Bill’s Fortress

Chapter Seven – Bill’s Fortress

Sparks flickered and faded from the Magnemite’s steel shell. A Voltorb lay slumped against his former companion on the tiled floor as the two fallen Pokemon were joined together in their final rest. Each slab of the flooring lit up independently painting the room in a plethora of hues before the tiles either returned to darkness or switched their colour swathing the room in yellow, cream, green and blue. It was almost akin to a disco although the customary thundering energetic music had been replaced by the din of battle.

Surge loomed across the scene, his demeanour and appearance contrasting that of the lively arena. The former Gym Leader revealed bulging biceps with his moss-green coloured tank top matched by the shorts he wore which unveiled legs corded with muscle, a buzzcut completing the military look. This was his old Gym, his battlefield, and on it Wally was annihilating his opponent. His Pikachu had disposed of Surge’s first two Pokemon with relative ease and now his Eevee faced down the old Gym leader’s final Pokemon, Raichu, the evolved form of a Pikachu.

“You’re tough for a kid,” Surge spoke with a gruff, steely voice.

“I’ve had training,” Wally replied. He had spent a few days preparing with the Servants, adopting their methods into his battle technique and developing both himself as a trainer and his Pokemons’ strength. He had abandoned the group momentarily to compete in the tournament’s next round whilst the Servants rallied for war and began the hunt for their ‘Lord’s Angels’.

“Me too,” Surge said. He looked to be in his late forties and his past remained a mystery to Wally. But instead of enquiring to the man’s history he considered the other problems which plagued his mind. He had agreed the alliance with the cryptic Servants despite being unaware of their true motives and intentions.

“Can they even be trusted?” Wally thought. They perplexed him, despite constant attempts to figure out the identity of their ‘Lord’ and who Lyra and Ethan truly were, he remained no closer to discerning their true guises. “I guess I’ll just have to wait and find out.”

“No,” Surge roared as his Raichu was tackled to the floor by its opponent. The Eevee had dodged and evaded every electrical attack, cleverly using the temporary dark spots induced by the flashing tiles to ambush his foe.

“They’re certainly well versed in the art of battle,” Wally recalled Ethan’s words to him. The man who bore the gold robe informed him that Lyra, “Is well versed in the art of battle, in fact she’s one of the strongest trainers on the planet. Learn from her, let her teach you her ways and techniques.” He had accomplished just that and it granted him an unexpectedly simple victory against a former Gym leader. “Now,” Wally thought. “Where did Ethan say to meet after my battle.”

“Get to cover,” Misty shrieked to the townspeople as Rocket Pokemon and grunts ran amok upon the streets of Cerulean City. Blue followed close behind amidst the chaos. He sighted a Zubat terrorising a local civilian and a Rattata attacking a ragtag group of Pokemon that had been thrown out in defense of the city.

“Look Misty,” Blue shouted above the ruckus as they battled through people in the town square. “They’re all heading north.”

“You’re right,” she shouted back, pushing her way through a rabble of townspeople. “They’re crossing Nugget Bridge.”

Blue looked across the town to the northern boundary and through a cluster of buildings he sighted a large lake separating the city from Route 25. He had crossed the bridge overhanging the water days ago to fight Shane Cale but somehow that seemed almost a lifetime ago now. He recalled one of the locals telling him the story of the bridge, how one day a young boy found fistfuls of gold buried beneath it and suddenly became rich in one scoop. That was how ‘Nugget Bridge’ got its name. Who the boy was, or if the story was even true remained a mystery to Blue.

“They’re heading towards Bill’s Cottage!” Misty declared. “What do they want with him?”

Blue almost stopped in his tracks as he sighted Leaf making her way towards the bridge from the west of the city. “Wait at the bridge,” he called to Misty.

“Why?!” Misty shouted back. They were making good process through the hordes of citizens now and almost onto the path which carved its way between buildings and shot straight towards the bridge.

“Because we have help,” he responded, almost shoving an elderly panicked lady to the floor in his haste. “Whoops, sorry,” he half-heartedly said.

Misty almost laughed, then remembered the perilous situation they found themselves within. “Excuse me,” she said and impatiently groaned over and over like a record on loop.

“No need to be so polite.” Blue smirked as he barged a man out of the way. “They’re confused and panicked. Don’t think they realise what’s going on here.”

“I don’t realise what’s going on here!” Misty retorted. They had finally pushed their way through and had clear running to the bridge.

“I do,” Leaf interrupted, having managed to find a shortcut through the gathering crowd to catch Blue and Misty before they crossed Nugget Bridge.

“Care to enlighten us?” Misty said with a furrowed brow, unaware of who this new arrival was.

“Hey Leaf, how’s it going?” Blue helpfully added.

“Where’s Wally, have you seen him?” Leaf asked whilst glancing around the city for a glimpse of the green haired boy.

“Think I saw him in a book once?” Blue answered with a grin.

“Can you take this a little more seriously please,” Leaf responded irritably.

“Again, care to enlighten us as to what’s going on?” Misty snapped. “Who even are you? I take it you two know each other?”

“Woah ladies please,” Blue said and laughed casually. “No need to fight over me.”

“I’m Leaf,” she replied whilst mustering all her willpower not to slap Blue. “Team Rocket are on a mission to take control of Storage, which I’m lead to believe is located on Route 25 with a man named Bill.”

“It’s at Bill’s Cottage,” Misty replied noticeably calmer. “He created storage himself, he’s a genius. It’s also his own personal fortress so I think Rocket are in for a nasty surprise when they try taking it.”

“They don’t appear to be struggling,” Blue noted as groups of grunts strolled towards the cottage fearlessly. They were surrounded by an army of their Pokemon who marched together with their trainers along Route 25.

“Then we need to help him,” Leaf insisted. “Rocket’s army is strong but they have one fundamental weakness. They have no water Pokemon and that lake runs beside them all along Route 25.”

“How do you know all this?” Misty enquired. Even Blue took notice at her knowledge.

“I’ll tell you later, we have to move now!” Leaf commanded.

“You’re the boss,” Blue said sarcastically, making no movement.

“Is she? Boss of what?” Misty responded with a confused look.

“Just go!” she howled, releasing her team of Pokemon and leading the charge across the bridge.

“You taking the lake?” Blue asked Misty, still not moving and allowing Leaf to charge by herself for now. She had released her team, which included a recently captured Ekans which she had named Snake.

“Yeah, still have three Pokemon left. If you two attack by land and me by water we can surprise them from behind. Don’t worry too much about Bill, that man can handle himself.” she responded, then launched three Pokeballs into the water. A Staryu emerged first, a sand-coloured star shaped Pokemon with a red ruby encrusted in its centre. Afterwards a Goldeen and a Seel joined it, Misty mounting the latter and wish Blue good luck as she powered through the water after Leaf.

“Guess it’s time to join in the fun,” Blue spoke softly to his four Pokeballs, which contained his Charmander, Rattata, Abra and the evolved form of Pidgey, a Pidgeotto.

A chilled wind bit at Leaf as dull clouds crowded the skies. The calm lake lived peacefully alongside the grasslands of Route 25 which rose and dipped slightly like stationary green waves. She eyed the collection of Team Rocket grunts who gathered before Bill’s Cottage which sat atop a large mound in tranquillity. Misty had mentioned that Bill transformed the abode into a ‘fortress’ but Leaf saw no evidence of such. She saw a two story home constructed of grey bricks and topped by a chimney. At the back of the building lay a large storehouse which Leaf guessed housed all the Pokeballs sent into storage.

Staring down at the swarms of black clad gangsters atop the mound was Bill. Leaf thought he appeared surprisingly young, in his early twenties at most with childlike curly hair. He had a very ordinary face beset with bright brown eyes and wore a sky-blue shirt with cream coloured trousers. He appeared carefree, looking down at his besiegers without worry as he awaited Rocket’s next move.

“They look leaderless,” Leaf said as Blue caught her. She had stood to judge the scene and plan her best method of attack. Rocket had noticed both the duo as well as the waterborne Misty and had begun preparations for the attempted pincer attack. A group of grunts had volunteered themselves to counter the Resistance whilst the main bulk began their advance up the mound.

“Looks like they thought taking the cottage would be easy,” Blue noted. “Didn’t need to send their best men, just a bunch a rookies.”

“Why waste resources here when they’re at war in Johto,” Leaf assumed. “Maybe that’s why they need Storage. Maybe the war in Johto isn’t going as well as they’re all saying?” she said hopefully, still hurting from her excursion through Mt. Moon and the mistake made within.

“Nah,” Blue crushed the idea with a single half-hearted word.

“Then what?” Leaf said irritably.

“Don’t know, don’t really care. This should be easier than I thought.”

“There’s still a lot of them. I count around twenty-five to thirty.” Leaf made an effort to try and count the grunts. There were around six coming for her and Blue, three using flying types to counter Misty whilst around fifteen had began their upwards trek towards the cottage.

“Easy,” Blue repeated before walking towards the six.

“We need to move quick, Bill won’t be able to hold off that many-” Leaf started then stopped as Bill’s defences whirled into action. This is why Misty described it as a ’fortress’.

A small white device sprouted from the ground shaped like a gigantic hose which sprouted from the surface at the same time a plinth rose from the ground. The hose launched into the air then rested neatly atop the podium, quickly followed by another.. As Rocket operatives ascended the slope miniature obstacles sprang out of the ground directly in front of them which tripped a handful of the grunts, causing them to fall flat on their faces. The hose-like devices roared into action, turning into powerful mechanised water cannons that launched vigorous streams of liquid at the advancing assault force and either pushed them back down the hill or caused more of the grunts to tumble alongside their Pokemon.

“Brilliant!” Blue laughed at the scene. Even Leaf afforded herself a smile before her and Blue’s Pokemon were beset by enemies. Scores of Rattata, Grimer, Koffing, Sandshrew, Zubat and Ekans lined up as a deadly barrier to their rescue efforts. A squeal shrieked across the water from where Misty faced off against a group of Zubat, Pidgey and Koffing who flew across the river’s surface and attacked not only her Pokemon but Misty herself.

Rocket forces continued their advancements despite water cannons blasting their Pokemon back down the hill. Bill seemed only happy to allow them to continue their march and caught them out with his next design. Walls composed of a smooth white metal burst from the ground and flanked the water cannons to create a barrier. A gap between the barricades formed a gate in which Rocket grunts could enter and that caused the operatives to funnel into a narrow line, their strongest Pokemon shielding them from the spraying water.

Blue’s Charmander set a line of grass ablaze to form his own barrier to Rocket’s Pokemon, forcing them to step around the roaring flames and into the waiting fangs of his Rattata and psychic attacks by Abra. His Pidgeotto soared above the flame barrier and landed at the rear of the grunts’ fighters to trap them.

Leaf now turned her attention back towards her own Pokemon. Rocket creatures poured from a rise towards her team, hungrily snapping their jaws and claws to send waves of fear through their opponents. Jab led the charge invigorated with belief and spirit after his double evolution. The Beedrill clashed with a small herd of Zubat, swiping foes from the skies using with needle-like arms. The limp lifeless bodies of the horrific bat-like creatures tumbled to land beside Fury and Moon who followed close by and joined in the conflict. Dino waited behind his friends to react to the flow of battle by issuing orders to his teammates whilst lashing out vines out any opposing Pokemon that seemed threatening and shoot razor sharp leaves to hinder their foes. Slowly joining the fray was Snake, the newest member of the team. She attacked with both teeth and tail, a deadly venom affixed to both.

“Fin,” Leaf barked to her Magikarp who seemingly fled the battle. She had asked Fin to assist Misty in the hope that the water type would fare better within her own element, but even the river failed to aid her Pokemon. Instead of helping Misty, the Magikarp switched between ducking and hiding underwater and fleeing when she thought Leaf’s attention lay elsewhere.

Shouts from the mound distracted Leaf as she turned to watch Rocket grunts slip and fall down the slope. A giant cylindrical object had risen from the ‘gateway’ and rotated to release thousands of small metallic pellets which flooded the hillside like a waterfall, ushering the operatives back to where they had begun the climb. “Bill’s fortress indeed”, she muttered.

Jab fought as if he had been possessed, swiping his lances at swarms of opponents as Fury and Moon followed through the mop up. Snake fared less capably as she struggled to fend of the furious advances from an enraged Rattata leaving Dino to be forced to intervene. The Ivysaur lashed out at the Rattata with a vine then shot a dozen sharp leaves at the creature when it recoiled to thrust the Rocket Pokemon backwards. Misty had also began to make more significant progress as her Pokemon’s water based attacks sent their opponents plunging into the river.

Hesitation and dismay swept through the Rocket ranks as their seemingly simple operation rapidly unravelled without a strong commander to lead them. Blue and Leaf closed in on the remaining grunts as Misty flanked them on the river. They now had them trapped and many began to flee the scene, sprinting passed the Resistance members.

“Not many left,” Blue said then smirked. “Told you it’d be easy.”

“It’s not over yet,” Leaf snapped. “There’s still nine of them remaining and all of them are focused on us now.”

“And Misty,” Blue replied sighting two of the grunts nervously heading towards Cerulean’s mayor.

Scores of Koffing, Rattata, Grimer, Zubat, Pidgey and Ekans formed the Rocket army and once again Jab headed the Resistance’s assault. The Beedrill swooped in with arms dripping with venom, eager to land the first strike on the trio of Pidgey who moved to counter him. He landed a hit, piercing into the first and landing the poisonous point attached to his abdomen into the second. Jab never saw the third until it was too late. The flying Rocket Pokemon rammed into the Beedrill with his beak and sent Leaf’s bug type sprawling towards the surface to land directly in the centre of Rocket’s Pokemon army where a herd of furious Rattata and Ekans crawled on top of Jab before mauling him.

A soul searing pain tore through Leaf as she felt the bond between herself and Jab sever, the Beedrill lost within the Rocket horde. She had watched him grow from a shy, anxious and feeble Weedle to a confident and brash Beedrill. Now she saw yet another of her friends fall in battle and the agony seethed through her more than ever.

The loss only seemed to inspire Leaf’s Pokemon to fight ever harder as if it put fire within their bellies. Dino whipped a Rattata then launched leaves at a Koffing before grappling onto the poison Pokemon and hoisting it out of the sky. Moon danced around an Ekans’ tail swipe and pounded the creature whilst Fury took down two Grimers with the same move, grabbing one and hurling it at the other. Snake had less success as the remaining Pidgey bullied him from the skies, but he was saved by Blue’s Pidgeotto. Even Fin returned to the action albeit just to be recalled into his Pokeball.  

Misty had defeated the two grunts which had challenged her and provided support from the river, her Pokemon launching water like Bill’s cannons at Rocket creatures. Blue’s Charmander lead his Rattata and Abra around to the rear of the action to surround Rocket’s Pokemon. Operatives squealed in terror as their warriors were caught in a web of death, encircled by vengeful beasts.

“We’re too weak from the cottage defences!” a grunt howled.

“We need to pull back,” another followed.

“Full retreat,” a third added as the operatives began recalling their fighters one by one, then fled the battle.

“Told you it’d be easy,” Blue said again.

Leaf remained silent, still stunned by the loss of Jab.

Wally sucked in the clean air as a cooling breeze rolled off the ocean whilst Pidgey and Spearow squawked overhead, circling spots of the sea where Magikarp gathered hoping to catch their final meal of the day. The trainer from Hoenn watched the setting sun paint the horizon in reddish pink hues as it prepared to pass over majesty over the skies to the moon.

“You won, I take it?” Ethan spoke softly, his tone exuding calmness. He bore his familiar gold robe and stood beside Wally watching the horizon.

“Yep,” Wally said, smiling. “Thanks to your training.”

“Lyra’s training,” Ethan corrected him. “She’s quite the tutor.”

“Where is she now?” Wally asked, realising there remained no sign of any other Servants.

“She is with the rest of our flock, hunting down our Lord’s Angels.”

“They left you behind?”

“No no, of course not,” Ethan said and grinned. “I’m to catch them up after I deliver you a message. Well, two messages.”

“Bad messages?” Wally sighed.

“Always so negative,” Ethan said lightly. “Both regard our alliance, between the Servants and the Resistance. Firstly, although it may appear to you that the Servants are abandoning you all, I can assure you we are not. When the time is right, we promise we shall be there.”

“I believe you,” Wally answered patiently, before realising if he asked what ‘the time is right’ meant he would met a wall of cryptic responses. “And the second message?”

“A token of our faith and goodwill. To show generosity and to help cement our side of the alliance. Our seekers, the men and women we send out to gather information for us, have picked up on increasing levels of Rocket activity around one of the ships docked in the harbour.”

“It could just be one of their ships? They own the region and the army, why not a few ships?”

“Perhaps,” Ethan replied. “Although I question the sheer volume of grunts and cargo being loaded. For a apparent standard ship there seems far too much hustle and bustle.”

“I’ll give Leaf and Blue a call and see what we can find,” Wally smiled, grateful for the tip. “Thank you for the help. What’s the name of the ship?”

“You’re welcome for the assistance,” Ethan smiled. “It’s named the ‘SS. Anne.”

“I don’t have to use these water cannons on you lot too do I?” Bill called from atop the mound with a laugh.

“It’s me, Misty!” the mayor of Cerulean shouted from the hill’s base.

“I can see that.” Bill rolled his eyes sarcastically. “Who are your friends?”

“I’m Leaf and this is Blue.” She recalled her Pokemon to their Pokeballs as she spoke. Blue and Misty followed suit. “We’re Rocket Resistance.”

“I see,” Bill replied. “Well thanks for the help.” He smiled then turned to leave.

“That’s all we get?” Leaf bellowed. “I lost a Pokemon in the fighting, I noticed how you didn’t use any of those hundreds you have in storage.”

“They’re not mine to use,” Bill said shrugged. “Anyway be seeing you.”

“Bill don’t be so rude,” Misty echoed Leaf’s cries.

“If the man wants to go, let him go,” Blue spoke with his arms folded. “What you guys wanting to do up there anyway? See the sights?”

“Anyway I’m not finished with you,” Misty turned to Leaf as Bill walked away. “How’d you know Rocket’s weakness.”

Leaf was about to reply when Blue’s PokeNav buzzed violently. “It’s Wally,” he announced before pulling away from the bickering women to engage in conversation with their absent friend.

“Well?” Misty demanded.

“Why does it matter?” Leaf snapped. “We’re Resistance, we have intel that you don’t.”

“This is my city. If I’m to protect it I need to know what’s going on.”

“All I know is Rocket wanted Storage, they failed. If they want to try again I’ll let you know.”

“That’s not good enough,” Misty screeched whilst stamping a foot.

“Can’t leave you too alone can I?” Blue called as he strolled back towards the arguing duo. “Wally says he’s in Vermillion City and has just progressed through the tournament to join us in the next round. Also said something about a Rocket owned ship but told him not to worry about it, they use loads of them for trade.”

“Maybe there’s something valuable on it?” Leaf questioned, refusing to dismiss the lead so hurriedly.

Blue sighed making an unintelligible sound in the process. “And if there’s nothing? Not worth the risk.”

Leaf thought to agree with him then remembered the member of Team Rocket who’d phoned her previously. His information had proved solid, so maybe he could be trusted. He did mention he knew of Erik’s location.

“I’m going to make a phone call,” Leaf announced.

“Who to? You don’t have friends,” Blue jibed to Misty’s amusement.

Leaf grunted at him then strolled to the river’s edge to make the call whilst hearing Misty say “I don’t trust her” a little too loudly to Blue in the process. She sat by the lake and took her shoes off to dip her aching feet within the rushing river. Goldeen swam up to her and tickled her toes by softly nibbling on them in their curiousity. Leaf rang the last number on her call log.

“Hello,” the metallic voice filter sounded.

“It’s Leaf,” she said nervously, feeling adrenaline pump through her system as her heart threatened to burst out of her stomach.

“I’m almost surprised you called me,” he answered. “I take it my information proved true?”

“To the word.”

“Although I failed to mention I removed a few Magnemite from the assault squad’s inventory. That could’ve proved costly had I forgotten to do so.”

“I’m glad you did,” Leaf smiled, almost enjoying the man’s mystery. “My friend tells me there’s a ship docked in Vermillion. What’s on it?”

“Very good,” the man said strangely. “I’m mystified how you found that already. But pleased.”

“Pleased?” Leaf enquired. She felt dizzy from the rush of emotion and forcibly convinced herself to still not fully trust this man.

“Because that’s where Rocket are holding Erik. Preparing him for transportation.” Leaf paused at the revelation, speechless. “Still there?” he spoke again after a few seconds of silence.

“Ye-yes,” she stammered. “Are you sure?”

“I know because I arranged for him to be moved there. Now Johto has nearly been captured I pleaded with Giovanni to move Erik there. I lied to him that he would be safer, the Resistance would never think to look for him there.”

“So he’s on a ship leaving for Johto?”

“Yes, they’re loading up now. They’ll stay the night then leave tomorrow at midday.”

“Thank you,” Leaf burst, almost unable to contain her glee. “What’s the name of the ship?” she finished. He informed her of the ship’s name then wished her good luck before hanging up the phone.

“So?” Blue said impatiently as she approached smiling.

“It’s Erik!” she blurted. “Erik. He’s aboard the SS. Anne.”