Shadowcat's Notes: This is a dark fic in the tradition of Nethilla's Jessie fic "The Letter R" and…is to be part of a collaborative series written with her of dramatic explorations of "Pokemon's" characters that tie into each other. Anything you have ever thought or learned about Tracey Sketchit either through official sources or through fanfics (even my own previous works)…chuck out the window right now. This story takes him in a very original direction…
Disclaimers: "Pokemon" belongs to Nintendo (dangit!) and "Lithium" belongs to the late Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. I am making no money from this. See my pockets? Empty.
And, (for the Fanfiction Network) Chuchino, if you are reading this, yes, you may have this fic for your Tracey Shrine if you want it. (Just e-mail me about it first, please. I'll send you a copy).
Somewhere in the night I was awake again. I swiftly reached for my backpack and tore through it, desperately groping. I cursed under my breath as my fingers found nothing through piles of clothes, a box of Marill Chow, and spare paper. "Where IS it!?" I asked myself, afraid that I had lost it somewhere out in the ocean, dropped out of some loosely zippered compartment.
I sighed deeply with relief when I found my prize at last. I lifted the bottle to my lips, carefully taking one pill, just one, only one, fighting the urge to swallow them all. I supposed it would end my pain forever-but I knew I needed to fight that urge and continue living. For what, exactly, I still am not completely sure.
The white pills could have fine pearls for how much I esteemed them. I wonder if I will ever have peace without them. I had been trying to wean myself off them, but I'd wake up in the night shaking from my dreams, so I kept taking them, as I still do today.
Memories pursue me constantly, like a hound on the hunt, slathering after my blood. A peace comes over me whenever I take one of the pills. I looked over our camp. The campfire had burned down to pale embers and Ash and Misty lay in a somewhat haphazard fashion nearby. They did not know about the pills and, if I can help it, they never will. They often told me that they wondered why I was such a quiet person most of the time. They wondered about how little I'd speak and how I would "space out" at times. I put on the guise that I was simply a studious person who watches and listens rather than speaks. It was the pills that made me that way, calm, quiet.
The drug is difficult to come by. During my travels with Ash I used to buy some "extras" from James. I also used to buy another "medication" from James, small red pills, a sedative. They did not have the same effects as the white ones, but they helped me stretch them out. James and I met in the woods or in an alleyway, to not arouse the suspicions of our respective companions.
Though I never showed it to the children, I felt (and still feel) a sorrow for Jessie, James, and Meowth. They were Team Rocket "small fry", but they were still in Team Rocket, like I had once been—what seemed a lifetime ago.
Once a Rocket, always a Rocket.
I no longer wear the sign of the "R", but I know that the memories of those dark days will follow me the rest of my life. The guilt that I bear-and the shame, insure the close keeping of my secrets. "Tracey Sketchit" isn't even my real name-but the name of…someone who died a long time ago. My real name is Gabriel, Gabriel Taylor.
That night on the unnamed island, I spoke my true name into the night, just to hear it again. "Gabriel. Gabriel".
Alone in my bedroom at the Oak Estate, I say it again, just to hear it, so I will never forget who I was-and who I truly am. I am Gabriel, Gabriel Taylor.
The Enigma of Family
"Gabriel! Please don't hurt Gabriel!" my mother screamed. My true name was the last thing I ever heard her say. I was five years old when people from Team Rocket raided our house. My father was a Pokemon Breeder, specifically of mice, Pikachus, Pichus, and Marills. I hid behind the living-room couch with Bubbles-my pet Marill, only a month old baby at the time.
She squeaked in terror as I held her in my arms trying to calm her. I pressed her close against my chest, hoping to muffle her cries. The men in the black-all in black were searching for us. Mom and Dad refused to let them have our prize breeding pokemon, which we kept in pokeballs in a back room. Mom told me to hide, so I did. I watched as the Rockets forced them to kneel on the living room floor. I winced when I heard two terrible explosions-gunshots. I dared not to look again.
"Now, where'd that kid go?" one scratchy voice said and I heard the click of his revolver.
"C'mon! He's just a kid! You can't off a kid!" another voice spoke, feminine.
"He's a witness! The Boss said no witnesses!"
"He said to take the pokemon and to shoot the Breeders if we must, but he said nothing about killing children."
"Still, we can't just leave the little blighter. The cops will be here soon. He'll testify!"
Bubbles squeaked again. I heard footsteps. Then I felt a hand on the back of my head.
"'Ere he is! I'll make it clean."
"No!" the feminine voice commanded. "We'll take him with us!"
"Take him with us?"
"It's been done before. I won't just stand here and let you kill a kid."
"Alright. We'll take him with us. I still think he'd be better off dead, tho."
The man with the scratchy voice picked me up off the floor. The woman-she had white hair, I remember, though she was young, wrapped a dark jacket around me and carried me outside to a black jeep. I never looked back at the house as the two Rockets drove away with me in the back, taking me to some unknown destination.
I was "adopted" of-sorts, by a man named Charley-within Team Rocket. "The Boss" was not happy when "Quinn" and "Mallory" brought me before him, but he had a policy about not murdering children when the Team could help it. Team Rocket had a program for children who…had gotten involved with them, young runaways, lost children found by Rocket pairings, and those like me, the orphaned children of the Team's murder victims.
Charley was a kind man. He was the one who got me to speak again. For many months after the night my parents were shot…I could not talk. All I could do in my waking hours was sit very still and stare. I ate little and I remember being taken to the Infirmary of the Rocket Base we were at and given I.V. fluids to keep me from starving to death. Charley would speak very softly to me. He told me that he regretted that I had to go through what I went through. He took care of my Marill and told me that he'd show me how to train her.
He gave me a tablet of plain white paper, pushing it toward me across the table as we sat at it one afternoon in his apartment. "Here," he said. "If you can't talk, maybe you can write something? Can you write at all? Do you know your letters yet? Perhaps you'd like to draw something."
I took the pencil Charley gave me and very slowly scribbled wavering lines on the clean top sheet of the tablet. Charley watched me patiently and I put the pencil down.
"That's very nice," he said. "That looks like a fine Pikachu."
"Ma-" I quavered. "Marill, it's a Marill."
Charley's face lit up with joy and he hugged me tight. "You do have a voice!" he exclaimed. "Everything's going to be fine, fine from now on."
Thus, "Marill" was the first word I said to my new father.
The Enigma of Expression
For the next four years, I was schooled with others close to my age in Team Rocket. In addition to classes taken in regular schools-reading, writing, mathematics, history-we were taught things such as basic pick pocketing, breaking and entering, and weapons handling. The weapons classes didn't start for me until the last two years. I took to it quickly and soon gained a good aim.
There was a group for young people in Team Rocket who were nearing the end of their training and were soon to go into the general ranks, the Tri-Bird Society. It was named for the three Legendary Birds. According to our abilities and personalities, we members were divided into three different Squadrons, destined for different jobs in Team Rocket. The Moltres Squad was made up of those who showed a certain passion and were destined to be Black and White Squadron thieves-the ones that generally raided Pokemon Centers and Gyms for rare finds. The Zapdos Squad was made up of kids who had much energy and cunning-they were destined to be infiltrators-Rockets who posed as legitimate Gym Leaders and Pokemon Trainers in society while serving the Team.
I was in the Articuno Squad. The Articunos were those of us with a cool demeanor who showed abilities of observation and focus. We were to be spies and assassins, and thus received the most rigorous training.
Throughout my Team Rocket schooling…I drew. My favorite classes were the few art classes that the Rockets were willing to teach us. And I practiced at home in Charley's apartment. Noticing my hobby, he bought art books for me. He, himself, had some ability and taught me what he knew. I fell in love with the drawing pad and the pencil-with the act of creating. I used it as a way to escape from my everyday life. I could put whatever I wanted in my sketchpad-I could create a perfect, peaceful world.
I quickly found that my favorite subjects to draw were pokemon. I drew Bubbles a lot and I would go outside in the woods outside the Base to sketch the wild pokemon I found there. I used my Articuno Squadron training in the arts of spying to creep upon small creatures without them noticing me. I drew my friends' pet and battle pokemon as well, and, when they asked, portraits of them. My best friends all called each other by nicknames. There was Swift-she could run quickly, Speck-he wore glasses, Lanky-he was tall, and I-was called "Sketch".
Oftentimes, the drawing pad was the only voice I had. Children in Team Rocket were cautioned not to speak out much on their feelings about anything. We were taught that expressing emotions was a sign of weakness-that were to be strong…and cold. If we did not cut ourselves off from our emotions, we were told, we would not be able to do our jobs-and would be worthless to the Team, members who would end up imprisoned or dead.
The Articuno Squad was given mock assignments where we were taught to sneak up on people and to kill them. We didn't really kill (because the acting victims were our own members) but we were told that we'd receive the chance to see real blood soon enough. Lanky behaved as though eager for that day. It made me uncomfortable. We also were taught the arts of Pokemon Training and battling, but the battles we had were not of the kind sanctioned by the Pokemon League.
The battles were more fierce and lasted longer than any legitimate pokemon battle. We were taught to keep our pokemon on the attack even after opponent's pokemon had fainted. We were taught how to use pokemon to attack the human trainer. It was all very dirty and often bloody. I was given charge for a time over a Vulpix, Dolly. She won several battles for me, only to fall to Swift's Sandslash. She was taken to the Infirmary with a compound fracture to her right-front leg. The corrupt Nurse Joy who worked for my Base told me Dolly was crippled beyond repair. I never saw her again and never learned what became of her.
Like I said before, I drew as an escape. My sketches were (if not of pokemon from life) were very peaceful, often scenes of mountains, trees, faraway lands, and cute little pastoral scenes. These contented me for a while, helping me to forget the things I was being taught and the fierce pokemon battles I was made to fight. After a while, however, drawing ceased to ease my troubled heart and mind.
One afternoon, I was alone in Charley's and my apartment while he was on a minor thieving mission in Saffron City. It was one of the few days I was left unsupervised by someone, being only nine years old. However, we Rocket children quickly learned independence and self-reliance, so no one thought it queer that I was "home alone" for an entire weekend. I could cook my own meals and make my own bed just fine.
Curiosity drew me to Charley's liquor cabinet and to his "special drawer" in his wardrobe cabinet. I knew what he kept in the liquor cabinet as I had often seen him use the products within. He kept a good collection of whiskeys, vodkas, and wines in there and would drink them when he had come home from a "hard mission". In his "special drawer" I discovered several unmarked bottles of pills in various colors.
Charley told me to never get into his special things, but I thought 'If these things help him to forget bad things, why can't I use them?' I used a bent coat hanger to lock-pick the booze cupboard and I took a bottle of yellow pills out of the drawer. I poured myself a glass of bronze colored whiskey over ice as I had seen Charley do many times before. I took a swallow and recoiled from the sharp sour taste. My eyes watered as it burned down my throat. Still, I took another gulp, pain still flooding my heart. I took five of the yellow pills, one after another. I finished the glass of whiskey, then I passed out.
I awoke with a fierce pain throbbing through my temples and a severe feeling of nausea. I tried running to the bathroom, but I didn't make it. I convulsed every time I tried to move and soon was vomiting blood. I thought that I was being ripped apart from within. My vision blurred and was punctuated with flashes of white light. My skin grew very cold and I collapsed, pulling my knees to my chest and shivering.
The next thing I remembered was Charley cradling me in his strong arms and lamenting. "Gabe, Gabe, can you hear me? Oh, what have you done to yourself? Stay with me, son, please stay with me."
I heard him, but showed no sign of it, as I felt something like an iron weight on my chest and was struggling to breathe. I blacked out again.
The Enigma of a Savior
What I learned later was that I had not only drank more whiskey than my little body could handle, but that the yellow pills were the one medication that Charley had that "should never be mixed with alcohol." I nearly died and was in a semi-comatose state for almost three days.
After that, a Team Rocket psychiatrist visited me. He gave me many little tests and played all kinds of little games with me. He mostly asked questions. He told me that I was suffering from a form of depression.
"I'm not crazy!" I shouted to Charley as he sat at the end of my bed in the Infirmary.
"No one is saying that you are;" he replied. "Just take the medicine the doctor gave you-"
"No! Those pills are for crazy people and I'm not crazy!"
"Gabriel, listen to me. Many people in Team Rocket take the pills. Some would not be able to serve the Team without them."
"I hate Team Rocket!" I screamed. "Team Rocket killed my parents!"
"Listen, Gabriel. That was a long time ago and it was Quinn that did that. The Team didn't want it like that and you know that Quinn was discharged and imprisoned for his…impulsiveness. The Rockets really are interested in the good of the world and to improve pokemon. 'To protect the world from devastation.' You will see in time."
I took the pills, one whenever I became stressed over something, but no more than one a day. They calmed me-quelling my feelings of sorrow and fear. They were not exactly Prozac, or Lithium, or anything available on a mainstream market. They were a Team Rocket special blend.
I preformed much better in my classes and it was not long before the Articuno Squadron was disbanded and we became regular members of Team Rocket. A new Articuno Squadron started for newer young initiates and adoptees into the Team.
My uniform was gray with a black undershirt, like most Rocket Spies wore. I enjoyed a rather elite status, being a graduate of the Articunos. Over four years I proved an excellent spy. I used Marill as a second pair of ears to help me track my assignments and to navigate buildings I was staking out. I ceased to call her by her pet name of "Bubbles". I learned that pokemon were for battling and for other human use. My occupation was dangerous for both my pokemon and me, so I learned to keep myself unattached. If something bad happened to the mouse it would be easier for me to lose a "Marill" than "Bubbles."
I was responsible for many successful heists. Most people remember the great Azure Heights Pokemon Center Robbery. I secured that job by staking out the area every night for a week and mapping out the sectors where the different Types were kept and the location of all the cages.
After I had given my report to Boss Giovanni, one of the Black Squadrons was sent in. Team Rocket absconded with all of the pokemon in the Center, without bloodshed. I observed the exact times the Center's employees took their coffee breaks. They were as predictable as the ticking of a clock. Some of my fellow spies surprised them, tied them up, and locked them in the Jigglypuff enclosure. Giovanni rewarded me with Venonat for that.
I was transferred to various Bases of Team Rocket, that, and I traveled to various Gyms, Breeding Centers, and Pokemon Centers in different locales. In my spare time I took up Pokemon Watching as a hobby. I read a lot about it, what Watchers do. I read various research journals and books on pokemon both wild and domestic, but mostly wild. Part of this was hobby and part of this was work, as I was sometimes assigned to work with the pokemon in Team Rocket's genetics and behavioral laboratories.
I found books and journals written with the most meticulous attention to detail and even more heart. Their author had a true understanding of pokemon-almost as if he had lived as one for a time. He wrote with a genuine affection for the creatures and with passion. He was Samuel Oak, P.H.D.
So fascinated was I by this man's knowledge of and passion for pokemon that I read about him as well. I found some news articles detailing some of the things he did. In all of them he either had discovered something new about a particular kind of pokemon or had done something noble for their welfare.
It amazed me that someone could do such honorable things with their life. All around me was a world of lies and greed. The work I did in the Team Rocket labs involved caring for pokemon that had been stolen from someone, many of which were destined to die or to suffer tremendous pain as a part of experiments.
If there was any way for a Team Rocket member to be-I wanted to be like Professor Oak.
The Enigma of Guilt
"I'm so happy because today I've found my friends…they're in my head"
"I'm so ugly, but that's okay, 'cause so are you…"
I had the radio cranked up at the Olive Base Laboratory as I drew a small syringe of blood from a sedated male Nidoran.
"I'm so lonely but that's okay I shaved my head"
"And I'm not sad"
"And just maybe I'm to blame for all I've heard…"
I loved Alternative stuff. The music was often harsh, but I loved the grungy strains and the trippy lyrics. The genre spoke to me in a way that most other music didn't.
"I like it-I'm not gonna crack"
"I miss you-I'm not gonna crack"
"I love you-I'm not gonna crack"
"I kill you-I'm not gonna crack"
I was assisting in a project called Chimera 8. It was an attempt by Team Rocket to create one kind of pokemon with the strengths of eight different Types. The resulting creatures, in theory, would be stronger than a Ditto, if slightly less versatile.
The Head Scientists on Chimera 8 began with the embryos of Meowths. They were inputting the genetic material in a kind of cloning/splicing process. Three Persians were chosen as surrogate mothers to bear litters of five "chimerae" each, which would be more related to Meowth kittens than to any other pokemon.
The blood of the Nidoran that I was collecting was needed for the third batch of embryos. The first two Persians had been successfully impregnated and were being carefully monitored in a special sector of the lab.
As I put the Nidoran back into his cage to sleep off the sedative, I got a knock on my Station door.
"Agent Gabriel Taylor?" the Black Rocket inquired.
"Yes." I answered.
"The First Persian is not taking well to the pregnancy. Giovanni has ordered a raid on the Monore-Hackitt Corporate Headquarters in Sunflower City."
"Manufacturers of pokemon nutrition products. The Boss wants the formula for a certain protein supplement that they make. He doesn't want just a bunch of the supplement, he wants the FORMULA and he wants you on the team that gets it."
The raid on the Monroe-Hackitt building was a night that changed my life.
My team infiltrated the headquarters easily enough. Swift was there, I remember. The five of us crawled through airshafts and other tight, hidden places until we reached the 10th floor, well after midnight. We picked the lock on the office of Murdock Monroe, but found nothing of value to us in it. Well, Swift took a small African sculpture off the man's desk and pocketed it, but we did not find the files that we were seeking.
We stepped across the hall to the office of Ms. Tracie Hackitt. Little did we know that the woman chose to work late that night; it was a decision that she never should have made.
She had the formula, with her in fact. She was at work on an annotated version of the document when we five young Rockets burst into the room. She refused to give it to us quietly, for giving up the secrets to the protein supplement (her company's most lucrative product), would bankrupt her business. We bargained with her, offering her a merger with Team Rocket, but she refused. It came time for me to carry out my orders.
I pulled the revolver from my belt and aimed it at her face.
"Give us the document or I will have to shoot you." I said, coldly.
Ms. Hackitt did not believe my threat and continued to be belligerent. Rocket Squadrons had tried to raid her company before and had never killed anyone-instead; they had been carted away by the cops. My hand shook. I did not want to carry out my orders.
"Do it, Sketch!" Swift cried. "It's either her or you. You know the Boss."
Time never passed as slowly for me as it did when I pulled that trigger. The retort of the gunshot rang in my ears like an earthquake inside my head. I saw the top of Tracie's blond head disintegrate like some terrible bursting firework of gore. Her body slumped to the tan carpet floor, sideways.
Swift and Harvey broke into Hackitt's locked desk and got our file. I stood holding my gun at my side, staring at the rivulets of blood streaming down the back wall. I absolutely could not believe what I had done.
The others led me out of the Monroe-Hackitt headquarters before the cops came.
Charley and Swift were what kept me from suicide in the weeks that followed. That, and I suppose, my white pills. Charley had been right, some Rockets could not survive without them.
I had seen human life taken before, but never by my own gentle hand. I had become no better than my accursed Quinn-only he relished it more. Other assassins told me that they, too, felt terrible after the first time they killed someone, but that they knew they were serving a greater good, the ideals of Team Rocket. They said that I would get over my grief in time…and grow colder.
Project Chimera 8 failed. The mother Persians survived but none of the babies. I had killed for nothing.
I, the Enigma
Not long after the failure of Project Chimera 8, I was assigned to assist in another already ongoing experiment in pokemon genetics. It was the Mewtwo Project.
I was sent to a Rocket laboratory upon a remote island. The project concerned the cloning of the extinct pokemon, Mew; only, the offspring had been "enhanced". I was a very minor player in the Mewtwo Project, more of an errand-boy for the scientists than anything else. I questioned Giovanni's wisdom when I saw the thing, fully formed, but dormant.
The geneticists rejoiced when Mewtwo awakened. I was told to radio Giovanni's helicopter. After that, I don't remember much. Mewtwo started destroying the lab. I was caught in the debris of an exploding wall. I felt great heat and smelled smoke and dust.
A rescue team from the police force of the town on the nearest strip of mainland came to the island the day after the "mysterious exploding light." At least, that was what I was told.
I remember being lifted out from under dusty debris and being asked my name by an Officer Jenny. My mind was swimming and I thought that I was dying, my thoughts dwelled on my regrets.
"Tracie." I mumbled. "Tracie Sketch-itt."
I do not know how my Artitcuno Squad nickname got in there, but that's what I said. I was dressed in a T-shirt, blue jeans, my pokebelt, and a labcoat, not my usual Rocket uniform. I was the only survivor, as far as I know. The police assumed that the laboratory was one belonging to Silph Co. and that there had been a chemical accident that caused the explosion. They assumed that I was merely an honest employee.
I was treated at a hospital on the mainland under the name "Tracey Sketchit". The name still sounds made-up to me, though I have used it for over a year and no one has questioned it.
I used the incident at the island as my escape from Team Rocket. I cut my hair short, ridding myself of the long ponytail that "Gabriel" used to wear. I bought a hairband and new clothes. I used the rest of the money I had in my pockets (I had a habit of carrying a lot of cash with me from my Rocket Pay) to buy dark contact lenses to disguise the color of my eyes, camping supplies, and some sketchbooks.
I spent several months in the Orange Islands, roving about as a Pokemon Watcher, a longtime hobby chosen as a career. Then, I met Misty and Ash and traveled about with them for a while. I finally reached the place that I now call home, the Estate of Professor Samuel Oak.
I still take a white pill every day (usually at night) to stave off my memories. I wish that I could change the past but realize that I cannot. So, I keep my secrets close as I hope to forget my darker days and try to live a life of honor, hoping that, somehow, I will find redemption.