Chapter 80, everybody! Yeah I know but high summer means we spend most of our time outside and by the time I get back in I'm too exhausted to post. Still working on the fic though, don't worry.

Also I had to look up Butch and Cassidy's take on the motto and can I say it's weird not typing up Jessie and James' version.

And now for the reviews: thank you to Chryssal, Dragonkeeper10, griffin blackwood, talesfanjmf, Vulaan Kulaas (I feel that), thor94, Cyan Quartz, forward-smash, Reader, and epantoja521 for the reviews! Still working hard on the rest of the fic! :D

Pokémon © Game Freak; Nintendo


And now, for something completely different:

In other news, researchers from all over the globe are flocking to Galar to investigate the phenomena of miniature Wailord. As yet no reason can be given to this strange divergence in the species.

The whole thing was going swimmingly if you asked them.

It was a perfect swindle, really—advertise themselves as excellent breeders and daycare operators, then vanish in the night. They had pitched the concept at work, had impressed their superior officers, and now they'd be bringing in the 'mons. Added bonus was showing up those two irritating ingrates and their stupid cat, who had been having an annoyingly good streak of luck lately.

"Okay," Butch said, clapping his hands as he came in the back. "We're all closed up."

"And we're full up," Cassidy crowed. "Every last cage packed tight!"

Butch snickered to himself as they started packing up the assorted things needed for selling the scheme—no need to leave behind anything incriminating, or waste resources that had been so nicely provided.

Although, she mused, putting the breeder certificate in a box, she had to wonder how Team Rocket had managed to get their hands on such an authentic-looking certificate.

"Oi," Butch muttered, arms full of boxes as the phone rang. "Get that, will you?"

"Probably some doddery old fool checking in on his 'precious baby,'" Cassidy sneered as she answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Report."

She jumped, flinched, composed herself quickly—the boss did not tolerate such idiocy as groveling. "The plan was a success—we've got over a hundred Pokémon here for your perusal."

"Excellent," the boss said. "The extraction team will be there at sundown—do not disappoint."

She waited until she heard the click of him hanging up before letting her breath out and putting the phone down. Butch was watching her carefully when she turned to face him.

"We have until dark to get these all set up," she said. "Let's get cracking."


Brock and Ash exchanged glances at the sound of someone entering—Darkrai dove into his shadow as they scurried down an aisle, Pikachu bounding ahead, caged Pokémon squawking—

"Hey!" Misty called as they came up to her. "I found—mmph!"

Brock shushed her, caught her elbow before she could drive it into his solar plexus. "We're not alone in here," he hissed.

Whoever entered was being helpful in this regard, yelling "Oi SHADDUP!"

"Butch, stop yelling and get the Pokéballs," a female voice ordered. "We've got a schedule."

"Right, right…."

They all stayed crouched by Psyduck's cage, holding their breaths—

Misty finally dared speak. "I don't like the sound of that," she whispered to Brock.

"Me neither," Brock agreed quietly. "Grab Psyduck and let's get out of here."

"We can't just leave," Ash protested, keeping his voice low too. "They're stealing everyone!"

Misty groaned as something occurred to her. "They took Psyduck's Pokéball."

"Okay, so we go get it."

"Ash, where are you going?" Brock hissed.

Ash pointed. "The guy said the Pokéballs were in the back."

"News flash, so is the guy."

"Well we have to do something—"

Was cut off by Swift stars bursting against his feet, making him jump back.

"You certainly do," a woman said, her male companion joining her as she stepped into the aisle. "Starting with explaining yourselves."

"Who are you two?" Ash demanded.

The man and woman affected dramatic poses. "Prepare for trouble!" the woman said.

"And make it double!" the man rejoined.

"To infect the world with devastation!"

"To blight all peoples in every nation!"

"To denounce the goodness of truth and love!"

"To extend our wrath to the stars above!"

"Cassidy!"

"And Butch!"

"Team Rocket circling the earth all day and night!"

"Surrender to us now or you'll surely lose the fight!"

A Raticate popped up between them. "RAT-I-CATE!"

Ash was certain he wasn't the only one taking a nonplussed moment there. "Uh," he noised. "Does Team Rocket know you're ripping them off?"

Now it was the two strangers' turn to look nonplussed. "Do what?" the guy asked.

"I mean, your whole thing is a total rip-off of Team Rocket, and not a very good one either. You got the whole motto wrong! And the costumes are supposed to be white, not black."

"Uh, Ash," Misty said quietly, hugging Psyduck close. "I think those guys are actually Team Rocket."

"Are you sure?"

"If memory serves me, the lower-level grunts on the S.S. Anne wore black," Brock said, tone and pose pensive. "So these two could be Team Rocket."

"We are Team Rocket, you aggravating little brats you!" the woman yelled, stomping a foot.

"We're some of the best of the best of Team Rocket," the man said. "How dare you compare us to the grunts!"

"Well, you can't be all that high-ranking," Ash pointed out. "Since you're not wearing white like Jessie and James do."

If steam didn't shoot out of the two Rockets' ears, Ash would have been surprised.

"Ugh, those two," the woman spat.

"They're giving Team Rocket as a whole a bad name!" the man insisted.

"Hey, I like them better than I like you right now," Misty countered, looking like her death-grip on Psyduck was the only thing keeping her from throwing hands right now, even if Psyduck was squirming about it. "You bunch of jerks are stealing Pokémon!"

"To be fair, Jessie and James try," Brock said, thinking. "Remember the S.S. Anne? And you know, them trying to steal Darkrai that one time—"

"Does that even count?"

"Steal a what?" the man asked.

"Darkrai," Ash said, pointing. "He's the big scary guy right behind you."

The Team Rocket wannabees turned—had to take a nonplussed moment at the black blot looming menacingly behind them.

"Hi there," Darkrai snarled.

The Raticate lunged, maw wide open, fangs gleaming—

Darkrai caught it by the throat, earning a strangled gghkt from it.

"I have news for you," he told it, eyes narrowed. "There was only ever one Raticate that ever intimidated me, and buddy, you're not it!"

And with that, Raticate went flying back, hitting the wall so hard that it went halfway through.

"Ratty will be pleased to hear that," Ash teased at Darkrai.

"You shut up," Darkrai said, sparing a narrow-eyed look in Ash's direction.

"Okay, next plan," the woman said, pulling a Pokéball out.

"Now let me stop you right there," Darkrai said, pointing.

And he did.

"So how long are they going to be out?" Brock asked, toeing the woman's foot.

"Long enough for us to get out of here and for the cops to arrive," Darkrai said airily. "Which reminds me—let's get out of here."

"Right," Misty said, hopping over the unconscious duo. "Let me grab Psyduck's ball."

"Wait," Ash said. "How are you going to tell which one is which?"

"I'm going to hope really hard that they labeled everything."

"This might take more than five minutes," Brock sighed.


It took closer to ten minutes, but Misty finally ran out with a ball above her head and no Psyduck, so Ash was counting that as a win.

Also counted as a win: getting out without being made, pausing long enough for Brock to call in an anonymous tip to the Jennies before they beat feet to the restaurant.

"Oh hey it's about time!" the guy greeted. "I was about to lock up and leave."

"Yeah, well—things happened," Misty said, letting Psyduck out. "But see? Psyduck!"

"Oh yeah look at you you pretty baby," the guy cooed, crouching next to Psyduck. "Aw, you do have a bad headache, don't you? Don't worry, we can get that fixed up. Y'all make yourselves comfortable," he told them, standing back up. "I'll have something out here for you in a jiffy."

They were more than happy to all collapse in the nearest seats.

"So that was more than a little scummy," Ash observed.

"Look, I'm not going to feel bad about stealing my Pokémon back from a bunch of thieves," Misty said.

"I meant the bit about the people stealing the Pokémon to begin with."

"Oh. In that case, I agree."

"They could have been Team Rocket, though," Brock said, musing.

"I have a hard time believing those guys are the same as Jessie and James," Ash countered—

Stopped along with everyone else when a bunch of Jennies on their bikes sped by, heading for the fake daycare.

"Well the good news is, they won't be a problem for a long while," Misty decided—perked up when the cook came back. "Oh wow that smells delicious!"

"Thank you kindly," the cook said, putting the tray on the table before taking a mug of tea and handing it down to Psyduck, crouching there to coo over him as he drank it. "Yes there you go, doesn't that make you feel better? Hmm?"

"I don't suppose you'd mind me asking for that recipe," Brock said, leaning over to watch.

"Not at all—I'm just glad there's other people that appreciate these beauties."

"Well I'll definitely appreciate him a lot more now that he's not dealing with massive headaches all the time—how you feeling, Psyduck?" Misty asked, leaning down to address the yellow duck.

"Psai?" Psyduck noised, looking at her.

"Well you're not holding your head, so that's an improvement."

"Don't worry, there's plenty of ways to keep him comfortable and those headaches down," the cook said. "I've got some time before I leave, I'll go over them with you."

"Wow, thanks," Misty started—looked over at Brock tapping her arm with a notepad and pen.

"You'll be needing this, I think," Brock said.

She did.