POTENTIALLY REQUIRED DISCLAIMER: As previously mentioned, I totally own Pokémon.

Chapter 16: Useful Information

"Hey, have any of you guys seen Lare?" asked Nore.

"Nope" said one of the random bandana guys. "Not in a while" said a bodybuilder.

"Well, keep an eye out" said the Cipher Peon. "She was supposed to be manning the front desk."

"Probably went on break" muttered the bodybuilder, munching on a protein bar.

"Whatever" said Nore, walking down the hallway. "Let me know if you see her. I'm her squad leader, so if she goes missing it makes me look bad."

"Gee, none of us want that" said a hunter, rolling his eyes. One of the girls snickered.

"Real funny" said Nore. "Just be on the lookout for anything suspicious. If anyone tries to get through here who's not one of us, beat 'em up and call me. Got it?"

"Sure, sure, whatever" said a kid on roller skates. (Why did Miror be hire a kid on roller skates to help guard his HQ?)

"Amateurs" Nore muttered, walking down an empty hallway. "They couldn't stop a Butterfree."

"You've got that right" came a voice behind him. Nore whirled around, only to be sucker-punched in the gut.

"You really need to beef up your security" said Wes, grabbing Nore's arms and pinning the peon to a wall. True he had the pokémon he'd stolen before, but he couldn't risk them turning on him if let out of their pokéballs. "Now where are my Umbreon and Espeon?"

"Those two pokémon?" Nore muttered. "They've already been shipped out to the lab. If you ever see them again, you won't recognize them, and they won't recognize you."

"Where is this lab?" Wes demanded, pressing Nore's head against the wall. "What do they do there?"

"Doesn't matter" said Nore. "You'd never get in. Too much security. Way better than this crummy place. Hope you said goodbye to your pokémon before we took them."

A footstep echoed down the hall. Wes bashed Nore's head against the wall and tossed his unconscious body into an alcove.

Gonzap appeared, following another man in the same blue outfit as Nore.

"Up those stairs, first door on the right" the peon said, gesturing to a some stairs before turning around and leaving. Gonzap opened the door and entered.

Gonzap? Here? Wes thought. His first instinct was to run, but he quashed that. If he was going to find that lab, he was going to have to know who he was dealing with.

Wes stood up and creeped over to the stairs. Light filtered in from above. After a second of quiet, Wes crept out onto the roof. The wind whipped around and moaned, while moonlight came down from above. Various lights on the ground illuminated different parts of Pyrite.

Is it night already? he wondered.

He could see the door that the peon had been talking about. It was closed, but there was a window. Sneaking up to it, Wes was able to get a good view inside, while still concealing himself in shadow.

Gonzap was inside, talking with a television screen. On the screen was a rather strange looking man with red eyes and purplish hair that looked like a Cradily's tentacles.

"Please explain to me, Mr. Gonzap," the man was saying "why we should continue to utilize the services of Team Snagem, especially given that the primary multi-million pokédollar snag machine we provided you was destroyed by one. of. your. own. men?"

The man was not in a good mood. That much was clear. His displeasure was radiating through the screen, his purple hair whipping all around.

"Hey, now, Nascour" Gonzap growled. "There's still the portable snag machine, and Wes was a bad egg. Besides, he's been taken care of."

"Indeed he has" 'Nascour' said. "Which is why the Pyrite Town police force is currently investigating the warehouse where you took him."

"They're... what?" Gonzap roared, turning to storm out of the room.

"Don't rush" Nascour said. "Your men are already in police custody. It appears that Wes disabled all of them and escaped."

"I... they... he'll..." Gonzap seemed to have lost his ability to form coherent sentences. Wes allowed himself a little smile.

"So, Mr. Gonzap" Nascour said. "You have a single snag machine, you've lost half of your men and Wes is still on the loose. Perhaps you now see why I am reluctant to continue our association with Team Snagem?"

"I'll find him" Gonzap shouted. "I'll find him and pummel him into dust!"

"I do hope so, Mr. Gonzap. Or else Team Snagem will be without their main client and with the police breathing down your necks. And we wouldn't want that."

"No" Gonzap muttered. "No we don't." He turned and left the room as fast as he could while still trying to look like he wasn't rushing. Wes stood completely still, but he needn't have bothered. Gonzap wasn't paying attention.

Wes smiled a little more. Of course, this meant that Gonzap was going to pursue him even harder than he would have otherwise, but there was nothing like seeing the old man get humiliated.

Wes was about to move forwards to investigate the room when another set of footsteps rose up the stairs. Wes froze and retreated back into the darkness. After a second, a man in green-colored Nore-like armor appeared, entering the room.

"You wanted to see me, sir?" said the man.

"Yes, Verde" said Nascour. "Dakim is on a mission at Mt. Battle and Skrub is tying up some loose ends in Agate Village. I need you to run security on the Under Subway. With Wes on the loose, we cannot afford any disruptions to the transport of shadow pokémon. Understand?"

"Of course, sir" said Verde.

Of course thought Wes, making mental notes of all of the things he was supposed to be kept away from.

"There is also the matter of the girl Miror B's men picked up. Ensure that she is delivered to Ein at once."

Girl? What girl?

"Um... sir?" said Verde, sounding nervous.

"Yes?" Nascour asked.

"It appears that Miror's men may have allowed her to escape, along with another prisoner. Rosso and Bluno are tracking her now."

Nascour slammed his hand down on his desk so hard that the camera shook. "Where was Miror B during all of this?"

"Um... At a, er, dance rehearsal, I believe. Local studio. He said it was important."

Nascour swore. "Ensure that the girl is re-secured as soon as possible. We CANNOT afford any more mistakes, not with Realgem Tower about to open."

Realgem Tower? Wes wondered. That big colosseum in the desert? What do these guys have to do with that?

"As I said, Bluno and Rosso are dealing with it now. They should have the prisoners back in custody in no time."

"Tell them that they'd better" Nascour growled, his wavy hair getting wilder by the second. "It is now even more critical that Shadow Liner be able to operate without delays. When you get to the Under, tell Venus to have her troops do a full sweep of the town. The next train departs for the lab at 8:30 tomorrow morning, and I don't want any more surprises."

"Yes, sir" said Verde. He turned to leave, only to stop. "If I may ask, sir, are you really going to give Team Snagem another chance?"

Nascour thought for a second. "Probably not. Their incompetence is astounding, and we already have enough pokémon for the moment, especially combined with the spoils of a recent operation in Hoenn. We will need more, of course, but those may be more easily obtained in other regions. For the moment, however, Gonzap is still useful. As long as he is hunting Wes, I will consider him to be an asset. Afterwards, we may need to dispose of him. I'll give you further orders when the time comes."

"Yes sir" said Verde. The screen flickered and went blank as the peon left the room.

Wes waited a minute until everything was quiet before he emerged from his hiding place. That had been a lot of information about a lot of things. Back when he was a part of Snagem, he had thought that they were simply selling their snags on the black market to unscrupulous trainers. Clearly, their main client had been something much bigger.

The wavy-haired man on the screen had mentioned a train down in the Under was transporting shadow pokémon, whatever they were. And he mentioned a lab... that must be where Umbreon and Espeon had been taken. If that was the case, then it sounded like his next stop would be the Under. But first...

Wes walked over to the screen and checked the wires. Sure enough, it lead to a telephone router, which appeared to be connected to an antenna on the roof. Wes jammed his P*DA into the USB port on the back of the router. Normal P*DA's couldn't do this, of course, but what kind of thief keeps their electronics standard-model?

After a second or two, Wes had a list of videophone numbers, all of which had made a call to this location within the last week. None of the numbers looked familiar, but the area codes were all over the place. Wes recognized a few as local numbers-Pyrite, Phenac, Gateon Port-as well as a couple from other regions, like Johto and Almia. If he had a phone book he might be able to get some more information, but right now all he got was a general idea of the scale of this operation, unlike anything he'd ever seen before.

Just who are these guys? he wondered, pocketing his P*DA.

It didn't matter, really. They still had Umbreon and Espeon, which meant that they still had to deal with him.

Their mistake.

I should note that I have not had a single pokémon vs pokémon battle this entire story.

Wait.. that's not true. Castform Guy beat up Folly back in chapter 3. Never mind.

Ultimate Black Ace: You never know who you'll run into in the fight against evil...