Not that it's any good, mind, just that I figured I might as well not waste it. Of all the things about which to get inspired... @_@
They’d first met when they tried to cheat off each other’s exams.
That summed up their relationship pretty well.
They were nominally low-level, especially compared to Jessie and James. Exactly how they wanted it.
No splashy schemes, no convoluted contraptions, no daring disguises – just simple, effective cons. Maybe Jessie and James had accomplished huge hauls at a time, back before they went completely insane over that kid and his Pikachu. The two of them kept a steady stream of money and Pokemon flowing into Team Rocket’s coffers, and the Boss liked it that way.
And if they slacked off every now and then – they were Grunts. They didn’t pretend to near-Executive rank. If they were to go missing for a few weeks chasing after some idiot novelty, they’d just give the appropriate notice and work double-duty beforehand to make up for it.
Oh, they didn’t appreciate when Jessie and James rubbed (the rank they no longer deserved) into their faces. Who wouldn’t? And it was a real shame when someone like that rotten kid and his electric rodent sent them to the slammer. But Team Rocket had friends in high places, and they could always find a way out. Even if it meant Butch spent a night or seven cowering in the corner of his cell and yelling that Team Rocket would make them all sorry if they tried anything funny on him before he got out of there. And if she ended up pawning her newest pair of earrings for the cigarette budget of a large, burly woman named Bertha.
Inconveniences aside, however, they had a good life. They ate three square meals a day, they slept in clean beds, and they almost always wormed their way into neighborhoods where they could walk down the street in expensive civilian clothes without getting mugged.
A pretty good deal, for two kids from the Celadon slums.
It wasn’t even their fault that it had ended up like this.
Some nutso environmentalists in Hoenn, of all places, had gone and woken up Groundon and Kyogre. Simultaneously. And then found out they couldn’t put the lid back on.
They hadn’t even known there were a Groundon and a Kyogre. They’d read some weird creation myth about the creators of the land and sea when they were researching topics for their next con, but laughed and tossed it aside. They were crooks, but they were red-blooded Kantoites, and they weren’t about to start some stupid cult to fleece the unwary. Leave that for the Sinnoh and Unova weirdos.
They’d never expected one of those cults to succeed.
So they found themselves alternately drenched and boiling, slouching across a world gone mad. Civilization was collapsing. Some of the more brutish Rockets had pillaged gleefully until, one day, they found out there wasn’t much left to pillage. And then people started pillaging them.
As for themselves, they were just plain old Butch and Cassidy, civilized schemers who preferred pilfering pockets the businesslike way. So they’d been forced to pull up stakes and go looking for shelter.
There wasn’t any. Celadon’d collaborated with Silph Co. to create artificial-environment warehouses for their crop-and-Grass-Pokémon-growing, but they knew better than the scientists that those would eventually break down under the strain of the insane weather. Everyone would die, sooner or later, under these circumstances. Rattatas would be drowned in their burrows; Pidgeys would be laboring under the intense heat one moment and struck down by a lightning bolt the next. Without any sense of the season, animals wouldn’t know when to mate, or when to stockpile food; without any sense of what would come next, orderly human minds would eventually snap and refuse to function.
It was just a matter of making an obscene hand gesture at circumstances and turning it into a game of surviving as long as they could. The laws of nature said it was time for them to die? Well, then, they’d break the law like the crooks they were.
That was how they’d come to think of it, and it was working as well as could be expected for them. Namely, hardly at all. Better than most of the population, at least.
Humanity might not go extinct. They’d heard on the radio, while the electrical grid was still working, that the Shamouti Islands were relatively undisturbed due to the presence of Articuno, Zapdos, and Moltres creating an independent weather system. Perhaps that lot would survive untouched in their serene bubble.
All the more reason for the rest of the world to die horribly, though.
“Not my name,” he said sullenly, though he’d given up hope. It really didn’t seem important at this point.
“Fine, Benny – Did you ever live for any kind of purpose? Did you have any dreams that you wanted to fulfill?”
He thought for a moment, drinking a can of flat soda that they’d salvaged from the water-sodden ruins of a convenience store. “Nah. Just wanted to muddle along with some cash. You?”
“Not really. I’m in the same boat. Though I believed in a slightly higher standard of living.” She fingered her earrings, smiling, and then dropped her hand to her lap as her smile faded. “I… wanted to live the way I couldn’t as a little girl, I guess. That was all.”
“Eh. If you can, why not.”
“I… I don’t know.” She stared down at the hillside. “I just feel like maybe I should have tried harder while I had the chance. Done more. Had a dream of my own.”
“Good you didn’t have one. Then it would have gotten all wrecked when this happened.”
“I know.” She knocked her own bottle of half-drunk fruit juice against a rock. “I just feel like I should have had something to lose."
“Woop,” a colony of Pokémon commented as they walked past. “Woop woop.”
Cassidy spared them a glare. Yes, adaptable Pokémon like that were the only ones surviving in this weather. Anything weak to water was dead (she wondered if there was a single Fire-type left alive, now), and anything that couldn’t stand blazing weather had died a horrible death. Even inside the caves, many Geodudes had succumbed to flooding, and anything that couldn’t make it to the higher ground when the flash floods came through had been rendered Zubat fodder.
The world might well end up run by Zubats. Good grief. That was a horrible thought.
The sad thing was that the Raticate trundling along behind them might be better off than its wild kindred. No Rocket had ever had cause to brag of that before. They made sure it got food and called it back to its Pokéball when times got too tough – a luxury most Pokémon didn’t have, these days. Cheaper Pokéballs were breaking down under the wild weather conditions, and there’d been many reports (back when there were broadcasting networks to report) of Pokéballs corroding open or terminally overheating. Even they’d refused to think of whether some Pokémon hadn’t been lucky enough to escape their frying balls in the case of the latter malfunction.
“I’m baking,” Brick groused. “How much longer to some shade?”
“Look on the bright side – at least we’re not them.” She didn’t need to find any half-cooked, half-soaked corpses to which to gesture. They both could smell them from where they were now.
“Yeah, at least they get some rest around here.” He took off his cap and wiped his sweaty forehead on it. “And the minute we get someplace nice and cool and dark, the whole thing’s gonna turn into another freezing rainstorm, and then we’ll wish we were back in the heat. Just can’t win.”
“You’re telling me. At least we’ve outlived civilization as we know it.”
“Heh.” He put the cap back on, looking straight ahead. “But when I used to think about living past the end of modern civilization, I always thought we’d be profiting more from it…”
They couldn’t even bring themselves to con the few survivors they saw, these days. That would just be adding insult to injury.
It didn’t hurt that they’d heard seventh-hand that one ‘reverend’ had been torn apart by his flock when they finally clued in that he wasn’t about to save them after all. But they wouldn’t have done it anyway. There was no real point in conning people who had nothing to lose, especially when ruined cities were ripe for the pickings.
True, they had to fight their way through packs of “good, upstanding citizens” gone feral if they went into the wrong areas of the ruins. But they’d both grown up in the slums. That sort of thing made them feel almost nolstagic.
And, as Rockets, they’d both been trained in dirty hand-to-hand combat that far surpassed what Timmy O’Middleclass remembered vaguely from his after-school karate lessons.
“Spam,” she said lovingly, yanking a can out of the wreckage of the collapsed warehouse. “I always knew this stuff would survive the apocalypse.”
“No Brussels sprouts, though,” Benedict mused, holding out their much-patched sack to be loaded with the newfound supplies. “That stuff always tasted like it would survive the apocalypse.”
“Oh, don’t be silly, Barry! It was good for you. You would have known that, if you’d ever had a figure to maintain.”
“Yes, Bibi.” She ignored his complaints and tried to wriggle a pack of jerky out of a crevice without creating any rips in the package. “Anyway, once we’re done with this, we’ll have to scram. You never know when –”
The first drops of water landed on the rubble.
She gritted her teeth- “– the next rainstorm will hit –”
Trust a Rocket Executive to survive the apocalypse.
Petrel himself sat before them, as sleazy-looking as ever, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth. “Ehhhh… you’ve both done pretty well, I admit.” He gestured flamboyantly. “Ha! You should’ve seen Archer! Walled himself up in his underground like a dope, wielding his few loyal Grunts like he had his own feudal little kingdom…”
As his nasty chuckles faded away, Cassidy spoke up. “Are any of the other Rocket Executives alive? I mean – alive now?”
“Yeah, Proton’s doing as fine as ever. He’s been traveling by night, hiding out in caves all day and using his Crobat to pull rank on any Zubat groups.” Petrel waved around his hand. “It’s done horrible things to his complexion, but he’s fine aside from that! You can even convince him to give himself a decent hairstyle if you can just point him towards a mirror.”
“And the others?’ Butch croaked.
“Ariana was last seen in Giovanni’s company. Predictably.” He rolled his eyes. “Don’t know if that kid of theirs is still alive, though. Not exactly prime parents, those two! I’d put even odds on his survival. Because he’s their kid, mind, not because they’ve done anything to help him.
“Archer is still alive, but in bad shape ever since his hideout ran out of supplies and he had to venture aboveground like the rest of us mundanes. But he and his Grunts came across a surviving colony and joined up with them, and managed to get back in contact with me…”
He sat forward, his face going intent, and poined at them.
“And that’s where I’m glad you found you two.
“See, it turns out the colony he hooked up with is being run by Team Rocket’s two great idiot savants – and yes, you remember who those two are, don’t you? All too well. I remember your little rivalry with them cropping up all the time in the old files.
“And they haven’t changed much from the old days, crazy schemes and all.
“They’ve decided that, if there’s no great green dragon in the sky to save us all from these marauding maniacs, they’re going to play Rayquaza.”
“You mean, they’re going to seal the two great beasts again?” Butch exclaimed. “They’re nuts! If Magma and Aqua couldn’t manage it, they’re goners!”
“Jessie could barely balance a checkbook, much less the elements!” Cassidy snapped.
“I’m telling you what they’re doing, not whether they’re at all sane in doing it,” Petrel said with a shrug. “Archer’s lost it too, if they’re out of their minds. He insists that their scheme’s our only hope, and he’s thrown what Rocket technology he could salvage behind them.”
“Archer was never in command of our branch, and so I can go right ahead and say he’s nuts. What’s Proton think of this?”
“They’re trying to recruit Proton. Oh, he thinks they’re crazy, too, but he’s got nothing better to do.” Petrel shrugged. “And neither do I. Now, I really have no opinion on the matter, but I’m just offering it to you in case wandering the wilderness for lo! these long years has gotten to be a bit… boring after surviving the fifteenth flash flood. I think that’s what’s driving most of Jessie and James’s would-be saviors, actually. They’re not so much hoping to save the world as they can’t be bothered to do the sensible thing and just continue on with their clever adaptations, and it’s just too appealing to change the world back to ‘how it used to be’. Whatever that means. Stopping Groudon and Kyogre won’t rebuild all the infrastructure that’s been destroyed, but I’m not about to tell them that, now am I?”
“And what about you, sub-Boss?” Cassidy asked.
Petrel closed his eyes, smiling, and spread his hands. “A finger in every pie, that’s me. If the scheme works, somehow, I’m going to be right there taking credit for it. If it fails, I’ll be the first to tell everyone that I knew it was a horrible waste of time and resources all along, but nobody would ever listen to me. And I can tell you this because you already know it.”
“That’s right, Teach,” Butch said, leaning forward and propping his chin up on one hand. “And you’re recommending we do the same thing?”
“Me? No, nonsense, corrupting the youth like that… I’m just letting you know about an opportunity.” Petrel winked and made the peace sign. “Anything for my old favorite students.”