First things first, this covers events coinciding with Common Sense, so you oughta read that first, at least up to the chapters indicated, if you want things to make sense/want to avoid spoilers.
You caught up? Good.
I decided to start this little side project of covering certain parts of background events involving other characters via oneshot. Hence the name, Common Sense: Behind the Scenes. It'll be mainly by request, so if you want me to cover certain things, PM me. If you're going to leave a review, please don't make it solely a request, as I'd like to know how I'm doing. Every bit helps.
Understand that there are certain requests that I won't do, either because I plan to explain in the story, it'll be spoilers, or it can be explained in a few sentences or paragraphs. The latter, I might make note of those that I get and make a cluster of Omake-like BtS parts as a chapter.
Oh yeah, also, no chapter numbers, as these things might possibly start to get out of order as requests come in, showing events that happened before previous entries.
With that out of the way, on with the story!
Location: Between Chapter 19 and 21
Weighing the New Recruits
Giovanni sat in his chair on a helicopter headed to the Team Rocket Academy where they had field agents, among other people, trained. Persian was taking a nap a few feet away on a plush carpet that the leader had an HQ grunt bring from his office.
He'd received a call from Team Rocket's human resources head, Wendy, saying that the new recruits Squad 13 brought were on the way to the academy, and that one of them seemed to want a loan instead of to join Team Rocket, from what she had been told.
That one person was why he was visiting in person, but he'd told Viper to set the entire group of five aside after he got to his office over there. Occasionally, Giovanni liked to stay at the academy for a few days at a time to check on progress, make sure things were running smoothly, and (rarely) inspect new recruits. Cortez wanting a special deal just gave him the perfect excuse.
He could trust Matori to tend to the paperwork and reports while leaving any interesting ones to Domino. His right-hand agent could make decisions on those or contact him for any urgent business.
Giovanni swirled a glass of wine in his hand before taking a sip. While he usually preferred aged whiskey, and had a high tolerance, he had a three hour trip from headquarters to the academy and he didn't want to take any chances.
Making his first appearance to new recruits inebriated would be a terrible impression of both him and the organization.
Viper, the drill sergeant of the Team Rocket Academy, looked at the line of new recruits. The man stood nearly six feet tall in a completely black uniform with no gloves and a red R emblazoned on the front and had his hair shaved aside from a purple Mohawk. Bulky muscles filled his large frame, and he stood with his arms folded behind his back while his narrowed eyes swept the four teens and adult. Even though Cortez was actually taller than him, he had no problems with projecting his aura of authority.
Having received orders of what to do with them, and read the analyses from Agent James that Matori copied and sent him, he had two assistants behind him.
"Greetings, recruits," he stoically started. "I am Viper, and as of right now, I am your drill sergeant, your commanding officer, and your head instructor, second only to the Boss himself. Do what I say, and your stay here will be brief. Fail or go against my orders, and I will take my time to make sure you don't do it again."
After scanning the five of them for any signs of weakness, and finding very little as each of them covered it up in different ways, he glanced over his left shoulder.
"You take the couple to the quartermaster to get measured for uniforms, Red Team," Viper ordered.
Pearl and Hart seemed surprised that he'd caught on, but it was rather obvious since they were standing closer than strictly necessary. Their body language practically screamed that they'd come together. The only thing that would make it more obvious is if they'd held hands for support.
His first assistant beckoned them to follow with a curt, "This way."
Hart grabbed onto Pearl's hand and led her along to follow, clearly not wanting to get separated.
'Oh, speak of the devil,' the drill sergeant noted as they passed by. 'A protector, it seems, from the rather aggressive look he just shot me.'
Still, he focused on the other two teens and said, "You two will be fitted for uniforms later. Right now, you have a tactics course to get to. I'm telling you right now, you're going to be separated to different teams once your aptitude and personalities are screened for your partners."
Glancing over his other shoulder, he commanded his other assistant, "Make sure they get there on time. You know how Proton feels about latecomers."
Looking down at his clothes, Dalton asked, "Are you sure it's okay to just go in like this?"
"He doesn't care," the assistant answered while leading them away. "Just don't disrupt his class and pay attention."
Viper stared down Cortez, who stared back, "You're coming with me. Are your Pokémon healed from their loss at that tournament?"
"All except Kangaskhan," the bartender answered. "She got a broken wrist and ankle."
"Then follow me. We're leaving your Pokémon with our medic to get healed, and then you're going to battle some of the Pokémon we have here at the academy to test their fighting ability."
He could hear the other man following him, so he didn't bother turning around to check.
Giovanni arrived at his office with Persian at his side, the feline Pokémon's carpet already transferred to the leader's quarters on the academy. He was delighted to see that his office was as clean and organized as he'd left it with some paperwork on the desk.
'Knowing Viper, he's gathering the five up right now,' the leader thought while sitting down in his chair. 'Proton's tactics course should be finished by now, so I'll probably be seeing those two first.'
He bided his time by examining the papers on his desk, seeing Dalton and Brook's personality profiles, along with a picture of each of them that would be destroyed later for security purposes. The leader's eyes narrowed as he looked at the brunet's picture. His face looked familiar, one he'd seen quite a few times. The only difference was the color of his eyes from the other.
With that in mind, he speed-read the two profiles before discreetly sticking them in a drawer within his desk. He wanted to confirm something once Dalton got in, and it wouldn't work if he saw his own profile on Giovanni's desk.
Having done that, and memorized the information, he began searching through the other files on his desk, containing various half-formed squads ready for new partners. Some files were thicker than others, having agents with a longer history that lost their partners to dysfunction or resignation. A few already had partner Pokémon owned by the single trainee, while most did not.
A knock sounded from his door, and he replied, "Come in." Persian sat up to look over the desk, expression curious, but Giovanni didn't look up from his work.
The door opened, and Brook stepped inside before politely closing the door behind him. His expression was neutral, borderline apathetic as he stepped forward and stopped two steps away from the desk.
Giovanni looked up from his papers and got ready to run his little test on the teen. The one that he did for all recruits he met personally.
"Ah, you must be Brook." He extended his hand while leaning forward slightly in his chair, "A pleasure to meet you."
Brook looked at the offered hand, and though his expression didn't change, Giovanni could tell that he was measuring various factors and consequences of the deed. He was about to retract when the teen tentatively stepped forward and offered his own hand to complete the gesture.
The leader measured the teen's grip. He could judge a lot about a person from their handshake. Brook's grip was as half-hearted as his alleged alliance to Team Rocket. But it seemed almost deliberate, the loose hold of his fingers, his limp wrist bending at the slightest provocation from Giovanni's own. He restrained a sneer and retracted his hand.
Brook seemed to be making himself seem weaker than he was so that he would be passed over for higher positions. A poor first impression was hard to recover from, and he wanted Giovanni to see him as weak. It matched with James' description of him not wanting to go too far in to Team Rocket.
"Now, once your profile is evaluated, you'll be matched to another prospective field agent and the two of you will be put on either the red or blue team to undergo physical training alongside other lessons such as the tactics course you attended just a while ago," Giovanni explained.
"On that note, about your Pokémon," he continued, noticing Brook almost imperceptibly tense up, "do you want them to be transferred to Rocket-masked Poké Balls? They are linked to a private server of ours, and thus cannot be tracked to their holder. In addition, those at headquarters can warp them back to our possession if lost, and all it takes is a call or visit to collect them."
"If it's all the same," Brook replied, his face apathetic, but his tone respectful, "I'd prefer to keep them in their current Poké Balls."
"Very well," the leader easily agreed. "Though, I should warn you, with your Pokémon still in their regular Poké Balls, your license is at risk if you or your Pokémon get caught by the police and we can't call them back to headquarters for you to reclaim."
Brook didn't change his expression or tone as he politely replied, "Then I suppose I'll just have to not get caught, sir."
Giovanni chuckled, "I believe I will enjoy your time with us, Brook. Welcome to Team Rocket."
The black-haired teen politely inclined his head and left. The boss mused that he would mainly keep Brook at Grunt level so that it wouldn't be any great loss if and when he quit the team.
Every army needed expendable troops, after all. Brook would be one such agent whereas his partner would be able to gain strategic experience from a like-minded individual that would carry over when the teen inevitably quit.
He didn't consider that Brook might get caught, since the teen demonstrated that he was cautious in his tentative affiliation with the organization. Such vigilance wouldn't allow him to get caught by anything except the most expert means.
'A shame if we can't win his loyalty,' Giovanni decided. 'He could go far here.'
Brook let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding once the door closed behind him. It would've been easier if the leader had been a scary, evil sort of boss. The man he'd seen looked like he could seamlessly fit in with the upper class of society and didn't give any indication that he had any nefarious schemes.
At the same time, Brook felt like every word, move and minute change of his expression had been under close watch. It had been the most nerve-wracking experience of his life, and only years of apathetic attitude let him keep his face mostly under control without any sweat.
If the blue-haired teen was an adept, the leader was a years-long master of reading and manipulation of people.
Still, some part of his mind thrilled at the danger of entering such a game. But he ruthlessly squashed that feeling and walked off to the Blue Team barracks. He'd been assigned to an empty room and would be receiving or taken to his roommate once they picked him a partner.
'This is only a temporary arrangement until I can figure out a way to get out of it while still keeping me and my Pokémon safe.'
On the way to his dorm, he blinked in surprise as a group of four Pokémon passed right by him. A batch of Squirtles with "R" branded armbands on their limbs stared back at him, looking at his street attire before turning to each other. The rightmost of their group murmured something to the others before they nodded in agreement.
One of them retracted their limbs and pulled it out again with a notepad and pencil in his grip. After scribbling something in the page, the Water-type tore out the page and handed it to Brook. Once that was done, the four Pokémon moved on while the writer put the notepad away in his shell.
Bemused at their rather organized actions, Brook looked down at the paper in his hands and his eyes widened when he read an actual message on it.
"Good luck, recruit."
For the sake of his sanity, Brook crumpled up the paper to throw away later and spent the rest of the day convincing himself that the past few minutes hadn't happened.
Giovanni soon heard another knock at his door and bid his next visitor to enter.
Dalton came in, looking rather confident, but still remaining polite in the face of the leader.
"A pleasure to meet you," Giovanni greeted once the teen was in front of his desk. "If I could have your name to put on record?"
Truthfully, only the first names were kept in the records for secrecy's sake, along with no pictures. And the Human Resources department already had that information, but he decided to leave it ambiguous in hopes of acquiring information.
"Dalton Adams," the teen reported with a shrug, confirming the boss's theory.
Giovanni reached forward to shake his hand, "Ah, I've heard good things about you from Agent James."
"Did you?" he asked while readily extending his hand to complete the gesture. "I thought he was just a scout. Doesn't he report to some sort of Human Resources head?"
The leader measured the prospective agent's grip as he answered, "Ordinarily, they do, but he wasn't a scout. James is one of the two members of Squad 13, my current best team of field operatives."
'A firm grip, but carefully held back to not be firmer than mine,' Giovanni observed before breaking the handshake. 'This one has dealt with leadership before, but as a follower, not a leader.'
"James was under evaluation along with the other members of his team by participating in the Underground Tournament and bringing in as many Pokémon and recruits as they could," he finished.
Dalton whistled, "How flattering. A top-tier agent thought I was good enough to make it here."
"I'm curious about your reasons for joining our organization," Giovanni stated, letting the unspoken request hang in the air.
The brunet shrugged, "Way I see it, you and your forces regularly run circles around the police if you're so deeply rooted in Kanto. World's a-changing, and I figure I might as well help for a piece of the pie."
Giovanni gave a small smile, such simple motivations often made for an easily moldable agent.
"One last question: Were you aware that your younger brother joined our organization a few years back?" the leader asked.
Dalton's eyebrows shot up in surprise, "Lil' Burt? Well, whaddya know. Didn't think daddy's little boy had it in him." He chuckled, "Haven't seen him since father dearest and I had a little disagreement about my choice in path."
"I suspect there's a story behind that, but I won't pry," the leader replied. "The main point is that I have a question about your brother."
"He worked for the police for a time before joining Team Rocket, and I've kept him under close surveillance at headquarters as an errand runner. From what you know of him, is he likely to be a spy?"
Dalton screwed his face in thought before answering, "All due respect, Boss, but it'd be pretty pointless for him to maintain a cover for…?"
"Two years," he finished. "If he's right at HQ, even an errand boy sees and hears enough to where he could report and testify. If he were here on a police assignment, unless you have a tracker on him, I woulda given it three months before he found an escape route, knocked somebody out to steal evidence and went back to daddy with his testimony and the base's location. The Elite Four would come a-knocking, and anybody who didn't get away would be locked up, and your identity, or at least description, would be revealed."
"I see… Thank you for your input, Dalton. I'll certainly take that into consideration. You may return to your assigned room until you receive a partner and begin your training for field work. Oh, and keep your gloves on by all means once you get your uniform. They'll serve more practical use than the standard issue set. That is all."
"You got it, Boss."
Dalton closed the door behind him as he left and looked around to make sure he was alone outside the office before pumping his fist in victory with a quiet "Yes!"
With that celebration done, he turned to leave while casually humming to himself.
'That meeting went great! I made a good impression on the leader around here, and who woulda thought James was actually an elite? I knew there was more to him, but I never expected something like that.'
His grin turned into a smirk, 'And lil' bro is here too, even longer than me. Wonder what daddy dearest did to piss him off enough? Can't wait to see him again and ask. He owes me for not throwing him under the bus like he did me.'
"It's about time for a family reunion," he muttered. "Five years is a long time to stay mad at somebody."
A rather loud and rude thudding knock came next, and Giovanni allowed the next one to come in after a brief pause.
"Ah, you must be Cortez," he greeted upon seeing the large man. Cortez was actually a little bit taller than Giovanni, but he paid it no mind and didn't bother getting up from his chair. There were other ways besides strength to control a situation.
Cortez stoically moved up to the desk and cut straight to the point, "I heard that you could help me move my failing bar out of Gringey City. That true?"
"Indeed," Giovanni replied, not bothering with a handshake. He knew the gesture would be refused. Brook carefully metered out how much trust he could give, while the man before him actively didn't trust him.
"We give loans out to those who need more money than the signing bonus to Team Rocket can provide," the boss explained. "I was informed of your situation, and I believe we can come to an arrangement that will benefit all involved."
Cortez's brow furrowed slightly, and he prompted, "And that would be…?"
"Your loan will cover all the expenses of moving your business to Vermillion City, along with an allowance for any renovations or new items you may need. A port town, especially a busy one like Vermillion will be abuzz with sailors and all sorts of travelers, Trainers included, carrying information. The bar will serve as a perfect place to gather information, and that's where you'll come in.
"Your job will be to provide information, rumors and stories from your patrons. No piece of information is too small. Even tall tales can have a grain of truth, and we have plenty of agents at HQ with little to do as they wait for niches in our organization.
"In addition, you'll be on call to provide reinforcements to various squads with your Pokémon for certain operations. You'll receive a portion of whatever profit from the mission."
"I want a mask to wear while on missions, so I don't get recognized in case I have to tangle with law enforcement. And as soon as I raise enough money from my missions and job to pay back the loan, I'm quitting," Cortez stated. "I don't want to work here longer than I have to."
"Done," Giovanni replied. "I'll waive your dues since you're already an informant and have a career that'll pay your living expenses. Once you've accrued enough to pay off your debt, you're free to go after a memory wipe of your deeds while working for us. We can't have any secrets slipping out after you're discharged, after all."
The bartender didn't like the sound of that, but internally granted that he wouldn't want to remember working for them anyway. Instead, he asked, "What's the interest rate?"
He didn't react at first, but eventually said, "Excuse me?"
"There is no interest rate," the leader repeated. His expression hardened, "I've had my own problems with banks and loan sharks and abhor their money-grabbing ways. They compound debt in the guise of legality without any consideration for problems that might arise for the debtor in trying to repay it. I am at least open about my dishonest ways."
Giovanni brought himself under control, "In any case, paying back your loan to us will be a straightforward affair, as you already have several things to tend to with your new bar."
At Cortez's highly skeptical look, he added, "If you must believe there is a string attached, think of your services and information rendered to Team Rocket as your interest rate. Answer when we call and there won't be any problems. I'll hire you an assistant to look over your new bar while you're away on missions as well as bring you there when you're called."
Extending his hand, Giovanni asked, "Do we have a deal?"
Cortez looked at the offered hand, and seemed reluctant even though there appeared to be no attempt to double-cross him. But he soon reached out and shook Giovanni's hand. His grip was strong, almost crushing, but the leader matched the strength with an affable smile.
"Pleasure doing business with you. I'll call in your assistant and have him take you to our headquarters' financial branch. They'll iron out a contract. Please wait outside the office, and he'll be here momentarily."
After Cortez was gone, Giovanni took the phone from his desk. He knew just who to have Matori call.
Cortez sat outside the leader's office, thinking over the deal he'd just made. Everything he wanted out of the deal with an admittedly fair trade of paying it back. No apparent tricks (though he would make sure to check the contract carefully for fine print), and his bar would be saved.
The only visible downside was that he'd have to help them in their criminal acts. But even that wasn't forever, as his current benefactor seemed perfectly willing to just let him go. The idea of a memory wipe didn't really sit well with him, but the thought of going free and having to know that his bar was gotten through criminal means disgusted him even more.
He didn't have much time to think it over, as a figure made of light appeared in front of the door he'd just exited. The light faded to reveal a young man with an Abra clinging to his back like a sloth, apparently asleep.
The younger man had blond hair in a somewhat short mass of curls with brown eyes and a dark tan over his exposed skin. His body was trim with little muscle, but hardly any fat. A sunflower yellow short-sleeve shirt had its buttons open to reveal a sky blue T-shirt over his chest, and he had worn blue jeans with exceptionally dirty tennis shoes.
Tilting his head as if he heard something, the blond turned around and spotted Cortez, his face lighting up, "Ah!"
He stepped forward with his hand extended, "Hey! You must be Cortez. I'm Gregory, traveler, 'porter, and now assistant bartender! My part of the business is to teleport you wherever you're needed, and I was picked specifically since I can take you anywhere in Kanto and Johto with Abra here."
"Ab…ra…" the Pokémon mumbled in what could've easily been sleep talking.
"Not a very active fella, as you can see," Gregory chuckled. "But the little guy comes through whenever I need 'im. He can sense things around him with his telepathy, even while sleeping, how cool is that? When I need to go somewhere, he pulls the memory of the location from my mind to visualize it and POOF! I've been everywhere around here, it's my job to map out all of the continent in my mind with my travels so that I can take agents anywhere and everywhere by the dozen if we need to get somewhere for a big mission quickly, like the St. Anne. There's about a dozen other guys and gals like me in the org, but I'm the only one this side of Mt. Silver that's been at it for so long. Anyway, the Boss filled me in on your little situation, and I'm gonna take you to HQ for you to get your loan filled out, if you'll just take my hand."
Cortez's eye twitched as he looked at the sunny man before him. He took Gregory's hand simply in the hope that it would shut him up.
He got his wish for about the half-second it took to warp him to an unfamiliar waiting room, but the younger man kept on talking to him, asking all sorts of questions about himself while they were sitting in their chairs. The man at the desk simply took out a set of earphones and put them on while turning up the volume on a CD player he pulled out, much to Cortez's envy.
It was about another half hour until Giovanni's last appointment for the day arrived. There was a polite knock, so he assumed that it was Pearl who knocked, from what he'd heard of the two.
"Come in," he called.
The door opened, and Hart came in first, Pearl beside him as she closed the door, and both teens walked forward. They were in their Red Team uniforms now, Hart having torn the sleeves off of his while keeping the gloves.
Once they were lined up in front of his desk, Giovanni said, "Care to explain what happened to your uniform, Hart?"
"The tattoo stays where I can see it," the blond replied in a tone that said he'd just tear off the sleeves of the next uniform if the leader had a problem with it.
"If you insist. It makes no difference to me. How are you finding the accommodations here?"
Pearl nodded, "The training's pretty tough for me, but I'm pushing through it."
"Forgive me," Giovanni excused, "I should've been more specific. What I meant was, are you enjoying your stay?"
That statement caught the couple off guard, and the leader kept his face neutral as he continued, "I heard something about your troubles from the agent that recruited you."
A half-truth, as James had only told him of potential troubles the two had, but he didn't need to know the full story. People could be cruel, and Hart's eyes presented him as the perfect target for close-minded insults. And he figured a litany of insults were directed towards Pearl for dating Hart.
"You have my deepest sympathy. Eliminating such discrimination is one of my premier goals in the world's changes."
After all, if his new world order allowed for such a thing, somebody else could raise up an army to try combating him the same as he did now. Although what he could see of the teens' story did make him wish them to find happiness in that world.
"You ever go through it?" Hart asked.
Pearl harshly whispered at him for asking such a personal question, but Giovanni held up a hand to let her know it was all right.
"Of a sort," he answered. "The man you see before you started out as a boy with ideas. He tried to make it in the world, first as a Trainer to gain notoriety before entering the world of business. But he grew tired of being exploited—being looked down upon."
Persian leaned his head into his master's lap, and Giovanni absently started petting him, "That boy fled into the underground and recruited anybody that he could, giving them food and money from partaking in Pokémon battles above and below in exchange for help with moving up in the world. What started as one homeless man, two teens that lived off the streets and myself grew over time into the empire you see before you."
Thinking back to those times wasn't easy. Only a handful of agents and the four Admins knew of Team Rocket's early development. And only he and Proton knew the whole truth of the time before the true emergence of Team Rocket.
Still, he hadn't lied once, and could see that he'd gotten through to the teens before him by telling them of his toils.
Both Pearl and Hart looked surprised that he'd confided in them. While he didn't expect them to become loyalists overnight, he wanted them to see that he earnestly wished them the best.
"Though I doubt it'll be the case, be sure to report any discriminatory behavior to Viper," Giovanni instructed. "Such disreputable actions are not tolerated in Team Rocket."
"Uh… sure," Hart responded at length.
The leader smiled and extended his hand, "I hope you enjoy your time here with Team Rocket."
Hart reached forward first, his grip rather unsure, but still firm enough for a proper handshake. Pearl was a bit more confident, and Giovanni could see that what he'd said resonated with her. If the blond wasn't convinced on his own over time, then he was sure that Pearl would help to convince him.
Sure, he truly wished for discrimination to be eliminated, but the methods he employed to bring about change faster tended to be a tough pill to swallow for some. Hopefully, Hart would see that the end justified the means. Once his rule was cemented, Giovanni would work on stamping out crime. He already had a standing order with his agents Officer rank and above, along with Squad 13, to have Pokémon poachers captured and recruited or dropped off at police stations. The fact that it eliminated the competition was a nice bonus as well.
'On that note, with my recruitment drive going full force, soon I'll be able to send informants to feel out other regions,' he thought as the two teens left.
Pearl and Hart were already on their way back to their room to rest before being called to their next lesson.
"He's… not how I expected," Hart noted.
"Me neither," Pearl replied. "I mean, that guy back at Gringey City told us the leader planned to remove discrimination, but I didn't think he actually cared about his agents. Then again, loyalty like the guy seemed to have doesn't come from nowhere, I guess."
"…You know what I just realized?"
"Nobody's given us… one of those looks."
Pearl's eyes widened as she thought back to the few hours she'd spent at the Team Rocket Academy, "…You're right. Granted, nobody really knows us here, so it could just be neutral, but even that's… We could have friends."
While both teens had accepted that they only needed each other, that didn't necessarily mean they didn't want to interact with other people.
Hart's face screwed up in doubt. He'd thought that more than a few times in the past when it was just him, but it'd never come true before. "We'll see."
"This could actually be a good place for us," Pearl replied. "I mean, I'm pretty sure more people here are scared of Viper than of you."
The blond gave her a deadpan look, and she giggled while pressing a kiss to his cheek, "Oh, you know I only have eyes for you."
Hart gave a half-smile back.
Giovanni gave them a while to get away from the other side of his door before standing up. He'd spent the time looking over the personality profiles on his desk and already picked out a partner each for Dalton and Brook.
'Time to go oversee the other recruits' training,' he decided. 'My paperwork's done for now, and seeing the leader boosts morale among them. It reminds them of what they're training for.'
The leader turned to Persian, "Coming? Or would you prefer to rest for a time?"
The feline Pokémon thought it over for a bit before curling up on his rug.
"As you wish."
And done! I hope you all enjoyed this first installment to the Behind the Scenes side-story of Common Sense! If you have any requests you can think of, feel free to PM me, or leave them at the end of your review. Please remember the note at the top, and don't leave a review that's just a request. I want to know how I'm doing.
See you when I see you.