Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987/Pokemon
We All Live in a Pokemon World
Notes: None of the characters are mine and this utterly cracky nonsense is! ThickerThanLove helped with certain parts. This happened, honestly, because I felt like it. It's part of my Exit the Fly verse, which branches off from season 7 of the 1987 Turtles cartoon. Baxter is human again and an ally of the Turtles. His brother Barney no longer works for Shredder. But as for where it fits in the Pokemon timeline, that's a good question.
Krang was not in a good mood. They had had a perfect plan to conquer the world! They had even been moving, well on their way to seeing it through! But then the Turtles and their allies had crashed the party, cut the fuel lines, and stranded them underground in the middle of the sticks. Everywhere he looked, he was surrounded by incompetent morons. He typed into the main computer, boiling with his frustration and fury.
The last thing he was expecting to see on the transdimensional screen was what looked like a rocket falling out of the sky and aiming right for their position. No, not a rocket, he realized, his eyes widening. A young man.
"Shredder!" he called.
Shredder appeared in the doorway, irritated and annoyed. "What is it now, Krang? If you just want to chew me out some more . . ."
"Someone's falling out of the sky right near here," Krang growled. A loud crash sounded topside. "Get the mutants and investigate."
"What for?" Shredder retorted. "Whoever it was must be dead up there."
"And I don't want a body possibly interfering with the signal," Krang said. "Go get it down. Throw it in the road if you want. Just don't leave it on top of the grass above the Technodrome!"
"Fine, fine!" Shredder turned with a swirl of his cape. "Bebop! Rocksteady! Go get whatever fell away from our position!"
"Aww, but we were just gonna play Space Invaders," Rocksteady whined from the next room.
"Do as I say!" Shredder boomed.
"Okay, okay." The mutants trudged past him and into the nearest module. "Krang said for the boss to come too, but he ain't coming." Rocksteady scowled as he pulled a lever and steered the module towards the surface.
"Well, that's not a surprise," Bebop said. "He always leaves the dirty work to us."
"Yeah, and if somebody crashed up there, there's probably gonna be authorities and an investigation . . ." Rocksteady trailed off as they reached the top and the module flopped down on the grass.
Bebop went to the door and pushed it open. "Uh . . . Rocksteady . . ."
Rocksteady lumbered over, definitely not in a good mood. "What now?"
Bebop just pointed. "He ain't dead."
Indeed, the strange character was stumbling up and swaying from side to side. "Excuse me," he mumbled as he took in the sight of the mutants through bleary eyes, "have you seen a red-haired woman and a Meowth anywhere around here?"
"A what?" Bebop gaped. "Hey, you'd better lay down or somethin'. You are not in good shape."
"Yes, I think I've blasted off one time too many." The boy took another step and crashed at their feet.
"Ooh, he's probably dead now," Rocksteady remarked.
"Nope," Bebop said. "He's breathin'. Come on, let's get him down to the Technodrome. Maybe Krang knows what a Meowth is. Or what this R on his shirt means." He reached down, pulling the kid up by one arm.
Rocksteady snorted but grabbed his other arm and planted his feet. "Are you crazy? Krang won't want him in the Technodrome! We should drag him to the road and leave him."
His comm-link beeped and he reached to pull it out. "On the contrary!" Krang gurgled. "Bring him down here. There's a few things I'd like him to tell me, if he's willing to talk."
"Like what, Krang?" Rocksteady asked. "What a Meowth is?"
"It's a cat," Krang grunted. "With special abilities. And from the R on his uniform, I'd say he must be from Team Rocket." He folded his tiny arms.
"What's Team Rocket?" Rocksteady blinked.
"An international crime syndicate!" Krang snapped with impatience. "Now nevermind all that! Bring him now!" He started to smirk. "We may be able to make some use of him . . . for a while."
"Okay." Rocksteady shrugged. He hung up and hauled the boy up with Bebop's assistance. "I guess we're taking him. Krang knows best."
"I wonder why we never heard of this Team Rocket," Bebop said. "We should know all about crime syndicates!"
"Maybe Krang can tell us that too!" Rocksteady suggested.
Together they threw the boy onto one of the seats and climbed back inside. Soon they were heading back down to the Technodrome.
Shredder had some of the same questions as Rocksteady.
"What's going on, Krang?" he demanded. "Why do we care about some idiot kid belonging to a crime syndicate or a cat with special powers?!"
"Oh, I don't care about the cat," Krang said. "But if this boy is part of Team Rocket, he should be able to put us in touch with some far more powerful creatures!" His eyes gleamed. "Powerful enough to get the Technodrome rolling again!"
"What?!" Shredder scoffed. "Krang, I think you've been watching too much Japanese anime!"
"Some anime is based on things that are actually happening," Krang smirked. "And this is science and biology, not the mystical nonsense you're so fond of. There are really Pokemon and there's really a Team Rocket."
"And apparently really a kid with a power-crazy Pikachu that blasts the bad guys," Shredder said.
"Eh." Krang waved a tentacle. "So maybe this anime is a little closer to reality than some."
"Alright." Shredder glowered at Krang. "Just supposing this is all true, why should this boy help us? I'm sure he'd be more worried about angering his superiors! Just as he should be," he added.
"We'll see," Krang smiled.
The module arrived and Bebop pushed the door open. "Well, we brought him, Krang, but he's in pretty bad shape. I don't think you're gonna get anything from him."
"If nothing else, we can use the thought extractor on him," Krang said. "The subject doesn't have to be conscious for it to work. In fact, it's probably better if he isn't! He can't put up any resistance that way."
"If you say so." Rocksteady dragged the limp form out. "He's starting to wake up again. You wanna try to talk to him direct before we take him to the extractor?"
"Yes." Krang clomped over and reached out, placing his hand under the kid's jaw and raising his head. "Who are you?"
"I'm James," he mumbled. "Where's Jessie? Did you find Jessie? Or Meowth?"
"Tell us about Meowth," Krang smiled. "Is that your only Pokemon?"
"Meowth isn't just a Pokemon," James objected. "I mean, he can talk. Jessie and I don't own him."
"Nevermind about the Meowth!" Krang exclaimed. "What other Pokemon do you have access to?!"
"Well, I have a Weezing and a Victreebel and Jessie has an Arbok . . . wait." James blinked, seeming to be becoming more aware. "Who are you and why do you want to know about our Pokemon?!"
"I'm Krang!" Krang replied. "A ruthless interdimensional conquerer. And if you know what's good for you, you'll tell me everything I want to know!"
James shrieked but didn't look forthcoming with information. Instead he clasped his hands and said overdramatically, "Everything's going dark. I've blasted off for the last time. Goodbye, cruel world! May Jessie and Meowth have happier fates than I!" He held a hand to his forehead and started to sink backwards.
Krang grabbed the front of his shirt. "Stop clowning around or you really will have had it!"
James went stiff. "Since you put it that way . . ."
"What kinds of Pokemon could get this fortress moving again?" Krang asked. "Electric types?"
"I suppose," James said slowly. "Jessie's better with mechanical things than I am. . . ."
"It's simple logic," Krang said. "Electric Pokemon could charge the Technodrome enough so that we wouldn't need fuel! Now, do you have any Electric Pokemon?"
"No," James said. "We're always trying to catch a highly powerful Pikachu, but that never goes over well. That's how I ended up over here in the first place. . . ."
Shredder snorted. "Krang, this is ridiculous! Why are we wasting our time talking nonsense when we should be plotting how to gather more fuel?!"
"Patience, Shredder." Krang waved a tentacle at him. "You can't even begin to comprehend the power these Pokemon possess! If these Team Rocket fools can't capture a small rodent like a Pikachu, we should certainly be able to with all of our technology!"
"Oh, please don't!" James gasped. "My boss wants that Pikachu. If you take it with me right here watching, I don't even want to think about what he'll do to me!"
"You think Krang would care about that?" Rocksteady jeered.
"He's right," Krang said. "I couldn't care less. Maybe you'll still be of some use, so we're going to extract your thoughts. After that . . ." He sneered. "You can go blast off again for all I care. Maybe we'll even help you on your way."
Now James panicked, struggling against the two mutants' grips. "No! Please!" he cried. "You can't do this to me!"
"Just watch me." Krang pressed a button and a door slid up. "Take him to the thought extractor. And don't forget to take any Pokeballs away from him. We don't want to give him the chance to summon anything."
"Right, Boss." Rocksteady pulled James toward the door, all while he continued to flail and struggle in panic-stricken desperation. Bebop reached into his pocket, removing two Pokeballs. He set them on the console.
"Give my Pokemon back!" James cried. "I don't want them in the hands of people like you! You won't love and care for them!"
"You're a thief," Krang said.
"You're something far worse!" James countered. "You said it yourself . . . ow!" He doubled over in pain as Krang punched him in the stomach.
"I am, and proud of it," Krang said. "And you're in no position to act so high and mighty."
James looked up in pain. "Please . . . don't hurt my Pokemon," he pleaded.
"I love it when they beg," Bebop grinned.
"Are we really gonna off him?" Rocksteady asked.
"Well, we won't have any use for him after we copy whatever useful information he knows," Krang said. "Don't tell me you're having cold feet!"
"Nah," Rocksteady said. "Getting rid of him sounds fun." He sneered.
"Oh please, have a heart!" James begged.
Bebop was frowning. "You know, he is just a kid. Probably 16 or something."
"The Turtles are teenagers and you don't have any qualms about getting rid of them," Krang pointed out.
"Yeah, but it's different when they're always humiliating us and stuff," Bebop said. "This guy ain't done nothing to us."
"That's right!" James nodded. "I haven't done no-anything!"
"Heh! Your boss would probably thank me for taking such an incompetent buffoon off his hands," Krang mocked. "Maybe after I've done the deed, I'll call to let him know. After all, not even Team Rocket can stand up to the mighty Krang. It's probably time he found that out."
"I still can't believe this is really happening," Shredder muttered. "This can't be real. It's too preposterous for an anime to be this accurate."
"Hey, you know what they say-truth is stranger than fiction," Rocksteady proclaimed.
"And never is that any truer than right now," Shredder grumbled.
Baxter was standing on the rooftop of his apartment complex with Michelangelo. "It's a pleasant fall day," he mused.
"Oh, no kidding, Dude," Michelangelo said. "It's been totally bodacious. And we're getting all kinds of epic leaves blown up here from the park!" He stomped on some in delight. "Perfect for crunching underfoot!"
Baxter chuckled. "I'm glad I don't have to clean these up."
Michelangelo paused. "Hey, coming to think about it, who cleans up the leaves at the mansion?" he wondered. "Does Barney hire out help?"
"I believe he does," Baxter said. "Or at least, he did years ago. Maybe now he'll plan on something else. I can just imagine Vincent operating the leaf blower."
"Oh, totally radical image!" Michelangelo grinned. "I bet he'd love it too!"
"He would," Baxter said. "And it's about time to start thinking of what to do; the yard is filling up with leaves fast!"
"I'd like to help!" Michelangelo chirped. "I'm sure the other guys would too!"
"With cleaning the leaves up or jumping in the piles once they're made?" Baxter said with a raised eyebrow.
Caught, Michelangelo froze. "Well . . ." He sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck. "Probably more one than the other. . . . After all, Barney's got a truly awesome yard and megatons of leaves!"
Baxter laughed. "I'm sure he wouldn't mind," he said. "As long as he wasn't raking the leaves you'd be jumping in."
"Oh, good point," Michelangelo said. "Maybe we could rake them and jump in them!"
"That sounds perfectly fine to me," Baxter said.
Michelangelo was now staring at the sunset-splashed sky. "Uh . . . Baxter Dude . . . aren't comets supposed to fall after dark?"
"They can fall at any time," Baxter said, "but naturally they're more striking against the . . . what on Earth?!"
What had looked like a shining light in the sky was barreling right towards them, screaming all the while. "Looks like Team Rocket's blasting off again!"
"Holy guacamole!" Michelangelo exclaimed. "It's a dudette and a cat!" He sprang into action and leaped into the air to catch them, while Baxter stared in disbelief. The girl fell easily into Michelangelo's arms, but the cat was still falling. Quickly Baxter lunged and grabbed it.
"Oh gee, thanks," it exclaimed in a relieved Brooklyn accent.
Baxter almost dropped it. "What . . . ?!"
The girl, meanwhile, was staring at Michelangelo in a mixture of surprise, bewilderment, and relief. "We've never had a fall stopped in quite this way before," she said. "Are you a mutant?"
"Totally!" Michelangelo said. He set her down. "So what are you guys doing flying through the air? Did you fall out of an airplane?"
"Hmph. It's a long story." She folded her arms and turned away, embarrassed.
Baxter was still gaping at the cat. "How can you talk?! You're not a mutant!"
It . . . he jumped down and stood on two legs. "That's a long story too," he said. "You haven't seen a guy with blue hair around here anywhere, have you?"
"Um . . . no." Baxter stared at the cat and then looked to Michelangelo. "We haven't."
"You know," Michelangelo said slowly, "this is starting to sound awfully familiar. A dude and dudette and cat flying through the air. . . . Team Rocket. . . . You guys are from Pokemon!"
Baxter regarded Michelangelo in disbelief. "Michelangelo, that's a children's television show. And some game. These people must be cosplayers. . . ." But he trailed off. Would cosplayers be quite this dedicated? Still, that was a more logical explanation than to think that . . .
The girl turned back. "The only reason we agreed to let our adventures be made into an anime was because it was supposed to make us rich and famous. Instead, we mostly have people laughing at us!"
"Well, we've got a few devoted fans, at least," the cat said. "But they mostly think we're cosplayers!"
"And you're not," Baxter said slowly.
"Of course we're not," the girl snapped.
Michelangelo looked intrigued. "So you're Jessie and you're Meowth," he realized. "And you're looking for James!"
"Yes, he didn't blast off in the same direction we went," Jessie said.
"We'll help you find him," Michelangelo promised. "I'd better just tell the guys we're gonna be late getting back." He pulled out his Turtle-Comm.
"Michelangelo . . ." Baxter looked at him in kindness and concern. "Will they even believe you if you tell them why we'll be late?"
Michelangelo paused. "Oh, mondo point, Amigo. They didn't believe my note about going to help Bugman for the longest time. But hey, this is video. They can see I'm telling the truth!"
"They'll probably think you're being fooled by cosplayers," Baxter said. "It is hard to believe. I'm still having a hard time wrapping my mind around this."
"Do you have to tell them anything?!" Jessie exclaimed. "Who knows what trouble James is in by now!"
"They'll worry if I don't say something," Michelangelo said. Within a moment he had the device open and was pressing the button.
Leonardo soon answered. "Hey, Michelangelo," he greeted. "Are you and Baxter going to be here soon? Barney called and said that he and Vincent will be here on time. The meeting let out early."
"Well . . ." Michelangelo shifted. "We might be a little late. . . ."
"Is something wrong?" Leonardo frowned.
"We, um . . . have to help a couple of beings find their amigo," Michelangelo said. "It probably won't take long! He must have fall-er, he must be somewhere around here!"
"Uh . . . okay," Leonardo said slowly.
"Could you be a little more vague, Michelangelo?" Raphael said in the background. "I think we still understand what you just said!"
Baxter frowned as he leaned against the railing. He was always trying to encourage the Turtles to be more open. He didn't want Michelangelo to lie or simply not tell the full truth. But on the other hand, he had honestly wondered what the other Turtles would think of such a bizarre tale and had felt Michelangelo needed to be aware that they might have difficulty grasping it. He hadn't wanted Michelangelo to charge in saying they were going to help Team Rocket-oh, how outlandish that sounded!-and then end up discouraged or even crushed if he wasn't believed and instead was laughed at. He couldn't bear the thought of Michelangelo being hurt again, especially right now when his emotional state was still healing. But was he putting too little faith in the others? Maybe, especially after Bugman had been proven real, they would be more receptive to this.
"Let's go already!" Jessie exclaimed.
Michelangelo hesitated again, debating with himself, and then finally said, "Um, dudes, would you believe that Pokemon characters are real and we're going to help Jessie and Meowth find James?"
Dead silence from the Turtle-Comm as Leonardo and Raphael just stared at him. Then Donatello cut in with his Turtle-Comm. "Michelangelo, are you feeling alright?"
"I'm feeling fine!" Michelangelo snapped. "Baxter was right and I should've listened to him. I know it's hard to swallow, but I thought maybe you guys would give me some credit! Nevermind; we'll see you later." And he hung up.
Baxter cringed. "I was afraid of that, Michelangelo, but please try not to feel too hurt. If I wasn't here, I might be worried about you being tricked too."
"Tricked, sure, but not hallucinating or something," Michelangelo said. "You wouldn't think I was imagining it all."
"That may have been the first comment that sprang to logical Donatello's mind," Baxter said. "But I'm sure none of them really believe you're seeing things that aren't there. Give them a chance."
"We're goin' to look for James," Meowth announced. "If you're still comin', you'd better hop to it!"
"We're coming," Michelangelo said. He shoved the Turtle-comm in his belt.
The other Turtles stood staring at their Turtle-Comms, as if expecting Michelangelo to suddenly call back with either an apology or a further explanation. When it didn't happen, Leonardo was the first to shake himself out of his surprised and baffled state. "Guys, I think we made a mistake."
"What, in not instantly saying 'Oh, no problem, go help those fictional characters save another fictional character'?" Raphael retorted.
"There's no way it could be real, Leonardo," Donatello added.
"Bugman is real," Leonardo replied. "I don't know, guys. . . . You saw how hesitant Michelangelo was to even admit to what he was up to. I think he was afraid of what we'd say or do. And then he finally took the chance and we reacted in exactly the way he was afraid of." He put his Turtle-Comm away and turned to head for the door. "We need to show him that we're going to give him the benefit of a doubt."
"Okay." Raphael sighed. "So we have to go find where he and Baxter and 'Team Rocket' are?" He trudged after Leonardo. "There's another problem with this picture. Team Rocket are the bad guys! If they're real, I mean. Why would Michelangelo and Baxter want to help them?"
"If I remember right, they care about each other," Leonardo said. "And sometimes they do good. No matter how bad they try to be because of their jobs, there are some lines they won't cross. It makes sense to me that Michelangelo and Baxter would want to help them find their missing friend."
"I guess so," Raphael said slowly.
Donatello finally spoke as well. "And Michelangelo has never forgiven himself for not seeing how badly Baxter needed help when he was cross-fused. If it looked like there was a similar situation with other antagonists, he would jump on that."
Splinter suddenly emerged from the center room. "What is happening, my Turtles?" he asked.
They froze. "Well, Master Splinter, Michelangelo just called and said some . . . pretty unbelievable things," Leonardo said slowly. "I'm afraid we didn't know what to think and we hurt his feelings. He hung up on us."
"But we're going to go after him now," Raphael quickly added.
"Good," Splinter said. "Michelangelo is trying to be more open with us. That must be encouraged and not discouraged. And judging from his past track record, there is always the possibility that the unbelievable things he's saying are actually true."
"That's what we decided, Master," Leonardo said. "Also, Baxter is apparently with him. I'm sure that Baxter will keep things from going too far."
"I am sure as well," Splinter said. "Or at least, he will do as much as he can." He stepped back. "You had best go. Please let me know what happens."
"We will," Leonardo promised.
Vincent gathered up the textbooks and Barney's briefcase while Barney erased the board from the last class of the day. "For once everything is done before it's really late!" he chirped.
"Always a good thing," Barney nodded.
A splash of yellow in the room's only open window suddenly caught Vincent's eyes and he looked up. ". . . Um, Barney?" he asked.
"What." Barney didn't turn, still absorbed in his task.
"Did Diane bring one of her anime plushies to class again?"
That caused Barney to turn. Vincent was staring at what looked like a furry yellow creature sitting in the window. "She didn't," he said.
"I knew I didn't see one, but I wondered if she took it out of her backpack when I wasn't looking." Vincent walked over to it. "I guess we could leave it in your desk until tomorrow . . ."
"Pikachu!" it announced.
Vincent jumped a mile. Barney dropped the eraser.
"It must be a motion-activated talking plush," Barney grunted.
"But it didn't say anything before," Vincent protested. He did a quick scan. "Barney . . ."
Somehow Barney knew what the strange tone in Vincent's voice meant, even though he wanted to deny or ignore it with all his heart. "Vincent . . ." Warnings filled his voice. Please don't tell me something I don't want to hear. Or can't process.
"It's alive." Vincent slowly reached out and stroked its head.
It smiled and went up on two legs. "Pikachu," it said in bliss.
Barney walked around the desk and came over to look. "This is impossible," he objected. "That's a fictional creature. I've seen Michelangelo watching the anime!"
"Yes, he likes the dragon-type creatures," Vincent said. "Barney, what are we supposed to do?!"
"You're asking me?" Barney snorted.
He was initially grateful for the interruption of the Turtle-Comm. "Barney?" Leonardo said when he pulled it out. "I'm sorry that dinner may be a little late. We need to go looking for Michelangelo."
Barney glanced to the Pikachu. "We may be delayed now as well," he said. "Something . . . unexpected came up."
"Oh no," Raphael said in the background. "Is that . . . what I think it is?!"
Leonardo fell back, overwhelmed. "Guys, I think Michelangelo really was telling the truth."
"Michelangelo saw it too?" Barney frowned.
"He saw other characters from the show," Leonardo said. "He and Baxter are with them and looking for another one."
Barney shook his head. "I can't deal with this."
Vincent took the Turtle-Comm from him. "We'll come join the search," he promised. "And I guess we'll have to bring this . . . Pikachu with us. Unless his owner comes for him. . . ."
"Okay," Leonardo said. "Michelangelo and Baxter were at Baxter's apartment. I'm not sure where they'll be going to look for that guy."
"We'll find them," Vincent said. "I'll hang up and call Baxter."
As he hung up, Barney cautiously extended a finger and laid it in the creature's fur. The Pikachu watched him, curious yet seeming at ease. "It's friendly," Barney said slowly. "But will it come with us?"
"Pikachu," said Pikachu.
"I guess there's only one way to find out," Vincent said. He reached out to pick the animal up.
At that same moment, a young boy's voice rang out. "Pikachu!"
Immediately the rodent perked up and jumped down from the window, running towards the sound of the voice. Soon the boy came into view, lifting the Pikachu in relief. Two others of varying teen age chased after him.
Barney rubbed his eyes. "You're probably going to tell me I don't need new glasses," he said flatly to Vincent.
"You don't," Vincent said. "They're all real."
"This is still impossible," Barney said.
The boy with the Pikachu came over to the window. "Thanks for looking after Pikachu," he exclaimed. "We couldn't find where he'd run off to!"
"He was no trouble," Vincent said cheerily. "Ash, right? And Misty and Brock?"
"Uh, yeah," Ash blinked.
"And this is Togepi," Misty said, indicating the strange creature in her arms that seemed to be sitting in half an egg.
Togepi waved his tiny arms and trilled.
". . . I see," Barney said slowly.
"Our nephew sometimes watches the anime," Vincent explained.
"I still think making an anime about us was a strange idea," Misty said.
"At least it keeps us in good money for our Pokemon journey," Brock said.
"And it's made Pikachu famous!" Ash grinned. "The games too. He's one of the biggest Nintendo properties!"
"Pikachu," Pikachu nodded, looking pleased.
Barney massaged the bridge of his nose. "There's one thing I need to know for this to make any semblance of sense," he said. "The anime has been running for almost twenty years, yet you look around the ages you are in the anime. How is that possible?"
The kids exchanged a look. "It's kind of a long story," Brock said. "And you might not believe it."
"You're standing in front of me and I don't believe it," Barney said. "Try me."
"Um . . . the guy who created the anime time-traveled and met us?" Ash said with a sheepish smile. "And then he went back to his time and created the show. . . ."
Barney just stared. ". . . Well, it makes about as much sense as everything else I've seen in the last year."
"Then you believe us?" Misty said in surprise.
"I suppose." Barney heaved a sigh. "But tell me this too-how much of the anime has been embellished?"
"Less than you might think," Brock said.
"The only thing I can think of offhand was about the Psychic Pokemon Trainer Sabrina," Misty said. "In reality, she could hypnotize people into thinking horrible things were happening to them, like being turned into dolls." She shuddered. "But the anime changed it so she really had those powers."
"I suppose that's one consolation," Barney grunted, folding his arms. "I'd hate to think something that scientifically impossible could happen."
"What about those enemies of yours?" Vincent wondered. "The ones who are always trying to capture your Pikachu?"
Ash scowled. "Oh yeah, they're real. We just had a battle with them before Pikachu wandered off."
Barney raised an eyebrow. "You really continuously electrocute them and blast them into the sky?"
"Well . . . we've gotta stop them," Ash said. "They're always trying to steal Pokemon from everywhere, including Pikachu!"
"There must be less brutal ways to do it," Barney insisted. "Electricity is not something to be trifled with. It's only by some miracle that you haven't seriously hurt them yet. Someday you will."
Ash looked confused, although at least he seemed to be taking Barney's words seriously. "Pokemon can seem to take attacks without being seriously hurt. . . ."
"People are not Pokemon," Barney retorted. "Maybe Pokemon have some kind of natural defenses that make it not as dangerous for them. Anyway, it's not just the usage of electricity, but sending them flying sky-high. Any number of things could happen to them when they land."
"I never thought about it that way," Ash admitted.
"I would recommend it." Barney straightened his coat and turned away. "Now we need to go find our brother and our nephew. They're apparently with some . . . other people, maybe your enemies."
"Why would they want to be with Team Rocket?" Misty wondered.
"They're looking for one of the members who isn't there," Barney said. "At least as I understand it."
"I thought they always landed together," Ash frowned.
"If you're concerned, you can come with us," Barney said.
"I guess I kind of wonder what they're up to," Misty said. "And maybe we should see if they're okay."
"They're probably fine, but maybe Misty has a point," Brock said. "It doesn't hurt to check."
"Alright!" Ash said. "We'll come with you!"
"You can get in the back seat of our car," Barney said. "It's the cream Cadillac in the parking lot." He paused. "But I hope your pets are house-trained."
"Pikachu," Pikachu grunted.
Togepi happily chirped.
Krang leaned back with a highly satisfied smirk as he finished examining the read-outs from the thought extractor. "Well, Shredder, what do you say now?" he crowed. "Just look at the wealth of information about Pokemon!"
"Yeah, yeah, that's great," Shredder growled. "So now you're going to try catching Electric Pokemon to power the Technodrome. We know already."
"I also know that I want to be personally in charge of this," Krang said. "You and your mutants keep botching everything! And there's no sense in sending the boy out to get that Pikachu or any other Pokemon. He's pathetic at his job, about as bad as Bebop and Rocksteady."
Bebop snorted. "Maybe he's so bad at it because he ain't cut out to be a bad guy," he suggested. "We found a lot of memories that show he's usually pretty gentle and he's done a lot of good things."
Rocksteady nodded. "A real bad guy wouldn't do any of those things, especially sacrificing himself to save the world. And saying stuff in his motto about 'protectin' the world from devastation.'"
"Yes, he is pretty wishy-washy as a bad guy," Krang smirked. He undid the restraints on James, who had slipped into a semi-conscious state during the extraction and was staring off at nothing with bleary eyes. "We certainly don't have any use for someone who only tries to be bad when he's really good at heart. So . . ." He looked to the mutants. "Show me how bad you two can be. Take him and finish him off."
Rocksteady grinned. "Oh boy. It'll be fun to kick him when he's down." He grabbed James by the front of his shirt and pulled him out of the chair.
Bebop still looked tense. "Rocksteady, you're really gonna go through with it without feeling any remorse at all?"
"Why should I?" Rocksteady retorted. "Feel remorse, I mean."
James whimpered. All the jostling was restoring some of his consciousness, and he didn't like what he was hearing. "Oh please don't kill me," he begged. "I'm too young. I have so much to live for! And . . . Jessie and Meowth would be so sad without me. . . . And my grandparents. . . . And my Pokemon. . . ."
"Tough luck, wimp," Rocksteady sneered. "Krang, you want us to do it where you can see, or should we drag him off somewhere?"
"Do what you want," Krang said flippantly. "I'm more interested in nabbing that Pikachu. It's so powerful, it could probably charge the Technodrome all by itself!"
"Okay!" Rocksteady pulled James out of the room, even as he revived enough to start physically struggling against him. Worried, Bebop kept up the rear.
"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" Shredder muttered.
Rocksteady waited until they were alone with James in one of the Technodrome's many corridors. Then he threw the kid hard into the wall and sneered when he cried out in pain and fell to the floor. "Alright, say your prayers before we pummel you to death!"
James sobbed in terror. Both hands flew to the back of his neck as he knelt there, violently trembling.
Bebop frowned. "He's just like the wimp from Channel 6. I know scaring him is kind of fun, but do we really wanna kill him when he ain't even fighting back?"
"Eh, I'm sure he'll put up a fight once we get goin'," Rocksteady said. He kicked James in the ribs harshly enough that he crashed into the wall again, his hands flying away from his neck.
Indeed, James scrambled out of the way in desperation. "Stop! Don't do this!" he wailed. "My . . . my parents will sue!"
"They will?" Bebop blinked.
"We read all about your parents from the thought extractor," Rocksteady retorted. "They don't care about you enough to do nothing! And they won't want a big scandal to come out about the family name, neither! Their only son being in Team Rocket would be a really big scandal!" He picked up a heavy crate and hoisted it at James.
The kid shrieked and tumbled out of the way, barely missing it.
Bebop stood to the side, just watching. "Rocksteady . . ."
"Well, come on!" Rocksteady snapped. "Just jump in anywhere!"
". . . But . . . what would Barney say if he knew we was tryin' to kill a kid?"
Rocksteady paused. "Who says he has to know?"
"He'll know," Bebop insisted. "Krang'll probably call up the kid's boss like he said. Or he'll just broadcast that we killed him when he goes to get that Pikachu thing! Maybe he'll dump the body at their feet to let them know he means business!"
"Ohhh . . . what difference does it make?!" Rocksteady finally cried. "Barney's not our boss! We have to do what Krang says!"
"Well, technically Shredder is our boss," Bebop said. "But I guess he wouldn't go against Krang's orders on this."
"Of course not, because he knows eliminating witnesses is the best thing," Rocksteady said.
"Uh . . . where is our witness?" Bebop looked around.
Rocksteady gasped. "Oh no! While you got me distracted, he's run off! Shredder and Krang will both kill us if we let him get away!" He tore off down the hall. "You'd better help me find him, Bebop!" He shook a fist at his comrade.
Bebop hurried to check the other side of the corridor. "We've gotta find him, alright," he mumbled to himself. "But what about when we do? I don't wanna kill him. . . ."
It was Rocksteady who found James first. Bebop was just opening the door to another room when he heard the mutant rhino snarling, "Found you! I'll teach you to run away from me, you creep!"
Bebop ran across the hall just in time to see Rocksteady viciously pulling James away from the ventilator he was trying to climb into and throwing him to the floor. Before the boy had a chance to recover, Rocksteady slammed his fists hard into him once and then again. Giving up in the face of the powerful brute strength, James curled tightly into a ball and shook, awaiting the worst.
"No, Rocksteady!" Bebop exclaimed. "Stop!"
"We've gotta do what Krang said!" Rocksteady retorted. "He'll really get us good if we can't even beat up a guy! That's the one thing we should be able to do right!"
"The Turtles always beat us up," Bebop said.
"Yeah, but they're all ninja and stuff," Rocksteady said. He hit James again. "This is one pathetic kid! If we can't get the better of him, our reputations will be completely shot! Krang might even fire us for good!"
"He's still a minor!" Bebop exclaimed. "We'd really get it if we off him, even if he is with Team Rocket!"
"Only if we get caught!" Now Rocksteady kicked James, sending him hard into the wall. He struck hard and fell to the floor on his stomach, lying still.
"Rocksteady," Bebop gasped.
"Oh, he's just knocked out," Rocksteady insisted.
Bebop wasn't as sure. And when a sudden, mournful cry of "Weezing!" echoed off the walls, he jumped a mile. Two bizarre creatures, one resembling two mines joined together and one that looked like a giant plant, were flying down the corridor towards them.
"It's his Pokemon!" Bebop gasped. "They got away from Krang!"
"I thought they weren't supposed to be able to get out of their Pokeballs unless called for," Rocksteady exclaimed.
The double mines descended gently on James' back. "Weezing?"
The plant screeched, bending down to look into James' face.
Bebop swallowed hard and stepped back. "They must love him so much that they broke out all on their own," he gasped.
"Well, he's not dead!" Rocksteady protested. He also stepped back, nervous now. "I was just roughing him up and saying stuff in case Krang was monitoring us. I thought we'd tell Krang we killed him and then just throw him off the Technodrome or something!"
Bebop looked to him in surprise. "You really weren't gonna kill him?!"
"Nah," Rocksteady said. "Only . . ." He gulped. "I think they think he's dead!"
"What if he really is?!" Bebop cried.
"Don't give them ideas!" Rocksteady snapped.
"Weezing!" the mines roared. He leaped up and let loose with smoke that filled the room.
Rocksteady coughed. "Let's get out of here!"
"I don't even know where to go!" Bebop yelped. "I can't see anything, even when I take off my shades!"
The plant screeched again. Tenderly it extended its large lower leaves and lifted James' limp body. It started up with a sad trilling, almost cooing, and bounded towards the door while Weezing's smoke continued to permeate the corridor.
"I guess they don't wanna fight," Bebop said. "They just wanna get him out of here."
"Well," Rocksteady coughed, "at least we can blame this on the Pokemon escaping. . . ."
"But what if he really is dead?!" Bebop exclaimed. "He was already hurt from blasting off and crashing. You beating him up might have been too much for him to take right now!"
". . . I didn't even think of that," Rocksteady said in dismay. "Now I wish I'd listened to you."
"It's too late for that now," Bebop retorted.
Footsteps thundered down the hall and Shredder and Krang peered in as the smoke gradually dispersed. "What's happening?" Shredder demanded, waving it away from him.
"The kid's Pokemon got away from you guys and took him away," Rocksteady said.
Krang scowled. "Did you kill him first?"
The mutants exchanged a look. "I think so," Rocksteady said. "They showed up before we could check for sure."
"Well, nevermind!" Krang snapped. "We have to go to the surface and get that Pikachu! I've tracked it to, of all places, Barney's car!"
"It's with Barney?!" Bebop went stiff in horror. "But if you try to get it away from him . . ."
"Yeah, yeah, we'll probably have to hurt Barney," Krang said in annoyance. "That's the breaks!"
"And no protesting!" Shredder boomed. "Let's get going."
The mutants looked at each other.
"We've gotta go," Rocksteady said quietly.
"I know," Bebop said. "Maybe we can help Barney, if he needs it."
They hurried after Krang and Shredder.
Michelangelo and Baxter had been searching for James for ages with no luck. They could tell Jessie and Meowth were worried, even though they struggled to keep up a front of feeling that he was just fine. Baxter badly wanted to talk to Meowth about Pokemon, Michelangelo could tell, but he didn't want to be insensitive. At the same time, he knew it might get Meowth's mind on something else. But he kept silent.
Michelangelo decided to talk about something else. "Don't you think that maybe you guys should get into a different line of work?" He hesitated. "I mean, James wouldn't be missing if you guys hadn't been trying to steal Pokemon again. . . ."
"Hmph," Jessie grumped. "We're part of Team Rocket. That's what we do. We're rotten to the core!"
"That's just it, though, you're not," Michelangelo said. "Pokemon's not my favorite show, but I've watched it enough to see that you do a lot of good. And you care about each other. You guys just aren't rotten at all, even though you put up this big front of it. You're too good for Team Rocket."
"I'm sure the anime exaggerates," Jessie sniffed.
"Actually, it told those things pretty well," Meowth piped up. "What it got wrong was when it changed things so that we started betraying the twerps even when they helped us. The first couple of seasons didn't have us do that and that's the way it is in real-life!"
"Oh, shut your meowth," Jessie muttered.
"Like, that's what I'm talking about," Michelangelo exclaimed. "Maybe you're trying to convince yourself and everybody else that you belong in Team Rocket because you're mondo bad news, but it just doesn't work! People see through it and know better!"
Baxter regarded Michelangelo with a surprised but touched smile. He was better at handling this situation, since he was familiar with the fictional versions of these beings, but it made Baxter happy to listen. Michelangelo really was trying to make good, to do what he hadn't done for Baxter in the past. It reminded Baxter of how desperately he had fought to convince Barney he didn't belong with Shredder and Krang.
"Oh really," Jessie said sardonically.
"Yes, really!" Michelangelo paused, thinking. "And I can prove it without a doubt! Your own motto gives you away!"
Jessie blinked. "The motto?"
"I saw the episode where you guys were arguing with Butch and Cassidy over the right way to say it," Michelangelo said. "They insisted theirs was the official Team Rocket motto. So let's take them both apart!
"Yours says, 'To protect the world from devastation.' Theirs is, 'To infect the world with devastation.' That's like, a mondo difference there! You're expressing completely opposite ideas!"
"He's got a point," Meowth said.
"Then yours says, 'To unite all people in every nation.' Theirs is, 'To blight . . .'! Seriously, what could show more that your goals don't match up with Team Rocket than this?!"
"Alright," Jessie said smoothly. "Explain 'To denounce the evils of truth and love.'"
"That one puzzled me for a long time," Michelangelo admitted. "I only figured it out by watching people for months. You're literally denouncing the evils that can come from truth and love, like how telling the truth can sometimes only hurt someone or how people can use love as their excuse to do totally terrible things. Butch and Cassidy's line has the meaning that people might think yours does, 'To denounce the goodness of truth and love,' so yours can't mean the same thing."
"Oh, we just phrased it as 'evil' so we'd sound even worse," Jessie said haughtily. "Calling good 'evil' and all that."
"Maybe," Michelangelo said, "but you can't explain away these other lines."
"There's also 'To extend our reach to the stars above' while theirs uses 'wrath,'" Meowth helpfully added. "Our version wouldn't have to mean somethin' bad, but theirs definitely does."
"Exactamundo!" Michelangelo exclaimed.
"Whose side are you on?" Jessie scowled at Meowth.
"Hey, he's figurin' us all out," Meowth shrugged.
"Even if you're right, and I'm not saying you are, we wouldn't have anywhere else to go," Jessie said to Michelangelo. "We have to stay with Team Rocket!"
"Besides, I'm not sure we could get out anyway," Meowth said. "You know how hard it is to get out of criminal syndicates once you're in."
"Oh, the boss probably wouldn't care if we left," Jessie grumbled. "He'd probably cheer."
"Then you should totally go!" Michelangelo insisted. "There'd be people to help you find something else to do. Us, for instance!"
Baxter blinked in surprise but quickly recovered. He should have expected that. "Yes," he said. "We would." Softer he said, "I know quite a bit about turning over a new leaf, as do my brothers."
"Maybe it's somethin' we should consider, Jessie," Meowth said. "I don't think Jim would have any objection to leavin', as long as he didn't have to go home."
"Well, we have to find James first," Jessie retorted. "And so far we're not having any luck! Oh, if only we could afford cellphones . . . !"
The Cadillac pulled up in front of them at that moment. "Hi, Baxter!" Vincent chirped. "Michelangelo."
Baxter beamed. "Hello!" He hurried over. "I'm afraid we still haven't found James."
Jessie glowered at the group in the back seat. "Thanks to you twerps."
"Hey, we had to stop you," Ash snapped.
"Pikachu!" Pikachu added in annoyance.
The Turtle Van pulled up behind the Cadillac. "Michelangelo!" Leonardo called.
Michelangelo straightened up. "Like, what do you guys think of what I said now?" he asked.
Raphael shook his head as he stared at Jessie, Meowth, and the group with Barney and Vincent as they all exited the Cadillac. "I see it, but I still don't believe it. They must be all in costume."
"The Pikachu too?" Leonardo pointed at it.
"Maybe it's animatronic or something?" Raphael suggested, but he knew it sounded lame. "No, nevermind. I guess we've all cracked up."
"Michelangelo, I'm really sorry for doubting you," Donatello said. "You have to admit, it sounded unreal."
"I know," Michelangelo sighed. "It's okay, really."
"It's not okay," Leonardo said as he got out of the Van. "You were reluctant to tell us because you were afraid we wouldn't believe you. Then you took a chance and tried anyway and you got hurt."
"Hey, just out of curiosity, if you and Raphael had got a chance to say something, what would you have said?" Michelangelo wondered.
"I probably would have wondered what you'd been snacking on," Raphael quipped.
"I'm not sure what I would have said," Leonardo admitted.
"Nevermind all this!" Jessie interjected. "We need to find James!"
"Oh, that's not a problem," came a new and unwelcome voice. "I know exactly where he is."
Everyone jerked and looked up as Krang, Shredder, and their mutants exited a portal.
Misty shrieked. "What is that thing?! It looks like a talking brain!"
In her arms, Togepi trilled and didn't look bothered. Of course, that was usual for Togepi.
"Maybe it's a new kind of Pokemon," Ash suggested. He took out his Pokedex.
"No known Pokemon," it intoned.
"It is a talking brain," Barney said flatly, "of an alien from another dimension."
"That's disgusting!" Misty squealed.
Even Jessie looked rather nauseous. But the look soon passed and she stared down at Krang with folded arms. "Alright, Brain Bag," she snapped. "Where's James?"
Krang was just opening his mouth to reply when a strange wail split the night and again everyone jerked and looked up.
"That's Victreebel," Meowth gasped.
"Weezing," Weezing mournfully called.
"They're sayin' James is dead!" Meowth cried.
Jessie went sheet-white. "No. That's impossible!"
The two Pokemon came into view. The plant Pokemon Victreebel was still cradling James in her large leaves. Gently she laid him down at Jessie and Meowth's feet.
"Jim," Meowth breathed in horror.
Ash paled. "He can't be," he whispered.
Jessie again only took a moment to recover from the shock. But when she did, it was anger that spilled forth. "James, you get up right now!" she screamed as she stomped up and down on the grass.
Barney swore under his breath. He recognized that tone all too well. It wasn't true anger, but an anger that masked heartache and grief . . . and love. It was a tone that he had used before with Baxter. His heart went out to Jessie and Meowth. He stepped closer to Baxter, who was staring in shock.
"You were right, Dr. Stockman," Ash said sorrowfully. "We did that to him! We must have blasted him too hard . . . or he crashed too hard . . . or . . ."
"Pika," Pikachu said. Even he looked sad.
"You didn't do this on purpose," Brock said. But he knew that didn't help.
"James, did you hear me?!" Jessie shrieked.
"He doesn't hear you, Jessie," Meowth said sadly. "He's never gonna hear anything again." He laid a paw in James' hair.
Krang smirked at Ash. "And you think you did this, Boy? You're wrong. Well, at least somewhat. You badly weakened him, it's true. But it was my mutants who finished him off!" He pointed in glee to Rocksteady and Bebop.
Everyone looked to them in a mixture of shock and anger.
"Are you serious?!" Raphael cried. "You two killed this kid?! How low can you get?!"
The mutants looked trapped. Neither spoke.
Jessie sprang forward, fire burning in her eyes. "You'll pay for this!" she roared. "Arbok, go!" She opened a Pokeball and an enormous purple cobra leaped out, hissing at the mutants.
"Mama!" Bebop wailed. He jumped into Rocksteady's arms.
Rocksteady promptly dropped him and stepped in front of him, arms outstretched. "Okay," he said. "You want me, you've got me. But leave Bebop out of this. He didn't give that guy one punch. I did it all. Bebop kept trying to stop me."
Bebop stared up at him, stunned. "Rocksteady . . ."
"Fine!" Jessie snapped. "It's all on you. Arbok, Poison Sting Attack!"
"No!" Bebop cried. "He don't deserve that! He never meant to kill James!"
"Well, it still happened," Jessie snarled. "Someone has to pay!"
"Pikachu!" Ash suddenly yelped, and everyone's attention was again diverted.
"He's all mine now!" Krang gurgled. In all the commotion, he had easily sneaked up on the kids and taken Pikachu from off Ash's shoulder.
The rodent struggled in Krang's grasp. "Pika-chuuu!" he cried in desperation.
Krang just laughed. "My heavy rubber gloves protect me from whatever defense mechanism you might try," he said. "You're coming back to the Technodrome with me to power it up!"
"Don't you mean 'with us'?" Shredder snapped.
"You're not going anywhere!" Leonardo boomed. "We'll stop you!"
"And so will we!" Misty cried. "Staryu, I choose you!"
What looked like a giant brown starfish with a beautiful pink orb in the center appeared from his Pokeball.
"Staryu, Water Gun Attack!" Misty ordered.
A huge burst of water flew from the Staryu and hit Krang dead-center. He stumbled and fell back. "Quick, take Pikachu!" he exclaimed to Shredder.
"I'm wearing a metal costume!" Shredder protested.
"Oh, nevermind!" Krang flung the terrified and angry rodent through the portal and into the Technodrome. "Now get me up!"
That, Shredder was willing to do. He hauled Krang to his feet and they leaped through the portal.
"Oh no you don't!" Ash burst out. He jumped in after them.
"Ash!" Misty and Brock exclaimed in equal alarm.
"We can't let that boy go in there!" Baxter cried. He ran over to the portal as well.
Before anyone could do anything, the sounds of electricity and screams echoed through the portal. Pikachu jumped out, followed by Ash.
Bebop immediately started dragging Rocksteady towards the portal. "Come on," he yelped. "We've gotta get out of here!"
Rocksteady didn't protest, especially when he saw Arbok turning his attention back to him again. As soon as he and Bebop were through the portal, it closed.
Now everything was quiet-deathly quiet. Jessie turned, her energy and anger spent. Instead she fell to her knees, surveying the lifeless body of her best friend. "Oh James," she whispered. "Michelangelo was right about our motto. But there's one interpretation to the 'truth and love' line he missed-how much loving someone and losing them hurts." She covered her eyes with her hands and silently cried.
Meowth was lying next to James' head and staring off into the distance, listless and sad. "It's not gonna be the same without ol' Jim around," he said.
Ash looked away. "Maybe that mutant finished him off, but I'll bet that beating wouldn't have killed him if he hadn't already been hurt from being shocked and blasting off and crashing," he said quietly.
"Pikachu," Pikachu added.
"Ash, you can't blame yourself," Brock said.
"Then who do I blame?!" Ash shot back. "We just wanted to stop him. We didn't want to . . ."
The Turtles and the Stockmans exchanged concerned looks. Finally Leonardo stepped forward.
"Sometimes terrible things happen in battles," he said softly. "Things that you never intended or wanted."
Ash looked up at him in surprise. "Really? That happens to Ninja Turtles?"
"Sometimes," Leonardo said. "And the only thing we can do when that happens is to learn from the experience and try not to do things in the same way again."
"But . . . that won't bring James back," Ash said.
"Sometimes things happen that nothing can fix, Microdude," Michelangelo said.
Ash looked away. "There should be a way to fix it," he said bitterly. "It shouldn't have happened! It shouldn't. . . ."
A weak groan brought everyone to attention. "Jessie? . . . Meowth?"
Jessie went stiff. "James?!"
Meowth jumped up. "Jim, you're alive?!"
Weezing and Victreebel exclaimed in joy. James was indeed awake, staring up at the group with one half-open, bleary eye as he closed the other and rubbed at his head.
Jessie shook herself out of the shock. "James, how dare you pretend to be dead when you're not!" she screamed. But then she stripped her facade away and bent down, pulling him into a hug. "We all thought you were gone. . . ."
"I thought I was gone!" James retorted. Slowly he returned the hug. "But . . . Jessie . . . you really missed me?"
"Of course I missed you!" Jessie shot back.
"Me too!" Meowth declared. He, Weezing, and Victreebel crowded in close. Arbok soon joined the reunion as well.
Barney stared. "Are you telling me that no one thought to check his vital signs?!"
"Well, there was a lot going on," Leonardo said.
"And like, his Pokemon said he was dead," Michelangelo reminded. "When he didn't move or anything for such a mondo long time, I guess they thought he really was."
"And maybe someone did check and couldn't find anything," Baxter suggested. "After all he's been though, maybe for a while his vitals were too weak to be found without machines."
"That's possible," Barney grudgingly admitted.
"In any case, this is wonderful," Baxter smiled. "He's alive!"
Ash was beaming. "He's really okay!"
"Pikachu!" Pikachu happily added.
"This is wonderful, Ash," Misty smiled.
"It sure is," Brock said.
"Just remember what I told you," Barney said sternly. "It still stands. Maybe now it's more relevant than ever."
"We'll remember," Ash promised. "We don't want anything like this to happen again."
"Pikachu," said Pikachu.
Vincent laid his hands on Baxter and Barney's shoulders. "So everything is ending happy for everyone," he smiled. "Except Krang and Shredder."
They both hugged him.
"Seeing Jessie's sorrow coming out as anger hit close to home," Barney said quietly.
"I knew it would, Buddy," Vincent said. "But it looks like she also knows how to show her real feelings, just like you've learned to do."
Baxter smiled. "We've all learned and grown a great deal over the past year. And I'd like to think that all of these people have grown from their experience today."
"For sure, Baxter Dude," Michelangelo said. "I think they have."
Jessie was gently helping James to his feet. "Can you stand?"
"I . . . think so. . . ." James stumbled and Victreebel was quick to try to prop him up.
Ash was coming over as well. "James . . ." He looked at his enemy in all seriousness. "Pikachu and I are both sorry for what happened. We had to stop you, but we never meant for you to be badly hurt. You probably could have fought off that mutant rhinoceros if you hadn't already been hurt because of what we did."
"Pikachu," Pikachu nodded.
James looked like he wasn't sure what to think. "When I'm better, it will probably be back to business as usual," he said.
"Maybe not," Ash said. "At least, we'll try to find other ways to stop you that won't get you hurt."
"And we need to have a long talk," Jessie said quietly.
James looked at her in surprise and confusion. "Alright. . . ."
Michelangelo looked hopeful. "Do you think they really might leave Team Rocket?!"
Baxter smiled a bit. "We'll have to wait and see. It sounds like Jessie is considering it, and that's more than I thought she'd do."
"Mondo notion!" Michelangelo exclaimed, spreading his arms wide. "I hope they do! We could help them get settled here!"
"I must admit, I would like to talk with Meowth about Pokemon," Baxter said. "Who better to explain them all to me than a Pokemon?" His eyes gleamed.
Barney folded his arms. "Yes, you'd be highly fascinated with the creatures," he remarked.
"I badly wanted to ask him so many things tonight, but I couldn't do that when he was so worried about his friend," Baxter said. He blushed. "I never wanted to say it, but sometimes when Michelangelo was watching the anime, I happened to glance in and I wished Pokemon were real. So many incredible living beings with amazing abilities! And now we find out they are real! I couldn't be happier."
"One thing I'd like to know," Raphael spoke up, "is where that Meowth is from. He sounds like he's from Brooklyn."
"He is," Baxter said. "That's one thing he did say. He was born out here and then went West to Hollywood. That's where he learned to talk and walk like humans . . . and mutants," he quickly added. "But he didn't want to give any more details than that."
"Oh, there's an anime episode about that," Michelangelo offered. "It's a real bummer, though. But it shows the friendship between Team Rocket, so that was nice."
"Okay, so there's Pokemon floating around in the city and we don't even know about them?" Raphael blinked.
"Maybe they're shy," Leonardo suggested.
"Probably," Barney grunted.
"Or maybe, like, it's a parallel dimension existing in the same space," Michelangelo offered, "and there's open portals everywhere and they all pass back and forth!"
"Maybe we'll find out someday," Leonardo said. "For now, though, I'm satisfied with what we've already found out."
"I hope Rocksteady learns he didn't kill James," Baxter said in concern. "He actually seemed really upset over it."
"Oh yeah," Michelangelo blinked. "Who'd have thought that, huh?"
"Not me," Raphael shook his head.
"And he actually tried to protect Bebop from that cobra's assault," Barney mused. "I wouldn't have expected that, either."
"We already knew Bebop was softening, but it looks like Rocksteady still has some goodness in him too," Leonardo said.
"And not just when it comes to Barney," Donatello added.
"That's kind of a nice surprise," Michelangelo said. "So maybe they're kind of like Team Rocket in that way. Maybe we can tell Rocksteady and Bebop that James is okay the next time we see them."
"Works for me," Raphael shrugged.
Barney watched as the group helped James over to the Cadillac. He came over, opening the door for them. "Can we drop you anywhere?"
Jessie and James exchanged a concerned look. "Well, James obviously needs to rest somewhere for a while, but we don't have money for a hospital and we might be spotted there by the wrong people," Jessie said slowly.
Barney sighed and looked to Vincent and Baxter. When they saw his question and silently answered in the affirmative, he turned back to their unusual guests. "You can stay the night with us," he said gruffly. "We have room."
They were all stunned. "Do you mean it?!" James said in amazement.
"Yes," Barney said. ". . . But you'll have to recall your Pokemon. They won't fit in the car."
Jessie and James were agreeable to that. They recalled all except Meowth, who didn't have a Pokeball anyway. He easily scrambled into the back seat and onto James' lap, where he curled up and purred.
Leonardo looked to Ash and his friends. "Do you kids have somewhere to go?"
"Oh, we'll find the nearest Pokemon Center," Brock said.
"Uh, do we have any of those?" Michelangelo blinked.
"Our map says there's one near the mountains," Misty said cheerfully.
"Well, it's already late," Leonardo said. "Get in the Turtle Van and we'll drive you there."
"Really?! Alright!" Ash cheered.
"Pikachu!" Pikachu happily exclaimed.
"You know," Raphael remarked as the kids hurried onboard through the side ramp, "this has got to be one of the strangest days of my life, if not the strangest. And Krang is just getting weirder. First we deal with an energy-stealing plot from Sailor Moon. Now he wants to use an electric mouse to power the Technodrome. If he or Shred-Head start getting into alchemy, I'm out of here!"
"Mondo notion," Michelangelo said. "I most totally agree, Compadre."
"Well," Baxter chuckled, "we'll see what happens. Meanwhile, we'd better get these kids home."
"Radical," Michelangelo said. "I'll call you when we reach the Pokemon Center, Dude!"
"That would be wonderful," Baxter's eyes gleamed. "I'm sure I'll want to go there for research purposes." He climbed into the front seat after Barney and Vincent got in. "I'll talk to you soon, my friend."
Michelangelo gripped his hand in a Goodbye gesture. "Right! Stay loose! Maybe we can still have dinner tonight, but at your place!"
"That would be fine, I'm sure," Barney said.
"Gnarly." Michelangelo smiled and stepped back as the Cadillac drove off.
Raphael stared after it. "Do you really think it's a good idea for them to take Team Rocket to their house?"
"I don't think any of them will try anything when James is hurt," Michelangelo shrugged. "Anyway, I think Jessie and Meowth are actually thinking about what I said."
"I hope you're right," Raphael sighed.
"Hey, even if I'm not, Vincent runs that place like clockwork. They won't be able to get past his set-up!" Michelangelo said.
"That's true," Leonardo chuckled. "Well, our adventure isn't over yet. Let's take these kids to the Pokemon Center."
"Totally!" Michelangelo hopped aboard the Turtle Van.
"You know, the idea of Pokemon really is fascinating," Donatello said as he and the others headed for the Van as well. "Maybe I'll want to visit that Pokemon Center too."
"I'm sure you will," Leonardo said. He got into the driver's seat while the other two slid in next to Michelangelo.
"Meanwhile, I'm going to be waking up tomorrow morning thinking this entire experience has been a dream courtesy of falling asleep in front of the television," Raphael said.
"Only you'll soon find things to show it was real," Donatello said.
"Pikachu," Pikachu smiled.
"Like a cheery yellow rodent too cutesy to be fake," Raphael muttered.
"Pika!" Pikachu growled in a warning voice.
"Pokemon understand everything humans and mutants say," Brock warned. "I wouldn't advise making Pikachu mad."
". . . Good point," Raphael relented. "I wouldn't want to end up like Shred-Head and Krang!"
"Did you really have Pikachu blast them, Ash?" Donatello asked.
"No, but he sure damaged a lot of their circuitry," Ash said. "I don't think anything's going to work on their war fortress for a long time."
Raphael cackled. "Boy oh boy. Krang's going to think twice before trying this again!"
"One can only hope," Leonardo smiled.
"Shredder!" Krang wailed as he sat sprawled in the middle of the main control room. All around him, electricity was sparking and sizzling. "The computer's gone berserk, the transport modules won't turn on, and the portal is sizzling!"
"Don't blame this one on me!" Shredder snapped. "You're the one who wanted that electric menace!"
"You didn't even try to grab it!" Krang shrieked.
"How would I have stood a chance?!" Shredder retorted. "It would have fried me!"
"Well, I have to blame someone!" Krang flailed and slammed his legs on the floor.
"Come on," Bebop whispered. "Let's get out of here before he remembers what you said about not planning to kill that kid."
Rocksteady trudged into the next room. "He's dead anyway," he said dejectedly, "so what does it matter?"
His comm-link beeped and he took it out in bewilderment. "Huh?"
Vincent's face filled the screen. "I'm becoming your messenger service," he remarked. "I just hacked into your comm-link to let you know that boy you hurt isn't dead."
Rocksteady gripped the device with both hands. "Really?! He's alive?!"
"Yes, he is," Vincent said. "Apparently you caused him to hit his head and he was deeply unconscious. He's awake now."
"I . . ." Rocksteady sniffled. "I don't know what to say."
"Thanks for telling us," Bebop exclaimed, leaning into the line of vision. "We was both really broken-up about it."
"Well, then be more careful in the future!" Vincent suddenly snapped. "You almost killed me by accident and now you could have killed that boy, not entirely by accident! Next time there might not be a call to let you know you didn't succeed."
"Yes, Sir," Rocksteady gulped. "We've learned our lesson-we don't even wanna waste complete strangers."
"Good." Vincent winked off the screen.
"Thank goodness he's okay," Bebop declared.
"Yeah. But gee," Rocksteady remarked. "I wonder what this means for our future as the boss's henchmutants."
"Who knows," Bebop said. "I'm just glad you realized you didn't wanna hurt that kid. And that it really wasn't too late for him." He shuddered.
"Me too," Rocksteady said. "But I don't think I'm gonna tell Krang or the boss about this."
"Me either," Bebop said. "Let him think we did what he ordered for once. Let's go play Space Invaders."
Rocksteady's eyes lit up. "Yeah!"
They hurried down the hall to their room.