Infection

Prologue: Coup D'état

"Get in there and shut up."

Two armed escorts/guards pushed their half guest/half prisoner into a small, windowless room and shut the door behind him. Fittingly, the interior appeared to have been designed by someone who hadn't been sure if they had wanted a waiting room or a holding cell. The decorations were comfortable, if somewhat dark, and there was a small table in one corner that held a few magazines, although he had no intention or desire to pick one up. But the unmistakable clang of a heavy bar and bolt being placed across the door made it very clear that no one left this room until the Boss said so.

One of the guards spoke gruffly through the locked door. "He'll call you in soon. If I was you, I'd be thinking of what I was going to say reeeeeal quick; the Boss just hates when some nobody comes in and wastes his time. And people the Boss hates don't last very long around here."

"I'll remember that," the prisoner muttered back under hi s breath.

His lip curled in disgust as the escort/guards walked away. Were these really the types of people he was trying to align himself with?

"Nothing but a bunch of bullies and crooks," he told the blank walls. "With no more than half a brain between the lot of them."

Of course, it would be his immediate goal to fix that if all went as planned. But the uniforms on the brusque guards had called up memories of his old group, disbanded more than a year prior. Now that had been a team of good people; idealists, perhaps, but every single one of them had goals and dreams other than just stealing Pokémon and getting rich. Given the choice between them and the group he was seeing today, he'd pick the old one a thousand times over.

But then… beggars can't be choosers, he thought. He looked down at himself, feeling somewhat disgusted once again at the clothes he wore: once white and clean, now gray and tattered from constant use. A beggar… he'd been exactly that ever since the fall of the old Team…


Just Over One Year Ago

Breeeep! Breeeep! Breeeep!

Deep inside Team Galactic's headquarters, the intruder alarm was sounding, calling all available men to defend the base. But one man stood alone in one of the most isolated rooms, thunderstruck by what had just happened to him.

"Wretched children…"

Stepping dazedly through the wrecked rubble of what was once his personal base of operations, the high-ranking Galactic glanced over the area, wondering over what the intruders had done. It was nothing short of amazing, considering how young and inexperienced they had appeared, that they had done so much damage so quickly. Years of work synthesizing the materials, creating the process to take those raw materials and turn them into something useful… in short, preparing everything for his leader… it was all gone now, in the blink of an eye.

"Not that he was planning to use my ideas anyway…" he mused. "His plans were totally different. Perhaps if I had completed my research faster..."

The researcher sighed. "But then, control was never his goal. He wanted to recreate the world… A fool's notion from the beginning. If he had only listened, he could have made this one exactly what he wanted… Even now, there's a bit left. Perhaps if he is mistaken… If he fails… There could still be a chance to change his mind..."

Driven by this notion, he moved to the back of the room, where his computer terminal sat. It was opened and logged on, the three intruders having had just rifled through all his files before making their escape. Luckily, they hadn't stumbled upon the two most important programs on the thing; if they had known about his reserves, all would have been lost. But they hadn't known, hadn't asked, and now he was left with the thought that perhaps his work wasn't all gone.

And as long as that last bit remained, he could start again.

The researcher scanned quickly through several layers of protected files. He had put quite the effort into making sure that absolutely no one would ever find the two instructions that were hidden in this, his personal workstation, and no one ever had. Not even his superiors knew about them. He had put them in as a failsafe, just in case the base was compromised and he needed to make a very quick exit. Three tenets he lived by, and they had never failed him before: never appear to be in control (it makes you a target), never make the first move (the second move has the advantage of seeing the first), and never do anything without a backup plan.

(Just in case.)

The deepest file was aptly named by that thought: "JUSTINCASE". Opening it, he ran the first program: "SECRETPLACE".

Immediately, he heard a soft click from the table under the computer as the hidden compartment he had installed unlocked. He hastily grabbed the handle of the top drawer and pulled it all the way out. Papers scattered and joined the pile of debris as he threw it away, freeing him to reach in and open another drawer that had been hidden behind the first.

Ripping it from within, the researcher was relieved to see that the contents were still there. He set the drawer down next to the computer, then pulled out the lone item within: a small, unadorned black cube about the size of a jewelry box. Please… let there be a bit left, he thought, readying himself for disappointment, just in case it was all gone.

But before he could act, a shout disrupted him. From the lobby of the headquarters, he heard someone cry "Police! Nobody move!"

Time's up.

One hand pulled out the lone Pokéball he carried as his other selected the very last program on the computer and started it running. In the tiny span of moments he had while it started up, he opened the Pokéball, releasing his Natu, and used the free hand to grab and pocket the black box. The tiny green bird looked at him quizzically, expecting its normal order for a Teleport. It was not disappointed.

"Natu, I need you to be ready to Teleport us both as far away as you can manage on my signal. Understood?"

Natu chirped a quiet acknowledgement.

The scientist turned back to the computer, where his program, "FAILSAFE" was waiting for him. He typed out a set of passwords, fingers flying across the keys, and as he typed the last one, he cried "Now!"

An instant before Natu sent them away, he pressed enter and the program began to execute.

The instant after, the police burst through the door.

Later, in their searches of his lab and his computer, they would find a great deal of information on Team Galactic's plans. Along with the data from the other terminals around the base, as well as witness testimonies and a few captured grunts who were all too eager to give up everything in exchange for a bit of leniency, they were able to gather all the evidence they could ever need to put everyone who had been in any kind of contact with Team Galactic behind bars.

Except one.

The researcher's program had done its job well. In the few minutes it had taken the police to clean out the base, it had run through every file on every computer Galactic owned, wiping out every trace of evidence that he had ever been there. It took his name off of rosters, erased his personal research projects, and generally made him untouchable. For that matter, the police never even knew he existed.

And the scientist named Leon got away from the whole mess scot-free.


It came as no surprise to Leon a few days later when, sitting in the lobby of the Eterna City Pokémon Center, he saw a news report detailing the failure of Team Galactic's attempts to summon and control three Legendary Pokémon, all at the hands of the very same group of kids who had wrecked his plans. Then came the inevitable list of those people who had been captured either at the base or on Mount Coronet, all of whom were expected to be in prison for a long, long time.

Finally, Leon watched nervously as the short list of names came up he had been waiting for: those still at large. There was Pokémon Hunter J, of course, as well as their Boss Cyrus, who had disappeared at Spear Pillar. Then there were a few low-level grunts who had been away when the base was invaded, and had managed to slip away from the police chasing them. All these names, as well as their pictures and information, were plastered across the screen for the world to see: once they came out of hiding, they were sure to be caught quickly.

His own name, however, did not come up at all.

So it was a very cheerful man who stepped out of that Center, with not a spot on his record and a world of possibilities open before him. He was soon to learn, however, that possibilities weren't quite enough.

Other than the bit of material he had rescued from the base, he had nothing. He had no job, no real home, and no history that anyone could connect to. He tried to find a university position in Sinnoh, but those all fell through at the interview stage. He had nothing to tell them about what he had been doing for the past decade, and that was just too much for any of them to take lightly. And it was that way everywhere he looked: credit card companies turned him down, he couldn't get even a part-time job, and between applications and travel, he quickly burned through his savings. After a last-ditch effort applying to the technology research firm of Silph Co. in Saffron City, he was left alone and penniless, stranded in the middle of Kanto.

For months, he had lived without a home. He quickly learned to keep moving, since no city's police would abide a hobo sticking around for long. He had to scrounge for scraps, sleep in the lobbies of Pokémon Centers, and do whatever jobs fell his way. With constant effort, he barely managed to scrape up enough to feed himself and Natu and keep going.

Then, on the whispers of the wind, he had heard something that had given him hope: rumors of another Team, Team Rocket, that operated in Kanto's darkest corners. A vast underground organization of thieves and men who dreamed of power, their guerilla tactics and terrorist plots were striking fear into the hearts of Kanto citizens everywhere, and though there hadn't been any major attacks yet, it seemed only a matter of time until the rogues started escalating that way.

For the first time in nearly a year, Leon started planning again. He knew that he possessed the power to gain control of that group, this Team, but how to go about it? And how to contact them?

It had taken him a month more to develop his plan, and a few days more to put it in place. He travelled back to Celadon, where he had heard rumors of a Rocket hideout. He looked for a point of contact, but he could find nothing, and so he had to take a risk to attract them, breaking his usual tenets of never making the first move and never moving without a backup plan. In the end he simply walked through town, loudly asking everyone there if they had met Team Rocket, and how one could contact them. After about two hours of this, he was picked up on a street corner by two very burly men and taken to their blacked-out van to be "dealt with." It was only by a stellar display of debate that he was able to convince them that he needed to see their leader more than they needed to find a quiet place to dispose of him. And it was even harder to convince the "executive" in charge that he desperately needed to speak with the head of Team Rocket in person. But somehow, miraculously, he broke through. And so they had bundled him into that very same van and driven for hours along some meandering route towards their main headquarters.

And now, finally, he was on his way back to the top.


If I can just get close enough to touch him… That was all he would need. One instant of contact, and everything else would fall into place. Leon knew this. Sticking his hands in his pockets, he lightly touched the two items in them: tiny relics of his past, and hopefully of his future. They were the keys to his success. And now he stood at the door.

Clang!

And speaking of doors…

Leon quickly removed his hands from his pockets and stood up at attention. The two guards from before filed in.

"He calls for you."

"Right, then," Leon said. "So you'll escort me…"

"In and out," the Rocket confirmed.

"And if you don't prove useful, we'll be taking you…" The other chuckled with black mirth. "Well, I'll leave that to your imagination."

Leon resisted the urge to quaver at this. After all, he did have something useful. It was convincing their Boss of that enough to pique his interest that would prove difficult.

He was led with a guard on each arm through the windowless facility. They passed not a soul as they moved up several stairwells, until finally they came to a twin set of hardwood doors flanked on each side by two elite Rockets.

The doormen were blunt. "You will go in. You will not speak unless told to do so. And you will not move without permission. If you break any of those rules, he will call for us, and we will make your life unpleasant and short. Do you understand?"

At this, Leon could only nod.

On each side of the door, a guard grasped a handle, and together they pulled the way open. Leon was somehow unnerved at how quietly everything went: it seemed like something should be creaking, or grunting, or dragging, but it was all perfectly in sync, and perfectly silent.

From the dark depths of the room, he heard someone say "Enter." It was terribly difficult to fight through his fear, but Leon just managed to lift up a foot and start moving forward. The instant he cleared the threshold, the doors slammed shut behind him with a thunderous crash. He was left in the room, apparently alone. The exact shape and size of the room was hidden by near total darkness at the edges, but a spotlight created a small circle of light on a red carpet in the center.

"Move forward into the light," the same voice said. Leon could barely make out where it was coming from, but when he looked, he saw a faint outline of a man in the darkness. Leon nearly panicked here, realizing that it might not be possible to get close to this man fast enough to touch him before the guards came, but he steeled his resolve and walked forward. No turning back now, anyway. I'll simply have to improvise.

"Now, then, Mr. Leon… What have you brought me? What was so urgent that it was worth me spending the time and money to bring you here? And I warn you…" Leon was sure he saw eyes flash in the darkness. "If you don't have something that will return that investment, I promise that it will be wrung out of you, one way or another."

"Yes, sir," Leon said. "Sir… what do you desire?"

"Excuse me?" The Boss said, surprised momentarily by his forwardness.

"What do you want?" Leon repeated. "What are you working towards with this Team?"

Recovering, Team Rocket's leader returned to his "business voice." "Team Rocket has a plainly stated goal: Through theft, research, and force, to gain enough influence to take control of the Kanto region in the short term, with the eventual hope of controlling the entire globe. This is well known."

Leon smiled wide. "Then I believe I can be of assistance."

"Then tell me how!" The Boss demanded, slamming a fist onto his desk. "I didn't allow you to come here to play games with me! I want a method, a plan, something constructive!"

"I have all of that. But…" Leon bit his lip. "I don't know how to show you. I could, but… could you come to me?"

"What?" he cried in fury. "You dare—"

"It will take only a moment," Leon promised, sweat beading up on his brow. "And what I can promise you is absolute control over every man, woman, and child in Kanto. Even the wild Pokémon, if that is your desire. All I ask is one moment of your time and trust."

The shadows growled. "If you lie… If you make any moves at all beyond what I allow, I will turn your existence into a hell beyond your imagining."

"I am willing to accept that risk."

The faint outline vanished as the leader stood. He walked carefully around something, probably a desk, and stood at the very edge of the light, making sure his face was still well hidden in shadow.

"Well?" He demanded.

Leon smiled once more and held out a hand. "If you would be so kind?"

Please, please, please, he silently prayed.

For a moment, the man considered it; he held up a hand cautiously. Then with a casual "hmph" he gave in and shook.

In the instant that they touched, a spark jumped across from Leon to the Boss. It was a tiny thing, something that the old man barely even noticed; at most, he made a small mental note to get the carpet removed. But inside himself, feeling that connection, Leon was jumping for joy. Because he had felt it before, and he knew what it meant:

Victory!

"You can sit back down now," Leon remarked casually, relaxing completely as the reality of his success sank in. From the inside pocket of his ruined lab coat, he pulled out a pair of gloves, gloves which, unlike the rest of his clothes, were carefully kept in perfect condition. He slipped the pair on, flexing the fingers and sighing happily as he felt the connection to the Boss grow stronger. "Oh, and hit the lights on your way there, please."

The Boss, hearing this, blew up. In an instant he was shouting for the guards to come take this imbecile away, already mentally planning the many torments to be visited upon him over the next few days.

At least, that was what was supposed to happen.

In reality, the Boss turned and walked stiffly away from Leon, his legs moving and mouth not moving seemingly of their own accord, and sat back in his seat. His hand moved to flip a switch under his desk, and the lights in the area came on full.

And Leon laughed. "Yes! Yes! Yes!" In his utter joy, he even danced a little. "I'm back to the top again! And now!" He looked across the room to take a better look at the man who had, somehow, lost control of everything, including himself. He was heavily built, with a square face and jaw to match his shoulders, and he wore a revolting orange tuxedo over a green shirt. "Ugh!" Leon exclaimed. "Who makes you wear that?"

The Boss' tongue felt like it was made of lead as he forced words out through Leon's mysterious chokehold. "What did you…"

Leon cut off the man's attempts to speak with an order. "Tell me your name."

Instantly, he was compelled to respond. "Giovanni Terremoto." Then, keeping his mouth moving after that statement, he pushed out a moan of "What's happening to me?"

"Oh, that," Leon replied indifferently. "It's precisely as I told you: absolute control." He gave Giovanni a cruel grin. "I never said that that control would be in your hands, though, did I?" And he laughed again at the growing horror and fury in Giovanni's eyes.

"I've left you your mind, for the moment," Leon remarked, "because I want you to understand, to know exactly what I have done, before I take all of your free will away. But don't worry; you'll be blissfully at peace with of all this in just a few minutes."

Giovanni tried to lunge at his captor, but all he succeeded in producing was a quiet growl of fury.

Leon shook his head. "Now, now, Giovanni." He shook a finger like a scolding mother. "Watch that temper. Especially when you're talking to someone with absolute control over everything you do!" As Leon stressed those three words, Giovanni felt his back curve, and his head was slammed into the glass surface of his desk three times. Despite himself, Giovanni felt his eyes well up for a moment at the pain. Two small tears slipped onto the desk; they were soon joined by several drops of blood from his gashed forehead.

"Oh, dear," Leon mocked. "I've made the little boy cry."

Giovanni couldn't find it in himself to try and attack again. And as Leon felt the lack of resistance from his puppet, he knew that he had broken his will at last. So he decided to finish Giovanni off by telling him the truth in the whole matter.

"Just over a year ago," Leon said, "I was a scientist working for Team Galactic."

"That terrorist group from Sinnoh? I thought they were all rounded up and—" Giovanni felt his teeth clamp together, cutting off his words, if not his thoughts.

Leon scowled. "Quite clearly, they were not. I am the last, because I was the only one farsighted enough to think of an escape plan." The sour look disappeared from his face as he continued. "My research helped with a project to refine material, known as Red Chain, into a form that could be used to control Sinnoh's Dragons." He sighed. "A project which, unfortunately, failed. But my team, thinking ahead, had discovered another use for Red Chain fragments." He held up one of his gloves with the palm out towards Giovanni, showing him a large red gem set in the palm. "When they're synchronized correctly with a "parent" piece of the Chain… they can be used to control the mind of any living thing, human and Pokémon alike.

"Unfortunately, almost all of my synchronized material was rendered useless when Galactic fell. All I was able to get away with were these extra Control Gem gloves, and two synchronized fragments." He held up the other hand; between his thumb and forefinger was a tiny piece of translucent red material. Leon wore his sadistic grin again as he added, "I think you can figure out where the other piece is."

In a flash of insight, Giovanni realized how he had been tricked. As one last insult, Leon mentally forced him to look down at the desk, where his palm was facing up. There in the center of Giovanni's left hand was the Red Chain piece. It gazed at him with a bloody stare that seemed to pierce through his eyes into his soul.

"And now," Leon said, "it's time for me to bid you farewell." The Control Gem on his outstretched palm started to glow, bathing the room in a surreal red light. "Don't worry, though," he promised cruelly. "I'll take good care of your shell."

Giovanni's body was forced to be silent, but in the halls of his mind he screamed and cried as his vision grew red and his thoughts dimmed, falling from coherency into vague emotions, and then even further into the workings of animal instinct. Then the screams stopped completely as the red image became all that occupied his mind.

Leon lowered his hand and looked closely at his new puppet for any remaining trace of determination. He found none.

"You will continue to run Team Rocket according to my instructions," Leon ordered. "You will go about your daily life as normal. If asked, you will deny that this meeting ever occurred. Understood?"

"Yes, Leon." Giovanni no longer gave any resistance; these words were his own. His will, the thing in his soul that had pushed him to fight, had been banished if it hadn't been destroyed outright. All that was left was an overwhelming desire to do whatever Leon told him to the best of his ability.

"You will set me up a team of scientists, and you will give me a position at the head of that team. I will answer to no one. This team will be kept under the tightest security and secrecy until I tell you otherwise."

"I understand, Leon. It will be done immediately."

Leon thought for a moment. That would be all he needed for the time being. Eventually further steps would have to be taken, but until further work was done he wouldn't know what to order.

"That will do for my plans, Giovanni. In the short term, I will require the best quarters you can provide." Leon noted the state of his clothes again with disdain and added "And get me something new to wear, as well. I prefer white." He turned away from Giovanni, indicating (as Giovanni himself had done many times before) that the audience was over.

Giovanni nodded, and he stood to order the guards back in. "At once, Leon."

"And one last thing!" Leon demanded, whirling on the spot and pointing vehemently at his slave. "I will not answer to that name. Not ever again."

"Yes, sir. What would you prefer to be called?"

His hand fell, and he was silent for a long moment. He looked at the gem in his palm, the symbol of his chosen path. "I chose my name long ago, when I chose to separate myself from my peers and seek a greater destiny in the ranks of Team Galactic. Though my team has dissolved, I will carry their spirit in my actions and my name as I strive to reach our old goal." He clenched his fist as he continued, "The new world we dreamed of will be created from this one: a perfect world without crime, without fear, without tearing emotion. And I will rule over that world with the title I have chosen, a name all will come to know and obey."

And the puppet master raised his head again to glare into his slave's eyes.

"You will call me Quasar."


End of Prologue

Notes:

I. HAVE. RETURNED!

Isn't it exciting? I'm done! I finished Basic about a month ago, and since then I've worked on this. It took me longer than I expected, what with outlining, characterization, refining, and what have you. And I admit that I stalled a bit, because I was wavering on whether to do this story now or not, and if so if THIS was definitely the story I wanted to go with. But I eventually came to the conclusion that it was going to nag at me until I finished it, so I'd better go ahead and start on it now. And then I started writing, hit a block, broke through it, and finished most of this in one sitting. I've got ideas for the next chapter, but nothing started yet; I'll probably start on it… uh… tomorrow. Or next weekend. Or sometime this week, if I get bored and have nothing to do. Whatever!

Anyway, since I didn't say so at the beginning, welcome! After six months, I've finally decided to start on my next novel, Infection, which is the full-length sequel to Of Creation and Destruction. Next chapter, we'll start in with the old crowd, beginning with Ash and Misty and working in whomever else decides they want to show up. Probably the big B for sure, then… Lance? Yeah, him too. Pikachu, clearly. Uh… Maybe someone else. It all depends. Anyway, there'll be excitement, and romance, and jokes, and a mission, and probably some soul-searching, plus whatever else I toss in. It's gonna be a blast!

But I'm not quite sure how this is going to go this time. When I started OCAD, I had an outline before I even posted chapter one (of course, that outline was moot by the time we hit chapter six, but whatever). This time, I'm winging it at the moment. I've got a pretty good idea of where we're going, but none of it is super-concrete yet. But I DO definitely have chapter one and most of two in stone, so don't worry about that. I'm just saying there might be a bit of delay whilst I figure that out at some point. Hopefully I'll do it one piece at a time, so there won't be one big stop while I do it all at once.

Uh… anyway… I've missed writing! And I've missed my reviewers, so please review so I can see what you think of my latest efforts. Did not writing for two months kill me? Do I suck now? I hope not, but only you can let me know! Do so!

Seriously, do it!

Oh, and life update, since you're already here: clearly, I went to basic, defeated it, and now I'm based in Mississippi, where I will eventually start learning my job so they can make me do it somewhere else. Other than that, the only thing that's happened in relevance to this is that my family learned all about this stuff (Hi, Mom!) and they were extremely supportive and, honestly, everything I could have hoped for. I'm so lucky. Xp

But that's it from me this time! I'll see you in two years! Bye!

James, aka FTEcho 4


P.S.

That's two years in the story, of course. What, you didn't think I'd leave you hanging that long, did you?