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Seratin
17th February 2012, 3:54 PM
This is a story I started working on over a year ago and for various reasons dropped. Serious writers block is one of the main reasons. I'm retooling it as we speak and hope to post revised chapters as well as continuing with the story. AshxLyra

Summary:

After a devastating attack on their childhood, Ash Ketchum and Gary Oak are sent to the first safe place Oak could think of. Now, eleven years later, it's time for them to return.








Return


***


Giovanni. It is a name that isn't often discussed in this, or any part, of the world. Especially not in his. He is the man that took everything from him. His happiness, his childhood, his mother.

He remembered Professor Oak vaguely. A kind faced man with silver hair that had let him play with his Pokeballs as a child, along with his friend Gary. He remembered his mother more clearly. Her long auburn hair hung to her waist and she was no doubt beautiful but it was her laugh that he remembered most of all. Her laugh was contagious.

He had spent more of his time in the Professor's lab as his mother spentmore of her time running 'errands' for Gary's grandfather. The result of this was a nasty set of rumours that spread around the small town and had made his mother cry. He hadn't liked that. He hadn't liked that and had a distinct memory of stamping on his neighbour's toes in the store one evening. His mother had scolded him and apologised to the old woman, but he distinctly remembered her baking him his favourite cookies when they got home.

He had few memories as clear as those. The ones he did have were burned into his mind for the rest of his life. He had been playing in the Professor's lab with Gary when it happened. Oak and his mother were feeding the pokemon outside and he and gary had snuck into the pokeball stores. It was a place that held a distinct forbidden feeling that he would never forget. Gary had dragged a chair to the middle of the room and set it against a large cylindrical machine, talking excitedly about something Ash couldn't remember.

Together, they climbed up and had tentatively reached out to touch the forbidden fruit. Active Pokeballs. They each took one in their hands and marvelled at them. The difference between an empty, lifeless ball and the one that had sat in his hand was profound. They had discussed the possibilities of opening the balls but had agreed that the punishments would be too severe. So they had settled for running around the floor pretending to be pokemon trainers, shouting commands to their invisible beasts. It had been exhilerating. Until it changed.

An explosion had tilted his world on it's axis and darkness engulfed him as he flew through the air. He snapped back to himself a moment later and found himself staring out of a great hole where the back wall of the laboratory used to be. Through that hole he had seen hell. What had once been a grassy hill, filled with peacefully grazing pokemon- where he had played- was an inferno. A huge lumbering form that he remembered as the Professor's Venusaur was bellowing in agony as flames engulfed it.

Beside him Gary was unconscious and bleeding from a gash on his face. In the distance he could see the Professor, standing protectively over a stricken form as white flashes coalsced into his pokemon and struck back at the fire.

A megaphone split the fury of the battle as Oak's pokemon retaliated. "Oak. We do not want to hurt you. Your lab and the pokemon it holds are the rightful property of the National Republic of Kanto as commanded by your glorious leader, Giovanni. Surrender your research and come quietly with us."

Ash couldn't see where the voices were coming from through the haze. He only saw Oak's panicked eyes lock with his. He wanted to help the Professor but he couldn't move, he could only cling to the little red and white orb that he had taken so rashly.

His pokemon fought more desperately as the minutes passed. More and more of his pokemon went down and as he was forced back, Ash saw his attackers. People he had never seen before surrounded Oak and his two remaining pokemon, a dragonite and a kadabra. He saw Kadabra settle and meditate for amoemnt, while Dragonite blocked all harm intended for it. Kadabra teleported away just as the Professor's dragonite was speared through the gut by a footong sliver of ice. Freezing blood dripped from the wound slugishly as the dragon was forced to it's knees.

Ash didn't see what happened next as his vision was obscured by a flash of white light and the arrival of Oak's Kadabra.

The pokemon could not speak directly to his mind as many people who had no experience with the psychic type thought. Instead it could transmit feelings and emotions. Kadabra was afraid, desperate and determined to follow Oak's command.

Before he could register what was happening his world split in two and a pain worse than he had ever experienced in his life tore through him. It was the first time he had been teleported by a pokemon.

It had been eleven years since he had woken up on the cold hard foor of Professor Elm's lab alongside a still unconscious Gary, with their borrowed pokeballs still in their hands. It had been eleven years since Team Rocket had overthrown the Kanto council and christened themselves the NRK.

Professor Elm had honoured some percieved debt that he had to Oak and had taken them in, raising them with his wife Helen. It was a struggle at first. Neither he nor Gary could understand what had happened or why they couldn't go home and they rebelled against Elm and his wife in the way that all unhappy children do. But the young couple had understood and had stayed patient with the duo, knowing that they would understand eventually.

Throughout this time, both Ash and Gary had clung to the pokeballs they had taken from the lab that day as the only reminders they had from their old lives. One of the biggest steps towards them trusting Elm happened on a bright summer afternoon two years after their arrival. He had summoned them to the lab and told them they were old enough to see what was inside, if they wanted. He stayed with them, letting his Quilava stand guard incase the pokemon the orbs contained were feral.

The boys had often discussed what their orbs would hold, but having seen only a small variety of pokemon throughout their lives, they could not really know what to expect. It was with this trepidation that Ash watched Gary press the little switch on his pokeball for the first time. The switch glowed red and the ball snapped open, revealing a flash of white light that collapsed in on itself to form a tiny little four-legged pokemon with thick brown fur and a white main.

The little pokemon blinked and looked around warily before sniffing the air and letting out a small squeal. Professor Elm had stepped in at that point and slowly offered the pokemon a few pellets which it ate from his hand.

"It's an Eevee, Gary. They're very rare and loyal pokemon. You shouldn't have too much trouble training it if you want to. Otherwise I can look after it and you can have it in a few years when you get your license." The smile on his face told Ash that the Professor knew what Gary would choose. Tentatively, the young boy reached out and fed the pokemon, before taking it into his arms and stroking it. The Eevee complied, although warily, and the two sat on the floor, getting to know each other.

Elm turned to Ash with a smile. "Your turn."

He had taken a breath and pressed the button. The energy released from the ball came together to form a small golden furred rodent, with a crooked tail. The Pikachu had reared around and shot a jolt of electricity towards Ash who had to dive out of the way to avoid being killed. It had hissed and sparks had raced across it's body, contorting it strangely. Gary's Eevee panicked and jumped out of his arms, hiding under a table while Elm's Quilava spat a blast of fire at it. The pikachu jumped out of the way but before it could attack Quilava, Ash had collected his wits and returned the pokemon to it's ball.

It was the first time he had met his Pikachu. It hadn't gone well, but Elm had convinced him that it could be trained with time and patience. Those were the defining memories of his childhood. They were the memories that made him who he was.

Now, eleven years later, he sat by the waterside, looking out towards Tohjo falls. He heard a soft set of footsteps approach from behind but didn't turn around. "Being all mopey again, Ash?" A teasing voice asked. Lyra kicked off her sandals and sat beside him, dangling her feet into the water. Her Chikorita followed soon after and lay at her side, content to bask in the sun.

"Some people would call it brooding mysteriously." He said, airily.

"Some people haven't known you as long as I have." she paused. "I suppose that's lucky for them, really." They sat in silence for a few minutes. "Where's Pikachu?"

"Off with Gary to find Umbreon. I doubt they've gone too far. As soon as Umbreon finds a place to sleep for the day he's out like a light." They laughed. Gary's Eevee had evolved into an Umbreon one night a few years before. Since then it had developed a variety of nocturnal habits that included shirking sunlight for as much of the day as possible. This usually involved it running around the small town looking for dark places to take a nap; and Gary spending hours trying to find it.

"He needs to get into the habit of keeping Umbreon in it's pokeball. He's seventeen now and he has his license. The inspectors can't do anything." She said.

"True, but Umbreon's been used to being out of its ball for years. Same for Pikachu and it's going to be the same for Chikorita." Ash said as he lay back on the grass and propped himself up on his elbows.

"Well yeah, but Pikachu's different. It has normal sleeping habits and it really dislikes pokeballs anyway. And once I get my trainer's license Chikorita can have her very own ball, isn't that right?" she said to the small grass pokemon much as a mother would to a newborn.

Chikorita gave a small grunt that sounded particularly negative to Ash. He studied Lyra for a while as she played with Chikorita. They had grown up together, he supposed. Certainly he had known her a long time. As long as he had known Pikachu, in fact, as it was soon after he first met Pikachu that Lyra had turned up at the lab holding a bundle of cloth and crying for help. She had found Chikorita battered and bruised when a Noctowl chased it out of the forest boundry and into her back garden. Her father's Mareep had intervened and killed the bird but not before it's talons had ripped bloody gashes in Chikorita's sides.

Professor Elm had helped as best he could, which fortunately was all that was needed. Chikorita made a full recovery and never left Lyra's side from that day forward. This left Professor Elm with a dilemma. He had three children with unregistered, illegal Pokemon in their care. He would have taken Pikachu from Ash but he had stubbornly refused to be parted with the admittedly difficult pokemon.

He had let the three children keep their pokemon as pets; Lyra under the condition that she checked in with Professor Elm once a week for the basic pokemon care classes he was giving the boys.

They had been friends for a long time, he reflected, and she had grown into a beautiful young woman with long brown hair and equally dark eyes.

"Something wrong, Ash?" she asked, as she caught him looking at her.

"My license came today. I can start to train pokemon in earnest now." he said quietly.

A small "Oh." was her reply.

They both knew what Ash was thinking. It was what Gary had been thinking a few months ago when he had recieved his license. She wondered if it would be what she would be thinking when she recieved her license in a few months.

Lyra sat looking at Tohjo falls, knowing that Ash was looking beyond them.

A few hours later Ash walked back from the waterside, Lyra had sank into one of her silences and he sensed that she wanted to be alone for a while. Professor Elm's lab wasn't like his memory of Oak's lab. Oak had a massive amount of land for his lab, and he could afford to use most of it as a ranch for the pokemon various trainers had entrusted him with.

Elm wasn't as wealthy but what his lab lacked in size it made up for in homeliness. He specialised in pokemon anatomy and often joked that he didn't need big fancy machines, only a table, a scalpal and a fresh corpse.

Ash rounded a small row of cottages and started up the lane to Elm's small lab. He had barely made it inside the door when a yellow blur dropped on his shoulders from above. He laughed, "Haha, hey pal, you and Gary find Umbreon?" Pikachu let out a squeal that Ash took to mean 'yes'. This was confirmed when Ash entered the front room to see Gary sprawled on the couch sleeping, with Umbreon asleep on his lap.

Ash Pointed his finger at Gary, cocked it like a gun and whispered, "Zzzzap." Pikachu complied and a tiny string of static snapped from it's tail and smacked the sleeping teenager in the face. Gary slapped his face as if he was batting away a fly and woke up groggily. After a moment of getting his mind together his eyes settled on Ash.

"The hell was that for?"

"We need to talk." Ash said.

"And it can't wait until I'm fully rested?" the taller boy asked wearily.

"Gary, you slept until three pm today and now you're napping. You're starting to mimic Umbreon's sleeping habits. I swear, one of these nights I'm going to look out of my bedroom window and see you running around the woods chasing flocks of hoothoot."

"Eh, I can imagine worse fates. And Birch's behavioural studies among trainers suggest that trainers who have bonded with a pokemon for an extended period of time begin to display habits previously only associated with the pokemon. And vice versa of course."

"Oh of course. You do know that it's complete horseshit don't you?" Ash replied.

"Wiseass." Gary said as he shifted his pokemon off his lap and sat up. "So what's up Ashy-boy? Worried about hair growing down there? It's perfectly natural... although it should have happened a few years ago. Might want to get that looked into."

"My license came today."

That effectively stopped Gary cold. His friend's entire demeanor changed from jovial to deadly serious. "Well then, what are we waiting for?" He sprang up from his couch and returned Umbreon to it's pokeball in a flash of crimson light. "Where's the Professor?" he asked as they walked through into the back laboratory.

"I don't know. What are we going to say, by the way? "Thanks for raising us for the past eleven years like a father. Thanks for putting clothes on our backs and educating us. By the way we're off now. Probably won't be back either. Oh and if we could borrow some climbing gear, that'd be great." And what will we say to Helen?"

Gary stopped in the hallway and turned. "Ash, you don't have to can back out now and that'll be the end if it. No hard feelings."

"**** that, I'm coming. You know that. I just don't know how to tell them. They've been parents to us."

"Like a band aid. Quick and clean is best, with no long drawn out goodbyes."

Ash knew he was right, no matter how brutal it sounded to him. They walked on through the lab until they came to Elm's study. Pikachu was perched precariously on Ash's shoulder with his ears alert. He obviously knew something out of the ordinary was happening.

Ash steadied himself and knocked three times on the door. They waited outside for a moment before a weary voice called them in. What they found was something neither of them expected. Professor Elm had been Oak's protege. He lived for his research, and the core of his research was daily fact checking and reviewing of reports sent to him by the local this time of day he would usually be sitting infront of his computer typing away busily.

Today was different. The computer was powered down, and his research folders lay unopened on the floor under his desk. His eyes looked tired under his wire frames and his hair looked to have receeded another inch or so since the day before. At his desk, a bottle of whiskey was opened and one of the three glass tumblers was full.

Silently he poured the other two glasses and beckoned them to sit down before handing them each a glass. They had never seen Elm drink in the entire time they had been with him. And he had certainly never let them drink.

"I recieved an e-mail from the Johto council today. Two actually. One from a friend on the council who keeps me updated of the situation in Kanto as best she can, and the other from the Trainor licensing board informing me that Ash Ketchum's license has been sent out and that I should expect a visit from the young trainer to recieve his first pokemon soon." He sipped from his glass and chuckled. "I don't think they've actually figured out that you live with me."

Ash sipped his whiskey warily and coughed as it burned his throat. He looked up to see Elm smiling at him fondly. "You'll get used to it." he said.

"We just came in to tell you that-"

"You're leaving." he interupted. He laughed at the look of confusion on the boy's faces. "You don't think I didn't notice all the secret little talks? And How Gary has refused to take an official starter because, "the time isn't right."? and I have known this was coming for quite some time. We've been dreading this day."

The two young trainers shifted uncomfortably and swapped glances. Gary broke the silence. "We have to go back, Professor. We have to see. All we know is what we can learn from the occasional tv report and some of the Johto council's concerns about "Border security.""

"And you need to try to find Samuel and Delia." He sighed and sat back into his chair. He drained his glass with a single gulp and refilled it slowly.

"Boys. I haven't been telling you the whole truth about Kanto for quite some time. The councils of Johto, Sinnoh, Hoenn... Hell, even Orre have sent trainers into Kanto for, "Intelligence purposes."

The only problem is that out of all the trainers sent into what was formerly Kanto, none have come back. Every now and again one of the bodies turns up and the government of the National Republic of Kanto claim that they had "incited the wrath of the feresome wild pokemon of the region.""

"These were experienced trainers able to handle themselves. It's more likely that the NRK police found them, and killed them. In the face of that, do you really expect me to let two seventeen year old trainers with one pokemon each, try to cross the border? I forbid the two of you from carryiing out this foolish plan."

Ash couldn't believe it. Never in all the time they had been in New Bark town had they been 'forbidden'. Heavily discouraged maybe, but never forbidden. He saw Elm's cold determination, and he saw how much it was costing the man. He knew that either way, tonight, he would lose the boys he had considered sons.

Gary sat, dumbfounded beside him. "You... you're forbidding us? We're trainers now, there's nothing you can do to stop us." he said.

"I can contact the council and tell them that two young teenagers are trying to cross the border and breach the fragile treaty we have with New Kanto. The council will stop you, even if I can't bring myself to."

Gary snapped, and with a cold look of fury Ash had never seen on his face before, he flung his glass at the Professor, who merely shirked to one side and let it smash against the wall.

The two stared at each other in silence before Gary grunted and strode out of the room.

Elm turned to Ash and with a quiet voice said, "I'm sorry, Ash. But I'm not going to stop acting like a father just because you're of age. "You know we're going anyway, don't you?"

"Yes, but I'm not going to make it easy. I'll call it in should have a few hours before the Tohjo falls and the Silver pass are crawling with rangers."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Oak and your mother were my friends. There's no way I can condone what you're planning. And I can try to stop you in any way I can. But destiny can be a funny thing. Maybe you two are meant to do this."

"Gary's probably robbing you blind right now. I'm sorry for that."

Elm turned away and poured another glass of whiskey for himself. "So am I."

Without another word, Ash left the room.

Ash found Gary in the research shed a few minutes later. The heavy lock on the door had been bitten clean through, obviously Umbreon's handiwork. He spotted his friend near the back, rifling through an old metal locker.

"And good gear there?" he asked.

"Some hiking equipment. Mostly tents and boots."

"Anything that's going to be useful for getting through Silver pass?"

"There's a rope." Gary finished lamely.

"Alright, you keep raiding this place and I'm going to the store to get some more supplies." As Ash waswalking back outside he stopped at the doorway and said, "You know this is probably the most horrible thing we'll ever have on our consciences? We're robbing him."

Gary stopped searching and sat back on his haunches. "I don't feel any better about it but it's what we have to do. We don't have any other choice."

Ash nodded and continued on, Pikachu leaping up onto his shoulder quietly, sensing that this wasn't a cheery moment. They walked quietly through the small town, the setting sun casting an orange and pink glow through the clouds. He had just set his hand on the door of the shop when he heard Lyra's voice call to him. He turned to see her running up the hill, her chikorita in tow.

She stopped beside him and leaned forward, panting slightly. "I'm glad I caught you, we should talk." she said between breaths.

Ash pushed the door open and walked into the store as she continued, "I've been thinking. I know what you're planning to do, and its ridiculous. It's dangerous, selfish and suicidal. You've heard the stories about Kanto. It's not the same as how you remember it.

Ash continued down the aisle and threw random items in the basket. "I know you're scared, Lyra, but Gary and I have to do this. We're going to find our family."

He cursed when she spun him by the shoulder and shoved him against the freezer. "Your family is here, you idiot. This is your home. With Helen and the Professor. With me." She trailed off quietly at the end.

Ash saw her face flush red and recognised it instantly. She was beyong angry.

He walked to the counter with the full basket and paid for it with the money Ash and Gary had been saving for the past few years.

"Look, chances are we'll be back in one piece sooner rather than later. There's no need to get so angry over it."

"And what if something happens to you?" she asked.

"I'm not going to say it isn't possible. It's a very, very dangerous world in the wild. We live in little protected bubbles. On the other hand, We've spent a few years with the Professor outside those bubbles. We're ready."

He collected his change and lft the shop, Lyra shadowing him all the way. "Then let me come. I've been out there too. I've trained just as hard as you."

"You don't have a license, you wouldn't be able to recall Chikorita if it got into any trouble. You wouldn't be able to catch pokemon, and if we do run into trouble, we're going to need as much help from the pokemon we plan to catch as we can get." He walked on, "Besides, your mother would kill me."

"My mother has nothing to do with this, Ketchum. I'm a grown woman."

"That still has tantrums apparently."

"I'm not having a tantrum, I just... Please stay."

Ash looked at her properly for the first time. Her long brown hair was in a tangled mess, as if she had been playing with it and her brown eyes were glistening with what he could only assume were tears. "I'm sorry, Lyra." He walked forward and gave her a hug. "We'll be back soon, I promise."

He let her go and stepped back. She looked small for the first time he had known her; she was always a bit shorter than him, but she never seemed small. She reached up on her toes and kissed him on the cheek lightly.

He turned away and walked up the long path towards Elm's lab. For the first time in years, she didn't follow.

Dark had fallen in earnest a few hours later when they crept away from the lab. The creeping wasn't neccesary really, as they could see Professor Elm's silhouette watching them from the upstairs window.

When they looked back again the light in the room had gone out.

In silence, the two travelled north to the town boundaries in silence. The Silver pass was a narrow gap in the rigid spine of mountains that separated Kanto and Johto, passable only in favourable conditions. As far as they knew, there was only a moderate border patrol at the pass, rather than the huge display of strength the NRK displayed at Tohjo falls.

"How long do you think we have before the rangers get there ahead of us?" Gary asked.

"Depends. The closest station is in Violet city so we probably have until dawn, unless they rope Faulkner into helping them. If they have then they're probably already there."

"Still better than going through the Falls I suppose."

The reached the town boundary, where rolling grass met thick trunked, dark trees. "Cutting through here should get us to Route 45 quicker than going by Cherrygrove."

Pikachu and Umbreon leaped forward to inspect the treeline closer. Satisfied, they growled in unison and broke through the undergrowth. Ash and Gary followed them. "You have your pokeballs?" Ash asked Gary quietly. The older boy nodded in silence. Ash had returned from the store with food and healing suppies as well as the expensive pokeballs. It had almost drained their money but it was worth it.

Occasionally Pikachu would stiffen and sniff the air but Umbreon carried on, as if whatever Pikachu had sensed wasn't enough to bother it. The few small bug pokemon they had encountered were swiftly dispatched by their pokemon, apart from a spinarak who had caught them unawares and put up a fight.

It went on like this for the night. Around an hour in, they realized that they had overestimated their ability to hack through the woods at a brisk pace and that they would be lucky to make it through the woods before dawn. As it was, all four of them were covered in scratches from stray branches and bruises from the occasional stumble.

It had just gone 4 o'clock when the trees began to thin out, eventually giving way to a small clearing with a view to the rocky terrain beyond the treeline. Away in the distance the could see the solid wall of mountains that blocked their path, and beyond those they could see the massive Mt. Silver, a restricted area that was said to house pokemon of terrible power. To the south of those, and a few hours trek from the woods, was the distinct gap in the wall they were looking for. Silver pass.

For years it had been used as a trade route for the hardy northerners of Johto, who had ways of getting through it that made the journey to the Falls pass redundant. Since the downfall of the Kanto council however, it was a largely forgotten route, guarded sparsely by what rangers the Johto council could spare.

They decided to camp get a few hours sleep and get closer to the mountains in the morning. Paranoid as they were about overhead searches, they placed their sleeping bags at the edge of the clearing so as to not be seen from above.

Dawn came sooner than he had hoped and he sound himself laying on the hard ground with his eyes shut tight. He lay there for some time, in that limbo between sleep and consciousness, not bothering to move. A cold nose nuzzled his cheeck and a small tongue licked it a few times, prompting him to groan. "Quit, Pikachu. I'm awake."

He sat up blearily and and looked around before wiping the sleep out of his eyes and getting up. He lit a small fire, hoping it wouldn't be noticed, and boiled two tins of beans using water from a nearby creek. When they were done he walked to Gary's sleeping bag and nudges his head with his foot. "C'mon, get up. We're going to be late."

Gary's only reply was to sink further into his roll and mutter something about a girl they knew called 'Janie'. Ash only knew her by sight but judging by her father chasing Gary around New Bark town a few months back, he'd wager his friend knew her a little better.

Pikachu was sitting by the fire sniffing the beans curiously. "What do you reckon', Pikachu?" Ash asked. His companion let out a non-commited growl as it inspected the cans. "Yeah, That's what I thought." he replied, smiling to himself. He walked to the creek, collected a pan full of water and brought it back to the campsite. "Duh duhduh duuuh." He sang to himself as he overturned the pan on Gary's sleeping head.

The reaction was both brutal and entertaining as Gary sprang up out of his sleeping bag and looked around wildly. He spotted Ash a moment later and lunged at the younger boy, who spun out of the way easily. This went on for a while until Gary calmed and hunger overtook them, prompting them to put the argument aside.

"We'll make it to the pass today, then we'll get past the rangers and come out a bit west of Viridian. Easy." Gary said, a trace of excitement lighting up his voice.

"I was thinking about that," Ash said, "We've already misjudged out travelling time once. Getting around the rangers isn't going to be nearly as easy as you're making it out to be, and even if we manage that, 'a bit west of Viridian' is around ten or twenty miles of mountainous terrain with a lot of wild pokemon in the way."

"What's your point?"

"My point is, that even after all that, what do we do? Until now, our entire plan has been getting into the?"

"We find out what happened to our family. If they're ok, we bring them back to New Bark Town."

"And if they're not?"

"Then we find out who, why and how to kill them."

They sat for a while, playing with two empty tins and thinking about the road ahead of them.

"Sounds good to me." Ash said as he rose to his feet. Pikachu leaped onto his shoulder and got settled, while Gary returned a dozing Umbreon to it's pokeball. They kicked dirt on the fire and covered it in damp scrubbery before heading out of the treeline.

They started walking north as briskly as they could,hoping to save as much time as possible. "I'd be willing to bet that for every hour that goes bye more and more rangers are arriving," Gary said, shaking his head. "I can't believe the Professor would do this to us."

The reality of the situation was begining to dawn on Gary, Ash realized. It was strange, but he was thankful for Gary's sudden realistic attitude towards the situation. It meant he was taking it seriously.

"I don't like what he did, but I understand why he did it. He loves us the same way we love him, Helen, Pikachu and Umbreon. We're a family. Right now every step we take away from New Bark hurts them a little more."

Gary snorted. "I remember when you were an immature little kid, Ashy-boy. You were much more fun back then."

"Ugh, that name still sickens me. Quit it." Ash said, making a face.

"So your whole 'mature' and 'grown up' attitude is responsible for you teling Lyra she couldn't come?"

Ash sighed, "She's too young, Gary. Chikorita isn't nearly as strong as Pikachu or Umbreon and she can't catch other pokemon yet."

"Cut the ****, Ash. She's only a few months younger than you and Chikorita's strong enough."

"Oh really? Gary, you've heard the stories about what's been going on in Kanto since Giovanni took over. It's safer for her back there."

They talked for a few more hours, striving to keep away the crushing boredom thatt accompanied the bland terrain.

They were just reaching the foothills of the mountains when a shout stopped turned to see a large, rough looking man with a beard approaching them.

"What're you kids doin' out here?" he shouted.

Ash panicked, the man wasn't wearing the dull green of standard ranger clothes but they still hadn't counted on meeting anyone this far off the main route.

"We're trainers. Just looking for pokemon." he shouted back.

The man laughed. "Look at you, you're fresh out aren't you?You'll be killed if you plan to head up those peaks."

Gary clenched his fists, "Either way its none of your business."

"Don't take that tone with me, kid. It happens that I was just talking to a ranger a few hours 're offering a small reward for the any news on the whereabouts of two young trainers in the area."

Ash froze. The man continued. "I reckon they might offer a larger reward if I brought you back in."

Quicker than Ash thought was possible, the man had flung two pokeballs.

CrystalBlush
17th February 2012, 4:15 PM
Her long auburn had hair hung to her waist and she was no doubt beautiful but it was her laugh that he remembered most of all. Her laugh was contagious.


I think you need to switch those.
Great story!

Seratin
17th February 2012, 4:29 PM
I think you need to switch those.
Great story!

Noted and changed. Thanks for the spot!

Seratin
18th February 2012, 4:16 PM
Chapter two


***


The two balls snapped open to reveal the mismatched forms of a Ponyta and a Tediursa. Pikachu immediately jumped infront of Ash in a protective stance, sparks rippling throught its body. Beside him, Gary rleleased Umbreon from its ball. The dark type joined pikachu, letting out a warning bark as it did.

Without command, Ponyta charged at Umbreon who dodged expertly. Too late, it realized its mistake as the horse ran straight through the spot Umbreon had occupied and straight at Gary. Pikachu had seen this, however, and launched a blistering jolt of electricity at Ponyta's legs, causing them to sieze up effetively paralyzing it. Gary jumped to the side as the Ponyta lost its footing at a dangerous speed and crashed headfirst into the ground. Through the haze of dust, Ash could see that one of its legs was clearly broken and it lay on its side, wailing.

Their attacker screamed in frustration. "Tediursa, take out that pikachu. Now. Ponyta. roast them!"

Before the Tediursa could get within ten feet of Pikachu, Umbreon had closed the distance launched into its side with a viscious headbutt, drawing a strangle cry from the little pokemon and knocking it into a pile of rocks.

Meanwhile, the Ponyta had regained a sense of compsure and was breathing as much fire as it could in Ash and Pikachu's direction. They dodged until a jet of fire missed Pikachu by an inch, Ash decided it was too risky to keep it up. He finally said, "Hit it with Thunderbolt." Pikachu launched itself in the air to avoid what would be the flailing horse's last attack, before lightning arced out from its body and crashed into the Ponyta.

The pokemon let out an ear splitting screech as electricity coursed through its weakened body, stopping its heart. After a few seconds the scream died off and the Ponyta lay still. Its mane of fire flickered out of existence, leaving only the gruesome corpse of a pokemon with large blackened blotches of fur.

The man took one look at his stricken pokemon and at the Umbreon stalking towards him before turning to run.

"Bring him down, Umbreon." Gary shouted.

The hiker had gotten only a few yards away when Umbreon hurtled into his back, sending him flying and pinning him to the ground. It then clamped its jaws around the back of his neck, making it quite clear that moving was a bad idea.

Gary turned to Ash, "You ok?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"What are we goi-" Gary was interupted by a piercing wail that echoed through the small canyon. The hiker's Tediursa had come around and was obviously in a lot of pain. Pikachu heard it and ran over, lancing out a small jolt of electricity as a warning.

The smaller pokemon seemed to take the hint as it contained its screeching to a low whimper. On the ground beside it, Ash could see a small pool of blood forming.

"As I was saying, what are we going to do with this guy? If we let him go chances are he'll run across rangers somwehere."

"You still have that rope we took from Elm's?" Ash asked.

Gary got the jist and rumaged through his backpack for the climbing rope. He knelt down beside the hiker and tied him in a series of intricate knots. "Probably wasn't going to be that useful to us anyway." he muttered.

"Take any money and pokeballs he has, we'll need them."

Gary nodded and searched the man's pockets, recovering a handful of cash and a small pokeball container with three balls in it.

"The rangers are going to catch you scumbags. Once they do, you'll rot in Olivine for years. Happy with that are you?" The hiker said it with the type of manic grin that made Ash uneasy.

"You're the one who attacked us for no reason. That wasn't a battle, that was an attempt at murder." He would have continued but at that point, a flash of light and a growl caught Ash's attention. He turned to see the Tediursa passed out again, he judged by the amount of blood pooled on the ground that it was serious.

"We're sorry about your Ponyta, but we need to fix up your Tediursa. What do you know about treating it?"

"Plenty. That damn pokemon's never come off anything but second best in a fight. You'd be doing it a favour to let it die." The Hiker grunted.

Ash sighed and turned towards the stricken bear. "You take care of that dick, I'll help the pokemon."

He ignored Gary's grunts as he dragged the cursing hiker around a bend and into the bushes. Taking a closer look at it, Ash saw what was wrong. The force of impacting the rock had clearly broken several of its ribs, as well as tearing off chunks of skin and fur. "Well ****," he muttered.

Throughout his years with professor Elm, he had learned to care for and treat many pokemon. Unfortunately, every species was different and he had no experience with Tediursa. He reached into his bag to retrieve a handful of bandages and other medical supplies. He held the limp pokemon in his lap and washed the open wounds with care, then he wrapped fresh bandages around the pokemon, trying to stem the flow of blood as much as possible. He worked for a good ten minutes before finally lifting a syringe filled with a thick looking amber liquid from his bag.

Technically, this particular brand of Pokemon Specific Steroids (PSS), was only supposed to be used for the Raichu line of pokemon. At a stretch, it could be applied to most other electric types but with varying degrees of effetiveness and random side effects. It was all he had though, and he feared that the tediursa was bleeding internally.

Gary appeared at his shoulder a moment later. "You know, we don't have too many of those, and giving it to a normal type could poison it."

"Better than letting it bleed to death on the side of a mountain." he replied.

"You killed the Ponyta."

"Because it was trying to kill us, this little thing isn't that much of a threat."

"I'm just saying that we don't really have the time for this. We're already a long way behind schedule. The guy attacked us, it's his problem."

Ash made up his mind and injected the small pokemon with the PSS. Almost immediately it started convulsing in his lap and flailing around wildly.

"Well that isn't supposed to happen." Gary said airily.

"Make yourself useful and find its pokeball, please?"

Gary sighed and left to scan the area. He returned a few moments later with two pokeballs and handed them to Ash.

"Thanks," he said as he dropped them on the ground and smashed them under his foot. Both balls let out a hiss accompanied with sparks as they shattered. He took a ball from his own belt and pressed the release button against the flailing pokemon's body. Tediursa dissapeared with a white light and was swallowed by the pokeball. Then, he checked the ball quickly to confirm the catch before attaching it to his belt and standing up. "We'll know if it survived or not in a few hours. In the meantime we should probably get as far away from here as possible." He took a look at the surrounding area, it would be clear to any ranger that something had happened there. Hopefully if they found the spot they would just think the Ponyta was attacked by another wild animal. At least until they found the gagged and bound hiker struggling in the wet ditch that Gary had thrown him in.

"Come on, we better get moving," Gary said, as he walked forward up the track, recalling Umbreon to its ball as he did. They were approaching the pass from an angle, over a series of smaller hills that were harder to navigate, but less obvious than walking straight up the narrow trail that led to the border.

The land was steep and mountainous but they found that as the hours went on they were making decent time.

"You know you effectively just stole that pokemon, don't you?" Gary said.

"I didn't steal it, I'm looking after it. its more than that guy would have done, you saw the way he was treating it."

"I'm just saying that if it had any loyalty at all to that guy then training its going to be hard."

"I'll figure out what to do when it lives," he said as they marched through thee prickly undergrowth. "Until then we need to focus on getting through the pass."

"That won't be a problem. We took that guy out in under a minute." Gary said with a grin.

"Because he probably wasn't expecting two 'kids' like us to put up any major fight. Rangers are professionals. They're a whole different story and we need to avoid fighting them if we can." A shiver went down his spine at the momory of the last ranger he he had met.

Two years ago, he and the Professor had been on the road to Cherrygrove when they heard screaming. Gary was in New Bark town helping Helen with cleaning the lab as punishment for some stunt that Ash could barely remember.

He knew that Elm had been torn at the time. Wanting to help the distressed voice in any way he could, but not wanting to place Ash in any danger. He made the descision for the Professor and ran in the direction of the cry, Pikachu hot at his heels. He ran for a few minutes through muddy fields and a small grove of trees before he crested a hill and saw what was happening. A small boy was stuck in a ditch at the bottom of the hill, trying to fend off a massive crimson Ariados with the remnants of a log.

Without command, Pikachu had jumped into action, sending bolts of lightning at the spider pokemon. It had evaded them easily and spat a gout of white gossamer thread at Pikachu who fell to the ground as the web solidified around his body. Ash had never been more terrified than when that Ariados had scuttled towards his immobile pokemon who was struggling for its life.

Out of nowhere a red and blue blur hurtled into the Ariados,spinning them both out of conntrol along the side of the damp hill.

Elm's Typhlosion pinned the spider underneath it and clamped down on its midsection with flame covered jaws. The crunch and hiss of flesh being ripped open washed over Ash, along with a terrible dying scream coming from the Ariados.

Typhlosion made short work of the corpse, ripping into it and eating what wasn't poisonous. Elm and Ash had gone to the foot of the hill to help the boy out of the ditch when they heard a second, newer scream. They looked back to where Typhlosion had been to see a mass of fur pinned underneath several Ariados and even more Spinarak. It emitted sickening roars of pain as the bug pokemon's stingers repeatedly pierced its flesh.

Pikachu shot lightning at the horde but it was of little use, having spent the majority of its power tying to attack the first Ariados.

Elm shouted commands but Typhlosion was either too injured to obey or it was in a state of complete panic. Just when it had seemed that all was lost, the earth beneath them began to shake, and the birds in nearby trees flocked to the air in panic. A huge from burst out of the treeline and barelled into the swarm of spiders covering Typhlosion. The pokemon halted itss run and set itss footing right, giving Ash an opportunity to see it for the first time. It was a large grey pokemon with thick black armour covering its back and prehensile nose. Two large, gleaming tusks jutted from the sides of its mouth.

Running behind him was a tall, athletic figure in faded green clothes. "Donphan, use roar!" he shouted. The huge, bulky pokemon complied, throwing its head in the air and letting out an earth shaking bellow that made Ash's instincts scream at him to run. Apparantly it had the same effect on the horde of Ariados, as they quickly scattered and ran into the trees.

Typhlosion had been badly poisoned that day. It had barely survived thanks to the Ranger's healing skills and his quick means of getting it to Cherrygrove pokemon center.

He had told Gary all about it of course, but he realized now that Gary wouldn't understand until he met one. The ranger he met had exuded a strong and quiet confidence that made Ash recognize him as a powerful trainer, without having to witness him in true battle.

"We've been training for years, Ashy-boy. I reckon we could surprise the rangers too."

I hope so, thought Ash.

Silver Pass was the only route through an otherwise solid wall of mountains that ran from the hills far north of Blackthorn city to the coast, east of New Bark town. In the ocean further south, the islands formed a deep sea ridge, the peaks of which formed the Sevii Islands. The pass took the form of a hanging valley, high up the cliff face. There was a fifty foot face of cliff that had to be climbed before one could even enter the pass Because of this, people had taken the time to carve out a path in the face of the cliff, wide enough for only one person at a time.

Eastern Johto had been prosperous because of its proximity with Kanto. Mahogony, Violet, Cherrygrove and Blackthorn were all large affluent areas at the time, but that had changed when Giovanni overthrew the Kanto council. The newly formed NRK had little time for foreign policy, prefering to stabalize it's postion among the public instead of working on relations and trade with it's closest neighbours.

Trade between the two countries trickled to a standstill. The Johto council prefering to trade with Hoenn and the NRK prefering to trade with the Sevii islands to the south and Sinnoh in the north. As a result of this, the narrow path up the mountain leading to the valley of the silver pass had fallen into a state of disrepair. Grass had grown into the tiny cracks in the path, forcing them wider and wider by the day. In places the stone had simply fallen away, showing the sharp craggy rocks below.

"Maybe Tohjo falls wasn't such a bad idea," Gary muttered as he pressed himself to the cliff face for the dozenth time. "At least then we wouldn't have to worry about falling to our deaths." The rocks that he had dislodged with his foot fell into the abyss below, taking a small age to reach the bottom with a resounding crack.

"It's too late to turn back now." Ash replied. Night was falling rapidly and with it came a brutal cold that left a thin layer of frost on the rocky path. "We need to get into the valley before nightfall or we're as good as dead."

They scaled the path as best they could in the decreasing light, boh of them slipping at one point or another, prompting Ash to wish they still had the rope Gary had used to tie up the guy who had attacked them. Eventually though, they reached the mouth of the valley, through which several small rivers flowed and formed one large waterfall.

The valley was an oasis in the heart of the barren moutain. The pass acted as a catch for the streams of water that ran from the other peaks; allowing fertile soil to build up and produce a forest, well above sea level.

The same people who had carved the entrance to the valley also carved a path through the forest, careful to disturb it as little as possible. Because of its remoteness, the valley was home to rare and powerful pokemon, most of which didn't like to be disturbed.

After having to climb the last section, where the path had fallen away comletely, they collapsed on the somewhat level ground and relished the feeling of steady earth beneath them. "We should make camp before it gets too dark." Gary said.

"Yeah," said Ash distractedly. He was too busy looking back over the ledge that he had just climbed. The view of Johto was spectacular. The sinking sun cast a crimson glow on the gittering towers of Violet city, far in the distance.

"No looking back, Ash, that was the deal. We can't afford to start getting homesick."

With great difficulty, Ash tore his eyes away from the view and turned his attention to the large, dark forest in front of him.

"This place is probably crawling with rangers. Is camping for the night really a good idea?" he asked.

Gary stretched and strode into the forest, "I'll fall asleep on my feet if we don't. And you have to check on Tediursa."

"Fine, but we should stick to the side of the canyon. They'll be focusing their search around the river banks." Ash said.

By the time they had penetrated the forest deeply enough and found a suitable location it was well after dark, prompting Ash to suggest that they begin to set up camp earlier in the future.

When they were as sure as they could that the area was safe, Ash took out Tediursa's pokeball and released it. The ball emitted a bright flash and Tediursa appeared on the ground beside him.

PSS worked in conjunction with the stasis capabilities of the pokeball, meaning that when a pokemon with PSS in it's system was returned to it's ball, the healing went became a lot more effective in a shorter period of time. He removed the bandages he had put it in place slowly and examined the damage. It's side was heavily scarred and pitted. In several places chunks of flesh were simply gone. The open wounds were closed, however, which Ash took as a good sign. Luckily, it seemed that Tediursa suffered no major adverse effects from the unsuitable PSS.

He cradled the pokemon in his arms and retrieved a small set of steel vials from his bag. He uncapped the small healing tonic and brought it to the bear's lips. It drank out down by reflex and Ash dropped the empty vial on the ground, hoping that it would wake. Pikachu sat at his feet looking on with curiosity. Probably half jealous, Ash thought to himself.

A flash of light appeared out of the corner of his eye and he registered Umbreon's stretching form. "You want beans or beans?" Gary asked him sarcastically. "Really ash, you didn't buy anything but beans... at all. We can't survive on this."

"They were the cheapest, most convienient things in the store so I bought in bulk. You'll get used to them." He said distractedly as he waited for Tediursa to show some sign of improvement.

"I'm not sure I want to get used to them," he muttered. "Umbreon, go see if there's anything edible out there. Don't make noise and keep a look out for any rangers."

Ash wasn't sure how much Umbreon understood, but it was a smart pokemon and as it ran into the darkness it's golden rings faded and lost their colour, shrouding it in shadow completely.

A small stirring in his arms brought Ash's attention back to his wounded pokemon. Tediursa's small black eyes fluttered open for a moment before opening in earnest. He felt it tense immediately and tried his best to soothe it. "Hey, it's ok. I'm not going to hurt you." He doubted the bear could understand his words but he hoped he was at least displaying some sense of serene grace. His hopes were dashed, however, when Tediursa froze rigid before uttering a sharp squeal and trying to scratch at Ash's eyes.

He flung his head back to avoid the deceptively sharp claws and their quest to blind him. Pikachu immediately spat a warning and displayed a small shower of static. Pikachu's display turned out to be superfluous as the small bear let out a hiss of pain and started scratching it's side. "Hey now, stop that." he said, catching hold of it's paws. "You'll reopen the wound and I doubt you'd survive more medicine."

This obviously went straight over its head, however, and it kept struggling in Ash's arms. Pikachu shot a spark at it along with a string of nonsensical squeaks that somehow seemed to calm Tediursa down. He would always be amazed at how pokemon seemed constantly able to glean at least some meaning from each other. The crescent moon on emblazened on its forhead was small, barely a quarter of the full circle. It couldn't be more than a year old.

After checking to see that Gary was busy making them food, Ash lowered his head to the bear and started talking in the hopes of getting it used to his voice. He talked for a long while, explaining what they were doing out there in the middle of nowhere, who they had leift behind to make it as far as they had and how they met its former master. He was certain Tediursa couldn't understand a word but he took the gradual relaxing of the pokemon as a sign that it was at least no longer terrified and angry. Eventually it fell asleep and Ash returned it back to its ball.

Umbreon bolted out of the shadows and landed in the light of the small fire they had risked building. It held the long sleek body of a furret in it's maw. The Furret had seen better days. It's midsection was crushed to a pulp and blood ran freely from Umbreon's jaws.

Gary could barely keep himself from crowing in delight. "There should be enough meat on that thing for the two of us. I'll add it in with the beans." Ash noticed he sounded significantly happier about the beans now that some actual meat accompanied it.

Umbreon padded over to Ash and dropped the corpse at his feet. Ash sighed and retrieved a long shar blade from his backpacks and began the oddly therapuetic work of skinning the pokemon. The thing about growing up in a laboratory with a scientist as enthusiastic about pokemon anatomy as professor Elm was that along the way, he had taught them both tricks in the ways of preparing a pokemon to be eaten.

Before long they were happily eating their food while Pikachu and Umbreon went foraging and hunting respectively. Eventually though, they all succumbed to exhaustion and retired for the night. With the exeption of Umbreon who bled into the shadows around them, keeping guard.

Faulkner, the Violet city gym leader soared over the mountainous region east of his city, looking for his target. He had joined the hunt for the two rogue trainers that morning, at the request of his friend Gordon, head of the ranger station in the area. A massive manhunt had begun for two young trainers who were attempting to illegally enter Kanto, shattering the fragile border agreements. To Faulkner, it seemed like madness on their part, but sane or ot, they had to be stopped.

He had been circling the northeast of Cherrygrove for sometime, reasoning that they would have to use that route if they were heading for silver pass. Two rookie trainers couldn't be expected to cover ground very fast.

As the hours went on, though, he grew frustrated. If they were in the area, Pidgeot should have been able to spot them easily. He tightened his grip on Pidgeot and it banked to the left instinctively, heading away from the main route and closer to the mountains themselves. They were flying above an area of barren, rocky foothills when Pidgeot shrieked, trying to communicate what it saw. He gripped his powerful binoculars against his face and scanned the ground below. A large group of Spearow had flocked to one area and were furiously pecking at each other. He realized why when Pidgeot landed gracefully. The smell of death was atrocious, prompting him to raise his scarf to his nose in an attempt to bloack out the smell.

Pidgeot shrieked at the flock of Spearow, making them scatter, but hang around the edges warily. The rotten, half consumed corpse of a Ponyta lay in the dirt, scorch marks on the ground around it like some twisted chalk outline. He supposed charcoal outline would be more appropriate.

He surveyed the area and in amidst a small pile of boulders lay two shattered pokeballs and an empty PPS syringe. It seemed that the area had been the scene of a small scale battle, nothing unusual in these parts, until you counted the fact that at least three trainers were involved, judging by the different bootprint marks left in the dirt.

He looked over the corpse once more, estimating that it had died the day before. He walked around the area for a bit longer before coming to a ditch someway into the bushes. Once more, the smell of rotting meat hit him full in the face.

Laying in the middle of the ditch was the form of what was once, a hiker. His body was covered in a writhing form of close to what he guessed were twenty Rattata, knawing the flesh from his bones. The hiker had been bound by a length of rope, and judging by the look of the ground beneath him, he had been alive when he was thrown into the ditch. The pokemon had begun eating him alive.

Faulkner had nearly vomited then and there. He left the gruesome scene behind him and retrieved the long range walkie-talkie that Gordon had given him.

He switched it on and tuned it to Gordon's signal, ending the crakling static that had eminated from it. "Gordon, you there?" he asked.

"Yeah, any news?" the older man asked. His rough voice transmitted clearly.

"I'm around ten miles south-west of the pass. Looks like there's been a small battle here. I've found the bodies of a Ponyta and a Hiker, with two sets of tracks leaving the area in your direction. I doubt it's a coincidence."

"How did they cover the ground that fast?" The ranger asked, bewildered.

"If I had to guess I'd say they cut through the woods north of New Bark Town. Either way, if I were you, I'd assume they've made it into the pass, just to be safe."

"So it looks like they've killed that guy then?" he asked, "Elm said they were only kids when he called it in."

"Looks like they killed the Ponyta and threw the guy in the ditch alive but restrained. Wild pokemon finished him off. They might just be kids but they were raised by Professor Elm. He's no fool." He heard the ranger sigh on the other side of the walkie-talkie.

"Fine. If they're already in the pass we'll most likely catch them. You head back to Violet and get ready just in case."

"Ready for what?" he asked, confused.

"If we let any more trainers accidently 'slip through' the border into NRK, they made it clear they wouldn't be happy. Just get ready."

The connection died and Faulker was left with a feeling of intense foreboding. With one last look around, he climbed on Pidgeot's back and said, "We'll head back to Violet soon. We should head to Ecruteak first."

The giant bird understood clearly and launched itself into the with blinding speed.

It was midday when Ash, Gary and Pikachu had began to enter the deep forest, where the canopy blocked all but the faintest rays of sunlight. The had estimated that they were nearing the halfway point of the valley, where the trees around the old river where oldest.

Whether through luck or divine intervention they hadn't come across any rangers at all. Although the occasionally they heard the roars of pokemon in the distance. Pikachu and Umbreon had to fight several small battles along the way, mostly getting rid of curious pests such as Spinarak and the occaisional Weepinbell. They managed it easily though and stopped for a rest and something to eat at the base of a huge, looming tree.

Ash had occasionaly let Tediursa out to check on it during the journey, trying to gain its trust as best he could. It no longer panicked every time it was let out but it wasn't acting friendy by any stretch of the imagination. The lack of outright hostility was a good sign though, indicating that it hadn't been in their attacker's care long enough to have grown attached to him.

As a bonus, it seemed to get on well with Pikachu, even actively seeking the electric pokemon out on one of their brief stops. Contrastingly, it avoided Umbreon as much as it coud, obviously remembering the bigger pokemon's attack on it.

"Ash, did you move my bag?" Gary called, walking towards him.

"No," Ash said, perplexed. "Haven't been near it."

"I left it just here." he insisted.

A loud whistle echoed from the branches above and Ash spotted two figures rummaging through what was obviously Gary's backpack. When he realized what the pokemon were, his heart nearly stopped. "Uh, Gary. How old do you reckon this forest is?" he asked.

"I'd say a few hundred years, at least." he replied.

"Brilliant. Those pokemon look very similar to Nuzleaf don't they?"

"I think they are Nuzleaf." he replied.

"And where there's Nuzleaf, there's probably going to be Shiftry." he mumbled.

"Balls."

That about sums it up, Ash thought. "Our supplies are in that bag. We need it."

"Maybe if we catch them before they signal the nest, we can get out unharmed." Gary suggested.

They couldn't afford to leave the bag behind, not as far into the wild as they were. "Shouldn't be too much of a problem. Pikachu, you're up." Ash replied.

The large mouse took position in front of them, ready for orders. Beside him, Gary released Umbreon from it's ball with a bright flash. "We need you to take those Nuzleaf out quietly, Umbreon." He said, pointing to the two humanoid figures in the trees.

Both pokemon exchanged a string of growls, communicating n some primal level before Pikachu ran to a nearby tree and scaled it almost silently. The Nuzleaf in the tree opposite didn't seem to notice, as enraptured with the bag as they were.

"Umbreon, use Hypnosis." Gary said quietly. Umbreon let out a sharp bark, to get the attention of the grass types. The Nuzleaf stopped what they were doing and whistled agressively at Umbreon.

The dark type responded by flaring the rings on it's body in a mesmerising fashion. The Nuzleaf immediately stopped whistling and stared, frozen at Umbreon. Ash took the opportunityto shout, "Pikachu, paralyze them." The electric rodent emitted a shocking blast at the the entranced Nuzleaf. The force of the wave caught the pokemon closest to Pikachu and paralyzed its muscles instantly, the other one, however, fell off the branch and hit the ground with a sharp thump.

Gary reacted first and hurled a pokeball at the paralyzed Nuzleaf. The orb snapped open in the air in front of it and converted the grass type into pure energy, which it swallowed up greedily. The ball fell to the ground and shook, battling to subdue and contain the wild energy. Eventually, the glowing red seal settled, indicating a successful capture.

Meanwhile, the Nuzleaf that had fallen out of the tree had snapped out of the hypnosis. Looking around, and realizing its friend was missing, it let out a horribly shrill whistle that shattered the silence of the forest. Bird pokemon fled from the canopy, having some sense of what was to follow.

"****," cursed Ash. "We need to get out of here, right now." He ran to retrieve the backpack that had fallen out of the tree, while Gary picked up the pokeball that contained his new pokemon. Pikachu returned to his side, just as a gale force wind blew through the trees, accompanied by an eery shriek.

"The Shiftry are coming." Gary said, as Ash hauled him away from the tree and through the forest. The sprinted through the trees, ignoring the pain as branches lashed their faces. Pikachu ran alongside them, nimbly dodging every branch as pure instinct drove its muscles.

Behind them they heard branches hig above crack with sudden strain, their pursuers following them swiftly in the canopy. Shiftry were said to be wicked pokemon, who found and tortured travelers for amsement before devouring the were one of the few meat eating grass types, a trait that was largely attributed to its dark side. Right now, they were looking for their next meal.

A cloud of razor sharp leaves flew past Ash, barey missing him and severing a branch from a tree, causing him to jump to avoid it. At one point one of the Shiftry passed them and fell from the trees, blocking their path. Pikachu saw this and with a shouted command from Ash, let loose a blistering torrent of lightning which the pokemon dived aside to avoid. In that split second they ran past it and continued sprinting through the forest.

They were still being pursued when they burst out of the treeline and ont a narrow dirt path beside the river, obviously used as a trading route. What they didn't expect was to see a large unshaven man draped in Ranger green astride a Tauros.

The man's eyes widened and he roared at them to stop as they flew past him. This is getting way out of hand, Ash thought as his muscles burned desperately. They had made it a few dozen yards before the Tauros caught up with them. "Kids, just stop," the ranger shouted as he rode beside them. "I've been authorized to use lethal force, just stop running." he pleaded.

"We're not running from you." Ash roared back.

The ranger's face was clouded with confusion before his eyes widened and he turned his head. Just in time to see the form of a massive Shiftry barrel into the side of his Tauros and send him flying through the air. Ash heard the sound of the ranger releasing several pokemon to fend off the his attackers but didn't turn to look.

Ash's lungs were burning intensely now and every breath felt like a weight in his lungs. Out of the forest ahead of them, two of the white maned, Shiftry appeared and blocked their path. With a feral roar they hurled a cloud of lethal leaves at them. Ash dove headfirst under the cloud but Gary wasn't so lucky. He fell backwards and shielded his face. His fall helped him avoid most of the leaves but two of them sliced his forearm to the bone and he cried out in pain.

Ash climbered to his feet and shouted, "Pikachu, Thunderbolt, now." The electric pokemon jumped in the air and lashed out at the Shiftry with two dazzling bolts of lightning. One of the bolts struck home and blew the Shiftry back several paces. The lightning had blackened and cracked the Shiftry's trunk-like body and burned its white hair in several places. It was disorientated and struggled to its feet shakily.

Gary released Umbreon from its ball and shouted, "Get close, Iron tail!" before climbing to his feet and cradling his arm, which was bleeding profusely.

Umbreon, evaded another volley of leaves and flipped in the air, generating enough force to slam the Shiftry in the head with viscious power. The grass type buckled under the pressure and slammed against the earth.

Umbreon then carried straight on and headbutted the victim of Pikachu's lightning attack, sending it sprawling back further. The next few minutes was chaos as the Shiftry bounced back from the attacks repeatedly.

Both Umbreon and Pikachu were beginning to tire, never having been in a drawn out battle for such a time before. They battled well though and when one of the forest guardians lost its footing, Umbreon tackled it, sending it flying into the river. Pikachu followed up with a Thunderbolt, thoroughly electrocuting the normaly resistant pokemon. Its corpse floated down the river, acting as any stricken log would.

That left the it two on one, Ash reluctant to try and make Tediursa battle and Gary sure he wouldn't be able to control his new Nuzleaf. Both pokemon circled the injured Shiftry, but it was obvious that they were both exhausted, having not yet built up the stamina that they would need in the coming months.

Ash chanced a glance downriver to where they had encounted the ranger and was surprised at what he saw. No less than five rangers, with a huge variety of pokemon were battling a small horde of Nuzleaf and Shiftry, and somehow, they were winning. The majority of the damage they were wielding looked to be coming from the crimson form of a Scizor flanked by two Scyther. Between them they were dancing through the hostile pokemon, hacking and severing branch-like limbs as they went.

If they didn't get away soon, Ash had a gut feeling that whoever commanded those pokemon would not be as lenient as the last ranger had tried to be. Gary also glanced back at the battle. "Ash, we need to finish this, now." he said anxiously.

Ash nodded. "Pikachu, we nee to step it up. Use Thunder."

"Umbreon, finish it with Double edge." Gary shouted above the noise of the battle far behind them.

Both pokemon understood their commands and Umbreon leapt to action straight away, throwing itself recklessly at the Shiftry while Pikachu charged as much power as it could muster. The Shiftry wasn't done, however. It summoned a huge storm of glowing leaves and directed them at its incoming assailant. The storm impacted Umbreon and sliced deeply into its tough hide, carving out huge tracks of flesh. Unfortunately for both pokemon, its momentum was too great to be stopped and it pushed through the cloud of leaves, impacting its target with incredible force. The Shiftry flew several feet through the air and landed harshly on the hard ground.

By this time, Pikachu was visibly glowing with electricity. It used it to charge its muscles and power a huge spring into the air where it released the pent up energy in a single massive bolt of lightning that impacted the already downed Shiftry.

The force of the attack left a smouldering ruin on the ground, the trunk of its body having cracked open and its leaves on fire.

The toll it took on their pokemon was disasterous. Pikachu fell from the sky, exhausted and lay still, while Umbreon lay on the ground, bleeding heavily and still shaking from the force of its impact with the Shiftry. Ash knew that aving to carry pikachu would slow him down in the long run, and the little pokemon needed the relative security of a pokeball, so he did what he hadn't done in years, he returned it to its ball.

Gary mimicked Ash and returned Umbreon, his worry evident of his face.

Behind them, the battle roared on, but it wouldn't for long. The ranger's pokemon had established the upper hand and were beating the horde of grass types back into the treeline.

"Come on, we need to leave." Ash said. With that they sprinted off once more, the steep winding exit of the pass in their sights, not more than a few hundred yards was another short climb but they needed to leave the pass and get into NKR territory as fast as the could. So they ran, despite their exhaustion, hunger and fear.

Eventually, they scaled the one of the many steep paths that led out of the valley to the ridge above, and into Kanto, where the view of the lands below met them. In the distance, green fields and roling hills sprawled out all the way to the ocean in the couth. Viridian city stood like a glittering jewel in the hills below.

"Come on," Ash said. "We can't stop now, and I'm sure the NRK will have patrols in the area."

Gary nodded and they set off down the other side of the mountain, trying to balance the hope that the view inspired in them and the terror at their beloved pokemon's conditions.

Seratin
19th February 2012, 3:13 AM
Chapter 3


***


They camped later on that evening, picking a spot well off the old overgrown road. Silence closed in on them like the warm, oppressive air of deep summer. They busied themselves with routine tasks such finding a source of water and lighting a small fire, but they weren't fully focused on the jobs at hand. Umbreon couldn't hunt for them; Gary was scared to even remove it from the stasis its ball offered, so they made due with beans with a side course of beans. The rocky, desolate side of the mountain offered little shelter but they squeezed into a small cave, hoping it was empty.

They rose with the sun the next morning and started to pack up. "We should check on them,see how badly they're hurt." Ash said. Gary nodded, although Ash could see his reluctance. Two white flashes of energy materialized into the forms of Umbreon and Pikachu; neither of which were moving. The pokeball's limited healing capacity had managed to stop the bleeding from Umbreon's many wounds, but what really worried Gary was the small dent on the side of its head.

Double edge was an extremely risky move, but one that was needed at the time. They weren't sure how extensive the damage was, but it looked bad. "All we can do for now is give it PPS and hope to get to a pokemon center quickly." Gary nodded before withdrawing a syringe from his bag, which held a thick multi-coloured liquid. He injected Umbreon with it and threw away the used needle. "That should help it a little at least. Specially designed to work for the entire Eevee line." He recalled Umbreon with a flash of light. "How's Pikachu doing?"

Ash examined it closely. It had been the victim of a few cuts and bruises but nothing serious. "It's exhausted. It just isn't used to that kind of strain, it should be fine after some rest and some PPS." He mimicked Gary's actions and injected Pikachu with its own brand of the medicine, hoping to see some immediate response. Pikachu didn't budge, howver, forcing Ash to swallow his dissapointment and recall the electric type.

Ash sighed, "They're both out of action."

Gary withdrew a ball from his coat, "I almost forgot about this," he said, wonderingly. Ash had forgotten too. "You caught that Nuzleaf. At least we aren't totally screwed."

Gary opened the ball and a small, humanoid figure apeared with a flash of light. The Nuzleaf looked around warily, before spotting Gary and screeching at him. Quick as a flash, it had extended its razor sharp nails and leapt at its trainer. Gary dodged in time, barely and fell backwards to the rock face. Nuzleaf was on him again, immediately, trying to claw it his throat and eyes.

"Grab its nose!" Ash shouted.

Gary continued to fend off the blows, scratching his forearms badly. "What?" he asked, confusedly.

"Just do it!"

The downed trainer continued dodging swipes before he saw his chance. He lashed out his arm and grabbed the Nuzleaf's long, pointed nose in a tight grip. Instantly, the grass type slackened as all of its limbs lost power, leaving Gary dangling the limp pokemon in the air from its nose.

"Aren't pokeballs supposed to dampen aggression? It worked with Teddiursa." he said, confused.

"Usually. The professor mentioned something about normal poeballs having issues with some of the more aggressive dark types though. Nuzleaf is part dark type and it looks to be just a generally pissed off pokemon." Ash replied.

"So how did you know the nose thing would work?"

Ash sighed. "While you were out chasing Mr. Shade's daughter around town, Lyra and I were helping the Professor in the lab. If you had been there you might have picked up a few tricks. All Nuzleaf hate their noses being touched. It's like a little switch that paralyzes them. Adult Shiftry usually do it to show dominance."

Gary looked down at the limp form in his grasp. Nuzleaf hadn't made a sound but its eyes were showing one thing. Fear. "Heh, Got your nose." he taunted.

Ash shook his head in silent disbelief and grabbed antiseptic from his bag for Gary's cuts. Gary ignored the medical supplies and continued talking to Nuzleaf. "I caught you. That means I'm your trainer, like it or not, I can send you back into this ball," he shook the pokeball in Nuzleaf's face for effect, "any time I like. I can also do this." He then shook Nuzleaf by the nose gently.

"Overkill?" Ash muttered.

Gary ignored him. "Do you understand?"

Ash was sure the pokemon hadn't actually understood Gary's words but the intent behind them was fairy clear. When Gary let the Nuzleaf down it rubbed at its face, as if trying to shake away the feeling, but it didn't attack again. It merely sat, legs crossed at Gary's feet, shooting looks of annoyance at its trainer every now and again.

"See, easy as pie. Gary Oak, trainer extraordinaire." he said, with a flourish.

"Next time, I'm letting you get your eyes clawed out." Ash warned as he released Teddiursa from its ball. The small bear looked in better shape than it had the day before, to the extent that once it had moved around a little it started to rip at its bandages. Ash fed it with the small amount of dried pokemon feed that he kept for situations where hunting wasn't an option.

Teddiursa ate, but with distinct reluctence. "You know what I can't understand?" he asked Gary.

"What?"

"Teddiursa had a violent reaction to the PPS. I didn't expect it to live, let alone survive with no visible side effects."

"It's of a similar size to Pikachu. That probably helped it adapt, but I see where you're coming from, it's strange."

Teddiursa finished its sparse meal and got up, wandering to the edge of the small ledge they were camped on and looking over. It walked somewhat gingerly, but it was a lot healthier than Ash would have guessed a few days before.

"We better get moving soon." Gary said, talking out an old faded map. "If we are anywhere near where I think we are then in a day or two we should pass a river flowing from the Plateau. We head over the hills beyond that and we'll come out around the Johto entrance to the League halls."

"After that?" asked Ash who was preoccupied throwing a small rubber ball to Teddiursa.

"Another set of hills and we should come right out at Route 22. Theoretically."

"Theoretically?" Ash asked. He didn't enjoy the sound of that.

"Well, it's an old map. The land should still be the same, but who knows what Team Rocket have done to Kanto since they've taken over?"

They sat around for a few more minutes. Gary making small last minutes preparations and Ash trying to earn Teddiursa's trust. They both knew they were stalling for time, sneaking into the NRK was no small action. If they were caught... Ash shuddered to think of what would happen.

Eventually, they could stall no more and left the small ridge that they had camped on, walking through the brush parallel to the abandoned road. Ash had left Teddiursa out of its ball and was carrying it around in his arms, hoping that the extra care and attention might help seal its affections.

A few hours into their trek, Gary had released Nuzleaf from its ball, mainly for a little extra protection. It leaped silently from branch to branch, stopping occasionally and letting out a warning whistle, advising some unseen pokemon to stay well clear.

"Nuzleaf looks pretty skilled, doesn't it?" Ash commented after the fourth such incident. A large Raticate had ambled out from the bushes and hissed at the group threateningly. Nuzleaf had instantly descended and let out a long sharp note that was vaguely uncomfortable to Ash and Gary.

The short stand-off ended abruptly and the Raticate had turned tail, dissapearing into the bushes.

"Yeah," Gary said, proudly. "Power attracts power and all that. Wouldn't expect you to know."

"Power's head would have been ripped off by power earlier if I hadn't helped out." Ash replied, smugly.

"I had it under control." Gary insisted.

"Of course. If by 'under control' you mean, 'shitting yourself'."

"It was tactical. I was letting Nuzleaf think it had the upper hand."

"Sometimes, I wonder how a dick like you ever got Jamie Shade to go out with him."

"Animal magnetism and a devil may care attitude." Gary said, airily.

"Of cou-," Ash's reply was cut off as Nuzleaf let out a low hiss. The pokemon was rigid and facing in the direction of the old road. The two trainers traded a nod before cautiously creeping through the undergrowth and peeking out.

The road ran a few hundred feet where it abruptly ended, dropping off into a largy canyon. A single, wooden bridge, hung suspended acrossthe length of the gap. Luckily, it seemed in very good condition. Unluckily, there was a small building at the entrance to the bridge. It didn't look extremely old; that, coupled with the large 'R' painted above the doorframe, told Ash that it was most likely a guard outpost.

"Any way we can get around it?" he asked.

Gary carefully brought out the map and gave it a look. "Doesn't look like it," he said, pointing at the map. "To the south there's a large area of cliffs where the land drops. Those cliffs run all the way down to Tohjo falls."

"Do we'd be back to where we started."

"More or less. We'd actually come out in the middle of the NRK's training facilities."

"Which would make this little guard post look like nothing." Ash finished for him. "What about North?"

Gary pointed over the trees on the opposite side of the road and Ash immediately felt stupid. "Right, big big mountains." he mumbled, looking at the snow capped peaks in the north, each of them dwarfed by their centerpiece. Mt. Silver.

"We're a fair height above sea level already, cliffs and canyons should be expected. We have to get across that bridge."

Ash took another look at the guard station, sizing it up. "If we had Pikachu and Umbreon..." he trailed off.

"Yeah." Gary said.

They each sat in silence for a few moments, thinking up elaborate plans and scrapping them just as quickly. "We can do it, we just need to get a closer look." Gary nodded and they retreated back into the undergrowth and crept closer to the station. As they got closer they started to hear voices coming from within.

"This is ridiculous!" A man's voice shouted. "They're out there, living it up in Saffron and we're stuck in the middle of ****ing nowhere, watching a road that nobody has used in years! All because you couldn't keep your lips off of the commander's daughter's tits!"

"Hey! She's twenty soon and she has really nice tits. You would have." A second, slower voice replied.

"How... how can you even justify this? Saffron is full onice looking women. You just went for the one who came with the 'Danger. Do not touch." sign printed on her arse."

"Half the girls in Saffron can tell what you're thinking and the other half would beat the ever living soul out of you if they knew."

Ash and Gary looked at each other, half amused. "Maybe they won't notice if we just sneak by." suggested Ash.

They crept down the side of the building a little further. Ash took a well timed risk and peaked into one of the windows. He saw a tiny little room with two bunks. Scattered clothes adorned the room as well as a few pokeballs lying on a small table.

"I'd be willing to bet there's only two of them. They usually work in pairs, don't they?" Ash asked.

"That's what the Professor said a while back."

Ash continued to the edge of the canyon and peered over. It was a long way down. Both faces were dotted with small ledges and cracks in the rock. Ash motioned Gary back into the woods silently. When they were out of sight he said, "I think I might have a plan. It's incredibly dangerous, risky and stupid, but it's a plan."

"Shoot."

Ash told him the details and squashed all oh his friend's objections immediately. "We need to get past. If it comes to a battle, we only have Nuzleaf and at a stretch, Teddiursa. We have no clue how many they have." Ash handed him the pokeballs containing Teddiursa and Pikachu, took a deep breath and ran at the guard house. He bent down, mid-stride and picked up a large rock which he hurled through the window.

The smash of shattering glass halted the argument coming from inside. Before they could investigate, Ash ran to the edge of the cliff and jumped off.

In the bushes, Gary was panicking. He had no idea if this plan would work or not. It was stupid and reckless. Pretty much defines Ash, he thought with a small laugh. From his viewpoint he saw the two guards dressed in black sprint out of the station and look around.

Gary hid behind a tree, Nuzleaf waiting silently in the canopy above.

"Help! Help me!" A voice cried from over the cliff.

"The hell?" he heard one of the guards mutter as they ran to the cliff to take a look. Gary took his chance and ghosted out from the undergrowth, appearing a few yards behind them.

Ash stood on a small ledge a few feet down from the edge of the cliff. He smiled in relief as the two guards peered over the edge; a small one with a rat-like face and a larger one, with a slightly bemused look on his face.

"Heh, Look what we have here, Matt. A little vandal that went over the edge." he smiled proudly at his own joke as 'Matt', the larger of the two laughed.

"Hook, line and sinker." Ash said with a grin. Confusion registered on their faces for a second before a voice behind them shouted, "Razor leaf!"

They spun around to see Nuzleaf bearing down on them, whipping a hail of deadly leaves in their direction. The smaller guard dove out of the way just in time to avoid being minced, but Matt wasn't as lucky. The leaves tore at him, leaving his face a crimson wreck. He screamed, grasped at his face and took a step backwards; only to find that there was nothing but air beneath his foot.

Ash pressed himself against the cliff as the guard fell, screaming in true terror, to the bottom of the canyon. An age seemed to pass between him stepping off the edge and the dull thud reaching Ash's ears.

The other guard stared off the edge in dumbfounded silence, before the reality of his situation hit him. "You bastard. I'll ****ing kill you!" He reached for his belt and grasped at nothing.

"Looking for the pokeballs, you kept in your room?" Gary called out.

"I still have one, you piece of dirt." he reached under his shirt and pulled a single pokeball off a chain. He flung it in Gary's direction and it opened, revealing the shaggy form of Piloswine.

"Take down!" he roared, anger making his voice crack.

Piloswine charged in Gary's direction, cracking the earth underneath its icy hooves. "Nuzleaf, faint attack!" Gary ordered. The smaller pokemon darted forward faster than gary could see. It faded into view a moment later parallel to the charging pokemon, as if stepping out of another realm, and tackled it in the side. The force of the impact threw Piloswine off course and it skidded to a halt to Gary's right.

It let out an angry roar and clawed the ground. Gary threw another pokeball out, releasing Teddiursa. He knew it was a risk nut he needed to split Piloswine's charges. Meanwhile, Ash had climbed back up over the edge of the cliff. "Teddiursa, you up for a fight?" he called.

The small bear pokemon didn't look in the best of shape, but it was determined and it let out a growl.

The Piloswine and its trainer were now surrounded. Teddiursa and Ash on one side, Gary and Nuzleaf on the other.

"Icy wind!" he shouted. Piloswine inhaled a massive amount of air, causing it to bloat more than Ash thought possible. Its overly shaggy coat seemed to fit right as the dual type had grown to twice its original size.

"Teddiursa, use Fury swipes!" Ash called.

"Nuzeaf, Razor wind."

The Piloswine was about to let loose its super cooled-breath in Nuzleaf's direction when Teddiursa cannoned into it's back, and grabbed hold of the hair with one paw. It raised the other paw and extended a set of claws longer and sharper than Ash could have imagined, which it brought down on Piloswine's flank in a brutal swipe.

The beast roared and stood back on its hind legs, letting the jet of air loose into the sky as it tried to shake its rider off. Teddiursa just kept hacking at its sides, tearing chunks of hair and flesh out with each swipe.

As Teddiursa distracted the ice type, Nuzleaf had prepared its attack. With a haunting whistle that struck a sense of uneasiness in every combatant, Nuzleaf launched a viscious slipstream of wind at Piloswine. The force of the attack was intense, blowing the shaggy pokemon off its feet and into the wall of the station, where it collapsed in a heap. Before it could stand up again, Teddiursa was there, faster than should have been possible. It lifted the pokemon's head up by the tusk and with one slash, it opened its throat. Blood gushed out, staining the sparse grass.

The guard rushed over to his Piloswine, who lay battered and bleeding heavily, while Teddiursa returned to Ash's side. Ever few seconds, the mortally wounded pokemon would let out a choked gargle. Then... it stopped.

The guard knelt beside his dead pokemon, speechless. Ash was shocked by the brutality shown by Teddiursa, who now stood by his leg, licking its paws as if they were covered with honey.

Gary was the first to recover from the unexpected action, "Nuzleaf, use leech seed." Nuzleaf complied, expelling a small glowing seedfrom its rist and firing it at the guard's back. It hit him with the force of a bullet, ripping through his uniform and burying itself in his back. Once it was firmly lodged in, large vines started sprouting out and curling themselves aling his spine. It was over in seconds, the guard was lying conscious but unable to move, paralyzed by the seed.

"What should we do with them?" Ash asked.

"Over the cliff, you reckon?"

"No, he's not dead yet. It wouldn't feel right."

"Of course, everything we've done up until know has felt right." Gary said.

"We may have done some pretty bad things, but they were necessary . Let's just move him into the forest and dump the Piloswine over the cliff." Ash suggested. Gary nodded in agreement and they set about their task in silence, Ash moving the paralyzed guard deep into the forest and leaving him in the undergrowth while Gary hauled Piloswine over the edge of the cliff.

The returned a few minutes later, wearier and hungrier than ever. "We were lucky. The guy Nuzleaf knocked off the cliff had a lot more pokeballs on him." Ash said.

"Well at least we can get past now, and nobody got hurt."

They entered the deserted outpost, and started to comb over it, looking for supplies. They were in luck, as Gary found two full medikits, along with enough rations to fill their packs. Ash cleaned out the back rooms, which were mostly filled wilderness gear, including a short handled axe and a set of ropes.

They entered the guards' quarters, and found several pokeballs lying on the table. "What should we do with them?" Gary asked.

"Leave them. I don't want to take anything more from Team Rocket than is necessary and re-training them would take too much time."

"You're re-training Teddiursa." Gary pointed out.

"I'd be willing to bet that they've had these pokemon longer than that Hiker had Teddiursa. Let's just leave while we can." Said Ash.

Gary nodded and they left the outpost, heading across the large, hanging bridge.

"Hello Falkner."

"Morty." Falkner nodded in greeting as the Ecruteak gym leader walked into the room.

"I'm sorry to have kept you waiting for so long, the Tower was restless."

"What's a few days between friends?"

"I sense that you are annoyed. I am sorry I could not greet you sooner, but keeping the spirits of the tower in check is just as much my job as battling new trainers."

"And keeping Violet city safe is part of my job, I was supposed to be there."

Morty walked through the darkness of his gym to where Falkner sat, in one of the few well lit areas. "Then why are you here?"

"Originally, I was going to warn you to keep sharp and ask you to scry the border."

"And now?"

"I recieved a call from the Violet city Ranger's station this morning. They were trying to catch Professor Elm's wards who were attempting to use the Silver pass to enter NRK territory."

"Judging by the look on your face, I am guessing that it did not go well." Morty said, lightly.

"It didn't. They slipped through and over the border. Morty..." Falkner paused, trying to find the words. "If the NRK go through with their threats, my territory and the people I help protect will be in the most danger. I'm asking you, a friend, to try and contact Sabrina."

Out of nowhere, Falkner's world exploded and he vaguely felt himself be hured through the darkness. "Gengar, cease!" Morty shouted. The shadows around him seemed to retreat a little, allowing Falkner to see the anguish on his friend's face through the dim light.

"I am sorry. Gengar is adept at reading my emotions. My anger controlled it in a way that I could never hope to control it as a trainer."

Falkner pushed himself up from the ground and rubbed his bruised arm. "Yeah, I've heard stories about that thing. What does it do when you get all hot and bothered?"

"Fortunately, that hasn't been a problem since I was last in Lavender town."

"Where Sab kicked your *** for stirring up the ghosts?" Falkner said, his mouth crling upwards.

"I was not stirring them up. I was merely encouraging them to release themselves from the shackles she had put on them. She was never wise in the use of her power."

"You loved her." he pointed out.

"She loved her power." Morty shot back. "Johto and the world will burn before I go near that woman's mind again."

Falkner knew not to puch the question, despite his fury. He knew his friend was stubborn in ways he couldn't imagine. Without a word, he turned and walked through the dark, towards the doors of the gym.

"I have, however, gazed over other areas." Morty's voice called, haunting in the darkness. "These two young men that have Johto in such a stir; they will not rest until their anger is sated. I would advise you to do as I have been doing."

"What's that?" Falkner called back.

"Preparing for war. I'm informing the council of my recommendation tonight."

"Is it that likely?"

"Much of Kanto has been hidden from me. There is a presence beyond reckoning there, and I imagine that Giovanni is itching for an excuse to unleash it. Go now, and prepare your city."

Without another word, Falkner strode out of the gym with a new and improved weight on his shoulders.

Ash and Gary continued their march towards Viridian, camping that night and continuing on the next day in much higher spirits. In their minds, they had won a great victory. Not even Teddiursa's odd behaviour or Umbreon's injuries dampened their spirits, confident as they were about all going according to plan.

However, as the terrain grew rougher once again, their spirits dropped slightly. This worsened when they were caught in a freak rainstrom, drenching them thoroughly and causing them to run for shelter.

They continued on when the rain ceased, but in significantly worse spirits. Gary finally broke the silence as they trudged through the mud. "What was with Teddiursa yesterday? It was pretty brutal."

Ash shrugged. "Pokemon get hurt. You didn't notice anything wrong with the way Pikachu put Ponyta down."

"Ponyta was still a threat but that Piloswine could barely move. That's not the only thing. Teddiursa shouldn't have been able to move that fast, it moved li-"

"Like Pikachu." Ash finished for him. "Yeah I noticed that too." he conceded.

"You think maybe the PPS..." Gary left the statement hanging but Ash knew what he meant. When they had first encountered Teddiursa it had none of the killer instinct that it had shown against Piloswine. Umbreon had knocked it out quite easily. The unsuitabe dose of PPS could, theoretically, have messed with its head, as well as adapted its body. Even the times Ash had let it out from its pokeball to walk alongside them, it had walked more gracefully than a Teddiursa normally would, though he had never commented on it.

"Could be. As long as it helps us survive, then I'm okay with it. I'm more worried about why there was only one outpost on one of the only routes from Kanto to Johto. Why focus all their resources on the Tohjo Falls route and leave this one open? It seems a bit too sloppy."

"Remember what the Professor always worried about?Giovanni wouldn't just settle with having control over Kanto. By leaving this route unguarded, he's giving the Johto council the opportunity to strike first. From everything we've heard about him, the guy's a psychopath. It could be that he's thinking in terms of what he would do if he were in the Johto council's place."

"That's crazy. The council would never attack the NRK." Ash said, disbelievingly.

"Crazy to us, but logical to a madman."

They stopped later for a small bite to eat and a rest, the rations they had liberated from the outpost coming in they rested, Ash let Pikachu out from its pokeball with a flash of light. The large mouse pokemon was in distinctly better shape after being rested for an extended period. "Hey, How do you feel, buddy?" he asked.

Pikachu stretched and fired off a few sparks of electricity along with an excited growl. Ash picked it up and settled it in his lap. "You did really well back there in the pass. You and Umbreon saved our asses."

"Pikachu looks in good shape." Gary commented.

"Yeah, I think it's mostly fine now. Have you checked on Umbreon?"

"I'm kinda scared to. At least when it's in its pokeball it can't get any worse, y'know?"

"Yeah." Ash felt sorry for his friend. He'd been with Umbreon as long as he himself had been with Pikachu. Gary tried to put on a brave face but deep down, Ash knew that with every day that went by, he grew a little more worried about his pokemon. "Come on." Ash rose to his feet and allowed Pikachu to climb on to its regular seat on his shoulder. "We should keep going. The sooner we get to Viridian the better."

It took them a few hours to reach the banks of the river that Gary had seen on his map. One look at it showed them just how outdated the map was. Instead of a large expanse of free flowing water, there was only a dry riverbed around fifty feet in width.

"What the hell happened here do you think?" Gary asked.

"I'm not sure, but I'd be willing to bet that if we followed it we'd find a damn somewhere upriver." Ash said.

"Well, I suppose we can count ourselves lucky. To be honest, I had no idea how we were going to get across it." Said Gary, sheepishly.

Ash laughed as they climbed down the river bank and onto the dry ground. "We've been really lucky so-"

"Ash watch out!" Gary roared. Ash heard, but too late, as the ground in front of him exploded upwards and a spherical shape tore out from it. He had enough time to recognize it and dive backwards as far as he could before the Voltorb, seemingly suspended in the air, exploded in a wave of light and fire.

Far below him, people rushed indoors out of fear; he enjoyed that feeling. The feeling of absolute superiority. The feeling that he was part of something so powerful it had brought a nation to its knees.

He had joined the NRK many years before, when it had still been known as the supposedly terrorist operation, Team Rocket. When they had taken power forcefully, they had abandoned that name, only those elite members choosing to keep it as an unoficial title, a sort of memento of the past. A name given only to those who had earned a place among their ranks with a cool determination in the heat of battle. Recently, his exploits in Sinnoh had earned him this status. He was part of the group that had finally killed Cyrus, the megalomaniac former leader of Team Galactic.

Giovanni, had destroyed Team Galactic single-handedly many years ago, before he had ever taken control of Kanto. His team in ruins, Cyrus had fled. Last month, they finally found him, hiding in a bunker at the base of Mt. Coronet. He had killed Commander Mars personally, cutting open her throat as his Rhydon pinned her to the wall.

His great leader had personally promoted him to the ranks of the Rockets, his unnoficial secret police. Never in his life had he been so proud. He had come a long way from the streets of Fuschia.

His loyal partner, Fearow, jerked unerneath him suddenly. He had been flying out to the borderlands to check on a small outpost manned by two drunken louts who had missed three of their contact times.

They probably got lost in the woods piss-drunk, Adam thought as he chuckled wryly. Fearow had stopped flying, circling above a canyon beside the outpost. Curious, Adam peered down its depths with his binoculars, his brows deeply furrowed.

Lying broken on the canyon floor was the body of an NRK guard, still clad in his uniform. "The hell?" Adam muttered. "Fearow, down." he ordered. The giant bird complied and quickly descended to the ground outside the outpost.

He returned it to its pokeball and hooked it on his belt. "Hello?" he called. A cursory glance at the area told him that there had been a battle. The side of the outpost had almost caved in on itself at one point and the grass was stained with blood.

Entering the small building, he could see that it had been ransacked. He stepped outside and looked up at the Silver pass, high in the distance and after a moment's silence, laughed. It was a rich laugh, the type only known to those who had experienced true joy.

He too his long range communicator from his pocket and dialled Cassidy's number. "It's happened," he said, gleefully. "You can tell him."

"Are you sure?" She asked.

"There was definitely a battle here. One guard is dead, the other is missing and there's blood. That, coupled with the recent activity in Silver pass..."

"Gives us all the reason we need." She finished. He could practically hear her grin. "Get back here now. He'll want to question you himself."

"I'll be there soon." He hung up silently, summoned Fearow from its ball and climbed on its back with practised ease. "We're going back to Saffron. Quick as possible." Fearow launched itself in the air and within an hour he was soaring over the Viridian plains, the city itself standing on the horizon.

From nowhere, a giant explosion sent a shockwave barreling into Fearow and causing it to spin out of control. Adam barely hung on while his mount righted itself. He saw a giant plume of smoke rise from the trees as he turned to face the mountains. "Heh, looks like the minefield got them." He sighed at Fearow's lack of reply. "You're fast, but not that bright, are you girl?"

For a moment he debated backtracking to see what happened but quickly discarded the idea. He wasn't going to be late for his meeting with Giovanni over a few chunks of burned meat.

"C'mon, Fearow. Saffron." he ordered. They flew away, once again sending the people below scattering into their houses.

"Professor? Are you home?" Lyra called.

"Yes Lyra. Come on in." The voice echoed through the lab from a back room. She followed it through the house, walking by machines that once whirred and buzzed hapily. They were all silent now.

She paused at the door of professor Elm's study . The door was ajar, but past the small sliver of light that entered the room from the hallway, the room was in darkness. She made up her mind and pushed the door open, allowing light to flood the room and illuminate Professor Elm. He was sitting at his desk, as he had been the majority of the time since Ash and Gary had left, once again cradling a glass of whiskey. He looked a wreck. His unshaven face and lidded eyes added years to his true age.

"I just came to ask if there's been any word about Ash and Gary."

The professer chuckled, not a merry sound as much as a defeated one. "There's been word alright, Lyra. The council just sent me a message. As of five P.M today, the NRK has declared war on Johto, citing the "Continuing harrassment of their borderlands by the marauding forces of the Johto council." They claim to have caught intruders in their territory and say it's the last straw."

"What?" Lyra said, shocked. "But... there's been nothing. No news about anything like that. We'd know if they had declared war, wouldn't we?"

"You're young, Lyra. You don't understand how the council works. They're still reeling and trying to avoid a mass panic situation. They notified me so I would have time to safeguard any valuable research that they don't want the NRK getting their hands on. I'd expect that Falkner and the rangers will be in town shortly to evacuate everyone."

"Professor, we have to warn people. We have to give them time!"

"What's the point? Helen is in Hoenn with her parents for the forseeable future, my lab is about to be ransacked, and Gary and Ash are most likely dead."

The last statement tore through Lyra like a knife. "They aren't dead. They're probably just lost, we can find them and bring them home." She insisted.

"Home to what? New Bark is about to be destroyed and even if we could bring them home, they'd stand trial immediately for causing this damned situation in the first place!"

Outside, a gigantic explosion lit up the night, throwing light light the window. Lyra screamed and jumped back, but Elm sat quite calmly. "I didn't expect them to get here so quickly."

"Who?" Lyra asked, panicking.

"The Rockets."

Elm stood up and drained his glass ,before unhooking a pokeball from his belt. He unsealed it and released the bulky form of his Typhlosion.

"Burn this place to the ground." He ordered. "You better leave, Lyra."

Typhlosion roared and spat an enormous stream of fire at the walls of the once warm and inviting office. Lyra didn't need to be told twice and she took off running from the room as fast as her legs could take her, tears flowing from her eyes.

Seratin
19th February 2012, 11:43 PM
Chapter four:



***



Goldenrod city was the capital of the Johto region, a glimmering jewel of contradiction lying against the coast. It was the poster city for the region, claiming to show off Johto's modern way of life and its fast-paced industry.

It was of course all a lie. Goldenrod was a fairly modern city, but it in no way projected a true image of the rest of Johto. It didn't hold true to the traditional beliefs of cities like Azalea, Violet and Ecruteak, instead pretending that they didn't exist in a lewd attempt to attract tourism and business from the far off regions of Hoenn and Sinnoh.

It succeeded, in a way. Many people flocked from Hoenn in the west into the large port of Olivine, creating a boom in the town and eventually turning it into a large trading hub. From there, the majority spread around to other cities, hoping to earn a decent wage in the so called 'modern' economy. The local people living in these cities didn't take kindly to the foreigners impugning into their lives and soon began to drive them out. The foreigners themselves were happy to leave, for the most part, after failing to find the wealth and status promised to them by the Johto council's tourism branch.

As a result, those who didn't return to Hoenn, dissapointed, merely settled in Goldenrod where they were promised a high quality of life. In a little over a decade, the city had doubled in size, stretching as far as Ecruteak in the north, to Azalea in the south, larger than even the great city of Celadon in Kanto. It was home to four gyms, the largest and only official gym of the four belonging to Whitney who specialised in pokemon with no distinct type. It was also home to the Johto council's seat of power.

Goldenrod was the gem of Johto. The symbol of balance between the future and the past; and it was in chaos.

A young boy ran through the side streets at a blistering pace, barely watching where he was going. He had one thought and one thought only; please somebody help me. He tried to vocalise it but his throat burned too severely from the cold, harsh air. Behind him, he heard the creature hiss in rage as it gained on him. He turned a corner and stumbled out onto what once had been a busy shopping district. Now it was a field of rubble.

He briefly wondered how this could have happened; just that evening he had been having dinner with his sister and planning to sneak out to meet his friends for a while. Then the shaking had started. His house had literally come down around him as he tried to comprehend what was happening.

He tried to forget the image but tears still stung at his eyes as he ran, causing him to miss a small outcropping in the rubble and fall forward spectacularly into the debris. He didn't have time to think about how badly everything hurt at that moment as he spun to face the snarling creature bearing down on him. It was a large, sand coloured creature with a pair of foot-long, razor-sharp claws and a coat of heavy spikes on its back. It leaped in mid-air, directing its claws at the young boy's midsection. Out of nowhere it was tackled by a monstrosity of a creature and sent flying backwards into the dirt.

"Tauros, stomp!" a voice behind him shouted. The large, stocky bull reared back and stomped on the sandslash's head with full force before it could rise. The pokemon's head exploded like a ripe fruit, sending skull fragments and gore flying out.

The boy looked up shakily and saw his saviour, standing amidst the rubble like a vengeful angel. "W-w-whitney?" he asked.

She nodded and walked over to him. "Are you ok?" she asked, looking at his arm, which was bumped and scraped in many places.

"What's happening?" he asked, ignoring her question.

She stared at him levelly for a few moments before whistling a sharp, high-pitched note. The huge bull pokemon ran over to them, and with amazing grace she grabbed one of its horns and threw herself over its side and onto its back. She offered the boy her hand. "Come on."

He grasped it nervously and was surprised by her strength as she hauled him up onto the Tauros. His surprise must have shown on his face as she shot him an annoyed look. "People always underestimate power when it's masked by cute face."

"What? No, no I wasn-"

"So I'm ugly. You're a grateful one, aren't you?" She dug her heels into Tauros' flank and it took off at a blinding pace, easily loping over mounds of rubble.

"What happened here?" he asked again.

"Something very bad. I'm bringing you to the refugee centre, you should be safe there."

"But wh-"

"Kid, there'll be people at the centre who will be able to answer your questions in a more delicate way than I'm willing to. Now shut up while I concentrate on not getting us killed."

He bit back his reply and merely gripped her a little harder. After a few minutes, Tauros slowed to an easy pace and eventually stopped in front of a large ornate building that stood out from the landscape merely because it was still in one piece.

"There's a refugee centre in the Johto council building?" he asked, confused. He had never been near the building before, it being a place almost exclusively made for the most important people in Johto.

"Yes." Whitney replied.

He realised he wasn't going to get any answers from her and stayed silent as she recalled Tauros and walked into the building. Inside, a massive throng of people were staring up at a large balcony where five men and two women stood, draped in almost royal finery. In the centre stood an old man with a wrinkled face and a small beard. He recognised the figure as Marcus Tentridge, one of the most public faces of the council.

"My dear citizens. Tonight we have borne the brunt of a most brutal and heinous attack by our neighbours and former allies, the NRK. The large earthquake that has devestated the city was a result of a small legion of ground type pokemon that have burrowed beneath our city and attacked from below. Most of them were well trained, indicating that this plan has been in fruition for a long time; indeed, it would have taken the pokemon months to tunnel here from Kanto. The majority of these pokemon have been hunted down and killed by our heroic gym leaders including Whitney and Coal."

A great cheer rose from the throng, replacing the uneasy mutterings that had permeated the room.

Marcus raised his hands and the crowd fell silent. "We have not, however, been caught unprepared. The Ecruteak gym leader, Morty, had informed us that war would be a possibility and we have prepared accordingly. The bulk of the NRK's strength lies around the Tohjo falls region and Falkner, master of the skies, is leading the defence from Violet city."

The young boy felt his heart soar. With Falkner on their side, what could the NRK possibly throw at them?

"Do not think that we take this situation lightly. Many of you have lost your homes and businesses. Still worse, many of you have lost close family members. This has been a horrific tragedy and our city burns because of those we once called friends. Will we stand for this?" he asked.

A resounding chorus of "No!" echoed through the massive hall.

"Then we must fight for our land! We must fight for our people! We must fight for our lives!" he roared emphatically. "Go now and prepare for the fight. You will be given instructions in National park."

The crowd cheered and started to flock from the building but even the noise of a few thousand people could not disguise Whitney's contempt. "That twisted old bastard," she said, quietly.

He looked to see her staring up at the counciller with nothing but disgust in her eyes. "I need to find my sister," he said.

"You won't find her in this crowd. Where are your parents?"

"They're in Olivine visiting my grandparents."

Whitney sighed. "Alright, what's your name?" she asked.

"Jim, but my friends call me Gold."

Lyra felt the superheated air behind her as Typhlosion set about turning the lab into an inferno and explosions boomed from outside. She didn't know what to do or where to go but as she glanced at one of the side rooms from the corner of her eye, she had a very brief idea.

Fire was consuming the lab behind her at an alarming pace, even more alaring was the fact that she didn't think Professor Elm had even attempted to leave the room before it was gutted. She crushed the sick feeling that rose in her stomach and entered the room, hoping that the fire wouldn't block her exit.

It was one of the largest rooms in the labratory and contained some of the most valuable items. Shelves upon shelves of pokeballs belonging to trainers that had captured more than the regulation six filled the cavernous room. Each ball was held in perfect stasis and linked to a large console in the centre of the room that let out a steady humming noise that brought back many memories for her.

As a child, it was the one room in the house that both Gary and Ash had actively avoided, which only made it more fascinating for her. Professor Elm had commented on her curiosity one day after her lesson with the boys and offered to show her around it. She spent many days with the professor in that room, learning how the complicated system worked. She sprinted to the main console and entered the Professor's password which he had entrusted to her a few years before when she had operated the system successfully in his place. Lights flickered on in sequence and each row of shelves whirred to life.

For a moment, she doubted her descision, but a beastly roar from Typhlosion spurred her into action and she activated the emergency override option. Every pokeball in the room snapped open instantly, releasing hundreds of confused pokemon into a cramped area. A particularly agitated Nidoking charged at the back wall of the library, creating a giant hole in one clean motion. Hordes of pokemon spilled outside to the field behind the lab, some taking off into the forest while others merely stood around, searching for their trainers.

Lyra had never seen so many different pokemon in one place. Exotic species from far away, rare evolutions that looked powerful enough to rip the town apart, and many smaller pokemon, that were as common as an average Sentret. Fire roared at the entrance of the door behind her reminding her of the immediate danger she was in, but she knew she wasn't done yet. A small rack of unopened pokeballs sat in the corner, gathering dust. They were the ones that weren't connected to the main system. It often happened when a trainer whose pokemon were in storage died suddenly or just quit training; they were left there, forgotten.

She rushed to them and released each one manually until a massive explosion rocked the lab and sent chunks of wall flying at her. She threw herself to the ground and narrowly avoided being crushed to death. The slab hit the rack of pokeballs, scattering them around the lab floor and sending many rolling away. Fire licked at the entrance she came through, causing her to mentally thank the Nidoking responsible for the giant hole in the rear wall.

Trying to collect every one of the balls would be suicide, she reasoned, so she grabbed the two nearest to her on the floor and ran to the rear wall of the room and out into the field of still-dazed pokemon.

She fled the building not a moment too soon as a massive explosion tore through the structure, collapsing what was left of the roof in on itself. The ringing in her ears faded and she realised that she was standing frozen still amidst a small army of disorientated pokemon. Snap out of it, Lyra, she said to herself. She didn't want to reflect on what happened to the Professor and Typhlosion in that blast, instead choosing to run around the ruined building and into clear view of the town. What she saw horrified her.

New Bark was in ruins. No area was untouched by the carnage as an army of gruesome and horrifying creatures ransacked the town. Fire roared in great sky-high pillars, rising from the roofs of houses she had once known. In the distance, she could see her own house in flames. The fact that her parents were in Cherrygrove was a small relief but it caused her immense anguish to see her home burning to the ground. Screams echoed from far below as hundreds of people fled from the encroaching threat; one unlucky man that lyra knew only as a clerk in the local store was caught by a large Pinsir. She turned away and fell to her knees in horror as the bug pokemon ripped the man cleanly in half with its antlers.

From the distance more trainers and pokemon appeared, all with the clear intent of razing what lay before them to the ground. A sudden rush of inspiration hit Lyra and she looked up to see a great majority of the pokemon she had rescued from the lab standing aimlessly, waiting for orders. I have to give the people down there a chance to escape, she thought. The group consisted of several powerful looking pokemon as well as a rag-tag band of rejects that couldn't cement a place in their trainers' team. "Hey, you guys!" she shouted. Some of them turned and seemed to pay attention but others continued to wander around, aimlessly. "Get down there and fight! Go!" She gestured wildly in the direction of the invading forces, hoping desperately that some of them would understand her commands.

A large, heavily armoured Rhyhorn bellowed, obviously used to such commands and charged down the hill at a pace that surprised her. It was followed immediately by an Ariados, two Scyther and a Graveler. The rest of the pokemon ignored her completely.

In the town below, the fleeing crowd had gathered in a mass of running bodies, their instincts screaming that there was safety in numbers. There wasn't. As fast as they were managing to run, their pursuers were by and large, faster. Out of the darkness a Golbat swept into the crowd cocooned its wings around a helpless woman and pinned her to the ground. Nothing could be seen of her except her legs thrashing wildly until... they stopped. The Golbat flew away unsteadily, leaving the drained husk behind it. More people were being picked off from the fleeing crowd every second, and their terrified screams cut through Lyra like a knife. The roars of enraged pokemon and the explosions that lit up the night sky were like background noise to her, whereas every scream hit her like a physical blow. The fires had spread to the trees bordering the small town, licking from branch to branch and causing wild pokemon to flee from their nests.

The Rhyhorn and its comrades reached the tail end of the fleeing group just in time to intercept a charging Nidorino. The armoured pokemon pluged its horn into the poison type's side and flung it high into the air as if it weighed nothing. The Ariados, showing amazing grace propelled itself into the air and wrapped itself around a Beedrill that was aiming to plunge its huge stinger into a man carrying his daughter at the back of the group. The two insects fell to the dirt and lashed out at each other. The Ariados ripped the Beedrill's head off cleanly with its pincers but not before the wasp plunged its stinger into Ariados' stomach, injecting what would be a lethal dose of venom to most pokemon. The huge arachnid managed to kill an incoming Raticate before succumbing to the toxin. Meanwhile, the Scyther were performing better than Lyra could have hoped. They dodged and weaved their way through pokemon, lashing out with razor-sharp precision, severing limbs and stingers as they went.

The carcasses of Machoke, Primeape and Golduck all lay at their feet as they continued to dice through opponents. Alongside Rhyhorn's earth-shuddering attacks, they formed a defensive wall that gave the fleeing people time to build up a stronger lead. They could not prevent airborne threats however, and the group continued to have poeple picked off from above. A particularly viscious Fearow grabbed a large man in its talons and dropped him on to the group from a hundred feet above, crushing those below and causing those behind to trip and stumble.

Lyra noticed with a sense of disgust that a man was sitting astride Fearow as it swooped for another vicious kill. A blinding flash from the corner of her eye prompted her to dive to the right. Just as she did, a blistering wave of energy flew over her and disappeared into the night.

Peering up from her prone position on the ground, Lyra saw a massive Nidoking charging up the hill towards the lab. It was followed by a group of pokemon commanded by a smaller group of figures in black. "Get to the lab before it's all gone!" One of them shouted.

In their haste, Lyra was sure that they would trample her to death on the ground. She climbed to her feet but it was too late, the rampaging Nidoking was already upon her, its massive horn aimed at her torso. For a split-second she realised that that was the moment she would die. Without accomplishing so much of what she had hoped and dreamed, then quick as it had come, it was over. Before the raging pokemon gored her it was lifted off its feet and thrown backwards into the oncoming rush of pokemon by a similar purple blur.

The Nidoking that she had released from the lab had not taken kindly to another encroaching on its territory and had hurtled all of its weight into a take down attack. The two beasts battled in the dirt, coiled around each other in a mass of thrashing limbs and horns. When they steadied themselves, Lyra could not tell which was the Nidoking that had attempted to gore her. She wasn't sure she wanted to find out. They punched and lashed at each other, trampling smaller pokemon around them in their wrath. Behind her, the emerald green form of a Politoed sprang into action, hurtling itself at the oncoming pokemon and taking out a Dodrio with a jet of water pumped with enough pressure to pulverise ribs.

All around her, the pokemon she had released from the lab started to fight their enraged counterparts. Many of them had been at the lab for years and viewed it as their territory. A Donphan rolled past her, slicing a gouge in the earth as it went and crashed into a Golem. Fire and lightning roared around her as the battle waged on. I have to get out of here, she thought. Making sure she had the pokeballs she rescued earlier, she darted to the side of the battle, heading for a dangerously steep side of the hill that had been victim to many landslides over the years. The earth was loose and it crumbled in places as she started a treacherous descent. She nearly lost her footing when the limp form of a Donphan flew over the edge, missing her head by a narrow margin. The armoured pokemon lay at the bottom of the hill, its body torn and broken.

The bodies of more pokemon flew off the edge from time to time as she climbed down, including a pair of grappling Primeape, each determined to prove their dominance. Eventually, and somewhat miraculously, Lyra made it to the bottom of the hill. The noise from the top had faded somewhat, indicating that there were less living creatures to make sound. The foot of the steep side of the hill was like a horrific slaughterhouse. Pokemon dead and dying lay strewn in the dirt, many bleeding out and wailing desperately.

Lyra closed her eyes and ran through the trees, trying to avoid as much of the carnage as she could. Each anguished wail churned her stomach and sent her to the edge of sickness. She exited the tree-line a moment later to find herself near the fringe at the town boundary where hundreds of people were flocking out in a desperate bid to get to Cherrygrove. In the distance behind them, Lyra could see Rhyhorn trying desperately to fend off a Machoke. Many of the pursuing NRK trainers were slipping past the meager defence with their pokemon, intent on stopping as many of the civilians as they could from escaping. Lyra turned and ran with the crowd, not wanting to be one of the unfortunate few who were lagging.

Beside her, a huge crimson form appeared and loped along, easily matching her pace. The Arcanine was gigantic, and had a large crimson ball of flames in its maw. It reared its head back and was set to unleash the fire into the crowd before one of the townspeople recognised the danger before it could. "Geodude, buy us time!" he shouted, throwinig his pokeball awkwardly behind him as he ran. The large rock-type materialised directly in front of the Arcanine's face and latched onto the sides of its head, before ramming its body inside the fire-cloaked maw.

The beast choked in surprise and lost its footing in the rough ground. It tumbled head-first into the dirt where it writhed, trying to eject the Geodude from its mouth. The crowd continued running, panic making them oblivious to basic dangers such as tripping over logs. Those who did fall, rose to meet the scythes, claws and jaws of their pursuers.

A terrifying, avian screech sounded from above, and out of the darkness the Fearow plunged, this time impaling a woman through her shoulder with its beak and flinging her into the woods. The rider roared from above, "Return to the town quietly and we will cease our pursuit. You will be taken into the custody of the NRK as prisoners of war. If you do not comply, you will be hunted and killed." As if to emphasise this fact, the Fearow brought its wings together creating a fierce gust of wind that sent people flying forward through the air.

He's not even trying to avoid hurting people, Lyra thought desperately. The other residents of New Bark seemed to realise this too as not one of them slowed down to surrender. If they had, Lyra felt sure that they would have become fodder for the psychopathic pokemon following them. As they ran, the group grew thinner, many people were picked off from above and from behind as they grew weary of running.

Lyra's legs were aching as she pushed herself to keep running. She had never been as physically fit as Ash or Gary, instead preferring to work in the lab or lounge around with Chikorita. This showed when she lost concentration for a split second and tripped, sending herself flying forward into the dirt. The people behind her tried to avoid stepping on her for the most part, but none gave her an opportunity to get to her feet. From above, the enraged cry of the Fearow sounded once more and she felt a horrible dread. Looking up from her prone position, she saw the Fearow diving straight towards her, murderous intent clear in its eyes.

She had lost count of how many times she had stared at death that night, but she was sure that it would be the last. Then, from the west, a shrill cry echoed forth. The Fearow halted its descent suddenly, frantically searching for the familiar sound. Troughout the wilds of Kanto and Johto, every Fearow knew the shrill anger of a Pidgeot disputing territory.

Falkner and his Pidgeot burst out of the darkness like a missile and impacted the Fearow with bone-crushing two giant birds clung on to each other in mid-air, ripping at each other with talons and beaks, all the while maintaining their flight somehow. Both riders clung on for dear life as the natural rivals battled in the sky. Blood and feathers rained down on the crowd below causing many to stop and look skywards. Lyra took the chance to get to her feet and continue running.

The fools who had stopped to glance, even briefly, were soon set upon by NRK pokemon. In the sky behind Falkner, several other trainers mounted on flying types flew to assist him. A huge Skarmory plummeted from the air and crushed an Arbok beneath it. As the minutes went by, more and more trainer's from Falkner's gym arrived and started fighting the pokemon behind the fleeing crowd, giving them enough time to get to Cherrygrove. By the time the refugees had made it to the summit of the hill outside Cherrygrove, many were completely exhausted, Lyra included, but the trainers from Violet were holding a tight line a mile or so behind them, allowing them the chance to reach safety.

At Cherrygrove, they were greeted by a group of Pokemon rangers heading to help reinforce Falkner's efforts. Lyra wandered around in a daze. Everything was a blur of darkness and blood to her. People around her who had enough time to collect their wits started screaming. Some out of fear, others because they had witnessed a husband, wife, or child die. She vaguely heard people standing around (or was it above?) her and talking about "shock" and "Trauma". Someone slipped a blanket around her shoulders, but she barely registered it. The next thing she knew was darkness.

The fleeing townspeople of New Bark were well on their way to Cherrygrove in the five minutes that Falkner had been duelling the NRK... soldier, he supposed. They were at war after all.

He hung onto the feathers of Pidgeot's neck for dear life as his prized pokemon grappled with its counterpart. The pokemon were clawing at each other wildly with no real direction, but still causing massive damage on either side. Pidgeot's flank had been reduced to a torrent of blood.

"Drill Peck!" His counterpart shouted.

"Left!" He responded. Pidgeot banked sharply to the left, riding a strong gust that had risen from the south. From his position, Falkner glanced a cluster of colourful tags on the man's breast that marked him as one of the Rockets. The elite force of the NRK. He didn't let this fact distract him from his momentary advantage, and he roared, "Slash it now!"

Pidgeot complied and executed a perfect mid-air spin that brought its talons in line with the Fearow's soft underside. Pidgeot lashed out, a rain of blood and feathers fell, accompanied by a beastly screech from the wounded flying-type. Both pokemon were losing altitude as quickly as they lost blood. They danced in their descent; a deadly blur of beaks, talons and blood.

He felt Pidgeot weaken and a desperate fear shot through him. He barely noticed the raging battles around him as he spun through the air, trying to regain stability. The Fearow and its rider were having similar problems and without command, both pokemon broke off from their fight to stabilise their flight. Pidgeot arced out and came around facing the Fearow who had completed a similar manoeuvre.

His counterpart had an ugly grimace on his face, a hate-filled look that disturbed Falkner more than the blood he was drenched in. "Drill Peck!" he shouted. Falkner had been prepared for this however, and shouted, "Rise and use Sky attack!"

As Fearow shot towards him with a vicious corkscrew, Pidgeot rose vertically and flew as high as it could. A shrill shriek from below informed him that the Fearow was hot on his tail. However, Pidgeot, despite its many wounds, was faster and rose through the sky, rapidly reaching heights that made it difficult for Falkner to breathe.

"We have to give the townspeople enough time to get to Cherrygrove, Pidgeot." Despite the howling winds around them, Falkner was sure that his Pokemon understood, at least vaguely what must be done. They levelled out, and Pidgeot let forth a piercing wail. Then it did something that it had never done. It bucked wildly and threw Falkner off into the air, a thousand feet above the ground. Falkner reached out and grasped nothing but air, then the cold arms of gravity forcibly yanked him towards the earth. He fell through sky, clouds obscuring Pidgeot from his view. It crossed his mind that he might have asked too much from his precious pokemon, and that he had driven it to such an act of rebellion. Then, the clouds tore open and Pidgeot descended like a bullet, he barely registered it as his pokemon, seeing only a brown blur.

As he fell, he realised what was happening. "Pidgeot, stop!" His voice was lost in the howling winds and in desperation he threw out a pokeball. His Skarmory materialised in a flash of light and quickly flew into a descent beside him. Falkner narrowed his body and shot to the earth, aligning it with Skarmory. The steel-type slipped parallel to him and allowed him to grasp a hold around its neck.

The Skarmory screeched and extended its full wingspan, effectively putting the breaks on the manouever. He wasn't called 'The master of the skies' for nothing.

With his slightest nudge, Skarmory dove through the sky. The clouds parted just in time to confirm his worst fears. A massive, azure slipstream had formed behind Pidgeot and it hurtled towards the ascending Fearow at mach speed. Even from the distance he was at, he saw the Rocket member's eyes widen in shock as he saw Pidgeot hurtle towards him.

A last minute dodge wasn't enough, it did nothing more than expose the Fearow's flank to Pidgeot. His most prized pokemon hurtled into its adversary with lethal speed. It didn't stop with the impact, it kept descending, building up more and more speed. A last, shrill roar echoed from his pokemon. Whether it was to warn the trainers below of what was coming, or a last farewell to its trainer, Falkner would never know. It crashed to the ground, amidst the advancing NRK forces with earth-shattering force. He halted in the air, astride his Skarmory and tried to contemplate what had just happened. The dust cleared, exposing the broken bodies of the Rocket member and his Fearow, as well as his own favourite pokemon.

Many of the advancing NRK pokemon were caught in the blast and lay wounded or dead. Others were lucky and shook off their momentary shock to attack the Johto rangers who were still trying to hold a defensive wall.

Falkner crushed his grief with iron will and surveyed the situation. From this altitude, he could see even more pokemon and trainers flooding over the border from the east. "Down." he grunted. Skarmory complied and dropped in a skilful dive to within fifty feet of the ground. "Retreat!" he roared. "Back to Cherrygrove. Retreat."

He nudged Skarmory to the left. The steel-type was not in tune with his intentions as Pidgeot had been. It wasn't as... easy. We'll hold them at Cherrygrove, he told himself. We have to. He flew off to the west, the lights of Violet city in the far distance taunting him.

Gary watched in disbelief as the Voltorb detonated, instantly shrouding Ash in a cloak of fire. The shock-wave hit him a split-second later and he was sent flying through the air and into the tree-line. Earth and sky span around him and then... darkness.

Everything ached. Everything ached. That was the first cohesive thought that Gary could pull together. That was a good sign, he reasoned, it implied that he wasn't dead. He tried to raise his head but it felt far too heavy so he settled on opening his eyes instead. The harsh light stung his eyes, causing him to blink rapidly. He tried to curse but instead uttered some sort of half croak, his throat felt like he had inhaled hot coals.

"You breathed in superheated air. I'd lay off the talking for a while if I were you." The voice came from his left, not that he could see where it came from. His eyes began to focus and he noted that he was in a building. From what he could see of the roof it appeared to be a small wooden shack. There was a mattress under him too, that he was certain of. He hadn't felt the warm embrace of a mattress for what seemed like an age. He allowed his head to tilt to his left to see who had spoken.

"Don't put yourself under too much strain. It'll impede your rest." A large, tanned man was standing over a strange type of workbench, grinding powder with a pestle and mortar.

The events of the day...or whenever it had been, flooded back to Gary. The dry riverbed, the Voltorb... "Ugh," he croaked desperately. He remembered Ash walking straight into the path of the Voltorb and being consumed by the blast.

"I said not to strain yourself." The man barked. He reached to his belt and opened a pokeball with a flash of light. A strange looking pokemon that Gary remembered from his lectures with Elm appeared. It had spindly legs, a robust body and an overall creepy look about it.

"Mr. Mime, Hypnosis."

The pokemon stepped forward and Gary's eyes were immediately drawn to it. He stared into the pokemon's eyes as they emitted a curious glow. He had to figure out what that glow was. If he just kept staring he might figure it out. If he just kept...

For the second time, Gary woke up staring at wooden rafters. His head pounded far more intensely than it had before, but overall, he felt better. It took an immense effort on his part but he managed to pull himself up into a sitting position on the bed.

On the other side of the cabin, the fiendish Mr. Mime sat staring at him. "You," he growled, before stopping and reaching up to cup his throat. "Hey, I can speak again." A slab of wood in the center of the floor swung upwards and crashed down, revealing a staircase that his "host" climbed up from.

"Ah, you're up. Good, I'd bet you're hungry."

The stranger was right, Gary was indeed starving but he pushed the hunger aside. "Who are you and where am I?" he half shouted, noting that his voice was still slightly hoarse.

"You're in a cabin in the woods to the north-west of Viridian city. I heard an explosion coming from the minefield and decided to take a were pretty banged up." The stranger looked at him awkwardly, "I'm not one of the Rockets, you know. In case you might harbour any notions of gratitude and you're just too scared to thank me. Otherwise you're a bit of an ***."

"Oh, yeah. Thank you I suppose. You have anyway to prove you aren't Rocket though? I'm sorry to ask, I just need to be sure."

"You don't need to be anything. You're alive thanks to me," he replied, irked. With a sigh he turned around and lifted up his shirt exposing his back. Gary flinched. The tanned skin was mottled with a web of white burn scars that extended from his hip to his shoulder. "I got that when I was a kid. My dad put up a fight when the Rockets took over. I'm lucky to have gotten away with just that."

It was a subject that he didn't want to talk about in great length, that much Gary could tell. "I'm sorry. Did you see anyone else when you found me?" he asked.

"The kid that ran head-first into a pissed off Voltorb? Yeah he's down in the basement."

"The basement? Does that mean he's...?"

"Relax, he's not dead, somehow. I should have had to carry him back here in a bag. He's in the basement because that's where I treat pokemon with serious injuries. Granted he's not a pokemon, but still. I also kept him in the basement because I wasn't sure if you were chasing him or not."

Gary let out a breath that he didn't know he was holding. He was sure Ash hadn't survived from the moment the blast had obscured him from his view. "How do you know I wasn't chasing him?" Gary asked.

"You waited until you knew I wasn't a supporter of the NRK before you asked about him. That way, if I was a supporter, you wouldn't have ratted him out."

"How long has it been?"

The man walked to his tiny stove where a pot was boiling. The smell filled the room and made Gary's stomach rebel with hunger. "Four days. You were both in pretty bad shape, the guy downstairs still is." he said, between sipping the stew from a wooden spoon. He filled a large bowl and brought it to Gary, who accepted gratefully. "Thank you." he took a sip and bit back a curse as it burned his tongue. "How bad is he?" he asked.

"Some fairly serious burns and a few broken bones, he should be okay in a few days."

Gary nearly choked on his stew. "A few days? Serious burns and broken bones don't heal in a few days."

"They don't when you treat them normally. Your friend was in bad enough shape that I elected to take a few... risks."

"Risks?" Gary asked, perplexed. "What are you talking about?"

"Have you ever wondered why we can heal devastating wounds to pokemon very quickly, but we can't apply the same technology to ourselves?" he asked.

"Yeah. It's because the stuff we use to heal pokemon doesn't work on us the same way." Gary replied. Even kids knew that.

"If it's altered enough it would work just fine. There's just far too much money involved in keeping humans on a slow drip. Sure, the science isn't exact but the benefits outweigh the risks."

"Aren't the risks fairly serious? What have you been doing to Ash?" he asked.

"Over the years I've developed a few medicines that work very well on both pokemon and humans. Ash is fine, you don't need to worry. In fact, you should be more grateful, I used my last batch of medicine on you too. Living out here in the wild isn't exactly safe."

"I appreciate that, thank you -" Gary paused, realising that he had never bothered to ask the man's name.

"My name's Brock Harrison. Nice to meet you." he extended his hand. Gary took it and shook with what little strength he had.

"Mine's Ga-" Brock cut him off. "Yeah, Gary Oak, I found your trainer ID. Not that I'd need it, you're the spitting image of your grandfather."

"You knew gramps?" he asked, shocked.

"He was a friend of my father's. I was young at the time and never got around to speaking to him much."

"Have you heard anything from-" he was interrupted by a loud groan from the cellar beneath. "I'll go check on Ash. You rest for a while."

He rose to object but was met with the eerily blue eyes of Brock's Mr. Mime. "****." he muttered, before descending into darkness.

The next few days were similar for Gary. He would wake from one of Mr. Mime's psychically induced sleeps and curse the pokemon, before accepting the food Brock had graciously made for him. He was eventually released from bed and was allowed to walk around for a while. He was stiff and sore, but at least he was mobile. After he made sure that Ash wasn't on death's doorstep, he asked Brock if he could take a look at Umbreon. His pokemon's near fatal condition worried him, stasis or no stasis.

"Hmm." Brock stood up from examining the dark type and returned it to its pokeball. "I haven't seen a pokemon in that bad of a condition in a long while. How did you allow it to get that injured in the first place?" he asked, not without a trace of accusation.

"We were trying to make it through the pass but got caught between a group of Shiftry and some Pokemon Rangers. Umbreon and Ash's Pikachu saved our asses."

"Well, some of the cuts are pretty deep but Umbreon are a naturally tough species. A large dose of PPS and some of my medicine should cure that. It looks to have a fairly severe head injury though." He paused for a moment. "I'd have Mr. Mime try to see if there is any damage but Umbreon's a dark type, Mr. Mime may as well be looking down a well. You're going to need to get it scanned in a pokemon centre."

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Gary sighed. "Can I go down and see Ash yet?" For the past few days, Brock had been refusing to allow Gary to see Ash because his friend wasn't in good enough condition.

"He's been slipping in and out of consciousness, I really think you should wait until he's fully awake." Brock said, appearing not fully comfortable.

"That's it. I know you've done a lot for us and for that I've taken your advice, but I haven't actually seen Ash with my own eyes yet. He could be lying dead back out in the woods and I wouldn't know it. I'm going down." Gary said, a hard look on his face.

Brock sighed. "Fine, go ahead, just be careful not to touch anything. There's a lot of stuff down there that I won't be able to replace once it breaks." Gary nodded and walked to the centre of the room, lifting the hatch and descending the steep stairs. A dull light illuminated what Gary could only describe as a medical lab. Glistening steel walls encased a variety of large machines which hummed and beeped. In the middle of the room, Ash lay on a large bed.

"He doesn't look that bad, does he?" Brock stated. Gary jumped slightly, he hadn't realised that Brock had followed him down. He was right though, apart from a small bandage across his face, Ash looked perfectly healthy.

"Look closer." Brock said simply.

Gary walked forward and examined his friend, noting that a series of tubes snaked their way from a large canister on the ground and disappeared under his sheets. Gingerly, he peeled back the sheet that lay on Ash's chest. The skin underneath was a horrific mess of blotchy red welts and white burns. Three large strips of blue material lay on the burns, connected to the tubes coming from the canister.

"What- what are those for?" he asked, dumbly.

"They release a healing gas slowly that seeps into the skin over a period of time. Expensive kit that was usually only needed around Cinnabar. Lots of fire types out there so the locals had to have a way of treating severe burns."

"Will it work?" he asked.

"It's working already. You should have seen him a few days ago. His ribs are knitting back together nicely too. He'll have some scarring but he's pretty lucky overall."

Gary stepped back and tore his eyes away from the mutilated flesh. "Where did you get all this stuff? It must have cost a fortune."

Brock shifted around awkwardly. "Some friends drop by from time to time needing a place to lay low. They pay for all this so I can treat them if needed." He noted the sudden guarded look on Gary's face. "Don't worry, it's not NRK funded. An awful lot of people weren't happy when Giovanni muscled his way into power, they're paying for this."

"Couldn't you get into trouble for telling me this? If Ash and I are caught... the less we know about all this the better."

"I'm not worried about that. I have a few people for you and Ash to meet when you're both fighting fit." Brock said, simply.

"What are you talking about? We're going to Pallet once Ash and Umbreon are better," said Gary, disconcerted at a sudden potential detour in their plans.

"That might not be such a good idea, Gary. Pallet town isn't how you probably remember it." Brock continued, prompted by Gary's blank silence. "Giovanni wiped it out. Everything and everyone in it was destroyed so he wouldn't have to admit that he attacked Oak's lab. He made up a story about rampaging Gyarados that most of the people in the core actually swallowed."

"Why would he destroy a whole town to cover that up? Surely there were easier ways..." Gary trailed off, shocked at the revelation that his home-town was nothing more than a memory.

"Oak's lab wasn't just the place that you grew up, Gary. It was the repository of all of Kanto's stored pokemon. Any move at all against Oak would have caused outrage, he was a respected and loved figure in Kanto. He looked after hundreds of pokemon expertly and earned the trust of the nation."

"So... Giovanni had to remove him," Gary said quietly. The more Brock filled him in on the situation, the more desperate his cause seemed.

"Not exactl-" Brock was interrupted by an alarm coming from his coat pocket. He withdrew a small device that looked similar to a Ranger's communicator. A small red light was flashing in the corner. "I can't explain as I don't know all the details, but I know someone who can and they're upstairs right now." Brock said, striding in the direction of the stairs without looking back.

Gary took a last worried look at his injured friend before following him up the staircase and into the cabin. Brock was standing in the centre of the room, talking to a hooded figure in a low voice.

The figure turned and stared at him as he closed the hatch behind him. "So you're Oak's grandson? How is Ketchum's boy?"

Gary ignored the question, and stared right back at the figure. "Who are you?" he demanded.

The figure laughed and drew back his hood, revealing an abundance of deep red hair and hard, violet eyes. "You can call me Lance."






***




And this brings us up to the last of the chapters I have pre-written. I'm still deciding on certain aspects of the story and now that I have the free time to write, will be working on it heavily.

Any feedback, questions, ideas or reviews are welcomed and appreciated.