Delia’s son was a fighter, Giovanni would give him that. His two friends, former gym leaders, of all people, just needed a few weapons waved in their faces and they fell into line easily. Ash seemed to either be oblivious to what a gun was, an idiot who didn’t care, or a psychic who knew there was no way Giovanni would order anyone on Team Rocket to harm him. In fact, quite the opposite.
Giovanni laid his hand on a manila envelope that had been brought to his desk only moments before. At the same time, two Rocket grunts escorted Ash into the room. He shoved them away as soon as they reached Giovanni’s desk and glared at Giovanni with a fierce passion. “Why did you bring me in here?”
Right to the point. That was Delia, all right. Giovanni said nothing, merely pushed the envelope forward. He’d read its contents already, of course, and the results it contained did not shock him. As soon as he’d heard Delia’s name, he’d had his suspicions. Only now he could back up those suspicions with facts.
Ash looked down at the envelope. At least he wasn’t yelling anymore. “What’s this?” he asked cautiously.
“Why don’t you open it?” Giovanni said. “I think it speaks for itself.”
Ash picked up the envelope cautiously, undoing the red thread that held it shut and slowly pulling out the papers inside. His eyes flew over the words quickly at first, then slowed as he re-read them once… twice… three times.
Ash’s hands started to shake. “Wh-what is this?” he asked again.
“I presume you can read,” Giovanni replied, hands folded. “But in case you missed the rather obvious logo on the upper-right corner and the self-explanatory heading on the paper, these are the results of a DNA test I had conducted, using a sample of my own hair and a sample of yours.”
Ash slammed the table. “When did you get a sample of–”
“Stray hair from that disgusting hat I had you remove, of course,” Giovanni replied. “But the source hardly matters, does it? The results are more important.”
Ash gritted his teeth. It was almost cute how his young mind worked, coming at the situation with denial from every possible angle, even when the truth was written out in black and white before him. “This can’t be right…” he said. “You can’t be–”
“Oh, please, don’t initiate any melodrama,” Giovanni said, waving him off. “Yes, I can be your father. I dated your mother for quite some time. Furthermore, I am your father, as evidenced by the results you’re holding in your hands. The only question remains is what this means for Team Rocket.” He pulled back the envelope, filing it away in a drawer. Ash lowered his head, his whole body now quivering. He was either starting to cry or holding back a maniacal laugh. Rather difficult to discern the difference.
“And here I thought I was special,” he said, voice cracking. “Here I thought, ‘wow, I must be some amazing trainer that the head of Team Rocket is after me.'”
“Oh, you’re special, all right,” Giovanni assured him. “Believe me, boy, I’ve got big plans for you. But you’ll find out about those later.” He waved at the grunt standing in the shadows. “We’re done here. You may escort my son to his room.”
Pierce stood outside the little windowed hospital room in a daze, only half listening as the head of the department rambled on about all the medical tests they had preformed on his friend and the results of said tests. Like any of that would make him feel better. Fiora was still unconscious. Still hooked up to a mess of tubes and beeping machines. And he was still not allowed inside to visit her.
“How long until she recovers?” he asked, which made the doctor’s brow furrow. The he cleared his throat nervously. Not a good sign.
“I’m afraid the illness has spread to her lungs…”
Pierce made a show of nodding, but inside he was still trying to will himself to comprehend what the doctor was telling him. He stared unblinking through the glass. Really seeing his friend this time and how pale and thin she had become even in just these past months. He clenched his fists, silently cursing himself. If he had just paid more attention. Made her take things slower…
Blast it! How could he not have seen…? Or maybe he had and he just didn’t want to admit it. Now, though, he didn’t really have much choice. Fiora didn’t have much time left, and there wasn’t anything he could do.
The doctor was still talking, muttering softly about contacting family and sorting out affairs.
“She doesn’t have any family,” he began only to remember that wasn’t entirely true. Technically, her parents were both still out there. If one could call them that. “None worth contacting, at least,” he amended. Then he swallowed, feeling an unwelcome catch in his throat. “You will call me immediately when she wakes up. Do you understand?”
The doctor started to hesitate, but Pierce held up a hand. He wasn’t even going to consider the alternative — that their stupid fight would be the last time he ever spoke to her.
“Do. You. Understand?”
“Yes, sir.” The doctor bowed. “Of course.”
Pierce turned briskly and started down the hall towards the elevators, his stomach coiling tighter with each step. Soon his fists were tightening, too.
This was Jessie and James’s fault. If it wasn’t for their sheer stupidity, Fiora never would have pushed herself so hard. He brought up his fist, driving it into the wall.
The boss had demoted them to janitors for disobeying his orders and ruining his new Pikachu. But still, it didn’t feel like enough. He wanted them to suffer like his friend was suffering. Was that in bad taste? Perhaps a little. But Fiora would do the same for him.
The elevator arrived and he stepped in, massaging his wrist. He just needed to be patient. This was Team Rock, after all. If there was ever a place for revenge opportunities to present themselves, this was it. He just had to keep his head and be patient…
The moment he stepped into his office a few minutes later, Pierce was being swarmed by a flurry of research techs with arm loads of paper, plus one very excited geneticist. Any other day he’d be thrilled to see this kind of enthusiasm. But today…
“Report,” he ordered.
The geneticist cleared her throat, signaling her techs to plant their stacks of data on his desk one by one. “It’s about Project Merger sir,” she began, her eyes twinkling. “We’ve done it. We’ve perfected the serum.”
Pierce arched his eyebrows. “You’ve tested it?”
“Of course,” the woman smiled, then handwaved. “Though only on a few grunts. And only about about ten percent exposure.” She edged a particular stack of papers towards him. “As you’ll see, the results have been quite positive.”
Pierce skimmed through a few sheets, catching glimpses of test subjects who, with the exception of some random new skills and hair color changes, still looked healthy, happy, and very much human.
“So this is what a human-Pokémon hybrid looks like…” He cracked his mouth. “I don’t see much difference, do you?”
“Not at such a low exposure. But if we upped the serum dose, in theory, that should alter a larger percentage of the subject’s DNA from human to Pokémon after contact with the radiation from a mega evolution stone.”
Pierce flopped the papers down, sat back in his chair, trying to massage away the start of a migraine.
“I asked for results, not theories. Can you get them or not?”
The woman slid up her glasses with a finger. “Naturally. Though we’re still looking for more volunteers. Sadly, not everyone in the organization is as open minded about getting their DNA re-arranged for the good of science.” She sighed. “Such a pity.”
Pierce scratched his chin. So they were out of volunteers, were they? Well, that would have to be fixed.
“Don’t bother looking too hard,” he said with a slow smile. “I know just the two agents you can use.”
Sabrina awoke in the middle of the night. She almost cried out, but of course, that would have been melodramatic at best and downright embarrassing at worst. Besides, there was nothing anyone could do to comfort her. When the visions came, she simply had to accept them as fact.
This time, she had seen herself speaking to a Pokémon… and understanding its words. The creature had been in the shadows, canine in nature, but she’d been unable to make out the exact species for sure. It had spoken of a warning. There would be a lot of power coming into the world of humans in short order… tipped too much towards the wrong person, and it could spell disaster.
Who is the wrong person, though? Sabrina thought to herself. She could rule out the possibility that she was seeing a warning about herself. Then again, she knew quite a few others among Kanto even more power-hungry than that…
“Haunter, Haunter…” murmured the ghost Pokémon as it curiously slipped through her walls, anxious to see why its diurnal mistress was awake at this time of night.
Sabrina stroked Haunter under its chin. “It appears things are moving faster than I first thought,” she said. “I need to make some phone calls to the other gym leaders tomorrow.”
“Haunt, haunt,” Haunter agreed. Though when chin-scratches were involved, it tended to agree with anything.
James had made it a point in life to never get involved with things that were over his head. His parents tried to hand him a whole lot of responsibility (and money, yes, but mostly responsibility), and he ran away form it as fast as he possibly could. Joining Team Rocket had always seemed to him like a fun, rebellious adventure. But now, it seemed, he was in over his head yet again. Currently, he was strapped down to a table with Pierce standing over him, looking a mix of delighted and deranged.
“All right,” Pierce began. “You wanted to know what’s going on in our labs? You wanted to be useful to Team Rocket? Well, I’m going to offer the two of you a brilliant opportunity.” He turned away from the table and James tried to sit up; maybe the restraints were just for show… but they held fast. A bead of sweat ran down his head. All around him was a scene straight out of a horror movie. Scientists moved about, their expressions covered by goggles and face masks. Various strange liquids bubbled and shifted in tubes and beakers. Then, of course, there were two syringes sitting on a tray, with said tray resting precariously close to where Jessie and James were strapped down.
“Um, while I’m all for the whole being useful to Team Rocket thing,” James said shakily. “I can’t say that I had any particular desire to know what’s going on down here. You can, um… continue your creepy experiments, and we won’t bother you at all.”
“I want to know what happened to Meowth!” Jessie piped up. The two young men stared at her in surprise. She took in their gazes and when she seemed to realize that she had voiced actual concern for something, she quickly recovered herself. “I mean, really… water Pokémon are supposed to look elegant. That’s not elegant at all. And Meowth hates water, besides. What an uninspired design.”
Meowth, who had been standing beside Pierce, curled its nose up a bit at this, but didn’t say anything. Pierce gave the Pokémon a cursory glance, as if he’d quite forgotten what it actually did look like. “Team Rocket, unbeknownst to you two idiots, has been doing extensive research into stone-induced evolution. Too long we’ve simply accepted that certain Pokémon evolve with stones and others do not. We have been developing a serum that can make Pokémon that had no reaction to stones before take on an entirely new form.” He held his open hand proudly towards Meowth. “Your little sidekick was one of our first experiments. Its ability to speak human language made analyzing our results much simpler.” Meowth lowered its head and slunk farther back until it was under one of the tables.
“I-it looks a little like a Vaporeon,” James observed.
“I agree,” Pierce said. “Not surprising. The basis for the serum is based largely on the DNA of Eevee. After all, if you’re going to force previously impossible evolutions, the makeup of the evolution Pokémon provides an excellent starting point.” He signaled to a scientist, who brought over the tray with the two long, thin syringes on it. “We’ve improved it considerably since then, of course. After all, we were less interested in getting a reaction from an elemental stone and much more interested in getting a reaction from a Mega Stone.”
The scientist bowed. “Whenever you’re ready, sir.”
Pierce looked them over, not like he was analyzing his teammates, but more like he was assessing the value of some cheap merchandise. “Use the Manectite on this one,” he said, nodding towards James. “The Blazikenite on the other.”