Chapter 14: Team Rocket

Yumin searched his bag for the papers. A tangle of clothes, separate pouches full or berries, medicines, TMs, HMs, and maps swam around inside. He tilted the bag to get a better look. They weren’t there. He imagined they weren’t there, but maybe Zakana had slipped them back inside. Though then that would require insight and forward thinking.

Zakana still had them. That is, if he wasn’t dead in the mud somewhere.

“Look, kid,” Lyres said. “Its just an Ursaring. It’s not going to do anything to you. Unless I tell it to.”

Yumin spun around to see Lyres’ grin and the boy’s fearful expression.

Makua was his name. He sat on the ground near the three baby Eevee, trembling as he watched Lyres’ tracker sniff the earth.

Yumin remembered Makua from the time he had visited Bambi on Pokémon Day. He had run up to Bambi to give her something . . . her . . .

Yumin remembered something else.

“Hey, Lyres.”


“You still have my sister’s necklace. Give it back.”

“You got no manners, you know that, Yumin.” Lyres turned and sneered. “Where would you be without my Ursaring? You would never have been led so close to Bambi.”

Secretly, Yumin thought: you wouldn’t have led those creepy masked guys to us. That’s where we’d be—together.

And the pain of not being with Bambi set in. He began to worry about the papers, about Zakana.

“You never even said thank you. It’s a simple word you know.”

Fighting his better instincts, Yumin said the words.

“That wasn’t so hard now was it?”

“Can I have it back now? It doesn’t belong to you.”

Lyres’ hand dove into his pocket and he revealed a blue necklace.

Yumin walked up to retrieve it.

“Not so fast.” Lyres put the necklace behind his back, out of sight. “My services come at a price.”

“Whatever, Lyres. Just give it back.”

“I’m not kidding. I have something you want, and you have something I want.”

The sneer had changed into something else entirely, a malicious grin that would not take no for an answer. Yumin remembered he and Lyres’ last job together, knew that this boy would not budge. Again, he worried about his line-up versus Lyres’. If he had prepared, and knew what he would be up against, he would have pulled his Pokémon out of the reserve systems before the hack. He would have his six most devastating Pokémon and certainly not the line-up he had now.

And he knew, that as long as Lyres was with him, he was going to make things difficult.

“I saw you snatch it from the forest floor like it was a grenade waiting to blow.”

“Of course I’d grab it. You know what this technology means.”

“I’ll give you Bambi’s necklace as soon as you give me the Clamp Ball,” he said.

At this, Makua tore his terrified gaze away from the Ursaring. “What’s a Clamp Ball?”

“It’s the thing that stole one of Bambi’s Eevee away from her,” Yumin said.

And he needed it. He needed to bring it to his father to get his expert opinion on the thing. If he was going to save his family, save his uncle, he needed some Intel to fight the Viterals with. He knew next to nothing and they—they knew how to make balls like this. They were like Master Balls that could catch anything at all—even Pokémon that belonged to other trainers. The implications were chilling.1

“My dad, he builds balls, Lyres. If I can get it to him, he may be able to figure out how it works.”

“Do you want the necklace or not?”

Ursaring grunted, moved on all of its limbs to stand beside Lyres. Makua’s gaze followed. The three Eevee mewed and cried for their mother’s milk. Yumin could hear nothing but his own heartbeat.

He couldn’t take Lyres now with the team he had. He wondered if the reserve system had affected Lyres as well—if he had lost all of his Pokémon too. Yumin doubted it. And being wrong about it—making the move to fight Lyres here and now could leave him in the most compromising situation of his life.

“Fine. Whatever. On three.”

Lyres held the necklace out.

He was sneaky. Yumin didn’t trust him.

“One,” Yumin began.

“Two,” Lyres said.

“Three,” they said together, and the exchange happened. Yumin released the heavy Clamp Ball from his grasp and accepted Bambi’s necklace. He turned, put it inside one of his pouches in his pack.

Lyres studied the ball hungrily. He rolled it around in his hands.

The tension in that space flitted away like Butterfree, and Makua spoke.

“These babies are going to need their mother. They need milk.”

“This place grows milk-melons,” Lyres said, still gazing at the Clamp Ball as though it was a priceless gem. “If we find them we can help the babies.” Lyres scooped one up, held it close to him. “Come on. Let’s find the others.”

The forest grew quiet. Distantly, Chatots chirped, Forretress fussed, Beedrill buzzed. This place was strange, and Yumin knew it had changed recently. He recalled what he had seen at the Academy, and breathed deeply. He recalled what happened to his uncle just weeks ago. He wondered of his fate. He wondered of his own parents’ fates. He wondered what the Viterals were doing now, who they were targeting. Was it just his family or others too?

They gathered their things. Yumin scooped up the Eevee he had taken the night before. It was a twin—a twin of the Eevee that Zakana took. Yumin’s Eevee—or rather the Eevee that came from Bambi’s Eevee, which was now an Umbreon, had a relaxed personality. It hung its neck over Yumin’s forearm lazily, caught the beams of the sun as they shone through the treetops above. Makua scooped up the other one and followed Yumin and Lyres.

“Bambi will be glad you got her necklace back,” Makua said. “She was very worried about it.” He spoke with adult inflections, but his voice was senselessly boyish.

“How is she doing at the Academy?”

Makua said nothing, and when Yumin looked over at his wandering gaze he could tell he was thinking about how to respond in a diplomatic way. “She’s great at battling.”

“You don’t have to lie about it, you know?” Yumin said. “I’ve known her my whole life. I know Bambi. She’s not passing the tests, is she?”

“She would be if she just spent more time studying,” Makua said, his voice frustrated. “I can’t talk her out of it. Still, even with her low scores, she’s still fifth in our grade.”

Yumin grinned. At least she had picked up the battling side of things, like the rest of his family. He wondered if she was studying at all because in just six months, she had made amazing strides. Her starter, Chikorita had turned into a Bayleef in that time. It wasn’t impossible, but her second Pokémon, Eevee, had already turned into an Umbreon and that always took some time. He wondered about where his father had gotten it. Eevee were becoming increasingly rare and sought after, and here, Bambi possessed 5 brand spanking new ones. He thought about the stolen one, remembered the shrill cry of pain.

Ahead, Lyres stopped, turned to face the others. “It will be faster if we send out a flyer alone to scour the area.”

Yumin considered this. Now was a good as time as any. Though Braviary probably wasn’t up to it after all it had been through.

“I’ll send Skarmory,” Lyres said.

Makua cleared his throat. “I’ll send my Aipom to the treetops. I’m not worried about those masked guys.”

“Just hold on,” Yumin said. “Why do you want to do that?”

“We need to find Bambi and the others as fast as we can.” There was a tinge of fear in his voice, not only for Bambi, but because he feared not being able to find her again. The words twisted and fell on Yumin’s ears in an arresting way.

It’s happening all over again.

“Go, Skarmory!”

A great metal bird-looking dinosaur emerged, and Makua withdrew his Pokedex and scanned it. “A steel Pokémon,” he murmured with fascination.

Its eyes scanned Lyres in a primordial way as he commanded it. Then it flapped into the sky, its wings making vast whooshing noises as the metal clipped the air.

“Aipom, go!” Makua leaned down and whispered something to his Pokémon—this purple and beige monkey with hands for a tail.

Yumin remembered battling its evolved form, Ambipom, once or twice. It was wimpy and nothing he would ever use if he decided to catch one. He thought about all the Pokémon that were now gone—lost somewhere in cyber space, or in the Viterals Headquarters. He wanted his Pokémon back and he would do anything to make that happen.

“Its fine, Lyres said. “Skarmory can handle it.”

Makua turned, looked high into the trees above. “Good luck, Aipom. Remember what we talked about.”

Scrambling up the nearest tree, Aipom, using both its wide, balloon-like hands and the fingers that extended from its tail, climbed with creaturely ferocity. It swung, looped, tucked, and bamboozled its way to the top, so high that Yumin could no longer follow it.

“Let’s move forward in line with Skarmory,” Lyres said.

The words in line hit Yumin and he pondered them for the sake of survival. He didn’t exactly know whom Lyres was in line with—of course Team Rocket—but he needed to know what that meant. Getting caught off guard here could have consequences and deadly ones at that. Leaning over to Makua, he said, “how many Pokémon do you have and what level are they at?”

Makua stared back. His eyebrows arched and he didn’t answer immediately. “Three,” he whispered. “And they’re all at very low levels. My starter might be my strongest but he doesn’t listen to me. They won’t be able to do much, but they’re loyal and they know which side to stand on in a fight.”

Loyal. Side. Fight.

This boy Makua, he said the words that Yumin wanted to hear. He was even saying the thing that Yumin thought he was saying: does he think Lyres is a threat too?

Ahead of them, Lyres whistled deep, truncated tones that were likely to lead his Skarmory back to him. He moved ahead rhythmically, and with purpose.

“What are they?”

Makua matched Yumin’s low tone. “My Aipom. Fennekin, my starter, and a Feebas.”

It was true starter material all around. They probably hadn’t been in more than a few fights, which for Yumin meant digletty-squat.

“What are you ladies whispering about back there?”

“None of your business,” Yumin shot back. He leaned close to Makua and whispered. “Don’t find yourself alone with him. I still don’t trust his motives.” And as Yumin watched Makua’s wary eyes, he wondered if he’d made a mistake in trusting him. What if he was just an agent sent to watch after Bambi? What if he was made to look weak so that people like Yumin would trust him and spill their secrets?

Out of nowhere, Lyres began to run. First, at a jog through the labyrinth of trees and then a sprint, as if he’d embodied his Ursaring the night before. Yumin called after him, “wait up!”

The forest was so eerily quiet, much like the Academy. If Pokémon had ever been in it, they were inside the trees, the earth, the clouds. There wasn’t a catchable Pokémon to be seen. Lyres was a mass of color, appearing and disappearing through the trees at random, then a blinding blur. Yumin began to worry. He launched himself off a shallow bank, landed hard onto the ground. “Lyres!”

Makua jumped down too.

Another blur caught Yumin’s watchful eyes. This time he saw purple and beige and also green, though not forest green but something that reminded him of fresh, budding vegetables. The scratches and hollers came from a ball of fury. It catapulted itself into Makua, who flew back into the bank, his glasses flying off.

“Aipom! Stop!”

Aipom couldn’t stop. He was in a brawl with something quick and vicious. It was a blinding flash of hair pulling, arm yanking, and face slugging. The longer they watched the more Lyres got away. And the decision of who or what to abandon suddenly smacked Yumin between the eyes. He considered throwing a Pokeball to catch the green perpetrator but then he wondered where it would go? His reserve? Oh, wait. That didn’t exist anymore. So it was just another Pokémon for the Viterals to get their hands on.

Makua pushed himself off the ground, and situated his glassed back on his mud-stained face.

“Use a Quick Ball!” Yumin called.

Makua only had three Pokémon, which meant he was able to catch more—3 more if he wanted before the automated system stole his balls away.

“I don’t have any Quick Balls!”

“Well, throw something!”

“Aipom, use swift!”

The green thing was now pummeling Aipom.

“Use a ball kid! You can always release the thing if you don’t want it!”

Makua’s unsteady hands probed his body as he searched for something to throw.

“Pokeball, go!”

“I hope your Aipom weakened whatever that was.”

The ball connected, the white light absorbed a tiny thimble-like shape, and then there was silence. Aipom scurried to Makua and climbed to his shoulder perch.

The ball shook once.

“Dear Dialga that thing was fierce!”

The ball shook again.

This would add to their ranks.

On the third shake, the ball hesitated, the red light in the center hemisphere flashing on and off like a faulty light bulb. Finally, it came to rest.

“Hurry up. I don’t want to lose Lyres, Makua.”

“I want to see what I caught.”

“Not now kid!”

Yumin turned on his heel and hoped that Makua would follow. He ran. A part of him wanted to use his Pokémon to track Lyres now, but for some reason he was afraid of what might happen—he was afraid of those Clamp Balls, and the existence of others in this forest. He had already lost over 90 Pokémon and he definitely didn’t want to lose anymore.

“Yumin, wait!”

He didn’t stop. He couldn’t’ stop, not even if he wanted to. His legs carried him along subconsciously. He was afraid what Lyres might do, especially now that he had a Clamp Ball.

“It’s about Lyres! Just stop and listen!”

To his left, Yumin saw the purple flash again—the Aipom that hadn’t seemed to slow down from that near massacre. Was it even affected?

Aipom appeared in front of Yumin suddenly and out of nowhere, stretching his arms and tail out like a net ready to catch a school of Magikarp. Yumin slowed, tried to catch his breath. He spun to find Makua running toward him, an awkward limp in his step. “Just wait. Aipom knows what to do.”

It was an opportunity to catch his breath so Yumin took it.

Makua neared and as he did, it appeared as though he was the one who had climbed the trees, and been attacked by a savage green monster and Aipom was the one who stood by fumbling for a Pokeball. When he finally reached Yumin, he readjusted his glasses. They were broken. Makua looked disappointed and had they been somewhere less intense, he might have cried.

“Shoot,” he said, breathing heavy puffs of dragonbreath. “Whatever. Anyway. My Aipom saw him, he knows the way.”

So they followed it not far to where they were standing. Makua returned his Aipom and stalked up to a tree. “Lyres is meeting people here. That’s what his little stint was all about.”

Yumin followed behind, put his hands on Makua’s shoulders as they both peeked from behind a tree into a heavily covered area. Lyres stood there, hands on his hips across from a man and a woman, who were both dressed in dark slick suits, their hip bones sticking out like elbows. They were older than Lyres and Yumin, somewhere in their mid twenties and they seemed to be a couple by the way they were standing so close to each other.

“That two-timing Slakoth,” Yumin seethed. “Cronies from Team Rocket.”


Makua hadn’t been notified that Lyres was part of Team Rocket and he was probably unaware of Yumin’s organization as well. But Yumin couldn’t hide it forever. Bambi would soon know, Zakana would soon know. Soon, everyone would know everything. All he needed now was to know more about Team Rocket.

“We’ll keep the supply lines going as long as we can,” the woman said.

“Do you think the reserve system hack really is permanent?” Lyres asked.

“Worse than permanent.” The man looked at his counterpart for validation and when she nodded, he continued. “We’ll have to shake up our interaction with the Viterals as we move forward. I believe they are truly dangerous. They cannot rise to power with what they want.”

And Yumin thought he knew what the Viterals wanted, but now he wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure of anything.

“We’ll need help from, of all people,” the woman said sighing, as if admitted it was the worst thing in the world. “Team Crimson.”

His own organization. When Makua asked about them, Yumin shrugged. The less those around him knew, the better. The only one he could trust with information like this was Kirish.

“I’m with one of theirs now,” Lyres admitted.

The couple exchanged gluttonous glances and then looked back at Lyres. “Well you better be careful. We can’t have them succeeding either. Make sure you find out as much as you can.”

Lyres nodded. These were clearly his superiors. Yumin saw him crumple a piece of paper and stuff it in his back pocket. And then he made the connections. They had planned to meet earlier. A Pokémon had come in the night to deliver the message and Yumin had used Skarmory as a distraction to make Yumin think they were looking for Bambi and the others. Suddenly, something hit him and he turned to Makua. He had known.

“I knew he got the mail last night. I sent Aipom into the trees to see where Skarmory was headed and when he came back to the ground, I knew something had happened, so I followed.”

“These woods have gone quiet, Lyres.” The man squared up with him, leaned away from the woman as if he had something important to say. “The Pokémon know. They know they’re being hunted. We already know why but we don’t really know how.”

“So what will it mean?”

“It means certain types are becoming monopolized by the Viterals. Things that can’t hide or have no ability to be clever about it. Normal Pokémon, Poison. Fighting. Fire. Electric. Basically anything that can’t hide in the ocean, ground, trees, or in a metaphysical plane like the ghosts, darks, psychics, and fairies.” The man took a deep breath and Yumin knew even for a Rocket, this was bad news. “Anything besides those types will soon disappear from our world if the Viterals succeed.”

Disappear from the world?

Makua wore the same horrified look as well. How? He knew the final how, as in the Pokémon were captured with Clamp Balls, but he didn’t know the immediate how, as in, how were they being found at all? Pokedexes had limitations when it came to searching and finding Pokémon and Pokémon that were already owned by trainers—what of them? Yumin shuddered to think of the possibilities.

Lyres’ voice interrupted his train of thought. “I better get back. I don’t think I threw them off the trail too much.”

At that moment, Yumin considered revealing himself and calling out Lyres’ treachery. But he knew that he couldn’t take all three of these Rocket members. He probably couldn’t even take Lyres, so he watched and waited.

Lyres walked in their direction. The man and woman walked away from them. Lyres was going to walk straight by them and find them out.

What to do?

The footsteps got closer.

Yumin changed his position, slinked behind another tree. Makua followed. They slinked behind another, somehow unseen by Lyres. And another, they kept slinking until finally they had put enough distance between themselves and Lyres. Far enough away so that Lyres wouldn’t think they had heard the conversation.

“Lyres!” Yumin called, stepping out from cover. “Where did you go?”

“Think he won’t notice?”

“I don’t know, but it’s the best we’ve got.”

“We can say we were catching a Pokémon. Don’t you want to see what it is?”

Whatever it was, Yumin hoped it wouldn’t go insane again, rolling around like a thunder headed tumbleweed.

“Go, Pokeball!” Makua cast his ball onto the ground.

The thing emerged, this time not flying every which way, but calm. Makua pointed his Pokedex at the tiny, green and white human-shaped creature.

“Ralts. The Feeling Pokémon. Ralts senses the emotions of people using the horns on its head. This Pokémon rarely appears before people. When it does, it draws closer if it senses that the person has a positive disposition.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Yumin said, studying the red horns on its head, white flaps covering its eyes. “It viciously attacked your Aipom.”

“Well, we don’t know that,” Makua said.

The Ralts stared back at Makua, and a thin slip of mouth curled up, as though the thing were smiling. Its body was white, a dress of some fabric or skin that Yumin didn’t know about. He had seen Ralts before but had never studied one or caught one himself.

Ralts made a moaning sound, tilted its head to the side.

At the noise and disturbance, Lyres trotted up. “What’s this?”

Yumin shot him a dark look, saw him in a new, deeply treacherous way. What was he playing at?

“Makua caught another Pokémon.”

“Ah. A Ralts. They’re extremely rare.”

Yumin saw the gears turning inside Lyres’ head, as he squinted and tried to figure out how a Ralts could be here, and most of all caught by a Pokeball that Makua had thrown.

“You ran off,” Yumin said, trying not to sound accusing.

“No sign of the others,” Lyres said. “We better keep moving again.”

“Tell us before you run off like that.”

“Yes, master.”

Lyres grinned, turned to go.

“Why don’t we make our way toward Fuchsia city?” Makua said. “I’m supposed to meet my older brother there if any emergency breaks out, and Bambi will know about that too. I think that’s where she’ll go.”

“Yes, I think it’s better if we get out of this place. That’s the next town over.”

“Whatever. Just keep up,” Lyres said. His confidence had expanded since meeting with his Rocket team members. Why? Because he was traveling with a member of Team Crimson? If Makua knew—which he probably did—that Yumin was part of this team, he wasn’t leading on that he knew. This boy was smart. And not just in a reading books sort of way. He had common sense too. He knew how to track things and when the tides of change would rush in, suddenly and unforgivably. Yumin needed to form an alliance with this boy, even though he was ten and weak and had nothing powerful to speak of. His power was in his brain and the way he did things, and Yumin needed to use his own foresight to see this.

Team Rocket was at large again. Yumin wasn’t entirely sure of their relationship with the Viterals but he was with one of their members now, and in some eternal dance of concealing and discovering hidden information, The Crimsons about the Rockets and the Rockets about the Crimsons, Yumin and Lyres plodded along, helpers to each other in the most basic of ways, but rivals, old friends, old enemies, now heading to Fuchsia City to find their friends and family.

Yumin wasn’t entirely sure of their relationship with the Viterals but he was with one of their members now, and in some eternal dance of concealing and discovering hidden information, The Crimsons about the Rockets and the Rockets about the Crim…