Better off Alone?
It was well after midnight, but the late hour meant nothing to a being who no longer needed the inconveniences of sleep. Solstice was forced to regroup in a warehouse outside the city after Team Night's interference cost her her target. She was recalculating her next move. Argent and Ferrous were there with her, but they were significantly more upset and weary. Especially Ferrous, who was pacing back and forth in an irritating manner.
Solstice was not pleased with the situation at all. The egg hatched in front of a trainer. That meant the Pokémon must have already imprinted on the girl. Solstice wanted it to be her who the Absol imprinted on, but now that that was impossible, she would have to retrain it.
What a pain. Not quite as much as the increasingly childish behavior coming from Ferrous though.
“Dammit!” Ferrous spat, kicking a box. “I shouldn't have to deal with this shit! We're the Silicon Movement! Chasing down some brat's not what I signed up for!”
Solstice looked at him flatly. “I agree, but your anger won't catch the girl. It's better to think instead. I need to find where that Absol is. I spent too much time making it perfect. I won't lose it to some kid.”
Argent glared at Ferrous. “And whose fault is that, Ferrous? Remind me.”
“Shut up! It was an accident! I didn't mean to drop that egg! And how was I supposed to know some girl was gonna try to hatch it?!”
“Irrelevant,” Solstice replied. She cast her gaze upon the two henchmen, and continued when she got no response from them. “Your argument doesn't change the facts. The Absol is my finest creation. I made that Pokémon what it is and I won't stand for some trainer corrupting its power!”
Argent sighed. “Boss, I should apologize. I let that girl get away. If I had just grabbed her on Route 20 like we initially planned we'd have her in custody...”
“Then why didn't you do that?!” Was Solstice's firm reply.
“Forgive us!” Ferrous blurted, “We lacked the manpower!”
“More like you just wanted to take the easy way out,” growled Argent, glaring harshly at Ferrous, “I could have easily done the job on my own if Team Night wasn't a factor. Now, if a certain someone would man up already...”
Ferrous seemed shocked for a moment, then narrowed his eyes at Argent.“...I hate you sometimes.”
Solstice was beginning to lose patience. “That is not an excuse,” she cut in, waving a hand in their direction, “Tell me again why you two fools can't follow simple orders!”
When all she received in response was silence, she continued, “We're watching the harbor. She can't leave without our knowledge. I need the Absol for the project. If you can't do as you're told...then I'll have to re-purpose both of you for Ascension. There's no room in the Silicon Movement for the frail or the insubordinate. Never forget that.”
Solstice looked at her men, feeling satisfied by their uneasy reaction. “Jade, Sapphire, Granite, and I will stake out the city. Team Night probably wants to try and take me down. I'll make sure they receive a warm welcome. Argent, you, Ferrous, Jet, and Quartz need to split up and find the girl. Kill her if you need, but that Absol is priority one, get it?” Solstice looked between them for any sign of dissent, but saw none.
“Make sure to stay out of Team Night's way. I can't rescue any of you fools if you get arrested. Being defeated is weakness. Weakness has no place in my organization.” She waved her left hand at them, metal glinting in the dim lights. “Go.” At her word, the two men nodded and shuffled off into the dark. Solstice pondered the scenario. Her greatest creation, stolen by a trainer! It made her frustrated and angry.
One way or another, she'd make that trainer pay for her insolence.
She swore it.
Leo grumbled and kicked a nearby trash can as he left the hospital. He still couldn't remember anything before yesterday. The doctor said he was ready to leave, but Leo was pissed at his lack of memory. His only comfort was the Pokémon, Flare. There was something about her that he liked a lot, and he was glad for her company.
He noticed she was barking and chasing an empty soda can blowing down the street. Flare's silly quest snapped Leo out of his funk. He laughed and called the puppy back over. She returned, her prize in her mouth. She dropped it in front of him and sat down, swishing her tail across the sidewalk. She looked rather proud of her catch.
Leo chuckled and picked the can up. “You're a funny girl.” He put it in the garbage and petted his Pokémon. She growled and rubbed his hand with her head as she leaned into his touch. The little dog didn't care how screwed-up her master was.
“I was hoping you'd still be here.”
Leo looked up. It was that Amber girl again. This time, she was with another girl, but Leo didn't remember seeing her yesterday.
“You again,” Leo said. What's with this chick? Why did she keep trying to tail him?
Amber nodded. “Yeah. Oh, this is Gloria.” Amber gestured to the other girl.
Leo looked at the both of them before turning his gaze to Amber. “Hm. So, why are you following me?”
Amber glanced at Gloria, then back at Leo. “I just wanted to be sure you were okay.”
“I'm fine...I guess.” Leo said, scratching at the bandage wrapped around his neck. “Damn thing itches.”
Amber smiled. “I'm glad you're doing better today. I hated seeing you so out of sorts.”
Leo shook his head. “I dunno about that. I still can't remember jack-shit.”
Gloria frowned at him. “Sheesh. You've got a mouth like a Grimer.”
Leo gave her a look. “Got a problem? Go shove it.” He was back in a grumpy mood, and these pesky girls weren't helping one bit.
Gloria sighed and shook her head. “Guess I'd be moody too if I got amnesia.”
Amber cut in. “Listen to me, Leo. I'm in major trouble. They're probably gonna attack you too.”
“They? Start making sense!” Leo's mood darkened. He didn't like the way these two kept looking around almost like someone was going to jump out at them. Not one bit.
Amber looked down at the sidewalk. “I um...but...”
Gloria interrupted her, “What she's trying to say is that both of you are in serious trouble. Come on. We'll explain. Let's just find somewhere to sit first.”
Leo shuffled a ways away and parked himself on a bench, folding his arms. “Okay. I'm listening.” He wasn't in the mood for storytelling, but these two seemed serious. The other two sat down beside him and proceeded to talk.
It seemed like last night, while he was sleeping, some kind of thugs attacked Amber. First there was the two men, Argent and Ferrous, who tried to take her down with Pokémon, but Gloria happened to be there to stop them. Gloria's Bulbasaur and Luxray, and Amber's Axew managed to defeat the henchmen. They escaped in the end.
Then Amber went to visit him. He remembered that part.
Apparently, Amber got attacked again outside the hospital. Argent, and a new woman calling herself Solstice, were demanding the egg, which had hatched into an Absol. These two tried to kidnap Amber, but two odd people got in the way: Team Night members, if Gloria was to be believed. Amber managed to escape, and Gloria helped her hide from the creepers.
What a crazy story. Leo groaned and shook his head. “You're in deep shit, huh?”
Amber nodded once. “I'm sorry, Leo. This isn't what I wanted for us. Our journey wasn't supposed to be like this!” She brushed her braid away from her face, tears welling in her eyes. “I just wanted to train and get badges, travel around, maybe meet some new friends, stuff like that. You know, like a regular trainer. I don't want...this!” Amber bit her lip, trying miserably to hide a sob. “I hate this so much...”
Leo sighed and looked between the two girls. Amber was crying. Again. For such a crybaby, Amber could be persistent if nothing else. She was clearly the childish, timid type; she'd need some getting used to.
Then there was Gloria.
She was a strange one. In spite of the fact she seemed no older than Amber, Gloria was clearly far more mature and street-wise, yet she seemed to radiate a fierce aura, like she'd been through a lot. She'd barely even blinked at a story that would make most people worry. She had her Pokémon in her lap and seemed as serious as sin. She actually intimidated him just a little with her stoic reaction to the situation they were in.
She spoke to him again. “It's okay if you don't want to believe us. If I were you, well, I'd want nothing to do with this.”
Looking straight at them, he replied, “No, believing you isn't my problem. None of this is.” He wasn't in any mood for some inane superhero business. He had more than he wanted on his plate already.
Gloria turned back to Amber. “I think we should get going,” She cast a sharp glance Leo's way “Leo's made his point quite clearly.”
True enough, he didn't want to get involved with this crap. He considered going his own way, but that Amber girl seemed to know about his past and he couldn't help but want to know more.
What did she know about his past?
That one thought dug at him like a thorn he couldn't reach.
He had made up his mind. He was going to go with them. Maybe if he stuck around long enough he'd remember something.
“I never said I wouldn't. I'll help you two.”
Gloria looked at him sternly. “Are you sure? I don't think there's-”
“I said I'm coming! That's what you want, right!?” Leo was starting to get annoyed again. This needling made him feel like a suspect. He glared at Gloria.
Gloria paused, her intense gaze locked on Leo. If she even noticed his ire, she didn't show it. “Is that what you want, Leo?” Was her cool response.
Leo froze up. What the hell could he say to that?
“Er, yeah?” Wound up being what came out.
A low growl by his feet made him look. It was Flare, and she was rumbling at Gloria, ears flat. The pup was defending her master loyally. It was almost like she was telling Gloria to shut up. The little Growlithe's display made Leo grin. At least she understood him, even if nobody else seemed to. He stroked the dog's blonde tuft and earned an enthusiastic bark out of the dog.
Gloria nodded once and turned back to Amber. “Hear that? He's coming after all.”
Amber smiled at Leo. “Yes! I'm so relieved! After last night, I wasn't sure what I'd do without my best friend!”
Leo stood up. “We'll see,” he said, shifting his backpack to avoid his hurt shoulder.
Amber smiled and put her hand on his other shoulder. “I promise I won't bail on you. You probably don't remember, but we've been friends since we were kids. I'm not gonna give up just because you're...different. I trust you.”
She...trusted him? Amber's last words caught him completely off guard. Even in his current self-loathing mood, she trusted him?
He liked that. Maybe going with Amber wasn't going to be so bad after all.
“So,” he said, “what are we doing now?”
“I'll take it from here.” A new voice nearby said. Both Amber and Leo turned to face the newcomer. Gloria seemed a lot less surprised though, and he saw her nod at the voice.
There were two people standing nearby. Both wore odd, dark-blue uniforms with stylized N logos on the front. The pale-haired girl was smiling at them, but the dark-haired boy was a bit harder to read..
The girl spoke first. “I see you're okay.”
Amber cocked her head. “Wait...you're those two who came to help earlier.”
Leo looked between the two newcomers. They were a strange pair. The girl sported pale blue hair that hung to her waist. Her blue eyes seemed kind, but authoritative, marking her as someone with a strong presence. She didn't seem as strong-willed as Gloria, and Leo got the impression she was a bit less confrontational. Good.
The guy was a bit trickier to judge. His messy black hair partly obscured one deep brown eye and he regarded the group with a tricky expression on his dark face. He struck Leo as someone who could be dangerous if he pissed him off by mistake.
“So, who are you guys?” Leo asked, “Friends with Amber?”
The guy shrugged. “We just did what had to be done. Name's Shawn. This here's Sarah.” He cast a glance in the girl's direction before returning to scrutinize Leo.
Sarah nodded. “Has Gloria filled you in on us yet?”
Gloria shook her head in response, “We had a pretty rough night, Sarah. I didn't have time to explain much. I was kinda worried Amber was gonna have a mental episode at one point.”
“H-hey!” Amber protested, her face reddening, “I was just scared. I'm okay now. Really.”
“Well, I got the bit about you three being some kind of crime-fighters. Team Night, right?” Leo said.
Sarah nodded again. “Yup. We've been doing this since Team Rocket was around.”
“And who's Team Rocket?”
Sarah smiled a little. She paused for a moment before continuing, “Huh. He doesn't know who Team Rocket was.” She chuckled a bit, “I kinda envy him there.”
Leo wasn't quite sure if he was being teased or not. He just looked at the two, then back at Amber. At a glance, she seemed a little lost too, but that didn't surprise Leo one bit.
Shawn scratched his ear. “They were a band of criminals who caused a lot of trouble in the Kanto and Johto regions some time ago. They were a nasty bunch. They were mostly profiteer-type crooks who'd steal and cheat for their own gain, but their leader, Giovanni was...” Shawn cast a glance between Gloria and Sarah, who both seemed suddenly uncomfortable, “...ambitious. He orchestrated nasty experiments and masterminded a takeover of both regions, but not all at once luckily. At one point, he even took over the Pokémon Gym in Viridian City. He was a master trickster and a genius. A lunatic, but a genius.”
Sarah interrupted him.“Nobody's heard from him in over three years. Team Rocket kinda fell apart without him. He's not a problem anymore.” At that last remark, the two Team Nights and Gloria exchanged looks and nodded at each other. Leo could tell there was more to the story. Those three were acting kind of strange at the mention of Giovanni. Whoever he was, he clearly made an impact with them.
It was a few long moments before Amber spoke up. “So...do you guys know about the Silicon Movement? Are they like Team Rocket?”
“They've been doing some criminal activities, we know that much. Reported incidents include theft, black-market deals, and, well...now kidnapping and attempted murder. We don't know much else.” Sarah shook her head, “We didn't get much out of the goons we cornered last night either. Solstice used a smoke bomb on us and those two got away.”
It looked like Team Night didn't know much more than Leo did about the situation. He realized just then that Flare wandered off again. She had wedged herself behind a trash can and was pawing at something. He called for her, but she only barked at him in response.
“Looks like Flare found something again,” Amber said, walking over to the Growlithe. Leo followed her. He saw the pup pulling something out from behind the can. It was a small, brass-colored, hooked piece of metal, about an inch long. Flare sniffed at it, flattened her ears, and growled a little. Leo was puzzled. He bent down and picked up the hook. Flare's eyes never left her find, and she lifted her lip slightly at the thing as it passed by her face.
“Can I see that for a second?” Shawn asked. Leo shrugged and handed it over. It didn't seem like anything special to him, but Shawn seemed to think otherwise. His serious expression darkened as he examined the object. “This is...a claw?”
Amber blinked and cringed. “Aagh! That's the same thing that Solstice girl was wearing on her hands! I think that's a fingertip!”
Sarah seemed a bit disgusted all of a sudden. “She must have dropped that during the fight last night.”
A sudden thought crossed Leo's mind. If this was a “finger”, then Solstice would be back looking for it. He considered the options. If they simply left here, they'd be able to put some distance between Solstice and themselves. If they instead called the cops or staked it out, they might be able to get rid of her. To Leo, the choice was obvious. Solstice was clearly a very dangerous woman: trying to take her out wouldn't end well. Besides, there was those agents, Ferrous and Argent. They were pretty likely to be with her, and Argent seemed unafraid to kill for his boss. He wasn't so sure about Ferrous, but he couldn't afford to dismiss him either.
He spoke up after mulling it over. “This could be a good time to call the cops. Solstice is gonna be looking for that. She'll probably come back here, by the hospital, since this is where we found it. It'd be a perfect chance to ambush her.” Leo shook his head quickly. “Not me though! You won't catch me dead doing that crap.”
Shawn smiled. “You're pretty sharp, Leo. I like the way you think! It sounds like a great chance to nail Solstice and maybe we'll get some info out of that creep.” Sarah smiled and nodded in agreement.
Leo was surprised. He wasn't expecting these guys to actually try that themselves! “Shouldn't you guys call the cops? It's too dangerous to play hero! They already tried to kill Amber. You can't take them lightly.”
Sarah chuckled a little, and a little gleam sparked in her eyes. “Team Night is sanctioned by Pokémon leagues in Kanto, Johto, and Sinnoh. We are cops.”
“How lucky!” Amber chimed in, “If they're cops, then we're golden! Let's stake this place out!”
Gloria sighed. “Are you serious? Those guys already almost kidnapped you. I think you should leave it to Sarah and Shawn. They're plenty strong,” Gloria smiled mischievously, “Like me.”
“Oh...” Amber's face fell. “Well I guess if they're that strong, we've got nothing to worry about.” Amber looked at Leo seeming unfazed. “Hey, Leo. I wanna go back to Aspertia and try getting a badge.”
Leo shrugged. “I think we should get back to the mainland. It'll give us a better chance of losing the Silicon Movement.”
“Can we go later, please?” Amber grinned and looked at Leo pleadingly. “Let's both get our first badges. It'll be a nice distraction too.
Leo couldn't argue with that point. He was getting sick of all this cloak-and-dagger crap anyway. “Yeah, let's do that first.”
“Sarah. I'm gonna accompany them. They don't have many Pokémon and Silicon's probably got more thugs looking for Amber and Shadow. I'll back them up,” Gloria said, scooping up Bulbasaur and standing up, “At any rate, we need to get moving if we don't want Silicon to tail us.”
Leo nodded. “Alright. Let's do it.” He was talking to air. An excited Amber was already halfway down the street, shadowing Gloria. He walked off after the girls, Flare following behind as he shook his head and sighed again.How in Arceus' name did he get involved in this?