Yay, new chappie time. Time to see what Team Rocket really has in store, and why SS rates an actual PG rating. Word, yo. Also more shameless Hitmonchan's Diary references in the early part of this chapter. Plus a certain water pogeyman wreaks havoc... and it ain't Marril! --------------------------------------------------- Pain. It was a wondrous alchemy, noted the creature. Pain was the base existence of life. It had never felt anything except pain. Nothing. It had felt neither pleasure nor love or hatred nor remorse nor fear. It knew it was a fighting machine, and it felt able to rise above the pain wracking every fibre of its being to fight. It didn’t even know what a fight was, in such fanciful terms. It knew it had to fight other creatures and defeat them. It had to decimate them. The pain it felt in one of its appendages was of no concern, since the pain in its body was so much more powerful. The dull shapes it saw showed fear—and it liked that. They were its opponents, as far as it was concerned. But it was getting sleepy. It was getting very sleepy. No! It thought that very clearly. It wouldn’t allow itself to be defeated by a prick in the arm that didn’t even hurt it! But it felt tired… Across the world, three entities heard a cry of “No!” at the same time. “Jolly good, what a nightmare,” said one. Another thought nothing; it was simply a stray thought and nothing more. The third opened its eyes for the first time in months. Blinded by the sheer brightness of the sun, it sought to investigate the force powerful enough to penetrate its mental barriers. Professor Sebastian put the needle into the waste container. The first Tribo was a failure. Juliet watched as the scientists cleaned up the lab. Not one of them aside from Sebastian appeared to be at all calm. “Everyone,” Juliet said, her voice surprisingly steady, “after this lab is cleaned up, you can all take the rest of the day off. No, take the week off. We all need time to recover from this.” Well, Juliet mused, it wasn’t “everyone” who needed rest, it was herself. She needed a vacation. Kirara City was holding another Battle Tower tournament. She’d go watch, put some bets on some trainers, and try to convince herself that she was working for the greater good. The fact that that thought entered her mind was by itself enough to convince Juliet that she needed rest. “Let’s see what there is to do,” Alex had said. “We don’t need to just visit every city and beat the gym leader and move on like it’s a race.” Tschel knew that Alex was right. Besides, Alex seemed like a fun person, and he’d enjoy spending some time with Alex. Marril’s knowledge of how to read had surprised Tschel, though, as he had noted that Marril was quite insistent on visiting a shop specializing in pokéblocks. He’d smiled at that, actually. Pokéblocks were actually pretty good, although when questioned he’d insist that he’d heard it from “a friend.” Tschel found them a bit hard to digest, though, and didn’t like their textures. They were in the shop, getting some pokéblocks for their Pokémon. Espeon liked blue ones, while Umbreon liked olive ones. Tschel was having quite a time finding blocks for his Eevee, although his Flareon and Jolteon couldn’t seem to decide on anything. “Expensive candy though,” Alex noted, seeing the price tags. He looked at some high-feel ones worth several thousand yen each. “Now these are ridiculous.” Tschel smirked in amusement. “You should see what the going price for some of the berries are. Liechi berries are up in the nine digits.” Alex whistled. “Take out a loan to buy one, eh?” “From ten different banks,” Tschel said, examining some green pokéblocks. “So what do yours like? Mine seem to only like the expensive ones.” Alex laughed. “Marril won’t admit to liking any, although I’ll bet it likes them all. Golduck likes olive ones and Wartortle likes red ones.” Feeling an incredible rush of either bravery or stupidity, Tschel asked, “So, what do you think of things so far?” “Eh?” Alex asked, confused. “You know, running the Neo League with me and all.” Alex didn’t quite know what to say. “It’s okay I guess. You’re a lot better company than a lot of people I know.” “That’s, ah, nice to know.” Tschel stifled a sigh. He didn’t know why he wanted to take things that Alex said out of context. Alex, on the other end of the spectrum, mentally slapped himself for imagining things that weren’t there. Wartortle, who got Alex’s attention by tugging at the leg of his shorts, spared him any angst, though. “Tortle-tortle, Wartortle-tortle,” it said, pointing at Alex’s pokéball belt. “Right,” Alex found himself thinking. “How’d I forget? Just not used to it being there I guess.” Alex grabbed the last pokéball on his belt, right after Gyarados’, and opened it. Feebas started flopping around on the tables. Alex went to get some pokéblocks for Feebas to sample when he heard a loud crash come from behind him. Alex closed his eyes and took a deep breath, then opened them and turned around. Feebas had knocked over a bin of blue pokéblocks and was busy eating them. People all over the store were staring and some of the employees were moving his way. He was, in short, in deep trouble. “Uh, Tschel…” Alex said. Tschel turned around and looked at the mess Alex indicated. “Oh dear.” “Yeah.” “Well…” Tschel began, quickly recalling his Pokémon. “I say we run.” Alex recalled his Pokémon too. “Good idea.” The two got outside without being stopped, though Tschel figured it was because the storeowners would rather Officer Jenny sort things out. They were in deep. Tschel led the way as they escaped out of the range of any preliminary search Jenny might do with her initial sweep. The police would know who he and Alex were, as there were security cameras in the store. However, Tschel was gambling on the fact that since nothing had been stolen except for some blue pokéblocks, the police wouldn’t go too far in their investigation. He and Alex eventually found their way to a beautiful park near a large river. Alex sighed. “Man, whenever I let Feebas out, it always just steals anything edible within range.” “It’s not your fault,” Tschel said. “Look, if you’re that worried about it, just find a way to induce evolution.” “Tried,” said Alex. “Joy hadn’t even seen a Feebas before, and a water stone didn’t work.” Tschel frowned. A Nurse Joy not knowing everything about any given Pokémon was pretty rare, even rarer was one not having seen a Pokémon before. He highly doubted that Feebas fell into the “legendary” category. He looked at Alex and really wished he could say or do something—anything—more to help. The scientist was so short that Thompson didn’t have to do anything to see past her—he looked straight over her head. He wasn’t an especially tall person either. He was slightly taller than average, but not by much. The awkwardness of this presentation aside, Thompson was quite pleased with the results. He looked at the creature in the corner of the test area and smirked in triumph. “As you can see,” the scientist said, checking some of her data again, “Orthan is a success as far as the DNA recoding and structural sequencing works.” “We’re ready for more test subjects?” Thompson asked. The scientist nodded. Thompson said his requisite praises and left the room. So, Orthan was a success, he mused. It was a lot earlier than expected. It was months earlier, and that was what troubled Thompson. Perhaps he was simply going by the estimate Juliet’s people had given, and they worked on two projects at once. However, Thompson already knew this to be false. Stein wouldn’t believe it. He knew that the data was true, and he knew the source was from people other than Jessie and James, but he wouldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing. The data wasn’t even a week old. It even contained a complete and updated profile on the newly promoted Elite, Ryan. Aqua had to have an insider, he knew, for no other means would have gotten Archie the data which Stein now regarded. Stein picked up his phone and called a number he’d always hated calling. “Yes?” Came a medium-pitch male voice from the other end of the phone. “This is Executive Stein,” he said, “I have something you might wish to see.” “Oh, so clichéd,” the voice said in return. “This will have to be good. I’ll send over some of my men right away.” “No,” Stein said quickly. “This is something that we Executives can’t allow be known to anyone below our rank.” “More clichés,” the voice countered. “How nice.” The phone suddenly went dead. Stein put it down, took three deep breaths, and shouted some quick obscenities. This helped him feel better. In truth, he felt that working with the Internal Affairs division of Team Rocket was akin to having his toenails peeled off, but without as much opportunity for fun. This was doubly true when dealing with Executive Kenneth himself, who was the head of that department. Stein knew he had a second call to make, one that might cost him dearly. However, it had to be made. “Yes?” Giovanni’s voice came through the phone strong, but sounding pained. Obviously the Spike Cannon hit still hurt him, thought Stein. “Sir,” Stein said slowly, unsure how to word it. “When raiding the Aqua base several days ago, James turned in to me some very starting data which Aqua had been collecting.” Stein was amused by the fact that he didn’t have to identify James any further. For most trainers, it was because of their elite skills that they could be known by one name only. For James, it was the polar opposite. “How startling?” Giovanni asked, surprised, probably at the fact that James did something useful at all. “Sir,” Stein asked, “Elite Ryan’s job is supposedly with Internal Affairs, but it’s really with Counter-Intelligence, right?” Giovanni was silent for a long while. He then spoke, “Nobody except him and myself know that. How did you get this information?” “Half of Team Aqua knows, sir,” Stein replied. “We have a security breach, and a huge one at that. They have a database of almost our entire operation, the two secret projects under Juliet and Thompson notwithstanding.” Giovanni growled audibly. “You’ve spoken with Internal Affairs?” Stein nodded. A useless gesture, he knew, but a reflexive one. “They are… unclear as to what their procedure will be.” “Don’t let anybody else know this, no Executive or Elite,” Giovanni said quickly, “If you’re asked, lie.” Stein didn’t know why Giovanni sounded so concerned. This alone scared him. --------------------------------------------------- Next chappie goes up when it goes up. The shounen-ai I promised waaaaaay back when starts next chapter folks.