Hello everyone! As promised, I am back with another chapter to entertain you all. I hoppe that you all can enjoy what it brings to the table. Before then, I should let you know that I have completed updates on the earlier parts of the story and brought them up to a better standard. The list of improvements include an overall increase in quality, an extra scene in chapter 1 between Ash and May, a rewrite of Ash's battle with Max, a rewrite of Ash's interrogation, and minor tweaks here and there to detail.

The overall story hasn't changed, so if you read it before then you know everything. If you want to see what I improved on, though, feel free to take a look and let me know what you think!

Anyway, on with the show!

It was happening again.

The doom of Alto Mare, the theft of the Soul Dew, the rushing water, and the deafening silence. Ash's head pounded with his heartbeat, rocking his body with every breath he took. He could hardly focus on anything, let alone think. His throat felt so dry that he couldn't utter a single sound.

This couldn't be happening. The Soul Dew was hidden in the most secure place in the entire city. Even with Latias not there to defend it, the Pokemon that made the hidden garden their home would have defended it. That was irrelevant though. Team Rocket should never have been able to find the garden in the first place!

Except they had. Somehow, Team Rocket had managed to infiltrate the garden and steal the Soul Dew. Had they known its location all along and this attack on the city had been meant to distract them from protecting the Soul Dew? Or… had his involvement led them directly to it like last time?

He didn't know which would be worse.

It didn't take long for the water to leave the city. It moved with such speed and purpose that he could have been forgiven for thinking the water had a mind of its own. The Pokemon that had once swam through the peaceful canals were trapped within its cool embrace, pulling them along with it. In less than a minute, the canal in front of him was completely devoid of all water and he had no doubt that it was the same across the entire city.

Ash wasn't a stranger to danger. In his journey as a Pokemon trainer, he had put himself in danger countless times. Sometimes it was to protect innocent people and Pokemon from vile criminals while other times it would be by complete accident. No matter how common it was for him to encounter deadly situations, he would never get used to the feeling of mind-numbing terror that shook him to his core.

Even this deep in the city, it was impossible for Ash to miss the tidal wave that towered over the city from a few miles out. Every direction he looked, he could see the deep blue water of the ocean casting a shadow of death over the city. Despite the law of gravity dictating that the water come crashing down on them all, it stood motionless before the eyes of the city.

He knew that it wouldn't last long.

The people of the city knew that too. Last time this happened, everyone in the city had been asleep or locked in their homes. They hadn't known the danger they were in. This time? One moment the city was so quiet that he could have heard a pin drop on the opposite end. The next there was a deafening cacophony of screams as people and Pokemon alike realized the destruction awaiting them.

Their screams were so loud that Ash was broken from his stupor and forced to cover his ears with his hands, not that it helped much. He wouldn't have been surprised if people on the mainland could hear the panic.

Even if they could, there wasn't much they would be able to do to save the city.

Ash heard a cry of pain and stumbled to his feet. He spun around to see the source of the voice and saw Latias, crumpled on the ground with an expression of pure agony writ on her face. At her side, Pikachu and Bianca were frozen in fear and hadn't yet noticed the state of their friend.

He rushed over and crouched down at Latias' side, breaking the two of them from their terror. His hands were shaking, and his vision swam from the pure panic coursing through his system, but he did his best to check her wounds.

"Don't move." He mumbled. "The bones in your wings are broken and you've lost a lot of blood. You can't afford to make this- "

"Worse!?" She snapped. Her eyes were blazing with barely contained fury. As it was the ground trembled with Psychic energy. "My city is about to be destroyed! I can't just sit here and do nothing!"

As if to prove her point, she tried to lift herself off the ground through sheer force of will. To her credit, she was able to make it about a foot in the air before she tumbled to the ground again with a pained grunt. Bianca let out a gasp and rushed to her side, doing her best to put pressure onto the profusely bleeding wounds and coating her hands in golden ichor in the process.

Ash clenched his eyes shut. "There's nothing you can do, Latias. Nothing any of us can do…."

Tears had gathered in her eyes, though whether that was from the pain of her injuries or their impending death, he didn't know. "No! I refuse to be useless again! I won't allow my brothers sacrifice to have been for nothing! I can't let you all down again!"

Ash winced from guilt. Her words were like daggers straight to his heart. As if the deaths of his friends and everyone else in the city weren't bad enough, this made Latios' sacrifice all those years ago pointless. It was an insult to his memory to think he gave his life for a mere five years of survival for Alto Mare.

"You haven't let us down, Latias." He cradled her broken wing in his hands, careful not to grip it too hard or cause her any pain. "You did the best you could."

Latias snapped her eyes shut. "My best wasn't good enough. It never is. If I was half the guardian my brother was, I- "

Her eyes widened and she let out a gasp of shock. Before his eyes, the injured form of his friend disappeared. In her place was a carbon copy of Bianca in every way. Or at least it would have been if it weren't for the ruby red blood that caked her clothes, a leg that had been broken at an awkward angle, or an eye swollen completely shut. He barely had a chance to fully understand what had happened before he heard the powerful flap of wings above them.

Ash spun around and looked towards the sky with Pikachu at his side, letting off deadly sparks of electricity. Up above them was an absolutely massive black bird as dark as the night sky. Upon closer inspection, its feathers, talons, and beak all appeared to glint in the light as if they were made out of steel. Its piercing red eyes had him frozen to the spot.

While he had never met one of these Pokemon before, he had seen Corviknight's in the past as a child on TV. The Galarian bird was well known for its sheer power and remarkable cunning. If it had wanted to, it could have killed them all and there was nothing any of them could have done to stop it.

Mercifully, it landed a few feet away from them and a portly man with thin gray hair and a bushy mustache hopped off of its back. He took one look at them and destruction around them before gasping.

"What happened here!?" The man rushed over with his Corviknight not far behind.

"We were attacked." Honesty was the best option here. He didn't need to give this man the wrong idea and have him sic his Corviknight on him. "A couple of criminals tried to take advantage of the chaos. We stopped them."

The man hummed in thought. "I see… well that hardly matters now. Come, climb onto Corviknight and we'll get out of here."

"Climb on…?"

The older man grunted in annoyance and moved towards them. "Are you blind, boy? There's a tsunami headed towards the city! No one in their right mind is sticking around if they can help it!" He gestured wildly to the sky and helped Bianca to her feet. "Take a look for yourself."

Dumbly, Ash looked towards the sky and felt his eyes widen in shock. If the towering tsunami was casting Alto Mare in a shadow from every direction, then the sky had been almost completely obscured. Up above were hundreds- no, thousands of Flying types and other Pokemon capable of flight in the sky. From powerful Pidgeot and Fearow to deadly Hydreigon's and Altaria. There were even more strange Pokemon such as Magnezone and Heracross high above the city. The one thing all of these radically different Pokemon had in common was that they were carrying Humans on their backs and in their claws. He could even see what must have been a flock of wild Pidgey collectively carrying people into the sky!

That was without even mentioning the dozens of helicopters hovering above the city at the same time.

Despite the severity of the situation, Ash felt hope swell in his heart. The people weren't all doomed. Unlike last time, everyone had been out in the city and awake when the water began to leave the city. It had been foolish to think that they would all just willingly accept their fate.

For once, he was glad to have been a fool.

"They're fleeing the city…."

The man grunted as he hoisted Bianca up onto the back of his Corviknight with Pikachu not far behind. "That we are. I was on my way towards the center of the city to see if anyone needed help when my partner here saw you all below us." He grinned. "Be sure to thank him when this is all over."

At this point, he'd have kissed the dang thing if it saved him and his friends.

Ash hurried over to Latias and helped her up off of the ground. While it may have looked to the world as though he was cradling her in his arms to accommodate her broken leg, in reality he was only providing support to help her levitate towards the Corviknight.

The gray-haired man frowned. "These criminals must have done a number on her. I'd say she needs a hospital, but I don't think she'll see one for a while yet."

Bianca chose that moment to speak up. "She'll be fine. We can worry about a hospital if we survive." Her eyes flickered to him. "Ash… can you get Grandpa? He… he won't be able to make it on his own."

Ash winced and glanced towards the Davri family home. He had completely forgotten about Lorenzo. A tiny, cynical part of him fueled by fear of the tsunami in the distance whispered that he should abandon the man. He might as well have been dead already and would only weigh them down. Surely he would want Bianca and Latias to survive even if it meant his death.

The disgust that pulsed through him at the thought was enough for him to squash that evil thought. No matter how injured Lorenzo, there was always the chance he could survive. He deserved the chance to survive after all he had endured.

If anyone deserved to be left here, it was him for thinking such a terrible thought.

With a brief nod, Ash took off sprinting towards the house and burst through the door. Lorenzo was where they had left him, still unconscious in a pool of his own blood. With as much haste as he could muster, Ash grabbed the elderly man by his shoulders and dragged him out of the house as fast as he could. Lorenzo was too heavy for him to completely lift off of the ground so this was the best that he could do.

Once he was closer to the Corviknight, its trainer helped him hoist Lorenzo up onto its back behind Bianca. He was worried that the man would have slid off until he felt Latias in the back of her mind. He relaxed as he realized she would keep him in place with her Psychic power.

The older man climbed up onto Corviknight's back and offered him a hand. "Come on, we need to move! Who knows when that water will come crashing down?"

Any minute now if his experience last time was any indication. Ash was all too eager to get out of the city before it hit. Except… he hesitated just before taking the offered hand. He glanced back towards the unconscious Team Rocket Grunts and their Pokemon.

They had tried to kill him and his friends. Their organization had ruined his life and the lives of so many other innocent people. More importantly, they had helped Team Rocket inadvertently cause this disaster in the first place. No one would have blamed him if he abandoned them here. In a way, it would have been justice for all of the suffering they and their organization had caused.

He could never live with himself if he abandoned them though. No matter how disgusted he may have been with them or how much suffering they caused, no one deserved to die. Least of all in a tsunami. If he left them here to certain death then it would be as good as wielding the blade himself.

Bianca's eyes narrowed and she tightened her grip on the Corviknight's back. "Ash, don't! Get on before it's too late!"

He ignored her and rushed towards the workshop. In the distance, he could hear the sound of rushing water and knew that the tsunami had begun to close in on them from all sides. His heart leapt into his throat, but he didn't let that stop him from dragging the Grunts out into the open. He yanked their Pokeballs off of their unconscious forms and hastily returned their Pokemon to safety.

Motivated entirely by survival, Ash found the strength and speed to toss the unconscious criminals up onto the back before hopping up himself. Even if he could feel her displeasure through their Psychic link, he made it clear to Latias that he expected her to keep them from falling off the same as Lorenzo.

The gray-haired trainer grunted. "Cutting it close, boy. Not many would bother saving people that tried to kill them." He didn't bother waiting for a response and slapped the side of Corviknight's neck. "Get us out of here!"

The Corviknight didn't need to be told twice. If Ash had been worried about it being able to carry all of them and still be able to fly high enough, then his fears were pointless. As a Steel type, Corviknight was far stronger physically than nearly any other Flying type. With a single flap of its wings, it took off into the air and forced them all to grip its feathers as tightly as they could to avoid being thrown off.

In less than twenty seconds, they had managed to reach the same height as the horde of other Pokemon in the sky. They managed to angle themselves in the center of a flock of Pidgey that gave them a clear view of the city below.

Just in time to see the tsunami hit.

The first thing to capture Ash's attention was how loud it was, completely drowning out any sound coming from the city in the center of the waves path. When the tsunami moved, the earth rumbled and the very air shook from the enormity of the water bearing down towards the city. The smell of brine and stale sulfur was so strong that his eyes watered.

When the tsunami struck, it struck from all sides. Like a guillotine descending upon the vulnerable neck of a prisoner, it hard and fast with no chance of stopping it. The warehouses and buildings along the edge of the city were the first to fall, but they were far from the last. While some of the rampaging water would flow down the carefully crafted canals of the city, most of it smashed through buildings, monuments, and anything else in its way with pitiful ease. In mere seconds, half of the city had been completely submerged underwater and more would be joining it soon.

He heard Bianca whimper in distress in front of him. While he wasn't much better, he put his hand on his shoulder and squeezed comfortingly to show that he was here. She steadfastly looked away from the carnage below and kept her eyes shut. As much as he wished he could have done the same, he couldn't find the strength in him to look away.

The waters of destruction had smashed through houses, toppled marble pillars, uprooted trees, and otherwise removed all traces of Human civilization as though it were never there in the first place. Even boats and gondolas which had been dragged out to see were now used as wrecking balls by the waves. The remnants of the once beautiful city were now little more than debris that was used by the water to smash through anything else in its path. Even the museum – the pride of the city – had been subsumed by the waves completely.

The only buildings to survive the ferocious assault of the waves were a few hotels, corporate buildings, and the police headquarters. While the buildings had been bashed and battered by the debris in the water, they held firm. While he was too high up to be certain, he was convinced that he could see people clustered together on the roofs of the buildings. It gave him hope that more people were using them as shelter from the danger.

He paled as he heard a loud crunch that reverberated through the air. He didn't dare move or react in a desperate hope that it had just been his imagination. It hadn't. Before his very eyes, one of hotel buildings which had stood tall in the face of the disaster wobbled in place. Down below in the water, cargo ships and massive chunks of debris were thrown against the foundation of the hotel. Cracks began to spread up and inside of the building until with one final, gargantuan wave the building tore itself in half and toppled over into the tempestuous waters below.

It sunk beneath the waves with a deafening crash. A massive plume of water was launched into the air in its wake, sending everyone above it scrambling to fly away or risk being knocked into the watery grave below by hundreds of pounds of water.

Ash watched with bated breath as the water continued to rage through the ruins of the once great city of Alto Mare, swirling debris in an apocalyptic maelstrom that didn't look like it would calm down anytime soon. Mercifully, the few other buildings still standing weathered the assault with no sign of crumbling.

The destruction of Alto Mare was far from over… but at least the worst of it was past them.

"We're coming to you live from Goldenrod City in the sunny Johto Region." The reporter on screen cleared here throat and gestured out to the beautiful port city behind her. "It has been a week since the tragedy of Alto Mare. Authorities claim that the tsunami that destroyed the city was the largest and deadliest in recorded history. Experts believe that it was caused by a small earthquake out in the deep ocean, but video recordings show that the water actually came from within the city and surrounding area."

The reporter paused for suspense. "They assure us that these recordings are complete fabrications despite the sheer number of them and accounts from survivors of the tragedy confirming this to be the case."

Left unsaid was why the survivors of the tragedy would have any reason to lie about the disaster that destroyed their home.

The reporter moved deeper into the city towards the port. The camera panned out to show that the port had been turned into a makeshift refugee camp for the survivors of the city. Rows upon rows of tents spanned the entirety of the docks in all shapes and sizes. On the outskirts were humanitarian workers and police moving in and out doing their best to help.

The reporter stepped back into frame. "The refugees have managed to find sanctuary within Goldenrod City. While the influx of thousands of people may have been a daunting task for some, the people of Goldenrod have risen to the challenge. Even now, people are opening their homes to help those who have lost their own. For those who have nowhere else to go, emergency services have done their best to give them everything they need to survive until they can move completely into the city."

A large truck slowly drove by the camera with a small mountain of crates in the back. Essentials such as fresh food and water to medicine and dry clothes were being brought in and out of the refugee camp day and night.

"The response from the international community is one of collective mourning for the victims." The reporter allowed a small smile to grace her face. "As Johto's staunchest supporter, Unova has donated over ten million dollars' worth of relief aid and has promised more in the event it is needed. In a more surprising turn of events, Kanto has also offered to support Johto in whatever way it can to aid the refugees. Could this be an end to history of animosity between the two regions? Only time will tell. Tune in later as we hear first-hand accounts of what it is like to live in the refugee camp- "

May let out a sigh and turned off the TV, setting the remote aside on the counter of the bar in her hotel suite. She swirled her drink in her hand and closed her eyes in thought.

"It's tragic, isn't it?"

She peaked one eye open and glanced behind her towards the living room. It had been a few months since Ash's escape from the police in Viridian City and May had returned to her journey since then. As much as she would have liked to stay and comfort Delia, she had responsibilities. Currently, she was in Castelia City of the Unova region to compete in contests.

While she had been exploring the city, she'd come across her rivals Drew, Solidad, and Harley. Like her, they had all decided to travel the scientific center of the world and see what challenges these contests held for them. While she was used to traveling alone, renting a suite they could all share would give her a chance to catch up with them.

May frowned and set her drink aside. "Tragic doesn't begin to describe it. How could something like this even happen?"

Harley grunted from his spot of the couch and set aside his Cacturne hat, running a hand down his face. While normally she would have expected him to mock or patronize her, it seemed that even he wasn't immune to this kind of tragedy.

"How it happened doesn't matter." Harley muttered. "I doubt any of the survivors care. I'd bet they're all more focused on what will happen to them now."

Solidad had her eyes closed tight and was hunched over a table, her salmon hair tightened into a loose ponytail and hanging over her left shoulder. "They'll be fine… they've got the sympathy of the world right now."

Drew scoffed and flicked his emerald hair out of his eyes, glaring out of the window. "Sympathy will only take them so far. They've lost their homes and their possessions. Chances are most of them will never be able to recover from this."

Solidad looked to him with her eyes wide in worry. "Everyone has been donating money and supplies to help them though. Even the regional governments have been stepping up."

Drew let out a tired sigh. "And that will only continue until people forget about them in a few months or the next tragedy happens. After that? Well, we'll just have to hope most of them have gotten back on their feet."

Harley frowned and tightened his fists. "It's not right! Those people don't deserve this."

Drew gained a far away look in his eyes. "They don't. We'll just have to hope that they can get some justice one way or another."

Harley growled. "I just wish there was something we could do."

May couldn't help but agree. She had never felt so useless before in her whole life. So many people had just survived the worst day of their lives and had their entire world shattered. If she were in their situation, she didn't know what she would do. To suddenly lose her home and potentially her family all at the same time? The very thought made her shiver in despair.

She could only hope she would have had even a tenth of their strength. To face so much adversity and still find the strength to move forward? It was inspiring. If only there was a way for her to help them. She didn't have the money to fix all of their problems or build them a new city. Worse, she didn't even have any skills that could be useful to them. All she was good at was being an entertainer.

Hold on… that gave her an idea.

"The contest…."

Drew glanced her way. "What about it?"

She forced herself to her feet and slammed her fist into her palm. "This contest is being broadcast across the world." Most were only broadcast locally or regionally, but when famous contestants such as her and her rivals took part? It wasn't unusual for them to gain international attention. "We could talk to the other contestants and the judges about dedicating it towards the survivors of Alto Mare. If we're lucky, they may make a call to action for everyone to donate and help in any way they can."

"Or even give the prize money to the refugees instead." Solidad perked up with a smile. "This is a brilliant idea. It may not seem like much compared to what they're getting from governments, but a few hundred thousand dollars can't hurt!"

Drew cupped his hands under his chin. "Even if they don't, we could always make an agreement with each other to donate the prize money that we win."

Harley chuckled. "Looks like you do have a brain in that big head of yours after all!" May let the backhanded compliment slide. If he was willing to insult her again then it meant he was back in high spirits. "Yeah, this sounds like a plan! Let's all agree to work together to win this and help those people!"

As the others all talked among themselves about how best to approach the judges and other contestants with their plan, May leaned back against the counter. Truth be told, this was the least they could do. It was like Ash always said, if you could help someone then you had a moral obligation to do so.

Thinking of him brought an uneasy feeling to her stomach and she quickly downed her drink to drown it out. While the suspicion of the police had eventually fade after his escape and she had moved on with her life, she couldn't help but wonder what had happened to her old friend.

A better person would have spent time worrying about when the police would capture him or how he could have turned into a monster. She… couldn't help but worry about how he was doing though. Was he safe? Was he still running, or had he managed to find a new home for himself? Did he know what the world thought of him? Was he even still alive?

These should have been the last things on her mind. He was a murderer and a monster. She should have felt only disgust at the mere thought of him! And yet… there was always a hint of uncertainty in the back of her mind. Ash was the kindest person she knew and an inspiration to anyone he met. He would never kill anyone.

She didn't know if anyone else felt the same. As far as the public and her friends were concerned, she always put up the front of someone firmly against him. She couldn't afford not to. Privately though? Doubt ate away at her and she worried for her old friend.

If nothing else, she could use the lessons he had taught her to help others. She had the power to make a difference and she wouldn't squander it.

She was certain that if Ash was even half the person she thought he was and knew what had happened to Alto Mare, then nothing in the world would stop him from doing the right thing.




These three words had plagued Domino's mind for past week. Every time she looked in the mirror, she recoiled in disgust and anger. In the rare moments of silence and isolation she had, her own thoughts turned against her. She couldn't even sleep for more than an hour or two a night before she was plagued by horrific nightmares of the dead. She must have looked absolutely terrible with baggy, tired eyes and frayed hair.

At any other time, she would have been horrified. Stood in the center of Giovanni's office in Viridian City, she was expected to be at her best. As a Specter, she was supposed to be the best of the best. At the absolute least, she should have been able to look like she wasn't about to collapse from exhaustion.

This was different though. She had never felt so… guilty before. As one of the top agents within Team Rocket, she was always given the most dangerous missions. She had killed before and done so without remorse or hesitation. More than once, she had ruined people's lives and made them wish for death. Most of the time, they were criminals like her or at least people aware of the risks fighting criminals such as the police. Vigilante types like Ketchum too stupid to keep their noses clean didn't deserve any sympathy either.

But this? A whole damn city had been wiped off the map. An unthinkable number of people had lost their lives. How many of them had woken up that day expecting everything to be normal? How many of them would never be able to enjoy the simple pleasures in life again? How many children had she robbed of their future?

She may have been a criminal, but there were lines that even she was unwilling to cross. Yet somehow… she had become an even worse monster than Proton. She wouldn't be surprised if she was the worst monster since the end of the Great War.

Her only saving grace was that no one knew Team Rocket was responsible for this. No one besides her and the International Police, anyway.

It didn't do much to help.

Domino stood silently with her hands crossed behind her back and a neutral expression on her face. Giovanni was leaning back in he chair behind his desk while the setting sun illuminated him with an almost divine glow. At his side was his regal Persian, eyeing with what she would swear was a dark sense of amusement. The way it licked its lips whenever she flinched at the slightest movements told her that she was spot on.

Giovanni didn't bother paying attention to her. He wore a complicated expression on his face and looked about a thousand years old. Compared to his normally stern visage, it was clear that he was just as troubled as she was.


Domino flinched at the underlying intensity in his voice. "I arrived in Alto Mare as you instructed. Once it became clear to me that Proton's incompetence would lead to failure, I exercised my authority to take control."

His eyes narrowed. "And you used the control to launch an attack on the city?"

She didn't dare look away from his gaze. To do so would have been a sign of weakness. "I needed to distract the International Police." She deflected. "By creating emergencies across the city, I ensured we could move unimpeded. I also ordered that all active agents wear disguises and refrain from killing anyone. That way nothing could be linked back to us."

Giovanni tapped his finger against the table, causing his Persian to lazily hop into his lap to be scratched behind the ears. "And if any of these agents were captured? They could have revealed our involvement."

"They wouldn't dare when they know when can get to them." No one betrayed Team Rocket and got away with it. "Moving on, the distraction work. Proton led a team to study the DMA up close while other agents moved to capture two people connected to it."

He quirked an eyebrow. "And what were you doing in this little plan of yours?"

She pursed her lips. "I was originally supposed to lead the capture team. However, once I confirmed that Ash Ketchum had joined the International Police and was active in the field," she ignored the rush of pleasure at seeing Giovanni's shocked look. Like her, he must have been shocked they would put him in the field so soon. "I followed him to the hidden garden of the Latias. For once, Proton wasn't just incompetent. It was hidden behind an illusion of a wall in a random alley in the center of the city."

Giovanni frowned. "Interesting… I will make our people aware of this. Knowing that Legendaries are capable of using illusions against us will save a lot of time and lives." He sighed and scratched his Persian between its shoulder blades. "How did this happen then? It doesn't sound like you planned for this."

She let out a shuddering breath. "I waited for Ketchum and the Latias to leave the garden. The state of emergency was enough to draw them out even if I hadn't planned for them. After that? I entered the garden and took the Soul Dew. I didn't want to risk staying in the city when we had the main prize. The way I saw it, once the Soul Dew was secure then we could focus entirely on the Latias. We knew where it lived and who upkept the DMA, after all."

Giovanni hummed in agreement. "A wise choice. Better a partial victory than a total loss." He set Persian down on the ground and stood up from his chair, gazing out at the city below. "Where is it?"

Domino took that as her que to move forward and took the Soul Dew out of her pocket. She hadn't dared take her eyes off it or risk it in the hands of anyone else. Not after what stealing it cost. She placed the beautiful blue jewel on his table and stepped back a respectful distance.

Giovanni gently lifted the Soul Dew up into the air, letting it glint in the light of the setting sun. The orange rays mixed with the dark blue glow of the jewel to illuminate the room in a beautiful array of colors.

"Fascinating… the power of the soul in the palm of my hand." He whispered. "Wars have been fought over less in the past."

Domino frowned. "And now a city has been destroyed for it." She ignored the growl of warning the Persian gave her. "Sir… we both know that taking the Soul Dew was what destroyed the city. Did… did you know when you gave me this mission?"

She didn't what she'd do if he did and still sent her anyway.

Giovanni was quiet for a moment before setting the Soul Dew down on his desk. "No. Annie and Oakley failed to make me aware that taking it would result in this tragedy. Had I known, I would have left the damn thing where it was."

She released a breath she didn't know that she had been holding. Giovanni was a criminal, but he wasn't a monster. No matter what someone thought of him, he couldn't be accused of being insane or needlessly cruel. It was good to know that the man she respected felt the same way she did.

"I will be speaking to them about this soon." He went on. "If I find out they knew this would happen and didn't care to tell me, they will regret it."

Domino couldn't find it in herself to care at this moment. The two of them may have been fellow Specters and mentors to her, but if they had known this would happen? She would not shed any tears at their funeral.

She'd expect nothing less if she were in their shoes.

"May I ask what you plan to do with the Soul Dew?" She dared to ask. Normally she wouldn't have questioned him like this, but after all the trouble they had gone through, and all the lives lost to attain it? She felt she deserved some answers.

To her relief, Giovanni didn't ignore her or lash out in annoyance. Instead, an easy smile spread across his face. "A soul is a powerful thing, Domino. The soul of a Legendary is the most powerful of them all. When used correctly, it can perform miracles and make the impossible possible." He laughed. "More than that I cannot say. You'll know when I have need of you."

When, not if. That meant that he planned to tell her eventually, just not now. Domino could live with that. She didn't truly care what Giovanni planned to use it for. Frankly, in her mind there was no one more deserving of its power. So long as he made the loss of Alto Mare meaningful and she had a place at his side, she could eventually come to live with what happened.

Domino nodded. "I understand, sir." She sighed. "What happens next?"

Giovanni closed his eyes in thought. "Team Rocket will put pressure on the local criminals of Goldenrod to leave the refugees in peace. Meanwhile, I will keep applying pressure on Kanto's government to provide aid to them. If for some reason they prove too stubborn to follow through on their promises, I will personally give them whatever resources they need to survive."

She blinked in surprise. "That's generous of you."

He leaned back against his desk. "We destroyed their home. Whether we intended it or not is irrelevant. I will atone for this mistake and help them recover." He shook his head. "At the very least, I can ensure the children have a future beyond simple survival."

Despite the heavy topic, she felt a tiny smile work its way onto her face. This was the Giovanni she was loyal to. Not the ruthless crime boss that ruled from the shadows. Not the wise Gym Leader that mentored young trainers. The true Giovanni was a man who had a code of honor. A true gentleman that stood above petty criminals with a vision of the future.

He was the man who had given her a home and a purpose. For that alone, he had her loyalty. Once the survivors of Alto Mare knew he was on their side, they would never need to fear for themselves or their children again.

"What about the business?"

He sighed. "We'll need time to recover in Johto, but operations in other regions should be relatively unaffected. With Proton captured, I'll need to find someone else to fill his position."

She hoped that whoever it got that honor was more tolerable. She refused to work with another Proton. It was a low bar, but Domino wouldn't be surprised if someone even worse ended up replacing the cruel man.

"And me?"

"You are on vacation effective immediately."

Her eyes shot wide open. "What!? But sir- "

She couldn't get out any more words before Giovanni pushed off of his desk, placing his hand on her head and ruffling her blonde hair. "You have been working nonstop for too long. I had planned to force you to rest regardless of how the operation in Alto Mare turned out." He frowned. "After this tragedy though? You're in no state to work."

"But I'm fine!"

His eyes narrowed. "Don't lie to me." He scolded. "Your actions caused the death of nearly an entire city. Even if you didn't intend it, it still happened. It's natural that it would weigh heavily on your mind."

She clenched her eyes shut. "I'm strong enough to work…."

He smiled. "You are not weak for needing time off." He ruffled her hair one more time before stepping back. "You have the next few months to yourself. I expect you to speak with a therapist at least once a week, but you have the rest of that time to yourself."

She sighed. "I don't have a choice, do I?"

He tilted his head to the side. "Do you feel like I'm giving you one?" He chuckled. "I recommend you visit Lavaridge Town in Hoenn. Its hot springs can cure any ailment and help distract you from the stress of our work."

"I'll think about it… thank you, sir. I appreciate it."

"It is the least I can do for such an exemplary agent."

Ash, Looker, and Anabel were all sat together in a small hotel room. The orange rays of the setting sun filtered through the curtains of the room, but the light didn't do much for the tense atmosphere. Over the past week, the three of them had been so busy that they hadn't all been together since before the tragedy.

When the tsunami struck Alto Mare, Ash had been worried that Anabel and Looker hadn't made it to safety in time. Mercifully, his worries had been unfounded. Looker and the police had gathered on the roof of the police headquarters and rode out the calamity there. Despite their injuries, Anabel and her Pokemon had been some of the few to take to the skies on the back of her Metagross and Salamence. More impressively, she had been able to capture Proton and even rescue a small group of people before the waves hit.

Since the end of the tsunami and their arrival in Goldenrod, they had all been busy. Looker had taken Proton and the other captured Grunts to the police to hold while he reported back to the leaders of the International Police. Anabel had been confined to a hospital to rest and recover while her Pokemon were all handled by Pokemon Centers. Meanwhile, he had been busy working with the refugees at the docks and helping them in any way he could. Ash didn't know where Petrovic was beyond the fact that he had apparently survived.

Now that they were all finally together, they could discuss what they had failed to stop… and what they would do moving forward.

Ash scratched Pikachu behind the ears and glanced towards Anabel sat on the edge of her bed. "How are you feeling, Anabel?"

She managed a small smile. "About as good as I can. Face is still a little sore, but I should be back to normal with a little more rest."

Looker hummed in thought but didn't turn away from the window. "That's good. After managing to capture Proton, you deserve all the rest you need." Ash could have sworn there was a hint of pride in his voice. "Not bad for a rookie."

Anabel frowned. "Has he said anything?"

Looker sighed and tightened his fists. "Not yet. The smug bastard hasn't given us anything useful. He seems to think that he's untouchable and his stay with us in only temporary."

Ash felt an ember of hatred spark to life in his gut. Proton truly thought that he was going to get away with this? That they would just let his role in the destruction of Alto Mare go? Or did he believe that Team Rocket and their spies in the International Police would free him?

"Tell me we're going to prove him wrong."

Looker scoffed. "Of course we are. We just need more time to work on him and apply pressure. One way or another, we'll make him cooperate."

Good. Once Proton realized that working with them was the right thing to do, he could pay for his crimes and help them move against Team Rocket.

Anabel chose that moment to speak up. "What about the refugees? Is there any plan for us to help them?"

Looker turned around and leaned back against the window, crossing his arms in front of him with a grunt of annoyance. Ash felt his stomach drop. "Less than we should be. While we don't have the authority or resources to force people to support them, our people will be doing their best to persuade people in power to provide as much aid as they can."

"That sounds like a good thing though…."

"It isn't." He snapped. "They'll make small, token efforts at best to appease us but nothing substantial. We can't afford to force the issue either or we'll risk making enemies of people that we need as allies. And then there's Team Rocket…."

Ash frowned, gently stroking Pikachu's back. "What about them?"

Looker closed his eyes in frustration. "As of now, all knowledge that Team Rocket caused the destruction is to be suppressed. That means that the three of us and Petrovic are not allowed to spread word to the public or anyone else in the organization."

The response was immediate. Both he and Anabel surged to their feet to shout out their protests. Even Pikachu had leapt up with sparks flying from his cheeks. Before any of them could get a word in edgewise, however, Looker held up a hand to silence them.

"I don't like this any more than you do but our orders are clear." He growled. "Command says that revealing Team Rocket are behind this will only cause unnecessary panic."

"Unnecessary? A city was destroyed!" Anabel growled. "A quarter of a million people are dead! People should be panicking! Who knows what disaster they'll cause next?"

Ash flinched at the mention of the casualty numbers. Alto Mare had been a center of culture and tourism for the world. Before the disaster, roughly two hundred and seventy thousand people had lived on the island. Thousands more came to visit every day. In the aftermath, barely ten thousand had survived thanks to the aid of people with Pokemon capable of flight and brave Psychic types willing to risk death to save them by teleporting into the city from the mainland. From what he'd heard, everyone within range that had the power to help had stepped up.

He should have been inspired by the bravery and heroism of people risking their lives to save a doomed city. Instead, all he felt was a deep sense of disgust at the horrific loss of life for the sunken city.

"The truth will do more harm than good." Looker had closed his eyes at this point and set on the edge of one of the hotel beds. "If the public knew, they would be terrified. They'd think that a any moment, Team Rocket could destroy their city. At best, people would be afraid to leave their homes and lose faith in the government. At worst, they'll see threats in every shadow and turn on each other out of fear their neighbors are agents for Team Rocket."

Ash could imagine it. There was an old saying that a person was smart, but that people were stupid. In a way, it was true. Once people gave into mob mentality and were ruled by their fears or emotions, they lost all reason. If people learned about the true downfall of Alto Mare, he could easily imagine the chaos that would follow.

"Maybe keeping it a secret from the public is a good idea." He allowed. "But… why other members of the International Police?"

Looker sighed. "Because we're people too. No matter our skills or line of work, we all still have emotions. If they learn about this, there will be agents that go off the rails and let their emotions control them. They could put people's lives in danger out of a desire for bloody vengeance. We can't let that happen when we're already in a delicate position."

Anabel wore a complicated expression but sat back down on the bed opposite of Looker. "I… understand. I don't agree, but I understand." She shook her head. "How long do we have to keep it secret?

Looker shrugged. "Until they need to know. Once enough time has passed and we're in a more secure position, I'm sure we'll spread word to the rest of the organization. We just can't take any risks right now."

It made sense, he supposed. Why take such a big risk when it was safer to keep things quiet? People said that the truth should always be revealed, but his time with the International Police was showing him otherwise. If people had known about the Soul Dew, this tragedy would have happened far sooner. If they knew that Team Rocket was behind this, the world would be shaken to its core.

Sometimes, ignorance was bliss. He certainly missed the days when he thought he lived in a simple world with simple problems.

Looker focused on him and tilted his head to the side. "Ash, how are Bianca and Latias doing?"

Ash squirmed uncomfortably under the curious gazes of his teammates. Once they had arrived in Goldenrod, Bianca and Latias had stayed close. With Team Rocket's interest in them, Ash and the others had all collectively decided that they shouldn't be left alone. Mercifully, there hadn't been anymore attempts to capture either of them since the tragedy. Not wanting to take any chances, however, they were always kept close by one of them. Even now, they were only a few doors down in in the hotel.

Unfortunately, they rarely left the room if they had a choice. Neither of them were taking the destruction of Alto Mare well. As if that wasn't enough, Lorenzo had died before they even reached Goldenrod. An inglorious end for a man who deserved better. Losing both a home and a father figure in the same day would have been devastating. Ash couldn't blame them for wanting time to mourn.

"They're… as well as they can be." He eventually decided on. "I think it'll take some time before they're back to normal. If they even can be after everything that's happened."

Anabel frowned. "What do they plan to do now?"

Ash shrugged. "I don't know. It didn't seem right to force any answers out of them."

"You should speak with them, Ash. Whatever they need, the International Police will provide." Looker advised. "Make it clear that whatever they plan to do, we will be happy to support them. Latias especially."

"What do you mean?"

"Latias was the guardian of Alto Mare. She protected it for years and now it has been lost forever under her watch. Meanwhile, she lost both her brother and surrogate father because of them." Looker explained. "The way I see it, she'll want revenge."

Ash crossed his arms and frowned. On his shoulder, Pikachu shifted in place. "You want me to take advantage of her loss and trick her into joining us?"

Looker's eyes widened in shock at the accusation. "No! All I'm saying is to make the offer. She's motivated to fight them and can only be an asset. If she's going to take the fight to them anyway, then we might as well work together. Her power with our resources will strike a decisive blow."

"Not to mention we can guarantee that Bianca is protected from any future attacks." Anabel added.

It still seemed dirty to prey on her emotions and desire for revenge, but Ash could see where they were coming from. As much as he may not have agreed the morality behind it, he understood Latias was too important to not even make an attempt to recruit her.

Ash sighed and turned to leave. "Alright… I'll make the offer."

He didn't wait to hear what else they had to say. Once he left the room, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves and stalked down the hallway towards where he knew Bianca and Latias were staying. While he had a key to the room, he knocked out of a desire to preserve some sense of control for them. While there was no answer, the door did click open to let him in.

Once inside, he shut the door behind him as quietly as he could. Neither Bianca nor Latias looked to good. Bianca had such bloodshot eyes and unkempt hair that it was clear she hadn't been getting much sleep. Even Latias in her true form showed clear signs of exhaustion with bags under her eyes. Despite this, both of them tried their best to smile for him.

He couldn't blame them for failing to manage that.

He took a seat on the bed next to them and leaned back with a sigh. Pikachu hopped off of his shoulder and scurried into Bianca's lap offering her what comfort he could.

For a few moments, they all sat in silence. Neither of them had the heart to say anything and Ash wasn't sure how to even start. Nothing seemed good enough given what they had been through. Eventually, he decided to keep things simple.

"How are the two of you doing?" He glanced their way in worry. "Really, I mean. Don't tell me you're fine just because you think it's what I want to hear."

Bianca let out a brittle laugh, scratching Pikachu behind the ears. "What do you want us to say? We're surviving. It's all we can do."

Ash reached over to place his hand on her shoulder as a sign of solidarity. "I'm sorry." It was all he could say. He could never truly understand what they were going to and to even suggest that would have been an insult. "We'll make them pay."

It was the only promise he felt comfortable giving.

Bianca sighed. "Thank you… why are you here? Just checking up on us?"

Not quite. "I guess I wanted to find out what you two have planned. With everything that's happened… I want to know if I can help with what you plan to do next."

Despite the depressing atmosphere, Latias giggled in amusement. She floated off of the bed until she hovering just in front of his face at eye level. In the back of his mind, he felt the familiar tingle in the back of his mind that signaled a Psychic was at play. He suppressed his gut instinct to recoil in fear. With Latias, he knew there was no reason to worry.

"Always trying to be a hero… you sure know how to make someone feel better."

Ash frowned. "All I did was offer to help."

Latias nuzzled into his neck. Instinctively, he reached up to stroke her neck. "Just knowing someone is willing to do that is enough."

Bianca's lips quirked upwards. "She's right. You can be charming when you want to." She didn't even give him a chance to respond to that before pushing on. "As for what we'll do… well, I don't have anywhere else to go. I'll stay here and try to make a new life for myself. Hopefully I'll be able to continue my art career."

Given her status as one of the few survivors of Alto Mare? Ash had a feeling her popularity would skyrocket. Tragedy sold, or so he'd heard. The chance to own a painting made by one of the last citizens of what may have been the largest cultural city in the world would entice plenty of people with deep pockets.

Ash smiled. "You'll do great, Bianca. I know that you'll recover from this. You're too stubborn not to." He internally cheered at the brief laugh that escaped her lips. It was a positive sign. "What about Latias?"

The draconic Legendary pulled out of his reach and shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Alto Mare was my whole life. This is the first time I've ever even really left the city. With it gone…."

In that moment, Latias looked like the most vulnerable thing in the world. As a Legendary, she had power that was unrivaled by all but her fellow Legends – her fellow gods. After a mere week she had fully recovered from wounds that would have been crippling for most other Pokemon. Yet with all that power, she had chosen the simple life of a guardian.

She had a good soul. The soul of a hero. Others may have called her foolish or naïve, but he knew better. Latias was someone willing to dedicate her life to protecting others without ever worrying about gratitude or glory. To her, the simple act of helping people was enough of a reward. If more of the world were like her, Alto Mare would still exist.

Without it, she suddenly had no true goal. Perhaps she would choose to make Goldenrod her new home and protect it like she had Alto Mare. Maybe she would decide to travel the world and right wrongs wherever the wind took her. Whatever she chose to do, he was certain she would be a beacon of hope for those in need.

Looker and Anabel wanted her to join them. He couldn't deny that she would be a powerful ally and could help them save countless lives in the future.

Ash took the chance. "You could always join the International Police."

Latias froze. "What?"

"Come with us." He offered once more. "You're a guardian, Latias. You're always going to protect people, no matter where you go. If you join us, you can protect the entire world, not just a single city."

Pikachu chose that moment to speak up and hopped off of Bianca's lap. Thanks to Latias, he was able to understand what his partner was saying. "The International Police are the only one's fighting Team Rocket. If you help us, we can bring them to justice and stop them from causing another Alto Mare."

Latias glanced towards Bianca. "I can't just leave Bianca unprotected."

"She won't be." Ash promised. "Regardless of whether or not you join us, Bianca will be protected. Looker and Anabel have promised me that. Team Rocket won't threaten her ever again."

Despite the assurance, she still looked uncertain. He could see that she wanted to agree but something was holding her back. Whatever it was, he would need to try his hardest to convince her.

"I don't know… allowing them into the city to protect the Soul Dew was one thing. Working with them directly though? How can I be sure they won't try to capture or study me?"

Before Ash or Pikachu could even begin to speak, Bianca chose to answer for them. "Ash could always capture you."

He spun to look at his friend with wild, surprised eyes. "What?"

Bianca chuckled. "Don't look so surprised." Bianca smiled. "You're our friend, Ash. We trust you. If there's anyone that could keep Latias safe, it would be you. More importantly, I know for a fact you see her as more than just a tool."

Latias hummed in thought and moved close enough to his face that her snout was touching his nose. "That's true… if I were your Pokemon, I know that you wouldn't let anyone use me like a tool or a lab experiment."

Of course he wouldn't! Even if Latias was a different species, she was more than a weapon to him. She was a friend that had saved his life and deserved his respect. He would never allow her to be used like a disposable tool. She was too important to him to allow that to happen.

"If you really trust me that much… I guess I would be willing to capture you." Ash reached into his trench coat and pulled out a simple, green Pokeball. Just before he tapped it on her nose, he paused. "If you ever want your freedom or feel like you can't trust me and the International Police, just let me know. I'll release you on the spot."

Bianca laughed in amusement beside him while Latias raised one of her clawed hands to pat his cheek. "And that's why I trust you enough to go with you."

Without any further delay, Latias gently tapped the Pokeball and was sucked inside. The ball didn't even shake once before signaling that he had effectively captured her. If his younger self were in his position, he would have been cheering at the prospect of catching a Legendary. As it was, Ash could only smile as hope sparked in his heart.

With Latias on their side, Team Rocket's days were numbered.

They just didn't know it yet.

There were few things in this world that Looker despised more than cutting a deal with a criminal. He understood that they were necessary for the justice system to function. Without the ability to make deals, the system would collapse under the combined weight of millions of people waiting for lengthy trials for potentially decades. It was why he would begrudgingly accept that they were necessary and would use them when he had to.

That didn't stop him from hating every second of it though. While he would agree that lesser criminals or those that showed remorse could benefit from them, he never did like how it was always the worst that received deals. The most cruel and vicious that made the world a darker place and took pleasure in every second of it. It always felt like he was letting them get away with their crimes and implicitly telling the victims that their pain was meaningless.

Across the steel table from him in the center of an interrogation room, Proton was loudly munching on a basket of chili cheese fries with his bare hands. Far from the picture of excellence of beauty he normally styled himself as, Proton's face covered in bandages and slowly fading yellow bruises from his fight with Anabel. With his glamorous white suit having been destroyed, he had been forced into a baggy set of brown trousers and stained floral shirt.

It was better than he deserved.

Proton moaned in obvious delight, tossing a cheese covered fry into his mouth. "These really are good. Truly, the best fries in Goldenrod. If I died with a belly full of these, I'd die happy."

Looker narrowed his eyes. "Good enough for you to cooperate with us?"

Proton let out a big, belly laugh and rattled his chains against the table. Given how dangerous Proton was and his volatile temperament, the man had been chained to the table by four separate sets of chains on his arms and legs. That was to say nothing of the fact he had been denied the right to use any actual silverware.

The Rocket Admin picked up a fry dripping in gravy and thrust it toward him, spattering his face in the disgusting stuff. "Oh, they're good, but they ain't that good. Now if you brought me a double cheeseburger then maybe I'd be more willing to sing."

Looker suppressed the urge to growl and lash out in anger. The smug energy radiating off of the man was infuriating. Even when he was at their mercy, the man still believed that he was the one in control. The level of confidence that required bordered on reckless arrogance. More importantly, it made one thing very clear to him.

"You don't feel an ounce of remorse, do you?"

Far from looking shamed by the accusation, Proton smirked with his chipped teeth. "Now why would I need to feel that?"

"Your people destroyed Alto Mare."

It would have been a risk to say such a thing normally. Any member of the police could have been willing to leak that information to the public. Luckily, Petrovic had been unusually cooperative with him today and had been determined to keep the officers away from the room.

Clearly even his bloodthirst saw the horror in destroying a city.

Proton rolled eyes and continued to feast on his fries. "Oh please. I had nothing to do with that. As far as I knew, I was just taking some time to visit the museum when your little friend assaulted me and mine."

Looker gripped the edge of table so hard his knuckles had turned white. "Your people caused the chaos in the city. You forced authorities in the city to respond. Because of that, Domino was able to steal the Soul Dew."

Proton quirked an eyebrow. "And we didn't know stealing the damn thing would cause that tsunami, you dense bastard. Why would we? That kind of violence is pointless." He sighed. "Now we lost a beautiful city and so much money. Such a shame."

"Is money all you can think about?"

Proton tapped his chin with a fry for a moment before shrugging in boredom. "Pretty much. It's not like there was anything else of value there. Those people all had such worthless, dull lives that I'll bet they loved the excitement. Well… at least those who survived."

Looker didn't bother controlling himself. He reached across the table and threw the half-eaten basket of fries against the far wall in his rage. "How can you believe that? You act like some kind of monster!"

Proton snorted in amusement. "Why bother hiding what I feel? Those people were meaningless to me, and I won't be losing any sleep over them." He declared. "Domino though? That brat is probably on the verge of a mental breakdown. It must be such a sight to see!"

He was insane. No, that wasn't the right word. Whatever Looker may have thought of the man, it was clear that Proton had a strong grasp on reality. He genuinely didn't feel guilt for what he had helped cause. Worse, he didn't seem to care about anyone's life besides his own. That someone like him had amassed so much power was… disturbing.

He would need to try a different tactic. Appealing to someone's guilt and empathy was only possible when they felt them.

"Do you enjoy your life, Proton?"

Now it was Proton's turn to appear caught off-guard. "Come again?"

"Do you love life? The fancy suits? The beautiful women hanging off your arm and the decadent food you eat? Or at least the power you wielded as an Admin for Team Rocket?"

Proton snorted. "That a trick question? Of course! My life with Team Rocket has been something out of a movie." He leaned forward to cup his hands in front of him. "There's nothing quite like knowing I can walk into almost any room and be the most feared man there. The women and the riches are just a bonus. The real pleasure comes from knowing that I hold power over life and death. Almost like I'm a… god."

How disgusting.

Looker held Proton's gaze with as much venom in his eyes as possible. "Well, I hope you enjoyed it. That ends today." He held up a hand to stop whatever Proton had to say in response. "You will be giving me what I want and there are two ways I can get it."

Proton snorted and leaned back in disbelief. "Enlighten me."

"Option one is you cooperate with us. You give us intel on all ongoing operations, safe houses and training facilities, as well as everyone who works for them that you know of. Then we shuffle you into witness protection as say a… garbage man or a janitor in some backwater town until we need you to testify in court against your comrades."

Proton growled and tightened his hands impotently into fists. "And option two?"

"I throw you into a deep, dark hole and leave you to the tender mercies of our 'enhanced interrogation' specialists."

Proton sneered. "Torture. And here I thought you International Police were meant to uphold the law."

Looker laughed softly and held the criminals gaze. For the first time since this started, Looker could see a hint of fear in the mans eyes. "We die in the dark so the innocent can live in the light. Do you really think we're above getting our hands dirty?"

The International Police didn't have a motto or a calling card. Their line of work was too serious for any of them to bother with that nonsense. There was a common saying among them, however. As men and women doomed to risk their lives to fight dangers the public knew nothing about, they would never be thanked. The only reward they ever received would be the knowledge they kept society safe.

It was not the glamorous life the movies made it out to be.

Proton began to sweat. "You think I'm afraid of your little knives? Team Rocket can do far worse."

Looker ignored him. "I wonder what would break you first. The isolation and starvation? Maybe the knives and poisons they're so fond of? Or could the waking nightmares of our Psychics be what does it?" He snorted in derision. "Who am I kidding? You'll crack the moment they break out the hungry Weedle."

"Enough!" Proton slammed his fists onto the table to silence him and gulped. "I-I need time to think about this!"

How typical. Eager to be the one inflicting the pain, but once even the possibility of him being the victim revealed itself he folded like a house of cards. Proton talked a big game, but he wasn't nearly as strong as he thought he was. Like everyone else, though, the fear of pain was a powerful motivator.

His weakness was Looker's gain though.

Looker scraped his chair against the ground and turned his back to the man. "You have one hour. For your sake, I hope you make the right choice."

Not even ten minutes later, Proton heard the door to the interrogation room open again.

He growled and gripped his chains as tightly as he could. "It hasn't been an hour yet, so you can fu- "

His words died in his mouth as he someone else stood in the doorway. Instead of Looker, there was a man with a familiar, disgusting shade of purple hair and unkempt goatee. On the mans face was a leer filled with so much contempt Proton wished he could wrap these chains around his throat.

"Ah… Petrovic. Come to put pressure on me for Looker?"

The man scoffed and slammed the door shut behind him. "Cameras are off and all the police are busy. You can cut the act."

Proton frowned. "Fine. What are you doing, Petrel?"

Petrel grinned and spread his arms wide as if he was going to hug him. Proton wouldn't have dared accept it even if he were still in good shape. Petrel was the kind of man to promise you the world and his eternal loyalty, then stab you in the back and rob you blind.

Why Giovanni kept him around, he would never know.

"Why, I came to free my old buddy Proton from the dastardly clutches of the International Police!" He stuffed his hands into the pockets of his trench coat. "We're comrades, after all. Us Rockets gotta stick together."

Proton grunted in annoyance. Just his luck. Now he'd be stuck in debt to this fool for who knew how long. Still, it was better than having to choose between torture and betraying Giovanni, so he'd take the humiliation without too much complaint.

"Yeah, go team! Woo." His lack of enthusiasm was plain as day. "Just get me out of these chains before Looker comes back."

Petrel laughed. "Not a problem, old pal." Despite his words, Petrel didn't move an inch. "Just one thing… what exactly were you and Looker talking about?"

Proton narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "Looker wanted me to become a rat. You know, the usual song and dance all the Grunts get."

Petrel nodded in understanding. "Ah, I see. What'd you say?"

What was he getting at? "I told him to piss off. There's no way I'd betray the boss!"

Petrel cocked his head to the side as though he were a curious child. "Oh? That's not what I heard." His easy smile took on a murderous edge. "From what I heard, you flipped at the first hint of pain."

His heart stilled. "You can't be serious! I didn't even accept his offer."

Petrel hummed in clear amusement. "No. All you did was say you'd think about it." He chuckled. "What was it you always said? Anyone who even thinks of betraying us should be treated like an enemy?"

"That hardly matters now!" He all but screamed. He almost hoped Looker or one of the officers would burst through the door to see what was going on. No such luck. "You're here, so it's irrelevant! Free me and we can leave!"

"Why would I do that?"

"Because I'm the best Admin the boss has!" He all but shouted. "I'm the one that handles the dirty work and strikes fear in our enemies! Without me, Team Rocket might as well be a defanged Litten!"

Petrel scoffed. "You always were full of yourself. Acting as though you were Arceus' gift to the world." He sighed. "Honestly, you've always been trouble. So violent and flashy that you'd have fit right in with Galactic and Plasma when they were still around."

Proton's heart was beating so fast that he could feel it in his throat. This wasn't how this was supposed to go! He couldn't die here! There was still so much he needed to do!

"L-let's talk about this- "

Petrel reached into his pocket and drew out a silver revolver. Proton instinctively tried to back away and find cover, but his chains kept him from moving even an inch out of his chair.

"I think you've told me everything there is to know. And after everything the boss did for you, you'd think you'd be more loyal."

He was loyal! More than this deceitful insect! There was a difference between loyalty and a death wish though! He would follow Giovanni to the ends of the earth and spread his empire across the world. If he needed someone dead, he would do it without hesitation. If anything ever happened to the man, he would be the first to avenge him out of respect. But to give up his life and accept torture with no hope of rescue?

Proton had his limits. Like everyone, he was selfish. No matter how loyal he was to Giovanni, Proton would always be more loyal to himself. Anyone who didn't put themselves first was either a fool or lying to themselves.

Petrel offered him a mocking grin and raised the pistol. "Tell you what? Since I'm such a nice guy, I'll make it quick. A nice reward for your years of service, eh?"

"No… no please!"

The last thing Proton saw was the cruel eyes of his former comrade.

Then he saw no more.

And with that, we come to a close on the Alto Mare arc. A city destroyed, friends lost, the Soul Dew in Rocket hands, and a spy revealed in the IP's ranks. What should have been at least a pyrrhic victory for the gang has now been turned into a total loss. Only time will tell if they can ever recover.

I hope that you guys enjoyed the chapter! Let me know what you guys think and I'll be sure to respond in DM's. Otherwise, I will see you guys when the next chapter is ready to come out!