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Fanfiction Changing the Plan

Discussion in 'Literature Library' started by Gazi, Jun 2, 2018.

  1. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 1.
    A/N: I was just randomly thinking 'hey, what if Ash started his pokémon journey with two gym leaders besides Brock and Misty?' Of course, my mind turned to Giovanni and Sabrina, and bam, this story was born. This story is going to be including elements from the anime, Pokémon Adventures manga, and the games. I guess I'm just kinda picking and choosing which rules to follow.

    Originally posted on fanfiction.net and ArchiveOfOurOwn.

    Viridian City was a quiet place. Nothing ever happened there, and that was exactly how Giovanni liked it. He ran a secret and delicate organization, and he wanted to keep it that way. Many people may have heard of Team Rocket, but they didn't really understand what they did. Terrorists, thieves, that was what the region thought that they were, and Giovanni was just fine with that. For as long as the police thought that they were searching for petty criminals, they wouldn't find him.

    Even if some of his lower agents were caught and questioned, they wouldn't be able to give away any vital information. Giovanni made sure that no individual agent was told about what the team's true intentions were until after they had made it far enough up the ranks and he knew they could be trusted.

    Giovanni kept a close eye on all of the operations in his organization. He handpicked each agent individually. He put careful thought in who was partnered with who. He kept close tabs on every movement that even the lowest of his agents made. He made sure that no city or territory was targeted any more than any of the others. Even his own city had been threatened or attacked a number of times, because otherwise somebody would get suspicious.

    Even so, Viridian City was one of the more peaceful places in the region. The civilians were kind and unsuspicious of each other, so much so that it could be considered a fault. None of them even considered the thought that the boss of the organization that they feared so badly was right under their noses. He was also slightly amused when a stranger came around, and they were immediately under suspicion by the police.

    Even when such a visitor was just a ten year old child.

    Giovanni liked to know the goings on in his organization, as well as his city. If anybody left or visited the city, Giovanni was aware of it. It was always a rare occurrence for anybody to visit from Pallet Town, let alone a trainer. And yet, if Giovanni's sources were to be believed, a young boy who had come to Viridian that day was a trainer from Pallet Town. One who had just a single pokémon. Giovani wouldn't have paid the boy any mind if it weren't for the exact pokémon that he had.

    A Pikachu.

    It wasn't a rare pokémon, but it certainly wasn't common. Not many trainers in Kanto were able to find one, let alone catch it. And Giovanni had a very reliable source that had told him that pikachus were very difficult to train. They were independent creatures, stubborn, and yet this ten year old comes around with a Pikachu in his arms. The boy and the pokémon were both injured, but from what Giovanni had heard, the boy cared dearly for the pikachu, and the small electric pokémon trusted him enough to be held.

    Giovanni didn't normally believe in forming a friendship bond with pokémon, but even he couldn't deny that some pokémon grew stronger when they trusted their trainers. The boy who had just arrived at Viridian was an inexperienced trainer, he had probably only started a few days ago, and yet his Pikachu trusted him completely.

    Giovanni didn't know how the boy had managed to earn the Pikachu's trust so quickly, and he intended to find out.

    After double checking that there was still some time before Jessie and James were supposed to hit the Pokémon Center, Giovanni made his way there to have a few words with this young stranger. He didn't often go to the Pokémon Center, he had access to his own pokémon healing facilities, after all. When Giovanni got there, he was surprised to see a young lady that he recognized storming towards the doors.

    "Misty, isn't this a pleasant surprise." Giovanni approached the young girl. "What are you doing all the way out here?"

    The young redhead's angry expression fell away to confusion. "I'm sorry, do I know you?"

    "Ah, sorry, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Giovanni. I'm the gym leader here in Viridian City." Giovanni would have offered his hand out to her, but she was carrying a ruined bike over her shoulders, and he didn't want to inconvenience her. "We may not know each other, but I've made a point to know who the other gym leaders are." It came in handy with his work. "If you don't mind me asking, what are you doing so far from Cerulean City?"

    Misty scowled. "I was trying to catch some water pokémon on the routes around here, but this...this...jerk stole my bike and completely wrecked it. I'm here to make him pay."

    Giovanni frowned slightly. She wanted retribution, understandable, but reckless, and useless. "What do you expect a boy to do to fix your bike?"

    "Well, uh," Misty blinked sheepishly before she huffed. "He should at least pay to replace it."

    "That would be fair." Giovanni agreed. "Except for the fact that he's a child. How do you expect him to pay you back?"

    "I...don't know." Misty admitted unhappily. "So, what, am I just supposed to let him get away with this?"

    Giovanni reached into his pockets and took out some money. "This should be enough for you to get a new bike and make up for your troubles." Giovanni offered the money to Misty. "I need to have some words with this boy. If you want, I'll say something to him about responsibility. However, I suggest you make your way home and forget about this boy."

    Misty didn't look happy about his request, but she didn't say a word. Giovanni had heard that she was stubborn and brash, but as a gym leader, Misty understood that she needed to show respect to her superiors. She had been given the means of replacing her bike much quicker than she would have if she insisted on doing things her way. Misty's pride was the only thing keeping her from accepting the money.

    Fortunately, the girl's good sense won out over her pride. Giovanni made a mental note of this. It might come in handy in the future.

    "Thank you." Misty muttered in a quiet voice as she put down her old bike and accepted Giovanni's money. "I'm not saying I forgive him, but I'll drop it, for now. And I'm not taking this as charity either. I'll pay you back when I can."

    "I know you will" Giovanni nodded. "You have a good head on your shoulders young lady. I look forward to seeing where your career goes in the future." He truly did.

    Misty smiled and held out her hand. "It was nice to meet you, Giovanni." She was both prideful and respectful. A powerful combination if balanced just right.

    "The pleasure was all mine." Giovanni shook her hand firmly. He then turned and entered the Pokémon Center while Misty started her journey back home.

    It didn't take long for Giovanni to find the boy that he was looking for. He was in the middle of a phone call with somebody. Giovanni was willing to wait a minute or two until the boy had finished, but his curiosity won out over his patience when he saw the boy pointing at the plaque on the wall that depicted four rare pokémon. Even from the other side of the room Giovanni could hear the boy excitedly announce how he had seen one of those pokémon.

    If what the boy was saying was true, then Giovanni most definitely needed to have a few words with him.

    A moment later the boy's phone call ended, leaving him looking dejected and disappointed. Giovanni saw his opportunity and took it.

    "Excuse me." Giovanni said to the boy. "I couldn't help but overhear what you were saying. Have you really seen that pokémon?"

    "Huh?" The boy turned towards Giovanni, and then glanced back at the plaque. "Yeah, I saw a giant golden bird flying right over the rainbow."

    "A golden bird?" Giovanni frowned. That couldn't be possible. The plaque that the boy had gestured to was a depiction of an Articuno. If he had gestured to the Zapdos, or even the Moltres, then he would have considered it a possibility. But a golden Articuno?

    "I'm telling the truth!" The boy exclaimed fiercely. "I saw a golden bird." Giovanni didn't know if he trusted the boy's words, but if the boy was lying, wouldn't he have claimed that the red or yellow plaque was his 'golden bird'?

    "I'm sure you believe that you did." Giovanni said. "However, I highly doubt it was that bird, as it is an exceptionally rare ice pokémon."

    The boy's expression fell, downcast. "You don't believe me either?"

    "I don't not believe you." Giovanni verified. "Perhaps if we had a little more to go off of?"

    The boy frowned thoughtfully. "It was...big? I don't know. I can't describe how it looked, but I'd recognize it if I saw it again."

    For most people, that would be a problem, but Giovanni was most certainly not 'most people'. "I have some information and pictures nearby that may help you to refresh your memory."

    The boy's expression brightened immediately. "Really? That would be awesome!" Giovanni appreciated the enthusiasm of youth. It made them much more cooperative. Just feed their fantasies and they were putty in your hand. A moment later though the boy's face fell again. "Wait, I can't go. I have to stay here. My Pikachu...he's hurt."

    The boy's voice was full of emotion. He was clearly attached to his pokémon. Giovanni despised sentimentality like this. Pokémon weren't pets, they were tools. A means to an end. Giovanni didn't necessarily mind that not everybody currently agreed with him, even his three best agents held some fondness for their own pokémon. What Giovanni absolutely hated was when pokémon fanatics got in the way of his goals.

    However, Giovanni doubt that this was one of those cases. The boy cared for his pokémon, but Giovanni knew how he could get around that.

    "I have my own healing facilities. If your pikachu means that much to you, we can take it with us to heal there while we look into this golden bird of yours." Giovanni suggested.

    "I don't know." The boy looked tempted, which was at least a step in the right direction. "He's pretty hurt."

    Giovanni grinned. "I assure you, I have access to technology that is just as good as they have here." With his resources, they were even better. As both a gym leader and the boss of team rocket, he needed his pokémon to be in prime shape at all times.

    "A-are you sure?" He was breaking the kid down.

    "Of course." At that point in time, Giovanni needed the kid to trust him, and he knew that it wasn't going to happen if he was caught in a lie after just a few minutes of telling it. "You're Pikachu will be just fine."

    "Well, if you're sure." The boy's excited grin was back. "Let's go!"

    With the boy convinced, it was only too easy to get the Pikachu. Nurse Joy wasn't pleased with the kid's decision, but the pokémon had already been healed from the worst, and she really didn't have a right to keep the Pikachu there when the kid wanted him back.

    Giovanni found an unexpected problem when they got the pokémon though. "What do you mean you won't put him in his pokéball?"

    "He doesn't like it." The boy held his pikachu close in his arms. "I can't just force him to do something that he hates."

    Giovanni sighed in frustration. This was the exact kind of sentiment that got in the way of his plans. "Do you have parents?" Giovanni didn't like doing this, but he had to appeal to the boy's better nature. Convince the kid to do something that he wanted by relating it to something that he could understand.

    "My mom." The boy looked confused by the question.

    "Has she ever given you medicine when you were sick?" Giovanni guessed. "Even when you didn't want it?"

    The kid lowered his head and looked at his pokémon, which was staring right back at him. "Yeah." He admitted reluctantly.

    "When you're responsible for somebody else, you have to do what's best for them." For the first time Giovanni was grateful that one of his higher ranked agents had a kid. Giovanni believed that his sentiment towards his daughter was making him soft, but he couldn't deny that the agent's advice on how to deal with kids was coming in handy. "Even if they don't like it."

    "...Does he have to be in his pokéball?" The boy asked.

    Giovanni had to keep himself from losing his temper. He didn't have the time to deal with this. "My machines require that a pokémon remains in their ball." It was the most effective way to heal a pokémon.

    The boy sighed and reached for the pokéballs that he kept at his belt. "I'm sorry, Pikachu." The boy muttered before he opened the ball and returned his pokémon. Finally, with that out of the way, they could get going.

    Giovanni's gym, which doubled as his base of operations for Team Rocket, wasn't far from the Pokémon Center, and the two of them were able to walk there within just a few minutes. Giovanni led the boy to the back rooms of the gym behind the main battling arena. After spending a few minutes turning on his healing machine and showing the kid how it worked, Giovanni brought out some of his books.

    "Alright, boy, let's see if we can figure out who your mystery pokémon is." Giovanni opened his first book of rare pokémon and turned to the flying/bird section. He knew that many of the pokémon in his books weren't confirmed to truly exist, but that was what made them rare.

    "...Boy?" The kid tilted his head in confusion. It was a moment before his eyes widened in realization. "Oh, I never introduced myself. Sorry." The kid rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment before he offered out a hand. "I'm Ash Ketchum, from Pallet Town."

    "...Giovanni." The man wasn't all that fond of such pleasantries, but he could tolerate them. He shook Ash's hand.

    "Nice to meet you!" Ash said enthusiastically. "So, let's look at those books."

    Because Giovanni didn't want to influence Ash's memory, he backed off and left the boy alone as he looked at the pictures. There weren't very many legendary bird Pokémon, so Giovanni didn't expect it to take all that long. However, he was surprised just how quickly Ash exclaimed "I found it!"

    Giovanni quickly made his way back to the boy and looked over his shoulder. His eyes widened when he saw the pokémon that Ash was gesturing to. "Ho-Oh?"

    "Yeah, that's the golden pokémon that I saw." Ash said excitedly.

    Giovanni considered the plausibility. Ho-Oh was one of the legendary pokémon that was very likely to actually exist, though very, very rare. There were few reports of a Ho-Oh having been seen at all, and to Giovanni's knowledge nobody had actually had a run-in with the legendary bird before.

    Still, even though just the sighting of a legendary pokémon wasn't as good as an actual interaction with one, it was better than no contact at all. That is, if Ho-Oh was the pokémon that Ash had seen at all. Giovanni didn't think that Ash was lying, he certainly seemed earnest enough, but even though most legendary pokémon couldn't be mistaken for anything else, Ho-Oh was one of the exceptions.

    Giovanni grabbed another one of his books, one about non-rare pokémon. "Do you think it's possible that you saw this pokémon instead?" Giovanni pointed to a picture of a bird pokémon that, from far away, could be mistaken for a Ho-Oh.

    "A Fearow?" Ash frowned as he looked from one picture to the other. "I guess it could have been this." Ash admitted reluctantly before he turned to Giovanni with wide, determined eyes. "But this pokémon felt special."

    Giovanni didn't like to waste resources based solely on guesses and maybes, but he knew all too well that rare pokémon had a kind of aura about them that could actually be felt by humans. As silly as it seemed, the fact that Ash claimed that the pokémon felt special improved the chances of it actually being special.

    Still, Giovanni wanted to be sure. And, fortunately for him, he believed that he knew how to do just that.

    "I have a colleague in Saffron City who may be able to help us to know just what you saw." Giovanni said thoughtfully. She had a gift to be able to recognize unusual circumstances when they happened. If anybody would be able to tell just what Ash saw, it was her.

    "Really!?" Ash's eyes widened and he grinned hopefully.

    "Yes, really." Giovanni said as he collected his books and returned them to the shelf. "It will be a few hours before your Pikachu is back to full health, so we'll leave first thing in the morning."

    "Awesome!" Ash proclaimed excitedly. He was eager to go on an adventure. It had been a while since Giovanni had been around somebody so enthusiastic.

    Giovanni wasn't nearly as excited about the upcoming journey as Ash was. He wasn't exactly the adventuring type, but he knew that the kind of thing he wanted from his colleague was something that had to happen in person. Giovanni knew that he could just tell Ash who to talk to, but if the boy truly had seen a Ho-Oh, Giovanni felt like he wanted to be there for himself to get the news.

    Besides, it had been some time since he had gone on any journeys. It was certainly going to be an interesting experience, that was for sure.
    Arctiquaza likes this.
  2. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 2.

    Bright and early the next morning Giovanni and Ash were able to leave Viridian City and begin the long journey to Saffron City. Giovanni had allowed Ash to spend the night at his gym, just because he knew that the rest of the city would be in complete chaos once his people made the hit on the Pokémon Center. He didn't want to waste his time worrying about where his traveling companion was. Besides, Ash had made it clear that he didn't want to let his Pikachu, or at least the pokéball, out of his sight.

    Giovanni didn't know what had happened between the time that Ash had left Pallet Town and when he had arrived at Viridian City, but the boy had absolutely no supplies with him. No extra pokéballs, no food, not even any water. Those weren't appropriate traveling conditions. Giovanni took it upon himself to make sure that the two of them were actually prepared for a journey. They would need supplies that would last them at least until they reached Pewter City and could restock, but because they would be carrying it all, nothing could take up too much space.

    Giovanni himself didn't do a lot of traveling, but he understood the importance of being well-prepared for the unexpected. Such preparation was very important for an organization like Team Rocket, even though many people didn't realize it. In fact, many of Team Rocket's highest ranking agents weren't necessarily the best thieves or criminals, but the ones who knew how to make a plan, and then how to adjust if the plan went wrong. Those were the people who made the best leaders.

    As soon as Pikachu was back to full health and both Ash and Giovanni had gotten a decent night's sleep, they were ready to go. With bags over their shoulders, the man and boy made their way towards the Viridian Forest. They were stopped before they could even make it out of the city though by a roadblock set up by the police.

    "What's going on?" Ash asked the Officer Jenny that was searching through their bags. "Is something wrong?"

    "There was theft at the Pokémon Center last night." Jenny said as she handed Ash his bag. Another officer took their pokéballs and released all of Giovanni's pokémon, which she then compared to a list of pokémon that had been stolen the night before. "Nearly all of the pokémon there were stolen."

    "Stolen?" Ash looked horrified. "But...but the all of the pokémon at the Pokémon Center were weak and sick? Who would do something like this?"

    What Giovanni was wondering was who would think that the thieves would still be in the city hours later? These search efforts were useless and pathetic.

    "They call themselves Team Rocket." Jenny said. She handed them back their pokémon and pokéballs and apologized for the inconvenience. "You folks can go now, but you should be careful. Those thieves are still around."

    "Yeah, okay." Ash nodded at Officer Jenny, but his smile was strained. Giovanni noticed, as it was a little difficult to not notice when somebody who wore their heart on their sleeve was upset, but he didn't say anything about it. Giovanni couldn't really care less what Ash's feelings on the matter were. He was only traveling with the boy to learn if he had truly seen a rare pokémon, that was it.

    Giovanni didn't ask about what was on Ash's mind, but he should have guessed that the kid would be interested in sharing anyways.

    "I just don't understand it." Ash sighed as they entered Viridian Forest. "Why would someone steal someone else's pokémon? I mean, pokémon should be friends, companions. You can't just steal that from somebody."

    Ash had such an idealistic way of looking at things, it was almost sickening. Still, the boy was young. He could learn. Giovanni normally wouldn't waste his time trying to educate others on how pokémon worked, but it wasn't as though there was anything else for him to do. There was plenty of time to try to teach Ash as they traveled through the forest.

    "You have a close connection to your Pikachu, but most trainers don't have the same connection to their pokémon." GIovanni said. Even some trainers who were fond of one or two specific pokémon simply saw any others as a means to an end. And it wasn't just humans who did this. "Many pokémon even feel the same way about their trainers."

    "That's not true!" Ash protested angrily.

    "No?" Giovanni looked at the boy. "You said that you wanted to be a great pokémon trainer. Imagine for a moment that you caught a pokémon that has no interest in fighting. Or if there was a trainer who just wanted to be friends with their pokémon, but their partner just wanted to get stronger. Should trainer and pokémon stay together in this instance?"

    Ash's face fell and he looked at the ground. "I guess not." He muttered. "But...but that doesn't make it okay for people to just steal pokémon from their trainers."

    "Maybe not." Giovanni still didn't agree with Ash, but he knew better than to think that the boy would change his mind in a day. If Giovanni kept the discussion going, Ash would just continue to disagree with him and they wouldn't get anywhere. If Giovanni really wanted to convince Ash, which he still wasn't sure if he had any interest in doing so, then he couldn't do it all at once. The best way to change Ash's mind was little by little. He had gotten Ash to consider that not all trainer and pokémon partnerships were in either of their best interests, and that was enough for one day.

    Giovanni and Ash travelled in silence for a few minutes before the boy stopped so suddenly that Giovanni nearly walked right into him. "Whoa" Ash's eyes widened and seemed to gleam in excitement. "What pokémon is that?"

    Giovanni looked around, but the only pokémon that he could see was a small Caterpie that had crawled out onto the path in front of them, but that couldn't be the pokémon that Ash was talking about...could it be?

    Giovanni groaned when Ash eagerly crouched down on the ground right by the Caterpie. He didn't understand why anybody would be so eager to see a pokémon that was as weak and common as Caterpie was. If this was how Ash got whenever he saw any pokémon, it was going to be a really long journey.

    Giovanni really didn't have the patience for that.

    "If you like that Caterpie so much, why don't you just catch it so we can get moving again?" GIovanni suggested irritably. The Caterpie certainly seemed friendly enough, and for beginning trainers it was best for them to train pokémon that liked them.

    "Oh, right!" Ash stood up and grabbed a pokéball from his belt. Giovanni sighed impatiently. It was as though Ash, who claimed that he wanted to be a pokémon trainer, had forgotten that he could catch other pokémon. Or maybe the boy just didn't know a single thing about pokémon, because Ash just threw the pokéball at the Caterpie in the hopes that it would work. He didn't even have Pikachu, who was just sitting casually on his shoulder, tackle it beforehand, just to weaken it a little bit. Ash just threw the ball and hoped for the best.

    He was incredibly lucky that the Caterpie was at such a low level, and that it was incredibly easy to catch in the first place.

    Ash cheered excitedly as the shaking pokéball stilled. He had successfully caught his first pokémon. "I caught Caterpie!"

    "You got lucky with Caterpie." Giovanni said sternly. Ash's enthusiasm dimmed and he frowned slightly. "Pokémon need to be weakened before they are caught. You can't just throw a pokéball and think that it will work."

    "Right." Ash lowered his eyes to the ground, his voice quiet. "I forgot." The boy was disappointed in himself, and upset about being scolded. This was why Giovanni didn't like to be around children. They were too emotional.

    "Just keep it in mind next time." Giovanni put a hand on Ash's shoulder, and the boy looked up at him hopefully. "Regardless of how it happened, you still caught the Caterpie. Now, let's keep going." The forest was big, and Giovanni didn't want to be in it any longer than he had to be.

    The enthusiasm and excitement returned to Ash's eyes. "Alright!" He adjusted his hat and looked happily at Caterpie's pokéball. "I can't wait to get started." Ash then took the pokéball and, to Giovanni's annoyance, let out his Caterpie.

    "What are you doing?" Giovanni asked impatiently.

    Ash grinned as he picked up his Caterpie and lifted it closer to Pikachu. "I can't really make friends with my pokémon if they're in their balls all the time." The boy pointed out as he continued walking. Giovanni was annoyed, but he let Ash have his fun. At the moment, he only had two pokémon, and they were both small enough to be carried with ease. Ash had to know that he couldn't do this throughout their whole journey, but for the time being, as long as they weren't slowing them down, it was fine.

    Giovanni and Ash travelled on the path for a few hours in near silence before the man decided that they could stop for a lunch break. To Ash's credit, he hadn't complained once about the tedious walking. At least he had been prepared for that part of the journey. Ash made sure that his pokémon were taken care of before he got food for himself. The pokémon ate their food, of course they did, pokémon always seemed willing to nibble on something, but they quickly lost interest and began to play with each other. Ash seemed content to just let them play, but Giovanni wasn't. If the boy was going to have his two pokémon out then he may as well be productive with them.

    Giovanni reached for his belt and grabbed two pokéballs. He tossed them towards Ash's Pikachu and Caterpie and let out his Nidorino and Persian. "Have you ever been in a pokémon battle before?"

    "Uh, no." Ash admitted. "But I've seen a bunch on tv."

    "So you know how they work." Giovanni nodded at his pokémon. "Let's see how much you've learned." Giovanni himself wouldn't participate in the match. He would let his pokémon make their own decisions. It would even things out a little bit, as Giovanni's pokémon knew to not use their full power unless specifically ordered to. Giovanni prefered for his opponents to underestimate his abilities, and then strike back before they even knew what hit them.

    Giovanni didn't have that much of an interest in watching an amateur trainer pretend that he was more experienced than he was. If they weren't going to be traveling, then he would do something else productive. Whether he was in the middle of a forest or not, he still had a business to run.

    Giovanni knew that the theft at the Pokémon Center had gone well, but that was only one part of what they did with pokémon. The more uncommon pokémon would be sold on the black market. They usually weren't legendary or particularly rare pokémon, but there were a lot of people who were willing to spend money to avoid putting in the work to find a particular pokémon for themselves. The most common pokémon were sent to Team Rocket's research facilities to be tested and experimented on.

    They were trying to make pokémon as powerful as they could. Pokémon were tools, and if they weren't strong enough to serve the needs of their trainers, then they were useless. Many people would claim that they were doing this by unethical means, but many of these same people wouldn't hesitate to use these stronger pokémon if they were given an opportunity. Giovanni may be unethical, but at least he was consistent in what he said and what he did.

    Giovanni left Ash with the four pokémon and went for some privacy. The boy could train, and he could make sure that things were running smoothly when he wasn't around to keep everybody on track. Giovanni was in the middle of a forest, and there weren't normally very many communication opportunities in such a place. But, Giovanni wasn't a normal person. He was rich. He had scientific resources at his fingertips. Wherever he was, even in the middle of Viridian Forest, he could contact the rest of the world.

    Giovanni normally prefered to let his subordinates cover the work in his stead, but he wasn't afraid of doing work for himself if the situation called for it. Even though the majority of the work that Giovanni did was make sure that others did the work that they were supposed to do, he could work for hours doing just that. It was one of the perks of being a leader. If there was work that he wanted to do, there was always something. If he didn't want to work, he could put it off on somebody else.

    While Ash trained, Giovanni was able to make sure that all of the pokémon from the Viridian City Pokémon Center went to the places that they were supposed to go. He was able to check on the progress of their work at the Cinnabar Island Research Lab. He was just about to make a call to Saffron City when Ash came running towards him, and excited grin on his face (Giovanni was beginning to think that the boy had two emotions. Excited, and upset).

    "He evolved!" Ash shouted so loudly that the people in Viridian City could probably hear him. "He evolved! Look, look!" Giovanni's eyes widened in surprise when he saw Ash holding a Metapod.

    "It evolved?" Giovani eyed Ash and his pokémon. Metapods weren't pokémon that showed a lot of emotion, but this one did seem nearly as excited as Ash was, which was certainly a feat. Giovanni couldn't help but be impressed. He didn't know how long the boy had been training, and Caterpies evolved extremely quickly, but he hadn't expected it to evolve so soon. He had thought that Ash's 'training' would be more like glorified playing. Had he actually managed to train his pokémon? That wasn't what GIovanni had expected.

    Well, now Giovanni was curious.

    "I wasn't expecting you to evolve your Caterpie so quickly." Giovanni admitted. He looked at his Nidorino and Persian and gestured for them to come to his side. He wanted to see what the child's training strategy was for himself. Besides, it had been quite some time since Giovanni had participated in a pokémon battle of any kind, and the practice would be good for him.

    "Persian, use scratch." Giovanni pointed his pokémon towards the Pikachu that was sitting on the ground next to Ash, and his Persian obediently did as it was told.

    Ash's eyes widened when he saw the large cat pokémon running towards them. "Get out of the way!" Ash dove and somehow managed to grab his Pikachu as he was holding his Metapod and dodging Persian's claws. Ash sighed in relief when he saw that his pokémon were alright. He let his Pikachu climb onto his shoulder, and then he turned and glared at Giovanni. "What the heck was that for?"

    "Not all your opponents are going to wait kindly until you're ready before they strike." Giovanni said coldly. "If you want to be a pokémon trainer, you need to be prepared for anything. Especially an attack from where you least expect it."

    As Giovanni spoke his Persian stalked around Ash, waiting for another command. Ash kept his eyes glued to the cat pokémon, and that was his mistake.

    "Pika, pika!" Pikachu cried out in alarm. It pulled on Ash's hair to get him to turn his head. Ash turned just in time to see Giovanni's Nidorino charging towards him. Ash scrambled to get out of the way, and managed it just in the nick of time. The boy had good instincts. That could come in handy.

    "If you don't want to be harmed, I suggest let go of your pokémon and leave them to battle Giovanni said.

    "Battle?" The fear and anger in Ash's eyes was replaced by fierce determination in a matter of moments. "Now we're talking. Pikachu, Metapod, you guys ready for this?"

    "Pika!" The small thunder pokémon jumped off of Ash's shoulders and got into a battle-ready stance. Ash put his Metapod down by Pikachu and took a step back. Ash was eager for his first battle against another trainer, and Giovanni was eager to see just what the boy could do.

    The battle didn't last for very long. Giovanni's Persian had taken down Ash's Metapod in just two hits, and Pikachu's thundershock, while obviously unnaturally powerful, had little effect on Nidorino. Despite his overwhelming victory, Giovanni was pleased with the potential that he saw in Ash. He clearly wasn't very knowledgeable about pokémon and their abilities, but he had a fighting energy about him, and that just wasn't something that could be taught as easily as pokémon stats.

    "Not bad." Giovanni reached into his bag and grabbed some supplies to treat Ash's pokémon's injuries. It wasn't wise to go to Viridian Forest without the means of healing your pokémon, as there weren't any Pokémon Centers all the way out there.

    "Thanks." Ash used a few potions on his pokémon to heal them up. He then scratched behind his Pikachu's ears and rubbed his Metapod's shell. "You guys did awesome." The boy then looked eagerly at Giovanni's pokémon. "And you guys were so strong."

    "It takes a lot of training to get a pokémon this strong." Giovanni stroked his Persian, which purred happily. It really was quite a spoiled pokémon. "But raw power isn't everything when it comes to pokémon. It doesn't matter how strong a pokémon is if it's used the wrong way."

    Ash frowned in confusion. "I didn't know there was a wrong way to use a pokémon?"

    Most people didn't stop to consider it, even though, as far as Giovanni was concerned, there were far more ways to use a pokémon in the wrong way than in the right way. "Look at your Pikachu." Giovanni nodded at the little pokémon. "His thundershock is strong, but thunder type attacks aren't very effective against ground type pokémon like Nidorino."

    Ash's eyes widened in alarm. "I forgot about pokémon typing."

    Giovanni raised an eyebrow at the boy. "I thought you said that you watched pokémon battles on television?"

    "Well, yeah, but I wasn't paying attention to the typing." Ash made a strange face. Giovanni figured he should have guessed. Ash was just a young boy. He enjoyed pokémon battles, but it made sense that he didn't have the patience or focus to take notice of how effective different types were against each other in professional matches.

    Giovanni had seen a few of these professional matches on television, and he thought maybe it was a good thing that Ash hadn't paid much attention when pokémon typing was discussed, because some of the announcers for the matches were complete idiots when it came to pokémon. Giovanni once heard an announcer say that water pokémon were exceptionally weak against fire type moves. It had been embarrassing.

    Well, if you're going to be a pokémon trainer, it is something you need to know." Giovanni said, and he hoped that Ash was ready to listen, because he wasn't about to explain this more than once.

    As their pokémon rested and recovered from their training, Giovanni explained pokémon typing to Ash. He told him which types were super effective on another, and what they were weak against. There was a lot to cover, and midway through the explanation their four pokémon ended up falling asleep, curled up close to them. Ash didn't seem the least bit tired though. He didn't even seem bored. He was paying attention to what Giovanni was telling him. It was likely that not all of it would stick after just one lesson, he would learn.

    Giovanni had only meant to give Ash a crash course about pokémon typing, but he ended up going into much more detail than he had originally intended. Giovanni normally didn't care for teaching or explaining things, as far as he was concerned, if somebody wanted to succeed in this world, they needed to figure out how to do it on their own.

    There was something pleasant about teaching Ash though. He was young and eager to learn. Giovanni couldn't remember the last time he had met somebody that was so enthusiastic about pokémon. Giovanni doubted that Ash would stay this naive and passionate his whole life, but in the meantime it was certainly refreshing. Giovanni was actually curious to see where this boy's pokémon journey led him, and he hadn't felt that way about another person since...well, it had been a long time.

    Giovanni lost track of time as he taught Ash about pokémon. By the time he started to think that they had wasted too much time and should probably be heading off again, it was the early hours of the evening. He had spent the whole afternoon training and teaching Ash. It would be pointless for them to continue traveling now. It would be night soon, and it wasn't wise to travel during the night.

    So Giovanni had decided that they should just call it a day. They hadn't travelled very far, but Giovanni was pleased with the progress that Ash had made. The boy really did have the potential to be a great pokémon trainer. Giovanni normally couldn't care less about a child's personal goals, but it just so happened that Ash's hard-work could be beneficial in the near future.

    The Viridian Forest wasn't that large, but it took most trainers at least a few days to travel through it because they remained on the path. It was the slowest route, but also the safest. This was the way that Giovanni had intended to go, because while he was certain that by himself he and his pokémon could handle any wild pokémon that they encountered off the path, he didn't want to babysit a child while doing so.

    But Ash's skill was quite promising. He still had a long ways to go, but Giovanni believed that if he kept in mind what he had learned that day, and if he continued to push his pokémon and not shy away from a frightening situation, then Ash could handle himself. Even if they had lost half a day of travel, Giovanni was sure that they would more than make up for it if they went straight through the forest, off the path.

    Ash would be able to test out his skills, and Giovanni would be able to see just how good the kid could be. It would probably be the first time that Ash would ever truly fight a wild pokémon, and despite how much Giovanni told himself that he wasn't invested in the boy, he couldn't wait to see just what the kid had up his sleeves.

    Giovanni had a good feeling about this kid.
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  3. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 3.

    It took the two of them a few days to get out of the Viridian Forest, and in that time Giovanni had learned quite a few things about Ash. The most prominent and annoying being that, while Ash was eager to learn and enthusiastic about pokémon, he didn't easily remember what he was taught. Giovanni had lost track of how many times he had sent his Metapod to fight a Pidgey or Spearow. At least the boy had learned how to make use of his Metapod's harden.

    And with all of the battles that Ash participated in, both of his pokémon's levels had increased quite a bit. Not by a whole lot, they both still had a long ways to go, but by enough that Ash's Metapod had evolved into a Butterfree by the end of the third day.

    And despite the fact that Ash was a slow learner, he did, indeed, learn. It took several reminders, but when they had eventually run into a Pidgeotto, which was not a common pokémon in that area, Ash had immediately sent his Pikachu to battle it instead of his newly evolved Butterfree. Giovanni knew that Ash must have been eager to see how Butterfree would do in a battle, so he was impressed when Ash had chosen Pikachu instead. The boy was learning.

    Pidgeotto had been stronger than most any other wild pokémon in the Viridian Forest, but Pikachu was fairly strong too. Using his speed and a thunderbolt, as well as a well-timed thunder wave when the Pidgeotto had tried to fly away, Pikachu had been able to defeat the Pidgeotto without too much difficulty.

    Giovanni had spent their entire journey through Viridian Forest convincing Ash that he shouldn't catch every single pokémon that he encountered. He had to prioritize. Giovanni had let him get away with the Caterpie, because it was good to start off small, and Butterfree's could be fairly useful. Most of the other pokémon in the forest were too weak and common to be worth their attention. The Pidgeotto was the one exception.

    It had taken them longer to get through the Viridian Forest than Giovanni would have liked, but Ash, as well as his pokémon, were stronger than they were when they had entered. Ash had gone into the forest with a single Pikachu, and he had left with two new pokémon, neither of which was at their lowest evolutionary stage. Ash still had a long ways to go, but as far as beginnings went, he wasn't doing bad.

    Pewter City was just outside the Viridian Forest. It wasn't there destination, and they wouldn't be staying there for long, but Giovanni didn't think that there would be anything wrong with spending the rest of the day in the city. They could restock their supplies, and sleep in actual beds before continuing their journey.

    After they took their pokémon to the Pokémon Center, Ash had decided that he wanted to explore the town. Giovanni couldn't care less about seeing what Pewter City had to offer, so he opted to stay behind and wait for Ash's Pokémon to be healed. He did let Ash borrow his Persian though, just while he was gone. Nobody knew better than Giovanni did that things weren't always as nice as they first seemed. A child could get hurt if he wandered around an unfamiliar city without any kind of defense.

    Sending Persian with Ash had simply been a precaution. Giovanni hadn't expected for Ash to actually use him. So he was surprised when Ash returned a few hours later, both he and Persian soaking wet. Persian looked irritated, probably just because he hated water and didn't like being wet. Ash didn't seem to even notice that he was wet. He was too busy being concerned about the sunglasses wearing Squirtle that he was carrying in his arms. The little blue pokémon was covered in scratches and seemed rather weak. It didn't take a genius to figure out that there had been a battle. Giovanni just didn't understand why it had happened in the first place. Persian should know better than to get into fights unless he was told to. And what was a Squirtle even doing in Pewter City in the first place?

    Ash walked straight to the front desk and held the Squirtle out to Nurse Joy. ""This Squirtle's hurt. Can you help him?"

    "Of course." Nurse Joy nodded and smiled at him reassuringly. She took the Squirtle gently.

    Ash sighed in relief. "Thank goodness." With the Squirtle taken care of Ash knelt down and scratched Persian's ears. "Hey, thanks for your help earlier. I know you don't like water."

    Persian tilted it's head and purred to encourage Ash to continue scratching him. Giovanni was shocked to see his pokémon behaving like some house pet. Persian liked to be pampered, but he was very picky about which humans he allowed to touch him. Persian also didn't like it when its fur got messed up, and yet it was encouraging Ash to do just that. How had the two of them bonded so quickly? They had only been gone for a few hours.

    "What did you do?" Giovanni approached Ash and Persian. The boy looked sheepishly at him and quickly got to his feet. Persian, who wasn't happy that Ash had stopped, whined in protest and nudged his head against the boy's leg to get his attention again. Persian didn't even glance in Giovanni's direction.

    "There was a group of Squirtles causing trouble in the city." Ash said, as though it explained everything, and it explained absolutely nothing. "I think they were looking for somebody to battle."

    "And you volunteered my pokémon?" Giovanni raised an eyebrow. He knew that Persian wouldn't have bothered with the Squirtles unless told to, but he also knew that Persian wasn't the kind of pokémon that would listen to orders from just any trainer.

    "Yeah, sorry." Ash laughed sheepishly and rubbed the back of his neck. "Persian did really good though. He was able to chase off most of the Squirtles. Their leader was stubborn though, and, well…"

    Giovanni sighed and snapped his fingers. Persian's ears twitched and he finally looked up at his trainer. Giovanni gestured for his pokémon to come to him, and Persian obeyed. "Persian is a powerful pokémon. That Squirtle was lucky that it got off with just a few scratches." Even when Persian held back, he was a fierce pokémon.

    "Yeah. I hope the Squirtle will be okay." Ash frowned slightly and looked down at the ground.

    Giovanni barely kept himself from groaning in annoyance. He didn't understand the boy's sentimentality towards every single pokémon that he encountered. Ash had said that the Squirtles had been causing trouble, he had just gotten through with fighting them, and now he was concerned about one of the troublemakers His kindness was going to get him into trouble one of these days.

    Ash was just a child though. He could be forgiven for his optimism for at least a few more years.

    "Why don't you go see if you can find any towels. You'll get yourself sick if you stay wet like that." Giovanni suggested.

    "Oh...right." Ash blinked and looked down at himself as though he hadn't even noticed how wet he was. "Come on, Persian, let's go." Persian meowed happily and made his way back to Ash's side. Persian hadn't checked to see if his trainer was okay with him walking off, he had just joined Ash. Giovanni wanted to know what Ash had done to get his pokémon to like him so much. It was one thing for Ash to quickly gain his own pokémon's trust, and another thing for him to get Giovanni's Persian to behave like a common pet.

    If Persian's behavior kept up like this, Giovanni knew that he would have to discipline it. He had high expectations for his pokémon. He wouldn't stand for defiance or unprofessional behavior from his pokémon.

    A Chansey came over to hand Ash a couple of towels. Giovanni had always been impressed with how in-tune Chansey's were with the needs of others around them, pokémon and humans alike. That was the reason why they worked so well at Pokémon Centers, not because they were good healers, because they weren't much better than most other pokémon. No, Chansey's were just extremely empathetic by nature. Kind, gentle, and always eager to help anybody that they could.

    ...Something like Ash.

    Nurse Joy returned from the back where she had taken the Squirtle. She brought three pokéballs on a tray back with her. Ash's pokémon. The boy, once again, had been reluctant to put his Pikachu in its ball, but Giovanni had talked him into it. Ash had been easier to convince the second time around.

    It had helped that Ash was aware that pokémon healed much more effectively inside their pokéballs than out of them. If a pokémon's condition was too sensitive and it was too risky, then it was best to be treated outside the pokéball. In any other case, the balls were better.

    "Your pokémon at back to perfect health." Nurse Joy said cheerfully as she offered Ash's pokéballs back to him. Ash smiled excitedly and took back his pokéballs.

    "Thanks." Ash pocketed two of the balls, and opened the third one to let Pikachu out. He still prefered having his Pikachu out and with him as much as possible, but at least he was learning that sometimes it was for the best that his Pikachu was in its pokéball. With Pikachu back on his shoulders Ash looked back to Nurse Joy. "How's the Squirtle?"

    "He'll be just fine." Nurse Joy said, still as cheerful as ever. It was almost frightening how cheery she was all the time. "He's resting now, but he should be just fine in the morning."

    Ash breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good."

    Giovanni sighed and grabbed one of the towels from Ash's arms. He tossed it over the boy's hair, covering his face as well. "Dry off." He ordered as he grabbed another towel and began to dry Persian's fur. He knew how irritated Persian could get if its fur wasn't completely dry.

    A few minutes later Giovanni was able to get Persian's fur dried off, even though he had been met with some resistance. It was infuriating that Persian seemed to hate being dried off with a towel as much as he hated being wet. There was just no pleasing this pokémon. Giovanni managed it though, this hadn't been the first time he had needed to do something like this. Shortly after Persian was dry, Ash returned (Giovanni hadn't even noticed that he had left) wearing dry clothes.

    "Hey, Persian, looking good." Ash knelt down and began to scratch at the Persian's ears again.

    Giovanni couldn't allow that to continue. Persian had been pampered enough for one day. "Persian, let's go." Giovanni's tone was hard, commanding. In an instant Persian's relaxed expression disappeared and he obediently shook off Ash's pets.

    "Huh?" Ash stared in confusion as Giovanni made his way to the front door with Persian at his heels. "Where are you guys going?"

    "We'll be making our way to Cerulean tomorrow." Giovanni reminded him. "I need to be sure that we have anything we might need."

    "Oh, okay." Ash still sounded confused, though Giovanni couldn't imagine why. "Do you want help?"

    "That's why I'm bringing Persian with me." Giovanni looked over his shoulder at Ash. "You stay here and keep an eye on your pokémon. I shouldn't be long." He didn't need a child tailing his every movement. And Ash needed to learn how to not have an adult holding his hand every second of the day.

    Giovanni had a few errands to run, but most of them only took a few minutes. He just needed to be sure that they had any supplies they might need between Pewter City and Cerulean, because he wouldn't want to turn around. One thing that he wanted to be sure that they had was plenty of pokéballs. Ash hadn't caught very many pokémon yet, but it was always better to have a few extras on hand, just in case, than to be left without a pokéball if you just so happened to encounter a pokémon you want to catch.

    Giovanni had a few other things that he had to pick up. He was also sure to find a secure location to make a call to Team Rocket's research lab on Cinnabar island. He could usually leave his organization alone for a few days, but they had some delicate research going on at Cinnabar Island. Things had been rocky for the past few weeks. There was a very important project in progress at the labs. Things could easily go wrong, and if they did, he needed to be informed of it right away.

    The progress report from the Cinnabar labs not only reassured Giovanni that nothing horrible had happened, but that great progress was being made. Their specimen was responding well to their experiments. Giovanni didn't know what his new head researcher had done different from the others, but while all the previous specimens had failed at this point, he had done something to not only keep it stable, but develop it further. According to the scientist, if progress continued like this, the specimen would gain consciousness in the next few weeks.

    And once that happened, that was when the real testing would begin.

    The phone call to Cinnabar had been Giovanni's last errand. After receiving the progress report he made his way back to the Pokémon Center, in a much better mood than he had been before. Everything was going according to plan.

    Giovanni hadn't been gone for more than an hour, but when he returned it was to find Ash slumped over on the couch, fast asleep. Pikachu was curled up next to him, and so were both Pidgeotto and Butterfree. The boy was clearly tired. Giovanni had only ever seen Ash as a bundle of endless energy. It seemed like all that walking and battles these past few days had really exhausted the boy, and it was just starting to catch up with him.

    The sun wasn't even setting yet, and Giovanni normally didn't approve of unnecessary rest. As far as he was concerned, the only reason that somebody should sleep during the day was if they were planning on being productive during the night. Giovanni was fairly certain that Ash was going to sleep for the rest of the afternoon and into the night.

    The good news from Cinnabar Island was probably making him generous, but Giovanni let him sleep. He hoped to make it to Cerulean City tomorrow, and Saffron City the day after that. If they were to reach his goal, they would need to do quite a bit of walking in the next two days, and Giovanni didn't want a tired child slowing him down.

    The next day they ran into a bit of a delay. Giovanni had wanted to leave at dawn. The sooner they left, the sooner they would get to Cerulean City, and Giovanni wanted to be there before dark. Both he and Ash were ready to leave shortly after the sun had risen. All the pokémon, except for Pikachu, had been returned to their pokéballs. There was nothing stopping them from leaving.

    ...well, there actually was something stopping them.

    "Squirtle!" The small sunglasses wearing pokémon that Ash had been so concerned about the day before was back to perfect health. And now the infuriating little pokémon seemed to have made it his life's goal to not let them leave the city.

    If Giovanni had been on his own, he would have already brought out his Persian to teach the stubborn little creature a lesson. Ash had a different idea though, and he insisted that they at least give it a try before they use brute force to get past the Squirtle that was blocking their path. Giovanni had been annoyed, but he allowed Ash to give his idea a try. However, he doubted that it would work, and when it ultimately failed, Ash would see that sometimes brute force really was the only answer.

    Ash slowly approached the Squirtle, one step at a time. He stopped when the pokémon tensed, preparing an attack. Ash and Giovanni had been trying to get past the Squirtle for long enough to know that if they got too close to him, then he would use water gun to force them back again. He was persistent, that was for sure.

    Ash knelt down and held a hand out to the Squirtle. He wasn't close enough to touch him, but it was a nice gesture. "Hey," Ash smiled. "Are you feeling better from yesterday?"

    "Squirt, squirt, squirtle." The little pokémon crossed its arms and lifted its head proudly.

    "Yeah, you are really tough." Ash laughed and Giovanni frowned thoughtfully. Had that truly been what the Squirtle had said? Had Ash understood it, or had he just taken a random guess? "Is that why you're here?"

    "Squirtle!" The water pokémon nodded eagerly. Giovanni raised an eyebrow, intrigued. So Ash hadn't just been making up what he thought the Squirtle had been trying to say, he really had understood it...somehow. But had he understood its actual words, or was it more of an impression?

    Ash's smile dimmed slightly. "Hey, just because you got beaten yesterday doesn't mean you will be next time. I mean, everybody's got to lose at some point, right?" Giovanni was taken aback. That was what was why the Squirtle had been stopping their progress? Because it was upset that it had lost?

    Squirtle's proud stance disappeared little by little as he slumped forward, possibly in embarrassment, possibly in shame. Giovanni groaned in annoyance. He was not in the mood to deal with a brooding pokémon that was a sore loser.

    Ash was much more sympathetic. "Hey, it's okay." Ash crawled forward a little bit until he was right in front of the Squirtle. Ash smiled kindly and put his hand on it's head. "You'll win next time, I know it. Until then, you can train to get stronger. That's what I do."

    "...Squirtle?" The Squirtle lifted its head and looked at Ash cheerfully. "Squirtle, squirt squirtle!" The little pokémon leaned forward slightly and grabbed one of the empty pokéballs from Ash's belt. "Squirtle!"

    "Huh?" Ash took the pokéball back and he looked at it curiously. After a moment he looked back to Squirtle. "Do you...want to come with me? So I can help you train?" Giovanni leaned forward slightly in curiosity. It wasn't very often that a pokémon chose to travel with a trainer before even being caught.

    "Squirtle!" The water pokémon nodded enthusiastically, and Ash grinned.

    "Okay then!" Ash laughed and opened the pokéball. Squirtle disappeared in a flash of red light, and a moment later the pokéball sealed shut. Ash had caught himself a Squirtle, and he hadn't even tried to.

    "Huh," Giovanni smirked slightly. He didn't believe in building personal relationships with pokémon, but he couldn't help but be impressed with how good Ash was at it. The boy was a natural. He had gained a Pikachu's trust, and within just a matter of moments convinced a stubborn Squirtle to volunteer to be a member of his team. Giovanni wondered if Ash would be able to do something like that with stronger pokémon. If he could…

    Maybe Ash's fondness towards pokémon could be a good thing after all.
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  4. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 4.

    Giovanni could tolerate pokémon training. In fact, he greatly admired people who dedicated their life to raising and training pokémon. Giovanni didn't believe in the need to have a familial bond with ones pokémon, to him, they were little more than tools. Even so, he wasn't afraid to put in the time and effort that was necessary to train a pokémon. He wanted to have strong pokémon, but he wasn't foolish enough to believe for a moment that powerful pokémon that obeyed his every whim would fall onto his lap.

    Most pokémon weren't born inherently powerful, they just had varying levels of potential, and it was the trainers job to make something of that potential, and that took time and training. The few pokémon that were born with extraordinary power weren't ones that were easy to find, let alone tame. Whatever the pokémon, if a trainer had expectations for it, they had to be willing to put in the effort.

    Giovanni knew this, but he also knew that priorities had to be made when it came to pokémon training. He knew that Ash wanted to train his pokémon and see what they were capable of. He knew that Ash was itching to have a pokémon battle, or catch himself a new pokémon. Giovanni knew all of this, even though Ash hadn't breathed a word about it since an hour after they had left Pewter City, when Giovanni had shot him down rather harshly.

    Giovanni was well aware that he could have been more patient with Ash's request. After all, the boy had just caught himself a Squirtle, and he wanted to get to know him. However, thanks to said Squirtle they had fallen behind schedule. Giovanni wanted to get to Saffron City so they could know once and for all what Ash had seen that day.

    Giovanni was insistent that they not battle or train until they had finished their business in Saffron City. However, that didn't mean that they had to travel in complete silence. Giovanni didn't give Ash many more pokémon lessons, as he knew that Ash learned best through a demonstration, and that would just slow them down. However, he was more than open to answering Ash's questions, and without having battles to distract him, the boy had a lot.

    "So, who is this friend of yours that we're visiting?" Ash asked as they traveled along the path that connected Cerulean City and Saffron City. "How will they be able to know what pokémon I saw?" Giovanni felt a small smile sneak onto his face. Ash had been asking him questions since they had left Cerulean City. These questions ranged from 'how does pokémon evolution work?' to 'how big is the Kanto region?'.

    Giovanni didn't always have the answers to Ash's questions, especially not the ridiculous ones such as 'do any pokémon live in space?', but he was amused that Ash didn't seem to consider that he didn't have all of the answers. He didn't know what he had done to have Ash be so sure of his knowledge, but he wasn't going to argue against it. Let the boy think that he knew everything. It had been quite some time since someone had looked at him with so much awe and confidence.

    Giovanni hadn't realized how much he had missed being admired by a young child that simply didn't know any better.

    "She's more of a colleague than a friend." Giovanni didn't have many people that he actually considered 'friends'. "She has powers that will allow her to look into your mind and see what you saw for herself."

    "Really?" Ash's eyes widened in amazement. "That's so cool! How did she learn how to do that?"

    "She claims that she was born with these gifts, and taught herself to perfect them." Giovanni didn't know how much he believed that. After all, why would a human be born with abilities similar to that of a pokémon? Despite his scepticism about the details, Giovanni didn't doubt that her powers were real. He had seen them in action for himself. What did it matter to him where she got her powers, just so long as she knew how to use them?

    Especially since she used them to serve him.

    Ash opened his mouth, most likely to ask another question of no importance, but before he could they reached the top of the hill that they had been walking on and got their first view of Saffron City. Ash stopped in his tracks when he saw the city. Giovanni wasn't surprised.

    "I suppose you haven't seen a large city like this, have you?" Giovanni asked, amused.

    Ash shook his head. "It looks so crowded here."

    "It's certainly larger than Pallet Town." Giovanni chuckled. Ash was so easily impressed. And Giovanni knew that the boy was eager to explore the city and have some fun. Giovanni admired the boy's enthusiasm, but he would have to curb it just a little while longer.

    "You can go sightseeing later." Giovanni said. "After we get to the gym."

    To his credit, Ash didn't look too disappointed. Ash was eager to know what pokémon he had seen. Giovanni doubted that Ash would understand the significance if he really had seen a Ho-Oh, but Ash was enthusiastic about everything pokémon related. He would probably be ecstatic to know that he had seen a legendary pokémon, however briefly it had been for.

    Ash reached his hand up and stroked Pikachu, who had been sitting on his shoulder. Ash's smile looked a little bit strained. "Is it silly that I'm feeling kind of nervous?" Giovanni looked at Ash curiously.

    "There's nothing to be nervous about." Giovanni briefly put a hand on Ash's shoulder. "Having your mind searched won't hurt," Giovanni knew that it could be uncomfortable to have contact with psychic abilities if one wasn't prepared for it, but it didn't have to be. "And if you're nervous about learning the truth, don't be. Whether you actually saw a Ho-Oh or not, you won't get in trouble for it." Giovanni would be disappointed for sure, but he would find other leads that would guide him to a legendary pokémon.

    Ash laughed. "Yeah, I guess so." The boy looked at his Pikachu and grinned. "You ready to do this, Pikachu?"

    "Pika, pika!" The electric mouse cheered enthusiastically.

    "Alright!" Any sign of Ash's hesitation seemed to disappear in an instant. "Let's go!" Ash began to run down the hill. He didn't make it very far before he stopped in his tracks and looked back sheepishly. "So, uh, where are we going anyways?"

    Giovanni chuckled and joined Ash. "I don't know where you get your energy from." Were children just inherently excitable and eager? It had been so long since Giovanni had actually interacted with a child.

    Ash's excitement seemed to have given him some kind of second wind. Not five minutes ago the boy had been showing signs of fatigue, which made sense, as they had been walking all day. Now though, any sign of exhaustion was gone as Ash, once again, began to run towards the city. Because Ash needed Giovanni to show him where to go, he didn't run very far before he stopped and waited for his companion to catch up with him, only to take off running again.

    Giovanni didn't know what Ash thought this was accomplishing, but if it made him feel better, then by all means, let the boy exhaust himself.

    When they entered the city itself, Ash stopped running ahead of Giovanni. In fact, he seemed more than content to stay glued to the man's side. Giovanni would have thought that the cause was just nerves brought on by being in a city that was much larger than he was used to, but if that was the case than wouldn't Ash be acting more shy and uncertain. The boy didn't show any signs of being the least bit nervous, he was just all but clinging on to Giovanni.

    As long as no actual contact was involved, and it wasn't, Giovanni let it slide. He wanted Ash to feel comfortable and safe, or else he might change his mind and back down before they could realize the truth about what pokémon he had seen.

    Saffron City was large, but as long as one knew where they were going, it usually wasn't that hard to find their destination. It took some time, because of how large the city was, but it wasn't difficult.

    When they got to the gym Giovanni could tell at a glance that it was closed for the night, which wasn't surprising. The sun had set a few hours ago and night had fallen. It was far too late for a regular gym to be accepting challengers.

    But Giovanni wasn't a challenger. He was the boss of the Saffron City gym leader, so he could do as he pleased. Giovanni had long since instructed his subordinates to always have their doors open to him, both figuratively, and literally. The gym may be closed to everybody else, but not to him.

    Giovanni led Ash to the back door of the gym, which was rarely locked, and only known to people who had been told by the gym leader herself. Just as Giovanni had expected, they had no trouble getting into the gym. He and Ash were able to just walk right through the back door where they found themselves in the back halls of the gym. This was where the training areas and private rooms were, away from the gym battles.

    Giovanni didn't know for certain where to look for the psychic, but he didn't think he would have to try very hard to find her. Knowing her, she would find them.

    After they had entered the gym Ash seemed to have found his bravado again. Despite the fact that the hallways were almost pitch black, Ash ran ahead. Giovanni was just about to warn Ash to tread carefully when he heard two harsh thuds, closely followed by the boy's cries of pain and surprise.

    Giovanni sighed. "Pikachu, use flash." It wasn't a move that Pikachu naturally learned, but when they had been camping in Viridian Forest and it had been too grassy and overgrown to risk a campfire, it had been useful to have a source of light.

    Pikachu sparked up electricity in its cheeks and lit up the hallways with a bright glow. Giovanni could still see little sparks of electricity in the flash, which wasn't supposed to happen. They would have to polish up on that later. It would have to be something that they would work on later though, because at that moment Giovanni was too focused on the obvious barrier just in front of Ash.

    "What did I run into?" The boy groaned and lifted himself up into a sitting position. "I didn't see a wall there."

    Giovanni refrained from pointing out that, before Pikachu had used flash, Ash hadn't seen anything. To be fair, there hadn't been a wall there. Still wasn't.

    "It's reflect." Giovanni approached Ash and helped him up to his feet. "It's a psychic movie."

    "Psychic?" Ash looked at the barrier in awe and rested his hand against it. "A pokémon did this?"

    "A powerful pokémon." Giovanni frowned slightly. He should have expected something like this. He knew how paranoid and sneaky his agents could be. This girl above all others. Knowing her, she would likely reveal herself any second now, when most people would least be expecting it.

    "What are you doing in my gym?" A woman's voice seemed to echo around the hallways, coming from everywhere, and nowhere at all.

    "I need to have a few words with you, Sabrina." Giovanni called out. There was a tense pause, and a moment later the lights came on, the reflect barrier came down, and a young lady and her Alakazam seemed to appear out of thin air.

    "Giovanni," Sabrina's eyes were cold, searching, just like they always were. "I wasn't expecting to see you here."

    "You've learned a few tricks since I was here last." Giovanni looked at Sabrina critically. "Now, I want to see just what you can do with it."

    Sabrina, who was usually so stoic faced, allowed herself a small smile. "What did you have in mind?"

    Giovanni gestured to Ash, who had been watching their exchange in silent curiosity. "This is Ash Ketchum. He thinks that he has seen something interesting."

    "How interesting?" Sabrina eyed Ash harshly. The boy shuddered slightly under her gaze. Sabrina was unintentionally good at intimidating people. It was a useful skill for a higher up of Team Rocket to have. Giovanni had just forgotten how annoying Sabrina's unexpected talent could be when he needed her to get answers from a child. It didn't happen often, but it was just frequent enough for it to be an unforeseen problem.

    Ash hesitated to answer Sabrina, which was fortunate for Giovanni. "I need you to figure that out for yourself."

    Sabrina sighed and turned her gaze back to Giovanni. "You don't want to influence my vision." This wasn't the first time that Giovanni had come to Sabrina for a reading like this. It didn't always pay off, but when it did, it paid off very well. "However, we still have a problem." Sabrina was probably one of the few people who wasn't afraid to say 'no' to Giovanni.

    "What problem?" Giovanni was never happy when she brought up problems in his plans, but occasionally he was willing to hear her out. Considering Sabrina was the one with psychic abilities, Giovanni supposed that this could be one of those times.

    "I can't read minds the way that an Abra can." Sabrina said. "I can sense impressions. The stronger my bond with the person or pokémon, the clearer the impressions are. This boy is a complete stranger."

    Giovanni could think of a very simple solution to that. "In that case, tomorrow morning you are going to take Ash sightseeing around the city."

    Sabrina looked taken aback. "Giovanni…"

    "If you need a bond to make this work, then you're going to go and make a bond." Giovanni's tone made it clear that this wasn't up for debate. He was aware that Sabrina could get uncomfortable around people, but if Giovanni never pushed people out of their comfort zones, then Team Rocket never would have gotten anywhere.

    "Uh, if she doesn't want to go…" Ash said uneasily.

    "You're both going." Giovanni insisted. "In the morning. In the meantime, you're going to bed. I don't want you to be tired tomorrow."

    Ash groaned. "Yeah, alright." Giovanni didn't understand how Ash could act like he was so against going to sleep when they both knew that he was exhausted.

    Sabrina looked at them curiously before she turned her attention to her pokémon. "Alakazam will show you to one of the spare rooms." The Alakazam nodded obediently and made his way down the hallway. Ash looked uncertain about following him, but with an encouraging nod from Giovanni, he went.

    Giovanni was feeling tired himself, but he stayed put. He knew by Sabrina's stance that she had a few words to say to him, and it was always best to listen to what she had to say.

    "What's this boy's story?" Sabrina asked. "You seemed pretty familiar with him."

    "I met him about a week ago." Giovanni said. "We traveled together from Viridian City."

    Sabrina looked impressed. "There must be something special about this boy. It's been years since I've seen you in the field."

    "I have my hopes about him." Giovanni said. "If you could give me the answers that I'm looking for-"

    "...I'll do my best, sir." Sabrina said, and Giovanni knew that she would. She was a good agent. She may question him every once and awhile, but she wasn't afraid of following orders.

    Giovanni nodded and began to make his way towards the guest rooms. The conversation was finished. Or, at least, he thought it was. Sabrina, on the other hand, had other thoughts, and she wasn't afraid to let those thoughts be known.

    "It has been a long time since I've seen you so gentle with a child." Sabrina said without fear. "Not since-"

    "That is enough." Giovanni snapped without turning around. "Depending on what you find, the boy may be of use to me. I don't want to scare him off. That is all." Giovanni turned back and glared harshly at Sabrina. "Is that understood?"

    "Understood." Sabrina didn't look intimidated or concerned, but she didn't try to push the matter more. Giovanni wasn't completely satisfied with her response. He couldn't afford to have his agents second guessing his motives, he just needed them to do as he said. This was Sabrina's first offense, so he would let her off with a warning, but it was going to be the only one offered to her.

    Giovanni had brought Team Rocket so far these past few years. He had some big plans in mind, and he wasn't going to let himself be distracted by some reawoken sentimentality from the past.

    He needed to continue moving forward, and to do that, he needed to leave the past where it belonged. Lost, and forgotten.
    Arctiquaza likes this.
  5. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 5.

    Sabrina was not a morning person, but when Giovanni wanted something to get done, he wanted it done as soon as possible, and he wanted it done the exact way that he had specified. If Giovanni wanted Sabrina to spend the day with Ash, then he meant the whole day, morning to evening.

    Sabrina had never dreaded carrying out Giovanni's orders as much as she did at that moment, and it wasn't just because of the long day she had ahead of her. She simply wasn't looking forward to the task at hand.

    Sabrina had no interest in getting to know Ash. It wasn't anything personal against him, she was just reluctant to get to know anybody. There were only two people that Sabrina would consider 'friends', and they had worked together for years before she had been willing to admit it to herself. Sabrina wouldn't say that she was afraid of people, she was just...cautious around them. So the thought that she would be spending the entire day with a ten year old boy, walking around Saffron City, which was always extremely crowded, was not a pleasant one.

    Still, Giovanni was the boss. If Sabrina wanted to keep her job she had to follow his orders, whether she wanted to or not.

    So the next morning Sabrina reluctantly left her room with her Abra in her arms. Sabrina had spent years mastering her psychic abilities, but sometimes even she lost control sometimes. She could usually reign herself in, but when it was particularly bad, it was best if she had something to ground herself. When she was in the gym, she used her childhood doll. Outside though, she relied on her pokémon. Most any of her psychic pokémon would be able to get the job done, but Abra had always been the best, not to mention the most inconspicuous.

    Sabrina began to make her way down the hallway to get Ash when she saw him coming towards her. They both stopped when they saw each other, neither of them entirely sure of what to do.

    "Ah, good morning." Ash said too quickly, too loudly. He seemed to be tense, but not nearly as nervous as he had been the night before.

    "Good morning." Sabrina said in return. "Did you sleep well."

    "Yeah, I slept great!" Ash's voice was still too loud. Sabrina wondered if Ash was just nervous or excited, or if this was how he usually was. She hoped that wasn't the case. She already didn't want to spend the day with a child, and if said child was loud and over enthusiastic, she dreaded it.

    "Whoa," Ash's eyes widened and he leaned forward towards Abra. "What pokémon is this?"

    "Oh." Sabrina blinked and looked down at the pokémon in her arms. "This is Abra."

    "It's so cool." Ash reached a hand out and patted Abra's head. "It looks a lot like the Alakazam that I saw yesterday."

    "Alakazam is the final evolution of Abra." Sabrina said quietly. She was glad that Ash had started to tone down his voice. He seemed to have recognized that Abra was sleeping, and he didn't want to bother it.

    "Does that mean that Abra will be an Alakazam someday?" Ash asked. Sabrina was amused by just how interested he sounded.

    "No, not this Abra." Sabrina smiled slightly at her pokémon. "I'm going to keep it the way that it is."

    Ash looked confused. "But...how did you decide which Abra to evolve?"

    "Convenience, mostly." Sabrina shrugged. If she was interested in having a Kadabra, or an Alakazam, then she would work with the pokémon that was closest to that stage of evolution. She had never once thought of evolving this particular Abra, and she didn't think that would change anytime soon.

    "So, shall we go before it gets too late?" Sabrina suggested. She still didn't want to go, but she thought that she could tolerate being around Ash for a few hours, just so long as he didn't get too excited.

    "Okay." Ash said, once again too loudly. Sabrina sighed. Maybe it was too much to ask that Ash stayed calm. Just when Sabrina realized this, her Abra winced. Even in sleep, it responded to her discomfort. Ash interpreted Abra's wince as a sign that it had been disturbed in its sleep, and he looked immediately apologetic. "Oh, sorry." Ash said in a much quieter tone.

    ...huh. Maybe it wasn't too much to ask. Ash didn't seem like he was all too inconsiderate, just easily excitable.

    "Where are we going?" Ash asked as he and Sabrina walked down the hallway to the back door.

    "I don't know." Sabrina said honestly. She may live in Saffron City, but she rarely ever left her gym. There were large crowds in the city. Sabrina wasn't afraid of people, but she certainly didn't feel comfortable around them. Sabrina knew that she didn't want to go to some of the more popular places in the city, but that didn't narrow down their options all that much.

    "Well, why don't we just walk around and see what we can find?" Ash suggested. Sabrina wasn't sure how much she liked Ash's plan, but it was more than what she had thought of.

    "I don't see why not." Sabrina said. The two of them made their way outside, chose a direction, and began walking down the streets of the city. Sabrina let Ash lead the way. If they got lost, she would easily be able to lead them back.

    Sabrina would have expected for Ash to actually take them somewhere. The two of them mostly just walked around. They saw many of Saffron City's most famous sights, but they didn't actually stop at any of them. The only place that they did stop was an ice cream shop. Not that Sabrina was complaining, it just wasn't what they were expecting.

    As the two of them walked, they talked about whatever crossed their minds. Ash told her all about his life in Pallet Town, and how different it was from the big city. Eventually the conversation turned to Ash's mom and his relationship with her. Ash told Sabrina that his mother could be overbearing and overprotective, but she could hear the fondness in her voice.

    "What about you?" Ash asked casually. "What was your childhood like?"

    "It wasn't nearly as quiet as yours was." Sabrina sighed and looked distantly down the street. "My father had powers just, like mine, but he never agreed with how I used them. We...haven't spoken in years." That was just the tip of the iceberg. Sabrina's father had been so proud when her powers had first manifested, and he had encouraged her to develop them as much as she could.

    Sabrina had spent so much time building up her powers that she hadn't done much socializing with other children her age. She had been completely focused on her studies. She had thought that it had been what her father had wanted, and at first, it was. When her powers began to surpass her father's, he began to fear her. He still denied that he was afraid of her, but when he went around warning trainers to avoid her because she was dangerous, and he accused her of turning her own mother into a doll, what else was she supposed to think?

    This wasn't something that Sabrina regularly talked about, but if she wanted to form a connection with Ash, then she had to put in the effort. Bonds and connections were a two way street. If she wanted Ash to allow her into his mind, then she needed him to trust her. If that meant giving up private information, then so be it.

    "I...I'm sorry." Ash said quietly. "That sounds horrible."

    "It's certainly annoying." Sabrina admitted. She had long since stopped being hurt by how her father treated her. At this point, she was more irritated than anything. Sabrina frequently wished that she could fix her relationship with her father, but she wasn't about to dedicate her life to pleasing him. She had done just that when she was a child, and she wasn't eager to do it again. She didn't need her father's approval.

    Sabrina and Ash's random walking eventually lead them to a park in the middle of the city. Without saying a word to each other about it, the two of them stopped and sat down on a bench. The park was probably the calmest place in the city, but certainly not the quietest. It seemed to be the place in the city for people to bring their children and pokémon. There were plenty of people around, but Sabrina felt more relaxed here than she did anywhere else in the city. It was likely because everybody else at the park was relaxed. On the streets, there was so much chaos. Thousands of people with thousands of different motives and beliefs. Without even trying to, Sabrina would get impressions of these powerful emotions all at once, and it was overwhelming.

    It was different in the park. There wasn't a lot of anger, or stress. There wasn't much need to get somewhere quick. It was just a place where people went to relax and enjoy themselves, and Sabrina was no different.

    "This is my favorite place in the city." Sabrina admitted.

    "I like it too." Ash said, and it seemed his Pikachu did too. The boy's little pokémon had been sitting on his shoulder all morning, but when it saw other pokémon and children running around it was quick to join them. Ash grinned as he watched his Pikachu run around. "Pikachu likes it too."

    Sabrina chuckled slightly. "So I can see." She felt her Abra stirring in her arms. It had finally woken up, after hours of being asleep. "What about you, Abra? Do you want to go play too?"

    "Abra." The little pokémon's voice was scratchy from misuse. Abra jumped off of Sabrina's lap and ran to join Pikachu and the other pokémon.

    "Wow, that Abra is faster than it looks." Ash sounded amused.

    "Just wait until you see it in battle." Physically, Abra was only about as fast as the average pokémon. Mentally though, there were few pokémon that was faster than Abra was. There was a reason why not many trainers had this pokémon. Even when asleep, Abra was quick enough to get away from most any attack.

    Ash and Sabrina watched Pikachu and Abra play for a few minutes. They had initially been playing with other pokémon, but they had all left because they were scared. When Pikachu ran or cried out in amusement, little electric sparks flew from his cheeks. And every once and awhile Abra would accidentally let loose a stray psychic attack. They weren't especially dangerous, but powerful pokémon that didn't have complete control over their abilities could be frightening.

    After a few minutes of watching the two little yellow pokémon, Sabrina immediately took notice when she saw two new pokémon approaching. Or, to be more accurate, one new pokémon approaching, dragging another one behind it.

    "Well, that's something you don't see every day." Sabrina pointed the approaching Bulbasaur and Charmander to Ash.

    "What are they doing?" Ash got off the bench and kneeled down on the ground instead. Ash and the Bulbasaur made eye contact with each other. The grass pokémon looked determined, and he had to be, to drag a struggling Charmander behind him with a vine whip.

    "Hey, Bulbasaur." Ash smiled gently and held a hand out to the grass pokémon. "I don't think that Charmander likes being like that." Ash looked like he wanted to release the Charmander, but he stopped to talk to its captor instead. Ash could probably tell, just as Sabrina could, that the Bulbasaur didn't have malicious intentions. It was stubborn, determined, most certainly a pokémon on a mission, but it wasn't trying to be cruel or mean.

    "Bulba, bulbasaur!" The grass pokémon looked back Charmander, who had started to bite at the vines holding him, and then back to Ash. "Bulbasaur."

    "Char!" The Charmander growled in irritation and glared at the Bulbasaur. It looked like they were in the middle of an argument, and Bulbasaur wanted Ash's help to put an end to it. Sabrina wasn't entirely sure why it chose Ash of all people. Maybe it was because the boy was the first person to not wildly question what he was seeing. Maybe it was because the Bulbasaur liked the way his hat looked. Sabrina didn't know, and she really didn't care.

    "Guys, stop fighting." Ash pleaded, even though, in Sabrina's opinion, they weren't fighting. Maybe they were in the middle of a disagreement, but if it were a true fight then Bulbasaur would be doing more than holding the Charmander hostage, and Charmander would have fought back with a well placed ember attack.

    "Look, I want to help you," Ash put one hand on Bulbasaur's bulb, and the other on the vine whip around Charmander. "But I need you guys to let me know what's going on, okay?" Charmander didn't show any signs of understanding his words, but Bulbasaur relaxed slightly. A moment later the vine whip around Charmander loosened up and then fell away altogether.

    The very instant that Charmander wasn't being restrained anymore, he dashed forward and attempted to get away. The Charmander was quick, but Ash had expected the escape attempt and he had grabbed him before he could get away.

    "Charmander, please, stop." Ash grabbed Charmander's arms and then drew him close. The Charmander was struggling violently, but Ash refused to let go of him. "I know you're upset, but you need to calm down, okay? Everything's going to be fine. I just need you to trust me, okay?"

    Charmander growled in warning, but it didn't attack Ash. It didn't even try to bite or scratch at him. The Charmander was clearly furious and scared, which would make it more desperate, and thus more violent, but it almost seemed to be calming down. Sabrina couldn't think of any reason why it would back down, until she took notice of its tail.

    "Ash," Sabrina got to her feet. "Look at that Charmander's tail."

    Ash, who still kept a tight but gentle grip on the Charmander, glanced down at its tail. He frowned in confusion when he saw it. "Hey, is that flame supposed to be this small?" The flame on the Charmander's tail resembled a slightly large ember. It wasn't critically weak, but it was certainly enough to be a matter of concern.

    "No, it's not." Sabrina mentally called for her Abra to return to her. "This pokémon needs medical attention." They had healing facilities back at the gym. It wasn't as advanced as the facilities at the Pokémon Center, but it should be enough for the Charmander. They would need to hurry before his condition got any worse, and if it continued to struggle and fight against them, then it would just tire itself out even more.

    Abra and Pikachu ran back to join them. Sabrina took Abra into her arms and focused her thoughts to the gym. "Abra, use teleport." She could feel her own powers manifest as Abra used its iconic ability to teleport them all back to the gym.

    Most people were disoriented after their first teleportation, but Ash seemed to be so concerned and determined that he was able to overcome the dizziness that he must have been feeling just through sheer willpower. Ash stood up, the Charmander still in his arms, and looked at Sabrina.

    "Where do I take him?" Ash asked urgently. Sabrina wordlessly led the way down the hallway to the healing room. It was mostly used for meditation, though there were first aid kits there, as well as a healing machine for pokémon. The problem was that the machine only worked for pokémon when they were in their balls.

    "What...what do I do?" Ash asked desperately.

    "You could catch the Charmander yourself." Sabrina suggested. The Charmander, which had been relatively calm as Ash held it, began to struggle and cry out once again. It seemed to be even more upset than it had been before. Sabrina didn't normally try to understand what a pokémon's thoughts were, but the Charmander would just end up hurting himself if it continued on like this, and that would be a real shame.

    Sabrina put her hand on Charmander's head and willed it to still. She knew that she wouldn't be able to truly read its mind, but she knew that she would be able to feel something. Charmander was emotional and desperate. The stronger an emotion or thought was, the easier it was for Sabrina to be able to get a sense on it. Sabrina didn't have to search very far to find what was upsetting Charmander so much.


    "This Charmander has a trainer." Sabrina reported.

    Ash frowned and looked down at the Charmander in his arms. "So that's why he got upset." It did explain some things, but it certainly brought up a fair few questions, with one in particular sticking out in Sabrina's mind.

    "Charmanders don't get this way when they're taken care of." Sabrina said. She may have never raised a Charmander herself, but she knew that they were a common first pokémon for children. High maintenance pokémon weren't typically given to children. Charmanders couldn't be all that difficult to take care of, which meant that for this Charmander to have gotten this bad, he had to have been treated very poorly indeed. "Where is its trainer?"

    "Bulbasaur!" The Grass pokémon had followed them into the healing room, and it seemed to have something to say. Sabrina knelt down and looked the determined Bulbasaur in the eyes. Just like with Charmander, she got a very clear message almost immediately.


    "Bulbasaur is under the impression that Charmanders trainer abandoned him." Sabrina was inclined to agree. She also suspected that even before Charmander had been abandoned he had been neglected by his trainer, because a pokémon doesn't just end up in this state overnight.

    "Abandoned?" Ash frowned, looking absolutely miserable. "Why would somebody abandon Charmander."

    "That's a good question." Ash and Sabrina both turned to see Giovanni standing in the doorway, looking at them. Sabrina nodded her head respectfully when her boss entered the room. "The only way to get an answer is by asking the trainer himself." He looked at Sabrina expectantly. "Can you find him?"

    "Child's play." Sabrina stood up and looked back to the Charmander, which growled at her warningly. "I can find your trainer." Sabrina said to the weak but fierce pokémon. "But I need your help. I need you to envision your trainer in your mind." Charmander still didn't seem to trust her, but that didn't matter, just so long as it did as she said. And considering how passionate Charmander seemed to be about this, his trainer was probably at the forefront of his mind.

    It was more difficult for Sabrina to find a specific face than a simple word or impression. Charmander's feelings were powerful, easy to focus on. It still took quite some concentration and searching, but Sabrina was able to find a clear image.

    "Abra, use teleport." Sabrina focused the image in her head and sent it to her pokémon. "Bring this trainer back with you." It didn't matter how far away the trainer was, or how much he resisted, Abra would easily find him and bring him back.

    Abra teleported away, and they waited tensely for it to return. Sabrina had no way of knowing how far her pokémon had travelled off to, but she knew that Abra would return. It was just a matter of time. And if Sabrina knew her Abra, she knew it would happen sooner rather than later.

    Not even a minute After Sabrina had sent her Abra off, she felt a strong psychic power in the room. A moment later, Abra teleported back into the room, dragging a blue haired boy with sunglasses on his head in tow.

    "What's going on here?" Sabrina grimaced.

    "We found a Charmander," Sabrina said coldly. The boy's tone, his accent, his aura, it all made her feel sick to her stomach. She wanted to get through their business with him as soon as possible so she could send him on his way.

    "Your Charmander." Ash said angrily as he held Charmander tightly. "Is it true that you abandoned him?"

    "What's it to you?" The boy, Sabrina got the feeling that his name was Damian, sneered.

    "Just answer the question." Giovanni said in a voice that left little room for argument. Whether people knew who he was or not, nobody had an easy time saying 'no' to Giovanni. He was an intimidating man, and not just because he was a gym leader and the head of Team Rocket.

    "...Yeah, He's my Charmander." Damian glared from Sabrina to Giovanni. The boy was cautious around them. That was good, he really should be. "But I wouldn't say that I abandoned it. I just upgraded to a more powerful pokémon."

    "What!?" Ash clenched his teeth and glared furiously at Damian. Bulbasaur looked equally as angry. The grass pokémon growled at the boy and seemed ready to attack at a moment's notice.

    "What do you mean, a more 'powerful' pokémon?" Sabrina eyed the boy to try to understand what he was thinking. She had a fairly clear idea, but it was never a bad thing to be sure.

    Damian scoffed. "What do you think I mean? If I'm gonna be a powerful trainer, I need powerful pokémon, and Charmander isn't one. This little guy is a weakling." Every word that came out of Damian's mouth seemed to infuriate Ash and Bulbasaur all the more, which was understandable. Charmander on the other hand seemed to become less and less angry the more he heard. Charmander was likely too hurt, shocked, and scared to be angry.

    "If you don't want the pokémon, then release it properly so that somebody else can have it." Giovanni said sternly. Damian rolled his eyes, but he still didn't deny the man's order. Damian took a pokéball out of his pocket. He held it out towards Charmander, opened up the pokéball, and emitted the blue light that signified an official release.

    Charmander was now trainerless.

    "There, I did what you wanted, now let me go!" Damian scowled.

    "I have just one more thing to discuss with you." Giovanni said, and Sabrina smirked at his tone. That was Giovanni's 'Boss' voice. Whatever was going through his head, it wouldn't mean anything good for Damian. "Have you ever encountered a Weedle? Small, weak, low level. They're extremely common, and not too strong."

    "Weedle?" Demian sneered at them. The boy had no idea what Giovanni had in mind for him. "Of course I've seen one of this bugs."

    "Then allow me to introduce you to its evolution." Giovanni quickly grabbed one of his pokéballs and opened it to let out one of his few non-ground type pokémon. A fierce looking Beedrill that was much more formidable than its typing would suggest. "Beedrill, why don't you show our young friend here just how strong a weak pokémon can become with the right training?"

    Damian was an arrogant fool, but he wasn't a complete idiot. Everybody knew how dangerous a Beedrill could be if it was provoked, or if it was under its trainers orders. When the boy saw Beedrill leering at him, he reacted instinctively and ran away. Sabrina knew that it was no good. Beedrills were fast. It would find Demian, and then it would teach the boy a lesson that he would never forget.

    Sabrina admired her boss' ruthlessness. If somebody did something to annoy or insult Giovanni terribly, he would punish them severely for it, no matter how old the person may be. Sabrina just wondered what exactly the Demian boy had done to invoke Giovanni's wrath.

    "Ash, catch the Charmander so you can heal it." Giovanni grabbed an empty pokéball from his pocket and tossed it to Ash. Even with the Charmander in his arms, the boy caught the ball without much difficulty. He looked uncertain though.

    "He was just released." Ash looked down at the Charmander. "I don't know if it's such a good idea to…"

    "It doesn't have to be a permanent partnership." Giovanni said in a surprisingly patient way. "If you want, you can release him as soon as he's better. If you want to help the Charmander, this is the best way to do it."

    Sabrina was confused by Giovanni's actions. The man couldn't care less about the well-being of any pokémon, and he was never this patient and reassuring with his agents. So why would Giovanni calmly encourage Ash to do what was best for the Charmander, whether or not it would benefit them in the future. None of it made sense.

    Ash didn't look entirely convinced, but when Charmander didn't offer up any more complaints he made his decision.

    "You're going to be okay, Charmander." Ash opened the pokéball and caught Charmander. "I promise." With the pokémon safe in a ball, they could use the healing machine. Sabrina set things up and put the pokéball on the machine. Charmander wasn't in very good shape, but he would be back to normal in just a few hours.

    The Charmander would heal whether they were there or not, but Ash didn't show any interest in leaving his side until he was back to full health. The boy had to know that it wasn't necessary, but it was what he wanted to do, and it didn't take an emotionally sensitive person to recognize why.

    "You really care about Charmander, don't you?" Sabrina asked. "Even though you just met him?"

    "He's been through a lot." Ash frowned. "Nobody should have to go through that."

    "Believe it or not, this is normal for Ash." Giovanni said. It sounded like the kind of thing that would irritate Giovanni to no end, senseless kindness, and yet he sounded almost fond. "We've yet to meet a pokémon that he hasn't tried to befriend." It wasn't unusual for children to want to be friends with pokémon, but the way that Giovanni said it implied that it was more than just a regular fondness.

    If that was true, Sabrina believed that she may not need to form a complete bond with Ash. The importance of a bond when it came to psychic connections was so that the reader had a clear idea of the nature of the person that they were trying to get a read on. Children always had much simpler natures than adults did. Sabrina hadn't had a lot of time to get to know Ash, but perhaps what little she knew about him would be enough.

    Sabrina knew that Ash was sensitive to the well-being of the pokémon around him. She knew that he seemed to sincerely care about a pokémon's feelings. She knew that he was easily excited, but knew how to tone things down when the situation called for it. He was reckless, but also considerate at the same time.

    To put it simply, Ash was pure. He was by no means perfect, but certainly pure, and that was a nature that Sabrina could work with.

    "I know you're worried about Charmander, but if you're ready, I want to look into what you saw." Sabrina said. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Giovanni lean forward ever so slightly, intrigued. Ash reluctantly turned away from the healing machine towards her.

    "You can do that now?" Ash asked. "I thought you needed more time?"

    "Normally, I would," Sabrina admitted. "I would still like to give it a try, if you would let me." Sabrina didn't need permission, but it was much easier to look into one's mind when it was opened up to them.

    "Uh, okay." Ash completely turned towards her. "What do I need to do?"

    "Clear your mind." Sabrina said as she did just that for herself. "Forget about what you think you saw. Think only about what you remember. Trust your memories." Sabrina knew that memories could be flawed, but they didn't have to be.

    Ash closed his eyes. "O-okay." Ash took a deep breath. "I'm ready."

    "As am I." Sabrina felt her power build up within her, and in an instant a blinding flash of light overcame her vision. Sabrina saw nothing but a sea of blankness, but it didn't last long. Sabrina got flashes of images, one right after the other. The impressions weren't clear, but they were powerful.

    A large bird, wings spread out to attack.

    A golden flash that turned to a burst of color. The colors became more and more vibrant until they seemed to turn into an explosion of light and passion that was so powerful that Sabrina felt as though she was being blinded, even though she wasn't physically looking at anything. Amidst the light there stood two figures, a man and...something else that resembled a human, but was far too powerful to be one. Sabrina wanted to identify the mystery figure, but her subconscious drew her focus towards the figure that was definitely a man. Or, more specifically, to the hat that she hadn't even noticed he was wearing.

    It was a distinctly white fedora, with a colored feather sticking out of it. Sabrina knew that it was significant, but once again, when she tried to focus on it her vision led her somewhere else. She still saw the feather, but it seemed to transform in front of her very eyes. Its colors dulled to a simple gray. The feather grew thicker, shorter, and seemed to split off at the top. Now this was something she knew she should be familiar with, but how?

    The image of the feather disappeared in a flash and Sabrina saw another image of a bird, distinctly different than the first one, but still extremely similar.

    This was the final actual image that Sabrina saw, but her vision wasn't anywhere near over. She saw flashes of color and elements. Fire. Water. Electricity. Red. Maroon. Silver.


    "Gah!" Sabrina cried out and clutched at her head. Too much. There was too much information, too many images. She knew that she had seen something significant, and she didn't have any idea of what it all meant. Sabrina's visions were usually cryptic, but it had never been as bad as this before.

    "Sabrina!" Ash rushed forward. He didn't touch her, but he was there, just in case. "What happened? Are you okay?"

    "What did you see?" Giovanni asked urgently.

    "I-I don't know." Sabrina admitted. She looked at her boss. "But it's something big."

    A unique look came into Giovanni's eyes. He wasn't just pleased, he was excited. Neither of them knew exactly what Ash had seen, but they both knew what it meant. Something big was about to happen.

    Sabrina just didn't know if she was eager to see what was to come, or if she was terrified.
    Arctiquaza likes this.
  6. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 6

    Sabrina grimaced as she looked into her reflection. For the past fifteen minutes she had simply been staring at herself in the mirror, trying to psych herself up to leave the room. She wasn't completely displeased with the outfit that she had chosen to wear, she had put it on for a reason, it just wasn't something that she typically wore.

    Sabrina didn't normally put much thought into her outfits, but Giovanni had made it clear to her the night before that he had some plans in mind that involved that boy, Ash, and he wanted her assistance. Sabrina didn't know where Giovanni's plans would take them, but she wanted to be prepared, just in case. Usually Sabrina just wore her red, comfortable gym outfit, but it really wasn't something that would be good for travelling in. Sabrina would have normally worn her Team Rocket uniform when she had to do work for Giovanni, but considering Ash probably didn't know about the work they did, she figured it would be best if she went for something else.

    That 'something else' was a simple outfit that consisted of comfortable white pants, pinks shoes, and a crop top tank top. The outfit was comfortable, and it certainly didn't look bad, Sabrina just wasn't used to showing so much skin. It felt odd, and would take some getting used to. The only reason that she had the outfit in the first place was because one of her friends hadn't stopped pestering her until she had agreed to buy the clothes.

    That man could be annoyingly persistent and persuasive when he wanted to be...still, at least his sense of style wasn't half bad.

    Sabrina was sure that the outfit would grow on her, if given enough time. Of course, it might help if the outfit was actually complete. As it was, Sabrina was left feeling vulnerable. Vulnerability equaled emotional, and that meant weakness. Sabrina could lose control of her powers if she allowed herself to become emotional, so as long as she wasn't completely comfortable in the outfit, she needed something to stabilize her.

    Fortunately, she had something to accomplish just that.

    Sabrina walked over to the desk next to her bed. She pulled one of the drawers open and looked down at the pair of black and green cuffs that she kept inside. Her father had given these to her as soon as he had realized how powerful her abilities had become. They were cuffs that were meant to restrain her powers. Sabrina had resented the cuffs from the moment she had laid eyes on them, and she had never put them on.

    Now, they might finally be of some use. Her father would be so proud.

    Sabrina took a deep breath and grabbed one of the cuffs. She opened it up, slipped it over her wrist, and snapped it closed. The cuff was large and bulky, but they were nearly weightless. And Sabrina would give her father credit where it was due, the cuffs didn't pinch her skin. They were surprisingly uncomfortable. And, to Sabrina's relief, they were extremely simple to take off.

    Feeling much better about this whole thing, Sabrina took the other cuff and put it on. She didn't feel any different, but her father was just as serious about psychic abilities as she was. He had made her these cuffs to reign in her powers. Whether she felt any different or not, Sabrina knew that they would do the task that they were created for and prevent any potential outbursts.

    Cuffs now on her wrists, Sabrina returned to the mirror. She had expected the bulky cuffs to look ridiculous, and to contrast horribly with the white and pink that she was already wearing. To Sabrina's surprise, the cuffs didn't look half bad. This was something that she thought that she could tolerate.

    Sabrina looked at her reflection in the mirror, taking her near appearance in. Suddenly the lights above her flickered a couple of times before they sparked violently and then went out all together. Sabrina had been the cause of her fair share of blackouts when she had lost control of her powers. This wasn't a blackout. This was a power surge caused by an excessive amount of electricity.

    Sabrina knew that a pokémon had been behind this surge, and she herself didn't keep any electric pokémon in the gym. Of course, she was housing a young boy who did have an electric type pokémon. A Pikachu that, as Sabrina had taken note of the day before, didn't have complete control of its powers.

    Sabrina groaned and turned to the door. She was not in the mood to deal with this. She had been cautious about Ash, but the day before he had seemed fairly calm and gentle. He was kind and considerate, but he was still a child. An easily excitable child with a pokémon that she had heard was difficult to tame. She should have expected that something like this would happen.

    Sabrina knew her gym like she knew the back of her hand. Even in complete darkness Sabrina had no issues navigating her gym. She used her powers to get a sense of where the power surge had come from, the gym challenging room. Sabrina made her way to the challenge room, and even before she had entered the door she heard Giovanni and Ash's voices, and it just annoyed her that much more. Neither of them sounded alarmed by the blackout inducing powersurge. In fact, they both sounded excited.


    "That thunderbolt was incredible." Giovanni laughed. Sabrina only heard Giovanni use that tone when he was particularly impressed by a pokémon's abilities. Giovanni had always had an eye for powerful pokémon. If he was impressed by a boy's Pikachu, then it must really be something special.

    Sabrina wasn't nearly as impressed. As far as she was concerned, it didn't matter how powerful somebody was if they couldn't control themselves. "The control could do some work." Sabrina said as she made her way into the room. The lights were out in the battle arena, but Pikachu's spark lit the room.

    Sabrina was slightly surprised to see that the Pikachu was in Giovanni's arms instead of Ash's. What surprised her even more was that Giovanni was actually petting the Pikachu. He was showing it affection. Sabrina knew that it wasn't uncommon for Giovanni to show this level of affection to his Persian, but not to any other pokémon.

    No matter what Giovanni said, Sabrina knew that whatever his feelings for Ash and his pokémon were, it was more than just because 'they can be of use to me'. There was some level of fondness there. She didn't plan on saying anything about it though, because the last time she had suggested to a colleague that he was letting his fond emotions get the better of him and make him weak, she had gotten a shuriken thrown at her face.

    Giovanni could take care of himself. Sabrina just didn't like how her gym was being affected by it.

    "Is there a reason why you have blacked out my gym?" Sabrina asked.

    "We were having a battle." Ash said. Giovanni used Pikachu, and I used Persian."

    Sabrina eyed her boss. "Is there a reason for the switch?"

    "I wanted to see how Ash would do with a pokémon that had more experience than he did." Giovanni said. "And I wanted to see just how much potential his Pikachu had." If Giovanni was curious about both Ash and his Pikachu then, then he must have some plans for them. Sabrina supposed that those plans had something to do with Team Rocket, though she couldn't imagine what use a child might be. Still, if Giovanni had plans, it was best to follow them.

    Of course, that didn't mean that Sabrina had to sit aside and watch as her boss destroyed her home.

    "If you two truly want this Pikachu to be strong, then you need to get it under control." Sabrina glared at her boss. "Fortunately for us, we just so happen to know somebody who is an expert in electric type pokémon."

    Giovanni looked amused at her suggestion. "So, off to Vermillion City?"

    "What's in Vermillion City?" Ash asked.

    Sabrina sighed in slight irritation. "A man named Lt. Surge. He can teach Pikachu how to handle his electricity, and he can teach you how to handle your pokémon."

    "Awesome!" Sabrina couldn't see Ash, but he certainly sounded excited. "When do we leave?"

    "Immediately." Sabrina didn't want to wait around. Vermillion City wasn't far from Saffron City, but it would still take them a few hours to get there. If Sabrina was traveling on her own, she would just have Abra teleport her. Her Abra was still learning. The further the distance, and the more people Abra was trying to take with it, the more difficult it was. Abra would likely be able to manage it, but it was also possible that Abra might just get lost and they'd end up somewhere even further from Vermillion City, and the chance just wasn't worth taking.

    "Let's go." Giovanni put Pikachu down. The little pokémon ran back to his trainer's side, and then continued towards the door where he paused and lit the way for the rest of them. They had to stop by Giovanni and Ash's rooms to pick up their bags. Sabrina didn't have any such supplies, but she figured that she would be fine. Vermillion City was only a few hours away, they would be there by the end of the day. And if they had to go somewhere else from there, Sabrina was sure that she could trust Surge to give her the necessary supplies. He was obsessed with that kind of thing.

    After they had everything that they needed, Pikachu, following Sabrina's guiding instructions, led the way out of the gym. Sabrina would have thought that Ash was tired of walking so much, and would have been reluctant for another long day of travelling after just a single day of rest. Ash didn't show any sign of dreading the trip though. In fact, he seemed to be quite excited.

    "Hey, Pikachu," Ash crouched down to the ground once they were outside the door. "I bet Charmander's feeling pretty scared and upset right now. Do you mind if I have him out with me today?"

    Pikachu didn't look happy with Ash's request, but he didn't look completely displeased either. Pikachu, disappointed, but not the least bit hesitant, nodded his head and obediently went to Ash's side. The young boy grabbed one of his pokéballs, held it out and returned his Pikachu. Ash put this pokéballs back with the others and grabbed another, which he opened up to let out the Charmander from the day before.

    "Hey, Charmander." Ash's voice was calm, gentle. "You feeling better?"

    "...Char." Charmander's voice was quiet. He didn't seem happy, which was understandable after what it had been through the day before. Ash was gentle and encouraging with it though. If anybody could get the Charmander to open up and trust humans again, it was Ash.

    "Glad to hear it." Ash grinned and pet the top of Charmander's head. "We're all going to Vermillion City. I thought you would like to travel with us for a few hours. You want to go?"

    "Char!" Charmander perked up ever so slightly. Ash laughed and picked up Charmander. He held him firmly, but gently. The Charmander relaxed in Ash's arms.

    "Alright, let's go!" Ash eagerly lead the way. He was a determined boy, Sabrina would give him that much.

    "He's surprisingly good at listening to instructions." Giovanni said as he and Sabrina followed the boy's lead. It sounded like Giovanni was addressing her, but Sabrina suspected he was talking to himself more than anybody else. "He insists on having his pokémon out of their balls and at his side any chance he can get. I told him that when we're traveling, he is limited to just a single pokémon. He's taken that request to heart more than I thought he would."

    "He has a good heart." Sabrina commented. "He wants to make everybody happy, humans and pokémon alike." Someday the boy would learn that he couldn't please everybody, and he would just end up getting hurt if he continued to try. Until then, his optimism and eagerness to please was kind of sweet. Misguided, but sweet.

    "He'll learn." Giovanni said. Sabrina could tell by the tone of his voice that Giovanni was the one who intended to teach Ash that life wasn't always as bright and happy and people liked to think it was. Sabrina was normally annoyed by people who insisted on always helping others and looking on the bright side of life, but in Ash's case she felt differently.

    "It may be best if Ash stays the way he is for now." Sabrina said. "His aura is pure, unique. Its energy may attract legendary pokémon."

    Giovanni's eyes flashed the way that they always did at the mention of a legendary pokémon. "What do you mean?"

    Sabrina closed her eyes and recalled the images that she had seen when she had looked into Ash's head the day before. Two feathers. Two birds. A humanoid figure that was far too powerful to be a man. "Pokémon can be attracted to those with kind hearts. I saw two legendary pokémon, possibly three. I don't know if Ash has seen any of these pokémon, or if he will see them, but I think it may be worth keeping an eye on."

    Giovanni didn't look pleased. "Do you honestly think that if Ash wasn't so sentimental, legendary pokémon wouldn't show themselves to him?" He sounded sceptical.

    Sabrina eyed her boss critically. "Tell me, when was the last time a legendary pokémon showed itself to you?" Or anybody in Team Rocket, for that matter. Sabrina wasn't as interested in rare and legendary pokémon as Giovanni was, but when she heard stories about one appearing, she took note of it. In many cases, such pokémon were seen by children, or someone who was weak or in need of help. The innocent and pure, and that was most certainly not a description that one would use for Team Rocket.

    Ash, though, may just be innocent and pure. And if they wanted legendary pokémon to take note of him, then they needed to keep him the way that he was.

    "I see your point." Giovanni sighed and smirked ever so slightly. "Sentimental or not, I have good feelings about this boy." He was certainly paying more attention to the child than he did to other people that he found of interest, and Sabrina had the feeling that it wasn't just because of Ash's potential to encounter legendary pokémon.

    Not that it was any of her business.

    "Hey, Sabrina?" Ash had slowed down from up ahead and looked back at the two of them. "What's Lt. Surge like?"

    Sabrina rolled her eyes. Where would she even begin? "He's...complicated." Meaning Sabrina never knew what was going through his head, and she was almost too scared to try to read his mind. Surge could be serious and broody one second, and a complete goofball who turned everything into a joke the next. He scoffed at anybody else when they had a close relationship with their pokémon, but Sabrina had yet to meet anybody who was closer to their pokémon than Surge was.

    "He'll probably try to intimidate you." Giovanni warned. "Don't let it work. He's not as powerful as he thinks he is." Sabrina wasn't so sure about that. Surge was one of the strongest trainers that she had ever met, and he truly understood how the electric type worked. But yes, he wasn't actually as intimidating as he acted like he was. Surge had picked up some intimidation tactics when he had been in the military, but that intimidating soldier wasn't truly who he was, it was just who he had been trained to be.

    "I wouldn't worry about Surge." Sabrina said to Ash. "He may push you and your pokémon out of your comfort zones, but he won't be too harsh."

    "I wasn't worried about that!" Ash protested, though Sabrina knew that he most definitely had been worried about just that.

    Because Ash still looked a little nervous, Sabrina decided to to tell him about some of her experiences with Surge. After all, what reason would a boy have to be afraid of a man who regularly played pranks on his friends whenever he thought that things had gotten too quiet. Surge could be a real pain sometimes, but he could also be surprisingly sweet when he wanted to be, and Sabrina told Ash of those times as well.

    Like the time when Koga had gotten really sick, and Surge had spent the week in Fuchsia city, not only to help take care of him, but also to keep Janine company. Or the time when he had dragged Janine, Aya and Sabrina out to have what he called a 'girls' night'. Sabrina had pointed out to Surge that it couldn't truly be a girls night if he was there with them, but he had just argued that he was there as their 'chaperone' because he knew that neither Sabrina nor Janine would actually go through with the idea if he wasn't there to make sure they were enjoying themselves.

    That had been a strange day. After that Sabrina had sworn to never let Surge plan their activities ever again. Still, as weird as the day had been, Sabrina had actually enjoyed herself, and she knew that Janine and Aya had too.

    The man was an enigma, and had been since the day that Sabrina had met him. If she truly wanted to, Sabrina knew that she could just look into his mind and get at least a clearer understanding of what he was about. Surge was always claiming that he was an open book. Sabrina did no such thing, because a part of her enjoyed how unpredictable Surge was.

    Even if she still got infuriated with him sometimes.

    There was a lot to say about Lt. Surge, even if she left out anything related to Team Rocket. Ash seemed to become more and more excited the more stories he heard. So excited that by the time they decided to stop for a late lunch, he was back to his normal self and raring to do some battle training.

    Sabrina wasn't in the mood for a battle. They had stopped for a break, and she was planning on resting during that break. Giovanni had agreed to battle with Ash, after only a small amount of pestering on the boy's part. Giovanni did request that he work with Ash's Pikachu again, and the boy had agreed without a second thought, as he had planned on using Charmander.

    Sabrina watched their battle in amusement. Giovanni rarely ever participated in a battle, let alone a casual one. Sabrina always enjoyed watching him battle. Giovanni worked best with his own element, but he was quite skilled with any individual pokémon.

    Pikachu didn't seem to mind working with Giovanni, which somewhat surprised Sabrina. Pokémon had strong instincts when it came to people. Many pokémon didn't mind behaving in a morally questionable way, just like humans. Sabrina didn't think that Pikachu was that kind of pokémon. She didn't have to look into its mind to tell that Pikachu was particularly fond of Ash, and the boy was too kind-hearted to get so close to a pokémon that was too morally different from him in just a few weeks.

    Pikachu trusted Giovanni, likely because Ash trusted him. The boy may be young and naive, but Sabrina doubted that he would give away his trust so fully that his Pikachu would offer up trust as well. Not unless they were given a reason to offer trust. Giovanni must have gone out of his way to get the boy to trust him, to like him.

    Sabrina just didn't understand why he would go to all the effort.

    "Charmander, use flamethrower!" Ash called out loudly.

    "Quick attack." Giovanni said calmly. Pikachu dashed to the side, out of the way of the incoming flames. Pikachu used his speed to run behind Charmander and, after a quick, almost unnoticeable gesture from Giovanni, let out a harsh thunderbolt that was much more powerful than was necessary for the situation.

    Charmander cried out in alarm and pain before it fell to the ground. Charmander laid on the ground and shuddered slightly. It was in pain, but not completely unfit for battle. If necessary, Charmander could go on, though it wasn't recommended. Giovanni showed no signs of backing down, but Pikachu relaxed, seeing the battle over. Ash also saw the battle over and done with.

    "Charmander!" Ash ran to his pokémon and knelt down next to him. "Are you okay?"

    "Ch-char." Charmander weakly pulled itself to its feet and put on a brave face. Ash breathed a sigh of relief.

    "Thank goodness." Ash pet his pokémon and smiled encouragingly. "That flamethrower was awesome. You're already stronger, I can tell. You're going to be so strong, I can tell." Ash then turned to Pikachu. "And what about you? Man, that thunderbolt was strong."

    "That depends on who you ask." All of them turned to see a tall man with blond hair and broad shoulders watching them. Lt. Surge. He'd had his focus completely on Pikachu, but now that the battle was over and things had calmed down Surge let his eyes glance over in Sabrina's direction. He did a double take when he saw her. Lt. Surge then took a look at Giovanni, a real one, and burst out into laughter.

    "What's so funny?" Ash stood up and glared at the man defensively. He hadn't noticed Lt. Surge's glances, so he probably assumed that the man was laughing at him and his Pikachu. With both Sabrina and Giovanni there, Ash was probably the last one on Surge's mind.

    "Nothing, nothing," Lt. Surge chuckled. "I just remembered something funny from earlier." He probably just found it hilarious that two higher ups in Team Rocket, one of them being the boss himself, were walking around in casual clothing, participating in a casual battle with a child. Of course Surge would find it funny.

    "Okay, so, this Pikachu," Lt. Surge turned his attention back to the little pokémon. "It's out of control."

    "How can you tell? Giovanni asked. He liked to test his agents, make sure they were kept on their toes and as good as was expected of them. Surge was an electric type pokémon expert. Giovanni wanted to be sure that he knew what he was doing.

    "That charmander was a friend of his, right?" Surge looked at Ash, who nodded. "Even if they're battling, I don't think Pikachu meant to let off this kind of electricity."

    "A little bit of excess electricity doesn't equate to a lack of proper trainer." Giovanni pointed out. He was testing Surge again.

    "No, but this does." Lt. Surge gestured for Ash to step back. He then approached Pikachu and pulled on its tail. Pikachu stiffened and let out a harsh, instinctive thunderbolt. Surge was hit up front by a fierce electric attack, but he barely reacted to it aside from a slight cringe and a low grunt of pain. Surge worked with electric pokémon every day, so he was much more used to being hit by electric shocks than most people were.

    "Are you okay?" Ash quickly picked up his pokémon. "Pikachu, what was that all about?"

    "It was instinct." Lt. Surge said. "Pikachus have the tendency to attack when their tail is pulled."

    "How does that prove anything?" Sabrina asked. Surge pulled Pikachu's tail, it attacked in return. It certainly sounded like it was behaving as usual.

    "Pikachus usually attack by biting." Surge pointed out as he got to his feet. "Not with electricity. They only shock by instinct when they don't understand how much power they have. And it's never good for an electric pokémon to not have complete control of their electricity."

    "Do you know a lot about electric pokémon?" Ash asked.

    "Yeah, you could say that." Lt. Surge chuckled and held out a hand. "The name's Lt. Surge. I'm an expert in electric pokémon."

    "Oh." Ash's eyes widened in realization. "You're Lt. Surge. Sabrina told me all about you."

    "Really?" Lt. Surge raised an eyebrow and looked at Sabrina in amusement. She didn't miss the way that he eyed her outfit.

    "I didn't want his Pikachu to cause any more power surges in my gym." Sabrina said plainly. Surge laughed out loud.

    "That's exactly my point. This Pikachu needs proper training." Surge looked towards Giovanni, who subtly nodded at him. Surge smirked back. "I can help you with that." At least he understood what they had come here for.

    "Thanks." Ash said, half sheepishly, half gratefully.

    "Let's go back to my gym and we can get started." Surge suggested. "We're not far from Vermillion City. We should be there in a half hour or so." Of course they had stopped to take a break when they were so close to the city. Sabrina frequently forgot just how close Vermillion City was to Saffron City.

    As Ash returned Charmander to his pokéball, and Giovanni began collecting their things, Surge made his way to Sabrina, his eyebrows raised in a teasing manner. "So, you've been talking about me?" That smirk was going to be the death of her.

    "Ash was feeling nervous." Sabrina said. "I did what I could to assure him."

    "You keep telling yourself that, Sabrina," Lt. Surge shook his head. "We both know that you missed me." Surge leaned in, smirking mischievously, though there was a sincere and kind gleam in his eyes. "Seriously though, it's great to see you. Like, really great to see you." Surge made a show of eyeing her outfit, bare skin and all. "Let me tell you, whoever came up with this outfit has a real eye for fashion." He winked at her, because they both knew perfectly well whose idea it had been for her to buy these clothes in the first place.

    This man.

    "And if he knows what's good for him, he'll keep his eyes to himself from now own." Sabrina threatened, though she couldn't stay angry at him. Surge was just being Surge. He was crude, rough, and incredibly immature, but he meant well.

    As much as Sabrina hated to admit it, even just to herself, she really had missed him. She may not know what kind of a plan Giovanni was working on, but she really was glad to be working side by side with Surge again. It had been far too long.

    Maybe, if they were lucky and things went well, Giovanni would decide to bring Koga in to their plans as well. Sabrina was surprised that she sincerely hoped that that would be the case. She had done a lot of work with Koga and Surge in the past, and the three of them worked well together. No matter what the job was, it would be great to get the old team back together again.
    Arctiquaza likes this.
  7. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Lt. Surge was an electric type pokémon expert, and that wasn't just him bragging or showing off. Lt. Surge didn't just know all of the strengths and weaknesses of electric pokémon, or what all of their battle moves were, but he understood them on a deeper level. Lt. Surge had spent years getting to know as many electric type pokémon as he could, and one thing that remained consistent was that they were all proud, mischievous, and extremely stubborn. They could warm up to trainers easily enough, but they weren't so easily tamed.

    If one was going to train an electric pokémon, they needed to be willing to put in the effort. The trainer of an electric pokémon had to be just as stubborn as their pokémon was. If the trainer gave an inch in their training, the pokémon would take a mile. It took hard work to train an electric pokémon.

    Lt. Surge had never really taught somebody else how to tame an electric pokémon, but it was the boss' orders. Lt. Surge figured that the best way for him to teach Ash and his Pikachu how to work better together was by using the same methods that he himself had learned.

    Lt. Surge hoped that Ash had gotten a good night's sleep, because it was time for some training. Military Style.

    "Alright, kid, get your tail in gear!" Lt. Surge shouted as he burst into the guest room that Ash was staying in and turned on the lights. The boy groaned as he was dragged out of his sleep. "It's time for some training!"

    "Now?" Ash asked groggily as he sat up. His Pikachu was still sound asleep, curled up on the pillow next to him. Ash yawned and stretched. "What time is it?"

    "Five o'clock in the morning." Lt. Surge said cheerfully. It had been drilled into him that the early hours of the morning before the sun rose were the best times to get the hard training out of the way. He knew that Ash would be exhausted those first couple of days, but if he couldn't teach himself some discipline, then how could he expect to teach it to his pokémon?

    Ash groaned and flopped back down. "It's too early."

    Well, the kid wasn't going to get anywhere in life with that attitude. If Ash wasn't going to move on his own, Lt. Surge would have to take matters into his own hands. Lt. Surge smirked slightly. It had been a few years since he'd had the opportunity to do something like this. He hadn't realized how much he had missed whipping slackers into shape.

    Lt. Surge went to Ash's bed and, without a warning, grabbed the kid right out of his bed. Lt. Surge was easily able to throw Ash over his shoulder. The boy, suddenly feeling wide awake, began to struggle and shout, not that it did him much good. Lt. Surge found his squirming to be more humorous than anything.

    "I'd quiet down if I were you." Lt. Surge warned, though his tone was light. "Sabrina will kill both of us if you wake her up this early." The woman was just not a morning person. It didn't matter how often Koga or Lt. Surge tried to convince her that early morning training was just about the best way to start the day, she wouldn't hear a word of it. Sabrina didn't necessarily sleep in late, but if she was ever woken up by anything, whoever was responsible had better watch their backs.

    Ash couldn't have known just how scary Sabrina could be when she was woken up, but he must have recognized that the threat was serious, because he stopped shouting and trying to get away from his captor.

    "That's better." Lt. Surge looked down at the Pikachu on the bed. The little pokémon had been woken up by its trainers cries, and it was watching Lt. Surge carefully. "You'd better come too, runt." If Pikachu didn't follow them, there would be no point to the early morning training. Lt. Surge could easily drag the Pikachu out of bed, just as he was doing with Ash, but he had learned years ago that if you tried to force an electric pokémon to do something, they resisted even harder than they might have before. Irritating Pikachu before they had even begun wouldn't be very good for what they were trying to do.

    "Pikachu." The electric mouse's cheeks sparked with electricity as it grumbled lowly. It obviously was about as happy with the early morning training as Ash was, but they would both get over it. Despite its obvious reluctance, Pikachu stood up and jumped off the bed.

    Lt. Surge carried Ash outside the gym and then set him down, though he probably could have been a little more gentle about it. Pikachu scurried to Ash's side, and the two of them just sat on the ground. They showed signs of exhaustion, and they hadn't even gotten started yet. It was just pathetic.

    "On your feet, punks." Lt. Surge said, not unkindly. He was having way too much fun with this to actually pull off the drill instructor voice. It would probably be enough to motivate a child though. "Let's start with with five laps around the gym to wake you up."

    "What?" Ash whined. "Five laps?"

    Lt. Surge raised an eyebrow at the kid. "Do you want me to make it ten?"

    Ash groaned and leaned his head back. "Why do I have to do it though? I thought we were going to be training Pikachu."

    It was a classic complaint. Lt. Surge had heard it all them time among the other soldiers. He had heard the response so many times that he could recite it in his sleep. Lt. Surge crouched down so he was at Ash's level. "If you want your pokémon to listen to you, you need it to respect you." Lt. Surge looked at the Pikachu. "Your pokémon's not going to respect you if it doesn't know that you're willing to do everything that you're asking it to do."

    "It makes sense, I guess." Ash frowned thoughtfully and got to his feet. He didn't look very happy, but he was willing to put in the effort, and that was all that they needed to start off.

    "That's the spirit." Lt. Surge stood up and held a hand out to help Ash to his feet. "Let's get started." Lt. Surge took a pokéball from his belt and let his pokémon out. Usually for this kind of training he used Raichu, but Raichu's in general had a tendency to look down on Pikachu. Lt. Surge believed that a little bit of healthy competition was healthy, but if he brought out a pokémon that would try to intimidate Pikachu, Ash would never be able to learn how to reign in his pokémon. So lt. Surge instead used a pokémon that would still give Pikachu a reason to push himself, without going overboard.

    "Alright, Electabuzz, you ready to show them how an electric pokémon's supposed to act?" Lt. Surge smirked at his pokémon. Electabuzz was strong and fierce. It wasn't Lt. Surge's most well-behaved pokémon, but it was certainly his proudest. Electabuzz loved nothing more than to show off to other trainers and pokémon just how much it had learned.

    "Oh, you're on!" Ash said fiercely as he ran off and began their laps. Lt. Surge paused in shock before he laughed and took off after the boy. And here he had thought that Pikachu would be the one who would be encouraged by competition. It seemed that Ash wasn't one to take a challenge lightly.

    Lt. Surge and Electabuzz exchanged a quick glance before they ran off after Ash and Pikachu. They caught up to the amateurs easily enough, and they could have surpassed them if they wanted. They weren't having a race though, it was just a warm up. Things would get more difficult later, but it was never smart to start off too intensely.

    Ash didn't realize that the way that Lt. Surge had. The boy's competitiveness had been set off. Ash didn't pace himself or consider how many laps around he might have left. Ash only cared about beating Lt. Surge. Whenever the man began to catch up to him, Ash and Pikachu sped up and pulled ahead even more.

    Lt. Surge didn't try to beat Ash, but after he noticed Ash's pattern of speeding up when he got near, Lt. Surge decided to have some fun with the kid. Every time Ash tried to get away from him, Lt. Surge sped up just enough to catch up with him. Ash would then push himself to try to get ahead again, and the cycle started over.

    Halfway through the final lap around the building, Lt. Surge kicked things up a notch. As normal, when Ash pulled away from him, Lt. Surge sped up as well and caught up with him. This time though, when Ash began to run ahead again, Lt. Surge just sped up even more. He had been running before, but only now was he giving it his all.

    Even with Ash running as fast as he could, it was all too easy for Lt. Surge to surpass him. He hadn't wasted his energy the way that Ash had during the rest of their laps. Lt. Surge was taller, older, stronger, and faster than Ash. It really wasn't even a competition.

    Lt. Surge and Electabuzz slowed to a stop when they got back to the front door. Electabuzz started to cheer triumphantly. Lt. Surge didn't know what his Pokémon was so proud of. They had beat a child. There wasn't anything all that impressive about that. Still, Lt. Surge felt pretty pleased about winning the race that Ash seemed to have thought that it was. Messing with the kid had been just too easy, and way too much fun.

    A few moments later, Ash and Pikachu rounded the corner. They knew that they were behind, but it had done nothing to kill their determination. The two of them were still running like they still had a chance, even though the kid had to have seen Lt. Surge standing there, waiting for him.

    The kid had fierce determination. Lt. Surge liked his guts.

    As Ash neared him, Lt. Surge could see that the kid showed no signs of slowing down. He was really going all out. Lt. Surge watched carefully as Ash came closer, and just when he came within reach, the man grabbed his arm before he could run off again. Electabuzz stopped Pikachu by stepping on his tail. The Pikachu responded by trying to electrocute him, but it didn't have much effect on Electabuzz.

    "Whoa, slow down, kid." Lt. Surge chuckled even as Ash tried to keep running, despite the iron grip on his arm. "I love the enthusiasm, but save it for the actual training, why don't you?"

    Ash finally calmed down and stopped trying to run off. He turned to Lt. Surge, his eyes gleaming with excitement. "What are we doing next?" The kid's blood was pumping, and it was getting Lt. Surge excited as well.

    "I'll tell you when we get there." Lt. Surge smirked. He let go of Ash's arm and began to lead the way to his private training area. The gym was for battles. If Lt. Surge wanted to train his electric pokémon, it needed to be in a location that was out of the way. The last thing he wanted to do was let his pokémon train in a place where they could do some real damage.

    There wasn't really a forest near Vermillion City, but there was plenty of foliage around the route that connected Vermillion City to Saffron City. Nobody really ventured off the paths, so Lt. Surge hadn't seen the harm in claiming the clearings just out of sight of the paths as his own. Koga had helped him set up some spots where he could train his pokémon. Lt. Surge didn't always understand the ninja, but that man definitely knew his stuff when it came to personal training.

    Ash was obvious curious about where they would be going, but he didn't say a word. He just silently followed behind Lt. Surge and Electabuzz. It took them a few minutes to get to the outskirts of the city. At that point, they four of them followed the path for about five minutes before Lt. Surge veered off into the greenery. They only had to push their way through the bushes for a few minutes before they reached their destination.

    "Whoa." Ash looked around the clearing in awe. "This place is so cool." It didn't look like a typical training area, but it was clearly not a place that had ended up this way naturally. There were a number of steel rods sticking out of the ground on the far end of the clearing. Those were meant to test the power of a pokémon's electric attacks. There were a handful of trees around the clearing that had targets carved into them, and after all the training that Lt. Surge had done, the wood around the targets were completely petrified. Those targets were to test accuracy.

    What Ash and his Pikachu needed to work on was control. Fortunately, Lt. Surge's favorite part of this particular clearing was created for just that. It was a pond at the opposite end of the clearing. There were rubber targets in the water. Some of them were larger, some of them were the size of a coin. Some of the rubber was free floating, while others were anchored where they were. Rubber didn't conduct electricity well, but water did. It took a lot of control and willpower for a pokémon to aim to hit the targets and nothing more.

    "This method of training is simple enough," Lt. Surge explained. He pointed at the largest rubber target. "All you need to do is hit the target without affecting the water." Electabuzz charged up its electricity by windmilling its arms around in circles. When it had a decent charge, Electabuzz let loose its thunderpunch attack. The electricity from the thunderpunch went up at an angle until it was directly above the target, and then it dropped straight down to hit the target directly. Not even a spark hit the water.

    "I can do that." Ash said confidently. His Pikachu seemed to be just as sure of itself. "Pikachu, use thunderbolt!" Ash pointed to the target in the water. Lt. Surge kept a close eye on Pikachu, and he was surprised when he saw that there was barely a spark built up in Pikachu's cheeks before it released the electricity. Surge raised an eyebrow. He wasn't surprised to see that Pikachu's attack failed to hit the target at all. He basically just zapped the entire pond. It was a powerful attack, but way too wide spread.

    Lt. Surge already had a few ideas on how Ash could improve himself.

    "Do you know what a bolt is?" Lt. Surge asked.

    "Uh…" Ash and Pikachu exchanged a confused glance.

    Lt. Surge rolled his eyes. He didn't think that trainers should be allowed to have a pokémon if they didn't know the basic facts about the pokémon's typing. Ash wasn't the first person that he had met who seemed to lack the basic knowledge, so he didn't judge the kid. He would just have to teach him.

    "You ever seen lightning during a storm?" Lt. Surge asked.

    "Yeah, I've seen those." Ash seemed to be excited to know what Lt. Surge was talking about.

    "Those are bolts of lightning." Lt. Surge said. "That's what your thunderbolt is supposed to be like. A single streak of lightning. Definitely not an onslaught of shocking energy. Your Pikachu will release the same amount of energy either way, but you'll have much more control if it's an actual bolt." Not to mention, electricity was much more effective if it was more focused to a single point than if it was an energy field.

    "How do we do that?" Ash asked. At least he seemed to get it.

    "It's just something you have to practice." Lt. Surge said. For many electric type pokémon, when they were startled or feeling defensive or annoyed, they would basically electrocute the air. It didn't do as much damage, but it made the attack look larger and more impressive, which might scare away any potential danger. It was a natural instinct, but one that was simple enough to overcome.

    "One way to get you started is you need to let your Pikachu charge its attack for more time." Lt. Surge said. "If you don't let it charge enough, the electricity won't be as easy to control, which may be why Pikachu's default attack is a cloud of pure energy." All electric type pokémon had to charge their electricity. They all did it in different ways, and the charging times varied, depending on the species of pokémon. Ash and Pikachu just needed to find the charging time that worked best for them.

    "Charge for more time, great, we can do that." Ash said with determination. Lt. Surge didn't know for sure that Ash completely understood what he was saying, or how he was supposed to achieve it, but he certainly wasn't afraid to try. Lt. Surge admired that. Nobody ever got anywhere by standing still. "Alright, Pikachu, you ready to go?"

    "Pika, pi." Pikachu stood fiercely He began to charge up his electricity, just like before. Lt. Surge saw the sparks in Pikachu's cheeks as it built up energy. The first time Pikachu had released the energy just as soon as it had any energy built up. This time, it continued to charge. Patience was definitely the key when it came to this. Pikachu only charged for few additional seconds, but those few seconds made all the difference.

    Pikachu released its thunderbolt, and Lt. Surge could immediately see an improvement. The lightning was much more focused. It wasn't quite a single bolt, there were definitely a number of wayward sparks, but at least it was identifiable as a thunderbolt. It was amazing just how much of a difference conscious effort made.

    The thunderbolt hit the target at an angle that made it hit the water at the same time. It wasn't perfect, but it was certainly a vast improvement. It would take them some practice for Ash and Pikachu to perfect their timing, and constant effort on Pikachu's part to produce a bolt every single time. Lt. Surge didn't doubt that they would get there though. Ash was more determined and driven than many soldiers that Lt. Surge had met. He may not be the sharpest or most talented kid, but Lt. Surge didn't doubt for a second that Ash would be able to make up for that by sheer willpower and hardwork.

    Pikachu and Ash continued to work on their thunderbolt. Lt. Surge didn't even have to motivate or instruct them what to do. Ash recognized that the attack hadn't been perfect, so he and Pikachu began to just experiment with the thunderbolt until they found what worked best for them. If Lt. Surge found something that needed improvement, he brought it up. Other than that, he left the kid to himself.

    Lt. Surge wasn't afraid to admit that he enjoyed watching the kid train. He was probably the most dedicated child he had ever met. He felt bad for anybody who tried to stand in this kid's way.

    Lt. Surge watched Ash for a few minutes before he turned back to his Electabuzz. They were out there, so they might as well get some training in. While Ash and Pikachu worked at the pond, Lt. Surge and Electabuzz trained with the steel rods. Any chance they could get to work on their electricity, they had to take it. That was how they stayed on top, by constantly working and training.

    Lt. Surge that there was definitely such a thing as too much training. Pokémon could seriously hurt themselves, or their trainers, if they overdid things when they were training. Pokémon needed rest, and they needed food. Lt. Surge had no way to know for sure whether the electric pokémon were hungry or not, but he figured that if he was starting to get hungry, then the child and his small pokémon who had been training nonstop probably would be too.

    "Alright, I think we're good." Lt. Surge said after an hour or two of training.

    "Wha...already?" Ash whined in disappointment. "But we're so close." Ash and Pikachu had already figured out how to hit the first target every time without disturbing the water a bit. They had moved on to a target of similar size, but it wasn't anchored to bottom of the pond. Pikachu was struggling to figure out how to adjust to any slight movement that his target made between the time that he aimed the attack, and when his bolt struck.

    "It's not like today is the only time you have to train." Lt. Surge raised an eyebrow at the kid. "Trust me, we'll be doing this all over again tomorrow morning." Hard work didn't do squat if it wasn't done consistently. Lt. Surge had to see if Ash was as excited to work tomorrow as he was now.

    "Fine." Ash said reluctantly. Pikachu jumped on his trainer's shoulders and made himself comfortable. Ash stretched and followed Lt. Surge out of the clearing. Once they were back on the path they made their way back to Vermillion City.

    By this time the sun had started to rise. It was still early, but not so early that there weren't a couple of travelers on the route from Vermillion City to Saffron City. A couple of them nodded at them in acknowledgement, but they all had their own places to go. This was part of the reason why Lt. Surge liked to train in the mornings. Anybody that he might encounter in the morning prefered to mind their own business.

    Lt. Surge didn't exactly hate friendly social encounters or anything like that, but some of the folks in Vermillion City could be pretty obnoxious in their friendliness. Vermillion City was the home to many members of the Pokémon fan club. Lt. Surge understood that people liked pokémon, but did they really have to get so clingy and ridiculous every single time they saw any pokémon whatsoever? It was a pain in the butt to deal with.

    They were able to get back to the gym without running into any of those pokémon fanatics. When they got there Lt. Surge lead the way to the back rooms of the gym. Not every gym had rooms such as a cafeteria or kitchen, but when Lt. Surge had become the Vermilion City gym leader, he had done some renovations. It just didn't feel right to him to spend so much time in one location, but live somewhere else. Lt. Surge had known that both Sabrina and Koga had theirs homes at the back of their gyms, so it wasn't as though it was unheard of for the gym leader to just live at their gym.

    Lt. Surge was surprised to see both Sabrina and Giovanni already in the kitchen. He would have thought that they would have slept in a little more. And just going by how grouchy they both looked (neither of them were morning people), another hour or two of sleep was probably exactly what they wished they had gotten.

    Giovanni glared at them irritably. The man had a fierce glare that could freeze even the toughest of men in their tracks. Lt. Surge wasn't affected by it though, and hadn't been for years. So his boss was displeased with something that he had done. What else was new?

    "Where were you?" Giovanni asked darkly. Lt. Surge didn't know what he was more confused about, that Giovanni had used his 'boss' voice to ask where they had been, or that fact that he was even asking where they had been.

    "Uh, training?" Lt. Surge said as though it was obvious, and to him, it was. "Like you told us to do."

    Giovanni's glower grew darker. "Let me make this perfectly clear." Giovanni's voice was low and actually fairly intimidating. He was absolutely furious, and Lt. Surge didn't have a single guess as to why. "You are not to take this boy anywhere without my explicit permission."

    Lt. Surge stiffened and wrapped his hand around the silver pendent that he kept around his neck. Geeze, you lose one kid and suddenly you're condemned for life. That first time, it hadn't even been his fault, and he was still getting blamed for it...wait a second…

    "What do you care?" Lt. Surge gave his boss a strange look. "You're not his da-agh!" Lt. Surge grunted in pain when Sabrina, who had rushed from the table to the doorway as soon as she had figured out what he was going to say, elbowed him in the gut...hard. Lt. Surge normally knew how to take a hit, but Sabrina, even though she didn't look it, knew how to cause pain to even the toughest of people.

    "What was that for?" Lt. Surge hissed to his companion. She gave him a sharp look.

    "Not now." Sabrina said. Ash watched their exchange in confusion, not that Lt. Surge could blame him. Of course the kid was confused at Giovanni's sudden show of anger, and Sabrina's brief method of violence to get Lt. Surge to keep his mouth shut.

    Before Ash could wrap his head around their strange behavior enough to actually ask about it, Giovanni, who had put up his cold, calm demeanor once again, gestured for him to come and eat something. Because Ash was hungry, and for all he knew this was all normal behavior for the adults (which it was, but that didn't mean that it was healthy or right), he decided to be smart and do as Giovanni said.

    Ash may be slow on the uptake sometimes, but at least he had decent survival instincts.

    Lt. Surge didn't say a word another word on the matter. He wanted too, goodness knows he wanted to, because he didn't understand what was going on. But if Sabrina, who had never been afraid to speak her mind to their boss, thought that it would be best for Lt. Surge to keep his opinions to himself, then maybe he should listen to her.

    Ash finished eating his food in a matter of moments. The kid certainly didn't waste any time devouring the food that he had in front of him, and Giovanni didn't waste any time in getting them back on track to what he thought was important. Even though Lt. Surge had just finished training with Ash, Giovanni suggested that the two of them have a practice battle, and Ash jumped at the chance.

    Lt. Surge was more confused than ever. Giovanni didn't do practice battles. Sure, he had seen them battling the day before when he had been on his way back from some training, but he had thought that Giovanni was only humoring the kid so that he would stop pestering him. Since when was Giovanni the one who suggested they have a practice battle?

    Lt. Surge wanted to watch the battle to try to figure out what was going on, but when Ash and Giovanni left the kitchen to go towards the gym battle room, he stayed where he was. Sabrina seemed to at least have an idea of what was going on, and Lt. Surge was slightly less likely to be attacked by her for asking about this kind of thing than he was with Giovanni.

    "What was that all about?" Lt. Surge asked Sabrina when he was sure that Giovanni and Ash were out of earshot. Sabrina sighed and looked down at the cuffs that she was wearing.

    "To be honest, I don't really know." Sabrina said. "Giovanni's been acting strangely around that boy. He says he's just interested in the way that Ash's unique aura may attract legendary pokémon, but…" Sabrina trailed off and shook her head.

    "Wait, back up." Lt. Surge looked at her in surprise. "There's such a thing as an aura that attracts legendary pokémon?" How was it that this was the first he was hearing about that? He worked for Team Rocket, and a big part of what they did was search for and capture legendary pokémon. You would think that he would know about something like this. "How does he know that Ash has it?"

    "Because I saw it when I looked into the boy's mind." Sabrina said blatantly, as though it was completely normal to just read people's minds, though, to her, it probably was. "He claims that he saw a Ho-Oh, and based on what I saw, I believe he's right."

    Lt. Surge whistled lowly. Ho-Oh's were rarely ever seen, even by legendary pokémon standards. "What else did you see?" Just because Ash saw one legendary pokémon didn't mean he was a magnet for all legendary pokémon.

    "There was a figure I couldn't identify, though I'm positive that it was another legendary pokémon." Lt. Surge wanted to ask how Sabrina could be so sure of that if she couldn't identify the figure at all, but he knew better than to say anything. When Sabrina said she was sure of something, she was sure of it. "There was also another bird, another legendary pokémon."

    If Sabrina was right, and she probably was, then she saw three legendary pokémon when she had looked into Ash's head. Just what kind of ten year old was this? "What else?" Lt. Surge asked, because he knew Sabrina. She was holding something back, though he got the feeling that she wasn't doing it on purpose.

    Sabrina closed her eyes in concentration. "There were two feathers. The first was colorful, and the other…" Sabrina squeezed her eyes tightly. Lt. Surge knew that it was always hard for her to remember details of her visions. "It was short and gray, and it seemed to split...at...the...top" Sabrina's eyes flew open and Lt. Surge took a step back in alarm at how intense she looked.

    "Your pendent!" Sabrina quickly took a hold of Lt. Surge's necklace. "I knew I recognized it."

    "W-what?" Lt. Surge looked down at his necklace. "Recognized what?"

    "The second feather." Sabrina said. "I saw this in my vision."

    "This?" Lt. Surge didn't think there was anything special about the pendent, but when he remembered when he found it in the first place, and the weird pokémon that he had sworn that he had seen that day...yeah, maybe there was something to this necklace after all. "But what does it mean?"

    "I don't know." Sabrina admitted, and that kind of scared him. Sabrina didn't always understand her visions, but she usually at least had a guess about it. Very rarely was she willing to admit that she didn't know something.

    Lt. Surge didn't really believe in destiny or fate or any of that crap, but he did believe that there were sometimes deeper connections between things than people liked to accept. Sabrina's vision. Giovanni's odd behavior about Ash. Lt. Surge's pendent and what had happened the day that he had found it...this couldn't all just be a coincidence. There was just no way.

    Lt. Surge wanted to know how all of these things were connected. At the same time though, he really didn't want to know at all. Not that he had a choice on the matter. Whatever Sabrina had seen, it had to do with his necklace, which meant that it had to do with him.

    Whatever all of this meant, Lt. Surge had the feeling that he was stuck going along for the ride, whether he liked it or not.
    Arctiquaza likes this.
  8. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 8.

    Over the next few days Ash fell into a bit of a routine. Every day he would be woken up at 5 o'clock in the morning by Lt. Surge and they would train with Pikachu together. The work was hard, and Ash always woke up exhausted and returned to the gym sore. It was fun though. After training with Lt. Surge, Ash would always have a big breakfast. Immediately afterwards, he would work with Giovanni.

    What Ash and Giovanni did together varied from day to day. On the first day, they had a two on two battle with each other. Ash didn't win, but he hadn't thought that he would. The pokémon that he had used, Pidgeotto, and the Bulbasaur that had been with Charmander back in Saffron City, hadn't been used in battle very much. Even though they'd had the type advantage over Giovanni's Beedrill and Rhyhorn, they had been way too overpowered. They had fought well though, and Ash was proud of them.

    The second day, they had another battle where they used each other's pokémon. At Giovanni's suggestion, Ash used Persian, who was apparently the most easy going of Giovanni's pokémon. At Ash's request, Giovanni used Squirtle. Ash knew that any of his pokémon would do okay against Persian, but he also knew that Squirtle was the one who would be most interested in fighting. Ash knew that Squirtle hadn't forgiven Persian for defeating him back in Pewter City, and it wouldn't give up until it defeated the cat like pokémon in a battle.

    On the third day, Ash and Giovanni didn't battle. Instead, Giovanni spent the next few hours quizzing Ash on pokémon information that had previously been told. Ash didn't remember everything, but he was starting to get the hang of type effectiveness.

    On the fourth day, Giovanni had Ash work one on one with his pokémon to learn their individual movesets, personalities, and battle styles. According to Giovanni, the more he knew about his pokémon, the better he would be able to use them in battle. This was probably Ash's favorite thing to do.

    After Giovanni and Ash trained for an hour or two, the man would go do some work. Ash had no idea what he did, he just knew that it usually involved a lot of phone calls and the occasional shouting. Ash was curious about what kind of work Giovanni did. He just knew that Giovanni was rich, so it must pay really well.

    Ash had asked one time about Giovanni's work, and the man had just said that he would be told when the time was right, whatever that meant. After that, Giovanni insisted that Ash not be in the gym at all while he was working. Whatever Giovanni's work was, it must be important if he didn't want Ash to even have the opportunity to eavesdrop if he wanted to.

    At first, Ash had been annoyed about basically being banished from the gym, but that annoyance soon went away. Whenever Ash was banished from the gym, Lt. Surge would take him and his pokémon into the city to show them the sights. Ash hadn't known how this would go, but shortly after they left the gym, Ash realized that Lt. Surge was basically a completely different person when he wasn't training.

    Ash had never really been intimidated by Lt. Surge, but when it came to training, the man was all business. Lt. Surge was strict and hard working, and he always made sure that Pikachu and Ash put their all into training. Ash didn't mind this so much, as he was pretty serious about training too, but this level of no-nonsense wasn't exactly something that Ash wanted to deal with outside of battle training.

    Lt. Surge was nothing like that when they weren't training though. He was fun and relaxed. When they weren't training, Lt. Surge just wanted to have a good time, and that was something that Ash could get behind.

    Lt. Surge would let Ash have all of his pokémon out just to let them play, which Ash really appreciated. Giovanni had always disapproved about Ash having even one of his pokémon out of their pokéballs. He said that he didn't think that Ash should spoil his pokémon so much. Lt. Surge encouraged Ash's interaction with his pokémon. According to the blond man, if his pokémon felt comfortable around him, they'd be more willing to help him out when he really needed it.

    One day, Lt. Surge even let all of his pokémon out of their pokéballs to join in on the fun. Ash had only ever seen Lt. Surge's Electabuzz before. He was excited to see the other electric type pokémon, like Magneton and Electrode. Ash was especially interested in Lt. Surge's last pokémon. And orange mouse looking creature that Lt. Surge called Raichu.

    "That looks a lot like Pikachu." Ash commented as his own electric mouse glared at the Raichu, sparks charging in his cheeks. "Is that what Pikachu is going to evolve into?"

    "Yep." Lt. Surge nodded proudly. He then looked over at Ash, a weird look in his eyes. "You can evolve your Pikachu now, if you want?"

    "What?" Ash looked at Lt. Surge in shock. "I thought that pokémon only evolved when they were strong enough." Ash hadn't known that a trainer could choose when their pokémon evolved.

    "Usually that's true." Lt. Surge smirked. "Some pokémon though, like Pikachu, can evolve just by touching a stone like this." Lt. Surge reached into his pocket and brought out a green stone with a yellow bolt shape inside of it.

    "Whoa." Ash looked at the stone curiously. Pikachu stopped growling at Lt. Surge's Raichu and jumped onto Ash's lap to take a look at the stone.

    "This is a thunderstone." Lt. Surge explained. "If a Pikachu were to touch this, they would become a Raichu, no matter how strong or weak they are." Lt. Surge looked at Ash, an eager look in his eyes. "Here, why don't you give it a try?"

    "Huh?" Ash looked up from the stone. "Are you...giving this to me?"

    Lt. Surge shrugged. "Sure, I don't currently have a pokémon that needs one." Lt. Surge offered it out to him. "Go ahead."

    Ash looked back down at the stone, and then he looked at Pikachu. Ultimately, this should be Pikachu's decision. After all, it was Pikachu who would be the one evolving. If Pikachu wanted to be a Raichu, Ash said go for it. If he wanted to stay the way he was, Ash was fine with that too. After Ash and Pikachu looked at each other for a few moments, they came to an understanding without either of them having to say a single thing.

    Ash grinned and looked back at Lt. Surge. "I think we're good."

    Lt. Surge blinked in shock. "You...don't want to make your pokémon stronger?"

    "We don't need to evolve to get stronger." Ash smiled as Pikachu climbed onto his shoulder and nudged his cheek. Ash scratched around Pikachu's ears. "I like Pikachu just the way he is."

    "Pika!" Pikachu cried out happily in agreement. Out of the corner of his eye Ash thought he saw Charmander looking at him strangely, but when he turned to look Charmander's back was to him. He had probably just been imagining things.

    Lt. Surge sighed. "Fine, it's your pokémon." The man handed the stone to Ash anyways. "Keep it though, just in case you change your mind."

    "Okay." Ash nodded. He took the Thunderstone, though he was careful to keep it away from Pikachu, and put it into his bag.

    "You're a weird kid," Lt. Surge commented. He sounded confused, but his tone didn't sound like an insult. "Why wouldn't you want to evolve your pokémon?" Just after Lt. Surge asked this question, before Ash could correct him, a flamethrower attack came directly towards them. Lt. Surge's quick instincts and ability to grab Ash and dive out of harm's way was the only thing that kept them from being burned.

    "That was close." Ash groaned. He sat up to see that all of their pokémon that had been playing before had all stopped. Many of them were looking at Charmander, who was tense and glaring at Ash. The flame on his tail burned brighter than it usually did. Ash looked at his pokémon in shock. "Charmander, was that you?"

    "Char, charmander." The fire pokémon growled. "Char!"

    "What's up with him?" Ash asked.

    Lt. Surge looked at Charmander strangely. "Was that a...flamethrower?"

    "Yeah." Ash got to his feet. He looked at Lt. Surge. "Is that weird?"

    Lt. Surge smirked, a strange look came to his eyes, similar to the look that Giovanni sometimes got in his eyes when he talked about the legendary pokémon that Ash thought he had seen. "Your Charmander must be a really high level for it to know flamethrower. It's not usually a move that Charmanders learn until after they evolve."

    "Really?" Ash looked at his pokémon, who was still glaring at him. "Charmander's always known flamethrower, ever since I got him from Damian."

    "So Charmander's a traded pokémon." Lt. Surge got to his feet too. "That explains why he attacked you. Traded pokémon tend to be more irritated with their new trainers."

    "...I didn't know that." Ash frowned. He could tell that Charmander was upset about something, but he didn't know what. "Why's he so mad?"

    Charmander growled at Ash. "Charmander. Char, char!"

    "Uh…" Ash grimaced and looked at Lt. Surge. "I don't know what he's saying."

    "Raichu, can you translate for us?" Lt. Surge asked his own electric mouse.

    "Raichu," Lt. Surge's pokémon agreed happily. It gestured to Charmander, and then to Pikachu, and then proudly to itself "Rai, rai." Raichu then gestured to Charmander again, and then pointed up while stretching as tall as he could while he pretended to roar. It was an abstract translation that didn't make much sense to Ash. Lt. Surge, on the other hand, seemed to understand it completely.

    "Oh, yeah, that makes sense." Lt. Surge nodded. He turned to Ash. "Charmander's been ready to evolve for awhile now, and he's not happy that you don't want him to."

    "I...you understood that?" Ash asked. Lt. Surge shrugged and pet his Raichu's head.

    "Trust me, after you've been with your pokémon for a few years, you learn how to understand them." Lt. Surge said.

    "Oh, okay." Ash nodded. Once he knew how Lt. Surge had understood his pokémon, he was ready to think about just what he had told him. "Wait, Charmander, you're ready to evolve?" Ash looked at his pokémon. He would be excited for Charmander, if he wasn't a little hurt about what else Lt. Surge had said. "And what do you mean I don't want you to evolve? Of course I do!"

    "...Char?" Charmander tilted his head and looked at Ash curiously. Bulbasaur looked equally confused. Ash frowned. Had he done something wrong? What had he done to make Charmander feel like he couldn't evolve? Did Squirtle and Bulbasaur feel the same way? Were all of them holding back because of something he had done?

    Ash felt a nudge at his arm. He turned to see Lt. Surge watching him impatiently. "Why don't you stop moping and talk to your pokémon? They won't understand what you want from them if you don't tell them."

    Ash didn't know what he was supposed to say to his pokémon, but he would give it a try. Ash took a few steps closer to Charmander and knelt down on the ground in front of him. Ash held a hand out to Charmander, but didn't actually grab him. Charmander could sometimes be picky about being held or touched, and Ash didn't want to upset him any more than he already had.

    "Charmander, just because I don't want Pikachu to evolve doesn't mean I don't want any of the rest of you to evolve." Ash smiled kindly at his pokémon, who watched him cautiously. "The only reason I don't want Pikachu to evolve is because I know that it's not what he wants. If it's what you want, I say go for it. I just want you to be happy."

    "...Char?" Charmander took a step towards Ash and lowered his head. Ash grinned and gently put his hand on Charmander's head. The pokémon flinched slightly, but didn't pull away.

    "Yeah, really." Ash promised. He gently pet Charmander's head. "If you want to evolve, you should. Pidgeotto and Butterfree did." Ash didn't mention that he had caught Pidgeotto the way he was, as he didn't know if that would get Charmander angry all over again. "It's completely your choice."

    No sooner had the words left Ash's mouth did Charmander begin to glow white. Ash recognized this glow from when Caterpie had evolved. Charmander was evolving. A moment later, Charmander began to grow until he was much closer to Ash's size, though still a little shorter. After Charmander stopped growing, the bright light went away and Ash was able to get a good look at what his pokémon had become.

    "A Charmeleon." Lt. Surge whistled lowly. "I knew he was ready for evolution, but I've never seen it happen so suddenly. It's like he was just waiting for your approval."

    "Well, he's got it." Ash beamed and threw his arms around Charmeleon's neck. "You look great." Ash laughed, completely overjoyed. He could feel Charmeleon tense slightly, and his body became noticeably hotter, but he didn't do anything to force Ash away. Charmeleon was clearly annoyed, but he was willing to tolerate his trainer's excitement, which Ash was relieved about.

    Charmeleon let out a low growl, though it didn't seem to be in irritation. Ash hoped that it was a content growl, because that had been what Ash was going for. Charmeleon let Ash hold onto him for a few moments before he turned towards and other pokémon and let out a loud, proud roar. Bulbasaur responded with an annoyed growl.

    Ash frowned slightly and looked at Bulbasaur. Were the two of them fighting? Ash wasn't happy about that. Bulbasaur and Charmander's relationship had started off rocky, but Ash had hoped that they had gotten over it. What had gotten them fighting again? Or had they ever gotten along with each other in the first place?

    "What's going on with the two of you?" Ash stopped clinging to Charmeleon, just in case he needed to step in and stop things from getting out of hand.

    "Charmeleon." The fire pokémon roared again, using a flamethrower while he did so. Bulbasaur closed his eyes and looked away in annoyance, which just irritated Charmeleon even more. Charmeleon growled and tensed. Ash could see that he was preparing himself for a battle, which was the last thing that Ash wanted. He loved a good pokémon battle as much as the next person, but he didn't think that battles should be fought in anger. They were for fun, they were for sport, not a way to beat up one's enemies.

    "Charmeleon, stop!" Ash grabbed onto his Charmeleon again, though this time it wasn't a joyful embrace, but more out of desperation. "No fighting!" Charmeleon ignored his command. Lt. Surge had said that traded pokémon didn't listen to trainers as well as other pokémon did. Even if Charmeleon wasn't irritated with him, he was still mad, and definitely wasn't in the mood to listen.

    "Bulbasaur, calm down!" Ash hoped that his other pokémon would listen to reason. It was no good. Bulbasaur looked as ready for a fight as Charmeleon was, and Bulbasaur wasn't usually much of a fighter.

    Ash didn't know what was going. Neither of his pokémon were listening to him, and Ash didn't know what to do about it. He didn't want them to fight, but he didn't know how to stop them. He felt so overwhelmed, and he didn't know what to do.

    "Calm down, Ash." Lt. Surge put a firm hand on Ash's shoulder. "You need to take control of the situation before it gets out of hand."

    "I...I don't know how." Ash tightened his grip around Charmeleon, but he knew that it wouldn't do anything to hold the pokémon back if he charged to attack Bulbasaur.

    "Think for a second, kid," Lt. Surge said, though not unkindly. "You have the tools you need to stop them."

    Tools...actually, Ash did have an idea, because he didn't know what it would solve. His pokémon would still be mad at each other, and their anger might just get even worse. But it was the only thing that Ash could think of to stop Charmeleon and Bulbasaur before they hurt each other or themselves.

    Ash lowered his head and reluctantly let go of Charmeleon. Just as he had thought, Charmeleon had rushed towards Bulbasaur the second that Ash had let go of him. Before any attacks could hit Ash took two pokéballs out and returned his angry pokémon. With the crisis averted, for the moment, Ash looked down at his two pokéballs and frowned. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

    Ash sat down on the ground. He was probably imagining it, but he thought that he could still feel heat coming from Charmeleon's pokéball. He was so mad, and Ash didn't understand why. He had thought that everything was better. Ash had explained to Charmander how he felt about evolution, and then he had evolved. Ash had thought that this had meant that Charmander wasn't mad at him anymore, but then he had gotten mad all over again.

    Ash had watched a lot of pokémon battles on television, and none of those trainers had pokémon that disobeyed them. Those pokémon always did what they were told, even if it didn't make much sense. Ash's pokémon weren't doing that though, and he felt like he was doing something wrong because of it.

    "What am I supposed to do?" Ash asked, because he really didn't know. Lt. Surge had more experience with training pokémon. The man knew how to teach both Pikachu and Ash how to use electric attacks the best way. Maybe he would know about what he should do about Charmeleon and Bulbasaur.

    "Honestly, I don't know." Lt. Surge sat down on the ground next to Ash. "I know how electric types work. They're stubborn pack creatures who will obey the Alpha, but attack somebody that they feel threatened by. I know how to deal with that." Ash knew he did, because that was what he had been teaching him. How to be recognized as the leader without making himself be seen as a threat.

    "Fire pokémon though?" Lt. Surge shook his head. "In my experience, they're extremely sensitive. They get upset and angered more easily than other types do. And grass pokémon think that just because they have a connection to nature means that they know everything."

    "I can recognize these things in pokémon, but I don't have the slightest idea of what to do about it." Lt. Surge admitted slowly. "But, I may know somebody who can help."

    "Really?" Ash looked up at Lt. Surge in shock. "Who? Are they an expert in fire pokémon? What about grass pokémon?"

    "Nah, he's more of a poison kind of guy." Lt. Surge said, which Ash didn't understand. How would a poison type expert be able to help? Ash knew that Bulbasaur was part poison type, but he felt like Bulbasaur wasn't the main problem, Charmeleon was. "He's a really good trainer though, and a really good teacher. He'll probably be able to help you get your pokémon back under control again."

    It would be nice if his pokémon would listen to him. What Ash really cared about though was that his pokémon stopped being angry at each other. Maybe Lt. Surge's friend would be able to help with this too. "When can we go see your friend? Does he live nearby?"

    "Not exactly." Lt. Surge snickered. "Koga lives near Fuschia City." Ash hadn't even heard of that city before. "We would have to talk this idea over with Giovanni, but I think he'd be alright with it."

    "Right!" Ash suspected the same thing. As far as he could tell, Giovanni didn't really have a specific goal since they had left Saffron City. Giovanni could do his actual work anywhere, and he seemed to choose their location based off of Ash's needs. If Lt. Surge thought that Ash could become a better trainer by learning from Koga in Fuschia City, Giovanni would probably go with it.

    Ash didn't understand why Giovanni was so invested in his training, but he wasn't complaining . It was great to have people around he knew what they were doing. Ash was learning more and more from Giovanni, Lt. Surge, and Sabrina every single day. It was really nice of all of them to help him, and Ash's mother had always taught him to never look a gift Ponyta in the mouth. So Ash didn't bother asking why, and he was just grateful for all the help.

    ...Even if he was a little curious.
    Arctiquaza likes this.
  9. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 9

    Koga took in a deep breath, and then slowly exhaled. In, and out. He thought about nothing but his breathing. His mind was clear of any and all distractions. He was one with his surroundings, and completely at peace.


    ...Or, at least, Koga would be at peace if there wasn’t somebody walking around in the courtyard that he was in. With just a single snap of a twig, Koga’s senses went on high alert as he tried to identify exactly where this visitor was. He didn’t bother trying to figure out who it was, because he knew exactly who it wasn’t.

    His younger sister, Aya, though she still had a long ways to go in her ninja training, knew better than to step on a twig. It was such an amateur mistake, one that even she wouldn’t make. And if it was too much of an amateur move for Aya, than it certainly wasn’t the kind of thing that Janine would do. Koga’s daughter may not be a master, but she knew how to sneak up on a person.

    Other than the two girls, the the dojo Pokémon, who knew better than to interrupt his personal meditation, nobody else was at the dojo. That meant that there was an intruder behind him. Koga wasn’t immediately concerned, as the dojo did occasionally get visitors, and they rarely ever had malicious intentions, but he was prepared.

    Moving quickly, Koga grabbed one of the shurikens that he always had on hand and he snapped around and threw it towards the intruder. He was careful to aim the shuriken no closer than a few inches away from where he knew the intruder was. His intention wasn’t to harm, but to scare.

    Koga had thrown his shuriken before he had truly gotten a good look at the intruder. As he had intended, the shuriken flew harmlessly past their head...even though he had aimed for the intruder’s chest.

    “What are you doing here, boy?” Koga fought to bite back his irritation. Children very rarely came by the dojo. Koga was still annoyed at the interruption, but it wouldn’t be fair to be angry with a child the same way he might be with an adult.

    “Sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you.” The dark haired boy raised his hands defensively. He certainly sounded sincere. “I was just told to sneak up on you.”

    “Told?” Koga frowned. “By who?”

    “Ha!” A sudden, loud voice exclaimed from directly behind Koga. Before he could turn to face the second intruder he was tackled from behind and taken down to the ground. Koga hadn’t taken a single look at his attacker, and he hadn’t heard much from them, but he instantly knew who they were.

    “Was that really necessary, Surge?” Koga asked irritably.

    “Are you kidding?” Lt. Surge laughed in that obnoxious way of his. The larger man got off of Koga and helped him to his feet, though it was likely just because he wanted to rub it in his face. “Of course it was necessary. Don’t forget, this challenge was your idea.”

    “Yes, so you keep reminding me.” Koga groaned. He had made one comment about how loud and unstealthy Lt. Surge was, and the man had taken it as a challenge. Koga had long since admitted that he had been wrong, he now recognized that Lt. Surge was far stealthier than he had initially given him credit for. “You’ve proven your point. Don’t you think it’s time you stop this childish game?”

    “Are you kidding? I’ve just pulled ahead again!” Lt. Surge said proudly before he turned towards the boy. “You hear that, Ash? I’m beating this ninja in a stealth competition two-to-one.”

    “Wow, you must be really good.” The boy, Ash, said in amazement.

    “I don’t know if I would say that.” Koga glared at Lt. Surge. The man may be stealthier than Koga had been willing to admit, but the only times that the soldier had been able to sneak up on him was when he had been distracted by something else, and Lt. Surge knew this. “What are you two doing here?” Koga couldn’t really care less about what Ash was doing there, the boy could do what he liked, but any time Lt. Surge made an appearance at the dojo, bad news was never far behind him.

    “I was...wondering if you could help me.” Ash said hesitantly as his grin fell. “Two of my pokémon have been fighting a lot lately, and they won’t listen to me when I tell them to stop.”

    Koga reluctantly turned his attention away from Lt. Surge. “What pokémon are they?”

    “Uh, Charmeleon and Bulbasaur.” Ash said. A fire type and a grass type. It made sense why they were fighting. While it wasn’t a guarantee that pokémon that had opposing typings would fight with each other out of battle as well, it was certainly a common occurrence.

    “How long has this been going on?” Koga asked.

    “They’ve been fighting off and on for about a week, since I caught them.” Ash said. “It’s just gotten worse since Charmander evolved.” The boy had only had his pokémon for one week and his Charmander had already evolved into a Charmeleon? While it wasn’t unheard of, it certainly wasn’t common for a pokémon to evolve that quickly. How had a boy who couldn’t handle his own pokémon accomplish such a thing?

    “Why don’t you let out the one that has been the most trouble and we’ll go from there.” Koga suggested. Ash was just a child. It would probably be best if they worked with just one pokémon at a time, so as to not overwhelm him.

    “Hang on, ninja boy.” Koga rolled his eyes at the nickname that Lt. Surge insisted on using. “Maybe you should go talk to Giovanni before you do anything else?”

    “Giovanni?” Koga looked at Lt. Surge in shock. At first he considered that the man was just messing around, but one look at his face told Koga that he was being completely serious. “What is he doing here?”

    Lt. Surge shrugged and shook his head. “Hey, don’t ask me. I’m just as in the dark as you are. All I know is that Giovanni wants to help Ash train. Don’t ask us why, because neither of us knows.”

    Giovanni was showing an interest in Ash? Why? What did Giovanni hope to accomplish by helping a young boy train his pokémon? What was in it for him? Because with Giovanni, there was always some secret, selfish motivation.


    Koga sighed. He had no idea what was going on, but he had the feeling that it wasn’t anything good. “See if you can get your pokémon to listen to you when it’s just the two of you.” Koga suggested to Ash. “I’ll be back in a minute.” Koga intended to find out just what their boss had in mind.

    Koga left Lt. Surge to supervise as he went back inside the dojo to talk to Giovanni. Koga intended to figure out. He went to the main visiting area of the dojo, and he was surprised to find not just Giovanni there, but Sabrina as well.

    “Has something happened?” Koga asked. It was practically unheard of for Giovanni to leave Team Rocket headquarters, so that in and of itself was reason enough to be suspicious. But for Sabrina, who never ventured far from her home either, to be there as well, it had to be for a reason.

    “Not yet.” Giovanni said, and Koga decided that he didn’t like the tone that he used. It implied that while nothing may have happened yet, it was about to, and Koga felt like he should be on his guard. “But we should be prepared.”

    Koga understood how important preparation should be, he frequently taught it to his own daughter, but he didn’t like the way that Giovanni said it. Koga got the feeling that Giovanni intended for Ash to learn some preparation skills. It was good for every up and coming trainer to be ready for possible danger, there was a difference between always having a potion handy, and being ready for the kind of things that Team Rocket faced on a regular basis.

    Ash was just a child. Koga would normally be more than happy to help him with his pokémon troubles, but he was a little reluctant to do so at that time. Lt. Surge had said that Giovanni wanted Ash to be trained, and that didn’t sit right with Koga. Giovanni normally couldn’t care less about the training of children. The last time he had shown any interest in a child…

    Koga couldn’t let it happen again. He himself had no problems being a part of a crime organization, but even he had to draw the line somewhere, and that line was with children. Koga knew what some of the other agents said about him, how he had gone soft since the birth of his daughter. He was just as ruthless as ever, unless a child was involved.

    Children had no business with Team Rocket. If a child was intrigued by what they did and wanted to join, they could wait a few years until they were old enough to actually be trusted to make such an important life decision for themselves. Koga didn’t allow Janine to have anything to do with Team Rocket, and she was about five years older than Ash was.

    Koga didn’t know for sure that Giovanni was necessarily trying to recruit Ash, but he had the horrible feeling that he was. Koga had no evidence to support his theory, but he had long since learned to trust his instincts when it came to such matters.

    Koga would help Ash work things through with his Charmeleon and Bulbasaur. Recruitment tactic or not, it was important for any trainer to be in control when it came to their pokémon. And as Koga worked with Ash he would be able to see for himself just what about the boy intrigued Giovanni.

    Koga didn’t voice his concerns, because Giovanni was still his boss, and he couldn’t just go up against him based on little more than a hunch. His hesitancy must have shown on his face, because Giovanni narrowed his eyes at him.

    “Work with the boy.” Giovanni said in a low, warning tone. “I don’t know how long we’ll be here for. Do what you can until we leave.” Now Koga was intrigued. Giovanni was not the kind of person who liked to move from one place to another. He was a man who enjoyed stability and predictability. What would make him decide to go somewhere for an undetermined amount of time?

    Koga was curious, but he could tell that this wasn’t the moment for him to ask. He shouldn’t test Giovanni’s patience with useless questions. Koga would just do as he was told...for the time being.

    Koga returned to the courtyard to find Ash sitting on the ground, excitedly talking with his Charmeleon. The fire pokémon was lounging on the ground, looking bored out of his mind. Every once and awhile though Charmeleon would nod or acknowledge his trainer’s words in another way. Koga had seen many pokémon that were affectionate with their trainers, sometimes overly so. He had seen pokémon that felt neutral towards their trainers, and even those that actually despised them.

    Charmeleon’s laid back nature implied that he didn’t care too much for his trainer or what he was saying, and yet it was clear that he was paying attention to Ash anyways. Koga had seen all kinds of pokémon and trainer relationships, but he believed that this was the first time that he had seen somebody so young have such a complicated relationship with his pokémon.

    “Did he really only get this pokémon a week ago?” Koga asked Lt. Surge, who was leaning against the wall, watching Ash.

    “That’s what they say.” Lt. Surge nodded. He looked at Koga and raised an eyebrow. “And would you believe that Charmeleon belonged to a different trainer before Ash got him?”

    “What?” Koga’s eyes widened. There was almost always trust issues between trainer and pokémon if there had been a previous trainer before. These issues could take years to overcome, and sometimes they never really went away. Traded pokémon had a tendency to disobey their new trainer, and while Ash had said that he had been having troubles getting Charmeleon to listen to him when he didn’t want it to fight with Bulbasaur, it certainly seemed like Charmeleon was listening to him now.

    Maybe Charmeleon wouldn’t listen to Ash when it came to battles, and that was something that they needed to work on, but Charmeleon seemed fine with just listening to Ash talk, and that little bit of acknowledgement was certainly a step in the right direction.

    They just had to figure out how to go on from there.

    “Boy, let’s get to work.” Koga said. Ash obediently got to his feet. Charmeleon didn’t follow his lead, but it did look boredly towards Koga, waiting for him to catch his attention.

    “Are we going to work on battling?” Ash asked eagerly. Charmeleon wasn’t as obvious about his excitement, but he didn’t look so bored as he had before. Charmeleon was looking for a battle just as much as Ash was. Unfortunately for the two of them, that wasn’t what Koga had in mind.

    “Not exactly.” Koga said. He held an arm out to the side and a moment later there was a streak of blue in the sky as his speedy little Golbat obediently flew him and landed on his arm. “Before you can effectively use attacks in battle, you need to know how to perfect the technique.”

    Ash looked confused, so Koga decided to provide him with a bit of a demonstration. Koga lowered his arm slightly and Golbat took to the air again. “Have you seen a razor wind attack?”

    “Uh, I don’t think so.” Ash admitted somewhat sheepishly.

    “It’s an attack that doesn’t hit the enemy right away.” Koga said. “There’s a bit of a delay, so one has to be strategic when they use it. However, one can learn how to use this delay to their advantage.” Koga looked sharply towards Lt. Surge, who just smirked at him. “Golbat, use razor wind.”

    Golbat drew back its wings and sharply brought them forward. A wind based attack, sharp as a knife, flew from Golbats wings, and then disappeared into the air a moment later. For a few moments, nothing happened. Ash began to look around in confusion, wondering what had happened to the attack. The three trainers waited in complete silence as the tense moments dragged on far longer than a normal razor wind attack’s delay would last for.

    Finally, the attack seemed to materialize out of thin air, headed straight for Lt. Surge. Anybody else would be caught off guard by the sudden attack, but Lt. Surge had trained with Koga before. He had known what to expect. In the instant before the attack hit him head on, which could be potentially fatal for a human, Lt. Surge took one of his pokéballs and brought out his Electabuzz, who blocked the attack with ease and seemed to be completely unfazed by it.

    “Whoa!” Other than that exclamation of awe, Ash seemed to be speechless. Even Charmeleon looked impressed. After a moment Ash got over his stunned silence and he looked at Koga with wide, eager eyes. “Can you show me how to do stuff like that?”

    “We’ve already started, kid.” Lt. Surge sounded amused. “You know that training we’ve been doing with Pikachu? It’s the same idea, except you’ll be working with fire instead of electricity.”

    “It sounds awesome.” Ash grinned at his Charmeleon, who huffed and avoided his glance, though it was clear it was just an act. Charmeleon wanted to have the same level of control of his attacks that Golbat had, it was just too proud to admit it. “Are you ready to get started?”

    Charmeleon made a show of yawning tiredly, but it did get up to his feet, and Koga could tell by its stance that it was ready to begin. “Char, charmeleon.”

    They didn’t start big. Control wasn’t something that could be found in an instant, it had to be earned through hard work and patience. Koga had Ash and Charmeleon start with a simple ember attack. Their goal was to hit the target, and only the target.

    Ember was typically a more widespread attack, so Charmeleon struggled quite a bit to focus on just a single point. The more Charmeleon missed, the more frustrated it got and the more out of control its fire became. This was part of the training. Charmeleon needed to learn how to control its temper, and Ash needed to learn how to help him do so in stressful situations.

    And Ash certainly did his best. Whenever Charmeleon’s flame would hit the ground near the target, Ash would shout out words of encouragement and advice on how to do better. You were so close that time. You’re doing great. Try not to open your mouth as much so the embers stay closer together. Try to lean back your head as you build up your fire.

    Koga could see Charmeleon either be encouraged by, or frustrated with Ash’s attempts to help him. It ended up being a strange combination of the two. Charmeleon had growled a time or two at Ash’s suggestions, but it had eventually started to do as its trainer said. Charmeleon probably recognized that it didn’t know how to do what needed to be done on its own, and there wouldn’t be much harm in following its trainer’s suggestions. So Charmeleon did as Ash said, albeit reluctantly, and little by little they got closer to reaching their goal until finally Charmeleon was able to get all of his embers to hit the target without straying.

    “Yes!” Ash laughed and wrapped his arms around Charmeleon. The fire pokémon, looking quite pleased with itself, actually went so far as to nuzzle Ash slightly. It was the most affection that Koga had seen the pokémon show. Charmeleon was proud of what it had accomplished, but not so much so that it didn’t recognize what Ash had done to help. “You were great!”

    “You’ve both done well.” Koga commented with a small smile. Ash was certainly more willing to put in the hard work that was required to be a pokémon trainer than most children his age were. He still had a long ways to go, but he was doing exceptionally well. “Now, you must rest.” Long and hard training sessions should always be followed by a period of rest and sleep that was at least as long as the training had been. Otherwise, both trainer and pokémon could easily end up exhausting themselves. “Tomorrow, we shall work with some of your other pokémon.” Specifically his Bulbasaur.

    “Okay.” Ash agreed. With their training session over for the day, Koga bowed to Ash, as he traditionally did whenever he had finished training or battling with somebody who was worthy of his respect. Bowing was an old tradition, and outside of those who were trained in the ways of the ninja, or those that had been raised in old, traditional households, few in the Kanto region still recognized bowing the way that Koga did. So it was much to his surprise that Ash did his best to put his hands into a position that mimicked Koga’s and then bowed respectfully to him.

    “Thank you for teaching me.” Ash said sincerely.

    “No, thank you for being willing to learn.” Koga looked up at his Golbat, who had been flying in the air this whole time, waiting for a new command. “Golbat will take you to my daughter, Janine. She will show you around the dojo.”

    “You’re not coming?” Ash asked, confused. Koga shook his head.

    “I wish to have a few words with Lt. Surge.” Koga said. “You go on ahead. We’ll catch up later.”

    Once Ash had left Koga eyed his companion critically. “Now, the truth, why is Giovanni so interested in Ash?” Lt. Surge sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

    “Honestly, I don’t really know.” Lt. Surge admitted, though it was clear that there was something more to what he had said. “He says it’s because Ash has this aura that legendary pokémon might be attracted to, but…”

    Koga hadn’t known that there was such an aura, but Lt. Surge seemed to be honest about that bit. If Koga had any doubts, he could simply ask Sabrina later, as she was no doubt the one who had sensed the aura in the first place. At that moment, Ash’s aura wasn’t what concerned him.

    “But what?” Koga narrowed his eyes at Lt. Surge. Normally, if somebody had an aura that legendary pokémon might be fond of, it would be reason enough for Giovanni to get close to them. This felt like something more, and Koga knew that if Lt. Surge also thought so, then it likely was.

    “He just gets really weird about the kid.” Lt. Surge put a hand around his pendant necklace. “He always has to know where Ash is. I tried to question him about it, but Sabrina cut me off.” So Sabrina also felt like there was something going on, and she thought that it would be wise for them to just leave it be.

    Maybe it would be wise, but that didn’t make it right. Koga had a feeling that he knew what Giovanni’s interest in Ash was really about, and something told him that Lt. Surge and Sabrina saw it too. Neither of them had said anything about it, which annoyed Koga, though he understood their motivation.

    Sabrina didn’t believe that children should be treated any differently than adults were, so she didn’t have any problem with Ash being a child and yet being involved in things that he really had no business being a part of. Sabrina wasn’t afraid to stand up to Giovanni, but she didn’t bother when it came to Ash, because she didn’t care enough about it. As for Lt. Surge...well.

    Lt. Surge wouldn’t get in the middle of what was going on between Giovanni and the boy, because he was still being blamed for what had happened as a result of his interference last time. Lt. Surge was walking on thin enough ice as it was, and Koga didn’t blame the man for not wanting to do anything that would make Giovanni just shatter the ice beneath his feet.

    Koga didn’t want to follow their example, but he would, at least for a little bit. That didn’t mean that he would just sit back and do nothing, Koga had never been very good at doing that. But until he knew exactly what was going on, he would just observe the situation. Sabrina was right, it wasn’t wise to go against Giovanni. Koga likely would if he had to, but until then, he would just watch from the shadows.

    Arctiquaza likes this.
  10. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 10

    Sabrina had always been annoyingly sensitive to the emotions and intentions of the people around her. Her psychic abilities were so strong that, usually without her even trying, she could sense one's emotions and intentions. The more powerful their emotion was, the stronger Sabrina felt it.

    Some people may think that this sensitivity to those around her would make Sabrina more empathetic and understanding of others. That was not the case. Sabrina couldn't care less about how others felt. Just because she couldn't help but know what their feelings were did not mean that she was interested in giving them a shoulder to cry on.

    Usually, her sensitivity to one's emotions got stronger gradually, and then got weaker before it could become too much. The inconsistency could be annoying sometimes, but Sabrina took comfort in the fact that the intensity to emotions wouldn't last forever and it would eventually go back to normal.

    Sometimes though, on day's when Sabrina's abilities were more powerful than usual (though usually it was unclear why), this sensitivity to emotions would peak even when the person that she was around wasn't feeling any particular emotion all that intensely. If there was even the smallest bit of emotion nearby, her abilities would find it, enhance it, and not let go. It was such a headache to deal with, and Sabrina's usual method of dealing with this was to kick everybody out of the gym and ignore the world.

    However, when Sabrina woke up the day after they arrived at the Fuchsia City gym with a pounding headache so intense that it felt like her head was going to explode, she knew that she was in trouble.

    Sabrina never truly felt the emotions of others, she just had a kind of connection to them. She could tell what they were feeling and why, that was it. She couldn't actually feel it for herself. At this one moment though Sabrina could feel the emotions of others, and it made her feel glad that she normally couldn't, because it was all too much all at once.

    She could feel Lt. Surge, wide awake and diligent as ever. He was usually such a goofball, but she could feel nothing but determination from him at this instance. He wouldn't let anything get in his way of keeping them all safe. Especially Ash. Lt. Surge felt that he had failed once before, and he wouldn't do so again.

    Koga's feelings were much the same, except with intense anger thrown in there as well. Sabrina knew that Koga wasn't pleased with how Giovanni had shown an interest in Ash. He hadn't said anything, but Sabrina could tell that when Giovanni did his training with Ash, Koga would be right there watching from the shadows, just in case.

    Ash was excited and fearless. It was as though he was feeling a constant adrenaline rush, which wouldn't be so bad, except when it combined with the paranoia and need to protect from Koga and Lt. Surge, it all made Sabrina feel as though something horrible was just about to happen.

    Giovanni's emotions weren't as clear as the others. Sabrina had looked into how Ash, Lt. Surge, and Koga had all been feeling in the past. She recognized their emotional wavelengths. Sabrina hadn't even bothered with Giovanni, she had never had any need, nor any interest, to know how he was feeling. She knew that she could feel his emotions as much as she could feel the others, but it was overpowered by another source of emotion that she didn't recognize, and she didn't know if she wanted to know the source at all.

    Pain. Anger. Power. Fear One right after the other, and yet all at the same time. These emotions overwhelmed her senses and made her feel like she couldn't even think of anything else. The only things that mattered pain, anger, power, and fear. It was all that existed.

    It was all too much for Sabrina to handle. She needed to make it all stop. Without even thinking about what she was doing (thoughts outside of those about the emotions she was being bombarded with were nearly impossible to come across), Sabrina grabbed one of her power restraining cuffs from the table next to her bed. She hated these cuffs and was always reluctant to put them on every morning (they may not be uncomfortable, but she wasn't going to sleep while wearing the bulky things). That morning though, Sabrina slapped the cuff around her wrist without the smallest bit of hesitancy. After all, if they worked to dim her own powers, then they should work on whatever was driving her sensitivity up the wall.

    After Sabrina had managed to put both of the cuffs on, she breathed a sigh of relief. The onslaught of emotions hadn't gone away, she could still feel it pounding away at the back of her mind, but it was more tolerable. Now, instead of feeling like she was going to explode from the inside out, Sabrina merely felt like her stomach was twisting up in knots, and she had a very annoying headache.

    Sabrina didn't have to look at a clock or out the window to know that it was much earlier than when she usually woke up. She didn't think that there was any chance of her going back to sleep though, so Sabrina pushed herself out of bed.

    After getting dressed Sabrina made her way out of the room and down the hallway. She was just glad that even though the dojo/gym didn't get many visitors, Koga had had the foresight to put in guestrooms down a hallway that wasn't boobytrapped. Sabrina was not in the right mental capacity to avoid exploding Voltorb.

    When Sabrina was halfway down the hallway she saw Koga approaching her from the other end of the hall. He looked shocked to see her. "I wasn't expecting to see you awake so early."

    "Trust me, if it was my choice, I wouldn't be awake yet." Sabrina said tiredly. She lightly massaged her forehead. She normally wouldn't dare to show that she was in pain to anybody. Koga and Lt. Surge were the only exceptions. They had seen her at her worst. She had nothing to hide from them. "There's been a powerful surge in psychic energy."

    Koga grimaced slightly in sympathy. He understood how much it hurt her when she was overwhelmed by her abilities, or somebody else's. "There is tea in the main room, if you want some."

    "Please." Sabrina said tiredly. The two of them made their way to the main common room of the dojo. Lt. Surge was already there, his head resting on the table. The man had the oddest sleeping schedule that Sabrina had ever heard of. She swore, Lt. Surge only ever slept when it was most inconvenient for those around him. He enjoyed staying up all night, and whenever they needed him during the day he would be wide awake. If he ever had any free time, he would just conk right out and sleep where he stood.

    He was a weird man.

    ...And speaking of weird.

    "Hi, Sabrina." Ash said enthusiastically, and Sabrina barely kept herself from glaring at him in response. He was far more cheerful and loud than Sabrina thought that anybody had a right to be this early in the morning, but this wasn't exactly something that she should blame the kid for. "Did you sleep okay?"

    "No." Sabrina said bluntly.

    "That's too bad." Anybody else would be unnerved by her tone, but Ash didn't seem fazed at all. In fact, he looked sympathetic. "Do you want to go back to bed?" It was such a simple question, with a not so simple answer. Before Sabrina could say anything that might just hurt the boy's feelings, Koga handed her the cup of tea that he had poured her, and then he addressed Ash.

    "Do not mind Sabrina." Koga said. "She's just cranky."

    Cranky?! Sabrina was reminded with a flash of irritation why she had stopped visiting Koga's gym. The dojo may be a calm place, but ever since Janine had been born Koga had insisted on occasionally using the vocabulary words of a five-year-old. Just because Sabrina was tired and annoyed didn't mean that he had the right to talk about her like she was a child that needed a nap.

    Although, and Sabrina would never admit this to anybody else, she did somewhat enjoy this fatherly, caring, laidback Koga. He was still annoying, but she liked him better than she did when they had first met. Back then, Koga had been the most ruthless, cruel, cold hearted agent she had ever had the displeasure of working with. She would take this Koga over the one who wouldn't hesitate to stab her in the back if the opportunity arose any day...even if he insisted on saying that she was cranky, which she wasn't.

    Lt. Surge, probably woken up by all the noise, lazily opened an eye and looked at Sabrina. He groaned and turned his head to face the other direction, which would have been rather rude and insulting if he hadn't done so just to talk to Ash.

    "Hey, kiddo, why don't you go find Janine and see if Aya will show you guys around Fuchsia City." Lt. Surge suggested as he sat up straight and stretched. It wasn't out of the ordinary for Lt. Surge to spontaneously come up with plans for absolutely no reason, but this didn't seem like one of those times. Sabrina was under the impression that Lt. Surge had a reason in mind for getting the children and Aya out of the gym. And judging by the somewhat eager though also cautious expression on Koga's face, whatever was going on, he was at least somewhat aware of it.

    "Right." Ash smiled as he got to his feet. With Pikachu on his shoulder, the boy left to go find Janine, who was likely in the middle of her morning training. With Ash gone, Lt. Surge gestured for Sabrina to take the seat that had previously been occupied by the boy. Sabrina sighed in annoyance, but did sit next to her companion. Koga took a seat as well, across the table from the two of them.

    "Alright, what's going on?" Sabrina asked. Kog and Lt. Surge shared a glance.

    "Don't ask us." Lt. Surge. "We're just following orders."

    "Giovanni's been on the phone with the scientists on Cinnabar Island all morning." Koga told her. "I believe there has been a breakthrough in the research, but besides that the only thing we know is that Giovanni wishes to speak with us when he's done."

    "Which means that the kids and your sister can't be anywhere they might be able to overhear something." Sabrina nodded. At least she understood why the others had left. Even if she was sure that in the future both Janine and Ash would end up joining Team Rocket (Janine had already shown interest, and this was obviously what Giovanni's end goal with Ash was), they were still far too young to be involved in these matters. Especially since the work that was being done on Cinnabar Island was secret, with very few people who weren't directly involved actually knowing the details about it. Even Sabrina, Koga, and Lt. Surge, who was some of the highest ranking Team Rocket members, only had the vaguest idea of what was going on over there.

    Hopefully when Giovanni spoke with them he would provide them with some answers.

    As they waited Lt. Surge and Koga started talking about the good old days. It was clear that Lt. Surge was the only one really interested in the conversation, and that Koga was just amusing him. Lt. Surge was not the kind of person who could just sit around for long periods of time. He constantly had to be doing something, even if it was just talking.

    Sabrina was sure that if Lt. Surge had it his way, the conversation would be between all three of them, but Koga was doing his best to keep her out of the conversation, which she appreciated. Even on her good days Sabrina would still often get a headache just from talking to Lt. Surge. Any conversation she had with him when she already wasn't feeling well would probably just make her already pounding headache worse.

    While the guys talked, Sabrina decided to follow Lt. Surge's example and try to get some rest at the table. Her cuffs prevented her from using her arms as a pillow the way that Lt. Surge had, but Koga had been more than willing to lend her his red scarf.

    Sabrina wasn't able to fall asleep, but she was able to relax enough to use her own powers to calm the raging psychic storm in her head. The only way she was able to do this was because Koga and Lt. Surge were being considerate and keeping their voices down. Lt. Surge knew how to be quiet, but he often forgot just how loud he could be when he got excited. Koga had always been much calmer than Lt. Surge was, but even he was speaking with a quieter voice than he usually used. Sabrina knew that he was doing this for her benefit, because he knew that she needed her rest, and that if he spoke quietly, it would encourage Lt. Surge to do the same.

    Sabrina had only been awake for a short period of time, and already this was the third or fourth instance where Koga had unashamedly shown his more nurturing side. Koga was never so obvious about his concerns and desire to protect, even when he was worried about Janine. Sabrina guessed that it was Ash's presence at the gym that had sparked Koga's strongest fatherly instincts. If Sabrina wasn't feeling so weak, or if she were more petty, she would hold this over Koga's head. As it was, she didn't plan on saying anything about it. She liked his kinder side (just so long as it didn't interfere with their work), and she didn't want to say anything that might cause him to hide it away.

    Sabrina lost track of time as she rested. She was lost in a world of her own, with the only thing grounding her to reality being the sound of Koga and Lt. Surge's voices, which she could hear, though she couldn't understand. After some time Sabrina was pulled away from her dozing by a light tap on the shoulder from Lt. Surge. Knowing instinctively why he was waking her, Sabrina reluctantly sat up and turned towards the door to face their boss.

    Giovanni had to have seen how she had been sleeping instead of waiting for him, but he didn't say anything about it. He must be in a good mood.

    "Any news?" Sabrina asked.

    Giovanni eyed all of them carefully. "What do you know of the research being done on Cinnabar Island?" Giovanni's tone was careful, calculating, and Sabrina knew why.

    "I do not know any specifics." Sabrina said honestly.

    "Absolutely nothing." Lt. Surge shrugged. Koga remained silent, but he shook his head to indicate that he hadn't heard anything either. Giovanni seemed pleased with their answers, as Sabrina knew he would be. The work on Cinnabar Island was top secret. If any of them knew what was going on, it would be because of a leak in information, and then Giovanni would have to go through the trouble of finding the source of the leak and eliminating it. Sabrina knew that Giovanni wouldn't hesitate to do so, but it was so much simpler of the scientists just did their jobs and kept quiet.

    As much as Giovanni didn't want his agents and scientists to be snitches, if he himself wanted to share information, that was his business. "The research on Cinnabar Island is focused on two things." Giovanni began, and Sabrina found herself getting excited. She had been curious for quite some time now. "First, they were to find ways to locate the elusive mythical pokémon, Mew."

    Sabrina felt her breath catch in her throat. Mew, a pokémon so rare that there many people believed it didn't exist at all. Nobody knew just what kind of powers it had, but anybody that believed in its existence also believed that it had to have some extraordinary abilities. If Team Rocket was able to get their hands on Mew...Sabrina couldn't even imagine what they would be able to do with such a pokémon.

    "What else do they do?" Lt. Surge asked.

    Giovanni smirked. "The scientists have been working to artificially create a new pokémon," This wasn't a completely new thing. It wasn't common, but it also wasn't unheard of. "They've taken some samples of Mew's DNA, and used it to create a clone."

    They sat in stunned silence for a few moments before Lt. Surge said what was going through all of their minds. "...Hang on, you...created a Mew." It sounded like an absurd and impossible idea. Sabrina knew that their technology allowed them to bring fossils back to life using just a sample of their DNA. She knew that this wouldn't be that much different, but...was it even possible?

    "They call it Mewtwo." Giovanni said. "This research has been going on for years, and these past few weeks the scientists have hit a breakthrough. The current specimen is stable, responsive, and this morning they have been able to begin testing."

    ...this morning? Sabrina frowned slightly and caught Koga looking at her in slight concern. "What type of pokémon is Mewtwo?"

    "Psychic." Giovanni said. "Just like Mew is." That was all the confirmation that she needed. Sabrina was sure that Mewtwo was the source of her sudden psychic sensitivity. She was feeling a surge of the pokémon's abilities, even from this great distance, which meant that Mewtwo must be a very, very strong pokémon.

    "In the next few days I will be going to Cinnabar Island to oversee progress myself." Giovanni informed them. "I normally wouldn't go so soon, but I was just informed that the head scientist who had been overseeing this whole project got cold feet and left." So Giovanni had a number of reasons to go to Cinnabar Island. First and foremost, he wanted to see Mewtwo, as any of them wanted to. He also had to make sure that the remaining scientists still did the work that was required of them, and that nobody else decided that they too would be brave and foolish enough to abandon ship.

    Sabrina would normally ask Giovanni if he needed one of them to go with him, which would have been her way of asking if she could go to Cinnabar Island too. Sabrina had never laid eyes on a legendary pokémon, and even if Mewtwo had been created by humans, it still counted. And she was curious about just how powerful its psychic abilities were.

    But she could still feel Mewtwo's emotions bleeding into her own. It seemed strange to her, that an artificial pokémon could have feelings, but she knew what she felt. Mewtwo was a living creature, there was no doubt about that. Its emotions were far too powerful, even at this distance, for Mewtwo to be anything but a living creature.

    Sabrina knew that she couldn't be feeling the full extent of its power and emotions. If she went to Cinnabar Island, she would feel much more, and she didn't want that. She didn't want to confirm what she feared, that Mewtwo was far too powerful for even Team Rocket to control, and they would just be destroyed if they tried.

    Sabrina didn't like to be kept in the dark, but she would choose cautious ignorance over knowledge that terrified her. Giovanni could see how Mewtwo was doing, but Sabrina would rather stay as far away from the pokémon as she possibly could, at least, for the time being.

    Koga and Lt. Surge still had questions about the work being done on Cinnabar Island, but Sabrina tuned their questions and Giovanni's answers out. She was sure that she couldn't avoid the information forever, but she planned on putting it off for as long as she could. This was one of the situations where Sabrina believed that ignorance was bliss, and she planned on holding on to that ignorance for as long as she could.

    After some time Giovanni stopped answering their questions, as he wanted to go back to talking to the scientists on Cinnabar Island. They let him go, not like they had any choice on the matter, and Sabrina breathed a sea of relief when he was gone. Her head was hurting pretty badly again, and she believed that it was because she now knew the source of all the psychic energy. Koga and Lt. Surge may be excited about the the work being done with Mewtwo, but all Sabrina cared about at that moment was returning to her room and trying to get some more sleep.

    Sabrina could usually sleep fairly well on her own, but sometimes she just needed a little bit of extra help. Fortunately, her pokémon knew a thing or two about assisting her in this way. Kadabra was especially useful in helping her to clear her mind. With her Kadabra's help, Sabrina was able to fall into a restless sleep, which she remained in for the rest of the day.

    As sleep was the only way that Sabrina could think of to get relief from Mewtwo's invading emotions, she slept fairly often in the following few days. Sabrina was only awake for a few hours every day, and every time she was awake she just wished that she was asleep again. With every day that passed, she could feel Mewtwo's influence even stronger than before. It was getting more powerful, and more angry. Sabrina didn't know how long this would go on before either she or Mewtwo reached their breaking point.

    When Sabrina woke up in a cold sweat, screaming for a reason that she didn't understand, absolutely terrified for her life, she knew that they had reached that point. She couldn't say what had happened, but whatever it was she knew that it had to have been bad.

    ...very bad.
  11. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 11

    There had been an explosion on Cinnabar Island.

    Lt. Surge didn't know how it had happened, or when. All he knew was that when he and Ash had come in after their early morning training session, they had found Janine watching the news on the television. The explosion was the only thing being talked about, and by the sound of things, it was pretty serious and people were getting scared.

    Lt. Surge had been calm and relaxed after their training session, but when he saw the report on the news, he immediately became serious. He had a pretty good idea of where, exactly, on Cinnabar Island the explosion had taken place, and it didn't mean anything good for the research going on there. Lt. Surge didn't know of his boss was already aware of what was going on, but if he wasn't, he needed to know.

    "Janine, go tell Giovanni what you know about what happened." Lt. Surge ordered, slipping easily into soldier mode. He knew that Koga didn't want Janine involved in anything related to Team Rocket, and that included something as simple as delivering a message, but she was the one that had been watching the news for the longest. At that moment, she knew the most about the situation. "After you tell him, go tell your father too."

    Ash reluctantly turned away from the news where they were currently talking about how evacuations on the north side of the island, the 'tourist' part of the island, were going. "Is something wrong?"

    Lt. Surge looked at Ash and he wasn't surprised to see concern and determination in his eyes. Ash was just a kid, an extremely kind hearted kid, of course he was worried about anybody who had been near the island. But Ash was also an observant child when he wanted to be. Lt. Surge knew that Ash was probably wondering why he insisted that Giovanni and Koga were told immediately instead of just waiting an hour or two to let them hear it for themselves when they woke up.

    Sometimes, Ash was far too curious for his own good.

    Lt. Surge knelt on the ground next to where Ash was sitting and put a hand on his shoulder. "Giovanni's got some work going on on the other side of the island." Most people had a tendency to forget about the south side of Cinnabar Island. The north side was practically a vacation resort, but the south was where all of the old science facilities were. Most people forgot that the science labs even existed, as nobody had any reason to go to the south side of Cinnabar Island, and of those who did remember the labs, very few of them knew that they were still in use.

    Ash's eyes widened. "Is it dangerous work? Is that why the explosion happened?"

    Ash was definitely too curious for his own good.

    "It can be dangerous." Lt. Surge admitted. "I don't know if it had something to do with the explosion," Though he did have an educated guess that it was. "But I think that Giovanni would want to know about what's going on anyways, don't you?"

    Ash nodded. "Is there something I can do to help?"

    "You can stay here and see if you can figure out any new information." Lt. Surge didn't know how helpful the news would be, as Giovanni had made sure to keep the research on Cinnabar Island under tight wraps. Still, it was worth a shot. "I'm going to go find Sabrina." If the explosion had something to do with that pokémon, Mewtwo, then she may be able to sense something.

    Lt. Surge took Ash's hat off, ruffled his hair, and then put it on again backwards. "Stay here. I'll be right back." Lt. Surge didn't know why he was trying to reassure the kid. None of them were in any real danger. The explosion on Cinnabar Island was far from the Fuchsia Gym. There was no reason to get all paranoid.

    Lt. Surge went into the hallway that lead to the guest rooms. Even though he knew that Koga didn't have booby traps down this hallway, he was on his guard nonetheless. They may be in a safe place, but Lt. Surge's training had taught him that no place was truly safe. He had to constantly be aware of his surroundings. Usually, Lt. Surge would allow himself to relax, but after the news of what had happened on Cinnabar Island, that just wasn't going to happen.

    It took some trial and error, because all of the doors and rooms looked basically identical to each other, but Lt. Surge was eventually able to find Sabrina's room. He had expected her to still be asleep. It may not be extremely early in the morning anymore, but it was still an hour or two earlier than when she usually woke up. So Lt. Surge was surprised when he entered her room and saw that she was awake and sitting in her bed. This surprise was soon replaced by concern when he saw the state that she was in.

    "Sabrina!" Lt. Surge ran over to her bed and knelt at the side of it. Sabrina was completely still and unresponsive. She was sitting on her bed, her legs drawn close to her. Lt. Surge's first thought was that she was in the middle of a vision, but he had never seen her in this state when she was having a vision. Sabrina's cheeks were wet with tears, and her eyes were glossy and distant. Sabrina was breathing harshly, with occasional sobs getting caught in her throat.

    Lt. Surge didn't know exactly how to help her, but he had to help. He hesitated for just a moment before he gently took Sabrina's hands in his own. "Hey, hey, I need you to look at me, okay?" Lt. Surge freed one of his hands while still holding Sabrina's with his other. He put a hand on Sabrina's face and encouraged her to turn to him. "Can you hear me? Look at me if you can understand me."

    Sabrina didn't respond for a few tense moments, but she eventually blinked and turned her gaze slightly so that she was looking directly into Lt. Surge's eyes instead of slightly to the left. Lt. Surge smiled encouragingly. "There are those pretty purple eyes." Lt. Surge could never tell what color Sabrina's eyes were. Sometimes they were blue, sometimes they were pink. And sometimes they were a purple inbetween color. That was Lt. Surge's personal favorite.

    Sabrina took in a shuddering breath. "...Matis?"

    Lt. Surge smiled gently. "Yeah, it's me." He gently stroked Sabrina's cheek, wiping away the tear tracks. "You're okay. I'm here." Lt. Surge knew that something must be wrong, because Sabrina was always insistent on being a professional. She normally refused to call him by his first name, so the very fact that he did meant that something was seriously wrong.

    Sabrina bit her lip and leaned closer towards Lt. Surge so quickly that he practically had to catch her before she could fall off her bed and hurt herself. Lt. Surge wondered if Sabrina had gotten dizzy all of a sudden, but when he heard her sobbing into his shoulder, he knew that it wasn't the case.

    "What's going on?" Lt. Surge was taken aback. Sabrina was not normally the kind of person who went looking for physical comfort, and yet that was exactly what she was doing. Well, strange or not, Lt. Surge didn't want to disappoint her. "Hey, it's okay." Lt. surge slowly got up and then sat down on the bed to make things easier for both of them. He drew Sabrina close and held her protectively. "It's okay."

    "N-no, i-it's not." Sabrina muttered. "It's wrong. I-it's all w-wrong." Sabrina stiffened. "Mewtwo, it...he…" Sabrina let out a wounded cry and Lt. Surge tightened his grip on her. "I-it hurts!"

    "I know." Lt. Surge stroked her hair. "I know." She had mentioned Mewtwo. Lt. Surge now all but knew that something had gone horribly wrong with the research on Cinnabar Island. The explosion. Sabrina's terror. Mewtwo. It was all connected. He just didn't know how.

    A small knock on the doorframe interrupted his thoughts. Lt. Surge looked to see Janine watching them. Her expression was closed off, but Lt. Surge could see a hint of sympathy in her eyes.

    "What's up, little ninja girl?" Lt. Surge asked. Janine's mouth twitched at the nickname. She always pretended to be annoyed by it, but Lt. Surge knew that she secretly enjoyed it.

    "Giovanni wishes to speak with the two of you." Janine said. She looked at Sabrina. "I can prepare some tea, if you like."

    "Tea would be great." Lt. Surge knew that when Sabrina was stressed, Koga would make her some tea to relax her. She didn't necessarily like tea, but it worked wonders to calm her down. Janine nodded and left the room.

    "Alright, come on." Lt. Surge put an arm around Sabrina's back, and hooked the other under her knees. Making sure to still hold her close, Lt. Surge stood up and held Sabrina in his arms bridal style. "Let's go see what the boss wants.

    Sabrina frowned. "I can walk, you know." Despite her protest, Sabrina had already wrapped her arms around Lt. Surge's neck to steady herself.

    "Sure, but what's the point of doing that if I can just carry you?" Lt. Surge smirked. Sabrina rolled her eyes, but she didn't complain any more, so Lt. Surge took this as a sign that he wasn't going to get attacked for doing this. Feeling inexplicably proud of himself, Lt. Surge adjusted his grip on Sabrina and made his way out into the hallway so they could see what their boss wanted with them.

    When they got back to the main room it was to find Koga and Giovanni waiting for them. Koga raised an eyebrow at them when he saw Sabrina being carried by Lt. Surge, but he didn't say anything. Giovanni didn't even glance in their direction. The boss of Team Rocket looked distracted and tense, and if Lt. Surge hadn't already known that what had happened on Cinnabar Island was something serious, he would have figured as much when he saw the man. Giovanni was one of the most professional men that Lt. Surge knew. The man always seemed to be completely in charge of any given situation, even when he wasn't. Lt. Surge had never seen Giovanni look so caught off guard. It was rather worrying.

    After Lt. Surge had set Sabrina down and then taken a seat himself, Giovanni began. "I assume you're already aware of what's going on?" Giovanni eyed them all critically, just daring one of them to admit their ignorance of the situation. None of them did. While they may not know everything, they all had a decent guess. Something had gone wrong with the research on Cinnabar Island. That was all they were really expected to know.

    The three of them nodded. Giovanni looked at them all carefully, as though he was judging just how truthful they were being. After a tense moment, he seemed to decide that whatever they knew had to be good enough, because he continued. "The research on Cinnabar Island has reached a critical phase. A helicopter is already on its way to pick me up and take me there so I can clean up the mess myself."

    Giovanni's voice was even and calm, but Lt. Surge could see the uncertainty in his eyes. He didn't know just how serious the situation was any more than the rest of them did. That was the reason why he was headed to Cinnabar Island, so that he could see things for himself. A part of Lt. Surge was tempted to do the same thing, while another part of him was screaming at him to stay as far away from the danger as he possibly could.

    "I need the three of you to stay here." Giovanni said. "Be ready for an assignment at any time." This brought Lt. Surge back. It had been a long time since he had been in this situation, told to sit in the sidelines until he was needed. Lt. Surge had never really been fond of this waiting game, but it was better than being part of the exposable groups that were thrown into dangerous situations, just to double check that things were, indeed, dangerous.

    "...Are we to continue training the boy while you're gone?" Koga asked hesitantly. Lt. Surge looked at his companion strangely, because why was that the first question that he thought to ask? Giovanni also gave Koga a strange look, though it was more suspicious than confused.

    "Ash shall be coming with me." Giovanni said. "He's getting his things now."

    Lt. Surge was shocked, and he could tell that Sabrina was too. Ash, a ten year old boy who really shouldn't be involved in Team Rocket matters, was going with Giovanni to Cinnabar Island? Why? Lt. Surge had suspected that Giovanni would slowly try to introduce Ash to Team Rocket life, but bringing the kid to an island where top secret research had been happening, and where an explosion had been just earlier that day? Wasn't that just a bit much?

    Evidently, Lt. Surge was not the only one that thought so.

    "What?!" Koga looked at his boss in horrified disbelief. "You're not serious."

    Giovanni's gaze hardened. "I'm completely serious." They all knew that he was, but none of them wanted to believe it. Lt. Surge had seen people's lives ruined because they were forced into dangerous circumstances at too young an age. For years he had tried to look past ones' age when he worked with them, because regardless of whether they were children or not, there was still a job to do.

    Koga had no such experience.

    "You can't take him!" Koga said loudly. The ninja rarely ever raised his voice, so he must really be serious about keeping the boy safe. "He's just a child."

    "Silence!" Giovanni said in a low, cold voice, though it sounded much more intimidating than any shout could. Giovanni and Koga glared at each other for a moment. "I am going to Cinnabar Island. Ash is going with me. And you are to stay here." Giovanni repeated his orders. "Is this understood?"

    Koga opened his mouth, most likely to tell their boss just what he thought of these orders. Before he could get the words out though, Lt. Surge put a hand over Koga's mouth, silencing him and holding him back.

    "We understand, sir." Sabrina spoke for the three of them. Giovanni eyed all three of them for a few tense moments before they heard the whirring sound of an approaching helicopter. Giovanni couldn't have called it more than a few minutes ago, so it must have either been a very fast helicopter, or it had started nearby. Or both.

    Giovanni gave them all a warning look before he pushed himself to his feet. "See that you do." He said shortly before he was up and out of the room.

    Even after Giovanni had left, Lt. Surge kept a firm grip on Koga. He knew that the ninja rarely ever acted rashly and without thinking, but he didn't want to chance it. Koga was clearly very worried about Ash's safety, probably because of that annoying fatherly instinct of his. Lt. Surge had seen Koga get upset over times that their work for Team Rocket affected children, but this was the first time that he had dared to speak up to their boss about it. In some ways, Lt. Surge agreed with Koga, but that didn't mean that he thought it was a good idea to so blatantly question Giovanni. Not even Sabrina would dare to stand up to Giovanni about a matter like this.

    "Calm down, ninja boy." Lt. Surge hissed as he tightened his grip on Koga. The ninja was doing his best to try to slip away from him, but Lt. Surge wasn't about to let go. "I get it, really, I do, but this isn't how you should do this." Lt. Surge couldn't think of any off the top of his head, but he knew that there were other ways to keep Ash safe rather than just going against their boss.

    It took a few moments, but Koga eventually stopped trying to escape. He didn't relax, but Lt. Surge didn't think he had to worry as much about the ninja running off on him. "Okay...I'm going to let you go now, but you can't go running off on me, alright?" Lt. Surge waited for Koga to nod his head before he dared to loosen his grip.

    Lt. Surge had been so desperate to calm and help his friend that for one crucial moment he had nearly forgotten who he was dealing with. Lt. Surge hadn't completely let go of Koga right away, he had done it slowly, but as soon as he wasn't restraining Koga's head anymore the ninja took advantage of the situation. Quickly, before Lt. Surge could even think about what he was doing, Koga threw his head back and hit him straight on in the nose.

    Surprised and in pain, Lt. Surge accidentally released Koga completely. It was only for a moment, but that was long enough for Koga to run off out of the room after Giovanni.

    Lt. Surge cursed under his breath and went after his friend. "Koga!" That ninja was going to get himself killed. Why did he have to be so darn protective and stubborn? Sometimes Lt. Surge prefered it back before Koga had become a father. The man had been distant, cold, stick in the mood who had been a pain in the butt to work with, but at least he never would have done anything like this.

    Lt. Surge continued to curse Koga as he chased after him. Koga was more familiar with the gym than he was, so he knew the fastest way to get to the large courtyard, which was where Giovanni likely was. Koga was also a faster sprinter than Lt. Surge was. Normally this didn't bother the soldier, as he had more stamina than anybody else he knew, but stamina didn't do him much good when he just needed to get to his friend as quickly as he could.

    Lt. Surge got lucky when he all but ran into Janine, who had been on her way to the main room where they had been. All Lt. Surge had to do was mention her father, and she pointed him in the right direction to go. Apparently Koga had also ran into her in his rush to get out.

    Lt. Surge muttered his gratitude, as well as an apology, to Janine, and then he was off again. With her help, Lt. Surge was soon able to find his way into the courtyard where he not only found Koga, but Giovanni as well, and even though Koga couldn't have been there for more than a few minutes longer than a minute or two, the tension in the air was already thick enough that it could be cut with a knife.

    Koga and Giovanni were staring each other down, just as they had been in the main room, except this time they both had a pokémon out, ready to attack if the situation called for it. If they just had their pokémon at their sides, Lt. Surge wouldn't have given it a second thought. People used pokémon as empty threats all the time. But as Koga's Arbok was right next to Giovanni, tense and ready to strike, and Giovanni's Nidoking was in much the same position except near Koga, Lt. Surge was pretty sure that these weren't just empty threats.

    "Koga, what are you doing?" Lt. Surge clenched his fists, but he didn't dare move any closer. He didn't want to give either of the pokémon any reason to attack.

    "What I should have done days ago." Koga said tensely without taking his eyes away from Giovanni. "We've been silent for long enough. It's about time one of us says what we're all too afraid to say."

    "Koga, don't." Lt. Surge warned.

    "No, please, continue." Giovanni said, his tone as even as careful as ever, though there was an unfamiliar fury in his eyes as well. "If you have something to say, Koga, say it now." Giovanni was just begging for Koga to rise to the bait and give his Nidoking a reason to attack. If Koga was in his right mind, he never would have even thought about letting himself get caught in such an obvious trap.

    Unfortunately, Koga was about as far from being in his right mind as he could possibly be.

    "You've taken this boy under your wing, and we all know it wasn't out of the goodness of your heart either." Koga said.

    "Of course it wasn't." Giovanni scoffed at the very idea. "As you know full well, I believe the boy may be of use to me."

    "Not just because of his potential connection to legendary pokémon." Koga said confidently, and Giovanni narrowed his eyes at him. "Did you think the rest of us failed to notice? Ash's age. His dedication to being the best trainer he can be. His eagerness to learning what he can from you. The similarities aren't obvious, but they are there."

    "I'm warning you…" Giovanni's face twitched slightly and for once they could actually hear the anger in his words. Nidoking growled and tensed, ready to attack, but Koga didn't even flinch. If Koga dared to push him any further, who was to say what he would do as a result. But then, Koga had never been one to let caution stop him from doing what he had set his heart on doing.

    "No, I'm warning you," Koga said sharply. "Do what you will on Cinnabar Island, but leave Ash out of it."

    "You will not tell me what to do with my child!" Giovanni actually shouted.

    "He's not your child!" Koga said just as loudly. "This game of pretend has gone on for long enough. Ash is not your child, and I will no longer sit idly by and watch you as destroy him the way you did Silver!"

    A line had been crossed.

    Humans weren't made to take hits the way that pokémon were. That much was painfully clear when Nidoking, at Giovanni's silent command, used double-edge on Koga. An audible snap was heard as at least one of the ninja's ribs broke under the pressure. Koga screamed in pain and fell to his knees, his arms wrapped protectively around his chest. Lt. Surge twitched and had to resist the urge to run to his friend. Giovanni was approaching Koga, and if Lt. Surge interfered, he might just make things worse for the both of them.

    Giovanni spoke to Koga in a quiet tone that Lt. Surge couldn't hear from where he stood, but he could tell that it wasn't gentle. Koga didn't say anything in return, but his glare was response enough on its own. Giovanni, annoyed and furious, looked to his Nidoking and nodded. The pokémon harsly grabbed Koga's shoulder and pushed him down to the ground. Koga grimaced in pain at the movement, but that grimace soon turned into a sharp cry of agony as Nidoking put his foot on Koga's back and slowly began to increase the pressure.

    Lt. Surge flinched and began to reach for his pokéballs before he even realized what he was doing. It was dangerous, and probably stupid, but he couldn't just stand here and watch as his friend got hurt.

    Just before Lt. Surge was about to send out a pokémon to stop Nidoking, he felt a hand on his arm, there both to calm him, and restrain him.

    "Sir, the situation on Cinnabar Island has escalated." Sabrina said shortly. She must have followed them out there.

    Giovanni glared at Koga, who was lying on the ground in front of him, for a moment before he decided that he had other things to worry about. Giovanni returned Nidoking back into its pokéball and made his way to the other side of the clearing, where the helicopter was already waiting for him.

    Lt. Surge briefly wondered if Ash was already on the helicopter. If he was, he likely hadn't seen or heard anything, or else he would have run out to stop the fighting. A part of Lt. Surge was glad that Ash was still unaware of just how messed up a situation he was in, because nobody deserved this kind of thing. Another part of him almost wished that Ash had heard them, because he knew the kid wouldn't dare go anywhere with Giovanni after the way he had hurt Koga.

    Lt. Surge didn't think too much about Ash though. The second that Giovanni was in the helicopter Lt. Surge loosened his grip on his pokéball and ran to his friend's side.

    "You idiot." Lt. Surge slowly helped Koga into a sitting position, wincing in sympathy at every pained grimace or groan that Koga made. "You stupid idiot. Why would you do that?" Koga had to have an idea of how Giovanni would react at his words.

    "H-he's just a-a kid." Koga flinched when Lt. Surge started to lift his shirt so he could get a look at his chest. He couldn't help Koga if he didn't know how bad the damage was.

    "I know." Lt. Surge sighed. It was hard to scold Koga for doing something so stupid when he had also been fairly tempted to do the exact same thing.

    Koga looked up at Sabrina, he looked awkward and uncomfortable. "Are things o-on Cinnabar actually w-worse?"

    Sabrina frowned slightly. "I suspect they are, but I don't know for sure." She admitted. "It was just the only thing I could think of to get the boss to stop before this one did something foolish as well." Sabrina gestured towards Lt. Surge, who just shrugged. He wasn't going to apologize for what he had been about to do. "Now, I suspect that you won't be satisfied with the attempt you just made?"

    Koga shook his head. "I'm n-not letting Ash get sucked into this n-nonsense." Koga leaned on Lt. Surge for support as he tried to pull himself to his feet. Lt. Surge adjusted his position to help him better.

    "And I'm not going to let you get yourself killed just because you feel like being noble." Lt. Surge said. "If you're going to go pretend to be a hero, you're not going to do it without me." Koga's small smile showed how much he appreciated the offered help.

    Sabrina sighed. "You're both crazy, going against Giovanni's orders like this." She shook her head. "I suppose somebody will have to go with you to make sure you don't do anything foolish."

    "So...We're all going to Cinnabar Island?" Lt. Surge asked, just to clarify. His two companions nodded and he smirked. "Great. And I think I know how to get us a ride."
  12. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 12:

    Ash frowned and held Pikachu tightly as he looked out the window of a helicopter. He had never even seen a helicopter before today, and normally he probably would have been ecstatic, but he was way too nervous to be excited. He could see Cinnabar Island in the distance. He knew that his mom had always wanted to take a vacation there, but he could still see smoke from the explosion that morning, and multiple boats absolutely full of people were quickly retreating from the island. At the sight, Ash really couldn’t imagine this place being a very good vacation spot.

    And he was headed straight there.

    “Pika?” Pikachu looked up at Ash, curious.

    “It’s okay, Pikachu.” Ash smiled at his little pokémon. “We’re almost there.” He knew that Pikachu wasn’t upset or nervous about flying, he was probably just concerned about his trainer. Ash didn’t want to admit, even to himself, that he was nervous about going to Cinnabar Island. He wasn’t really nervous about the explosion, it had happened that morning, and the danger was probably gone by now. Ash just had a bad feeling about this, and he didn’t know why.

    He had felt completely fine before they left. Ash had only started feeling weird just before the helicopter had taken off, when he had heard shouting outside. He had recognized Koga and Giovanni’s voices, but he hadn’t been able to make out what they were saying over the sound of the helicopter blades. Ash had been uncomfortable during the shouting, but then somebody had screamed, and he had been scared.

    A few moments later, Giovanni had come into the helicopter, and they had taken off. Giovanni had seemed as calm and in control as he had ever been, and that had scared Ash even more. Looking at Giovanni, Ash didn’t have any reason to think that anything was wrong, but he knew what he had heard. Something was wrong, he knew there was, even if Giovanni was acting like there wasn’t.

    Giovanni didn’t say a word to Ash during the helicopter ride, so he was stuck with his own thoughts during the quiet trip. Ash didn’t normally like it when things were too quiet, he got bored easily, but now he had a completely different reason for disliking the silence. Without a conversation to distract him, Ash couldn’t help but think about what had happened before they had left the dojo, and wonder if Koga was okay.

    Ash didn’t know Koga very well. The man was usually really distant, but Ash had never felt like he was mean. Koga had been able to give Ash some pretty awesome advice on how to train his pokémon. Koga had always been really patient with Ash, no matter how long it took him to learn a new move.

    Koga was nice, but Ash had never gotten all that close to him. When they weren’t training together, Ash never saw him around, but he had known that he was there. Whenever Ash had been with Giovanni, he had always felt like somebody was watching him. Sometimes, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Koga standing there. Ash had never seen or felt like Koga was around when he had been with Sabrina, Janine, or Lt. Surge, only when he was with Giovanni.

    Ash hadn’t thought a lot about it, but now, with the fight he knew they’d had, he couldn’t help but think about it. Something weird was going on here, and he wish he knew what.

    It wasn’t long before they reached Cinnabar Island. The helicopter flew right over the part of the island that looked like it was where people usually were, and went right towards all the smoke. Ash was surprised at how empty the other side of the island was. There was plenty of room for them to land.

    Ash looked out the window as they landed. There wasn’t a lot to look at, except for a couple of big buildings in the distance. A lot of smoke was coming from one of them. That must have been where the explosion had happened. Ash also saw a bunch of people running around, some of them in white coats, some of them in some kind of uniform. Before Ash could think twice about who those people might be, Giovanni put a hand on his shoulder and lead him outside.

    “What’s going on?” Ash asked as Giovanni brought him to a side of the helicopter where he couldn’t see the other people anymore. “What are all those people doing?” None of them looked like they were trying to put out a lingering fire or something. A bunch of them looked like scientists, but why would a bunch of scientists be near where an explosion had happened just a few hours ago? Were they trying to figure out what had happened?

    “They’re waiting for orders.” Giovanni said vaguely.

    “From you?” Ash asked. He remembered that Lt. Surge had mentioned some work that Giovanni had on the island. Did all of these people work for him?

    Giovanni raised an eyebrow at him, impressed. “Yes.” Giovanni took out a pokéball and let Persian out. “I have some things I need to do. Stay away from the buildings, but don’t go too far.”

    Ash wondered what he had been brought here for if he was just going to stay away from everything, but he didn’t question Giovanni. He just nodded and put Pikachu on his shoulders.

    “One more thing.” Giovanni’s tone was more serious than it usually was, and Ash payed attention. “Keep Persian with you at all times.” Ash didn’t understand why Giovanni would be so insistent about this, but he didn’t want to challenge him about this. Not now.

    “Yeah, I can do that.” Ash knelt down and pet Persian behind the ears. It had been a long time since Persian had been a temporary part of his team. Ash just hoped that the pokémon would be more relaxed than his trainer was...unless that relaxed nature was just a show to catch him off guard. Ash seriously hated feeling so paranoid, it made him feel like he couldn’t trust anybody.

    Giovanni went to his workers, or whoever all those people were, and Ash went in the other direction. If Giovanni wanted him to be out of the way of the work they were doing, he would go somewhere else. Besides, this was a good opportunity to get some pokémon training in. Ash had been spending most of his time training his pokémon individually. He wanted to see how much they had improved in battle.

    When Ash had gotten far enough from everything else that he couldn’t hear anybody talking, or smell the smoke, he took out all of his pokéballs. “Alright, guys, let’s see what you’ve learned.” Ash threw all his pokéballs in the air, letting out his five remaining pokémon.

    Butterfree began to flutter around. He always did this when he was first let out of his pokéball. Butterfree liked wide open spaces. Ash always felt bad whenever he returned him to his pokéball, but Lt. Surge had promised him that if he really didn’t want to be in his ball, he could escape.

    Pidgeotto stretched his wings and joined Butterfree in the air. Ash could have watched his pokémon fly around and enjoy themselves all afternoon, but he forced his attention to Charmeleon and Bulbasaur. The two of them weren’t attacking each other, so Ash figured he had made some progress, but things were still tense between the two of them. Ash hated how his pokémon didn’t get along with each other, but he hadn’t really let them be anywhere near each other since Charmander had evolved into Charmeleon. Maybe it was too much to ask that they suddenly became friends when the last time they had even seen each other they had been fighting.

    Ash was glad that he didn’t have to worry about there being any fighting between Charmeleon and Bulbasaur today. In his relief, he had nearly forgotten that he had another rivalry with him at that moment.

    “Squirtle, stop it!” Ash frowned as he picked up his water pokémon, who had started attacking Persian the second he had laid eyes on the other pokémon. Ash understood that Squirtle had a bit of a grudge against Persian, but couldn’t he ever just let it go? Why did he feel like he had something to prove? Ash knew that Persian wasn’t hurt, it was a lot stronger than Squirtle was, but he also knew that Persian was as proud as Squirtle was stubborn. If Squirtle kept on attacking it, Persian would start to fight back, and Ash didn’t want that to happen. He didn’t want any of his pokémon, or any of Giovanni’s pokémon, to get hurt. He just wanted them all to get along with each other.

    Ash hoped that some practice pokémon battling might help his pokémon get rid of their pent up aggression.

    “Alright Squirtle, Charmeleon, why don’t you show each other how strong you are?” Ash put Squirtle on the ground. For a moment he was worried that Squirtle would just attack Persian again, but Squirtle’s attention was solely on Charmeleon, and vice versa. They both looked excited to have a willing opponent to show off to.

    “Try not to go too hard on each other.” Ash said as he stepped back to give his pokémon room. He knew that usually during battles the trainer gave their pokémon orders, but he didn’t know how to do that for two pokémon at the same time, and he didn’t want to confuse them. Besides, Lt. Surge, Koga, and Giovanni had all told him that he should study the natural way that his pokémon fought. If he knew their fighting styles, he would know what strategies they would work best with in a battle. So Squirtle and Charmeleon were just going to battle like they would if they met in the wild, and Ash would watch and pay attention.

    Squirtle and Charmeleon used water gun and flamethrower at the same time. Squirtle’s water gun had the type advantage over the flamethrower, but Charmeleon was stronger than Squirtle was, so their attacks just countered each other.

    “You guys need to think about what you’re doing.” Ash reminded his pokémon. “Jumping headfirst into a battle doesn’t always work.” Ash had heard these words repeated to him so many times, it felt weird to be the one to say them. “Remember what Koga taught you guys about strategy.” While Lt. Surge helped Ash train Pikachu, Koga had helped him to work one on one with the rest of his pokémon. With the ninja master’s help, Charmeleon had learned to focus his ember attack on a specific target, and Squirtle had learned how to take advantage of his ability to withdraw into his shell.

    At Ash’s words, Charmeleon switched from a flamethrower to ember. It wasn’t as powerful of an attack, but Charmeleon knew that a weaker attack hitting just a single point could actually do more damage than a powerful attack that was more widespread. Charmeleon’s attack was too quick for Squirtle to dodge it, so he drew back into his shell and took the attack. Because Squirtle’s shell was so tough, he barely even felt the ember attack and was soon able to jump back and send out an attack for himself.

    Ash watched Squirtle and Charmeleon go at each other in this way for awhile. He shouted words of encouragement and occasional bits of advice, but otherwise left them alone. Of all his pokémon, Squirtle and Charmeleon were probably the most natural fighters, meaning they were the ones most likely to start a fight if someone looked at them wrong. Ash usually had to keep them from picking fights, so it was nice to be able to just let them do what they wanted.

    While Ash was focused mostly on his battling pokémon, Bulbasaur had taken up the task of keeping an eye on the others. Ash hadn’t seen Pidgeotto and Butterfree fly off, but Bulbasaur had, and he didn’t hesitate to tell his trainer.

    “Bulba,” Bulbasaur put his front legs on Ash’s leg so he could reach higher. He gently bit the the bottom of Ash’s shirt and tugged on it to get his attention. Ash looked down at Bulbasaur and frowned slightly.

    “Is something wrong?” It wasn’t like Bulbasaur to try to get his attention like this, not without a good reason.

    “Bulbasaur.” The pokémon got off of Ash’s leg and gestured towards some cliffs in the distance. “Bulba, bulbasaur!”

    Ash couldn’t see anything that might be bothering Bulbasaur, but a second look showed two pokémon flying around over there. “Oh, is that Butterfree and Pidgeotto?”

    “Bulba.” Bulbasaur nodded.

    “They look like they’re having fun.” Ash smiled. Sometimes he felt bad that he didn’t give his flying pokémon the freedom to really soar like they wanted to. Bulbasaur didn’t seem convinced though. “You can go after them, if you want.”

    “Bulba!” Bulbasaur enthusiastically went off after Butterfree and Pidgeotto. Ash watched them for a moment before he turned back to Squirtle and Charmeleon’s fight. They seemed completely evenly matched, which made him think that they were just holding back on each other. One of them had to have slipped up at some point, and if it was a normal battle the other surely would have taken advantage of that. Maybe neither of them wanted to finish the battle.

    Pikachu seemed to get tired of just watching a battle. He wanted to be part of the action, so he went to bother Persian. Giovanni’s pokémon seemed bored with Pikachu’s challenge, but he accepted it anyways. Persian didn’t attack Pikachu back, but he allowed himself to be a target for Pikachu’s thunder attacks. Persian was too fast to let himself be hit by the attacks, but it served as good practice for Pikachu.

    Training for the four pokémon went on like this for some time before Pidgeotto and Butterfree came flying back frantically. They both looked scared about something. Ash would normally just think that his pokémon had been spooked by something and it wouldn’t be a big deal, but when he saw that Bulbasaur was nowhere in sight, he got concerned himself. Bulbasaur had run off after them because he had wanted to make sure they were safe. Even if they were flying, Bulbasaur would have noticed that they had turned around and followed them, so where was he?

    “What happened?” Ash knelt down as Butterfree landed on the ground. “Where’s Bulbasaur?” At his second question, both of his pokémon became more frantic. Something must have happened to Bulbasaur. “Can you take me to where he is?”

    Pidgeotto screeched and flew off with Butterfree just behind him. Pikachu had stopped going after Persian and climbed onto Ash’s shoulders. Pikachu must be worried too, and he wasn’t the only one.

    “Squirt.” Squirtle had been on the offensive against Charmeleon, but when he had heard that Bulbasaur was missing, he had stopped mid attack. Charmeleon wasn’t happy about the interruption to their battle, but he didn’t attack Squirtle while his back was turned, so at least he was playing fair.

    “Do you want to come too, Squirtle?” Ash asked. Squirtle nodded and ran to join Ash’s side. Persian had no emotional attachments to Bulbasaur, but he had been told to stay by Ash’s side, so wherever Ash went, Persian would go. That left just Charmeleon.

    “What about you?” Ash asked kindly. He didn’t want to pressure Charmeleon into doing anything he didn’t want to do, but he didn’t want to leave Charmeleon out either. Besides, they could really use his fire-power if something was wrong.

    “Char, charmeleon.” Charmeleon huffed and the flame on his tail flared slightly, but he approached his trainer anyways. It looked like the whole crew was on board.

    “Let’s go.” Ash ran off after Pidgeotto. Butterfree flew just ahead of him, in case he lost sight of Pidgeotto. The terrain was not good to run on, and a couple of times the only thing that kept Ash from tripping and falling flat on his face was Persian snagging the back of his shirt and pulling him back to his feet. It took them longer to run on the rocky ground than it did for Pidgeotto and Butterfree to fly there, but eventually they got closer to the cliff, which must have been where Bulbasaur was.

    As they got closer Ash was able to see that the cliff wall had caves in it. If Ash had to guess, he would say that Bulbasaur was somewhere near one of those caves. Maybe there had been a rockslide and he had gotten trapped. Maybe a wild pokémon had attacked him. Whatever the case, he might need their help, and they needed to get there soon.

    Charmeleon seemed to realize this at the same time as Ash did because he sped up and ran ahead. Pikachu and Squirtle tried to do the same, but Charmeleon had longer legs and was faster than the two of them were. By the time Ash had gotten close enough to the cliffs to see Bulbasaur lying down at the entrance of a cafe, Charmeleon was already at his side, but he wasn’t there for long. Mere moments after getting to Bulbasaur, Charmeleon let out a furious roar and ran into the cave.

    “Charmeleon!” Ash didn’t like the thought of his pokémon running off like that, probably towards whatever had hurt Bulbasaur. He couldn’t worry about Charmeleon right now though, not with Bulbasaur hurt. As much as Ash hated it, he could only focus completely on one pokémon in need at a time.

    Finally Ash got to Bulbasaur’s side. He knelt down and pulled his pokémon into his arms. “Bulbasaur, are you alright?”

    “B-bulba.” Bulbasaur said weakly. Ash wasn’t an expert on the health of pokémon, but he thought that Bulbasaur would be okay after a good, long rest.

    “You’re gonna be alright, buddy.” Ash got out Bulbasaur’s pokéball and returned him. With Bulbasaur safe and out of harm's way, Ash turned to his other pokémon. “Do you guys know what happened?” His question was aimed at Pidgeotto and Butterfree, who were only too happy to answer him as best they could.

    Pidgeotto used whirlwind to blow a strong force of wind, and Butterfree used stun spore into the whirlwind, which made it look strange. Ash looked at their combined attacks for a few moments as he thought about what they could be trying to tell him.

    “...There was a wind like force,” Ash guessed. “But it wasn’t quite wind. There was something weird about it, right?” Pidgeotto and Butterfree eagerly nodde, and Ash couldn’t help but grin proudly. He was always happy when he was able to tell what his pokémon were trying to tell him.

    He had to set his pride aside, at least for the moment. He needed to worry about his pokémon. Bulbasaur was safe, which meant now he had the room to worry about Charmeleon.

    “Wait here, guys.” Ash told all of his pokémon, including Pikachu. If there was something dangerous in that cave, he didn’t want any of his other pokémon exposed to it. “I’ll be back with Charmeleon as soon as I can.” Ash ran inside the cave. It didn’t take him long to realize that one of the pokémon were following along behind him. He didn’t have to turn around to know what pokémon it was, but there wasn’t anything he could do about it. Persian wasn’t his pokémon. He couldn’t tell Persian what to do.

    Ash continued on and on until suddenly Persian dashed in front of him, stopping him in his tracks. “Persian, what are you doing? I have to find Charmeleon!” Persian growled slightly in irritation and lifted a paw. Persian put his paw up in front of them and rested it on an invisible barrier. Ash would have run directly into it if Persian hadn’t stopped him.

    Ash had seen Sabrina and her pokémon make barriers like this. This was psychic power at work, and the one who was responsible had to be nearby, and Ash guessed that Charmeleon was too.

    “Charmeleon!” Ash called out, despite Persian’s warning hiss. “Charmeleon!”

    At Ash’s shout, the barrier seemed to waver and a moment later he heard a harsh cry of pain further down the cave. Charmeleon.

    “No!” Ash clenched his teeth and ran over to the barrier. He bashed into it, hitting it with his shoulder, but it didn’t yield. The barrier just threw him back. “Charmeleon!”

    Ash heard a loud roar that he recognized as Charmeleon’s. It wasn’t a roar of pain, it was one of anger and power. Whatever Charmeleon was fighting, he wasn’t going to just take it lying down. Charmeleon was fighting back.

    Ash couldn’t get beyond the barrier, but he needed to be able to help him. He couldn’t do that when Charmeleon was out of his line of vision. “Charmeleon, I need you to come closer!” Ash shouted. “Let me help you.”

    A moment passed and suddenly Ash could hear more than Charmeleon’s occasional roars and shouts. He could hear sounds of battle, and they were coming closer. A moment after that Ash could see the glow of Charmeleon’s fire, as well as a second, purple colored glow from an unfamiliar source.

    The glows grew brighter, but Ash still couldn’t see the battling pokémon. They were taking too long, and Ash was getting concerned. Before he could call out to Charmeleon again he heard another sharp cry of pain. The glow of Charmeleon’s flame grew even brighter, faster than it had before until finally he could see his pokémon, but it wasn’t the way that he wanted to see him.

    It was as though Charmeleon was being forced back by some kind of psychic force. Just like Pidgeotto and Butterfree had said, it was like a strange looking wind. Ash barely had a moment to think about this before Charmeleon was thrown against the psychic barrier. Ash flinched at the impact and felt his legs grow weak. That had to have hurt.

    “Charmeleon?” Ash knelt on the ground and put his hands against the barrier. “Charmeleon, get up...please?” Charmeleon didn’t move or respond at all. He was down, and the purple glow was only coming closer. Whatever had hurt Bulbasaur and Charmeleon, it wasn’t finished yet.

    “Persian, use bite.” A voice from behind Ash ordered. Persian growled and lunged at the barrier. Ash didn’t believe that a bite attack would have any good against the barrier, but when the barrier actually broke under the force of Persian’s attack, he didn’t question it. Ash was too concerned for his pokémon to give a second thought to the broken barrier.

    “Ch-Charmeleon?” Ash felt his breath get caught in his throat as he put his arms around his pokémon. Ash held Charmeleon close for a moment before he he grabbed his pokéball and returned him, just as he had done for Bulbasaur. He hated that there was nothing more he could do for his pokémon at that point. He was their trainer, and he was little more than completely useless.

    “Well done, Ash,” He flinched when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He didn’t look up or turn around, but he didn’t have to to know that it was Giovanni just behind him. Giovanni’s words were calm and reassuring, he sounded almost proud. Ash had heard much the same thing nearly every day these past few months, but it sounded...different.

    Ash slowly put Charmeleon’s pokéball back in his pocket and pulled himself to his feet. He looked at Giovanni, but the man wasn’t looking back at him. Giovanni’s gaze was focused solely on the purple glow that was coming ever closer. There was an odd look in Giovanni’s eyes, a strange kind of hunger. Ash had seen that look a couple of times before. He didn’t know what it meant, and he had never thought twice about it, but now…

  13. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 13

    Something was wrong.

    Ash felt like he couldn’t breath, and he didn't know if it was because he was worried about Bulbasaur and Charmeleon, if he was terrified about the unknown purple danger that was coming ever closer, or if he was scared...for a different reason.

    Giovanni hadn’t taken his hand off of Ash’s shoulder. It wasn’t unusual for Giovanni to initiate contact like this, and usually Ash felt just fine about it, but now it made him feel trapped, and it scared him a little bit.

    He didn’t say or do anything to make Giovanni give him some space. He really wanted to, but he remembered something that Lt. Surge had told him once.

    “If you’re around someone and you don’t know if you can trust them, don’t let them know that you’re scared. Don’t let them know anything about what you’re feeling. They might use it against you. Keep calm.”

    Ash put his hand in his pocket and let his fingers linger on Charmeleon and Bulbasaur’s pokéballs. He wished he hadn’t told the others to stay outside, because he could really use some company. He still had Charmeleon and Bulbasaur, but they were too hurt to be let out of their balls. They had to get some rest. Even though Ash would feel better if he had his pokémon at his side, he felt calmer just knowing that his pokémon were there, that they were safe.

    Ash swallowed and took a deep breath. “What...what are you doing here?” Ash could tell, somehow, that Giovanni was here for a reason, but he just didn’t know what that was. Giovanni had said that he had work to do on Cinnabar Island, but he had followed Ash into the cave. Why?

    “I’m here for that.” Giovanni gestured down the cave. “My people created it, and it escaped from us.”

    Ash frowned. He thought that a pokémon had attacked Charmeleon and Bulbasaur, but the words that Giovanni used. ‘That’, ‘it’, if Ash didn’t know any better, he would think that Giovanni was talking about a...a thing, not a living creature.

    “You...you created a pokémon?” Ash’s fear diminished slightly when thought of that possibility. People could create pokémon? That was...absolutely amazing.

    “It was created to be the most powerful pokémon in the world.” The tone in Giovanni’s voice brought back Ash’s fear and unease in an instant. Giovanni wanted that power, he wanted it badly. Ash could relate to wanting a powerful pokémon, but what did Giovanni want all of that power for?

    “It could have been disastrous if it had escaped,” Giovanni finally looked away from the approaching pokémon and looked down at Ash, and the boy decided that he liked that almost hungry look in his eyes even less when it was directed at him. “But you found it, just like I knew you would?”

    “Me?” Ash frowned slightly in confusion. “What do I have to do with it?”

    “Everything.” Giovanni turned Ash so they were facing each other. The man now had both of his hands on Ash’s shoulders. Giovanni crouched so he was at the same eye level as Ash was. “You have an aura about you, my boy. An aura that draws you to powerful pokémon, and draws them to you.”

    An aura? Ash had no idea what that meant, but he instinctively thought that it sounded right. As normal and right as this aura idea that Giovanni was talking about was, it also felt incredibly wrong.

    “You...wanted me to find this pokémon?” It didn’t make sense, and Ash didn’t know why Giovanni would think it would work, but...but…

    “I knew you would be able to.” Giovanni said, and he sounded so proud. Ash was normally pleased when he did something that made somebody else happy, but he didn’t know if he wanted to do whatever had made Giovanni so proud.

    Ash frowned and clutched his hand tightly around his pokéballs. Giovanni had wanted Ash to find this pokémon, but he had also had this pokémon created to be a...a weapon. Giovanni knew that it was dangerous, but he had...he had…

    “My pokémon got hurt.” Ash said quietly. All Bulbasaur had been trying to do was keep Pidgeotto and Butterfree safe. And Charmeleon had wanted to get back at the one who had hurt Bulbasaur. Neither of them had done anything wrong. Neither of them deserved to get hurt like this.

    “They did their jobs.” Giovanni said, and his tone made Ash shudder. He sounded just like he had when he had been talking about the mysterious pokémon. Had Giovanni always talked about all pokémon like they were just tools, out to do what was expected of them by their trainers and nothing else? How had Ash never noticed this before?

    Ash finally backed away from Giovanni. “My pokémon got hurt.” Ash repeated more firmly.

    “I know it’s upsetting.” Giovanni stood up straight, a more gentle look on his face, but that didn’t make Ash feel too much better. He didn’t appreciate being talked down to like he was a little kid. “You need to think clearly about this. Your pokémon will be fine once they get taken to the Pokémon Center. It was necessary for us to hurry, even if there were regrettable consequences. This pokémon is far too dangerous to be left on its own.”

    Giovanni’s words sounded reassuring enough, but with what Ash had already heard that day, they didn’t calm him. In fact, it did the exact opposite.

    “Just because the pokémon is dangerous doesn’t mean that they should be controlled.” Ash didn’t think that any pokémon should be completely controlled. Trained, maybe, but they should still be allowed to be themselves. It was a right that all living beings deserved. Ash knew that Giovanni hadn’t actually said that he meant to control the pokémon, but he didn’t have a doubt in his mind that it was what Giovanni intended.

    “Boy, you have no idea just how powerful this pokémon is.” Giovanni’s tone was sharp, direct, and to the point. It made Ash flinch slightly. He wasn’t used to being spoken to that way. “You can’t begin to imagine just what one can accomplish with power like this. It just needs to be in the right hands.”

    That’s where Giovanni was wrong, Ash could imagine it, and nothing that he thought of was anything good. “How do you know that your hands are the right ones?” Ash challenged. Maybe somebody could handle all of that power, but Ash didn’t think that anybody who was so confident that they could handle it should be that somebody.

    Giovanni shook his head almost regrettably. “You’re too young. You wouldn’t understand.” Giovanni reached into his pocket and brought out a pokéball that was unlike any that Ash had ever seen. Where normal pokéballs would be red, this one was purple with pink spots. “I’m the only one who can control this pokémon, because I’m the only one that has this. It’s a special pokéball that will never fail to catch its target, even without a battle.”

    Ash stared in awe at the pokéball. Giovanni was certainly prepared to catch this pokémon, but that didn’t mean that he was prepared to be their trainer.

    Ash crouched slightly and kept his eyes on the strange pokéball. He didn’t know how he would do it, but he couldn’t let Giovanni use that ball on the pokémon. He didn’t have a good reason why, but something in his gut told him that whatever Giovanni had planned, it wasn’t anything good.

    Ash was a little nervous about taking action, but he remembered something that Koga had told him once. Ash had asked the ninja why he was always watching him and Giovanni, and even though he hadn’t thought twice about what Koga had told him in response, his words came back to him now.

    “Your instincts may fail you, but if you feel that something is wrong, you need to trust them.”

    Ash’s instincts, the feeling in his gut, told him that he needed to get that pokéball away from Giovanni, so that was what he did.

    Without thinking twice about it, Ash lunged forward, jumped, and wrapped his fingers around the strange pokéball before Giovanni had any idea what he was doing. Somehow, miraculously, Ash was able to pull the pokéball away from the man. Giovanni tried to grab him, but Ash ducked out of the way and ran farther into the cave.

    “Ash!” Giovanni’s furious shout encouraged Ash to just run faster. A moment later he was pulled back by a sharp tugging at the back of his shirt. Ash nearly tripped when he was pulled back, but he managed to keep his balance. Ash turned to look over his shoulder to see Persian holding him back. Giovanni was approaching him, and he did not look happy.

    “Pikachu!” The familiar battle cry was quickly followed by a thunderbolt attack that caused Giovanni to double over and shout in pain. Ash had been trying to teach pikachu to not shock people, but just this once he would let it slide

    A moment after the thunderbolt hit Giovanni, a water gun knocked Persian over. Giovanni’s pokémon had still had a strong grip on Ash’s shirt, so it had ripped when Persian was forced away from him, but he couldn’t care less at that point.

    “Thank you, Squirtle, Pikachu.” Ash sighed in relief. He had never been so relieved to see his pokémon, even if he knew that they had disobeyed him. Squirtle and Pikachu both ran over to Ash, and he could see that Pidgeotto and Butterfree weren’t far behind.

    Ash picked up Squirtle and held him tightly in his arms, partially to reassure himself that his pokémon were there, and partially to keep Squirtle from attacking Persian any more than was necessary. They really didn’t have the time for that. They had to get out of there.

    “Come on, guys.” Ash got to his feet and began to run towards the entrance of the cave. “We need to get out of here.” He knew that it might be best if he just returned his pokémon to their pokéballs, but he really just wanted to keep them at his side. “We have to hurry, before-ufh.” Ash grimaced and staggered backwards when it felt like he had run into a wall...or a barrier…

    Oh, no.

    “What are you doing here?” An unfamiliar, male voice seemed to say directly into his head. Ash felt a chill go down his spine. He slowly turned around, and even though he had been expecting it, he still felt incredibly unnerved when he caught sight of the pokémon behind him. If he had hadn’t been told that this pokémon had been man-made, he never would have guessed it. He would, however, have known that the pokémon was strong.

    ...Very strong.

    “I-I’m sorry.” Ash held a hand up to signal to his pokémon that they shouldn’t attack. Just because this new pokémon was scary and powerful didn’t mean that they should attack him...actually, that was exactly why he didn’t want them to attack him. They wouldn’t be able to beat this pokémon, and he didn’t want any more of his pokémon getting hurt attempting it. “I’m…” Ash swallowed. “I’m not here to hurt you...or to catch you.” Ash put the purple pokéball in his pocket to demonstrate his sincerity.

    “But he is.” Ash heard the voice in his head again, though the pokémon’s mouth didn’t move. “He wants to control me. Own me.”

    “Th-that’s not right.” Ash agreed as he tightened his grip on Squirtle. “I’m sorry about what these humans have done to you, but...but…” Ash wanted to tell this pokémon that not all humans were like Giovanni or the scientists that had been working for him, but he couldn’t force the words out. He felt terrified, frozen. Now he had some sympathy for Sabrina on those days that she had horrible headaches and claimed that she couldn’t think clearly.

    “Fear is the mind’s greatest enemy.”

    Unfortunately, Sabrina hadn’t given him any words of advice on how to get rid of his fear. He was completely on his own, and he couldn’t think clearly enough to do anything about it.

    “...What’s your name?” Ash found himself asking without even thinking about it. The question had never even crossed his mind, but it was the only one he could bring himself to say.

    “...They called me Mewtwo.”

    Ash couldn’t help but smile. Mewtwo. That was a cool name. “I’m Ash.”

    Mewtwo eyed him for a moment, almost like he was studying him. “...Why are you here?” The question was less accusatory this time, and much more curious.

    “He-he brought me here.” Ash looked towards Giovanni. “He-he thought that I could help him find you. I didn’t know what he was doing.”

    Mewtwo’s eyes narrowed. “He used you.” The voice in Ash’s head was gradually getting less angry and violent. As crazy as it seemed, Ash’s first thought was that Mewtwo was becoming sympathetic towards him, but was that even possible?

    “Ash.” The boy froze when he heard Giovanni’s voice. The man was finally recovering from Pikachu’s attack, which must have been a much more powerful attack than Pikachu usually used. “Ash, I need you to pass me the masterball.”

    Ash knew that Giovanni was talking about the purple pokéball, but he didn’t pass it to him. He didn’t move at all. He was almost more scared of Giovanni than he was of Mewtwo, which was a very scary thought.

    Ash shook his head. He wished that Mewtwo’s barrier had been put between him and Giovanni. Ash didn’t like being trapped with both Mewtwo and Giovanni. “I’m not giving this to you. You’ll just try to catch Mewtwo.”

    “It is dangerous Ash.” Giovanni said in a low voice.

    “No more than you are.” Ash heard Mewtwo’s voice in his head. A moment later the air around Ash seemed to freeze around him. An instant later it was as though all of Ash’s senses turned off all at once. He feel squirtle in his arms. He couldn’t smell or hear any of the scents and sounds of the cave that he hadn’t even noticed before. He couldn’t even see anything. It was like he stopped existing altogether.

    As suddenly as the sense of nothingness had hit him, it went away. All of Ash’s senses returned with such a force that it was almost dizzying, but things weren’t the same as they had been a moment before. Ash was no longer in a cave. Giovanni was nowhere in sight, and neither was Mewtwo.

    Ash bit his lip and looked around his surroundings anxiously. He was in a completely abandoned town, but there was a familiar looking mountain behind him. He was still on Cinnabar Island, just on the other side of it. He wasn’t anywhere near the cave. He was safe, and it didn’t take a lot for him to figure out what had happened.

    Mewtwo had teleported him away, and when Ash looked up at the sky and saw a figure in the distance, flying away. Mewtwo had gotten them both away. They were both safe from Giovanni’s control.

    But how could either of them be sure how long that would last for?

    Ash lowered his head and tightened his grip on Squirtle so much that he knew that it must have hurt. Squirtle didn’t even make a sound of discomfort. He stayed silent. As did all of Ash’s other pokémon. They were just there.

    Their presence was comforting, but didn’t make him feel completely better. If anything, Ash felt worse then he had before, and he didn’t understand why. He was safe, his pokémon were going to be okay, Mewtwo was gone. There was nothing to be afraid of anymore, so why...why…

    Ash’s breath caught in his throat and he choked out a sob a moment later. Ash felt his knees grow weak beneath him, so he went ahead and just sat on the ground. His pokémon drew close to him. They tried to be comforting, and Ash felt better with them there, but he couldn’t do anything to contain his sobs. It felt like everything had fallen apart, and he didn’t know what was real and who he could trust. He just felt so...so alone.

    “Excuse me, boy?” A man’s voice said. Ash stiffened at the voice. He could hear his pokémon growling at the stranger. “It’s okay, it’s okay.” The man said in a calm, reassuring voice that Ash hadn’t heard in a long time. It sounded so concerned, so sincere, so real that against his better judgement Ash found himself relaxing.

    “There we go.” Ash lifted his head to see a man with shoulder length wavy hair and kind eyes kneeling next to him. “Are you alright? You’re not hurt, are you?”

    “I’m...I’m…” Ash couldn’t get the words out. He couldn’t say that he was fine, because he didn’t know for sure that he was.

    “Here,” The man slowly, so as to not upset Ash’s pokémon, reached out to Ash and gently took his hand. “It may not be safe out here. I know somewhere we can go. We can make sure you’re okay.”

    “My pokémon.” Ash said suddenly. “They’re hurt.”

    The man smiled gently as he pulled Ash to his feet. “We’ll take care of them too.” The man promised. He seemed nice enough, and if he had a way to heal Charmeleon and Bulbasaur, then Ash would go with him.

    “I’m Ash.” Just because he felt hesitant about trusting somebody at that moment didn’t mean he had to have bad manners.

    “My name is Blaine.”
  14. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 14
    Ash knew that he should return his pokémon, but he didn’t want to let them out of his sight. He was worried for a moment that Blaine would tell him to return his pokémon, but the man did no such thing. If anything, Blaine looked pleased to see his pokémon out and about.

    “Your pokémon all look extremely healthy.” Blaine commented as Pikachu climbed onto Ash’s shoulder. The man scratched behind Pikachu’s ear, which made the electric pokémon squeal in pleasure. “It looks like you’ve been taking good care of them.”

    Ash smiled slightly and pet Squirtle’s head. “I’ve had a lot of help.” Sabrina was always willing to tell Ash what was one his pokémon’s minds if she felt an impression from them. Koga helped Ash teach his pokémon how to master their skills. Lt. Surge had taught Ash that it was just as important for him to be trained as it was for his pokémon. And Giovanni...Giovanni.

    Ash bit his lip and stopped petting Squirtle. He just left his hand on his pokémon’s head. Blaine frowned and put his hand on Ash’s shoulder. “Did something happen? Were you separated from your family or your friends in all the chaos?”

    Ash was slightly confused for a moment before he realized that Blaine must have assumed that he was a tourist who had been vacationing with his family when the explosion had happened. Everybody else had already evacuated the island, so of course Blaine would find it strange for Ash to be there. Just like Ash thought that it was weird that Blaine was there.

    ‘I-I wasn’t here on vacation.” Ash said. “I was brought here.”

    “Brought here?” Blaine frowned in confusion. “When? By who?”

    “By, uh…” Ash looked around as he tried to think of what he should say. He normally would say that he came with a friend, but that just wasn’t true. Giovanni wasn’t a friend, Ash knew that now. “Well, I thought he was a friend.”

    Blaine sighed and rubbed his shoulder in a soothing way for a moment before he let his hand fall to the side. Blaine reached into his pocket and took out a pokémon. “We can talk more in a minute. Right now, it might not be safe to talk out in the open.” Ash agreed, though he didn’t know if they thought it would be unsafe for the same reason.

    “Where are we going?” Ash asked.

    “I have an old lab in that volcano there.” Blaine gestured to the volcanic mountain behind them.

    “You have a lab in a volcano?” Ash perked up slightly at that. It sounded like something from a spy story. Ash decided to focus on how awesome that was, because it made him feel better than thinking about what had happened in the other labs on the island.

    Blaine smiled. “It’s the only decent place on this tourist trap island to have the privacy I need...and I like the heat.” Blaine looked at his pokéball. “Now, I’m going to have one of my pokémon take us there. He may look a little scary, but I promise, he’s one of the most gentle pokémon I know. He’ll keep us away from trouble.”

    Ash nodded, eager to see the pokémon that Blaine was talking about. The man tossed his pokéball into the air and let out a creature that looked like a large, red dog that was bigger than he was. Ash could see how somebody might find it scary, but he was personally excited to see the fierce looking pokémon.

    “So cool.” Ash smiled. “What kind of pokémon is that?”

    “Ash, this is Arcanine.” Blaine stroked the mane like fur on Arcanine’s neck. “He’s going to give us a ride.” Blaine held his hand out, inviting Ash to come say hi.

    “Awesome.” Ash eagerly went to see Arcanine.

    “We had better get going.” Blaine said. Because Ash had Squirtle in his arms and he would have a difficult time getting onto Arcanine’s back on his own, Blaine gave him a lift. The man waited until Ash was able to balance himself before he pulled himself up as well.

    “Alright, Arcanine, you know the drill.” Blaine said. “Stay on this side of the island. You know who to avoid.”

    Arcanine howled and bounded off. Ash was caught off guard and would have fallen off if Blaine didn’t hold him so closely. The man knew how to ride his pokémon, and he was comfortable enough to not only keep his own balance, but another passenger’s as well. As Arcanine ran Ash glanced behind him to make sure that Pidgeotto and Butterfree were following behind, and he was relieved to see that they were. Arcanine was faster than Ash’s pokémon, but whenever it seemed like the larger pokémon would pull away, it slowed down a little bit to give Pidgeotto and Butterfree the chance to catch up to them.

    Even with Arcanine frequently slowing down to let Ash’s pokémon catch up, it only took them a few minutes to get to the volcano. Ash didn’t see any sign of a lab, but Arcanine seemed to know exactly where he was going. To Ash, it looked like there was nothing but rocks, but Arcanine made his way right to a particularly large rock and pushed it out of the way to reveal a cave.

    “Wow,” Ash muttered. “You really don’t want those other scientists to find this place.” He could feel Blaine stiffen behind him.

    “How do you know about the other scientists?” Blaine asked as Arcanine stopped. The man jumped down to the ground and then helped Ash to do the same. Once they were off, Arcanine turned around and pushed the large rock back into place.

    “Well…” Ash rubbed the back of his neck. “I saw a whole lot of them when I came to the island.”

    Blaine froze and a horrified expression came into his eyes. “None of those scientists have come to this side of the island in weeks. What were you doing near the labs? It’s dangerous over there.”

    “It was where the helicopter brought us.” Ash said.

    Blaine frowned. “You were on that helicopter that I heard?” Ash nodded. Blaine looked at him sympathetically. “What in the world did you come here to this island for?”

    Ash knew that he should probably hide the complete truth at the moment, as he didn’t know if he could actually trust Blaine. Before he could fabricate a story, Ash’s words seemed to leave his mouth against his will, and he couldn’t do anything to make himself stop.

    “Giovanni brought me here because he thought that I could find a powerful pokémon that had escaped from him.” Ash said quickly. “I didn’t know what Giovanni wanted from me until after I’d...after I’d found the pokémon.” Blaine made a sound like he wanted to cut in, but Ash continued on over him.

    “This pokémon, he was so...so powerful, and scary.” Ash shuddered at the memory. “He hurt my pokémon, but when Giovanni said that he wanted to control the pokémon, I couldn’t let it happen. I just...I couldn’t.” Ash shook his head. “Nobody deserves to be controlled, so I helped him, and then he helped me get away too, and I don’t know why.”

    Ash trailed off and for a moment there was silence between the two of them. Blaine recovered first. “Do you mean to tell me that you actually met Mewtwo?”

    Ash frowned and looked at the man curiously. “What...how do you know about Mewtwo?”

    A distant look came into Blaine’s eyes as he put a hand on his left arm and flinched in pain. “I know about Mewtwo because I’m the one who created him.”

    “Y-you…” Ash stared at Blaine in shock, confusion, and slight fear. Ash had seen what Mewtwo could do, and the powerful pokémon probably hadn’t been trying at his absolute hardest. And yet he had still hurt Bulbasaur and Charmeleon so badly. Ash didn’t want to know what Mewtwo could do if he actually tried. What kind of person would create a pokémon like that?

    Blaine looked at Ash regretfully. “I promise, I will explain everything to you, but first I think we should get your pokémon taken care of, alright?”

    Ash swallowed and nodded. He was confused and scared, but Blaine was right. Bulbasaur and Charmeleon needed help. Ash wanted answers, but not nearly as much as he wanted his pokémon to be safe. “Yeah, okay.”

    Blaine nodded and lead the way through the cave. Ash hesitated for just a moment before he followed closely behind him. Butterfree lingered behind a little bit and put himself between Ash and Arcanine. Pidgeotto flew ahead slightly so that he was between his trainer and Blaine. Ash smiled slightly. His pokémon could tell that he didn’t feel entirely safe, and they were trying to protect him. They really were the best.

    The two trainers and all of their pokémon travelled down the tunnel for a few minutes before the walls of the cave expanded and began to look man-made. Just another minute later they came to a room that looked a lot like Professor Oak’s lab, except bigger with a lot more sciencey stuff all over the place.

    “Wow, and here I was thinking you weren’t a scientist.” Ash commented as he glanced around. There was no denying the evidence anymore. “I mean, you don’t really look like one.”

    Blaine chuckled and grabbed a white lab coat that was slung over a chair. “That was my plan.” Blaine put a hand on his head and pulled his hair off completely. The man had been wearing a wig, and without it he was completely bald. Blaine grabbed something that looked like white hair and put it on his face just under his nose. A fake mustache. Blaine then put on a pair of round sunglasses and put the lab coat on. With the change completed, Blaine held his hands out to give Ash a better view. “Is this closer to what you were imagining?”

    “Yeah, a lot closer.” Ash laughed. Blaine now definitely looked the part of a scientist.

    “Believe it or not, the disguise is necessary.” Blaine said as he gently put the wig on his desk. “Team Rocket has been on the lookout for me since I left them. I couldn’t let them know I was around, but I couldn’t leave Cinnabar Island. Not while they still had Mewtwo.”

    “Team Rocket?” Ash thought he had heard that name before. “Who are they?”

    “They’re a bad group of people who want two things, money and power.” Blaine sighed Arcanine made his way through the crowded lab to be at hi trainers side. “They’ll do anything to get what they want, including stealing other people’s pokémon, selling and experimenting on pokémon, and…”

    “And creating a whole new pokémon.” Ash muttered in a quiet voice. Why would somebody go to such unspeakable lengths for things as silly as money and power? And Giovanni had said that all of the scientists near those labs worked for him. Was Giovanni really the man behind all of these horrible things? Ash had travelled and trained with him for months. How could he not have noticed? “Were you part of Team Rocket?” Ash asked slowly.

    “I was hired by them to work on Mewtwo.” Blaine said. Because of his sunglasses, Ash couldn’t see the look in his eyes, but the man’s posture was enough to tell him just how much remorse the man carried with him. “I tried to tell myself that I didn’t know what the agents were doing, or what their plans for my crea...for Mewtwo were, but I was just fooling myself.” Blaine shook his head and scowled. “I let my ambitions cloud my better judgement, and it’s a decision that will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

    Ash held Squirtle closer. “What changed? Why did you leave?”

    Blaine’s mouth turned upwards slightly in what might have been a small smile, but looked more like a grimace. Blaine slowly began to roll up the left sleeves of his coat and shirt. His arm was heavily bandaged and looked highly swollen.

    “Are you okay?” Ash asked as he stepped closer to Blaine. “That looks like it hurts.

    “It’s nothing that I don’t deserve.” Blaine began to unwind the bandages, flinching every so often. Ash watched quietly as Blaine worked until finally the bandages were off. Ash paled when he saw Blaine’s arm, because that...that was not normal.

    “What happened?” Ash felt like he was going to be sick, but he couldn’t drag his eyes away from the mutilated flesh that was on Blaine’s arm. It looked kind of like a really bad burn, except the skin wasn’t all that discolored aside from a faint purple color that might have been bruising. Blaine’s arm almost looked like it was melting, and Ash swore that either his eyes were playing tricks on him, or the deformed skin was pulsing slightly, almost like it was separate from Blaine, but completely alive.

    “Mewtwo was supposed to be a clone of the mythical pokémon, Mew.” Blaine said. “I was given a few Mew cells to work with, but it wasn’t enough to make a stable,fully aware pokémon. I did the only thing I could think of to stabilize him was to give him some cells from another, more durable specimen. Myself.”

    “Wh-what does that mean?” Ash asked, because sciencey stuff often went right over his head.

    “It means that Mewtwo has some of my cells in him.” Blaine looked at his arm and clenched his fist. “And in the process I got some of Mewtwo’s cells in me. Whether we like it or not, we’re connected, and that’s why I quit.”

    Ash frowned slightly. “I still don’t get it.”

    Blaine took a seat at his desk and gestured for Ash to join him. Ash grabbed another chair that was lying around and pulled it closer to Blaine’s chair. “Because of my cells, Mewtwo didn’t just stabilize, he began to grow, much more than I could ever expect. I was ecstatic at first, but then...I began to feel the connection to Mewtwo on an emotional level.”

    “You mean you can feel what he felt?” Ash had never heard of something like that.

    “His anger. His pain. I felt all of it.” Blaine began to rub his left arm, though Ash didn’t know if it was because he was trying to soothe his own pains, or, somehow, Mewtwo’s. “That was when I realized that I hadn’t just created an artificial pokémon. My creation was a living creature, just like any other. I couldn’t continue to experiment on him after I made this realization, so I left...and I left him there.”

    “But you stayed on this island.” Ash said. “You didn’t want to leave him alone.”

    “I couldn’t.” Blaine said. “I didn’t have a way to bring him with me at the time. Mewtwo may be fully developed, but he is still very unstable. As horrible as that lab was, the fluid that Mewtwo was kept in stabilized and calmed him. I couldn’t just release him without a plan, and even if I could, I didn’t have the means to do so.”

    Ash frowned thoughtfully and put a hand in his pocket. He felt Charmeleon and Bulbasaur’s pokéballs, but also the one that he had taken from Giovanni. Ash wrapped his fingers around the strange pokéball and slowly brought it out. “Would something like this have worked?” Ash offered the pokéball out to Blaine, who took it in an almost reverent manner.

    “The Master ball.” Blaine said in a quiet voice. “Where did you get this?”

    “Giovanni had it.” Ash said. “He wanted to use it to catch Mewtwo, but I took it from him before he could.”

    Blaine looked away from the Master ball and turned his attention back to Ash. “...Mewtwo injured your pokémon, and you still saved him?”

    Ash smiled sadly and took Charmeleon and Bulbasaur’s pokéballs out of his pocket. “He only hurt them because power and pain are the only things that he knows. I can’t blame him for not knowing any better.” Ash felt his eyes start to get wet, and he scrunched his face in an attempt to keep himself from crying. “He doesn’t deserve any of this.”

    Blaine slid his chair across the room and cleared some stray papers and books off of a machine that looked like a really old version of the machines that they had at pokémon centers. “You may not recognize this, but you were incredibly brave for helping Mewtwo the way you did.”

    Ash smiled weakly and scooted his chair over to the old healing machine. “I guess so.” Blaine started up the machine and scooted over so that Ash could put Charmeleon and Bulbasaur’s pokéballs on it. Once he saw that they were being healed, Ash felt like a weight had been taken off his shoulders.

    “So, what are you going to do now?” Ash asked. “You stayed here because it’s where Mewtwo was, but he left.”

    “Yes, I suspected as much.” Blaine looked down at his arm, which was still pulsing. “I’m relieved that Mewtwo got away from Team Rocket, but he’s too dangerous to be left on his own. I have to find him.”

    “What are you going to do with him?” Ash frowned slightly.

    “I don’t know.” Blaine admitted. “Ideally, I would calm him, but if that doesn’t work…” Blaine trailed off, and Ash didn’t want to think about what he would do if he couldn’t calm Mewtwo.

    “Can I help?” Ash asked.

    “What? No.” Blaine said sternly. “Mewtwo’s dangerous.”

    “He knows me.” Ash said. “He might listen if I’m there.”

    Blaine looked like he wanted to argue, but he had to know that Ash was right. If their goal was to calm Mewtwo and help him be not so angry all the time, then it might help if an innocent child was trying to convince him as opposed to the man who had created him to be a weapon.

    Blaine sighed and rubbed his arm. “I don’t like this, but you have a point. This is probably our best option.”

    “Great.” Ash grinned. He wanted to do what he could to help Mewtwo, even if it was dangerous. “So, uh, how are we going to find him?”

    Blaine smirked and held out his arm. “As I said, we’re connected.”

    “So, what, your arm is a Mewtwo tracking device?” Ash grinned excitedly. “That’s awesome.”

    “It has its advantages.” Blaine grabbed a white hat and put it on. “First though, we need to get off of this island.”

    “Shouldn’t there be a lot of boats around?” Ash asked, because he figured that if anybody was going to be on an island, they would need a way off of it.

    “I doubt it.” Blaine said. “They probably took all the boats to evacuate everybody.”

    Ash shrugged. “It wouldn’t hurt to look though, would it?”

    Blaine looked amused. “No, I guess it wouldn’t.”

    Ash nodded and Blaine got to his feet. The man went around his lab and began to grab anything that they might need, including a couple of regular pokéballs that must contain his other pokémon. Ash watched Blaine for a few moments before he turned his attention back to his own healing pokémon. Ash knew that time was probably of the essence, so as soon as Charmeleon and Bulbasaur were healed, they would probably be on their way. Ash would normally want to give his pokémon more time to rest after they had been hurt so badly, but they didn't really have much of a choice. They had to find Mewtwo before something bad happened to him, or before he hurt anybody else, and they had to calm him.

    Ash knew that Blaine would do whatever he felt like he had to to keep others safe, but Ash wasn't willing to go as far as the man was. If Mewtwo wouldn't calm down, they would have to take a different approach, and that was something that Ash refused to do. They had to successfully calm Mewtwo...they just had to.
  15. Gazi

    Gazi Ace Trainer

    Level 24
    May 27, 2018
    Chapter 15

    Lt. Surge took a deep breath and tightened his grip on wheel of the ship. He should feel at home on the S.S. Anne. It was his ship. He was the boss here, completely in control. So why did he feel like he was just seconds away from losing it?

    He didn’t have anything to be afraid of. It was just the ocean. It may be strange, wide, and unfamiliar by nature, but that was what made it so familiar to him. There may be plenty of dangers out there, but that was no reason for him to be afraid.

    Lt. Surge tried to tell this to himself, but it didn’t help. It wasn’t the unknown that made him feel uneasy, it was what he knew was out there. A monster of a bird pokémon that could cause a tempest so strong that it could cause the sturdiest of ships to sink. A flash of silver that could knock into a ship with such force that anybody that who wasn’t tied down would be thrown overboard.

    And likely the body of a young boy with maroon hair that Lt. Surge had been unable to get a proper grip on before he was tossed completely off the ship…

    “Matis?” Lt. Surge blinked and turned to see Sabrina looking at him in concern, which was a very strange sight. Sabrina by nature was just not a very emotional person, so the fact that he could see such obvious concern in her eyes was enough to make him feel pretty concerned himself.

    “What’s going on, Beautiful?” Lt. Surge asked in a flirty tone. He had hoped to distract Sabrina from worrying about him, but he wasn’t nearly as successful as he would have liked to be. Sabrina did look annoyed, but the concern didn’t go away as much as he would have liked.

    “Koga is requesting to be able to wear his shirt again.” Sabrina said, and if the circumstances were any different Lt. Surge would probably find her words hilarious. As it was though, he couldn’t find anything funny about the situation.

    “Alright, I’ll take care of it.” Lt. Surge stepped aside and left the controlling of the ship in Sabrina’s hands. He did so reluctantly, but he was secretly relieved that he didn’t have to look out at the ocean. Later, he swore he would get over this hurdle, but at least for now he just didn’t want to think about it.

    “And Matis?” Sabrina’s tone was quiet and careful. Lt. Surge raised an eyebrow at her. That was twice in under a minute that she had used his first name. She was on a roll today. “Next time you’re struggling with something, let go of your pride and just ask for help. I’m already dealing with one fully grown adult who refuses to accept that he needs help. I don’t need another.”

    Lt. Surge scowled and clenched his fists. He was tempted to shout at her, to tell her that he was fine and didn’t need her help, but he would probably just end up confirming Sabrina’s suspicions. Lt. Surge loved that girl, but she could be a real pain when she decided to psychoanalyze somebody.

    “I’ll keep that in mind.” Lt. Surge said stiffly as he left to go find Koga. He probably stomped and stormed around more than he intended, but he was frustrated. Sabrina had told him that she couldn’t truly read people’s minds, but he knew that wasn’t true. If she couldn’t, then how was it that she always seemed to know exactly how he was feeling and why? Lt. Surge had never told Sabrina about what exactly had happened when he had lost Silver. She knew that he had been there, but she shouldn’t know anything about them being on a boat and how he had been too focused on keeping the ship steady to just grab the kid’s hand before he fell into the sea.

    She shouldn’t know about that stuff, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that she did, and it was incredibly frustrating. Lt. Surge had been dealing with the guilt for five years. He hadn’t needed her stupid sympathy back then, and he definitely didn’t need it now. He could handle this by himself.

    Still, despite how absolutely infuriating Sabrina could be, Lt. Surge was glad that she had taken over steering the ship. He wasn’t about to admit it, not to himself, and certainly not to anybody else, but he couldn’t deal with looking out at the vast ocean. He just wasn’t ready for it.

    Lt. Surge kept his eyes on the deck as he made his way below deck where he knew Koga was. Despite his somber mood, when Lt. Surge saw Koga sitting around brooding like a moody teenager, he couldn’t help but let out a chuckle.

    “You look like somebody stole your ninja stars.” Lt. Surge teased. Koga glared at him, though he looked so exhausted that it didn’t look all that intimidating.

    “They’re called shuriken, and you know it.” Koga scolded.

    “Tell you what, I’ll start calling them by their proper name when you stop getting so insulted when I don’t.” Lt. Surge suggested. “You’re just so easy to mess with.”

    Koga sighed in defeat. “You’re such a child.”

    “Look who’s talking.” Lt. Surge scoffed. “Sabrina says you’ve been moping around because I don’t want your tight ninja clothing to irritate your ribs.”

    “My clothing is not tight.” Koga protested. “And what do you expect me to do, walk around shirtless for the next six weeks?”

    Lt. Surge winked. “Don’t knock it till you try it.” Koga scowled and at a speed that really shouldn’t be humanly possible he threw one of those ninja throwing stars at Lt. Surge. The blond man flinched when the shuriken grazed his cheek, causing a clean cut. “Alright, alright, I’ll knock it off.” Lt. had known that teasing Koga, even when he was hurt, would be a mistake, but he just hadn’t been able to resist.

    “Look, how about I make you a deal?” Lt. Surge reached into deep pockets and pulled out Koga’s tunic like shirt. “If you promise to take it easy, I’ll give you your ninja shirt back.”

    Koga eyed the cloth in Lt. Surge’s hand and narrowed his eyes. “And my other shirt?”

    “You mean your tight undershirt that makes you look like an emo goth punk?” Lt. Surge rolled his eyes. He knew that it probably had a technical ninja term and a useful function and all that, but he didn’t really care. “I’ve seen how hard a time you have getting that thing on. No way am I giving it back to you, not until you’re better.”

    Koga frowned but didn’t say anything. He just accepted the shirt from Lt. Surge. Koga tried to put it on by himself, but the movement rustled his ribs, making him wince in pain. Lt. Surge shook his head and went to help Koga. People may have a hard time believing that Lt. Surge could be gentle, but he was more than capable of it when he really wanted to. And considering he suspected that Koga had at least one broken rib, this was definitely a time when he wanted to be gentle.

    “What did I just tell you about taking it easy?” Lt. Surge frowned as he helped a reluctant Koga put his tunic on.

    “I can take care of myself.” Koga scowled before his expression softened slightly. “...but thank you.” Lt. Surge grinned as he untied Koga’s scarf from around his waist and wrapped it around his neck. “This is so humiliating. I shouldn’t need help putting a shirt on. It’s pathetic.”

    “You got attacked by a Nidoking. There’s nothing pathetic about that.” Lt. Surge reminded him with a grin. Koga returned his grin with a small smile that a stranger might mistake for a meer facial twitch.

    “Koga, Lt. Surge, “ The two men flinched when they heard Sabrina’s voice directly in their heads. She was using telepathy. Lt. Surge hated when she did this. It was unnatural and felt extremely weird. Sabrina always felt exhausted after using her powers in this way, and Lt. Surge didn’t see the point when there was a perfectly fine communication system on the ship. If she wanted to talk to them, why didn’t she just use that?

    “Yeah, what do you want?” Lt. Surge asked irritably.

    “We’ve received a call from the Fuchsia Gym.” Sabrina said in their minds. “Janine says it’s urgent.” Koga stiffened at this words.

    “Alright, we’re coming.” Lt. Surge said, even as Koga began to make his way back to the main deck of the ship. Lt. Surge quickly caught up to Koga and grabbed his scarf to force him to slow down. Koga wasn’t happy about it, but he knew Lt. Surge well enough to know that if he didn’t do what he wanted, then Lt. Surge would man handle him, and neither of them wanted that.

    Even with their slower speed it only took them a minute or two to get back to where Sabrina was waiting. She had activated the auto-pilot, which irritated Lt. Surge. So she could figure out how to make the ship drive itself, but the communication system was too complicated for her?

    “What’s wrong?” Koga asked urgently as he approached the video phone that Sabrina was using to talk with Janine. The girl looked annoyed but unconcerned, so Lt. Surge didn’t think that there was anything wrong at the gym itself, but Koga wasn’t convinced. Until he heard from his daughter himself that she was okay, Koga would be worried about her. And even after she said she was fine, he would still worry. Koga was a father, it was his job to worry.

    “Giovanni called.” Janine said, all business. “He has an assignment for the three of you.”

    The expression on Koga’s face darkened dangerously. “What have I told you about involving yourself in Team Rocket?”

    Janine was not amused by her father’s scolding. “What did you want me to do? Tell your boss that you directly disobeyed his orders to stay behind at the gym five minutes after he left?” Janine scowled. “It was only because I ‘involved myself’ that Giovanni thinks that you were all too busy to receive the assignment yourselves.”

    Koga looked like he wanted to argue further, but Lt. Surge beat him to the punch. “You did great, kiddo. What’s the job?”

    Janine’s expression softened now that she wasn’t being scolded for helping them. “Giovanni says that Ash found out the truth about Mewtwo and disappeared. Agents have reported seeing Ash and the lead scientist behind Mewtwo’s creation near the docks on the tourist side of the island. Giovanni suspects that they’re up to something, and he wants you three to find out what.”

    Lt. Surge smirked and gently put his arm around Koga’s shoulder. “You hear that? Our assignment is to keep an eye on Ash. You should be happy.”

    “I don’t know about happy, but I’m relieved that Ash isn’t following Giovanni blindly anymore.” Koga tried to shrug Lt. Surge’s arm off of his shoulder, but he must have moved a bit too much in doing so because he flinched and curled slightly in on himself. It was such a miniscule movement that Lt. Surge might not have noticed if he wasn’t already aware that Koga was hurt, but Janine noticed it right away.

    “Father, what’s wrong?” Janine’s eyes widened in concern. “Are you hurt?”

    “I’m fine.” Koga tried to say. Both Lt. Surge and Sabrina glared at him for his lie.

    “I wouldn’t say that a broken rib is ‘fine’.” Sabrina muttered under her breath, but Janine heard it anyways.

    “A broken rib?!” Janine paled. “What happened?”

    “He questioned our boss, that’s what happened.” Lt. Surge said.

    “Which is exactly why I don’t want you to have any part in Team Rocket.” Koga said sternly to his daughter. “This job is dangerous, and the people who do it aren’t much better. Do you understand me.”

    Janine looked like she had a couple of colorful terms that she wanted to say, but she kept them to herself. She just nodded. “I understand.”

    “Good.” Koga’s expression softened slightly. “I promise, I’ll be alright.” Well, at least he wasn’t claiming that he already was just fine.

    “Of course you will be.” Janine agreed confidently, though she still looked upset and scared. Not that Lt. Surge could blame her, because he felt pretty much the same way. Janine turned her gaze to Lt. Surge. “Keep him out of trouble. You know how can get.”

    Lt. Surge sniggered at the insulted sound of protest that Koga made. It sounded like their parent child roles had been reversed. “I’ll do my best.” Lt. Surge promised. He always did what he could to keep his partners out of trouble. He didn’t always succeed, but he definitely tried.

    The video feed wavered with static and it took a few moments for the image to clear up. Lt. Surge looked out towards the ocean and frowned when he saw what had to be Cinnabar Island in the distance. Lt. Surge wasn’t a technological expert, but he was familiar with his ship. The S.S. Anne was an old ship, and its systems weren’t the most up to date. He wouldn’t be surprised if the top of the notch technology on Cinnabar Island was interfering with the ship’s communication systems.

    “We’re breaking up.” Lt. Surge said. “We’re coming up to Cinnabar Island and have to get to work. We’ll get back to you soon, girl.”

    “Good luck.” Janine said before she hung up. Lt. Surge turned off the communication system and went back to the wheel. He still didn’t feel as completely comfortable as he wanted to be, but the closer they got to the island the better he felt. Massive monster pokémon didn’t have nests right up close to islands. The closer they were to Cinnabar Island, the more sure he was that they were out of the woods, and the more he felt like he could breathe freely.

    After what felt like no time at all, they were close enough to Cinnabar Island that they could get ready to pull into the dock. That was when Lt. Surge gave up control to Koga. Lt. Surge may be better on the boat, but he had never been able to figure out the finesse of pulling into the dock. Koga, who was all about patience and little details, was much better at it.

    “Let’s go see how Ash is doing.” Lt. Surge draped an arm over Sabrina’s shoulder and dragged her to the main deck of the ship. Giovanni had tasked them to keep an eye on Ash and the scientist to find what they were up to. As far as Lt. Surge was concerned, the best way to figure out what was going on was to be right in the middle of the action. If Ash still trusted them, they could easily figure out what was going on. If he already suspected that they were part of team rocket, well, they could just do the old fashioned method of following him.

    But it was so much easier to just be handed all the information.

    Lt. Surge grinned when he saw Ash’s Pidgeotto and Butterfree flying around the deck. Ash had to have seen the ship, and he probably sent his pokémon to see what was going on. It was really smart of him.

    “Hey, guys. How’re you doing?” Lt. Surge greeted. The two pokémon didn’t answer him. They just flew off back to Ash. Lt. Surge didn’t take it personally though. They were just following Ash’s orders.

    As they were pulling into the dock Ash ran forward to greet them excitedly. “Lt. Surge, Sabrina, what are you guys doing here?”

    “We’re here to check up on you.” Lt. Surge climbed on top of the railing and waited until they were close enough to the dock before he just jumped for it. Ash ran to greet him and eagerly caught him in an embrace. Lt. Surge chuckled and pat Ash on the back. “We made our way over as soon as we heard that Giovanni was bringing you here. Are you okay? What happened?”

    Ash briefly glanced over at the scientist behind him, who gave a quick, barely noticeable shack of his head. Ash frowned at the gesture before turning back to Giovanni. “...A lot.” Ash said slowly, and that was it. Lt. Surge knew that whatever had happened, it had been pretty serious, but the scientist didn’t want Ash to share.

    “Hey, it’s okay.” Lt. Surge said. Sure, it would have been amazing if Ash would just tell them what was going on, but just because he hadn’t didn’t mean that they couldn’t figure it out for themselves. It would just take some creativity. “What are you doing hanging around the dock anyways?”

    “We were hoping to find a way off this island.” Ash said. “But it looks like all the boats left without us.”

    “Well, lucky for you, we happen to have a ship.” Lt. Surge gestured proudly to the S.S. Anne behind him. “Where were you guys headed? Maybe we can give you a ride.”

    “No offense, but I would rather not tell you that.” The scientist - Blade? Blaze? Something like that - said stiffly. Lt. Surge raised an eyebrow at him. He could understand the desire for confidentiality, but that scientist’s tone was just insulting in and of itself.

    “Guys, can we please not fight?” Ash asked quietly. “We’re all friends here.” Lt. Surge didn’t even know the scientist’s name, and Ash really wanted to say that they were friends? It was extremely naive, but it was one of the most endearing qualities about Ash, so Lt. Surge let it slide.

    “Yeah, alright.” Lt. Surge held out a hand towards the scientist. “Lt. Matis Surge.”

    The scientist eyed him cautiously before accepting the handshake. “Blaine.”

    Lt. Surge firmly shook the hand before letting it drop. He gestured behind him to the deck of the ship. “That there’s Sabrina, and our friend, Koga, is at the wheel.”

    “So you’re all here?” Ash grinned excitedly. “That’s awesome.”

    “Glad you think so.” Lt. Surge chuckled. “So, you want a tour of the ship?”

    “Yeah!” Ash exclaimed. Lt. Surge smirked as Ash went running off to where Sabrina was lowering the gangway. With him gone Lt. Surge turned to Blaine and glared at him when he saw that the scientist hadn’t stopped looking at him in confusion.

    “Look, I’m not asking you to trust me.” Considering Lt. Surge’s job was literally to spy on Blaine and Ash, it would just be messed up for him to ask to be trusted. “But if you’re going to be riding on my ship, you need to tone down the attitude, got it?” Lt. Surge had a bunch of attitude himself, and he knew himself well enough to know that if he felt personally attacked, he would get aggressively defensive. Ash had asked them not to fight, but that wasn’t going to happen if they were all distrustful of each other.

    If they were going to be traveling together, they at least had to pretend to get along with each other.

    “I’ll be just as civil as you deserve.” Blaine said, which just annoyed Lt. Surge. It looked like if there was going to be civility between the two of them, it was up to Lt. Surge to take the high road, which he hated doing. If that was what was necessary, then he would do it.

    “Glad we got that sorted out.” Lt. Surge said sarcastically. “Now, all aboard.” Lt. Surge gestured to the gangway that Ash had already gone up. Blaine looked extremely annoyed at him, but he didn’t say anything, he just made his way onto the ship, and Lt. Surge was right behind him. “It’s time to ship out.”

    Time to head off into the unknown.

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