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Smooth Criminal 2- He's My Brother

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Part I

The cliffy, snow-covered hillsides of the Silver Mountains are known for two things: 1. They’re cliffy. 2. They’re snow-covered.

And 3., they are, in fact, mountains and not hillsides, but that’s neither here nor there.

And, consequently, they’re so hard to ascend that they pose one of the greatest challenges for human climbers and trainers accompanied by Pokemon alike. In fact, the mountains had attracted such an audacious clientele that the league had to enforce trespassing laws to get their brave, brainless trainers from breaking more than just a single bone. For years and decades, the clear, unmistakable rule had been: Only someone worthy of the title of the one and only Pokemon Master may enter the mountains, still on their own risk and without any life insurance, but with the knowledge that should he fail in his aim of conquering the harsh wilderness, there would be no help, and consequently, no hope for him.

Except for the glory of being known for his act for the remainder of civilization, however long that may be.

Fortunately, there had been no one earning the title of Pokemon Master for nearly twenty years, so the closed-off area remained what it had always been: A refugium for rare Pokemon.

And with the way the league utterly failed to define what a Pokemon Master was, after all, except for the debatably lame description of a really, really strong trainer, there was no reason to believe than anything would change anytime soon.

But change is inevitable, even in nature, even with massive mountains that seemed to be as eternal as the sky.

And as such, this day, an old man with graying hair and a lab coat thrown over his hiking vest, accompanied by a boy no older than twelve tried to take his chance at overcoming the threat of Mount Silver.

And, while they were at it, probably overcoming the threat of his increasing arthritis.

Professor Oak, also known as the most well known Pokemon luminary despite having never left his home town, was huffing and puffing, and blowing out air like an old steam engine. He was covered in sweat and scratches from brambly bushes, and his face was glowing positively pink.

Just two steps behind him was a young boy, clothed in a far more fitting attire, yet burdened with several pouches, sacks and other stowage facilities. He looked to be just as tired as the professor, but thanks to the sheer advantage of his youth, he didn’t look as if he was cornering a heart attack.

“Are we there yet?” The boy asked, wiping sweat from his blue-tinted, dark hair.

Professor Oak would have groaned in exasperation if he didn’t need every breath of oxygen to keep himself from tumbling over. “Not…much….longer…” It remains unclear if he was talking about their route, or the time he had left before he would kick the bucket.

The extraordinary couple was on a special quest. One that required finesse, strength, stamina and knowledge.

And sadly, the league hadn’t been able to find a single person who possessed all of these attributes, so they had to send the runner ups.

An hour, six bottles of water, seven liters of sweat, twenty milliliters of blood and a negligible amount of urine later, the two individuals were finally standing in front of the cave they had been looking for the whole time.

Professor Oak emanated an aura of pride, or, alternatively, was succumbing to anoxia.

“This is it, Gerard.”

“My name is Gilbert, mister.”

“Oh, right, sorry.” Professor Oak cleared his throat. “This is Moltres’ cave. This is where we’ll find the legendary flame of Indigo, the most sacred fire on the continent.”

Ho-Oh would like to have a word with him.

Professor Oak took another breath before the air would inevitable become carbonaceous and kill his lungs off faster than he could say “uno, dos, tres”.

“Um, mister?” The boy behind him asked, timidly raising his arm as if he were in school, and not several hundreds of miles away from civilization, with no one but an old geezer accompanying him. “Isn’t it unsafe to enter the cave just like that?”

“Of course not!” We’re not talking about a two meter tall god-like bird of fire, but a burning pet parrot, right.

“But if it puts your mind at ease, I’ll let out Dragonite. Just in case.” Just in case Moltres was feeling hungry, and tasty, well-done human flesh was on his dinner menu today.

The boy nodded slowly, before glancing at his own Pokemon companion, a young, still unfit Bulbasaur, which was certainly the greatest choice of Pokemon he could have picked when he was going to meet with the legendary bird of fire. Sadly, this subitem had not been on his contract yet when he had signed the declaration of agreement in order to become an official trainer and had chosen the little plant dinosaur as his new best friend for eternity, or, alternatively, for as long as he felt fit to challenge the trainers and gyms of Kanto alike.

Professor Oak took a deep breath, and released the huge dragon from his capsule prison. The dragon was just as old as he was, but since dragons count in different eras than mere humans do, the Pokemon might as well have been a fledgling compared to what the mortal duo would find in the cave. The professor was well aware of this hazard, but he was counting on Moltres’ hospitability and the fact that they were coming with- not good, but at least friendly intention.

As we already said, the jury’s still out on if he was already suffering from brain damage by mountain sickness, or if dementia was finally showing its grotesque mask.

Or if he was just incredible naïve.

“Don’t worry, Gordon.”

“Gilbert.”

“Yes, I know.” The professor coughed. “We’re just after its flame. Nothing more. Just the flame.” He nodded. “A prestigious duty to collect the flame of Indigo for the tournament. This is a moment that will go down in history.”

As the time a well-known professor and his protégé were flambéed and served with wood strawberries . and a nice, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon.

“And you should be proud that you were selected to be the one to hold the torch first. Remember it, savor every moment of it, my dear, for this will be an one and only chance. Your face, your story, your name will be known to all of mankind! Don’t forget a single episode of this, Gabriel.”

“Gilbert.”

~*~Scene change~*~

The luxurious headquarter of the league did not only provide fancy halls fit to gather all gym leaders and partners for glamorous conventions, but also most of the management of the league and the bureaus of the Elite Four themselves, which were, for those folks expecting lavish interior, a bit underwhelming, as even those who earned more money than they could safely spend in a lifetime found themselves at a need for practicality and comfort. And as such, Lance’s office didn’t differ as much from the usual companies’ head’s office than one might think. Except for the five meter long mahogany office desk. Or the brocade curtains. Or the Persian carpet. Or the antique canapé. Or the two ninja servants fanning their boss in spite of the functioning air conditioning that was sparsely needed in the mountain area.

The one that had been called to Lance’s office this morning was hardly impressed by the interior, either way. Still and stiff she stood in front of the man that was not only her boss, but responsible for a whole bunch of misfits that called themselves gym leaders. But his impressive pedigree did not end there. He was also the head of the shadowy organization known as the G-Man, who gave themselves no other description than working for the good and for achieving world peace, and might have as well been highly suspicious terrorists.

Lance was sitting in front of his psychic gym leader, hands folded over each other in a gesture of serene calm. Which he was, most of the time, when he wasn’t out saving one third of the world, getting one third behind prison bars and nailing what was there to remain.

“You know why I summoned you here?” He asked, not even bothering to wait for the answer. By now, he knew fully that his gym leader had known about his intentions the moment he had phoned her, if not even before. He wasn’t sure if fortune telling was actually within her arsenal.

“It is future telling and I try not to predict the future unless I am forced, since even minimal knowledge about it can alter the future radically.”

No, he was not unsettled by her behavior, clearly not. Not anymore. It had been bad when she had still owned that horrible caricature of a doll. By now, it was merely irritating from time to time.

„But am I correct in assuming that you know what I called you in for?“ He asked lamely, giving off the slightest hint that he might have rolled his eyes if he weren’t fairly above such indignity.

“Yes”, she answered for him.

Lance was close to dismissing her, as he knew that his prized psychic valued time just as much as he did, and given their narrow time frame, it was better to act now than to be sorry later.

But Sabrina surprised him with a behavior that was so utterly out of the usual for her that he thought he might have misheard her at first.

“But tell me…why me?” She looked at him, eyes open, question mark almost tattooed on her forehead.

Lance blinked. “I thought that much was obvious?” He asked back, sarcastically, only to realize sharply that Sabrina was not in the possession of a dictionary for basic human communication connotations, and he would have to cut back his undertone if he were to be understood by her fully.

“Excuse me, but I think it was obvious as to why I choose you.” He repeated himself, leaned back, playing with a pen between his nervous fingers. “After all, she is your ladyfriend, isn’t she?”

“She isn’t.” Sabrina deadpanned, without effort, as she was merely answering Lance and not consciously trying to humor up the conversation. “That was merely an act. I had no other partner to turn up with at the winter’s ball, Lance.”

Lance sighed. “That is actually sad to hear, Sabrina. I though the two of you got along quite well.” In all honesty though, the private affairs of his underlings only concerned him once they become tangent to the league’s affairs, at which point he often wished the kind of arranged marriages the dragon clan undertook weren’t so frowned upon.

Or illegal.

Sabrina paused. “You are not the first one to state such, Lance.” She almost, almost made a face, if not for the fact that it seemed physically impossible for her to convert any real expressions.

“Then maybe the majority has a point, hm?” Lance tried to smile, but the cold statue of a psychic standing in front of him stole his smirk before it had even fully formed. He sighed and shrugged, hand waving his last comment. “Either way, get in contact with her, tell her about the issue, and see to that she accepts the task, regardless of how you have to assure her compliance. I and the whole of the league put all of our faith in you, Sabrina.” He wasn’t entirely sure if that didn’t amount to playing jeopardy. Just a few years ago, he wouldn’t have bet on the psychic if his life depended on it, and now he was commissioning her with high security information.

Years ago, she had been pretty much the sole reason for his inspector Joy reservoir to run dry, and he still hadn’t gotten all of them back.

She nodded slowly, so slowly, he would have to rewind his security tapes to see if he hadn’t just imagined the movement. “Understood.” And with that, she teleported out of the office, leaving no trail of her presence behind.

Lance swung around in his office chair, glancing sideways at his telephone. Maybe it was time to tell his runner-ups that he had a job for them.

After all, it wasn’t wise to put all of his eggs in one basket, and it wasn’t very wise either to trust fully in a duo that was comprised of a more than dubious psychic and her verifiable criminal girlfriend.

What nobody bothered to tell Lance, though, was that relying on a just as wicked psychic and his demonstrable instable girlfriend wasn’t sane either.

~*~ Scene change~*~

“Are we close enough to the target yet to begin the capture process, navigator?”

“Negative, captain. Target seems to have relocated itself to an undersea cave, if sonar report is to be believed.”

A deep-throated groan. “Great!” The captain stood up, her cape wiping the floor behind her, and cutting the air as sharp as a blade could. One has to wonder why she didn’t cut her ankles, but then, the owner of this garment herself was made of a material unknown to mankind. She wouldn’t have been able to remain the top dog in her business for so long if it hadn’t been for her guts.

During her whole career, if you wanted to put it in such a positive way, the instances where Jean Hunter, or as the world came to know her, Hunter J, had been captured were so rare you could count them on the fingers of one hand. The latest trip to the prison cell was dated back barely a few months ago, and had ended with J getting her freedom back in exchange for accompanying a lonesome gym leader to the annual winter’s ball. Ever since then, she had avoided Kanto like an unhealthy plague, and if it hadn’t been for this lucrative task, she would have stayed away from Kanto even longer, thank you very much.

But her employer was as wealthy as he was desperate, and the unusualness of the target itself had tempted her. Even before accepting the mission, she had known it would put both her and her crew under immense pressure, and test out the real resilience of their equipment.

And now, she was forced to stall, and that not even for the first time.

“How many fucking underwater caves can there be in Cerulean Sea?!” She snarled, bringing her fist down on the backrest of her seat. Her head commander shivered slightly, before giving the wrongest answer he could.

“Uh, many?”

On a scale from false to so horrendous erroneous that one deserves to be beheaded with a blunt rasper, he was very close to the kitchen utensil.

J had to keep breathing in order to keep herself from spitting right into his pale, disruptive face. Oh, how she wished sometimes for a new, a better crew, one that was at least as sensible as not to shit out their zany mistakes in front of her face, but alas, as long as robots were nothing more than defective machines programmed and operated by even more screwed humans, she was stuck with what she had. Even if she sometimes felt that she would be better off with holograms instead of blood and flesh humans.

Though she would likely miss the torture opportunities mere humans provided her with.

She rubbed her temple. “Okay, okay…did you mark the last position of the target?”

“Yes, madam.”

“Do you reasonable believe that the target will reappear at this spot in assessable time?”

The henchman gulped. He was very well aware that his answer would determine if he would be gutted in assessable time, but he was no Pokemon behavioral biologist.

And even if he was, the likelihood that a Dragonite of around forty feet would act just like any other exemplar of his species was very small.

“There is a chance, madam.”” He answered placably.

J took a deep breath. “So there’s a chance we’re stuck in this Arceus-forsaken country at this goddamn shore waiting for this cursedly slow ass Dragonite to show its crackbrained bum!” She massaged her temple. “Okay, fine. That’s okay for the moment, it’s okay. It can’t get any worse, right?”

“Good evening, Jean.”

“Aahhhh…”

Yes, it can.

“What the hell are you mother-fucking freak doing in here?!” J shrieked, her arsenal of swearwords not yet depleted.

The psychic, obviously not fazed by J’s uncordial welcome, wasted no time explaining her presence. “I’m here with an offer by the league for you.”

J, though she tried her best not to show it in front of her henchmen, smirked. “What, shall I play your bride again?”

And just as expected, as her henchmen were very much human and as such possessed the stage of maturation a primary school attendant would have, presented with a textbook joke such as this, there was giggling behind her.

J shot off her calcification beam without even taking a look at the henchmen she was hitting it with, hoping that she wasn’t particularly aiming it at the main navigator.

“No, unfortunately, this is not the gift I can offer you.”

J raised an eyebrow. If she hadn’t hoped to know any better, she would have believed the psychic to actually sound disappointed with this declaration.

“Okay, so what then? What can I, the sinful criminal marked as the undesirable number one, do for your holy league of saints?”

Sabrina glanced at her side, tilting her body slightly as if she had been glued to the ground actually, before switching directions and looking J back directly in the face.

“Would it be possible for us to discuss this in private?”

J shrugged. “Sure, okay.” With that, she turned around, and barked at her henchmen, who were hurriedly trying to free the ship’s cook from his bronze prison. “You heard her, right? No eavesdropping, unless you want your ears to drop!”

And with that, she jumped off the backrest of her chair, as she had actually been sitting owl style in surprise the whole time.

No more than two minutes after the two women had left the room, the horde of henchmen stormed to door, and consequently the keyhole, with several of them stating their excitement at finally seeing their boss being French kissed.

The cook was left in a state of half-freedom, with his lower parts sadly still being encased in metal.

“What did I say?” The real J snarled, smashing the door open so wide and sharply that she jammed several fingers, and nearly some other appendages as well, before turning back to her psychic companion with a deep sigh. “I must admit, mind reading and psychic illusions are highly useful abilities…thanks for informing me about their misbehavior.” She paused, closing the door in-between, ignoring the bowl of whimpering henchmen. “Remind me to reintroduce capital punishment.”

“Don’t mention it.” The psychic didn’t bother looking around, even though J had involuntarily piloted them into her personal quarters. The older woman supposed that the psychic had no need to look through her personal belongings. Physical apparitions of her mental state were certainly of less interest to someone who could browse through her soul as easily as through an open book.

Not that she owned many private items, either way.

And certainly not the kind of items for classified use that her henchmen undoubtedly believed her to possess.

J leaned against her desk, blocking what little documents of importance she had laying there from view, though she was fairly sure that it was an effort in vain. “Okay, shoot.” She smirked. One day, she would have to ask the psychic if she was opposed to handguns. Given her possible range of methods of murder, it was likely that she preferred not to burn her hands off and perforate her ear drums during such a stunt.

Sabrina didn’t lean against anything. In fact, the psychic seemed not to possess the ability to stand in any way other than stiff and rigid, at least not when away on league’s business.

“The league needs your knowledge in a complicated case of thievery, and the possible consequences of said act. We have leads, but no concrete suspect. Yet the league’s leaders belief this to become a matter of national importance, and therefore, they were willing to accept the assistance of less than law abiding sources.”

“You mean me…” J grinned.

Sabrina nodded. “Of course.”

J crossed her arms. “Tell me more. What is the matter of nation-wide scare tactic that has your bosses shitting their pants?”

Sabrina wordlessly held out something she had been hiding behind her back the whole time. A small USB-Stick, unimposing and inconspicuous.

J raised her eyebrow again. She was already becoming aware that this was becoming quite the frequent action for her whenever the psychic was concerned.

“My, are we in a spy movie now? Should I fear that the stick will explode five minutes after I’ve readout it?”

“That should not happen, but I cannot rule it out, either.”

J rolled her eyes, shrugged and turned around, pushing the little stick into the USB-port of her laptop.

“Care to tell me a little more while this ancient baby here tries not to have a hard drive attack?”

Sabrina didn’t bother to nod, since J was sitting with her back to her. “This is compiled purchase info the league has gathered over the past five months. It displays the date, amount, type, seller and buyer data. Or the sparse amount of what we have.”

“Okay. So what am I supposed to do, check your income-outcome balance?”

“No, we don’t want to torture you just yet. The league has been financing a secret project of Bill Hatch with which he wants to improve and push on his research on a rare kind of Dragonite that is rumored to live around here.”

J, to her defense, didn’t betray any kind of nervousness at the statement that her target was involved in a league-financed project as well. She had long since foregone hypocrisy, as she would have hardly made a fortune if she didn’t swap alliances as fast as some people switched through relationships.

Unfortunately, as she was well aware, she was residing in the same room as the mindreader was, and she did not doubt that Sabrina had been aware of this coincidence even before she had entered the ship.

“I do know that said Dragonite is your current target, but this is not the circumstance I was concerned with.”

“Hm…then what else keeps you up at night?” J mumbled, still waiting for her relict of a computer to stop throwing a fit at every megabyte extra that was thrown at it. She tried not to think consciously of the several ways her question could be interpreted.

“The problem lies within the fact that in order to capture the giant Dragonite, Mr. Hatch has been working together with the main Pokeball manufacturer here in Kanto,”

“Silph Co., located in your hometown, sweety”, J interjected, not even turning around for she feared the sudden rise of blood pressure that had entered her face at her unintentional compliment would show itself.

“Indeed. They have been working on a prototype, so called Enormous Balls…”

“And that went through censorship without complaint? Okay.”

“…build to capture Pokemon too tall to be trapped by normal Balls. The blue prints for this kind of Pokeball have been locked away in a secret place in safes across the border.”

Which meant that her psychic acquaintance was aware of their location up to an inch, likely.

“Yes, I am, but I do not humor myself by stealing them just for fun.”

J was almost tempted to turn around and see if the psychic would actually dare to ask her if she could make her an offer, but decided against it. If Sabrina wanted to, she would, not doubt.

Despite the fact that it was appealing to think of such a simple solution to her troubles, J would deny her, then, for the fact that her pride would not allow herself to fall back onto league’s resources if there was the chance that her own team might make it as well.

Losing a few henchman or parts thereof weren’t worth burying her delight at being a self-made woman.

And she could still steal the blueprints if she felt like it.

J leaned back. The list had finally decided to stop fussing around and arranged itself on her laptop. There was a long string of incomprehensible data codes, along with bank details and coded article names. One look told her that it was a fairly complex matter, complete with components that no normal, average human not keen on world domination would ever need in their life, much less buy online like vegetables at a grocery store.

Unless they were planning on building a miniature death star for their front garden.

She smacked her tongue against her gum. “Let me guess…the blueprints got leaked, and now someone is assembling their own personal giant Ball.”

“Indeed.”

“And what does this have to do with me, exactly?”

“We need someone to tattle out the culprit. It was the combined conclusion of the league and Mr. Hatch that this would best be done by someone who has in-depth knowledge about the criminal underground. An expert of sorts.”

„An expert in what, exactly? Internet hacking? Smuggling? Industrial espionage? I am neither of these, honey. I am just a hunter, and you’ll have to force the names of my clients out of my cold, stiff hands once I’m on deathbed.”

“Don’t tempt me. And we are simply looking for someone who has the resources available to track the culprit. Given the Ball’s limited usefulness in capturing average Pokemon, we suppose that whoever is copying the design is looking to capture a much more powerful individual, likely even a legendary. You are an informant of the league that has the closest interaction with similar incidents.”

J grimaced. She couldn’t argue against that logic without denying some of her previous missions. In that regard, she could almost, almost see through the league’s logic. It was probably easier to hire her and cut off all connections afterwards than to install an official investigation group and having to deal with the pesky media all the time that gloriously managed to drive panic deep into the hearts of the public.

Not that she didn’t, but when she did, it was fewer individuals and it was more…personal.

And it involved charming torture.

J massaged her temples. She didn’t have a headache yet, a clear sign that while the simple presence of the psychic was unnerving her consciousness, subconsciously, she wasn’t even bothered. She would have to question her sanity later.

“And what’s in for me? Don’t you think I work for free, just because it’s you.”

Had J turned around, she would have come to witness the mysterious Mona-Lisa smile of the psychic again, who fully knew that she had long since twisted J around her little finger, without any- or, let’s say, a negligible amount of psychic power involved.

“The league is wealthy. I’ll see to it that you are adequately rewarded.”

J made a face. Damn money and its value in today’s capitalistic sinkhole of a society! It made honorable thieves’ work so much more difficult. She really was a sucker for anything that would make capturing Pokemon and making even more money easier, and sadly, banknotes were the grease her business needed to prosper.

“Hm, okay, I guess I can have a look at it later.” She pouted behind the psychics back. No, she wouldn’t take a look at it, certainly. She had someone on her mind who would, though.

And, as frustrating as it was to admit, she would need the league’s help in before.

“Under one condition…” She turned back dramatically, one finger raised, attempting to impress the psychic.

Failing miserably, as many had before her.

“I know. We’ll see to it that the government of Sinnoh is informed.”

J paused. For a moment, she looked comically flabbergasted, and she was honestly happy that none of her henchmen were available to witness this sight so that she would have to behead them on the spot, or else gauge out their eyes with a nail file. For she certainly didn’t want to have to hire an entirely new crew. Not when she was just about to burden herself with a deal of another sorts. A person of such an entirely different sort that she was almost inclined to say that the psychic was normal compared to said individual.

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. After all, remember that I got you out of prison without having to inform the government beforehand, either.”

Well, J mused, that had been because it had been a personal affair of the psychic, and she was fairly sure that whatever got personal to her, got solved very fast, no matter how many heads had to be rolled away from their respective owners’ necks.

And because she was getting to know the psychic by now, J had a fairly got feeling of the answer she was about to receive. “We will visit him right away, I suppose?”

A nod. “Anything that will bring an end to this matter sooner than later.”

J sighed, and stood up. “Okay, got it. Just going to inform my crew about our involuntarily side trip.” She walked up to the door, pausing only to turn around to face the psychic. “You coming, too?” She wasn’t yet willing to accept that asking any kinds of questions was a lost case. She hadn’t thrown out all standard rules of human interaction yet.

“Of course. I am the official representative of the Kanto league regarding this affair.”

J smirked and hoped that the Sinnoh league was ready to deal with a stubborn stoic with a record in bailing out offenders. As far as she was informed about the executive of her home country, they were utterly unprepared for this sort of inquiry.

“And I will need to persuade the police squad of Sinnoh of the urgency of the matter, which requires unusual arrangements.”

“It doesn’t happen to require the usage of your powers, by any chance?”

“I would wager the guess that it should not, unless the resistance we are met with proves to be unmovable by diplomatic negotiation.”

J had to fight the urge to roll her eyes and smile in an almost maniac manner. “Honey, I’m afraid that with the kind of nation-wide offender we’re going to be dealing with, peaceful argumentative discussion won’t be an option.” After all, they were going to force the release of someone who had almost toppled off the world’s balance, compared to what J’s crimes almost seemed childish and pitiful.

The two women had entered the conning bridge, where J’s henchmen were eagerly awaiting their next command.

Or, alternatively, had been loafing around, using the rare fifteen minutes of peace and recreation that were given to them as a gift from heaven above.

“Buttheads, get up your lazy asses and change course. Stack up on provisions, don’t forget gas, don’t forget food. If we run out of either, it’s you who’s thrown out with empty, starving stomachs, got it? And don’t even start to think that we’ll land for your eviction.”

She let herself fall down her chair, taking a deep breath once the general hustle of her henchmen started to settle down into more controlled movements of preparation.

It was finally then, that her navigator dared to approach her with a concerned look. Not that this was all the different, because he always approached her with a look that told her of all of his insecurities, most, if not all of them directly or indirectly connected with her.

And she was damn proud of it, right she was!

She didn’t bother oppressing her grin then. “What?” She barked at him.

“Ehm, madam, sorry for my inquiry, but may I ask where we’re actually heading to, so I can program the route?”

After all, what help was a good navigator without his trusted satnav?

J glanced at her side, finding absolutely no objection there. Or even a reaction of any sorts that would have shown that the psychic was actually acknowledging the question.

She sighed. “Sinnoh. Sunyshore.” She had to take a deep breath, for what she said next wasn’t exactly something she was proud to say. “That’s where my dear baby brother is detained.”