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And We Shall Burn

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Silver had been tracking Team Rocket’s activity for over a month already, ever since the first rumors of their reunion started floating the dark web. Skeptical at first, he disregarded it completely, taking it for another hoax. With the disappearance of Giovanni three years ago and the subsequent disbanding of the syndicate, multiple criminal assaults claimed to have been operating under the Rocket’s name, yet all without fail were later uncovered as unrelated cases.

This time around, though, it was distinctly disturbing. Just within one week the Rocket’s mentions grew exponentially and a multitude of recruitment threads opened in the unindexed corners of the Internet. The first alerts to the Johto police servers started coming in soon after that. Mostly consisting of minor crimes such as property damage, burglary and Pokémon theft, they had one thing in common - as reported by the witnesses, they were all committed by people in dark clothing with an unmistakable red ‘R’ on their chests.

This was something he could no longer ignore.

He kept monitoring the info channels and, despite the increased frequency, the attacks remained oddly chaotic - there was larceny, Slowpoke tail black market, Pokémon trafficking, drug trade - all lacking a definite pattern. Team Rocket were evidently growing their network, but what was the bigger picture here, their ultimate goal? With the beginning of repeated assaults on electronics warehouses and radio stores across the region Silver could, at last, make an estimated guess regarding their target. The Azalea Slowpoke Well he’d suspected earlier was a purely temporary outpost like many others, and all the logistics and operations were conducted from a separate, much more secure location. The scattered data he'd acquired to date had finally fallen into place. The hideout was in direct vicinity of Goldenrod, the largest city in the region bearing the most complex infrastructure and home to one of Johto’s main jewels - the Radio Tower.

Posing as a returning member, he spent an evening scanning the Rocket’s hidden message boards and public data communication channels and shortly, in a somewhat superficial search, was able to attain some hard evidence. Situated in the far southwest of the Ilex Forest, was an actively operating supply hub.

The redhead conducted an assessment of the GPS coordinates, mapping the exact location, and made arrangements to set out. The time for action had come. He would hinder further development, mercilessly shut down any advances and make it crystal clear to each and every Rocket member that none of their activity will go unpunished. He was prepared to declare war on the organization that took everything from him, the organization that made his existence living hell. He was ready to eradicate Team Rocket in its entirety and, ultimately, take on Giovanni himself.

 

Remaining on standby, he camped outside of the three building complex, careful to stay undetected. The shipment rotation held to a regular schedule: two large cargo trucks arrived early every morning and left in the afternoon of the next day. From what it seemed they were expeditiously assembling equipment and packaging it to transport elsewhere. But where? He needed information.

Discreetly, he released Haunter from his Poké Ball.

-Haunter, drop these at the interiors of buildings two and three. Don’t get yourself noticed.

He lowered a handful of flash drives into the Pokémon’s outstretched palms. Same brand as the Rockets used, they were meant to fool the victims while voiding any unwanted misgivings.

The ghost type drifted away and reappeared ten minutes later, giving his trainer a silent nod. Silver returned the gesture and fired up his tablet. Now all he had to do was wait patiently for somebody to take the bait.

And surely, there it was. Just minutes later some curious Rocket goon inserting the drive into his computer. The device’s console came to life and a cascade of logs flooded the black window - the backdoor was in place.

Silver expertly navigated the file system, getting his hands on the building’s blueprints, shipment logs and the current roster of Team Rocket members. He couldn’t help but snigger at the utterly bullshit security employed in the system. Were they really trying to revive the infamous criminal team that indisputably ruled over Kanto with this level of prep work? That would require more than a half-assed firewall and a few modified permissions.

He browsed some more and eventually stumbled upon a set of encrypted directories. Perhaps they did deserve a little more credit, after all. This particular employee, unfortunately, did not have the clearance to view the data and the chance of a Rocket executive falling for the flash drive trick was exceedingly low.

Silver tabbed out of the original window, thinking. He’d have to get his hands on the access codes some other way. There were options requiring varying amounts of effort, so before he’d chose to blatantly brute force the servers, he’d have to consider the lower hanging fruit first.

He lifted his eyes from the tablet’s screen and gazed past his cover at the secret facility. With this being a distribution hub, all the Rocket members were unarmed and carried a bar code scanner and a pair of magnetic stripe cards on an extendable keychain. One was clearly used for entry, so it was reasonable to assume the other acted as a network authentication key.

“Quite an archaic system”, Silver thought to himself as he pulled up a list of commercially available card readers. Normally only the government and affiliated agencies were known for utilizing card slots on their computers, but even they strove to move away from the approach in the later years. Security issues aside, it was plain impractical.

The teen shrugged, matching a number of compatible input devices for his system. If anything, this would make his life easier. He’d simply have to wait for an admin to arrive at the hub and then swipe his card.This would not go unnoticed, off course, but he was prepared for a confrontation. The second phase of the plan was just about to begin.

Judging from his earlier observations and the supply logs in the database, the west building was primarily  a storage unit - half the equipment designed to be used for the upcoming Radio Tower assault and half to be exported. Central housed the main control hub, and the east was an assembly facility. They all bore significance, yet the latter two had to be targeted first.

Silver split his last brick of C4 into three uneven parts and carefully attached the electric blasting caps. Two larger blocks for the communication and production departments and the smallest one for the storage. It was more than sufficient, considering the volatile qualities of radio equipment. Even a short blast was enough to set if off.

He added an ignition based detonator to each lot as a precaution against chip malfunction and set them aside. There’d been some additional preparations to be made, such as disabling the sprinklers and fire alarms in all the buildings, but that would be a minute task for a Pokémon that could go through walls.

 

The Team Rocket admin had not arrived for another two days. In the meantime Silver used his Pokémon to plant the explosives in their respective buildings, distribute Haunter’s flammable Toxic at the perimeters of the storage unit and in any areas rarely undergoing inspection and took out the only two smoke detecting devices he’d managed to find in the entire complex. Further inspection of the Rocket server hinted at potential developments at the Lake of Rage and Mahogany Town, yet without further elaboration. Most of the data was still masked under layers of encryption, completely unattainable for prying hands. For the lack of readily available efficient solutions he tried brute forcing the system anyway, but each attempt deemed frustratingly unsuccessful. He’d just had to wait for the admin’s card.

A black sedan zoomed through the forest on the third day and parked at the lot near the central building. Greeted by a good number of goons, a tall figure in a grey uniform emerged from the vehicle and casually walked to the communication center. Just as the case with his subordinates, a set of plastic rectangles was dangling off his right hip.

Tonight it was then. Silver would retrieve the key card and make his statement.

 

For the most part of the day the teen merely monitored the hideout’s methodical activity. The grunts turned in their weekly reports to their superior, three more pieces of radio equipment were manufactured, two of which were moved to the west wing.

With the dusk falling upon the forest, a truck was prepared for loading. Silver checked his minimal gear once more - Poké Balls, messenger bag, detonator - all was in place. He’d planned to engage before the moving vehicle could depart and now was the time.

He crept past the rears of the facility, tossing a dark orb in each of the buildings, whether it was through a cracked window or an air vent. He then circled around and emerged a dozen meters away from the comm center’s exit and waited for the delayed action smoke bombs to go off.

Clouds of dark fumes erupted from the inside of all buildings shortly, followed by surprised outcries. Eager to escape, people were now spilling from the concrete boxes, coughing and swearing. Two goons stumbled out of the east building and four more from central. The admin was yet to be seen. Silver surveyed the layout. Regardless, 7 people total, that he could deal with.

-Brat, you responsible for this?!

One of the Rockets recovered from the gas and was now yelling hoarsely at Silver.

-Nobody’s supposed to be here apart from us, Team Rocket, get him!

All grunts reached for their belts in unison, lunging the Poké Balls.

-Sneasel, Golbat!

Multiple consecutive cracks echoed in the air, followed by a muted flicker. A scatter of crushed red and white orbs fell to the ground, lifeless, permanently trapping the Pokémon inside.

The foremost Rocket gaped in shock as he watched the scrawny punk rob them of their Pokémon in one swift pass. He stomped forward when a sudden weakness spread through his limbs. He felt like floating, moving through a thick haze, the only thing in front of him a pair of hypnotizing purple eyes. A distorted voice rang through his clouded conscience.

-Where is your admin?

-Admin…

-Yes, the Rocket executive in charge of this facility.

-Well, well, aren’t you looking for me then?

The tall man appeared to the west of the central facility, tossing a Poké Ball up and down.

-Fancy you managed to disable my underlings, but are you able handle me?

Within three red flashes an Arbok, Koffing and Raticate emerged from their captivity .

-Raticate - Hyper Fang, Koffing - Sludge, Arbok - Bind.

The trio charged Silver’s direction, eyes frenzied and aflame with rage.

-Golbat - Supersonic, Sneasel - Agility, then Fury Swipes.

Speed far superior to their opponents, Golbat’s intense sonic wave hit first, forcing the Pokémon to disperse, disorienting them from their original course. Raticate and Koffing were met with Sneasel’s ruthless slash and fell to dirt unconscious.

Arbok slid around and sprung yet again, aiming for the boy’s throat. A swift stroke cut through the air, slicing at the giant snakes neck with a nasty crunching sound.

Silver turned to face the admin with a smirk.

-You were saying? I advise you prepare for the end of Team Ro--

-ENOUGH!

A terrible ringing cut him off, filling his ears and threatening to turn his brain inside out. With the corner of his eye he noticed his three Pokémon writhing on the ground in agony, their acute senses heightening their perceptivity to the deafening white noise.

He grasped his head, struggling to stay upright himself. Had he unwittingly neglected one of the manufacturing or storage logs? No, none of the inventory mentioned anything even remotely similar. This device had to be one of the new developments from Mahogany. Foolish, so so foolish.

-End of Team Rocket? You’re playing with fire, kid, I suggest you take on someone your own size.

The Rocket executive was swinging a device resembling a long remote in his hand, expression of open mockery adorning his features. The grunts finally broke out of their trance and were now making their way toward Silver, completely unaffected by the jarring sound.

The boy froze, attempting to tune it out of his head. The sound wave frequency seemed to be getting more and more inconsistent with every passing moment, but was not quite enough to resist against yet.

“Keep calm,” he said to himself steadily, “whatever that is, it must still be a prototype. I can still move, so if could only...” He stretched his hand towards his right pocket and grabbed the detonator. All he had to do was flip the switches.

A sharp blow collided with his jaw, making him stumble backward.

-Thought you outsmarted us with your little tricks, punk?

The group of goons were now surrounding him, faces smug. Warily, he noticed them all wearing miniature earpieces. He got it now, those were not just comm devices as he’d assumed earlier, but also dampers for this awful white noise.

Another punch was coming his way, now from the left. Struggling to keep focus, Silver leaned backwards, dodging the jab, readying his right elbow to absorb the next impact to his chest.

Though sufficiently trained in combat, it got progressively harder to avoid and deflect the hits. Vision hazy and head about to split in two, he missed a hook that landed hard on his face and a straight punch to the gut. He needed to shut the device down. Soon.

He spun around, searching the admin with his gaze, when a heavy kick to the back sent him flying to the ground.

-What is that, a switch?

The leading grunt stepped on his wrist, kicking the detonator out of his grip with another foot.

-You weren’t gonna blow us up, were you?

Silver hissed at the pain. Shit, this was bad. The only other way to trigger the explosions was to set the buildings on fire. Using his free arm to protect his head, there was nothing he could do to shield the rest of his body - a couple of blows met his chest and stomach and plundered at his sides. Another strike to his gut caused him to retch.

-Who’s acting all high and mighty now, eh?

Body growing numb with pain, he could not afford another second to lose. He inhaled and measured down the sound waves rhythm, doing his best to ignore the burn of his insides. As the noise’s frequency eventually tempered for a second, he forcefully yanked his hand from under the Rocket’s boot. Spinning on his elbow, he took out the closer grunt with a low sweep. In the momentary confusion he ripped the earpiece out of the man’s ear, briskly placing it in his own. A blessed, refreshing silence filled his buzzing brain. He spotted his device on the far right and he dove forward. With a tuck and roll he swooped it from the grass. Hesitating no longer, Silver flipped the switch.

A massive bang shook the forest, causing the manufacturing facility to go up in flames. The ringing stopped altogether as the explosion completely nullified the sound waves. But why weren’t the other two detonating? Has the vicinity to the admin and his transmitter somehow disrupted the receiver?

With a burning flash the plastic device flew out of his hand. The Team Rocket executive stood a few meters away from him, gun in his hand. His features were contorted with fury.

-You or your Pokémon move an inch and I’ll fire.

Silver slowly turned his head. He could feel blood running down the left side of his face, partially obstructing both his vision and hearing.

-Now tell me, who sent you?!

-Nobody sent me.

-Liar! Is it the the police or the shadow mafia?

-No. I am going to single-handedly put an end to Team Rocket, I’ll bring down every one of your secret bases, I’ll wipe everything that you’ve worked on.

A high pitched cackle pierced the silence. The admin laughed maniacally, still pointing his gun. The grunts to the either side watched the interaction with varying expressions of confusion and contempt.

Slightly shifting his stance, the teen locked his defiant gaze with the Rocket Leader’s. With his right hand out of the view, he crossed his fingers and flicked them sideways, signaling. Haunter and Sneasel blinked, acknowledging the command.

-Although your measly attempts are nothing compared to the empire Team Rocket once was. You being here is nothing but a fluke, it will be easy to dispose of you.

-I wouldn’t act so cocky, kid, you’re barely standing.

Absently, Silver wondered about his condition - face bloodied, clothes soiled with dirt and bile, he must've been quite a sight right now. No matter, it was no time to stress about appearances.

-By the end of this night you will learn better than to underestimate me.

The Rocket lowered his gaze dangerously and flicked the safety off.

-Good luck with that.

-Sneasel, now!

A number of things happened at once. A gunshot, a clang of metal on metal, a purple mist and a slash through air.

Silver fell on one knee, sharp pain exploding in his left leg. Sneasel deflected the bullet’s trajectory from his chest with a Metal Claw, causing it to hit his upper thigh instead. Haunter filled the clearing with a dark haze, preventing the grunts or the admin to move any further, a metal object landed on the ground with a clink.

An anguished roar echoed in the night.

The Rocket executive was clutching his hand, bleeding profusely, fingers missing. Golbat sliced the gun out of his grasp with his Air Cutter just as he pulled the trigger.

The redhead did not even look in his direction. He cautiously examined his leg - the bullet did not seem to have hit an artery, nor did it lodge itself in his flesh. A slicing wound was something he could deal with later. He got back on his feet and with a swift motion released his last Pokémon from its Poké Ball.

-Quilava, Flamethrower!

The nimble fire type sprang toward the building, proceeding to cover it with a barrage of hot flames. Silver recalled the other three and leapt a couple meters backwards, kneeling and shielding his head with an arm. A huge blast tore the comm center apart, sending glass and debris everywhere, as giant shock wave knocked down anyone standing on the ground.

A third explosion reverberated the scene and set the storage facility on fire. An array of cracks came from within the building, indicating that the equipment’s batteries and coils were finally detonating on their own. Staying in radius got more and more dangerous by the second.

The teen strode toward the Rocket executive who was still grasping his injured hand, sprawled and squirming in the dirt. He kicked, turning the man over to his back and checked if he was still conscious.

The admin looked up at his assailant with clouded eyes. The boy was standing back to the fire, red hair illuminated from behind, blood on his face glistening black, a look of pure revulsion on his face. A vague feeling of recognition tugged at the back of his mind. He must’ve sworn he’d seen the same kid sometime, somewhere before. But where and when? His memory was irrevocably failing him, as was his body. One way or another, this child was no other than a agent from hell itself.

-If you somehow survive this, make sure all the other Rocket admins know - I’m coming for them. I’ll burn you all to the ground.

With that he snatched the Rocket’s key card off his hip and made his way into the pitch darkness of the forest.

It was time to get out.