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Thread: Pokémon: Origins

  1. #1
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    Default Pokémon: Origins

    ((Edit - 12/29/08: Found out how to circumvent the error- posting has resumed. Chapter two up in full.))

    So, here it begins, the GARhalla writing group's first foray into the fanfiction world, the product of our blood, sweat and half a year of caffiene-fueled overnight brainstorming sessions. I'll try not to drag on, but some things bear explaining. This is something of an AU. The storyline draws its basis almost entirely from the Pokemon anime, and everything from the anime canon, up until the end of Battle Frontier (disregarding the events of the MFTV movie Mewtwo Returns), makes up the past of this universe. The moment Ash Ketchum returns to Pallet Town after his Frontier conquest, the storylines diverge. This universe's Ash has decided to remain in Kanto and use the remainder of the year to train for the upcoming Indigo League tournament, in hopes of claiming the championship he'd failed to obtain after his first year of being a trainer.

    We are greatly encouraging reader criticism on this story, as it is our first. Basically, if you see something wrong, if you see something you don't like, if you see dead people, we wanna hear about it. The same, of course, goes for the more positive stuff, though that's secondary. So, friendly neighborhood reviewers, have at it.

    That just about covers it. If you're curious about anything else, click the link in the signature; you should be able find what you're looking for, along with chapters one and two, if you're interested.

    On with the show.

    - Boss Coffee, GARhalla Head Writer


    ---


    Pokémon: Origins


    ---

    Prologue: The Best and the Brightest

    A soft wind swept along the dirt path, lazily stretching its whispering fingers throughout the town of Pallet. Perhaps it was this wind that made the day seem so momentous. Perhaps it was the fact that the movement of life seemed always to pull things from this quaint town, often never to return. The valley town on the Kanto coast was something of a jumping-off point; a pastoral hideaway from which so many had, in the past, set out on the journeys that had defined their very beings. Most people regarded Indigo Plateau as the birthplace of pokemon champions, but in reality, it was always Pallet.

    All too often, those who journey have eyes only for the end, the finale, the prize, and as they close their fists and take what is theirs, all else is forgotten. Many of those who championed the league have lived out their entire lives on the spoils, the sponsorships and endorsements, in the end only as victorious as they are unfulfilled. They are those who speak only of the end, and ironically, those who are doomed never to reach it.

    It is only the true champions who remember the beginning.

    ---

    "I want to be the be~st... there ever wa~s... to beat all the re~st... yeah, that's my caussse..."

    Ash Ketchum sung absently, shaking a dangling foot and bobbing his head in time to the tune playing through his brand new Silph PokeGear. The pricey piece of technology was a gift from his mother upon his return from his Battle Frontier challenge. He hadn't quite puzzled out all the functions yet, but he could make calls, listen to music and tell the time of day, and that was good enough for him.

    As the familiar beats of Ash's favorite song continued to pulse through his ears, a warm noon breeze overtook the branches of the tree in which he was perched, ruffling his already unkempt clothes and hair and stirring him from his musical reverie. Pikachu, snoozing in the branch above Ash's, perked up up his ears as he noticed the slight movement from his friend and the sudden cessation of his off-key singing. Leaves rustled over Ash's head as the small, yellow pokemon leapt down from his branch and into his trainer's lap, receiving an affectionate scratch behind his banana-shaped ears for his trouble.

    A contented sigh drifted from the boy's lips as he gazed out at the entire spread of his tiny hometown from his spot in the tree.

    Home again, home again...

    The tall, leafy tree on the wide, sloping hill behind the Professor's laboratory, a long-standing fixture on the Oak ranch, had been Ash's favorite spot since his earliest recollection. Whether he was snacking on an apple beneath its branches at the age of five, or hiding amongst them after shirking his chores at the age of ten, Ash always considered the large tree synonymous with home. Now nearly fifteen and back under the great shadow of its myriad branches once again, he almost felt as though he'd never left.

    "But we did leave, didn't we, buddy..."

    "Pika?" Pikachu responded quizzically, cocking his head to the right as he did.

    Realizing how odd his question must have sounded out of context, Ash laughed.

    "Indigo. Orange. Silver. Ever Grande. ...and Battle Frontier," he mused aloud.

    Pikachu was becoming more confused by the second, but decided to brush it off. He'd long ago accepted the fact that his best friend was an oddity, even amongst humans, and it was best not to read too far into his ramblings. Still, Pikachu could understand the gist of what his trainer was talking about, and covertly rolled his dark eyes as he realized Ash was about to launch into yet another of his (mostly self-)motivational speeches.

    Ash flexed his dangling legs and pumped them quickly forward, hurling his body off of the thick branch and landing in the grass below. Pikachu touched down easily on all fours in front of him, pivoting on his hind legs to look his friend in the eye.

    Ash's right hand balled into a tight fist as his eyes traveled over the tiled roofs of the houses and shops of Pallet, finally coming to rest on the pokemon laboratory. Reaching into one of the cargo pockets of his baggy denim-pants, he yanked out a crumpled, red-and-black hat emblazoned with a blue Pokeball symbol and pulled it on over his shaggy, black hair.

    There was a brief moment of silence. Then he exploded.

    "This is it, Pikachu! This is where we show 'em all how far we've come, what all our hard work has added up to! Do you remember when we left this place the first time? You wouldn't listen to a damn thing I said, and probably for good reason," the dark-haired boy chuckled, grinning.

    "Pi-kaa," Pikachu noted in an almost markedly sarcastic tone.

    "Still..." Ash continued, "we toughed it out together. We fought through everything, against every odd, and made it all the way to Indigo Plateau."

    "Pikaa~pi!" Ash's partner pokemon interjected again, this time with a bit more energy.

    "Sixteenth place. Pretty good for an amateur. Damn good for a first-year. But not good enough. I, we, set out to be the best, to be a master of pokemon with the best pokemon at my side. You guys were definitely the best, but that year I just wasn't up to snuff.

    This year will be different. After almost four years of training, we've all come such a long way, and this year I think we can hold our heads high here, in our home region, in our home league and conference, because this year..."

    Ash pulled open his vest, revealing six Poke Balls on his belt. Throwing his arms wide, he cast away all of them at once. The six red-and-white orbs hit the grass before him, revealing their occupants in a blinding flash of white light. Alongside Pikachu now stood Charizard, Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Kingler, Muk and Tauros.

    A fierce grin came across Ash's face, his expression mirrored in some way by each of his pokemon.

    "...we're gonna be the BEST."

    ---

    South of Pallet, miles out over the ocean, a heavily shadowed figure sat in a dimly lit, windowless room, contemplating his next move in a very complicated game of chess.

    Brushing a strand of long hair out of his face, the person behind the shadows contemplated the common use of his current situation as a simile for an insurmountably difficult situation.

    Like playing three-dimensional chess against an Alakazam...

    He almost laughed, but stopped himself.

    "You may just as well have indulged yourself, master," the Alakazam "said" in its telepathic monotone. "Verbal restraint is meaningless when one's opponent is psychic. ...Bishop to E-7b; check."

    "Indeed." The figure's voice was electronically distorted, but noticeably masculine. "A passing shortcoming in logic; how very unlike me. King to-"

    The surface of the right arm of the mystery figure's leather-upholstered desk chair vibrated harshly, interrupting the calling of his next move. A red light was blinking on the integrated console, accompanied by a staggered series of buzzing noises from the small speaker set therein. The pattern was indicative of a high-priority call.

    The long-haired man sighed.

    "A moment's pardon, Tzu. I must take this."

    "Again, you hardly needed to vocalize that thought," responded the Alakazam, Tzu.

    "Forgive me my propriety," the mystery man drawled sarcastically.

    "Once more? How many times must I repeat myself? I was under the impression that you were considered a genius."

    Another sigh, and the man slid open a small panel on the armrest, removing a bluetooth earpiece and wedging it over his right ear before tapping a button on the console. The vibration and buzzing ceased, and the red light changed to green.

    "This is the Boss. Speak," the mystery figure said in his deep, electronically-modified tone.

    "Sir," came a man's voice through the earpiece, "this is Professor Sebastian."

    "I am aware," the shadowy 'Boss' responded. "What is so urgent?"

    "As you know, sir, my branch and I have been monitoring the area around the Seafoam Islands for the presence of Articuno. Our external search has revealed little we do not already know, but recently, our observation of the aerial infrared sweep has revealed something interesting. As I'm sure you are already aware, the core temperature of the islands fluctuates violently in regular intervals: a great chill beginning halfway through spring that declines slowly through summer and fall, only to peter out entirely in winter. This flux has occurred without fail in this precise manner for as long it has been recorded. However, as we approach the end of May, the full force of the chill has yet to hit. I believe that this can mean one of only two things. I believe Articuno is either dead, or-"

    "-or it is with child." The Boss finished for him. "Most unusual; I was under the impression that the Omega pokemon, the so-called "legendaries", were one-of-a-kind."

    "Yes, sir. You are correct on both counts, but as Namba's previous research with Lugia proved, there are certain exceptions."

    "I was aware. It's good to hear you've been doing your homework. Anyhow, this is indeed most interesting news, but I assume that you made this call not only for the sake of sharing with me this enlightening little morsel. What is it that you require?"

    "How typically astute of you, sir. The ice caves under the islands where the bird nests are somehow impenetrable to our aerial sonar. Apparently, their constitution and construction naturally inhibit sonic mapping."

    The Boss nodded.

    "Understandable. The bird's choice of quarters would of course provide the best of protection and seclusion. I trust your sonar has at least found you the most viable entrance?"

    "Indeed. I ordered a reconnaissance group to map out the interior of the caves, but the islands' innards have proven both more labyrinthine and treacherous than any of us could have assumed. I need more support, both human and pokemon, as well as the adequate supplies and equipment, before the expedition can continue."

    "Very well," the Boss replied, "I shall see to it that your team gets the resources it needs. Boss out."

    He terminated the communique with the press of a button.

    "Well," Tzu telepathically intoned, "I believe our game will have to be postponed. A pity. My ego was due for a good stroking."

    "Another day, perhaps. You may go."

    The Alakazam nodded his large head and exited the room without another word.

    Closing his eyes and lacing his fingers, the man known as 'the Boss' turned over in his mind the information he had just received, internally catalouging the facts into specific channels of his brain and examining their effects on his plan as a whole. The news of a possible second Articuno was indeed fortuitous, but its effect on his strategy at large was fairly minimal. An infant Omega-type raised from birth as a Rocket warrior would be a powerful ally and a great boon in future endeavors, but he could not allow himself to be too distracted by the new development. There were still many more Omega pokemon to capture, and all available resources needed to be channeled into their pursuit. That said... the new Articuno could be instrumental in subduing some of the more powerful of them. Perhaps... Yes. The pregnant Articuno's capture was now first priority. This was the most viable course of action; the power of a Rocket-controlled Articuno was well worth the delay and change in the overall strategy.

    His eyes snapped open as he unlaced his fingers.

    He turned his chair towards a monitor display, a hologram system that projected an array of individual screens across a single, giant pane of smoked glass. He called up one of many holographic keyboard layouts onto the smaller pane of glass before him and, grinning catlike, cracked his knuckles.

    There was much plotting to be done.

    ---
    Last edited by GARizard; 29th December 2008 at 10:54 AM.
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  2. #2
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    Chapter 1: To Be the Best

    "Electivire, use Thunder Punch!"

    A massive, yellow-furred fist collided with the side of Pikachu's head, sending a shower of electricity spraying out from the point of impact. The voltage coursed through the smaller pokemon's body, amplifying the force of Electivire's physical blow and sending Pikachu hurtling toward the ground. It collided with the soft earth and slumped to the ground, out of the fight.

    Ash had been practicing here, on Professor Oak's private battlefield, since he'd returned to Pallet. Though the field was well below regulation size, and surfaced with grass, rather than dirt, he found it a more than suitable place to train for Indigo, and besides, he had a damn good training partner.

    Ash leapt forward to his pokemon's side, eyes full of concern for Pikachu as he crouched alongside him in the dirt.

    "Pikachu! You okay, buddy?"

    The electric mouse pokemon responded with a dazed "Pii" and rocked itself to its feet.

    "All right!" Ash grinned, ruffling the fur on Pikachu's head. "Can't keep ya down, can they?"

    Gary Oak sighed, recalling his Electivire into its Pokeball.

    "Close enough to it, Ash," he said, running a hand through his spiky brown hair. Currently on break from his research in the Sinnoh region to help Ash train for his second Kanto League run, he'd traded in his labcoat for a more casual ensemble of a black t-shirt and beige slacks. "That match was all mine; you can't congratulate Pikachu just for not getting knocked out."

    "Are you saying we're doing something wrong?" Ash questioned his old rival with a challenging air.

    "Well... yes. Look, Pikachu's really well-trained, and it can hold its own against just about anything, but-"

    "So what's the problem, then?"

    "The problem is that there's a difference between 'holding your own' and 'winning'. You've seen it yourself, how the League matches are. D'ya really think anyone there is just trying to 'hold their own'?"

    "How about the Frontier Brains? What about Brandon and Regice? Were they just 'holding their own', too?"

    "Pipi-PI!" Pikachu agreed vehemently.

    "I'll admit, that must have been quite a battle, but a single win doesn't mean much, in the grand scheme of things, and Iron Tail probably accounted for almost all of the damage you did to Regice, right? What would've happened if Pikachu hadn't learned it?"

    "...But he did, so what's it matter?"

    "What I'm saying, Ash, is that luck is one thing, but it's skill and power that'll see you through the League Championship. You've got the skill, that much is clear, but you're lacking in power. Right now, half your team consists of unevolved pokemon, and while they're all great in their own right, so are everyone else's who'll make it through the prelims, and you can bet they'll all be fully or partially evolved. Imagine a well-trained bulbasaur up against a well-trained venusaur. Answer me honestly, Ash, who d'you think would win?"

    Ash pondered this for a moment, rubbing his chin.

    "Blastoise."

    "Huh?"

    "Blastoise versus charizard. Who do you think would win?" Ash asked, smiling.

    Gary grinned back sheepishly, scratching the back of his head.

    "Okay, so you got me there," he conceded, remembering his match against Ash in the Johto league quarterfinals.

    "I'll admit that evolution and type matching count for a lot in a battle," Ash went on, "but there's more to this than facts and figures. It's not that I don't want stronger pokemon, I just think the pokemon deserves the final word; if they don't wanna evolve, I won't force 'em. Besides, when I think back to all the elite trainers I've met over the past few years, I don't believe that they got to where they were by pushing pokemon to evolve against their will. Yeah, there might be a difference between 'winning' and 'holding your own', but there's also a difference between being 'strong' and being 'the best'."

    Gary laughed.

    "Still all hung up on being 'the best', huh?" he chided jokingly, making quotation mark gestures with his fingers. "I don't think they've invented a 'Pokemon Master' title yet; think you can settle for 'Champion'?"

    "I guess I could deal with that 'til something better came along."

    "Heh. Yeah, I'll bet."

    Gary plopped down onto the grass next to Ash, and Pikachu settled into Ash's lap.

    "What's your grandfather been up to lately?" Ash asked earnestly. He hadn't seen hide nor hair of the pokemon professor for weeks. It was a curious occurence; Oak was the heart of Pallet, and could almost always be seen bustling about somewhere around town.

    "Ah, he's been holed up in his study for a while now," Gary responded dismissively. "The head of my research team in Sinnoh, John Rowan, is an old friend of his, and he ended up coming back here with me. They've been sipping drinks and talking about old times since the moment we arrived."

    "Ah. I see."

    There was a long pause in conversation as the group gazed out over the horizon, each lost in his own thoughts. Suddenly, a sharp gust suddenly blew through the small, grassy battlefield where the two boys (and one pokemon) sat, stirring the well-trimmed turf and ruffling fur and hair before continuing on through the rest of the fields behind the pokemon lab and out toward the northwest. Toward Indigo Plateau.

    As if on cue, Gary broke the silence.

    "So, Ash, think you can take it this time?"

    "Huh?"

    "Indigo. We're leaving tomorrow, right? Think you've got it in you to be champ?"

    "Absolutely. I'm the man who's gonna be the best! The whole reason I'm back is to clear a black mark on my record, and the only way to show 'em how far we've come is to take the title."

    Gary leaned back on his hands.

    "That's a good mindset to have. You won't get anywhere if you're not shooting for number one. ...I think that might be why I lost to you in the end."

    "Who knows?"

    Another long silence passed before, suddenly, Gary pushed himself up to his feet.

    "Ash, I know you didn't get this far by planning ahead, and I know you don't take a whole lot of stock in facts and figures, but there's something you need to see and learn if you plan on getting any further. Come with me."

    "Well," Ash said, getting to his feet as well, "if it improves our chances, I'll give it a shot. C'mon, Pikachu."

    Pikachu leapt up onto Ash's shoulders with a "Cha!", and the two followed Gary back toward the laboratory.

    ---

    The main room of the lab was as simultaneously spacious and cluttered as ever. The interior of the large, two-story structure adjacent to the Professor's home was a shining testament to his slightly scatterbrained genius. The upper floor, composed only of wide, steel walkways running the circumference of the building's interior, was stocked with large, highly complex-looking machinery, with bunches of loose wires and cables dangling precariously over the sides of the catwalk railings like a trellis of roboticized vines. Ash had no clue what any of the doodads on the second floor did, and even Gary couldn't have explained the majority of them.

    The ground floor was more of a traditional laboratory setup. While there were a good number of intimidating techno-thingies along the walls, including a huge computer array covering the entirety of the lab's rear wall, most of the floor space was taken up by desks and lab tables, each strewn with various articles, from loose notes and books to bunsen burners and half-charred beakers. A half-eaten bowl of instant ramen sat on one of the desks, giving off a strong scent of kimchee. Ash recognized a Poke Ball transporter in the left corner of the lab, and the slightly theatrical-looking pedestal-thing from which Oak typically handed out Pokeballs to starting trainers.

    Inside the main room, Gary settled into a wheeled desk chair, rolling it across the room and up to one of the many computer terminals on the far wall of the ground floor.

    Silently, he switched on the monitor and began tapping at the screen with his fingers. As Ash looked on, the pressure-sensitive touch screen responded to Gary's rapid commands, opening menus and files, selecting and deselecting various options.

    -continued in next post-
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  3. #3
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    Ash was positively perplexed. He could never have been counted amongst the "techno-savvy" youth, and given the sheer speed of technological development over the past several years, he'd been left light-years in the dust. His home PC barely saw any use at all, and was outdated even when it was new, not that it mattered much to him. Being away from home the vast majority of the time, he almost never had a chance to use it, let alone a reason. Leave computers to the geeks and the researchers; that was his thought on the subject, and that was precisely what he did. As Gary continued to toil away at the computer, his fingers now clacking rapidly across the keyboard, Ash's attention drifted away from the monitor and back toward the Poke Ball pedestal.

    Pikachu, still perched on his friend's shoulder, followed Ash's gaze. As he, too, looked at the pedestal, there seemed to be moment of concurrent understanding between Pokemon and trainer. There was a certain reverence in the pair's eyes as they looked simultaneously forward and back, taking in both memories of the past and prospects of the future. Ash had felt an especially odd sense of nostalgia ever since he'd returned to Pallet, but looking at the pedestal brought the feeling surging to the surface. He turned his head, catching Pikachu's eye and whispering in his ear.

    "I know I've said it before, and I know how corny it sounds, but this is it. This is destiny. Coming back to Kanto, challenging Battle Frontier, returning to where it all began... it was the perfect time to take on Indigo again. Too perfect to be coincidence. We're gonna win, buddy, I can feel-"

    "Hey, Ash," Gary interrupted. "You gonna look at this, or what?"

    Ash's immediate reaction was to say something snappy, but he thought better of it, and turned his attention dutifully back to the computer.

    Prominently displayed on the monitor was the red-and-white outline of a Pokeball, the stylized "L" symbol of the Pokemon League emblazoned above the release button. The ball itself was framed by the words "Pokemon League", perhaps for the benefit of the five-or-so people on the face of the Earth who couldn't identify the League symbol on sight. Ash, of course, could. That little "L" was the centerpiece of his once-prized old cap, long since discarded in some dusty corner of his room.

    Ash's interest was instantly secured.

    "That's the League Emblem... what is this?"

    Gary allowed himself a small, self-satisfactory smirk.

    "This, Ash, is the League database. It contains every last bit of publicly available pokemon-related data that the League possesses. A veteran trainer such as yourself should have half the stuff in it memorized by now, but since you're a little late for that, I'll give you the crash course."

    Ash was awestruck. Pikachu looked vacant.

    "How long has this been around?"

    "Since before you and I were born, Ashy-boy. It's the pro trainer's oldest and arguably most valuable asset. Look here..."

    Gary tapped at the screen, selecting the text field captioned "Trainer ID#", and hammered out a string of seven numbers on the keyboard, followed by a censored code in a second field. As he hit the "enter" key, the screen changed to the database homepage, a multi-tiered index headed by a "Search" field and the phrase, "Welcome, Gary Samuel Oak."

    "I thought you retired?" Ash queried.

    -continued in next post-
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  4. #4
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    "I did, but I still need a valid trainer's license, obviously," Gary responded, tapping one of the Pokeballs attached to his belt. "So anyway, the database has three tiers: one available to the general public, one for us trainers, and one for League use only. Right now, we're logged on to trainer version, which means we get access to some of the juicier tidbits and in-depth data that the general populace misses out on. You have access to this one, obviously, and you can view it from any computer with internet access, so long as you have your ID card. Since you're participating in the Indigo tourney, let's call up a list of this year's registered participants..."

    "You can do that?"

    "Absolutely."

    His fingers blurring across the keys yet again, Gary flew through several screens in a matter of seconds, ending up with a rather long list of those trainers lucky and skilled enough to qualify for the League tournament, organized alphabetically by last name.

    Gary flicked his cursor over a random name ("BARTONNE, RAYMOND", Ash read).

    "Clicking on a participant's name," Gary said, clicking on Raymond Bartonne's, "opens their trainer profile. Profiles have a headshot of the trainer, detail personal statistics, age, hometowns and such, past League activity, awards, merits, and honors, and, most usefully, pokemon data."

    "Wow," Ash chuckled nervously, suddenly very aware of his technological ignorance. "Seriously?"

    "And it's all updated daily by League Central," Gary said, closing Bartonne's profile and swiveling his chair around to look Ash in the face. "Thousands of trainers out there know you like the back of their hand, 'Ketchum, Ashton'. It's about time you got to know some of them."

    Ash put on his best determined face.

    "Where do I start?"

    "Well," Gary said, turning himself back around, "I've kinda taken the liberty of starting for you. I skimmed the Indigo contestants' profiles and bookmarked the ones who look like the most trouble. I also hit up some of the trainer blogs and channels online, to see who's a hot topic this year, and I came away with some interesting info."

    "What's that?" Ash asked, now leaning over Gary's shoulder slightly, intent on absorbing as much useful information as possible.

    "It seems like you're one of this year's hot buttons, Ash. Anyone who places in an annual tournament their first year is someone to watch out for, but you've gone beyond that. By traveling abroad in different regions, and participating in different leagues, you've built yourself a powerful and varied team that not many can match, especially those who've confined themselves to Kanto. Your Battle Frontier wins are also public knowledge; you're one of a grand total of five, count 'em, five people in this tournament who've conquered the Frontier. You're quite the respected trainer, pal."

    Ash was speechless.

    "Y-you're serious? That's awesome."

    "Don't let it go to your head, though," Gary continued. "You've still got some stiff competition at Indigo. There're a few familiar faces, too. Remember her?"

    Gary opened one of his bookmarked profiles.

    "FISHER, JEANETTE", it read. Next to the name, there was a picture of a pretty young woman with light green eyes and long, black hair tied up with a large bow. She wore a kimono and a determined smile.

    "Yeah, I remember her. She'd be no problem for me now, though."

    "Bear in mind, Ash, that you're not the only one who's been training these past few years. She's way stronger than she was the last time you met. Like you, she beat the Frontier. Unlike you, she did it last year."

    "That's quite a leap for someone who uses only grass and bug-types," Ash said, impressed.

    "She's still got that motif going, but with a few new twists. Check it out."

    Gary scrolled down to the listing of Jeanette's pokemon.

    Ash whistled.

    "Beedrill and bellsprout are the same ol' stuff, but scizor, exeggutor and heracross... She's been a busy girl. Still, I think I can rely on Charizard to make the sweep."

    "Don't bank on it. Weren't you the one going on about how typing can't account for everything? Look here..." Gary said, scrolling further down the page. "Her official match records include victories against several fire-types, and anyone who's anyone is gonna be packing a secret trump card. The database only keeps tabs on pokemon used in official League matches."

    "I'll keep that in mind, but c'mon... it's Charizard."

    Gary smirked.

    "That's a valid point, too. Alright, next we have Alan Croket. Johto native. This guy kinda came outta left field; nobody's heard of him before, but he's got a solid battle record, and his team is both strong and varied."

    "He's gone eight for eight in the Gyms, but..." Ash trailed off.

    "...No other official records. This guy likes to play it close to the chest."

    "Yeah. It's weird."

    "Well, anyway, what do you think?"

    Ash considered the question a moment, looking over Croket's pokemon data and battle records carefully.

    "Okay... alakazam seems to be his main leadout, and it's definitely his strongest, so far as I can see. See here? He smashes through anything he can with alakazam's power, and tags it in and out with umbreon for support when he's in a tight spot. It's a more-or-less perfect combo."

    "Pretty much... now how do we break it?"

    "The number one problem is alakazam. It's psychic attacks are powerful, and we can't match its speed. I think our best chance is rush it from the get-go and beat it into the ground before Croket can get his bearings. Pikachu, I can count on you, right?"

    "Pi-KA!" Pikachu rejoined gamely, pumping a tiny fist.

    "It's a bit more complicated than that," Gary insisted. "This is one mean combo. I was pretty heavy on strategy back in the day, but the way he uses these two is... Well, let me put it this way: my alakazam and umbreon are great, but they wouldn't stand a chance. These two are good."

    "Then we'll just have to be better than that," Ash said firmly, his face set. "We've always made our way by pushing forward with everything we have and having faith in our own strength. It's nice to know what to watch out for, but there's no use in psyching ourselves out. All I need to know, and all I need to remember, is that we're gonna be the best in the world, and come what may, we'll win. So long as we keep believing that, there's nothing to fear."

    Gary stared at Ash for a moment before leaning back in his chair, his brown eyes uncharacteristically downcast.

    "Now I know..." He spoke quietly, his voice almost a whisper. "I finally know why I lost to you."

    Leaning forward slightly, he reached out and flicked a switch, throwing the monitor into darkness.

    "Hey! What're you-?" Ash reached out, as if about to stop Gary turning off the monitor, despite the fact that he'd already done so.

    "Ash. Listen." Gary cut Ash off, slumping back into his chair. "Back when you and I were rivals, I thought knowing this stuff- " He jerked a thumb at the now-blank monitor. "-was my advantage. Even after all this time watching you, I've realized only just now that needing it was my weakness.

    But you... you don't need this. Somehow, you're better off without it. Somehow, in defiance of all logic, you've managed to turn even ignorance into strength. Somehow, rather than having to use the odds to your advantage, you can simply cast them aside and continue on regardless. Were it anyone else, they would've crashed and burned a long time ago, but here you are... This is your power, Ash; this is why I lost to you, and this is why you can win here... No- why you can always win."

    This time, it was Ash's turn to stare, and as the apparent gravity of Gary's words sunk in, he started to laugh.

    Gary looked up, getting halfway out of his seat.

    "What? What's so funny?"

    "I dunno," Ash said, still chuckling. "I guess I just never thought about it that much, and now that you've brought it up, I'm suddenly realizing how odd it really is. I guess it seems like I have some sort of inner power, but truth be told, I don't think I'm different from anyone else. I just have this tendency to make it by the skin of my teeth. If anything, I'm just stubborn and lucky. ...But I think you're right, on one level: Why fix what isn't broken?"

    He grinned at Pikachu, scratching the electric Mouse Pokemon under its chin.

    "I guess. But I still think it's something deeper than that," Gary said, getting to his feet and checking his PokeGear for the time. "Anyway, it's getting late, Ash, and we're leaving for Indigo tomorrow morning; time to pack it in. Before you go, though, I'll ask you again: Think you've got what it takes?"

    Ash merely grinned in response.

    ---

    And so ends chapter one. Rather short, I know, and not the most exciting stuff in the world, either, but fear not; things start picking up in the next installment.

    Next time: Ash has taken the Indigo Conference by storm, easily smashing his way through the ranks, but we find him sweating on the eve of the semifinal bout. One fight away from the final match, he's finally starting lose his cool. Can he regain his confidence and win his toughest battle yet? And even if he does, he may yet find a far greater challenge just around the corner...

    All this and more in the next exciting episode of Dragon Ba- ...Oh, wait. That's not right.
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  5. #5
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    Author's Note - Kinda Important, Not Really:

    So folks, chapter two touches down with a crash; it's over five times as meaty as number one. Luckily for you folks at home, the majority of it is straight-up battling. Hopefully, this makes up for the distinct lack of action in chapter one.

    Anyhow I'd like take a moment to discuss setting, since it comes up once or twice in this chapter. Over the course of the Pokemon legacy, several real-world nations (USA, China, etc.) have been mentioned. The nation encompassing the various regions, though bearing striking resemblance to Japan, has never been named. In this story, it is Japan.

    On a totally unrelated note, this of one of a few chapters in this story that contains a blatant Gurren-Lagann homage. See the sig link for details on that, and watch the series if you haven't already; I swear, you'll never look at a drill the same way again.

    And that's all for now. Have fun, and as always, don't skimp on the criticism. If you see something in here that needs work/correction, let me know, and I'll be on it like artificial dye on your grandmother's fragrant toiletpaper.

    Peace.

    - Boss Coffee

    ---

    Chapter 2: True Warrior

    The roar of the crowd. The electricity on the air. The almost oppressive heat of the summer season mixed with the searing aura of Moltres' eternal flame presiding over the stands. The power. The prestige. The shock. The awe.

    The League.

    As the anguished cries of the defeated commingle with the triumphant shouts of the victorious, and the air rings with the cacophony of combat still in progress, every person present, every man, woman and child, feels their soul come alive with the raw thrill of battle. Pokemon and human alike bring the fruits of their long efforts, their very souls, to bear in this pinnacle, this climax of the past year and more. People from the entire nation over have traveled to Indigo Plateau for the simple, somewhat barbaric privilege of witnessing over two-hundred of the strongest trainers in the region pit their pokemon partners against each other in all-out combat.

    What draws these people here, to this spot, so inevitably? What force drives them to, every year, travel from far and wide to bear witness to this incredible contest of strength and will?

    One could say, and rightly so, that the League tournaments allow these "civilized" men and women a brief, primal release, a week-long window into a feral world long since left in the past, but from which certain primeval instincts remain. To witness violence and bloodshed, to sate their suppressed animalistic desires, they come to chant and cheer.

    Perhaps it is the regularity of the event's occurrence itself that so compels them. In a world of poverty, strife and chaos barely contained under the thin veneer of polite society and governmental control, the people of Kanto take comfort in the ever-present routine of the Pokemon League. They know that come hell or high water, regardless of circumstance, sometimes seemingly in defiance of fate, the annual summer championship will take place. So long as the League is open, they know that the world still turns.

    In all honesty, though, what drives these people so inevitably to Indigo year after year is no promise of bloodlust or fleeting comfort, but in fact, is something much simpler, much more human.

    What drives them is envy.

    If one thing can be said with certainty, it is that most, if not all of these tournament-goers were once trainers themselves, dreaming youngsters with their souls afire at the prospect of battling pokemon for a living. Most every bus driver, fry cook, accountant and plumber, most every human being in all of Japan was once an idealistic youngster with dreams of becoming a professional pokemon trainer. Unfortunately, just as surely as every child dreams, those same dreams are often trampled under the hard bootsoles of reality. The commonness of young, aspiring trainers is matched only by the scarcity of successful ones. Perhaps they lacked the talent, perhaps the maturity, perhaps the tenacity and drive, but regardless of reason, many a pokemon journey has ended on a poor note.

    Still, years later, after university, work and marriage, in the hearts and minds of these former dreamers, the fire is still alive. Though they may decry the notion of being a pro trainer as a child's pipe dream, an immature fantasy, their hearts betray them. Inside every girder-hefting construction worker and pencil-pushing desk jockey is a young boy or girl with a smile on their face and a Poke Ball in hand, and just once every year, that inner child gets to bask in the vicarious glory of witnessing the region's best going head-to-head. To many of the attendees, it's a mere glimpse of what might have been.

    ...Not that any of that matters to the participants, least of all one black-haired, cap-wearing young man one battle away from the final bout.

    ---

    "GAAAH." Ash half-sighed, half-groaned, letting his head fall backward against the wall of his room in the trainers' dormitories. There was an audible 'THUNK' as the back of his head hit the cheap drywall.

    He was sitting cross-legged on his dishevelled bed, back against the wall, with his cap placed over one knee and an almost untouched can of soda sitting in his lap. He buzzed his lips, absently gazing upward at the whirling blades of the fan that took up nearly half the ceiling of the tiny room.

    Across the room, a slightly annoyed-looking Gary sat with his chair tilted back against the wall, his legs up on a small table in front of him.

    "Ash, I know you're nervous about your match," he intoned dully, cocking one eyebrow, "but do you really need to make odd noises and hit your head on the wall every few seconds? You're about an hour away from bashing through into the next room."

    Ash laughed nervously, brushing a few stray bits of plaster from the back of his head.

    "Sorry, can't help it."

    "Look, Ash. There are better ways to deal with your nerves than concussing yourself... -or stuffing your face," Gary said, looking pointedly at Pikachu, who was sitting atop the table munching on a bowl of brown... something and looking thoroughly dissatisfied. He looked up at Gary momentarily, then back at his food before discreetly pushing the bowl of Pokechow off the table and into a trash can.

    "Well, what do you think I should do?" Ash said, somewhat gloomily.

    Gary let out a small laugh.

    "Why don't you go talk to your mother?"

    "Ah, that's just what I need: a lecture about changing my underwear and the importance of Vitamin C to kill the butterflies in my stomach. You must be joking."

    "I am, but it's still funny."

    Delia Ketchum had followed her son to Indigo Plateau, shacking up in a hotel just outside of the Trainers' Village, and had religiously attended each and every one of her son's matches, something that had only increased Ash's nervousness. Not only that, but she had recently begun hounding him about his health and hygiene between matches, much to his annoyance. Her presence at Indigo had really been nothing more than a bother to Ash, but he hadn't had the heart to tell her off.

    "Hey," Gary piped up again after a moment's pause, "I've got to go make some calls; think you can occupy yourself 'til I get back?"

    "Yeah, I guess."

    "Okay," Gary said, getting up. "I'll be back in bit."

    "Mmn," Ash grunted nonchalantly, collapsing sideways onto the bed.

    As Gary went out the door, Pikachu hopped off the table and onto the bed in front of Ash's face. He tugged on his trainer's face with a tiny paw.

    "Pi-kaa."

    "Gee," Ash said sarcastically, gently shoving Pikachu away, "that's not annoying at all."

    "Pii-kachu," Pikachu snapped back.

    "Yeah... you're right," Ash admitted, rolling himself off the bed and onto his feet. "I can't lie around forever."

    Snatching his cap up off the bed and tugging it firmly over his head, he walked over to the table and grabbed his PokeGear. Tapping a few buttons, he brought up his phone book, and, finding the number he wanted, hit the 'CALL' button.

    A second passed. Two. Three.

    "Hey! Richie! What's going on? You busy? ...Yeah, me too. Listen, you wanna get a bite in the village? ...How 'bout the burger place? It was good last time. ...Cool. I'll meet you there."

    The PokeGear beeped as Ash ended the call. He looked across the room at Pikachu, who was sniffing tentatively at the trash can where he had dumped his questionable meal.

    "Hey Pikachu, you wanna go out for burgers with Richie and Sparky?"

    "PI-KA!"

    ---

    Half an hour later, as the sun was setting on Indigo Plateau, Ash and Pikachu were sitting across a booth table from Richie and his Pikachu, Sparky, chowing down on the first full meal they'd eaten since the day before. Pre-battle nervousness had done no favors for Ash's appetite, and Pikachu, in the absence of cooked food, had been forced to down Pokechow, which he detested. Needless to say, the two were famished.

    "Ash," Richie laughed, "you guys should slow down. You're going to choke on something."

    "Mrrrphurger," Ash responded through a mouthful of hamburger.

    Pikachu, assaulting a basket of french fries, said nothing.

    Richie mock-sighed, slapping a hand over his face. Sparky the Pikachu mimicked his trainer, his lightning-bolt tail twitching in exasperation.

    Ash popped the last bit of his hamburger into his mouth and chewed ravenously before swallowing it down and following it up with the last of his cola.

    "Ahh, man," he sighed contentedly, "I didn't even realize how hungry I was."

    "Pikaaa..." Pikachu added, looking dejectedly at his now-empty basket.

    "Well, that's hardly a reason to risk asphyxiation," Richie joked, "especially considering your match tomorrow."

    Ash's stomach rumbled oddly.

    "Don't remind me," he groaned. "I can't even sleep; it's driving me up the wall."

    "Aw, c'mon. You've got it easy. I'm the one who should be worried. Jeanette's a pushover; but that Croket guy is one tough customer."

    "Right. She got to the damn semifinal on luck alone. She's just a pushover. It all makes such sense now," Ash droned sarcastically.

    "Well, okay, maybe she's tough, but so are you! It's taken me four years to get this far in Indigo, and you just drop in out of the blue and make it all the way to the semifinal round. It's not like you're here on luck alone, either."

    Ash allowed himself a small smile.

    "Yeah, I'm pretty good, huh?"

    "Damn right you are. Listen, Ash, I'll make you a deal: Let's both get through to the final round. It'll be you and me in the last match, like it should've been four years ago. Loser pays out half his prize money to the winner. Sound fun?"

    "Hmph," Ash smirked, his spirits rising at the prospect of a challenge from his old rival, "sounds good to me. But what makes you so sure you'll make it? I thought your fight was harder than mine?"

    Richie took one of his Poke Balls from his belt, holding it up for Ash to see. Like all his others, it had a star emblem, though, Ash noted, the star was upside-down on this one.

    "I've got a secret weapon. An ace in the hole, so to speak. I'm hoping to save it for the final, but if it comes down to it, I'll use it in tomorrow's match."

    "A secret, eh?" Ash got up from his seat, stepping out of the booth. "I'll look forward to seeing it in battle, but for now, I need to rest up for my match."

    "Right," Richie agreed, also getting up. "We're not in the final round just yet."

    The two boys split up at the door of the restaurant, each heading toward his respective dormitory.

    As Ash walked, Pikachu jumped up onto his shoulders with a pronounced "Pi!", slightly more energetic after eating a meal not born of a can.

    Ash patted his partner's head.

    "I think I needed that," he said, his voice clearer, more confident. "I don't know what I was thinking, but I know what I'm thinking now: We'll win tomorrow, no matter what it takes. We'll win."

    That night, the duo dreamt of victory.

    -continued in next post-
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  6. #6
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    "WELCOME, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, TO THE FIRST MATCH OF THE SEMIFINAL ROUND!"

    The stadium announcer's amplified voice boomed out over the stands, fully audible even over the trumpeting fanfare and the screams and cheers of the audience. It was another blazing hot summer day, and as usual, the sweltering heat of Moltres' flame cascading from the stone bowl at the head of the stadium did nothing to help the situation. Yet, in the face of the moment, the heat was utterly forgotten.

    "TODAY WE HAVE A SPECIAL GUEST IN THE ANNOUNCER'S BOX: RENOWNED POKEMON RESEARCHER, PROFESSOR SAMUEL OAK!"

    "Hello, everyone." The elder Oak's cheery voice rang through the loudspeakers, still audible, but not as obnoxiously loud as the announcer's.

    The tournament was coming to a head. Over two-hundred trainers had fought, long and hard, but now only four remained. By the end of this day, those four would be reduced to two.

    Ash's heart was like a drum in his chest, hammering out a deep, fast beat that shook him to his very core. But this was not nervousness. No.

    This was excitement.

    Yesterday's uncertainty was but a distant memory now; he had no idea how he could've been so stupid. True to Gary predictions, his opponent was a major threat, but he'd beaten her once before; he could do it again. Besides, Charizard and Muk gave him a powerful advantage over Jeanette's grass-and-bug team, and unlike their prior match, this one was on a league-standard dirt field. This fight, Ash felt sure, was in the bag.

    "THE MATCH WILL NOW COMMENCE!"

    "This match is between the red trainer, Jeanette Fisher of Crimson City, and the green trainer, Ashton Ketchum of Pallet Town!" The refereree announced, the headset over his right ear recording the proceedings. "This is a full match, each trainer will use six pokemon with no time limit! There are no substitutions! Begin!"

    "This time it'll be my victory, Ash!" Jeanette called out, throwing a Poke Ball into the field. "Go, Beedrill!"

    Each trainer's first pokemon had been predetermined before the match, to assure fairness. Jeanette, apparently, had chosen Beedrill.

    Jeanette's Beedrill emerged from its Poke Ball and hovered up into the air. The wasplike species of pokemon was famous for its aggressive attitude, but there was honestly no place for the bug in tourney-level battles.

    "JEANETTE HAS CHOSEN BEEDRILL!" The announcer stated the obvious. "THIS MIGHT BE A POOR MOVE ON JEANETTE'S PART!"

    "Beedrill, huh?" Ash queried tauntingly, readying his own ball. "That's a little nostalgic. Let's go all the way with this one, Charizard!"

    The Poke Ball containing Ash's Charizard careened onto the field, opening in a bright burst of white light and releasing its contents onto the hard turf. As the light faded, Charizard's massive frame came sharply into view. Raising his horn-capped head, the mighty orange dragon roared up at the heavens, his powerful voice echoing through the stadium.

    "AND ASH HAS SELECTED CHARIZARD!"

    -continued in next post-
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

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    A collective cheer rose up from the crowd. Over the past week, Charizard had become something of a fan favorite, well-recognized for its tenacity and strength, as well as its showmanship. Charizard, like many in its species, was quite prideful, and liked to put on a good show.

    Jeanette looked slightly apprehensive. A fire/flying pokemon had a massive advantage against her, and she knew from watching Ash's previous matches that Charizard was strong.

    Beedrill, on the other hand, looked as placid as ever, its huge, emotionless red eyes betraying nothing as it hovered in midair with glassy wings.

    Jeanette seemed to take her pokemon's neutrality to heart, and steeled herself for a hard battle. So Charizard was strong. Her other pokemon had ways of dealing with both flying and fire types, so she wasn't too worried on the whole. Beedrill, however, was in trouble. Still, he would have to fight; there were no substitutions, after all.

    "Go, Beedrill! Show them your Twinneedle!"

    Silently, Beedrill rocketed forth, flying low to the ground and charging Charizard. It pulled back its spear-tipped forelegs in preparation for a double jab.

    "JEANETTE TAKES THE INITIATIVE! BEEDRILL IS COMING IN FOR A TWINNEEDLE ATTACK!"

    "Charizard, don't flinch! Grab it, now!"

    Reaching up with his clawed hands, Charizard grabbed a needle in each fist, stopping the attack.

    "INCREDIBLE! CHARIZARD HAS BEEDRILL BY THE STINGERS! THE TWINNEEDLE ASSAULT IS STOPPED IN ITS TRACKS!"

    "Most impressive!" Professor Oak commended.

    "Beedrill!" Jeanette yelled. "You have to get out of there!"

    "BEEDRILL IS STRUGGLING MIGHTILY, BUT IT CAN'T BEAT CHARIZARD'S SIZE AND STRENGTH! NOW IT'S GOT BEEDRILL WRAPPED UP IN ITS ARMS, AND IT'S FLYING UP INTO THE AIR! COULD IT BE?!"

    The fans up in the stands were going into hysterics. This had all the makings of their favorite Charizard move.

    Ash smirked.

    "Give 'em what they want, Charizard!"

    "CHARIZARD HAS LOOPED AROUND, AND IT'S DIVING BACK TOWARD THE EARTH! THIS IS IT! IT'S A SEISMIC TOSS!"

    At the last moment, Charizard grabbed Beedrill around the abdomen and hurled it with all his might at the ground. Beedrill streaked through the last ten feet of air and hit the ground hard, shooting up a cloud of dust and dirt from the point of impact.

    As the dust cleared, Beedrill was revealed, prostrate and unconscious.

    "Beedrill is unable to battle!" Called the referee. "Charizard wins the match!"

    "You fought hard, Beedrill," said Jeanette, recalling her pokemon.

    Charizard snorted loudly.

    ---

    Back in the stadium locker room on the 'red' side of field, Gary sat on one of the benches, watching the match on a giant flat-panel television screen. As an associate of Ash, a competitor, and the grandson of Professor Oak, he'd been allowed access to the areas normally reserved for combatants.

    He cheered loudly as Ash's Charizard executed his one-hit KO, pumping a fist.

    On the bench beside his, the mysterious Alan Croket sat in stony silence, awaiting his own match.

    It was unusual for a competitor to be in the waiting area so prematurely; Gary assumed the man was here already because he had no friends or family accompanying him at the tournament. It made sense, as he was from a foreign region, but still... the man seemed odd.

    He was tall and broad-shouldered, seemingly in his early forties, perhaps late thirties. His strong, obtuse chin was clean-shaven, and his thick, shoulder-length, dark brown hair was tied back in a tight ponytail. Clad in a dark grey wool suit and black shirt with a velvety black tie, he looked as though he would be more at home in a Yakuza gang war than a pokemon match.

    As Croket continued observing the match, Gary began observing Croket. He noticed in particular the man's narrow, cool grey eyes.

    In his time as a trainer and researcher, many of Gary's colleagues had spoken of his own eyes, saying that they "sparked with intelligence". He had never really known what they were talking about; eyes were eyes, not windows into the brain. Suddenly, though, observing Croket's cool, calculating gaze, he understood what they had meant.

    He tore his gaze away from Croket's, checking his PokeGear.

    "You're late, guys," he thought, turning his attention back toward the screen. "What the heck are you doing?"

    ---

    "IN SECONDS, CHARIZARD HAS ENDED THE BATTLE WITHOUT RECEIVING A SINGLE HIT! WHAT WILL JEANETTE USE TO COMBAT THIS KO'ING MACHINE?!"

    "Exeggutor," she said, almost in response, "win this for me!"

    In a burst of light, Exeggutor appeared, each of its heads ready and willing to do battle.

    "AND IT'S EXEGGUTOR! IT'S PROVEN ITS POWER IN PREVIOUS MATCHES, BUT CAN IT OVERCOME THE TYPE DISADVANTAGE?"

    "EXEGGXEGGUXEGGTORXEGG!!!" The Coconut Pokemon's five heads bellowed in a cacophony of conflicting thoughts and voices.

    "You're not overcoming anything! Charizard, hit it with a Flamethrower attack!"

    Jeanette looked positively serene.

    "Stop it with Light Screen, Exeggutor."

    Charizard reared back his head, flames gathering at the back of its throat, and let loose with Flamethrower. There was sound of rushing air as a huge jet of fire shot from his mouth at high speed.

    The stream of flames shot toward Exeggcutor and washed over it, seemingly about to burn the leafy grass-type alive. Upon closer inspection, however...

    "A POWERFUL LIGHT SCREEN IS SURROUNDING EXEGGUTOR! CHARIZARD'S FIRE ATTACK HAS LITTLE EFFECT!"

    "That's a very high-level Light Screen," Professor Oak confirmed. "The way it molds itself around Exeggutor's body, rather than manifesting as a bubble or wall... it's a great defense against special attacks like Flamethrower."


    ---

    Up in the stands, roughly halfway up the aisles, an enormous, well-muscled man was watching the match with particurly rapt attention. The large, high-tech pair of binoculars he was clutching clashed rather comically with his western cowboy outfit, and he tugged uncomfortably at the brim of his oversized hat.

    "I didn't realize how annoying these hats can be..." he remarked in a deep baritone voice.

    "Stop your whining," snapped the elderly woman seated next to him as she adjusted her floppy bonnet. "You picked the damned outfit for yourself, it's your cross to bear."

    "Right, right," the man grumbled. "Anyway, this is shaping up to be an interesting battle... I wonder if he's paying attention."

    "Feh! He'll be too busy sweating himself to death to pay any mind to the battle. That godforsaken noose of his... can he go anywhere without it?"

    ---

    Back on the field, Exeggcutor's Light Screen was still frustrating Ash.

    "Dammit!" Ash snarled, clenching a fist. "Special attacks won't work! Get in close and give it a Steel Wing!"

    Charizard kicked off the ground with a low growl, annoyed with his Flamethrower's ineffectiveness, and flew at Exeggutor, his wings glowing with a dull, silvery light as he began executing Steel Wing.

    "CHARIZARD SWOOPS IN FOR A STEEL WING! IT'S A PHYSICAL BLOW, SO- WAIT! EXEGGUTOR HAS STOPPED CHARIZARD DEAD IN ITS TRACKS WITH CONFUSION!"

    "What?!" Ash yelled.

    It was true. Exeggutor had surrounded Charizard's entire body with an glowing blue corona of psychic energy, and had him suspended in midair, helpless.

    "Good work, Exeggutor!" Jeanette cheered. "Now keep it immobilized, and hit it with Egg Bomb!"

    "Crap! Charizard, use your strength and fly out of there!"

    Charizard grit his teeth, eyes clamped shut as he tried to escape the psychic hold. He accomplished a low growl, but nothing else appeared to come of it.

    "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE TIDE HAS TURNED! JEANETTE HAS CHARIZARD RIGHT WHERE SHE WANTS IT! AND HERE COMES EGG BOMB!"

    The rightmost of Exeggutor's heads had begun to shake violently, emitting a dull glow as it did so. Suddenly, it popped off, falling down towards the ground, now glowing with an almost violently white light. A moment before it hit the ground, Exeggutor grabbed it with telekinesis and hurled it toward Charizard.

    "CHARIZARD CAN'T ESCAPE CONFUSION! IF EGG BOMB HITS HEAD-ON, IT COULD MEAN THE END!"

    "Charizard! FIGHT IT!" Ash roared.

    The Egg Bomb was only a few feet away from impact when Charizard's eyes snapped open. A clawed hand shot out and caught the Exeggutor head as the dragon's wings beat hard, launching him through the air toward his opponent.

    Jeanette could only look on in shock as Charizard's fist collided with Exeggutor's central head, shoving the ejected head back into the bunch just as it exploded.

    The force of the eggsplosion sent both Charizard and Exeggutor hurtling backwards through the air, each one landing and collapsing on the ground about thirty feet away from each other.

    The crowd sent absolutely wild. They had no idea what had just happened, but they knew there was a big explosion, and that was good enough for them. Even the announcer seemed at a loss.

    "A-AMAZING! CHARIZARD SOMEHOW MANAGED TO BREAK THROUGH THE CONFUSION HOLD AND TURN EXEGGUTOR'S EGG BOMB AGAINST IT! BOTH POKEMON HAVE BEEN THROWN TO THE GROUND! PROFESSOR! CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO US WHAT'S JUST HAPPENED HERE?"

    "Well," said Professor Oak calmly, "it's really very simple. Exeggutor is able to use complex attack combos because each of its heads is an independent entity. Simultaneously protecting itself with Light Screen and holding Charizard with Confusion was possible when it had fIve heads, but removing one for the Egg Bomb attack weakened it. That's all there is to it."

    "FANTASTIC! CHARIZARD HAS BROKEN THROUGH EXEGGUTOR'S PSYCHIC ATTACKS WITH THE SHEER FORCE OF ITS INTENSE FIGHTING SPIRIT!"

    Oak looked disgruntled, but said nothing.

    Meanwhile, Charizard was struggling to his feet at Ash's vehement behest.

    "C'mon, Charizard! You've got to get up!"

    Charizard rose, snorting a bit of smoke in Ash's direction as if to say, "do you really think I need to be told that?"

    Exeggutor, meanwhile, was flailing its legs about, its lack of arms seriously inhibiting its ability to get to its feet.

    "Exeggutor," Jeanette commanded calmly, "use Confusion to lift yourself."

    "Tor," its five heads said in unison as it rose up in the air, carried by its own psychic power.

    "Charizard! Hit it with Steel Wing, now!"

    With a roar, Charizard lunged forward, barely leaving the ground before his left wing collided with the still-levitating Exeggutor.

    "JEANETTE USES CONFUSION AS A BRILLIANT RECOVERY MOVE, BUT CHARIZARD'S STEEL WING HITS HOME! ATTACKING WHILE EXEGGUTOR'S POWER WAS CONCENTRATED ON SELF-LEVITATION HAS ALLOWED CHARIZARD A CLEAN HIT!"

    The coconut pokemon was thrown backwards by the blow, once again landing hard on its back.

    "Confusion again, Exeggutor! Get up!"

    "Tor!" The heads chanted again, levitating their own body, though this time it seemed as though it took more of an effort.

    "Steel Wing again! Don't give it a second to recover!"

    Another glowing wing smashed into Exeggutor, throwing it to the ground once more.

    "Get up!"

    "Take Down!"

    "Again!"

    "Skull Bash!"

    "IT'S A BRUTAL AND POWERFUL SERIES OF ATTACKS! ASH WON'T LET JEANETTE'S EXEGGUTOR RECOVER ITS STANCE!"

    ---

    In the stands on the other side of the stadium, two more odd figures were observing the battle with interest.

    "Ho!" Bellowed one of the figures, a fit-looking Japanese man in a hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts. "What overwhelming brute force!"

    "Yeah," assented the other figure, a thin man of average height whose large aviator sunglasses obscured over half his face, "but you can't underestimate the power of a psychic-type. That Exeggutor is well-developed."

    -continued in next post-
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  8. #8
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    Well, from what you posted so far, its excellent. Didn't (atleast don't remember) find any grammatical errors. The story flows well, and you give the right descriptions and only as much as needed and not more. Though the way the battle are told from the guy over the intercom seems just a little bit borish, its still pretty good.

    Waiting for you to post more.

  9. #9
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    "Exeggutor," Jeanette yelled, flustered, "drop the Light Screen and pour all of your power into a Psychic attack!"

    Panting from exhaustion and its injuries, Exeggutor released its psychic defense and concentrated solely on attacking Charizard. The air around Charizard began to blur and distort as ESP waves cascaded around the pokemon's head.

    At first, Charizard barely seemed distracted. Then, Exeggutor drew its focus in close, penetrating Charizard's mind and rendering him helpless with psychic power. Charizard shook his head violently, as if trying to physically dislodge Exeggutor's telepathic presence from its skull, but to no avail. His eyes rolled into the back of his head, and his thoughts, scattered and vacant, refused to come together. Even the flame on the tip of its tail sputtered and shrunk to a mere fraction of its usual size.

    "EXEGGUTOR IS STILL ON THE GROUND, BUT IT'S STOPPED CHARIZARD'S ADVANCE WITH A PSYCHIC ATTACK!"

    Professor Oak nodded sagely.

    "Even though Exeggutor is disadvantaged as a grass-type, its psychic abilities make it a wild card. So long as it can dominate the opponent's mind, any physical setbacks are immaterial."

    Jeanette smirked, her confidence returning.

    "You fought well, but your mind is mine! Exeggutor, finish it!"

    "Oh no you don't!" Ash yelled out over the field. "Charizard, Flamethrower, dead ahead! You can do it!"

    Charizard looked unsteady. It seemed barely conscious, on the verge of passing out.

    Several seconds had passed, and it appeared that Charizard was beyond outside influence. It either hadn't been able to hear Ash's last command, or was too confused to follow it.

    "Come on, Charizard," Ash begged, "you can't let yourself get beaten here! You took on legends and won, and now you're gonna get whupped by a bunch of eggs?! Is this it?! CHARIZARD!"

    The entirety of the Flame Pokemon's massive frame was visibly shaking, straining to move. Charizard's body was locked in combat with its own scattered mind.

    "CHARIZARD IS FIGHTING THE EFFECTS OF PSYCHIC, BUT IT DOESN'T SEEM TO BE DOING IT MUCH GOOD!"

    ---

    Back in the locker room, Gary watched the match with intensity, his fists clenched in anticipation.

    Suddenly, a low, even voice wafted into his ear.

    "She has him. It's over."

    Gary looked over in surprise.

    "So, you can talk after all," he quipped at Croket, crossing his arms. "...But I think you're wrong. I know Ash, and I know Charizard; they won't allow it to end here."

    Not even bothering to look Gary's way, Croket resumed his silence.

    ---

    "Come on, Ash," Jeanette taunted. "Give up already and recall your pokemon. If it keeps struggling like this, it could result in permanent brain dama-."

    "Don't underestimate us!" Ash roared, brandishing a gloved fist.

    And then, to Jeanette's shock, Charizard's right arm slowly began to move.

    It was slow at first, rising shakily and desperately, fingers outstretched as though reaching for a phantom oasis. Then, suddenly, it shot straight out and pulled in before Charizard's face, the talons of his hand closing and tightening into a fist to match Ash's.

    His tail flame went from a dying sputter to a roaring blaze in seconds, shooting multiple feet from his body, and in an instant, his eyes were clear again. As Exeggutor's hold over his mind was broken, Charizard flared his wings wide, and, flexing his arms, he raised his head and bellowed his return.

    The announcer began yelling wildly.

    "THIS IS SIMPLY ASTOUNDING! I'M AT A LOSS TO DESCRIBE WHAT'S JUST HAPPENED! OAK, WAS EXEGGUTOR'S STRENGTH DIVIDED SOMEHOW, LIKE LAST TIME?"

    Professor Oak grinned, despite himself. Ash had once again overcome outrageous odds through unwavering stubborness.

    "No..." he said slowly. "This time, I think... it was just fighting spirit!"

    "Damn right!" Ash shouted over the din of the cheering crowd. "End this! Overheat!"

    With a screech of righteous anger, Charizard began his Overheat attack. His body immediately began to glow red with heat, and the air around him rippled and blurred. Charizard's eyes narrowed as he continued to power up, and he flashed a toothy grin in Jeanette's direction.

    Ha-ha. **** you.

    As the glow intensified, Charizard literally burst into flames, a massive aura of fire consuming his entire body. He reared back his head, and everyone from Ash, to Jeanette, to the spectators, to the announcers could see the massive flame gathering in his throat. The air above his open maw warped, and a deep whooshing sound filled the air as the fire intensified, along with the burning glow of Charizard's superheated skin.

    "FOLKS, THIS IS ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME! OVERHEAT APPEARS TO HAVE STACKED WITH CHARIZARD'S SPECIAL ABILITY, BLAZE! THOSE WITH SENSITIVE VISION MAY WANT TO AVERT THEIR EYES, THOUGH I'M SURE YOU'LL KICK YOURSELF LATER FOR MISSING THIS!"

    Jeanette was panicked. She threw up a hand to shield her eyes, squinting to see what was happening on the field.

    "H-how did you escape our Psychic? That's impossible, totally impossible!"

    Ash bowed his head, the brim of his hat casting a shadow over his face and shielding his eyes from the intense light of Charizard's fire.

    "Impossible? Maybe. But to face every challenge head-on... To grasp the fire in our hands and do the impossible regardless..." Ash raised his head, steeling his gaze as flames danced in his eyes. "THAT'S OUR WAY!"

    "No!" Jeanette screamed. "E-exeggutor! Light Screen, max power!"

    "It won't help you now! Charizard! LET IT RIP!"

    At Ash's command, Charizard whipped his head forward, and the Overheat attack erupted from his mouth in a massive gout of flame. Tendrils of heat distorted the entire field, blurring everyone's vision, even as the huge flame devoured all traces of oxygen present in and around its path. This was not a stream. This was not a wave. It wasn't even a beam.

    It was a flood.

    The mass of fire that jetted from Charizard's maw was enormous. Its circumference at the widest point was easily three times that of Charizard itself. It careened across the field and washed over Exeggutor like a tide, engulfing the Coconut Pokemon entirely.

    For perhaps the first time in League history, the announcer was literally at a complete loss for words.

    "Exeggutor, stand strong!" Jeanette cried. "I believe in you!"

    Charizard allowed two seconds to pass, then, straining against his own massive power, he lifted his head, redirecting the giant wave of flame toward the heavens. Almost all the spectators looked up simultaneously to see the the huge Overheat blast reach its maximum altitude.

    It never made it. Before it could reach its zenith, the attack impacted the dispersion field installed around the battleground to keep stray attacks from injuring people in and around the stands or causing unnecessary damage. The blast pressed against the field in an oddly beautiful display, as the dispersion field absorbed the flames and converted their thermal and kinetic force into harmless bursts of colored light. Attacks frequently struck the sides of this barrier, but rarely did they reach the top, even under the most extreme of circumstances, considering the flight ceiling allowed to flying-types.

    Both awed by the attack's range and somewhat disappointed by the fact that it didn't get to reach its highest point, the onlookers turned their gazes back down toward the field.

    As the flames on the ground died down slightly, Exeggutor's prone form came into view. It was lying on the ground, throughly unconscious and still on fire, but alive.

    "Exeggutor is unable to battle! Charizard wins again!"

    As the announcer finished the call, and Jeanette recalled her pokemon, Charizard's flame finally started petering out. A few seconds later, the incredible Overheat came to an end. His head dropped back down, and he grunted self-satisfactorily, surveying his handiwork. The opponent was vanquished. A good half of the dirt field was either charred black or still burning. All-in-all, a damn good job.

    "Charizard..." Ash said softly. "You were phenomenal."

    The flame dragon seemed to smirk as he shrugged his shoulders, his eyes closed in an expression of smug serenity.

    Were you expecting any different of me?

    Turning back toward Jeanette, Charizard narrowed his eyes... then smiled broadly. As the forest trainer looked on in surprise, Charizard stumbled forward and collapsed, utterly exhausted.

    The beam from Ash's Poke Ball caught it just before it hit the ground.

    "Charizard is also unable to battle!" The ref called. "Under these circumstances, the red trainer, Jeanette, will release her pokemon first! Begin!"

    Jeanette paused in thought, her hand hovering over the Poke Balls tucked into her sash.

    That Charizard was even more dangerous than I thought... what monstrous power. Still, all things considered, that couldn't have happened any better than it did. But if it hadn't overexerted itself like that... No... it's over now. I shouldn't dwell.

    That was his only fire-type; I'm almost certain. So then... I'll use this one!


    Jeanette's hand shot into her obi, yanking free a Poke Ball.

    "Let's go, my friend!" Jeanette yelled, casting it into the field.

    The orb opened, and the shining crimson form of a Scizor erupted from its confines, its glassy, membranous wings fully extended and buzzing with anticipation. It clacked its powerful pincers and slammed them together before taking a fighting stance.

    "JEANETTE HAS CHOSEN SCIZOR AS HER NEXT BATTLER! IT LOOKS LIKE ITS RARING TO GO! CAN IT MAKE UP FOR HER ONE-LOSS DEFICIT?"

    "Green trainer, choose your pokemon!" The referee shouted to Ash.

    "Hm. Those are some big claws..." Ash grinned, tossing out his own ball, "but we know a thing or two about big claws, too! Show 'em a real grip, Kingler!"

    Kingler emerged onto the battlefield, spittle bubbling from its thorny maw. It raised its massive left claw, slamming it down upon the earth with a loud cracking sound.

    "KOHKIIKOHKII!" It burbled incoherently.

    "ASH HAS SELECTED KINGLER! WHO WILL COME OUT ON TOP IN THIS CRUSHING BATTLE OF CLAWS?!"

    "Ready..." The ref chanted. "Begin!"

    For a moment, neither trainer issued a command, both wary of the other's power. Fire from Charizard's mighty Overheat still blazed around the two pokemon, creating the image of a dramatic standoff. Then...

    "Kingler, Bubblebeam! All barrels!"

    "KOHKIIIIIKIKIKIKIKI!" Kingler growled, jetting dense streams of thick-skinned bubbles from its mouth, as well as both claws.

    "Iron Defense, Scizor, then cut straight through with Bullet Punch!"

    "Sciiizor!" The Pincer Pokemon screeched, crossing its claws in front of its face.

    Immediately, Scizor's already gleaming shell took on an even shinier tone, the sunlight reflecting perfectly off its polished surface. It then thust its arms down and back, and took off full speed across the field towards Kingler, using its powerful, buzzing wings for further acceleration.

    "SCIZOR HAS LITERALLY STEELED ITSELF WITH IRON DEFENSE, AND IS CHARGING STRAIGHT INTO KINGLER'S BUBBLEBEAM!"

    Scizor met the Bubblebeam head-on, cutting through the torrent of watery globes, bubbles impacting its hardened shell and either bouncing away harmlessly or popping on the iron carapace, the huge stream barely even slowing its charge.

    "C'mon Kingler, turn it up!"

    "I don't think so, Ash! Take it, Scizor!"

    Scizor broke through the last leg of the charge and pulled back a claw, slamming a Bullet Punch straight into Kingler's open mouth.

    "SCIZOR DELIVERS A LIGHTNING-FAST BULLET PUNCH TO KINGLER! KINGLER IS THROWN BACKWARDS BY THE FORCE OF THE BLOW, BUT IT DOESN'T APPEAR TO HAVE DONE MUCH DAMAGE!"

    It was true. Kingler was pressed back several feet, but its hard shell appeared to have weathered the blow.

    "Kingler has excellent defensive capability due to its armor-like shell," Professor Oak commented. "This, combined with water-types' natural resistance to steel-type attacks, allowed it to endure the Bullet Punch unharmed. However, the same can't be said for its balance, which is remarkably poor..."

    "Press the assault Scizor! Keep it off-balance with Razor Wind, then get it with X-Scissor!"

    Scizor planted both feet firmly, pulled its claws to its waist, and began moving its wings back and forth with extreme rapidity.

    "Kingler, get your bearings and attack!" Ash yelled. "Don't let it finish charging Razor Wind!"

    "KOHKIII!"

    Kingler flailed in an attempt to get itself balanced, but its giant, unweildy left claw kept throwing it off.

    "Sssssszorrr!" Scizor growled, its wings reaching maximum velocity. Fine, deep gashes began appearing in the dirt surrounding it, and it began narrowing the focus of its attack. As Kingler continued to reel, the ground before Scizor's feet was being torn to shreds by a seemingly invisible force.

    Then it exploded outward, blades of pure wind slamming into Kingler's body, damaging it, if only barely, but more importantly, throwing it hopelessly off balance. Pinwheeling its arms, its feet scrambling for steady footing, it tumbled backwards onto the ground.

    Ash swore. A Kingler on its back was nearly helpless. Its left claw afforded it no way of righting itself.

    "A POWERFUL RAZOR WIND FROM SCIZOR BLASTS KINGLER OFF ITS FEET! SCIZOR IS COMING IN FOR X-SCISSOR! THIS MIGHT BE THE END OF THE CRAB!"

    Scizor leapt forward, its arms crossed in an 'X' in front of its face. Its twin pincers, jaws open wide, slashed down at Kingler in a cross chop.

    Ash's eyes widened.

    "That's it! Kingler, ViceGrip its arms, NOW!"

    Kingler, still stuck on its back, reached out with its huge claw and intercepted the crossed arms of Scizor, interrupting the X-Scissor attack with its 10,000 horsepower grip and pinning the arms together.

    "Now pull yourself up!"

    "ASH HAS TURNED SCIZOR'S OWN ATTACK AGAINST IT, USING SCIZOR'S WEIGHT TO HAUL KINGLER TO ITS FEET! NOW SCIZOR IS CAUGHT IN KINGLER'S MIGHTY VICEGRIP!"

    Jeanette didn't blink.

    "Iron Head, Scizor! Hit the claw!"

    Scizor's head shone brilliant white as it brought it crashing down on Kingler's pincer.

    Kingler's body shook from the force of the impact, but it stood strong, its claw maintaining the hold.

    "Again, Scizor!"

    "Hold tight, Kingler!"

    Another Iron Head attack made contact, and this time, for just a moment, Kingler flinched as the impact's vibration ran through its arm.

    "Pull back, Scizor, and kick it away!"

    Yanking back its arms, Scizor lifted a iron foot and kicked Kingler between the eyes, finally extricating itself from the ViceGrip.

    "AND SCIZOR BREAKS FREE! BUT WHAT'S THIS? IT APPEARS SCIZOR DIDN'T GET OFF WITHOUT SOME SERIOUS DAMAGE! ITS ARMS LOOK INJURED!"

    It was true. Scizor's arms no longer appeared to hold the fighting form they had at the battle's outset. They hung almost limply at its sides, as though even lifting them was an effort. A spiderweb of fine cracks were visible in the crimson armor coating its arms, evidence of damage done.

    Kingler, too, seemed in less than good shape. Its mighty left claw sat dully on the ground before it, clearly damaged by Scizor's Iron Head assault.

    "KINGLER'S CLAW ISN'T LOOKING TOO HOT EITHER! WITH BOTH OF THESE POKEMON'S MAIN WEAPONS WEAKENED, HOW WILL THE BATTLE PAN OUT?"

    "Scizor, we've got them now!" Jeanette bellowed with an almost uncharacteristic amount of energy. "Keep those pincers up!"

    "Kingler, don't give in!" Ash encouraged. "We're almost through. Lift that claw and finish this!"

    One could almost swear that the two pokemon were sweating as they strained to resume fighting stances, despite the lack of sweat glands in either. Scizor's steel frame shook and Kingler's mouth bubbled over with spittle with sheer effort.

    "THESE TWO ARE STRUGGLING JUST TO GET IN FIGHTING SHAPE! THIS MIGHT BE ANOTHER DRAW!"

    "WE'LL MAKE YOU EAT THOSE WORDS!" Ash yelled at the top of his lungs. "Kingler, this can't be all the punishment you can take! Charge Scizor and hit it with your Crabhammer!"

    "KOH-KINNN." Kingler burbled loudly, skittling forward on its four spindly legs, its claw still dragging uselessly behind it.

    "Don't let them beat you, Scizor!" Jeanette cried, her fists clenched. "Stand your ground and hit it with Metal Claw!"

    "KINGLER IS CHARGING SCIZOR! ITS CLAW STILL LOOKS INJURED, BUT IT APPEARS TO BE ATTEMPTING A CRABHAMMER! THE CLAW IS GLOWING WITH POWER, BUT IT'S STILL DRAGGING!"

    "They're pushing themselves to the very limit," Oak cut in. "If they push any harder, they might do serious damage to themselves!"

    Scizor's right claw, still hanging at its side, took on the metallic sheen of Metal Claw. One of Scizor's eyes appeared practically pinned shut with strain and agony.

    "KIIIING-LER!" The Pincer Pokemon roared, finally closing the distance. As it got in close, with extreme effort, it finally hefted its giant claw up into the air, arcing it up towards Scizor's head for the Crabhammer.

    Suddenly, Scizor began to move. The eye opened, and the glowing right arm shot up in the air.

    "GOOOO!!!" Screamed both trainers in unison.

    ---

    "Hello!" The odd man in vacation clothing called, walking up to the giant cowboy and old woman, carrying a tray of lemonades. "I thought you two might want some drinks."

    "Ahh," sighed the bonnet-wearing woman, "at last. I thought I'd shrivel up and die in this abhorrent heat."

    Suddenly, the massive cowboy shot up out of his seat, slamming his hands down on the railings in front of it, actually bending the metal pipes slightly in the process. His jaw dropped as he stared out into the field.

    The hawaiian vacation man looked over to see what the oversized man was gawking at.

    The tray of drinks clattered to the floor, spilling everywhere.

    The two men gazed, wide-eyed, at the action playing out on the battlefield and stammered, in perfect sync:

    "C-...C-CROSS-COUNTER!"

    ---

    Crabhammer crashed into Scizor, catching it under its steely chin. Metal Claw swung down in a wide, powerful arc, smashing into the crown of Kingler's head.

    Scizor's eyes went completely white, as its pupils rolled back into its head. Briny spittle burbled out of Kingler's mouth as if from a fountain, and both pokemon shuddered violently before collapsing onto the ground.

    "FANTASTIC! AMAZING! CRABHAMMER HITS HOME JUST AS SCIZOR HAMMERS DOWN ON KINGLER WITH A METAL CLAW! IT'S A CLASH OF DESPERATION MOVES AS BOTH POKEMON ARE KNOCKED SENSELESS BY EACH OTHERS' BLOWS! THIS MIGHT BE THE MATCH OF THE CENTURY!"

    "Kingler, get up! Finish it off!"

    "Scizor, rise, and end this!"

    "NEITHER POKEMON APPEARS TO BE RESPONDING TO ITS TRAINER'S ORDERS!"

    The referee started counting down.

    "1... 2... 3... 4... 5..."

    Scizor shuddered, its eyes coming back into some form of focus, and it forced itself back up, panting heavily.

    "6... 7... 8..."

    "Kingler! Get up, NOW!"

    "9... 10! Kingler is unable to battle! Scizor wins the match!"

    Ash recalled his pokemon, sighing.

    "It's alright Kingler, you did your best," he grinned, looking fondly at the Poke Ball in his hand. "Now," he yelled, "finish it off, Muk!"

    Muk flowed out of its Pokeball and onto the field, its sludgy purple body already exuding enough reek to reach all the way to the stands.

    "Muuuuk," it groaned, opening its huge, vile mouth and raising its two proto-arms in perhaps the closest it could get to a dramatic battle pose.

    "...AFTER A GREAT RECOVERY FROM SCIZOR, ASH HAS SELECTED MUK FOR BATTLE! THIS NASTY POISON-TYPE POKEMON MIGHT'VE BEEN A POOR CHOICE ON ASH'S PART; STEEL-TYPE SCIZOR IS IMMUNE TO POISON! WHAT IS THE TRAINER THINKING?!"

    "Pretty bad choice of pokemon, Ash," Jeanette commented. "Your Muk can't even scratch my Scizor."

    "We'll see about that!" Ash retorted. "Your Scizor's a step away from fainted as it is!"

    "We'll see indeed! Scizor, use Rest!"

    "Sciiii," Scizor sighed, letting its eyes droop closed. In moments, it was surrounded by a rippling cool blue aura.

    Rest was a universal technique; nearly every pokemon was capable of learning it, and apparently, Jeanette had taught it to her Scizor.

    "SCIZOR USES REST! OVER THE NEXT FEW SECONDS, ITS HEALTH WILL BE RECOVERED ENTIRELY!"

    "An excellent tactic," Oak remarked calmly. "Using an immobilizing technique like Rest in a normal battle is a risky gamble at best, but against a largely ineffective opponent like Muk, Scizor can sleep without fear."

    "Muk," Ash urged, "don't let it recover! Hit it with Sludge Bomb!"

    Muk slurped forward, opening its mouth and vomiting out a ball of sludge at high speed. The Sludge Bomb rocketed forward and smashed across Scizor's body, coating it in toxic sludge.

    Scizor was utterly unaffected.

    "AS PREDICTED, MUK'S ATTACK HAS NO EFFECT; SCIZOR CONTINUES TO SLEEP! PROFESSOR, WHILE WE'RE WAITING FOR SCIZOR TO AWAKEN, WHY DON'T YOU EXPLAIN TO US THE SCIENCE OF REST?"

    "Certainly," Oak smiled, always happy for an opportunity to show off his scientific knowledge. "Rest is not, contrary to popular belief, actual sleep. It is, in fact, a unique, genetic talent inherent to nearly all pokemon. The technique involves utilizing nearly all of the body's energy and devoting it solely to regeneration. As a result of the concentration of energy, only the most neccessary of bodily functions continue to be performed. Even brain activity is reduced to an absolute minimum, creating the illusion of deep sleep. Though it is risky to use in battle, it is an extraordinarily powerful healing move. Through prolonged periods of Rest, even lost limbs can be regenerated."

    "Sludge Bomb again, Muk! Then follow it up with Toxic!"

    "Muuuk!" the pokemon bellowed, hurling more reeking slop all over Scizor's body.

    Ash hadn't let up on the poison attacks. As Oak talked, Scizor became progressively more coated in toxic slime.

    "MUK IS HAMMERING AWAY WITH MORE POISON ATTACKS! SCIZOR IS COVERED HEAD-TO-TOE IN SLUDGE, BUT IT'S NOT AFFECTING IT AT ALL! WHAT IS ASH DOING?"

    Ash smirked confidently.

    "Muk, Harden your right arm!"

    Muk made a rumbling sound in the back of its throat as it concentrated on manipulating its own malleable form. Its arm took on a noticeable shine as the outermost layer of its body hardened into armor.

    "Now, stick it into the fire!"

    Muk nodded, beginning to comprehend Ash's plan at last, and it morphed its way over to one of the burning patches of ground left by Charizard's last attack.

    As it thrust its slimy psuedopod into the flame, the limb immediately caught fire. The blaze spread up the surface of the arm in a second, stopping just short of the edge of the Hardened area.

    Oak realized Ash's strategy immediately.

    "What quick thinking!" Oak commended. "The highly toxic sludge that composes a Muk's body is also typically very flammable, a fact that makes fire attacks dangerous to most Muks. With a Hardened covering, however, the danger is reversed. Muk now has a powerful weapon against its steel and bug opponent! Not only that, but..."

    "Scizor, You're in danger! Wake up, now!" Jeanette shouted, finally realizing the position she was in.

    Scizor, its neural processes in near-shutdown, was incapable of hearing its trainer's commands, and remained at rest.

    A droplet of slime slid from the end of its chin and fell to the ground.

    "Go, Muk," Ash intoned simply. "Gunk Shot."

    The Sludge Pokemon grinned wickedly with its toothless mouth, pulling back its burning right arm.

    "IT'S A GUNK SHOT ATTACK!" The announcer yelled. "COMBINED WITH THAT FLAMING RIGHT ARM, IT'LL BE DEVASTATING!"

    "WAKE UP, SCIZOR!"

    "MUUUK!"

    Muk roared, whipping its gooey arm forward and jettisoning the burning piece of its own mass directly at Scizor.

    Suddenly, Scizor's eyes snapped open, finely honed reflexes operating in tandem with its newly-restored body as it brought up its right claw in a lightning-fast strike, cleaving through the flaming mass a mere moment before it would have made contact...

    ...to no avail.

    The flaming projectile was like a clump of napalm, bursting on contact with Scizor's claw and scattering into a hundred fiery bits, peppering Scizor's entire body and setting the muck coating its skin ablaze.

    It was like an explosion. Scizor's entire body went up in flames almost instantaneously. A noxious scent filled the air as the raging chemical fire only increased in size. Scizor screeched in pain, buzzing its wings and waving its arms wildly, scattering burning bits of slime over the field.

    "SCIZOR!" Jeanette screamed in horror, quickly pulling out her Poke Ball. "RETURN!"

    The recall beam from the Poke Ball pierced through the flames, hitting Scizor and pulling it back into the confines of the sphere, leaving behind the flaming, toxic goo that had coated it.

    "Jeanette has recalled Scizor! Muk wins the battle!"

    "AND ITS ANOTHER SPECTACULAR WIN FOR YOUNG KETCHUM! MUK'S FIRE-POWERED POISON ASSAULT HAS FORCED JEANETTE TO RECALL SCIZOR! NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL STRATEGY!"

    -continued in next post-
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  10. #10
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    Back in the locker room, Croket hummed introspectively, smiling a bit at he watched the conclusion of Muk's battle.

    "Perhaps there's more to that boy than meets the eye..." he murmured to himself.

    Looking over to his left, he realized, with no small amount of surprise, that the child from before was no longer present. The fact that Croket himself been distracted enough by that "Ash" boy's battle to disregard what was going on around him was a testament to the child's greatness... there were few men on Earth who could hold his attention so well.

    Turning back toward the television, he began watching the match with renewed interest.

    ---

    "DESPITE LACKING ANOTHER FIRE-TYPE, ASH HAS MANAGED TO RETAIN A COMPLETE TYPE ADVANTAGE! WITH ONLY HALF HER TEAM REMAINING, HOW WILL JEANETTE COMBAT MUK'S TOXIC FIREPOWER?!"

    Looking out over the field at her opponent, the kimono-wearing girl considered her options. More of the field was covered in flame than ever before, thanks to Muk's napalmic sludge, and the raging chemical fires showed no signs of going out. She had no more pokemon capable of going head-to-head with Muk's new, fiery power, and the burning field placed her at an even greater disadvantage.

    "I've got no choice..." Jeanette thought to herself. "I've got to use him now, or I'll lose for sure."

    Reaching into her sash, she pulled out another Poke Ball and threw it into the field.

    "Let's win this together, Kusanagi!"

    As the light from the pokeball's release faded, and the orb returned to Jeanette's hand, a lean, reptillian form came into view. The light green pokemon stood on lithe, muscular hind legs, balanced by a huge tail resembling a fern. Its lanky forearms bore sharp, organic blades seemingly made of large leaves. Six bulbous, yellow seeds lined its spine, three on each side.

    A Sceptile.

    Ash's surprise was apparent. Hoenn pokemon were extraordinarily uncommon in the mainland regions, and for a Kanto trainer like Jeanette to have a rare one like Sceptile was practically unheard of.

    "AND IT APPEARS TO BE JEANETTE'S TURN TO MAKE A POOR DECISION, AS SHE CHOOSES SCEPTILE, A GRASS TYPE FROM THE HOENN REGION! ALTHOUGH, AFTER THE UPSET WE'RE JUST WITNESSED, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!"

    Ash paused, Gary's voice ringing pointedly in his head.

    "...anyone who's anyone is gonna be packing a secret trump card..."

    For a split second, apprehension was visible in Ash's face, but he got over it quickly enough. Sceptile was just another grass-type, and against poison-type Muk on a flaming dirt field, it stood little chance of victory. Obviously, Jeanette was grasping at straws.

    "Alright Muk, let's use Harden again! Snag some more of that fire!"

    "Muuk..." Muk groaned affirmatively, hardening its outer layer yet again and scooping up more flame from a nearby burning patch.

    "Another Gunk Shot!"

    Once more, Muk hurled the flaming piece of its own body, throwing a fiery Gunk Shot the Sceptile's way.

    "Dodge it," Jeanette commanded, "and use your Agility to get in close!"

    The Sceptile, Kusanagi, hopped backwards to avoid the sloppy fireball and, in a blur of motion, briefly surpassed the visible spectrum using its Agility.

    "Now, Night Slash!"

    Kusanagi seemed to come out of nowhere, blurring into visibility just behind Muk, its right arm already raised in preparation for a Night Slash attack, with its blades extended to their maximum length.

    "Muk, Minimize, now!"

    Muk reacted quickly, compacting its protean form as densely as it could, minimizing its physical profile, but...

    "MUK TRIES MINIMIZE, BUT IT'S NO GOOD, AND SCEPTILE SCORES A NIGHT SLASH! ADVANTAGED THOUGH IT MAY BE IN TERMS OF TYPE, MUK CAN'T TOUCH SCEPTILE'S SPEED!"

    "MUUUK!" Muk roared in pain as Kusanagi slashed deeply into its back with its arm blades.

    "That move dealt heavy damage," Professor Oak informed. "Even though Muk's gooey body absorbs most physical blows, attacks involving points or edges, such as Night Slash, have the greatest likelihood of doing real damage."

    "Hold your ground, Muk! Grab it!"

    "Agility, Kusanagi!"

    Muk whirled around, reaching out to grab Kusanagi, but the Sceptile disappeared using Agility yet again.

    "Tch," Ash grit his teeth. "Too fast. Muk, get ready to move!"

    "Leaf Blade, Kusanagi!"

    "Muk, use Acid Armor!"

    As Kusanagi swept in for another attack, Muk executed Acid Armor, liquefying itself. As Muk collapsed to the ground, the Sceptile's Leaf Blade passed through its head, merely displacing a few drops of purple liquid.

    "MUK HAS COMPLETELY NULLED SCEPTILE'S LEAF BLADE WITH ACID ARMOR! ASH AND MUK HAVE RENDERED SCEPTILE'S BLADE ATTACKS USELESS!"

    Kusanagi, going into his swing expecting far more resistance than he got, was thrown off balance by his own momentum.

    "Grab it now, Muk, and Harden!"

    Reaching out, Muk grabbed the Sceptile's arms in each of its own and Hardened, throughly encasing the plant reptile in its own body mass.

    "Gotcha!" Ash cheered, pumping a fist. "Now pull it in and swallow it!"

    "Kusanagi," Jeanette yelled, acting fast, "hit it with Solarbeam!"

    The Sceptile hissed, the seeds on its back beginning to glow yellow as they charged with solar energy. Its mouth opened in preparation for the attack, and the gathering energy was visible in the back of its throat.

    Ash's eyes widened.

    "Muk! Change of plan! Shadow Punch!"

    Muk, its mouth already half-open, narrowed its eyes and extended its gooey jaw to its massive full extent as a huge, sludgy fist erupted from within its body and out of its mouth, interrupting the Solarbeam and knocking Kusanagi away.

    "A RAPID EXCHANGE HAS SCEPTILE ON THE RECEIVING END OF A SHADOW PUNCH BY MUK!"

    "An excellent use of Muk's protean molecular structure," Oak observed, "the ability to manifest extra limbs is a hallmark of a well-trained Muk."

    Kusanagi backflipped in midair, righting itself after being knocked back by Shadow Punch and landing on its feet a few meters off.

    "Kusanagi, use Leech Seed!" Jeanette commanded.

    The Sceptile responded with a grunt, opening its mouth and ejecting a large seed.

    The Leech Seed flew across the field and hit Muk's body with a dull "splat", sticking in the syrupy mass. Almost instantly, the seed split apart, releasing a tangle of thick vines and enveloping Muk.

    Just as quickly, however, the vines withered and died, victim to Muk's toxicity.

    Muk made a rumbling noise in the back of its throat as it shook itself clean of the dead plant matter.

    "JEANETTE ATTEMPTS A LEECH SEED ATTACK ON MUK, BUT THE PLANTS CAN'T PENETRATE ITS POISONOUS FORM!"

    Jeanette smirked.

    "So that's how it is... but you shouldn't underestimate us, either! Kusanagi! Let's use it! Vulcan Senju Kannon!"

    The seeds on Kusanagi's back began to glow yet again as he leapt back a distance and reared back his head. His clawed hands bunched into fists, the lean muscles in his arms tightening with the apparent strain of the mystery attack's buildup.

    "Muk!" Ash shouted. "They're doing something weird! Hit it with Gunk Shot, now!"

    "Muuuk," groaned the Sludge Pokemon, gathering the attack in its right hand.

    "Too late!" Jeanette yelled triumphantly, as Kusanagi thrust forward his head, mouth open, and released a high-speed storm of seeds, each glowing the same yellow color as those on his back. The seeds collided with Muk's body, spraying up slime and sticking deep in its toxic skin.

    "That's it?" Ash queried jokingly. "A Bullet Seed?"

    Jeanette chuckled.

    "Not quite."

    As Ash looked on, Muk spasmed suddenly, a tremor running through its entire body. A moment later, Muk exploded into a mass of vines, thousands of tangled creepers eruping from its body and swallowing it up entirely in vibrant green. The toxicity of Muk's pollutant-fueled flesh was visibly affecting them, killing them off, but not fast enough.

    "AN UNPRECEDENTED ATTACK!" Roared the announcer, "JEANETTE'S SCEPTILE HAS COMBINED THE BULLET SEED AND LEECH SEED ATTACKS INTO ONE! IT'S A-... A BULLET LEECH SEED!"

    Jeanette clenched her fists, her arms shaking as she yelled up at the announcer's box.

    "It's a VULCAN SENJU KANNON, DAMMIT!"

    Ash looked startled, but recovered quickly.

    "Muk, can you move?"

    No response. Not even a grunt. Muk was utterly immobilized by vines, and, as leech vines, each one was sapping its strength and giving more to Kusanagi. Even Muk's toxic body wasn't enough to stop the vines' growth.

    "Kusanagi," Jeanette spoke to her pokemon, "all healed up?"

    "Scep," responded her Sceptile placidly, looking over his shoulder and giving her a "thumbs-up".

    "Alright then, let's finish this! Solarbeam!"

    "Scepppp...tile!" The Forest Pokemon screeched, letting loose the Solarbeam that had been interrupted earlier.

    The attack blasted out of Kusanagi's mouth, a golden beam of light that streaked across across the field in an instant and slammed into Muk's entangled body. Ash's pokemon was thrown backwards on the tip of the beam and crashed into the wall, where it was pinned briefly by the force of the attack before the beam ceased and it slumped to the ground, fainted.

    "Muk is unable to battle!" The referee called, waving his flag. "Sceptile wins the battle!"

    "SOLARBEAM HITS HOME FOR THE KO, AND THE PERSISTENT MUK IS OUT OF THE BATTLE AT LAST! THIS IS ONE ORNERY LIZARD, FOLKS! HOW WILL ASH COUNTER JEANETTE'S MONSTER SCEPTILE?!"

    ---

    "At last," remarked the elderly, bonnet-wearing woman up in the stands, "the girl is finally showing her true power. That Senju Kannon is the product of months of dedication. Kusanagi will win her this match."

    The giant cowboy grinned broadly.

    "Jeanette is certainly strong, but that Ash boy is an excellent trainer himself. It's an even match so far; he may yet win."

    "Peh. Mark my words; the end of this tourney will see that girl in Viridian."

    "We shall see."

    ---

    Back on the tournament floor, Ash was still considering his options for pokemon number four. Jeanette was proving to be far more trouble than he had anticipated. He hadn't thought he'd lose Charizard, let alone it and Muk both. With only Bulbasaur, Tauros and Pikachu left, he was out of super-effective trump cards. Pikachu's electric attacks wouldn't do any good against Sceptile, and though Tauros might be able to win on strength, it would be utterly outmanuvered, just as Muk was.

    So his only choice...

    "Bulbasaur! Go! Show 'em what a real grass fighter can do!"

    In a cascade of white light, Ash's Bulbasaur was released onto the dirt turf.

    "Bulba-saur!" The Seed Pokemon chanted, the desire for battle shining clearly in its large, red eyes.

    Across the field, Kusanagi stood with his arms crossed, apparently not satistified with his opponent. As a fully evolved pokemon approaching six feet in height, he found the idea of fighting a bulb-backed, two-foot toad (or whatever the squat little thing was supposed to be) nothing short of beneath him.

    "Sceptile!" He barked shortly. "Scep. Scep-tile!"

    "Bulbasaur! Bulbabulba-saur!" Bulbasaur responded heatedly, grinding his tiny, clawed feet into the dirt.

    "IT LOOKS LIKE THESE TWO GRASS-TYPES ARE ALL READY TO MIX IT UP! THERE'S A CLEAR-CUT CONFLICT BETWEEN THESE TWO, AND IT'S ABOUT TO BE WORKED OUT ON THE BATTLEFIELD! BUT CAN ASH'S BULBASAUR OVERCOME THE DIFFERENCE IN POWER?!"

    "That's the spirit, Bulbasaur!" Ash cheered his pokemon on. "Let's bring the thunder!"

    "It'll take more than "thunder" to beat us," Jeanette taunted back. "Let's go, Kusanagi! Use X-Scissor!"

    The Sceptile grunted, uncrossing its arms and dropping into a low stance before charging Bulbasaur at full speed. As it pulled in close, the leafy reptile brought its arms up in an "X" formation in front of its face as the blades of its forearms extended to their full length and began glowing a dull blueish-white color.

    "JEANETTE'S SCEPTILE COMES IN FOR AN X-SCISSOR! IT'LL DO BULBASAUR SOME REAL DAMAGE IF IT CONNECTS!"

    "Bulbasaur, Vine Whip Sceptile's legs! Trip it up!"

    "Bul!" Bulbasaur assented, snapping out twin vines from the base of its bulb and lashing them viciously at Kusanagi's ankles.

    "Jump up, now, and strike!" Jeanette countered.

    On his trainer's command, Kusanagi leapt up as the vine attack swept mere centimeters below his feet and bore down on Bulbasaur, slashing forth his arm blades in a scissoring cross.

    The twin slashes landed cleanly on Bulbasaur's front, but the Seed Pokemon stood strong, taking the attack head-on. The Sceptile's power sent him skidding backwards, but he maintained his stance. As the dust cleared, two deep gashes were revealed on Bulbasaur's forehead, evidence of the attack's effectiveness.

    "ASH TRIED VINE WHIP, BUT IT'S NOT GOOD; X-SCISSOR IS A HIT! BULBASAUR IS KNOCKED BACK, BUT SEEMS TO HAVE ESCAPED ANY SERIOUS DAMAGE! IT'S ONE TOUGH GRASS-TYPE!"

    "Bulbasaur!" Ash called. "You all right?"

    "Bulba-saur!" His pokemon confirmed through gritted teeth, not taking his eyes off his opponent.

    "Okay then! Let's counterattack with Razor Leaf!"

    Bulbasaur nodded with a gruff bark, leaping backwards for distance and summoning a whirlwind of razor-edged leaves from the base of his bulb before hurling them at his opponent. The leaf attack sailed through the air with great speed, but another Agility from Kusanagi allowed the Forest Pokemon to escape and once again close the distance

    "Now, Kusanagi," Jeanette called, "use Slam!"

    Pivoting his body on one leg, the Sceptile whipped his giant, fernlike tail around his body for momentum, then brought it crashing down on Bulbasaur's back. The force of the blow knocked Bulbasaur's legs out from underneath him, and he was flattened against the ground.

    "BULBASAUR IS BEING OVERWHELMED! IN THIS GRASS BATTLE, THE FULLY EVOLVED SCEPTILE IS DOMINATING THE TINY BULBASAUR WITH SPEED AND POWER! IT'S GOT BULBASAUR PINNED UNDER ITS TAIL AFTER THAT CRUSHING SLAM ATTACK!"

    Ash didn't miss a beat. Of all his pokemon's personalities, Bulbasaur's tenacious and belligerent mindset was the one Ash meshed best with in combat. One might say that their natural "battle rhythms" matched, and it showed in the way the two fought together. It was why Bulbasaur could often act almost independently of Ash's commands, why Ash could easily and fluidly manipulate Bulbasaur's attacks into combos, and, in times like this one, know that Bulbasaur wanted nothing more than to show Kusanagi who was boss. He was small, unevolved, and nowhere near Ash's strongest battler, but he was certainly one of his best.

    Ash grinned. The tide would turn here.

    "Bulbasaur! Use Dig!"

    "Bul-BA!" The Seed Pokemon affirmed, seeming to perk up after hearing this particular command from its trainer.

    Planting his front claws firmly on the ground, Bulbasaur began swiping furiously at the dirt turf, and in seconds, his entire body disappeared underground.

    "THIS IS UNUSUAL! ASH'S BULBASAUR HAS JUST BURROWED BELOW GROUND! PROFESSOR, ISN'T BULBASAUR NORMALLY INCAPABLE OF PERFORMING SUCH A FEAT?!"

    "Yes," Oak confirmed, "this Bulbasaur is unique. It alone is capable of using the Dig technique, which is typically unavailable to its evolutionary line. As of this point in time, it is the only recorded instance of a Digging Bulbasaur. A rare specimen indeed."

    "Nice trick," Jeanette complimented. She'd meant it to be taunting, but she couldn't hide a tinge of earnest envy. "But that alone won't beat us! Kusanagi, use Detect!"

    Closing his glossy yellow eyes, Kusanagi relaxed his body and dropped into a kneeling crouch, one clawed, green hand flat against the turf.

    A moment later, the Sceptile's eyes opened, and they darted off to his right, fixing on a patch of ground several meters away.

    On that exact spot, Bulbasaur erupted from the ground in a spray of dirt.

    "Quick Attack, Kusanagi!" Jeanette yelled.

    "Burrow again!" Ash retorted.

    Kusanagi darted in Bulbsaur's direction at high speed, but the seed-dino was faster, leaping back into the hole it had just come out of and tunneling off.

    "ASH IS USING DIG TO ESCAPE SCEPTILE'S ATTACKS! IT'LL KEEP BULBASAUR SAFE, BUT JEANETTE WON'T GIVE HIM THE TIME TO RETALIATE! HOW LONG CAN BULBASAUR STAY ON THE RUN?! REMEMBER FOLKS, BY LEAGUE RULES, A BURROWING POKEMON CAN ONLY STAY UNDERGROUND FOR FIFTEEN SECONDS AT A TIME!"

    As the battle wore on, the chain continued, Bulbasaur burrowing around the field, popping up all over the field and disappearing back underground before Kusanagi could strike. A few minutes later, the field was riddled with holes. Jeanette had stopped issuing commands altogether, choosing to sit and wait rather than waste Kusanagi's energy on pointless attacks.

    Bulbasaur surfaced once more. The constant digging was clearly taking its toll on his stamina. The Seed Pokemon was panting heavily, sweat and dirt plastered thickly across his brow.

    Ash gave no command.

    A full ten seconds passed, as both pokemon stared each other down, their trainers each seemingly waiting for their foe to call out an order.

    Then, simultaneously, Ash and Bulbasaur's faces broke into fierce, manic grins.

    The stage was set.

    "This is it!" Ash roared, snapping out an arm to point across the field. "Take him!"

    "Bul!" Bulbasaur nodded.

    Suddenly, twin vines came out of nowhere behind Kusanagi, lashing themselves around his shoulders and snapping into taut lines.

    Kusanagi struggled against the vines' hold, tugging mightily against his verdant restraints, but to no avail.

    "IN WHAT APPEARS TO BE A PREMEDITATED STRATEGY, BULBASAUR, SEEMINGLY UNCOMMANDED, HAS SNUCK A VINE WHIP THROUGH ITS OWN NETWORK OF TUNNELS, CATCHING SCEPTILE AND JEANETTE OFF-GUARD! IT'S A BRILLIANT AND CALCULATING OFFENSE DISGUISED AS A HASTY DEFENSE... GENIUS!"

    Ash's smile looked a hair's breadth from splitting his head in two. New moves. New tactics. All being put to use. All working. These past few months back in Pallet with Gary were even more of a blessing than he ever could have hoped. It seemed as though he'd improved lightyears, and in less time than ever. Not having to worry about badges, or wild encounters, or even having enough money to eat was a huge load off his back, and allowed him to concentrate all of his energy on training. It had paid off.

    "This show's over! Bulbasaur, start charging Solarbeam!"

    "Bul-ba!"

    As the Seed Pokemon concentrated, tiny, shining particles seemed to gather at the tip of his bulb.

    "Kusanagi," Jeanette commanded, "use Leaf Blade to cut those vines!"

    "Sceptile!"

    Kusanagi turned, his blades extending as he moved to cut the vine ensnaring his left arm.

    "Bulbasaur, pull 'em tight, then go on under!"

    Bulbasaur merely grunted in response, reacting quickly to the Sceptile's move to cut his vines. As Kusanagi shifted his feet for better positioning, Bulbasaur pulled in both vines sharply, yanking the Sceptile backwards and off his feet. The vines kept retracting until Kusanagi was pinned on his back over the hole in the ground, his body too large to fit through the comparatively small space. He struggled, attempting to rise, but the vines held him firmly to the floor.

    Satisfied with his handiwork, Bulbasaur leapt back into his tunnel, ephemeral light gently flowing about his bulb. Solarbeam was fully charged.

    "You've got to get up," Jeanette implored her pokemon. "Try to roll over to your stomach, then get to your feet!"

    "Sceeeep..." Kusanagi tensed, crossing his right arm over his chest and pulling hard in a final attempt to extricate himself from his predicament.

    "SCEPTILE IS PINNED DOWN! IT'S DOING ITS BEST TO FIGHT, BUT THE SITUATION LOOKS GRIM! BULBASAUR SEEMS TO BE MOVING IN FOR THE KILL; IT'S SOMEWHERE BENEATH SCEPTILE WITH A SOLARBEAM SET IN THE CHAMBER!"

    "Sceeep-tile!"

    With Herculean effort, Kusanagi jerked his right shoulder across his chest will all his might, finally flipping over to his belly.

    "Yes!" Cheered Jeanette. "Now get up and-!"

    A blinding flash of light burst from the hole beneath Kusanagi, illuminating the Forest Pokemon in brightest white. As the Sceptile himself froze in shock, so did his trainer, and in a moment, the battle's outcome was decided.

    The vines retreated from Kusanagi's arms, and the Solarbeam crashed into the grass pokemon's stomach, simultaneously winding the reptile and sending him hurtling up into the air. Though the Sceptile was largely protected from Solarbeam's typically overpowering radiation by his aforementioned typing, the physical impact of the attack still hit with full force, and he screeched in pain as he was tossed up into the sky.

    Jeanette swore loudly.

    "Kusanagi! Right yourself, quickly!"

    Her pokemon growled through his teeth as he forced himself to fight through the pain and jerked himself sharply around in midair using his arm blades for extra manuverability.

    "Good work! Now dive down on it!"

    "BULBASAUR'S SOLARBEAM KNOCKS SCEPTILE INTO THE AIR, BUT IT'S NOT OUT OF THE FIGHT YET! IT'S STREAMLINED ITSELF AND IS DIVING AT BULBASAUR FOR AN ATTACK OF ITS OWN! IT'S ABOUT THIRTY FEET UP IN THE AIR; ANY BLOW LANDED FROM THAT DROP WILL HIT WITH MASSIVE MOMENTUM!"

    "This next series of attacks," Oak commented, "will end the battle. I'm sure of it."

    "Get 'im with Razor Leaf, Bulbasaur!"

    "Bulbasaur!" Bulbasaur huffed in response, hurling a wave of knifelike leaves up at Kusanagi.

    "Use Detect and cut them down with Leaf Blade!" Countered Jeanette.

    "Scep!" The Forest Pokemon barked affirmatively, his eyes taking on a shine as he began Detect. As the leaves came close, he struck with frightening precision, cleaving each leaf in two with calcuated blows from his arm blades. A mere ten feet away and closing in, Kusanagi slashed through the final few leaves and...

    "Now!" Ash yelled, sweeping his arm through the air before him.

    Bulbasaur nodded.

    There was a sharp crack as another Vine Whip slashed up toward Kusanagi, the organic lashes wrapping themselves around the lizard's forearms before Jeanette could react.

    "Pull yourself into it and hit 'em with Take Down, but don't lose your grip!"

    "Bul!" Bulbasaur chanted, pulling in his vines as hard and as fast as he could. In an instant, the smaller grass-type was flying off the ground, Kusanagi's greater weight allowing Bulbasaur to use his Vine Whip to pull himself up to meet the Sceptile in midair.

    A loud crack sounded through the arena as the Take Down hit home, its power assisted by both Bulbasaur's Vine Whip and gravity's pull on Kusanagi. The blow's recoil stunned even Bulbasaur itself, but his opponent was knocked senseless.

    True to form, the announcer erupted into a shouting fury.

    "A BRILLIANTLY EXECUTED COMBO! I'M ALMOST AT A LOSS TO DESCRIBE IT! ASH HAS USED BULBASAUR'S RAZOR LEAF AS A FEINT, GOADING HER INTO WASTING SCEPTILE'S DETECT AND OPENING SCEPTILE UP FOR A VINE WHIP AND TAKE DOWN COMBINATION! BULBASAUR IS STILL CLINGING ONTO SCEPTILE WITH VINE WHIP- WHAT'S ASH UP TO?!"

    "Now, give 'em some slack," Ash continued, "and jump off of it!"

    Bulbasaur obeyed, letting out the vines he'd retracted once more, and pushed off of Kusanagi's chest with all four feet, sending the Forest Pokemon careening the last few feet to the ground and propelling himself back up into the air.

    "Pull in again!" Ash roared. "And Tackle!"

    "Bullllllllll-BA!" Bulbasaur crowed triumphantly, rocketing back down toward the Sceptile with vine-assisted momentum, the power of gravity once more on his side.

    He plowed into Kusanagi's stomach with a crash, throwing up a storm of dust from the dirt field with the impact.

    "Kusanagi!" Jeanette yelled into the dusty cloud. "Are you alright?!"

    No answer.

    Ash stood silent, looking out into the field.

    There was a tense period of seconds as the entire stadium waited for the dust to settle, then, finally, visibility returned. Bulbasaur came into view first, its red eyes shining happily as it flashed a grin Ash's way. A bruised, green something lay under its four clawed feet.

    There was no doubt in the referee's mind as he made the call.

    "Sceptile is unable to battle! Bulbasaur is the winner!"

    The entire stadium erupted into cheers, many onlookers rising from their seats with excitement. The stands were alive with waving arms and pumping fists. Even the end of Charizard's last match couldn't compare. This was a true underdog win, a win with spirit. To those in the audience, those whose pokemon dreams lived on only in their hearts, this was the ultimate victory. The tumultuous symphony of cheering fans drowned out even the announcer's ultra-amplified voice as he narrarated the end of the battle.

    ---

    Up in the stands, the mystery figures looked down upon the action below, not rising, not cheering, but still visibly taken aback.

    "My, my," remarked the sunglasses man, crossing his arms, "that was a bit of a surprise ending."

    The vacationer nodded, mimicking his partner's pose.

    "I had expected a good fight from that Bulbasaur; his prior battles were a thing to behold, but until the very end, I had never expected him to win. That Ash... he's got a way with poison-types..."

    ---

    "So..." The muscular cowpoke intoned with a sly smile,"I seem to recall you saying something about-"

    "Shut up," the old woman interrupted irritably.

    -continued in next post-
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  11. #11
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    Oct 2008
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    Back on the field, Ash and Bulbasaur basked in the adulation of their fans, seemingly unable to do anything but smile. For the first time in his pokemon career, Ash felt as though he had truly accomplished something, as though at long last, the crowd was cheering for him and not for the spectacle of battle itself.

    Jeanette, too, seemed distant, but hers was a far different look from Ash's. The young woman looked pensive, not exactly worried, but still somehow troubled.

    But while the two trainers were lost in their own musings, time went on, and the referee was calling for the next battle to begin.

    "Red trainer, select your next pokemon!"

    Jeanette started, shocked out of her contemplative trance.

    "...Yes..."

    She began reaching into her sash, then paused suddenly, her hand halfway to her next Poke Ball. She blinked, her eyes drifting astray, her gaze dipping toward the ground to her left as her head bowed ever so slightly. Holding this pose, she allowed several seconds to pass.

    "Red trainer," the ref repeated, "please select your pokemon!"

    As if this last call from the referee had finalized her decision, Jeanette looked up, the odd, doubting look at last gone from her eyes. Her hand fell back to her side as she turned toward the League official and spoke clearly:

    "I, Jeanette Fisher, red trainer, hereby resign from this match!"

    "I see... Well then... The red trainer, Jeanette Fisher, elects to resign," the man spoke into his headset, recording the exchange. "Red trainer, this is your final opportunity to retract your decision. Are you certain you wish to resign?"

    "Yes." Jeanette spoke firmly and without hesitation, but her green eyes betrayed a hint of regret, nonetheless.

    Murmurs ran through the stands. What the heck was going on? Why wasn't the next battle starting? Did something happen? Everything on the field looked fine...

    More than a minute passed, then, finally, the announcer's voice boomed throughout the stadium bowl.

    "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! I HAVE JUST RECIEVED WORD FROM THE REFEREE THAT JEANETTE FISHER HAS CONCEDED! THIS MATCH'S WINNER IS ASH KETCHUM OF PALLET TOWN!

    AS A VICTOR IN THE SEMIFINAL ROUND, HE WILL GO ON TO PARTICIPATE IN TOMORROW'S FINAL MATCH! GOOD LUCK, ASH!"

    "Yes," Professor Oak's voice rang cheerily through the loudspeakers, "best of luck, indeed!"

    Applause rang from the stands, but there were jeers and catcalls mixed in as well. The match of the tourney thus far had just come to a throughly unsatisfying and anticlimactic end, and many in the audience couldn't help but feel cheated. Tickets to any of the final few matches could hardly be considered cheap, and for a semifinalist to resign mid-match was practically unheard-of. There wasn't going to be a riot, but there wasn't going to be a standing ovation, either.

    Down on the field, Jeanette's resignation had gone over even worse. Ash had recalled Bulbasaur, and was stomping his way across the charred, blasted field in nothing short of a fury.

    "Hey!" he barked angrily at Jeanette. "HEY! Over here!"

    Jeanette, in conversation with the referee, excused herself and turned towards the fuming Ash, who had stopped several feet away and was now glaring at her.

    "Yes?" The forest trainer asked placidly. "What is it?"

    "You withdrawing, that's what it is!" Ash shot back. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"

    "Resigning." Jeanette responded simply, looking rather surprised. "Dropping out? Acknowledging you as the victor? This is a good thing for you, you know."

    "Yeah, I do, but that's not the point! What about you? What about them?" Ash made a sweeping gesture with his arms, indicating the onlookers in the stands. "What about your pokemon? They fought with everything they had so that you might win; they gave it their all! Who do you think you are to make everything they did meaningless?! And your pokemon who didn't fight! How do you think it makes them feel, that you didn't think them worthy enough to battle?! What gives you the right?!"

    "PI-pikapi!" Pikachu agreed, leaping up onto Ash's shoulder. He seemed almost upset that he'd missed a chance to battle.

    To Ash's surprise, Jeanette smiled. Ordinarily, this wouldn't have affected him, but there was something odd about this smile, thin and demure, showing no teeth. For whatever reason, he felt utterly silenced. Then she spoke.

    "Ash, you really are a great trainer, aren't you? To put my pokemon's feelings above your own victory... there aren't many people who would do such things, not many at all, even amongst the elites."

    Ash could feel his cheeks burn; he was a sucker for flattery, but he recovered.

    "Don't dodge the question," he rebounded.

    "I'm not. My pokemon are my closest friends, Ash. I would never have resigned if I thought it would hurt them. They're warriors, the same as me, and it's a hallmark of an true warrior never to fight a battle one has already lost."

    "You didn't 'already lose'! If you'd 'already lost', you wouldn't have to resign, would you?" Ash interrupted.

    "It's another hallmark of a true warrior to be able to recognize the difference between a hard fight and a lost cause," Jeanette retorted. "Kusanagi, my Sceptile, is fully evolved and my strongest pokemon; I've spent the last two-and-a-half years training him, both in pokemon techniques and the human martial arts. He can face a Machamp equally in physical combat, but you and your Bulbasaur defeated him in an even match. I myself trained harder than ever after I lost to you four years ago, and it still wasn't enough. I am strong, and my pokemon are strong, but we know when we're beat. Bellsprout and Heracross will understand why they couldn't fight today."

    "But how do you know?" Ash pressed on, now more confused than angry. "What makes you think you understand your pokemon's feelings so completely?"

    The girl shrugged, the silky fabric of her kimono rippling like water around her shoulders.

    "I just do." She said simply. "Even though I can't speak with my pokemon, through fighting and learning together, we somehow develop a deeper understanding of each other. It's difficult to explain, but I think it's something that happens to every great trainer over time. I'm sure it'll happen to you too; maybe it already has."

    Ash thought back to his battle with Bulbasaur, about how the two of them moved so easily in combat, almost as if they could read each other's minds. He thought of Pikachu, his best friend, and the relationship that they shared, despite not being able to talk to each other directly. He thought of Charizard, fighting with everything he had, determined to win at all costs, and the insane speech that had spilled, almost spontaneously, from his own lips as the Flame Pokemon executed its final attack, and he found that he knew exactly what Jeanette was talking about; he'd just never bothered to think about it before.

    Jeanette caught the look in Ash's eyes.

    "It seems it has."

    "Yeah, I guess so," Ash grinned, suddenly a bit embarrassed about his earlier outburst. "...Sorry I yelled; I suppose I just didn't get you at the time. Our mutual understanding," he said, scratching Pikachu under his chin, "is just a little different from yours. To us, there are no 'lost causes'. We're determined to fight to the end, win or lose, and if we do lose, at least we know we gave it our all."

    The dark-haired girl nodded.

    "That explains a lot," she giggled. "Your Charizard nearly gave me a heart attack, getting up all of a sudden like that."

    Ash couldn't help laughing as well.

    "He's a bit of a beast, isn't he? He's come close to roasting me alive more than once."

    Their laughter continued for a moment, before Ash stopped, and Jeanette followed. She smiled that odd smile of hers again, extending a pale hand.

    "I hope we can battle again, Ash."

    Ash grasped and shook it, smirking mischeviously.

    "Best two out of three?"

    Jeanette laughed, one hand held daintily in front of her mouth.

    "You're terrible."

    "All right, all right," interrupted the referee, stepping between the two trainers, "that was all very inspiring, but we need to begin preparations for the next match. Please return to your respective locker areas."

    "I see," Jeanette relented. "I'll be cheering for you in the final match, Ash," she said over her shoulder as she turned toward the red area locker entrance. "Good luck, and don't make me look bad!"

    She winked, and with that last parting shot, walked off toward the lockers.

    After staring at Jeanette's back for a moment, Ash did the same.

    ---

    Ash entered the locker room lost in his own thoughts once more. The connection between trainer and pokemon... He'd always been cogniscent of it, experienced it, used it to his advantage... but never truly thought about it. Jeanette's words had awakened him to a whole new aspect of being a pokemon trainer, and he wasn't quite sure what to do with the realization.

    An unfamiliar voice broke him from his musings.

    "A commendable performance," Croket applauded Ash, rising from his bench seat. Standing at his full height, he was a full two heads taller than the boy. "Your name is Ash, correct?"

    "Y-yes," Ash stammered, rather cowed by the imposing man. "That's me. And thank you." He was suddenly very aware of the fact that Gary was no longer present in the locker room.

    "My name is Alan Croket," the woollen-suited man intoned coolly, offering a large, finely manicured hand. "I am the number three competitor in the semifinals."

    "I know," Ash responded, shaking hands with Croket, "I read your profile on the League Database; you're a really good trainer."

    Croket chuckled. Even his laugh seemed calculated and controlled.

    "So they say, but a trainer is only as good as the pokemon he commands. I owe my victories to my companions."

    Ash immediately felt more at ease. Anyone with that kind of respect for their pokemon couldn't be all bad, no matter how intimidating they looked.

    "Anyhow," Croket continued, "I wanted to propose to you a little deal. The organization that I lead is in dire need of talented young trainers such as yourself. Should you have some free time, might you be interested in doing some work for me? You would be paid handsomely, of course."

    "Maybe," Ash shrugged. "What kind of work?"

    "Well-," Croket began before the PA system cut him off with a loud beep, and an almost robotically neutral female voice wafted through the wall-mounted speakers and into the two trainers' ears.

    "Alan Croket, please report to the field; your match will commence in five minutes. Alan Croket to the field, please."

    "And that," Croket said apologetically, "is my cue. Please, contact me in my dormitory sometime within the next two days if you are interested. Just dial the number for building number five- it should be listed on the phone in your room- and ask them to connect you to room one-seventeen."

    "...Okay." Ash responded, nodding uncertainly.

    "Alright then. Good meeting you," Croket finished. He walked past Ash, and off toward the field entrance, patting the boy on the shoulder as he passed.

    "What a weird guy..." Ash muttered once Croket was out of earshot.

    "Who?" Asked a voice behind him.

    Ash turned to find Gary standing the doorway.

    "That Croket guy," Ash said, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his vest. "Where'd you go?"

    "Just makin' some calls," Gary smirked. "C'mon, I've got a surprise for ya."

    ---

    By the time the pair of boys stepped through one of the many archways along the outer wall of Stadium 3, a heated debate had broken out between the two of them.

    "She's a seven. Eight at best," Gary drawled.

    "You didn't see her in person! She's a nine, at least!"

    "A kimono? Who the heck wears a kimono in this day and age? You're just a sucker for green eyes."

    "Who cares? Green eyes with black hair is fantastic-auwwp!"

    Ash made a gurgling noise as someone swooped on him from behind, binding his neck in a tight headlock choke before applying a vicious noogie to the top of his head.

    "Soooo," came a familiar female voice, "fooling around behind my back, are ya?"

    "Acck!" Ash spat, beginning to lose his vision. "Mi...Mithty? Ithhat you?"

    "In the flesh!" Misty grinned, grinding her knuckles into Ash's skull one last time before relinqishing her death grip on his neck. "Happy to see me?"

    Pikachu leapt up into the girl's arms with a "Pikaa!", clearly delighted to see her.

    "I might've been..." Ash groaned, massaging his throat.

    Turning to face his old friend, Ash immediately noticed two things. One, Misty had finally gotten around to changing her hair, and two, Brock was standing a few feet behind her, trying and failing at stifling laughter. Despite his aching neck, the sight of his most treasured friends brought a wide smile to Ash's face.

    "Brock! You too? I thought you said-"

    "I changed my mind," the eldest of the group grinned. "I couldn't stop thinking: How is Ash gonna survive out there without me?"

    Brock looked the same as he always had, with his spiky brown hair and earth-toned hiking clothes. Of course, Ash hadn't expected him to have changed; he'd seen him last only about a month ago prior. Besides, Brock's consistency was part of his charm. Misty, on the other hand, he hadn't seen in over a year, and she was practically a whole new person. Her hair, as he'd noticed before, was finally out of that bushy side-ponytail she'd always kept, and now hung in a stylish bobcut that curled forward slightly at the ends. A simple, white t-shirt under her old yellow half-vest and pair of tight, worn-in jeans completed her new look. Ash was also rather irked to find that she was still slightly taller than he was.

    Gary slapped Ash on the back, catching the boy between his shoulderblades and making him cringe slightly.

    "Surprise, bud."

    "It really is..." Ash mumbled hoarsely. "Misty, I thought you had gym duties?"

    "I do," the red-haired girl said with a smirk, setting Pikachu back down, "but when Gary called and told me you'd made it into the semifinals, what was I supposed to do? No badges from Cerulean for a few days, wah-wah. They can deal with it."

    "And Brock, what about your family? Are your parents back from Celadon already?"

    The rock gym leader looked sheepish.

    "No, and they think I'm still at home. I left Forrest in charge. A bit irresponsible, I know, but like Misty said: What was I supposed to do? Besides, that kid is more responsible than most adults; he can hold down the fort just fine."

    "So," Gary piped up, looping an arm around Ash's neck, "whaddya saaaay?"

    "I'm half expecting May and Tracey to pop out of some crack in the wall and choke me out just to follow the trend, that's what I say."

    Gary mock-pouted.

    "Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Gary."

    "So, Ash," Brock asked, "how was your match?"

    "A heck of a lot tougher than I figured it'd be!" Ash exclaimed. "I never thought I'd catch this much trouble from a straight-typed team."

    Misty chucked Brock on the shoulder.

    "A long-awaited victory for us straight-typed trainers, eh?" She laughed, squaring her hands and pretending to read from an imaginary headline in a caricature of a male television reporter's voice. "THIS JUST IN: ASH KETCHUM ADMITS THE VALIDITY OF SOMEONE ELSE'S STRATEGY."

    Brock burst out laughing again, along with Gary and Misty, and even Ash couldn't help but join in. Pikachu, yet again, seemed largely indifferent.

    "Hey Ash," Misty caught the boy's attention as the laughter died down. "Who's in the other match today?"

    "Some guy named Alan Croket and... Oh, ****."

    "What?"

    "It's Richie! I'm missing his match!"

    And with that, Ash turned on his heel and practically sprinted back through the entrance arch.

    "You idiot!" Gary yelled after Ash's retreating back. "It's only been like, ten minutes! You don't have to run! ...Damn." He turned back toward Misty and Brock. "Wait here, guys, I'll go find him."

    ---

    In moments, Gary was back outside the green area lockers, relatively certain Ash was inside. Even from through the door, he could hear snippets of the announcer's booming voice.

    "-solutely astounding... shortest mat-... league history... -othing else like it... Alakazam... clean sweep...-ix to zero... Tyranitar crush- ... ... -ikachu not even... no contest f-... phenomenal..."

    As he stepped through the door, he saw Ash immediately, watching the same flat-panel television that Gary himself had watched the first match on. Oddly for the boy, he sat in utter silence, not so much as a cheer escaping his lips. Gary was about remark sarcastially on Ash's newfound ability to quiet himself occasionally when he saw what was happening on the TV screen.

    The camera views were switching constantly; clearly, there was not a battle going on right now. The view changed quickly between four shots: The first was the crowd, cheering madly, as usual. The second was Croket, his thick arms crossed over his chest, his powerful features forming a understated smile of satisfaction. The third was Richie, on his knees in the dirt, his head bowed. Tears fell freely from beneath the brim of his cap.

    The final shot was a full panoramic view of the field. On the rough dirt stood Croket's famed Alakazam, utterly unscathed, clutching a spoon in each hand and crossing its arms in a mimicry of Croket's pose. Its ochre moustache twitched slightly as it surveyed its fallen opponent.

    Opposite Alakazam, unconscious on the scorched, pockmarked dirt, lay a Tyranitar.

    Clearly, Richie's "ace in the hole" had not worked out as he had hoped, and his mighty powerhouse had been swatted aside with ease by Croket's ace battler.

    High above the field, the JumboTron screen displayed the final match score: zero to six. Alakazam had downed each and every one of Richie's pokemon without any visible effort in what the announcer was howling was the shortest full match in Indigo League history, at four minutes and forty-two seconds.

    Richie had lost. Badly.

    ---
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  12. #12
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    It then thust its arms down and back,
    Only one mistake that i found. Misspelled. Thrust right?

    Other than that, this is phenomenal. The battles are great, and exciting. I was like, what she resigned? Then, with Richie losing that badly, i wonder whats going to happen next.

    The way the battles are going with the announcer seemed weird at first, but getting use to it i also see why you did it. I also like how Oak is there, saying technical lingo about Pokemon. It is like you created the Pokemon and know them better than anyone. I have to say this is really Fantastic. I wish more people would comment and read. It deserves more.

    Keep on going. This stuff is amazing. The description. The suspense. The fight. The heart-felt moments. The amazing writing ability. Top-noch stuff.

  13. #13
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    A Note (1/5/09):

    Lordy. I almost feel bad calling this a chapter after the monster that was number two. It's more a precursor to chapter four than anything, here to pass the time until I finish the next installment, the first draft of which is about 85% complete, by my estimate. Thus far, though, I hate it to death and beyond. It'll take some time before it's finished, and even more until I can rework it into something I'm at least somewhat satisfied with.

    Not to fret, though; it'll be up soon enough. If there's anyone I know I can satisfy, it's myself.

    - Boss Coffee

    Chapter 3: Against the Immor(t)al

    There was a veritable war room gathered in Ash Ketchum's tiny dormitory. Two skilled trainers, two pokemon Gym Leaders, the world's leading authority in pokemon research, his grandson, and his oldest partner all crowded in the pale white confines of the cheap lodging. Oh, and two pikachu. We can't forget them.

    Ash sighed deeply, his head resting against the wall next to his bed as he sat at the foot.

    "I can't win. I can't. There's no way."

    "You have to!" Richie countered vehemently, throwing himself onto the bed to Ash's right. "You can't just give up after coming this far! It's the final match!"

    "He's right, ya know," Gary said dully, leaning back against the the faux-wood headboard, an oddly distant expression on his face.

    "Well what else can I do?!" Ash asked angrily. "This guy's a monster!"

    "There is no such thing, young man," intoned the stately Professor Rowan, sitting at the small table, "as an invincible trainer. There is always a path to victory, even if it is not readily apparent. What do you think, Sam?"

    "I agree wholeheartedly," Professor Oak affirmed from across the table. "I observed Mr. Croket's entire match, and while he is assuredly a top-notch trainer, he is not unbeatable."

    "We only saw one of his pokemon, though..." Richie said worriedly, shifting uncomfortably. "Even if Ash can take down alakazam, there could be five more just like it waiting in the wings."

    "Well, there's that umbreon, for one," Brock commented from his seat on the floor, poring over several sheets of paper he'd printed out from Croket's League profile. "And it only serves to make alakazam more dangerous, from what I can see here. The final round allows substitutions at will, and judging from these sheets, Croket will take full advantage of that."

    "Erm, Gary," Professor Oak propositioned his grandson, "you're the strategist here. How would you counter this pair?"

    For seconds, Gary said nothing, just staring blankly across the room.

    "...I wouldn't," he said finally. "I couldn't. No matter how smart I fought, I don't think I could beat this guy."

    "Well, that's not the attitude to have, my boy!" Rowan crowed. "You've always struck me as such a go-getter. What's come over you?"

    "Nothing," Ash muttered. "Nothing's 'come over him'. He's just come to the same realization I have: Croket is way too strong."

    Gary shot Ash a covert look that made it clear that that wasn't what he'd meant, but said nothing further. Then...

    "What the hell's the matter with you, Ash?!"

    Everyone jumped at the sound of Misty's piercing shout. The girl looked positively livid as she tromped across the four feet of floor space between her and the bed before bending over at the waist to look Ash in the eye. As he tried and failed to recoil from his friend's fierce gaze, Ash could've sworn he could see fire in her clear, green eyes.

    "What happened to you?" Misty roared in Ash's face. "Where's that devil-may-care attitude that used to annoy me so much? I'd just started to come to terms with it; don't tell me it's gone already! You should be bugging the crap out of all of us with your cocky bullsh*t, not moping around on your bed like some half-dead magikarp! BE THE BEST. BE THE BEST. POKEMON MASTER. BLAH BLAH BLAH. What happened to that, huh?!"

    For several seconds, total silence reigned in the small room as everyone stared at Misty like she had three heads. Then, suddenly, the lull ended as an odd buzzing permeated the void, and it took everyone a moment to realized the noise was coming from Rowan.

    His moustache was vibrating.

    The noise increased in a rapid crescendo, until at long last the elderly professor gave in to his funny bone and broke out into a peal of laughter, a deep, baritone guffaw that seemed both perfectly natural and horrifyingly absurd coming from the mouth of the regal-looking Rowan.

    In natural order, Oak fell next, his own light chuckle joining his friend's booming laugh, and the rest of the room's occupants followed in short order. Even Pikachu and Sparky seemed to join in, adding their own, pokemon equivalent of human laughter to the mix.

    The laughter went on for some time, but by the time it died down, all traces of the room's former tension and gloom had died along with it.

    "Thanks, Mist," Ash smiled, visibly more relaxed. "You're right. ...Even if you are totally out of your mind."

    Misty grinned cheekily.

    "Don't worry; I'll always be there to snap you back when you go all stupid on me. ...But try not to make this a regular occurrence, okay?"

    Ash cocked an eyebrow.

    "You got it. I'll never not be a cocky little prick again, I swear."

    The two aging professors chuckled as they observed the teenagers.

    "Young love is a thing to behold, eh?" Rowan whispered to Oak under his breath.

    "Now, John," Oak chided jokingly, "don't give them a hard time."

    "I can hear you, you know," Ash and Misty announced simultaneously.

    And with that, the group meeting quickly dissolved into casual conversation, dividing naturally into two groups. Oak, Rowan and Gary, sitting around the table, began discussing the subjects of their respective research. The "younger crowd" of Ash, Misty and Richie settled into their own conversational niche: pokemon battling. Brock lingered for a while in the battling group, but soon found himself drawn to the researchers' table.

    The talking went on into the night, and before anyone realized it, it was nearing midnight.

    "Ah!" Gary piped up suddenly, eyes on his Poketch. "We need to pack it in. You've gotta get some sleep, Ash."

    Oak stood up, and Rowan followed him.

    "I need my rest as well," the elder Oak announced. "I'm up in the box again tomorrow, and I'll need eight hours at least if I'm to suffer the company of that atrocious announcer."

    "Hm. I wish I had such an excuse," Rowan joked. "Alas, I'm simply old, and need my sleep."

    "Well, then join me in the box tomorrow, why don't you? By Arceus, I could use the company..."

    "We should go too," Brock said, tapping Misty on the shoulder.

    "Where are you guys staying?" Ash asked him.

    "As Gym Leaders, we get all kinds of perks here," Brock explained, "including free lodging in the Village."

    "Our rooms're way nicer than yours, too," Misty taunted.

    Ash made a dismissive noise.

    "That's not saying much. You couldn't find a worse room than this in a prison."

    Amidst laughter, his guests said their goodbyes and filed out of the room, Gary, the last of them, closing the door behind him.

    Ash got up to turn off the overhead light and tossed himself limply back onto his bed, still very much awake. Pikachu hopped up beside him, curling into his favorite sleeping position at Ash's side, and the boy stroked his friend's head absentmindedly as he relived the past day in his head.

    The battle... Jeanette's words... Brock and Misty coming in out of the blue... Croket's incredible battle prowess... Misty's yelling... It all seemed rather crazy, but in the visceral soup of his ever-random thoughts, it was all starting to come together.

    Ever since the beginning of his journey, he'd done his best to be the best, and he knew it, but even as he fought and trained and connected with his pokemon, he'd never bothered to take a step back and examine exactly what it was that he was doing. It worked, and that had been enough for him, but more and more, as of late, he'd found that just sprinting ahead blind was no longer enough. Ever since his first battle with Brandon back during Battle Frontier, he'd felt the burning need to look back on his journeys and experiences thus far and try to understand why he'd made it as far as he did. As much as he wanted to believe that he was special, as much as he wanted to believe that he was destined to be the best, he knew that there was something else empowering him and his pokemon that was, so far, beyond his understanding. In the few days before his match with Jeanette, he'd felt it eating at him, his desire to know, and the empty feeling he felt from not knowing. Not being cognizant of the source of one's own strength was a scary thing. Richie had given him enough of a reprieve to win the Jeanette match, but the urge had returned the second he'd witnessed the final moments of Croket's victory over tyranitar.

    Luckily, Misty had been there to trigger the beginnings of an epiphany. Her outburst had caused Ash to recall a number of similar events in the recent past. Gary, psychoanalyzing him back in the lab the previous week, Jeanette, preaching on communication and understanding between trainer and pokemon, and Misty herself, yelling her head off about how he'd lost his way... As their words combined into one, cohesive thought in Ash's head, he realized that they'd all understood, consciously or unconsciously, the source of his strength better than he himself ever had. But now, he thought, a smile coming to his face, he was beginning to understand as well.

    As he felt his eyelids beginning to droop, Ash felt unusually content. He felt the gentle, reassuring push of Pikachu's breathing against his side, and felt more comforted by it than ever before. As he nodded off, words drifted almost unconsciously from his lips.

    "Thanks, guys," he whispered to the dark. "I'll win tomorrow for sure."

    ---

    On the other side of Trainers' Village, in building number five, room one-seventeen, the man known as Alan Croket was sitting at the tiny table in his own cramped quarters. The small overhead light was off, leaving the dormitory lit solely by the pale moon. His woolen jacket hung limply over the chair's back, but his black tie remained noose-tight around his neck.

    Across the table, his back to the room's only window, sat the shadowed figure of what appeared to be a young man, his elbows on the table and his fingers steepled before his darkened face.

    He shifted his hands, grasping a silver cuff link on the left wrist of his dress shirt in long fingers. He twisted it in an casual manner - clearly a habit.

    Croket frowned.

    "Don't you ever switch off, Marco?"

    "Don't you ever turn the lights on?" The young man replied icily.

    "My apologies. I'm simply accustomed to holding meetings in the dark."

    The twisting continued as Marco spoke:

    "I trust everything is prepared, then?"

    "Of course. The stage is set, and the players have all mastered their respective parts. Everything should go off without a hitch."

    "Should? Should is not acceptable. What is the problem?"

    Croket chuckled darkly.

    "You sound just like your father, I wish he could see you."

    "I do not wish to hear of my erstwhile father. How many times must I stress this? Now... What. Is. The problem?"

    "I assume that you know of the Elites' presence."

    "Of course. A new development, I trust, as I was informed only yesterday."

    "Well? Does it not worry you?"

    "They alone are nothing we cannot handle," Marco intoned, rising from his chair and retrieving a black vest from its back. "Should a true difficulty arise, I trust you to handle it. Good night."

    With those parting words, the young man crossed the room and made his exit.

    As the door clicked shut, Croket sighed, pulling a silver tube from his breast pocket. There was a pronounced sucking noise as he removed the tube's cap, breaking the airtight seal.

    With a 'chink' of flint being struck, he lit his cigar and slumped slightly in his chair, exhaling a thick plume of bluish smoke.

    "Ah," he sighed, a bemused expression on his face, "the impertinence of youth..."

    ---

    "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS IT: THE FINAL MATCH OF THIS YEAR'S INDIGO CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT! HERE ARE YOUR FINALISTS! THE RED TRAINER- ALAN CROKET OF RAFFELESIA CITY!"

    The perpetually calm Croket entered the stadium amidst uproarious cheers. Yesterday's clean sweep had elevated him from "skilled trainer" to "living legend" in the eyes of the fans.

    "...AND THE GREEN TRAINER- ASH KETCHUM OF PALLET TOWN!"

    Surprisingly enough, as Ash and Pikachu stepped out onto the field, the applause was just as great, if not greater than it had been for Croket. He was the underdog, and Kanto's native son, and that alone was enough to endear him to those in the audience. Though they cheered heartily for Croket, their souls lay with Ash. It was his victory today that they truly desired.

    As the two trainers took their respective places at opposite sides of the large battlefield, the referee dictated the terms of the match.

    "This is a full match, each trainer will use six pokemon with no time limit! Full substitutions are allowed! Red trainer, release your pokemon!"

    Croket nodded to the referee, pulling a Poke Ball from within his jacket and tapping the release button, enlarging it to its full size.

    "Let's go, my friend," Croket intoned quietly to the Poke Ball in his hand before casting it out into the field.

    The ball split, and white light cascaded from within its confines, spilling out onto the dirt and shaping itself into a glowing, humanoid form. As the glow faded, the amorphous particles became the solid form of a lanky alakazam.

    "Araaa-kazam!" The psychic-type shouted as he emerged. His voice came out as a wheezy growl, as though he were unaccustomed to using it.

    "CROKET HAS ONCE AGAIN SELECTED HIS TRUSTY ALAKAZAM! IT'S ONE OF THE ONLY THREE POKEMON HE'S SEEN FIT TO USE IN THIS TOURNAMENT SO FAR, AND IT'S THE POWERHOUSE THAT WON HIM YESTERDAY'S MATCH ALL BY ITSELF! HOW WILL ASH REPLY?"

    Ash grit his teeth. He'd known alakazam would be up first; he'd come into the match expecting it, but up until the very moment of its release, he had been hoping it might be something else. Alas, it wasn't so. What could very well be the hardest single battle he'd ever fought was now before him.

    There was no backing down now.

    "Go, Tauros!" Ash yelled, hurling his own Poke Ball.

    The Poke Ball ejected Tauros, who bellowed his own arrival as he took form on the field. The bullish pokemon snorted loudly, stamping his hooves and whipping himself with his three tails as he glared aggressively at his opponent.

    "AND ASH PULLS TAUROS! IT'S THE MAIN SOURCE OF PHYSICAL POWER ON ASH'S TEAM; HE'S GOING TO TRY SMASHING THROUGH ALAKAZAM WITH FORCE!"

    ---

    On the left side of the stadium, on one of the lower rows, close to the field, sat Misty, Brock, Gary and Richie. Professor Rowan was absent, having chosen to join Professor Oak in the announcer's box.

    The four youths looked down at the field, bearing matching determined expressions. This was it, the moment of truth for them and their friend both. Today's match meant the difference between "Ash Ketchum, Champion" and "Ash Ketchum, runner-up", and though they wanted victory for their friend, of course, a championship win for Ash was somewhat validating for each of them as well. It was proof of something, of their own efforts, as well as Ash's.

    Misty and Brock's endless coaching, Gary's loss to Ash, Richie's loss to Croket... Each of them had staked a part of their soul on the skill of the young man now standing on the battlefield. His victory was their victory, his loss their loss, and at that moment, each of the four wanted nothing more than to win.

    ---

    "Begin!" Shouted the referee.

    The moment the word left the ref's lips, the alakazam disappeared.

    Ash's eyes widened.

    "Tauros, kick straight backwards, now!"

    The Wild Bull Pokemon reacted quickly, shifting his weight to his front legs and hefting his rear ones into the air, thrusting them out for a double kick.

    The alakazam appeared less than a second after, directly behind Tauros, and caught two hooves in the chest for his troubles. The psychic-type, of a species not exactly known for physical strength and endurance, was thrown backwards by the blow, sailing a full ten feet straight back before hitting the dirt.

    "WHAT REFLEXES! REACTING WITH A SPEED SUGGESTING TELEPATHY, ASH GUIDES TAUROS IN INTERCEPTING THE TELEPORTING ALAKAZAM! IT'S HURLED OFF ITS FEET BY A POWERFUL KICK! IS IT THE END ALREADY? ...NO! ALAKAZAM IS GETTING TO ITS FEET! IT DOESN'T EVEN LOOK INJURED!"

    "Kazam," the Psi Pokemon chanted, levitating himself back to a stand. With a wave of his spoons, he dispelled the golden aura that had surrounded him at the second before the blow.

    Ash clenched a gloved fist. Barrier. He should've known.

    "I see you've been watching my matches," Croket called to Ash from across the battlefield. "That's good; preparedness is essential."

    "Yeah," was all Ash could think to respond with.

    In truth, he hadn't seen any of Croket's matches. Luckily, Richie had been keeping tabs on him, and, of course, had witnessed his battle style first hand, so he'd been able to supply Ash with all the information he needed. This included Croket's typical strategies, such as Teleporting directly behind his opponent and communicating with alakazam via its telepathy, negating the need for verbal commands.

    "Unfortunately, that won't be enou-"

    Alakazam disappeared again.

    "-gh to beat us."

    As Ash yelled for Tauros to dodge, alakazam appeared directly above him, about twenty feet in the air, eyes closed and spoons crossed in an "X" before his face. A gently pulsing orb of bluish-white energy materialized over the crossed spoons, and, his eyes snapping open, the Psi Pokemon slashed downward with both arms, hurling the Focus Blast at Tauros.

    All Ash could do was watch as the fighting-type attack shot down at Tauros and collided with the rise of his back, smashing the bull off his feet and onto the dirt as dust billowed outward from the force of the impact.

    "ALAKAZAM TELEPORTS INTO THE AIR ABOVE TAUROS! IT CAN'T REACT FAST ENOUGH TO DODGE FOCUS BLAST, AND GETS HAMMERED TO THE FLOOR! IT'S OUT LIKE A LIGHT!"

    "Tauros is unable to battle! Alakazam wins!"

    Ash cursed. That had hardly gone well. Still, Tauros had landed a hit, and that counted for something.

    "Tauros, good work! Return." Ash commanded, recalling the Wild Bull. "Pikachu, you're up!"

    "Pi-KA!" Pikachu cheered, springing out from behind Ash. He'd missed his chance to fight last time, and the battler in Pikachu was aching to get in the action once again. Nonetheless, apprehension was clearly visible in the electric Mouse Pokemon's bright, round eyes. Alakazam was freakish. This would not be easy.

    But then again... that was the way he liked it. For all his diplomatic tendencies and clear, rational thinking, Pikachu was a prideful little thing. He would not show weakness. He would not show fear. Not since...

    Since when?

    Oddly, it was a question that the little electric-type found he could not answer. How long had he been traveling with Ash? When did this change come over him? Sure, he'd be adamant about his refusal to mutate into an ugly brown rat since the day he'd left the egg, but when did his personal strength become so important to him? Beating opponents. Winning matches. Badges. Leagues. When did it turn from "helping out my buddy" to "I'm going to win, no matter what"? Survival. Eating. Reproduction. These were the things that were supposed to be important to a Pokemon, not learning to split a log in half with one's tail.

    And yet, there it was. Curious.

    Still, now was not the time to ponder such things.

    Pikachu dropped down on all fours and growled lowly at his mustachioed enemy, electricity sparking in his ruby cheeks.

    "Oh-ho."

    Pikachu's expression changed from determination to surprise in a heartbeat. It was in his head. The spoon-bender was in his head.

    It was almost imperceptible, but the alakazam's eyes narrowed as he thought-spoke his next words.

    "Yes... yes I am. Musing on the workings of our own low-powered brain, are we, little one? A word from the wise: Assuming that you will eventually realize what is going on in your head, you may yet find that the truth is not to your... Ah, pardon me. It seems that I am to crush you now."

    With that, the alakazam snapped out his right arm, pointing the spoon clutched in his hand at Pikachu, who was instantly engulfed in a blue aura of psychic energy.

    Ash cursed. Confusion. He was really growing to hate psychics.

    "Pikachu, hit it with Thunder!"

    Pikachu attempted to nod in response, and failed. He tried to verbalize his confirmation... and failed. In the end, he settled for doing nothing and tried blasting alakazam with Thunder.

    As it turned out, the large release of electrical energy required so little actual movement on Pikachu's part that the attack was performed successfully, and a huge bolt of yellow lightning arced across the field toward the alakazam, leaving the tainted scent of ozone in its wake.

    "IT'S A LIGHTNING-FAST THUNDER FROM PIKACHU TO COUNTER ALAKAZAM'S CONFUSION, BUT IT SEEMS THE PSI POKEMON'S LIGHTNING-FASTER! THE ELECTRIC ASSAULT'S DEFLECTED BY ANOTHER CONFUSION!"

    As the bolt of lightning twisted away from its target, Croket allowed himself a small smirk, a modest show of emotion, and transmitted one final, mental command to his pokemon.

    A moment later, Pikachu felt an odd jerking sensation in the pit of his stomach, and before he or Ash could realize what was happening, the electric mouse was soaring up into the air, carried by Confusion's power.

    "Pikachu!" Ash cried. "Thunderbolt it, quick!"

    Still immobile, Pikachu concentrated the electrical energy in his cheek sacs into a single, refined bolt that hurtled from his body and toward the alakazam with even greater speed than the previous attack.

    Once again, with barely a moment's effort on alakazam's part, the lighting arced harmlessly away from the psychic-type, hitting the edge of the diffusion field and dispersing. That accomplished, it turned back to Pikachu, ready to finish him off.

    To the alakazam's surprise, however, Pikachu was gone.

    "AFTER ANOTHER UNSUCCESSFUL ATTACK, PIKACHU IS RECALLED! WHAT'S ASH GONNA TRY NEXT?!"

    Ash tapped the release button on a familiar, lightning-marked Poke Ball, and, in a stream of white light, Pikachu was released from the confines of his spherical, red-and-white hell. As he emerged onto the turf next to Ash, he shot his trainer a throughly disgruntled look, followed by a modest squeak of thanks.

    "You're glad I kept this now, aren't you?" Ash queried jokingly, tossing the ball to himself before clipping it back onto his belt. "Okay. New tactic! Let's go, Charizard!"

    Feeling a sudden swell of nostalgia, Ash twisted his cap backward and kicked up his left foot before pitching Charizard's Poke Ball into the field as though it were a metallic baseball.

    "IT'S CHARIZARD, FOLKS! EACH TRAINER HAS FIELDED THEIR TOP BATTLER! THIS IS SHAPING UP TO BE THE MATCH OF A LIFETIME!"

    As Charizard emerged, Croket, near imperceptibly, smiled.

    I've been waiting for this...

    "Fight at your peak, boy!" The woolen-suited man shouted across the open field at Ash in what might have been his most expressive tone ever.

    "Oh, we will! Don't you worry about that!" Ash yelled in response, the very sight of his prize fighter restoring his confidence to its utmost level. Charizard, perfectly in tune with Ash's mood, let out a defiant roar of his own.

    "Charizard, Flamethrower!"

    The dragon reacted quickly, thrusting his horned head toward the alakazam, his jaw agape. The Flamethrower shot from his throat in a concentrated stream, quickly closing the distance and striking, dead-on, the spot where alakazam was no longer standing.

    "Damn telporter," Ash growled. "Behind! Get 'em with your tail!"

    Charizard whirled, intending to swing his tail in a full 360-degree arc for a max-power hit, but only got halfway there, as alakazam appeared, not behind, as Ash had predicted, but directly in front of the Flame Pokemon.

    The lucky tail swing collided with the Psi Pokemon's right side, and he was bowled over by the blow's power. Looking rather annoyed, he halted the momentum of his fall and levitated back to his feet, once again dispelling a Barrier. Not even pausing, he continued to float, drifting backward without actually moving, his feet less than an inch off the ground. The motionless gliding of the psychic was oddly perturbing, and it distracted Ash from commanding Charizard long enough for alakazam to begin his next offensive. Crossing his spoons once more, the wily pokemon pushed his psychic energies through his favored talismans and outward, manifesting them as physical force. Streamers of psychedelic colors spiraled outward toward Charizard, congealing into a more focused beam as they went.

    "ALAKAZAM DODGES FLAMETHROWER, BUT GETS TAGGED BY CHARIZARD'S TAIL! BARRIER SAVES IT YET AGAIN, AND NOW ITS GOING FOR A PSYBEAM!"

    Charizard froze, surprised, but Ash's sharp command rang clearly in his ear:

    "Counter with Dragonbreath!"

    The Flame Pokemon growled affirmatively and began charging the attack. Strange, greenish-yellow fire began licking out from between his clenched fangs as the powerful dragon flames built up in his mouth. Charizard flexed his neck muscles experimentally, feeling his throat contract along with his sinewy neck.

    "Charizard, now!" Ash urged.

    Not yet, said a voice in the dragon's head. The pressure is not enough.

    The Psybeam was close now.

    Charizard's tightly shut jaw shook, his neck bulging in a pulsing spasm. "Like the heart of one's prey a moment before death," was the Charizard conventional wisdom. This was it. A perfect Dragonbreath.

    His jaw snapped open and a high-pressure blast of dragonfire shot out like an iron ball from the mouth of a cannon. A huge, rushing sound accompanied the attack's release as the stream of draconic flames came together, seemingly spontaneously, to shape a massive, whirling orb before blasting off across the field.

    The powerful Dragonbreath smashed into Psybeam, scattering the colorful attack as though it were nothing. At full power, the attack was strong, and the dragon fire it used had the unique property of affecting nearly every substance as though it were dry wood. Still, it was not without flaws. It was slow-moving in comparison to other fire-based attacks, and a simple matter to dodge.

    "DRAGONBREATH BREAKS PSYBEAM! IT'S HEADING FOR ALAKAZAM!"

    The alakazam began Teleport, and then several things happened in rapid succession. As he teleported away, and the ball of dragonfire passed harmlessly over the spot where he'd been standing, Ash shouted for another Flamethrower. Charizard complied, quickly firing a thick stream of fire straight after the Dragonbreath.

    It was a lucky shot.

    Alakazam warped back into existence directly behind the Dragonbreath orb, and the Flamethrower hit him dead-on in the stomach. A last-second Light Screen, molded like Exeggutor's, repelled the attack, but the Flamethrower also had the unfortunate effect of throwing alakazam backwards and into the rear of the slow-flying Dragonbreath attack.

    Pinned between dragonfire and Flamethrower's superheated stream, the Light Screen shattered. Charizard's two attacks made contact, followed by a huge explosion as Dragonbreath reacted to Flamethrower and almost seemed to pop like a balloon. A giant balloon. Made of plastique.

    As waves of force and fire cascaded around the battlefield, Croket roared something indistinct over the din, and the announcer roared something indistinct over Croket.

    "-BLAH BLAH BLAH AMAZING! BLAH BLAH INCREDIBLE BLAH BLAH BLAH!"

    Dust from the dirt field filled the dispersion barrier, obscuring the battlers from the onlookers' view. Occasionally, a spurt of flame or blast of force would collide with the anti-energy field and scatter, giving some audience members a lightshow, but nothing could pull their attention from the field now. Somewhere inside the tempest of dust that was the barrier, they were certain that the battle had been decided.

    ---

    Up at the head of the stands, beneath the giant stone bowl bearing Moltres's flame, one man watched the proceedings below with particular intensity, his hazel eyes glinting under the brim of a black golf cap. Absurdly for the summer season, he was swathed in a heavy, brown overcoat that covered him from head to toe, and sweat rolled in heavy beads down his handsome face.

    Lord, maybe the old bag was right... it's sweltering out here... What a move, though... Dragonbreath and Flamethrower, I'll have to remember that...

    ---

    On the field, the brownish screen of dust was finally starting to settle, and Ash ground his teeth impatiently as he peered worriedly into the arena. Charizard could handle himself in a tangle uncommanded, there was no doubt about that, but against a psychic opponent, there could be trouble.

    On the other side of the field, Croket had once again adopted his arms-crossed pose. His strong jaw was set, his eyes uncharacteristically hard.

    Visibility returned at last, and the scene before the two trainers was not quite what either of them had expected.

    Charizard and alakazam stood toe-to-toe in a position of absolute standoff. Charizard's right hand was curled tightly around his opponent's neck, deadly claws threatening to remove the Psi Pokemon's throat at any moment. Alakazam, likewise, pressed his spoon against Charizard's long neck, a long, curved blade of purpleish psychic energy extending from the utensil in a potentially decapitating Psycho Cut.

    "IT'S A DEADLY STANDOFF!" The announcer screamed. "NEITHER TRAINER SEEMS TO WANT TO MAKE A MOVE!"

    "This is a dangerous situation," Professor Oak said anxiously. "One false move, and we could have a fatality on our hands."

    So, this is the extent of their abilities... Croket smiled darkly, satisfied that his earlier analysis of Ash's strength was correct.

    "Tzu," he at last addressed his alakazam by name. "That's far enough."

    "Zamu," the psychic-type affirmed, removing his spoon from Charizard's neck.

    Charizard, in response, clenched his fist for the final blow, expecting a satisfying crunch as he finished his opponent off, but none came. In shock, the Flame Pokemon realized that he was completely immobilized.

    "Charizard!" Ash yelled. "What are you doing? Tackle it, now!"

    "Your charizard has been Disabled," Croket informed him. Even from across the field, without so much as shouting, the man's deep, commanding voice reached Ash's ear. "It cannot move, I assure you. Now, then... this is as good a time as ever to inform you that my offer still stands."

    Croket reached into his jacket and removed another ball, enlarging it. Unlike the standard variety, this one was matte black with odd, spiraling, grey ridges swirling around the outer casing. A bold, stylized, red "R" adorned its upper half.

    There was a sharp intake of breath from Ash as he realized what it was that Croket was holding.

    "That's a Dark Ball! You're-"

    "...Not 'Alan Croket'," the grey-suited man interrupted, finishing Ash's sentence and hurling the Dark Ball into the air. "Go, Articuno!"

    And then all hell broke loose.
    Last edited by GARizard; 5th January 2009 at 11:51 PM.
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  14. #14
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    Holy Crap. I wonder whats going to happen next. This is getting pretty intense.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
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    2/19/09:

    Well! Long time no see, Serebii! Yeah, I finally got off my fat *** (or, rather, on it) and posted chapter four. Sorry for the wait, but at least things are starting to pick up in terms of plot. Anyway, this one's a bit of a long read, but it's nowhere near as big as chapter two was. There's not much else to say, but bonus points to you if you can tell me exactly why I gave a certain ninja the last name that I did. An extra point if you can do it without Google or Wiki. (Hint: It has nothing to do with Naruto.)

    Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

    - Boss Coffee

    Chapter Four: Declaration of War

    In moments, the entire stadium descended into utter chaos. The Dark Ball whirled through the air, bursting open in mid-arc and spewing a mass of purplish-black energy that rapidly formed into the shape of a gigantic avian creature.

    To the surprise of nearly everyone present, the being now hovering gracefully over the field was indeed Articuno, the legendary bird of ice. The fabled Freeze Pokemon hung in the air with ease, every flap of its magnificent, ice-blue wings chilling the very air and ruffling the snowy feathers of its stark-white belly as its long, elegant tail trailed lazily behind it. The ice bird stretched its huge wings to their full spread of nearly fourteen feet, screeching furiously as it did. Its stony gray legs pulled up to its chest, deadly talons spreading, ready to take the life of whoever was fool enough to challenge it.

    Yet, magnificent as Articuno was, the taint of the Dark Ball's corruptive power hung heavy over its regal bearing. Its eyes, normally a sharp, vibrant red, were dull, its pupils dilated in pinpricks of uncharacteristic rage.

    As awe-inspiring as the mere sight of the legendary bird was to the onlookers in the stands, they had little time to appreciate it. Mere moments after the bird's release, the stadium came alive with screams as, all over the stands, many spectators stripped away their coats and jackets, revealing Team Rocket uniforms beneath. Left and right, bright red "R" emblems appeared, seemingly from nowhere, on shirts, vests and hats, immediately inspiring fear and recognition in the crowd.

    The Rockets moved quickly through the stands, silent and efficient, forcing audience members to their knees and swiftly knocking out any who resisted. As the majority of the Rocket forces continued subduing the bystanders, several members in each area of the stands broke away, and threw Poke Balls. The balls burst, revealing troupes of psychic pokemon, mostly mr. mime, but with the odd kadabra or hypno mixed in as well.

    Amidst the chaos, the man who was not 'Alan Croket' retrieved an earpiece from his pocket, switching it on and affixing it to his left ear.

    "Hailing all Administrators. This is the Boss. Report!"

    ---

    On the left side of the stadium, up in the stands, a tall, broad-shouldered man had just finished affixing a worn, gold-colored metal mask to his head. The mask covered the entirety of the top of the man's head, save for a strip on the crown, where his spiky black hair protruded in a mohawk; and an equally thorny beard grew from his exposed chin. Red, slitted portals on the mask's front allowed him vision, and gave the headgear a sinister, demonic look. Otherwise, however, he was clad simply. Black slacks and a black dress shirt with the Rocket "R" over his left breast made up the remainder of his outfit. The simplicity of his undercover uniform irked him; he believed in making a statement with his clothing, and that statement was usually "FEAR ME". Business clothing hardly inspired intimidation.

    The man, Vicious, otherwise known as the Iron-Masked Marauder, frowned as he surveyed his subordinates' work.

    Good... Good... Barrier groups are set...

    Satisfied, he tapped a panel on the side of his signature iron mask, activating the communicator within.

    "Sir, this is Vicious," he growled in his rough bark of a voice. "My group is ready to go."

    ---

    Opposite Vicious, in the left-side stands, a petite young woman in full Rocket garb was directing a group of grunts in subduing some unruly audience members.

    She seemed to be in her early twenties, perhaps late teens, but it was impossible to know for sure; not even she knew her exact age. Her platinum blonde hair hung in huge French curls beneath a red-and-white cap, framing her attractive, if somewhat wicked-looking features, and her bright eyes glinted with cunning and malice. She was Domino, alias "009" or "The Black Tulip", elite Rocket agent and Field Administrator. Raised from infancy as one of Giovanni's personal enforcers, she was the epitome of ruthlessness and guile, the perfect Rocket soldier.

    Domino stepped back from the fracas as her agents finished beating down the crowd and snatched a headset from the hands of a waiting grunt. Clipping the device to her ear and adjusting the receiver, she did a quick once-over of the action going on around her.

    The audience was effectively contained. The occasional rabble-rouser with delusions of grandeur popped up and tried to be a hero, but none of them had a chance of succeeding. The psychics were released and in position. Flawless.

    "Giovanni, sir, 009 here," she spoke into the headset. "All clear. Barrier groups awaiting your order."

    ---

    At the end of the stadium, opposite Moltres's flame, an odd figure was perched atop the announcer's box. He was lean and athletic, of middling height, and very visibly Chinese. Dressed in a blue mantle-like tunic with flowing, oversized, white sleeves and trousers, and with his black hair twisted back in a long, braided ponytail, he practically announced his country of origin out loud.

    Still, though his ornate and traditional dress was eye-catching, his most striking feature was most certainly his face. One could call his features "cunning", but the word would barely do them justice. His skin was smooth and pale, and his dark, beady eyes and high, shallow cheekbones, combined with a sloping forehead and a wide, thin-lipped mouth gave the impression of a cross between a serpent and a rodent.

    "My lord, we are ready." he uttered into the headset clipped to his ear. His voice was a sibilant hiss that complimented his features accordingly. "The dispersion field is disabled, and the frontal entrance and surrounding areas are secure. I await your command."

    Though it was devoid of an outright accent, there was a certain oddity in his manner of speech: it seemed somewhat slow, overly formal, and almost robotically measured, as though every word was the product of minutes of thought.

    His transmission complete, he folded his hands beneath his oversized sleeves and awaited his orders.

    ---

    Back on the ground, the man known as Giovanni smirked in satisfaction at the efficiency of his best agents.

    "Excellent work, all of you," he complimented, his voice reaching his three Administrators' ears by means of his headset. "Instruct the barrier groups to begin immediately. Evac arrives in ten minutes; work quickly!"

    With that, Giovanni terminated the communication and turned back to the stunned boy standing before him.

    "So, Ashton! The truth, at last, comes out. We are Team Rocket, international crime syndicate. I apologize for my earlier deception; it was a necessary evil. My true name is Giovanni Sakaki, and I am the leader of this organization."

    "I don't give a ****!" Ash roared, his rage apparent. "You're going down!"

    Raising a fist, Ash charged across the dirt field, Pikachu running at his side, every inch of the pair wanting to hurt the leader of the criminal team that had endlessly plagued them and their friends.

    Giovanni sighed deeply, looking genuinely disappointed.

    "So my offer is declined. A pity."

    Tzu the Alakazam moved to defend his trainer, but Giovanni stopped him with a raised hand. Apparently, he intended to deal with the attacking duo himself.

    Pikachu reached Giovanni first, leaping into the air and coming down at the tall man with an Iron Tail. With an ease suggesting boredom, the crime boss whipped his left arm through the air, his clenched fist catching Pikachu hard in the midsection and hurling him away like a furry beach ball.

    "Pikachu!" Ash yelled as he closed in, his face taut with fury at Giovanni for hurting his friend. He threw a kick, aiming for Giovanni's face. He was angry and untrained, the kick sloppy, but his intent was clear.

    Giovanni slapped the attacking limb away with practiced ease, not even having to move his feet. He reached out with his right hand and grabbed the sleeve of Ash's shirt before hooking his own leg behind the boy's knee and hurling him effortlessly to the dirt.

    With a short cry, Pikachu got to his feet and rushed to his trainer's side, pawing at the boy worriedly.

    Ash brushed him away, apparently unharmed, and raised himself up on his arms to stare angrily up at Giovanni. Perhaps never before had a look of such malice crossed Ash's face, but it was there now.

    Giovanni was unperturbed.

    "You see, my boy," he said, emotionless, "it is useless to resist. This is the beginning of a worldly upheaval, something grander than you could possibly imagine. When this conflict comes to close, all of humanity will be divided into two groups: Team Rocket, and those who are dominated by us. It falls to you alone to choose your fate, but know this: should you refuse us, you will meet your end on this field."

    "We'll see about that!" Ash spat.

    "PikaCHU!"

    The Rocket boss's expression hardened.

    "Very well."

    As if to conclude the exchange, a rushing, crackling sound, akin to static, filled the air as huge spherical shields of energy sprung up around the stadium. The giant, gold-colored barriers of psychic power conjured by the Rockets' pokemon now enclosed the left, right, and front areas of the colleseum, sealing each of them off from the others, as well as from the outside world. Only the field itself and the back end of the stadium, where the fiery bowl rested, remained clear, for the rear area lacked an exit and afforded those in the stands no means of escape.

    The woollen-suited Rocket boss looked about in satisfaction. The barriers had risen, and the attack was now in full swing. His men would sweep through the crowd, confiscating every last Poke Ball, and dealing with any threat that arose. He himself would deal with the impudent boy, and relieve him of his powerful pokemon.

    This was it. The true rise of Team Rocket, the way he had always envisioned it, began here.

    "Articuno," The Boss commanded the brainwashed legend, "Ice Beam."

    The Freeze Pokemon responded with a screech of hateful rage, and reared back its majestic, crowned head as chilling energy gathered between its beaktips.

    As the attack charged, time seemed to slow to a crawl.

    A huge roar sounded from behind Giovanni; Charizard was straining with all his might against Tzu's Disable, fighting with everything he had to come to his trainer's rescue. But alas, the alakazam's psychic powers far outstripped those of Jeanette's exeggutor, and even the motivation of such dire circumstances failed to give Charizard the strength he needed to break Disable's hold. Uncharacteristic tears of rage and anguish filled the fire pokemon's eyes as he realized there was nothing he could do.

    Ash remained sitting on the ground, his eyes hard and unblinking, and Pikachu sat cradled in his arms. Both bore looks of extraordinary defiance. Both were of one mind. Neither would show his back. Neither would retreat an inch. If it had to end here, it would not end without a fight, and as the Ice Beam flew forth from Articuno's mouth, both trainer and pokemon rose and threw themselves forward to meet their fate head-on.

    Giovanni found that he could not help but smile regretfully.

    Farewell, brave ones...

    ...

    ...

    ...

    The thick, reddish-orange beam of force came out of nowhere, shattering the temporal illusion, as well as Articuno's attack.

    As Giovanni, Ash, Pikachu, Charizard and Tzu alike looked on in shock, an orange blur careened through the sky, following the Hyper Beam, and crashed headlong into Articuno's side, hurling the azure bird to the ground. Where Articuno had been but a moment before now hovered a seven-and-a-half-foot beast of scale and sinew, its huge, reptillian body held aloft by a comically small pair of batlike, bluish-green wings. Its rounded head, crowned with a single horn, bore twin antennae-like appendages, one at each temple.

    The newcomer gave a thunderous bellow, sweeping its long, powerful tail from side to side as it stared down its legendary opponent.

    Ash recognized the pokemon immediately: a dragonite. A dragonite had just saved his, and Pikachu's, life. He briefly considered that this might all be a post-mortem fantasy and he was, in fact, in the afterlife, before a loud shout jolted him back to reality. He cast his eyes up towards the source of the yell, and quickly located its origin.

    Dashing down the huge staircase at the very head of the stadium was a man in a long, brown overcoat and black golf cap. He reached the low, railed wall at the end of the stands within moments, flinging away his cap as he mounted the railing and kicked off. As all those below looked on, the man hurtled bodily through the air and down towards the field, ripping away his heavy coat as he did.

    As the man touched down on the stadium floor, landing in a crouch to reduce the impact, Ash struggled to his feet, slack-jawed at the realization of who had just jumped into the field.

    "Lance?!"

    The famed mainland Champion rose to his full height. His long, spiky mass of crimson hair, now unfettered by the golf cap, whipped about in the wind, and the flag-like mass of his famous cape followed suit. Besides the cape, he was dressed exclusively in leather, wearing a red-and-black jacket with a wraparound collar and pants of matching design, along with leather stirrup boots that matched the brown of his cape.

    The flamboyant Lance ignored Ash's exclaimation and instead turned immediately to face Giovanni. There was fire in the dragon master's hazel eyes as they locked with the crime boss's grey ones, each man observing the other with the utmost of hatred and contempt.

    "So," Lance regarded his foe, his voice even and dangerous, "it's you."

    "Clearly," Giovanni retorted with a tinge of sarcasm, "and at last. This time, you will die."

    As the two men continued glaring at each other, Dragonite and Articuno flew around to their respective masters' sides in preparation for battle, and Tzu joined Giovanni as well. The normally placid psychic-type was clearly incensed, his thin eyes narrowed even further than usual in a glare to match his trainer's.

    Ash stared numbly. Before him were the makings of a world-class battle with his own life at stake. It was positively surreal. A scant few minutes ago, he was in the midst of a championship match... and now he was watching the leader of Team Rocket and the most powerful pokemon trainer in all of Japan fight a life-or-death battle in the stadium bowl, completely cut off from the outside world. It was like something out of a cartoon.

    Charizard stomped up beside Ash, snapping the boy out of his trance. It took Ash a moment to realize that this meant that his pokemon was freed from Disable. Apparently, the battle about to take place warranted Tzu's full attention. The Flame Pokemon jerked his head towards the face-off and looked at Ash expectantly.

    Ash nodded. Even Lance might need help with this one.

    ---

    Gary Oak's eyes flicked nervously toward the group of Rocket grunts down the row on his left as he thumbed one of the Poke Balls attached to his belt. Glancing to his right, he noted Brock, Misty and Richie doing the same. He made eye contact with each of them, inclining his head slightly as he did so.

    The group was vastly outnumbered; though there were relatively few Rockets in the immediate area, there were surely dozens, if not more, in the left side stands in general. There was little chance of victory in this fight, but even less of a choice in the matter. Unless they resisted, unless they fought, Team Rocket would simply take their pokemon, and that was not acceptable. Each of the four would sooner die than willingly allow their friends and partners to fall into the hands of criminals.

    ...But why are they doing this?

    Gary couldn't shake that nagging thought. Such an overt move against the League wasn't Team Rocket's style. An all-out attack like this was highly unusual; unprecedented, really. Was it Articuno? The bird's capture was a shock, certainly, and it gave them a powerful weapon, but that alone couldn't have emboldened them so much. An offensive of this magnitude meant that something had changed. Something big.

    His eyes drifted to the left again. The Rockets were closer now; just a few audience members remained between the black-suited criminals and his group. No one was putting up a fight, or at least enough of one. Yet another person handed over his wallet and Poke Balls wthout incident. Were they all so spineless?

    Gary clutched Electivire's Poke Ball tightly in his right hand as the criminals moved down the row. Next up was an odd-looking man dressed like a western cowboy. He did look more than capable of defending himself, though...

    Wait...

    Gary jolted, taken aback.

    ...That's-!

    "HOO-HAH!"

    As Gary watched, the bodies of two Rockets sailed over his head and crashed into the wall of the psychic barrier, falling to the floor in a heap.

    The mountainous cowboy was on his feet, holding a third, struggling grunt aloft in one of his huge hands. The black-clad criminal was scared beyond his wits, desperately grasping at the cowboy's thick wrist in a vain attempt to escape. His struggles availed him nothing against the giant's overwhelming brawn, and, like a humanoid baseball, he was pitched across the stands, hitting the barrier and coming to rest on top of his unconscious comrades.

    Snorting dismissively, the cowboy pulled his hat from his head, tossing the irksome headgear away. Freed from its confinement, a mane of long, shaggy brown hair spilled down the man's neck. With his other hand, he snapped away the buttons of his denim jacket and removed the garment entirely, revealing the rippling waves of muscle beneath. He exhaled heavily, as though he were just freed from the hangman's noose itself.

    "Stop that godforsaken melodrama," snapped his partner, the elderly woman, as she undid the ribbon beneath her chin and removed her oversized bonnet, exposing a meticulously styled head of graying blonde hair. "Some of us actually wear shirts every day, as hard to believe as that may be."

    The burly man rolled his dark eyes in response and extended a large hand to the still-seated woman.

    "Agatha."

    "Peh!" Agatha of the inter-regional Elite Four spat, slapping the hand away. "I'm not some helpless invalid!"

    With that, the elderly Elite pushed herself to her feet, preferring to enlist the aid of her worn, wooden cane. Standing at her full height, she didn't even reach her comrade's shoulder, but she somehow managed to be every bit as intimidating as him, perhaps more so.

    "These vile men," she snarled dangerously, her sharp eyes glinting in her lined face, "they think that they can harm innocents and make a mockery of the League." Her gnarled hand tossed a Poke Ball out into the stands. "Go, my friend! Let's punish these idiots!"

    The light of the ball's release faded to reveal a spiny, five-foot blob of grinning, translucent purple fury. Its huge, red eyes alight at the prospect of mischief, Agatha's gengar let out a raspy laugh, displaying its pearly white, slab-like teeth. It flexed its stubby arms, preparing to fly off in search of Rockets to maim, but a boy's shouting voice gave its trainer, and by extension, it, pause.

    "Hey, Agatha! Bruno!"

    The two Elite Four members turned toward the source of the shout and found four kids rushing up to meet them.

    "Well I'll be," uttered Agatha. "It's young Oak!"

    "I believe those two behind him are Harrison and Waterflower from the Pewter and Cerulean gyms," the brawny Bruno added, nodding sagely. "And the other is that young man from the semifinals."

    "Agatha, Bruno," Gary gave a shallow bow to both Elites in turn. "This is Brock, Misty and Richie. They're all strong trainers. How can we help?"

    Misty, Brock and Richie all expressed varying degrees of surprise at the relatively casual manner in which Gary addressed the two elites, but all chose not to address it, perhaps due to the gravity of the situation.

    "You can help," Agatha said simply, "by fighting. Team Rocket has long plagued our League, and this overt attack is beyond the pale. There will be no diplomacy here. Take down every Rocket you see, and target those with psychics especially. Once we down enough of them, this barrier will fall. Call out your strongest pokemon."

    The group of teenagers nodded, reaching for belts and into bags and pockets, retrieving Poke Balls and releasing their contents.

    Bruno had already released his machamp, and the two of them were looking about for signs of trouble. They had gotten lucky, and were seated in a relatively isolated part of the stands. There appeared to be no more Rockets in the immediate vicinity. The fighting master, satisfied, turned back to the group to examine the kids' pokemon.

    Gary had released his electivire, Brock his marshtomp, and Richie his tyranitar. The two Elites gave each pokemon a once-over.

    "Er, Misty, was it?" Bruno queried. "What about you?"

    "My number one is a gyarados. If I let him out now, the Rockets'll come running. I thought we should strategize first."

    "Sound reasoning, girl," Agatha commended. "Young man," she addressed Brock, gesturing skeptically at Marshtomp, "is this really your strongest battler? Bruno told me you were a gym leader."

    "I was," Brock responded somewhat glumly, "but I've passed leadership back to my father. My strongest pokemon are with my younger brother."

    "I see. Nonetheless, this pokemon is in prime form. I trust your skills." Agatha announced with finality, and said nothing more on the matter.

    "We'll split into two groups," the Elite continued, turning back to the group at large. "Bruno will lead Gary and Brock. I will take Misty and Richie. Bruno, fight your way to the head of the stadium; we'll move for the foot. Eliminate any Rocket-controlled psychics you see, but protect the crowd at all costs! If the barriers fall, get onto the field immediately and assist Lance in subduing Articuno."

    "Lance?!" the four younger trainers exclaimed in chorus.

    "Yes," assured Bruno, "Lance. That's his dragonite out there," the huge man said, pointing a thick finger at the blurred orange shape standing in the field beyond the barrier. "All five mainland Elites are present. We'll explain later, but we should get moving."

    With those final words, the gathered trainers split into their respective groups and headed off down the stands in opposite directions.

    Misty walked in silence behind Agatha, her newly released gyarados looking down at her worriedly, or at least as worriedly as his perpetually angry features could manage. He'd never seen his trainer so agitated... Her blue eyes, typically as sharp and clear as the freshest water, were dull, clouded. Her mind was not on the task at hand, her thoughts elsewhere. This alone was enough to disturb Gyarados. This was not his trainer.

    On any other day, Misty might have noticed her pokemon's discomfort and reassured him, but right then, there was but one thought on the girl's mind.

    You'd better be all right, Ash...

    ---

    Across the field, on the right side of the stadium, a man in a hawaiian shirt was angrily staring down the Rocket standing before him.

    "Look, sir," the grunt drawled irritably, as though he were a waiter addressing an antsy diner patron, "we just need your pokemon and your money. There's no need to make a scene."

    The hawaiian shirt man's expression only intensified, his bushy, forked, black eyebrows peaking as he shoved his face into the Rocket's. The odd Japanese man was middle-aged, his bushy, black hair tinged with grey, but he exuded an aura of sheer intimidation that cowed the grunt utterly.

    As the Rocket recoiled, the man continued to leer at him. His left eyebrow twitched dangerously.

    "My friend begs to differ."

    As he finished his sentence, his right hand shot to his belt, coming up with a Poke Ball in its grasp. A light toss sent the orb sailing lazily into the air, where it burst, releasing a massive, protean, purple form.

    The huge muk, easily twice the size of Ash's, fell open mouth-first onto the Rocket, swallowing the cowering man whole. The pokemon morphed his captured enemy through his own body and up into his hand before hurling him, covered in sludge, at a group of his fellows a few meters off. As the Rockets collapsed into a tangle of arms and legs bound together by goop, several of their nearby comrades moved in to confront this new uprising. As they reached for their Poke Balls, a wave of invisible force knocked them off their feet.

    The hawaiian's comrade lowered his outstretched hand and adjusted his huge, mirrored aviator sunglasses, pausing further to sweep the bangs of his long, purple hair out of his face. He sighed at the sight of more Rockets closing in.

    "Really, Koga. You could have just knocked him out, but instead you went and... well... made a scene."

    "Now, now, Will," the Elite Four's resident ninja retorted, pulling off his hawaiian shirt in a flurry of popping buttons, revealing a well-toned body crisscrossed with scars, "even a shinobi such as myself relishes the prospect of open combat once in a while."

    "Tuh!" Will grunted in response, cracking his neck as he positioned himself back-to-back with Koga. "Well said, I guess, but this could be trouble, you know?"

    Koga gave a short bark of a laugh at this, and as the two men took fighting stances, and Muk raised his arms in preparation, a gang of twenty Rockets circled around them. In myriad bursts of light, the Rocket grunts released their pokemon: three raticate, four ekans and an arbok, four koffing, two grimer, a pidgeotto, a furret, and two beedrill.

    Forty against three. One had to feel sorry for the Rockets.

    Will moved first, reaching out with his natural psychic abilities and grabbing the two grimer with telekinesis. The sludgy purple pokemon were lifted into the air, where they hung for a moment as Will leered at their trainers.

    This alone gave the Rocket group pause. This hadn't been in the mission brief. Sure, they had been expecting some minor resistance, but nothing like this.

    Then the pause was up, and the grimer went flying through the air, smashing into the pidgeotto and two beedrill. The flying pokemon stuck in the goop of grimer's amorphous body, and as the psychic elite sent the two poison types crashing into each other in midair, their fates were sealed. All five pokemon were hopelessly stuck together.

    As the Rockets stood mesmerized by their comrades' downfall, Koga and Muk struck as one. The ninja trainer was a blur of motion, hurling himself into the midst of the grunts and leaping up, striking two in their heads simultaneously with a split kick. Muk's Gunk Shot downed the furret and all three raticate before their trainers could utter a single command.

    As Koga himself knocked out two more Rockets and engaged a third, Will yanked a Poke Ball from his belt and tossed it upwards. Telekinetic power caught it in midair and sent it flying like a bullet, pinballing it between the faces of the koffing and rendering all four throughly unconscious before the ball finally burst. The espeon within joined the battle immediately, a quick, telepathic link with its master revealing everything it needed to know about the situation at hand.

    Within seconds, the fight was over. Muk, Espeon and the two Elites had dispatched all forty foes without taking so much as a scratch.

    "Exhilarating!" Koga announced, hands on his hips, grinning as he surveyed his handiwork.

    "Sure," Will said, indifferent, "but in case you haven't noticed, we've got a bit of a situation, here."

    "Right you are," the rambunctious ninja confirmed, looking a bit disappointed at his ally's lack of enthusiasm. "We should split up. Cover more ground."

    "That would be best. I'll go down this way; you move towards the bowl."

    "Hai."

    ---

    On the field, two huge battles were now underway. Charizard and Tzu were once again locked in combat, with Pikachu assisting his draconic comrade. Despite the fact that Tzu was fighting solo, uncommanded, Ash was having difficulty against it. His two most powerful pokemon were straining just to match the Alakazam alone. The boy growled in frustration. Just how strong was this thing?

    Meanwhile, Lance and Giovanni were engaged in a furious midair dogfight. Both trainers now straddled the backs of their respective pokemon, and were shouting orders to their mounts, rapid fire, over the rush of the wind as Dragonite and Articuno struggled to outmanuever each other.

    "Blizzard!"

    "Dive down, then climb fast! Hit it with Dragon Rush!"

    Lance clung tightly to his pokemon's muscular, orange neck as the dragon twisted around in the air and dove toward the ground, evading the storm of ice and wintery air fired by Articuno. As the ground rushed up to meet him, Dragonite expertly manuevered himself in a complete one-eighty and shot straight back up towards Articuno.

    "Don't let them get close!" Giovanni roared, and Articuno fired off an Ice Beam at Dragonite in response.

    Lance cursed. Articuno's powerful ice attacks were keeping him completely at bay. He knew all too well the dragon type's weakness to ice, and with an additional flying type on Dragonite, the potential damage was too severe to risk, even for his powerful friend. Without the element of surprise, direct attacks were useless. Time for a new tactic.

    "Break off, then Twister!" he shouted.

    Dragonite nodded, quickly altering his course yet again to dodge the ice-blue beam of freezing energy. As the pokemon pulled up, now level with Giovanni and Articuno, his eyes glowed with tinge of red as he called upon the ancient power of his dragon blood. His kind commanded the power of storms; he would summon a vicious whirlwind around his opponents.

    Rapidly, the swirling air currents took form, and before Giovanni could issue another order to Articuno, the pair were trapped in the midst of Dragonite's huge Twister. In a moment, the whirling pillar of air was so dense, and spinning with such velocity that it was completely opaque.

    Lance smirked confidently, basking in his own triumph. An aerial pokemon inside a Twister of that magnitude was assuredly trapped, a sitting duck, so to speak. With no way out, and no way to attack accurately, buffeted continuously by the dragon-powered storm, both pokemon and rider would be knocked out in seconds. All Dragonite had to do was sit back and maintain the attack's integrity.

    With this, your legacy is at an end, Giovanni... you will never again bring harm to a living crea-

    "-ARG!"

    A pained yell escaped Lance's lips as a ferocious Ice Beam struck Dragonite in the stomach and knocked him out of the sky. As the dragon's concentration was broken, the tempest he was maintaining dissapated immediately, the winds going from a raging billows to a mild breeze in a second.

    As the storm dissolved around him, Giovanni laughed heartily, standing on the hovering Articuno's downy back.

    "Mind Reader, my boy!" he crowed. "Who needs eyesight?"

    Giovanni's taunt hardly registered in Lance's mind as he and Dragonite plummeted towards the dirt field. He gripped his mount's neck tightly.

    "Dragonite," he yelled, "you've got to pull up! You can do it! Show them that you can do it!"

    As the dragon master shouted this encouragement to his partner, he discreetly pulled an odd, rectangular object from a pouch on his belt, quickly and surreptitiously pressing it to the back of Dragonite's neck. There was tiny glimmer of ethereal light, and the object was gone.

    Immediately, a change came over the pokemon. His eyes, formerly sealed shut by the pain of the Ice Beam's impact, snapped open, bright and clear. He flexed his abdominal muscles, shattering the film of ice that Articuno's attack had left on his scaly stomach, and with two huge wingbeats, halted his rapid descent.

    Lance gave the dragon a friendly slap on the back of the neck, leaning in close to the reptile's ear.

    "See, I knew you could do it. Now, keep it easy. Twenty percent max, got it?"

    Dragonite turned his head to give his trainer a very pointedly sarcastic look.

    Like I need to be told?

    The short exchange between pokemon and trainer was interrupted by the heavy beating of wings. Dragonite and Lance turned their eyes upward in unison as Articuno descended.

    "I am duly impressed." Giovanni announced, halting the legendary bird at Lance and Dragonite's level, roughly thirty feet off the ground. "Your dragons are expertly trained. Articuno's Ice Beam can kill an Altaria in a single blow."

    "And how do you know that?!" Lance raged, realizing the implications of the Rocket boss's statement.

    "Calculation and conjecture," the Boss replied with a curt laugh. "Getting rattled so easily... you're still green, boy. Why would I throw away a dragon while my soldiers still use Spearow?"

    "Because you're a sadist, and criminal filth," the Champion spat back.

    The Rocket shrugged his padded shoulders.

    "Morality is subjective."

    "But life is sacred," Lance said with finality. "No more stalling. I'm taking you down, now."

    Giovanni smirked cruelly at this, pointing down the field, to the spot where Ash had been battling Tzu.

    "I think not," he hissed coldly.

    As Lance saw what his foe was gesturing at, his blood ran cold in his veins. Charizard was unconscious on the ground, perhaps dead; it was impossible for him to tell from this distance and angle. Pikachu was still standing, if only barely, but he was just as paralyzed as Lance, for Tzu had Ash levitating a foot off the ground, a Psycho Cut blade pressed to the boy's neck.

    "Move, and he dies," Giovanni spoke the words simply, as though reciting a mundane textbook fact.

    The dragon master clenched his fists tightly. Hostage taking? Was there no end to their dishonorable depravity?

    Dragonite mewled worriedly, turning his head to look up at Lance with questioning eyes.

    Lance patted his friend's head, shaking his own. He would not forfeit a human life, under any circumstances. Even if they struck now and took the Rocket Boss down, arrested him, finished Team Rocket for good, if the boy died for the sake of that final blow, it would never be a victory.

    "Lance!" Ash shouted, observing Lance's sudden inaction and realizing the situation, "Forget about me! TAKE HIM OUT!"

    Giovanni tapped the top of Articuno's crested head and pointed at Lance and Dragonite. The air around the bird instantly took on a deadly chill as frost gathered within its body in preparation for a lethal Blizzard attack.

    The Rocket boss grinned, knowing full well that Lance would not act, despite Ash's words. He could not, for he was pure. He was just. He was a fool, and as Articuno's hooked beak pulled open to deliver the killing blow, the triumphant crime lord delivered a parting blow, a look of ecstatic victory on his typically impassive face,

    "To hold life as sacred is no virtue. Your morality has murdered you, Champion."

    ---

    -continued in next post-
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

  16. #16
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    Oct 2008
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    "Excellent work, gentlemen," Koga nodded to the six police officers grouped before him.

    The ninja Elite had managed to rally the small group of officers as he moved across the stands, and they had assisted him greatly in combating the Rockets, using their growlithe to take down several psychics while Koga fought the other grunts. As the League was unused to anything beyond unruly fans at its tournaments, the stadium security forces were severely understaffed and underequipped, so Koga's sudden appearance was a great help to them as well.

    "It was all you, sir," insisted one of the officers, a younger man in his early twenties. "We couldn't have done it without you."

    "Nonsense!" Koga bellowed in earnest. "You're more than capable. Now, we're nearly to the head of the stadium, and there's no time to spare. You men deal with the groups down in the lower half; I'll handle things up top."

    The ninja master tossed out a Poke Ball, releasing his crobat. The roundish, purple bat-creature emitted a low squeak from between its clenched teeth as it emerged, and fluttered up into the air on its four leathery wings.

    Koga leapt up into the air, landing atop his pokemon's back on a single, pointed toe, his other foot drawn up to the opposing knee. As astonishing as the man's balance was, what was most astounding about the position was that the crobat seemed utterly unaffected by its trainer's weight on its back, and maintained its position in the air without so much as a dip in altitude.

    "Let us go, my comrade!"

    As the policemen looked on in awe and admiration, Crobat rose higher into the air, Koga still perched nonchalantly on its back, and flew off toward the top portion of the stands with silent wingbeats. In seconds, they had reached the upper edge of the stadium wall, nearly brushng against the upper curve of the barrier.

    Koga looked down his pointed nose at the stands below, scouring the crowd for signs of Rocket activity. Before long, he spotted several grunts accosting a group of audience members.

    "Crobat! Touch down over there!" he shouted, pointing in the Rockets' direction.

    With a screech, Crobat began its descent, and as it drew close, Koga tensed his leg in preparation to jump down on the criminals.

    The jump, however, never came, as seemingly from nowhere, a small black blur appeared, shooting toward Crobat at high speed.

    Koga's eyes widened, and with reflexes bordering on the superhuman, he vaulted from Crobat's back with a twirl, snatching the offending projectile from the air with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand before landing effortlessly in the stands fifteen feet below. He examined the object in his hand with an air of mild puzzlement.

    "A flower," he announced to no one in particular.

    No sooner had the words left the Elite's lips than a huge surge of electricity erupted from the mysterious vegetation, the deadly voltage running through his body with literally lightning speed, enveloping him in halo of crackling energy.

    A second later, the voltage ceased its flow, and Koga slumped forward slightly, somehow still on his feet. A few wisps of smoke rose lazily up from his body.

    Like an errant shadow, Domino the Rocket administrator appeared as if from nowhere, a cruel smirk of pure triumph etched across her youthful features as she approached Koga. A ninja was one thing, but as Team Rocket's most elite spy, she was as well-versed in the arts of steath and deception as any.

    "It's a tulip, you dunce," she quipped at the Elite's still-smoking body.

    Suddenly, a toned, scarred arm shot out, its hand closing around Domino's left wrist. Her smug expression changed immediately to one of alarm as the supposedly deceased Koga raised his head.

    "I was well aware," he grinned. "Horticulture happens to be a hobby of mine."

    Domino stared at him, wide-eyed.

    "Y-you should be dead!"

    Koga's grin only widened at the Rocket's words.

    "Do not underestimate the training of a Sarutobi clan shinobi," he growled. "My body can withstand shocks well in excess of a typically fatal voltage. The sting of your tulip is no worse than its scent."

    Domino let out a hateful screech and swept her right arm up at Koga's head.

    The ninja master reacted quickly, relinquishing his grip on Domino's left wrist and hopping backwards, retreating several feet.

    Domino grimaced at yet another failed attempt at finishing off the Elite, and tapped at something on her right forearm, beneath the sleeve of her uniform jacket. The narrow, foot-long blade that had suddenly extended from her right cuff slid back into it in response.

    "Peh," Koga uttered dismissively, "you're a hundred years too early to be trying to kill me. Crobat!"

    The bat pokemon, who had been hovering silently in the air since its master had left its back, wafted silently down to Koga's side at the sound of his call.

    "Use Confuse Ray," the ninja commanded, pointing at the Black Tulip.

    With an affirmative screech, Crobat began preparing a Confuse Ray.

    Without so much as blinking, Domino pulled up the right sleeve of her jacket. Revealed beneath was a streamlined metal armlet, painted gloss black, that covered her forearm almost completely. This was, of course, the source of the blade from before, but that was not its primary function, as Domino proceeded to demonstrate. She raised her arm, pointing the device at Crobat, and compressed a panel on the armlet's side with her left hand.

    A mechanical discus slightly larger than a golf ball and painted the same gloss black as the armlet shot from the weapon and towards Crobat, trailing a beam of red light behind it. Rather than hitting the pokemon, however, the disc flew past Crobat, and, with a flick of Domino's wrist, looped around its body, wrapping it in the odd red trail. Domino pulled her arm back, and the laser lash contracted around Crobat, passing through it and disappearing as the disc itself returned to the armlet. The entire process was over before Crobat could even begin launching its attack.

    "What is that thing?!" Koga shouted at Domino. "What did you do to Crobat?!"

    "This," she said, the arrogant smirk back on her face, "is a Black Styler: a Ranger Capture Styler reverse engineered and upgraded by yours truly. As for what it does, let me show you! Crobat, give your old boss an Air Cutter!"

    Silently, Crobat turned toward Koga, and as it did, he could see the change in his pokemon's face. Its eyes glowed with a faint tinge of red, and its features were twisted into a disturbing expression of simultaneous rage and sorrow.

    "Crobat..." he stammered. "No..."

    Crobat screeched, its voice an unholy, cacophonous wail the likes of which had never before come from its mouth. It swept its two larger wings through the air with frightening velocity, one after the other, creating blades of force that arced toward Koga with equal speed.

    As the attack closed in, Domino smiled.

    Die.

    ---

    Gyarados was down. It lay, gasping like a literal fish out of water, its gargantuan serpentine body sprawled over a wide area of the stands, with a ragged, gaping hole in its side.

    Vicious, the Iron Masked Marauder, cackled madly as he tossed one of his patented Dark Balls up and down in his hand.

    By the aptly named Rocket's side hovered a huge crane-like bird. Its body was a light brown, save for its white-feathered shoulders and wingtips and a mohawk crest of crimson upon its head. Its long, wicked-looking beak was stained red with blood. Though the bird pokemon, a Fearow, was of a species prone to violence, this particular Fearow, under the influence of a Dark Ball, had gone above and beyond nature's call.

    Its bloody mandibles snapped several times in rapid succession as it manuevered a stray piece of flesh in its mouth, and as it swallowed, a lump was clearly visible traveling down its long, spindly neck.

    "So, Fearow," the Marauder addressed his pokemon, "how are you liking your fish? HA!"

    "You monster!" Misty cried, tears rollng down her cheeks as she recalled her wounded pokemon. "Why are you doing this?! How could you do this?!"

    "You will be punished!" Agatha roared at Vicious, her voice surprisingly loud and strong for a woman her age. "Gengar, use Thunderbolt!"

    Agatha's Gengar gave a cackle of his own as he clasped his stubby hands together. As he separated them, strands of electrical energy were visible arcing between his fingertips. He thrust both arms forth, palms outward, and the electricity zapped out towards Vicious in a concentrated bolt.

    "Intercept, Fearow!" the Rocket commanded.

    With a slightly demented caw, the Beak Pokemon launched itself between the Thunderbolt and Vicious, taking the attack for its dark master. It screeched in pain as the type-effective attack coursed through its body, and as the assaulted abated, it collapsed to the floor, spasming violently.

    "Just one attack..." Vicious grumbled, pulling Fearow back into its Dark Ball. "...Pathetic." He popped a second ball from his belt and threw it. "C'mon out, Ursaring!"

    From the Dark Ball's confines came a monster of an Ursaring. The bear pokemon easily exceeded six feet in height, and its long arms and stumpish legs visibly rippled with muscle, even beneath its thick coat of dark brown fur. Saliva flew from its maw as it roared its arrival, and it flexed its knifelike foreclaws as its soulless eyes darted about in search for an opponent to injure. For a pokemon so tainted by a Dark Ball's induced psychosis, for a pokemon period, this Ursaring was in tremendous shape.

    Vicious grinned beneath his iron helm.

    "Meet the pride of my new team! Ursaring, hit that Gengar with Faint Attack!"

    Agatha cursed silently as Ursaring's massive frame began to rapidly fade into invisbility. Or perhaps nothingness. Perhaps an alternate dimension. Regardless, it was a mystery- the science of Faint Attack eluded even the most persistent and brilliant of modern-day researchers. The user simply faded away, the opponent was struck, and the user reappeared. Even powerful spiritualists like Agatha herself were utterly baffled by the technique.

    "Gengar," she called, holding out her Poke Ball, "return!"

    The red recall beam struck Gengar and pulled him back into his ball, saving him from heavy damage by the dark-type attack.

    Ursaring reappeared, looking rather dismayed at its own inability to maim the retreated Gengar.

    Agatha glared menacingly at the bear, even as she realized that her team, elite as it was, would have little chance against a powerful, ghost-immune normal-type armed with a dark attack.

    "Misty!" the old woman called, inwardly berating herself for her own incapability. "Do you have any pokemon capable of fighting it?"

    "I... I only have my Starmie," Misty stammered, still visibly shaken by the violent attack on her Gyarados.

    Agatha swore again, this time out loud. A Starmie would fare only marginally better than Gengar, and the water/psychic starfish was assuredly of a much lower level than any of Agatha's team. Only Richie and Tyranitar could fight Ursaring effectively, and Agatha had ordered them to move on ahead while she and Misty dealt with Vicious. The situation looked rather grim.

    "Call it out."

    Misty looked at Agatha with unadulterated incredulity. "What?"

    "Call it out." Agatha repeated, her voice firm as she re-enlarged Gengar's Poke Ball. "We must fight."

    "That's suicide!" Misty protested. "I won't let Starmie get hurt unnecessarily! I can't ask it to fight when... when even you-!"

    Gengar was out now, floating beside its trainer with an unusually resolute look on its typically carefree face, a look that Agatha shared.

    "When I what?" Agatha hissed agitatedly. "When I am underpowered? Impotent? Faced with defeat? Do you think I enjoy asking my pokemon to battle, even when I know they are in danger? This is not pleasure, girl; this is war! This is duty! My duty as a member of the Elite Four, and yours as a Gym Leader! Now take your Poke Ball and hold it tightly, if not for yourself than for what you represent as an emmisary of the Pokemon League! I will not allow you to shame your station by surrendering to these cretins!"

    The old woman stood straight, knobbly hands folded over the head of her equally knobbly cane, her wrinkled face crossed with a look of imperious determination. Despite her age, her infirmity, and the very situation at hand, she looked powerful, inordinately so, and in that moment, Misty saw a familiar fire in the aged woman's eyes, a fire that she'd seen and admired so often before in the eyes of another. It was the burning resolution of one who knew what needed to be done, and would not hesitate for a moment in doing it, come what may.

    Misty's hand reached into her bag, closing tightly around her last Poke Ball, the one containing her Starmie, and pulled the orb free.

    "I'm sorry, ma'am; I was foolish," she said evenly, doing her best to suppress the doubt and fear that she felt as she released Starmie.

    "Worry not, child," Agatha uttered dismissively, "so long as you can fight. We have more pressing issues now..."

    Vicious smirked at this. The old crone obviously regarded him as a serious threat, and the glee that brought him alone was the only thing that had kept him from attempting to decapitate her during her little motivational segway. What could he say? He was a man that loved attention, especially when it came in the forms of fear and respect. However, the moment had passed; his opponents were ready to fight, and he would not disappoint them.

    ---

    Koga leapt out of the way just in time, as dual swords of pure wind carved into the stone bleachers where he had stood just a moment before.

    "Man, you really are a ninja!" Domino commented with an air of offhand surprise. "It doesn't matter though; I'll get you sooner or later. Crobat! Turn it up a notch!"

    Shuddering in increasingly intense paroxysms of fury, the dark-warped bat pokemon whipped its wings about for a second time in another Air Cutter assault.

    Koga hurled his body to the side, cartwheeling off his right hand while grabbing Crobat's Poke Ball from his side with his left. As he landed back on his feet, he thrust out his left arm, firing the ball's recall beam. The line of shimmering crimson cut through the air and struck Crobat squarely between the eyes. Koga held his breath as the beam connected. The red glow flowed from the point of impact, spread, and, with a rushing sound, Crobat was successfully returned.

    Domino pouted as her temporary servant dissolved back into its ball.

    "What'd you go and do that for? You're no fun."

    "This is fun to you?" Koga glowered dangerously at the blonde.

    "Loads," the Black Tulip grinned, again snapping out the arm blade.

    She bent low, running at Koga in a dead sprint, pulling the blade up and back as she did. Closing the distance, she swung the blade down at the man in vertical slash.

    Koga dodged swiftly, weaving ever-so-slightly to the left as the blade cut through empty air.

    Undeterred, Domino unleashed a rapid flurry of attacks, swinging and jabbing furiously at her opponent with the short blade. Likewise undaunted, Koga shifted back and forth, evading each stroke and stab with minimalist grace. Growling in frustration, Domino redoubled her assault, but it was yet again in vain; Koga merely continued to dodge, an impassive look on his face.

    "What the hell!" Domino screamed, lashing out at Koga with a whirling kick.

    The ninja leaned back, avoiding the strike, but again attempted no counter-blow.

    "Stop screwing around!" 009 bellowed, her voice an infuriated yell. "You condescending ****."

    Koga's eyes narrowed at this, his thick eyebrows bristling.

    "Do not mistake me," he said tonelessly. "You have tainted the soul of my partner, and defiled his honor; I desire nothing more than to strike you. However, I am likewise bound by honor, for I refuse to attack a woman."

    "That's even more insulting," Domino spat, retracting the blade. "I'm through playing with you."

    With that, the Rocket elite whipped her left arm downward, the force of the movement triggering a mechanism beneath her sleeve and depositing a small, one-shot handgun into her palm. Smiling darkly, she leveled the gun at Koga's chest. She smirked as the ninja's eyes widened.

    "Bang. Bang."

    BANG

    The gun fired, and the bullet streaked through the air... and hit the upper curve of the barrier, the round flattening against the wall of psychic energy.

    Domino's violet gaze locked with one of vibrant sea green before darting to the left, where it fell upon the pale, slender hand that had shoved her own aside and redirected her shot upward.

    Jeanette Fisher smirked confidently at Domino, then, with a whirl of embroidered fabric, pivoted on one leg and kicked the Rocket square in the stomach with a slippered foot.

    As the Black Tulip was hurled off her feet by the impact, Jeanette lowered her leg back to the floor, simultaneously slipping into a fighting stance. She glanced over her shoulder at Koga.

    "I'll take it from here, sir."

    With merely a curt nod in the girl's direction, Koga sprinted off down the stands in seach of more Rockets to disable.

    "Who the hell are you?" Domino grunted angrily, rising back to her feet in one fluid motion.

    "It is customary," Jeanette replied with cold indifference, "to give one's own name before asking for that of another."

    "Well then, forget it."

    Domino took two rapid steps forward, then, in a flash of black, thrust out with her right arm in a quick punch at Jeanette's head.

    Jeanette sidestepped left in response, snaking out her right arm and deflecting Domino's strike with her palm, simultaneously grabbing her wrist. She then turned her hips toward the Rocket and, still holding the wrist, pushed into the arm's elbow with the heel of her left hand. The movements, on top of the redirected force of Domino's punch, sent the Rocket hurtling face-first toward the ground.

    The elite 009, however, would not be had so easily. Reacting with great reflexes, she twisted and crooked her right arm at the elbow and kicked off the ground with her left foot, literally flipping over her own arm and landing on her feet, unharmed. She spun quickly to face Jeanette.

    "Aikido, huh?" the french-curled Rocket snorted dismissively at Jeanette's chosen martial technique. "Pretty lame stuff, if you ask me."

    "I agree," Jeanette responded heartily, much to her opponent's surprise. "I just thought I'd avoid the harder arts, so that I might not break your bones, destroy your tendons or otherwise hurt you severely." she ended with a slight snarl.

    "Screw that! Step up your game!" Domino laughed cheekily, snapping out her arm-blade for the third time.

    The odd, demure smile back on her face, Jeanette readily obliged her.

    ---

    The situation on the field was at its peak, with Lance and Dragonite unwilling to act, Ash held hostage and Articuno preparing the killing blow. In stark contrast to the action going on in the stands, things looked positively hopeless here.

    Ash clenched his teeth tightly, glaring daggers at Tzu as he hung helplessly in the thrall of the alakazam's psychic power. A hundred conflicting thoughts ran rampant in the boy's skull as his oft-underestimated brain struggled to find another way out of its current predicament. None came.

    Nothing for it, then...

    Turning his head ever so slightly, he caught Pikachu's eye, and the pair shared one, final moment of understanding. No lost causes. No surrender. No retreat.

    A wild grin broke across Ash's face.

    "DO IT, PIKACHU!"

    "PIIIKAAA-CHUUUU!"

    A screeching cry rose from the back of the Mouse Pokemon's throat as he summoned up every last dreg of electrical energy within his tiny body and hurled it at Articuno with all the force he could muster.

    The Thunder assault lanced through the air, accompanied by a sharp crackling sound and the stench of ozone, catching Lance and Giovanni alike by surprise. Even Tzu froze in shock, his extraordinarily powerful brain perceiving the attack, but somehow failing to acknowledge it, as though unable to believe it true.

    Articuno, however, was not so limited. Though the Dark Ball in which it had been imprisoned had brainwashed it, tainted its mind almost beyond recognition, and programmed within it the limit of reacting only to the commands of its "master", the ball could not complete defeat the instincts, the will of such a powerful creature. An imminent, life-threatening attack such as Pikachu's massive Thunder was enough to send those instincts surging to the surface of the bird's psyche, and for a brief moment, the Dark Ball's control was overwhelmed by Articuno's will, its need, to survive.

    The survival instinct of such a great and legendary creature is a profoundly powerful thing. Those few lucky enough to witness what happened over the course of the following seconds, no, less than seconds, would later recall the event with nothing short of outright awe.

    Articuno whipped around in midair with speed nearly beyond human comprehension, breaking away from its attack on Lance and Dragonite, and, in the process, hurling a startled Giovanni from its back. As it turned to face the incoming bolt of lighting, an attack was already forming in its mouth, a whirling orb of bluish-white energy. The orb, a huge Water Pulse, flew from its beak and towards the oncoming attack, but even as it did, an Ice Beam materialized between Articuno's beaktips, and before the Water Pulse and Thunder could strike each other, the bird fired the frigid beam into the back of its own previous attack. The watery orb burst in a cascade of frost, the force and chill of the Ice Beam blasting it into a half sphere of pure, thick ice: a makeshift shield.

    As Articuno continued pouring its Ice Beam into the rear of the shield, reinforcing the barrier, Pikachu's Thunder struck. The furious electric attack instantly sheared away the better half of the ice shield upon impact, continuing to press against and chip away at the frozen barricade even as Articuno restored it.

    The respective attacks' power levels were roughly even. Their owners', however, were not. Within moments, Pikachu's thunderous power was utterly spent, and he slumped forward towards the dirt in exhaustion. Articuno didn't even seem winded.

    As pointless as the electric assualt might have seemed, though, it was in fact anything but, for as the powers of thunder and ice collided, seconds had passed. It was not much, but it was time enough, for in those seconds, the instinctive, lightspeed reactions of the remaining combatants decided the outcome of the battle.

    Though Tzu was unable to react to Pikachu's attack, he certainly reacted to his trainer's untimely dismount of Articuno. Moving on pure reflex, the alakazam had dropped everything ("everything", in this case, being Ash) to come to his master's aid. Reaching out with his telekinetic strength, he caught Giovanni mid-fall and began lowering the Rocket Boss toward the ground.

    Ash, in turn, acted the moment his feet touched the dirt, his nerves empowered by the twin thralls of instinct and adrenaline. His body moved, independent of his mind, as he grabbed at his belt, snatching a Poke Ball at random. It didn't matter who was in it; time alone was of the essence.

    The shock of Ash and Pikachu's rash, near-suicidal move stunned Lance, but only for a moment, and even as Tzu dropped Ash to the floor, Dragonite was already on the attack.

    Tzu's eyes widened in shock as his head was violently jarred by a heavy impact from behind. He stumbled forward, still conscious, if only barely, forcing his now hazy mind to concentrate on getting Giovanni safely to the ground. Behind Tzu, Squirtle sprung off the ground for a second attack, withdrawing into his thick shell and firing a jet of water at the dirt for extra speed as he rammed into the alakazam's unprotected and vulnerable head in a second, and final, blow.

    As Tzu collapsed, defeated by his lack of physical hardiness, Giovanni fell the last few feet to the ground and landed easily on his feet, just in time to see Dragonite making his move, not that there was much to see. The powerful dragon flew at Articuno with such speed that even the legendary bird was unable to react, and tackled the icy avian with a ferocious Dragon Rush.

    With a loud impact and a screech of pain, Articuno was knocked from the air. Stunned by Dragon Rush and unable to right itself, the Freeze Pokemon plummeted towards the ground, but Dragonite was not done yet. He dove at Articuno as it fell, and swung himself around in midair. Lance barely managed to maintain his grip as Dragonite whipped his tail down at Articuno in a Slam attack, catching it in the middle of its back and sending it shooting straight down into the ground. It hit the dirt, throwing up clouds of dust, and Lance and Dragonite dove right down after it.

    As the ground came up to meet them, Lance leapt from Dragonite's back, touching down on the field just as Dragonite crushed the falled Articuno with a full-force Body Slam. The wind from the sheer force of Dragonite's landing sent Lance's cape into a dramatic flutter as he snapped out an arm, pointing at Giovanni in an equally flashy gesture.

    "Do not move! You are under arrest!"

    Giovanni, in the midst of adjusting his jacket collar, glanced up at the Champion, and an awkward silence passed between the two men, Lance's finger still hanging impotently in the air.

    And then Giovanni began to laugh, his hands falling to his sides as he threw back his head, rolling, unabashed peals of laughter flowing from his mouth.

    Lance's pointing hand came down at last, balling into a fist at his side.

    "You think this is a joke?" the dragon master hissed, his tone unusually cold. "This is the end for you. All of you." He swept out his arm, gesturing toward the stands. "This is the end of Team Rocket, of Giovanni, of everything! Now get on the damn ground!"

    The laughter ceased.

    "Yes..." the crime boss said softly. "Yes, you're right on one count. It begins now. The end of everything begins now."

    As the communicator clipped to Giovanni's lapel blinked red, the sound of whirling rotors featured prominently on the air.

    Giovanni took the communicator from his jacket and placed it over his ear.

    "Speak."

    "Sir, this is Domino. We've got trouble; the Elites have backup. The barriers are coming down, but evac is on its way. ETA is a minute or less."

    "Very well," Giovanni responded, speaking quickly. "Articuno is disabled; secure me a withdrawal unit, then hold the barriers until retrieval arrives. Do not deviate from the plan."

    "I don't think you understand," Lance growled, walking towards Giovanni. "Whatever your 'plan' was, it's over now."

    "Oh?" Giovanni smirked, cocking an eyebrow. "And I suppose you think you can stop me this time? How much can a man change in four years, young Champion? Show me."

    Lance reached for his belt, withdrawing an extendable baton from its leather holster. He snapped the telescopic bludgeon out to its full length.

    "Oh, I'll show you, alright."
    Why do we fight?

    For need, or desire? For love, or hate? For dream, or destiny?

    For the end... or the beginning?

    Pokemon: Origins
    ------------
    We are GARhalla.

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