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Thread: Flight Delay (Christmas 2013, G, Team Rocket)

  1. #1

    Default Flight Delay (Christmas 2013, G, Team Rocket)

    After a few weeks of working out details of this story, I'm happy to say I've finally completed the first chapter of this year's Christmas fanfic. I think those of you who enjoyed last year's, Snowfall, will find something worthwhile in this too.

    ~

    Chapter 1

    December in Kanto, and in nearly every city, a thick blanket of snow covered streets and buildings. As the night fell, bright holiday decorations glowed, their lights reflected faintly off the white ground, and in the air was a distinct feeling of anticipation.

    Viridian City was no exception, and amidst the flurries, shoppers scurried up and down the sidewalks with their arms full, stopping only to peek in windows, take in the huge tree in the city square, or buy a cup of coffee for the trip home. It was a time when stress and joy filled the town in equal parts.

    With the exception, of course, of one place in particular. Nestled on the border between the town and the routes leading to Pallet Town, within the mountains that formed a border of sorts, was Team Rocket's main headquarters. This wasn't to say, of course, that there was any shortage of Christmas spirit in the huge complex; to the contrary, despite normally being strictly business, the Team loved a good excuse to party, and the winter holidays, with a combination of poor weather keeping most missions grounded and restless operatives, presented nothing if not a good opportunity.

    But in a small yet well-furnished, impeccably tidy office, the only white to be found blanketing anything was the papers covering a simple wood desk, and the only thing shining was the reflection of a lamp off a pair of round, wireframe glasses.

    For Matori, it was anything but the most wonderful time of the year, because along with snow and the holiday festivities December also brought year-end paperwork, the dreaded winter visitor of anyone in Team Rocket with a desk.

    Being Giovanni's assistant and secretary, she faced the greatest onslaught, as nothing reached her employer's desk without seeing hers first. The mug of hot cocoa on her desk and Christmas tree in the corner broke the monotony of the whole thing, but only slightly, and it wasn't enough to fix her bored, foul mood.

    She reached for the box of candy canes on her desk, absentmindedly pulled out another, and put her pen down to peel away the cellophane wrapper, picking it back up immediately after she put the confection in her mouth.

    Only two left? I just opened that box two hours ago...

    As she went through yet another dull expense report with her red pen, correcting poor math and filling in the blanks left empty by- whosever's this was, every form seemed to melt into each other now- her phone began vibrating on her desk.

    Her free right hand hovered over the send to voice mail option now on the phone's screen, then tapped it when she saw the caller.

    Another field agent? Whatever it is, you're not getting it, not this time of the year,” she hissed. “Rejected.”

    She returned to her work only for it to vibrate a second time, the same caller from minutes ago.

    “What is it now?- wait, what's this?”

    Instead of a call, she'd been left a text message this time.

    If they went to this much trouble...

    Matori tapped the command to open the message and her eyes grew wide as she read.

    “Oh dear. This isn't good, not at all,” she muttered. She picked up a pen and some paper and scrawled a short letter. “Deldel, I have a job for you.”

    A fat, fluffy red and white penguin jumped down happily from the bookshelf where she'd found herself a comfy nest and flew over to Matori's desk. “Delee lee?”

    Matori passed the letter, now tucked in an envelope and sealed with her personal seal, to the bird, who cheerfully tucked it into her tail bag. “Get that to Pierce right away, okay, Deldel? It's important. He shouldn't be too far out of the city right now, I just want to see to it he gets the message.”

    “Delee!” Deldel replied, beaming.

    ~

    Pierce sat on a park bench, waiting impatiently for his contact to show up. He shivered under his cape and overcoat, the December weather too harsh even for the thick outerwear. Of all the days for someone to show up late meeting him, today might have been the worst. Pierce prided himself on being punctual and couldn't stand those who didn't return the courtesy to him, but more importantly, the mission to be discussed was possibly one of the more important ones the Rocket spy would undertake- a trip to Kalos, to be more precise, to take a general survey of the region and potential prospects for setting up a base there, as well as to investigate the rumors of a new organization forming there that posed a potential threat.

    For such affairs, timing was of the utmost importance as Pierce was concerned. He pulled his phone from his pocket, prepared to call headquarters to inquire the status of the meeting- perhaps it was postponed owing to weather?- when a blur of red and white feathers flew past his head and landed beside him.

    “Delee, delee!” Deldel waved a wing in greeting at the confused spy.

    “Deldel?” Pierce asked. “What are you doing here? Are you... are you my contact?”

    Delibird tilted her head, unsure of what the human was asking her. “Del?” she squawked.

    “Well, I've never received missions via Delibird this close to base, but I suppose there's a first-”

    Pierce was cut off by Deldel flapping her wings in front of him, and thrusting a sealed envelope in his face. “Delee, del!”

    “Alright, I'll open it,” he said, taking the envelope in his hands. He unfolded the letter inside.

    Pierce-

    There's been an emergency change in plans. Report back to headquarters immediately.

    -Matori


    Pierce wasn't sure what to make of what he just read. Emergency change in plans? Wording like that was rarely a good sign, particularly the “emergency” part, and the last time he recalled receiving a message with that wording, the boss had nearly lost his mind and wiped an entire continent off the map...

    “I suppose that's an order then,” Pierce said, not about to question any of Matori's commands anytime soon. Even a hardened spy like himself was terrified of the woman and her cold demeanor. Dele, meanwhile, perched on the back of the bench next to him, and looked at him impatiently. The bird would not put up with poor manners from anyone, not even Pierce. “Thank you, Deldel.” He scratched her feathery tufts and she replied with a grateful coo and a playful nip on his gloved finger.

    ~

    Dr. Zager poured hot water over the powdered cocoa in his mug and stirred it up, bored. He'd had a hard time getting worked up about the holidays lately- although he didn't hate them, they just lacked the excitement they once gave him. Perhaps it was just the utter lack of any real work during this time of year. As a man of science, he required intellectual stimulation.

    “Doctor, are you going to help us fix the wiring on this thing or not?” a voice called from across the room. Professor Sebastian was holding the end of a faulty string of lights that had gone out minutes before. “You promised you would-” he checked his watch- “30 minutes ago. What have you been doing over there anyway?”

    “Reading over the year's mission postmortems,” Zager replied.

    “I thought you said you'd filed everything,” Sebastian said. “Don't tell me you missed-”

    “I didn't, Sebastian, I'm just reliving our past misadventures before we close the book on another year. What a ride it's been, eh, boy?”

    Sebastian rolled his eyes, hoping the reflection on his glasses of what lights on the tree were functional would hide the gesture from Zager. “Nostalgia comes later, Doctor. We've been waiting for you to take a look at these for the longest time now. I've never seen anything like this, and I checked all the connections...”

    “Maybe it's not the wiring,” Zager replied. “We're holding a small colony of Magnemite in the lab down the hall from here, right?'

    Sebastian nodded.

    “The electromagnetic radiation from the Magnemite is interfering with the lights' wiring. Simple as that. Move the Magnemite to another laboratory, and all the lights will work again.”

    Sebastian stared at the lights for a moment, thoughtfully, looking for something to say. Zager... wasn't exactly wrong. In fact, the science added up perfectly.

    “I'm not going to go to the trouble of moving fifty Magnemite to another room just so we can win the tree contest this year,” Sebastian said. “Marta, bring over another package of tinsel, we're going to change our plans here. And bring over that ornament box too,” he said, pointing to a large cardboard box.

    “Suit yourself,” Zager mumbled. Where had the magic gone? He wondered if the science had taken the childlike wonder he used to feel for the season away, or if the tedium of the winter months had simply finally got to him. He was thoroughly unimpressed at everything this year, even the sparkling tree in progress in the corner that his colleague and underlings were busying themselves decorating.

    Within a moment a young woman scurried over to the professor, clutching a silver tinsel garland and the ornament box. Sebastian took them from her and began hanging them on the tree.

    “Gabriel, at the very least, could you kindly get up from your self loathing and help us hang up the ornaments?”

    Zager reluctantly rose from his chair and joined Sebastian to decorate the tree.

    ~

    “So in short... due to increased Interpol presence in the Kalos region due to the activities of the Flare organization, as well as current weather conditions both there and here in Kanto making emergency communications and extraction an extremely risky proposition-” Giovanni, in his plush velvet office chair, scratching a happy, purring Persian between the ears, could read the look of apprehension on Pierce's face loud and clear. It was a change from the usual professional confidence his best spy displayed in the room, and he had a feeling he didn't even need to finish his sentence for Pierce to realize what was going on. It was a suspicion shared with Matori, standing beside him, and the two of them shot each other a tense, knowing glance before he finished his sentence “-all operations in the region are officially being postponed until after the beginning of the new year.”

    Pierce barely opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out, as he realized the implications of what had just been said.

    “That includes yours,” Matori finished, even though she realized Pierce knew this very well.

    Pierce's gaze shifted slightly to the floor and his fist clenched tightly. Matori looked desperately over to Giovanni, wondering which of them would end up with the last word in this impromptu briefing, dreading having the job thrust to her. Pierce was one of the few agents Matori could say she genuinely respected, and to have to deliver the final blow so suddenly after weeks of preparation...

    “You're on standby until further notice,” Giovanni said, and a burden was suddenly lifted from the violet-haired assistant.

    Standby. A word Pierce dreaded more than possibly any other. His job was his life, and without a job to do...

    “...Understood,” Pierce said, his voice quivering slightly. Normally here he would make some closing remark, some promise of success, but there were no promises to be made when there was nothing to attempt. Pierce stood frozen, trying to process everything he'd just heard.

    The room had fallen so silent Persian's normally soft purring could be clearly heard.

    “If there are no further questions, then, we're done here. You're dismissed, Pierce,” Giovanni said, in an effort to break the uncomfortable quiet that had fallen.

    Pierce simply turned and exited the office as quickly as he could. Matori watched as the door slowly shut behind him, knowing well how lost the agent must have felt in that moment.

    For a minute or two, she simply looked at the door, knowing Pierce was out in the hallways leading from it wandering about aimlessly.

    “Matori? Is something wrong?” Giovanni had noticed Matori's blank stare.

    “Eh?” The question brought her briefly back to the moment. “No sir. It's... nothing...” she trailed off, and attempting a distraction, poured a cup of coffee. “Nothing of any importance...”

    ~

    In a snowy climate, an elderly man harnessed a small herd of Stantler. There wasn't much time to spare and there were preparations to be made... After all, he couldn't afford for anything to go wrong on the big night.

    “Nice sky for flight tonight,” he commented, looking out at an unusually clear winter sky. “What do you ladies and gents say we go for a test run?”

    "Poe was the first writer to write about main characters who were bad guys or who were mad guys, and those are some of my favorite stories."
    -Stephen King

    I write odd slice of life stories about Team Rocket. If that's your thing, give them a look:

    Alpha Male- behind every friendship is a story. Perspective contest fourth place winner.
    Secretary- A short and cynical tale of paperwork and sadism
    Survival- A novella about the unbreakable bonds between one man and his feline friend. 2011 Pokemon Big Bang story.


  2. #2
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    “I suppose that's an order then,” Pierce said, not about to question any of Matori's commands anytime soon. Even a hardened spy like himself was terrified of the woman and her cold demeanor. Dele, meanwhile, perched on the back of the bench next to him, and looked at him impatiently. The bird would not put up with poor manners from anyone, not even Pierce. “Thank you, Deldel.” He scratched her feathery tufts and she replied with a grateful coo and a playful nip on his gloved finger.
    That part is very cute. :3

    “I'm not going to go to the trouble of moving fifty Magnemite to another room just so we can win the tree contest this year,” Sebastian said.
    For some reason that made me chuckle. I feel sorry though for Zager not in the holiday spirit (maybe he will later?).

    “Nice sky for flight tonight,” he commented, looking out at an unusually clear winter sky. “What do you ladies and gents say we go for a test run?”
        Spoiler:- spoilers perhaps for those reading:


    Off to a good start! Can tell the news Pierce didn't take too well and, after we discussed this, I can see him react like that in front of Giovanni. Looking forward to the next part.


    FFnet | Author's Profile| Archive of Our Own | Banner: Umi Mizuno
    I'm still writing, but probably not much Pokemon stuff at the moment. HAM!


  3. #3
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    First time I'm reviewing a fic, hope it ain't too bad.

    Quote Originally Posted by Matori View Post
    December in Kanto, and in nearly every city, a thick blanket of snow covered streets and buildings. As the night fell, bright holiday decorations glowed, their lights reflected faintly off the white ground, and in the air was a distinct feeling of anticipation.

    Viridian City was no exception, and amidst the flurries, shoppers scurried up and down the sidewalks with their arms full, stopping only to peek in windows, take in the huge tree in the city square, or buy a cup of coffee for the trip home. It was a time when stress and joy filled the town in equal parts.

    With the exception, of course, of one place in particular. Nestled on the border between the town and the routes leading to Pallet Town, within the mountains that formed a border of sorts, was Team Rocket's main headquarters. This wasn't to say, of course, that there was any shortage of Christmas spirit in the huge complex; to the contrary, despite normally being strictly business, the Team loved a good excuse to party, and the winter holidays, with a combination of poor weather keeping most missions grounded and restless operatives, presented nothing if not a good opportunity.

    But in a small yet well-furnished, impeccably tidy office, the only white to be found blanketing anything was the papers covering a simple wood desk, and the only thing shining was the reflection of a lamp off a pair of round, wireframe glasses.
    Nice opening. You did a good job at describing the setting and I could really see it in front of me.

    Another field agent? Whatever it is, you're not getting it, not this time of the year,” she hissed. “Rejected.”
    No favors during the holidays I guess :P

    She returned to her work only for it to vibrate a second time, the same caller from minutes ago.

    “What is it now?- wait, what's this?”

    Instead of a call, she'd been left a text message this time.

    If they went to this much trouble...

    Matori tapped the command to open the message and her eyes grew wide as she read.

    “Oh dear. This isn't good, not at all,” she muttered. She picked up a pen and some paper and scrawled a short letter. “Deldel, I have a job for you.”

    A fat, fluffy red and white penguin jumped down happily from the bookshelf where she'd found herself a comfy nest and flew over to Matori's desk. “Delee lee?”

    Matori passed the letter, now tucked in an envelope and sealed with her personal seal, to the bird, who cheerfully tucked it into her tail bag. “Get that to Pierce right away, okay, Deldel? It's important. He shouldn't be too far out of the city right now, I just want to see to it he gets the message.”

    “Delee!” Deldel replied, beaming.
    So this is where the story really starts off. I think it's a good start, there is clearly something wrong and it grabs the reader's attention. I'm sure most readers at this point wonder what the problem is and why Pierce has to know it so quickly. It's a good motivation to keep reading. Also I like Deldel, it's a nice nickname.

    Pierce prided himself on being punctual and couldn't stand those who didn't return the courtesy to him, but more importantly, the mission to be discussed was possibly one of the more important ones the Rocket spy would undertake- a trip to Kalos, to be more precise, to take a general survey of the region and potential prospects for setting up a base there, as well as to investigate the rumors of a new organization forming there that posed a potential threat.
    I can definitely imagine Pierce being like that. Also Kalos reference, nice.

    “Deldel?” Pierce asked. “What are you doing here? Are you... are you my contact?”
    Don't be silly Pierce

    Pierce wasn't sure what to make of what he just read. Emergency change in plans? Wording like that was rarely a good sign, particularly the “emergency” part, and the last time he recalled receiving a message with that wording, the boss had nearly lost his mind and wiped an entire continent off the map...
    Another reference, this time to Operation Tempest. I like.

    “I suppose that's an order then,” Pierce said, not about to question any of Matori's commands anytime soon. Even a hardened spy like himself was terrified of the woman and her cold demeanor.
    Exactly how I imagine other Team Rocket members seeing her, Pierce being no exception of course.

    Dr. Zager poured hot water over the powdered cocoa in his mug and stirred it up, bored. He'd had a hard time getting worked up about the holidays lately- although he didn't hate them, they just lacked the excitement they once gave him. Perhaps it was just the utter lack of any real work during this time of year. As a man of science, he required intellectual stimulation.
    Good characterization here, I can really imagine him thinking that.

    “Doctor, are you going to help us fix the wiring on this thing or not?” a voice called from across the room. Professor Sebastian was holding the end of a faulty string of lights that had gone out minutes before. “You promised you would-” he checked his watch- “30 minutes ago. What have you been doing over there anyway?”

    “Reading over the year's mission postmortems,” Zager replied.

    “I thought you said you'd filed everything,” Sebastian said. “Don't tell me you missed-”

    “I didn't, Sebastian, I'm just reliving our past misadventures before we close the book on another year. What a ride it's been, eh, boy?”

    Sebastian rolled his eyes, hoping the reflection on his glasses of what lights on the tree were functional would hide the gesture from Zager. “Nostalgia comes later, Doctor. We've been waiting for you to take a look at these for the longest time now. I've never seen anything like this, and I checked all the connections...”

    “Maybe it's not the wiring,” Zager replied. “We're holding a small colony of Magnemite in the lab down the hall from here, right?'

    Sebastian nodded.

    “The electromagnetic radiation from the Magnemite is interfering with the lights' wiring. Simple as that. Move the Magnemite to another laboratory, and all the lights will work again.”

    Sebastian stared at the lights for a moment, thoughtfully, looking for something to say. Zager... wasn't exactly wrong. In fact, the science added up perfectly.

    “I'm not going to go to the trouble of moving fifty Magnemite to another room just so we can win the tree contest this year,” Sebastian said. “Marta, bring over another package of tinsel, we're going to change our plans here. And bring over that ornament box too,” he said, pointing to a large cardboard box.

    “Suit yourself,” Zager mumbled. Where had the magic gone? He wondered if the science had taken the childlike wonder he used to feel for the season away, or if the tedium of the winter months had simply finally got to him. He was thoroughly unimpressed at everything this year, even the sparkling tree in progress in the corner that his colleague and underlings were busying themselves decorating.

    Within a moment a young woman scurried over to the professor, clutching a silver tinsel garland and the ornament box. Sebastian took them from her and began hanging them on the tree.

    “Gabriel, at the very least, could you kindly get up from your self loathing and help us hang up the ornaments?”

    Zager reluctantly rose from his chair and joined Sebastian to decorate the tree.
    I quite liked this scene. Zager has always been a character I really liked and Sebastian too. It's too bad they never got to interact in the anime so seeing them interact here is definitely a plus, even if it's over something as trivial as decorating a Christmas tree.

    “-all operations in the region are officially being postponed until after the beginning of the new year.”

    Pierce barely opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out, as he realized the implications of what had just been said.

    “That includes yours,” Matori finished, even though she realized Pierce knew this very well.
    That must be quite a shocker for Pierce. He always seemed like someone stiff who really cared about doing his job, he must be clueless about what to do now the missions is postponed.

    “You're on standby until further notice,” Giovanni said, and a burden was suddenly lifted from the violet-haired assistant.

    Standby. A word Pierce dreaded more than possibly any other. His job was his life, and without a job to do...
    Poor Pierce

    For a minute or two, she simply looked at the door, knowing Pierce was out in the hallways leading from it wandering about aimlessly.

    “Matori? Is something wrong?” Giovanni had noticed Matori's blank stare.

    “Eh?” The question brought her briefly back to the moment. “No sir. It's... nothing...” she trailed off, and attempting a distraction, poured a cup of coffee. “Nothing of any importance...”
    Again good characterization. Matori always seemed like someone who is hard on the outside but also as someone who really cares about the people she respects.

    In a snowy climate, an elderly man harnessed a small herd of Stantler. There wasn't much time to spare and there were preparations to be made... After all, he couldn't afford for anything to go wrong on the big night.

    “Nice sky for flight tonight,” he commented, looking out at an unusually clear winter sky. “What do you ladies and gents say we go for a test run?”
    An old man during christmas who wants to take a test flight with a bunch of Stantler? I wonder who it could be xD

    Overall it was a great chapter and I enjoyed reading it. You started off this fic in a good way, Pierce has suddenly nothing to do during the holidays and readers are left wondering what he will do next. Also you did a really good job at characterizing all the characters, well done. Characters like Pierce and especially Matori didn't have a lot of dialogue so writing them well can be a bit tricky. Improvements? Maybe it could have been a little longer since it was a bit on the short side. Then again, quality over quantity right? I'm looking forward to reading the next chapter!

  4. #4

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    Obviously, it's unlikely this story will be done by Christmas. Still, I'm confident I'll have it done shortly after- by New Year's, at latest, so fear not!

    Here's chapter 2!

    ~

    “Pierce!”

    Matori had excused herself under the pretense of needing to check some records and was now catching up to Pierce, on his way to his usual haunt in the HQ library. It wasn’t unusual for him to bury himself in reading in his usually scarce downtime between missions to absorb whatever facts might aid him in future operations, or simply to provide his mind some stimulation in the meantime. Whenever she couldn’t find him anywhere else, he was usually on one of the plush couches in there, reading up on strategy or customs of other regions.

    Did he seriously intend to hide in there until his standby was over?

    Pierce stopped and turned, then straightened upon catching a glimpse of Matori’s distinctive violet hair and wireframe glasses.

    “Is there something you need?” he asked.

    “We need to talk,” Matori said. Pierce noticed the curved end of a candy cane sticking out of her mouth and tried not to think too hard about it. “Come to my office, I’ll make you a cup of coffee. I’m on my way there anyway.”

    He hesitated a little- what did she want with him now that any work of his was officially cancelled until the police situation cleared up in Kalos?- but fell into step with her anyway, following slightly behind her as they made their way to her office.

    ~

    Zager had been pressed into Sebastian’s tree decorating. No matter how much he tried to convince the younger scientist he had far more important things to do than hang baubles off trees, Sebastian continued to insist to the point he gave in and joined the others in hanging ornaments from the seemingly bottomless red and green tub that came out every year for the headquarters decorating contest.

    “Here it is,” Sebastian said. “The most important ornament of all of them.” He held up what seemed to be simply a glass ornament covered in glitter, until one took a closer look.

    It was a glass ornament covered in glitter- red, green, and gold glitter, to be more precise- but in the red glitter the word “WINNER 2000” was written. The only other adornment was a red ribbon tied around the top of the ornament- the ends of it were now frayed from age.

    Zager rolled his eyes. This was possibly the moment he dreaded the whole season.

    “You mean my third grade art class project?” he quipped. Sebastian glared at him then continued.

    “This is why we fight,” Sebastian said to the wide eyed newbie scientists around him, the ones for whom Sebastian’s annual motivational performance was nothing they’d ever seen before. The veteran ones backed off slightly, knowing the story their supervisor was about to tell by heart. “Or in this case, decorate, I suppose. But once a year, a time comes that we must shift our focus, however briefly, from our noble scientific pursuits… and onto pursuits of a more festive nature.”

    Zager had nothing but respect for his coworker, but their feelings about the holiday season were where the two of them parted ways. Sebastian was a brilliant biologist and the brains behind some of their most successful endeavors, but he also embraced the holiday season with open arms, or more precisely, the tree contest held every year between each department at headquarters. Despite Sebastian’s painstaking dedication to crafting the finest tree he could from his immense ornament collection, the victory for the last fifteen years or so, nearly every year, went to the human resources department… except for the one year the laboratory won it.

    “The Kanto HQ Christmas tree decorating contest. The judges are picked randomly every year, and yet… for almost two decades now it has been dominated by Human Resources. Except for one day, thirteen years ago, when our tree was awarded top prize…”

    “It’s just a sparkly ornament,” a voice from somewhere in the back of the newbie crowd said. “Is there anything else to it?”

    Sebastian moved in very close to the one asking the question. For a moment the scientist twitched a little, wondering what he’d just awakened in the thin, pale man.

    “The pride of this entire department, my boy! And gift cards for everyone,” Sebastian added.

    At the mention of gift cards the room was filled with excited cheers.

    “This year, I’m confident we can win the contest. Thanks to all of your hard work-” Sebastian glared at Zager, who ignored the passive-aggressive gesture- “this year’s ornament is as good as ours.” He clenched his fist on the last few words of his statement. “Now, back to work.” He hung the prize ornament on the tree, on a branch near the middle so the other decorations framed it, then pulled the next decoration out of the box, this one a blown glass ornament shaped like a red Gyarados.

    “Ah now, this one, I found on a recent trip to the Johto region, in a gift shop in Mahogany Town… It seems our, ahem, misadventures there several years ago led to rumors… and now those rumors are used to draw tourists… To think I was responsible for this one in no small part-”

    We were responsible,” Zager hissed, annoyed that Sebastian was still taking all the credit for the Lake of Rage incident after so many times the doctor made it known it bothered him. “I did build your machines for all of that… excuse me, Sebastian, I think I will step out now, I have business to attend to.”

    Zager walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

    “Well, I know someone who’s not getting a gift card if we win,” Sebastian muttered. “Back to work, all of you!”

    ~

    “Go on and take a seat,” Matori said to Pierce, gesturing to the velvet-covered vintage couch off to the side of her tidy office. “How do you take your coffee?”

    Pierce was surprised by this show of kindness by the usually cold secretary. “Just a little bit of cream, please,” he said.

    Matori poured some coffee from a glass pot and mixed in some cream, then began work on her own drink. She brought the two cups over to where Pierce was sitting and handed him his, then sat down next to him.

    “I’ll get straight to the point, Pierce, not too many people hear these words from me, but I’m a little worried about you.”

    “I don’t see any reason why-”

    Matori’s usually severe demeanor quickly returned as she put down her coffee and stared straight at Pierce, her gaze cutting through the lenses of her glasses.

    “Your soul was practically crushed in Giovanni’s office earlier, I saw it, and neither of us expected you to take the news with anything other than disappointment, but to see you fall apart as much as someone like you could… Your emotions don’t normally show, not like that. I’ve worked with you enough to know that when I can tell how you’re feeling, something’s off.”

    Her words chilled Pierce. This was the kind of perception she was known for, and it was no secret you couldn’t hide anything from her, but to have slipped so much…

    “I live for my work,” Pierce said. “There’s no reason otherwise. Without a mission, I’m nothing.”

    “It’s the holidays, Pierce,” Matori replied from him. “It’s not as though you’re totally cooped up with nothing else to do. Don’t you have anyone to celebrate with?”

    He shook his head. “I don’t really have anyone here I can call my friends… or even anyone who wants to spend time with me. Everyone thinks I’m cool and gets excited when I pay attention to them, but in the end, they’re still too intimidated to even approach me.”

    Suddenly Matori understood Pierce’s dilemma. The only time Pierce ever experienced anything like actual human interaction was while on missions… and because of his expertise and position, no one would speak to him outside of such situations.

    “Pierce, as one of your direct superiors, I am going to see to it you have a merry Christmas here at the base if it kills you.”

    “You…. are?” Pierce asked. Her wording frightened him a little but in a way he was grateful she was that serious about helping him.

    “I fully intend to, whatever it takes. Now… I’m sure they’re in need of some hands in the laboratory, I’ll get Zager on the phone and see if he has some work for you.”

    “I thought I was on-”

    “From field work, Pierce. Now, quiet.”

    ~

    The phone in the main laboratory rang and Sebastian walked away from the tree to pick it up.

    “Ah, Matori… Zager? He said he had business to attend to, try his cell phone.” He put down the phone with a scowl.

    There’s only one place he’s headed when he claims to have business, Sebastian thought.

    ~

    As Zager walked down the halls leading upstairs from the science wing, his phone rang in his pocket.

    “Zager here, what do you need?- oh, I didn’t know it was you, Miss Matori, right, I’ll be right on my way up.”

    He nervously slipped the phone back into his pocket and scurried to her office, praying Sebastian didn’t call her complaining about his outburst earlier.

    ~

    “I promise you whatever happened, you didn’t get the whole story!” Zager protested in between catching his breaths in Matori’s office. Pierce looked at him in confusion, having never seen the doctor like this. Matori simply glared.

    “I have no idea what happened, although I’m sure there’s a fascinating story behind your protestations that I’d love to hear, Zager,” she deadpanned. Zager briefly panicked, wondering if he’d end up paying for his slip of the tongue.

    “But not right now,” Matori finished, and Zager breathed a deep sigh of relief. “Right now, I have Pierce, who’s just been placed on standby owing to unforseen circumstances in Kalos, in need of something to do in the meantime. Sebastian tells me you have business to attend to?”

    “Er… yes,” Zager replied. “That would be… correct.”

    “Is this business Pierce can assist you with in any way?”

    “As a matter of fact,” Zager said, “it is.”

    “Excellent,” Matori replied. “Pierce, go with the doctor. Both of you, I wish you luck on your business. Whatever it is,” she added.

    “Yes ma’am!” both of them said, though only Pierce seemed to be genuine about it in this situation.

    Zager and Sebastian… two minds that can accomplish amazing things together… when they get along, she thought, as the nervous doctor left with a slightly apprehensive Pierce. She knew Zager’s sudden outburst upon entering meant only one thing, that they’d found themselves into it again.

    When they said you couldn’t hide a thing from Matori, they meant it.

    ~

    The night sky flew by as the sleigh sped along, the Stantler team focusing the best they could to reach top speed.

    “Easy, easy, that’s it, keep up the pace,” their pilot said, holding tight to the reins.

    “Fantastic, I see you’ve all still got it. We’re entering Dragonite territory now, though, so do be careful, friends, and mind the clouds…”

    At this rate, the big night would go by without a hitch…

    ~

    Zager and Pierce walked together through the halls, an awkward silence between the two of them making it clear that a collaboration was not in either’s plans. Pierce had nothing but great respect for the doctor, of course, and was always thrilled to work missions alongside him, but to end up with him on such short notice unaware of his job was somewhat unlike the structure he was accustomed to and thrived upon.

    “So Pierce, how have the holidays been treating you?” Zager asked finally, in a desperate attempt to break the silence.

    “I had a mission I’d been spending the last month preparing for cancelled,” Pierce said. “I’ve been better.”

    “Not much Christmas spirit then, I’d assume?” Zager asked.

    “It’s not generally conducive to that, no, Doctor,” Pierce replied.

    “Well, where we’re headed, I think you’ll find plenty of Christmas spirit,” Zager said.

    ~

    “With all due respect Doctor… I’m not sure this is professional,” Pierce protested, upon seeing where Zager had taken him.

    “What are you talking about, Pierce? What made you think we were doing anything professional?”

    “Matori said something about business,” Pierce replied. “And this looks like a bar?”

    Pierce stared at the sign above the door, a worn out one reading The Sleepy Snorlax. The exterior gave the appearance of the kind of place the spy found himself meeting contacts at and for a moment he wondered if that wasn’t Zager’s intention. “Do we have someone here to talk to?”

    “Yeah, the bartender,” Zager replied. “Well, come on, we’re not just standing out here for our health.”

    “Ah, the bartender has the information we need!” Pierce beamed, proud of his deduction.

    “Something like that,” Zager muttered, opening the door in.

    ~

    Shortly following Zager and Pierce’s departures, Matori found her phone ringing again. Without even looking at the screen to see who was calling, she picked it up. She’d had enough of the stupid questions and the begging she’d been dealing with all week…

    “If you have any forms that need to be turned in, the deadline is next- oh, my apologies, sir, no idea it was you,” she quickly corrected herself.

    “That’s why there’s a caller ID on most decent phones these days,” Giovanni replied from the other side of the line, a little amused by Matori’s cranky initial reply. “I’d think someone as ruthless as yourself would be aware of that. That aside… I need to do some shopping and gift wrapping before the usual barrage of Christmas parties hits. Would you be so kind as to mind the cat while I’m gone?”

    “Persian’s not going with you?”

    “I’m buying him his presents, I can’t ruin the surprise, now, can I?”

    Matori couldn’t argue with that point.

    “I’ll be down right away to pick him up-” she began, when she was cut off.

    “I think you’ll see that’s been taken care of,” Giovanni said, and Matori was confused for a moment until she heard a loud meow in her office. Persian sat in front of her desk, looking up happily at her, his tail twitching. “He has been in your office enough to know where you are, after all.”

    What? How long had Persian been there? She was going to take care of him, it seemed, whether she liked it or not. Not that she exactly had much choice in the matter, of course.

    “I’ll be by to pick him up tomorrow,” Giovanni said. “Have fun, and do keep him out of trouble.” The phone beeped to indicate he’d hung up.

    Matori just stared at the cat, and Persian stared back at her.

    “At least I have someone to keep me company now,” she said. “Would you like some milk for your troubles?”

    Persian meowed back cheerfully, and Matori got to preparing him a small saucer of milk.

    ~

    Zager and Pierce had been at the bar for a few hours when Pierce decided enough was enough. While Pierce politely accepted the drinks Zager bought him, he didn’t drink much more than that, feeling it in poor form to get drunk around one of his superiors.

    Zager, on the other hand, had no such reservations, and the area in front of him on the bar was littered with empty glass bottles.

    “Doctor, don’t you think you’ve had enough to drink?”

    “Pierce it’s Christmas.”

    “It may be, but… Doctor, if you go back into headquarters drunk, that’s not going to be a good look at all.”

    “I do my best science drunk,” Zager protested. “Besides I’m hardly drunk, Pierce, this isn’t drunk at all. You haven’t seen me drunk.”

    Praise Arceus for that, Pierce thought, immediately mentally scolding himself for thinking such things.

    ~

    “Don’t forget,” Matori said, “I have every bit of dirt on both of you that you could ever imagine. Information that could be… very damaging… if certain people were to learn it. Keep that in mind when you make your decision, will you? I expect no less than gift cards on every desk here Christmas morning…” She hung up the phone and laughed, then checked her watch.

    Damn. It was late. Had evening come already? She’d missed one of Persian’s feeding times, and realizing this, pulled a can of Persian chow out of her desk from the stash she kept around for situations like this.

    “Persian, my apologies, I was a little tied up and completely forgot to feed you.”

    No response.

    “Persian, I think it’s time for your food now… Persian?”

    Something was wrong. Matori knew Persian well enough to know the word “food” would cause him to stop whatever he was doing and run to whoever said it.

    She looked up at the door. As she’d dreaded… it was cracked open, with the opening large enough for a large cat Pokemon to have slipped through with ease…

    “Oh no.”

    She picked up her phone and madly flipped through her contacts book.

    “Pierce? There’s a job I need you to do…”

    ~

    “Okay, Doctor, it’s time for us to go now, duty calls.” Pierce gently nudged at Zager, who was staring out into space singing along- poorly- to Jingle Bell Rock, playing over the Snorlax’s sound system.

    “What’s that?” Zager asked. “Something up?”

    “Matori needs us back at base immediately,” he said, helping Zager off the barstool, into his coat, and out the door.

    “What’s… what’s going on?” Zager asked, once they were out of the bar and running back to HQ.

    “She says the boss left Persian with her while he finished his preparations for the holidays, and he snuck out the door when she was making a call. We need to find him and get him back to her office before he causes any further trouble.”

    “I always said that damn cat was too smart for his own good..”

    ~

    Once inside headquarters, Zager and Pierce met up with Matori.

    “Where were you two?” she asked.

    “The doctor took me to a bar,” Pierce replied. Zager gave Pierce a dirty look then punched a program into his tablet.

    “Zager, you and Pierce are two of the only reliable staff left here, at least among the ones I trust… why did you go to the Snorlax at a time like this? What if there was an emergency? You could have at least told me the truth.”

    Zager coughed uncomfortably. “I assure you there was some kind of work planned at some point but it didn’t happen-” Matori’s glare made it clear she wasn’t buying it and he quickly changed the subject in an attempt to get back in her good graces.

    "Look, here’s security camera feeds of the entire headquarters. We can use the thermal imaging ones to look for unusual, Persian-shaped activity. I’ll send both of you the link to the camera app-”

    “I already have it, Doctor,” Pierce said. “I was your beta tester, remember?”

    “Oh, right. Miss Matori, check your inbox, there should be a link to where you can install the camera app on your tablet.”

    “I appreciate your enthusiasm,” Matori said, “but… I don’t think that will be necessary.”

    “What do you mean? We’ll find him a lot faster if we-”

    “He’s right there,” Matori said, pointing down the hallway. Persian was sniffing at a large, potted fern outside one of the rooms. “No one make any sudden moves… he knows we’re looking for him. Pierce… I’ll let you take it from here.”

    Pierce was overjoyed by this chance to put his stealth skills to use. “Yes ma’am!” he whispered, as enthusiastic as if he’d just been given his postponed mission back.

    The assistant and the scientist watched, breath held, as Pierce crept up on Persian. For a tense moment it almost looked as though he’d be successful… until Persian turned his head to directly look at the spy.

    “That’s it, come here Persian, good kitty…”

    “Nya.”

    Persian wagged his tail and shot off down the hallway. Pierce reacted instinctually and dashed in the same direction.

    “I guess we should give chase too?” Zager said.

    “Doesn’t look like we’ve got much other choice,” Matori replied.

    ~

    Sebastian took a step back and admired the tree before him. Through his careful artistic direction, massive ornament collection, and eye for good decorating, he and his assistants had singlehandedly pulled off what he was confident was the best tree ever.

    There’s no way the prize ornament won’t be mine this year, he thought smugly to himself.

    As he congratulated himself on a job well done, he heard a sound of running paws faintly in the background.

    The door flew open as a yellow furball dashed in past Sebastian.

    “What the- Persian how did you get down- NO!”

    For whatever reason, the sparkly prize ornament on the tree had caught Persian’s eye, and he was now batting at it.

    “Do you need food… I have Pokemon chow… I can give you that, milk, anything, just please leave the tree alone…” Sebastian begged, willing to do anything to protect his tree. Getting between a Persian and the shiny thing that caught their eye rarely ended well…

    Persian batted the ornament off the branch it was hung on and for a moment time slowed down for Sebastian as he watched it hit the floor, dreading what he thought was an inevitable shattering.

    Instead of breaking, it simply made a tiny clink noise. He relaxed, hoping Persian would lose interest in the bauble and walk away. Persian had different plans.

    “Purnya!” Beaming, Persian took the hook of the ornament in his mouth and showed it off to Sebastian as though it was a trophy.

    “That’s right, Persian, just drop it right here and I won’t tell Dad or anything…”

    The Pokemon tilted his head, blinked, and then shot back off through the door, and Sebastian screamed as his most prized holiday possession left the laboratory with its furry captor.

    ~

    “What was that?” Zager said, hearing the distress call from the laboratory not too far away. “It sounded like Sebastian screaming.”

    “Given I just saw Persian running out of the main lab, I’d say it’s a safe assumption,” Matori muttered. “What did that thing do to him?”

    “Messed with that infernal tree, no doubt,” Zager replied. “He’s been obsessing over that thing for the last week now. Says he wants to finally give the science department another win..”

    Oh, I don’t think he’ll need to worry about that, Matori thought smugly.

    “Let’s go see what’s wrong, then. Pierce, keep following Persian, we’ll catch up once we know the damage in the lab.”

    Pierce gave Matori a nod then did as told.

    ~

    The clouds grew thicker as the sleigh made its way into Kanto’s airspace. Even the bright green coat of the shiny Stantler, positioned in front of the sleigh, failed to illuminate through the gloom.

    “Hold steady, it’s nothing we haven’t made it through before,” the man said, though he was starting to have his own doubts. “More than three centuries we’ve done this and seen much worse,” he reassured his pack.

    From out of nowhere, a huge Fearow swooped down and startled all concerned parties… including the rearmost Stantler of the herd pulling the sleigh, who panicked briefly. The sleigh passed through another cloud, this one so dark the pilot couldn’t even see his Stantler pack in front of him, and when it emerged, he realized, horrified, the pack was no longer there, separated from him entirely… either the Fearow or the panic had separated the reins entirely.

    As the sleigh began its rapid descent, he braced himself for landing…

    ~

    Pierce had Persian cornered on the roof, and Zager, Matori, and now Sebastian, having joined them, finally caught up to him.

    “This is just like what happened on my last assignment… they always choose the roof,” Pierce mused. “When will they learn it never works out?”

    “Pierce, why don’t you save the war stories for later and just get the ornament back so all of us can go back to our business?” Matori asked.

    “Right, right,” Pierce said. “Come here, Persian, there’s no where else you can go.. just put the ornament down nicely and we’ll go back to Aunt Matori’s office and give you a nice big bowl of milk… nice Persian…”

    Persian’s ears went back, realizing his defeat, and he began to lower his head to give the ornament to Pierce, when there was another scream, followed by a crash just feet away from where they all stood.

    Pierce and Matori pulled out their Poke Balls immediately and pointed them at the site of the crash.

    “Whoever you are,” Pierce said, “come out slowly, don’t make any sudden moves, and cooperate with us and we won’t hurt you. Not right now, at least.”

    A man in a red velvet coat, with matching pants, and a long white beard stumbled out of the wreckage, and all three of the Rockets gasped at who they saw before them.

    “Ho ho ho… ho?”

    "Poe was the first writer to write about main characters who were bad guys or who were mad guys, and those are some of my favorite stories."
    -Stephen King

    I write odd slice of life stories about Team Rocket. If that's your thing, give them a look:

    Alpha Male- behind every friendship is a story. Perspective contest fourth place winner.
    Secretary- A short and cynical tale of paperwork and sadism
    Survival- A novella about the unbreakable bonds between one man and his feline friend. 2011 Pokemon Big Bang story.


  5. #5
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    “Ah now, this one, I found on a recent trip to the Johto region, in a gift shop in Mahogany Town… It seems our, ahem, misadventures there several years ago led to rumors… and now those rumors are used to draw tourists… To think I was responsible for this one in no small part-”
    “We were responsible,” Zager hissed, annoyed that Sebastian was still taking all the credit for the Lake of Rage incident after so many times the doctor made it known it bothered him. “I did build your machines for all of that… excuse me, Sebastian, I think I will step out now, I have business to attend to.”
    Nice Red Gyrados reference there. Also like the detail of Zager the one making the machines, heh.

    “I fully intend to, whatever it takes. Now… I’m sure they’re in need of some hands in the laboratory, I’ll get Zager on the phone and see if he has some work for you.”

    “I thought I was on-”

    “From field work, Pierce. Now, quiet.”
    I can see Matori saying that last line in a snappy matter, heh. But yeah, it’s nice of her to try to have Pierce be busy with something while also having a good Christmas.

    “I do my best science drunk,” Zager protested. “Besides I’m hardly drunk, Pierce, this isn’t drunk at all. You haven’t seen me drunk.”

    Praise Arceus for that, Pierce thought, immediately mentally scolding himself for thinking such things.
    Don’t think anyone wants to see that. :P (And yay for return of Sleeping Snorlax, lol).

    “Don’t forget,” Matori said, “I have every bit of dirt on both of you that you could ever imagine. Information that could be… very damaging… if certain people were to learn it. Keep that in mind when you make your decision, will you? I expect no less than gift cards on every desk here Christmas morning…” She hung up the phone and laughed, then checked her watch.
    LOL, gotta love threats like that.

    “Purnya!” Beaming, Persian took the hook of the ornament in his mouth and showed it off to Sebastian as though it was a trophy.

    “That’s right, Persian, just drop it right here and I won’t tell Dad or anything…”

    The Pokemon tilted his head, blinked, and then shot back off through the door, and Sebastian screamed as his most prized holiday possession left the laboratory with its furry captor.
    Cats can be evil like that. :P

    A man in a red velvet coat, with matching pants, and a long white beard stumbled out of the wreckage, and all three of the Rockets gasped at who they saw before them.

    “Ho ho ho… ho?”
    And the gang finally meets Santa. That shall be interesting.

    We talked about this when you wanted me to have a look at the chapter and I still enjoy it quite a bit. If you’re still going for that “Pierce will be needed” angle I think you’ll be able to pull that off well. Looking forward to next chapter!


    FFnet | Author's Profile| Archive of Our Own | Banner: Umi Mizuno
    I'm still writing, but probably not much Pokemon stuff at the moment. HAM!


  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matori View Post
    Chapter 1

    December in Kanto, and in nearly every city, a thick blanket of snow covered streets and buildings. As the night fell, bright holiday decorations glowed, their lights reflected faintly off the white ground, and in the air was a distinct feeling of anticipation.

    Viridian City was no exception, and amidst the flurries, shoppers scurried up and down the sidewalks with their arms full, stopping only to peek in windows, take in the huge tree in the city square, or buy a cup of coffee for the trip home. It was a time when stress and joy filled the town in equal parts.
    Lovely scene-setting in these lines. It's very clear, and I can see everything in nice detail.

    With the exception, of course, of one place in particular. Nestled on the border between the town and the routes leading to Pallet Town, within the mountains that formed a border of sorts, was Team Rocket's main headquarters. This wasn't to say, of course, that there was any shortage of Christmas spirit in the huge complex; to the contrary, despite normally being strictly business, the Team loved a good excuse to party, and the winter holidays, with a combination of poor weather keeping most missions grounded and restless operatives, presented nothing if not a good opportunity.
    "The town and the routes leading to Pallet Town" is a bit repetitive in terms of wording. I'd recommend dropping the first "town" for something else, though I'm not quite sure what your intent was with that line, so I can't give a specific idea for a replacement.

    I'm picturing the headquarters building in the middle of an intense snowstorm here, and it's a visual I like.

    But in a small yet well-furnished, impeccably tidy office, the only white to be found blanketing anything was the papers covering a simple wood desk, and the only thing shining was the reflection of a lamp off a pair of round, wireframe glasses.

    For Matori, it was anything but the most wonderful time of the year, because along with snow and the holiday festivities December also brought year-end paperwork, the dreaded winter visitor of anyone in Team Rocket with a desk.
    Oh yes, here we go. This is what I was waiting for, the rare fic that uses Matori. I'm already on board.

    That little bit talking about paperwork and how the Team Rocket staff view it is a fun little bit.

    Being Giovanni's assistant and secretary, she faced the greatest onslaught, as nothing reached her employer's desk without seeing hers first. The mug of hot cocoa on her desk and Christmas tree in the corner broke the monotony of the whole thing, but only slightly, and it wasn't enough to fix her bored, foul mood.
    That's Matori, alright. Is she ever not in a bored, foul mood?

    She reached for the box of candy canes on her desk, absentmindedly pulled out another, and put her pen down to peel away the cellophane wrapper, picking it back up immediately after she put the confection in her mouth.

    Only two left? I just opened that box two hours ago...
    Oh wow, that's a subtle characterization tidbit, but it's amazing at the same time. With just a little bit of thought you can figure out unstated things about her character.

    As she went through yet another dull expense report with her red pen, correcting poor math and filling in the blanks left empty by- whosever's this was, every form seemed to melt into each other now- her phone began vibrating on her desk.
    "whosevers." No need for an apostrophe.

    Red pen is an apt choice for her.

    Her free right hand hovered over the send to voice mail option now on the phone's screen, then tapped it when she saw the caller.

    Another field agent? Whatever it is, you're not getting it, not this time of the year,” she hissed. “Rejected.”
    I really smiled at this. You've done a good job so far packing a lot of characterization into a relatively small amount of space.

    I would imagine that Matori deals with a lot of this.

    She returned to her work only for it to vibrate a second time, the same caller from minutes ago.

    “What is it now?- wait, what's this?”

    Instead of a call, she'd been left a text message this time.

    If they went to this much trouble...

    Matori tapped the command to open the message and her eyes grew wide as she read.

    “Oh dear. This isn't good, not at all,” she muttered. She picked up a pen and some paper and scrawled a short letter. “Deldel, I have a job for you.”
    I would imagine it isn't a good sign at all. The impression I'm getting is that Matori is someone lower ranked members don't generally seem to enjoy dealing with, so for someone to go so far out of their way to contact her has to mean it's serious.

    A fat, fluffy red and white penguin jumped down happily from the bookshelf where she'd found herself a comfy nest and flew over to Matori's desk. “Delee lee?”

    Matori passed the letter, now tucked in an envelope and sealed with her personal seal, to the bird, who cheerfully tucked it into her tail bag. “Get that to Pierce right away, okay, Deldel? It's important. He shouldn't be too far out of the city right now, I just want to see to it he gets the message.”

    “Delee!” Deldel replied, beaming.
    Oh man, you made Delibird utterly adorable. I love her.

    What does Matori's personal seal look like, I wonder?

    Pierce sat on a park bench, waiting impatiently for his contact to show up. He shivered under his cape and overcoat, the December weather too harsh even for the thick outerwear. Of all the days for someone to show up late meeting him, today might have been the worst. Pierce prided himself on being punctual and couldn't stand those who didn't return the courtesy to him, but more importantly, the mission to be discussed was possibly one of the more important ones the Rocket spy would undertake- a trip to Kalos, to be more precise, to take a general survey of the region and potential prospects for setting up a base there, as well as to investigate the rumors of a new organization forming there that posed a potential threat.
    And now Pierce? Rare Rockets everywhere here, which is wonderful.

    Pierce's character is very strongly established here. Punctuality is a very suitable trait for someone like him to have. His potential mission is an intriguing one, too, getting in a well-done reference to Kalos and Team Flare.

    I wonder who his contact is.

    I do think that you could do with a little bit more description of him, but it's not bad.

    For such affairs, timing was of the utmost importance as Pierce was concerned. He pulled his phone from his pocket, prepared to call headquarters to inquire the status of the meeting- perhaps it was postponed owing to weather?- when a blur of red and white feathers flew past his head and landed beside him.

    “Delee, delee!” Deldel waved a wing in greeting at the confused spy.

    “Deldel?” Pierce asked. “What are you doing here? Are you... are you my contact?”

    Delibird tilted her head, unsure of what the human was asking her. “Del?” she squawked.

    “Well, I've never received missions via Delibird this close to base, but I suppose there's a first-”

    Pierce was cut off by Deldel flapping her wings in front of him, and thrusting a sealed envelope in his face. “Delee, del!”
    Oh God, there's something strangely amusing about someone serious like Pierce trying to seriously converse with a lighthearted Pokemon like Delibird.

    “Alright, I'll open it,” he said, taking the envelope in his hands. He unfolded the letter inside.

    Pierce-

    There's been an emergency change in plans. Report back to headquarters immediately.

    -Matori


    Pierce wasn't sure what to make of what he just read. Emergency change in plans? Wording like that was rarely a good sign, particularly the “emergency” part, and the last time he recalled receiving a message with that wording, the boss had nearly lost his mind and wiped an entire continent off the map...
    Nice shout out to Operation Tempest there.

    “I suppose that's an order then,” Pierce said, not about to question any of Matori's commands anytime soon. Even a hardened spy like himself was terrified of the woman and her cold demeanor. Dele, meanwhile, perched on the back of the bench next to him, and looked at him impatiently. The bird would not put up with poor manners from anyone, not even Pierce. “Thank you, Deldel.” He scratched her feathery tufts and she replied with a grateful coo and a playful nip on his gloved finger.
    That's really telling that Pierce is afraid of her. Can't say I blame him, though.

    Spelling error in the first place you tried to spell Deldel's name. You only wrote "Dele."

    And oh my God, Pierce scratching Deldel and her nipping at his finger are so adorable it's killing me.

    Dr. Zager poured hot water over the powdered cocoa in his mug and stirred it up, bored. He'd had a hard time getting worked up about the holidays lately- although he didn't hate them, they just lacked the excitement they once gave him. Perhaps it was just the utter lack of any real work during this time of year. As a man of science, he required intellectual stimulation.

    “Doctor, are you going to help us fix the wiring on this thing or not?” a voice called from across the room. Professor Sebastian was holding the end of a faulty string of lights that had gone out minutes before. “You promised you would-” he checked his watch- “30 minutes ago. What have you been doing over there anyway?”
    These two ought to be great together. They're a good choice for characters to put together and have interact. Nice little note about Zager needing intellectual stimulation.

    Again, they could be described a bit better for non-familiar readers, but overall you're doing everything else so well so far that it's not a significant problem.

    “Reading over the year's mission postmortems,” Zager replied.

    “I thought you said you'd filed everything,” Sebastian said. “Don't tell me you missed-”

    “I didn't, Sebastian, I'm just reliving our past misadventures before we close the book on another year. What a ride it's been, eh, boy?”

    Sebastian rolled his eyes, hoping the reflection on his glasses of what lights on the tree were functional would hide the gesture from Zager. “Nostalgia comes later, Doctor. We've been waiting for you to take a look at these for the longest time now. I've never seen anything like this, and I checked all the connections...”
    The sass here is amazing.

    “Maybe it's not the wiring,” Zager replied. “We're holding a small colony of Magnemite in the lab down the hall from here, right?'

    Sebastian nodded.

    “The electromagnetic radiation from the Magnemite is interfering with the lights' wiring. Simple as that. Move the Magnemite to another laboratory, and all the lights will work again.”

    Sebastian stared at the lights for a moment, thoughtfully, looking for something to say. Zager... wasn't exactly wrong. In fact, the science added up perfectly.
    Huh, that was unexpected. I wasn't anticipating actual science to be happening. Thanks for the surprise.

    “I'm not going to go to the trouble of moving fifty Magnemite to another room just so we can win the tree contest this year,” Sebastian said. “Marta, bring over another package of tinsel, we're going to change our plans here. And bring over that ornament box too,” he said, pointing to a large cardboard box.

    “Suit yourself,” Zager mumbled. Where had the magic gone? He wondered if the science had taken the childlike wonder he used to feel for the season away, or if the tedium of the winter months had simply finally got to him. He was thoroughly unimpressed at everything this year, even the sparkling tree in progress in the corner that his colleague and underlings were busying themselves decorating.

    Within a moment a young woman scurried over to the professor, clutching a silver tinsel garland and the ornament box. Sebastian took them from her and began hanging them on the tree.

    “Gabriel, at the very least, could you kindly get up from your self loathing and help us hang up the ornaments?”

    Zager reluctantly rose from his chair and joined Sebastian to decorate the tree.
    You know, it actually suits Zager quite well for him to be brooding during the holidays. I'm not entirely sure why, but it just works for him.

    Marta seems like a likable character, even for a one-line character.

    “So in short... due to increased Interpol presence in the Kalos region due to the activities of the Flare organization, as well as current weather conditions both there and here in Kanto making emergency communications and extraction an extremely risky proposition-” Giovanni, in his plush velvet office chair, scratching a happy, purring Persian between the ears, could read the look of apprehension on Pierce's face loud and clear. It was a change from the usual professional confidence his best spy displayed in the room, and he had a feeling he didn't even need to finish his sentence for Pierce to realize what was going on. It was a suspicion shared with Matori, standing beside him, and the two of them shot each other a tense, knowing glance before he finished his sentence “-all operations in the region are officially being postponed until after the beginning of the new year.”

    Pierce barely opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out, as he realized the implications of what had just been said.

    “That includes yours,” Matori finished, even though she realized Pierce knew this very well.

    Pierce's gaze shifted slightly to the floor and his fist clenched tightly. Matori looked desperately over to Giovanni, wondering which of them would end up with the last word in this impromptu briefing, dreading having the job thrust to her. Pierce was one of the few agents Matori could say she genuinely respected, and to have to deliver the final blow so suddenly after weeks of preparation...
    I had expected such a development with the mission. But I think what really stands out here is just how strongly the characters here continue to be established. It's especially admirable that you managed to contain much of it within subtle signs, such as small body motions and facial expressions.

    Interesting that Matori actually respects Pierce. That's a curious turn I didn't expect.

    “You're on standby until further notice,” Giovanni said, and a burden was suddenly lifted from the violet-haired assistant.

    Standby. A word Pierce dreaded more than possibly any other. His job was his life, and without a job to do...

    “...Understood,” Pierce said, his voice quivering slightly. Normally here he would make some closing remark, some promise of success, but there were no promises to be made when there was nothing to attempt. Pierce stood frozen, trying to process everything he'd just heard.
    Wow, you can really feel how this news cuts into Pierce like a knife. It's that powerful, this scene.

    The room had fallen so silent Persian's normally soft purring could be clearly heard.

    “If there are no further questions, then, we're done here. You're dismissed, Pierce,” Giovanni said, in an effort to break the uncomfortable quiet that had fallen.

    Pierce simply turned and exited the office as quickly as he could. Matori watched as the door slowly shut behind him, knowing well how lost the agent must have felt in that moment.

    For a minute or two, she simply looked at the door, knowing Pierce was out in the hallways leading from it wandering about aimlessly.

    “Matori? Is something wrong?” Giovanni had noticed Matori's blank stare.

    “Eh?” The question brought her briefly back to the moment. “No sir. It's... nothing...” she trailed off, and attempting a distraction, poured a cup of coffee. “Nothing of any importance...”
    Not much to say there except for that Matori's characterization continues to really shine.

    In a snowy climate, an elderly man harnessed a small herd of Stantler. There wasn't much time to spare and there were preparations to be made... After all, he couldn't afford for anything to go wrong on the big night.

    “Nice sky for flight tonight,” he commented, looking out at an unusually clear winter sky. “What do you ladies and gents say we go for a test run?”
    Oh, nice. When he encounters Team Rocket, it's going to be glorious.

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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matori View Post
    “Pierce!”

    Matori had excused herself under the pretense of needing to check some records and was now catching up to Pierce, on his way to his usual haunt in the HQ library. It wasn’t unusual for him to bury himself in reading in his usually scarce downtime between missions to absorb whatever facts might aid him in future operations, or simply to provide his mind some stimulation in the meantime. Whenever she couldn’t find him anywhere else, he was usually on one of the plush couches in there, reading up on strategy or customs of other regions.

    Did he seriously intend to hide in there until his standby was over?
    That's an interesting thing to give Pierce, that he reads a lot between missions and seemingly takes refuge in the library. I wouldn't have thought of it, but it's fitting.

    I'm also intrigued by why Matori went after him.

    Pierce stopped and turned, then straightened upon catching a glimpse of Matori’s distinctive violet hair and wireframe glasses.

    “Is there something you need?” he asked.

    “We need to talk,” Matori said. Pierce noticed the curved end of a candy cane sticking out of her mouth and tried not to think too hard about it. “Come to my office, I’ll make you a cup of coffee. I’m on my way there anyway.”

    He hesitated a little- what did she want with him now that any work of his was officially cancelled until the police situation cleared up in Kalos?- but fell into step with her anyway, following slightly behind her as they made their way to her office.
    Matori's being a lot more sociable than I expected from her. This ought to be interesting.

    Cute touch with the candy cane.

    Zager had been pressed into Sebastian’s tree decorating. No matter how much he tried to convince the younger scientist he had far more important things to do than hang baubles off trees, Sebastian continued to insist to the point he gave in and joined the others in hanging ornaments from the seemingly bottomless red and green tub that came out every year for the headquarters decorating contest.

    “Here it is,” Sebastian said. “The most important ornament of all of them.” He held up what seemed to be simply a glass ornament covered in glitter, until one took a closer look.

    It was a glass ornament covered in glitter- red, green, and gold glitter, to be more precise- but in the red glitter the word “WINNER 2000” was written. The only other adornment was a red ribbon tied around the top of the ornament- the ends of it were now frayed from age.

    Zager rolled his eyes. This was possibly the moment he dreaded the whole season.

    “You mean my third grade art class project?” he quipped. Sebastian glared at him then continued.
    You're lucky I didn't have something to drink here, because I would have spit it all over my screen laughing here.

    “This is why we fight,” Sebastian said to the wide eyed newbie scientists around him, the ones for whom Sebastian’s annual motivational performance was nothing they’d ever seen before. The veteran ones backed off slightly, knowing the story their supervisor was about to tell by heart. “Or in this case, decorate, I suppose. But once a year, a time comes that we must shift our focus, however briefly, from our noble scientific pursuits… and onto pursuits of a more festive nature.”

    Zager had nothing but respect for his coworker, but their feelings about the holiday season were where the two of them parted ways. Sebastian was a brilliant biologist and the brains behind some of their most successful endeavors, but he also embraced the holiday season with open arms, or more precisely, the tree contest held every year between each department at headquarters. Despite Sebastian’s painstaking dedication to crafting the finest tree he could from his immense ornament collection, the victory for the last fifteen years or so, nearly every year, went to the human resources department… except for the one year the laboratory won it.

    “The Kanto HQ Christmas tree decorating contest. The judges are picked randomly every year, and yet… for almost two decades now it has been dominated by Human Resources. Except for one day, thirteen years ago, when our tree was awarded top prize…”
    I can't help but wonder why they won it. I suspect it wasn't the most honest of contests.

    “It’s just a sparkly ornament,” a voice from somewhere in the back of the newbie crowd said. “Is there anything else to it?”

    Sebastian moved in very close to the one asking the question. For a moment the scientist twitched a little, wondering what he’d just awakened in the thin, pale man.

    “The pride of this entire department, my boy! And gift cards for everyone,” Sebastian added.

    At the mention of gift cards the room was filled with excited cheers.

    “This year, I’m confident we can win the contest. Thanks to all of your hard work-” Sebastian glared at Zager, who ignored the passive-aggressive gesture- “this year’s ornament is as good as ours.” He clenched his fist on the last few words of his statement. “Now, back to work.” He hung the prize ornament on the tree, on a branch near the middle so the other decorations framed it, then pulled the next decoration out of the box, this one a blown glass ornament shaped like a red Gyarados.
    I seriously laugh out loud at how cheerful everyone but Zager is being. He's so awkward but it's hilarious.

    Nice choice of ornament there.

    “Ah now, this one, I found on a recent trip to the Johto region, in a gift shop in Mahogany Town… It seems our, ahem, misadventures there several years ago led to rumors… and now those rumors are used to draw tourists… To think I was responsible for this one in no small part-”

    We were responsible,” Zager hissed, annoyed that Sebastian was still taking all the credit for the Lake of Rage incident after so many times the doctor made it known it bothered him. “I did build your machines for all of that… excuse me, Sebastian, I think I will step out now, I have business to attend to.”
    Oh wow, I didn't expect Zager to have been involved in that mission.

    Zager walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

    “Well, I know someone who’s not getting a gift card if we win,” Sebastian muttered. “Back to work, all of you!”
    Another genuinely funny moment. You're really good at this kind of humor so far.

    “Go on and take a seat,” Matori said to Pierce, gesturing to the velvet-covered vintage couch off to the side of her tidy office. “How do you take your coffee?”

    Pierce was surprised by this show of kindness by the usually cold secretary. “Just a little bit of cream, please,” he said.
    I am too. This is surprising.

    I thought Pierce would be someone to prefer black coffee.

    Matori poured some coffee from a glass pot and mixed in some cream, then began work on her own drink. She brought the two cups over to where Pierce was sitting and handed him his, then sat down next to him.

    “I’ll get straight to the point, Pierce, not too many people hear these words from me, but I’m a little worried about you.”
    If I heard that from Matori I'd probably start writing my will. That's how unusual it is.

    She seems awfully self-aware, too. It looks like she knows her reputation.

    “I don’t see any reason why-”

    Matori’s usually severe demeanor quickly returned as she put down her coffee and stared straight at Pierce, her gaze cutting through the lenses of her glasses.
    Now that's more like the Matori I know.

    “Your soul was practically crushed in Giovanni’s office earlier, I saw it, and neither of us expected you to take the news with anything other than disappointment, but to see you fall apart as much as someone like you could… Your emotions don’t normally show, not like that. I’ve worked with you enough to know that when I can tell how you’re feeling, something’s off.”

    Her words chilled Pierce. This was the kind of perception she was known for, and it was no secret you couldn’t hide anything from her, but to have slipped so much…
    You know, I can see her being someone who would possess that kind of insight into others, come to think of it.

    “I live for my work,” Pierce said. “There’s no reason otherwise. Without a mission, I’m nothing.”

    “It’s the holidays, Pierce,” Matori replied from him. “It’s not as though you’re totally cooped up with nothing else to do. Don’t you have anyone to celebrate with?”

    He shook his head. “I don’t really have anyone here I can call my friends… or even anyone who wants to spend time with me. Everyone thinks I’m cool and gets excited when I pay attention to them, but in the end, they’re still too intimidated to even approach me.”
    You know, you're really helping me see sides of Pierce I never much considered for myself before. I always see that "cool secret agent" side, but now that you're presenting this sort of loner side of him, it's really opening my eyes because of how well it suits him.

    Suddenly Matori understood Pierce’s dilemma. The only time Pierce ever experienced anything like actual human interaction was while on missions… and because of his expertise and position, no one would speak to him outside of such situations.

    “Pierce, as one of your direct superiors, I am going to see to it you have a merry Christmas here at the base if it kills you.”
    I would seriously consider having a nice Christmas if Matori told me to do it. Just saying.

    “You…. are?” Pierce asked. Her wording frightened him a little but in a way he was grateful she was that serious about helping him.
    I can totally see why it would frighten him. Just saying, once again. :P

    “I fully intend to, whatever it takes. Now… I’m sure they’re in need of some hands in the laboratory, I’ll get Zager on the phone and see if he has some work for you.”

    “I thought I was on-”

    “From field work, Pierce. Now, quiet.”
    No, bad Pierce. Don't disobey her.

    The phone in the main laboratory rang and Sebastian walked away from the tree to pick it up.

    “Ah, Matori… Zager? He said he had business to attend to, try his cell phone.” He put down the phone with a scowl.

    There’s only one place he’s headed when he claims to have business, Sebastian thought.
    Oh I know exactly where he's going.

    As Zager walked down the halls leading upstairs from the science wing, his phone rang in his pocket.

    “Zager here, what do you need?- oh, I didn’t know it was you, Miss Matori, right, I’ll be right on my way up.”

    He nervously slipped the phone back into his pocket and scurried to her office, praying Sebastian didn’t call her complaining about his outburst earlier.
    ...oh my God, I want to know about what he fears would have happened if Sebastian complained about his outburst.

    “I promise you whatever happened, you didn’t get the whole story!” Zager protested in between catching his breaths in Matori’s office. Pierce looked at him in confusion, having never seen the doctor like this. Matori simply glared.

    “I have no idea what happened, although I’m sure there’s a fascinating story behind your protestations that I’d love to hear, Zager,” she deadpanned. Zager briefly panicked, wondering if he’d end up paying for his slip of the tongue.
    ...he just ran his mouth the moment he got in there, didn't he.

    I can't stop laughing. These interactions are brilliant.

    “But not right now,” Matori finished, and Zager breathed a deep sigh of relief. “Right now, I have Pierce, who’s just been placed on standby owing to unforseen circumstances in Kalos, in need of something to do in the meantime. Sebastian tells me you have business to attend to?”

    “Er… yes,” Zager replied. “That would be… correct.”

    “Is this business Pierce can assist you with in any way?”

    “As a matter of fact,” Zager said, “it is.”
    He's going to dump the tree decorations on Pierce, isn't he? I just know it.

    “Excellent,” Matori replied. “Pierce, go with the doctor. Both of you, I wish you luck on your business. Whatever it is,” she added.

    “Yes ma’am!” both of them said, though only Pierce seemed to be genuine about it in this situation.

    Zager and Sebastian… two minds that can accomplish amazing things together… when they get along, she thought, as the nervous doctor left with a slightly apprehensive Pierce. She knew Zager’s sudden outburst upon entering meant only one thing, that they’d found themselves into it again.

    When they said you couldn’t hide a thing from Matori, they meant it.
    Not sure what those amazing things she thinks they can accomplish are, but I'm already laughing just thinking of it.

    And I imagine that skill of hers where you can't hide things from her has been used to some terrifying ends before.

    The night sky flew by as the sleigh sped along, the Stantler team focusing the best they could to reach top speed.

    “Easy, easy, that’s it, keep up the pace,” their pilot said, holding tight to the reins.

    “Fantastic, I see you’ve all still got it. We’re entering Dragonite territory now, though, so do be careful, friends, and mind the clouds…”

    At this rate, the big night would go by without a hitch…
    But, of course, there will be a hitch. It wouldn't be here otherwise.

    Zager and Pierce walked together through the halls, an awkward silence between the two of them making it clear that a collaboration was not in either’s plans. Pierce had nothing but great respect for the doctor, of course, and was always thrilled to work missions alongside him, but to end up with him on such short notice unaware of his job was somewhat unlike the structure he was accustomed to and thrived upon.

    “So Pierce, how have the holidays been treating you?” Zager asked finally, in a desperate attempt to break the silence.

    “I had a mission I’d been spending the last month preparing for cancelled,” Pierce said. “I’ve been better.”

    “Not much Christmas spirit then, I’d assume?” Zager asked.

    “It’s not generally conducive to that, no, Doctor,” Pierce replied.

    “Well, where we’re headed, I think you’ll find plenty of Christmas spirit,” Zager said.
    ...he's not going to the Christmas decorating, I bet. Zager, you sly bastard.

    “With all due respect Doctor… I’m not sure this is professional,” Pierce protested, upon seeing where Zager had taken him.

    “What are you talking about, Pierce? What made you think we were doing anything professional?”

    “Matori said something about business,” Pierce replied. “And this looks like a bar?”

    Pierce stared at the sign above the door, a worn out one reading The Sleepy Snorlax. The exterior gave the appearance of the kind of place the spy found himself meeting contacts at and for a moment he wondered if that wasn’t Zager’s intention. “Do we have someone here to talk to?
    OH GOD I KNEW IT

    “Yeah, the bartender,” Zager replied. “Well, come on, we’re not just standing out here for our health.”

    “Ah, the bartender has the information we need!” Pierce beamed, proud of his deduction.

    “Something like that,” Zager muttered, opening the door in.
    Zager, you are such a ****ing bro.

    Shortly following Zager and Pierce’s departures, Matori found her phone ringing again. Without even looking at the screen to see who was calling, she picked it up. She’d had enough of the stupid questions and the begging she’d been dealing with all week…

    “If you have any forms that need to be turned in, the deadline is next- oh, my apologies, sir, no idea it was you,” she quickly corrected herself.

    “That’s why there’s a caller ID on most decent phones these days,” Giovanni replied from the other side of the line, a little amused by Matori’s cranky initial reply. “I’d think someone as ruthless as yourself would be aware of that. That aside… I need to do some shopping and gift wrapping before the usual barrage of Christmas parties hits. Would you be so kind as to mind the cat while I’m gone?”
    ...ahaha, oh wow, Matori, you gotta be careful with your phone.

    I don't think Giovanni would be so understanding with anyone else. But then again, he trusts her with the cat.

    “Persian’s not going with you?”

    “I’m buying him his presents, I can’t ruin the surprise, now, can I?”
    Wow, Giovanni... he really does love that cat, doesn't he?

    Matori couldn’t argue with that point.

    “I’ll be down right away to pick him up-” she began, when she was cut off.

    “I think you’ll see that’s been taken care of,” Giovanni said, and Matori was confused for a moment until she heard a loud meow in her office. Persian sat in front of her desk, looking up happily at her, his tail twitching. “He has been in your office enough to know where you are, after all.”

    What? How long had Persian been there? She was going to take care of him, it seemed, whether she liked it or not. Not that she exactly had much choice in the matter, of course.
    Cat magic. That's the only way I can think to how he got in there.

    “I’ll be by to pick him up tomorrow,” Giovanni said. “Have fun, and do keep him out of trouble.” The phone beeped to indicate he’d hung up.
    "Have fun?" "Keep him out of trouble?"

    I know two things that won't be happening.

    Matori just stared at the cat, and Persian stared back at her.

    “At least I have someone to keep me company now,” she said. “Would you like some milk for your troubles?”

    Persian meowed back cheerfully, and Matori got to preparing him a small saucer of milk.
    Cute.

    Zager and Pierce had been at the bar for a few hours when Pierce decided enough was enough. While Pierce politely accepted the drinks Zager bought him, he didn’t drink much more than that, feeling it in poor form to get drunk around one of his superiors.

    Zager, on the other hand, had no such reservations, and the area in front of him on the bar was littered with empty glass bottles.

    “Doctor, don’t you think you’ve had enough to drink?”

    “Pierce it’s Christmas.”

    “It may be, but… Doctor, if you go back into headquarters drunk, that’s not going to be a good look at all.”

    “I do my best science drunk,” Zager protested. “Besides I’m hardly drunk, Pierce, this isn’t drunk at all. You haven’t seen me drunk.”

    Praise Arceus for that, Pierce thought, immediately mentally scolding himself for thinking such things.[/quote]

    Oh my God, that was hilarious. I love it.

    “Don’t forget,” Matori said, “I have every bit of dirt on both of you that you could ever imagine. Information that could be… very damaging… if certain people were to learn it. Keep that in mind when you make your decision, will you? I expect no less than gift cards on every desk here Christmas morning…” She hung up the phone and laughed, then checked her watch.
    Gee, I wonder what unfortunate soul got THAT.

    Damn. It was late. Had evening come already? She’d missed one of Persian’s feeding times, and realizing this, pulled a can of Persian chow out of her desk from the stash she kept around for situations like this.

    “Persian, my apologies, I was a little tied up and completely forgot to feed you.”

    No response.

    “Persian, I think it’s time for your food now… Persian?”

    Something was wrong. Matori knew Persian well enough to know the word “food” would cause him to stop whatever he was doing and run to whoever said it.

    She looked up at the door. As she’d dreaded… it was cracked open, with the opening large enough for a large cat Pokemon to have slipped through with ease…
    I knew something would happen.

    “Oh no.”

    She picked up her phone and madly flipped through her contacts book.

    “Pierce? There’s a job I need you to do…”
    Poor Pierce, having to run cat-catching duty...

    “Okay, Doctor, it’s time for us to go now, duty calls.” Pierce gently nudged at Zager, who was staring out into space singing along- poorly- to Jingle Bell Rock, playing over the Snorlax’s sound system.

    “What’s that?” Zager asked. “Something up?”

    “Matori needs us back at base immediately,” he said, helping Zager off the barstool, into his coat, and out the door.

    “What’s… what’s going on?” Zager asked, once they were out of the bar and running back to HQ.

    “She says the boss left Persian with her while he finished his preparations for the holidays, and he snuck out the door when she was making a call. We need to find him and get him back to her office before he causes any further trouble.”

    “I always said that damn cat was too smart for his own good..”
    Ahaha, oh wow, Zager. Someone needs a pet of his own.

    Once inside headquarters, Zager and Pierce met up with Matori.

    “Where were you two?” she asked.

    “The doctor took me to a bar,” Pierce replied. Zager gave Pierce a dirty look then punched a program into his tablet.
    Pierce, that honesty is going to get you killed.

    “Zager, you and Pierce are two of the only reliable staff left here, at least among the ones I trust… why did you go to the Snorlax at a time like this? What if there was an emergency? You could have at least told me the truth.”

    Zager coughed uncomfortably. “I assure you there was some kind of work planned at some point but it didn’t happen-” Matori’s glare made it clear she wasn’t buying it and he quickly changed the subject in an attempt to get back in her good graces.
    Yeah, don't even try to lie to her, Zager. You should know that.

    "Look, here’s security camera feeds of the entire headquarters. We can use the thermal imaging ones to look for unusual, Persian-shaped activity. I’ll send both of you the link to the camera app-”

    “I already have it, Doctor,” Pierce said. “I was your beta tester, remember?”

    “Oh, right. Miss Matori, check your inbox, there should be a link to where you can install the camera app on your tablet.”

    “I appreciate your enthusiasm,” Matori said, “but… I don’t think that will be necessary.”

    “What do you mean? We’ll find him a lot faster if we-”

    “He’s right there,” Matori said, pointing down the hallway. Persian was sniffing at a large, potted fern outside one of the rooms. “No one make any sudden moves… he knows we’re looking for him. Pierce… I’ll let you take it from here.”
    Something seems strangely hilarious about all of this, especially Persian sniffing at the fern.

    Pierce was overjoyed by this chance to put his stealth skills to use. “Yes ma’am!” he whispered, as enthusiastic as if he’d just been given his postponed mission back.

    The assistant and the scientist watched, breath held, as Pierce crept up on Persian. For a tense moment it almost looked as though he’d be successful… until Persian turned his head to directly look at the spy.

    “That’s it, come here Persian, good kitty…”

    “Nya.”

    Persian wagged his tail and shot off down the hallway. Pierce reacted instinctually and dashed in the same direction.
    Yeah, there was no chance that would work.

    Sebastian took a step back and admired the tree before him. Through his careful artistic direction, massive ornament collection, and eye for good decorating, he and his assistants had singlehandedly pulled off what he was confident was the best tree ever.

    There’s no way the prize ornament won’t be mine this year, he thought smugly to himself.

    As he congratulated himself on a job well done, he heard a sound of running paws faintly in the background.

    The door flew open as a yellow furball dashed in past Sebastian.

    “What the- Persian how did you get down- NO!”

    For whatever reason, the sparkly prize ornament on the tree had caught Persian’s eye, and he was now batting at it.
    Oh no, I just knew as soon as you started talking about the prize ornament and the tree this would happen.

    “Do you need food… I have Pokemon chow… I can give you that, milk, anything, just please leave the tree alone…” Sebastian begged, willing to do anything to protect his tree. Getting between a Persian and the shiny thing that caught their eye rarely ended well…

    Persian batted the ornament off the branch it was hung on and for a moment time slowed down for Sebastian as he watched it hit the floor, dreading what he thought was an inevitable shattering.

    Instead of breaking, it simply made a tiny clink noise. He relaxed, hoping Persian would lose interest in the bauble and walk away. Persian had different plans.

    “Purnya!” Beaming, Persian took the hook of the ornament in his mouth and showed it off to Sebastian as though it was a trophy.
    Persian, please. You're too much.

    “That’s right, Persian, just drop it right here and I won’t tell Dad or anything…”

    The Pokemon tilted his head, blinked, and then shot back off through the door, and Sebastian screamed as his most prized holiday possession left the laboratory with its furry captor.
    Oh God, right there I laughed out loud for real. Between Sebastian threatening to "tell Dad" and Persian's reaction... just amazing.

    “What was that?” Zager said, hearing the distress call from the laboratory not too far away. “It sounded like Sebastian screaming.”

    “Given I just saw Persian running out of the main lab, I’d say it’s a safe assumption,” Matori muttered. “What did that thing do to him?”

    “Messed with that infernal tree, no doubt,” Zager replied. “He’s been obsessing over that thing for the last week now. Says he wants to finally give the science department another win..”

    Oh, I don’t think he’ll need to worry about that, Matori thought smugly.
    HAH

    The clouds grew thicker as the sleigh made its way into Kanto’s airspace. Even the bright green coat of the shiny Stantler, positioned in front of the sleigh, failed to illuminate through the gloom.

    “Hold steady, it’s nothing we haven’t made it through before,” the man said, though he was starting to have his own doubts. “More than three centuries we’ve done this and seen much worse,” he reassured his pack.

    From out of nowhere, a huge Fearow swooped down and startled all concerned parties… including the rearmost Stantler of the herd pulling the sleigh, who panicked briefly. The sleigh passed through another cloud, this one so dark the pilot couldn’t even see his Stantler pack in front of him, and when it emerged, he realized, horrified, the pack was no longer there, separated from him entirely… either the Fearow or the panic had separated the reins entirely.

    As the sleigh began its rapid descent, he braced himself for landing…
    Oh snap.

    Pierce had Persian cornered on the roof, and Zager, Matori, and now Sebastian, having joined them, finally caught up to him.
    I know where this is going.

    “This is just like what happened on my last assignment… they always choose the roof,” Pierce mused. “When will they learn it never works out?”

    “Pierce, why don’t you save the war stories for later and just get the ornament back so all of us can go back to our business?” Matori asked.

    “Right, right,” Pierce said. “Come here, Persian, there’s no where else you can go.. just put the ornament down nicely and we’ll go back to Aunt Matori’s office and give you a nice big bowl of milk… nice Persian…”

    Persian’s ears went back, realizing his defeat, and he began to lower his head to give the ornament to Pierce, when there was another scream, followed by a crash just feet away from where they all stood.
    Aww... Persian and their attempts to reason with him are adorable. Too bad it had to be interrupted.

    Pierce and Matori pulled out their Poke Balls immediately and pointed them at the site of the crash.

    “Whoever you are,” Pierce said, “come out slowly, don’t make any sudden moves, and cooperate with us and we won’t hurt you. Not right now, at least.”

    A man in a red velvet coat, with matching pants, and a long white beard stumbled out of the wreckage, and all three of the Rockets gasped at who they saw before them.

    “Ho ho ho… ho?”
    I knew who it was all along and I still started laughing in amusement here.

    Nice touch giving Pierce and Matori Pokemon, too.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 3rd January 2014 at 8:37 AM.

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  8. #8

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    Final chapter. This one came out a lot longer than I expected- hence it not going up until New Year's Eve- but I think you'll find it was worth the wait. Enjoy!



    Chapter 3



    Pierce stepped back immediately. “S-santa Claus? Are you really... him?”

    “Who else would I be? I'm in a red suit, my sleigh is right there in pieces, and if I don't make it home by Christmas Eve it's going to be ruined for everyone.”

    “How do we know you're not an enemy pretending to be Santa?” Pierce asked.

    “Pierce, I know you take your job seriously and everything and believe me I'm grateful for that,” Matori said, “but I'm pretty sure our man here is the real deal. I can't see... anyone.. going to that much trouble-” she indicated his red suit, fluffy white beard, and rotund body with her free hand- “to trick us into believing St. Nick crashed on our roof.”

    “Listen to the young woman,” Santa replied. “I'm the real deal.”

    Pierce lowered his Poke Ball and stepped back, and Matori followed suit, figuring if Pierce felt at ease she should as well.

    “Either way, you've got some questions to answer. Do you have any idea where you landed?” Pierce asked.

    “The roof of Team Rocket's Kanto headquarters,” Santa said quite plainly. “Of course I know.”

    “Because you're Santa and know everything?” Pierce asked, surprised he figured it out so quickly.

    “Because I'm in Kanto, on the roof of a building in a remote mountain location, and you're wearing a Team Rocket uniform and no one seems to be bothered by it,” Santa replied. “It's not too hard of a conclusion to come to, really.”

    “Oh,” Pierce said. “I think you can see, then, why this might be a problem. Normally people whose aircraft crash lands on our roof don't fare too well.”

    “They don't generally leave again, for one,” Zager interrupted. Sebastian, Matori, and Pierce all turned to look at Zager, shocked he'd tell Santa such a thing.

    “Excuse me, Mr. Claus- can I call you that?- I think we need to have some words with our elderly friend here, he seems to be going senile...” Matori grabbed Zager by the lapels of his lab coat then dragged him over to a corner on the roof, Pierce and Sebastian following close behind her while Persian watched the whole thing from a distance. “What are you thinking?”

    “Santa is a security threat and should be treated accordingly?” Zager said, grinning nervously.

    “We are not detaining Santa,” Matori said.

    “I'm going to take the rare position of not agreeing with you, Doctor,” Pierce added. “There's a lot of things I've done, and am willing to do, in the name of Team Rocket but I draw the line at kidnapping the personification of the holiday spirit.”

    “He knows things now,” Zager said. “He's seen our base, he's seen us, we can't just let him go free after that.”

    “Isn't it established he already has anyway?” Sebastian interrupted Zager.

    “You mean someone let him get away before?” Zager said.

    “He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows if you've been bad or good, the naughty and nice list he checks twice, all of that lore? If Santa really wanted to try to do anything to us he would have a long time ago,” Sebastian explained.

    “We can still hold him for ransom. Think of the potential mon-”
    “NO,” all three simultaneously said to Zager.

    ~

    Giovanni had opted to stay overnight at a hotel after shopping, rather than try making it home that evening with piles of presents in tow. It was hardly his first choice; it was, after all, going to be hard to sleep without Persian curled up at the foot of the bed.

    Still, Persian was in good hands. As he made himself at home in his hotel room, he wondered what the cat and Matori were up to that moment...

    ~

    Matori, Zager, Sebastian, Pierce, Persian, and Santa were gathered together in Matori's office. Persian sat eating his long overdue meal as Pierce and Matori questioned him.

    “So explain to me again the circumstances of the accident?” Matori said.

    “We were flying over Viridian Forest, and a flock of Fearow startled the Stantler. The ones in the back are a little skittish- it's their first year on the team- and they jerked the rest of the team away from the sleigh. I managed to steer it to the mountains here in an attempt to lessen the impact of the fall...”

    “And you ended up here,” Pierce finished.

    Santa nodded. “Thank goodness you four found me, I'm not sure what I'd do otherwise.”

    “Thank that thing,” Sebastian growled, pointing at Persian. “The boss's cat can't keep his paws or snout out of others' business.” Persian looked up from his food and grumbled softly at Sebastian's complaint. “He stole a prized ornament of mine and the only reason we ended up on the roof in the first place was because we were trying to get it back.”

    Matori refilled Santa's mug of cocoa and opened another candy cane, nibbling the end of it. “So the issue now is... how do we get you back home? Do you have any idea where the Stantler are, or if they'll be okay?”

    “The Stantler fly via psychic abilities,” Santa said, “so I have no doubt they're alright. They're also unlikely to have gone far, considering they've been trained to stay as close to me as possible in the event of separation.”

    “And you mentioned you were attacked over Viridian Forest, correct?” Pierce asked.

    “That's correct,” Santa replied.

    “It's unlikely they've left that area, then,” Sebastian replied. “Outside of Viridian Forest on one side is obviously the city, and on the other, well, it's been developed over the years so much that there's little there of interest to a Stantler. Viridian Forest, however.. they have everything they need for the night. Food, shelter, and safety.”

    “We talked it over,” Matori said, “and we're going to get you back home. Obviously we'll need to find the Stantler for that to happen.”

    “Oh dear,” Santa said.

    “Is there a problem?” Pierce asked, noticing Santa's distress.

    “I'm incredibly grateful for all of you helping me back home and not taking me hostage or anything like that-” Zager, who'd been fairly quiet since being scolded by the three earlier, shifted nervously in his chair at this- “but I'm on quite a tight schedule and this is setting me back quite a bit.”

    “Christmas itself isn't for another four days though,” Matori said.

    “Maybe not, but even though this was just a practice run, I still have work to do at the workshop before the big day. If I don't get back before sunrise, I don't know what it's going to do to my schedule. Even if you find my Stantler, they can only fly so fast, and in this business, seconds count.”

    “Your sleigh is still a wreck, too,” Sebastian added. “So that means on the agenda.. we have to find the Stantler and repair your sleigh.”

    “Precisely,” Santa said. “If any of you have any idea how to accomplish all that in time, I'm all ears, but a delay for Christmas seems more and more likely at this point...”

    “No,” Pierce said, standing up. “I'm not going to allow any more delays.”

    Matori's face lit up. This was the first time since he'd learned earlier about his postponed mission she'd seen him full of life like this.

    “I know how it feels to spend time preparing for a big day and then have it put off by circumstances outside your control, and I'm not about to see someone else have to deal with that disappointment,” Pierce said. “There's four of us, and we have the man-” he looked at Matori and quickly corrected himself “-personpower, sorry, Miss Matori, to pull it off.”

    “That's what I thought,” Matori mumbled.

    “Professor Sebastian, Doctor Zager, can you two fix up the sleigh? Matori, Persian, and I can search the forest for the Stantler.”

    Sebastian nodded, then elbowed Zager.

    “Well.. it is in the spirit of Christmas,” Zager said, realizing it'd give his mind some much-needed stimulation.

    “I'd be happy to help find the Stantler,” Matori added. “Persian?”

    Persian walked over to join the group and meowed. Matori wasn't sure Persian was fully aware of what was going on, but it was good enough.

    A smile crossed Pierce's face, the smug kind he usually saved for missions. “Then let's get to it,” he said.

    ~

    The group was gathered outside the doors of headquarters, Pierce using his hologloves to illustrate the plan. “So as mentioned before, Matori, Persian, and I are going to split up in Viridian Forest to retrieve the Stantler. Matori, do you still have the link to the Doctor's thermal imaging app?”

    Matori nodded.

    “Good, install it now.” He felt strange giving orders to Matori- usually it was the other way around- but it was clear his superior was okay with this. “There's been a system of hidden cameras installed in Viridian Forest for years for extra security outside the city, and we can use the app to pinpoint the location of the Stantler. I'll send you Stantler's heat signature from my files, I know it's in here somewhere. Persian, you're going to reassure the Stantler it's safe to come along with us. You can do that, right?”

    “Nya.”

    “I have no idea what that meant but we'll assume that meant yes, otherwise, I'm sure we'll manage. Just be useful, please.” Pierce found himself wishing the agents he'd worked with ages ago, and their talking Meowth, were on hand now- how he missed being able to actually have Pokemon he could understand.

    “Purnyanya.”

    “Right, right, thank you,” he said. “Do we have everything, Matori?” he asked. Matori lifted a shoulder bag filled with their gear for the forest.

    “We'll meet back up with you later, hopefully not too long from now,” he said to Zager and Sebastian, nodding at them. He strapped a jetpack to his back, and Matori followed suit, scooping up Persian to carry him to the forest on their trip over. Persian was none too thrilled when he realized what Matori planned to do but behaved himself anyway. “Let's go.” He switched the jetpack on, Matori doing so as well, and the two lifted off, annoyed cat in tow.

    Zager watched them depart, then turned to Santa. “Err.. about earlier... I hope there are no hard feelings, I was just being strictly business. Nothing personal, you know.”

    “If you say so,” Santa said.

    “I may have been drunk when I said it,” Zager added. “Anyway, Claus... we're going to be repairing your sleigh, as you know, and I was just wondering how you felt about after-market parts.”

    Santa's eyes lit up. “Tell me more,” he said.

    ~

    The landing in Viridian Forest was rough , to say the least, at least for Matori. Despite her occasional field work, jetpacks were still a new thing to her, and so she lacked the grace in reaching the ground Pierce displayed.

    “Show off,” she muttered, as Pierce turned off his jetpack and landed without so much as a twitch, in contrast to her awkward stumbling about. She gently lowered Persian to the ground and the cat glared at her with an annoyed meow.

    Pierce switched on his tablet. “We're in luck,” he said. Matori took a look at hers too, and Pierce looked over her shoulder to point to the camera feeds. “Pull up that one there, see it?” A mass of brightly colored blobs was huddled amidst the otherwise cool-colored landscape.

    “Do you think that's the Stantler?”

    “It must be, they're pack Pokemon, and they'd stick together in an unfamiliar environment like this.”

    “Should we split up to find them?”

    “I'm not sure that's the best idea,” Pierce said. “At this hour, who knows what kind of stuff is lurking in this forest. With all respect, Matori, it's best you stick with me.”

    Matori thought for a moment, then pulled a flashlight out of the pack and tossed the rest to Pierce. “I'm going to split off anyway and contact you if I see anything. I didn't get the job I have now hiding away from danger, you know.”

    “But-”

    “Divide and conquer, Pierce. If we stay together, there's a chance we'll just be following the pack in circles. You're a spy, you should know that.” She motioned to Persian and walked off, Persian following behind her. “Good luck out there,” she called.

    Pierce smiled. As blunt as her statement was... she was right. Her stubbornness and independence were exactly why she was now not only a secretary and assistant to the boss, but a commander as well. And he couldn't help but admire her for that.

    ~

    Zager and Sebastian were hard at work in the workshop, straightening the bent runners of the sleigh.

    “I've never even seen a metal quite like this,” Zager said to Santa, who was sitting in a chair watching the two of them work and looking confused by all the strange equipment around him.

    “That's because it doesn't exist anymore,” Santa said. “It's a rare metal, only existed in the North Pole. Mined from a mountain there. Fastest metal on snow and ice there is, though.”

    “Rare metal, you say?” Zager said, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.

    “Did you miss the part where he said it didn't exist anymore?” Sebastian said. “I see where you're going with this, and I'm afraid it's only going to ultimately end in disappointment and embarrassment.”

    “That's where a lot of my efforts end up anyway, it's not like that's anything new,” Zager shot back. “Besides, I was asking for science.”

    Sebastian was about to say something to Zager about how bad it looked for the two of them to be arguing around Santa Claus, but stopped when he noticed Santa laughing.

    “You haven't changed a bit, have you, Gabriel?” Santa said. “Still have that spirit of discovery to you from when you were just a little boy writing me letters begging for all kinds of equipment years ago, I see,”

    “You... you remember?” Zager said. “I never thought those letters actually went to you, even when I...” he realized the awkwardness of what he was about to say, “believed in you, not that I don't now, haha...”

    “Keep digging,” Sebastian muttered.

    “Of course I remember, I never forget the children I bring toys to,” Santa said. “It all started when you asked for that Natural History of Kanto book, and after that, your lists got more creative every year.”

    “If you hadn't brought me that science set the very next year... I think I wouldn't even be here, fixing your sleigh now,” Zager said, the memories rushing back to him. “After I read that book, I wanted to see how things worked firsthand, and so I asked you for a kit... when I started doing experiments with that kit, on Christmas Day, as soon as it came out of the box, I knew that was what I was going to do with my life. I wouldn't know what I wanted if you hadn't come through for me,” he said.

    “I'm going to go out on a limb and guess working for an international criminal organization wasn't part of your initial life plans as a tyke,” Santa said.

    “I got a little too curious about how things worked and ended up breaching some of those pesky ethics codes at the university,” Zager said. “My imagination isn't restrained by such barriers around here, I've found.”

    “Just like when you nearly found yourself on my naughty list for blowing up half the garage as a kid when you were eleven,” Santa replied. “I was right, you haven't changed at all.”

    Zager laughed nervously, then pulled his welding mask back down and returned to his work.

    ~

    Pierce looked down at his tablet, tapping through all the camera feeds of Viridian Forest. Most of the results only brought up what looked like typical night forest dwellers- flocks of Hoothoot and Noctowl, as well as Spinarak and Ariados, all keeping a watchful eye from the branches of the trees.

    “Here, little Stantler... come out, come out, whereever you are...” He picked up his phone and gave Matori a call.

    “Did you find anything yet?”

    “Not in my general area, no, but you might try looking closer at some of those screens. I think there might be a lead on the one in the top right of Zone 3.”

    Pierce flipped through the thumbnails of the camera feeds until he found the one Matori referred to. A brightly colored mass seemed to be taking up part of the frame upon closer inspection, in a motion that seemed to be huddling together of some kind.

    “That's it,” he said confidently. “If that's anything, it has to be the Stantler. It makes perfect sense they'd get close to each other like that for warmth and safety in a strange place.” He checked his coordinates. “I'm not too far away. I'll start making my way over there now. We'll meet up and bring them in.”

    “Understood. I'll see you there,” Matori replied.

    ~

    Thanks to Sebastian and Zager's hard work, the repairs on Santa's sleigh had been completed. Santa seemed pleasantly surprised by the work.

    “How did you fix this sleigh so quickly?” he asked the two of them.

    “It's a fairly routine repair for us,” Zager replied. “I've seen worse than this, believe me. When an average day on the job is patching up robots and submarines, nothing is impossible.”

    Santa ran his hands over the now spotless carriage and runners of the sleigh, noticing that Sebastian had even managed to match the red hue of the paint perfectly.

    “How much do I owe you for this?” he asked the two of them. Zager wasted no time in opening his mouth to speak, but Sebastian, noticing this, quickly jumped in to speak before him.

    “Nothing, we'd never think of charging someone like Father Christmas for some repairs to his sleigh, that's ridiculous!” He pulled off his wire-rimmed glasses and began nervously polishing them on his labcoat, then he slipped them back on. “One minute, I need to speak to my colleague about what we need to do next...” He pulled Zager aside.

    “Zager what are you doing we owe him nothing for this and you know it,” he whispered.

    “He's Santa Claus! The old elf must be loaded!”

    “And anyone's going to believe Santa gave us money? I mean do you know how that story is going to sound?”

    “If we'd just gone ahead with my plan-” Zager protested.

    “-Your plan was never an option,” Sebastian said. He turned back to Santa and smiled. “Um... I think the Doctor will take it from here,” he said.

    Zager glared at Sebastian and cleared his throat. “Ah, yes, Claus, I believe I mentioned the possibility of aftermarket parts for your sleigh? The other two are still tracking down your Stantler, evidently, so we can discuss- and install- said parts in the meantime. Now, you mentioned being on a tight schedule... I can install something to speed up your return trip quite easily.”

    “Tell me more,” Santa said.

    ~

    Matori's suspicion was right. As Pierce neared the northeast edge of Zone 3 of Viridian Forest, he could hear a distant jingle; and in the faint light provided by his LED flashlight, what looked like a herd made itself visible.

    “Stantler,” he mumbled to himself. He quietly crept up behind them, his Poke Ball drawn from his belt and at the ready in case any of them startled and tried to attack. When he felt he was a safe distance from the group, he quietly spoke up.

    “Stantler? I'm here to help you find your master...”

    The shiny leader of the group turned around and sniffed the air curiously, then made a noise to the others that seemed to indicate safety. Pierce breathed a sigh of relief as it approached him, the rest of the pack following his lead. He dropped his Poke Ball and extended his hand as a sign he meant no harm. “That's right, just follow me out of here...”

    The leader sniffed his hand, and for a moment Pierce was sure their work in the forest was done, when the shiny, followed by the whole pack, reared up with a jolt.

    “Easy, easy, I'm here to- oh, no.”

    Pierce heard a distinct cawing overhead. He looked up, his sense of dread growing when he saw what was in the sky above him.

    Fearow, with huge, pointed beaks and messy wings, as well as some smaller Spearow here and there. And when they were out at this hour, that only meant one thing...

    Hadn't Santa mentioned a flock of them startling the Stantler and knocking them out of the sky? It didn't take long for Pierce to realize this was the same flock from earlier, and for whatever reason, they were still angry with the Stantler.

    Pierce drew his Poke Ball again, being careful not to cause the Stantler further distress. It was going to be hard for the Stantler to protect themselves harnessed together like that, and he couldn't simply let them get injured from the Fearow's attacks.

    “Absol, I need your help!” Absol emerged, in a flash of red light, from the ball, brandishing his horn and growling upon his arrival. His fluffy white mane blew in the chilly winter breeze.

    Pierce watched as the Fearow descended, unsure if releasing Absol simply served to anger them further. As the Stantler flailed their hooves about in confusion, he braced himself for what might be a rough battle.

    “Hit as many of those Fearow as you can with Razor Wind, Absol!” Pierce ordered, and Absol nodded at him with a little bark, then began generating a wind with his horn.

    “Sooooooooooooooool!” Once the wind was fully powered up, Absol released it with a howl.
    ~

    Matori was on her way back to Pierce when she heard Absol's howl.

    Absol aren't exactly native to Kanto, she realized. But Pierce has one so that means...

    She quickly picked up her pace to a run, Persian speeding along behind her. Oh he did it this time, didn't he?

    ~

    Pierce didn't expect the Fearow to have backup. “Seriously? What could these Stantler have done to make them so angry?” he asked Absol, who was growing weary from endless Razor Winds. The Stantler continued thrashing and Pierce wasn't sure how much longer he could hold the vicious birds off.

    One of the Fearow, a large one that seemed to be the flock's leader, dove in towards Pierce and Absol, two of his fellow Fearow flanking him on either side.

    “Absol, Night Slash the one in front!”

    Absol leapt into the air and slashed the Fearow with the scythe-shaped horn on his head. This one reared back and squawked in pain, his two bodyguards now rushing Absol with apparent intent to get revenge for their injured leader. Pierce braced himself as the two closed in, wondering if Absol could deal with both of them at once. His last few Razor Winds had been more and more laborious and he realized fast that Absol was likely running out of energy for that move.

    “Delibird, Blizzard.”

    The snow in the area intensified and Pierce noticed some of it hitting only the Fearow hardest. A few froze and fell out of the air, as Matori stepped out of a huge flurry of snow and ice, Deldel flying alongside her, to approach Pierce. In one hand she held yet another candy cane, this one having been sucked on to a fine-pointed tip. She glared at Pierce and he shivered a little, wondering how much trouble he'd be in later.

    The injured Fearow leader, still with a little fight left in him, now turned his attention to the fat red and white penguin in front of him. “Feeeeeeeeear!”

    “Delee! Lee!” Deldel waved a wing to show she wasn't afraid of her opponent.

    “If you want it done right, send a woman,” Matori muttered, and she thrust her hand forward. .“Delibird, hit it with an Ice Beam!”

    Deldel opened her beak and let out a thin, pale beam. The beam hit Fearow square in the tip of the beak and not long after, ice had spread over the bird's body. The frozen Fearow dropped out of the sky, and the Stantler, as well as Pierce, scrambled out of the way to dodge it.

    Matori stared the two others, who'd somehow survived Delibird's Blizzard attack, down. “You two can leave and take your flock with you, or you answer to us.”

    The Fearow paused for a moment, then started laughing at Matori. “Rowrowrowrowrow.”

    “I think they want to answer to us,” Pierce said.

    “I figured as much,” Matori quipped, then sized them up. “You take the one on the right, I'll take the one on the left.”

    “Roger that,” Pierce said. The two stood behind their companions, prepared to finish things once and for all.

    “Absol, hit that one with a Sucker Punch!” Pierce ordered, pointing to his target. Absol leapt up towards the Fearow.

    “Aerial Ace,” Matori added, and the Delibird took off.

    In the blink of an eye, Absol had delivered a powerful swipe of his claw, and Deldel her beak, against their foes.

    Both Fearow fell to the ground, weakened, barely seconds after receiving their blows.

    “Deldel. One more Blizzard. Just in case any more of them-” she looked at the flock, which had been pared down to just three or four Spearow and Fearow now- “get any ideas.”

    Deldel gave her a little salute with one raised wing and unleashed another Blizzard from her tail bag. The flock of bird Pokemon immediately dispersed.

    “Remind me never to get on your bad side,” Pierce muttered.

    “Consider what you just saw your reminder,” Matori said, and Pierce blushed, mortified she'd heard his aside. “Are the Stantler alright?”

    Pierce looked over to the huddled pack, shivering with fear from what they'd just encountered. “They're a little shaken, but none of them are harmed too badly. We might need to treat some of them with Potions, at the very worst.”

    “Good. The real question now is how to get them back. We have to make them trust us enough to be willing to fly with us...” Matori looked down at Persian, who'd been sitting and grooming himself the whole time. Thanks for all your help, she thought, annoyed. “Persian, I know you trust us... can you ask the Stantler to for us? Please?”

    “Purnyaa?” Persian pricked his ears up and looked at Matori, curious.

    “If you tell those Stantler we're their friends and we want to help them get back to their master, I'll give you a nice bowl of cream once we get back.”

    “Nya!” Upon the promise of his favorite treat, Persian shot to his feet and made his way to the head Stantler.

    “Nyaa nyaa, purnya. Nyanyaanyanya. Pur pur?”

    “What is he saying?” Pierce asked.

    “How should I know?” Matori replied. “I don't speak Persian.”

    “Stant stant, ler stant,” the shiny Stantler leader said. “Ler stantler stant.”

    Persian turned back around and meowed happily. “Purnya!”

    “Did they... agree?”

    “Nyaa!” Persian said, his tail wagging. “Nya nya, purrpurrnya.”

    “I don't know much about cat behavior, but I'm guessing that's a yes?” Pierce found the entire exchange quite absurd, but then most things involving Persian tended on the whole to be absurd to him.

    Deldel fluttered up from Matori's feet and jumped on the back of one of the Stantler, then waved a flipper at them.

    “I think Delibird's trying to say they want us to get on their backs for the trip home,” Matori said. The lead Stantler nodded. She chose a Stantler from the pack and climbed on, then motioned for Pierce to do likewise. Pierce patted Absol on the head for a job well done and then recalled him into his ball.

    “Persian? Are you coming along?”

    Persian nodded his head.

    “Purnya,” Persian said to the lead Stantler. “Nyaanyaa.”

    “Ler stant ler.”

    Stantler extended a hoof and Persian tapped his paw to it. “Nyaa.”

    Having finished his exchange with Stantler, Persian hopped on the lead's back in front of Matori.

    “What... what was that?” Pierce asked.

    “I'm guessing Persian's thanking them, or asking them to fly safe, or... look, Pierce, I don't even think Giovanni knows what is going on with that cat half the time. Persian just... is,” she said, as the Stantler lifted off, and Pierce couldn't help but be inspired by Matori's words for some reason.

    ~

    Santa admired his improved sleigh as Zager walked him through the new tech on it. “It needed speeding up for your trip back so... I installed these,” he said, pointing to some huge mechanical devices on either side of the sleigh's carriage. “Jetpack boosters.”

    “Those are a little big to be jetpacks. Wouldn't rocket boosters be a little more accurate?” Santa asked.

    “We try to use 'jetpacks' around here for anything of that type. It cuts down on a lot of the confusion,” Sebastian happily replied.

    “What Sebastian said. There's been more than a few Who's on First conversations caused by using the other word,” Zager added.

    Santa thought on this briefly and saw Zager's point. “Fair enough.”

    “As I was saying, the jetpack boosters on the carriage are modified versions of the ones Pierce and Matori used to fly to Viridian Forest... they're capable of flying great lengths, very quickly, on very little fuel. These have a better range than the typical jetpacks used by agents, since I modified them to propel a sleigh containing one Claus and a bag of toys, but I'm still unsure it's enough to fly entirely on them back to the North Pole, so I'd suggest flying primarily on Stantler power until you absolutely need the boost. There's a button installed into the carriage to turn them on and off,” Zager said, pointing to a small green button marked BOOSTERS.

    “Now, continuing with our cockpit improvements... your Stantler may know the way, yes, but these improvements were not only installed with the trip back in mind, but an ounce of prevention for future trips to come. If you find yourself separated from your pack again, I've installed a GPS hologram to help you pinpoint your exact location.”

    Zager pushed the GPS button on the carriage, and a floating hologram screen materialized. “It runs on solar power so all you have to do is leave your sleigh out in the sun for a few hours. I'd say five or six hours will give it enough juice for several trips. Are there any questions?”

    Santa shook his head no, impressed and a little overwhelmed by all of this.

    “Good. Now I suppose all that's left is for the other two to return with the Stantler... I hope they didn't get lost out there.”

    “Zager,” Sebastian said. “It's Pierce out there. I know nothing about Matori's skills as navigation is concerned, but Pierce is one of yours, shouldn't you have a little more faith in him?”

    “I suppose so,” Zager said. “It just feels like so many things have gone wrong for so many of us in such a short span of time.”

    “And Pierce always pulls through for you,” Sebastian said. “Do you know how hard I fought to get him with my squad before he was finally assigned to you? You've got one of the best operatives in the region on your side.”

    Zager began to contemplate Sebastian's words when a faint jingling and the clopping was audible in the distance.

    “Jingles and hooves-” Sebastian said.

    “-and something that sounds like arguing,” Zager added

    “I know those sounds from anywhere,” Santa said.

    “What, the arguing?” Zager said. “That happens when you get two personalities that are so different together, I'm afraid. Believe me, this laboratory is living proof of that.”

    “No, the sounds of my Stantler,” Santa said, laughing. “I think they made it back safe.”

    Pierce walked into the lab. Matori followed close behind him, followed by Deldel and Persian. “The Stantler are in the hall,” Pierce said. “I didn't think they'd fit in this lab.”

    “Even if they did there's no way I'm letting them in here,” Sebastian muttered. “I've had enough trouble with Pokemon in this lab for one day.”

    “Excellent, excellent!” Santa said.

    “Apologies for the delay,” Matori said, “we ran into some trouble with the Fearow.”

    “Most likely those Fearow were migrating for the winter,” Sebastian said. “The Stantler's flight interrupted their trip, and they didn't take too well to it. Nick, a word of advice, you might want to alter your flight plans accordingly. All the tech in the world that Zager puts on that thing won't keep you safe from the wrath of Fearow and Spearow.”

    “Well, there's some that could, but I'm not sure I should be just handing that out to civilians-”

    “-Zager, shut up.”

    “We'll need to treat a few of the Stantler's injuries from the Fearow first, but they weren't too badly hurt. They were even able to give us a ride back home. Professor, do you have any Potion on hand?” Pierce asked.

    Sebastian went over to a small cabinet and pulled out a purple spray bottle. “Here, this should be a new one. See how that works.”

    Pierce took the Potion from Sebastian and went into the hallway where the Stantler were waiting. One by one, he sprayed it on the injured Stantler, who gratefully nuzzled and licked him as they healed.

    “They're looking better now,” he said to Santa. “I guess it's time for us to go then.”

    “How are we going to get all these Stantler on the roof?” Sebastian asked.

    “The same way we got them here,” Matori replied. “On the elevator.”

    “That makes sense, but there's still the matter of getting the sleigh up there,” Sebastian said. Zager immediately grinned and turned to Santa, a mischievous gleam in his monocle.

    “Well, Claus. What do you say the three of us take your new and improved sleigh for a little test drive?'
    ~

    Matori, Pierce, Persian, Deldel, and the Stantler all met together on the roof, and shortly after they'd arrived, the sound of excited cheering could be heard.

    Zager's excited cheering, to be precise.

    “Well, someone's having fun,” Pierce said, smiling for the first time since Matori had spoken to him earlier.

    Matori noticed this and smiled a little herself. “He really is, isn't he?”

    The rocket-propelled sleigh moved in for a landing on the roof and the four and the Stantler quickly moved out of the way. The runners hit the concrete roof and Zager jumped out, looking like a child who just received every item on his list, even the impossible ones.

    “Yes,” he said, “it's clear that the additions I made to the sleigh worked perfectly...”

    “You took the sleigh for a joyride didn't you?” Matori asked Zager, her eyes shifted in the doctor's direction.

    “Claus asked what he owed us... Sebastian wouldn't let me accept money, so...”

    “That's all I need to know,” Matori said. She extended a hand to Santa. “I suppose this is goodbye for now,” she said.

    “Not quite yet. I have something for all of you,” he said. He opened a hatch on the back of his sleigh and pulled out a bag. All four of them immediately knew what it meant.

    “You're giving us... presents?” Zager asked, surprised. “I mean, not to sound like I'm turning them down or anything, but I'm pretty sure all of us make the 'naughty' list in our sleep.”

    “Ah, but I take things on a case-by-case basis, my boy! I'm neutral when it comes to such matters... Christmas joy doesn't take sides, after all.” He took the first package out of his pack. “For Gabriel, who turned in all his logs in a timely fashion this year,” he said, then handed a box trimmed in red foil with a green bow to Zager.

    “Yeah, yeah, you don't need to push it too,” he muttered to Santa.

    “This one is for Sebastian, who didn't kill Zager this year.”

    “That's an achievement worthy of the 'nice' list?” Matori asked under her breath.

    Sebastian accepted his package from Santa, thanking him.

    “For Matori, who's always there when she's needed and the best friend anyone could ever have.”

    Matori blushed and accepted hers, which came with a small package tagged “Deldel” attached. Deldel pulled it off with her beak and tucked it in her pack, then chirped happily.

    “For Persian, a good kitty,” Santa said, pulling out a red rhinestone collar and fastening it around Persian's neck- Persian beamed at his stylish new accessory, and purred happily, proud of himself.

    “Finally... for Pierce, who always tries his hardest, and always brings people together to work together to get things done like no one else can.”

    Is... is that true? Pierce wondered. Am I really that important? Pierce extended his hands to accept his present. “Th-thank you, I just do my job-”

    “Well, there's only one Pierce, right, son?” Santa said. “You're you, and that's what matters. Now,” Santa said, reaching into his bag for one more item and turning back to Matori, “this is for your boss-”

    “-How do you know anything about that?” Matori asked quickly, reacting with her instinctual suspicion.

    “Don't you remember what your fellow glasses-wearer said earlier?” Santa asked. “The whole song is right, I know everything. And I know it wouldn't be right to leave without leaving him something, not after his cat and assistant got something from me.” He passed her a rather large package. “If he says anything, just let him know I'm sorry for not coming through when he was 10, and I hope this makes up for it.”

    Matori stared at the package. Sure enough, Giovanni's name was on the tag, but the FROM blank was left empty, just as it was for everyone else's.

    “I'll be sure to do that,” she replied. “Well, good luck,” she said to him, as he harnessed the Stantler to the sleigh, then jumped in and pulled flying goggles down over his eyes.

    “And the merriest of Christmases to all of you,” Santa said, taking off, and waving at all of them. “And to all a good night!” The group watched as Santa's sleigh vanished into the night sky.

    “I see he didn't waste time turning on those boosters,” Sebastian observed. “Totally ignoring what you warned him.”

    “Oh, don't worry. He's got enough fuel for the trip back even if he leaves them on,” Zager said. “I was just pretending to be responsible back in there when I told him all that.”

    “At least you admit it for once,” Sebastian said.

    “Well, that's that, then,” Matori said. “What do all of you say we meet back in my office to unwrap gifts. I'll make some hot cocoa for all of us.”

    ~

    Back in Matori's office, the sun rose over them as another day began, and the group looked at their early presents from Santa.

    “These... these are what he gave me so many years ago, as a child,” Zager said, looking in awe at his presents, a vintage science kit and a book. Both, despite their age, appeared to be in perfect, mint condition. The book bore the title Natural History of Kanto, an ornate illustration of an Aerodactyl splashed across the cover, and Zager held it protectively on his lap. Sebastian's present was somewhat simpler- a set of DVDs of various biology lectures from some of Kanto and Johto's most respected researchers, and Matori opened her package to find a state of the art espresso machine... along with another package of candy canes.

    “I must say, the jolly old elf does have an excellent sense of timing. I used my last one in this mug of cocoa,” she commented, before ripping into the box and putting yet another candy cane into her mouth. “Well Pierce, are you going to open yours?”

    Pierce stared at his box. “Yeah, I suppose I am, I've just been thinking.”

    “A dangerous pastime,” Zager said. “You get ideas that way, you know.” Pierce chuckled politely at Zager's joke, then pulled the ends of the bows.

    In the box was a digital camera. Not a simple point and shoot either, but a state of the art one, along with multiple lenses and bulbs, even a huge memory card to hold his photos. Pierce was a mix of excited and confused. He had always wanted a camera... his missions sent him to far flung parts he'd only dreamed of seeing, and even in places he thought he knew inside and out, he always found something new upon return. He used cameras on his assignments of course, but never cameras meant simply to capture an image.

    And yet until that night, it never occurred to him that there was something to enjoy after the mission. His experiences, not only from his work, but from the little moments inbetween. The memories, even the ones he thought inconsequential. And this camera was the key to appreciating all of it.

    “Amazing,” Pierce said. “All of you, get together, I want to try this out.”

    Matori, Zager, Sebastian, and Persian moved over to the couch across from where Pierce sat, on the other side of the coffee table, squeezing in a little uncomfortably. It was clear Zager was none too thrilled by the prospect of having his photo taken at this hour. Pierce pushed the button when he realized he'd probably have to plug the charger cord in until the battery had a full charge in it. To his surprise, the camera switched on immediately.

    “I know I'll never forget what we did tonight, but I want to make sure none of you do either,” he said, setting the camera to the timer function and laying it on the top of the couch, then running over to pose just over Matori's shoulder in the frame. The timer beeped, the flash went off, and when Pierce returned to check the result, another rare smile came to his face upon seeing the result.

    Because that night, what some might see as purely a series of chance occurences brought the four of them together like never before. All because of one accident Santa had...

    But the more he thought about it, who said it was an accident? After all, it was established Santa knew how Zager got started on his path to become a scientist... and Matori's exact position within the Team, not to mention whatever it was Giovanni wanted but didn't get for his tenth Christmas... if Santa knew not only if someone had been naughty or nice, but their innermost desires...

    Well, who was to say this wasn't an accident? Who was to say that perhaps Santa had managed to make all of the night's events transpire as well?

    No stop that, things are getting weird, Pierce thought. The doctor did warn you this kind of thing could happen from thinking.

    Coincidence or not, though, Pierce knew one thing. He'd gone into this day having a hard time understanding the Christmas spirit, and in just a few short and exciting hours, found himself knowing exactly what it meant.

    “Well Pierce? How did it turn out?” Matori asked.

    “It's great,” Pierce replied.

    The four got to finishing their cocoa, discussing the previous events well into the earliest morning hours. Finally, Matori realized it was time to send them all on their ways, or questions would inevitably be asked.

    “And for the record, none of you tell the boss what happened, understood? Because that was way too weird and completely unbelievable. Zager, I can promise you for one that if you tell him, he'll just think you were drinking too much again.”

    Zager looked around the room nervously. “Right, don't want that now do we,” he said, remembering Matori's earlier promise to ask him the story behind his denial earlier and that she'd never made good on it.

    ~

    Later on that day, Giovanni returned to his office, to find an anxious Persian outside the door- sent back by Matori upon her finding he was on his way back from the previous night's excursion- and sporting a collar. “Oh, did Matori go shopping for you while I was gone too? It's a little early for presents, if you ask me- what is that?” A large package sat on his desk, wrapped nicely with a little bow.

    “Must be from a Secret Santa.” Upon the mention of “Santa” Persian's ears perked up and he meowed.

    “Is it?” he asked Persian. “That's odd, I don't recall anything like that happening. Matori must have signed me up without knowing, if she's not the giver herself. It can wait until Christmas to be opened, I suppose.”

    Persian meowed again, resigned to not being able to communcate with the human, and licked his paw.

    ~

    EPILOGUE: Christmas Morning

    It was what seemed, by all accounts, to simply be a normal Christmas morning at headquarters. The few who stayed arranged exchanges, and Matori hurried back up from the science wing, having completed the first of her duties that morning.

    “Apologies for my lateness, sir, I was... taking care of some important matters,” she said, entering Giovanni's office nearly out of breath. She quickly got to preparing Christmas coffee for the two of them, from a special blend of beans she'd arranged specifically for the holiday.

    “It's quite alright, I was opening this present myself, and I must say, you truly outdid yourself this year, Matori. You really didn't have to do this.”

    Matori was confused for a moment, but then she saw, propped up against Giovanni's desk, a huge box containing a train set. Not just any train set... but a vintage one. Santa's present, she thought. He must have waited until today to open it... She remembered what Santa had told her to pass along to him if he asked, but then remembered her order to the others not to tell him. That included her.

    “Oh... um... well, I have to be honest, I didn't give you that...”

    “Whoever did must know me well,” he said. “I'd asked for that, many Christmases ago, as a boy, and for whatever reason, I got the OTHER train set... I never let my mother hear the end of it, believe me.”
    Matori passed a freshly brewed cup of espresso across Giovanni's desk, and laughed politely.

    As he sipped the cup of coffee, Giovanni fought hard to keep to himself what he'd realized upon Matori's denial.

    I knew you existed, Santa, he thought. All those years they mocked me as a kid, and I was right. Thank you for coming through. Even if you are thirty-five years late.

    ~

    Sebastian walked into the lab that morning prepared for his usual Christmas with the scientists and Zager, and screamed.

    “Zager! Come here! It's a Christmas miracle!” Sebastian called.

    “What, you remembered a card this year?” Zager asked. “That really is a Christmas miracle.”

    “No, look at THAT,” Sebastaian said, pointing to the tree.

    “It's your old WINNER- oh.” Zager realized that there were now two glitterbomb ornaments, the 2000 one and now one marked 2013, this time in green glitter. “So we did win this year.”

    “And gift cards! Gift cards for all of us! I hope you're all ready to hit the after-Christmas sales tomorrow in Celadon City, because I certainly am!”

    Zager smiled, happy Sebastian's efforts proved fruitful this year, mainly because it meant he didn't have to spend the rest of the week hearing about it.

    “Why is there a crossed-out name on this gift card?” one of the scientists asked.

    “Don't worry about that,” Sebastian said, as Zager poured a large amount of rum into a huge mug of eggnog. “Just enjoy all of that Christmas spirit.”

    “Oh, I'm enjoying it over here,” Zager said, drinking his concoction. Maybe Christmas wasn't so bad after all.

    ~

    There was a knock on the door of Giovanni's office. Matori answered it.

    “Pierce... I wasn't expecting you today. What do you need?”

    “Nothing, I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.”

    “Well, don't just stand there, come in, there's coffee and another mug. It's Christmas, after all.”

    Pierce accepted the mug of coffee once in the office and sipped from it, handing Matori a small present. She opened it to reveal a print of the photo he'd taken of the group a few nights ago.

    “Oh... thank you, Pierce,” she said. “It's great. Here, I have something for you, too.” She pulled an envelope from her pocket.

    “Gift cards?” Pierce said. “Thank you, Matori. I don't know what I'll use some of these on, but I'll be sure to think of you every time I do.”

    “It's the thought that counts,” Matori said. “Also, I really needed to unload those. Merry Christmas to you, Pierce. Why don't you stay around for a while with us? Christmas coffee is the more, the merrier, after all.”

    Although Pierce felt awkward, especially considering the events that transpired in that room just a few days ago, he settled in with a Christmas cookie and another mug of coffee. After all, that was the spirit of Christmas. An ordinary Christmas, by all accounts, except four people in that building at that very moment knew the real story, of how Christmas almost didn't happen at all that year.

    And none of them would ever forget.

    END
    Last edited by Matori; 2nd January 2014 at 8:01 PM.

    "Poe was the first writer to write about main characters who were bad guys or who were mad guys, and those are some of my favorite stories."
    -Stephen King

    I write odd slice of life stories about Team Rocket. If that's your thing, give them a look:

    Alpha Male- behind every friendship is a story. Perspective contest fourth place winner.
    Secretary- A short and cynical tale of paperwork and sadism
    Survival- A novella about the unbreakable bonds between one man and his feline friend. 2011 Pokemon Big Bang story.


  9. #9
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    “Because you're Santa and know everything?” Pierce asked, surprised he figured it out so quickly.

    “Because I'm in Kanto, on the roof of a building in a remote mountain location, and you're wearing a Team Rocket uniform and no one seems to be bothered by it,” Santa replied. “It's not too hard of a conclusion to come to, really.”
    Even Santa can figure that out. :P

    “We can still hold him for ransom. Think of the potential mon-”

    “NO,” all three simultaneously said to Zager.
    Sorry Zager, no ransom for Santa. (LOL)

    I do like that Pierce is taking the initiative to have Santa get everything ready for Christmas. His reason for not wanting someone else to be disappointed like him is a good one.

    “Divide and conquer, Pierce. If we stay together, there's a chance we'll just be following the pack in circles. You're a spy, you should know that.” She motioned to Persian and walked off, Persian following behind her. “Good luck out there,” she called.

    Pierce smiled. As blunt as her statement was... she was right. Her stubbornness and independence were exactly why she was now not only a secretary and assistant to the boss, but a commander as well. And he couldn't help but admire her for that.
    I mentioned to you before that I quite like this little moment of Pierce respecting Matori there.

    The little backstory of how Zager got into science thanks to Santa was very nice. I chuckled at the mention of him blowing up a garage when he was young, haha.

    The part where Sebestian and Zager where whispering one another you don’t need to itcalized. The readers will figure out the two were talking among themselves and not wanting Santa to hear.

    You already showed me the battle and I still think the pacing of it is fine, considering battles usually are quick.

    Stantler extended a hoof and Persian tapped his paw to it. “Nyaa.”

    Having finished his exchange with Stantler, Persian hopped on the lead's back in front of Matori.

    “What... what was that?” Pierce asked.

    “I'm guessing Persian's thanking them, or asking them to fly safe, or... look, Pierce, I don't even think Giovanni knows what is going on with that cat half the time. Persian just... is,” she said, as the Stantler lifted off, and Pierce couldn't help but be inspired by Matori's words for some reason.
    I’m unsure of what exchange was that either, haha. Also another bit of Pierce being inspired by Matori I thought was cute.

    “And Pierce always pulls through for you,” Sebastian said. “Do you know how hard I fought to get him with my squad before he was finally assigned to you? You've got one of the best operatives in the region on your side.”

    Zager began to contemplate Pierce's words when a faint jingling and the clopping was audible in the distance.
    Shouldn’t the bold part be Sebastian?

    Matori, Pierce, Persian, Deldel, and the Stantler all met together on the roof, and shortly after they'd arrived, the sound of excited cheering could be heard.

    Zager's excited cheering, to be precise.
    Oh dear, haha.

    In the box was a digital camera. Not a simple point and shoot either, but a state of the art one, along with multiple lenses and bulbs, even a huge memory card to hold his photos. Pierce was a mix of excited and confused. He had always wanted a camera... his missions sent him to far flung parts he'd only dreamed of seeing, and even in places he thought he knew inside and out, he always found something new upon return. He used cameras on his assignments of course, but never cameras meant simply to capture an image.

    And yet until that night, it never occurred to him that there was something to enjoy after the mission. His experiences, not only from his work, but from the little moments inbetween. The memories, even the ones he thought inconsequential. And this camera was the key to appreciating all of it.
    I quite like this bit here.

    Heh thought it’s cute Giovanni knows it’s Santa that gave him the train set. Also haha I have an idea who gave the gift cards (and the winner ornament ) to Sebastian and Zager. :P

    This is a very enjoyable holiday read! The interactions between the different characters are great and ended on a heartwarming note. Great work!


    FFnet | Author's Profile| Archive of Our Own | Banner: Umi Mizuno
    I'm still writing, but probably not much Pokemon stuff at the moment. HAM!


  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Matori View Post
    Chapter 3



    Pierce stepped back immediately. “S-santa Claus? Are you really... him?”
    Pierce, with all the things you've seen, you should believe it.

    “Who else would I be? I'm in a red suit, my sleigh is right there in pieces, and if I don't make it home by Christmas Eve it's going to be ruined for everyone.”
    Whoa Santa, you're running Spock levels of sass here.

    “How do we know you're not an enemy pretending to be Santa?” Pierce asked.

    “Pierce, I know you take your job seriously and everything and believe me I'm grateful for that,” Matori said, “but I'm pretty sure our man here is the real deal. I can't see... anyone.. going to that much trouble-” she indicated his red suit, fluffy white beard, and rotund body with her free hand- “to trick us into believing St. Nick crashed on our roof.”

    “Listen to the young woman,” Santa replied. “I'm the real deal.”
    Matori, the voice of reason? I guess I actually can believe it, it's not that crazy to think of.

    Pierce lowered his Poke Ball and stepped back, and Matori followed suit, figuring if Pierce felt at ease she should as well.

    “Either way, you've got some questions to answer. Do you have any idea where you landed?” Pierce asked.

    “The roof of Team Rocket's Kanto headquarters,” Santa said quite plainly. “Of course I know.”

    “Because you're Santa and know everything?” Pierce asked, surprised he figured it out so quickly.

    “Because I'm in Kanto, on the roof of a building in a remote mountain location, and you're wearing a Team Rocket uniform and no one seems to be bothered by it,” Santa replied. “It's not too hard of a conclusion to come to, really.”
    Ahaha, oh wow Santa, watch that sass. You might hurt someone.

    “Oh,” Pierce said. “I think you can see, then, why this might be a problem. Normally people whose aircraft crash lands on our roof don't fare too well.”

    “They don't generally leave again, for one,” Zager interrupted. Sebastian, Matori, and Pierce all turned to look at Zager, shocked he'd tell Santa such a thing.

    “Excuse me, Mr. Claus- can I call you that?- I think we need to have some words with our elderly friend here, he seems to be going senile...” Matori grabbed Zager by the lapels of his lab coat then dragged him over to a corner on the roof, Pierce and Sebastian following close behind her while Persian watched the whole thing from a distance. “What are you thinking?”

    “Santa is a security threat and should be treated accordingly?” Zager said, grinning nervously.

    “We are not detaining Santa,” Matori said.
    I get the feeling Zager doesn't like Christmas much. Would I be right in saying that?

    This is just hysterical. I'm loving it.

    “I'm going to take the rare position of not agreeing with you, Doctor,” Pierce added. “There's a lot of things I've done, and am willing to do, in the name of Team Rocket but I draw the line at kidnapping the personification of the holiday spirit.”

    “He knows things now,” Zager said. “He's seen our base, he's seen us, we can't just let him go free after that.”

    “Isn't it established he already has anyway?” Sebastian interrupted Zager.

    “You mean someone let him get away before?” Zager said.

    “He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows if you've been bad or good, the naughty and nice list he checks twice, all of that lore? If Santa really wanted to try to do anything to us he would have a long time ago,” Sebastian explained.

    “We can still hold him for ransom. Think of the potential mon-”

    “NO,” all three simultaneously said to Zager.
    I don't even know what to say anymore. This is just too great. Really creative, too. I mean, it's not every day you see something about a villainous team dealing with Santa Claus.

    Giovanni had opted to stay overnight at a hotel after shopping, rather than try making it home that evening with piles of presents in tow. It was hardly his first choice; it was, after all, going to be hard to sleep without Persian curled up at the foot of the bed.

    Still, Persian was in good hands. As he made himself at home in his hotel room, he wondered what the cat and Matori were up to that moment...
    Oh, Giovanni, if you only knew. If you only knew.

    Matori, Zager, Sebastian, Pierce, Persian, and Santa were gathered together in Matori's office. Persian sat eating his long overdue meal as Pierce and Matori questioned him.

    “So explain to me again the circumstances of the accident?” Matori said.

    “We were flying over Viridian Forest, and a flock of Fearow startled the Stantler. The ones in the back are a little skittish- it's their first year on the team- and they jerked the rest of the team away from the sleigh. I managed to steer it to the mountains here in an attempt to lessen the impact of the fall...”

    “And you ended up here,” Pierce finished.

    Santa nodded. “Thank goodness you four found me, I'm not sure what I'd do otherwise.”

    “Thank that thing,” Sebastian growled, pointing at Persian. “The boss's cat can't keep his paws or snout out of others' business.” Persian looked up from his food and grumbled softly at Sebastian's complaint. “He stole a prized ornament of mine and the only reason we ended up on the roof in the first place was because we were trying to get it back.”
    I guess everyone should be grateful for the fact that nobody in Team Rocket knows how to take care of a cat except for Giovanni, huh?

    Matori refilled Santa's mug of cocoa and opened another candy cane, nibbling the end of it. “So the issue now is... how do we get you back home? Do you have any idea where the Stantler are, or if they'll be okay?”

    “The Stantler fly via psychic abilities,” Santa said, “so I have no doubt they're alright. They're also unlikely to have gone far, considering they've been trained to stay as close to me as possible in the event of separation.”

    “And you mentioned you were attacked over Viridian Forest, correct?” Pierce asked.

    “That's correct,” Santa replied.

    “It's unlikely they've left that area, then,” Sebastian replied. “Outside of Viridian Forest on one side is obviously the city, and on the other, well, it's been developed over the years so much that there's little there of interest to a Stantler. Viridian Forest, however.. they have everything they need for the night. Food, shelter, and safety.”
    Good logic there.

    “We talked it over,” Matori said, “and we're going to get you back home. Obviously we'll need to find the Stantler for that to happen.”

    “Oh dear,” Santa said.
    I think I would probably feel the same way if Matori told me something like that.

    When did they talk it over?

    “Is there a problem?” Pierce asked, noticing Santa's distress.

    “I'm incredibly grateful for all of you helping me back home and not taking me hostage or anything like that-” Zager, who'd been fairly quiet since being scolded by the three earlier, shifted nervously in his chair at this- “but I'm on quite a tight schedule and this is setting me back quite a bit.”

    “Christmas itself isn't for another four days though,” Matori said.

    “Maybe not, but even though this was just a practice run, I still have work to do at the workshop before the big day. If I don't get back before sunrise, I don't know what it's going to do to my schedule. Even if you find my Stantler, they can only fly so fast, and in this business, seconds count.”
    Just a minor criticism - I notice you've been using "the big day" a lot. I think you should mix it up a little with some different words.

    “Your sleigh is still a wreck, too,” Sebastian added. “So that means on the agenda.. we have to find the Stantler and repair your sleigh.”
    Luckily we have two people who can fix that.

    “Precisely,” Santa said. “If any of you have any idea how to accomplish all that in time, I'm all ears, but a delay for Christmas seems more and more likely at this point...”

    “No,” Pierce said, standing up. “I'm not going to allow any more delays.”

    Matori's face lit up. This was the first time since he'd learned earlier about his postponed mission she'd seen him full of life like this.
    More like the first time I've ever seen Pierce like this. I'm totally surprised, but I think it can fit him.

    Is that some ship tease from Matori's part directed at Pierce? It's pretty cute.

    “I know how it feels to spend time preparing for a big day and then have it put off by circumstances outside your control, and I'm not about to see someone else have to deal with that disappointment,” Pierce said. “There's four of us, and we have the man-” he looked at Matori and quickly corrected himself “-personpower, sorry, Miss Matori, to pull it off.”
    Huh, nice touch there on Pierce's manners.

    “That's what I thought,” Matori mumbled.

    “Professor Sebastian, Doctor Zager, can you two fix up the sleigh? Matori, Persian, and I can search the forest for the Stantler.”

    Sebastian nodded, then elbowed Zager.

    “Well.. it is in the spirit of Christmas,” Zager said, realizing it'd give his mind some much-needed stimulation.
    I'm not sure I want to see what Zager will turn that sleigh into.

    “I'd be happy to help find the Stantler,” Matori added. “Persian?”

    Persian walked over to join the group and meowed. Matori wasn't sure Persian was fully aware of what was going on, but it was good enough.

    A smile crossed Pierce's face, the smug kind he usually saved for missions. “Then let's get to it,” he said.
    Oh, I bet Persian is excited to get to go on another mission. As excited as Pierce, dare I say.

    The group was gathered outside the doors of headquarters, Pierce using his hologloves to illustrate the plan. “So as mentioned before, Matori, Persian, and I are going to split up in Viridian Forest to retrieve the Stantler. Matori, do you still have the link to the Doctor's thermal imaging app?”
    Maybe it's just me, but not everyone is going to know about Pierce's hologram rings. I think you should have described them instead of just naming them.

    Matori nodded.

    “Good, install it now.” He felt strange giving orders to Matori- usually it was the other way around- but it was clear his superior was okay with this. “There's been a system of hidden cameras installed in Viridian Forest for years for extra security outside the city, and we can use the app to pinpoint the location of the Stantler. I'll send you Stantler's heat signature from my files, I know it's in here somewhere. Persian, you're going to reassure the Stantler it's safe to come along with us. You can do that, right?”

    “Nya.”

    “I have no idea what that meant but we'll assume that meant yes, otherwise, I'm sure we'll manage. Just be useful, please.” Pierce found himself wishing the agents he'd worked with ages ago, and their talking Meowth, were on hand now- how he missed being able to actually have Pokemon he could understand.
    Persian is cute. I hope he knows how to do his part.

    Nice call out to BW TRio.

    “Purnyanya.”

    “Right, right, thank you,” he said. “Do we have everything, Matori?” he asked. Matori lifted a shoulder bag filled with their gear for the forest.

    “We'll meet back up with you later, hopefully not too long from now,” he said to Zager and Sebastian, nodding at them. He strapped a jetpack to his back, and Matori followed suit, scooping up Persian to carry him to the forest on their trip over. Persian was none too thrilled when he realized what Matori planned to do but behaved himself anyway. “Let's go.” He switched the jetpack on, Matori doing so as well, and the two lifted off, annoyed cat in tow.
    Wow, Matori is strong if she can carry Persian like that.

    Zager watched them depart, then turned to Santa. “Err.. about earlier... I hope there are no hard feelings, I was just being strictly business. Nothing personal, you know.”

    “If you say so,” Santa said.

    “I may have been drunk when I said it,” Zager added. “Anyway, Claus... we're going to be repairing your sleigh, as you know, and I was just wondering how you felt about after-market parts.”

    Santa's eyes lit up. “Tell me more,” he said.
    I bet Santa doesn't exactly buy his excuse.

    But after-market parts? Between that and Santa's reaction to the suggestion, I think I'm going to like what's about to happen.

    The landing in Viridian Forest was rough , to say the least, at least for Matori. Despite her occasional field work, jetpacks were still a new thing to her, and so she lacked the grace in reaching the ground Pierce displayed.

    “Show off,” she muttered, as Pierce turned off his jetpack and landed without so much as a twitch, in contrast to her awkward stumbling about. She gently lowered Persian to the ground and the cat glared at her with an annoyed meow.
    Everything in this scene makes me smile.

    Pierce switched on his tablet. “We're in luck,” he said. Matori took a look at hers too, and Pierce looked over her shoulder to point to the camera feeds. “Pull up that one there, see it?” A mass of brightly colored blobs was huddled amidst the otherwise cool-colored landscape.

    “Do you think that's the Stantler?”

    “It must be, they're pack Pokemon, and they'd stick together in an unfamiliar environment like this.”

    “Should we split up to find them?”
    Wait, if they know where the Stantler are, why do they need to "find" them? Do you mean that they could split up to reach them?

    “I'm not sure that's the best idea,” Pierce said. “At this hour, who knows what kind of stuff is lurking in this forest. With all respect, Matori, it's best you stick with me.”

    Matori thought for a moment, then pulled a flashlight out of the pack and tossed the rest to Pierce. “I'm going to split off anyway and contact you if I see anything. I didn't get the job I have now hiding away from danger, you know.”
    Awesome.

    “But-”

    “Divide and conquer, Pierce. If we stay together, there's a chance we'll just be following the pack in circles. You're a spy, you should know that.” She motioned to Persian and walked off, Persian following behind her. “Good luck out there,” she called.

    Pierce smiled. As blunt as her statement was... she was right. Her stubbornness and independence were exactly why she was now not only a secretary and assistant to the boss, but a commander as well. And he couldn't help but admire her for that.
    I'm loving her so much here.

    Zager and Sebastian were hard at work in the workshop, straightening the bent runners of the sleigh.

    “I've never even seen a metal quite like this,” Zager said to Santa, who was sitting in a chair watching the two of them work and looking confused by all the strange equipment around him.

    “That's because it doesn't exist anymore,” Santa said. “It's a rare metal, only existed in the North Pole. Mined from a mountain there. Fastest metal on snow and ice there is, though.”

    “Rare metal, you say?” Zager said, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.
    Oh man, I just knew he would react like that when I saw "rare metal."

    “Did you miss the part where he said it didn't exist anymore?” Sebastian said. “I see where you're going with this, and I'm afraid it's only going to ultimately end in disappointment and embarrassment.”

    “That's where a lot of my efforts end up anyway, it's not like that's anything new,” Zager shot back. “Besides, I was asking for science.”
    Oh God, this is just too hilarious. I love every bit of it.

    Sebastian was about to say something to Zager about how bad it looked for the two of them to be arguing around Santa Claus, but stopped when he noticed Santa laughing.

    “You haven't changed a bit, have you, Gabriel?” Santa said. “Still have that spirit of discovery to you from when you were just a little boy writing me letters begging for all kinds of equipment years ago, I see,”

    “You... you remember?” Zager said. “I never thought those letters actually went to you, even when I...” he realized the awkwardness of what he was about to say, “believed in you, not that I don't now, haha...”
    Of course he remembers, Zager.

    And he still believes in Santa Claus, doesn't he? Well, considering Santa is real here...

    “Keep digging,” Sebastian muttered.

    “Of course I remember, I never forget the children I bring toys to,” Santa said. “It all started when you asked for that Natural History of Kanto book, and after that, your lists got more creative every year.”

    “If you hadn't brought me that science set the very next year... I think I wouldn't even be here, fixing your sleigh now,” Zager said, the memories rushing back to him. “After I read that book, I wanted to see how things worked firsthand, and so I asked you for a kit... when I started doing experiments with that kit, on Christmas Day, as soon as it came out of the box, I knew that was what I was going to do with my life. I wouldn't know what I wanted if you hadn't come through for me,” he said.
    Oh this is just precious, seriously.

    “I'm going to go out on a limb and guess working for an international criminal organization wasn't part of your initial life plans as a tyke,” Santa said.

    “I got a little too curious about how things worked and ended up breaching some of those pesky ethics codes at the university,” Zager said. “My imagination isn't restrained by such barriers around here, I've found.”

    “Just like when you nearly found yourself on my naughty list for blowing up half the garage as a kid when you were eleven,” Santa replied. “I was right, you haven't changed at all.”
    You're killing me here, I can't handle how funny and adorable Zager is being right now.

    Zager laughed nervously, then pulled his welding mask back down and returned to his work.
    How does he wear a mask over his monocle?
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 5th January 2014 at 6:58 AM.

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  11. #11
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    Pierce looked down at his tablet, tapping through all the camera feeds of Viridian Forest. Most of the results only brought up what looked like typical night forest dwellers- flocks of Hoothoot and Noctowl, as well as Spinarak and Ariados, all keeping a watchful eye from the branches of the trees.
    Nice scene-setting.

    “Here, little Stantler... come out, come out, whereever you are...” He picked up his phone and gave Matori a call.

    “Did you find anything yet?”

    “Not in my general area, no, but you might try looking closer at some of those screens. I think there might be a lead on the one in the top right of Zone 3.”

    Pierce flipped through the thumbnails of the camera feeds until he found the one Matori referred to. A brightly colored mass seemed to be taking up part of the frame upon closer inspection, in a motion that seemed to be huddling together of some kind.
    This is a cute scene, but I think there could be a bit more clarification on who is talking. I got a little bit confused on those two middle lines until I reached the last one.

    Thanks to Sebastian and Zager's hard work, the repairs on Santa's sleigh had been completed. Santa seemed pleasantly surprised by the work.

    “How did you fix this sleigh so quickly?” he asked the two of them.

    “It's a fairly routine repair for us,” Zager replied. “I've seen worse than this, believe me. When an average day on the job is patching up robots and submarines, nothing is impossible.”
    Nice, Zager, nice. Looks like his attitude about Christmas is starting to change, because he seems much more upbeat.

    Santa ran his hands over the now spotless carriage and runners of the sleigh, noticing that Sebastian had even managed to match the red hue of the paint perfectly.

    “How much do I owe you for this?” he asked the two of them. Zager wasted no time in opening his mouth to speak, but Sebastian, noticing this, quickly jumped in to speak before him.

    “Nothing, we'd never think of charging someone like Father Christmas for some repairs to his sleigh, that's ridiculous!” He pulled off his wire-rimmed glasses and began nervously polishing them on his labcoat, then he slipped them back on. “One minute, I need to speak to my colleague about what we need to do next...” He pulled Zager aside.

    “Zager what are you doing we owe him nothing for this and you know it,” he whispered.

    “He's Santa Claus! The old elf must be loaded!”
    ...that is literally the funniest part yet. I'm dying here.

    That last line may be the funniest thing I've read in months.

    “And anyone's going to believe Santa gave us money? I mean do you know how that story is going to sound?”

    “If we'd just gone ahead with my plan-” Zager protested.

    “-Your plan was never an option,” Sebastian said. He turned back to Santa and smiled. “Um... I think the Doctor will take it from here,” he said.

    Zager glared at Sebastian and cleared his throat. “Ah, yes, Claus, I believe I mentioned the possibility of aftermarket parts for your sleigh? The other two are still tracking down your Stantler, evidently, so we can discuss- and install- said parts in the meantime. Now, you mentioned being on a tight schedule... I can install something to speed up your return trip quite easily.”

    “Tell me more,” Santa said.
    Santa would like an upgrade, wouldn't he? This is going to be great.

    Matori's suspicion was right. As Pierce neared the northeast edge of Zone 3 of Viridian Forest, he could hear a distant jingle; and in the faint light provided by his LED flashlight, what looked like a herd made itself visible.

    “Stantler,” he mumbled to himself. He quietly crept up behind them, his Poke Ball drawn from his belt and at the ready in case any of them startled and tried to attack. When he felt he was a safe distance from the group, he quietly spoke up.

    “Stantler? I'm here to help you find your master...”

    The shiny leader of the group turned around and sniffed the air curiously, then made a noise to the others that seemed to indicate safety. Pierce breathed a sigh of relief as it approached him, the rest of the pack following his lead. He dropped his Poke Ball and extended his hand as a sign he meant no harm. “That's right, just follow me out of here...”
    Huh, I didn't expect Pierce to have a good way with Pokemon. After all, the anime never had him interact with any outside of Meowth, but I kind of like the idea.

    The leader sniffed his hand, and for a moment Pierce was sure their work in the forest was done, when the shiny, followed by the whole pack, reared up with a jolt.

    “Easy, easy, I'm here to- oh, no.”

    Pierce heard a distinct cawing overhead. He looked up, his sense of dread growing when he saw what was in the sky above him.

    Fearow, with huge, pointed beaks and messy wings, as well as some smaller Spearow here and there. And when they were out at this hour, that only meant one thing...
    Uh oh. This won't go well.

    Hadn't Santa mentioned a flock of them startling the Stantler and knocking them out of the sky? It didn't take long for Pierce to realize this was the same flock from earlier, and for whatever reason, they were still angry with the Stantler.

    Pierce drew his Poke Ball again, being careful not to cause the Stantler further distress. It was going to be hard for the Stantler to protect themselves harnessed together like that, and he couldn't simply let them get injured from the Fearow's attacks.

    “Absol, I need your help!” Absol emerged, in a flash of red light, from the ball, brandishing his horn and growling upon his arrival. His fluffy white mane blew in the chilly winter breeze.
    Ooh, good choice of Pokemon for him.

    Pierce watched as the Fearow descended, unsure if releasing Absol simply served to anger them further. As the Stantler flailed their hooves about in confusion, he braced himself for what might be a rough battle.

    “Hit as many of those Fearow as you can with Razor Wind, Absol!” Pierce ordered, and Absol nodded at him with a little bark, then began generating a wind with his horn.

    “Sooooooooooooooool!” Once the wind was fully powered up, Absol released it with a howl.

    ~

    Matori was on her way back to Pierce when she heard Absol's howl.

    Absol aren't exactly native to Kanto, she realized. But Pierce has one so that means...

    She quickly picked up her pace to a run, Persian speeding along behind her. Oh he did it this time, didn't he?
    Yes, Matori, he sure did.

    I'm liking the gradual increase in pace here.

    Pierce didn't expect the Fearow to have backup. “Seriously? What could these Stantler have done to make them so angry?” he asked Absol, who was growing weary from endless Razor Winds. The Stantler continued thrashing and Pierce wasn't sure how much longer he could hold the vicious birds off.

    One of the Fearow, a large one that seemed to be the flock's leader, dove in towards Pierce and Absol, two of his fellow Fearow flanking him on either side.
    I understand that this is referring to other Fearow, but the whole "Pierce didn't expect the Fearow to have backup" line doesn't really seem to go anywhere. I think you should add some more description of more Fearow arriving.

    “Absol, Night Slash the one in front!”

    Absol leapt into the air and slashed the Fearow with the scythe-shaped horn on his head. This one reared back and squawked in pain, his two bodyguards now rushing Absol with apparent intent to get revenge for their injured leader. Pierce braced himself as the two closed in, wondering if Absol could deal with both of them at once. His last few Razor Winds had been more and more laborious and he realized fast that Absol was likely running out of energy for that move.

    “Delibird, Blizzard.”

    The snow in the area intensified and Pierce noticed some of it hitting only the Fearow hardest. A few froze and fell out of the air, as Matori stepped out of a huge flurry of snow and ice, Deldel flying alongside her, to approach Pierce. In one hand she held yet another candy cane, this one having been sucked on to a fine-pointed tip. She glared at Pierce and he shivered a little, wondering how much trouble he'd be in later.
    Oh wow, nice. Good to see someone actually write Matori doing something... and Delibird gets some action too! Perfect!

    The injured Fearow leader, still with a little fight left in him, now turned his attention to the fat red and white penguin in front of him. “Feeeeeeeeear!”

    “Delee! Lee!” Deldel waved a wing to show she wasn't afraid of her opponent.

    “If you want it done right, send a woman,” Matori muttered, and she thrust her hand forward. .“Delibird, hit it with an Ice Beam!”
    Damn, Matori, go kick some ***.

    Deldel opened her beak and let out a thin, pale beam. The beam hit Fearow square in the tip of the beak and not long after, ice had spread over the bird's body. The frozen Fearow dropped out of the sky, and the Stantler, as well as Pierce, scrambled out of the way to dodge it.

    Matori stared the two others, who'd somehow survived Delibird's Blizzard attack, down. “You two can leave and take your flock with you, or you answer to us.”
    If only Matori was this awesome in canon, seriously.

    That attack was described very well, too.

    The Fearow paused for a moment, then started laughing at Matori. “Rowrowrowrowrow.”

    “I think they want to answer to us,” Pierce said.

    “I figured as much,” Matori quipped, then sized them up. “You take the one on the right, I'll take the one on the left.”

    “Roger that,” Pierce said. The two stood behind their companions, prepared to finish things once and for all.

    “Absol, hit that one with a Sucker Punch!” Pierce ordered, pointing to his target. Absol leapt up towards the Fearow.

    “Aerial Ace,” Matori added, and the Delibird took off.

    In the blink of an eye, Absol had delivered a powerful swipe of his claw, and Deldel her beak, against their foes.

    Both Fearow fell to the ground, weakened, barely seconds after receiving their blows.

    “Deldel. One more Blizzard. Just in case any more of them-” she looked at the flock, which had been pared down to just three or four Spearow and Fearow now- “get any ideas.”

    Deldel gave her a little salute with one raised wing and unleashed another Blizzard from her tail bag. The flock of bird Pokemon immediately dispersed.
    Whoa...

    Excellent description of the action, by the way.

    “Remind me never to get on your bad side,” Pierce muttered.

    “Consider what you just saw your reminder,” Matori said, and Pierce blushed, mortified she'd heard his aside. “Are the Stantler alright?”
    Yes, Pierce, that is EXACTLY what I'd think. And damn, she takes no ****.

    Pierce looked over to the huddled pack, shivering with fear from what they'd just encountered. “They're a little shaken, but none of them are harmed too badly. We might need to treat some of them with Potions, at the very worst.”

    “Good. The real question now is how to get them back. We have to make them trust us enough to be willing to fly with us...” Matori looked down at Persian, who'd been sitting and grooming himself the whole time. Thanks for all your help, she thought, annoyed. “Persian, I know you trust us... can you ask the Stantler to for us? Please?”

    “Purnyaa?” Persian pricked his ears up and looked at Matori, curious.

    “If you tell those Stantler we're their friends and we want to help them get back to their master, I'll give you a nice bowl of cream once we get back.”
    Oh this is a nice idea. Very imaginative.

    “Nya!” Upon the promise of his favorite treat, Persian shot to his feet and made his way to the head Stantler.

    “Nyaa nyaa, purnya. Nyanyaanyanya. Pur pur?”

    “What is he saying?” Pierce asked.

    “How should I know?” Matori replied. “I don't speak Persian.”
    Hah. That made me laugh.

    “Stant stant, ler stant,” the shiny Stantler leader said. “Ler stantler stant.”

    Persian turned back around and meowed happily. “Purnya!”

    “Did they... agree?”

    “Nyaa!” Persian said, his tail wagging. “Nya nya, purrpurrnya.”

    “I don't know much about cat behavior, but I'm guessing that's a yes?” Pierce found the entire exchange quite absurd, but then most things involving Persian tended on the whole to be absurd to him.
    I smiled at Pierce here.


    “I'm guessing Persian's thanking them, or asking them to fly safe, or... look, Pierce, I don't even think Giovanni knows what is going on with that cat half the time. Persian just... is,” she said, as the Stantler lifted off, and Pierce couldn't help but be inspired by Matori's words for some reason.
    Yes, cats sure are inspiring. He's the real boss of Team Rocket :P

    Santa admired his improved sleigh as Zager walked him through the new tech on it. “It needed speeding up for your trip back so... I installed these,” he said, pointing to some huge mechanical devices on either side of the sleigh's carriage. “Jetpack boosters.”

    “Those are a little big to be jetpacks. Wouldn't rocket boosters be a little more accurate?” Santa asked.
    I don't know what's funnier, the tricked-out sleigh or Santa actually knowing the technical terms for this machinery.

    “We try to use 'jetpacks' around here for anything of that type. It cuts down on a lot of the confusion,” Sebastian happily replied.

    “What Sebastian said. There's been more than a few Who's on First conversations caused by using the other word,” Zager added.
    You know, as hysterical as this is I can see the misunderstandings happening very, very clearly.

    Santa thought on this briefly and saw Zager's point. “Fair enough.”

    “As I was saying, the jetpack boosters on the carriage are modified versions of the ones Pierce and Matori used to fly to Viridian Forest... they're capable of flying great lengths, very quickly, on very little fuel. These have a better range than the typical jetpacks used by agents, since I modified them to propel a sleigh containing one Claus and a bag of toys, but I'm still unsure it's enough to fly entirely on them back to the North Pole, so I'd suggest flying primarily on Stantler power until you absolutely need the boost. There's a button installed into the carriage to turn them on and off,” Zager said, pointing to a small green button marked BOOSTERS.
    ...he gave Santa a turbo button. Brilliant.

    “Now, continuing with our cockpit improvements... your Stantler may know the way, yes, but these improvements were not only installed with the trip back in mind, but an ounce of prevention for future trips to come. If you find yourself separated from your pack again, I've installed a GPS hologram to help you pinpoint your exact location.”

    Zager pushed the GPS button on the carriage, and a floating hologram screen materialized. “It runs on solar power so all you have to do is leave your sleigh out in the sun for a few hours. I'd say five or six hours will give it enough juice for several trips. Are there any questions?”
    Okay, that's pretty cool.

    Santa shook his head no, impressed and a little overwhelmed by all of this.

    “Good. Now I suppose all that's left is for the other two to return with the Stantler... I hope they didn't get lost out there.”

    “Zager,” Sebastian said. “It's Pierce out there. I know nothing about Matori's skills as navigation is concerned, but Pierce is one of yours, shouldn't you have a little more faith in him?”

    “I suppose so,” Zager said. “It just feels like so many things have gone wrong for so many of us in such a short span of time.”

    “And Pierce always pulls through for you,” Sebastian said. “Do you know how hard I fought to get him with my squad before he was finally assigned to you? You've got one of the best operatives in the region on your side.”
    I like this. There's a little competition between their groups, but it's clear they respect each other.

    Zager began to contemplate Sebastian's words when a faint jingling and the clopping was audible in the distance.

    “Jingles and hooves-” Sebastian said.

    “-and something that sounds like arguing,” Zager added

    “I know those sounds from anywhere,” Santa said.

    “What, the arguing?” Zager said. “That happens when you get two personalities that are so different together, I'm afraid. Believe me, this laboratory is living proof of that.”
    Oh, Zager, you wiseguy.

    “No, the sounds of my Stantler,” Santa said, laughing. “I think they made it back safe.”

    Pierce walked into the lab. Matori followed close behind him, followed by Deldel and Persian. “The Stantler are in the hall,” Pierce said. “I didn't think they'd fit in this lab.”

    “Even if they did there's no way I'm letting them in here,” Sebastian muttered. “I've had enough trouble with Pokemon in this lab for one day.”
    I cannot blame you, Sebastian. Good job learning from your mistakes.

    “Excellent, excellent!” Santa said.

    “Apologies for the delay,” Matori said, “we ran into some trouble with the Fearow.”

    “Most likely those Fearow were migrating for the winter,” Sebastian said. “The Stantler's flight interrupted their trip, and they didn't take too well to it. Nick, a word of advice, you might want to alter your flight plans accordingly. All the tech in the world that Zager puts on that thing won't keep you safe from the wrath of Fearow and Spearow.”
    Thanks for explaining why the Fearow got upset. I was concerned you weren't.

    “Well, there's some that could, but I'm not sure I should be just handing that out to civilians-”

    “-Zager, shut up.”
    LOL, I was thinking the same thing about that equipment.

    “We'll need to treat a few of the Stantler's injuries from the Fearow first, but they weren't too badly hurt. They were even able to give us a ride back home. Professor, do you have any Potion on hand?” Pierce asked.

    Sebastian went over to a small cabinet and pulled out a purple spray bottle. “Here, this should be a new one. See how that works.”

    Pierce took the Potion from Sebastian and went into the hallway where the Stantler were waiting. One by one, he sprayed it on the injured Stantler, who gratefully nuzzled and licked him as they healed.
    Oh, that's kind of cute.

    “They're looking better now,” he said to Santa. “I guess it's time for us to go then.”

    “How are we going to get all these Stantler on the roof?” Sebastian asked.

    “The same way we got them here,” Matori replied. “On the elevator.”

    “That makes sense, but there's still the matter of getting the sleigh up there,” Sebastian said. Zager immediately grinned and turned to Santa, a mischievous gleam in his monocle.

    “Well, Claus. What do you say the three of us take your new and improved sleigh for a little test drive?'
    Oh God, where is this going. Nowhere good I bet.

    Matori, Pierce, Persian, Deldel, and the Stantler all met together on the roof, and shortly after they'd arrived, the sound of excited cheering could be heard.

    Zager's excited cheering, to be precise.

    “Well, someone's having fun,” Pierce said, smiling for the first time since Matori had spoken to him earlier.

    Matori noticed this and smiled a little herself. “He really is, isn't he?”

    The rocket-propelled sleigh moved in for a landing on the roof and the four and the Stantler quickly moved out of the way. The runners hit the concrete roof and Zager jumped out, looking like a child who just received every item on his list, even the impossible ones.
    That is exactly what I was thinking Zager was acting like. He had a good Christmas this year.

    “Yes,” he said, “it's clear that the additions I made to the sleigh worked perfectly...”

    “You took the sleigh for a joyride didn't you?” Matori asked Zager, her eyes shifted in the doctor's direction.

    “Claus asked what he owed us... Sebastian wouldn't let me accept money, so...”
    Zager hasn't grown up much, has he? I bet he'd do this as a kid too.

    “That's all I need to know,” Matori said. She extended a hand to Santa. “I suppose this is goodbye for now,” she said.

    “Not quite yet. I have something for all of you,” he said. He opened a hatch on the back of his sleigh and pulled out a bag. All four of them immediately knew what it meant.

    “You're giving us... presents?” Zager asked, surprised. “I mean, not to sound like I'm turning them down or anything, but I'm pretty sure all of us make the 'naughty' list in our sleep.”

    “Ah, but I take things on a case-by-case basis, my boy! I'm neutral when it comes to such matters... Christmas joy doesn't take sides, after all.” He took the first package out of his pack. “For Gabriel, who turned in all his logs in a timely fashion this year,” he said, then handed a box trimmed in red foil with a green bow to Zager.
    Wow, did they get lucky. I guess even Santa Claus isn't immune to a little favor.

    “Yeah, yeah, you don't need to push it too,” he muttered to Santa.

    “This one is for Sebastian, who didn't kill Zager this year.”

    “That's an achievement worthy of the 'nice' list?” Matori asked under her breath.
    I laughed at that one.

    Sebastian accepted his package from Santa, thanking him.

    “For Matori, who's always there when she's needed and the best friend anyone could ever have.”

    Matori blushed and accepted hers, which came with a small package tagged “Deldel” attached. Deldel pulled it off with her beak and tucked it in her pack, then chirped happily.
    Aww, that's cute.

    “For Persian, a good kitty,” Santa said, pulling out a red rhinestone collar and fastening it around Persian's neck- Persian beamed at his stylish new accessory, and purred happily, proud of himself.
    Oh, of course Persian would love that kind of thing. They'll have a lot to tell Giovanni, though...

    “Finally... for Pierce, who always tries his hardest, and always brings people together to work together to get things done like no one else can.”

    Is... is that true? Pierce wondered. Am I really that important? Pierce extended his hands to accept his present. “Th-thank you, I just do my job-”

    “Well, there's only one Pierce, right, son?” Santa said. “You're you, and that's what matters. Now,” Santa said, reaching into his bag for one more item and turning back to Matori, “this is for your boss-”
    Nice Pierce appreciation there.

    And damn, even Giovanni got something?

    “-How do you know anything about that?” Matori asked quickly, reacting with her instinctual suspicion.

    “Don't you remember what your fellow glasses-wearer said earlier?” Santa asked. “The whole song is right, I know everything. And I know it wouldn't be right to leave without leaving him something, not after his cat and assistant got something from me.” He passed her a rather large package. “If he says anything, just let him know I'm sorry for not coming through when he was 10, and I hope this makes up for it.”
    Oh, now this story about ten year old Giovanni I need to know.

    Matori stared at the package. Sure enough, Giovanni's name was on the tag, but the FROM blank was left empty, just as it was for everyone else's.

    “I'll be sure to do that,” she replied. “Well, good luck,” she said to him, as he harnessed the Stantler to the sleigh, then jumped in and pulled flying goggles down over his eyes.

    “And the merriest of Christmases to all of you,” Santa said, taking off, and waving at all of them. “And to all a good night!” The group watched as Santa's sleigh vanished into the night sky.

    “I see he didn't waste time turning on those boosters,” Sebastian observed. “Totally ignoring what you warned him.”

    “Oh, don't worry. He's got enough fuel for the trip back even if he leaves them on,” Zager said. “I was just pretending to be responsible back in there when I told him all that.”

    “At least you admit it for once,” Sebastian said.
    Zager would be exactly the type to do that.

    “Well, that's that, then,” Matori said. “What do all of you say we meet back in my office to unwrap gifts. I'll make some hot cocoa for all of us.”

    ~

    Back in Matori's office, the sun rose over them as another day began, and the group looked at their early presents from Santa.

    “These... these are what he gave me so many years ago, as a child,” Zager said, looking in awe at his presents, a vintage science kit and a book. Both, despite their age, appeared to be in perfect, mint condition. The book bore the title Natural History of Kanto, an ornate illustration of an Aerodactyl splashed across the cover, and Zager held it protectively on his lap. Sebastian's present was somewhat simpler- a set of DVDs of various biology lectures from some of Kanto and Johto's most respected researchers, and Matori opened her package to find a state of the art espresso machine... along with another package of candy canes.
    Good choices, all of them.

    “I must say, the jolly old elf does have an excellent sense of timing. I used my last one in this mug of cocoa,” she commented, before ripping into the box and putting yet another candy cane into her mouth. “Well Pierce, are you going to open yours?”

    Pierce stared at his box. “Yeah, I suppose I am, I've just been thinking.”

    “A dangerous pastime,” Zager said. “You get ideas that way, you know.” Pierce chuckled politely at Zager's joke, then pulled the ends of the bows.
    Aha, oh wow Zager. The only thing worse you could have said would be to compare him to you.

    In the box was a digital camera. Not a simple point and shoot either, but a state of the art one, along with multiple lenses and bulbs, even a huge memory card to hold his photos. Pierce was a mix of excited and confused. He had always wanted a camera... his missions sent him to far flung parts he'd only dreamed of seeing, and even in places he thought he knew inside and out, he always found something new upon return. He used cameras on his assignments of course, but never cameras meant simply to capture an image.

    And yet until that night, it never occurred to him that there was something to enjoy after the mission. His experiences, not only from his work, but from the little moments inbetween. The memories, even the ones he thought inconsequential. And this camera was the key to appreciating all of it.
    I love that touch to Pierce's character! It's excellent!

    “Amazing,” Pierce said. “All of you, get together, I want to try this out.”

    Matori, Zager, Sebastian, and Persian moved over to the couch across from where Pierce sat, on the other side of the coffee table, squeezing in a little uncomfortably. It was clear Zager was none too thrilled by the prospect of having his photo taken at this hour. Pierce pushed the button when he realized he'd probably have to plug the charger cord in until the battery had a full charge in it. To his surprise, the camera switched on immediately.

    “I know I'll never forget what we did tonight, but I want to make sure none of you do either,” he said, setting the camera to the timer function and laying it on the top of the couch, then running over to pose just over Matori's shoulder in the frame. The timer beeped, the flash went off, and when Pierce returned to check the result, another rare smile came to his face upon seeing the result.

    Because that night, what some might see as purely a series of chance occurences brought the four of them together like never before. All because of one accident Santa had...
    Oh wow, I think I felt a tear come to my eye. Really good work there.

    But the more he thought about it, who said it was an accident? After all, it was established Santa knew how Zager got started on his path to become a scientist... and Matori's exact position within the Team, not to mention whatever it was Giovanni wanted but didn't get for his tenth Christmas... if Santa knew not only if someone had been naughty or nice, but their innermost desires...

    Well, who was to say this wasn't an accident? Who was to say that perhaps Santa had managed to make all of the night's events transpire as well?
    Huh, good thought there...

    No stop that, things are getting weird, Pierce thought. The doctor did warn you this kind of thing could happen from thinking.
    That was really funny. I love it.

    Coincidence or not, though, Pierce knew one thing. He'd gone into this day having a hard time understanding the Christmas spirit, and in just a few short and exciting hours, found himself knowing exactly what it meant.

    “Well Pierce? How did it turn out?” Matori asked.

    “It's great,” Pierce replied.

    The four got to finishing their cocoa, discussing the previous events well into the earliest morning hours. Finally, Matori realized it was time to send them all on their ways, or questions would inevitably be asked.

    “And for the record, none of you tell the boss what happened, understood? Because that was way too weird and completely unbelievable. Zager, I can promise you for one that if you tell him, he'll just think you were drinking too much again.”
    LOL.

    But what about Persian's new collar, though? Won't he wonder where it came from?

    Zager looked around the room nervously. “Right, don't want that now do we,” he said, remembering Matori's earlier promise to ask him the story behind his denial earlier and that she'd never made good on it.
    These little flashes of humor are just great.

    Later on that day, Giovanni returned to his office, to find an anxious Persian outside the door- sent back by Matori upon her finding he was on his way back from the previous night's excursion- and sporting a collar. “Oh, did Matori go shopping for you while I was gone too? It's a little early for presents, if you ask me- what is that?” A large package sat on his desk, wrapped nicely with a little bow.

    “Must be from a Secret Santa.” Upon the mention of “Santa” Persian's ears perked up and he meowed.
    Oh, Persian is just too adorable. I can't stand it.

    Nice explanation of Giovanni's reasoning to justify Persian's collar, too.

    “Is it?” he asked Persian. “That's odd, I don't recall anything like that happening. Matori must have signed me up without knowing, if she's not the giver herself. It can wait until Christmas to be opened, I suppose.”

    Persian meowed again, resigned to not being able to communcate with the human, and licked his paw.
    Aww.

    EPILOGUE: Christmas Morning

    It was what seemed, by all accounts, to simply be a normal Christmas morning at headquarters. The few who stayed arranged exchanges, and Matori hurried back up from the science wing, having completed the first of her duties that morning.

    “Apologies for my lateness, sir, I was... taking care of some important matters,” she said, entering Giovanni's office nearly out of breath. She quickly got to preparing Christmas coffee for the two of them, from a special blend of beans she'd arranged specifically for the holiday.

    “It's quite alright, I was opening this present myself, and I must say, you truly outdid yourself this year, Matori. You really didn't have to do this.”

    Matori was confused for a moment, but then she saw, propped up against Giovanni's desk, a huge box containing a train set. Not just any train set... but a vintage one. Santa's present, she thought. He must have waited until today to open it... She remembered what Santa had told her to pass along to him if he asked, but then remembered her order to the others not to tell him. That included her.
    A train set, huh? I really do want to know the story about that.

    “Oh... um... well, I have to be honest, I didn't give you that...”

    “Whoever did must know me well,” he said. “I'd asked for that, many Christmases ago, as a boy, and for whatever reason, I got the OTHER train set... I never let my mother hear the end of it, believe me.”
    Something about that is highly amusing to me. I can just picture the young Giovanni described here.

    Matori passed a freshly brewed cup of espresso across Giovanni's desk, and laughed politely.

    As he sipped the cup of coffee, Giovanni fought hard to keep to himself what he'd realized upon Matori's denial.

    I knew you existed, Santa, he thought. All those years they mocked me as a kid, and I was right. Thank you for coming through. Even if you are thirty-five years late.
    Oh ****, he knew??? I didn't expect that!

    Sebastian walked into the lab that morning prepared for his usual Christmas with the scientists and Zager, and screamed.

    “Zager! Come here! It's a Christmas miracle!” Sebastian called.

    “What, you remembered a card this year?” Zager asked. “That really is a Christmas miracle.”
    Oh, Zager.

    “No, look at THAT,” Sebastaian said, pointing to the tree.

    “It's your old WINNER- oh.” Zager realized that there were now two glitterbomb ornaments, the 2000 one and now one marked 2013, this time in green glitter. “So we did win this year.”
    Huh, that wasn't as much of a surprise as Giovanni knowing Santa did it, but it's still nice.

    “And gift cards! Gift cards for all of us! I hope you're all ready to hit the after-Christmas sales tomorrow in Celadon City, because I certainly am!”

    Zager smiled, happy Sebastian's efforts proved fruitful this year, mainly because it meant he didn't have to spend the rest of the week hearing about it.

    “Why is there a crossed-out name on this gift card?” one of the scientists asked.

    “Don't worry about that,” Sebastian said, as Zager poured a large amount of rum into a huge mug of eggnog. “Just enjoy all of that Christmas spirit.”

    “Oh, I'm enjoying it over here,” Zager said, drinking his concoction. Maybe Christmas wasn't so bad after all.
    Hah.

    There was a knock on the door of Giovanni's office. Matori answered it.

    “Pierce... I wasn't expecting you today. What do you need?”

    “Nothing, I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.”

    “Well, don't just stand there, come in, there's coffee and another mug. It's Christmas, after all.”

    Pierce accepted the mug of coffee once in the office and sipped from it, handing Matori a small present. She opened it to reveal a print of the photo he'd taken of the group a few nights ago.

    “Oh... thank you, Pierce,” she said. “It's great. Here, I have something for you, too.” She pulled an envelope from her pocket.

    “Gift cards?” Pierce said. “Thank you, Matori. I don't know what I'll use some of these on, but I'll be sure to think of you every time I do.”

    “It's the thought that counts,” Matori said. “Also, I really needed to unload those. Merry Christmas to you, Pierce. Why don't you stay around for a while with us? Christmas coffee is the more, the merrier, after all.”

    Although Pierce felt awkward, especially considering the events that transpired in that room just a few days ago, he settled in with a Christmas cookie and another mug of coffee. After all, that was the spirit of Christmas. An ordinary Christmas, by all accounts, except four people in that building at that very moment knew the real story, of how Christmas almost didn't happen at all that year.

    And none of them would ever forget.

    END
    Good ending, made me smile. It really caught the spirit of the story.

    So all in all, I really enjoyed it a lot. You got a lot of humor in, but there's a lot of sentimentality too, which is a tough balance to strike. You also focused on canon characters who get very little attention both in canon and fan works, so it was very pleasant and unique to read. The only criticism I have is that the description could be a bit better, but everything else is perfect.
    Last edited by The Great Butler; 13th January 2014 at 9:00 AM.

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