“You beat Mewtwo, but all you did was waste time.” When the helicopter flew over the train, a Polaris member dressed in the same uniform as the members on Thorton’s ship threw down a ladder. Yung took hold of it, then saluted to Matt, Bunny and the Team Rocket members. “Too bad you came out all this way, but it looks like I win! I’ll fix the Mirage System for our next meeting, so you can at least console yourselves with that!”
Once the ladder had been reeled up, allowing Yung into the helicopter, the craft flew to the back of the train and hovered over the freight car. A hatch on the roof of the freight car opened, allowing a crane attached to the bottom of the helicopter to reach in for the Meteonite.
“Are you just going to let them take…” Matt looked around and suddenly realized Petrel was gone. “Where’d he go?”
“There.” Bunny pointed down to the service road, where Petrel had joined his fellow Team Rocket members by descending on Crobat. “So he’s a coward. Big surprise.”
The crane, having taken hold of the Meteonite, began to rise back up. Yung watched from the chopper with a sense of smug satisfaction.
However, much to the surprise of both the Polaris members and Matt and Bunny as well, Team Rocket weren’t done after all. As soon as the Meteonite came into view, Pierce aimed the bazooka at it and fired, launching a claw that attached to the side of the large rock.
“We’ve got it!” Ada exclaimed, monitoring the energy with her laptop. “Pierce, hurry and reel it in!”
“Do they seriously think that’s going to work?” Matt sighed as he watched the claw’s cable tighten. “Carrying something that big with such a small cable?”
Hearing this, Trevor scoffed and said to Ada, “They think we’re using the cable, you believe that? Send out the capture disc.”
“Deploying capture disc,” she replied, typing away on her laptop.
A saucer-shaped device rose up from the back of the car and floated to a position beneath the Meteonite. Matt and Bunny watched, unsure of what was happening.
“You two may want to send your Pokémon back,” Trevor called up to them. “This ride might get a little bumpy.”
Bunny followed Trevor’s advice and sent Sky back to his Poké Ball. After a brief hesitation, Matt did so for Agnetha as well. They then looked back up to where Polaris’s chopper and Pierce’s claw gun pulled at the Meteonite from two different sides.
“Should we intervene?” Bunny uttered.
“What can we do? You know what those small Meteonites were capable of, who knows what might happen if we hit that big one?”
“So we just stand here?”
“Unless you’ve got a better idea, what can we do?”
Up in the helicopter, Yung wasn’t just watching like Matt and Bunny were. Standing just behind the pilot’s chair in the cockpit, he could see all the readings and screens spread out on the control panel.
“What are you waiting for?” he snapped at the pilot, tightening his grasp on the chair. “Pull away! We’re on a schedule, you know!”
“But, Jeunes, sir…” the pilot replied, “they’ve got a good grip on it! They’re holding us back…”
“Are you kidding me? Move!” Yung shoved the pilot out of his seat and took control of the helicopter himself. “I’ll show you how to get this done!”
Yung pulled back on the collective control stick in an attempt to force the helicopter upward. It did rise slightly, but the strength of the cable on Pierce’s weapon kept the Polaris members from escaping.
For a long, tense minute, nothing seemed to be happening. As the standoff wore on, however, a cracking noise started to reach the ears of those present.
“Is that what I think it is?” Bunny whispered.
Matt didn’t reply at first. Instead, he just kept staring at the Meteonite. When he did finally say something, his voice was raspy from the tension and fear he felt.
“Bunny, run! Now!”
Bunny didn’t have to ask why. She had seen the same thing he did - the increasing crack in the Meteonite taking shape around the grip of Pierce’s weapon’s claw. They both turned and ran toward the locomotive, but only made it as far as the end of the middle car before the Meteonite split into two pieces, causing a great blast of energy. Matt and Bunny were swept off their feet and thrown into the open hatch on the roof of the locomotive, which Yung had used earlier for his escape. Polaris’s chopper spun up into the air with the larger Meteonite piece still in its crane, while the capture disc sent out by Ada created a holographic container around the smaller piece so Team Rocket could take it.
“They just keep meddling…” Yung growled while trying to regain control of the helicopter. Once he managed to stabilize it, he said to the Polaris members with him, “It’s worthless to keep doing this any longer! Let’s just take what we have and hope it’s enough.”
The chopper flew away to the east, but Team Rocket weren’t paying attention to it. They were more concerned by the Meteonite’s energy continuing to react with the train and its tracks, producing showers of sparks.
“Oh no…” Ada fumbled, typing frantically as a look of panic came onto her face. “Oh no, this… this isn’t good!”
“What is it?” Pierce demanded as he recovered the contained Meteonite chunk.
“The energy is spreading through the Magnet Train and the paths… I don’t know what kind of effect it’s going to have, but we won’t be able to control it! The only thing we can do is avoid making it worse.”
“What’s the status of her side of the mission?” Trevor asked, choosing his words carefully in order to avoid exposing Nekou’s role.
Beneath Goldenrod City, little had changed. Nekou had continued her work while Olivia and Monroe stood guard, but nobody had come down to bother them.
“I’m getting bored,” Olivia complained. “Are you almost done?”
“Very close. I’ve got all the right switches thrown, all I have to do is just activate it. The only thing is that it might cause a little bit of a power surge as the system comes back online, but it’s nothing to worry about.”
Suddenly, she heard a chime in her ear. After hitting the key to start turning on the power, she tapped her ear, causing part of the left stem of her glasses to flip down and become a microphone.
“What is it? Yeah, I just turned the power back on, it’s rebooting now. What?” Nekou’s face sank as she heard what had happened with the Meteonite. “...oh ****.”
“What’s wrong?” questioned Monroe.
“We should probably get topside,” Nekou answered, folding up her computer. “Like, now. The **** might be about to hit the fan.”
Bunny pulled herself to her feet in the locomotive’s control booth, while Matt struggled to control the shaking that had overcome his body.
“Are you alright?” she asked in panic, extending a hand to him.
“C-Could be worse…” he shuddered. “Th-thankfully things like that don’t shut this body down entirely…”
Once they both were standing, they looked around at their situation. The only things in the booth were a single chair, a touchscreen keyboard and three large computer monitors. Both the keyboard and monitors were filled with error notices, and more kept coming every second.
“What is this?”
“The energy from the Meteonite, I’d bet,” Bunny ventured. “It’s corrupting the train’s programming…”
“Well, if it’s just corrupting the program, that’s not so bad, right? It could be worse.”
In a fit of irony, the moment the last syllable left Matt’s mouth, the train rocked and began to move.
“I have to stop running my mouth…”
Bunny ran to the side door, where she peered through a small window to the outside. What she saw caused her to tighten her fists. The trees lining the path of the tracks were going by at an increasingly rapid pace.
“We’re going back toward Goldenrod,” she tensely said.
Matt braced himself against the train’s motion. “And from the feeling of it, we’re speeding up.”
A realization came over them both, and they slowly turned to look at the keyboard and monitors.
At the same time, they both whispered, “What’s controlling the train?”
Meanwhile, Ada, Trevor, Petrel and Pierce could only watch from their car as the train sped away from them in reverse. Pierce had secured the small piece of the Meteonite in its glowing case, but Ada was still outside the car, panicking as she looked at her laptop.
“Miss Nekou just turned the power back on… and there was a surge.. that combined with the Meteonite energy in the tracks just blew the whole system to hell and back!”
“****!” Trevor spat. “What now?”
“We have to go after them.” Pierce raised his head and yelled, “Ada, back in the car!”
“Oh ****, oh ****, what do we do, what do we do…”
“So let me get this straight.” Bunny leaned against the wall to balance herself. “We’re stuck on this train while it speeds back toward a major metropolitan area, with pretty much no hope of stopping it. We’re screwed, aren’t we?”
“I don’t know. I need help.” Putting his finger to his ear, Matt gasped, “Nekou, tell me you can hear this!”
“What? What happened?”
Matt stopped pacing. “Why do you think something happened?”
“Because I just turned the power back on and you call me sounding like you’re shitting yourself. What ****ed up?”
Sighing at Nekou’s attitude, Matt tried to remain serious. “The Meteonite split in two and it released energy that corrupted the train’s controls, that’s what ****ed up! Bunny and I are aboard a runaway train that’s heading for Goldenrod right now!”
There was a brief, tense silence before Nekou finally spoke again. “...****. I was afraid of that.”
“What’s going to happen if we don’t stop this train?” Bunny blurted out, still eyeing the landscape past the window. “Ask her that!”
“Did you hear that?”
“No. Well, I heard Bunny saying something, but **** if I could make it out.”
“She wants to know what’s going to happen if the train can’t be stopped.”
“From my quick calculations in my head, you should be going at a steadily increasing speed. Is that right?”
Nekou hesitated, then said, “If that train keeps speeding up and is not stopped, eventually it’s going to get to the station. And when I say get to the station, I mean crash right the **** into it. At the kind of speed you’ll be going, it’ll barrel right through the station wall and not stop until it hits the Radio Tower.” Nekou’s voice suddenly became unusually quiet. “If that tower falls, combined with the derailment itself… who knows how many people will die. Central Goldenrod will be reduced to complete chaos.”
Matt’s eye sank into his head, and his mouth slowly fell open. Picking up on his fear, Bunny started to become nervous as well.
“W-what did she say?” Bunny asked, clutching her arm.
“If… if we don’t stop this train… it’ll hit the station then the Radio Tower… and a lot of people are going to die.”
“What do we do? Ask her what we do!”
“Don’t bother, I heard it that time!” Nekou snapped. “Give me a minute to think!”
An uneasy silence settled over the room, lasting for what felt like forever. It wasn’t broken until Matt started to slowly reach into his bag.
“Bunny… remember what you said a minute ago? About us being stuck on a runaway train?”
“What about it?”
Slowly taking two Poké Balls out of his bag, Matt quietly said, “You aren’t stuck on this train. You can escape.”
The true meaning of Matt’s suggestion didn’t become apparent to Bunny until he released Cordelia from her Poké Ball. She stepped away from the wall, barely maintaining her balance as her legs became weak.
“No, we’re not doing that…” She leaned forward and seized his shoulder. “Are you trying to kill yourself?”
“No, listen,” he insisted, pushing the other Poké Ball into Bunny’s hand. “You can help stop all of this. Take Cordelia and use Hethna to fly back to the station. Once you get there, have Hethna stand on the tracks and try to catch the train to stop it, while Cordelia uses Psychic to keep it from totally flying off the rails.”
“That doesn’t make any sense!” Bunny countered. “At this speed…” she flicked her eyes to the landscape speeding by outside before continuing, “...you’re just going to get yourself and your Pokémon killed.”
“If I stay here, I might be able to figure out a way to slow the train down. After that, Hethna’s big enough to bring it to a stop.”
Bunny hesitated. She had to admit to herself that there was some merit to his idea, but she didn’t expect it to work.
“Are you sure about this?” she asked quietly.
“It’s the best idea I’ve got.”
“Don’t mess your end up, then.”
“I’ll do my best.”
Armed with a plan for defusing the crisis, Bunny wobbled over to the door and forcefully pulled it open. The car immediately filled with the wind lashing by the train, sending Bunny’s hair blowing in all directions, but she disregarded it and stepped outside. From the narrow platform on the engine’s exterior, Bunny could see Team Rocket’s car speeding after them.
Bunny took a deep breath, then turned to Cordelia, who was floating alongside her. “Use Psychic and get us on some solid ground first, please?”
Though Bunny wasn’t her ordinary trainer, the Sigilyph still listened. Her three eyes filled with the same blue light that then surrounded Bunny, and with her power, Cordelia lifted Bunny off the train.
However, because of how heavily wooded the area was, the only readily available ground Cordelia could deposit Bunny on was the service road next to the tracks. Trevor saw her being lowered into his path and slammed his foot on the brakes, causing the car to skid and spin out. Luckily, he had reacted quickly enough for the vehicle to stop before it hit Bunny. All four Team Rocket members jumped out once they stopped.
“Damn it!” Trevor spat, slamming his hand on the car’s roof as he watched the train shrink into the distance.
Rising to her feet, Bunny took a moment to watch the train herself before turning to face the four Team Rocket members.
“We share the same cause right now,” Pierce said, stepping forward. “Come with us. We can offer you assistance.”
“No,” Bunny sharply answered, tossing Hethna’s Poké Ball into the air. “We have our own plan.”
Matt’s Golurk took shape in a burst of light, and Bunny climbed up on its shoulder.
“W-What are you doing?”
Bunny ignored Ada’s question and instead tapped Hethna’s arm. “Hethna, Matt wants you to get me back to the station in Goldenrod and fast. You up for it?”
Hethna grunted in assent, then retracted its hands and legs into its body, transforming its arms and central sections into rockets. Trevor, Ada and the others could only watch as the Golurk lifted into the air and blasted off toward Goldenrod City.
“Miss Nekou was right about her…” Ada commented.
“Headstrong was an understatement. We’ll have to watch her…” Pierce turned to his teammates and shouted, “Let’s go! We can’t lose any more time!”
Matt dropped himself in the chair at the trains controls and rested his head on his hand.
“I’m useless…” he said out loud, thinking he was alone. “...just like always. What good am I?”
“Stop ****ing talking like that.” Matt hadn’t realized that Nekou could still hear him through the microphone. “Besides, I thought of something.”
“What?” Matt jumped slightly in the seat, having been surprised by hearing her voice. “What’s your idea?”
“You might be able to force your way into the train’s computer and shut it down. The software isn’t really that intricate, you’ll just have to get through all the errors. I can try to help you with it.”
Somewhere far away from the unfolding crisis in Goldenrod City, Finansielle and Archer were walking together on a path in an underground temple. The cavernous chambers formed a labyrinth of paths surrounded by pools with flowers floating on the water, and ornately carved marble columns and arches rose up and overhead.
Their walk was suddenly interrupted when Finansielle’s phone began ringing. She took it out, and the two stopped moving.
“Hello, what is it? Alright, good. Well, even if you only got most of it, I’m sure it’s enough for Colress to work with.” Though her mood was at first positive, her face twisted into a look of annoyance shortly after. “You lost your… oh, you’re kidding, right?”
“That’s Jeunes, right?” Archer asked. When Finansielle nodded, he further inquired, “What happened?”
“He got most of the Meteonite, but Team Rocket took a small piece of it.”
“That can’t be what’s upsetting you.”
“He lost his mask. Matt, his friend, and several Team Rocket members saw his face.”
Archer sighed. “In that case, he knows the consequences.”
“Sorry, can’t get you out of trouble here,” Finansielle said into the phone. “Archer has reiterated it. You know what happens to a Chromosome who is unmasked. Just get back here.”
When Finansielle hung up the phone, Archer smirked. “He can’t be happy about that.”
“He’s not,” she confirmed. “Just docking him the rights for this meeting should be enough to scare him straight, though.”
As Bunny arrived at her destination, she could see the continuing protests on the Goldenrod streets. They had spread from the main street into the smaller ones and were now blocking the Global Terminal, Radio Tower and train station.
“Oh hell, this isn’t good.” Bunny wiped her forehead, suddenly glad she had aerial transport and didn’t have to go through the streets. “These people have to clear out, now… Hethna, take me down.”
Hethna redirected its rockets and descended into the freight area at the back of the station. Bunny immediately climbed down, then returned Hethna to its Poké Ball and ran inside. Instead of heading for the platform, like she had before, she went straight to the front lobby.
Just as she entered the lobby, which was sealed off to the street, Olivia and Monroe came running up a flight of stairs on the other side of the room.
“Bunny!” Olivia called out.
“Are you two alright?” Bunny fell to her knees and threw her arms around her young friends. “It’s such a relief to see you two safe with everything that’s going on.”
“We’re fine, but this isn’t over yet, is it? Nekou looked like she was pretty panicked…”
“I hate to say it, Olivia, but you’re right. This situation just got a whole lot worse. Where is Nekou anyway?”
“She’s still down in the tunnels,” Monroe answered, gesturing with his head toward the stairs he and Olivia had come up. “She told us to go on ahead and look for you here.”
“That was probably a good idea considering the kind of danger we’re in. Better to stick together.”
“So what now?” Olivia wondered.
“We’ve got a plan worked out,” Bunny said, standing and turning for the gate to the tracks. “Come on, I don’t want you two out of my sight.”
Olivia nodded, grabbed Monroe’s arm, and closely followed Bunny as she went to the gate.
“Damn it!” Matt swore, slamming his fist down on the glitching keyboard. “Nekou, it’s too fried. I know you tried but I can’t crack this.”
“I was afraid of that…”
“So what now?!” Matt nearly pulled his glasses off, but caught himself and stopped. Instead, he put his trembling hands on the control console and forced his body up. “What do I do? I’m going to die, aren’t I?”
“You’re not going to ****ing die!” Nekou snapped. “Just let me think!”
The force of the train’s motion caught up with Matt, causing him to lose his balance and fall back into the chair. He stared at his sunken expression, reflected in the computer screen, and began trying to resign himself to his fate.
“So after everything that happened, this is how I go out…” he thought.
“Wake up!” Nekou suddenly booming in his ear woke Matt from his daze. “I thought of something. That’s a Polaris train, but the build of it is a pretty typical factory standard. If they didn’t modify the design of it, there should be a kill switch to cause a gradual reduction in power until it stops.”
This news caused Matt’s mood to brighten slightly. “Alright, good. How do I activate the code?”
“It’s not a kill code, I said kill switch. You have to listen.”
“Alright, sorry.” Matt steadied himself on the computer. The more he thought about Nekou’s words, a growing feeling of dread started to come over him, and he whispered, “Where’s this kill switch then?”
“Outside the cab. Go out the right-hand door and it should be on the side of the train just a couple feet away.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that.” Weakly pushing himself to his feet, Matt dragged himself over to the door. “If something happens to me, take care of Olivia.”
“Nothing’s going to…” Nekou’s voice suddenly became serious, almost compassionate. “Nothing’s going to happen to you. Just be careful and you’ll come back fine.”
“Thanks… I appreciate that.”
Matt started toward the door, only to be thrown against it by a sudden rocking of the train. Recovering, he steadied himself, opened the door and stumbled outside into the violent wind. His hat was blown away the moment the wind caught it, but he had other concerns, namely that the only thing stopping him from being ground into the tracks was the thin guardrail he was leaning on. When he saw just how close he was to falling off the narrow catwalk, a shaky groan escaped his lips.
“What did she drag me into…”
Tightening his grip on the rail, Matt braced himself against the wind and pushed himself up. Off in the distance, he could see the Goldenrod skyline rapidly increasing in size on the horizon.
“N-Nekou, help me!” he gasped, balancing himself using the the rail and the side of the locomotive. He found himself breathing rapidly and becoming somewhat lightheaded. “Where is this switch?!”
“It should be right close to you! Feel around for a square panel sticking out from the engine!”
With his hair and coat violently lashing around him, Matt struggled forward, running his left hand over the wall as he advanced. It wasn’t long before he discovered the panel Nekou had described, however, when he realized there was a cover over the switch, his legs became weak. He then looked over his shoulder at the looming image of Goldenrod City and felt his stomach sink.
“Can’t one thing go smoothly here?” he groaned.
He continued to feel around the panel and eventually found a small ridge he could work his fingers into. Once he had a good grip, he took a deep breath and began to pull, exerting all the strength his mechanical arm gave him. The cover did not immediately give way, and as a result of Matt making a sustained effort to force it, his arm began to strain and spark.
Eventually, however, a single bolt popped off the cover, followed shortly by a second. Once a few of the bolts had fallen away, the entire thing ripped off the locomotive in one violent, fluid motion. It was so abrupt that Matt spun around and crashed face-down on the catwalk from the force.
From where he had fallen, Matt could see quite clearly how close he was to the danger of the tracks. He stared for only a moment, though, before he struggled back up against the wall and reached for the now-exposed switch.
“There’s a handle under here!” he yelled over the wind. “Is this it?”
“Should be!” Nekou replied. “Pull it!”
“Here goes nothing…”
Tightening his fingers around the handle, Matt took another deep breath and pulled it down. Within seconds, he could feel the motion of the train beginning to slow, even if the deceleration was slight.
“I think it worked!” he exclaimed, leaning against the wall.
“Now get back inside and tell me what you see!”
Following Nekou’s direction, Matt slid back to the door, not standing back up until he had safely rolled back into the cab.
The computer screens were no longer glitching and filling with errors. Instead, a single box was displayed, reading “power down status” over a progress reading that currently showed 97%. That number kept decreasing right before Matt’s eyes, and standing became easier with every drop.
“Nekou, it worked!” he exclaimed, relief flooding over his mind. “The power is dropping like a rock!”
“And now we wait.”
Matt suddenly felt like his heart had stopped. “For what?”
“To see if the power-down is enough to stop you from crashing.”
Clutching the strap of his bag, Matt thought, “Bunny, come on…”
While the runaway train was barreling toward Goldenrod, Bunny was floating above the city, holding onto Sky with one hand and clutching a megaphone she’d found in the station with the other. From her vantage point, she could see Hethna and Cordelia waiting in position a distance down the tracks.
Olivia and Monroe were waiting on the roof of the station and watched as Bunny descended closer to the crowds outside.
“Listen to me!” she called down to them using the megaphone. “There’s a runaway train coming this way! Get away from here now!”
Bunny could not make out the cacophony of a response from the crowd, but from its tone she could tell they weren’t going to listen. She was forced to rise up in the air again when someone threw a rock up at her.
“Are your adventures always this crazy?” Monroe asked Olivia.
“I’ve seen some ****,” Olivia replied with a slight smile. “I don’t think I’d trade it away for anything, though. Not after all I’ve been through.”
“I wish my life was as interesting as yours…”
Before they could converse any further, Bunny intervened. “Get ready! This is it!”
Olivia put the binoculars she was holding to her face, then passed them to Monroe so he could see as well.
Off in the distance, the train collided with Hethna, who attempted to hold it back. The impact threw Matt backward through the glowing Polaris door and into the middle car. Cordelia, meanwhile, helped by flying after the train and using Psychic in an attempt to drag it down further.
At the hotel, Rowena rushed out onto the balcony of her room, Cinccino following shortly after.
“This is incredible!” she said, pointing her camera in the direction of the oncoming train. “The perfect footage to wrap this story!”
As the train came closer to the station, the sound of Hethna’s feet grinding against the tracks got louder and louder. The crowd couldn’t hear it, but their protest was disrupted when sirens on the streets began blaring.
“This is an emergency broadcast from the Radio Tower,” the speakers rang out when the alarms ceased. “A runaway train is rapidly approaching Magnet Station. An evacuation order of the central Goldenrod Plaza is in effect. Please leave immediately.”
“They’re lying to get rid of us!” one of the protesters screamed.
Instead of getting them to leave, the evacuation notice simply whipped the crowd into even more of a frenzy. They advanced on the Radio Tower, chanting various threats in their rage, but an unexpected interruption soon came.
“Holy ****, there really is a runaway train!” another of the crowd shouted, having spotted Hethna being pushed back closer and closer to the station.
That one protester fleeing the plaza caused more of them to look, and all of them saw the same thing he had. Within seconds the streets had gone from fury to full-on panic as the crowds frantically fled for the second time in as many days.
In the midst of the chaos, Nekou came running up into the station from the tunnels and exited the station.
“****!” she exclaimed when she saw the hordes of people running past her.
Before she realized it, Olivia and Monroe had come down through the station and rejoined her.
“Is everything going to be okay?” Olivia demanded, her voice quivering.
“I really ****ing hope so…”
A horrible screeching nearby caused all three of them to turn around. Up above them, the train was forcing Hethna into the station. It had slowed significantly, but Nekou, Olivia, Bunny and Monroe all knew just from looking that it was still going too fast.
After grinding through the platform, the train forced Hethna through the back wall, but not at a high enough speed to propel itself into the Radio Tower as had been feared. The Golurk fell out first, followed by the three train cars falling on and around it in a crumpled heap.
“Matt was still on there!” Bunny shrilled as Sky brought her down.
“Don’t you ****ing think I know that?!” Nekou shot back. “Come on!”
Nekou led Bunny, Olivia and Monroe over the piles of bricks scattered about the street and onto the wreckage of the train itself. They fanned out in a small cluster and began picking through what they could.
“Matt!” Olivia called out, looking around for any sign of him.
Monroe repeated her plea, then added, “I don’t want to go have to tell Amanda you’re gone!”
Just as Monroe finished, the sound of metal scraping on metal attracted the group’s attention. They turned and saw a broken piece of what was once the middle car shifting.
“Cordelia, help him out,” Bunny directed, gesturing at the piece of wreckage. “Psychic!”
The blue light of the Sigilyph’s Psychic surrounded the wreckage, pulled it into the air and tossed it aside. One of Matt’s cybernetic hands emerged, his glove having torn away to reveal the silver metal underneath.
Nekou and Bunny immediately ran to him, with the former taking his hand and the latter pushing away more chunks of wreckage to clear a path for him to be pulled free. Once enough was moved aside for his other hand to reach out, Nekou pulled him up. He looked ragged, with his coat torn in a number of places and cuts all over his face.
“You look like ****,” Nekou said, a warm smile coming onto her face.
“Feel like it too,” he admitted. “You guys… you all really came together to fix this…”
“Don’t sell yourself short.” Nekou suddenly grabbed Matt’s face and kissed him, leaving not only him but Bunny, Olivia and Monroe stunned. “You didn’t do so bad. Come on, let’s go get you cleaned up. I want to show you something.”
Matt stumbled when he tried to walk, so Nekou and Bunny supported him by letting him drape his arms over their shoulders. However, before they left, Bunny recalled Hethna and Cordelia to their Poké Balls and returned them to Matt.
Several holographic screens surrounded Giovanni in the back of his car, having been generated by Rosalie through her wheelchair’s computer. Pierce, Petrel, Ada and a “SOUND ONLY” box representing Trevor were on one, while Jessie, James, Meowth and Ariana were on a second and Zager was on a third. Two more displayed footage of the events that had happened in and around Goldenrod City.
“...so to sum it up,” Ada was in the middle of explaining, “we have acquired a small piece of the Meteonite, but Polaris got away with the bigger piece. The Chromosome called Jeunes is indeed our former scientist Mitchell Yung, and he’s still working on his Mirage System.”
“If Polaris is funding his research, then he’s surely made significant advances,” Zager warned. “We will have to beware, if they are using his Mirage System as a weapon.”
“I can confirm they are. He fought with Executive Petrel, Matt Chiaki and Bunny Spruce using a Mirage Mewtwo. I… I managed to defeat it with my Milotic.”
“Well done, Ada,” Giovanni complimented his subordinate. “Petrel, did you manage to accomplish your mission?”
“It’s all here,” replied the bearded Executive. He smiled and held up a flash drive marked with Team Rocket’s logo. “When nobody was paying attention, I copied the database of the Purine Ba… excuse me, the Battle Factory.”
“Good work. Pierce, I want you to deliver the Meteonite piece in your possession along with the drive containing the Battle Factory’s data to Zager after we meet up in Olivine City. Zager, your job is to decode the data on that drive so we can gain a better understanding of what Polaris plans to do, and hopefully we’ll also find out what they’re going to use the Meteonite for.”
“It will be done, Boss,” Pierce said.
“Understood, Giovanni, sir,” Zager concurred.
“Now…” Giovanni turned his head and questioned, “what of your mission, Ariana?”
“We stole one crate of Pokémon,” she weakly answered. “They should prove to be beneficial assets for us.”
“Hey, give us the credit we deserve!” Meowth shouted.
Seeing Giovanni’s inquisitive look, Jessie reported, “We completely defeated Factory Head Thorton, aka Chromosome Getriebe, in the course of stealing these Pokémon, sir.”
“Very good. I’m impressed with your work. Overal…”
“Giovanni, sir, there’s something else.”
“Do not interrupt the boss while he is speaking,” Pierce sharply rebuked James.
“No, Pierce, I want to hear this. I have a feeling it will be important.”
James gulped, then said, “We planted a bug on Polaris’s ship, sir. We overheard Thorton and his followers discussing something they called Oberon…”
“Did you say Oberon?” Pierce blurted out.
“Do you recognize that name?” Rosalie asked.
“I know it,” Proton chimed in from the drivers’ seat of the car. “Isn’t it a character in a play?”
“Indeed,” Trevor added. “They even made a few movies out of it.”
“No, you don’t understand.” A look of worry had come onto Pierce’s face, a mood unusual for him. “That play was based on a Tenganist myth from three thousand years ago. The myth talked about a king whose treasure gave him the ability to control a Pokémon we don’t have in this modern era. If the myth is true, then Polaris may have obtained something very dangerous.”
Giovanni shut his eyes and sighed. “I will have to collect the full stories from all of you in Olivine. Right now, we must focus on preparation. If what happened in Goldenrod City is merely their warmup act, then what Polaris plans to do in Ecruteak is going to be much worse.”
Several hours later, Nekou slipped into a restroom at the bar and restaurant she’d taken the others to and locked the door. She lazily walked up to the marble sink in the room and looked at herself in the mirror. The lamps mounted in the wall around the mirror cast a dramatic shadow across her face.
After running some water over her hands and using it to wipe down her face and neck, she dried them off on her coat and took out her phone. With the press of a single icon, Giovanni appeared on the screen. He was petting Persian, whose head slightly emerged into the frame.
“Lalume, I want to hear good news.”
“My apologies, Boss, but I couldn’t stop them from getting involved. However, the only reason a disaster was prevented was because I had their help.”
“I’ve heard from Ada and the others about your work. You did well in stopping Polaris from causing a catastrophe, but I warn you, Lalume, you must be careful. Involving others in Team Rocket’s mission is a dangerous risk.”
“I know, Boss, but with all due respect… Matt Chiaki may seem like he’s spineless, but I have a gut feeling he will be a valuable asset to us. We should keep him actively on our side to defeat Polaris.”
“I will leave that to you, then. You know him best. The next place I expect you is Ecruteak City, where I want you to investigate a Tenganist myth called the Oberon. We will meet for the operation then. Do not disappoint me.”
Without giving Nekou a chance to respond, Giovanni cut the connection and disappeared from her phone.
“Aw, ****,” she swore, looking up at the ceiling. “At least this ought to be a fun time.”
Nekou shook her head, smiled, and left the restroom. A long bar stretched along the wall to her right, eventually turning to also run along a giant window that provided a vast view of Goldenrod’s brightly lit skyline under the clear night sky. The rest of the floor was covered by tables draped with fine tablecloths, and a small band was set up against the left wall.
Walking past a table where Bunny, Olivia and Monroe were eating, Nekou collected a bottle of beer and sat down next to Matt at the windowside bar.
“Hey,” she said.
“Aw, is that it?” Nekou teased. “I come to sit with you and that’s all I get?”
“Thanks for treating us to this…” Matt had his face buried in his drink and was mumbling, making it difficult for Nekou to hear him. “I just keep thinking about being back on that train.”
“You don’t have to.” Putting her hand on his leg, she continued, “I meant what I said before. You need to give yourself credit for your part in saving the city.”
“Credit for what?” he snapped before backing down. “Sorry. I just… after all of that, what was it for? Polaris is right about how divided this city is.”
“****, you really get out of it when you drink, don’t you? Look at me.” Matt didn’t turn his head fast enough, so Nekou grabbed his face and turned it herself. He found himself looking right into her blazing eyes. “Stop talking like that. You did the right thing today. Go ahead, look out there.”
Both of them turned their gazes to the sprawling city beneath them. “What about it?” he questioned.
“It’s true that there’s a lot of people struggling to get by out there,” Nekou wistfully said. “But you know what else is true? When I look out there, I see people who have hope that they can make things better. I believe that those people would rather get a better tomorrow for themselves, but Polaris wants them to just look for an easy way out. People can’t live like that, that’s why we have to keep trying to beat Polaris. Do you get it? When I look out there, I see an ugly yet beautiful city that needs to both protect and be protected. You know, kind of like you.”
“What?!” Matt exclaimed, spinning back around in his seat to face her again.
“Relax, I’m ****ing with you.”
“Good,” he said, going back to sulking into his drink. “That’s not true about me at all. I wouldn’t have cared if I got killed on that train…” Because he wasn’t looking at her, he couldn’t see how Nekou’s expression had quickly darkened. “It wouldn’t have mattered. Once I have the truth I’m looking for, there’s nothing left for me to live for anyway…”
Before Matt even realized what was going on, Nekou had stood and seized him by the collar. Using all her strength, she managed to lift him up singlehandedly.
“Stop ****ing talking like that…” she growled. Her bangs blocked her eyes from Matt’s sight, but as he looked down her arm at her, he had a perfect idea of what they looked like. “Stop it! Just stop it! Do you know what happens when you die? You go to sleep and never wake up and then you rot in the ****ing ground! So stop giving me this **** about how miserable you are when you have no ****ing clue what it feels like to be that alone!”
“A...alright…” Matt uttered in shock. “I’m… I’m sorry…”
“Good.” As abruptly as it came, Nekou’s wild lashing out abated. She let him go, nearly causing him to crumple to the floor, which he would have if he didn’t catch himself on the bar.
“Are you two done with your little fight?” Bunny interrupted, standing nearby with Olivia and Monroe. When Matt and Nekou both nodded, she said, “Olivia has something she wants to tell you.”
“What is it, Olivia?” Nekou asked.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I talked to Bunny and Monroe about it, and…” Crossing her arms behind her back, she hesitated, then said, “I figured out what I want to do.”
Shaking off his malaise, Matt managed to regroup and stand up straight. “Is that so? What is it?”
Olivia stared into Matt’s eye with an intensity that caught him by surprise. “We’re going to keep fighting Polaris. I’m going to keep fighting Polaris. What I saw today, my dad would hate what they’re trying to do. My dad did everything he did to try and bring people together with Pokémon. Now that I know he’s not coming back, I’m going to do the same thing and stop Polaris from dividing them.”
While Matt hung back, considering what Olivia had said, Nekou walked up to her, leaned down and draped her arms over Olivia’s shoulders.
“I’m proud of you, Olivia. That’s a very grown up decision to make.”
The first two things to greet Looker as he awoke were the sound of water dripping and a chill that ran up his skin. He stared at the ceiling of the cave for some time before he tried to move, only to find that his left arm was fixed in a sling.
“Go get her,” a male voice nearby called out. “He’s waking up.”
The realization that there were others around prompted Looker to force himself to sit up. His body strained just to perform even that simple motion, so he had to catch his breath before looking around at his surroundings.
Several of the Tenganists stood around the chamber, but what surprised the detective the most was the presence of his old prisoner, Jacob Alexison, sitting on the table next to him.
“Alexison!” Looker groaned. “What sort of plan for escape have you implemented?”
“I didn’t escape,” the old man replied. “We might both even be prisoners right now.”
“Whatever might you be talking about?”
Both Jacob and Looker turned from each other, only to see the Prophet and several of her followers standing before them.
“Explain these events of happening this right instant!” Looker snapped. “Who are you being?”
“In due time, Agent Looker.” The Prophet handed her baby to Alesia before she continued speaking. “You are at the Sinjoh Ruins, what remains of the Tenganist… what remains of our holy land. You two are the only survivors of our bombing of the Magnet Train, which was an accident, as we were targeting what we believed to be a train containing Polaris members. On behalf of all of my people, I apologize.”
“An apology? Please!” Looker stumbled to his feet and thrust his finger at the Prophet. “Why should I be accepting of that? I should be apprehending you all as the terrorists you are being right this very moment!”
“I do not blame you. That is your job, and if you so wish to arrest me, once you have recovered, I will surrender willingly. But first, I have much to tell you that I believe will change your mind about good and evil here. First, you asked who I am.” The Prophet spread her arms. “I had a happy, peaceful life once. Because of Ghetsis and Polaris at large, that was taken from me. Now, all I am is Azrael, the angel sent to bring the death of Polaris.”
Most of the members of the Sacred Helix had gathered in one way or another for their conference. Cassy and Yung were absent entirely, so their seats were empty and the spotlights on them were turned down. Ghetsis, Thorton, Mercury and Geminus were displayed in hologram form, while Archer, Praeses, Finansielle and Athleta were present in person.
“What a complete fiasco,” Praeses grumbled into his clasped hands. “This was supposed to have been a simple operation. Ghetsis’s followers would stir up the people of Goldenrod City to win support for our cause, then Getriebe would take the Pokémon while Jeunes would take care of the Meteonite. There was never supposed to be this kind of interference.”
“Is that why Jeunes is not here?” Geminus asked.
“Jeunes was unmasked by Matt Chiaki, Bunny Spruce and the members of Team Rocket,” Archer revealed to the others. “He has been given his rightful punishment under our customs by being removed temporarily from this panel.”
“Do not speak as if you have no role in this,” Athleta said to Archer. “Team Rocket was your responsibility. You were the one who used to operate within their ranks.”
“I must confess my own shortcomings in that regard. I didn’t expect such an ambitious attack. Clearly, though we had believed Team Rocket was crippled, they are still capable of active interference.”
“I am more concerned about Matt Chiaki. Why does he keep turning up and derailing our work? Is he working with Team Rocket?”
Mercury hesitated, then answered Geminus by saying, “We have no reason to believe that there is an active link between…”
“Yes we do,” Thorton interrupted. “The Admin-rank Team Rocket member Nekou Lalume is one of his allies. We have every reason to believe they are actively colluding.”
“For now, I think we should simply observe those four. There may be a way to turn them into our tools if we continue to monitor their activity and respond accordingly. Getriebe, what is the current progress of your work?”
“We are planning to continue gathering data on Pokémon battling and strategy at the Adenosine Base, Finansielle. With the Meteonite we collected, Colress believes he will be able to finish mapping out the way to create our new Pokérus. Meanwhile, Jeunes and I will be working on gathering further data. I intend to combine the data I collected at the Purine Base with the data that can be gathered by our followers’ use of the Battle Sim hardware provided to us.”
“Excellent. I see my funding of your research was worthwhile, as my investments always are.”
“Now!” Archer raised his arms to silence the others. “The final part of phase one of Project Genesis is at hand. Ghetsis, I trust that you will not disappoint us, but my faith in you is rapidly running out.”
“How dare you!” Ghetsis snapped, waving his cane at Archer even though he wasn’t even in the same room. “You are merely a substitute until Father returns. Do not speak to me in such a…”
“Father’s faith in you is rapidly running out as well,” Finansielle coldly stated. “I have spoken to him. Ecruteak City is your last chance.”
With Ghetsis rendered speechless, Athleta took the opportunity to speak. “I would like to make a proposal to the Sacred Helix. Due to the consistent failure of the Third Chromosome to keep his affairs in order, I would like to send a trainer from my own division to Ecruteak City as support.”
“The motion is accepted and shall now go to a vote. I, Archer, the representative of the First Chromosome, Father, vote yes!”
“I, the Second Chromosome Praeses, vote yes!”
Ghetsis scowled and declared, “I vote no!”
“I, the Fourth Chromosome Finansielle…” After shooting a smirk at Ghetsis, Finansielle said, “I vote yes.”
“I, the Sixth Chromosome Mercury, vote yes.”
“I, the Ninth Chromosome Getriebe, vote yes!”
“I, the Tenth Chromosome Geminus, vote yes!”
“And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.” Archer couldn’t help letting a hint of smugness slip into his voice. “By a vote of six to one, the motion put forth by Seventh Chromosome Athleta is approved. Is there any further business?”
“You listen here!” Ghetsis roared. “I will not stand for this meddling in the task given to me by…”
Without batting an eye, Archer cut Ghetsis’s feed, making his hologram vanish. He then said, “I will take that as a no. Return to your work, Chromosomes. We are reaching very important days.”
In his laboratory, Zager took out an old bottle of wine and a glass from his cabinet. With Galvantula warily watching him, he slouched into a chair. After considering using the glass, he put it aside, opened the bottle and simply drank the wine right out of it.
“I know I was saving this, Galvantula,” he said sadly. “Now feels like as good a time as any, though. I fear what is going to happen next, and I’m the one with blood on his hands.” Lowering his eyes to an object on the table next to his chair, he continued, “I thought I was doing good and yet I have done so much bad… There is no going back for me. I have to keep doing what must be done to right what I did for Polaris… and to you. If we ever meet again I beg that you’ll forgive me.”
The object was an old, faded file folder packed full of papers. Its edges were frayed, but what was on it was still clear. It bore a large Polaris logo and the name ‘C. Langley’ stamped on it.
END of CHAPTER 15