Jesse opened one eye. Sunlight was streaming through the window of the tiny abandoned cabin they'd found and had been sleeping in. Autumn had come late this year, but now it was bitterly cold outside and even with the three of them huddled together by a camp fire, keeping warm at night outside was just not an option. She rubbed her eyes, trying to relieve them of the persistent, unshakable, tiredness. With all the pressure the boss was putting on them, she just couldn't seem to get enough sleep. Anxiety induced insomnia plagued her nearly every night and right now she felt she could sleep for a thousand days.
She raised her head suddenly, sniffing the air as the smell of pancakes wafted through from the tiny kitchen. James! She turned over. His blue sleeping bag was empty, but Meowth was still curled up in his tiny yellow one, on James's other side, purring softly. As usual James was up before either of them, and as usual he'd made a start on breakfast. But pancakes: This was a rarity! The trio had even less money than normal these days. Giovanni had been putting them through their paces. His schemes, plans and missions for them had become increasingly more difficult and dangerous of late and the little money they were paid often ended up being spent on their missions various requirements. They'd spent a little too much of it on vodka last night too, trying to drown their sorrows and her head was a tiny bit sore. She sat up smiling. Pancakes! Even better than the snow waffles Miyamoto used to make when she was a child!
Quickly chasing away the bitter feeling that accompanied the sudden thought of her mother, Jesse stretched, and slid out of her crimson sleeping bag. She stretched again, pulling her long, fushia hair away from the too-hot-back of her neck, flipped it over her shoulder and then froze when she heard the volume of the old radio in the kitchen turn up. Junior Senior: 'Move Your Feet.' That could only mean one thing! Grinning, she snuck silently over to the kitchen door and peered stealthily around the doorframe. James, bare footed in just his trousers and black t-shirt, his lavender hair still sticking up in unruly directions from sleep, was dancing round the kitchen enthusiastically. She snickered as he moonwalked over to the stove, skillfully flipping a pancake, before shaking his tush back and forth and raising his voice to a crescendo to sing along to the chorus. When he spun to face her, eyes shut tight and began thrusting his hips in time to the music, she couldn't help the peal of laughter that escaped her lips. He never failed to make her laugh.
James froze, green eyes snapping open. 'Jess!' He blushed. 'You scared me half to death!'
Jesse giggled, walking into the kitchen and leaning against the counter. ' Smooth moves Michael Jackson!'
He turned a deeper shade of crimson and rubbed the back of his head, laughing a little in embarrassment. 'I made pancakes.'
'I know! The smell woke me up!' She picked up a small rusted pan that they'd had for ages, filling it with a little water and putting it on the stove to heat. 'Do you want tea?'
James grinned, placing the stack of already made pancakes on the table. 'I always want tea! Is Meowth up yet?'
Jesse put two tea bags in two dusty, cracked mugs and flopped down on one of the cold metal chairs at the table, 'No! Don't wake him though! More pancakes for me!' She winked at him.
'Now Jess!' he scolded, 'I made these for all of us. You'll get yourself a morning Meowth scratch attack when he wakes up if you don't learn to share!' She pouted at him and stuck out her small pink tongue and he felt his stomach flip. Giving himself a mental shake he snagged two more plates, rubbed the dust off on his shirt, and placed them on the table. 'No cutlery!' He told her, deftly dropping a pancake on his plate and pouring a small amount of honey from his limited cooking supplies over it.
Jesse stood up as the water began to boil and went over to make the tea. 'Good, eating with your fingers always makes the food taste better!'
James watched her from behind, marvelling at the way her fushia hair shimmered in the morning sunlight streaming through the tiny kitchen window, the dust particles glimmering around her as it floated past. He loved her hair in the morning, before she filled it with hairspray and stuck it up in her 'Team Rocket work style' He quickly turned back to his pancakes as she turned round, carrying the mugs over to the table.
'Any milk left?' She asked placing his tea in front of him and sitting back on her chair next to him.
James looked embarrassed again. Jesse loved milk in her tea. 'Oh, no, Jess, sorry, I forgot about the tea...'
'Hey, look on the bright side. At least it's good for our figures!' She tore off a piece of pancake and popped it in her mouth.
James stared at her in mock outrage. 'Ooh! And what are you saying about my figure?!'
'Nothing...' She peered at him appraisingly out of one blue eye, and then poked him in the side 'Though you could lose a few pounds!'
'Me?!' James launched himself at her, grabbing her slender waist and tickling 'And what about you, huh?! What about all this excess weight?' He wasn't afraid of insulting her, Jesse had an amazing figure, and knew it.
She shrieked, clawing at his hands and giggling wildly! 'Get off me you animal! James! Stop, right now!'
'Oh I don't know Jess. Are you sorry, hmmm?' he leaned over her, tickling more and causing her to struggle off her chair and run round to the other side of the table, yelling at him to stay away.
James was just grinning and wiggling his fingers at her menacingly, the fleeting thought that, as always, he'd take any opportunity to touch her, passing through his head, when a sarcastic yowl made him jump.
'Me-owth! You two ever gonna get a room?!' The small cat pokemon jumped up on to the table and regarded them both, stretching.
'Not funny!' They both protested in unison. Jesse sat back down, cheeks a little flushed, feeling something inside her flutter at the insinuation. No way girl, she scolded herself. No way James would feel like that about you after the years of your attitude he's had to put up with! She sat down and began eating again, quickly changing the subject. 'Sleep well furball?'
'Until yous twos woke me up!' Meowth grinned at her, snagging a pancake, smothering it in honey, and stuffing it into his mouth in one go. 'Nice pancakes Jimmy!' He mumbled, spitting crumbs.
James had suddenly become very interested in his tea.
'Earth to Jimbo!' Meowth called, waving a paw in front of James's face, spitting more crumbs and then almost choking when Jesse whacked him.
'Stop talking with your mouth full, you jerk! You're spitting crumbs everywhere! Gross!'
Meowth glared at her, before starting on another pancake. 'So did you two girls come up with any thoughts on how we're gonna get into that lab tonight?'
James snapped out of his reverie, looking puzzled. 'I've been thinking actually, something about this mission is bugging me. I'm sure I've been to that lab before. There's something about the address. I just feel like I...'
'Nonsense!' Jesse interrupted him. 'Why would the boss be sending us somewhere you've been before? He said the lab was full of rare and valuable pokemon, and I don't remember visiting a lab like that in all the years I've known you! So unless your rich mummy and daddy had any involvement in pokemon science, I think it's unlikely you've paid it a visit as a child, don't you?' She clapped her hands. 'Just think, a whole lab filled with pokemon! If we can steal them all for the boss, think how delighted he'll be! We may even get that promotion we've been working so hard for!'
James said nothing, ignoring Jesse's firm words. He felt sure something about the place was familiar. He shook the thought off as Jesse and Meowth began devising their break in that evening and joined in the planning. They'd walked past the lab a few times in recent days, scouting it out. The place was huge and riddled with security. Getting in would be difficult and dangerous enough, let alone getting out again with all of those pokemon.
James held his breath as Jesse skillfully slid through the hole in the ceiling where they had removed the air vent. Dropping silently to the floor, she cast about, and then gave him and Meowth the nod that it was safe for them to follow. It had been surprisingly easy for them to get this far. They'd seen little of the security guards and once they'd scaled the walls and squeezed under the barbed wire at their tops, it hadn't taken them long to navigate their way past the lasers with their night vision goggles, (a costly piece of equipment, but one that had been worth the investment despite the blow to their bank balance), and scale the inner wall to the roof. Something was nagging at James, he still felt he had been here before, and the ease at which they had entered was playing on his mind.
'Jesse!' He whispered, once he had dropped to her side in the cold, dark lab but stopped when she shushed him.
'Quiet James!' She hissed, looking around again. 'No speaking unless absolutely necessary. You saw all those security guards yesterday! Now let's find those Pokemon!'
'Yes but...' He trailed off as she wandered over to one of the vast walls covered with glass shelves and glimmering pokeballs. Casting his eyes about the room he shivered as his eyes came to rest on some of the cold metal tables. What were the straps for?
Meowth nudged his leg 'Quiet Jimbo! Help us look!'
Trying to put his feelings of nerves to one side, he followed the cat across the room, and began helping him load the pokeballs they found into the large empty back packs they'd brought.
Just as they had filled their second and Jesse was giving him a wave that hers was full, the large laboratory was flooded with light. James yelped, covering his eyes from the sudden glare and tripped over Meowth who hissed loudly. He heard Jesse gasp from across the room, and opened his eyes to find her grimacing, arms pinned roughly behind her by the large Team Rocket grunt that stood behind her. Before he could stand, hands roughly grabbed him under the arms, and he was hauled to his feet by two more of the massive thugs. Instinct kicking in he tried to kick them away but was stopped instantly by a slug to the stomach. Doubling over, he coughed out his pain as a forth pair of hands grabbed a spitting and yowling Meowth by the scruff of the neck.
'Hey! Wha' the hell do ya's think you're doing?!' Meowth was screaming. 'Get the hell offa' me!' He was silenced by a blow to the head that knocked him out cold and James heard Jesse scream.
'How dare you strike my friends! What are you doing! We're from Team Rocket! Let go of us! This is our mission! Let me go right now!' She continued to scream at them, struggling for all she was worth but stopped abruptly, startled by the sudden appearance of the imposing figure that had entered the room.
James peered up through his curtain of lavender hair at the man silhouetted against the light in the door, gritting his teeth at the pain in his stomach. The Boss?
Giovanni stepped into the light, eyes cold.
'Boss?!' Jesse stammered, desperately trying to straighten up in front of him, even with her arms so painfully wrenched behind her. Giovanni was the only man Jesse gave instant respect to, no matter what. 'Sir, what are you doing here?'
Giovanni's face remained impassive and cold. 'You three have delivered nothing consistent but failure for the last 11 years. You've caused me nothing but expense and shame since I hired you. I cannot have any members of Team Rocket damaging the reputation of this organisation, not in any circumstances, and it's been brought to my attention that you three have damaged that reputation on more than one occasion. I have been lenient with you thus far, but you have not served me as intended and it seems I must find other uses for you.'
James struggled to raise his head further as Jesse asked meekly from across the lab 'I don't understand Sir. What is it you would like us to do for you?'
Giovanni did not look at her, turning and walking out of the door. 'Takumi, will explain everything.'
He left the room and a snicker issued from the corner of the room. Something in that laughter filled James with a kind of dread he had never felt before.
'Jesse, Jesse, Jesse...' The voice was cold, glinting through the air like steel and James stared at the back of the tall, slender male figure dressed in black that approached Jesse and grabbed her roughly by the chin. James noticed his auburn hair and white cotton gloves. Something about him made him feel naseous.
'Takumi!' Jesse's meekness in front of Giovanni had vanished, and James saw her blue eyes flash with hatred from across the lab.
The man moved to her side, twisting her head painfully up to look at him and James was reminded of a snake as he breathed into her face, yellow eyes glinting. 'Welcome to Team Rocket's chemical experimentation laboratory. You're looking beautiful as ever my dear!'
James saw the fear in her eyes but felt a surge of pride as, ever the tigress, she swallowed once and asked 'Team Rocket's laboratory? Then why did the boss send us here to steal pokemon?'
Takumi smiled into her face. 'A ruse to get you here without struggle. You three have run out of usefulness as Team Rocket agents and as Giovanni mentioned it's time we found other uses for you.' His smile spread, cheshire cat-like, further across his face. 'Remember all the uses I found for you when I trained you? Perhaps that's where we'll start again today? Hmm?'
Jesse spat in his face and then yelped as he slapped her hard across the cheek. James yelled, instantly trying to break free as he saw her reel from the blow, even with the thug holding her steady from behind. He gasped as another blow was delivered to his stomach, stilling him as he doubled over again, winded and gasping for air. Italian leather shoes appeared under his nose in his swimming vision, and he raised his eyes blearily to Takumi.
'I don't understand? What...?' He asked, but trailed off, bile rising in his throat.
Takumi grinned down at him. 'Oh don't worry, I won't have the same uses for you and your pathetic excuse for a Meowth as I will have for Jesse. Your partner and I go way back. Don't we sweetheart?'
Jesse gave a whimper that James had never heard from her before.
And Takumi's grin spread wider than James thought possible. 'That's right.' He looked back down to James. 'But as for you...'
James tried to wrench his arms free from the painful grip of the two thugs behind him 'What are you going to do? Who are you?!'
Takumi laughed again. 'You don't know who I am? I knew you three were incompetent but to be so far shunned from the Team Rocket circle to not even know the head of our organisation's second in command when you see him...''
James tried to draw himself up to full height to speak and Takumi's voice turned from amusement to disgust. 'I am Giovanni's younger brother and you should know my name well. You should know me well.'
James sneered, hating this man. 'I've never even heard of you!' He braced himself for some kind of blow but Takumi only chuckled and slithered his way back over to Jesse.
'Jessica knows me well. Don't you sweetheart? You could say we know eachother inside and out. Isn't that right darling?' She whimpered as he caressed her face, turning from him.
James had never seen her so frightened or subdued. He watched in horror as Takumi gripped the base of her skull and pulled her mouth against his in a forceful kiss. She whimpered again, legs struggling uselessly on the cold marble lab floor as she tried to pull away from him. The thug behind her held her in place as Takumi bit down suddenly on her bottom lip, causing her to cry out and James to struggle wildly again. Takumi pulled away, licking her blood from his mouth with a look of ecstacy and sliding a white gloved hand up her thigh and under her team rocket uniform skirt. Something snapped inside of him and James let out a bark of anger and managed to pull one arm free to make towards Takumi.
'Let her go! Don't touch her!' He was grabbed again immediately and Takumi spun, moving instantly across the room with snake like speed and striking James across the head with a blow that sent him reeling. White hot pain exploded through his head, stars streaking across his vision. He fell to his knees, despite the hands gripping his arms and he heard Jesse call out in horror.
'James! No! Please, Takumi, let him go. Please I...' She let out a scream as James felt another swift kick to his stomach. Gasping in pain, his head pounding, he doubled over on his side on the cold marble floor, tasting blood in his mouth.
Takumi had started laughing and James heard Jesse begin to sob as he kicked him again and again.
'Please, Takumi! No! Leave him alone! Please! I'll do whatever you wish. Please!' Jessie's pleas were the last thing he heard before another blow to the head caused him to black out.
Bright white lights shining directly in his face. Figures swimming before his vision. A cold high beeping sound and pain. So much pain. He felt as though his body was on fire. Something was in his arm. It felt broken. Someone twisted it and white hot pain shot through him. He heard screams and felt his gut coil in horror. More figures. Covered faces. White coats. He caught a glimpse of something sharp, metal, gleaming in the harsh lights. Then pain again and more screams. His vision swam into clarity suddenly and he saw a syringe, a needle. He struggled wildly, realising the screams were his. Then pain so blinding, so agonising that he blacked out again.
When James came to this time he felt cold, hard stone under his face. His head was pounding and there was a strange ringing noise in his ears. Wincing he opened his eyes. Thankful that the room was in semi darkness, he tried to sit up. The ground lurched beneath him and he put a hand out to steady himself, swaying dangerously before turning and being violently sick on the floor. He waited for his retching to subside then pulled himself shakily up into a sitting position, leaning against the cold wall.
Pain throbbed in his head again and another wave of nausea hit him. He breathed calmly and slowly until it subsided and then tried to assess his injuries. There wasn't a single part of him that didn't hurt. Everything felt bruised. His arms and legs seemed to be working perfectly, despite how much they hurt. He winced as he felt his ribs... Something might be broken there. Visions of what happened swam before him but what was real and what wasn't he couldnt tell. He felt something wet and sticky on the back of his neck and put a hand to his head. Recoiling at the pain and warm stickiness matting his hair he looked at his fingers in the half light and felt another wave of nausea at the sight of so much of his own blood. Sitting still for awhile he tried to remember what had happened. He remembered Takumi beating the shit out of him, Jesse's pleas, Meowth unconscious, bright, white lights, lab coats. Panic hit him hard. Jess, Meowth... What had been done to them? Where were they now? His stomach lurched when he thought of what Takumi might have done to Jesse, what he might be doing right now and he turned and heaved violently again, bringing up nothing but bile.
When it subsided he sat still again, trying to calm himself, trying to think clearly. He had to find them. They had to get out. He didn't hold out much hope for how long they'd live if they didn't.
He opened his eyes again. He was in some kind of cell. The floor and walls were cold, dark stone. There was a large wooden door to his left, with a small barred opening at the top and some kind of miniature door, similar to a large, square, letterbox flap at the bottom. No doubt for pushing food and water through to prisoners. Would he get any? Suddenly James was aware of how dry this throat was. Swallowing hard he looked up and realised there was a small barred window above him, a hole in the wall with bars across it. There was barely any light coming in, just the pale moonlight bathing the room. So it was night. James shivered. It was cold too. He realised he could see his breath in the musty cell air. He had no idea how long it had been since they'd been attacked in the lab, or even if they were still there. He needed to look out of the window but didn't think he could stand. Drawing his knees in toward him he turned and managed to get himself into a kneeling position. Breathing heavily from the pain and exertion he placed both hands on the floor and tried to push himself to his feet. His knees buckled and the first time fell back to the floor. The second time he managed to get to his feet and stood, swaying and leaning against the wall until the floor stopped moving beneath his feet. Moving his hands along the wall to steady himself he shifted until he was in front of the window. He had to stand on tip toes slightly to see out, not easy in his current condition but he managed to grip the bars and peer out into the cold night air. Yes, they were still at the lab. He eyed the very same walls they had scaled to get in and grimaced bitterly at the reappearance of all the security guards. Turning and sinking to the floor again he gritted his teeth and gripped his hair in frustration. How could he have been so stupid?! He knew he'd been here before. Now he remembered being sent to the gates once when he had first signed up for the Team Rocket training scheme when he was 16, 11 years ago. He'd come only to collect a package for an agent at the training centre. His visit had been fleeting. But if he'd only remembered it! Cursing himself and his stupidity James began to cry. Now it was his fault they were trapped here. His fault that Team Rocket were doing god knows what to his best friends, to the woman he loved. Sobbing he found the strength to let out an animal like cry of pain and frustration.
Gritting his teeth he wiped his eyes roughly as glared at the door. James had been through enough defeats and failures in his lifetime to develop the ability to drag himself out of any miserable situation and that's exactly what he planned to do this time. He'd need rest and strength first and he had no idea when someone would come to haul him back the lab to do god knows what kind of experiments on him again. He eyed the letterbox like flap cut into the bottom if the door again. If he could just get a little food and water, gain back a bit of strength... He had to rely on these Team Rocket 'scientists' needing their study subjects fit enough to survive whatever they did to them... Terror gripped his gut again as he thought of what might be happening to Jesse and Meowth at that very moment but he knew he didn't have the strength to do anything to help them now. Exhaustion threatened to overwhelm him. Standing had taken enough effort but at least he didn't feel sick anymore. He closed his eyes, resting his sore head gently against the wall. There was no hope of sleep with the panic and sense of urgency pounding through his veins so he had to content himself with trying to come up with a plan.
End of chapter one. Chapter two coming soon
End of chapter one. Chapter two coming soon