Ambush in Virbank
It was another unusually windy day in Virbank City's harbor. At least, that's what Gloria had been told. The seventeen year-old stood on the deck of the passenger ship and brushed her hair out of her face, letting the sea breeze sweep her waist-long, dark-blue locks aside. The simple, pale-blue sun dress she wore flapped in the wind as she turned to better enjoy it. One of the Pokéballs on her hip wriggled. She put a hand on the ball and looked down at it.
“I'm sorry. You know they don't let trainers have their Pokémon out on the deck.” She ran her hand across the ball's surface, tracing the patterns with a finger. “I can see land. It can't be much longer.” She wasn't sure if the Bulbasaur inside could hear her, but Gloria liked to believe it. She didn't like having to keep him in there, but rules are rules.
She pursed her lips and watched the approaching city line. She had been a trainer for seven years now. This was her first time in Unova. She started out ordinarily enough in Kanto, gathering up six badges there, and four in Johto. Things weren't always so great, but she liked to focus on the present. She was meeting a childhood friend in Virbank. Gloria was looking forward to the reunion. It had been three months since she last saw Sarah and she was eager to catch up. As the ship pulled in, Gloria picked up her backpack off a bench, and she took her first steps off the ship.
Everything was surprisingly quiet for a large city. Just what one would expect for quarter-after eight at night. She took in the new sights eagerly, not noticing the Pokémon emerge at her side. The Bulbasaur snapped a vine near her face and glared. Gloria came out of her sightseeing and looked down at the angry Pokémon.
"Sorry..." Gloria said, picking him up. "I'm sorry boy." Bulbasaur's expression changed and he rubbed his head on his trainer's arm. She smiled at him. Bulbasaur was her closest Pokémon and a great personality. Sure, he was kind of cranky, and he looked a bit weird with his blue spots, but she wouldn't trade him for the world. She understood him on a level deeper than most trainers. The two were less like trainer and Pokémon than brother and sister.
She had a dark history to bear, and she hated to reflect on it. It was about nine years ago when Gloria was kidnapped. It was a surprise attack by Team Rocket. They had ambushed her and forced her to do horrible experiments on Pokémon.
She was never sure why they targeted her and not her mother, a geneticist working in Sinnoh.
She was there for a few years, unable to escape. At least, not until that day her world turned upside down.
The day she became a Pokémon.
Gloria was so lost in thought, she didn't even see when she walked square into a trash can. She looked up, embarrassed and surprised. A girl sitting on a bench just nearby caught her eye. She was looking Gloria's way and seemed very upset for some reason. The girl was about her age. Her reddish-violet hair was woven in a loose braid and her green eyes were wet with tears. She seemed embarrassed, but probably not for the same reason Gloria was. There was a one-tusked Axew perched on the bench beside her. It regarded Gloria with a sharp gaze.
“Sorry,” Gloria apologized. She backed up a few steps, straightening the trash can. "Didn't mean to scare you."
The girl wiped at her eye. “I'm fine...” She lowered her head into her hands. “I'm fine...” Gloria could clearly see the girl had cried for some some time. Gloria couldn't help but feel maybe she could help. She took up a spot beside the girl.
Gloria shot up, more than a little startled. She looked at the Axew, which was giving her the stink-eye again. “Sorry. I guess it's taken.”
“Fang! Be nice,” The girl said. The Axew, Fang, sighed and climbed into its trainer's lap. The girl looked at Gloria again. “Go ahead. It's more than big enough...”
Gloria carefully sat down, distancing herself from the clearly annoyed Fang. “What's wrong? Are you okay?”
The girl shook her head. “I'm the biggest screw-up ever. Its all my fault.” Gloria opened her mouth to speak, but the girl spoke first. “I...I'm sorry. I better back up.” She sniffled and wiped her eyes again. “I got my friend hurt. He's in the hospital. I-I...”
“Hey,” Gloria cut her off, “you don't have to talk about it. I shouldn't have brought it up. I just saw you here and I thought you looked like you needed someone to talk to.” Gloria stood up. “I'm the one who should be sorry. I'll leave you be.”
The trainer looked up at her. “Wait.” She stood up with her. “Uh...who're you?”
“Gloria. I'll let you be. Didn't mean to make you cry.” She started to walk away.
“Gloria, you didn't make me cry.” The trainer smiled slightly. “I'm Amber.”
Gloria decided to try one more time. “What happened, Amber? Why are you crying out here by yourself?”
Amber's face fell. “Well...my friend. Um, he's the one I was talking about...he's hurt. It happened because I let him talk me into camping instead of walking the rest of the way to Flocessy.” Amber lowered her head and sighed. “I'm sorry. I'm being a real downer huh?”
“Why do you keep apologizing like that?” Gloria asked. “You act like you're a criminal or something.”
Amber chuckled a little. “You're right. Sorry.”
“You did it again!” Gloria smirked playfully at her.
Amber burst out laughing. “Haha! I'm sor-” She bit her lip mid-sentence. “Uh, I mean, yeah. Leo always says I take bad news personally.”
"Is that who got hurt? Leo?"
Amber stared down at the sidewalk. She kicked at the concrete and sighed. “Yeah. We got attacked by a Houndoom. If it weren't for Fang here we wouldn't have even made it...” She wrung her hands and shook her head.
Gloria paused. Poor Amber. She remembered times when her friends would mess up. Sometimes it was her fault too. It wasn't anything like that this time though. Amber seemed to honestly believe she was responsible. Gloria felt sorry for Amber. She hadn't had the past Gloria did. She hadn't had the chance to become tougher. She hadn't been kidnapped before or forced to... Gloria shook the thought off. No sense being gloomy.
She got an idea. “Hey Amber.” Amber grunted but didn't look up. “How about a battle? That's gotta cheer ya up.”
Amber shrugged. “I don't have a Pokémon.”
Gloria was confused. “Huh? What about Fang? I thought it was yours?”
Amber shook her head. “No. It's wild. Fang is just what I call it. Its not mine.”
“Uh...okay?” Gloria scratched her head. “You're a trainer but you don't own a Pokémon. Then what's Fang doing here?”
Amber shrugged. “It just keeps on following me.”
Gloria thought for a moment. "Maybe it wants to be with you."
Amber tilted her head. "Really? Isn't that kinda weird?"
“Yes. But I think it's true. Maybe.” Gloria knelt down and looked right at Fang. It, he, she could now tell, returned her gaze intensely. “How about it, Fang? Do you want to go with Amber?” Fang snorted and turned his nose up at Gloria.
She shrugged and shook her head. “I don't think he likes me at all, Amber.”
Amber crouched down this time. “Fang? You wanna be my Pokémon?” Fang trilled happily and hugged Amber around the neck. Amber's eyes lit up. She grinned and hugged him right back. “I bet that's yes! Gloria, I got a Pokémon now!”
Gloria smiled back. She didn't feel the need to tell her, but she knew the Pokémon language well. It was part of her after all. Fang had said it plainly to Gloria. “I don't like you! You're weird! Creepy human, just stay away from me.”
To Amber, he had said, “I was waiting for you to ask! I want to help you. Just like you helped me.” Gloria wanted to ask Fang about how he met her, but Fang clearly didn't trust her. Dragon-types could be proud and distrustful like that sometimes. Gloria didn't blame the little Axew. It could be hard to trust a human like her, never mind a stranger too.
Amber peered over the Pokémon. She was smiling brightly. “I'll battle now if you still want to.”
Gloria chuckled. “You gotta catch Fang first.”
Amber looked at Fang. “Catch him?”
Gloria nodded. “Sure. He's still wild after all.”
Amber blinked and stared at Fang. She frowned and shook her head again. “I don't have a Pokéball.”
Gloria groaned and hit her forehead with a palm. She'd never seen such an unprepared trainer in her whole life! Gloria wasn't even sure how Amber planned on getting anywhere with no Pokémon, no experience, no equipment, and clearly no clue.
She sighed and looked at Amber. “You are a real piece of work, you know that? Here.” Gloria took a Pokéball out of her pocket and held it out to Amber.
Amber still seemed unsure. She looked at the ball, then down at Fang, who was glaring at Gloria again. “Okay. I guess I'll do it. Thanks.” She took the ball and readied it at Fang. He stared at Amber's hand and squeaked.
She threw the ball.
Fang trilled and ducked, causing the ball to bounce off the back of the bench. He looked wide-eyed at Amber, then shot another angry glare at the surprised trainer.
Amber picked up the ball. “Come on, Fang. Hold still.” She threw the ball again. This time, it hit Fang square in the chest. With a shriek, Fang was drawn into the Pokéball. The ball stood still for several moments, then clicked. Amber leaned down and grabbed the Pokéball.
“I...I did it...!” She beamed, holding up her prize, “Look, Gloria! I actually did it!” Gloria looked at Amber, more bemused than anything. She had to give the silly trainer credit for enthusiasm, but catching a Pokémon that way was hardly an accomplishment. Gloria wondered if she too would've been that easily amused if she hadn't had such a rough beginning.
“Bravo for you, girl. Now, give us that egg.”
Gloria spun around upon hearing the sudden voice from behind her. Two men in beige trench coats stood nearby, their faces obscured by shadows from broad fedoras. Something about their ominous and sudden approach deflated the lighthearted mood like a burst bubble.
“Wha-?” She heard Amber say from behind her, “Who are you guys?”
The man on the right stared ahead at them. Gloria couldn't see his face, but she could sense his gaze on them. He said, “I am Agent Ferrous of the Silicon Movement. This is my partner, Agent Argent.” He gestured to the other man, who hadn't said a word. Ferrous cleared his throat. “We need that egg, girl. Now. Give it over.”
Argent finally spoke up. “It's no good, Ferrous. That one's a Team Night adjunct.” He pointed a gloved finger at Gloria's face. “She will need to be dealt with first.” Gloria's eyes widened and her jaw dropped. She was indeed what that Argent man said, but how in Arceus' name did these goons know that?!
Gloria looked back over her shoulder. Amber had stepped back and was clutching something close to her body. She shook her head, a look of fear growing on her face. “No. It's not yours!”
Ferrous shook his head. “You'll have no choice when we're done.”
Argent's response was more menacing. He took one step forward, pulling a Pokéball out of a pocket. “Fight us,” He growled as he released its occupant, "Cover me, Ferrous." Inside the Pokéball was a Staravia. It shrieked a battle-cry and took wing immediately.
Gloria thought fast. Bulbasaur was a grass type: vulnerable against the flying-type Staravia. She had one other Pokémon with her now.
It would have to do.
She grabbed the second Pokéball. Just as she was about to let out her Luxray, Gloria spotted a familiar Pokémon. It was Fang, and he looked furious.
“What are you doing?” Gloria whispered to the dragon, not bothering to use English, “This is gonna be too hard for you. Go protect Amber.”
“Shut up. I do what I want,” Fang retorted. He shifted his weight and growled up at the bird.
Gloria shrugged and looked at Amber. “Looks like Fang wants to join. C'mere and help me control him, but stay back if you can. That Staravia is out of your league.”
Gloria turned back to the fight. By now, Ferrous had unleashed his own Pokémon: a Nosepass. Gloria raised an eyebrow. This might be easier than she'd hoped. Rock-types were easy for her Bulbasaur. She decided her strategy: attack the Staravia with Luxray and hold off Nosepass until Bulbasaur could get a Solar Beam in on it. Gloria released her Luxray.
Amber looked like she was about to cry. “What should I do!? I dunno how to fight!”
“Just stay back and cover my rear!” Gloria replied. “Don't let them ambush us!” She pointed at the Staravia. “Bulbasaur! Don't attack the bird, got it? Go for Nosepass! Ready your Solar Beam! Luxray! Keep them from coming close while he charges up! Your call!”
Luxray hissed in acknowledgment. Then she let loose a burst of electricity at the Staravia. Bulbasaur, meanwhile scrambled under a nearby streetlamp, extending his leaves to soak in the light.
“Nosepass, stop that Bulbasaur!” Ferrous roared. Nosepass lowered its head and barreled headfirst into the little dinosaur. Bulbasaur didn't have time to react. He was knocked head over tail on his back. Staravia swooped down and snatched up Bulbasaur with its talons. The angry Bulbasaur quickly wrapped his vines around Staravia's wings, causing the bird to crash and drop its prey. Luxray bolted over and slammed her body into the surprised Staravia, unleashing a torrent of electricity as she did.
Argent groaned and shook his head. “Staravia, you idiot! Pay attention! Don't let that cat get you again, got it?!” Staravia twittered and took wing again. It soared high, circling faster and faster as it did.
Gloria saw an opening. “Now, Luxray! Thunder!”
“Eek! Gloria, look out! Nosepass is coming right at you!” Amber wailed. Gloria only had time to catch a glimpse of the Nosepass as it bull-rushed her. She braced for its charge. This was going to hurt.
“No, Fang, no! Get outta the way! Look out!” Amber shrieked. Fang was growling and running straight for Luxray. Before Gloria could react, he suddenly loosed a startling roar, sending the charging Nosepass cowering behind Ferrous.
Gloria looked at Fang in surprise. She hadn't expected him to protect her. “Thanks, Fang.”
“That wasn't for you. That was just to help Luxray,” was his harsh response, giving Gloria his trademark leer.
Gloria smiled. “Whatever. Thanks anyway.” Fang snorted at this and rolled his eyes. Luxray unleashed her thunder just then.
It missed terribly.
She scowled angrily. What a dirty trick, attacking humans during a fight! She glared at the two henchmen. There was no way she'd let herself be beaten by scum who used tactics like that!
Ferrous stepped away from Nosepass. “Get back out there you, you, coward!” He kicked the Nosepass in the backside. “Go!”
Bulbasaur managed to finish charging up. He opened his mouth and shot a bright beam at Nosepass. It completely knocked over the Pokémon, causing it to faint.
“Huh?” Amber blurted. “It's beaten already?” She grinned. “Cool. You're strong, Gloria! I bet Leo would've liked to see that!”
“What!? Get up! You're not done yet!” Ferrous shouted at the fallen Pokémon, kicking it when it didn't respond. He angrily recalled it, turning to Argent. “Nosepass's down! I can't go on!” He grumbled and looked down. “That sucks!”
"Then shut up and watch a real fighter. I'll handle all of 'em!" Argent barked. “Keep it up, Staravia, keep up the Double Team! Can't beat what ya can't hit!”
Gloria reconsidered her tactics. With Staravia's annoying evasive moves, Luxray's Thunder stood no chance of hitting. She had to hit that bird somehow. As she went through her choices, she saw Fang hopping from one foot to the next. He clapped his paws and squealed rhythmically, ending the dance in a back flip.
Rain Dance?! Gloria was taken aback. She considered herself pretty smart, but she had no idea Axew could know that move.
She smiled, quickly recovering from surprise as the first drops of rain begun to fall. “Smart move, Fang. That's gonna really-”
“Shut up and fight, you crazy human!” barked Fang, “That won't last forever!”
Gloria knew Fang was right. The rain was going to increase Thunder's accuracy. She nodded and pointed to Staravia, who by now was a gray and black blur against the city lights.
“Boss, that's bad news,” a nervous Ferrous blurted, “Really bad news! She's gonna zap us!”
“Ack! No!” Blared Argent, “Don't you dare! Staravia, get out of there! Protect me!”
“Luxray!” Gloria called, “Thunder! Take Staravia out!”
"Rraagh! Damn you, you crazy-! Wait, huh?" Said Argent, clearly confused.
Gloria ignored the henchmen. They honestly thought she'd attack them directly?! Idiots. That was a loser's gambit. She glanced back at Amber. “You okay, Amber?”
“Y-yeah,” she stammered. “That was awful...”
Gloria turned to confront the two goons, but they were nowhere to be seen. Gloria looked about, trying to see where they went, but the rain and darkness made the search pointless. She shook her head and turned back to Amber.
“That wasn't supposed to happen,” Gloria said. What an understatement. Of all things, she hadn't expected to run into trouble in a quiet city like Virbank! That was part of why she and Sarah agreed to meet here and not Castellia or Mistralton.
“Amber,” she asked, “have you ever heard of Team Night?” When Amber shook her head no, Gloria explained.
Team Night was originally a vigilante band of trainers opposing Team Rocket. They were formed some time ago by Sarah, who she was supposed to meet here tonight. Gloria had always been Team Night's ace-in-the-hole, never an official part of Team Night. She'd remained "civilian" so she could be their eyes and ears without causing much notice. In recent months, Sarah thought it would be a good idea to investigate suspicious rumors in Unova, since Team Rocket itself had long since fallen quiet. Now, Gloria was concerned that these men were part of the unpleasant rumors.
Amber nodded. At least she seemed to understand. Gloria sighed. "I'm sorry, Amber. This wasn't supposed to involve you."
Amber looked down at the egg she was still holding. “Why in Arceus' name do they want my egg?” It was a weird egg: too small for most Pokémon. Not weird enough to merit an attack though, Gloria figured.
“That's the million Poké question isn't it?” Gloria replied, scratching her head. She recalled Luxray and scooted along a building. Bulbasaur had unfurled his leaves, creating himself a makeshift umbrella, which Fang tried to crawl under. “Let's get outta the rain. We'll talk it out later.”