The only bright side—if you could even call it that—to our problem was that with no other living souls visible, that meant there were no more Rockets. We were suspicious of some of the stacks of steel and other metals, but the only sound we'd heard so far had been our own footsteps, so it seemed as if everything was clear. That is, until I heard a shout from behind me.
I whipped around just in time to see a Banette hovering in front of Karen, its palms held out towards her and glowing with an ethereal, violet aura. I wondered why she simply stood there like a frozen statue, staring blankly at the Banette's outstretched hands. Then, as I was moving towards her to perhaps push her away from it and hopefully out of her strange trance, she turned to me and pulled out a Pokeball.
“What are you doing, sis?” I questioned her, not at all intimidated by the device she had just procured. I thought we were just going to run away from the Banette... Then again, it could probably chase us for a long time. So she's going to faint it right now. That's Karen for you, always thinking ahead.
She didn't respond at all. In fact, she didn't even seem to have blinked for a while now. I took a step forward and caught a glimpse of her lilac-colored eyes, which had been the same silvery-blue shade as mine for as long as I could remember. Before I could realize my mistake, she threw the Pokeball onto the ground, her mannerisms completely and creepily emotionless.
The Pokeball opened the moment it touched the dirt, and out popped none other than her trusty Houndour. The Dark Pokemon looked around in confusion, wondering where the enemy was that its Trainer had sent it out to fight. Then, it laid eyes on the Banette, whose arms were still giving off that surreal glow.
Just like Karen, the Houndour's irises changed from their original gray color to an eerie, purple hue. It turned back to me with a cold expression on its canine face, crouching down to prepare itself for a powerful pounce.
I wanted to help my sister and her Houndour. I really did. But I had no idea how to break either of them out of the weird mind-control the Banette had them under, and I didn't want to send out any Pokemon for fear they would hurt them, even if it was self-defense. Instead, I cowardly ran away from them. I heard the Dark Pokemon leap through the air, but I had gotten a head-start, so its pounce landed a few feet behind me. Undeterred, it still obeyed its master's orders, following me even when I crashed through the tangle of branches that was the boundary of the nearby forest and continued on.
I was so consumed by fear, I didn't even know that the Houndour had stopped chasing me until I noticed the absence of an occasional nick at my heels or the low growls. I had been racing through the forest for about ten minutes, and I was overcome with fatigue, even though my sister and I had just woken up maybe an hour or two earlier. Then again, I hadn't eaten or drank in several hours, and there was probably some gas in the air that had managed to snake its way into my lungs when I wasn't paying attention. Coupled with the fact that I had just sprinted a very far distance in a short amount of time, and I was unconscious before I even hit the forest floor, still panting.
Everything after that was a blur, for my mind was always focused on the sister I had left behind. Apparently, a Trainer had been wandering around in the forest when he saw me laying on the ground. He had one of his Pokemon carry me to the Pokemon Center, where I was treated and taken care of for a few days. As it turned out, I was the sole survivor of the city's destruction that hadn't been forced onto the Rocket's side.
They sent me to live in an orphanage, which I didn't really mind. Unlike all of those stories about them being terrible places, the one I was sent to was fairly nice. It was almost like home, what with the kind caretakers and how close some of the children were. I did make a few friends there, but none of them became as dear to me as Karen was. There wasn't a moment I wasn't thinking about her, or where she might be, or what could be happening to her at the moment.
The next few years passed just like this, with me barely paying attention to the world around me, always lost in thoughts of my sister and the tragedy that had befallen us. I graduated from high-school with average grades, but I didn't go to college. Instead, I worked as a caretaker at the orphanage, helping children that had been infants when I'd been a child there and completely new orphans. To anyone else, it would seem like a simple, pleasant way to live one's life. To me, it didn't really matter. Nothing much mattered anymore without my sister around.
That's when I got the best—and somehow worst—news of my life. A war was starting, one between the entire Johto region and Team Rocket. That wasn't the good part, of course. The good part was that their new leader had announced it, and that leader was none-other-then my dear sister Karen.
I remember feeling pure shock, and then suddenly glee at seeing her face on the cover-page of the daily newspaper, alive and not having been horribly mutilated or tortured as my constant nightmares had told me. She had, like me, changed a great deal in appearance as she had gotten older. Now she was a lean, tall woman with a cascade of cyan curls flowing over her shoulders that had, years ago, been a jagged pixie-cut she refused to grow out. But then, I noticed the Banette floating apathetically in a corner of the photo, and I felt my hands grip and tear the paper with fury.
That's when I decided to enlist in the military. I didn't care for the difficult process that was the training there. I didn't care that I would be leaving the orphanage and all of my “friends” behind. I didn't care about anything but being reunited with my sister and making that evil bastard of a Banette pay for what he did.
“...and that's pretty much it,” Solace finished, swallowing at the end of her sentence. She hated needlessly lengthy explanations, but that was about the only way she could think of to get the Warrant Officer to fully grasp her situation.
Marcus seemed to be lost in thought, his chin resting on his fists as he stared off into space. Solace waited a few seconds, but he didn't move a muscle. “Umm...sir?” she inquired almost hesitantly.
Marcus blinked, apparently pulled out of his thoughts. “Huh?” Then he saw Solace observing him with a raised eyebrow, and he quickly composed himself. “Ahem! Sorry, I was just...thinking about what you told me,” he replied coolly, taking a sip of tea from a mug on the desk and peeking at Solace from the corner of his eye.
She noticed him trying to gauge her reaction, but didn't pay the action any heed. “So...are you going to let me be on the front-line, Wa-Graystone?”
He placed the cup back down before chuckling, “Oh, I was going to let you go anyways. We don't have a lot of soldiers that want to be up there where all of the main action is going to take place. I just wanted to hear your reasons for such a fool-I mean, brave thing.”
Solace was a bit irked at the word he had nearly said, but this was mostly overshadowed by her joy at being on the front-line. “Thank you so much, sir.” She stood up and headed for the door.
“Now wait just a minute, Private,” Marcus's voice surprised her, and her hand froze a few inches above the doorknob. She turned to see him looking at her with a bemused expression.
“What is it?” she asked, now both perplexed and irritated by his quirky personality.
“What exactly are you going to do on the front-line?”
“I was going to hurry past the enemies' defenses as soon as the action started and get to Karen.”
This time, he was the one who raised an eyebrow in slight amusement and confusion. “So you were just going to march past all of those soldiers who, might I mention, are heavily armed and prepared to kill you at a second's notice, somehow sneak into the shelter by eluding all of the guards as well, and miraculously find your sister, who may or may not kill you herself once you get there?”
“I...didn't think of it like that,” she said sheepishly, blushing.
“Well, I have a plan that might be a bit more coordinated,” he stood up as he spoke and walked over to where she was, before continuing in hushed whispers. Solace nodded in agreement a couple of times.
Now that his explanation was over, he got to the most crucial part of the plan. “So, do you really want to do this? I mean, you're risking your life out there. You could stay back here as a guard, and enemies hardly ever get through our defenses.”
Solace shook her head fervently. “Of course not. I've been waiting to see my sister again for twelve years. Do you really think I'm going to miss a perfect chance of being reunited with her?”
Marcus sighed, “Fine. Just be careful out there, all right? I don't want to know a young woman died because I gave her a stupid plan.”
Solace went to leave, but just as she was closing the door, she turned around and faced him with an almost menacing grin, “I won't allow myself to die before I know my sister is happy and well, and that the Banette has suffered ten-fold what she has over the years.”
Crouching near the dry, yellow ground, Solace was quite pleased with herself, as well as the little Pokemon she had taken a liking to who sat next to her. They were just a few yards away from the shelter that the enemies had taken over, which was almost exactly like the one she had been inside of a couple hours earlier.
Marcus's plan had been a simple, yet effective one. She had taken one of the squad's vehicles and drove a few miles eastward away from the battlefield, before changing directions towards the north, where the enemies' base was. That way, she was skirting the battlefield and getting to her destination, without having to be on the front-line where there was only the slimmest chance of her even surviving, much less completing her goal.
She had parked the car several yards away from where the guards were posted, for the somewhat loud engine would surely catch someone's attention. Marcus had allowed her to borrow his Zorua so that it could get a good look at one of the guards, before disguising itself as one of them and heading over there. Once there, it had some greetings and small talk with the two guards standing there, before suddenly and without warning attacking them. It would've been easier to kill them, but the next part of the plan would have been severely flawed if they did that.
So instead, the Zorua only knocked them unconscious, before dragging them over to the boulder that Solace was hidden behind. If it had killed them, then there would be blood on their outfits, and that just wouldn't do when someone saw Solace dressed in the same outfit.
It was a good thing that one of the guards happened to have grayish-blue eyes almost exactly like hers, for she already had to stuff all of her hair inside of the cap as she wore it so she would look more like said bald guard. She hated being in some random man's clothing, not to mention it was a bit sweaty, but she knew it was a small price to pay for getting her sister back. Although, she did envy the Zorua a bit for having the ability to simply disguise itself as the other guard without wearing their stinky apparel.
Nevertheless, they were currently right next to the immensely tall, barbed-wire fence that served as the gate. Solace fumbled in one of the pants pockets for the keys, while the Zorua waited patiently next to her. For a Pokemon known for its mischievous nature, this Zorua seems pretty docile... Ah well. Means less trouble for me. She felt her fingers clasp around something metal, and pulled out a single key. She then inserted it into the small key-hole on one of the poles of the fence, and smiled triumphantly when it twisted correctly. She threw the key onto the ground and pushed the door-shaped part of the fence, both her and the Zorua wincing at the loud creaks it elicited upon opening.
They quietly slipped past it, not bothering to close it for fear that its ear-shrieking noise would alert the other guards to their presence. Of course, it wouldn't have mattered anyways, for another sentry was sauntering over to them the moment they entered. Solace hastily straightened her shoulders in an attempt to look formal and more broad like a man, and sensed the Zorua behind her quickly taking on the illusion of the other guard, before stepping out from the temporary cover her body had provided.
The sentry didn't seem too concerned, but the two still kept their guard up as he called out, “Hey Anderson! Miller! What're you guys doin' away from yer post?”
Solace gulped, feeling sweat drip down her face. She somehow managed to speak though, forcing her voice into a slightly deeper tone that she hoped sounded like a man's. “Hey! We're just coming in for a quick bite to eat! It gets so hot out here, y'know?”
The sentry was standing in front of them now, his hands inside of his pockets as he cocked an eyebrow.
“A bite to eat? Well, I'mma sorry ta have ta do this to ya, Anderson, but I'm gonna have ta reprimand ya for that,” he said, his grin displaying a few missing teeth.
Solace nearly backed away in disgust. These Rockets are terrible... And I'm wearing one of their outfits right now too. She thought in dismay. But upon hearing his words, she froze, staring at the man's face. Did I hear his accent right? She glanced over at “Miller”, and saw he had grown quite serious as well. Her heart sank. We can't be caught now! We were so close!
Unexpectedly, the man suddenly burst out into peals of hearty laughter, slapping his knee as he did so. “Oh, you shoulda seen yer faces! Anderson, yer eyes went as wide as plates!” Solace and “Miller” gave each other bemused looks, before the man managed to speak again between his giggles, “Oh, ya really think I'd do tha' ta ya? I was jus' comin' back from getting' myself somethin' ta eat!” He shook his head, finally calming down some, though a snicker or two still escaped him. “Don't worry. I'll watch yer posts while ya'll are in there. Go get yerselves some grub outta this blasted heat.”
Solace and the Zorua nodded at the Rocket's invitation, before jogging towards the base. They saw a few other soldiers on their way there, but the Rockets' only smiled and waved as they passed by, apparently not caring where they went or what they were doing. We must have chosen some pretty popular guards to impersonate... It'll make getting in that much easier.
Finally, they were standing before the main entrance into the base, which was a plain set of double-doors. Solace quietly, yet nonchalantly pushed open said doors and went inside, the Zorua trailing behind her.
Inside, it was just like the inside of her own squad's base had been. Does everybody around here just favor this style of décor or something? I mean, not that I'm complaining, since now I know exactly where Karen will be, but... Solace pushed her thoughts away, and as soon as she did, real excitement came over her. Without even thinking, she pounded down the hallway, making a bee-line for the door at the end of the corridor. The Zorua nearly yelped in shock, before shaking its head and following her.
Solace kicked open the door and yelled out, “Karen!” The Zorua came to stand behind her, panting slightly and leaning against the door-frame for support. It wasn't entirely used to walking on two legs, unfortunately.
Inside, the room was even blander than Marcus's office had been. There was absolutely nothing in there, except for a blue-haired woman looking out of the window and a Banette hovering next to her, looking quite bored. The moment Solace shouted, though, it whipped around in surprise. Its strange, crimson eyes narrowed upon seeing Solace and the Zorua. Its hands began to glow just as they had twelve years ago, and Solace cried out in fury as Karen turned around, once again under that dastardly mind-control.
Solace's head fell, and she clenched her fists, nearly causing herself to bleed with how hard she was clenching them. Not again... I'm not going to be a cowardly little girl again!
The Zorua stepped forward, letting its illusion fade. It could sense how close Solace was to being overcome with rage, and it didn't want to see the consequences if she tried to fight the Banette herself.
The Banette stared at Marcus's Zorua curiously, before Karen spoke in a monotone voice, “A Zorua? How pathetic. I recognize you, human, but I didn't think you'd come back after all this time. Especially with such a weak Pokemon.”
The Zorua growled, stomping one of its paws angrily. “Zorua!” it shouted, trembling with vexation.
“Karen” laughed darkly, sneering at the Zorua. “You really think you can best me? I have my own powers, little one, not to mention this Trainer and her own Pokemon. You have no chance of wi-”
Without warning, Solace jumped through the air, landing on the Banette. She then promptly began beating it to a pulp, her fists flying through the air. “You bastard! I'm gonna kill you!” she screamed.
The Banette had been caught completely off-guard, but hadn't loosened its control on Karen. Her body swiftly pulled out a Pokeball and threw it onto the floor, releasing an Umbreon.
Marcus's Zorua didn't particularly want to fight with the almost unnaturally tall Eeveelution, but it didn't need to. The Umbreon, upon being released, observed its surroundings, before spotting the Banette and immediately racing towards it in the form of a Quick Attack. Solace barely managed to slide to the side before the Umbreon slammed the Banette into the wall.
The Banette was on the brink of fainting, that much was obvious. Its body drooped as it lay on the floor. The aura around its hands slowly, but steadily diminished, as did the color-change of Karen's eyes.
Solace noticed this, and she walked over to her sister, pausing a couple of feet away from her. “Karen? Are you...alright?” she spoke, her voice barely a whisper.
Her sister stood there with the same blank expression on her face, and Solace was afraid that she was somehow still under the barely conscious Banette's control. Then, she blinked, and turned to Solace. “Solace? What... How did you get here?”
Solace didn't reply. She didn't even scold herself for the tears of joy that had begun streaming down her face. “KAREN!” she cried gleefully, tackling her sister.
She heard a soft groan beneath her, and Solace hurriedly got up. “I'm sorry, Karen! I didn't mean to hurt you, I swear!” she sniffled.
Her younger sister merely chuckled, before wrapping her arms around her in a much gentler hug. “It's fine, Solace. I'm just glad to be out of that damn Banette's control.”
Solace turned and glowered at the now unconscious body of the Banette, which Karen's Umbreon and Marcus's Zorua were standing in front of hesitantly, trying to decide whether or not to kill it. I sincerely want to rip that thing's heart out.. “What do you think we should do to that bastard, Karen? After all, you were the one under its control for the past twelve years.”
Karen shook her head. “Leave it. The guards will find it and probably give it a worse death than any of us could.”
Solace hesitated, but a stern glance from her sister told her that it would get the payback it deserved. “Fine. Let's just get out of here. I have a ride outside.”
Karen raised an eyebrow at this response. “Won't the Rockets be a little discombobulated without their leader around anymore?”
Solace grinned impishly at her sister as she stepped outside of the room. “That's exactly my point, sis.”