December 24th

8:45 PM, Kanto-Johto Standard Time

As far as Santa would've been concerned for his flight, he would have no problems above Saffron City. Clear sky around, nothing but a black sky, devoid of stars due to the light pollution. That was fine though as McCain busted out of the maintenance access, finding herself on the walkways on that roof, all put their for either maintenance workers or the occasional helicopter landing.

Loneliness and cold was all she felt, despite her sweater. Looking around she saw nothing but sky and the dark of night. Out in the distance, to the east, she could see Celadon. Home. To the north: Mt. Moon. South had been, at the very edges of her view, Vermillion Bay. All of Kanto had been around her, and still she found no help.

Gun in her shoulder she had scanned the walkways, slowly walking on cold metal that she had been pained to go through with her bare, dirty feet. The caution was needed out of habit, justified by sound as she heard sound above her on the helicopter pad.

Looking out the windows from 88 a thought had crossed one of the million neurons going off in her head, put down as a matter of temporary culture shock. Flying-Type Pokémon didn't like flying, particularly, over urban areas like Saffron. She saw none even near the tower, and at the distant clouds she saw their dots. It would've been so, so handy for her to get the attention of them.

When she found one, finally, her thoughts weren't of her own help, but of theirs.

She had seen this before: Pokémon flying over toxic fumes, poisoned, sprawling on the ground after hitting it. It was a nasty piece of work, cruelty written out with the way an organic body reacted to something against nature.

A Pidgeot had been sprawling on the cold tarmac of the helipad at the very top of the tower. Twisting and turning, lost feathers from rubbing against the rough texture of the pad surrounding it, blown away at intervals.

She dropped her Typewriter, letting it rest with her sling.

Ranger training had been returning to her as she made clicking noises with her tongue. "Hey, hey, bud. You good?"

Pidgeots were big birds. An average of 4'11. This example had cut that size. It cried out hearing the noise of a human, twisting so it looked at her, crying out a caw as it whipped its wings and-


She knew it well, throwing her body left.

She had taken on her fair share of Pokémon in her day, most of them wanting her off their claimed territory, or maybe enraged by something she wanted to fix. She wasn't about to die, being blown off a building. The sweater offered no padding as she hit the ground hard, but now alert. Of that day of chaos and mystery, or grasping at ends of what to do next, what was happening to this Pidgeot was something she knew how to do comfortably.

She liked having her Styler in her holster instead of permanently mounted on her wrist, balancing the entire affair our by weight, and seeing as its communication ability was done would stay there. To have one break on a Ranger after all, usually, rendered them useless. McCain thought otherwise, but here, she remembered that she had been a Ranger as the Pidgeot writhed in pain on the ground, wings around its ears. Taking several step back as she stood back up, her Styler came out, the launcher portion of it wrapped around her left forearm as she had done the well-practiced motion of drawing the controller, its blue antenna radiating like a saber.

Depressing the trigger on the controller, a pressurized burst of air shot out the emitter portion of the Styler towards the Pidgeot.

For a thousand times over she had gone over the exact science on what the Stylers did: some cross between Pokéball technology and further pacifying energy that resonated with most, if not all Pokémon. However here and now she knew that it calmed them first, in some measure, making them more willing to have a clear head and listen to her. Whipping her right arm out, the antennae was a motion controller for the top that flew out, aimed just left of the Pidgeot as she, for what felt like the hundredth time in her life, did what Pokémon Rangers do:

Leaving behind a neon blue trail the top went past the Pidgeot on the helicopter pad, she thankful it was a flat surface to do this with. Her arm moving right had caused the top to start its loop around the Pokémon. Like a pendulum her arm swung back and forth several times, the emitter doing its loops around before eventually ringing out its bell of resonant lock. It did all it could as it was recalled to the Styler cleanly, the Pidgeot calming, taking deep breaths as its wings finally removed itself from their head.

She would've skidded if the tar of the helicopter pad wouldn't have destroyed her knees, running up and cradling the Pidgeot into her lap.

Care for nature, care for the world, care for its inhabitants. That was her MO as a Ranger, and she believed it true. It gave her so much peace after being a cop it saved her life. "Hey, hey. Focus buddy, focus." Reholstering her styler she had brought her hands, stroking the bird into a calm.

She ran her fingers through the feathers on its heads, its breathing subsiding as it finally opened their eyes clearly now. Its eyes were of pain and hurt, the tiniest of squeaks trying to form in its beak.

"My husband," she started, dropping into the tone she used with Hops; with all of Danny's Pokémon. "One of his partners is a Noctowl, so I know how you guys get. It's all about balance, yeah?" The Pidgeot, head in her hands, had nodded slowly, reclaiming itself. "What's wrong?"

The bird had chirped in almost inaudible terms, its throat barely moving, forming words that McCain could barely translate. Cognition of Pokémon-Speak had been difficult. There was no lingua franca between Pokémon species. Some had been similar, some had been so different they might've just come from different worlds, but it was an aspect of her job that she knew the different tones and speech varieties enough to communicate some sort of understanding.

This air. It's wrong. It's so very wrong. In my head. Like a heatwave.

McCain had taken out her styler again with one hand, looking at the reception she got. No dice still, but her radio? That might've been it. Her priorities right then, now, had been this Pidgeot.

"Are you okay?"

It twitched its head painfully, trying to move its wings.

I have never felt this heavy since I was a hatchling.

"Can I do anything? Please, I want to help." McCain had begged, seeing her breath turn into haze, a cloud.

You have done enough. I must just be here. My flock will come.

It groaned again, saying that, McCain's bangs coming to in front of her face.

She knew what this was.

It was Archer. She read the reports, been to Lake Rage, known the science behind his radio signals and how it drove Pokémon mad. This was right up his alley. She thumbed her radio to broadcast as wide as it could before she brought it up to her face.

"I'm calling for help, just stay put. Okay?"

It nodded at her, gently being laid back as it turned over on its side, wings covering its head. The radio she had must've been tuned to work even with Archer's probably radio interference.

"Mayday! Mayday! Emergency! Anyone copy on this band? Team Rocket has returned to Silph, I repeat, Team Rocket has returned to Silph and taken hostages with lethal arms!" She turned over to the city lights, walking to the edge of the pad and looking down at an urban sprawl that could not hear her own voice. "I repeat! Team Rocket has returned to the Silph Building and are holding at least thirty or more hostages on the 83rd floor! They are armed with automatic weapons and dangerous Pokémon! Ten or more Team Rocket members including Archer himself all armed and dangerous, I repeat again! Team Rocket has returned to Silph!"

After a few moments, the radio cackled back at her.

"This is Saffron City PD, be aware that using the word emergency over these bands is a federal offense. Please state your identity and CB license number."

Oh my god holy shit the gall of-

She was going to state her name, her badge number, but stopped short. If they had found out that she was here, Danny would've been made a particular example of for her resistance, more likely than not. Another solution then as she couldn't believe what was happening.

"Do you hear yourselves?! The Silph Co. Tower is under siege, right now! Rocket is back!"

"This channel is reserved for emergency use only. If you need help, call 911."

McCain had dropped the radio from her face as she rolled her eyes, head, and damn near her spine before yelling back into it. "No fucking shit man! Do I sound like I'm ordering a pizza?!"

"If you remain on this line, we will have to report you to the regional FCC."

"I don't want to be on this line! While you're out here finger fucking me they have already killed one hostage and are fortifying their positions! Please I beg you just send one black and white, a Jenny even, just come to Silph Co. and you'll see!"

"As I said, if this is really an emergency, dial 911 on your telephone and-"

What were the worst things that she could say to really get their attention? "I want to kill kids! I want to shootup your police department! I KNOW HOW TO BREAK INTO YOUR ARMORY SHITHEAD! I'll blow up fucking trashcans randomly during the Christmas street celebrations tomorrow! There! Come investigate me! Silph Co. Building!"

"You're only making this worse for yourself." The voice on the other end plainly said.

"Alright then! Just bring the fucking SWAT team or I'll swear to God I'll shoot Sevson myse-!"

The telltale crack of a bullet over her shoulder made her twitch down and around, grabbing her SMG in the same motion as she threw her radio back into her pocket. Three men had come for her, finally, red Rs like a neon light on their uniforms as they raised their guns at her from the other end of the helipad, having come up on the opposite end. The man up front had already gotten a shot off and ready to send more, but not before McCain had basically twisted around and, with one hand, her sling bracing the gun against her form, and let loose.

There was no way she was going to hit anyone, but it proved her message true to the Rocketeers: She had a Tommy gun. The fear in their eyes of someone actually shooting back as they came up the stairs to the helipad sending them stumbling to either side: most importantly, not shooting at her as she broke off running toward a slanted vent close enough to the edge of the pad.

For a second the Rocketeers thought her mad: jumping off the building with her momentum. But no, she hit the metal of the vent, sliding down as involuntarily gravity brought her down it. She didn't remember if she knew there was a catwalk below the vent or she was really, really tempting luck today, but as she slid off the only thing keeping her from falling right off the building had been thin railing.

Hitting it with a thud, the breath knocked out of her, her lungs burned through her chest as she saw a hundred stories below.

For a moment she thought it was good Hops wasn't here. He'd be ruined straight with his fear of heights and flying.

Pushing herself off the railing she heard their boots running to that edge of the helipad, she twisting around and putting herself up against the vent that proceeded back down into the building, aimed pre-emptively up. She should've waited a second more, but the second she found the black silhouette against the inky black sky she squeezed off the trigger, a burst of gunfire gone off. When it was done three heads poked back up, and she ran as a volume more of gunshots returned to her.

"FuuuAACK!" Guttural sounds from her throat rose as she ran, behind another maintenance portion of the roof, gunfire breaking concrete and metal in sparks.

Without vocalizing the lead Rocket grunt had held out his hand to the two others, pointing at the catwalk and back from where they came. The two of them understood as they took off running.

She had been basically going around the perimeter of the roof, the walkway unkind to her bare foot. Any chance she could stick a toe in and break it high, but she had better footing than that. Not ever since hiking had become her life as a Ranger.

She looked over her shoulder as she rounded the corner of the walkway, seeing two Rocketeers get on it as well as she paused, turning on her heels, and again opened fire.

The two men ducked as sparks flew up from bullets hitting the walkway around them, the gun clicking empty as she swore, hitting the release lever and continuing her run as the walkway led behind some vents.

Two! There were only two! She screamed at herself as she dug a stick mag out of her pocket, ramming it in as she locked back the chamber. It'd been a long time since she had to take cover, so maybe that's why as she backed up, walking in reverse with her gun trained up in case the Rocketeers came running, she was exposed, peeking out of the vent stands.

Even just her shoulder would've been enough to put her out…

The third Rocketeer had dashed across the roof, aiming down on her as he had gotten the jump.

The tugging of the wind, a burst of air. What he thought only was a gust had been, technically, true. Just a burst of gust that through off his aim and put him to the floor, gunshots randomly going off as he fumbled and alerting McCain to move.

Blue yelled out in pain and frustration as he hadn't even cared to look where the wind came from, hoping to get another shot: She was gone, a door open leading into the structure beneath the helipad.


The reason he had blown: Pidgeot. It rose shakily from the center of the helipad, ignored until now, its status as a bird of prey not forgotten as, even with weak limbs, had its piercing eyes looking right through to Blue.

It spread its wings again, but no more wind came. It couldn't swing again, but that was okay. It did what it needed to do.

"Stupid fucking bird!"

McCain fumbled, transitioning remaining magazine for her gun into her pocket, slamming in the current one again just in case as she aimed backwards of the door she slammed through, come back to the elevator maintenance walkways she had come from minutes earlier, albeit on the opposite side. She only shook herself again as she heard another gunshot ring out above her.

The Pidgeot…

She swore to herself, knowing now that it had become the reason why she hadn't been shot out there from a bad angle. Letting a Pokémon die? Doing this whole thing without proper police involvement? She was a terrible cop and a terrible Ranger now. How many laws had she broken? Or did it matter at all when the situation was this fucked and, she looked down at her belt, the one with the badge on her.

Pausing a moment, regaining her nerves and breath, she looked across the maintenance hallways. Between her teeth she let out a breath meant to curse, but could do nothing. Both the elevators had been recalled down and she couldn't ride them. Maybe there had been stairway access? She ran across to the center, peering down, only seeing the elevator shafts.

A long drop, so long that she couldn't see the bottom.

Boots above her moved and she had realized if they came back down there they would've had her on both sides. She would've been dead.

Escape. Escape. Escape. It's all that went through her mind. She was lucky enough, she remembered, that there had been a vent for her to slide onto when they first started shooting.

Wait! The vents!

Gun up she rushed back to the side of the shaft where she thought there was vent access. Ventilation had indeed been there to her delight: access to them even, just behind giant fans that were moving slowly enough to-

She poked her gun in first, the mass of steel and wood pausing the motor of the fan, wedged between it and a stabilizing bar.

Footsteps again. This time laterally, near her, not above.

Her feet were rubbed raw from a lack of any footwear, and they felt unkind, rubbing against dusty metal, she going feet first through the new access way she made.

"There!" She slid on her back through the tube, her feet hooking the sling of the Typewriter and pulling it through just as another burst of gunfire ricocheted around the fan shaft, sparks peppering her as she fell out the otherside to another catwalk, this time within an even smaller shaft for ventilation. Dark blue light filled her, and it was only because of the ambient lighting that came from the other fans exposed to nightlight.

Falling over she had cover on the grate walkway, below the fan assembly that divided her and the Rocketeers. Without second thought she pulled her Hi Power out of its holster, the fan spinning slow enough for her to peek above its lower cusp and see the three figures that came running down the maintenance hallway to see if they could follow.

She didn't allow, four pops of gunfire erupting through, two bullets catching the fan, the rest coming way too close to the Rocketeers causing them to duck and cover.

It gave her time to think, looking down the shaft and seeing another, larger, much faster spinning fan sending cool air down. She would've looked like a Scyther's dinner if any part of her found its way down there, several stories.

Looking down the closest vent had been about a story and a half down, and across. Each side of the vent shaft bearing openings to the rest of the system. She wasn't about to jump, not with how she was now, the shaft no more than five of her wide on her stomach. Far enough to make her worry while she had been, out of lack of better terms, normal. Now, under gunfire, running for her life, it was worse.

She was nothing but stupid or courageous though. That and running out of options as she looked back down the fan shaft and saw the white eyes of someone trying to go for her. The white burned so brightly as she aimed again, this time standing up, the sights of her long-worn sidearm finding bead.

The shot that popped off was loud in that enclosed space, but not as loud as the bullet hitting the man's cheek, tearing through his teeth, and sending him through the floor as his right jaw was blown out. When the screaming started, so did the wildfire in response, more automatic fire coming her way as she ducked back down and hopes a bounced round wouldn't come through the fan.

"Ah fuck! Blue! I'm hit!"

"Rui! Go get Serena!"

"On it!"

A woman. Rui was a woman.

There weren't just men there, a note she made in her mind as she remembered their names. When she was safe, she would've written them down.

Serena hadn't been dead, but his words had been slurred, and his pain vocalized in screams.

Finally getting her Typewriter ready again, angling herself to fully shoulder it, this would've been it with the gun. She had a plan.

Standing up a full thirty round burst was eaten through, her teeth chattering as she tried her best through gunfire to tell them to leave her alone. When her gun clicked she had put her prayers in a sling. The railing of the walkway she was on was short enough for her to wedge the gun through and use it as an anchor, tossing the rest of the bag and the bag itself over the railing into the deep, denying any use they could get out of it. For what, well, she didn't think too much about it before she did it, but she prayed. She prayed for something to go right as she holstered her pistol, running the Typewriter through the bars of the railing and, with only one tug of the sling and one extra knot, unhooked the sling from one end and tied the remaining around the trigger guard.

She was automatic when she went over the railing, as if a mountain climber, breathing through her nose as if her last breaths and avoiding looking down into the dark past the murderous looking fan blade.

Wrapping the end of the sling she was holding onto around her fist, she lowered herself from the railing to the walkway, holding onto its own ledge as metal dug into her fingers.

A Ranger compatriot of hers at Fall City had a Monferno as a partner. She wondered if, if pressed, that Pokémon would've taught her anything about how to-

She let her weight drop and for a moment of pure terror she hung onto the sling and the sling alone, the railing creaking, but keeping. She wasn't falling.

"Okay- Fuck! Okay!" Her voice reverberated, bounced up and down the vents, the thumps of the fan below now present to her as she began to swing her legs to make herself a pendulum. She didn't even want to look up to see if her gun was bending or her knots were breaking, she just needed to do, rotating herself around to the vent directly across from her.

Upwards she heard the fan stop, again wedged by something. She didn't have enough time. Not enough. Not enough-

Three more swings were all she could manage, the last giving her enough momentum for her feet to touch the opposite end, pushing herself off letting go of the wrap she made around her hand and-

The Rocketeers thought again she had jumped down to death based on the smack of thin metal as Blue crawled through the fans. They knew better at this point though.

Not that McCain had been alerted as her hands clawed into the vent opening, sweat on her fingertips betraying her at that very moment.

The second time she slammed against the wall of the vent against the opening was the one that broke her grip, slipping down and over.

This was it. Her life flashed before her eyes, and, more than that, what her body would look like. She had seen dead men, women, and monsters a hundred different ways, and the worst had been them, splashed against the surface after falls factors and factors less than hers. If she even had a body left she hoped that they'd cremate it.

Mankind's primal urges and inclinations were plain: the three Fs. Fighting, fear, and fucking. There was a fourth however: falling.

Her hands automatically reached out as she fell down the shaft, the rows of vents lined up as she fell until, finally she hooked one.

She nearly screamed when she did stop falling, clawing up by pure instinct into the dusty vent only five stories above the fan sucking her down. She didn't know if her fingers pierced through metal but she found her strength and grip, pulling herself up and into something a TV dinner would feel like.

It would've been a bad analogy to say a Pokémon in a Pokéball however. Hops had told her the experience was actually quite pleasant.

Nothing was pleasant as she felt bile in her stomach come up, barely beat back down as her vision, in a daze, straightened out only to see a darkly lit vent straight ahead of her.

Crawling forward she came to her senses. Every movement of hers against the bent in sections of the vent made a drumming noise, and they couldn't possibly have known-

"She's in the vents!" She heard the man named Blue yell out. Which one, no one, not even her could properly say. That didn't mean they didn't try as gunfire roared into the vents, catching the lips of any opening the could see. Sparks even touched her dirty soles, she holding in a yelp as bullet casings fell down the shaft, the crack of metal being broken by the fan blade resounding. Biting her own tongue, she was sure she was going to bite it off, but nothing else came as she let out a bated breath.

Silence, the waiting game. One that the Rocketeers couldn't play.

"Come on Blue let's get back down this isn't looking good for Serena!"

"Shut up I almost have this bitch!"

"I need help!"

Another few moments and the sound of a bang against metal was heard, the sound of frustration McCain's sign of making it free. The panted and labored breathing of someone she shot through the mouth faded as a door was slammed and the elevator was sent back up.

Maybe if she just stayed in the vents all night, things would be better off. That was her thought as she slowed her breathing and brought her forehead against the metal vent she was on. However, her head soon began to rock.

"Oh yeah, sure Lunick, I'll take this request that you won't tell me anything about from my old department at the middle of the frickin' night. I'll come home for Christmas and fuck the husband I have in a dysfunctional marriage while he bends me over a desk that has my and a dead man's case notes on it. Sure. Yeah. All this while Mewtwo is involved." Was it her fault she was in this position? Maybe, after all, it had been. The threads of her gifted sweater were ruined by how much stress it'd been in, and given how much of a crawl she had ahead, she doubted it would survive much more.

Her life had been so much simpler when she was a teenage punk, and she yearned for those days back.

Hell, it might've been simpler, she decided, if she was a hostage.

A fanciful thought, but she was too far deep to even think about it. Taking in one breath, she stared down a cramped journey to take, thumbing the flashlight on her Styler on, still on her wrist. With a pistol in her other hand, she felt nothing more than a tunnel Ratatta.

A body didn't come out of the elevator this time, but a man whose face looked half-way there. The results of Jainie's fight for her life had, if the trend continued, been a display that the hostages were going to see pouring out of the elevator.

"Medic! Medic! We need Dawn!"

That amount of blood, the fact that half a man's mouth had been blown out with his jaw showing, while the hostages screamed or cringed as the guards yelled at them to look away, all Hops could do was grin. His Jainie really was giving them hell.

Dawn had been one of the women who had chopped away at the telephone lines. She had fine hands for such delicate work, so too she had been the best, or at least closest thing to a medic that the group had.

She had rushed over, up, into the office corridor as they had gone to the furthest away office: Daniel McCain's. His table had been swept of its contents in a loud cash, Serena put back first on as his face leaked onto the wooden surface. Archer had been there immediately, but had been met by the two that remained of the party that was sent for the interloper leaving the room.

Serena's legs kicked up as Dawn opened up her medkit, her legs slapped down by her, turning around, seeing Archer wide-eye'd. "You!" She pointed at her boss. "Hold his legs down, this isn't going to be clean."

Archer had done on command. As far as medical matters had been concerned, he had deferred it to the woman who looked like she knew what she was doing. She did, after all.

She was a former Joy gone the way of Team Plasma as well. A Pokémon extremist without a place in the world, who found herself with a man with half of his face gone.

"The blood is making it look worse than it is. Hold down his legs." She didn't even turn to Archer as she ordered him, and Archer did so, taking in a sight so visceral there had been a doubt planted. What was going on?

Dawn had taken off her mask to concentrate, ripping Serena's off as well, using it to dab for the spilling blood as she identified the issue.

Half of the man's teeth had been shattered, nerves exposed, flesh being dug into all the way back into-

"Bullets lodged into his jaw." Out from her med pack, pliers, tweezers. She went in almost as hard as the bullet did and Serena's screams had echoed throughout, the hostages even hearing them.

Some of the Pokémon had this worried look to them, but May had recognized it, standing tall over the crowd. He had barked at them, literally. Telling them to keep their heads in the game and ignore all that pain, all that horror. There was still a plan.

Do you ever think about it? A tilt head and a tap at Danny's knee as he sat on the edge of the pond again, more and more people asking him what to do. By consequence of him being a man of nature, out in the field, who was supposedly rough and tumble and new the "real" world of "real" danger, they had deferred their worries to him. It had put more and more onto his shoulders, holding his face in his hands as if hiding from the screams.

Hops had called for his attention. "What?"

That Janie did that?

Danny had looked at himself, turning back to the pond and seeing his reflection. "She didn't have a choice."

December 24th

9:10 PM, Kanto-Johto Standard Time

Lyra Kasper was a very busy person, for being such a young age. She felt that impossible yearn, that craving for a journey far bigger than herself once, and she went for it. It was, by her accounts, a very impressive act of constantly fumbling forward until, somehow, she found herself the leader of an entire league. The Indigo League had been thankful for her appearance three years after Red, for she filled in his place as the isolated champion simply preferred nature and his partners rather than any real media pursuit and politicking as was traditional for Champions.

It felt good then, to her, that she did beat him down every once and a while in fair combat when they did meet semi-annually for a battle, just cause. While he had been living the wanderer's life, she had assumed both their duties, responsibilities, as lead of the Pokémon competitive circuit in the Indigo League's two regions. Administrative, public, private; she was a persona of what a trainer could really be and become, and that hadn't been an act, surely, she told herself. She liked to think that she hadn't changed just because she had a cape and a fancy title.

Nope, she was still, just, Lyra Kasper. Hometown: New Bark. First Pokémon: Cyndaquil (now a Typhlosion). Age: Not old enough to drink legally but no one was gonna tell her not to. To be fair Misty and her had been assumed the same age, so on Misty's dime, just after her Christmas Eve show, she had taken the champion of the Indigo League out on the town. Or at least attempted to.

"You have like, this secret identity about you." Misty had aired to her as the two returned to the Cerulean Gym, it having been cleared out of spectators and reverted to what it was most days of the year: Gym, entertainment venue, and home for the Waterflower sisters. She had hardly dressed as people expected her out in public. Compared to her mermaid getup, the hoodie and jeans she had were preferred for her as she bummed around town as a local, not a celebrity.

Lyra had tiredly rubbed her eyes as the ding of the sliding doors greeted the two young women, the smell of chlorine blasting her as Misty took it in stride.

"I let my hair down, don't wear my cape, and I wore a baseball cap. I'm just an average gal', Mist'." She took said baseball cap off, fitting it into her hoodie.

"With the way people were hitting on you at the bar? Ain't nothing average about it."

Lyra had shrewdly twisted her face as the two passed by the massive pools into the back of the Gym, entering instead into the living area the Waterflowers had made for themselves. Still smelled like chlorine. Was that healthy? Probably not, Lyra figured. "Well good thing I'm taken."

That night on the bar was done before the second round of drinks had happened. It was a girl's night, respectively, but seeing as it was that time of year only Misty and Lyra had been alone. Misty's sisters were still out in the world, a traveling, water, smoke show, and Lyra, well, she was used to this. The job had made her like this. There was something on her mind and Misty was going to fight it all night if they were out, so they called it off early.

She had appeared for her responsibilities, shortly after Misty had left the crime scene and Janie McCain. Taking in reports and statements, gathering as much info as she could from the League's personal security team. The fact that the Indigo League had maintained a group such as the Gatekeepers, and the fact she had defacto command of them, had been a step, it felt, above everything she was assigned. It felt dark. Naturally the idea of Team Rocket alone trying to find and capture Mewtwo again had been cause for concern enough. But murder? It ramped everything up. Any idea of holiday cheer pushed out of Lyra's mind. Not that it had been there already that month.

"I haven't seen him in a bit, you know." Misty had said, lighthearted, but to Lyra it had been anything.

Silver. His full, legal name had been Anthony Del Silva. It was a surprise, but then again Silver had been full of surprises. He preferred Silver, he had told her one night, just before they had known what love was in regards to each other. It was a name he himself truly owned, not one connected to anything, anyone.

She understood and still knew him as Silver.

She had gone to great lengths to downplay she had been dating the boy who had been heir to Team Rocket and Giovanni. Those facts didn't matter when he had become a young man that had made, not only her proud, but his Pokémon, his growing group of friends that had been the gym leaders of the Indigo League, but most importantly: himself. He was proud of what he had become and he had confided that into her ear almost every night, loving her for believing in him to that end.

Still, despite all this, there had been changes recently, ones that, damning herself for it, she might've seen better if the damn job didn't get in the way.

"Me too." Lyra answered finally, finding her bag she had dropped off by Misty's living room couch. The entire room's walls had been that glimmering light of blue, for those walls had been, in all actuality, an Aquarium as big as any professional sort. Filled with, at least at current, sleeping water Pokémon in a simulated natural environment. Misty looked out at them with a satisfaction, eyes squaring at a Gyrados, at the bottom of it all, curled up, skin red, defiant against the blue.

Misty and Lyra had been good friends, young women like themselves in positions that many wouldn't really assume them capable of. Nessa out in Galar had also quickly been reaching out for their tutelage as well, overwhelmed with her new position, but the distance had been a factor. Still there was much support between all of them, and Lyra had needed it especially that night.

She didn't want to press on the subject of Silver, she had assumed, at first, relationship hiccups. Dating would always be hard for people like them. "You have my couch tonight, or one of my sister's beds, I'm sure they wouldn't mind."

"Mm. Thank you." Lyra had said getting her bag, bringing it over to the kitchen and its table and planting it down with a thunk. "But I'll be staying up for a bit."

Misty glanced at her watch. "Lyra, it's like, 1AM. Christmas Eve. I know it's been a long day but you've gotta sleep."

Out from her backpack, a radio set actually, CB sort. Placed on the table as she had attached a headset and tied her hair into a ponytail. "This time of night is when stuff goes down. It's when that Ranger got shot after all. Gotta have ears on, catch anything happening in the act."

The amount of crime fighting that did come with the territory of champion had been surprising at first, but her first tussle with Team Rocket had made her who she was, she recognized. It was only natural that it turned out this way. She knew May, out in the Hoenn Region, her champion policy had been defined by an actual almost superhero disposition. It helped that she did fly around the world with her dragons, arriving on scenes of trouble at almost impossible times, but Lyra knew she wasn't May. May had always wanted something grander for herself still.

Lyra just wanted her slice of the world to be right.

"You're being unreasonable." Under any other pretext, the stern of Misty's voice might've swayed her. She knew she was stubborn at times but this was different. This was personal. That late at night Lyra had no formality to ease her friend into her situation:

"Silver's gone, and I'm worried he's caught up in all of this."


Lyra nodded, moving herself into one of Misty's wooden chairs. There had been some Christmas lights set up, a little tree set up on the kitchen counter with various badges from the Indigo League used as ornaments, but it had hardly pressed into Lyra's souring mood.

"He was getting distant, these last few months," Lyra started, looking at the couch that, when she did fall asleep, had been ready for her collapse. Her cape had been rather versatile, more than anyone would tell her. Tonight, it'd serve as her sheet. "Now, yeah, I get it. Sometimes he needed space and-"

"And the League had you out in Sinnoh for a bit, right? Something about some conservation effort?"

Lyra nodded. With the way the world had been turning, the idea of regional Pokémon had been becoming a looser and looser concept. How many Hoeannic or Kalosian Pokémon had she seen in Kanto and Johto now? Not that she minded, but experts and researcher beyond her own pedigree had argued that such a disruption of the natural ecology was not healthy, and so she had attended a conference discussing such efforts going forward to do something about Pokémon migration.

"Even when I was home, he was… distant. Something was on his mind, and, well, I don't know what. He was going back to school to become a Pokémon Medical Professional, he told me, going to work with Professor Elm and Oak, but he kinda went harder than I expected into it. Then one day he was just, gone…"

His little office space in their apartment had piled high and higher with medical documents and books, and he indeed had been attending classes at a local college. Lyra couldn't be prouder of the fact he had been looking into such a humane career but it came at a cost. He was always looking for something in those books, she felt, and any interaction from her had been met with the old Silver. The one that had been annoyed at her presence, only to be quickly reeled back as he apologized.

So, she let him have his space, she going off on her own work.

Only in that last month had he simply disappeared.

Not that she had reported on it. She was a big girl now; she could find out where he had gone if there was an issue. Him dipping out of a life and going off on his own? Hardly his first time.

Though it was different when it came to her, if there was something wrong, he should've told her.

"He only brought his Feraligatr. The rest of his Pokémon, they're back at our apartment in Goldenrod." They cohabited, which was an awfully big step for young people such as themselves, but again one was a champion and the other had been son of a criminal lord. "That Feraligatr, he's the one he trusted most, and I haven't seen much of him either when Silver was… drifting off."

"What makes you think he's not soul searching?" Misty asked, pulling up a chair now.

"Because it can't be a coincidence this is all happening right now." Lyra had declared with an age, so unlike her. "Between a dead Pokémon Ranger in your backyard allegedly by Team Rocket goons, and my boyfriend, son of the original leader of Team Rocket, having gone missing at the same time? I can't just write it off."

Misty furrowed her eyebrows at her champion. "You really don't think-"

"No." Lyra had squashed that unsaid implication before it even left her mouth. "But gone off to chase them? Yeah, I can see that. But God, if only he knew what they're doing now." Killing people. Lyra had seen the photo of Parker's body, and more than that, seen it carted out of Cerulean Cave, put in the Cerulean PD's morgue, waiting for transfer off to the Ranger Union. To think of Silver falling victim like that, it scared her.

Her leg bounced up and down in anxiousness as she closed her eyes, gripping the headset before gathering herself up, putting it on and tuning into the air waves. It wasn't just police she was looking for, but also trainers, reporting to each other. That late at night lonely men and women who had made their own journeys often had these radio sets on hand, speaking out into open air and hoping anyone had reached back out to make the night a little less lonely.

In one conversation, those who had been out in the region, alone and in nature, had wished each other Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, speaking and recounting of their homes. Most had been homegrown in Kanto and Johto, but some had come from as far away as Sinnoh and Alola. Who had they left behind? What were they looking for? On that night people tend to open up to radio strangers.

Over the police channels: Police bellyaching and not being home, all the same, complaining that no one was going to do anything tonight.

Misty had been a good friend, good enough to not go to bed as Lyra toiled, casting her line out into an impossibly big field and hoping she found something that told her her beloved was okay.

In another conversation, some spoke about the events of today: it was still hazy, and people didn't pay attention when it had been Christmas Eve, but Chief Sevson had announced there was a murder in a cave system just outside of Cerulean City, and an investigation had been ongoing. He advised many trainers in the Mt. Moon area to be advised, and sleep in groups for safety.

So she brought had whipped up some hot chocolate, smooth and creamy with Starmie stars in its body, watching Lyra be so intently focused on the machine she had been fiddling with, her phone also out, browsing social media.

Delivering two cups over, they had been untaken however as, even over the headphones, Misty had heard the next message by chance from the Saffron City PD:

"Dispatch, what's the issue?"

"Some crazy woman was spouting Team Rocket was back at Silph Co. Nonsense I think. It's a Code-2. Send over a patrol. Don't expect much, probably just a homeless woman trying to get into jail for warmth and a meal. The shelters are full anyway."

"Copy, we'll send Jenny over."

Before the hot cocoa had cooled off the two women had been out the door, Lyra gathering up her cape and putting it on before drawing a Pokéball from her belt:

Popped out, it had been her Dragonite, looking down on her with a purpose. The two women had climbed onto its back, and in short order, it had been picked up on national defense radar as it sped toward Saffron City.