A shadowed figure ducked into an alleyway, pulling a long black coat tighter around its body. It wasn't that cold out, but curfew had been in effect for nearly three hours, and to be spotted or recorded on camera would mean prison or death.
The source had said that this was one of the few alleys without cameras and a hooded head shifted, glancing around to confirm that fact. Deeming it safe, a pale hand came up and tugged the hood down, revealing a young woman in her mid-twenties. She shook her head and a long red braid fell from where it had been confined.
The alleyway was empty and she checked her watch, wondering why the contact wasn't there yet. And then, from all the way at the end of the alley, a quiet but deep voice spoke.
"You shouldn't have come here tonight."
Misty blinked, startled. The man was almost invisible he stood so still. His clothes were as black as the night and a hood kept his features out of view. Her hand surreptitiously slid to the handgun that was holstered to her thigh, hidden beneath her coat.
"You told me to meet you here," she said softly. "I have the money you asked for."
There was a click that echoed in the silence that followed. "Hand away from that firearm, if you please."
Her heart started to pound as she glanced up, where another hooded figure, this one in a deep, midnight blue cloak, stood on the edge of the roof, pistol pointed steadily at her. She moved her hand.
"I didn't tell you anything," the man in the alley said, walking forward. "He did."
At first Misty thought he meant the man with the gun, but he stopped next to a dumpster and kicked something. As she looked closer she realized it was a booted foot that was, hopefully, attached to a body she couldn't see, and she had to stifle an audible reaction.
"What did you do to him?" she demanded, hiding her fear.
"The question is," the man said, leaning down and dragging the limp body up by his jacket, then tossing him toward her. "Is what would he have done to you?" The body landed on his back a meter or so from her feet. On his shirt was deep red R. She did gasp this time, taking a step back.
"He had orders to kill you," the man told her.
"How do you know that?" she asked.
"I'll tell you this once," he continued, without answering her. "And you'd do well to heed my advice. No one has access to pokemon besides members of Team Rocket. If anyone claims to be able to sell you pokemon, they are Rockets who are trying to draw out rebels in order to dispose of them quickly and quietly in back alleys."
She stared at him. "Just who are you?"
He didn't answer, squatting down and pulling several pokeballs from the Rocket's waist. When he straightened, he tossed them to her, and she caught them on reflex, blinking in surprise.
"Don't do anything stupid like this again," he said. "We won't be here to save you next time."
He then leapt on top of the dumpster and jumped again, gripping the ledge of the roof and hoisting himself up with apparent ease to stand next to the man in the cloak, who's gun was still trained on her.
"And get out of here before he wakes up," the man in black said, nodding his hooded head towards the Rocket on the ground. She glanced down at the Rocket, surprised to see he was still breathing and simply unconscious. When she looked back up, both hooded men were gone.
"Are you out of your mind!"
Misty had been fairly certain Brock would react this way.
"I got us pokemon, didn't I?" she responded stubbornly.
"That was a rhetorical question. Because no one in their right mind would think what you did tonight was a good idea," Brock said.
"She did get us some pokemon," a deep voice piped up, and Brock and Misty looked down the table at the large blonde man who had spoken.
"Thank you, Surge," Misty said, looking smugly back at Brock.
"Still," spoke the older man next to Surge. "You could have been killed."
It was Brock's turn to look smug. "Thank you, Blaine."
"I wasn't though," Misty protested.
"You would have been if it weren't for those two men," Brock said.
Misty looked to the other people at the table for some support. Only Koga and Erika hadn't spoken.
"Brock is right," Koga finally said. "We could use pokemon, but not at the price of your life. At the very least you should not have gone alone. It was a foolish decision."
Misty's face heated up at the chastising and she crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at the table.
"At any rate," Blaine said. "There's still the matter of who those men were. You didn't see what they looked like?"
"No," Misty replied, still not looking up. "I couldn't make out anything about them."
"And they said nothing of their allegiance?" Koga asked.
"Well, they can't be loyal to Team Rocket if they're knocking out agents and spoiling assassinations," Erika finally said. "Maybe they're rebels too."
Brock shook his head. "If that were the case they would have at least tried to make contact with us through Misty. After all, everyday citizens aren't out past curfew trying to buy illegal pokemon."
"Some people just prefer to remain neutral civilians, they don't have to be Rockets or Rebels," Koga pointed out.
"Civilians don't carry guns, and neutrals wouldn't be knocking out anyone if they didn't want to get involved," said Surge. "There was a reason for what they did tonight, though I'll be damned if I know what it is."
"If we knew what it was, we wouldn't be sitting here discussing it," Misty said, tired of this conversation. "If that's all, I'm going to bed." She stood, and no one called her back, so she left the meeting room and disappeared down the hall.
She stalked through the dark hallways of the abandoned Pewter gym. Like all the gyms, it had been forced closed after Giovanni disbanded the Pokemon League. But Misty, Brock, and all of the other gym leaders (save for Sabrina, whom no one had seen since Giovanni had banned all civilians from possessing pokemon) came together in the hopes of raising forces to fight against Team Rocket and had ended up creating a home base of sorts in the unused gym.
"Misty, wait," a female voice called, but she didn't slow down, and the person following her had to jog to catch up, boots with a thick high heel clacking on the floor.
There was a moment of silence before Misty spoke. "Thanks for sticking up for me back there, Erika," she said, shooting a glare at the woman.
"Brock was right, Misty. That was extremely dangerous. It was bad enough you were out past curfew—"
"You're the one who helped me find the contact in the first place," Misty hissed.
"I know!" Erika exclaimed softly. "But I didn't know you were going to sneak out and go alone! Gods, Misty you could have been killed."
"But I wasn't," she said in exasperation, stopping and opening the door to her room. "No one seems to notice the fact that I brought us six pokemon. That's one for each of us. Not to mention the information that that man gave me." She pulled off her coat, tossing it over the back of a desk chair before flopping onto her bed on her back, staring up at the ceiling.
"What information?" Erika asked, taking a seat on her bed with much more grace.
"What he said about 'If anyone claims to be able to sell you pokemon, they're Rockets who are trying to draw out rebels.'" Misty sat up and turned to Erika, drawing her legs under her. They almost looked like girls gossiping at a sleepover. "Don't you see? Now that we know that, we have an advantage. We can set up more exchanges, except this time a couple of us could go. We'd take them by surprise and steal their pokemon, just like tonight."
"Are you out of your mind?" Erika asked, repeating Brock's earlier words. "How do you know he was alone? What if he had a partner somewhere that those two guys disposed of before you got there?"
Misty sighed, clearly not having thought of that. They were quiet for a moment and she pulled her long hair over her shoulder, sliding off the band and using her fingers to unravel the braid.
"Erika, we need pokemon. We could have the biggest force of rebels in the world, but without pokemon any battle we start will end in our slaughter."
"I know," Erika said slowly. "I've been thinking. Maybe there's a way to get not only pokemon, but a few more allies on our side as well."
"That was so stupid," a cloaked figure muttered as he jumped from roof to roof, his companion keeping pace with him. "He's probably had Musashi and Kojiro on our tail since we left H.Q. You do know that was a trap to see what you would do, Satoshi? Of course you do, because I've been saying that to you this entire time."
The man in black didn't reply, long coat flailing out behind him as he moved from building to building. He was either concentrating on jumping or ignoring him. It was more likely the latter.
"If he finds out about this you do know what will happen right?" the man in the cloak continued. "Of course you do. Because I've been saying that to you this entire time."
"He's not going to find out," Satoshi finally said, not even pausing when he landed on the next roof, running and leaping off.
"And how do you know that for sure? Like I said, those two have probably been following us since this afternoon."
"Musashi and Kojiro aren't following us."
"How do you know?"
"I told them not to," Satoshi responded simply.
"And you think they actually listened?"
They'd finally reached the outskirts of the city and pulled to a stop on the last building. The roofs had been getting progressively lower, and this last one was only two stories up. They leapt down easily, landing on their feet, the folds of their cloak and coat, respectively, billowing behind them.
Satoshi turned to his companion, and a hint of a grin could be seen within the shadows of his hood. He pushed it back, revealing a young man's face, twenty-five at the oldest, with long black hair. Now that they were out of the city, the risk of being caught on camera was gone.
"Why do you think Pikachu wasn't with us tonight?" he asked. "I'm not stupid, Shigeru, I know what a risk this was."
Shigeru also pushed his hood down, spiky auburn hair blown about lightly by the wind. "I know, I know. You just couldn't let her get killed. Blah blah blah." He looked exasperated. "Your hero complex is going to get us killed one day, Ash."
The raven-haired man glared at him then turned, heading up the dark road. They would be back at headquarters by morning, and, hopefully, no one would even have noticed they were gone.
"I do not have a hero complex. And you didn't have to come."
"Of course I had to come. I couldn't just let you run off and get yourself into trouble." He grinned at him. "You know you're no good without me watching your back."
Ash rolled his eyes. "It amazes me, Gary, that your ego only seems to have grown in size in the past decade." They veered off the road and among the trees, trudging through foliage to where they had stashed their bikes earlier.
"I don't know why that would amaze you," Gary said as he swung his leg over his bike. "You knew me as a kid."
"Yes, and you had that brief moment in time where you seemed to be starting to grow up," Ash said, though the smirk on his face gave away that he was only teasing. Neither he nor Gary bothered with helmets.
"I know. Weird, huh?"
The bikes roared to life as they kick-started them, startling a flock of nearby pidgey that took off into the night. They steered around the trees at a quick pace, then made it to the road. They took off at extremely high speeds, coats and hair whipping behind them as they raced down the dark and empty roads.
Team Rocket operated out of Viridian City. Giovanni had moved back there a few years earlier, adding onto his gym with the money he had made trafficking stolen pokemon and all kinds of other illicit things. The gym was huge now, a virtual palace, with entire wings that not even Ash and Gary had been in.
Ash swiped into the weapons lab with his ID card. "Pikachu," he said, keen brown eyes sweeping around the lab and taking in the scene in front of him. His little yellow pokemon was sitting on a table, cheeks sparking as a red haired woman and a blue haired man clung fearfully to one another.
"Pikapi!" a cute little voice said after hearing the voice of his trainer. He stopped calling upon his electricity and leapt off the table and onto Ash's shoulder.
"Hey, Pikachu," Ash said, happy to see his pokemon. "Did you have fun playing with Jessie and James?"
"Aren't you two just adorable!" came a voice from behind them. Gary was leaning against the doorframe, grinning at Jessie and James as they hurriedly extracted themselves from one another. "Musashi, when's the wedding?"
"Oh, shut up!" the red headed woman snapped. She turned on Ash, eyes blazing. "Satoshi! Just what the hell did you think you were doing, leaving that electric rat in here?"
"I have to pee!" James cried, running past them and nearly shoving Gary over on his way out the door.
"He wouldn't let us out," Jessie continued as if James hadn't just fled the room near tears.
"Sorry, Jessie," Ash said, managing to look sheepish. "You know he has a mind of his own."
"Yeah right," she muttered. "Just get out of here and take that devil rat with you."
"Chu," Pikachu said, and though only Ash could understand him, his tone was so indignant that even Jessie knew she'd offended him.
"This is your dream, is it not? Win the Pokemon League? Be recognized as the top trainer? You can. Just do it for me. If you don't – well, you've seen what I can do."
Loud rapping on his door jerked Ash out of a sound sleep. He sat up, instantly alert. He'd not made it into bed until almost five that morning. A glance at the clock on his nightstand told him it was one in the next afternoon. There was another knock and he stood, padding over to the door in nothing but a loose fitting pair of sweatpants.
He hit the release on his door and it slid open with a soft "whoosh," revealing a brown haired man nearly the same age as Ash.
"Still sleeping in the middle of the afternoon, Ash?" he said, amused. "Must be nice to be the number one agent."
"What's up, Richie?" Ash asked, disappearing back into his room in search of a shirt, but leaving the door open for his friend.
"Giovanni wants to see you and Shigeru," Richie said as he entered his room.
"He's got you playing messenger boy, huh?" Ash tugged a plain white t-shirt on.
Richie shrugged, grinning at him. "Some people get summoned, others do the summoning, and still others tell the summoned that the summoner has summoned them."
Ash laughed. "How's Sparky? Pikachu's been itching for a good battle."
It was Richie's turn to laugh. "At his level, Pikachu is going to have to challenge Mew to get any sort of competition."
Said pokemon, who was still snuggled up on Ash's bed, let out a pleased, "Chaaa" at the compliment.
"Coming, Pikachu?" Ash asked as he pulled on his boots.
Pikachu just burrowed beneath the comforter, shaking his head with a, "Pika."
Ash snorted. "Lazy. All right you stay here. I'll be back later and we'll go get some food."
He and Richie left the room, the door shutting behind them.
"So how have you been, Richie?" Ash asked as they walked down the bright hallway. Most of the gym was made with expensive white marble, and their boots echoed off of the floor with each step.
"As good as I can be," Richie replied. He cast Ash a sidelong glance. "How about you?"
"Dead to the world," Ash responded flatly.
"Satoshi!" another voice called from down the hall, interrupting anything Richie might have said. Gary sauntered toward them. "I hear the boss wants us." He grinned at Richie. "Hey, Hiroshi."
"Shigeru," Richie returned with a nod. "I should get going."
"See you, Richie," Ash said.
"Bye, Ash. Shigeru." With that he turned and headed back in the direction they had come from.
"Something I said?" Gary asked.
"Something I said," Ash corrected.
The only way to get to Giovanni's personal floor in headquarters was to swipe an ID card once in the elevator. It only allowed up those who had been summoned. When it arrived at their floor, Ash and Gary stepped into the large mirrored elevator. Ash pressed the button and the familiar female voice spoke up.
"Please scan ID card now." Ash did, and she continued. "Agent Asher Ketchum. Codename: Satoshi." The elevator started to move.
"Again?" Ash asked, sounding exasperated.
"Asher," Gary said, shaking his head with a laugh.
"Gary, you do this every time. It's been years, it's not that funny."
"Oh, I beg to differ, Asher."
"There are worse names than Asher," Ash said as the elevator dinged.
Gary snorted back a laugh. "Fair enough." The doors slid open to an area of the gym that looked totally different from the rest. Even in mid-afternoon it was dark, for there was not a single window on the entire floor, and instead of the pristine white from downstairs, everything up here was a glistening black marble.
Across from the elevator was an elaborate mural of a Persian made entirely from precious jewels – rubies as the jewel on its head, sapphires for the eyes.
Gary and Ash had been to this floor so many times before that they barely noticed any of it. They were both wondering if this summons had something to do with the previous night. Neither of them voiced this concern however, because Giovanni had bugs all over headquarters. No one said anything they didn't want heard.
There was a long, dim hallway that led to Giovanni's office. They always passed several closed doors, but neither of them had any idea where they might lead.
At the end of the hall was a set of double doors, tall and black, each with an R as tall as Ash and Gary carved into them. Gary knocked and then the two waited.
It was several moments before the doors opened and a woman in a white lab coat, purplish hair pinned up, exited the office.
"Satoshi. Shigeru. What a pleasant surprise." Her pretty face had twisted into a sneer, belying the words.
"Ivy," Gary said, with a similar look on his own face. Ash simply glared at her.
A deep voice from within the office cut off any further words between them. "Satoshi. Shigeru."
Ivy didn't bother to stick around and chat, instead brushing past the two and down the hall.
Ash and Gary entered the office, closing the doors behind them. The room was huge and lavish, just like most everything on this floor. Privately, Ash thought that Giovanni was compensating for something. There were statues and portraits around, some of Giovanni, others of his Persian, and it was dark and somewhat gloomy, just like the rest of the floor.
"Sit." A muscular man, face cast in shadow, sat behind a large oak desk, thick fingers folded comfortably upon it. Ash and Gary moved further into the room, each taking a seat in chairs in front of him.
A large persian leapt gracefully onto the desk, hardly making a noise as it landed. The cat pokemon stretched once before lying down, baring sharp teeth as it yawned lazily. Giovanni scratched between the persian's ears, avoiding the ruby red charm that adorned the cat's forehead. The pokemon purred contentedly and flicked his tail.
"I have an assignment for the two of you," Giovanni stated, attention still on his pokemon. "I hadn't intended to use your considerable talents on this particular issue, but certain circumstances have forced my hand."
Gary and Ash remained silent, having learned long ago that the pauses in Giovanni's speech were simply for dramatic affect, not to invite questions.
"There is a rebellion forming." The man laughed humorlessly. "There's always a rebellion forming. This one, however…" He finally turned his gaze to them. "This one has managed to get its hands on several pokemon. Several of my pokemon." Dark, narrowed eyes fixed themselves directly on Ash. "It's a number of gym leaders. Some of whom, if I recall, you're quite familiar with, Satoshi. It's time, I feel, for you to… resurrect, so to speak."
Ash's eyes widened, and even Gary looked stricken.
"No," Ash said with a sharp shake of his head. "We had a deal."
"And I kept my end of the bargain," Giovanni said silkily. "Everyone thought you were killed. No one knows what a traitor you really are. Your part of our deal, however, is still being paid off. Which means you go on the missions I assign." He returned to petting his persian. "You're to reacquaint yourself with them. Make them trust you and get all information on their operation. I want to know just what they're planning."
Ash had gone pale, shaking visibly with anger.
"Sir," Gary piped up. "You don't need him. I knew them too; I can handle this on my own."
Giovanni's gaze slid to Gary. "No. You didn't know them like Satoshi did. They won't trust you like they will trust him. You'll go together. You leave tomorrow. I suggest you spend the time inventing a believable lie about just where you've been for the past nine years. Dismissed."
Gary stood, but Ash remained where he was, glaring darkly at Giovanni. His hands clutched the arms of his chair, knuckles turning white. Giovanni met his gaze evenly. After a moment, Ash abruptly stood, turning on his heel and stalking towards the door.
"Oh, and Satoshi, Shigeru," Giovanni said before they could leave. "When you find out all there is to know, I want you to kill them all."
A/N: If this seems familiar to anyone, it's because this is a rewrite of another fic of mine, Change of Heart. I was rereading it and realized that while I liked the story, it really could use a massive revision. So this fic has a similar plot, and similar characters, but it will be quite different, as I intend to flesh out some things I ignored in the other fic, and certain plot points have been totally changed.
Hope you all enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Pokemon and am making no money from this.