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Angel of the Shadows

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On the foot of the bed, Angel swore under her breath as she attempted to pull on her leggings. She’d gained a few pounds this month. She’d recently found this amazing chocolate, and just couldn’t get enough of it. Looks like she’d have to cut back on it just a tad bit. Not that it would really matter. Her daily routine kept her busy enough that she remained in good shape. Not quite fit, but healthy. If she could only learn to ration her sweet tooth.

Sometimes she found it hard to juggle all the parts of her life, even though those parts only included managing the family’s finances, and being a part of Team Rocket. In her free time, she preferred to draw and watch Pokémon in their natural habitat, or read stories of others’ adventures.

Despite the gym being newly opened, it had already garnered a lot of attention. Her family made no secret of its development over the last thirty years. The All-Star Gym was a masterpiece. A two-mile island of natural terrain for all Pokémon. Well…Mostly natural. Some things had to be maintained, of course. But it was the Rules of Combat that drew people the most. Trainers came here to test their skills and knowledge of all eighteen types. Winning the battle was less important than wowing the Gym Leader with your ingenuity and ability to use the terrain to your advantage.

Her current role as Gym Leader was actually only temporary for a few months while her parents took care of the newest addition to the family. There had been the promise that if she did well enough, she’d be allowed to accept challenges herself. But in all honesty, this wasn’t something she wanted. Adventure was in her blood, and over the last few years, the call had gotten stronger and stronger. The missions for Team Rocket barely sated her thirst. It was time she had her own Journey.

Perhaps she should pass her duties onto her younger brother? He’d long since wanted the job. Even felt owed it. But it was never a good sign when a person wanted a position of power and control. That fact in and of itself was the only reason Angel had kept her duties so long even though she never wanted them to begin with.

The frantic sounds of her most cherished Pokémon interrupted her thoughts and brought her back to reality. Sylvie rushed into her room, lost her footing on the new wooden floor, and slid into the dresser. In a split second, Angel was between the bed and dresser, hands held out just in case the mirror wobbled off and smashed onto Sylvie’s head. Once certain it wouldn’t fall, she directed her attention to the fearful-eyed, dirt-covered Eeveelution.

“Whoa, there. Slow down, darling. You know I can’t understand you when you’re hysterical.” Her eyes scanned the Sylveon for clues. Sylvie trembled, and it almost seemed as if she was in the midst of a panic attack. Mouth opened, but no words came out. Seemed Purrloin had Sylvie’s tongue. Didn’t matter now. There was only one person that could incite such a reaction in her.

“Stay put. I’ll take care of it.” Angel kissed Sylvie on the forehead and patted her for a few seconds before she headed downstairs to the foyer, where, sure enough, Giovanni lounged upon her couch.

She gave a small curtsy. “To what do I owe this pleasure?” Her words only barely contained her displeasure at his unannounced visit, but thankfully, he didn’t seem to notice.

Giovanni’s lips curled up ever so slightly in what could be interpreted as a smile as he brought a glass of wine to his lips. As usual, he’d helped himself to the wine cabinet meant for older Trainers. Beside him, lounged his Persian. How old was that cat, anyway? The thing had to be pushing thirty years, if not more. “It’s been a long time since we spoke. Congratulations on becoming the All-Star Gym Leader, even if it is only temporary.”

Brows furrowed into a frown, and her head tilted in confusion before she could stop herself. Giovanni’s smile fell flat as well. “Usually, when a person gives congratulations, the recipient thanks them. Not stares at them as if they can’t form the proper response.”

Shock and fear filled her eyes, quickly hidden as she bowed her head. “I’m sorry. You caught me off guard.” When she rose, her face was once again in its false mask of pleasure at the unwanted company. “Such statements from you are usually followed by bad news. I was worried you had something horrible in mind for me.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “Rumors about people are usually wrong. Make your own judgments. Have I ever given you a mission where you had to do something wrong? I digress. My preferred team isn’t due back for a few weeks. You’re not as good as I’d like you to be for this mission, but you are one of my top Agents.”

Top Agent, but not as good as he’d like her to be. That was an insulting compliment if she ever heard one, but she’d take it. Some people just absolutely could not give compliments, no matter how deserved, and so they hid it behind insults to save face. The smile returned to Giovanni’s when he noticed her curiosity had been aroused. Eyes still on hers, he reached down to the table with his free hand and slid a Confidential envelope across.

Angel picked it up and began to leaf through it as she listened to him explain things.

“Surely you’ve heard the news of strange Pokémon appearing all over the world. Rumors say that they’re stronger than normal Pokémon, and slightly crazed. The combination of which is allowing them to disrupt the habitats of natural Pokémon. There are a few stories of skilled Gym Leaders having difficulty bringing them to heel.”

“If so, what makes you think I can help?” Her hands trembled slightly as she continued to look over the data given to her. Though she wasn’t sure whether it was from excitement or fear.

“You’ve worked with Team Rocket for, what is it? Ten years now? Your various talents have been an asset to the organization. You have a marvelous success rate at bringing back Pokémon stolen from us, and all without drawing attention. One of your finer moments was when you convinced that Murkrow to return and continue gathering discarded items for us. The information we’ve been able to piece together from the various tech pieces it has brought back have helped further our understanding of Pokémon and allow us to help them better.”

Not feeling a response was necessary, Angel remained silent as she finished her perusal of the data. After putting everything back inside the envelope, she threw it in the fireplace and turned her attention back to Giovanni. The acrid smell of burning paper made her scrunch her face a bit, but she near squeezed her nose with her fingers.

She noticed Giovanni had set his empty glass on the table, annoyingly, not on the coaster. But she wouldn’t dare comment upon that. He steepled his fingers, the knuckles of which touched the bottom of his chin. “Excellent. Now that you’ve read over the data and blueprints I gave you, do you feel you are up for this task? The lives of dozens of Pokémon depend upon your success.”

“I do. Just give me a week to—”

“Time is of the essence. You leave tomorrow night at the latest for the Kanto Region. I leave it to you to find the quickest route possible.” He stood to leave, and his Persian stretched before jumping to the floor. Giovanni took a few steps towards the door before he paused and turned back to her. “I truly hope you succeed in this, Angel. It is long past time your services were put to the best use possible.”

Minutes later, Angel still stood beside the table as she tried to wrap her head around what just happened. A gentle mewl from the stairs, and she looked up, a smile upon her face. “Come, darling. He’s gone now.” Despite her words of encouragement, Sylvie still paused for a few seconds before she walked down the stairs. Angel was certain the Sylveon could feel her distress, and, sure enough, the Eeveelution stretched out the ribbons to embrace her once near enough.

“I have to leave soon. I don’t know when I’ll be back. Quickly gather as many Pokémon on the island as you can, and bring them here. I need to choose my team carefully.”

Sylvie released her hold and took off at a run. It was only once she was far out of sight that Angel fell to her knees and allowed the shakes to take over. Emotions warred within, with excitement and fear of failure at the forefront. This could be the start of something new.