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Angel of the Shadows

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Angel reached above her head, and gasped in satisfaction as her back finally popped. Arms still above her head, she watched a group of Wingull in the sky, fighting over what appeared to be a Goldeen. From this distance, it almost seemed as if they were squawking the word “Mine”. The thought was ludicrous, but still. It made her laugh.

“Angie! Darling!” At the sound of the captain’s voice, Angel removed her hands from the back of her head and directed her gaze to her friend, who quickly crossed the distance between them. The hands that wrapped around hers were warm and held fresh cuts. Maya must have just come from doing some hard work below deck. “I absolutely love having you aboard. Marvelous stories, your adventures are. The Swanna is only here for a few days. I do hope you honor me with your presence again.”

She pulled her hands out of the grip, only to wrap them around Maya’s. Angel didn’t have many friends, so this secret little handshake meant the world to her. Any change in it meant there was a problem that should be discussed. It really made her regret the fact that she sometimes thought Maya would make a wondrous addition to Team Rocket.

Words of honesty about those stories begged to come out. But, as usual, she chose not to speak. People like Maya were a precious gift. The knowledge that her best friend was a member of Team Rocket would devastate her. Perhaps Angel would find the courage to speak if she ever left the organization. Which seemed more and more likely each day. Just so she could see the world on her own terms.

“You know I don’t make promises that I can’t keep,” Angel only meant to say that, but quickly continued at the sight of Maya’s crestfallen face, “But I’ll try and be quick!” She gently squeezed her friend’s hands and began to pull away, only to find herself pulled into an embrace full of warmth and love. An eternity like this wouldn’t have been long enough. When Maya finally pulled away, she skipped off, she was happy as a Ribombee. Once out of sight, Angel headed into Vermilion City.

Out of habit, Angel took off in the direction of the Pokémon Center. Whenever she visited, she stayed with Nurse Joy. Though recently, her paranoid mind had been working overtime, making her feel as if everyone were only friends with her for what she brought to the table. As such, she was uncertain if Joy was ever genuinely glad to see her, or just happy to have an extra set of human hands for a few days. So this time, Angel arranged a stay with her friend, Ally, who lived…she looked down each path a few times…thattaway.

Her mind began to wander once she set on the proper path. As someone who spent most of her time in the peace and solitude of nature, the sounds and smells of a city tended to overwhelm her senses. Lost in thought as she was, Angel paid little attention to her surroundings.

Tomorrow morning, Angel would head up to Saffron City and pay a visit to the Silph Company. Oh, dad would be so jealous! If only she could tell him, that is. Ever the Tinker, dad loved to work with technology. Whether it be to invent more efficient items, or to fix broken ones, he found such joy in his work. The most amazing part of all was that he rarely got so absorbed in what he did that he failed to make time for himself and his family.

The change in the sound of her footsteps was enough to bring her out of her reverie. Now she could hear the sound of a motorcycle. A quick glance around revealed that she was in the less preferred part of town. How did she get here? This was at least a road or two out of the way. Angel exhaled in relief when she realized the oncoming motorcycle belonged to Officer Jenny, who pulled over to the side of the road.

Angel headed in the right direction as soon as she had her bearings. She didn’t get very far before a hand tightly gripped her left wrist. She jumped and spun, ready to punch the person in the face, only to yet again breathe a sigh of relief. Her other hand flew to her heart, as if that would somehow ease the rapid beats. “Jenny! You gave me a fright!”

Officer Jenny didn’t answer, a strangeness in and of itself. The street lamps provided enough light to see the emotions in her eyes, and that was what really chilled Angel to the bones. She tried to pull her hand away, but the grip only tightened. Paranoia kicked in. Had her ties to Team Rocket finally been discovered?

“It pains me to say this, but you’re under arrest for the destruction of The Swanna.”

Moments passed in utter stillness and silence as Angel tried to comprehend the words just spoken. Thoughts of Maya filled her head. Before she returned home, she would have to check in on the Captain and see if she was still alive. For a split second, she thought she felt the grip loosen, and so she tried to pull free again. This time, Officer Jenny brought out a pokéball that was sure to hold a Mightyena.

Overwhelmed by emotions, Angel somehow managed to remain calm. “Look…I don’t know what you’re talking about. I arrived at the Port and left instantly. It took me half an hour to get this far. I guarantee that you have the wrong person.”

“We have an Eye Witness who said they saw someone with your description leaving the Port at a run after the incident.”

“You know my family. You know me. I visit Ally each year for the Winter Festival and New Year’s. And Maya’s a dear friend. Of which, I have so few. There’s no way I could have done this. I know I’m probably the only one in the city with silvery hair, but the witness had to be mistaken. There’s no way. And you know it.”

The grip truly lessened, but Jenny didn’t release her hold. “I—” There was an intake of breath, as if she needed to get ahold of herself. “I’m sorry. I’m just doing my job. That means that I have to take you in for questioning.”

“I’ve already given you my story. I arrived. I instantly left. It took me half an hour to get here. Even you know that you have the wrong person.” Angel’s hand came free with ease. She turned around and began to walk at a brisk pace.

“If you walk away from me, our friendship is over. I won’t protect you any longer,” Jenny continued to speak once Angel paused. “I—I know your secret. Have for a few years now. It still breaks my heart to know that you aligned yourself with the likes of them. So much wasted potential.”

“I can’t let you lose your job, and I don’t want to lose you as a friend.” Angel took a deep breath in. “But I’m sorry. I believe they have good intentions. They’re just seen as evil because of a few Agents who make poor judgment calls.”

“For Arceus’ sake! Come to your senses! Your problem is that you’re too optimistic of the world, and always see and expect good from people. Team Rocket, just like Teams Aqua and Magma, are evil! I don’t understand how you can continue to justify their actions! Please, Feathers.”

Feathers. Now there was a name she hadn’t heard since she was young. All because a Charizard carried her to the Poké Center covered in feathers and scratches from a failed attempt to look inside a Taillow nest. Somehow, the story quickly got around town. To this day, she had no clue who came up with the nickname.

“Shouldn’t you love that about me? After everything I’ve been through, I still try to see the good in people? I allow myself to be hurt time and again because I just can’t accept the fact that there are individuals out there who thrive on the pain they inflict on others.” Angel squeezed her eyes shut, but tears still fell. When her fingers trembled, she forced them to her hips. It took several deep breaths before she trusted herself to speak. “Tell you what. If I ever discover that I was wrong, I will turn myself in and accept responsibility for everything I did while with Team Rocket.”

“That…That’s not going to alter my decision. Ever since that day, every time something happened while you were in town, I covered for you as best as I could. To turn your back on me now, would be a most grievous insult. It would be a mockery of everything I’ve sacrificed for you.”

“You mean to tell me you automatically assumed that I was behind every problem that occurred while I was in town? Isn’t that a grievous insult to me? And a mockery to our friendship?” The silence stretched for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, unable to handle it any longer, Angel ran off.

Chapter Text

Angel’s movements were stiff as she headed away from Jenny. Every couple of steps, she felt the urge to look back, like in those movies, where one love interest is watching the other walk away, desperately hoping for them to give them one final look. The chill in her back said Jenny was still watching, possibly holding that same thought in her own mind. But she couldn’t!

Perhaps she should sit at the bench near Ally’s house for a while and pull herself together before stopping by? It wasn’t as if time was of the essence right now. The lack of Jenny or other officers after her made it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that this was a final “pass”. And right now, she didn’t really care how badly Giovanni wanted this mission completed.

Unfortunately, nothing seemed to want to go her way tonight. “Bell?” Angel turned to look at the newcomer, only to find that she couldn’t see. She reached her hands up to remove whatever blocked her vision, and her fingers came away wet. When had she began to cry?

A pair of hands gently touched her knees, drawing her attention to the Bellossom that stood before her. The flower wristlet he wore marked him as Ally’s Petunia. Now that Angel’s focus was on him, he gave a smile, took a few steps back, and began to dance and sing.

He told a story of the meeting of an Alolan and Galarian Vulpix, who quickly became the best of friends. Over time, the two became more, but sadly, they were separated during a blizzard. He gave a few quick stanzas about the journies of each, as they struggled to find each other yet again.

Suddenly, he stopped, reached out his hands to her, and she held back a sigh. Petunia did this every visit, regaling her with a wondrous story up until the most crucial part, and then never revealed the ending. “Why do you do that?”

Petunia tilted his head, seemingly confused by the question, though the twinkle in his eyes implied he knew exactly what she wanted to know.

“You never finish your story.” Angel booped him gently on the nose. “Why do you keep people hanging?”

Petunia launched into his most likely long-winded explanation, but by the time Angel made the “slow down” gesture with her hands, he was done. Tears filled his eyes, and she reached a hand out to console him, only to pull back when she saw the ear-to-ear smile upon his face.

He’d gone too fast for her to understand. Closing her eyes, she replayed the memory as vividly as possible. It was a method her father had taught to help her improve her photographic memory. Now, she could retain more than just text or pictures. Things like what she’d just done were more short term, but it wasn’t as if she’d ever need to revisit old memories anyway. When she opened her eyes, she stroked the petals of a flower on Petunia’s head. “Life is whatever we choose to make of it.”

Petunia held out his hand, the flowers on his head spinning as he gave a few muttered words of encouragement. After a little while, Angel took his hand and allowed him to lead her. As they walked, he rattled on, mostly about the events of the last few months he cherished most, and what she’d missed out on since the last time she visited. From the bits and pieces she picked up, he had some really interesting stories that she’d have to ask about when he was calmer.

She was still processing the last revelation of a relationship between Ally and Maya when he opened the door. His happy mood was instantaneously gone as he rushed from her side to a woman rocking on the floor beside the couch. She’d lifted her head from the creases of her arms at the sound of the door opening, then unwrapped her arms from around the knees to draw Petunia into a tight embrace. Through the smudged and flushed face, Angel finally recognized the person as Ally.

Angel shut the door behind her, but, instead of going to her friend, she headed towards the kitchen. It only took a few seconds to locate the most recent location of the coffee pot. A touch of her fingers against the glass informed her that it hadn’t been off long, so she poured a cup for Ally.

When she returned, Ally was on the middle cushion of the couch. One of Petunia’s hands stroked her left arm, but she didn’t seem to notice his presence. Or hers. It wasn’t until Angel cleared her throat that Ally realized she was there. Once the steaming hot cup of coffee changed hands, she sat on the other side of her friend.

She was silent for a while, uncertain as to what to say. Angel placed her hand on Ally’s leg, and asked what was wrong. But the only response she received was a sniffle and a drink. But she waited, understanding the need to gather yourself after emotional situations, whether positive or negative.

Several tocks of the clock went by with nothing said. At first, Angel thought maybe she wanted to finish the cup before speaking. But another two tocks went by after Ally placed the now empty cup on the refresher table. In an effort to give her friend some space, Angel walked off to take care of various minor things around the house.

Thirty minutes later, she returned to the living room, and reached for the empty cup, only to pause as she heard a hoarse, barely audible voice telling her to get out. She turned to face her friend, and a shiver ran down her spine. Angel reached into her pocket to pull out a handkerchief, so Ally could wipe her face clean with it.

But when Ally saw it, she gave Angel such a look of disgust—which only increased the disturbing factor of her current features—and leapt to her feet. “I don’t want anything from you. I don’t even want you here. Or Petunia, for that matter.”

Mouth open, Angel simply stared at her friend while she tried to comprehend what she’d just heard. This didn’t make any sense! Her mind went back to the last thing Petunia said before they noticed Ally on the floor. Oh! “Ma-Maya’s really gone?”

“How dare you act innocent?!” Ally exclaimed right before Angel felt a burning sensation on her left cheek. “Officer Jenny was already here. She told me everything. I can’t believe you would do this!”

“Look,” Angel began, completely ignoring the slap. “I’m sorry about your girlfriend, but Maya was one of my closest friends! I don’t know what happened, but I guarantee there’s no way I was involved. And what in Arceus’ name are you mad at Petunia for? He didn’t have anything to do with this!”

“He brought you here, knowing I wouldn’t want to see you. He’s just as much to blame for my current pain as you are.” It seemed impossible, but somehow, her newest set of tears managed to smear her makeup even more.

“I never thought you were the type of person to listen to rumors! You know me! I would never—”

“Repeating something over and over doesn’t make it true! I don’t want to hear your excuses! I want both of you out of my sight. I never want to see you again!”

Something hit Angel in the chest, and fell to the floor. Shock filled her when she saw that it was a pokéball. Ally couldn’t be serious! She picked it up, and turned to her distraught friend. “Don’t do this. You’re not in your right mind. Don’t make decisions you’ll regret later.”

“The only decision I ever made that I regret was befriending the two of you. GET. OUT. Before I call Jenny.”

Certain there was no point arguing at the moment, Angel dropped her handkerchief, grabbed the hysterical Petunia, and ran into the chilly cold of the night.

Chapter Text

Shadow Skill: Deafen. Deafens and disorients the opponent for 30 seconds.
Clefable dwell in small groups in hidden places. Due to their superb hearing, they prefer quiet areas, away from humans. With hearing even more sensitive than normal, whispers can make the Shadow distraught.

After the incident last night, she’d ran and ran until she couldn’t run any more. That had taken her half a mile outside the city. She’d collapsed onto a bench and passed out. Movement caught her attention, and she lifted the blanket upon her slightly to see Petunia stirring from his sleep. Why did he stay with her instead of running back home? Wait. Blanket?

Angel sat up and stretched. The crisp early morning air made her shiver, and she pulled the blanket around her shoulders, only to pause at the smell. A deep inhale confirmed it belonged to a Poochyena. Her gaze drifted back toward the city, as if she would see Jenny. But she knew by the coolness of it, whoever had placed the blanket on their sleeping forms was long gone.

She breathed deeply in, trying to come to terms with everything. But it was just so overwhelming. Too much. Too fast. Without proper time to adjust, she was like to cave in on herself. Arceus! She hadn’t felt like this in a long time. How she wished she had Sylvie with her right now. Or at least, her stuffed Purrloin, Violet.

Never before had she been alone during this type of situation. Granted, she currently had three Pokémon with her. But they were never as calming as just flinging herself into her father and crying on his chest until she fell asleep to his heartbeat. This was a major reason she hadn’t gone on her Journey yet. Though she knew this intense anxiety was something she’d have to overcome if she wanted to go out saying she honestly lived her life to the fullest.

Her fingers brushed against something soft, and Petunia stirred again. This time, fully wakening. He leaned into her, arms wrapped around her left. For a while, neither of them said anything. They merely watched the lovely changing of shades and hues as the sun began to bathe the world in its light.

Finally, Petunia broke the silence and crushed her heart with only one word. “Home?”

Angel reached into her pocket and pulled out his shrunken pokéball. “I don’t know. Ally seemed really mad at both of us. Well, at me, mostly. I’m pretty sure that you can return now, if you wish.”

Petunia placed a hand upon Angel’s, its warmth a small contrast in the chilly air. “Friends?” The emotion in his eyes gave voice to many questions, and she had to look away before she caved.

“No. Well, yes. But, no. Ally believes I did something really bad. Right now, she’s confused and angry. She needs me to help her through this, but she also needs me to stay away. I know that sounds so strange, but that’s just how grief affects some people’s logic.”

“Soon?” Petunia scooted off the bench. Now upon the ground, he placed his hands on her knees.

“That’s up to her. When she’s ready to put this behind her, she knows how to reach me. As soon as she does, I’ll make arrangements to visit. Now, move along. Ally’s got to be worried sick about you.”

He took a step, but paused. Before he left, he looked over his shoulder long enough to say “Love is forever.”

Angel didn’t respond because she knew the heartbreaking truth. Love didn’t always last forever. It took both people hard at work, determined to keep the bond. She herself preferred a life of solitude. Tis why her only friends were Maya, Jenny, Ally, and all the Pokémon inhabitants of her island.

Strange, really. How the braver and more comfortable with herself Angel became, the more people distanced themselves from her. Most of her life had been spent back and forth between a figurative Silcoon and Beautifly. It never failed that every time she began to feel happy and comfortable, something happened that shattered her.

Outward appearances could deceive. Most everyone treated her with condescension. Who was she to have everything she could ever want, and still be so unhappy and cynical? Her past was a plethora of problem after problem. Hindsight said a great deal of which were self-caused.

All of her life, she’d been treated as a problem. She’d been told time and again how she’d never amount to anything. How her lax attitude would get her nowhere in life. Even when she started trying to change, nothing she said or did was ever good enough, even to her own family. Some people even told her to just stop trying if she felt nothing would come of it. But then she would never have the satisfaction of proving everyone wrong.

When it came to her pain, nobody saw. Nobody knew. Nobody cared. So wrapped up in their own world that they couldn’t—or wouldn’t—make time for the people who supposedly mattered. This most recent turn of events truly did not help. It meant that practically everyone who’d ever truly loved her for who she was were gone from her life. All that remained were her family now. And most of them made it clear she was an unwelcome addition.

Footsteps sounded, and Angel looked up to see two people headed her way. They paused near the bench as they became involved in a heated discussion. “I’m tellin’ ya! I saws what I saws! I ain’t crazy!” The older, unkempt man gestured strongly with his hands.

But the younger female was having none of it. “I never said you were crazy. I don’t doubt you saw it. I doubt it exists.”

He gave a frustrated sigh, and threw his hands in the air. “I ain’t stupid eithers. That means you think it exists only in my head!”

The blanket slipped from Angel’s shoulders onto the bench as she stood. After a few steps, she was within polite conversation distance. “Excuse me?” Still, the two jumped as if she’d appeared out of thin air. “May I ask what exactly you’re discussing?”

“Why? So ya can make fun of me toos? It’s all the same with ya whippersnappers. We’re suppos’ta believe everythin’ ya says without hesitation, but ya won’t bother returnin’ the favah.”

“No, no! I’ve seen many things that most people would say impossible. I’d love to learn more. And see where it happened, if possible.”

His eyes lit up like holiday lights as he turned to her, completely unaware of his…granddaughter…frantically motioning from behind him for Angel to not encourage him. Once the young woman realized she wouldn’t be able to stop them, she held out her hand. “I’m Malevolence. But you can call me Mal. This is my grandpa, Ignatius. He’s a bit of an eccentric fellow.”

“Name’s Angel. I’m on my way to Saffron City, but will gladly take a detour to see what your grandfather is so excited about.” She wasn’t entirely sure, but they seemed to have a reaction to her name, which caused her heart to pound rapidly. She had zero ability to read any form of social cue, which tended to cause quite a bit of problems. She brushed back a lock of hair with her hand to hide the fact she’d wiped a bead of sweat from her forehead.

”Are ya sures? It would be a bit outta ya way. And ya might not sees anythin’.”

Angel looked to the older man, who still had a hopeful and expectant demeanor. As if he were eager to prove to his granddaughter that he was not crazy. A similar instance from many years ago came to mind. The moment she’d discovered a black Sableye with a golden gem. Nobody believed her until she befriended it a few years later. Then suddenly, she had “never been doubted for a second”.

“Honestly. It’s not a problem at all.” Angel withdrew her hand from Mal’s grasp, and the group took off back towards the city.

About fifteen minutes later, Ignatius paused by a pair of trees. At first, Angel thought he’d become confused. But then she noticed the lack of branches within a two-foot space, and the slight bentness of the grass. Ah. A little-known path.

“Not many people know this here path. I only dos cause I used’ta be the Ranger around these parts. Ya wouldn’t think naught of it, but a lotta poachin’ goes on. Mostly by those mangy teams. What are their names again, dearie?”

“Magma, Aqua, and Rocket. But it’s not just them. Many individuals do it as well. There are a lot of Pokémon who have at least one quality that makes them sought after.”

“Now, I don’t wanna go down theres again. Seems a few Pokémon don’t understands why I stopped comin’ to see thems, and they’re mads at me.”

“So…Did you see the Pokémon in person or not?” Angel winced slightly as her question came out a bit ruder than she intended.

“Nuh-uh. I saw it on one of the cameras I installed. But when I went to show Mal here proof of it the next day, it was already gones.”

“The Pokémon or the video?”

“Both. I think whoever’s been poachin’ lately had somethin’ to dos with it. But she believes I’m seein’ things. Even thoughs she can’t explain why two minutes are missin’ from the log.”

“Well!” Angel stretched her arms above her head, and bent from side to side once. “One way or another,” she then bent her arms, elbows out, fists at chest, and twisted right, then left. “We’ll know the truth soon.”

“Just ‘cause ya can’t see somethin’ doesn’t mean it don’t exists. Just means ya weren’t lucky. Ya know…Like with all them Legendaries and the super rare Pokémons.”

“Oh, don’t you worry. Pokémon love me. I can practically guarantee I’ll have the proof you seek.”

Within minutes, Angel was far down the path, and away from any quick source of help. Well, except for Dreamer and Ebony, that is. The two were the only Pokémon she’d brought, so hopefully, they could handle whatever creature Ignatius had seen. If, in fact, he’d seen anything. Because despite how much she herself had witnessed and knew was passible, her own father’s memory failed him on occasion. And that was saying something, because he wasn’t quite as old as Mal’s grandfather.

About when she planned to give up and head back, she heard a noise, and her hand instantly went to her belt to open Dreamer’s pokéball. But when she heard the sound again, she picked up on the agony in the voice. Quietly, she called out. “Hello?”

Though the words were gentle, the Pokémon screamed again. Angel looked around, but didn’t see anymon in the clearing. Tree dwellers were possible, but still…They would be out of range for her words to affect them so greatly. The only Pokémon that made sense was…

“Hello?” This time, she spoke in a whisper, and heard a somewhat pained response. Yup. Clefable. “Can you come out? I won’t hurt you.”

After a minute or so, a Clefable stepped out from one of the bushes. But he was unlike any she’d seen before. A purple aura emanated from his body, and his eyes held such pain! Only a few steps later, he stumbled to the ground, and gave another screech. He sat there, attempting to cover his ears, but it wasn’t as if his hands could reach.

She rushed to his side and helped him sit up. For a while, the only thing she did was hold him and listen to his breathing as he tried to relax. Finally, she couldn’t be silent any longer. In a voice even softer than before, she spoke. “What’s wrong?”

He too, chose to wait a while to speak. When he did, he revealed that he had no clue how he came to be in this location. He remembered that day in and day out, people stuck him with needles and ran tests on him. And when they weren’t, he was locked in an enclosure of some sort, with very little mobility. They didn’t bother to be quiet, so he was always in so much pain.

“This…aura about you…Were you like that before? Or did this happen during?”

His response was a confused silence, mixed with a bit of excitement in his eyes at the possibility that there were others that looked like him, and yet, were different. The reaction made a whole lotta sense. After all, when something is the only thing you’ve ever known or experienced, to imagine anything to the contrary would be beyond comprehension.

All of a sudden, he leapt up and ran off into a nearby bush. Angel almost called out to him, but her attention was caught by the sound of footsteps, and she turned back the way she came to see Mal approach.

“Well, there you are! I was beginning to think you recognized us and decided to snag the Shadow for yourself.”

Angel’s tilt of the head elicited a mocking laugh from Mal. “Oh my. You mean to tell me you haven’t been fully informed of this mission?”

“Lady, I don’t even know who you are, nor what possible acquaintanceship the two of us share.”

“You’re really out of the loop then. Let me make it clear as crystal for you. Both of us,” she motioned her pointer finger to herself, and then to Angel, “are agents of Team Rocket. Giovanni sent me on a mission to retrieve a runaway Shadow. When I saw you, I assumed you’d been sent on the same mission.”

Ah. So she hadn’t imagined the unease Mal felt when Angel had first walked up to them. “I doubt you were. He came to me in person to recruit me for a very important task in Saffron City. Job had nothing to do with a…Shadow, you said?”

“Good. Then I shall finally get the promotion I’ve deserved for so long. As for you? I believe I speak for all Agents when I say that your sudden disappearance would be quite beneficial.”

“Say what now?!” Angel stood, the pokéballs for Dreamer and Ebony ready in her hands.

“You heard me, grunt. The beloved pet of Giovanni. Hated by all other Agents due to the courtesies given you. Allowed so much because your skill is such an ‘asset’. How do you manage to act so goody two shoes all the time?”

Angel couldn’t help but laugh at that. “You’re not a member of Team Rocket. Giovanni would never have hired someone with your lack of manners and disregard for life.”

“Oh. Em. Gee.” Mal burst out in hysterical laughter. “It’s not an act? You truly think Team Rocket are the good guys? Darling, we’re as bad as you can get. None of us have been allowed to approach you just so you could keep that ignorance. That must be why, when you’ve been given priority tasks, the dossier is reworded to fit your precious morality. Insurance that you get the job done without questions.”

“No! I don’t believe you! You’re just trying to get me out of the way so that you’re promoted above me! I won’t stand for it!”

Mal’s hand hovered over a pouch at her waist. “Girl. Don’t you dare lie to me. To me! I can see it in your eyes. You’re having doubts. Tell you what. If you give me that rare Sableye, then I’ll let you go. I’ll tell Giovanni that you failed miserably, and aren’t worth his time anymore.”

“And if I were to tell him that you spilled the beans on what Team Rocket is truly about? Don’t you think Giovanni would be immensely teed off? You’d be “taken care of”, just as you plan to do to me.”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t leave you capable of telling the tale.”

“Cover your ears!” the Clefable yelled from behind her when he realized things were about to hit the fan. With precious little time to react, Angel covered her ears just a screech to end all screeches filled the clearing. The two of them fell to their knees in pain. Their eyes met, and they could tell in that instant that they would forever be nemesi.

Then, Mal did the impossible, and struggled to her feet. Still disoriented, she staggered to the edge of the clearing, then paused. Wobbling a bit, she stretched a hand out to balance herself against a tree, and turned back to face Angel. She held out her other hand. It took Angel a bit to realize she held a pokéball within. “You may have the Shadow, but I have Ebony!”

A quick glance around where she’d fallen showed Dreamer’s pokéball beside a root. Geometry agreed that if a pokéball hit the root at just the right angle, it would have been sent Mal’s way. By the time Angel turned back towards the path, the woman was already out of sight up the path.

“No! No, no, no, no, no!” Tears began to fall from her eyes, and she beat her hand against the dirt. The Clefable came up beside her and offered assurances. And though a part of Angel illogically felt it was his fault, she allowed him to console her.

Finally, she turned to him, and spoke as softly as she could between sobs. “My father is a genius. I believe he can help with your hearing problem. If you’re willing, you can come along with me. Not only will I keep you safe, but I’ll get you help as soon as possible.”

When he nodded, she drew out an empty pokéball, and touched it to him. Once he was safely stored away, she sighed deeply. Mal was a liar. Had to be. There was no way Team Rocket could be like this. None. Still…When she returned home, she planned to pore over every mission she’d done. Conclusions needed to be drawn, and quickly. Her morality would never let her work for such horrid people. She’d do the right thing. Even if it meant she lost everything and everyone.

Chapter Text

Shadow Skill: Jump-Start. Sends an overcharged jolt of electricity into whatever it touches at the moment. Do not approach if you or your family have a history of heart problems.

To prevent an overbuild of electrical energy, Raichu regularly discharge electricity into the ground from their tail. Shadows, however, have lost that ability, and so sporadically shock themselves or who/whatever is around them.

It was a long time before Angel felt the desire to get up. How could she have frozen up like that? She was one of those whose Pokémon were like family to her. Dreamer should have been summoned. And then they should have left the Clefable in relative safety to go after Mal. Now Mal and Ignatius were probably long gone with her beloved friend, and they were unlikely to ever see each other again. The only thing that she could do at this point was continue to Saffron City. With a sigh, Angel headed off.

As she crossed into the city hours later, she suddenly realized that she needed to re-evaluate her plan. Without Ebony, there wasn’t a way she could get into the facility.

She’d wanted to complete this mission before she started digging for the truth about Team Rocket. But, after her run-in with fellow Agents, and the loss of Ebony, she’d been having second thoughts. If if if Team Rocket really were the bad guys, then she shouldn’t go through with this task at all.

Or…Wait. She could determine why Team Rocket wanted the item, and then, depending on that answer, follow through with the liberation, or inform the facility of the potential threat. Angel shook her head. No. Warning was out of the question. To know about a future crime was to imply your involvement with said crime.

Hmmn. There should be a Team Rocket base in the city or nearby. She didn’t know that for certain. It just made sense. But if she found nothing, it’d have been a waste of much needed time. But if she found something, then she could give up her control of the All-Star Gym and begin her Journey.

Ugh! This mind of hers was so darn annoying! Why did she have to overanalyze everything? It was both better and worse than what she’d done before: going with the first choice that seemed best. Essentially, under analyzing the situation. There was a medium point between the two. She just needed to find it. But it would be a difficult task, indeed, considering the fact that her mind didn’t work on the same level as normal people.

Her eyes roamed around the city. There was a lot of shouting and running around. Banners, sounds, and smells filled the air. Seemed the city was in the midst of preparations for a festival. All the greens, reds, pinks, blues, and other flowery colors made her guess it was to celebrate the arrival of spring. She groaned. If time was on her side, she’d definitely stay a while and have some much needed fun.

A cute little dandelion floof of a Pokémon came up to her, and offered a flower necklace. Angel noticed they were orange blossoms, but bowed her head and allowed the lei to be placed around her neck. She had to hold back a sneeze so as not to upset the Pokémon. There was a difficult relationship between her and her nose when it came to orange blossoms. Angel thought the aroma was scentacular. Her nose, not so much.

She called out after the Pokémon as she began to leave. Curious, the floof watched as Angel dug through her bag, bringing out her Pokédex. Understanding flashed in its eyes as Angel faced the device’s camera scanner thingy to the Pokémon.

“Eldegoss. The Cotton Bloom Pokémon. Evolved form of Gossifleur. Native to the Galar Region. Eldegoss occasionally sets its seeds to the wind, allowing plants and Pokémon alike to benefit from the nutrients within.”

“Oh, wow! What’cha doing all the way in Kanto?” Angel held out a hand to the cutiepie, but paused, unsure as to whether or not she should touch it. But the Eldegoss made a pleased sound and leaned into her hand, allowing Angel to stroke her face.

“There you are, Lyla!” A Trainer about her age rushed up to them. For a few seconds, she just stood there, bent over, hands on her knees as she tried to catch her breath. Finally, she stood and held out a hand. “Hi, there! Name’s Elsa. Are you in town for the festival?”

Angel shook the offered hand. “Sadly, no. Just passing through on business, but I’m hoping to have some time before I leave.”

“Ah, well that’s too bad. People have traveled from as far as the Galarian and Alolan regions to participate in this debut event. It’s a rare opportunity to see Pokémon from all over the world in one spot. If all goes well, it will return next year.”

“Oh, wow! Well, I’ll definitely try to finish things up real quick like. I wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance of a lifetime.”

“You sure wouldn’t! Oh, hey!” Elsa took the Pokédex out of Angel’s hands, only to hand it back about fifteen seconds later. “That there’s my code. If you do get the time, hit me up. I’d love to talk about my home region.”

“Th-Thank you.” Angel held the Pokédex against her chest tightly for a few seconds, unsure of how to react to this. As she placed it back in her bag, she realized she should probably return the gesture. In that moment, it felt like she was transformed into a child nervous to ask something of their parents. It took all of her courage to meet Elsa’s eyes. “May I? Well…You gave me yours.”

Elsa’s face lit up in a smile, and she handed the Pokédex to Angel, who gave a gleeful gasp as she accepted it and entered her code in. As she passed it back, she couldn’t help but apologize at her shyness. “Sorry. I’m trying, but interacting with new people is scary.”

“No need to apologize.” Elsa waved a hand in dismissal before she put her Pokédex away. “I get it. A few of my friends are like that. The more you put yourself out there, the easier it gets. The friends you make along the way to your dreams are so worth every bit of all your struggles.”

Lyla cried out, and Elsa gasped. “Ah! I’m sorry! Have to run. Forgot I volunteered to help set up a part of the festivities for Galar. See you around.” With the last part stated as a guarantee, Elsa and Lyla ran off.

Angel stared after them for a few seconds before she shook her head in happiness and went back to her thoughts on where Team Rocket’s base would be. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to think on it very long, for, in the distance, she saw someone in the crowd that couldn’t possibly be there. As she took a step towards the person, shouts from behind drew her attention, and she whirled around to find a Raichu beside someone clearly being electrocuted. But what really stood out was the purple aura that surrounded her. It was just like that of the Clefable from the forest.

Without another second of thought, Angel ran towards the Raichu. Her plan was to jump in between the two, interfering with the flow of electricity. As she was a millisecond away from having hundreds of volts rushing through her body, she realized how stupid this action was. Thankfully, the Raichu had collapsed to the ground just in time. A few sparks came from her cheeks, but she was otherwise harmless.

Once the Raichu was safe, she glanced back at the man. Her quick visual triage said there was nothing she could do for him. With people already approaching, the only thing she could do was run and hide in case they thought she had something to do with it. And even if they didn’t. Well. She was protecting the Pokémon who did. How did she keep getting involved in things like this?

Hopefully nobody had seen her face, but just to be safe, she was going to sneak in under the cover of nightfall. It was cliché, but she couldn’t risk being recognized.

After five minutes of running, she hadn’t found a decent choice, and so, she ducked into what looked to be a stable for various equestrian Pokémon. They cried out at her sudden appearance, but fell silent near instantly at her calming words.

The Raichu was already awake, and Angel could feel heat building within. “Ssh. Relax, darling. You’re safe now. Well. Not now now. But you will be. You just need to be brave and go inside this Pokéball for me. Can you do that?”

She made a sound as she turned her head away. Jolts were already becoming visible, and the next noise was a whimper of pained expectation.

“Please, sweetling. You’re in pain. It will be a while before I can get you help, but at least you won’t be in pain. And you won’t be accidentally hurting others while you’re locked away.”

Tears filled her eyes, and she turned back to Angel, making another statement as to how much she didn’t want to go into the darkness.

“It’s only temporary, I swear.” Angel stroked the Raichu’s face, tears welling in her own eyes. “There’s a difference between being brave and being stupid. Please. I can’t bear it to see you hurting anymore.”

Finally, the Raichu sighed and nodded her head. Angel breathed a sigh of relief and gave her the safety of the Pokéball. As she stared at her now empty arms, she realized that she was going to need lots and lots of Pokéballs if she planned on saving all these…Shadows. Either that, or she was going to have to visit her father very soon and see how he could help these poor Pokémon.

Chapter Text

Shadow Skill: Mock. A laughing whinny that brings to the forefront of the mind, a person’s shortcomings in order to make them utterly lose faith in themselves and their abilities.

Rapidash can go from 0 to 150 in ten steps. They are a sight to behold when they race, for the faster they go, the hotter their mane burns. Highly competitive, they can often be seen challenging others to races. Shadows seem to desire a win, and will play dirty to achieve it.

Angel opened her eyes to a bright light shining directly in her face, followed by the voice of someone demanding to know who she was and what she was doing in their stables. She raised a hand to shield her eyes from the flashlight, but the person didn’t lower the beam. They yelled the question again, and she knew she must come up with something quickly to prevent this from becoming a public scene. “Sorry for the intrusion. I brought an injured Pokémon in here to rest. It must have wandered off when I fell asleep.”

After several seconds, the figure lowered the light, and Angel blinked her eyes repeatedly to get her vision back faster. She didn’t recognize the person. Although, she had no reason to, as she’d never been to Vermilion City before. Her father had come to Saffron on many occasions, but he never took her with, what with the Silph Company being so secretive about their projects.

In her mind, the person using a flashlight finally connected to the fact that it was night time, and she swore under her breath before quickly standing up. “I’m sorry. I have to go! I’m late. Ack! Usually I have a good head on my shoulders, but I can’t believe I nodded off.” She ran towards the person, who, surprisingly moved out of the way to let her pass.

Thoughts rushed rapidly through her mind as she paused long enough to get her bearings before heading towards the target. There was now no time to verify anything regarding Team Rocket’s plans. She would just have to steal the item and deal with the consequences later.

As she maneuvered her way through the obstacle course of a city, she heard a loud neigh. Angel caught a glimpse of purple out of the corner of her eye, and she skidded to a halt to get a better look at the creature. It was another Shadow. What?! These were supposed to be rare beings. How had she stumbled across three in just as many days?

Instead of halting with her, the Shadow, a Rapidash it seemed, continued past her for a couple dozen feet before it realized the race was off. The horse turned back to her, the brightness of its flaming mane dimming as it trotted to her.

Once before her, the Rapidash, female it seemed, snorted, and made a motion with her front two hooves, then threw her head in the direction of the tower. When she looked back at Angel, she repeated the same action, as if trying to communicate.

“Do you—Do you want to race?”

Rapidash gave a loud whinny, and reared. Her front feet danced in midair, but she took care not to hurt Angel in her excitement. The Shadow hopped beside her in such a way that she couldn’t help but laugh as she thought of the pink Ponyta from that one children’s cartoon. What was her name? Pinkie Pie! The Rapidash gave her a strange look, probably wondering what she found so funny, but Angel shook her head and got into starting position. “On the count of three. One. Two—”

The Shadow whinnied again, and sped off, leaving a cloud of dust in her wake. “Oh-hoh. So that’s how you want to play, is it?” Angel began to run as well, though she knew there was no way she’d be able to win against the Rapidash, even on fair terms. But still, she could enjoy this little moment for what it was.

After a few minutes, Angel came to a halt across the street from the Silph Company. The Rapidash was strutting back and forth on the pavement, acting as if her win were the most spectacular thing in the world. Angel patted her on the nose. “Good job, darling.”

As she stared at the building, an idea came to her. It was so very risky, and not something she would normally do, but she was out of time. “Hey. Mind doing me a favor?”

Rapidash looked at her and let out a soft, questioning neigh.

Angel didn’t respond immediately, for she still wasn’t certain this was a good idea. But risk not, want not. “There is something inside that building I need. It would be greatly appreciated if you could provide a distraction for me.”

With absolutely no hesitation, and without the promise of a reward, Rapidash gladly rushed the building and began wreaking havoc. Angel waited a little bit just to make sure most of the employees had went off chasing her.

Suddenly concerned, she brought out Dreamer. Originally, her plan had been to use Ebony and Dreamer to sneak into the facility. With Ebony being Melanistic, and Dreamer’s colors the reverse of a normal Absol, shadows and the cover of night would have been of tremendous help to them.

Despite the fact Absol were known to be unlucky, she considered Dreamer one of her most precious lucky charms. That’s not to say things had never gone wrong around him. Just, when they did, it wasn’t so horribly, irreparably wrong.

She knelt, placing her hands on Dreamer’s cheeks, and gave him a kiss on the nose. “Hey darling. Do you see that Rapidash over there? I need you to help her out in her mayhem. Just long enough for momma to go inside and get something. Can you do that for me?”

Dreamer cried out agreement, licked Angel once on the nose, and then went to help Rapidash. Only then did Angel finally run across the street to enter the facility.

The blueprints instantly came back to her, and she knew exactly where to go. Regardless, it took her ten minutes of stealthing through the place until she reached the bio hazard lab. There was a sign on the door that warned people from entering unless they wore a hazmat suit. But according to the dossier, it was just a sign to deter the unclearanced from entering the room and seeing what was being made.

Her head turned left, then right, checking for people in the area. When she saw none, Angel typed in the first keycode listed on the papers, crossing her fingers that it worked. If it didn’t, it meant that she’d been too late, and it had been two weeks since the codes were last changed. Thankfully, the device clicked, and the light turned green as the door hissed open.

Knowing Dreamer and Rapidash couldn’t keep everyone distracted for much longer, she quickly scanned the giant room, looking for the item in particular she’d been sent to obtain. Unfortunately, the layout had changed from when she’d been given the data. That shouldn’t be a problem, though. What she sought was clearly identifiable. And yup. It didn’t take much longer to find the glowing pink containers.

Dropping the knapsack from her shoulders, she opened it, and gently stuffed the vials into the bottom. Although she fit several in, she could not fit all. But there was no time to rearrange her pack, so, assuming it wouldn’t matter much, she left three of the vials in the container, and then went to the window.

Angel opened it, placed two fingers in her mouth, and gave a loud, piercing whistle. Within seconds, Dreamer and the Rapidash appeared. As soon as they were close enough, she leapt out the window, deftly landing on Rapidash, though she did wince at the pain of the landing. For a split second, she wondered if that act had hurt the Shadow, but she cast that thought and any others aside to focus on later. Before doing anything else, she returned Dreamer to his pokéball.

Just as she was getting ready to turn Rapidash into a gallop, a voice called out to her. One that she recognized. Her gaze turned to the window she’d just leapt out of, and she found herself unable to breathe at the visage of the person who looked down at her.

A bark sounded, distracting her, and when she glanced back at the window, nobody was there. Angel had to shake her head to clear her thoughts, reminding herself yet again that not only was there no way it could be her, but that now was not the time.

She had no clue where to go next, or what she planned on doing now. The only thing she knew for certain is that she did not plan on taking this to Team Rocket instantly. Giovanni wouldn’t, or at least, shouldn’t, mind if she was a few days late. And this at least gave her the chance to finally do some digging.

Chapter Text

Angel pushed the Rapidash harder and faster than she should have, wanting to put as much distance between them and Saffron City as possible. And so, several hours later, she finally reined the horse in halfway to Lavender Town. She attempted to jump down, but her knees buckled, and she fell to the ground instead.

From her position, she could see the froth at the mouth, and felt a pang of heartache. She reached out a hand, to which, the Rapidash knelt beside her and pushed her muzzle into her hand, as if acknowledging and accepting her apology. She opened her mouth to speak, but her new friend licked her hand, causing her to giggle.

She spent the next twenty minutes beside Rapidash, staring at the stars and thinking about the person she’d seen in the window. And earlier that day before she met the Raichu. That person looked and sounded like Maya. But she was dead! How was she seeing her? Better yet…Why?

There were no acceptable answers to those questions. Nor to the question of what she would do about the loss of Ebony. A beeping sounded, and she dug into her satchel to bring out her Pokégear. She really needed to get one of those fancy shmancy cell phone things. But her father didn’t approve of the utilization of Pokémon to make something work. Considered it abuse, even though the Rotom enjoyed it. But he said he was working on making one fully tech, and that she’d be the first to test it out.

At first, she didn’t recognize the number. There was only one person who had her ID who she hadn’t put to memory yet: Elsa. But she couldn’t talk. Not now. She squeezed her eyes shut, knowing that this action was going to hurt her new happy-go-lucky friend. Yet. A part of her felt, based on the mere minutes they’d spent together, that she’d understand.

After a few more seconds, the beeping stopped. The pokégear was silent for about a minute longer, and then a text came in.

Hey, there! If you’re still around, I’d love it if you could come to the Galar section. Lyla and I are getting ready to make our big premiere, and we’d love it if you could be here. Oh! I don’t think I got your name.

A part of her wanted to reply, but her hands were shaking so badly. No. Now was not the time. Maya’s death. Ally’s abandonment. Jenny’s not-quite-betrayal. The Clefable. Seeing Maya. The Raichu and Rapidash. Hearing Maya. There was just so much. And it kept piling on.

She almost returned the pokégear to her satchel, but, at last minute, called her father on the secure line. After a few rings, he picked up. “Where in the world have you been?! We’ve been worried sick! You know better than to take off with no warning.”

Angel took a deep breath, and dove straight in to everything from the last few days. Well. Without mentioning her own association with Team Rocket, that is.

For a long while after she finished, her dad was silent. “You chose a perfect time for your Journey. Reports of these Pokémon are popping up all over. I’d like to investigate and help them, if possible. Perhaps even see if I can make them normal again. When you reach Lavender Town, I want you to send those three to me. I will do what I can, and then return them to you.”

“How often should I send them to you?”

“Personally, to keep them out of nefarious hands, I’d say once a week, or as soon as you have three on you. To carry more would be risking them and yourself. And Angel, darling? I know you’re twenty-three, but you’re exploring the world for the first time. Things and people aren’t always what they seem. Be very careful who you trust and let in on your secrets.”

Secrets? Did he know about her affiliation with Team Rocket? No. It was impossible. She’d been super careful for the last ten years. Angel swallowed before responding. “Pfft. You know me. I’m always careful.”

“Uh-huh. So you’re saying the situations you find yourself in are Dreamer’s fault?”

She laughed at his jibe to her Absol, and sniped back with “Nope. The blame falls all on Sylvie. Always getting me involved in some form of mischief.”

“I knew it! I never liked those ribbons. “

“That’s just ‘cause you never spend time with her. Oh! I know! She’s been wanting to go into one of those beauty things. Perhaps you could get to know her better while training her to use her ribbons wowtacularly.”

Her father groaned. “What is it with you and your weird words?”

Though he couldn’t see it, she shrugged. “I have a gift.”

“Yeah. To be super annoying. Anyways. I have to go. Important work stuff. Don’t be a stranger. Love you. Bye.”
Angel responded with the same sentiments, a smile on her face as she hung up. One thing was certain when it came to her dad. No matter how upset she was, he could always make her smile. Even managed to do it while being super annoying, cause the way he did it was just weird enough to be funny.

Once the pokégear was back in the satchel, she pondered what to do. A glance at the Rapidash said that she was up to travel again, and they had a lot of ground to cover before reaching Lavender Town.

Ugh. Lavender. Lavendar. The difference between the two never ceased to irritate her. Same with lever, caramel, gray and grey, and any other word groups like that. The appropriate usages were lavender, lehver, caramull, and gray. Any other intonation or spelling was just so unnaturally infuriating to her.

Rapidash got to her feet as she stood up. The horse whinnied and pranced. She seemed to want to run again. As if she hadn’t ran enough already. “Okay, okay. Just take it easy. You already overexerted yourself thanks to me.”

Her responding neigh sounded outraged. As if she took offense to the idea that she could strain herself. After a deep breath, Angel spoke. “I don’t care how well you think you can run. It’s not that I don’t believe you, so you don’t have to prove yourself to me. Just…There’s been so much loss in my life recently. I don’t want to be responsible for another.”

She fell silent as the Rapidash pondered the statement. Finally, she leaned her face into Angel’s, and then licked her cheek, eliciting a grossed-out sound. Rapidash’s reaction to that was a whinny while prancing in a circle once. “Oh, so you think that’s funny, do ya?” Again, with the laughing neigh.

After she was done with her amusement, she paused and let Angel mount her. Then the two of them took off at a leisurely pace. Well. As leisurely as you could get already going faster than most others of her kind. Angel knew how badly the slowdown had to annoy her new friend, but even Pokémon had emotions, and knew when to compromise.

Hours later, they arrived at the outskirts of the town. It was early morning, so everything would be coming to life soon. Angel jumped down and stroked the Rapidash’s fur before looking her in the eyes. “I know you want to run, but there are people in there who, upon seeing your skill, would deliberately let you win.”

An angry neigh was the response.

“Yes, I know. How dare they demean your talent like that? But you can stop it. If you choose to get into this pokéball, I can send you to my father. He’ll provide you with many opportunities to prove yourself. And since he likes challenges, he might even handicap himself. Not to make it easier on you. But to make it harder on him. Does that sound like fun?”

More joyful prancing. Once the Rapidash had calmed down, Angel brought out her last empty pokéball. Just in time, too, for a few of the doors of nearby shops and houses were beginning to open. Now, she just had to find the Poké Center and transfer the Shadows to safety. Once that was done, she needed to figure out what to do with…whatever it was she’d just stolen from the Silph Company.

Thankfully, her knapsack prevented its pink light from escaping. The strange glow would have been difficult to explain, and likely be recognized by any scientist.

As she stared down the pathway, she inhaled deeply, then smiled. And so, her Journey truly begins.

Chapter Text

Angel was in a strange town. It looked a great deal like her hometown of Cerulean City, but, at the same time, it didn’t. At first, she couldn’t place why. But then she the rundownedness of buildings, many of which were shops that were shuttered closed. There were no children playing in the streets, but there were, however, young ones with haggard faces and tattered clothing. Every now and again, she saw a better-looking tween, but it wasn’t common. The children were all alone, no adults to comfort them. In fact, the only grown-ups she saw were very well fed and dressed, loitering around the only two shiny maintained buildings in town.

Everyone who was “better off” wore some form of clothing or item that openly showed their allegiance to Team Rocket. Angel breathed a sigh of relief. At least the town would now be saved. They’d help out the people here. Two children walked towards one of the adults. Their hands were open, seeking food. Instead of giving them something like she expected, the Agent summoned a Pokémon, which made the children run off.

For a while, she just stared at the Pokémon she saw. It had an aura like a Shadow, but it was black instead of purple. And it didn’t look like any Pokémon she’d ever seen before. As a matter of fact, it looked like it had been fused from several different Pokémon.

The sudden appearance of a Pokémon beside her caused her to jump, fearful that she was under attack. She calmed down when she remembered this was not only just a dream, but her dream. Still, when she turned to face the Pokémon and saw that it was a Giratina, she stepped back so quickly that she fell on her tush in the process.

The Legendary laughed at her, which only caused her to blush. “Happens every time. And yet, still funny.” A female’s voice. “Hello there, Angel Flamel. Your heart and mind are already going in the right direction, but too slowly. You need to understand now.”

“U-Understand wh-what?”

“What Team Rocket is all about. You’ve already noticed that the Trainer over there called out a strange creature. You may have even concluded that it was related to Shadow Pokémon. You are correct, but they are not like the ones you hold within your pouch. These ones were created.”

Though she didn’t speak it aloud, Angel thought it was pretty cool that science could do that.

Giratina stomped a foot. “It is not!” There was a pause, and, when next she spoke, there was sorrow in her voice. “This is the result of hundreds of Shadows being dissected and experimented upon for days or weeks. However long it took them to die. Once they located the best genetics of a species, they replicated it en masse.”

“That’s good, right? Doesn’t that mean that certain species were no longer desired, and therefore spared the pain?”

The Giratina turned back to Angel. “Yes. But, as you’ve learned through your life, some people thrive on pain. And those in charge of the experimentation were such people. Even when they had narrowed it down, they took their time, relishing in the agony—”

“Enough!” Angel’s voice broke. “I don’t want to hear any more.”

“You must!” Another foot stomp. “You are not the first to see the Shadows as the Pokémon they are. But you are the first willing to fight for them. They need you.”

“How—” She swallowed, and took a deep breath. “How do I know you are telling the truth? Or that you are even real, as opposed to a figment of my imagination?”

Giratina tilted her head, and the only thing Angel could see in her mind was her father giving her one of his common ‘Are you really that dense?’ looks. For the second time in less than two minutes, she blushed in embarrassment.

“Does it really matter? If I’m real, you believe me automatically because it came from a Pokémon. If I’m just inside your head, then you already believe what I say is true, and are desperate to convince yourself.”

Angel remained silent, chewing on that statement. Finally, she sighed. “What do I need to do to prevent this future?”

“You’re already on your way there. Continue doing what you’re doing. Get those three to your father. They will be safe with him. I and the others will make sure of it. You know what else you have to do. It’s all a matter of finding the courage.”

She nodded, knowing this meant leaving Team Rocket, which, had been getting higher and higher on her To-Do List for a while now. But it also meant becoming a target.

“Return to Vermillion City. Speak to Officer Jenny. You will need her connections in order to stay ahead of Team Rocket. If you cannot convince her, I will give her a visit.”

Angel shook her head furiously. “I cannot! She doesn’t trust me anymore. She’ll just throw me in a cell first chance she gets.”

“Trust is unnecessary. As is becoming best friends again. The worst that will come of it is being locked away for a week or two.”

Again, a head shake. “If the Shadows are in as much danger as you say they are, that may be too late to save some of them.”

“And what if, in the future, you had the chance to save dozens of them, but were prevented because you were caught? No. It’s best to do this now. Even at the loss of a life or two. You must do what is best for the greater good. That’s a reason I chose you to be the first of the Warriors of Light. Now, awaken. Danger approaches.”

From a sound sleep, Angel jerked into a sitting position. Though sweat poured down her face, she was shivering. Her breaths were quick and shallow. The reality of the dream was fading, but the sensations remained. Never before had she had experienced a dream like that before.

A crunch drew her attention, and she directed her gaze to the path. Nobody should be able to see her. Not because she wasn’t visible, but due to the fact she was beneath the roots of a tree, and most people tended not to notice the obvious. Unfortunately for her, the newcomers had a Pokémon walking with them, and he was at the perfect height to see her.

He cried out in actual speech, and Angel couldn’t move. Was she still in a dream? There was no way she would meet two Pokémon who knew Human speech in less than ten minutes.

The group was still about thirty feet away when they knelt down. One was a male with short purple hair and green eyes. The other was a woman with waist-length red hair and blue eyes. No way. Could it possibly be the most notorious trio in all the Regions? A quick glance down at their shirts confirmed her suspicions.

“Ohmygosh!” Angel exclaimed as she crawled out from her hidey-hole. “Can it really be Jesse, James, and Meowth?”

They blinked in surprise, and then huddled together, muttering quietly amongst themselves. After a minute or two, they stood, and James spoke. “Oh, goody! Did you hear that, Jesse? We’re famous!”

“I heard it, but now she knows for a fact that we’re with Team Rocket!” Jesse wrapped an arm around James’ neck, drew him in, and gave him a noogie with her other hand.

Angel laughed as she got to her feet, which made them turn to look at her. “Relax, Jesse. It’s not like there’s another group like you. And if there was, well. I’d hope you three could prove that you’re the better team.”

“Of course we could! Nobody’s better than us!” James shouted with utter confidence. “But, uh. Who are you?”

She approached them. “I’m Angel Flamel. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?”

The three went into another huddle. When next they looked at her, they were all shaking their heads.

“Strange. I would assume you’ve heard of me. Malevolence and Ignatius had.”

“Now, them, we’ve heard of. You spoke their names with a bit of hatred. Do you have an issue with them as well?”

“I met them a day or two ago. They tricked me, and stole my Melanistic Sableye, Ebony. He’s one of my closest friends, and I’m scared I’ll never get him back.”

A third huddle. Then, Jesse: “Where did you last see them?”

“About a mile from Vermilion City.”

“We’ll get your Pokémon back. If only to have a chance to show off how much better we are than them. You can travel with us if you’d like.”

Angel opened her mouth to turn them down, but realized that she could just as easily transfer the three Shadows she carried to her father in Vermilion City. Plus, it would be a fun experience to travel with three of her heroes. “I’d love that.”