Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Pokémon. What is your favorite Pokémon game ever? I don't just mean the ones put out on the handhelds. I will also accept proper console games as well. For instance, Pokémon HeartGold is my favorite, but I have a soft spot for Pokémon Snap on the N64. Such a dumb game, but I loved it back when I rented it as a kid.

And thank goodness I only rented it. It would have been really hard to justify it as a legit purchase, even back in the day.

Chapter 28: Pushin' Forward Back


Naruto stood in front of a rather non-descript store with a befuddled, underwhelmed expression on his face.

After waking up and getting ready to find the hideout of Team Rocket that Janine's Grimer had hitched a ride to, he had expected something more dramatic. With all of the woods and mountains nearby, he expected a gigantic base nestled in the mountains, even though Ranbouen's nose had already told them that it was somewhere in Mahogany Town.

Still, his imagination had gone wild with speculation after being allowed a night to sit and think.

Ranbouen butted Naruto from behind with his large muzzle, trying to coax the boy forward. It was as if he were telling Naruto that this was what he'd asked for, so why wasn't he going inside?

"Err," Naruto said, reaching back to rub the massive Arcanine on its head to placate him, "…If you say so, boy," If the gigantic dog-thing in his Pokémon party said to go inside, who was he to question it? He wasn't convinced, but Ranbouen had always been reliable. He would get the benefit of the doubt until he was wrong, and probably would even after he was.

Cracking his neck to loosen up, Naruto walked up to the front door and prepared to kick it open action hero-style, only for Janine to grab him by the back of his collar before he could extend his foot.

"Down, boy," Janine commented with a grin, clearly speaking to Naruto, "Let's not tip over the apple cart just yet."

"But I wanna hit something," Naruto complained, returning Ranbouen to his Poké Ball.

"I'm pretty sure you'll get enough of that in just a bit," Janine said, her eyes carefully scanning the exterior of the shop. It was old and rustic, much like many of the other quaint buildings in Mahogany Town. It didn't exactly scream 'base for evil organization', "I like getting final, concrete evidence before waging all-out assaults on places. Can't really get that by kicking in doors."

Naruto shut his eyes and threw his hands up behind his neck, "We might catch 'em in the middle of doing something evil, out in the open. That'd be all the evidence we need," Janine turned to give him a bemused smile, eliciting a shrug out of him, "Hey, it could happen."

With that, the two of them went inside. On the few shelves inside they found Poké Balls and Potions for sale, as well as basic canned and packaged foods, but that was it. It was the most bare-bones stock they had seen in any store they had ever been in, small town or not.

Naruto picked up one of the Poké Balls they had sitting in crates out in the open and looked it over.

The Poké Balls didn't seem brand new. That was odd. He had never seen stores sell anything other than shiny or pristine-looking balls. Even the tiny mom and pop places that could be found from time to time out on the roads for weary travelers. They didn't have much either normally, but what they did have in supply was in top condition that would be expected from any establishment

Janine wandered up to the counter with a pleasant smile on her face. It was easier to get the drop on someone if need be when you came with a smile instead of scowl.

"Welcome to your friendly, neighborhood souvenir shop," The man behind the counter said, "What can I do for you?"

"Oh, I don't know," Janine said, making an exaggerated show of being a hapless customer, "My boyfriend and I are just traveling through town for a vacation in the mountains. Do you have a map or anything?"

"Oh no, don't be that way!" The shopkeeper insisted, "If you're on vacation, you should definitely buy a souvenir to remember the trip. If your boyfriend's any good, he'd be the one over here asking me about what we have instead of you."

Naruto's ears perked up elsewhere in the store, but other than an irritated snort he ignored it, for the time being at least. He really hoped that this was the right place, as he definitely wanted to wreck some things now. There was a second person following him around the store that Naruto kept in the corner of his eye as he pretended to browse.

Janine kept laughing and playing up her act at the counter with the shopkeeper who was eating it all up, "I'll tell you what. I like you, so I'll let you in on one of our more exotic souvenirs," He opened a portion of the counter and revealed a small refrigerator with several pink tails inside, "Straight from the Slowpoke Well in Azalea Town. There are only a few of these left, so you've gotta try these SlowpokeTails before they're all gone. 9800 yen each. Get one for you and your boyfriend," He tried to pitch.

Somewhere along the way, Janine lost her act altogether. She had been aware of the SlowpokeTail trade, the business of keeping Slowpokes trapped in order to constantly cut off their tails that would regenerate over time only to repeat the process. It was rarely ever done in a way that was humane to the Pokémon.

"…You sell SlowpokeTail?" She said in an unreadable tone.

The shift in the girl's demeanor was something that immediately put the shopkeeper on edge. Why, he didn't know. She was so tiny, "...Yes?"

Janine just stared at the shopkeeper for an unnerving amount of time before affixing her fingers to her mouth and letting out a sharp, rhythmic whistle.

From underneath a gigantic, heavy gold cabinet in the corner, dark globs of muck and slime squeezed its way out and amassed into the form of Grimer. The shopkeeper and the second man in the room vocally reacted in surprise.

"Now?" Naruto shouted excitedly from across the store before anyone else could intelligently react.

"Oh yeah," Janine said with an evil smile, right into the face of the shopkeeper. He pulled out a knife and tried to stab her in the neck, only for her to easily block it with protective grieve on her arm. Janine clicked her tongue chidingly.

The second man came charging at her from across the store, only for Naruto to knock over an entire shelf on top of him and sit down on it, grinning the entire time. Janine turned her head to smile back at him, giving the shopkeeper a slight opening to grab a Poké Ball from his belt. He was quickly smothered by Janine's Grimer that smashed him into the wall and stuck him there fast.

The shopkeeper let out a muffled scream as Grimer's disgusting body covered his face and pinned him in place. Janine caught the Poké Ball that fell from his hand before it could release the Pokémon inside, "Grimer, let him talk," With that, a hole big enough for the shopkeeper's nose and mouth opened up, allowing him to cough and greedily suck down fresh air, "Okay, talk."

"Talk about what!?"

"Not much," Janine dished casually, "We already know this is a base for Team Rocket, which means the one that caused that mess at the Lake of Rage is here. So we're going to wherever that passage underneath the cabinet leads to find him and stop him."

"What do you want, you little bitch?"

Janine snapped her fingers and Grimer closed off the breathing hole again, causing the man to start screaming for air, "I don't like that tone," She said, looking over at Naruto, "Do you like his tone?" She snapped her fingers once more, prompting Grimer to reopen the hole, "Let's try that again."

Naruto jumped off of the shelf he was sitting on as he felt a ruckus from underneath. Just as he got away, a Raticate chewed a hole through the wood, followed by the man underneath who crawled his way out, Raticate, Hyper Fang!"

The gigantic rat leapt at Naruto, aiming to rip his belly open with its fangs, "Yow!" Naruto exclaimed, narrowly ducking the attack and retaliating with a hard punch to the belly that sent it headfirst through the ceiling.

The trainer reached for another Poké Ball, not willing to concede the battle despite his situation. Naruto was faster though. With the toss of a kunai, he hit the man right in the wrist, pinning him to the nearest upright shelf bloodily, "Urrrrgh!" He groaned loudly in pain.

Janine turned her attention back to her own captive now that the threat against her had subsided, "Open the door, or I'll make you suffer the way I should after what you bastards did at the Lake of Rage."

The Team Rocket grunt tried to squirm and struggle, but there was no use, trapped as he was, "You can't blame us for that! We're just watching the store! That's our only job!" He said, trying to exonerate himself from any kind of responsibility regarding yesterday's terrible events.

"You're covering Team Rocket's collective asses!" She yelled back at him, "Whether it was the money, the access to Pokémon you couldn't catch on your own, or just because you wanted to feel like a big shot, it doesn't matter to me. You're helping them."

"How's that working out for you right now?" Naruto chimed in from across the store as he browsed for what passed as inventory, "…Man, this stuff sucks."

The fake shopkeeper went silent for a moment before speaking again, "...Turn the radio frequency to 1191 AM."

Janine walked over to the space behind the counter and did just that, ignoring the static she got for trying to tune the radio manually to the channel she was instructed to use. When she reached the proper frequency, the large gold cabinet audibly clicked and began to slide over to the side, revealing the door underneath that popped open.

Satisfied at what she saw, Janine nodded and called her Grimer off of the man, letting him drop to the floor. Whatever happened to him from that point onward wasn't their problem any longer. The two enemies had been thoroughly beaten. Even if they got up anytime soon, they weren't going to have any way to take them on.

The pair threw the door open and stared at the stairwell leading down before Naruto said something, "So, what's the over-under on goons that'll come at us once we get down there?"

Janine looked up from where she'd been crouching to get a closer look, "What, is sneaking not an option?"

Naruto turned away, sticking a finger idly inside of his ear, "I don't really care about sneaking right now," He told her, "Why isn't storming the gates ever an option? Can't we just do that for once?"

Janine gave him an odd look, "Well, we're ninjas. We're supposed to…" She then noticed her attempts to convince him to act tactically were going into one ear and out the other, "…Fine. But you're taking point."

The sheer glee that shined in Naruto's eyes after she said such a thing, "I was going to anyway," And with that, Janine was forced to follow her... (boyfriend?) into the breach. There were many words to describe the young man, but 'boring' or 'hesitant' were not either of them.

XxX

(Team Rocket HQ – Executive's Office)

Two trainers. Two trainers were in the middle of smashing their way through the rank-and-file of Team Rocket. And not just any trainers; the two that had tried to stand up to their aims at the Lake of Rage.

Archer watched their progress through security cameras strewn throughout the first floor. They didn't even bother trying to hide their presence or avoid their guards. It was a waste of time. Either Team Rocket could stop them, or they couldn't. And it looked like they couldn't. Not the members at that level, at least.

Looking over to another side of the room, he saw Silver, trying and failing to seem like he wasn't paying attention. He caught the young man glancing at the screen every so often, standing against the wall, arms crossed. He scowled as was normal, though his fingers drummed off of his biceps impatiently.

"This is pathetic," Silver said, "Is this the best you've got to try and stop them, or are you going to send someone worthwhile before they destroy your entire operation?"

"There's no need to deal with them," Archer replied coolly, "We're almost finished with what we're doing here."

He was interrupted by a sudden transmission that had apparently come through in the meantime, "Oh, yes there is a need to deal with them," Will said, his casually arrogant visage making its presence known on the screen, "Have you forgotten what they have in their possession? The Master Ball. We need it. And if they're stupid enough to come to us, well, if you can't find a use for the base anymore, you might as well get one more bit of mileage out of it before you go."

As a Team Rocket executive, Archer didn't like being told what to do, but it was true that Will outranked him in their organization. That aside, he was eager to please Mask of Ice, "I guess we can be gracious enough to leave it as a grave for two foolish children," With what they had at their disposal, getting rid of their interlopers was entirely possible, "Silver, how do you feel about giving your new capture a second chance to stretch its fins?"

Silver's eyes shone at the idea, though it didn't show on his face or in his actions. He pushed himself off of the wall to leave, presumably to go and meet their enemy, "I'm not doing this for any of you. I just want the pleasure of seeing Uzumaki dead at my feet."

"For now, that's good enough for me," Archer said, before turning his attention to Will. Their last conversation had been less than civil, so he tried to be more diplomatic, "I know what said before about my research, but I've sent the specifications your way. Perhaps one day, a use can be found for them. In the meantime, I've included something extra. I believe I've discovered a breakthrough to what you've asked."

"A method to locate Ho-Oh," Will said, getting a nod of confirmation from Archer, "I'm listening."

Archer folded his hands behind his back, "It all starts with the Legendary Beast Trio," He said, "You are aware of them, aren't you?"

An uncomfortably large smile stretched across Will's face, "Please… go on."

XxX

The first level of the underground base had been an outright battlefield. Thanks to Naruto's 'tactic' of storming right in and taking the enemy head-on, he and Janine basically had to tear through every grunt present.

It hadn't been much of a fight. They couldn't attack at once in enough numbers for it to matter against combatants as powerful as the two intruders. This led to them descending a floor to the second underground level.

This was where the two came to a stop at what they saw.

Through windows, they could see into a tightly secured room where several large white and red ball-shaped Pokémon were connected to a large machine that reached up through the ceiling. Even behind the large metal doors keeping them out, Naruto and Janine could hear the power of the electricity being generated within.

Naruto walked up to the window and pressed his hand against it. The glass was thick. He pounded on it, not even making enough noise to be heard on the other side of it, "What is this supposed to be?"

Janine looked on at his side, a blank expression on her face, "This place..." She said quietly, wondering how she could say this without setting Naruto off, "...They're using the Electrodes as the power source for something. Something big."

The idea of the base housing something important didn't peel Naruto's attention away from the fact that electricity was being forcefully removed from living beings, "Does it hurt them?"

She wouldn't lie to him. He would never have lied to her. If whatever the two of them had was going to work past a little bit of fun, she had to be straightforward with him, "I don't see Team Rocket as the types to rotate them in and out. If they don't, they probably die of exhaustion," The ninja girl said solemnly, "I can imagine it's not too hard to replace them, so why would they care?"

Steal Pokémon for profit. Exploit Pokémon for profit. All Pokémon exist for the glory of Team Rocket. That was what they believed in. How they worked only proved this time and time again.

Furious, Naruto reared back and punched the glass, leaving nary a scratch, "Damn it! I thought we'd dealt with this already!" He exclaimed. Janine didn't flinch despite his anger, "It never ends with people like this! Why? What's the point? Why can't they do it some other way?"

"Because it's easy for them," Janine explained calmly. People who didn't stop to consider such things, or even care to, could find a reason to do anything, "We'll stop them. We just have to find out how to get in there first."

Naruto tried to find some way to breach the door and the window, only to come up short, "I don't think I can get through here," He lamented. He would probably bring the hideout down on their heads before he made it into the generator room, "Maybe we should split up and find a way in."

"Meet back up here in an hour?" Janine said, hopeful that they were on the same page.

Naruto nodded, "Yeah. One of us should have something by then," He said, punching into his palm, "Let's go make some more noise."

Janine laughed and brushed the underside of Naruto's chin with her finger, "You can go make some noise. I will be doing the exact opposite, thank you," She walked away on her own, blowing a kiss as she went.

Naruto watched her go, thinking to himself that he would see her later. All he had to do was hurry up with his side of things and get back to the generator room. Putting a stop to the things going on here was the assignment of the day.

XxX

(Ecruteak City)

Sabrina was glad when she had parted ways with Red after arriving in Ecruteak City. He wasn't openly hostile, but the constant suspicious glances and side remarks about her affiliation with Kanto's Team Rocket got old very quickly. Granted, she had only traveled with him as far as she did because they were going the same way at the same time. She had always preferred being alone.

Unfortunately, she wasn't going to get that so easily. Despite Ecruteak City being in the midst of repairs after the attack of the Elite Four's Bruno, the Gym Leader Morty found it a priority to make sure she wasn't up to any trouble. Sabrina wasn't sure if it was because she used to be a member of Team Rocket, or if it was just because of the natural rivalry between Johto and Kanto Gym Leaders.

Either way, it didn't concern her. Her main issue was with whatever had drawn her there in the first place. She could feel a serious swell of power, and this was one of the epicenters of abnormal activity. Bu running around after the dregs of what was left wasn't her idea of progress. She needed to find something that could get her a step ahead of the game.

That was what brought her to the lake that rested between Ecruteak City proper, and the second of its two top landmarks. The one that wasn't allowed to be viewed by the public. The pristine, majestic, mammoth Bell Tower.

"You believe our legends?"

The voice of the constant shadow she'd had since arriving in the city got her attention. Morty stood nearby, gazing at the same view Sabrina herself took in from a distance.

"Why wouldn't I?" Sabrina replied offended. Damn ghost trainer. It wasn't as if Kanto didn't have its own share of supernatural phenomena. She had personally captured the three most notable ones for her region's Team Rocket, "You're a mystic, but I'm a psychic. What makes you think I would be some kind of skeptic?"

Morty crossed his arms and stared at the relaxing psychic, "You said you didn't care about them."

"And I still don't," Sabrina replied offhandedly, "Legends are stories that people blow out of proportion. Dusty old tales that people use to try and explain things, or make something seem more important than it is. I care about what's real," She closed her eyes and focused on the pressure she could still feel around her, faded though it was, "This is real."

"We don't know what we don't know," Morty offered in return, "Granted, I'm a medium. I kind of have to believe in the unseen. But the stories we have are from legitimate sources. Even though we have these legends, 150 years isn't really that long ago."

What Morty said did little to ease Sabrina's mind, "So what's been going on? Why is all of this happening just now? Why not sooner? Why not later?" None of this made any sense. There was very little available to explain just what was driving all of this forward, "What's the trigger?"

Everything had a reason for happening. Yes, random chance was a thing. But for something so convoluted, so deeply prominent a series of events... there was a lynchpin behind it all. A purpose for some much unfolding in succession.

It was here that Morty was at a loss too. As much as he wanted to look into things, he had a responsibility in helping Ecruteak City get back on its feet, "It's said that Ho-Oh is awaiting a pure-hearted person who will bring people and Pokémon back into harmony with each other, the world over."

Sabrina let out a snort of disbelief. Such sentimental rubbish, "That's a difficult criteria to reach. The world is a big place. Bigger than just this continent," She said before turning her head to give Morty a questioning look, "Don't tell me you believe in that."

"I believe... we're going to find out just what is real, and what isn't. And very soon at that."

XxX

(With Janine – Mahogany Town – Team Rocket HQ)

There wasn't much left to avoid in the hideout. Team Rocket had thrown most of their defenses at Naruto and Janine on the first basement floor. As Janine snuck deeper into the depths of the lair, she eventually came across an office that was set aside.

If there was a place where someone would leave a method to reaching the generator room, it sure seemed like this would be that place.

"The door is open."

Janine's eyes went wide at her being discovered by a person on the inside of the room. She hadn't even touched the door yet, and she hadn't seen any cameras or sensors in the hallway leading up to the office.

Well, if he knew she was there, retreating to hide wouldn't mean anything anyway. She still had to get inside anyway. And if all else failed, she could beat the password out of the person that definitely knew it.

She entered to find a man with teal hair in a white Team Rocket suit. He looked very composed and authoritative, not even looking her way as he placed items into a box.

Janine walked into the dimly lit room warily, keeping her eyes peeled for any traps or ambushes, "...Housekeeping~," She sang as she approached. There were monitors all over the place, not only documenting what was going on inside of the base, but around Mahogany Town and at the Lake of Rage, "I hope I'm not intruding on anything important, Mister..."

"Archer. My name is Archer," The man introduced himself, still placing items from his desk inside of the box on top of it. He never looked up, "And you are Janine. It's an honor to have the Fuchsia City Gym Leader here today. How are you enjoying our facilities?"

"Well I like how you renovated what's obviously an old ninja hideout," Janine continued the banter, hand on her hip as she took in her surroundings, "But it's pretty dark and spooky in here. What are you doing in the dark, you weirdo?"

Archer chuckled at the purple-clad girl's attempt to get under his skin, "I don't like it bright. There's no need for lots of unnecessary lights. I can see everything as it is."

"I can see that," Janine said, gesturing to the security monitors, "So I'll just cut to the chase. Give me the password to get into the generator room, and I won't make this the most miserable day of your life."

Archer paused in storing his items away and finally lifted his head to face her, "I'm afraid I can't make things that easy for you. As it stands, we're not quite finished here yet," He told her, tilting his head to the side eerily with a blank stare, "Did you think you could simply march in here, get what you were after, and leave unscathed?"

It wasn't quite as idealistic as he assumed, "What we're after is shutting this place down," Janine said, "Leaving unscathed isn't the point."

Archer rolled his eyes and gave a flippant hand gesture, "Yes, yes. I'm aware of what happened to the Kanto branch, led by our illustrious founder. Hail Giovanni," He said, clearly not holding the late Viridian City Gym Leader in very high regard, "This is a different Team Rocket, dear."

Janine raised an eyebrow and began to slowly walk around to the side of Archer's desk, "Really? Because it doesn't seem any different to me. Exploiting Pokémon. Hurting people. Throwing your weight around just because you have the numbers. I could swear I've see this movie before."

Archer looked down his nose at the girl, a smug grin coming to his face, "Hardly. We're after something your Team Rocket could never imagine. Not just power for power's sake, or for control. We're trying to move things forward, for everyone and everything! Sometimes, sacrifices have to be made for the progress of all. Nothing more."

Janine clicked her tongue in distaste at what she was hearing, "It's funny how the people who say that never seem to be the ones making any of the sacrifices," Without any other warning, she threw a shuriken with a Poké Ball inside. Archer dove and rolled over his desk to avoid it, "Venomoth, Gust!" As the ball sailed past Archer, Janine's Venomoth emerged and began flapping its wings mightily.

A powerful wind kicked up in the office, blowing around everything that wasn't bolted down. Archer took cover in a crook underneath his desk, escaping the very worst of Venomoth's attack. Janine signaled for the insect Pokémon to stop, and drew a kunai, intending to go after Archer herself. After reaching the spot where he took cover, she looked underneath the desk to find an open trapdoor.

The door to the office slammed shut and locked from the inside, as a countdown of five appeared on all of the monitors in the room.

"Shit," Janine cursed to herself, recalling her Venomoth and calling out another Pokémon better suited for the threat at-hand, "Forretress, Protect!"

She was able to make the switch in the nick of time. The room was engulfed in a massive explosion just as the light from her Poké Ball signified her sturdy bug's release. The ground shook and Janine's ears rang, but it was preferable to the alternative, had she not been nestled in the secure embrace of Forretress.

Once everything settled down, she came out from her place of cover and tried to peer through the smoke and debris. She could find no trace of Archer. He had managed to slip away with the distraction of his trap.

Janine wiped a smudge of ash from her face determinedly. So it was going to be that kind of battle, was it?

XxX

Naruto hadn't managed to make any headway in obtaining one of the passwords meant to open the way to the generator room. He'd thrashed his way through the rest of the Team Rocket members making up the numbers populating the base. Even a few scientists came at him to try and defend what they had been working on.

No one had been able to stop him, or really so much as scratch him or any of his Pokémon. But that didn't mean Naruto had gotten any closer to achieving his actual goal of shutting down the transmitter that had been causing trouble.

"Ice Beam."

On his way back to the generator room, Naruto heard the quiet command in the tranquil hallways and felt the sudden chill in the air. Naruto dove from one side of an adjoining corridor to the other in time to avoid an energy blast that froze the entire length of the wall it hit solid.

Naruto looked out from the behind the cover of a wall corner to see Silver standing, a hateful stare in his eyes. Next to him, the final evolved form of Totodile, a Feraligatr, stood ready to do battle.

"Yeah. We might as well do this right now," Naruto said, looking around, thinking of a way to handle what looked to be an inescapable fight. Silver wouldn't let him go back the way he had come now that he had seen him.

To be fair, Naruto really didn't want him to. If he'd have known what the guy who attacked him in Cherrygrove City would wind up doing, he would have gone about that fight a lot differently. He definitely wouldn't have treated it like the little skirmish that it was at the time.

"Look at you, wandering around like an idiot," Silver taunted, completely oblivious to the dangerous thoughts running through Naruto's head, "Are you so upset from the beating you took from me that you just had to come crawling for a rematch?"

Certainly, the result at the Lake of Rage hadn't been what Naruto would have wanted, but 'beating' wasn't the word he would have used to describe what happened. "I came here to make sure Team Rocket can't do what they did at the Lake of Rage. They won't do what they're doing here anywhere else."

Silver scoffed and flipped his hair, "Team Rocket. Who cares about them?"

"Who cares about you? You're just some angry jerk with a chip on his shoulder," Naruto shot back deftly, "You want to kill me? So what? You'll come find me whenever you actually have the balls to come and get a piece. But this?" He gestured to the base around them that housed the transmitter and the rest of Team Rocket's schemes, "This is actually hurting people. So buzz off, and I'll deal with you later."

Silver narrowed his eyes at being dismissed so easily by a person he had declared he would make suffer. Was Naruto that much of a fool? Did he really not see Silver as an immediate threat? It was insulting to consider, "No. I said who cares about Team Rocket? And who cares about what they're doing to the weaklings that can't protect themselves either?" He asked rhetorically, "You're right. I do want to kill you. No time like the present, right Feraligatr?"

The large-jawed monster stared at Naruto with a bloodlust, its growling conveying its intentions to satisfy its master with victory.

Chienha was a grass-type, giving her a type advantage. But Silver's Feraligatr was an evolved Pokémon. It was at a higher level than her, likely significantly if the strength of its Ice Beam had been any indication. There wasn't going to be an easy path to victory for this battle.

Naruto was quick on the draw, selecting the Poké Ball he needed to support him in battle. Silver had his eyes peeled for any tricks however, "Feraligatr, Water Gun!"

He was a hair too slow on his command, as Naruto was able to throw the ball and release his Hitmonlee, "Rolling Kick!" The brown fighting Pokémon used the momentum of his release to skid across the floor and deliver a spinning kick to Feraligatr's belly.

Silver sneered as his Pokémon was driven back, deciding to take the fight to the next level immediately. After all, as he had said, there was no time like the present, "Surf!"

Naruto went wide-eyed and jumped onto the wall as a crushing wave of water rushed down the hall at him. To keep his own Pokémon from being hurt, he recalled it. Had the water slammed into them, it would have smashed them into the wall with deadly force.

"Supersonic!"

An odd tone of sound found its way into Naruto's ears. His body lurched as he found himself off-balance, despite standing solid on the wall where he stuck. His chakra control slipped to the degree where he slipped off and dropped into the water.

Naruto could barely process a thought, and Silver relished the moment as Magneton, the second Pokémon he had released floated behind him. So what if he had to go about fighting him the way he did? The ends justified the means. There was no such thing as a fair fight.

He raised his hand, prepared to issue a command to Feraligatr that would finish the fight. Finally, he proved he was better, "Ice Beam!"

He would freeze him solid, to his very core, and then he would break his head off like it was part of a statue.

Naruto was stuck, pinned against the wall, sputtering to breathe properly as the ebb of the Surf's water moved through the hallway. When Silver issued his command, the freezing effect crept along the surface of the water, inch-by-inch, lessening the pressure on Naruto as it did so. Eventually, it took off enough of the pressure that he could free himself by jumping out and onto the surface of the frozen Surf.

Crouched on the cold material, Naruto glared straight ahead down the hallway at Silver and his crew of Pokémon. Without a second thought, he charged, full steam ahead.

Silver was beside himself after Naruto's escape. But he still had the upper-hand, "Water Gun!" He bellowed, prompting his Feraligatr to unleash a powerful blast of water from its mouth. Naruto dodged the constant stream, ducking underneath it and jumping over it whenever the height of it changed, "Hit him already! Damn it, Magneton, Thunder Wa-!"

As Silver overextended himself, issuing two orders to two Pokémon, Naruto had time to preempt Silver's second order with one of his own, "Fukigenko, Rolling Kick!"

From the Poké Ball, Naruto's Hitmonlee emerged, leaping from its containment, one foot forward to drive a kick perfectly onto the metal frame of Silver's Magneton. It bounced off of the floor lifelessly from the super effective attack.

Silver's clenched his jaw and put up his arms to try and protect himself when he realized Naruto was too close and far too quick for him to try and stop any longer, "Bite!" Was the last thing he got out of his mouth before he was socked in the jaw with a solid right hand.

The taste of blood filled his mouth and his vision faded several times as he stumbled back into a nearby wall. It was the only way his legs were able to keep him on his feet. It almost wasn't enough when a second punch doubled him over Naruto's fist.

It was unfair to boil things down to a trainer-on-trainer fight. But as Silver would have attested to, the ends justified the means, and there was no such thing as a fair fight. Naruto took full advantage of his physical superiority. Rearing back to deliver a crushing shot to the temple, a powerful pair of jaws snapped onto Naruto's bicep from behind.

"Gah!" Naruto exclaimed, being forced to nearly bridge backwards to keep from being violently yanked off of his feet. While his arm was stuck in Feraligatr's mouth, his hands were free, and he took the opportunity to make a Shadow Clone to help free him, "Fuki, Strength!"

With a supercharged body, Fukigenko rushed over and used his hands to help pry Feraligatr's mouth open.

In the meantime, Silver slunk his body away from Naruto and the ongoing fray, still needing the wall to stay entirely upright. He was hurt and furious. Blood dripped down from his face onto the frozen water layered over the floor.

He'd come up with a game plan. A course of action to take in order to overwhelm Naruto quickly. He had trained his Pokémon to perform the specific tasks needed for his plan fast and accurately. It had gone off without a hitch, blitzing his enemy before he knew what had hit him, and it still hadn't worked.

'Is this the difference in our strength?' Silver mused to himself, moaning in pain as he looked down at his own blood in his hand, 'No! It can't be! If it is, what was the point for suffering under Mask of Ice for all those years? From being abandoned by my own father?'

If he had to deal with all of that and had gotten nothing out of it whatsoever, whether he wanted it or not, it would have made him a victim. Weak, just like all of the other people who fell prey to those more powerful than them.

His bloody fingers reached for another Poké Ball, finding the one he was looking for. The one with a creature inside that would make Naruto pay.

Eventually, Naruto, his clone, and Fukigenko were able to pry Silver's Feraligatr off of his arm. It didn't bother sticking around to keep fighting once it was removed, it's task of protecting its master accomplished. Naruto bled heavily from the wound, and found it hard to move the limb, but it was nothing he hadn't experienced before, "That thing almost took my arm off," Naruto said, wincing to himself, "Right. Let's get after it, Fuki," He said, knowing it would lead him to wherever Silver retreated to.

He didn't expect it would take very long to find him. There was a trail of blood on the ground that helped him for part of the way. However, that wasn't the biggest clue that he had been on the right path. No, the biggest clue came in the form of an angry, red Gyarados, its head blocking off most of the hallway.

There was a moment of wonder, seeing the Pokémon crammed into the Team Rocket HQ corridor, and then the terror of the situation sank in. There was no space to move around and try to outmaneuver it. This was a poor situation for a battle under these circumstances.

Naruto, his clone, and his Hitmonlee all turned to run as the Gyarados opened its mouth with a rumbling growl.

"Dragon Rage!"

Blue flames spilled from the mouth of the Gyarados as the blond ninja fled for safety. There was little to be had, as the clone perished in the flames. Naruto was able to wheel around a corner, protecting him and his Pokémon from harm, but it was only a temporary reprieve. The ground and walls shook as Gyarados rumbled down the hall after them.

Silver lingered behind at a safe distance, knowing what his powerful new Pokémon was capable of and how dangerous it was, "You can't get away in this place, Uzumaki! You're dead! It's just a matter of time! Thrash!"

Gyarados roared and smashed its body against the walls, rampaging, with nothing but a fleeing Naruto in its sights, and nothing else to divert its attention.

Naruto pressed his fingers together in his signature cross hand-seal, "Tajuu Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Multiple Shadow Clone Jutsu)!"

Instead of just one Naruto, a massive herd of orange and blue-clad teenagers crowded the area, running along with the original. The brave copies did their part to try and subdue or slow down Silver Gyarados, or at least get past it to threaten the trainer commanding it. They were merely wheat for the thresher, however.

"He's gonna tear this whole place down trying to kill me," Naruto said to himself, wincing at the popping sound of clones being destroyed en masse. Granted, he was there to destroy the headquarters to begin with, but not if it meant he would die in the ruins.

Eventually, Naruto made it back to the original intended rallying point for himself and Janine, right outside of the generator room. There weren't many other places he could run to, and there was only so long he could run. At some point, he needed to make a stand. But he didn't have a lot to work with. None of the Pokémon on his team were the right type to deal with a Gyarados.

Well... there was always Raikou. But there was just as much a chance that it would turn on Naruto as fight his enemy. He would rather take his chances with one major problem than potentially have to deal with two.

Prepared for the worst, ready to face his fate, a lucky break befell Naruto. Well, not quite a lucky break as it was an eventuality that came with prolonged use of Thrash.

As Gyarados rumbled down the hall, heading his way, Naruto noticed a specific lack of control. It wrecked itself on a sharp corner, driving its full body weight against it as it turned to head his way. So out of control was it, that when Naruto moved aside, it crashed headfirst into the metal wall.

Naruto tilted his head, watching the scene in curiosity, "It's confused?" He wondered aloud before realizing the boon that had fallen into his lap, "Yes! It's confused!" Now was his chance. He had to take his shot while the opportunity presented itself, even if it came with a risk, "Fuki, return! Ranbouen, Thunder Fang!"

Naruto's Arcanine came out, fangs bared and ready for action. As its master hopped onto its back to coordinate their efforts it rushed the Gyarados and aimed at its throat.

Ranbouen let out a throaty battle bark as his teeth began to ripple with electricity. Naruto took that cue to jump off, a clone formed next to him, between the two of them they formed a large Rasengan. It didn't work the last time, but this time there was a little more force behind it, thanks to Ranbouen.

Doing his best to pierce Gyarados' hide, Ranbouen sank his teeth into the hard scales. While he couldn't penetrate, he still managed to do his share of damage with the electric shock that accompanied his bite.

Gyarados let out a pained roar, rearing back and hurting itself further by smashing its head into the ceiling. This time, Naruto didn't aim for anywhere on Gyarados' long, well-armored body. This time, he landed a direct hit with his most devastating jutsu right in its face, "Odama Rasengan (Great Ball Spiraling Sphere)!"

Silver could only watch in horror as his titanic water dragon fell to the floor in segments, "No!" He shouted, beside himself. His Gyarados couldn't have been defeated now. It had been so powerful the day before. So seemingly unstoppable, "Get up! This isn't over yet! You can't lose now!"

Naruto kept his distance from the mighty red Gyarados. Even if it might have been done for, he still didn't want to be anywhere near it at all, "We're done!" Naruto declared forcefully, "If he's down, you've got nothing to stop me with. I'm gonna beat your ass and make you pay for all of this! You and the rest of Team Rocket!"

"To hell with Team Rocket! I'm not with them. I would rather slit my own wrists first!" Silver spat.

Naruto would not accept that as an ecuse, "Well you sure as hell could have fooled me!" For someone who hated them so much, he was certainly in deep with them, "You're helping them do this!" He shouted, gesturing to the Electrodes suffering inside of the generator room.

Silver was not willing to have his motives and his actions lambasted by someone who had no idea where he was coming from, "I'm using them! The same way I know they're trying to use me," Silver explained, "I know what the score is, and they do too. It's all a matter of my getting what I want and getting rid of them before they do it to me first."

"Well it's too bad. Because none of you are getting what you want. Not while I'm here," Naruto said, lifting his hand to point at Silver, "Ranbouen, sic balls. Bite!"

A dark grin crossed Silver's face at that moment, "You wish," He dropped a small crystal of medicine in his Gyarados' mouth, bringing it back to the land of the conscious once more. Its pupils dilated, adjusting to the light and it let out a roar, "Hyper Beam!"

'Oh crap! He had a Revive!?' Naruto thought in a panic. From the Gyarados' open mouth, a white beam of light began building in the back of its throat. Naruto tensed up, looking for a way out before realizing where he was.

…Right by the generator room that he couldn't find a means to break into.

Silver was about to shoot off a Hyper Beam in that general direction, with no care that it would do the thing Naruto had originally been after. As he had mentioned, Silver cared nothing for Team Rocket, and that likely extended to the structural integrity of their base.

Well, if Silver was going to have his Gyarados fire the damn thing anyway, the least Naruto could do was try to make some kind of use of it. With that in mind, Naruto carefully lined himself up between Gyarados and the generator room door.

XxX

(Moments Before – Mahogany Town)

Red had interrupted his training and wandered quite some ways to return a beloved Pokémon to a good friend of his. He had plenty of questions, such as why it was with a group of several other Pokémon in the cold of Mt. Silver.

The skilled trainer fumed over the worst reason he could have thought about, "If Naruto's the kind of guy that abandons his Pokémon and leaves them for dead like that, I'm gonna beat the tar out of him," Not that he really believed Naruto would do that. But anything was possible, "I'll just have to hope he has an answer for me."

It hadn't been very hard to track them. Morty had been helpful pointing him in the right direction, and Naruto and Janine were a very specific-looking pair. If someone saw them or battled them on the road, they would remember them, and they had. Plenty of hikers and other travelers had kept him on the right path and led him to Mahogany Town.

Looking around, Red stopped and took a breath of fresh air. The rustic little mountain town had a lot of quaint charm to it, even if there was a lot of frightened rumblings about the recent Gyarados rampage at the Lake of Rage nearby. There was a fear that the incident could soon move south to the town itself, which would utterly destroy it. Plenty of the talk he heard involved people beginning to make arrangements to leave before the worst could come to pass.

Maybe there was something Red could do to help. He kept that idea in mind, but it would have to wait. For the time being, he had to find Naruto or Janine before they split town, if they hadn't already. Even without a flyer they could both use to better transport themselves, they moved at a fairly quick pace for people on foot.

As he continued to search for signs of his friends, the town was rocked with a sudden blast that shook the ground underneath their feet. People took cover and ran away from the terrifying sound.

While everyone ran away from the danger, Red found himself curious as to its origin and purpose, "What was that?" He wondered, racing to find a spot to get a good view of what had occurred. Eventually, he found a ledge close to the northern gate building, "Whoa!"

Looking down on the city proper, Red could see a building, completely blown apart down to its foundations. Fire reached out to trees and nearby buildings. The explosion had been so intense that he could see a bit down into the basement. It didn't look like the basement of any home or business he had ever seen.

Making use of his new Pokégear, he checked the map and found that it was a store – the souvenir shop he had passed on his way into town. With great haste, Red made his way to what he had previously believed to be a completely unassuming building.

First Ecruteak City and now this.

"What's happening in this region?"

XxX

(Meanwhile – Team Rocket HQ)

Janine picked herself up off of the floor, pushing debris from the devastated Team Rocket HQ out of her way. She had almost been crushed several times over by walls, ceilings, furniture, and stationary equipment nearly smashing into her and coming down on top of her.

Something had blown the base to hell and back. Explosions had torn through the stronghold. With three guesses to who probably had a hand in whatever it was, she would only need one.

"I was really hoping you'd meet me halfway on tearing this place apart, Babyface," Janine muttered to herself. She had been in the middle of chasing Archer when she'd nearly been blown away, "That makes twice today I almost got blown up."

What she didn't anticipate was that she wasn't alone. A Weezing dropped from above, hitting her in the back and knocking her down to the ground.

"And this will make three," Archer's voice rang out from elsewhere nearby, "Selfdestruct, Weezing."

Despite Weezing's attempts to pin her down, it wasn't nearly as heavy as it looked. Turning to her back, she kicked the Pokémon away with her feet, sending it clattering away before it could use its volatile mixture of internal gases to detonate itself. Its attempt to take her with it failed, as Janine scampered to her feet to face the man that had she had been pursuing all through the Team Rocket HQ.

"Stop blowing things up!" Janine shouted at Archer while holding her ears, "I'm going to have tinnitus before all of this is over!"

Despite Archer's fleeing for an extended period of time, now he seemed willing to stand and fight, "I wasn't going to battle you with a Weezing. Your father specialized in poison Pokémon. There was nothing I could throw at you in battle with it that would catch you off-guard. The only purpose it had was the one I gave it just now, which it clearly failed."

"I'd blame your poor planning more than I'd blame Weezing's execution," Janine shot back before releasing her own combatant, "Ariados, go!" Her large red and black spider emerged from its Poké Ball, mandibles chittering as it stood ready to fight, "Poison Sting!"

Ariados fired multiple purple needles from its mouth at Archer. He nimbly evaded by ducking and rolling behind debris littering the battlefield. The game of cat-and-mouse wasn't quite over yet. Janine got her Pokémon's attention and gestured with hand signals to communicate with her spider. She moved one way while Ariados began climbing up a debris heap to get a better vantage point.

A kunai in her hand, Janine quietly crept forward. Either she would get the drop on Archer or her Ariados would. That was her aim. This aim was thwarted when a black dog with an orange muzzle and curved horns on its head stepped into the open growling with fire burning inside of its mouth.

Janine's eyes went wide at the sight. She let out a quiet gasp and quickly dove for cover of her own just as a fierce stream of fire blew her way. Temporarily safe, she discarded the scarf around her neck that had caught fire at the end. Now she was separated from her Pokémon with a fire type roaming about.

'A Houndoom. Great,' Janine bemoaned to herself, patting herself down to make sure she wasn't on fire somewhere.

This wasn't good. She didn't have anything that could outright overpower a fire type. In fact, most of the Pokémon she had on her person were weak against fire. If Ariados was caught out in the open before she could get back in contact with it, it would stand little chance of fighting Archer's Pokémon off.

Picking another Poké Ball out of her lineup, she whispered her command, "Golbat, find Ariados and make sure he stays safe until I can get back to him," Quietly letting Golbat go, Janine watched it flap off into the ruined rafters of the base, using the hanging metal girders and half-intact slabs of ceiling to conceal its movements.

She had a plan. But in the meantime, she would give her Pokémon a chance to meet up and watch out for each other by exposing herself, "So this is your big progress, huh? Your huge leap forward? Taking the easy way? Trying to power up your Pokémon without putting the actual work in? That's strength to you?"

Trying to get Archer to talk wasn't difficult. He was a mouthy opponent. That much had been determined from the last time they had clashed. Of course, that trait hadn't presented Janine with any openings so far in their battle, but at least she could get his attention.

Archer stood with as much poise as he could muster, despite the nature of the battle he had been fighting, "Creatures larger and more threatening than humans could ever be on their own roam this continent freely. We huddled together, and we built our walls, and we picked up our sticks and we tried to fight," The Team Rocket executive monologued aloud, "We adapted, but they did too. Driven to the absolute brink, the only thing keeping us from being overrun is this," He said, holding up a Poké Ball.

Janine poked her head out to look, having to pull back to avoid another blast of fire aimed her way, "It's a Poké Ball, you loon," She droned, sounding wholly unimpressed, "Man-made. There are probably millions of those things floating around out there," That reminded her, she needed to go to a store and pick up some more when she had the chance, 'I wonder what Ultra Balls run in Johto... Wait, no. Ugh. I can worry about that later.'

Archer began to laugh sinisterly as Janine's own words made his point for him. He gestured for his Pokémon to begin carefully stalking the girl down, "Exactly. It's man-made! This marvel. This perfect piece of technology that humans have only improved on further as time has passed… this was the only thing that kept humanity from being wiped out in this place."

Instead of living in fear of the awesome creatures that could vanquish most humans with barely a thought, human's learned to capture and control them. Instead of fleeing and hiding from them, Humans learned to make Pokémon work for them.

Team Rocket was the simplification of that purest ideal. That as humans, they could establish dominion over whatever they saw fit. Things like technology, like Pokémon, they were meant to make life easier for humans. That was all.

"People like to say that living in harmony with Pokémon is the way," Archer spat at the naive, tree-hugging philosophical doctrine, " Let them walk out into the nearest forest or open field completely unprotected, and see how receptive they are to that. You have to fight fire with fire. We captured them. We tamed them in order to have them fight against their own. Stronger balls for stronger Pokémon. So what do you need to catch the most powerful Pokémon? Why, the most powerful Poké Ball of course!"

By this time, Houndoom had managed to get threateningly close to Janine's position. Hellhound looked back at Archer who drew his own finger across his neck. Before it could attack, Janine's Golbat dropped Ariados from the sky in Houndoom's blind spot.

"Sucker Punch!" Janine ordered from Ariados just before Houndoom could burn her out with another Flamethrower. As it reared its head back to draw in breath, Ariados landed on the ground and struck with the tip of its sharp foreleg. Houndoom pulled away with a pathetic whine after having its chest punctured from the surprise attack.

Janine immediately recalled Ariados to its Poké Ball and grabbed onto Golbat's legs as it swept back up into the air. A quick hit-and-run ploy. An annoying, but effective method of working around a type disadvantage. While Archer would undoubtedly punish her Pokémon if his could get to them, hers were much quicker. All she had to do was pick her spots, and it wouldn't take much. Houndoom weren't exactly well-regarded for their durability.

Archer sneered up to Janine in the rafters as his Houndoom limped back to his side. "You have property that belongs to Team Rocket, girl. And before this day concludes, I will pry it from your cold, dead hands."

"You're going to have to," Janine huffed defiantly, "You're not getting the Master Ball, you freak. People like you don't deserve it."

Janine's comment raised Archer's hackles. As though she were worthy of that kind of power, "And you do? Arrogant, spoiled sow!"

"Did I say that I did? No," Janine said, her voice alarmingly calm. There was a resolute determination in the way she stood in the face of her foe. "The Master Ball can capture any Pokémon in the world. Any Pokémon,"She emphasized, shaking her head pitifully at Archer, "I've seen the kinds of Pokémon out there. I've seen strength that you can't imagine. I've seen the wrong kinds of people wield that power. I've seen the Pokémon with that power lay waste to entire cities. If you think for a second that I'm going to let you and your asshole friends get your hands on it and find out what makes it tick so you can have your own, you must not be as smart as you think you are."

After hearing the Fuchsia City Gym Leader out, Archer narrowed his eyes at her, "And what do you plan to do with it?"

Janine had to admit, that was actually a very good question, "I don't know. But it would be a shame to just destroy it," She said, taking the Master Ball out of storage in order to antagonize Archer. She made a show of observing it as though it were a trophy, "I'm still a bit of a miserly thief at heart. If something's useful, and I went through all of the effort to steal it, I just can't bring myself to get rid of it."

This was unacceptable for Archer, and therefore unacceptable for Team Rocket. There was only one Master Ball, period. It was a secret project at Silph Co. that had never been duplicated since the Master Ball had disappeared during the Saffron City incident. The project had been so secret in fact, that the plans were disposed of after the finished product was created, leaving them out of the hands of anyone who would try to pilfer them.

Without that Master Ball, there would never be another one. It needed to be duplicated, for the good of Team Rocket, and thus the world. It would not be left to the whims of a flighty teenage girl, Gym Leader or not.

Archer pointed into the air at Janine, confusing her until a sharp rush of wind blew past her. Her Golbat fell from the sky, hitting the ground in a heap. She felt a warmth running down her cheek and touched at the area to find blood, not only from there, but from a cut that breached her mesh armor underneath her battle dress.

From the origin of the wind, she looked up and saw a Crobat hanging upside down in the shadows. Despite her wound, it elicited a laugh out of her. After all of her attempts to fight indirectly, she had been caught slipping while playing her own game.

"That... really hurts," She commented with a strain to her voice. She kneeled down, wincing in pain, "So... a Crobat, huh? Nice shot."

"I know," Archer said, sounding very pleased with the wound inflicted on his opponent, "You aren't the only one capable of sleight of hand, dear. Don't underestimate me simply because you're a Gym Leader. I've been preparing myself to change the world. Though, I have no idea why you're smiling."

Janine shook her head, still smiling, "I'm just really glad I never called Grimer back into its Poké Ball."

"What?" Archer's query was answered when Janine's Grimer glommed onto him from behind, hindering his movements and sinking itself all over him, covering every inch it could, especially his face.

Archer fought and clawed to try and get the living sludge off of him, but to no avail. He choked, coughed and sputtered as Grimer began to slowly smother him to death, "No! No! Crobat, get this thing off of me! Air Cutter!" He ordered in his panic.

Only too late to stop it did he realize the error of his issued command.

Crobat flapped its wings and fired a blade of wind. The attack struck true and cut into Grimer, but there wasn't a solid body there to stop it. Instead, it went through Grimer and sliced into Archer.

Archer's eyes went blank, cut from the side of his neck to the bottom of his rib cage on the opposite side, he stopped struggling and fell to the ground with a bloody gurgle. Even if the attack hadn't been lethal, having a Grimer's disgusting body rooting around an open wound that deep would lead to a deadly series of infections. Not that his mattered. He died on the spot.

That plan had worked. The only thing that could have gone better was refraining from getting hurt before enacting the last portion of it.

Janine looked down at Archer as blood pooled around his body. With its master dead, and by its own hand, his Crobat flew around above the combat zone confused and bewildered. Good, because she really didn't want to fight it.

Boy, did he make being dead look comfortable though. All she wanted was to lay down on the beam she was perched on and rest. But she needed to make sure her Golbat was alright. That, and make sure Naruto hadn't blown himself apart.

With great effort, Janine returned her Pokémon to their balls and rolled off of the hanging beam. The hard landing on her feet jarred her injuries. Still, however terrible she felt, as least she was walking away, "Guess you weren't as smart as you thought you were," She muttered to Archer as she limped past his still warm corpse.

XxX

(Route 42)

Mahogany City as a location was beat, as far as Silver was concerned. He had gotten everything he'd wanted out of the resources Team Rocket had in this location. All of the Pokémon he had on his person had been evolved as a result of Archer's pet experiment. He had even managed to secure a rare red Gyarados.

Granted, that Gyarados hadn't been as invincible as he had hoped it would have been – after all, it had been defeated by Uzumaki Naruto – but it was a Pokémon that most trainers would kill to have. In fact, he may have had a hand in doing just that, albeit indirectly. But it didn't matter. It was all a means to an end. The end that was killing Naruto.

...Only he couldn't. Even with his preparations of charging up his Pokémon team, even after coming up with a specific strategy to deal with the ninja boy, even after scrapping all of that and going nuclear with his Gyarados option, Naruto still defeated him soundly. He had even been maneuvered into accomplishing Naruto's task for him. That had been nearly catastrophic for him.

"You psycho," Silver muttered, holding tight to his beaten up body as he tried to slip away amid the chaos going on all over the town, "...Those Electrodes could have killed us both."

He was tired and hurt, with a long way to go in order to reach a safe place to rest, recover, and plan his next move. Was there a way he could still use Team Rocket, or had he already exploited them for all they were worth?

There were numerous thoughts swimming through his mind, all centered on his eventual revenge, but his mind wasn't on the present. Had his head been in the game, he wouldn't have been caught off-guard and knocked to the ground where he found it difficult to stand up again.

There wasn't a lot of fight left in him, but that was simply because the body wasn't able. The spirit was willing. When he hit the ground on his belly, Silver turned over to his back, a Poké Ball in his hand, prepared to defend himself when he saw who it was, "What? Green?"

There she stood, his friend from worse times, a Clefable at her side, presumably the thing that had knocked him down. But this was no happy reunion, as Green did not seem happy to see him.

Slowly sitting up as best as he could, Silver spoke, "Green? What are you doing?"

Green returned her Clefable to its ball and stomped over to yank Green to his feet, her eyes scanning around to make sure there wasn't anyone pursuing Silver. He had been easy to follow out of Mahogany Town. If Naruto and Janine were giving chase, it wouldn't take them long to capture him, "I'm keeping you from getting arrested or killed, you moron. Come on."

Naruto and Janine were Green's friends. They had been through some dangerous things together. But they hadn't gone through what Green and Silver had experienced, survived, and escaped together. For her, that bond was too powerful to ignore for the other one.

Silver remembered the last time they had met, how Green had tried to talk him down from the path he was on, "I don't want your help-," He complained, trying to yank himself away before being interrupted.

"-Shut. The hell. Up," Green cut him off. She was livid, "You. I can't believe you. I told you to leave it alone. And now look! You're with them! Do you have any idea what you're doing!? Is it even worth it!?"

She wanted an answer. A good answer. Something that would explain it all away. Make it all better, all of the things that she knew Team Rocket were doing, that he had been there for. He had nothing for her, and he wouldn't insult her by pretending that he did.

"My choices are mine, Green," Silver said simply, "I didn't tell you to track me down. I didn't tell you to bail me out."

Green gave him a look that meant serious business. She was not going to leave this alone, stubborn woman that she was, "We're going to talk about this, Silver. You can bet on that," But for the time being they needed to get out of there before someone saw them, "Alright, Abra, it's time for us to get out of here."

Silver watched as his friend called the tiny psychic Pokémon out of its ball, "...I didn't know you caught an Abra. Why haven't you evolved it yet?"

Green was able to spare Silver a smile and a wink, "Because she's cuter like this," She replied "And more useful for what I need her for. Teleport."

With a simple one word command, both boy and girl vanished from the road without a trace.

XxX

(Mahogany Town – Team Rocket HQ)

Naruto walked away from the demolished wreck that was the generator room. His spur of the moment plan to have Silver's Gyarados blow the door open had been a good plan in theory. It had opened the way for him. He'd have been able to make it inside and do something about the Electrodes trapped there supplying power.

...Only they had been disturbed and spooked. One used Explode in its anger and fear, and that led to a swift chain reaction. There was nothing he could do to stop it. For all he knew, they might have done the same thing had he found the passwords to open the door properly. No one would ever know.

Janine was still somewhere around. He had to find her so they could leave. There was nothing there for them anymore. The sooner they could get out, the better.

His entire body ached, and his arm was a wreck, but given time to rest, he would recover quickly enough.

There was no time allowed for Naruto to convalesce, however. As wandered around the first level basement of the hideout, a large shadow was cast on him from above. Looking up, he caught sight of a large bipedal dragon with light orange skin and two thin, long antennae on its head. Even with its tiny wings, the force of their flapping blew debris all over, forcing Naruto to cover his face to protect his eyes.

'Is that a real dragon?' Naruto thought to himself as the gigantic Pokémon lowered itself through the massive opening in the basement. With no idea what was happening, he stood at the ready for another fight, '…Uh, can I fight a dragon?'

On the dragon's back, stood a red-haired man in majestic red and black clothing, complete with a cape. He surveyed the scene around him with great sadness, until he locked eyes with Naruto and his gaze hardened. At that point, Naruto was certain that he was going to have to fight another battle. It was only a matter of setting it off.

The man observed the blonde young man carefully. He had gotten the full rundown of who he was from the newest member of his organization, 'Uzumaki Naruto. Jiraiya's boy,' Lance thought to himself before speaking aloud, "I'm... disappointed. I was led to believe you were better than this by someone who knows you well."

At first, Naruto couldn't make heads or tails of what he was referring to, "What are you talking about?" He asked.

The dragon trainer gestured to the scene of destruction around them, "This didn't need to happen," He said before pointing straight at Naruto, "You. Your methods to bring this base down were callous and destructive, but it's fine as long as the only ones killed are Pokémon, correct?"

"I was trying to help!" Naruto snapped in return. He hadn't really been out to kill anyone in particular. And he definitely didn't want the Electrodes to die. He had been trying to rescue them, "I was trying to make sure no one else got hurt because of the crap Team Rocket was pulling at the Lake of Rage! I didn't want those Electrodes to Explode!"

"But they did. And I doubt you care as much as you're trying to reason that you do. Of course. After all, you're a human. No matter what you try to say to make up for it, a human's life will always mean more to you than a Pokémon's."

The desire to argue and fight with this man flared up for a moment, before it dissipated. He didn't even know the person saying these things to him, "Who are you anyway?"

The man calmly raised an eyebrow, "My name is Lance. And I am the man who is going to save this continent from selfish humans like you," He declared firmly, "This is your only warning. I'm sparing you, but only because you're important to a new colleague of mine. Next time both he and I will have no mercy on you."

Naruto glared up angrily at Lance, "What new colleague? Are you with Team Rocket!?" It would have been his luck to have to run a full gauntlet of Team Rocket heavy-hitters.

"I mean the Elite Four. And I'm talking about your mentor, Jiraiya," Lance said, both comments coming as a major surprise to Naruto, "You would do well to follow his lead and join us. Dragonite, Fly."

Naruto was so stunned, he couldn't muster a response, even as Lance lifted off into the air on the back of his favorite Pokémon. Jiraiya? His Jiraiya? With the Elite Four? The same jerks that tore an entire city apart barely a week ago?

By the time he'd digested the information well enough to ask questions, Lance was high in the sky, leaving the scene, far out of Naruto's earshot, even as he tried to run after him, "Hey! HEY! Come back here, you asshole! What are you talking about? What about Ero-sennin!?"

He hadn't seen his sensei since he'd left the Safari Zone in Kanto and headed off to Johto with Janine. He didn't think he had anything to fear with Jiraiya staying safe. He was the last person Naruto would have figured he'd have to worry about. But to fall in with the Elite Four? Why? How? Did Jiraiya know what they were like? What they were up to? Was it even true to begin with?

Naruto made it out to the street and stopped trying to give chase. Lance was a speck in the sky, and Naruto didn't have the means to properly pursue him. His Aerodactyl was with Jiraiya... and Jiraiya's whereabouts were questionable, to say the least.

All he could do was stare at the retreating Elite Four member as he got farther away. Now there were more questions than ever, and a new face to put with a dangerous enemy.

Wasn't the trip to Johto supposed to be something of a vacation? There was very little relaxing about anything that had transpired thus far.


And thus ends the Mahogany Town/Lake of Rage arc, in a violent, chaotic mess of a battle. Naruto now has a track record with underground Team Rocket bases. They tend to get annihilated whenever he ventures inside of them.

Red is in town to find Naruto and help out. Besides that, Naruto now knows about the fate of Jiraiya, though the information came from an unreliable source. What does that mean for our heroes now? There's Team Rocket and the Elite Four to contend with. The fuse is burning down on the pile of dynamite that is Johto. So until that mayhem all kicks off, I hope you guys enjoyed the chapter.

That's all I've got for now. Until the next time, Kenchi out.