Locked Away, Chapter 58
Unlike May, Gary was no brave heart. He was no warrior or rioter, he was a collected, patient planner; who thought out every step before taking action. Entry into the Johto's signal tower would be no different for the youngest pokemon professor.
Unlike other towers, the Johto's signal tower was erected at the center of Goldenrod City, a bright scar for those that understood what it meant, and a tourist attraction to everyone else. Gary almost wanted to begin asking towns people what they thought the tower was for, why they never sought to overturn its construction, but given the current disarray of the city, he thought better than exposing himself.
Pokemon were attacking their trainers. Attacking one another. He hadn't lucked out of the Kanto chaos, soon enough, all of the Johto region would be engulfed in flames as well.
Action was required immediately, but he couldn't storm the metal fortress. For something as unimportant as a tower, the security was sickening, standing behind large, iron fences, watching as pokemon quickly lost their minds, and downtown Goldenrod turned into a flood of screams. Gary, who hide behind a fraction of what remained of the beautiful central park's trees, held his breath and rethought their entire plan. Rather than attack the tower directly, the easiest way to buy himself some time, would be to turn off the city's power.
With a slight limp and a tight grip on his right thigh, Gary winced and kept himself in cover. He needed to get to the city's utilities plant without being detected; not that anyone would care about the not-actually-dead Gary Oak right now, but they might be interested in a pokemon that isn't going to attack them.
Honestly, Gary wasn't so sure he even trusted his own pokemon right now. Everything that they knew about the tower was still up in the air. Would the electromagnetic waves affect normal pokemon the way that it effected micro-chipped pokemon, based on how close they are to the signal tower? He couldn't take that risk, not with a nine-foot bird like Pigeot, that's why he walked—hobbled-from the forest, and back into the city.
Goldenrod was at least easy to find. The fire was really nice in the fading light;it amassed a glow that he had never seen, nor wanted to see again in his life. Sardonic thoughts fleeing from his mind, he finally pushed off the tree again, with the electrical company in mind. He could take down a few power poles on his way over, and pray that at least one of them would diminish the power of the tower.
Clumsy on his feet, he staggered. His vision was slight and blurry, and he pushed back the longer strands of his hair. First, he needed to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
On Gary's best days, he missed his grandfather. On his worst days, he wished the old man was still around. Somehow, he had an answer for everything, a joke for every mood, advice to the moon and back—and his heart ached when he thought of his absence.
If gramps had been here, none of this would have ever happened. Least that was what Gary told himself. Unfortunately, Samuel Oak was here when this first started, and he was helpless to prevent it. His mistakes were part of the reason they were all struggling so much to make matters right. One by one the professors fell. One by one they let Team Rocket into every corner of their infrastructure, and the majority of them were helpless to prevent it. Not anymore, or so Gary hoped.
By the time he reached the electrical company, which was unmarred by the raging battles below, his leg wound had opened up again, or at least he thought it might have. Brock warned him to take it easy, but Gary had no interest in listening. There was far too much at stake—but he could no longer mask his exhaustion.
Beads of cold sweat poured down his temple, and he heaved on air. A walk that should have been a leisure stroll through the woods required more effort than climbing Mount Silver. He felt like hell, and prayed the cut wasn't infected. Mostly, it was the pain. He had no fever, but every time he applied pressure to his right leg, he wanted to scream. If he didn't care so much for his damn pokemon, he would have used them to reach his destination quicker—but they were too noticeable now. He was practically here.. he just needed... he just needed a break.
Falling butt first, Gary hit the ground with a heavy thud and wiped at his brows. Before he could enter the company, he needed to get his mind back in control. Focus on anything else but the pain. Grasping at the wound, blood oozed and seeped between his fingers through his black pants, but Gary tried not to focus on it. He was ready to cut the damn thing off.
For a few beats, he wondered if that's what would happen when this was all over. Ash may have been able to walk away from fatal injuries, but Gary was not at all like the damn Ketchum. To what degree was he going to be dragged into the mud before he found the results equal to a day in Ash's life?
He was being petty, but a part of him couldn't help it.
This sucked. This all sucked. The region was on fire, the league was falling a part at the seams. His granfather's lab was destroyed and Leaf was...
Gary squeezed his eyes shut, trying to let the feeling float away before it landed. He couldn't think of her, let alone say her name.
He wanted to believe, no he had to believe she was not dead, but all facts pointed there, and inside he felt dead as well. Hollow where his heart used to beat. Now it was a whirling black hole that pumped blood into his veins only to spite him.
Stop, he echoed, pinching his nose. He had to think of something else.
Inhaling, he looked to the sky to clear his head, only now they were beginning to brew something nasty. Dark, rolling storm clouds streamed above his head, crackling with lightning and brief spurts of thunder. Something big was coming. Something terrible.
Gary recalled seeing the battle between Lugia and Ho-oh begin as he flew away from Kanto. He was at least a hundred miles away when the pokemon started to clash, but his ears were still ringing from their shrieks.
Now, the sky above Johto reminded him of that horrifying sight. The sudden fear injected into his heart had him back on his feet, teeth grit to distort the pain, and stumbling forward towards his goal.
The Golden Electric Company, the massive building responsible for providing power for all of Goldenrod City, and several of the small towns around it, had one main power grid, and relaxed security. Gary participated in tours of the company when he was a child and new trainer, but it had been years since he last visited.
Given the state of panic, there were even less guards around than usual. Posts were left abandoned, and Gary had no problem slipping through the gates with his key card. After all, they probably didn't have time to remove his information from the computer. He had only been dead for a few days, a thought that would have usually terrified him, but now brought him some deal of peace.
At least if he was dead, he wouldn't have to feel anymore. He wasn't a religious person, but being sucked into the vacuum of space seemed more comfortable than the heart ache, the leg pain, and mind-numbing fear he was currently experiencing.
The entrance to the facility was concreted and gray. No trees, no frills. After all, they wanted to avoid any possible errors that would halt the use of power. Guess they never thought it would be the pokemon that they were trying to protect themselves against.
Entering the facility was easy enough as well, through the metal doors, he followed a hallway down a flight of stairs, until reaching the observatory overlooking the many different generators that operated through the bottom floor. Along time ago, they tried to implement the use of pokemon services, but that quickly got out of hand, when pokemon started trying to battle one another in the generator room. Now they relied on pumps and friction, and any fossil fuel they could manage to make the machines pump out energy by the handfuls.
Many people, corporations, trainers, centers, and businesses relied on the flow of electricity. Gary's laboratory did as well. Years ago, when there was a power outage, he nearly lost several of the pokemon in cyberspace, and almost all of his recent data. People lived and breathed the electrical crack. He only prayed he could damage enough of it that even with the loss of power, the pokemon will calm down. Even if the people don't.
Mindlessly he followed the signs to the operations room, breathing heavily as he did. Metal walls with metal doors and metal handles, seeing the window separating him from the rest of the world was refreshing. Above the room was a skylight, and even with the storm clouds above, he was relieved to know that the outside world still existed.
To think, all of this energy could be disrupted with the flip of a single switch. Gary believed that it sounded too much like a movie, the flip of a switch and everyone was saved, but sometimes life threw him a curve ball by making his story easy.
"Wow... To think that you're still alive. We almost didn't think so, given the trial of blood." a gun cocked behind him, and Gary froze.
He should have seen this coming.
No where was it ever written that Gary got lucky. He played the cool, macho guy, but he mostly got the short end of the stick. His hand shook as he slowly turned to see the two members of Team Rocket flaunting their true colors.
They wore all black, with the symbol "TR" embroidered as a small detail over the left shoulder. One had dark green hair, and the other long, blond hair. Smugly, they watched Gary twitch and sweat, and panic inwardly about his next decision.
"Step away from the switchboard."
He could...or he could flip it—which would make no difference. They could shoot him, and it would all be over, anyways.
Gary lowered his hand. They looked even happier about that.
"Gary Oak himself, in the flesh. Why I never thought I would be so lucky."
Gary's eyes shifted uncomfortably.
The green-haired man pointed the gun menacingly, tilted sideways, probably expecting Gary to flinch—but he didn't. In fact, Gary felt nothing. No fear or fight. Acceptance was a greedy and powerful thing. The researcher could also tell his lack of fear intimidated the two Rocket members. They weren't used to handling composure when their efforts were usually met with fear.
"To think after everything you've been through, you would still come here. Haven't you learned anything?"
"Apparently not." Gary responded immediately, voice mellow. Cold.
This seemed to upset the green-haired man, who grit his teeth, and spit a little.
"What did you expect to do, huh? Hobble down here with your one injured leg and do what? Turn off the power? Did you think that would help?"
Gary shrugged at the man's rude remarks. If Leaf was there, they might have shared a high five for his ability to remain so falsely calm under pressure.
"Assuming that you're here, I guess I was on the right track. Silly you would lean your entire plan on something like this without a proper back up plan.
"..why you little smart ass, we are the back up plan!"
Gary snorted, "Oh, then color me terrified."
"Butch, knock it off." The woman, speaking for the first time snagged her partners hand, and reeled him backwards, then forced him to lower his gun with a wag of her finger. Her eyes were icy and a bit terrifying. The man known as 'Butch' was a brute, but this woman was heartless. It shook Gary. No soul reflected through those glazed eyes, and yet she smiled with the perfectly plump lips, and winked with perfectly shaped eyes.
"You are very smart, we would have expected nothing less from you." She cooed, and it made Gary want to vomit. His hand still twitched next to the button, waiting for his body to agree with his brain.
The woman approached.
"Unfortunately, you're also stubborn... but we can fix that." She was close enough to pat him on the cheek, and Gary snarled at her, finally showing disdain. Butch snickered at this.
"Your wife's name is Leaf, isn't it?"
A flutter, or a skip; Gary couldn't be sure. He tried to mask the surprise on his face, but couldn't find the effort in his body to pry his eyes away, or from showing every insecurity there. That seemed to make the woman smile, and she squeezed his chin roughly, then released.
"Then it sure would be a shame if we really pulled the trigger, wouldn't it? I mean, if you do what we say, and walk away from this... you might even see her again."
Gary couldn't think.
"That's why you're here, isn't it? To avenge her? It can't be because you think you can actually win. Your friends might have set us back in the Hoenn region, but we have much bigger plans. You're going to lose and your friends are all going to die... but there's still hope for you, and for your wife."
Gary swallowed, he couldn't wrap his head around what she was saying. His stomach threatened to implode and his mouth opened and closed on repeat.
His voice was so small when he finally found the strength to speak.
He asked: "...how?"
"The boss wants you." Her voice was so smooth, her lips curved into the sweetest, conniving smile, before twisting into something ugly and dark. "We couldn't convince your grandfather to help us, but I think you might be a little more reasonable, wouldn't you say?"
She gestured with her hands a little gun, and Gary felt sick at the realization.
That's why. It had always been discussed, but Samuel Oak's death was presented as an accident; as anything than what it was, and tears stung his wide eyes. They burned but wouldn't release. He wouldn't let them see him cry.
"Why does he want me?"
"The same reason he wants all the professors, dear. He wants your knowledge. We can't move into phase two without that."
Phase two? The thought repeated, swallowing hard against a lump in his throat. His palms were sweaty, and that icy grip that fastened onto his heart somehow let go, and he felt it hammering away.
"Now, why don't you stop this vendetta and come easily with us? We won't hurt your family if you do as we say."
Gary's eyes immediately hardened. She might have had him for a minute there, out on a limb—but she ruined it. This woman, whatever her name was, was a liar; her partner, who was covering his snickers with the palm of his hand, was a liar. Team Rocket were monsters, and even if they killed him here now, he could at least temporarily stall their plans.
"I mean...if it'll... Leaf is okay?"
"If you behave, she might be."
Gary closed his eyes, and exhaled. Believing she had won, she looked over to Butch with a condescending smile—one could only imagine the discomfort when Gary looked back up at her with an evil glare, flipping her off with his spare hand while the other flipped the switch, and jammed it to one side.
"Over my dead body I'd ever stoop to your level."
"No!" She screamed, swatting at his hands and then cursing as she flipped it back down. However, the power would not immediately turn back on until the generators reset. At least thirty minutes. That was enough time to save the world, right?
She looked at him again with those hateful, demonic eyes, and Gary stepped away—or tried to before her fist found his face, and knocked him onto the ground.
"I swear, it must be something about these Kanto idiots, but we always have to get violent for them to understand."
"He never had an option, really, Cassidy." Butch chimed in, walking over to kick Gary in the face while he was down. "Offering them an easy alternative is a lie. Where he's going there won't be an easy way out."
Gary winced when her boot collided with his stomach again and she cracked her knuckles.
"He'll learn in time. They all do."
And before he could open his eyes again, the lights were out and the release he wanted finally rescued him. Darkness.
Gary didn't dream often. Usually, he found himself far too exhausted, surviving on little, to no sleep, and constantly distracting himself with coffee. Leaf liked to sleep, he liked to watch her sleep. Something about her head on the desk while he scribbled down notes was how they originally started to date to begin with—back when they were both apprenticing. They had to stay up late with different kinds of information, sicknesses, studies, and when she would fall asleep, she would tip over onto Gary, but he never really minded too much.
In fact, her drowsiness became an anchor. A reminder that he needed to sleep occasionally, too. The only time he really slept well were the times when he and Leaf started sleeping together. In bed, or on the laboratory couch. Then after his grandfather died, only Leaf could get him to sleep, ease the nerves in his body. Calm every stress.
Usually she joked with him—her wit was as sharp as his; and she never backed down from the challenge. On most occasion, she kept him moderately grounded, stopped his ego from over-expanding, and was the nerdy-friend when he finally started to show his true colors, and tend to pokemon. Never mind that Leaf was a few years older than him, having started her pokemon journey as the only female from Pallet Town in almost six years, they were rivals when Ash failed to be. First at the Indigo League, then in research, and finally when in the position to be selected by Professor Oak to be the successor.
Leaf used to joke that it had to be Gary because he was the current Oak's grandson, and they would never let a flower take over the tree industry. Back then, Gary jokingly offered to marry her so her last name would be suiting for a professor. He never imagined four years later, they really would tie the knot. In a small, nearly forgotten by the time, church on a random day in the middle of summer, a few weeks after his grandfather died.
They hadn't been engaged for more than an hour, but Leaf never left his side. Not when they were teenagers growing up without their family or friends, and not after the last of his parental figures were dead. She played as if she were an uncaring, sarcastic woman, but there was no one alive who cared about Gary more than she did. That's why he married her. That's why he vowed to take care of her. Why he wanted all of the world for her. For them.
After Gary's grandfather passed, they never talked about it. For better or worse, they were both Professor Oak's. The title they fought tooth and nail over felt wrong. Worn for over forty years by a man who they both believed was the greatest researcher of all time, the title suddenly felt empty without his presence.
The world felt even more empty without her in it. Thinking back, he would have given her that title in a heart beat. She deserved it so much more than him. Her feats were far greater than his own, and her victories more common.
God, he missed her.
Gary's eyes opened to the rattling of a car burning rubber down a dirt road. His head rocked back and forth, and his eyes threatened to roll back into his head. His mouth tasted like blood, probably from the split lip and swollen eye. His ribs were swore, probably broken, and his hands were bound, and resting on his legs.
At least the pain was drawn from the cut and spread evenly. More importantly, pain reminded him that he wasn't dead, and suddenly, he didn't want to be. He wanted to fix this. Find Leaf. Help Ash.
"We need to be as far away from here as possible before that beast shows up, Butch."
"I'm driving as fast as I can, Cassidy!" He sneered. "If we hadn't needed to drag that stupid carcass from the electrical company, we would have already been away from here."
Cassidy was grinding her nails against the door frame. "I know, but it's not everyday one of our targets falls right into our laps."
"We were ready to go." Butch groaned in an annoying voice that Gary was growing very tired off.
"Whatever, he will be happy to know that we found another one. One step closer to ending this stupid nightmare created by Giovanni."
Gary's entire body ached, but not enough to miss that. He didn't open his eyes, but he lolled his head backwards to see if he could see her from here. Who were they working for if not Giovanni? It was too much for Gary's brain to comprehend at the moment, so while his captors were occupied at the steering wheel, his stared up through the passenger window, and nearly fainted again.
Above them, in the sky, twirling in an enraged mess, was a long scaly, green and red monster. Gary could not see the head, or the arms, but he saw portions of wings and the span of it was far larger than the city.
Once upon a time, Gary read a book of lore about the great titan Rayquaza, how the beast would come down only during trials of great distortion and correct the issue by all means necessary, but before now, he never believed it.
There were many ideas that Gary didn't believe before Ash came back into his life, but watching as the impending thunderstorm threatened to swallow them all. To restore balance the only way it probably knew how.
The plan all along, was to corner them. Create so much hell that only Giovanni would have the pieces to the puzzle to put everything back together again... but as Gary watched the endless form in the cloud twist, he couldn't help but think that if this was Giovanni's plan—he bit off far more than he could chew.
With the two rocket members arguing in the seat ahead of him, Gary's heart raced. He had to get back to that tower and shut it down before the real problem came from the sky and fixed it for them. He should have never let his guard down, cared so little. Selfish. Gary was selfish, just like his grandfather before him. He lied and said it would be okay, and cowered to 'save' his family—only to be murdered in his own lab by the likes of some Team Rocket grunt.
Without thinking, Gary kicked out his feet, ignoring the hellish pain that shot from his body when he wedged his foot through the front seats, slamming Butch forward, and causing them to spin out of control.
"Shit!" Butch screamed, and Gary braced for the impact by tucking himself into a ball as they swerved violently off the road.
Thank you all for being supportive these last two (three?) years. I hope the wait was worth it.