It was early in the morning and the Pokemon center was silent.
The sun had not yet risen and the lights were out as nobody was about yet.
At the back of the center were several penned shelters and the place looked more like a shelter for homeless animals than a Pokemon center.
The feline Pokemon scratched at the lock at the end of his shelter.
He had discovered a weakness in it and the more he worked at it the weaker it became.
Meowth had been sent here the day that Jesse and James had been arrested and this was no normal Pokemon center.
This was known as a Pokemon retraining center and it was full of Pokemon who were seemingly badly behaved or disobedient.
Meowth had been very scared when he had first been brought here but the place wasnít as bad as itís name implied.
The retraining consisted of Pokemon being rewarded for behaving and obeying commands. If a Pokemon was told to sit it would be given a treat if it obeyed. If it didnít obey it would be told off and made to sit.
Meowth didnít like any of this but it could have been a lot worse.
However, Meowth had no intention of staying where he was.
His plan was to get that lock off, get out and track down Jesse and James.
He had wondered why Jesse and James hadnít come to get him already. They had been arrested before and had broken out quite easily. The thought had never occurred to him that they hadnít escaped. Maybe they didnít know where he was?
With a clunk the bottom lock dropped off.
This allowed Meowth to squeeze out of his shelter with a grin.
His paws patted along the ground as he rushed away from the center and into the trees.
"Where do I start?", he thought out loud.
This is a big world when youíre all on your own.
Meowth was tired.
He had been worked hard during the days and had spent the last two or three nights carefully working on the lock. He hadnít had much sleep at all.
He thought to himself.
Now that he was free he could hide in some bushes and get a couple of hours sleep before the sun came up. He nodded to himself and crept under a thick bush to curl up.
"I miss my sleeping bag", he sighed.
Just as he was about to shut his eyes he noticed some pieces of newspaper blowing along the grass. These woods were right next to the town and humans always let their litter drift into the woods. Meowth crawled out from under the bush with an idea. He would grab the sheet of newspaper and cover himself over with it in the bush. It wasnít a sleeping bag but it was better than nothing at all.
He looked around. Nobody was there.
Slowly Meowth crept forwards and pounced on the sheet of newspaper as it began to move away with the breeze. He began to gather it up in his paws when he saw a startling image printed in one section.
Meowth felt nervous as he looked at the black and white photograph of Jesse and James.
He looked at the print.
Meowth had perfectly mastered human language but reading was an entirely different matter. Meowth could read but his reading skills were nowhere near as advanced as his spoken language. He stared at the words and slowly read them.
"Team Rocket members Jesse Musashi and James Kojiro were...", he had to pause before he understood the next word, "...sentenced...to one...one year in prison for...var..various crimes committed as part of the criminal gang".
Meowth sat down suddenly. He was completely stunned.
"Theyíre in prison?", he gasped.
Meowth slowly scanned the rest of the article and discovered that Jesse was in a prison just outside of Sierra city and James had been jailed in a prison near Janna city.
With his sharp claws Meowth carefully tore the article out and took off in a hurry.
Jesse sat on the steps.
She and the other prisoners from their wing had been allowed outside for two hours that morning.
It was a cold and gray morning but Jesse didnít mind. She needed to be outside.
She sighed and stared at her surroundings.
A huge wire fence with barbed wire at the top surrounded the outside enclosure and there was another fence that surrounded the whole prison with a considerable Ďno mans landí gap separating the two fences.
Jesse hated it.
She hadnít slept much that night.
Every few hours she would wake up and wonder where she was thinking that it had all been a dream. Naturally she would remember where she was and reality would crush her again. Yet again her mind flicked back to James. She thought about how much she hated prison and about how James must be taking it even worse.
"Look, how cute!".
A young woman standing near Jesse pointed to something near the fence.
"Itís a Pokemon".
Jesse looked up and her mouth fell open at the sight before her.
"It canít be!", she whispered to herself as she stood up.
Somehow a small cat Pokemon had managed to get inside the Ďno mans landí area and was wandering up and down near the wire fence.
"Jesse, come over here".
Jesse looked towards several of the women who had gathered at the fence near the Pokemon. Cassidy was indicating for Jesse to come over. Jesse stood up and walked over to Cassidy and the other girls.
The girls were making a fuss of the Pokemon and were stroking itís fur as best as they could even though it was the other side of the wired fence.
"Jesse is a Pokemon trainer", Cassidy told them, "And she actually worked with one of these Pokemon".
The girls stepped aside to let Jesse near. She bent down and looked at the feline.
"What is it?", one of the girls asked.
"This is a Meowth", Jesse pointed.
The girls continued to ask questions and make a fuss of the Meowth for several more minutes until the novelty wore off and they gradually dispersed. Jesse looked around. Even Cassidy had now gone and was sat on the steps where Jesse had been sat earlier.
"Meowth?", Jesse asked quietly.
Meowth stood up straight and pushed his paws through the fencing to touch Jesseís hand.
"Itís me", he said somberly, "I...I didnít know about you and James, Yíknow, all this".
Jesse looked down.
Meowth felt terrible. He knew how much all of this team loved their freedom and seeing their once proud Jesse locked up in a prison was truly heartbreaking. "How did you find me?", she whispered as she slowly looked up again.
Meowth sighed, "I saw a picture of you and James in a newspaper after I broke out of the retraining center I was sent to. The article said where youíd been sent".
"Do you know where James is?", Jesse pleaded as she put her hands against the wire fencing that separated them.
Meowth nodded, "A prison just outside Janna city".
Jesse smiled slightly. Finally, she now knew where he was at last.
Nothing had changed. She still had no idea how he was but just knowing where he was made her feel a little comforted.
"Have you seen him?", Jesse continued.
"No", Meowth shook his head a little "You were nearer but Iím going there to see if I can somehow spot him". Jesse nodded in gratitude.
"Jesse", Meowth paused, "Iím so sorry it came to this. You shouldnít be here, neither of you deserved this".
"I guess those kids finally got what they wanted", Jesse sighed a defeated sigh, "James and I are in prison and out of their way".
Jesseís words truly touched Meowth and he felt immense sorrow for her. In all the time he had known her he had never seen her so down.
"Hang in there Jess", Meowth urged, "Be strong, do it for James and you two will be together again".
Jesse nodded slightly to reassure Meowth.
"I hate to say this but Iíd better get outta here before anyone gets suspicious", Meowth said reluctantly, "Iím gonna make a start towards Janna city".
"Meowth", Jesse paused, "Thank you".
Meowth nodded, his face expressionless, "I had to come here".
"...You love him", Meowth completed her sentence, "I will".
Jesse smiled in gratitude and Meowth ran off on all fours trying to look like a Ďnormalí Pokemon. Jesse slowly stood back up and began to walk back to the steps.
"Whereíd the Pokemon go?", one of the girls from earlier asked as Jesse passed by.
"It ran off", Jesse replied.
She approached the steps and sat back down.
"Ran off", Cassidy remarked with a smirk.
Jesse turned and looked to her.
"He didnít fool me for a second", Cassidy said, "That was your Meowth wasnít it Jesse?".
"I suppose youíre going to go and tell one of the officers", Jesse sighed.
"No way", Cassidy said defensively, "Iím no tell tale".
Another surprise from Cassidy. This was the second time Cassidy had surprised Jesse.
"So, what did he have to say?", Cassidy inquired.
"He knows where James is", Jesse relied.
"Where?", Cassidy asked sounding interested.
"A prison near Janna city", Jesse answered.
Cassidy looked down, "Oh".
"Whatís up?", Jesse asked, curious.
"I was hoping youíd say Virmilion city", Cassidy looked up slowly, "Thatís where they sent Butch".
A whistle blew and everyone stopped.
"All right ladies, back inside", an officer ordered, "Timeís up!".
James looked nervously around.
Keyj had persuaded him to step outside of their cell and had taken him down to the so called recreational part of their wing.
He didnít like the way a lot of the inmates had stared at him and he felt awfully intimidated.
James didnít know what to do.
He saw Keyj being led out of their wing by an officer. Keyj was using his time in prison to study for qualification in woodwork and twice a week he would be taken out of their wing to another part of the prison so he could work.
This made James nervous. He didnít like to be on his own and Keyj was the only other prisoner who he had become acquainted with.
James wandered to a small table that had books stacked on it. Prisoners were allowed to help themselves to a book. It was the nearest thing they had to a library. To take a book an inmate would have to sign their name on a clip board and write the title of the book down before borrowing it.
James looked at the pile of books and picked one up. It was a book about Pokemon training. Nothing special but he decided to borrow it anyway to pass a little bit of time.
He picked up the pen, which was attached to the table by a cord, and signed his name on the form. With a sigh he looked around.
He saw the man who Keyj had described earlier, Bronco he was known as, playing pool with some of his associates.
They gave him and look that unnerved James and he began to walk back up the round metal steps to his cell on the upper level. Once there James climbed up onto his bunk and looked at the book.
"Pokemon and their lives" was the title of the book. James opened the book and looked up Koffing and Weezing in the index.
James flicked through the pages until he got to the page he wanted.
A black and white picture of a Weezing in action against a Ratata stood at the top of the page. James missed his Weezing and even Jesseís Arbok too. They had been seized when they were arrested and neither knew what had become of their Pokemon. James looked longingly at the picture. He would give anything to stand back to back with Jesse again, say their motto and dramatically throw their Pokeballs out towards their opposition again. He missed the wonderful white flash and the usual greeting of "Weezing" and "Chaarrrbok!". Of all of these things he missed Jesse the most.
"Prepare for trouble and make it double".
James looked up to see Bronco standing in the doorway of his cell.
"You know that phrase, huh?", Bronco said blocking the doorway.
James said nothing. He didnít like the looks of this situation at all.
"Lost your voice pretty boy?", Bronco said sarcastically.
James still said nothing. He had no idea what to do.
"You donít remember me?", Bronco said as he folded his arms.
"N...no", James answered scared.
Bronco moved towards James and indicated for him to come down from his bunk. James obeyed. After all he didnít want to be pushed off.
"Let me jog your memory", Bronco said sound angry. With a harsh push Bronco flung James up against the wall.
James put a hand to the back of his head. He had hit his head pretty hard against the wall.
Bronco stepped up to the now petrified James and held him firmly against the wall, "Cast your mind back two years boy! The outskirts of Circulean city, you and some femme stole my six Pokemon!".
James gasped. Now he remembered.
He and Jesse had been sent to relieve Bronco of his Pokemon.
The boss had learned that Bronco was training his Pokemon to break into places and he had sent Jesse and James to steal them so they could be used by Team Rocket.
Bronco had a long biker beard back then and that was why James hadnít recognised him until now.
"I donít forget things like that quickly", Bronco snarled, "You owe me! You owe me big time!".
James was shaking all over.
"Psst!", a voice outside the door whispered. It was one of Broncoís look outs.
"Youíd better watch your back", Bronco advised and landed his fist into Jamesís stomach. Bronco turned and left, whistling as if nothing had happened.
James slid down the wall onto his knees as he coughed and fought for his breath. He couldnít stand and he couldnít stop shaking.
He moaned and held his stomach.
James shook his hair our of his face as he slowly got his breath back. What could he do? Bronco was much bigger and stronger than James. He couldnít stand a chance if Bronco were to start hassling him and there was no way James could repay Bronco.
Jamesís panic worsened.
In times of panic Jesse would normally slap him to calm him down like the time she had done just that on the sunken St. Anne. But here there was nobody and James was alone with his fear...