Categories > Anime/Manga > Pokemon > Awakening

Part 10

by Milia 0 reviews

Category: Pokemon - Rating: PG-13 - Genres:  - Published: 2014-03-13 - 16534 words


Chapter 28: The Rocket League: Spring Forward

Ashimi, Dorme, Jonathan and Volt met up in front of the lockers. They could hardly believe it, but they had the hard task of facing Thor's training and in the end decided to stick together no matter what. "Cheer up everyone! I even brought victory cookies to eat after we conquer this training course, we'll be done in no time."

"Lets not forget that most people fail and the penalty training lasts a whole week," Jonathan reminded.

"And the penalty-penalty training for failing the week long training lasts a month," Dorme added.

Ashimi huffed, "it's like there's a big gloomy cloud over your heads." She glanced at Volt, he was worse off, since he couldn't even muster the energy to speak. "C'mon guys, just think of the victory cookies!" Ashimi tried to cheer them up. "Look, they're Skitty shaped and have pink frosting!"

Volt sighed, feeling the obligation to say something. He was the one who was determined to challenge the infamous General Electro and despite their fears Jonathan and Dorme were standing by him. Ashimi was too, but she didn't know what she was getting into as far as her friends could tell, yet none the less she was bravely marching into the unknown. "So, why Skitty?" Volt curiously inquired for the sake of making small talk that would hopefully lower the tensions in the atmosphere.

"Grandma got a baby Skitty, so she was inspired to make the cookies. She's super cute, we should go see her later. I bet Nya would like to play with her. She likes to swim too, I guess maybe because her father is a water type," Ashimi explained.

"What pokemon is her dad?" Jonathan asked out of curiosity.

"Wailord," Ashimi replied, and a great shocked silence fell over the group.

Finally, Dorme willed herself to speak, "I bet they're cute together." Following her lead, the area was filled with sounds of agreement and random little comments. Then the boys and girls went their separate ways to their respective lockers.

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Ashimi looked at the tiny bag with a deadly glare. She willed it to defy the laws of physics and contain items the total size of which exceeded the space within it. The bag refused to cooperate.

"Give it up, you're never going to make enough room in there for everything," Dorme sighed hopelessly. She stood at the entrance to the girls' lockers and tapped her foot impatiently. She too had been provided with a small bag that could be worn around the waist and told that she could only bring the supplies that fit within.

Aside from the bag, the only other items the young Rockets would be allowed to take to the training, were their pokeballs and the clothes on their backs. Pokemon were to be released only on certain areas of the obstacle course and unauthorized use of pokemon meant an instant failure. The uniforms were standard for low ranked Rocket grunts, the fabric was durable, though not particularly soft. They didn't have the varying styles that allowed some degree of a personalization, nor were the male and female clothes noticeably different in style. The uniforms were made with the knowledge that they would receive a lot of punishment along with the unfortunate Rockets within them.

Ashimi finally gave up, stuffed most of her things back into the locker and closed it. She put the bag around her waist with a few choice items and left a plastic bag full of cookies out. "Let's just eat these now."

"Good idea," Dorme agreed. Before they exited the locker rooms, she stopped Ashimi with an unsure look in her eyes, then finally asked. "You know how a Wailord and Skitty... um... breed?" The truth was that Dorme didn't know how it could work given their different sizes. She could ask Laiki, since logically, a pokemon doctor should know, but she didn't want to trigger an anecdote inspired too much information speech about human breeding.

Ashimi had to pause and think about it. The difference in the pokemon sizes only vaguely registered in the back of her mind before. She didn't want to sound ignorant or childish by not knowing, so instead she laughed. "Of course I know, I mean I'm old enough to be a pokemon trainer, so I'm old enough to know what frolic actually means."

Dorme laughed too, as if she had been joking the entire time. It was just a random curiosity and if it made her appear as ignorant, then she would just keep it to herself. "Ha ha ho ha ha! Of course, how silly of me to think you wouldn't know!" Both girls made an unsure pause before laughing together again. As they were each focused on making her own laughter sound somewhat believable, neither noticed or questioned the awkwardness of the other's laughter.

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Meanwhile, Jonathan and Volt were also done getting ready for the training. Volt paused for a moment and shifted unsure, until finally his curiosity got the better of him. "Johnny... Just a random question... Think nothing of it... I was just curious... Not that I really need to know..."

It was obvious that Volt was unsure about asking something. Jonathan was tempted to sarcastically inquire that if he didn't need to know why was he trying to ask in the first place? But it seemed that Volt was feeling uncomfortable enough and the tension between him and Electro was high, so maybe this wasn't the most appropriate time for sarcasm. "What is it?"

"Since your parents run a day care center, which I know is a Rocket trading spot, but also actually works as a pokemon day care..." Volt stopped himself from rambling and moved forward. "Anyway, I thought you might know... How is it possible for a Skitty and Wailord to breed?"

"Oh, that's easy," Jonathan replied as if the question wasn't odd at all. "It's because they're both in the field egg group," he answered in a matter of fact tone.

"Well yes, I know that..." Volt inquired further, "but... I mean... Their sizes are..."

"We've never had a Wailord at the day care, Skitty yeah, but not Wailord. They've been traded, but a Wailord has never been out of the pokeball," Jonathan admitted. "In other words, the subject never came up before now and I have no idea."

"Oh well, I guess I don't feel so bad for not knowing." Volt nodded to himself and exited the boys' lockers, followed by Jonathan. They met up with the girls and the four of them ate the cookies before going off to report to Thor.

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Meanwhile, at Cerulean City... Ash grinned at his creation. He carefully balanced the sandwich he had so carefully built and made his way out of the kitchen. He sat down next to Misty at the living room where she held a wireless tablet pc on her lap, checking emails. She glanced at Ash as he opened his mouth impossibly wide and tried to flatten the overloaded sandwich enough to take a bite out of it. Mission accomplished and mouth full, Ash returned Misty's gaze in time to see her roll her eyes.

Misty held up the screen for him to see. "Delia just sent pictures of her new baby Skitty, isn't she cute?" Ash nodded, his mouth still too full to give a verbal reply that was even remotely intelligible. Misty continued, "she hatched a few days ago. Aw, look at this picture." The Skitty was depicted in the image in a little tub surrounded by water toys and appeared to be amused. "She likes to splash around and really enjoys bath time. Her father is a water type..." Misty grew silent and read over the lines again, until she finally finished, "Wailord." She blinked as the pokemon egg groups information surfaced into her memories and she recalled that those two did indeed share an egg group. "How does that even work, with the size difference and all."

By then Ash had swallowed and was able to speak normally. "I asked my father the same question once," he recalled.

Suddenly curious, more so for the story than for the actual answer, Misty asked, "what did he say?"

"He said mom had asked him the same thing years ago," Ash recalled.

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Several years ago, before Ashimi was born. Ash and Giovanni were just getting used to being around each other after they had found out the truth about their father-son relationship. Delia often encouraged them to spend time together and talk whenever their busy schedules as Rocket boss and pokemon master allowed. Ash didn't remember how the topic came up, but he ended up asking about how it was possible for a Skitty and a Wailord to breed.

"In the same basic way that all living creatures breed, I would assume," Giovanni had replied as a matter of fact.

"But the size..." Ash insisted with curiosity.

"Your mother asked about that years ago," Giovanni recalled. "It was soon after I became the Viridian gym leader and things stabilized enough with Team Rocket for her to make some time to pick up her studies again. We ended up doing research together."

Giovanni grinned in a rather mischievous way, though Ash didn't seem to notice as he inquired. "What kind of research?"

After a pause during which Giovanni seemed to be considering his words, he finally replied, "extensive research."

The answer was more than a little vague, but Ash thought nothing of it and assumed it meant a lot of reading. "What was the result of the research?"

The Rocket leader's reply was simple and to the point, yet completely unexpected coming from him, "you."

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By that point in Ash's story, Misty was laughing out loud. "It went completely over my head at first," Ash admitted between laughs. "He seemed so serious that I didn't expect him to say something like that, but then when I finally understood and my face turned red, we ended up getting a good laugh out of it... or mostly he laughed at how red I turned. Although, I never did get a real answer..." Perhaps some research was in order.

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Later, Ashimi, Jonathan, Volt and Dorme arrived at a Rocket training facility via underground bullet train. Hidden among the mountains north of Kanto, they were to face a large obstacle course divided into four stages. Each stage was themed after a season and had been artificially enhanced to match it. They began in the spring area. The place was a vast grassy field with a few flowers scattered here and there, that looked all too easy to cross. "There have to be traps set up here,". Volt spoke with all certainty. Everyone agreed with him.

Ashimi reached out with her aura and felt something was off underground, yet what was buried was so well hidden that it was hard to sense it clearly. "There's definitely something underground, some kind of land mines if I had to take a guess. Zubat would probably be able to guide us through here, or we could just fly over the whole place, if we could use pokemon that is."

"Which we can't..." Dorme reminded. She looked across the deceivingly harmless looking field. "I guess you'll have to be our radar, Ashimi."

"Okay, here goes..." Ashimi started to move forward at a slow a measured pace. She could only feel the mines when she was close to them and the images in her mind were not at all detailed.

They were a good distance into the field when a man in a Team Rocket uniform arrived. It wasn't the standard uniform, but a modified version to look like something a professional runner would wear in a race. He had spiky green hair with a row of blue spikes in the middle, his eyes were a bright gold. A Sceptile walked beside him, looking on at the trainers as unworthy prey. "Taking it slow and easy, aren't you? That's boring, so I'm here to change it. You can call me Spring. Now lets try something a little different, take a walk around, Sceptile!" The grass pokemon dashed in a series of precise jumps around the group and set off several mines.

Ashimi, Jonathan, Volt and Dorme hurried to dodge, trying to follow Ashimi's movements. Her eyes suddenly went wide in realization. "They're moving! The mines are moving around underground!" They were caught in an explosion that threw them several feet back. Ticking was heard muffled in the ground as a different kind of mine was set off at their landing. They hurried to get out of the way, looking for a safe place to stand before the countdown concluded.

"I'll be waiting for you across the field among those trees over there," Spring pointed at the area. "I'll only wait for thirty seconds, at least one of you should make it there. Don't be late or you lose. Don't forget, no pokemon!" Sceptile continued setting off more mines and attacking with leaf storm.

"We have to get there fast! Soldiers, we need a diversion!" Volt urged. "There's no time!"

"Calm down, Volt! The clock hasn't even started yet!" Ashimi pointed out.

"Oh, you're right, we can do this!" Volt realized.

"Yeah, I guess I should go over to the agreed upon spot." Spring began to run at an incredible speed.

"There's no way we'll catch him even without Sceptile to get in the way." Dorme grimaced.

"He said no pokemon, he didn't say we couldn't attack!" Ashimi argued.

"Slowing him down sounds useful, if he reaches the trees the countdown begins, but how can we slow him down if we can't even get close to him?" Volt tried to think of a strategy that might work, but everything that came to mind required beforehand planning that they weren't given the chance to do. If only he had units strategically placed in the field like in a game of Battle Zone, this would actually be pretty easy.

"I have an idea!" Jonathan knew that it was a bit crazy, but it was all he could come up with. "Ashy, where's one of the mines?"

"Straight ahead, next to that yellow flower!" Ashimi pointed.

"I'm going, cover me!" Jonathan dashed forward, while the others tried to shield him from Sceptile's attacks.

"He's not doing what I hope he's not doing, is he?" Dorme asked in worry, as another multitude of sharp leaves assaulted her.

"I think he is," Ashimi admitted. "He should be fine, blasting off like a Rocket is in his blood."

Jonathan purposely set off the mine by jumping on it. It exploded and propelled him across the field with great speed. He tackled Spring to the ground right before he could reach the cluster of trees and halted the runner's progress. "You've got some guts taking the hit from the explosion and challenging me directly!" Spring defended himself, but Jonathan was determined not to let him get any closer to his target.

"That's it soldier, halt the enemy advance!" Volt cheered.

"Dorme, get Sceptile!" Ashimi called out.

"You better have a good plan!" Dorme rushed towards Sceptile, dodging most of the leaves he threw at her and went on the attack with great agility and speedy reflexes.

"Volt!" Ashimi approached the blond boy and whispered something to him, pointing out several locations, then joined Dorme in keeping Sceptile busy.

Volt began to dig in the places that Ashimi had indicated. Thankfully, he was focused enough to remember all the locations and speedily progress through them. He carefully removed each mine without setting them off and began to collect them away from Sceptile's reach. Jonathan was fighting with Spring, and though the racer had long thin limbs, it was clear that he was well trained and quite strong,

"I have them!" Volt announced. Jonathan backed away from Spring at Volt's signal and made a run for it.

Spring tried to stop him, but was hit by one of the mines, he didn't expect Volt to be able to throw that far. 'He is Electro's brother, I should have known. Jessie and James' kid is no one to mess with either and those girls seem to be standing up to Sceptile alright. They've managed to use the field to their advantage, but I can't let them win!' Spring hurried to the spot near the trees. If he stayed there for thirty seconds, then they would lose the challenge.

Volt tried to throw a mine at Sceptile, but the speedy pokemon dodged easily. A chain reaction was set off, leaving Ashimi and Dorme to struggle to get out of the way of the blasts. "Even if we do hit him, one mine won't be enough!"

Spring was about to reach the designated area when Ashimi called out to Jonathan. "Two feet to your right!" She gave a quick estimation.

Jonathan stomped on the spot as Spring got closer and they were both sent blasting off several feet back. "Crazy kids!" Spring growled, though he actually sounded amused.

"I'll hold him, throw everything at him all at once!" Ashimi rushed towards Sceptile and held on to him, protecting herself with the aura as best she could.

"This is crazy!" Volt gathered up the mines despite his protests. "But I guess I have no choice but to trust you!" He rapidly threw them towards Sceptile and Ashimi. All the mines hitting them together magnified the force of the hit, creating a huge explosion. Dirt and pebbles flew everywhere as a big cloud of dust was lifted.

"Woah!" Spring gasped. "Giovanni told me not to go easy on his granddaughter, but I didn't think it would be one of her own teammates that sent her to the emergency room!" Withstanding one mine at a time was painful, yet possible. Taking the full force of such a massive attack was not something to be done without injury.

The dust began to settle to reveal Sceptile, hurt and unconscious. "The only one going to the emergency room is your Sceptile... And maybe you'll end up there too!" Standing next to the fainted grass pokemon was a victorious Ashimi, protected by the glow of her aura. She was still beaten and scratched, but she had no serious injuries and was trying her best to look fierce and threatening.

"You're all real tough cookies, I can't deny that," Spring laughed and recalled Sceptile back into his pokeball. "But this isn't over yet!"

Spring hurried to the area with the trees where Jonathan was already waiting. "Took you long enough to get here."

"So you managed to accomplish the challenge, but the one I want to battle is little miss invincible over there. Let's see if she has the legendary power of the Rocketto!" Spring called out another pokemon. "Serperior! Ashimi, you have permission to call out one pokemon, but I should warn you, you will not be allowed to call upon that same pokemon for the rest of the training, so choose wisely."

Ashimi considered her options. Chari had the type advantage against Serperior, but she might need her later, especially if she needed to fly anywhere, that or climbing could make the difference between victory and defeat later on. None the less, she needed a strong pokemon to get her through this battle. Someone agile, speedy and powerful who could put up a fight and make good use of the battle field. Ashimi picked out a pokeball. "Pichu, I choose you!" Pichu eagerly emerged from his pokeball to face Serperior. "Thunderbolt, on the target and at three o' clock!"

"Serperior, dodge then use leaf tornado!" As he gave the command, Spring pulled out a cell phone-like device and rang his fingers swiftly over the touch screen. Serperior dodged without worries then went on the attack.

"You deactivated the mines and you can activate them again," Ashkmi realized. Trying to trigger them to her advantage wouldn't work so easily now. None the less she grinned, "not that it makes a difference, I'll hit you with the mines anyway, dig Pichu!"

"With a move like that you can dodge the leaves but..." Spring didn't finish. He could blow things up any time he wanted. Knowing that, why would Ashimi make such an obviously bad choice unless it was actually deceivingly good.

Pichu emerged from the ground and tossed a mine at Serperior. He used his electricity to activate the mine though Serperior was quick to dodge. Dust flew in every direction, covering the battle field in a thick cloud. "Pichu, hit the mines hard, thunder!" Ashimi gave a quick series of directions, while Serperior stepped back.

"That... That was too straight forward, what was your plan if I detonated the mine and what on the world are you doing now?!" Spring wondered in confusion.

"I knew you wouldn't detonate that mind because of the flow of your energy," Ashimi admitted. "You were too guarded, too unwilling to take chances, so I took one. As for now..." The dust settled to reveal that not a single one of Pichu's thunder attacks had hit Serperior. The grass pokemon kept his tail half dug into the ground so it wouldn't have been effective anyway. "Magnet rise!" Pichu's electricity spread in every direction. Instead of using it to levitate, he lifted up the mines that his thunder attacks had helped dig up and threw them at Serperior, activating them by overloading them with his electricity.

"Leaf tornado!" Spring called out in a hurry, Serperior couldn't possibly dodge so many mines flying at him. The best thing he could do was try to use his leaves to surround himself and create a defensive shield.

When the series of explosions finally ended, Serperior was hurt but he still stood. Pichu was breathing heavily, tired from the great exertion. "Interesting, you can't read minds, but you can certainly read emotions. I guess I shouldn't have been so impressed, that could have been my downfall. Good thing Serperior is strong enough to withstand all that, but Pichu is an inch away from fainting."

"Every bit of progress counts," Ashimi insisted. "At least you can't use the mines against Pichu, so now we only have one obstacle left.

"And no way to defeat it!" Spring went on the offensive again. "Vine whip!"

"Go underground!" Ashimi knew that Pichu couldn't attack with electricity again in his current condition. "Find steady ground like the one I'm standing on and take a break."

"Slam the ground until it all caves in!" Spring ordered. Serperior began a series of strong slam attacks. The ground was already damaged from the thunder and explosions, and was soon filled with craters. "Where is that Pichu?" Spring gave Ashimi's words some extra thought and grinned. "He's under the ground she stands on, attack her with giga drain!"

Jonathan, Dorme and Volt gasped in shock. "Ashy, watch out!" Jonathan cautioned.

"He's really attacking her," Dorme whispered in disbelief.

"She can't take it," Volt realized. "Ashimi, you have to stop this!"

"That obvious, is it?" Ashimi fell to her knees and struggled to stay awake. She simply didn't have the strength or energy left in her to dodge or resist. She felt her aura leaving her and her earrings vibrated and became hot. The light cracks on them became more noticeable with each passing second. She didn't know why Spring kept overestimating her, was it because she could use aura, or because she was Giovanni's granddaughter?

"Pichu, thank you for your patience, now use your lightning laser!" Pichu emerged from the ground and jumped on Serperior, shooting a concentrated electric attack at point blank. Serperior flailed widely as if in great pain and released Ashimi, who collapsed, barely able to keep her eyes open. "Don't interfere," she knew how hard it was for her friends to hold back and she was thankful for their concern.

Pichu was at his limit, he wouldn't be able to further struggle with his electricity if his life depended on it. Physical attacks were all he had left, despite his exhaustion and small size. He bit, his scratched and did all he could in desperation. "Run, Pichu..." Ashimi whispered in a barely audible voice. Pichu hurried to get away as Serperior tried to recover.

"That move... How ruthless, but a Pichu can't possibly do it right! Serperior, on the attack!" Spring commanded. Serperior tried to chase after Pichu, but his movements were sluggish. "Serperior? Don't exert yourself, wait a bit."

'What is he doing? Why is he throwing away his opportunity, unless he had a plan? No, I won't fall for the same trick as Spring.' "Pichu!" Pichu went on the attack again, he was tired, but enjoying the battle. He wished for nothing more than to battle by Ashimi's side always. Though they had a way to go before they could stand a chance against Giovanni, he knew that if they kept training, they would eventually win. Ashimi's confidence and determination never wavered and neither would Pichu's.

A bright golden glow surrounded Pichu. Serperior managed to throw him off, but the electric pokemon felt no pain, he was too deep in the bliss of evolution. "Pikachu!"

Spring stared wide eyed at the evolved pokemon. "Not risking it... Serperior, return!" Spring called the pokemon back into his pokeball. The Rocket elite four were all different from each other and Spring was said to be the one who cared about his pokemon the most. He was also said to be daring and confident, as if he knew with full certainty that nothing could go wrong, yet this time he had been very cautious.

Ashimi watched on in surprise. "It's... it's over? Pichu... Pikachu!" Her newly evolved Pikachu ran to her. "You're awesome!" She hugged him. Then she looked at Spring, "why did you retreat? You could have continued putting up a fight."

"You're obviously exhausted, your aura wouldn't have worked in that state. Maybe I did overestimate your current capabilities, but you certainly have potential. The reason why I was so guarded it because I have a special sense," Spring revealed. "It's not as developed as your aura and it's not enough to call myself a psychic either, but I can feel it. When I was younger, back when I was only known as Solan, I went into a place known as the Giant Chasm in Unova, looking for a challenge with Servine. We found an Absol who had been injured and helped him. Later, after my team was exhausted from battling and I was trying to retreat, I got into an accident and the Absol ended up saving me... at the cost of his own life."

"I passed out and woke up at a pokemon center," Spring continued. "The local Joy told me I walked in like a zombie and collapsed at the front counter, but I don't remember ever leaving the Giant Chasm. Ever since that day I've been able to sense disasters. This may sound crazy, but I think Absol's spirit fused with my own. Your Pichu was close to evolution. No matter what I did, I'm sure you would have ended up with a Pikachu. That was the disaster I felt, I saw your abilities and thought you would do something, but I should have been guarding against your pokemon, not that it would do much with how close he is to mastering that move."

"I don't understand," Ashimi admitted in confusion.

Spring laughed, "Just make sure to use that power properly. I'm sure you'll be hearing from someone connected to the tech department when they find out you have a Pikachu now."

Ashimi still looked confused, though she didn't inquire any further. Her head was pounding and she felt too dizzy to process any information anyway. With the battle over, her friends had helped her to her feet among congratulations. She had used too much energy and wasn't very steady.

Spring gave her a green rocket shaped badge with a little red R on it. "Take this badge as proof that you've completed my challenge. I should warn you, it'll only get harder from this point on. Since you can only use each pokemon once, you won't be able to call upon your Pikachu for the rest of the training. You may move on to Summer's challenge now." He paused and looked into Ashimi's eyes. "Not malicious at all, you really are unaware of it..." He whispered in a barely audible voice. Speaking normally, he continued, "you'd best be on your way now." Spring ran a short distance away and released Serperior. The last thing Ashimi heard before her headache made her tune the world out, was something along the lines of Spring being glad that the 'rhythm' was back to normal and that Serperior would be alright. Ashimi didn't know what that meant.

To be Continued

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Chapter 29: The Rocket League: Hot Fury

Volt, Dorme, Jonathan and Ashimi moved on to the summer training course. Spring's words left Ashimi with a worrisome sour feeling that wouldn't leave her mind as soon as her headache retreated enough to make room for thoughts. He had thought she would bring disaster, then thought it was her Pikachu who would. He didn't sound like the disaster would be something as relatively simple as defeat. He made it out to be something much worse that merited great caution and was worth a loss to avoid. Yet he was a high ranked Rocket, what was bad enough to worry him so much? What could he sense that she remained unaware of?

"Ashimi, are you listening, soldier?" Volt's voice got Ashimi out of her thoughts and her lost expression made it clear that she had not been listening. "I suppose you've worked more than your fair share, but you still can't lower your guard. Try to hang back a bit until you recover, leave the next challenge to us."

Normally, Ashimi would protest and insist that she was fine and didn't want to miss out, but this time she was simply too tired and only nodded at Volt. "Ashy..." She looked at Jonathan, not liking his worried expression one bit. "Aquamarine's pearls are breaking."

Ashimi ran her fingers over the once smooth surface of her earrings, that was now deeply cracked. She felt that she shouldn't risk removing them even for a second to take a good look at them. "They still work, I'll just have to be careful not to damage them more." She smiled and tried to reassure her friends.

They made it into the summer training area and Dorme was quick to express her discomfort. The heat reminded her of summer training with Thor and put her in a bad mood. "I didn't expect us to face the elite four of the Rocket League, but I was kind of glad Thor wouldn't be training us directly all the way. I should have known he would arrange a training course as bad as his own training would be!" She reached into her small bag and began to put on sunscreen on her face, as the rest of her body was covered by her uniform, even if it had become torn and dirty. "Here, it doesn't look like any of you came prepared."

"Thanks, the last thing I need is sunburn," Ashimi put on some sunscreen. The summer field was a vast desert as far as the eye could see. The heat was suffocating. "All this heat is making my headache get worse again."

"It smells like custap berries..." Volt frowned at the sunscreen bottle.

"Burn to ashes if it bothers you that much to smell like a girl!" Dorme huffed, she was clearly very cranky.

"It was just an observation," Volt quietly voiced and got a deadly glare in return.

Dorme had pulled out another bottle from her small bag, this one larger than the first, the contents being less thick and closer to liquid than cream. She began to spray the stuff all over her long blond hair, which was currently in a ponytail. "Ashimi, protect your hair too."

"Um... Okay," Ashimi didn't think hair could get damaged by the sun as easily as skin, and it certainly wouldn't be as painful. None the less, it wouldn't hurt to protect it too. Besides, Dorme sounded like she was giving an order and she would snap if it wasn't followed. After she was done, Ashimi passed the bottle to the boys, who eyed it wearily.

"I can understand the sunscreen, but is this really necessary?" Volt complained unsure. "This stuff has an even stronger scent than the sunscreen and it'll probably stick."

Dorme snatched the bottle from Volt and trapped Jonathan in a surprise headlock, spraying a generous amount onto his hair. "Stop it, Dorme, let go!" She didn't release him until she was done. "My hair smells so girly now," Jonathan complained.

"Quit whining!" Dorme snapped. "This is for your own good, you have really pretty hair and I will not stand to see it ruined!"

Jonathan had never seen Dorme look so deadly. He could only take a step back and whisper, "yes, ma'am."

"Volt!" Dorme barked. The Vermilion gym leader squeaked, quickly took the bottle and sprayed the protective liquid on his hair before Dorme decided to shove it down his throat. "That's better, now lets get this over with. I hate being sweaty." Dorme stomped away, mumbling a few choice curses under her breath with every step. Wisely deciding to remain quiet, Ashimi, Jonathan and Volt followed her.

The silence that overcame them only lasted for a little while. Ashimi had a zombie-like expression and she was muttering quietly as she walked. "You okay, Ashy?" Jonathan asked, but only got more zombie mutters in return. "I'll take that as a no."

"My head hurts and my thoughts are numb, I want a story," Ashimi whined. She puckered her lip and made her eyes as much like a sad Jigglypuff as she could.

"Your brain's really getting fried, I haven't heard you ask for a story since you turned seven and decided you wanted to be a tough pokemon trainer and refused to play princess and knight anymore. You didn't grow out of the habit of throwing shoes at me whenever I called you princess until three months later," Jonathan recalled.

Ashimi mumbled something unintelligible pouted and asked again. "Story please, sir Oni."

"She used too much energy and didn't have the chance to recover," Volt frowned. "This is dangerous."

"I can't imagine the fall area being this hot, we better get out of here fast. As for a story... How about we talk about the Rocket League?" Jonathan suggested. "It was formed recently as part of Team Rocket's public image. It's still in the making, but it will be officially open to the public soon. It will have several challenges like in the Orange League which will take place on one of Team Rocket's islands south of Cinnabar, with artificial climate control. The challenges won't be this hard, since they're for regular people."

It wasn't exactly as story, but the flow of information seemed to be making Ashimi focus a little more. "I heard that the elite four of the Rocket League were only nicknamed that because of the elite four of the Indigo League, but are actually not all Rocket elites," Volt added.

"That's true," Jonathan confirmed. "Most of the Rocket elites are off on top secret missions. Out of the four who are in the Rocket League, only Winter is an actual elite, the others are first class agents who can put on a good show when the time comes. They're talented pokemon trainers, but they still have a way to go to get to the real elite level. I heard Spring is going to be in a few athletic competitions on the side to promote the Rocket league when it goes public."

"Winter is a singer, isn't she?" Volt inquired.

"That's right, she used to be known as White Star for her white hair and great voice," Jonathan continued. "She'll be in charge of the Rocket league's operations."

Ashimi massaged her temples. Her head was still pounding, but she felt like she was recovering her clarity of mind. "Do you know anything about the other two?"

"I'm not sure who they picked to represent summer and fall," Jonathan admitted.

"I'm technically a Rocket newbie, I don't know either," Volt added. He looked over his troops and observed their state. Ashimi was somewhat there and somewhat not. She wasn't given the chance to recover and was struggling along. Dorme, Jonathan and Volt weren't as bad off, but they were all injured and starting to dehydrate. "We all fought hard from the start and don't have much energy left for the three areas we still need to go through. This training was designed to drain our energy and leave us unable to endure."

"Shut up!" Dorme suddenly shouted. "Shut up all of you! I've had enough of this desert!" She kicked the sand in anger. "Summer, get out here right now or I'll drag you out of whatever sad hole you're hiding in and rip you apart with my own hands!"

Suddenly, something emerged from beneath the sand. It was a boy with dark blond hair, tan skin and goggles. He wore a pretty standard Team Rocket uniform with the addition of a red bandana around his neck and was covered in sand from tunneling under it. He rode on a hover skate board, surfing the sands. "Well if it isn't my sweet Juliet calling out to me. Your Romeo has arrived!" He pulled up his goggles from over his eyes and placed them on his forehead. His eyes were a stunning red, sparkling mischievously like rubies.

Dorme stared in disbelief, "Monty... You're Summer?!" She screeched in indignation.

"That's right, my dear," Mont Blanc, alias Summer, grinned proudly. He was a first class Rocket agent and the youngest of the four of the Rocket League, at seventeen years old. Spring was the second youngest at nineteen.

Dorme tensed all over and glared daggers at him. "I will defeat you!" She declared full of fury.

Ashimi, Jonathan and Volt stood by, staring. Ashimi finally gathered her thoughts enough to speak, direct as ever. "Is there some kind of history between you two?"

"Yes!" Dorme growled. "Monty, or Summer as he's known now, is my rival. He defeated me in battle before, but I won't let it happen again, not twice in a row, never!"

"Don't forget you promised to go out with me if you lost the rematch!" Summer confidently reminded. "I admire your fire, Dorme, I'll show you we're perfect for each other!"

"Not interested!" Dorme growled. "Besides, I told you, the one I like is Johnny," she winked at him.

Summer glared in Jonathan's direction. He got off his hover skate board and walked over to the other boy, examining him with critical eyes. He paused as a peculiar scent reached his nose and sniffed. "Custap berries... Your hair is so glossy and it smells like custap berries. Dorme, how can you fall for a guy with such girly hair!"

"That's not my fault!" Jonathan tried to argue. Dorme had gone all out with the hair protection spray and put more on his hair than even on hers.

"You should learn from him!" Dorme interjected. "Johnny's hair is always soft and pretty, but yours is a sandy mess!"

"I'm not wearing girly hair products of my own free will!" Jonathan insisted on pointing out.

"You don't really need them, you've always had pretty hair," Ashimi voiced.

"Yeah, I thought it was kind of unusual for a guy to have such shiny hair," Volt agreed.

"That's not my fault, it's just the way my hair is," Jonathan pouted.

"You should learn from him too," Dorme pointed at Volt. "Your hair is always so frizzy and full of static. It's such an awful pity to see such a handsome boy neglect his hair in such a terrible way." Volt wasn't sure if he should feel flattered to be called handsome or ashamed of the harsh criticism directed at his hair. "At least it will hopefully not get any worse in this heat, but it could certainly use some repair products. Johnny's hair looks so soft, it makes me want to pet him."

"I will not be defeated by soft hair!" Summer declared. "Johnny of the soft and shiny hair, I challenge you to a pokemon battle! You are authorized to call out one pokemon."

"Will everyone just stop talking about my hair already?" Jonathan snapped. "You're making me want to cut it all off!"

Dorme gasped, then grabbed Johnny by the shirt and glared at him with killing intent. "Ruin your hair and I will ruin your life."

"Kidding, I was only kidding!" Jonathan quickly tried to excuse himself.

Dorme let him go, "it wasn't funny," her voice was dead serious.

"Let's just get this over with," Jonathan reached for a pokeball but Dorme stopped him.

"Don't you dare! Put that pokeball away this instant!" Dorme yelled.

Jonathan did so with a confused look. "I thought you wanted me to battle him."

"I refuse to let my man fight my battles for me. Summer, if you're fighting for me, you'll fight me directly!" Dorme challenged.

"Your man?" Summer questioned, "so it's official, is it? You two are dating?" Jonathan opened his mouth to speak, but Summer didn't let him get a word in. "When I win this battle you have to break up with him and go out with me! Go Typhlosion!"

"I won't lose!" Dorme made a surprising choice as she called out her pokemon. "Go Oddish!"

"You're kidding me..." Summer watched in surprise as the little grass pokemon emerged from the red beam of her pokeball. The small grass type was wearing a rhinestone circlet on her leaves and doing a cute little dance. "I see, so that's how it is. I knew you liked me and you were just being shy. It's obvious you intend to throw the match and go out with me."

Dorme did not humor him with a reply and instead reached into her small bag. She pulled out a pair of metal knuckles and a headband with a metal plate on the forehead with an R engraved on it. "Two out of three. You might have won once in the past, but the next two battles are mine. Oddish, bury yourself in the sand and prepare a poison powder and stun spore attack!" The small Oddish disappeared under the hot sand of the summer arena.

"Typhlosion, dig up that weed so my lovely flower can finally be by my side. Eruption!" Summer went on the attack. Typhlosion disappeared beneath the sand and a few short moments later Oddish scrambled out to the surface, but wasn't fast enough to avoid the blast of fire that sent her flying through the air covered in flames. Oddish rolled around, desperately trying to put out the flames. Her leaves had been completely consumed by the fire. "That was easy," Summer laughed.

"Fool..." Dorme glared, yet her confidence didn't waver.

Typhlosion didn't escape without a scratch. The fierce fire pokemon was trembling as he tried to overcome his paralysis and his face was slightly purple with the shadow of poisoning. "What? How? Oddish never got the chance to jump out and attack!"

"Oddish attacked underground, leaving her powder and spores to mix with the sand, and Typhlosion suffered their effects without realizing it until it was too late!" Dorme explained.

"It doesn't matter," Summer was still certain of his victory. "Typhlosion can still fight, but look at your Oddish, she's bald!"

Dorme responded with a threatening glare that assured Summer's demise against all odds. "Oddish, your circlet, let it fall." The grass pokemon shook her head to rid herself of the ornament. Without her leaves to hold the circlet in place, it fell off easily. "I wasn't going to take any chances, so I used the trick I had been saving for an emergency. Sorry Ashimi, I had planned to use this in a battle with you, but something came up." Oddish's body glowed brightly as she became Gloom. She recovered from her injuries because of the power from the evolution that had been held back by the everstone on her circlet for so long. "Flood this entire desert with the deadly rage of the sun, solar beam!"

"Dodge it, Typhlosion!" There was nowhere to go. The solar beams kept coming rapidly one after the other. "Bury yourself in the sand!" It was the only defense Summer could think of against the massive attack.

"It won't work! Gloom, have no mercy!" Dorme commanded. When Gloom's amazing attack finally stopped, Typhlosion lay unconscious in a crater. Ashimi, Jonathan and Volt all cheered for Dorme and Gloom's victory. "Type disadvantage aside, I knew nothing could stand against such a massive attack. Gloom has been due to evolve for a long time, this is the force that's been piling up waiting for that evolution."

"You... You almost break my heart, Dorme, almost." Summer smiled. "Typhlosion return! I guess this means we're at a draw. Your Gloom is looking tired, but still about to battle. That means you have Gloom and one more pokemon left you can use for the final round. I only have one, but you've used up your evolution trick. The pokemon that will bring me victory will be-"

"Stop!" Dorme interrupted before Summer could call out his pokemon. "The final round is for you and me. I'll defeat you myself."

"You want to fight? As in not have a pokemon battle, but actually fight?" Summer stared in disbelief.

"I've already decided," Dorme recalled Gloom into her pokeball. "Well done, my friend. I'll turn you into a beautiful Bellossom as soon as we're back in HQ. I'll take it from here. Monty, I will fight you, if you fight back or not that's your problem, but I'll show you you can't compete with Johnny's beautiful hair!"

"I can't believe the real reason behind her crush is my hair..." Jonathan sighed.

"If I had nicer hair... Would she like me best?" Volt mused aloud, not entirely aware that he was actually speaking the thoughts.

"I thought you had a crush on Ashy," Jonathan voiced before he could give his words some proper thought and stop himself.

Volt's jaw dropped and face turned red. "What?! How in the world do you know about that? I thought I took care not to drop any hints because I wasn't even sure about it myself!"

"Sounds like you're even less sure now," Jonathan observed, there was no use in holding back his observation any longer.

"That's why I didn't say anything... I've kind of liked Ashimi since she beat me at the gym, but ever since the time Dorme tried to kill me at the pokemon center when you got kidnapped, I've been seeing her in a new light," Volt confessed. "It was too confusing, so I just decided to forget about it and focus on preparing for my battle with Electro."

"For what it's worth... I didn't notice," Ashimi admitted, though on second thought she wasn't sure if it was a consolation or all the opposite.

"Volt too? Ha ha ho ha ha! I'm simply irresistible to have three boys after me!" Dorme laughed.

"I don't recall Johnny officially joining the race," Volt whispered under his breath.

"What was that?" Dorme growled.

"Nothing!" Volt backed away. "This is too complicated."

"I know, that's some square we're in..." Jonathan agreed.

"A love square? It's a pentagon, don't forget to include me!" Summer protested.

"I'm too young for this..." Volt sighed.

"It feels like I'll be too young till I'm thirty," Jonathan agreed.

"I'd rather not deal with this until I'm fifty," Volt added.

"Don't listen to them, Ashimi," Dorme interjected. "By the time they're eighteen or nineteen, they won't be able to stop thinking about girls and then our rivalry will be settled."

Ashimi shrugged, "I don't care about having a boyfriend, I just want to battle."

Dorme sighed hopelessly, "boys are so immature, and Ashimi too because she's such a tomboy."

"Ehem, I'm interested in girls," Summer winked.

"I'm interested in a fight!" Dorme rushed forward and threw a punch.

Summer dodged quickly. "Woah! You're really serious!" Dorme continued on the attack while Summer only dodged. He grabbed both her hands by the wrists and held her arms still. "You really need to reconsider. I was in top of my class on the July training session with Thor!"

"Thor..." Dorme growled the name as if it were something terribly offensive. "Do not mention that man!" She remembered all her harsh training sessions with the Rocket general, all the endless hours under the hot sun. She had to apply expensive hair treatments every night to make sure her beautiful golden locks didn't end up as dry as straw. The memories filled Dorme with a rush of unbearable anger. Her knee crashed into Summer's abdomen and left him breathless. He stumbled back and lost his grip on her wrists. She didn't waste the opportunity to break free and punch him in the face.

Summer felt a trickle of blood trail down his jaw and wiped it off with his sleeve. His expression became serious. "No more games. If you want me to prove my strength, then you'll have to show me what you can do too." Summer retreated onto his hover skate board and pulled a cellphone-like device out of his pocket. At his command, three more hover boards emerged from the desert sands. "Follow me if you can!" More things continued to emerge from the sand, forming a structure of poles and hoops. The poles held small black flags with little red Rs. Summer took off full speed on his hover board. "Don't forget to get as many flags as you can."

"No matter what, I will win!" Dorme jumped on another of the hover boards, but found the device too difficult to control as she gained altitude. She fell off with a frustrated yelp, but quickly picked herself up and tried again. She finally started to make some slow progress, reaching out to take one of the flags unsteadily. She moved forward to the next target, slowly getting the hang of balancing herself on the board. "Let's go, we can't let him win!"

Ashimi, Jonathan and Volt each got onto one of the hover boards. Ashimi was slowly adapting to the extreme heat and doing better than before, but she was still unable to call upon her aura. She couldn't use her abilities to gain extra balance, but she found that it wasn't really needed after all. "This isn't so hard, it's kind of like surfing!" Ashimi took off to collect flags along with Dorme.

"Unfortunately not everyone's a natural at surfing," Volt tried to balance himself on the board. "All I really know how to do in the water is swim."

"Me too," Jonathan admitted as he too tried to get the hang of balancing himself in the board. "It's not easy, but this floating skate board is pretty cool." The two boys went off to collect flags as well.

The way the course was set up, the poles electrified the flags until the sensors on the nearby hoops detected that someone had crossed them. Three sensors would have to be activated consecutively to allow the flags on each pole to be safely picked up. As the hops' arrangement became more difficult, the task of retrieving the flags turned harder, then the number of hoops increased to five at a time and it was very hard to get through them within the short time limit. Finally, the metal poles and hoops sunk back into the sand, signaling that the challenge was over.

Up ahead there was a circle of wooden poles sticking out of the sand as if marking the area of the summer area's final battle arena. Yet the arrangements were different and it wouldn't be a pokemon battle that would be fought there. "For the final challenge you need at least ten flags or you fail." Summer was standing on top of one of the wooden poles, holding his hover board.

Dorme looked at the three flags she held. She wasn't planning to stop though, she was too eager to pound Summer. "It's a bit harder than surfing after all," Ashimi handed Dorme the four flags she had managed to obtain. Her look was distant and a little lost.

"Ashimi, you're still not feeling well. You have to really rest," Dorme spoke with concern.

"I'm... Okay..." Ashimi dizzily swayed on her feet.

"Ashy, you better sit down for a while," Jonathan insisted. "Sorry I couldn't get more," he gave Dorme two flags.

"Same here, didn't mean to disappoint, soldier," Volt gave her another two flags.

"This makes eleven flags! Thank you everyone!" Dorme cheered. "I have the flags, now accept my challenge!"

"I accept," Summer agreed. "But as per the rules, only those who gather ten flags can challenge me to the final round and those who obtain no flags will suffer a penalty!"

"I only need ten, Ashimi, take the extra one," Dorme handed the flag to the other girl. "Could you guys..."

"It's okay," Jonathan assured.

"You don't even need to ask. Whatever the penalty is, we can take it," Volt added.

"I want to take the challenge too," Ashimi pouted stubbornly.

"Not now princess, we might need your help later, you have to recover," Jonathan argued.

Ashimi sighed, she knew they were right. "Alright, I'll sit this one out."

"Then it's settled," Summer agreed. "The two of you will go into these glass capsules." He activated the mechanism to make two glass cylinders, large enough to hold one person each, emerge from under the sand. "You will stay inside until the battle ends. It gets really hot in there and if you pass out it's game over for the whole team. Of course, it's going to be game over anyway, because I'm going to win!" He made a small pause and touched his broken lip. "By the way, if this is going to be fair hand to hand combat, would you mind taking off the knuckles?" Dorme wordlessly removed them along with the headband.

Jonathan and Volt stepped into the glass casings and they closed. They tried to put on brave faces but it was evident by how they were sweating that the heat was extremely uncomfortable. Dorme knew she couldn't allow them to dehydrate any further, they were all already bad off from being in the heat for so long. "I'll admit you have a lot of balance, agility and coordination, and you can most likely punch a lot harder than me... But there's no way you can kick half as hard!" Dorme didn't wait for Summer to get down from the wooden pole, instead she kicked it hard enough to break it.

"Woah!" Acting fast, Summer made use of his hover board to get to safety as the pole crashed down. "This pole must have been about to break..." Another of the poles was kicked down and Summer hurried to get out of the way. "No way..."

"You think that knee in the gut earlier was serious?" Dorme smiled darkly. "I wasn't even trying." She dashed forward, the texture of the sand not slowing her steps. She threw a spinning high kick that Summer was unable to dodge.

Summer blocked at the last second, but the impact was still hard. "Ow..." He stumbled back in shock. His right arm, which he had folded over his left in the split second block hurt a lot. 'I think something's fractured, another kick like that and it'll be broken for sure. If I were anything less than a first class Rocket agent, she probably would have broken both my arms with that one kick. Her punch was only hard because of the knuckles, how can her legs be so strong?'

Dorme glance at Jonathan and Volt, they looked like they were having a hard time holding on to their consciousness. "I will not put my friends at risk. Give up or I swear I'll snap your neck like one of those wooden poles."

Suddenly a realization surfaced in Summer's mind. "It was you..." He opened up the glass capsules and Jonathan and Volt hurried out, gasping heavily.

"You're just giving up?" Dorme gave Summer a suspicious look.

"I can't win your heart if I'm dead," Summer reasoned. "I'll back off for now and maybe try to work on my hair."

The situation was all too convenient and something about it bothered Dorme. "What did you mean when you said it was you?"

"Last year I was in Thor's July training," Summer explained. "He was scolding us about being too weak, like he always does. He said, and I quote, 'I had a Rocket in my June training that could knock your empty heads off your pathetic shoulders in a single kick!' He ended up giving us extra training because we apparently didn't measure up. Being in the Rocket League is part strength and part show business for when we go public. The challenges will be similar to the training course, but easier and safer so a few civilians can actually win. Overall, being a skate board champion will help promote the Rocket League."

"Thor always warns the Rockets he trains that their scores are for themselves and rather than comparing them and deciding what is good enough, we should all assume we got the lowest mark and strive to be better," Summer continued. "No one dares to defy him, so people don't normally reveal their training score at the end of the month. When I became Summer, our league leader, Winter, told me not to get overconfident because I was at the top of my class in Thor's training and not to forget that I was still second overall in the summer training sessions. With her rank it's no wonder she has access to that data. That's when I realized that the Rocket Thor mentioned from the June session had to be the one with the top score for the summer trainings. I always assumed it was one of the older boys, but Thor never mentioned that person's name, age or gender. It's you, isn't it? You're the one with the killer kicks and you're not kidding when you say you could decapitate me if you wanted."

"Me?" Dorme looked at the wooden poles she had broken herself. "I've never actually tried to decapitate anyone. I mean I wanted to break your bones if I could, but I didn't want to actually kill you. Besides, your theory was probably right. That killer kicker has to be one of the older boys from my session, though my guess as to who it could be is as good as yours. There's no way Thor would speak highly of me of use me or an example to be followed. He hates me, he always gave me penalty trainings even if I didn't do anything wrong. Every time I hear his name I can still remember hitting sacks of sand for hours with weights strapped on every limb. That man is pure evil! ... No offense, Volt."

"None taken, he's like that's with me too," Volt admitted.

"I agree, he's just as cruel to those of us stuck with the January training," Jonathan complained. "I can't even fully enjoy the December holidays thinking about what awaits in January."

"I used to think like that too," Summer admitted. "But maybe the reason why Thor pushes you all so hard is because he knows you can take it."

"That's ridiculous!" Dorme huffed. "He does it because he's heartless and wants everyone to fail his training so he can feel superior."

Summer knew he wasn't going to convince Dorme or Jonathan otherwise. Volt looked doubtful as if he was considering Summer's logic but wasn't quite convinced. Ashimi was the only one who seemed to be open to the possibility of Thor not being so bad. Summer left the topic at that and gave Dorme a badge. "I present you with the Summer Rocket badge and my heart."

"I'll take the badge, thanks," Dorme looked at her prize. The badge was also shaped like a Rocket, but it was orange, and it had a little red R.

"Gloom is out of the competition, since you can only use each pokemon once, even if they don't faint," Summer reminded. "You'd best leave the summer area quickly before you dehydrate any further. I have a nasty fracture to take care of... Best of luck."

To be Continued

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Chapter 30: The Rocket League: Fall Back

Brown leaves crunched under their feet as Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt entered the fall section of the training course. "This is a problem, soldiers," Volt held up his empty water bottle. The bottles were small to begin with, as they needed to fit into the tiny bags they were provided with. "We drank all our water and we still have two areas to go through. We also ate all our food, which was only tiny rations to begin with."

"We didn't have a choice," Dorme pointed out. "We were all hungry and thirsty, plus you and Johnny were all dehydrated, we all were really. Ugh, what I wouldn't give for a shower right now. We're all so filthy with dirt, sand and sweat, it's disgusting."

Johnny looked at the skies. The area was encased in a dome that changed the weather and temperature within, but beyond the tall glass casing there was the sun. "Looks like the sun is about to set."

Ashimi's stomach grumbled. "We haven't had a proper meal since breakfast."

"I don't think we'll be able to eat properly until we finish this whole challenge, unless we fail and that's not an option!" Volt declared.

"Absolutely not an option," Dorme agreed. "I don't want to get stuck with the penalty training."

"None of us do," Jonathan voiced. He eyed Ashimi wearily, as if waiting for her to say that maybe it wouldn't be so bad. She did get as far as opening her mouth to speak, but the eyes of her three companions on her told her they didn't want to hear it, so she closed it again.

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Meanwhile, at the Viridian Rocket HQ, Pixel watched quietly as Comet examined the machine with curious doubt. They were underground in the laboratories, surrounded by grey metal walls. "Do you really think this will work?"

"I'm confident," Bastian assured. He was one of Team Rocket's greatest scientists despite his youth. He had grown up surrounded by research, since both his father, Ebastian, and grandfather Sebastian, were Rocket scientists. He had also studied under Binks' guide during his final years. "Essentially, by removing the natural limitations of human DNA, Dr. Binks hoped to create a human without those limitations, but other than being rather athletic, his creation wasn't any different from an ordinary human. Adaptable and strong, yes, but not to inhuman proportions. There was no threat to the body and no reason for it to change. That is until the natural aging process began and it was seen as a threat. Human limitations are meant to be overcome little by little as the body learns what to do with evolution. The removal of such limitations resulted in a rapid evolution the brain couldn't keep up with. In other words, if your brain can't figure out the new biology of your body, you'll go insane."

"But this won't be as simple as gathering some research documents and studying them," Comet noted.

"Of course," Bastian nodded. "We are able to breathe and process oxygen long before we know what a lung is or how the respiratory system works. Even if you study hard and learn every detail of your biology, your conscious mind won't have a say on involuntary reactions. That's why the regulatory processes of your new level of evolution need to be taught to your brain rather than your mind. They need to be engraved in your nature, instead of existing as memory data. That's what this is for, a machine made to teach pokemon certain types of special techniques that require more precision than an average technical machine. Many techniques can alternatively be taught by tutoring, but these are too complex to be learned by simply being stored in memories, they need to be connected to the unconscious instinct. I've prepared data based on the extensive tests you underwent. With this, your brain will no longer be confused as to what to do with your body. The present level of mutation will remain, but it will stop at that."

"I see..." Comet grinned, "let's do this." He stepped into the glass cylinder and became enclosed in it. He closed his eyes and waited.

Bastian typed a few things into the control panel attached to the machine. He could feel Pixel's eyes on the back of his head. Of course, no one actually felt people's stare. As a scientist, he observed that the feeling of being watched came from the data collected from the subtle changes in the atmosphere. A moving creature or object, however quiet, still displaced air molecules as it moved, still gave off energy, it still interacted with the world around it. It was enough to general sensory signals so subtle that they were easily missed and didn't not contain enough sensory data to be properly interpreted, yet that tiny signal was still there, that was the constant stare. She was very well adapted to her mechanical components, a very receptive subject to technology and to the slight genetic modifications needed to adapt to it. The scientist knew there was no room to make mistakes, if his theory failed, he would have to face her wrath. Now he knew how the scientists involved in the cyborg's upgrades felt. If anything ever failed for her, they would have to face Comet's wrath. Quite a unique pair those two.

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The light was becoming dim, though it was still possible to see clearly, albeit that would change as time went by. The landscape was already abundant in shades of orange, now more so with the passing of the evening over the territory. Volt held out a long twig he had picked up, testing the ground ahead of the group for any traps beneath the leaves.

Occasionally, a trap would snap the end of the shortening stick. Volt tossed the uselessly short stick aside and carefully picked up another one. He continued leading his companions in a single file. Another trap snatched the stick and pulled it up to dangle among the tree tops. Volt searched for another twig but didn't see any. Instead he carefully climbed a nearby tree and snapped off a thin branch. They're advance continued slowly, with the activation and fortunate evasion of several other traps, including sprays of poisonous gas, hidden knife-like thorns and pitfalls.

The group finally made it deep enough into the autumn forest to an area where wind currents burst from the ground at random intervals, pushing the leaves up to let them rain down again. Volt glanced at Ashimi questioningly, but she shook her head. She was doing better, but her aura senses had not fully recovered. At least she wasn't dizzy anymore, though they all suffered the discomfort of thirst and hunger. They were simply not allowed to bring sufficient supplies for the journey.

"You have arrived," a male voice was heard from the higher branches, sounding bored an uninterested. "I am Autumn."

"It took you a long time," a female voice added in a similar tone of bored indifference. "I am Fall."

Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt looked up at the source of the voices and saw a man and woman. They wore matching bored expressions on their matching faces. They were both rather thin and almost shapeless. "Which is which?" Ashimi whispered.

After a moment of silence, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt replied with a collective shrug. "It's easier to tell Celes and Rodes apart then those two," Volt admitted. "Though that might be because I'm their trainer."

"No, I agree, Celes and Rodes are easier to tell apart," Jonathan voiced.

The twins up in the trees both had bowl-cut brown hair and pale green eyes, their dull long faces lacking any marked traces of masculinity or femininity. "They're both twigs," Dorme shook her head.

"What are you muttering about?" Autumn inquired.

"The time has come for us to battle," Fall voiced.

"Are your pokemon trained well enough to make it through the maze?" Autumn jumped into a hole in the trunk of the tree he was on, followed by Fall.

Ashimi, Jonathan, Dorme and Volt hurried to follow after them. Volt shined a flash light into the hollow trunk before jumping in and signaling for his companions to follow. He insisted that they didn't all go down at once without further investigation in case it was a trap. Underground they found themselves in a tiny room connected to various pipes. "One of you is to step forward and place these tracker chip stickers on two of your pokemon." Autumn explained.

"You will be able to follow their movements through here," Fall pointed to a large screen on the wall. The images on them looked like Pacman mazes. "All that is spoken in this room will be heard throughout the maze. If you have at least one conscious pokemon at the end of the battle, you will pass this round."

"Leave this to me!" Volt jumped forward. "I'm good at strategy games and mazes, Celes, Rodes!" He called out his two Electrode and placed the tracking chips on them.

"Dodo and Didi, come forth," Autumn's summoning would have been much more dramatic if he didn't have such an expressionless face and the pokemon didn't have such silly names. A pair of Dedennes, male and female, appeared. It was also easier to tell them apart than it was Augusto and Fallina, alias Autumn and Fall. "Dodo, Didi, into the maze." The two Dedennes were represented by a red dot for Didi and a yellow one for Dodo. "You must enter from the opposite side. The maze is highly reinforced to withstand most attacks. Dodo go right, Didi go left."

"Celes, Rodes, let's win this!" Volt's two Electrode rolled into the maze. His pokemon were represented by blue and green dots. "Stick together!" Volt quickly scanned the map, taking mental notes of all the twists and turns. Dodo and Didi had taken separate routes while Celes and Rodes were close to each other. 'Celes and Rodes are about to corner that yellow dot, Dodo I think... Of all the silly names, that should be considered pokemon abuse.' "Celes, Rodes, attack Dodo!" 'Didi is too far to back him up, once they overpower him it'll be two against one, easy.'

A tunnel opened up and Dodo escaped through it. Celes and Rodes rushed through in pursuit. The maze began to shift with tunnels opening and closing until Didi came up from behind Celes and Rodes while Dodo was on the other side. "Didi, Dodo, thunder!"

The blue and green dots got closer to each other on the screen. "Celes, Rodes, stop! Don't crash into each other! Counter with a thunder of your own!" Despite fighting back, Celes and Rodes were still backing up against each other and Volt knew them well enough to know that they would likely explode at any moment. Was his only choice to let them and take the enemy down with him? "Ex-"

"No!" Ashimi interrupted, "don't forget what he said."

"One conscious pokemon... If they explode they'll faint, but this electric crossfire can't last for long." Volt glared at the screen.

"I think I just learned how to beat you in Battle Zone." Jonathan voiced seemingly out of the blue, though it was indeed closely linked to the current happenings. "You're so used to setting things up to be one step ahead that when someone throws off your strategy, all you can do is try to recover it and that makes you predictable. You'll have to play this a little more dynamically than a strategy game."

"Right! Like that ultra classic retro game with the yellow Kirby!" Dorme agreed. "It's not just a strategy game, it's a platformer!"

Jonathan looked almost offended and he felt the irresistible need to make a correction. "Pacman is not of the same species as Kirby, he's a Jigglypuff Munchlax fakemon, Kirby is a Jigglypuff Ditto fakemon and do you even know what platformer means?"

"It's a game with platforms, duh. The yellow dot hops and climbs through the maze," Dorme replied. "Why didn't they just make them into real pokemon anyway, it's hard to tell what they were based on if they're both dots."

"Back then every other character was Jigglypuff based because dots was all they had, it's called retro for a reason," Jonathan explained. "And Pacman doesn't climb and jump, he runs... or rolls. Those are not platforms, they're walls. It's a top view maze."

"No, it's not!" Dorme argued. "You can see Pacman's eye and the side of his mouth. It's obviously a profile view, we see through the forth wall, otherwise we would be seeing the top of his head. He's jumping from one platform to another, so it's a platformer."

While Dorme and Jonathan had their little argument, Volt tried to turn the battle around. "I'm... predictable?" Volt wasn't sure what to do, he was trapped and he wasn't used to being trapped. "Rollout!" He called out at last. "And please don't explode. Celes and Rodes rolled in opposite directions at Didi and Dodo. There was too much electricity from the battle and collision. Even if Volt couldn't see into the underground pipe maze directly, he knew Celes and Rodes were time bombs ready to explode. Fortunately, they managed to roll over their opponents and escaped in opposite directions through the tunnels. "Release some of that excess electricity with thunder!"

"Didi, Dodo, on the move," the maze began to shift randomly again. The two Dedennes showed no signs of slowing down and the Electrodes couldn't get a lock on their targets.

The layout of the maze didn't stop its metamorphosis, it changed so rapidly that Volt didn't have time to come up with a strategy and attempt to implement it. "At every turn, Celes, turn left, Rodes turn right." At least if they stayed on the move it would lessen their chances of being cornered. It seemed that they had regained enough control over their electricity not to explode without warning. "Celes go straight, Rodes, back up a little and make a left, thunder from both sides." Despite having to improvise the navigation, Volt found himself in a good position again.

"Dodo, discharge!" The mouse pokemon defended himself despite being cornered by the two Electrode on either side. That bought enough time for his companion to appear behind Rodes and attack. "Didi, thunder!"

"Rodes, get out of there!" Volt urged. His best chance was to rejoin Celes. "Retreat, roll out over Dodo!" Rodes obeyed and escaped the entrapment with some assistance from Celes. The Electrodes' movements were significantly slowing down.

"Dodo maintain pursuit, Didi take the make a right, go straight, then left." Autumn guided.

If Celes slowed down, Didi would emerge in front of her, and with Dodo behind the Electrodes they wouldn't be able to make it through. But if Celes rushed forward, Didi would emerge between her and Rodes. They could trap her, but then Rodes would also be trapped with Dodo on his other side. 'There's no way to get a full victory...' Volt thought in disappointment, he knew it wouldn't be long before one of the pokemon fainted, but who would go first? Would he risk it all in that or secure a victory that was far less flawless, but a victory nonetheless?

"What are you waiting for, Volt? You have this!" Ashimi cheered.

Volt finally decided. "Rodes, get closer to Didi, Celes, don't let her escape!"

"Dodo, follow him, both of you, knock out that Electrode now!" Autumn commanded.

"Celes, retreat! Rodes, explosion!" Rodes released his final attack reaching the two Dedennes left and right of him with great force. Vibrations traveled through the pipes as the force field embedded into them struggled to preserve the maze from the force of the hit. "Celes, finish them with thunder!" After Rodes' attack, not much else was needed to end the battle and the two Dedennes had no chance to recover. The red, yellow and green dots had disappeared from the maze' display.

"It seems you've managed to win this round," Autumn approached one of the pipes and held out his pokeballs. "Didi, Dodo, return." The mechanism within the pipes guided and amplified the red beams, allowing them to recall the fainted Dedennes.

"Celes, Rodes, return!" Volt did the same to recall his own pokemon. "You both did great. Sorry you had to do that, Rodes..."

"You can't expect to win a pokemon battle intact," Ashimi reminded. "But if it serves as a step to victory it'll make your pokemon stronger and you as a trainer will get stronger too. I think I really learned that with Wartortle and I'm sure Rodes understands."

Volt smiled, "yeah, I guess I was so focus on coming up with the perfect strategy and achieving an absolute victory, that I forgot how to improvise and take things step by step."

"It's vertical, just look at the display!" Dorme argued.

"That's just the screen, the real maze is over there and it's horizontal!" Jonathan argued.

"Video games don't come with a real underground maze, so the maze on the screen is the only maze!" Dorme insisted.

"That's a representation, it's retro, you're supposed to interpret it!" Jonathan argued.

Volt and Ashimi watched them go. "Thanks a lot for making it so much easier to concentrate," Volt sarcastically declared, but neither Dorme or Jonathan seemed to have heard him.

"The season of autumn is not over yet," Augusto interjected. "Let us return to the surface for the next round." He stepped into the pipe within the tree trunk and an anti-gravitational forced pushed him up. He was followed by his sister, Fallina.

Volt, Ashimi, Dorme and Jonathan followed them out as well. The atmosphere outside was an enchanting sight. The constantly falling leaves were glowing. They had looked like regular leaves, unlike in the underground forest at Viridian, but now that the sun had completely disappeared into the horizon, they glowed in the darkness in shades of orange and gold, providing a dim illumination to the autumn area.

Dorme and Jonathan had grown silent, pouting and refusing to even look at each other. "Isn't it pretty?" Ashimi tried to cut through the tension between them, but she felt like not even a Doublade could do that.

Dorme pouted and pulled Ashimi aside. "Johnny and I had a fight," she whined as if it were news to Ashimi.

"I know, I was there," Ashimi reminded.

"Pacman is too a platformer," Dorme pouted. Though Jonathan could still hear them, he simply pouted and refused to comment.

"Well, Johnny was the one who first taught me how to hold a controller when I was really little," Ashimi recalled. "I generally trust his knowledge in games, anime and especially comics. He has a collection that would turn any otaku green with envy and..." Ashimi noticed that Dorme was giving her a deadly glare. "But everyone is free to interpret games however they want to, and if in your imagination Pacman's maze is vertical that's okay..."

"I know, right?" Dorme huffed. "He did the same thing before when he insisted that vampires don't sparkle. He can be so stubborn some times. Is it a crime to like sparkly vampires?"

"That's just weird," Ashimi once again had Dorme's deadly glare on her. "But arguably not a crime, I guess."

"Arguably," Jonathan grumbled inaudibly. He decided to focus on Volt's battle and block out the girls' talk. Volt was calling him over for some reason, he hasn't been paying attention, so he went to see what that was about.

"Johnny gets stubborn about his mythology, but he's really knowledgeable about it, so it's kind of cool," Ashimi voiced. "He also goes all fanboy over certain types of vehicles like cars, helicopters, hover boards and other stuff that only translate into speed for me. I guess that's a part of who he is."

"I've always known he's no snob despite his gorgeous hair and handsome smile, and I'm glad for that, cute guys are rarely also nice. I guess sometimes I forget his little oddities. He doesn't get stubborn often, but when he does he doesn't budge," Dorme replied.

"Yeah," Ashimi laughed. "He's pretty fierce when something manages to trigger his temper."

Dorme rolled her eyes, "you laugh like it's a good thing..."

"What? Aren't you going to say something like," Ashimi tried to make an impression of Dorme, "his geeky moments are so charming!"

"Actually I would prefer if he takes things in a carefree way and just goes with whatever fits the situation instead of stubbornly defending his interpretation of canon. The geeky angle is cute, but sometimes he lets it run rampant."

"I thought you'd say it's fun, liking a fantasy world so much and figuring out how to make it real." Ashimi smiled. "I wouldn't have come up with the idea of turning Team Rocket into a kingdom if not for his princess nickname. It won't be easy, but it would be so awesome. Do you think I'm naive for thinking it's possible?"

Dorme shook her head and smiled. "I'm sure that in his youth plenty of people told Giovanni he was crazy to think he could take over the world, and look at Team Rocket now."

While Dorme and Ashimi had their talk, Autumn had called out his next pokemon, Galvantula. "This will be a team battle," he explained. "I want a rematch with you, boy, so you must battle again."

Fall released a Noctowl from her pokeball. "Choose your teammate."

"Johnny, you're the only one who looks like you could get your head in the game right now," Volt eyed Dorme and Ashimi wearily as their chatter progressed. He knew they were talking about Johnny's pet peeves and habits, and failed to see how it could be such a fascinating topic. Jonathan may have more game knowledge in general, but Volt could still beat him at strategy games and RPGs. Albeit Volt would probably be at a disadvantage if they competed at a platformer, by the standard accepted definition of platformer, rather than Dorme's own version.

"Right, what do you need?" Jonathan tried to focus on the task at hand.

"A battle partner," Volt replied. "It's Galvantula and Noctowl versus our pokemon, and I choose Raichu!"

"I choose Jolteon!" Jonathan's Jolteon appeared and greeted Raichu. He seemed happy to see her.

"Looks like they've become close friends, good, it's better this way for the team work. Let's starts strong, thunder!" Volt went on the attack with Raichu.

"You too Jolteon, thunder!" Jonathan joined in.

Noctowl took to the skies among the leaves while Galvantula rapidly climbed a tree, using its trunk as a shield. "Climb high," Autumn commanded.

"Into the sky," added Fall. Noctowl quickly flew up in a random pattern, dodging the electric attacks with great speed. "Sky attack!"

"Jolteon, knock down that Noctowl before she has the chance to a attack, thunderbolt! " Jonathan urged. Jolteon continuously shot her electricity, but was unable to hit the target high up hidden among the leaves and branches, the dim illumination didn't help either.

"Raichu, don't let Galvantula escape!" Volt had sent out his pokemon on the attack as well. Raichu climbed up the tree chasing after Galvantula.

"Spider web!" Autumn saw an opportunity and took it. From the branches above, Galvantula shot the strings of web at the climbing Raichu.

"Raichu, don't let that web hit you!" It was too late, there wasn't much the target could do to dodge the attack. "Raichu!" Volt hurried around the tree to its other side, from where he heard Raichu fall with a thud. Yet he knew that he couldn't interfere with the battle.

"Jolteon!" Before Jonathan even had a chance to finish his sentence, Jolteon was already running towards Raichu. "Look out behind you!" Just as she was about to reach him, Noctowl dove from the skies and crashed into her, sending her to crash against another tree several feet away. Just as quickly as she came, Noctowl gained altitude again.

"C'mon Raichu, free yourself!" Volt tried to cheer him on as the pokemon struggled to escape the sticky web wrapped around him. With a final burst of electricity, he finally broke free.

"Jolteon, are you okay?" Jonathan ran to her.

"Jolt, jolt!" Her fur stood on end like electrified needles. She was a bit sore from the hit, but her temper seemed to overwrite that. "Jolteon!" She growled threateningly.

"We need to get to do something about their vertical advantage, soldiers," Volt looked up at the branches above and saw something moving between the leaves. "Incoming, it's Noctowl, thunder!"

Both Raichu and Jolteon tried to knock Noctowl down and got a hit in. The bird crashed into the ground and struggled to get back in the air. "Don't let her escape!" Jonathan urged, "use another thunder attack!"

Raichu and Jolteon went on the attack, but at the last second, Noctowl moved fast and flapped her wings to release a toxic wind. The attacks of the two electric pokemon reached the owl, who was knocked out. Yet that victory came at a price, as Raichu and Jolteon were poisoned. A thick net made of spider webs fell from the tree tops, entrapping them both.

"You have served your purpose, Noctowl, return," Fall recalled the fainted pokemon.

"You used Noctowl as bait, as a sacrifice!" Volt glared.

"Just as you did with your pokemon," Fall dully replied.

"That's a lie!" Volt argued, "I had no choice, I knew it was the only way and my pokemon understand that. You still had options!"

"Irrelevant," Fall disregarded.

"Electroweb," Autumn commanded. The spider web around Jolteon and Raichu became electrified, making their entrapment more painful... or so it appeared.

"Jolteon... Try to keep going, this is no time to give up and cry, you can recover!" Jonathan tried to cheer her up.

"Jolt... Jolt!" Jolteon seemed to be without consolation and began to cry loudly, shocking the acrobat siblings. She followed up with a deafening screech with hyper voice.

"Does Jolteon have some kind of personality disorder or something?" Volt whispered to Jonathan.

"Nah, she's just a really good actress," Jonathan quietly replied.

"Oh..." The realization finally hit Volt, Jolteon was using fake tears as a distraction. That meant that they were planning something. "Raichu, see if you can comfort Jolteon, I'm sure you have a thing or two to say about how mean they've been to her."

"Rai? Chu!" Raichu was taken by surprise and wasn't sure what to say to Jolteon. He managed to move in front of her within the net and seemed to be scolding the opposing trainers for the trouble they and their pokemon caused Jolteon. His voice was loud and echoing, commanding their attention.

The acrobat twins had matching annoyed expressions as their eyes began to twitch. "Galvantula, make those cry-babies shut up!" Autumn impatiently ordered. "Overpowering them with their own element would take too long, get down and use giga drain, make it fast!" Galvantula got down from the tree and prepared to go on the attack.

"Dig!" Volt and Jonathan called out in unison. Raichu and Jolteon disappeared beneath the leaf covered ground and reemergence left and right of Galvantula. He was shocked to see his opponents' poisoning gone; it was because of Jolteon's heal bell that was covered up by Raichu's distraction.

"Iron tail!" Jolteon went on the attack, not allowing Galvantula the chance to retreat.

"Focus blast!" Before Galvantula could recover from Jolteon's attack, Raichu went all out to deliver the finishing blow. Galvantula finally fainted, signifying the end of the battle.

Raichu went over to Jolteon to see if she was okay. She rolled her eyes and replied to his concern with a sarcastic tone that left him in shock. "I don't think Raichu realized Jolteon was acting back there," Jonathan quietly observed.

Volt sighed, "Raichu, what am I going to do with you?"

"The battle is over, deception or not, pokemon battles are as much physical as strategic, thus I will acknowledge this victory." Autumn gave Volt a yellow Rocket shaped badge with a little red R. Ashimi and Dorme had taken to watching the battle as it progressed and joined the others in congratulations.

"Even if you've obtain the badge, you cannot leave this season yet. To be granted access to the final season of the year you need to go through me," Fall informed in her monotone voice. "You there!" She pointed at Ashimi. "I haven't seen you do much, so I choose you for the final match of the season. Win and you can move on to the winter territory, lose and your journey ends here. First we must make sure you fulfill the requirements so that you're not a waste of time to Winter."

"As Rockets you must be prepared, should you find yourselves in the need to escape, do you have a pokemon ready to do so?" Autumn asked. "What pokemon will you use to fly? You need just enough to carry you all, though more than one can ride on each."

Thankfully, they all had a pokemon that they could ride on: Chari, Fearow, Pidgeot and Magnezone respectively. "Acceptable," Fall approved after they had each informed her of their pokemon. "Now we will give you a random requirement."

Both Fall and Autumn made a series of fast hand movements like magicians and soon they were holding several cards. "Choose a card, any card," Autumn explained. "You must battle with a pokemon that fulfills the condition. If you are unwilling or unable, you may choose another card, but for each discarded card you must pay a penalty, a time-out of one hour standing here."

The penalty sounded simple, but at that point exhaustion and hunger had settled in and standing around for one hour was a harsher punishment than it sounded, plus they had to finish the four seasons in twenty-four hours. Ashimi picked a card and flipped it around to read it. "Able to breathe under water, my Wartortle can do that."

"Have you have chosen your pokemon?" Fall confirmed.

"Yes," Ashimi confidently replied.

"Then we shall battle," Fall voiced. She and Autumn turned the rest of the cards around to show phrases such as 'immune to poison,' 'covered in scales,' 'native of Kanto,' and a variety of other random requirements.

"Wartortle, I choose you!" Ashimi released the rare turtle pokemon from his pokeball.

"Go Staraptor!" Fall released her pokemon, aiming the red beam upward. The large bird materialized and flew up among the leaves, disappearing from sight. Fall climbed up a nearby tree.

"I will go witness the battle, you may do so as well if you wish," Autumn spoke in his eternally bored tone that matched his sister's. He too hurried up another tall tree.

Ashimi looked up as she heard Fall's voice from above, "aerial ace!"

Staraptor swooped down with great speed. "Watch out!" Wartortle dropped and retreated into his shell until Staraptor disappeared into the sky again. Wartortle extended his head, tails and limbs out of his shell again, unharmed. "We need to get up there, start climbing and have your water ready." Wartortle started to slowly climb up the tree trunk.

"Brave bird!" Staraptor refused to let him get too high up, the fierce bird dove on the attack.

"Withdraw!" Ashimi called out. "And fly like a rocket with hydro pump!" Wartortle retreated into his shell and shot out his hydro pump. Staraptor changed course at the last second and dodged the hydro pump, instead colliding with Wartortle's shell. Though the shell was tough enough to withstand that and more, Wartortle's course had shifted towards the ground. "Hydro pump, get upright!" Wartortle managed to right himself and prevent a collision with the ground, softening the landing. "They're not coming down here and they're not letting us get up there, we'll have to change that."

"Let's start by making the skies less friendly, rain dance!" The clouds in the dark skies above responded to Wartortle and rain began to pour. The artificial wind that sent the leaves flying continuously also sent drops of water in every direction.

"Steel wing!" Staraptor dove towards Wartortle again, wings covered in a shiny metal texture.

"Withdraw!" Wartortle evaded the attack by retreating into his shell, shielding himself from the force of the attack despite Staraptor's superior speed that would make dodging a futile effort. "Hydro pump!" Wartortle countered when Staraptor was close. With great agility and speed, Staraptor retreated to his virtually unreachable altitude leaving a trail of feathers behind from the force of the water attack, though it wasn't a full direct hit. "Hail!" Fragments of ice began to fall, mixed with the rain. The wind threw them in every direction, but Wartortle's strong shell protected him, the rare green shield withstanding the harsh conditions.

"Let us end this, giga impact!" Despite the rain, the hail and the wind, Staraptor charged with all his strength.

"Withdraw and hydro pump don't stop!" Wartortle retreated into the protection of his shell and shot out a hydro pump from within. Staraptor didn't slow down, colliding into the beam of water he charged through it and crashed into Wartortle. Staraptor fell from the effort and a few feet from him lay Wartortle. The force of the blow had made his limbs extend out of his shell again. The two pokemon lay motionless.

"A draw is still a loss," Fall decided.

"Not yet!" Wartortle's eyes opened and he pushed himself to his feet. He took a few steps and stood over Staraptor in a battle stance, but the bird did not get up. With Ashimi as the victor, the group celebrated having gotten through the third seasonal arena.

"It seems you won after all, return Staraptor," Fall conceded. "Winter doesn't like weak challengers, so this extra step was necessary. We had to make sure you truly get this far and merits and not... luck."

"Just one question," Dorme spoke up curiously. "Aren't you two performers?"

"They doubt our capabilities," Autumn assumed.

"Let us give them a demonstration," Fall suggested.

The acrobatic siblings bent backwards in perfect unison, hands and feet flat on the ground. They flipped continuously, then cart-wheeled around and jumped. Autumn stood upright and caught Fall's feet to propel her up to a tree branch. She grabbed it and spun as if it were a gymnastics bar. When she gained enough speed, Autumn grabbed her feet then let go at the right angled to be thrown up to grab hold of an upper branch. They repeated the process as the rain and hail subsided, though the wind still tossed the wet leaves around. The interference didn't bother them as they twisted and jumped from tree to tree, showing off their abilities in perfect synchronization. With their acrobatics done, they finished with flawless simultaneous landings in front of the clapping audience.

"That was amazing, but I only meant to ask why you didn't smile," Dorme clarified.

The siblings looked at each other and Autumn replied, "we were instructed not to smile at the audience."

"Try," Jonathan suggested and immediately regretted it. The twins' long thin faces wore matching creepy crooked grins that looked like something out of a horror film.

"Serious suits you best," Volt quickly insisted. The twins' faces turned expressionless again.

To be Continued

xoxox xox xoxox


Chapter 28: Yes, I made a joke about -that- meme. Wailord x Skitty lol XD The flashback with Ash and Giovanni takes place during Don't Give Me Diamonds.

Chapter 29: Dorme's Rocket headband is based on Naruto.

Chapter 30: If all the classic games were invented within the Pokemon universe, they would have to be influenced by pokemon. XD Snivy is looking even more like Yoshi now.

xoxox xox xoxox


Spring has green hair to represent the greenery of the season and yellow eyes to represent the sun. He is a runner, partially based on the runner from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The theme of speed is based on his seasons name, since spring is sometimes used to refer to fast jumps or running. The line of blue spikes follows the topic of speed representing Sonic. He is a grass type trainer based on the color green being associated with spring.

Solan, known in Team Rocket as Spring, was born in Unova. His first pokemon was Snivy. He helped an injured Absol at the Giant Chasm, who later gave his life to protect him. Since then he has been able to sense coming disasters, though it is not limited to natural disasters. He gives out the Spring Rocket badge, a green Rocket shaped badge with a red R. He is 19 years old and a very fast runner. He briefly began a professional athletic career, but he won his races with ease and quickly became bored. He initially joined Team Rocket for the challenge of their obstacle course races.

Mont Blanc aka Summer is seventeen years old, has tan skin, dark blond hair and red eyes. He is a champion at skate board and hover board events. He has an unrequited crush on Dorme. He is named after the moogle from the Final Fantasy Ivalice Alliance. He can be cocky most of the time, but ultimately knows when he's in over his head. He's one of the few young Rockets who respects Thor out of fear and admiration, rather than fear alone.

Augusto and Fallina, aka Autumn and Fall, are twenty year old twins who look a lot alike despite obviously not being identical twins. They have bowl cut brown hair, pale green eyes, a light physique, great balance and flexibility. They are skilled acrobats and contortionists. Augusto specializes in electric pokemon, while Fallina specializes in flying types. They were found in a circus and invited to join Team Rocket. Augusto and Fallina were partially inspired by Desna and Eska from Legend of Korra.
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