Ash was never one to think things through properly. He’d often found himself in situations that could have been easily avoided if he’d just taken the time to plan his actions instead of rushing into something in the heat of the moment.
Unfortunately, now seemed to be yet another one of those times. When he’d seen Misty deliberating, seriously considering mixing Pokémon DNA with her own… he’d lost it completely. The next thing he knew, he was in Giovanni’s office, yelling his head off about keeping Misty away from Team Rocket’s twisted science experiments.
And this outburst–to none of his surprise, hindsight being foresight–had landed him back in the place he feared more than anything. Giovanni’s “discussion” room, full of the hungry ghost Pokémon. Ash sat in a stiff metal chair, his father across from him, the picture of calm.
“You seem upset today,” Giovanni began. “Tell me what about.”
No! Ash wanted to yell. He’d been through this before. As soon as his feelings manifested, the Banette would be all over him, attacking his mind, devouring his memories and emotions, leaving a gaping hole for Giovanni to fill with whatever lies he wanted.
He needed to… he had to stop feeling so strongly about this. But he couldn’t help it. The thought of Misty letting Team Rocket mess with her genes sickened him. Terrified him. And with those thoughts, he felt the cold touch of the Banette’s ghostly hands reaching into his mind.
“Get out of my head!” Ash snarled and tried to shake them off, but his frustrations only seemed to increase the swarm of Pokémon around him. The familiar laugh of Giovanni echoed around the room.
“You know, we developed this technique before Silver abandoned me,” Giovanni mused. “But that boy only cared about his small-minded goals, and even then, he had no interest in putting in the effort to pursue them. He had no passion for anything, not even the Pokémon he trained. The Banette simply couldn’t care less when he entered the room. But you… you give them a feast. You’re a cornucopia of strong emotions.”
Ash gritted his teeth. He couldn’t stop his feelings. “Please,” he begged, desperate to at least express himself before the Banettes began their feast. “Don’t do a merger on Misty. You shouldn’t be messing around with this sort of thing at all. Please–”
The cold consumed him. Ash held the sides of head, gritting his teeth against the pain. He felt the familiar sensation of a part of himself lifting away. When the sensation ceased, his mouth still formed the word “please”, but he couldn’t remember what he had been saying “please” about. He’d been asking Giovanni to do something. But what? What was it?
He wanted to cry, to grieve the lost memory. Then he heard his father’s voice. “Now, now, don’t be upset,” Giovanni was saying. “I know how much you want your friend to get a merger, but the decision has to be hers, don’t you agree?”
Don’t believe him, a voice in Ash’s mind seemed to say. You know he’s lying to you! Don’t believe anything he says!
But whatever he tried to tell himself, Giovanni’s words simply felt right. Yes, he had been talking to Misty right before this. He remembered that clearly. And she had been talking about getting a merger. But then she’d expressed some doubts. That must have been what Ash had been saying “please” about. He knew how much good a merger would do for Misty, and wanted Giovanni to go ahead with it.
So… Giovanni hadn’t tricked him, then, only used the Banettes to calm him down? It seemed to fit together in Ash’s mind. And if the pieces fit, then they had to be true, right?
“What’s… the best thing to do then?” he heard himself asking. His own voice sounded so far away.
“I think that’s fairly clear,” Giovanni said. He actually sounded kind for once. “Talk to your friend. Explain the advantages of receiving a merger, and I’m sure she will come around. She trusts you.”
Ash stood up shakily, grasping the chair to hold his balance. “Right. Yes. I’ll talk to her. Thank you for the advice.”
“Not a problem, son,” Giovanni said, and there was a strange tone to his voice. A happy tone. A little too happy. “Not a problem at all.”
Misty had to admit; she was a little taken aback when Ash came to her, suddenly gung-ho on her getting a procedure that he’d passionately argued against only a few days earlier. But when he explained how he’d come to his decision, it sort of made sense. He’d had some time to think about it, he’d said, and while her understood her fears, the advantages far outweighed any risks. At least, she owed it to herself to learn more about it.
So now here she was sitting stiff-backed in a plush leather chair staring across a tidy office desk at aTeam Rocket scientist, Ash at her side.
“The process is very safe,” the scientist, a petite dark-haired woman, assured her. “We simply inject a small bit of serum that makes your body susceptible to evolution, like a Pokémon’s would be.” She reached aside to take a metal briefcase from one of her assistants and unlock it with a fingerprint. Misty assumed it would contain a syringe of said serum, but instead, the woman turned it around to reveal a tray full of shimmering round orbs of various colors.
Mega stones, Misty realized. The scientist smiled kindly. “You can choose any stone you like. Mega Stones are unique in that they only react to a specific Pokémon species. Your DNA will then shift to match that species, giving you features of the Pokémon you’ve selected.”
Misty looked carefully over the collection. There were quite an array of stones here, but of course, the number was far from the hundreds of known Pokémon out there.
“So… I can only merge my DNA with a Pokémon that can Mega Evolve?” she asked.
The scientist closed the briefcase and handed it off before taking a seat at her desk. “At this stage in the technology’s development, yes.”
Misty rubbed her chin. She still had a nagging doubt about this whole thing, even with Ash at her side, encouraging her.
“There’s still plenty of options,” he pointed out, leaning forward in the polished leather guest chair next to hers. “And plenty of amazing water Pokémon that can Mega Evolve.”
Misty nodded absently, going over the choices in her mind. There was Slowbro, though she didn’t relish the idea of having a giant Shellder constantly clamped onto her. There was also Swampert or Blastoise, both powerful Pokémon, but not quite her taste. That left Sharpedo or Gyrados. Both Pokémon had certainly made her nervous on her first encounters with them… Gyrados, especially. Yet they both had an elegance to them that highlighted what she loved about water Pokémon. Neither was suited to life on land at all. They were born in the water, and commanded it like no other Pokémon could. And in the end, when Misty compared the two, one did that much more so than the other.
“I… I’d like a merger with Gyrados, please,” she said, surprisingly calmly. Her mind already had started to shift to the possibilities. Speaking with water Pokémon. Perhaps even breathing underwater, like Gyrados could. Or being able to perform a Water Gun attack. Maybe her skin would grow elegant blue scales in a few places? She smiled at the thought. She would be strongest water Pokémon trainer ever, exactly as Fiora said.
And when I am, I’ll make sure Giovanni knows never to mess with me again.
The walls were dark in Brock’s cell. This didn’t upset him on the surface. He trained rock types. Caves and tunnels and closed, dark spaces more or less came with the territory. No, what drove him to near insanity was the lack of information. Day after day, he asked after his friends, how long Team Rocket planned to keep them here… anything! The most he could get from any of the constantly changing guards was Team Rocket propaganda. Their great leader had made a scientific breakthrough unlike anything humans had ever seen before. With it, Team Rocket would take over the world. Brock hadn’t believed them, of course. Then they’d shown him some video footage of one of their agents–the weak girl Brock had seen when he’d first arrived. Only she was stronger now, battling against Pokémon with her own Pokémon attacks.
This had terrified Brock far more than anything else could. If Team Rocket could do things like this, what chance did Brock have against them?
He began the day in despair as he had each day since then. But something different happened that morning. The person who brought him breakfast wasn’t a nameless guard–it was Pierce, the Rocket who had helped Jessie and James capture them to begin with.
“You asked for news of your friends,” Pierce said, sliding a tray of food through a slit in the door.
Brock stiffened as he received the tray, expecting Pierce to follow up with something like, “Well, too bad, because you’re never seeing them again! Bwa-ha-ha!”
Instead, to Brock’s surprise, the panel over the cell door’s window slid open, allowing Brock a rare glimpse of the outside. Pierce locked eyes with him and said, “I’ve been instructed to inform you that Misty has decided to get a merger. She is down in the lab as we speak. Our technicians are preparing the serum to merge her with Gyrados.”
The tray almost slipped from Brock’s hands. Despite all his self-promises not to let his guard down in front of Team Rocket, he found himself shouting, “I don’t believe you! There’s no way Misty would agree to that!”
“See for yourself,” Pierce said. Brock heard a soft click and the usually blank monitor in his cell flickered to life. The image was fuzzy at first but soon took shape. Brock was looking at some security camera footage… the lab, he realized. What appeared to be a hospital bed sat at the center of the room. A man in white lab coat pointed to the bed, and Misty nodded. Then she climbed onto the bed and lay perfectly calmly as other Rockets in white coats strapped her down. Finally, a woman approached with a syringe. Not once did Misty struggle or even look upset at what the Rockets were doing. If anything, she looked… excited.
The screen turned off once again. “Here’s the interesting thing,” Pierce said. “Our boss has a theory. So far, we’ve been experimenting on more or less willing participants and altering less than fifty percent of their DNA. What if we were take it further, make someone more Pokémon than human? What happens then?”
“Who would want that?” Brock demanded.
Pierce laughed. It was a horrific sound. Soft and cruel, full of his pure delight and disregard for the suffering of others. “An Eevee doesn’t evolve into a Flareon or a Jolteon because it wants to. It evolves because a trainer brings it into contact with the correct stone. So while willingness has certainly made these experiments easier, we are starting to suspect it may not be a necessary component.” His eyes glinted, giving Brock a sudden chill.
“You’re going to test it on Misty…”
“Very perceptive.” His mouth twisted into a mean smirk. “I suggest you start thinking about which Pokémon you’d like a merger with. I suspect you will be in Misty’s place far sooner than you think.”
And with that, he turned and left before Brock could say another word.