This work is fiction. The work has no relationship with any person existing at any time anywhere whether real or imaginary or copy written. Everything in this work is mea culpa. 

            This work is the property of Kerrik Wolf (saethwyr@(SPAM) Please remove (SPAM) to contact me.
            You should not read this work if you are under the age of legal consent wherever you reside. This work may or may not contain any and/or all of the following: death, dismemberment, violent acts, implied sex, explicit sex, violent sex, rape, cannibalism, blasphemy (depending on your religion), BDSM, torture, mimes, and just about anything unwholesome that you could consider.
            The pokegirl universe was first documented by Metroanime and to him all of us who reside or visit there owe a debt of thanks. 
            Feedback is encouraged. I enjoy hearing from people. Positive feedback will be appreciated, cherished and flaunted in front of people. Negative feedback will be appreciated, cherished and listened to, that I might continue to grow. Flames will give me a good laugh. Feedback may be delivered to: saethwyr@(SPAM) Please remove (SPAM) to contact me. 
          Malcolm J. Gambino is the intellectual property of Snidne (snidne@ (SPAM) and all rights devolve to him.


Silver River Blues
            The rain poured down the window of the monorail in gray sheets which suited Nicodemus’s mood today almost perfectly. A Tamer and a cat pokegirl of some kind came stumbling down the aisle and he gave them a disgusted look before turning back to the window and the dim gray light outside.
            The woman in the seat next to his nodded sagely. “I don’t like pokegirls either, the nasty things.”
            Nicodemus made a noncommittal noise that the woman must have taken as an agreement, for she returned to her newspaper. 
            The thought that he hated pokegirls was such a joke. Nicodemus had dreamt of being a Tamer since he was old enough to know what one was. He’d focused his entire being on that one goal and had left no preparations undone. Unarmed combat lessons, wilderness survival classes, the best ways to tame a pokegirl; if it was available here in Montevideo he’d taken it, often leaving his nearby village for weeks at a time to attend classes.
            Three months ago he’d turned sixteen and taken his test, a test he could pass in his sleep. And he’d passed it with a perfect score only to fail the psychological evaluation that went with it. 
            He’d been devastated when he’d been informed that, not only had he failed the test, he could never be a Tamer. His life’s goal, denied to him. His dream was gone. Nicodemus’s lip curled at the thought. No, that wouldn’t work at all.
            His father, Dr. Daniel Templeton, had been sympathetic and had tried to put a good face on it. Nicodemus could go to college and, afterwards, he could join Daniel and his wife, Nicodemus’s mother, Dr. Marcia Templeton, out on their digs. A few years seasoning and maybe he could head up expeditions of his own.
            Quietly, Nicodemus had agreed. Arrangements had been made for him to attend the university in Montevideo and his first year had been paid for. He’d arrived six days ago. His first action was to go straight to the university, withdraw from it and take the money. He’d used his new funds to disappear into the throngs inhabiting the capital of the Silver River League. 
            Nicodemus had known the truth. You had to have pokegirls to lead expeditions since the others depended on your girls for protection and guidance at the dig. Besides, he’d never seen himself as an archaeologist. A Reclaimer, perhaps, excavating ruins that had belonged to Sukebe and finding lost technology. But, as far as ending up someone out digging up old potsherds from some Aztec or Inca ruin like his parents did, there wasn’t a chance in hell.
            Somehow, some way, he’d have pokegirls of his own and when his harem was nice and strong, maybe he’d return to his hometown and show the exam proctors just how good a Tamer he was, in spite of their idea that he was completely unsuitable. That thought entertained him for several minutes. 
            When the monorail reached his stop he climbed down the platform stairs as it hissed away on its magnetic field. Pausing for a moment, he looked around. This wasn’t the worst part of town, but it wasn’t the best part either. However, it was where he’d be living for a while before he got a pokegirl somehow and moved on. The apartments here were cheap. Skuzzy, but cheap. And they rented from week to week. 
            Nicodemus sighed and wiped rain from his face. “I would mortgage my soul for a decent pokegirl,” he half yelled. His voice dropped to a mutter. “Ok, maybe a lease.” He glanced around one last time and headed for his apartment building to begin the ten story climb to his apartment.
            The higher the rooms were, the cheaper they became.
            “Master, did you hear that?” Alison nudged her Tamer. “He’d sell his soul for a pokegirl and you’re in the market for buying souls.”
            Malcolm Gambino gave his Shadetaura a hard look. “I thought you wanted to stomp his ass and rob him for the look he gave you.” He glanced up and pulled his hat more firmly onto his head against the rain. “That’s why you dragged me off the train, right?” His voice held a dangerous edge.
            Alison cringed slightly. “I’m sorry, sir. I did want to hurt him, but what with the trouble you got into over that bank fiasco up in the Slot League, I was thinking that maybe a new recruit might help to square you with the boss.”
            Malcolm sneered at her. “You fucked that up and it got me into trouble. Besides, Murchison isn’t The Boss, he’s just a jumped up little prick with delusions of grandeur that happens to outrank me. When I get recognized for my talents, I’ll put him in his place.”
            “I thought you were going with ‘those who can do and those who can’t become middle managers’.”
            “That does it; I’m going to get a fighting type for my next pokegirl so she can beat your ass every time you get uppity.”
            Alison bowed her head. “I’m sorry for my attitude, master. Please forgive me.”
            Gambino gave her an appraising look. “Unless you want me to do just that, you’d better lose that attitude.” He sighed loudly. “Still, finding a new recruit might help to get me out of the Hound house. We’re having enough of a problem getting them, what with every prospective recruit wanting to go north to join Team Rocket. That bunch of pussies couldn’t even find their asses without help.” He looked around. “Where did our new recruit go?”
            “Master, he went into that apartment building.”
            Malcolm eyed the building without pleasure. “What a dump. If my luck runs true to form he’s on the topmost floor.” He glanced at Alison. “Well, let’s get moving. The sooner we get inside, the sooner you can carry me up the stairs.”
            Nicodemus jumped when the pounding started on his door. He got off his couch (which doubled as a bed) and headed through the living room (which was also the bedroom, kitchen and dining room as needed) to peer out the peephole. He immediately recognized the Tamer and the cat pokegirl from the monorail. 
            “What do you want?” he called through the door.
            “Open this door, you little bastard!” a female voice yelled. “And do it right now before I knock it down!”
            “Alison, shut up!” It was a man’s voice this time. “You want pokegirls and I want to talk to you about you getting some.”
            Nicodemus froze. “How in the fuck, did he know that?” he muttered before raising his voice. “Just a minute.” Returning to the living room (which suddenly became the kitchen), he pulled open a drawer of silverware and slipped a knife into the back of his belt.
            He unlocked and cautiously opened the door. “Come in. Who are you?”
            “My name is Malcolm.” He stepped inside and gestured to his pokegirl. “This is Alison.”
            “I’m Nicodemus.” Nicodemus’s eyes widened. “Wow, that’s a Shadetaura, isn’t it?”
            Malcolm voice was filled with surprise. “You’re pretty good, boy, to recognize her. They’re rarer than pureblood girls.”
            Nicodemus shrugged. “Shadetaura are pretty distinctive if you know what to look for. I’ve studied pokegirls pretty extensively.”
            “Sounds like it. So, let me guess. Someone in a position of authority says you can’t have any pokegirls, right?” He grinned when Nicodemus gave an angry nod without realizing he’d done it. “Well, I just happen to represent an organization which believes that anyone who wants a pokegirl should be able to have one, not just the privileged few. We’re always looking for exceptional people to join and help us spread the gospel.” He smiled carefully. “The pay’s not too bad and there are always opportunities to pick up the occasional bonus. At least there are if you are self starter and a go-getter.”
            Alison smirked at her Tamer’s words but knew better than to open her mouth while her master was talking.
            Nicodemus frowned. “I thought only the Tamer evaluators were allowed to decide if someone could become a Tamer. What is this group, anyway?”
            Malcolm raised an eyebrow. Maybe the boy was too smart for this. “Actually, we’re not exactly an official part of the League government. We’re, uh, kind of clandestine.”
            “Clandestine, huh? You’ve got a pokedex. Doesn’t that mean you’re a Tamer?” Nicodemus leaned against the wall and regarded Malcolm carefully. 
            Malcolm gave him a conspiratorial grin. “It just might be that this pokedex isn’t exactly government issue. There are some other options that might be available for acquiring one of these.”
            Something clicked in Nicodemus’s mind. “You’re with Team Zenith. That’s it, isn’t it?”
            The boy was smart. The smile vanished from Malcolm’s face. “Now, you listen here, whelp. That kind of talk could get someone hurt.” He turned to Alison but before he could give her an order, Nicodemus interrupted him.
            “I want to join.” Malcolm’s head whipped around to stare at him. “The fact that you belong to Team Zenith doesn’t make what you said any less true. I can’t legally get a pokegirl, much less a pokedex or a harem.”
            “The evaluation team said I had issues that precluded my having pokegirls. Not that I couldn’t take care of them, but that they didn’t feel that my having any would be beneficial for the rest of society.  Well, the rest of society won’t be taking care of my harem, I will. If Team Zenith is the only way I can get some, then you can sign me up right now.”
            Malcolm gave him a serious look. “If you think you can join, get a pokegirl and a ‘dex and then just disappear, you’ll want to reconsider that idea. We’ll find you. We always do. And then you’ll disappear for real.”
            “I understand all that. Team Zenith is ‘in for life and everything that implies’.” Nicodemus grinned. “I don’t have a job and if I play my cards right, this could be my ticket to something nice.” He shrugged. “On the other hand, it’ll be a lot of work and there’s always the threat of injury, death, or jail time. It can’t be any worse than working with my parents.”
            “Is that so? What do your parents do?”
            Nicodemus smiled thinly. “It’s not important. That part of my life is over.” There was no way he was going to offer up his parents as hostages and, until he was ready to return home, the statement was true enough. Things would be different when he was ready to return home, but he’d deal with his parents himself.
            “Fine, fine. If you’re serious, come to this address in the morning and I’ll get you fitted out.” Malcolm handed the boy his card. It was to a toy store that had nothing to do with Team Zenith. The location was a test. If the police showed up, then he’d know to find and kill the boy. If, on the other hand, Nicodemus showed, Malcolm would proceed to the next step. “I’ll see you then.” He glanced at Alison and jerked his head towards the door.
            Nicodemus was waiting outside the Elegant Entertainment Emporium when it opened. He wandered the aisles for about half an hour but had to leave when an employee started following him around to see if he was shoplifting. He moved to a bench out front and waited patiently, nonchalantly scanning the area for any sign of Malcolm or Alison.
            The Shadetaura showed up an hour later and wandered into the store. Nicodemus stayed where he was and waited for her to emerge. When she did, she jerked her tail in his direction and headed down the street without as much as a glance in his direction. He gave her a two minute head start before following.
            She led him for several blocks before turning into an alley. Alison was waiting for him when he ambled down it. “Young master, you do that well.”
            He smiled slightly. “What, shadowing you? It’s one of the techniques that are taught for tracking feral pokewomen to their lairs to see if they have kits.” His smile widened. “However, I’m pleased to have done the job well enough for you to comment on.”
            Alison looked surprised. “You actually took classes on hunting pokegirls?” She blinked. “Master?”
            “I’ve wanted to be a Tamer for years. I took every class that was offered. I want to be the best possible Tamer for my harem.”
            She started to say something when Nicodemus noticed Malcolm headed up the alley towards them. Alison noted where his eyes were and snapped her jaws shut.
            “Alison?” Malcolm glanced at her.
            “Master, I saw no signs of pursuit. We were not tracked here unless they’re using a high altitude pokegirl with some way of separating us out from everyone else.”
            “Very good. Nicky, I want you to come with me and we’ll take you to where we can get you evaluated.”
            “With all due respect, my name is Nicodemus.”
            Malcolm’s eyes flared. “I’ll call you whatever the hell I want to!”
            “Yes, you will,” Nicodemus admitted. “I can’t stop you. If you call me any variant of Nicodemus, however, I’ll ignore you.”
            “And if I want to call you dumb-ass?”
            Nicodemus shrugged. “It’s not a variant of Nicodemus. Someday, if I’m in a position of authority over you, however, you might come to regret calling me dumb-ass or anything like that.”
            Malcolm gave him a sour look. “As unlikely as that is to happen, I’ll remember that, Nic O De Muss.” He thought briefly about just leaving the kid here or, better yet, having Alison pound him for a while, but Murchison had been ecstatic over the idea of adding to his little empire within the Team. The little shit had even gone so far as to order Malcolm to partner with the kid until he was ready for independent ops.
            He grimaced. “Whatever. Come on; let’s take you to one of the safe houses where a psychic can ensure you’re not a cop and then enlist you.”
            The monorail was mostly empty and they got a row all to themselves. Malcolm started lecturing on the ride around the city. “Normally, you’d be expected to move into one of the barracks we maintain around the Silver River League, but my boss is a nice guy and thinks you’d do better moving straight to operative and working with me. Most of the training is on the job, anyway. The sooner you can get on the job, the sooner your training can begin.” Actually, Murchison was a greedy bastard and wanted the boy producing right away. If the kid was sent to the one training camp, he would most likely not come back to Murchison’s control if he was the slightest bit competent. “Besides, on the job training is the fastest way to learn anything. It won’t hurt too much.” He grinned. “Your OJT won’t hurt me in the slightest.”
            “So what will I do first?”
            “You’ll move out of that dump you’re in right now and set up in my place. We’ll also need to pool our current funds so they’ll last longer.”
            Nicodemus nodded. “I don’t have a lot of money, but I’ll give it to you after I move in.” I’ll give you some of what I’ve got, but there’s no way you’re getting all my money.
            “Ok. As senior partner, I get first pick of any pokegirls we catch, and by we I mean either or both of us. I get the first pick of any division of spoils and I get first pick of everything.”
            “Do we get paid?”
            “This isn’t a 9 to 5 job, boyo. When you get high enough in the ranks, then you’ll start getting a paycheck. We do, however, pay dues for being allowed to work for our glorious bosses. That’s another thing, everyone who outranks you gets called boss. That includes me; so, in private I’ll be Boss Malcolm.”
            Nicodemus nodded. “Ok, boss. Do you get paid and what are the dues?”
            “I’m not quite high enough to get a regular paycheck, and the dues are thirty five percent.” Actually they were twenty percent, but Malcolm didn’t see any reason not to collect a training fee from the boy until he wised up.
            “When will I get my first pokegirl?”
            “Once we get you a pokedex, the rest is up to you.” He grinned. “I’ll warn you not to get your hopes up too much. Your first pokedex is going to be a piece of junk, something too old to sell or trade. The black box we’ve got will re-code the DNA access on any pokedex you acquire. Once you have your first one, it’ll be a good idea to keep your eyes open for a better model. Often you can trade your old one in for some credits; well, at least after your new one. We’ll get your workup done today and you can probably pick up a pokedex tomorrow.”
            “That sounds good. How soon can I upgrade my unit?”
            “You can start upgrading just as soon as you acquire a better one.”
            “I see.” Nicodemus was quiet for the rest of the ride.
            The safe house was in the basement of a bar on the seedy side of town. Malcolm knocked on the door in a peculiar pattern. A slide opened and someone peered out before the door was unlocked. “Malcolm. Is this the fresh meat?”
            “Hello, Tawny.” Malcolm headed inside. “This way, kid.”
            Tawny was a stunning blonde with short blonde hair and bright green eyes. “Come in. Kay is setting up.”
            Nicodemus stuck out his hand. “I’m Nicodemus.”
            Tawny eyed it like it was something long dead. “I don’t touch newbies. They might be contagious.”
            Nicodemus’s expression didn’t change as he dropped the hand and stepped around her. Her eyes narrowed and followed him as he headed after Malcolm. “That’s it?” There was a note of challenge in her voice.
            “Yeah,” he replied without pausing. She muttered something he couldn’t quite hear.
            Kay turned out to be a Ka-D-Bra who greeted Malcolm with a neutral smile. It died as she turned to Nicodemus. “You must be the new boy.”
            “My name is Nicodemus.” He offered his hand again. “Are you Kay?”
            She blinked and took the hand. “Indeed, young master, I am.” Her eyes warmed slightly. “Have a seat in that chair, young master. I’ll be exploring your mind to see if you would be a good match for us.”
            He frowned. “What happens if I’m not?”
            She glanced at Malcolm. “I take it he didn’t bother to explain anything important about how this is going to work. It’s simple really; if you aren’t compatible I’ll burn your brain out.” The Ka-D-Bra waved a hand airily. “I know, young master. It’s illegal for a pokegirl to kill a human. However, I should point out that you are in the big leagues now and we play for keeps.”
            Nicodemus took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Do it.”
            Kay exchanged a startled look with Tawny before shrugging and closing her own eyes.
            Five minutes later, her eyes opened while Nicodemus’s stayed closed. Kay turned to her Tamer.   “He’ll do. Do you want the basic package implanted?  I’ll keep him unconscious until you want me to wake him.”
            Tawny frowned. “Does he have any blood gifts?”
            “Mistress, he knows about two blood gifts: tactical precognition and trainer.” Kay had learned the hard way not to volunteer information and, since Tawny didn’t ask, the pokegirl had no reason to mention the rebel blood curse that Nicodemus was also aware of.
            Malcolm stirred. “Will he be loyal to Zenith?”
            “Yes, master, he will.”
            “I don’t suppose he’s not squeamish, is he?”
            Kay shook her head. “Master, he is not.”
            “Good.” Malcolm’s father, Gino Gambino, had hated squeamishness and had worked hard to ensure his son didn’t have a trace of, as he termed it, “Maid Yvette syndrome”. He’d done it the same way he’d put pressure on his son to conform to all of his wishes; he’d merely ignored his son’s successes and harped on his failures. The fact that Malcolm had the Blank Mind blood gift and the Mentally Isolated curse meant that Gino only heaped on that much more abuse to ensure that his son was strong enough to be a Gambino, since he couldn’t just check with a telepathic pokegirl. He’d then put his son into situations where squeamishness could be identified with monotonous regularity and punished the slightest sign of failure.
            Tawny nodded. “Put in the basic package.” It was a standard upload to a new recruit, giving him a basic overview of Team Zenith, a little history of the Team and its rise to power, along with the rules he’d be expected to follow. Team Zenith was smart enough not to keep that sort of information written down and, in fact, operatives were conditioned not to be able to do just that.
            Malcolm scowled as he watched. He’d had to learn everything the hard way since he couldn’t be scanned, and resented anyone who didn’t have to go through it too. “I told him that dues were thirty five percent. Make sure he continues to think that and I’ll split it with you.”
            Tawny gave him a malicious smile. There was no love lost between her and Gambino. “Kay, give him the standard basic package.” The pokegirl closed her eyes as Alison tensed.
            “Oh, you’re just too sweet to me,” Tawny replied acidly. “Why is it that my heart hardens whenever you woo me with such charm and grace?”
            “The liquid concrete sets, that’s why.”
            Tawny grinned. “You just have that gift. Are you going to partner the boy?”
            “Yeah. Murchison thinks it’s a good idea.”
            “Murchison is an idiot. You’re not partner material.”
            Malcolm smiled humorlessly. “Finally, something we agree on.”
            “It was bound to happen eventually.” She looked Nicodemus over clinically. “Are you going to dump him?”
            “No, I’ll follow orders.” He frowned. “Besides, he’s not your type. You don’t like them with brains.”
            The Ka-D-Bra shook her head and spoke with her eyes still closed. “You wouldn’t like him, mistress.”
            Malcolm raised an eyebrow. “Don’t believe me?”
            The blonde smirked. “Not if you said my eyes were green.”
            Nicodemus stirred and opened his eyes with a groan. He rubbed his forehead. “I’ve suddenly got a serious headache.”
            Kay smiled. “It’s a side effect of the information I loaded into your brain. It’ll pass in a couple of hours, young master.”
            “Thank you.” Nicodemus rose slowly, careful not to move to quickly. “What else do I need to do?”
            Tawny pulled out a small notebook. “I’ll need your full name, as well as some other information, for programming the pokedex and I’ll also need a tissue sample for DNA encoding.”
            “Nicodemus Azrael Templeton.”
            Tawny made a note. “Parents?”
            “Daniel and Marcia Templeton.”
            “What’s your mother?”
            She raised an eyebrow and glanced at Kay, who nodded. “Blood gifts?”
            “Trainer and Strategic Precognition.”
            “I’m sixteen, a Pisces and like long walks on the beach under the light of the full moon.” Nicodemus gave her an annoyed look.
            “Spunky. I like that.” She smiled slightly. “Blood type?”
            “O negative.”
            Tawny put the notebook away and pulled out a DNA sample swab. “Open wide.” She ran the swab inside Nicodemus’s mouth and carefully put the swab up. “I’ve got everything I need. Come back tomorrow around nine am and I’ll have you a pokedex and five pokeballs ready to go.”
            “Thanks.” Nicodemus turned to Malcolm. “What now?”
            “I’ll show you where I live and you can move out of your apartment and into my spare room. Can you cook?”
            “No,” Nicodemus lied.
            He shrugged. “Alison can do some basic cooking, so I guess we’ll make do. Come on.”
            Nicodemus turned back to Tawny and Kay. “Thank you two for everything you’ve done. I’ll see you in the morning.”
            Tawny gave him a lazy wave as he followed Malcolm out.
            Malcolm Gambino lived in a slightly more upscale part of town in a modest one story home. He pointed Nicodemus to the smallest of three bedrooms. “That’ll be your room.”
            Nicodemus poked his head inside. “I’ll need a day or two to sell the furniture I have at the other place.” He glanced at his new mentor. “Boss Malcolm, I’d like to spend tonight over there. It’ll expedite the packing.”
            Malcolm preened at the new title. “Of course, boyo.” He waved magisterially. “I’ve got some business so, in the morning, go by Tawny’s and pick up your new pokedex.” He grabbed something from the counter and tossed it to Nicodemus. “Here’s your key.”
            “Yes, sir.” Nicodemus hesitated. “Boss Malcolm, when do we start doing something that’ll bring money in?”
            Malcolm shrugged. “Right now we’re on our own until my boss, Murchison, gives us a job. That means we can do freelance work, but anything big requires authorization from above. Our first priority will be to get you a pokegirl so you can actually be useful. I will take you out into the wilderness to catch a feral once you’ve got some pokeballs.”
            “How many pokegirls can we have?”
            “You’ll never have storage rights at a pokegirl center, so it’s wise to get by with as few as possible. Their computers will recognize you as a Tamer, but not anything else, which means you’ll never have the ability to place pokegirls into stasis.” He frowned and Alison twitched. “Alison, get me something to drink.” 
            “Yes, master.”
            He watched her leave the room. “If you get detailed into the wilderness for a job, you might get a pokepack, or it’s even possible you might save enough to buy one or,” he grinned, “otherwise acquire one. If you do steal one, remember I get the first pick of prizes and I’ve always wanted a pokepack.” He smirked.
            “So I should steal two?”
            “You should if you want one of your own. I’ll be perfectly happy if you only get one.”
            Nicodemus nodded as Alison returned with a soda for her Tamer. “Do I have to share my pokegirls with you?”
            Malcolm shrugged. “I get first pick of prizes, so if you come up with something particularly tasty, she’ll become mine anyway. But no, I don’t want to take chance on one of your pokegirls trying to hurt me.”
            “Ok. I’d better be off.”
            “Don’t forget to bring back any money you have so we can pool it.”
            “I won’t.”
            Alison cleared her throat after Nicodemus left. “Master, do you think he’ll work out?”
            “Kay’s never been wrong.” Malcolm shrugged. “He won’t betray us and he’ll only be with us until Murchison thinks he can operate solo. If Murchison gets the idea the kid and I don’t get along, that sick fuck might stick me with him until the Milktits come home.”
            He rubbed his jaw contemplatively. “Once we get him a pokegirl, we’ll take him out and start breaking him to the way Team Zenith does things. Some assaults, a little breaking and entering and he’ll be fine.” He grinned. “Of course, he has to come up with two pokegirls, since I get first pick.”
            Alison nodded. “Master, what about the protection racket?”
            “He may provide some muscle if someone decides they don’t want to pay, but otherwise that’s my meal ticket and I don’t want to share with some kid who’s as green as grass.” He opened his pokedex and activated his calendar. “Speaking of deadbeats, it’s time to pay a visit to some people who are behind on their insurance.”
            Alison grinned. “Can we make an example of someone, master?”
            Malcolm opened another file. “The widow Alvarez has missed three separate payment times, but not consecutively. Still, I think she needs a message; so, yes, it looks like we’ll get the chance for an example. I think she’s going to have an accident in her pastry shop tonight.” He smiled nastily. “She’s got a cook who lives on the premises. It’s that retarded nephew she dotes on. He’s likely to get hurt. Badly hurt.” 
            Alison growled hungrily. “Good.”
            Nicodemus dropped his jacket in his chair and pulled a small suitcase from his closet. He put it on the counter near his sink and unlocked it. The sink did double duty as both his kitchen and bathroom sink. The bath was down the hall and was community use.
            He pulled a mirror from the case and hung it from the hook behind the sink before pulling out a small box. He smiled to himself as he removed his contacts. He’d had hazel eyes since he moved here and his normal turquoise irises looked strange peering back at him. Another set of contacts and his eyes were suddenly a pale pink. He blinked at himself in the mirror and began adding makeup. 
            Not all of his classes had pertained to pokegirls, but his parents had never noticed the occasional odd class mixed in with all the others he’d taken.
            An hour later, he looked completely different. He made himself a sandwich and ate slowly while watching the night come creeping over the city. A sense of power began to fill him as the pools of darkness began to spread and merge. 
            After checking his makeup one last time (eating with it on had been a test to check it’s holding as his face moved), he changed into neutral clothes and reached into the case one last time for some weapons. There were criminals and the occasional feral pokegirl. A small stun gun that his parents had given him before he left for college went onto his belt. A knife went into his boot. The blade had been darkened to quell any reflections and besides, it was a useful tool. Finally, he tucked a length of wire that had wooden dowels attached to each end into his sleeve. 
            The building super economized as much as possible. This meant that the stairs were unlit and treacherous to navigate at night. The residents carried flashlights to get around and Nicodemus used his to get to the ground level.
            All large cities had bars and taverns and Montevideo was no exception. Some catered to the locals, while others specialized in the visitors to a community. It was to one of the latter that Nicodemus made his way. He bought a beer and settled down to nurse it as he relaxed and did some people watching. 
            The bar was in a different section of town from where he lived, in a portion of the town that serviced Tamers and visitors from the Sunshine League. Nicodemus nursed his beer for an hour before making his way outside. 
            Roberto Santiago belched as he stood in the doorway to the bar. His alpha, an Amazonwu named Carmine, held him steady with one hand as she scanned the night. “Carmine,” he mumbled, “I wanna go back to the hotel.”
            She gave him an affectionately annoyed look. “Master, we have a problem. I don’t know where it is, since you didn’t release me until you were too drunk to give me directions. All I know is the name.”
            “Need a guide?” Nicodemus smiled from where he leaned against the wall. “Where are you staying?”
            Carmine nodded gratefully. “We’re staying at the Cheshire Inn. Do you know where it is?”
            “I do. It’s not too far from the seafront.”
            The Amazonwu dug into Robert’s pockets with her free hand. “How much do I owe you?”
            “Let me get you there first and then you can pay me what you think my service is worth.”
            She nodded. “That sounds good to me.” She pulled her Tamer closer. “Lead on.”
            Nicodemus led them almost directly to the hotel, angling slightly to bring them to the seawall where the city garbage was dumped. He paused suddenly, listening hard. “What’s that?”
            “What?” Carmine made a disgusted noise. 
            “There’s something ahead of us.” 
            “Crap.” The Amazonwu struggled with her Tamer. “I’ll go ahead and check.”
            Nicodemus nodded and moved back to her. “Let me have him.”
            She smiled in relief. “Thanks.” Nicodemus got a firm grip on her Tamer and she moved ahead warily. Roberto mumbled sleepily into the young man’s ear.
            Carmine was so focused on the pack of feeding Titacool that she never noticed when Nicodemus returned her to her pokeball. His strategic precognition allowed him to pick the right pokeball from Roberto’s belt on the first try.
            Quickly, he ransacked Santiago’s pockets, easily avoiding the man’s feeble efforts to struggle. Three full pokeballs and three empty ones went into his pockets. His pokedex went into a sack along with a couple of knives and all of the Tamer’s jewelry and cash. 
            Nicodemus pulled the smallest knife out of the bag and slashed Roberto’s arms, scoring them lightly. Then he pulled Santiago over to the seawall and pitched him over the side. The knife followed him over.
            The Titacools abandoned the garbage they usually ate for the fresh meal, quickly dragging the hapless Tamer beneath the waves.
            “You’re late.” Alison cringed slightly at Malcolm’s tone. The widow’s nephew hadn’t been around and they’d had to satisfy themselves with trashing the pastry shop. While satisfying, it hadn’t been what they’d been looking forward to.
            Nicodemus merely shrugged. “Tawny took longer than she thought she would.” He pulled out a chair and sat down at the table, plopping a small sack down next to him. He pulled an envelope out of the sack. “Here’s the money for our funds.” He glanced up. “I managed to sell all of my furniture to the building’s super. It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps. He agreed to put my clothes into storage until I come get them later today.”
            The young man pulled three pokeballs out of the sack and placed them carefully on the table. “Which of these do you want? There’s an Amazonwu, a Cheshire and a Ladyba.” Alison gave him a curious look and her ears twitched. He smiled slightly. “Part of the reason it took longer at Tawny’s is because she put them into new pokeballs for me.” She’d also had to program his new pokedex, but that was a personal issue between him and her.
            Malcolm coughed as he accidentally sucked coffee down his windpipe. “What the hell are you talking about?”
            Nicodemus smiled. “You get first pick, right? So you get to pick one, I get one, and I thought we’d sell the third, pay our dues off the top and split what’s left.”
            “Are you trying to tell me that you picked up three pokegirls?”
            “Something like that. None of them are feral and the Amazonwu is the most powerful. I think she was the alpha.”
            Malcolm stared. “These came from a TAMER? And just what the fuck is he going to do when he finds out his pokegirls are missing?”
            “He’s a tourist and isn’t going to report the theft. In fact, he’s already left the city.” Nicodemus smiled slowly. “Which of these do you want?”
            Malcolm shook his head and glanced at Alison. A smile appeared. “You said something about an Amazonwu?” He grabbed the pokeball that Nicodemus tossed to him. “So you’re keeping the Cheshire?”
            “We can sell the Cheshire since, actually, I’ll keep the Ladyba. We’ve already got a dark type with Alison and the Ladyba is a good general purpose pokegirl. With the right training, she’ll be very useful. Besides, she’ll make me a good initial alpha until something better comes along.”
            Malcolm nodded slowly. “She should, once you’ve tamed her.” An odd expression flitted across his face. “You’re stuff is in storage?”
            Nicodemus nodded. “I’ll have to pick it up in a couple of days at the latest, but yes, it is.”
            Malcolm looked thoughtful. “You were supposed to stay with me until you learned the ropes, but if you can take three pokegirls from a Tamer, I think you’re ready to go out on your own. I’ll give you Murchison’s contact information and Tawny will be your control. Your share of the Cheshire will help you get someplace to stay.”
            Nicodemus looked surprised. “Are you sure about this?”
            “Yes, I am. You’ve earned it. Now, go out there and be a good agent for us.”
            “I will.” Nicodemus stood. “Thanks for believing I can do this on my own. I’ll make sure you get your share of the money for the Cheshire.”
            When he was gone, Alison gave her master a sidelong look. “Master, why did you just do that?”
            Malcolm looked directly into her eyes, making her look away to avoid any sign of challenging his dominance. “I’ll tell you why I did it. That boy is going to self-destruct one day and when he does he’s going to take everyone around him to hell along with him. The best place for us is far away from him when it happens.” He smirked. “Hey, if we’re lucky, he’ll take Murchison and Tawny with him when he goes.”
            El Prado was a park that predated all the troubles that Sukebe caused. The citizens of Montevideo had kept it up the whole time since. Nicodemus settled down on a bench in the rose garden where he had a good view. He pulled the Ladyba’s pokeball from his belt and released her. 
            She stood right about five feet tall and her yellow skin gleamed in the morning sun. Puzzled, she looked around before focusing on him and the pokeball he still held. “May I ask what happened to me?” Her head cocked. “Master?”
            Nicodemus smiled. “I am your master now. My name is Nicodemus. What is yours?”
            “Master Roberto called me Flitter.” She kneeled gracefully. “What will you call me?”
            “I will call you Lucretia. It’s a good name and a strong one. I know you’ll live up to it.”
            “I will do my best, master Nicodemus.”
            He nodded. “I know you will and I’ll help you to get there. Right now, you’re my only pokegirl, but I have hopes that will change sometime soon. In the meantime, we need to find a place to live.”
            She slid to her feet when he motioned her to and dropped into his lap. “Will you tame me now, master?”
            “The park keepers frown on that. However, just as soon as we find a place to stay, you and I are going to have some real fun.”
            She grinned. “I’d like that, master.”
Nicodemus Azrael Templeton, age 16
Harem: Lucretia – Ladyba 17
Malcolm J. Gambino, age 25
Harem: Alison – Shadetaura 30, Dani – Amazonwu 30