Metal Monster

Chapter Four – Metal Monster

Flares sparked from the flames, the embers dancing joyfully across the miniature peninsula which lived with a thick paint of grass, before dissipating upon contact with the lake’s surface.The afternoon sun remained trapped behind looming clouds which threatened a rain that never came but instead filled the air with a damp odour.

Blue stared at his opponent. Shane stood firm, refusing to let his imminent perish show in his demeanour. Instead he averted his gaze from the scene, preferring to peer across the lake residing to the north of Cerulean City. He had seen his Ekans and Rattata fall, and now his bug Pokemon were being decimated by the Charmander’s fires upon the grass which slithered out across a section of the lake.

“You lose,” Blue stated the obvious. “Completely and utterly.”

“I know,” Shane Cale replied flatly, still staring across the lake’s shimmering surface.

“Well that’s round one done with,” Blue gloated. “Hopefully I get a better challenge for round two.”

“Maybe. Maybe not,” the young trainer replied, before beginning his seemingly carefree trek back towards Cerulean City.

“Not much of a talker,” Blue mumbled to himself before calling his Charmander to his Pokeball and attaching the device to his belt alongside his Rattata and Pidgeys’ capsules. “Oh well,” Blue spoke to himself. “I suppose Leaf and Wally are meeting me here when they’re done with their own fights. Probably need to find something to keep myself occupied, they’ll take long enough,” he finished with a roll of his eyes.

The fight with Shane had been an easy one, which owed much to the strength of Blue’s Charmander. He recalled Erik gifting him the fire type Pokemon moments before his capture during the failed assault on Team Rocket’s Test Centre. He remarked at just how powerful his friend’s Pokemon was, a testament to Erik’s strength as a trainer combined with Blue’s own teachings.

“Thank you,” Blue thought as he tapped Charmander’s Pokeball, thanking Erik as much as the Pokemon. “I know how I’ll fill the time whilst I wait. I’ll look for clues on Rocket activity, I owe it to Erik to save him.” He glanced towards the Pokemon Centre, notable for its red roof and Pokeball symbol above the doorway. The building acted as a Pokemon hospital, or treatment centre, where Pokemon go to be healed of the wounds they received in battle with limited uses per month for each trainer.

A cold chill bit at Blue’s sides during the stroll back across Nugget Bridge, the wooden platform which stretched across the lake, providing an overpass across the water and connecting Cerulean to Route 25. Blue used the momentary respite to recall childhood memories, reminiscing ruefully as he usually did when he enjoyed a moment of peace.

Both his parents had passed before he turned three, too early in his life for him to remember their faces. Instead, he spent his childhood living with his grandfather, Samuel Oak, and his older sister, Daisy Oak. The great Pokemon professor raised the two in Pallet Town, teaching them everything there is to know about Pokemon; From battling, to training, to nurture, to evolution and beyond. Samuel was a reserved man who never spoke of Blue’s parents although after years of his grandson’s constant prodding, he revealed that their father had died not long after Blue’s birth, and their mother only a couple of years after that.

Daisy, being a couple of years the senior, remembered more, but only little. She told Blue what she could of their parents. She couldn’t remember their father, and retained only very vague details of her mother.

“Her name was Aria, Aria Oak.” Daisy would tell him whenever he asked. Which was frequently, whenever he was feeling upset or alone he yearned to hear tales of his mother and his sister remained the only source of his solace. “I remember her big brown eyes and light brown hair, she was beautiful,” Daisy would say, always with tears forming sorrowfully in her eyes.

“What about Daddy?” he would then ask each time, and receive the same response without fail.

“I don’t know, I can’t remember him and Samuel never tells us about either of them.”

“Is it because he misses them?”

“I think so. He definitely misses Aria, she was his only child.”

Blue snapped his thoughts to the present, refusing to let his emotions bubble inside of him anymore. He flicked through the television channels on his PokeNav, a gift from Erik upon agreeing to join the resistance, until finding ‘Kanto National News’ where he stopped dead. Giovanni stood proudly alongside the Governor of Kanto, the duo surrounded by reporters who craved updates from the war in Johto. The neighbouring regions were locked in a presumed stalemate, where the forces of Kanto fought against the governing family of Johto as Team Rocket sought to expand their empire.

“…so no, not true,” the Governor of Kanto finished. Blue cursed himself for not tuning in sooner.

“So there’s no stalemate?” an eager reporter bellowed towards the Governor, who was named Archer. Blue knew him well, having studied the tall, but slender man with the Rocket Resistance. Unknowingly to the common man, he had risen to power on the back of bribes and extortion as Team Rocket aided their puppet ruler his entire seventeen year career, the criminal organisation funding his entire campaign. He had been elected through a resounding number of votes from the common people nine years ago, and in two electoral votes since his opponents had either suddenly backed out, disappeared unexpectedly, or thrown their own campaigns with seemingly amateurish mistakes.  

“No,” Archer replied confidently, wearing his tailored white suit and staring down his gathered audience with menacing dark eyes. His blonde hair was combed back revealing a widow’s peak which matched his pencil-thin eyebrows. “In fact, it’s very much the opposite.”

Giovanni puffed out his chest triumphantly beside him, a smile stretching across his face. The Team Rocket boss seemed attached at the hip to Archer, whenever the Governor of Kanto gave a speech or held office, Giovanni was there, making sure he influenced each and every decision made.

“I hand you over to our esteemed Foreign Minister, Giovanni, to give you a proper explanation.”

“Thank you, Governor.” Giovanni loomed over the audience, wearing his infamous black suit with the purple tie. “As you all know, my wife Courtney leads our forces as Defence Minister of Kanto. Our military are our protectors, and they are pushing back the Raven family’s trainers.”

A resentful hubbub stirred within the audience at the Raven name, joined together with a couple of hisses from reporters. The Raven family had once ruled Johto and Kanto as one, with the eldest son inheriting the high seat after the current incumbent, usually his father, had passed. The leadership was passed from generation to generation until Giovanni himself had pushed them from Kanto over twenty years ago, earning himself a high position within the reformed Kanto government. The propaganda told the people of Kanto that the Ravens had become corrupt, and were intent on garnering more and more power by nefarious means.

“I remember all those years ago,” Giovanni’s voice boomed towards the audience. “When the Ravens ruled Kanto and were so close to unleashing their ultimate manufactured weapon upon us. The weapon would’ve destroyed the entire region. But we defeated them.” He paused, letting his words sink in. “Now they are finally almost vanquished from the planet. It is a day to rejoice in. A day to take pride in. My lifelong mission is almost complete.” He lied about that being his mission, Blue knew. “And both Kanto and Johto are nearly united under a free government, elected by the people. The Ravens will be no more.” Cheers erupted from the brainwashed audience, who truly believed every word Giovanni uttered.

Blue knew the truth, Giovanni wanted total power, which meant total control. After Johto had fallen he would direct his focus onto Hoenn and launch a full assault on the island, the world would be his.That was his mission.

“Thank you, Giovanni,” Archer chirped. “We really do owe our lives to both you and to our trainers led by Courtney over in Johto.” The Team Rocket leader stepped back with a smile and a nod. “Now to our own lands, and the free trainers of Kanto.” Archer continued and Blue noted the emphasis he placed the word ‘free’, almost as if people within his lands actually were. “Round one of our Champions tournament is almost complete, and the matchups for round two will be announced tomorrow. Once round two is complete we move to the next stage of our competition, ‘North vs South’. Whichever trainers are located within the northern sector of our region will fight each other, and the same goes for the south. There will be a single round at this stage before we progress to the next stage, which will encompass the whole region and be will be the last stage before the finals themselves!” he announced, to excited whispers from reporters in the crowd.

“Blue switched the PokeNav off. “I need to find out where Erik is, or at least what Rocket plans to do next to further their power,” he decided. “I hope Leaf and Wally haven’t lost already,” he said then chuckled to himself.

Leaf followed the dirt trail which snaked through the forest, clinging onto the track as if falling off into the dark gloom beyond meant certain death. Gas lanterns hung on poles to the path’s flanks, aided infrequently by a fading, dappled sunlight which trickled through the canopies as oak, beech, pine and cedar trees dominated the skies. The lack of light only added to the foreboding feeling at the pit of her stomach.

A Pidgey startled her, flapping passed her in the darkness as it fled in terror. Wild Pokemon had been scattering in all directions since the moment Leaf had entered Viridian Forest, hoping to escape whatever it was that threatened them. Weedles and Caterpie slithered towards the safety of the blackness, climbing trees to hide within or burying themselves in thick bushes. Flying types either ascended out of sight or exited the forest itself, the panic caused by what awaited Leaf had frightened them out of their homes.

“What could scare wild Pokemon so much?” Leaf asked her team who walked with her. She feared walking alone so allowed the group to escort her through the woods towards their target.

They trawled on, deeper into the woods that connected Viridian City to Pewter City. Leaf thought they must be well over halfway through, much closer to Pewter City now than to Viridian, but still the darkness showed no sign of receding and the ‘metal monster’ still hadn’t appeared to her.

Leaf bristled as she almost tripped on a Caterpie. The creature lay prone on the ground, unflinching. She lifted her eyes from the defeated Pokemon to see a trail of horror. Some wild Pokemon still shook as they lay on the floor, clinging onto the last essences of their life, whilst others remained as still as stone. Weedles lay atop Caterpie, Pidgeys and Rattatas held together in joint doom and Kakuna and Metapod, the evolved forms of Weedle and Caterpie respectively, shivered as their life faded. The wild Pokemon lay sprinkled across the pathway and into the surrounding darkness, Leaf refused to count them, instead vowing to avenge them.

A Caterpie that had been pretending to be dead suddenly awoke and fled as Leaf approached. She watched the creature until sudden movement ahead caught her eye. A man was sprinting towards her, or maybe away from something. He must’ve only been in his early twenties and bore a bright blue cap with yellow shorts.

“Run!” he bellowed at her.

“What from?” she asked, wishing to get further details of the beast.

“I don’t know,” he replied. She noticed that he ran with a limp, as if the monster had attacked him as well. Leaf realised that the beast may not have been a Pokemon, wild creatures only very rarely attack a human, and that’s only if their children or homes have been threatened. Or if it was an extremely aggressive Pokemon.

“Is it a Pokemon?” she asked, already knowing the answer.

“No!” he replied, not stopping as he ran passed her.

“Human then?” she shouted after him.

“No!” he answered once more, then was gone.

“What could it be,” she whispered to her Pokemon, who shared her apprehension. She looked around in confusion but was met only by eery silence. Fang and Rex walked closely together, their tails lifted into the air nervously. They had grown closer since the battle with Sammy Anthony, although Leaf noticed that Fang hadn’t managed to touch Rex yet. When Rattata fell in love they nuzzled another, rubbing their long noses together and Leaf could see Fang’s desperation to do so, but thus far Rex remained stubborn.

Fury and Jab remained good friends, still on good terms with Fang but slightly bitter he had abandoned their friendship for the Rex. Dino walked to the other side of Leaf, he was their leader and she sensed that her Bulbasaur felt a leader couldn’t be friends with the Pokemon he led.

The trail bended around trees, looping back on itself to the other side. Leaf rounded the corner, as the forest brightened on the other side. Then she caught her first glimpse of the infamous metal monster.

It loomed in a clearing, lurking in the open where the treeline thinned and allowed sunlight to illuminate the open space of grass. Leaf desperately looked for an escape. She could see where the trail carved through the clearing and looped back around to another gate, lit up by lights and lanterns. She guessed that was the exit towards Pewter City, but in front of it lay the clearing, and dominating the clearing was a beast standing at over eight feet tall and constructed entirely of metal.

A headlight burst brightness from its head which was shaped into an almost humanlike metal face. The creature raised two arms in the shape of launchers at a group of wild Caterpie who fled from it, terrified. The left arm launched a series of Pokeballs at the fleeing Pokemon, capturing them and sucking the capsules back inwards.

It was then that the beast noticed Leaf. Other trainers would’ve fled before deciphering the monster, but she instead stood firm and studied the beast, realising that it wasn’t a creature, but instead a battlesuit. Like the ones in the plans which were stolen from Team Magma in Hoenn, before the group were defeated by Erik.

The man within raised his right arm, and launched a legion of Pokeballs that erupted from inside, the captured Pokemon springing forth and reluctantly fighting for the metallic titan. The suit itself had enough power to fight, so Leaf knew she was forced to first defeat what must’ve been twenty or so Pokemon, then the battlesuit itself.

“It’s Team Rocket,” Leaf gasped upon her realisation. “They’ve developed the battlesuit. It was designed to capture all the wild Pokemon around it and use them in battle. It’s a war machine, so what’s it doing here?”

“Perish,” a metallic voice boomed from within the machine, the menacing voice causing the hairs on the back of Leaf’s neck to stand on end.

“Team…” she stammered, speaking to her Pokemon. “We…We fight,” she said, unaware she was even saying so. Her Pokemon looked to each other, then to their trainer and nodded, stepping out before her to fight the horde of Rattata, Caterpie, Weedle, Metapod, Kakuna and Pidgey.

Her Pokemon charged to meet with wild creatures under control of the battlesuit. Fury led the assault, leaping into a mix of Rattata, Caterpie and Weedle before swinging his fists in a relentless rage. Dino hung back, preferring to lash vines towards the airborne Pidgey, whipping the flying types and forcing them to ground where they were met by Rex and Fang. The duo remained inseparable on the battlefield, mainly due to the overprotective male refusing to let Rex out of his sight, for fear of losing her in the melee. Jab joined the conflict last, slower than the rest he engaged in a duel with Kakuna and Metapod, wrapping his opponents in string whilst avoiding ferocious tackles from the bug Pokemon.

Leaf cast her eyes over the carnage as it unfolded. A couple of Pidgey swooped at Dino, pecking at the Bulbasaur whilst others tumbled from the sky after being stricken by lethal vines, crashing atop fallen Caterpie and Rattata, who had been pummelled mercilessly by Fury’s wild lunges. Rex leapt then feinted at a Rattata, who fell right into her trap. Her foe attacked in retaliation, missing completely as Rex darted to the side and left her opponent exposed for a bite from Fang. Then she noticed Jab, a Metapod lay defeated next to him, wrapped in a cocoon of string, but her Weedle now lay prone on the soft dirt, flinching limply as a Metapod and two Kakuna hobbled towards him to finish their work.

It was Fang who noticed first, the Rattata abandoning Rex to save his friend. He skittered through the fallen Pokemon, ducking under Fury’s wild swing as the Mankey attacked anything within sight in an uncontrollable frenzy. Fang dodged a falling Pidgey which crashed next to him, then tripped over an unseen Caterpie which lay unmoving. Leaf’s Rattata tumbled as his trainer pulled out Jab’s Pokeball, then regained his footing and leapt through the air. He plunged his fangs into a Kakuna who was closest to Jab, dismounted the bug and growled at the approaching Kakuna and Metapod as Leaf recalled her Weedle into its capsule.

Dino lashed out a vine, cracking it against the final Pidgey’s skull. Fury stuttered, wobbled, then collapsed in exhaustion, realising he had defeated all the Pokemon surrounding him. Rex joined Fang in finishing the fight against Jab’s opponents, then both slumped to their knees joining Fury in their fatigued state. Dino also appeared worn out, but the quintet of Pokemon had managed to emerge victorious against the metal beast’s captured Pokemon.

“Surrender!” Leaf called out to the battlesuit.

A slight chuckle sounded out in response, the sound contorted by a metallic modifier within. “I’ve not even started,” the man nestled inside replied. He raised the suction arm once more, pointing it around the nearly trees and bushes in an effort to capture more wild Pokemon to unleash at Leaf’s weakened fighters. But none came. All had either fled or already been captured and defeated.

“Surrender,” Leaf repeated, with less conviction this time. She had realised they still had to deal with the suit itself.

“My turn,” the man replied triumphantly, skulking up to Dino, Rex, Fang and Fury. Each monstrous foot landed with a metallic thud as it smashed into the forest floor. The machine moved slowly, but appeared almost impenetrable.

Fury charged to frightened calls from Leaf. Her Mankey ignored her trainers cries of retreat, instead flailing at the battlesuit and crashing into its leg with his fist. A cry of pain resounded from the Pokemon, who was then launched into the air by mighty kick. Fury flew back towards his friends, smashing into the surface to a howl of agony.
Rex, Fang and Dino prepared themselves despite their exhaustion as the battlesuit aimed for their trainer, who stood firm. Leaf trusted in her Pokemon despite the impossible odds because for now faith was all she had.

Her Pokemon bristled, fear surging through them, but so too was hope. Leaf’s pure belief in her friends sparked a desire within them, a feeling that they had to repay their trainer by protecting her at all costs. Rex nodded to Fang, she would be the decoy. Dino whipped out vines that lashed all around the suit as the female Rattata tentatively tiptoed towards the looming beast.

Rex darted from side to side, avoiding wild lunges and kicks by the monster as she circled the battlesuit, hoping to discern a weak spot for Fang to attack. As the beast turned its back on the group, Leaf regarded the design. What appeared to be a power unit clung between the shoulders, the black box pumping power through the suit’s limbs. Dino read her thoughts.

Leaf’s Bulbasaur whipped his vines at the box, smashing the canes against the black to no effect apart from causing miniature dents. The battlesuit reacted, grabbing one of the vines out of the air and pulling Dino towards itself. Leaf screamed as the monster pummelled the Bulbasaur with a metal fist, then picked up her Pokemon and used the vine to hurl Dino towards the bushes. Her Bulbasaur disappeared within as Leaf scrambled for his Pokeball, but it was too late. She was unable to recall him and the Bulbasaur failed to emerge from the shrubbery.

“Why did I try to play hero,” she asked herself, feeling her eyes well up with tears and hope fade from within. “Now I’ve lost Dino.” She glanced back towards Rex who dodged punches from the beast, the fists creating holes in the ground where the landed. Fang joined her in circling the monster, trying to find an opening or a weakness. “Retreat, back to me!” she called to them, refusing to lose another Pokemon. The infatuated duo obeyed, to their peril.

A fist flew through the air, smashing into Rex and sending the female Rattata sprawling across the dirt. Fang sprinted over to her, wailing in anguish.

“You can’t run!” the man within roared gleefully. “Not from me.”

“Rex…” Leaf gasped, her voice barely a whisper as a lone tear rolled down her cheek. “Not you…Not you…”

Fang stared into Rex’s eyes, brushing his cheek against hers. She regarded him with a smile, clinging on to the last remnants of her life solely to say goodbye to Fang. She leaned in, and nuzzled his cheek and he nuzzled hers. That was the way Rattata showed they loved each other, Leaf knew. Her nuzzling grew ever more feeble, until she stopped and lay her head to rest.

“Look at this,” the beast taunted. “What even is this, two pathetic creatures loved each other?” he laughed at the thought. Leaf couldn’t move, beside her Fury weakly climbed back to his feet, the fight drained from him.

Fang remained at Rex’s side, softly rubbing his head against hers, then stopped. She was gone. Leaf notice the rage swelling within him, a rage only possible by one desire, vengeance. Fang turned towards the beast and howled. Then charged to the monster’s laughs.

Fang darted to the side of one punch, then leapt around a kick before climbing up the back of the battlesuit and plunging his fangs deep within the power unit at the back. Electricity sparked and surged through the Rattata, but he held his ferocious grip. The entire suit began to leak electricity, voltage swimming across the metal and rendering the machine immobile. Fang held on as long as he could, then slunk to the floor and skittered back towards Leaf, who had withdrawn the fallen Rex into her Pokeball.

A stiff, dull clanking sound began to resonate from the top of the battlesuit, becoming louder as the helmet shifted upwards, sliding off the top of the suit and revealing the wearer within. He had a young face, with golden hair and green eyes which seemed to flare with venom. The man clambered out of the suit, leaping to avoid the sparks of electricity and landing on the forest floor, his thin mouth contorting into a grin.

“Team Rocket,” Leaf growled as she remarked the man’s uniform; A black shirt with purple tie befitting of a standard Rocket grunt. He bore the letter ‘R’ stitched above his left breast in a dark blood-red.

“Your team are falling,” the grunt spoke. His metallic voice had been replaced with a much less menacing and higher pitched tone. “And I still have my own Pokemon left to fight you with.”

Fang trotted out to meet the challenge and braced himself, roaring in fury at the grunt. Fury marched out feebly to join his comrade in battle. Rex and Dino were gone and Jab was too weak for battle, it was up to the exhausted and weakened Rattata and Mankey to defeat the grunt’s Growlithe and Pidgey.

Leaf gasped as Fang charged carelessly, Fury ailing in his efforts to keep pace with the Rattata. Her Pokemon grappled onto the Growlithe with his teeth, as the grunt’s fire type Pokemon yelped in distress.The canine-like creature shook Fang from its orange fur striped with hues of black, afterwards shaking its cream coloured mane. It was a proud Pokemon, who retaliated to the assault by combining savage bites with spits of fire against Leaf’s Rattata. Fury joined the fray, saving Fang at the last moment by tackling the Rattata to avoid a burst of raw flame. The fires blazed past the duo and crashed into the bushes, causing them to ignite.

“Set it all ablaze!” the grunt encouraged his Pokemon. His Pidgey hovered above the battle, letting the Growlithe toil and tussle whilst it remained in relative safety. The fire type Pokemon obeyed his trainer, launching flames at trees, grass and bushes to trap Leaf and her Pokemon within. Flames rose from the grass and bushes, licking up as they wildly attempted to escape the forest and touch the sky. The fires encircled Leaf, surrounding her, Fang and Fury in a half-ring of fire to howls of laughter from the crazed grunt.

The Growlithe leapt on the panicked Fang, plunging his own razor-sharp fangs deep within the Rattata. Fury tried to help his friend, but feared risking a punch incase he struck the wrong target by mistake. Leaf stepped forward a few paces, fully aware of the wildfire beginning to swallow larger amounts of the forest, the flames greedily spreading themselves over the terrain. Even the Team Rocket grunt began to look slightly anxious now, quivering a step or two backwards.

Fury swung a fist in desperation, his lunge striking the Growlithe who yelped once more and released his grip on Fang. Leaf’s Rattata slumped to the ground, both its energy and willpower fully drained. Whilst Fury and the Growlithe circled another, the Pidgey swept downwards, arcing its beak towards the Rattata. Fang saw the approaching flying type and remained motionless, bereft of spirit. Leaf sensed her male Rattata wished to join Rex in whatever afterlife Pokemon went to, but also felt a big part of Fang needed to survive, to live his life to the full and not abandon his friends.

“Two Rattata down,” the grunt announced when he saw the Pidgey reach the Rattata, until he was robbed of his glee at the last second. Leaf had recalled Fang into his Pokeball, saving her Rattata and breaking the Kanto rules, although she knew that because it wasn’t an official trainer battle, it didn’t matter.

“Fury let’s go!” Leaf shouted to her Mankey, then saw her efforts were in vain when she turned. Fire hissed and crackled all around her, blocking the pathway back through the forest in a wall of angry flame.

“I’m outta here!” the grunt cried as he turned and ran towards the exit towards Pewter City, leaving his two Pokemon to bar Leaf and Furys’ retreat.

“What do I do?” Leaf called out to noone. The Pidgey eyed her threateningly, to say that if she dared try and escape it would attack her. “Fury!” she wailed to her Pokemon helplessly.

Her Mankey responded by fleeing his panic by entering into his more accustomed berserk battle frenzy. Fury charged at the Growlithe, wildly swinging his fists and pummeling the fire type into the ground, exposing himself to the Pidgey. Whilst the grunt’s Growlithe lay defeated on the floor, his Pidgey swiped downwards, launching a barrage of pecks and aerial assaults on Fury.

Leaf ran. It was her only opportunity. She clasped Fury’s Pokeball in her hand and ran, diverting the Pidgey’s attention towards herself as she recalled the Mankey into its capsule and to safety. Then she stopped running.

Flames licked out from the one side, marking her skin black. The fires seemed to follow her from behind, closing in on her and trapping her with the Pidgey which now lurked in the air before her, willing to sacrifice its own life to take her own.

“I tried,” she whispered, picturing Erik in her mind. “I tried to be like you, to be the hero. But I’ve failed.” The Pidgey gawked victoriously, a shrill piercing sound. The sound was joined by another, a growl almost drowned out by the roaring flame. She thought of her parents, a brief flare of anger at her mother, and a somber feeling at the thought of her father. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to them as the flames reached out to take her.

A growl sounded again, closer this time. Movement materialised in the trees to the side of her which was less impeded by fire. Something swung from the trees, then fell through the air battered and bruised. The vines it had used to swing unravelled from the tree and lashed out to strike the Pidgey, before the Pokemon itself crashed into the airborne bird. It was Dino, her Bulbasaur had saved up. Leaf picked up her Pokemon who lay unmoving in the dirt and sprinted towards the gate.

A horde of water Pokemon sprinkled the furious flames, unleashing a barrage of foamy spray to calm the raging fire as dusk descended.

Leaf stared solemnly at the scene. She had retreated towards the gate, finding the grunt captured there by citizens of Pewter City who had been alerted by a forest wildfire. She had taken a while to regain herself, her whole body immobilised and movement replaced by a relentless shaking in her bones. It had given her time to realise how Dino had been able to save her. Her Bulbasaur must’ve been extremely weak and lay prone in the thorn bush for a while as spikes from the shrubs pricked his skin. The fires must’ve forced him towards a tree, where he had then used his vines to climb to the top and from there he had mustered the energy to swing down and save her. She still cradled Dino in her arms, refusing to release the Bulbasaur.

“Ready?” Brock asked her, she had been too deep in thought to have noticed him walk towards her. The mayor of Pewter City had found her at the edges of Viridian Forest after having been attracted by the chaotic loud noises and forest fires. He stood tall and proud, a look contradicted by his outfit. He bore loose fitting cargo pants and an orange sweater that countered his stern look, he had dark skin and his tawny brown hair was a spiky mess. He had been the first responder to the scene, followed by a plethora of concerned citizens and willing helpers.

“Ready,” Leaf spoke weakly, faltering in her attempts to sound assured.

“You still want to let him go?”

“If…” she spoke, then took a moment to relax herself. “If he tells us the truth.”

“He’ll run straight to his bosses.”

“I know, won’t you be in trouble?” she asked him, before realising the general populace didn’t know the link between Rocket and the government.

“I’m not scared of a petty criminal organisation, even if half Kanto’s army consists of them,” he said happily. He seemed to take life at ease, every incident could be turned into a joke and every insult put down to a friendly jibe. They approached the grunt, who was flanked by two of Brock’s assistants in case he attempted to escape.

“What you want?” he growled at Leaf. “How’d you even escape?”

“What were you doing in the forest?” she growled at him, feeling a rage swell inside her. Dino channelled her emotions and growled angrily at the grunt.

“Playing in my costume,” he replied with a grin. The battlesuit had been destroyed by the flames before they could recover it.

“Look,” Brock intervened. “We’re willing to let you go. We just need to find out what all this was about.”

“As I said,” the grunt replied, a grin still plastered across his face. “Was just playing.”

Dino lashed him with a vine, smacking the grunt in the face to gasps from Brock and his assistants.

“Tell us now!” Leaf demanded.

“Calm…” Brock started, before she quieted him with a glare.

“You killed my Rex! You are part of Rocket!” she spoke with an uncontrollable anger.

“Alright alright,” the grunt whimpered. “I’ll tell you just let me go, yeah?”

“If you’re honest.”

Brock remained silent.

“The suit was a prototype. We used plans we stole from Team Magma back in Hoenn and have finally developed one of the suits successfully. Least I know its weakness is the power unit at the back. Oh and fire. Oh and it moves slow.”

“What was it doing here?” she demanded, cutting him off for she was desperate that the grunt get to the point.

“It needed field testing,” he stammered.

“They’re going to be used in the war on Johto?” Brock broke his silence.

“No,” the grunt replied. “That war’s almost won.”

“What are they going to be used for?” Leaf asked, a calmness returning to her voice.

“The next war. The war we won’t win without all these exper…” he cut off, realising he had said too much.

“There’s more? More things you’re experimenting with?” she asked, but knew the answer by the look on his face. “What things?”

“I don’t know, it’s all top secret, I just know they’re trying some really dark stuff. I’m not exactly a good guy, but even I think they might be going too far.”

“You said the next war,” Brock asked. “Which war?”

“The war on Hoenn,” he answered reluctantly. “And they want to crush the Resistance for good. I take it that’s you?” he asked Leaf, who tried her best to act surprised.

“I’m not Resistance,” she lied. “I heard of a ‘metal monster’ in the woods so went to investigate.”

“Whatever,” he replied, believing her. “Can I go? That’s all I know, I promise.”

Brock looked to Leaf who nodded, then turned her back on the grunt. She heard him run and sensed the fear in him. She had defeated the monster and obtained valuable information, but at the cost of Rex and the most terrifying moment of her life so far. She began to weep softly.