Morph Twenty-Two: A Ranger's Legacy
"Why do I have to do this?"
Bakaguru glanced up from his paperwork, wondering why the Golden Ranger wanted him to repeat himself. He sighed and straightened his glasses. "Because, 0, we have begun taking applications for the three new slots on the Ranger team. We have to choose the new Blue, White, and Black Rangers somehow. 415 made it known to me that she does not have a Pokemon, so I thought it would be a good idea for you to take her out to try and catch one together. Good team bonding experience and whatnot."
Standing next to 0 was 415, who apparently had the same thinking as 0. "Really, this is unnecessary," she said, her hands folded over her waist. "I am perfectly capable of capturing my own Pokemon. I do not require Agent 0's assistance for that."
Bakaguru smirked. "415, do you understand the first thing about Pokemon?" He turned to 0 and chuckled. "You are standing next to the perfect person to help you. Not only can he speak the Pokemon languages, he is also a seasoned trainer. He is the perfect teacher to instruct you in obtaining and raising a Pokemon for the ranger camp."
"Ranger camp?" 0 asked.
"Oh yes, apparently the three new slots have been so exciting to the masses that there have been over a hundred applicants to become PKM Rangers. Serena has been assigned there, as have you, to instruct the camp and help select the three new Rangers. Logan will be there as well, he'll be beginning his duties when Karin wakes up." Ever since their last fight, the Pink Ranger had been in a small coma while her wounds were being treated. "Karin will be assigned to assist Logan, though she won't be teaching herself."
"Why are we picking the rangers?" 0 asked.
"Because I requested it," Bakaguru explained. "Council has agreed that it would be best to allow you rangers to pick the best for the job, since you know who would qualify most."
0 nodded. "Does that mean that 3's coming back as the White Ranger?"
"That," Bakaguru muttered, "has yet to be decided. I suggest not fighting too hard for that and to let me handle it. I am trying my best to reach a compromise to the Council. But, we are drifting off topic! Today you will go capture a Pokemon with 0, 415, and that is the end of the matter. Head to a Poke Spot, I want you to go today because I read the reports that there were more Pokemon than usual."
Reluctantly, 415 got up and 0 followed her out of Bakaguru's lab. Neither spoke until they reached the vehicle that Bakaguru had prepared for them, a hover bike. 0 got on, as did 415, though unlike his pleasant bike ride with May, the intelligence officer thought it was a good idea to dig her nails into the Golden Ranger's flesh. Ignoring the urge to simply kick her off the bike, he turned it on and revved the engine.
"Could you please just go?" 415 asked. "This is an uncomfortable place to sit."
"Why 415," murmured 0, as he started driving, "from you, that's almost flirting!" He was rewarded by further digging into his flesh, and winced. Briefly, he wondered if he could shock her again like he had the Snagem guy, but thought it was a bad idea to try.
The Poke Spot, located miles away from the PKM base, was a small oasis, and required somewhat of a long ride to get to. Neither 0 nor 415 spoke on the way there, so the trip was rather uneventful besides avoiding a slight sandstorm. Eventually, however, they arrived at the oasis and dismounted from the vehicle. 0 converted the bike into a capsule once again and got out both his Poke Balls.
"415, do you have any Pokemon at all?" he asked.
"No," she replied curtly. "We are here because of that."
He sighed and released Lu and Tork from their respective Poke Balls. "Well, at least I brought my two in case," he muttered to himself, then turned to his Pokemon. "Okay, today we're going to help 415 catch a Pokemon." He decided against speaking in Lu and Tork's languages for 415's benefit. Both Pokemon nodded, Tork eager to help and Lu eager for battle.
"Okay, so, 415, what kind of Pokemon do you want?" 0 asked.
"Does it matter?" she wondered, looking at the two Pokemon before her. "Anything, really. One with enough power to get me through ranger camp."
0 was dumbfounded. "415, do you know the first thing about Pokemon?"
She shook her head. "They are tools to further what I want," she explained. "It is as simple as that." Lu growled at her. She lowered her cold gaze onto the Aura Pokemon and it backed up slightly.
"Then I can't help you," 0 said and got his two Poke Balls back out. "Lu, Tork, return." Both Pokemon turned into bright red light and vanished back into their Poke Balls.
415 glared at 0. "Why not?"
"Because Pokemon aren't tools."
He reached for his hover bike capsule, only to be stopped by the intelligence officer. She grabbed him by the arm and squeezed. "We are not leaving without my Pokemon," she decided. "Understood?"
0 shook his head. "I'm not going to give you a Pokemon, not with that sort of attitude." She only responded by tightening her grip, which accidentally caused 0 to discharge a small dose of electricity in defense.
"You okay?" 0 asked, clearly unconcerned.
"What did you do?"
"Shocked you." 0 glanced at his arm, as if in wonder. "It's just a little static."
She recovered. "We are still not leaving without the Pokemon."
415 was stunned, she was not accustomed to being defied in this manner by anyone. "What do you mean 'Why?' We will because I said so."
"No, that's not what I mean," 0 replied. "You're so obsessed with being a PKM Ranger and everything, why won't you bother to see that the Pokemon you'll be with is a partner, not a tool? Why do you want to be a PKM Ranger, 415? Honestly."
415's hands clenched into fists. "The reason is none of your business."
0 remained stoic. He wanted to know. "Tell me, 415. That is an order. I won't help you if I can't even trust you as a potential Ranger."
"We're supposed to protect humans!" 415 exclaimed. "Pokemon have nothing to do with it!"
"We are supposed to protect this planet," 0 reminded her. "Pokemon and humans alike. Why else do you think that a Ranger's strength comes from the bond between agent and Pokemon?"
415's lip curled.
"Tell me," 0 ordered again, towering over her.
"Fine," 415 spat out. "I want to be a Ranger because I love someone. Someone who would have noticed me if I was one. There, are you satisfied?"
0 found it difficult to speak. The fact that 415 was capable of an emotion, especially one like love, was something he was slightly unprepared for. "W-Who is it?" he asked.
"The Golden Ranger."
0 fell over. "M-Me?"
"No, you complete idiot. Why would I ever love something like you? You are fragmented, stupid, completely incapable of anything remotely related to competence, and you are utterly without merit. I love the original Golden Ranger, someone whom you could never measure up to."
0 was confused. "Wait, you're in love with a dead man?"
415 lowered her head. "Yes," she replied. "He was the one who rescued me. I have loved him ever since."
"He rescued you?" 0 had to sit down, this was really all too much.
415 nodded and sat down opposite him. "When I was a child, our town was attacked. Out of nowhere this paladin came in, with eyes that sparkled like gold, and rescued our town. My parents were killed, so the paladin took me away and brought me to PKM. But no matter what I did, he always saw me as a child who needed rescuing. I always wanted to fight with him."
The Golden Ranger didn't know what to think of that. To him, the old 0 had always seemed like such a horrible person, the man responsible for taking away everything he knew and loved. "It looks like he was the opposite with you," he muttered. "0 was someone who took things to me, but he gave to you."
"And now he's dead. Because of you and your family. And I hate you all for that. Even if May Birch is my assignment and I must keep her alive, I hate her for being the reason he had to die. And I hate you, for being the failure that cannot properly carry on his legacy."
Something flashed inside 0's head. "415...I remember you once told me that you hated me because I reminded you of him. What did that mean?"
"What?" she snapped.
"How do I remind you of him?"
She rubbed her head. "There is something in your stance that reminds me of him. When you fight, I mean. You are, as you have said before, the dark warrior. So was he. You have more in common with him than I think you will ever care to admit. And the fact that you refuse to acknowledge that his legacy gives you strength makes you a failure and a hypocrite."
"I wear his mask. That doesn't make me him."
"You wore it once, I was watching."
"That was before…"
"Tell me about it," she requested. "His mask. How did it feel?"
So he told her.
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…Five Years Ago…
The streets of Petalburg are certainly different than what I'm used to.
I come from Pallet, which means I'm more or less used to a rural area. In Pallet some of the streets are dirt, and the people are quieter. It's different in the city, where the traffic blares and invades the ears, where crime is pretty big, and the whole place smells funny. The air is definitely fresher in the country, so that's where my wife and I decided to raise our family. When she became pregnant, we both decided that our child would live somewhere safe and happy, until it was time for her to begin her Pokemon journey.
But my wife was always a city girl in her heart, so I would occasionally visit her family in Petalburg. Normally we would go by plane, which is another thing I'm a little uncomfortable with. I guess after so many years spent traveling on my feet I kind of developed an aversion to other transport. Still, we had the baby, and we were taking her to see her grandparents on her first visit outside of Kanto. We couldn't exactly take her on a giant trek across the world, now could we?
We arrived in Petalburg a few days into March, my wife always preferred to travel in the late spring, before tourist season. Her father met us at the airport and her brother drove the four of us back to the Petalburg gym. It was uneventful, despite the fact that my daughter kept screaming with delight at being able to see her grandfather and uncle. They didn't visit often, which was another reason my wife wanted to bring our daughter to Hoenn. I think she misses the city.
My brother-in-law and I unloaded the car, while my wife and daughter went into the house with her dad to see her mom.
"Haven't seen you in a while," he said and I remember he had such a grin on his face as he closed the car doors.
I shrugged and picked up my share of the luggage. "I don't really need to leave Kanto too often," I explained. "Once you're famous like I am, you really learn to hate traveling. We almost got mobbed at the airport, nearly missed our flight too."
He laughed. "Well, maybe you should start doing worse in Pokemon championships," he suggested and led the way into the gym.
"That'd be great," I said, opening the door, "except that it's the only way I know to put food on the table!" Again we shared a laugh, and I followed him through the house to the guest room where we deposited the luggage. I noticed a crib in the corner.
My brother-in-law grinned. "My mom and dad really like babies. Plus, we haven't seen your daughter in a while, they've been really excited about seeing their granddaughter. Now, where's that niece of mine?" A shriek of laughter issued from downstairs and I grinned.
"Probably in that direction," I said, so we went down, where I found my daughter with a vice grip on my father-in-law's hair. My daughter's got this laugh, I can't really describe it in a way that does it justice. Let's just say that you really don't mind that you're hair's being torn out from the roots until after she's quiet. My brother-in-law stepped in, only to receive the vice grip himself! My wife and I just watched, tired from the plane ride.
Finally my Pikachu did something about it, leaping up and cuddling with my daughter. She just loves that Pokemon, maybe even more than I do, but she hadn't quite figured out the right way to handle an electric Pokemon. But Pi was a good friend, and it always tolerated whatever she dished out. Surprisingly though, she was always gentle with Pi. She would stroke its fur, sometimes making a bit too much static electricity, she'd pat its head, the works. I think Pi liked looking after her.
After dinner we retired for the day. Contrary to most celebrities, my wife and I normally went to bed early, so that our daughter wouldn't worry too much. I remember holding my wife in my arms for the last time before I joined PKM. She smelt of strawberries.
The next day, I took my family out for some lunch. Though my mother-in-law insisted on cooking for us, my wife wanted to show me this great place she had read about in some magazine. We put our daughter in her stroller, Pi jumped in to keep her company, and all four of us headed out into the city, me pushing the stroller, and her arm entwined with mine. It was, for lack of a better word, perfect.
We decided to walk, so it took us some time to get to the restaurant. The place was a little hole in the wall a mile down the street and a few blocks over, with vines growing around the edges of the window. It looked like just the kind of place my wife loved. Try as I might, I can't remember the name of the restaurant, though they served some pretty good Johto grub.
Our waitress was a young girl, maybe ten years younger than me, with strawberry blond hair and a really bright smile. She noticed us as we walked in and, thankfully, didn't squeal. I don't think she recognized us at first, because she just looked us over, tilted her head, and politely showed us to a table in the corner of the room. We got our daughter out, she squirmed a little at being moved, and put her in a high chair. Pi jumped up next to her and played with her while my wife and I ordered our food. After taking our orders, the waitress assured us that she would be back with our tea in a few minutes, bowed, and left.
"So, what's up for the rest of the day?" I asked, keeping an eye on my daughter and Pi. The Pikachu was smiling, despite the fact that its chair mate was probably applying too much pressure when petting its back.
My wife shrugged. "I guess we could go check out a museum. Really, I'm just glad to be back home for a little bit. Mom's really been wanting to see Sarah so badly, and they hate traveling between regions."
"I understand," I sympathized. "I hate it too." I glanced at our daughter, who was busy trying to figure out the fastest way out of the secure high chair. "At least Sarah doesn't seem to mind it. She'll do great when she's out traveling."
"About that," my wife said, "when exactly are we going to let her go?"
"What do you mean?" I asked. "We'll obviously let her go when she's ten. That's when we started."
"Yes, but look at who her parents are," she pointed out. "Paparazzi will swarm her if we let her go out into the world too quickly. Maybe it would be a better idea to hold her back until she matures."
"Hmmm…I can't say I thought of that," I answered. Before I replied, though, the waitress came back with our tea.
"Here ya go!" she said perkily and set both cups down. "Have you decided what you were going to have for lunch today?"
We had, so we ordered, and the waitress bowed and left again. My wife and I returned to the conversation at hand.
"So, what you're saying is that we should let her wait until she's twelve or something?" I asked. "That seems a little late to start training Pokemon."
"I was actually thinking something more along the lines of fourteen or fifteen," she replied. I practically spit out my tea.
"May, that's much too late!" I protested. "Kids have to start early, otherwise they get dragged in the dust in the trainer world."
My wife grinned. "What makes you think she'll be a trainer?" she wondered. "She could be a coordinator like her mommy." She turned to her daughter, and patted her black hair. "Sarah, do you want to be a coordinator like Mommy?" My daughter nodded her head, though I knew that she didn't know what nodding meant, only that it was fun to do.
"Oh boy…" I murmured and sipped my tea, not knowing that two minutes later, my life would change forever.
Exactly one hundred and twenty seconds later, it happened. My wife was helping my daughter stay in the high chair, because she never did like to stay in one place for too long, even before she learned to walk. I didn't even hear the first explosion, I just remember some kind of force happening, and the next moment I was thrown to the ground. Dazed, I struggled back to my feet, and ran to my wife and daughter. My wife was unconscious, my daughter was screaming.
"May!" I shouted, grabbing her. The restaurant was in chaos, people were running everywhere. She didn't respond. I got my daughter out of the chair and tucked her under what was left of the table.
"Hang on, Sarah," I whispered and hugged her. "Daddy needs to take care of Mommy really quick."
I reached for my Poke Balls and released two. Z and Ty exploded from the balls. "Ty, clear a path!" I ordered. "Z, take May and Sarah out of here!" The Charizard nodded and took both my wife and daughter into its arms. My Typhlosion screeched, blasting through a nearby wall to help Z get out. I followed. Once we were outside, we saw the source of the problem.
Rockets. Once just a nuisance to deal with once a week, now they were just getting out of hand. "Z, get them to a hospital. Ty, you're with me." Both Pokemon nodded and the Charizard took off in one sweep. Ty followed me, its giant body comforting. I readied another Poke Ball just in case.
There was a troupe of about ten or twenty of them, all carrying rifles. In the center, commanding them, was a giant robot, the kind that Jessie and James used to use, only much more advanced. "They've got guns," I muttered to Ty. "This could get dangerous."
Ty growled, it didn't care, too loyal to stand down. I nodded.
"Then let's do this! Ty, Fire Blast!"
The Rockets swerved, too slow to notice the Typhlosion and ran in fear as the powerful blast struck. The mecha, however, was less than concerned, and its operator shielded the troupe from the attack. Ty increased its power output, driving back the machine from the surrounding crowd.
I looked around and saw a Rocket readying its gun. "Ty, return!" I ordered, just as a bullet issued. The Pokemon vanished, the bullet passing through thin air and slamming into a nearby building. I breathed a sigh of relief, but now I and everyone else was in trouble.
"Get out of our way!" shouted the robot's operator, a woman's screeching voice. She raised her mecha's leg and smashed against the ground, breaking open the road.
I got out of the way, getting their attention. But without a Pokemon, I was useless, more than useless! But I was something to distract them, before they started shooting at the crowd.
That's when he showed up.
I don't think anyone even saw him actually enter the battlefield, he was just suddenly there. The Rockets were taken down as quickly as he could reach them, I couldn't see him, he was too fast! Even the mecha was too slow, and he engaged it in battle. That's when I saw him, really saw him, for the first time.
The ranger gear that I wear is about a half-generation ahead of the old one, so the design was a little bit different. For starters, there was a lot more gold on the top half of his uniform, his arms were covered in glowing gold along with the chest. His helmet was the same, mostly black with a gold upside-down triangle. The armor was a lot more bulky too, it was before they streamlined the material the new suits are designed out of. He was seven feet tall, the suit added so much weight and height… He looked like a giant savior.
"Everyone stand back," the man ordered, broadcasting his voice through the suit. "The situation is being handled, please get back and leave the area. I repeat, leave the area."
But, because people are stupid, nobody left, myself included. We all wanted to see him in action, because everyone needs to see a fight every now and then.
The man I now know was the Golden Ranger kept fighting, because that was all he seemed to be able to do. But I saw between his moves, he was doing the same thing that I had been doing: buying enough time for real power to get there and rescue everyone. It was too bad that at that point he was so old that even his strength wasn't enough anymore.
Sooner or later, his age got the best of him, and the mecha operator took advantage of that and smashed him across the face. He faltered, the weight of his suit was almost too much, but he stayed on his feet. Not for long though, because before he had a chance to fight back the mecha swept down and smashed him in the chest, throwing him in the direction of a nearby wall. Then, when she was done, she picked him up, and the strength of the mecha allowed her to toss him in the direction of a nearby parking garage.
He smashed through the wall of the second floor. Without even thinking, without any hesitation, I tore after him, ignoring the bullets that sprayed at me.
"Leave that fool!" shouted the commander, turning her attention to the crowd. "We have Pokemon to get!"
I ran through the garage, it was empty for some reason. I saw him land on the second floor, so that's where I headed. When I reached it, I saw him, dragging his heels towards me, trying to get back into combat. I stopped him.
"Who are you?" I asked.
The man didn't seem to notice me, he just kept moving, sluggishly dragging himself through the lot. He didn't reach me though, he dropped to his knees before that. I guess the armor's weight got the better of him for a moment, because he got back up again and kept going. His breathing was erratic, he couldn't really move properly. He just kept going, like a zombie almost.
Finally, however, his strength gave way and he almost dropped to the ground.
I grabbed him, just before he hit the ground. He weighed a ton, so it was really hard to keep him up before he started helping me. Finally, though, he was standing back on his feet, and dragged himself through the parking garage. I could tell the pain was almost unbearable for him, his ragged gasps kept escaping from his armor in mechanized groans.
"Where are you going?" I asked. "You're too hurt to do anything."
The man inside the armor laughed. "There is no one else," he said, and tried to shove me out of the way. He was too hurt though, and fell down.
Then, I made the decision that changed my life forever. "I'll do it," I replied and held out my hand. "Give me that armor. I'll fight for you."
He disagreed, but he couldn't get up. The armor was much too bulky, and its parts were too heavy, so he remained on the ground. "Tell me, boy," he muttered, "why do you want to help me? If I lend you this armor, it will mean that your life will change forever. Do you want that?"
I was hesitant to reply, but my resolve was strong. "If I don't, people are going to get hurt." He looked up at me and I stared at him. I think he saw something in me then, because he relented. A brilliant light issued from his body, and steam flooded the garage, but the armor vanished, leaving nothing but an old man lying on the floor.
I stooped down to help him and propped the old man against a nearby wall. It was before he started those experiments, he looked like a man who was so tired of everything. His hair was black and dusty, most of it unkempt. But his eyes, I remember those so clearly. They were bright gold, and seemed to glow in the darkness of the garage. On his left wrist was this massive machine, it looked like an oversized wristwatch. He undid the strap that bound it to him and slowly handed it to me. I took it, and realized that his hand was made of metal.
"There is precious little time, boy," the man instructed, as I strapped the machine to my wrist as he had, only I stuck it on my right arm instead of the left. "The device you are wearing will generate the armor I wear, but there is a limit to its power. A time out, if you will, depending on your own strength. It is called a morpher. I have loaded it with a Pokemon that will allow you to access the armor. It will be weak, because it is my Pokemon and you do not have the necessary bond to it, but it will serve you until you run out of power." He stopped, coughing, then continued. "Return it to me."
I nodded. "I will." Then, I looked over the morpher. "How do I turn it on?"
"The activation code is thus: Golden Spirit, Pokemon Power
. Press the red button, and go."
I was nervous, unsure in that last moment of what I needed to do. But finally I suppressed my own fear and pressed the red button on the side of the device.
"Golden Spirit, Pokemon Power
It's something I've never forgotten, the first time I donned that mask. The armor emerged like holographs around me, before they turned solid and began attaching themselves onto me. First, the parts on my arms attached, I kept hearing all of these clinks and gears scraping into place, then the legs, and finally the chest armor emerged. The helmet appeared last, but once it came the suit came online and the screen opened up, displaying the outside world.
I took a breath, the armor had its own supply of oxygen. I took a step forward, my leg weighed a ton! The man looked up at me, with a strange sense of satisfaction. "I thought so," he said.
"Somehow, you are bonded to my Pokemon," the man said. I looked down to my chest, there was a blazing emblem of a dark Flying Pokemon surrounded by gold. "Very few people can be. It trusts few." He smirked and nodded. "It will work with you without question. Now go, I sense that you have precious time to save those you want to save."
I nodded and started to turn away, but then I glanced back at him. "Who are you, old man?" I asked.
He chuckled. "It's a little late for introductions, don't you think?" he wondered, but as an afterthought, said, "0. That's what they call me. Just 0."
"Okay, 0," I said, and started moving. "I won't let you down!"
I took off running, though it wasn't so much of a run as it was a fast jog. I lumbered out of the garage like a tank and turned back to where the fighting was still going on. When they saw me coming, they didn't stop shooting until I took one of them and punched them right into the nearest wall. Then they stopped.
"What are you doing back?" asked the lead Rocket, her voice filled with distain. "We already dealt with you."
"Oh, it takes more than a little scrappy fighting to stop this friendly neighborhood Power Ranger," I replied jokingly. My voice sounded different when it was broadcasted, it sounded just like 0! "Who's up for round two?" The lead Rocket turned her mecha in my direction, eager to put me down.
I sprang into action. The armor was beginning to feel lighter, so I grabbed the Rocket mecha's foot and twisted it, sending the whole machine crashing down to the ground. The grunts wasted no time and opened fire on me. I groaned as each bullet bounced off me, each one felt like getting hit with a hammer. But, thanks to the armor, I was able to endure it and charge into the group. Somehow my mind told me where the punch, and how to fight. I think it was because I was in the moment, but it might have also been 0's Pokemon. It never spoke, but I understood it. It wanted me to fight, and it wanted me to win.
So I did. While the mecha worked to destabilize itself, I jumped into the fray with the grunts. Bodies went flying, most of them smashing into nearby building walls or the street. One even flew down a pothole! "Come on!" I shouted, as I punched one grunt across the street. "Get some!"
I felt invincible, like nothing could stop me. I was wrong though, because I'd forgotten about the mecha in my fighting 'high'. All I remember is that one minute I was standing and taunting, and the next I was halfway down the block with a throbbing head and groaning. The entire left side of my face was numb. I turned around, incredibly angry, and saw that the Rocket mecha was back up on its feet and the remaining grunts who could see straight were picking up their rifles and coming after me. Hands clenched into fists, I stood up to face them.
At this point I didn't know how long I had left, 0 had said something about the suit needing to time out at some point, but I wasn't sure when that was going to happen. So I wasted no time, and smashed through the grunts to get to the massive machine. She swept her giant arms down, trying to swat me away. I dodged. She was twice my size, so I had the advantage with speed! I slammed into her leg, attempting to drive her back.
She laughed. "What's this?" she asked, pausing to try to shake me off. "A little bug's got on my armor! I'd better smack you off!" She hit me with her fist, I heard my back scream in pain, but I held on tight. As long as I kept my grip, she couldn't get to the people in the crowds watching us.
Then I started to work my way up the mecha, digging into the metal with the heavy armor covering my hands. Her attempts to get me off started getting erratic, she didn't know what to do about it. Eventually, though, I reached the chest cavity I knew she was hiding in.
"Oh crap," she whispered, as I smashed through the mecha's vulnerable hull and dragged her out. She was small and tiny, with blond hair. I think I recognized her from somewhere, since there was an incredible feeling of déjà vu, but I didn't dwell on it for too long before I tossed her to the street and tilted myself so that the mecha landed on its butt. After I smashed up the controls to make sure that no one could operate it again, I turned to the rest of the grunts, all of whom looked like they were about to soil themselves.
"Want to surrender?" I asked pleasantly. The response was unanimous, all of them dropped their guns and raised up their hands. I lined them up against the wall, like I'd seen on TV, and the rest is history.
PKM showed up a few minutes later in full force, taking all of the Rockets and me into custody. Once we were in the van, I noticed that the old man was standing there, holding out his hand impatiently.
"Demorph and give me my morpher back," he requested, with a tone that I guess was supposed to be threatening, but when you're wearing a suit of armor sounds more like a bully half your size asking for your lunch money.
I looked at the morpher strapped to my arm. "How?" I asked.
"Press the red button again," he instructed. "The morpher's about to time out anyway."
I did as he requested, and an eruption of steam escaped all of the armor's joints, filling the van with a cloud of hot foggy air. My armor started to glow, and one by one pieces of it vanished until it was just me standing there. I took off the giant morpher and handed it back to 0, who reattached it.
He then held out his hand. "Good work, boy," he said, and shook my hand.
I glanced around, most of the Rockets were recovering from their steam bath. "So, what happens now?" I asked. "Mind dropping me off at the Petalburg Gym? My wife and kid are probably a little worried about where I am right now."
"Unfortunately, we cannot," replied 0 and offered me a seat next to him. I took it. "You see, I did not want to give you the morpher, but now that you've used it, we cannot release you."
"What? I need to get back to my family!" I was furious, I had just saved a crowd of people, and now I was going to get stuck in prison with the Rockets? No way!
0 held up his hand, cool as a cucumber. "Please, do not assume that you cannot go back," he said. "There is a choice to be made here, one that could allow you to return to your family."
I was listening.
"I am a member of PKM," explained the man, "an elite organization that fights terrorism through the world. I am the Golden Ranger, and it is my job to lead the best of the best, our PKM Rangers, into battle."
I remembered hearing something about what he was talking about. "I think I heard about you once on the news," I said. He nodded.
"While we do not officially acknowledge our own existence, we are known. Anyway, I would like to offer you the opportunity to join us on a part-time basis. Since we cannot let you leave, it would be best if you became an agent with us." He paused and gave me time to sink that information in. "You handled the Ranger System well, better than most. Maybe you could become one, with time and proper training."
Me? Become a Ranger? He must have been mistaken, I thought. "What's the other option?" I asked.
"My organization will detain you for an indefinite period, as you have had access to classified technology," 0 explained, very business-like. "You will be allowed no contact with the outside world, as per our Council's rules. Understand?"
I nodded, taking a deep breath. "So, I should join?"
"I think that would be wise. You seem like a good person, who wishes for a challenge. This would be the perfect opportunity to employ your talents."
"I witnessed your battle. While your fighting is sloppy, you seem to have a somewhat instinctive knowledge of combat. Are you a Pokemon trainer?"
I nodded and displayed the Poke Balls on my belt. "Yes, but these aren't all of them. My Pikachu is back with my family."
0 nodded and folded his arms. "We will inform your family that you were injured and rushed to a hospital, which is true, since we need to check if you have a concussion. While there, you will be briefed on your new life and the adjustments you will have to make. You will then be taken to a nearby hospital and placed there to await your family. Is that understood?"
I nodded again. "I suppose so."
"Oh, there is one more condition," 0 said, and crossed his legs.
"While we are known to the public, our identities are kept confidential," 0 explained. "As such, you will be unable to tell your family the truth about your new job. Ever. We take the secrecy of our members very seriously, as we are the hunters of terrorists after all. We will assist you in providing covers for missions, but that will be all. Your identity as an agent will have to be maintained. It is not only for our protection, but yours and your family's as well."
"Is this sort of thing normal?"
"No. We do not ordinarily accept people who are tied to outside members of PKM. However, exceptions have been made in the past, and they can be made again for special agents who deserve them." He looked me over with those eerie golden eyes and smiled. "You might be one of those special agents."
And just like that, I was in PKM.
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0 finished his story, and lowered his head. "I'm sorry it's not a really exciting story, 415," he said. "One day I was an average guy, the next I'm an agent. Being a ranger is something I never really thought I'd ever be, that's just what happened." He pulled out his Poke Balls and looked them over. "In my heart, I'm still that trainer from Pallet." He smiled, that brought back some happy memories.
"You are a very simple person, are you not?" 415 asked, taking a drag of her cigarette. 0 had made her sit downwind, so he wouldn't have to smell it. "It makes sense."
"Why do you want to be a ranger, 415? Is it really because you want to show me up?" 0 asked.
415 paused, staring out into the vast desert beyond the oasis. "To me, being a ranger means being like 0, being a person who protects and guards. Being someone who people look up to, who they can see. If I become a ranger, maybe I will become that person that he saw in me. Maybe others will see me like that."
"Do you think that you can become a trainer first, and a ranger second?" asked the Golden Ranger. "That's what makes a good ranger. You have to learn to care about others and your Pokemon, otherwise being a person's savior is kind of empty, right?"
"I suppose, in your incredibly thick way, that you have a point," 415 admitted. "But how do you know that I am not lying to you in order to get a Pokemon?"
He shrugged. "I just know how to feel people, 415," he said. "I can tell you're a good person, even if no one sees it. That's why you love him, because you idolized the savior that 0 was to you. You wanted to be like that. And one day, you will be." He stood up, his face tense.
"What is it?" 415 asked.
He sniffed the air. "Pokemon," he said curtly and released Lu and Tork. "We need to hide, catching Pokemon at Poke Spots is tough enough… Orre Pokemon are really brutal because of the environment they live in." He ducked behind a rock and 415 followed him with the Pokemon. From there, they saw what had come to drink from the oasis.
The Pokemon looked like a blue and black lion, with two gold rings around its two front legs. "Luxio," 0 breathed, while 415 analyzed the Pokemon. The dark spots on its hind legs were short, indicating it was a female. "Will that one do?"
415 nodded. "It will be suitable," she decided, so 0 handed her a Poke Ball and told her to get ready for the fight. Lu got ready to fight first, as Tork was rather hesitant about battling a wild Pokemon for someone else's capture. When 0 gave the signal, he, Lu, and 415 sprang out from behind the rock.
"Lu, Aura Sphere!"
"Cario!" The Pokemon generated the Aura quickly and blasted it at the Luxio. It reacted quickly, rather angry at being disturbed so rudely, and dodged. It responded by growled, then releasing a stream of electricity that coursed through the Lucario's body. Lu faltered, but recovered itself a moment later and punched its paws together, indicating it was ready for another round.
0 was happy to oblige. "Force Palm!" he ordered. Lu charged up more Aura, and unleashed it, sending the Luxio flying back.
"Do I catch it now?" 415 asked, readying her Poke Ball.
0 shook his head. "This one's really tough, it's probably a high level, and my Lucario just evolved," he explained. "Lu, blast it with another Aura Sphere! Keep wearing it down!" Lu growled, and unleashed sphere after sphere. But its level was too low, the Luxio kept dodging and shocking the dog Pokemon. Finally, it had enough, and dove towards Lu, sinking its fangs in and delivering a course of electricity into the Lucario's body. Lu shivered, and passed out. 0 recalled it.
"Tork, go!" 0 ordered. The giant turtle blasted steam from its nostrils and back before lumbering into battle. "Flamethrower!" It took a deep breath, then blasted at the Luxio, covering its proximity in fire. It still dodged, much too fast to be hit by the slow and steady Torkoal. 0 groaned as another bolt of electricity shot out and struck the turtle, causing it to cease its flame barrage.
"Why is it winning?" 415 shouted.
"Because it's a speedy Pokemon at a high level," 0 retorted, as if instructing a child. "Tork, use Heat Wave! Blast the battlefield!"
The turtle nodded, and drew in the power of the nearby sunlight. The Orre sun, so powerful, charged it, and it unleashed a deadly strike. Finally, the Luxio faltered, unable to dodge the attack, and fell to the ground. 0 grinned, the battle was finally turning in his favor.
"415, get ready with that Poke Ball! Use it when I give the order!"
Luxio had enough. It screamed a mighty Roar, then its entire body began glowing.
"Oh no," 0 muttered.
"What is it?" 415 demanded to know.
He glanced towards her, and sighed. "You really, really don't want to know," he replied, before he turned back to the fight. The glowing Pokemon grew, and finally transformed into a Luxray. The Luxray, upon its evolution, snarled at Tork and 0, then blasted the turtle with enough electricity to power a city block. Tork groaned, then passed out. 0 recalled him, now out of Pokemon and with an angry Luxray ready to attack.
It charged up its lightning, focusing on 415 first. She panicked, unsure of what to do. 0 cursed, and felt the tingle of electricity flow through his body. "Get down, 415!" he shouted and rushed towards the Pokemon. It snarled at him and focused its attack in his direction.
"What are you doing?" screamed 415.
"Something stupid!" he replied and transformed, again without having to trigger his morpher. The golden armor clamped into place, just in time to take the Luxray's Discharge attack. He groaned, working through the pain, and absorbed the electric attack. "Okay, here I go!" Operating on instinct alone, 0 placed his hands to the ground, and focused on all of the electricity surging through his body. His palms sparked, and the electricity went flowing back into the ground, ripping through the oasis floor towards the Luxray.
It screamed as it was struck by the force of the torrential lightning, and collapsed to the ground barely breathing. 0 swerved to 415, who was hiding behind him and shouted, "Now, 415! The Poke Ball!"
"R-Right!" she said and hurled the ball in the fallen Luxray's direction. It smacked into the Pokemon's side, opened up, and encased the beast in flashing red light. The Pokemon vanished and the Poke Ball tumbled down onto the ground, where it began shaking violently as the Pokemon endeavored the last of its strength to evade capture.
Finally, the ball stopped shaking. The Luxray was caught.
0 smiled as 415 walked up slowly, as if the Pokemon might pop up at any moment and attack her, and picked up the Poke Ball, cradling it between her fingers. Then, slowly, her lips crept up into a smile, and she turned back to 0.
"You can…transform without evoking the morpher," she said, looking at his Ranger Form. He nodded. "Why?"
He shrugged. "I don't know why," he replied. "I just know that when I want to help people, I can change without needing to shout a morphing call or pressing a button." He paused, as her smile had faded. "Is that a bad thing?"
"I do not know," she answered. "But…I do remember that in the final days, before he fused with his morpher, 0 could do that too. Do not lose your humanity."
"I won't," he promised.
"And, thank you," she murmured, lowering her gaze to the emblem on his chest. "Thank you, 0, for this Pokemon." She cradled the Poke Ball close to her chest.
He nodded, and demorphed. As the guise of the Golden Ranger faded away, he gave her a grin. "You'll do fine, 415. One day, I'm sure you'll make him proud."
She nodded. "I know I will 0. Now, we should go home. I need to begin preparing myself and my Pokemon for Ranger camp." 0 agreed and opened the hover bike's capsule. They got on, and rode off.
"I think this is one of the first times you've ever called me 0."
"What of it?"
"Any particular reason to start now?"
She paused. "There was something in your stance, and the way you fought, that reminded me of 0. You are slowly growing into your mantle." She hated repeating herself.
"Shut up, 0."
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Somewhere in the desert, a man stumbled back into a building. Carrying his Poke Balls, surrounded by a henchmen crew of Rangerlings, he opened the door and collapsed inside.
"Goza," whispered a voice in the dark.
The man looked up, he recognized that voice. "Ame?" he asked.
The voice in the dark giggled. "You have work to do, Goza. My employers insist."
Goza groaned and the voice inside his head began getting louder.