Notice: This episode contains some swearing, so if you're below the age of nine you might not want to read this. But you probably will anyway, because you're curious.
“Thank you for the pokemon, Professor. I’ve got to get going,” Cynn murmured, heart pounding. Could the kid Alder had seen be the one who had taken Pokey?
“Uh… bye!” Alder waved to Cynn as the latter stormed out of the lab.
“Harter,” said Penelope, stroking Groudon. “I need to talk to you."
“What do you want?” babbled Harter. “I- I- I’ve done everything you Elite Four guys wanted me to do.”
“I need one more favor, Harter,” Penelope smiled…
“Huh,” Cynn said. “So what’s your name?”
“Jennifer,” the girl said. She then scooped up her gengar and wandered away.
“See ya!” she called over her shoulder. Cynn sat down, leaned back against a tree, and waited for Quill to wake up.
"My grandparents run the Pokemon Daycare Center," said William. "If you want, you can stop by there to rest up a bit before you reach Maroon."
"Sure," said Cynn.
"Good job, man," said Torren, who was waking up his absol and togepi.
After saying farewell to Torren, William headed back toward the Pokemon Daycare Center. Cynn went with him- it wasn't like he had anything better to do.
"Wait!" said Nathaniel. "What about the video tape? I've done everything you asked. When will you turn it back over to me?"
"When you're no longer useful," said the voice. "I don't enjoy blackmail, but it's extremely helpful having a member of the Elite Four working for me."
"You'll pay for this," Nathaniel said, his voice rising. "My kind have infiltrated every level of society. One day you'll find a knife in your back!"
"No, I won't," said the voice. "Because I've sent copies of the tape to the rest of "Team Zangoose", as you call us. If any of us die, the tapes will be sent out, and the whole world will know that you're a ditto. Not only that, but they'll know that dittos are living among them, pretending to be human."
"So I have no choice but to ensure that Team Zangoose remains safe and unharmed," muttered Nathaniel in defeat. "Fine. I'll do what I can to convince Penelope."
Nathaniel hung up and walked away.
Meanwhile, many miles away, William smiled, hung up, petted his zangoose, and went to tend to a wounded pokemon.
Runan marched through the misty trail toward the headquarters of the Elite Four. His long black hair hung down in his eyes, but he didn't bother brushing it out of the way. He knew this path like the back of his hand. His dusknoir and luxray trotted along behind him, growling at shadows. Runan remained calm and focused.
He reached the door, opened it, and walked through, his pokemon close behind. Runan greeted the men and women seated at a table at the back of the room. There was Penelope, who focused on psychic-type pokemon; Henry, who focused on fire and rock type pokemon; Nathaniel, who was accompanied by an entire team of incredibly powerful ditto; Albert, who loved bug pokemon, especially his shiny butterfree; and the champion, Stephanie, who didn't care what type of pokemon she used as long as they were powerful.
The others nodded politely as Runan sat down. Each of the Elite Four was accompanied by their legendary pokemon of choice.
Mew hovered over the shoulder of Penelope. Entei lay at Henry's feet. Nathaniel's Deoxys surveyed the room coldly, while Albert's Celebi perched on his head. Stephanie's Shaymin sat on her lap, utterly motionless. All of the legendaries present were dead-eyed and robbed of all of their free will.
Runan shook the hand of each member of the Elite Four, and bowed before the Champion.
"Ah, Runan," said Stephanie. "It's a pleasure seeing you again."
"And you, madame," said Runan. "I have retrieved the pokemon you requested."
Runan pulled a pokeball from his belt and popped it open. Bursting forth was Regice.
Regice roared ferociously, but Penelope spat in its face. "Good job, Runan. Put it with the other Regis."
"Yes, madame," Runan said, recalling Regice back into the pokeball.
Nathaniel wandered the halls of the Elite Four headquarters, his horde of ditto following close behind. The other members of the Elite Four had long since retired to their rooms, but Nathaniel was uninterested in sleep. When he tried, he was plagued by nightmares of being shunned by both humans and ditto. So instead he walked through the dark corridors, his brain working furiously, trying to find a way out of the blackmail.
Then, suddenly, he knew what to do. He smiled and his eyes brightened. Of course- why hadn’t he seen it before?
"So," said Will conversationally as he led Cynn to the Pokemon Daycare Center, his zangoose following along. "Are you going to challenge Harter?"
"Yeah, I am," replied Cynn.
"He's a cool guy," Will said. "He's a good storyteller, too. It was through him I learned about how way back when, the Pokemon League didn't run everything. Back then the Elite Four were great people. Everyone lived in relative harmony."
"The Elite Four aren't so bad," said Cynn. "What did they do that's so horrible? They protect us from pokerus."
"The pokerus virus makes pokemon more powerful," said Will. "You've been buying into their propaganda. They've imprisoned most of the legendary pokemon, using them to control the entire region."
"You're nuts," snapped Cynn. "Do you have any proof at all of this?"
"Proof? I've seen Celebi hooked up to tubes and hanging from the ceiling, his power being drained to serve the Elite Four, and only being released for short periods of time when they want to use him in battle," yelled Will angrily.
"And, uh, how would you have seen that?" asked Cynn dryly.
Will’s mouth opened and closed. Cynn could see he was dying to say something.
“You know what? Never mind. I’ll get to Maroon City on my own.” Cynn stormed away.
Will watched him go. He then turned and spoke a command to his zangoose.
Cynn was marching angrily down the path to Maroon, with Quill following close behind, when it began to rain. Cynn ignored it at first until he saw how uncomfortable Quill was. Upon noticing, he put Quill into one of his pockets, so that he would be sheltered. Cynn noticed that despite Quill sporting flames on his back, those flames did not burn through Cynn’s pocket. Normally, he would have wondered about this, but he was too tired and angry.
As he stumbled through the blinding rain, which grew stronger by the minute, he could see and hear something ahead of him: a flash of pink, a familiar cry…
“Pokey!” he screamed. Cynn raced toward the sound. As he drew closer, he could see the silhouette of a boy, about his age, standing over a slowpoke.
“Stupid creature… can’t even stay awake long enough to win a battle!” the boy was shouting.
Cynn knew that Quill was not particularly powerful. He knew that Quill, being a fire-type pokemon, would be especially weak in the rain. But Cynn was angry, and he’d never been very good about controlling his temper.
“Here, you son of a bitch!” he roared, bolting toward the boy- apparently the one who had kidnapped Pokey. Quill reluctantly leapt out of Cynn’s sheltering pocket and pounced on the kidnapper.
Pokey looked up joyfully at Cynn’s arrival. “Cyyyyyynnn!” he bellowed.
The kidnapper threw Quill off of him, knocking the poor cyndaquil into a tree. “Shadow! Tackle!” he said.
“His name is Pokey, not-” began Cynn. He was cut off by Pokey, who, forced to obey the kidnapper’s will, had tackled Cynn to the ground.
“Pokey! You know me!” Cynn grunted, trying to get Pokey off of him. The slowpoke looked desperately sad.
“Everyone says slowpokes are stupid, but that just makes them all the more useful,” the kidnapper monologued. “They’ll do whatever I tell them to do. Shadow! Use Water Gun!”
Pokey absorbed some of the rainwater and fired it at Cynn. While Cynn was still stunned on the ground, the kidnapper drew a pocketknife and pointed it at Cynn’s neck. “This is my slowpoke now, got it?”
Cynn spat in the kidnapper’s face. It suddenly occurred to Cynn that he and the kidnapper looked a lot alike.
The kidnapper punched Cynn in the face, giving him a nosebleed. “Shadow! Use Yawn!”
Pokey did not move for a second, however, because he saw something that the kidnapper did not. William’s zangoose was approaching from behind. There was a flash of lightning that dramatically illuminated the zangoose.
Pokey used Yawn. Cynn’s mouth dropped open.
The zangoose leapt forward and latched its furry hands around the kidnapper’s throat. It dragged the kidnapper backward and tossed him against a tree with a large amount of force for a creature its size.
The kidnapper staggered to his feet, massaging his neck. “You’ll regret that!” he yelled. “Shadow! Come on!”
Pokey stared sadly at Cynn, before being dragged back into a pokeball on the kidnapper’s belt. The kidnapper raced away through the rain.
The zangoose stared at Cynn for a moment. Then he walked over to Quill, who lay unconscious nearby. The zangoose picked up Quill and carried him back to Cynn. Cynn placed Quill in one of his pockets.
“Thank you,” said Cynn. “How did…”
Before he could finish, the effects of Pokey’s Yawn attack caught up with him and he blacked out.
When Cynn awoke, the rain had ended and the sun was up. The zangoose was nearby, apparently deep in conversation with Quill.
Cynn got to his feet and walked over to the zangoose. “Uh… hi.”
“Zan zan,” the zangoose replied matter-of-factly.
“What’s your name?” asked Cynn, though he was not hopeful that the zangoose would respond.
“Jaaaa-aaaames,” the zangoose answered him.
“Do you belong to William?”
“Will friend,” said James the zangoose. “Eeee-quaaal.”
“Why did you save me?” Cynn interrogated the zangoose.
“Will want,” James murmured.
“Why would he do that?” Cynn asked.
James shrugged and resumed his conversation with Quill.
“Wait! One more thing,” said Cynn. “Are you going to be staying here?”
“James stay,” said James. “Help Cynn.”
“All… all right. I suppose a little help wouldn’t hurt,” Cynn said.
Cynn, Quill and James walked down the path to Maroon City, each lost in his own thoughts. They were so absorbed that it took them a while to notice that the gates to Maroon had finally come into view just a few yards ahead.
To be continued in the next episode!