Oracle was the quiet one out of Mars' band of trainers.
Small and mousey looking, the tiny brunette was often over looked, which was understandable when you considered Flame's considerable size or Snow's stunning beauty, but she was considered by her team mates, well, except Spectre, who was an opposing type to her, to be the strongest of them.
The young Psychic type Positive Trainer, who had been rescued by Mars from the Labs of Team Cypher, was almost unquestionably loyal to her leader and the others in her team, who had managed to get her out of the heavily fortified labs, helped her Awaken and allowed her to train a squad of Pokémon that would protect her from anyone or anything.
So when she checked the computers, only to find that they had been wiped clean of all data, she didn't stop at just calling Snow, who was much better with finding back doors into computers then she was. She checked the security tapes, examined every face that had left the compound and went to ask Mars for permission to 'speak' with the Grunts who remained in the city.
Mars, who was fuming that her predecessor had had the audacity to wipe the computers, sent her off, with Venom, a rather vicious purple haired young woman who was looking forward to 'playing' with someone who she didn't have to be careful around.
Just the two of them against a group of fifteen to twenty grunts.
Oracle felt sorry for Mercury's men.
"The Shadow Realm?" Mercury asked, looking around at the darkness, having already tried the walking away method and having ended up back in the same place as she'd started.
"You threatened my friend's life, endangered his sister," Yami's tone was dark and dangerous. Yugi had backed off, not closing the door completely, in case something went wrong, but allowing Yami a free run, not really wanting to be part of this, but understanding that this was the only way they had to protect Joey, "For that I challenge you to a Shadow Game."
Mercury stared at him, then she let out a bark of laughter. "You? Challenge me? You don't play my game, oh King." The last was said as an insult, "So how will you play me in a fair game, if I don't play your game and, even if I had my Pokémon, you don't play mine?"
'How does she know it's supposed to be fair...?' Yami wondered to himself. They needed to get a Pokémon in case something like this came up again, but for now, Yami needed to challenge her to something and he had an idea.
"You want power?" Yami pushed, "If I lose, you can take my Puzzle. It will be yours, legitimately, and its powers will be yours to control."
Mercury paused and considered him, looking interested, "What about Dialga?"
"I can't speak for Joey. He won't surrender Dialga because I lost."
"But with your power, combined with my own..." Mercury looked thoughtful for just a moment, "Go on then, if you think you have a fair game ready, I'll play."
"One minute, I haven't said what will happen if I win." Yami smirked, "If I win, you won't attack Joey again, nor will you attack his sister or anyone else to get to him. Nor will you get others to do so for you. If you do, you'll pay the price."
"I'm so scared." That was certainly sarcastic enough. "Are we playing or are you talking me into defeat?"
Yami waved a hand and the game pieces appeared out of nowhere. A set of twelve balls, all of whom looked like a master ball.
"What are you playing at?" Mercury asked, amused.
"We have to pick from these balls, one at the time. Five of them explode." Yami warned, "A weak charge that will knock you down. Once it explodes, it will reset, it will be up to you to remember which ones explode. If you pick three exploding balls, you lose. The first one to four regular balls wins."
"Rather simple." Mercury snorted. "And here I expected something complicated from the King of Games."
"Admittedly I would prefer a challenge." Yami taunted, "But as you said, I don't play your game and you don't play mine." Mercury just growled at him. "Would you like to pick the first ball?"
"Fine." Mercury stepped forward, "Let the game begin."
LINE RECOGNITION HAS GONE AGAIN
Jamie opened her eyes to find that she was in a hospital bed with no memory of how she'd gotten there or what had happened to put her there in the first place.
Bakura was sat in a chair at the side of her bed and watched as she sat up slowly, "How you feeling?"
"Like I got hit by a Rhyhorn." Jamie murmured, "What happened?"
"You got knocked out of the air. Flygon saved you."
"Oh..." Jamie's confused look worried her friend. "Did I break anything?" She asked, looking herself over and certain everything was working right.
"I don't think so. The doctors took X-Rays, we'll know soon." Bakura shrugged, "Jay, what do you remember last?"
Sapphire eyes blinked at him for the nickname, then thought back. "Last thing I remember, I was talking to Mai about the journey we're going on."
"You don't remember the fight?" Bakura asked, wondering how much access this Jamie had to the midnight blue eyed one's memories.
Sapphire blinked, bit her lower lip and shook her head. "No..."
"It's ok." Bakura reassured her, thinking quickly, "It's probably the shock."
"'Kura, what happened?" Jamie asked, worried, "Did Joey get to hospital safely?"
Bakura let out a frustrated breath, worrying Jamie, before he started. "Well, first thing first. Mai's keeping Staravia. She's calling it Gale."
Jamie nodded, "Staravia, the Starling Pokémon, comes from Sinnoh originally, they're dual type normal and flying type Pokémon, they maintain huge flocks but are very territorial."
Bakura frowned for a moment, before realising this way Jamie's way of testing her memory to check she hadn't lost any other information, other than the fight. "You approve?"
"Gale huh?" Jamie nodded, "Good name. What else has happened?"
"Joey fought Mercury and won."
"Joey shouldn't have been fighting anyone in his condition!" Jamie protested, "Why didn't I fight Mercury?"
"You were too busy with the Grunts." Bakura shrugged her protest off, "Besides, Mercury had Wheeler's sister and was trying to take Dialga. Wheeler wouldn't let the Pharaoh fight her either."
"Is he alright?"
"He's still in surgery, we won't know until they've fixed all the damage." Bakura replied.
"And Mercury?" Jamie asked quietly.
"Didn't accept defeat. She tried to attack Wheeler afterwards and the Pharaoh pulled her into a Shadow Game. I doubt she'll be hurting anyone any time soon."
"Is that confidence in the Pharaoh I hear?" Jamie teased.
"I may not like him, but he doesn't lose fair games." Bakura shrugged. "And you know as well as I do, a Shadow Game can be nothing but fair."
Jamie nodded, letting out a small sigh. Then her head shot up and she stared at Bakura. "Marik's here, isn't he?"
"Technically yes." Bakura replied.
"The morgue counts as here."
"The morgue!" Jamie yelped, "You're not serious!"
"The helicopter got brought down by Galactic." Bakura explained, wondering if he should have been less blunt about it. "The pilot refused to land the copter and I'm betting they thought Wheeler was on board."
"Arceus..." Jamie breathed, lying back. "How many..."
"I don't know, I didn't ask." Bakura replied. "There has to be survivors. They wouldn't know what happened otherwise."
Silence fell for a few minutes as neither knew what to say.
"I should have..."
"You can't be everywhere, Jay." Bakura interrupted, "You weren't anywhere near Marik's helicopter, there's nothing you could have done."
"I should have sent Tsunami along."
"Should have, could have," Bakura snorted at her, "You're not responsible for their actions. You can't save everyone."
"If the pilots had had the sense ours did, Galactic wouldn't have knocked the copter out of the skies, if anyone's at fault, its Galactic and the pilots, not yours."
Silence again, then... "If I was stronger..."
"I doubt even Dragons can learn how to be in two places at once." Bakura snorted.
"I should stay. Galactic will be back."
"You should go." Bakura disagreed. "Spread out the targets."
"I don't know..."
"You might be able to protect them another way," Bakura suggested, "I have a plan..."
Seto Kaiba had only one stop to make before he went home.
He'd gotten the limo to stop at Kaiba Corp, so he could deposit something in the vault at the company, the safest possible place for it.
Mokuba had wanted to know what he was planning to do with it and if Kaiba was honest with himself (which he normally wasn't when it came to things like this) he had no idea. He hadn't really thought much, when he'd picked it up, beyond getting the item off of his Dueling Platform.
It had been instinctively that he'd found himself cleaning the blade and putting the item back together and it hadn't been until after he'd lost to Yugi that he'd finally decided what he was going to do with it.
He didn't want another event like Battle City ruined and Mutou didn't need any more magic following him around, so before he returned to the mansion, to get the sleep he would need to finish completion of Competitor's Village, White Lightening Stadium and work on Kaiba Land all at the same time, Seto locked the Millennium Rod away in his vault, where, hopefully, it would rest until the building collapsed and that, if he had anything to say about it, wouldn't be for another five hundred years.
Only after it was securely in his vault, did Kaiba get his brother home safely and go to sleep.
There was a lot of work ahead of them...
Yami watched Mercury carefully as the Galactic Admin picked her next ball.
She'd surprised him so far by playing fair, and it was proving to be an interesting game because of it. He was ahead at the moment, three regular balls and one exploder, to two regular and two exploding, but he couldn't and wouldn't trust her to keep inside the rules, not after her outburst when Joey had beaten her.
Yami growled slightly internally at the thought of his friend, who, hopefully, was in hospital by now, and had reopened his wounds, fighting to save his sister.
Mercury reached for a ball, hesitated slightly, then picked it up.
The power surrounding them shifted as the ball Mercury had picked up exploded and she went sprawling.
It was over.
"No..." Mercury whimpered as she sat up, disbelieving. "That can't be it... It can't be..."
"It's over. Hear my judgement." Yami said, as the Shadows started to disperse after swirling around Mercury, slowly fading away. "You will not attack Joey again. Nor will you go through anyone else to get to him or get another to attack him for you. You did not cheat so for now there is no Penalty, but consider those your bail conditions, break them and a Penalty will follow and it will be worse than anything you could imagine."
"What am I supposed to do?"Mercury demanded of him, "I can't go back to Galactic with those conditions hanging over my head! Not while Wheeler holds the Master Ball!"
"Then don't go back." Yami replied, sensing Yugi poke his head out the door, having sensed the game was over, the hikari freezing to listen to the conversation, "There are other jobs for Pokémon Trainers."
"You don't understand, you couldn't understand!" Mercury shouted, shaking her head, "Taking me out won't protect your friend. As long as he holds the Master Ball, he'll be in danger and when he's defeated, this world will fall and there will be nothing anyone can do about it, not even you, oh King of Games!" The last was sarcastic, "Galactic never stop until they have what they want. I got my most trusted Grunt to wipe the computers before she left, but it won't take that bitch long to find him and she and her human shaped Pokémon will come and kill your friend. Even if I could go back with those conditions hanging over me, I no longer have any control over events in Domino. At least I was willing to let him live..."
"I wouldn't let them..."
"You think you could stand up to an Awakened PKNE?" She snorted at the Pharaoh, "You've never seen anything like these freaks, there's six of them, all 'awakened' and all different types. You'd never win against all of them, no one can." She laughed bitterly, "You were right when you said it was over. You should have let me win."
"I don't lose. If your replacement comes after my friends, I will retaliate." Yami growled as the last of the Shadows dissipated, leaving the pair of them exposed to the world. "Galactic will not get what they desire as long as I stand."
"A dangerous pledge." Mercury snorted, unsurprised by the lack of Grunts hanging around, they had probably fled the moment Dialga had sent their Pokémon back in time, "One I don't believe you can keep."
"I keep my word."
Mercury snorted, amused, "Then I'll take my leave. As interesting as it would be to see you dare to fight the freaks, I'd rather live, thank you." She glanced towards one of the alleyways, where she spotted a grunt with long, black hair and glasses. "Now, excuse me, I need to hunt down the Pokémon your friend sent away."
She turned to leave.
"Mercury?" Mercury paused and turned to look at the King of Games. He looked younger, softer somehow, and purple eyes showed a surprising amount of concern considering everything she had done to his friend, "Where will you go?"
She paused to consider the teenager, "What does it matter to you?"
"This world... it can be cruel to those who are different." Yugi spoke from experience.
"Don't worry about me." Mercury responded by smirking slightly, "I can handle myself." She turned to leave again, "Bye, oh King." With that she waved and disappeared down the alleyway, the Grunt in tow. The other grunts having fled over half an hour ago.
"She doesn't deserve your concern, Yugi." Yugi turned around at the sound of Tristan's voice, to see Tristan and Tea had been waiting for him.
"Tristan..." Yugi murmured.
The other man just shrugged, still annoyed and wondering how Mercury had gotten off so lightly.
Tea watched Yugi carefully, unsurprised by Yugi's concern. The teen had always been innocent and he had always tried to look after everyone, it had, after all, been how he had become friends with Joey and Tristan in the first place.
He looked tired, emotions so mixed that even she, who could normally read Yugi like an open book, was having trouble reading him. "Did Joey get to the hospital?" Yugi asked quietly.
"The helicopter pilots took him." Tristan nodded, "So I assume so."
"Good." Yugi nodded but said little else.
Tea worked out what it was that was worrying her. For the first time since Duelist Kingdom, Yugi looked like he didn't know what to do.
"Come on." Tea grabbed his arm and started pulling the un-protesting King of Games by the arm, "Let's go to the hospital."
"No..." Yugi shook his head, but the protest was only half-hearted.
"Why?" She asked softly, noting that Tristan was following, keeping an eye out for any Grunts.
"He won't want to see me." It was almost a whisper.
"Do I have to knock some sense into that thick skull of yours?" Tristan demanded, shocking Tea by grabbing Yugi by the collar and lifting the teen off the ground. "He took a dagger for you; do you honestly think he'd want you to stay away while he's recovering?"
When Yugi just looked away, guilt coursing through him, Tristan growled and dropped the teen.
"Fine. Do what you want. I'll be at the hospital if you decide to come." He stalked off.
"Tristan!" Tea protested, moving between Yugi, who hadn't moved from where he'd landed, and Tristan, who just carried on walking. She sighed and turned to look at Yugi, kneeling down when she saw tears flowing from the teen, taking him into her arms and hugging him tightly.
"It'll be alright." She murmured, knowing that everything was starting to catch up with him. The day had been one shock after another for all of them; she understood too well what he was going through.
She wasn't sure how long had passed before Yugi was finally calm enough to help to his feet. "Come on." She tugged on his hand and Yugi started moving without protest. "Joey needs us."
Mai was going through the stuff in her car while she waited for news.
She didn't actually need to buy as much as she'd thought she would. She had a tent, a small, two man, thing that would work well enough, and she had a decent supply of camping equipment; gas stove, matches, cool box, though she wasn't sure that would be much help considering that they would have to lug it with them, torch, sleeping bag, though that needed replacing...
She'd need a bigger backpack too, it she wanted to get everything in it...
How did Jamie do it? Get everything into that backpack of hers? It was a trick she was going to have to learn and learn quickly.
Mai turned around to find Jamie had spotted her in the car park and come over to speak with her, Bakura patiently waiting to one side, far enough away that he couldn't hear the conversation, but close enough that he was here if he was needed.
"Jamie? You're ok?" Relief coursed through Mai. If Jamie had been discharged already, then that fall hadn't injured her badly.
"A few bruises, but nothing that concerns the Doctors, I'm fit to travel tomorrow. Are you alright? I heard you were in your first Pokémon battle."
"I used Staravia, you don't mind, do you?" Mai asked, unsure if she had done something wrong.
"No, no," Jamie laughed, "If anything I'm glad you worked well enough with him that you're willing to take him on. I mean, you've already nicknamed him. It makes tomorrow a bit easier."
Mai nodded slightly, "We might be able to leave a little earlier than I expected too," The blonde sighed, "I have more up together then I thought. Some food, and a new sleeping bag and I'll be ready to go."
"Good. I'm just waiting on news about Joey. I have no doubt Yugi will... what?" She asked when Mai flinched. "You don't agree with the challenge." It wasn't a question, but a statement laced with confusion. "Because of Marik?"
"Because of Marik." Mai agreed.
Jamie just let out a soft sigh, not going to tell her she was in the wrong with what she knew of the Shadow Realm and the horrors that could rest there, but not going to agree with her, when, if Bakura was right, the game had been the only option available. "Mai, I need to talk with you, regarding the Master Ball."
"Galactic want it, Joey has it. I want to take it but I need your permission."
Mai's eyes widened at that. "My permission?"
"If I take the Master Ball with me, Joey will be safe." Jamie explained, "But we won't. If I take the Master Ball, we'll be hunted; we'll have to fight Grunts regularly. It'll be good training, but it won't be easy. I have a few Pokeballs, not many but enough for three apiece, so we could train any Pokémon we caught that way... there's pluses and minuses to the situation."
"Could we win? Against the Grunts?"
"Aisu can take three or four at a time, I'm sure it wouldn't take long for Gale to be able to take at least one or two if we trained, carefully of course..."
"And it would keep them away from Joey?"
Mai watched the Trainer carefully. There was something the girl was hiding.
Bakura's head turned sharply, as if he'd heard something, and glowered down the road, having spotted Tristan.
"Take it." Mai nodded, "I'll back you up if you need it."
"Thanks, Mai." Jamie nodded.
Tristan stomped past, entering the hospital.
"The game must be over." Jamie sighed.
"I have to learn the rules to a whole new one now." Mai nodded, not looking up.
"It's not hard, I'll teach you as we go along." Jamie chuckled. "If I can learn the rules of your game, I'm sure you can learn the rules of mine."
"We shall see."
"It's done, Mercury-sama." Nanoha Miko told her commander as they walked away from Mutou into the darkness. "Their efforts should be frustrated for some time. I uploaded a virus to the mainframe as well that should erase the virtual security logs, but I couldn't get at the hardcopy – It won't be long before they figure out who wiped the hard drives." She didn't smile. They were both in trouble, she realised, and her friends might not be able to help this time... At least Mokuba-kun's virus had hopefully done its job.
"Thank you, Nanoha-chan." Mercury nodded at her.
"What... now, Mercury-sama? You can't go to Paradius... They'll just hand you back over..." Miko worried.
"I'm going to have to... disappear for a while." Mercury agreed with a small sigh. "I'm not sure where I'm going to go. Travelling, probably..."
"I might be able to help." Miko admitted, frowning. "I've made... a few allies of my own." She smiled a little, finally. "Mercury-sama... Not all of my information comes from my bugs." She paused, biting her lip. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. But she'd started, now. "If... no... I'm fairly certain that one of the people I know can help you disappear. Convincing them to help you is the hard part..."
"You're dithering, Nanoha-chan." Mercury told her, not completely unkindly.
"Ah! S-sorry." Miko squeaked, "I just... made friends with Mokuba Kaiba during the tournament... I thought he might be useful..."
"..." Mercury stopped walking to stare at her grunt, who flushed and looked away, fidgeting. "H... y..." She tried, then shook her head. "Nanoha Miko, how exactly did you manage that? Doesn't he know you're with us?"
"H.. He knows." She admitted, trying not to mumble. "I... fed him a little information... nothing sensitive!" She assured her mistress, "mostly about Pokémon and our goals... he... isn't entirely opposed to our ideology..."
"I see," Mercury frowned, "And you think he'd be willing to help? His brother's company have the resources..."
"I'm fairly sure," Miko nodded, "Since you're effectively defecting... you might have to give him something in return though." She smiled, a little. "To engender a little faith..."
"Thank you..." Mercury returned the smile, then hugged the smaller girl, making her squeak in surprise and go stiff. "You're a good girl, Nanoha-chan. I don't know how you got mixed up with the Team, but I'm glad you joined us. People like you give me faith that the New World is a possibility. Maniacs like Mars..." she paused, letting the grunt go and starting to walk again as she spoke, "if I had my way, Team Galactic would have no place for that kind of person. I suppose we need her, though, or we would have been destroyed before reaching even this point in our plans." Mercury sighed.
"There are no necessary evils, Mercury-sama." Miko told her. "Only evils that we tell ourselves we must go through because we're too weak to see another way..." She trailed off, looking down.
"Perhaps." Mercury nodded, sighing. She stopped as Miko did, then watched as the smaller girl stepped into a phone booth and dialled a number from memory. Mercury waited while Miko spoke in a soft tone, nodding and listening, before hanging up.
"Mokuba-kun is coming. You should hide in case he decides helping you is more trouble than it's worth." Miko told her mistress, who nodded and stepped back into the shadows of an alleyway. Miko leaned against the inside of the phone box, waiting patiently.
The younger Kaiba arrived a little over half an hour later in a black limousine with two black-suited bodyguards.
They were gathered in the waiting area, had been all night, all seven of them.
Tristan was pacing irritably, unable to sit still, needing to do something to unleash his restless energy.
Tea was sat, hugging Serenity, who needed all the reassurance she could get and had been a bit lost until the others had gotten to the hospital.
Yugi was just sat limply in a chair, all the confidence gone, just a scared teen who was worried about his best friend.
Mai was here too, leaning against the wall, thinking, having decided to stick around because of her debt to Joey and the fact Yugi had let Mercury walk away without trapping her mind in some tortuous illusion.
Jamie was led back on a couple of chairs, flicking through information on her Pokedex, making plans and thinking about training patterns for her and her friend.
And finally Solomon, who had come the moment Yugi had phoned the shop and had offered comfort to the six teens, even as he had wondered what they had gotten into and if it was too late for them to get back out again.
They'd been sat here for what felt like days, but had, in fact only been two hours now, just waiting. The Doctors had said that they'd tell them the moment Joey was out of surgery, were legally obligated to, since Solomon was down as Joey's next of kin, had been for the last couple of years, so there was little they could do but wait.
The door opened and everyone turned to look, wondering if it had been a false start, as it had been a couple of times this evening.
"Mr Muto?" The doctor asked. "Miss Wheeler?"
"That's us." Solomon said as he and Serenity stood up. "How is Joey?"
"It will take a couple of months," The Doctor said, "But he will make a full recovery."
The noise was enough to cause Security to come running as the group let out a cheer.
"When can we see him?" Solomon asked.
"He's sleeping off the anaesthetic." The Doctor, who paused in shooing the security away in order to talk, "But he should be awake in an hour or so. You can see him when visiting hours start tomorrow." He smiled at them, "Your friend was a very lucky man."
"He normally is, Doc." Tristan replied, relief coursing through him, "He normally is."
The final fall of the League left the people of Jamie's world with no sympathetic parties.
Many League aligned Trainers were already gone, had been taken out already or were in hiding until they could make their move, all Galactic aligned ones took great pleasure in doing whatever they wanted, at any time they wanted, any where they wanted, and the neutral ones had already released their Pokémon, not considering the problems that they could face to be worth it.
There were cities that envied those cities who had been Rended, seeing their disappearance as freedom from the rule of Galactic.
Stories were all that people had to stop them falling into despair, stories of those who had fought great battles and won, of the Legendary Pokémon coming down to Earth or rising from the ocean bed and fighting great battles and saving lives, and stories of the Trainers who were fighting Galactic on a regular basis and winning.
There were stores too that had leaked through the ranks of Galactic and out to the general public, of battles in the Otherworld, where good fought evil and Galactic was unable win a battle.
No one knew where these stories came from, obviously it was from one of the Grunts who made regular reports across dimensions, but the tales of a Champion, banished from her own world but fighting to save it none the less, with the help of a King, who had taken her in, a Knight, who had taken up Pokémon training in order to fight at her side and a Thief who was stealing Pokémon from Team Galactic and sending them to a Day Care for rehabilitation, were spreading like wildfire, giving hope to those who had little left, that maybe, just maybe, the Champion would find her way home and put a stop to Galactic's plans.
It was the stuff of fairy tales, but with the way Galactic were crushing anyone who spread the tales, people were willing to believe in them, if only to have a few moments of hope, hope that allowed people to fight.
If the Knight could fight Team Galactic and win and he had only been training Pokémon a few weeks, then those League Trainers, now considered Rebels, left across the world felt that they had that much more of a chance. After all, anything some Otherworld Trainer could do, they could do better.
Normal, human Trainers were fighting back, attacking Galactic bases, saving captured Trainers, freeing places.
The victories were all too often short lived, but it was something.
Victory in one place, led to hope, which led to more fighting, which led to more wins...
It was a slow start, but it was a start none the less.
The key to the situation was Palkia. If they could free Palkia from Galactic's control, the Team's plans would fold and the fear that held a large part of the population prisoner would dissipate.
The longer the stories came, the greater the hope and the longer people would fight.
No one knew if it would be enough, it was impossible to know, but hope had started to bloom and the will to survive was strong.
The Pokémon World was turning.
The next morning, Serenity returned from getting something to drink to find Jamie hovering outside her brother's private room, which had been funded, of course, by Kaiba Corp, in an effort to get some good publicity after the attack by Marik had been broadcast around the world.
"You can go in, you know." Serenity said, surprised the Trainer hadn't already done so.
Jamie shook her head, "Yugi and Joey are talking. I don't want to disturb them." The Trainer shrugged, "Plus I need to speak to Joey privately."
"You don't trust Yugi?" Serenity looked surprised.
"I trust Yugi, but this isn't his fight. It's not supposed to be Joey's but he's involved now." Jamie looked ashamed of this fact.
"He won't blame you." Serenity glanced in the window when her brother's muffled voice, obviously raised since they hadn't heard it moments ago, filtered through the door.
"Poor Yugi." Jamie bit her lip.
Serenity turned sharply and shook her head, "Joey's been wanting to talk to Yugi for hours. He's not annoyed at Yugi for the attack, or he wasn't..."
Joey's voice slipped below the audible level again and Serenity turned to look through the window again, only to get waved in by her brother.
Jamie would have hidden around the corner, but Serenity had opened the door before she could move out of sight, and as such she got invited in.
"I was worried I wouldn't see you before you left." Joey said with a calm that he hadn't had moments ago.
Jamie glanced at Yugi, who looked like he wasn't quite sure what had just happened and was glad for the interruption.
"How you feeling?" Jamie asked.
"Like a pin cushion." Joey snorted, "And I'm hungry. The food is horrible. You alright? I heard Galactic put you in here."
"Self inflicted bruising actually." Jamie chuckled, "I knocked myself off my Charizard." She paused, "Oh, here." She passed Iblis's Pokeball over. "Word of advice, be careful with Blast Burn."
Joey snorted, "I'll make a note of that." He commented as he took the ball and added it to his growing pile of Pokeballs. He took a proper look at her, "What's wrong?"
"I wanted to talk before I left," Jamie sighed, "Privately."
"I'll..." Yugi stood up.
"No." Joey shook his head, "You leave, you're not coming back and I'm in no fit state to chase you down." Joey growled at Yugi before turning back to Jamie, "Anything you want to say to me, you can say in front of Yugi."
Jamie frowned slightly and shut the door, "What we discuss stays in this room, ok?"
Serenity, Joey and Yugi nodded.
"All right, here's what I wanted to say..."
Mars was fuming.
Snow had been at it all night and she still hadn't been able to access the lost data. Whatever virus had been put in the system had done an effective job of wiping everything on the system, including the back up copies, leaving Mars and her squad with nothing to do but to start from scratch with whatever they could glean from paper copies and cds.
Oracle and Venom had been dealing with the Grunts who had gone AWOL all night too. All of them claimed to have seen Dialga, claimed to have lost their Pokémon to Roar of Time, but none had given up who had the Temporal Pokémon.
They had admitted that the Aspiring Champion had been involved in a huge fight at the docks, and the pair of PKNEs had gone down to the docks, only to find the place busy with workers, builders who were repairing a warehouse that had been crushed, and reporters who were trying to get details.
It was like Dialga and the Aspiring Champion had just vanished off of the map completely.
As had Mercury, who had gone out last night and, apparently gotten into a battle and disappeared in a ball of darkness.
However, Flame had been going over the hard copies of the security cameras from last night, and he had come up with something interesting.
It had been Nanoha Miko, Snow's old Grunt, from back when she'd been playing Phobos, the one Mars had suspected was PKNE 17, or Bug, Positive only to have been proved wrong during a medical exam, who had planted the virus and wiped the hard drives, leaving Mars in the position she was in.
Oracle had promised that she would bring Miko in, except that she too had vanished off the radar completely, just like her leader.
Someone had to be helping them but they couldn't know who and until they could track down the four, they would have to pull everything together.
Then A.C. came back, having gone out to explore the town and he had news.
The Day Care Centre was buzzing with the news that Francis had deposited her Pokémon there and was leaving, or had left town, with a friend she'd met during Battle City. No one was quite sure if the Trainer had gone yet.
Suspicious of anyone asking too many questions, they had asked A.C. what his story was and he had claimed that he had been a victim of Galactic and been sent through a Rend, landing up north. He had heard about Pokémon in the area and headed down. He'd even taken a job application, figuring that since Francis was here regularly, then those who worked there would give them more information if he was an insider.
Mars, of course, loved it, praising him for ingenuity.
It was the perfect way to scope information about how the company that dealt with the Pokémon incursions worked and what the Aspiring Champion was doing.
It would also allow them to find out who, among Francis's Trainers, held the Master Ball.
Two problems down, two to deal with.
"I love bungee cords." Jamie grinned as she fastened her Duel Disk onto her backpack using an octopus bungee cord, "I don't know why I never discovered something like this before."
"Because you never needed to lug a huge piece of equipment across a country before?" Mai offered, having already fastened her Duel Disk and her sleeping bag, inside a waterproof bag, of course, to the bag with the aforementioned cords.
It was a daft idea, taking their Duel Disks. The things were too unwieldy to carry easily, didn't fit inside their bags and weren't a shape that would allow them to worn without getting in the way the majority of the time, but Yugi had made a valid point when he had said that they may require it at some point if Mai was challenged, after all she was a World Class Duelist, or they came across any more Duelists with magic in their travels.
Even strapped to their backpacks like this, it was weight they could ill afford, but it wouldn't be easy to get their hands on another one if they left them behind so...
"Done." Jamie said, standing up and testing the weight of her backpack, trying to ignore the fact her belt felt light, with only Aisu's ball and the Master Ball attached to it, and while her deck pouch was attached to the other side, Jamie felt like she'd had her options cut by two thirds. She hadn't travelled with less than six Pokémon in over a year and it kind of felt like she was starting over.
Maybe, in a way, she was. After all, it was a whole new world out there to explore and she was taking her first real steps into it.
She just wished it didn't feel like she was abandoning her old partners in order to find new ones.
That wasn't why she was travelling. She was leaving to help those who had been less fortunate then her in their landing place, or who had run into problems with wild Pokémon or... there were many reasons, taking the Master Ball far away from where Team Galactic were operating was just a bonus.
But she couldn't help feeling like she was running away, even though it was a necessary trip, especially after what Yugi had told her about the new Galactic Admin and her team.
She had to leave the majority of her squad behind, to give Joey and whoever was given the Day Care Leader position next, the extra firepower they would need to protect Domino, to protect the Pokémon who lived at the Centre and to protect themselves.
"Ready?" Mai asked, having already handed the car over, packed her bags, said goodbye to Joey and fed Gale.
Jamie looked over at Aisu, who had finished her meal and was looking at Jamie impatiently.
"I think so."
"It's time..." Mercury murmured. They were in the departure lounge at Domino airport less than twenty-four hours after Mercury's battle with Mutou. Mercury had bleached her hair and padded her bra – combined with the KC uniform she was now wearing; she could easily have passed for Jamelia Frances' older sibling as her passport claimed.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know they were coming... we could have prepared something..." Miko told her quietly, as they stood beneath the departure board, the younger girl wearing the casual clothes and green gillet she'd once worn as a Ranger. "I just..." She trailed off, feeling that something had to be said before it was too late, but not knowing what.
"It's not your fault." Mercury told her, trying to raise her spirits a little. "They probably came straight through a Rend to the arena. You aren't as weak as you think." She paused, before opening one of the pouches on her belt and pulling out a leather thong with a small, green pendant hanging from it.
"Mercury-sama? Isn't that..?" Miko blinked, then stared at the gem.
"The stone from Paradius," Mercury confirmed. "It... wouldn't be accurate to call it the source of my power any more, but when I first arrived... before I learned the rules for myself... it was a great equaliser. It's also a badge of office of sorts..."
"While you carry it, it marks you as an agent of Paradius..." Miko nodded, remembering. "Dartz-san said that while you carry the stone, you will be protected from his magic..."
"Yes." Mercury nodded. "I've learned enough of Shadow Magic now to protect myself, but you... you don't have that distinction, and I can't protect you anymore." She unwound the cord. "Nanoha-chan... I have a last mission for you."
"Of... of course, Mercury-sama!" Miko nodded, taken off guard.
"Go to Paradius, become Dartz's minion. Serve him as you have me and he won't sense anything suspicious." Mercury told her, putting the stone around the shorter girl's neck and dropping the pendant down the front of her polo shirt. The stone glowed softly for a moment, then went dark again, "The stone will guide you. Tell him you felt it calling you and took it from me."
"Yes, Mercury-sama." Miko nodded, swallowing nervously. "What would you have me do..?"
"Become strong, Nanoha-chan." Mercury smiled, a little sadly. "Do what you must... survive in an unsightly way..." She stroked her junior's hair, gently. "Become ready for when I return. We still have time... we will achieve the New World... with, or without, Cyrus and Mars' thugs."
"I will. Mercury-sama..."
"Rio." Mercury told her, making her stop. "Call me Rio, now. Mercury... isn't a role I can play any longer, so use my name." She smiled.
"Yes, Rio-sama." Miko nodded, finally, and smiled at her. "Good luck."
"You too, Nanoha-chan." Rio 'Francis' smiled. "Stay safe."
Miko replied with an ironic smile, and Mercury – Rio – picked up her carry-on bag before heading into the depths of the airport. Miko went back to scanning the departures board, watching for her own flight to the US.
"So when are we going to see you next?" Tea asked, hugging Jamie and Mai in turn before moving away to let the boys shake the hands of the women who were leaving.
Jamie shrugged, "I don't..."
"Christmas." Mai interrupted, surprising Jamie, who looked at her travelling partner, "I promised Joey I'd visit at Christmas."
"Christmas then." Jamie smiled slightly, giving Mai a knowing look, and getting flipped off in response, "We'll come back for Christmas."
"You both have my phone number, in case something happens, right?" Tea asked, worrying.
"Your number, Yugi's number, the emergency services numbers..." Jamie smiled, "Don't worry Tea. I know what I'm doing. I've been doing this for years."
"I know, I know but..." Tea glowered at her when Jamie let out an amused giggle. "I just..."
"Just think, Tea, Pokémon Trainers have been doing this for centuries, and surviving, and they didn't have all the modern day stuff you're used to." Jamie teased. "If anything I should be worried about you guys, you get into so much trouble, I'm expecting to come back to find the city in ruins."
"We're not that bad!" Yugi protested, finally drawn into the conversation.
"Yet." Jamie sniggered, making Mai smile slightly, "Please get some Pokémon, I'd feel better about your safety if you did."
"I'll see." Tristan shrugged.
"Maybe." Tea allowed, "Depends on my parents."
"I will." Yugi nodded, having already decided that he needed one in case he had to back Joey up again and because Bakura already had two.
Speaking of the Tomb Robber, he was notable by his absence and Yugi knew why.
Yami was not comfortable with the Tomb Robber being a part of the Master Ball plan, but the Pharaoh was an outsider in the plan, included only because Joey had wanted him to be so it wasn't his choice and he had to put up or shut up (Jamie had actually phrased it in those exact words).
"Good. Shall we then Mai?" Jamie asked, nodding towards the open road, having never been good at long goodbyes.
Mai nodded, ready when Jamie was, "See you at Christmas, guys."
"We'll keep in touch." Jamie promised, "See you later."
"Bye." Tristan nodded, no better than Mai and Jamie at goodbyes.
Tea sniffed slightly, "Be careful, ok?"
"We will. Well, as careful as we get, right Jamie?" Mai promised.
"Of course." Jamie nodded, "I will be as careful as I can be."
Tea just rolled her eyes, knowing she and Jamie had different standards of careful.
"Come on Jamie, the sooner we go, the sooner we'll see everyone again." Mai commented.
"You're right, plus we need to get going it we want to hit that campsite before nightfall." Jamie nodded, "Alright, later guys."
The pair of them left.
Tea, Tristan and Yugi watched until they'd vanished around the corner, then they started heading for home.
It felt odd to the trio that, after weeks of insanity, some level of normality could sink back in again, but the world didn't stop, just because Mai and Jamie had gone travelling and Joey was in hospital.
Life went on and they had their own paths to follow, including a certain person's destiny which had yet to be fulfilled.
Yami hadn't gotten the answers he'd been promised from Battle City, but it wasn't really over yet, he still had one fight left.
He didn't expect any answers from the final battle, but he was looking forward to Joey coming out of hospital.
The finals of Battle City were being delayed, but the duel to come was one that Yami had been looking forward to since the end of Duelist Kingdom.
Yugi Mutou verses Joey Wheeler.
It was going to be the best duel they'd ever fought...
It had been three months since the 'official' end of Battle City but the Day Care Centre was packed for the finals, which had been willingly delayed by both finalists until Joey Wheeler had fully recovered from the injuries he had sustained at the hands of Marik Ishtar.
"You're late, Yuge." Joey, who was now Day Care Leader, thanks to a recent promotion, chuckled at his friend, who had gotten here as quickly as he could after school.
"Not all of us practically live here, Joey." Yugi grinned back, having been looking forward to this for months and amused by the crowds.
Someone had obviously leaked the information that Yugi and Joey had agreed to battle today.
"You ready?" Joey asked, offering his deck to Yugi to shuffle and cut it and accepting Yugi's in exchange.
"Of course." Yami smirked back, shuffling, cutting and returning Joey's deck. "You can go first."
Joey nodded, then the pair of them took their places, activated their Duel Disks and drew their first hands.
The pair smirked at each other across the Day Care, "Let's Duel."
Author Note: - And that's it. Please follow Day Care of Domino. There will be chapters going up there that link this one and the next story, plus I'll put alerts in the Author Notes on the chapters when I post the next stories.