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Thread: Origins: The War

  1. #1
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    Default Origins: The War

        Spoiler:- OOC stuff!:



    Origins: The War


    Lilycove City
    Hoenn


    It was a beautiful June day. A faint haze rose from the ground, indicative of the heat, but he never minded warm. It was cold that bothered him — and he abruptly reached for the air-conditioning unit on the wall, turning it down several degrees. His damn assistant was perpetually turning it up. As if he couldn’t decide these kinds of things for himself.

    “We’re in trouble, sir.”

    Speak of the Darkrai. His aide hadn’t bothered to knock, as usual. The man’s constant interruptions might not have been so irritating if his voice wasn’t so perfectly annoying. It was whiny and piercing even when he spoke normally – roughly comparable to a thousand fingers on a thousand chalkboards when he was trying to get someone to pay attention to him.

    Like now, for instance.

    “What is it now?”

    Frank Stone sighed as he turned away from the window. The weather would have to wait. Back when he’d worked in the office, he’d have just skipped out, but he couldn’t afford to now. Being elected president of Hoenn had changed that – that, and a whole bunch of other things.

    His brother had told him not to run. Now, he was wishing he’d listened.

    “The budget, sir. It just failed to pass the House.”

    “Are you kidding me? Don’t those people realize we’re one misstep away from bankrupting the government? And I don’t even want to know what’s going to happen to the stock market.”

    He shouldn’t have even asked. Xavier had a habit of taking the slightest musing as a direct question and, like always, jumped to answer. “Down a hundred points in the past two minutes, sir. I can keep you updated if you—“

    “No! I don’t want to know!” Stone heaved a sigh, rubbing at his eyes. “I’m… I shouldn’t have shouted. This entire situation is just as frustrating as hell.”

    His assistant was much too professional to do anything but nod. “Completely understandable, sir. The financial crisis is completely unprecedented. Getting the parties to agree during the best of times is daunting enough. Now…?”

    “Now, it’s practically impossible. Arceus, you’d think they’d put their squabbling aside for the good of Hoenn. It’s just obvious—we need to raise revenue, and we also need to stop spending so much. You can’t do just one and hope for results.”

    A slight chuckle from the other man. “Sir, after thirty years in the capitol, nothing surprises me—except the fact that someone as reasonable as you got elected.”

    Stone had to admit it; that had been a fair point. “You’ve got me there. I think the only thing they’d agree on is expansion – finding some other suckers to shoulder the burden for a while. But we’re an island, here. And nobody is going to fund an expedition unless we have a set destination.”

    Xavier coughed. “Er… sir, that’s actually the other reason I came to see you. The generals… have an idea.”

    “At this point? I’d listen to anything.”

    “Just keep that in mind when you hear what it actually is, sir.”


    Snowpoint City
    Shinnoh



    The ship docked at Snowpoint behind schedule, but Oak didn’t notice. He was far too busy losing his lunch, breakfast, and last night’s dinner over the railing. Eventually, he straightened up, wiping a shaky arm across his mouth. Thank Arceus, it was over.

    “Wow, Sam, you might have mentioned this little problem of yours before we left,” came a laughing voice from over his shoulder. Louis Rowan… of course, who else would it be? Shinnoh’s dislike of any travelers from the other nations was legendary. The duo’s research application had taken months to go through the system, and they were the only people from Kanto on the ship.

    “I’ve never been on a boat before. How was I supposed to know?” he said with a miserable groan. “Nobody told me it would rock around so much!”

    Rowan laughed again, clapping him on the shoulder. “Well, it’s over now. We’re here. I think we can both agree – the sooner we get you to shore, the better.”

    Oak just nodded. With a great deal of help from his friend, he made it back to their cabin and gathered his things. They hadn’t brought much, aside from a massive amount of scholarly material: notebooks, a video-camera, and cell phones to keep in touch with the university. They hadn’t actually needed very much, both men being middle-aged bachelors. But there had been another reason too…

    “Why did Shinnoh even care about what we brought with us? We’re just here to research the unique species of Pokémon.”

    “You need to pay more attention to politics, Sam. This place has had a thousand years of peace, or something like that. They do it by keeping isolated, not getting involved.” Rowan shrugged. “Ask one of the poli-sci students if you really want your ear talked off, of course. Biology is difficult enough to understand, but humans? You can never predict what they’ll do.”

    “Yeah… yeah, let’s stick with the simple stuff,” Oak said, grin coming back to his face now that the vomiting was over. “You get our hotel reservations?”

    “There’s only one in Snowpoint, so there wasn’t a lot of choice. I really hope they have heat… it’s freezing already.”

    “A perfect habitat for ice-type Pokémon! We should make some good discoveries!”

    Rowan laughed as the pair made their way out into the harbor. “Yeah, well, Let’s just catalogue them fast. We can take our time in the southern regions!”

    “Our passports are good for six months. We might as well make the most of it.” Oak felt much better with solid ground beneath his feet. “This… will be good.”


    Hoenn


    “You have got to be kidding me.”

    Frank Stone glanced at his generals, disbelieving gaze jumping from face to face. Not so much as a smile; each man and woman wore the most serious of expressions.

    “Do you have any idea how huge the political blowback would get if anyone even knew about this conversation? I’d be cleaning out my desk the next hour.”

    “Then it’s good thing none of us will be talking to the press, Mr. President,” the Chief of Staff said. Was that a smile? No, his face was as granite as ever. “Believe me; we did not reach this decision lightly. We know it is the only option.”

    “Nonsense. There’s no need to work outside of the political system. Once the House passes the budget…” He trailed off lamely. He couldn’t even convince himself that it would work.

    “The Conservatives and the Liberals will never agree,” another general said smoothly. “We all know it. You know it, Mr. President—that despite your valiant efforts to forge a compromise, they would let Hoenn burn before they gave in.”

    “… Perhaps.”

    Xavier piped up. “Back in the office, you were saying the only thing the parties could agree on would be annexing more territory, sir. The generals started from the same assumption – they’ve just developed a realistic plan to make it work.”

    Stone gave his assistant an annoyed look. The man must have been in constant communication with the military about this. How many ideas had he whispered in their ears? He’d probably never find out.

    “I still don’t like it. Is the Intelligence Agency really prepared to risk an operative on the mission?”

    The Chief of Staff nodded. “The head asked the agents with top clearance for volunteers. Every single one of them signed up. There’s nothing they wouldn’t be willing to do for the good of Hoenn.”

    For the good of Hoenn, Stone thought. I’d like to think I would never do this, normally. But that’s the issue. What else can I possibly do?

    “This will mean war.”

    “For Kanto and Johto, yes,” the second general said carelessly. “But really, the fact that it will only take this straw to launch them into one is their fault, not ours.”

    “And we need the distraction,” the Chief of Staff added. “They cannot fail to notice us invading Shinnoh. They’re both larger nations. We have to ensure that they cannot retaliate.”

    “What’s your decision, sir?” Xavier prompted.

    How many thousands will die with one word from my lips? Does it matter? I was elected to save Hoenn from its present crisis.

    He rubbed at his forehead. The room was so hot… like the June day outside. Where was the air-conditioning when he needed it?

    No matter what it takes… that was the unspoken vow I took. So yes, for the sake of my nation… I will start a war.

    “Do it.”
    Last edited by Super_Nerd; 23rd June 2011 at 8:43 PM.

  2. #2
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    How curious. Add me to the PM list? I also asked myself that question. Why is there no real government?

    I didn't see any real mistakes.
    Pokemon Black team:

  3. #3
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        Spoiler:- OOC stuff!:



    Lavender Town
    Kanto


    “… and today, as you’ll see on your syllabus, we’re going to talk about the ultimate tool of the political realist: balancing.”

    George Carini rubbed at his eyes as the professor shifted slides on the projector. Smith was highly rated—one of the best political science teachers at Kanto University… perhaps the best, period. He was a quiet man, but had a presence about him that made even the dullest student realize that this was not somebody to be crossed. At the same time, he kept his lectures entertaining through a combination of rapid-fire questions and sharp wit.

    Even so, he was having trouble staying awake. It had nothing to do with Smith and everything to do with the eight-hour shift he’d put in the night before. He’d been tempted to skip this class, but their essay was due at the end of the week, and he had to ace it to have a chance of passing. He’d had no time to start… would probably have to pull a few all-nighters to get it done.

    The kid in the seat next to him jumped, and George did also. The professor always started his class with a series of rapid-fire questions, picking students at random. He was lucky it hadn’t been his turn; being caught daydreaming was not a good idea.

    “To start off our discussion… according to realist theory, what is the ultimate goal of a state?”

    The kid squirmed, but it had been a softball. “Uh. Power, sir.”

    “Exactly.” Smith worked his way down the list of questions on the slide, switching another one in after about ten minutes. It was a map of the globe, apparently taken from a third-grade textbook.

    “Just in case any of you forget what a map looks like,” he explained, and smirked as the students began to mutter protests. “I’ve been teaching longer than most of you have been alive. I don’t take anything for granted anymore.”

    George knew what the professor was driving at; you only had to look at the globe to see it. Kanto and Johto, colored blue and red, respectively, sharing one long border that split them down the middle. To the north of both stretched the Gray Mountains, a vast range that cut down into the continent in places, most notably along the border itself. Above the mountains was relatively tiny Shinnoh, marked in white. The range stretched up and encircled the white, like a pair of protective arms. In the southern hemisphere, a vast orange-colored island: Hoenn. Between the two continents, a series of islands of varying size, the largest resting just on the equator.

    It was on this island that Smith rested his laser pointer. “Sacred Isle. Legend has it that all life originated here; religion preaches that it is where Arceus descended to earth, and biologists are fascinated by its unique ecosystem. And I’m sure other professors can tell you all about that, but we’re here today to talk about it from a geopolitical standpoint.”

    Everyone knew what was coming out of his mouth next. “This island is why some theorists believe that war is obsolete. The reason is simple: all of the Mews live here.”

    Smith’s eyes shot to the front row. “What’s the significance of that?”

    The answer came from three voices at once, recited in sing-song chant. “They are the most powerful Pokémon in the world.” The phrase had been drummed into them in elementary school.

    “Precisely. Nobody has managed to actually capture one. There’s a lot of talk about it being impossible, but here’s the plain truth: every nation has the tech to take one if it wanted. But none of them have. Why?”

    This time, the question was rhetorical, and the professor forged on. “Because that island has more sensors and cameras per square mile than you can even imagine. As soon as one is captured, every nation will be instantly notified. Look at the map. You can see that the island is located the same distance from Hoenn, Johto and Kanto. And each state has equal naval prowess. This means that…”

    “Each of them could dispatch a fleet and it would reach the Island at the same time,” George supplied.

    Smith shot him an approving look and a nod. “Exactly. There are very strict treaties in place, and all the nations have sworn not to get anywhere near it. But realists believe that a state’s words can’t be trusted, only its actions. And that’s why all three of them keep garrisons on the coast, and their best ship ready to go at a minute’s notice. If one of them gets a Mew, the others would race to match them. Whether that would lead to war or merely higher tensions – we can’t say. It hasn’t ever happened. Believe me, everyone is hoping that it won’t.”

    An adventurous student lifted her hand. “What about Shinnoh, professor?”

    “It should be obvious,” came the reply. “I’ll explain it anyway, just this once. Take a look at those mountains. Shinnoh is completely landlocked, unless you feel like sailing through some artic waters. It’s possible – two professors from this university are taking a research sabbatical, and they’ll have to catch a steamer doing exactly that – but they can barely get a navy out there. And getting to the equator in a hurry? Forget it – all the Mews would be gone by the time any of their ships made it halfway.”

    “Oh… that’s why they’re neutral,” the girl said. You could just hear the lightbulb coming on.

    Smith nodded. “Partially. The other reason is their very low population. Even without a Mew, any of the nations could roll in and take it over completely if they desired. They make a point of not getting involved, and their government is kept so tiny it’s almost nonexistent. That makes it an attractive location for businesses from Hoenn, Johto and Kanto to outsource. And we all know the larger corporations have a huge influence on public policy, which is their second safeguard. The third…”

    Someone tapped him on the shoulder, and George glanced over to see an apologetic-looking student extending a note. That was not a good sign. He glanced at the sender, and felt a chill creep down his spine.

    Without asking to be excused, he gathered his things and abruptly left the classroom.

    __________________________________________________ _________

    If the Dean had cause to call you into his office, you knew you were in trouble. She never spoke to the students if she could help it. In fact, she seemed to despise the very prospect of interacting with minds so much, George wondered what hell she’d put her students through. Perhaps she had never actually been a professor, and forged some credentials in order for Kanto U. to hire her. It was unlikely, but the prospect made him smirk, and that was what mattered.

    Anything to take his mind off what was about to happen. He knew full-well why he was here. Staring at his reflection in the waiting room mirror was not helping his nerves. Black hair needing a comb. Skinny, pale, sleep-deprived, big bags under his eyes.

    So pretty much the usual.

    The secretary was too busy with her phone to mention why the appointment was delayed. And the magazine on the chair over was from the year he was born. So he sighed and lay back in the chair. He’d been up all night. It would be good to just rest his eyes for a moment and…

    “Mr. Carini? MR. CARINI!”

    George started violently, almost falling out of the chair. The Dean was right there, eyebrows drawn together to go along with her severe frown.

    “I generally do not approve of students falling asleep outside my office,” she stated acidly. “You kept me waiting.”

    You kept ME waiting. It’s forty-five minutes past my appointment, he thought. But he was in a delicate enough situation. Insulting her would not help his chances of coming out of this unscathed.

    Instead, he went with a meek “Sorry, ma’am,” and followed her into her office. The door slammed shut behind them, and he couldn’t help feeling as if he was trapped. Maybe it was the way she looked at him as she sat behind her desk. Like he was a speck of dirt she’d like removed from her otherwise clean floor, or something.

    “Mr. Carini,” she began, and from the way she was smirking, his suspicions were fully confirmed. “Your grades have been most unsatisfactory this last semester. You know the rules of our university. Your average has fallen below the point that you can be considered a student.”

    George took a deep breath. She was right, of course. But he needed this degree. Surely she had a heart somewhere beneath that layer of bony fingers and wrinkled skin.

    “Dean Luca… look, I know my grades aren’t holding up. That’s because I haven’t been getting any sleep.”

    “Except just now,” she said, smirk widening.

    That gave him a terrible feeling, but he had to keep trying. “We both know I can’t afford the tuition here.”

    “Which is, as I recall, why we gave you a financial-aid scholarship—“

    “That covers half of the fees. Yes. But it’s not just about me. I’ve got sisters at home, and I have to keep them fed and in school.”

    The Dean shook her head. “That’s not really our concern, Mr. Carini. We’re here to talk about your failure to live up to academic expectations…”

    George felt his temper rising, and the futility of his attempt to not insult this vile woman. “They’re one at the same! I’m working a fifty-hour week, going to class, making sure my family has everything they need. I get maybe five hours of sleep, and that’s if I only do mandatory assignments. So yeah, I fell asleep in your waiting room. It’s because I’m as exhausted as hell!”

    “Very touching,” she said. Was that a sneer? It sure looked like it. “You are just proving to me that higher education is not for everyone. People in your… situation should focus on building a career elsewhere.”

    The young man’s eyes blazed. “You mean that poor working-class trash should stick where it belongs, you elitist *****.”

    “Mr. Carini!” Her voice was so shocked that he immediately realized it had been what she was planning all along… to goad him into doing something stupid. He shouldn’t have fallen for it… damn his lack of sleep; it was making him stupid.

    Father and Mother would have known better. But if they were alive, he wouldn’t be in this mess, would he?

    “Well, after that outburst, I really can’t say that you are suited for an academic environment,” the Dean simpered. “Consider yourself expelled. I do wish you and your family the best of luck.”

    “Screw you.” George made sure to slam the door behind him on the way out.

    Arceus. What was he going to do now? If he wanted to keep his sisters out of the slums, he needed a real job, not the low-wage work you could find with only a high school diploma. And now, a year’s worth of work towards a degree was down the drain.

    He expected a long slog as he sought the answer to his problems. When he stepped into a nearby café and glanced at the news, though, he knew it wouldn’t be necessary. There it was: the answer to all his problems, on a silver platter…

    __________________________________________________ ___________

    Goldenrod City
    Johto


    Jim Pryce was not a happy man, even under the best of circumstances. One did not get to be a general in the Johto Army by having fun, though. He was the youngest one in the entire staff, as it was, and still felt that he had a lot to prove, his meteoric rise through the ranks aside.

    The climb had been difficult in peace. Unfortunately, it seemed that the next few steps would be much easier.

    “What do you mean, terrible news?” President Davidson was already kneading his forehead. He’d had a full head of hair at the start of his term. In the last few days, the gray hairs seemed to have doubled. Pryce really couldn’t blame him. He didn’t envy being in that position. It was much easier to follow orders than to give them – he’d learned that.

    The Intelligence head was having his own hair issues—namely, he was currently pulling his out by the roots. “Kanto is going to declare war on us. That’s what I mean.”

    He wasn’t surprised, since he’d actually read the report beforehand, but there were a series of gasps and curses from the generals who’d just gotten there. The President had also read the memo, but it hadn’t seemed to register until he heard the words aloud.

    “What… how do you know?”

    “A well-placed mole in their administration—that’s easy enough. The real problem is why they’re doing it. She’s told me that they supposedly intercepted a message from us. It said that we were planning an attack for next month.”

    Pryce shook his head. “We wouldn’t be that stupid – and I can only assume we have no such plans.”

    “We don’t. I’m not an idiot,” Davidson echoed dully.

    “Then we can just tell them that,” another general suggested. “Surely they don’t want to start a war if it can be avoided.”

    The Intelligence chief hesitated. “That’s… ah… the things is, our database was hacked. It was Kanto, checking up on our operative supposedly over there.”

    Pryce stiffened. This hadn’t been in the report. “There shouldn’t have been anything there, if we didn’t send them.”

    “… Yes. But here’s the catch: there was a report. As far as they could tell, the guy was legit.”

    The President slammed his fist on the table – unnecessary dramatics, but it did make a point. “Damn it, are you telling me there’s a rogue cell in your operation?”

    “I wish,” the man replied miserably. “We could explain that to them to. No… the data was planted there. I can’t tell who did it. But I’m guessing someone in Kanto’s Intelligence did it. I think this entire thing is a set-up to give them a reason to invade. As such…”

    “The time for diplomacy is long past,” Davidson concluded. “****. It’s war.”

    “At least we’re on the defensive,” a general said with forced optimism.

    “But they’ve had time to plan. Their brigades are already moving, while we’re sitting on our asses.”

    “We’ll need a draft,” the Intelligence chief suggested. “Reports are putting their force’s size at 100,000. We’re fielding… a quarter of that at the western shore.”

    Pryce nodded. “It’s the only way. Mr. President, I’d suggest that we make the details of the planted intel public, The draft law is on the books, so there’s nothing the people can argue, but we need public opinion on our side. I don’t want to trust my life to a bunch of conscripts when I’m in the field. I want men fighting to defend Johto.”

    Davidson shot him a grateful look. This is why I’m here – he’s more concerned about his poll numbers than anything, and he likes that I consider it.

    “Pryce is right. Get the media spinning the hell out of that,” he ordered. “Who knows – we might even get Hoenn to take our side on this one, if we convince ‘em it could be them, next time.”

    Everyone stood at the same unspoken signal. The meeting was over.

    Hey Arceus, if you’re listening, we could kinda use the help. This one could get ugly.

    He wasn’t a religious man… but the prayer couldn’t hurt.

    __________________________________________________ ______________

    Celadon City
    Kanto


    The dark of night had been called romantic by some… eerie by others. Vincent Surge cared little for that; he just knew that the moonlight gave them more cover than a noon sun. Generally speaking, criminal activity went over much better when nobody actually saw you.

    Not that he was some murderer – or even stole that much. Just enough to get by… it was that or starve, in this city. Capital though it was, outside of the government buildings and tourist spots, Celadon was a dump.

    There was a lot of talk about programs and spending to fix the problem. Meanwhile, in the real world, your options were to steal or starve. And if you got caught, well, that was a relief of sorts… they fed you in jail. Not well, but better than nothing.

    Vince shook his head at the thought, crouching down against the wall as he awaited the signal. Jail was a dead end. He’d seen his father in and out until it finally claimed the man—in the form of a yard fight gone horribly wrong. He was still hoping to, one day, have a future—a real life, somewhere far away. The boyhood fantasy had sustained him through eighteen years, and though it grew less and less likely, one aspect remained: I can’t get caught.

    Something nudged his hand, and he glanced down. Anyone passing by might have been surprised by the soft smile on a face that was usually drawn and harsh. Those who knew him well wouldn’t be; his friendship with his Pikachu was much stronger than his relationship with most humans.

    “I know you’re tired, buddy. But after this job, we won’t be staying up all night for a while.”

    “Pika… chu?”

    Vince shook his head. “Not enough to get out of here… no. But it’ll be a good amount. We’re almost there. I know having to knock out their Pokémon doesn’t sit right with you. But… at least we’re trying our best to not hurt anyone.”

    Pikachu gave a slight nod. The gang hadn’t had such scruples when they’d joined it. Now he was in charge, and they did things his way – as gently as possible.

    Speaking of which… a Gastly drifted through the door of the fancy house they were staking out, and beckoned with its tongue. Vince gave a slight sigh. Ghost Pokémon were excellent for disabling security devices, given their ability to go transparent… it would have backfired completely if the owner had his own Ghosts on patrol, but he hadn’t. That made their job a whole lot easier. As he and Pikachu reached the door, four other boys materialized out of the gloom, one of them recalling the Gastly.

    “Let’s move. The alarms should be off. Take anything valuable, but if he wakes up, run.” The others nodded, pulling on cloth masks, They’d almost been caught enough times to learn that it wasn’t wise for the injured party to be capable of making an ID.

    Vince let Pikachu clamber up and rest on his shoulders as he sacked every dresser in sight. The house had at least three stories and a basement – proof that they were in the rich part of town. The guy would still be rich if they made six trips with loot… the unfairness of it all made him angry, sometimes, but what could he do? The politicians would talk and talk about income disparity, and do squat.

    So he’d just redistribute some of the wealth himself. It was quicker, and much more effective.

    The ghost had done an amazing job with the security. Vince took the glass case off a piece of antique jewelry, and there wasn’t so much as a wire to trip. Actually… hell, there weren’t any remnants of a trap, there was just no trap at all.

    He grabbed his phone and dialed Trey, the Gastly’s owner. “Hey. It’s me. Listen, ask the ghost how many systems he disarmed.”

    “Huh? But we’re in… fine, fine.” The soft sound of a Pokéball opening in the background. “Alright, Gastly, how many… uh… Vince.”

    That tone meant nothing good. “Yeah?”

    “There… were no traps at all. He checked the entire house and nada.”

    “Something’s off about this. We need to get out, right away—“

    That was when the spotlights came on—a whole bunch of them, just outside the house. The loudspeakers followed: “We know you’re in there. Come quietly. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

    ****,” Vince shouted into the phone. Without further ado, he bolted towards the ground floor. Surely there would be some kind of back or side-door that the cops had overlooked—

    A blue, coiling form exploded into the lobby. He could hear the police screaming something about ‘not following orders’ and ‘gone rogue’, but they were drowned out by the sheer volume of the creatures’ roar: “GYARADOS!”

    “Aww, hell.” He threw himself behind an overturned table, grabbing for Pikachu to shield him from –

    His Pokémon wasn’t there. And the Gyarados was making a beeline straight for the little yellow form. Vince swore horribly and, without thinking, threw himself towards the serpent. A moment later, there was a blinding flash, a crackling sound…

    Everything went black.

    __________________________________________________ ____________

    When he woke up, everything was white. The sheets on the bed, the walls, and the coat of the woman in front of him…

    “Wait… how the hell...?” He spoke it aloud as it entered his thoughts, trailing off as the answer came. A hospital, of course; it was one of those fancy ones in the rich part of town. He’d never actually been inside one—they practically charged you to stand in the lobby.

    The doctor began to speak, but whatever she had to say was cut off as a flash of blue entered his field of vision. Cops. That was much more familiar.

    “He’s only just woken up!” someone protested. Probably the doctor. “Really, I have to protest…”

    “Shut up.” There were two of them, a man and a woman, and he was speaking. Sounded mean, and looked the part. “You’re behind four home robberies these last two weeks alone.”

    “Am not,” Vince managed. “No proof…” Arceus, his head hurt.

    “We have an eye-witness account, and I quote: ‘tall kid, messy blonde hair, good tan on him.’ And besides, one of your gang flipped for a lighter sentence. Said you were the ringleader, then asked if we’d let him go.” The cop smirked. “Should’ve waited for a lawyer. He’ll be in just as long as you, buddy.”

    Damn it. Trey, probably… Aloud, he asked, “Where’s Pikachu?”

    “Your rat? You won’t need it where you’re going. Impressive attack power on it, though – took out that Gyarados that broke free. Incidientally, that’s why you’re here—caught in the blast.”

    There was an IV in his arm, but Vince snapped it off, struggling to get to his feet. The cop was five feet away—an eternity in his condition. “Give me my friend back, you… son of a…” A moment later, his legs gave out, and he was back in the bed.

    The man just laughed. “Spirited, but dumb. I think I like you.” His breath was foul as he leaned over. “I just remembered, there’s another way this can all end…”

    “… What.”

    “I don’t know why, but the Army’s on a huge recruiting drive. They’ve contacted the police in every city. All the convicts get a deal: enlist, and your get outta jail, your record wiped clean, and you keep your Pokémon. Only catch: it’s an open-ended commitment. They get you, they decide when to let go.”

    Vince stared at the man. A clean record… It would let him start over once he got out. And the military would pay—he’d have the means… it didn’t matter why they wanted him, or who they’d throw him at. He needed this. He couldn’t let them take Pikachu, either, and this way he could stick with his friend…

    “Where do I sign up?”

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