Officers get bailed out of jail.
Just one of many perks you get as you climb the ranks of Team Rocket. The work gets more dangerous, the pokemon more powerful, the consequences more severe, but as long as you do your best for the Team, the Team will take care of you in return. That’s the idea, anyway. While my inferiors whined and squabbled over privacy and space I quietly planned out the appreciative apology I would deliver to the Boss.
The first day, as I waited in that damp, cold, and not to mention cramped cell, I knew it was coming. On the second day, I hoped it was coming. On the third day, I felt an odd combination of relief and disgust as I saw Attila and Hun appear in the hallway behind the cop. She marched them down to my cell and released me into their custody.
Attila smirked and nodded at me over the officer’s shoulder. It was oddly reassuring. I mimicked the gesture. Hun remained expressionless, as cold as ever.
I could tell from the look on Jenny’s face when she twisted the key in the lock that she was doing this against her will. Those chocolate eyes were anything but soft peering at me from behind those wispy, teal locks. She wasn’t stupid; they weren’t wearing Team Rocket uniforms, like me, but I could tell she knew they were somehow involved, and she didn’t want to let me go.
There was a murmur from some of the grunts as I stood. Envy, indignation, suspicion. It typically never takes this long for the boss to post bail. When the cell door slid shut behind me, I heard one of them ask another why should I get released when it was my fault we ended up here in the first place. I pretended not to hear. The knowledge that he would probably sit here for weeks kept the urge to kick his ass at bay.
It had only been three days, but the sun was so bright I had to shield my eyes as I followed Attila and Hun out to the car. We hadn’t dared to utter a word to each other as we left the jailhouse, but I was finally able to speak my mind from the security of the back seat.
“He couldn’t come out himself?”
“The boss isn’t the one who bailed you out.” Hun said, donning a pair of sunglasses. “It was the doctor.”
“Sebastian.” I said, disbelieving. It wasn’t uncommon for them to pull my leg.
“Not kidding you.”
It was as if Hun had read my mind.
“Why’d you think it was us who showed up to get you?” Attila asked, and then laughed. “Hey, make that face you made when you first saw us at the police station. Do it again, I want to see it.”
I noticed him looking at me in the rearview, eyes darting back and forth between the road and my face. I ignored him and looked out the window.
“Thought he would’ve been pissed.” I said.
“Eyes on the road, Attila.” Hun chastised our driver before answering me. “He is irritated with you. That was an extra special Gyarados…but you’re not doing him any good vegetating in jail. His words, not mine.”
“Eeyup. Red Gyarados. Can’t just make another one of those guppies.”
“What? I can’t talk now?”
I toned out their bickering, something that wasn’t unfamiliar to me at this point. It sounds cliché, but they were like an old married couple sometimes. There were more important things for me to figure out right now.
I had replayed the mission in my head again and again over the past three days, trying to figure out exactly what went wrong. At first I thought maybe it was the kids. I did have to let them leave, and they did know about the Gyarados, but their weak little pokemon were easily overpowered by the evolution inducement wave and we easily captured them when they came back. I considered those bumbling idiots, Jessie and James. The more I thought about it, though, I realized: they actually weren’t the problem, as much as I hated to admit it. They achieved the task I had given them, and I was right to give it to them, too. Statistically, according to our system, they were the most worthless – and most expendable – agents on the field. I might have blamed myself more if they had failed to capture Gyarados, but they actually did it. The failure came later, when I left them in charge of the base…and, if I had to be honest with myself, even that failure wasn’t because of them.
It was because of him.
My blood boiled as I thought about that pink haired dragon-trainer. He’d been the reason everything had gone wrong. He interfered and the kids escaped. His Dragonite destroyed the equipment. He kept the Gyarados.
The most infuriating part wasn’t even that he had been able to sneak into our operation undercover and do all that damage. What really made me sick was that while he was there, he was one of the best agents we had. He was competent, on time, respectful. I had praised him for a job well done. I was going to give him accolades after the mission was over.
He must have been laughing at me the entire time.
I opened and closed my fist a few times, reminding myself that I was in a moving vehicle, even though what I really felt like doing was ripping off the back door and flinging it from the overpass we were crossing. I needed to force myself to think about something else, at least until I could get to the gym. Or my room.
I forced myself to think ahead, not behind.
Giovanni had left me to rot, which meant a great deal of money must have been lost on this project. I got that, understood it even. The professor had bailed me out, and as shocking as that was, it could only mean one thing. He wanted something. That alone was more concerning than anything else that had happened as a result of this mission.
It didn’t take long for us to get back to headquarters. Team Rocket had a major base outside of Goldenrod, which was, thankfully, not too far from Mahogany town via the main road. Attila parked us in the deck, which looked to be mostly empty. Not totally surprising, given it was a week day and it was getting pretty late. The air was quiet when we got out of the car, not even a Yanma in the background. The sound of the doors slamming was almost deafening.
I didn’t want to ask, but I had to.
“Do I have any orders on my return?”
“Today, no. But the professor wants to see you in the morning.” Hun stated, very non-chalant. Of course he did. I half expected to hear Attila go “ooooooo”, but he was apparently now in a sour mood.
The three of us approached the main entrance and marched right though, saluted by the grunts on either side, not even having to show ID despite Attila and Hun not being in uniform. If word had gotten out about what happened at Lake Rage, which I’m sure it probably had, none of them were letting on. Not that I knew many grunts that were willing to disrespect a squadron leader to his face, even after a failure like this one.
I stopped in the hallway before parting ways with Attila and Hun. They turned to face me when they realized I wasn’t coming with.
“Hey. Thanks for getting me out of there.” I motioned with my thumb in the direction of Mahogany. And for not being total dicks about it, I wanted to add, but decided not to. A few months ago, it was big news that Attila and Hun had failed a mission of their own. They had purported to have seen Raikou, though not a lot of people believed them. Regardless, some very expensive equipment had been destroyed. The experience seemed to have mellowed them a bit, at least for the time being.
Attila punched me in the shoulder.
“Save it, you can thank us if you survive tomorrow.”
I watched them saunter off for a minute before I turned and headed in the opposite direction. I rolled my shoulders and felt my back crack as I passed a group of grunts. I stared straight ahead, not making eye contact with anyone.
When Sebastian first recruited me to work for him, I had one request, and that was to work alone. It wasn’t often that I regretted that decision. I’m not exactly used to failure, but even I had to admit, it might have been nice to have somebody on my side when everything else went to hell.