New chapter ! This one is particular, because it's not meant to make the plot progress. It's a break I made to explore some aspects of the Shadow's life and personality. Hope you enjoy.

"So which one should I take ? The blue tank top, or the pink shirt ?"

13 years old Alessa Dragon has been hesitating for about an hour and half, in this shop of Cianwood City. As she always wore a plain white shirt with grey pants and her brown hair in a strict ponytail, she decided to put a little more fantasy in her wardrobe. And the town she lived in wasn't the best for shopping.

She finally took the pink shirt. She left the shop, tied her bags to a little Vespa scooter, and rode to the West, to the mountains. She often enjoyed riding along the beach with her scooter, and sometimes having a sunbath. Cianwood City was a real paradise. Her place wasn't bad either, but it was a bit different…

She found a narrow path and followed it across the mountains. No risk of tourists, here: Cianwood Mountains were a plain grey and arid landscape. Nobody came here.

She finally arrived in front of a high cliff. Officialy, the road stopped here. Officialy…

She took a cell phone, dialed a number and said: "Alessa Dragon, code SHAD-666".

She waited a moment, and the rocky wall opened in two, revealing a large and well lightened tunnel. She entered, the rocky gate closed behind her. She followed the tunnel as it went underground and, after about five minutes, she passed under a large pannel on which was written in English, Japanese and Russian: Welcome to New Verkoyansk.

After that pannel, the tunnel ended in a huge parking bay, with several levels linked by elevators. Every inhabitant of New Verkoyansk had his vehicle parked here. Alessa took the first elevator she saw and reached Level 3. Then, she looked for the iron gate with her name printed on. Her personal garage. She parked her scooter and left the bay by a small metallic door. She arrived in a large corridor. New Verkoyansk was a walkers-only city, but there were elevators and tramways everywhere to compensate. It was non-official city, no-one knew about its existence, except those who lived there. It had its own law system. The city itself was wide, spreaded in all the Cianwood Mountains, and distributed in twelve levels. There was everything that you expect in a city: shops, cinemas, clubs, schools, and what you would expect more in a military facility: labs, armories, hangars… Everything was financed by the Boss' deep pockets. Unfortunately, it wasn't easy every day to be supplied in new shopping items, and people often had to go outside if they were after something particular.

There were about 300.000 inhabitants in New Verkoyansk, mostly scientists, militaries, or engineers. They were paid a large sum of money to work for the Boss, so they stayed here and raised their family. That's how New Verkoyansk turned from a clandestine facility to a real underground city. There were lots of children, too. The Boss loved children. At least, that was what he said, because you could hardly guess his true feelings. Orphans were plucked from the street and raised here. It was Alessa's case, but in a different way.

The young girl walked through the corridors without any hesitation ( she had memorized this level's map by heart ), and reached a door with her name printed on with a funny message she had wrotten a few years ago, which said: « If you're not a handsome and muscular young man, you're not welcome ». She entered her appartment, which was designed like a typical teenager's room, that's to say with funny and comfortable furniture, a good hi-fi system, a small TV, and pictures of singers and actors covering the walls. She put her new shirt in her wardrobe and left to work. In New Verkoyansk, children had obligatory school until 16, but they could start working half-time at 13. Alessa was an operator. Her job consisted in searching for informations via Internet, and classifying e-mails destined to the authorities.

She quickly reached her working station, at Level 6. She sat in front of the screen and began reading e-mails. One of them was from'Starky'. She opened it:

Yo, Silver Surfer ! Just a message to tell you that we just left Mexico and we'll be at the rendez-vous as promised. I'm dying to get my revenge !

See ya soon !

The RSMC.

« Silver Surfer » was one of the Boss' nicknames. Alessa knew very few people who dared being so familiar with the Boss, except the lunatics of the RSMC. The Road Scavengers Motorcycle Community.

She printed the mail and went to bring it to the Boss. He never used computers, so every personal message had to be brought to him by hand. His appartment was at Level 1.

When she arrived in front of his door, she could hear the sound of his longhandle electric bass. He really played like a god, and sometimes at night, she would sit against his door just to hear him. He was now playing a slow and sad melody. The door looked like any of the other doors, it just had the name SHADOW printed on. She knocked. She wouldn't dare even thinking to enter without being invited. The last one who did that received an attack called Shadow Smile, and is still victim of phobias and paranoia crisis.

The music stopped and the Boss said: "Enter".

She opened the door and found herself in front of a desk. The armchair behind was empty, but there was an Espeon sitting on the desk, watching her with his piercing dark eyes. This was creepy, she felt as if the cat was trying to break the secret of her soul, or something like that. Needless to ask why this « cute little kitten » was called Mephisto. She tried her best to ignore him and entered the next room. It was a well decorated living room, with armchairs, a couch, a small table, a chimney, many shelves containing the best in dark literature, from Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King. On the walls, there were many photos: The Boss with the Scavengers, two years ago; The Boss with his first lieutenant, the honorable Dan King, pretty long ago; The Boss with punk goddess Siouxsie Sioux, during a concert they did together in 1998; The Boss with rockstar Eddy L. Lewis; The Boss with an old Black man; Alessa when she was nine years old. Yeah, he was much more than her boss: he was her foster father.

But he never behaved like a father, mostly ignoring her. In fact, nobody could know what he was thinking, or feeling. He didn't even allow people to see his face, always hiding it behind his helmet. And he had that thing that made you very uncomfortable when he was in the room. As if the dark secret he hid behind his helmet threatened everyone by emitting waves of evil energy.

He was here, sitting on an armchair, his bass on his knees. There was a Houndoom called Cerberus lying on a carpet in front of the fire. A Murkrow called Draven was perching on the chimney. This Murkrow had something particular: it was completely black. In fact, it was an eagle-sized crow with a dope hat shaped skull and the bizarre skills dark-type pokemons have. And she knew that somewhere, creeping in the shadow, there were a Haunter called Faust and a Misdreavus called Banshee. Here was the happy pokemon team of the Shadow. He always said he found ghost, dark and psy pokemons way more interesting than a cute colorful Pikachu with the intellect of a frie. He said that when you look in the eyes of a Pikachu, you can see the rear of his skull. But every time she went in this appartment, she feared to have her soul stolen by Mephisto and her body roasted by Cerberus.

"Welcome. Any interesting news ?"

He asked that with his so sweet voice, the same voice as the singer of Dimmu Borgir. A careful ear could distinguish a thin Russian accent behind this growling. But it wasn't that important, because everyone knew he was Russian. His past was completely unknown, but there were a few points he let his people know about: he was born in an icy valley known as Verkoyansk, in Northeast Siberia. And he met Dan King, who was nine years old at that time, in Rangoon. This man became his first lieutenant. They recruited people, moved to Japan, and created a small colony in Orre, the Congregation of Shadow, which most people know simply as the Shadow Team. Only after, the Shadow arrived in Johto and created New Verkoyansk. That was all they knew. Alessa's never been to the Congregation, but she heard that most of the people who lived there were religious maniacs who venerated the Shadow as if he was Jesus Christ himself. They even called him « the Prophet », and expected him to show them the « Way to Heaven ». The Shadow said he didn't like that. He found it unhealthy.

"Mr Shadow", she said timidly, "I have a message from Mr Starkweather. He and his team will be in Rainbow Islands, like agreed. So, I think your plan will work."

"Yourjob is notto think."

THAT was the typical, jerky way, the Boss managed to avoid conversation. He hated having to say more than three words, it was his character. She hated that, but at least, he was frank. She tried again, though.

"May I ask you a question ? What do you really want from Mr Mewtwo ?"

"You may not ask."

Missed again. She was about to try a last time, but she « heard » a soft mental voice.

"Alessa-darling, I think you're disturbing Mr Shadow with your questions."

She knew whose that voice belonged, and every time she heard it, she went back to the seven-years old weak girl she used to be.

"Nanny !" she cried when she turned back and hugged the Gardevoir who stood behind her. Through all these years she lived here, Nanny was a mother to her. She loved her without limits, and still thought that Gardevoir was the most beautiful creature ever. Her childhood had been a living hell before she met the Shadow and Nanny, and it was the Gardevoir who taught her to be happy, to be a child again.

The psy pokemon put a green hand on the girl's shoulder and said: "I need to talk to Mr Shadow for a while, so you should leave. If you want, we could do something later."

Alessa left the appartment with a huge smile on her face.

"She's so cute", said the Gardevoir. "And you, you're so cold."

As he answered, the Shadow's rudeness faded, and he spoke in a sweeter voice, tainted by a bit of sadness:

"I know, Gabrielle, but… you know, she wants something I can't give her. Can you see me as a father ?"

"What I can see doesn't matter much. She wants to see her father in you. You know, she loves you as a father and admires you as if you were some kind of super-hero, which is normal because you saved her from the slavery and abuse which made her life. But in the same time, she fears you because you're rude, cold, you hide your face behind that…"

"There was only one person in all my fucking life who really tried to be a father to me, and they killed him just because of that ! How could I possibly be a father myself ?"

"I know what you've been passing through, but it's not a reason to waste the life of those who trust you. Didn't you raise Dan as your son ?"

"It's different, Dan's not my son, he's my friend !"

"And what does it change ? You trust him, and he trusts you. Like a father and his child."

The Shadow was speechless. Gabrielle slowly, gently, pulled his helmet off.

"Don't hide your feelings behind that mask. Hiding your face is already enough."

She caressed his cheek.

"You wanted that girl", he said as an ultimate argument. "Not me."

"Then why did you give her your family name ?"

She won. He smiled.

"Okay, I admin I like this girl… my daughter. But how to make her understand ? I'm not very good at human relationships."

"Why don't you invite her to a dinner ? Or, better, a trip ? Bring her away from New Verkoyansk for a while, it can be only good for her. And for you too, because you seriously need vacations."

"Yeah, I'll think about that."

She headed to the door, victorious. He let out a brief laughter.

"You remember when it was I who was the teacher ?" he asked.

She nodded and replied: "Roles are to be reversed. That's what growing up means."

Extra Infos: Starkweather is the leader of the Scavengers, a gang that doesn't exist in the game or the anime. They will appear later in the story.

About the Shadow's pokemons names: Mephisto and Faust come from the Faust Legend. For those who don't know, Faust is a man who sold his soul to the Devil, also called Mephisto. Cerberus comes from the Greek mythology: it's the name of the Dog from Hell. Draven is the name of the ghost in the movie The Crow. Banshee comes from an Irish legend: if I'm not mistaken, Banshees are female screaming ghosts who haunt the seacoasts.

The Shadow Team of Orre: okay, this is a delicate matter: I've never played Pokemon Colosseum and I know only a few things, including the cities' names, the Snagem Team ( I know nothing about their leader, though ) and the Shadow Pokemons. I've read somewhere that the Snagem Team had a rival called the Shadow Team, I don't know if it's right, if it isn't, then I just invented it. A part of the story will take place in Orre, and as I don't know many things, I will imagine everything ( maybe someone who knows more could help me avoiding big mistakes ).

Gabrielle: the Gardevoir is named after the angel ( idea came when I watched Constantine ). She's not one of the Shadow's pokemons, it's more personal than that. Their relationship may seem ambiguous, because I didn't want to define it clearly: it's not mentor/pupil, not boyfriend/girlfriend, not friend/friend, it's all of this mixed altogether. She's also one of the rarest persons to know the Shadow's real name and face. Here, she takes his helmet off, but I can't tell you what his real face looks like. You're just... not allowed yet.

Next chapter: the Twins go on a new mission, and eventually enconter the Shadow face to face !