Pandabot: Good god, it's been too long since I updated this thing. Way too long. Sorry everybody. But here's another chapter for now. Hopefully I'll recapture my love for this fic and get writing but I keep getting distracted with my Naruto one. Anyway, read and enjoy.

Chapter 18: The Other Side of the Coin

Last time on Pokemon: Soul Of Steel

With a final tug, Lyra and Bayleef managed to pull the Houndoom over the edge of the cliff as the men below panicked and shouted under the smoke created by the explosion. Immediately, Bayleef and Houndoom collapsed to the floor, completely drained by their efforts, and Lyra began to panic. She was stuck on top of a cliff, about fifteen feet away from a group of men who were trying to capture her, with two pokemon collapsed, one in a cage and her best friend passed out and twitching.

What do I do now?

Lyra shook the Houndoom desperately, causing the wild pokemon to growl weakly as she tried to lift it to it's feet. She began to hyperventilate as the men below the cliff began to argue ways up the cliff; her hand clapped to her chest and she ground her teeth.

The little Eevee snarled at her as she began to dissolve into a panicky mess, leaping in front of her and headbutting her leg painfully. The aggression from her new Eevee snapped Lyra out of her panic; she took a deep, shuddering breath, closing her eyes. When they opened, she gave Houndoom an apologetic look as she groped at her belt,

Sorry, Houndoom. She stepped forward, staying carefully behind the pokemon's line of sight, and pulled an empty pokeball from her belt. With a lightning fast motion, she planted her pokeball against the Houndoom's back, causing the dark-type to whirl around, snapping furiously at her. It dissolved into red light, sucked into the pokeball. Lyra held it closed as it shook momentarily,

I'd better be careful when I release him. She returned Bayleef as soon as Houndoom's pokeball stopped shaking and she clipped both of the balls to her belt. She took a short breath, turning to the shaking JT, biting her lip.

Noctowl's probably big enough to carry him, she thought, rummaging at his belt for his pokeballs. She found the one that JT had marked with the etching of a wing, Noctowl's pokeball, and pulled it off his belt, suddenly noticing the blood running down her forearm.

Ow, crap, she thought, the evidence of her wound bringing her mind back to the throbbing on her arm. She bit her lip again, aware that she didn't have time to deal with it properly (and wouldn't even know where to start with this kind of cut) but if she kept bleeding all over the place, the men could probably track her.

She knelt down next to Eevee, pulling her shirt away from her body and quickly ordering the little pokemon to tear her shirt with it's teeth. Once it was started, she managed to tear her shirt in a circle, leaving her stomach exposed; she wrapped the torn shirt tightly around her wound, muffling a cry as she pulled it tight.

She turned back to JT and released Noctowl, stepping back as the huge bird materialised next to his master. Aware that time was slipping away (she could hear the men attempting to scale the cliff) she quickly told the bird what was needed and guided him to grasping the boy's shirt firmly in his talons. Noctowl raised it's wings, ready to take off,

"Wait!". The flying-type paused at Lyra's cry and the girl scrambled forward, ducking under the outstretched wings, grabbing Zero's battered pokeball off JT's belt. She gave the owl a nod and shielded her face as the wings came down, sending dust and wind blasting over the girl. Lyra glanced around,

Just me, Eevee and that other one left, she thought in relief, releasing Zero from his pokeball in a flash of light. As the red bug-type formed, Lyra hefted the cage into her arms, hissing as the steel pressed against her wound. Zero looked around in confusion, giving Lyra an inscrutiable look as she pushed the cage into his claws.

"Come on," she ordered, giving the cliff a nervy glance, "We have to go now". She motioned to Eevee, the little pokemon leading the group away across the moonlit slate. Zero and Lyra followed, the red pokemon easily carrying the cage in his grasp as the cliff and the camp below disappeared into the night.

A terrifying full-throated roar split the night, shattering the peaceful night air that lay over New Bark Town. A second later, shouts and screams were heard, followed by more roars and several explosions. The residents of New Bark Town spilt onto the streets, emerging from their homes in their nightwear, wide-eyed and fearful as they stared in the direction of the noise.

After a minute of explosions, screaming and general noise, the din quietened down; the residents began to babble, arguing with each other over what to do. After a short time, another roar was heard, a primal scream of triumph that shook the windows in their frames. As the townspeople began to panic, Professor Elm and Guy stepped away from the group, whispering urgently.

"Someone needs to go and see what it was, Professor. Just let me go and take a look". The bespectacled man shook his head firmly,

"I can't risk sending you alone. We don't know what that thing was but it sounded powerful. I simply can't risk it". There was a long pause as Guy studied the professor carefully,

"Professor, I'm the only one in this town that has any experience with pokemon battling. You know that. I'll be safer alone" he said bluntly, half-turning his head so he looked back towards the townsfolk of New Bark. He watched as Lily emerged from the crowd and ran over to the pair, hair flying wildly.

"...Fine. Go. Stay out of sight and don't confront anything" the professor sighed in resignation. Lily had apparently arrived in time to hear the last half of that statement and stormed up with a dark expression on her face.

"What are you doing?" she asked, tone full of suspicion. Guy motioned with his head, back towards his house as the professor averted his eyes warily.

"Come on, I'll tell you on the way"

He led Lily back towards his house, explaining the situation as they walked; he finished just as they reached the front door of his house. He opened the door just as Lily began to protest loudly,

"Are you serious? You're going to get yourself killed!". Guy ignored her as he slipped inside the dark house, moving quickly to the lounge; the irate Lily followed behind him.

"It's been years since you did any training! That thing will kill you!" she cried angrily. Guy slipped on a pair of gloves slowly, thoughtfully; when he finally spoke he was quiet, calm.

"Someone has to go and look, Lily. It might as well be me". Lily grabbed hold of his arm desperately,

"But it's dangerous" she pleaded. After a long pause, Guy sighed heavily.

" old friend once told me something," he said slowly, "He said that pokemon trainers have a responsibility to keep people safe". He turned around and looked Lily in the eye, and there was a Guy she had never seen before, focused and determined.

"I have to go" he said, pushing past her and making his way back to the front door. He grabbed his jacket and paused, looking back to Lily, framed in the doorway that led to the lounge.

"Stay here. I'll be back soon"

Lyra clattered into the cave that she and JT called home, Zero following close behind and Eevee, nose to the ground, charging ahead of her. She slipped on the flat slate, sweat pouring down her face, and almost tumbled to the floor as she tried to stop. Zero paused as he looked around the cave, placing the cage on the slate; Lyra placed her hands on her knees, fighting back nausea as she recovered her breath.

"Eevee," she gasped out in between huge gulps of air, "Zero, stand guard outside, watch for Noctowl". The little brown pokemon barked agreement and bounded outside, hackles raised readily, but Zero merely gave Lyra a strange look. After a long moment, Lyra looked up from the floor, meeting the Scizor's yellow eyes.

"Zero, please". There was a long pause as Zero studied Lyra carefully, an odd chill in his gaze, and then he turned away, stalking to the mouth of the cave to stand alongside Eevee. Lyra wiped a hand across her forehead, panting heavily,

Why isn't Noctowl here yet?, she thought. Even though she trusted the strength of JT's pokemon, she couldn't help but worry that Noctowl had been hurt or worse; with JT hanging underneath, the flying-type wouldn't be able to defend itself.

The small, encaged pokemon let out a small mewl, paws on the bars that surrounded it. Lyra approached and knelt down next to the cage, noting how the pokemon drew away and bared it's teeth aggressively.

"Hey" she said soothingly, fighting back a silly grin as she remembered meeting Eevee earlier that day,

"It's ok. I'm not gonna hurt you". The pokemon didn't seem impressed with her tone, barely relaxing it's stance at all as she knelt, studying the pokemon carefully; it looked to have been very poorly treated.

A short bark and the flapping of wings interrupted her as she jumped to her feet, stumbling outside just in time to see Noctowl swooping in to land. It was only now that Lyra realised that she had no clue how JT was going to land with getting crushed by the massive bird but Zero reacted with his customary lightning speed.

He charged forward, ducking just under the swooping owl and catching JT as Noctowl let go; the manouvre was so perfect it seemed practiced, Zero sliding to a stop as Noctowl clattered awkwardly on the slate. Lyra breathed a sigh of relief,

"Good job, Zero" she said, reaching out with an unfamiliar pokeball, "You too, Noctowl". With a flash of red light, the flying type retreated into his pokeball, likely glad to have a rest.

"Alright, let's get him inside" Lyra said, motioning with her head to the trainer held protectively by the Scizor; he followed her inside without a sound. Seemingly sensing her intentions, Eevee leapt ahead, digging into the pile of blankets they had been using as sleeping bags for the past two weeks, and dragging a large thick blanket clear. Smiling at the little pokemon, Lyra took hold of the blanket and began to set up a bed area for the unconcious JT.

"Zero, put him down here when we're done and then go and stand guard outside," she said, wrestling the blanket into a vaguely rectangular shape and darting over to the blanket pile for a couple of pillows.

"If those guys show up here," she paused in her preparations, clenching her teeth tightly and kneading the pillow in her hands, "kill them". The Scizor nodded sharply, gently placing his trainer on the blanket as Lyra slipped a pillow under JT's head and turned away tensely, marching outside angrily.

Lyra watched her friend twitch for a long second, hands shaking in rage and fear and pent-up adrenaline and the fought back tears. Slowly, she slipped a blanket over JT, resting a hand on his shaking chest,

Oh JT, she thought, What have they done to you?

"Excellent work, my old friend"

A flash of light and Guy was stood in clearing, pokeball in hand, surrounded by destroyed trees and various unconcious members of Team Rocket. He growled angrily as he stared at the face of the nearest one, no older than his own daughter and already dragged into this life.

He decided to leave the Rockets where they were, no doubt other members would be along to collect them shortly and he needed the organisation to fear what had happened here. Fear, after all, was the ultimate deterrant.

He looked again at the youth, an idea springing to mind; maybe a few old school mind games would be appropriate here. He doubted Sazo would know what it meant but others would. And it would terrify them.

He smirked, reaching down and plucking the cap from the boys head; Blue would love this. He bit his finger harshly, grimacing at the sharp pain as he drew blood. He began to painstakingly smear his blood onto the cap, continuing on from the R device on the cap.

He finished his work and placed it carefully on the boy's chest, angling it so that any rescue team would notice it immediately. He turned to go, ensuring that he didn't leave any tracks as he left the clearing, and paused on the edge, staring back at his handiwork with a smirk.

Oh yeah, Blue would've loved that.

The Rocket's hat perched easily atop the boy, stained with Guy's blood. The cap was no longer a simple cap, it was a message. A message of a single word.


Lyra hugged her jacket closer as she stepped back out into the night, sending a nod in the direction of an alert Scizor. Eevee trailed her carefully, with Blitz along to provide light and protection.

She was loath to leave her friend alone and shivering in the cave but she had to release Houndoom before he broke out on his own and went on a rampage. That would be a disaster.

She took a deep breath as she pulled out the pokeball and held it readily in her hand; it was suprisingly hot, apparently struggling to hold the powerful dark-type. She pressed the release button and watched as the pokemon spilled from it's prison in a blaze of white light. Blitz was immediately in front of her, growling low as the Houndoom turned to her with furious eyes.

"I'm sorry, Houndoom. I had to keep us moving" Lyra explained quickly, throwing the pokeball to the ground at the pokemon's feet. It glared at her suspiciously, hackles raised in anger before it turned and bounded away into the night with a snarl.

That went better than expected. The girl left the pokeball on the ground and turned away, heading back to the cave which housed her best friend. As she reached the entrance a howl echoed over the slate. She smiled.

[Ovidian Log K08:

K08 - Money. The necessary vice that drives our world. My theories are bound by what I can scratch together or garner from easy investors.

Perhaps I should go to the real money. I have heard of a criminal organization that is re-forming. Now would be the perfect time to find a steady backer]