Slowpoke Tails and Koffing Fumes

A Series of Pokemon Drabbles and Oneshots by Nocturne of Eclipse

Disclaimer: I do not own Pokemon, or any related locations or characters. If I did this wouldn't be on fanfiction. It'd just be... y'know... fiction. Meh.

Goldenrod was a pretty nice place to live, overall. Sure, it had the highest crime rate in the region, the tap water smelled funny, and the schools had some of the worst gangs kids could possibly form, but other than that, it was rather delightful, and had a wonderful shopping mall, to boot. Of course, if you wanted to live in the nice parts of the city, it was rather expensive, and the ghetto wasn't exactly the best place for anyone to be walking around at night. Thankfully, however, Lance lived in neither.

In fact, he lived on the outskirts of the city in a motor home with his mother. The lot their trailer sat in had an old, rusted chain link fence running around its perimeter, with all sorts of junk and scrap laying around. Overgrown grass and weeds frequently tangled with anything lying around, even the old, worn-out lawn mower and tire that had, long ago when Lance and his family had lived in the suburbs in Kanto, been a swing he had frequently played on.

Lance himself was almost seventeen, and a junior attending Goldenrod Public High School. He, along with his mother and father, had moved to Goldenrod when he'd been about eight years old- he could remember very clearly the road trip from Viridian, riding in the very trailer he and his mother now resided in and watching the scenery as the mountains and pokemon blurred by.

His father had worked for Silph, and the move was due to a promotion he'd earned; his mother had run a daycare out of their old home, and when they'd moved, she'd simply been content with being a housewife. Of course, then there had been that whole scandal with that woman from his father's work, and his mother taking Lance with her as she took the trailer and left his father for good. That was when she'd started drinking, and Lance couldn't really blame her. He kind of wish he'd somehow stopped her, of course, because as the years passed by, her addiction had become worse and worse, and with the trouble she had holding down a steady job, her habit was always getting harder and harder to afford. When he found out she'd started snorting crack, he quickly realized they would be in quite a pickle when it came to their food situation. He'd gotten a part-time job at the PokeMart when he was thirteen, and even with his efforts, there were weeks where they simply went hungry. Still, he couldn't bring himself to be upset with his mother- she really was a sweet woman, and despite her habits, did care about Lance's wellbeing.

Despite his mother's benevolent nature, of course, the fact that she was an alcoholic and a drug addict got around the city fast, and kids who had once been Lance's friends were forbidden to have anything to do with him. It really did make school rather lonely. On top of that, his financial issues weren't much of a secret, either, and those who had remained in school taunted him- they hadn't gotten their Trainer's licenses because they wished to gain an education, first. He hadn't gotten his because his family couldn't afford it. It didn't exactly help matters that he shared his name with the strongest member of the Elite Four, Lance the Dragon Tamer. In fact, it just sort of made the bullying worse. Oh, well- it wasn't exactly like he cared, anymore. Especially since he had AP Calculus homework to work on, at the moment.

Idly, Lance tapped his cheap plastic pen against the page of his textbook, frowning at the derivatives as he wished, desperately, that he had a calculator- well, maybe he wasn't that desperate. He could work the problems just fine in his head, but it took a little longer than working them out with a calculator- not one of those cheap ones his mother was always trying to get him to buy, but one of the super-nice graphing ones. It didn't do to dwell on what would make his life easy, Lance reminded himself with a sigh. He ran a hand through his greasy, lank hair and grimaced- they needed to pay their water bills soon, because he really wanted a shower. Maybe he'd sneak into the locker room after school, the next day. With a second, deeper sigh and a shake of his head, Lance focused his gaze once again on his derivatives.

"Lance, honey?" Lance's gaze snapped up from his work, and he turned around to see his mother, poking her head into the trailer from outside. She looked much like he felt; weary and achey, and not to mention tired and hungry. It really did break his heart sometimes to know that once, she had been living comfortably as she at least deserved. It was for her sake that Lance smiled brightly and stood.

"Yeah, Ma?" he replied. "I didn't think you'd be home so soon. Is there something you need me to do for you?" His mother smiled softly in reply and nodded.

"I know you're doing your homework, and I'm sorry to bother you, but could you be a sweetheart and run to grocery store for a couple extra jugs of water? I tried, myself, but I couldn't quite carry them..." Yeah, and he had quite an idea why, as well. He could see she was trembling slightly, most likely from her withdrawals, and Lance knew immediately why she was sending him out of the house. He continued to smile, despite this, and stood, shutting his textbook on his pen and notebook paper.

"A'course, Ma, you know you don't gotta worry about askin'," he replied. His mother's smile widened slightly as she dug in her pockets to find some money.

"Here," she said, handing him a little more than he would actually need, "it's the middle of summer- why don't you stop and get yourself something cold on the way back?" Yeah, she was going to start snorting the second he left. Lance rolled his eyes good-naturedly and leaned down slightly to kiss his mother on the cheek as he sidled passed her to get outside.

"If you're still high when I get back, I'm not gonna be afraid ta call the cops, this time," he said. His mother snorted.

"That's what you said last time, honey. Be careful, alright?"

"Yes, Ma. I'll be back in a few hours." Pocketing the money, Lance set off down the sidewalk and into town. He cursed his softness as he walked- he wanted to make his mother stop, truly, just... Well, she was his mom. He didn't want to call the cops, and he couldn't even begin to imagine how he'd afford any sort of rehab for her. Maybe he's just drop out of school and start working full-time... it wasn't exactly like he could ever afford college, either... His smile quickly faded away as he continued to walk. It was hot; very hot. The sun beat down mercilessly, and Lance was thankful that he'd been able to at least have deodorant stably in his life.

By the time he'd gotten to the grocery store, he was covered completely in perspiration, hair damp and plastering to his face and neck even as he sweated through his tanktop and boxers; thankfully, as his jeans were rather baggy on his scrawny form, they remained mostly dry, which was at least somewhat comfortable. It became direly less so when he stepped out of the sweltering heat and into the cold AC of the grocery store.

He shivered as he entered, passing a purple-haired street vendor wearing a ghastly-print t-shirt as he did so, and continued towards the water-and-bread aisle. There were a couple other guys there shopping, but Lance paid them no mind and trudged over to the water jugs, frowning when he noticed that most of them were already gone. He squatted down to search the back of the shelves and grinned to himself when he found that there were actually three left, and he reached out to grab two of them, pulling them both off the shelf with a mighty tug and turning in one motion. In retrospect, he should've accounted for the fact that sweaty palms and smooth plastic don't mix well.

He lost his grip on one of the jugs and swore as it flew out of his hand, hitting one of the shopping guys square in the back of knee, causing his legs to buckle and his head to hit one of the shelves on the way down. His friend and Lance stared at him for a moment, wide-eyed in surprise, before they turned to meet each other's gaze. The man left standing looked quite livid. Lance grimaced.

"H-hey, man, I'm sorry-!"

"Sorry?" the man snarled as his friend pushed himself to his feet. "Fuckin' prick, you coulda broke my partner's kneecaps!" Lance took a tiny step back, raising his hands in a placating motion.

"Seriously, dude, it was an accident, I didn't mean-" The first man got to his feet and dusted off his pants, turning to scowl at Lance from under the brim of his black hat.

"I don't think the li'l punk knows who he's dealin' with, here," he sneered. "What say we take him out back and teach him a lesson, Kaim, eh?" The second grinned savagely and grabbed the heavy water jug with ease.

"Maybe if he's lucky he'll make it home, tonight," he agreed. Lance's eyes widened significantly, and he quickly spun on his heel in an attempt to flee; the first of the men was faster, however, and grabbed him by the back of the neck with a grip like steel. Lance did his best to struggles and shout for help as he was dragged out of the store, but the terrified looks of other shoppers and the submissive, quiet atmosphere (besides his shouting, of course) on the way out confirmed for Lance exactly what he hoped hadn't been happening: it seemed that he had, rather unfortunately, pissed off a couple of rather violent members of Team Rocket. That was just his luck, too. Well, fuck.

He silenced himself quickly, ignoring the snide comment from one of the Rockets as he did so, and quickly began running mental calculations of survival plans. Honestly, his best bet was to just take the inevitable beating and hope they left the water behind so he could just take that home. Maybe he could even use this to his advantage- tell some stories at lunch, get the rest of his peers to start leaving him the fuck alone. He wouldn't mind being that kid who was violent enough to scrap with a pack of Rockets.

Lance didn't make any noise as he was pushed head-first against the alley wall, the Rocket grinding his face into the brick painfully. He was able to catch glimpses of the two in his peripheral vision, but otherwise he was completely blind to their intentions- or, he was, until he felt the jug of water hit him in the head and shoulders, momentarily knocking the sense out of him, and he swore angrily. He was about to growl something at them for it when his legs were kicked out from under him and he began to fall. He was saved from impact by one of the Rockets grabbing him by his hair, and he was grateful for a split second (otherwise he was quite sure he would have landed on that bit of broken glass, and that wouldn't be fun) before he was hauled back to his feet, slugged square in the jaw, and shoved back further into the alley, where he stumbled over his sandals and fell flat on the ground into another pile of broken glass. He swore as he pushed himself up into a sitting position, quite dizzy.

Something was wrong. He wasn't seeing right. Or, well, he was seeing right, but the right he was seeing was covered in red, as opposed to how he was seeing left (yeah, he liked puns, so sue 'im). Frowning, he gingerly fingered the area above his right eye, and feeling something sticky, lowered his hand to stare at his fingers through his not-red eye. At first, he wasn't entirely sure what to make of his situation, but slowly, he came to the realization that he was bleeding. He was fucking bleeding. Not a lot, but still.

There was an uncomfortable feeling settling in the pit of his stomach- not nausea, or anything, he wasn't that much of a pussy, in fact, and he would never admit this to anyone, but he actually kind of liked the sight of blood. Boy, would his school councilor have a field day with that one... Either way, this weird feeling... He'd never felt anything quite like it, not that he could remember. He wasn't quite sure if he knew how quite to label it, and seeing as how he was leading in his language classes by at least ten points, each, he knew quite a few way to put things in words- and for that matter, he wasn't sure he even liked this feeling. Slowly, he stood, his bloodied hand clenching into a fist. He heard the Rockets laughing behind him.

"Aww, look, Mr. Big Shot here wants s'more," one said.

"Just stay down, kid- unless you want us to cave your head in, this time?" the other taunted. And then one of them was laughing- no, no, it wasn't either of them, it was too close to be either of them- it took Lance a moment to realize that, as with the blood, the laughter was coming from him.

"You? Kill me?" he heard himself reply. "Three." Three? The hell was wrong with him? The Rockets seemed to agree.

"Wow, you know how to count? I'm surprised."


"Haa, he's even countin' for us- get ready, Kaim, as soon as he's finished..."

"One." Lance really wasn't sure what happened next. All he perceived was a flash- a flash of color, a flash of motion, a flash of sound- and the next thing he knew, he was standing over the bodies of the two rockets, the switchblade he kept in his back pocket clenched in one hand and the jug of water in the other. With something mid-way between a gasp and a startled cry, Lance dropped the jug of water and took several steps back. Were they breathing? Oh, Lugia, tell him they were still breathing, Rocket or not he did not want to go to jail for killing some guys off the street, he just couldn't do it.

"...Well, shit, kid." Lance jumped easily and whirled around to find the street vendor he'd passed earlier staring wide-eyed at the scene, cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Lance glanced between the fallen Rockets and the street vendor a couple times before attempting to explain himself.

"I... I... look, man, it was self-defense, don't call the cops, please, my Ma-!" The street vendor ignored his pleas and strode passed him, kneeling to check the Rockets before clicking his tongue in disapproval.

"Idiots," the man muttered, "getting beat by some brat..." Lance's brow furrowed in confusion.

"I... sir...?" The man continued to ignore him and pulled a walkie-talkie out of his pocket, pressing the button and speaking into it.

"Operation's a go, Arch, get Ariana to pull the car around. I'll take care of our friend, but if you could come back me up, I'd definitely appreciate it." Just what was going on, here? Things were getting more bizarre by the minute, Lance thought. Maybe the guy was an undercover cop of some sort? Just as he was pondering how exactly to ask, the purple-haired man (upon closer inspection, Lance came to the conclusion that he wasn't much older than he himself was) smiled at him and put his walkie-talkie away. "Sorry, kid, but this isn't anything personal, just acting on orders."

"Huh?" For the second time that day, Lance found himself shoved back up against the wall, except this time the purple guy was tying his hands behind his back, and before he could start struggling, a black bag was pulled over his head and tied loosely so it wouldn't fall off no matter which way he turned. "Dude! The hell?!"

"Is this him, P?" a new voice asked.

"Sure is," the purple guy replied. "Check it out- he killed Kaim and Sanders without even blinking."

"That's Kaim? His head's caved in. Damn, this kid is violent."

"I know, right? That Ariana?" There was a pause before the other voice replied.

"Yeah. Let's hurry, I'd rather like to avoid further complications. We can leave those two there, it's not like they'd be of any use. Get our little psychopath, there, in the car, and keep an eye on him."

"Sure thing, Arch. Alright, bud, let's go..." Lance growled and thrashed as the purple guy pulled him away from the wall and towards the alley's mouth.

"Let go of me, bastard!" Lance snarled. The purple guy simply snickered and shoved him down into somewhere small- comfy, of course, and smelling of new leather, but small nonetheless- and Lance heard the shutting of a car door and felt a small gust of air as it did so. Well, this was just perfect. His first time in a legit car in years and he wouldn't even be able to enjoy the scenery. Assholes.

"Is this our guy?" a decidedly female voice asked. "He's pretty scrawny."

"Scrawny or not, he killed two of my guys- and not grunts, either, admins. Archer, is my laptop up there, by any chance?" The car lurched a little, and Lance heard the press of the clutch and shift of gears. Idly, he wondered where they were going.

"Yeah," came Archer's voice from the front passenger seat, "why, need it?"

"Uh-huh. I need to finish my lab report for tox 403, and I can just tell I'm gonna be swamped the rest of the weekend."

"I'm still surprised you're going to legitimately get a Master's, Petrel," said Ariana.

"I know, right? It feels so weird to be doing something legal for once," Petrel replied. Clicking began to fill the air next to him, and Lance could only assume Petrel had already began typing away.

"I think it's pretty damn impressive," Archer commented, "I mean, c'mon, P, you're second-generation. You were an admin the instant you hit fifteen."

"Wasn't that when you finished basic?" Ariana sounded rather impressed, and Petrel simply laughed.

"Hey, if you'd grown up with my old man, you'd have tested out just as quick as I did. I swear, the handbook is the man's bible. The day I passed the executive exam, we went out for dinner at the Sapphire Lugia in Celadon."

"Oooh,expensive, P. I didn't realize your dad could afford that on an admin's pay."

"Well, I mean, we split the check, but still, best corphish I've ever had..." Okay, Lance couldn't just sit in silence, anymore, this was way to normal-sounding for his liking.

"Alright, one," he growled, "who the hell are you people, and two, where the hell are you taking me?"

"Hey, tone it down, kid," Archer replied. "You give us trouble, we dump your body in the nearest ditch, got it?"

"Aw, Arch, play nice, he's just scared." Like hell. "Soooo, I'm Petrel, I'm the youngest, here, and I'm second gen. That other guy is Archer, and he's the Boss' second... He manages everything here in Johto. And this lovely lady is the beautiful Ariana, and she ranks the same as Archer."

"Just go ahead and tell him our life stories while you're at it, P. Oh, and give him the coordinates of the base, too, just to be safe."

"Lay off him, Archer, the kid was gonna find out who we were, anyways."

"That still doesn't answer where we're going," Lance chimed in.

"Alright, alright," Archer sighed. "Okay, so you know how Goldenrod is near Violet, Azalea, Ecruteak, and the Ilex forest?"


"Well, we're not going to any of those places." Lance frowned at the inside of his bag and leaned back against the leather seat, resolving not to speak for the remainder of the drive.

That Archer guy was an asshole.

After a long, but amusing series of conversations and random bouts of sing-alongs when they turned the radio on for a while (the entire time, Lance grew more and more frustrated and more and more fidgety), the car stopped, and he listened to Arianna talk to someone outside before they resumed driving for a few more minutes and parked. Once Petrel had put away his computer and got out, he'd opened the door and helped Lance stand before pulling him in what seemed like a completely random direction.

Wherever they were, it sounded busy, and more than once Lance was pulled close enough by people that he heard snippets of conversations regarding heists, arsons, murders, and all sorts of other crimes of varying severity. Nothing particularly jumped out at him, of course, so he didn't remember much of what he heard, but soon he felt cold AC on his skin and found himself wishing the damn bag was off his head so he could actually enjoy the cold. He was seriously starting to work up a sweat in the damn thing, and it didn't exactly smell like roses.

He was forced into an elevator and began tapping his foot impatiently as they stood around in silence. Soon enough, the doors opened and Petrel pushed him out and began leading him around somewhere, taking a few turns before stopping.

"Has Master Giovanni arrived, yet?" came Archer's voice from next to him. Lance jumped at least a foot, and Petrel began laughing. He hadn't realized the others were still with them. This couldn't have been a regular Team Rocket kidnapping, could it? Did regular people get taken by executives?

"Yes," came a reply, "he's in your office, Executive Archer. He said to send you in as soon as you returned."

"Good. Thank you. Let's continue, Petrel, Ariana, no point in keeping him waiting." Yeah, definitely not a regular kidnapping. Why was some impoverished kid like him being taken to the boss? Where those Rockets in the alleyway high-ranking, or something? Oh, shit, what had he gotten himself into? Before he could even begin thinking about making a break for it, Petrel forced him forward and they walked further, taking even more turns before stopping once more, and Lance heard someone knocking on a door- maybe some kind of wood, he wasn't sure- and the calm order for them to enter. He began thrashing again as Petrel shoved him through the doorway and down onto a chair.

"Well, well, and this must be our guest. Be a good host and get the bag off his head, eh, Petrel? Poor boy's probably sweating up a storm."

"Yes, Sir. Hold still, Lance..." Lance growled as Petrel removed the ties and pulled the bag off, dropping it on the floor behind the chair. Lance immediately squinted, the light in the office bright and harsh compared to the complete blackness that had been in the bag.

It took him a moment to adjust, but as soon as he did, he stole a glance around. Seated behind him were the executives- Petrel on his right, and on his left a red-head and a bluenette that he identified as Ariana and Archer, respectively. The office itself had white walls, bright as though it had been painted recently, and a charming frosted glass desk with a computer and a fancy pen holder on it. The man seated at the desk, of course, was what drew his full attention, olive-skinned and clean-shaven, with hair slicked back, a casual suit, and sharp black eyes.

"Holy- you're the Viridian Gym Leader!" Lance blurted out before he could stop himself. "Fuck! My dad was friends with you! You're the boss of Team Rocket?!"

"You've gotten taller," Giovanni replied, not appearing shocked in the least by Lance's outburst. "Skinnier, too. I don't suppose your mother drinking away her and your salaries both helped much with that."

"Hey! Watch what you say 'bout my ma, you Lugia-damned sonuva-!"

"Archer?" Before Lance could finish his insult, and before his name had even Giovanni's mouth, Archer had practically leaped from his seat, growling angrily as he grabbed Lance painfully by his hair and backhanded him, hard.

"Don't you dare speak that way to Master Giovanni, you filthy piece of trash!" he bluenette snarled.

"Sit, boy," Giovanni deadpanned. Archer scowled and cast Lance a dirty glare before returning to his seat. "Now, Lance, I know you're smart- in fact, you're even smarter than your father, in my opinion. Smart enough to know how not to disappear. You wouldn't want to leave your mother all alone, now, would you?" Lance merely glowered at him, shaking green bangs out of his face in the process.

"...What do you want from me?" he finally asked. Giovanni slowly smirked.

"That would actually be very many things, Lance- very many things, indeed. Of course, there is one thing above all else I hope to gain out of our meeting today."

"And that would be?"

"You." Lance frowned, and slowly raised an eyebrow.

"...Dude, I'm sixteen, ain't I a little young for you...?" Once more, Giovanni didn't look the least bit surprised.

"That was wrong and you should feel wrong," the gym leader replied without missing a beat. "I want you in my organization, Lance. If you're even half as smart as your father, I need you in my organization."

"I don't want to be anything like my dad." Lance slowly shook his head. "That asshole cheated on Ma. It's his fault that we ended up where we are."

"And you can fix everything." Giovanni's fierce gaze seemed to be staring straight into his soul. "You can save your mother from her vices and, eventually, even afford nice living accommodations for her. Don't you owe her that much, Lance?" Lance's frown deepend.

"Well, I... yeah, but... I mean, you guys are criminals, and... Well, if I ever got arrested..." He lowered his gaze to the floor and thought for a moment. "...Would I get a pokemon?"

"Sure," Giovanni replied, shrugging one shoulder, "what species were you thinking of?"

"I... really like zubat, actually... Well, zubat and slowpoke, but you probably have more zubat than slowpoke, right?" Giovanni nodded.

"Very well," he agreed, "you agree to join, and I'll throw in the zubat. What say you?"

"Give me the weekend to think." The entire room became silent, and Lance thought he might have just pushed his luck, when, to his surprise, Giovanni turned to Petrel.

"Take him home and keep an eye on him. He or his mother call the cops, you leave no witnesses. He comes to a decision early, you bring him back, otherwise, I want the two of you back here on Monday by noon. Am I understood?" Petrel hopped to his feet and snapped off a flawless salute.

"Yes, Sir," he replied, "your wish is my command. I'll see you Monday, Sir. Guys." He leaned down to grab the bag.

"Petrel?" Giovanni said patiently. "How long has it been since that thing's been washed?" Petrel paused and glanced between the bag and Giovanni cautiously.

"Not more than a month," the purple-haired executive replied innocently.

"Petrel..." Petrel lowered his head like a scolded puppy and sighed, stuffing the bag into his pocket and withdrawing a pair of blackout shades.

"Fine... Here, Lance, wear these..."

When they had gotten back to the outskirts of town, Petrel cut Lance's bindings and allowed him to remove the blackout glasses, returning to him his switchblade and, amusingly enough, a jug of water. It had gotten late- eight o' clock, in fact- and Lance was certain his mother would be in hysterics when he went inside. Or high as fuck. It was a fifty-fifty chance, really. Petrel had told him he would hanging around the house on surveillance, and that Lance was not allowed to leave the lot, nor summon the police, or as Giovanni had instructed, there would be no witnesses. Other than that, the executive had wished him a pleasant evening and went to go find a quiet place to continue working on his lab report.

"Lance!" As Lance had expected, his mother jumped him the instant he walked inside, and he smiled a little, despite the crushing hug. "Oh, Lance, honey, I was worried sick about you! You should have been home ages ago, I was about to call the police!"

"I'm fine, Ma," Lance laughed, "I just got a little preoccupied. I'm sorry for making you worry, but... Here's the water you wanted me to get." He held up the jug proudly and his mother released him from her death-grip, gazing at the water only momentarily before glancing up at his face, and she gasped.

"Oh my Lugia! Honey, what happened?! Your face... is that blood?" Lance winced and rubbed at the dried blood on his forehead.

"Yeah," he sighed, "I ran into a bit of trouble with some Rockets outside of the store, but... Well, I'm fine, Ma, don't worry."

"Rockets?" His mother frowned and turned, heading towards the kitchenette. "Those scum... we need to call the police, Lance, and have them found before they can come back after you." Lance blinked.

"But... Ma, I'm fine, I gave them a pretty sound beat-down, it's all over, now..."

"Honey, they're going to be back. They'll track you down, and- is that one outside?!" Lance's head whipped around and he stared outside to see Petrel's silhouette wandering around outside of their lot with his laptop. Ahh, fuck his life. He heard the pressing of buttons, and his eyes widened and he turned around.

"Hello, this is 911, what's your emergency?" SHIT.

"Yes, my name is-" Quickly, Lance leaped and pressed the call cut button, snatching the phone out of his mother's hands. "Lance! What do you think you're doing?!"

"Ma, shush!" Lance hissed. "Look, we need to talk about something important, alright...? It's... it's about why I was held up, see, Petrel, there, is an Executive in Team Rocket, and he took me to meet his boss-"

"No," his mother said in that tone of hrs that, under normal circumstances, ended all discussion. "No, Lance, you listen to me, you're not going to join that gang, do you understand?"

"But Ma, we could be making two, maybe even three times what we're making now," Lance replied, "we could actually rent an honest to goodness apartment!"

"And my son throws away the rest of his life?" she demanded. "Over my dead body." Stupid woman. Stupid, stupid woman.

"Dammit, Ma!" Lance snapped. "How the hell else are we going to get by when you keep spending all of our cash on fucking crack?! It's not like I can even go battle trainers in town, either! You ruined my chance to get my Lugia-damned Trainer's license!"


"No, Ma! I'm going through with this, and you're not ruining this, too!" He was getting that feeling again, the same one he'd felt in the alleyway with the two Rockets, along with a hot, blinding rage. How dare she try to screw this up for him?! Didn't she realize he was doing it to save her?! Didn't she understand that this was their only option for a better life?! Suddenly, she darted around him in a mad dash for the door. The good-for-nothing bitch!

All Lance became aware of was his own exploding rage, time and motion passing by him in a blur, and he was no longer sure of what, exactly, he was doing, nor what was going on. All he knew was a howl of anger erupted from deep within his throat, and someone screamed, and the next thing he was conscious of was the fact that he was staring down at his mother's fresh corpse, his own switchblade sticking out of her neck as blood pooled and stained the floor. And the worst part?

He didn't care. He expected himself to be upset by this development- or numb, even. In denial about what he had done, despite barely even being able to remember it. But instead all he could think of was that the knife's path must have surely been a work of art, if where it was lodged was any indication, and he was sorely put-off that he couldn't even remember it. After a moment the door burst open and Petrel entered, looking cautious and weary.

"I heard screaming," he said, "what happened?" Lance simply motioned to his mother's corpse, and Petrel stared down at her for a moment before turning a suspicious gaze on him.

"She tried to call the cops," he explained. "Giovanni said no witnesses. The 911 desk picked up, actually, they've probably traced the call by now and have dispatched some officers. Maybe an ambulance." Petrel nodded.

"I'll go pull the car around," he said, "you get anything you need and meet me outside in sixty seconds." He darted off, and Lance turned to his box off in the corner, going to rummage through it and pull out the couple pokeballs he'd lifted once from the Mart before closing up. He was about to leave when, out of the corner of his eye, he spotted something on the table. There was a cupcake with a single candle in it, a small, brightly colored package, and a plush slowpoke like he'd had when he was a child, all sitting on top of his calculus book. Curiously, Lance stopped to open the card that was sitting on the edge of the table.

Happy 17th to my favorite son.

Love, Mom

Lance frowned and set the card down, shredding the wrapping on the box and opening it to find a shiny, brand-new graphing calculator- and not one of those cheap ones, but a seriously good one, the kind they required for the AP engineering classes he'd been looking to take next year. Slowly, a small smile broke out over Lance's lips and he snorted, putting both the calculator and the slowpoke plushie in his knapsack with the pokeballs.

"Love you, too, Ma." He stepped carefully around her corpse and paused to retrieve and stow his switchblade. "Sorry about... this. Especially the stain, I dunno how that's ever gonna come out of the carpet. I probably won't see you for a while, but I'll come back and visit." There would have been a time in his life when he would have questioned his own sanity for talking to his own mother's corpse- and so jovially, as well- but he supposed that time was long gone. Lance had never been one to really dwell on the past (there were a few exceptions, of course, like the fact that everything would have been better if his father hadn't cheated on his mother) and so he didn't bother trying to figure out when he'd developed such a powerful bloodlust, or what could have even- hey, he finally figured out what to call the stomach-pit feeling! He was on fire, tonight!

As he slipped into the passenger seat of Petrel's car, this time with free hands and no bags or blackout glasses, Lance couldn't help but wonder what sort of jobs Giovanni was interested in having him do. Apparently, whatever they were, they required some sort of mental aptitude. Either way, Lance was really just hoping whatever it was, it involved more blood. Really, it was something he could definitely get used to.

It had been three weeks since he'd joined Team Rocket on his birthday, and Lance had sped through training at an alarming rate. He had passed the admin exams with flying colors, and was currently studying under Petrel's mentorship. He was due to take the executive exams in a few more weeks.

Life had certainly become better now that he was in Team Rocket and away from his mother's excessive drinking and drug use. He'd been able to take showers every day, slept in an entire room all his own in the little apartment he shared with Petrel, and ate his fill in the cafeteria on the ground floor of the base. He'd even gotten his hair cut professionally, and what was eve better, Giovanni had made good on his promise, and the instant Lance had agreed to join, handed him a pokeball with a rather shy zubat living inside.

Currently, Lance was sitting on the roof of the base, legs clad in knee-high boots hanging off the edge. Twitch (his zubat) was perched on his shoulder, and the two simply sat around in silence as he took intermittent drags on his cigarette. The sun was just starting to rise, a golden light peeking across the base's grounds, and Lance was so lost within the beauty of it all that he almost didn't realize it when Petrel plopped down next to him.

"It's nice out, this early in the morning, isn't it, Lance?" the purple-haired executive asked after a moment. Lance smiled to himself, but didn't reply. Petrel raised an eyebrow at him. "Lance, buddy? You home?"

"It's not 'Lance'." Petrel blinked and he laughed. "I'm not going to answer that name, any more. Lance is dead, Petrel."

"Well, now." Petrel nudged him. "What's your name then, psycho?" He laughed again and stretched, laying back to get a better view of the slowly brightening sky. He laid there in silence for a while, but as always, Petrel played his game with patience that could outmatch a guard growlithe.

"Call me Proton."

AN: Well, that was longer than I'd thought it would be. I'd like to thank Starkid Productions for inspiring with their track from the Starship OST, "Kick it Up a Notch". This is the first time I've ever tried to write for the HGSS executives, so any feedback or criticisms would be much appreciated.

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