It was never their intention to watch the first bout of initiation, nor to instruct it.
Jessie, James, and Meowth were supposed to be out trying to snatch that Pikachu of Ash Ketchum's. They were supposed to be out in the world. Not back at headquarters.
But it was Giovanni's orders to be there, to watch over the freshies. If they didn't, however, they would be fired.
"We should be out catching Pikachu," James pouted the very next morning.
"Will you quit whining?" Meowth snarled. "As much as I want to be out there, I kinda wanna remain in the boss's good books."
"Both of you, shut it!" Jessie hissed. "I'm thinking."
Both James and Meowth looked at her, their squabble long forgotten. "About what?" the lavender haired man inquired.
His scarlet haired colleague punched him in the face. "None of your business!"
"Y'know, it wouldn't hurt to at least talk about it," the cat-like being sneered. "It's usually Cassidy and Whatisface that are supposed to be looking after initiation. Not us."
"My thoughts exactly," James added, checking to see if his nose wasn't broken.
"And, not only that, rumors have been flying," Meowth continued. "Apparently, a girl found by one of the grunts is supposed to be starting initiation today. The grunt claims there's something spooky about her."
"I heard from Romano Junior that some sort of silver mist comes from her when she's worked up," James inputted.
Jessie rubbed her chin in thought. "That girl that was found? The one that was almost dead by the time the grunt got her to Giovanni?" she asked.
"That's the one. There's been claims, along with Giovanni being related to the Greek god of Time, that she's the boss's sister in some twisted way," Meowth answered. The cat's claws popped out, and he found a post to scratch on. "Like she's related to the same god the boss is."
"Then, if she was almost dead when she was brought to the boss, why is she starting initiation?" James asked.
"Who knows?" Meowth replied. "For all we know, she could be wanting some physical therapy to help recover."
"Then again, the only ones in contact with her were the whole Romano family," Jessie thought aloud. "It could be to make sure she still holds favor in their eyes."
James and Meowth sighed. "So, now, we have to instruct her because of them," James whined.
"Right now, the best bet is to wait and see what this girl has to bring to the table," Meowth groaned.
* * *
Giovanni didn't want her to go through with it.
"Just a few more days to let it heal," he insisted as she examined the shirt. Blood red with a poppy red R on the front. She would make it look very fashionable, indeed.
"I feel fine, Giovanni," she replied, pulling the clothing over a white tank-top. "You worry too much."
"Silver's stressing over your decision. Look, I know I offered it as a choice, but I wasn't expecting you to take it up," he explained, wringing his hands together.
"And you're like a daughter to me. I don't want my little girl getting hurt."
"I'm not your little girl."
"I know, Colbie, but you're still in a delicate stage. As much as you're able to move around, the initiation process takes weeks, and it's very gruelling on the human body."
She looked at the boss of Team Rocket, her light blue eyes harder than diamonds. "Giovanni, I'm fine. Don't worry. It's not like I haven't gone through something like this before."
Giovanni raised a curious eyebrow. "But can you remember the last time?" he asked.
She pressed two fingers to her temple. "I think I can, but every time I try, it slips away. It was something about fighting an enemy. As for what I did, it turns up empty." She shook her head. "I have no idea about the enemy, either," she answered.
Giovanni could hear the obvious Would you? in her voice. He shrugged. "Don't look at me. I have no idea what your past was like."
"I wasn't asking you, Giovanni." She put the matching cap on, evidently hiding her eyes. Her black hair was tucked through the back in a ponytail. "I wasn't asking anything."
"Stubborn as a Rhydon. You were, even if you weren't speaking it."
"Shut up. You know damn well I didn't say-"
That was when Ariana entered the room. "You're going through with it, Colbie? Do you have everything you need?" she asked sweetly, capturing the girl in a hug.
"Unfortunately," her husband grumbled.
Ariana let Colbie go as she shot a glare in Giovanni's direction. "Was I asking you, love?"
Giovanni left the room as soon as she spoke.
The redhead grinned at Colbie. "You look lovely, sweetie. Excited?"
"Not really. More like nervous."
Ariana hugged her again. "You'll be fine. You're probably the first girl strong enough to take it. Ever since I started here, the girls that entered initiation ran away crying, like they couldn't handle what was presented."
"There are worse things than selling Pokémon on the black market," Colbie muttered darkly.
Ariana let the girl breathe, and the Rocket executive nodded. "Indeed. Besides, I have something for you."
Colbie pulled a glove on her hand. "Something? I'd like to know what it is."
Ariana pulled out a necklace - a rosary. The sky blue beads alternated with beads an onyx black until they came to a small medallion with a portrait of the Virgin Mary. From there dangled a small chain of beads in the same pattern, ending in a simple crucifix.
Colbie Morrow knew that rosary. It was hers, but she couldn't remember who gave it to her.
"Where did you get this?" she murmured, taking the Christian jewelry from Ariana.
"It was with you when the grunt found you," the woman replied, taking it back. "The medics requested the removal of jewelry - even if it was a faith-based necklace. So, I hung onto it for you, waiting for you to wake up when you came out of surgery."
"You saved it for me?"
"It's yours. It's obviously important to you. I've never met a single recruit that didn't have some sort of religion before coming here."
"I'm a Christian?"
"It appears to be that way." Ariana put the necklace on Colbie, and gave her a gentle smile. "You'll be fine, Colbie. Giovanni's just trying to scare you out of it."
Colbie pulled the other glove on. "I know."
Ariana hugged her again. "Have fun."
* * *
"All right, punks," Jessie sneered as she, James, and Meowth inspected the recruits, "you know why you're here."
Colbie kept her gaze level with the flat horizon. It wasn't very often she got to meet people she thought she knew from childhood. It wasn't very often she felt happy meeting childhood influences.
James watched her face suspiciously. He knew she wasn't supposed to be there, but she stood in front of him at attention, very much so like the military. Her face was just as expressionless as the others around her, but she was different.
Thin white lines in odd spots covered her face. Her icy blue eyes held an eternal sadness, but also a furious anger. He could easily see why something would be a little off with her: she radiated an ancient power never before seen in Kanto. Mewtwo would have a run for its money if she ever battled it.
"Yes, sir!" the males yelled, saluting Jessie.
"Too meek, this one," James said to Jessie, indicating the smaller dark-haired girl.
The woman cackled. "Good. Anyone meek is a perfect volunteer to show how this course is run," she barked.
Colbie made no haste stepping apart from the other trainees.
"It would be an honor to do so," she called. Her voice landed somewhere between lyrical and smoky.
A Gengar bounced onto her shoulder. It laughed a little and started fidgeting with the black locks.
Jessie, James, and Meowth looked at her strangely. In their years of watching the newer grunts, they'd never seen one so confident in her abilities.
"Go through the course," the little cat sneered.
"There are several factors that are dangerous to human health," the lavender-haired man continued. "Your Gengar can tag along, since you don't seem to be paired with anyone."
The other trainees looked at the girl and each other nervously. Colbie, on the other hand, wasn't fazed one bit by the high walls, barbed and electric wire, and puddles of toxic sludge. She looked at her Pokémon, and the Gengar bounded to the ground, and stood beside her.
The trio yelled, "Begin!"
Before she knew it, she'd taken off running.
* * *
Colbie never wanted to have her wound reopened.
She'd spent weeks waiting for it to heal, most of it unconscious. It was a nuisance already.
She thought she reached the end of the course without cutting the stitches. She thought she wouldn't have to go through the fuss of having her belly sewn back up.
She'd made record time. Sliding under the barbed-wire and electric fences proved to be a breeze for her.
That is, until she reached the end.
She stood there, celebrating the fact it was finally over, with her Gengar, Jessie, James, and Meowth. Jessie was holding up her hand to show how proud she was, despite her mean exterior, and James had a hand on her shoulder. She was fine, she was happy.
A few of the male grunts she'd started to get to know during meal breaks gasped and pointed at her.
Or, more precisely, her stomach.
"If you got something to say, spit it out!" Jessie barked.
"Sh-she's bleeding!" the first one, Bob, stuttered.
"And it ain't light," another, Jim, added ever-so-helpfully.
Her Gengar looked up at her in concern. "Gengar?" it questioned.
"I'm okay," she reassured, getting out of the grip of Jessie and James. She crouched to touch her Pokémon. "I'll be-" She stopped, and looked down at the sand beneath her. Surely enough, a few red drops had become covered in sand. She touched a gloved hand to her stomach.
Instead of normal grey, her palm came up red.
Her white tank-top was betraying her.
She was truly in danger.
"Don't just stand there like a pack of Mankeys," James sneered, helping Colbie sit down. "Get the medics!"
As if they were trained in the art of stealth and as paramedics, two guys dressed as regular grunts (save for the white patch with the red cross on their sleeves) rushed onto the scene as quickly as James finished speaking.
"She's losing too much," one yelled to the other over the sound of a helicopter. "We need to go to the nearest hospital. The infirmary can't do much about this."
The other looked at James. "Get a stretcher. Jessie, help me lift," he ordered.
Jessie snorted. "What makes you think you can-"
"She's my daughter, Jessie," Giovanni sneered from nowhere. Colbie shivered. It freaked her out that he could appear out of thin air.
James bowed deeply. "Boss, she just-"
"I know. Do as the medics say. I - we - don't want to lose her." The boss of Team Rocket pressed a hand to her forehead. "You'll be okay, Colbie. No more stunts like that."
As the grunts lifted her onto the stretcher, she blacked out.
* * *
Colbie awoke again to the tinkling sound of a music box. The spinning figurehead was that of a Cubone.
She didn't know why, but she recognized the haunting little song that came from it.
She noticed Giovanni's Persian was curled up and napping beside her. She didn't want to disturb him as she did the first time she woke up, so she didn't move.
She also noticed her Gengar was snoring beside her. She found her Pokémon to be adorable in the one moment he wasn't causing so much trouble.
The door opened a crack. The Persian's ears twitched, but it didn't wake up. The Gengar rolled over onto his side.
"You're awake, I see," Giovanni's voice filtered in.
She sat up ever so gently as to not disturb the resting Pokémon. "Yeah, I guess," she murmured.
The door opened wider, and the boss of Team Rocket stepped in. Pulling up a chair, he sat beside the bed she was sitting in.
"He's finally gotten used to your sleeping habits, huh?" he asked, stroking is prized pet. The Persian rolled onto its back unconsciously.
"I think so. Why are you here?"
"Good news. You passed the physical."
"That doesn't surprise me, yet you said it would go on for weeks."
"For the other initiates, it will continue. For you, the classroom component begins tomorrow. Since you are under my care, I made arrangements to teach you myself."
He shrugged, obviously not too sure himself. "I made a promise to my half-sister, Colbie. I would teach you about your origins, along with everything a regular initiate would learn.
"Half-sister? Since when did you have one?"
"Since I learned Cronus was my father."
That name brought to the surface bad memories. Ones of blood, pain, and fear. "Cronus?" Colbie started slowly.
Giovanni passed her a sad smile along with a notebook. "Get your rest. We'll be starting tomorrow." He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "You're a better daughter than Mars. I wish you really were my child."
"What do you mean by better?" she asked as he walked away.
"You'll find out," he answered, "the long way."