Chapter 12: Interlude - Shadows

Welcome back for the second interlude! I don’t mean to set a pattern, but sofar this is just how it’s worked out. I hope you guys enjoy it, and as always,all feedback appreciated!

“Hey boss, I think I see him,” Bode says.

The leader of the Darkmoon Demons rises from his crouch to join Bode at themouth of the alley. “Yeah, that’s our guy.” Their mark is going down the stepsfrom an apartment building, buttoning up his jacket against the cool wind. Itmakes Wax wish he has his leathers on, but they’re too identifiable.

The gang left their jackets with the bikes on cycling road to avoid noticewhen coming into Fuschia. They did their best to stay under the radar duringthe day, holing up in a hotel room and only sending people out on food runs.

Now it’s past midnight, and everyone’s tucked nice and cozy in their beds.“How long since someone else came out?” Wax asks.

“Must’ve been ‘bout five minutes,” Bode says, keeping his eyes on the street.“Lot of them left together, earlier, but just a couple people here and therelately. Figure their night’s just about wound down.”

Wax watches their mark walk down the street toward them. Not only does he nothave anyone with him, the man doesn’t even have a pokebelt. Perfect. They’reall willing to get their hands dirty and risk some jail time, but Wax doesn’twant anyone getting a bounty on their head.

He turns to his boys. Each is intense and focused, some shivering a bit,though he can’t tell if it’s from the cold, or adrenaline as they psychthemselves up for the coming fight. “Listen close,” he says, voice low. “Thisshould be easy money. Break a few bones, grab his wallet, then we’re out. Longas he survives, the heat won’t be so bad and we can avoid the cops. But no onetouches their pokeballs, got it? If we get the local Gym and trainers on uswe’ll never make it out of the city.”

“What if he’s got a pokemon on him?” Jasper asks.

“If he’s got a ball in his jacket or somethin’ and it opens, Bode and I willhandle it. Any of you so much as reaches for your belt, I’ll kick your ass andtell Blackfire to torch your jacket. I don’t run with no renegades. We clear?”They all mutter and nod, clearly impatient to get going. He feels theexcitement growing in himself too, and grins. “Alright, let’s fuck him up.”

The night suddenly lights up in flashes, explosive sounds making them allflinch and reach instinctively for their belts. But instead of a squad of copsand their pokemon descending on them, there’s just smoke. Lots of it,surrounding the gang in a thick haze. Wax’s relief is quickly replaced byconfusion. Smoke bombs?

He almost screams when someone nearby him does, and he sees Lam fall to theground, quickly lost in the roiling smog. He stares wildly around, trying tosee what’s happening as one after another the others drop, crying out brieflybefore going silent.

Was is about to run for it when Bode’s voice cuts through his panic.

“Wax! Wax it’s Koga! Look!”

Wax follows Bode’s pointing hand, and cranes his neck up to see a figure onthe roof of the building beside them. It’s hard to make Leader Koga out withthe smoke stinging Wax’s eyes, but no one could mistake these tactics afterall the rumors that were going around that Fuschia’s gym leader was cleaningup the streets. A weezing floats beside him, jetting out more smoke down intothe alley. Oh fuck me,__ they were right, we should have stayed the fuckaway-

Drop your pokeballs. Now.”

The voice has a mechanical hiss to it, some sort of gasmask, and Wax reachesfor his belt. He could send out his houndoom and make a run for it… it wouldtake Koga at least a few seconds to give chase, maybe he can find anotheralley, jump in a dumpster…

Wax forces himself to take a deep breath, the acrid stench of the smoke almostmaking him choke. “Koga! This is none of your business! We didn’t use ourpokemon, you’ve got no jur-cough-no juris-” Wax breaks off coughing as Kogaraises his arms and grips his weezing, then leaps down two stories and landssoftly, his descent slow and smooth. The ninja master is shrouded and hard tosee through the smog, but as his silhouette approaches, Wax backs upinvoluntarily. “You’ve got no authority,” Wax chokes out, trying to catch hisbreath.

“Screw this!” Bode says and bolts for the opening of the alley.

“No you idiot!”

Bode doesn’t get two steps before he cries out in pain and falls, clutchinghis leg. Then he’s gone, the whole world a haze of smog. Wax can just make outthe opening of the alley thanks to the streetlights.

His whole body is trembling as he looks back at Koga, who’s lowering his armsback to his sides, something long and thin held in one. A small sword? There’sa shadow moving through the smog, passing over the bodies of his gangmates.Wax keeps his feet very, very still, not wanting to spook whatever pokemonmight be around him.

“Okay… okay you win, here…” Wax undoes his belt and lets it fall to theground. “We just wanted to make some quick cash, you know? No big deal, a fewpotions and a night at the hospital and he’d have been fine, we weren’t gonnakill-”

The name of your employer. Give it to me.”

Wax gapes at the figure. “I-no man, you got it all wrong. We were just lookingfor someone to rob-”

There’s a snapping sound, and something slithers against Wax’s ankle. Hescreams, jumping away and cowering against the wall, one leg raised off theground as if to present less targets. “Alright, alright! It was Pat Uzuki! Hesaid head into town, get to this address around this time, showed me a photo,I’m sorry-”

You will never come back to this city. Go, and tell the rest of your kindthat Fuschia is not for you. If I see you here again, I will feed you to myarbok.”

Wax simply stares, shivering. My pokemon… Then the last sentence registers,and he remembers that dry, smooth slither between his ankles.

He bows repeatedly as he stumbles backward, groveling his thanks as he keepshis eyes scanning the ground for that shadow. His foot bumps against Bode’sstill figure, and Wax hesitates. Bode and he have been running together sincethey were punks. If Koga really feeds people to his arbok…

“Leader Koga… what about the others-”

GO!” _the ninja thunders, and in the smoke Wax sees the shape of a long,thick serpent rise up. Its hood flares out, and it _hisses-

-and Wax is running out of the smoke and through the streets, ignoring the bewildered stare of their mark as he runs for the city limits without another look back, gasping apologies to Bode and the others between breaths of sweet, clean air.

The quiet of Kamal Chadha’s office is unbroken by his keyboard’s clacking,just as it’s uninterrupted by the tick-tock of the old fashioned clock abovethe door, or the muted wind outside. Each is a soothing testament to thequiet’s value.

His eyes flick between two monitors, collating the previous month’s salesreports for Silph’s upcoming regional conference. He always looks forward tothem, learning from the other managers and district directors’ successes andfailures. He’s particularly excited for this year, when he would be one of themajor speakers. He and his people worked hard to bring up Fuschia’s sales, andit shows.

Kamal’s hair is kept short, his nails neatly trimmed. His tie is a silver greythat matches his hair, and at his neck hangs the Golden Wheel of his church.He came to Kanto at the age of seven when his father, an engineer, washeadhunted by Silph Co. Kamal had been just a bit too old to easily assimilateto the new culture, and his accent and skin tone had not helped. While otherchildren played after school, Kamal studied at home under his mother’sapproving gaze. His family wasn’t shunned, but rather treated with politealoofness by their neighbors.

Things got better as the decades passed. An influx of foreigners and improvedcommunication technologies led to a more multicultural region, and the youngergenerations treated him no different than anyone else. But by then Kamal hadalready internalized the sense of “otherness,” and his focus on his workcontinued through his middle age, keeping few close friends and pursuing hispassion for business. He dallied in romance here and there, but remains abachelor at fifty-six despite his mother’s incessant cajoling.

In truth, he rarely feels lonely. When he first became a manager, his wholestore had become his family. A man can only dedicate time and effort to somany things before one starts to suffer for it, and his work had neversuffered.

Kamal’s office phone rings, and he glances at the ID. Building security. Hefinishes the last few lines of the current column one handed as he picks upthe phone. “Yes?”

“Sorry to bother you Mr. Chadha, this is Marissa at the front desk.”

Kamal thinks for a moment before he summons the face of the young securityguard. “Yes, hello Marissa. Is everything alright?”

“Quiet night down here, but my husband seems to have misplaced his keys. He’sstuck outside the house, and it’s another half hour until my shift is over.Will you be leaving the office before then, or can I lock up and go a bitearly?”

Kamal checks the time. When had midnight come and gone? “I think I’ll bestaying the night, as a matter of fact. You go ahead.”

“Are you sure, sir? I can wait for the relief to arrive.”

“Quite sure. Trin is still doing the rounds outside, right?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then go let your husband into the house before he falls asleep on the lawn.”

He hears the smile in her voice. “Thank you sir. Have a good night.”

“You too.”

Kamal hangs up, then goes back to work. He’s not in the least bit tired, andthe idea of going home and dithering about until he’s sleepy doesn’t hold anyappeal. Course set, he types for another five minutes, then gets up to take aquick break.

Kamal considers himself a man of simple pleasures, but his office is his majorindulgence. At the top of the sixteen story Silph building, it takes up aquarter of the floor. A beautiful painting of a ninetales is on the oppositewall, and a bronze solrock lamp hangs horizontally from the ceiling, splayinglight out in a sunburst pattern. Decorations aside, it also functions as ahome away from home: connected rooms lead to a kitchen on one side and abedroom on the other, fully stocked with minibar and entertainment systems.

It’s the former he heads to now, turning on the lights and mixing himself adrink. When he finishes, he takes a glass out onto the western facing balconyto drink in the unusually cool summer night.

Fuschia spreads out beneath him like a cluster of stars fallen to earth. Withthe safari preserve to the north and the ocean to the south and west, the cityis an island of light in a sea of darkness, an opposite reflection of the skyabove.

Surprising how quickly a new place could feel like home. He was transferred toFuschia about eight months ago, and of all the places he lived, both growingup and in the course of his career, none made him feel so at peace justlooking out at it.

He wonders if his predecessor felt it at all. Frank Moore was a competent citydirector and sometime acquaintance, but resigned after a nervous breakdown.Kamal sent some well wishes, but was too busy dealing with his own suddenpromotion to discover the personal details. Frank had been getting along inyears, and managing all the stores in Fuschia can be stressful work.

Kamal watches the sparks that come and go in the distance, racing over thebridge, or “cycling road,” that connects the peninsula to western Kanto andCeladon City. He’s been thinking of riding across it soon, for the exerciseand the experience. The view of the ocean on every side is said to be lovely,and some of the restaurants that line the sides of the bridge are verypopular.

When the stiffness in his legs and shoulders fully fades, he finishes hisdrink and steps back inside. He refills his glass and debates going back onthe balcony, then puts the bottle away and returns to the office. It’s onlyafter he sits down at his computer that he notices the young woman on thecouch.

Kamal’s heart clenches in his chest, and he nearly spills his drink as heshoots back to his feet. “Who- how did-” He stammers to a stop as herecognizes her from the news. “Mistress Koga? You startled me…” Kamal slowlysits back down, pulse racing as he lets out a shaking breath. “What are youdoing in my office? How did you get in the building?”

“I picked the lock after the security guard downstairs left.” The youngwoman’s short purple hair is drawn back, making the clean angles of her facelook severe. She’s dressed in dark, form fitting clothes that almost resemblesbody armor, and a purple silk scarf is tied around her neck. “It was easy. Youshould have gotten better ones.”

He does his best to push away his lingering shock, squaring his shoulders andresting his arms on his desk as his heart rate slowly returns to normal.“Thank you for informing me of that. I’ll be sure to do so. Now please explainwhy I shouldn’t have you arrested for trespassing. Are you applying as asecurity consultant? If so, I don’t approve of your methods, and I doubt yourfather would either.”

“My father is my business. We are here to discuss yours.”

Kamal blinks, and understanding washes through him. Not security, then, butsome other position. She isn’t the first person to approach him looking for aninside track on a career at Silph, but he’d never had one break into hisoffice to do so before. If she thought he would be impressed of her dedicationor some other such foolish thing, she’s badly mistaken.

Leader Koga has clearly spoiled her. A shame; he always seemed a competentGym Leader. But Kamal supposes everyone has their weaknesses.

“I’m sorry, but this is my office, and you do not dictate the terms here, nomatter whose daughter you are.” He takes a sip of his drink. The spike of fearand adrenaline is still bitter in his mouth, and he grimaces. “If you call mysecretary during normal business hours and schedule an appointment, I would behappy to see you when I’m available.”

Janine seems to relax somewhat as he speaks, and he frowns at her. “However,I’m still informing your father of this. And if I ever find out you’ve snuckinto this or any other building again, I will be forced to call the police. Doyou understand?”

She nods, staring at him.

“Goodnight then.” He turns back to his monitors and begins drafting an emailto Leader Koga. He notices in his peripheral that she still hasn’t moved, andseems to be twirling some dark grey cylinder between her fingers, like a verylong flute.

“If the new security guard arrives before you leave, I won’t intervene on yourbehalf.”

“He won’t see me.”

The tube is still spinning, and Kamal begins to feel real anger stirring inhim. “Do you want me to call the police?”

“Not particularly.”

“Then why are you still here?”

“I’m waiting for the poison to start working.”

Kamal stares at her. “That’s not funny, young lady.”

She doesn’t respond, those amethyst eyes still steady on his, and thebitterness on his tongue is suddenly hard to ignore. He feels a chill, andthen flushes as his heart gallops back into a panicked frenzy.

“What- what did you-”

“I wasn’t sure if you’d refill your glass when you came back in, so this wasmy backup plan.” She stops her fingers, and the “flute” becomes identifiable.It’s a blowgun.

“I’m glad you took another drink though. I’ve used enough darts tonight, andthis gives us more time to talk-”

He grabs his office phone and throws himself backward, hitting the floor andpressing the emergency number. “Help, please send help, I’m being…” There’sonly silence in his ear. The line is dead.

He’s in the middle of reaching for his cell when the crazy bitch calmly walksaround the desk and aims the blowgun at him, one end at her lips. He freezes,and after a moment she draws it away a bit and perches on the edge of hisdesk. He notices a facemask of some kind hanging from her neck.

“As I was saying, we have time to talk. I want to know who told you to bribethe mayor, and if you answer me, you get the antidote.”

Kamal feels the world shift. This isn’t some random murder by a sociopathicchild. _But how does she know about that? No money was even transferred!_Doesn’t matter right now. That she has a reason for her actions means there’sa glimmer of hope for him.

“I’ll tell you,” he says. “Just let me get to a hospital, and I’ll tell youeverything! Please, I can feel it!” He clutches his stomach, a pang of painmaking him want to throw up. She’d likely shoot him with a dart if he doesthough…

“I find that highly unlikely. You’ve just ingested arbok venom. Most venom isharmless when swallowed, did you know? But arbok use a neurotoxin so potentit’s also poisonous. Just takes longer to act. You should lose consciousnessin fifteen minutes or so, and any pain you feel is just in your head. So wehave time.” She taps the blowgun. “The dart in here will be considerablyquicker depending on where it hits.” She puts it to her lips and aims for hischest.

“Wait, wait! Okay!” His skin feels cold and clammy, and despite her words hefeels a fire in his gut. She might be lying about the poison’s effects… he’dnever heard anything about arbok venom as a poison. Or his body might just bereacting to the stress of the situation. Either way, he doesn’t think theblowgun is a bluff. “There was no bribe! I just reminded Mr. Ramsey thatelection season is coming up, and how the new safari regulation would affecttourism and local businesses. Nothing illegal was done!”

Janine rolls her eyes. “Yes, because I clearly care so much about legalities.I already know all this. I asked you who told you to do it.”

“No one, it was my idea!”

“Possible, but I don’t think so. There’s been a concerted effort to softenFuschia’s anti-poaching laws for over two years now. On top of that,resistance to the new regulation has been popping up from all sorts ofunlikely directions. It’s possible you’re just concerned with the impact onbusiness, but my bet is you’re a patsy. So give me a name.”

Kamal tries to quiet his panic so he can think. If she wants a name, he’llgive her one. “Okay… I’ll tell you. It was Dylan Omaki. He’s a friend of mylate father’s who likes hunting in the safari, and asked me to do it as afavor. Please, I didn’t think any harm would come of it-”

She’s shakes her head. “No one above you in Silph goes by that name. You’regoing to have to do better than that.”

“It has nothing to do with Silph! I swear, that’s the truth!”

“Mmhm. And did Mr. Moore also know this friend of your father’s?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Like I said, this isn’t new. It’s just a coincidence that your predecessorwas doing the exact same thing?”

Shit. “I don’t… it must be-”

“And the gang I stopped from beating up a union leader tonight? ‘Mr. Omaki’tell you to facilitate that too?”

He feels cold. “How did you kno-” He clamps his mouth shut, furious withhimself as he sees the smug smile on her face. “I had nothing to do withthat.”

“I believe you. But you know who ordered it done, don’t you?”

Kamal looks away, a drop of sweat sliding down his neck. He’d been uneasyabout that whole business. Dealing with unions is always frustrating andtiresome, but this has been the most stubborn leadership he’s everencountered. When he explained the recent difficulties with his superior, theyassured him they would handle it. He didn’t ask questions. In truth, he didn’twant to know the answers… he was just grateful for their help.

“I was hoping you’d be more on the level than Mr. Moore was. It’s reallystarting to piss me off.”

The fire in his belly is gone, replaced with a block of ice. She’s here on avendetta, and he was dangerously close to saying something he shouldn’t. Kamaltakes a deep breath and sits up, and Janine stands and steps back, gaze wary.

“I won’t say any more. You can let me die and deal with the investigation ofmy murder, or you can give me an antidote and walk away. But thisinterrogation is over.”

“That’s it? Just like that, you don’t care if you die?”

He looks her in the eye. “I’d prefer not to, but I won’t let you intimidateme.” Some measure of calm returns to him, and he’s pleasantly surprised todiscover as he says it that it’s the truth. I will not betray my family.

Janine meets his gaze silently. “I misjudged you,” she says eventually, voicequiet. “Nothing in my research indicated a spine of steel. I thought you’d beas easy to break as your predecessor.”

Kamal’s eyes widen. “What?”

“Like I said, he was involved in similar things. Corrupting city officials.Buying off Safari Rangers. Hiring thugs. Nothing solid enough that I could letthe police handle it, but clear abuses of power. He had to go.”

Kamal’s fists clench. “What did you do to him?”

“Not much. A history of minor mental issues already set the foundation. Iadded some stimulants to his nightly drinks to disrupt his sleep cycle, thenswitched them to hallucinogens. Eventually I began to appear to him indisguise. He thought I was a demon, come to punish him for his sins. Told meall sorts of interesting things. But not what I needed. I suspect he didn’tknow.”

She says all this casually. Almost dispassionately. As if breaking a man’smind and destroying his life was of no consequence. Kamal feels his nailsdigging into his palms. “You’re a monster. A sick, twisted child.”

Her eyes narrow. “Two rangers at the safari were killed by poachers lastspring. The suspects were a group of thugs from out of town, very similar tothe ones I ran into tonight. They were tied to the scene by eight witnesses atvarious points. The rangers’ pokemon had been transferred from balls found inthe gang’s possession. They claimed someone had sold the balls to them empty.”Janine crouches down to make it harder for him to avoid her gaze. “How manyyears do you think they were sentenced to?”

Kamal stares at the wall, feeling sick.

“None. Out of nowhere, an army of lawyers descended and tied the case up formonths. In that time, all the witness either changed their story or moved awayfrom Kanto. Every. Single. One.”

She stands. “I can’t prove the witness intimidation. It took me awhile totrace it, but the money that paid for the defense attorneys came from Mr.Moore. Nothing illegal about that, is there? But those rangers deservedjustice. Their families deserved justice. This city deserved justice. Andsince some powerful people seem intent on preventing that, we’ll have to takewhat we can get.”

The room feels cold, and Kamal is starting to feel groggy. Panic tries to sendprotests and denials up his throat, but he doesn’t let them pass his lips.Kamal wonders if the new security guard arrived yet. Would he call up when hedoes? Kamal’s hand rises to the wheel on his necklace, gripping the cool metalin his hand. Its gold-plated prongs dig into his palm a bit, and he savors thesensation, focusing on it to keep alert. “And killing me? That’s justice?”

“I have little against you personally, Mr. Chadha. But I think you work forimmoral people. And I cannot allow you to continue spreading their tendrilsthrough my city.”

“This is ridiculous. You’re just a kid-”

“I’m fifteen. In your world that’s not old enough to be more than a cashier orsales clerk, but in mine I assure you, it’s of little impediment.”

“Your world. You mean pokemon training. You’re not an officer of the law. Nota judge. Not an executioner. If you think I’ve done some crime, take me to thepolice, I’ll sign a confession to whatever you want-”

“What, hand you over to people your superiors can manipulate and buy off? Andwhat would a confession from you be worth, even if it weren’t under duress?You’re just a hand. I want the head.”

“You won’t get it from inside a jail cell.”

“No one saw me enter, nor will they see me leave. Your security cameras arelaughably easy to avoid. And there will be little in the investigation topoint to foul play. No one will go to jail for your death, least of all me.You accomplish nothing by dying but dying.”

“You can let me go. I’ll resign, like Frank, move away. I’ll never bother you…your city… again.”

She shakes her head. “You would just be replaced, and I’d have to do this allover again. I need to send a stronger message to your bosses this time. Or youcould tell me what I want to know.”

Kamal looks away, ignoring the fluttering of his heart. “I can’t.”

“Such misguided loyalty. Don’t you realize you’re a puppet? They knewsomething happened to Mr. Moore and sent you in case it happened again. Youwere chosen because you’re expendable. Little family, few friends.Replaceable.”

Kamal straightens his back and turns to her. “That is your interpretation.Mine is that they knew I would be the perfect person for the job. And I willnot betray that trust. You will gain nothing by my death but my death.”

She meets his gaze for a moment, and this time she’s the one that looks away,peering out at the night through his window. “I’m sorry. You are worth lessthan nothing to me alive if you can’t give me what I need.”

Kamal tries to think of some other argument, something to save himself. Butthere’s nothing. He can’t convince her to release him, and won’t give her whatshe wants. He doesn’t know anything of what Frank Moore had done, but hisactivities in the city haven’t been anything worth killing over.

What of that business tonight? Beating up a union leader, she said. Whatother things like that have been going on?

He doesn’t know. It’s not his job to know. But he trusts that what has beendone has been done for the good of the company, for its employees, andultimately for the society it serves. He won’t help his murderess in whatevervendetta she has against his superiors. He can only wait for the poison totake its course, and hope that help comes before it does. If the new securitycalls and receives no answer, what would he do? Did Marissa even inform himthat Kamal was staying? Surely she would…

Kamal closes his eyes and bows his head, grip loose around his wheel as hetries to control his breathing, and his fear. Arceus, First and Last, watchover your humble servant. Let me be as malleable as the gold of your wheel, soyou can shape me into purity. If I have sinned, let me learn from my sins andchange, as you change. And if Judgement is upon me, let me face it withcourage.

The time passes, and Kamal once again begins to hear the alloys of thesilence. The ticking clock. The muted wind. All that’s missing is the clack ofhis keyboard. He thinks of his past self, content and oblivious of what wascoming. How strange and unfair, that life could be so utterly shattered insuch a small time without warning.

He realizes that he can’t feel the wheel in his hand anymore, and a momentlater that he can barely move his limbs. The tiredness spreads slowly, butnoticeably now, and his fear returns, a coiling, frantic thing. It’s far toolate to try an escape however: he doubts he could even stand.

The girl is staring at him. Is that pity in her gaze? Regret? The dying emberof hope flares up, but when he opens his mouth, he can’t form any words. Helets his hope fade away. She won’t save him now. He would just be a liabilityto her, a witness to her crime.

He wonders what she plans to do with his body. How she’ll cover up herinvolvement. Make it look like a suicide, maybe? Push him off the balcony?_What will mother think? _ Imagining her reaction is agonizing, and in thatmoment he wants to tell Janine everything if only to spare his mother thegrief.

But it’s too late: his consciousness is beginning to drift. Kamal thanksArceus for the strength to hold out as long as he has, then lets the soothingsounds of the silence comfort him down into oblivion.

The night is cool and smells of salt as Janine travels south, passing from onerooftop to the next. She runs on her forefeet, a silent shadow leaping overthe streets of her city. Seeing but unseen, hearing but unheard. It’sexhilarating. Freeing.

Especially at the apex of each jump. She leaps, eyes closed as she fliesthrough the air, weightless for a split second before gravity pulls her backdown. She tucks into a roll for the landing, and even that is quiet, herpadded clothes muffling the impact and protecting her so she can easily springback to her feet.

She’s taking a new route home, passing by some rumored trouble spots so shecan ensure nothing is going on. Thankfully, all is quiet. It usually is:despite what the cartoons say, it’s really hard to randomly run into a crimeas it’s in progress, even in the bad parts of town. Nights like this come froma lot of research, having good reason to suspect something will go down at acertain time and place. Even then she usually ends up staking places out allnight for nothing.

At least those nights aren’t so exhausting. She just wants to go to bed andstop thinking for a bit. Her thoughts keep circling back to Kamal. Her failureis frustrating on a number of levels, but what bothers her most is how willinghe had been to die. She had thought it possible, but hadn’t really believed hewould. It worries her that her adversaries have such dedicated employees onstaff. She copied his hard drive, and hopes to find some answers there.

The gap between this roof and the next is too wide to jump. As she runs,Janine tosses forward a pokeball and mutters “Go, koffing.”

It opens ahead of her just before the end of the roof, and she catches theball, clips it to her belt, then grabs her koffing in both hands and says “up”as she leaps forward, her pokemon held just behind her and above her head.

The warm, hollow body of her koffing inflates, extending her leap into aglide. Her feet hit the next roof running, and she lets her koffing go,withdrawing him over her shoulder and reclipping his ball to her belt. Thenext gap is small enough to jump on her own.

Four hops and another glide later, she’s able to swing over the side of a shopand land in an alley below, a couple blocks from her father’s house. Twomeowth leap onto a dumpster as she passes near them, staring at her withshining eyes as the streetlight gleams on their coins. She walks the rest ofthe way to the house, removing her mask and hood, then stripping the peelableblack paint from her pokeballs one half at a time.

The two story house is dark. Her father might be sleeping, or he might be onhis computer or watching the news in the living room. She listens for anysounds as she mounts the front steps, but all she hears are the distant wavesand the cries of the wingulls above them. The scrape of her key seems veryloud as she opens the lock, and she’s careful in opening and closing the doorso that it makes as little sound as possible.

She turns the bolt behind her and takes off her shoes and pokebelt as her eyesadjust to the darkness. Once they have, she begins to head for the staircasewhen she notices the figure on the couch.

Her heart kicks into high gear, and she has a moment of sympathy for how Mr.Chadha must have felt seeing her in his office. She’d learned from the best,after all.

When she’s sure her voice won’t shake, she bows her head and says, “Goodevening, father.”

“Good evening, Janine,” he says without inflection “Where have you been.”

After a moment’s hesitation, she decides against lying. For all she knows hearrived just a minute ahead of her after shadowing her all night.

“I did my usual patrols, then went to watch over a union meeting wheretomorrow’s protest was being planned. I figured another attempt would be madeto disrupt it, but instead a gang of thugs from out of town waited outside tojump Hart McEvoy when he came out. I stopped them.”

“Stopped them. How?”

Her eyes have adjusted enough to make out most of the room from the dim lightfrom outside, but his face is still in shadows. She struggles not to smile asshe imagines him shifting the seat around for maximum dramatic effect.

Since she can’t meet his eyes, she just looks at the shadows of his face andfolds her arms. “I asked them politely to leave. What do you think?”

“I think you are a foolish and immature-”

“There were six of them-”

Do not interrupt me, Anzu.”

Janine winces. Her dad only calls her that when he’s particularly upset. As ifthat isn’t bad enough, his accent has gotten thicker throughout theirconversation. Raised on the reclusive estates of the Koga clan when he wasyoung, it’s already stronger than most others of his generation. She knowshe’s self-conscious about it, even in private, and judges that he’s ahandsbreadth away from lapsing completely into Japanese.

She bows her head. “I’m sorry, father.”

“I have warned you time and again of the consequences if you are caught usingyour pokemon against people. Is your life truly worth so little to you?”

You risked it.”

“I was young and reckless, and I acted throughout the land, not all in asingle city. If I was ever convicted, I would not be where I am today. I didnot teach you my skills so you could make the same mistakes. I did it so youcould protect yourself. ”

“So I should have just let them beat him?”

“Why did you not call the police?”

Janine snorts. “For what? Those magikarp? I needed to know who sent them.”

“They will say that Leader Koga attacked them with pokemon.”

“My pokemon attacked none of them. I used them for cover and to frighten,that’s all.”

“Then you did not need them at all. You put on a spectacle. That is not theway of the ninja.”

“There’s nothing dramatic about being darted unconscious before you evenrealize what happened. My way makes them frightened. They tell othercriminals. It keeps them away from the city.”

“I’ve had to address questions about the crime in Fuschia already. It was nota criminal who asked.”

She saw that interview. It made her a bit apprehensive, but she alreadydecided that if actual charges are ever brought against her father, she’d turnherself in. “Everyone likes a juicy rumor. The point is they won’t talk to thepolice, they don’t trust them. And they’re too scared of you to risk it.”

Her father’s voice is tight with anger. “Because of _your _vigilantism.”

“Yes, my vigilantism, which saved a man from being beaten. Besides, unlessyou’ve been following me all night, you should have an alibi at the gym. Ordid Markus not approach you to help train his venomoth?”

Her father is quiet for a moment. “You arranged that?”

“I suggested a time and date I knew you would be free. His request wasgenuine.”

“I have taught you too well. And now you do not heed me anymore, it seems.Have you outgrown my tutelage, Anzu?”

Something in his tone makes Janine’s chest tighten. She wishes she could seehis face. “No, father. I will always value your teachings. But you cannot askme to ignore my conscience.”

“As I ignore mine.”

“You know what’s going on, and you do nothing. What would you call it?”

“I would call it having sense. It is not just what you do, it is your methods.They are too brazen. You act without respect to the law at all. Would you haveme take over the city? Declare myself mayor and gym leader?”

“Would that be so wrong? You’re ten times the man as that butterfree in cityhall.”

Her father suddenly sounds tired. “It is not my place, Janine. We are nolonger feudal lords, ruling absolutely by virtue of our might. I am Leader ofthe city’s pokemon trainers, and that is all. My responsibilities are to fightmonsters, not people. There are civilian governments, civilian peacekeepers,civilian courts to deal with them. Our society could not function as it doesif every trainer took the law into their own hands.”

“Then it’s a good thing they don’t. But that doesn’t mean I won’t, to protectmy city.”

“It may not ever be yours if you continue like this.”

Janine lifts her chin. “Who else is there? Patricia? Lee? I’m your daughter.When you join the Elite Four, I’ll show them who your best student is.”

“I meant if you are branded a renegade.”

“I won’t be.”

Her father stands and moves to the kitchen. He turns on the light beforebeginning to make some tea. After a moment Janine follows, stopping at thedoorway. She’s so sleepy her eyes keep threatening to drift closed, but she’snot sure if she’s been dismissed yet. Once the water is set to boil, herfather turns and leans against the counter, arms folded.

Her father’s face looks different in person than on vids. When she was youngit had always seemed strange watching the great Michio Koga in interviews oron battle videos, so severe and cold. True, his face is sharp like hers, witha strong jaw and deep lines around his mouth. But it also holds character thatdoesn’t come across through a screen. An expressive vibrancy that makes evenhis current stern expression more heated than cool. Her eyes are drawn to thestreaks of grey just beginning to form in his pine-green hair. They remind herof Mr. Chadha’s fully grey head, though they’re both about the same age. Shewonders when they first appeared.


She meets his gaze warily. “So, what?”

“So, what did you discover.”

Janine smiles before quickly schooling her expression. Part of her has alwayshoped that deep down, her father approves of what she does, and is justworried about her. He can’t completely ignore the good she’s done, or she’ssure he would have forced her to stop. “It’s as I thought. The same middle manfrom last time, when Mr. Moore was involved in everything. So I went to hisreplacement, in case there was a connection.”

“Mr… Chad, was it?”



“I was right. It took a few bluffs, but he’s behind the same sorts of things.Unfortunately he wouldn’t name his superior.”

“So what makes you think there is a connection?”

“Two people from Silph being behind the same things is too much of acoincidence. There’s got to be someone above them guiding their actions.”

Her father shakes his head. “No, there does not. They work in the samebusiness. They had the same responsibilities. They likely share many beliefs.In short, they had similar goals, resources, and values. It is not impossiblethat their corruption happened to take the same forms by coincidence.”

Janine frowns, replaying her conversation with Kamal over as best she couldfrom memory. She has a recording of the conversation in her phone, but off thetop of her head she can’t remember him actually admitting there was someonein Silph giving him orders, name or no name. “I suppose it’s possible…”

“Of course it is. So what did you do to this man, to force out this conspiracythat you made up in your head?”

She scowls. “Even if I was wrong, he isn’t innocent.”

“Answer the question.”

Janine looks away. “I drugged him.”


“My own mix. Mostly chloral hydrate in his drink. Made him think he was dying.Some rohypnol for his memory.”

Her father’s face is hard. “In his ‘drink?’ Alcoholic? _Baka musume, _youcould have killed him!”

“Could have,” she says as her temper flares. “But I learned from the best.”

Her father goes still. Janine flinches as his arm twitches up-

-and takes the teapot off the stove beside him, some wisps of steam just beginning to rise. “One of these days you will go too far, Anzu,” he says, not looking at her. “And I will be forced to stop you.”

Janine lets out her breath, heart racing. She turns and heads for the stairs.“If I ever go that far, father, I’m counting on it.”

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