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.
Still roughly a day away from reaching the lakeside resort at Lake Valor, Ash, Dawn, Brock and all of their Pokemon were taking a lunch break in a field along their present route. After a long morning of walking, the rest and chance to recharge their energy was more than welcome.
"Ash, you'd better slow down a little. You keep eating like that and you'll start to choke," Brock warned his feasting friend.
Not heeding the advice, the eager trainer stuffed the last bit of a sandwich into his mouth and added some water to wash it down. "Puah! Hey, no worries, Brock. I'm used to it," Ash grinned. "Besides, I can't spend too long eating if I want to get some training in before we take off again."
The group's plan was to reach a Pokemon Center not far from Lake Valor by the time evening rolled around, and to stay there for the night. If they could get that far today, all that would await them tomorrow would be a short trip through a forest before reaching the site of the Sinnoh Grand Festival, the culmination of Dawn's journey through the region as a Pokemon coordinator.
The young girl from Twinleaf Town should have been ecstatic that her chance to compete in the Grand Festival was just around the corner, but she certainly didn't look it at the moment. Quietly staring at her lunch with her chin resting on her left palm, Dawn seemed lost in thought, just as she had on several occasions over the past 24 hours. She'd been constantly trying to make sense of what had happened with J yesterday, but to no avail. She didn't understand why J had saved her from falling. She didn't understand why J had helped her retrieve the Pokemon that were stolen. And, perhaps most of all, she didn't understand why a small part of her wanted to see J again to learn the reasons for those actions.
"Hey, what's wrong, Dawn? Feelin' nervous about the Grand Festival?" Ash asked, noticing how quiet she was.
"Huh? Oh, y-yeah. I guess maybe I am a little," Dawn played along.
"Just don't think about it too much. You're gonna do great!" Ash gave her an assuring look. "You just gotta trust in your Pokemon and all the practice you've put in!"
"Yeah, you're right. Thanks, Ash," Dawn flashed him a smile. Though it was true that she was a bit nervous about her upcoming contest, she knew that wasn't the reason she'd been spacing out. And she wasn't the only one, either.
While Ash kept on eating, Brock glanced over at their female traveling companion. Unbeknownst to Dawn, the aspiring Pokemon breeder had seen something yesterday that he wasn't meant to see. Thanks to that, he had a good idea of what was really bothering Dawn right now.
Brock was of the impression that something was going on between Dawn and J, but he was clueless as to what it could be. There was one thing he was sure of, though, that being that Sinnoh's most infamous Pokemon hunter was the last person he wanted to see near any of his friends. He wanted to ask Dawn about it, but the fact that she didn't mention much of what had happened with J yesterday after the trio had reunited led him to believe that it wasn't something she was comfortable talking about with either Ash or himself. For now, Dawn didn't seem frightened as would be the case if she knew J was a danger to her, and it was for that reason that Brock was leaning toward staying out of things until Dawn felt like opening up about it.
The others abruptly turned their attention to Ash, who, judging from the panicked look on his face, appeared to be choking.
"Ash, what did Brock just tell you?" Dawn scolded him, giving the boy a few good whacks on his back.
The aid seemed to work as Ash finally got the food down and began to catch his breath. "Whoa! Man, guess I shoulda listened," he got a laugh at his own expense. "Thanks, Dawn."
"I tried to warn you," Brock reminded him. "Take it slow next time."
"Yeah, I'll do that," Ash replied, then looking toward Pikachu. "Hey, looks like you're finished eating, too. Let's go get some training in, Pikachu. How 'bout it?"
Pikachu shared its trainer's enthusiasm, striking a pose that showed its eagerness to get some work in. "Pika!"
"Great! Just call us when you're ready to go, guys," Ash instructed his friends as he ran off.
"Like trainer, like Pokemon," Brock chuckled at the pair.
As they had a way of doing, the energetic trainer and Pokemon team had an inspiring effect on the previously distracted Dawn. "I can't be sitting here worrying about what happened with J yesterday when those two are working so hard," she thought to herself. "The Grand Festival is almost here, and I need to make sure that my Pokemon and I are the best we can be, too!"
Looking to remind herself of her goals, Dawn grabbed her backpack to take a quick peek at the five contest ribbons she'd won so far. Her ribbon case was kept in one of the smaller compartments of the pack, completely separate from the rest of her belongings. Once she'd unzipped that compartment, however, Dawn found a surprise waiting inside. There was something else sharing space with her ribbons.
Noticing his friend's odd reaction, Brock gave her a curious look. "Is something wrong?"
Dawn appeared unusually tense as she glanced up at him. "N-no! Nothing! Umm...I'll be right back!"
Scrambling to get far enough away that nobody could see around her, Dawn put some distance between herself and the table where Brock was eating, then dropped to her knees along with her backpack. "It can't be! Is this...?"
Reaching into the pack, Dawn pulled out a flexible headset that she immediately recognized. "It is! It's the same one that J wears!" she realized. "But...why do I have this? When did she-?"
It was then that Dawn remembered one small detail about her encounter with the Pokemon hunter yesterday. As they were aboard Salamence and about to land, she'd heard a zipping noise behind her. When asked about it, J insisted she'd only zipped up a compartment that was open so that none of Dawn's possessions would fall out. From the looks of things, however, she'd also added something of her own.
"She was still wearing hers when I left, though. Was this an extra that she had with her?" Dawn wondered. "I don't get it. Why would she give me this?"
"Hey, Dawn! Is everything okay?" Brock called out to her.
Dawn jumped as she heard her friend's voice. "Oh, no! I can't let Ash or Brock see this thing. Who knows what they'd think!"
Quickly stuffing the headset into her backpack, Dawn zipped everything back up and headed over to the table. "Y-yeah, silly me! I thought I'd lost my ribbon case there for a second, but I just had it in the wrong place was all. No need to worry!" she laughed.
"Oh, that's good. It would be pretty bad if you lost those," Brock said. Knowing Dawn, he didn't doubt that misplacing her ribbons could have been what had startled her, but he still couldn't help questioning if that was really the case.
"I know! Thank goodness," Dawn smiled. Inwardly, she was breathing a sigh of relief that Brock had bought her story. Still, having that headset in her possession brought with it the constant risk that her friends could find out about it. Regardless of J's reasons for leaving it with her, Dawn knew that it would probably be best to get rid of the item when she found the right opportunity.
Once everyone had finished eating and the dishes were cleaned, Dawn and Brock packed up their gear and put their Pokemon away. They were ready to get back on the road.
"Hmm, that's weird," Dawn looked around, holding an empty pokeball in her hand. "Where's Pachirisu?"
"Piplup pii piplup pip!"
Looking to be in quite the hurry, Piplup ran over to its trainer and grabbed onto her leg.
"Huh? What is it, Piplup?" Dawn asked.
The small Pokemon jumped up and down as it pointed its flipper toward the edge of some nearby woods. "Piplup piplup pii piplup!"
Before Dawn could find out what Piplup was trying to tell her, Ash came rushing back with Pikachu close behind him.
"Hey, Ash. Why the hurry?" Brock asked his friend.
Ash began scouring the area for a certain Pokemon. "Is Dawn's Pachirisu here?"
"N-no. I was just about to put it back in its pokeball, but I don't see it anywhere," Dawn informed him, starting to sound worried.
"Then it was your Pachirisu!" Ash exclaimed. "Me and Pikachu saw it running off into the woods just now."
"What?" Dawn shrieked. "Ohh, jeez, Pachirisu can be too energetic for its own good sometimes. I'd better go find it."
"We'll help, too," Ash offered his assistance.
"Yeah, it would be faster if we all look," Brock said in agreement. They couldn't afford to take too long if they wanted to make it to that Pokemon Center tonight.
After Ash put the rest of his Pokemon away, the trio walked over to the edge of the woods and prepared to head in.
"Pachirisu shouldn't have gotten far, but it could be in any direction by now. I think we should split up to look for it," Brock suggested to the others. "Once you find it, have one of your Pokemon send up a signal and we'll all meet where you're at."
"Right!" Dawn nodded.
"Sounds good. Let's go!" Ash took off running with Pikachu.
With the three of them heading off in different directions, it wasn't long before Dawn and Piplup were all by themselves.
"Pachirisuuu~! Pachirisuuuu!" Dawn shouted at the top of her voice.
Though not nearly as loud as its trainer, Piplup pitched in on the search as well. "Pipluuup! Pipluuup!"
"Ohh, where could it be?" Dawn fretted.
These woods were far from easy to find a particular Pokemon in. Not only were the trees a hindrance, but there were numerous bushes and patches of tall grass around to complicate things even further. Trying to find Pachirisu with only their eyes would undoubtedly be a daunting task.
"It's so hard to see in here," Dawn said. She stopped for a moment, directing her eyes to one of the backpack's straps over her shoulder. "I wonder..."
There were certain things that Dawn never thought she would do, but for the sake of finding her lost Pokemon, she was considering one of them. Looking very unsure of herself, she slid off her backpack and stared at the compartment she'd opened earlier. "If J uses them, they must help her find Pokemon, right?" she nervously thought aloud. "It doesn't feel right, but...for Pachirisu..."
With mixed feelings, Dawn unzipped the small compartment and pulled out the headset she'd found earlier. Piplup, who'd been wondering why its trainer had stopped, looked absolutely horrified as it caught a glimpse of the item.
"Pipipipiplup piplup piplup!"
"It's okay, Piplup! I'm going to get rid of it! I didn't even know it was in here until just a little while ago," Dawn tried to calm her disturbed Pokemon. "But if this can help me find Pachirisu, then I have to try. Okay?"
Piplup had a look of pure dread on its face as it watched Dawn slide the headset on. To see her wearing something that Pokemon Hunter J had worn was like a nightmare coming to life.
With the headset now securely fit over her eyes, Dawn felt around the outside of the device to try to figure out how to activate it. "There's a button here...no, that didn't do anything. Maybe this one? Mmm...no. Is this thing broken?"
It was only when Dawn touched the transparent part of the headset that the device finally seemed to switch on, displaying a bar in the upper part of her vision and an arrow on the right side. "Whoa! That scared me!" she jumped, placing a hand over her heart. "Oh, wow."
As she held her arm out in front of her, Dawn noticed that everything was now apparently being displayed by how much heat it put out. Her arm was shown in colors of yellow, orange and red, while the trees and bushes were varying shades of green and blue. "So this is how J sees everything," she said to herself. "I wonder what this bar and the arrow mean."
The bar she was seeing had a numerical value above it that was fluctuating quite a bit, making it difficult to understand its purpose. The arrow, on the other hand, seemed easier to figure out. Since it was currently pointing downward, Dawn looked toward the ground, which is where Piplup happened to be standing. Once Piplup was in her vision, the arrow turned into a bullseye, seemingly letting the headset's user know that it had locked onto a target. Dawn also noticed that the numerical value above the bar now displayed the number 100 and was no longer fluctuating.
"I get it now. These help show where exactly a Pokemon is at," Dawn realized. "You know, if it weren't used for such awful things, this would be pretty neat. Anyway, let's hurry and find Pachirisu."
Dawn proceeded deeper into the woods, and Piplup, though still unhappy about its trainer's appearance, followed along. As she walked, Dawn was directed to numerous Pokemon by the arrow on her headset. Up in a tree to her left, she saw three bright colors in the shape of some Starly. At the base of another tree straight in front of her, she spotted a Bidoof roaming around. In a bush a short distance to her right, she could make out a pair of Shinx resting. But these other Pokemon, while interesting, weren't what she was looking for.
"Pachirisuuu~! Hey, Pachirisu! Where are you?" she called out to her Pokemon again. "Pachirisu...I'm really starting to get worri-oww!"
Dawn staggered backward after feeling something hit the top of her head. Piplup was initially concerned over what had happened, but its worries quickly disappeared as the object, an Oran Berry, fell to the ground in front of it.
"Pii piplup!" Piplup happily picked up the berry and started munching on it.
"An Oran Berry?" Dawn blinked, looking up to see where it came from. As it turned out, she was standing directly underneath a tree that was bountiful in the blue berries. And that wasn't all that was up there.
Dawn narrowed her eyes as she saw a heat source behind the cover of the leaves. There was a Pokemon up in the tree, a smaller one with what appeared to be a large, fluffy tail. "Pachirisu! Is that you?"
Recognizing the voice, the Pokemon hopped down from branch to branch until it was able to poke its head out from behind the leaves. "Chipa?"
"It is you!" Dawn beamed happily, relieved to see her Pokemon again. "Pachirisu, why did you run off?"
"Chi?" Pachirisu tilted its head, giving her a funny look.
"Oh, right!" Dawn laughed as she removed the headset she'd been wearing. "It's me, see?"
Its confusion cleared, Pachirisu jumped down onto Dawn's shoulder and nuzzled its head against her cheek. "Chipa chipa!"
"Hey now! I'm mad at you, you know," Dawn giggled. "What were you doing way out here? You had us worried sick!"
Looking to show its trainer something, Pachirisu leaped back up onto the lowest tree branch, and soon emerged holding an Oran Berry between its paws. "Chipa chi!"
"Huh?" Dawn faltered. "You mean you ran off just to get some berries?"
"Chipa!" Pachirisu nodded its furry head as it started to gnaw on the fresh snack.
Falling back against the tree, Dawn let out a loud sigh. "Great, how am I going to tell the guys it was just something like that? Oh well, I guess we'd better send them a signal. But first..."
Dawn took a long look at the headset in her hand. "I should get rid of it now while Ash and Brock aren't around," she decided. "I still wish I knew why J gave it to me, though."
Confident that it was for the best, Dawn walked over to one of the thicker bushes in the area and stuffed the headset deep inside where no one could see it. "There."
While Pachirisu was ignoring a stern lecture from Piplup in favor of munching on its Oran Berry, Dawn took a few steps toward her Pokemon, then glanced back over her shoulder at the bush she'd just hidden the sophisticated piece of equipment in. There shouldn't have been any question in her mind about ditching the device. So why, she wondered, did she feel so torn about it?
With the day rolling into the evening hours, Pokemon Hunter J was by herself in the workout area of her base. Dressed lightly for the physical activity, her gloved hands gripped a steel bar over her head as she finished a set of pull-ups.
The silver-haired woman was breathing hard as she let go of the bar and dropped down to the floor. Her usual routine now complete, she walked over to a bench and took a seat, wiping away the sweat that had accumulated on her face with a towel. The job of hunting Pokemon required a certain level of physical fitness that she never failed to maintain, and she had always mandated that her subordinates do the same. Though she usually had it to herself as of late, this room filled with workout equipment was often busy at most all hours of the day when her team was at full force before the incident at Lake Valor. Things would change when most of her men perished beneath the surface of the lake, but today marked the beginning of J's effort to remedy that situation.
"They should be ready by now," J reminded herself.
Elsewhere, inside the control center of the bunker, four of J's five crew members were huddled around one of the larger monitors. They'd received another progress report on their new ship from the personnel of Dr. Whittaker, and this one contained a picture of the ship's frame which was already under construction.
"It really does look bigger than our old ship!" one of the men said excitedly. "I hope it still fits in our hangar."
"Hey, don't worry. Commander J definitely accounted for that in her request," another crew member assured him. "But seeing this sure gets me fired up. I can't wait to see it when it's finished."
Hearing the sound of a door opening behind them, the four men turned their heads to see the fifth member of their crew entering the room, and he wasn't alone. Trailing behind him were three individuals that none of the other crewmen had seen before. One was a short, husky man with a buzz cut. Another was a taller man with his head completely shaved. And the third of them, the one that really caught the eyes of the crew, was a girl with a dark gray headband and longer, light blue hair tied behind her head in such a way that it stood straight up into the air.
"Who are these guys?" one of the men asked.
"They're our new recruits," their fellow crewman replied.
"New recruits? So we're finally expanding again?" another one asked.
The one who had led the recruits in nodded his head. "We need to have more members with experience by the time the ship is finished, so we're starting to train some now. I'm sure Commander J will-"
At that moment, Pokemon Hunter J herself entered from another door, stopping her subordinate in mid-sentence and immediately drawing the attention of both the regular crewmen and the new recruits. She had put on her usual uniform once again after her workout since she always wanted to appear professional in front of her crew.
"J, sir! These are the recruits you asked me to prepare," the crew member informed her.
The recruits stood up straight and in an organized line as J walked over to them. One by one, she took a long, up-close look at each of their faces. There was no clear reason why, but she took an especially long look at the one female among the recruits, perhaps trying to see if there was any fear in her eyes. The stare down would end without incident, however, as J backed away from the trio to properly address the three of them.
"Listen up! We don't carry dead weight around here. If you can't keep up with our operation, you're gone," J warned them. "Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir!" the recruits answered together.
"You'll earn the same pay as the others once you've proven that you can cut it here. Do not disappoint me," J gave them a stern look. She then turned to her regular crew. "I'll leave their training to you. Get them acquainted with our operation, but make sure they pay their dues. Work them as hard as you like."
"Understood, sir!" the men responded.
"Good. Now then, I have some business to attend to," J said. The boss gave her new female recruit a cold stare once more, then headed for the door en route to her personal chamber.
While J left the room, the girl with light blue hair kept her eyes on the woman the entire time. "So that's J. It's the first time I've seen her in person," she thought to herself. "She's really intimidating."
The girl let out a surprised yelp as she felt a hand grab her by the shoulder.
"Lucky you! We were just about to do some maintenance on our vehicles. Looks like you get to help us out," the crewman who grabbed her smirked. "Let's go. You've got some dues to pay."
Eager to prove her worth, the new recruit gave him a hand salute. "I'll do my best!"
Loving the sight of the twin bunk beds before her, Dawn dropped her backpack on the floor and collapsed onto one of the bottom bunks. After a long day of walking, she and her friends had made it to their destination at last, a Pokemon Center not far from Lake Valor where they had one of the guest rooms all to themselves.
Ash and Brock followed suit, letting their backpacks slide down from their shoulders.
"Man, we really went a long ways today. I feel like I could sleep for days," Ash said, stretching out his arms.
"I don't think we've got that kind of time, but at the very least I think you can sleep in tomorrow if you'd like," Brock chuckled. "We're really only about an hour's walk from Lake Valor right now, so we shouldn't need to leave here until sometime in the afternoon."
"Wow, that sounds good. Right, Pikachu?" Ash turned to his buddy.
The electric-type Pokemon gave an approving look from its trainer's shoulder. "Pika!"
Over on her bed, Dawn pulled herself up off the mattress and sat on its edge. "It's really just one more day," she said with excitement.
"Yeah, but all you'll be doing is registering tomorrow, so just relax and get some sleep for tonight," Brock tried to ease her mind. "Anyway, I'm going to go call home so long as we're here. I'll be back in a bit."
Brock's plans reminded Ash of something he'd forgotten. "Oh, y'know, I haven't called Mom in a while. Guess I should probably do that, huh?" he laughed. "How 'bout you, Dawn?"
"Nah. I'll call Mom tomorrow once we're at the lakeside resort. Then I can tell her I finally made it to the Grand Festival," Dawn beamed proudly.
"Sounds like a plan," Brock nodded. "We'll be back soon, then."
"Okay," Dawn waved to her friends as they left the room. "Phew. That was some day, huh, Piplup?"
Looking down at her side, Dawn found Piplup laying on the bed with its eyes closed, already asleep. She couldn't help giggling at the sight. "Wow, you really wore yourself out. I'm with you. Time to get some sleep."
Dawn stood up and went to grab her pajamas out of her backpack, but she came to an abrupt halt once she got near it. There was something she was able to put out of her mind when she was with the guys earlier, but now that she was alone, it wasn't so easy. Sighing under her breath, she unzipped one of the compartments and reached inside, pulling out not her pajamas, but rather the headset that J had left her.
"I couldn't leave this thing after all," she looked over the piece of equipment, clearly puzzled over her hesitation to part with it. "I really don't know why. It has bad news written all over it."
Feeling a hint of curiosity coursing through her veins, Dawn listened by the door to make sure Ash and Brock weren't coming yet, then looked back at Piplup to check if it was still asleep. "I guess it couldn't hurt for just a minute," she playfully smiled.
For the second time today, Dawn fit the headset snugly over her face and touched the transparent part over her eyes, activating the infrared mode she'd used to find Pachirisu earlier. "Guess I've already got the hang of it. Now, let's see what's going on outside."
Dawn moved over to the one window in the room and stared out into the night. Though she wasn't completely certain what they were, there were a handful of red and yellow objects representing Pokemon that could be seen. "Ooh, look at that," she said, spotting something flapping its wings in one of the trees. "It doesn't look like a Starly. I wonder if it's a Noctowl, or maybe...oh!"
A group of four larger Pokemon made their appearance, but were quickly gone again as they ran past the Pokemon center in a flash. "Wow, they were sure in a hurry. It looked like a pack of Mightyena, or maybe Houndoom," Dawn smiled. "I still feel guilty for keeping this thing, but it really is kind of fun."
"You certainly seem to be enjoying it."
Dawn was startled as she heard a woman's voice all of a sudden. "W-wha? Who-?" she looked around the room to see who it was.
The voice wasn't coming from within the Pokemon Center, though. A small window appeared on the headset, displaying a live image of the one who had spoken to Dawn. It shouldn't have come as any surprise that it was the one who'd left the item with her in the first place, Pokemon Hunter J.
"J!" Dawn stumbled backward, tripping over her own feet and falling on her backside. "Ouch! B-but...how-"
"Communication is essential for my team. It's only natural that I'm able to connect with any of the headset units when need be," the Pokemon hunter explained to her. "I'll get right to the point. Half a mile north of that Pokemon Center you're at, there's a bronze statue of Palkia, the legendary Pokemon. I'll be there at 11 o' clock tomorrow morning. If you'd like, you can meet me there."
"Huh?" Dawn gasped, quickly covering her mouth out of concern for waking up Piplup. There were any number of things racing through her mind right now, not the least of which was how exactly J knew where she was at the moment, but first and foremost was a concern over what might happen to she and her friends if she turned the woman down. "And...what if I don't come?"
J closed her eyes as she delivered a simple response. "Nothing. Whether you come or not is up to you."
Before Dawn could ask her anything else, J abruptly ended the connection, her image disappearing from the headset the young girl wore.
Feeling a bit stunned, Dawn batted her eyes, wondering if she'd heard J correctly. "She wants me to...meet her? And she's not forcing me?"
Not sure what to make of the request, she removed J's headset and stared down at it for a moment. Letting Dawn choose whether or not to meet her was certainly a change from the normal antics of J, who only weeks ago had threatened to harm the girl's friends if she didn't speak with her. Given her shockingly noble acts of a day earlier and now this, Dawn felt that something seemed very different about the woman.
"Even after what she did yesterday, she's still a Pokemon hunter. There's no way I should go," Dawn told herself. "But..."
The only thing Dawn wanted on her mind right now was the Grand Festival, and whether she planned on accepting or rejecting J's invitation, this was going to be one more distraction she'd have to deal with for the remainder of the night.
Meanwhile, inside the hangar at J's base, two of the regular crew members and the new female recruit were working on one of the armored vehicles used during missions. Or rather, the recruit was working on the vehicle while the other crewmen stood by and shouted instructions.
"Hey, rookie! We need to change the nets on this thing!" one of the men yelled to the girl, who was currently underneath the vehicle. "You know where the gear's stored, right? Go grab a couple new nets!"
Her uniform, hands and face smeared with grease and oil, the new recruit squeezed out from under the vehicle and got to her feet. "I'm on it!" she declared, hurrying off to one of the storage rooms.
"You weren't too specific there. She might grab the wrong nets," the other man told his associate.
"That's what I'm hoping," the first crew member smirked. "Then we can yell at her and send her running back for the right ones!"
The two men shared a laugh at the expense of their new recruit. Their boss had instructed them to work the girl hard, and they were going to enjoy every last minute of it.
Once she'd found the storage area, the new recruit looked around to see if anyone was close by and then headed inside, shutting the door behind her. In the room filled with boxes and shelving units, she leaned up against the wall and pressed a small button on her wristwatch as she held it up to her mouth.
"This is Pokemon Ranger Solana. Infiltration of Pokemon Hunter J's base is complete."
End of Chapter 5