December 24th

9:20 PM, Kanto-Johto Standard Time

All his training recently, the way he had stretched out his mind in a field that people usually took years to study into, it had been a mind boggling and painful process, but he'd do even more if he had the time. He had no time with how far along it had gotten.

Floor 85 had been bookkeeping. It was desperately needed in a diverse corporation like Silph. Below 80, almost every floor was a department, give or take a few who had been important enough to garner several floors, and each of them had been given the prerogative to pursue their own research and development. Silph had been big enough to allow such a wide berth of interest. For every success in that way of work, there had been an insurmountable amount of failures.

As Silver had been combing through hundreds of folders he had learned that, the desk he had taken position at as he did his corporate espionage had been a messy, folders and papers pushed off, reports detailing various projects that had crossed over Silph's budgets.

More specifically he had been toiling over the records from medical sciences and pharmaceuticals. Silph had a great deal to do with the Pokémon Centers and their technology, blowing open the idea of free healthcare for Pokémon for all but the grisliest of injuries and illnesses.

All but had been the reason Silver had been there.

The Master Balls weren't the first, or the last, of Silph's machines of magics. They were just the ones that people knew the most. Sometimes inventions had been too perfect, to great and powerful to actually let loose on the world. Literal magical elixirs sourced from the toxicology of Legendary Pokémon sweat, machines that let people see dreams, a way to harness infinite power. These were the type of creations that Silph had created, kept under lock and key, and then scrubbed from existence in all but the most menial and systemic ways.

All Silver had asked for, had wished for that Christmas, was a cure.

If this was anywhere, it would've been in the vault, and if it was in the vault he needed to know how to use it, what to do.

So, he had been nose deep in manuals and documents in such dry language, his focus had been so tight he didn't hear the rumbling above him.

He didn't hear the grumblings and sudden yelp of a woman that had been in over her head for the last two hours, feeling the vents she had been crawling through, away from danger, give way.

He hadn't been so obtuse as to ignore the ceiling give way in the walking path between cubicles off to his side, the man yelping, going for the pistol in his belt and holding it deftly, whipping out of the way and looking at what the hell had been happening:

Half an assembly of air vents had come out of the ceiling in a dusty deconstruction, and like a slide a woman had come tumbling out of the metal tube. With the dust Silver had taken out a mask, putting it on himself, both to breath and to hide his face.

The woman had been powdered white, swearing up a storm as Silver levied his gun at her uneasily.

"Fucking shit, god damn son of a bitch, fuck! Shit. Shit!"

The wrangling mess of a woman, her sweater once a bright red, now darkened by dust and blood, dirt and grease, it had been slowly eeking over to her face as she scrambled up onto her feet and saw him, caught off guard. He was a shorter, thinner example than the rest of the gunmen but a gunshot from any person had been deadly all the same. Oh god, this is it. After all that?

"Aw, fuck."

The young man had pointed the gun at her, allowing her to creakily stand after falling from the ceiling, hands frozen at her sides. It was a cruelty to her to prolong it any longer. Just shoot dammit! Don't make me wait!

She was taller than him, standing straight fully, shaking the dust off of herself and making it fall like snow. The sweater had been ruined but she wasn't about to just run around in only her bra, not that she had a choice, staring down the barrel of that gun.

Though the shot never came as the man frozen, his young eyes behind the mask so impossibly wide, stunned.

Details. They came out at her as such had gathered herself, the shot that was going to come never manifesting as time dragged out, coughing and seeing puffs of dust come out of her throat, she raising her hands up to her waist, a perplexed look coming over McCain's face. He had no Rocket uniform, instead dressed in only a simple black shirt and dark khakis. She took a step toward him and he had made a point to step back, pointing the gun even straighter at her.

And yet, McCain didn't feel threatened. Perhaps it was out of familiarity, approaching wild Tauros or other wild Pokémon who had been just about ready to throttle her, bargaining for her health in non-aggressive body language. Though there was something else, she tilted her head, looking at the pistol.

It was a nine-millimeter short. A concealed carry pistol. Not meant for fighting, more for surviving. The safety hadn't even been clicked down.

She glanced at the names written on her left forearm, having taken the time to write the new names while she was in the vents. "Which one are you eh? Blue? Dawn? Brendan or Lucas?" Her words were less spoken and more breathed now, tired, after so long. It was perhaps the only reason why this man had still been alive as he turned over, hands up. She didn't have the heart to draw her gun and cut down a young man when the circumstances like this. Not a man, she noticed more and more. It was in his eyes: he was a boy. A boy to her at least.

He shook his head silently, damning he hadn't turned on his radio just to check on what the rest of the crew was doing. Still, he didn't care for it in the end, just as long as he got what he needed.

All that was hard to think about though with this woman in front of him.

"I didn't kill no one who didn't shoot at me first. I didn't want to do it, you gotta believe me." Was she okay with those being her last words? Justifying who she had killed all her life? She took another step toward him arms raised high, and up. She had killed people. Silver had held onto his gun tighter.

Could he do it? Pull the trigger himself?

She glanced down at his belt: a single Pokéball.

"What's your name?" She asked. "You a trainer? Hired muscle?"

"Y- you first!" He finally spoke, his voice that of a young man, in fear. Did she really look that grisly?

She shouldn't have told him, but she did. Honesty was the best policy, and, if worst come to worst she could've drawn on him faster than he could realize that . "Janie McCain. I'm a Pokémon Ranger."

Silver's eyes widened. They were that of familiarity. The words left his mouth without his control. "You shot my father's men when they tried to take up business again… You killed them without warrant. You killed so many people."

"Your father?" McCain didn't know what that meant with the rest of that statement, but this young man, she knew who she was before she identified. That she wasn't just a random name. She was someone notable. Someone who was the worst type to be here. If this man's father had ownership of Rocket grunts, did that mean…? "What's your name?"

"Silver." He tore off his mask, and a face known to her was revealed. It wasn't a codename; it was his actual name.

"Oh my God." She knew who this was, very much so. How many briefings had been conducted on occasion, sent down from the International Police, about trying to find Silver? To question him? Only for that to be called off when he had been discovered as under the protection of the Indigo League champion herself.

Silver remembered McCain, more and more. He remembered one of the last things he had read of her, years ago:

No-knock raids in the middle of night against those who were suspected of remaining with Giovanni were being conducted. It had piqued his interest in the new that day when it end up with a cop put underneath criminal investigation after a raid gone wrong: She didn't kill an innocent man, the night of her last SWAT raid, but she killed a man who, by any other measure, was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. He could've had a second chance, before McCain led her men through his apartment's door. But fear had taken him over and he ran for a knife.

For his troubles, McCain had put buckshot in his chest and painted his kitchen red.

The dead man, former Rocketeer, didn't do it out of self-defense however. Far from it.

"You're a killer."

"I'm a cop." She cursed herself mentally. Was a cop.

He was thankful there had been someone like her, hunting down his father's men, all those years ago. It put them in their place in a way he couldn't. He thought differently now, knowing that many Rocketeers didn't want to be criminals, but the Silver of yesterday had been different from the one of today.

"That was a different me." Silver's eyes narrowed at her as she explained further. Once, long ago, he too had that rage against Team Rocket. Not by her measure however, and not by her methods. "What're you doing Silver? I thought Lyra sent you straight." She didn't know what compelled her to actually slap the gun out of his hands as if it was a toy and he a misbehaving child, grabbing his shoulders suddenly, closing the distance. "You're a good kid. We thought it true."

He had been seen with Lyra rarely during charity events, bringing Pokémon like their own to communities to be awed that, to show and tell that Pokémon trainerdom had been a fulfilling life to live.

Silver seemed frozen by her tenacity, hearing the name of his girlfriend, the gun clattering to the floor as she got that face of anger and tiredness off and instead became caring of him.

"I- I don't…" He stuttered, his own hands to his face as he backed off from her grip, finding a table to set his ass down "I don't want to be here…"

McCain breathed exasperated. "Me neither, kid. Me neither… but why are you here? What are you doing? Are you leading these men?"

"You first." He looked at her through disheveled red bangs.

She made an annoyed sound in her throat. "I'm the one with a gun and," she looked at her wrist, one kill and one probable, dusting her shoulders even more. "I know how to use it." She deserved after the night so far for her to be answered. Priorities, she realized. She glanced around the room: no one else had come. It was just him and her in that office space.

"I'm not… here for the reasons they are… Are you investigating who they killed at Cerulean Cave?" He decided that was the reason she was here. It made the most sense.

McCain nodded, gesturing to her belt. It was her badge. Then she had pointed at her holstered Styler. "I'm… a convenient blend. Once was a cop here, and now a Ranger."

"Mm." Silver said, seeing her looking down on him with an expectant look, arms crossed. She was wearing that ruined sweater, partly tightened by the holsters around her shoulders and back. He had heard rumors she had disappeared and reappeared out in the Ranger Union, and the truth was in the Styler that she had in one of those holsters. "What?"

"You're Giovanni's heir." McCain had more than pointed out. "You don't think I wouldn't be suspicious that a bunch of Rocketeers are here and you as well?" Why she hadn't cuffed him right now- she glanced at the telephone and its cord on the same table he sat, she could make it work- was beyond her, but he definitely was apart from the other Rocketeers.

"I promise you; I want nothing to do with what Archer is doing. All I want from here is just something to help my family."

"Family?" McCain parroted, she pointed down at his belt. He nodded. "What could they need, aren't you like, living a good life with a frickin' Pokémon Champion now?" Silver winced, and McCain had didn't want to make him. Something was very wrong and she felt it as someone who had a Pokémon of her own. If this was the same Silver that the reports said he had much to do with his Pokémon, a lot of who he was was part of those that became part of his team. She understood it more than he would believe.

His hand drifted down to his belt, and for a moment, McCain had gone to her HiPower, sitting in its holster, there was no need however as she let it go without drawing. He palmed his single Pokéball, it miniaturized currently. Inert. Pokémon held in that stasis were aware, in a measure, like a dream, of what had been going on outside but were otherwise just "resting". Some Pokémon hated the feeling, some had loved it. Hops had detested it so much he had spent much of his life outside of one, but there were moments where he did need to go in there: when he was poisoned, hurt, that it was better off for him to be in there instead of more harm or damage to progress. It was like being frozen, preserved in a way.

In a glint of Christmas light that had decorated the cubicles McCain noticed the roller mark that denoted where this Pokeball had been from: Professor Elm's lab. It had been the starter he stole. She had read that police report filed so long ago.

"My Feraligatr. He's in bad right now. The only reason he's not- not…"

Only one word could make a young man like Silver, like her even, pause when thinking about their partner.

"Say the words." McCain urged him. She knew what he meant.

"Dead is… is." He looked distant, offering a worn Pokéball from his belt as he unhooked it, holding it in his palm. "He has cancer. A rare form. A once in a decade case."

The PokéCenters of the world were marvels of medicine, all thanks to the company whose building they were in, but, unfortunately, their miracle did not go that far. Some things were just too advanced, too complicated, for a Nurse Joy, even one that was specially trained, to take over.

All of McCain's current worries had fallen away temporarily. Nothing about where they were, or who had been shooting her, or the spiral staircase she was falling down again as she needed to survive. It was just her, empathizing, seeing a young man beg for the life of someone he loved. She reached out and sandwiched the Pokéball between her worn palm and his, feeling the warmth that came from it. "I'm sorry, Silver, I'm so sorry."

Her palm had drifted away. "I can't let him die."

She understood now, more than ever, what he was going through. Though she was just on the opposite side of the coin tonight. "You can't do it this way though. Whatever your looking for, whatever Archer and his goons are, you're complicit with whatever they do."

"I don't care." One of the most dangerous words to ever slip from Human lips. McCain felt her HiPower weight a little more heavily. "It's a means to an end."

McCain had seen the specks of dried blood on him now. "They killed Mr. Silph."

"I know."

"You know Lyra. She's the Champion! She must have connections or help or-"

"There wasn't anything she could do." Silver formed fists with his hands as he pocketed his Feraligatr's Pokéball again. "Nothing that I could ask of her that wouldn't jeopardize all the good she's done."

So, he found some solution to his partner's cancer here, stowed right next to the Master Balls that Archer sought. But to get them, to grab them, it would mean breaking the law, breaking the common decency that was expected of her. He couldn't do that to her. That much McCain could deduce. This wasn't the first desperate man she had confronted. Silver had hardly been the most innocent.

"I can't rely on her anyway!" He thrashed a monitor off the table, cracking it. "I need to be strong on my own and- and-!" Listening to himself he sounded insane. It sounded exactly like that to McCain.

More than ever McCain had glanced at the gun that was thrown asides, she walking to it, racking back the slide and ejecting the mag as she returned in front of him. "Safety was on." She held the entire affair in one hand, away from him, eyes furrowed.

Question: What did they do now?
Answer: The thing that kept both of them alive.

"You know I can't let them continue."

"And you know I have to get into that vault."

McCain furrowed her eyebrows, the tiredness of the night returning to her. "How did you know all of this was happening anyway?"

"They asked me, a month ago." Silver admitted. "They needed me to come. I said no, until I found out what we needed was in here."

"Needed?" He nodded at her question.

Silver had said too much. The radio in his pocket had rumbled with sound and the two looked at each other in new light.

"Silver. Please respond." It was Archer.

"I can't let you stop what they're doing. I can't." Silver said with so much heart, so much cold. He knew it was wrong, but sometimes good people did bad things, and he had never been a good person anyway, he told himself.

"I have to." She took a step back. It was her job. Her responsibility.

"Give me my gun." Silver spoke lunacy. "I won't tell them you're here or I saw you. You can run. Elevators are blocked off from going below 80, but you can use the staircase."

She wanted to scream at him, to explain her reasoning had just been as personal as his, but even then, she had already said too much if they did a simple roll call of who the hostages were. She had told Silver who she was.

"I can't promise what I'll do if you let me go. You know that." She couldn't promise what she'd do if she saw him again.

"I'm giving you more choice than you ever did your own victims. Take it."

For all of the empathy she had given him she still wanted to spit in his face at that moment.

With one hand McCain had taken the magazine of his pistol, pushing rounds out until she felt the base spring, letting them all drop on the floor as the gun went with the mag, clattering.

"Silver. Respond."

McCain sucked in the spit between her teeth, eyes honed on him as she backed away. "You think she would be proud? Your Pokémon?"

Silver rose the radio to his mouth. "Go ahead."

"Lillie is dead and Serena is in bad shape. We need down here."

McCain had been backing up all the while, her gun, finally, leaving its holster and held at her hip, backing away to the stairwell access as she hung on Silver's next words. "Okay. I'm coming." He pocketed the radio, raising his hands, mocking, one hand had been raised and folded down into a fist. A stark wave goodbye as she bust out into the stairwell to parts unknown. He prayed she made the right choice.

She had fallen a few stories when she made the jump. A few more tumbling endeavors in the air vent had sent her down further, and as she found out, Silver, that boy, he had been on 85. When she ran from him and saw the stairway and the numbers denoting floors she had gotten back to where she started, which was okay, considering the alternative was dead.

Running up one she had come back to 86. The boardroom had been as she left it: no one in there. She had cleared the room, gun up, as she retraced her steps the first time around, no need to be ducking beneath tables. The red splotch where Mr. Silph's head had stained the floor was still there with his overturned chair. That place was somewhere she could rest for the moment, too much information going through her head as she had gone to the windows and sat herself down.

Her Styler still had a functional watch, looking at the time. 9:30. The Rocketeers had started the show at 7:45 abouts. She hadn't even wanted to do the math in her head but she had to remember how much sleep she was going off of:

She left Fiore at 3AM this morning. Barely slept on the flight over. Had stayed awake the entire period between Cerulean and Celadon, taking the train over to Saffron with the full intention of going to sleep in her bed, her actual bed, in her actual home. A full 19 hours without sleep doing actions that definitely required her to be in fighting form. It wasn't as if she was unfit, but she had been going on a stomach that had been gassed and a mind that was full of a case that had been now solved and the worry of her Husband and Child dying.

Of all the people she was going to meet today, from gym leaders to corporate leaders, the roster had only expanded with Silver himself: Giovanni's son!

Was this how those trainers felt? The ones that eventually, always, found themselves as champions of the Regions? Rubbing shoulders with important people and villains had been their normal. Now it was hers.

Sinking against the low wall below a window, the meeting room had been in between her and the rest of the floor. If any came out of the elevator they wouldn't see her outright as her body knew it. She held her gun with both hands, held up, when she felt it touch her forhead she had realized that a bout of microsleep had hit her unkindly as she jerked. "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck."

In another life she could've been a punk kid like Silver. Hell, maybe she had been in this life. She hadn't been as dramatic in pulling herself out of it however.

She felt for the kid, she really did. He didn't want to have anything to do with this, but desperation had been a mother of some very bad ideas and those bad ideas, justifying all of this, had ended up in death.


She had decisions to make and she couldn't even begin to think about to what ends.

Times like this she missed being a cop. Having a lieutenant or captain tell them what was what and covering her ass. The best decisions in her line of work had always been made over bad, hot coffee in shitty, uncleaned mugs. She needed coffee. Tipping her head up at the boardroom it wasn't that surprising there had been a coffee machine off to the side, near where she had hid the first time.

Starting off in a crawl, shamefully, she had realized that each time she had even entertained the thought of sitting down exhaustion wanted to keep her there. Not that she was doing any good now standing, slowly making her way over to the coffee machine and its paper cups adjacent. While she waited for the drip of the coffee to come, the banality of her loading up a cup and hearing the machine steam, she had dropped the mag in her pistol into her hand. At max, five rounds left in this mag. She pocketed it, topping off her pistol, glancing at the stairwell and the elevator hallway at times as her coffee spilled out.

Hopefully her message had gotten out, for she was able to raise someone, petulant as they were. She didn't care that the coffee burned her tongue, it sprung her just a little more awake, hoping the cavalry was coming.

If they hadn't, then, well, she was about to become a lot more predatory, a lot more hunter-killer than that world had any business letting her be. The coffee's steam cleared her pores, what formation of condensation on her face dug deep as black pebbles of water formed on her fingers. Her face was dirty.

No, she thought. More than my face.

December 24th

9:40 PM, Kanto-Johto Standard Time

Downstairs they had known what was coming the second that the message their interloper sent was out. The doorman had been prepared when a teal-haired, generational sight had knocked at the glass doors of Silph Co. below.

The Jennys, much like the Joys, had been a large family with noted social service history. As it had back in the day, the Jenny and Joy family had made it their trade to get caught up in either the policing or hospital service. The patriarchs of that family had a lot of daughters for some miraculous reason, and so the look of them had been spread across the world.

Nowadays, not every Jenny or Joy had been of the bloodline. But there had been an expectation that those that had joined their creed had looked similar enough.

The current Jenny in Saffron City had been a particularly veteran officer, swinging her night stick idly by its lanyard as she awaited by the glass door, called upon basically as she was clocking out of the station that night. Bundled up her chest had been a particular source of warmth. It had been her Growlithe, sandwiched comfortably between her and her puffy coat.

All had been fine, the little Pokémon panting in its excited state as it was taken out on a rather late-night walk, but something had changed the moment she had approached the Silph Co. Tower. It had started whining into her neck, not wanting to go any nearer.

"Yeah, yeah, I know bud. This'll be in and out, promise." She growled out reassuringly. It was little condolences as the Growlithe groaned out still. It was something odd, but the Jenny hadn't been given time to think about it as the front doorman had approached with a smile, unlocking the door.

"What can I do for ya officer?" Hoenn accent. Friendly enough though.

Jenny had flashed her badge as her Growlithe groaned even more. "Hi, just a general welfare check. See if that fire alarm and what not was all settled." The door was open, that right was waived as Jenny had stepped in. The doorman had been more than happy to let her in, retreating back to his desk, kicking his feet up on it and watching that still going television program.

"Diantha of course, was always a very aesthetic battler. All pomp and power rolled into one as befit a woman of her particular enthusiasm. As we roll up for the 9th match of Christmas Eve Tournament here in the Landwalker Memorial Stadium, we'll see how that beautiful style of fighting translates to the rough and tumble Barry's scrappy techniques."

The doorman had pointed at the television as the Jenny passed through the metal detectors, they were off, going to lean now on the counter of the front desk looking at the whole affair.

"Got a few bucks on Barry. He's also been a straightforward trainer."

Jenny had feigned knowing what he was talking about with a complacent nod, looking back down that hallway toward the elevators. It hadn't been her first time in this building, but the doorman had been new.

"Mind if I go take a look around?" She motioned back at the elevator, running a hand through her Growlithe's hair as it became more and more agitated.

"Not unless you want to climb those elevators," the doorman said apathetically, not even turning his head. "When that misfire went off we disabled the elevators. Seeing as it's Christmas our handyman is out of town for a bit, so we won't be able to fix 'em."

Her Growlithe had gone off again, really wryly. "Ah, fair enough." She said hurriedly in response, adjusting her cap. "So we're all good?"

"Ripe as rain ma'am. Sorry the department sent you out this far."

The department had reported, not only the fire alarm misfire from before, but a woman, screaming obscenities and then the sound of gunfire. A hoax? A prank? It didn't seem like it was happening here.

"Alrighty then. Thank you for your time. Happy holidays."

Just as fast as she had walked onto the scene, she had left, leaving those doors as the doorman followed her out, locking the door.

Her Growlithe had been whining less, but still, something was off. Very off. Giving the man a wave she had feigned another smile, walking off, her radio in her hand. "Dispatch. Uh, seems all clear."

"Copy 3 Lincoln."

Jenny would've let that be that, but she had seen something: a glint of black on that flat surface of the plaza around the building. Due to the off-white color of the tiling it had definitely stuck out as she approached. If anything, she would do her good deed for the day, picking up some trash. She had assumed it was a container from a gift, already opened, but it hadn't fluttered in the wind. That same wind making her curly blue bangs flutter in front of her eyes.

It was a box, elongated, like one of those wireless speakers she had, but it was metallic. Through her gloves she had picked it up. It had been hollow, one end of it open. There had been no place for this to have come from but-

The police officer had looked up, but as she was doing it, she had caught, in the distance, a figure of orange out in the night sky.

"Keep your mask on," Dawn had ordered, wiping up the last of the blood from her tools, broken teeth and the single bullet that had found its mark in a napkin on Danny's table. "You were ugly enough without being blasted."

"Fucking hurts." An Espeon had appeared on the desk as Serena sat on it, closing its eyes, its third-eye like gem glowing as a psychic aura surrounded his face, numbing the area.

"Good girl." Dawn had ran a hand through her Pokémon's fur appreciatively. "I've stopped the bleeding for now, don't push it. Or get shot again."

Blue and May had been present in Danny's office now, along with Archer, looking as Dawn tended to Serena. Blue had still been furious, and surprisingly, May had been as well.

"Silver's coming down." Archer reported, pocketing his radio as the rest of the men had still worked over the hostages.

"And the vault?" Serena had asked for his troubles, half of his words slurred.

"Lex has gotten through three of the 7 locks. He's halfway done."

Upwards Lex had moved on from software to hardware, one of the many crates that they had brought in had been carrying a hydro-assisted drill, and he had been performing what was essentially metal-electronic surgery with it as he pierced the door as best he could to kill circuits.

"Son of a bitch." Serena had refused to look at his own face, instead opting to throw some of the bloody rags used to clean him up away to the floor in a wet splotch. "How are we gonna fucking keep doing this Archer? That bitch will screw something up big, and it won't just be one of our faces."

The Espeon had chirped at Serena. Language.

"Fuck you." He had responded back. Outside his Nidoking had moved to see if he was okay, and he had slid him a thumbs up.

Archer's Houndoom chuffed a few words at her trainer as he thought it over.

Blue overheard. "Bitch is right. We gotta go hunting before we proceed with anymore of the plans. She has one of our radios and can listen into our transmissions." Still sensitive over the lost of his brother, Blue didn't want to use an excuse to go hunting for his killer, but he needed to.

No more than two people at a time needed to look over the hostages, that left 12 of them, Archer and Silver now included, to cover twenty floors up to the top. "She left the submachine gun, but dropped all the ammo down the shaft."

"Then that should be it then?" Archer asked, hopeful.

The three Rocketeers that had chased her up top shook her heads.

"She has another gun. Pistol."

So still very much a threat.

"And you said," Archer pointed to Blue, "You saw her crawling into one of the air vents?"

Blue nodded scornfully. "There are miles of air vents in this building, she could be anywhere by now."

Archer's Houndoom had garnered his attention again, making a point of sniffling her nose. The other Pokémon in the room got the message, looking to each of their masters expectantly.

Dawn hadn't been convinced. "Sending the Pokémon after her? Seems overkill, don't it?"

"With the way she's been fighting us?" May had spoken up for what felt like the first time in hours, his sing-song accent biting. "It's the right call." Heavily armed as he was there were always right tools. Pokémon were tools to be used here.

"But who the fuck is she then to warrant it?" Dawn had pointed one of her pliers at him. "Someone who is packing heat?"

Blue bellyached. "That's a nine mil." Pointing at the dislodged shot sitting by the teeth Dawn had to tear out of Serena on her way to get it. "We don't have any. So that's hers. Has to be."

"A cop then…. One of your people?" Archer had made a very distinct observation. May had shook his head almost immediately.

"I know where they all are tonight. There's only one retired asshole in town, and he's a dude." He answered, offended almost.

Fair. Archer had guessed further. "If she can carry a gun, then she must be trained for it. Almost no one in this region carries privately. Especially not in a city as Liberal as this."

Something else: That Pidgeot that knocked off Blue's shot. It seemed… better than he had expected. "She had some way helping the Pokémon that were affected by your jammers, Archer." he remembered.

Archer's eyes widened. "What?"

Rui had affirmed, still shaken from it all. "Yeah. We found a Pidgeot up top that got caught in your radio waves. It seemed good enough to fight back. Blue shot it."

"There's not much that can counteract my signals. Nothing short of an UHF RFID repeater, and even then, they'd have to know what exact frequencies I'm broadcasting with, and they change at a set interval." Archer had gone through his techno-speak, flying over most of their heads except May's.

"Yeah but what if it's a broad-spectrum overlap? That's how SEAD-planes operate." He talked on military terms.

"Then that's professional gear." Archer fired back. Professional gear.

They all lingered on that thought as Serena's bandages dampened, cursing, replacing it in short order as the brevity of their situation set in: All plans, even the best ones, were faulty to this one observance:

They all fell apart when confronted with an enemy. They didn't think there would be any here though.

"We expected there to be resistance tonight. If not her, then the regional authority. Is that correct?" Archer had started rolling into command, he had planned this heist for half a year. An external factor such as an actually effective loose hostage was within the margin of error. "We expected a fight, because that's part of the plan. Although this is a setback, this is not a cancellation of our plan. Once Silver is here I'll tell you all what we can do next."

Clumsily Silver had been thumbing his bullets back into the magazine as the elevator came back down to 83, his mask on. The very sight of him loading the magazine back into the gun had riled some fear in the whole hostage group and, unhealthily, a surge had come up through him. This was what power felt like. He looked out across that group of hostages, Human and Pokémon alike. He had seen this type of thing twice over before: Once, as a child, in this very building when his father tried to take it all. Next, in Goldenrod and the radio station, this time he trying to free them. But now he had been the hostage taker.

It was said, for many sons, their story had been a generational one. Many had become their fathers in the end. What Silver didn't know about that parable was that sons didn't have a choice, not really, in the end.

The hostages had all looked at him at fear, cast alongsides Rocketeers.

"He's not wearing their uniform." Danny had stood up again with Hops on his shoulders, an increasingly familiar move. He had never been as physical with Hops through his entire life. Hops had growled in affirmation.

Silver had seen the Grovyle pop to attention, staring at him intently on top of-


Silver blinked a few times. He knew that researchers name and his face from the reports he had read from field testing of new potions.

Daniel McCain.

What he was going to do with that information now he didn't have much time to process as he looked out of the window behind McCain in the background and saw a very familiar sight: a Dragonite. He recognized its orange silhouette anywhere, and suddenly his veins had all gone cold.

Dear god, it was her. Her.

His feet moved before he could process, running to Daniel McCain's office where everyone had been set up, ignoring the fact that there had been blood on the table.

"Archer!" He yelled in the door way, the guards who had seen what Silver saw running to the windows with their rifles ready, Pokémon riled into form as they felt a battle near. "She's coming!"

"The interloper?!" All the men in the office had readied, the Espeon hissing, ready for a fight.

Silver shook his head urgently, panting. "No! Lyra!"

Archer's eyes sunk deep, and suddenly a lone gunwoman didn't seem so bad anymore. History played back in his head: the beat down in the rotunda of Goldenrod's radio tower, how all his plans came crumbling down because someone whose control and will over Pokémon had been so drastically above his own. Years had passed, and she had only become stronger, more mature, without the reservations of her youth. He had come running out of the office followed.

She didn't have any of the Dragonite-line when she had challenged him, and if Lance's ability with his own had been notable, hers would've been deadly. Archer had looked out the windows and saw it coming right at the building, a minute to spare.

"Get the hostages to act casual. Everyone else hide!" Archer had retreated back into an office, Silver on his heels. He had been so close to achieving his goals and if she had a hint that he was here, she would've burned that entire building down.

It was there a particular hierarchy had been discovered.

Hops had immediately twisted his head to look behind him when that young man that emerged from the elevator saw what, for all intents and purposes was a ghost. Instead he had seen that Dragonite as well. Everyone had seen it, the hostages stirring up as the Rocketeers and their Pokémon geared up, ready for whatever was coming until they got new orders.

Danny had noticed something else: "That Dragonite's form is slumped. It's flying with riders."

That far out he could tell. How many Dragonite riders had there been in the Indigo League? None who hadn't been in some relation to Lance or Claire, and he had known where they were tonight according to his social media feed. The only other Dragonite rider had been made clear to him, but he couldn't declare it vocally. He didn't want to get people's hopes out, or to wear the Rocketeer's hopes thin. Only bad things would follow.

It was May that had assumed absolute command through his mask.

"Alright! All of you, act like you're still having this party! You try to signal that Dragonite you're dead!"

The world had gone silent for Hops as too much information bombarded his head at once. If it hadn't been for that damned haze over him, he would've not double guessed himself as that Rocket that cried out spoke.

There was no time to double check as the makeshift farce was enacted.

The Rocketeers had disappeared into the offices, peering out from their blinds at a group of people who had just been ordered to chill, despite their predicament, widening out their group. Some had taken the opportunity to go to the refreshments, downing water, taking finger foods. While others had still just frozen where they were, trying to avoid looking at the windows.

Salvation had seemed so very far away, and, frankly, as Hops had wondered, if this Dragonite had been Janie's doing.

McCain had returned to the wall of the windows, sitting on it calmly, nursing hot and shitty coffee as she tried to derive its caffeine from it desperately. It wouldn't sit in her stomach well, empty as it was, but it would have to do something. If she had a choice she would've preferred to just snort coffee beans if she was convinced that would've done her better, but she didn't need the coffee to wake up as she saw what everyone in that building did moments earlier:

A Dragonite, soaring toward them from the north.

She recognized how it flew: Top Rangers such as her boss had often frequented them as a mode of travel.

But flying? Around the tower? She had seen what happened to that Pidgeot, and if its riders were on it when it happened…

It was a long way down.

"Hey! Hey! Oh no no no!"

The coffee cup clattered to the floor near her bare feet, she looking left and right, trying to find a way to open those windows and scream out. Could her voice reach out that far? She doubted it, but she had to try something. Something!

The butt of her gun had slammed the nearest window pane in front of her immediately, a chip seen as the metal hit glass.

Tired, afraid, frantic, the answer to most of her troubles had been mostly the same tonight: Shoot them.

Thankfully the Dragonite as it approached had levied off just outside of its direct airspace, warily respecting the windbreak the tower offered as it showed off its side profile: two riders.

McCain in her tired haze could barely see them out, but a speck of orange, even more orange than the Dragonite, had stuck out from the entire view.

Misty had clamped her arms around Lyra's midsection as they had orbited Silph Co., keeping her cape from engulfing her as they rode as a pair. She never liked flying. Or bugs for that matter. Lyra's Dragonite's scales had perhaps hit a little too close for home to her as it only set in they were doing this with no safety equipment: just pure grip strength and trust in Lyra's Dragonite. "Real romantic!" Misty yelled into Lyra's ear, gripping her tighter.

Silver had said the same thing to her the first time they did this and he had wrapped his arms around her so, so tight.

It'd been nice.

She had been silent as she looked out at Silph, scanning its mostly dark floors, the brightest one almost up at the time. Around the 80th story if she could judge. She had done this enough that she had kept a pair of goggles handy at all times, allowing her to see out. Circling the building several times the definition, or rather, the deductive reasoning of what they saw at that lit up floor from a distance had been assumed:

"Seems like just another holiday party!" Misty had yelled into Lyra's ear. Several times did the Dragonite circle the building, concentrating on that one strip of lights and people going about, to them, their routine.

She wish she could call upon her Typhlosion, up here in the air. He always had better vision than her. With one palm she had tapped the neck of her Dragonite several time, he turning his head over, shaking it subtly. He didn't see anything out of the ordinary as well.

"We're moving in closer!" Lyra screamed out to Misty over the wind.

Inside, McCain had gone from butt of her pistol to a chair in short order, throwing it against the resilient glass. She couldn't have wasted ammo blowing it open, or risking a ricochet, so instead she had nothing but her strength, yelling with toss as she aimed at a splintering of cracks in the window, going out like an Ariados's web. It was inevitable now that she heard the glass itself straining.

With one last haul of the chair the great glassy crash of a window being broken was heard and the blast of cold air almost blew her back. There was one thing to do before that Dragonite banked in closer and killed its riders. She had hung out of the window by its frame, one arm out stretched and waited till the Dragonite rounded her corner again. Closer she had seen who it was and suddenly she knew her life had been exponentially complicating. Like the flags of her fathers, she felt the breeze as she saw Misty look at her.

God forgive her. Instead of a prayer beneath her breath, she was being cynical instead:

"Welcome to the party, gals…"

"What's that?" Misty had pointed the anomaly out, of what looked like someone, a person, hanging out of the window pointing back at her.

That's when they heard the sonic cracks above them, the flash of fire that emanated from that person's arm. Misty had known exactly what that was as she had hauled Lyra's head down and squeezed her leg, the Dragonite tilting down and away in a dive. "We've got a problem!"

For all Lyra cared for, Misty had just outlined the understatement of the year.

The sound of gunfire a few floors up had caused 83 to go silent, the Rocketeers bursting out of their hiding places.

"Who the hell-!?" Archer stormed out before they all listened to the gunfire report.

That gunfire sound didn't come from through the floors they realized: it was coming from outside and up.

Rui and the Rocketeer who had been named Cheren had been closest to the stairway. With their feet they would get upward faster as they went without order. This was their chance to solve one problem before another appeared.

The rest of the Rocketeers knew the gig was up as they rushed to the windows, blowing them open and then aiming down at the Dragonite.

It didn't rain or snow that Christmas Eve. It hailed.

The Dragonite had roared above as it twisted and turned down, echoing through the night as a fight had come for it. The Jenny had only looked on, confused, looking back at the doorman for some sort of answer for what was happening as he had exited the building halfway: in his hands a-

She had ducked immediately, scrambling away as she heard the puffs, the pops, of suppressed gunfire cross right over her. The closest cover had been a large flower pot decorating that plaza, but if anything, she did all she could do was scream into her radio:

"This is 3-Lincoln I need backup now! Gunfire! Silph Building!"

She had dove, scuffing her side, flying behind that flower pot as pieces of it were chipped off. The first time that gunfire had stopped its wild fire at her she had dashed again toward the street, not even looking back as she had crossed that distance that even an Arcanine would be pressed to handle under the circumstances. All the while she had been holding her Growlithe tight to her chest, hopping over the raised barrier of the plaza into the street.

Only then did she hear the cacophony of sustained gunfire above her, bullet impacts mere feet away sending concrete chips flying and tracers bouncing. Distantly, she heard the whizzing of slower attacks: Flash Cannon, Toxic Sting maybe, Razor Leafs and other psychic beam attacks. The world had gotten very, very loud, and she was moments away from being consumed by it.

She thought it was over until a Dragonite had appeared over her, its wings cast like a shell over her as she heard two pairs of feet hop off of it. "Come on! Let's move!"

The Dragonite had winced as gunshots landed in its extended wing, Jenny not even looking at who had come to protect her, moving down the street until the next building over blocked all lines of sight.

Keeling over at her knees, letting in cold air into her lungs, she had let the vice grip over her chest go as her Growlithe dropped onto the sidewalk: safe, looking up at her, and then the large dragon still protecting them all. "Helluva night to wear heels. Holy shit."

"It's a helluva night to be an officer, ma'am." That voice.

Jenny had looked up to see who it had been, and she had realized she was in the presence of modern royalty. "Champion Kasper!"

Despite it all, Lyra had only offered a hand down as Misty took a look at her dragon's right wing. "Please, only Lyra ma'am. Have you called for backup?"

Her answer had been the roar of sirens that rose throughout the entire city.

The war machine opened up its evil eye.