Not to be a total attention whore or anything, but if you're reading this I really would appreciate any feedback you have to offer. Even if you think this fic's boring, I'd like to know why.

Yes, I meant to spell the chapter title that way.

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Watermeleon (Some Type of Revelation! Frosti's Decision!)

He stared at the occupied Poke Ball in his hand, ignoring the first falling wet drops as they splattered against his spiked hair.

The Pokemon inside was blue. It had to be blue, he'd seen it with his own eyes, and it was the most beautiful color he had ever seen. He liked blue, it came with his name. It came with the Pokemon, too, such a pretty Pokemon so blue, so wonderfully blue. He liked the Pokemon. He liked it very much. Only a stupid, selfish person would be so cruel and heartless as to give it up. But he wouldn't. He would cherish it forever, give it a special place in his collection and shine its Poke Ball every day until it gleamed in the light of a laughing sun.

It was blue. Blue like sapphires, more valuable and enigmatic than anything else he'd ever encounter, worth more than any foolish trader might be willing to pay. Blue like the bottomless depths of the Arctic Sea from which its relatives would crawl, and to which they would sadly return to, lost to him forever. Blue like the eyes of one of his parents before the green car had smashed them into a red brick wall that had broken like their bones, shattered like their skulls, scattering gray cement like the mush dripping from their cracked skulls and onto his brand-new tennis shoes they had bought him, the ones with Batman swooping down on them as if he could transcend dimensions and save the day.

It wasn't red. Of course it wasn't red, that was only a trick, because only a blue Pokemon could be so beautiful and desirable. Red would imply fire, something so unlike the true blue of the Pokemon, as graceful as the dancing ocean waves from which its mother had surfaced from at some point. He wouldn't have caught it if it were red, would he? It was blue, not red. If it really had been red, he would have just let it go, and continued his hunt for the blue Pokemon.

Yes, it was a beautiful, beautiful blue. So unlike the ugly red it pretended to be. Red like the color flashing before his vision, remembering someone crushing a red and white Ball that looked all too similar to a pair of red and white ribcages glistening with blood and acid and shards of glass and metal who knew what else as he stared into the faces with the broken frozen grins for a while until the pain kicked in and he screamed and screamed until his throat burned and his voice died and there was no longer any way for his pain to express itself. No, of course it wasn't red. It couldn't be red. It wasn't red, no matter what it appeared to be. It wasn't red. It wasn't red. It wasn't red.

It was red.

"How could you," he whispered.

He dropped the Poke Ball and crushed it beneath his foot, and a smile twitched across his face as a red mist wafted from its shards and turned to blue before dissipating in the oncoming rain.

"You may all be unintelligent," Maggie remarked, skipping from puddle to puddle like a Mantine, "but at least you can appreciate decent weather when you see it."

Early that morning, Lightning had decided to actually practice for the upcoming Contest in Saffron City, and had gone outside so as not to make a horrible mess of the nice Day Care couple's lobby. Peter had been understandably anxious about this, until Lightning assured him that Cheri was still occupied with keeping an eye on Frosti, so the Butterfree quickly became just as excited about it as his fellow Pokemon. Most of them, anyway, though by the time the clouds had rolled in and unleashed their much-welcomed rain, even Maggie had to enjoy it a little.

And now Leaf and Lightning sat on the steps of a small, plain pagoda situated not far from the Day Care's breeding pen, half listening to the insistent tapping of water striking the wooden roof above their heads. Leaf hadn't particularly wanted to come, but Lightning had pointed out that it'd do her no good moping about on the couch while waiting for Frosti to recover, so she had allowed herself to be dragged outside, watching Lightning's Pokemon take turns practicing possible appeals in the rain.

"Nice job, Maggie!" Lightning called encouragingly, unaware that she had practically called him an idiot. "Try striking the water a bit harder as you go, though. Add a bit more oomph to your splash."

"'Oomph' isn't a word," the fish remarked, though she followed his advice anyway.

"'Ooomph' is a word, fishy foo'," Peter replied, clinging to one of the pagoda's wooden columns as he nervously glanced around, half expecting Cheri to pop out of nowhere and smash his brains out. "It's dat word ya say when ya finally get ya sexy girlfriend ta come ta ya tree an' tie her up in String Shots an'—"

"Hey, Leaf!" a voice exclaimed excitedly. Turning a little from Maggie's splashing around, the girl found that Parvati had padded back up to her side, beaming proudly around some objects in her mouth. Her fur was completely drenched, with water dripping from her whiskers and tail, yet she still looked as perky as ever, her black ears standing at attention.

Not for the first time, Leaf wondered if Frosti could have ever acted like that if given the chance.

"Ptttooey!" The Meowth spat the things she carried onto the pagoda floor, licking her chops for a moment to clear it of the taste. "I found more stuff, Leaf! All over the place, I found them all by myself!" She beamed up at her trainer, the coin on her forehead gleaming.

Leaf forced herself to fake a smile. "Nice job, Parvati, nice job," she said, ruffling the cat's ears.

She waited until the cat had turned and bounded into the rain again before tossing the dirty junk items onto the pile that had been steadily increasing since they'd come outside.

Lightning glanced at the pile. "You sure you don't want any—"

"I already said yes, Lightning." She rolled her eyes. "It's not like she picked up some magical thing that'll actually be useful, like a Poke Ball some idiot dropped or whatever."

"… Okay, if you're sure," he said, reaching out with one hand to poke through the newest items. Peach, who was being patted with his other hand, glanced up for a moment to see what he was doing, before resting her head on her forepaws again, yawning in an overly cute manner.

"So anyway," the Pokedex piped up, annoying as usual, "have I caught up with all the entries I should've made up yet? 'Cause you haven't done anything for, what, two entire days? Which is probably a record for not getting blown up, by the way, and I think my CPU is probably going to explode from boredom instead. So give me something to do, or else I'll radiate you all to death."

"Shut up, Pokedex."

"You're such a killjoy, Naaaarrrrrrrgh. Come on, at least let me give that lizard's new entry—"

"I already said no."

"Yeah, but who gives a damn about respect, anyway? Especially behind peoples' backs. Why would you do that, when you can just shoot them in the back and laugh at them when they start doing that twitchy dance thing like in that one music video? Seriously. Look, I'm going to give it, I'm sick of waiting and I want to inject some conflict into this drab little life you've thrown us into, and who the hell cares about how it's more like a normal journey anyway. Charmeleon, the—"

"Pokedex," Leaf growled, gripping the machine so hard that Lightning worried she'd snap it in two, "Frosti doesn't need to have you being an asshole about him. So you need to shut up."

"Tee hee, you're so funny when you're angry. Charmeleon, the BLOOOOODRED Pokemon. Gender is Male, duh. Height is ARRRRRGH RRAAUU—"

Leaf smashed the mute button.

Everyone paused to stare, not quite believing that she'd actually shut the machine up. The rhythm of the rain seemed rather loud in the absence of its mechanical voice and Maggie's rhythmic splashes.

"Er … Leaf," Lightning muttered, tapping her shoulder. He pointed with an uncertain finger, then recalled a surprised Peter while Leaf turned to see what was up.

Frosti stood at her side, staring back at her.

She couldn't help but let out a gasp, jumping backwards in shock and only barely avoiding falling into the pile of Parvati's garbage collection. She hadn't expected to see him so suddenly, so alive and healthy and … Well, she'd seen him before as a Charmeleon, having evolved while thrashing about a couple of days ago. But he'd been newly changed then, bloody and mindlessly screeching. He seemed somewhat taller now that he was awake, and as she collected herself from the surprise she found she could better appreciate the differences evolution had wrought in him.

He had nearly doubled in height, easily able to gaze down on her as she sat. Orange scales had become crimson, providing a greater contrast with his pale belly. Long, gangly arms hung almost to his knees, at about the height of the tail-flame idly waving back and forth, seemingly unbothered by the moisture in the air. Thinking back to Oak's lab, when she had first chosen him as her starter, she tried to juxtapose the image of the short orange lizard with this tall red reptile, and found it difficult to visualize. How did I miss all this potential in him? she wondered briefly, before a Lapras swam across her mind to sweep in a wave of guilt.

When she met his black eyes, though, she couldn't find any blame lurking in them, though a bit of a hurt look flashed across his draconic face.

"… But I don't feel like a monster," he mumbled as if to himself, staring at the huge claws on his hands and feet.

She blinked, wondering a little at how his voice hadn't changed at all. "… A monster?" she repeated, before realization set in and she gasped again. "Oh! No, no, Frosti, I wasn't afraid. Well, no more afraid than I'd be around any other Charmeleon. I was just, you know, a bit startled that you snuck up on me, that's all."

He shook his head. "It's all right if you are. I mean … I mean I was afraid of myself the other night, at first. Seeing myself in the mirror … it was like … like I'd let out the Beast after all."

His squinting eyes reflected the glare of the storm clouds, but not much inner light could be seen in them. Leaf's heart sank even further, an action which she had thought impossible. At her sides, her hands clenched into quivering fists without her knowing it.

"But it really is all right," he repeated, a falsely cheery tone creeping into his voice. "It's what I deserve, isn't it? So I might as well get used to it. Being a monster and all—"


Both of them were shocked as Leaf seized Frosti's shoulders, practically shaking him. Some part of her brain that was still rational asked timidly what she was doing. She could see his eyes widening, though whether that was from shock or fear or disbelief was a mystery. Swallowing hard, she forced herself to try and calm down, and addressed him in a slightly quieter, but no less furious voice.

"Why … why the hell would you say that, Frosti?" she growled, pulling him a little closer to her. "Do you honestly look in the mirror and see a demon staring back at you? Do you think these jaws—" She took hold of his snout in one hand, less violently than her tone would suggest, and he, being surprised, only blinked in response. "—these jaws would tear our throats out? Do you think these claws would rip us to bloody shreds?" She grabbed his hands this time, feeling his warm scales against each palm.

He blinked and opened his mouth, but she cut him off before he'd even begun to make a sound.

"Is all that what you saw in the mirror, Frosti?" Her voice was quieter now, as sad as the light sparkling in her eyes. "Because all I see … all I see is a mouth made to smile and hands made to hold." She reached up with one hand, gently lifting the corners of his mouth into an artificial grin, while squeezing his hand with the other. They stared at each other for a few long moments, with the beating of rain filling the silence, before her gaze turned a little watery and she glanced away. "You aren't going to blame your Beast's faults on yourself. And if you're not going to stop, maybe you should ... maybe you should just leave. Call me stupid if you want, Frosti, because that's what I am. Some stupid girl with crap for brains who couldn't look past her own fricking ego until it was too late. Call me stupid, call me cruel, call me anything you want. Anything at all. But I WILL NOT tolerate you calling yourself a monster."

There. She'd said it.

She turned away then, sharply and quickly, but she was sure he had managed to catch a glimpse of the tear rolling down her face.

They were all staring at her. She knew there could be no other reason for the relative quiet, but she felt no resentment about it. Hell, embarrassment was the least she deserved after what she had done to him. Staring off unseeingly into the fields beyond, she drew her knees up close to her chest. And she waited for the sound of his footsteps to begin, as he would turn and walk off unflinchingly into the rain, never pausing, never looking back, never turning around for even one last look at his selfish, foolish trainer, only giving her memory a passing good riddance before his mind would be wiped clean of thoughts about her. He deserved a better trainer than her – a better friend than her – and she wasn't about to stop him from getting one.

His claws clicked against the pagoda's floor. Forcing herself not to sigh, she half wished she could build up the courage to turn and watch him go. But no – she didn't deserve to see him again even once. Staring after him as he walked into the rain? Too selfish, too cliché. Let her suffer, alone in the midst of Pokemon someone else had actually truly cared for from the beginning.

She stiffened when something warm touched her shoulder.

"Why are you slouching?" Frosti's voice seemed to lilt, as if half remembering an old song he'd once heard. "Is this what you see yourself as, Leaf? Because …" His breath hitched a little, and he paused for a few seconds to control himself. "Because all I see are a pair of shoulders made to hold your head high."

Her mind felt frozen. Slowly she turned her head towards him, just enough to see him standing behind her, staring back.

"I think," he said quietly, "we both made a lot of mistakes here." His mouth twitched into a smile – a tiny smile, but genuine.

Without warning, she scooped the surprised Charmeleon up in her arms, hugging him close to her and as tightly as was humanly possible. "Frosti," she whispered, squeezing her eyes shut, "I'm sorry."

She felt his warm arms return her embrace, resting his head on her shoulder. "I'm sorry too."

More rain, splashing insistently against ground and grass and wood and puddles. Tears fell from her closed eyes, streaming down her face and chin; from the sniffles near her ear, it was safe to assume that Frosti was crying too.

After what seemed like hours – long, wonderful, golden hours spent simply being together – they finally broke apart, though still holding each others' shoulders, as they tentatively locked red-eyed gazes. "Forgive me?" they asked in unison, then chuckled at the moment and hugged again.

As Leaf sighed, deeply and happily, Cheri caught her eye; the Beedrill was standing out in the rain. After several seconds, the bug inclined her head forward, red eyes twinkling with something like pride.

This wasn't going to be easy, Leaf understood that. She couldn't turn into Mother Teresa overnight, anymore than Frosti would be able to completely get over his trauma within the week. Lessons would need to be learned, attention paid, questions asked and answers given, with the world still giving them hell in the form of hard travel and Shadows and psychotic angels and angst-ridden miners.

But this was a chance at a new beginning, and they were going to take it, damn it.

"… I don't think I get it," Frosti remarked, slightly cross-eyed.

The group still sat in the pagoda; even though the rain had stopped a while ago, the ground was still muddy enough to punish anyone who dared to sit in it with a rather embarrassing souvenir on their rear. Leaf had scrawled several illegible letters, numbers, and other various figures into the mud with a random stick, and was currently laying out a vague plan for the rest of their journey.

The girl rolled her eyes, which were still red-rimmed from crying. "It's a vague plan for the rest of our journey," she said redundantly. "And Frosti, I haven't even explained it yet. Now listen up, all of you." She tapped the chart with the stick, narrowly avoiding transforming a one into a seven. "There's some conflict of interest going on this summer. For one, Fystor wants us to take out the Shadows. On the other hand, Lightning has this Grand Festival thing he wants to do. But most importantly, I need to qualify for the Indigo Conference by September."

"Couldn't you technically wait until the next one starts a couple months after that?" Lightning piped up.

"Well, I could, but would you want to wait three extra months for the Grand Festival?"

"… Not really, no—"

"And my point stands. Now, let's break this down, right?" She drew a lopsided circle around one cluster of markings that were probably supposed to mean something. "The League requires a minimum of four badges for trainers who want to be part of the Conference, so I need to get at least two more. But what I'd rather do is get even more badges than that – as many as possible, actually. We could run into more gym leaders that way, which Fystor wanted us to do. And if I get eight, then I can even challenge the Elite Four and Champion – although if I place in one of the top four spots in the Conference, I can go against them anyway."

Everyone nodded absentmindedly, just as cross-eyed as Frosti.

"Meanwhile, Lightning's Festival thing requires a minimum of five ribbons, so he needs four more. Since that's not connected with either of the other quest thingies, I think we can safely ignore that part if worst comes to worst, but knowing those Twin guys we'll just manage to get everything taken care of.

"As for those Shadow Pokemon, there're quite a bit more of them, so pay attention Lightning. According to Bill, Cipher sent eight Shadows over here. He already has the Shadow Clefairy, so now we just need to be on the lookout for an Ambiveli, Bagon, Clamperl, Kricketot, Mienfoo, Shroomish, or Zigzagoon that's acting psychotic as hell, and I don't even know what half of those are. Obviously we won't be able to have all of them on us at once, so Fystor's working on setting up a joint box account for us, that'll send Pokemon right to Bill instead of the Professor. He'll work on taking care of them, she said. Apparently he has a fricking huge dragon or something in case they decide to rip his head off.

"The Conference starts September fourteenth, a week before Autumn Equinox. But the Professor's probably going to drag me back to Pallet for when high school starts, so we really only have about …" She squinted at the chart, as if that could magically make her able to see through all the scribbles and find the answer. "Eight weeks, give or take a couple days. So I need to get one badge for every four weeks, probably more than that. Now, the Grand Festival starts on the first of October, meaning Lightning's got a lot more time to get his ribbon things if we take weekends into consideration – two weeks or so between winning each Contest should do it. As for the Shadows, Fystor said we need to snatch them as soon as possible to make sure Team Rocket doesn't figure out how to make even more of the buggers. Since we got split in two groups, one'll most likely be finding three while the other finds four. You and I'll probably be the ones finding the four, since Roark's probably just going to sulk around in a stupidly angsty way, which lowers the average of three and a half down to three for him. Meaning that, assuming we're going to be dragged back home for school kicking and screaming, we've got two weeks to find each Shadow, while Roark can take as long as he needs instead, even though he has less to find than we do, the lucky bastard.

"Any questions?"

"I have a question, actually," Cheri remarked, flexing a skinny arm. "What are you trying to tell us, exactly?"

Leaf facepalmed.

"Thank Arceus," Anni sighed, collapsing the second she had set foot in the cavern's shadowy interior. "Made it here before the damn rain."

Roark automatically glanced behind them, looking over the miles of nondescript land they had spent so long trekking. Although the sky was still a blindingly brilliant blue above them, it was impossible to miss the iron-gray clouds broiling over the far-off horizon. He could hear the rumbling thunder already, crackling in the air, easily heard under the harsh caw of a Murkrow. "Yeah," he agreed, shivering at the memory of a similar roar reverberating through towering trees. "Thank Arceus."

"Hey, look! A Sandshrew." The Cranidos pointed at a pangolin creature, which had just scampered out from behind a nearby boulder. "Man, you guys are so easy to beat, I hate you for it."

"Hey!" it exclaimed indignantly. It crouched for a moment against the dusty stone floor, then leapt into the air, curling into a ball as its body began to spin quickly.

Anni yawned, waiting for it to get close before lazily bouncing up a couple of inches, crashing her head into its body and sending it flying.

"H-heyyyyyyyy!" Its yelp continued to echo long after it had vanished in the tunnel's depths.

"Nice one," Roark told her, nodding.

She rolled her eyes. "Whatever. Like I said, easy."

He shrugged, then cast his eyes towards the tunnel ceiling, noticing the several flat lights strung along, seeming to grow brighter the darker the shadows beneath them were. "They have electricity here?" he asked nobody in particular, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "Interesting …"

"Sure, but knowing us we'll regret finding out what causes it." She walked a couple of feet forward, paused, then turned around to roll her eyes at him. "Well? You coming or what?"

Allowing himself a tired grin, the miner nodded again and entered into the darkness and safety of Rock Tunnel.

Outside, the storm drew ever closer over the emptiness of the plains.

Cobalt had seldom been to the Boss's video conference room before.

Not that he couldn't easily make his way there, of course. Somehow every corridor in Rocket Headquarters led to it one way or another. It was almost as if he could step into a hallway, any hallway, and hear whispers of instinct and faint memory pointing out the way. Of course, the fact that the guards standing watch outside were slightly more competent than usual wasn't a bad tipoff, either. They actually managed to jump to attention before he came within two yards of them.

"Name and business?" one of the guards asked, automatically reaching down to finger a Poke Ball on his belt. Well, their recognition abilities were abysmally low, Cobalt decided. Probably only good at jumping to attention. That was probably the main test to be a guard, anyway.

"Well, let's see." Cobalt tapped his chin as if trying to remember something elusive and important. "Oh, I know now. I'm obviously Arceus, here to bless the Boss and turn him into an all-powerful yet dangerously egomaniacal god-like figure who will raise Team Rocket to unlimited heights of power before inadvertently destroying it in his supernaturally-induced madness."

The guards gaped at him.

"Oh, come on," he snapped, not even bothering to stop himself from rolling his eyes. "Who else would wear something like this?" He pointed to the tall mass of shockingly red hair on his head, resembling on odd cross between a crescent moon and a pair of devil horns.

A guard blinked. "… Cobalt?" he tried.

"A spark of intelligence! Congratulations."

"Mister Cobalt, the Boss has been exp—…"

He brushed past them through the stainless steel door, ignoring the guard's sentence as it trailed off weakly. Obviously the Boss had to be expecting him. He'd summoned him right out of the hospital wing, for crying out loud.

As the door shut behind him, he simply stood there for a moment, eyes adjusting to the relative darkness. A long room stretched out before him, containing a table almost as long, its dark surface illuminated by the small, bright red lights lined up along the ceiling. A broad screen stretched across the far wall, displaying mere static; three other figures sat before it, silhouetted against the blinding mess of black and white and gray.

"Ah, Cobalt!" the Boss exclaimed, as if the admin had simply dropped by for a casual visit. "Glad you could join us! Pull up a chair, don't be shy."

Unable to come up with a good response for that, he made his way towards the light of the static, vaguely surprised when he realized that he wasn't bumping up against any chairs. Automatically he reached to the side, feeling their smooth wooden backs brush against his fingers, and realized that they hadn't simply been removed. He wasn't sure what this meant, having expected beforehand to be tripping over them comically.

"We were recently contacted by another organization," the Boss went on. "From the Sinnoh region, I believe. They seem to be relatively new, since I haven't heard of them before … Think they want to pick something up from the best, eh?"

"It's a possibility," Cobalt replied diplomatically, swallowing his sudden unease as he sat himself before the screen. One of the figures to his side snorted quietly, but was otherwise silent.

"We've been waiting a full fifteen minutes by now, but they haven't responded yet." The Boss shifted, his face covered in shadow. "And speaking of response … Severus has yet to contact us. He broke out of prison a couple days ago, you know."

Cobalt's mouth went dry. "He has?"

"Yes. And he seems to be simply going around slaughtering people, if my informants are to be believed." A shake of the head, disbelieving. "He has become a wild card. We cannot continue to rely on him if he keeps up this rampage. Cobalt, you're promoted to executive."

"I didn't …!" Cobalt blinked. He ran those words through his head, more slowly than before, and blinked again. "… Executive?" he repeated, once he had stopped gaping like an idiot fish.

"Well, of course," one of the others spoke up. "We can't be a proper trio if there isn't a Dick." His companion snickered quite audibly at this.

"That will do, Harry," the Boss stated. "Have you met these two yet, Cobalt? No? Well, these are my other two Kanto executives, Tom and Harry, whom I've also called back from their missions. After all, it is highly likely that contact with this new organization will be more important to us in the long run."

Cobalt nodded towards them thoughtlessly, for he suddenly felt as if he were no longer in the room. Instead, he stood on a warm beach of golden sand, feeling the delightfully cold ocean water lap around his bare ankles. Warm sunlight and a crooning voice permeated the clear, light air.

"Somewhere … beyond the seeeeea, somewhere waiting for meee …"

He closed his eyes, inhaled deeply through his nose, and sighed in contentment. When a faint noise caught his ear, though, he slowly reopened them, looking off to the side … and to his surprise and utter delight, he saw that perhaps twenty yards away was an Executive shirt, its red only broken by its black letter R and Honchkrow silhouette. Surely the most beautiful shirt in the world, he decided, and felt his heartbeat accelerate in anticipation.

"My lover stands on golden saaaaaaaaaaands, and watches the ships – that go saiiiiiilin' …"

The shirt was running towards him along the beach. He had no idea how the hell a shirt was able to run, and he honestly didn't care. He simply wanted to be with that gorgeous shirt! His legs seemed to notice this thought, for they soon moved almost on their own, kicking up sand and saltwater as they carried him closer to that beloved shirt.

"Somewhere … beyond the seeeeea, she's there watchin' for meee …"

Everything seemed to be in slow motion: himself, the shirt, the water moving beneath him … it was as if time itself refused to let them be together, purely out of spite. But he would not let the seemingly ridiculously impossible distance deter him. He had to be with his beloved, for it had not given up on him, and he was loathe to let it down.

"If I could fly like birds on hiiiiiiigh—"


He was so close … his panting mouth formed into a big, goofy grin …

"Then straight to her arms – that go saiiiiii—"


"Huh?" He jerked upright, confused at the abrupt change in environment. Why was he sitting down, and in the dark? Wasn't he on vacation with his beloved shirt?

"I am glad to see you relaxing after your latest assignment," the Boss remarked dryly, over the sound of Tom's and Harry's snickers, "but I believe we were discussing something."

"Oh." As the past few minutes rushed back to him, Cobalt was suddenly glad the darkness could cover up his flushing face. "When do I get my shirt?"

"After this conference." The Boss shifted again; the eerie light from the static showed that he seemed to be checking his likely expensive watch. "… Whenever it begins, at any rate. Rest assured you will be admitted to new quarters, where you will be able to more fully recover your injuries before your next assignment."

"Exce— …" Cobalt blinked. "Injuries? But I feel perfectly well, Boss."

"I am certain that you do. However, a report from Rocket Joy indicates that you very likely have a few minor internal injuries – nothing serious, provided you don't strain yourself for a while. You see, she determined that you were attacked by an odd combination of Stealth Rock and Pursuit, which—"

"—means you got hit with more force than you would have if the attacks had come separately," Harry finished; Cobalt shot a wary glance at the Boss, who didn't seem particularly perturbed by the fact that the words had just been taken out of his mouth. "So I would suggest you rest up, Dick, because this is where the rubber meets the road."

"Although your privileges and access of the Base will of course be expanded," the Boss added. "Not that you didn't let yourself into any wing you wanted before …"

"Excellent!" Cobalt practically gushed, still a bit lightheaded. "So does this mean I can ask why you and the Team Magma guy were playing so many rounds of checkers—?"

"No," the Boss replied, keeping his gaze fixed on the screen.

Cobalt sighed, returning his gaze to the static as it remained resolutely put. He'd wanted to know the answer to that question more than almost anything …

Though, now he had even more resources to track It down …

He smirked in the dark, folding his arms as if the entire world could see him. Life could only get better from here.