Well, out of all the fandoms, Pokémon seems to be my muse's bread and butter. I suppose you could also call this the foil (as in, contrast) to the A New Life AU. I don't know exactly how long I'll be running this fanfiction. By the series' length, I'm guessing this will easily be my longest story yet. I'm sure I'll figure out where to end it as I go along, but it'll be a doozy. Regardless, I've waffled enough on the subject.

EDIT: I went back and did some reformatting to neaten up the chapter at a reader's recommendation.

So, without further ado, to quote one of my favorite authors: Hobey-ho, let's go.

Chapter 1: Starting With a Bang!

Night had long since fallen over Viridian City. While it seemed to be peaceful, the city was actually in a state of alarm.

Earlier that evening, there was an alert put out to be on the watch for Pokémon thieves. With that being said, the citizens had stayed indoors and kept their Pokémon close. Lucky for them, it wasn't the residences that were being targeted.

A small group of agents from the crime syndicate known as Team Rocket had decided the Pokémon Center to be their target. Breaking in was simple enough, they even managed to cut the power. However, the agents met some unexpected resistance in a young boy that happened to be there to have his Pikachu treated. Not only was the Electric-type stronger than anticipated, but the electricity triggered a chain reaction.

With a massive explosion, the Pokémon Center's roof was blown to pieces and the agents were forced to retreat under the cover of the smoke and darkness before the police arrived.

Now the trio was climbing up a rope to a hot air balloon shaped like the Scratch Cat Pokémon, Meowth. In the light of the moon, their appearance was revealed.

The one in the middle of the rope was a girl who appeared to be in her late teens with long magenta hair styled back into a single long curl that reached all the way down to her waist. On the lowest point was a boy appearing to be the same age with blue hair that was somewhat long, reaching down to his chin in length. Both of them wore white uniforms with black undershirts and a purple belt with purple gloves and boots. A red "R" was also printed on their shirts, showing their affiliation with Team Rocket.

The third one, highest up on the rope, was the same Pokémon that the balloon was modeled after. A Meowth hung onto the rope as well and all three of them were covered in burns, both from being shocked and from traces of the resulting explosion.

As they continued climbing up to reach the basket of their balloon, the girl scoffed, "Great! A cat losing to a mouse!"

The Meowth spoke up, defending himself, "That Pikachu is no ordinary Pikachu!"

"It's certainly very rare," the boy said, "a perfect prize!"

"Let's catch it!" the girl shouted.

Meowth grinned, "Perhaps we will."

Unfortunately for them, a tear and hissing sound cut into their plans, since a hole in the hot air balloon caused it to spiral out of control towards the horizon.

Luckily, Meowth managed to sink his claws into the rope and the two other agents clung to the rope, able to hang on thanks to the physical training that came with joining Team Rocket. The three of them hung on, screaming as the balloon flew haphazardly towards the west, near Route 22, which led to the Indigo Plateau. Soon, the balloon didn't have enough air to keep flying and started a rapid descent towards the ground.

"There!" the boy called. "The trees!"

Once they were over the trees and at a reasonable height where the fall wouldn't break anything, they let go of the rope and grabbed onto the branches to catch themselves. Soon after, the balloon crashed nearby, the basket skidding on the ground, but not toppling over due to the weight of their supplies inside keeping it grounded. The trio dropped down from the trees as the last bits of air went out of their balloon.

"My beautiful face…" Meowth lamented.

The girl was fixing her hair with a brush that she kept in her pocket as she looked in a compact from the same place, "Get over yourself. James, you're the one that's best at sewing. Fix it."

James huffed and muttered, "It's weaving, Jessie, and then sewing the fabric back." Regardless, he made his way to the basket, retrieving his travel-friendly crafts kit. Stepping over the fabric of the balloon, he turned the cloth over before finding the hole in the balloon. Taking a roll of beige nylon string along with a same colored reinforced string, James set them into a simple frame loom that was fixed to the inside of the kit's lid and got to work.

Jessie and Meowth lingered nearby, but they knew that it would take at least an hour-and-a-half for James to make the reinforced patch to sew into the balloon. And that was without having to re-inflate it.

"As soon as the balloon's fixed and inflated, we're going after that twerp's Pikachu," Jessie stated as she finished styling her hair and put the brush back in her pocket before reapplying her make up with the powder puff.

"Just going to cut in here," James said without looking up from setting up the threads on the loom, "If we couldn't beat that Pikachu before, what makes you think we can do it the next morning?"

Meowth spoke up, "Ya got outnumbered by the other Pikachu, and the twoip Trainer souped up his Pikachu with more electricity. He won't have back-up now; it'll be a piece o' cake!"

Jessie, however, thought about it as she finished applying the powder and then took out her lipstick. Speaking up, she commented, "No, James is right. We have Rocket-masked Poké Balls for a reason."

James stopped weaving a bit before resuming. Since Jessie was mentioning the masked Poké Balls, it meant that they were going to increase their numbers instead of training. These Poké Balls operated on a private system owned by Team Rocket. As such, they were unable to be tracked by the Pokémon League. It was how Team Rocket agents could use Pokémon despite not having Trainer licenses.

"Ya gonna go catch another Pokémon?" Meowth asked with a raised eyebrow.

Jessie made sure her lipstick was applied before closing the compact and looking down at Meowth. "I'm not, you are. Ekans is wiped out from that electric attack, and you're the best candidate. Go and bring back a Pokémon that reflects my fabulous personality."

Meowth decided to bite back the cutting remark he had about Jessie's personality, since he was already tired and he just wanted to get it over with. Turning around, he left the area and started looking around for a Pokémon.

'Sheesh, wouldn't it be better ta wait 'til morning?' Meowth thought as he looked around. 'Any sane Pokémon's probably sleepin'…'

Soon after he finished that thought, his feline ears picked up the sounds of a battle. He was in no hurry, though. He would take his time and then take on the winner when they were already worn out from the fight.

'One new recruit, comin' up.' Meowth snarked to himself as he nonchalantly strolled closer to the source of the fighting noises. On the way, Meowth realized that he didn't have any Poké Balls with him. Meh, he'd figure it out. And if he didn't, he could always pin the blame on Jessie for not giving him one.

Once he reached the area where the fight was going on, he saw that it was a Rattata fighting against a Spearow. The Spearow had a few bruises, but the Rattata was cut up pretty badly and looking woozy. Still, it might get one or two more hits in before fainting. Once that thought crossed his mind, Meowth's eyes opened wider as a figurative light bulb went off over his head. After that, a sneaky grin crawled across his face.

Spearow lunged down and scratched at the Rattata with its sharp claws again. The Mouse Pokémon tried running away, but the Flying Pokémon just circled around and scratched at it again. Rattata fell to the ground, passed out from exhaustion. Spearow landed next to the fallen mouse and was about to land the killing blow, but stopped when it heard something.

Meowth stepped out of the shadows, the moonlight glimmering off his charm and eyes as he grinned at the Tiny Bird Pokémon.

"Evenin', Spearow. Ya know, it's yer lucky day! Ya've been chosen to join da great Team Rocket! So, we gonna do dis da easy way…" Meowth raised his paws and extended his claws, "or da hard way?"

The Spearow spread its wings in a threatening gesture and then squawked angrily at Meowth. From what Meowth could understand, Spearow basically spat in the face of human-trained Pokémon and said she didn't need a human to be strong.

Meowth shrugged his shoulders and popped his neck, "Hard way it is."

Meowth rushed the bird Pokémon, his paws out at his sides, ready to strike. Spearow pecked at him when he got closer, but Meowth had enough time to get several hits with his Fury Swipes attack. The bird flew up to put some distance between herself and Meowth while he turned to keep her in his sight.

Spearow tried dive-bombing Meowth to get some scratches on him, but Meowth turned sideways and jumped back while landing a Scratch attack of his own.

Spearow was starting to feel fatigued. That Rattata had already tired her out slightly, and this Meowth was stronger than her. She decided to take her original prey and fly away. But when she turned to grab it, she found it missing. She landed near the spot, temporarily forgetting the battle and looked around. Her catch was right here just a moment ago!

"Lookin' for somethin'?" Meowth asked cheekily.

Spearow turned sharply to see that Meowth had the still unconscious Rattata in his other paw, the one that had been facing away from her. The cat had the nerve to steal her dinner!

"Gotta catch me for it!" Meowth taunted as he put the Rattata in his mouth to hold it before running off on all fours. He would need all his speed to keep ahead, even though Spearow was tired. He wasn't going to take any chances. You know… fury and women scorned, after all.

The Spearow chased after him, squawking angrily all the way along. She didn't care how long it took; she would chase Meowth to the ends of the earth to get her rightful catch back!

But soon, she started to notice that the terrain was changing. They were running into a portion of the area that she wasn't familiar with. By the time she noticed the sphere flying towards her, it was already too late to avoid it.

Meowth dropped the Rattata and wiped his tongue off thoroughly while Jessie's Poké Ball shook on the ground. That had literally been the most disgusting thing he'd ever tasted.

After the red light on the button turned off, Jessie picked up the Poké Ball, saying, "Well, a Spearow isn't what I would pick, but good job bringing it back here."

"Yeah, yeah," Meowth said, picking a Rattata hair off his tongue, "She's got a bit o' an attitude problem. Hates Trainers and their Pokémon a lot." He left after saying that, heading towards the balloon basket, "I need some mouthwash…"

James looked up from his work long enough to notice the Rattata still on the ground. He turned back to focus on weaving as he asked, "What's the problem? I thought cats liked eating rats."

Meowth gargled the cleansing solution and spat it out over the side of the basket before replying, "Yeah? Lemme throw a burger on the ground, stomp it into the dirt an' see if you want it. I just took it so the Spearow would follow me back here."

"Meowth," Jessie chastised jokingly, "hasn't anyone ever taught you it's rude to steal someone's food? I see no need to deprive my new Pokémon her nourishment."

"Aaaand dat's my cue ta take my dinner somewhere else," Meowth said, grabbing a wrapped loaf of seasoned bread and a small bottle of water. He jumped out of the basket and took off in the opposite direction as Jessie opened Spearow's Poké Ball. Meowth knew the law of survival in the wild, but his hunting and gathering days were long behind him, and he much preferred a burger over a Pokémon.

By the time the sun had come up, Team Rocket was already up and about and James was making salmon rice balls for a quick breakfast. He had taken his gloves off and soaked his hands with some cold water to keep them from getting burned as he handled the hot rice.

Given that he originally came from a wealthy family, most wouldn't think James to be the handyman/cook of the group, but Meowth lacked dexterity and motivation to work with complicated things like weaving and cooking and Jessie managed to ruin any food that she touched, as well as only being slightly passable at sewing, much less weaving.

James smiled as he thought back to his Nana and Pop-pop at his summer home. Nana had taught him to sew and weave in case he ever needed to fix something in a hurry and Pop-pop taught him all sorts of crafting methods and other things involving hands-on work. James never thought he'd use it in a life of crime, but he was grateful to have the skills.

Some branches rustling from the nearby bush brought his attention back to the present as he turned to the source of the sound. Putting the half-formed rice ball down and dusting the leftover grains off, he held up his Poké Ball containing Koffing. When a Mankey appeared from the bushes, its pig-like snout sniffing the air as its eyes were squinted closed, James lowered the ball and looked at the rice balls that he had prepared.

Mankey emerged from the bushes and scurried closer, chattering excitedly, "Mochit, mochit, mochit!"

James pulled the plate of rice balls closer to him and said, "Ah ah ah, these are for me and my team, but… how about a deal?"

Mankey looked up at him curiously. He hadn't seen very many humans coming through here, so he was willing to listen.

James smiled, "We'll be leaving this area soon, so even if I made you a rice ball, where would you get more? But if you join our team, then I'll be able to make you more as we travel. Would you like that?"

Mankey hopped up and down excitedly, clearly finding the prospect exciting. James nodded, "Very well, then." He reached into his pocket and pulled out an empty Poké Ball, expanding it before holding it out. "Get into the ball and I'll start preparing your first order."

Mankey excitedly held up two of his finger-like appendages, letting James know he wanted two rice balls and then put his hand on the Poké Ball's button. The button glowed red for a moment before it turned off immediately. James held the ball beside him and then opened it again. Mankey reappeared and then excitedly waited and watched James work on preparing the food.

Later, breakfast was served and Jessie and Meowth stared at Mankey hanging off of James' back with his legs wrapped around James' torso, munching on two rice balls.

Jessie took her portion and raised an eyebrow, "What's with the pig monkey?"

"He liked my cooking, so he joined our team," James answered simply while eating his own breakfast.

Jessie scoffed, "If good cooking was all it took to catch Pokémon, we'd have a truckload by now with my cooking!"

James and Meowth wisely decided to just finish their breakfast without another word while Mankey looked around confused.

After the four of them finished the rice balls, Ekans and Spearow were released to hunt for their breakfast while Koffing was given a handful of Pokémon food. He couldn't eat too much, or he'd be weighed down before he could convert the eaten food into poison gas.

Soon after Ekans and Spearow got back, the balloon was finished inflating with air and Jessie had already started the flame to heat the air inside. Once Jessie saw some blood on Spearow's beak, she called her over and wiped it off with a napkin from breakfast.

"Have some pride in your appearance, Spearow. Look at Ekans, does she have blood on her face? No," Jessie lectured.

Meowth laughed, "C'mon, Jessie, da last thing we need on dis team is two vain birds."

"Oh, did you say something, Meowth?" Jessie said with a smile as she pushed Meowth forward with her heel and ground it into the back of his head.

James held up his Poké Ball to recall Mankey off his shoulders, "Come now, Jessie, we don't have time for this if we want to intercept those twerps in Viridian Forest. Mankey, return."

Jessie hmphed and picked Meowth off the ground before tossing him into the balloon basket. "Fair enough. Ekans, Spearow, return."

With all their Pokémon called back, James pulled the chain on the burner and the flame flared up, allowing the balloon to lift off. When they were up in the air, they started heading over to Viridian Forest and the three of them took out high-tech binoculars, looking around in three different directions.

Soon, Jessie spotted something. A Pidgeotto swerving back and forth. She brought it to James' and Meowth's attention. The three of them looked to the ground in that area and saw Ash holding out a Poké Ball, calling back one of his own, apparently.

Meowth grinned. "We got 'im."

James took hold of the control lines to allow the balloon to head in that direction as well as descend.

So, against my better judgment, I've decided to release this third fan fiction into the cycle, because it'll probably be a long-term one anyway. I'll update it when I can, but it won't be as high on the priority list as my other two stories. Mostly, I'm posting it now to see how it's received. Please drop a review to let me know what you think, and I'll see you when I see you, in this story or the other two.