Pokemon Fan Fiction ❯ Disciplinary Action ( Chapter 9 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Home Is Where the R Is
Chapter Nine – Disciplinary Action

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« I don’t LIKE laundry! » Anari declared with all the passion her young soul could muster. She was standing on a step-stool putting a load of dirty uniforms into the washing machine. The task would have been finished far more quickly if she’d used both hands (as Mondo had suggested) instead of using one hand to put the soiled garments in piece by piece, but her other hand was busily engaged holding her nose. « Uncle Giovanni is mean! »

« I can’t believe we pissed him off THAT bad! » Mondo said, as he mopped the floor.

Yesterday had been Mondo’s day off, so he and Anari had gone to attend a festival in a nearby city. They’d had a blast. She and Mondo had both pigged out on the food and sweets the various vendors were selling and Anari had even won a Magikarp poster that was now hanging in her room. When they got back Giovanni had been furious with them both for leaving HQ without telling anyone where they were going. Anari had also neglected to mention to Mondo that she had lessons scheduled with the math and science tutors that day, figuring it wouldn’t hurt to skip out on them just once. Wrong. Anari had been spanked for the first time since she’d come to live with her uncle and Mondo had been told that if anything of this sort ever happened again he wouldn’t see another day off for the rest of the decade.

« I can’t believe we have to do chores all morning! » Anari complained, feeling that her sore bottom ought to have been more than enough punishment.

« Hey, at least you get to stop working at lunch time! » Mondo told her. « I’ve got my regular work shift after this! »

« I wish I could go with you. I’ve got to the spend the rest of the day where Uncle Giovanni can keep an eye on me. » Normally she loved spending time with Giovanni, but like all children Anari knew that spending time with the adults in one’s life was a lot less pleasant when said adults were mad at you. She could think of any number of things she’d rather do that afternoon than deal with her pissed-off uncle.

« Cheer up, you two! » a grunt sitting nearby told them. He usually had laundry duty on this particular day. Today he was reading a thick, hardbound book called « The White Wailord ». Another agent sat across from him, playing a hand-held video game.

« Why should we? » asked Mondo. « We have to do your jobs! »

« Gives me a chance to catch up on my reading! » the grunt replied cheerfully.

« And since you’ve cleaned all the toilets and mopped the floors, I’ve got some time to get my levels up! » the other agent told them. Anari and Mondo glared at the pair resentfully.

« At least the cafeteria smelled better, » Mondo sighed. Their first task of the day had been to help Cook with breakfast that morning. The children were required to make sure every agent at Headquarters had been served before being allowed to have any food themselves. They’d also had to do the dishes. The usual kitchen attendants had been given the morning off and were quite pleased to be waited on by the child who they mockingly referred to among themselves as « The boss’s little darling ».

« This sucks, » Anari mumbled, delivering a swift kick at the washing machine that left a sizable dent in the front. Mondo agreed with her whole-heartedly.

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That afternoon, as Anari sat on the floor of her uncle’s office stroking Persian, she learned that she and Mondo were not the only ones who were on the receiving end of Giovanni’s temper. She had become used to listening to him yell at his subordinates- she’d often listened to him chew out grunts, field agents and even the occasional member of the Elite- but today was a rather remarkable occasion.

« You really bungled this operation! » Giovanni yelled, slamming his fist on his desk. Domino stood on the other side of the desk, looking uncharacteristically shamefaced. « Letting every member of your squad get arrested is the kind of careless foolishness I’d expect from that idiot Tyson, but not YOU! »

Anari liked Tyson personally, but she had learned not to argue with her uncle when he was on a tirade.

« I wasn’t there when the police arrived, » Domino offered lamely.

« You all should have been gone long beforehand! » her employer yelled. « Retrieving five members of your team from a group of hapless children could not have been that difficult! A successful commander doesn’t sit in the shadows while everyone else takes the fall! »

« But Uncle Giovanni, isn’t that what YOU do? » Anari asked, aware of the irony of her uncle’s statement. He spun around in his chair to face her.

« Don’t be insolent, child! »

Anari had no idea what « insolent » meant, but she guessed it meant something along the lines of « Shut up, or you’ll be joining Domino on the other side of this desk getting an earful! » She had already had one yesterday and wasn’t keen on getting another today. She shut up. Giovanni turned back to Domino.

« I expect better than this from you! »

« Sir, all the trainers banded together and used their Pokémon to force my men into a corner. I didn’t have the time or resources to rescue them before the police arrived. »

« And what about the Pokémon you were supposed to steal? » her employer asked. « Did you bring back ANYTHING? »

« No sir. »

« I’m giving you until the end of tomorrow to correct this error. If you don’t have any Pokémon for me by then I’ll strip you of your rank and put you on sanitation duty! If THAT doesn’t teach you how to clean up your messes NOTHING will! »

Anari stifled a giggle, burying her face in Persian’s fur. She suspected the threat was an empty one, although after the way she and Mondo had spent their morning she couldn’t be completely sure. She was beginning to understand her uncle’s moods, and had learned to tell the difference between angry annoyance and genuine rage. Besides, Domino was one of the few agents that she knew with absolute certainty that her uncle genuinely liked.

« I’m sure security will be twice as high after the incident today, » Domino said. « I’ll have to go uncover. »

« Then do it. »

« It’s a children’s convention, sir. I would be less conspicuous if I HAD a child. » Her gaze drifted over to Anari, as did Giovanni’s.

He considered the unspoken request carefully as the girl gazed back at him innocently. She would certainly blend in, and she HAD been out in the field before. Still, after this latest bungle on Domino’s part he wasn’t keen on leaving his niece alone in her care during a dangerous heist after the woman had already abandoned five other members of her team. Domino’s father had also been prone to bouts of selfishness, which had eventually led to his demise. He could only hope that he’d trained Domino well enough that she would not repeat the mistakes of her sire. He was loathe to let history repeat itself. Maybe if I sent someone with them… or a Pokémon to protect the child.

« Anari? » he asked, wanting his niece’s opinion on the matter. Anari was never adverse to a little excitement.

« I’ll go, » she offered. It would get her out of lessons again tomorrow, this time with her instructor in cryptography. Last week had been her very first decryption assignment and she couldn’t understand a word of it. Her uncle insisted that if she began learning the various codes Team Rocket used at a young age they would be second nature to her by the time she grew up; but Anari was seriously considering instituting a new rule when it was her turn to lead the organization: any message handed to her had better be in plain English or the messenger could go away and find some other poor soul’s doorstep to darken. Her untouched homework was still hiding under her bed where she’d shoved it. Giovanni turned back to Domino.

« Fine, take her, » he agreed, waving his hand in a dismissive motion. « Take Mondo as well, he’s young enough to blend in. »

Domino blinked. « Mondo? Whatever for? »

« He can help you keep an eye on her, » Giovanni replied. « She needs watching. The entire base spent over three hours yesterday looking for her! » He shot his niece a glare, which Anari quickly decided was best not to respond to. He hadn’t bought her excuses yesterday and she didn’t want to risk ticking him off again. She got up and joined Domino, hoping she could get away with leaving the room at the same time the blonde did.

« I’m exceedingly disappointed in you both, » Giovanni told them. « The two of you are the future of this organization and I’m counting on you both to prove yourselves more competent than the behavior you’ve displayed of late. Tomorrow you’d better come back with RESULTS! » Domino turned to leave, and Anari followed her. « Hold it! » Giovanni commanded his niece, causing the child to stop in her tracks. « Don’t you have something to say to me first? » His niece blinked, unsure of what he was talking about.

« I… don’t… know? »

« You’re leaving Headquarters tomorrow. »

« Yes, » she agreed, confused.

« You need to inform me of this, » Giovanni told her.

« But you already know! »

« You need practice, » he told his niece severely. « As yesterday proved. Now let’s try this again: You’ll be leaving Headquarters tomorrow. »

« I’ll be leaving Headquarters tomorrow, » she said.

« With Domino and Mondo, » her uncle said.

« With Domino and Mondo, » the child echoed.

« I expect not to have to correct you for this error again. Now go. »

. . .

« Which did he give you, laundry or kitchen duty? » Domino inquired. These were the usual punishments he assigned Team Rocket’s younger members. They had longer-lasting effect on youth, he claimed, than the pay cuts older members were made to endure.

« Both! » Anari told her. « AND we had to clean the bathrooms! »

« We? »

« He punished Mondo, too. »

« He must have really been mad, » Domino remarked. « He never made me clean the bathrooms. »

« Have you ever been punished? » Anari inquired.

« Once or twice, in my early days, » Domino replied.

« What’s the worst punishment you ever got? » the child inquired.

« Kitchen duty, every meal, for two solid weeks. I hated it. It was supposed to be one week but I called Cook a few choice words that got another week added on. By the end I never wanted to see another dish again. »

« What did you do to get stuck in the kitchen in the first place? »

« I left his bratty son up a tree, » Domino said. « The boss told me to watch him, but Silver wouldn’t obey me and refused to come down when it started to rain so I left him there. »

I probably would have, too. Anari thought.

Domino had omitted the fact that the boy had only been three or four years old at the time and that she herself had been the one who’d put him up in the tree to begin with. Babysitting had never been her thing. Silver had been whipped for his disobedience and Giovanni had been sorely tempted to give his babysitter the same punishment despite her advanced age of thirteen years. She had been spared the humiliation of having her backside get better acquainted with Giovanni’s belt, but after two weeks of being put at Cook’s disposal Domino might have prefered it. Cook wielded kitchen utensils the way a cop wields a billy club and he had no patience for smart-mouthed teenagers.

« How old were you then? » Anari wanted to know.

« Younger than Mondo, » she replied. « I was only a trainee back then. I hadn’t even started my training at the academy yet. »

Like Mondo, Domino had joined Team Rocket at a young age to take the place of her deceased father and Giovanni had taken the duty of completing the upbring of his friend’s daughter seriously. He was quick to praise and quick to find fault, and on that particular day he had not been happy at the prospect of his son being left in a tree during a thunderstorm.

Anari wondered what her cousin Silver was like. In all this time she had not seen so much as a picture of him. She herself had accumulated quite a collection of photographs of her friends and family members (many of which were on her nightstand sitting in frames her uncle had given to her) but Giovanni did not keep his photographs out where other people could see them or remark on them. He was a private person, and preferred it that way.

« Whatever happened to Silver? » she asked Domino.

« He doesn’t want anything to do with Team Rocket, » Domino said. Anari looked away. Sometimes she felt that way, too.

. . .

Anari made a point of getting up earlier than usual the following day so she could slip out without receiving another lecture from her uncle. She wrote a brief if slightly smart-aleck note that read:

Leeving HedQarters today with Domeno and Mondo. Just in case you forgot.

She looked her note over, then underlined the word « forgot » several times before leaving it on the kitchen table and heading down to the cafeteria for breakfast. She cheerfully greeted the kitchen staff, having developed a new appreciation for the work they did each day, and quickly devoured the plate of pancakes set in front of her. Domino entered a few minutes later and ordered a cup of coffee.

« Hey Shortie, you ready to start our mission? » the Elite agent asked as Anari started on her second plate of pancakes.

« Food now, mission later, » the child responded, shoving a whole pancake in her mouth.

« Charming, » Domino responded in a sarcastic tone at the child’s lack of table manners. « Well, when you’re finished eating like a starving Swinub take this to your uncle and meet me in the supply room. » The blonde dumped a thick file on the table, took her coffee and left. Anari stared at the manila folder as though it were a bomb about to go off. So much for her plan to avoid seeing her uncle before she left. It seemed the Elite agent also desired to avoid her irate boss this morning. Mondo was the first one Domino had sought out for the job, but he had conveniently disappeared when the subject of a last-minute delivery to Giovanni’s office came up.

Maybe I should go live with my Grandma… Anari thought gloomily as she exited the cafeteria and trudged down the corridors to deliver the file. I bet SHE wouldn’t be so mean!

She’d been to see her grandmother several times since her initial visit. Giovanni had given her permission to « commandeer » Mondo to take her visiting once or twice a month. Last time Maria had introduced her to her neighbors, Claudia and Roseann. Roseann, a widow like Maria, had managed to make friends with many of the wild Pokémon who liked to roam on her property. Anari’s favorite were a pair of Stantler who would take Pokémon chow right out of your hand if you approached them gently. Claudia, who lived on the other side of Anari’s grandmother, had never been married. She preferred the company of Pokémon to people and Anari was both surprised and delighted when Claudia opened her door for the first time and EIGHT Meowth came out. They followed their keeper all over the neighborhood, Maria explained, and Claudia was known locally as « The Meowth Mom ».

Those are the kind of people to live with. Anari thought. Nice people who help Pokémon and make friends with them.

As if to drive the point home, a pair of grunts snickered at her as they passed by. Anari sighed. Two days ago everyone had treated her with respect. Now a goodly portion of the staff snickered at the sight of her. They knew she was in disgrace. Hell, every agent in HQ had found out yesterday when they saw her working in the cafeteria trying not to trip over the soiled, adult-sized apron she was wearing as she served everyone their morning meal. Giovanni did not hire workers of the best class and anyone who failed in their tasks or pissed the boss off were subject to scorn and ridicule. Mondo was also suffering from his humiliation. His direct superior in the supply room was using the fact that he’d temporarily fallen out of Giovanni’s favor to drive the boy harder than ever.

Anari walked to her uncle’s office, hoping he would still be in their quarters so she could just leave the file on his desk. To her disappointment, she found him sitting as his desk.

« Thank you for informing me of your departure, » Giovanni told her after she handed the folder to him. His tone of voice made clear exactly what he thought of the tone of her note. « Your spelling needs improvement. »

« Uh… right, » she replied, now feeling embarrassed and foolish. When she’d written it she’d felt like she was making a point. Now the whole exercise seemed petty. Childish.

« Anari. »

« Yeah? »

« Be careful. Follow Domino’s lead and don’t take any unnecessary risks. Some people worry about you, just in case YOU forgot. »

« You’re afraid I’ll get hurt? » Anari retorted, clenching her fists. « You didn’t care about hurting me when you spanked me! »

« After the stunt you and Mondo pulled you’re lucky I’m letting you out of my sight! I ought to have confined you to our quarters for the rest of the month! »

« You didn’t need to HIT me! » the child yelled, finally venting the anger that she’d been suppressing. « OR yell at me, OR make me do all those stupid chores! I’m not one of your workers! »

« No, » he answered, « You’re my niece, and I expect you to obey me. You knew very well where you were supposed to be and you chose to deceive Mondo into taking you somewhere else instead. You also knew it was wrong of you to leave without telling me and you chose to do so anyway. There are consequences to our actions, child. »

Anari couldn’t deny that he was right. Giovanni sighed, and motioned for her to come closer.

« Anari… When you couldn’t be found I feared that someone might have taken you off base without your permission. I have enemies, and while I don’t believe any of them are aware of you yet I can’t be certain of that. For five years I believed you were dead, and I’m not foolish enough to dismiss the fact that it’s well within the realm of possibility that I might lose you again. »

Anari’s anger dissipated somewhat, seeing the genuine concern in her uncle’s face. He didn’t want to lose her. As annoyed as she was, she didn’t want to lose him, either. She walked around his desk and put one of her small hands on his broad shoulder.

« You’re not going to lose me. »

« I don’t know that and neither do you, » he replied bluntly, reaching up to touch the red R hanging from the child’s neck. He briefly thought of the necklace’s original owner, who he had once thought he would never lose. Mothers seemed invincible in the eyes of their children. « Be careful. »

« I will, » his niece promised.

« Good, and when you get back we’re going to talk about the dent you put in the washing machine! »

Anari scurried out, deciding that lecture could definitely wait another day.

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To be continued in Chapter 10: « Undercover Mission ».

Secrets in the Night