Chapter 1: S.W.A.P.R.
"Like I've stated before, so far the robbers haven't made any demands or responded to any of our inquiry's. Now if you'll excuse me we're obviously a bit busy here. Carmine, get these reporters out of here, and move back the civilian line!"
I ignore the loudly protesting news crews as Carmine politely but firmly tells them to back off and let us do our job.
Although at this point there's very little of our job we can actually do. About 4 hours ago the Crown City Department Store was attacked by roughly 11, give or take a few, masked people that proceeded to take almost 50 civilians hostage and then turn the place into an improvised fortress that the city's police forces couldn't dislodge.
We've already had 2 KIA officers and Pokemon apiece, patrolmen Lenison and Sumeragi along with their Luxio and Beautifly and we're not about to send in any more to die for no good reason.
Aside from their hostages and Pokemon, a mix of Roselias, Gravelers, Machokes and Drapions, the attackers somehow got their hands of firearms of all things, elevating their threat status from something the police could potentially handle to something that requires a more heavy-handed approach.
It also begs the question of how 11 people got ahold of guns, those things are extremely difficult to acquire, in fact it would probably be easier to get ahold of untraced Ultra Balls and Full Restores than it would projectile weapons...
"...almost 4 hours in and thus far the Police have had no success in resolving this situation. While the hostages are assumed to be safe as of this moment, as the criminals have yet to make any demands, it remains to be seen-wait, this just in, a SWAPR team van has just arrived on scene! I repeat, SWAPR is on the scene!"
The reporters excited words get my attention and I quickly turn away from the building's entrance just in time to see the matte black van pull through the crowd and come to a halt inside the police cordon. Unassuming in design and aesthetics, the only noteworthy features are it's heavily armored chassis and large S.W.A.P.R. logo emblazoned in white letters on the side.
About time backup arrived.
I hurry over to meet the new arrivals, being the highest ranked officer present and everything, and arrive just in time for the side doors to open and 2 operatives smoothly exit the vehicle, drawing almost everyone who's present attention as they do so.
SWAPR. Special Weapons And Pokemon Response teams. Formed about 4 decades ago SWAPR was made to handle situations just like these, threats that exceeded a Region's peacekeeping forces ability to effectively tackle, even with the aid of Pokemon.
And in those 4 decades they've made quite the reputation for themselves. To date there's only been 32 missions they've classified as failures out of hundreds, if not thousands of operations.
They take only the best though. While a Pokemon Trainer or Police Officer might only specialize in training Pokemon or arresting Humans, SWAPRs specialize in both, a necessity given their line of work.
I snap myself out of my thoughts as I give professional nods to the 2 in front of me, which they return.
Part of SWAPR's myth is their casual sort of anonymity alongside their efficiency. Outfitted in tactical vests alongside ballistic arm and leg guards worn over tear resistant fabric, the entire suit is dyed pitch black except for the small emblem on their right shoulders, denoting the SWAPR logo of a Pokeball crossed with a short sword.
It's the helmets that get most people's attention though.
The same midnight color as their body armor, the headpiece is similar to a slimmed down motorcyclists helmet except for the mouthguard and visor. The mouthpiece has a filter interwoven with it, completely sealing off their air from outside influences while the visor is a tinted pair of goggles snugly fit into the joining of the air filter and domed forehead.
SWAPR operatives never take off their helmets during a mission, giving them a sort of mysterious air that's spawned no shortage of rumors over the years.
Said mystery is further enhanced as the taller of the 2 speaks up, a voice synthesizer scrambling their words into a genderless, robotic sort of tone.
"Any updates on the situation officer?"
I shake my head.
"Things are pretty much the same since the last report almost 15 minutes ago. No demands, no movements...it's like they're just waiting for something."
The SWAPR gives a brief nod of their head and replies, "Pull back your department members from the entrance and the roof, if there are any up there. Switch to channel 4 for updates on our progress, we'll be moving too fast to worry about the hostages and will need you to secure them. We'll begin in 5 minutes."
I immediately give out orders and my subordinates carry them out, clearing out almost a 5 meter gap from the entrance to the building and the 4 officers on the roof are airlifted out by a Fearow and Pidgeotto. The SWAPR operative is silent throughout all of this, likely conversing with their colleague inside the security of their helmets when all of the sudden, with 3 minutes to go, they start moving.
The SWAPR that I hadn't been speaking to jogs to the side of the building where they suddenly release an Arcanine and a Gallade, the psychic Pokemon raising it's blade like arms and lifting both SWAPR and Pokemon into the air, rapidly ascending towards the roof, the Arcanine completely unbothered by the sudden motion.
It's very well trained then, since most Pokemon that are unable to fly never quite get comfortable with psychic levitation.
The SWAPR that I had been conversing with only releases one Pokemon, but I think in this case one is plenty.
With a brief flash of light a massive Nidoking appears, lightly shaking itself before fixing the SWAPR with an attentive gaze.
Sweet Arceus...most Nidoking only grow anywhere between 1.4-1.8 meters, but this one is huge, standing at least 2.2 meters, probably weighing 180 Kg and it's skin is a dark purple in color, the underbelly a mottled grey as opposed to the usual white.
This kind of growth is only possible due to a combination of extensive and deliberate training and dieting, probably good genes as well.
I'm snapped out of my admiration as the SWAPR suddenly points to the department store wall and makes a small punching motion after showing the enormous Pokemon something on his watch. With a low growl the beast gracefully turns around and makes its way to where the SWAPR pointed, the officers and Pokemon in it's way hurrying to clear a path.
To my surprise the SWAPR makes one more hand motion as he jogs up to the entrance, bending their arm upwards and making a small circling motion with their pointer finger.
Briefly wondering what that was about I catch a small glint of metal and feathers in the sky before it disappears, leaving a small smile on my face as I recognize what that was.
That SWAPR has a Skarmory on overwatch.
1 minute to go before this all kicks off. I run through one last check of my equipment before it does, a time honored tradition that any SWAPR who wants to live long enough to draw his pension partakes in.
Bodysuit all zipped up and secure? Check.
Helmet and respirator locked down properly? Check.
Armor plates securely fastened at their respective limbs? Check.
Shoelaces tied? Check. One time forgetting this step had been plenty.
55 seconds to go, weapons check.
A-6 compression rifle, AKA 'The Crisser', in working order with the safety off? Check.
4 grenades on my right hip, 2 stun and 2 gassers, securely belted on so I don't find them spilling all over the floor like poorly packed groceries? Check.
One spare tank of compressed air for the Crisser on my left hip to counterbalance the grenades? Check.
One extra clip of non-lethal 'Lullaby' rounds on my belt? Check.
One combat knife snug in it's sheath, sharpened to a keenness a Scyther would be jealous of? Check.
One Automag with a full clip of shatterslugs in it's side-holster, just in case things go bad and lethal force is required?
...Yes, that's a check.
Weapons all good.
Satisfied that everything is in pristine form I turn on thermal imaging located in my goggles and take a brief look inside the building.
There's plenty of residual heat signatures that make things hard to accurately judge, probably leftovers from the Police Department's earlier assaults, but the few blobby images I see pretty much confirm that the targets have hunkered down behind various counters and shelves, hostages located in front of them as Human shields making a frontal assault damn near impossible without civilian casualties unless you're packing some sort of uber-psychic like a decades old Alakazam or Gardevoir.
Not an asset most people just have lying around.
Oh well, that's why we get payed the big bucks...at least compared to your average officer.
I glance over at Rex just before he lumbers around the corner, my oldest partner giving me the briefest of Human-looking nods with his massive head before he takes his position out of sight.
I flick on my radio and check with my teammate, "SWAPR 2-9, you in position?"
[Copy that 1-6, awaiting your go signal.]
"Breach in 10 seconds, status update after each floor clear."
[Understood. 2-9 out.]
I detect just the barest hints of nervousness in 2-9's voice, but that's honestly to be expected. This is only 2-9's second mission and while she's definitely got the skills and brains to make a good SWAPR, live-fire missions tend to be the true worth of a person's aptitude.
...And let's be real here, I've got more than a few Butterfrees in my stomach, I'm just better at hiding it.
I take a deep breath and ready 2 grenades in my hands, one of each type and force myself to relax.
Me, Rex and Chrome have got this.
I whip myself around the corner and in a glance take stock of the situation.
There's roughly 16 civilians bound and gagged, mostly adults although there a few teens and kids scattered throughout, all either tied upright against shopping racks or stuck using some kind of adhesive to the counters, screwing with the angles of fire of anyone who's entering.
The perpetrators, 5 of them, seem to be a mix of skin colors and heights, no distinguishing insignia either so no way to tell if these guys are remnants of groups like the Rockets or Galactics…
They also have 3 Pokemon of their own, a Machoke, Graveller and Roselia all spread out beside their trainers that could potentially be an issue if I didn't have some allies of my own.
Ok, appraisal complete.
Time to do what SWAPR does best.
I flick the pins off the 2 grenades I was holding and strong arm them against the buildings wall, perfectly bouncing them right into the midst of the clustered group.
One of the dudes, a pale skinned guy with red hair, has time to shout, "Grena-" before there's a deafening BANG that comes from the more standard stun grenade. The second cylinder makes a small hiss as copious amounts of pale looking smoke come from it and of the 2 it's far deadlier.
That gas grenade has one heckuva strong sleep powder mix, made from the pollen of various Glooms, Skiplooms and Roselias. The mixing of the 3 pollens ensures that any trainer that might have built up a tolerance from one region won't be so resistant to the other 2 strains, ensuring the knockout.
Unfortunately the Roselia seems to shake off the effects of the stun bomb pretty damn quick and with a short cry of alarm it quickly raises it's flower petals and starts to absorb the various powder floating in the air, keeping it from knocking out its allies in a manner of seconds.
Well, might as well make the best out of a bad situation.
Raising my Crisser I take careful aim at the one guy who'd fallen out of cover thanks to the stun grenade and pull the trigger.
Crissers were named after the sound they make when firing, a distinctive mix of a crack and a hiss as the compressed air launches a projectile just fast enough to make a painfully loud noise that grabs people's attention. And in the hands of a SWAPR, it becomes a piece of art.
We don't miss.
And if we do, we fire enough rounds afterwards that no one is left conscious or alive to say otherwise.
Case in point, an 8 centimeter tranq dart plants itself directly into my targets neck, injecting it's contents in the blink of an eye and within 3 seconds he's out like a drop-kicked Spoink.
Not a surprise really, those darts work fast. Made from a witch's brew of Rex's own poison (several times diluted of course) alongside Butterfree and Bellosom stun spores you have a frighteningly efficient paralytic agent that's guaranteed to put down even the toughest of Humans. Best part is they're not even lethal unless you accidentally hit the heart or eyes with the dart itself, since they're fired fast enough to penetrate most types of thick clothing.
With that thought in mind I shift aim to the Roselia which is just finishing up draining all the gas from the air, a relieved sigh issuing from it's tiny mouth as it completes its work.
A relived sigh that transforms into a puh noise as a dart takes it in it's center of mass, the kinetic force actually enough to knock it back a few centimeters as it falls over, definitely unconscious, maybe dead.
Here's hoping for the former.
Not seeing any more targets readily presenting themselves, and not willing to waste ammo and time on the Machoke and Graveller I slip behind an overturned display stand and count to 3.
The targets are just picking themselves back up from my sudden entry and shouting a variety of things like, "He's behind that display!", or my personal favorite, "You're gonna pay for that you Oddish-Fucker!".
I hear the cocking of weapons and just as they're no doubt about to fire-
-the wall to my left and their right explodes in, Rex simply barreling his way through as if the reinforced concrete and wood was as durable as styrofoam.
There's a second of tense silence as he shakes off some of the dust that had accumulated on his head during the entry before locking gazes with the shocked criminals.
And then he roars.
There's nothing quite like the challenging scream of a Nidoking as big as Rex is. Rather than a deep, throaty bellow as one would expect from a creature as intimidating as him, it's more along the lines of an earsplitting shriek, a painfully echoing treble that makes for a great constipation aid if you're not expecting it.
Heck, I've been with Rex since he was just a tiny Nidoran almost 23 years back and I'm still not entirely used to it.
The robbers spend almost an entire 2 seconds locked in place, the animal part of their brains telling them to just fucking run while the logical part no doubt politely reminds them that there really isn't any place to run to.
And then they make the dumb decision.
They try fighting.
2 of them turn to scream orders at the Machoke and Graveller while the remaining duo let loose panicked yells and raise their weapons in Rex's direction.
There's the sound of single pops that come from a handgun but what catches me of guard is the uninterrupted burr of an automatic, likely a sub-machine gun.
Where the heck did these clowns get an automatic? Someone with a lot of influence must be backing them or they got pretty damn lucky with an earlier heist…
Thoughts for later when me and Rex aren't getting shot at.
I lean out of cover and grin as the 2 dolts firing wildly are in the open, their panicked meat shields long since forgotten in the heat of the moment and their ammunition uselessly bouncing off of Rex's hide, my buddy lazily keeping an arm in front of his face to ward off any lucky shots to his mouth or eyes.
Lucky shots that won't be coming as I send 2 Lullabys into their necks, one apiece.
Unfortunately that draws the attention of the last 2 remaining crooks and they smartly decide to leave Rex to their Pokemon and instead focus on me.
Well...smart in the sense that it's good tactics to have Pokemon take on Pokemon while Humans take on Humans.
Not so smart in the plain fact that they're outclassed in every way.
I plug one guy before he even has a chance to shoot while the other fires once, the bullet striking me in the chest and causing me to briefly grunt at the blow before I nail him and he drops like a sack of wet Geodudes.
Rex cleans up just as easily.
The Machoke charges past the Graveller, the Rock-type requiring time to get up to speed, and gives a challenging shout as it closes the distance.
It doesn't get closer than 5 meters.
Rex opens his mouth and jerks forward, a blindingly white Ice Beam trapping the Machoke's lower half and stopping it's advance cold, pun intended.
It has time to briefly growl in frustration before Rex leaps forward with a dexterity that never ceases to amaze me and swings his tail in a move that causes the air to actually whistle. With an audible crunch Rex's tail connects with the Machoke's ribs and rips it free from the ice, its newfound momentum sending it crashing through 2 rows of shelves where it flips ass-over-teakettle and crumples in an unconscious heap.
The Graveller isn't far behind, having been bought enough time to use Rollout and start speeding towards Rex, it's passage tearing up the tiled floor before it pushes off the ground and aims towards my Nidoking's center of mass.
Only to find itself suddenly stopped by a pair of sturdily armored limbs, Rex catching it mid attack and only grunting lightly as he stops it's momentum dead with a loud grinding noise as hardened carapace scrapes against hardened stone.
Hardened carapace wins.
The Graveller has time to fearfully look up at Rex before my partner violently brings his head down in a brutal Skull Bash that smashes the rock-type into the floor with a splintering crunch, where it twitches a few times before staying still, down and out for the foreseeable future.
12 seconds elapsed.
I click on my radio and calmly report, "Poke-Officers move in, first floor secure and hostages ready for extraction."
I shut off the mic and immediately afterward I hear 2-9 tersely state, [Top landing clear, proceeding to lower floor.]
"Copy that 2-9, I'm moving to 2nd floor myself. Stay sharp."
I sign off and hear several shouts from outside as the officers no doubt got my message and are about to come swarming in.
I take a moment to switch on my thermal imaging and look up, grinning briefly at what I see.
While it's hard to make out any specific details through the intervening ceiling, there's a grouping of heat signatures in front of the stairs and elevator while 2 blobs stand farther back, obviously the crook and his Pokemon standing guard.
Except that they didn't take into account all the empty space behind them.
I turn around and face Rex, who's attentively watching me for orders. I flick on my Crisser's laser pointer and highlight a section of the ceiling before ordering, "Rex, Hyper Jump."
He just gives a short growl of confirmation and I start running full speed towards the massive Pokemon as he seemingly hunkers down for a moment...before suddenly roaring and letting loose a mirror bright beam of light from his mouth that impacts the ceiling and destroys it in a shower of exploding sediment and timber.
Hyper Beams are always a treat to see in action, even if they're low powered ones…
Half-a-second after Rex fires off his attack I'm already leaping in the air, my partner cupping his forearms and giving a massive heave that shoots me up well past the lip of the newly created crater, almost 4 meters straight up.
As he does so I pull off a tricky maneuver that relies heavily on a SWAPR's level of teamwork with his or her Pokemon.
There's a reason we only work with Pokemon we've spent years alongside.
As soon as my feet leave Rex's hands I aim his Pokeball's capture laser at him and in a flash of red light he's transferred to the device. Just as my momentum brings me above the lip of the newly formed crater I take in the situation at a glance.
The crook and his Drapion are just turning around, shock evident in their body language, when I suddenly chuck Rex's Pokeball above the segmented Pokemon.
With a flare of light the enormous Poison/Ground-type manifests above the Drapion and unleashes an instinctive Ice Beam, pinning the creature's tail before he slams down on top of it, cracking the floor and causing the purple Pokemon to make an odd hrk noise as it's flattened.
Almost lazily I shoot the trainer as he stares wide-eyed at Rex's entrance before easily landing on my own feet and jogging forward, returning Rex to his ball as I do so.
While I made it look easy, that whole maneuver is way harder to pull off in actual practice. Pokeballs put their contents in a complete form of stasis with no outside input so it's reliant upon the trainer to perfectly place their Pokemon in a position to do their jobs. That trick of rapidly recalling Rex mid-jump and then releasing him above his target took a lot of friggin' work and practice.
"Poke-Officers 2nd floor is clear, move in."
I return Rex to his ball and immediately set off towards the stairwell, ignoring the muffled cries of the few people scattered around the floor in favor of speed.
[SWAPR 1-6 top floors are clear, no signs of hostiles until midway through the building.]
I rapidly do a check with my own thermal imaging and pretty much see what 2-9 reported before replying, "Meet at the stairwell outside their last holdout, keep an eye out for traps."
[Copy that 1-6, 2-9 out.]
As my fellow SWAPR signs off I start double timing it myself, keeping an eye out for any sort of nasty surprises as I do so.
The last thing I need is a Ghost-type or something like that popping up out of a shadow when I'm not expecting it, especially with Rex not really being able to fit all that well in this tiny shaft.
Thankfully I make it to the last holdout without issue and find 2-9 already there, her Gallade, Barry, right beside her with her Arcanine, Gloria, still in her ball.
I ask over the radio, "Any good news?"
[Not really. Thermal shows 8 signatures near the end of the right-side wall, our orientation. All of them are clustered together, so you're Hyper Jump isn't gonna work. And a floor-plan shows this was a warehouse layout place, not a lot of cover readily available. Barry can shield us from firearms just fine, but anything else might be a challenge. There's only 2 targets left though, I got 3 on my way here.]
I switch on my own thermal and quite unfortunately 2-9 is right. All of the heat signatures are clustered up pretty tight, making it almost impossible to separate them individually.
"Ok here's the plan, we'll wait for-"
I'm interrupted by a sudden boom that's more felt than it is heard and all of the sudden some of the heat blobs start moving backwards.
I snap my radio to a public channel and swiftly ask, "SWAPR 1-6 here, anyone have eyes on what's happening outside the building?"
Officer Jenny's voice rapidly replies, her tone angry as she says, [It's a helicopter pulling outside a hole they just punched in the wall, we don't have any way to bring it down available!]
I snap my Crisser's stock up to my shoulder and turn to 2-9 before ordering, "Have Barry throw up a shield as soon as we blow the door and get ready to release Gloria as soon as I loose Rex! Don't hold back on the ammunition, we're using non-lethals so don't worry about hitting the civilians!"
There's the briefest of hesitations from 2-9 before she tersely replies, [Copy that 1-6.]
I get her hesitation though.
While the Lullabys are fine for most adults and don't cause any permanent harm, there's always the risk that they could be allergic to the synergistic mix of pollens and poisons, never mind the fact that teenagers or kids who aren't extremely healthy don't handle the high dosages very well.
It's a risk we have to take in this situation.
Firearms, helicopters...these aren't some run of the mill robbers, these guys have a serious financial backer behind them and some kind of plan, one we have to figure out sooner rather than later.
And that means capturing them alive.
Putting aside my own moment of doubt and worry I instead slap a breaching charge on the door and signal for 2-9 to get her grenades ready.
We need to play this perfectly.
"3, 2, 1, go!"
I thumb the detonator and a small burst of smoke alongside a midget sized bang blow open the door while 2-9 flings the 2 grenades inside, Barry quickly slipping in just as they explode and creating a shimmering barrier to hopefully block off most of the incoming fire.
Sure enough several bullets instantly bounce off the shield and I inwardly grimace.
Apparently the flashbangs and smoke grenades didn't do a single damn thing.
2-9 and I slip around the outside of the door and everything makes itself pretty clear.
Both of the Human targets are wearing sunglasses and the odd protrusions coming from their heads suggest earbuds, all topped off with wet scarves tied around their mouths.
Not a fullproof defense, but a good temporary one since all they really have to do is hang on until the helicopter can pick them up.
Both 2-9 and I take aim with our Crissers-
-and immediately have to dodge to either side of the entryway as a corkscrewing bolt of lightning strikes where we were along with Barry's shield, throwing the Psychic-type agains the wall and briefly stunning him.
Time seems to slow down as I see an Electrode, sparking with it's recent discharge, roll backward behind it's trainers as they raise their weapons alongside a Charmeleon as it hops up on a nearby counter, clearly not bothered by the gas at all.
Making a split second decision I throw out Rex's ball and take 3 bullets to the chest from one of the shooters for my trouble, knocking the wind from me but thankfully not penetrating the tac-vest. There's the signature flare of light as my Nidoking is released-
-along with a massive orange glow from the Charmeleon as it releases a Fire Blast directly towards us.
Rex is already moving, shooting a reactionary Ice Beam from his mouth and impacting directly with the onrushing flames, causing a massive burst of steam to completely cover the room and screwing with our vision.
2-9 regains her feet and makes the correct decision to take a few best guess potshots into the cloud until there's a rhythmic thump thump thump and the steam is rapidly blown away as the helicopter pulls up right alongside the newly created opening the crooks blasted into the wall.
I regain my feet, ignoring the lance of pain that comes from my ribs where the bullets hit and instead raise my Crisser, sighting on the rapidly retreating robbers, both of them holding unwieldy looking cases, likely whatever it was that they were here to steal.
Unfortunately my shot is spoiled as Rex leaps in front of me just as 2 more burr noises start up, apparently even the guys in the copter have automatics now and Rex has to pull double duty keeping the Charmeleon from roasting us alive and keeping me from getting shot since Barry is still stunned.
Thankfully 2-9 manages to dart forward and get a clear line of fire just as our targets reach the lip of the hole, preparing to get pulled across the gap by an Ivysaur's vines and she raises her rifle-
My blood runs cold as the Electrode we'd completely forgotten about, the one that had hid behind the counter, expose itself and begin to glow, arcs of electricity surrounding it's body as it begins to buildup energy for the coming explosion.
And it's no more than 2 meters away from where the hostages are still restrained.
I cast a wild glance at Barry, just now regaining his feet and dazedly shaking his sloped head.
Rex is still held up with his own effort at keeping me from getting perforated, so he's out-
-and then I see 2-9 make a heroic and very, very dumb decision.
With a sudden burst of speed she takes off running towards the Electric-type and before I can yell at her to stop she slams her shoulder into it, forcing it away from the captives-
-where it detonates in an explosion that staggers even Rex, hitting me with what feels like a car-sized fist and knocking me flat to the ground.
I grit my teeth and force away the fuzziness in my head, desperately trying to make my eyes focus-
-and almost regret doing so as I see 2-9 lying sprawled out on the floor, one of her arms missing entirely and a slowly expanding pool of red coming from her throat. And the civilians she tried so desperately to save only partly made it through the detonation, 2 of them clearly dead where they're awkwardly hanging upright with glazed eyes and oddly canted necks while the rest are in need of serious medical help.
I mechanically shift my gaze to where the crooks are preparing to make their getaway, all of them just about done piling into the copter, and reach for my Crisser only to find that it got knocked away during the Electrode's detonation.
So instead I unholster my automag and flick off the safety.
I coldly reflect that sometimes a little lethal force is just what the Chansey ordered.
I dart around Rex and line up the sights on one of the guys who just finished reloading his machine pistol and fire off a 3 round burst-
-that impacts center of mass and drops the crook like a puppet with it's strings cut, his chest no doubt resembling mulched Tauros meat than it does skin and muscle.
Shatterslugs are a real nasty piece of work, splintering on impact and ensuring maximum kinetic transfer as well as maximum thump.
An unarmored Human or Pokemon is typically dead in seconds after taking a direct hit from one of these.
The Ivysaur remains focused though, safely transferring the guys carrying the cases over and the copter begins to pull away, one of the trainers aiming a Pokeball at the Charmeleon still struggling to hold off Rex-
-before there's an earsplitting metallic scream, followed by a reflective chrome blur that crashes into the escape vehicle with a shriek of distressed metal and the robbers inside the copter are treated to the terrifying image of a pissed off Skarmory doing it's best to tear apart the frame around them.
Good old Chrome, always saving the day at the last second.
Even as he savages the helicopter, talons and wings buffeting and scoring the hull, he keeps a single eye locked on me, awaiting any more specific instructions.
I'm more than happy to oblige.
I point to the main rotor and then make a yanking motion towards me and Rex, Chrome blinking once in confirmation before swinging his metal-clad wing into a blindingly fast strike that cripples the Rotor Mast and causes the blades to slam to a halt with a groan of distressed composites.
There's several panicked yells from inside as the would-be-escapers are thrown about and desperately try to avoid being chucked out into open air, a fall of several stories that would leave them more than a little dead.
Chrome has that covered.
While ordinarily keeping something as heavy as a helicopter afloat would be beyond a Skarmory's ability, like Rex, Chrome is a prime example of good genes combined with good breeding, making for a truly superior Pokemon.
Almost 1.94 meters tall, with dark metal plates and a deep crimson-almost maroon really-plumage Chrome cuts a striking figure.
It also affords him the strength to wrap his talons around the tail rotor, halting the blade's momentum, and rapidly flap his wings to bring the copter within arms reach of the building-
-so that Rex can wrap one armored fist around the fuselage and in a display of raw strength haul the thing to a rest inside the building, the occupants of said vehicle weakly coming to their senses after the buffeting they received.
Only to find a thoroughly enraged Nidoking and Skarmory balefully glaring at them, an unconscious and bleeding Charmander held in one of the poison/ground type's fists.
They finally wise up and decide to surrender-
-only for me to raise my retrieved Crisser and pump each of them with perhaps more tranq darts than necessary, not in any mood to be gentle.
"I need immediate Medical teams at the floor with the blown out wall! I have a SWAPR down and several wounded civilians!"
I hear several frantic acknowledgements and sirens start to blare outside the building but I hardly pay attention, instead sprinting over to where 2-9 still lays, her Gallade frantically trying to heal her with what little Psychic powers it can offer.
I feel a slight bit of relief upon seeing that the Pokeball containing her Arcanine wasn't damaged...that quickly dissipates once I see the extent of her injuries.
A massive laceration wound in her neck that nicked the esophagus, caused by a chunk of metal from one of the storage shelves lining the area, physical trauma to the head and chest and, easily the most worrying to me, her left arm is simply gone, the ragged tissue leaving a raw stump that's only lightly trickling blood, not because Barry is psychically pinching the arteries shut but merely because there's so little blood left.
Acting fast I pull out a small spray bottle of topical disinfectants and fast-drying Caterpie silk, applying the mixture to 2-9's arm and sealing off the wound. The only thing left for me to do is apply a stim-shot so that she hopefully doesn't slip into shock, a serious danger considering how much damage her body has received, and pray.
Barry gives me the slightest of worried glances from where he's using his powers to keep 2-9's throat intact and functioning so that she doesn't suffocate and all I can do is helplessly shake my head.
The psychic-type makes no reply and returns to his desperate work while I mechanically go to check and help the hostages, not really paying attention to what I'm doing or saying, body and mind running on pure training and muscle memory.
It's only a minute later when the medics and Chanseys gently push me aside that I realize the operations over.
And then the trembling starts, like it always does after every firefight.
Dammit Jannis, you better not die…
(Two days later)
"You know what I'm about to say to you, don't you Danilo?"
"...That none of it was my fault?"
"What I was going to say was that it's utterly ridiculous and six different kinds of Arceusdamn stupid for you to feel any sort of responsibility for this utterly fucked assignment."
A wry grin makes it's way on to my face as Head Officer Bryant puts things in his own eloquent, if blunt, way.
Jannis, formerly known as SWAPR 2-9, didn't make it along with 3 other civilians. 2 had died directly from the Electrode's detonation, and one more had passed on en route to the nearest Hospital.
Media outlets throughout Crown City-all of Sinnoh really-are already calling this attack a variety of things.
'Tragic Accident' and 'Government Sponsored Robbery' are my personal favorites.
I meet Bryant's gaze and tonelessly ask, "So is SWAPR also the target of the media vultures?"
Predictably, the Sinnoh Pokeofficers and Sinnoh Rangers are being slammed by news reporters, mostly due to them somehow letting in dozens of undocumented firearms-the Ranger's duties-and failing to contain and control the situation once the heist had begun, the responsibility of the Pokeofficers.
Bryant just snorts and morbidly replies, "Are you kidding me? In between Rex and Chrome's stunt of catching the helicopter before it could escape and eyewitness reports of how Janiss sacrificed herself to save the civvies...we're the media darling as of now. Tough shit for the regular officers who died, right?"
I don't miss the bitter undertone in his voice, but don't comment on it. Bryants always had a bone to pick with the media.
Instead I ask, "What was in those briefcases that those guys wanted so damn bad? I didn't get more than a glance at them before the Department store guys were confiscating it..."
Bryant shakes his head, sighs, then explains in a tone of professional displeasure, "The contents of one case contained several different varieties of Evolutionary Stones while the other had dozens of Clean Rare Candies."
"Holy crap. How much you want to be someone high up in distribution is probably gonna be finding themselves visited by the Rangers sometime in the near future? Heck, they'll probably call in League enforcers for this big of a screw-up."
Bryant nods before adding, "Those items were originally meant to be part of the Baccer World Cup's Prize Pool and the fact that their arrival and location got leaked means there was some pretty well placed people in on this. Thankfully none of that political Taurosshit is our job."
And thank the Legendaries for that.
While the Evolution Stones are understandably rare, it's the Candies that are a cause for concern. Clean Rare Candies are watched very carefully, their inherent ability to artificially increase a Pokemon's strength, speed, durability and even intelligence making them very sought after.
Perhaps it's for the better that Clean Rare Candies are so difficult to produce, given the gold rush that always happens whenever they become available.
...The less said about Dirty Rare Candies the better.
Seeing an Infernape with hideously warped muscle and bone structure, the poor thing choking to death because it's unnatural growth was restricting the flow of blood, is easily one of the most disturbing things I've seen in my life.
I snap out of my thoughts and quickly reply, "Sorry Head Officer, I was-"
"Lost in thought, I know. And drop the Head Officer tripe, we're behind closed doors here."
I sheepishly grin while Byant roots through his computer for a moment before flipping the screen around.
"Says here that in 3 days you were going to go on a week of leave, that right?"
"Yeah, it's been awhile since I've been back home. Need me to postpone for a few days?"
He shakes his head and replies, "Actually I think I'm gonna send you 2 days early."
He gives me a stern glare that causes me to wilt in my seat-then again I'd bet even a Gyrados would be cowed by Bryant's patented evil eye-before explaining, "You're distracted, Head Agent Danilo Reyes. You're not going to be doing anything under my watch while you're in this state. Take today and tomorrow to get your affairs in order and then enjoy your 9 days of vacation."
I raise an eyebrow in surprise and can't help but ask, "Is that really ok?"
"Of course it is. I have been doing this job for a couple decades you know..."
We're both silent for a moment before I heave out a deep sigh and ask, "What's going to be done with Jannis' partners?"
Bryant gives me a careful look and slowly responds with, "They're at a Wounded Warrior's ranch...why?"
I briefly struggle with how to present my argument and decide to just be frank with him.
"I'd like to add them to my team. I spent a few months when I was scouting Jannis working alongside them and can find a way to integrate the 2 of em' into my team."
To his credit Bryant doesn't just immediately shoot down my proposal and instead sighs before evenly retorting, "You know, if anyone other than you had made me this offer I would have laughed and told them to check in with the Psychic-types for a brain scan...and quite honestly I'm still tempted to do so."
He leans forward in his chair and clasps his hands together.
"Danilo, remind me why SWAPR has a policy of only accepting members who have spent a minimum of 4 years together with the Pokemon they'll be working with as partners."
"Sir, we do so because the operations we undertake require independent action, intensive teamwork and an unshakable level of trust in our partners. Body language, quirks, likes and dislikes...all have to be accounted for and taken into consideration, something only years of working together can bring about."
"Excellently summarized. Now please explain to me why you think you can add 2 Pokemon who have been accepted into a Wounded Warriors ranch to your roster in such a short amount of time, and why I should even bother listening to this insane request."
I quietly reply, "Because I know what it's like to lose something important, to be the one left behind."
Bryant is quiet for the longest time yet as he considers my words.
I wasn't trying to be dramatic there, it's the simple truth.
My Grandfather had immigrated to the Sinnoh Region when he was just 10 years old from Johto, his parents facing hard times in the region due to a combination of casual racism and financial difficulties. Things were hard when they first arrived, but Gramps had found a job at a local rescue shelter for Pokemon and worked there for most his childhood.
The pay had been low, the hours long, but he'd loved it and in a truly inspiring story had taken over as the head manager and within 2 decades and turned it into a League sponsored Rehab and Rescue business.
That had been my childhood.
Since I'd been barely a toddler I'd seen a lot of the best and worst this world has to offer. I'd seen truly selfless people take on the thankless and often times dangerous job of adopting abandoned or abused Pokemon. I'd seen the hard work and genuine care the staff had put into making sure their charges were cared for.
I'd seen what whip scars looked like on a Piplup's skin, what illegal pit fights did to a Riolu's bones.
I'd seen the utterly defeated look in a Ponyta's eyes after it had been broken with sharp spurs and chains.
I'd learned to hate the people who did things like that.
And, when my Mom died to health complications when I was 6, and my dad in his duties to SWAPR when I was 8, I'd learned to empathize.
That same empathy that's allowed me to work with such unconventional partner Pokemon like a Nidoking or a Skarmory, and allow us to succeed for 7 years and counting.
Bryant suddenly leans back in his chair, lacing his hands behind his head.
"...Alright. Give it a shot Son, I have high hopes for you. We're always in need of good officers and I don't like the idea of those 2 just wasting away in that place."
I smile in relief and tease, "I always knew you were a big softy at heart."
He snorts before scathingly retorting, "Yeah right, I'm just worried about your public image. Seriously, who uses a Nidoking and Skarmory in law enforcement?"
(One day later)
"That's it right over there Chrome."
My flyer gives a short screech of confirmation and starts gently angling his body downwards, descending towards the ranch below.
Most would consider me insane for riding a Skarmory, the general consensus being that in between the rough, abrasive skin and the deadly sharp feathers that can cut to the bone with barely any force behind them Skarmorys are decidedly unfit for carrying passengers.
The causal passenger, sure, but for someone who's grown up alongside the Steel-type? It's not so difficult, truth be told.
The trick is to match the undulations of Chrome's body as he flies. Most injuries people suffer when riding a Skarmory don't come from the feathers, it comes from the chaffing caused by it's skin and torso plates rubbing up against the person's body as the stress and motion of flight causes all sorts of unpleasant friction.
A pair of hardened leather armguards and shin braces, as well as a keen familiarity of how Chrome moves, and I can ride him just fine for fairly long distances, almost 200 kilometers in an emergency.
Once we get within 3 meters of the ground I simply slide off his back and land somewhat heavily, but it's admittedly safer than trying to carefully navigate through the lovely sharpness that is his plumage, no matter my comfort level.
"Chrome, easy watch. No trouble."
With an eerily Human nod, similar to the one Rex sometimes makes, he jumps into the air once more and starts leisurely gliding around the ranch, taking my brief verbal commands to heart.
"It's not everyday you see someone come riding in on a metal beast like that."
I grin at the grizzled voice of the Wounded Warrior's manager, a guy easily pushing 60 who's skin looks like tanned hide left out in the elements for a little too long.
Reminds me of some of the guys who used to work at the center back home…
"Yah, well, it was learn quick or bleed fast with him. It's a great chick magnet though, real macho-level stuff."
He just rolls his eyes and quite frankly he's not wrong to do so. The last time I went on a date was almost a year ago and all that really came of that was a one-night stand. Not exactly the emotional companionship I'd been hoping for…
"Bryant sent me a message saying you'd be stopping by...gotta say, it's rare seeing someone with your skin color around these parts."
I feel my mood sour but don't say anything, long used to this sort of treatment from the occasional shit-for-brains. My dark brown skin, something pretty common among the Alola region natives, tends to set me apart from the vast majority of Sinnoh's population who are a noticeably paler skin tone. Most people tend to travel to Alola, not the other way around.
What he says next completely catches me off guard though.
"I knew your old man when he was in the force. One Arceusdammned fine SWAPR he was. It does me good to see you following in his footsteps kid. Come on inside, name's Martan."
Oh...well I take back that 'shit-for-brains' comment then.
I easily match his stride and head on through the administrative part of the building towards the actual open fields that hold most of the Pokemon.
As it's name implies, the Wounded Warrior's ranch is a place where Pokemon who've lost their companions or who are too heavily injured in battle to be recovered even by the seemingly miracle working Pokemon Centers go to retire.
The air around the place is one of nostalgia, melancholy and sleepiness.
Most of the Pokemon just laze around or keep to themselves, all of them exuding an aura of loneliness or reminiscence.
Hell, there's a young male Tauros being lead around with a simple rope halter, not even tied into a knot, around the fields and he's not making the slightest scene or attempt to exert his dominance.
For crying out loud, the handler is barely even holding the damn lead…
I shake my head and ask, "So how have those 2 been doing? Everything alright?"
Martin seems contemplative for a moment before scowling and replies, "The Psychic-type, Barry, seems to be handling it alright, but the Arcanine, Gloria? She's in a bad way kid. She was let out of her ball just to realize her partner was dead and she hadn't even been around to see it. You know how Arcanines get…"
"Yeah...do I ever."
There's a reason Growlithes are prized as police dogs, their natural strength, speed, intelligence and fire powers aside.
It's their loyalty.
Most Pokeofficers have worked with their Growlithe's for months, even years before they begin active duty and the bond between them is a staple of most departments.
Jannis just took that a step further.
Like me her Dad was a SWAPR and she received Gloria when she was just 6 years old, Barry when she was 7. Those 3 had hardly known a time when they weren't together, the kind of close relationship SWAPR looks for and that I had spotted when I recommended her.
It's not uncommon for Growlithes or Arcanines to die trying to save their Human partners, preferring to pass on first before allowing any kind of harm to befall their trainer.
For Gloria to come out of stasis just to realize she hadn't been there when Jannis needed her most?
Unfortunately, I can all too easily imagine what that might do to her.
And, as we walk up to a large oak tree off to the side of the field, I can see that my worst fears were true.
Sighing, I motion for Chrome to come down to ground level and release Rex from his ball, the saurian Pokemon briefly shaking out his shoulders and staring appreciatively around the ranch.
"Martan, mind if I ask you to stay back until I finish things here?"
"Sure, but keep an eye out for that Arcanine. Just because she looks half-dead doesn't mean she is, one of our guys almost got bitten by her the other day after he got too close."
Chrome lands with a soft scattering of dirt and I unconcernedly reply, "It's fine, she knows who I am."
I start slowly walking towards both Barry and Gloria, the 2 of them listlessly resting in the shade provided by the plant, when Barry spots me and smoothly rises to his feet.
At a glance he doesn't look too bad, still lean and obviously eating healthy...but the bags under his eyes and the slightly unhealthy shade of green his head crest has taken on tells me he hasn't been sleeping well.
Despite that he still performs the Gallade's customary greeting of crossing his bladed arms and bowing his head slightly, an action my partners and I reciprocate as best we can given the difference in our limbs.
"Long time no see Barry...how's Gloria doing?"
The Psychic can only look at me with resigned eyes, motioning for me to follow him and my heart almost breaks as I see the state Jannis' prized partner is now in.
Her coat is limp and scraggly in places, a once supremely muscled form now starting to waste away slightly and her eyes, once proud and lively, might as well be the ones of a gutted Magikarp.
She doesn't even look at me once I crouch down beside her and gently put a hand on her head, causing me to frown as I notice a few hairs easily come off into my hand.
Barry gives me a questioning look, obviously asking me if I want him to Psychically translate, but I shake my head in refusal.
She needs to hear this from me directly, not through a translation.
"You don't look like you're doing too good Gloria...don't yah think Jannis would have been saddened to see you like this?"
She doesn't make the slightest sign of having heard me.
"You know...I kinda understand what you're feeling right now. A couple decades back I just woke up one morning to find out my Dad was dead, no warning, no nothing. It was...hard, coming to terms with that. But I found solace in the people around me, and in finding something worthwhile to do with my life. You don't want my condolences, do you? You want a purpose. To know that your partner didn't die for nothing, that you surviving wasn't a mistake."
I take out Gloria's Pokeball that I had borrowed from Jannis' effects, the red and white orb still covered in a splash of her dried blood from the explosion that claimed her life.
For the first time Gloria reacts, her head lifting slightly and her previously dead eyes now coming to life...but the only emotion in them is grief and loss as she sees the ball.
"I can't take away your pain or anything nearly so convenient as that...but I can offer you a choice. Stay here and peacefully pass away, likely seeing Jannis sooner...or you can face the pain and maybe find a new reason for sticking around. Your call."
With that I place the Pokeball on the ground between us, repeating the action for Barry and his containment device.
For the longest time both of them just stare at the things, obviously lost in thought.
But if there's one thing I know for certain, it's that Jannis didn't raise a bunch of quitters.
With a brief nudge of her muzzle Gloria activates the Pokeball and disappears in a flash of red light, Barry following her lead barely a second later.
So that's it then.
They're now my new partners, my new responsibility.
I wouldn't have it any other way.
I release the both of them and once he manifests Barry once more crosses his arms, offering a much deeper bow than before that I again return.
Gloria stiffly rises to her full height although it's clearly been a while since she's stood, if the cracking joints are any indicator. The look in her eyes tells a different story though, the orbs now smoldering like embers with renewed determination.
Rex and Chrome eagerly turn towards me, obviously anticipating my next commands with more than a little enthusiasm.
"Alright...how does a vacation sound?"
4 heads cock in confusion and I can't resist the urge to chuckle-
-before I get a whiff of Gloria and scowl.
"After you get a bath. What were you doing, rolling around in your own poop?"
And that's the story of S.W.A.P.R. as it is for now! I got this idea a while back and worked on it in my spare time or whenever the fancy struck me, eventually finishing it a couple weeks ago.
Normally I only start a story that I know I'm going to keep working on, but there's alot I can do with this idea that appeals to me, it's just that I have other works that are taking precedence right now.
So consider this a sort of trial run, if people really like it I'll probably consider expanding upon it in the future, but for now this is the culmination of S.W.A.P.R. as it stands.
Feel free to leave a follow, favorite or review and I'll take any and all feedback into consideration :D