“Step this way, sir,” the grunt behind Brock said, ushering him into the room. “And have you decided which merger you would like today?”
Brock held in a laugh. Holding him at gunpoint, forcing him into this lab of theirs, and now Team Rocket had the gall to ask which Pokémon’s DNA he’d like fused with his own against his will? There was a certain humor to the situation.
“Do I have a choice?” he asked.
“Of course, sir,” the grunt said with a bow. Brock looked around the room. Two figures in white coats with face masks stood waiting by a tray of needles and syringes. He didn’t see any Pokéballs, but they had to be around somewhere.
“I don’t mean to rush you,” the grunt said, “But… your selection, please?”
Brock focused on the one small window in the room, iron bars ensuring that no one was getting out that way. No human, at any rate. But he wouldn’t be fully human for much longer. If they were going to force this transformation on him, he needed a Pokémon with strength on his side, something that would give him the ability to overpower these creeps and finally get him out of here. Something tough as iron. Or… tough as steel.
“I choose… Steelix,” he finally said.
The grunt looked relieved. “Ah, excellent choice. Lay down, please, if you would.”
Brock took a seat on the bed and leaned back. He hadn’t missed the heavy-duty straps hanging off the sides when he entered, and they certainly did not take him by surprise as the grunts fastened them across his legs, arms, and chest.
I’m getting out of here, he promised himself. I’ll escape and get Misty and Ash out of here, too. Even we’re not entirely human afterwards…
One of the figures stepped forward and slipped a needle into his skin. It felt like liquid ice being forced into his veins. Cold as iron.
He didn’t understand the process completely, but he knew all the mergers started with this — some kind of a serum that left his body vulnerable to a quick shift in DNA. In essence, Giovanni had developed the technology to allow humans to evolve like Pokémon. Or rather, evolve into Pokémon. All it took once the serum was in his body was exposure to the proper stone…
Brock couldn’t see what the other figure was doing, but could hear her picking up something that scraped against her tray of instruments. Almost time. Team Rocket had really overestimated their abilities on this one. Onix were notoriously hard to capture, Steelix even worse. If they tried to toss even an Ultra Ball at him after the transformation, he felt sure he could resist it.
The smooth edge of the stone pressed into his neck. Brock breathed deeply. He felt his body tremble with energy; the muscles in his legs became petrified first, then the sensation spread to his chest and arms. He expected it to stop there. This was a merger, after all, not a complete metamorphosis. But the sensation didn’t stop. Brock felt the heat leave his hands, fingers, and neck as flesh and blood morphed to iron and rock. Panic gripped his mind. How much of the serum had they given him? He thrashed against the restraints, and despite his largely inorganic body, he felt the straps start to give way under his newfound strength.
He managed to crane his neck enough to confirm what he already feared: his legs had joined to form the thrashing tail of the iron snake Pokémon. Team Rocket members leapt away to avoid being stabbed by the tail’s rocky barbs. Then, at last, Brock’s restraints snapped. The scientist holding the Steelixite dropped it in shock as Brock swung his massive tail and slammed the man against the nearest wall. The Rocket grunt who’d led him here stupidly tried to grab his arm; Brock threw him off easily. Too easily. He looked down at his hands; they looked like hands from a roughly cut statue. What percent of him was still human now? Thirty percent? Twenty? Brock turned on the one scientist still standing, who clutched a clipboard in terror. He opened his mouth to scream at her, to ask her how she could have done this. But when he tried to produce words, only a low growl erupted from his throat.
He understood what he had meant. Any Pokémon would have understood him quite clearly. But on her human ears, his words were lost. Brock held his head in his cold, iron hands. This wasn’t how this was supposed to go. They weren’t supposed to let the merger go this far. As he tried to regain himself, to stick to his plan of escape, Brock saw a flash of red light and felt something pulling him back.
He turned to see that the Pokéball that had just been thrown at him was not black and yellow as he had expected, but purple. They have Master Balls, he realized. He almost laughed at how stupid he’d been. There was no possible escape from this. There never had been.
Brock lowered his head and let the red light pull him in. The thought of becoming one of Giovanni’s Pokémon sickened him. But maybe, with some time and patience, he’d still find a way to save his friends.
For now, that was the best he could hope for.
Six weeks earlier…
Giovanni was first alerted to the surveillance footage by Pierce, who had taken up the task of clearing some storage space on the old hard drives. The elite officer had found a huge amount of data that he had no clue with. Giovanni had been annoyed at first, ready to scold Pierce for being unable to deal with such a basic problem… until he saw the data.
The bulk of it was surveillance footage. It began years ago, with a boy who looked to be about ten years old at the time, probably leaving home for his Pokémon journey. He had a Pikachu with him, a most unusual choice for a starter. In fact, a bulk of the footage seemed to center on the Pikachu. Whoever had taken this footage had logged hundreds on hours on the little electric rodent.
Giovanni noted the names of the members who had logged all this nonsense and how long it had gone on for. Jessie and James. And their last known log was dated… a few days ago?
Giovanni blinked in disbelief. His two subordinates, bless their poor moronic souls, had been stalking this boy and his Pokémon for the past five years.
“Who is this kid?” Giovanni muttered is disbelief. “And why do we have…” He looked down at the computer screen. “…over four hundred hours of footage of him?”
The young man did look familiar, Giovanni would admit as much. He must have meddled in Team Rocket’s affairs at some point.
“Ah, yes, I’m… erm, I’m looking that up right now, sir,” Pierce replied. Giovanni raised an eyebrow. It was most unlike his subordinate to call him for a question prior exhausting all possibly research on said question.
Thankfully, Pierce was not too far off the mark. With a few strokes of the keyboard, he pulled up the kid’s (well, the teenager’s) Pokémon trainer ID.
“His name is Ash Ketchum,” Pierce said. “Son of Delia Ketchum and..”
Giovanni frowned. “Delia Ketchum? That’s impossible.” He rubbed his head. Old memories were coming back. Some very, very old memories.
Giovanni’s Persian seemed to sense his stress and and rubbed its head against his leg. “Get Jessie and James on the phone,” Giovanni growled. “I have a job for the three of you.”
“Of course, sir,” Pierce replied, standing as he shut off the monitor. He didn’t reach for his phone right away, however, and he stared into the distance in a most unprofessional manner.
Giovanni gave him a cautious look. “You seem… distracted, officer,” he said. “I trust all is well?”
Pierce quickly regained himself and nodded. “Everything is fine, sir. Apologies. I’ll place that call right away.”