Capture the Heart
Author's note: This story is a continuation based on the Pokemon: Diamond & Pearl anime, starting from after the episode "The Battle Finale of Legend!".
Disclaimer: Pokemon is not my idea and I don't own it or any of the characters, obviously.
"Increase engines to max power! Maintain our speed!"
Pokemon Hunter J bellowed instructions to her crew on the rapidly sinking airship, but the engines were already damaged beyond the point of functioning. She could only watch in dismay as her ship began to approach the fiercely spinning whirlpool below in Lake Valor.
The crew panicked and the ship shook violently as it crashed into the inner wall of the swirling water. J knew the ship was built to withstand rough conditions, but this was more than she'd expected having to deal with. Within seconds, the worst possible outcome presented itself. The ship's glass windows couldn't handle the incredible pressure from the whirlpool and began to crack. It wasn't long before they shattered completely.
The crewmen cried out in horror as the water poured in through the windows and swept them off their feet, engulfing them completely. J stood in place, frozen as she watched the water come for her. And then...
Gasping for air, a wide-eyed J sat up in the bed within her darkened room, trembling. She could feel the beads of sweat running down from her neck onto the sleeveless black undershirt she was wearing.
It was all just a nightmare, the same one she'd been having every time she'd tried to sleep over the past couple of days. She was thought to be fearless, even going so far as to battle legendary Pokemon when clients requested it of her, but the experience of being on her ship as it crashed into Lake Valor and filled with water was enough to shake even her. She still wasn't sure how she managed to get out alive. The last thing she remembered was being swept away in the water. When she woke up, her body was partly on the shore of the lake and her Salamence was standing over her. It was possible that her Pokemon had somehow gotten her out of the ship before it exploded, but J wasn't all that concerned with the details of her survival. The bottom line was that she was alive and there were still jobs from clients that needed to be completed, ship or no ship.
Frustrated by another failed attempt at some peaceful rest, J tossed her sheets aside and gingerly got out of bed. Her body hadn't been allowed enough time to recover just yet, making it an endeavor for her just to walk around. The silver-haired hunter made her way to the other side of the room and pressed a button on the wall, triggering the door to her bathroom to slide open. After flipping on the light, she ran some cold water in the sink and splashed it against her face, both to wash away the sweat and to help snap herself back to reality.
"Having nightmares like this...it's an embarrassment," she said, upset with herself. J firmly believed she was above this type of problem, so finding herself a victim of it all of a sudden left her none too happy.
The Pokemon hunter raised her head and looked into the mirror, gently rubbing the bandage that remained over the laceration on her forehead. Then, using her fingertips, she traced the path where the blood had flowed down her face after the incident, stopping once she reached her left cheek. She was in such poor shape two days ago that some of the events were now a blur in her mind, but one of the things she distinctly remembered was an annoying girl cleaning the dried blood away from her eye.
"Because she had a heart," J snorted, recalling Dawn's words to her. "One day that brat's going to learn that having a heart doesn't earn you a comfortable living in this world."
From her main room, J could hear the video communicator on the wall starting to beep, indicating that her crew was trying to reach her. She shut off the water in the sink and hurried out of the bathroom to accept the transmission.
"What is it?" J asked as the image of one of her men appeared on the communicator.
"Sir, Dr. Whittaker has contacted us about the new ship you requested," the crew member informed her.
"Good. Tell him I'll be right out," J instructed him.
The transmission ended, and now J would have to endure the painful task of appropriately dressing herself to conduct business.
Inside the bunker's control center, the remaining members of J's crew were going about their tasks as usual when they noticed their leader entering the room. Dressed in her normal black and red attire with a functioning headset over her eyes, J's appearance was a comforting sight for the men who were dependent on her for their income. But as much as they wanted things to feel like normal again, the clear difficulty J was having just moving around reminded them that the renowned hunter was still recovering.
"Sir, would you like some help?" one of the men asked her. A furious look from J quickly knocked him back down into his seat, though.
"If I need your help, I'll ask for it! Understand?" J hissed at him.
"Y-yes, sir! Sorry, sir!" the crewman apologized profusely.
"Sir, Dr. Whittaker is waiting on our communications channel," another man informed her.
Walking over to the largest of the screens in the room, J made sure to stand herself up straight before she began the conversation. She wasn't going to give any of her clients or business associates reason to think that she was in anything less than top physical shape. "Put him through," she ordered.
The transmission started, and a bald, older man wearing a white lab coat appeared on the main screen. "Ahh, J. Good to see you're still among the living," he remarked.
"It's been a while, Dr. Whittaker," J greeted him with her usual stoic expression.
Dr. Whittaker, who looked to be in his early-to-mid 50's, was known across the world for his mechanical engineering skills. He was, however, a man who never allowed himself to be limited by morality. When people with underhanded agendas requested work of him that others never would, he accepted the requests for the sake of furthering his skill and pushing his own limits. He was the type of person that enjoyed the challenge more than the money he earned, which was always a significant sum, but his motives weren't important to J. The only thing relevant to her was that Whittaker was the best person available to build her new ship, and he was almost certainly up to the task.
"I must say, I thought for sure I'd lost one of my best customers when I heard that my poor ship crashed into Lake Valor this week. That's what happens when you take on legendary Pokemon, J," Whittaker warned her.
"I wouldn't be the best in this business if I turned down jobs just because they were dangerous, now would I?" J was quick to point out, already tiring of the talk of her incident. "So, will you build my ship for me?"
"Yes, yes, your ship. I saw the plans you sent me. Quite elaborate, even compared to the last one," the doctor noted. "It looks like it would be quite a bit of work to build, but I wouldn't be the best in my business if I turned down a job just because it was a lot of work, now would I?"
"Glad to hear it," J replied, a smile crossing her face. "And the payment?"
"I'll send you an estimate when I have time to go over the plans a little more," Whittaker told her. "In any case, this ship will take longer to build than the last one. My best guess would be five to six months, but even that may be generous."
"Understood. I'll have my men check in periodically for progress reports," J said to him.
"Alright. I'll get to work on it as soon as possible," the older man grinned. "In the meantime, try not to get yourself killed. I'd hate to lose such a valuable client."
The large screen went blank as Dr. Whittaker ended the transmission, and J, who'd been struggling to keep her posture, promptly fell back against a console behind her. It had taken a lot out of her just to stay standing for that brief period of time.
"Uh...sir?" one of the men got her attention.
The silver-haired woman gave him a sharp look, thinking he was about to ask if she needed help again. "What is it?"
"Well, I didn't want to bother you before, but..." the crewman pointed to one of the smaller screens, "...we've got a small situation here."
Pulling herself up off of the console, J slowly moved closer until she had a clear view of the situation in question. The screen that the crewman was gesturing to had a live feed of the security camera at the entrance to their base, where there appeared to be a Snorunt ramming itself into their blast doors.
"A Snorunt?" J asked, sounding legitimately perplexed. "What is a wild Snorunt doing here? We're nowhere near any environment where they live."
"I don't know, but it sure seems to want in here," the crewman said.
"Sir, didn't you take a job near Snowpoint City earlier this year? Maybe that Snorunt spent this whole time following you back," another of the men joked.
The crew member had only said it in jest, but that suggestion helped J recall something that she'd forgotten months earlier. "Wait, I remember now," her face lit up with surprise. "That Snorunt...I don't know how, but it definitely followed us back from there."
"R-really?" the crewman blinked, astonished that he'd actually been right.
J looked down at him again. "Help me to the entrance. Now."
Outside the base, the determined Snorunt rammed itself into the blast doors again and reeled backward from the impact. There was a bruise starting to show itself on the small creature's head from the repeated attempts to break through the doors, but it wasn't going to let a little pain stop it after it had come so far to find this place.
The Snorunt was ready to charge forward again when the doors suddenly opened on their own, startling it. Its demeanor quickly changed to anger, however, as it looked up and saw Pokemon Hunter J and her crewman staring down at it.
"Snorunt snorunt! Snorunt sno!" it pointed at them accusingly.
"It's definitely the same one," J confirmed for herself. "I guess I didn't teach you enough of a lesson before."
"Sno snorunt!" the ice-natured Pokemon boldly stood before her.
"Sir, do you know why it's here?" the crewman asked.
"I do. When we went to capture that Froslass for a client earlier in the year, this Snorunt put up a fight to save it," J looked upon the creature with amusement. "Persistent little nuisance, aren't you? You wanted to save your friend that badly?"
The Snorunt nodded its head, appearing to be growing even more upset. "Snorunt sno snorunt! Snorunt!"
"Why, you..." J's crewman growled, pulling a pokeball out from his pocket, "...I'll teach you to waste our time!"
"Wait," the silver-haired hunter held out her hand, abruptly stopping him.
The crewman glanced over at his boss, unsure why she would hesitate to take care of the problem. "Sir?"
"We've had that Froslass around for quite some time, haven't we?" J inquired.
"Uh...well, yes, we have," the crew member confirmed. "Actually, I think it's one of the oldest Pokemon in our inventory. The client who requested it backed out on us, and we haven't been able to find another buyer yet since it's just a run-of-the-mill Froslass."
"I see," J said. She appeared to be mulling something over for a moment as she stared down at the Snorunt. Finally, she came to a decision, and she gave her crewman another order. "Go get it."
"Just do it!"
The man took off to retrieve the Pokemon, leaving J alone with the Snorunt for the time being. "I wonder...how were you able to track us all the way here?" J asked it, extremely interested in just how it had ended up in front of her base.
"Snorunt snorunt sno! Snorunt sno!" the smaller Pokemon griped at her.
J was good at many things, but translating what a Pokemon was saying wasn't one of them. "I guess that talking Meowth would have been useful, after all," she lamented.
"Sir! I've brought it just like you asked!" the crewman announced upon his return.
"Good," J replied, turning her attention to the encased Pokemon that her subordinate held. The crew member stood puzzled as his boss slid down the lever on the case, unfreezing the Froslass within.
Snorunt jumped up and down excitedly as Froslass began to move. "Snorunt! Sno snorunt!"
"Lass...?" the dreary Froslass looked around briefly, trying to ascertain where it was, and soon noticed its friend below. Clearly happy to see it, the Froslass hopped down from the case bottom and wrapped its arms around the Snorunt. "Lass froslass!"
The crewman raised an eyebrow as he looked J's way. "S-sir, what are you-?"
"I don't have any use for product that won't sell," J interrupted him, setting her sights on the two reunited Pokemon. "You two, get out of here now before I change my mind!"
The pair from the snowy region of Sinnoh were plenty upset over J's capturing of Froslass, but they both knew that trying to get some measure of revenge would result in a losing battle against Pokemon as strong as the ones J carried. The smartest thing to do right now was to hurry up and leave, and that was exactly what they chose to do as they began walking away from the base.
"Alright, let's head back inside," J instructed her crewman.
"Yes, sir! But, I've got to say, you really surprised there," the man laughed a bit. "Don't tell me you're starting to have a heart, sir?"
Absolutely enraged by the comment, J shot her crewman a look that could kill.
"U-um, sorry! That was out of line, sir!" the crew member immediately apologized.
Unfortunately, the damage was already done. Intent on proving her subordinate wrong, J pulled out a pokeball and tossed it into the air. "Salamence, use Hyper Beam on that Froslass and Snorunt!" she commanded.
The large, flying Pokemon let out a loud roar as it emerged from its pokeball and targeted the two smaller creatures trying to leave. With an orange mass of energy beginning to build in Salamence's mouth, the frightened Froslass and Snorunt started running as quickly as they could, but they simply couldn't get away in time. Salamence mercilessly unleashed its Hyper Beam on them, blowing them far off into the forest as a cloud of dirt from the ground rose up into the air after its attack.
Although he was used to seeing uncomfortable things in his line of work, even the crewman seemed somewhat disturbed by the show of cruelty toward the escaping Pokemon.
"Do I still have a heart? Well?" J snapped at the man.
"N-no, sir! Please forgive me!" the crewman frantically answered. He hurried back into the base ahead of his boss.
Feeling overexerted again, J leaned up against the entrance to her base for support, drawing a concerned look from Salamence. "Why did that make me so upset?" she wondered to herself. "Was it just that idiotic question of his, or was it...?"
After taking a long look at her Salamence, J hit a button on her headset to get in contact with her crew in the control center. "Close the doors. I need to take care of something."
"Mamoswine, use Ice Shard!"
"Grotle, Energy Ball!"
Nearing the end of a long battle, the two tiring Pokemon prepared their respective attacks as their trainers, Dawn and Ash, looked on. A green ball of energy started to build in Grotle's mouth, while a ball of ice continued to gain mass in-between Mamoswine's tusks. Once they were ready, the Pokemon unleashed their attacks on one another.
The two attacks collided, and a bright flash of light enveloped the field. After that light had faded, all that was left of the clashing moves was a thin coating of ice crystals falling on the grass.
"Wow, you two are awesome!" Ash commended them.
"Yeah, totally!" Dawn agreed. "Way to go, Mamoswine!"
Grotle and Mamoswine were both breathing heavily as they glared at each other from afar. They were exhausted, but neither one wanted to concede the battle to the other.
"Hey, you guys! Dinner's ready!" Brock called out from nearby.
"Great! We could use a break, anyway," Ash stepped up and patted his Pokemon atop its shell. "Nice job, Grotle. Let's go get some grub."
Dawn, meanwhile, walked over to her Mamoswine and rubbed the fur on its side. "Sounds good to me. You did great, Mamoswine."
The large Pokemon didn't seem quite as enthusiastic about ending the battle, however, as it began stomping its feet into the ground. "Mamo! Mamoo~!"
"Hey now, no arguing," Dawn insisted. "Besides, you can't get that energy of yours back unless you eat, right?"
Though reluctant to admit its trainer was right, a blushing Mamoswine gave in and nodded its head understandingly. "Mamo..."
"Right? Now come o-" Dawn started to say. But, at that very moment, a large shadow sweeping across the ground suddenly grabbed her attention. "Hmm?"
Looking toward the sky to locate the shadow's source, Dawn nearly fell over with fright when she spotted it. Hovering directly overhead was a large, imposing Salamence, and staring down at her from the creature's back was a very familiar-looking woman. That woman was usually seen standing atop Salamence, but her current condition had limited her to the point that she was riding it from a seated position.
"It's...it's J!" Dawn cried out in surprise.
"J!" Ash snarled up at the Pokemon hunter. Ready for a fight, he ran toward her with Pikachu, Piplup and Brock not far behind.
J's eyes, peering out through her headset, remained locked on Dawn. She still hadn't spoken a word as the young coordinator's friends gathered next to her.
"We're not letting you get any of our Pokemon, J!" Ash shouted up at the woman. "You hear me?"
"Quiet!" J finally lost her cool and snapped at the boy from Pallet Town. "I didn't come here for your Pokemon, you idiot!"
Ash was clearly skeptical of the ruthless hunter's reply, and with good reason. "Yeah, right! Why else would you be here?"
J turned her attention back to Dawn, and the younger girl was beginning to notice it.
"Why does she keep staring at me? Is she still mad about the other night?" Dawn nervously thought to herself.
Before coming here, J hadn't been entirely sure of what she was going to do once she found this little group—the same one that had been a pain in her side from the first day she'd seen them. Now that she'd arrived, she still didn't know what exactly she wanted to do. One thing she did know, though, was that she wanted to understand why the conversation several nights ago with one of the pests in particular was getting to her so much.
"You! Girl!" J called out to Dawn. "I want to talk to you."
Taken aback by the unexpected request, Dawn batted her eyes, wondering if she'd heard her right. "H-huh?" she stammered.
"You want to talk? To...Dawn?" Brock asked, shooting a confused look his friend's way.
"You heard me!" J reinforced her demand, pointing toward the Pokemon coordinator. "Now tell your friends to back off. You're coming with me."
"What? No!" Dawn refused without hesitation.
The Pokemon hunter narrowed her eyes at the girl. "Why not?" she inquired.
"Why not? Why would I ever want to talk to you?" Dawn asked incredulously. "You're a horrible person!"
Although it wasn't easy to see, Brock noticed a slight change in the normally stoic J's expression. It was small enough that he had to wonder if he was just imagining things at first, but he still felt reasonably sure of what he'd seen.
"She's right! There's nothing any of us would ever want to talk to you about!" Ash said in agreement with his traveling companion.
Now the trio and their Pokemon were left to anxiously wonder what J's next move would be. Would she attack them? Would she try to steal their Pokemon, after all? As it turned out, however, the Pokemon hunter would do neither.
"Salamence, we're leaving," J instructed her Pokemon. It wasn't any sort of trick. There was nothing more to it. Without so much as a parting word to the group, J and Salamence took their leave and disappeared off into the distance.
"Was that...really it?" Ash blinked. He couldn't believe that Pokemon Hunter J had just left them unharmed. "Weird."
"Yeah, what was that all about?" Dawn asked, just as uncertain as Ash was.
Next to them, Brock wasn't entirely sure, but he had a gut feeling about what had just happened. "You know," he rubbed his chin as he spoke, "...as someone with an amazing intuition when it comes to women, I...I know it sounds strange, but...I think Dawn may have just hurt J's feelings."
"WHAT?" Dawn shrieked with disbelief. "Brock, this is J we're talking about! There's no way that's what happened!"
Brock folded his arms, staring up into the sky in the direction where the silver-haired woman had gone. "Sometimes it's the toughest-looking ones who have their feelings hurt the easiest," he firmly believed. "Still...I guess considering all of the awful things J's done, we probably shouldn't be too worried about her feelings."
"Of course we shouldn't!" Ash adamantly concurred. "She deserves to feel bad after treating Pokemon the way she has!"
"Y-yeah," Dawn offered a weak reply as she, too, looked to the sky. "There's no way I could have hurt her feelings," she silently told herself, "...is there?"
End of Chapter 2