonathan found himself unable to look away. He closed his eyes and went limp, nearly falling over.

"What's wrong, my love? What did that fuzzball do to you?" Janebelle tried to shake him awake.

Jonathan opened his eyes and saw Nya and the rest of his pokemon. "My pokemon..." His voice was clearer now. He looked around as if waking up for the first time in a long time. "Everyone, you're all here!" He looked at Janebelle next to him and jumped away as if he'd seen something terrifying. He quickly dashed to the other side of the top floor control room to stand next to his parents and friends. "I remember now, you were trying to hypnotize me and then... I'm not sure what happened then, but I know for sure I'm definitely not marrying you!"

Dorme twitched, "the cat beat me to it... This can't be..."

"Wow, it feels like your aura is back to normal, I'm not sure how, but Nya cured you," Ashimi looked at the kitten curiously.

"This may sound strange, but I sensed psychic type energy coming from Nya," Zero revealed. "It was like a more powerful version of heal bell."

"What? But aren't Purrloin supposed to be dark types? How could that thing undo all my hard work in an instant?! It took so much effort to-" Janebelle stopped when she realized what she was saying. There was no denying it anymore, but she didn't mean to confess to her crime so directly.

"You can't do anything right, can you? I should have known not to expect much from you," Jessiebelle turned away, and hurried up to the roof to make her escape.

"Mother, wait!" Janebelle called after her.

"Don't call me mother!" Jessiebelle didn't look back.

"We have to stop her!" Jessie exclaimed.

James placed a hand on his wife's shoulder to stop her. "Forget her, Jessiebelle is just a pitiful woman who doesn't know how to accept her loss. The way she is, she'll never know happiness." He turned his angry look towards his parents. "You have a lot of explaining to do!"

The couple jumped back in fright, their son had never yelled at them like that. "We only wanted what is best for our grandson," James Sr. insisted.

"By brainwashing him and forcing him into a marriage he didn't choose?" James shouted. "You need to understand, what you want isn't what everyone else wants. Your idea of happiness is not our idea of happiness. I didn't exist simply to be used to your convenience and neither does my son!"

"But the party... We already announced that there would be a wedding and Giovanni is sending a representative from Team Rocket!" Elizabeth complained. "We can't back down now! You have to help us!" She didn't realize that the representative was actually there, since she saw them as low ranked grunts.

"Are you seriously asking that!?" Jessie looked just about ready to strangle them.

"I have an idea," Jonathan suggested. "Mom, dad, isn't your anniversary coming up in a few days? Why not celebrate it by getting remarried. That way there will still be a wedding."

James Sr. and Elizabeth stared in horror. "We have to celebrate..." James Sr. began in utter disbelief.

"His wedding to her?" Elizabeth finished, appalled and dismayed.

Seeing their horrified expressions, Jessie grinned big. "That's a wonderful idea, it would be so nice to finally get your blessing, mom and dad, and in front of a crowd of important people too!" She clapped her hands together and batted her eyelashes in a charming way that didn't match the absolutely evil look in her eyes.

"No!" The Kojiro billionaires exclaimed in unison.

Jonathan stepped forward, glaring with a deadly air. "I don't remember giving you a choice. You'll give my parents the best anniversary party they ever had or..." He paused dramatically and lowered his voice to a threatening whisper. "You won't live to see the light of another day."

James Sr. and Elizabeth hugged each other in fear. "Does he really mean that?" She gasped.

"I don't know, he's a Rocket delinquent, he's capable of anything!" James Sr. panicked.

Volt grimaced, "how did I end up traveling with such criminals?"

"Yes, I mean it," Jonathan insisted, though he didn't really. "That's a bona-fide death threat, so you better watch out. After all, I'm a delinquent, so what can you expect?"

"Oh yes, he's dangerous," Dorme grinned.

"Absolutely," Ashimi agreed.

"Both famous and infamous," Zero added.

Volt sighed and played along, "he's pure evil... really..."

"Alright! Alright! We'll cooperate!" James Sr. pleaded.

"We'll do what you say, please don't hurt us!" Elizabeth begged.

Jonathan grinned mischievously, 'I can't believe they fell for it.'

James sighed, "yup, the boy definitely has his mother's temper."

James soon found himself in a headlock courtesy of Jessie, "what did you say?" She screeched into his ear.

"Nothing, honey, nothing at all!" James pleaded for mercy.

"So that's it..." Janebelle finally spoke. "You're just going to give up? Mother runs off and abandons me at the first sign of trouble and you two are cowards! Fine, we'll all die together!" Janebelle rushed to the control panel and imputed a sequence of commands. The windows were covered by metal panels and everyone was trapped. "Don't you know the secret about this tower? All radio stations are on satellites now, recorded programs that people can download when it's convenient for them are the way it works. No one ever listens to radio stations like they used to anymore. This tower is no good as a radio tower, but it works just fine as a fortress. Team Rocket is preparing to go public with its dynasty and already many fortresses are being constructed or remodeled. This tower is in the experimental stage, however, the security system installed in case the enemy ever took over the fortress is there. With no Porygon-Z within the main control computer, anyone who knows the code can access it, and my father managed to get it out of a weak minded technician's head, I stole the information from him."

Smoke began to pour into the room. "Pichu, Thunder that window open!" Though Pichu tried his best, it was no use, the barrier couldn't be broken. Instead the window glowed with a force field and returned the electric energy in a counter-attack.

"It's no use! None of your pokemon can break out of this tower!" Janebelle assured, laughing evilly, almost insanely. James Sr. and Elizabeth continued to panic and cry.

"Janebelle, stop this! Do you really intend to kill us all?" Jonathan demanded.

"Why not?" Janebelle laughed bitterly. "I have nothing to live for anyway."

"Ugh, girls who get dumped and think it's the end of the world are so pathetic!" Dorme criticized.

"I knew it, I just knew I would regret tagging along with these Rockets!" Volt growled in frustration. "Pull yourselves together, soldiers!" He coughed at the smoke that drowned the room. "If we don't get out of here fast, we'll suffocate. Maybe she was wrong, maybe if our pokemon work together they can..."

"No, they can't," Janebelle let out another stream of coughing insane laughter. "Go ahead and try, struggle, feel the pain of never having what you want, of always failing!" Without a moment to waste, all the pokemon were released from their pokeballs and sent on the attack. However, the second they came into contact with the smoke they were weakened. "Didn't I tell you? This smoke is especially damaging to pokemon!" Try as they might, not even all the pokemon together could break out of the tower and Nya couldn't muster the strength to teleport.

"Everyone, return!" Jonathan recalled all his pokemon to protect them from the foul smoke.

"Pichu, you better get inside your pokeball too," Ashimi recalled him along with the others, despite the yellow rodent protesting his worries for her. "Stay in your pokeballs, don't worry, I'll be fine, we'll get out of here together."

Zero, Volt, Dorme, Jessie and James recalled their pokemon as well. "You too Meowth," James tossed a pokeball at him.

"What?! Me?!" Meowth protested.

"You'll be safer in there, I'll call you out when..." James coughed, unable to finish his sentence.

Zero had been staring at the control panel intensely the entire time. He wasn't really a pokemon, so the effect wasn't as strong as with the other pokemon, but he wasn't really an ordinary human either, so he wasn't so bad off. 'I won't let them die...' "Everyone!" His sudden voice caught everyone's attention. "It's okay, I got this." He gave Nidoran's pokeball to Ashimi. "I'll miss you all..." Then he ran to the control panel and disappeared into it.

"Zero!" Ashimi's throat felt scratchy from the smoke and her head was spinning. She saw that several of the others had already collapsed. Zero's aura, the essence of his life, had peeked in a burst of energy then vanished. The windows suddenly opened and the smoke began to drift out, thinning as it floated into the open space. "Zero..." Ashimi couldn't sense him at all, he was completely gone, as if he was dead. She tried to force her aura to be more responsive, but she couldn't. Then the dizziness rushed to her head and the world turned dark.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 23: Ashimi's "hey, listen!" quote is from Navi from Legend of Zelda. The three Jigglypuffs are named after the Powerpuff Girls, they are the daughters of the Jigglypuff that used to follow Ash around. The lollipop Zero eats looks like Kirby's invincibility candy.

Chapter 24: I couldn't find any names for James' parents and I don't remember them being called anything in the anime, so I just gave them names.