When Lance had requested that Ash speak with him privately, the Ex-Rocket had been a little more than surprised.
The Kanto, Johto Champion usually relied on Cynthia to speak with him. So when Lance came down to the cafeteria and interrupted Ash, the two girls his mother, and Sue, he had been on his guard immediately.
"Ash," Ash turned in his seat at the voice, pausing in his sentence to see Lance approaching him, "Could I have a word with you?"
Ash turned to the table and quickly excused himself before getting up and following out the red haired Champion, "What do you need?" He asked as they stopped beside the door.
"A situation has come about," Lance started removing a folder tucked under his arm and handing it to him, "I need your help, for two reasons."
Ash thumbed open the folder, and looked at its contents, "A battle?" He asked flipping the page, "Two battles." He corrected seeing the next sheet.
Lance nodded, "Yes, Team Rocket isn't waiting around anymore. They want control of the League, and they want it now." Ash's eyes looked up from the sheet and into the Champions, "They're going to take the Kanto and Johto Champions title."
"You want me to eliminate these-"
No, no," Lance interrupted quickly, "You know the G-Men don't kill, but do you know the reason for this?"
Ash shook his head, "The G-Men are the... Enforcers of the Pokemon League in a way, although we are a secret organization, if word slipped out that we killed-"
"It would destroy the Leagues image," Ash finished for him.
He nodded, "Exactly,"
"So what do you need?"
Lance glanced at the table where the four girls were trying to keep their eyes focused on what they were quietly discussing, but their eyes kept drifting their way, "The Elite Four was defeated in rapid succession," He began slowly, "As you know, Kanto and Johto have the same E4 thus I have to be battled twice by two different Trainers."
Ash nodded and he continued, "The Championship battles are on the same day, and I'll need someone to take my place at a Banquet held in Goldenrod."
His eyebrow arched, "You want me to attend to a banquet?" He asked deadpan, "Why would I-"
"Intelligence has confirmed that a high priority Rocket will be there to deal with those in our system. Team Rocket has ears all over the Pokemon League, the more they worm the way into the system the easier it will be to eventually overthrow Goodshow, and bend the rules to their will."
"You want me to... Stop this business man then?" He asked simply.
"News of my battle will be hitting media within the next six hours, once that happens my invitation will be revoked and I won't be able to get in."
"Cynthia and Steven?"
"They're invited, Steven is staying behind and Cynthia will be going as well. Steven will be on standby for when you have the business man detained; Cynthia will be mingling with the top brass to keep an eye out for anyone suspicious. And if you agree to this, you will go in undercover, locate, disable, and bring in the individual. Without disturbance, you're recognizable, media will be hounding over this event hungry for information."
Ash wet his lips and pursed them tightly. His eyes drifted passed Lance and to the table where the four sat, "I'll need a date yes?" He asked, "This is a formal event?"
"It would be required yes, but since this is being kept strictly between you, Cynthia, Lance and I, you'll be going in on your own."
"When is the battle?"
"Five days from now,"
"Come with me," Ash started back for the table and examined the two girls as he approached, "How's your shot?" He asked looking to Alyssa.
The blond blinked in confusion, "What?"
"One to ten, could you eliminate a hostile through a rooftop?"
"Glass ceiling?" She asked slowly, and he nodded, "Easily enough if I practiced, it's been to long since I've fired a shot."
Ash turned his gaze to Misty, "Can you act?"
"I need a date, and I need over watch. We can't trust anybody in the system, so I need you two." He felt Lance's eyes burning into his back but ignored it.
The two girls stared at him in disbelief, "Back in the game?" Alyssa whispered unsurely.
He turned to Lance, "Explain,"
And so the Champion did, revealing how he would be facing two battles, while Ash would be taking his place at the banquet to capture a high priority target.
Once he was finished he added on, "This is a dangerous assignment, Ash has been instructed to take in the target without lethality, but we cannot let him escape. The target holds information with Rocket clients, locations, plans, the information we get would be able to put us two steps ahead of Giovanni."
"I'm in," Alyssa whispered, "I'll need to go to a shooting range, I'm probably slow on the trigger, but I'm sure I haven't lost all of my touch."
Ash turned his eyes to the red head, "Misty?"
Her throat refused to let a sound come up, they wanted her to take part in a take down! "I-I don't know. I can't do anything, I can't shoot, or- or kill!"
Ash shook his head, "I don't need you to, I need you to stick with me until we locate the target. After that you'll be taken by Cynthia, or Alyssa can come down to get you while I take 'em out. The only danger you're in, is of a hangover."
"Won't I be recognized though? I'm a Gym Leader, and-"
His lip quirked, "The two of you will be getting make-overs," Ash said slyly, "You'll be unrecognizable. You'll be safe, and this would be over within a few hours."
She looked around unsurely, all eyes were on her, "I-I uh, fine okay... Yes I'll do it..."
Ash shifted his eyes between the two girls, one terrified, and the other nervous. "Alyssa, meet me at the shooting range in one hour, Misty go find Cynthia and ask her for information on how to speak to the higher ups, have her turn you into the perfect lady, and make sure you lock down a bubbly laugh. Preferably loud and obnoxious," He then turned to Lance, "I believe you said there were two things you need my help with?"
Lance nodded and gestured for him to follow him out of the cafeteria. "When Steven lost the title, Jones had used Shadow Pokemon. She had held back, and her Pokemon fainted on silent commands."
Ash remained silent, "If I'm losing the title, I'm not going down without a fight. I need you to show me how to fight them."
Ash turned confused eyes onto the champion, he was dead serious, "You want me to train you?"
"Yes it sounds absurd, but it's the truth. You've fought them before, you don't remember yes. But you can show me how to be ruthless. At Indigo you drew blood; it's rare for that to happen in battle. But now, it's the only option I have to retain the title. I need you to show me how to go past the limit."
Ash stared at the Champion in a mixture of awe and surprise, "It's dangerous," Ash stated, "and I'll need your Pokeballs."
Lance regarded him with curious eyes as they rounded a corner, "Very well, should we begin now?"
"I'll need your Pokeballs, and some tools first. The difference between Rocket and regular Pokeballs is the passive function. That'll need to be removed, and only then will your Pokemon allow themselves to go further than before."
"Faster," Alyssa dropped the magazine from the Barrett, grabbed a new one, slapped it home, thumbed the safety, and opened fire. Six shots rang through the gun range, and then she ducked as a tennis ball was whipped for her head.
Ash regarded her carefully; he'd been drilling her hard the past three and a half days. Her shot was improving magnificently, her reflexes were picking up, she was faster and stronger then she had been the past half year or so.
Depression didn't do her well, taking away her will to do anything productive. She'd grown lazy, lacked interest in everything, so spent her time wandering around Pallet and up at the Ranch with his Pokemon.
"Your good," He complimented, he turned to face the target she had shot at. Three through the heart, one through the head, two in the kidney. "You'll be ready,"
She ran a hand tiredly though her hair, "Thanks," She smiled at him, "What about you?"
He raised an eyebrow, and picked up an unused target. Placing it in the holder, he sent it down to the back of the range and dropped his hands to his holsters, "On mark,"
The pistols were blazing before she even finished, casings flew from the chambers and rattled onto the ground. As both pistols shot their final bullet, he tossed the guns into the air, snatched two new clips set them down onto the shelf in front of him, caught the guns, ejected the empty magazines, slammed the butts down onto the filled and once again opened fire.
When the final shot rang out, white smoke spiraled out of the barrel. Ash turned his gaze to Alyssa who had her jaw hanging low. He pressed the button on the wall and the target whizzed back towards them.
She examined his hits. The heart was missing, and the head was littered with holes, most in the upper area. One was square between the eyes, one in the center of the throat, and one per hand. "Yeah," She said in a high voice, "I-I think you'll be alright..."
He flicked the safety's on and slid the pistols back into the holster, "You'll be alright though," He asked his eyes examining her carefully, "Getting back in the game can be tough, you can still back out if you'd like."
She smiled at him and set the Barrett down, "I couldn't bring myself to back out, after... After Indigo I blamed myself, I could have stopped Domino from shooting you, I could have prevented it but I was too slow." She bit her lip, "I won't let it happen again, I won't hesitate, if I see something or someone that you won't have time to stop I won't hesitate to pull the trigger. I can't lose you again..."
She was surprised when two arms found their way around her shoulders, he was hugging her. Hugging! She wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed him tightly, "They had others in the stands," he whispered into her ear.
She pulled back slightly to see him, "What?"
He looked her square in the eye, "I could see them in the tapes, if Domino missed, there were others positioned with a clean shot. So either way, if you had killed her, everything would be as it is now."
She stared at him in disbelief, "Y-Your kidding..." She whispered, "But..." She shook her head, and pulled him closer to her, "Never mind..." She rested her head on his chest and held him tightly.
His lip curled as she laughed, a high, loud, obnoxious laugh, "It-It wasn't that bad was it?" asked Misty nervously as Ash started looking through hair dyes, "I can still change-"
"Misty," He said picking up a bottle of bleach, and light brown hair dye, "I hated the laugh in a good way. It'll draw people's attention towards us, that's what I want. Keep it as is."
Before she could respond he held the two bottles up behind her, "You're going to be a brunette for a few months, shouldn't look too bad though,"
She winced slightly, "Isn't there any... Less permanent way to do this?" She watched him through the mirror mixing the bleach to the right consistency before glancing back to her.
"Fraid' not, you need to look natural... I'll give you red highlights to go along with the brown; it'll feel more natural for you that way. Now come ere'"
She did, although fairly reluctantly to sit down with her back to a sink, "I gotta ask, how do you know how to do all of this?" She asked skeptically as he placed a towel behind her neck, and across her front.
"For reasons such as this, if I need to go in undercover, then I'll change my appearance to match the necessity."
"Have.. Have you gone on any type of assignment where you've had to go in under cover?" He turned on the tap and told her to bring her head back.
"To the extent of dying my hair no. To changing wardrobe, yes."
She didn't ask for him to elaborate as he washed her hair, his hand work was gentle, contrary to his rough hands. It was relaxing, the warm water, the feeling of his hands working their way through her hair...
She let out a small content sigh and he raised an eyebrow, "Enjoying yourself?" He asked bemusedly.
A small twinge of pink appeared on her cheeks, "Well... Little bit maybe..." She paused briefly, "Have you done this before?"
He started lathering her hair with shampoo, "Done what?"
"Washed... Someone else's hair before... Or dyed it?"
He was glad to see her eyes closed at the moment, so she wouldn't see the slight red that took over his own cheeks. That was getting a bit to... Uh private so he lied, "No, well dyed hair yes. For training of course."
She hmmd in response, seemingly happy with the answer. Once he rinsed her hair one last time, he brought her back over to the chair and brought out the bleach, "Do you want a book, music, or something? This'll take around two-three hours to do."
He nodded and walked over to the counter where a radio sat, he left it on a station that played multiple genres and returned to the current red head, "Anything else? Washroom break, snack, drink?"
"I'm alright, I uh..." She cleared her throat in embarrassment, "Went before I came down here."
He didn't seem to notice, "Good, so now just relax and we'll be done in no time."
So he went to work, the music playing quietly in the background as he brushed her hair, and then began carefully applying layers of bleach. Nearing the half-way point of the first layer he asked, "Are you nervous at all about this?"
Her eyebrows furrowed, and she resisted the urge to shake her head, on the chance that she made him do something wrong, "A tad at first, I'll be honest I was terrified. I mean we've dealt with Team Rocket in the past, with them trying to steal Pikachu and all. But that..." She shivered, "That didn't involve killing, it was just you, me, and Brock, sending Jessie James, and Meowth blasting off. We never really got hurt."
"But this is entirely different, this is... Government work, if something goes wrong... Someone could get hurt, or Team Rocket could somehow capture you instead of them. It could all be a ploy for all we know."
His eyebrow arched in thought. Could what she had said been true? That Team Rocket was feeding the G-Men false information just so they could bring him back? He wouldn't put it passed them, it was a legitimate strategy that had worked in the past.
"I won't get captured," His voice was certain, "I wouldn't allow myself to be caught-"
"Then why are you here?"
He blinked; there was a slight edge to her tone, "Because I realized that I would not have outrun the G-Men forces. There were to many, I would have grown tired, or stumbled just enough for one of them to tranquilize me. So I stood my ground,"
She didn't respond to that, so he continued working on in silence. Two hours passed, and he had finished her hair.
Misty couldn't recognize the girl in the mirror. It was her, but it wasn't. The girl she now looked at was a brunette with a single cherry red streak running down the side of her head. Her eyes were no longer the cerulean she was so used to, but now a dark brown, oddly similar to Ash's.
"Wow…" She stated running a hand through her very soft hair, "It looks… Really good."
Ash was rinsing off his hands as he replied, "Keep the contacts in for the rest of the day so you can get used to them, but take them out at night and keep them in the case."
She was still transfixed by her appearance, but nodded her head at his words, "I will…"
"Now all you need to do is go find Cynthia and see if there is someplace around here you can get a fancy dress, it'll need to fit you perfectly though, rich folk can smell hand-me downs from miles away."
She turned to him with a smile, "Any preference?" She teased.
He blinked, "Preference to what?"
For the love of her, it took everything for her not to face palm. Apparently he was still oblivious to clothing, "Never mind," She said exasperatedly and started for the door.
Ash merely shrugged and started cleaning up.
He made sure to take his time as he readied himself. He needed to look the part, but still have one-hundred percent mobility.
He was dressed in a two-button suit with black flat front dress pants. A white short sleeved dress shirt was beneath the jacket, and a pair of polished black dress shoes reflected the surroundings clearly.
Since this was a banquet, it needed to be formal attire, so instead of the original tan jacket, he had requested a black suit custom tailored with two sheaths sewn into the flaps of the jacket.
He also sported a holster that was slung across his back beneath the jacket that held one of his hand guns. On the off chance that there were armed hostiles within the banquet, he'd needed to be prepared. Rockets were known to light up an area in seconds if things did not go their way.
He should know, he was one of them.
He was still unsure of what to do with his hair, back ponytail? It would certainly be long enough, and keep the hair out of his eyes. Quick trim? Enough so that it wouldn't disrupt his field of view, but not enough for someone to recognize him. Or a hat? That was easy enough; slap one on an go from there.
In the long run, he opted for straightening his hair, and giving it a swift comb. He wanted to be recognized by the Rocket, doing anything that would drastically change his appearance, or prohibit anyone from realizing who he was would take away the purpose of him being there.
Although he did wear red contacts, if he was recognized by say a member of the PLB, the world would go into shock. The kid who vanished, only to reappear at the Pokemon League, only to be then killed at that Pokemon League, to casually stroll in and say hi as if nothing ever took place?
That would go well.
He was ready though, Espeons Pokeball tucked into his pocket, knives in their sheaths, gun holstered, hair combed, shirt tucked in. He looked the part, now all that was left was to leave for the limo that he, Misty and Alyssa would be taking to the banquet.
"Misty, Alyssa?" He called from the bathroom.
They had arrived at a hotel in Goldenrod the day before, gotten their, or more so he had gone and dropped off Alyssa's gear on the roof of the building where it currently waited for her. And it was about five minutes before they were due to leave.
"Yes Ash?" It was Alyssa, he could sense the anxiousness deep within her voice.
"You and Mist head down to the lobby. I'll meet you there."
He heard a brief scuffle of the two girls slipping on their shoes, and the opening and closing of the door behind them.
He stared at himself in the mirror. Black hair cascading down in front of his eyes, shielding them from view. Slight nick on his chin from where he slipped while shaving.
He didn't like what he saw, he preferred to be dressed in a pair of jeans and a T. That had been his basic attire all his life, not some penguin suit. He also looked tired, but he was far from it. Something was missing, there was no light behind his eyes, no… Anything, just darkness.
He was sure that he was the only to see it though, he kept up his facade of keeping his emotions off of his face so know one would attempt to find a weakness, or something to use against him.
Eyes he knew, could tell stories. Even if the person did not wish for it to be so, but there was always a way for you to see. Someone who was better at controlling themselves in the art of deceit.
But his own eyes… There was nothing, no stories, no emotion… Nothing. And it unsettled him greatly, during his time with the G-Men, he had stared as he did right now at himself in a mirror. Searching his eyes for… Something.
But he always came back empty handed.
But before all this, before the G-Men, and the voices. He had been happy; it would be a lie to say otherwise. He had seen it in his eyes, there was happiness. He had loved Domino, and he had been sure she had felt the same. But it was different now, she had lied to him. Or very skillfully maneuvered herself around the truth.
She hadn't known why he was getting the voices. She had told him the truth that he had been a part of Team Rocket before his… Supposed accident at Silph Co. She had trained him before, not directly, but she had been the one to establish what he'd be trained in.
He missed her, after not seeing her for well over a month. The blond kept creeping back into his mind.
But he knew things would be different for the next time they met. She was his enemy… But… She had loved him. Would she still if she found out he was working for the G-Men. Or more importantly, would he still love her after his memory was restored.
Apparently he had wanted her dead on more than one occasion before all of this. Would his… Would his two personalities clash after he remembered? That he'd hate to love her, or the exact opposite, love to hate her? He'd been sleeping on this for well over a week now, to go find her and work things out so she would leave Team Rocket.
But there was a difference between them, he was a traitor. She wasn't. He knew deep down that Dom would never leave Team Rocket after all that they'd done for her.
Taking in an orphan, making her an Elite in a world famous organization. They had given her a life. She was in debt to Giovanni, and she wouldn't leave until either he died or Team Rocket was disbanded. Forever.
He turned on the tap and splashed some water onto his face, he needed to get going. He could think about all of this later.
Drying his face off with a hand towel, he left the bathroom and went over to a stand that had two radios on it. One no bigger then his thumb, a beacon that would send out his location to Steven once he detained the business man.
And the other, a small portable radio. He'd be listening to the broadcast of Lance's second match. The now ex Kanto Champion was preparing for his second title defense of the day as he walked out of the room and into the hall.
After a grueling battle, he had contacted the Johto Champion and quizzed him hard on the battle against his challenger. Having watched the battle, and learned about what it was like to face the Shadow Pokemon. He formulated a plan for Lance, that would be sure to give the second Rocket a hell of a time claiming the title for their own.
Seeing as how Lance blew the first match on purpose, using Pokemon that had never battled yet in their life. The second match would surely be something to remember.
The two girls sat facing each other in the limo waiting for Ash to comedown. He was certainly taking his time.
Misty flattened out her dress a third time, the silky blue material was prone to wrinkles, and she refused to let that happen. Her dress flowing down to her ankles with a long neckline and two straps hugged her curves nicely. But it was damn hard to sit in, especially with the leather intiror of the limo.
"H-Hey Misty?" She glanced up to the blond, who wore a green dress similar to hers, however it cut off in ruffles just after her knees, with a single strap.
The blond seemed uncomfortable, and that made her nervous, "Everything alright?"
She nodded, "Well… Yeah, it's just I need to umm ask you something."
Misty made a rolling gestured with her hand and she continued, "Well what's," She cleared her throat, "When Ash get's his memory back what's going to happen between the three of us?"
She frowned, "What do you mean?"
Alyssa squirmed a bit, and said almost reluctantly, "Well, you and Gary are dating right? And umm, before Ashs match at indigo, you know before he was shot. I sort of kissed him."
The silence that followed would have made a western shoot out seem like a crowd after someone won the title of Master. Misty just stared at Alyssa in shock, the blond had never told her about that, that she had kissed Ash while… While they had still been… Or still been kind of dating.
But now she understood something. After Ash regained his memories, there would be an inevitable fight for his affection. He'd no doubt feel horrible for learning that right after he had died she had started dating Gary. Someone she still had to break up with. But now that she learned that he knew of Alyssa's affection for him would… Well she didn't know what it would do, but it would definetly create a rift between her and the blond.
"W-When you umm…" She cleared her throat awkwardly, or more so reluctantly as she was a little scared of the answer, "Did he umm… Respond well or or was it…"
"He responded… Well."
"And you uh… Kissed him because…?"
Alyssa kept her mouth shut, she had kept this from both Misty and Delia since she'd known them. They had been to kind to her, giving her a place to stay, friends, a family. She couldn't have brought herself to tell them, that Ash had gone willingly to his death. That he knew that Team Rocket was going to gun him down during the battle. She had already dealt with the blame put on her for not blowing off Dominos head while she had the chance by them, but she knew… She knew that Misty, Delia, the Oaks, Maples, Berlitz… They would blame her, blame her for not stopping Ash from doing it.
They'd say that she had known from the beginning what he had been planning. That at any time she could have stopped him, but was still a member of Team Rocket. Using him. Screwing with him all that time just so she could watch him die...
If that had happened.
She would have truly been alone in this world. She couldn't go back to Team Rocket, she… Orre was out of the question, she had up to an eigth grade education, leaving her school than to join Team Rocket. So she hadn't finished Highschool, she'd be unable to get a job… Except being some cheap whore who worked at a strip club. She'd right kill herself before she took that route.
So she'd have nothing. No one to go to, no one to ask for help. Or a place to stay so she could turn her life around. She'd be destined to either opt out, or live on the streets. She wouldn't be able to stay at her and Ashs place in Illex Forest, the trek from there into Azalea or Ecruteak took a couple days at a time.
She'd probably opt out. She'd have nothing in this world, she had been grateful when she had learned Ash had asked his mother for her to stay at his house permanently after the League. It had given her a chance, one to regroup herself. Even though it was damn near impossible knowing- Or as she had recently come to learn, thought that she could have kept him alive.
She had started taking classes online for her education, determined not to let Ash down. Not to become nothing for him. Spending time with his Pokemon had offered her a different career path as well, she had offered the Pokemon at Oaks ranch to become their Trainer so they could continue competing. So they could fulfil Ashs original dream.
Before she, Misty and Delia had been taking to the HQ, the Pokemon had warmed up to the idea greatly. And she had been learning everything she possibly could about being a Trainer on the chance that they all accepted. That was her rule though, she wanted all of his Pokemon to partake in this Journey. For Ashs honor, so that his memory would not be forgotten.
She brought her eyes up to the worried brunette, she realized she hadn't said anything more about five minutes, "O-On the umm… Roof of the building Ash told me that-" Freezing mid-sentence, the door of the limo opened and Ash slid in.
"You two ready to go?" He asked knocking twice on the window where the driver sat.
There was a silence, but both girls nodded. There eyes meeting in an unspoken saying of we'll finish this conversation later.
And since the Indigo battles from ARFA was absolute trash, I'm going to be making sure that the parts of the battle I decide to showcase are in fact... Above average quality, or more so the quality of what I'm writing for Constellation Connections.
Thanks again for reading, please feel free to pop in a review, and I'll see you all next time around!