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