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“I’m getting tired of your games.” Nicholas crept along a hallway and pressed his ear to a large ornate door. “I want to know what that man asked you to do.”
“You should know we don’t break confidentiality.” Another voice replied. “Even when we discovered who we were working with on Cinnabar, we didn’t notify the police.”
“Because we had a mutual goal.” Nicholas tensed when he heard the second voice grunt in pain. “Answer me. What did Gary Oak commission you to make?”
“I think you already know.”
Nicholas straightened and released Elizabeth. “How are you feeling?”
Elizabeth rubbed her shoulder before shrugging. “Fine, Master.”
“Alright. I need you to open this door.”
Elizabeth turned to the solid oak. “Is it locked, Master?”
“I haven’t checked, but I wasn’t going through without one of you in front of me.”
“Alright.” Elizabeth grabbed the handle, testing it before yanking down and throwing the double doors wide open.
The two men inside turned at the loud bang and one glared at Nicholas. “Who the hell...” He trailed off.
“You’re the guy from Celadon!” Nicholas cried.
“And you are the tamer that assaulted my hideout.” Giovanni replied. “Here you are again.”
Nicholas ignored the other man and woman in the room as they scrambled for cover. “Your hideout? So you must be the boss.”
“That is correct.” Giovanni held out his arms. “I am Giovanni, the leader of Team Rocket. My actions do not concern you, boy. Why don’t you let me and the president here discuss our... business proposition?”
“I heard all about your business.” Nicholas retorted. “Surrender. Whatever it is you’re trying to steal, it’s not going to happen.”
“Steal? Steal? The president and I are partners.” Giovanni replied. “Team Rocket and Silph Co. have gone hand and hand into the future together. We have built Kanto from the ground up! We have pushed science to its absolute limit! I am not stealing anything. I am taking what is rightfully mine!”
“Continuing with those experiments was a mistake.” The other man retorted. “We should have destroyed the equipment after creating Porygon.”
“You simply lack vision.” Giovanni snapped. “The Ultimate Pokegirl would have brought us power beyond your wildest dreams.”
“And where is this Ultimate Pokegirl now, Giovanni?” The president asked. “Where is she? That’s right. You lost control, and now Team Rocket is a shadow of what it was. Drained for the mad dreams of its leader with nothing to show for it.”
“BE QUIET!” Giovanni roared. “I AM THE GREATEST TAMER IN THE WORLD! I WILL RECAPTURE THAT POKEGIRL, AND CREATE A HAREM OF ONLY THE STRONGEST POKEGIRLS IN THE WORLD!”
“You’re delusional.” Nicholas said. “I don’t know what pokegirl you two are talking about, but I do know one thing. You are responsible for the pain and suffering of countless innocents, and I’m taking you down.”
Giovanni laughed. “Try it, tamer. I will enjoy avenging my losses in Celadon.”
Giovanni grinned when the Nidoqueen stepped forwards. “You have good taste. I’ll give you that.”
Nicholas frowned when a Nidoqueen materialized in front of Giovanni. “I was expecting...”
“What? A Zubat, a Rattata? I have no room for such weak pokegirls in my harem.”
“Elizabeth, use your armor! Aim for her body!”
The other Nidoqueen bristled, raising her spikes and growling at Elizabeth. “There can be only one!”
Elizabeth had been trying so hard to change ever since Dahlia’s capture. But when she saw the nude Nidoqueen posturing in front of her, something deep within her psyche rose to the surface. This wasn’t one of her harem sisters. It wasn’t even a regular opponent. This was a rival Queen, and she had no obligation to be nice to a challenger for her throne.
Elizabeth growled, grinding her teeth together as her spikes rose in response. “Only one.” She snarled. “ONLY ONE!”
Every human in the room ducked when the two Nidoqueen clashed. Nicholas scrambled out of the way when the roaring pokegirls tumbled in his direction, slamming into the wall to show Giovanni’s Nidoqueen holding Elizabeth by the throat. Elizabeth spat fury, bringing her knee up and pummeling the other girl’s stomach, but the Nidoqueen grimly held on. Elizabeth wheezed, feeling her lungs scream for oxygen. This other Queen was strong. Stronger than her, for sure. But she was moving slowly. Taking her time. Giving her a chance to retaliate.
Nicholas’ eyes widened when he saw Elizabeth make a familiar motion with her arm. When had she learned that? HOW had she learned it?
Giovanni’s Nidoqueen screamed when the blast of water battered her away from Elizabeth. Elizabeth got to her feet, coughing and rubbing at her throat. “How do you like that, bitch?”
“Cheater.” The Nidoqueen spat.
Elizabeth wheezed as the other girl sunk two solid kicks into her stomach. “Maybe.” She gasped as she brought her own foot up.
The other Nidoqueen was blasted away and Elizabeth fell to one knee. It had been all she could do to throw that Mega Kick, but it had been enough. The other Nidoqueen crashed through a desk, bouncing a few times before the back of her head smacked into a support beam and she went limp.
Giovanni recalled the Nidoqueen without a word and released a hulking horned pokegirl. Nicholas recalled Elizabeth and released Dahlia. “Careful. We’ve found the boss.”
Dahlia’s vines whipped out. “Yes Master.”
“Keep her at range.” Giovanni said quietly.
The hulking pokegirl snorted, reaching out and grabbing some of the debris from the Nidoqueens’ battle. Quick as a flash she hurled it at Dahlia, grabbing more and rocketing it at the Venusaur.
Dahlia cried out as the missiles impacted and stepped forwards, slashing her vines at her opponent. The girl howled in pain when Dahlia’s attack sliced open her skin and blood began to drip onto the floor.
“Knock her out!” Giovanni roared, laughing when Dahlia’s second attack was stopped by a barrage of rubble. “I again commend your Nidoqueen, tamer. But you’re nowhere close to having the power to defeat me.”
Nicholas grimaced when Dahlia faltered. “Dahlia, can you continue?”
Dahlia’s chest heaved as she gasped for breath. “Everything hurts, Master.” She winced and clutched her shattered arm. “Maybe one more hit.”
“One more hit is one too many.” Nicholas replied as he recalled her. “Victoria! Finish this fight.”
The Gyarados materialized and took in her bleeding opponent. Instantly she dashed forwards, ducking a missile before the next caught her right in the head.
Victoria stumbled, crashing to the floor with a scream. Nicholas cursed when she twitched. “Victoria!”
“One more hit.” Giovanni taunted as his pokegirl hefted another piece of material and took aim.
Nicholas quickly recalled her, wincing when the pokegirl slammed the rubble into the floor where Victoria’s head had been moments earlier. “ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL HER?!”
“Yes.” Giovanni laughed. “Welcome to the real world, boy. This isn’t your cushy pokegirl league, with rules, and laws. This is real life. Win by any means necessary.”
Ashley will be crushed if she tries to withstand one of those blasts. Nicholas thought. Cassidy as well. Kary, it’s all down to you.
The Dragonair materialized and immediately pressed herself low to the ground. “Any means necessary, Master?”
“That’s what he said.”
Giovanni’s eyes narrowed. “Two dragons. Who are you, tamer?”
“Master Nicholas has only one true dragon.” Kary retorted as she shot towards her opponent. “And I will not fall so easily.”
“Break her spine!”
Nicholas blanched when the girl leapt towards Kary with one foot raised high. “KARY!”
The girl laughed and stomped her foot directly into the Dragonair’s back. “Be crushed.”
She screamed when Kary surged up her leg and began constricting her body. “No.” Kary snarled. “You.”
“How is she still moving!” Giovanni roared. “I told you to BREAK HER!”
“I learned a few tricks before Master Nicholas found me.” Kary replied, slowly tightening her coils until the pokegirl was fruitlessly gasping for air. “You never touched me.”
“I... hit... you.”
A lattice of sparkling light appeared around Kary’s body. “You hit nothing.”
Giovanni recalled his suffocating pokegirl. “You show potential, tamer. You and your pokegirls. I like that.” He frowned. “I’ll make you a deal. Defeat my next pokegirl and I’ll let you leave.”
“You’re making deals because you’re afraid.” Nicholas shot. “I’m not leaving until you’ve lost.”
Giovanni’s face set. “So be it.” His hand drifted past the pokeball he had been reaching for and settled on another. “Then how about this. Defeat her, and I’ll walk away.”
Nicholas watched a massive pokegirl materialize and swallowed. “Oh.”
Kary stared up at the glowering girl. She was almost eight feet tall, with leathery brown skin and a thick tail that swished slowly behind her.
“I’ve seen someone like you before.” Kary said.
The girl stared down at Kary. “And I’ve seen someone like you.” She grinned. “Your kind always puts up a good fight.”
Kary chuckled nervously. “I’ll do my best.”
“Can you do it, Kary?”
Kary glanced back at Nicholas. “I made a promise to you, Master.” Her eyes were steady when she turned back to the grinning pokegirl. “I intend to keep it.”
The girl’s smile widened. “Excellent.”
Kary screamed when the girl’s fist blurred out, catching her cheek and sending the Dragonair crashing through the scattered tables the previous fights had caused. The girl laughed, stalking towards Kary and cocking her fist back as it began to glow. “Get up.”
Kary panted, staring up at the other girl. “Make me, bitch.”
Nicholas flinched when the girl slammed her fist down but Kary dodged to the side, blitzing past the recovering pokegirl and whirling with electricity sparking between her hands.
The girl hissed when the attack landed and she turned, forcing her protesting muscles to move. “Paralysis.” She took another heavy step. “You snakes always have the same tricks.”
“I am not a SNAKE.” Kary spat. “I am a DRAGON!”
“You are nothing.” The girl replied. “And once I am done with you, I will take great pleasure in removing your master from this building.” Her lips curled into a sadistic sneer. “Perhaps a window would be the most expedient method to use?”
Nicholas felt the air in the room begin to move and he frowned. “Kary, don’t let her throw you off!”
Kary was trembling with rage. “Attack me. Insult me. Hurt me, maim me, do whatever you want. But you do not. Threaten. MY MASTER!”
The girl laughed and smashed her fist into Kary’s face. When the Dragonair didn’t budge she hissed.
Kary reached up and pushed the pokegirl’s arm away from the shimmering barrier in front of her. “Get out of my fucking face.”
There was a bang and the girl flew backwards to crash through a table. Nicholas felt a twinge of fear when the slight breeze picked up and loose objects began swirling around the livid Dragonair. “Kary!”
“I will do anything to protect him.” Kary hissed. Her eyes began to glow and she pointed at the struggling pokegirl. “Anything.”
The blast of air from the attack blew Nicholas over and he quickly scrambled for cover. Giovanni’s pokegirl screamed in pain when the Twister slammed into her, picking up chairs and other objects in its wake.
A beam of red flashed out but Kary roared, waves of power battering the pokegirl before her recall beam could save her.
Kary roared again when her enemy disappeared, turning towards the center of the room and arching her back with a deafening scream.
“Kary!” Nicholas shielded his face from the wind that still filled the room. “KARY!” When the Dragonair didn’t stop he raised her pokeball.
As Kary vanished into the beam the wind cut out, scattering debris throughout the area. Slowly the humans got up and Giovanni stared at Nicholas with a completely neutral expression.
Eventually he spoke. “I am a man of my word. I have lost. But we will meet again, tamer. No, we will meet again, Nicholas. That is what your dragon called you, is it not?”
“Team Rocket will withdraw for now.” Giovanni said. “I’ve learned what I wanted to know. Cherish this victory, because I promise you it will be your last.”
Nicholas glanced at Giovanni’s belt and the six pokeballs that sat there. “If we meet again, I’ll try just as hard as today.”
Giovanni chuckled and Nicholas was surprised to see the crime boss actually smiling at him. “I hope so. Otherwise defeating you wouldn’t be interesting.”
Nicholas hardly dared to breathe as the man walked out of the room. Eventually the other two poked their heads out. “Is he... gone?”
“He is.” Nicholas walked over and helped the president and his secretary to their feet. “I’m sorry about starting a pokegirl battle in your office.”
“It had to be done.” The president replied. “I am eternally grateful for your help.”
“Why didn’t you arrest him?” The secretary gasped. “Your girl was stronger than any of his! He had nothing left!”
“He used three pokegirls. I had to use four.” Nicholas replied. “If we had continued to the end, I would not have won that fight.”
“I wonder if Team Rocket will truly leave the city.” The president mused. “They always come in waves.”
“How do they keep a foothold here?”
The president grumbled. “The gym leader, Sabrina, always disappears when they arrive. Without her, there’s nothing the police can do.”
“So she’s one of them?”
“I don’t… think she is.” The president replied uncertainly. “She fought them for years, but something changed and now she avoids them.”
Nicholas recalled Oak’s words. “She tolerates them.”
“I suppose so.”
“Well, I plan on challenging her. When I do I’ll have some questions.”
“As you will.” The president turned to his destroyed office. “We’ll have to clean up, but your actions have possibly saved the league.”
“What were you talking about? What is this, ‘Ultimate Pokegirl’?”
“Years ago, we ran experiments on Cinnabar Island. Creating new life. From those experiments we created the Porygon pokegirl, a fusion of technology and biology. But the experiments were shut down; samples destroyed and the lab shifted to other projects. We were never meant to play god. But Giovanni, and the scientists who worked under him, they secretly continued their work. Using DNA from the precursor pokegirl, they attempted to create a weapon.” The president shook his head. “They went too far. Their creation broke free, destroying the laboratory and killing dozens of people. The ruins still stand on Cinnabar Island to this day.”
“Then… What did Gary ask you to make?”
“A way to stop the thing Giovanni unleashed.” The president replied. “A pokeball that can not be broken. It’s still out there, you see. We don’t know if it will ever return to wreak havoc on humanity for causing it so much pain.”
“Thanks to you, Giovanni did not take the Master Ball. Maybe one day we’ll be able to stop his creation, once and for all.”
Nicholas nodded. “Then I’m glad I showed up.”
“As am I.” The president bowed. “There isn’t much I can give you right now, but please, accept my thanks.”
“Of course.” Nicholas was scratching his arm when he gasped. “Shit! Michael!”
“Who’s-“ The president started before Nicholas vanished down the hallway.
Michael chuckled, standing behind his Fearow. “Madeline, watch her. She’s trying to blow more smoke.”
Archer growled. “Damn you, tamer! You can’t delay forever.”
“I know. But I think I’m doing pretty well.”
Michael whirled to see a glowering man standing on the teleport pad behind him. “Who-?”
“B-Boss!” Archer stammered. “What are you-“
“We’re leaving, Archer.” Giovanni pushed past Michael. “All of us. We’re abandoning Saffron.”
“But- Boss! We can’t do that, it’s all we have left!”
Giovanni came to a halt and stared at the nervous man. “Are you disobeying me, Archer?”
“No! No, never!” Archer cried. “But where do we go?”
Giovanni turned to the exit pad. “I am going to my safehouse. I don’t care where you go.”
Archer watched in shock when Giovanni stepped onto the pad and disappeared.
“What… What just happened?” Michael asked.
Archer clenched his fists. “I failed.” He turned and glared at Michael. “You son of a bitch. You kept me from his side, and I failed him.”
“I don’t know what occurred between him and the Boss.” Archer replied. “But I will not accept that we are meant to simply fade away.” He slammed his hand against the wall. “TEAM ROCKET WILL NEVER DIE!”
Michael reeled back and began to cough when the Weezing they had been fighting disgorged a massive cloud of black smoke. By the time Madeline had cleared the air, Archer was gone.
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 33
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 35
Cassidy, Kadabra – Level 33
Kary, Dragonair – Level 38
Galina, Marowak – Level 30
Sasha, Ditto – Level 25
Abigail, Snorlax – Level 30
“The Boss has left?”
“Was anyone hurt?”
The Team Rocket grunt shook his head. “No, Ma’am.”
“He kept his promise.” Sabrina breathed.
“Is your report done?”
The grunt quickly nodded at the other figure in the room. “Yessir.”
“Then move out with the others.”
Sabrina watched the grunt exit the room. “What do you want, Archer.”
The Rocket Admin took a seat. “I want to talk to my fellow Admin.” He watched Sabrina’s cool gaze for a few moments before shrugging. “We’re starting some activities offshore. Would you-“
“Saffron is my city.” Sabrina snapped. “The only reason I ever joined you criminals was to protect her. I’m not leaving, and Giovanni knows that.”
“I figured that would be your answer. It is every time we ask.” Archer stood. “Fine, stay in Saffron. Stay forever for all I care. I didn’t need you anyways.”
Sabrina watched him suspiciously. “What are you talking about?”
“The boss is... taking a little break.” Archer replied. “I’m taking over for the time being.”
“Giovanni is taking a break?” Sabrina’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t believe you, Archer. What happened in that tower?”
“Nothing that you need to know.” Archer snapped. “We’re leaving. I don’t know when we’ll be back.” He turned to glare at Sabrina. “I expect to be welcomed on our return.”
He mentally cursed when Sabrina stood. “I don’t think so.” The psychic-type gym leader replied. “I have suffered your activities for far too long.”
“You think we can’t hurt you without Giovanni?” Archer growled. “Stay in line, Sabrina. Or-“
“Or what.” Sabrina’s eyes began to glow. “Giovanni isn’t coming back.”
Archer felt a thrill of fear run through him. “You don’t know that.”
“I know he will never again set foot in this city.” Sabrina replied in a monotonous tone. “And you can hurt me. But you cannot control me. Not without him.”
Archer slowly edged towards the door. “You’re making a mistake.”
“My mistake was bowing my head in the first place.” Sabrina threw her hand out. “LEAVE!”
Archer ducked through the door, sprinting away when he heard a heavy object slam into the wood.
Sabrina slowly lowered her hand, blinking away her psychic powers. She wasn’t the young, inexperienced girl that Team Rocket had first blackmailed into joining them. Archer seemed to have forgotten that.
With a start she realized her other hand was clenched in the fabric of her uniform. The uniform of her captors. The symbol of what had kept her, and her city, imprisoned for years.
She had been forced to wear this whenever Team Rocket came to Saffron.
She would never wear it again.
When Sabrina swept from the room a few minutes later she thanked the fact that her gym was empty. Nobody to see her state of undress, and nobody to see the smoldering pile of cloth she had left behind.
But a question still nagged at her mind. What had happened in Silph Co.? What had happened to Giovanni?
She had a feeling that she would find out soon enough.
“So you’re headed out?”
Michael secured his bag. “I want to meet my new Vulpix and bring her up to speed before challenging any more gyms.” He winked at Nicholas. “Besides, we’re so far ahead of you, I think we can take a bit of a break.”
Nicholas grumbled when Vanessa laughed. “You suck.”
“Aw, cheer up.” Michael chuckled. “Maybe we’ll see each other again soon.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Nicholas replied. “Thanks for having my back up there.” He shook the other man’s hand. “If you hadn’t, I don’t think I would have walked away.”
“Don’t get yourself killed when I’m not around.”
“I’ll do my best.” Nicholas watched Michael leave and turned back towards the gym.
He wasn’t sure if they should even be throwing themselves back into battle so soon. But Dahlia had disagreed, forcing him and the others to spend half of their day off training. It had kept them moving, he supposed, and he was thankful for her leadership, but he was worried about a few of them. Some scars weren’t created on the skin like Elizabeth’s.
He slowed. Pushing the girls too hard would be just as bad as not pushing them enough. Was this too soon?
He stood in the middle of the street for a minute, thinking. They’d all gone through so much together. When he’d started and it was just Dahlia, he hadn’t been sure what he wanted from this experience. But now he thought he knew. He’d started enjoying himself, eagerly moving from one battle to the next, watching his pokegirls grow and evolve. He wanted more. He wanted the championship.
Elizabeth materialized and turned to him. “Yes Master?”
“I wanted to see how you were doing.” Nicholas said. “That battle in Silph Co. was brutal.”
Elizabeth nodded. “It was, but I’m fine.”
“Are you?” Nicholas asked. “You didn’t seem fine.” He lowered his eyes. “I wanted to make sure, with everyone, before...”
Nicholas slowly looked back up to see Elizabeth gazing steadily at him. “Yea?”
“I’m fine.” Elizabeth took hold of his shoulder. “I believe you, Master. Ever since you caught me, I had this idea that you would be like my old master. He was my first, and only, until you. It’s like you said - I didn’t know anything else. I thought all humans just wanted to use us. That all they cared about was power.” She shook her head. “And then you took in Victoria. It started me thinking, but you were still trying to get her to be stronger, so I moved on. What happened outside Cerulean, what happened when I evolved, those things didn’t reach me.”
“I know they didn’t.” Nicholas whispered.
“But then I met Galina.” Elizabeth’s grip tightened. “You were willing to let go of her for her own good. After screaming some sense into me, you still displayed kindness towards a pokegirl you’d barely met.”
“I miss her.”
“We all do.” Elizabeth replied. “And we see that you do too. So I’m fine, Master. I faced down that stronger Nidoqueen because... because of you. Because I needed to protect you. To prove myself to you. To prove that it wasn’t a mistake to give me a second chance.” Her eyes filled with tears. “You’ve helped me to focus my anger and my strength towards the enemies that deserve it instead of my friends. My sisters. I will never be able to repay what you have done.”
“There’s nothing to repay, Elizabeth.” Nicholas softly stroked her cheek. “Your happiness is all the payment I need.” He winked. “Besides, the happier you are, the more you’ll love me. That means I get to keep you around.”
Elizabeth giggled and tapped her forehead against his, careful not to stab him with her horn. “So in the end you’re just a greedy human, same as all the rest.”
“Oh, completely.” Nicholas laughed. When Elizabeth bent forwards he kissed her, savoring the taste of her lips until she gently pulled back.
“Thank you, Master.” Elizabeth whispered. “And thank you for caring.”
Elizabeth vanished into her pokeball and Nicholas stretched. She had been who he was most worried about so it was a massive weight off his shoulders to hear her say what she did.
He needed to spend more solo time with each of them. When, and how, that remained to be seen. But his conversation with Elizabeth proved that they needed it.
As he continued walking he pulled out another pokeball. Kary materialized mid stride and Nicholas nearly tripped in surprise.
The Dragonair grinned at him and batted his ass with her tail. “Gotcha.”
“I thought you tried to hide this form!”
“And who is here to see it, Master?” Mary asked, looking around the nearly deserted streets. “I was listening to your conversation with Elizabeth. Did you have something to say to me as well?”
“I wanted to make sure you were alright.”
Kary leaned forwards on her next step, flawlessly shifting into her serpentine body without losing any speed. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Your battle. You were... brutal. Not even Victoria gets like that when she fights.”
Kary shrugged. “But I do.”
“Something tells me it’s more than just how you fight.” Nicholas slowed so that she was forced to turn towards him. “Why are you so possessive of me?”
Kary stared at him for a few seconds before turning and continuing down the road. “Have you forgotten my vow, Master?”
“No. But I still don’t understand why you so easily gave it.”
Kary slowed to allow him to catch up. After a minute she nodded. “If he gives you a compliment, he means it. If he says you are beautiful, he will never abandon you.”
Nicholas blinked. “What?”
“Those are some of the words Victoria said to me before I met you.” Kary explained. “I brushed them off as a pokegirl’s bias, but within minutes of meeting me you showed me their truth.” Nicholas felt her arm reach around his waist. “And then you called me beautiful.”
“But I could hear it when you said it back then. It was more than just my looks. More than just my body. You looked at me and saw a pokegirl you wanted to be with.” Nicholas grunted when she wrapped her other arm around him in a hug. “How could I say no to that? How could I not respond in kind? To a dragon like me, loyalty is worth more than all the honeyed words in the world. You pledged your loyalty to me. I did the same.”
“And that’s why you go berserk if someone insults me?”
“Insults? Not always. But threats, like that cunt in the tower, yes. Nobody who threatens you will walk away laughing about it.”
Nicholas nodded. “Thanks.”
“Now, Master, who else are you going to ask if they love you?” Kary giggled. “Or can you accept that you are loved by all of your pokegirls.”
“I’d like to apologize to Victoria...”
“She knew the risks. She fought, and she lost. There is nothing more to say.” Kary released him but only so that she could grab his hand. “Come on! We have a gym to challenge, don’t we?”
Nicholas couldn’t help but smile as Kary pulled him down the road. “Did you mean what you said about her?”
Kary glanced back at him. “It was banter, Master.” She turned forwards again. “Victoria may not be a true dragon, but she has a dragon’s heart. I’m honored to be her harem sister.”
“You’ve fit in well.”
Kary turned to him when they arrived in front of the Saffron Gym. “Only because the others have accepted me, Master. I believe they understand how I live for you, just as they do.”
“Most pokegirls feel that way about their Master.”
Kary shook her head. “Not really, Master. The average tamer is nothing like you.”
Before Nicholas could respond, she had pushed the doors open and vanished inside.
Nicholas followed her, gazing around the darkened gym. “Hello? Anyone here?” He winced when he had a flashback to Celadon. “Please not Team Rocket…?”
There was some noise nearby and a few minutes later Nicholas saw a woman around his age emerge with a pile of boxes. “Hey!”
The woman jumped and one of her boxes started to fall. “Shit!”
Nicholas dove forwards with his hand outstretched but came to a halt when the box froze in midair. “I’ve got- uh. What?”
The woman bent down, placing the pile on the floor and picking the levitating box out of midair. “Who are you?” She asked as she rebuilt her stack. “The gym’s closed. Wasn’t the door locked?”
Kary glanced back at the door. “Um… it might have been.”
The woman looked over the two and sighed. “Oh, great. The lock’s broken now, too?”
Nicholas stepped aside to let her past. “Who are you?”
“Sabrina. The gym leader, and who I assume you’re here to see.” Sabrina fiddled with the door a bit. “Oh, no harm done. I forgot to set the bolts, so the door lock didn’t do anything.” She turned and started walking back. “If you’re here to challenge the gym, like I said, we’re closed.”
“Where were you when the city needed your help?”
Sabrina stopped next to her boxes. “Excuse me?”
“I’m here for your badge, but I’m also here for answers.” Nicholas replied. “Where were you? People could have been hurt. Their boss nearly stole something important from Silph Co.!”
“I was right where I-“ Sabrina started to retort before his words sunk in. “-needed to… What did you say about their boss?”
“Right where you needed to be?” Nicholas snorted. “Where was that, cowering behind closed doors?”
Sabrina’s eyes narrowed and she turned to him. “You know nothing of what I’ve had to do for this city, tamer. Now answer me. What did you just say about their boss?”
“I don’t think you need to know.” Nicholas snapped. “I have no reason to trust that you’re not a Team Rocket member yourself.”
Sabrina walked right up in his face. “I don’t want your trust.” She snarled. “I want to know what happened in that tower. I want to know what happened to Giovanni!”
“I happened.” Nicholas retorted. “My pokegirls beat the shit out of his and he walked away.”
Sabrina’s anger popped like a bubble and she began stuttering. “You- you just- beat him?” She rapidly shook her head. “And he just walked away?”
“I didn’t beat him.” Nicholas muttered, finding himself unable to look the flustered woman in the eyes. “I would have lost if he hadn’t made me a deal.”
Sabrina brought herself back under control. “What deal?”
“He said he’d leave if I defeated one of his pokegirls. I think it was his strongest one.” Nicholas glanced back at her. “Honestly… I think he let me win. His girl wasn’t down when he called the fight.”
“You must have hurt his pride.” Sabrina muttered to herself.
Nicholas frowned. “What?”
Sabrina blinked and looked back up at him. “Nothing.”
“Look, I know you worked with them.” Sabrina gasped and Nicholas nodded. “Oak said there were a handful of gym leaders who did. I’m not going to judge you for it, but I’m not going to pretend you’re on my side either.”
Sabrina stared at him for a few seconds before dropping her gaze. “You’re right. I joined them to keep Saffron safe.”
“Then I have my answers.” Nicholas turned to the doors. “If the gym is closed, I’ll be back later for my challenge.”
Nicholas stopped when he heard the grief in Sabrina’s voice. “What?”
“I didn’t have a choice.” Sabrina was looking at him pleadingly. “I was young when they began terrorizing the city. I was only sixteen.”
Nicholas looked back at her in confusion. “And you decided to join them after seeing them do that?”
“No.” Sabrina shook her head. “Well, yes. I tried to fight them for two years before their boss – Giovanni – approached me himself.”
Nicholas’s eyes widened. “Wait. Are you saying you fought them when you were sixteen?”
“Yes.” Sabrina replied miserably. “I tried to protect my city. I did.”
“…When were you made the gym leader?”
“When I was fifteen years old.”
Nicholas reached out to steady himself against the wall. “You were a kid!”
“That didn’t matter.” Sabrina whispered. “I was the gym leader. I had a duty to uphold.”
“Giovanni defeated me.” Sabrina replied. “Completely. I thought he’d kill me, but he said that as long as I went along with their plans, he’d stop hurting the city.” She sniffed and a tear dripped down her cheek. “I had no choice. It was the only way I could keep them safe.”
Nicholas stared at the crying woman for a while, unsure of how to respond. Finally he turned away. “I’m sorry.” He whispered. “I had no idea.”
“No. It doesn’t make it right.” Sabrina choked. “I chose to side with evil. I chose to let Team Rocket do what they wanted.” She raised her tear-streaked face to his back. “You’re right. I’m a coward. Even as I grew stronger, I was too afraid to face him again. It took a stranger to finally free Saffron from my failure.” Her body shook with her sobs. “It should have been me. It should have been me!”
“I don’t know if they’ll come back.” Nicholas whispered.
“They’re gone.” Sabrina cried. “Giovanni will never return to Saffron. I’ve seen it.”
Nicholas turned to look at her again, but Sabrina was lost in her tears. “You’ve seen it? What are you, psychic?” As he asked the question he remembered the box that had floated in midair. “Oh…”
Sabrina managed to let out a giggle in the middle of her sobs but it was quickly swept away by her misery.
Kary twisted around him when Nicholas quietly stepped forwards. “Master…”
Sabrina felt someone embrace her and when she saw Nicholas holding her she gasped in surprise. “What are you doing?”
“I’m sorry.” Nicholas said quietly. “I had no right coming into your gym and accusing you of the things I did. If Giovanni is gone, are you still part of Team Rocket?”
Sabrina cleared her throat the best she could. “No. I burned that uniform when I found out Giovanni was gone.”
“Then I really screwed up, didn’t I?” Nicholas asked. “I’m sorry.” He waited a few moments before releasing her. “I’ll be leaving, now. I’ll be back when you’re open for challenges.”
“…thank you.” Sabrina murmured. She stood silently as he turned for the door and pushed outside, Kary following him.
A second passed before Sabrina slapped her forehead. What was she doing! This tamer wasn’t just a challenger, if he had defeated Giovanni, and was the reason she was finally free, she should be thanking him! His accusations weren’t wrong, she shouldn’t be angry with him. “TAMER!”
Nicholas turned when the doors burst open and Sabrina stumbled out. “Sabrina?”
“Wait. Please, come back inside.” She ducked when she saw a few people staring at her puffy red eyes. “I, um, let me wash up.”
Nicholas glanced at Kary when Sabrina ran back into the gym. “Um…?”
“I guess we go back in, Master?”
Nicholas could hear the sound of running water when they walked back inside and after a few minutes Sabrina walked into view, dabbing her eyes with a towel. “Oh, you came back.” She breathed. “Thank you.”
“Is this about the hug?” Nicholas asked nervously. “I’m sorry, it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Sabrina paused, gazing into the towel she held. “No… it’s not.” She quickly scrubbed her face before flinging the towel at the boxes she had been carrying. “I need to repay you.”
Nicholas blinked. “For what?”
“For saving me.” Sabrina replied simply. “For saving Saffron City. Are you ready for your challenge?”
“Then please follow me.”
Nicholas followed her through the dark gym, shielding his eyes when Sabrina waved a hand and lights flooded the room they had walked into. “Aren’t I supposed to get tested by some assistants, or something?”
“That won’t be necessary today.” Sabrina kept her face turned away from him for some reason as she moved through the room. “I know your strength already.”
“By your deeds.” Sabrina breezed, finally turning to him. Kary narrowed her eyes but Sabrina ignored the Dragonair. “I will use four pokegirls today. Are you ready to begin?”
Nicholas slowly nodded. His pity for the gym leader had started turning into something else and he blocked those emotions to focus on the approaching battle. “Kary, I want you to start us off.”
The Dragonair slithered forwards. “Gladly, Master.”
Sabrina slid large bracelets around her wrists and took a pose. “Then let us begin.”
Nicholas watched her hands erupt with green energy and a pokeball zipped out from her belt, popping open before returning to hover beside her arm. The girl that materialized didn’t hesitate even a moment before running forwards, giving Nicholas no time to scan her.
“I start getting back into this habit and she’s moving too fast for me to get a read.” Nicholas griped, giving up on the charging girl. “Kary, wrap her up to stop her movement!”
As Kary moved forwards the girl turned, seeming to wobble slightly, but it was just to get her tail into range. Kary tried to dodge but was still hit by the sharp spikes running down it and she hissed when they drew blood.
The girl changed course, taking a hit from Kary with a grunt and dropping her skull as she charged back around. Kary braced, taking the headbutt to her sternum. The force snapped her body back and she slammed into her own tail, snarling as she pulled herself back upright.
Nicholas watched the girl change tact again. “That’s incredible. Sabrina isn’t saying a word!”
Kary fired an attack, hissing when the girl dodged. “How did you do that? I threw that in your blind spot!”
Nicholas’ eyes widened. “She’s a psychic.”
Kary took another hit and was thrown to the floor where she lay moaning. “Master?”
“Kary, she’s going to dodge anything you telegraph.” Nicholas rapidly explained. “You need to either hit her with something she can’t dodge, or hit her faster than she can react!”
“Trust me, Kary!” Nicholas cried.
The Dragonair nodded. As the girl came back around she rose. “Dodge this.”
Nicholas shielded his face when the wind picked up, building faster than it had in Silph Co. before blasting into the charging girl.
Kary was starting to follow up on her attack when the other girl stood. Her eyes flashed blue and Kary collapsed, screaming and clutching at her skull.
“KARY!” When the Dragonair kept screaming Nicholas grabbed her pokeball. “KARYY!”
Kary contorted, scrunching up slightly as she fought the crushing headache. She was stronger than this. It was a psychic attack, that was all! Resist!
Abruptly her eyes snapped open and she threw herself forwards, slamming into the ground before she managed to struggle back onto her hands and stare at her opponent.
“Damn you.” She snarled.
The girl grinned and blew her an imaginary kiss but before she could finish the job Kary whipped her body around, wincing from the effort until her tail slammed into the pokegirl.
The orbs on her tail burst with power and the girl cried out, staggering from the blow before charging at where Kary sat.
Nicholas recalled her when she hit the ground again. “I see we’re not holding back.” He selected Ashley’s pokeball. “Thank you for that.”
Sabrina inclined her head ever so slightly as Ashley materialized.
“Strike fast.” Nicholas called.
The other pokegirl didn’t have a chance when Ashley pumped her wings, blitzing through the space between them in a heartbeat. Sabrina recalled her unconscious girl, another pokeball floating up to join the first. “I want to see them.” She called in a low voice. “I want to see the pokegirls who freed me from my chains.”
Nicholas was ready this time with his pokedex. “Hypno. The hypnosis pokegirl.” It chirped.
“Don’t look at her directly!” Nicholas urged, picking out the small pendulum the girl held. She looked like a stockier version of Cassidy otherwise. “Hit hard, hit fast, and keep moving!”
“Got it.” Ashley replied, flapping a few times to gain altitude before spinning towards the ground at a breakneck pace. The Hypno tried to hold up her pendulum but Ashley slammed into her, landing solid blows before spinning away. Her trinket forgotten, the Hypno raised her other hand to fire a beam of rainbow energy at where Ashley flew.
Ashley tumbled from the hit but managed to pull up right before she hit the ground. As she came back around Nicholas could see her struggling to maintain her speed, but maintain it she did and the Hypno braced when the Pidgeot blitzed in, her wings glowing.
Ashley flipped in midair, spinning and slamming both of her glowing wings into the psychic-type. The Hypno staggered, spitting blood, and finally managed to raise her pendulum. As it began to swing she tracked Ashley.
“Ashley, close your eyes!”
Ashley immediately slammed them shut and grinned. “She still up?”
“She’s trying to hypnotize you!”
“Useless.” Ashley laughed. The Hypno screamed when she landed, spinning and bringing one clawed foot slicing into the sky. The Hypno grabbed at the gash Ashley had opened across her breast, trying to stop the bleeding and falling to her knees when blood soaked out around her fingers.
Nicholas watched Sabrina recall her. “You can open your eyes, Ashley.”
Ashley did and turned to see Sabrina watching her. “Oh, hi?”
Sabrina smiled. “Hello.”
Ashley danced back when a dark skinned pokegirl appeared.
“Jynx. The near human pokegirl.” Nicholas’ pokedex reported.
Nicholas’ eyes widened when he saw the typing. “ASH-!”
The Pidgeot recognized the danger as well, whipping her wings through the air to blow the dust around the room directly into the Jynx’s eyes. The girl cried out, rubbing furiously before gesturing wildly to send the solidifying ice around her spraying at where Ashley hovered.
Ashley tried to duck under the attack but ice crystals peppered her wings, bringing her down hard. She struggled up, hissing when she felt air blowing through the newly torn holes. “This really fucking hurts.”
“Can you do anything?”
Ashley tried to stand before collapsing from the pain. “I can’t fly, Master.”
Nicholas recalled her. “You wanted to see the pokegirls who faced Giovanni, right?”
Sabrina’s eyes brightened. “Yes.”
“You might recognize her breed.”
Sabrina nodded when Elizabeth materialized. “I see.”
“Elizabeth, she’s an ice-type.” Nicholas called, gesturing at the Jynx. “Remember that technique I had you learn during training yesterday?”
Elizbaeth chuckled. “I do.”
“I wouldn’t put this much effort into a pokegirl I didn’t want around, would I?” He asked with a smile. “Show me, Elizabeth. Show me why you’re here.”
Elizabeth growled, feeling energy rising in her chest until she opened her mouth to send a jet of flame roaring across the arena. The Jynx dove down, whimpering as the flames licked across her back.
Elizabeth snapped her mouth shut. “I would never have known that I could learn these techniques if you hadn’t cared about me, Master.” She grinned at the flailing Jynx. “Thank you.”
“It helps that you’ve wanted desperately to learn.”
Elizabeth was preparing to attack again when she heard the prostrate girl sob. She waited in confusion for a minute before speaking when the Jynx sobbed again. “Are you going to… get up?”
The Jynx said something into the floor and Elizabeth edged closer. “What?”
“Elizabeth, just finish her off!”
“Why are you so cute?” The Jynx finally got out, propping herself up and wincing at the pain from her burned back. “Why do I always have to fight the cute ones?”
Elizabeth blushed. “Cute? Um…”
“I hate it.” The girl sniffed.
Elizabeth watched her lean towards her. “Uhhhh…”
The Jynx kissed her and Elizabeth slid her eyes shut to enjoy the feeling. She’d never kissed her opponent in the middle of battle before, but something about the vulnerable crying girl had…
Nicholas sighed when Elizabeth slumped over and began to snore. “Damnit.”
Sabrina was smiling when she recalled her burned Jynx. “Recall her, tamer. I have but one pokegirl left.”
Nicholas recalled the snoring Nidoqueen. “Okay?”
Nicholas tapped his fingers along his belt and settled on Victoria’s ball. “Ready.”
Nicholas immediately recognized the pokegirl Sabrina released, not even bothering to check his pokedex. She stood taller than Cassidy and was twirling an object between her fingers when she materialized. When Victoria appeared across from her the Alakazam nodded.
Victoria’s face split into a grin. “No promises.”
The Alakazam returned her grin with a smile of her own. “Good.”
“Diana is my Alpha.” Sabrina called. “Can you defeat her, tamer?”
Victoria charged first, intent on getting into range to attack the Alakazam. The other girl waited, just long enough for Victoria to get close, before teleporting to the far side of the arena and holding out the object she had been playing with.
Victoria turned, starting towards her opponent’s new position before stumbling, wincing and struggling to move against the waves of psychic power battering her.
“What… the fuck.” She hissed, taking another step towards the Alakazam. “Are you bending a spoon?”
Diana glanced at the folded spoon. “Well…”
Victoria felt the psychic attack lessen when Diana was distracted and finished charging forwards, pouncing on the surprised girl and sinking her teeth into her arm. “No ‘or.” She mumbled. “Telort.”
“You shouldn’t have gotten close.” Diana replied even as she grimaced from the pain.
Victoria’s jaw tightened, causing the Alakazam to scream, before the Gyarados’ eyes rolled back from the sudden psychic assault. Nicholas recalled her, quickly reaching for another pokeball and stopping.
He only had two more choices left.
With a curse he grabbed Cassidy’s ball. “Try to get some damage in, Cass!”
The Kadabra stared down her evolved opponent. “I will do more than that, Master.”
“She’s stronger than you!”
“Which means she is a worthy opponent to learn from.” Cassidy coolly replied.
Nicholas watched her stride forwards, locking eyes with the Alakazam. Cassidy strained, fighting back and forth across the mental landscape the two shared.
Outside of their psychic battle, both tamers waited patiently. Finally Cassidy swore, falling back but raising her hands when Diana raised her own.
“You have great potential.” She said as crackling electricity formed between her palms. “I wish we had met under different circumstances. Your presence would be welcome in my harem.”
“Sorry, but I’m Master Nicholas’ pokegirl.” Cassidy shot back. “His Beta.”
The Alakazam grinned. “Very well.”
Cassidy clenched her teeth together as the electric attack sunk into her body. “You’ll have to do more than that to drop me.” She hissed. “I take worse from Elizabeth!”
“Fine, then how about this?” Diana asked, tossing her spoon aside and thrusting both hands towards Cassidy.
Nicholas recalled her when Cassidy’s eyes rolled back and blood burst from her nose. “I guess this is it.” He raised Dahlia’s pokeball. “We both come down to our Alphas.”
“Unfortunately, I have the advantage.” Sabrina replied.
“Dahlia, she’s taken a beating! Just one hit. That’s all you need!”
Dahlia grimaced and stepped towards the Alakazam. “One hit…”
She took another step into the darkness before blinking. Darkness? What? She was in a battle, with Master. Where was-!”
Nicholas kept from reflexively triggering Dahlia’s pokeball when the Venusaur collapsed. If it was another psychic assault, maybe she could shake it off.
Dahlia pushed against the darkness around her. It was like her pokeball. She needed to get out, so she needed to find the key. One right push. One right push and she would be back at her Master’s side.
Diana cried out when Dahlia’s eyes snapped open and she lunged forwards, slamming into the frailer pokegirl and riding her to the ground. “Try to incapacitate me, is that it?” She hissed. “Well it WON’T. WORK!”
The Alakazam reeled when Dahlia’s vines smacked into her and focused, throwing bursts of rainbow colored bubbles at the Venusaur. Dahlia just swatted them away, raising her last vine above her head.
Dahlia faltered when her vision began to swim and her eyelids drooped. “What… what did you do?”
Diana shoved the Venusaur off of her and pulled herself a few feet away before replying. “Aren’t you tired?” She asked, giving her voice a soothing lilt. “Don’t you wish… to sleep?”
Dahlia forced her eyelids to stay open when they threatened to close again. She wasn’t tired. She was… she needed… she needed to…
Sabrina was watching Dahlia doze off and jumped when she heard a tune blast through the gym. She recognized that noise. Sabrina looked up to see Nicholas playing an ornate flute, carved with an image of a pokeball on the end. This tamer had met…?
Even if it had a slide to help him, Nicholas wasn’t going to risk failing Dahlia. Not when she needed him. He carefully played; drifting his fingers along the holes whenever he felt it was necessary.
Dahlia felt the piercing notes swirl through her mind, chasing her fatigue away. She opened her eyes and Diana winced when she saw the sharp focus in the Venusaur’s gaze.
Dahlia whirled, shaking free a cloud of leaves and preparing to strike. Diana quickly made motions with her hands, trying to form a barrier, but the slicing attack cut into her before she could finish.
Dahlia was panting from her exertion and moaned when Diana staggered back but didn’t fall. “Why won’t you go down?” She cried. “You’re covered in blood!”
Diana wiped a trickle from her eyes. “Because it is never that easy. Battles are won by those who refuse to fall.”
Dahlia moaned when she saw Diana’s body begin to glow. “No, no no nooo…”
Diana took a deep breath as her technique worked to close her wounds. “You have fought-“
Her words were cut off when Dahlia slammed into her. Dahlia bit back a scream as her body protested, grimly continuing to drive Diana back. “Don’t – you – patronize – me!” She snarled and smashed her head into Diana’s face. “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I HAVE FOUGHT!”
Diana took another blow and fell on her ass, raising a hand in an attempt to block Dahlia, but screamed when Dahlia grabbed it and jerked her to the side. Diana tumbled across the gym floor, leveraging herself up and trying to heal again.
“Dahlia, stop her!” Nicholas yelled. “Put her to sleep!”
Dahlia snorted, stalking forwards and grabbing Diana’s hair. “No need.” The Alakazam screamed when Dahlia yanked her up. “I’ve caught my breath.”
Dahlia released her hair when her vines punched the struggling Alakazam backwards but didn’t follow, instead sending her vines out again, and again, battering Diana throughout arena until the Alakazam went limp.
Sabrina held out her hand to catch Diana’s pokeball and recalled the Alakazam. “So this is what it took to fight Giovanni.”
“We only were able to fight back three of his girls.” Nicholas explained. “Not all six, and I believe they were holding back.”
“As a gym leader, I instructed most of my girls to hold back as well.” Sabrina said quietly. “But Diana was not. You are strong.”
Sabrina nodded and stepped forwards when Nicholas recalled Dahlia. “You are smart, as well. You realized what I was doing almost immediately.”
“Thought as much, since you’re a psychic.” Nicholas accepted the badge she handed him and blinked. “What?”
“Take it.” Sabrina took his hand and curled his fingers around the object she had included with the badge. “And good luck, Nicholas.”
He wasn’t sure how he got there but Nicholas blinked in the afternoon sun, the doors of the gym swinging shut behind him. Eventually he held up his hand, opening it and looking at what Sabrina had handed him.
The badge was pinned to a small piece of folded paper. Nicholas fiddled with it for a moment, removing the badge and placing it into his pokedex before returning his attention back to the note.
As he began to read he felt his stomach flip, glancing back at the silent gym. He’d never told her his name, had he? No.
So how had she known? And why was his heart beating so fast…?
Pewter City – Boulder Badge
Cerulean City – Cascade Badge
Vermilion City – Thunder Badge
Celadon City – Rainbow Badge
Saffron City – Marsh Badge
Dahlia, Venusaur – Level 39 (Alpha)
Ashley, Pidgeot – Level 37
Elizabeth, Nidoqueen – Level 36
Victoria, Gyarados – Level 37
Cassidy, Kadabra – Level 38
Kary, Dragonair – Level 39
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
Kura, Vulpix – Level 32