Judgment's Fall @thecartoonfanatic01
Archaic

A/N: I'M ON TIME! HOORAY!

...

Yeah, that's all I have to say in this Author's Note. I've got nothing special to announce here. Sorry about that. :P :P :P

Alright, on with the on-time chapter! ENJOY!

P.S.: Due to the ever-worsening situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak, I'm going to have to remind you all about the basic steps you should take if you want to stay healthy, courtesy of my university's reminder emails:

-Wash hands often with soap and water for 20-30 seconds at a time, and/or use hand sanitizer
-Avoid close contact with people who are sick
-Keep your hands away from nose, eyes, and mouth (I can't imagine how difficult this part is probably going to be)
-Eat well, get adequate rest, and exercise regularly
-Get a flu shot if you haven't already and are able to
-Stay informed on the COVID-19 vaccines and get shots if you're able to

And if you ARE sick (I hope you get better if you are), please be a good sport and save other folks the trouble of getting sick. You can do this by:

-Covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve, elbow, or a tissue whenever you sneeze or cough
-Not sharing food and drinks with others
-Avoiding touching your mouth, nose, and eyes (Again, I understand this is probably going to be difficult)
-Avoiding close contact with others
-Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects
-Staying at home if you're unwell (PRIORITY NUMBER ONE!)
-Staying calm and keeping yourself well-informed (My personal advice)

If you already know this, then great! If you didn't know any of this beforehand, please keep that information in mind as we all go through this trying time. It's a realm of unknowns at this point, and I wish myself and all of humanity well.


TEAM ROSTER

-Team 1 (Sinnoh): Ash, Serena, Dawn, Zoey, Kenny, Ursula, Paul, Trip, Leon, Verity, Reggie, Johanna, Professor Carolina

AND

-Team 2 (Galar): Goh, Chloe, Bea, Sheena, Baraz, Raihan, Sonia, Nessa, Kabu, Milo, Mustard, Allister, Opal, Melony, Piers

-Team 3 (Kanto): Lillie, Gladion, Lusamine, Brock, Misty, Tracey, Ritchie, Daisy, Violet, Lily, Agatha, Scott

-Team 4 (Johto): Gary, Jimmy, Vincent, Lyra, Khoury, Barry, Tyson, Silver, Professor Oak, Professor Elm

-Team 5: TBA

-Team 6: TBA

-Team 7: TBA

-Team 8: TBA


Rocket Frigate
UNKNOWN LOCATION

"I'm bored..."

"That's the fifth time you've said that for the past fifteen minutes."

Two Team Galactic grunts stood by a random door deep within the Rocket Frigate. The hallway they were in was sparsely populated, with a grunt passing by every hour or so. When they were broken out of prison, they expected to be a part of the action offered by their benefactors, Giovanni and his Team Rocket organization. Unfortunately, the two of them were among some who picked the short straws and were assigned menial, worthless tasks.

Such as guarding doorways.

"Aw, man!" one of the grunts exclaimed, clutching his hair in distress. "I swear, if nothing interesting happens in the next hour, I'm gonna LOSE IT!"

"Stay cool, man," the other grunt replied, trying his best to maintain a patient, composed demeanor. "This is what we've been assigned to, and we have to stick to it. For the good of the Syndicate, and the New World Order."

"Yeah. 'Cause guarding the door to a frigging cabinet room is gonna be the key to the Syndicate's victory." Then, at that moment, the first grunt lost his cool. "Okay, you know what?! That's it! I can't take this lying down! I've been left with no choice but to stage a frigging STRIKE!"

"A strike?" The other grunt quirked an eyebrow. "Against the heads of the Syndicate? Including Commander Saturn?"

"We deserve better than THIS, man! We-!"

A metal crate suddenly fell on top of his head, knocking him out. The other grunt gasped and prepared to reach for one of his Poké Balls, but the unseen assailant was faster.

"Charizard, use Brick Break now!"

A Charizard suddenly flew from the ceiling and punched the grunt with a glowing bluish-white fist, quickly knocking him out. The Flame Pokémon then looked around for any signs of additional danger, before finally glancing upward and giving a thumbs-up. A couple of seconds later, Leon crawled out of the open air-duct and deftly landed on the floor.

"Phew!" he exclaimed while blowing a few stray strands of purple hair out of his face. "I thought I'd be cramped up inside that duct forever! Now..." He looked down at the grunt he knocked out with the metal grate. "It's showtime."


"Mmm... Ugh... Errrrr... Ack... Ah! Agh! Ow, ow!"

Consciousness came flooding back into Ash's mind, all of it spreading from the point of origin that was the great prickling sensation in his neck. He quickly found himself chained to a chair, which itself was apparently nailed down in the center of a small, cramped tube of glass. The raven-haired Trainer heard a small mechanical noise and looked to the side, where he saw a robotic arm withdrawing from him; at the end of it was a shiny needle, its tip flecked with blood.

His own blood.

"Where...Where am I...?" Ash looked around, still somewhat dazed and stunned. "What...What happened...?"

Then, more of his vision became clearer, and he began to see what was outside the tube: some sort of laboratory, with a variety of people dressed in different uniforms operating computers and other machinery, and sometimes scurrying about like Rattata. Ash took notice of a particularly large computer screen, which was monitoring his own body and its vitals.

"Rise and shine, sleepyhead," a voice said.

"AGH!"

The surprised Ash whipped his head to the side and saw a man standing directly on the other side of the glass that kept him contained. He had purple hair and eyes, along with a mischievous yet unnerving demeanor that chilled Ash down to the bone. Then, that uncanny feeling triggered a memory of the last thing that he remembered before he saw darkness. He was stepping foot on the airship, Team Rocket's so-called "Rocket Frigate", and being greeted by a peculiar man.

The man who was standing right in front of him.

"So," he growled through gritted teeth, "you must be Petrel."

"In the flesh!" the man replied, his voice surprisingly ecstatic despite the circumstances. Then, Petrel began circling the tube that imprisoned Ash, tucking his twitchy hands behind his back. "It is...so good to be acknowledged by-by someone who's quite p-powerful a-and formidable such as yourself."

Although Ash's eyes couldn't follow Petrel for 360 degrees due to his binds, the Trainer's ears tracked the purple-haired man's movements, hoping that he could overhear something that would be useful for him. As he did, he decided to try and keep his attention occupied.

"Wow," he deadpanned. "For once, someone from Team Rocket is complimenting me. Sounds like they're getting pretty desperate."

"Ohhhhh, far from it," Petrel replied with a sneer. "We've been following your exploits for a while now, Ash Ketchum."

"Lemme guess. Since the time I stopped you guys from using Meloetta to capture the Forces of Nature?"

"Hm?" The purple-haired man quirked an eyebrow. "Y-You mean Operation: Tempest? Oh, no, no, no." He shook his head vigorously. "No. For way longer than that." His eye twinkled knowingly. "Since the St. Anne operation."

Ash's auburn eyes widened. All of a sudden, the memories of the Team Rocket grunts attempting to steal Pokémon from the passengers of the St. Anne flooded back into his mind like a tidal wave. He especially remembered how he was about to trade Butterfree, the first Pokémon he ever caught, away for good. He did not think he could actually recall that time, but evidently he could, and moreover, so could Team Rocket.

"That's right," Petrel remarked, noticing the stunned look in the boy's face. "At first, we were unsure how an operation as carefully and methodically planned as that one could go soooooo wrong. But then, we retraced our steps, and those of all the passengers, and we found the one inciting incident: you.

"For so many years, we were able to execute the grandest thefts and robberies the criminal underworld had ever seen! A frigging art-form was made out of plucking Poké Balls from Trainers' hands left and right! And no one dared to resist! No one! It was a period of prosperity for us! But then..." The man's eyes narrowed ominously. "You had to ruin our mojo..."

Ash's own eyes narrowed. "Huh. So, uh, you're telling me you've been picking on Trainers who were too afraid of you to even consider fighting back? And now that you've finally found someone who's willing to fight against you, you basically have a fit and kidnap them?" He sneered tauntingly. "Wow. Sounds pretty childish on your part. Not to mention cowardly, Team Rocket."

"Ah, don't flatter yourself," Proton replied. "We enjoy a good fight every now and then. After all, who enjoys a steak that isn't tenderized? But you..." He pointed at Ash. "You were different, kid. You know, I was actually on the ground, during the S.S. Anne operation. Directly overseeing it for the purposes of keeping a record. Obviously you didn't know that, for I was in disguise at the time. Anyway, I could see how terrified everyone was. Like a Rattata cornered by a Persian."

"Trainers aren't Rattata," Ash spat bitterly, "and you aren't a Persian."

Petrel ignored him. "We had you all exactly where we wanted you to be. We were ready to steal so many Pokémon a-and make a glorious getaway! But you know what happened next?"

Ash frowned bitterly. "Oh, do enlighten me."

"You intervened. You chose to step up and fight back. You were the first to do so. Everyone else followed your lead."

Ash's frown then turned into a mocking smirk. "Okay, now you're the one flattering me, Team Rocket."

"How so?"

"Anyone could've done that. Anyone could've made that choice to step up and fight back against you losers."

"But you did." Petrel stepped so close to the glass that separated him from Ash, to the point where his nose was about to touch its surface. "You stepped up and fought back. You motivated all those other Trainers to give us a hard time. And..." He chuckled. "I must say, as much as I would've loved plucking all those Pokémon from all those Trainers so easily back in that ship, your little resistance was icing on the cake for me. You were tenderizing the steak for us. A lovely bonus."

Then, Proton stopped walking, making sure he stood in front of Ash's field of vision. The man's surprisingly joyous, even nostalgic face quickly faded away, and it was swiftly replaced by an expression that straddled the line between confusion and anger. Brock became more prone and alert; the robotic arm with the needle was still inches away from his face.

"But then, you...you just had to overcome our operation." Proton glanced at Ash with a vengeful look so palpable that he might've as well broken through the glass and tried to strangle the boy. "You had to win and force us out of that ship!"

Ash clenched his fists tightly in anger. "Well, I'm glad to hear I ruined your day back then! And I hope you got to have a hissy fit when you got back to your room, like the childish coward that you are!"

But Proton ignored him once again, instead saying with a quaking, deep voice, "And all for what? Just so you could keep your Pokémon and continue treating them like...like they're your friends?! EQUALS?!"

"Yes..." Ash could feel his fury spiking even more from Proton's callous dismissal of his new friendships with Pikachu and all of the Pokémon he had ever captured. "What, are you saying it's wrong to treat Pokémon like that?! Because they are our friends and equals!"

"HA! How laughable! Not to mention unbearably naïve!" The amused expression quickly faded from Petrel's face. "I hate to burst your bubble, Ash Ketchum, but Pokémon are tools created to serve mankind's own purposes. They have no true agency once they are captured by their masters."

Ash gritted his teeth as he tried to stave off the rage bubbling within him. "You're wrong. Pokémon aren't our tools, nor are they anyone's tools! They have thoughts and feelings, just like you and me!"

"Oh, really? Well then, you most certainly wouldn't mind trying to break yourself free from your bonds with a little use of Psychic, would you?"

Ash blinked in surprise and confusion. "Huh? Wh-What-?"

"Or maybe you could shatter this glass with a simple Hyper Beam," Petrel interrupted. "Certainly that would tickle your fancy, am I right?"

Ash didn't respond, unsure of what to say. Smirking, Petrel raised his hand and snapped his fingers. At this cue, all of the grunts in the room began pressing buttons again, and the robotic arm with the needle positioned itself directly in front of his face, with the tiny, elongated blade aiming itself at Ash's auburn eye.

"If Pokémon aren't your tools, kid," Petrel continued, "then perhaps you could conjure your own tools to escape from this lil' predicament of yours."

Then, another grunt grabbed a lever and began to slowly pull it. At the same time, the needle-tipped arm slowly began to move towards Ash's eye, its needle glinting from the overhead light and almost blinding the boy. Realizing what they wanted to do to him, he started to fiercely struggle against his bonds, but it was useless. The needle was getting closer and closer and closer...

"Well, Ash Ketchum?" Petrel asked tauntingly. "Gonna use that Psychic now? Or do you wanna be flashy and use a Hyper Beam to get yourself outta this pickle?"

"You're...You're crazy!" Ash screamed while trying to move his face away from the needle as much as he can, only to be barred by the chair's headrest. "I can't do any of that!"

"Exactly."

Petrel snapped his fingers again, and the arm stopped moving. Ash struggled to sigh in relief, for if he moved his face by even an inch, his eye would wind up piercing the needle.

"You can't do any of that," the purple-haired man said, "but your Pokémon can." Then, he mockingly tapped his chin with his finger in faux-confusion. "And what exactly would you call a screwdriver that is being used to unscrew a screw?"

Ash growled angrily, understanding Petrel's intended point. "Pokémon aren't tools!" he protested. "A Pokémon would be willing to free me or you from a trap like this because they care about us!"

Petrel snickered nastily again, and this time, many of the other grunts in the room joined him in his mockery. Ash could feel the anger boiling him from the inside-out, threatening to make him explode in a show of unspeakable outrage.

"Ohhhhh, how priceless!" Petrel replied, as soon as his laughter died down. "You speak of Pokémon as if they're human! Yet you seem to forget that a Pokémon would only free you once you give it the command to do so!"

"Maybe for you," spat Ash. "And maybe for all of your friends here. But for me, no command is necessary. My Pokémon, my friends, wouldn't waste a second in making sure I'm alright, no matter what!" Then, he narrowed his eyes. "Which is why you're gonna get it eventually. Mark my words, when he finds you, my Pikachu is gonna give you the electrocution of a LIFETIME!"

With a quirked eyebrow, Petrel mulled over Ash's threat for a moment. Then, to Ash's complete surprise, fear started to fill his face, like water being filled in a cup.

"Oh, no!" he wailed, his eyes shining with terror. "Oh, nooooo! Y-Your friends, c-coming after us! R-Ready to kick a-a-all of our butts?! Oh, Arceus!" His hands flew up to his forehead. "Oh, Arceus, Arceus, Arceus! I'm...I-I'm so SCARED!"

Ash blinked, confused. "Really?"

Then, the fear vanished from Petrel's face in an instant. He immediately clicked his tongue at Ash, prompting the boy to frown in dissatisfaction.

"Naaah, not really," he replied. "I was just yanking your chain, kiddo. I like the sound of my own voice, after all..." Then, he playfully batted his eyelashes at the boy. "Or perhaps what I've been saying is more than just a mere tease?"

"With all due respect, Petrel sir..." a new voice said.

Ash's auburn eyes widened again in recognition. By that point, the robotic arm had lifted itself away from his face, which granted the boy free reign to look around again. Stepping out from the shadow-shrouded corner of the room for the first time, unnoticed by him until now, were Jessie, James, and Meowth. Upon seeing their all-black uniforms in closer detail, he realized they were the exact same uniforms they wore during his first journey through the Unova region.

A period where the trio had actually been taking their schemes more seriously.

"Are you done playing around with this kid for the giggles or not?" Jessie asked impatiently.

"'Cause we need 'im ta come wit us!" Meowth added. "It's fer da sake of Operation: Spear!"

Petrel waved at the trio dismissively. "Yes, yes, go on ahead, you three. I think I've already had my fill of this meddling kid, and I'm already getting bored with him."

"Oh, no," James replied, while Jessie nodded at a grunt. "I can assure you, Petrel sir, that this twerp is never someone to get bored of. Not one bit."

At that moment, the glass container began to rise, removing the only barrier that separated Ash from Team Rocket and their comrades. As soon as the glass got high enough, Meowth scurried onto his lap.

"We gonna free ya now, twoip," the Scratch Cat Pokémon said, his eyes and koban coin glinting menacingly. "But before we do dat, I'm gonna warn ya one lil' ting in advance: one wrong move, aaand..." He flashed his elongated claws in Ash's face. "Yer gettin' da claws! Capieche?!"

Ash couldn't help but smirk at Meowth's threat. "I've seen you scratch your friends' faces before, and I'm pretty sure I've been at the receiving end of those claws a couple of times before. You and your claws don't-"

With a violent, sudden swipe of his paw, Meowth scratched Ash's left cheek so hard that the boy's head whipped over to the side. Tiny specks of blood splattered across the floor. For a few seconds, however, there was no blood visible on Ash's face. And then, three lines of scarlet red, of almost equal length and deepness, quickly emerged, followed by droplets of blood trickling out of those lines. Ash's mouth was initially agape, and his expression blank, as if his mind couldn't even process what had just happened, much less the pain he was supposed to feel.

But just as quickly as Meowth scratched at him, the pain caught up to Ash's nerves, and the boy's face contorted badly in absolute pain.

"AAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!"

"Ahhhh, shut it, ya twoip!" Meowth angrily swiped his other hand at Ash's other cheek, but instead of a violent scratch, it was more of a forceful slap; it still knocked the wind out of the boy. "Youse been electrocuted more times dan all da lives the Meowth in da woyld 'ave got! So suck it up!"

"Speaking of which," Jessie added with a sinister sneer, "consider it payback for all the times you've had Pikachu use his Thunderbolt on us and all of our machines!"

"Millions of Poké Dollars down the toilet all because of that!" snapped James.

"You three still haven't paid us the last of your fines for those losses," Petrel deadpanned.

"We'll talk about that on the way to the shuttle, Petrel sir. But for now..." James grabbed one of Ash's wrists, while Jessie seized the other. "Come with us now, twerp!"

Then, to the surprise of Meowth and the others, Ash swallowed up his pain and agony. With a terrible grimace, he gave the trio and their boss a defiant stare. His left cheek was completely bloodied at this point, and it looked as if part of his face had accidentally been thrust into a wood-chipper or massive shredder.

"And if I don't do what you say?!" Ash hollered.

Petrel's grin widened slightly, and he chuckled. "Well then, kid, I hope you're alright with saying goodbye to your friends and Pokémon."

At first, Ash didn't understand what he meant by that. But when Petrel reached into his pocket and procured a red, small walkie-talkie, his eyes widened with horror.

"You wouldn't!" he cried in protest.

"Oh, but I would, kiddo."

"But...But I thought-"

"Well, you thought wrong. Just because you surrendered yourself to us, it doesn't mean we've went and left your friends alone. After all, we at the Syndicate need to have some sort of leverage against you. So then, I suggest you get a move on, 'cause we don't have a lotta time!"

Petrel nodded at the trio, allowing them to proceed. Meowth hopped on Ash's shoulder, the same shoulder that Pikachu would usually occupy, and wrapped an arm behind his neck, making sure to gently tap his elongated claws on the other shoulder as a warning. When Ash showed no signs of further resistance, Jessie and James joined his wrists together and restrained them with a pair of handcuffs that were handed to them by a Team Galactic grunt. They were made out of a particularly thick, black metal that weighed Ash's arms down a bit. The handcuffs bore hot-pink 'R' logos on both sides.

"Same with his feet," Petrel instructed. "Bind his feet too."

A Team Plasma grunt handed Jessie and James a second pair of similarly chained shackles, which they used to clip Ash's legs together. All the while, Ash continued to wince from the pain brought by Meowth's scratches, something that did not go unnoticed by Jessie.

"Awwwww, what's wrong, twerp?" she asked, putting on a voice of faux-concern. "Does it hurt? Well, too bad. But for the record, I think your face looks a lot more fine that way."

"Serves you right for being a twerpy twerp," James added nastily. Then, once he was done shackling Ash's legs together, the blue-haired man grabbed the chains holding Ash's wrists together and pulled at them. "Come on, let's move!"

With that, James and Meowth forced Ash to his feet and began guiding him away from the chair he had been sitting on. They forced him through the room, past the rows of advanced machinery and observant grunts, and towards a doorway. As the three continued moving, Ash noticed that Jessie wasn't following them, instead choosing to stay behind in order to talk to Petrel about something.

"Where-?" Ash stopped to wince again from his bloody wounds. "Where are we going...?"

"Youse, my twoipy friend, are goin' tah Sinnoh!" Meowth declared.

"Huh?" Ash felt his heart stop beating for a second after hearing Sinnoh's name. "Why Sinnoh? Wh-What's waiting for me over there?"

"Ohhhhh, you'll see, twerp," James replied ambiguously, his evil sneer pronounced. "You'll see, in due time. For now, just cooperate with us, and we'll see to it that your precious Pikachu and all the rest of your friends come outta this unhurt."

Knowing he had no way of resisting his captors, lest he endangered his friends, Ash didn't bother to resist outwardly for any longer. Instead, his shoulders became slumped, and his posture turned submissive just as James opened the door to lead him into a large hallway. In that hallway, grunts from various criminal organizations that Ash recognized were either strolling along and talking amongst one another, or scurrying back and forth to execute various tasks. A loud cacophony of noises filled the hall as soon as he stepped out of the room.

This allowed Ash to whisper into the minuscule, nigh-unseen speaker device clipped on the inside of his shirt without any detection.

"I hope you guys are getting this."


World Coronation Series Galar Division Headquarters Complex, Wyndon
GALAR REGION

"Did you get all of that?"

"Y-Yes, Mustard sir. I'm getting loud and clear audio."

Mustard turned away from the sound technician and refocused on the screen, which was currently displaying a myriad of images and audio files. He and the Gym Leaders of Galar were seated around an oblong table, overhearing the sounds of the Syndicate as they were being recorded in real time by Ash's device. Some were listening carefully, while others were using their Rotom Phones to compare and contrast their notes. In the corner of the room were Pikachu, Goh, Chloe, Bea, Sheena, Baraz, and Sonia, all of whom were closely watching the proceedings.

"It's a good thing the World Coronation Series gave Ash that device before he surrendered to Team Rocket," remarked an impressed Baraz.

But Sheena didn't look as satisfied. "I'll only be comforted as soon as Ash manages to get away from their clutches." She recoiled at the memory of hearing Ash's cheek being slashed. "I just can't believe the Institute and their chairman would agree to such a reckless tactic. Ash is getting himself hurt because of it."

"Ash has taken on far worse," Goh replied encouragingly. His sky-blue eyes remained glued to the screen while he held a skittish, impatient Pikachu in his arms. "I have faith that he'll be able to pull this thing off. Unscathed, no. But pull it off, he will."

Sheena shot the boy a disapproving frown. "Well then, I hope you're not just saying that because you're still upset about Cinderace's injury, Goh."

"I'm not!" Goh protested, his eyes bulging in alarm. "What kind of friend would I be if I just threw Ash under the bus like that! Plus..." He pulled out a Poké Ball and threw it, summoning Cinderace. "Ash turning himself in gave me the leeway I needed to get Cinderace some medical attention!"

To prove its Trainer's point, Cinderace showed off its bandaged foot. However, Chloe stared at the Striker Pokémon with concern.

"Are you sure that was all Nurse Joy could do, Goh?" the girl asked.

"Unfortunately, yeah," replied Goh. He knelt down and set Pikachu on the floor so he could attend to Cinderace's injured foot. "He's had to deal with that injury for too long. There was only so much Nurse Joy's treatments could do." His eyes darkened as they narrowed. "Had I been able to get Cinderace to a Pokémon Center as soon as we arrived here, I might have seen different results..."

"This wasn't Ash's fault, Goh," Baraz advised.

However, a stunned Goh shook his head in confusion. "Okay, why does everyone think I blame Ash for this?! I'm-I'm not some villain, you know!" When he was greeted by dissatisfied glares from Chloe, Bea, Sheena, Baraz, and Sonia, the boy sighed and shook his head again, this time forlornly. "Okay, yeah. I was being pretty snippy with Ash. B-But I was angry, and I misplaced my blame! I know that now!"

"You misplaced your blame?" Sonia repeated, puzzled.

"Yeah... I...I should've known better than to blame Ash for what happened to Cinderace. I should've." Goh began gently stroking Cinderace's head. "Whatever Ash did in his past that would warrant whatever's happening right now, he did not anticipate it coming back to bite us all in the butt. I cannot blame him for not seeing these things coming. After all, from what I heard and understand, he thought he resolved all those things a long time ago."

"Y-Yes..." Baraz replied. "I...I suppose that is true-"

"Which is why I can't blame him for what happened. Not at all."

"But you said you have 'misplaced' your blame," Bea replied flatly; her eyes were closed and her frown was pronounced. "So I take it that you haven't let go of your anger, rather you just found a new, more appropriate target for it."

"That, I did."

Goh's eyes narrowed even more, and he let out an exhale that sounded deeply ominous. Chloe felt a cold shiver running up her spine at the sound of it.

"G-Goh?" she asked hesitantly. "Who do you blame for what happened to Cinderace, then? Is it Team Rocket?"

"No." Then, Goh quickly reconsidered his position. "Well, actually yeah. I mean, they're the ones who inflicted the injury, so of course I'd blame them for that. But-" He stared deeply into Cinderace's eyes, and the Striker Pokémon stared back with equal determination. "It's like I said earlier. I could've gotten help for Cinderace sooner, had I not been ushered into this place right away... Had I not been allowed to do what any responsible Trainer would've done immediately."

In that moment, the others realized who Goh was talking about. Their suspicions were confirmed just seconds later when another voice spoke to Mustard and the congregation of Galarian Gym Leaders.

"Everything's going just as planned, Mustard. I commend you for handling this situation well."

Mustard nodded bluntly. "Thank you, Mr. Chairman."

Chloe watched as Goh gnashed his teeth in anger at the chairman's voice. All the while, she felt nothing but despair from her childhood friend's continued descent into the wrath that was threatening to swallow him up...


Rocket Frigate
UNKNOWN LOCATION

Ash paced around in the small, cramped cell that James and Meowth had forced him into. It was installed into the side of a small passenger aircraft, designed for a dozen grunts or so. Indeed, the seats were occupied by a variety of grunts for Teams Aqua, Magma, Galactic, Plasma, and Flare, but grunts hailing from Team Rocket made up most of the entourage, by and large. And leading this entourage was none other than James and Meowth, who were staring inside the cell with smirks of elation on their faces.

"Ohhhhh, ya have no idea how happy it makes me feel ta see ya sittin' in dat cage!" Meowth exclaimed. "No idea!"

"Looky, looky," James added tauntingly, bending over slightly to peer at Ash through the thick glass separating the two of them, "we've got ourselves a twerpy twerp in a lil' cagey cage!" Then, he frowned and patted his lower lip. "I don't think that even rhymed, but whatever."

Ash stopped pacing and faced James and Meowth. In the process, the light shining from the aircraft's ceiling revealed his deep scratch wounds; the blood stopped trickling out of them and had dried up, but it left his cheek painted in red.

"Are you two just gonna stand there and taunt me?" he asked. "Or are we gonna go and do whatever your stupid, crazy lil' boss wants you to do?"

"HEY!" James barked. "Don't you DARE insult our Executive Petrel!"

"Yeah!" added Meowth. "He's payin' da big bucks to make sure yer all comftable and all!"

"Paying the big bucks, huh?" Ash grinned, his auburn eyes glimmering with amusement. "I didn't know Team Rocket was still making money. With all of those fancy gizmos that you've been using for the past, what, eight years? All of that just to capture my Pikachu? Heh. Well, I'd figure Team Rocket would've been left completely bankrupt because of you three."

Upon hearing this, the other grunts shot curious glances at James and Meowth. James's face quickly turned into a shade of deep-red in embarrassment, while Meowth instinctively recoiled at the judgmental reactions of his squad.

"Speaking of which," Ash continued, "where's Jessie, anyway?" He looked around, pretending to search for the magenta-haired woman out of concern. "Is she still trying to suck up to your boss and beg for more money from him? Hm? Is that why she stayed back?"

"For your information," James snapped forcefully, "Jessie is talking with Executive Petrel about a, uh, last-minute change in tactics! She's NOT begging for more money! I-In fact, the three of us don't even have to worry about money anymore, all thanks to our accomplishments in Sinnoh and Unova!"

"Accomplishments? In Sinnoh and Unova? HA! HA HA HA!" Ash started to cackle, surprising James and Meowth. "All you three did was bumble around in Sinnoh and do absolutely nothing of worth for anyone, except trying to steal my Pikachu and a bunch of other Pokémon and getting yourselves blasted off in the process! As for Unova, I kept beating you guys, and your schemes never panned out, so I don't get how you'd view those as accomplishments!"

"What's he talking about?"

"He beat Commanders Jessie, James, and Meowth?"

"Don't listen to him. He's probably just bluffin'."

James and Meowth's faces both turned red upon hearing the whispers and murmurs from their inferior grunts. They both slowly glanced at their underlings and saw they were wearing various expressions in reaction to Ash's statements. Some of them looked doubtful about the boy's claims, others were stunned by the revelations, and even more others were still confused and seeking clarification.

"Don't listen ta dis twoip, ya friggin' mongs!" a flustered Meowth snapped, cutting off the murmuring. "He's just tryin' ta put da demoralizin' game on us!"

"Y-Ye-Yeah!" James added, stepping beside his feline comrade. "H-He-He's just in a corner, so he's trying to bite back the best way he can! B-But we know better! And it's that we most certainly didn't need any money or anything of that sort!"

The grunts looked amongst one another again, this time sharing the same reaction of uncertainty. But this was dispelled a couple of moments later, when a new set of footsteps entered the open hatch of the passenger aircraft.

"Alright, everyone!" Jessie barked, catching the grunts' attention. "We're making our leave now!"

"Yes, Commander Jessie!" the grunts replied in unison.

As for James and Meowth, they both exhaled deep sighs of relief, but their reaction was noticed by their teammate.

"Okay, what happened to you two?" she asked suspiciously, crossing her arms as she spoke. "Why do you two look like you just ran a marathon?"

"Da twoip really needs ta learn ta keep his trap shut," Meowth muttered angrily.

"Oh, really now? So you've chosen to let him under your skin?"

James blushed in embarrassment once again. "It's not like that, Jess-"

"Ohhh, it sounds like that's what it was." Then, Jessie approached the cage containing Ash and stared at him with a very triumphant smirk. "Keep up the taunts and psychological warfare all you want, twerp. But remember this, you don't have your precious Pikachu with you, and you're nothing more than a helpless, powerless kid now. And once we get to Sinnoh and execute Operation: Spear, then you'll finally learn your true place." She withdrew her face and motioned towards the cockpit, signaling the aircraft's unseen pilots. "Something you should've learned a long time ago."

But Ash had tuned out her last sentence. Instead, as the aircraft's engines started to rev up, the title "Operation: Spear" caught his undying attention.

"Wait, Operation...Spear?" he repeated. "Get to Sinnoh?"

"Yeah. Good to see you're actually listening to us."

But Ash had stopped listening and mulled over the new information for a moment. It didn't take long for the connection between Sinnoh and the word "spear" to trigger a memory from within his brain. The boy's eyes widened in horror, and he glared at the trio.

"So, that's what you guys have planned for me, isn't it?!" he cried. "You're taking me to Sinnoh so you could lure out the Legendary Pokémon Azelf, Mesprit, and Uxie a-and use them to reach Spear Pillar!"

"Hey, you said it, not us," Jessie replied. However, she smirked at him again. "But I gotta say, you should use your brain more often, twerp. I have to say, it's a unique sight to see, to say the least."

By that point, Ash could feel the aircraft lift off from the floor. There were no windows in close proximity, so he could not see what was happening outside, but he could tell the aircraft was about to make its leave from the vast chamber in the Rocket Frigate that the Syndicate called a hangar. He stared deeply into Jessie's eyes, his expression bearing unmatched anger, but the magenta-haired woman merely kept up her confident smirk at him.

"Alright then, twerp," Jessie said, just as she, James, and Meowth held onto guardrails installed on the ceiling, while the rest of the entourage sat down on the seats and strapped themselves in. "It's time to go."

All of a sudden, the aircraft shot forward at a great speed with a loud boom, knocking Ash to the floor. He struck his head and injured cheek on the glass wall of his cage as he landed.

"AGH!"

Immediately, his world began to spin, and he could feel and hear nothing but the rumbling of the aircraft and the roaring of its engines. White spots erupted in his peripheral vision, and he suddenly felt distant and detached from the world. He tried to stay awake, but the overbearing pain of his scratches and his newly-induced headache quickly overwhelmed him, and his head collapsed to the floor again with a soft thud.

The last thing he saw before darkness took him was a black, flame-like wisp at the corner of his cage, apparently unseen by everyone else...and a pair of shining, reddish-orange eyes...

"Pika...chu..." he whispered feebly.


Little did Ash, Jessie, James, or Meowth know that a certain Team Galactic grunt had been observing the whole exchange carefully, all the while trying to keep his concern for the Pallet Town native at bay.

As soon as he watched Ash be knocked out, Leon pursed his lips in distress, but he remained strapped to his seat.

"I'm so, so sorry, Ash," he thought. "I can't find a way to get us out of this mess right now. Hang in there." The Monarch quickly started analyzing his surroundings. "I'll do something. I just need an opening..."


World Coronation Series Galar Division Headquarters Complex, Wyndon
GALAR REGION

"You got all that?!"

"Yep! Mt. Coronet, Sinnoh region!"

"Let's move, let's move, people!"

Upon hearing the recording of Team Rocket's plans for Ash, Mustard and the Galarian Gym Leaders packed up whatever materials they had and rushed out of the conference room as fast as they could. They were quickly followed by Pikachu, Goh, Chloe, Bea, and Sonia, though Sheena and Baraz stayed behind for a moment.

"It's just as we feared, Sheena..." Baraz commented, his voice grave.

"Indeed," Sheena replied, her blue eyes narrowed. "It's fortunate, however, that we now have an opportunity to contact Kevin, Meray, and the others."

Baraz nodded in agreement. "I'll see if any of them have a phone that we could borrow."

With that, Baraz left the conference room as well, unaware that Sheena had stayed behind. She glanced at the screen as it continued to show images and audio files, and her mind started to fill up with strong, nigh-insurmountable feelings of uncertainty.

"Oh, Arceus," she thought. "It appears that you've laid forth a set of trials so daunting that even I couldn't foresee all the dread and horror that lies ahead. I pray for the sake of myself and my unborn child that we as a united planet can find it in our hearts to overcome this burden and find our way back to the path of a greater, brighter future..."

She absentmindedly stroked her bulging belly, and the unborn child that continued to gestate within.

"A future for all of us..."


Eterna City
SINNOH REGION

"We're here! This is it, guys!"

Serena and Piplup led the way as the small squadron of hovercraft flew right through the boundaries of Eterna City. Zoey flew beside her, her expression aimed squarely at the massive Rocket Frigate that loomed over the city's downtown area, looming over it as if it was a giant staring down at its prey. Paul and Trip both kept their distance from one another and attempting to outpace the other, though their slightly damaged hovercraft were unable pick up much speed beyond what they were using at the moment. Kenny lagged slightly behind the others, his expression filled with uncertainty over the challenge that was ahead of him. And finally, Ursula, who had been flying beside Serena as well, suddenly slowed down and gawked in horror upon seeing the current state of her hometown.

"Oh, my Arceus..." she breathed out. "I can't believe it... My...M-My hometown... I-It's..."

She gazed at the streets and sidewalks below; they were completely deserted. There were no sounds of any livelihood or prosperity in Eterna City, nor was there any movement that could be detected. All of the windows in sight were shuttered or otherwise had their curtains drawn. In that moment, Eterna City looked more like a haunted ghost town than anything else. The group could not even see any signs of the local Officer Jenny and her department responding to the Frigate's appearance.

Upon noticing Ursula's horrified reaction, Serena edged her hovercraft closer to her fellow Coordinator. "It's alright," she said. "We're gonna find Dawn, and then we're gonna find a way to end this threat, once and for all."

"Piplup, piplup!" Piplup chirped in agreement.

But Ursula didn't seem assuaged at all. "Mom... Dad... Flora..."

"Ursula," Serena said, but the girl didn't respond. "Ursula."

This finally caught Ursula's attention, and she stared at the honey-blonde's eyes.

"I know this is a frightening time for you, but I need you to stay focused. I need all the help I can get to save Dawn, and you know as well as I do that this thing's not gonna end until someone stands up. And that might as well be us." Then, a glimmer of sympathy passed through Serena's eyes. "But...if you want to check up on your parents and sister instead of helping us, then-"

"No," Ursula interrupted, her voice reverting back to its usual tone of cold harshness. She focused on the Frigate ahead. "I'm gonna help. I'm gonna make these thugs pay for messing with my hometown."

"Hmph."

Serena turned towards the speaker and realized it was Paul. The purple-haired boy had caught up with her and Ursula; his eyes were closed, and his face was completely, unequivocally relaxed.

"Good to know I'm not surrounded by a pack of weak nobodies," he commented.

"Uhhhhh, thanks," Serena replied hesitantly. Then, she added with slight confusion, "I-I guess..."

"Lup..." Piplup added, frowning disapprovingly at the purple-haired boy.

"Hrmmmph." Paul's lips tightened into a subtle scowl as he trained his eyes upon the Frigate. "That thing, it's definitely taking up shop over Eterna."

"Huh?" Serena focused on the Frigate again. "What makes you think that?"

"It's the engines."

This time, it was Trip who had spoken. Paul closed his mouth and gave the dirty-blond boy a stunned look, followed by a nasty scowl.

"Their power appears to be weak," Trip continued, "and the engines themselves are facing down instead of backward. Its a hovering position, basically."

Serena's sights zeroed in on the engines as well, and she took note of Trip's observations. "Huh. You're right, Trip. Good catch."

"Hmph." Trip closed his eyes. "It's something an amateur can take notice of."

The honey-blonde frowned. "...You're welcome..."

"Lup..." Piplup added, frowning disapprovingly at the dirty-blond boy.

"Well, then," Zoey piped up, "if they're not planning on leaving anytime soon, then this gives us an opportunity to sneak in and get Dawn back. Let's go!"

"Wait, wait, wait!" Kenny suddenly cried, his eyes wide with alarm. "H-Hold up for a sec!"

Serena looked over her shoulder and noticed that he had stopped his hovercraft in midair. In response, she stopped hers as well, followed by Zoey, Ursula, Paul, and Trip.

"What's up, Kenny?" she asked.

"If they've stopped, then..." Dread filled Kenny's eyes. "What exactly are they supposed to be waiting for? Us?"

"That's right," Paul replied, looking over his shoulder at the gigantic airship with a newfound wariness in his eyes. "They have all this firepower and manpower at their disposal. Whatever tactics they're using, it must be for a good reason."

"So what?!" snapped an outraged Zoey. She then pointed at the Frigate in anger. "We gotta get in there and save Dawn! Isn't that what we signed up for in the first place?!"

"Y-Ye-Yes, o-of course!" stammered Kenny. "B-But, I-I think we should, y-you know...a-approach this c-carefully..."

"Well, what do you suggest we do?! Wait around until they fall asleep?! Because I doubt Dawn has that long!"

"I-I'm not saying we wait that long! Bu-But we need their attention to be elsewhere before we even start thinking about infiltrating that ship of theirs!"

"So you're saying we need a distraction," Trip concluded.

"W-Well...y-yeah. Pr-Pretty much."

"That sounds like an excellent idea. An excellent idea, indeed." Trip gently pinched his chin as he thought about the next potential strategy. "Very well, then. I volunteer to be the distraction."

"Wait, you'll what?" Serena asked incredulously.

"Piplup?!" Piplup squeaked in disbelief.

"It's clear no one else is going to take the job. So I might as well step up and-"

"A fresh-faced, cheap newcomer like you, stepping up?" Paul interrupted as his lips curled upward into an amused smirk. "I think not. You and your Pokémon will be shot down the second you're detected." He pulled out a Poké Ball and held it up, close to his face. "Electivire and I will be the distraction. The rest of you will infiltrate that ship from the back."

"A tired, old-timing has-been like you, being the distraction?" Trip asked incredulously. Then, he gave the purple-haired boy a derisive chuckle. "Your speed and agility won't be efficient enough to outpace their manpower and firepower." He then pointed at Paul's hovercraft. "I doubt this technology is even within your comprehension! All you're going to do out there is zigzag feebly and pathetically like some blind Yanma."

"This technology is most certainly beyond your comprehension," Paul retorted. His sharp eyes were narrowed, and while his voice was still calm, there was a noticeable undercurrent of simmering frustration. "I've been on the trail longer than you, long enough to get a grasp of the new technologies that are presented to me. You, on the other hand, are way too preoccupied with proving yourself to understand the importance of all the little things."

"Oh, I'm too preoccupied with proving myself?!" Trip narrowed his own eyes. "You are desperate and struggling to retain your relevancy!"

"My relevancy?!"

"Girls, girls!" Zoey snapped, her eyelid twitching nastily. Paul and Trip glared at her with the same infuriated expression. "You're both pretty, but now is NOT the time to take our eye off the ball! Not every silly, petty things like trying to prove oneself or stay relevant! You got that?!"

Paul and Trip swiftly looked at one another, their eyes glimmering with annoyance and hatred towards one another. But regardless, they both exhaled in defeat and simply scowled. Zoey took that as a sign for her to continue speaking.

"Now then, since both of you desperately want to be the one to distract that ship, then how about you BOTH distract the ship?! Huh?! Now how does THAT sound?!"

Paul blinked, then he closed his eyes and turned away from Trip. "Fine, then. Sounds like an agreeable arrangement."

"I agree," Trip replied, before quickly clarifying, "With her. Not with you."

"I didn't want your agreement, anyway."

"That's good. Neither did I."

Paul opened his eyes at Trip. "As long as you stay out of my way, newcomer, then we should be able to execute the task perfectly."

Trip smirked mockingly. "Same with you, old-timer."

The purple-haired boy's brow twitched, and he struggled to sneer at Trip. The two of them bore holes into one another's eyes at this point, each trying to stand their ground. Serena and Piplup looked back and forth between them, attempting to hold their own weight under the tension of this exchange.

"O-Okay, then!" Serena said awkwardly. "N-Now that it's settled, P-Paul and Trip, y-you send out your b-b-best Pokémon and keep moving-"

"Don't tell me what to do," Paul and Trip interrupted at the same time. Then, after one last irritated glare at one another, the boys held out their Poké Balls while proceeding onward towards the Rocket Frigate.

As soon as the two boys flew out of sight, Serena sighed in relief and looked at Zoey, Kenny, and Ursula.

"Alright, you three," she said. "Let's move into position. Paul said we head in through the back? We head in through the back." Then, she looked over her shoulder and towards the Frigate. "As soon as that ship starts attacking Paul and Trip, we start heading in."

"Piplup, pip-pip-piplup!" chirped Piplup.

"Sounds like a great plan!" Kenny replied.

"I'm all in," Ursula added determinedly. "As long as we get this menace away from my home once and for all, then any plan sounds good."

But Zoey fell silent. Instead, the Top Coordinator also stared towards the Frigate, her eyes narrowing with expectation.


Lily of the Valley Island

"It's been a long time since I was here..."

Verity scanned the island below as her Swanna continued to make its descent. Placing her right hand over her heart and her left on the scruff of feathers on Swanna's back, she closed her brown eyes and recalled what her great-grandmother instructed her to do when she visited Celestic Town.

"Verity, the Research Center has a serious crisis on its hands. I need you to go find your mother and tell her of what's happened."

"Mother? Nana, you know things aren't-"

"I know, Verity. But once she hears what was taken from the Research Center, I doubt your mother will care who tells it to her. But you're the only one I know she'll listen to."

"Can't you just come with me and tell her that yourself?"

"The Research Center still needs me to be here. Look, Verity, I am trusting you on this. Please. For the good of all Pokémon research."

"Alright, Nana," Verity thought with a sigh. She opened her eyes with a finality. "But only because you asked."

At that moment, Swanna finally landed on the island and gave one flap of its wings as it settled itself. Thankfully patting the White Bird Pokémon on the back, Verity dismounted it, recalled it back into its Poké Ball, and then directed her gaze towards the five-story office building in front of her. At the top of the building was an official Pokémon League Conference logo, gleaming from the clear, unimpeded sunlight. It stood atop a hill overlooking the rest of the town, exuding a strong and commanding presence.

Something that definitely aligned with her mother's style.

"Well," she whispered to herself, "here goes nothing."

With that, Verity took her first step towards the building.


Sinnoh League Headquarters, Lily of the Valley Island

"So that thing hasn't moved since it reached Eterna?"

"No, ma'am. I'm afraid it's setting up shop here for the time being."

The tall, slender woman with gray eyes and wavy, knee-length blonde hair and wearing all-black clothing tightly gritted her teeth. It took all of the effort that she had to hold herself back before she could do something utterly unprofessional and not befitting her long-held, world-renowned status.

"But there have been no signs of aggression from it, yes?" she asked.

CYNTHIA

"That is correct, Cynthia."

The speaker was a woman from a live computer feed that was being projected on a screen at the front of the room. This woman had brown eyes and chin-length brown hair. She was wearing a black, long-sleeved crop-top that showed off her midriff; a green cloak with a black X-shaped mark in the center; brown, knee-length khaki shorts; and green boots.

"In fact," the woman continued, "it hasn't even responded to any efforts by Officer Jenny and her department to attack it from the air and the ground. It's like it's...it's fallen asleep."

GARDENIA

"Well, big machines like that just don't fall asleep," a gruff voice replied.

Cynthia glanced towards the speaker, one of ten that were seated along the circumference of a circular table. He was a shirtless, very muscular middle-aged man with a patch of black hair and a beard wearing orange-and-turquoise bracers and boots; turquoise pants with orange outlines and black appendages that gave a semblance to Swampert's legs; and, most notably, a turquoise mask with two white appendages that were reminiscent of wings.

CRASHER WAKE

"It's just like a battleship," Crasher Wake continued. "Whoever's inside is planning their next move, and they're obviously confident enough to plan it in the middle of the open, surrounded by the enemy. And that means they have the strength and the willpower to carry out that next move."

"I agree," replied an elegant-looking, blue-haired man wearing blue-tinted glasses and a deep-mahogany suit; his eyes were closed and his brow furrowed. "Their tactics are clear not just here, but all across the world. The people behind this singular atrocity are playing the long game, and they already know the outcome, like the ending of a book that they just read."

LUCIAN

"Well, this game ain't over yet!" snapped a man with a red afro and gray eyes. He shot up from his chair, the lights from the ceiling highlighting his bright-yellow, high-collared T-shirt; baggy gray trousers; and black choker. "And I say we beat them at their own game by giving 'em everything we've got!"

FLINT

"Flint," Cynthia said with narrowed eyes, "please tell me you saw the footage of New Bark Town's destruction."

"Yeah, of course I did, Cynthia!" the redheaded man barked back. "Which is why we gotta move quickly, or else they are gonna have enough time to do the same thing to tons more cities and towns!"

Before Cynthia could retort, the doors to the conference room burst open with a sudden bang, and four people stormed in, startling the whole Sinnoh League roster. This was quickly followed by sounds of a scuffle and snippy exchanges.

"Get your hands off me!"

"Cooperate now, missy, or you'll-"

"Did you just call me 'missy'?!"

The last person to enter the room, a young, sweating, overweight secretary, bowed her head at Cynthia. "I-I'm so sorry, Ms. Carolina! But this girl was trying to get past security-"

However, one of the other conference attendants, an elderly woman wearing a white buttoned coat, a thick brown scarf, and a black skirt, stood up from her chair and calmly approached the group, her very presence quelling the conflict. Her wise eyes laid themselves upon the girl who had caused all the unexpected commotion.

"Verity?" she asked in recognition.

BERTHA

"Verity?" Cynthia asked, her attention now officially piqued. She rushed away from the screen and approached the girl in the hands of the security guards, immediately realizing it was indeed her. "L-Let her go at once."

"B-But Ms. Carolina-" one of the guards tried to say.

"That's an order, officer."

Left with no other choice, the two guards let go of Verity's arms, their postures now completely submissive. Scowling and letting out a sigh, the girl rubbed her biceps and looked up at Cynthia. In that moment, she felt just as small as she was when the two of them last saw each other, a common feeling she always had to experience.

"Hey, Mom," she greeted, even though her tone was anything but welcoming. "Long time, no see."


Rocket Frigate, Eterna City

Dawn felt her eyelids flutter open, and the first thing that came into her line of vision was the row of iron bars. Groaning, she slowly and almost carefully rotated her head around her shoulders to survey her surroundings. On either side of her were also rows of iron bars, polished and lacking of rust. The object her back was lying against was solid and smooth, so she assumed it was a wall made of concrete. Feeling a headache coming to her, Dawn gripped her forehead and groaned again.

"Where...Where am I...?" she asked.

Then, in that moment, she remembered. The Pokémon Contest, the strange airship arriving over Jubilife City, the terrible revelation that Team Galactic had returned and taken her mother hostage, her voluntary surrender to them, the protests of Serena and all her friends who were left behind...

Especially Piplup...

"Piplup..." she murmured.

"Sweetie?" a familiar voice asked, piquing her attention.

"Mom...?" Dawn glanced at Johanna, who was now sitting close to the door of their shared cell, peering through the bars. "Wh-What's going on...?"

"There's some sort of commotion going on." Johanna narrowed her eyes as she tried to focus between the bars more. "I just saw some of those Team Galactic guys running down a hallway. There was something about a disturbance outside..."

Dawn's heart leaped with joy, and she stood up on her feet. "Mom, do you know what that means?! Someone's probably come to help! We might be able to get out of this yet!"

"Uh, uh, uh," a voice suddenly replied, startling the mother and daughter.

"What?!" Dawn exclaimed, looking around frantically. "Who-Who's there?!"

"You've guessed correctly, little girlie," continued the voice. Dawn narrowed her eyes, realizing who was speaking. "But just because someone's come to help, it doesn't mean they will succeed, you know. After all, I don't see any intruders in this cell block."

Dawn ran up to the cell door and grasped at the bars, ignoring how cold they felt. Her legs felt completely numb from all the sleeping she had to do in an upright, seated position, and her leg muscles began to tremble severely. Nevertheless, she held in all signs of weakness as she watched her main captor step out of a shadowy corner and approached her cell, becoming illuminated by the poor lighting.

"Talk tough and loud all you want, Team Galactic!" the blue-haired girl spat furiously. "But you were beaten at your own game once before, so the same thing can happen again! And it WILL!"

"Brave talk from such a small girl," Jupiter replied, her purple, lipstick-coated lips curling into a nasty sneer. "But you've forgotten that we've learned from our mistakes, all thanks to our benefactors at the Syndicate. And now that our glorious second chance at a New World Order is within our grasp, I'd say Team Galactic is determined not to let it slip by like that, just as we did so many years ago!"

"You're full of pride, Team Galactic. And if there's one thing I've learned from my adventures, it's that the people who are caught up in all of their pride are the ones who suffer the hardest falls!"

"Says the girl who's so confident that she and her precious lil' mother will be saved in no time." Jupiter then looked down the hallway, where she saw more Syndicate grunts pass by. "But we are all highly trained in various emergency response protocols. Our benefactors saw to it that all cracks be filled up. So, we shall see whose determination burns brighter and hotter!"

"Alright now, Jupiter," a new voice said, his sinister tone echoing through the cell block. "I think you've had enough fun."

A man entered Dawn's view, his uniform, colored entirely in bone-gray, becoming highlighted by the dim lighting. He had black hair that was styled in a peculiar bowl-cut and sported two small, light-gray stripes at the front, along with a pointy black goatee. His sneer, coupled with his sharp, beady eyes, brought chills down Dawn's spine, and within her peripheral vision, she could see Jupiter looking just as uncomfortable from the man's presence.

"W-Wh-Who are you?!" she cried.

"Well, it would be impolite of me to introduce myself when I'm in the company of such a fine young lady." With his sneer still in place, the man bowed, and Dawn suddenly felt a lot colder. "My name is Professor Sebastian, and my affiliation is with Team Rocket."

"I-I don't care who your affiliation is with!" Dawn snapped, trying her best to quell the cold feeling stewing inside her for as long as possible. "What I want to know is why my mother and I are still here?! Your pals, Team Galactic, already have me, so I don't understand why they're not taking their revenge on me!"

Suddenly, Professor Sebastian chuckled. it was just as eerie as his sneer, and naturally, it brought even more cold shivers to Dawn's skin. She mentally cursed herself for not bringing a jacket with her.

"Yes, you're indeed just like your father, Dawn. Always seeking the facts, before all else."

Dawn's eyes widened in surprise, while Johanna crouched down and hid her face in her elbows in shame. As for Jupiter, the Team Galactic commander didn't have the faintest clue on what Sebastian was talking about. Upon observing Dawn's reaction, another chuckle escaped Sebastian's lips, and it was more malicious than the first.

"But sadly, I'm afraid you don't have all the facts," Sebastian continued.

"Wha-What're you talking about?!" Dawn exclaimed. "A-And..." Her head started to spin with a mixture of confusion and dread. "Y-You don't know a thing about my father!"

"Ohhh, my dear. Evidently, there's so much that you have yet to know. But enough of all that. I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to bring you up to speed. For now..." He reached into the pocket of his shirt and produced a small beacon. "You'll be having a visitor pretty soon. Let's say we let you know who's coming to join you in that room of yours!"

Sebastian pressed a button on the beacon, triggering a massive holographic image that spread from one side of the hall to the other. However, aside from a flat, transparent surface, neither Dawn nor Johanna could see anything coming from the beacon.

"Units Alpha and Omega," Sebastian said. "This is Professor Sebastian calling. I request a status update."

A couple of seconds passed, and the transparent surface suddenly began to distort into a series of shapeless blobs. After a few seconds of this, the blob finally took clear shapes, and a trio of familiar faces began to emerge from the left side of the calming mass. Dawn's eyes widened in horror and familiarity, before narrowing in disgust.

"YOU!" she yelled. "Team Rocket!"

"Well, looky who it is!" Meowth replied with a fanged sneer; his accented voice was slightly distorted by the electronic communication, "if it isn't da lil' Sinnoh twoipette! Long time, no see!"

"Well, well, well," Jessie added. "Nothing pleases me more than a nice lil' reunion."

"Well," Dawn replied with a smirk of her own, "if you three are involved in this, then that means your entire scheme has been doomed to fail from the start!"

"Ohhh, I don't think so."

Another face emerged from the right side of the settling mass, and this time, Dawn didn't recognize who it was. But his triumphant and unsettling expression told her everything she needed to know about this newcomer's allegiance.

"I see you're breaking in the girl, Professor Sebastian," the man said.

"Psychologically, yes, Executive Proton," Sebastian remarked, his malevolent grin unwavering as he refocused on Dawn. "Now, I don't know what you meant by that, dear, but we at the Syndicate are too well-prepared for this entire operation to fall flat on its face because of a few loose screws."

"Ohhh, dear Professor Sebastian." Dawn directed her smirk at the Team Rocket scientist. "Evidently, there's so much that you have yet to know."

Sebastian's eyelid twitched nastily, but he scoffed and ignored her. "Irksome distractions aside, how goes your flights? No complications whatsoever on either end?"

"Nada," replied James. "I'm super-pleased to announce that our special guest is, ohhh, how should we say it? Cooperating?"

Then, Jessie, James, and Meowth disappeared from their end of the hologram, which then quickly focused on a cage with someone inside, the transition reminiscent of a cellphone camera being turned. Dawn had to scrunch her blue eyes so as to see who the person held within the cage was. However, upon recognizing the familiar Z-shaped markings on his right cheek, she instantly knew who Team Rocket now had in their grasps.

"ASH!" she screamed shrilly.

"Indeed," Sebastian replied, relishing from Dawn's horror. "And moreover, no loose screws were detected while acquiring him." Then, he looked at the right side of the hologram. "How about you, Executive Proton? How goes your target?"

"Not a single scratch on him, Professor Sebastian," Proton replied.

Then, his side of the hologram focused on a cage of his own, and for Dawn, there was no mistaking the pair of squinting eyes peering from inside.

"BROCK!" she yelled.

"At least, not a single superfluous scratch, that is, heh heh heh."

"Oh, my Arceus," Johanna whispered in horror as she too approached the cell door. "Your friends, Dawn! They have them too!"

"Rest assured, dear," Sebastian remarked, his eyes glinting at Dawn, "your friends aren't in any real danger. After all, the three of you are the keys to a brighter, better future for this world and the Universe. We wouldn't want to jeopardize any of that. However-"

He handed Jupiter the beacon and approached the cell door, causing Dawn and Johanna to back away. "Do note that any attempts by you to resist us will not only be futile, but absolutely detrimental to their chances of survival. And the same applies to both of your friends. Just because it is in the Boss's best interests to keep all three of you alive until the very end, it doesn't mean we're fully above leaving you unscathed at the cost of our own pleasure. Plus, we have contingency measures that we are willing to resort to should the worst arise from your, ahem, bravery."

The Team Rocket scientist then grasped the cold, iron bars of the door and peered through them, straight at the mother and daughter. They both shuddered once again at the weight of his devious stare.

"Now then, do I make myself clear?"

Neither Dawn nor Johanna said anything, but Sebastian took their unyielding silence for complicity. He withdrew his face from the door and refocused on the beacon in Jupiter's hands.

"ETA," he ordered.

"We'll be arriving in about a couple more minutes, Professor Sebastian," Jessie replied.

"This baby sure does fly pretty fast!" James added, his voice gushing with admiration.

"All thanks to Team Galactic's superior designs," Jupiter whispered to herself, but this didn't go unnoticed by the trio.

"Hey!" Jessie barked. "If I recall correctly, your designs were only tailored to our specifications and our tech!"

"As expected from a bunch of fashion freaks such as yerselves," spat Meowth.

But before Jupiter could verbally retaliate, Proton quickly stepped in, his demeanor cool. "Now, now, everyone. We're all allies here, aren't we? Let's settle down and focus on the true goal here." Once the purple-haired woman was fully settled, the teal-haired man addressed Sebastian's question. "ETA, another couple of hours. We're still waiting for Attila and Hun to arrive with Raikou. I've just been told they acquired a hostage from New Bark Town, so we're still sorting out the logistics."

"It's alright, Executive Proton," Sebastian replied. "Take all the time you need. The Syndicate has all of that, and more."

As for Dawn, she was completely taken aback by Proton's announcement. "Wait a moment, Raikou? As in the Legendary Pokémon Raikou? Team Rocket got their hands on that?!"

"Indeed," Proton replied. "After all, having a trove of operations to attend to is a Slakoth's task when you've got the manpower of six different organizations. And speaking of time and manpower..." The teal-haired man focused on Jupiter next. "Commander Jupiter, I request a status update on your colleagues."

"Right," the purple-haired woman replied. "Mars is still on her way to Lake Acuity. Her last update said that her ETA will be another fifteen to twenty minutes. As for Saturn, he's already at Lake Valor. He just informed me that the lakefront is now the Syndicate's."

Dawn's eyes widened even more in horror. Her mind raced with memories of Port Valor and the Contest Hall where she, Ash, Zoey, and May competed in the Wallace Cup tournament. The thought of that entire town, along with the residents there, now under the dominion of Team Galactic and the Syndicate was just too much for her to bear.

"Excellent," Proton replied with an elated sneer. "Just excellent. Now, Jupiter, there has been a slight change in plans. The same orders apply to you, Jessie and James. Once the Ketchum boy has been brought to Eterna, I want you all to go to Lake Verity. You've been tasked with monitoring Mesprit's progress."

Jupiter's eyes widened in surprise. "Go to Lake Verity?"

"Yes. I understand you just came from there while attempting to search for the Berlitz girl. But now that you have her in your custody, it shouldn't be a huge inconvenience for you to go back to that area."

"It's not the journey back that I'm concerned about, Proton sir. It's just that, well, my Frigate has just had a disturbance from the outside. The grunts are still investigating-"

"Do you know if it's an attack by the Sinnoh League?" Proton interrupted.

"N-N-Not that I'm aware of, sir, but-"

"If it's an attack by the Sinnoh League, then you'll know, Jupiter. After all, we all know better than to simply underestimate the strength of their Champion."

"I concur," Jessie added in support of her superior.

Proton then carefully pondered over his next words before speaking again. "Alright, then. Take care of this so-called disturbance quickly and quietly, Jupiter. Regardless of whether or not the Sinnoh League is behind it, you'll have both the manpower and firepower to dispatch them all in a quick amount of time. Wait for Jessie and James to arrive at your location, and once they embark on your Frigate, you are to return to Lake Verity. Is that understood?"

Jupiter pursed her lips in reluctance, but she nodded regardless and loyally replied, "Understood, Proton sir."

"And Sebastian?"

Sebastian softly quirked an eyebrow. "Yes, Proton sir?"

"Make sure everything on her end goes smoothly."

Dawn couldn't help but notice the way Jupiter's body shuffled uncomfortably. As for Sebastian, he bowed his head with a sickening air of politeness.

"Understood, sir," the scientist replied.

Proton nodded before disappearing from the hologram, signaling that he had hung up. As for Jessie, James, and Meowth, the trio remained on the hologram for a few more seconds, standing around awkwardly and unsure of what to do. Then, James quickly stepped in.

"Uhhhhh, we'll be going too," he said.

"See you in a bit," Jessie quickly added.

As soon as the trio disappeared from the hologram as well, Jupiter pressed a button, deactivating the beacon. Then, she huffed and looked away uncomfortably, but she still didn't say a word. This allowed Sebastian to face Dawn and Johanna again, peering menacingly through the bars of their door.

"Now then, you two," he said, "we'll be making our leave now. I just wanted you to know that you'll be in the grace and comfort of company. You should thank the Syndicate for our generous hospitalit-"

He was cut off when Dawn spat at him, her saliva landing on his cheek.

"This is all the thanks you'll get," the Coordinator snarled.

With a nasty grimace, Sebastian produced a bone-gray handkerchief from his pocket and used it to wipe Dawn's spittle from his cheek. Once he was finished wiping the last of it off of him, he sneered deviously at her.

"Ohhhh, and with an attitude to boot," he said. "I presume you got that from your mother, my dear, because your father most certainly doesn't have even half of your guts."

Dawn lunged at the door and grabbed the bars tightly. "WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MY FATHER?! TELL ME!"

But Sebastian didn't answer. Instead, with one last smirk, he began walking away, followed by Jupiter. Dawn gritted her teeth in white-hot fury, but she didn't bother to yell after the scientist and demand answers. Deep down, she knew it had to be some sort of sick, terrible mind-game that he was playing with her.

It had to be.

"Dawn, sweetie...?" Johanna asked hesitantly, unsure of what was about to happen next.

Then, after a period of tense silence, Dawn said, more to herself than to her mother, "They're gonna go to all three lakes of Sinnoh. They're gonna try and capture Mesprit, Azelf, and Uxie again. That's what this whole thing's been about, Mom. It was never about revenge."

Johanna exhaled. "I...I suppose so, Dawn. This scheme of theirs, it...it sounds a lot like the storybooks I used to read to you when you were still little, the ones where the fallen hero tried to take the power of the guardians of the lake and use them to seize control of the deities of time and space." Her expression turned grave. "Only...i-it's not a fallen hero we're talking about anymore."

Dawn's eyes glimmered in recognition, and she turned to face her mother. "You think this has something to do with the old Sinnohan legends? D-Do you really think they're gonna try to capture Dialga and Palkia again?!"

"It now seems that way, sweetie." Then, Johanna's face turned even more grave. "Unfortunately, if my memory of those storybooks serves me correctly, then I know for a fact that it's not going to work out well for them... It won't be a happy ending..."

Dawn hitched her breath, remembering what exactly her mother was referring to. Then, she narrowed her blue eyes with determination.

"We have to stop them right away, Mom," she said. "At all costs."


Several yards away from the Rocket Frigate, Serena, Piplup, Zoey, Kenny, Ursula, and their best Pokémon all watched as Paul's Electivire and Trip's Serperior fired one attack after another at the airship's Aggron-like mast. However, even their best attacks didn't inflict any damage on the metallic hull, and the Frigate responded by firing barrages and barrages of lasers at Paul's and Trip's hovercraft, forcing both boys to evade and outmaneuver the retaliatory measures.

"You think they're gonna be alright...?" Kenny asked hesitantly while his Empoleon looked around attentively.

"Well, knowing Paul," replied a slightly amused Zoey, "he's not one to lose to people like Team Galactic."

Her Garchomp snorted in response as it flapped its wings beside her.

"Plus," Ursula added flatly, "it really sounded like he got revved up by the prospect of upstaging Trip. And the same goes for Trip."

"Piplup," deadpanned Piplup, while Zoey's Glameow simply purred in bemusement.

"Let's not focus on that right now, you guys," Serena advised, her eyes and Delphox's now staring at the direction of the Frigate. "For now, we've gotta find a way in there through the back-"

She was cut off by the sound of roaring engines that only grew louder and louder as the seconds passed. Then, Kenny's Empoleon looked behind its shoulder with an ominous squawk, prompting the others to follow suit. There, almost a mile away, they saw a small passenger aircraft of a futuristic design roaring to a stop, but it continued to move towards their position in the meantime.

"MOVE!" Zoey cried shrilly. "We gotta move outta the way!"

Serena and the others immediately moved their hovercraft away, just before the passenger aircraft flew through the air they were previously occupying. As it passed by them and continued to slow down, a sudden pang sliced across Serena's heart like a blade, prompting her to stop prematurely and observe it.

"Phox?" Delphox asked in confusion. "Delphox?"

"Pip-piplup?" Piplup squeaked in agreement.

"Oh, s-sorry, you two," Serena replied, her voice almost absentminded as her sapphire-blue pupils followed the departing aircraft. "I-It's just... There's something very peculiar about that aircraft..."


Inside the aircraft, Ash's head perked up. He didn't know why, but he felt something slice across his heart like a blade as soon as the Syndicate started to slow down. He weakly sat up with a groan, his heart and soul now feeling as if he had to be outside no matter what, even if they were technically still in midair.

"Prepare to dock," James instructed.

"Preparing to dock," the pilot replied from a short distance.

Ash heard a set of small buttons being pushed in response. Then, no more than a second later, a beeping noise filled the interior of the aircraft, causing its passengers to suddenly become alert.

"What's going on over there?" asked Jessie.

"We makin' a crash-landin' or someting?" Meowth inquired.

"Uh, no, Commander Jessie," the copilot replied. "It's...It's just that the radar just detected some life-forms very close to us."

"Some life-forms?" James repeated.

"The signatures are very small, but they are indeed very close."

"It's probably just a bunch of Starly," Jessie replied with a roll of her eyes. "They'll hightail it once we dock. Now, initiate docking procedures."

"Alright, Commander Jessie. As you wish."

"Initiating docking procedures," the copilot called out.

Ash promptly felt the aircraft slow down even more. With another groan, he stood up on his feet and rested against the glass wall of his cage, all the while feeling utterly helpless. He scanned the interior of the aircraft, trying to figure out the best way he could try to escape and secure an advantage over Team Rocket and their comrades. Unfortunately, he could not find any way to execute the first step of any potential plan, which was to get himself out of the cage on his own. The only way he could get out was when Team Rocket took him out themselves, but that would be after the aircraft docked in whatever place they were trying to reach. He would be at an extreme disadvantage.

It was hopeless.

Then, Ash glanced at the grunts accompanying Team Rocket, and that was when he noticed one particular Team Galactic grunt staring directly at him. He had tanned skin and hazel eyes, and Ash could swear that he can see a single, tiny lock of purple hair peeking out from underneath what appeared to be a turquoise wig.

And then, to his stunned amazement, the grunt smiled and winked knowingly at him.

"Alright, ladies and germs!" Meowth announced dramatically, facing the entourage of grunts with crossed arms. "We 'ave arrived at da Sinnoh Frigate, which is currently under attack from some bogey, so as soon as we dock, we go into battle! I don't want any cowards or crybabies today! Ya got dat?!"

When his announcement was met with nods and murmurs of acknowledgment from the grunts, the Scratch Cat Pokémon flashed his elongated claws with enthusiasm.

"TIME TA GET DIS SHOW UNDERWAY! HA HA HA!"


While watching the passenger aircraft continue to come to a stop, Serena, Zoey, Kenny, and Ursula abruptly heard a very loud creak that echoed through the sky. They glanced at the Rocket Frigate and realized that a hatch in its undercarriage was opening up, revealing a hangar of some sort. But the hangar looked more like an active inter-regional airport, with a number of people scurrying about and blinking yellow markers indicating the path the docking aircraft should take.

"Well, I guess that's our opening," commented Ursula.

Serena nodded firmly and glanced at her companions. "Come on, everyone! We're gonna get in there and save Dawn!"


Room 201, Peller Hall, International Police Academy
LOCATION UNKNOWN

Looker entered the large, expansive lecture hall, hoping to catch Emma as she departed. According to the class schedule that he had managed to take a quick look at while scouring through her notes about Hoenn's criminal activity rates, the agent deduced that this classroom would be where Emma was at. Their flight was about to leave soon, and Looker would be damned if he somehow missed her and was forced to go to Hoenn alone, especially when she was highly enthusiastic about going in the first place.

Unfortunately, he picked a very bad time to rush over there, since at this moment, it would be around the time class was dismissed. Indeed, he saw only the professor, a young, bespectacled blonde woman, sitting at her desk.

"Uhhh, are you Professor Lane?" he asked.

The woman looked up from a stack of papers. "Yes, that's me," she replied. Then, she recognized the International Police uniform and straightened up. "Oh! H-How may I help you, agent?"

"Yeah, do you know where one of your students might have gone? Her name is Emma Matiere."

"Emma Matiere?" Her eyes brightened. "Ahhh yes, Emma! Such a brilliant student. Anyway, she had to leave class early. Another professor of hers called her over."

"Another of her professors? Do you know who that would be?"

A bitter look suddenly came upon the woman's face, and Looker recognized that expression from anywhere. He could see the response coming from a mile away.

"Who wouldn't?" she asked cynically. "It was Professor Archer. Stuck-up bastard."


Archer's office, Room 467, Brunestein Hall

"I don't care what they say, kid. You're still trying to prove something..."

Looker recognized Archer's voice coming through the doorway of his office. As the agent approached the simple wooden door bearing Archer's name, the agent could hear an uncomfortable shuffling on top of a seat. He quickly assumed it was Emma, and with a grunt of disgust, Looker swung the door open.

"Arceus-damn it, Archer, leave the kid alone," he snarled.

Looker's eyes immediately darted towards Emma, who was indeed sitting in an uncomfortable-looking seat. Archer was towering over the girl, his face florid, an infuriated expression on his face. The semiretired agent grunted in anger upon recognizing Looker.

"What the hell are ya doing here, Looker?!" Archer demanded.

"Looker!" Emma cried happily, shooting up from her chair at the expense of Archer's surprise. "A-Are we ready to go?!"

"Ready to go?" Archer glared at her with a scowl. "So you are trying to go to Hoenn!"

Emma twirled back at the semiretired agent, now sweating profusely. "N-N-No, I'm not! I-I'm just, uhhhhh... I'm just-"

Remembering that they agreed to keep Emma's participation in his newest mission a secret from the International Police, Looker spoke up on her behalf, thinking on the fly.

"Oh no, it's not like that, Archer. It's-"

"Not like that?" Archer shot Looker a glare of suspicion. "Then do enlighten me, Looker."

"I agreed to help her in her research project." Looker gave Emma a knowing glance. "Remember, Ms. Matiere?"

"O-Oh, yeah!" Emma replied, her face still somewhat florid. "Th-The research project f-for Professor Lane!"

"Research project, eh?" asked Archer. A devious glimmer briefly passed by his right eye. "And I suppose it doesn't have anything to do with the so-called anecdotal talk about a flight to the Hoenn region? The very place where you're going on official assignment, Looker?"

"To no degree is Emma going with me whatsoever," Looker replied silkily. "Her plan is stay mostly cooped up in her dorm room to work on the project. My role in this is to rendezvous with her on Bolt and provide my assistance from Hoenn. In all essence, our exchanges will be entirely remote."

"Y-Yeah!" Emma added. "I-I'm not sure what you heard, Pr-Professor Archer, but i-it's not me who's going on the flight! I have no plans on leaving the dormitory, i-in fact! N-Not even to get lunch! I really need to finish up that research project in time for Professor Lane to grade it!"

Archer scowled with suspicion. "I know Lane gives out research projects twice a semester, but I do not recall..." He cast another devious glance at Looker's direction. "Outside assistance being part of her usual rubric..."

"Her proposal requires great amounts of complex data," Looker lied. "The professor agreed to make an exception for her, and since I'm already about to go on assignment in Hoenn, Emma thought it would be advantageous for her if she came to me for consultation. And I agreed, obviously." Then, before Archer could speak up, the veteran agent chuckled. "Don't worry, Archer. I have no intention of divulging classified information to her. You know me better than that."

The teal-haired man gritted his teeth. "Apparently not well enough. I still do not-!"

"Oh, will you look at the time?!" Looker looked at his nonexistent wristwatch. "My flight is about to leave in an hour! Um, Emma, if you'd mind coming with me, I need to work out some last-minute tech stuff. Bolt's not exactly my biggest area of expertise."

Emma gasped softly, taking the cue. "R-Right!"

She quickly got out of her seat, took her backpack, and joined Looker's side. The two strolled out of the office as quickly as they could, but not before Emma shot a smug look at Archer's direction, drawing a disgusted snarl from the professor. Once the two entered the main hallway and approached an elevator, Emma looked up at Looker.

"Phew!" she exhaled. "Thanks for the save, Looker!"

"I just hope that lie about your professor Lane was worth it," replied Looker, still looking at the elevator.

"Oh, I think it'll hold up some water. I heard Professor Lane made an exception for a student last semester, who needed some outside consultation for their research project. As long as Professor Archer doesn't ask her too many questions, we should be fine. And besides, I'm sure she'll throw some Tauros-crap his way to throw off his scent regardless. She's not exactly his biggest fan."

Looker smirked wryly. "Yeah, I noticed."

"Ah." Emma looked back at the elevator doors with a gentle smile. "So I see you came looking for me."

"Of course."

At that moment, the elevator bell rung, and the doors slid open, allowing Looker to step inside first.

"And before you do," he added, just as Emma followed him in, "you don't have to thank me. Archer has few fans around here, in case you didn't notice."

The girl scoffed and rolled her eyes. "What a shocker."


Back at Archer's office, the professor grumbled angrily to himself. Then, he sat down at his desk, gazing at his desktop blankly.

"Kid's just like her damn father..." he snarled to himself. Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by the loud ringing of his phone. "ARCEUS-DAMN IT!"


UNKNOWN LOCATION

"We're getting closer, Giovanni sir."

Giovanni smirked as he and Matori continued to watch live news reports on the Syndicate's attacks across the world. The fear and horror swimming in the reporters' eyes were becoming more and more palpable to him by the passing minute. And the executive knew that it was all just the beginning.

"Yes, and faster than we ever knew..." A malevolent grin appeared on Giovanni's face. "It demonstrates the unmatched, unprecedented power of the Syndicate." He leaned back on his seat. "Rejoice, Matori. Historians will no doubt look back at this year in wonder and admiration."

Matori smiled at her superior. "Indeed they will, sir."

For a couple of minutes, the secretary watched her longtime employer as he continued to bask in all the attention placed upon his life's work by the news organizations of the world. Indeed, she had never seen him so jubilant before. All of the years of running Team Rocket and molding it into the feared criminal enterprise it was today were always reflected on his face, so it was refreshing to see a completely different side to Giovanni.

Then, Matori's smile faded away, and she glanced at her tablet. Minutes ago, she had received a text message from Hun regarding their successful mission in Johto. There was no denying the report that he had given him: during the process of cornering and capturing Raikou, he and his partner came across someone completely unexpected. Someone who could change the trajectory of the Syndicate's future altogether.

And she didn't know if she had the heart to inform Giovanni of this stunning development.


Chapter 11:
ARCHAIC

Delibird, the Delivery Pokémon. It carries food all day long. There are tales about lost people who were saved by the food it had. It nests at the edge of sharp cliffs. It spends all day carrying food to its awaiting chicks.

tvslk,glwyaewllhesmmgspayw.


Next Time:

Goh: I can't believe it... It's them...

Ash: Serena?

Serena: Ash?

Johanna: Come on, sweetie! We're leaving NOW!

Dawn: Oh, yeah... Th-That's right, I never told you, Serena...

Mustard: Well, he had to learn his skills from somewhere. A lot of talent, that one.

Zoey: THAT'S TEAM ROCKET'S PLAN B?!

Chloe: We just need to focus on what their plan for Ash is.

CHOSEN


A/N: And thus concludes the very first chapter in which I switch between the points-of-view of two different teams! But I will say, the switching was minimal for this chapter, which was sort of intentional. I didn't want to scramble your minds while having to bounce you guys back-and-forth between different teams. But it will be a bit rougher in the next chapter, just so you know.

Also, I was originally planning on having Ash and Serena reunite at long last in this chapter, but sadly, I could not find a way to fit that in without making the chapter excessively long. Don't worry, though, for that will happen in the very next chapter, first thing. Keep your fingers crossed, because it's a reunion that you've all been waiting for, and I highly intend to make it something to cheer for! :D

Anyway, I'd like to thank the following for reviewing:

-Kagayaki-sama:

1) Yes, Cyndaquil's indeed a reference to the upcoming Arceus game! And don't worry, for Rowlet and Oshawott will be nosing their way into this mess as well. Keep an eye out for them! ;D

2) Well of course there's gonna be a lot of violence on this end of the story. Attila and Hun were pretty serious compared to Jessie and James, so I thought I'd reflect that here as well. Plus, it goes to show the Syndicate isn't messing around.

3) Ohhhhh, I think Silver's role in this story is going to be a very unique one, to say the least. And yes, I'm well aware of him being the game counterpart of Paul, in all essentials. But don't worry; the subplot I have for him is going to be quite distinct from Paul's.

4) Yep, gotta love Mega Evolution battles! And this won't be the last one for sure!

5) Lyra's going to be one of the motivating factors for Gary's group during their quest, hence why I had her captured like that. It's something to look out for.

6) Sadly, the reunion didn't happen here. Sorry about that. But it'll definitely happen in the next chapter, I guarantee it!

-Ander Arias:

1) Ooh, thanks! I'm glad this chapter certainly made up for the previous one! I honestly thought it wouldn't, given how it took me a while to finally get it out and the extra work that I had to put in it, but I suppose the extra blood, sweat, and tears paid off, huh?

2) Heh heh heh, yeah. XP

3) Yeah, I really wish they would expand more on Mega Evolution. There's just something about how it was presented in the core mythos that made it so revolutionary. In contrast, Z-Moves and Dynamax just feel like cheap replacements for it and it's disappointing that it had to be like that. Not that I'm unable to find uses for Z-Moves and Dynamax here, and the potential for badass sequences featuring those mechanics, but I digress.

4) Oh, definitely. XD

5) Well, like I mentioned earlier, I find Barry to be an amusing character. I hope I can redeem him in your eyes in future chapters.

6) Yeah, I do apologize for that. I suppose I could've saved Tyson's official induction into the group for later, but Silver in particular had to be inducted right away because of the pivotal role he'll be playing in the next several chapters. But I do suppose that happened too quickly. I needed to end the chapter soon, so their inductions felt too compressed.

7) Yep! And play out it will... ;D

-KHfan98:

1) We'll see about that edgelord meeting, but yeah, that would be something to read. XD XD XD XD XD

2) Sorry the reunion couldn't happen in this chapter, but it will most certainly happen in the next one! Without a doubt!

3) Let's just say Vincent isn't that bright compared to Jimmy. XP

4) Oh yes, those subplots do sound pretty intriguing. I'll be on the lookout to see where they go. :D

-Pierrot (guest reviewer):

1) It's alright. Do take your time; I'm in no rush to get more reviews.

2) I think Silver will play an interesting role in how Giovanni finally meets his timely defeat. ;)

3) You're damn right my mind is exploding. I do not understand how someone else is saying essentially the same things you're saying here. It's like some mind-boggling "Inception" shit's at play here!

4) Don't worry, it's not gonna go THAT far. It's a T-rated fic, after all. But there's definitely going to be some dark stuff in here. It'll get particularly crazy towards the end, mind you.

5) I for one will see how it all goes down. Let's hope this signals some sort of fresh new period for the anime! :D

-Guest reviewer:

1) Thank you so much! But I personally consider 94 reviews and 17,000+ views to be a very decent start for a fic that's as ambitious as this. It's also gotten some decent traction over at Archive Of Our Own too. Don't worry about it.

2) Really? Where exactly have you seen those writers talk about my fic? Or were you referring to the old version of this fic?

3) I have a whole bunch of Microsoft Word documents that lay out the basic flow of the story, all the characters featured here, and what kinds of roles they'll be playing. Trust me, it is indeed a complex and fragile process. To make matters a whole lot worse, I have to do some improvisation when it turns out the chapter is about to exceed the maximum length I've given it. But don't worry, I'm not going crazy from all the plotting and planning. Yet. XP

-War (guest reviewer):

1) No, there will be no mention of the Orre region or any of its inhabitants or even Shadow Pokémon here. The only way they'd make it in this fic is if they are referenced in some major way in the anime itself. I know I've been including some game-specific characters in this story, but it's always going to be for the purposes of bolstering the subplots I've reserved for the characters who have already been featured in the anime. As of right now, Orre has no connections to any of the anime characters that I know of, and I have no interest in making up connections between them. Sorry.

2) Almia and Oblivia will be featured here, but not in major roles. As for the other regions you mentioned, no. Sorry.

3) Thanks for the recommendation! I'll check it out when I have the time. :D :D :D

Well, hope you enjoyed this chapter! TheCartoonFanatic01 is out. PEACE!

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