Misty crossed her arms and let the water swallow her. She wasn’t sure how to feel. All her life, she’d adored water Pokémon, but without a ton of bulky breathing equipment, she couldn’t join them in their world. In an instant, all that had changed. Ironically, thanks to the man she probably hated more than anyone else in the world right now.
She closed her eyes, trying to make sense of everything that had just happened to her. The details were fuzzy in her mind, but she knew one thing for sure–the merger had gone nothing like it was supposed to.
The moment the serum shot through her, it felt like her blood had been replaced with ice water. She shifted under the restraints, looking to Ash for reassurance, only to find the Rockets were escorting him out of the room. Much to his protests. After that, her head had felt too heavy to hold up anymore and she’d laid back on the bed once again.
The cold would go away as soon as her skin came in contact with the Gyradosite, she told herself. It was just a temporary discomfort, nothing more. Then she’d felt the stone’s hard, smooth surface against her arm. And it felt like her entire body was fighting against itself.
Misty scrunched up; her body sunk deeper. The whir of machinery, the distant mutterings of human conversation faded in the water’s depths. Even her language barrier with the water Pokémon was gone after the merger. She could hear soft mutterings from the Goldeen swimming around the tank, whispering to each other about what this strange new creature was that had entered their domain. She allowed herself to open her eyes.
Beautiful. It was beautiful down here. The light danced through the glimmering water, making patterns across the tank’s floor, the Pokémon’s fins, and her own skin.
I’ve got fins now, too, she reminded herself. She nervously looked down at where her legs used to be and gave her scaled, muscular tail an experimental flick. Yes, it was most definitely hers. She could feel the resistance of the cool water against it when she moved. Yet she still felt more like she had that time she’d performed an underwater stage show. Like she was someone wearing a costume rather than someone who had just changed species. Maybe there was an adjustment period? It wasn’t as if science had a lot of research in this area. Or really any research at all. Misty would grant Giovanni that much; he had certainly broken new territory.
“Hello,” said one of the Goldeen who been brave enough to approach her.
Misty smiled nervously, unable to free her mind from its natural tension that told her she had to get to the surface. Her brain didn’t understand that her body didn’t need that anymore.
The change had come swiftly. First the blue scales on her arms, as she’d imagined. Only they didn’t appear just on her arms. They appeared all over her legs, her chest, even up to her neck. Then she began to convulse. Her legs straightened and she couldn’t move them individually anymore.
The Rockets around her scurried about, all speaking in muddled voices. Except for one. “Percentage!” Giovanni demanded. “I need a percentage!”
“Fifty-five percent, sir!”
Fifty-five percent what? Misty had wondered. Is the procedure fifty-five percent over? Or am I…
She tried to lift her legs again and found they didn’t exist. All she could see when she flexed those muscles was the blue-and-yellow tail of a Gyrados. Misty tried to scream but couldn’t get a full breath. She didn’t like the air out here. She wanted the water. Her skin felt dry. She looked over and saw someone holding up a purple Pokéball emblazoned with the letter M. The ball opened, enveloping her with red light. In that moment, she felt relief and comfort. Her body convulsed once again, and she closed her eyes as the world went dark.
Misty reached a cautious hand to the Goldeen and stroked its belly. “Hello yourself,” she said quietly. The Goldeen smiled and waved its elegant fins at her. The reds and oranges made the wave look like underwater fire.
Of course, the merger hadn’t just let Misty enter the water to speak with her beloved Pokémon. It had ensured that the water was her permanent home. She could, perhaps, exit and engage in a Pokémon battle, and move about sluggishly, but practically speaking, she couldn’t live on land anymore.
She shuddered at the last few memories she could recall before the red light took her. Fifty-five percent. That was how much of her DNA belonged to Gyrados now. And Giovanni had most definitely captured her in a Pokéball; she’d been unable to escape. So… did that make him her trainer now? She couldn’t think about it.
What she did think about was her anger. Or rather, her lack of it. Her life as a Pokémon trainer was over. She should have been livid. And yet, there was that small part of her–the little girl who fantasized about living underwater, who’d almost drowned in the ocean more than once because she just couldn’t stay away from it… Did she want to be a Pokémon trainer all those years just to bring her closer to this world, the one she could finally call her home?
Her head hurt. She let the philosophical thoughts go and focused on the present. Up on the surface, she could see the shadow of a feline Pokémon seated on the edge of the pool, staring into the water. For all the problems he had caused, Aquafeles did seem concerned about her after the merger. She supposed she should at least let him know she was capable of breathing down here.
“I’ll be right back,” she told the Goldeen.
A moment later, Misty broke the surface, sending a refreshing spray in all directions.
Aquafeles turned up his nose at the display. “And… how was it?” he wanted to know.
Misty pushed her wet hair out of her face. “It was… well, it was amazing,” she said. She couldn’t think of any other term for so many new sensations hitting her at once.
“So,” Aquafeles said, rubbing a paw against his whiskers, “you’re happy with this situation?”
“Happy?” Misty stiffened. She was emotionally numb, she’d admit. But not going into hysterics was far from being happy. “I’ve got a Gyrados tail where my legs should be, and I’m being held prisoner in a tank in some secret Team Rocket base somewhere!”
Aquafeles seemed unfazed by her outburst and licked his paw. “Yeah,” he agreed. “But you didn’t answer my question.”
Misty scowled. “Of course I’m not happy,” she said. She looked down at the water, the vague shapes swimming below that she could rejoin whenever she wanted. “But… for now, I can keep going. I can breathe.”
She knew she should feel some more emotion about everything. Maybe her mind couldn’t handle any more emotion after the merger. Maybe all it could do now was absorb this strange new experience and form feelings about it later, when everything had settled.
Aquafeles yawned. “Well, that’s good to know,” he said. “Just from my humble observations, your friends are going to need that positive thinkin of yours. Probably sooner than later.”
Misty stiffened. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Your friend… the twerp–”
“His name is Ash,” Misty snapped.
Aquafeles rolled his eyes at the correct. “Fine. Whatever. Ash, then. He talked you into this, am I right?”
“I… I was thinking about doing it on my own,” Misty replied, twisting her fingers and lowering herself in the water a bit. “But I was having some doubts before he talked to me…”
Aquafeles shook his head. “Listen, there’s not a whole lot I can tell yous… on account of, I don’t know a whole lot myself. But I think the boss has some… some way of messing with your friend’s head. I think… he meant to discourage you from getting the merger at all.”
Misty laughed. She had to. The whole idea was so ridiculous… and so terrifying. “So, what? You’re saying Giovanni has a way to just change someone’s mind on something?” She tried to laugh again, but it didn’t quite come out right. Something about the way Aquafeles looked at her so solemnly stopped the sound in her throat.
Oh, gosh. He’s serious. She swallowed hard. “You need to get Ash down here to talk to me again,” she said. “I have to tell him this wasn’t his fault! And we have to figure out how to stop Giovanni from doing this again! What if he goes after–” She gasped and covered her mouth. “It’s too late, isn’t it? He’s already gone after Brock?”
Aquafeles didn’t respond right away, at least not vocally. Instead, he turned, flicked the water with his tail, and started towards the door. “I’ll see what I can do to get him here,” he said. “But I think your other gym leader friend should be the least of your worries.”