Chapter 17: Sylphs and DemonsEdit
It was another boring day after all, thought Ash after he had finished making his rounds through yet another neighborhood, thus completing this suburb. It was boring in that he still didn’t make inroads toward finding his sister Kay – but by any other perspective it was not boring at all.
For this time he had accidentally (?) stumbled upon a plot-in-the-making by Team Rocket operatives to steal the data from Saffron City’s largest company, Silph Co. Developer of the original Poke-Ball, for which its thirty-year patent had long since expired (making it trillions of Kanto Dollars in the process), further developer of the great-ball and thereafter the ultra-ball. Although all the secrets to the great-ball and ultra-ball had long since been hacked and leaked out – the fact that Team Rocket used nothing but loads of ultra-balls and had an interminable supply of them being case in point – the patent to the great-ball still had two years to go, and that for the ultra-ball another decade and a half of life remaining. Even though there were generics that were slightly cheaper than the brand-name counterparts Silph Co. had still been happily manufacturing and marketing (and making money on) on the store shelves world-wide, those weren’t what drove the company’s stock (SYLF) nowadays.
No; everyone knew that Silph Co. had been for years now been working on developing the next best thing.
The master ball.
The developers had planned it to be a poke-ball that could catch any pokemon, beyond which no design improvements would be possible – ‘the ball to end all balls’, so to speak.
Problem was, it was still in the developmental alpha stage, and people didn’t know if it was bound to work or not. But it was getting close – that was obvious, by the reports that company public relations officers had been telling journalists. And as a pokemon trainer, Ash of course followed the daily news for the incredibly cheap price of 0.75 a paper.
Too close. And what made it worse – or perhaps better – was that because of certain developmental and – yes – even ethical concerns, the patent request hadn’t been put through. Which meant that Silph Co. was now in the precarious position of having to guard a technology potentially worth many billions of dollars and untold fame for the company’s new CEO, Dr. Marc Cash, MBA.
So bad (or good) that it was now the first on the list of targets for Team Rocket’s espionage (note, not burglary, but similar) division. So big of an issue, that Ash had been able to stumble upon a discussion about it on accident, listening via their minds through an otherwise soundproof wall.
It went like this:
“Is everything ready now?”
“All in place, sir.”
“Good. Then our part of the mission will go ahead as planned.” They at Silph Co. won’t know what hit them.
“The problem is that there will be a period of time during which everyone will be alert about a break-in at the company and before the Team can know whether or not the spreadsheets and data analyses what we plan to steal are all we need for successfully recreating a master ball. I’m just worried that the police may see through our plans for our puppet company before we have established ourselves.”
“Me too. It’s good to worry. That way we’ll be even more careful about it all.”
“I’m just even more worried about the prospect that the company could have moved some of their critical documents to yet another location. It takes at least 99.99 of the total data to be in our hands before we can recreate the master ball – at least, without having a team of a hundred researchers and programmers sitting day and night to reconstruct the missing data before Silph Co. itself finishes what it must do. Though with what we’ve all put into this project, it seems unlikely that our spies haven’t kept track of all the separate nodes of data…”
“Aye, sources tell me that Silph Co. is only a week or two away from submitting the revised form of their patent request form. Heard that this one will have a rock-solid argument that ethicists won’t be able to break down. I don’t know what philosophers they have working for them, but if they have hundreds of billions on the line I don’t doubt that they will have the best possible assembly of bright think tanks churning out ideas for them.”
“Yeah, I certainly don’t think they will fail this time. So we got to make this work, or else the boss may become so disgruntled he fires the entire espionage department. Let me see if I have anything else worth bothering you…” Hmm… today’s the 15th, eh? That means the infiltration is still eight days away. I could wait before I give out the detailed instructions. “I think that’s all.”
“Well then, you’re dismissed. You may always report to me when you feel there’s any reason to do so, pal.”
The first thing Ash thought of after hearing this, was that this was Team Rocket’s stuff he was just privy to and so he had to do something against his eternal (or was it?) foe. The second thought was that he, being just a single trainer with three pokemon who hadn’t had real battle experience for months now (with a few exceptions, P.J.’s being the most notable), probably would only end up killing themselves attempting to intercept Team Rocket’s plans and not foil them at all. The third thing he thought was that if he couldn’t stop Team Rocket’s operation, then maybe he could tell Silph Co. to separate the data some more so that critical parts of it wouldn’t fall into Team Rocket’s hands. The fourth? No one would believe him and, even if they did, wouldn’t they already have done a brilliant job? As if Ash would know better than they did how to keep their company secrets… secret…
And yet, Team Rocket did seem up to something… From what Ash could tell using his psychic abilities, if he could trust them, the two were pretty darn sure of themselves and their ability to uncover every single thing necessary, and this coming from two individuals who seemed more often than not to worry about whether their plan would work. And as Ash and those Team Rocket operatives both knew very well, those who worried about success were much more likely to succeed than those who simply thought everything would work out on its own.
So, based on his thoughts, there wasn’t much anything he could do to change the outcome. It would either succeed, or fail. And from Team Rocket’s record of their ability to handle matters, they weren’t too shabby. Of course, they failed both times in attempting to steal pokemon right from under Sabrina’s nose, but that was first because she was a psychic, and second because they went in open confrontation against hundreds of trainers. No wonder they lost. But from Ash’s personal experience… He had been abducted by them, as had Lily. The trap they had set for him with the fake Metapod alarm was well thought through. Even though Gary managed to locate and rescue him, Lily, and the six girls who now kept following him, and though he managed to get six out of the seven Team Rocket teams arrested, there were surely a few whom Gary hadn’t caught. And he only succeeded because his Ralts happened to be an emotion pokemon. Then they had proceeded to abduct Kay, capturing the psychic Mr. Mime in the process, which meant they knew how to win a fight against psychic pokemon… And he couldn’t forget how the entire might of the Pallet Town police couldn’t stop them from taking Delia away as well… Now’s not the time to burst into tears… Team Rocket would more than likely succeed on this venture.
Which, suddenly brought Ash to another line of reasoning.
During the past few months, peering into the minds of so many money-oriented adults meant one thing for sure: he was now quite knowledgeable in economics and finance. He was of the opinion that he knew all he needed to know about common and privileged stock, corporate and municipal bonds, commodities and derivatives, you name it…
And in modern finance, portfolio theory indicated that if the prospects of a company were to suddenly change, it didn’t matter what people may have thought about it before; only the fundamentals mattered. And as he had just learned about this ahead of just about everyone else, he would have the opportunity to take advantage of his advance information. It may be wrongful; it may be insider information; but it wasn’t as if he was conspiring to do anything wrongful alongside Team Rocket. They hadn’t ‘told’ him that this was going to happen; and Ash would still be a speculator because he couldn’t be sure if it would actually succeed.
But the odds were clearly in his favor. And if he couldn’t take advantage of improved odds with his psychic ability in the casino, was he to simply squander it? Of course not!
And, even more importantly, he had a family to rescue. And how could he do it without good, able pokemon? Could he benefit from having his pokemon gain the abilities of the Transformational Machines? Were three pokemon enough? He could use the money to buy the digital pokemon Porygon if he had to; those things could be programmed in with the capability to use a wide variety of battle tactics the likes of which he didn’t feel like teaching to a fourth pokemon from scratch, but they were also prohibitively expensive.
No matter what one thought to the contrary, money was important.
So he was going to get some.
It’s now evening, and that means the Goldenrod Stock Exchange would close in… closed two hours ago… no, that can’t be right, the city’s two time zones behind us, which means I still have what, fifteen minutes to get a deal brokered? An idea was already forming in his mind as to what security he would be getting with his money as he proceeded to run in the direction of the nearest broker’s office. It would not do to buy stock in SYLF right now, since he was predicting that the stock would plummet soon. So instead he would go short on the stock, which meant selling a contract to someone that he would give him/her shares of that stock later on. The more the value of SYLF stock fell, the more he would make from the difference in the two prices. And the more he put at risk making the deal, the greater the returns.
As he ran, he estimated what he could afford to spend. He had been living inside Cloyster’s extra shell space for months on end now, never having to enter into a proper lodging. So that thirty percent of peoples’ average income didn’t matter to him. He didn’t rely on vehicle transportation for anything, the way Gary was wont to do, so that was another fifteen percent gone. He was using telekinesis to literally shoot his breakfast, lunch, and dinner out of the sky and picking them out of the bushes, so there was another fifteen percent he didn’t have to worry about. He didn’t really have much any expenditures to worry about, in fact; he had no debts to pay off, no education expenses, and, because he didn’t have any true source of income, no taxes to pay.
So he could gamble all of his money on this one thing. And what had been only a meager 10,000.00 Y after his casino debacle had slowly grown in an index fund to 10,650.00 Y after subtracting Ash's minor expenses on things.
And on top of that he had mailed applications to twenty different credit card companies shortly after his fourteenth birthday, of which two had granted him a credit line with a 5,000.00 Y limit (a meager sum) with an APR of a whopping 45 percent (after all, he was but a kid and his mother had vanished and his father had deceased long ago). Even though he had the money in his debit card, he still charged all expenses to his two credit cards, and then paid them off the next day so that he always had a 0.00 Y account balance.
But now, nearly two years later, his credit history was starting to show. Each of those two credit cards how had a maximum of 20,000.00 Y, and their APR had fallen to 30 percent. Just a month ago he had applied to another ten credit card companies and received ten approvals in response, each with the same maximum as his first two cards.
So he walked into the brokerage with 10,650.00 Y in personal assets and 240,000.00 Y in credit, and felt like a rich man. Of course he wasn’t, because if he used all that credit and he came out on the losing end, he would be in the red, he would have to sue for Chapter 7 and that would be debilitating. And because he was going short not long (the norm), his potential losses were unlimited. If SYLF went up to a million dollars a share he would be screwed.
But he didn’t think that would happen. After all, once Team Rocket struck, there didn’t seem to be any reason why the stock could possibly rise.
The brokerage was a rather small office, but pleasant with nice, homely adornments. It was evidently a partnership. Ash looked at the ticker and saw prices of various companies’ stocks updating; then saw a sign that read ‘each transaction 100.00 Y.’ It was a three-figure sum but it cost only half as much as a generic pokeball which meant that it was pretty darn cheap. Though if Ash only traded with his personal assets, two transactions was two percent of his money, on which he earned under 10 yearly.
“What may I do for you young man?” asked the broker, looking up at Ash through his glasses.
“How much is a share of SYLF right now?”
The broker seemed to have the number memorized; this after all is an industry giant we’re talking about. “2,500.00 Y each. How many would you like to buy?”
“Actually, I want to go short on SYLF. I only have ten grand, but I have a considerable amount of credit that I can work with…”
“Great, well if you’re going short you’ll need to put down a five-percent margin into an account registered in your name. All you have to do is fill out this form,” said the broker, pushing forward a sheet of paper. Ash took out a pen and within a minute had it filled. Trading short wasn’t like trading long; one didn’t simply put in what one had. Instead, one earned money to begin with, then paid for it later. But then you had better be able to pay up.
A five-percent margin meant that with his 10,650.00 (he didn’t want to put too much credit at risk because trading on the margin was normally a massive risk by itself), he could trade 201,300.00 Y worth of stock.
The broker looked at it and repeated the important parts of it. “Short eighty shares of SYLF, to be paid before nine days, total 200,000.00. Y Is that what you want?” If SYLF went bankrupt, Ash would earn his 200,000.00 Y. But it wouldn’t. If shares doubled in value, he would have to come up with the 200,000.00 Y difference by working, which for an entry-level worker like him may take eight to ten months of hard labor.
What was the broker thinking? This isn’t a lot of money compared to the millions my other clients shove around day-trading, but he’s only a boy after all…
“Yes,” affirmed Ash. The broker had the transaction processed in mere seconds. Suddenly Ash’s debit card was 190,000.00 Y Kanto dollars heavier. At least, that’s what it looked like on the computer screen. He hadn’t made any money yet. Not until Team Rocket broke in and put everyone in a panic…
As Ash walked out of the brokerage, he turned to the Kirlia on his shoulder. It was sleeping. Even psychic pokemon were not really any good at predicting the future, which was what made the stock market run, but they brought psychology to a whole new level. There was a reason why psychic pokemon were common on the other side of the proverbial Chinese Wall – no investment banker wanted a merger and acquisition secret leaked out early by a psychic pokemon on this side of the wall.
Ash now pondered the next step. Once Team Rocket struck, as they surely will, the price would surely come down, even if just from the panic. But then Ash certainly didn’t want Team Rocket of all people to be the first to, under a fictitious business name, patent the master ball technology. That would be bad.
It seemed like the pair he had overheard was instrumental in the operation. If he could prevent them from carrying out their part, it might just be enough to ruin Team Rocket’s aspirations. He smiled to himself. Woe to whomever was the syndicate’s enigmatic boss when he found out that his brilliant plan had been thwarted by someone with a grudge against his organization who had been relentlessly combing the city day after day looking for a slip. That was bound to make the boss have second thoughts.
And now, back to training, thought Ash perhaps a bit despondently at the prospect of spending the evening training with his pokemon after that noon match with P.J. It was nice to know that his pokemon had taken care of the Ursaring and the Poliwrath without any trouble. But the other two pokemon the trainer had… Heck, he still hadn’t come up with any plan or counter against the Hyper Beam. He knew that it was supposed to be an immensely powerful disintegrative attack, but just how good it was he hadn’t known until just today. It meant something important, too.
It meant that after all that training, Ash still had a long way to go.
Along the way to the outskirts of the city and the woods which he had made his dwelling, Ash picked up a newspaper (the Saffron Sundown). The front-line news item:
Brownouts Plague Lavender, Bird to Blame
May 15th – Reported by James Irving
Everything had been just fine in the rather backwater eastern seaboard Lavender town, still known prominently only as the location of the famed – and haunted – Pokemon Tower. That is, until this morning when blackouts began to plague the entire town.
“We’ve never had such blackouts before in years,” said one resident, commenting on how not only was this the first blackout in a long time, but also that there had never been even a brownout in the past ten years that had been so prolonged.
“This is really unusual, but we think there may be a pattern to what’s been going on lately,” said a spokesperson for an investigation team. “Although I believe others are already onto a rumor that’s been circulating around.”
That rumor is that Zapdos has made its new nest in the local power plant.
“Zapdos has long been one of the mascots of the eastern seaboard, primarily referring to the way the sun seems to suddenly bolt out of the blue,” said one.
The flying bird is a legendary pokemon that is only rumored to exist.
But others disagree. “There are records of a trio of legendary birds with extraordinary powers,” says one local.
The trio has indeed been referenced in a variety of texts and scrolls from past times, but those are neither dependable nor recent.
“We have no other indication that a legendary bird, not only Zapdos, but the other two as well, may even exist, much less actually be present along the coast,” said pokemon expert Professor Bill. He operates his own lighthouse at Cerulean City, the northern fringe of the east coast, which he claims to be able to see rare pokemon with.
The other two pokemon he referred to were Moltres, bird of fire, and Articuno, bird of ice.
The trio of birds thus represents the prime elemental forces of the world as described in various religious texts dating back to the tenth century.
“So, it makes a lot of sense for the trio to actually exist. And Zapdos, being lightning-based, would very likely be dwelling in the Lavender town power plant,” says a fanatic.
After all, it is the largest power plant on the mainland, supplying power to Lavender, Cerulean, and even the eastern parts of Saffron. Since the power has still been erratic at best, all three locales have had to rely on emergency generators for their hospitals and other critical facilities.
But is it likely that Zapdos actually exists in the power plant? For that we turn to the Lavender reporter.
“Well, we can’t be sure whether or not this is actually happening, but all we know for sure is that something weird is going on there,” she says.
Earlier today three separate groups of trainers, eager to catch such a fabled pokemon as Zapdos, went into the massive power plant to seek Zapdos’s new roost.
Says the sheriff Officer Jenny, “We warned them not to go in, since obviously if Zapdos weren’t there they would be wasting their time, and if it were actually there it would make the power plant too dangerous to visit.”
Officer Jenny has since made the power plant off limits to all trainers. At the time of this report people are still being turned away from getting the opportunity to search for and capture Zapdos.
“It’s just too dangerous!” exclaims Officer Jenny.
And to the three that had gone in earlier, this was very likely the case.
About an hour after the last group had gone in, none of them had come out. So Officer Jenny bravely lead a team of police officers into the power plant. They returned within a minute, bearing news that one of the group had been electrocuted on the first floor. Their team of ground pokemon - generally seen as those that stand the greatest chance against Zapdos's electric type - were fatalities of the expedition as well.
The Lavender town police decided not to pursue the other two teams, fearing that it may already be too late.
“We don’t want to put any more officers at risk,” she says.
This would also mean that, unless the power plant mystery resolves of its own accord, the blackout would continue to plague the city
A final word on this topic? “I would suggest that no one get near the power plant for now, at least while the blackouts persist,” warns Officer Jenny.
Ash looked to his side and saw that his Kirlia was reading it as well. “Think we should go for it?”
“You might as well go leap off a cliff,” it admonished. That thing is a killing machine.
Ash sighed. “I guess you’re right. It’ll have to wait for later. But come on, we have work to do!”