Chapter 1: Two Days
“I had better be hearing nothing but good news from you. It’s been months and you haven’t sent anything to headquarters.”
Yuki gripped the telephone cord and twirled it around her hand a bit, reminding her of exactly how her insides felt in that instant. She looked around, trying to figure out a way to properly word her report to her Boss, watching her Drifblim, Ticker, float around a bit and becoming a bit of a distraction.
“Er…sorry…I…uh…what if I don’t have good news?” She asked, snapping back to reality.
“Then I hope you have other employment plans.”
Yuki felt her insides twist even more and could have sworn her heart sank down to where her liver was meant to be. She couldn’t afford to lose her job. Not now. Not ever!
She was a member of the infamous Rocket Gang. She had been a loyal member for 7 years, and although she was still at Grunt Ranking, she was still considered somewhat valuable. She normally turned in a lovely bounty of stolen Pokemon every month, or even captured very powerful wild ones. Of course, she wasn’t perfect. Especially not now. Ever since she’d set foot in the Sinnoh region, she’d gotten nothing for the Boss to even consider an attempt with her work. Every plan had gone horribly wrong by a stroke of bad luck and inconvenience.
“Well…the truth is, the heist went badly,” She admitted. “But I do have a very good excuse for why it went wrong! Please give me a chance here!” There was a long pause from the other end. She prayed her Boss was considering letting her talk, rather than putting her on hold to terminate her employment.
“Enlighten me,” He finally said. Yuki felt her insides return to their former shape. “What excuse could you possibly have for me this time?” Yuki dug into her pocket and dug out more coins for the payphone. She knew this would be a long talk.
It was the early hours of the morning. The sun wasn’t even peeking over the horizon just yet. Everyone was asleep, including the staff and Pokemon of the Floraoma Town Pokemon Center. Yuki had been planning this heist for over a week and couldn’t see a single flaw in the plans. A Pokemon Contest had just come and gone, ensuring there would be plenty of Pokemon resting in their Pokeballs in the building. She’d entered herself, leaving with only a participation ribbon. No one liked the looks of a scary Dusknoir, no matter how well the attacks were coordinated.
“Just shove a pretty little Skitty or an energetic Buneary out there and the crowd goes nuts!” She ranted to herself, picking up a Pokeball off a shelf and dropping it into a bag. “Or how about a cute little Eevee? Even a Magby outdid me. That thing was ugly! No one appreciates the beauty of Ghost Pokemon anymore. They just want something cute and fluffy and…I’m getting sick thinking about it!” Yuki picked up another Pokeball and put it in the bag.
Yuki was well known amongst the Team Rocket Grunts as a Ghost Trainer with a hot temper, especially if people insulted her partners. Being born and raised in Lavender Town had given her plenty of knowledge over the type, fearlessness over their mischievous antics, and a different perspective of their appearance than most people. Not everyone could see them in the same light as her, and she wouldn’t accept that.
Ten Pokeballs in the bag before she paused, making sure no one was already waking up and wandering around. After being in the clear, she picked up another ball from the shelf. If this were any heist job in Kanto, the authorities at the contest would have known right away she would be up to no good. She wore a relatively typical Grunt Uniform, being entirely black. The only thing she was missing were her gloves. Also, instead of a big red R on the front shirt, she wore a blood red scarf around her neck with a black R on either end. Instead of a hat like other Grunts wore, in a poor effort to protect their identity, she wore a white headband with a triangular cloth on the forehead. It was an effort to warn people ahead of time that she was a Ghost Trainer.
It wasn’t always a helpful accessory though. Many superstitious old fools thought the headband meant she was a ghost herself and would attempt silly rituals to send her back to the depths of hell or the spirit world. It all depended on if they were hostile towards spirits, or friendly. They were annoying to her just the same.
Thirty Pokeballs off the shelf and into the bag. It was halfway full already. She glanced around and listened again. She could already see a hint of daylight from one of the windows, telling her to get a move on and finish up her work. She glared at one of the Pokeballs just before she bagged it. If she could see which contained truly amazing Pokemon, rather than something possibly freshly caught from the surrounding forest area, it would make her job much easier.
Forty Pokeballs stolen.
“I’ll be lucky enough just to get my paycheck from the Boss this time,” She sighed, pausing a moment to rub her temples. The topic of the Boss was very painful to her. Most Grunts feared him. Even Admins feared him. The very idea of disappointing him made them want to flee home to their mothers. Almost everyone especially feared how crazy some of his plans for the higher ranks were. Yuki was no exception to this fear. Giovanni was the only human being she feared in the world. At the same time, he was the only man she considered to be as insane as a Spinda.
Seven years in the Rocket Gang, and still a Grunt. Most Grunts either left or were promoted within their first year or two. Yuki was stuck at the bottom because of one particular dispute with Giovanni the day she was meant to be promoted. Rumors had been spreading of a Pokemon by the name of Raikou being sighted in a particular forest area. Before the rumors started, Yuki’s promotion task was to capture a different Pokemon. A very aggressive Rhydon that had been causing mountaineers problems, and had potential to be a valuable tool for the Rocket Gang. Once the rumors had spread, however, Yuki’s task had been changed.
“I should have kept my big mouth shut,” She growled, tugging at her hair a bit before continuing to bag the Pokeballs. No grunt in their right mind would question orders from the Boss. Especially not to his face. Not when a promotion, and probably their job was on the line. Yuki had argued against the idea of hunting down the rumored Raikou. She’d gone on about they would be wasting valuable resources on a silly rumor with no proof of being real. She even had the gull to claim no one, not even the Rockets, should attempt to gain control over such a being with legendary power.
Yuki bagged the fiftieth Pokeball, no longer pausing to check for waking staff and trainers, nor checking the time.
“If I had just taken the job, I would be an Admin by now,” She growled. She shivered, nearly dropping the bag. The look on Giovanni’s face back then had been enough to scare the living daylights out of her. And being raised in a town well known for its Ghost Pokemon population, that was a difficult task. To that very day she considered herself lucky to have kept her job at all. Giovanni’s punishment to her was to keep her at the Grunt Level until she truly proved she was loyal to him and respected him.
The dispute had been much more colorful than that, but she didn’t wish to recall the details. She couldn’t be taken very seriously afterwards. Not by her fellow colleagues, and especially not by and members of higher ranks. For years, she’d continued her normal Grunt work. Steal some Pokemon; send them in. Steal more Pokemon; send them in. Steal more Pokemon, get caught, report the bad news after nearly killing herself in the escape, and get yelled at. Then the cycle would repeat itself.
Her success to failure ratio was better than most, but the Boss didn’t care. Sometimes she wondered if she was being kept at the Grunt Level on purpose just because of that one argument. She could have very well quit, but with her temper and partners of choice, it was hard to find work anywhere. She was cornered.
She noticed only then that she had filled the bag up entirely, leaving little room to close it. She stretched the fabric a bit and managed to twist it shut, not having enough space for a proper knot.
She glanced towards a nearby window and saw the sky quickly transitioning from a navy blue to a soft pink. She took every step from the storage room to the front door very slowly and carefully. The bag was slung over her shoulders and resting on her back, already proving to be heavier than she’d anticipated.
“Bit off more than I can chew,” She muttered, considering leaving about ten or twenty behind. She was in too deep already. All she had to do was leave the town, hide for a while, then journey to the next town and find a transporter machine to send every last Pokeball to headquarters.
Although the plan seemed simple enough, there was always bound to be a snag somewhere. She looked out the windows for any people before pushing against the door for her leave. She could hear nothing but her pounding heart. After months of failing, she was finally going to get a heist completed.
Yuki only made it a few feet away from the Pokemon Center doors before it happened. She stumbled forward as something hit her in the back of her head with amazing force! Being as full as it was, the bag of stolen Pokeballs opened up and spilled a large amount of its contents all over the ground. Yuki’s head whipped back up towards the sky, seeing a Murkrow flying overhead. It flew away a large distance before circling back, a sinister smirk on its beak and a mischievous look in his eyes.
Yuki knew this Murkrow well. She wished time and time again that he would just leave her alone, but her wish was never granted. Murkrow were well known to be cruel to travelers by getting them hopelessly lost, stealing their food, or pulling a prank on them. This one was just evil to Yuki. Whenever he caught up to her, he’d take the opportunity to make her life a living hell one way or another.
The last time they’d met was in the sky several miles from the town, when she was using her Drifblim for transportation on a windy day. After that encounter, she constantly questioned why she used a temperamental Pokemon for flight. The bird only had to poke and peck Ticker a few short times before trying to get rid of the bird in the most lethal way: an explosion. The signs of such behavior were easy to identify, even for Yuki, when she was dangling by his arms. If it hadn’t been for the lake below, she would have very well shattered a few bones in her legs or hips. She wasn’t so fond of flying after that, but she had no choice most of the time.
“I don’t have time to play with you!” Yuki spat, trying to collect the Pokeballs into the bag. The Murkrow took her words more or less as an invitation. He swooped down beak first, narrowly missing her as she sprawled to the ground, only making the Pokeball mess much worse! “Go away! You can make my life miserable later!”
The Murkrow landed on the roof of the Pokemon center and ruffled up his feathers a bit. He watched as Yuki scrambled to collect her loot again, dropping one or two from time to time in her rush. The dawning light was flooding through the town now, already waking up the flowers, and soon it would be the people waking up. She struggled once more with closing the bag, stretching the material in order to at least twist it shut before slinging it over her shoulder.
She considered summoning Ticker to make the getaway easier, but wasn’t so sure where was enough of a breeze to carry them away with such a heavy bounty in tow. Her Mismagius, Yurei, was out of the question too, being much too small for transportation purposes. Just as she was considering her prized Pokemon for her final option, the sound of flapping wings alerted her. She turned around, expecting to see the Murkrow coming at her again, but instead it was just climbing higher into the sky. Yuki didn’t even get a moment to think she was getting a break before the horrible sound of screeching and squawking filled the air.
She wanted to cover her ears badly, but with her hands full, she had to endure it. She started to the edge of town. With the Murkrow being as loud as he was, it was only a matter of time before she’d be found out. She wanted to reach down and pull out her Pokemon, but she had to keep both hands on the bag at this point. It was too heavy for one arm, and she’d risked dropping it and letting it spill all over the place again.
The squawking stopped, but she didn’t. Her mind was set to getting out of there as fast as she could. She felt herself suddenly pushed to the ground, and the bag opened up again, spilling the Pokeballs all over the place. She didn’t even have to guess twice that the perpetrator was the Murkrow. Again she scrambled up and tried to recollect the stolen Pokeballs.
“Third time’s a charm,” She muttered, glancing up every so often to keep her eye on the bird Pokemon. This time it was flying away, apparently bored with Yuki since all she was doing was falling instead of reacting to him. She heard someone screaming at her from the Pokemon center. The bag wasn’t even halfway full again, but she had to book it anyways.
“At least it’s something!” She told herself over and over, trying to not give into temptation and go back to collect just a few more Pokeballs. “Something is better than nothing. At least you have proof you tried!” She continued to run, even when she’d passed the town gates. With the staff of the Pokemon Center aware of her theft, it was only a matter of time before the cops would be on her tail.
If there was any time better to be proven wrong, it would have been then. It wasn’t long before she could hear the faint bark of a Growlithe and the roar of a motorcycle behind her. With her loot halved in weight, she was able to pull out a Pokeball, releasing Ticker, her only means of escape.
“Use Gust to get us outta here!” She cried, still running even as she grabbed onto two of his four arms. He lifted the two free arms a moment, then lowered them quickly, kicking up a powerful gust of wind, just enough to get them off the ground. “Again! We need to get higher!” Yuki cried, holding onto both Ticker and her loot for dear life. Even as they were climbing higher and higher into the sky, it was clear that Officer Jenny and her companion weren’t giving up anytime soon.
A few yards up into the sky and they were still in danger of being caught. Ticker was already becoming tired from the excess weight, and there was no natural winds to help him with the getaway. Yuki looked around desperately for some means of escape. “Keep going east!” She commanded. Not far east was a river much too wide for either Jenny or Growlithe to cross, even if there was a ramp for the motorcycle on one side. Ticker raised his two arms again, then lowered them to keep them going.
Jenny was aware of the river ahead, already slowing down. “You have one shot, Growlithe. Make it count!” The police dog paused and positioned itself carefully, its eyes locked onto Ticker.
“Higher! Higher!!” Yuki screamed, her legs flailing a bit in a futile attempt to help with their altitude. Just as Ticker raised his hands, the Growlithe opened its mouth and launched a stream of fire in their direction. Ticker lowered his hands again, climbing up just a few short feet, and turning Yuki into the primary target of the fire blast! She cried out and dropped the bag of Pokeballs, clinging to Ticker for dear life.
She waited, expecting indescribable pain to wash over her body. Nothing happened. She just felt a soft breeze. She opened her eyes, dazed over the fact that she was perfectly unharmed. It took her a few seconds to realize what had happened. When she’d dropped her loot, Ticker was able to climb even higher into the sky without the extra weight anchoring him down.
Yuki could only watch as Officer Jenny and Growlithe collected the Pokeballs down below. Ticker crossed over the river just fine, but that was besides the point. The heist had failed horribly, and she had nothing to show for it. Escaping from arrest was almost meaningless. She hadn’t salvaged a single Pokeball. She hung her head low a bit, groaning in misery and disgust.
“The Boss is going to kill me!”
“As you can see sir, I’m very lucky to even be alive,” Yuki finished. Giovanni had been very quiet during her story, which worried her sick. She only knew he hadn’t hung up because there was no disconnection tone just yet. Ticker continued to hover around her, unaware of the severity of the situation with his master. He was just happy to have made it away without being burned up. If ignorance was bliss, this Pokemon had plenty of it.
“Boss? Are you still there?” Yuki asked, inserting her last coin into the payphone slot, just in case. There was still silence. She could only imagine the annoyed look on his face. He was probably rubbing his temples as she waited for him to speak.
“Because your tale amuses me so much,” He spoke up, startling her, “I am going to give you until the very end of this month. If you do not send me something of value, be it one Pokemon or a hundred, I am terminating your employment.” Yuki was about to heave a sigh and thank Giovanni for his generosity before an important fact hit her.
“The end of the--THAT’S IN TWO DAYS!” she cried. If she hadn’t spent so much time to find a payphone to report the incident, she would have still technically had three. It was already late in the afternoon.
“I don’t care! You’re slipping! I cannot have incompetent fools like you mucking everything up,” he snapped. He raised his voice a bit, forcing Yuki to hold the phone out a few inches from her ear. “The excuse is always the same. If this Murkrow is as mischievous as you say, why don’t you just capture it and send it to me? If you’d done this years ago, you would have less problems now, wouldn’t you?” He raised his voice more, and Yuki held the phone out at arm’s length.
“While your excuses are entertaining, I have no time for childish antics and games any longer! I have plenty of young interns who perform better than you do with their job!”
“But Boss, I’ve--”
“NO EXCUSES! You send me something by the end of the month, or you find a place in the unemployment line!” There was a loud click as the call was disconnected. Yuki stared at it for some time, her mouth open in pure shock. She pulled the phone out by the cord and tossed it away, screaming in frustration.
“I’ve been perfectly loyal to that lunatic!” She cried out to no one in particular. “I don’t even take vacation time anymore! He overlooks everything I’ve done for him over a few minor failures?” She had been a part of schemes and heists in the past with other members of the Gang that were all at a higher rank than her. While some of them had been a grand success, there had been some that were a total failure. She and the other Grunts would always get yelled at, while the people in charge always got a free pass.
“I swear I’ll never understand how that man works!” She kicked at the phone booth, leaving a tiny dent in the metal, and a jolt of pain in her foot.
“Blim?” Ticker hovered up to her and rested two of his hands upon her head and left shoulder to make sure she was alright.
“We have two days to make an important delivery to the Boss,” She growled, not taking his concern into consideration. “We can’t try that town again. They’ve probably got guards all over the place now.” She turned around and faced Ticker with a determined look in her eye. “Get ready for a long night, Tick, cause we have to get to another major city by morning for this to all work out! Either one rare Pokemon, or a hundred common ones. If we don’t impress the Boss somehow, we’re screwed!”
Ticker appeared to nod, even though his body type technically didn’t allow such movements without a neck of some sort. He hovered over her and wrapped two of his arms around hers. With one mighty flap of his free arms, the two were airborne again. Yuki had no idea which direction to go, other than to avoid the one they’d come from. She hoped the winds would blow in her favor and take them to the perfect place to score.
A few short flaps and the two were high enough to avoid trees without worry, and confuse most flying Pokemon in the area. Yuki was worried of the Murkrow showing up and picking on them again, but her fear of the Boss was heavier.
“I have only one request,” She called to Ticker. “If for any forsaken reason you need to drop me, please make sure I land on something soft!” There was a sound from Ticker that could only be interpreted as a giggle. That didn’t make Yuki feel any more comfortable as she clutched on Ticker’s arms for extra support, not daring to look down.