The Team Rocket Chronicles

By Red Dragonfly (aka Rebecca Lang)

. . .

Prologue

Giovanni's Team Rocket School

. . .

. . .

Giovanni was angry. Beyond angry, really. He faced the three quivering idiots as they begged and pleaded for forgiveness.

"How could you lose it?" he shouted.

The trio began babbling.

"Silence!" ordered Giovanni. "I don't want your excuses."

It was bad enough that they had ruined his gym, destroyed thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and been unable to capture a single worthwhile pokemon. But now this! They couldn't even do simple household chores!

The threesome had become quiet again. A nervous sort of quiet. Perhaps the amount of trouble they were in had finally entered their thick heads.

"Now explain to me how you managed to screw up your assignment yet again."

Neither the girl, the boy, and the cat seemed particularly eager to speak. At last the girl, the obvious leader, stepped up. "Well, you see, sir, we had done what you told us to do. We had washed it..."

"Groomed it..." added the boy.

"Sharpened its claws..." interjected the cat.

"And fed it," finished the girl. "We were just about to start on the next chore, when that twerp and his Pikachu showed up."

"So you decided to try and steal it, yet again," said Giovanni with disgust.

"Of course," said the girl. "We know how much you want that Pikachu. So we put your Persian back in its pokeball-"

"Oh, you should have seen the battle," burst in the boy. "We were so devious as we glided in-"

"Shut up!" bellowed Giovanni. "The last thing I want to hear is how you've failed me!"

The three began to shake again.

"You battled, and you lost," summed up Giovanni.

"And the next thing we knew we were flying through the air," said the boy.

"And when we counted our pokeballs..." put in the girl.

"We found the one with your Persian in it was missing," said the cat.

"So what you're saying is that my Persian could be anywhere from here to the Orange Islands!"

"Well," said the idiot boy, "probably not the Orange Islands. We didn't fly that far..."

"Silence!"

Giovanni stood up and glared at the three incompetents. They shivered, more frightened than ever. Giovanni could not believe how useless they were. After nearly five years, this trio had not done one thing to prove they were capable of capturing pokemon. They had to be the worst failure in the history of Team Rocket.

The girl especially disappointed him. He had expected great things from her. After all, her sister had been the most valuable teacher of the Team Rocket School. In fact, she'd been the one to inspire the project in the first place.

. . .

Jaquie had red hair that twisted back into a curl and blue eyes that glowed of mischief. She wore a neatly patched black leather jacket and slouched in her chair as Giovanni interviewed her, looking generally uninterested in anything he had to say.

"You want to join Team Rocket, do you?" Giovanni asked in a slithery sort of voice he reserved for his new recruits.

"If it pays well," she replied, leaning backward into her chair and putting her feet on top of Giovanni's desk. "I need the money for my family."

"I see," he said. "Have you ever caught a pokemon before?"

"No." She shrugged. "What's there to know? You find a pokemon, weaken it, and throw a pokeball at it. Any half-brain could do it." There was an empty pokeball on Giovanni's desk. Jaquie picked it up and rolled it meticulously around with her fingers.

"It requires a little more skill than that. You have to..."

Jaquie stood, spun, and threw the pokeball at a dart board decorating the far wall. There was a dart still embedded in the bullseye; when Jaquie's pokeball hit dead center, it absorbed the dart into it. Jaquie picked up the pokeball, twirled it one last time, then flicked it back onto Giovanni's desk.

"Any half-brain could do it," she repeated, staring at him defiantly with her piercing blue eyes. "And I'm not a half-brain."

Giovanni was secretly impressed. Not only did the girl have good aim, she seemed fairly intelligent and daring. Perhaps a little too daring for Giovanni's liking-he was not used to being talked to like that, especially by some worthless recruit-but it was nothing Giovanni couldn't cure her of.

"You're hired," he said. "There will be an orientation for new recruits tomorrow, in order to see if you are worthy of joining." Giovanni gave the girl an icy smile. "If you capture pokemon half as well as you capture darts, I'm sure you'll have no trouble."

"Once I pass orientation, what happens then?" Jaquie asked.

"If you pass, you will be issued a uniform and receive weekly instructions for your new duties as a member of Team Rocket. In addition, you will be required to do whatever I saw whenever I say. I will be your boss, and you will follow my orders." Giovanni emphasized each word to be sure she got the picture, then his lips turned upward to form his same, cold grin. "If you pass, of course."

"That's all?" Giovanni nodded. "When do I get paid?"

"If you become a member, you will be paid every month, starting the day after you pass the test." Giovanni told her the amount she would be paid, as well as the time of her orientation and some other minor details. "Who knows?" he added, as Jaquie got up to leave. "I'm looking for a partner. You seem to be a bright girl. Maybe my partner will be you someday."

Jaquie snorted. "Yeah, right," she scoffed. "I'm sure you say that to all your recruits. It may work on them, but I'm a little harder to impress. I'm in here for the money, not some fancy promotion."

Giovanni could have fired her right there for her disrespectful attitude. But he liked this girl's cleverness; she wasn't fooled by blind promises. He had a feeling she would turn out to be more valuable than the average Team Rocket member.

. . .

The next day, Giovanni led his army of recruits, Jaquie included, into the vicinity of a small field. The recruits buzzed with excitement, like a hive of insects. They are insects, thought Giovanni. They stumble along, doing whatever I command. Inferior beings. The whole army does not have half the brains I do.

"Hey," said Jaquie. "Is our orientation to stand in the field all day or what?"

Except, perhaps, her, thought Giovanni. He turned to her. She wore the same patched-up jacket as before, the same sullen stare. Unlike the other recruits, she was unexcited, quite bored-looking, in fact. Yes, thought Giovanni, she may be useful, if she can be made to serve me.

"Let's get started with the test," said Giovanni.

The crowd quieted as he began to speak. He told them, briefly, their instructions. Each person would receive three pokeballs. He or she had to go into the field and catch three of the pokemon that lurked there: a Pidgey, a Rattata, and a Nidoran, boy or girl.

"Each of you will be given a starter pokemon." He snapped his fingers and men in black uniforms began to hand out pokeballs to the new recruits. "These pokemon are yours to keep, provided you pass your test." Giovanni smiled maliciously at the new recruits. "Are there any questions?"

Only Jaquie dared ask. "We get paid as long as we pass, right? Well, what if we capture rarer pokemon than those. Do we get paid extra?"

Giovanni blinked, surprised. "You certainly have an unusual obsession with money."

"Hey," said Jaquie, hands on hips, "I have a sick mother at home and a kid sister who thinks eating snow for lunch is a good thing. I need the money. Now if you have a problem with that..."

Giovanni laughed. "If you're able to catch pokemon rarer than these, I'll give you a ten percent bonus. But don't spend all day looking; I want to be out of here within the next hour and a half."

Despite her possible potential, Giovanni knew the girl wouldn't be able to find anything unique. The only pokemon that lived in this particular field were Pidgeys, Rattatas, and Nidorans.

So it was a huge shock when Jaquie came strolling casually back to the starting point an hour later with a Squirtle, Bulbasaur, and Charmander within her three pokeballs.

"Where did you find them?" he demanded.

Jaquie gestured vaguely. "They were around."

"What do you mean by 'around'? I've been coming here for twenty years now, and I've never seen a wild Squirtle, Bulbasaur, or Charmander. As far as I know they can't survive here. Now, explain to me how you've managed to come across three in just one hour."

Jaquie shrugged incredulously. "I just found them. Don't ask me what they were doing here, 'cause I don't know. Maybe they ran away from a trainer or were abandoned. They were kind of tough to beat."

Giovanni stared at her suspiciously. He couldn't quite believe she had just stumbled upon them; it seemed to him that Jaquie had known exactly what she was doing.

"What type of pokemon did you receive from me? A Nidoran male, was it? That pokemon had never been in battle before, and you admitted yourself that you've never caught a pokemon before. Do you expect me to believe that you somehow managed to defeat and capture three human-trained pokemon the first time you've ever done this?"

"I don't expect you to believe anything," retorted Jaquie. "Except that you now have three pokemon rarer than a Pidgey, a Rattata, and a Nidoran. I really did capture them myself, but if you want to believe I stole them or someone gave them to me, that's fine with me. But I expect to be paid extra today, since I fulfilled my end of the bargain."

Giovanni conceded. Jaquie had an attitude, showed no respect for authority, and was obviously keeping a secret from Giovanni. But she was also the most brilliant young recruit had had ever stumbled upon, and within a single day had made herself quite possibly the most valuable Team Rocket member he had.

. . .

Jaquie came home that night with a new Team Rocket uniform, a nice sum of money, and mixed feelings. On the one hand she was grateful to have gotten the job at Team Rocket-the pay was good, the hours were nice, and she could build up her skills as a pokemon trainer. But, on the other hand, Jaquie knew perfectly well that Team Rocket was an organization of thieves and criminals. She wasn't quite comfortable with that fact. Her mom had told her never to turn to a life of crime, and somehow she couldn't quite ignore that warning.

Jaquie went into her room and laid her uniform neatly on the bed.

"Jaquie, is that you?" Her mother's voice called softly from the adjacent room.

Jaquie glided into her mother's bedroom. "Hi mom," she said, "how are you feeling today?"

From under her faded quilted comforter, Jaquie's mother gave her daughter a weak smile. "A little better," she said, "though I still feel weak."

"Where's Jesse?"

Her mother coughed. "I dropped her off at a friend's house this morning. I had a doctor's appointment."

"Did the doctor say anything?" asked Jaquie as she helped prop her mom up on the bed.

"He prescribed a new medicine," said Jaquie's mother. "It's supposed to work miracles."

"Does it?" asked Jaquie. Every time her mother said something about a new medicine, Jaquie felt strangely hopeful. Her mother had been sick for the last three years and only seemed to grow worse. Jaquie knew most of the new, miraculous medicines weren't very effective, but desperation made Jaquie optimistic.

"I don't know." Jaquie's mother sighed. "It's very expensive. And as we are... well, I just can't afford it."

Wordlessly, Jaquie took the money out of her pocket. Her mother's widened as Jaquie slipped the money on the sheets next to her.

"Jaquie, where...?" her mother began.

"I got a new job." Jaquie rushed to explain. "I was hired today."

Her mother's face showed concern. "I thought you wanted to be a pokemon trainer."

"I did."

But being a trainer didn't pay much. In the meantime it took money to pay for all those pokeballs and superpotions, not to mention countless hours away from home. If you got to the top, it was only by years of tough training. What, then, would happen to Jaquie's family?

"You shouldn't have to sacrifice your dreams for money," her mother said.

It's not the money I care about, thought Jaquie. It's my family. But she would have never said those words out loud.

Her mother shook her head. "No, I won't have it. You shouldn't need to get a job. Your dreams come first."

"But mom, this is like my dreams," blurted Jaquie. "Sort of. I get to catch pokemon; it's part of my job."

Jaquie would never openly lie to her mother, but exaggeration was different. It was true that she did capture pokemon. Her mom didn't have to know the name of the organization she was catching them for.

Jaquie's mother looked quizzical. "Who would pay for someone to capture pokemon?"

"Some rich, eccentric guy." Though her voice sounded normal, inside Jaquie's stomach felt strangely fluttery and her ears felt hot; she was not, as of yet, a natural liar. "He even gave me my first pokemon. See." Jaquie showed her mom the pokeball. "It's a Nidoran boy. We had an orientation at the Sepia field. I caught three pokemon, and I was hired."

Her mother smiled. "That's great. I guess all the time you spent there paid off."

Jaquie nodded.

The Sepia field was Jaquie's favorite place to watch pokemon. As a young girl, her mother had taken her there and showed her how to look for pokemon tracks. Her mother had shown her how to tell if a print belonged to a Ratatta or a Charmander, a Pidgey or a Bulbasaur, a Nidoran or a Squirtle. As she got older, Jaquie would watch the trainers battle in the field. She had quickly learned the strengths and weaknesses of various pokemon, as well as their best attacks. Jaquie remembered last week, when she discovered with excitement three rare pokemon hiding in the field, using shallow holes in the never ending sea of grass to camouflage their existence from all who passed. All who passed except her.

Jaquie's mother began to cough and Jaquie rushed to her aid. The medicine Jaquie gave her made her sleepy. As Jaquie's mother drifted off to sleep, she murmured, "Wake me up in an hour to pick up your sister."

"Don't worry." Jaquie would pick Jesse up herself.

Jaquie went back into her room. Her Team Rocket uniform stared back at her, neat upon the bed.

There was no choice really. It was the only job Jaquie could get that would support her family.

From the chipped, veneered dressing table, Jaquie got out a needle and thread. She would be a criminal, but she would never compromise who she was. She would never be a mindless follower.

Her uniform would need some adjusting.

. . .

After a while, thought Jaquie, being a member of Team Rocket can get pretty boring.

She had worked for Giovanni for three months and had found that her job included no more than throwing pokeballs and occasionally handling some fancy equipment. Plus, acting all bad and tough. Jaquie had heard that people in Team Rocket got into a lot of fights, but the only ones she had been in were with the other members. A couple had jerks had some how got it into their heads that they were better than her and got really upset when she told them they were "ugly freaks stupider than a retarded slowpoke." There was a pokemon battle, which Jaquie had won.

But besides fighting, Jaquie hated being with the other members of the team. They seemed to think of themselves as hardened criminals, regular fugitives from the law. Only Jaquie seemed to realize the truth-that they were pawns of Giovanni.

Not that she minded being a pawn as long as her checks came on time, but still, there had to be something more than this. She decided to tell Giovanni about it.

"I mean, all we ever do is follow you around maybe once a week and help you capture some pokemon." She stood with casual confidence in Giovanni's office, wearing her snappy new Team Rocket suit. By turning the shirt into a jacket to wear in front of her white shirt, replacing the large red R in the front with a small R on the side, and disregarding the hat altogether, Jaquie managed to look more like a business woman than an ordinary criminal. "And, hey, I don't really have a problem with that, but isn't there something else I could be doing? I feel like I'm being paid for nothing."

Giovanni seemed intrigued. "What are you suggesting?"

"I'm suggesting I go out on my own and capture rare wild pokemon for you," she said. "I'll return every month to collect my check and give you the pokemon. After all, you can't be everywhere at once and I can work much more efficiently on my own."

"That sounds reasonable," said Giovanni, beginning to turn away from her.

"And as a reward for my extra efforts," continued Jaquie, "I will receive, in addition to my salary, 20 percent of the market value for each pokemon I bring in." Jaquie squared her shoulders and looked Giovanni defiantly in the eye.

Giovanni turned back. "And why should I agree to that?" he asked in a hard voice.

Jaquie shrugged like she didn't care. "It's all one to me. I can go back to throwing pokeballs at pokemon, like any other blockhead. I can go on doing whatever petty chore you assign. But this way, we'd both benefit. You'd have more rare pokemon and I'd be richer."

"How can I refuse such a deal?"

Jaquie grinned. "You can't."

Over the next few months Jaquie became very skilled at catching rare pokemon. Years of watching passing pokemon trainers train their pokemon had taught her which pokemon had above average talents and which were normal. Locating the pokemon was really no trouble either. In a strange city, the best way to find out where all the good pokemon lurked was to disguise herself as a pokemon trainer, ask a ton of questions, and keep her ears open. And if that didn't work, searching every square inch of the area did.

The real challenge was trying to catch pokemon. Jaquie had never really had experience with that, though she'd watched others do it often enough. Jaquie spent most of the first month just training her Nidoran boy.

I'm beginning to see why so many trainers never make it to the top, Jaquie wrote to her mother once. This is hard! Much harder than it looks. But my Nidoran is getting stronger, and yesterday I almost caught a pokemon. I'll try again tomorrow.

Jaquie paused in her writing. She liked to write letters to her mother, telling of her day. They were short, and only somewhat personal, but she knew her mother would find reading them reassuring.

Say hi to Jesse for me, she finished. Don't let her forget me. Take care, both of you. Love, Jaquie.

She signed her name and folded the letter.

Despite the hard work, Jaquie found herself enjoying the challenge. Before too long she'd learned strategies for capturing pokemon. The best way to capture pokemon was to surprise them and press for a quick attack. Or, if that didn't work, she would tire them out until they surrendered into their pokeballs.

The first month alone, through extreme persistence, Jaquie caught an Abra, a Growlithe, a Vulpix, a Scyther, and a Pinser for Giovanni. "I should have more next week," she told him. "I'm just starting to get the hang of this."

During the next few months, Jaquie had an excellent time. She had absolute freedom; she could do whatever she wanted. Her skills as a trainer were getting better and better. Best of all, Jaquie was getting paid for this. The more pokemon she captured, the more money she made.

However, as she became better and better, it seemed that Giovanni demanded more of her. One day he called her into his office.

"I have noticed that pokemon reserves have gotten popular lately," he began in his slithery voice.

"Yes," said Jaquie briefly.

"They are filled with rare and valuable pokemon," he continued. "But no one is allowed to catch them. The fools who run the place think they can stop me from owning them."

"Come to the point," said Jaquie darkly. She did not like where this was going.

"My point is this: I want you to break into these reserves and steal those pokemon from me."

For a second, Jaquie felt like all the air around her had vanished. Her heart pounded loudly. It wasn't that she hadn't expected this, but to hear it out loud... Still, Jaquie was determine not to let Giovanni see it bothered her.

"Well," said Giovanni, curious at Jaquie's hesitation.

Jaquie straightened herself. "Why should I?" she asked. "I run the risk of getting in trouble with the law."

"But that's what Team Rocket is all about," grinned Giovanni.

"Well, it's not what I'm about," Jaquie shot back. "In case you've forgotten, I'm in here for the money, and I see no reason why I should do all that extra work..."

"I'll raise your salary."

Jaquie's eyes narrowed to slits. "How much?"

"I'll raise your monthly salary by 20 percent..."

"Hardly worth the trouble," said Jaquie dismissively.

"...and I'll pay you 50 percent of each pokemon's value. And believe me, those pokemon can be sold for quite a tidy sum."

Jaquie hated to admit it, but she was tempted. Her salary would increase enormously and all because...but no Jaquie wouldn't stoop to that. Her mother had always told her, "Jaquie, no matter what happens, never resort to stealing. No matter how bad things get, we can make it through it. But I don't want to have to call my baby a criminal." Jaquie wouldn't poach from the reserves. She needed to get out of this somehow.

"I'll think this over," she said slowly, delaying for time.

Giovanni could see that Jaquie was uncomfortable with the idea, but he was calm. Leaning back in his chair, Giovanni played his wild card. "I understand you're trying to save up to send your little sister to Pokemon Tech."

Jaquie looked up with sudden, renewed interest.

"It's a very exclusive school, very expensive. Imagine how easy it would be to get her through with a 20 percent monthly raise and 50 percent of profits."

"How did you know about my savings?" By lowering her voice, Jaquie was able to keep the emotion out of it. She was upset. How dare he invade her private life? But more than anger, Jaquie felt fear. How did Giovanni know this? She never told him anything about her family. She wanted them to have as little to do with Team Rocket as possible.

"Oh, I have my sources," said Giovanni, smiling with sly triumph. Jaquie turned pale inside. Was he watching her house? Was this supposed to be a threat? "By the way," Giovanni added, "how's the new medicine working for your mother? I hope she's feeling better than she was last week."

. . .

There was a pokemon reserve at Fushia. The large city attracted several tourist and it was no stretch for Jaquie to disguise herself as one. There were tour guides who showed visitors around the park. Jaquie talked to them incessively, like some air-headed student.

"I love pokemon," she said, grinning a dopey smile. "They are soooo cute. And some are really, really strong too."

Jaquie asked a million questions, most stupid, but a few with hidden meaning.

"How do you keep pokemon from escaping at night when no one can see them?" she asked.

The tour guide patiently explained the tall fences.

"But what if they break the fences? What if they all gang up and stomp the fences flat? Then the pokemon would escape and no one would know."

There was some laughter to this idiotic comment, but Jaquie just batted her eyes and acted extra ditzy.

"We have night guards," the amused guide clarified. "They patrol around the outside of the fences every night. They would know if the fence broke."

Bingo. Useful information.

Jaquie made her eyes go wide. "Ohhh." The crowd laughed again.

It was humiliating that she should have to act like an idiot. But Jaquie wanted no doubt as to her absolute innocence of the terrible situation about to occur. She even waited a week after her visit before she made her move.

Jaquie went during the night, veiled by the dark night. No one saw her as she slipped over the fence and into the pokemon reserve. Her heart pounded in her chest, but she focused on the task ahead. Creeping around the edges of the fence, she came to a low tree and climbed in it. Had it not been so dark, Jaquie would have had a good view of the place. Even in the dark she was able to see pokemon if they were close.

Tauros crept by the tree to feed. Jaquie saw her chance. She called out her Doduo, which she had captured some time ago, and had it fly towards the enemy. Away it went, past the tree, past the Tauros, close to the watch station in the middle of the reserve.

There it began to create quite a fuss. It would peck the sleeping pokemon mercilessly. Every time a pokemon tried to attack it, Doduo would dodge or flee to the sanctuary of the air. And all the time, it squawked and cried like a crazy thing. Scientists and guards from the watch tower awoke and made sleepy attempts to stop the crazy bird's rampage.

They certainly weren't paying any attention to a lone Tauros by a tree.

Jaquie sent out her Nidoran boy to pester the Tauros. The Tauros hollered just as loudly as the pokemon being attacked by Doduo, only now no one heard. As Nidoran weakened the Tauros, Jaquie called out Slowpoke. It took her an entire day just to find and capture the dumb thing, but she had a plan for it. Jaquie had managed to obtain the rare and expensive thunderwave T.M.-or technical machine-and Slowpoke could learn the attack.

Jaquie gave it the order, and Slowpoke let out a long yawn. After about two minutes-during which Nidoran struggled not to get tossed or trampled by the raging bull-Slowpoke finally bothered to attack. Tauros looked shocked as the thunderwave paralyzed it. It fell to its knees, making moaning noises. Jaquie threw a pokeball at it, and Tauros melted inside.

A few minutes later, Doduo flew to a new section of the park.

Jaquie had brought only twelve empty pokeballs with her but by the end of the night those twelve were filled. After she caught the pokemon, Jaquie climbed back over the fence and ran. She was not at all tired and instead felt like she had drunk twelve cups of coffee. She was thrilled and terrified and bursting with suppressed energy. She fled to the hotel room she was staying at.

For a few minutes she gasped for air, feeling nothing but excitement. Then, the realization of what she had done hit her like a wave. Jaquie shook; she went into the bathroom and threw up.

The next night Jaquie caught twelve more pokemon without attracting any attention. She jogged home and felt giddy and queasy, but she didn't throw up. By the third night, Jaquie calmly walked back to her hotel room and felt neither excitement nor guilt.

But by the end of the third night, people had caught on to what Jaquie was doing. The fourth night, Jaquie found that there were guards scouting the perimeter and the scientists were on alert. Jaquie didn't go back. She had done enough.

Giovanni was delighted, as much by the commotion Jaquie had stirred up as by the 36 rare pokemon. "This is excellent work. You are the best."

Yes, thought Jaquie bitterly. The best.

She didn't know why she always tried so hard, even in situations she didn't want to be in. It was partly her ambition. Jaquie wanted to prove to the whole world how great a pokemon trainer she was. It was partly pride. But it was also something else inside her that wouldn't let her settle for less. Jaquie had to be the best at everything. It was not acceptable to be otherwise.

Jaquie spent months poaching, in addition to capturing rare and wild pokemon. It was exhilarating and terrible, but Jaquie didn't mind so much any more. The only thing that mattered was the fat pay check she was receiving. Jaquie had managed to save enough to send her sister to a fancy boarding school for pokemon trainers, pay for her mother's new medicine, and completely refurnish their house.

She didn't see her family much, but she did write them short, censored letters and received letters back. To her delight, the new medicine seemed to be working. Her mother was actually improving. She'd be well soon.

It was the only thing going right.

It wasn't long before pokemon reserve owners became cautious. Security was at an all time high, and Jaquie was having trouble poaching from the reserves. When Giovanni asked her to meet with him, she felt sure he was going to throw that in her face.

Instead he just smiled. "I'm extremely pleased with your work," he told her. "You have done well. It isn't every member of Team Rocket that can scare pokemon reserves into more than doubling their security."

Jaquie straightened in pride.

"However, I have noticed that you've been returning with fewer and fewer pokemon these past few months."

Jaquie glared at him sullenly. "Yeah, well, you said it yourself. There's a tighter security. It's not so easy to go in anymore-"

Giovanni cut her off. "It matters little to me whether you capture reserve pokemon or not anymore."

Jaquie's eyes were probing. "No? And why's that? Don't tell me you've suddenly lost interest."

Giovanni made a sly smile. This was why he liked Jaquie so much. She was pure Team Rocket material: clever, wary, suspicious.

"It matters little to me," he continued coolly, "since you will be spending your time stealing pokemon from trainers."

"What makes you think I will be stealing anything?" replied Jaquie, with equal coolness.

The idea bothered her. Giovanni could see that in her calm, infuriating attitude. That was the one thing about her that bothered him: she was squeamish about crimes.

"You will have unlimited use of the weapons and equipment," he said/

"Not interested."

"You will continue to receive half the pokemon's value in profits."

"Sorry."

"I will triple your salary."

At that Jaquie paused, then her eyes slowly narrowed to slits. "Why are stolen pokemon worth so much to you anyway?"

"Stolen pokemon are better trained. They're stronger than normal pokemon and know better attacks. They're more valuable."

"If they would obey, they would be more valuable," said Jaquie, voice hinting triumph. "But stolen pokemon are loyal to their trainers. They won't obey and they always try to escape."

"My scientists have invented a drug," smiled Giovanni. "It erases part of a pokemon's memory, so the pokemon thinks I'm its new master. The pokemon are quite loyal and obedient to me."

Jaquie couldn't think of a reply to that.

"So," said Giovanni, "do we have a deal?"

Jaquie remained silent still, her bright eyes burning at Giovanni.

Giovanni relaxed in his chair. "Perhaps," he suggested, "stealing other trainers pokemon is too difficult a job for one person alone. Perhaps you could use a partner. I hear that your younger sister isn't doing too well in Pokemon Tech. Maybe she'd be better off with you. She could be your partner."

"The last thing I want," growled Jaquie, "is for my idiot sister tagging along and getting in my way. Why do you think I sent her to Pokemon Tech? To get her away from me!"

. . .

Jaquie considered capturing wild pokemon, training them a little, then passing them off as stolen pokemon. It didn't work though; the captured pokemon didn't resist Giovanni's control the way stolen ones did, and Giovanni immediately became suspicious.

It was obvious that Giovanni didn't want stolen pokemon because they were particularly valuable. He didn't even sell them, but rather trained the pokemon himself in secret. Jaquie knew that what Giovanni loved was the power of turning the pokemon's stubborn resistance into slavish submission. He loved the total control he exhibited over the pokemon. Giovanni was power-crazed.

And it was not only pokemon he loved to control.

Jaquie hated stealing pokemon. It was ten times worse than poaching pokemon from reserves and ten times more difficult. It left Jaquie tired, moody, and sickened. She didn't write much to her mother anymore, and when she did, it was more exaggeration than truth; Jaquie never mentioned stealing anywhere in the letters.

It was as though Jaquie had two lives: one firmly embedded in Team Rocket and one just as firmly planted in her family. It was important that these worlds never collide-then she'd be forced to choose between one or the other. She couldn't imagine life without her family, but at the same time she couldn't give up her job at Team Rocket- her paycheck was the only thing that kept the family going. As long as Giovanni stayed away from her family everything would be fine. Maybe if she kept him happy he would just leave her personal life alone.

Besides, stealing pokemon had its rewards. Jaquie was was now rich.

She had bought her mother a new house. It wasn't large or lavish (Jaquie's mom didn't want anything fancy), but it was quaint and comfortable, and Jaquie would go there whenever life became too stressful, whenever she needed a vacation. Her mom was healthy-the medicine had done its job-and Jesse's schooling was paid for. Usually home was relaxing and peaceful. Jaquie's mother would spoil her with attention, and they'd talk and talk.

Tonight, however, something was wrong. Jaquie's mother was unusually quiet, and she wouldn't look at her daughter. It wasn't until the early evening, after dinner, that she spoke; her voice was low. "A police officer came to the house today."

Jaquie kept her expression one of casual interest, but inside her chest her heart was beating rapidly.

"The officer said that many witnesses saw you in town right before a crime took place. She also told me that one victims identified you as the one who stole their pokemon. She accused you of being a thief and a member of Team Rocket."

"You denied it right?" Jaquie held her breath.

"I was furious," said her mother with a grim chuckle. "I yelled at the cop for even daring to think my baby would ever commit a crime. I assured her of your innocence, then threw her out."

Silently, Jaquie let out her breath.

"After she left, I calmed down," continued her mother, "and I began to think." Her mother stared very seriously into Jaquie's eyes; Jaquie flinched and looked downward. "Jaquie, you have made more money than I ever thought I'd see in my life. Up until now, I've never questioned your methods. I've trusted that your motives were good and honest. But now I have to ask you this." Jaquie's mom's voice was gentle, but stern. "Are you a criminal?"

. . .

Giovanni was pleased. He didn't know why, but Jaquie had suddenly become very submerged in the task of stealing pokemon for him.

He had had his doubts at first. Jaquie hadn't gotten off to the greatest start. She brought him a few stolen pokemon, but mostly, it seemed, for the sake of show. Her heart wasn't in the task; she merely wanted to prove she had been working.

Then, with a sudden jolt, Jaquie came to life as a thief. Her caution was gone, replaced by cockiness. There was no holding her back. She stole tons of pokemon, many of them exceptionally strong. She finally achieved her full potential; now she was everything a Team Rocket member should be.

Between the before and after, Giovanni only had a vague idea of what happened. He knew, from his spies, that Jaquie had gotten into a fierce argument with her mother. Though he didn't know what words were exchanged, he did have an idea that the topic of debate was Jaquie's career as a criminal. He knew the ending of the argument; Jaquie had stormed out and hadn't returned.

Whatever remained of the once strong bond she had with her family must have been at last sheared off with that argument. Her family had held her back for so long, and now that Jaquie had shrugged them off, there was nothing to stand in her way.

As Giovanni marveled at Jaquie's amazingly competent powers as a criminal he was suddenly struck with a thought. If she could make it this far, why not others? Jaquie had brought him an enormous amount of pokemon, but still he wanted more. He wanted power, he wanted control, he wanted more pokemon than Jaquie by herself ever could provide. But imagine an army of Rocket members just like her. Imagine dozens of Jaquies bringing him countless amounts of pokemon. He would be unstoppable with such an army. He could rule the world.

He considered. Though the idea was certainly tempting, how could he possibly carry it out? Jaquie herself had taken years to perfect her skills, and she was brimming with potential. What's more, she had a strong desire to capture pokemon-greed. Yet others might not be the same-they might take longer and not be as good. How could he take all of Jaquie's talent and learning ability, photocopy it, and hand it to other members?

Of course! The answer was obvious. He would open a school, a school to train recruits to steal and capture pokemon.

He told Jaquie about it the next time he saw her.

"I will select a group of young Team Rocket members with high potential to be trained to steal and capture pokemon as you do-individually, without my supervision. Of course they will receive some of the privileges you receive: a higher salary, unlimited use of supplies, etc. But before they do all that, they need to be taught."

"So what you want is basically a school to teach children to be independent criminals," translated Jaquie. "Like me."

Giovanni nodded. "Precisely."

"And since," continued Jaquie, pacing the room like an agile jungle cat, "they are to be like me, I suppose that I am the one who's going to teach them?"

There was no denying this. Giovanni had thought of using someone else, but since no one really knew anything about Jaquie's techniques, she would have to be the one to fill the job. "You will be the teacher, yes."

Jaquie paused for effect and made a cool smile. "What's in it for me?"

Giovanni returned the smile. "As of now you are, by far, the richest member of Team Rocket. None of the others even come close. There is not much more I can offer to you, salary wise. I can, however offer you power. Remember when you first joined and I first said I was looking for a partner?"

Jaquie nodded. "You were lying though," she pointed out.

"Of course I was. I had no intention of sharing power then. But now, Team Rocket will begin expansion. We will have more young twerps to watch out for. For that I need you."

"Naturally, but what do I get out of it?"

"As my partner and the second highest in command, Team Rocket will be partially run by you. You may command whichever troops you like. You may start your own special projects. Absolutely every resource Team Rocket has will be at your utter disposal. Besides me, you will be the only other boss these brats take orders from."

Jaquie pondered the matter and a mischievous glint awakened in her eyes. "We have a deal then. I train your troops, and I command them. Pretty simple."

Giovanni nodded. As a partner, Jaquie would be a valuable asset, especially once his master plan succeeded and the world belonged to him.

. . .

Fwapp. Jaquie's whip cracked in the air, signaling the start of her school. Boys and girls, in neat rows of desks, snapped to attention immediately. Jaquie had trained them well.

With a smile of poisonous sweetness, Jaquie addressed the class.

"Good morning children. To begin the day, get with your partners and recite the motto." Her tone sounded cheerful and almost teacherly, but the class knew better. They hurried to obey, realizing that Jaquie's act might disappear at any moment.

Jaquie watched as the class paired off. Jaquie had insisted that each child have a partner, and when Giovanni had reminded her that she had always worked alone, Jaquie replied that she was a special case. Most children, she explained, needed someone to help them out, as back up at the very least. Besides, once the children learned to cooperate, they would be more productive. In the end, Giovanni granted her point, and Jaquie began evaluating the children's strengths and weaknesses and putting them in groups of two.

Now that they were with their partner, the children stood up and began reciting their motto. "Prepare for trouble, Make it double..." they chirped in unison.

The motto was a clever tactic that Jaquie had thought up. By repeating the motto, Jaquie had explained, the students would learn unquestioning loyalty to Team Rocket. That would brainwash the little twerps into doing whatever Giovanni told them to do.

When they had finished, Jaquie began her lecture. "Today," she said, far too nicely, "we will be learning about weapons." She could all but hear the silent groan from the students. They had been learning about weapons for the past six months. "As you know," she continued, "Giovanni has provided us with many different kinds of weapons. In the world of crime, you cannot rely on weapons enough. Mastering weapons use will be important if you wish to be a member of Team Rocket." She smiled again.

"But-" piped up a student in the back.

Jaquie slammed her hand down on the desk. The resounding noise echoed throughout the room. "You have a question?"Jaquie snapped, glaring darkly at the student.

The boy promptly swallowed his remark.

"Good," said Jaquie, once again pleasant. Her smile was sunny even as she tapped her whip ominously against the palm of her hand. "Now to begin this lecture-"

Here Jaquie was interrupted by a loud knock at the door. Frowning, Jaquie opened it and crossed her arms irritably when she saw who stood there.

The Team Rocket grunt was dressed in his plain, low-ranking uniform. Accompanying him were two kids, but Jaquie barely glanced at them. Instead she gave the Rocket grunt a bored stare. "Well...?"

"Two new members for the Team Rocket School."

"Is that why you interrupted my class?" said Jaquie, each word emphasizing the contempt she felt for him. "You break into the middle of my lesson just to tell me that you found two more worthless recruits..." Jaquie tilted her head to indicate the worthless recruits, and that was when she got her first real look at them.

The boy was nothing special: messy violet hair and green eyes. But the girl... Jaquie stopped mid-insult to stare, her countenance showcasing her disbelief.

"Jesse?"

. . .

Giovanni had not expected to see Jaquie storm into his office in the middle of the morning when she was supposed to be teaching a lesson.

"Jaquie, what are you-?"

"Why is Jesse in my school?" demanded Jaquie, not even trying to disguise her anger.

"Who?"

"My baby sister!"

Giovanni didn't like Jaquie's tone, and he certainly wasn't used to seeing her lose her temper. Still, he answered in a smooth, placid voice. "She ran away from Pokemon Tech. Apparently, she wasn't doing well there-"

"I know that! Why is she in my class?"

"We found her in a bike gang. She's the perfect recruit: she's young, she's impressionable, she's rebellious-"

"SHE'S MY SISTER!" Jaquie exploded.

"I remind you to whom you're speaking," said Giovanni sternly. Jaquie may have been second in command, but he was the boss, and Jaquie had no authority to yell at him like that.

Jaquie struggled to control her anger, and Giovanni continued. "As I was saying, she is the perfect recruit." He looked at Jaquie with seeming innocence. "Is there any reason why she shouldn't be in your school?"

"You don't know Jesse the way I know her," said Jaquie. Her voice had gone cold and was rigid, but her anger still vibrated off her body, still blazed in her eyes. "My sister is an incompetent brat who ruins everything in her path. She is a disgrace to my family, and I am ashamed to call her my flesh and blood. Some of these recruits you've sent me have very little talent as it is, but I refuse, I absolutely refuse, to teach someone who can only disgrace the name of Team Rocket. Send her away; I want nothing to do with her."

Giovanni suspected that she wasn't being completely truthful. While it was apparent that Jaquie wanted her little sister out of her life-Jaquie had been feverently clear on that-Giovanni didn't believe that the reason she gave to him was her true feelings.

"Are you afraid of your sister? Do you think she has talents that could rival yours? Are you afraid she could surpass you?"

Jaquie crossed her arms. "Jesse has no talents," she said stonily.

But something about her reply rang false, and Giovanni was sure he had found the reason. For she was afraid, of something, and of what else, but that her sister would usurp her? Jaquie was competitive; she always had to be the best. What could frighten her more than having her own little sister beat her?

It was delicious. Finally, a competitor for Jaquie.

"I'll take her out of your school," he said. "You won't have to teach her. I'll train her myself."

At this Jaquie stiffened considerably. "No."

"You might try to ruin her talent. I don't trust you."

"I'm telling you that Jesse is useless. But if you don't believe me that's fine. I'll prove it to you. I'll train her like I would any other student. I'll give her the best training. If you don't trust me, then feel free to drop in at any time. Feel free to watch all day, feel free to send in your spies. You'll see. She will fail, just like she failed Pokemon Tech, because my sister does not possess one-tenth the talent I do. Jesse will never surpass me."

This was exactly what Giovanni wanted. He had no time or desire to train a little brat. He knew if he prodded Jaquie enough, she would agree to train her. Jaquie had far to much pride to let him accuse her of being threatened by her sister.

Not that he trusted Jaquie completely; he certainly would spy on her and carefully record every move she made. And if Jaquie proved untrustworthy, Giovanni would simply take Jaquie out of the school and replace her with someone else.

"Teach her then," he told her offhandedly.

"I will." Jaquie's eyes were grimly determined. "I'll train her, and you'll find no faults with my methods. But when she wrecks everything you've ever built, don't say I didn't warn you."

. . .

Now Giovanni could see what she was talking about. Jesse had become a miserable failure. She and her partners James and Meowth had ruined just about everything he let them touch and had made a laughingstock out of the Team Rocket name. He'd given them chance after chance, hoping their immaturity would wear off. But nothing had changed, and now Giovanni had even lost his precious pet cat.

"You're all fired!" Giovanni yelled at them. "Get out of my office!"

The girl, the boy, and the cat stood frozen in shock. Then, at once, they began to plead and babble like the pathetic losers they were. Giovanni had no patience for them. With a push of a button, he had them "escorted" out.

Giovanni put his hand to his head. The Team Rocket School was a complete failure. Jesse and James were the worst of the bunch for sure, but none of the students were particularly successful. They spent more time arguing with each other and reciting that stupid motto than catching pokemon. None of them had acquired any of the subtle battle strategies of Jaquie. Not one had caught as many pokemon as Jaquie had, not the whole lot put together!

"So, you finally fired my sister," Jaquie said, stepping out from the back corner of the room, where the room's darkness had concealed her. She smiled triumphantly. "I knew you would someday."

Jaquie often lied to Giovanni. Right now, for example, she told him how sorry she was that the school hadn't worked out the way he planned. She wasn't sorry at all. In truth, she couldn't be more delighted.

Oh, she had started out being honest enough. She told him the truth when he asked of her motives for joining Team Rocket. She had been in it for the money. She had not been in it to lie, steal, and corrupt little children.

But she had gone along with his plans. She realized that her life didn't really matter; all that had mattered was keeping her family safe and well and away from the struggles of poverty. For them, she had sacrificed her life. For them, she had given up her future. For them, she had sunk deeper into the ranks of Team Rocket, climbing the latter of success, keeping Giovanni unaware of her discontent. It didn't matter any more. Her life was already in disarray, her reputation tarnished. How could she possibly go any lower?

Surprisingly, Jaquie had found a cause in the Team Rocket School. She had worked faithfully to turn her students into complete and utter failures. Her methods had been subtle: pairing them with incompatible partners, building their overdependence on weapons, brainwashing them from any creative, independent thought. To Giovanni she was enforcing rational lessons with militaristic discipline; he could not trace the students' failure to her.

Now Jaquie had a new mission. She would take over Team Rocket. She would strip Giovanni from his position of authority, cast him aside, and take over his rule. Not because she was ambitious or power-hungry. Because she wanted Giovanni to suffer. She wanted him to know what it felt like to lose everything that ever mattered to him.

For it was one thing for him to ruin her life-she surrendered that power to him the moment she joined Team Rocket. But it was quite another to force Jaquie's own little sister-whom Jaquie had had such high hopes for-to do the exact same thing. He had no right to come near her family. He had no right to take away Jesse's future. And he certainly had no right to force Jaquie to be the one to corrupt her.

He would pay! She would make him pay!

One day, soon, she would tear away his entire world, she would crush his dreams, and shatter his hopes-just like he had done to her.

. . .

. . .

Author's Note: Sorry for the lack of proper hyphens. I can't seem to get my computer to do them this time around. A new chapter will come next week. Promptly, I hope. Please review and tell me what you think.