There were three significant things happening at the fundraiser. The first was the art auction. Buyers casually stood around various pieces of overly priced art while they sipped on salt-rimmed martinis. The paintings were all imported from Sinnoh, which supposedly had more allure with the fine-arts than it did here in Hoenn, because the majority of local art collectors would pay a pretty penny for a piece from overseas - even if it was of mediocre quality.
Second, a trio of musicians located in the corner of the ballroom played soft harmonies to the attendees on the dance floor. The combination of two violins and a cello was surprisingly impressive, and it seemed the dancers agreed. Everyone was smiling as they shimmied to and fro - the women twirling their fancy dresses and the men twirling their women.
The third matter of interest, and probably the only of the three that I find not be a chore, was the bar. The seemingly endless wall of high-end liquor was seductive to a man with a weakness to alcohol. A man, I suppose, like me.
“Another, sir?” The bartender looked at me with that indifferent stare that saw nothing but my finely-crafted façade.
As the scotch came pouring into my empty glass, a blonde woman in a vibrant red dress sat down at the bar beside me. She smelled of coconut and hairspray, and the heavy diamonds dragging down her earlobes gleamed through the corner of my eye. I stirred three ice cubes through the fresh liquid with a courtesy straw, and said nothing.
“I’ll have what he’s having,” the woman crooned, her voice rich like warm chocolate. She smiled and placed her elbows on the counter cleverly, so that it arched her back and inflated her chest in a way that drew the eye.
The bartender noticed, and blushed. His professionalism shifted to awkwardness as he clanked the liquor bottle clumsily against a fresh glass and slid it over to her.
“There’s our target. Right on time,” a muffled noise rasped through my earpiece. It was almost inaudible. “Aaaaand she’s bugged. It’s interfering with my connection. Better work fast.” Static engulfed my ear canal as the com faded, and I tried not to wince.
“Do you have the package?” I asked her without looking up from my drink, and then proceeded to knock back its entire contents in one hefty swallow. The cuff of my tuxedo slid up my arm as I did this, revealing a pristine gold watch that told me it was seven o’clock on the nose. I had twenty minutes.
“You know,” the woman leaned over and whispered into my ear. Her breath was hot and damp. “I’m told you are a phenomenal dancer, I’d love to see.” She was standing from the barstool and pulling me off of mine in a moment that was faster than I was prepared for.
“I…well…” This wasn’t going to go as I had planned. “Tony!” I snarled through gritted teeth, quiet enough to be unheard by the woman pulling me through the crowd.
“Heheh. Sorry, man.” The device in my ear rasped to life again. I could hear the guilt ridden in his voice. “I thought it’d make you sound more Italian if you were a ballroom dancer.” Despite graduating top of his Harvard class and being perhaps a few IQ short of an utter genius, most of the time Tony was a complete idiot.
The woman whirled around the moment we reached an unoccupied area of the dance floor, which was polished heavily enough that you could see your own reflection in it if you looked down. She lifted her arms in a perfect, rigid frame, and I grabbed her around the waist as convincingly as I could. Her velvet dress was so tight that it was almost bursting at the seams.
To my misfortune, the beat suddenly picked up from a calm and easy sway to one that required some kind of Salsa. The woman perked up with the tune, blinking her blue eyes expectantly, and waited for me to take the lead.
If it hadn’t been for that ridiculous movie I’d been forced to watch with my late wife, this mission would have probably gone under at that precise moment. However, harnessing as much of Patrick Swayze as I could muster, I flicked my head, puffed out my chest, and spun the woman around in a series of copycat twirls while resisting the urge to gag. The smooth rhythm of the string instruments made it somewhat easier to loosen my hips enough to gyrate them as effectively as an actual ballroom dancer, or maybe at least a competent one.
The blonde, while clearly trained in the art, was taken aback by my sudden display of Latin dancing skills. Her eyes were wide with surprise, though not in a way that indicated fear. She pumped her arms in synchronization with mine, and kicked her heels at every proper moment. I dipped, and spun, and lifted - only when the music faded, and the guests around us erupted into applause did I notice she was out of breath.
“Impressive, Mr. John,” the woman added as she politely straightened my bow tie; there was an appealing twinkle in her eye. She took my arm and followed my lead away from the dance floor and the gathering of entertained attendees while meticulously placing a stray strand of golden hair back behind her ear. Her face was flushed. “I must say, when they told me of your expertise in ballroom, I was skeptical to say the least.”
The two of us were sitting back down at our original bar seats with freshly filled drinks and all I could do was fake a flattered grin. I’d just pulled that entire event out of my ass.
“So tell me,” she said smiling, apparently unfazed by my lack of verbal response. Her ruby red lipstick was unblemished after our escapade and only accentuated her porcelain skin. “How exactly does one get the name ‘Jonathon John’? Were your parents bored or is that just a nickname?”
But before I could invent an answer, the machine in my ear screeched louder than an out of tune microphone. The blare echoed around the two of us and I couldn’t resist the reflexive urge to bring my hand to my ear. For a moment, I thought it had shattered my eardrum. The reveal that I had an intercom in my right ear was given away the moment the shriek sounded, for the woman had already whipped out a pistol from a hidden holster on her upper thigh and was pointing it into my chest.
“Who are you?!” she commanded. That chocolaty croon turned into an icy sharp one.
A normal person would probably be threatened enough to spill every bit of knowledge he or she knew when faced with the potential of getting shot. This wasn’t the most dangerous circumstance I’d been faced with, though. And even though this blonde bombshell had her clearly loaded weapon jammed over my heart with her finger pressed firmly on the trigger, all I could do was flash her cocky smile. My teeth were pretty dazzling.
“Well, ma’am…” I started.
“My bad…” came Tony’s muffled voice through the intercom, interrupting my developing ruse. It sounded miles away even when being directly in my canal. My annoyance at the kid was beginning to boil over. “Well, going dark in 3…2…1…”
The elegant chandelier that hung over the ballroom, the lamps strung around the walls as well as the backlight behind the bar all dimmed at exactly the same time. The building fell into almost complete darkness. There was a synchronized gasp from the majority of the party-goers as everyone looked about the area – probably in the precise moment of wondering if there was a mere power outage or if they should prepare themselves for mass panic.
The woman who was convincingly pressing her gun into me averted her eyes at the spectacle for just a moment. A moment was all I needed.
With my forearm, I popped up the weapon before she had time to react and caught it with my other hand. She tried to spin away in the maneuver, but my grip never left her wrist. I twisted her arm around her back and pressed the gun I’d hijacked into her side. “Let’s go for a walk, shall we?”
The lights came back on.
“Ah, just some technically difficulties, folks!” the party-host, and perhaps the owner of the extravagant mansion this fundraiser was taking place in announced with open arms. His goatee accentuated his large smile and he added, “Please, have a drink on the house.”
No one noticed the two of us casually strolling from the building as inconspicuously as a wealthy couple. The cover of the crowd making their way towards the bar made it easy to escape with my hostage undetected.
I pushed my captive down the stone steps of the mansion’s entranceway. From the outside, its red stone surface made it look like a castle. The windows were all vintage fiberglass, and a custom flag was placed at its highest roof point. The crisp night air blasted me in the face, leaving a cool sensation on my skin that made me realize I had been sweating. The sun had completely set and all the vacant road had for lighting was a single streetlamp, and the headlights of the spy van that Tony had left on like a moron. The black vehicle would have blended in perfectly with the oak tree on the block corner it was parked next to, if not for the radiant beams of light pouring from it like a sore thumb.
My concentration shouldn’t have faltered there if I had learned anything from what had just happened between the blonde woman and I a minute ago, but it did, and she noticed. In a flash, she jammed her heel into the toe of my shoe and elbowed me in the face. I had to admit I was surprised by her, but I still held the gun.
She had a second concealed weapon on her person that made itself known then, however. This one didn’t have a blade or a bullet, but a mind of its own. In a burst of crimson energy, appeared a large striped fox that I knew to be a Linoone. Its claws hit the pavement with a piercing screech and its eyes were so narrowed that they were almost shut. Its fur sleeked back silkily along its spine, allowing its mahogany markings to appear as riveting as the display side of a tapestry. The thing snarled.
“I wish you hadn’t done that…” I groaned.
“Used to assaulting helpless women, are we?” she chided.
“Not exactly-“ It wasn’t the fear of battle that made me disapprove of her decision to bring Pokemon into this, it was the unfortunate reaction I knew was about to follow.
Without my permission, an identical crimson flash erupted from my pocket. The light materialized in mid-air into a flapping Pidgeotto. He had maroon feathers atop his head that angled back like razor blades, and they were only amplified by the jet black streaks under his eyes. The bird was barely the size of a Pidgey, but thought it was the mass of Ho-oh himself. My Pokemon’s bullheadedness proved to be quite the ordeal in circumstances like these…
Without my permission, again, the fowl slanted its trajectory towards Linoone and set course for collision with the mammal’s face. Stealth was not one of Pidgeotto’s fine-points; Linoone rolled to the side with ease. The bird Pokemon had to significantly decelerate a foot from the ground if he didn’t want to crash into it, and luckily he pulled it off with only the tips of his wings scraping the concrete as he veered back up into the air.
While stealth was indeed not a talent of Pidgeotto’s, speed was. He blazed back around in the night sky and was pecking at the other Pokemon’s eyes before it had even recovered from its previous dodge. The Linoone squeaked and hollered in pain as it tried to avoid the onslaught of beak and talon, but everywhere it turned away, a brown feathery body was there to slice another gash. My opponent called out various abilities that she thought might aid the creature, but none did it any good.
“Fine! Enough!” the blonde woman, who was desperately trying to guide her precious Linoone to safety yelled from beyond the pair of dueling monsters. “I’ll do whatever you want! Just let her go!” One of the shortest duels I'd ever been a part was over in an instant. She must have either had little confidence in her partner or cared too much for its safety to have given up so hastily.
I pulled out the red and white orb from my pocket and clicked the center, signalling the energy that commanded my companion back inside. Even though the creature was often a giant pain in the neck, he almost always got the job done. And that was something to be proud of. As I looked back up, the woman was hugging on her own partner, whispering ‘I’m sorry’s’ into its ears and recalling its wounded and bleeding body back into its own Poke Ball.
When it was just the two of us standing alone in the street outside the lavish mansion once again, the glare she shot my way next would have been my undoing if looks could kill.
“Duuuuude. She’s a babe!” Tony commented in an exasperated whisper. We were inside the spy van, and the blonde was handcuffed to a chair near the rear doors. I resisted the urge to slap him upside the head.
Tony sat behind a thin computer desk that stretched along the entire side of the van. Three computer monitors were bolted into the aluminum: two were hacked into various security cameras, and one I assumed had been used to command the local power grid. The kid had a stupid grin on his face.
“I told you to make the profile believable, Tony! You messed up the entire operation with that random dancing nonsense,” I scolded him quietly, ignoring his previous pubescent proclamation. “And ‘Jonathon John’? Really?”
“What? I thought it sounded smooth…” Tony rubbed an abashed hand through his curly black hair. It was incredibly thick and seemed to grow up and out instead of down - a near afro and frizzy in this humidity. Even Tony’s glasses were foggy. “I went to school with a dude named Pete Peterson. Kid was all the rage. I also went to school with a guy named Harry Dick, but I guess that’s not very relevant in this si-“
I couldn’t resist the urge to slap the back of his head this time.
“Hey!” Tony protested, rubbing his skull with a chubby hand. All I could do was bury my face in my palm.
“Who are you morons?” A voice interrupted from the back of the vehicle. “What do you want with me!?” The woman fidgeted in her seat, probably trying to distract us - well, me - while she attempted to maneuver her way out of the handcuffs that bound her there.
“Where is the microchip?” I skipped straight to the point, and hunched my way over to her. “Give it to us, and you can go.” I leaned over her and rested my hands on the arms of her chair, invading her personal space. My deep brown hair was parted charmingly at the side, and I bore into her with my equally brown eyes. This technique usually worked on silly women like her.
“Ha!” she answered, unfazed. “I didn’t bring it. Like I’d actually believe ‘Jonathon John: the award-winning ballroom dancer’ was Bill’s pick-up guy?”
I glared at Tony threateningly, but he averted his eyes.
“What I’d like to know is how you managed to intercept the actual carrier’s information,” she finished. Her hair fell in front of her eyes, now messy and out of place. The heat in this automobile was even making her sweat.
The center monitor went black and then powered up again, changing from the hacked camera view of the mansion to an image of a studious-looking ginger woman in a thin pair of spectacles. She eyed the scene from the other side of the screen. “What is going on here? Did you get the package, Agent Evans? You’re ten minutes overdue.”
“Lanette?! You are behind this?” The blonde woman objected, her mouth agape.
“Bebe…” Lanette gave a disappointed sigh. “Agent Evans, you were supposed to retrieve the microchip, not take someone captive.”
I looked from the woman handcuffed to our chair to the one whose face was pictured on our computer screen, then back the one in the chair again. “Wait, the Bebe? Why wasn’t I made aware that the target was Bebe Collins?” I turned back to the pixelated woman on the other side of the internet.
“It was none of your concern. The intel was the priority, not its carrier. Did you get it or not?” Lanette’s tone carried no inflections.
“I can’t believe you would do this, Lanette!” the blonde, now revealed to be Bebe Collins herself, protested.
“She says she doesn’t have it,” I answered Lanette, ignoring the outcry.
Lanette’s eyes moved from me to Bebe, where they remained in a scrutinizing stare. “You swallowed it, didn’t you,” she said finally in a way that wasn’t a question.
Bebe looked down at the floor. It was a clear tell that she had in fact done just that.
“Bring her in immediately,” Lanette commanded. She ended the call in a haste that was as fiery as her hair. The screen went black.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had many points of operation across the region. Many of them I didn’t even know about. The one in Slateport, however, was inside of a large warehouse that posed as a private shipping company. It rested on the eastern coast of the city, far from the hustle and bustle of the public cruise docks and Pokemon Center. Far even, from the resident homes or any kind of traffic whatsoever. The tide occasionally washed in various pieces of trash and mucky pollution into this forgotten side of the neighborhood that no one ever bothered to clean. Supposedly, it helped keep up a low profile.
Myself and Tony lounged around the empty meeting room as we awaited word from the general. Bebe had been ushered away from us and back into the infirmary the moment we’d arrived this morning, probably to have her stomach pumped. The room was bare and boring. Grey everywhere - even the lighting was grey. I was resting my arms on the back of my neck in one of those deceptively comfortable swivel chairs and Tony was making paper footballs on the other side of the table when General Frank Thomas strode into the room. Tony fumbled to hide his craftsmanship and stand up respectfully, but wound up drawing attention to himself with the graceless movement instead.
“Thanks to you two, we’ve recovered the microchip from Miss Collins,” General Thomas began. His hair was white and his face was aged, but strength and authority emanated from the man like an aroma. He’d had my respect from the day I joined the agency. “Unfortunately,” he continued, “her stomach acid interfered with a lot of the data. We don’t have nearly as much information as we’d hoped to receive.”
“And that is also thanks to you two.” A thin woman with fiery red hair walked in after him. The lines of her eyebrows were taut, causing the skin between them to wrinkle. If I’d known her better, I’d recognize the expression as one of disapproval, be it just looked like one of concentration. “She wouldn’t have swallowed the microchip in the first place if you hadn’t spooked her.” Lanette came to a stop on the right-hand side of General Thomas. The both of them had their arms folded over their chests. However, the female of the pair looked significantly less menacing.
I sent an eye roll in Tony’s direction.
“That was er…my fault, dude. Sir. Madame? Eh…” Tony fidgeted uncomfortably and used his index finger to push his thick glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Had some trouble with the intercom wires, it got caught under the leg of my chair and pulled out of the speaker, which combined with the interference from whatever signal was transmitting from her bug made the whole thing just-”
“Details, Mr. O’Grady,” General Thomas calmly held up one of his hands - a signal to get the kid to shut up. “It doesn’t matter now. What‘s important is that we found out Bill Bates‘ next move. And not only that, Bebe Collins has been made aware of how dire our situation is, and has agreed to assist us however she can.”
I wondered what the conversation between Lanette and Bebe had been like in the infirmary. Clearly, Bebe had been unaware of Bill’s betrayal to the FBI, and was merely helping out an old friend. But now that even Bebe Collins was involved in our operation, I realized how serious the situation must really be. If the three most esteemed computer programmers in the world were now part of this, what was really going on?
As an agent, we become accustomed to the fact of receiving information on a need-to-know basis. When General Frank Thomas contacted me about shutting down a potential terrorist threat, I was only told that world-renowned Pokemon PC creator Bill Bates had gone rogue, and had taken extremely classified intel with him.
While it wasn’t my job to form an opinion about the case, one occurred naturally. Bill Bates had more money than he knew what to do with. The Pokemon PC is used by almost every Trainer in the region; the man’s a gazillionaire. So what is the point of him stealing his own research from the government and selling it? My suspicions about his motives didn’t change the potential danger arising, however. While his level one clearance to everything he’d had access to online was shut down the moment the agency realized he was working for himself, he was probably the best hacker on the planet. Imagine the chaos that could ensue if every Pokemon stored in the PC was transferred to one collective resource.
I found it reckless to not inform the public about this. But, I assume the eminent panic that would erupt when Trainers found out their stored Pokemon were no longer safe would be an equally dire outcome. So that’s where my job came in. Find Bill Bates and bring him in before he has the chance to make use of whatever it is that he is planning.
“While we still don’t know what his endgame is,” Lanette interrupted my thoughts with her surprisingly firm, but high-pitched voice. “We know it involves Mauville. And he’s heading there tonight.”
“He’s taking a ship, Elijah. You need to stop it.” General Thomas was always no-bullshit and direct with his orders: I liked that about him. He didn’t care what methods I used, as long as the job got done.
I stood from my seat purposefully, my mind already racing with a dozen different scenarios and trying to select the appropriate one. Tony followed suit.
“Hold on, Mr.Evans. I’m sending another agent with you.” Lanette said briskly as I began to make my way out of the stuffy metting room.
“No, thank you. I work best alone. O’Grady here is enough baggage already,” I angled my thumb back at the chubby Tony who had just tripped over his own shoelace.
“It’s not a request, Mr. Evans.” The woman, though not officially part of the FBI, was still my superior on this mission and I was forced to stifle a groan.
Lanette left through the back exit of the room for only a second before returning with the skinniest agent I had ever seen. He was taller than even I was, but had long and gangly limbs where mine were athletically muscular. His dirty blonde hair was slicked back behind his ears with gel, and this accentuated his thin frame even more - high cheekbones were more pronounced, and icy blue eyes popped profusely from the rest of his gaunt face. A perfect black suit covered what was probably a skeletal body. His tie was knotted professionally around his neck, and I couldn’t find a single wrinkle in his clothes when I first glanced over him.
I arched an eyebrow.
“This is Agent X,” Lanette said wistfully as the pair of them stepped forward. “He’s with the CIA and is our greatest resource for this operation. He has little experience out in the field, but I guarantee he will be a great asset.” The man remained motionless as Lanette introduced him; I was sure he didn’t even blink.
“’X’? Are agents assigned letters in the CIA?” I asked somewhat sarcastically. “What happens when there are more than twenty-four of you, do they start adding more letters? I’d love to meet agent XXX.”
No one was amused but Tony, who stifled a snort as he stood from tying his beat-up converse sneakers.
“Elijah.” General Thomas’ way of scolding someone was to say their name in the most serious way possible. His eyes looked angry, but there was a faint trace of a grin between his lips.
Lanette looked appalled. “X is what he prefers to be called, not that it is any of your concern.” Lanette shifted her eyes uneasily towards General Thomas then back to me. “Please follow his guidance, you can learn a lot from him.” She smiled proudly at the agent named X - it was the first time I'd seen her show any form of happiness.
Now it was my turn to stifle a snort. I wasn't sure what I could possibly learn from this guy. I bit my lip as Lanette turned and left the way she came, probably back to the infirmary to tend to Bebe. General Thomas muttered a few more mission details to me before he exited behind her. That left myself, Tony, and this scrawny new agent I knew nothing about, all standing around the meeting room. We were hours from infiltrating one of the most secure locations I’d been assigned to, and Tony was in the corner picking his nose.
Looks like we’re off to a good start.
As the sun set into the western side of Slateport city, I pulled a black Mercedes into a vacant parking lot on the edge of the harbor and rolled down the window. A salty wind met me in the face and passed through the vehicle, leaving a sweet calmness in its wake. Flocks of Wingull bawked at pedestrians as they made their way down to the docks, hoping for any scrap of human delicacy to be thrown in their direction.
I scratched at the shadow emerging down my jaw line, picking at the firm stubble that was beginning to grow through, then turned to the man sitting in the passenger seat. “So, what’s your real name?” I asked him. He was staring blankly into the sunset through his own window, without even squinting his eyes. “Or even your alias? Surely you weren’t born as the letter X…”
The uncomfortable silence that followed seemed to last for minutes. I wasn’t sure if he was deliberately ignoring me or simply fascinated with the sun descending into the ocean. It was a pretty sight - the light cascading over open water to create a glistening trail of gold among the waves, and the bright blue sky fading into a rainbow of orange and purple - but it was nothing more sensational than what the event was every evening around this time. X was nearly impossible to read with his dead eyes and relaxed face, but it almost seemed like he had never watched the sun set before.
“I am just… X,” he answered finally, in a voice just as empty as his eyes. He’d only spoken a handful of words to me on the drive over here, but if I had to describe the man’s pitch in a single word, it would be ‘robotic’.
“Okaaaay,” I responded, mockingly unsatisfied. “Married? Have any kids?”
“I have not…recreated.”
“Have a Pokemon?”
Agent X turned to face me, the front of his features were as sharp and narrow as his profile. “Why are you so interested in my background, Agent Elijah Evans?”
I looked through the dashboard window and out into the bay. “If I have to work with someone, I want to know I can trust them. And you seem very untrustworthy.” I said it bluntly, but I was never the type to tiptoe around the truth. “And call me Eli or something, you don’t have to recite my entire name and title every time you talk to me.”
“Hey, why don’t I get to call you Eli?” Tony’s voice cracked into my ear. I fiddled with the earpiece.
“Because you’re an idiot. And, you’d never break the habit of calling everyone ‘dude’.”
“Are you and Bebe ready for eyes?” I asked. Bebe had emerged from the infirmary a completely different person than the one I’d met. Her provocative dress was replaced with a T-shirt and jeans, her face was bare, and her blonde hair was no longer combed and sprayed into a meticulous bun, but thrown into a messy ponytail instead. Apparently, she couldn’t wait to assist us in taking down the man who’d mislead her, and joined Tony in the spy van about a half-mile down the street. She believed she’d be able to hack into security systems better than he could, but I’d put my money on Tony, even if he always managed to find a way to mess everything up.
“Well I am ready,” Bebe’s voice poured into my ear, much more pleasant sounding than I was used to. Tony had an accent that was some kind of cross between someone with a cold and a surfer. “This van is disgusting, there are Cheetos everywhere and the keyboards are all covered in grease! I don't know how he works like this.”
“You volunteered for it, ma’am.” I found myself smiling at the thought of Tony and Bebe cramped into that indeed messy spy van. I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy, let alone a woman.
“She totally has the hots for me,” Tony said through the intercom, which was echoed with an “Ugh!” from Bebe, before he added, “But yeah, send him up.”
From a pocket in my trousers, I pulled a miniature red and white sphere and watched it expand into the size of a fist, then held it outside the open car window and released its contents. A zigzagging red light propelled from it and sent my Pidgeotto fluttering into the sky.
A pint-sized video camera was secured around the bird’s neck, sending a broadcast directly to the computers inside of the spy van.
Pidgeotto glided around the harbor with ease, spinning through the wind current that propelled roughly from the ocean, and navigated narrow openings between the vessels. The maroon feathers atop his head angled in whichever direction the wind was blowing, allowing him to adjust his wings accordingly. He rounded the bay and returned to my car window, covered in ocean mist, then landed softly onto the door frame. The pigeon cooed softly at the both of us in the vehicle, proud of himself, and returned to his Poke Ball. When there wasn’t a battle happening, Pidgeotto was a rather nice bird.
“Target ship is in the front row, third from the left. It is called ‘The Burgundy’.” Bebe spoke before I had the chance to ask.
“Are you sure?” I asked. The Burgundy was a luxury liner.
“Positive. It matches the description Bill sent me to the number. Pidgeotto got a perfect view of it.”
Tony added, “There’s also no sign of any security, that must mean they are all on the inside. Be careful, dude.”
I nodded my head quickly, even though neither of them could see. “Are you ready?” I asked X, who had his own intercom, but did not comment at any point of the conversation.
“Am I…ready?” he asked, stone-faced.
“I am never…ready,” X answered.
“Ok then… let’s go.”
I had my weapon drawn as the two of us snuck down the docks, hidden by night’s shadow now and avoiding the moon. The Burgundy was one of maybe a dozen ships with power on in a harbor of about a hundred. It was easy enough to find without drawing attention; the wood of the dock was hydrated; our footsteps were muffled even more than usual. When we got there, and the pearly white walls of starboard side of the yacht towered over us, Agent X lunged onto the boat’s edge with the highest jump I’d ever seen from a human man. He didn’t even wait to see if the coast was clear, which it luckily was, before he launched over the gunwale like an amphibian.
My mouth must have been open, because I got the taste of salty air on my tongue as X dropped a ladder down the stern for me to climb aboard. I found the gesture insulting - like he thought I was incapable of getting onto the ship myself. Sure, perhaps I couldn’t jump over an eight foot wall with just the spring in my knees, but I could certainly use a grappling hook, and I had a collapsible one in my jacket.
“Where is everyone?” I asked blankly when I reached the deck, and decided to ignore the incredible feat X had just performed.
“I do not know,” he answered, not realizing my question was redundant.
Though lights were streaming from just about every window of the ship, not a soul was in sight. Not even a deckhand. I was beginning to get nervous. The idea was to sneak aboard and apprehend Bill Bates as quietly as possible, but that wasn’t going to happen if he wasn’t here to apprehend. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that something was wrong.
We entered into an extravagant dining hall through the nearest door to the point we’d come aboard on. It was even more luxurious than what the yacht seemed capable of on the outside. A mural of angels and legendary Pokemon was hand painted across the entire ceiling, accentuated by a glow from thousands of tiny light fixtures installed around its border. The flooring was freshly waxed cedar wood, and dozens of tables were set with the finest of silver and china.
"I see no activity on their security cameras," Bebe said softly. "I don't know what's going on."
Agent X and I walked through the room, hugging the edge, until we were nearly in the center of it. “Something is wrong,” I finally said aloud and stopped in place. As I said it, a glowing red dot appeared on my black suit jacket - directly over my heart. I didn’t notice it until the gun had already fired and the bullet was penetrating my chest.
Except it didn’t. It penetrated a translucent amber wall that materialized in front of me in a fraction of a microsecond. Agent X had his arm reached in front of my body, he held his hand in a fist - possibly clutching something - and from it sprouted an indestructible force field. The wall was incredibly familiar, familiar enough to clearly recognize as a Pokemon ability: Protect.
How in the bloody hell…
But my shock would have to wait, because bodies were appearing all around us. Some emerged from underneath the white clothed tables, some zip lined down from the rafters above, but all of them were dressed in identical black uniforms and helmets. This was clearly a trap, and these men clearly didn’t work for Bill Bates, because emblazoned across the back of every single uniform was ‘S.W.A.T.’
“Woah, calm down boys!” I exclaimed as they surrounded us. That single red dot on my chest was now sitting next to ten more. I threw my hands up, simultaneously displaying my badge. “Obviously some kind of mix-up here, we’re the good guys.”
One of the uniformed men stepped forward, holding up his hand to command the ones behind him to lower their weapons. He lifted his helmet, and took my badge.
“Evans?” he said in a very deep voice. “What are you doing here?”
“Assignment. What are you doing here?”
“We got a call about two terrorists planning to steal this ship and use it to smuggle explosives into the region.” The SWAT leader scratched his head, which was still half-hidden in darkness.
“You what?” I was baffled. Someone had clearly tipped Bill Bates off that we were coming for him, and apparently the man was more conniving than I ever gave him credit for.
“Who’s this?” the man asked, looking to my skinny partner.
“Agent X, with the CIA,” I answered for him.
He gave X a glance-over, more confusion in his eyes as he scanned the agent from top to bottom. “I’ve never heard of an ‘X’. What’s your name, son?”
X wore a blank face, he didn’t even look his interrogator in the eye.
“Hello? I asked you a question.”
“I have no…name.” The response came grimly.
“Is that so. Mind coming with-” but as the SWAT leader reached out to take X by the arm, his sentence was cut off by Agent X thrusting his palm into the man’s face. The force of X's arm, albeit frail, most definitely broke his nose.
Suddenly, a calm moment turned hostile as the rest of the team opened gunfire on X, but he threw up another Protect. The bullets bounced off it and were sent flying in various, unpredictable directions. Some of the men ducked, or tried to take cover, but as soon as X dropped his shield, he pommeled through the rest of them like a martial artist.
"X! What are you doing?!" I shouted, as I knelt down to help the SWAT leader back up. Blood was oozing from his nose.
But X was in another world. He seemed almost untouchable. Two men dropped in one swivel kick, a third got an elbow in the ribcage that left him winded, another was flung in a semi circle into the air and over the shoulder of Agent X as he displayed fighting skills in far contrary to the weak impression of his body type. I'd never seen anything like, it was entirely inhuman.
"Dude, this guy is more awesome than Jackie Chan!" Tony cheered into my ear, watching the entire event through the micro camera pinned into the pocket of my blazer. "AND Jet Li. I bet he gave lessons to Chuck Norris!"
As X was incapacitating his fifth victim, I grabbed him from behind and attempted to take him down, but he threw me off his shoulder effortlessly and I was thrust into the wall behind us. As soon as he had realized what he had done, X turned around, almost in a complete circle, and looked at the body wreckage he'd just unleashed with pure regret.
"I have.... sorry." The man said nothing else and sprinted off the ship, leaving me and the SWAT team he'd single-handedly put down gawking after him.
It took a lot of explaining from the bureau about the secret mission and the strange agent to convince the Special Weapons and Tactics team that everything was a giant misunderstanding. They were prepared to pursue Agent X as a regional threat. The high-ups had to make several phone calls to each other about the event, and I was blamed by Lanette again for the mission not turning out as planned.
We were all given a twenty-four hour hiatus to recuperate, while the mission heads figured out what direction they wanted to head into next. Bill had made it to Mauville unscathed, and still no one had any idea of what he was up to.
I stood in my hotel bathroom, fresh out of the shower with a white cotton towel wrapped around my waist. The mirror was foggy, small, and cracked down the middle, but it was plenty of space to see my face in. I lathered on a generous helping of shaving cream, spreading it high up to my cheekbones and reached for my razor blade. That's when I heard the door creak open.
It was very faint, and had I not just shut the water off, I wouldn't have heard it. But, it was definitely the click of a door handle and the soft hum of opening hinges. My gun was on the table; my heart was beginning to race - I was defenseless. I heard footsteps creeping down the dark carpeted hallway and around the corner. I held my breath.
At the moment before the intruder made it to the bathroom entrance, I lurched out of it and wrapped my hand around his throat. It was abnormally thick for a hit-man, almost to the point of obesity. My eyes focused, and I saw a mop of dark curly hair and green eyes behind a thick pair of glasses. Tony was gagging in my grasp. I instantly released him.
"DUDE," he coughed, face read and panting. "YOU INVITED ME OVER HERE."
I rubbed the back of my neck, mildly embarrassed of my overreaction.
"Dude," Tony added once he began breathing normally again a few seconds later. "What's on your face, you look like Santa."
After I'd finished shaving and was fully clothed again, Tony and I sat down on the floral patterned hotel couch. He cluched a bag of cheese puffs and was shoving them into his mouth.
"Fo," Tony said, not bothering to finish chewing before speaking. "Esc duffant even leef hif voom."
Tony gulped. "So, X doesn't even leave his room. Not much to track if he doesn't go anywhere."
I'd asked Tony to monitor the strange agent after everything that had gone down the night before. Something wasn't right about him, and I wanted to figure it out before he put everyone in danger. Secret agents tend to be abnormal, with various personalities ranging from quiet and deceptive to downright mad, but Agent X had no personality. You could argue that having none was one in itself, but the feeling you get when you talk to yourself is the same one you'd get when talking to Agent X - like his mind was wiped clean and all that was left in its place was raw knowledge.
"Did you bug it?" I asked, after justifying my paranoia to myself.
The conversation didn't go any further because it was interrupted by the blaring chime of the phone ringing. The sudden noise made Tony jump, which resulted in his cheese puffs bouncing into the air and raining back down to the floor like confetti.
"My bad..." he mumbled, and began picking them up one at a time, but used his mouth as the disposal instead of a trash bin.
I was shaking my head when I answered the phone and was instructed to meet General Thomas back at the FBI headquarters. I wasn't looking forward to it.
“I’m not sure if Elijah is the best agent to accompany X on this one, General.” I heard Lanette’s skepticism as I made my way down the dim warehouse corridor. “He almost got the two of them killed.” The voices crept from the opened crack in the meeting room door, and I paused just outside of it, letting my curiosity get the better of me when I'd heard my own name.
“Evans is the best of the bureau as far as I am concerned,” General Thomas answered her. “His adaptability to any situation thrown his way is unmatched. It pains me to say it, but since the loss of his wife eight years ago, he treats every mission as though he has nothing to lose. And perhaps he doesn’t. You’re lucky to have him on your side.”
“I do not know if it is in fact our side that he is on. His motives are… unclear to me. I find him…puzzling.” The impassionate voice of Agent X could be recognized anywhere, and by anyone.
“You both insist on keeping him in the dark. He’s never going to trust you, or any of us if he’s not even aware of what’s going on. That’s no one’s fault but your own,” the General added, almost angrily.
I’d heard enough. I couldn't believe I was the one being questioned as the traitor.
“Enlighten me, then,” I stated, striding into the room. “As far as I’m concerned, this is the man who shouldn’t be trusted.” I pointed an accusatory finger at Agent X. As usual, he made no expression.
“What are you doing here, Mr. Evans,” Lanette asked in her usual inflectionless way.
“You guys called me…”
“Ah, that’s right. Fine then.” Lanette rubbed a finger into her temple, as if contemplating what to say next.
“Look,” I folded my arms over my chest, finally fed up with this stupid mission. “Either you tell me ‘the whole story’, or you can find someone else to finish this operation. Because frankly, this guy is no agent for the CIA.” I nodded my head towards the frail figure beside me. “He belongs in the god damn Olympics. Not to mention he has unclassified technology I’ve never even heard of that can apparently mimic Pokemon moves? What’s up with that?” I turned to face Agent X now, my quarrel being with him, after all. “I wouldn't be surprised if it was YOU who tipped off-”
“Okay, enough.” Lanette sighed and held up her hand in the ‘stop’ sign. “Enough, Mr. Evans. Have a seat.”
General Thomas exhaled. His tense stature shifted to a more relaxed one, giving me the feeling that omitting mission details was not his idea, and he had in actuality been very uncomfortable with it. Nonetheless, I obliged Lanette’s suggestion of sitting down even though no one else did.
“While, yes, Bill Bates is behind the organization planning to exploit every bit of data that he, Bebe and I have programmed into the infamous Pokemon PC, he’s not exactly - himself.” Lanette wasn’t looking at me when she spoke. Her eyes were transfixed on the empty grey wall behind me. Avoiding my eye contact was not something she did often. It was something that made her appear to be ashamed of what she was about to say. “After we’d released the PC prototype to the general public, we began researching even deeper into the digital universe. Bill developed a theory that if you could put so much in, it may be possible to take something out. Something other than simple data. He thought that the internet was more than empty space, that it could be an alternate dimension of sorts, with its own unique inhabitants.
I thought he was nuts, of course, but I still humored him in some of the initial research. And as it turned out…he wasn’t completely wrong. We discovered an anomaly.” Her eyes fell to mine finally, taking in my slightly surprised expression, then flicked back to blankly stare at the wall once again. “It was more than artificial intelligence, it was an organism; a growing, evolving, organism. We created various programs to track it…study it, but our abilities were limited. We needed a way to materialize the anomaly and remove it from the network entirely to truly discover what it actually was.
After he pitched our findings to Silph Co., Bill was given the funds necessary to develop a machine host for the organism: a port that we could connect to a computer and essentially download our discovery into it. You probably have heard of it as the ‘computer Pokemon’ Porygon." Lanette took a deep breath and started talking more quickly in a fashion that almost sounded rehearsed. "The Porygon prototype was a success in the fact that we created a Pokemon from pure data and code, but it failed in its original purpose - as a host for the anomaly. We could never successfully transfer the organism to the Porygon shell. It hung just in between the realm of reality and cyberspace. Bill and I informed Silph Co. of our failure, and sold our designs of Porygon to them... They weren’t as disappointed as we’d anticipated - as you know, Porygon went under mass-production and brought them a hefty profit in being the first to produce a digital Pokemon.
Bill wasn’t satisfied with giving up, though. He assumed the organism would not transfer out of fear, so he programmed a trap for it…and…” Lanette bit her lip. I said nothing as she struggled over whatever sequence of her tale she was trying to tell. “Cyberspace….the internet…the web, network… it exists all around us. A computer is merely a device we use to access it. The anomaly, after being forced into a trap, downloaded itself into Bill.” There was a moment of silence that followed. Lanette was probably wondering if I was preparing an argument for her claim, while I was waiting for her to elaborate. Surely it had just been some kind of figure of speech…
“The brain is, fundamentally, a computer. It apparently is compatible with the internet all on its own, we just have no access to that ability…at least, not in its raw form… but when the organism entered Bill’s mind, it had access to every bit of knowledge, memories, data that Bill had learned over the course of his entire life. It learned Bill’s goals, aspirations, emotions - some of which I believed it has confused with some of its own…”
“So you are saying that Bill Bates is infected by a virus from the internet?” I interrupted finally, after my mind had processed her story.
“I…essentially, yes…” Lanette was rubbing her forehead again.
“And how do you know? If the virtual world is invisible to the human eye, how do you know this has happened? And better yet, how are you aware of what the virus is uncovering in his mind?” I was cynical, sure, but who wouldn’t be? This information, if it was true, would change science itself.
“You didn’t know Bill as I did before…this. It wasn’t a mere mood swing or mild change to his personality. He changed. Even his voice. It became baseless, and forced - as though it were being mechanically commanded. Simple humanistic things like blinking and breathing happened erratically, and I realize now, that the anomaly was still learning how the human body worked. Bill was just its host.” Lanette’s eyes saddened. It was becoming clearer that this was more than just an operation, but a matter of the heart. She ran a hand through her ginger hair. “But aside from that, a stroke of good fortune came our way the same night I lost Bill. The organism had, what we’d refer to it by in the material world at least, a brother.”
“And how is that fortunate?” I asked incredulously, still having a hard time believing what I was hearing. I’d seen some crazy things in my years with the FBI, but this went beyond ‘crazy’.
“Well…” Lanette looked over at the ever-quiet Agent X. He stared blankly into the air as always: no expression on his face, no emotion in his eyes - not even boredom. I put it all together even before his body shattered like glass and pieced itself back together into a smaller, pink and blue form.
I jumped from my chair.
The creature levitating before me was shiny, smooth, mechanical, and undeniably not a secret agent. It resembled a Porygon in the way its surface glistened in the electric lighting like waxed marble, but differed by being smooth cut where a Porygon was jagged. And its eyes, instead of being the sightless painted-on pattern that I was familiar with by the version manufactured by Silph Co., were a swirling depth that I actually believed something resided behind. Three appendages sprouted from it in a triangle, and its duck-like head was not even attached to its body. I swore.
“Are you KIDDING ME? You guys partnered me with a VIRUS?” I was baffled, enraged, and most importantly, pissed off.
“He’s not a virus, Mr. Evans! Calm down!” Lanette nodded at the floating pink phenomenon, and at the gesture, it morphed back into the figure I’d known as Agent X. His suit rippled over his body as fine-pressed and wrinkle-free as I remembered, and his dirty blonde hair gelled slickly behind his ears. This time, however, instead of being slightly envious of his unrealistic perfection, I wanted to shove my fist in his face. My finger wrapped around the gun handle resting in my holster.
“Elijah, sit down, take a breath, and for God sakes put your weapon away. It’s a Pokemon, not a terrorist, you dimwit.” General Thomas had his eyebrows furrowed, but he couldn’t hold back a stern grin.
“X tells us that he and the anomaly controlling Bill share the same lineage. Or as he puts it: ‘are of the same creator‘. They are siblings.” Lanette began speaking again once I’d slumped back into my chair, glaring at Agent X through the corner of my eye every few seconds. “When he realized where his brother had gone, he followed, but into our invented host, not a living one. Needless to say, his presence has…changed our design. Twice. His manipulation of the Porygon prototype we’d developed has evolved it into an entirely new concept. He can transform the data of it in ways I would have never thought possible. As you can see, he even managed to make a perfect human camouflage for himself in order to communicate with us.”
“And you just believed him?” I interjected. My annoyance at being trusted less than some virtual alien was perfectly transparent.
“Mr. Evans, if he wished us harm, he had many opportunities to do so. You have seen what he is capable of; his intelligence far exceeds ours. He knows and has access to everything that has ever been uploaded to cyberspace. That includes everything the human race knows since the history of, well, ever.” Lanette seemed to apologize to X with her eyes. He was still just standing there. “Everything we know about what’s happening to Bill has come from him.”
“Exactly! The two of them could be setting this entire thing up, and we-”
“What choice do we have?” Lanette interrupted. “He assures us-”
“And why don’t you talk for yourself for a change,” I scowled at X, interrupting Lanette this time, and stood up from my seat again. “Or do you prefer a harmless computer programmer to constantly do your talking for you?” I’d walked towards the man, or rather, the digitally-possessed Pokemon and stopped mere inches from his expressionless face.
The General and Lanette both spoke at the same time.
“Elijah, you are out of line.”
“This isn’t his fault, Mr. Evans. We were tampering with what shouldn’t be tampered with. He is only trying to correct our mistake.” The woman nervously pushed her spectacles up the bridge of her nose.
I ignored them both.
“You are…angry,” X said. “I do not… understand that feeling, but I…comprehend. You do not know me, you do not….trust.”
“Damn right I don’t,” I scoffed. But the human mirage continued before I had the opportunity to further interrogate it.
“My…as you call, brother. He learned these human emotions all at once. He feels them all at once. He does not comprehend.” For the first time since the moment I met him, Agent X let something emerge onto his face. Sadness. I would have never noticed if I hadn’t been staring directly at him an inch away. “You humans are limited by your own…naivety,” he added in a way that was not particularly an insult. “If he so desires, he could destroy your…world…with minimum effort. He has the means to do so. Abusing the knowledge he has acquired from your database of the creatures you call Pokemon is only a fraction of his potential.” X finally looked at me directly in the eyes. His stare was no longer blank and unfocused, but direct. I felt goosebumps emerging on the back of my neck, and the eerie sensation that he was reading my mind. “You may not trust me, Agent Elijah Evans… but I am the only one who can bring him home. I am the only hope you have. Because. Without my help. You will fail.” When X had finished saying this, his eyes returned to their usual, uninterested state, and I once again might as well have been in the presence of a statue.
The Mauville power plant was far from its metropolis. If it hadn’t had the name ‘Mauville’ in it, I wouldn’t have expected it to have any association with the city at all. That is, apart from the massive amounts of electricity it provided. Through a scarcely traveled stone path, down a calm and narrow river, and across a field of wild but lush greens, a valiant concrete building rose from the back of a mountain. A tall, barbed wire fence surrounded the premises, sending intimidating volts of electricity sparking into the air. I felt my normally perfectly parted hair standing on end at the amount of static in the air. I couldn’t help but think about how much Tony would be laughing at its current state had he been here and not on the other side of the intercom.
“We’ll lose you once you go inside,” Tony’s voice blared into my ear, almost on cue. “You’re on your own now, dude..”
“Are you ready, Agent Elijah Evans?” X said in low monotone. We were crouching in the massive blades of prairie grass just beyond the entrance. “They will know we are coming the moment we step onto their air field. Turning back…won’t be an option.”
I patted X on the shoulder. “As ready as you are, sport.”
“I am never ready.” X stood from our hiding place, and flipped over the fence as effortlessly as a gymnast…or a blasted dolphin. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. Show off...
But, I’d agreed to go on this last hurrah with him, and I was going to stick it out. The region needed a native defending it, not a computer. We'd pinpointed Bill to Mauville's power supply, which did make a bit of sense. Bebe had also informed us that Bill had hacked the spy van before the last mission, and was sending them looped footage of the Burgundy when they thought they'd hacked into live. Hackers getting hacked was as far as my mind wrapped around the explanation, the only knowledge that had made a difference to me was the fact that there had never been a traitor in our midst after all - it had just been a matter of getting out-played by a demented Bill Bates.
Snapping out of my distraction, I scanned the fence for weak points before deciding to use the mountainside where the fence connected to make my way over. My athletic skills were above average, but not to the point where I could flat out somersault over a seven foot fence without any aid.
As I prepared my footing for the zigzag motion I was about to perform up the rocky cliff in order to propel myself over the wire barrier, there was another muffled buzz in my ear.
“Oh, and dude?” Tony’s voice crept through the intercom right before I made my way over in what I would later admit to be a perfect wall run. “Try not to die.”
As X had predicted, we were immediately met by four overweight guards. I was mildly unimpressed that this was all Bill Bates had sent to stop us. Each of them looked like they wouldn’t be able to run a hundred meters without passing out from exhaustion. The fattest of the four had an Ekans slithering along beside it, hissing its disdain at our presence. With its scaly violet skin and acidic eyes, the Pokemon looked more threatening to us than the four humans combined - even if they waved about their iron batons as though they were menacing weapons.
I could probably have sat down and started a picnic while Agent X did all the work, because in the time I subdued one of the guards, he had already made a pile of the rest. One of them moaned as X tossed the man on top of the other two unconscious bodies and bound their arms with rope. The Ekans had attempted a single Bind attack before it fled the scene in horror, leaving its Trainer behind. X had simultaneously been pulling electricity through the ground and up to the surface while dealing with the three human thugs, and when the snake had tried to intervene, it was met with a painful blast of energy.
I normally didn’t like being outshone by another agent, but if the rest of this mission was going to be this easy, I certainly wasn’t going to complain. Besides, my partner was no ordinary agent. However, as we passed under the stone archway, and X Discharged the metal door lock until it burst open, my assumption of this being easy was sadly mistaken.
A tiled floor spread out before us down a dark hallway. Charcoal paint lined the walls, and so did about two dozen more guards. These ones weren’t out of shape and about to bust out of their pants like the previous four though. These were muscled, fit, experienced men.
X ran his hand casually through his hair. The gesture was almost some kind of signal, because the closest grunt lunged towards him at the first sign of movement. But X ducked. He shot his elbow into the man’s ribcage, throwing him even further off-balance after the missed blow, then backflipped down the hallway.
I sunk my fist into the back of the guard’s skull as he stumbled, and he fell to the ground - out cold. One down, twenty-three to go. My knuckles burned, but I straightened out my sleeve and prepared for a beating.
The majority of thugs pursued X down to the other side of the corridor as he flipped ridiculously about, but my view was obstructed by the six or so men closing in on me. I deflected as much as could, putting down two of them in the first few seconds with some well-timed thrusts into the pressure points near their jugulars, but then one of them managed to lodge their knee into my chest. It wasn’t the pain so much as it was the windedness that caused me to collapse. As I fell, I kicked out my leg to trip the man standing most to the left. I heard his head thwack against the hard tile at the sudden loss of balance.
I tried to catch my breath, but it was a hard thing to do when three people were collectively and literally trying to kick you when you’re down. My hands fumbled for my revolver, but my arms were getting pummeled from three different angles. That’s when the red flash burst from my Poke Ball and my demon of a Pidgeotto spazzed around the heads of my adversaries like it had just taken speed.
The bird Pokemon shrieked and plunged his talons into the forehead of the darkly dressed man in the center, and then started pecking at his face. The man hollered and started flailing around in effort to fling the fowl off, because whenever he tried to use his hands, Pidgeotto tore into their vulnerable flesh.
In the distraction, I was able to get to my feet, and locate my weapon. As soon as I had the gun pointing threateningly at the three of them, and the sunlight shining through the open door behind me reflected sharply off the barrel, each of them surrendered and ran from the building as fast as they possibly could.
“I wasn’t paid enough for this!” one of them shouted as he made his escape and I’d called my pigeon off of him.
As soon as I turned around to take in what was happening with X and the rest of the men on the other end of the hallway, I heard the shout, “DUCK!” I wasn’t entirely positive if the warning was meant for me, but I followed it, and in the nick of time.
A massive beam erupted from the opposite end of the room and blasted all the way out the door. It would have caught me full on had I not moved out of the way. I had to clench my eyes shut, but the light from the plasma beam was so intense that I felt the burn of it through my eyelids. I was seeing spots even after it had ended.
As I tried to blink them away, I saw Agent X standing alone in a pile of knocked out bodies. He seemed entirely unscathed, and gave me a look as if to say ‘Are you coming?’. Apparently, unleashing one of the most powerful Hyper Beams I had ever seen was nothing to gawk at.
I dusted off my jacket as we rounded the corner of the hall’s end and headed into one of the back rooms. X had fought triple the opponents that I did and his suit didn’t have a single smudge on it. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a digital illusion and not actual fabric. I heard the loud groan of several generators before we ever made it to the control room, where X muttered lowly in front of the entrance, "Let me take this one." Which seemed to be a polite way to actually say "Stay back, you'll be in the way." I didn't realize that I had gone from a top-rated agent to second string.
“That was unfortunate,” a robotic voice sounded from within as we entered a spacious room. A giant machine sat in the very center of it, blinking hundreds of miniscule lights. A PC was hooked up in the far corner, and standing behind it was Bill Bates. “I was hoping they’d be a bigger obstacle for the two of you, but I suppose that was foolish of me.” Bill’s jaw was rising and falling with every word, but the muscle behind the skin on his face was entirely inactive. It made him appear like a puppet at the end of someone else’s strings.
The celebrity that used to be the brain behind that body was almost unrecognizable. Dark bags were under his eyes, his hair was graying and wild, and his skin was so pasty I could almost see right through it.
“What have you done to this human?” X looked at the host of his brother’s, humanistic pain hinted on his fake face. “Release him… this is nonsense.”
“HA!” Bill exhaled dramatically. “Have you seen what we can do in this world? We could own it.” The computer technician was typing rhythmically into a computer now, no longer looking at his two unwelcome guests. Apparently we did not matter, nor pose threat enough to warrant his attention.
“It is not ours to own…” X was calmly walking forward. There was fear in his eyes. It was vague, but I could see it. After becoming so accustomed to his lack of emotion, the slightest hint of it was quite clear to me. “We do not belong here.”
Bill was still frantically typing coding into his monitor, even more maniacally than before. X reached out a hand to touch his shoulder.
“NO!” Bill swung his arm out to block the gesture, but the force of it was so powerful that it sent X flying into the other side of the room and crashing into several metal machine with a sickening crunch. Sparks flew and smoke began to billow into the air. The collision would have surely killed, or at least severely injured a human being, but X was up and out of the debris before my brain could even contemplate concern.
With speed that was superhuman, X had appeared behind Bill Bates once again, and tackled him in the side. The two bodies ricocheted off the wall and were sent tumbling onto the floor. They grappled for a few moments, which involved X trying to pin his brother down, while Bill Bates sent a few punches into X's face. In the end, Bill stood up, laughing and feigning a surrender.
"Fine," he said finally after a fit of crazy giggles. "I'll go back." And suddenly, his body collapsed to the floor as limp and lifeless as a rag doll. The whole thing was over in a single high-speed minute. I wouldn't have had the reflexes to help even if I hadn't been commanded not to.
X pushed himself from the floor, wincing ever so slightly and then crouched beside Bill's body.
"He's alive, but..." X stood back up and rested his hands on his hips.
"But what?" I moved to examine the body myself. Bill was unconscious, but definitely alive. A bit of drool slid from his mouth.
Agent X, was at the computer, reading what had been done to it. He typed something into the keyboard so fast that I thought he was going to break it. "Oh no..."
"He's uploaded himself back into the network."
"Isn't that a good thing?" I asked. X had a look of utter doom.
My comrade put his hands over his face and rubbed his eyes. "No...according to this, he iss going to clone himself... and do the same thing all over again, but with infinite more victims." The silence was heavy - we had failed. X lit up suddenly, and turned to face me. For only a second time, he looked me directly in the eye. "I am going to follow him and lure him into the same trap Bill Bates used on him originally. Please, when you see the two anomalies inside, delete the file."
"Wait, what?" technology was never my thing, that was always Tony's area.
"There is no time." X steered me over to the computer, pulled up a program that, if I was entirely honest, looked like a Pacman game. "Here," he pointed to the lowest left point of the screen where a blank space was along with an outline of coding. "You will see us here. Wait for two, then delete."
"Won't that delete you along with him?" I whirled around to face X. His gelled hair, his hollow eyes, and that non-existent smile...
"Yes." X shattered, the glass shards of his body exploded and then vanished into the atmosphere. I'd seen the process before, but the action had left a digital Pokemon in its place. This time, he had disappeared entirely.
I stood at the monitor and stared at it as intently as though my life depended on it. Sparks continued crackling from the wrecked machine behind me, they were beginning to catch fire. And on top of that, the room was filling with smoke quickly now. I wasn't going to be conscious to do anything if this took much longer. Bill Bates was still out cold on the floor behind me, and I needed to get us both out of here fast. I covered my mouth with my hand and tried to breathe as sparingly as I could. My eyes were beginning to water.
And suddenly, a white glowing light appeared on the monitor, exactly where X had pointed. It floated across the screen entrancingly, like a shooting star. I prepared to erase the file.
Wait for two...
An excruciating minute later, another appeared. This light was erratic and jagged, like a spore. My finger hovered over the proper key, but I paused. Simultaneously, the lights began flashing. They swirled back and forth in the area, deflecting each other's energy. The collisions became larger and larger, until they seemed as though they were going to burst out of the screen. Closing my eyes and clenching my teeth, in a motion that was the hardest I had ever forced myself to complete, I heavily pressed down on 'Delete'.
“Well done, Agent Evans.” The teleprompter in the meeting room flashed as Lanette grinned with approval. I stood alone in the empty space of the Slateport headquarters. I was staying here overnight before I took a ship back to my hometown of Lilycove the following morning. Lanette held my gaze on the prompter, and added stubbornly, “The entire region owes you their gratitude, and perhaps the entire world. I can’t imagine what could have happened if-“
“As much as I am one to gloat, Agent X is Hoenn’s hero. See that he is not forgotten.”
Lanette smiled only with her eyes. “You have an ally in me should you ever need it, Mr. Evans. Until we meet again.” And the screen went dark.
I found that woman to be an annoying snob, but I had to admit that it was pleasant to hear she was finally on my side. She and Bebe were heading to Sinnoh to tie up whatever loose ends were left open after the near global disaster Bill Bates had caused. And Bill Bates, along with his reputation, remained entirely in tact after that scandal thanks to the obscurity of the FBI. Once Bill had fully recovered from the physical damage of being a host for a virtual organism, the mental damage was enough to leave him wanting to take a break from the industry altogether. That was a decision I certainly agreed with.
“I never…thanked you for saving me.” A timid voice came from behind me; soft, quiet, and familiar. Its speaker had entered the room without a sound. Agent X looked me in the eyes; his own were filling with more life every time I saw him. I supposed life was something he was growing into.
“Neither did I,” I responded, letting some smugness bleed through. I had, after all, not forgotten the bullet he’d deflected from plummeting into my chest with a well-timed Protect. "But, I knew you'd make it out in time."
“It was risky. You could have lost the opportunity by waiting so long…but I am…I have…gratitude.” X shoved his hands into his pockets. His awkwardness was almost human.
“Yeah, yeah. I’m amazing. You envy my instinct, my athleticism, my dashing good looks…” I clasped him on the shoulder and began to lead the way out of the building. “No need to grovel, X.” As the two of us stepped outside, and the mid-summer breeze swept by, I was almost sure I saw a smirk flash across his face.
“Perhaps,” he murmured.
Being near X had a way of making me feel inadequate. Looking back on it, I did little to aid the operation apart from pressing a button. I was used to always being the most valuable player in the game, and humility was not an emotion I was familiar with. But, I guess that was just another testament to Agent X's value - even I could learn something from him. He may not have been human, but he was willing to sacrifice himself to save our world. That kind of nobility was rare, and would forever change my view of what he was.
“So, are you ready to be a part of two realities? I hear Lanette has a lot in store for you.” I gave him a friendly elbow in the arm - a gesture he merely looked down at, puzzled.
“I am never ready,“ was all X said to me before his body shattered into a thousand shard-like pieces.
Defying gravity, the shards picked up with the wind and then disintegrated into particles small as sand. The evening sunlight reflected through the mist, causing a picturesque shimmer as Agent X ascended into cyberspace.