24 Stake out - Part 2
Cynthia yawned. "Lance, if there is, what can we do about it? If Team Rocket knows we are coming, what can they do about it? A trap for two hundred of the world's most powerful trainers? You would have to be brave to even consider that. The worst case is that we lose Giovanni. I don't believe that it will be possible to move 'Champion' without alerting us."
Steven nodded his agreement. "Don't worry about it Lance. There is nothing we can do about it."
"The presence doesn't feel like Rockets" Mewtwo mused. "It seems far smaller than that. I can't do more from here though, but I believe that there is no need to worry about this."
Lance nodded his head in tired agreement. He couldn't think of a way that it could affect the mission. If Team Rocket knew that they were coming, they would be able to do very little to stop them. Suddenly a thought crossed his mind, and he stopped halfway through turning away again, before swinging back. "Mewtwo."
"What happened to 'Champions' Pokémon?"
Cynthia gasped, suddenly alert. It was what she had completely forgotten to ask. Fourteen of the most powerful Pokémon in the world were loose. Steven looked up from his papers again, surprise etched on his features, while even Mewtwo managed to look somewhat surprised.
"I have no idea." The legendary said. "When he was captured there was a Psychic attack fighting my own, however it suddenly vanished and I didn't actually see or feel any of his Pokémon. I assumed that they had returned to his home."
"So they definitely weren't captured?" Lance pressed. "Because if they were, mightn't they be used against us? With their trainer as the leverage that keeps them obeying?"
Cynthia was suddenly a lot more scared. Having the Pokémon loose was one thing, but having them against her. She remembered the last time she had gone up against one of her successors Pokémon. His Charizard had destroyed her team completely. To face all of them would be virtually impossible.
"Even if they do, surely with two hundred of us, they can't beat us all?" Steven said, although the doubt was clear in his voice.
"I don't know." Cynthia said. "I don't know how powerful they are."
"Mewtwo" Lance said, cutting across Cynthia once more as his voice hardened. "How many of the Pokémon that we have with us could you face alone?"
"I don't know. A lot, although I can be overwhelmed. If I was facing them one at a time probably all of them, but defending myself from that number of attacks and hitting back is very difficult, attacks will get through if I am rushed."
"So if each of 'Champions' Pokémon are half the strength of Mewtwo, and they have been captured, we are sunk immediately. We can't beat them and the Rockets."
"I can't believe that they would be captured." Cynthia said, massaging her temples. "I mean, they are amongst the most powerful Pokémon I have ever even heard of. I can't believe that Team Rocket could get their hands on them."
"We won't know till tomorrow." Steven said resignedly. "No point worrying about it now..."
The small Pokémon ran up to the darkened figure that was stood looking out across the city. The figure knelt next to the Pokémon and listened. Once the Pokémon had finished its report, it turned and darted away again. The figure pulled out a piece of paper and put a mark on it. Folding up the paper once again, the figure turned back towards the city.
"Another location. How many more will there be..."
Looking out over the city, the figure failed to see another darkened figure step out. As the second figure advanced to the first, still unnoticed, another Pokémon came running up. Moving quickly, the attacker charged at the watcher, before being knocked over by the Pokémon.
As the Rattata before him growled its anger, and was quickly backed up by more Normal types from the area, the attacker admitted defeat, heading back down the building. The watcher had seen the whole thing and appeared to be somewhat amused as the other Normal types vanished back into the shadows.
"Rattata, you gave the poor man a shock. I suspect he won't bother us again. Anyway, I think we are done for the night. This is one thing I don't want to end up in the middle of."
With that, the figure strolled away from the edge of the building, still tailed by the Rattata.
Sharpedo was stood behind Espeon. Ever since his conversation with Meganium, the Brutal Pokémon was confused as to how to deal with what he had heard. Ever since he had joined Ash, life had been simple. He had trained to become as powerful as possible. He saw the Pokémon that he trained with, and opponents. Strong opponents had become rarer and rarer as time went on, as he became stronger.
Problems were simple, and Sharpedo found that given how well he knew the other Pokémon that were with him, problems never came up with them. Their years of solitude were simple times, a paradise that he had lived in. He had thought that everybody had shared in it, their little utopia. His trainer always looked happy with his Pokémon.
Ash never looked sad. Whenever he saw his trainer with other humans, Sharpedo found the discussions short, and efficient. Ash always left looking happy. Whenever Sharpedo saw the other Pokémon they all looked happy. He had found them easy to get on with when he first arrived, welcoming.
They were his family. His conversation with Meganium threw that belief into doubt. What is his trainer wasn't happy?
Sharpedo had thought that Ash had gained as much from their time together as the Pokémon had. Meganium felt different. What if she was right?
Espeon knew that Sharpedo was behind her. Meganium had told her what had happened between them, and so she knew it was only a matter of time until the Brutal Pokémon came to her. She was the one closest to Ash; she knew exactly what he felt. This day had been one that she had been dreading for some time.
As Ash's closest partner, Espeon had seen him turn from the impulsive teenager who had thrown himself into fire to save a Pokémon he had never met into the reserved man who barely ever spoke to other humans. The man who all he had was his Pokémon.
Deciding that Sharpedo had been there long enough, Espeon turned her head, gesturing for him to join her at the window.
"Meganium spoke to you about Ash." Espeon said. It wasn't a question, more a statement, but Sharpedo nodded anyway. "About what he's been through. What he's done for all of us." More nods. "And now you're here. So ask Sharpedo. I'll tell you what I can."
"Meganium said how he saved all of your lives. Like it meant something more than I thought. He saved mine as well, and I'd do anything for him. So what's different?" Sharpedo asked. "What is different for you?"
"The day of Departure. Meganium was right when she said that you had to be there to know. But on that day Ash changed. Up to that point in his life, if you were in trouble, he would help you. No matter the cost to himself, he would do anything.
Throughout his life he had gained friends, admirers, but that isn't why he did it. He did it because that was what he was. On that day, he realised that if wanted to realize his dream, something had to change. And it did. If he sees somebody in trouble, he will still dive in and help them.
And as soon as they are safe, he will leave again. It started as him not wanting to get put in a position where he can be hurt. And then it became habit. Now it is what he is. He doesn't want to be hurt."
"So it's different because you all saw him get hurt?"
"No. Just its part of it. We all saw what betrayal did to him. He was fifteen, impressionable. It has left him scarred. You haven't spent much time with other humans; you don't know what it is like for them. They spend time socializing. Seven years away from them, and Ash has no idea about that anymore. Small talk is something he doesn't do. We saw it happen. He hasn't always been impersonal."
"Not to us. We are all he has. But Meganium told you this. What do you want to know?"
"What is it he has given up? I always thought that he had benefitted as much as us, the greatest trainer ever. I don't understand how he might not have."
Espeon's face remained utterly emotionless. "That is simple. Ash is now the greatest ever, his dream. Yet the simple sight of Pikachu was enough to shock him to his core, to make him realize that no matter how he tries to hide it, he will always be stuck in the past. Ash lost his friends, his family, everything. Before I met him I never had a family. He gave me everything he lost."
Sharpedo moved away slightly. The raw passion coming from Espeon was overwhelming.
"Why did he never go back?" The Brutal Pokémon asked.
"He couldn't. If those that left did, he would have to face them again. And he couldn't."
Sharpedo nodded slightly. Whilst he didn't really understand humans, he was getting some ideas as to the reasoning of Espeon and the others. Moving slowly away, he was surprised when Espeon called out to him.
"You must understand Sharpedo, he has no regrets. We got more than he ever did, but he wouldn't change a thing. He is happy; just he will always be haunted by his past. That is why we are so loyal. Because another loss like that would break him."
"So, 'Champion' are you ready to start?"
In front of Ash was the Rocket Agent. He had brought a covered trolley into the cell, which Ash did not want to know held. The guards outside had been dismissed. Ash knew that this was the chance he needed. If he could persuade the man in front of him that he was no longer a danger to Team Rocket, and even that he might have broken so he would work for them, he would get his shot at Giovanni.
"Let's get you down from there shall we? Doesn't seem to be the right place for such an esteemed guest to be. Though first, I feel I should garb you in something more appropriate." Agent said, smiling to himself. He went to the trolley, and picked up two objects. Turning back to Ash, he proceeded to place one of the boots on each of the Pokémon Masters feet. "These are a little stronger than you're used to I'm afraid. Sufficiently strong to disable you permanently. It would be such a tragedy if you could never walk again."
Ash remained silent, knowing that what he was about to endure would be the hard. Suddenly he fell from the wall, the manacles having snapped open.
Landing on the floor, Ash forced himself to take the fall, not breaking it and not rolling with it. Slowly, painfully, he climbed to his feet, leaving Agent looking at him curiously.
"I expected you to be more entertaining, 'Champion'. Please don't break. I haven't had a proper challenge for a while." The torturer turned back to his trolley, and pulled out a helmet.
"Normally I would use images from the victims own life, but for you we know that's not really possible is it?" The helmet went over Ash's head, revealing a screen on the inside. "Unless you want to tell me who you are?" Ash remained silent. "I thought not. I guess we're doing this the hard way."
The screen that took up all of Ash's vision lit up. It was a video of a small village, with children running around. Suddenly the whole image started to burn, the children caught in the flames. Ash stiffened as he realised what the video was going to be like. The next one was a large stadium, filled with fans. A man in the centre, a Charizard by him. The man raised a hand, and pointed straight into the crowd. The Charizard took to the sky, ripping into the fans in the stadium. The screams echoed around the helmet, with Ash visibly wincing and twisting to try to get away from it. As the camera moved away from the bloody stands, it turned back to the trainer in the centre, Ash.
"That's right, 'Champion'" an eerily disembodied voice floated through the helmet. "This is what you could do. And the beauty is that it is something that you actually could do. You are the right, what's the word... Type."
"No, I'm not" thought Ash. "You have misjudged your man."
As the image changed again, this time to a whole field of baby Pokémon, the man and his Charizard there once again, Ash shut his eyes.
Immediately there was a shock through his head, enough to cause pain. The surprise of it stopped Ash blocking it, and for the first time since he was captured, the scream was real.
"Progress, wonderful, progress" came the voice again. "Perhaps I should have mentioned this before. Watching the videos is advisable."
Ash let out an audible groan, which merely drew a mocking laugh from his torturer. "Breaking you will be too easy."
The field was stained red, and Ash watched himself stride out into it, looking around, emotionless. Then the screen changed again, this time showing a Pokémon battle from the perspective of a trainer. In the field there was an Ursaring attacking a Chansey. The Chansey was bruised and battered, when the Ursaring's trainer called out for a Hammer Arm.
"Well go on 'Champion', fight." The voice floated through again. "Or is there a problem?"
Ash tried to say something but he couldn't. The helmet stopped him from being able to move his jaw enough to form words. The laugh floated through the helmets speakers once again.
"Tut, tut, tut, tut. The Pokémon Master, being defeated by a nobody. What people would say if they could see this, I do wonder..."
The fight ended with the Chansey lying on the floor, mortally wounded, the bloodied Ursaring standing victorious. And the scene changed again. A home, a family. A man walked in, and pulled out a knife, setting aside all traces of humanity and ripping the lifeblood from his own family. And another scene. And another. And another.
Ash began to lose count, the images beginning to build up on his mind. Suddenly he felt something else in his mind. Not a big presence, just subtle, hidden at the back.
Espeon had detected her trainer's distress, and was there, giving him the support he needed. Ash made a mental note to thank the Sun Pokémon, as he drew the strength he needed from the connection. Without it, he knew that the relentless onslaught would have taken its toll. And another scene appeared before his eyes.
Ash lost track of time when suddenly the screen went dark. The helmet was lifted off, and he found himself lying on the floor of his cell, the grinning face of his torturer above him.
"Well wasn't that fun. Don't worry, my friend, we have plenty else to play with. By the time I'm finished you'll be begging me to let you join Team Rocket if I'll just stop."
As he finished speaking he reached under the cover on the trolley once more, and pulled out something else. A knife. With an exceptionally fat handle and a wire from the handle to the top of the blade. Admiring it, Agent started to speak once again.
"Pain is so... effective. Yet blood is so...messy. This will stop you bleeding, but the pain will be just what we want." And with a smile, the torturer stepped forwards once again.
Lance was stood watching the Rocket building from a skyscraper opposite, a squad of trainers at his back. They didn't care about being spotted now; there was nothing that Team Rocket could do. As he watched, the first group of trainers appeared in the street below him.
Flying Pokémon took trainers up to the upper floors. Pulling out a radio from his upper pocket, Lance spoke into it.
Within moments there were loud crashes. Windows were being smashed, and the trainers raced through the upper floors of the building. Raising the radio again, Lance started to give more orders.
"Move into the ground floor. Underground teams, you're now on standby. Get that lift ready."
Trainers moved into the ground floor. A few moments later, the radio crackled. "Lift secure. Moving below ground."
"Underground teams, move." Lance spoke into it one last time, and then released a Pokémon. Dragonite roared, and Lance swung a foot over his trademark Pokémon's back. The Dragon Pokémon took off, flying straight down to the ground, where Lance swung off once again before recalling Dragonite.
Behind him, the trainers in his squad had followed him. Striding into the Rocket building, Lance reached the lift. It was coming back up from below where two squads were already downstairs. As the lift doors opened, Lance strode in, and led his squad down into the heart of the Rocket building.
Espeon sprinted into a different room in the apartment. The other Pokémon turned to look at her in surprise.
"Get the others out of their Pokéball's" Espeon said. Alakazam crossed his spoons and the Pokéballs all suddenly opened. They followed Espeon back through to the window facing the Rocket building. As they watched, they saw a group of trainers hurry into the building. Shattered windows were evident from the upper floors.
"What's going on?" Rapidash asked.
"Some kind of attack on the Rockets." Espeon said. "Ash will need us, so we are ready to help."
"I think this might have ruined that plan."
Agent stood up. In front of him, Ash was curled up on the ground whimpering, with four long slashes across his torso from the knife in Agents hand. Each time the knife had cut, the blade had been electrified, cauterising the wound as soon as it was made. There was no blood, but absolute agony for the man cut.
"So, do I need to do anymore, 'Champion'?" Agent said his voice little more than a taunt. "Or can I tell the boss that he has a new recruit to come and greet?"
Ash didn't say anything, but was clutching the injuries across his chest.
"Oh no, silence is not as golden as everybody thinks." Agent continued. "I really must insist on an answer."
"yes..." came a faint sound from the stricken Pokémon Master.
"Sorry? Please do speak up, I can't abide mishearing people."
"yes... I'll do it..."
"Really? And what will you do?" Agent said, squatting down next to his victim. "What will pacify me?"
"anything..." Ash groaned out. "I'll do... anything... just please stop..."
Agent stood up again, satisfied. "Well that wasn't too bad was it" he said, looking down at the prone figure. "In fact, I rather enjoyed that. You could do well here."
Agent pulled out a radio and spoke into it. "Sir, he has cracked... What?! ... Yes sir. And our guest?... Understood sir."
Turning back to the Pokémon Master, Agent pulled out a small remote from his pocket, and pushed a button. The boots that were still on Ash's feet suddenly turned on. The electric shock caused Ash to scream in agony.
"It seems, my friend, that our party is being ended early." Agent said, speaking over the sound of his victims suffering. "A little situation has come up, and you're suddenly surplus to requirements. I do sincerely wish you luck, 'Champion'. You might even survive." And the man strode away, heading into the heart of Team Rocket's headquarters.
As soon as the sound of his feet faded, Ash's non-dead eye glowed an even brighter blue than normal. The boots flew off him, and he slowly got to his feet, a look of absolute fury on his face. Espeon's thoughts entwined with his, and within moments the room was filled with his Pokémon. Sceptile handed him clothes, and he quickly got changed, turning back into the Pokémon Master that was renowned. With his hat firmly on his head once again, Ash turned to his Pokémon.
"What's happened? What is going on up top?"
There were silent looks, until Espeon finally stepped forwards.
"Cynthia." She said quietly. "She is attacking the Rocket base."
Suddenly there was a loud noise. An alarm was going off. Ash looked at it furiously before it suddenly exploded. Espeon flicked her tail, as he looked at her.
"All of you, we are going straight for Giovanni. If we are fast, we might make it. Any Rockets you see... crush them."
Ash broke into a sprint, his Pokémon flowing around him. It was a four minute charge to Giovanni's office; with any luck they might catch the crime boss before everything was ruined.