a/n: We’re back! First of all, I want to apologize for being away so long. Rowan and I have been hard at work on our original novel, and as much as we love fanfiction, we want to make every effort to further our writing careers, too. This next Mergers chapter is a bit on the short side, but we did add an extra scene to chapter 15, so be sure to check it out. We’ll be back with a new chapter of Hidden Powers next week. Thank you for reading!
The room was still and quiet.
It was early afternoon, and Lusamine had declared that she needed a rest. Her condo in the heart of Saffron City was every bit the picture of luxury as the family mansion back in Alola, and she retired to a lavish bedroom with long silk curtains and a king-size bed that looked strangely suffocating with only one person in it.
Gladion stood in the doorway of his mother’s room and watched her chest gently rise and fall. Occasionally, she turned roughly or made some small whimper, the feeling of being inside that monster Nihilego still flickering in her memories.
Talking with the Pokémon researcher Bill had certainly helped her. And yet she had never been able to return to Alola. In Kanto, she felt safe, she had told her children. In Kanto, she could pretend that none of the horrible things she’d done had ever really happened.
In full honestly, Gladion hated the way she lied to herself. But Lillie was happy just to have their mother back. For the sake of keeping the peace in the family, Gladion had to pretend like he was okay with it, too.
He felt a gentle nudge at his side and turned to see his Silvally working its head under his hand, looking to be petted. Gladion smiled and obliged. Then, slowly and silently, he pulled the bedroom door closed and walked into the hallway.
He had hardly taken more than a few steps when his phone begin to vibrate. Gladion looked at the screen. At first, he thought someone must have called him by mistake–he didn’t recognize the number at all. Then he realized that the area code was local. Someone was calling from within Saffron City. In that case, he had an uncomfortable feeling he knew exactly who this call was from. The only thing he didn’t know was why.
The phone rang only twice before it picked up.
“Gladion,” Sabrina said by way of a greeting.
“I-I… Sabrina. Yes. Hello,” the young man stuttered. “Sorry. It’s just… it’s been a while.”
Sabrina nodded thoughtfully. Yes, it had been several years since their two halves of the family had made any contact with each other. Perhaps Sabrina and Lusamine had decided that, given both of their unfortunate tendencies to go to unhealthy lengths for power, they were better of not interacting with each other.
“So,” Gladion said awkwardly, “why are you calling me now?”
Always the direct type. She admired that about him. “Because I need you to come to the Saffron City Gym. Exactly one week from now.”
“I’m–” Gladion began before she interrupted him.
“You’re in Kanto. In fact, you’re staying at your mother’s condo not far from here. You plan to visit with her for a week, then fly home to Alola.”
There was a grunt of frustration on the other line. “You know, being related to you, even distantly, is still one of the most unnerving facts about my life.”
Sabrina smiled. She’d be lying if she ever said she didn’t enjoy making others uncomfortable with her powers. And soon, that power would be far greater than she could ever imagine. Of course, it would also be easy to capture and manipulate. Hence why she needed Gladion.
“When you arrive, one of my assistants will provide you with a Master Ball,” she said. “Conceal it immediately and proceed to the gym challenge area. I will be… undergoing a procedure in there, most likely under the supervision of the Viridian City gym leader, Giovanni.”
Gladion scoffed at the name. “Gym leader? Mob boss is more like it. I was on Team Skull, Sabrina. They weren’t the brightest crew, but they knew who their enemies were. Why would you be doing anything with the head of Team Rocket?”
“That’s none of your concern,” Sabrina answered coolly. “Now, I’m also going to need to you to bring your strongest Pokémon with you. It’s possible the door may be guarded, and you will need to defend yourself. At some point, the lock will break and the door will swing open. You are to run inside and throw the Master Ball at me.”
“A-at you?” Gladion asked. “I’m sorry, but I don’t–”
“Afterwards,” Sabrina said calmly. “You will retreat and head on the first flight to Alola. Lay low for a while if you can. Can you do all this for me, Gladion? It’s important.”
Gladion gritted his teeth. She could sense his hesitation over the phone. He had no clue what she was asking of him or why, and Gladion had never been the type to rush into something without evaluating the consequences. And yet they were family. If Gladion had any weak point, it was that he would always go above and beyond for family.
“I can do it,” he said firmly.
Sabrina breathed a sigh of relief. It was one thing to see a vision of the future. Another to watch it actually play out. “Thank you,” she said earnestly. “This has been a dream of mine for a long time. I will see you in a week.” And with that, she hung up the phone.
Sabrina spoke to Zoe next. First she gave the girl a gentle reminder that she was second in command of this gym and should anything happen to Sabrina, Zoe was expected to take over all responsibilities in the gym’s maintenance, retaining its solid and prestigious reputation.
Unsurprisingly, Zoe was not at all enthralled by these reminders and wanted to know why Sabrina was giving them.
“Are you planning on something happening to you?” she asked urgently. “Are you sick? Are you in danger?” She wrung her hands worriedly.
Sabrina smiled and shook her head. “No to your first question.”
Zoe waited a moment before asking, “And… my second question?”
“Not as long as I play things right,” Sabrina replied. “Now, I have something to ask of you. You remember Lusamine? My second cousin. Mother’s side of the family.”
“The one who almost caused a cosmic meltdown in Alola,” Zoe said.
“Excellent. You remember, then. Well, her delightful son is coming to visit me next week, and sadly, I fear I may not be immediately available to see him. But I do have a gift for him. Please make sure he gets it.” She tugged on Zoe’s hand and placed a Poké Ball firmly in her palm. Zoe looked at the device’s sleek purple surface, and her eyes widened.
“Th-this is a Master Ball!” she exclaimed. “Where on Earth did you even get–”
Sabrina held up a hand. “You know how I detest interruptions. Now, when Gladion receives this gift, he will obviously want to thank me for being so generous. Please show him the way to the gym training area. Do this regardless of any orders either myself or Giovanni give you to the contrary that evening. Do you understand?”
Zoe tightened her grip on the purple ball with shaking hands. “Yes,” she said with an obedient bow. “I understand.” She turned to leave but paused at the door way. Without looking around she said, “Please, Miss Sabrina. Be careful.” She left without waiting for a reply.