Thanks to Zarrelion his help on the chapter.
August 17 - Route 24
Giovanni stepped onto the helipad and extended his hand to Matori — his assistant — as she tried her best to balance and walk out of the helicopter in her heels. Her free hand touched his own, the other hand clutching an electronic tablet to her chest. The Rocket boss helped her down and felt the warmth of her touch quickly leave his hand as she struggled to keep her glasses in place while the wind whipped her hair into a frenzy. The helicopter blades whirled above them, making it near impossible to hear each other speak.
They made their way off the helipad and towards the stairs, descending several flights into the base. A dour man — bald except for "wings" of fiery red hair above his ears — along with his bespectacled assistant met them halfway down the steps.
As the group descended, Giovanni produced a pokéball from his pocket and looked to the bespectacled man.
"Make sure my Persian receives the best care possible. Should I find less than favorable results, tonight will be your last night on this earth." Giovanni's tone was cold as he begrudgingly handed Persian's pokéball over to the man who grabbed it and scurried down the stairs. Giovanni turned to the scientist still beside him.
"Dr. Bamda, I expect you have something for me?" Giovanni replied, never once looking at the scientist in question.
The scientist, his bushy eyebrows and impressive mustache unwavering, nodded. The perennial butchering of his name was a sore spot for him but he thought it unwise to correct the Rocket leader. "We're not entirely sure what's happening," he began. "Only that it's happening all across the planet. We've been getting reports from our field operatives of their Pokémon going berserk as well as injuries and even deaths caused by their Pokémon. Our best scientists are working around the clock to find out what has happened. We've performed necropsies on some of the dead Pokémon and found that their muscles and skin have become significantly denser and tougher. Upon dissecting the brain we found that—"
"Do you know why any of this is happening?" Giovanni's response was brusque and demanding.
"Well…no…Sir." Namba stammered out. He then recomposed himself and continued. "With further investigation we may be able to determine that."
"Was it one of ours?"
Namba looked at the Rocket boss. "Sir?" he asked. "I am not sure what you are asking."
"Could this have been caused by one of our departments, either accidentally or intentionally?"
Namba took on a thoughtful expression for a moment and started to shake his head before stopping once more, getting his superior's attention.
"It could be possible," he said. "Considering the results of our experiments in the past, such an effect is entirely possible. However, we lack the capabilities to cause such a powerful and wide-ranging effect in such a short time span."
They descended the last flight of stairs where a steel door at the bottom of the stairwell opened.
Men and women in white coats scurried frantically across the room, pointing at the various graphs and charts on their electronic tablets. One group stood out in the crowd. Every member of that group stood at attention as they awaited the arrival of the Rocket boss and Namba. Giovanni easily matched their faces to their names. They were his best agents, therefore earning them the right to be addressed by name.
"Once you sent out the recall, these operatives were the first to arrive," Namba said as he stood beside Matori.
Giovanni stopped before the first pair. Their silver uniforms stood out among the other operatives.
"Attila—" the burly blond man began.
"And Hun, reporting," the gray-haired woman finished.
"Agent 009." The lithe blonde woman bowed slightly with a smile. Giovanni knew her as Domino…among many other codenames.
"Marauder." The heavy, rough voice boomed from a massive man whose face was hidden behind an armored bronze mask.
"Annie and Oakley." A blond woman and a blue-haired woman chimed in simultaneously.
"Cassidy!" the gold-haired woman exclaimed.
"And Bill," the green-haired man croaked, earning him a few quizzical stares from the others in the row, including Giovanni.
"I thought your name was Butch?" the Rocket leader asked.
The color change that the operative underwent would have made a Kecleon proud as he quickly reddened and then began to turn purple with exasperation and anger. Cassidy grabbed his shoulder with a reassuring squeeze and shot him a look that brooked no argument.
"I recently had it changed," Bill grumbled, as he deflated and resumed his normal color.
Giovanni would've said that he didn't look like a "Bill" but decided that now was an inappropriate time to comment. He faced the elite operatives again. "What's the situation in Hoenn?"
Both agents, while calm and composed as was befitting their elite status, looked at each other nervously.
They didn't get a chance to speak before Attila broke the silence. "We had succeeded in capturing Rayquaza. Attempts to tame it were minimally successful at best but we had some new procedures lined up that looked promising. However, a massive spike in Rayquaza's power occurred, allowing it to kill most of the staff and escape the facility. Its whereabouts are unknown at this time, Sir. I have no excuse." Attila bowed his head.
Hun noted that their boss didn't seem remotely bothered by the loss of one of their greatest catches to date.
"Domino." Giovanni turned to face the woman with blonde curls beside Hun. There was a fire in her blue eyes. A burning ember that radiated such unwavering loyalty that it edged into zealotry. Often times she had made bold advances towards him but each and every time he had tactfully turned her down. Not that he didn't find her attractive. But he needed to consider how she stood to benefit from this action. If it were something as simple as lust, then he could let some of his guard down. But one could never be too careful.
She performed to the best of her ability in the field but much like the aircraft that he had put into storage years back, something about her reminded him of a failure that — as far as memory served — never happened. As such he had sent her away to a far-off region to see what she could gather for the advancement of Team Rocket. Though it seemed not enough time had passed to shake those odd feelings of frustration he had whenever he looked at her.
"It's as Attila said. I was working undercover in the Ferrum region investigating rumors of legendary Pokémon being spotted there. Turned out to be more myth than anything but before I could send out my report, the Pokémon started to go berserk. There were casualties." Domino's tone was neutral, betraying no sense of the fear she had felt then.
"Marauder." Giovanni glanced at the hulking form behind him with a grimace. The iron-masked man returned the sentiment and for a while the two simply stared at one another. It was no secret within the organization that Marauder desired to kick Giovanni off his throne and take his organization for himself. Giovanni had known this well before the Celebi incident, but knew that he could take the man's drive to usurp him and use it to further his own goals.
With every mission Marauder completed for him, Giovanni added another layer of certainty that he would remain on top. Giovanni would've liked to believe that he was getting away with this without Marauder's knowledge, but that would be insulting the man's intelligence.
And potentially dangerous. Underestimating one such as Marauder was a foolhardy action.
He could only imagine what it was like to work against your own goals…all while thinking you were forwarding them.
"If you don't recall, you sent me to the Holon region to investigate a new type of Pokémon native there and see if the new Dark Balls Dr. Jumba—" Marauder began.
"Namba!" the scientist snapped from behind the Rocket boss.
"–was working on could still work on them." Maurader continued on without missing a beat. "Things were going smoothly up until yesterday. Fortunately, I had only caught Pokémon that knew physical attacks and none of them ended up killing each other. The problem is what came afterwards. When the Pokémon woke up they started attacking me and the lab assistants. The indoctrination of the pokéball was nullified somehow. Returning them was no longer effective and trying to catch them with another only delayed them for a few seconds."
Giovanni's hand cradled his chin as he studied the floor and moved away from the Iron Masked Marauder to Bill and Cassidy. If memory serves, then they were his only field agents in the Sinnoh region. "What do you two have to report?"
"We were in the Sinnoh region helping Dr. Gero—" Cassidy said.
"Okay, that had to be on purpose!" Namba interjected from behind the Rocket boss.
"—acquire Hippowdon sand for his research."
"Fair...enough." While unorthodox, Dr. Namba had proven himself time and time again with his research. If there was time, Giovanni would grill Namba later as to the possible uses sand from that source had.
"Annie? Oakley?" Giovanni abruptly faced the sisters.
"We were halfway to Guyana to see if we could find you more genetic traces of Mew when we got your message and turned back." The two spoke in such perfect unison that it sounded as if one person was speaking.
Giovanni nodded and turned away from the group. He narrowed his eyes and stroked his chin as he gazed out across the room as if he was viewing something beyond the reinforced metal walls.
"Take the next six hours to get what sleep you can. It may be a few days before you can have that luxury again. I would send you out now but changing time zones will cause complications later on, regardless of your loyalty to me. Matori, please take inventory of this facility's supplies and bring me the itinerary. Namda, the next necropsy better be more informative or you'll be on the table next. I expect you all to report to me at 0900 for your assignments."
Every agent stood a bit straighter and saluted. "Yes boss!" they chanted in unison.
"You're all dismissed." Giovanni sighed and rubbed his forehead. His mind buzzed with activity like a Beedrill nest, each soldier an idea of how to proceed.