This is a work of fanfiction by Butterfree/Dragonfree/antialiasis and is not to be reposted without permission. This story is in no way official or endorsed by Nintendo, GAME FREAK, Creatures Inc., or The Pokémon Company.

Morphic

For more information on this story and a full list of chapters and extras, click here. Please note that Morphic is rated R (M if you prefer Fiction Ratings) for strong language, violence and other sensitive subject matter.

Chapter 12

Dave closed his cellphone, turned around and looked blankly at Cheryl, then Howard, then Monica Sellers. They stared back at him, eyes wide.

“It’s true. They have Gabriel. Goddamn it.” He placed a hand over his face and tried to think. “He’s bluffing. He has to be bluffing. How are they going to know if we talk to the police? They couldn’t possibly know.”

“They could,” whispered Monica. “At least one of them is in the police force. Maybe more. I don’t know.”

“In the police force? The fuck.” Dave paced back and forth around the floor. “That would explain the fucking Gardevoir test. Who the fuck lets fundies on the force?” It was that officer who was with the Gardevoir, then – or maybe somebody who had trained it. It could be fucking anybody. Even that apparently nice Officer Russell, if he was a good actor.

“And how the fuck did they know to kidnap him?” Dave went on. “There’s no way he followed you here and cooked up and executed a fucking kidnapping plan in the time it took for you to tell us about it.” He looked over at Monica, who flinched under his gaze.

“Actually I…” she began in a quiet, high-pitched voice that then broke. She tried again. “I told him what I meant to do yesterday.”

Dave stared at her. “You fucking told him you were going to rat him out?”

She looked mortified. “I thought that… I thought he would cancel it all if I threatened to warn you. And he didn’t.”

“You thought…? Oh, Christ. You idiot. Why didn’t you go straight to the fucking police the moment you snapped out of it and realized he’s a psycho?”

She shook her head, in tears now. “I couldn’t… I felt…”

“And guess what. Now we can’t call the fucking police, because they have Gabriel and could kill him. And that leaves them peace and quiet to come and gun us all down whenever they’re ready. Goddamn it.”

He walked quickly to the nearest window, looked briefly outside for suspicious people and then pulled the curtains to cover it. He did the same with the other windows in the room. Howard and Cheryl watched him silently.

“Look, here’s what we’ll do,” Dave went on. “You call everybody, tell them the party’s off and they should get the fuck away from here. Then we try to stay behind solid walls…” He trailed off. “Fuck, what if they try to set fire to the house?”

“Dave,” Cheryl said gently, laying a hand on his shoulder. “Calm down. Judging from the attack on you and Brian, they won’t strike in broad daylight. When everyone is here, it will be easier to talk it over properly and figure out just how we should respond.”

“How the fuck can we respond? If we do anything, they kill Gabriel. If we don’t do anything, they find an opportunity to kill us and then kill Gabriel too.”

Cheryl was silent for a moment as Dave buried his hands in his hair and paced back and forth in an attempt to think. They were interrupted by a knock on the door; everyone turned sharply towards it and hesitated before Cheryl hastily walked over to open it.

“Happy birthday,” said Bill and Jack cheerfully in unison, the Chinchou morph holding forward a large giftwrapped box. “Are Sharon and Gabriel here yet?”

-------

There was a long silence when everyone was finally there and everything had been explained.

“Well?” Jack asked, feeling his pulse uncomfortably in his throat. “What are we going to do?”

“We could talk to the police anyway,” Howard suggested with little conviction. “It could be kept to a select few individuals, people who can be trusted.”

“How do we know their guy isn’t the one answering the telephone?” Dave replied immediately, still pacing back and forth around the floor, though now with a glass of beer in his hand.

“We could hire somebody to investigate it,” said Sharon.

“What sort of a private investigator would take a case that requires him to save a kidnapped half-Slugma from a bunch of armed religious fanatics?”

There was another long silence.

“Christ,” said Dave, shaking his head before he took a long sip from his glass, “I don’t think there’s anything we can do.” He paused for a moment and then without warning began to chuckle madly. “Actually, the smartest fucking thing in the situation is to just call the police anyway and save ourselves, because Gabriel’s dead no matter what we do.”

Something in Jack’s chest twisted itself into a knot and made him nauseous. He tried to tell himself there was no way it was a serious suggestion, because Dave was still burying his head in his hands like he didn’t expect an answer and nobody else seemed to think it was even worthy of comment, or were they actually considering it? No, they couldn’t be. They wouldn’t.

“Perhaps we could try to wait it out,” said Joe, Will’s father, after a pause. “Maybe they’ll change their minds or...”

Dave let out a short burst of hysterical laughter and Joe trailed off without finishing. There was yet another silence as everyone gave uncomfortable glances to one another.

“Maybe we should sleep on it,” said Cheryl at last. “They won’t kill Gabriel while they can still use him to keep us from calling the police. Somebody can keep watch in case they try anything tonight, and we can attempt to defend ourselves somehow.”

She looked around at everyone; they looked back at her and at everyone else in silence. Dave slumped exhaustedly down on the couch and squeezed his eyes shut.

“So, what?” Jack asked loudly. “We’re not going to do anything?”

“We can’t fucking do anything!” Dave snapped and slammed his fist down on the coffee table with a bang that made everyone shudder. “What the hell do you expect us to do about it? If you’re going to be a naïve little idiot thinking you can rush in and rescue him or something, you can go do that yourself and get gunned down like Brian, but those of us without a goddamn hero complex are not going to get ourselves killed with you. Fucking shit.”

Jack looked at him for a moment, feeling as if he’d just been slapped in the face. Everyone’s eyes were on him or Dave, all of them still too stunned to speak.

He quickly turned around, walked into Mia and Lucy’s room and slammed the door behind him before they’d had the chance to respond.

-------

Jack lay awake that night, listening to the sound of the other morphs breathing all around him in their sleeping bags. Lucy’s ghostly form stood by the window, the pink-tipped strands of her hair floating eerily behind her head, and watched for suspicious people with all her senses.

Technically, he supposed, their parents were right. Gabriel was theoretically safe for as long as he was useful to his captors alive, and for as long as the police didn’t know anything, he would be. And Lucy was largely nocturnal anyway and could sense new presences in the vicinity, allowing her to alert them if they came, and then they could be prepared. Dave had gone out and bought some guns for use in self-defense if it came to that.

But he was still afraid. After all, these people’s long-term goal, according to Monica Sellers, was to kill all of them, including Gabriel; the moment they decided keeping him around was more trouble than it was worth, they would murder him in a heartbeat. And though Isaac had called earlier that night to let them hear Gabriel’s voice again and tell them he would call twice a day to assure them they were keeping their end of the deal, that was still only twice a day and would give the kidnappers twelve hours’ headstart before they noticed anything – plenty of time to execute a plan to murder as many of them as possible.

He looked around the room and suddenly realized that Lucy’s big, hypnotic eyes were looking at him.

“You’re scared,” she said quietly.

Jack’s first instinct was to deny it and try to convince her there was nothing to worry about, but the very thought of pretending everything was okay made him feel hollow and empty. Instead, he just nodded and looked down at his webbed fingers, faintly lit by the glow of his antennae.

“If you’re scared, you should talk to them,” Lucy said, blinking innocently at him. Jack wasn’t sure how much she understood of what was going on and what he was thinking. He wasn’t even sure what ‘them’ she was referring to. But somehow, he still felt like she was right: he would like to talk to somebody, if only to get things off his chest.

He looked around the room again. If he was going to talk to anyone, it was the other morphs, and preferably someone mature enough to understand. Katherine was lying on her side in a sleeping bag near him, one rose-hand sprawled limply on the floor; she was physically the ‘oldest’ of them, but she was also slow and groggy without sunlight, so waking her up in the middle of the night was probably not the best idea. Just after her in mental age was Mia, but she was plenty disturbed enough to make her a poor choice for a comforting conversation.

The next candidates, then, were Will and Jean, and Jean was certainly no pinnacle of maturity, so although Will was pretty shy and reserved and generally didn’t talk much, Jack figured he was his best bet.

He glanced back at Lucy, who had resumed staring out the window, and then climbed carefully over Katherine to get to the Meowth morph, who was curled up in a ball in his sleeping bag.

“Will?” Jack touched his shoulder carefully.

“Mm.” Will curled himself up tighter, smiling in his sleep, and after a second began to let out a soft, purring noise. Jack watched him in disbelief, some part of him balking at the idea he could be purring at a time like this.

“Will, wake up,” he muttered and gave him a push. This time the purr stopped instantly and Will jerked his head up, his big eyes flicking open.

“Jack?” he asked sleepily. “What is it?”

“I just wanted to talk.”

“Talk? About what?” Will yawned.

“This whole thing,” Jack said. “You know, I really think we should do something.”

Will blinked. “About Gabriel, you mean?” he asked after a moment.

“Yes, about Gabriel,” Jack answered, trying to beat down his disturbing urge to punch the other boy. “These people want to kill him. It’s just a question of when. They’re never going to just let him go, and if it’s ever slightly inconvenient to keep him around, they’ll decide it’s not worth it. The longer we wait, the likelier they’ll just go fuck it and...”

Jack trailed off, not really wanting to finish that thought, and realized suddenly that all the morphs were awake and looking at him. It registered vaguely that maybe he had raised his voice a bit somewhere in the middle of that rant. Lucy smiled at him from her position by the window.

“What’s going on?” asked Katherine, her voice a bit slurred as she rubbed her eyes.

“I was just telling Will we need to do something,” Jack said, not bothering to keep his voice down now. “We can’t just sit around waiting. They want us all dead, including him. All that’s keeping them from killing him right now is that they’re using him to stop us from calling the police, and even if they do kill him, it could be twelve hours before we realize there’s anything wrong, and by that point they could have killed us all. And we can’t call anybody. We have to step in ourselves and do something about it.” He took a deep breath. “And really, we can do something about it. Have you all forgotten we’re Pokémorphs? We can use Pokémon moves now! We have powers! If we could just find where they’re keeping him, we could sneak in and free him, and then we can call the police when he’s safe and have the killers finally put in jail.” He looked around at all of them and dreaded for a split second that they would all start to argue and not want to risk their lives on a rescue operation and yell at him, just like Dave had.

But they didn’t. For a few seconds they were all quiet, and then Peter piped up, “Sounds cool. I’m in.”

Will looked at Jack. “Well... it sounds dangerous, but I guess if anybody can save him, it’s us.”

“We’ll go there and torch all the bad guys, right?” asked Jean brightly.

Jack resisted the urge to slap his forehead; he needed the support. “Yes,” he said decisively. “We’ll torch all the bad guys, and we’ll save Gabriel, and everything is going to be fine.”

“But how do we actually find out where they’re keeping him?” Will asked, looking around. “We can’t really do anything without knowing that.”

“I know,” Jack said and sighed, closing his eyes to think, and an idea hit him almost immediately. “Felicia!” he said excitedly. “Growlithe have a great sense of smell! If we just go to the place where they took him – it must have been where Sharon was going to pick him up from the comic book store – she might be able to smell where he was – smell the car they put him in – maybe even follow the car –”

“That’s crazy,” Katherine interrupted groggily. “That was in the afternoon. It’s the middle of the night now. How many cars do you think have been parked in the same spot and driven the same streets since then? How would Felicia work out which layer of generic car smell it is that leads to the right place?”

“Well, it’s something,” Jack snapped. “Do you have a better idea? Or do you think we should just sit here and let them kill Gabriel?”

Katherine swallowed. “No,” she said quietly.

“At least it’s worth a try. And there could be more clues at the location where they took him, too. All we need to do is get there.”

The others were all silent, waiting for him to go on.

“Well... Katherine got a couple of driving lessons with her dad, right?” He looked hopefully at the Roselia girl.

“What?” she asked, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “You want to steal our car and have me drive it without a license?”

“Nobody here has a license! And we can’t tell our parents about it. They’d stop us.”

“And maybe there’s a good reason for that.” Katherine looked anxiously at him. “I wish we could save Gabriel too, I do, but the way to do that isn’t to put ourselves in as much danger as possible.”

“But that’s not…” Jack looked around at the others in frustration. “Let’s have a vote, all right? If more than half of us want to go, I’ll be driving the car and I don’t care that I don’t know how. Okay? I want to save Gabriel because he’s my best friend and these people want to murder him, and they won’t release him by will no matter what we do, so we have to get him released by force. Katherine?” He tried to look neutral as he turned towards her, but it came out as a resentful glare anyway.

Katherine took a deep breath. “I’d want to help Gabriel if I thought we actually could, but realistically… we just can’t. We don’t know where he is. The clues Jack wants us to chase are almost definitely dead ends. Even if we did find out where he is, they’re probably armed and won’t think twice before shooting us, and the little we have in the way of Pokémon attacks is pretty pathetic. It seems to me we would just be endangering ourselves with little to no chance of actually succeeding at rescuing him. It’s a terrible situation, but...” She bit her lip. “I just can’t see this helping anyone.”

Jack swallowed and resisted the urge to shout at her, try to slap some sense into her. “Will?”

The Meowth morph looked unsurely around. “Well...” he began, “what Katherine’s saying makes a lot of sense, but are we really any better off here?” He looked around at the others. “They could come here any time and try to kill us, and even if we have weapons, it doesn’t really make us safe. If we go somewhere, at least they won’t know where we are. And who knows; maybe if they notice we’re gone when they come, they won’t attack our parents, since it’s really us they want.” He looked hopefully up at Jack. “And Dave too, I guess,” he added in a mutter.

“He’s right,” Jack said. “It’s not like we aren’t in danger if we stay here. We’ll be on the run, and we might save Gabriel too. What have we got to lose? Jean?”

“I say we go and kick their asses!” the Vulpix girl said happily with an emphasizing punch to her sleeping bag.

“Peter?”

“Gabriel was my friend too. I want to try to help him, no matter what it takes.”

“Lucy?”

“I have to stay here and watch,” said the Misdreavus girl, still facing the window.

“Right. You’ll take good care of our parents, okay? Mia?”

The Scyther morph sat for a moment staring blankly ahead, contemplating it. “I’ll get to fight them?”

“Yes, hopefully, you’ll get to fight them,” Jack replied patiently.

She nodded. “Then I’ll come.”

“Great.” Jack turned back to the Roselia girl, his expression stern. “So, Katherine. Am I driving, or will you?”

She sighed, rubbing her forehead. “Fine. I’ll do it. But not now. It’s the middle of the night. I might as well be driving drunk. We can sneak out when the sun rises and my head starts clearing, okay?”

-------

Some of the others managed to get a bit of sleep after this (Katherine, in particular, was fast asleep five minutes after things had quieted down), but Jack didn’t; he was too worked up to feel tired. In his mind, he laid out a careful plan for what they’d do once they found out where they were keeping Gabriel, while pushing aside all nagging doubts. After he’d gone over it too many times to think he’d be able to add to it, he spent the rest of the night practicing his Spark while all too aware of the eyes of the other non-sleeping morphs on him.

Then, finally, the first rays of the sun made their way into the room, and he sprang up to wake Katherine.

“Mwuh?” she mumbled as he shook her. “Oh, Jesus, I’m going to be terrible until a couple of hours from now.”

“That doesn’t matter,” Jack hissed at her. “Our parents could be up a couple of hours from now. We have to get going.”

“I don’t know how you goaded me into this,” she muttered, but she stood up anyway, and after several frantic insistences for everyone to be as quiet as possible, Jack opened the bedroom door as silently as he could and they tiptoed out into the hall while Lucy waved absent-mindedly after them from her position by the window.

Jack crept towards the front door and opened it, also as quietly as he could. This early on a Saturday, there was nobody in the streets. His heart was racing as the others came through the door; he saw a movement in a bush across the street and jumped, but it was just a Murkrow taking off. As Mia came through the door, the last of them, Jack moved to close it, slowly and carefully.

He exhaled finally when he took his hand off the doorknob. “Okay,” he said quietly. “You took the keys, Katherine?”

She nodded nervously, blinking towards the sunrise. “This is a terrible idea,” she muttered, sounding more scared than irritated now that some of the grogginess had faded. Nonetheless, she walked shakily towards her parents’ car and opened it. “Get in. Hopefully we can fit four of you in the back seat.”

Since nobody wanted to be beside Mia in a cramped space, she had an automatic claim to the passenger seat. As Katherine struggled to fasten her seatbelt with her flaplike fingers, Jack, Will, Jean and Peter managed to squeeze themselves together into the back seat.

“I don’t suppose you can get your belts on like this?” Katherine asked anxiously, glancing at them in the rear-view mirror; they shook their heads. “Oh, God, this is an awful idea. We shouldn’t be doing this.”

“It’s too late now,” Jack said firmly. “We have to get going before our parents wake up. First stop, our place.”

“All the way over in Taillow Springs.” Katherine sighed. “What are we doing? I can’t drive.”

“Yes, you can,” Jack insisted. “There’s no traffic now. You’ll be fine. Just start the car.”

After closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she did. The engine whirred to life. She grabbed the steering wheel as well as she could before remembering she was still in parking gear, and she silently thanked God that at least she didn’t have to drive stick. Another deep breath and she shifted to reverse; then she stepped extremely slowly and carefully on the gas pedal, only to realize the handbrake was still on.

“Okay, look, I can’t do this. I’m forgetting everything. Can we please just stay?”

“We voted on it.”

Katherine shook her head and took a few breaths to steel herself. She carefully released the handbrake and then managed to back the car into the middle of the street, where she had to spend a moment to try to get a decent grip on the steering wheel before turning it. Eventually they were on the right half of the street and she got the car straight before pressing a bit harder down on the gas and getting it up to an acceptable speed, and finally the worst was over for now.

-------

It was a forty-five minute drive to the neighbouring town, but they met nobody on the way; in fact, had that not been what they’d been hoping for, the general emptiness of the streets would probably have been unnerving. The drive itself was about as uneventful as they could have hoped, though Katherine had a hard time making sharp turns thanks to her hands’ poor grasp on the steering wheel. Once they’d entered Taillow Springs, Jack gave her directions to his home, where he quickly ran inside to get Felicia in her Pokéball, and then to the comic book store, which she hadn’t been to often enough to remember the way.

“Right,” said Jack as they stepped out of the car in a parking lot close to the store after Katherine had just barely managed to park the car. “I think I heard Gabriel talk about how he’d be up in... that street.” He pointed decisively up towards the small side street. Without further words, they walked there, all the while looking nervously around for people or murderers. By now it was slightly less empty than it had been on the way, with a few cars making their way around the downtown streets, but none came close enough to be likely to notice they weren’t just a normal disparate group of kids and teens taking an early-Saturday morning walk.

They entered the street, and Jack’s heart stung horribly as he recognized the bag from the comic book store still lying there on a bench, a book lying discarded on the sidewalk under it. He ran over and picked it up, wiping the grime off the pages (he couldn’t help noticing that it had been lying open on a fold in the middle of a scene where one character was bashing another’s brains in with a baseball bat, and there was something disturbingly satisfying about it) and put it back into the bag. “It’s his,” he said quietly, looking up as the others hurried towards him. “He was here.”

They stood there silently for a moment, looking at the bag in Jack’s hands, before he had the presence of mind to drop Felicia’s Pokéball onto the ground. The Growlithe materialized in a burst of light and looked happily around at the group of them before apparently picking up on the gloomy atmosphere; the eager swishing of her tail slowed down to a crawl and she sat down with a soft whine.

“Felicia,” said Jack, “Gabriel’s lost. We need you to help us find him. Okay?”

The dog Pokémon tilted her head for a moment but then gave an affirmative bark and got to work with sniffing at and around the bench. She quickly found a trail leading from behind the bench and followed it for a few meters, where she stopped and barked proudly. Jack quickly came over to see what she had found: there was a familiar-looking dirty glob of orange slime on the ground.

“Good girl!” he said excitedly, his heart racing. “Go on!”

The Growlithe continued eagerly, wagging her tail all the while. Gabriel’s scent led her over to the very parking lot they’d parked in and to the spot next to where they’d parked (Jack shuddered), and there, of course, the trail ended. He asked the Pokémon if she could follow the car, but Felicia just tilted her head with a soft whine; as far as she could tell, Gabriel had simply been abducted by aliens right there.

They looked glumly at the puppy for a moment in silence. Jack sighed. What had he been expecting, honestly? Some sort of a Lassie movie where the dog miraculously saves the day? He recalled Felicia into her Pokéball and just stood there for a few seconds, knot in his stomach, tears burning in his eyes.

Jean’s cellphone chose this moment to start ringing with a horribly loud and obnoxiously cheery pop tune.

She reached into her pocket and, oblivious to the wretched stares of all the others, took several seconds to fish the phone out, the ringtone only growing more intolerable when it was no longer muffled by the fabric of her jeans. With a practised motion that somehow combined checking the caller ID, opening the phone and swinging her arm upwards, she held the phone to her ear and said, in a tone nearly as cheery as her ringtone, “Hi, Dad!”

“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” was the answer, clearly audible to anyone within a ten-foot radius.

“We’re saving Gabriel!” Jean replied excitedly. “We took the Harrisons’ car, and Katherine could totally drive it all the way over here! And Felicia can smell Gabriel, so we’re going to go and torch all the bad guys!”

“What the... you’re sneaking around up at the Church of Holy Truth? Katherine driving? Are you fucking insane? We wake up and go to check on you, and suddenly Lucy’s alone and telling us you fucking went to play superheroes? Christ, Jean, just get back here right now. This isn’t some fucking kids’ action movie where the good guys win. This is real life with real-life murderers waiting to murk the life out of you because the invisible man in the sky told them to do it. You’re just a bunch of kids. By God, Jean, you’re all going to fucking die. Please don’t do this to me.”

Over the course of this rant, Dave’s voice became less angry and more pathetically desperate. Jean sniffled and looked unsurely around at the others; Jack’s heart thumped as his brain processed everything Dave had just said.

“Give me that,” he said quickly, but didn’t wait for Jean to voluntarily give him the cellphone before he’d torn it out of her hand. “The Church of Holy Truth?” he said into it. “That’s what you said? They’re keeping Gabriel there?”

There was a short pause. “Oh, what the fuck? You didn’t know...? Look, forget I said anything about that. Just get back here already. Your parents are all worried sick about you.”

“They want us more than you,” Jack replied, his heart still racing. Church of Holy Truth. “If they realize we’re not there anymore, you’re safer than you are with us. Just stay there and keep safe. We’re going to try and save Gabriel, no matter what it takes.”

He hung up immediately, before Dave had begun to answer; he didn’t want to hear it. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and then looked at the others, who were staring at him.

“We know where they’re keeping him now,” he said. “Or we know the name of the place. Looking up where that is is easy. We can go do this now. If you want to go home, go ahead, but this is what we came here for, and every one of you that helps gives us better chances. And don’t listen to Dave. We’re not just a bunch of kids. We’re a bunch of Pokémorphs. We can do this.”

Nobody volunteered to leave, but nobody responded with a particular enthusiasm, either. He could tell they were worried, scared; they looked at one another, doubtfully, gauging one another’s reactions in silence.

“Come on,” he said, gritting his teeth. “Gabriel is going to die if we don’t do something.”

They murmured some uncertain agreement.

“Great. So let’s go.”

Jack marched over to the car, and the others followed hesitantly behind, except for Katherine, who caught up with him, grabbed his arm and pulled him aside while vaguely telling the others they needed to discuss driving.

“There’s something that bothers me,” she said quietly as the others were getting into the car.

“Oh?”

“It didn’t really register this morning when I was all groggy, but... why didn’t they attack last night?”

Jack looked at her. Deep down, that had been nagging at him, too; if they were going to attack them, why hadn’t they done so at the first opportunity, when their victims would be the least prepared? But he still just shrugged and replied, “Maybe they needed time to plan or get ready.”

Katherine glanced at him. “Really?”

Jack shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. They couldn’t start getting paranoid now.

“And how does Dave know where they’re keeping Gabriel?”

Jack shrugged again, wishing she would just stop. “He’s the one who spoke to them on the phone. Maybe Gabriel managed to tell him.”

“But why would they let that happen? It’s almost like…”

“Almost like what, Katherine?” Jack snapped, looking at her. “What are you trying to say?”

She bit her lip. “Doesn’t this all seem a bit… too easy?”

Yes. Of course it did. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s almost as if… they want us to come for him.”

She looked at him, and he looked back, biting back the thought.

“Think about it,” Katherine went on, carefully. “They’ve got someone we love. There are better ways to exploit that than just as leverage to prevent us from calling the police. Normally kidnappers do it because of what the family is willing to do to get the child safe. And what they actually want… is us.”

Bait. Gabriel had been made into the bait in a Pokémorph-trap. Jack clenched his fist tightly in anger.

“We’re not leaving him behind,” he said quietly. “We’re on to them now. We’ll be prepared and be careful, and we’ll surprise them, and we’ll save him anyway.”

Katherine looked anxiously at him. “Jack…”

“Don’t you ‘Jack’ me!” he snapped. “Gabriel is my best friend, and I would gladly die for the chance he could be saved. I’ll go alone if I have to, but don’t try to stop me. Please.”

He looked desperately at her, and for a moment he wanted to just go home with the others and hope somehow everything would magically be okay.

But nothing was ever magically okay. The only way to make things right was to act, no matter how hopeless and horrifying the prospect was, and at least if he failed he wouldn’t have to live with the dread of constantly wondering what Gabriel could be going through. And so he steeled himself, looked away, and said, “Well? Are you coming?”

Katherine was silent for a moment. “We’ll have to talk to the others,” she finally said. He nodded without words, his throat dry, and they went back over to the car, where the others had gotten in already. She explained the bait theory to them as they watched, wide-eyed, and there was a long silence.

“I think we can surprise them,” Jack said, sensing the unease in the others. “We can spend a little while practicing our Pokémon moves before we go. We can try to disguise ourselves so they won’t be able to gun us down from a distance. We could even buy a good TM and teach it to Felicia so she can help. But I understand if you’re afraid and don’t want to get involved. All I know is that I’m going no matter what, and my chances are better the more of you come with me.” He took a deep breath. “Even then, don’t come for my sake. Come for Gabriel’s sake. And if you don’t want to come, then don’t.”

There was another doubtful silence.

“But really,” Jack found himself adding all of a sudden, “haven’t you ever felt restless? Like you want to get into a fight and win, and to show the world what you can do? Aren’t you ever more excited by violence than you know you should be? Don’t you ever just want to solve your problems the physical way? Don’t you ever want to act?”

“I feel like that all the time!” Jean replied immediately, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “I want to kill the bad people who took Gabriel!”

There was an awkward silence for a moment, and then they all started speaking at once, confirming that yes, actually they all felt that way sometimes, or a lot of the time, or constantly in Mia’s case – even Katherine admitted reluctantly that she had disturbingly violent urges once in a blue moon and there was something irrationally satisfying about the idea of trying to rescue someone in danger.

Within minutes they had all agreed to continue on their mission, with Katherine the only one somewhat reluctant, and as she started the car again, Jack felt for the first time like it was really all going to work out.

Page last modified July 14 2017 at 16:44 GMT