Unless I find them funny, Mary Sue fics usually bore me. However, I don't enjoy Mary Sue parodies much more, because a lot of them spend so much time and effort on bashing Sues that they never have a chance of being stories of their own. I decided I wanted to write a Mary Sue parody that was still a full story. (And I wanted to write Pokéfic. I've never written Pokéfic before.) So, I wrote this: call it a parody of Mary Sue parodies, or call it a regular comedy about a really special snowflake, or call it dumb.

I think this is set in the video game universe, but I've borrowed some elements from the show (such as Pokémon Centers that actually have rooms like hospitals). There are no canon characters beyond Nurse Joy and some Pokémon, anyway.

To the people who have me on Author Alert expecting me to be writing fics in other fandoms, and not random Pokémon oneshots: my fics aren't dead, really. And I'm not abandoning them for the Pokémon fandom. Well, okay, I might be doing a Mewtwo oneshot sometime soon, but that's it, I promise.

Disclaimer: Pokémon belongs to people in Japan and to Nintendo and to I-don't-even-know-who-else, I haven't been keeping track of this stuff. Don, Billie, Henry, and Kid belong to me. Mary Sue... why, Mary Sue belongs to us all.

The Queen of Make Believe

Sometimes Nurse Joy thought that the prerequisites to become a Pokémon trainer were too lenient. Not many of her fellow nurses agreed, but then again, none of them lived in Lavender Town.

Sure, the rules had been all right back in the old rural days, when Pokémon were needed for daily living, when people had a Tauros to help plow the fields or a pet Growlithe to keep wild Raticate from tearing up the crop. Back then, giving a child a Pokémon training license meant he could help his family business. Today, though, little boys and girls got licenses to join what they thought amounted to a national game, and Nurse Joy thought they were all too young to play.

Nurse Joy's Center huddled in the massive shadow of Pokémon Tower, and too often she saw trainers coming in with Pokémon to heal after a battle with a Ghastly or a channeler; the reason many of those trainers were in the Tower to begin with was because they were paying their respects to deceased Pokémon. Too often, she saw shattered children, only ten or eleven years old, who had thought their Pokémon were invincible until they sent out a Weedle against a hungry Fearow and five minutes later only the Weedle's stinger remained. Children would come into the Pokémon Center, sobbing and guilty, hating themselves—at only ten years old—for letting precious Charmandy or Meow-Meow die, and now too scared to let their surviving Pokémon out of their balls. The world could be dangerous, but many children, growing up on a diet of danger-free and glorified Indigo Plateau tournament broadcasts, didn't learn that until too late.

So she feared the worst when the door opened and a solemn-faced little girl in a faded pink jumper walked in. She was far too young to be a licensed trainer, but these days that only meant she couldn't participate in official Pokémon League events, not that she didn't own Pokémon. Almost all children these days had pets, and all they needed was parental approval. Nurse Joy had once seen a child of four with a pet Skitty her father had brought back after a business trip to Slateport. She'd thrown its Pokéball into Silence River to battle a Goldeen, and the Skitty had drowned.

However, this girl didn't look like a grieving trainer, despite her solemn expression. She skipped right up to Nurse Joy and said lightly, "Hi. I'm the world's youngest Pokémon trainer."

Nurse Joy didn't know what to say to an introduction like that, so she smiled hesitantly. "Is... that so? How old are you?"

"Six," the girl said, then frowned, thought, and said, "Seven. I had a birthday one month and four days ago."

"I see," Nurse Joy said. "Happy birthday." She wondered what the girl wanted.

"World's youngest Pokémon trainer?" Don said. He was slouched in a seat near Nurse Joy's front desk, hat pulled low over his eyes while he waited for his Pokémon to be healed. Nurse Joy had thought he was sleeping. He sat forward, tipping his hat back a bit and putting his elbows on his knees. "So tell me, missy. Are you by chance the world's youngest angler, too?"

The girl shook her head. "No, fish are icky," she said. "Except Dratini."

Don laughed in surprise, and even Nurse Joy had to smile. "Well, tell you what, missy," he said. "I don't think there are too many Dratini down where I fish, but if you ever want to learn, come see me down on Silence Bridge and I'll give you a real nice rod, all right?"

"Still trying to get a son to take fishing?" Nurse Joy teased. This wasn't the first time he'd offered fishing rods to trainers in the Pokémon Center. She suspected that half of Kanto had a rod from Don by now. "I didn't know you were trying for a daughter now."

Don shrugged. "Nothing wrong with helping the little ones learn to angle."

Impatient, in the way that all children get impatient when they think what they want is more important than whatever everyone around them wants, the little girl loudly said, "Excuse me, but I'm a princess."

Don gave his surprised laugh again.

"Oh! Pardon my rudeness, your Majesty," Nurse Joy said with curtsy, trying not to giggle. "Welcome to the Lavender Town Pokémon Center. I'm Nurse Joy, and I'll be glad to help you in any way possible." She had no problem with playing along with little kids' make-believe games. Last week a little boy and his Pokémon had come in (his face and hair had matched the mousey look and fur color of his Rattata perfectly), wearing a black turtleneck inside out that he said he'd gotten from his older sister. He'd waved around a water gun, insisted he was in Team Rocket, and demanded all the Pokémon in the center. Nurse Joy had stuck her hands in the air and pretended to be frightened, and then gave the boy a Pokédollar and his Rattata a berry and sent them on their way, hoping the boy and his Rattata wouldn't get into any real trouble. "May I ask your name, princess?"

"You may. I have two names," the girl said proudly. "Mary Sue."

"I've got a cousin named Mary Sue," Don said. "She's got yellow hair, though." He briefly lifted his hat to demonstrate the color. "Not blue like yours."

"It's periwinkle," Mary Sue said, then turned to Nurse Joy. "I need you to heal my Pokémon, ma'am. I think it got hurt when I caught it."

"Oh, it's not too badly hurt, I hope," Nurse Joy said.

"I don't think so," Mary Sue said. She unzipped a cute little purse with a stylized Togepi pattern dancing along the side, and pulled out something spherical. "I think Sableye are s'posed to be stronger when they're shiny. And I told Mewtwo to go easy on it."

Don cracked up. "M-Mewtwo!" he gasped. "You mean that... clone-thing in all the tabloids? And a shiny Sableye! In K-Kanto!"

Mary Sue nodded. "It was probably lost," she said.

"Oh yes, very lost," Don agreed, grinning like a fool.

Nurse Joy covered her mouth to hide her smile. "I see. A shiny Sableye," she said politely. "Do any of your other Pokémon need healing? Your... Mewtwo?"

"No. Mewtwo's only a little bit hurt, and he doesn't like getting healed at Pokémon Centers. I just give him potions an' stuff since I'm rich," Mary Sue said. "Mew and Entei and Articuno are fine, and so's the last one."

While Don continued chuckling, Nurse Joy asked, "What's the last one?"

"She's a new Pokémon! No one's ever seen her before until I caught her," Mary Sue said excitedly. "She was my first Pokémon! She looks kinda like a Meowth but she's blue and pink and has butterfly wings and a crooked tail like a Pikachu and she's got spots shaped like stars."

Well, Mary Sue was certainly a creative child. "Oh? What species is she?"

"I don't know. It doesn't have a name yet," Marry Sue admitted. "I call her Minnie."

"Ha!" Don said. Nurse Joy shot him a dirty look. They had gotten enough fun out of Mary Sue, she thought, and it really wasn't nice to laugh at anyone. Children especially. Besides, little girls who pretended to be princesses were so common; how many invented their own Pokémon?

"Well, I'd be glad to heal your Sableye for you," Nurse Joy said. She figured, if Mary Sue even had a Pokémon, she might have caught a Ghost type in Pokémon Tower and mistaken it for a Sableye. Kids made all sorts of mistakes, especially the unlicensed ones too young to own a Pokédex. Nurse Joy had seen children come in with a Pidgey thinking it was Zapdos. (And on one very notable occasion, one child had gotten Pidgey and Zapdos confused the other way around. Her fellow nurses in other towns still didn't believe her story.) Either that, or Mary Sue was making up the whole story, like she had to be with Mewtwo.

This latter theory seemed to be the case, because she presented Nurse Joy with the ball she'd been holding: it looked like a purple grapefruit, with sequins glued on. Definitely not a Pokéball, but it wasn't a fruit native to Kanto. "What's this?" she asked, trying to imagine where a fruit like that might grow. Perhaps Sinnoh?

"It's Sabey's Pokéball. It's traditional to make them out of fruit on my island," Mary Sue said. "I make all mine myself. The sequins are just decoration, so don't worry if you knock some off. I put sequins on it 'cause Sabey's a shiny Pokémon."

"Well, that's mighty clever of you," Don said. Nurse Joy gave him a warning look, afraid he was being sarcastic, but he looked like he was be actually playing along now. That was sweet of him. "Isn't it kinda hard, making a Pokéball out of fruit?"

"Yes. Most people have to study for years and years and years," Mary Sue said. "I learned when I was three. I'm a child progeny."

"Prodigy," Nurse Joy corrected.

Mary Sue nodded. "That too. It's because I had royal tutors and I'm half-Alakazam. They're smart."

"Is that so?" Don said, with a perfectly straight face. "Is that on your mama's side or your papa's?"

"My daddy's," she said. "And my mommy is in the Elite Four and my step-daddy is a king."

"That's very nice," Don said. He was doing very well. Nurse Joy would have to thank him for playing along so well later.

She turned the purple fruit over in her hands. It looked like a perfectly normal grapefruit, except for the color.

A Chansey pushed through the swinging doors behind Nurse Joy's desk, holding a ball crafted out of a blue Apricorn. "All better!" she said cheerfully in the Pokémon language.

"Thank you," Nurse Joy said, taking the ball and holding it out to Don. "Do you think you've caught enough Magikarp yet?" she joked. This was the seventh he'd brought in this month.

"This one's the biggest I've ever seen," Don said. "Honest, I almost wished I had a Heavy Ball for it. It broke three of my Lure Balls." He took his Pokéball with a greedy smile.

"In my kingdom, all Magikarp evolve into golden Gyarados," Mary Sue said. "I've got two at home. They're twins, so that makes the girl Psychic and the boy Dark."

"Really? How interesting," Nurse Joy said. She hoped the little girl would grow up to be a writer. She had such an imagination.

"I'm half-Gyarados," the girl added. "I can use Hyper Beam when my friends are in danger."

Don (even though Nurse Joy could tell he was trying to be on his best behavior) let out a laugh. "On which side of the family?"


"Well, him again!" Don said. "I'll be..." he was interrupted by Nurse Joy, who cleared her throat, "... darned. An Alakazam and a Gyarados at the same time. What else are you related to on your daddy's side?"

Mary Sue took a deep breath. "A Clefairy, an Umbreon, a Shiftry, a Charizard, a Venomoth, a Porygon, a bunch of Unown, a Celebi, and Lugia."

Nurse Joy and Don stared at her. Then they burst out laughing.

Mary Sue glared at them. "It's true!" she said. "Really! I'm not lying!"

"Of... of course not, sweetie," Don wheezed. Nurse Joy was still trying to control her laughter.

"'Your majesty,'" Mary Sue insisted, stamping a foot.

"Sure! My majesty."

She turned towards Nurse Joy and pointed at her ensequined purple grapefruit. "Are you gonna heal my Sabey, or shall I have to take my business to another Pokémon Center?" she asked, with a regal tip of her head. She could certainly act the part of a princess.

"Oh, of course," Nurse Joy said, turning to Chansey, who'd been standing behind her and listening to the whole conversation. "You heard the princess. Please heal her Pokémon," she said with a wink.

"Yes ma'am," Chansey said, winking back as she took the fruit, then hurried back behind the swinging double doors.

"And make it fast," Mary Sue said crossly. "I'm going to Saffron City because Mewtwo wants to meet Sabrina."

"That's right!" Nurse Joy said, pushing open one of the double doors to call to Chansey. "Don't take too long!"

Mary Sue nodded approval. "We have to go fast. I have powerful enemies following me," she said. "My Pokémon can take care of them, of course, and if they can't then I can do it all by myself. But I don't want to have a battle in your Pokémon Center 'cause we'd probably destroy it."

"That's very thoughtful of you," Don said.

"Yes, a princess must think of the people," Mary Sue said airily.

Chansey came back, holding Mary Sue's fruit. "All better," she said, holding it up for Nurse Joy to take.

"That was fast," Mary Sue said, taking her fruit back. Chansey smiled and said nothing.

"It was nice meeting you, your majesty," Don said as Mary Sue skipped towards the door.

"We hope you'll be back again!" Nurse Joy said.

"I hope I won't need to!" Mary Sue retorted, and the glass front door slid shut behind her.

Don chuckled. "What a sweetheart. She's sure a feisty one. She'll make a good trainer someday."

Nurse Joy still hoped she would become a writer. "I just hope she doesn't still have so many fantasies by the time she's ten, if she's going to be a trainer," Nurse Joy said worriedly. "I'd hate to meet her again when she's visiting the Tower, because she was pretending her Rattata was Raikou and sent it out against something too strong."

"Oh, now. A healthy imagination is a good thing in a girl her age," Don said, but he didn't sound enthusiastic. He surely understood what Nurse Joy meant. He spent a lot of time in this Center, waiting for his latest Magikarp to heal, and he saw a lot of visitors to the Pokémon Tower, too.

Chansey tugged on Nurse Joy's skirt for attention. "I couldn't get inside it, but that fruit was very light," she said. "I think it might be hollow."

"Was it really?" Nurse Joy said. "How odd..."

"Wha'd she say?" Don asked.

"Mary Sue's fruit was hollow."

"Huh! Go figure," Don said, scratching his stubbly chin.

Chansey suddenly cocked her head. "Did you hear that?"

Nurse Joy glanced up, listening. All she heard was the dull whoosh of the air conditioning and a whirring from the machines in the back. "No..."

"I'm going back with the injured Pokémon," Chansey said worriedly. "Please be careful out here." She scurried back through the double doors.

That was... unusual. Nurse Joy turned towards Don. "Do you hear something?"

He shrugged. "Like what?"

The roof exploded.

Nurse Joy dove under her desk for cover. When the rumbling had quieted and chunks of ceiling had stopped falling, she opened her eyes and discovered that somehow, Don had ended up next to her. They stared at each other, then Don motioned for her to stay down, slowly scooted out the back of the desk and stood. He quickly crouched down again. "There's someone on the roof," he hissed. "Two people."

Nurse Joy's eyes widened. "Did you see who they were?" she asked.

"No, but I got a pretty good guess," Don said. "They're wearing gloves and boots and black pants. It can only be one group."

Nurse Joy gasped. "You can't mean...?"

Don nodded. "Ninja! I hear they come from Mahogany Town," he said. "My sister saw a special on them. Now, what are they doing this far east?"

Nurse Joy stared at him in disbelief. "Ninja?"

There was a pair of heavy footfalls in the lobby of the Pokémon Center, followed by a female voice. "All right, we know you're here! So stand up where we can see you!"

"That's right," a masculine voice added. "We're packing fire!"

"Heat," the female said.


"We're packing heat. Not fire."

"Heat? Then why's it called firepower?"

"I don't..."

"And gunfire?"

"How should I..." The female made an aggravated noise. "Look! Just, whoever's here, stand up where we can see you or we'll shoot ya!"

"But how can we shoot them if we can't see—"

"Shut up, kid."

Don looked at Nurse Joy. "You stay," he whispered. "I'll go. Just hide."

Nurse Joy put a hand on Don's arm to stop him and shook her head. "They know every Pokémon Center has a nurse. They know I'm here already." Before Don could protest, she scooted out from under the desk, brushed off her skirt, and stood up.

They were indeed packing heat. The man looked like some kind of punk, with a tattoo of an Onyx writhing up his neck and onto his forehead, and he was holding a shotgun. The woman, with blue lipstick and purple eye shadow so thick it looked like she had frostbite and two black eyes, held a pistol in each hand. They had a red R on each of their black shirts.

Nurse Joy swallowed hard, and then put on as gracious a smile as she could manage. When in doubt, play along with the game. "Can I h-help you?" she asked. Maybe, she thought optimistically, the front door was jammed and they had to blow up the roof to get inside to heal their Pokémon. And maybe they had come from playing laser tag and the guns were toys. And maybe the R's stood for a Raticate fan club.

And maybe Ho-Oh would swoop down through the hole in the ceiling and whisk Nurse Joy away to a magic land of Miltank milk and Beedrill honey.

"Where's the other one?" the female asked. "Come on, you're hiding someone! Show us!"

"I-I don't know what you're—"

"It's all right, Joy." Don pushed himself to his feet, and glared at the two invaders. "You're not gonna scare me, he said, stepping in front of Nurse Joy to shield her from the intruders. He held up the Lure Ball containing the Magikarp he'd just caught. "I don't want to have to use this," he said.

The female sneered. "And what's that? A pitiful Goldeen?"

"No. Not a Goldeen," Don said. Nurse Joy sighed. What was he thinking?

"You're still hiding her!" the man said. (The Onyx on his neck twitched when he spoke.) "Where's the princess?"

Nurse Joy and Don looked at each other, equally baffled. "Princess?" They couldn't mean Mary Sue.

"Princess! Yes, princess!" the woman exploded. "Princess Mary Sue! Heir to the throne on Citrine Island! The little blue-haired brat that—"

"Periwinkle," the man said.

"Yes, the periwinkle-haired brat that escaped us in the Rock Tunnel!" She pointed at Nurse Joy. "Where is she?"

Nurse Joy gulped. "We... we haven't seen any—"

"You mean she was a real princess?" Don blurted out. The pair turned their attention to him, the woman with her penciled eyebrows raised as if to say well-what-do-you-know, and the man with a broad smirk that revealed a broken tooth. Nurse Joy glared at Don.

"What do you want with her, anyway?" she demanded of the intruders. "Who are you two?" Maybe, she thought optimistically, the R's stood for Royal, and these two were the princess's royal armed bodyguards who were trying to find their charge.

The pair looked at each other in surprise. "We forgot the motto again, didn't we?" the man asked.

"How stupid!" the woman said, slapping her forehead. "Do you have the tape player with the background music?"

"I think the royal brat melted it."

"Crap. All right, we'll do it a cappella." The two struck a pose, and as Nurse Joy and Don watched dumbstruck, they recited one of those awful motto-poems, the woman starting:

"To revive the world through devastation!"

"To free all peoples by assassination!"

"To unveil the evils disguised as love!"

"To escape the reach of The Man above!"

"Billie!" The woman stuck one of her pistols in her belt and threw a Pokéball, releasing a Magby.

"Kid!" The man shifted his shotgun to one hand and sent out a Smoochum.

"Team Rocket! Emancipating the world at the speed of light!"

"Fight the power or face our might!"

A Rattata and a little boy jumped down through the hole in the ceiling.


"That's right!" The boy looked up at Billie. "Did I do good?"

"You did very good, Henry," Billie said, picking the boy up and carrying him in her gun-free arm. Nurse Joy realized Henry was the same child who had come in a few days ago in an inside-out black turtleneck, claiming to be a Rocket. He and Billie had the same purple hair.

And Don had thought they were ninja. Someday they'd laugh about this, Nurse Joy hoped.

"Now we've been introduced," Kid said, smirking. "So where's the princess?"

"Why do you want her?" Don demanded.

Kid's Smoochum produced a flurry of sharp flakes, and Don took a step back. "Because," Kid said, "she got the Sableye I wanted to catch."

Billie whacked Don in the back of the head with her pistol, and Henry threw in an extra smack on is arm. "Forget the stupid Sableye!" she snapped. "Yeah," Henry added.

"But it was orange," Kid whined. "And it had an emerald on its chest."

"And the princess had Mewtwo!" Billie said. "Who cares about your stupid Sableye if we can bring Mewtwo back to the Boss? Do you want to leave Mewtwo as the tool of a corrupt, bloated monarchy-dictatorship, or do you want it in the hands of the law-breaking vigilantes who know a corrupt system of The Man when they see it?"

Nurse Joy had never heard Team Rocket described as "vigilantes" before.

Kid sighed. "I know, I know. We want a power like Mewtwo in the hands of the oppressed proletariat, not the greedy hands of the ruthless, crooked bureaucracy." (If Nurse Joy didn't know better, by now she'd have thought that Billie and Kid had stopped talking about Team Rocket all together. She was beginning to think that they'd have been more accurate to call themselves ninja after all.) "It's just that you don't see a Sableye with an emerald in its chest every day."

"When Team Rocket overthrows the status quo and brings down the biased Pokédollar-based economy, emeralds will be free for the taking," Billie told Kid comfortingly.

"Yeah, I know... but it sure takes a long time to overthrow status quos, doesn't it?"

As they talked, Don turned to Nurse Joy and whispered, "Do you think these guys are serious? Did Mary Sue really have those Pokémon?"

Nurse Joy didn't see how she could have possibly been keeping Pokémon in sequin-colored fruit, but... "I think we have to treat them like they are," she whispered back. Even if they did end up being wrong about Mary Sue, Team Rocket thought they were right, and when Rockets wants something they get violent. Billie and Kid had already blown a hole in the ceiling, after all.

Nurse Joy couldn't call the police without their knowing; the only phone line was at the front desk. What else could she do? Distract them, knock the phone off the hook, and tap in the emergency number in hopes that the police would figure out something was up when no one on the other line said anything?

But what if the police didn't get there in time? If Team Rocket was convinced that Mary Sue had come here, they would tear the Pokémon Center apart, either trying to find her or trying to make someone tell where she'd gone. Nurse Joy could see the miserable faces of a hundred children who had entrusted their Pokémon to the care of this Center, children learning that Team Rocket had stolen them or done worse, and it would be her fault... and then she imagined Team Rocket finding Mary Sue, stealing her Pokémon, leaving her devastated, and then unleashing the power of Mewtwo (she hadn't even believed tabloids claiming Mewtwo existed) on Kanto... How could she win?

"Hey!" Billie shouted. Her Magby jumped onto Nurse Joy's desk and started throwing off flecks of fire, sizzling and melting anything flammable and frying a few electronics. Nurse Joy and Don leaped back, so that they almost fell through the double doors. (So much for phoning the police.) "Where's the princess? Henry saw her come in here. We're not asking again!"

"She... she's not here anymore," Nurse Joy said, thinking desperately about what to say next. Billie's and Kid's eyes narrowed.

But Nurse Joy was good at playing make-believe, and she knew how to play with Rockets: they liked rare Pokémon more than anything else. (Even more, Nurse Joy hoped, than unshackling the subjugated masses.) "And Princess Mary Sue isn't going to be back for a while. She left one of her Pokémon with us to heal and said she'd be back for it in... in a few weeks." Would they buy that? Not many trainers would leave their Pokémon in a Center for weeks. It typically only happened around the holidays, when families going out of town couldn't take their Pokémon with them.

"Well, where did she go?" Kid demanded, just as Billie eagerly asked, "Which Pokémon?!"

"I think she said it was her Articuno," Nurse Joy said. Don gave her a puzzled look. She kicked the back of his foot and hoped he would keep quiet.

Billie pointed one of her pistols at Nurse Joy. "Go get it."

"Yes, ma'am!" Nurse Joy grabbed Don by the back of his vest and pulled him with her through the double doors.

"What's that all about?" he whispered.

"Never mind! Go get a grapefruit from the kitchen," she said, pointing down a hall. "Turn right at the end of the hall, and it's the first door on the left."

"Okay." Don gave her a questioning look, but did as she said. As he headed for the kitchen, Nurse Joy searched for Chansey.

She finally found her in Healing Room 5, where all the Water-types were held in a large aquarium. Chansey looked up and smiled fearfully. "Thank goodness! I heard an explosion," she said. "I had to check the aquarium to make sure it didn't break. What happened?"

"It's Team Rocket. I'll tell you the rest later, we need to work fast," Nurse Joy said. "Do we have any purple paint?"

Chansey frowned. "I don't think so. Wait..." She walked towards the door, thinking. "A trainer from Johto dropped of a Smeargle yesterday. It had a bucket of paint with it," she said. "Let's check."

"Okay." Nurse Joy followed Chansey to Healing Room 3. There were various beds, baskets, and piles of hay for Pokémon to sleep on, and sitting mournfully on a bed in the corner, with his hind left paw bandaged, was a Smeargle. He was slowly stirring a big bucket of paint with his tail.

Nurse Joy sighed in relief and rushed up to the Smeargle. "Chansey, go find Don," she said.

"Yes, ma'am," Chansey said, and hurried out of the room.

The Smeargle looked up at Nurse Joy. "Hello there. Excuse me, but may we please use your..." Nurse Joy caught sight of the bucket's contents. It was pink. "... paint? Oh..."

Smeargle leaped joyously onto the floor, hopping on his right foot and dripping paint on the tile floor. "Do you have purple?" Nurse Joy asked.

Smeargle shook his head and held up his tail, hopping up and down excitedly. Nurse Joy wondered why the Smeargle had a paint bucket to begin with; didn't Smeargle secrete their own paint? Perhaps this one couldn't. Well, pink would have to do.

"Hey, what's the matter?" Don asked as Chansey pulled him into the room.

Nurse Joy straightened up. "Did you get the grapefruit?"

"All I could find were oranges. Here." Don tossed it to Nurse Joy. She fumbled with it, but managed to clutch it against her chest without dropping it. Well, if they were already making do with pink paint, having an orange instead of a grapefruit was just a minor problem.

She crouched down next to Smeargle. "Can you paint this completely pink for us, please?"

Smeargle nodded again, and eagerly took the orange. After a moment of careful artistic consideration, he dipped his tail in the bucket, painted the orange in a matter of seconds, and handed it back. Nurse Joy held it gingerly, but it was already completely dry.

"Thank you!" she said. Smeargle nodded and hopped cheerfully back on the bed, where he resumed stirring his paint bucket.

Nurse Joy took Don's hand and hurried back to the front of the Pokémon Center. "This is a Pokéball," she told him, holding up the painted orange, "and it holds Articuno. All right?"

"Got it," Don said, and then they were through the double doors and facing Team Rocket again.

"Well," Billie snapped, "where's our Articuno?"

"Here," Nurse Joy said, holding out the orange.

Billie handed her second pistol to Henry and snatched the orange out of Nurse Joy's hand, examined it, and grinned. "Jackpot! This has to be one of the princess's Pokéballs!" She held it out for Kid to examine. "Look at the color."

Nurse Joy sighed in relief. "Now please, leave the other Pokémon alone," she said.

Kid snorted, and Billie grinned evilly. "Why should we?" she asked. Kid raised his shotgun, and Don stepped in front of Nurse Joy again. "I don't see anything making us leave the other Pokémon alone. Especially now that we have Articuno!" She threw the orange into the air. It plopped on the floor. Nurse Joy winced and hoped it hadn't been squashed.

Billie squealed, and Kid rushed to pick the orange up and cradle it like a baby, awkwardly holding his shotgun in his armpit to keep it out of the way. "Hey, what gives?" he asked. His Onyx tattoo twitched irritably. "How do you get it to open up?"

"I—I don't know," Nurse Joy said, struggling to think up an explanation that would satisfy them but not expose the fact that it didn't open.

"Only the princess knows," Don said. Nurse Joy would have to thank him later.

"Where is she?" Billie demanded, pulling her first pistol out of her belt and pointing it at Don. Henry awkwardly held his up as well, imitating his sister. (This, Nurse Joy thought, was a gross display of child endangerment.)

Don held his hands up. "I'll only tell you if you promise to leave the rest of the Pokémon here alone," he said.

"Don!" Nurse Joy was horrified.

"Calm down, Joy. I'm only doing what's best for the Pokémon." He lightly tapped her shoe with his, the same way she'd signaled to him earlier.

Nurse Joy stared at him but shut her mouth. She had to trust him. This was the man who had been giving his own rods away for years, hoping to teach children to fish; he wouldn't endanger a little girl.

"We promise," Billie said quickly. Her brother and partner both nodded agreement. "Where is she?"

"She's headed south towards Silence Bridge, to fish for Dratini," Don said.

"Do tell!" Billie grinned. "How helpful. But we don't know if you're telling the truth, do we?" She glanced at her Magby. Embers sprayed out from it. (Smoochum took shelter behind Kid's leg.) "If there is no princess there, then we're letting go of a great haul of Pokémon to go on a wild Zangoose chase. And you know what they say; a Pidgey in hand is worth two in the forest... "

Nurse Joy clasped her hands together fearfully. "But you can't do that," she said, knowing full well how ridiculous she sounded. Don grabbed a Pokéball.

Kid jabbed Billie hard in the ribs. "Billie," he hissed.

"Hey, watch out for Henry!" Billie said. Right on cue, Henry let out a distressed wail, letting his pistol hang limp in his hand. Magby and Rattata scooted out from underneath his gun hand. Billie whispered something in his ear, trying to comfort him.

"Billie, forget the princess. There are Dratini in Silence River," Kid said. "What'll the Boss say if we catch a bunch of Dratini?"

Billie stared at Kid. Then she handed her second pistol to Henry as well and pulled out a Pokéball. "Magby, return. Let's go."

Kid recalled his Smoochum and, whooping wildly, the group ran out of the Pokémon Center—Billie carrying her brother, Henry waving two pistols, Kid with a shotgun stuck under one arm and a pink orange held like a gold nugget in the other hand, and Rattata trailing behind.

Don and Nurse Joy waited until the automatic glass doors had slid shut. Then they cheered victoriously.

"Don, you are absolutely genius!" Nurse Joy said, flinging her arms around his neck in gratitude.

"Er, well... Y'know. I try." He carefully extricated himself from the embrace, blushing so hard that Nurse Joy had to fight the urge to laugh. "I better, uh... call the police or something." They'd certainly be easy to describe to the police

"Yes, please," Nurse Joy said. "Those two damaged the phone in here."

"Right." Don vaulted over Nurse Joy's desk and headed towards the door. "Oh—here, take this." He tossed one of his Pokéballs, a standard red-and-white one, to Nurse Joy. She caught it slightly more gracefully than the orange. "Just in case they come back angry."

"What's this? Another Magikarp?" Nurse Joy asked.

"A Gengar." Don smiled sheepishly at Nurse Joy's surprised look. "A channeler wanted a pet Magikarp to put in the Pokémon Tower lobby, so she traded me a Haunter, and then it evolved."

"A good trade," Nurse Joy joked. Don chuckled as he headed out the door.

Nurse Joy brushed some bits of melted plastic off the desk and set the Pokéball on the surface. A Gengar with a fisherman. And a live Magikarp in Pokémon Tower.

She was glad to hear about the Magikarp. It would be good, she thought, for that Tower to have something alive for the children to see.

Princess Mary Sue stared in to the aquarium with WELCOME TO POKÉMON TOWER painted on the glass in shiny red letters.

The Magikarp stared back.

Mary Sue stuck her tongue out at it—icky fish, and it wouldn't even evolve into a gold Gyarados—then skipped to the stairs and took them two at a time up to the second floor, then crossed the floor and headed up to the third. In her kingdom, she thought, stairs were never this inconvenient.

Now that she was fairly isolated, she took out two purplefruits (one covered with sequins, the other one with sticker of a kitty and a "2" scrawled next to it in marker), pressed the little button where the stem used to be, said a secret magic word, then threw the two fruit up into the air. A light flashed golden and brilliant out of one as a dizzy-looking orange Sableye flitted free; a much more subdued, dull red beam let Mewtwo skulk out into the open.

"Hey!" Mary Sue tugged on Mewtwo's tail. "Hey, Twosie! Did they heal him?"

Mewtwo gritted his teeth at the horrible nickname, jerked his tail out of Mary Sue's grasp, and looked at Sableye. He was tottering around unsteadily, waving confusedly at a pair of curious Ghastly with one hand and massaging a burned knee with the other. It wasn't like the Sableye needed much healing anyway. It had been immune to all of Mewtwo's psychic attacks. Immune! What freak Pokémon was this, anyway? No, Mewtwo thought to her; He was not healed. The nurse probably did not know how to open his Pokéball.

"Hmph. They never do."

That is because you never tell them how, Mewtwo reminded her.

"It's my secret magic word!" Mary Sue said stubbornly.

Mewtwo rolled his eyes and decided it would be wisest for him to keep his current thoughts uncommunicated. Instead, he told Mary Sue, Supposedly, there is an area blessed with... 'white magic' of some sort on the fifth floor. Pokémon may be healed there. You could take Sableye to that area.

"His name is Sabey!" Mary Sue said, picking him up. Sableye dangled in her arms, bewildered, then turned to wave a jagged-toothed good-bye to the small crowd of Ghastly and Haunter that had gathered to ogle at him, obviously a Ghost-type but not one they recognized. One of the Haunter waved back.

Mewtwo reluctantly followed the princess across the third floor and up the next flight of stairs. "They didn't believe me again, when I told them who I was. Nobody recognizes me off of Citrine Island. I hate it," Mary Sue complained. "If it wasn't my destiny foretold by Celebi and the five Legendary Birds a thousand years ago to be the world's youngest Elite Four Champion in Kanto and Johto and then win every contest in every category in Hoenn and Sinnoh and then become queen of all twelve Pokémon lands including the ones that don't exist yet but will in three years—" she took a deep breath, "then I'd go home."

Yes, and then Mewtwo would get to return to his nice little cave northwest of Cerulean City, where he could live like a hermit and occasionally converse with the nearby flock of Mew that liked to assault trainers who battled that little boy with the Slowpoke. He missed his cave. Foolish princess with her cruel, stronger-than-a-Master-Ball purplefruit balls. Destiny can be changed, princess, he hopefully reminded her.

"Yeah, but mine's okay," Mary Sue said, to Mewtwo's disappointment. "I just wish people here would believe me more!"

Maybe they would if you didn't lie so much. Mewtwo shook his head. How many different fathers did you claim to have this time?

"It's all true!"

Mewtwo crossed his arms. (It was a slightly uncomfortable position, but at least it got humans' attention and told them he meant business.) Princess, your father was a Ditto disguised as the king, which a servant sent into your mother's room as a practical joke. Being the offspring of a human-woman and a Ditto-disguised-as-human-man does not make you related to every Pokémon a Ditto can transform into. It makes you, genetically, a human.

Mary Sue turned around and stuck her tongue out. "It still counts."

Mewtwo, once again, decided to keep his thoughts on the princess to himself. She had once threatened to accuse him of treason against the Citrine crown. This didn't frighten him in the least but he was sure it would mean he'd have to spend much more time conversing with this girl.

They reached the fifth floor. Mary Sue carried Sableye past a couple of kindly-looking old channelers and one who looked a little possessed, and found an elaborate seal glowing white on the floor. As she stepped on it, the seal exploded into rainbow beams of pure energy that sent all the Ghastly darting for the corners and made all the unpossessed channelers rush forward to bow down to what could only be the chosen princess of destiny, or something ridiculous like that. Mewtwo sulked in a corner with the Ghastly, unimpressed and bored. He didn't care if Mary Sue was destined to turn the planet into a mint berry. He found her annoying, he didn't care about her grand destiny, and he was sick of having to interact with so many humans, Mary Sue included. Even Team Rocket was starting to look better than this. Sometimes the Rockets had ignored him or maintained stony silence in his presence. He missed that.

Mary Sue practically floated out of the sacred seal. Her eyes had turned gold, and she suddenly looked wise beyond her years. (Specifically, she looked about as bright as a nine-year-old.) "I'm destined to catch Mewfive, your sister," she said.

How nice for you. Mewtwo made a mental note to hunt down any scientists that were still messing around with Mew gene experiments. As soon as he wasn't bound to a fruit peel in the princess's purse. Are you ready yet to proceed to Saffron City, princess?

"Okay." She recalled Sableye and headed towards the stairs, waving at the two kindly channelers (who were still bowing) and the one possessed channeler (who was twitching on the ground). "They believe me," she said smugly. "Oh. And I guess Billie and Kid believe me, too." Mary Sue wrinkled her nose.

Yes, they believed her. They'd been stalking her for so many weeks now that Mewtwo had almost stopped disliking them for their Rocket-ness. Yes. They believe you. In fact, Mewtwo was on the verge of deciding that the next time he saw them, he'd give them a message to deliver to Giovanni: if he did everything in his power to get Mewtwo away from Mary Sue, then Mewtwo would gleefully be Team Rocket's WMD again. (Mewtwo would find a way to wiggle out of keeping his end of the bargain later.)

Until then, however, he'd try to sway Sabrina to his cause when he reached Saffron City. As one psychic to another, maybe she would be sympathetic to his plight. Maybe. She'd certainly be easier to reason with than silly seven-year-old Mary Sue....

"Before we go to Saffron City," Mary Sue said thoughtfully, "maybe we should try to catch Moltres. Minnie told me last night that the stars are about right for me to catch him."

Mewtwo froze in mid-air. You are joking.

"I heard that somebody caught Zapdos. That's probably my rival!" Mary Sue said. (To Mewtwo's knowledge, Mary Sue had no rivals.) "We need to get to Moltres before the other guy does."

Mewtwo couldn't believe it. But, Saffron City is on the way to Victory Road.

"Oh, that's where Moltres is?" Mary Sue said. "Good, you can lead me there. Can I ride on Articuno while we go there?"

Could we stop in Saffron City on our way to Moltres? Mewtwo tried.

"It's a matter of priorities!" Mary Sue said, waving her hand regally. Mewtwo narrowed his eyes. As if this ridiculous seven-year-old knew anything about priorities.

"Come on!" Mary Sue said, prancing down the stairs. "We're going to Victory Road! Can Minnie ride on your back?"

Mewtwo shuddered. NO!

"Yes she can, she's small enough. Hurry up!"

Mewtwo looked down at the Sableye next to him. Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life, he grumbled at it. The Sableye just stared back, unable to hear him.

Why, of all the humans that had to track Mewtwo down and re-enslave him, did he have to be stuck with this ridiculous girl? He was sure there were other human children out there who weren't so infuriating. He could almost remember one, from a long time ago, but that was probably wishful thinking. Anyone would have made a better master than Mary Sue.

The prerequisites to become a Pokémon trainer, Mewtwo lamented, were far too lenient.