And here we are with the next update. You must all be enjoying this unusually quick-paced schedule. But hey, four uploads in just over a week beats four updates in the last six months (which is what I had been doing through 2008 up until this point, sadly). Anyways, on with the chapter! And like always, please review!
Chapter 36: Truce
Drew opened his eyes. His body burned with pain, his cheeks were damp and scarred, but for the first time in over two years his mind was clear. And he knew then, fully for the first time, what his lust had cost him. He closed his eyes, trying to suppress a few tears. It was obvious to him, now, what had happened. And he knew too what had saved him.
He saw Max lying in the earth several yards away, unmoving as he gazed at the stars. Drew would have thought him to be asleep where it not for his wide, staring eyes, and the soft sounds of remorse he made. Leaning next to him in concern was his Gardevoir, her body shaking with fatigue and an inner pain. But the moment that Drew approached, she raised her head and glared at him, moving her arms into an attack position. Noticing this, he decided that the best tactic would be to stop moving and try a vocal approach instead.
“Max?” he called tentatively, and when there was no response he tried again a little louder. “Max?” This time the young trainer seemed to have heard and he slowly turned his head towards the Coordinator, although his eyes were unfocused and staring.
“You’re alive,” Max stated. Drew said nothing, waiting for him to continue. “I thought I’d killed you,” Max went on, more to himself than to Drew.
“You didn’t,” Drew answered, and another uncomfortable silence followed for several minutes.
“How are you feeling?” Max asked. Drew let out a short bark of laughter.
“Better than I have for over two years,” he admitted. This caught Max’s attention, his gaze becoming sharp and attentive as he got to his feet.
“You were hit by a Stage-3 Psychic,” he said. “I tortured you with it. You should be lying on the ground in pain, virtually incapacitated; not standing here saying that you feel fantastic.”
“My body is burning with the pain,” Drew said bluntly. “I feel like I should be dying from it. I am in agony right now physically. But I haven’t felt this good mentally for years. Max; you’ve saved me.” Max was taken aback by this.
“I don’t understand,” he muttered.
“I was obsessed,” Drew said. “Years ago in Kanto, I fell in love with your sister. But my love faded and was replaced by lust. I became obsessed with her body, and couldn’t get her out of my mind. I lied to her, I deceived her, I played with her mind; all to try and get her to be with me. I didn’t care about the way she felt, I forget she had her own feelings. I manipulated her into doing what I wanted, because what I wanted was her body.” He noticed the stony expression covering Max’s face and hurried on.
“Barely a week after she agreed to be with me, I met up with another girl. She was different from May in a couple of ways. For one thing, she was obsessed by me and was willing to do anything I wanted her to, no matter how despicable it was. For another thing, her body was even more attractive than your sister’s. My lust switched almost overnight, from May to this new girl.”
“Brianna,” Max said coldly.
“Brianna,” Drew agreed. “And then, right when it seemed that everything was going in my favour, Brianna turned up with Harley and dumped me.”
“Which you deserved,” Max snarled.
“It drove me insane,” Drew shot back. “I lost my mind and swore vengeance on both of them for what they’d done to me. And then I remembered your sister and fell in love with her body all over again. I was desperate to have her back, but every time I found her... she rejected me. It drove me deeper and deeper into despair and longing.”
“I don’t understand what you’re trying to say,” Max said after a moment.
“I went insane, mad, nutty, crazy, mental, whatever word you want to use! I lost my reason, my rationale. I lost my mind, Max. I can barely remember anything that’s happened in the last year. Max, by attacking me with that Psychic... Every wrong thing that I’ve ever done, every person I’ve hurt, I saw it all again. You may have hurt my body, but you did much more than that. You freed my mind.”
“So you’re saying that by torturing you, I got rid of your insanity?” Max asked.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Drew affirmed.
“And I thought it was usually the other way around,” Max muttered before looking Drew in the eyes. “I still hate you for what you’ve done to my sister,” he said.
“It’s impossible for you to hate me more than I hate myself,” Drew answered, holding out his hand. “Shake?” Gardevoir hissed in distaste but after a moment of appraisal, Max took the proffered hand and shook it once, just once.
“Come on,” he said, recalling his Gardevoir and turning away. “If you’re truly sorry then you can start earning some forgiveness by doing something for me.”
“I need your help.”
“With what?” Drew persisted. Max halted, looking in the direction of Mount Silver.
“What do you know about Deoxys or Team Rocket?” he asked.
“Meowth!” Jessie screamed again as a second Salamence circled overhead several times before flying off around the side. For a brief moment there was silence and she feared the worst. But then, as the dust began to settle, there was a great hacking cough and Meowth became visible, standing frozen between the fallen Salamence’s neck and wing.
“Dat was too close,” he moaned, before hacking out another cloud of dust. Jessie ran forwards in relief, ready to hug and berate the life out of him, but came to a screeching halt when the massive dragon-type stirred. It climbed slowly to its feet, and to the greatest surprise of both Jessie and Meowth revealed the shape of a man who had pinned underneath it. His eyes burned with anger as he looked in the direction the second Salamence had gone.
“I will get her back for what she has done,” Silver swore, climbing painfully to his feet. “She won’t know what hit her.” And then he noticed the open-mouthed Jessie standing mere feet from him, the red ‘R’ emblazoned on her white shirt. “A Rocket, eh?” he roared, grabbing hold of a second Poke Ball as he shifted into a fighting stance. “I think it’s time to play some more!”
“Mime! Mime-mime!” a little voiced squeaked, running past the angry Silver and throwing itself into Jessie’s arms. “Mime mime mime!” Silver stared at the little Mime Jr. in astonishment, the Poke Ball in his hand forgotten.
“That’s your Mime Jr.?” he asked. “It saved my fall when we fell by using Reflect; stopped us from hitting the ground as fast we would have done and it stopped Hunter J’s goggles from finding us in the dust. So is it yours?”
“I... eh... ah...” she stammered.
“Jessie, dis is Jimmy’s Mime Jr.!” Meowth realized. He turned to Silver, sliding out his claws. “Alright, start talkin’! What did ya do with da rest of James’s Pokemon?” he snarled. The heavy breath of the Salamence on his neck quickly made him remember his manners. “Please?” he asked, retracting his claws with a blush. Silver stared at him.
“You can talk!” he said incredulously.
“Dat, or you’ve gone loopy,” Meowth answered. "Personally, I prefer loopy."
“It was a pretty high fall,” Silver muttered to himself. Then he shook his head. “Let’s move,” he ordered. “Team Rocket hasn’t seen us yet, but they will do soon enough now that the dust has cleared. Into the woods, go.” They traipsed into the forest for several moments before Silver judged them far enough away for the moment.
“Feahhh, Fearow fee,” a small Fearow called down to Mime Jr. from a nearby tree.
“Mime-mime, miiime!” Mime Jr. answered.
“Meowth, what are they saying?’ Jessie asked, noticing that the normal-type was listening attentively.
“Dat Fearow is asking Mime Jr. if it knows us,” Meowth answered. “Mime Jr. told it dat we’re James’s best friends, and not to worry about us.”
“Why would the Fearow want to know that?” Jessie wondered, puzzled.
“Because James caught dis Fearow,” Meowth answered, listening hard to the conversation between the two Pokemon. “It wants ta know if it can trust us.”
“James caught a Fearow?” Jessie asked, surprised.
“I’ve been working with a Pokemon owned by a member of Team Rocket?” Silver asked, even more incredulous than Jessie. “Why would it work with me to destabilize Team Rocket if it’s owned by a Rocket?”
“If ya’d just let me listen to da bird, I’d be able to let ya know,” Meowth said to him a little crossly. “Right start at da beginning,” he told the Fearow. Training its attention on Meowth, the Fearow began to caw out its explanation. “Okay, so James caught ya when ya fell out of a tree after a mean trainer with an Electivire attacked da nest,” Meowth repeated. “He seemed like a nice guy so ya decided ta follow him around and be one of his Pokemon. Den one day you’d stopped and dat nasty trainer sprung a trap on James. He got taken away by a bunch’a Grunts and his other Pokemon were taken too. They didn’t get you because they didn’t see ya up in a tree.
“When ya followed dem, ya heard ’em say dat he was gonna be killed, just like dey tried ta do wid me an’ Jessie. Dey took him inside an’ you waited outside for a coupla days, butcha didn’t see him again. Den one day dis man ran outside chased by a buncha Grunts. So ya decided to help him out, cause by dis time ya hate dose Rockets, and you been helpin’ him up till now.”
“Wait,” Jessie said, beginning to panic. “So does that mean James is still inside? Or is he already...” She couldn’t finish the sentence, but Silver took over.
“He wearing a white uniform like yours – minus the skirt – and have blue hair?” he enquired.
“You’ve seen him?” Jessie gasped.
“They put him in my cell,” Silver answered. “Then one guy – a nasty trainer with an Electivire – called him out of the cage, saying he had one last chance to save his life and to go with him. Then he shocked me and left, but forgot to lock the cage door. That’s how I was able to get out and escape. Your friend is alive, but for how long I have no clue; any inkling as to why they want him dead?”
“Not a clue,” Jessie answered. “They sent two of their Grunts – who were coincidentally our biggest rivals – to kill me and Meowth. We’d be dead if a kid and his Tyranitar hadn’t stopped them. I’m guessing that this guy with the Electivire found James and tricked him into going back to the base.” She sighed. “Meowth and I can’t go back; we’ve got a price on our heads and if we return we’ll be killed. We aren’t Team Rocket anymore.”
“If you can’t go back, then why are you standing right outside the base?” Silver asked her accusingly.
“We were looking for da north coast,” Meowth answered, glaring daggers at Jessie. “Someone can’t navigate.”
“I said I was sorry!”
“You never said anything like!”
Silver sighed, watching them bicker. “You can’t return, so it’s no good just standing around here,” he said, glancing back in the direction of the headquarters. “Your fellow Rockets want you dead?”
“The boss and Cassidy do at least,” Jessie answered.
“Then you can help me,” Silver said bluntly. “There’s something suspicious going on inside your HQ. I was in there earlier today to get back my Pokemon and a Moltres suddenly came from nowhere and blasted its way out of the castle. It got caught again, thanks to Pokemon Hunter J, but...”
“You tink dere may be more dan dat Moltres being held,” Meowth realized.
“Right,” Silver nodded. “If we work as a team we can sneak inside, free the legendary Pokemon, and cripple the Rockets plan!”
“Sounds dangerous,” Jessie muttered, and Silver grinned wolfishly.
“Danger is my middle name,” he said.
“Yeah? What’s your first?” Meowth asked.
“Silver,” he said. “Now if you’re gonna help me out, come with me; I’ve know a place we can hide while we plan. If you’re not, well,” he shrugged, “best of luck to you.” He turned and began walking deeper off into the trees.
“Do we go with him or go north?” Jessie asked Meowth.
“If we go wid him, we ain’t gonna get lost at least,” Meowth answered, following the gigantic man into the forest.
“So the Wobbuffet’s doing okay?” Ash asked.
“Better than okay,” Brock said, shaking his head in amazement. “I’ve never seen a Pokemon so near death recover so quickly! It’s incredible. That Wobbuffet is already walking around; if its trainer happened to pass by today, I think it would be ready to travel by tomorrow.”
“That’s great news,” Ash said, leaning back against his chair and closing his eyes.
“So Rey’s still training?” Brock asked.
“Mmmhmm,” Ash answered, his eyes still closed. “Dawn went down about an hour ago to train with her; it’ll really help Rey to go against a Contest style since she’s never battled a Coordinator before.”
“Ash,” Anabel called, walking onto the balcony. “There’s a phone call for you. It’s Professor Oak.”
“Thanks, Anabel,” Ash said, opening his eyes and swinging his legs over the side of his chair. “I think I know what this is about.” He tried to get up and realize he was stuck in his position. “Uhh, little help?” he asked.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Brock sighed.
May was already at the phone when Ash arrived. “Anabel told me on the way up to you,” she explained. “It’s about the infection that I had.”
“I thought it might be,” Ash said, sitting down on the bench next to her and looking at the video screen. “Professor Oak; what’s the news?”
“Well, you were partially right, Ash,” Professor Oak answered, his face a little pale. “It isn’t the Pokerus, but it’s very similar genetically. We aren’t sure what it is; nothing like this has ever been described before. It’s possible May was the first person ever to be infected by it.”
“So you don’t know anything about it?” Ash asked.
“Nothing for certain, but we can guess quite a bit by drawing on our knowledge of the Pokerus.” Professor Oak said. “For instance, one of the side effects of the Pokerus in a Pokemon is increased power and strength. So...”
“So you mean I could be as strong as a superhero?” May asked, her voice rising in excitement.
“Well, no,” Professor Oak said with a smile. “A Pokemon’s strength is increased gradually over the 24 hours of infection. You were only infected for two hours tops, and the fever would have killed you if it had been any longer than that. My guess is that you’ll be stronger than you were before, but not by too much.”
“Oh,” May said, disappointed.
“Cheer up; it means it’ll be easier to do housework and move heavy objects,” Oak said.
“Great,” she grumbled.
“Professor,” Ash interrupted, “when Latias was infected, you sent nearly everybody outside since she was contagious. Could May have passed on the disease to any of us?” Oak shook his head.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “If the disease had spread to any of you, you’d have shown the symptoms days ago. You don’t have anything to worry about there.”
“That’s a relief,” Ash said. “Oh, I almost forgot; Lt. Surge gave me some sort of rock to give to you. The Zap Plate, or something like that?”
“Yes,” Oak said, frowning. “I was meaning to ask you about that. You see, I had fifteen other plates in my basement lab, but they’ve all been stolen.”
“What?” May asked, surprised.
“Yes, it was a nasty shock. We discovered it the morning after Paul threatened Delia,” Oak said. “Tracey thinks that the two events may be connected.”
“So Paul isn’t travelling alone?” Ash asked with a sinking heart. May gave him an ‘I told you so’ look.
“That could well be the case,” Oak answered. “We know Paul’s after the GS Ball, but we had no clue about the Plates. It’s possible that they were stolen by somebody entirely different, but...” he paused. “I’ll do some research to try and see if there are any historical connections between the GS Ball and the stone Plates. I’ll let you know if I find anything out.”
“Right,” Ash nodded. Professor Oak gave him a long, searching look.
“Be careful, Ash. Paul wants the GS Ball, and he knows you have it. If he is after the Zap Plate and finds out that you have that as well... It’s imperative that he doesn’t get either one.”
“I understand, Professor,” Ash said quietly. “I’m going to leave the Battle Tower tomorrow and keep going west. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to reach Tohjo Falls, and then I can cut south and back to Pallet Town.”
“Hopefully you’ll lose him on the river,” Oak said. “Be careful, Ash.”
“I will,” Ash answered, and the connection was terminated.
“You’re leaving tomorrow and then you’ll cut south to Pallet?” May echoed. “You know damn well that I’m going with you, Ash Ketchum.”
“Of course,” Ash said with a smile.
“And I doubt that Brock, Rey, or Dawn will want to stay behind either,” she added. “Stop trying to get rid of us.”
“I’m sorry May, and I’m not trying to do that,” Ash said. “It’s just... I’m worrying about Paul, and whether we can find a way to destroy the GS Ball.”
“You’ll find a way,” she said softly, putting an arm around him and resting her head on his shoulder. “I know you will.”
“But at what cost?” he asked, returning the gesture.
"Ash," May said, looking him in the eyes. "You have the GS Ball for a reason; you're the only one who can protect us by keeping it away from Paul. And if, to protect us, you have to destroy it..."
"Then that's exactly what will happen," he finished. They were silent for a moment, and then...
"Ash?" May asked softly.
"When you were battling Cynthia... At the end of the ten-minute break, I was feeling kinda down. But then Anabel told me that you were wearing half-a-ribbon around your neck, and it cheered me up." She hesitated. "Was it... was it our ribbon?" Ash nodded.
"Going into that match, I knew I'd need all the inspiration I could get. And that's why I wore the ribbon."
"I don't understand."
"You're my inspiration, May," he said tenderly. "I wore it because it reminded me of you, and it gave me the strength I needed. Having that ribbon there with me... it was like having a part of you there by my side. You inspired me to battle, and you inspired me to win. When I was out there against Cynthia, I wasn't battling for myself, or for a title. I was battling for you."
“Team Rocket and Deoxys?” Drew repeated. “Almost nothing, besides the fact that Deoxys helped to destroy my hometown and terrorized some of my friends; why?”
“Team Rocket is a really nasty criminal gang who steal Pokemon,” Max answered, still moving towards Mount Silver. “They’re always trying to get stronger and stronger Pokemon; why they want or need them, I really have no idea. They mainly operate in Kanto and Johto, but they started to spread into Sinnoh a few years ago.”
“Deoxys is a legendary Pokemon that came from another planet,” Max said. “There are three on the planet that I know of; the two that were in LaRousse City, and one that was revived here in Kanto.” He hesitated a moment before continuing. “The one in Kanto is my friend. I was supposed to meet it around lunch today, but it never showed up.”
“So what does that have to do with the Team Rocket?” Drew asked. Max pointed in the direction they were heading.
“From my, ah, past experiences in this region, I happened to find out that the Team Rocket headquarters are somewhere around Mount Silver.”
“They’re that close to civilization?” Drew asked, frowning.
“I wouldn’t say they’re that close,” Max answered. “The Battle Tower is just over a day’s walk away, but apart from that there’s wilderness for miles and miles. Even the toughest trainers generally shy away from this area, since the Pokemon here are so dangerous.”
“So you decided to meet with Deoxys in a dangerous and inhospitable area, only a couple of hours away from Team Rocket headquarters?” Drew asked.
“Okay, it was a stupid idea. I came up here to challenge my abilities, and I never thought Deoxys would just disappear.”
“So you think Team Rocket may have captured it?”
“Deoxys has never let me down before, and it’s the kind of Pokemon Team Rocket would love to get their hands on.”
“So what are you going to do?” Drew asked.
“Break into their headquarters and free Deoxys,” Max answered fiercely. Drew paused.
“Are you sure you don’t want to think of a better plan?” he asked.
“Like actually sitting down and coming up with ideas on how to do this,” Drew said. “When Flygon and I crashed, it was because a woman on her Salamence had beaten us in a fight in mid-air.” Max nodded.
“I saw the battle.”
“Then you also saw how badly I did against her,” Drew said. “I’m not sure if she was a Rocket or not, but she was stealing my Pokemon. In a one-on-one fight with her, I lost. Now, imagine the two of us going up against all of Team Rocket. What do you think is going to happen?”
“Do you have a better plan?” Max challenged.
“As a matter of fact, I do!” Drew shot back. “Now if you’ll just spare your most hated enemy five minutes to talk, we might just be able to get in and out of Team Rocket’s base alive.”
“Five minutes, Drew,” Max said, stopping and turning to face him. “Start talking.”