First published December 11, 2021
None of what the gumshoe had muttered to himself was entirely
"Exactly what happened to the Rocket after that gorilla's hand dragged him off to the side I can't say, but when he was tossed across the hallway a few moments later he looked like he'd been the uncontested winner of a knuckle sandwich eating competition and stopped by Popeye's for dessert. The man who came after him was well over six feet tall and wearing a costume right out of a bad heavy metal album. I introduced myself cordially." Without skipping a beat, he promptly did just that: "The name's Excavator. Sam Excavator. I'm a private investigator."
The overly violent alleged superhero in question stared at the barred cell for some time trying to make sense of what had just happened. Eventually, Sam opened his mouth to start narrating
"Of course I told the man I'd help get his swords back," Sam replied. "I'd been thinking of branching out into repo anyway. Considering the circumstances, I'd even waive my usual fee provided he helped me out of this cell. Which he did with all haste. And together we went deeper into the Rockets' lair."
~ ~ ~
Far and away, in the shadow of Mt. Winter... A dastardly plot was unfolding. An immense, freshly baked meat pie rested in front of the yawning mouth of a cave, its scent drawn in by the draft of the cave. Deep within, it reached the sensitive nose of a truly overgrown Ninetales, who at that moment happened to be typing up this very fanfic on a similarly oversized keyboard, with much flailing of paws and clacking of nails on keyboard - all of which stopped abrubtly as the overgrown fox caught the scent of the pie.
Carefully camouflaged and hidden in shrubbery, a redheaded woman in Rocket field gear stared intensely at the pie through a set of binoculars, at a safe distance. She watched as the fox stepped outside and opened the card they'd left on top of the pie.
"... Happy belated Thanksgiving, from your loyal followers of Foxfire Version." Hiber read the words on the card out loud, and smiled broadly. "Well,
After that, the big fox made it just ten paces into that cave before collapsing.
In the depths of the Celadon City Game Corner, past a maze of sliding tiles which it had taken the two far too long to figure out, a pair of dubious looking grunts had just arrived at the entrance to Giovanni's personal auditorium. One of them constantly mumbled to himself; the other's uniform was patently too small for his seven foot frame, and it was surely a mercy that Team Rocket uniform standards did allow for a bared midriff. Regardless, both stayed near the back of the auditorium, trying not to attract attention, as Giovanni himself spoke, framed in the background by the infamous agent Domino and a man neither of them recognized, wearing surgical scrubs and with too many scalpels by far.
"Rockets! Subordinates! The Mewtwo project has failed. But our newest, and greatest, Pokémon enhancement project
Behind him, from one of the PokéBalls - really more capturing nets - of a man in doctor's scrubs opened up suddenly, and in a flash of red light a creature that could only be described as an anthropomorphic full-grown apple tree emerged, and everyone around, Giovanni included, had to scramble to dodge out of the way of the resulting rain of apples.
All three on stage glared at the treeman, who sheepishly replied, "WAS THAT NOT MY CUE? SORRY," before vanishing back into the ball from whence it had come.
Giovanni returned to the podium, cleared his throat. "As I was saying," he continued. "With the combined efforts of Team Rocket's history of genetic augmentation and the particular talents of our newfound ally, Doctor Moreau!" Giovanni ceded the podium, and waved the man in scrubs up.
The dubious man in question stepped forward. "Please, just Doc Moreau. The Fred Frankenstein School of Biological Science revoked my doctorate years ago." He glanced aside, clenched a fist, and spoke away from his microphone. "They said my experiments were unethical. The fools. I'll show them all..."
That slight digression aside, the doctor grinned - and held up a stone for all to see. It looked a little like a Water Stone - but rather than being blue, it was purple, with a curious static appearance in place of its symbol mark. "Behold. With my powers of uplift and your resources, together we have developed the world's most powerful tool of evolution - the
In the back, Mr. Excavator couldn't help but describe what he saw. "The purple rock glowed with an ominous, sickly light, like mercury lamps and a Chicago River fire on a dark, smoggy day. The hapless balloon rabbit's expression changed from smiles and rainbows to surprise and fear as it figured out what was going on. Its body tensed up and glowed white, and expanded, first with anger, then on its own as the forcible metamorphosis took hold - and when the stone was gone and the light faded away, it was bigger, taller than a man, with a scarf around its neck hiding its mouth."
He was not alone. Shock and surprise filled the room as Rockets muttered to each other. One Rocket had happened to have downloaded the Google Pokédex app to his smartphone, and he raised it up to take a look - and a Pokédex entry came up that had not been read in, at the least, the better part of 20 years, not since the days when the old MS Pokédexes had reigned.
"Bigglymuff: This rare Pokémon is known to eat people as they read their Pokédex.
The unfortunate Rocket in question was, inevitably, devoured immediately. In the resulting kerfuffle, Mr. Moreau ended up ceding the podium in the process of Once the Bigglymuff was off stage, he continued his speech:
"Subordinates, Rockets, countrymen, lend me your ears! This power on its own would be a great thing. But we know it goes further. At this point, this is the limit of the Forced Evolution Machine's power. Not just Bigglymuff, but Rainer, Beepin, Raticlaw, Sandswipes, and many others are within our grasp!" As he spoke, he drew four balls from his belt, tossed them all up into the air, and showed off the monsters within - clear-cut evolutions of Blastoise, Beedrill, Raticate and Sandslash. "We are close - very,
Those words drew the attention of the entire rocket group, who immediately stared at her. "... Excuse me, boss," one of them said eventually, "But did you just say
The executive's head nodded dourly. "That's right. There was no sedative in the pie except tryptophan. Why did you think we called it a belated Thanksgiving gift? It was a
"Suddenly," said Sam Excavator, "It all clicked. Why Team Rocket would be after balloons - when they could force even much stronger creatures to form. They weren't just after normal balloons - they wanted to produce The Big One. A devourer of worlds that had been forgotten for aeons. I looked at my compatriot and told him we had to go to the Forest of Doom.
So much more unfortunate that neither of them really understood the conveyor belt puzzle in the middle of the basement. Eventually they got to the point of challenging it to a fight, and NAHman, as he was wont to do, beat it up - but by that time, it was far too late.
Beyond the tunnel which the Rockets had taken, there was another world. It was a grassy field - but the sun was in the wrong spot, and frozen, hanging perpetually in the sky. The grass didn't rustle underfoot; it made crackling, clinking sounds like crystal, and reformed as soon as it was stepped on, with glints of amber.
In the center of the field, dozens of portals stood, in dozens of colors - but all were faded with age, and all had their rims tinged with amber - as lifeless on the other side as this one. The bulk of them no longer functioned - only static was visible through the tinted gates - and many others were half-functional at best, the worlds on the other side torn asunder by the ravages of time, and the Nothing, the eternal Void.
It was to one of these half-broken portals that the Rocket group went. Aqua. And they traveled to a dead world, a world ripped asunder by gravitational forces and a long chain of apocalypses -- one of which they found right away,
The Executive brought up an electronic device and scanned it over Doompuff's frozen body - a glass-like, almost invisible, static surface held it eternally in place, nothing but a memory of the terror it had once been. She pressed the tip of the device up against its frozen rabid slobber, and copied a sample of its DNA - the one thing they'd come all this way for. Then, she looked back at her team. "That's it. Now let's get out of here. The Archive could change any minute, and we'd all be trapped for Mew only knows how long."
And a few moments moment later -- as they dashed for the Amber Portal which had brought them here -- that was exactly what happened.
Mere moments after those baleful words left the Rocket executive's mouth, it just so happened that a recently reawakened Hiber made a mior change to the archives, in the process of preparing Aqua Version for a more stable archival. And, as a result - the amber-tainted portal slammed shut right in front of their eyes. Maybe it had moved somewhere else in the version, and maybe they were simply trapped - but regardless, they
...And not one of them, not a single one of them, noticed the faint, hairline crack that had been left on the one and only original Doompuff's temporal seal.