Star in the Storm, Epilogue

Lody- "After the Storm"

"Hurry, Lody!" Amulet yelped, bounding ahead through a narrow passageway and skidding across the slick tile floor. Several yards ahead, Shane and Gauntal's footsteps pounded across the ground, echoing eerily in the empty hall.

"I…I'm trying!" I gasped out as I ran, clutching at my side with one hand and staggering after them. "Amulet? Is it just me, or is it getting kind of hot in here?"

"The building's on fire!" Shane called, skidding to a stop and dropping onto his stomach. Amulet and I followed his example with haste. Chancing a look upward, I saw long flames licking the walls of the distant corridor, increasing in both span and intensity as precious seconds flew by.

"Isn't there another way out of here?" I choked out, muffling my mouth with the edge of my bandanna. "Shane?"

The boy shook his pale, pale face. "If we go back to the terminal, Darkshine will have you seized for sure," he informed us quietly. "And I promised I'd get you out of here."

"I was under the impression you promised your brother to make sure I didn't escape!" I argued suspiciously, voice distorted by the fabric of my bandanna.

Shane's jaw was tight, and his fists clenched tightly around Gauntal's worn leash. "For the glory of Neo Team Rocket. And in Father's memory," he whispered, face contorting at the stench of smoke that was drifting our way. "Darkshine was wrong, Lody. So was I. The people of Neo Team Rocket are not evil. Even we have things we must do, and it is time the world knew that."

Coughing into his hand, Shane went doggedly on, voice growing hoarse. "Father wouldn't have wanted you to suffer for this, I know he wouldn't have. Though Ash Ketchum and the others never realized it, he was a good man, a believer in justice. I intend to follow him the best I can."

Gauntal yipped, dragging its trainer back from the approaching fire.

"Gauntal's right," Shane gasped out, scrambling backwards and moving away down the hall. "There's only one way out now. We have to find your friends, Lody, the ones leading the attack on the Rocket HQ. You'll be safe with them."

What about you and Gauntal? I wanted to scream. My so-called friends would show no mercy for Rockets, however selfless these Rockets turned out to be, and no matter what kind of stand they were trying to make. Come to that, wasn't I still technically a member of Neo Team Rocket myself? Roary's horrified look of disgust upon this revelation still remained vivid in my mind.

Dad and Mother, what would they say? And Mr. Ketchum, who had spent his entire childhood fighting against Team Rocket, surely his reaction would be no less appalled than that of his daughter's. The same went for all the people of Pallet. All the people of the world.

One choice, I thought ruefully. One choice, and it's all gone. I'll never be a Pokémon master, not now. I was so ambitious at the start of my Pokémon journey, so convinced that I had to do something great. Stupid, stupid, stupid!. I should have been happy with what I had back then.

There's nothing left for me anymore. Nothing.

Feeling Amulet's shoulder come up under my hand, I realized we had stopped running at last. Gauntal was straining at its leash, pawing at a door in front of it. Jogging the metal knob, Shane yanked his hand back with a cry of alarm. The fabric of his black glove was sizzling, filling the air with the acrid stench of burning cloth.

"The door's locked!" he yelled back, wrenching off his steaming glove and throwing it to the ground.

"Move back!" Amulet yelped to us, bolting forward and gazing intently at the door before her. Eyes growing brighter and brighter as psychic energy gathered behind them, my Espeon crouched down low, letting a brilliant purple aura flare up around her slender body.

"What's she doing?" Shane whispered hurriedly to his Umbreon.

"Stand back!" Gauntal barked in rapid-fire Eonic. "Amulet's about to use a Psychic attack!"

Falling onto my stomach, I threw my arms up over my head, just as the entire wall blew apart into flying splinters of wood and plaster. Amulet had launched an enormous ball of psychic energy directly at the door. Luckily, this door was much weaker than that of the prison cell. It was knocked right from its hinges, along with an entire portion of the wall.

"Come on!" Amulet cried, turning back and bounding to my side.

Tongues of flame were cropping up from the piles of debris created by Amulet's explosion. Through the thick smoke, I could just make out bright sunlight ahead. And over the crackle of the fire, I could hear the astonished murmur of many voices.

"We're out!" I called back to Shane and Gauntal, squeezing Amulet's paw. It was only when Amulet's eyes grew wide, and she thrust her head backwards against my arm, that I turned around to follow her gaze.

With a considerable start, I realized Shane and Gauntal were not behind us. Both trainer and Pokémon were walking slowly in the opposite direction, back into the hallway from which we had come. Back into the fire from which we had just narrowly escaped.

"Gauntal, Shane? Shane!"

Shane stopped and half-turned, but it was only for the smallest instant. He and Gauntal started up almost immediately afterwards, nearly disappearing into the thick smoke.

"Shane?" I whispered.

The boy stopped again, then pivoted about to face me. Mouth pressed into a thin line and body framed against the swirling smoke, his hollow face told me all I needed to know.

I had envied Shane, not long ago, for the perfect life he didn't have. All this time, it might have been me he should have been jealous of. Me, with all of my complaints and arrogance, ambitions and antipathy. Me, who, no thanks to my own stupidity, was now returning to the loved ones I had so willingly left.

Shane and Gauntal were the ones who really had nothing left. Only they would rather walk into the fire than into the sunlight.

I cleared my throat and said awkwardly, "Shane, I'm sorry. Heck, I thought I had it hard, but it was nothing compared to…compared to." Stumbling on, I shook my head in frustrated speechlessness and clenched my hands.

I've been stuck in my own world so long, blind to what was going on outside, I thought angrily. I've had just about enough of thinking about myself. Now, Lody Chimera, now you're going to think about somebody else for a change.

"Shane," I said fiercely. "If you come out there with me, I swear no harm will come to you and Gauntal. No harm that Amulet and I can't prevent. There's nothing left for you back there, Shane. Please…please come with us!"

Amulet's eyes shone as she nodded. Were those tears? I wondered briefly.

Shane said nothing, and bowed his head. He knew, as well as I, that there was nothing left of Team Rocket or the TRC here. Nothing, save for leaping flames and burning debris. With a brief nod, he pivoted on his foot and started forward, this time coming up beside me.

With me clutching Amulet's warm shoulder, we walked side by side into the sun.

One week later...

"…and then I got up and yelled 'Stop!' to all those Pokémon who were standing there and getting ready to fire at the Rocket building one last time, and you know what? They all stopped!"

As she narrated her last-minute role in the invasion of the Mahogany Rocket HQ, Roary Ketchum was getting so enthusiastic that she sprayed flecks of milkshake over the table. "And it was a good thing they listened," Roary added after a quick sip, "or Lody and Shane would've been crushed to death inside!"

At his seat next to Roary's, Shane managed a weak smile at this gruesome mental image. Bending under the table to hand a voracious Gauntal another donut, he barely missed hitting Roary's long black ponytail as it whipped through air.

Just another uneventful noontime meal at the Pallet Town Lab, I thought idly, chewing on my straw and staring out the window. Life hadn't seemed so calm in days, not with all that had happened following the Mahogany invasion.

The familiar faces around the table were what comforted me most of all. Looking around, I could see Picassy and Bryar fighting over the last powdered donut hole, Charm watching both of them amusedly, as well as little Chin-Woop gobbling up as many apples as it could fit into its mouth at once, making itself look like a blue beach ball in the process.

At my side, Amulet was dozing in the afternoon sunlight streaming through the kitchen window. Stroking her long ears, I took another sip of my milkshake before turning my wandering mind back to the conservation at hand.

"You still have no idea whatsoever of how you got to the frontline of the attack from Silver Star's room?" Pika probed, setting down its ketchup-dipped apple and giving Roary a quizzical look.

"I told you already, it was that creepy boy!" Roary protested, slamming her milkshake into the table so hard that her straw popped out and hit Bryar in the forehead. "He had this weird Pokémon with him, one that could freeze time. He called it Celery or something like that."

"Celebi," my father corrected. Putting his chin into his palm in musing, he shook his head in disbelief. "But Celebi is only supposed to be a myth," my father said slowly, adjusting the thick glasses that were sliding down his nose. "Some people still believe Celebi is the guardian of Ilex Forest, or a protector of time itself. But no one has ever seen this Pokémon before, much less trained it to obey their command. As this 'creepy' boy must have done."

"Untrue," Pika interjected as it squeezed a second blob of ketchup onto its plate. "I've seen Celebi before. So has Ash."

"Sure you have," Roary teased, stuffing her mouth full with jelly donut. "And I'm Lance of the Masters' Circle."

But Pika's eyes were serious. "There are things your father's never told you, Roary," the Pikachu said solemnly. "Things he thought you'd be better off not knowing. Like about disbanding Team Rocket, or stopping Mewtwo. Ash Ketchum was no ordinary trainer, you'll see."

"Well," Roary said. "I guess I can believe that. After all, he is my dad."

Around the table, everybody snorted into their milkshakes.

"Professor," Shane asked suddenly, raising his head from Gauntal. "How many more people do you think Ash Ketchum will get to join his hunt for Neo Team Rocket? Do you think the others…the Rockets…still stand a chance?"

My father's brow furrowed at this. As destructive as the Mahogany invasion had been, only a handful of Rockets had been taken prisoner before Leader Darkshine had ordered a hasty retreat. Though neither hide nor hair of the remaining Neo Team Rocket members had been found, several captives had admitted the existence of more Rocket bases and control centers scattered across the globe.

Ash, it seemed, would have a long way to go if he ever hoped to eradicate Team Rocket completely.

However, the relative success of the Mahogany invasion had lent a new surge of followers to Ash Ketchum's cause. There would be no more failure for Ash, not if he could help it. Backed by thousands of trainers, scientists, and more, Ash Ketchum and Co. were actively surveying the world for more Rocket bases. The anti-Rocket movement was far from dying.

And, ironically enough, the renewed thirst for Team Rocket's annihilation had led to an enormous boom in Pokémon training. The regions of Kanto and Johto were experiencing the biggest surge in new Pokémon trainers recorded in the last ten years.

Miraculously, there had been no trial for Shane and me, nor was one in the planning. As children, we had been let off relatively easily, save for the stripping of our Rocket membership and a permanent stain on our reputations. Even now, I could sense the funny looks most Pallet townspeople gave me, or the whispered rumors that circulated behind my back.

But as far as I was concerned, the worst was over. The storm had come and passed.

"There's always a chance," Fireball's low voice responded from the other end of the table, the first the Charmander had spoken all day. No one had the nerve to comment on this. Armbands soaked with grime and eyes smoldering in a heated scowl, Fireball looked even surlier that usual.

The search around the Lake of Rage for Fireball's missing friend, Drake Flamefoe, had so far proved in vain. There were doubts Drake would ever be found, much less alive. But surely Fireball was hoping, just as Shane was hoping for the TRC to survive the ordeals they would be sure to face.

But luck had already run out for one TRC member. Hours after being "rescued" from the Mahogany Rocket HQ, the Merger Silver Star died in Mahogany Town Hospital. It had been a seizure that killed her, the doctors concluded, along with a strenuous amount of stress.

Though the secret of the Mergers was being kept secluded within a small, confidential circle, studies were already being done on Silver Star's death. Many were eager to discover whether a genetic defect had done Silver Star in, possibly as the cause of her mysterious seizures. And, eventually, whether the Merging theory could actually prove to be Team Rocket's most powerful weapon yet.

My father still had Shane's files on Project Star in the Storm and had spent a great deal of the last few days examining them thoroughly. He, too, was curious about finding the holes in Team Rocket's Merging process.

"And you were worried about us using Silver Star as a tool," Shane once complained bitterly. "Sometimes, I get the impression all of you think that she's better off dead and frozen in some laboratory."

"Shane," my father had replied steadily, "Silver Star gave her life to save her friends. There is no regret in her death, not if she sacrificed herself to help others."

Remembering these words, I often think again of Silver Star's two-faceted eyes, dark as the blackest night, and yet bright with vibrant life. But now, behind my image of Silver Star, I can see another.

Sometimes, I can see Kayley Mindstar looking out from behind Silver Star's dark, dark eyes. And I know the storm will rise again.

When it does, I'll be ready, for the Pokémon journey I started so ambitiously is far from being over.

Of all reasons to start and sustain a journey, I have finally found my own.

"A Real Master"- Drake's Full Version

When the sun

Breaks past the clouds in the morning sky,

I will lift my head,

And let my spirits fly.

Like a Pokémon Master!

As the days

Fade away like the early dew,

I will set my jaw,

And make my dreams come true.

Like a Pokémon Master!

No one can tell me I'm much too green,

Much too young,

Or trapped in a dream.

Nobody will say

I can't do it my way.

And rise to meet the day!

Grow and learn, you live and earn

A sense of who you can be.

And the dreams that raise you high,

Hold on and don't let 'em die.

Can you be

The one?

Through my life,

I'll take a chance and brave the fight,

Clear my jumps,

And soar to any height.

Like a true Master!

When night comes,

I'll set down my pack and store my dreams away,

Save my strength,

To use for another day.

Be a new Master!

Bold and true

Win my way through.

A real


Roary's mom? Uh, good question. Speculate on that all you want, because I'm not doing anything definite for now. Probably not a canon character though; people get mad when you kill those off. Same for Shane and his brother. You'd think that their father is Giovanni, but who knows?

Well, that's it for "Star in the Storm." Hopefully Part 2 can tie up some more of the loose ends about Kayley Mindstar and the Mergers. I haven't thought too much about the next part, so comments, suggestions, and the like are welcomed.