Author's Note: Here it is

Author's Note: Here it is! The first part of the story! It's the prologue and chapter one all rolled in together. I would like to thank everyone who sent in a character for the story. Here's the deal: I decided that I would attempt to use every character I got, just not all of them are going to be blended with pokemon and will probably show up later in the story. Anyway, here are the people who made the main character rolls:

Kyle, provided by Dark Link (who is also an author under that name. Go read his stories!)

Val, provided by She-Who-Must-No-Be-Named (another author. Go read her stuff, that is, when you're finished with mine) Also, I still need to e-mail you about your character, so if you could tell me your e-mail address or send me one, I would greatly appreciate it.

Sarena Surge, provided by Alana3355

Emery, provided by I Love James! (also an author. Be a pal and read her stuff)

Indigo, provided by Pikajenn (author of several extraordinary stories. Go. Read.)

Lani, provided by Wind (the author, not the element. Read her stuff or I'll send The Reaper after you)

And speaking of which, The Reaper is the main reason this is rated PG-13. Just so you know, none of the scenes involving him are going to be pretty, so let the faint of heart beware. He may even push the rating up to R in later parts. Okay, I'm babbling, so I'll stop now and let you enjoy the beginning of the story…right after the disclaimer.

Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon. All I own are some beef tacos that have been sitting in the fridge for a week, and you can have them if you decide to sue me. Go ahead, they're all yours. However, I own the characters of Varia and The Reaper, so don't take them or I'll be the one claiming your week-old tacos. Also, all original characters belong to the people who created them, as listed above. Don't take them, either.

The End of the Road—Prologue

The girl glanced around the office nervously. It was too dark and shadowy for her tastes, but she wasn't about to say so. She allowed herself a quick glance at the man behind the desk. He was looking at the application she had just filled out. If everything went well, she'd be calling this guy "boss" by the end of the day.

The man finally looked up from the paperwork. His face was somewhat obscured by the shadows, but she could see his icy eyes quite clearly. It was almost eerie the way he looked at her. His gaze certainly didn't help her relax.

"Is there some reason you didn't put your full name on the application?" he asked.

"Um…I did," the girl answered.

"You didn't put a last name."

"I don't have one."

"And why not?"

She had hoped he wouldn't ask about that. Now her job opportunity was in serious jeopardy. After a short pause, she said, "I don't have a family."

"Really."

"Yeah. I've been on my own for as long as I can remember."

The man flipped through the papers. "So you have no family, no permanent home, and you're only twelve. You expect me to hire you with these kinds of problems?"

"They aren't problems!" she argued. "I do fine enough by myself. And it's not like I don't have any skills for the job. I'm great at dealing with pokemon. I can catch wild ones without even using a pokeball, I tame them myself, and I can even take care of them if they get sick or hurt."

"And just how did you get so good with pokemon?"

"I…well, I don't really like to talk about it," the girl said, shifting her gaze to her feet. "People think I'm some sort of freak or something, or that I'm lying."

"I still want to know," the man told her, setting the papers down on the desk. He leaned forward and rested his chin on his clasped hands. The movement was almost as threatening as if he had pulled a gun on her. The girl gulped and continued to look at her feet.

"Well, ever since I was little I've always…um…been able to talk to pokemon."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, and not like other people. I can actually understand what they're saying. It doesn't matter if they're wild or tame, if they're mine or someone else's." The girl dared to look up at the man. He was reclining in his chair again. He seemed to be thinking things over. There was a long pause.

"You're hired," he said simply.

The girl blinked. "Really? Oh, thank you! I swear, I'll do the best job ever! You'll never have to worry about a pokemon being unruly or sick or anything!"

"You start tomorrow. And from now on, you will stay at The End of the Road. It's a motel I own near the gym. All expenses will be paid by the gym."

The girl's eyes nearly popped out of her head. She smiled broadly, thanked him several more times, then left the room practically skipping. The man watched her go with an intense interest.

"Welcome to the team, Varia," he said quietly.

Chapter 1—Crossing Paths

BBRRRRRIIIIIINNNNNNNGGGGGGG!

Varia smacked her alarm clock angrily as it went off, knocking it to the floor. With a groan, she hauled herself out of bed and staggered off to the bathroom. In an attempt to wake herself up a little more, Varia splashed cold water on her face. It helped a little, but what really woke the girl up was her reflection in the mirror.

"Good lord! I look like the freaking bride of Frankenstein!" she shrieked at the reflection. Varia grabbed a brush off the counter and forced her black hair to look more presentable. After a few minutes, she finally had it just the way she liked it: cascading down to her mid-back.

"That works," she said to myself. Varia set about getting ready for work after that. she brushed her teeth and pulled some clothes out of the dresser. She wore her normal outfit, which consisted of a black shirt that barely exposed her midriff and loose-fitting jeans. The teenager also pinned a leaf-shaped Earth Badge on her shirt to show she was allowed in the gym. After tossing on her clothes, Varia was soon out the door, jogging the few blocks to the Viridian Gym.

Varia had lived in Viridian for her whole eighteen years of life, and worked at the gym for the last six years. It was a pretty decent job. She got paid really well and didn't have to deal with people very often. She mostly took care of the pokemon the gym leader kept. It was a perfect job for the girl, considering how little she liked interacting with people. It probably had something to do with her childhood, Varia guessed. Having no parents, and very few people she could talk to, Varia just sort of turned out antisocial. She only really felt comfortable around pokemon. The girl even had a few of her own: a Charizard, a Ninetails, and a Rapidash. Varia preferred fire types to other types mostly because they had the most personality. Fire types always had an opinion about everything. She could barely get a word in edgewise when they were discussing something they felt strongly about.

That was another trait she'd had since she was young. She had always been able to talk to pokemon, whether they were her own, another trainer's, or wild. Not many people knew about the talent, just the gym leader and herself. Varia had told him about it when she applied for the job, hoping it would increase her chances of getting hired. Naturally, it did. It even overrode her lack of family, and got her a room at a small motel, courtesy of the gym leader. He seemed like a pretty nice guy, in her opinion.

Varia cut her musings short when she reached the gym. The girl waved to the guards as she entered the building. They just gave her curt nods, which was all she expected from them.

The gym was dark as usual. The gym leader really had a thing for shadows or something. Varia didn't know why since she never asked. She just strode across the gym floor and took the elevator at the back of the room down to the basement. That was where all the pokemon were kept when they weren't fighting. The gym leader had a ton of pokemon. Varia guessed he was an avid collector or something. He had just about every species known, including those newly discovered pokemon found in the west.

The teenager tended to the battling pokemon first. With this being a ground type gym, the gym leader was only allowed to use certain pokemon from his collection. She stopped at the cage for Nidoking and Nidoqueen. They were a mated pair, so they lived together.

"Hey, you two, how's it going?" Varia asked casually. They responded with pokemon grunts and growls.

"Nido ni, nidoking." We're fine, thanks.

"Queen nidoqueen!" Aren't you sweet for asking!

"Need anything special?" Varia asked as she poured food into their bowls.

"Nothing today. It's been pretty calm lately," Nidoking told her.

"Yes," Nidoqueen chimed in, "there haven't been many battles lately. Our master has been out of town for some time, now."

"Geez, just how much traveling does a gym leader need to do?" the girl commented. He always seemed to be off somewhere else. He barely had time to run the gym.

After a brief conversation with Nidoking and Nidoqueen about their master's whereabouts, Varia set off to feed the other pokemon. She worked her way to the back of the room. She was pouring some food into a small Eevee's cage when Varia thought she heard something. The girl jumped up to her feet, expecting to see a pokemon thief sneaking around. Instead, there was nothing there. Varia looked around slowly. Her gaze settled on a large door at the back of the room. She had seen that door before, but she'd never been in that room. The gym leader told her that there were no pokemon she needed to care for in there, so she just left it alone. Now Varia was almost sure that the noise she had heard had come from behind that door. She slowly walked towards it, trying to stay as quiet as possible. When she was close enough, Varia pressed her ear against the door. She could almost make out something. It sounded like mechanical noises, so the girl guessed it was just some hydraulics for the gym. She shrugged and walked away.

I know you. I can feel you. Come back to me.

"What the hell?!" Varia shrieked. Something had just said that to her, she was sure of it. But there was no one there. The place was empty, except for the pokemon. Varia frowned, but pushed the weird experience out of her mind. Hopefully, she thought to herself, there wouldn't be anymore weird incidents like that today. Varia liked her predictable little schedule. It was a well-worn road for her.

But that's the problem with roads, she supposed. No matter how long they are, they have to end somewhere.

Varia blinked. She didn't know where that thought had come from. It just kind of popped into her mind. With a shake of her head, the girl set about finishing up her chores with the pokemon. She fed the rest of the fighting pokemon, then the others. She cleaned out their cages and made small talk with some of them. By the time Varia was finished, it was noon. So, after saying goodbye to the pokemon, she left the gym and walked across the street to a small restaurant. There were tons of places to eat in Viridian, but she had always liked this little restaurant, called The Persian's Meow. And the best part about the 'Meow was that it was also owned by the gym leader, so she ate for free.

Varia walked in the door and took her normal seat in a booth in the corner. With a wave of her hand, she flagged down a waiter and ordered lunch. As he hurried off to the kitchen, Varia glanced around the restaurant. It was pretty full today, which was odd. Usually this place was near empty, which made her wonder how it got enough revenue to stay open.

As she was speculating on how the 'Meow made a profit, someone slid into the opposite seat of the booth. She looked at him, surprised. This was certainly different from her normal schedule.

Well, Varia thought, so much for an ordinary day.

He looked about Varia's age, maybe a little younger, and had white hair and gray eyes. The boy was taller than she was. Probably about six-foot-two, Varia estimated. He was dressed in a gray turtleneck, black leather jacket, and black pants. He smiled politely at Varia. She couldn't help but notice that he was cute. Still, she wasn't sure if she could trust him. Hardly anyone was trustworthy, in her opinion, except for pokemon.

"What do you want?" she asked suspiciously.

He seemed kind of surprised by the question. "Um, you seem kind of upset right now. Maybe I'll just leave you alone for now."

"Hold on!" Varia said as he got up to leave. "Look, I've had kind of a bad day and I don't really get along with people. You don't have to leave, you know." Varia mentally smacked herself for that. Geez, she though, I meet one good-looking guy and all of a sudden I'm a doormat.

"Are you sure it's okay?" he asked, looking concerned.

"Yeah, it's fine," she answered. He smiled again and sat back down. "So, why did you pick me to talk to out of all the people in this place?"

"You're the only one sitting alone. Oh, and my name's Kyle."

"Kyle? That's great," Varia said acidly. She was still upset with herself for inviting the guy back.

Kyle looked confused. "What do you mean by that?"

The girl looked him straight in the eyes. "It's obvious you want something from me. People don't just walk up to a complete stranger to make small-talk. If you're some sort of cultist or salesman, you can take a hike because I'm not interested." To Varia's surprise, he didn't get up and leave. Instead, he stayed right where he was. The waiter returned with my meal, and Kyle had the audacity to order something to eat as well.

"Excuse me, but didn't I just tell you to get lost?!" Varia snapped.

"Not quite. You said I should leave if I was a cultist or a salesman. I'm not, so it should be okay for me to stay, right?" he explained with a smile. "I'm not trying to get anything from you. I just wanted to have lunch with a human being before I have to leave for Johto."

"You're going to Johto? What for?"

"I'm on assignment to research some of those new pokemon. I'm mostly looking into the new element type, dark pokemon."

"Oh," was all Varia said.

"I'm going to be on my own for this research, so I thought a little human contact before I left would be nice. But, if you would rather I leave…"

"No, it's okay," she finally conceded.

The waiter then brought Kyle's meal and we both began to eat. Varia hated to admit it, but it was nice having a person to talk to while she ate. And Kyle was pretty interesting.

At one point during the meal, he asked, "So, how'd you win that Earth Badge?"

Varia blinked, then realized what he was talking about. She pointed to the Badge pinned to her shirt. "Oh, this? I didn't win it. I just have it because I work at the gym. I take care of the pokemon there. I've been their head pokemon caretaker for six years now," she explained proudly.

"What's his name?" Kyle asked.

"Whose name?"

"The gym leader's."

Varia was shocked by the question. "Well, uh…I don't know. I never asked."

"You've worked for the guy for six years and you don't know his name?"

"No…" Varia said slowly. Then she got defensive. "But it's not like I need to! I just take care of the pokemon. I never asked his name, and he never told me. That's the way it is at that gym—don't ask, don't tell."

Kyle looked thoughtful. "That's different. Most gyms don't run that way. I wonder if he's hiding something…"

Varia snorted disdainfully. "Yeah right. He's a gym leader. What do they have to hide?"

****

Giovanni stepped out of his private limousine, smiling to himself. His "business" trip had gone better than planned. As he walked towards the Viridian Gym, two other figures exited the limo as well. One was wearing a gray Team Rocket uniform. She had curly, brown hair and sparkling green eyes and very large pink earrings. The Rocket girl was escorting another girl, this one handcuffed and looking far less lively than the first. The girl's brown eyes were downcast and almost completely hidden by her long red hair that fell around her face. She wore long jeans and a tattered shirt. Several small scars could be seen on her skin, hinting at others that were hidden under her clothes.

Giovanni turned to the two girls. He addressed the Rocket girl, "Lani, I want you to take that slave to the holding cells. No, better yet, give her to Grim." Giovanni opened the door to his gym and disappeared inside. The Rocket girl, Lani, smiled at her captive.

"Oooh, you're in trouble now! The boss just said to send you to The Reaper!" she exclaimed gleefully. When the captive girl didn't answer, Lani's smile faded and she shoved the prisoner roughly to a different door. She pushed in a special access code to open the door, which led to an elevator. Lani pushed the button for the very last floor. The elevator quickly whisked them to their destination. It dinged and opened its doors. The captive was ushered down several dark halls and past several prison cells (some of which were occupied) before they stopped in front of a large metal door. Someone had carved a scythe emblem into the metal, along with the words "Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here." Lani knocked on the door, then pushed it open.

The captive gasped at the sight of the room. It was filled with all kinds of torture equipment. Each device looked even more terrifying than the next. There were dull red spots all over the floor, which were difficult to make out in the dim light supplied only by a few torches hanging from the walls. Off in the corner, the captive thought she could make out the shape of cages. She gasped and drew back when she saw something move inside one of them.

Lani pushed the girl into the room, ignoring her obvious fear. "Hey, Reaper! The boss has a special one for you!" she called. A figure moved out of the shadows. It was a tall boy, well over six feet. He was wearing a white shirt with a red 'R' emblazoned one it and black pants, as well as a long coat that brushed against his ankles. Another red 'R' adorned the left lapel of the coat. The blond boy stepped forward into the light. The captive couldn't help but think that he didn't look too threatening, but she had learned long ago that one should never trust in appearances.

The boy walked right up to the captive and grabbed her chin, forcing her head up and tilting it left and right as if inspecting a piece of merchandise. He then looked back at Lani. "You're giving me this? There's no way she's a spy or a defecting Rocket. What, exactly, does the boss want me to do? Take her out to dinner and a movie?"

Lani ignored the sarcasm. "She's a slave he just bought in the Orange Islands. He was told that she tends to run away a lot. I think he's going to give her to the scientists later as a research specimen, but he wants to make sure she won't try anything while she's there. That's where you come in."

"Ah, that makes more sense," he said, a smile crossing his face. "Just leave her here. I'll have her nice and broken when you come back."

"Yeah, whatever. Just don't kill her or hurt her too much. I could get in trouble for that," Lani said, then walked out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

"Wouldn't dream of it," he said quietly, his smile twisting cruelly. Then he looked back at the captive. She cringed slightly at the boy's gaze. "Hey, relax. Stop acting like I'm going to hurt you."

She gave him a skeptical look and gestured slightly to the room's decor.

The boy threw his hands up in the air with mock hurt. "So suspicious! Everyone brought to me thinks I'm going to hurt them! Well, I usually do, but that's beside the point." He turned around and headed towards the back of the room, his coat swirling. The captive girl glanced back at the door, wondering if she should make a run for it. Suddenly, the boy looked over his shoulder at her. "Well, are you coming or not? Oh, I see. Planning an escape, are you? And just how far do you think you're going to get? You're seven stories underground and in the heart of Team Rocket's headquarters. Run if you like, but when the guards drag you back in here, it's only going to be less pleasant for you." He smirked and waited for the girl's answer. She considered his words, then hung her head in defeat and followed after him. The boy almost seemed upset that she hadn't tried to run.

He led her to a small, open space in the room with some sort of cabinet, a small table, a wheeled chair, and a guttering fire in a fireplace. They seemed to be the only objects in the room not meant for torture. He gestured to a shady object just out of the light. "Please, have a seat." The captive walked over to what she assumed was a chair and started to sit down. Suddenly, the blond boy grabbed her arm and jerked her back into a standing position.

"Not that chair," he said with a twisted smile. The girl looked at what she had been about to sit on, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness. To her horror, she found that she had almost sat on a chair covered in inch-long spikes. The boy pointed out a different chair for her, then sat in the wheeled chair backwards, leaning over the headrest. The girl sat down and noticed there were clamps on the armrests and several wires sticking out of it and leading off into the darkness. She was sitting in an electric chair. She didn't worry, though, as the boy seemed preoccupied with whatever was in the cabinet and had no intention of shocking her.

Still rummaging through the cabinet, he asked, "What's your name?" When the question was answered by silence, the boy swiveled the chair to look at her. "You only make it harder on yourself if you don't answer." He pulled something out of the cabinet and strapped it to himself. It appeared to be an ammo belt slung from shoulder to hip, but this one had only small daggers on it. He removed one and slowly turned it in his hands. "I'll only ask once more. What's your name?" The girl was again stubbornly silent. The boy gave a slight shrug. Then, in one fluid motion, he hurled the dagger at the girl's head. Before she could even draw a breath, the weapon was embedded in the chair's wooden back, barely half an inch from her ear. While the girl struggled to get her heart to slow down, the boy drew another dagger from the belt.

"Emery! My name is Emery!" the captive shrieked before he could throw the second weapon.

The boy smiled and slid his dagger back into the belt. "Ah, that's better. Now, if you'll allow me," he said, holding out his hand, "I am known as The Reaper, for obvious reasons. My actual name's Grim, but no one 'cept the boss calls me that."

Emery stared down at his hand, too surprised to do anything with it. After a brief moment, The Reaper pulled his hand away from her. He spun in the chair and sorted through the cabinet again.

"So, they say you're a slave, huh? How long you been one?"

"All my life," she answered. Emery gulped nervously as the boy pulled a tool out of the cabinet. It appeared to be some sort of knife with a barbed tip. He lay the knife on the table beside him.

"And how old are you?" He pulled out a small device shaped like a circular saw and deposited it on the table as well.

"Fourteen."

"Two years younger than me," he murmured quietly, pulling out a sickle-shaped blade and examining it. With a shake of his head, he put it back and pulled out an even bigger sickle. He laughed lowly and set it on the table next to the other devices of torture.

"You're only sixteen?" Emery asked, surprised.

"I'm asking the questions," he said curtly. He continued pulling out various unpleasant-looking instruments and interrogating the girl. "Why did you run away so many times? You knew your master would find you and beat you within an inch of your life every time you did, so why do it?"

"I…I didn't like what they tried to make me do."

At this, The Reaper stopped rifling through the cabinet and spun the chair to face her. He looked mildly intrigued. Crossing his arms on the back of the chair, he asked, "What kinds of things didn't you like doing?"

"Things that were wrong. Attempting to kill pokemon barehanded while they bet on the outcome. Gladiator matches with other slaves. Other less pleasant…things." Emery blushed slightly and focussed her gaze on the floor. She didn't see The Reaper's sadistic smile.

"Fascinating. And to think they want to experiment on you. But on to more important topics of discussion. Answer this question honestly, or I'll bury a dagger in your leg. Do you intend on trying to escape from Team Rocket?" He watched her like a hawk. Emery slowly lifted her head up to look directly into the boy's eyes. She saw his hand resting on the barbed knife on the table and knew he was serious about her telling the truth. After all, a knife in the leg wouldn't prevent her from being a science experiment. After a long pause, she answered the question.

"Yes."

The Reaper's grin broadened and his eyes took on an almost insane glint. He stood up and pulled a long metal pole out of the fireplace. The end was glowing white-hot.

"I was so hoping you would say that," he said, laughing maniacally. Emery's eyes widened and she tried to run, but he caught her and threw her back in the electric chair roughly. He forced her left arm onto the armrest and clamped it there. The girl struggled to free herself, but it was all in vain. She stared up, horrified at the boy holding the sparking iron. Then slowly, very slowly, he touched the burning tip to her left wrist. She screamed as the metal seared right through her skin. The Reaper laughed even louder as he dragged the iron slowly up her arm towards her shoulder blade.

The slave girl fainted before the iron got past her elbow.

Author's End Note: And there's the first part. The next part should be up soon. Also, only one person signed up to be a villain! Can you believe that?! So, if you want another chance to be in the story, I could use some more villains. Just send me an e-mail or leave a review (with some way to contact you) and I'll give you all the details. Thanks!