A hiss, or whisper, in the night.
"James, this is so exciting! Finally, a real chance!"
All he could see of her was a faint white, where her teeth were. She was smiling. He smiled back, although he wasn't finding it quite as exciting. He didn't want to be there.
Her face seemed dark, like everything around them, as the two young people crept along an empty passageway.
It was supposed to be empty. However, the trained ear - and theirs were trained, that night - could notice that they were not alone, not by a long shot.
Dozens of Team Rocket members, dressed in black, swarmed silently down the walls of the passageway like ants in hiding.
They had a purpose.
That night, Team Rocket quietly took over Silph.
Skyler Silph, founder and boss of Silph for over twenty years, could sense what was happening. He couldn't see anybody, but he knew they were there. And he knew that night would be the end of all his hard work.
He quickly grabbed a Pokeball and a small notebook from his office. If he could help it, he wouldn't let Team Rocket seize a power that could be used to take over the world. That power being knowledge, and understanding of their weapons - Pokemon.
Silph was on the top floor of his building with the same name. Team Rocket had not yet infiltrated to that point. But he knew they were coming.
He closed his eyes tightly for a moment, as if in pain, before quickly activating a secret door beneath his desk.
"Hahah, this is great," said Jessie, happily, as she and James pried open a door and filled their pockets with the Pokeballs they found there. "Victory tastes so sweet!"
"Mmm... where are all the employees of Silph?"
"At home asleep. Except the old man Silph. And who cares about him, he's no threat to anybody."
"Threat? I wasn't thinking of that."
"Oh come on James, don't look so depressed. This is fun, and it doesn't hurt anyone."
"Except Silph, like you said."
"Yeah, but who cares about him? He's just some rich old geezer, just like you hate. Anyway, why would you care?"
"Well, I sorta knew him."
Jessie didn't hear him.
A young boy ran into the laboratory and stood on his tiptoes, trying to see what was on the bench.
"Hi Mr Silph!"
"Well, hello James. I haven't seen you for a while."
"Yeah, my parents said I should stay home to take electrocution lessons."
The older man laughed. "I think you mean elocution?"
"Whatever. They're still being mean. And they're giving me these lessons with this annoying girl called Jessiebell."
"Really? I know of Jessiebell, she's a very... er... refined little girl."
"She said everything I did was wrong, and my parents agreed with her. I think they like her more than they like me."
"Parents like that shouldn't be allowed to have children," muttered Silph, before turning to James with a smile. "Don't worry James. Come and have a look at this."
He lifted the boy up and sat him on the bench. James laughed.
"It's cute! What is it?"
"It's called a Growlithe. It's a very nice Pokemon."
James reached out a hand, a bit apprehensively, and patted the puppy on the head. The Pokemon licked his hand and he smiled.
"It likes me!"
"You'd better keep it then," said Silph, with a smile.
James' eyes grew wide. "Really? This Growly is mine?"
"It's called a Growl*ithe*. And of course, you can keep it. I thought it would be great for you."
"It is great!" grinned James, tickling the Growlithe under the chin. The dog woofed happily and butted its head into his stomach.
Then his face fell. "My parents would never let me keep this Growly."
"Growl*ithe*. And I already cleared it."
James hugged the Growlithe puppy and jumped off the bench. It jumped down after him, wagging its tail.
"Come on, Growly!"
"That's Growlithe!" corrected Silph, but he couldn't help smiling after the two new friends as they ran outside.
Silph looked around the small secret room, furtively, before moving to a door in the side. He apprehensively took the handle in one hand. He didn't know what he might find on the other side.
He forced himself to turn the handle, but suddenly a call arrested him.
"Wait! Don't go in there."
Silph turned in surprise and alarm as he saw a young member of Team Rocket jump through his secret door and land facing him. He gaped.
"How did you find this room?"
"Do you remember? You showed it to me so I could escape from my parents sometimes."
The older man blinked. "You really look familiar."
"Look, it's me James. I'm in a high position in Team Rocket now."
Silph just stared.
"I can use that to help you get out the building."
"I... don't believe it."
James sighed. "Look, it's true. I finally got rid of my parents and Jessiebell, okay?"
"Isn't that a bit drastic?"
"I'm not here for a lecture. Just follow me, okay? I'll help you get out the building."
"You used to like Pokemon!"
"Come on, we're getting out of here!"
A new voice came.
"I don't think you'll be doing that."
James turned in surprise.
"How many people know about this secret room?" groaned Silph.
"I didn't know, but the door was left open."
It was another member of Team Rocket, a dark figure standing in the dimly lit room. They glared at James and Mr Silph.
"Well, it seems I've found the infamous Skyler Silph. Let's go, pal."
"No," said Silph and James in unison. Silph added, "Pokemon aren't for evil purposes."
"They'll all belong to Team Rocket," said the Rocket, and suddenly brandished a gun.
Silph and James looked at each other. James suddenly grabbed his Pokeballs and shoved them in Silph's hands.
"Use them to fight. And get out!"
Silph nodded and moved to open the door to the next room, which was his laboratory.
The Rocket slipped the safety catch off their gun, moving automatically. "Not that fast."
James glared at the Rocket and got in front of Silph. "Just get out, Mr Silph."
"You traitor, I *will* shoot," declared the Rocket.
"Go ahead," taunted James, not believing that one of his teammates would actually carry that out.
He was wrong.
Silph quickly slipped out the room, cringing as he heard the gunshot. The Pokeball he had taken earlier from his office fell from his pocket as he slammed the door behind him.
He couldn't go back now. And neither could James.
James? Where are you?
We took over Silph. Finally I got to be involved in something successful. That's all I ever wanted, to be successful.
I don't know where the boss of Silph got to. I guess he escaped, because nobody could find him.
But if we're successful... I don't know if I can call it success, because I don't know where James is right now.
I'm sitting by myself in the grass of the early morning of the Saffron Forest. Meowth is being congratulated by the boss. I guess I should be used to it by this point in my life, but I don't like being alone.
James? Please come back soon?
Oh, I've finally succeeded, and I'll get my congratulations in turn. Is that worth it? Success, is that the price I have to pay for success?
I feel so sick right now. I open the Pokeball I found under Silph's office, just to see what it is.
A small Growlithe puppy sniffs around in the tall grass, tail wagging playfully. It has no idea what just happened.
It reminds me of James.
Couldn't it be any other Pokemon?
This is not success. Team Rocket's idea of success is not success.
I haven't acheived anything.
Oh, how could I?
I killed my best friend!
As the sun rose - and the sun always rises, no matter what - a dog stared mournfully from the window of its 'kennel'. It saw nothing but empty sky.
Growly threw up its head and howled.