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Finding Our Unflinching Path
Nicholas stood calmly in front of the Celadon Gym.
Erika gazed back with a natural smile on her face, but neither tamer was fooled. Nicholas and the two grinning pokegirls behind him were as ready for an explosive battle as she was, even with her seemingly relaxed demeanor.
“I haven’t unlocked the doors yet, tamer.” She teased.
“That’s fine.” Nicholas replied with a grin. “We’re just waiting in line.”
Erika’s smile never wavered while she opened up and finally she put the keys away. “We’re ready now. Please come inside.”
Nicholas stepped in and took in the watching crowd. There were only a few tamers that he could identify in the group of women, with the rest of the assembled group comprised of over a dozen pokegirls.
“I’m glad to see you here as our first challenger for the reopening.” Erika said, gliding across the floor and turning once she reached the crowd. “Before your challenge, there is something we would like you to hear.”
“My name is Mikaila.” One of the tamers said. “Behind me are Breanna and Georgia. Without you, they might not be here today.”
Nicholas listened as the other tamers listed their own pokegirls, turning when Erika spoke. “And directly behind me is Jessebelle. These are the pokegirls you saved with your actions, Nicholas. Each of them owes you their freedom.”
“I’m glad that they’re alright.”
Erika smiled at his response. “Perhaps not for long. How many badges do you have?”
“For a tamer with three badges, I would normally pull a few of my punches.” Erika said. “But I know you can handle more than that. Can’t you.”
Nicholas smiled. “You’re the first gym leader to claim that you’re actually trying to give me a fair fight.”
Erika laughed. “Maybe one day we’ll meet outside of my gym, and then I can show you the true strength of my harem. But today you are still a challenger, still training. Are you ready?”
Nicholas glanced between Cassidy and Elizabeth, waiting for each of them to nod before speaking. “We’re ready.”
“Where is your bird? She would have a heavy advantage against us.”
Nicholas turned back to Erika with a cheeky grin. “If she has to fight, she will. Don’t you worry about that.”
Jessebelle laughed and Erika’s smile widened. “I see. Then without further ado, challenger,” she said with a spread of her arms, “let your challenge begin.”
Nicholas winced as Elizabeth was slammed into one of the many trees dotted throughout the gym. “You okay?”
Elizabeth turned her head, spitting blood into the grass and struggling back to her feet. “I can keep fighting, Master.”
Erika had stood, completely relaxed, from the time Nicholas had cut past the last assistant all the way until now. She had lost two pokegirls; a Tangela and a Vileplume. He had lost his ace.
Ashley was unconscious in her pokeball after being destroyed by the Venusaur that now threatened Elizabeth as well. He’d started with Cassidy, and the Kadabra had fought the Vileplume to a standstill before going down to the Tangela. He’d recognized the dangerous power of the girls Erika had on her side and brought Ashley in, but too late; the Pidgeot had barely had time to dent the Venusaur before falling to a devastating combination of powders and an eerily familiar vine grapple. At least she hadn’t gone down without a solid hit.
Elizabeth was only still standing because of Ashley’s work in crippling the Venusaur. The girl couldn’t lift one arm, and her vines were all but useless with how much damage Ashley had dealt to her flower. It had greatly weakened the attacks she was throwing at Elizabeth.
Elizabeth shook her head to clear the ringing from her ears. One solid hit. That’s all she needed. Then she could rest.
“Cherry, defeat her before she can get close.” Erika delicately raised her fan to her lips. “Bury her in a storm of leaves.”
Elizabeth hissed and began running forwards when Cherry stomped, shaking a cloud of green from her back. She just needed to get close!
The razor sharp leaves sliced through her body and she stumbled, crashing to the floor and sliding a few feet before going still. She hadn’t been able to… finish…
Nicholas recalled her and placed her pokeball on his belt. Erika was officially in the lead now. Who could take this Venusaur? Even wounded she was probably as powerful as the strongest pokegirls in the harem.
He unhooked the new ball from his waist. It was as good a time as any to test her claims.
Kary materialized already looking at Cherry. “Thank you for the opportunity, Master.”
Nicholas blinked in surprise. “You know what’s happening?”
“Of course.” Kary bunched her body underneath her and prepared to attack. “Watch me, Master. Watch as I fight for you.”
“Cherry, put her to sleep.”
In a flash Victoria shot forwards, slamming her hands against her body before ripping them forwards with a crackle of electricity. Cherry was preparing to release Sleep Powder when the current pumped into her and she spasmed, jerking and crashing to the ground in a cloud of dust. Kary bore down on the twitching Venusaur, light shining from her throat before she opened her mouth with a horrid scream.
For the first time since the battle started Erika’s composure broke. As the crackling beam of energy Kary fired engulfed Cherry she grabbed the Venusaur’s pokeball, recalling her with a hiss.
“A Dragonair.” She growled, grabbing her last pokeball and holding it in Nicholas’ direction. “I see you’ve been busy since we last met.”
Nicholas was taken aback by her sudden ferocity. “Yea?”
“Recall her. Release your Alpha.” Erika turned the pokeball over and waited. “Jessebelle has waited to meet your Ivysaur in battle.”
“She can still-“
“I am aware that she has taken no damage.” Erika replied coolly. “I am telling you to recall her because if you do not, Jessebelle will not get the fight she wants.”
Nicholas beckoned Kary back to his side. “Nice work. I take it you can see outside of your pokeball?”
“As if I was at your side, Master.” Kary replied with her head held high. “I gave you my oath, did I not?”
“You did.” He glanced over at where Erika still waited. “I’m not sure what she’s getting at, but I’m bringing Dahlia in. Are you ready if she can’t handle it?”
Kary nodded. “Of course.”
Erika triggered the release as Dahlia materialized. “Jessebelle, it has come down to you.”
The Victreebel nodded and turned to Dahlia. “Dahlia.” She smiled. “Alpha of your harem. I have been waiting for this moment.”
Erika and Jessebelle both looked surprised when Dahlia stretched, showing off her new bulk and bringing her vines around to a ready position. “I was hoping this would happen.” She turned and smiled at Nicholas. “Thank you, Master.”
“This was her idea.”
“I’ve been preparing for it ever since meeting her.” Dahlia replied and turned back to Jessebelle.
The Victreebel slowly nodded. “I can see that. Congratulations.”
Erika snapped her fan closed. “Win by any means necessary.”
Dahlia settled into a ready position as Jessebelle prepared herself. “Master?”
“You heard her. Any means necessary.” Nicholas chuckled. “If she’s too strong, find another path.”
The two pokegirls bristled at each other. “Yes, Master.”
Jessebelle sprung into action first. As Dahlia’s vines whipped forwards the Victreebel spat into her hands, poison bubbling into her palms to form two orbs that she hurled at the Venusaur.
Dahlia raised her arms to block the attack, hissing when the acid splashed across her body and began to sizzle. Her vines slashed down, barely missing the dodging Victreebel on the first swipe but catching her side on the second.
Jessebelle screamed in pain and grabbed at the bloody streak Dahlia had created, her own vines slicing out to deflect Dahlia’s next attempt. The two stared at each other for a moment before Jessebelle’s vines lunged out only to be deflected by Dahlia. The two traded proxy blows for a few seconds until Dahlia winced.
Jessebelle grabbed the opportunity, slapping Dahlia’s vines away and slamming hers into the Venusaur. Dahlia coughed, grabbing at the vines as they began to search for her neck.
“Maybe yours are stronger.” Dahlia snarled as she forced her arm in between the vine and her windpipe. “But I have a different strength.”
Jessebelle jerked when Dahlia’s other hand snapped out. The Leech Seeds smacked into her chest, instantly latching onto the Victreebel’s body and worming their roots into her skin.
Dahlia whimpered when Jessebelle’s vines constricted. “Draining me.” She called conversationally. “I can do that, too.”
Jessebelle was startled when Dahlia began to laugh, even as the Victreebel’s vines cut her face and began absorbing her blood. “Action. Reaction.” She grabbed the vine and forced it away from the dripping cut. “I’m not the scared girl you met that day, Jessebelle.”
Nicholas watched quietly as she attacked again, slamming Jessebelle to the floor. The two pokegirls were transfixed by each other’s vines, one standing, one struggling on the ground.
“We can do this all day.” Jessebelle called. “We’ll just keep healing from each other.”
“One of us will run out first.”
Jessebelle grinned. “Nope. The very plants around us know me, Dahlia. They will give me all the energy I need to maintain this stalemate. If anyone will run out, it will be you.”
Jessebelle wheezed when Dahlia pushed her harder against the grass. “Is this what you meant when you said you wanted to fight me?” She gritted her teeth and strained as hard as she could to pin the Victreebel. “You wanted to see who would break first?”
Jessebelle laughed, a low, sinister laugh. “Isn’t that how any fight among grass-types goes, Dahlia? We are one. Vines, leaves, powder, it doesn’t matter.” She forced her head up a few inches to grin at the Venusaur. “Without fire to burn us, without ice to freeze us, we can withstand anything.”
Dahlia found herself shaking. With fear? No. She raised her undaunted gaze from where she had been struggling with Jessebelle’s vines. Anger. Jessebelle thought she would yield first. That the pain from the constantly tightening vines would break her resolve.
Any means necessary, she had been ordered. Fine.
Erika had returned to lightly fanning her face as she watched the two struggle. ‘Stubborn’ didn’t do the Victreebel justice. Dahlia would break first, and then Jessebelle would face the Dragonair. She almost was sad to have the battle come to a close. Maybe she had been too hard on the man quietly standing across from her.
Dahlia focused, pushing powder from her bulb and using her free hand to gently swirl it towards Jessebelle. The Victreebel was mocking her, relaxing in her position on the ground. She couldn’t see what was coming, and Dahlia had no intention of warning her.
Erika noticed, however. As the Lust Dust blew towards Jessebelle she called out a warning.
“Jessebelle! Powder, clear the air!”
“Hm?” Jessebelle tried to raise her head but Dahlia used every bit of her strength to keep the Victreebel pinned. “Mistress?”
Erika grimaced when Jessebelle sneezed. “I can’t believe your girl is using this technique in a battle!”
Nicholas chuckled. “Any means necessary, Leader Erika. Isn’t that what you said?”
Jessebelle howled when she felt her body growing warm. “DID YOU REALLY HIT ME WITH AN APHRODISIAC!”
“What’s wrong, Jessebelle?” Dahlia taunted. “Worried that you’ll break first?”
Jessebelle blocked out the heat and slowly brought her breathing back to normal. “If you think that’s all you need to make me lose control, you’re sadly mistaken.”
“Oh, I don’t think that’s all I need.” Dahlia replied. “But it distracted you for the moment I needed.”
Jessebelle blinked before gasping. Her vines were still coiled around something, but it wasn’t Dahlia’s neck! She managed to wrench her head up and got a glimpse of the Venusaur charging forwards with her vines uselessly coiled around Dahlia’s arm.
Dahlia ignored the surge of pain when Jessebelle’s vines loosened. She jerked her arm back up as the Victreebel desperately grappled with her, laughing at the weak attempt and slamming her knee into Jessebelle’s stomach. “Gotcha.”
Jessebelle gagged but the strike was the least of her worries. With her concentration broken the heat spread through her body, further weakening the already struggling Victreebel’s resolve. It was all she could do to block Dahlia’s next strike, leaving the Venusaur suspended in the air above her. “You’ve got… nothing.” She gasped, desperately trying to ignore the liquid she could feel running down her taint. “You can’t hold out…”
Dahlia’s nose twitched. “Oh, really.”
Jessebelle gritted her teeth and glared at Dahlia. “ReallyyyYYYY!”
Dahlia dropped to the ground and grabbed Jessebelle’s throat. “What’s wrong?” She hissed while her vines violated the shaking Victreebel. “Where did the confident woman go? Where are the taunts, the bravado?” She got right in Jessebelle’s face when the Victreebel shrieked. “Bow.”
Dahlia felt Jessebelle’s walls clench down and a second later she was alone on the field. Erika slowly lowered the Victreebel’s pokeball, watching Dahlia straighten and clean her vines in the grass. “Using a sexual technique in the middle of a gym battle.” She gazed at Dahlia with a thoughtful look. “There’s no rule against it, but I can’t say it’s a common tactic. A battle is supposed to match the strengths of two pokegirls against each other.”
“And this did.” Nicholas walked onto the field to put his arm around Dahlia. “Jessebelle wanted to pit her will against Dahlia’s. Dahlia fought back.”
Erika couldn’t help but smile. “I suppose it did. I’m impressed by what I’ve seen today, challenger… Nicholas. You’ve earned the Rainbow Badge, without question.”
Nicholas accepted the badge and placed it into his pokedex. “Thank you, Erika.” He reached out to shake the woman’s hand. “It’s taken us a while to finally have our battle, but I think I’m happy with how it turned out.”
“I believe so, as well.” Erika replied. “I thought for a moment that we had gone too hard on you, but that Dragonair was a nasty surprise. Cherry had no chance to retaliate.”
“She’s proving to be quite reliable.” Nicholas replied, knowing that Kary was listening. “I’m lucky to have her.”
“Indeed.” Erika bowed. “Good luck, Nicholas. Where will you go next?”
“If Saffron wasn’t locked down, I’d try there.” Nicholas grumbled. “I guess I’ll head back to Fuchsia and try my luck at that gym.”
Erika nodded. “So that’s where you got a Dragonair from. Did you participate in the contest as well?”
“I did.” Nicholas replied. “Got both HMs, too. Victoria is ecstatic knowing a better way to control water.” He chuckled. “She was getting annoyed with Water Gun.”
Erika laughed. “I don’t know who that is, but I assume she’s a water-type of yours. Why not try Saffron anyways? If you explain to the guard why you need access, I’m sure they’ll let you through.”
“I don’t know… I tried that at the north gate and got sent away.”
“No harm in trying again.”
Nicholas shrugged. “Guess not.” He looked at Dahlia. “Let’s get everyone cleaned up, get something to eat, then head that way.”
Dahlia bobbed her head. “I agree, Master.”
Erika watched him recall the Venusaur. “I wasn’t expecting such a… ferocious showing from her.”
“Dahlia has been slowly coming to terms with her own strength.” Nicholas replied, gazing at the pokeball in his hand. “She’s changed a lot since I first met her.”
“Most grass-types have a reputation for being soft-spoken.” Erika replied. “It’s the rare few who so viciously break that mold.”
Nicholas chuckled. “She’s a rare breed, that’s for sure.”
Erika laughed with him. “Congratulations, Nicholas. And good luck.”
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vermilion City – Thunder Badge
Celadon City – Rainbow Badge
Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 34 (Alpha)
Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 37
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 30
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 28
Cassidy, Kadabra – Level 33
Kary, Dragonair – Level 35
Galina, Marowak – Level 30
Sasha, Ditto – Level 25
Abigail, Snorlax – Level 30
“I can’t believe the city is still running the casino.” Nicholas shuddered. “Or that we’d run into that damned hype man at the slots.”
“I can’t believe you spent that much money on tokens!” Dahlia yelled. “I thought you were going to spend everything we have!”
“Look, they had TMs as prizes!” Nicholas cried. “I wanted some!”
“We were supposed to be heading to Saffron to check it out, not gambling for an entire afternoon.” Dahlia griped. “What did you even get as prizes? Some cheap things, I bet.”
“I don’t know, but they sound decent.” Nicholas replied. “Hopefully they can help us cover our weaknesses better.”
“Fine, Master.” Dahlia sighed. “Do you think they’ll let us through the Saffron gate?”
“Like Erika said, we won’t know until we try.” Nicholas drifted to the side to avoid an elderly woman and the man she was arguing with. “I’m very curious to see what level Saffron’s gym is at compared to where we are.”
Nicholas turned to see the woman they’d passed hurrying towards him. “Huh? Yes, ma’am?”
“Did I hear correctly? Are you going to Saffron City?”
“Yea, we are.”
“My grandson is posted at the west gate. I would usually bring him a snack, but with it getting towards evening I don’t want to risk running into any wild pokegirls.” She held up a thermos and lunch bag. “Can you please take these to him?”
“I guess we could do that.” Nicholas accepted the items. “I’ll make sure he knows you’re staying safe, ma’am.”
The woman chuckled. “Oh, thank you. Take care.”
The sun slowly sank towards the horizon as they walked out of Celadon and down the gently sloping route towards Saffron.
“If we can’t get into Saffron, will we go to Fuchsia, Master?” Dahlia asked. “Or is there somewhere else to try?”
“I think Saffron and Fuchsia are the only two gyms we can reach.” Nicholas replied. “Well, also back in Viridian, but the last gym is on an island. We’ll need to find out how to get there.”
Dahlia nodded. “Got it. So Fuchsia next.”
“Yea.” Nicholas shaded his eyes and slowly began to laugh. “Well now isn’t this a surprise!”
Michael turned from his battle and broke into a massive smile. “Nicholas! Wow, what luck seeing you here.”
“I thought you’d taken a massive lead after I needed to take time off!” Nicholas laughed. “What are you doing outside Celadon?”
“I was going to see if I could get into Saffron to challenge the gym, actually.” Michael replied. “I’ve gotten Fuchsia’s badge, and the Viridian gym is closed.”
“Oh, wow. So you have taken a lead.” Nicholas whistled. “We only just beat Erika.”
“Master, get her now!” A loud voice yelled.
Michael turned and pulled out a pokeball. “Good job, Tammy!”
Nicholas looked over at the short pokegirl currently grappling with some sort of foxgirl. “Who’s that?”
Michael chucked a pokeball and pumped his fist when the foxgirl was captured. “Yes! Oh, you haven’t met Tamama. Tamama, this is Nicholas, that guy I told you about?”
The girl turned and Nicholas blinked when he saw her sliding a mask off her face. “It is a pleasure to meet you, master Nicholas.” Her voice had completely changed and it confused him for a minute.
“Um, you… as well.” He glanced at Michael. “Why does she sound different all of a sudden?”
“Oh. She’s an Exeggutor.” Michael replied. “Are you only bold in battle today, Tamama?”
Tamama slid the mask she had been wearing to the side and Nicholas could see another on the other side of her face. “Shouldn’t I be nice to your friend, Master? I didn’t want to offend him.”
“Oh, Nicholas doesn’t care.” Michael laughed. “You can be whoever you want to be around him.”
Tamama grinned and pulled the mask back on. “ALRIGHT!”
Nicholas held up his hands in defeat. “I have no idea what’s going on, but whatever makes her happy.”
“Tamama has this thing going on where she focuses on a single personality at a time.” Michael chuckled. “But she likes to be bold.”
“That’s right.” Tamama walked in front of Nicholas and gave him a look over. “It’s more fun.”
Nicholas returned her look with one of his own. “Grass-type?”
“What gave that away?” Michael said sarcastically. “The massive palm leaves she has as hair? Her dark grey skin?”
“I was going to guess because of the leaves, yea.” Nicholas chuckled.
“Yep, she’s a grass and psychic-type. I see Dahlia is looking good.” Michael laughed when Dahlia stepped forwards and curtsied. “You’ve been busy as well, huh?”
“Oh yea. I have a full harem, and a few more on top of that.” Nicholas laughed. “How about you?”
“That Vulpix is my sixth.” Michael replied. “I picked up a Fearow as well.”
“Very nice.” Nicholas replied. Something occurred to him and he frowned. “Wait, you had four the last time I saw you. A Fearow, a Vulpix, and Tamama here would make seven.”
Michael grimaced. “It would.”
“You lost someone?”
Michael looked away. “I traded Petunia for Tamama back when I was in Celadon for the first time.” He shook his head slightly. “Her idea. She’d learned that battles weren’t what she wanted to do in life.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Nicholas said quietly. “I can’t imagine how much it hurt that she chose to leave you.”
Michael gritted his teeth. “Thanks, Nick, but it’s done.”
“I get it.” Nicholas sighed. “Saffron.”
Michael shook himself. “Yea. Saffron.”
They approached the gatehouse, Nicholas stepping in first. The guard on duty looked up and immediately held up his hand. “Sorry, gentlemen, but the city is-“
“We’re tamers looking to challenge the gym.” Nicholas said. “Can’t we go in just to get there, or something? Please?”
“I’m under orders not to let anyone through.”
Nicholas sighed. “Fine. Do you have a grandmother in Celadon?”
The guard blinked. “What? Yea, did something happen to Nan?” He got to his feet. “She usually comes by-“
“She’s fine, she’s fine.” Nicholas soothed. “She was worried that it was getting later than usual, so she asked me to bring this to you.”
The guard accepted the food. “Wow. Thank you, that means a lot that you’d do something like this for a stranger.”
“It was the right thing to do.” Nicholas replied. “Well, I guess we’ll-“
“Wait.” The guard was staring at the thermos. After a few seconds he spoke again. “I’m going to have to turn around for a bit to put this away… I hope nobody manages to sneak through while I’m not looking.”
Nicholas blinked. “Are you saying…?”
“Shh.” The guard interrupted. “No entry, guys. None. Nope. Nada.”
Nicholas nodded. “Got it.”
He and Michael waited for the guard to turn around before quickly moving through the gatehouse.
“Does that count as a bribe?” Michael asked as they stepped onto the streets of Saffron City.
“I’m going to say no.” Nicholas replied. “I’m just happy we got in…”
The two slowed to a halt and their pokegirls did as well. In front of them Nicholas watched two uniformed Rocket Grunts walking past, chatting about something. Further down the street he could see another relaxing in front of a building.
“What… the… fuck?” Michael breathed.
Nicholas slowly looked around. “I think I know why the city was closed.”
“They’re completely relaxed.” Michael muttered. “Do you think this is an occupation?”
Nicholas shook his head. “The underground paths.”
“What about them?”
“The city shuts down often.” Nicholas replied. “Probably to let Team Rocket members have free reign without outsiders asking questions.”
“Oh my god.” Michael whispered. “You think this is their… city? Team Rocket controls an entire CITY?”
“Seems like it.”
“I can’t believe it.” Michael replied. “Not that I don’t believe, just that… how could this have happened?”
“I don’t know.”
They carefully walked through the streets, passing a pokecenter before taking a turn to the north. The group ground to a halt when they saw what could only be a guard in front of the marked gym.
Michael turned around. “Let’s check at the pokecenter.”
But that was no help, either. Nicholas and Michael sat alone, all of their pokegirls in their pokeballs, watching the light traffic through the building. They only saw a single tamer not wearing a Team Rocket uniform, but Nicholas doubted that was any indication of their allegiance.
“We’re in way over our heads.” Nicholas muttered. “If they find out we’re not a part of Team Rocket…”
“Look. The city opens sometimes. Right?” Michael whispered back. “That means it’s not always Team Rocket that’s controlling the place. What other… faction, I guess, could be here? What is the public face of Saffron City?”
Nicholas looked around the pokecenter and stood. “One sec.” He walked over to a basket of brochures and rifled through them, pulling one out and quickly returning to Michael. “Here, look at this.”
“’Silph Co. For a better tomorrow, today.’” Michael read. “Okay?”
“Look here.” Nicholas opened the brochure. “It says their headquarters is here. Saffron City.”
Realization dawned. “That’s what Saffron is known for publicly. Home to the largest corporation in Kanto.” Michael flicked through the brochure. “It says in here they manufacture pokeballs, medicines, everything. Everything we’ve been using was developed or sold by Silph.”
“Do you think Team Rocket controls Silph Co.?”
“No, if they did they would control Kanto.” Michael replied. “How are we going to get to the gym, Nick? Wait for the city to open?”
“I don’t want to do that.” Nicholas clenched his fists. “In fact, I don’t want to wait for these fuckers at all.”
Michael looked at him. “What?”
“I’m sick of seeing them everywhere we go.” Nicholas growled. “Mt. Moon. Cerulean. Lavender. Celadon. Now here in Saffron.” He got to his feet. “I’m sick of them. If Silph Co. is the other side of Saffron’s coin, I’m going to put them back on top.”
“Nick, there’s dozens of grunts here. Maybe hundreds.”
“I’ve faced dozens before.” Nicholas replied. “I raided their hideout in Celadon to get Dahlia back.”
Michael’s eyebrows rose. “I didn’t hear anything about this.”
“It wasn’t exactly public knowledge.” Nicholas replied. “You should head somewhere else, Mike. This is going to be dangerous.”
“Fuck that, Nick. You’re my best friend.” Michael grabbed his arm. “If you’re going to do something stupid, I want to be there with you.”
Nicholas let out his breath. “We should probably talk to our pokegirls first.”
“Yea. And then what?”
“We remove whatever control Team Rocket has over the city.”
The two men casually made their way through the streets, slowly making their way towards the large skyscraper in the middle of the city. A few grunts passed by but nobody stopped to challenge them and eventually they stood in front of the front doors of the building.
“Guard.” Michael muttered and nodded at a grunt leaning against the wall.
Nicholas glanced over at the grunt, observing how his hat had been pulled down. “He’s not moving.”
Michael watched the grunt for a few seconds. “You’re right.” He chuckled. “I think he’s asleep on his feet.”
Nicholas walked forwards, pausing at the door, but when the grunt didn’t even flinch he quickly pushed inside. Michael followed just after.
Nicholas looked around the lobby uneasily. There was a receptionist’s desk, but nobody staffed it, and the entire floor seemed deserted. “What happened in here?”
Michael walked forwards and looked around. “I don’t know. But something has to be happening, or there wouldn’t be a guard.”
“What do you think?”
Michael started towards a flight of stairs. “We climb.”
“Wait a sec.” Nicholas pulled out a pokeball and released Victoria. “Victoria. We’re here.”
The Gyarados looked around. “What’s the plan, Master?”
“We’re headed up.” Nicholas replied. “Before we do, you’re confident with your new technique, right?”
Victoria nodded, moving her fingers through the air. As she gestured the air around her seemed to thicken until a shimmering wave of water flowed behind her hands. “I am.”
“Ah, you gave her the Surf HM?” Michael noted. “Vanessa learned that technique as well.”
“Do you want to have anyone ready?” Nicholas asked.
“Riana is ready if needed. This is your show, Nicholas. I’m here to help.”
Nicholas nodded and started up the stairs. “Let’s go.”
He had been planning to sneak through the building, but that plan was ruined the instant he turned the corner to the second floor. The grunt that stared at him seemed frozen with indecision and Nicholas threw all caution to the winds. “VICTORIA! GO, GO!”
The grunt screamed, releasing a single pokegirl before both he and the materializing Golbat was swept away in a deluge of water. Victoria stayed right on the floundering grunt’s tail, watching more pokeballs disgorge their occupants. “Master, he’s got more!”
“I figured we’d find stronger tamers here.” Nicholas growled. “No mercy!”
Victoria threw her arms up in front of her chest. “Understood.”
The grunt scrambled to his feet, looking around at his pokegirls. “Intruder! Get-“ He swallowed when he saw the building wall of water in front of him. “-oh no.”
Victoria threw her arms out with a scream and the tidal wave broke over her back, carrying the roaring Gyarados straight into the cluster of pokegirls. The crashing water battered the unfortunate group and the one Zubat that managed to keep her eyes open was quickly taken care of by Victoria’s fist.
Nicholas turned away from the dissipating water. “There is no way people didn’t hear that. We need to move, fast.”
Michael ignored the stairs and walked over to a strange pattern in the floor. “What’s this?”
Nicholas glanced over. “Does it matter?”
“It’s raised up, kind of like a button…” Michael mused and stretched his foot out.
Nicholas gasped when the other man vanished. “MICHAEL!”
Victoria ran up. “Master?”
“He just vanished!” Nicholas jumped when Michael reappeared in front of him. “What the fuck, dude!”
“It’s a freaking teleport pad!” Michael cried. “It stuck me in a locked room!”
“Okay, don’t step on anything that looks like that. Got it.” Nicholas replied. “Shit.”
“If they exist, they exist for a reason.” Michael said. “There might be a certain one that we need to take.”
“I’ll pass.” Nicholas replied. “Come on, let’s take the stairs.”
Nicholas moved out of the way of Victoria when the Gyarados charged up the stairs. “Come on, Mike!”
Victoria was grappling with a Raticate when they got to the next floor and Nicholas looked around. More pads. “What is this place?”
“Who the hell are you!” The grunt cried, backing away when Victoria downed his Raticate. “How did you get in here!”
“I’ve got a better question.” Nicholas said, stalking forwards towards the grunt. “What’s going on here.”
“Like I’d tell you.” The grunt squeaked when Nicholas got in his face.
“Tell me, buddy. You have any friends at the casino in Celadon?”
The grunt swallowed. “Maybe?”
“Heard from them lately?”
The grunt quickly shook his head. “W-What does it matter?”
“Because the hideout was cleaned out.” Nicholas said. “And you know who did it?”
The grunt was shaking. “W-W-Who?”
The grunt squealed and dropped to the floor. “PLEASE DON’T HURT ME!”
“Oh, you’re in luck. I don’t do that to cowards like you.” Nicholas snarled. “Now tell me what’s happening here.”
“The boss is here!” The grunt yelped. “Silph was making something for the Champion, so we took over!”
Nicholas frowned. “Making something for the Champion? What?”
“I don’t know! Please, I’m just a grunt!” The man cried. “Please don’t hurt me!”
Nicholas whirled. A man in a short cut white suit was stepping off of one of the teleport pads. “Get out of my sight, coward.”
The grunt gasped. “Mi-Mister Archer! I’m so sorry, he-“
“Get OUT.” The man snarled, causing the grunt to yelp and race for the stairs. “You.” He crossed his arms. “Who are you?”
“A couple of tamers.” Nicholas replied. “Who are you?”
“Archer, admin and right-hand man of the boss himself.” Archer replied. “And you are a fool who wishes to get in our way.”
Nicholas readied his pokeballs. “Not just wishes. I’m the reason your Celadon hideout is crawling with cops.”
Archer’s eyes flashed. “YOU! That was you, you bast-“ He growled, raising a hand to his face. “Calm yourself, Archer.” After a moment he lowered his hand. “I’ll teach you a good lesson, tamer. You’ll regret crossing Team Rocket!”
Michael stepped up beside Nicholas. “He doesn’t fight alone, Mr. Archer guy. Are you sure you want to try?”
Archer laughed and raised two pokeballs. “Fool. I’m nothing like the fodder you’ve run into before.”
Nicholas watched two pokegirls materialize. “At least he’s not trying to overwhelm us.”
“What would the lesson be in that?” Archer asked. “No, it hurts so much more when you’re shown just how outclassed you truly are.”
“Cocky bastard, isn’t he?” Michael muttered, releasing Riana. “He’s going to slow us down, Nick.”
“Maybe, but we need to fight him.” Nicholas replied. “We can’t risk him attacking our backs.”
“Hmph. You’re right.” Michael pointed at one of Archer’s pokegirls, a girl with swirls of red and white covering her shiny, almost metallic skin. “Riana! Take her down!”
“Victoria, take out that Golbat!” Nicholas yelled. Something about the metallic girl was familiar and he took a few seconds to wonder what.
Archer chuckled as the two pokegirls charged. “The folly of youth.”
Nicholas’ eyes widened when he remembered. That girl, that was the pokegirl he’d seen in Fuchsia! An electric-type!
Victoria and Riana were halfway to their respective targets when the enemy pokegirls each turned, moving towards the opposite combatant. Riana slowed, trying to follow the dodging Electrode, before crying out and clutching at her head. The Golbat continued her ultrasonic scream, bearing down on the thrashing Sandslash as the other girl began to spark with electricity.
Victoria saw the sparks and slid to a stop. No. This wasn’t going to happen again.
“Victoria, get behind Riana!” Nicholas screamed. “She can take the hit!”
“Too late.” Archer gloated.
Victoria screamed as the electricity pumped into her and she staggered forwards. Her eyelids were threatening to close but she forced herself to turn in Riana’s direction, weakly raising a hand.
“Get off her.” She mumbled before collapsing.
The Water Gun smacked the Golbat, not enough to do much damage but enough to give Riana a moment of peace. As Nicholas recalled Victoria Riana straightened, turning away from the spluttering Golbat and zeroing in on the electric-type.
With a roar she charged, her claws dipping down towards the floor before she slammed into the surprised pokegirl. Archer hissed when his girl was smashed into a wall, Riana continuing her charge and throwing the electric-type straight through the drywall.
The Golbat swooped in, sinking her fangs into Riana’s shoulder. The Sandslash tried to swipe her away but the Confuse Ray from before had worked its magic and she smacked against the wall instead.
“Golbat.” Nicholas muttered, watching Archer recall his unconscious pokegirl. “He has something new, but Rocket loves Zubat and…” He grinned and grabbed Elizabeth’s pokeball. “ELIZABETH! Hit the girl with a Thunderbolt!”
Elizabeth materialized and stared at where Riana and the Golbat struggled. “Master? I’ll hit-“
“She’ll be fine!” Michael yelled. “DO IT!”
Elizabeth nodded, scraping her arms together before ripping them apart with a laugh. “READY FOR THE THUNDERRRRR?”
The Golbat glanced up before screaming when the Thunderbolt blasted into her and she was thrown off of Riana. The Sandslash shook her head, clambering back to her feet and turning to the new pokegirl that had materialized. “Master?”
“You got her!”
Riana raised her claws and charged the Raticate.
Archer had lost his grin when his first pokegirl had gone down and now he stared at his twitching Golbat. “Get up.” When the girl remained grounded he slammed his hand into the wall. “GET UP!”
“Paralysis.” Nicholas called as Elizabeth charged the struggling bat. “And a tamer who underestimated his opponents.”
Archer’s mouth twitched into a sneer and he recalled the Golbat when Elizabeth crashed into her, sending both pokegirls tumbling through the rubble of the wall. “Perhaps I did, tamer. But I didn’t get to where I am by quietly failing my duties.”
Michael blinked when the Raticate disappeared in a flash of red. “What?”
“MATILDA! BLOW THEM AWAY!”
The large breasted girl that appeared slammed into the ground, raising her head before levitating upwards in a puff of smoke. “Yes, Master.”
Michael’s eyes widened when he saw the floating pokegirl begin to glow. “SHIT!”
“Good-bye, tamers.” Archer called as he stepped back onto the teleport pad.
There were multiple flashes of red as Nicholas reached for his pokeballs and he yelled when Kary engulfed him in her coils. “ELIZABETH!”
“Down, Master!” Vanessa cried, grabbing Michael and turning her back to the glowing pokegirl.
Elizabeth covered her face when the girl exploded. Shrapnel sliced through her body and she noted with a detached interest that one of the throbbing parts was just above her left breast. As the pain crashed into her she coughed, falling to one knee as she struggled to breathe.
The bloody pokegirl fell to the ground and vanished through the teleport pad.
Riana hissed, shaking her head and staggering out from where she had been sheltered from the blast. “Master?”
Vanessa let go of Michael and he grabbed Riana’s pokeball to recall her. “Thank god she survived that.”
“Riana has taken worse.” Vanessa replied before looking at the other struggling figure. “Oh no. Elizabeth!”
“Kary, let go of me!” Nicholas fell out of the Dragonair’s coils and scrambled towards the struggling Nidoqueen. “Hang on, Elizabeth.” He gasped when he saw the bloody hole in her chest. “Oh gods, no.”
Elizabeth looked up at him. “Hey, Master.” She said weakly. “Did we… win?”
“Hold on, Elizabeth.” He grabbed her pokeball. “You’re going to be alright.”
Nicholas triggered her recall and shivered. The shrapnel had hit her breastplate and deflected upwards, carving a hole through her shoulder. If she hadn’t been wearing her armor, it would have pierced her heart.
Michael ran up with Vanessa right behind him and Kary slithering after. “Nicholas, is she okay?”
“She needs a healing machine.” Nicholas replied. “She was an inch from death.”
Michael winced. “We should leave.”
“No.” Nicholas spat. “Not now. Not when we’ve gotten this far.” He looked at where Archer had vanished. “Their second in command is hurt just as badly as we are. We need to move forwards, and we need to do it now.”
Michael nodded. “Alright.”
“Kary.” The Dragonair nodded. “Victoria is down. Elizabeth is down. I don’t want to lose anyone else.”
Kary’s eyes set. “Then I won’t let it happen, Master.”
“Good.” He turned to Michael, noting Vanessa’s sturdier build from the last time he had seen her. “I see you’ve been busy as well, Michael.”
Vanessa nodded. “We should catch up when we have time, master Nicholas.”
“Agreed.” Nicholas turned to the stairs. “We go, and we don’t stop.” He chuckled to himself. “Just like Celadon. But this time, I’m not doing it for any of my pokegirls.” He strode forwards with Kary twisting past his legs to shoot up the stairs. “I guess Erika was right after all. This is who I am.” His eyes burned with rage while Michael took a position behind him. “It’s time for Team Rocket to die.”
Nicholas gazed at the blinking machine. Ashley stood at his shoulder, watching the small group of talking scientists. Michael was with them handing out water where needed.
They had stormed the floors, tearing through every grunt that stood in their way. In the process they had found a dozen Silph Co. employees, all taken hostage by Team Rocket. From their directions they had made it to this room, and just down the hall was the teleport pad that lead to the top floor.
“The scientists will be alright.” Michael said as he walked up. “Nick, that grunt, with the admin… he said the boss was here.”
“I know.” Nicholas replied. “I’ve seen him before.”
Michael looked surprised. “What?”
“In Celadon.” Nicholas turned. “I have a Marowak, Galina. She sent a message.”
“…I’ll pretend like I know what that means.”
“It means she’s not here now, so I get to be the messenger.”
Michael nodded. “Ah.”
“I’m going up there.” Nicholas turned back to the machine when it beeped. “And I am going to do what hundreds, maybe thousands of humans and pokegirls have dreamed of doing.” He took his pokeballs and put them on his belt before walking out the door. “I am going to hurt this boss until he regrets ever leading this damn Team.”
“Let’s do it.”
“No.” Nicholas turned to Michael. “You need to protect the scientists. What if more grunts show up? They need you.”
“You need me more.” Michael replied. “They can hide until we get back.”
Nicholas gazed at him for a bit before sighing. “Alright, Mike.”
“You always were the headstrong one.” Michael said. “That’s why I’ve always watched your back.”
Nicholas smiled at him and stepped onto the teleport pad.
He appeared in a small room with another pad on the far wall and frowned. Was this the right place?
Michael appeared behind him along with Ashley. “Nick?”
“Probably a checkpoint for when the building is actually working…” Michael stopped when someone else appeared on the pad behind them.
“So you survived.” Archer stepped forwards. “That’s far enough, intruders.”
“You again!” Michael cried.
“Me again.” Archer replied. “As many times as it takes. I will not let you reach the boss!”
“Have you forgotten? We kicked your butt before!”
“Hmph.” Archer reached for his pokeballs. “I was overconfident, as you say. I will not make the same mistake twice.”
Nicholas was starting to order Ashley when Michael stepped in front of him. “Mike?”
“Go, Nick.” Michael released Vanessa. “I’ll hold him off.”
“What? But his girls were even to both of us before!”
“I just need to buy you some time, don’t I?” Michael asked. “Go, Nick. I’ll hold him off.”
“Ugh. I don’t have time for this.” Archer raised a ball. “Step aside, intruders, and I will let you live.”
“Not happening.” Michael retorted. “GO!”
Nicholas hesitated a moment more before running for the other pad. As he vanished Archer released the electric-type again.
“You’re so foolhardy you’d leap to your death?”
Michael chuckled when Vanessa took a battle stance in front of him. “I trust my friend.”
“Even if he makes it to the boss, he won’t be able to beat him.” Archer replied. “Even if you beat me, you won’t beat the boss. All you’ve done is brought yourself pain.”
“Then so be it.” Michael snapped. “Vanessa, SHOW HER THE BLOOD AND TEARS WE SHARE!”
“FRY THAT TURTLE!”
Electricity painted the walls with light as Vanessa charged towards her enemy.
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vermilion City – Thunder Badge
Celadon City – Rainbow Badge
Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 35 (Alpha)
Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 37
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 31
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 35
Cassidy, Kadabra – Level 33
Kary, Dragonair – Level 37
Galina, Marowak – Level 30
Sasha, Ditto – Level 25
Abigail, Snorlax – Level 30
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vermilion City – Thunder Badge
Celadon City – Rainbow Badge
Fuchsia City – Soul Badge
Vanessa, Blastoise – Level 40
Tamama, Exeggutor – Level 40
Hannah, Primeape – Level 39
Riana, Sandslash – Level 41
Madeline, Fearow – Level 39
???, Vulpix – Level 20