"If you think: should I? — you should."
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Johto Chronicles

Warning: This story is being rewritten. There will be inconsistencies in the episodes not yet rewritten. Episodes rewritten will be bold.

An epic tale which follows the Pokémon Trainer Gabby as she finds herself in and out of trouble as she pursues the goal of forming the best team the world has ever seen.

This mostly follows the Anime, but does hold some similarities to the Games and Manga. It also won't be 100% canon because that's not how I roll.



  • Gabby — The main character.
  • Ash Ketchum — Another main character and one of Gabby's friendly rivals.
  • Misty — One of Gabby's rivals and a Gym Leader in Cerulean City.
  • Brock — Pewter City Gym Leader.
  • Team Rocket — The main villain group of this story.
    • Jessie — One of the main antagonists and villains.
    • James — One of the main antagonists and villains.
    • Cassidy — A villain and a horrible person.
    • Butch — A villain and the worst of us.
    • Giovanni — The boss of Team Rocket.
  • Gary Oak — A recurring character which acts as a rival for Gabby and Ash.
  • Paul — A minor character and upcoming rival.
  • Damian — Another even more minor character who got his Pokémon taken away for his abusive ways.
  • Bill — A rather interesting character.


Someone doesn't understand what a baby felt like until they're on their deathbed. When someone has to take care of you every waking moment, no matter how much you want to do so yourself. Feeding, cleaning, dressing. All things someone could easily take for granted. To think; humans started out helpless, slowly gained the strength and courage to care for themselves, only to end up right back in the arms of care again. Well, those lucky enough to have someone to fall back on.

Gabby was lucky to have many people to care for her, but who was Gabby? She knew it was her, but she couldn't figure out who she was. If that made any sense.

She opened her eyes, expecting the Pearly Gates to lead her to heaven, but instead, the light instantly blinded her into a scream. She curled into a ball, keeping her arms close to her and screamed. It was as though the very sound of her screams jumbled her mind into confusion, and she tried rolling over to reach for a blanket. She reached and scratched herself. More screaming.

Every movement Gabby made either hurt or tired her out to the point of more screaming. Worst of all, she wasn't even crying. No tears. Just. Screams. As she did so, she also shook, frustrated with her lacking hand-eye coordination. When she was hungry, cold, or needed a diaper changing, she screamed. Everything frustrated and confused her, but why it made her that way was also unknown, making her mood worse by the day. Those days melted into weeks and then months.

When she turned about three months, her mother decided she'd had enough of Gabby and her never-ending torment. She left. Gabby hadn't bonded well with her in the first place, purposely pushing her away so it did very little for her mental and emotional state. However, it did a great on Gabby's father. His job was cut in half, and he went through states of depression and grief. He never neglected nor blamed Gabby for his wife leaving.

He introduced Gabby to the Pokémon he bred.

Gabby would lay there, eyes wide in fascination as she met and babbled at countless Pokémon every day. At least she was quiet. No more screaming or crying. She could stay there, watching every Pokémon hang out and stay occupied for hours. Her father rarely allowed her to stay that way, though. When he picked her up to take her inside for food and rest, she screamed again. He only sighed and shushed her as he did before. It was confronting hearing her scream, though. It let him know she still needed him. Still, the routine stuck. Her father would lay her out near the Pokémon he was tending to every day. She was close, so he wasn't too terribly fearful of her being attacked or hurt. Plus, he socialized the Pokémon he dealt with. It may have seemed unethical, but they never gave more than a growl of warning. They knew the kid couldn't hurt them, but they didn't hesitate to let her father know when they didn't like Gabby.

She listened well enough to their warnings until they reached one particular cage. It was as though the tiny growl attracted her closer. Suddenly she strained the muscle in her arms, neck, and back. She forced herself up to a sitting position. Her father gasped at the sight. She met the eyes of the friendly Arcanine and her troublesome Growlithe pups. She held her hand up slightly, still exhausted from having sat up for the first time. Growlithe let out a tiny bark and jumped against the cage wire. Her father smiled at their little greeting, but a sense of dread hung over him.

She liked the Pokémon. That certainly wasn't bad. In fact, her father was glad she liked the Pokémon. The dread didn't go away, though.

Before long, Gabby began crawling and finding her way closer and closer to the Arcanine cage. She watched and got near any Pokémon once she started crawling and there was no one who could catch her when she started walking. Before she hit her first-year milestone, she could be found running (and falling) all over the Pokéranch. Once she learned to walk, she went near-silent. When she cried, it was silent. She still watched the Pokémon, but her favorite remained the Growlithe and the Arcanine. When a Growlithe attempted nipping at her fingers, the mama Arcanine would grunt in warning and tell the pup to stop. It was a gesture Gabby took literally.

When wealthy folks came to find the rarer Pokémon variety, Gabby would bite them or their kids. It took her father about a month to figure out how to make her stop without having to pull her away or pry her mouth open. She sure had strong gums and baby teeth for someone getting into the troublesome twos. He should've expected such a thing since she had no other figure to look up to. Her father tried explaining that it was because she spent so much time watching the Growlithe pups, but then there was a huge drop in sales, people now believing Growlithe were evil creatures, when even Gabby could tell they weren't.

He hired a few workers to tend to the Pokémon, giving him time to spend with Gabby and get her socialized with other kids through play dates with certain clients. The biting slowly subsided and Gabby began talking rather than growling and barking. It was a process getting her to stay away from the Arcanine, but her father would call it a success. Gabby had friends and was especially smart. She studied what he placed in front of her so long as she could read it. But now her level of intelligence has allowed her request something.

Her father suddenly realized what he'd dreaded from the start.

The house was small, but the land was vast, full of many Pokémon. Gabby never went to see them, though. To see them was against the rules, but she knew someday she'd finally have to see them. At six, she sounded out the words: 'A Pokémon Trainer catches, names, and trains many types of Pokémon.' That lone sentence fascinated her.

A Pokémon Trainer.

To catch all sorts of cool Pokémon and train them to be fierce. That . . . sounded awesome!

To be a Pokémon Breeder like her father didn't sound so awesome. Sure, he got to feed, play with, and see many Pokémon every day, but Gabby wanted to name and keep hers. She wanted to train them and get a strong team of her own. She flipped through another book of pictures which displayed every known Pokémon, naming everyone she just knew she'd catch. Gabby shook her head at the Water-types, seeing as her father only had a pond for his Magikarp, but she liked the idea of Fire-type Pokémon being on her team since trees surrounded her house. She nodded. Yeah, that's how her team would roll. She also liked the Flying-types, too.

Man! My team will be the best. No one will ever beat them!

Thought the girl who hadn't interacted with a Pokémon in a couple years.

Then she came across a familiar sight. Growlithe and Arcanine. The best Pokémon her father had. At least in her opinion. Did anyone else's matter? It'd be her team, and she'd train her Pokémon every day so they'd get stronger. None of them would end up neglected.

A huge team full of Fire and Flying-type Pokémon.

She went back to the book from before. She pouted as she read: 'In most places, someone must be ten before they can get their first Pokémon and be called a Pokémon Trainer.' Ten-years-old? Darn. Four more years. How could she wait four years when she wanted to train right then? Well, it said 'most places'. Maybe Viridian Forest had different rules. She hoped so.

She rummaged through her father's books until she found a book specifically on training Growlithe. After taking note to ask her father about Pokémon Trainers' ages later, she opened the book and began reading as best she could on how to train Growlithe.

'Growlithe is not a Starter Pokémon and for good reason. They must be trained properly. Otherwise, they will bite and attack for no clear reason. Only the most trustworthy of Pokémon Trainers can tame this pup to grow into the gentle creature its destiny proclaims.
Naturally loyal and protective, a Growlithe goes back and forth often in a debate on whether to charge as enemies or wait for commands. If trained properly, a Growlithe will do the latter. To see its trainer hurt breaks its heart of gold a little more each time and it will eventually be covered in fire. If it can't protect its trainer properly, their broken heart can, not only be surrounded by but also contain fire. This has only occurred a few times.
A Growlithe will want a nickname and if someone refers to them any other way, the Growlithe will become angry. As nature would have it, males prefer tough, strong names, while females enjoy a softer name to make her feel pretty.
There's no physical distinction between males and females. A breeder or Pokémon doctor can tell. They have different personality types, though. Males tend to go through one tough training session or fight and then only wish to sleep; while females willingly power themselves through until they're forced into their Poké Ball. Of course, their personalities vary between individual Growlithe. One could receive a lazy one, or hyperactive one. That's the beauty of Growlithe. You never really know what's in store, and that's why Growlithe is unsuitable as a Starter Pokémon.'

Gabby frowned as she finished the passage. Weren't all Pokémon unpredictable? Didn't they all have a bad rap at some point? They were adorable and some cool moves once they got leveled up. They could even evolve into Arcanine, and then it could have pups! How cute would it be to have a little pack following her around? Truly the most badass team ever!

Yeah. She needed to become a Pokémon Trainer.

Two Years Later . . .

Gabby flipped on the television and cycled through the stations until she landed on the channel she so desired. No kiddie shows her father suggested she watch, but actual live broadcasting on Pokémon. It was no Leagues, but it was still people training, caring for, and battling their Pokémon. During the commercials, she looked through another Pokémon book, drinking in the information she could piece together. A lot went over her head, but she was fascinated when she understood even the simplest of things. Her mind was blown many times as she found herself understanding previously misunderstood things the more she read. No wonder her dad read so much.

"Man, I've missed out so much," she said as she turned the television back off. "No more wasteful TV! Books have everything I could ever need to know." She read until she'd fallen asleep on the floor.

Her father found her that way, book now covered in slumber drool and ink covering Gabby's face. He chuckled but cringed on the inside. That was one of his most used books, and now it was covered in saliva and some of the ink had rubbed off. Of well. As long as Gabby was enjoying herself with learning.

The next day Gabby reached for another book. 'Guide: How to Care for your Pokémon!' She flipped through it until she found a chapter on Fighting-type Pokémon. Fighting-type sounded cool in concept, but they used short-range combat, which Gabby didn't like. The closer Pokémon got, the more harm happened. But their moves were so cool! And the Fighting-type looked super neat, too. Some were fast while others had the fiercest of punches. Cool, but she could teach similar moves to Fire-type Pokémon or even make up new ones if she so chose. It couldn't be that hard.

Her father returned late that evening and made them a simple can of soup for dinner. Gabby wished they had the luxury of having a cook like her father's friends did, but they weren't making enough money for that. Besides, her father didn't like healthy food chefs insisted they eat. Gabby on the hand, loved anything healthy.

"Dad, when can I become a Pokémon Trainer?"

He slurped a noodle down his windpipe. Gabby told him not to choke as she watched him go through his coughing fit. When he found his voice, he said, throat sore from the coughing: "W-What?!"

"I said: When can I—?"

"No, I got what you said," he interrupted. "But where did that question come from?" It was the last thing he imagined would come from her, someone who loved home as much as she did. When they scheduled playdates, she insisted everyone come to their house so her father assumed . . . He sighed. He thought her reading those books of his were just her taking an interest in Pokémon and Pokémon Breeding as a future occupation. Not a Pokémon Trainer of all things!

"Sweetie," he continued. "I don't think you're thinking this through. Yes, many become Trainers, but how many actually succeed?" Oh no. He was one of the parents who discouraged their children and their dreams. How would Gabby take it? Did he just ruin her life? Would she ever forgive him?!

She shrugged. "I don't know how many Trainers succeed, but I do know I'll be one of them. I'll train not only my Pokémon, but myself, too. Just you wait. When I become a Pokémon Trainer, I'll prove to the world that I can make it, and that I can form the best team ever seen! I'll make it, and show them I'm no crybaby."

His expression fell. Gabby was still on about her mother leaving because of her. Her father knew how guilty Gabby felt about it. She'd sworn to not cry in front of someone again.

"But wouldn't you rather be like me? Doesn't it sound nice to take care of baby Pokémon and eventually pass them off to their forever Trainer?" he asked.

She shook her head. "I want to name them and train them to be the strongest they can!" She practically shook with excitement.

Her father sighed again. He'd seen such determination in kids coming by the Pokéranch before. Their parents couldn't convince their children to not go through with the entire Pokémon Trainer craze. They eventually gave in and bought them a very specific, protective Pokémon to ensure they ended up okay out in the world. At least Gabby had a goal outside of the usual 'being the very best' or 'catching 'em all'. Still, he wanted to say 'no'. He couldn't, though. When parent did that, the worst happened. He saw it all too often. Kids who refused to stay still. They ran from home, thinking they could fight the strongest of Pokémon without experience or even a Poké Ball. He couldn't allow his daughter to do the same.

He stood up and took a few steps closer to Gabby. He placed a hand on her head and ruffled her hair carelessly. As a kid, she didn't care how her hair looked. Her eyes were wide, staring at to him for further approval.

"When you turn ten, I'll give you your first Pokémon," he promised.

His promise stuck, and Gabby couldn't stop smiling all evening. She ran into his office. It was huge, about the size of her room, but the stacks of countless books piling made it seem small. It'd been her father's room, but when he ran out of room for his old books, he moved into that sad excuse for a bedroom. He hardly had room for a bed and basket of clothes. But his office was huge! Gabby could climb stacks of books and there was still so much room left, which her father loved. He especially loved the older, more outdated books. He sometimes flipped through them but never came to them looking for advice unless it was something really ancient.

Gabby got a book specifically on Puppy Pokémon. She flipped to a chapter about Growlithe. It read:

'Like with all Pokémon, a Growlithe must get stronger to learn new moves. They can often use Bite and Roar at the start like many other Pokémon, but then comes the fun part of training your Growlithe. After you've bonded, named, and gotten control of your Growlithe, you can teach it Ember, a simple move which allows Growlithe to spew small flames from its mouth. Some may know it already.
From there, Growlithe can learn Normal-type attacks such as Thrash and Take Down, as well as the high-speed technique, Agility. There are, of course, additional Fire-type moves to teach, some of the strongest being Flamethrower, Overheat, and Flare Blitz.'

All very interesting, but not so helpful in letting Gabby figure out how to properly tame and raise her Growlithe. Two more years appeared long enough to have figured everything out, but apparently writers thought Trainers only needed help training and taming their Starter Pokémon because she could only find articles on Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Squirtle. As neat as they were, she had no intention of capturing them. She wanted to know more about Growlithe's behavior and what they needed in a Trainer. Even when she looked at the other books, they said the same thing:

'Give your Pokémon love, train them, and allow them rest. Those are the key points. The rest is a mystery only you as a Pokémon Trainer must figure out.'

Gabby sighed. If it would be a mystery, why was she doing so much research? Maybe she should just stop and wait out the next two years . . . No! She wouldn't be one of those kids who study up on nothing and fail as a Trainer.

She smiled and picked the book back up. Nothing would go strictly by the books, but preparation was a must. Without knowledge, she'd never make it.

Indigo League Arc

Episode One: The Journey Begins

Gabby was the beam of sunshine through the soft pitter patter of rain. She couldn’t be anything else on her tenth birthday. Not after waiting two years, which sneaked up surprisingly fast since she kept herself occupied with learning about the Pokémon in and around the Pokéranch. Her hands shook with disbelieving anticipation as she climbed onto her chair and watched the rain out the window. Her father didn't want her leaving while it was raining since lightning might hurt her. He hadn’t considered the Electric-type Pokémon she'd surely meet.

"Now, sweetie, the rain won't stop no matter how much you stare at it," her father said from across the room. Their living area was huge and full of comfortable chairs, mostly used when they had visitors over. The usual emptiness left an echo in the room.

"I can hope." She scoffed.

"You know . . . It's not too late to head off to Pokémon Tech," he said with a hesitant smile. Ever since Gabby decided to pursue the path of becoming a Pokémon Trainer, she put herself to work. She took the Nidoran for walks every day and worked out with the Mankey. Her father’s pride swelled watching her, but it also served as a reminder she'd be leaving eventually.

Gabby positioned herself in the chair correctly and shook her head. "No way! I've waited four years for this day, and I'm not about to head off to some prestigious school where they teach me a bunch of hoo-ha!"

"Oi! Don't use that kind of language in my house, young lady!" her father shouted.

She faced away and crossed her arms. "Once I start my journey, I'll say what I want. But more importantly, I'll have responsibility! I'll have not only my life, but the lives of Pokémon to worry about," she said, getting excited again. She jumped up on the sofa and smiled widely. "Say, dad, could I see what my Starter Pokémon will be?"

The rain showed no signs of stopping anytime soon, so she figured she may as get acquainted and even name her new Pokémon. She went through list after list of names, but she had one she knew would fit whatever Fire-type Pokémon she was getting; she'd receive a Fire-type because they fit best with her way of combat. She'd practiced with a Charmander, which, while good, still didn't fit her.

"Oh, I think you already know who I picked out for you."

"Yeah, but I want to meet it," she said with a frown. "Can't I? Pretty-please?"

She had puppy eyes to rival the sweetest of Vulpix's. Her father sighed. He was too old to fall for such eyes, yet after ten years, they always got to him. He nodded and pushed himself up off his chair. "I suppose it's about time you met your new pal. But expect a few speeches because I won't hold back!" He ruffled his daughter's curly hair into a frizzy mess. Her toothy smile fell as she shook him away.

"Eh! I don't want my Starter Pokémon to think I'm some sort of Ponyta with wild hair!" She didn't care about how she looked, but she didn't want her Starter to get the impression she was messy . . . Even though she was. Who knew; it could use that against her in case it didn't like her at first. But if her father chose it, it would surely be perfect for her! Besides, the only one who knew her better than her father was his Arcanine, her first companion as a child.

They stepped out the front door and went around the house. The sound of rain pelting the ground relaxed Gabby, allowing her excitement to subside with a sigh for a split second before it spiked again. She never thought she could be so excited over something she knew was coming.

Her heart pounded, her mind fuzzy as she came to the conclusion that today was the day. She'd been around Pokémon all her life, ever since she was an infant, and she learned about them the moment she figured out how to sound words out. Everything about her life revolved around Pokémon in a way. And now, as a Trainer, she'd get to truly experience the Pokémon dream.

They walked around the second corner of the house, to the covered backyard, and Gabby knew where they were heading. Ten-years-old and a sense of nostalgia consumed her; the first place she ever crawled to, walked to, and showed off to her friends. Expecting such a Starter Pokémon on not, it was as though she was seeing it for the first time in her life. The same excitement and fascination she had when she first saw such a Pokémon filled her.

Her father stopped and opened the cage, the hiss of the hinge needing an oiling screaming. Gabby held her breath.

A vibrant Arcanine stepped out, a zigzagging trail of Growlithe pups chasing around her powerful swishing tail. She grunted, capturing their attention, introducing them to the rain. She had them five months ago, so they were ready to begin battling. Growlithe matured slowly, so they naturally stayed by their mother’s side longer than most babies. At that point, the Arcanine should've taught them to Bite and Roar. The largest of the bunch displayed its skills. It bolted past its mother's massive paws and charged toward Gabby's father with a mighty growl and a small headbutt.

It noticed her. The Growlithe stood up as tall as it could, chest dramatically puffed out in a challenging fashion. It let out its greatest bark. It sounded like a squeaky toy. Gabby giggled. It got to the point she where she full-out laughed at the silly bark display.

Growlithe leveled its ears to its skull and flashed its tiny but sharp fangs in an ugly snarl. It showed itself as a true Growlithe when it lunged and dug its teeth into Gabby’s leg. She stopped laughing real' quick.

"Eh! You Growlithe mutt! Get your baby chompers out of my leg!" she shouted, but her father noted that she didn't so much as attempt pushing the Growlithe off.

He smiled. "Well, I'm glad you and your Starter Pokémon are getting well-acquainted."

Gabby stopped shouting and looked up with wide brown eyes. Growlithe did the same, releasing its new mistress’ leg. “This is my Starter?” Gabby asked as she knelt. She put a hand atop the Growlithe’s head to pet him. She smiled as it looked at her. Its eyes were no longer playful nor fierce, but rather all-telling, explaining that it'd never leave her side; his mother had explained that the day would come when he had to leave and take care of a human he would come to love.

"Mmm hmm," her father said. "Yep. A Growlithe is loyal and extremely protective of its territory. You're his territory."

The Growlithe barked in agreement.

"It's a boy?" she asked, refusing to look up.

"Ah, yes. I checked that before I decided on a Growlithe for you. Males, while often more outwardly aggressive are more cuddly than females. Of course, he could always grow up to be completely different depending on how you raise him. I know you'll do what's right for him."

She continued staring back at Growlithe. He stared as though waiting. She remembered. "You need a name, don't you?" He barked happily in response. She already had a name selected, but Growlithe proved it wouldn’t fit any Fire-type. She thought of a different name. "I'll call you Spitfire. You have quite the temper don't you?"

Spitfire's expression fell, and he flashed his fangs again with a halfhearted snarl.

Gabby laughed, holding her hand up in mock defeat. "Okay, okay, Spitfire. No need for any of that yet. We have to wait for the rain to clear up."

Spitfire tilted his head and looked over the fence into the sky. Gabby followed his confused gaze and burst out into a wide smile. “It’s not raining anymore!” Spitfire barked and jumped in joy. “That means we can start our journey, Spitfire!” she said as she stood. She held her fisted hands by her side and stared determinedly at the direction of the sunbeam. Not at the direction of the sun, per se, because that would hurt, but in the general direction.

“Wh-What?!” her father shouted, placing a hand on her shoulder, forcing her attention back to him. "I didn't get to give any of my classic dad speeches . . . But since you're ready, I'll sum it up to: stay safe and catch lots of Pokémon. But don't forget to train and evolve them!" His voice grew in pitch as he had a tough time holding himself together. Gabby didn't dare display the same emotion, but she gave her father a hug.

"Dad, I promise I'll be safe," she said. Tears dared defy her as they crept into the corners of her eyes. She blinked them away and swallowed that small voice break that was oh-so-close to hitching. They shared the same habit of raising their voices when they were close to tears.

After a long goodbye, Gabby gathered the Poké Balls her father gave her for her birthday and her identification as Karl Kōto's daughter. She motioned for Spitfire to follow, and he did. Then she remembered. She pulled out a Poké Ball and looked at Spitfire. “Eh, Spitfire, you wanna get in the ball?” she asked. She didn't want to put him in it. She was used to having someone to be by her side, whether it be her father or one of her friends. Now though, she had neither. None of her friends wanted to join her on her journey, most going to Pokémon Tech or just not becoming a Trainer at all.

Spitfire watched carefully, seeing what his mistress wanted. She didn't seem too happy about the idea of placing him in that Poké Ball, so that was his choice. He shook his head, telling her absolutely not. His ears perked up when Gabby smiled.

"Great! I didn't really wanna put you in it anyway. It doesn't seem like it would be very comfortable anyway," she said, pocketing Spitfire’s Poké Ball.

The new duo walked, following the map and compass her father supplied her with. She was familiar with Viridian Forest, but after a couple hours of walking, she found herself in an area she'd never been in before. She gulped, but Spitfire stood tall as before. He was brave, standing by her side. Not a step ahead or behind; just right. Until his nose twitched and its chest rumbled with a growl. It stepped in front of her, legs spread far apart, head low, and fur sticking straight up in the air.

"What's wrong, Spitfire?" Gabby asked. She gasped.

A tough-looking Spearow with rough feathers stood there, peaking at the ground searching for its next meal. Great job, Spitfire! “Weaken it with Bite, Spitfire,” she said, careful to not alert the Spearow.

Spitfire was less careful, nodding his head and barking before bolting the Spearow’s way with an open jaw. Before he could reach it, its narrow brown eyes darted and he let out an ear-shattering shriek. When nothing short of an ear twitch came of Spitfire, the Spearow flapped its wings, releasing several dozens of feathers.

Feather Dance, Gabby recognized. “Ember now!” she called.

Plumes of fire shot from the back of his throat and connected with the feathers, burning them to a crisp. He bound into the air and opened his jaw. Spearow was faster, though, dodging the move swiftly before letting another flurry of glowing blue feathers. This time, however, it wasn’t to hide within, but rather to distract Spitfire. Within the glowing plumage, Spitfire yelped at Spearow’s relentless attacks.

Hearing her distressed Pokémon, Gabby called: "Spitfire, return!" She couldn't see what was going on in the mini sandstorm, but Spitfire didn't return. No, Spitfire . . . Please don't be hurt, she begged.

The feather storm slowly settled to earth. Spitfire stood on a craze-eyed Spearow and barked triumphantly.

Gabby smiled and threw a new Poké Ball at Spearow. She and Spitfire watched as Spearow entered the ball, staring it down before it accepted its capture. Gabby smiled and stepped to pick Spearow up. "Don't you worry. I'll take good care of you." She turned to Spitfire and knelt. She brushed a feather off his head. "You did good, Spitfire, but how did you do it? Feathers were everywhere."

Spitfire lifted its chin.


Seeing his mistress wasn't getting it, he let out a small growl before nudging his nose to her cheek. Her eyes widened.

"Oh! I remember now. You have a perfect sense of smell," she said. How could she have forgotten the most basic of traits? That was one of the main reasons her father wanted her to have a Growlithe. In case she or any of her Pokémon got lost, he could track and save them. Spitfire nodded. “Well, Spitfire, that's one useful nose of yours,” she said as she booped it. Spitfire's tail went wild.

Gabby laughed. "All right, Spitfire. Stand guard. I’m gonna patch up Spearow.”

Spitfire tensed at the mention of Gabby releasing the Spearow. He wasn’t in good shape, so he wasn’t a hundred-percent on whether he could protect his mistress or not. Reluctantly, he nodded.

Gabby held out the Poké Ball and released Spearow. It heaped on the ground, eyes open and narrowed as if glared up at Gabby and Spitfire. Gabby ignored the look and knelt down, gathering her medical supplies from her bag. Before she attempted, however, she gave a small plate of berries to the angry Flying-type. Spearow, though not gluttonous, were greedy when it came to food.

Spearow looked at her, to its food, then back to her. It pecked at the berries. Its eyes momentarily went wide as it pecked at the Oran berries again with much eagerness and aggression. Gabby smiled and pulled out a potion her father had given her.

“Spearow,” she started, capturing the Flying-type’s attention. It glared at her. “You have two choices here.” It perked up, pecking at its berries again. “You can either accept me as your Trainer and work with me”— it made a sound of doubt —“Or you can get used to your Poké Ball and stay in it all the time.”

It squawked in disagreement, but it was too weak to attempt attacking.

Gabby sighed. “I’m being flexible with you, here. I won’t release you.”

It fluffed its feathers in an attempt to appear more intimidating.

“How about I sweeten the deal, eh?” she offered. Spearow’s eyes sparked with interest, though its feathers remained fluffed. Taking that as her cue to continue, she said: “You stay with me and accept me as your Trainer; you get the best food Kanto has to offer while I make you the strongest Fearow the world has ever seen.”

Spearow inclined its head, still staring narrowly as Gabby. Its black and white vision darted to Spitfire, who stood tense and ready to charge forward. Closing its eyes, its feathers conformed and lowered its head in acceptance. It let out a small but high-pitched sound before going back to eating.

Gabby smiled widely. Her first capture and her first companion. She wouldn’t call Spearow a friend or comrade yet, but that would hopefully change with time. “Great. Now, I’m gonna just patch you up.”

She moved to spray the potion on Spearow, but before she could, Spearow opened its weak wings and cried out in warning. Gabby stopped immediately and sighed. “It will heal you faster,” she promised.

Spearow dragged himself further away while also staying in range of the berries.

Gabby stared for a moment before shrugging. Spearow would learn soon enough that her intentions were pure. She motioned for Spitfire to near, which he gladly did. He bound into her lap and let her pet him while spraying some of the potion on him. He wasn’t too badly injured from the battle with Spearow, but he did have a few scratches.

Spearow stared at the pair oddly. Why didn't Spitfire flee after being healed? Maybe the Growlithe deemed the girl its territory. For some reason, that stirred anger within Spearow; his eyes went narrow and his feathers ruffled, but Gabby didn’t look over as if she was ignoring him. He made a squeaking sound. No response. Gabby continued petting Spitfire, who wore an almost sly smile.

Spearow made a louder cry and whipped his wings around, threatening to fly away, which Gabby knew he couldn’t do without being patched up without a potion or at a Pokémon Center. Gabby waited for Spearow to make another sound, which came soon. Not a cry her way, however.

Spearow screamed out and spread his wings wide at the sight of a Rattata eating his remaining berries. With a rapid but painful flap of his wings, a flurry of feathers fell upon the hungry Rattata.

Spitfire made a move to protect, but Gabby put a hand up to stop him. He sat by her, paws antsy and whine creeping up his throat as he watched his injured teammate fight for his food and so close to Gabby, too. Spearow may have just joined them, but that didn’t make Spitfire any less loyal, if not a bit angered.

“Peck,” Gabby ordered.

Spearow’s eyes darted her way through the storm of feathers. He reeled his head back, beak beginning to glow as he packed in as much as possible into the attack before squawking and letting his beak do the work for him. Rattata screamed under the pressure of the Peck attack and squirmed to get away. Just as it squeezed out of Spearow’s relentless attacks, Gabby threw out a Poké Ball.

The ball sucked up the Rattata in a harsh yellow beam. When it hit the ground, Gabby stared as intently as her two other Pokémon, inwardly smiling at Spearow’s interest. The Poké Ball shook once before the Rattata proved to be too injured to continue struggling against the trapping mechanisms containing it. Gabby’s smile worked across her face and she stood up and picked it up. “I thought these guys put up more trouble than that,” she mumbled, though she couldn’t say she was disappointed.

Rather than release Rattata straight away like she had with Spearow, she knelt close to her Flying-type, who looked at its empty plate. The Rattata had eaten it all . . .

Gabby knew Spearow had more than its fill but decided a little bribe wouldn’t hurt. “I’ll give you a few more if you let me heal you first,” she said. Healing was essential to building a trust with a Pokémon. The Pokémon didn’t have to trust their Trainer fully — just that the Trainer wouldn’t hurt them in such a vulnerable state. Sure, Spearow had obeyed her battle demand, which was quite the achievement, but healing was vital.

Spearow perked up and stared cautiously. He had her attention like he wanted, but now he didn’t know what to do with it. He wanted more berries, but he wasn’t sure he wanted Gabby that close to him . . . He gulped and nodded with a warning gleam in his eyes.

Gabby’s pocketed Rattata’s Poké Ball and rummaged through her bag, pulling out the remainder of Spitfire’s potion. She sat cross-legged next to Spearow and reached out her free hand so Spearow knew she wasn’t holding anything that could harm him.

Spearow shifted away at first, before nearing her hand. He gave a nip. Gabby winced, mistakenly. He cooed and stepped away.

“Sorry,” Gabby said as if she was the one who’d hurt him. Spearow tilted his head in utter confusion. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Anger stirred within Spearow. Gabby thought she’d scared him? Well, she did, but Spearow’s pride wouldn’t admit it. He stepped back over and pecked at her hand again, this time taking note of her sensitive flesh. Gabby didn’t flinch this time. Eyeing her with a little less caution now, Spearow stepped up on her clothed leg. When she winced this time, Spearow lightened his talons’ grip. He repeated with his other leg before settling in her lap, as Spitfire had been before.

Gabby’s gaze was that of awe. Just a few minutes ago, Spearow wouldn't let Gabby heal him and now he was in her lap on his own accord. Not knowing what to make of the situation, Gabby said softly: “I’m gonna begin healing.”

Spearow didn’t answer, so she went to work. As she did so, Spearow rested his head against her leg, but his eyes refused to stop darting around. Just in case. His narrow eyes snapped wide open as the potion began to mend his cuts and scrapes. He actually felt the pain lifting away.

“Done,” Gabby said. No sooner did that word leave her mouth, Spearow fluttered his wings and landed on her shoulder, nearly tipping her over. Spitfire stood to attention and growled at Spearow, who ignored and pecked at Gabby’s cheek, as if giving her a kiss. Gabby's laugh surprised Spitfire.

“It’s fine, Spitfire. Spearow didn’t hurt me.” She shifted her attention to Spearow. “You did great, Spearow. Once I set up camp, you, Spitfire, and our new friend will be getting the biggest dinners of your lives.”

His eyes lit up at the mention of food and he gave a nod, fluttered off her shoulder, eyes zeroing in on a good spot to set up camp.

Gabby only seemed to smile wider and she packed up everything. “Come on, Spitfire. Let’s go.”

Spitfire nodded and bolted past her, the direction they'd come from. She lifted a brow as Spitfire barked at her, telling her to follow him back. Did he . . . want to head back home? Gabby hadn't thought about it. Spitfire was surely missing his mother and sibling, and there she was, not concerned one bit outside the battles and physical condition of Spitfire. She hadn't even considered whether he'd even like going out on an adventure, so far from everything he knew.

"Uh, Spitfire . . . We can't go home," she said. Spitfire stopped bouncing around and lifted an ear in question. "I'm a Pokémon Trainer now, and that means I have to go out into the world and find all sorts of Pokémon. The ones here are cool, but aren't enough to make my team the best it could possibly be."

He barked angrily as if to say: "I'm all the team you need!"

Gabby shook her head. "No, Spitfire. Having a team is important. Looks like I'm going to have to teach you about teamwork and socialize you better." She waved her hand to motion him to follow. "Come on. We'll come back home someday, but our journey has only just started."

Spitfire hesitated, knowing they’d be following Spearow, but nodded nonetheless and ran to Gabby's side.

Episode Two: Proving Worth While

"Spearow, I choose—!"


"What? No, Spitfire!" Gabby shouted. "Give Spearow a chance to battle. You already won twice! You're worn out.”

Spitfire growled and dug his claws into the earth under him.

Her opponent, some kid about her age, smirked. "You can't even control your Pokémon, and yet you call yourself a Trainer. Ha! As if.”

Gabby gritted her teeth. “Spitfire, come back. Now.” As she spoke, her tone proved effective in catching her Starter off guard. Spitfire looked back, eyes wide and questioning. “I’m your Trainer, and you listen to me.”

Another growl rumbled deep within Spitfire’s chest as he turned away from the cocky-looking Squirtle. His slow strides to his Trainer were silent. He sat by Gabby’s feet and huffed in irritation.

Gabby knelt down and gave Spitfire a pet on the head, which he neither leaned into or pull away from. “Give Spearow a chance. He’ll prove himself, I’m sure.” Spitfire made a sound of doubt, but Gabby stood back up and met the kid’s annoyed eyes.

“You done now?” he asked.

Gabby glared at him, but nodded. “All right. Spearow, your time is now!” She threw out the Poké Ball and in a bright beam of light, Spearow emerged with a loud squawk and took flight. His eyes narrowed at the sight of the Squirtle, who didn’t look the least bit intimidated.

“Now its time to take it down . . .” the kid said. “Water Gun, Squirtle! Full blast.”

“Dodge and use Fury Attack and Peck,” Gabby called out.

Both Pokémon charged. Squirtle reared its head and sent a powerful torrent into the air, which Spearow barely dodged with a clumsy twist. Once steady, Spearow swooped down, talons glowing with his beak.

Seeing where Spearow was looking to claw at, the kid shouted: “Shut your eyes, Squirtle!”

Letting out a squawk of premature victory, Spearow began his attack. Just because Squirtle had its eyes shut didn’t mean its face was safe. Swipe after swipes, red marks formed across the Tiny Turtle Pokémon’s face before Spearow sent the overwhelmed Pokémon to the ground with a powerful Peck attack atop the head. While Squirtle was down, Spearow began flapping his wings rapidly to release a storm of glowing feathers.

Gabby was actually surprised to see Spearow wasn’t just ruthlessly attacking the temporally down Squirtle. Even more surprising — he was using strategy. Good strategy. A strategy Gabby should’ve thought of.

Spearow took high into the air again once done with his Feather Dance. Squirtle forced himself up, eyes sleepy and arms shaking as he struggled to get up. Feather Dance was an interesting move that not only helped with evasion, but also made the opponent comfortable, near enough ready to pass out, and thus made their attacks weaker. It was a shock that such a young Spearow could perform the highly advanced move.

"Not bad," the kid said. "But don't get your Spearow’s hope up so soon. Squirtle, Tackle it out of the air!"

Once Squirtle pulled himself together and stood, his shaky limbs proved to be no hindrance and he ran at a speed Gabby didn’t think such a bulky Pokémon could. He smacked his swirled tail against the ground to launch himself into the air.

“Dodge it, Spearow!” Gabby shouted.

Spearow moved to avoid collision. Now missing a beat, Squirtle used the momentum of his charge to roll onto the ground, landing on his hind legs and, with a grunt, launch back into another Tackle attack. It all happened so fast, Spearow had no time to react, and Gabby had much less time to call out a warning. Squirtle crashed into Spearow with the great impact of its shell, sending Spearow to the ground.

“Spearow!” Gabby called out in concern.

Spearow forced himself up, chest heaving up and down. Despite the attack lowering from Feather Dance, Squirtle still did some substantial damage.

Gabby sighed. “Thank goodness. Now, use Fury Attack and Peak again! Like before.”

Spearow nodded and shot into the sky before coming down to attack.

“Cut it off with Water Gun!” the kid called.

Gabby could hardly believe it. She walked right into that trap! She shouldn’t have gone the offensive route, but rather the defensive one. She could’ve used Feather Dance to cloak Spearow, confuse Squirtle, and then go for the attack.

Her lack of strategy showed as Spearow came in close, beak and talons glowing. Despite the energy put into the attack, it couldn’t compare to Squirtle’s sheer power and ability to use water. The Water Gun struck Spearow, wetting his feathers and making him heavier than usual. That previous edge in speed was gone.

Gabby gritted her teeth, not knowing what to do next. Spitfire saw his Trainer’s distress and stood up, barking at Spearow.

The kid looked over, expression of annoyance plastered across his face. “Hey! One Pokémon at a time!”

"Do you see Spitfire fighting?" she said, though she wasn’t sure what her Pokémon were doing. After a few more barks, Spearow nodded at Spitfire. "You two can talk?" she asked, to which Spitfire responded with a happy bark and nod.

Spearow cried out and with a flap of his heavy wings and shake, his feathers began glowing with Feather Dance, allowing him to shed the soaked plumage that held him back. This time, even the kid stood there, dumbfounded by the ingenious idea. Thought up by Spitfire!

“Nice!” Gabby said, clenching her fist in determination. “Be ready to dodge and use Fury Attack!”

"You're learning a lot from this battle," the kid said as his dumbfounded expression was replaced with a smirk. "Figures, since you're battling me."

Gabby gritted her teeth. She didn't like that kid. Not one bit. She wasn't learning because of him! She learned because she was gaining experience. Fricking cocky jerk. “Quick, Spearow!”

Spearow nodded and bolted through the air. He swooped down, talons-first. The kid called out for Squirtle to counter with a Tackle attack, but Spearow was fast enough to duck a hair, or rather, feather under the attack. “Now!” Gabby called, seeing an opening for easy attack. Spearow’s talons glowed and began clawing into Squirtle’s stomach, where the shell wasn’t nearly as hard as the rest. Squirtle’s eyes went wide as the pain sank in. Losing his speed, he tumbled to the ground, wincing as he landed on the cuts Spearow has caused.

Spearow squawked and flew over to Gabby’s shoulder, picking at her ear gently. He glared over at the Squirtle, who didn’t know when to stay down.

“Don’t think this is over!” Gary called. “Squirtle, use Bubble and Tackle!”

Squirtle forced himself to his feet and spat a thick stream of bubble froth. Gabby jumped out of the way to avoid the attack. Spearow wasn’t nearly fast enough, surprised Squirtle could still manage such fast and powerful attacks. The attack hit Spearow hard, soaking him to the bone. Before he could shake off the foam, Squirtle took the easy route, swimming through his own attack and smashing into Spearow.

“Spearow!” Gabby called as her lone Flying-type hit the ground, the bubbles turning the dirt under him to mud. She ran to check her defeated Pokémon and stared sadly at Spearow. She picked him up and cradled him. “You did great, Spearow. Next time, we’ll get ‘em.” She returned her friend and stood back up.

Spitfire sniffed the Poké Ball and gave it a comforting lick before turning to glare at the kid and his Squirtle.

The kid was smirking. Again. “Figures your puny little Spearow couldn’t defeat me! A few hits taken, and it was down!” He laughed as he knelt down to give Squirtle a pat on the head. “With skills like that, you’ll need all the advice you can get. I recommend battling a few more rookies before taking on someone any higher in skill . . . And I know just the person.”

Gabby found herself in Viridian City, quickly heading to the Pokémon Center. She told the nurse her Pokémon could use some care. Since Spitfire growled at the idea of him being placed on a platter, the nurse walked him back instead. Gabby chuckled at how stubborn Spitfire was. They traveled for three days before they met Gary Oak, and then another before they hit Viridian.

After they introduced themselves, Gary told her about this kid that would make great practice. Apparently, he had an unusual Starter like herself, being a Pikachu. Like a Growlithe, Pikachu was the furthest thing from a Starter, being troublemaking and dangerous. Whoever gave him a Pikachu needed to do a bit more studying. Then again, the same could be said about Gabby’s father . . .

She chatted with a few there, but people mostly left her alone. She called her father there, making sure he'd sent enough money for her to eat until she reached the next Pokémon Center. He must have either thought she was fat or that she was eating at the most expensive places because there were a few too many zeros for comfort. Did he want her to get robbed? If anyone — good or bad — knew how much she had on her, they track her down and wipe her clean. The thought of Spitfire getting hurt in the process worried Gabby as the worst case scenarios flashed through her mind.

"Excuse me, Gabby," the nurse called. "Your Pokémon are ready."


Spitfire ran over and jumped in Gabby's lap, deciding his mistress needed a cleaning. She giggled and playfully struggled, earning an equally playful growl from Spitfire. As puppy-like as he was, he was certainly larger than a pup, especially considering he was the largest of his litter. He placed a paw on Gabby's stomach, knocking the air right out of her with a sharp hack. Spitfire suddenly jumped back at the sound of his mistress' struggle. He put his ears down as he realized he was the one to cause the pain.

Gabby about doubled over, but kept herself sitting up. She forced a smile and reached out for Spitfire. He shifted his brow-like fur in question. "It's okay, Spitfire. Come on. Let's go get the others. We need to get training if we're going to take on the Gym Leader here!"

Spitfire perked up, but nudged his nose as Gabby's knee as an apology. She scratched behind his ear in acceptance. That was enough for him. He led the way, stepping high and tail wagging happily. Gabby retrieved her two Poké Balls and smiled as she felt how slick they were against her hands, but she didn't like how cold they'd gotten. She placed them in her backpack to warm them up.

"Thank you, Nurse Joy," Gabby said. "I appreciate it."

"No problem, sweetie. That's what we nurses are here for," Nurse Joy said with a bright smile. That smile fell though. "Did I hear you correctly? Do you plan on challenging the Gym Leader here?"

Gabby nodded. "Yep! I'll be getting into the Leagues and prove that I have the best team in the world, so I need to get badges soon. A year passes by quick; I know that much."

"Well, yes . . . But I think you should skip this Viridian Gym for now. Especially given how few Pokémon you have at the moment. The Gym Leader is quite powerful."

"That's what I expected," Gabby said. "If they were weak, I'd be super disappointed. The badge wouldn't mean anything if I didn't win against a capable opponent." Spitfire barked in agreement and jumped up in a display of strength. His bark was still weak, but as he worked his lungs, it got deeper.

Nurse Joy smiled at Gabby's determination. "Well, at least train them more. If your Growlithe only has Ember, you're going to have a problem."

"His name's Spitfire! And how do you know he uses Ember?" Gabby asked.

Nurse Joy held up her hand, which she'd wrapped in bandages. "Your little guy does not like being picked up by anyone but you, huh? I was trying to place him on the examination table and he showed me what exactly what his mistress taught him."

Spitfire held his head up, proud despite the way Gabby stared down at him, unimpressed.

"Sorry about that," Gabby said.

"Oh, don't worry about it. It happens."

Gabby left, stopping by the library to check out a few books on Spearow and Rattata. She needed something for reference as she trained them and what better reference than a book! She found a nice, shady place where her Pokémon could hang out and get to know each other for the time being. Spitfire and Spearow got along well, thanks to their previous teamwork, but Rattata opted to stay near Gabby as she flipped through the book; he seemed rather cautious around Spearow, which made sense considering Spearow was the one who attacked. Gabby occasionally asked Rattata silly questions, to which Rattata responded with a little chatter and click. At least it wasn't angry about being caught.

Gabby frowned when she reached the last page of the Rattata Training Guide. Nothing new. She knew everything they listed off. To think the book was in the advanced training aisle. It had only the basics: the more your Rattata bites, the trimmer its teeth are, the stronger their bite will be. Yeah, yeah. Gabby knew that! She was looking for something that wasn't related to biting, but it would seem Rattata won purely by brute force. Gabby supposed she shouldn't judge. If Gabby could trim Rattata's teeth down a few sizes, she wondered the strength it could reach. Yeah. That was the plan.

"Rattata, go chew down some trees," Gabby said, but frowned when Rattata shook its head. "Why not?" He shrugged. "That's not an answer, you rodent! This is your training so we can beat the Gym Leader here. I can't just take you there to get slaughtered!" It's exactly what would happen. She got her Pokémon only a few days ago, and they were untrained, they'd hardly been in battle. They needed training if they had any hope of winning against the powerful Gym Leader Nurse Joy warned her about. Heck, the Gym even had its own Guards. If it was that good, they didn't have a hope in the first place, but Gabby knew if they worked hard, they'd totally win!

"Come on, Rattata," Gabby said. "We need to train . . . If you take down two trees, I'll take you to an all-you-can-eat buffet."

Rattata's nose twitched, and then its ear. Good, I'm getting to it! Gabby thought. "Not to mention you do need training. Let's face it, if Spearow defeated you, you must be weak." Gabby winked over at Spearow when he looked back at her, the insult clear in his eyes. Thankfully Rattata didn't notice the exchange when it turned around suddenly. The purple on its face looked about ready to spark a fiery red and its cheeks puffed out. It hissed and let its cry be known before it stomped over to one of the many trees they sat under and went to town on it. Gabby couldn't help but feel as though she'd seen an animal like that before; cutting down trees with their teeth and then using them for . . . Something. Man, what's with my head? she questioned as she massaged her aching temples. One stray thought and I get a spiraling headache.

Spitfire noticed Gabby hurting and sprinted over to aid her in any way he could. Gabby laughed lightly and patted him on the head. "I'm fine. Just a headache." She turned to Rattata. "If someone would hurry, we get set out and get us some good food for the night."

Rattata darted its eyes over for a split second, but didn't stop gnawing at the tree until it crashed to the ground. It held its head up high, displaying its massive fangs, which didn't look any smaller. Gabby lifted a worried brow.

"Rattata, did your teeth wear down at all?" she asked. It shook its head. "That can't be good. We should get you to the Pokémon Center to see if they can figure this out."

Rattata hissed and chattered its teeth.

"Really? Just because you're hungry?" Rattata nodded to the question. Gabby sighed. "Fine. We'll go eat, but right after we're done, we're heading straight to the Pokémon Center, understand?"

It nodded again, following Gabby as they headed to the nearest buffet. Gabby's Pokémon would only get the best of meals.

Episode Three: Team Rocket

Gabby walked into the Pokémon Center, Spearow on one shoulder, Rattata on the other and little Spitfire taking high strides by her side. The Trainers there looked at her strangely, but she ignored them, walking up to the front desk. Nurse Joy sat up, worried expression plastered on her face.

"Has something happened to your Pokémon already? You just came by this afternoon," Nurse Joy said.

Gabby waved off Joy's immediate concern. "Not quite. I was just worried about my Rattata and its teeth. For some reason they aren't going down the way I thought they would."

Nurse Joy stood to attention and motioned for Gabby to hand over the Rattata for a small check. Gabby did so carefully, jumping slightly as Rattata swatted its tail at its trainer. Joy simply smiled and took it. As she checked the Rattata's teeth, she massaged the scruff of its neck. Gabby raised a brow.

"It calms them," Nurse Joy said gently.

"Oh," Gabby mumbled, flushing red. How could she, the daughter of a Pokémon Breeder, not understand that much about Pokémon physiology? Were all those years of studying for nothing?

Joy giggled. "Oh, sweetie — there isn't a thing wrong with your Rattata here! It simply has harder fangs than the regular PokéDex would tell. Don't you worry about your Rattata. Just give it bones and rocks to gnaw on when it's out of its Poké Ball, and they'll be fine."

Gabby sighed, though her blush only darkened. Seriously. Had she forgotten everything she read the moment she received Spitfire? She studied to become the best Pokémon Trainer, yet she couldn't tell when her Rattata's teeth were a little harder than the average? What a joke. Nurse Joy caught sight of the embarrassment Gabby attempted to conceal by looking down.

"There's no reason to be embarrassed, sweetie!" she said. "Coming to me was actually very responsible. You're a new Trainer judging by how few Pokémon you have, so it's normal you'd be worried about their well-being. That just shows how good of a Trainer you'll surely become."

Gabby's attitude shifted. "There's no doubt about it! I'll train the strongest Team in history! I already have three to back me up. Isn't that right, guys?"

Spearow peaked her cheek as if to give her a kiss, but it squawked when Gabby yelped. It didn't hurt, but it wasn't particularly nice either. "You pesky bird," Gabby said, only for Spearow to cry in protest. It flapped its wings. "Whoa, whoa! I didn't mean it, bud." That didn't calm Spearow down as it flew above Gabby's head and flew in circles, continuing to announce its battle cry.

Suddenly a loud screech came revving up to the Pokémon Center. The sliding doors opened, and Gabby about had a heart attack when a motorbike sped her way. "Out of the way!" the driver, an officer by the looks of it, shouted. Gabby didn't need to be told twice, scooping up both Spitfire and her Rattata before scrambling backward. The bike stopped before it could run into the front desk.

Nurse Joy looked a little annoyed but not surprised, as if some random officer barreling in was a daily occurrence. "We have a driveway, y'know," she deadpanned.

"This is a Pokémon emergency!" the officer shouted, making Gabby jump. As much as Gabby shouted, she surprisingly didn't like it when others shouted. It usually meant they were angry rather than excited. The officer had blue spiky hair tied in a ponytail and wore a rather familiar outfit. Gabby could've sworn she'd seen it before, but couldn't put her finger on it.

A boy with black hair, dark eyes, and wearing a Pokémon League's hat stood up from the little add-on to the bike. He had an injured Pikachu in his arms. "Please, help it!" he begged, sounding to be on the verge of tears.

Gabby had never seen an injured Pokémon. Her father always kept the sight of harm and gore away from her. Even the books she read up on about Pokémon medical care, it never showed blood. So seeing the little Pikachu with a dried trail of blood coming from its mouth was something new, something she wished she'd never have to see. She watched in horror or awe — she couldn't tell which — as a group of Chansey came in with a stretcher and carried the poor thing off to the critical care unit of the hospital.

Nurse Joy put on a set of rubber gloves for protection against the lightning bolts that Pikachu would surely emit once it woke up. After a quick scolding to the Pikachu's Trainer, she was on her way to complete the operation. The boy looked so lost without his Pikachu. The way he acted made it seem like he had that Pikachu for years, but judging by how little knowledge he had about Pokémon told Gabby otherwise.



A rookie Trainer . . .

Ash Ketchum.

She sighed as she looked up at Spearow. He was still going crazy. She'd hoped it was just the officer's sudden appearance, but that didn't seem so. She placed Spitfire back on the ground, to which he reacted by running up to the boy and tugging at his pant leg. Gabby couldn't help but giggle as she watched. "Come on, Spearow," she said, getting its attention for a second before it went back to flying around in a circle. Another sigh. Rattata appeared to shake its head, as if it was the human surrounded by a bunch of creatures who it couldn't understand.

The boy shifted his attention to the pup tugging at his pant leg. A small but meaningful smile crossed his mouth. "Hey, little guy. You're a . . . um," he said, attempting to name what particular Pokémon Spitfire was.

"He's a Growlithe," Gabby informed with a smile.

The boy turned and yelped in surprise. Gabby raised a brow.

"Is there a problem?" she asked.

“No. You just surprised me. Um, you don’t mind if I . . ?” Ash began, pulling out his PokéDex.

“It’s fine,” Gabby told him as she leaned closer to hear what the PokéDex had to say about Spitfire.

Growlithe, the Puppy Pokémon. A Fire-type. True to its name, it will growl and bark at enemies who come too close to its master.

“Wow . . .” Ash mumbled as he looked up from the PokéDex. His eyes grew wide with unmistakable fear and he let out a scream. It was no yelp this time; the sheer fright was overwhelming. “L-Look out! There’s a Spearow behind you!”

Gabby glanced back then looked at the frightened boy. “Yeah. He’s mine.”

“You own one?!”

“Yeah . . . Why? Why are you so scared?” Gabby asked.

Ash seemed to calm down the slightest as he gulped loudly. “W-Well, Pikachu and I . . . We sorta had an incident with a flock of Spearow. That’s what happened to . . .” He trailed off, looking at the hospital doors.

That made sense. “Don’t worry. Spearow is my pal. I won’t let him hurt you or Pikachu,” Gabby promised. “So, is Pikachu your only Pokémon?”

Ash nodded. "Yeah, and I already blew it."

Gabby frowned. "What makes you say that? Yeah, you messed up by letting him get attacked to the degree he was, but you still raced all the way here to get him help, didn't you? You didn't sulk or call yourself a failure then, did you?"

"No . . ."

"Exactly. So don't do it now when Pikachu needs your faith and help the most," she finished. Spitfire let out a happy growl in agreement as he ran back to rub against Gabby's legs.

Ash stared for a moment, taking in her words. "That's . . . Dang, you're a really good motivator!" he said, giving a thumbs up. Still, he sighed. "I'm just worried about Pikachu. I hope he's all right."

“That’s all you can do at this point,” Gabby said. It was one of those moments someone might place a hand on their pal's shoulder, but no matter how much her mind told her to do so, she couldn't force her hand to move the way she wanted it to. "Why don't you call your parents. You have a PokéDex," she said. Her father hadn't given her a PokéDex since he knew she knew so much and had access to many other forms of communication. Besides, she had a Trainer Card. It worked much like a PokéDex, even giving her a ten-percent discount on Poké Balls.

Ash nodded. "Yeah, I'll do that."

Gabby allowed a small smile. "I'll give you some privacy." She had to get Spearow under control so he wouldn’t scare Ash or Pikachu so much. She stepped back over and said: “Come on, Spearow. Tell me what’s wrong.” It wasn’t like she could understand Spearow talk, but she had to at least try to calm him down. Gabby sighed. No use. She didn't want to put Spearow back in his Poké Ball for such a silly reason. Spearow was flying, getting stronger so who was she to tell it to stop getting stronger. The way it cried out, though, scared her. Why?

Spitfire walked up, sat at Gabby's feet and whined. She lifted a brow. Rattata seemed to be the only normal one, albeit a little agitated by the others. He was no social Butterfree.

Gabby couldn't help but listen in on Ash's conversation. Of course, she could only hear his side, though she couldn't help but notice he never mentioned a father. Gabby's mind wandered, wondering if Ash had both parents or just his mother. A pinch of guilt grew in her stomach as she felt almost hopeful of the latter. She'd never met someone who had only one parent, something she felt was only a curse on her part. She eventually learned that wasn't so, but knowing there was a nice kid who cared about his Pokémon as much as she did and possibly lived in somewhat of the same situation she had was comforting. It sounded selfish to think of though. As much as she loved her father, she would've wanted a mother as well, so hoping for someone to not have both parents was cruel.

She shook the ideas out of her head. By the time the idea vanished, the ring of Nurse Joy's phone rang its annoying little: "Ring-ring-ring! Phone call, phone call!" She turned and saw Ash already answering it. She leaned in when she heard the name Professor Oak. The Professor Oak? she questioned. For a moment, Gabby wondered how reliable Professor Oak's knowledge was when he asked Ash if he was in Viridian City. Ash proved to have a lick of knowledge when he hesitantly explained that he wouldn't have answered had he not been there. Gabby couldn't help but giggle at the reason Professor Oak hung up. She had to agree though: pizza was well worth hanging up on someone.

"Now I've got you!" a voice shouted, catching Gabby off guard. She jumped, and Spitfire's hair stood on end as he growled upon seeing his mistress' fright. She turned to see a clearly exhausted orange-haired girl holding what was once a bicycle. Now the bike frame was charred to a black crisp not even the most desperate of scrap metal dealers would take in for free. "I knew I'd find you here!"

Ash stood wide-eyed and pointed as if he couldn't imagine the girl was there. "Hey, what happened to your bike?" he asked.

"Good question. You tell me what happened to it! This is what's left after you stole it, you little twerp!" The girl yelped as Spearow swooped at her with a loud cry. The surprise movement made her lose balance and the weight of the bike only added to her inevitable impact to the ground.

Ash quickly ran over and attempted to help the girl up. The girl slapped his hand away. "I don't need your help, and you're gonna pay for what you did to my bike!" she shouted. Gabby clenched her fists.

"I'll make up for it. Promise," Ash said. "But I can't do anything about your bike until—"

She cut Ash off: "I don't want any of your lame excuses, kid!"

Gabby stepped up to put an arm between the two. She sent an angered glare at the girl. "Enough. I don't know what's going on, but if you continue to yell at him for saving his Pokémon, then I won't hesitate to challenge you to a battle. If you think a bike is worth potentially killing a Pokémon, your team will be nothing compared to someone who actually cares about a Pokémon's life."

"Are you saying I don't care about Pokémon?!" the girl shouted.

"Did you not hear what Gabby just said?" Ash questioned, not realizing the girl's words weren't meant to be answered by anyone but the person challenging her.

"Shut it!"

Gabby huffed, before snapping: "If you want a new bike so badly, I'll pay for it! Just stop harassing him!"

Both turned to her with wide eyes. The girl said: "Wh-what? What are you talking about? You're not the one who—"

"If it'll stop you from talking to him like he's some old Grimer in the sewers when his Pikachu is in critical care, I'll give you the money you need for a new bike," Gabby said, slightly calmer this time around.

The girl's expression shifted from anger to something softer. "Critical care? Is it that serious?"

Ash nodded, looking down. "Gabby, I don't want you to pay for, uh . . . What's your name?" he asked the girl.

"Misty," she said.

"I don't want you paying for Misty's bike," Ash continued. "It's my fault, so it's only fair that I pay for it."

Just then the light above the critical care room went off and a sound came as the doors opened. Even Spearow stopped to see if Pikachu was okay while the others ran over to check themselves. Gabby smiled as Nurse Joy explained that Pikachu would be all right with some rest. That smile dropped when a loud siren went off.

"Your attention, please. Our Viridian City radar sensors have detected an aircraft belonging to a gang of Pokémon thieves. If you have a Pokémon in your possession, exercise extreme caution."

Spitfire barked and ran in front of Gabby, and Rattata jumped from the desk of Gabby's shoulder, while Spearow remained in the air. So that was what Spearow warned them of. Gabby gritted her teeth. She had three Pokémon out in the open who would surely refuse their Poké Balls if she attempted calling them in. Before Gabby could so much as attempt bringing them back in, two Poké Balls smashed through the glass ceiling. Upon striking the ground, they opened.

A massive Growlithe — at least four times the size of Spitfire — and what looked like the evolved form of a Chansey came from them. Spitfire didn't back down from the massive Growlithe in front of him, flashing fang at the clearly more trained Pokémon. Even when the Growlithe let out a massive burst of flames. Flamethrower, Gabby thought and gulped. No way could Spitfire's Ember compete with such a massive attack. As if Spitfire could read her mind, he turned back and barked at her in assurance.

"Who the heck are they?" Ash questioned.

"Don't be frightened, little boy," a woman's voice came seemingly out of nowhere before two people came down from the hole in the ceiling on ropes.

The man of the group said: "Allow us to introduce ourselves." They did so. Very oddly and in somewhat of a rhyme. It ended with a talking Meowth jumping down in front of Jessie and James, as they had introduced themselves as.

They stared at each other for a few seconds before Gabby could muster up the courage to say: "Send an Ember to that Meowth, Spitfire!" She turned to the others. "Go and protect the other Pokémon. I can at least hold them back until the police get here."

"What the—?!" Jessie of the group said, clearly not used to having someone else oppose them first.

Spitfire jumped into action and let loose a ball of flames. He didn't falter as his mistress told the others to go. It actually made him feel safer. Meowth jumped over the flames, missing it by a hair.

"Hey! Watch it, you mutt!" it said, still boggling Gabby's mind. She'd never heard of a Pokémon able to speak English. Spitfire growled and charged, shooting a round of three smaller balls of flames.

Jessie laughed. "Blissey, stop those flames with an Ice Beam! And while you're at it, freeze that useless Growlithe, too," she shouted, to which her Blissey obeyed. Blissey sucked in a breath before releasing an icy beam. Upon making contact with the flames, they froze instantly and hit the ground with a loud thud. Spitfire didn't give up as he turned his attention to the Blissey. He visibly shook and he bolted forward. Blissey looked up as Jessie, appearing regretful before she sent another burst of icy wind at Spitfire, this time aiming straight for him.

Gabby's eyes widened and the world seemed to slow as the terror in Spitfire's eyes turned all too real, seeing his end in a mere gust of icy winds. She stepped forward; it felt like forever. Then everything became too fast to remember. In a blur of the moment, she forgot what exactly happened, but the next thing she knew, her shoulder was ice-cold. It burned, and she already felt blisters begin to form on her. She sighed when Spitfire whimpered in her arms. He was okay. Rattata sniffed at the frostbitten area on Gabby's shoulder and it turned to Jessie rather than the Blissey who'd inflicted it.

"What? Angry you couldn't protect your Trainer?" Jessie said and scoffed in an almost extravagant manner. "You're hardly worth the time it'll take to beat."

Rattata narrowed its beady eyes. It launched forward, bearing fang. Its hiss and cry of anger pierced everyone's ears as it latched on to Jessie's leg. Gabby stared in shock. Never had she saw an actual attack having been inflicted on a human. Rattata's fangs dug deep into Jessie's leg, until a tough barrier forced it from continuing. That didn't stop it, though. It clamped down harder, at last chipping its teeth on bone.

Gabby scrambled to retrieve the Poké Ball from her pocket. "R-Return, Rattata," she said in a hoarse tone.

Jessie's screams didn't stop there, though. No. They rang loudly in Gabby's ears as the shock subsided. Jessie fell to the ground, and Blissey was quick to get to her Trainer's side. "Blissey-bliss-ey!" she said.

Meowth turned to James. "We gotta go. Jessie's bleedin' real' bad," he said.

James nodded, not even questioning their priorities of stealing Pokémon. They left as quick as they arrived. Gabby turned away at the sight of blood left behind. She clenched the Poké Ball in her hand. Why her Rattata of all Pokémon? Why did her Rattata have to be the one to attack a human? It wasn't uncommon, but for one that had a Trainer, it meant trouble. It usually ended one of two ways. Either the Trainer worked hard to get it under control or the end of their beloved Pokémon had to come.

No. That wouldn't happen. Gabby would train Rattata to become powerful, tame it and eventually evolve it into a Raticate. That was a Pokémon's destiny.

Gabby stood up on shaky legs and pocketed Rattata before pulling out Spearow’s ball. "Return," she said. He didn't give her any problems. "Come on, Spitfire. Let's go tell the others how everything went."

Episode Four: A Growlithe's Loyalty

"Wow. Your Rattata got rid of those three alone?" Misty questioned from across the room where she sat.

Gabby had been taken to a hospital to deal with her frostbite. It wasn't anything too serious, but when the doctor called her father, he insisted she come home immediately. It took an hour of convincing that she was fine and that she wouldn’t strain herself. Besides, the feeling in her arm was beginning to come back. What sold her father was when she told him she had friends she was traveling with. Hearing his daughter had friends must have been good enough news for him. Under the promise that Gabby would call him at every Pokémon Center she stopped at.

She nodded to Misty's question. "Yeah, but I need to train it more so her won't hurt others. I'd hate for him to hurt someone close to me," she said with a sigh. Gabby turned to Ash. "Would you mind if I joined you on your journey? My father probably doesn't trust me alone anymore."

Ash's eyes widened as if he never thought of bringing friends along for the journey, but he quickly smiled and nodded. "Yeah, that'd be great. I was thinking of heading to Pewter City next."

Oh, great. Right back through Viridian Forest, possibly near her house. Even though she was against it, Gabby nodded. She hated the social life, but it couldn't be helped when her father demanded she make friends.

They were in and out of the hospital pretty quickly. Misty joined them, claiming that Ash still had to pay for a new bike. Again, when Gabby offered to buy one, Ash cut her off and told her that wasn't necessary. Gabby could only sigh and accept it as it was.

Spitfire walked at her heels while Pikachu walked ahead beside Ash. Pikachu peeked back to see Spitfire and sniffed the air around him. Pikachu smiled. "Pika!" He ran over to stand by Spitfire, who gave a sideways glare as if to warn against getting near Gabby. Pikachu didn't appear to understand, but kept a good distance, still unsure of all the new people around him. Still, he enjoyed the company and how happy his Trainer was with two new friends.

Spitfire recognized the path they were taking as the one he and his mistress walked on when they started their journey. In his mind, that meant they were heading home. He barked and ran in front of Gabby. He bounced up and down as she stopped. Her chest tightened as she saw her Pokémon's excitement. She knew he wanted to head home. She knelt down, allowing Spitfire to lay his paws on her bent knee.

"I'm sorry, Spitfire," she said. "But like I said the other day, we can't head back until we have an unbeatable team. We have to battle, train, and get stronger. Understand?"

Spitfire tilted his head. He let a small bark loose in understanding though. Gabby knew it wasn't true. Spitfire must have thought they could become strong and gather a great team at home given the mass of Pokémon at the Ranch. Gabby didn't want to go the easy route, though. Gabby ran her fingers through his thick mane of hair as she stood up.

Ash asked: "You live around here?"

"Yeah . . . I've lived in Viridian Forest all my life," she said with a small smile. "I know where we're heading."

"Good, because I don't trust this guy's judgement," Misty said, pointing at Ash.

"Hey, I have a name," he said.

"I know, but I don't care much to use it."

Oh gosh. They were going to be arguing the entire time. Just then, Misty screamed. Gabby jumped and peeked over her shoulder to see a Caterpie. Gabby smiled. "It's adorable," she said. "I've seen wild Caterpie near my place for years now." She had no interest in catching it. Sure, it evolved into a Butterfree, but she wanted something more evolved to capture.

"It's so gross," Misty said. "How can you possibly like bugs. They're so gross and creepy and crawly and . . . Ew!" A disgusted shudder ran up her spine.

Ash smiled as he grabbed a Poké Ball from his belt. "Sorry, Misty. You're outnumbered here. Caterpie is adorable, even if it is a bug."

Another shudder. "You two are strange."

"We never claimed to be normal," Gabby said. "Normal people get nowhere in life."

"Could you not get philosophical?"

"Is it hurting your brain, Misty?" Ash teased.

"At least I have a brain!" she shouted back.

Gabby sighed. She wondered how much longer they'd be arguing about useless topics that meant nothing to their journey. It was like one couldn't say one sentence without the other coming back with a sarcastic remark.

Ash captured the Caterpie without needing to battle it and let it out its Ball. It was happy to crawl up on Ash’s shoulder. Not long after, he caught a Pidgeotto. Gabby somewhat envied his for not having not only the same amount of Pokémon as her, but also having an evolved Pokémon. She cared for Spearow and Rattata, but that didn’t get rid of the jealousy. She knew that was a negative way of thinking, but feelings couldn't be controlled she supposed. She'd get better, her Pokémon would evolve, and she'd have the best team the Pokémon World has ever seen.

They stopped for camp not long after the sun started setting Spitfire used his Ember attack to start a fire.

"Wow, having a Fire-type is pretty useful," Ash said as he warmed up.

"Yeah, Fire-types have been my favorite since I was little," Gabby said with a smile as she rested her hand on Spitfire's head. They sat around the fire, leaning against some rocks. "I plan on one-day training dozens of Fire-types to become unstoppable. Spitfire is just the start, but he'll undoubtedly be the strongest of all Pokémon in the world!"

Misty made a sound of doubt. "How can he become the strongest when Fire-types had so many weaknesses? Rock, Ground, and Water-types can take him out in a snap — just like that." She snapped her fingers to add emphasis to her words. "Any one of my Water-types could wipe the floor with all your team."

Gabby frowned. "Don't underestimate my team and me. Remember, my Rattata ran off that entire gang of Pokémon thieves."

"She has you there, Misty," Ash said.

"But she didn't battle so much as she had zero control of her Rattata," Misty pointed out. "That's a sign of poor training."

She didn't need to remind Gabby. It was bad enough already that Gabby herself acknowledged her failure, but now Misty said it aloud, it felt so much worse. Gabby removed her frown and masked it with a neutral expression. As if her emotion rejection wasn't bad enough. Now she sat in front of complete strangers, feeling as though she could cry from a single failure.

She swallowed a crack of the voice as she forced a false smile and said: "Well, if neither of you brought food, I'll just have to share my own." Gabby pulled out a Poké Ball and 'sent it out', only for a few bags of chips to come out.

Misty's eyes were wide, while Ash smiled and took a bag for himself, Pikachu, and Caterpie. "I never knew a Poké Ball could hold food . . ." Misty said.

Gabby opened a bag. "They can't. It's a special Ball my dad invented for a lady who didn't want their child to starve while on their journey."

"Your father's an inventor?"

"Not really . . . He breeds and sells skilled and highly sought out Pokémon to act as Starters. He just found a reason to make Food Balls, and they've been a hit ever since."

"Anyone that can successfully mix food and Pokémon gets a thumbs-up in my book!" Ash said through a mouthful of food.

Misty made a face. "Don't talk with your mouth full."

"I already have a mom to tell me that at home. I don't need another one following me all over the place."

By morning, Misty expected that a Caterpie would be sleeping by her side. She woke at dawn with the poor thing in her hair. It spat out String Shots in a panic, most of which also got tangled in Misty's hair. Misty woke up screaming when a string of web shot into her gaping mouth.

"That worm is so gross!" Misty said with a shudder. "From now on, it stays in its Poké Ball at night."

Ash cuddled an upset Caterpie in his arms. "Come on, Misty. Caterpie is sorry. What more can he do than apologize for ruining your hair?"

"He can stay in his Poké Ball for a start. And he can stay away from me!" Misty shouted.

Caterpie flinched and made a sound of fear.

"Misty, you're scaring him!"

Gabby would be lying if she said Misty didn't also scare her. She supposed you shouldn't mess with a girl's hair.

"And he scared me!" Misty retorted. "The little pest . . ."


"Hey, you two should keep it down if you don't want to wake the Beedrill around here," a new voice came.

The trio turned and saw some guy wearing samurai armor.

"Who are you?" Gabby asked, sensing an incoming danger. Or at the very least a battle.

"My name isn't important. What is import is what I bring to the table, because I challenge all three of you to a Pokémon battle!"

"Hell yes!" Gabby said. She looked down at the waggling tail at her feet. "Come on Spitfire! A battle is not a challenge we can turn down."

Misty smirked, almost smugly. "This — I have to see." She missed seeing Rattata attack the group of Pokémon thieves, but she wasn't about to miss seeing Gabby fight this samurai guy.

"Great! My fourth challenger of the day!" he said.

"Fourth?" Ash questioned hesitantly.

"Yeah, there three Trainers from Kanto proved very powerful, like you wouldn't believe."

Ash bowed his head in shame. "That means Gary's ahead of me . . ." His voice so too low for Gabby to hear.

Gabby grinned "Yeah, well I'm from this forest — born and raised here! I know every Pokémon in this forest and how to beat them."

The samurai grinned right back. "Glad I'll be battling someone that 'versed in Pokémon."

"I know Pokémon, too," Ash suddenly shouted.

The samurai turned to Ash and smirked. "Is that so?"

"It is! I challenge you to a Pokémon battle!"

"Too late for that, bud. I challenged all three of you."

Ash faltered for a second, looking for the right words, but nothing came. He once again hung his head in defeat.

The samurai turned back to Gabby with a smug look on his face. "Now then. A battle if you will, my lady."

"Call me a girl, a female, a woman even," Gabby offered. "But I refuse the term 'lady'!"

Spitfire ran in front of Gabby with his best big, bad bark. It came out high-pitched and cute. Not the appearance he wanted, but Ash cheered him on.

The samurai said: "A Growlithe. A wise choice and quite rare in these parts. Good choices and rarity won't ensure your victory, though. Beedrill, I choose you!" He threw a ball and the bright beam of light flashed. A Beedrill came out with a buzz and sound of steel sliding against steel as it clanked its hand stingers together. It cried out its name. "Those rare few are often overrated," the samurai continued. "Common Pokémon are common for a reason. Fewer people want them, so little is known about the true powers they have."

Gabby scoffed. "It doesn't matter how common or rare a Pokémon is. It's about how you train them."

He laughed. "Well said." His expression hardened. "Now then. Beedrill, Poison Jab!"

"Spitfire, dodge the attack and jump behind Beedrill!"

Spitfire charged and just as Beedrill pulled back its arm for a jab, Spitfire pounced out of the line of fire. Despite a Beedrill's natural speed, Spitfire could dodge like a champ. His feet were tiny and his winter coat had yet to make him a poof ball. He was light and full of energy. Spitfire skidded to a stop right behind Beedrill.

"Nice dodge, Spitfire! Now, fire a good Ember!"

"Ember? Please! That's a puppy move. Beedrill, fly high and send out a round of Sludge Bomb!" he said.

Spitfire inhaled deeply and exhaled. Fire shot from the back of his throat and past his baby fangs. Flames swirled, igniting against the wind.

"Bee!" it called as its wing tilted. It shot up and poison dripped from its stinger arms. The poison seeped down its stingers and seasoned with the heat of the late morning sun. Globs of poison mud dripped to the ground. An audible sizzle came from the damaged earth.

Spitfire gulped. Even the almighty Growlithe can be fearful at times. Still, no Pokémon big or small, weak or strong, everyday captures of the mother of existence could bring him to not fight. Some day, he'd be a Legendary himself. If Gabby wanted that, he'd give it. Fire erupted in his stomach. Balls of fire shot out in a festive arrangement. Despite Beedrill's attempt to dodge, one of the fireballs got it right in the abdomen. It cried out and on instinct, failing to follow its trainer's orders, it stuck out its real stinger and attempted ramming it in Spitfire's face. Rather than striking somewhere fatal like the eye, it hit right on Spitfire's forehead.

"Spitfire!" Gabby cried out in worry.

"Nice improvising, Beedrill!" the Samurai said.

Spitfire was thrown back, flipping a few feet backward. A red blotch formed on his fur. His eyes cracked open and a growl sounded as he forced himself back up. He dug his claws into the earth as he braced himself. He let out an echoing howl as a fiery force coiled in the pit of his stomach. His fur waved wildly and flames engulfed his body.

Gabby's eyes widened. Flame Wheel? she wondered. "Do it, Spitfire. Fast!"

Spitfire growled in acknowledgment before shooting forward. Only a blur of red and traces of smoke remained where he once stood. He rolled fast around Beedrill as he did before. Beedrill's eyes darted back and forth in an attempt to see which direction Spitfire would jump out at. Too late. Spitfire sprang into the air and crashed into Beedrill with enough force to burn it. Beedrill crashed into the ground hard. It lifted back up onto shaky legs.

Gabby winced as she saw the cracks in the iron stingers. One of its wings was dark from the fire, but it still stood, desiring to preserve the honor of its trainer. Gabby could falter, though. Not with the goal she had. She couldn't let the honor of one's Pokémon make her hesitate. "Spitfire, your opponent is weak! Take it down with one more Flame Wheel!"

The Samurai attempted to order Beedrill to dodge, but the injured Bug-type could no longer move fast enough to dodge the empowered state of Spitfire's Flame Wheel. Spitfire bashed into the Beedrill again and this time, it didn't stand back up. The fire around Spitfire died down. He panted heavily, legs shaking. He was clearly exhausted from the newly learned move.

Samurai ran up to his Beedrill and checked it out before returning it. "You did good, Beedrill. I'll get you to a Pokémon Center as soon as possible," he said. He turned to Gabby. "You're good, but it was pure luck that your Growlithe learned Flame Wheel."

Growlithe barked happily at his victory and ran to Gabby. He jumped into her arms and covered her face with puppy kisses. His fur was slightly burned from being surrounded by fire, but it wasn't anything a little water couldn't get rid of. Gabby laughed and said: "Luck is just as vital a skill as strength is."

Samurai laughed at that. "I suppose you're right about that."

"That was an awesome battle!" Ash said. "I'm so hyped for mine now!"

Samurai turned to Ash. "All right, all right. I'm guessing you want to see my second Pokémon now, eh?" He pulled a Poké Ball from his belt pocket and primed it. "Go! Metapod!"

Ash's eyes widened. "What is that?" He pulled out his PokéDex and pointed it at the Metapod. It said:

"Metapod, the Cocoon Pokémon and the evolved form of Caterpie. Its steel-hard shell protects its soft insides as it prepares for evolution. Intense battles may cause its shell to break open, however."

Ash winced at the thought. "Yeah, let's not have that happen," he mumbled to himself. He put his PokéDex away and threw out his own Pokémon. "Caterpie, you got this!" Caterpie came out of its Ball with a happy cry, waving its little arms around. It avoided Misty's gaze. "Use String Shot to pin it to the ground!"

Caterpie did as ordered. Metapod was already slower than its pre-evolved form and rarely moves around, but now it basically had nowhere to go. When the first round of sticky silk covered Metapod, Samurai couldn't even order it to dodge. It was stuck. Nice! Ash thought. "Now use Bug Bite!"

"Harden, Metapod!" Samurai shouted.

Metapod glowed a slick green under the silk. Caterpie opened its barely visible mouth and closed it around Metapod it a sharp bite. It did something, as Metapod grunted in pain, but it didn't look injured at all. Ash didn't know what else to do. Bug Bite was Caterpie's best attack. Tackle did much less. Bug Bite was undoubtedly the only thing that could take down Metapod . . . Eventually. Ash continued shouting for Caterpie to use Bug Bite, and Samurai relentlessly spammed the move Harden.

Misty and Gabby watched, baffled as to how those two could enjoy such a one-sided battle. Not to mention that one side could barely do a thing! Just then, a buzz came from the treeline all around them. Gabby recognized that buzz right away.

"Oh, no . . ." she said, and Spitfire jumped out of her arms, prepared to fight again. "Misty, you might want to start running."

"Don't tell me," Misty started. "Beedrill swarm, right?" Gabby nodded numbly.

Beedrill wasn't particularly deadly, but getting stung by one was not pleasant. Not to mention their toxins are often known to cause rashes and allergic reactions. Not bad one usually, but it still was not pleasant in the least. It hurt. Not to mention they could fly and come at you from all angles.

"Yes! I won! Good job, Caterpie!" Ash suddenly shouted. Caterpie bounced around and murred happily as Ash cupped its head with his hand.

Samurai returned his Metapod. "It was great battling both of you, but I'm afraid a Beedrill swarm is approaching. Goodbye!"

"Huh?" Ash questioned dumbly.

Samurai was already gone, though.

"What a jerk!" Misty shouted.

"No time for that!" Gabby shouted as she threw her other two Poké Balls out. Spearow and Rattata came out, battle cries loud. "Got out your Pokémon. We're gonna fight this hoard head-on!"

"Are you insane?!" Misty questioned as the swarm neared.

"Insanity in the eye of the beholder. Isn't that the saying?" Gabby asked with a smirk. Misty looked dumbfounded as she threw out the two Pokémon she had that could battle outside of water. Staryu and Starmie. Both impressive on their own, not to mention fast. Ash also released his Pidgeotto.

They all ordered their Pokémon to make a move. The two Flying-types did the most work with their Gust attacks. Rattata also went to work, biting and cracking the stingers off the Beedrill. Pikachu did a number on them as well, aiming for the wings with his Thunder Shock to prevent them from flying. They all fought relentlessly. That was when Gabby noticed a certain Beedrill. Her eyes widened as Spitfire charged at it with his Flame Wheel attack. He knocked it clean out of the air, knocking it out. Gabby couldn't help it. She ran through the swarm and pulled out a Poké Ball. Rattata and Spearow fought the Beedrill that aimed for her.

She skidded to a stop and threw the Poké Ball at the green Beedrill. It was green! How was that even possible. Gabby knew Pokémon came in all sorts of sizes, but never did she think they came in different colors. That was seriously cool! The Poké Ball shook a certain number of times before it clicked.

Yes! It must have been young, possibly even newly evolved considering it couldn't even take one hit from Spitfire without fainting.

The match ended shortly after when Starmie sent out a powerful Psywave to knock to Poison-types out. Misty sighed in relief, but cringed when she saw Gabby capture a Beedrill. Great. Another Bug-types, she thought.

"Nice catch," Ash told Gabby.

Just then, Caterpie looked up to the sky and began spewing a stream of silk up like a fountain. With a burst of bright light, everyone watched as Caterpie evolved into Metapod. Ash looked close to crying in joy. He hugged Metapod, and Pikachu cheered for his teammate. The only one of the bunch who didn't appear happy was Rattata. Rattata glared at Metapod, envious that the Bug-type got to evolve so soon. Its whiskers twitched and it crawled up Gabby to get onto her shoulder.

Gabby smiled and scratched the scruff of Rattata's neck, just as Nurse Joy demonstrated. Her smile only widened as Rattata began to purr. Never did she think a Rattata could purr.

Episode Five: An Ember Ignited

They made it out of Viridian Forest not long after defeating that swarm of Beedrill. Evening neared as they made it to the next route, so they stopped to make camp for the night. It would be another two hours before they could make it to Pewter City if they continued. It was safest to make camp. They sat around the fire Spitfire had made for them. Misty was the only one who didn't release her Pokémon. Rattata snuggled in Gabby's lap and ate from the bag of chips in front of them. Spitfire whined in jealousy, but Rattata only hissed. Gabby sighed.

"I gonna have to train everyone tomorrow," she said. "Brock can counter all my team."

Ash looked over curiously. "What do you mean?"

"Rock-types are hard to deal with if you have nothing to counter them with," Gabby said. "They wall Flying-types and usually have the sub-typing Ground-type, so they wreck Fire and Poison-types . . . Basically, my team is at a huge-time disadvantage."

"Not to mention Pikachu likely can't even hit Brock's Pokémon," Misty added. "Electric-type attacks do nothing to Ground-types."

"Although, they are quite easy to counter, which is what tomorrow's training will be for," Gabby said with a grin. "I already have an idea on how to win."

"What?" Ash asked. He needed some help preparing for the upcoming battle, too.

"Rock and Ground-types are often very, very slow, so speed is a must so you can dodge attacks easily. They're also really sturdy; they are rock, after all, so a real powerhouse of an attack is always good to make the battle go by a bit faster. Having a move that's super-effective against them would be the last step. Water and Grass-types are the best, but Ice, Fighting, Ground, and Steel-type moves are just as exceptionable. All but Spearow can learn at least one move from these types, but I already have a plan for him, too."

Once Gabby finished her long-winded explanation, both Ash and Misty stared in awe. It lasted a number of seconds too long, and Gabby became uncomfortable. She shifted in her spot, hoping they'd get the point, but, of course, they didn't.

"How are you a Rookie Trainer with that much knowledge?" Misty questioned.

"My dad made me memorize Pokémon Types and their relations with one another."

"No! Not that. How do you know Spitfire, Rattata, and Beedrill can learn something super effective against Brock?"

Oh. That. "Growlithe was my favorite to research as a kid, and as I told Samurai, I know everything about the Pokémon in Viridian Forest."

"You're a Pokémon Wizard," Ash said. "Can you give me some advice on how to counter Rock-types?" He scratched the back of his neck, clearly embarrassed by having to ask, likely fearful that Misty would retort something belittling. Before she could even think to do something like that, Gabby answered:

"Of course! I won't give you my strategy, but I can definitely help you form your own."

Ash smiled at that. "Thanks."

"No problem." She returned her Beedrill, who had been training with Metapod in an attempt to get the Cocoon Pokémon to evolve since he desperately wanted a good spar with his counterpart. Despite Beedrill being fully evolved, he was younger if Pikachu was a reliable source. She still wasn't one-hundred percent sure of Ash and Misty yet, her being someone who didn't warm up to others so soon.

Ash was a great guy who had the determination Gabby liked seeing in others, but his Pokémon were easily on her owns' level. She wasn't sure if she was okay with that. Yeah, lots of people were above her, but he was asking her for advice while his Pokémon were on par with her own. He seemed so lucky with what he captured. Envy was an ugly thing, but . . . Gabby couldn't help the burning jealousy within her. She could stop her bitterness from showing on the outside, though. Emotions couldn't be controlled, but actions could.

Misty was a bit of a different case. Gabby wanted to call her a friend, but something prevented her from doing so. It was like they weren't meant to be friends, even if they wanted to. Misty wasn't nearly as determined as Ash. She feared Bug-types. She wanted to run from the Beedrill. It was like they were complete opposites.

Gabby wasn't sure. She fell asleep wondering: why?

The next morning, bright and early, they began training. First thing was speed. Running would undoubtedly be the best way to improve overall speed so their Pokémon could eventually learn Agility and Quick Attack. Though a dodging move and not very effective move against Rock-types, their speedy efforts would help them out in the long run. Speaking of long runs, they set up a spot to race to and from. They were about a quarter mile from the Viridian Forest's treeline, which was their goal for the time being. Though Rattata couldn't learn Agility, Gabby began teaching it how to use the move Dig. It was a handy move and added an element of surprise, which fit Rattata perfectly since he was always surprising Gabby. Not to mention it was perfect for countering Brock.

Ash and Gabby decided, though, that it wasn't fair that they make their Pokémon do all this by themselves, so they decided to race along to. It was a good thing Misty had Water-types because they would undoubtedly need them by the time they're done.

Ash stretched, prepping himself for the race. "This'll be great! We'll see just who the fastest Pokémon is! Our teams are pretty even actually."

Gabby nodded, focusing on the trail in front of her. Lots of hills, rocks, and obstacles. Perfect for Spitfire to train on since he'd need to know how to jump high and far or just knock them out of the way. It wouldn't help Beedrill or Spearow since they both flew, and Rattata would only gain skill through the obstacles underground.

Misty acted as the referee since she didn't want to race with them. "On your mark — get set — go!"

They were off! Ash's Pidgeotto was the fastest, staying close to the ground and forming a Sand Attack to slow the others down, but Spitfire was no slacker. He could smell straight through the Sand Attack where he was going. He may have been fast, but he was out of shape, already panting. Pikachu was another story. He had been a wild Pokémon at one point, so he had to keep in shape to fend other Pokémon off if need be. He also wasn't fazed one bit by the Sand Attack. Beedrill and Spearow were on even ground, neither coming close to passing the other, to Spearow's annoyance. They were too high in the air to get hit by the Sand Attack. Really, the only ones it affected was Ash and Gabby, who were already far slower than their Pokémon.

Metapod was the only one of Ash's Pokémon to not be in the race, for obvious reasons. Instead, Ash told Metapod to practice Harden and String Shot since they would come in handy for the battle with Brock. It was a well-known fact that most Rock-type moves were physical, so Metapod getting his defenses up would be crucial, and then String Shot to slow the opponent down.

Misty stayed far away from Metapod as he practiced those two moves repeatedly. Though she didn't like Bug-types, she admired Metapod's determination to become better. It was something Misty wished she could do better. To be better than she was yesterday — that was all she wanted every day. But where could she start? Would it do her any good to so much as attempt it?

Misty suddenly looked up and saw they were all running back, a cloud of dust behind them. They were coming in fast. Pikachu and Spitfire were the fastest, like they were nothing but a blurry afterimage as they ran. The two Flying-types weren't going nearly as fast, neither was Beedrill. Misty couldn't even see Ash and Gabby! That was how slow they were compared to their Pokémon. They were going nearer fast, and Misty knew she had to move otherwise she'd be trampled. She glanced over at Metapod. She couldn't pick him up; she just couldn't.

"Metapod, use Harden to protect yourself!" she said.

Metapod looked up at her. His eyes were so expressionless compared to how they'd been as a Caterpie, so Misty couldn't tell in he would do it at first. She let out a sigh of relief when he began to glow a bright, shimmery green. She trained many Pokémon that belonged to someone else, but that was the easiest demand she had ever given. Misty moved out of the way quick as Spitfire and Pikachu nearly tripped her as they had no control over their speed. Both Pokémons' eyes widened as they charged straight at Metapod.

Before they crashed, though, Metapod released a String Shot, tangling them in his silk. It stopped them almost immediately.

Misty's eyes widened and her jaw fell slack. Metapod actually stopped two Agility-using Pokémon with a single String Shot? That was beyond impressive. She didn't even need to tell him to use Harden. Pikachu shook his head and peeled the silk off, mumbling his name quietly, clearly irritated that his run had been cut short. Spitfire wasn't so calm and forgiving, though. His eyes flashed fire red and the tips of his fur began to spark with flames, melting away the silk.

Pikachu put a hand on Spitfire. "Pika . . ?" he said cautiously. Spitfire growled and whatever he'd said must have angered Pikachu, but his cheek pouches began to spark. Spitfire reacted to the threat by lighting himself aflame fully. His claws dug into the ground, but before he could spring forward, Misty shouted:

"Staryu, stop him with Water Gun!"

The star-shaped Pokémon spewed a massive, condensed burst of water straight at Spitfire.

Spitfire yelped immediately as the fire went out. The high-pressure water shot him back. He attempted to Roar at Staryu, to stop the attack, but water entered his lungs. It was only when Spitfire began coughing and hacking up water than Misty called Staryu off. Pikachu ran up to the sopping wet Growlithe in concern. Pikachu may have threatened Spitfire with a good shock, but the way Spitfire was coughing and choking was no joke. Pikachu patted Spitfire's back hard, forcing up most of the water.

Spitfire stood back up on shaky legs and looked at Pikachu in amazement. The little Rodent Pokémon actually helped him out. He growled again, this time in a non-threatening way. Pikachu nodded to whatever Spitfire had said. "Pika-pika-pi-ka-chu-pi!" Pikachu added.

Spitfire grunted with a single curt nod. He shook what water he could off and he slowly made his way to Metapod. Misty tensed and prepared to order Staryu again, but Pikachu jumped at her. "Pika!" he shouted, waving his arms to tell her not to order anything. Misty blinked once and then looked up at Spitfire.

Spitfire growled at Metapod, once more in a nice way, actually speaking to him. Metapod made a sound and wobbled a bit.

At this point, the two Flying-types and Beedrill had arrived back and looked exhausted. A few more minutes later, Ash and Gabby finally arrived back. Both were sweaty and gasping for air. They were not made for racing against their Pokémon. They didn't stand a chance.

"Who won?" Ash asked between pants.

"Not you two," Misty said.

"We know that," Gabby said, about ready to pass out. "Spitfire or Pikachu? Which one got here first?"

"It was a tie. They were both using Agility."

Both pairs of eyes widened before the two broke out into wide grins. They gave each other a high-five as their two strongest Pokémon had just learned a new move. Of course, their training was far from over. Just because they knew the move Agility didn't mean they'd mastered it yet. Misty explained that Metapod had stopped both Pikachu and Spitfire, which wasn't a good sign for the two Agility-users, but it was a good sign for Metapod. It showed he was getting stronger even while not moving much.

Ash decided to cut Agility training short and help Metapod further his String Shot skills since they would come in handy later. Pikachu also decided to work on her Electric-type moves, particularly Thunderbolt, which he was still having trouble containing. Pikachu's voltage was really, really high. Too high, even. So he needed to learn how to control and condense it into one, massive attack. Sure, it wouldn't do a thing against Ground-types, but, as with Agility, it would be better in the long run.

Gabby decided she'd continue with practicing Agility and Dig with her Pokémon since both were very important for her strategy against Brock. Her entire plan relied on speed. Speed is key, after all. By the end of the day, Rattata had the move Dig down pat, Spitfire was using Agility nearly non-stop, and Spearow continued with his flight training. His speed in the air had improved nicely, as had his wing and beak strength, so Gabby didn't have to worry about those getting broken when he attacks Brock's Rock-types.

Gabby also decided, since her Beedrill was green, it deserved a nickname. When she asked what Beedrill would like as a nickname, all it did was buzz. Gabby took that as it wanted something that started with 'B'. That night, she laid in her sleeping bag, and then it hit her! She reached and released Beedrill from its Poké Ball. It jolted up in a sleepy haze and looked at Gabby in annoyance.

"I've decided on a nickname," Gabby said. Beedrill seemed to perk up at that. "Hear me out, now — it may sound a bit silly." Beedrill began to look nervous now. "I'm going to call you Beekee, because you're just a baby Beedrill. Beekee sounds a lot like 'binky', like a pacifier. Eh! Don't give me that look! It's cute."

Beedrill, or rather Beekee, flew back to its Poké Ball and let itself in.

Gabby smiled despite Beekee's miserable expression. As cheesy a nickname it was, she liked it, and she knew Beekee would come to love it just as much. Nicknames weren't just another Trainer privilege anymore. They were a mark that ensured Trainer and Pokémon were connected at the deepest level. Who else would allow you to call them something ridiculous? That was but one of the true beauties of the bond between them. If either Spearow or Rattata wants nicknames, Gabby will give them. She just wanted Beekee to get one since he was so unique.

They all decided they would remain in the small field until both Gabby and Ash were sure they could both combat Brock with ease. Misty set a limit to two weeks at most, so they had to get their training done fast. At first, Ash thought it would be a piece of cake considering Pikachu had learned Agility quick and Metapod was already beginning to glisten brightly, indicating his evolution was nearing. It didn't take long for him to discover he was sadly mistaken.

Training was far more boring than he thought it would be. Shouting commands looked a lot more fun on television. He stuck to the task, though, and was impressed at how active Gabby was when training. Within the next week, all her Pokémon who could learn it had mastered Agility and even those who couldn't do perform the move were gaining speed. Every time they had a race, she went with them, no matter how exhausted she was. Ash observed her when he wasn't handing out commands and saw the care and love for her Pokémon in her eyes. Even for Beekee, who she only recently captured. That was the connection every Trainer should have with their Pokémon and vice versa. Just seeing it made Ash want to spend as much time as possible with his Pokémon.

Gabby kept her attention on her Pokémon. "Alright, Spearow. It's time to learn a new move. You up to it?"

Spearow let out his battle cry and spread his impressive wings, chest feathers puffing out. It would be a while before Spearow evolved, but his wings were already noticeably wider than they were when Gabby caught him, and his plumage was growing thicker, which would allow him to use Feather Dance without becoming more fragile from too many lost feathers. The thought made her feel prideful, that through her training, she helped a Pokémon get that much stronger.

"This move is very unique and will help you get rid of your weakness to Rock, Ice, and Electric-types, at least temporarily," she explained. Spearow's beady, little eyes sparkled with interest and amazement. There was such a move? "There is a catch, though." Of course. Spearow expected nothing less. "You have to be on the ground while doing it."

Spearow squawked and flapped his wings, releasing his feathers in anger. He was a Flying-type for crying out loud! He wasn't made to stay on the ground.

Gabby waved her hand the brush the feather away. "Come on, Spearow. We practiced Agility so you can be just as fast on land as you are in the sky. You need this move to stand any chance against Brock. He has a freaking Onix!" At least if Misty's word was anything to go by. Misty seemed to know a lot about Gym and the Leaders of said Gyms, but the more Gabby knew about them, the better so she wasn't complaining.

Gabby planned to use all members of her team, no matter how little time each one had. They'd all been training hard so it wouldn't be fair for one to take the spotlight above the others.

After a long conversation with Spearow, Gabby got him to agree to learn the new move she had planned. "Another catch — I know! I know there's a lot going into this, but you want to win, right?" Spearow nodded and listened to his mistress' explanation: "Alright. You have to be injured already since this is supposedly a healing move. You start out in the air, flying, and then when I tell you, go down to the ground. Apparently, this will heal you, and since your wings aren't open, you'll lose your Flying-type disadvantages, but remember that also makes you vulnerable to things you'd normally be immune or resistant to. Ground-type, Fighting-type moves, and the like. But that's where Agility comes handy! With sheer speed alone, you can dodge, outspeed, and attack your foe easily. Even if we can't get the healing part just right, you'll still be fine against Rock-type attacks! The move is called Roost."

Gabby needed something different for Beekee. Though Beekee had wings and could fly, it couldn't learn Roost and wasn't even classified as a Flying-type. It being a Bug-type, though, made it vulnerable to Rock-type attacks. According to Ash's PokéDex, Beedrill were much faster than most Rock-types, and with Agility, no doubt Beekee would easily be able to outspeed them!

The only issue was Beekee's lacking movepool. Sure, it ran a few decent moves, but those would take another several weeks, especially considering how young Beekee was. He had no experience beyond being a Weedle and Kakuna. That was when the idea struck, and Gabby couldn't understand why she didn't think of this before!

Gabby turned to Beekee, who was currently still practicing Agility with Spitfire, to see who was the faster of the two. When Gabby called out to Beekee they looked over, unimpressed by the name. "Eh, don't give me that look," Gabby said with a small laugh when Beekee looked away in distaste. "Alright, alright. I'll stop teasing. I've finally come up with a plan that will totally ensure your victory next week!" Beekee suddenly turned, interested.

"You remember how to use Harden from when you were a Kakuna, right?" Gabby asked.

Beekee buzzed and used Harden. Rather than the glistening green Metapod did, Beekee's was a bright green and silver. The red of his eyes turned black for a split second. Yeah. This could work, Gabby thought.

"Good job. Now, I want you to focus all the energy you just used into your arm stingers. Only Harden your stingers. Understand?"

Another buzz, and Beekee attempted it. Silver lit up at the tip of its arm stingers but didn't stop at the rim of steel stingers. It ran up its arms. It tilted its head in confusion and narrowed its eyes slightly as it did the move once again. Same result. Now Beekee looked angry. His stingers shook and venom began to drip from the tips.

Gabby placed a hand on his shoulder, or at least what she assumed to be a shoulder — the area that connected the middle and arm. Beekee stopped shaking immediately and looked over, silently asking for help. Gabby assured him:

"It's fine if you don't get it perfectly at first. Just keep practicing, but don't get angry at yourself when you don't do it right. Perfection comes in small doses."

Three days later, Beekee had the move down pat! Gabby dubbed the move: "Iron Stingers," since it was technically a Steel-type move. It was a simple move but would be beneficial.

Ash was very busy coaching Metapod and Pikachu: "Pikachu, Thunderbolt at Metapod! Metapod, use Web Plate!"

Pikachu backed up one step and a spark came from his cheeks and powered up his volt discharge. "Pika-CHU!" he cried out as he released a massive bolt of lightning straight at Metapod. Ash shielded his eyes and the sparks flickered steadily toward Metapod. The bolts were fast, but not fast enough to outspeed Metapod's String Shot.

A mass of silk string spewed in front of Metapod in the shape of a shield. The Thunderbolt made contact, bending the thread, but failed to break it.

When Pikachu realized his Thunderbolt was doing literally nothing, he stopped and mumbled something in his own language, in annoyance. Then his eyes lit up. "Pika!"

"Huh? What is is Pikachu?" Ash asked. Then he turned to Metapod and realized exactly what Pikachu was cheering for. Metapod glowed brightly, blindingly so. Ash watched in amazement as Metapod's outer shell began to crack. The first thing to come out of the shell was a beautiful set of icy grey wings. It flapped those wings to help it get the rest of the way out of its cocoon.

Ash got out his PokéDex and scanned his newly evolved Pokémon. It said:

"Butterfree, the Butterfly Pokémon and final evolution stage for Caterpie and Metapod. Butterfree can produce many different toxins when it flies and has a protective layer of dust over its wings, allowing it to fly in even the heaviest of storms. This Pokémon gained the ability Compound Eyes, which allows for better accuracy."

Ash's eyes widened. He hadn't even thought of his other Pokémons' abilities, so he quickly scanned them. Pikachu had Static, which could cause the opponents to get paralyzed, which was always good for slowing down others. Pidgeotto had Keen Eye, which prevented accuracy loss — not the worst ability ever. Definitely not bad abilities, especially for wild Pokémon that were recently captured.

"Okay, Butterfree," Ash said. "Let's get to learning some new moves!"

Their two weeks were nearly up, and Spearow had yet to master Roost.

"Ground Agility, Spearow! Come on, faster!" Gabby pressed the tired Tiny Bird Pokémon further.

Spearow ran on his tiny taloned legs, blurring from area to area. It took more force to keep his wings close to his body than anything. He was uncomfortable on the ground. His wings needed something more. They needed to flap and soar through the sky! That was what he needed. But he didn’t allow himself to give in to his needs. His mistress put her trust in him, as well as a promise to the best berries when he mastered Roost, so he had to do as she ordered no matter how much he hated orders.

His feathers began to ruffle as a glowing orb began to surround him. With it came a height of energy as he met Spitfire with a hard crash, sending the surprised Fire-type flying backward. Satisfied with his attack, he lifted back into the air, the healing aura leaving him with his ascend.

Gabby's eyes were wide for a long while until she broke out into a grin. "You mastered it! You finally mastered Roost!" She held out her arm for Spearow, who landed and offered a small peck on the cheek. "This is great. You're so ready to face off against Brock tomorrow, aren't we, guys?"

Her Pokémon let out their battle cries.

Misty and Ash looked over from their spots. Ash had lost count of how many days they'd been training, while Misty counted down the days just waiting for it to finally come. Tomorrow, they would be done with camping in the field they discovered two weeks ago, though Misty was a bit sad she wouldn't be able to see the sunrise so perfectly over the hills on the horizon. She won't deny . . . She had a good time there.

Ash was more worried about whether he was ready to take on Brock. Sure, he had a pretty solid team for how long he'd been a Trainer, but none of them were super effective against Brock, so he'd have to rely purely on strategy and his Pokémon's skills. He believed in his Pokémon, but there was still the worry that they could get badly hurt. He hoped they could win . . . As Gabby said the first time they met, all he could do is hope at this point.

Episode Six: Fighting A Hopeless Battle

They finally arrived in Pewter City. Or rather, Misty finally arrived. Gabby and Ash got there ten minutes before since they ran alongside their Pokémon. Two weeks of running back and forth across a mile-long field sure got them into shape fast, though their eating habits needed to improve; chips and crackers were not a balanced diet. Once Misty stepped up, the bridge of her nose curled in disgust.

"You two stink," she said.

"Happens when you don't have access to a shower for two weeks," Gabby retorted. "You don't smell like flowers either."

Misty's face went red in embarrassment as Ash started laughing. They went into the Pokémon Center and got themselves rooms for the night. They handed over their Pokémon, and Gabby had to force Spitfire to go.

"Come on, Spitfire! I need to take a shower, and you need to be checked on," Gabby said as her Starter struggled in Nurse Joy's arms

"Don't you worry. He'll be fine," Joy said, dismissing the three.

Gabby went to her room right away, not even bothering to look around. She ran straight to the bathroom and got herself a shower. Feeling several pounds lighter when she got out, she dressed comfortably in a loose shirt and pajama pants. She had no problem walking around in sleeping clothes. She was a Pokémon Trainer, not some high-class citizen who could be judged for not dressing in the most expensive of attire. Well, she used to be the latter, but as a Trainer, she had the right to dress as such. Even on television, you never see people dressed like they were going to an extravagant party. Always for comfort, because, let's face it, your clothes would get dirty from the battle. Lots of flames, water, and dirt went into them.

Once Gabby had settled into her amazingly comfy bed, she figured she may as well get up and call her dad. Mostly to ask permission to participate in the gym battle, but also to just say hello and let him know she was still alive. She had no access to a phone the entire time and hadn't spent any of her dad's money in two, nearly three, weeks at this point. Had she just missed seeing the swat team come in?

Gabby left her room and entered the main area of the Pokémon Center. There were a few people there, choosing to sleep on the couch rather than pay for a room. Misty and Ash were also there, waiting for their Pokémon to be fully healed. They appeared to have also groomed themselves a bit. Gabby sat at one of the large phone booths and slid her Trainer ID into the slot. Her ID came in the form of a card, but there was also a spot for the PokéDex since those were becoming increasingly popular in Kanto since Professor Oak wanted to know everything about Pokémon. She pressed in her father's number and picked up the phone. Two rings and someone picked up. The screen didn't come on, though.

"Dad?" Gabby said. There were several noises in the background and something crashed close to the phone. Gabby flinched away before she began listening again. It wasn't anything new. Pokémon got out of their pins all the time, but her father's lack of reaction scared her.

Then: "Flamethrower!" It was her dad's voice. She could only hear the destruction of whatever room the phone was in and the crackling of a massive Flamethrower. Then screams. Familiar screams. Not her father's, but that Rocket lady: Jessie.

Gabby's hands began to shake. She wanted to run straight back to her house, but no way would she even make it to the treeline of Viridian Forest before everything went down and that duo left. Judging by the sounds, the screams, her father was in no immediate danger, but Jessie and James were the two who ordered that poor Blissey to do Ice Beam and give Gabby frostbite. Gabby's heart pounded hard against her ribs until the sounds suddenly stopped.

"Dad!" she shouted into the phone. Slow, hard footsteps neared the phone and the screen flickered on. Gabby sighed in relief to see her father. A sheen of sweat ran down his brow as he forced a smile.

"Hey, sweetie," he said calmly.

"Dad, what just happened?" she asked. "Was that Team Rocket?"

Her father's expression hardened and his voice when serious: "You know about Team Rocket?"

Gabby nodded. "Yeah . . . They were the ones who caused my frostbite."

Silence. "I should've done a lot more than let them go with third-degree burns."

Gabby got the point. "Don't say that, dad. It was a small spot of frostbite. It's almost healed anyway, so it wouldn't be worth it."

"You don't know what anything is worth until you've had another life look up at you for protection."

Gabby changed the subject, not liking the current direction. Her father said he injured them badly, and that they were gone, so she had no doubt they'd leave him alone from this point on. "I've made it to Pewter City," she said.

"I can tell by the location listed."

"I wanted to ask if I could take on the Gym Leader here. I have four Pokémon: Spitfire, obviously, a Spearow, Rattata, and a green Beedrill I name Beekee," she explained, suddenly excited.

Her father expression shifted as he saw just how much Gabby loved talking about her Pokémon. "As long as your shoulder is healed, then I can't stop you. You can take on the Pewter City Gym. I'm not doubting you, but understand that losing is a part of being a Trainer."

"I told you already! I'm not going to fail. I'll win the gym battle tomorrow and earn my first badge. I'll be one step closer to creating the perfect team, the best the world has ever seen!"

He father cleared his throat. "There are people watching you, sweetie."

Gabby twisted around in her seat to see a few older Trainer staring. "Eh! Don't eavesdrop! It's rude." Everyone turned away, embarrassed they were caught, but Gabby wasn't the least bit embarrassed that she was shouting so loud. It was still early evening, so no one should be heading to sleep just yet. She finished her call by saying bye to her father and hung up. She stood up, stretched, and went over to where Misty and Ash were sitting. They chose a small booth and sat on either side. Gabby sat next to Misty.

"You have no shame, do you?" Misty asked.

"There's only shame in having shame," Gabby said. "Anyway, what're tomorrow's plans? Who's going to challenge Brock first?"

"I'd like to," Ash said honestly. "Butterfree and I have been training a lot since he evolved. I feel like I can win first try!" He balled his fists, determined to win.

“You’re ten-thousand light years away from facing Brock.”

The trio jumped as they looked over to see a scruffy-looking man with his eyes covered with a red beanie. Misty relaxed and gave the man a bored look.

“Aren’t you that guy who tried selling me a rock?” she asked despite already knowing the answer.

The man shrugged. “Gotta make a living somehow.” He then turned and looked between Gabby and Ash. “You two can’t honestly expect to beat Brock when you only got a few Pokémon to your names, can you?”

“How do you know how many Pokémon we have?” Ash asked.

“I saw y'all racing them when I was trying to call you over to sell you some rock,” the man said simply.

“Ah. Makes sense.”

“Does it?” Misty questioned. Gabby gave a shrug, not sure herself.

“Eh. If you have such little confidence in us, how ‘bout giving us some tips on beating Brock,” Gabby said.

“Tips? I have one. Just don’t battle him.”

“Okay, old man, I get you don’t want us to beat him, but our Pokémon’s pride are on the line here,” Gabby said. “Surely you can understand that.”

The old man was silent for several seconds before giving each one a look. Of course, none of them could see the look he was giving, but they could feel the intent stare the man fired like daggers. “Only two of you will be battling Brock, correct?”

Ash and Gabby nodded together.

A couple more seconds of silence and the man grunted. “Fine. Get your Pokémon and come with me.” Without another word, he began walking toward the exit.

“Wha—?! Wait for us!” Ash called out as he and Gabby ran toward the front desk, where Nurse Joy was just now bringing out their friends. They quickly rushed out, after the man who offered his assistants.

Misty stared in absolute amazement. Had no one ever told them not to talk to strangers? Well, she supposed they wouldn’t all know each other if they hadn’t done the same, but following a man who tried selling them rocks was another level of nope. She shook her head and decided to go to sleep. It’d be nice to be in the comfort of a bed rather than the ground for a little while.

Outside, Pikachu and Spitfire share an odd look as they follow their Trainers. Neither could figure out why they were running after some weird hairy guy that desperately needed a shower but didn’t stop to question. Once they all caught up, their pace grew steady.

“Um, sir, what are you gonna—?” Ash began but was swiftly interrupted.

“Call me Flint,” the man said

Ash nodded. “Okay, Flint, what are you gonna teach us?”

“I think a more important question is why do you agree to help us?” Gabby added, though she supposed Flint could counter by asking why they agreed to help a man whose skills were undoubtedly doubtable. Thankfully, he didn’t. Instead he explained:

“I saw the way you two raced with your Pokémon. Even though you struggled to keep up and keep going, you did what you had to, to make sure your Pokémon didn’t think they were leaving you behind. That takes heart.” He turned to face them, clenching a fist of his chest. “That is what makes a Pokémon Trainer. That is how bonds are formed. And that is exactly why I agreed to help in your pursuit of defeated Brock. He’s a tough one, now; been through a lot so don’t expect a walk in the park. He’s a Rock-type Trainer. That means he has a rock-hard exterior, but if my theory of your two being skilled, wholeheartedly kind Trainer, I believe you can break through it as see the real him.”

A part of their untouched soul had been grabbed and clenched when the man finished his speech. Those words spoke to them, and they understood like an infant would to its mother’s comforting words.

“As for what I’m gonna teach you, I’m thinking that Pikachu of yours, boy, needs some training with his volt power,” Flint said, looking down at the confused, owl-eyed electric rodent, who grumbled at the poor acknowledgment. “And as for you, girlie, I’m intrigued by your Spearow’s ability to keep up while on the ground. I have an idea that would counter Brock . . .”

He led them away from town, explaining his thoughts and ideas while the young Trainers told him what their training had been like for the past several weeks. Due to Pikachu having so much voltage and so little control when condensing his attack, he needed to learn to properly focus and disrupt his electricity at the right time, every time. To do that, Flint showed them an abandoned windmill that human operated at one point.

Flint hooked wires that would normally lead to the blades of the windmill and hooked them to Pikachu’s cheeks. Though Ash felt horrible, he began peddling (Rattata helped when Ash began to tire) to send electrical signals to Pikachu.

The theory behind the training was: the pressure of the windmill working and straining Pikachu’s cheek pouches would bring as much electricity as possible to the surface without allowing him to release it crazily. Instead, he would focus it all on one spot. It wasn’t perfect, as Pikachu would also have to learn how to limit the necessary electricity for a Thunderbolt, but even if it was a one or two-time use move, it would be better than the puny, little Thunderbolts he was using now. And since the windmill was human operated, Pikachu’s insane volt power couldn’t send the entire city into a blackout.

Then Flint turned to Gabby and Spearow, who was none too happy about being woke in the late evening, when he should have been getting ready for bed. Flint decided the best move for Spearow would be Steel Wing. Gabby knew Spearow could learn the move but didn’t think it would be as simple to learn as Flint made it seem.

Basically, Spearow had to continuously strike his wings against a hard surface the strengthen them until they could eventually withstand a rock. It also upped Spearow’s defenses, which was good considering Spearow would need to open his wings when using the attack, ending Roost and making him vulnerable to Rock-type attacks. Of course, he had to start with lighter things, like pieces of wood, then thin trees, working up to thicker ones, and then eventually rocks. The sign that the move was mastered what the silver glowing the surrounded, more often than not, a single wing. Double Steel Wings was an advanced move that would come later.

Of course, their other Pokémon were by no means slackers as they practiced more of what they’d been doing for the past couple of weeks.

By the end of the night, Pikachu shot a Thunderbolt at Flint’s Golem, and though it did nothing, it was focused and condensed into one spot; and Spearow was sparring with Beekee, able to evenly keep up and maybe even grew superior to Beekee’s Iron Stingers. To think — they’d only been practicing for one night, while it took Beekee several days to reach the level he was at with his Iron Stingers. Gabby wondered what she’d done wrong, but shook the thought away. She was still a rookie Trainer. Mistakes and inconsistencies were inevitable, but she couldn’t help but feel bitter that some guy who still insisted they purchase some rocks were a better Trainer than her.

Spearow landed on the ground, wings close to his body and panting. A healing orb surrounded him as he shook his exhaustion off.

“Come on, Spearow. We got this,” Gabby encouraged.

Spearow turned to her and nodded before taking flight once more. His right wing glowed brilliant silver as he swooped at Beekee. The Bug-type narrowed his eyes and held up his stingers, swatting at Spearow. Their weapons clashed with a slight spark. Their duel went on for several minutes, each going back and forth with their strikes and parries.

Beekee grunted with irritation and his eyes flashed black for a split second before he became a green blur as he illegally used Agility to move behind Spearow. He lifted his stinger, preparing to jab at the Flying-type, but Spearow was older, smarter, and overall stronger.

Spearow’s beady black eyes darted behind him and he narrowly swooped under Beekee’s attack before sending his glowing wing up. The silver tip of his wing connected with Beekee’s chin, sending the Bug-type flying into the air. He had no time to correct his wings for flight, so he sailed back down to earth, crashing with a cloud of dust.

When Beekee pushed himself up, glowing green with a Harden attack that he used to soften the landing, Gabby smiled. Beekee really knew how to use Harden. Her smile quickly left when Beekee and Spearow glared at each other.

“Enough,” she said, stopping the two from charging at one another. “It was a spar between teammates. Nothing personal.” She held out her arm, allowing Spearow to roost there. “You two were good. I think it’s time we head to bed. It’s pretty late.” She looked up at the sky to see the dark blue of pending morning. “Or maybe it’s really early.” It didn’t matter to her. She just needed some sleep.

The next morning, the trio woke up bright and early and found themselves in front of Pewter City Gym. It was a large building that appeared to be made of stone. The name 'Pewter Gym' was carved in the stone, telling them they had the right place. Seeing it now, so close up, was daunting. Something twisted in Gabby's stomach, and she gulped. Ash also appeared intimidated, and they hadn't even entered the Gym yet!

Ash stood in the front, so he took on the job of heaving the doors open. Light bled in from the outside. They all stepped in and let the door shut behind them, leaving them in the dark. Streams of light came from flickering bulbs above them. Their footsteps echoed loudly against the concrete floor. Spitfire sniffed around while Pikachu looked for whoever this Gym Leader Brock was. Spitfire's ears perked up and he began barking and growling in one direction. Gabby turned.

"Spitfire? What's wrong?" she asked.

Suddenly a light turned on in the direction Spitfire was growling at. Gabby jumped back when she saw someone sitting just at where the light went on. The guy was older than her by a few years, clearly a mature teenager. He had dark skin and wore an orange shirt with a green vest over it. It worked, oddly enough.

"So you're Brock," Ash said, turning the guy's attention away from the angry Growlithe.

"I am," he said calmly.

"Well, I'm Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town, and I challenge you to a battle for my first League Badge!"

"Your first badge, huh? Fine, I accept your challenge, but let it be known that a Gym Battle is unlike regular battles. These battles are for Pokémon League authorization. There are special rules."

"And those are?" Ash asked.

"This will be a two-on-two match. No held items, healing items, or items to boost attack or defense. Whoever can knock out both of the other opponent's Pokémon wins the match. Understood?" Brock explained.

Ash grinned. "Yeah, I got it!"

Brock turned to Misty and Gabby. "Will either of you be challenging me after?"

"I will," Gabby said while Misty said she wasn't a normal Trainer. Gabby still wondered what sort of Trainer Misty was. Misty could take Rock-types out in an instant with her Staryu and Starmie.

"I assume you heard the rules. I don't like repeating myself," Brock said.

"Yeah. I heard them." Gabby nodded as she picked up Spitfire. "This is also my first match, so have two more Pokémon ready."

Brock chuckled. "You two are confident in yourselves, aren't you?"

"Of course!" Ash shouted. "Now, let's get this battle over with already."

Brock's face suddenly turned serious. Oddly enough, his eyes appeared completely shut. Suddenly, two metal garage doors began rolling open with it came a massive rolling platform with earth and stone. The three unknowing Trainers ran to the opposite side of the Gym. They just made it before the platforms met. Gabby and Misty took several steps back to get Ash his space, mostly so he wouldn't be pressured to make any fast moves.

Brock jumped down from his spot and pulled out a Poké Ball. "The battle begins now. Geodude, I chose you!" In a flash of light, a stubby Rock-type came out of the ball thrown. Gabby took note that Geodude floated in the air.

"Alright then," Ash said as he reached for his Poké Ball. "Pidgeotto, I choose you!” Pidgeotto came out with a sharp swoop into the air, calling her name as she kicked up a whirlwind. Geodude didn’t seem intimidated or even impressed, which didn’t sit well with the Flying-type. She narrowed her eyes. “Start with Agility and then Gust, Pidgeotto.”

Pidgeotto chorused her name again and took to the air. Whipping her wings up, she began to glow slightly as she flew circles around Geodude before stopping suddenly as sending a harsh gust at the Rock-type, who merely winced and closed his eyes for a moment to keep the dust out of them.

Brock tensed. Even with a type advantage, Pidgeotto seemed to clearly know what it was doing. "Geodude, use Tackle," he said, doing his best to keep up his calm demeanor.

“You, too Pidgeotto! Tackle!” Ash shouted.

The two Pokémon obeyed without question, hurling themselves at each other. They crashed into each other, and the far frailer Flying-type took all the damage as Geodude put all its weight into the attack. Pidgeotto was sent sailing to the ground, landing with a hard crash.

“Pidgeotto, are you okay?!” Ash called out in concern. The only answer he received as her pushing herself up and taking to the air once more. “Good . . . Keep your distance with Gust!”

“Not gonna work,” Brock warned. “Rock Throw, Geodude!”

Ash nearly grinned. Brock was using a Rock-type move, which was super effective, which meant he was taking the battle a bit more serious now.

Geodude's hand glowed a bright blue and he smashed his fist into the ground. The platform shook and bulb-sized rocks sprang up into the air with the same blue glow. "Geo-DUDE!" They launched forward.

“Show them your counterattack!” Ash said. This time he couldn’t hide his grin when Brock tilted his head in wonder. “Now!”

Pidgeotto backed herself up and with the precision of a truly skilled Flying-type, she flapped her wings with a powerful gust attack. The shockwave of an attack stopped the rocks Geodude had sent her way. They seemed so stay in midair for several seconds before Pidgeotto flapped her wings once more, sending the many rocks back at Geodude. Despite levitating, Geodude was still a Rock-type, and as such, slow and unable to dodge his own attack.

Brock knew that so he simply called out: “Shield yourself!”

Geodude put his hands over his face just before the rocks pelted him into the ground. Once the cloud of smoke cleared, Geodude forced himself up but struggled to levitate. There were several scratches and chips of stone missing from him. Though being chipped away hurt, it wasn’t serious unless massive chunks came off at a time. That didn’t make Brock anymore happy as he called:

“Seismic Toss!”

Ash couldn’t help but smirk this time. Though Fighting-type moves did normal damage, he knew Pidgeotto could handle it. The platform had a fairly soft ground if the protruding rocks didn’t get in the way. The thought made Ash’s smirk slip from his face. Brock surely wouldn’t do that, would he?

Geodude, with a grunt, pushed himself into the air and launched at Pidgeotto with a speed he hadn’t displayed before. So it was hiding some skill. He captured Pidgeotto, closing her wings to her body.

“Otto?” she questioned at first, shocked not only by being captured but also the easy recovery. Had she really been so weak with her counterattack? Her egotistical mind didn’t allow the unwelcomed thought to linger. Of course, she was strong enough. So what if Geodude had some hidden talent? So did she!

Having seen many Spearow, Gabby’s included, trying to learn Drill Peck made Ash accustomed to the potential beyond her wings Drill Peck was unlike most Flying-type moves. Instead of relying on wings, it relied solely on body strength and control. Spearow, unlike their evolved form Fearow, couldn’t rotate they beaks, so they instead spun themselves, using their entire body to power up their small becks. It took massive body strength to really affect opponents and even more control to not get sickly dizzy.

Pidgeottos were not meant to do this, of course. They relied solely on their wings and talons. But at that moment, Ash knew she had to do it.

“Pidgeotto, you have to spin! Like how Spearow does when he’s learning Drill Peck!” Ash called out to his beloved Pokémon.

Before Brock could even begin to fathom what strategy Ash formulated, Pidgeotto did as ordered. Her small but well-trained muscles move under her flesh and feathers as she cried out her name. Geodude’s rising was slow but steady, giving her little time. Pidgeotto wasn’t about to be outdone, though. With a tight twist of her body, she began turning.

Geodude’s eyes grew wide as the sheer strength and determination of the fragile Flying-type. He gave a quiet: “Geo,” out of respect.

Pidgeotto cooed her thanks but didn’t stop turning until she had Geodude in a steady spin. The Rock-type could do very little. Sure, he could let the Flying-type go, but any kind of advantage would be lost. Geodude would be dizzy while Pidgeotto would be a little less than disoriented. So long as Geodude kept hold, at least they’d both go through much of the same dizzy feeling.

Brock saw this as clearly as Geodude had.

It took only a short while for them to spiral down to the ground. Both disoriented, neither could direct their correct paths. Even with the sound of her Trainer’s voice, Pidgeotto was unable to redirect herself and ended up crashing into one of the few protruding stones.

Both Pokémon cried out upon impact, kicking dust into the air as the rock shattered with the weight of the two. Ash and Brock shielded their eyes until the dust cleared.

Pidgeotto stumbled, plumage dirtied and wings close to her sides. Geodude was no longer levitating, instead forcing itself up with its arms; it was almost like muscle was moving under what should’ve been skin. Geodude grunted as he pulled himself along. Before Pidgeotto could even hope to spread her wings to take to her natural place in the air, Geodude crawled close enough to easily throw himself on top of her. Pidgeotto first squeaked before crying out at the sudden addition of weight of her weakened bones. The two landed in a heap of dirt and feathers.

The Trainer recalled their Pokémon right away:

“Pidgeotto/Geodude, return!”

A stream of light came back into the Poké Ball. Brock praised his hard-working Pokémon and then turned his attention to Ash. "That was pretty good."

"Thanks," Ash said, smiling as he returned his own Pokémon. Pidgeotto did excellent in that battle and deserved a good rest. "Your Geodude was strong. Being able to take last so long after that little tactic, too!" Ash had to admit that he doubted even Pikachu could remain oriented enough to have done what Geodude did.

“Yes, that was quite something,” Brock said. “Where did you come up with such an idea.”

“Gabby’s been training her Spearow to use Drill Peck, and I remember Rattata getting dizzy once Spearow got to spinning,” Ash explained. “It just came to me at the most unlikely but convenient of times, I guess.” He scratched the back of his neck with a cheeky grin, quite proud of his thought process.

"So you admit you're a poorer Trainer than her," Brock said. He turned to Gabby. "I'll be expecting something extravagant from you."

The pressure was on, for both Trainers. Ash needed to prove that he was at the very least on equal terms with Gabby. He didn't want to place standards on them; just to be each other's equals. "Butterfree, you're up next!" The beautiful Butterfly Pokémon came out of its Poké Ball with a playful little cheer for itself. "I've been training Butterfree for the past week for this battle," Ash informed.

"If it weren't for your Pikachu, I'd assume you to be nothing more than a Trainer keen on with the Flying-type," Brock said. "But onto the second round. Onix, come on out, buddy!" A massive snake-shaped line of boulders came from the Poké Ball. The building shook, even worse than when Pidgeotto and Geodude had landed.

Butterfree's cheer was cut short as he looked up at the massive Rock-type. Its beady eyes met his large ones in an intense glare. One Rock-type move from Onix, and Butterfree would likely faint, but Ash wanted to prove that he could use his own strategy to win. "Okay, Butterfree, start with a Harden to build your defenses up," Ash ordered. Butterfree glowed a bright purple.

"Onix, take into down with a Slam before it gets too bulky!" Brock shouted. Not that a Butterfree could get that bulky. He simply wanted the match over as soon as possible. Onix positioned himself tall and in an intimidating manner.

"Don't let Onix hit you, Butterfree . . . You know what to do," Ash said. Butterfree let out a slight noise of confirmation.

Onix roared and moved forward to land his attack, but Butterfree was gone in a split second. Onix hit the ground with a massive thud, shattering what rocks remained after the previous battle. Butterfree appeared above the massive Pokémon.

"What the . . ?" Gabby mumbled. Butterfree couldn't learn Agility, so what move was that? "Ash, did you really do what I think you did?" she asked.

Ash grinned. "Yep. I taught Butterfree Teleport!" He turned back to the battle. "Poison Powder, Butterfree, and then Supersonic!"

Butterfree flapped his wings rapidly and produced a purple, sparkling powder. It coated the back side of Onix and dug into the sensitive areas between the conjoined boulders. Onix roared in pain as the poison began to take effect.

"Calm down, Onix!" Brock shouted. "Use Dig to escape before he uses Supersonic!"

Too late. An ear-bleeding screech came from Butterfree, sound waves somehow visible. Despite Onix not having ears people could see, he could hear. The sound was painful enough for all four humans to cover their ears, and Pikachu and Spitfire to also be affected by it. Onix began to thrash around in confusion, crying out as the poison began to take effect. Ash shouted for Butterfree to stop with the Supersonic, that Onix was confused already. Butterfree obeyed and flew high enough so that he wouldn't get accidentally get hit by Onix.

The arena filled with dust and smoke as Onix refused to calm down or even return to his Poké Ball. Pikachu and Spitfire ran into their Trainers' arms when the arena platform began to break. The rampage ended with one final roar of defeat from Onix. The dust cleared to reveal Onix had indeed fainted himself and Butterfree remained untouched. Brock returned his Onix, and Ash cheered with Butterfree as they had won.

Brock sighed but smiled nonetheless. He wasn't a bitter person and didn't truly care for Pokémon battles anyway, so he wasn't angry that he didn't win. He called out: "I would come over and give you your Badge, but there's a broken platform in the way!"

Ash stopped cheering and cringed at the damage he caused. The platform was broken into five pieces, all because of those few attacks. "Uh, sorry about that!" he said, scratching the back of his neck sheepishly.

Once Brock got from one end of the gym to the other, he held out the Boulder Badge. It gleamed a bright slate color and was in the shape of, as you could guess, a boulder. Ash reached out and took it. He broke out into a huge smile.

"As much as I hate seeing my Pokémon faint, you earned the Boulder Badge fair and square," Brock said. "And I take back what I said about you being a lesser Trainer. It isn't my place to compare two Trainers, especially when I haven't fought one of them." He turned to Gabby, who held a still-confused Spitfire in her arms. "I believe we'll have to have our battle some time later this week. The battling platform isn't looking too good right now."

"That's fine," Gabby said. "Gives me more time to work out my strategy now that I know your approach to battling."

"I'm expected a lot of skill. That's something I don't usually say, but I have faith you can bring it."

The trio left for the Pokémon Center, Ash admiring his new Badge, Misty amazed at how well Ash had actually formed a battle strategy, and Gabby pinning on how exactly she could win. She knew Brock would hold nothing back for her, and that Onix lasted a while confused and when poisoned. No simple technique could get past that.

Gabby continued the training Flint had given her the first night she’d been in Pewter City. It was no simple task with lazy, gluttonous Pokémon. Sure, Spitfire put in some great effort, but Rattata and Spearow were less than eager to train late into the night. Nevertheless, it was a good thing Gabby trained her Pokémon so hard the past three days.

She stared across the platform and saw a Graveler. "Geodude evolved yesterday helping me fix up the platform," Brock explained. "Lucky, huh?"

Not so much.

Gabby was beginning to regret letting Ash go first. She pulled out a Poké Ball. "Time to trim your fangs, Rattata!" she called out. Rattata came out of the ball with a high-pitched screech.

“Are you insane?” Misty shouted. “A Normal-type against a Rock-type?!”

Gabby looked back and gave a reassuring smile. “Insanity in the eye of the beholder.”

Misty slumped over, defeated.

Ash stood behind Gabby and stepped closer, interested in seeing just how well Rattata fought. If it could make a three-member gang run, it had to have some skill, and after all that tough training Gabby put it through, it had better be powerful.

Gabby called out to Rattata: “Use Dig, now!" beginning the battle. Rattata obeyed and began to dig into the ground platform. It was surprisingly soft, likely to prevent injury to Brock’s own Pokémon when they used Dig. Apparently, it didn't work so well when it came to confused thrashing, though.

Rattata went underground, burrowing his way through, creating a maze as fast as he could. As a tiny rodent Pokémon, he was fast. Brock ordered Graveler to the same. Rattata heard the stocky Rock-type near and prepared. His fangs began to glow a blinding white and his tiny claws dug into the dirt all around him as he braced his small frame for the upcoming attack from both sides. Rattata narrowed his eyes as Graveler came into view. He stood on his hind legs and screeched before the blinding white of his fangs beamed forward.

Above, everyone stood, waiting for something to happen. The thick earth masked all sounds. The ground shattered and Graveler was thrown across the arena with a bright beam of light. Hyper Fang. Gabby knew having Rattata chew down a few trees before the battle started would be a good idea.

Graveler hit the ground with a massive crash, and Rattata poked his head out to see the damage he caused. A growl and hiss came out when he saw the Rock-type rolling slightly to attempt standing again.

"Rattata, keep digging and hit Graveler!" Gabby shouted out, seeing her Pokémon's disappointment in the lack of victory. Gabby knew Hyper Fang wouldn't do too much to a Rock-type, but it was certainly enough to send Graveler flying.

Rattata gave a curt nod and went back to digging fast, toward Graveler. Its bulky size prevented it from getting up quick enough, and Rattata crashed into it, making it cry out in pain as Rattata grabbed onto it with his teeth, baring down hard to wear down the sharpness. Graveler roared in pain, and Gabby tensed.

Rather than feeling the pride in her Pokémon's clear victory, Gabby felt the memories of that day come back to her. The day Rattata actually attacked a human. She tried to convince herself that Rattata only did it to protect her, but he attacked a human, not that Blissey, the one who landed the attack. She remembered the blood, the screaming, the sheer panic as Blissey checked Jessie's injuries. Gabby had intended on taming Rattata, but here she was, ordering Rattata to attack.

"Gabby," Misty said, placing a hand on her shoulder, shaking her. "Gabby, are you even watching the battle right now?"

Gabby came out of her stupor to see Graveler attempting to shake off the clinging Rattata that refused to let go. Brock then shouted: "Get it off you with Rollout!"

Gravler tucked his arms and legs close to his body and prepared to roll. Gabby shouted for Rattata to get off fast, but it was too late. Graveler began rolling and flung Rattata off and into a large rock. Rattata struggled to stand up and stumbled several times before bolting out of the way of the Graveler's Rollout attack.

"Stop its attack with Hyper Fang, Rattata!"

Rattata began to power up another Hyper Fang, a massive beam of light shooting out from his fangs. He charged right at the rolling Graveler. They clashed and both got sent flying back from each other's impact. Rattata hit the ground, eyes closed and clearly fainted. As Brock pointed out, Rattata couldn't take anymore than one direct attack, but Graveler wasn't so lucky either. After two Hyper Fangs, a Dig attack, and several Bites, he also fainted.

Gabby sighed in relief to see it was a double knock-out. She didn't think any of her other Pokémon could take on an evolved Pokémon at this point. Much less while also having to deal with an Onix. The two returned their Pokémon, both praising them for holding out for so long.

"Not bad," Brock said. "I never expected a Normal-type to take down Graveler . . . Then again, a lot of stuff has happened over the past few days that I never expected. But onto the next round. Magcargo, I choose you!" He threw the Poké Ball and out came a lava snail-looking Pokémon.

Gabby's eyes went wide. She'd never seen that Pokémon. She turned to Ash. "Scan it and see what it is," she said.

Ash pulled out his PokéDex and pointed it at the Pokémon. "No Pokémon detected."

"What?! It's right there!" Ash shouted at his PokéDex.

"No known Pokémon detected."

"It's pointless," Brock said. "Magcargo is from another region. If you must know, he's a Fire-Rock-type."

Gabby figured as much, but she wanted more information. Was it an evolved form? What moves did it typically hold? Looks like I was wrong, she thought. Not everyone would get the chance to fight. Spitfire likely couldn't do a thing to the Magcargo, and Beedrill now had a four-types weakness against Brock's Pokémon. Man, she was looking forward to battling Onix! She had her entire strategy based around that Onix. Still, she had one strategy that could easily be exploited.

"Spearow! Start with Agility!" She threw out the Poké Ball and Spearow emerged with its wings spread wide and proud. He immediately began building up speed high in the air.

"Flame Burst," Brock said calmly having faith that Gabby wouldn't have a clue what to do.

Magcargo released a massive sphere of flames, shooting them right at Spearow, who dodge with Agility. Spearow swooped down and tackled Magcargo. Its defenses were huge and the Tackle barely did anything. Magcargo's Flame Body ability activated right then and the tip of Spearow's wing got burnt. Perfect, Gabby thought.

"Finish it with an Ancient Power," Brock said. Magcargo began powering up his shimmering Rock-type attack.

"This has only just begun!" Gabby shouted. "Spearow, use Roost Attack!" An attack Brock had never heard of, but he could assume what exactly it was.

Spearow swooped down and landed on his feet, wings close to his body. Then he used Agility to run across the arena at unbelievable speed. Brock had never seen a Spearow run so fast. Spearow’s left wing glowed a blinding white. Gabby almost felt bad when she expected a Peck or Fury Attack as opposed to the far superior choice. He was better at strategies than Gabby was! He dodged the Ancient Power and ran straight into Magcargo with Steel Wing. Even with amazing defenses, it still hurt Magcargo, sending him to the side with a pained cry. Spearow flew into the air once his attack was done.

This went on for a good while until Spearow's burn was overcoming even his healing move Roost. His body shook and his feathers were in a mess, matted with dirt and coppery brown blood. Gabby knew the battle had gone on long enough. She held out Spearow's Poké Ball and called him out. He used Agility to dodge the beam of light trying to call him back it.

"Spearow, you're too tired to go on!" Gabby said.

He ignored her and went for another Steel Wing. The exhausted Magcargo fell several feet from where he stood before the attack and the sound of his shell cracking rang through the otherwise silent arena. Spearow cheered in his victory. He flew over to Gabby and landed on her head since he couldn't fit on her shoulder anymore. Brock recalled his Magcargo and walked over.

"That was definitely an interesting strategy with Roost," he said, holding out the Boulder Badge. "You earned to Boulder Badge, and I can safely say you and Ash are on equal levels. With some more training, you both could become very skilled Trainers with some of the strongest Pokémon. Tell me first, though — what are your dreams as Pokémon Trainers? What do you strive most for?"

Ash and Gabby looked at each other in confusion, but answer nonetheless:

"I don't really have a dream because someday this will be a reality! I'm going to create the strongest Pokémon team the world has ever seen. No one will ever beat us!"

"I want to be a Pokémon Master! The greatest there ever was or ever will be."

Brock nodded and handed over Gabby's Boulder Badge. "Very interesting goals that will take a lifetime to conquer, but if you two keep it up, you will make it."

"What about you, Brock?" Ash asked. "What's your dream as a Trainer?"

Brock stayed silent for several seconds before he said: "I don't particularly enjoy battling Pokémon. I enjoy raising them above all else. To become a Pokémon Breeder — that's my dream." He clung to Magcargo's Poké Ball. "And I fully intend on making that happen. Ash, Gabby, can I join you two on your journey?"

Ash's eyes went wide. "What about the Gym? And your siblings? I saw yesterday that you had a lot of them."

"My father turned up yesterday," Brock said. "He told me to go follow my dreams. He promised he'd take care of my siblings. Despite him leaving us after my mother passed away, he's still mine and my siblings' father. I trust that he won't mess this up."

Ash quickly nodded. "Of course you can come along, Brock! The more the merrier, right guys?"



"Grrr . . ."

"Spitfire, don't growl at him! Brock will be a friend to all of us."

Brock smiled. "Thanks, guys."

Episode Seven: Star-Shaped Moon Stone

It was good Brock joined them. Otherwise, they would've been stuck not knowing where to go. Misty was determined to have them head back to Viridian City so they wouldn't be heading to Cerulean City yet. Brock pointed out that it wouldn't make much sense considering they'd have to go through Viridian Forest once and then again to find their way back to Cerulean City, so it would simply be best if they headed there now. They came across many Trainers along the way to Mt. Moon. Ash and Gabby took turns battling them. Ash decided he wouldn't have Butterfree use Teleport too much outside of huge battle; it felt cheap to go up against tiny Pidgeys and Top Percentage Rattata and just spam Teleport when he knew he could win normally.

Gabby began using Beekee to battle now, wanting to mature his skills as soon as possible. Since she didn't use them against Brock, Gabby decided she'd use Spitfire and Beekee against the Cerulean City Gym Leader. When she expressed this out loud, Misty looked at her as if she were crazy.

"You do know that the Cerulean City Gym is a Water-type Gym, correct? Spitfire will be taken down instantly!"

Gabby waved Misty's concern off. "If I'm going to have the best team ever, my Pokémon will have to face their weaknesses sometime. If Spitfire can win, I know I'm doing a good thing!"

Misty just shook her head. So naïve.

They made it to Mt. Moon, and Gabby was in awe at the sight. The massive mountain covered up the sun from their few and just looking into the entrance, they could tell it was pitch black. None of them had flashlights. Ash did have Pikachu, though.

"Help us out with Flash, buddy?" he said.

"Pika!" Pikachu agreed and run in front of them. His cheek pouches sparked to life and acted as flashlights, lighting the area. The moment the flickered on, a face came into view from into the cave. The entire group screamed, and Pikachu ran to Ash fast.

Suddenly a laugh came and Gary stepped out from the shadows to show himself. "What a bunch of wimps!" he said.

"Gary?!" Ash and Gabby said in unison. They looked at each other and questioned: "You know Gary?"

Gary only chuckled and said: "Figures two losers like you would end up becoming friends. You can mull over your losses together."

Gabby retorted: "Ash and I both got our Boulder Badge on the first try."

Gary scoffed. "Please! I took that guy down with one Pokémon. Just like I'm about to do to both of you. Squirtle, come on out!" He threw out the Poké Ball and out came the same Squirtle Gabby battle before. It looked a bit larger and overall stronger compared to the first encounter.

"Of course you won with a Water-type," Brock pointed out. "All my Pokémon are four-times weak to Water-types."

Gary shrugged. "I guess I'm just really skilled at selecting my Pokémon. So which of you losers want to go first?"

"You got this Ash," Gabby said.

"Of course. Hand it over to the guy with the type-advantage," Gary said. "Not that it can help him when Squirtle is more skilled than that dumb Electric Rodent ever could be."

Pikachu's ear twitched at the insult and his cheeks began to spark as an unusual growl rumbled deep within his chest. Ash looked down at his Starter. "Pikachu?" Pikachu sprang forward and faced the Squirtle. He didn't want to hurt the Pokémon, but he did want to prove Gary wrong.

Ash grinned at his Pokémon's determination. "Alright then. Start with an Agility!" Pikachu ran circles around Squirtle, showing his superior speed.

Gary wasn't impressed.

"Aqua Ring, Squirtle," Gary said calmly. Squirtle stomped the ground and needle-thin spouts shot from the hard earth, swirling around him with an invisible force. Figures he'd set up a healing move. They were so typical for the bulkier Pokémon. Though, in this case, it appeared illy thought out; as the added water would only make Ash’s job easier. As much of a healing move it was, it was still water and thus a conductor.

"Keep running, Pikachu, but use Thunderbolt while you're at it," Ash said.

Pikachu focused his electricity closely and cried out his name as he unleashed a massive bolt of lightning at the Squirtle.

“Rapid Spin,” Gary ordered simply.

On command, Squirtle tucked into his shell and began to spin through the air. The Aqua Ring followed him, seemingly giving him extra life despite him not having been previously attacked. Once he’d evaded the shock, he popped out of his shell again and rocketed at Pikachu belly-first. He landed just as the voltage seized from the confused Electric-type. Although Squirtle didn’t appear large, he was quite heavy and the force of the Body Slam attack caught Pikachu off guard. Pikachu gave a little squeak as he became partly crushed under the bulky Water-type’s weight.

“Hang in there, Pikachu and use Thunder Shock!” As strange as if would appear, changing the attack to something notably weaker, Thunderbolt was still very much a work in progress; Thunder Shock was a full-body attack, whereas Thunderbolt only really emitted from his cheeks right now.

As such, the attack came fast. Faster than his Thunderbolt ever would have at that moment. With a loud: “CHUUU!” the Electric-type let loose a harsh bolt of lightning from every inch of his form. Sparks coated the vulnerable Squirtle, who screamed in pain for a moment before it withdrew into its shell under Gary's demands. Pikachu stopped his Thunder Shock and tossed the Squirtle off his back. Even his strongest voltage couldn't hurt the Squirtle when it rested in its mobile home.

Having been stopped, Pikachu built his speed back up in a short sprint to Ash. When he skidded to a stop, kicking up rock fragments and dust in his speedy wake, he was panting lightly from the workout. Still, it was nothing compared to what he went through when he was training the last few weeks. His cheeks still sparked.

"You give up?" Ash asked, feeling proud of how well he was doing thus far.

"Nah. Just giving Squirtle this," Gary said, holding up a Oran Berry. He tossed it out and Squirtle immediately pulled out of its shell to take the tasty morsel into its mouth. Its eyes lit up, ready for more battle.

"Hey, that's not fair!" Ash shouted.

"You never stated the rules, so there are none," Gary said with a smirk. "Squirtle, use Body Slam again!"

Before Ash could give an order, Squirtle crashed into Pikachu. Pikachu cried out in pain as he fell back onto the ground. He quickly stood back up, though. "Okay, buddy. Use Thunderbolt again," Ash said. Pikachu nodded and bounced into the sky where Squirtle couldn't reach him and began to power up his attack.

"Pika-CHUUU!" he called out as the massive bolt lit up the shaded area. Squirtle was far too slow to obey Gary's order to dodge the attack and got hit head-on. The bolt knocked Squirtle out, and Gary quickly returned Squirtle with a nod of praise.

Ash grinned widely and hugged Pikachu as the Electric Mouse Pokémon ran up and jumped into his arms. "Good job, Pikachu! I knew you could do it!"

Gary scoffed. "Yeah, because you had the type advantage," he said. "Had you used any of you others, I'm sure you would have lost. Speaking of, how many Pokémon do you have so far?"

"Three," Ash said honestly. There was a sense of shame in his voice.

Gary laughed. "Three? That's it? I already have ten, my male and female Nidoran being the only duplicate species."

"And let me guess. You have hardly the time to train them?" Gabby said.

"They get their training done when they're in battle," Gary said. No wonder his Squirtle lost after a few attacks. He didn't train it correctly.

Pokémon needed training outside of battle. Without it, they couldn't gain new moves easily or evolve properly. Take Agility for example: it was impossible for a Pokémon to learn it without running and gaining speed over time. It just couldn't happen. It was simply impossible. Heaven knows just how much harsh training Butterfree went through to learn Teleport. Outside of Psychic-types, that move was terribly difficult to learn.

"Anyway," he said as he turned to Gabby. "It's time you and I have our rematch. You won't win this time! Eevee, show these losers what strength really is!" He threw out another ball and a cute fox-like Pokémon came out in a tough-looking stance. Gabby had seen Eevee's time and time again. Her father bred and sold them since parents often wanted their child to have a cool Pokémon that could evolve into eight different forms. She never got into the entire Eevee craze since it made her head spin at the thought of choosing just one Eeveelution. She needed a clear guideline so she knew exactly what she was getting.

Gabby turned to Spitfire. "Come on, Spitfire. We'll show him just how much you've improved so far!" Spitfire barked and stepped in front of Gabby, ready for battle. "No healing items," she said.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. As if I'll need them against that runt Growlithe of yours."

"His name is Spitfire!" she shouted. "Flame Wheel!"

"Child's play. Eevee, use Sand Attack!" Gary shouted. Of course he would go for such a cheap tactic. He forgot one major thing, though: all Growlithe's have a perfect sense of smell!

Spitfire coated himself in a mass of flames and rolled forward. Eevee turned around and began kicking up dirt in an attempt to hide itself. Spitfire's nose didn't fail him as he charged straight into Eevee. However, the Sand Attack aided in condensing the flames. Gary must have seen the genius in his plan because he ordered Eevee to use Growl. Once the Evolution Pokémon stood back up and shook off Spitfire's attack, it opened its mouth wide and released a round of visible sound waves. It was enough to knock out Spitfire's Flame Wheel attack. Spitfire clung to the ground to not get thrown back any further.

"Spitfire, counter it with Roar!" Gabby said.

A rumble built in Spitfire's chest before he released it a monstrous roar. Unlike Eevee's sound waves, Spitfire's formed an image of himself charging straight at his opponent. It collided and threw Eevee back several feet, crashing into the base of Mt. Moon. It yelped and failed to stand at first.

"Come on, Eevee! You can't give up that easy!" Gary said. "Get up and show that mutt Growlithe what you can do."

Eevee's ear twitched and it opened its eyes, but rather than face its master or opponent its head turned to the entrance of Mt. Moon. It flashed its teeth in warning and its fur stood on end as a growl rumbled in its chest. Gary looked at it as if it were crazy. "Eevee?" Hearing its master calling to it, Eevee looked up at him for a split second before standing back up and charging into the dark cave. "Hey! Eevee, you haven't finished your battle yet!" Gary ran in after Eevee, only for Spitfire to follow.

"Eh! Spitfire, get back here!" Gabby shouted, following behind them.

Misty, Brock, and Ash looked at each other, before they decided they may as well follow. Pikachu activated Flash again to help them find their way. After a few twists and turns, though, a light became visible. They knew it couldn't be an exit; they just entered the cave. They found out when they nearly ran into a baffled Gary and Gabby. Lamps hung on strings, lighting up the entire tunnel. Even Gary looked confused as to where these lights came from when he'd just come from this way.

"What is this?" Brock questioned. "Mt. Moon is supposed to be pitch black." He felt the wall and found no moisture on them. That wasn't good. How else would Pokémon get their daily supply of water? The cave floor was just as barren. "This isn't good."

Gary's expression suddenly turned to one of unadulterated hatred and anger. "Who the hell would do this?!" he shouted, shocking everyone. Even at ten, Trainers were viewed as adults, and thus not criticized for swearing unless in the presence of their parents. That wasn't what was so shocking. It was seeing just how much the lights angered Gary that shocked them. "Whoever did this will get a beat down!" He threw out two Poké Balls, releasing some mean-looking Nidoran — one male and the other female.

No one questioned Gary, and instead followed him. Gary's three released Pokémon, Spitfire, and Pikachu stayed in front, back hunched and ready to attack, eyes darting in every which way. They followed the strings of lights until they came to a fork in the cave. One lane had several more lights while the other led to a pitch black area.

"We should split up," Gary said. "You four losers go down that dark tunnel."

"What?! How is that fair?" Ash asked.

"Your Pikachu has Flash. None of mine do," Gary admitted.


Spitfire immediately growled and barked at Gabby when she tried to follow her three friends. She looked at him in confusion. "Spitfire . . ?"

"He doesn't want you to go this way," Brock said as he looked into the endless darkness. "There must something down there that he fears he can't protect you from. You go with Gary then. We'll be fine."

Gabby was cautious to agree, but nodded her head nonetheless. If Spitfire thought he couldn't protect her, she wondered what exactly he sensed down there. Gary scoffed but said: "Come on." Gabby hated it just as much as he did. Spitfire calmed down and walked alongside Eevee and the two Nidoran.

Ash, Brock, and Misty turned to the tunnel they were to take. Pikachu's cheeks sparked with Flash and they began walking. A few meters in and an absolutely rancid smell hit their senses hard.

Gabby and Gary remained silent as they walked through the lit area, uninterested in conversation with each other. Spitfire sniffed around the dried cave, sneezing when dust got up his nose. Eevee did the same, and the two Pokémon appeared to growl back and forth in conversation. The buzzing of the lamps hung around was beginning to give Gabby a headache when they came to a massive area of the cave. Her eyes went wide as she scanned the clearing. Trucks and digging equipment were scattered in the area. Gary walked up to a truck and placed a hand on the hood and hissed as the heat of it burned his hand. As warm as it was with those lights strung everywhere, no way could the truck have gotten that hot without having been on recently.

"What is this?" Gary asked far too quiet for Gabby's liking. He sounded just as worried and concerned as she felt. "Mining is illegal in Mt. Moon because of the Moon Stone being here."

"Isn't the Moon Stone supposed to evolve some Pokémon?" Gabby asked.

"Yeah, but they sell those in stores. You're not supposed to just take them from here."

Gabby never knew that. She thought people have to find their own evolutionary stones. "Then how do they get them into stores if the Moon Stone is only here?"

"How am I supposed to know?" Gary said, annoyed with her at this point. "We need to get out of here now."

Gabby nodded. "I'll go get the others." She turned back to the lit tunnel, but stopped when Spitfire growled at her again. Then he barked down the tunnel. Just then, Ash, Brock, and Misty came running up through the tunnel, the two former looking pale as a sheet while Misty looked sick to the stomach.

"We need to call the police," Brock said as the mature one of the group.

"What? Why?" Gary questioned.

"There's no time for talking!" Ash shouted. "We need to get out and call the police, now!"

Gary's eyes went wide at Ash's sudden shift in personality. Whatever the reason, it must have been good enough to turn the normally submissive Ash Ketchum into someone on the verge of insanity. Gary simply nodded and turned to an opening in the cave ceiling. A breath caught in his throat when two figures appeared there, shadows in the risen sun.

"Not so fast, brats," a feminine voice said. "You won't be calling the police just because you stumbled upon the mess our Raticate left."

"It wasn't our fault that poor man chose to defy us of Team Rocket," a raspy male said.

Gabby's blood ran cold. Team Rocket . . . It certainly didn't sound like Jessie and James. As a criminal ring they'd, of course, have many people working for them.

"So you're the ones who did it," Ash said. There was no question. His hands shook in anger and his once black irises turned a deep, glowing red. A murky blue haze surrounded him and judging by the way he gritted his teeth, it was also hurting him. "How dare you . . . How dare you!" His words came with a massive blast of winds, shaking the cave and nearly making his companions fall to the ground.

The two Team Rocket members didn't appear intimidated by the sudden switch in air as they stepped down from their spots and came into view. Yeah. Definitely not Jessie and James. The woman had blonde hair worn in pigtails and purple eyes. Her partner had short green hair and brown eyes. They wore the same uniform as Jessie and James had — black in color with a large red 'R' on the front. They were undoubtedly intimidating compared to a bunch of kids with mostly unevolved Pokémon, especially when a massive Raticate jumped to their side. It was at least twice the size of any Raticate Gabby had ever seen, and that's saying something since Raticate were very common in Viridian Forest.

"We didn't do it," the woman said. "It was our Raticate."

The blue haze rose further around Ash. "Pokémon don't kill humans without reason. You ordered your Raticate to do it!" he shouted.

Gabby's eyes went wide. "K-kill?"

"Yeah," Brock said. "We found the . . . We found the body. What remained at least."

"I'm surprised those Zubats didn't finish it off," the guy said with a shrug. "They'll have plenty more once we end you bunch of brats."

They all recognized the poorly disguised death threat. The blue around Ash wrapped tightly around his wrist, leading his hand to a Poké Ball. He took it into his hand and threw it out. "Butterfree show these guys just who we are with a Gust attack!" Butterfree came out with its usual cry. He sounded serious, if not a bit worried for his master. Butterfree obeyed nonetheless, full trust in his Trainer. Butterfree flapped his wings hard, creating an uncontrollable gale. It knocked even Ash off his feet.

The Raticate was struck hard, sending its massive frame to the cave wall. Rocks crumbled from above it.

The woman shouted: "Get up and use Hyper Fang on that stupid bug, Raticate!" The Raticate pushed itself back onto its feet, only for Ash to order another Gust attack, throwing it right back on the floor again. It glared up at the Butterfree before its teeth began to glow a bright white. Gabby knew it would take Butterfree out.

"Spitfire, counter it with Flame Wheel!" Gabby shouted.

Spitfire focused the flames in his body before letting them burst all through him. He burst forward with a growl. He made contact with the nearing beam of light. Ash ordered Butterfree keep on using Gust to grow Spitfire's Flame Wheel further. Flames and beams burned against one another in a struggle to find the superior attacker. It was hard to say which one was stronger because the next thing they knew, Brock threw out Onix and Graveler to hold up the crumbling cave.

"Everyone, get out!" Brock shouted. "It's about to collapse."

The two Team Rocket members were out first, taking their fainted Raticate with them. It seemed they cared more about their life than actually killing a bunch of kids, until the guy turned around and released a Primeape, whom he ordered to cover the entrance up with massive boulders. They were trapped.

An exhausted Spitfire lay in her arms as she shifted against the wall of Onix's mouth. It was surprisingly less like a rock and more like flesh. And to think she once figured Onix were pure stone! Her father never raised Onix since they were huge, so she had no real way of knowing these things. Everyone else also sat in Onix's mouth, waiting for the cave collapse to subside. Onix would be fine, Brock claimed, but Gabby wasn't so sure. She heard his pained sound and every rock hitting him hurt her on a personal level.

Ash had finally calmed down, unsure of even what happened. Gary had collected his Pokémon back into their assigned balls, honestly worried they wouldn't make it out otherwise. Misty mostly stayed silent, likely still in shock from seeing a dead body. Gabby couldn't blame her, though; she was honestly glad Spitfire stopped her from going down that tunnel.

Several minutes later, Onix lifted his head and let them out. They were standing atop a mass of shattered boulders that once was a part of the mountain. The lights had all shattered, so they were left with nothing but the gleam in the stars in the night sky to tell them what was two inches from their nose. Ash and Gary pulled out their PokéDexes and set up a flashlight system in them for better view. They were on the side of the mountain farthest away from Cerulean City with no way to call someone for help and nowhere safe to stay. Who knew where those Team Rocket guys went?

Misty gasped. "Look!" she pointed up to a creature sitting up on the ledge of what remained of that part of the mountain.

It was covered in white and navy blue fur. It's eyes glowed red when it looked over to acknowledge the group. It had an odd growth on the side of its head that appeared to be shaped like a sickle, like that of a Grim Reaper's. It stood up, revealing its massive claws and jumped down from its spot. It ignored Spitfire's growls of warning and stepped straight up to Gabby. It sniffed her before forcing the sickle-shaped horn into her hand. Gabby's eyes went wide as she found it was a lot softer than she thought it would be.

"Gary, don't!" Ash suddenly shouted.

Gabby looked over to see Gary priming a Great Ball. He hurled it forward, but before it could hit the unknown Pokémon, it pulled from Gabby's hand and used its horn in a Night Slash attack to slice the ball in half.

Everyone stared in shock. None of them knew a Pokémon could be strong enough to break a Great Ball getting thrown at them. The Pokémon looked down at Spitfire, who had stopped growling and was now just staring up in awe at the magnificent creature. It made a sound — a low, raspy growl that made Spitfire's ears perk up. They spoke to each other, before they nodded. It looked back up at Gabby and made the same sound, but somehow she knew exactly what it was saying:

"Stay safe."

Then it ran off and was out of view as it cross the mountain ledges and top. Everyone remained silent for a long while before Misty said:

"That was an Absol."

"What's an Absol?" Ash asked.

"It's a unique Pokémon that comes around only in times of destruction," Brock explained. "Many people believe the Absol is the one to bring the disaster, but really its warning those around them of what's to come. If what just happened is anything to go off of, I'd say Absol was warning Gabby of something about to happen to her . . . Or perhaps all us. It did make itself known to all of us, after all."

Gary scoffed. "It's just dumb luck that we came across that Absol. Its home collapsed, and we were here — nothing special about the encounter."

"Says the guy who tried to catch the Absol," Ash retorted.

"Yeah. For the PokéDex. Gramps wants to know all there is to about Pokémon."

"Guys, have you forgotten we're stuck on a mountain with two killers around here?" Misty said, having enough of the casual conversation.

They all became hyper-aware of their surroundings. Gary turned to Ash and quietly asked: "Did you really find a body?"

Ash nodded his head shakily. "Yeah . . . It smelled horrible and there were Zubats with it. Pikachu took most of the out, but one came straight at us, so Brock captured it."

Gary nodded. "We should at least find a place to stay for the night. If those Rocket people cause a rockslide, we're good as dead."

They explored and climbed the mountain all through the night. Brock had some Escape Ropes that he used to tie them to each other. Spitfire actually went into his Poké Ball so Gabby didn't have to worry about him somehow falling. They reached a mountain peak and Pikachu pointed out a cave entrance. They took a risk, hoping it wasn't a trap set up by Team Rocket and entered. They were pleasantly surprised to see no one right away. Gabby sighed and leaned against the cave wall, releasing Spitfire again, who looked ready for battle. Then his ear twitched, and he turned to see a small, fluffy, and pink Pokémon come in the cave entrance.

"Pika?" Pikachu questioned, but the puffball just continued skipping further into the cave. Ash scanned it:

"Clefairy, the Fairy Pokémon. Though rare, this Pokémon is highly adored and popular as a pet."

"That's it?" Ash questioned. Well, it did say it was rare, so it made sense Professor Oak wouldn't have anything more to put in the PokéDex about it. Ash had never even seen one in the Pokémon Coral at Professor Oak's lab. He thought it would be a perfect chance to change that.

Ash reached for a Poké Ball, but before he could prime it, Gary threw a Great Ball, hitting the Clefairy on its head. It went in the ball, but it didn't even shake once before it burst back open to reveal a now angry Clefairy. Before Gary could get another ball to throw, Clefairy's eyes glowed a bright pink, stilling the young Trainer. Gary struggled against the psychic hold of Confusion, but all his attempts failed.

Ash quickly threw Butterfree's Poké Ball and ordered he use Sleep Powder on that Clefairy. Ash wasn't fond of Gary, but he didn't want Gary to get hurt by a force he couldn't control. Butterfree was fast, releasing his Sleep Powder over the Clefairy. The pink of its eyes faded as its lids drooped. Gary fell to the ground the moment Clefairy did. He looked up with wide, crazed eyes, confused. That was the last thing they needed at the moment; someone getting confused from a Pokémon's attack. Ash returned Butterfree and went up to the sleeping Clefairy. It held something that sparkled when the dim moonlight struck it just right. He reached down and took it.

"A Moon Stone?" he questioned. "But how can it come into contact with a Moon Stone without evolving?"

"That's not how evolution works, Ash," Misty said. "If that were the case, Staryu would have evolved a long time ago. A Pokémon can easily reject evolution if they so chose. It may limit their strength as a whole, but I say that their strong will to stay the same is more admirable than any amount of skill could ever be."

Brock was busy trying to snap Gary out of confusion. Full Heals didn't work on humans like they did with Pokémon, so that wasn't an option. Lum Berries were nothing but a bitter berry (usually sweet to certain Pokémon who tend to get confused a lot, though. It's likely that confusion messes with their taste buds and switches some things around to make the berries appear delicious, when they really aren't.) With a good slap, Gary's eyes snapped from their crazed daze.

Immediately, Gary went for a Poké Ball, but Brock quickly stopped him.

"It's not a fair battle when they're asleep."

"I'm not looking for a battle. I'm looking for a catch," Gary said.

"Have you already forgotten it used Confusion on you?"

"That's why I have to catch it! Clefairy normally can't learn Confusion."

They all fell silent when they heard rocks crumbled under what sounded to be footsteps. Spitfire stood in front of Gabby, hair puffed up and fangs very visible in the moon's glint. He wasn't the only one with hair sticking on end; along with goosebumps, the hair on the back of their necks stood, almost as a defense mechanism they once had were kicking in as best it could.

Their worst nightmares came true when two shadows crept around the entrance of the cave. That giant Raticate shot out first, fangs aiming for Spitfire's throat. It was slow, it being so big, so Spitfire was able to dodge the Bite and land his own Bite under Gabby's demand. That was all the confirmation those two Rockets' needed for them to show themselves fully again.

"You brats should have just run down the mountain," the woman said. "You might have just been able to see the sunrise tomorrow had you. Raticate, Super Fang everyone!"


Oh, no.

Super Fang usually only halved heath, but the effects were far different for humans. Humans were very fragile to most Pokémon attacks; they got poisoned, burned, and confused far easier and suffered far more from physical attacks. Super Fang basically had the power to not just cut health in half, but to also cut a human's life in half in extreme cases.

Raticate ignored Spitfire's attacks and began powering up its Super Fang. Teeth glowing, it let out a massive screech before the glow turned into hundreds of bright, white beams. It first blinded Gabby before her vision blurred with a glistening blue hue. She blinked a few times, wondering stupidly if it was tears blurring her vision, but it wasn't. She suddenly felt something on top of her head.

"What the . . ?" She tilted her head and eyes up slightly to see a pink ball of fluff, but it wasn't a Clefairy. She had no idea what it was. She snapped back to attention when she heard Spitfire yelp and growl.

Gabby placed her hands of the blue in front of her to find it was solid. The move Protect. It was touching for a wild Pokémon to come and protect her, but her own Pokémon was still out there. When Gabby hit the Protect screen, the Pokémon kicked her head. Not hard, but enough to warn her not to do it again. Gabby took that warning. Whatever Pokémon this was, it knew Protect and could likely learn some seriously dangerous moves like Hyper Beam or Giga Impact; any human would fall dead to either.

Several minutes passed and the Pokémon finally let down its protect. Gabby quickly ran to Spitfire, who was panting and shaking from the touch battle. At least, Gabby assumed it to be a battle. She looked around to see her friends and Gary all standing there, just as confused as she was. There were dozens of Clefairy around them. Everyone was unharmed and those Team Rocket people were gone.

"What just happened?" Gary asked.

"Wiggly-wiggly-tuff!" the Pokémon atop Gabby's head said.

Wigglytuff? That's odd considering it's in Clefairy's territory. Most Pokémon, whether they be social or not, were not fond of other species entering their homes.

Gabby lifted the Wigglytuff off her head and held it out in front of her. It simply smiled, no longer appearing aggressive like it had when Gabby tried busting through its Protect. "Wigglytuff!" it squeaked. Gabby couldn't help but smile when Spitfire licked Wigglytuff to thank it for protecting his mistress.

Gabby set the Wigglytuff down and asked: "They gone? The bad guys, I mean."

Wigglytuff nodded. Gabby sighed in relief. There were still a few issues, though.

"What do we do now?" Ash asked. "Won't those two just come back when the Clefairy leave?"

Brock turned to a Clefairy standing close to him. It was the one who Gary tried to capture; it woke up from its fellow kinds' Aromatherapy. He knelt down, and it turned to him cautiously. "Hey, what do you say you protect us for the night, and we promise we won't try to capture any of you? How's that sound?"

Clefairy considered before turning to the others. They spoke in their Clefairy speak, until Wigglytuff butted in to lay down the law. Whatever it said, the Clefairy all nodded in agreement. Clefairy turned to Brock and smiled. "Clefairy!"

Brock returned the friendly gesture and thanked the tiny puffball of a Pokémon.

That night, Gabby contemplated on what had happened with Team Rocket. It wasn't a normal thing to run into deadly people; Pokémon was another story entirely. And then to also see an Absol and for it to come up to her specifically. That stuff just didn't happen! Not to normal people at least. Then again, her past life memories were nothing to be deemed 'normal'.

Gabby looked down at Spitfire. Pokémon did not exist where she first came from. There were creatures used as pets, but no actual Pokémon. Rather than pets protecting you, it was the human's job to protect the pet when they were scared or in danger. A part of Gabby still clung to the knowledge.

She held Spitfire tight. "I'll protect you, no matter what."

Spitfire remained asleep.

Morning came with little sleep. They were all fearful of what could come. They slept with their strongest Pokémon by their side just in case the horde of Clefairy somehow failed to alert or protect them. Thankfully nothing came of the night and they woke up to the bright morning sunrise. While Gary appeared tempted to just finish getting through the mountain, the group of four stayed a little while just to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful from the mountain peak they stood at. Spitfire and Pikachu sunbathed in the early morning warmth.

All in all, it was a complete contrast from what happened last night.

Gabby handed out Food Balls, even giving one to Gary. She'd restocked them in Pewter City, so she had plenty of food left to be able to share with Gary. These had granola bars to give them somewhat of a boost in the morning. Considering they were about to climb down a mountain, they'd need it.

Pitter-pattering footsteps neared Gabby. She turned around to see the Wigglytuff who'd saved her. It was carrying an egg and a stone. Gabby focused her full attention.

Wigglytuff held out the two items to Gabby, and she took them with much caution. The egg was fairly big, at least bigger than a Pidgey's egg, pink and covered in little swirls. The stone, obviously a Moon Stone, was carved into the shape of a star. The Moon Stone may have shown brightly in the moonlight, but as it reflected from the low beams of the sunrise, Gabby saw just how shiny it was. The color wasn't all that impressive — a dull teal color — but the amount of sparkle that came from it showed it had come from space. Only something unearthly could be so beautifully captivating while still being such a dull color.

Gabby looked back up at Wigglytuff. "Are you . . . giving these to me?" she asked. Wigglytuff nodded. "B-But, isn't it your egg? Why hand it to me? Not that I don't appreciate it, but why?"

Wigglytuff's smile only grew wider as it looked up to the sky. It spoke its own language as it moved its tiny arms up and down before landing on itself and the sky. That was when it hit Gabby. Wigglytuff wanted to go to space, and since they had much of the Moon Stone in the cave, it might just be possible, but space was no place for a baby Pokémon. Even though it pained Wigglytuff to give its egg away, it knew it would be well taken care of by Gabby.

Gabby promised to take good care of Igglybuff and that some day, when Wigglytuff was already amongst the stars, it would look down to earth to see the brightest of all the stars battling alongside Spitfire and many more to come.

Episode Eight: Reporting Consequences

They made their way off the mountain by early noon without running into anyone. Gabby was especially careful with putting it in her bag and covering it with the spare clothes she brought along. It was a dress so it wouldn't matter since she couldn't wear it casually. She just wanted to keep the egg safe and warm. They made it to the next route when Gary turned around.

"We need to finish our battle here," he said. "My ride will be just up ahead and there won't be any time to battle then."

"Your ride? You're not walking like us?" Gabby asked.

He scoffed. "Of course not! I've got a car and driver."

Gabby blinked several times. How had he gotten so many Pokémon if he was in a car? "Okay, if you say so. Come on, Spitfire! You got this."

"And I'll stick with Eevee," Gary said, surprising Gabby. She thought he was going to use Squirtle since he had the type advantage, but then again, he was likely still injured from the battle with Pikachu. He released the Eevee, and she looked up with a determined expression. Spitfire stepped in front of Gabby and snarled at the ready Eevee.

"Ember, Spitfire!"

Scoff. "Please. Eevee, use Double Team!"

That was new. And bad. Spitfire may have had a perfect sense of smell, but Double Team was a complex move that required the Pokémon to have a complete sense of self so they could create complete clones of themselves. Not little mind tricks — actual clones! They all smelled the exact same, so Spitfire couldn't tell which one was which.

Eevee easily made several copies of herself. Spitfire sent out a burst of flames, striking down one at a time until he hit the right one. Eevee fell back with a slight whine but stood back up under her master's demand. She charged at Spitfire with a Quick Attack, returning to fall back he'd given her at first. Spitfire snarled and twisted around to bite her on the back of the neck. She yelped and cried out in pain before latching her own teeth onto Spitfire. They twisted and fought with their teeth like true animals. No fancy moves as the two's eyes grew increasingly darker and more menacing toward one another. Gabby knew she couldn't let this go on for any longer.

"Spitfire, pull back!" she shouted.

Spitfire looked over and released the Eevee from his mouth and bolted over to Gabby. He was covered in his and Eevee's saliva and small traces of blood on his legs where Eevee had done some serious damage.

"You give up?" Gary questioned with a smirk.

Spitfire growled at the thought. That was the obvious answer. Gabby shook her head. "Spitfire, Flame Wheel! Send Ember out while you're at it!" Spitfire grunted and did as ordered. Gary was just as fast to make sure Eevee dodged the direct attack, but the Embers spewing from the rolling mass of flames were lucky enough to ignite the fur on Eevee's tail.

"Roll and put it out, Eevee!" Gary shouted.

Eevee flopped down and rolled in the dirt, but it gave Spitfire the chance.

"Quick, with Agility," she said, more calmly than before confident in Spitfire's sheer speed and force. Spitfire fazed in and out of view, leaving only the remaining flame behind before he clashed with Eevee. The fire on her tail only grew larger as the burn did more damage. Eevee yelped as Spitfire knocked her into the air. She landed in a storm of dust. The fire was out, though the burn had taken her fighting spirit as Gary returned her to her Poké Ball.

"You got a lucky burn," Gary said with a shrug. "Won't happen next time."

They finished walking to Cerulean City when Misty turned to them and said: "What should we go about what happened last night? About the body?"

Even Gary stilled. They all looked at each other, suddenly wondering the same thing. It was odd that they'd been so caught up in their Pokémon that they had completely forgotten that they stumbled upon the death of a human. Gary suddenly stepped ahead.

"Whatever you guys do, I wasn't a part of it, 'kay? Smell ya later!"

Spitfire and Pikachu suddenly charged over and blocked Gary from going any further, both growling.

"If you go now, you'll be the top suspect," Brock said. "We all have to go to the police and report everything that happened last night. When they ask why we didn't call someone from the start, we tell them we have neither a PokéNav or Gear. It won't take long I'm sure. Besides, you got an angle on the night that none of us did."

Gary looked annoyed before he sighed in metal defeat. Brock was far older and had much more authority about him. It reminded Gary of his father, which was slightly disturbing in all honesty. "Fine, but I'm warning you, the moment we get into town, you'll all be greeted with a disturbing sight."

Nothing could be worse than what they'd seen last night. That's what Brock and Misty thought. Until they actually got to town and suddenly a pile of weeping girls flocked in Gary's direction. Gary put up a cocky smirk as he carelessly waved off their concern.

"Now, now, girls — I'm just fine. A few runs in here and there, but nothing I couldn't handle," he said.

Ash had already seen this before and, to be frank, he was grateful he wasn't this popular. He wanted people to look up to him, of course, but to the point of weeping over him? Well, that was just a waste of water.

They first went to the Pokémon Center to get their companions healed and then they headed to the police station. Several officers had to hold back the ladies that continued to follow Gary. How Gary ever got a breath of fresh air was beyond Gabby, but he seemed more relaxed without his fangirls, like he could freely be himself rather than what those girls wanted him to be. Why a girl would want a cocky, over confident boy who was full of himself was, again, beyond Gabby's knowings.

The Officer Jenny looked up from her paperwork and her eyes went wide at the sight of four kids randomly walking in. She sat up tall, professionally. "Can I help you kids?" she asked upon seeing the sickening looks on Ash, Misty, and Brock's faces.

Brock stepped forward, being the oldest of the group. "We'd like to report a killing that occurred in Mt. Moon."

The following week was exhausting and full of arguing. Gabby and Ash barely got a moment to train for their upcoming Gym Battle with several police patrolling all routes around Cerulean City. But then there were even issues involving the Gym and Gym Leaders as well.

Since very few people had the patience to go through an entire background check, the Sensational Sisters of Cerulean City Gym blamed Misty for their lack of folks coming to see them during their little displays. This naturally wouldn't matter, but Misty's sisters were so angered by this that they refused to battle Gabby and Ash since they were Misty's friends. Gabby came close to telling them that it wasn't their fault they found a dead body in Mt. Moon, but Officer Jenny had ordered they not tell anyone, as it would only cause panic.

"Can you guys, like, just leave?"

"Yeah. We didn't become Gym Leaders to babysit."

"And there's no way either of you're getting a badge."

It had been their way for the past two days and that was Gabby's final straw. "You three have no right to deny us! You serve the Leagues. That means us Trainers who collect badges! If we say we want a battle, you can't turn us away. If you deny me again, I will report you to the Leagues and you'll get kicked out."

The youngest of the three shrugged. "And? Like, what would we care?"

"Your fans won't respect you if you can't even battle kids five years younger than you!" Gabby shouted, visibly shaking with rage. Spitfire looked up, worried for his mistress.

The Sensational Sisters looked at each other, wondering just how true that was, but the youngest finally said: "Fine. I'll battle you two, but if either of you lose, I won't battle you again. Like, ever. You'll have to find a different Gym to challenge."

Gabby grinned in victory. "Don't you worry! I won't lose!"

Gabby was of course up first. She didn't want Ash to destroy the gym or for one of the opponent's Pokémon to suddenly evolve. She was not about to repeat what happened in the last Gym Battle.

Gabby and Lily positioned themselves on the platforms into the pool. There were several platforms between them, but none that Spitfire could reach. It was stupid to not have second thoughts of using Spitfire, especially since she had one chance at this, but Gabby had faith in her companion that he could win if they both put in the work. Gabby stood there for a long while before recalling Spitfire back into his Poké Ball, much to his dismay. From the sidelines, Ash lifted his brow, wondering if she was going to the smart thing and not use Spitfire. That would, of course, be too easy. Gabby needed to use Spitfire. After all, she didn't use him to battle Brock, and Spitfire was her Starter. To her, it made sense.

When she threw out Spitfire's Poké Ball, though, it made little sense to those watching. Spitfire landed on a platform half way across the pool, so he was a good distance away.

Lily looked at the Growlithe and then to Gabby. "Are you, like, serious? A Fire-type? You know you only have one chance at this, right?"

"I told you! I won't lose!" Gabby shouted, Spitfire barking to back her up.

Lily considered her choices for a moment. That Growlithe probably has, like, Wild Charge or Thunder Fang. That won't work well for Seaking since he's just scales and water. Seel has blubber to protect him from most of the blow. Lily grinned. "Seel, come on out!"

The cute, little Pokémon came flying from his Poké Ball and landed nose-to-nose with Spitfire. He waved his fin, first to Spitfire and then to those watching the battle. He was clearly more keen on doing shows for people than battling Gabby took this time to start the battle.

"Spitfire, use Bite!"

Seel was slow to react upon hearing those words, but Spitfire didn't waste a second, digging his teeth into the fatty part of Seel's throat. Seel barked out in pain and smacked Spitfire with its fin. Spitfire was smaller weight and overall height-wise, so one good smack and Seel threw Spitfire off. He stood back up and shook the hit off. Seel appeared more ready to battle, back hunched up and eyes narrow.

"Seel, Aurora Beam!"

"Spitfire, break through it with Flame Wheel!"

Seel stood up on its tail and its horn glowed before a light show of beautiful colors before it launched straight at a ready Spitfire. His fur lit with flames and he rolled forward, melting the little Ice-type move in half before launching into Seel. Though the Seel's Thick Fat ability blocked out most of the fiery impact, the overall weight of Spitfire threw him back a few steps, nearly forcing him off the platform, which wouldn't have been good. At least not for Gabby and Spitfire.

Seel and Spitfire stood, both glaring at each other. The tension and hate between the two was thick. Spitfire's claws opened and closed as he prepared the flame in the back of his throat. Seel made a sound, mocking Spitfire's ineffective flames. Spitfire's usually brown eyes glowed red as he launched a series of Ember fireballs at Seel.

"Seel, use Bubble Beam to stop that pathetic attack," Lily said calmly.

Seel responded immediately, sending several hundred water-filled bubbles. The bubbles made contact with the Ember fireballs and put out the flames with a satisfying sizzle. Spitfire easily dodged the slow moving bubbles.

Lily called out for Seel to Headbutt Spitfire into the water, but Gabby called out for Spitfire to dodge the move with Agility, which Spitfire swiftly did. Spitfire used Bite to grab hold of Seel's tail, a more boney area, where its blubber couldn't protect it. The pain ran through Seel's body as it thrashed around in an attempt to free itself.

"Seel, calm down! Use Brine!" Lily shouted.

Seel stilled and turned to Spitfire, who didn't have time to pull his teeth out of its tail. Seel opened its mouth to spew a jet of salty sea water in Spitfire's face. The close distance meant it hit hard. Hard enough to throw Spitfire off the platform.

"Spitfire, get back up on the platform!" Gabby said, ready to dive into the water herself despite not being able to swim. Her chest loosened when Spitfire surfaced and climbed back onto the platform. He was soaked to the bone, looking like a pathetic Raticate in the sewers. His fur would surely slow him down greatly. "Spitfire, use Flame Wheel to heat your fur up," Gabby insisted, though she wasn't sure if it would work.

Spitfire did as ordered, but instead of sparks flying from his Flame Wheel, steam was left behind as Spitfire boiled the water away. He launched straight into Seel, sending it into the water. Bad move.

Lily grinned. "That was, like, one of the smartest moves I've seen. You made a mistake by throwing Seel in the water, though." Her expression hardened. "Seel, Aqua Jet!"

Seel shot up from the pool, water formed as a protective shell. Gabby didn't even get a chance to tell Spitfire to dodge before Seel clashed with him. Spitfire rolled several feet from where he stood before, eyes shut and clearly fainted.

Gabby's eyes went wide in horror.

One of Misty's other sister called out: "Growlithe is unable to battle! Seel is the victor!"

It hit her hard as she ran and jumped from platform to platform, barely making it several times. Tears in her eyes, she picked Spitfire up and held him close to her, not caring that he was soaked. He shook from the chill of the water, only making Gabby hold him tighter against her.

"I can take him," the same sister who announced Spitfire had fainted said — Violet if Gabby's memory served her correctly. Violet must have seen Gabby's skeptical and uneasy look because she said: "We may not like you and Misty's friends for the lack of audience, but we love all Pokémon, regardless of their Trainers."

Gabby nodded slowly and extended Spitfire out. The platform was pretty far away, but with both stretching out, Violet got a firm hold on Spitfire. Misty was right there to take Spitfire from Violet's arms, giving Gabby a sense of comfort. They wrapped Spitfire in a towel, and Brock already had some potions and Pokémon food out to give to Spitfire when he was dried and came around. Gabby couldn't help but smile at the sight. She never imagined she'd have such caring companions. The term 'friends' might have been a bit of a stretch, but Gabby honestly felt closer to Ash, Brock, and Misty than she ever did toward her friends back home. Pokémon really brought people together.

Thanks, Spitfire.

Gabby got back to her spot, this time taking her time and not nearly falling into the water. Her expression went serious as she pulled out the second Poké Ball. "Beekee, let's show these people what you trained for!" She threw out the ball and Beekee came out of the Poké Ball, sparkling while doing so. Its green glimmering body shone brightly in the spotlights above.

Lily lifted a brow in question. "You, like, caught a shiny Pokémon? Those are super rare. I've never even seen one in person," she said. "I'll stick with Seel."

"All right. Beekee, Iron Stingers and then Twineedle. Follow up with Poison Jab!"

Lily's lip quirked up. She's taking this serious now. "Seel, dive down and use Aqua Jet."

Beekee hardened his stingers, tapping the together to test how strong they were. It narrowed its blue kaleidoscope-looking eyes. Seel launched up from the water, Aqua Jet covering its body. "Now, Beekee!" He responded to his mistress' words, throwing out a stinger strong enough to break through the water barrier and press into Seel's side. Then the other stinger. Beekee's tail stinger dripped with poison, tainting the water, before in jabbed straight into Seel's fatty area. Seel cried out and thrashed from Beekee's stingers, only allowing to poison to run deeper into its body.

"Throw Seel into the platforms," Gabby said.

Beekee buzzed in understanding. He flew up and then back down, throwing Seel along the way. Seel landed, breaking the platform clean in half. Water splashed up, nearly hitting Beekee. Gabby covered her eyes, knowing if Beekee's poison got into them, it wouldn't feel nice. When the water calmed, Seel surfaced and climbed onto the shattered platform, panting heavily.

"What?!" Gabby said. "That should have done it in. Seel broke through the platform!"

Lily looked just as surprised.

Gabby gritted her teeth in annoyance. "Regardless, Seel will fall to the poison. Beekee, use Twineedle!"

Lily shook the confusion away and demanded Seel: "Aurora Beam!"

"Break it with Iron Stingers!"

Beekee's stingers glowed again and he held them out as Seel shot a light show from its horn. The ice hit and shattered instantly. Seel's mouth fell agape in shock. It used Brine next, spewing a wide-range fountain of salt water, striking Beekee before Gabby could tell him to dodge. Beekee had decent defenses, but Gabby feared what would happen if he got hit by another Brine. Brine's power doubled if a Pokémon's health was halved.

"Beekee, you need to take Seel out now! Use Poison Jab!" Gabby said.

A silver liquid formed at the tip of his stinger and he bolted forward at incredible speed that Seel simply couldn't keep up with. He jabbed a stinger into Seel, throwing it back into the poison-tainted waters. This is it! The poison will take down Seel!

Seel came back up, fins gripping the platform.

"You have to be kidding me!"

"Brine, Seel," Lily said calmly, confident in her victory.

"Dodge, Beekee!"

Seel was slow gathering water in its mouth, so Beekee easily flew up higher to avoid the attack. Gabby sighed. "Twineedle to finish it off."

Again, Beekee's speed could not be rivaled by a ready-to-faint Pokémon. The collision of Twineedle was enough to make Seel cry out in pain. Lily shouted for her Pokémon to stay strong and fire off a close-ranged Brine, but Seel didn't get the chance before it fell back into the water. It floated there, clearly fainted.

"Seel is unable to battle! Beedrill is the victor of this round."

"His name is Beekee! Get it right," Gabby said.

Beekee looked back at her, eyes expressing his annoyance in his Trainer for the silly nickname.

"Seel, return!" Lily said. A red beam recalled Seel back into its Poké Ball. She turned to Gabby and grinned. "That was, like, just luck. Now comes the real test. Goldeen, come on out!" A beautifully painted Goldeen came from the Poké Ball and landed in the water with a sparkling splash. Specks of water covered the Beekee's tail stinger, who didn't appear impressed by the enchanting splash. He was already building up his Iron Stingers.

From the stands, Misty gasped and rummaged through her bag. Goldeen's Poké Ball was gone. "Hey! You took my Goldeen!" she shouted.

Lily shrugged. "Ours, like, only know Horn Attack so we had no choice but to use yours. Hopefully you trained well enough to, like, actually put up a fight."

Misty's expression changed to one of rage.

Lily turned her attention back to Gabby. "You have the first move."

Gabby nodded curtly. "Beekee, Twineedle and then Poison Jab — like before."

Beekee charged forward, ducking into the water. Until, say, a Butterfree, Beedrill weren't extremely fragile when it came to water. Their wings were smaller and had no dust to rub off so it didn't matter if water got on them. Of course, it would wash away most of the poison, but the water was already tainted with Beekee's poison, so there was a good chance Goldeen was already poisoned.

The pool water was clear enough for the two Trainers to see what was going on.

Beekee made a good shot, pinning Goldeen's fins to its body before he moved tail stinger toward Goldeen. "Come on, Beekee! You can win this!"

"Goldeen, use Horn Drill."

Gabby's heart sunk and her words caught in her throat before she had the chance to tell Beekee to get out of the water. She watched a Goldeen charged forward, horn spinning on its head. It dug into Beekee's center, forcing the latter's hold. A few seconds later, Beekee floated up to the surface. Goldeen splashed up to show she was fine.

"Beedrill is unable to battle. Lily wins the battle," Violet said.

Gabby's eyes were wide as she returned Beekee. She didn't say a word as she left the platform and walked over to the stadium. Spitfire was awake and whined at his mistress' defeat. She scooped him up in her arms and walked away.

"Gabby, it will—"

She interrupted: "I'm going to call my dad."

"I'm going for a short walk, Officer Jenny. I need to train some more," Gabby said simply.

Officer Jenny scanned Gabby for a moment. Red eyes, puffy face — a first loss for sure. "All right. Get back in town before sundown, or I'll be sending a pack of Arcanine to find you." She sounded almost as if she were joking. Almost. At least it got Gabby to smile.

"Got it."

Gabby reached Nugget Bridge and there were surprisingly no people there. Nugget Bridge was a long bridge just outside of the main part of town. It usually had a row of Trainers that people had to defeat in a Pokémon battle and at the end, you'd get a nugget of gold that you could sell for a sizable amount of cash. Perhaps it was an illegal set up and Officer Jenny finally caught them. Arceus knows Officer Jenny needs things under her nose to even realize it exists.

Gabby suddenly stopped, prompting Spitfire to also still. She knelt down beside him and asked: "Do you know a Pokémon called Arceus?" Spitfire tilted his head in confusion. Gabby sighed. "Didn't think so. The name Arceus just came to mind for some reason . . . Oh well! Let's get to training!"

Spitfire barked, ready to get moving. They began by running the rest of the way on the bridge, Spitfire practicing his Agility. Next, they worked on Spitfire's overall fire power by having him use Ember and Flame Wheel as much as possible. Gabby even let her other Pokémon come out to practice their moves. Rattata was keen on improving his Bite attack, hoping to turn it into a Crunch; Beekee wanted to make sure his Twineedle and Poison Jab were as powerful as they could be; Pidgeotto wasn't doing anything, though.

Gabby lifted a brow. "Pidgeotto? What's wrong?"

Pidgeotto flapped his wings, telling Gabby to go away. Spitfire growled and barked for Pidgeotto to listen to Gabby. Pidgeotto squawked back. Spitfire's ear twitched and he turned to Gabby to tell her what's up. Gabby didn't get a word of it. Seeing his mistress' confused expression, Spitfire sighed and began pointing between himself and Pidgeotto with a paw. Somehow, someway, it suddenly hit Gabby.

"Oh! You want a nickname, don't you, Pidgeotto?" she asked, receiving a frantic nod from her Flying-type. She pondered for several seconds. "How about . . . Shadow! It's perfect! Cause, when you fly, you leave a long shadow."

Beekee's expression went to one of anger as several veins that should not have been there popped up.

Pidgeotto flapped his wings happily.

"Then it's settled! Your name is now Shadow!" Gabby looked over at Rattata. "You want a nickname, too?"

Rattata hissed and went back to working on his Bite attack. Gabby huffed.

"Fine. I didn't want to nickname you anyway." She looked over at a shaking Beekee. "Huh? Beekee, what's wrong?"

Beekee buzzed in an outburst, complaining about its name being so childish while Spitfire and Shadow got cool names. Of course, Gabby couldn't understand Beedrill-talk so she had no idea what he was going on about.

"We need to get back to training. I think the move Toxic Spikes would be great for you, Beekee. All you need to do is conform your poison into sharp spikes. They won't harm the current Pokémon out, but when the second one comes in and so on, they'll get poisoned. Their health will go down the more they move, and even if they get into the pool water, there's still going to be poison, so one way or another, they will get poisoned. Got it?"

Beekee's expression went back to normal and he nodded understandingly.

Just then, Spitfire began barking. He bolted from the group and down near the water. He wagged his tail happily as he neared an Abra he met back at home. Gabby's father bred Abra, Kadabra, and Alakazam since they were so sought after by Trainers. The Abra sat next to a boy with a fishing rod in hand who stared out at nothing in particular. Abra turned to see Spitfire.



That caught the boy's attention. If Spitfire wasn't so controlled, he would've flinched at how harsh the boy's eyes were. The air around him was . . . not nice. Nothing like Gabby. The boy reached for his PokéDex and scanned Spitfire.

"Growlithe, the Puppy Pokémon. Growlithe has a near-perfect sense of smell and will remain still until it is given orders from its master. Be careful when approaching another Trainer's Growlithe, as it will bark and bite. This Growlithe is male and knows the moves: Bite, Roar, Ember, Agility, and Flame Wheel."

The boy lowered his PokéDex. "Impressive for a stray. Abra, use Charge Beam to weaken it."

Abra looked back, unsure as to whether it had to hurt its friend. "Now, Abra. Or else."

"Abra!" It nodded and turned back to Spitfire, who looked confused. Abra held out its hands and focused its mind on bending its powers, condensing it into a flickering bolt of light. Its eyes glowed as it released the heavily condensed volts manifesting between its hands. Spitfire growled as it neared him and he used Agility to dodge the attack with ease. He positioned himself and covered himself in fire to use Flame Wheel. He charged forward.

"Teleport, Abra!"

In less than a blink of an eye, Abra was gone, and Spitfire stilled himself. He scanned the area and then he smelled Abra. He twisted around to see the ready-to-attack Abra. Before it could use Teleport again, Spitfire bit it. The tiny, frail Abra was easily knocked out by the super effective attack.

"What?!" So much for 'near-perfect'. That Growlithe must have a perfect sense of smell. "Fine. Abra, return. I'll deal with you later. Nidorino, stand by for battle!"

The kid recalled Abra and threw out a tough-looking Nidorino. The pins on its back leaked a silver poison, and everything about it was sharp. Spitfire's nose twitched at the toxic stench. It was honestly worse than Beekee's poison.

"Nidorino, Poison Sting!"

Nidorino opened its mouth and launched several pins of poison out, but Spitfire quickly countered them with a fire show of Ember, causing several small explosions.

"Horn Attack!"

Spitfire made a sound — what appeared to be a scoff — and he began rolling with Flame Wheel again. He clashed with the ready Nidorino, throwing both of them back with the hard impact. Nidorino's horn hit him right in the back, but luckily, the fire of Spitfire's Flame Wheel dissolved to poison before Nidorino's Poison Point ability could activate. Spitfire panted lightly as his back began to ache.

Amazing. This Growlithe is skilled and knows how to use its moves effectively. If I catch this, it may be worth something. "Use Dig, Nidorino," he said calmly.

Nidorino had an impressive set of claws, but he was hardly fast enough to dig without getting hit by Spitfire's Ember. Nidorino landed on his side and forced itself back up under his Trainer's demand. Nidorino grunted and began digging again, this time not trusting his defenses to keep him standing. He entered the earth faster than before.

Spitfire's chest rumbled as he scanned around, nose twitching as he sniffed for the sickening smell of Nidorino's poison.

"Spitfire, behind you!"

The ground quaked as Nidorino burst from underneath. Spitfire was fast to respond to his mistress' call as he twisted around to catch Nidorino off guard with a powerful Bite and close-ranged Ember. The problem with Nidorino was, despite having plenty of poisonous barbs on his back, its belly had no form of defense.

Gabby climbed down closer to the water, her other three Pokémon right behind her. "Okay, Spitfire. That's enough practice for now."

Spitfire pulled back from Nidorino, who was clearly fainted at this point. The boy looked down at his fainted Pokémon in shock and then to Gabby. The Growlithe loved all over her, taking her praised with a waggling tail and lolling tongue. So that's his owner, he thought. Suddenly the moves the Growlithe knew didn't seem too impressive. Under the control of a Trainer, a Growlithe should easily have Flamethrower.


Gabby picked up Spitfire and turned to the boy. "That was some battling skills your Pokémon got there. Especially Abra! I didn't know you could teach Abra any move outside of Teleport and egg moves they inherit from their father."

"They're called TMs," he said with a shrug as he returned his Nidorino. He didn't say a word to it as he sat back on the lake shore.

"Teachable Moves?"

"No, idiot. Technical Machines."

Gabby frowned. "Don't call me an idiot. I taught Spitfire how to battle well enough to take both your Abra and Nidorino down easily." Of course, he still fainted to a Seel beforehand, but she wasn't about to mention that to some boy she didn't know. "By the way, I'm Gabby." She knelt down and held out her hand.

"Paul," he said as he took her hand in a quick, meaningless shake.

"So, are you gonna take on Gyms and Leagues?" Gabby asked.


"Do you know any Gym outside of the eight central Kanto gyms?"

"Can't say I do," Paul said as he sent out his fishing reel again. "I just moved to Kanto."

"Ah. I see. It's a beautiful place, isn't it? I'm personally more of a Sinnoh fan simply because the champion there is my favorite Pokémon Trainer ever."

"Cynthia? Please. She's not half the Trainer I'll be someday."

"Dream on! If there's one person who will surpass Cynthia, it'll be me because someday I'll have the strongest team the world has ever seen! Just you wait," Gabby promised with a confident smirk.

Paul glanced over at the Pokémon Gabby had. Growlithe, Beedrill, Pidgeotto, and a Rattata. Strongest team? Paul thought now. Though her shiny Beedrill was visually appealing, that was about the only thing she had going. Her team was unbalanced, weak against Rock-types, and all around mediocre.

"What moves do they have?" he asked, though he sounded very uninterested, as if he were entertaining her so she wouldn't ramble on.

"Shadow, my Pidgeotto, has all the most basic moves, but he recently learned Double-Edge and Roost."

"You nickname your Pokémon?" Paul questioned with a scoff.

"If they want one, then yeah. It motivates them into training harder! Spitfire wouldn't have learned Flame Wheel as fast as he did had I not created a bond with him by first giving him a name."

Sounded like trash to Paul. He stood up, reeling in the fishing rod. "I think I'm done fishing for today."

Gabby bolted up and grabbed Paul's arm. "Wait! Why don't we train together?"

Paul yanked himself away and narrowed his eyes at Gabby, ready to tell her off. The rumble in Spitfire's chest stopped him from doing so. Spitfire saw what Gabby couldn't; he saw the hatred in Paul's every movement while Gabby merely saw a reserved person she could maybe relate to. It was sad. Pitifully so.

"What TMs do you want?" he asked.

Gabby frowned. "I don't want your TMs. I want us to train our Pokémon together."

"All I have left is my Bulbasaur," Paul said as he reached and released his Bulbasaur. It looked up with a smile. A part of Gabby crumbled at the sight and she couldn't help but kneel down and pet it. The Bulbasaur made a relaxed sound as it leaned into Gabby's hand. Paul's eye twitched. "She's been doing well in battles so far, so I don't feel like she needs training right now."

"You can never have your Pokémon train too much," Gabby said. "If they enjoy getting stronger, they won't complain one bit. At least mine haven't." She looked down at the adorable Bulbasaur. "You want to get stronger to matter what?" Bulbasaur's eyes lit up.

"Bulba!" it cheered.

Another eye twitch.

"See? If Bulbasaur wants to train more, you should let her. She knows Vine Whip, right?" Bulbasaur pulled out her vines to show she could at least control them. "Great! Then have her use Vine Whip on rocks until she can perfectly control them and they can get stronger."

Paul didn't say a word.

"It was just a suggestion . . . You can train her however you want."

"Bulbasaur, return," Paul mumbled.

Gabby supposed that was a 'no'.


She turned. "Brock, what is it?"

"Ash is about to have his gym battle," Brock said.

"They refilled to the pool that fast?" After Beekee leaving as much poison as he did, they had no choice but to empty the pool and then refill it so Ash couldn't use that against them.

Brock nodded. "Yeah. Ash's battle will start any minute now."

"All right. I'm coming. Everyone, return," she said, pulling her three Pokémon who preferred staying in their Poké Ball. Spitfire, of course, stayed by her side. "Come on," she said, but before she could bolt back up the bridge, Paul stopped her.

"Wait," he said. Gabby turned her attention to him. "Here. Your Beedrill will need this to stand any chance." He handed over a TM case that had the name 'X-Scissor' printed on the front.

"Wh-What?! This is a super powerful move, and you're giving it to me?!"

Paul shrugged. "None of my Pokémon can use it, so what's the point of keeping it?"

Gabby didn't know what else to say other than: "Thank you."

Paul only shrugged again as he turned around to leave. Gabby did the same, crossing the bridge and bolting over to Cerulean City gym. Once she was out of sight, Paul tossed out Bulbasaur again. "Come on, Bulbasaur. Let's go find a rock for you to use Vine Whip on."

Bulbasaur's eyes lit up like they had when Gabby spoke to her. "Bulba!"

Episode Nine: A Moment of Growth

Ash stood on the same platform Gabby had. All the water had been filtered and the platform Beekee shattered with Seel was now replaced. The Sensational Sister standing across from Ash was Daisy, the oldest of the three.

"Same rules as before," Lily said, this time acting as the referee. "It's a two-on-two battle, only the challenger can substitute Pokémon, and once both Pokémon have fainted, the one that still stands is declared the winner."

Ash nodded, acknowledging the rules, though he took note that they hadn't told Gabby those rules before her match. He looked down at Pikachu, whose cheeks were already sparking, ready to go. Ash grinned. "All right, buddy. You're up first," he said.


Pikachu jumped from platform to platform until he got halfway across the pool.

Daisy said: "Figures you'd chose an Electric-type against a Water-type gym. Makes more sense than what your friend did. Lucky for me, there is no real sense in Pokémon battling. Shellder, into the water!" She threw a Poké Ball and out came a purple shell with its tongue hanging out. Ash couldn't get a good look at it nor get a scan on it with his PokéDex since it dove into the water so fast.

"You have the first move," Daisy said.

Ash nodded once. "Okay, Pikachu, Thunder Wave!"

Pikachu's tail sparked brightly before he ducked it into the water, sending a massive shockwave through the water. His powerful volt power rocked the pool into waves. Ash smiled. And that's not even him attacking!

Despite her platform rocking with the waves, Daisy called out: "Shellder, use Clamp!"

Before Ash could put two and two together to what move that was, Pikachu screamed. He pulled his tail from the water, Shellder clamping its shell down in the tip. Ash could already see the fur on Pikachu's tail was dyed a slight red.

"Pikachu, use Thunderbolt! Focus it to your tail like you did with Thunder Wave!" Ash called out. They'd practiced that Thunder Wave ever since they found out the gym was pretty much just a pool. If they could get the water conducting the Thunder Wave for a long period of time, that meant it would affect the next Pokémon coming into the battle after the first opponent. It also had the chance to paralyze, which was good, but with Pikachu's Static ability, it wasn't the most important part of the move.


What was normally widespread, blinding bolts of lightning came as a shock wave running down Pikachu's body, down to the tip of his tail.

"Shellder, let go now!" Daisy called out, but Shellder didn't respond.

Nice! Shellder's paralyzed, either from Thunder Wave or Pikachu's Static. "Keep going, buddy! Now knock Shellder off your tail."

Pikachu spun around before slamming his tail into the platform, forcing Shellder off. Part of its shell chipped off, and that was enough to knock it out. Pikachu panted slightly, ready in case Shellder somehow got up after that Thunderbolt and slam to the platform.

"Shellder is unable to battle," Lily said, though she didn't sound too thrilled about it. "Pikachu wins this round."

"Awesome job, Pikachu!" Ash said.

Pikachu looked back and gave a thumbs up. "Pika!"

Daisy recalled Shellder. "You did great holding out that long. Few can withstand just a strong Thunderbolt." Her expression hardened as she pocketed Shelder and pulled out another Poké Ball. "That was good, but let's see your Pikachu try to Thunderbolt Chinchou!"

A blue and yellow . . . thing came from Daisy's next Poké Ball. It held itself up on the platform with its antennae. Ash pulled out his PokéDex and scanned it.

"No known Pokémon is present," was all it said.

"Come on," he mumbled. Why were all these Kanto gyms using Pokémon not actually native to Kanto? Ash mentally shrugged and observed the Chinchou. It was obviously a Water-type considering the gym, but the way Daisy called it out made it sound as though Pikachu's Electric-type attacks wouldn't work, and it honestly didn't appear to be affected by the Thunder Wave Pikachu already set up. The only other thing Pikachu had was Agility. He hadn't even perfected his Quick Attack yet. Well, Flash of course, but that wouldn't do anything to Chinchou, whose antennae lit up just as bright.

"Come back, Pikachu," Ash finally said.

Pikachu's eye twitched and he looked back at his Trainer in confusion. "Pika?"

"I have a plan. Just come back." He didn't have a plan. He just knows Pikachu had no moves to use against that Chinchou if Electric-type moves wouldn't work. Pikachu returned to Ash's side, still confused but accepting of his Trainer's choice. He began to nurse his tail in a way Ash had never seen a Pokémon do, but he supposed since Pikachu was wild before, he learned how to take care of his injuries without need of a Pokémon Center.

"You made the right move," Daisy said. "But your next move is far more important. Let's see if you get this one right, too."

Ash gritted his teeth, wracking his brain over what this new Pokémon entails. Butterfree was undoubtedly a good choice since Ash taught him Teleport, but he didn't want to have to use that move more than necessary; it felt like cheating honestly. Beedrill only knew Harden and Iron Stingers at this point, which was good, but Ash wanted Pidgeotto to get a chance to battle, but could Pidgeotto take this battle well? They would see.

"Pidgeotto, I choose you!"

A large bird burst from the Poké Ball, spreading its large wings in hopes of intimidating the foe. When Pidgeotto got a look at the little blue blob with yellow antennae, she sweatdropped and looked over at her Trainer as if he were insane. Unlike her nonsensical Trainer, Pidgeotto could see the secondary typing of Chinchou.

Daisy laughed slightly. Wrong move, she thought. "Since you had the first move before, I get this one! Electro Ball, Chinchou!"

"What?! An Electric-type?!" It hit Ash, and he felt like an idiot. What else would the yellow mean? "Dodge it, Pidgeotto. Use Agility!"

A streaking beam followed Pidgeotto as she easily dodged the cluster of volts hurled at her. Before the Electro Ball hit the ceiling, it burst like a firework. A stream of bolts came down, but Pidgeotto dodged each one. Awesome! I know Agility would be best in the long-run.

"All right, Pidgeotto, use Gust!"

"Pidgeo!" She flapped her wings rapidly, creating a fierce gale of wind that blasted right into Chinchou, knocking it right into the water.

"Awesome job, Pidgeotto! Now, use Air Cutter to slice through the water!" Ash was very keen on teaching Pidgeotto new Flying-type moves. So far he was up to three, including Gust and Air Cutter. The last one was . . . well: "And then use Aerial Ace!"

Aerial Ace was a very powerful move that required such precision that it never missed. No matter how many times a Pokémon tried to dodge, it would always hit them in the end. That's why Ash knew he had to teach it to Pidgeotto as soon as possible. Even before Roost, which Gabby agreed to teach Pidgeotto since Ash couldn't wrap his head around the mechanics of the move. It would've been useful when going up against Chinchou given it could eliminate Pidgeotto's weakness to Electric-type attacks.

Pidgeotto shot out several attacks, cutting and slicing through the water. Her sharp eyes kept track of where Chinchou was; those yellow antennae were holding it back. The small Chinchou was fast and spritely, dodging those powerful wave-inducing collisions, much to Pidgeotto's annoyance. She was about to just go for the Aerial Ace, but Ash stopped her:

"Not yet, girl! Keep using Air Cutter!"

Pidgeotto continued, trusting in her Trainer. Blades of beaming wind continued slicing until one lucky burst stuck Chinchou, throwing it to the pool's edge. Ash couldn't see it from where he stood but knew Pidgeotto could.

Daisy quickly ordered Chinchou uses Electro Ball again, but when Ash called to Pidgeotto: "Now!" it was too late.

Pidgeotto dove under the water, an aggressively bright light conforming around her, appearing to boost her speed as she struck the Chinchou, forcing it back to the pool's edge. Ash called for Pidgeotto to bring Chinchou back up to the surface, and she obeyed, grabbing the Chichou by the antennae. Before it could go for a Thunder Shock, Pidgeotto burst from the water and swung Chinchou onto one of the platforms.

Pidgeotto's chest heaved as she landed on the same platform. She shook her feathers, ruffling them harshly to get the water off. Then, suddenly, she froze, unable to move.

Daisy grinned when Ash gasped. "Impressed?" she asked.

"What?! But those Air Cutters should have torn Pikachu's Thunder Wave apart!" Ash shouted. Since Air Cutter was simply finally condensed blades of wind, Ash assumed it would have cut through the Thunder Wave.

"Uh, hello! Chinchou is an Electric-type," Daisy said. "Obviously he has Thunder Wave. Now, Chichou, use Electro Ball!"

"Use Air Cutter, Pidgeotto!" Ash called.

An electric current ran up Pidgeotto's frame as she forced her wings open. Ash gritted his teeth at how painful it looked; to move when you're not supposed to.

Chinchou held its antennae together, powering up a ball of lightning.

"Come on, Pidgeotto! Fly up and use Air Cutter!"

Something about her Trainer's voice did something to her. With one powerful and honestly painful flap of her wings the same electric current covering her burst from her and she bolted into the air. Chinchou's Electro Ball hit the spot Pidgeotto once stood.

"What?" Daisy said. "It got rid of the Thunder Wave!"

"She did?!" Ash questioned, but smiled nonetheless. "Awesome job, Pidgeotto! Now, use Air Cutter, like I said before."


"Chinchou, back into the water!" Daisy ordered.

Chinchou was too slow, especially on land. Pidgeotto's Air Cutter attacks landed, but Pidgeotto did them in such a way to Chichou couldn't even get close to the edge of the platform to fall back into the water. It didn't appear to do much considering Chinchou resisted Flying-type attacks, but both Ash and Daisy knew all tiny hits would cost health in the long-run.

"Chinchou, use Thunderbolt!"

"Keep doing what you're going Pidgeotto, then follow up with Aerial Ace and Tackle!" Aerial Ace likely wouldn't take out Chinchou, but a strong Tackle would!

Pidgeotto called its name as she cut through the producing Thunderbolt with yet another Air Cutter before charging forward, that same blinding light engulfing her with Aerial Ace. She struck the Chinchou before it could even attempt to dodge (which was pointless in the first place). As Ash suspected, Chinchou picked itself back up, but with a powerful Tackle, Pidgeotto had it down. Its eyes were closed. It clearly fainted.

"Chichou is unable to battle," Lily started, sounding very defeated herself. "Pidgeotto wins and therefore, Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town is the victor of this battle."

Pidgeotto and Pikachu cheered and it took a moment for Ash to comprehend what just happened. Then he broke out into his own cheer, congratulating both his Pokémon on their awesome battling skills. Once he and Daisy were off the platforms, Daisy walked over to him and sighed.

"I hate to admit it, but you won . . . You got lucky. Luck-based or not, though, a win's a win. And for your win, I grant you this," she said as a now healthy looking Seel came up and opened its mouth. She took the small item from Seel's mouth and handed it to Ash. "The Cascade Badge. You've earned it."

One more round of cheers from Ash, Pikachu, and Pidgeotto and Brock came over a put a hand on Ash's shoulder.

"That was a great battle," Brock said.

"Thanks, Brock," Ash said. He looked over Brock's shoulder. "Hey, where's Gabby and Misty."

Brock smile fell. "Gabby said she had to call her dad."

"Didn't she already — Oh. She's still upset about her loss."

Brock nodded. "Yeah, and I think seeing you win upset her even more. She probably didn't want you to see her upset when you won. Misty went after her to see what she could do."

"But that last part of the battle was luck."

"Luck or not, you still did what she couldn't. I don't think she's jealous, per se, but she's definitely seeing herself inferior to you," Brock explained.

Misty entered the Pokémon Center and asked where Gabby had gone. Nurse Joy pointed toward the hall where their rooms were. She quickly bolted that way and found Gabby's room. She knocked and heard a small voice say: "Come in."

Misty twisted the doorknob and entered the room. All four of Gabby's Pokémon were out of their Poké Ball, Spitfire in her lap, Shadow on the bed frame, Rattata on Gabby's shoulder, and Beekee looked out the window, his sparkled glow in the late evening sun. Misty sighed at the depressing atmosphere and stepped over to Gabby's bed before sitting at the foot of it. Gabby looked up at the feel of her mattress sinking. Tears she refused to shed filled her blurry eyes.

Embarrassment, Misty concluded.

"There's nothing to be—"

That was all Misty could get out before Gabby couldn't hold the tears and sob back. It was one throat-aching take of breath. At least that's what Gabby wanted to disguise it as. She held Spitfire closely and Rattata rubbed his nose against the corner of Gabby's eye to wipe away most of the tears. Spitfire whined as he licked up the tears that ran down to Gabby's chin.

Misty understood the sadness of losing for the first time. When she first became a Trainer, she immediately challenged her more experienced sisters, and Staryu got wiped three times in a row with each sister. Each loss hurt more and more and she couldn't hold back a single tear each time. And then seeing random people she didn't know defeat the person whom she couldn't land a single hit on was adding salt to the wound.

"You know it's okay to cry when you lose," Misty said, shocking Gabby into opening her eyes. Misty smiled gently and nodded. "Yeah. It's okay to cry when you're upset; it's natural. What's not natural, though, is mulling over that sadness. Cry as long as you need, but don't forget what's most important." Misty pointed at Spitfire. "Your Pokémon should come first. They feel just as bad as you do since they were the ones battling. More often than not, they feel even worse than you ever could. They feel like they betrayed you, that they let you down. You have to show them that they didn't. Show them that everyone loses every once in a while. After all . . . For every win someone has, someone loses."

Those words did something the Gabby. It gave her a sense of realization that she never had before.

When Misty left, so did Gabby. She sneaked past Officer Jenny and went over Nugget Bridge and sighed when she saw Paul was still there. A small smile crossed her lips with she saw Paul was training his Bulbasaur the way she'd suggested. Spitfire let out a small, silent growl at Gabby's smile and sight of Paul. Spitfire didn't want his mistress going near Paul; he was dangerous. Toxic, even. Not the person Gabby should make friends with. If only Gabby could see what Spitfire did.

Gabby walked over the Paul and said: "Glad my training methods are working."

Paul jumped slightly but calmed when he saw it was just the girl from before. "Yeah."

Gabby went over to Bulbasaur, who stopped beating the crumbling rock with her vine. Gabby scratched under Bulbasaur's chin, forcing a slight murr from her. Paul wondered if he had an eye problem because this was the third eye twitch in one day.

"Did you just come here to interrupt Bulbasaur's training?" Paul questioned sourly.

Gabby's smile fell. "No. I came here hoping you could help me train Spitfire."

"Growl!" This was certainly news to Spitfire.

Paul's eyes went wider. Just earlier Gabby gave advice and now she was asking for it. "What TM do you want this time?"

Gabby shook her head. "No! I don't want another one of your TMs. I want you to help Spitfire learn Thunder Fang so I can defeat the Cerulean Gym leader."

"You haven't defeated them?!" Then how was she capable of giving decent advice?

"That's pretty much the long and short of it."

As if Paul couldn't figure her out before. Now she was adding an entirely new layer of insanity of everything. Paul stood there for several minutes, while Gabby continued effectively playing with Bulbasaur, who enjoyed every second of it, so much so that Paul had to shut his eyes to prevent another eye twitch. Then something came to mind.

"I have an idea," he said, catching Gabby's interest. Even Spitfire's ear stood to attention. "Can any of your Pokémon use Thunder Wave?"

"Uh, a friend of mine can."

And she was traveling with people. Could she be any more back and forth? "That'll work. Just have that Pokémon use Thunder Wave in your Growlithe's mouth—"

"His name's Spitfire."

"—and he'll eventually learn to control the electricity."

That was an interesting idea, but it also raised many concerns and flaws. Thunder Wave couldn't harm Spitfire since it was made to simply paralyze a Pokémon. That was the problem. What if Thunder Wave paralyzed Spitfire instead of helping him improve? And how would Spitfire eventually learn to produce his own electric current to perform the move? Though the idea had several flaws in it, Gabby figured it was worth a shot.

"Thanks! I'll try it," Gabby said before disappearing as quickly as she came. Even Bulbasaur looked confused as to where her portable back scratcher went.

Paul shook his head. "Back to work, Bulbasaur."


Well, that was one heck of a failure.

Pikachu continued to apologize for paralyzing Spitfire, but Gabby assured Pikachu it wasn't his fault. She was the one who requested Pikachu do it in the first place.

It'd been a week since Ash victory, and they were honestly getting antsy sticking in the same city, and despite the entire Thunder Fang practice not going over too well, Gabby's Pokémon had improved greatly! Spitfire's Bite was nearly on par with Rattata's and his Ember and Flame Wheel did numbers to whatever they hit, easily stopping Pikachu's massive Thunderbolt part way. Even Ash was impressed by the improvement. Not to mention how fast Spitfire had become. With Agility, only Ash's Butterfree could land a hit, and that was with Teleport. All in all, Gabby was proud on Spitfire.

Beekee was also far along in training, perfecting Twineedle and Poison Jab. He could now form Toxic Spikes and they them out properly without a full minute of preparation. Gabby also decided to teach him X-scissor with the TM Paul gave her, which he was currently working on perfecting. TMs only taught Pokémon a certain move that would otherwise be extremely hard to learn, but that didn't mean said Pokémon had the move down-pat. Honestly, Gabby thought Beekee improved the most over the past week of all her Pokémon.

Rattata and Shadow also worked hard on perfecting their previously known moves. Shadow especially worked hard on Double-Edge, adding power to the hit while trying to pull back on recoil as much as possible. Rattata was still trying to activate Crunch, but it simply wasn't working, but he had worn his teeth down a bit on some nearby rocks.

Gabby hadn't seen Paul since that day he suggested a way for Spitfire to learn Thunder Fang so she couldn't tell him how much of an epic fail it was, but she simply shrugged it off. From the way he spoke, Gabby assumed he already got the Cascade Badge so he must have gotten past security to travel elsewhere. All those Officer Jennys in the area was beginning to make entering and leaving the city a lot easier, but there was still a bit of worry in the city, several people wondering just what happened that the entire place had to go on lockdown. Gabby just hoped they didn't get sloppy. One wrong entry and everyone was in danger.

Gabby wanted to get out of Cerulean City as soon as possible in case the worst came to be. She didn't want her new friends or Pokémon to be at risk, so she had to challenge the final Gym Leader of the Cerulean City Gym.

"Misty, I challenge you to a Gym battle tomorrow."

Misty sucked down a bite of rice in shock. After a coughing fit, Misty sat up and said: "What?! I thought you were going to convince my sister to another Gym Battle now that they're in better moods! I know all your Pokémon's moves. You'd be at a huge disadvantage!"

"That's what I'm going for."

Misty just stared for a moment before shaking her head in disbelief. "You're insane . . . Fine. I'll battle you, but you can't expect me to go easy just because we're friends."

"I'd be disappointed if you did," Gabby said. The rest of the evening was mostly silent as they finished dinner and went back to their rooms. Gabby had honestly gotten so used to her room bed, she wasn't sure how it would feel to camp out on the ground every night once they left, but that was the life of a Trainer, she supposed. She and her Pokémon went to sleep early and woke up earlier the next morning.

Gabby headed to the Poffin Bakery just across town and ordered some special poffins for Spitfire. They contained Passho and Sitrus Berries, both which would surely help in his upcoming battle. Passho Berries helped fight against super-effective Water-type moves, while the Sitrus Berry was simply added to make the poffin a little more edible. The baker also threw in some natural herbs that would help slick up Spitfire's fur and make him appear more vibrant. For that alone, Gabby left a sizable tip before leaving.

She also got a sense for what her Pokémon liked. Like Spitfire, Beekee liked sour poffins, Shadow enjoyed the dry ones, and Rattata loved the sweet poffins but would honestly eat any of them if he had to. Gabby brought a few for Ash and Brock's Pokémon while they watched her battle Misty.

As suspected, Misty, Ash, and Brock were already at the Gym. Gabby recalled Spitfire into his Poké Ball, as she had last time. He didn't complain this time. Unlike Ash, Gabby didn't keep her Poké Balls on her belt and instead put them in her bag. To ensure she didn't get them mixed up, she placed stickers on them to tell who else one's belonged to. She pulled out the one with a yellow star sticker — Beekee.

Misty looked almost relieved, likely thinking Gabby wouldn't make the same mistake as before by using Spitfire. She was sorely mistaken.

Lily acted as the referee again once Gabby and Misty got on their designated platforms, facing off against one another. Lily explained the same rules she had to Ash before calling the battle on.

Gabby grabbed Beekee's Poké Ball before throwing it out. "Beekee, show them all you've learned!" In a beam of light and round of sparkling, Beekee buzzed in confirmation to his Trainer.

"I figured that was Beekee's Poké Ball," Misty said. "Obviously you want to poison the water, so I have no choice but to go with Horsea right from the start."

Misty released the Horsea and it splashed into the water. Compared to Beekee, it was a mere stuffed toy. Beekee eyed the Horsea, forcing the later to back up slightly in intimidation. Rather than the normal silver poison, a deep purple leaked from Beekee's stingers.

Like before, Gabby initiated the battle: "Beekee, set up Toxic Spikes. On the platforms and in the water."

I knew it, Misty thought.

Beekee bright his stingers in front of him before swinging them out again. That leaking poison sprayed out and formed into small spikes. Horsea cowered, clearly not knowing how Toxic Spikes worked. They fell past Horsea and sunk to the bottom of the pool, tainting the water as before.

From the sidelines, Daisy looked annoyed. "We're going to have to filter the water again . . . If I knew she was going to do that, I would have just given her the Cascade Badge." The pool water was already turning a new shade of purple to match the Toxic Spikes.

"Beekee, return."


Gabby returned Beekee to his Poké Ball. "I just needed those set up first. Now — Spitfire, show them your speed!" Spitfire was the only one without a sticker so it stuck out the most. Spitfire landed on the platform Beekee didn't coat in poison, shoulder hunched and tiny fangs showing.

Horsea loosened up, apparently more confident in taking on a Fire-type.

No point in going for Smokescreen. Spitfire has a perfect sense of smell . . . "Horsea, use Water Pulse!" Attacking was her only option.

Horsea gathered several drops of water from the pool and built them at the end of snout into a large sphere. It shot the Water Pulse in Spitfire's direction, but Gabby was quick to tell Spitfire to dodge, and Spitfire was even faster at actually doing the dodge. The Water Pulse flew right past Spitfire.

"Okay, Spitfire! It's our turn. Use Agility to get to Horsea and then use Bite!"

Spitfire barked and blurred from his spot. His sheer speed sent him off the platform on into the water, teeth clamped onto Horsea being the only thing keeping him afloat. Horsea panicked, ignoring Misty's demands to remain calm; thrashing about and spewing a Smokescreen. Gabby shouted for Spitfire to bring Horsea up to the platform once stood on, and though Spitfire couldn't see, his nose guided him as he ignored the tiny Horsea clamped in his jaw. He didn't bite too hard, but Horsea wasn't about to get out.

Once the Smokescreen cleared, Spitfire had already gotten Horsea to the platform. "Awesome job, Spitfire! Now, use Flame Wheel to dry off and get rid of any poison."

"Don't let him, Horsea! Use Water Gun!" Misty shouted.

Spitfire lit himself aflame and begin rolling toward Horsea, a trail of steam following him as he boiled the water off his fur. Horsea couldn't get upright, but it released a burst of water from its mouth. The two attacks hit head-on, a new cloud of steam forming as neither would let up. Both Trainer continued cheering their Pokémon on until the battle of types and power ended when Spitfire's Flame Wheel roared to life, massive flames licking the air as they easily evaporated Horsea's Water Gun. Horsea was thrown back, and Spitfire's attack grew so wildly powerful that Horsea plopped back into the water.

Spitfire straightened himself out as the flame around him died down. Horsea may have been in the water now, but the Flame Wheel had hurt despite it not being very effective. It already looked weak. Misty called out for Horsea to use Brine, and Gabby told Spitfire to use Flame Wheel again to cut through the Brine. Both Pokémon did their moves perfectly, but the moment Spitfire's flame rose a little too high, Horsea's Brine could no longer hold him back. Spitfire killed the flames the moment he was face-to-face with Horsea and used Bite to attack. Both went under. Horsea would, of course, be fine, but Gabby worried about Spitfire as Horsea released another Smokescreen out of fear. Neither Trainers could see what was going on under there.

Gabby called out for Spitfire to get back to the surface, and she was ready to jump in the poisoned and blurry water until Spitfire finally surfaced, Horsea clamped in his mouth. He climbed back onto the platform and dropped the fainted Horsea. Spitfire repeated his drying process.

"Horsea is unable to battle!" Lily called. "Growlithe wins this round."

"His name is Spitfire!" Gabby shouted. Spitfire barked as well before the two cheered themselves on. "I knew all we needed was some good training!"


Misty returned Horsea. "You did good, but let's hand this over to Starmie!"

Gabby stopped cheering the moment Misty threw out Starmie's Poké Ball. Gabby knew very well that Starmie was a strong Pokémon. After all, it took down several Beedrill with a single Psywave. To say Starmie was strong was an understatement — it's speed, power, and vast movepool made it unpredictable.

The Toxic Spikes glowed to life as they lifted into the air, but before they could strike Starmie, Misty called out: "Rapid Spin, Starmie!" Starmie bound into the air and spun around and knocked those Toxic Spikes away with the tips of its star-points. That was what Gabby was afraid of.

Starmie was the evolved form of Staryu, so Gabby wasn't sure is Spitfire could take so much as a Water Gun attack. She didn't want Spitfire to faint again like before, but no way Beekee could take a Psywave that was powerful enough to take out a horde of Beedrill. Then something hit her. Starmie was also a Psychic-type, so Beekee was beneficial, especially with his newly-learned move X-Scissor.

"Spitfire, return!" Gabby called, shocking Spitfire as he allowed himself back into his Poké Ball. Gabby released Spitfire back by her side before reaching for Beekee's. "Beekee, show them what you got!"

Another parade of stars and gleaming lights shown as Beekee burst from his Poké Ball. Immediately, he began using Harden on his stingers. Misty easily recognized the move — the one that single-handedly allowed Ash to defeat Brock's Geodude.

"Starmie, use Psywave!"

"Don't let it hit you! Dive into the water!"

Beekee buzzed and nosedived into the pool just as Starmie jumped into the air spinning. Glowing circles of energy crashed into the water, a light sizzle showing just how heated that mind energy was. Air warped with the waves as Beekee dodged each and every strike despite Starmie's speed. Even though Beekee couldn't learn Agility, he had the speed on a Pokémon using it.

Frustrated with Beekee's dodges, Misty shouted: "Starmie, dive and use Swift!"

Swift, much like Aerial Ace, could not be dodged but didn't offer as much power as some other moves. Gabby decided to take advantage of that. Once Starmie splashed into the pool, she ordered: "Come out of the water and use Twineedle and X-Scissor to negate Swift as much as possible!"

Beekee nodded from under and shot back up from the water, wings flinging away excess water sparkles, only magnifying his beauty as a shiny. Once high enough in the air, his stingers began glowing as he built his Iron Stingers up to the max. Starmie also bounced out of the water and sent out a round of Swift attacks. Glowing stars hurled toward Beekee, but before they could hit, he swung his arm stingers. Iron-hard stingers struck the stars one at a time, bursting them into nothing back shimmering dust.

Misty gritted her teeth in annoyance. "Power up a giant Swift, Starmie! Make sure it can't be deflected!"

Starmie spun faster and gathered several Swift stars together to form one massive star and launched it forward.

"X-Scissor, Beekee," Gabby said calmly, confident in his defense boosts.

Beekee crossed his stingers into a glowing 'X'-shape and charged forward. He rammed into the Swift attack and immediately began struggling against the massive force. Both glowed brightly until the star shattered. Both Trainer shielded their eyes to keep the stardust from blinding them. Gabby peaked a grinned to see Beekee was fine. A little tired, but overall uninjured. Blocking such a massive Swift attack wasn't easy; that was for sure.

"Great going Beekee! Get down to Starmie's level and use Twineedle!"

Beekee swooped down to where Starmie had landed and jabbed a Starmie's center.

"Walk backward to dodge!" Misty said. She could play the dodging game, too. And that's just what Starmie did.

Beekee continued in his pursuit to stab and slice, but every time he came close, Starmie took one step back. Beekee narrowed his eyes and the buzz coming from his wings grew louder in annoyance. Gabby shouted for Beekee to not give into that annoyance and continue attacking calmly.

Misty grinned as she knew she was getting on Beekee's nerves. One wrong move, and Beekee was down! "While you're walking back, use Water Gun!" Starmie wouldn't be able to power up a Psywave with Beekee so close — it was very much a long-range move.

Starmie shot water out of the top spike, but the moment Gabby shouted it, Beekee began to dodge and move against the Water Gun attack. For several seconds, they were in perfect sync, each avoiding each other's movements. When Starmie came to the end of the platform, it hadn't noticed just how close it was and took a mistaken step. Misty calling out to Starmie to watch out was pointless as Starmie was already plummeting into the water. Beekee took advantage of Starmie's momentary lack of control and used X-Scissor directly on its gem.

It hit hard, slamming Starmie to the bottom of the pool, allowing the Toxic Spikes to dig into Starmie's form, effectively poisoning it. Starmie may have avoided the Toxic Spikes on the platforms but failed to get rid of those on the bottom of the pool. The pain of the poison entering its system sent Starmie flying back out of the water in pain. The gem on its face began beeping and flapping, indicating a status condition. Even with its Natural Cure ability, it had to be swapped out, which Misty couldn't do, so it couldn't be helped.

"Starmie, use Rapid Spin at Beekee!" Misty said.

Finally, someone referred to him by his name! "X-Scissor to repel and attack!"

With another beaming cross of the stingers, Beekee sent a propelled Starmie flying back. It spun out of control and crashed into the wall, far off from the pool. Misty called out for her weakening Pokémon to stand back up, but even if Starmie heard, no way could it have gotten up in time to avoid Beekee's next round of X-Scissor attacks. The once sturdy star Pokémon fell limp as the gem on its face died down slowly. Once it went fully out, Gabby called to Beekee:

"Okay, Beekee! That's enough."

Beekee pulled out of another X-Scissor and buzzed back to his Trainer. Everyone faced Lily, who looked more shocked than anyone else before she announced: "Starmie is unable to battle . . . Beekee is the winner of this round, making Gabby the victor of the battle."

Misty returned Starmie. "You were great. I'll get you to the Pokémon Center just as soon as we're done here," she said. She turned and smiled upon seeing Gabby cheering for her Pokémon. Beekee seemed to glow more with its first major victory, and Spitfire seemed far more puppy-like as Gabby told him how great he was.

Once everyone was off the platforms, Gabby was paraded with congratulations, and she suddenly felt very self-conscious and a hint of guilt.

"You weren't too bad," Misty said. "Beekee is a lot stronger than I thought he was. And for your victory, I present you with the Cascade Badge as proof of your skills." She held out a small badge shaped like a blue rain drop.

Gabby took the badge carefully and admired it for several moments before turning back to Misty. "Thanks. Beekee will only be getting stronger, and you better get stronger, too, Misty! I need a powerful rival to really motivate me to get even stronger!"

Misty's eyes bulged for a moment before she got a determined grin. "You better believe I'll be getting stronger! Next time we battle, none of your Pokémon will stand a chance!"

"We'll see about that."

"Oh, trust me — you'll see!"

Episode Ten: Meeting New Friends

Gabby positioned the Cascade Badge in her badge case nicely before tucking the case back into the pocket of her bag. She slung the bag over her shoulder and called for Spitfire to join her and the others for some last-minute training before they left Cerulean City. They decided they'd stick around for a while for Misty to get on decent terms with her sisters.

Once out of the Pokémon Center, Gabby released her companions. "Okay, this is our last day in Cerulean City. We all know that training while on the road is hard, so you guys better push yourselves hard enough to last you at least a few days because I don't think they'll be many Trainers to battle once we go." Given the entire ordeal with Team Rocket and Mt. Moon, Gabby couldn't imagine Trainers would be eager to stay in the area long enough for a battle. Not that anyone knew it was Team Rocket, but who would honestly hang around a town that was recently on lockdown? Apparently, Gabby, Ash, Misty, and Brock, because they survived the entire ordeal.

Everyone nodded in understanding, but before they could run off to do their usual routines, Ash walked out of the Pokémon Center. He yawned, Pikachu at his feet. "Morning," he said tiredly.

"Morning," Gabby returned. "So, uh . . . I'm sorry about walking out before you won your match. Show you just how much of a good friend I am."

That seemed to snap Ash out of his sleepy stupor. "Heh? You're worried about that? I understand why you did it. I wouldn't have done it myself, but I do understand your reasoning. Besides, that last part of the match was luck."

"Sometimes luck is all you need," Gabby said. "Still, I'm really sorry."

Ash waved off the apology. "I told you, it's fine." He shifted his attention to the crowd of Pokémon by Gabby's side. "Still haven't found a good addition to the team?"

Gabby shook her head. "I'm looking for a Water-type to cover my team's weakness to Ground and Rock-types, but all I've found are a bunch of Magikarp. Nothing against Magikarp, but Splash won't fill in the cracks of my team's weaknesses. We were just about to go train a bit before we leave."

"Hey, whatcha' say we train together?" Ash offered.

Gabby shook her head. "I'd really rather not. If we come across a Pokémon that we both want, we'd likely fight over it."

Ash nodded his head understandingly. "Got it. I think Misty said to be back to town by noon, so we better get going if we want to get any training done."

They parted ways, Gabby heading up north to Nugget Bridge, while Ash went south, where a Pokémon Daycare resided. Gabby scanned the area and decided to explore a little further than before. She told her team to stay near the water while she went to explore the area. Ahead of Nugget Bridge was a spotty forest with scattered sun beams breaking through to the earth. It was actually comforting. Despite the warm feeling the forest gave Gabby, she jumped when Spitfire caught up to her. She didn't ask why Spitfire wasn't training. Obviously, he wanted to make sure she was safe.

The scattered tree thinned the further Gabby and Spitfire went until they happened upon a small dirt path that looked like no one traveled down it in years. For some reason, no direct beams of light shown despite the lack of tree and clouds overhead. It was just darker than anything else.

A chill ran up Gabby's spine as the late-summer/early autumn breeze rushed past her. She took a mental note to pick up a jacket before they left for Vermilion. Better to be safe than sorry.

They walked further until they came to a small house. Well, not actually that small. It looked to have two stories but was very narrow. Several dark windows and a door crawling with vines that had overgrown. Creepiest of all, a huge wooden fence surrounded most of the house.

Spitfire seemed fine, though. Not a growl or whimper came from him the entire, so Gabby decided it was safe enough. They neared the house, and Gabby pushed on the door. The lush vine work had grown so thickly that it was impossible to close the door fully, so it swung open slowly. She should have been creeped out, but the brightness of the light stopped fear from creeping up. She finished opening the door, and Spitfire let himself in.

Gabby knew she should have left long ago, yet she took a step into the house. It was blinding white and silver with the scent of a newly-cleaned hospital room. She scanned the wide-open area and briefly wondered if she should turn back. As she glanced at the door, something under the thick vines caught her eye. She shifted the vines to get a better view of the door carving. Carvings of several species of Pokémon covered it, only to be blocked from sight by vines. One carving snagged her interest, though.

It was bipedal with long limbs and tail falling behind it. It looked familiar, but Gabby couldn't place it.

Suddenly, Spitfire barked.

Gabby twisted around to see Spitfire head down and rear up, tail waggling as he playfully growled at a Clefairy. Gabby blinked a few times before stepping closer. Spitfire looked up and her and spun around to show how excited he was. Gabby knelt down to Spitfire and the Clefairy's level. The Clefairy was too cute and fluffy, and Gabby placed a hand on its head and scratched behind its ear. It tensed at her touch and swatted her hand away.

"Hey! I'm not a Pokémon!" the Clefairy snapped.

Gabby screamed and jumped back. "H-How can you talk?!" Was this another case like Team Rocket's Meowth?

The Clefairy sighed. "Because I'm not a Pokémon. I messed up an experiment and got combined with a Pokémon."

Gabby looked at him questioningly. "That can happen."

"Well, it happened to me, so I'd say so," he retorted. "You mind helping me out?"

Gabby shrugged. "Sure."

"Okay, once I go into the teleporter, go to the computer over there"— he pointed to the large desk across the room —"and run the Cell Separation System."

Gabby got the order, but couldn't wrap her mind around the idea of a teleporter and Cell Separation System. How did it make any sense? And how the heck did this guy combine with a Pokémon?! She decided to not question the world of science. She walked over the computer and found the right file and clicked the activation button once the Clefairy was in the teleporter. Several seconds later and a confused Spitfire sounds of concern, and the teleporter doors opened to reveal a guy who looked a bit older than Gabby. He wore a neat shirt, form-fitting pants, and a tie. His hair was the only thing messy about him.

"Thanks for the help," he said. "Now that I'm no longer a Clefairy, I suppose I should introduce myself. Call me Bill! I'm a true blue Poké Maniac."

A cringe ran up Gabby's spine. She hoped she never had to hear that line again. "I'm Gabby. Sorry about barging into your place . . ." She scratched the back of her neck nervously.

"I'm not usually keen on people walking into my place unannounced, but since you helped me get back to normal, I'll let this time go," Bill said with a shrug. "So, did you come here to see my rare Pokémon?" The way Gabby's eyes went wide made Bill assume not. "Well, if that's not the case, I have a different way to thank you."

Gabby was about to tell him that not reporting her to Officer Jenny was all the thanks she needed when Bill suddenly hold out a ticket. Not a ticket to a movie or some silly fair. No. This was a ticket to get on the S.S. Anne, the largest and most prestigious cruise line to stop in Kanto. Royalty supposedly take the ship daily to get from one place to another. All Kanto champions have history with taking the ship to different regions. Her father claimed he once went on the S.S. Anne, but Gabby had never seen it outside of the yearly take offs on television. It was apparently a huge deal that such a well-known ship came by Kanto.

"My friend sent it to me, but I'm not one for fancy 'dos. It's good for you and a guest of your choice," Bill explained.

"Only one guest can come?" Gabby asked.

Bill nodded. "Yeah, but they're holding a contest in Vermilion City that allows one person to receive a free ticket to get on the S.S. Anne. That's the only way you can bring more than one person with you."

"Thanks. I appreciate it," Gabby said.

"No problem."

After Gabby retrieved her hard-at-work Pokémon, she sprinted back to town. All that Agility training with Spitfire and Pikachu helped get her into better shape already. Her three friends were already at the restaurant they planned on meeting at when Gabby and Spitfire finally made it. After a brief lecture from Misty, Gabby showed them the S.S. Anne ticket she received.

"So who are you going to take as your guest?" Ash asked after Gabby explained how all four of them could get a chance to ride the S.S. Anne.

"Well, considering I'm likely going to share a room with them, Misty," Gabby said.

"So it's up to Brock and me to win that ticket!" Ash said, honestly excited about the idea of participating in his first Pokémon competition. He was confident in all four of his buddies.

Brock nodded in anticipation. "Zubat could use some practice, but I'm sure he'll be fine."

Brock's Zubat was actually pretty strong. Apparently, it had stayed conscious when Pikachu released his Thunderbolt attack at the flock of Zubat. Seeing how strong it was, Brock captured it despite what it did. When pinned against Spitfire, it showed off its many moves but was ultimately defeated by the more experienced Spitfire. It had a long way to go before it won itself a competition, but it could definitely help out Onix, Graveler, and Magcargo.

They all left after a meal and quick trip to the shop. Gabby and Ash scanned the Poké Ball selection and couldn't even find Great Balls. How had Gary obtained them? Instead, they stocked up on some regular Poké Balls and some new balls called: Quick Balls. Apparently they were most successful when used on the first turn, otherwise, they had the same catch rate as a regular Poké Ball. Gabby got it so she'd be able to tell some of her Pokémon apart without placing stickers on their Poké Balls, while Ash got them since he often forgot he had to weaken Pokémon first.

They had ten days to get to Vermilion City if they had any chance of defeating the Gym Leader there and competing in the competition for the free S.S. Anne ticket and even that would be cutting it short. According to Brock's map and sense of direction, they were making great time and would be there in a few days if they made minimal stops.

Of course, though, Ash couldn't help himself when it came to Trainers approaching him for a battle. Mostly young Trainers who had Rattata and Nidoran, but there were a few tough ones like Cubone that Pikachu could barely even touch since he was still working on his Quick Attack (which was coming along nicely given he'd been practicing for quite some time). All in all, Ash had yet to break his winning streak. It was, to be frank, the steps to becoming a Pokémon Master, as cheesy as it was to say. It was mostly mindless fun and extra training for Pikachu, but one young boy said something after his match with Ash:

"Wow! Your Pokémon are super strong. I wonder if they could defeat A.J." he pondered to himself.

"A.J.?" Ash questioned.

The boy nodded. "Yeah. He made his own Gym and trains savage Pokémon who haven't lost a single battle!"

Ash's eyes widened. "Neither have I. And check it." He opened one side of his short-sleeve jacket to reveal his two Badges.

The boy's eyes sparked with the Badges. "You have Badges?! That's crazy. A.J. doesn't even have one, yet you've managed to win two! Now I have full confidence you can defeat A.J.!"

"Awesome! To this A.J.-guy's gym!" Ash said without even bothering to consult with his three traveling companions.

"This'll add another day of traveling," Brock said, but Ash didn't hear as he asked the boy for directions to where A.J.'s gym was.

They continued down the path they were previously following and it soon turned into forest. The path was straightforward, so Misty wasn't too concerned with getting lost and missing the chance to go on the S.S. Anne. Then it came into view.

A huge dome-shaped circus tent with a huge wooden fence surrounding it. Considering it was a public gym, they pushed open the gate to let themselves in. It was an impressive setup, the battlegrounds being right at the entrance. That was when Ash noticed the scoreboard. According to the scores listed, A.J. had won ninety-eight without a single loss. Two more wins and that kid would reach a hundred. Ash almost felt bad considering they were so close to one-hundred wins, but he knew he couldn't go easy in his upcoming battle.

Everyone made their way into the tent. There were several training obstacles all over the place, even including a pool and rings of fire. A few Rattata ran through those rings of fire, sparking Gabby's curiosity, while a Beedrill and Butterfree worked on their battling and dodging skills. And then a large Sandshrew suddenly dove into the water. All the Pokémon appeared to be wearing weights, which Gabby took note of. Weights would help Spitfire bulk up and improve his body strength.

That was about all Gabby had to say. The rest of the training seemed below average and overall unsurprising. Any good Trainer would have their Pokémon build up a resistance to the types they were weak to, speed and strength were obvious, and the rings of fire may have been visually impressive, but how would it serve outside of training? Honestly, looking at everything, the circus tent made sense.

The crack of a whip snapped Gabby out of her judgement daze as a kid with green hair stepped up. He wore black shorts with a red and black chevron printed shirt. Her yelp seemed to capture the guy's attention because he turned and said:

"Hey, are you four here to challenge my gym?" he asked in a southern accent.

"You better believe it!" Ash said. "I'm here to break your winning streak!" Then he remembered. "Uh, Gabby, are taking this guy on first?"

Gabby waved off the question. "Since it's not an official Gym, you can go first. I'll take on Vermilion City's Gym Leader first, though."

Ash nodded. "Got it!" He turned back to A.J. "All right, let's get this battle started! Three-on-three good for you?"

A.J. scoffed. "I only need my partner. Sandshrew, come here."

The same Sandshrew from before sprang out of the water and curled itself into a ball to spin itself off. It was clear that it hurt from the water its skin wasn't supposed to absorb. Like almost all Pokémon, Sandshrew drank water, but its skin was made to face-off against the heat, not water. It was clear A.J. had a long way to go before Sandshrew would fully be able to resist water, let alone the power of Water-type moves.

"If that's what you want," Ash said with a shrug. He never really did one-on-one unless that was all the opponents had, but it was clear A.J. had at least a full team.

They all went back out to the little battleground, and Sandshrew immediately stepped up.

Ash reached for Butterfree's Poké Ball and tossed it out. "Butterfree! I chose you!" Butterfree came out with a happy buzz, flapping his wings, making some of the powder sprinkle under him.

"A type advantage won't help you!" A.J. said. "Sandshrew, use Rollout."

Sandshrew tucked itself into a ball and rolled forward before springing itself into the air toward Butterfree. Before Sandshrew struck it, Butterfree's eyes briefly glowed and he disappeared into a blur of nothingness. Sandshrew fell back to earth but continued rolling to keep his momentum. A.J. looked shocked for a moment. "What?! Your Butterfree knows Teleport?!"

From behind, Brock said: "It figures Ash would choose to battle with Butterfree. After seeing the way A.J. trained his Pokémon, he needed to choose a strong, fast Pokémon. Butterfree may be frail, but with Teleport, it's one of the most skilled Pokémon I've battled."

Ash grinned having heard that. "Okay, Butterfree, use Supersonic and then start spamming Gust attack!"

Butterfree made a sound in confirmation before a large round of sound waves shot down onto the Sandshrew, who had no time to react given Butterfree's sudden entrance. The ear-piercing sound broke Sandshrew out of his Rollout position and masked A.J.'s voice demanding Sandshrew shape-up. This time Pikachu covered his ears so he wouldn't get confused, while Gabby held onto Spitfire's. Only one of A.J.'s demands got through to Sandshrew:


Sandshrew tried, but the confusion got to him as he went to burrow into the ground. He struck his head before he could even begin digging. Butterfree was right there, flapping his wings rapidly with a Gust attack. It sent Sandshrew rolling out of control. Every time Sandshrew neared the edge of the ring, Butterfree teleported over and used Gust again.

"Okay, Butterfree, finish this with Bug Bite!" Ash shouted.

A.J. gritted his teeth as Butterfree nosedived at Sandshrew. "Come one, Sandshrew, get up! Have you forgotten our promise?!"

Even if those words had processed in Sandshrew's mind, it was too late. Butterfree tackled Sandshrew to the ground and stuck his tiny fangs into Sandshrew. That snapped Sandshrew out of confusion, and he began struggling against Butterfree in failed attempts of escape. A few Bug Bites later, and Butterfree pulled away to take his spot next to Ash.

A.J. ran up to Sandshrew, who clearly fainted. "B-But how!? We were doing so good until now . . ."

Butterfree buzzed happily, and Ash rubbed the top of Butterfree's head. "You did great, buddy." Another happy buzz.

A.J. picked up Sandshrew and returned it to its Poké Ball. "Two more wins was all we needed . . . Why now of all times?" He looked up at the scoreboard to see the number '1' on the side that showed his losses. He fought back tears as he clung to Sandshrew's Poké Ball. "Now I have to start all over."

Gabby stepped up the battleground and stepped up to A.J., who looked up at her.

"If you want a battle now, you're out of luck," A.J. said bitterly.

Gabby shook her head. "I'm not looking for one. I just wanted to tell you that . . . Losing is okay."

"Easy for you to say with your plush doll of a Growlithe."

"His name's Spitfire!" Gabby snapped but lowered her voice again. "You don't have to win one-hundred battles in a row. That amount of wins only get to your head and make you anticipate every battle as an immediate victory. If anything, it's good to lose a battle early on. It gives you a taste of what being a true Pokémon Trainer is like. Everyone loses. No one is born a great Pokémon Trainer. Not even the Champions of the world. Through loss, you really appreciate those wins you worked so hard to obtain." — all knowledge gained via battling Misty.

A.J.'s eyes widened at how well those words spoke to him. "You're right . . ."

Gabby was tempted to say she knew already but resisted the urge to brag.

"Losing is a part of being a Trainer. I just didn't want to let Sandshrew down," A.J. admitted.

"The only way you can truly let Sandshrew down is by not being his partner and friend," Brock said as he stepped up. "As long as you can support and care for him, you'll be just fine, no matter how many losses you may face along the way."

Gabby, Ash, Brock, and Misty decided to leave not long after that match. Gabby didn't mind that she didn't get a battle but swore that the next person they came across was hers to wreck, which Ash agreed to. Despite both having very similar goals and intentions, they evened themselves out, and Ash was very gracious when giving Gabby time to train and battle.

They waved goodbye to A.J., who went the opposite way, likely heading to Cerulean City to battle the Sensational Sisters, while our heroes continued down the path to Vermilion City.

The next morning, they woke to a low-hanging fog. Of course, they had to stop right next to a lake to rest for the night. As they walked, the fog only seemed to thicken. It was a good thing Spitfire's sense of smell was perfect, and Pikachu had Flash. Otherwise, they wouldn't have gotten too far.

"This fog is ruining my hair," Gabby said.

"I didn't take you for someone who cared much about her appearance," Misty said honestly.

"I don't, but I'd rather not have my hair look like an Afro."

Ash laughed at the mental image and then cringed. Yeah. That was bad.

They continued on their way, having a tough time following their map, but soon the outline of light became visible. Upon getting closer, they saw a boy running on a treadmill with several other boys surrounding him. They each held a candle, likely to see what exactly they were doing. A few steps closer, and Gabby wanted to pull back.

Pokémon Tech, she recognized. Those uniforms were not only hideous, but also look uncomfortable. Not to mention everyone around wore the same thing which was just . . . It wasn't the experience Gabby wanted as a Trainer, hence why she refused to chance to enter.

And she hadn't even gotten to their horrible way of learning. Rather than learn through experience and battles, they learned with computers and simulations. The thing is, Pokémon are not stats! Simple as that. They were living, breathing creatures who learned things in the same manner as humans. Pokémon Tech thought otherwise.

"Answer us this, Joe: what does the Choice Scarf do when given to a Pokémon?" one of the boys asked.

The kid — apparently Joe — breathed heavily, obviously exhausted from the constant running. "A Choice Scarf is a held item . . . given to add . . . to add . . . defense?"

"Wrong. Choice Scarfs add speed. Assault Vests and Eviolite add defense. Up the treadmill speed."

Another boy clicked a button on the treadmill and Joe visibly struggled against the upped speed. So much so that he tripped over his own feet before the boys could ask another question. He hit his face off the treadmill front and skidded along the running belt. He landed in a heap of himself and lifted a hand to his face, refusing to look up.

Rather than immediately help, the boy originally asking questions sighed in disappointment. "You'd think pain would be a good motivator."

That struck a nerve in Gabby, and she bolted over, Spitfire tailing her. "Eh! Leave that kid alone!" she shouted. Spitfire barked in warning at those boys to not do a thing to his mistress. A few of the boys took a small step back when they heard the bark, but began to laugh when they saw how small Spitfire was. Gabby's hands shook, but then she remembered her entire reason for coming over. She calmed herself and knelt down to Joe's side. She put a cautious hand on his shoulder.

"Eh, you okay, kid?" she asked as if they weren't around the same age.

Joe gave her a sideways glance to show her some of the damage. His forehead was scraped and his nose was likely broken from impact. Blood trailed from his nose, down his face and dripped from his chin onto the ground. Traces of tears covering his cheeks.

"Brock, I need a clean towel," Gabby said, knowing Brock had more than enough things in his backpack.

The boy who asked the questions scoffed. "Just leave him there. This isn't your problem."

Brock stepped over and handed over a towel, which Gabby gave to Joe. After a few seconds, the towel was dyed red. When the blood stopped flowing, Joe removed the towel to reveal his bloodied face. Even the boys bullying him made a face at how bad it was.

"Maybe this time he'll learn a little," the boy said.

Before Gabby could snap at him, Misty stepped up and smacked the boy. It wasn't as hard as she could have, but it moved the boy's face to the side, forcing his eyes wide open. He didn't react for several seconds, having clearly not expected a slap to the face.

"You should be ashamed of yourself!" Misty shouted. "Is this what Pokémon Tech represents?! Bullying kids of a lesser level?! Answer me!"

"This isn't an outsider's problem," a voice said.

Everyone twisted around to see a girl with brown hair and eyes. She wore a schoolgirl outfit, fitting in perfectly with what the boys wore. Not conventionally beautiful, but beautiful nonetheless. She was the girl a school like Pokémon Tech would put on the front of their information pamphlet to make the school look that much better by making you think normal kids went there while still showing they had beauty in the system. All in all, she was as average as Pokémon Tech came.

Brock didn't seem to think so as he got love hearts in his eyes and was suddenly in front of this girl, holding her hand. "Please excuse my friends. They don't know what they're talking about. But you, my lovely, are making me not know what I'm saying either, so we're even."

Gabby blinked, confused. What was Brock doing?

"Are you going to do this with every girl we come across?!" Misty snapped. She grabbed Brock's ear and pulled him away despite his objections.

The new girl looked as confused as Gabby. "Well, this is an odd bunch to wash up," she said, flipping her hair. "I'm assuming you just wanted my name. Call me Giselle, but if you can't help it, you may call me 'Beautiful'."

"Why would we call you something you're clearly not?" Ash asked.


Complete and utter silence.

Suddenly Brock started rummaging through his bag. "I think I have a Burn Heal in here somewhere."

After they got Joe to the nurse's Giselle decided to show the 'outsiders' what Pokémon Tech had to offer. They cleared the fog and set up the battlegrounds. Gabby was, of course, up first. She looked down at Spitfire.

"You got this Spitfire. Let's show them what we've got!"

Spitfire barked in agreement and stepped up. Giselle scoffed, making Spitfire growl at her.

"You think that untamed mutt can defeat me? Cute. Now, come on out, Cubone!" Giselle tossed out a ball and a Cubone popped out, holding out its bone club as if it would help it.

Ash scanned it real' quick: "Cubone, the Lonely Pokémon. Its mother is so protective, no one has ever seen one without its deceased mother's skull on its head. It cries loudly when it mourns its mother."

Gabby started: "Spitfire, Agility. Don't get hit." She had the need to clobber this girl.

Spitfire rocketed forward and under Gabby's demand snapped his jaw wide open and snatched the bone club from the Cubone. Giselle had no time to react, and Cubone looked confused and couldn't pull back the club in time. Spitfire's teeth began to glow as he shattered the bone in half. His eyes suddenly went a deep red and he coated himself with fire before rolling toward the saddened Cubone. One, two, and three crashes before Cubone didn't stand back up

"Cubone!" Giselle said as she ran over to her beloved Pokémon. She lifted his limp body. Fainted. Just like that, from a type that wasn't super effective. She had misjudged Gabby's Growlithe. Not that she would admit it. "It's fine, Cubone. You need to rest up." She returned her Cubone with a smile. She stood and glared at Gabby and then Spitfire.

"Are you happy now? You defeated me," Giselle said.

"Very," Gabby said. "I'm glad I chose this path as opposed to the one you're on. Giselle Yūtō."

Giselle narrowed her eyes. "I thought that was you. With a Growlithe by your side . . . You've barely changed, but I wouldn't suspect much change from the daughter of a Pokémon Breeder."

"Wha—?! Wait! You two know each other?!" Ash asked.

"Yeah," Gabby said. "Giselle was one of the many kids my dad forced me to hang out with when I was smaller. We never got along."

"You mean you never opened up," Giselle corrected. "You were such a reserved kid who hated anything that wasn't Pokémon. You couldn't stand people. I'm honestly surprised you found people could put up with your pushing away without abandoning you."

"We'd never abandon a friend!" Ash shouted.

"Exactly! Gabby might not be the most open person, but a friend is a friend!" Misty added.

Brock only said: "Your father' a Pokémon Breeder, Gabby?"

Giselle scoffed. "Fine. If you really think you can put up with her then you should all leave. Outsiders aren't welcome here under any circumstances."

"Gladly!" Ash and Misty said in unison.

Episode Eleven: Three For Three

Despite the anger Gabby felt that morning, one drink of Brock's herbal tea, and she was happy again and ready to get moving again. There was no time for ten-year-old angst!

They continued forth, Brock's map ensuring they wouldn't get lost in the thick of the woods. They were getting close but had at least another two days to go, so they were making decent timing. Brock led the way with Ash and Gabby right behind, eyes peeled for any new Pokémon, but there was surprisingly nothing for some time. Sure, they saw the occasional Pidgey, but nothing new that either Trainers thought would be a needed addition to their teams.

Gabby needed someone who could take on Rock and Ground-types without too much hassle. A Grass or Water-type would do great, but despite them being deep in foliage, there was no Grass-types in sight and considering it was rare to see Water-types outside of water, there was little to no chance of finding one.

Little did they know, about a mile into the forest, a certain evil organization tore a small lakeside cabin to pieces. The guardian of those lands escaped the rampage and ran as fast as he could, looking for help. This was beyond him. He couldn't help him. He just couldn't. He tore through the brush and headbutted any boulders out of his way. Finally, he broke through the thick of the forest and stumbled into a small dirt trail. He looked around and saw our heroes standing, there clearly shocked from Bulbasaur's sudden entrance.

"Bulba Bulbasaur!" he snapped, pointing back to where he came from. He explained what had happened in his Pokémon speak.



Bulbasaur nodded and bolted back into the forest, Pikachu and Spitfire following. The group looked at each other for a moment before moving to follow as well. Trips and falls. The only way they knew where to go was by the constant calling of Pikachu and Spitfire. Then they came to a bridge. It swung back and forth and the three Pokémon had already crossed it and waited, albeit anxiously, at the other side.

They slowed as they crossed the bridge, clinging to the rope railings. Around the middle of the bridge, the wood keeping them up cracked and crumbled. Rope snapped and their hearts caught in their throats as they dropped. A scream refused to ring out.

"Bulba!" The Bulbasaur launched out a couple of his vines and grabbed hold of the bridge. The weight of four people was too much and he began skidding along the edge. His eyes went wide as Pikachu and Spitfire began helping him, each with a determined expression and the spark of love for their Trainers. Bulbasaur grunted as he began to pull more, feeling the weight shift of the crumbling bridge as the Trainers began to climb up it.

Bulbasaur saw something in Pikachu and Spitfire's eyes. He saw a love greater than any other; one that could never be shattered or broken. These two Pokémon loved their Trainers and wanted to protect them as much as Bulbasaur wanted to love and protect other Pokémon. Perhaps more so.

The three Pokémon heaved and pulled until all four Trainers were safe. Pikachu greeted his Trainer with a sigh of relief, while Spitfire checked for injuries.

Ash looked at Bulbasaur with a soft smile. "Thank, Bulbasaur. You're a true hero."

Bulbasaur blinked in surprise but nodded a single curt nod. "Bulba!" He turned to lead them to where they were heading before the bridge collapsed.

Spitfire and Pikachu kept up with Bulbasaur easily, while the other again had some trouble, tripping and falling over large roots and rocks in the way. The three speedy Pokémon came to a skidding stop at the charred clearing. What was once a log cabin with now just the remainder of a bonfire and the lake was full of debris and ashes. Bulbasaur led the two Pokémon over to the charred logs, where a girl was trapped.

"Bulba!" he said. Pikachu and Spitfire nodded.

Bulbasaur grabbed the burning log, wincing as it ate through his vines. Spitfire snapped over his jaw and grabbed it that way. Pikachu did his best to push it. Push and pull until they finally got it off. Bulbasaur pulled in his now black vines and ran up to the girl.

Soot from the fire covered her face and the smell of burning blood filled the clearing. Bulbasaur brushed his nose against her face in an attempt to wipe the splotches of soot off. It stained his nose, but she didn't move. "Bulba?" He lightly pressed his head into her cheek. Her skin burned against Bulbasaur as he tried again and again. He dug his tiny claws into the dead grass under him as he continued. "Bulba!" he cried out.

Gabby, Ash, Brock, and Misty broke the treeline and froze at the scene.

Bulbasaur continued crying out, voice breaking only at the last scream before he shut his eyes painfully tight. A thick tear ran down his face as he dug himself into the girl's neck. His shoulders went up and down as he sobbed into her. "Bulba . . . saur."

Brock was the first to step over. Sensing someone nearing, Bulbasaur lifted his head and growled, starchy tears dribbling from his cheeks. Brock lifted his hands to show he was no threat.

"It's okay. I just want to check her," Brock said, tone soft but serious. Bulbasaur blinked several times in consideration. This person didn't appear dangerous, but what if he hurt her even more? What if he took her away like those people took Bulbasaur's friends away?

"I promise I won't do anything more than check on her," Brock swore. That seemed to get through to Bulbasaur and he nodded very slowly and faintly. "Okay," Brock said, making sure Bulbasaur knew when he was going to reach out. "I just need to check her pulse." He extended his arm as he normally would, not too fast or too slowly, so he wouldn't appear as a threat. He placed a couple fingers on where he knew the pulse was strongest. He let his head fall, and he stood back up. When he looked back at the others, he just shook his head.


No pulse.

No sign of life.


Bulbasaur understood what the head-shake was about and another tear ran down his face. He wasn't fast enough. He couldn't protect her like he swore to for so long. He had to run to find help, and he was too slow. He couldn't do it himself, and he was still too slow. He couldn't stop those people because he was too slow. It rang in his mind over and over:

Too slow.

Too slow.

You were too slow.

Why did you have to be too slow?!

Bulbasaur began to shake, body wracking with sobs. Through the thick of his tears, his vision began to blur and blotch out until it dissolved to complete blackness. He fainted, just like all those other time. Because he was too slow. New voices rang in his mind. Those of his previous Trainer, insisting he needed better moves. Those of her, Melanie, telling him that he was brave for protecting the Hidden Village. Those of passersby claiming a Bulbasaur as stubborn as him wasn't even worth the time of day. Those telling him to wake up, insisting that everything would be fine. But what if he was too slow?

Bulbasaur rested in Ash's lap with the other three covered the girl's body in a few towels. Misty was the first one to ask: "What do we do about the body?" Silence.

"Well . . ." Brock started. "We can't leave it out like this. We can bury her."

"Won't that look bad?" Gabby asked. "What if the cops think it was us who did this?" Gabby couldn't risk getting her father's name rubbed in the mud because she went along with her friends. She had a sense of humanity in her and wanted to do something more than just leave the poor lady there to rot, but her father came before that.

"It'll look just as bad if we don't!" Ash snapped. "What kind of person could do this and just not at least give her a proper burial?!"

"Quit thinking with your heart and take logic into consideration!" Gabby shouted. "If we bury her, it will make us look like suspects. You, Misty, and Brock didn't bury the scientist from Mt. Moon, so why do it here?"

"Because it's the right thing to do! I'm sure Bulbasaur would agree!"

Gabby's hands shook in frustration. "Fine! Do what you will, but I won't be caught burying a body just because my morals tell me to do so." She turned to a sad Spitfire. "Come on. Let's get back on the trail." Spitfire followed her, only giving a short look back before bolting to keep up. It was fairly straight forward until they came to the broken bridge. She sighed and sat down on the ledge, somehow not afraid of falling down the mile-long canyon.

She wondered: am I being too insensitive? No. She wasn't about to question the logic set up over so many years. She wasn't being insensitive. She was being logical. If they decided to inform Officer Jenny about this, Officer Jenny would expect a body laying out. Not buried. If she found it buried, so much evidence to finding out those Team Rocket fiends. Gabby somehow knew it was those same two Rockets from in Mt. Moon.

Gabby calmed herself. She never expected to be caught up in this upon becoming a Trainer. She never expected to see a corpse, much less argue about whether she should bury it or not. If her father knew any more details than what she gave him, he would track her down and drag her back home. Not that her home was any safer. If Team Rocket discovered the Poké Ranch, anyone on that land could be ambushed if Team Rocket's boss gave the word.

This just . . . It wasn't what Gabby pictured when she became a Pokémon Trainer. She had a feeling she would never get used to it.

Back in the charred clearing, Bulbasaur roused from his distressed state and blinked slowly. He leaned into the warmth holding him. It wasn't as burning as he remembered, but he didn't care. He resisted more tears as he tried to fall back asleep. However, a voice quickly snapped him from his attempts:

"Hey, Bulbasaur — you hungry, buddy?"

It was the same boy that Pikachu had such a tight bond with. The voice came directly above Bulbasaur, and he quickly looked up and around to see he was in the lap of said boy. He jumped back and twisted from Ash's hold, a thick growl rumbling in his throat. Ash held up his hands to show he was no threat and smiled gently; not a happy smile, but rather one of comfort. Bulbasaur blinked in surprise.

"It's okay, Bulbasaur," Ash promised. "I won't hurt you. No one will hurt you."

Except for Team Rocket, of course. If only Ash could see that. "Bulba . . ." he said in his Pokémon speak before he sat down. This made Ash's smile grow a little wider.

Ash lowered his hands and reach out slowly. That was when Bulbasaur noticed a bowl full of Pokémon food, bitter-flavored poffin included. Ash pushed the bowl a little closer to Bulbasaur didn't have to get too much closer to him.

Bulbasaur was still shocked from this boy, Ash. How could someone, who is a Pokémon Trainer nonetheless, be so kind and caring? Bulbasaur never asked for it and wasn't even sure if he wanted it. It was all so shocking and new. Bulbasaur sniffed at the food before looking back up Ash, silently asking if he made this.

Ash got the message and said: "I didn't make it. Brock over there did it." He pointed over at said person.

Bulbasaur nodded slowly, trusting that Brock made a decent enough meal. One bite, and Bulbasaur knew Brock was a gourmet chef capable of making any food taste delicious. He dug in and once he finished the filling meal, he took in the poffin, which was just as good, or not more so, as the actual food itself. With every nibble he took, he felt life force shake his body awake. He knew there was a health restoring berry in it.

Once done with his meal, he looked over at Melanie, who was still covered in several towels. More tears began to fill his eyes as those memories ran through his mind once more. Ash interrupted those memories:

"If you want, we can give her a proper burial here."

Bulbasaur turned back to Ash with wide eyes. "B-Bulba?"

Ash nodded. "If you want it. We'll have a little ceremony here and then alert Officer Jenny. Afterward, we can have a proper funeral. Does that sound okay?" He refrained from using the word 'nice' simply because the entire situation was anything but nice.

Bulbasaur considered before nodding.

A sad smile crossed Ash's face. "It'll be okay, buddy."

Bulbasaur only nodded again as Misty and Brock moved to begin digging a hole in the burnt earth. Brock released Graveler to help them, and even Pikachu did what he could. This is what truly shocked Bulbasaur. He could understand one selfless kid, but now there were three doing this all for him. For a moment, he questioned whether he deserved this or not, but a silent voice whispered to him that he'd protected this place for so long, a final remembrance was the least he deserved. Bulbasaur felt his spirit lift as he realized just who that voice was.

The late afternoon sun glowed through the trees, lighting the exact spot Brock and Misty worked on. It wasn't six feet, but it was considerably deep. Deep enough for Melanie at least. Bulbasaur looked over to check the grave out and made sure everything was acceptable. He sniffled lightly as he nodded in approval. Melanie deserved only the best for all the good she did for the Pokémon who came to her, injured and sick. What she didn't deserve is what those Rockets did to her. She had just a long life ahead of her, but it snatched and gone.

Brock lined the bottom of the hole with the remainder of his towels before going over to lift Melanie up. Ash helped. Her skin no longer burned as much and felt more scarred than anything.

Misty knelt down to Bulbasaur's level and put a hand on his head. She couldn't bring herself to help the guys as her vision blurred with tears. She hadn't even met Melanie, yet she felt the bond Bulbasaur had. She felt the pain Bulbasaur had at the moment.

Brock and Ash brought Melanie over, and Bulbasaur helped lower her so she didn't just crash down. As he did so, his vines stopped working for a moment as his body refused to let her go. Tears shown as the sunlight reached his heart. Slowly, though, he lowered Melanie more, until she rested at the bottom of the grave. He took care when covering Melanie back up with the towels again.

Ash reached over and rubbed the top of Bulbasaur's head. "We're going to fill the hole now, okay?"

Starchy tears lined Bulbasaur's eyes, but he nodded nonetheless.

Brock put in the first handful of soil, then Misty, and Ash. The three looked at Bulbasaur. "It's okay. You can do it," Ash said reassuringly.

"Bulba . . ." He brought a now healed vine and brushed a slight bit of dirt into the grave. It continued in this same order, Pikachu even helped in between turns until the grave was full.

Brock dusted away the soot from the ground and stood. "A prayer now," he said.

Ash and Misty quickly stood as well and bowed their heads as Brock recited a prayer to all heavens and Pokémon who lived far and above. "Do remind us that it is okay to grieve, to cry, and to remember, but not in sadness. Teach the world that memories are not meant to be kept inside. Universe, allow us to remember the good times in a positive manner and those bad times as moments of growth."

The prayer ended, and Misty had to wipe another tear from her eye. The beams of sunlight slowly faded from its original place right at Melanie's grave. Bulbasaur quickly looked up to the sky and his bulb began to glow brightly before a large beam of light shot into the trees. Suddenly the sunlight became more intense and lit the entire clearing this time. Sunny Day. He'd finally learned it.

Once Bulbasaur finished crying and paying his respects, he turned and walked slowly to the treeline.

"Wait, Bulbasaur!" Ash said, stopping the Pokémon in his tracks. Bulbasaur looked back and was shocked to a see a Poké Ball in the boy's hand. Not just any Poké Ball, though. A Quick Ball. Quick, unlike Bulbasaur. "What do you say you come with us? Be my Pokémon, and I can make you the strongest Bulbasaur ever! No one will even stand a chance."

Bulbasaur shocked himself this time, as he actually considered going. After all Ash had done for him, it was hard to not consider going, and that promise to make Bulbasaur the strongest was too tempting to simply brush off. Bulbasaur swallowed thickly as he stepped closer to Ash. That wasn't like his first Trainer, who fought him until he fainted to capture. Ash was offering him the chance to be his Pokémon. Bulbasaur knew Ash would take 'no' for an answer if that's what Bulbasaur so decided.

Only a few steps away, Ash knelt down and held out the Quick Ball. Bulbasaur didn't understand his own movements, but he didn't regret them when he pressed his forehead against the ball, allowing it to suck him in. The Quick Ball shook once and clicked with a successful capture.

Gabby still sat on the ledge, holding her bag in her lap, rubbing the egg that Wigglytuff had given her. She wondered when it would hatch. Pokémon eggs hatched relatively fast and often at the worst of times if her father's words were true. All Pokémon laid eggs. Except for Legendaries, of course. Some could only lay one at a time, while others could have an entire batch of eggs. Arcanine often had between five and twelve, depending on how healthy they were. Wigglytuff apparently laid only one egg at a time. Considering how small they were, it made sense.

The sound of footsteps tore Gabby's attention from the egg. Since Spitfire wasn't going crazy, she knew it was just the others. She looked over and saw them break the treeline. Their clothes were dirty and faces red and puffy from either crying or doing their best to keep from crying. Ash was the first to speak:

"We buried her."

Gabby closed her eyes for a moment but nodded nonetheless. What's done was done. "How are we going to get back on the path? The bridge is down," she asked.

Ash smiled. "Bulbasaur will help us!" He threw out a Quick Ball, shocking Gabby when that same Bulbasaur popped out. Ash finally decided to scan him:

"Bulbasaur, the Seed Pokémon. As this Pokémon matures, the flower on its back blooms. Bright beams of sunlight help it grow faster. This Pokémon has the ability Chlorophyll, which doubles its speed in intense sunlight. It knows the moves: Tackle, Vine Whip, Leech Seed, Headbutt, and Sunny Day"

Good ability and nice moves. Ash could definitely work with Bulbasaur and make him the strongest of his species.

Gabby smiled at the Bulbasaur, who returned it before turning to Spitfire. They began a conversation, and Pikachu quickly joined.

Once Ash finished checking everything about Bulbasaur, he put his PokéDex away and told Bulbasaur to use Vine Whip to reach all the way across the cavern. His friends suddenly looked horrified, but Bulbasaur did it, fully confident that he could hold them up as they crossed. "Okay, one at a time," Ash said. He didn't want to strain Bulbasaur too much.

Gabby was no tightrope walker. She lacked balance, was too heavy, and most importantly, terrified of heights. Not just any heights, though. Those where you have to look down. To keep from misstepping, she had no choice but to look down at her feet. She tried to focus on just the vine and her feet, but her mind wouldn't allow it. It continued to remind her that, if she fell, she'd be falling for a mile. Heck, she would probably be dead before hitting the ground with that much falling. The moment she made it to the end, her heart was racing, pumping adrenaline through her. It was amazing just knowing she did something she would never do had she not became a Trainer.

Once everyone else was on the other side, Bulbasaur catapulted himself and made it into Ash's arms. Bulbasaur smiled despite his slight exhaustion. After what happened earlier and then holding up four people with his vines alone, any Bulbasaur would be tired. Ash returned Bulbasaur.

"Rest for now. We'll be at a Pokémon Center soon," Ash said.

"Yeah, we should really hurry before it gets dark," Brock said, turning serious. "That damage was fresh, so who knows if the people who did are still out here."

"There's no doubt that it was Team Rocket," Gabby said. "I'm sure it was those two from Mt. Moon because, honestly, Jessie and James never did a thing to us or our Pokémon. I was the one who jumped in front of the Ice Beam."

"I would still keep them in mind," Brock said. "They're an organization. They listen to the same person for orders. If one person is willing to kill, it's likely that all of them will if need be."

They went back to the trail, which wasn't too hard to find. They mostly ran, wanting to beat the sun, but slowed once they got back on the trail. The sun began to set soon after and shadows began to stretch across the young Trainers as they ventured closer to where Brock's map claimed a Pokémon Center would be. It was more of just a post for Trainers. No gym or landmarks to see. Just a simple town that was often overrun by numerous Grass-types given it was right near a forest.

So you could imagine our heroes' surprise when they came across a Charmander sprawled out on a high-standing boulder as if to protect his domain. Ash quickly pulled out his PokéDex and scanned it:

"Charmander, the Lizard Pokémon. The flame on its tail represents its life force. If the flame were to go out, it would die. This Charmander has the ability Blaze, which boosts Fire-type attack in a pinch. It knows the moves: Growl, Scratch, and Ember."

This shocked Ash. This Charmander only had three moves? It was obviously young and low-leveled, but Ash felt he could change that with the right training. He pulled out another Quick Ball. "I'm gonna catch it," he said before throwing the ball.

The Charmander narrowed its eyes and let out a massive Growl, throwing the ball back at Ash. Ash just looked dumbfounded.

"Maybe he has a Trainer already," Misty suggested.

"But then why leave him here?" Ash asked. "I would never just leave one of my Pokémon like that. They either come with me, or I stay with them."

Brock shrugged. "Guess some Trainers are just different and have different methods of training. Can't do anything about that."

"I guess . . . I just don't feel right about leaving him here by himself," Ash said as he looked back up at the wary Pokémon.

Suddenly a loud rumble came from above. Everyone, even the Charmander, jumped slightly and looked up at the sky. Large grey clouds began to form overhead and were heading their way quickly. Gabby recalled Spitfire to his Poké Ball to keep him dry in case they could out speed the storm, while Ash let Pikachu hide under his hat.

"What do we do about the Charmander?" Ash asked. "If the flame goes out, it will die!"

"Try picking it up and bringing it," Brock said, worried about the Charmander himself as the wind began to pick up. Brock turned to Misty and Gabby. "You girls go on ahead. We'll catch up."

They nodded before taking off in the direction of the Pokémon Center.

Ash neared the Charmander, who swatted at him with another loud Growl building in his throat. "It'll be okay. I won't hurt you," Ash promised. Charmander heard and understood well enough, but that didn't stop him from remembering his Trainer who told him to stay on the rock. Pikachu even tried to explain, but Charmander just shook his head and attempted to lay back down.

Just then, Brock grabbed the Charmander, who twisted and went to attack, but Brock had put on a pair of gloves that protected against Fire-type attacks. Ember might have been impossible, but Charmander swiped at Brock's arms, making the latter hiss in pain, but he dealt with it. Charmander cried out in frustration as Ash contained its tiny arms, preventing him from using Scratch.

Ash continued to assure Charmander that it would be okay, but, like before, Charmander wasn't having any of it and wiggled out of there before spewing out several Ember fireballs at them. The wind blew those weak fireballs out instantly. Charmander's expression turned to one of frustration. Was he so weak that he couldn't even hurt a human? Why would the mere flow of air put out his Ember? Was he truly as pathetic as so many called him?

Another booming clap of thunder shook the land before massive raindrops began to pelt them. Charmander panicked and held his tail close to him. Seeing this sent Ash over the edge. Enough playing around.

Ash scooped the still struggling Charmander but didn't care anymore. Ash had to get this Charmander to the Pokémon Center just to keep it out of the rain and alive. Ash and Brock ran to the Pokémon Center as fast as they could with a squirming Charmander in their arms. By the time they finally made into the Pokémon Center, they were soaked, and Charmander had decided that struggling was pointless. After all, these two strangers were getting him out of the rain. Who was he to deny someone potentially saving his life?

They barged into the Pokémon Center and ran to the front desk, where a very confused Nurse Joy sat.

"Nurse Joy, can you give this little guy a home for the night?" Ash asked, lifted Charmander onto the counter. "We found him and didn't want him to stay out in the rain."

Charmander looked back at Ash. Wasn't he going to attempt capturing him again?

Nurse Joy nodded. "Of course I have room for this darling Charmander! It's my job to protect and take care of Pokémon after all."

"Thank you," Ash said in relief.

Charmander still wondered: why does this Trainer care so much about a Pokémon that isn't even his?

Ash then added: "I'd also like for you to check on my Bulbasaur for me. He went through a lot today."

She nodded again, this time less enthusiastic. "Yes, your two friends informed me. We have reported the incident to the Police Force and they will be investigating the area. It's probably best you stay here, not just because of the storm, but also so Officer Jenny doesn't have to track you down later for questioning."

"Okay. Got it." Ash handed over Bulbasaur's Quick Ball. The others were fine since they hadn't had too many intense battles since Cerulean City.

Ash and Brock went over to where they now saw their friends sitting. They already had dinner set up. Some nice warm soup to make them all feel a little better. It wasn't Brock's cooking, but it was tasty nonetheless. The Center was mostly quiet, minus the sound of a few Chansey coming in and out of operating rooms or to check on them. That was until a large group crashed the door open.

They were loud and didn't even bother to dry their feet before coming in, leaving muddy footprints all over the floor. They literally shook off the same why a Growlithe would, just to make a bigger mess of the place before claiming an entire row of cushions as their own. Without even changing out of their wet clothes. Even Ash and Brock were more considerate than that, at least putting down towels before sitting down on what appeared to be expensive furniture. If it was cheap, it was the most comfortable cheap set of table chairs that Gabby had ever sat on.

Immediately, Gabby did not like this group. One guy snagged a certain part of her hatred that had never been stretched as far as it was about to be.

The guy — Damian according to the booming crowd — laid out a couple dozen Poké Balls. To a beginner, this would seem strange, but the truth was, most Trainers did carry more than six Poké Balls with them since they didn't have a PokéDex to transfer the Poké Balls back to a certain location. Since Gabby didn't have a PokéDex, herself, she would be able to hold as many Pokémon as she caught at once.

"Dude! You have so many Pokémon! And they're wicked strong. No opponent short of a champion could defeat you if you used all your captures!" one guy said.

Gabby rolled her eyes. As if some kid could defeat a Pokémon Champion just because they had twenty-four Pokémon on hand. Gabby's favorite Champion and personal idol, Cynthia could wipe Damian's entire stock with her Garchomp alone and not get so much as a scratch! No doubt about it.

Damian gave a small shrug. "What can I say? I'm just so good of a Trainer that I seem to attract powerhouses of Pokémon." That was about the only thing he could attract. "Well, except for that runt of a Charmander. Couldn't even learn Slash or Flamethrower! I was like: if you expect me to waste time with your sorry ass, you're sorely mistaken! So I left it out on a boulder, where it's probably still sitting like the pup of a lizard it is."

Spitfire's ears perked.

"It's probably waggin' its tail hard enough that the flame is already out!"


"Serves that thing right! Most pathetic Fire-type ever!"


"Yeah, Fire-type may sound cool, but let's be real — they suck."

Red eyes.

"That Charmander was more pathetic than a lousy Ponyta or Growlithe."

Laughs. Everyone laughed.

Spitfire's eyes glowed a bright red and a massive roar tore up his throat, forcing the entire Pokémon Center to go silent. Flame burst from his mouth and his claws extended to dig into the hardwood floor under him. Another loud roar sent visible sound waves through the Pokémon Center, shattering several glass pieces, but thankfully not the windows. Spitfire's fur stuck straight up as he neared Damian slowly, ignoring his Trainer's words. His glowing eyes remained unblinking and his nostrils flared at the disgusting air of Damian. He reared himself up slowly before snapping his jaw open with a pounce. Damion was frozen in shock, unable to do a thing.

Claws dug deep and fangs sliced flesh. Red stained the fur around his mouth and a scream rang out. As he dug his teeth deeper, his chest began to ache.

"Spitfire . . . Stop this."

No. He couldn't. He wouldn't. He had to kill Damian.

"Spitfire, you're hurting me."

No. He couldn't do that. He wouldn't do that. He had to protect Gabby.

Then the taste of copper hit the tip of his tongue and he pulled back in disgust. He blinked several times and as his vision went from red or black and white, he backed away slowly, ears low to his skull.

No. He couldn't have done that. Not to his Trainer.

Gabby held onto her arm, where a large bite mark was. Blood dripped onto the floor. Meanwhile, Damian still looked as shocked as he had before.

Spitfire's body shook as he stepped closer. Gabby didn't flinch, so trusting of her first true friend. He sniffed the wound and tears began to fill his eyes. What happened to him? What was wrong with him? How could he allow such intense emotions to control him and end up hurting his Trainer?

At that very moment, a light singing voice rang in his ears. His eyes drooped, and he fell asleep.

The bite wasn't as bad as it could have been. It didn't reach Gabby's bone so there was no need for surgery. Just some snug bandages and a few ounces of morphine. By the time morning came around, Officer Jenny was there and examining Spitfire.

"There's no doubt," she said. "It was a fire possession. Who would have thought a pup this young could experience enough pain via its Trainer to cause an actual possession. I'd like to speak with Gabby." Officer Jenny stood, and Nurse Joy led her to Gabby's room. Since it was such a small Pokémon Center, Gabby rested with the other Pokémon. Gabby was up and awake, talking to a tiny Nidoran that once belonged to Damian; all his Pokémon were taken away for the time being to investigate more into the happenings of last night.

When Gabby heard the door open, she straightened herself up, wincing slightly at the feeling of the bandages rubbing against the wound. Officer Jenny came in alone. They greeted each other, and Jenny began:

"You do know what that was last night, correct?"

Gabby shook her head.

"What happened is what my colleague and I dub as 'fire possession'. It's when a Fire-type, most often Growlithe and Arcanine, have their hearts consumed by the flames they breathe. These flames form around their hearts when their body reacts to emotional pain as a natural way of 'protecting' them from getting any more hurt, emotionally that is."

Gabby remembered reading that, but she never assumed Spitfire was already so consumed with emotional pain, but given his size and naïveté, it made sense he could only handle so much.

"You did the right thing," Officer Jenny added, shocking Gabby. "By letting him bite you, it showed that you won't let him take out his anger on anyone else but the one he's closest to. This will hurt him, a lot, but given how young he is, he'll learn to control it soon enough. Well, maybe not soon, but he'll definitely learn someday. Just keep doing what you're doing. And, trust me, I will not allow anyone to put your precious Growlithe down."

Gabby sighed, a tight coil in her chest having been loosened just knowing that Spitfire was okay and wouldn't be put down. Most Pokémon would normally be put down if they caused that much of a threat. "Thank you," she rasped out.

Officer Jenny nodded before she began questioning Gabby about what they found yesterday. They had already sent out several officers to retrieve the body and questioned Ash, Misty, and Brock previously. Gabby gave her recount of yesterday, explaining her point of view to it all. Once down, Officer Jenny thanked her for the information before adding:

"That boy, Damian, will be getting his Trainer licenses taken away. We do not tolerate folks who do such cruel things to Pokémon no matter their reasoning. Releasing a Pokémon is one thing, but to promise to return is on a completely different level of inhumane."

Gabby thanked Officer Jenny again before the latter left the room. The little Nidoran that used to belong to Damian looked shocked and almost saddened that he would no longer have a Trainer. Gabby reached over and scratched it behind the ear, careful to avoid the poison barbs, to assure Nidoran would find a Trainer someday that would treat it the way it deserved.

It wasn't too long before the door opened again and Nurse Joy walked in with Spitfire muzzled and hooked to a leash. Spitfire looked down, refusing to meet his Trainer's eyes.

Gabby jumped up instantly, ignoring the stinging pain in her arm. She scooped up Spitfire, yanking the leash from Joy. She immediately unclipped the muzzle and threw it aside. "Don't ever put a muzzle on Spitfire like he's a rabid animal!" she shouted. Gabby didn't allow Nurse Joy to explain as she continued: "Spitfire is my best friend and if it takes him biting me a thousand times, I'll take it until he has his fire possessions under control!"

Spitfire was tense in his Trainer's arms, surprised at her words. He expected anger, betrayal, and hatred. Instead, he got the same care he was so used to receiving — that same snug hold he experienced for the past two and a half months.

"My friends and I will be making our leave soon," Gabby finished. She walked past a stunned Nurse Joy and went to the main area of the Pokémon Center. She made a quick check to see if she had all her Poké Balls before heading to the same table from yesterday where she and her friends all sat. They were there, enjoying a nice breakfast of eggs, toast, and pancakes. Brock was the first look up and asked:

"You okay, Gabby?"

"Yeah," she said. "How's the Charmander from yesterday?"

That made Ash smile. He pulled out a Quick Ball and tossed it out to reveal he captured that Charmander. "Char!" it called out.

Ash explained what Gabby had missed: "After Chansey put you and Spitfire to sleep, Charmander saw just how horrible a person Damian was and decided he wanted to travel with us to prove it could get more powerful than Damian could ever make his over Pokémon. We considered giving Charmander to you since he respects Spitfire for having stood up for him in the way he did, but since you already have a trusty Fire-type, we agreed Charmander would be better off with me."

Gabby nodded. She wasn't too into the Kanto Starters anyway. Sure, they were cute and all, but she wanted Spitfire to be her only Starter.

After Gabby got the word that she could leave, they were gone. Gabby quickly learned that Charmander had aspirations and goals to learn new moves. Charmander wanted to leave every move associated with his claws, especially Dragon Claw and Metal Claw, and then eventually learn Flamethrower so he could roast Damian if they ever met again. He dreamed of being a big, mean Charizard who could fly to the sun and overpower all opponents who came near him. He gave his best Growl, but when compared to Spitfire's Roar, it was more like a yawn than anything. It didn't anger Charmander, but rather gave him someone to look up to and aspire to be.

Spitfire, though very ashamed of what he had done to his mistress, eventually got it through his head that he was forgiven.

They all continued toward Vermilion City this way. Bulbasaur, Pikachu, Charmander, and Spitfire out of their Poké Balls and getting to know their new friends. They didn't have to wander through anymore forest and the map said they were very close to Vermilion City. They'd be cutting it close, but they were confident they could make it in time to challenge the Gym and the competition to receive another S.S. Anne ticket for the guys.

Until they landed in a deeply dug hole. Gabby landed on her wounded arm, sending out an uncontrollable scream as she felt the slowly healing wounds open again. The other stood up immediately and helped her up. The bite mark stung more than it had the moment she received it. She held it tightly, but red began to color the bandage. Suddenly a voice came from above:


Everyone looked up, and Spitfire began barking at the Squirtle, whose expression went from one of amusement to one of worry.

"Squirtle, squirtle, squirt!"


"Chu-Pika pi!"


The four Pokémon continued with their conversation until Bulbasaur had enough of their useless arguing. He used his vines to launch himself up and then picked up one person at a time to bring them out of the hole.

"Thanks, buddy," Ash said as he knelt down to pat Bulbasaur on the head.


The Squirtle stepped over to Gabby and eyed the bandage. At least, that's what Gabby assumed it was doing. It wore sharp sunglasses so she couldn't be too sure. She didn't know what to do. She assumed it was the one who dug the hole, but she believed it did it only as a joke. It never expected someone to fall into it and get hurt. It didn't act wild in the least. The Squirtle acted relatively tame and sympathetic for the pain he'd caused. He did keep a bit of distance, though, as if not sure of them or their intentions.

The Squirtle tilted its head to observe the wound closer before it turned to the treeline left of them. "Squirtle! Squirtle, squirt!"

Suddenly a mass of Squirtle ran from where they supposedly had been hiding. They wore glasses, but theirs were rounder than the first Squirtle. They surrounded the group of Trainers and chorused their names as they accepted whatever demands the top Squirtle said. Then one showed off the sheer strength of its species by lifting Gabby into the air.

Is this really happening? Am I getting abducted by a team of Squirtle? she questioned herself in an almost exhausted train of thought. She calmed a bit when she saw a few other Squirtle picking up the others, before they all took off at a speed those shells should have prevented. The out Pokémon followed close behind, Spitfire actually hanging onto the tail of one of the Squirtle with his teeth. It didn't appear to so much as faze it. In a desire to be just like Spitfire, Charmander did the same with another Squirtle's tail. He latched on and was dragged the entire way.

They passed several people who just stared, and some even sighed and shook their head as if this was a daily occurrence.

The Squirtle not only had speed, but they had the stamina to keep going into the small village they called home, until they reached the Pokémon Center. A Squirtle went up and knocked on the glass door and it slid open. They piled in and the Squirtle holding them put them down finally. Gabby wobbled slightly, motion sick and perhaps a little homesick.

"What is it this time?" the timid and kind voice of Nurse Joy said to the Squirtle. It explained in the form of its name and hand gestured. Nurse Joy nodded. "I understand."

"You understand them?" Ash asked as he stood up from being dropped on his back.

Nurse Joy nodded as she walked over to Gabby. She examined the bloodied bandage before she began unwrapping it. "Yes. I've been able to understand Pokémon from a young age, unlike others in my family," she explained. Chansey stepped over with a cotton pad and ointment. Nurse Joy used them. Chansey's Heal Pulse did very little on humans and thus would take too much energy for a wound to appear the least bit healed.

Once done patching Gabby up, Nurse Joy turned to the Squirtle. "Thank you for bringing them here. Are their Pokémon of good health?"

"They're fine," Gabby said. "Can you explain what just happened?"

Joy looked at her for a moment before giggling. "Yes, of course! It must be a bit surreal to have been carried all this way by a pack of Squirtle."

"No kidding," Misty said, sounding somewhat winded.

Nurse Joy knelt down and patted the leader Squirtle on the head. "Well, you see, these Squirtle were abandoned by their Trainers a while ago. They came to loathe humans and become hostile by attacking anyone who dared come near them or attempt to capture them. It got to the point where the town was considering calling in Pokémon Control to have them be put down." She frowned. "But I couldn't bear the thought of them being killed simply because of what their previous Trainer did to them. They shouldn't have even had to go through what they did in the first place.

"At that moment, I knew I couldn't stay home anymore. I had to be out here to take up and defend the Squirtle," she continued. "When I arrived, I was attacked by one of them, but rather than fight it off, I spoke to them. When they noticed I could understand them, they calmed down and told me about their lives and just how they were treated. For you kids, I'll skip the details, but it was horrific to hear just how badly they had been treated. Once I knew what it was like, I promised them I would prevent anyone from coming and putting them down if they promised to never harm another human again. It took several hours of arguing, but they eventually agreed.

"When I spoke against everyone else, I was removed from the Pokémon Center since even they wanted the Squirtle gone. I refused to give up on my promise, so I gave the team a name: the Squirtle Squad. Together, we dodged Officer Jenny and several other members of the authority for several months. Honestly, I could have died happy right then a there. I got their trust, something no other human did since they were abandoned, but I knew I couldn't continue running, so we came up with a plan. The Squirtle Squad would no longer be outlaws, but rather citizens to help our little village here! We began secretly aiding the fire department on their missions and being in injured Pokémon and Trainers when they passed through. Soon, they became known for their bravery and drastic turnaround, allowing the village to finally accept them as our little protectors.

"Some may still be against them, but ever since they rescued a little girl from a fierce forest fire, there isn't one person who doesn't respect them for what they've done for us," Nurse Joy finished, wiping away a tear of happiness running down her face. "In fact, they even set up a few traps on the outskirts of town in hopes of capturing Team Rocket. After the recent news of all the killings they've done, everyone is in fear and worried that the Squirtle Squad won't be able to defend against such powerful criminals."

So that was the reason for the hole. Before anyone could point out that they had fallen into the trap, Brock ran over to Nurse Joy and wrapped his arms around her, tears rolling down his face like a fountain. "Oh, Nurse Joy, your kindness and love for Pokémon is so uplifting. How I wish I could experience such feelings for myself."

Gabby blinked in confusion. What on earth was wrong with Brock? Did he have feelings for Nurse Joy?

Misty grabbed Brock by the ear, making him howl in pain. Misty dragged him away from a very bewildered Nurse Joy who looked over at Gabby and Ash just as confused the latter two. They shrugged at each other.

"Well, I say those Trainers were insane!" Ash said as he shifted his attention to the Squirtle. "If I had a Pokémon as brave and caring as you guys, I wouldn't give them up for the world. You guys went from hating humans to protecting those same humans who used to hate you back all because you loved Nurse Joy. Change doesn't happen often, but when it does, it means something."

Boss Squirtle stared up at Ash in wonder as he considered the Trainer's kind words.

Bulbasaur stepped up. "Bulbasaur. Bulba-ba-bulb-saur."

Squirtle took one step back, and Nurse Joy smiled. "That's sweet, isn't it, Squirtle? What do you say?"

Squirtle looked up as if shocked. "Squir . . ." was all he could mutter out.

"What are they saying?" Ash asked.

Nurse Joy looked over and her smile only widened. "Bulbasaur asked if Squirtle would like to come with you. It seems they could really be best friends and come to trust each other given they both have troubling pasts."

Ash blinked in confusion and glanced down at Squirtle with a small smile. "You're always welcome on my team, Squirtle. Just say the word, and you got yourself a Quick Ball to call home."

"Bulba!" Bulbasaur said, beaming happily.

"Char!" Charmander butted in.

Squirtle looked between the two Pokémon and then the Trainer they insisted he join. It took so long for him to trust Nurse Joy and the rest of the village. How long would it take to possibly begin trusting some random boy who fell into a trap that morning? Could Squirtle risk the chance of becoming nothing but a burden again? What if Ash didn't want him after he lost a battle? Would that happen again? Would Ash put him through that?!

Squirtle shook as he took another step back. Everyone's smiles fell, and Nurse Joy put a comforting hand on Squirtle. He looked up at her. If he didn't have those sunglasses on, his questioning eyes would have met hers. He needed to know if Ash would do those things to him. "S-Squirtle?"

Nurse Joy's eyes lit with understanding. She shook her head. "No. I don't believe he ever could. Ash, how much do you love your Pokémon?"

Ash looked up in confusion, clearly not expected that question. "Well . . . I don't know how to explain it. I love them, but it's impossible to say exactly how much."

She nodded. "Would you ever hurt them if they lost?"

Ash blinked a few times. "What?! No! Never! I could never bring myself to hurt any of my Pokémon for something as minor as a loss!"

"See, Squirtle," Nurse Joy said as she petted his head. "Ash would never hurt you. He could offer you the comfort you need, teach you how to be truly strong, and be there for you. What do you say? Join his team? The others will be more than enough to take care of the village."

The other Squirtle nodded as the boss one glanced around at them. He swallowed thickly and looked up at Ash again, whose expression could only be described as compassionate. Ash didn't pity or have doubts in Squirtle like several people within the village did after hearing about his story. Ash was a very different and rather odd Trainer from what Squirtle had seen in his lifetime. But, maybe, that was all he needed to become the perfect Trainer.

Squirtle held out a cautious arm. Ash's eyes lit up and he reached into his bag to pull out a condensed Quick Ball. He primed it and held up out to Squirtle, who paused for a moment. Another loud gulp as he took a step closer, still reaching for the Quick Ball. He inwardly pepped himself for the feeling of being absorbed into the ball. He knew the feeling. He'd been forced in his Poké Ball one too many times, but Nurse Joy told him this would be different. Squirtle trusted Nurse Joy. It would be different.

Squirtle tapped the center of Quick Ball and let it take him in. He smiled at the warmth surrounding him.

Yeah. It would definitely be different.

Episode Twelve: Through and Threw

The Quick Ball shook once before clinking as a successful capture. The center button suddenly lit and followed along the black rimmed seal before the entire ball shown brightly. It fazed in and out of their plane of existence and it was gone. Ash stared in wonder before it hit him.

"Ah! Where'd Squirtle go?!" he shouted.

Nurse Joy stood and giggled. "Oh, you must be holding a PokéDex. Don't worry. Squirtle has been transported to wherever you got your PokéDex, so he should be safe."

"But why?!"

"You didn't know?" Misty asked. "A Trainer can only hold six if they own a PokéDex. And before you ask, yes — Trainer without a PokéDex can keep more than six since they don't have a safe place automatically hooked to their Poké Balls. It's looked down upon to use more than six in a battle, however."

"If you want to get Squirtle back, there's a white button in your PokéDex that hooks you up to wherever your Pokémon went," Brock explained. "You'll have to switch one of the Pokémon you already have, though."

Ash considered this and held up Butterfree's Poké Ball. Butterfree was Ash's first capture and best friend, but he knew Butterfree understood. Ash smiled. "Don't worry, buddy. You'll be back soon enough." He clicked the button and held Butterfree's Poké Ball to the PokéDex. The same light show came about before the typical Poké Ball disappeared and replaced with Squirtle's Quick Ball. Ash held out the Poké Ball and let Squirtle out, but gave him a quick scan first.

"Squirtle, the Tiny Turtle Pokémon. Its shell is not just for protection. Its rounded shape and the grooves on its surface minimize resistance in water, enabling Squirtle to swim at high speeds. This Squirtle has the ability Torrent, which boosts Water-type attacks in a pinch. It knows the moves: Tackle, Tail Whip, Aqua Jet, Water Gun, Withdraw, Bubble, Bite, and Rapid Spin."

Ash whistled, impressed by how many moves Squirtle knew — one less than Butterfree who had nine under his wings. Aqua Jet was a move Ash didn't think Squirtle could learn normally, but he wasn't about to complain about such a high-speed move already being within its arsenal.

He let Squirtle out, and the Tiny Turtle Pokémon beamed, knowing Ash now knew of the sheer skill Squirtle came equipped with. Squirtle crossed its arms and grinned cockily.

"I'm amazed a Squirtle can teach himself that many moves! It took me two months to teach my Butterfree just a little over that." Ash looked down at his new partner. "How old are you, Squirtle?"


"He says he's two-years-old," Nurse Joy explained. "You're Bulbasaur is a year and a half, while Charmander is only six months."

"What about Pikachu?" Ash asked.

"Three-years-old. He was a Pichu for about a year." Nurse Joy scratched Pikachu behind the ear, making the latter murr in appreciation.

"I never really put any thought into how old they were," Ash said. "But I guess it makes sense why Pikachu is so headstrong about what he wants and why Bulbasaur is so mature. They've had a while to figure out what they want and who they are."

Pikachu nodded in agreement as he momentarily shifted his attention from the comforting scratches to Ash's words.

Nurse Joy's smile fell suddenly as she looked at Squirtle. "Perhaps it would be best if you did know what Squirtle went through now that you're his new Trainer and all. It was quite bad and if any of you get upset, tell me and I'll stop," she said.

Squirtle looked up cautiously but didn't make a move to stop Nurse Joy from telling his nightmare of a tale.

Nurse Joy started: "Squirtle was the Starter of a very spoiled girl who only wanted to win as Trainer. She didn't actually wish to train the Pokémon she had by her side. Squirtle wasn't gifted to the girl from Professor Oak, but rather a Breeder from Vermilion City. Because they were in Vermilion City, a city with a Gym, she took Squirtle there to test his skills. However, the Gym Leader trained Electric-types, and as you probably know already, Water-types like Squirtle are weak to Electric-type attacks, and with Lt. Surge being as brutal of a Leader as he is, Squirtle was taken out instantly. With a mere Nuzzle.

"Lt. Surge laughed at the girl and told her she needed to train more — Squirtle was out of it, but the girl later ranted to him about how rude Lt. Surge was for saying those things to her. Anyway, she didn't take it well, being told what to do with her Pokémon, so she took her anger out of Squirtle. Squirtle, of course, hid in his shell, and the girl hit her hand on it. This only made her angrier. She . . . She kicked him and sent him into a concrete wall."

Nurse Joy turned the daze Squirtle around to reveal a long chip in the middle of his shell. It was deep and slightly lighter than the usual shell around it. Ash hadn't noticed it before.

"It was a miracle his shell didn't break clean in half. Had it, he would've died," Nurse Joy continued, flinched slightly at her own words. "That was only the beginning."

"That's just horrible," Misty said. "How can someone do that to a Pokémon. No Pokémon deserves that."

Nurse Joy nodded. "You're right. It doesn't matter the Pokémon — they often don't get the life they really deserve. It was only a matter of time before the girl captured a full team of Pokémon: a Magnemite, Ponyta, Weepinbell, Spearow, and Snorlax. She treated them all the same when they lost, but eventually began taking Lt. Surge's words of advice to heart. However, it was by no means the training a typical Pokémon Trainer would give. She demanded they all attack one another. The last one standing would get food for the day.

"Snorlax would often win, as expected, but he had to faint his own teammates first. Squirtle almost always got the worst end of it all. He was stubborn and wouldn't go down easily, often resulting in a barrage of attack: Thunderbolt, Flamethrower, Razor Leaf — anything so that the others could get a bite to eat that day. Soon . . ." Tears rose in Nurse Joy's eyes and a tiny sob broke through her trembling lips. "Soon, Weepinbell died from all the battling they went through. The girl showed no sympathy toward her deceased Pokémon and called in pathetic for having been so weak in the first place.

"After hearing that, Squirtle knew he had to get out of there. He wanted to get in teammates out of there, too, but every time he neared them, they would just attack him to the point of one of them fainting. They were . . . They were too far gone at that point. They weren't the comrades Squirtle's Breeder told him he'd have someday. Instead, they were battle zombies who would barely stand. He wanted so badly to save them, but he was slipping fast into the same state. If he didn't get out right away, he would never the Pokémon he always wanted to be.

"He crushed his Poké Ball by setting it under Snorlax and fled," Nurse Joy finished, wiping away both happy and sad tears. "When he turned up here, he found others like himself — some who went through more and some who went through less of what he did. The one thing they all had in common, though, was that they had the courage to stand up and leave their abusive Trainers. They showed their bravery that day and despite their temporary descent into pure hatred for all humans, they pulled through and became the heroes they're now known as today. The Squirtle Squad."

They made camp that night and released all their Pokémon. Except for Brock's Onix, who would crush half the forest if he came out of his Poké Ball, Magcargo, who would burn down the forest, and some of Misty's Water-types. Spitfire and Charmander helped each other make a small fire for them all, while Squirtle stood, on edge, at the sight of the flame; the poor thing was so used to putting out fires that even a campfire made him remember all those memories. Ash placed a hand on Squirtle's head reassuringly, which appeared to make him feel better, though it was hard to tell since the flicker of the flame continued to make him rigid.

Misty yawned and stretched, trying to keep herself awake as long as possible. "Well, it's been . . . a week."

"You can say that again," Brock agreed. "Ever since we met each other, it seems it's just been time. Like we're just standing around, letting time pass us by when there are things we can do to stop what's happening with Team Rocket."

"But we're just kids," Ash pointed out. "What can we possibly do?"

"After what we've been through, I would hardly call us 'kids'," Gabby said. "Maybe not adults — even though the moment you become a Trainer, you are declared an adult — but we're far too mature to be called 'kids' anymore. We've seen too much and have gone through so much . . . How we're even standing is a mystery."

Everyone listened intently. It was shocking to see just how far along they'd come without so much as a stumble back. What Gabby said was true: they were no longer kids. The moment the entered Mt. Moon, they could no longer be called 'kids'. The moment they all met, a rift formed between them, changing them into the adults they needed to be to survive this new world they never thought they'd encounter as Trainers. For things to be as cruel as they were was not something any one of them expected in all their lives. It had, indeed, changed them. For better or for worse — what's done is done. Whatever was to come was nothing less than a beck and call.

Spitfire curled up beside Gabby as she laid down to hopefully get some rest. Pikachu, Charmander, Bulbasaur, and Squirtle did the same next to Ash. Squirtle was especially adamant about protecting his Trainer from anything and after what Nurse Joy told them only a matter of hours ago, Ash was more than willing to be protected even if he felt he'd be fine. Misty recalled Staryu and Starmie so they could rest more comfortably in their ball of a home.

Gabby drifted off with the thought: what is inside a Poké Ball?

They woke with a start. Squirtle put out the campfire and the only light came from the tip of Charmander's tail and the sparks flying from Pikachu's cheeks. Outside of the sparks and flames, a low, menacing growl rumbled from deep within Spitfire's chest and Rattata spat out an ear-piercing hiss. None of them chorused their names. No — these were true animalistic growls and hisses. Even the two Beedrill and Brock's Zubat, who couldn't even see, made sounds to ward off something.

The group immediately tore themselves from their sleeping bags and stood, ready to help any of their comrades. Several minutes later, their eyes began to adjust to the dark, and Gabby wondered for a moment if they reacted for nothing. Then a feminine voice sent chills down her spine:

"Looks like we woke up the babies."

"And their little pests," a masculine voice came. "That glowing Beedrill seems most interesting."

Beekee buzzed loudly and clanked his stingers together in an attempt to appear intimidating. His scrawny stature compared to Ash's Beedrill didn't aid in the act.

"Meow! He says we best not mess with dem!" the Meowth said from the shadows. "Lucky for us, we're not 'bout to listen to some runt Beedrill. It don't matter how shiny you are, meow!"

"That talking Meowth," Misty muttered as she narrowed her eyes, Staryu and Starmie's Poké Balls in her hand. "Team Rocket."

"Precisely, little girl," Jessie started. "But it would seem you have a new boy by your side. Allow us to introduce ourselves." Then the Team Rocket trio began their motto. Even the protective Pokémon surrounding their Trainers stopped to stare at the sheer annoyance that was Jessie and James.

Meowth finished with his usual: "Meowth, that's right!" If Kricketune were native to Kanto, they would've been singing for several seconds after.

"Flame Wheel, Spitfire!" Gabby called.

"Everyone, you help too!" Ash called to his Pokémon.

James smirked. "In that case, Growlie, Koffing, and Paras! Put some forth!"

"Do you — Blissey, Ekans, Eevee — follow suit!" Jessie said.

Three new Pokémon emerged from the criminals' Poké Balls. At that moment, Bulbasaur used Sunny Day despite the nighttime. The bud of his bulb lit up before shooting into the sky, sending a magnificent glow into the ink-black night. They had little time to admire the beauty of Sunny Day before Spitfire used it to his advantage by powering up his Flame Wheel. Flames burn wildly as he bolted at his target. Charmander followed suit with a powerful Ember forming from his tail this time. The fire licked at the opposing Eevee, who was far slower to react. A yelp from the Eevee and a chattering from the Paras sounded as the two Fire-types went to work with their heavily powered up moves.

"Ekans, use Dig on that little fire lizard. Blissey, make sure no one faints using your Heal Pulse," Jessie ordered.

Blissey's eyes were a bit dimmer than last time and no real smile pressed against her dull expression, but she nodded in a sudden burst of determination. She opened her mouth as sent out several pink waves of bursting energy that struck all the Pokémon in the area.

"Not the others' Pokémon!" Jessie shouted, making Blissey immediately stop. "Help only your comrades."

Blissey blinked, confused, and she looked over at the two-sided battling. The two Beedrill dealt with Koffing with shimmering Twineedle attacks, while the Pidgeotto cleared any Smokescreen or Smog attacks Koffing sent out. Blissey flinched when she saw Koffing get struck by the double attacks. Then Blissey understood. Those closest to her were the most important, even if she may want to help the others, her desire to aid her comrades was far stronger and more important. She would have betrayed her best friend otherwise.

Blissey clenched her 'fists' and nodded at her best friend, who briefly returned it before turning back to spew attacks to her other Pokémon. Blissey sent out waves of healing energy in small, controllable bursts this time. Only at those on her side.

Ekans tunneled underground, sensing where the panicked little Charmander was before bursting out of the earth. He struck Charmander and sent the Lizard Pokémon flying into the air — a mere glimpse into what he would become. Ekans' mistress called: "Grab it in a Bite-Wrap Combo!" Her wishes were Ekans' command. He hurled himself into the air and wrapped himself around Charmander before digging his tiny fangs into the struggling Pokémon's neck, paralyzing it.

"Charmander, use Scratch to escape!" Ash called, but his Pokémon was too shocked to even hear his Trainer.

Gabby acted: "Rattata, Bite that Ekans!"

Jessie tsked. "Don't forget about the food chain. Ekans eat little rodent Pokémon, even if their mouth is full of something else. Ekans, dear, demonstrate."

The busied Ekans nodded curtly before it snapped open it wide jaw. Its purple scales stretched and fades to a dull brown and his mouth opened so largely that it stopped a ready to attack Rattata from going further. Silver poison dripped and pooled against Ekans' forked tongue.

No way was Rattata getting any closer to that detached jaw. That wouldn't stop him from helping out Charmander, though. "Use Dig, Rattata!" Gabby said. Rattata snapped out of fear and burrowed deep into the earth with ease.

Charmander struggled against Ekans now that he was no longer paralyzed, but even as his tiny claws began to glow, the Ekans never let his hold loosen up. If anything, the grip tightened with every fidget. At that moment, Charmander didn't care about getting struck by Rattata's Dig attack. He just wanted loose of the Wrap prison.

Rattata shot up from the ground just behind them at that moment, teeth glowing with the newly-learned move Crunch. Ekans had no time to react before Rattata buried his teeth into him. Bone was no barrier.

Jessie winced as she remembered a mere Bite attack from the rodent Pokémon. Now it learned Crunch . . . "Blissey, do something! Use Ice Beam on that thing!"

Blissey obeyed without a second thought. A chill channeled to her mouth before it fired as focused streams of icy-cold beams. Gabby called out for Rattata to dodge, but he only shook his head violently, forcing Ekans to release Charmander to hiss out in pain. Charmander rolled away fast and stood on weak hind legs.

Ekans twisted around, detached jaw ready to swallow the Rattata whole. The Ice Beam neared.

"Rattata, Dig!" Gabby shouted.

He did just that, but refused to let go or Ekans, taking the Snake Pokémon underground. The Ice Beam struck where the two once stood.

Both sides of the battle seemed to cease as no sounds from underground could be heard. After a tense moment, Gabby's hands began to shake as she assumed the worst. Bulbasaur's Sunny Day slowly faded as he could no longer take the heat rupturing within him any longer. Gabby's Pidgeotto's wings slowed as he lowered himself to the ground. He dug his talons into the earth to feel any vibrations. His beady eyes snapped wide open and he squawked in warning. Gabby took a small step back in sudden fright.

The ground began to crack and a large beam of light shone through said cracks. Everyone shielded themselves as the ground erupted with the beaming light. As the bits of ground cleared, Gabby lowered her arms to see a massive form — almost four feet — standing in the massive crater. She blinked a few times before realization struck.

"R-Rattata?" she tested.

The form turned around with the cold eyes as Rattata, but now dyed black with little shines in them. His once silky purple fur was now rough looking, tangled, and brown. Several long whiskers went around his muzzle and his now hairless tail whipped around roughly. His eyes went wide when Gabby ran at him with wide arms.

Gabby couldn't help it. Her second capture finally evolved into its final form! She hugged the Raticate to find his fur now very unpleasant to the touch but didn't mind it at the moment as she celebrated her Pokémon's evolution. Raticate's brow bone seemed to twitch, and he pushed Gabby away from him with his tail. He chattered his wide teeth when Gabby looked at him in confusion. He jolted his head Team Rocket's way to remind her that a battle was still happening. That knocked some sense into Gabby, and she nodded as he expression turned serious.

"All right, Raticate . . . Super Fang!" she called out, hoping Raticate had learned it through evolution.

He didn't disappoint as the Team Rocket duo did their best to pack up their Pokémon. Meowth, Growlie, and Blissey were still out to feel the impact of the beaming light of Raticate's fangs. The splash damage took out the spread out members of Team Rocket and sent them flying in the air. All that could be heard over the sound of grinding teeth and space being contorted was Jessie and James shouted: "We're blasting off!"

With the mass battle over, Gabby tackled Raticate into a hug. "I'm so proud of you! You already evolved. Are you okay? Did the evolution hurt you any anyway? Why are you so large? Aren't Raticate supposed to only be about two feet when they evolve?"

"They are," Brock said as he returned his Pokémon. "It's odd that yours is so big, esoterically since it was rather undersized as a Rattata."

Gabby just shrugged. Perhaps it was like with the teeth ordeal — her Raticate was just a little different. Well, in this case, he was very different, but that wasn't a bad thing. She ran her fingers through the nasty, matted fur and made a face. "I'm gonna need to start brushing you a lot more," she said, getting an indifferent grunt from Raticate. "And maybe a bath every once in a while."

Raticate's eyes bulged, and he hissed, pushing Gabby away with his tail. Gabby only giggled at the little display.

They took shifts in sleeping for the rest of the night, but none of them got a wink of sleep the entire night. Morning came soon, and they were off to Vermilion City. There was just one problem.

"Come on, Charmander! Get in your Poké Ball! You're too weak to keep walking all day," Ash said, holding out the Quick Ball. A small light attempting to Charmander back in the ball, but the Lizard Pokémon skillfully dodged. Then Charmander hid behind a rather confused Spitfire. "Really, Charmander? You're gonna pull a Pikachu?"

"Pika?" said Pokémon questioned.

Charmander stomped his foot. "Charmander!" Then he put his back to Ash and crossed his arms.

Misty giggled at the sheer cuteness. "I think Charmander is trying to be like Spitfire," she said.

"I don't have time for that. We need to get to Vermilion City today if we want to get the chance to take on the Gym Leader and the contest in time to make it onto the S.S. Anne," Ash said. "Gabby, can you show Charmander that Spitfire will get in his Poké Ball if it's necessary?"

Gabby shrugged. "Sure. Return, Spitfire!" she called out, bringing her very confused Spitfire into his Poké Ball.

Charmander looked around for Spitfire. Gabby knelt down to show Charmander where Spitfire went. "See, it's okay to go into your Poké Ball," Gabby said.

Charmander tilted his head. "Char . . ? Charmander!" He began scratching at the center of Spitfire's Poké Ball in an attempt to get his friend out of there. Large tears filled his eyes as he called out for Spitfire to come back out.

Gabby looked up at Ash, whose eyes were wide in shock at the new development. Neither of them suspected the two Fire-types would become friends, but rather rivals to see who was on the top; it seemed that Charmander already saw Spitfire as being the superior one. "I don't think this is getting anywhere," she said.

Ash sighed. "You're right. Okay, Charmander, you can stay out for a little while. It's impossible for you to stay out all the time. Unlike Pikachu and Spitfire, you can't survive water and rainstorms."

Charmander only nodded when Gabby released Spitfire. The happy Lizard Pokémon ran up and hugged Spitfire, who looked up at his mistress in question. Gabby could only laugh before they set out. Charmander tailed Spitfire, refusing to leave the Fire-type alone.

They practiced their Fire-type moves, and Charmander's Ember was getting pretty big; about ready to transform into a far larger move. Not Flamethrower-ready yet, but maybe Fire Fang or Flame Burst-ready. Spitfire was also working hard on trying to pin down his Fire Fang, but it burnt his tongue every time he tried holding his Ember attack in his mouth. Gabby knew Fire Fang was the gateway to learning Thunder Fang, so it was important, but she couldn't think of another way Spitfire could learn it. It was a matter of control and experience that Spitfire just had to gain on his own.

"Look, guys!" Ash called as he ran over to a small beach area. "We're close to the sea! Vermilion City must be close."

"Yeah. If you read the map, you'd know Vermilion City is just about an hour away," Misty said with an eye roll. "Honestly, if we weren't here, you'd be going around in circles and constantly getting lost!"

Ash backed away, remembering just how terrifying Misty could be. "Why must you always put me down? I don't do it to you!"

"Because there are things that you don't know about being a Trainer!"

"I could say the same thing to you."

"When you find out something I don't already know, come and tell me about it then."

Ash opened his mouth only the quickly shut it. Although he didn't like being put down, Misty had a point. She knew more than Ash and therefore had a right to correct his mistakes. How not looking at the map was a mistake was beyond — wait. No, actually that was a huge mistake. He could've gotten lost since he would never have bothered to actually check the map thoroughly. But he had Pidgeotto to act as lookout, so what was the point?!

Then something caught Ash's attention. "Ha! I'll show you a little something about your precious Water-types you think you're so informed on." He turned and pulled out his PokéDex. "I'll catch that Krabby, a Water-type you don't have!"

Misty blinked. "Well, you're right about me not having a Krabby . . ."

"Krabby, the River Crab Pokémon. If it senses danger approaching, it cloaks itself with bubbles from its mouth so it will look bigger. They're typically around sixteen inches tall. This Krabby has the ability Shell Armor, which protects against critical hits. It knows the moves: Bubble, Vice Grip, Leer, Harden, Water Gun, Double-Edge, and Bubble Beam."

Ash whistled, impressed by those moves. Despite already having a trusted Water-type in Squirtle, Ash felt compelled to capture this tiny but rather hefty-move wielder. A small smirk crossed Ash's face and he turned to Misty. "See, I already know more than you about picking the right ones!"

Misty looked at him dully. "You should probably learn to keep an eye on your captures."

"Heh?" Ash looked down, and Krabby was at his foot. "He's just accepting me as his Trainer! After getting two badges, what little Pokémon wouldn't want to join m— . . . Ow!" The little Krabby decided talking-time was over and was ready to battle, showing his spirit through a tough Vice Grip to the ankle.

"Charmander, use Scratch!" Ash called out.

Like a light switch, Charmander's aggravating nature went away and he was by his Trainer's side with barely glowing claws, slashing away at the hard exterior of the Krabby. He used Growl to intimate the Krabby into letting go of Ash before the real battle began.

Krabby backed several feet back, claws grinding together. His beady eyes narrowed in a Leer.

Once Ash recovered from the Vice Grip, he pointed at Krabby. "Fry that Krabby with your Ember attack, Charmander!"

"Char!" he obeyed, spewing several mini fireballs from his mouth while also spinning with the tip of his tail leaking plumes of fire. Krabby was fast to react, using a smokescreen of bubbles to kill the flames. Charmander growled — not the move, but a true, feral growl.

"Take it easy, Charmander," Ash warned. "Get closer. Use Scratch to pop any bubbles, and then use Ember."

Easy enough. And effective. Charmander propelled himself into another round of Bubble Beam. His tiny claws began glowing, still too little to be deemed Slash or Metal Claw, but just enough to easily cut through the air, destroying bubbles before they could near Charmander's tail.

When Krabby realized his form of defense wasn't working, he went on the offense a spewed a large stream of water from his mouth. Charmander couldn't block the attack with his claws, and it struck him in the stomach and sent him several feet back.

Charmander groaned before standing back upon the request of Ash. He shook, scaly skin now sticky with water. At least he was a Fire-type so he wouldn't freeze like some of his reptilian cousins from the chilling temperature of the water. It just suffocated him and made him all muggy.

Krabby readied himself for another Water Gun attack but was taken aback when Charmander began gathering several Ember fireballs into one large, orange orb of flames.

Ash stared for a long moment before cheering: "Awesome, Charmander! You learned Flame Burst. Now, fire it!"

Krabby had no time to react before a large ball of orange came at him before consuming his entire body. Once the flames cleared, Krabby lay there, fainted.

"Nice job, Charmander!" Ash praised. He grabbed a Poké Ball from his belt and primed it. "Now for the catch!" He hurled the ball. A beam of white took the Krabby in and after several shakes, it dinged to alert the successful capture.

"Yes! I captured a Krabby!" Ash ran over and raised the Poké Ball, knowing it would disappear soon. "I can already tell you're gonna be special, Krabby! I'll call you back when I need your skills."

And thus the ball disappeared and they were pretty much in Vermilion City, ready to take on the next Gym Leader, Lt. Surge.

Episode Thirteen: Gym Battle With Shocking Results

Two pairs of eyes met from across the Pokémon Center. Arms crossed, Gary smirked before striding across the place as if he owned it. "Get run into the ground by the Surge?"

Paul lifted a brow. "Yeah. I'm guessing you weren't."

"I wish," Gary said as he leaned against the wall. "No point in mulling over a loss, though. Even the most skilled Trainers, such as myself, can have a bad battle."

Paul scoffed. "My Pokémon didn't stand a chance. That Raichu could probably faint a Rhydon with a Thunder Shock alone."

Gary laughed at the thought. "Yeah. Sounds about right."

"Gary Oak, your Pokémon are fighting-fit," Nurse Joy called.

"All right. Back to the girls I go," he said with a sigh.

Paul stared oddly at the kid until he disappeared. Definitely an odd one and perhaps a little too attuned with the entire 'take every loss as a chance to learn something new'-fiasco of an outlook. A ridiculous view for those so pathetic they can't see their own losses as a lack of skill.

Suddenly the center's door burst open with four Trainers with their Pikachu and Growlithe by side. Paul tensed as he recalled the girl and her Growlithe; he hadn't bothered to remember their names. That must have been her group of freak friends. The crowd looked about right for how pathetic the Growlithe girl was. Their words caught Paul's attention, though.

The boy with a Pikachu on his shoulder asked: "Where is the competition being held?!"

Nurse Joy looked taken aback at how rushed the boy was. "C-competition?"

"Yes, my beautiful rose. The competition for the free S.S. Anne ticket," Brock said, holding Nurse Joy's hand like a creep. "Perhaps, if I win, I could take you on the luxury cruise. It's the least I could do." Nurse Joy blinked, yanked her hands away. Tears began running down Brock's face as rejection set in.

"The competition starts tomorrow," Nurse Joy answered, turning to Ash. "It's very last minute, but they wanted as many competitors as possible. Of course, that means I will be working for quite some time, so no, I cannot go." She directed that last part over at Brock, who continued to silently weep.

"Awesome!" Ash said. "That gives us time to take on the Gym here."

Nurse Joy's expression went from natural to horrified. "You really shouldn't challenge Lt. Surge. He's very serious about what he does and doesn't show mercy until you either give up or all your Pokémon have fainted."

"That's just a Gym Battle," Ash said.

Nurse Joy shook her head. "No. He's exceedingly cruel and sometimes stretches out battles for his own entertainment. Only when he gets bored of the beating does he finally end it with a blow that has brought hundreds of Pokémon to the Pokémon Center after in critical condition."

So that's the guy's story, Paul pondered. What interested him was this competition they were talking about. As he wondered which Pokémon he would use, the girl's Growlithe turned to bare tiny fangs at him. Paul only smirked, knowing it would only anger the mutt further.

The Growlithe seemed to have more control that Paul credited him for since he simply turned his head, refusing to look over, though his fur was still on end.

Luckily, the Pokémon Center was full enough so the Growlithe girl didn't spot him as she and her group handed in their Pokémon for a check-up and got themselves a couple rooms. How they found the money to afford such expensive rooms was beyond Paul. Were they even getting funds through their Pokémon career? They didn't seem like the type to take money from little kids whose Pokémon didn't know any moves but Tackle and Gust. But who knows?

Paul left to set up camp elsewhere and prepare for this little competition for the S.S. Anne ticket.

"Okay, so the plan is: Ash takes on Lt. Surge first, and then tomorrow, while Ash and I are taking part in the competition, Gabby takes on Lt. Surge," Brock finished.

Gabby frowned and crossed her arms. "I was promised to go first this time."

"Yes, but it doesn't make much sense why. It'd be easier this way."

Gabby continued to frown, but sighed. "Fine . . . But I will be first next time!

"Of course."

"For the next two Gyms."


"Alright! I'm about to get my third badge!" Ash butted in. He flashed his two so far. "I'm pretty proud of these. I earned both fair and square, and soon there will be another one just below them. I'll be getting the Thunder Badge today!"

"Yeah, yeah. Keep telling yourself that," Misty said. "Honestly, Ash, you're getting a bit of an ego."

"Am not! I'm just proud of how far I've come."

"Okay, but your winning streak can't keep going forever," Misty told him. "Did you not hear what Nurse Joy said? Lt. Surge is cruel to his opponents. You'll be no exception; that would only be too lucky."

"I'm not looking for him to go easy on me. I just know my Pokémon can handle it," Ash said. "They're strong."

"I'm not saying they aren't. If they weren't as strong as they are, they likely wouldn't be here anymore. What I'm saying it that your victory is never definite, even if you think you have the upper hand. One wrong move and you're done."

"I understand that! There's no need to lecture me about it."

Tired of the useless arguing, Gabby asked: "You know which Pokémon you're gonna use?"

Ash's mood changed at the thought as he perked up. "Yeah! Bulbasaur, Charmander, and Pikachu! It only makes sense I use Pikachu since this is where others of his type are trained. Maybe they have a Pikachu and can give me some tips on how to train him . . . Or maybe he's cruel and doesn't care?" He added that last part when Misty glowered at him.

Gabby gave a sideways smile. "Seems balanced. At least none of them are weak to Electric-type attacks. Does Pikachu have the Lightning Rod ability?"

Ash shook his head. "No. He has Static. Why?"

"Well, Electric-types can't get paralyzed, but they can get hit by powerful enough Electric-type attacks. Lightning Rod would have probably been the better ability for this Gym."

Ash shrugged. "No point in having an ability to use in just one Gym. Besides, how many Electric-types can actually hit Pikachu? He's speedy and can take a few good hits without even stumbling! Right, buddy?"

"Pika!" Pikachu gave a mock salute.

"That's the spirit! Now, to Vermilion City Gym!"

"You guys go on ahead," Brock said, still eyeing Nurse Joy despite the rejection. "I'm gonna make us some lunch."

"And I'm going fishing," Misty added. "An Electric-type Gym is far from a comforting place for me."

"You're still coming, right, Gabby?" Ash asked, feeling a bit intimidated. He had never been in a Gym alone before. He felt he would mess it up.

"Yeah. I need to see how this guy battles . . ." Gabby answered.

So Brock stuck around the Pokémon Center, and Misty parted from the two battle-hungry Trainers. They stood tall with their backs straight, ready for what would likely be their biggest challenge yet. When they came up to a huge building, they stared in awe for a moment. The building was painted a light green with massive bolts of lightning over it. No doubt. That was the Gym they were looking for. A bit flashy in contrast to the otherwise nice-looking city, but fitting for how extravagant Electric-types were.

They pushed the doors open and were immediately greeted by a couple young adults dressed like soldiers. One had a scar across his face, while the other appeared to have burn marks on her neck. They went through war, even at such a young age. Though the land was not war-torn, there was still a few going on at the moment. Small ones, but any war can hardly be unimportant.

Gabby elbowed Ash, reminding him that he was to go first. There was a slight waver in his tone, but it vanished and his voice grew more confident with every word: "I'm Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town, and this is my partner, Pikachu. We've come here to win out third badge, the Thunder Badge!"

The man's lips quirked up. "Hey, boss man — another victim for the emergency room has arrived. And with his plush toy of a Pikachu by side."

Pikachu narrowed his eyes and his ear twitched in annoyance.

From behind the young soldiers, a seven-foot, burly man rose to his feet. He let out a deep, dark laugh as he came into view. He wore camouflage pants, a dark green tank top tucked into a belt, and large work boots. Around his neck were dog tags, proving he had, indeed, taken part in a war. He had blond, spiky hair and slowly removed his sunglasses to reveal challenging eyes.

"So I see," he said. "A couple kiddies have come to play with the adults. I'm guessing you want to be sent off to the hospital first, little boy? Fine. So be it. The name's Lt. Surge, and I'm the Leader of this here Gym. I won't go easy on you, and I certainly won't lose either. Now, get your three Pokémon ready, because I'm 'bout to have some fun." He didn't pause throughout his entire speech. His smirk widened a bit when he saw how intimidated Ash and Gabby were. Confidence was a powerful and faltering thing.

Ash nodded. "I already have them picked out."

"Good, then I'll make the first move," Lt. Surge said as he led them over to the dimly lit stadium hall. Once in position, Surge grabbed a Poké Ball from his jeans pocket. He primed it and tossed it out. "Electrode, show this little boy how it's done!"

Ash blinked as the Poké Ball-looking Pokémon came out. He held up his PokéDex and checked it out:

"Electrode, the Ball Pokémon. Often found in power plants. When it builds up too much electricity, it often explodes to amuse itself."

Ash cringed at the thought. This could be bad. "I'll give this over to Bulbasaur!"

The Grass-type came from its Poké Ball, chorusing its name. Once he noticed Electrode, he spread his front legs and lowered its head, prepared to begin.

"A cute baby Bulbasaur acting all intimidating," Surge laughed. "Adorable little act."

"It's no act! Bulbasaur, Sunny Day out the windows!" Ash ordered.

"Ha! What a pointless move. Electrode, Rolling Star!"

Ash had never heard of that attack before, but as Electrode began rolling at Bulbasaur with several Swift stars spraying from him, he found it was simply a combination of Rollout and Swift. Interesting.

Bulbasaur began to glow from his bulb before large beams shot from the tip and crashed through the windows, bringing a near-blinding light into the stadium. Electrode neared, but the sap within Bulbasaur pumped faster, allowing him to easily dodge the impact and disappear from the Ball Pokémon's sight.

"Electrode, turn around!" Lt. Surge shouted.

"Bulbasaur, use your vines to stay up high and throw out a few Leech Seeds!" Ash instructed.

Bulbasaur did as ordered, fully supporting himself with his powerful vines. A dark seed popped out of his bulb and he sent it at the Electrode. Surge ordered Electrode dodge, and the speedy Pokémon was surprisingly able to do so. Bulbasaur made a face, hating how slow he still was. He fired off a few Leech Seeds, but none of them made their mark until Electrode mistakenly rolled over one. Bulbasaur was just in time to activate it, and he caught the Electrode in a tangle of energy-draining vine. Bulbasaur lowered himself but kept a distance.

"Electrode, get out the baby's mess with Swift and then use Flash," Surge said simply.

Electrode burst from the draining vine with a slight struggle from having quite a bit taken out of him. Then he began to glow brightly, overpowering even Bulbasaur's Sunny Day.

Lt. Surge smirked as Ash called out for Bulbasaur. "It's time to end this . . . Electrode, Explosion!"


But it was too late. The platform below them shattered with the power of Electrode's Explosion attack. Bursts and beams of lights continued to blind and a cloud of smoke filled what spaces weren't already marred with the lightning aura. Once everything cleared, both Pokémon were sprawled out on the ground, both fainted from the massive attack.

"Both Bulbasaur and Electrode are unable to battle!" the man to the side announced.

Ash gasped and ran to aid Bulbasaur.

"Bulbasaur, are you alright? Do you need a doctor now?!" Ash asked as he lifted his friend into his arms.

Bulbasaur opened his eyes slightly. "Bulba . . ."

"It'll be okay, buddy . . . Gabby, can you take him to the Pokémon Center right now?" Ash turned to ask.

Gabby nodded, worried about Bulbasaur. Explosion was not used lightly. Electrode could use it to its heart's content because they come back stronger, but those affected by it can often suffer from internal injuries due to the attack being life force-based.

Gabby took Bulbasaur in her arms and rushed out of the Gym.

When Ash turned back to Lt. Surge, the latter began laughing. "The little girly is already running off! I warned ya, kid. I don't go easy. Let me tell ya what — you won't live long in combat. Not with your puny power!"

Ash's hands began to shake and a blue mist formed around him. "I'll show you! Charmander, time to battle!" He threw out Charmander's Poké Ball and the cute Fire-type came out with a determined look in his eyes. He glanced around, but when he didn't see Spitfire, he frowned.


"There's no time for that, Charmander! Spitfire doesn't wait for you to battle, so why should you?"

Charmander blinked and turned back to Lt. Surge, who continued to laugh.

"You thought I was gonna pull out Magnemite, didn't ya, kid? You thought you'd get the upper hand? Sorry to disappoint ya, but I already predicted that. Jolteon, come out to play!"

Ash choked on air. How had Lt. Surge predicted his prediction?! Not good.

The Lightning Pokémon took to field, yellow and white spiky fur and black eyes. Definitely the least cuddly of the Eevee evolution lines. Ash pulled out his PokéDex once more and scanned the Jolteon. It said: "Jolteon, the Lightning Pokémon. It controls ten-thousand-volt power and can raise all the fur on its body as if it were sharp needles. Because they are high-strung, it can be difficult to grow close to them."

Ash put his PokéDex away to see the two Pokémon were growling at each other. "All right, Charmander, we worked on this . . . Ember and then Flame Burst! Stay as far from Jolteon as you can."

"Predictable," Lt. Surge said. "Jolteon, Double Team and Agility, now!"

Hundreds of Jolteon clones came about, surrounding Charmander before they began running around the defenseless Lizard Pokémon. In an attempt to combat them, Charmander forced the flame of his tail to rise before he bound into the air, whipping the flame from his tail in every direction — a different form of Ember. As he did so, he gathered several flames of the Ember above him to create a Flame Burst. Several of Jolteon's Double Team clones began to poof away as the tiny Ember flames struck.

Lt. Surge showed no concern. "Jolteon, finish that baby Charmander off with Discharge."

Before Jolteon could do so, Charmander launched the ball of heat at the clones, sending several to their untimely demise. However, all the Double Team clones began to poof away. Even those Charmander had not hit. Charmander landed on the ground again, chest heaving and tiny fangs trembling with the desire to battle further. Once the flames cleared, Jolteon laid on the ground.

"What?!" Lt. Surge shouted. "Jolteon, get up now!"

"Finish it off with Ember, Charmander!" Ash called.

Charmander was more than happy to do so. He bolted at the Jolteon, who struggled to stand, sent another round of tail-flame Embers flying at the helpless Pokémon. The Jolteon cried out in pain as the fire struck it head-on. Sparks began to fly and all its fur pointed straight up.

Lt. Surge smirked. "That's it, Jolteon! Thunder Missile!"

"Dodge it, Charmander!" Ash shouted.

"It's too late, kid," Lt. Surge said.

Jolteon pulled in the sparks of electricity, its Volt Absorb ability allowing it to regain some health. Then it launched out several hundred pins of electricity, all which landed on Charmander. The Lizard Pokémon attempted to run, but the pins flew too fast and connected just as fast. The Thunder-part of the move paralyzed Charmander, making it impossible for him to avoid to rest.

"Finish it with a Double Kick and Iron Tail, Jolteon!"

Jolteon was fast. Too fast. Ash couldn't even recall Charmander before Jolteon land on Charmander, kicking him with its hind legs before its tail began to glow a bright silver. It struck Charmander on the side of the head, sending him flying off the stadium and into a wall.

"Charmander is unable to battle! Jolteon in the winner."

Ash ran and picked up his defeated friend, careful to not get burnt from his flaming tail. At least he was okay in that regard. "You did great, buddy," Ash said as he called Charmander back into his Quick Ball.

"Pika?" Pikachu asked as Ash took his spot beside him.

"He'll be fine, Pikachu," Ash said. "But you still need to avenge your teammate. Go on, buddy."

Pikachu hesitated before stepping up to field. He glared at Jolteon and his cheeks began to spark.

"Finally bringing in your plush toy Pikachu, huh?" Lt. Surge mocked.

Ash outwardly ignored the Surge and told Pikachu to build up speed with Agility.

"Ha! You think that will help? Jolteon, show this kid what a real Agility technique looks like."

Pikachu moved first, leaving a yellow blur behind him, but by the time he struck Jolteon, all that remained of the Lightning Pokémon was an afterimage. Pikachu looked around, but before he could react, Jolteon emerged from the soft ground below them, ramming into Pikachu's gut with a powerful Dig attack. Pikachu hacked up a small amount of blood as he was thrown into the air. Jolteon twisted its body around, striking Pikachu with its Iron Tail. Like with Charmander, Pikachu flew back and hit the wall with a whimper.

"Pikachu, return!" Ash called out, knowing his Pokémon couldn't last much longer.

Pikachu pulled himself up, though, and wiped away the bit of blood staining around his mouth. He shook his head to his Trainer.

"But, Pikachu . . . Fine. Quick Attack, now!"

"Your Pikachu doesn't know when to quit, kid!" Lt. Surge shouted. "Jolteon, hit 'em with a Thunder attack!"

Pikachu threw himself forward at the Jolteon, who gathered several thousand volts of electricity within him. Pikachu ignored the prepared attack, but Ash knew Jolteon would release the Thunder before Pikachu could reach, even while using his Quick Attack. Within a split second, an idea came about.

"Pikachu, direct your electric to your tail and catch Jolteon's Thunder attack!" Ash called.

"Are you crazy, kid?! No Pokémon has ever stood up to Jolteon's Thunder!"

"Do it, Pikachu!"

Pikachu quickly directed the sparks forming on his cheeks to his tail, similar to how he did when using Thunder Wave. He did so just in time, as Jolteon released a mass of bolts that lit up the entire Gym. Pikachu didn't stop moving, but kept his tail above his head for protection. He took in the high voltage and made them his own when he slammed against Jolteon with his Quick Attack. As great an attacker Jolteon was, they were rather frail when taking hits.

"All right, Pikachu! Headbutt now! Follow it up with one last Quick Attack!" Ash ordered.

Pikachu moved before Jolteon could recover, charging at it and hit it head-on. Jolteon flew back, allowing Pikachu gather the speed necessary for a powerful enough Quick Attack to knock Jolteon out of the battle.

"Jolteon is unable to battle! Pikachu wins . . . This round," the referee was clearly not confident in Pikachu, but Ash ignored him as Pikachu came running over to greet his overjoyed Trainer.

"That was awesome, Pikachu! You've already turned this match around," Ash congratulated, stoking Pikachu behind the ear. Then he looked up. Lt. Surge had recalled his fainted Jolteon and now tossed another Poké Ball into the air impatiently. "But now you have a new challenge," Ash added. "You need to defeat Lt. Surge's last Pokémon."

Pikachu, though tired and beaten, nodded confidently before taking his original spot on the field.

"You done pepping you little Pikachu, kid? Good. Now, for the real battle to begin!" Lt. Surge threw out the Poké Ball. "Raichu, show this kid what a real Electric-type Pokémon is!"

A Raichu appeared from the Poké Ball, thick with muscle and lightning bolt of a tail pointed straight out in warning. It didn't have an aggressive expression, but rather one of amusement and confidence. It crossed its arms and looked down at Pikachu. "Raichu," she said.

Pikachu tilted his head and waved. "Pika . . ."

Lt. Surge knelt down and patted Raichu's head. "This one's been with since I was a kid myself, ever since she was a Pichu. Saved me numerous times in the war, she did!"

"Wow . . ." Ash mumbled as he pulled out his PokéDex.

"Raichu, the Mouse Pokémon and the evolved form of Pikachu. Raichu can build up one-hundred thousand volts of electricity in its pouches, enough to render a Dragonite immobile."

A Dragonite?! The secondary ultimate to Legendaries could be reduced anything but powerful, by a Raichu? Insane.

"You gonna do you and your baby Pikachu a favor and give up while you still can?" Lt. Surge asked as he straightened himself up. "When Raichu gets going, not even I can stop her until she's won."

That was strange. Not even a skilled Trainer like Lt. Surge — Ash wasn't fond of the guy, but Ash was also no idiot and could see how skilled of a Trainer Lt. Surge was — couldn't stop his own lifetime companion. Maybe the war had done something to her that Lt. Surge didn't want to admit.

"No way! We've come this far. There's no turning back now," Ash said. "Pikachu, begin with a Quick Attack!"

Lt. Surge frowned. "You never learn, kid. Raichu, you do you."

"Raichu!" She charged forward, leaving an afterimage like Jolteon had, and canceled Pikachu's Quick Attack with a Body Slam. Pikachu squeaked up the weight of her. Ash ordered Pikachu use Agility to escape, but Raichu prevented him from doing so with a small Thunder Shock that lit the entire Gym up.

"Pika!" Pikachu cried in pain.

"Quick Attack, now, Pikachu! You can get through this!" Ash shouted.

"It's over, kid," Lt. Surge said, tone suddenly serious.

"It's not over until I win!" Ash shouted. "Come on Pikachu. Quick Attack!"

Pikachu struggled against the sheer power of Raichu's Thunder Shock. He directed his own electricity to his tail like before and quickly began taking in Raichu's Thunder Shock with ease. Though rather hard to contain — Raichu had a serious amount of electricity that wouldn't quit flowing! — Pikachu managed. He bolted forward and slammed into the Raichu, knocking her back and successfully stopping the Thunder Shock. Pikachu shook his head to clear it.


"Nice job, Pikachu. Now use Headbutt and then follow it up with another Quick Attack!" Ash called.

"Raichu, get up! Give that runt of the Pikachu the Mega Kick!" Surge ordered.

Raichu was fast at everything — attacking, running, and even recovering. Before Pikachu could land a Headbutt to her gut, she stood up and kicked Pikachu into the air with a glowing paw.

"Again, Raichu! Send out a Mega Kick barrage and then end it with a Seismic Toss!"

Raichu launched herself up with her tail before sending a flurry of Mega Kicks at Pikachu, sending him higher and higher into the air until she wrapped her arms around him, sending them both plummeting to the ground once more. Before they landed, Raichu threw Pikachu into the ground, sending up a massive cloud of dust. When it cleared, Pikachu laid there, fainted.

"Pikachu is unable to battle!" the referee called. "Raichu wins! Challenger Ash Ketchum of Pallet Town is out of usable Pokémon, making Lt. Surge the winner!"

Every word was like a punch to the gut. Ash ran to grab Pikachu. "It's okay, buddy. You did great," Ash told his unconscious friend. He turned to see Lt. Surge. "I guess you took my first loss."

Surge laughed. "I'm not surprised to hear that, kid."

Ash blinked in confusion. "What?"

"I may be arrogant, kid, but I'm not blind. You got skill. The better of us just happened to win this time," Lt. Surge said. "Your Pikachu's good — he actually managed to hit Raichu; something no pre-evolved Pokémon has ever managed. Just work on a better strategy and then come back later. I fully intend on giving you the Thunder Badge before the S.S. Anne takes off. Got it?"

Ash could have squealed right then. A powerful Trainer acknowledged his skills and even complimented Pikachu! If it wasn't for his loss, this would've been one of his better days. "I got it, Surge. Don't worry. Tomorrow, after the competition for the free S.S. Anne ticket, I'll be back and Pikachu will be ready to battle!"

"Good to hear, kid. Good to hear . . ."

Misty leaned back, holding the fishing rod just slightly as she stared off into the blue sea. It was a calm day, but that also meant the Water-types were scarce. She sighed. "Where are all the Tentacool when I want to catch one?" she mumbled to herself. She reached into her bag and tossed out Horsea's Poké Ball. The tiny, but feisty Water-type splashed in the water for a moment before turning to its Trainer. Misty smiled and said: "Why don't you go check out where the Water-types are biting, Horsea? I could use your sight right now."

Horsea let out a small spurt of water before diving into the deep blue.

Misty loved her tiny Horsea. Aside from her Starter, Starmie, Horsea was her first capture, and even though Horsea coward away sometimes, she wanted to become less scared of things. She wanted to be able to go head-to-head with bigger Pokémon and face those she's supposed to be weak to without fear of losing. That's what gave Misty the encouragement to pin Horsea against Spitfire, a Fire-type whom Misty knew could defeat a Water-type with ease.

Even though Horsea lost, she did gain a bit of skill and confidence. She now knew that, even with a type advantage, she can still lose, which gave her the idea that she could win against, say, an Electric-type or Grass-type if she just worked hard enough at her skills. At least that was how Misty hoped Horsea thought. They'd been together for a while, and Misty liked to think they thought about the same.

A stream of water struck Misty in the face, sending her out of her deep thought. "What are you doing, Horsea?!" she shouted, wiping her face. Horsea sent another weak Water Gun attack at her Trainer and hit its tiny fins against the surface of the water. Misty got the message then. "What's wrong, Horsea? Did something happen?"

Horsea nodded and took off in another direction to lead Misty over to wherever the trouble was going on. Misty shrunk her fishing rod and put it in her bag before following. If she wasn't worried about what Horsea was going on about, Misty would've celebrated Horsea unlocking her Swift Swim ability. They made it to Route Eleven in record time, and it was a good thing they did.

Misty gasped when she saw a girl holding something that was clearly struggling under the water. "Hey! You stop that right now!" Misty shouted as she ran over. Horsea was already there, spewing her inky Smokescreen.

The girl dodged the Smokescreen and glared at Misty, refusing to let whatever was under water go. She was about a year older than Misty from the looks of it. "Why don't you mind your own business?" she challenged.

"Because you're hurting whoever you're holding down!" Misty shouted as she pushed the girl away. The moment the girl lost grip, a yellow Pokémon with a flat beak and webbed feet surfaced with a gasp and struggle against the water. "A Psyduck," Misty observed as she lifted it out of the water.

Psyduck's entire body shook as he panted. He held his head and looked up at Misty. It calmed instantly and tilted its head before jumping closer into Misty's arms. "Psyduck!"

The girl glared at Misty. "Hand my Psyduck back over now!"

Misty stood up and backed away. "No way! No Trainer would try and kill their own Pokémon!" Misty shouted.

The girl rolled her eyes. "I wasn't gonna kill him. I just wanted to teach the pathetic Water-type to swim."

Word of advice: never use the words 'pathetic' and 'Water-type' in the same sentence around Misty, especially not in that order.

"Drowning him isn't gonna get him swimming!"

Shrug. "If he doesn't want to die, he'll have no choice but to swim."

"What is wrong with you?!" Misty shouted. "You don't treat your Pokémon that way!"

"Don't tell me how to treat my Pokémon, you little—!"

"What's going on over here?" Officer Jenny said as she stepped over. "I got reports that two young ladies were disrupting the peace around here. Would that be you two?"

The girl panicked and pointed at Misty. "She took my Psyduck!"

"What?!" Misty shouted.

"See, this is his Poké Ball!" the girl said, pulling out a Dive Ball. "Return, Psyduck!" The beam of light went to catch Psyduck, but Psyduck quickly crawled from Misty's arms, onto her back. "Psyduck, return now!" Psyduck dodged the second beam of light.

Officer Jenny observed. "If he's yours, why doesn't he want to come back with you?"

"Because he's stubborn."

"No. Because you tried drowning him!" Misty corrected.

The girl glared, sending harsh daggers at Misty through her eyes alone.

"Excuse me?! You tried to drown a Pokémon?!" Officer Jenny shouted. She turned to the hiding Psyduck. "Is that true?" Psyduck nodded slowly, looking between Jenny and the girl whom he once called his Trainer. "Well then. I can safely say that Psyduck is no longer your Pokémon. In fact, you'll never be able to so much a purchase another Poké Ball."

The girl's glare turned to a look of fear. "What?! But she's lying! Why are you trusting a stupid Pokémon over someone who can say more than just their name?"

"Psyduck's words are perfectly intelligible. All I hear from you is 'blah-blah-blah'," Officer Jenny said. "Now you're coming with me to the station now." She turned to Misty. "You should take Psyduck to the Pokémon Center. He might have water in his lungs."

"Understood," Misty said. She recalled Horsea and ran off to the Pokémon Center to get Psyduck, who now rested on her shoulders like a little kid, checked out.

Nurse Joy wiped her brow. "You kids sure are making me work today. First Bulbasaur, then Charmander and Pikachu, and finally a Psyduck. But they're all back to perfect health. A night of rest will help them greatly."

"Thanks, Nurse Joy," Ash said, pocketing his Poké Balls. Pikachu jumped on his shoulder.

"Psyduck! Get off my head!" Misty shouted. But Psyduck was already asleep, snot bubble rising and falling with his calm breathing.

"He likes you, Misty," Gabby said. "You did save him, after all. You should catch him."

"Catch this dopey, little thing?! No way. I may have saved him from the girl, but that does not make him my responsibility."

Ash, Brock, and Gabby gave a knowing look to each other, full-sure Misty would catch Psyduck soon enough.

The next morning, they woke up bright and early. After a hearty breakfast made by the one and only Brock, everyone set out to do their own thing. Ash and Brock stuck around, wondering which Pokémon to use for today's competition, while Gabby headed to Vermilion City Gym for a battle, and Misty went back to the lake with Psyduck still on her head.

"It'll be a three-on-three battle," Nurse Joy explained to Ask and Brock. "So bring three strong Pokémon each."

The duo nodded and sat down to talk it over.

"Pikachu is a given," Ash said.

"Hmm, I don't know, Ash," Brock said. "Pikachu has a battle with a Raichu later today, so I don't think it's safe to tire Pikachu out beforehand."

"Good point . . ." Ash considered. "I think Pidgeotto could do well. I haven't used her much lately."

Brock nodded. "Solid choice. What about Krabby?"

"Krabby? But I don't know how he battles yet," Ash said.

"Well, Squirtle doesn't want a thing to do with this place, so I don't think it would be a good idea to bring him to the competition."

"Another good point. Okay, so I've decided on Pidgeotto and Krabby so far. I think Bulbasaur will do well and can take those Electric-type attacks that neither Pidgeotto and Krabby can."

Brock leaned back, taken aback by Ash's logic. "Sounds good," Brock said honestly.


Once Ash traded out Squirtle for Krabby, they were off to the center of Vermilion, where the competition was happening. There were crowds everywhere and barely any room to walk, but since Brock and Ash already signed up for it that morning, they weren't in such a rush. They only needed to hear when the announcer called their names.

"Er, what Pokémon are you using, Brock?" Ash asked.

Brock smiled. "You're about to see.

Just then, the announcer called up Brock and some girl named Holly.

Brock took his spot on the cleared spot made for battle. When he saw who he was up against, he got hearts in his eyes. Standing across the field from Brock was a pretty lady about his age. She had auburn hair and deep blue eyes that Brock could just imagine swimming in. He stood up tall, debating on whether he now wanted to win to show his skills as a trainer, or lose so Holly could win. He came to a halfway point. He'd go easy, but not intentionally lose.

"May the two competitors chose their first Pokémon?" the referee said.

Brock nodded. "Zubat, it's up to you!" His blind Bat Pokémon hung low to the ground.

Holly didn't appear intimidated by the starting stage Pokémon as she threw out her own Poké Ball. "Farfetch'd, come on out!" A duck-like Pokémon appeared, holding a leak. From the crowd, Ash was the only one to pull out a PokéDex to examine what Pokémon it was.

Brock began: "Zubat, use Bite followed up by Giga Drain and Leech Life!" Ash grinned, knowing how much Brock trained Zubat to be normal after how they found him.

Holly didn't appear fazed. Or she was good at hiding it. "Dodge, Farfetch'd and then Swords Dance."

Farfetch'd was just a little faster than Zubat and dodged swiftly. A set of six glowing blue swords circle around it before crossing, sharply increasing its attack. Not good, Brock thought. He called for Zubat to use Swift, but Holly was just as fast to call for a Double Team. Zubat swung around his wings, throwing several white glowing stars at the many Farfetch'd forming. Each one went up into a puff of smoke before only one remained.

"Use Night Slash, Farfetch'd!" Holly ordered.

Farfetch'd did so. On the Swift star coming his way. He shattered it before it could hit.

"What?!" Brock questioned. He knew there were ways of nullifying never-missing moves, but he didn't think it could be canceled.

Holly grinned. "I'm quite proud of myself for stumping a Gym Leader."

So she recognized him. Brock wasn't so surprised considering it was news that he recently gave up his position for a while. "Zubat, Supersonic! Follow it up with your Drain Blood Formation." Ash's grin fell. That wasn't good.

Zubat opened his mouth wide let out a series of high-pitched cries, effectively confusing the Farfetch'd. And thus that part of the match was over. No one could last long when Zubat thirsted for blood. His Drain Blood Formation was worse than Giga Drain and Leech Life combined. Once Holly called back her fainted Farfetch'd, she tossed out her second Pokémon.

"Flareon, take that Zubat down with Flame Charge!"

The Flareon came out of the Poké Ball flying in flames already and hit Zubat out of the air. Zubat was as frail as ever, going down to a single hit. Brock recalled Zubat and told him that he did great taking out that Farfetch'd. Then he reached for Magcargo. The crowd gasped in awe at the sight of a Pokémon not native to Kanto. Brock won easily with a single Rock Throw Flareon failed to dodge. Holly's last Pokémon was a Cloyster, which wasn't good for Brock since the rest of his Pokémon were four-times weak to Water-types. Holly must not have been that worried because she smirked and ordered Cloyster use Razor Shell. Magcargo barely dodged. He opened his mouth and sent a flurry of Lava Plumes at Cloyster and then another round of Rock Throw while the Cloyster was recovering.

In the end, Brock was the winner. "You did great, buddy," he said as he recalled Magcargo. The match may have started a bit rocky, but that was just because Brock wasn't in his usual space with his Rock-types. Brock shook Holly's hand and told her she did great. When not in battle, however, Holly appeared to be modest, laughing and scratching the back of her neck. She even blushed when Brock insisted she take on a few Gyms.

Once the two were off stage, the referee called out: "Our next competitors are Ash Ketchum and A.J."

Ash nearly choked on air.

"Finish it with a Flame Wheel, Spitfire!"

Spitfire lit himself aflame and rolled at the injured Magneton. With his impressive speed, he rammed into it and knocked it out of the air. The Magnet Pokémon hit the ground with a loud clank! and rolled to Surge's feet, fainted. The referee called that Magneton was unable to battle. Lt. Surge recalled his fainted Pokémon.

"That baby Growlithe of yours is good, little girly. Not even a scratch," Surge said. "But he'll have to be a lot better to defeat Electabuzz!"

A large bipedal Pokémon covered in yellow and black stripes appeared, towering over Spitfire. Gabby knew about these things. They were powerful and had some very unpredictable moves. She couldn't risk it, though. Spitfire was nowhere near that Electabuzz's level. He'd get crushed by it.

"Spitfire, return!" she called before Lt. Surge could order Electabuzz to attack.

Spitfire tilted his head, confused, but ran back nonetheless.

"Smart," Lt. Surge said. "But let's see if your next move is just as smart."

Gabby ignored him as she threw out Raticate. The massive rodent Pokémon came out with a hiss and powerful, wind-forming swish of the tail.

"You can't be serious," Lt. Surge said. Gabby had such a rare find in Growlithe, but now she shows those rare finds aren't all that deep at all. Surge shrugged. "It's your Raticate's funeral. Electabuzz, Low Kick. While it's down, prepare your Focus Punch."

Electabuzz charged at Raticate, fully intending on taking the Normal-type down with those two moves. It twisted its hips just slightly, prepared to knock Raticate of his feet. Gabby said simply: "Dig."

Raticate instantly disappeared into the soft ground platform below. For an Electric-type gym, Lt. Surge sure seemed to make the place a cozy place for Ground-types. Electabuzz looked around with a growl, confused.

"Use Iron Tail on the ground to sense where that rodent is!" Lt. Surge shouted.

"Hyper Fang," Gabby said.

Before Electabuzz got the chance to use Iron Tail, several beams of light formed through the cracks in the ground. Lt. Surge ordered Electabuzz dodge, but Raticate was too fast. He struck Electabuzz head-on with the suffer effective Dig attack before unleashing the powering Hyper Fang. It threw Electabuzz back into the wall. Before the ref could look over to see in Electabuzz was still conscious, the Pokémon stood back up, panting slightly.

"Quick Attack into a Low Kick!"

Gabby had no time to react. Electabuzz became a white blur of light before ramming into Raticate and knocking the latter off balance with a Low Kick. Lt. Surge ordered Electabuzz use Focus Punch. Electabuzz's fist glowed with the attack.

"Avoid it with Dig, Raticate," Gabby told her Pokémon.

Raticate once again disappeared. No blur or even an afterimage. He was just gone. Electabuzz crashed its fist into the ground. He didn't need to be ordered this time to instantly begin sensing where Raticate was with Iron Tail, but at that exact moment, Gabby called out that Raticate use Crunch. Raticate dug his fangs into Electabuzz's silver tail, making the Pokémon cry out.

"What?! Impossible! How can that rodent's teeth even hold up to the strength of Electabuzz's Iron Tail?!" Lt. Surge demanded.

Gabby smirked. "Nothing short of bone can wear down Raticate's teeth!" She turned her attention back to her Pokémon. "Now, Raticate! Throw Electabuzz out of this battle! Literally . . ."

Raticate understood. He began to whirl Electabuzz in the air before letting go, throwing the done Pokémon into the wall, successfully denting the aluminum siding. When Electabuzz didn't stand up immediately, the referee checked before calling out: "Electabuzz is unable to battle! Raticate wins this round."

Lt. Surge recalled Electabuzz and turned to Gabby. "I wasn't expecting such a well-trained Raticate," he said. "But you delivered well. But let's see who the top Mouse Pokémon is. Raichu, give this rodent a light show!"

The Raichu Ash had mentioned appeared before Raticate. Eyes glared and tails whipped around angrily.

They began.

"Super Fang!"

"Mega Punch!"

Ash made it to the finals.

He defeated A.J. again, but the latter improved greatly and put up more of a fight with his Sandshrew. Bulbasaur was awesome, though, and defeated Sandshrew with a few Vine Whips, a Leech Seed, and the winning Headbutt. A.J.'s other Pokémon were hardly as strong as his Sandshrew but did put up enough of a fight that Ash had to recall Bulbasaur for a rest. Pidgeotto did a good job of cleaning up after.

Brock fell to a Trainer who had a Dewgong who knew Water Pulse and Ice Beam, effectively taking all three of his Pokémon out of the battle.

Ash battles several other Trainers who put up some good fights, but he hadn't been to the point where he needed to bring out Krabby. No Fire or Rock-types to counter Bulbasaur and Pidgeotto.

Much of the crowd had gone, with only the most interested hanging around, including Holly, who decided to keep Brock company after he healed her Pokémon. Brock hadn't even acknowledged that Ash made it to the finals, paying all his attention to the lady by his side. Ash wished he didn't know why.

Ash took his place on the field and faced off against Paul. Their expressions contrasted — Ash with his usual friendly grin; Paul with his prepared scowl — and they prepared for the battle to begin. The ref called for them to choose their first Pokémon.

"Good luck," Ash said.

Paul scoffed. "You're the one who will need it."

Ash only grinned wider. "Pidgeotto, I chose you!"

His Flying-type spread his wings wide and chorused her name: "Pidgeo!" Her feathers were shiny and well-kept. All those meals Brock made did a number on how beautiful of a bird she was.

Paul observed the Pidgeotto. Basic, he thought. "Kadabra, stand by for battle!"

His freshly evolved Pokémon emerged with glowing blue eyes.

Ash did a quick scan with his PokéDex before nodded. Pidgeotto could take on Kadabra. Worst case scenario, Kadabra has-

"Charge Beam!" Paul called.


"Dodge with Agility!" Ash said. "Follow up with Aerial Ace!"

Kadabra's eyes went from blue to yellow and he bent the energy between his fingers to form an electric current. With the swing of his thin arms, he unleashed the current straight at Pidgeotto. Pidgeotto was no slacker, though, and used Agility to carefully weave between the small flickered of lightning. The tip of her beak lit and several white streaks caught around her with Aerial Ace. Paul didn't bother telling Kadabra to use Teleport; Aerial Ace would find its way. Pidgeotto struck Kadabra in the middle, forcing the Psychic-type to double over.

Paul gritted his teeth. "Kadabra, use Confusion! Now!"

Kadabra recovered as best he could. His eyes beamed red and a black energy formed around him as he met eyes with Pidgeotto, stopping her from attacking again, or even so much as moving. Paul smirked. "Down," he said. Kadabra lowered his hand, sending Pidgeotto to the ground with such force that she cried out through the Confusion control in pain.

"Pidgeotto, you gotta snap out of it!" Ash shouted. "Quick Attack out of there and then use Aerial Ace!"

"It's too late!" Paul said. "Once Kadabra has something in his Confusion attack, there's no getting them out. You should just give up now."

"No way!" Ash said.

Paul shrugged. "Suit yourself. Kadabra, continue doing what you do."

Ash watched as Kadabra lifted Pidgeotto from the ground before slamming her back down to earth. He grunted in frustration. What was he to do? He didn't want to recall Pidgeotto, knowing she could handle the battle if she could get out of Kadabra's psychic hold.

"Come on, Pidgeotto. I know you can get out of its hold," Ash said, more gently this time.

"It's impossible!" Paul shouted.

Ash ignored him. "You're strong enough Pidgeotto. I know you are. Your friends and teammates know. Come on, girl . . . You can snap out of Kadabra's hold if you believe in yourself as much as we do."

Pidgeotto panted and opened one eye before hitting the ground again. When Kadabra forced her back into the air again, she forced her wings open slowly, struggling against the mind control. She opened her other eye and looked back at her Trainer to see his determined expression. He believed in her. Pikachu watched just as intently, Bulbasaur and even Krabby by side. Even Krabby, someone she'd never met was looking out for her. They believed in her. Ash, her Trainer, believed in her.

Pidgeotto shut both eyes before busting out of Kadabra's mind control with her Quick Attack — newly-learned and in need of practice. In a blur of herself, she struck Kadabra, throwing the Psi Pokémon back.

"What?!" Paul shouted.

"Awesome, Pidgeotto! I knew you could do it," Ash said.

"Pika!" Pikachu cheered with Bulbasaur and Krabby.

"Now, Aerial Ace!" Ash ordered.

Pidgeotto complied, striking Kadabra before either it or Paul could react. Kadabra couldn't match its frail body to the sheer power Pidgeotto had with a single Aerial Ace. Despite being heavily injured, her power seemed to only increase as she continued to hit Kadabra several times until he could no longer get up.

The referee called: "Kadabra is unable to battle. This round goes to Pidgeotto and her Trainer Ash Ketchum!"

"Yes, you did awesome Pidgeotto!" Ash congratulated as Pidgeotto took a spot by him. She rubbed her head against Ash and made a sound of affection while fluffing up her feathers at her Trainer's loving pets.

Paul recalled Kadabra. "What kind of pathetic Confusion attack was that?"

That caught Ash off guard. "Hey! Don't say that about your own Pokémon! Kadabra did as best as they could."

Paul glared. "Why don't you worry about your own Pokémon and leave mine to me? Ivysaur, stand by for battle!"

"Wow . . ." Ash said and quickly scanned the Ivysaur.

"Ivysaur, the Seed Pokémon, and the evolved form of Bulbasaur. If the bud on its back starts to smell sweet, it is evidence that the large flower will soon bloom."

Ash pocketed his PokéDex and turned his attention back to the battle. "Alright, Pidgeotto! We got this battle in the bag!"

Pidgeotto took to the sky.

"Keep your distance and use Air Cutter!" Ash knew what he was doing. Vine Whip wouldn't do much in itself, but it could be effective for ground Pidgeotto, which wouldn't do until Gabby got around to teaching her Roost Attack.

"Use Growth, Ivysaur!"

Ivysaur lowered her head and the flower on her back began to glow a bright green rather than the usual pink. Before Pidgeotto's Air Cutter could land, Paul ordered she dodge, which she did with ease. Ivysaur was a fast dodger after all the intense training Paul put her through. As his Starter, she sure had better be his best team member.

Ash suddenly saw what Paul was doing. Paul didn't look at a Pokémon's type to determine the winner, but rather their strengths, weaknesses, and moves. Ivysaur was fast and could dodge Pidgeotto's Flying-type moves besides Aerial Ace; but, at the same time, Ivysaur could catch Pidgeotto with her Vine Whip. Genius. Except that wasn't about to happen.

"Quick Attack into Aerial Ace! Then pull up fast," Ash commanded.

"Pidgeo!" she voice before soaring down with such impressive speed that Paul didn't get the chance to order anything. Pidgeotto struck Ivysaur, sending the Seed Pokémon flying back, before pulling back into the air.

Ivysaur stood up immediately and began using Growth again.

Paul didn't voice any concern as he ordered: "Ground yourself with Ingrain."

Ivysaur stomped the ground and brought several long roots to her for energy. Her eyes lit up as she regained some heath.

"Now use Razor Leaf!"

"Saur!" Ivysaur hurled several razor-sharp leaves toward Pidgeotto, who skillfully canceled the attack with a round of Air Cutter attacks. Ivysaur smirked like her Trainer as she continued to grow healthier with Ingrain while Pidgeotto grew more and more tired with every attack.

Ash couldn't keep up this long-distance battle. "Alright, Pidgeotto. Prepare another Quick Attack-Aerial Ace attack . . . On the Ingrain roots, now!"

"What?" Paul questioned, more dumbly than his previous demands. He'd never thought of that.

Pidgeotto voiced her approval before plummeting down, wings growing sharp and spiraling white streaks forming around her. Her wings immediately cut through the roots, stopping the health flow. Ash ordered Pidgeotto use Aerial Ace while Ivysaur was still recovering from the pain of having her health way snipped. Pidgeotto did so, throwing Ivysaur to Paul's feet. She panted heavily, looked up, and met the eyes of her angered Trainer.

Ivysaur's heart broke. She couldn't lose. Not when Paul meant so much to her. He was depending on her! At least that's what she told herself. Ivysaur forced herself up.

Paul nodded. "Good."

Ivysaur's eyes lit up and she prepared herself to continue the fight.

"Energy Ball. Follow it up with Toxic," Paul ordered.

The Grass-type nodded and launched a bright green orb at Pidgeotto, who attempted to cancel it with Air Cutter, but failed. It exploded on contact. Ivysaur bound into the air and twisted midair to let a sappy purple stream of poison fling onto the stunned Pidgeotto, instantly blinding the Flying-type. Pidgeotto attempted to wipe the poison with her wing but found it only spread further.

"Ash, you need to get Pidgeotto out of there!" Brock shouted from the small crowd remaining. It was a surprise Brock turned his attention away from Holly to call out. "Toxic badly poisons a Pokémon and can be dangerous if not healed soon! I can heal Pidgeotto if you get her out of there."

Ash didn't even have to think it over. "Return, Pidgeotto." He pulled Pidgeotto into her Poké Ball.

"What?!" Paul shouted. I hadn't even taken that stupid bird out!

Ash turned to the referee. "Pidgeotto's done fighting for the day."

The referee only nodded.

Ash tossed over Pidgeotto's Poké Ball and Brock caught it, antidotes, potions, and berries ready to do magic. Ash looked down at Bulbasaur. "Come on, buddy. You got this."

Bulbasaur nodded without any hesitation. He stepped forward and faced off against the Ivysaur.

Paul scoffed. "You honestly think your Bulbasaur can defeat my Ivysaur? He probably can't even keep up to speed."

Bulbasaur growled, and Ash grinned, knowing Bulbasaur's drive to win was that much stronger now. "We'll see . . . Sunny Day, Bulbasaur!"

His bulb sent a beam of light toward the sun, intensifying the early afternoon sky.

"You think that's gonna help you?! Ivysaur, Hidden Power!"

Ivysaur opened her mouth and gathered several orange orbs of energy. Ash let a small smirk form. Ivysaur didn't have the rare ability Chlorophyll. That would've ended badly. Ivysaur launched the orbs at Bulbasaur, but before they could hit their target, Ash said: "Dodge it."

Bulbasaur sidestepped the attack in time.

"Nice going, Bulbasaur. Now, use Headbutt and Leech Seed!" Ash said.

"Ivysaur, Razor Leaf!"

Bulbasaur was too fast, smashing his head into Ivysaur and throwing her back. While she was still down, he let out a seed from his bulb. He activated it the moment it struck his target. Several thin vines coiled around her, sapping away at her life force.

"Great job! Now, use your new move and then another Headbutt to finish it off!"

"Don't get your hopes up," Paul said. "Ivysaur, use Razor Leaf to cut through those vines!"

Ivysaur sent out a series of leaves, clipping through the vine as ordered. They struck Bulbasaur, who winced, but he refused to stop. He slammed into Ivysaur with his entire body with his Take Out attack. He charged again toward Ivysaur and Headbutted her. She cried out in pain as she rolled back to Paul's feet.

Ivysaur didn't look up at her Trainer this time. She forced herself up and sent several more leaves flying Bulbasaur's way. He caught them with his vine before hurling them back at her. They hit their target, knocking her off her feet again.

"Ivysaur is unable to battle," the referee called when Paul's Pokémon didn't get up. "Bulbasaur wins this round."


"You did great Bulbasaur!" Ash said, kneeling down to pet her beloved Pokémon. "That was great improvising with the Ivysaur's Razor Leaf. Maybe we can start training in that attack next?"

Bulbasaur nodded happily. "Bulbasaur!"

Paul recalled Ivysaur. "Good for nothing."

Ash's good mood depleted at that moment. "Can you stop talking down to your own Pokémon?!" he shouted.

"Can you stop talking, period?" Paul retorted. "Elekid, stand by for battle!"

A small, yellow Pokémon appeared. It looked like the pre-evolved form of Electabuzz, judging by its colors alone. Ash scanned it, but nothing came up. "Great," he mumbled. Electabuzz was fairly powerful, so Ash assumed Elekid would also be so. Given his superior match up, however, Ash was confident Bulbasaur could win.

"Bulbasaur, Vine Whip and then Headbutt!"

"Elekid, don't get hit! Thunder Punch now!" Paul shouted

Both Pokémon were fast. The charged at one another. Elekid reeled his arm back the moment he went face-to-face with Bulbasaur and cranked electricity into it. Just as he was about to strike Bulbasaur on the side of the skull, Bulbasaur used Vine Whip to swat the weak arm away, knocking the baby Pokémon off balance. Bulbasaur rammed his head into Elekid's stomach. Elekid landed several feet away, but Bulbasaur was far from done.

"Take Down," Ash ordered.

Bulbasaur bolted at the injured Pokémon and tackled it with enough force to keep it down for the next attack. Under Ash demand, Bulbasaur wrapped several of his vines around Elekid's limbs before bounding into the air. He pulled his vines nearer himself before chucking to Electric Pokémon into the ground. It landed with a huge crash and cloud of dust.

Paul covered his eyes from the dust and ordered his Pokémon get up immediately.

Bulbasaur panted lightly as he stood in front of his Trainer, confident his attack did the job. When the dust settled, his eyes went wide as he saw the heavily injured Pokémon was still up. A growl grew in his chest as Elekid returned his glare.

"You have yourself a fighter," Ash said to Paul, who ignored him.

"Elekid, Quick Attack, then Swift!" he shouted, already angered Elekid hadn't dodged Bulbasaur's attacks like he ordered.

Ash sensed the newly-formed anger. "Dodge and use Vine Whip to get rid of the Swift stars," he said, remembering how Holly's Farfetch'd used Night Slash to cancel the never-miss attack; it'd be hitting something, just not the exact target.

Elekid turned into nothing but a yellow and white blur before slamming into Bulbasaur. Ash gasped and looked up to the sky. The Sunny Day was fading as the clouds gathered around. Bulbasaur's Chlorophyll ability was no longer active. Elekid threw Bulbasaur back before waving an arm around to release a series of stars and sent them at the down Pokémon. They hit with a small explosion. Bulbasaur forced himself up.

"Your Pokémon don't know when to give up, do they?!" Paul shouted. "Finish it with a Thunder attack, Elekid! Now!"

Before Ash could spit out an order to dodge, Elekid began to glow at the plug prongs before sparking. He released those sparks in a massive beam of electricity, hitting the slowed Bulbasaur head-on. Bulbasaur cried out as the stream of lightning refused to end.

Ash clenched his fists. "Stop this now!"

Paul smirked. "Crank it up a notch, Elekid."

Elekid obeyed by spinning his arms sporadically to generate further electricity. With the added lightning, Bulbasaur's eyes went wide and his cries ceased.

Ash had to end it. Bulbasaur may not like being recalled, but Ash couldn't let his friend get hurt anymore; they both needed to learn the latter's limit. "Bulbasaur, return!" Ash held out the Quick Ball and in a beam of blue, Bulbasaur was out of Elekid's Thunder attack. Only a large crater remained where Bulbasaur once stood.

Paul's smirk fell. Why can't I knock out a single one of his Pokémon?! he asked himself.

Ash gulped, worried about Krabby now. Krabby had no chance against that Thunder attack and wasn't nearly fast enough to dodge any of Elekid's attacks. Ash would have to make due with the moves Krabby had and hope Elekid couldn't take much more.

Ash looked down to see an eager Krabby ready to battle. "You're finally up, buddy. Wow the crowd. At least what rem—What?!" Ash looked up to see a lot more people standing in the audience watching than before. "When did that happen?" He shook his head to clear it. "Well, the pressure's on, Krabby. I hope you can handle it."

Krabby clanked his pincers together to make a knife gliding sound before he took to the battlefront.

Paul's eye twitched at the sight of the puny Pokémon. Elekid waved at the deadly serious River Crab Pokémon in front of him. "You can't be serious. I thought you would send out your Pikachu!" Paul said.

Ash tilted his head back and looked at his Electric-type friend. He shook his head. "Nah. Pikachu has a Gym Battle to attend to later. Krabby'll win this."

Yet another eye twitch. Then Paul let out a small laugh. "Against Surge? He has a Raichu. You honestly think your Pikachu can defeat a Raichu?"

Ash's expression turned dark. "No. I don't think he can. I know Pikachu can handle that Raichu easily enough with the right training . . . Which he's been doing since the crack of dawn. Besides, if Bulbasaur can defeat your Ivysaur, why can't Pikachu do the same toward his evolved form?"

"Pika-Pikachu!" Pikachu agreed.

Paul scoffed. "Whatever. Elekid, start and end this with a Thunder Punch!"

"I don't think so! Krabby, hide with Bubble Beam!" Ash ordered.

Krabby opened his mouth and fired a mass of bubbles to hide. He began going to where he needed at Elekid powered up a Thunder Punch. After that intense Thunder attack, he needed to generate some more electricity. It didn't stop the intensity of the electricity on his arm. He charged into the storm of bubbles, popping them with his current. Once he popped all the bubbles, he looked around, confused. Krabby was nowhere in sight.

"It's underground!" Paul shouted.

Before Elekid could attempt to dodge, Ash called: "Vice Grip!"

Krabby pushed his pincers through the soft ground — thank you, Elekid, for all the bubble popping! — and clamped down on either of Elekid's ankles. With enough force, Krabby pulled Elekid underground with him until he was up to his eyes in muddy earth.

"Elekid!" Paul shouted.

"Nice job, Krabby!" Ash said. "Now, come back up and finish it off with a Double-Edge attack!"

Krabby slowly dug himself up from the earth and shots at the Elekid at a speed Ash didn't know he could go. A white line blurred behind him and he crashed into Elekid with his glowing white pincer.

"Elekid, get up now!" Paul shouted again, but it was no use.

"Elekid is unable to battle!" the ref announced. "Krabby is the winner, making his Trainer Ash Ketchum the victor of this competition!"

"Yes! You did awesome, Krabby!" Ash said. He ran out to hug his Pokémon. "Ow! Krabby, let go of me!" Krabby had hold of Ash's arm, apparently not all that fond of hugs.

Paul recalled his Elekid in anger. "You couldn't even beat a runt of a Krabby. What good are you?"

Ash looked up from his celebrating. "Krabby's just as good as any other of his kind, if not better! Just because he's a little shrimpy doesn't make him any less awesome at battling. Ow! Krabby, I was sticking up for you!" Krabby caught hold of his ankle this time; he had a no bull'-attitude.

Paul scoffed. "Well, it proved itself against a low life Elekid trained by me, who couldn't knock out a single one of your Pokémon, so it must be worth something," he said with a shrug.

"What are you talking about? You took out Pidgeotto and Bulbasaur!"

"No. You took Pidgeotto and Bulbasaur out of the battle. Neither even fainted," Paul corrected.

Ash frowned. "Well, if I can prevent my friends from fainting, I will."


"Yeah. My Pokémon are my friends."

"So low that you can't make friends with real people?" Paul taunted.

Before Ash could respond, Misty stepped up from the crowd — when did she start watching — and jabbed a finger at Paul. "Just because he makes friends with his Pokémon doesn't mean he has no human friends! It just means he has a heart, which you apparently lack! I'll have you know that Ash Ketchum has many friends, two of which are Gym Leaders who you couldn't defeat! Guess what, though? Ash did defeat them, fair and square!"

Paul looked taken aback by the Psyduck on the girl's head. Then he glanced the crowd, where Brock was practically drooling over Holly. And finally, he remembered that Growlithe girl. Paul scoffed. "Maybe you'd be better just sticking to befriending your Pokémon," he said before walking away.

Misty didn't get the chance to tell Paul off again before Ash put a hand on her shoulder.

"Thanks, Mist," he said.

Misty's expression softened. "No problem, Ash. I wasn't here to watch the entire battle, but the way I saw him yelling at his own Pokémon . . . It rubbed me the wrong way."

"Yeah. He's a character you don't want to casually meet."

The two Mouse Pokémon clashed for a final time, sending up a massive cloud of smoke and dust. Even the ref had to put up and hand to shield himself. When the dust settled, both Pokémon were down, eyes shut, and chests heaving.

"Both Pokémon are *cough* unable to battle! Since the Gym Leader *cough, cough* has no more remaining Pokémon, Gabby is the winner!" The referee continued coughing as the remaining dust caught in his lungs.

"Take it easy," Lt. Surge told the ref. He went up and picked up his Raichu instead of recalling her like he did with the others.

Gabby ran up to Raticate. "You did great, Raticate! Take a rest, and I'll get you to the Pokémon Center as soon as possible." Raticate disappeared into his Poké Ball. Gabby stood and stared up at Lt. Surge, then at Raichu. "Ash's battle will be delayed," she said.

Lt. Surge chuckled as he stroked Raichu's belly. "Yeah. Can't have her fighting when she's so injured, and she's my only Raichu, so I can't just use another one." He straightened himself. "Anyway. I do believe I owe you a Thunder Badge for defeating me."

Gabby's eyes lit up as Surge reached into his pocket. When he held out his palm, a yellowish, orange sun-shaped badge glimmered in the sunbeams coming through the shattered windows. Gabby took the badge in her hand and knelt down to Spitfire's level. "Look at what we got, Spitfire! We got the Thunder Badge!"

Spitfire barked and twirled around in excitement.

Ash didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that his battle was postponed.

"Now you know how I felt back in Pewter City," Gabby said. "Too bad Raichu can't come back further evolved."

Misty laughed. "That would be a treat."

Ash laughed as well, more nervous than anything. "Well, it gives Pikachu and I a chance to practice our new move a little more. Can't wait to show it off tomorrow, can you buddy?"

"Pika-pika!" He gave a thumbs up.

Vermilion City Gym had a strange battling system. Lt. Surge would first use three of his many Electric-type Pokémon to battle, but since he was a powerful Pokémon Trainer, he would often defeat his opponent. Because of this, Surge wanted to keep rematches short so he could take on as many new Trainers as possible, so he made it to where his opponents only had to defeat the Pokémon they couldn't in their previous battle. Since most could often defeat his first used Pokémon — Magneton or Electrode — those rematches often ending up being a two-on-two match. Ash was a rare one, who actually managed to defeat two of Lt. Surge's three Pokémon. A great accomplishment indeed. Of course, Lt. Surge wouldn't go any easier on a rematch. If anything, he went twice as hard on opponents since they had extra time to train. Often times, opponents would come back with their Pokémon newly evolved.

But not Ash.

Ash woke up at the crack of dawn, dragged a tired and stubborn Pikachu out of bed, and began training. A dim glow grew in the city of town, and as practice went out, it brightened until the loud cry of Pikachu could be heard. A massive burst of lightning shot up to the sky, cutting the early morning clouds in half.

Lt. Surge was already up and awake, pampering his quickly healing Raichu when he could sight of the massive Thunderbolt attack cutting through the sky. He chuckled. "You got your work cut out for yourself, Raichu. You sure you can handle it, girl?"

"Raichu!" she said, clenching a fist of determination.

Lt. Surge chuckled again and laid a hand on Raichu's head. "That's what I like to hear. A few more berries, a good breakfast, and a charge of electricity and you should be fighting fit, as Joy says."

The glowing faded as the sun rose high into the sky. People began to wander around the city. Today was the day that the S.S. Anne took off, meaning this was Ash last chance to defeat Lt. Surge. Of course, he could come back later, but he'd rather not backtrack too much. Heading back home, yeah. He'd backtrack then, but aside from that, there was no real point. So Ash wanted to get the battle with Lt. Surge's Raichu done before the S.S. Anne took off. He won those tickets for a reason, after all. He'd be joining his friend of the massive cruise ship!

Ash came up to the Gym, and Pikachu jumped up on his shoulder. There was no longer a worry of heading to a Gym alone. Instead, there was the excitement that Ash would be having a good battle and would win his third Badge. Fair and square, mind you.

Ash entered the Gym, where Lt. Surge and Raichu were already waiting, cocky grins spread across their faces and arms crossed. Raichu tilted her chin up to acknowledge Pikachu, who hesitantly nodded.

"Finally decided to come by, kid? Heh. Let's see if that intense training with your baby Pikachu was worthwhile," Lt. Surge.

Pikachu lowered his ears to his skull and jumped off Ash's shoulder. He faced off against Raichu, who looked as chill as could be. "Pika-pi-pikachu!"

Raichu shrugged. Just because Lt. Surge showed respect toward Ash didn't mean he viewed Pikachu as any less of a baby.

"We'll see just how much of baby Pikachu is by the end of this," Ash said.

"I suppose we will," Lt. Surge tested. "All right, Raichu! Thunderbolt!"

Ash let a smirk cross his lips. "Going for the big moves straight off the bat, huh? We are prepared for that. Pikachu, Lightning Rod!"

Lt. Surge's eyes lit in interest. The runt clearly didn't have the ability Lightning Rod naturally, so he was excited to see just how the kid taught his Pikachu to use it.

Both Pokémon's cheeks began to spark. Raichu's grew quickly, while Pikachu's remained condensed and near him. The sparks crawled up and down his entire body. His fur stood with the current and the moment the sparks touched his tail, Pikachu cried out his name as his electricity grew higher and higher.

"Rai-CHU!" Raichu released her heavily condensed stream of lightning just then, striking Pikachu was such an intensity that it threw him back. However, when he stood up, he began glowing a brilliant gold as his own electricity consumed his fur. Raichu stared in shock. Pikachu just absorbed that Thunderbolt.

Ash grinned. "Okay, Pikachu. It's time to show these two a little something, wouldn't you say?"


"Alright . . . Quick Attack! Follow up with a Headbutt!" Ash instructed.

"Don't think you'll get that far, kid. Raichu, use Agility and Mega Punch!" Lt. Surge demanded.

Both Pokémon charged in white and yellow blurs at one another. As they neared, Raichu balled her hand into a glowing white fist. She reeled back but before she could strike, Pikachu crashed into her. She stumbled back just slightly before gaining composer. She gritted her fangs before charging once more, this time with a Mega Kick under Lt. Surge's demand. Pikachu raced at her, head bowed and ready to collide. By the time he noticed her foot glowing, it was too late to swerve out of her way. Raichu kicked Pikachu, sending him into the air.

Ash knew what Lt. Surge was going for. He couldn't let the move finish. "Pikachu! Straighten yourself out and go for another Quick Attack!"

Pikachu opened his eyes, a pain growing in his jaw from the Mega Kick's impact. He heard Lt. Surge demand Raichu to send him higher with several more Mega Kicks. That snapped him out of his pained daze. He twisted midair to avoid Raichu's attacks and knocked her out of the air with his Quick Attack.

They both landed, Pikachu a bit more gracefully than Raichu, who stumbled back panting heavily. She clearly wasn't used to an unevolved Pokémon putting up such a fight. Or perhaps she just wasn't used to not using her Electric-type moves. Either way, Pikachu had the upper hand in this battle with the immunity, speed, and building stamina Raichu just couldn't seem to match this time around.

Little did Ash know, Lt. Surge was far from done.

"Raichu, use Iron Tail!"

"Use Agility to dodge, Pikachu!" Ash called out.

Pikachu did so, and Raichu's tail crashed into the ground with enough force to shatter it. This continued for several minutes. Lt. Surge would spit out several attacks, Raichu would do them, and Pikachu would dodge with Agility. The smaller Pokémon was far more agile and light on his feet when using Agility, whereas Raichu would kick up dirt with her Agility.

Raichu finally stopped her barrage of attacks and looked back at Surge. They nodded at each other.

"All right, Raichu . . . Desperate times call for desperate measures. Attract!"

"Wha . . ?!"

In a flurry of pink love hearts, Raichu winked Pikachu's way, making the pre-evolved Pokémon go lightheaded. Pikachu's legs wobbled, struggling to hold him up.

"Pikachu!" Ash shouted. "Don't fall in love with that old Raichu! She's as old as Lt. Surge is!"

Raichu stopped her Attract right then and narrowed her eyes dangerously as Ash. Surge silently laughed. "Boy, you just made a big mistake. Three key things to never talk ill 'bout a lady — her age, her weight, or her emotional mood swings. Take it from me, kid."

"Quick Attack out of your daze, Pikachu," Ash said, ignoring Lt. Surge's advice.

Just then, Pikachu seemed well enough to attack, striking Raichu with his Quick Attack.

"Awesome! Now use Headbutt and finish things off with your most powerful Thunderbolt!"

Pikachu's heart-shaped eyes seemed to take control, allowing Raichu to Mega Punch him in the gut. That seemed to snap him out of his infatuation. "Pika-CHU!" A wild light show lit the stadium and several cries rang out as the electricity struck them. Pikachu only stopped when he noticed Ash was one of those screaming from the attack. When he did stop, everyone fell into a heap of themselves.

The ref forced himself up. "Raichu is unable to battle," he said, hair burnt and hands fried. "Pikachu wins, making Ash Ketchum from Pallet Town the winner." If he weren't so cooked from that Thunderbolt attack, he might have shown more enthusiasm, but it wasn't like Ash was up to hear it.

When Ash pushed himself up, his ears were ringing, but upon seeing Raichu fainted, he tried congratulating Pikachu. Only to fall back down.

"That was one heck of a Thunderbolt," Lt. Surge said after thirty minutes of no response. "As proof of your victory, I present you with the Thunder Badge. You've earned it."

"Thanks," Ash said as he took the beauty of a badge. He was still twitching from the attack but would be fine. "Look at what we got, Pikachu? It's all thanks to you and our teammates."

Pikachu sniffed the badge, refusing to meet the sleepy eyes of Raichu, before cheering himself on: "Pika-pika!"

Next stop, the S.S. Anne.

Episode Fourteen: Onto the S.S. Anne

Gabby, Misty, and Brock watched in awe as the S.S. Anne pulled into the harbor. It was absolutely ginormous! It could probably hold several Gyarados on the decks alone comfortably. How the ship kept afloat was anybody's guess. According to their ticket, Gabby and Misty would be on the third lowest floor, meaning they'd be in pretty deep and likely the last ones to reach the top deck. Whereas Brock and Ash got a top floor near the central party area, clearly less high-class. Whoever Bill truly was to the world of Pokémon, he must have been pretty high up there to get such a wonderful room. Gabby simply couldn't help but wonder who Bill was.

In a warehouse far off the mainland, four Team Rocket members sporting their classic black uniforms with the red 'R' printed across the chest awaited word from their boss man. They ignored each other, even those who made up each others' duos. Each wore a sharp, yet eager expression as their eyes occasionally trained onto the foggy computer screen in the center of the warehouse. If their eyes so happened to meet, they would immediately dart back to the opposite side of the room.

Even the Meowth and Raticate ignored each other despite their undying hatred for one another. If one were to be pinned against the other, odds would go to Jessie and James' dear Meowth due to him being the superior animal, but those odds disappeared when taking into account the size and sheer power Butch and Cassidy's pest of a Raticate had.

This warehouse they had was one of the many Team Rocket funded through their many generations of operation. This one was older than most in the neighboring cities and towns since the boss man once did personal business in Vermilion City with the Gym Leader there. Hence why the computer was so poorly kept. However, every year around this same time, the boss man sent several of his henchmen to this exact spot to stake out the S.S. Anne. Hundreds of skilled and honored Trainers boarded the ship, after all. It was a goldmine for those needing to smuggle Pokémon in and out of regions.

The four Rockets snapped to attention the moment the computer screen zapped on. It was fuzzy for a moment before showing a man shrouded in shadows. He sat at his desk, inclined in his chair, one arm folded over his lap while the other rested on his beloved red-eyed Persian that would never be caught anywhere else but by his side. Meowth couldn't help but envy the affection the boss man showed to the larger, far more elegant cat Pokémon. Of course, Meowth would never admit Persian was those things.

"Report," he said immediately. His voice was demanding and sounded intimidating for the typical civilian, but truthfully, it was about as harsh as a Trainer would order around their own Pokémon.

Jessie was the first to respond, voice unusually professorial with zero taunt or doubt: "There has been no sight of the subject, William Payne, since arriving. Patrol will continue in and out of the S.S. Anne until we find him."

"Hmm," the boss man pondered. "Is it possible he didn't turn up?"

"Unlikely," Butch said this time. "We delivered his S.S. Anne ticket personally and informed him of our intents. William is far too kind of a soul to not turn up, sir Giovanni."

The man, now known a Giovanni, gave a dark chuckle. "Yes, he has been known to be softer than others . . . If you haven't spotted him before the ship boards, use the false tickets I sent to get in. Those fools on the ship won't be able to tell the difference. Once you get on, head to the room listed on the ticket. If he's not there, then we all know who's losing their position as a top agent."

"Yes, sir!" the group chorused.

"Good. I expect another report by midnight on the dot," Giovanni finished as the computer screen flashed off again.

The tense individuals sighed. They hadn't screwed up yet. They glared at each other. "Stay out of our way," Jessie warned.

"We could say the same to you three," Cassidy retorted.

"But you didn't, so we win this word war," James finished, done with the ladies' little feud with one another. "I hope you retrieved all your Pokémon from the boss earlier because this won't be an easy arrest. This mission of ours will change the world, for better or for worse, for Team Rocket or for everyone else. The boss needs it done, so we will do just that."

The others turned serious and gave one curt nod. Sometimes members needed to put aside their hate for society and shift their attention toward the greater good for the world and do what was best for everyone. Whether it was what they wanted or not. The man who saved them from the world they existed within's demand came before their personal grudge with the world.

"What did I miss?!" Ash said frantically as he ran up to his friends.

"Nothing much," Gabby said with a yawn. "Just the S.S. Anne coming into port and an annoyingly long wait to board. I think they're about to start letting us board since no one can seem to stand still."

Ash sighed, until he saw the massive crowd in front of him. "What?! Why didn't you guys get a spot in front?" he asked.

A shrug. "You have yours and Brock's ticket. If you weren't here before we started boarding, what were we to do?"

"B-But, the crowd is huge!"

"Chill, Ashy-boy. Most of these people are just seeing off their family and friends," a familiar and very annoying voice cut through the crowd. Both Gabby and Ash turned with a grimace. "Ah, come on, guys. Don't give me that look! Just because you two are lesser Trainer than me doesn't mean your envy has to turn into anger."

Gabby clenched her fists in the anger Gary spoke incorrectly of. "I'm about to beat the ever-loving"— the loud S.S. Anne horn went off at the moment, but the shock in the group's expressions didn't go unnoticed —"out of you!" she finished.

Spitfire's eyes were wide, and Pikachu covered his ears.

Gary's expression went from pure shock to one of amusement. "I'd like to see you try!"

"I wouldn't," Ash said.

Brock seemed to be the only not as affected by the harsh words said. "Come on, guys. The ship is boarding. Let's get in, find our rooms, get settled in, and join the party."

"Hell yes!" Gabby cheered.

Misty made a face. "Dirty mouth."

There was no order when boarding the ship. As it turned out, they were some of the very first ones aboard to the ship due to their rushing to the front. Once at the checkpoint to enter, a friendly young man greeted them and asked to see their tickets. Gabby did so first, saying Misty was her guest. Next was Ash, who pointed at Brock. Last was Gary, who "wasn't into the whole guest ordeal" apparently.

"If you don't have any friends to bring along, you can just say that," Misty said.

Gary scoffed. "Please. You don't need friends when you have Pokémon who guarantee you victory." He flashed a badge case that had five badges already in it. The only two Ash recognized were the Boulder Badge and the Cascade Badge.

"No Thunder Badge?" Ash asked.

"Nah. Surge's Raichu is insane with its attacks."

Pikachu covered his eyes, not wanting to remember her.

Ash, on the other hand, smirked. "So you couldn't defeat him? Well, guess what? I did!" Ash flashed his three badges, the Thunder Badge being his most recent addition.

Instead of being impressed, like Ash thought he'd be, Gary snickered.

"What's so funny?!"

"Three badges? That's it? You haven't even gotten the Marsh Badge. Didn't you go through Saffron City to get to Vermilion City?" Gary questioned.

"Well . . . No. Saffron City's Gym Leader isn't intended for newer Trainers to take on," Ash said honestly. That was all he knew of the gym.

"Doubting yourself, Ashy-boy? I guess I'd do that too if I were you, so you're not alone," Gary taunted.

Ash gritted his teeth in annoyance and anger. "I'm not doubting myself. In fact, the moment I get off this ship, I'm heading straight to Saffron City to take on the Gym Leader!"

Gary laughed upon seeing Ash's friends' faces of horror. "You do that, Ashy-boy! Just make sure you bring a biter. Otherwise, you might turn up brainwashed."


"Well, smell ya later."

"Ash, please tell me you do not intend on going to Saffron City after this!" Misty shouted as she hovered over him, no mercy shining in her eyes.

"Well, sure. Why not?" he asked, honestly confused as to what was going on.

"Oh, great," Misty said, looking defeated now. "She knows now. Ash, you had better bring your A-game in Saffron, or else!"

"Or else what?! You guys are confusing me!" he shouted.

"Can we get going to our rooms?" Gabby interrupted. Did those two have to argue every time they were together? "There's a party happening this evening. Pokémon battles and free food included."

Ash grinned immediately. "Awesome! Food and Pokémon are my two favorite things!"

Misty and Gabby went down several flights of stairs before they made it to their floor. Once they were down there, they found an elevator, much to their relief. The two walked amongst the most wealthy Trainers known in Kanto. Gabby recognized a few but didn't bother turning her attention to them to avoid awkward stares. The scent of freshly cut leather and Pokémon skin was also present for some ungodly reason. What Trainer wore their best friends as a fashion accessory?!

When they made it to their room — the very last one in the hall — they stuck in the ticket to unlock the door before entering. The tiled floor ended and hardwood floors began. A rich red oak covered half the room, while the other half was a plush, cherry red carpet that was an inch thick. The walls were a pale beige and had a few pieces of art bolted to them. The ceilings were unbelievably high.

Two large queen sized beds sat on either side of the room, and, as if they knew Misty would be staying in this exact room, there was a huge aquarium for her Water-types. It wasn't big enough for large sea-monster-sized Water-types, but it would work for what Misty had. There were also several plush beds on the floor for Pokémon who couldn't rest in water to sleep comfortably if their owner decided to not let their Pokémon sleep in their expensive beds.

Spitfire barked loudly as he claimed Gabby's side of the room being opposite of the aquarium's side. He bounced on the bed, immediately rolling around on it, covering it in his scent so Gabby wouldn't smell of anything but him.

"Wow," Misty said as she sat on her bed. "This is like heaven fit into just one room."

Gabby took a spot by her playful little Spitfire and understood immediately what Misty was talking about. It was hard not to shut her eyes and doze off.

Spitfire perked up and jumped off the bed, having a hard time not getting his claws tangled in the thickness of the carpet. He jumped onto Misty's bed instead. Misty looked at him strangely at first, but quickly jumped back when he stuck his nose into her bag.

"Spitfire! What are you doing?!" Misty shouted.

Gabby jumped up, looking half asleep already. "What?! What happened?!"

Misty yanked her backpack away, but out tumbled a very confused Psyduck with an equally confused Spitfire.

"Psyduck! I left you with Nurse Joy. How on earth did you follow me here?" Misty asked as she lifted Psyduck up.

"Psy?" He tilted his head.

A tick mark grew on her brow. "Psyduck, if you really want to be captured, you should follow someone who actually wants you, don't you think? I have plenty of awesome Water-types, and I'm sure you're just as great, but I'm not the Trainer for you, okay?"

"Psy?" Another tilt of the head.

"Of course I think you're an awesome Pokémon! If you weren't you wouldn't have lived through that girl's abuse, but that doesn't change that you'd be better off with someone who has the time and patience to train you. Say! Why don't you go with Gabby? She'd be a good—"

Psyduck cut her off by forcing himself closer into her arms, hugging her as best his wings could allow.

"Psyduck! Did you not just hear me?!"

Psyduck began to blubber into her shirt.

Tears began to fill Spitfire's eyes as he listened to the weeping Psyduck pour out his heart to Misty. Spitfire began joining in with the tearful cry.

"Misty, I think—" Gabby started, but Misty cut off when she raised her hand.

"I know," Misty said. She reached into her bag and pulled out a free Poké Ball. Psyduck stopped his cry of distress, but his light whimpering failed to cease. "What do you say, Psyduck? You want me to catch you?"

Psyduck blinked several times and tilted his head. He waddled from her lap and tapped the Poké Ball with his bill, allowing himself to be caught in a beam of light.

Spitfire celebrated by howling and jumping around. Gabby only smiled when she saw Misty hold Psyduck's Poké Ball close to her chest protectively.

The deck was absolutely full of Pokémon Trainers with their Pokémon by side. Gabby and Ash were no exceptions.

"I can't wait for the match tonight!" Ash said.

"Me neither," Gabby said, sounding more awkward than excited. It was the first time she and Ash had been alone since heading to Surge's gym, and they weren't on the best of terms currently. "But remember, there are some skilled Trainers on this ship. Trainers who could train a Rattata to defeat a Charizard."


Gabby nodded.

"That's awesome! If we see some, maybe we could ask for some advice," Ash said. "Say, is there a pool around here for training? Squirtle hasn't been out of his Poké Ball since before we left for Vermilion."

"So you got yourself a Squirtle, Ashy-boy?"

Ash turned around to glare as Gary. "Are you following us?"

"I was about to ask you the same thing," Gary said. "No need to be ashamed, Ashy-boy. It's only natural that lessers such as Gabby and yourself would trail behind a superior for guidance."

"You're calling us lesser and yet you haven't won the Thunder Badge or even challenged the Saffron City Gym Leader yet! Yeah, I know you didn't. Brock told me that you didn't have the Saffron City Gym Badge."

Gary shrugged. "Never said I did. Not that getting the ones I have now were any less of a challenge. I just don't feel that I need to take on the gym to prove my skills."

"What skills?" Ash taunted.

Gary, instead of feeling intimidated, smirked. "Oh, I'll show you skills! Squirtle, come on out!"

His Squirtle was a bit larger than it was the last time they saw each other, clearly nearing its second evolution stage. It was larger than Ash's just from looking at it. But, at the same time, it was younger, so it didn't have the same battling experience as Squirtle. It wasn't likely that many Pokémon went through the hell Ash's Squirtle was forced through.

"Fine," Ash said. "But I have to warn you. Squirtle is very—"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Got it. It's a fighter, super strong, will defeat my Squirtle. I've heard all the speeches there are, Ashy-boy. No need to enlighten me."

Gary wasn't getting it, so Ash would have to show him. "Squirtle, show these two just what you've been through."

Gabby's breath hitched and she had to turn away. She couldn't look at those horrible scars left on Squirtle by that horrible past Trainer of his. It was just too much to look at and it made her sick to the stomach to think someone could be so cruel as to treat the ones who trust them so much in such nasty ways.

Both Gary and his Squirtle went wide-eyed when the prepared Squirtle took stance. Its shell was covered in chips. When Gary reached out to touch the gone shell, Squirtle slapped his hand away.

"He doesn't like being touched by strangers," Ash noted.

"I can see that now," Gary said. "What . . . What happened to him?"

"It's a long story."

"I suppose it would be. Unfortunately, we don't have time. We got a battle to get through!" Gary said, throwing out a fist of determination. Several girls around them giggled at the odd act. Not even Ash saw him this excited to battle before. Gary cleared his throat and straightened up. "Anyway, let's head to the pool, where our Squirtle can better battle. Your Squirtle will need all the advantages it can get, after all."

"Okay, but Gary, where are your cheerleaders?" Ash asked.

"Couldn't get any more tickets, so I left them a crying heap at the docks."

"Ah. Okay." It was for the better anyway. Ash would rather not hear a bunch of girls cheer against him.

Gabby only stared awkwardly. They went on about how Gary had cheerleaders, but she'd never seen them before. She mentally shrugged and followed the boys to the largest pool on the ship. It was clearly not made for humans to sit around in. No. That pool was made for serious Pokémon battles only.

Ash's Squirtle took his spot on the closest side of the pool and crossed his arms seriously. Gary and his Squirtle went to the other side, arms also crossed, but cocky grins covering their expressions.

Gabby sat a good distance away and pulled out her Igglybuff egg. Spitfire curled up around the egg to keep in warm since the air out was a bit chilly. Gabby smiled, petting Spitfire's head before turning her attention back to the pending battle.

The two Squirtle glared at each other for several seconds before their Trainers demanded they use Water Gun simultaneously. They blurred from their spots before sending a thick jet of water each other's way. Ash's Squirtle's easily overpowered the others, sending the unprepared Squirtle flying backward. It hit the side of the pool and sunk into the water below. Gary looked shocked for a moment before ordering Squirtle to get up and use Bubble Beam. His Squirtle came up and fired out a series of bubbles as a smokescreen.

"Rapid Spin through the bubbles and follow it up with a powerful Headbutt," Ash said.

Squirtle went into his shell and began to spin through the bubble storm. He dove into the water and popped out of his shell, his head glowing just slightly.

"Squirtle, use Withdraw!" Gary shouted from above.

His Squirtle did as told, but Ash's Squirtle knew more than the Trainers did. He'd used Withdraw a number of times before to attempt escape from attacks from his previous teammates. He knew Withdraw was merely to protect the limps of a Pokémon, not its full self. He also knew the most sensitive spot of a Squirtle was its stomach. As much as he didn't want to, he charged straight into the other Squirtle at full speed, ramming his head in its covered gut, forcing it out of its Withdraw state.

Both Squirtle floated back up to the surface, Gary's barely remaining conscious from the massive impact.

"Awesome job, Squirtle!" Ash cheered. "Now, finish this with Aqua Jet!"

Squirtle wrapped the water around himself before launching at the other Squirtle at such a great speed. All eyes went wide when the nearly down Squirtle lifted two arms to stop the Aqua Jet in its tracks. Gary's Squirtle growled as it began to glow a brilliant white. He grew to nearly double Ash's Squirtle's size. His tail and ears grew with fur, so unlike most Water-types. When the glow ended, it revealed Gary's Squirtle had evolved into Wartortle.

The cocky Trainer smirked. "Water Gun," was all he said.

Wartortle proved to be faster as he sent a single stream of water out before Squirtle could react, sending the water flying back into the pool.

"Squirtle, are you okay?" Ash asked as his first Water-type surfaced again. Squirtle gave a thumbs up as he glared Wartortle's way. "It's okay, buddy. We'll beat him, for sure."

"I wouldn't be so sure, Ashy-boy," Gary said. "Just because your Bulbasaur and Pikachu can defeat their evolved forms doesn't mean your tiny Squirtle can defeat its own."

Squirtle's eyes went dangerously narrow as he took into consideration what his friends could do. True friends and teammates were powerful enough to do it, and so would he!

"How did you know?" Ash asked.

"I know you, Ashy-boy After I saw you battle that guy's Ivysaur with your Bulbasaur, I knew you would take on Lt. Surge's Raichu with you silly Pikachu," Gary said. "Just because you got off lucky doesn't mean this battle will be the same. Wartortle, let that Squirtle have it with an Ice Beam!"

"War-tortle!" it cried out as a bud of light formed in its mouth. Several light blue beams burst from the ball of light in an almost electric current state. As it neared Squirtle, Ash called for the former to use Withdraw and Rapid Spin the Ice Beam away as best he could. Squirtle did so, making sure his stomach wasn't hit in the meantime. He spun straight through the unbalanced Ice Beams. Clearly Gary hadn't trained with that move much because it was easily avoided. Before Squirtle could strike, Gary ordered Wartortle use Bubble Beam. Another storm of bubbles filled the pool area, allowing Wartortle to make an easy escape into the deep end of the pool.

Ash noticed the larger Turtle Pokémon swimming behind Squirtle. "Squirtle, watch out! It's behind—"

No sooner did those words leave his mouth, Wartortle burst out of the water and send a surprising barrage of attacks. Water Gun, Ice Beam, and Bubble Beam attacks overwhelmed Squirtle, who didn't even get the chance to use Withdraw throughout the entire rampage. Time and time again, Squirtle hit the side of the pool with such force, Ash feared Squirtle would end up with an unnecessary shell scar again. Wartortle's attacks were far, far stronger than the ones made before he evolved. The condensed water he spewed out seemed thrice as hard as before.

When Wartortle finally ended its little rampage of attacks, Gary looked at it in shock. Did he just . . . Did he just lose control of his own Pokémon? He mentally shook his head. No. Of course not. The barrage of attacks worked in his favor, so it was fine. Squirtle forced himself up to the surface, panting heavily, one eye snapped shut from the painful Water Gun attack previously sent his way.

"Squirtle, return!" Ash called.

Squirtle sent a sideways glare Ash's way, dodging the beam of pulling light with his Aqua Jet.

Gary laughed despite himself. "You can't even tell when your Pokémon is done fighting or not! How pathetic of a Trainer can you be?!"

Another glare.

"Alright . . ." Ash said cautiously. "If you're sure you'll be fine Squirtle."

Squirtle's gaze trained back on Ash and softened. He offered a thumbs up.

Ash nodded and called out: "Aqua Jet into a Headbutt!"

"You think its speed is gonna help?! Wartortle, Tackle it down, then use Bite!" Gary ordered.

Again, Squirtle wrapped himself in water and launched forward, this time with the added glow of his head as he prepared a powerful Headbutt. As he neared, Wartortle braced himself before bounding forward in a sharp Tackle using his side, taking into consideration how much it hurt when he was struck in the stomach. Squirtle wasn't prepared for the sharp edge of Wartortle's shell to impact his skull. That didn't make it any less painless for Wartortle. They both crash-landed in the pool with a massive splash; Gabby had to shield her Igglybuff egg and people around were beginning to pay more attention to the intense rival battle.

From underwater, the two natural born swimmers continued their feud as Wartortle dug his tiny fangs into Squirtle's throat. The smaller Turtle Pokémon screamed, more so in anger than in pain. With stubby legs, he kicked Wartortle in the gut, sending him flying back out of the water. Squirtle again brought water around himself and launched out of the water to follow with another powerful Headbutt at the clueless Wartortle.

Neither had time to fight midair before they crash back into the pool, each hitting the stone bottom. When they both surfaced again, they were hunched over, exhausted and clearly hurting. Squirtle wouldn't give up despite the pain, so recalling him wasn't even in the question. Not to mention, Gary was less than eager to recall his hard-fighting Wartortle when he clearly appeared to have the edge over the battle at the moment.

"Water Gun!" the two Trainer shouted simultaneously.

Two rounds of Water Gun met in the middle and for a long while, remained as such. It was infuriating for both Pokémon — Wartortle hated that his pre-evolution had the same strength as him, while Squirtle hated that his power could be matched.

Ash gritted his teeth in frustration. If this kept up, neither would win, or the one least exhausted would win. He had a sneaking suspicion that Squirtle was the more exhausted one. He used the most moves and went through several of Wartortle's powerful attacks. Not to mention Wartortle had evolved halfway through the battle, gaining all its strength again after taking a few of Squirtle's hits. Then an idea struck Ash.

"Squirtle, control the water around, like you do with Aqua Jet, and amplify your Water Gun attack!" he explained.

Squirtle didn't turn around to acknowledge the demand, instead just doing it. Water rose around him, coiling tightly as it crept higher and higher until it reached his head. He threw his head back for a moment before throwing it forward and releasing the Aqua Jet with his most powerful Water Gun. The different waters clashed in an attempt to overpower one another before coming together as one to overpower the opponent's attempt to gain the upper hand.

Wartortle's side began to become less and less as Squirtle's Water Gun attack grew. When he attempted to up his power, Squirtle's Water Gun cut through the hitched attack, sending Wartortle flying backward. Wartortle impacted the side of the pool with a cloud of dust and sunk to the bottom. When he didn't come up for some time, Gary scoffed.

He pulled out Wartortle's Poké Ball and recalled his Starter. He pocketed him, then turned to Ash. "You got lucky, Ashy-boy. If it wasn't for your once in a lifetime genius thought, Wartortle would've easily taken your Squirtle down soon enough," he said, almost sounding confident in his words.

Ash only grinned and recalled Squirtle. He acknowledged his Pokémon: "You did great buddy. I'm proud of you." Then he shifted toward Gary. "That was a good battle. Your Wartortle has gotten a lot stronger."

"Or your Squirtle is just a lot weaker than your Pikachu," Gary said. "Don't think this battle is over. We still have a full party. At least, I'm assuming you have one. Who knows? You could only have a handful." He shrugged.

Ash clenched his fists. "I'll have you know, I have eight Pokémon in total, six of which are with me right now."

Gary chuckled. "Try having forty Pokémon in total."

"What?! How can you possibly use them all?"

Gary shrugged again. "What can I say? I get challenged a lot. So many people want a chance to defeat the best, but it just doesn't happen like that."

"Yeah. Because you're not the best," Ash retorted.

A tick mark appeared on Gary's forehead. "Neither are you."

"I never claimed I was."

"Let's just get this battle done!" Gary shouted, tired of Ash's snark. "A grass field would be better suited for the rest of my Pokémon."

Ash shrugged and followed. "Gabby, you coming?"

Gabby waved for him to go on without her. She was tending to the pink egg in her lap, her Pokémon surrounding where she sat.

Another shrug. Ash and Gary made their way up a deck, where a large grass field was. Several Bellsprout and Oddish cleared out upon seeing the Trainers take their spot on either side of the field. Gary's cocky smirk was back and he said: "You have first pick this time, Ashy-boy."

Ash grinned and threw out Charmander's Great Ball. His little Fire-type came out with a large flamed tail.

Gary eyes the Charmander and laughed. "You thought I'd pick a Grass-type because we're on a grass field, didn't you? Predictable, Ashy-boy. Spearow, take flight!"

The Tiny Bird Pokémon of Ash's nightmares did just that, powerful wings already whipping up a breeze. Charmander narrowed his eyes at the Flying-type, envious of its status as such. A growl rumbled as his claw grew several inches, glowing a brilliant white. Ash immediately recognized the move as Slash.

"Awesome, Charmander! You just learned Slash. Let that Spearow have it!" Ash called.

A flash of the Fire-type's fangs in a menacing grin, Charmander blurred forward and bound into the air. Spearow hardly had time to react before a stream of white beaming Slashes came his way. He backed away without a second to waste before countering with his Steel Wing attack. His feathers molded together and glimmered a dull silver — he clearly hadn't perfected the attack — and swung his wing to smack Charmander out of the sky. The tough Fire-type didn't so much as whine before twisting around to send a stream of Ember flames at the Spearow. Flames collided with the Steel-type wings Spearow mistakenly chose to make. The Flying-type screeched in pain as he flapped his wings in an attempt to calm the blaze.

Another fang flashed as Charmander landed gracefully on all four. His eyes darted when Ash called for him to use Slash now. A tiny nod and speed to impress even the greatest Charmander, and he was off. His claw glowed white and he hurled himself several meters into the air, natural desire to fly being his main motivation when doing so. Smoky dust settled at the back of his throat before he spat it out as a Smokescreen. The battleground was now blacked out.

Ash grinned. "Another move learned. You're going great Charmander!" he cheered. "Let him really have it now."

Gary, on the other hand, remained calm with that same smirk everyone knew and hated to love. "Air Cutter, Spearow."

"Don't let him Charmander! Cancel it with Slash," Ash said.

Within the Smokescreen, two pairs of eyes unknowingly glared into one another. White claws sliced through the screen. A glowing Air Cutter 'x' connected with Charmander's Slash, unusually hard. The glowing grown part of his claws shattered, and he went flying back into the ground, still making sure to keep his tail from hitting the grass. He grunted with impact.

"Charmander! Are you okay? Can you still battle?" Ash called out.

Charmander grumbled something as he forced himself up. The Air Cutter chopped cleanly through the remaining Smokescreen before beating down on poor Charmander, who cried out and whimpered in pain.

Dang it! Ash thought. Why is Spearow suddenly so strong? His Steel Wing did nothing before!

"It's called STAB," Gary said as if reading Ash mind. "Same-type attack bonus. Since Spearow is a Flying-type, it only makes sense that he'd have an affinity for Flying-type moves, like Air Cutter. When he's in his affinity, he can perform fluidly and without holding anything back. Now. Let's show them what you can so Spearow! Razor Wind!"

Spearow's wings began to glow, a lot brighter than before, and he began to rapidly flap them. Crescent-shaped energy struck the field hard, sending up small explosions.

"Charmander, dodge what you can and sent Ember Attacks at the ones you can't!" Ash ordered.

Charmander trained with Spitfire, so he knew how to be light on his feet, especially with a canine who could outspeed him any day of the week. As much as it made him look silly — it looked like a mix between a childish dance and skipping — it worked against Spitfire, who often expected straightforward moves. Despite Charmander not wanting to look silly, he did as he was told, knowing his victory depended on his dodging skills. In his mouth was a charging Ember attack.

The grass field erupted like a minefield with every new Razor Wind attack that hit. Charmander danced around the attacks, firing off flames as needed. As if the battle wasn't enough to draw in onlookers, the several explosions drew further attention from young a Trainer who looked on in awe. Charmander's little flame dance also had several under a trance.

That trance was cut short when Gary shouted: "Aerial Ace, Spearow!" He was clearly aggravated be Charmander's evasion skills.

Ash grinned, glad he could get Gary this up and arms over a little evasion. "Cross you Slash claws and power up a strong Ember attack to nullify and counter the Aerial Ace!" he called.

Gary scoffed. "Sorry, Ashy-boy, but Aerial Ace can't be stopped."

Ash's grin only grew. "I'm not trying to stop the attack."

White streaks of light followed Spearow as he swooped down from his high point. Charmander threw his arms wide and his claws grew once more before he crossed them to form an 'x'. Fire rumbled at the back of his throat. Spearow was mere inches away from making contact with the Slash when Ash shouted: "Fire!"

Charmander reeled his upper half back before launching the flicking flames of his throat out while simultaneously throwing out his 'x'-formed claws. Both attacks hit Spearow; since it was so near on an Aerial Ace attack, it couldn't pull up in time. A squawk of pain rang from the injured Pokémon as Charmander's attacks sent it back, successfully cutting off the attack.

Ash smiled, while Gary began to look aggravated again. This only sent a jolt of joy up Ash's spine; there was just something so satisfying about getting under Gary's skin, especially in battle.

"Get it together, Spearow! Rapid fire your Razor Wind again. Don't let up," Gary ordered.

After a moment to compose itself, Spearow began to flap his wings at the Fire-type below. Charmander growled in annoyance at the long-distance retreat. Of course a Flying-type would use its fail-safe strategy of just flying higher.

Spearow made another minefield of the battlefield with every Razor Wind attack Charmander avoided. It became a trend. Spearow could attack at such a speed that all Charmander could do was dodge. He had no chance to charge up an Ember attack, and he certainly couldn't reach Spearow for a Slash attack.

Ash knew it would come down to Charmander taking one misstep and getting hit to bend the battle if Charmander continued simply dodging. Thus, he came up with a solution just as fail-safe as Spearow staying out of direct range.

"Charmander, use your tail flame to create an Ember attack! Fire it off as you dodge!"

Spearow struck the Fire-type with a glowing crescent of air before Ash's plan could come to be. "Char!" he cried out as he hit the ground. He pushed himself back up.

"Keep it down with Aerial Ace!" Gary said. With a powerful launch, Spearow hit Charmander right back to the ground. "Great! Now finish it with Sky Attack."

Spearow shot up into the sky, well within the clouds before it began to glow a brilliant white. Its entire body began to change with evolution until it no longer resembled to once tiny Spearow. Once finished evolving, Fearow made a one-eighty and fell back down to earth. When a massive Spearow came down instead of a Spearow, Ash shouted for Charmander to get out of the way, but Gary told him it was too late. Fearow proved this with its new-found speed. However, it didn't know the limits of this new speed.

Fearow had no chance to slow before hitting Charmander, and by extension, the ground. His large beak rammed into Charmander's side and sent the poor Fire-type into a frenzy of pain before the rest of Fearow slammed against him, knocking him out of the battle, along with itself. Despite being newly evolved, the Fearow could not take its own speed into the ground like that and knocked itself out.

Gary recalled his fainted Fearow, satisfied with having knocked out Ash's Charmander while also gaining a newly evolved Pokémon.

Ash ran out. "Charmander! You okay, buddy?" he asked as he picked up the Fire-type. Charmander opened its eyes and just let out a puff of smoke before falling asleep in his Trainer's arms. Ash smiled and stroked Charmander on the back of the neck. "You did great, Charmander. You deserve a good rest," Ash said as he recalled his sleeping Pokémon.

The rivals met eyes.

"I think we're done here," Gary said.

"What?! But we still have four Pokémon each," Ash said, making Gary smirk; now he was the one being satisfied through Ash's desperation. "Come on, you don't think you can defeat me?"

"Oh, I know I can," Gary retorted. "I just don't want to waste my other Pokémon's energy on you is all."

After Ash's battle with Gary, several Trainers hounded the two for a battle. Most were kids with Raticate and pretty basic Pokémon that didn't offer much of a challenge. Brock and Misty naturally got several battle requests since they were Gym Leaders, while Gabby stayed content with her Igglybuff egg.

Everything was hectic in the dining hall by the time dinner was being served. The group had to split up. Brock and Ash ate in the lower class hall, while Gabby and Misty sat rather uncomfortably in the middle of a bunch of royalty. That was until dinner came to the table. It didn't rival Brock's cooking — nothing could — but it was as close as any chef was gonna get. They even brought lots of Pokémon food for Spitfire and Psyduck, who refused to stay in his Poké Ball for too long.

That was when Gabby saw them. Jessie and James. Spitfire noticed them next and began to growl. Misty looked up from her meal questioningly. Gabby simply tilted her chin in the direction of the two Rockets. Misty almost yelped at the sight before turning back to Gabby.

"What are they doing here?" she asked.

Gabby shrugged. "Don't know, but I'm sure it has something to do with all the Pokémon on the ship."

"They want them," Misty pondered for a moment. "What do we do? Ash and Brock are in the lower class hall."

"We don't need them. Our own Pokémon are plenty strong to take on theirs," Gabby said, having a hard time keeping her voice low as she riled herself up in excitement.

"Only you would be happy to battle them."

"A battle is a battle. Higher stakes means more experience."

Misty just shook her head, clenching Psyduck's Poké Ball, wondering how Gabby got to that conclusion.

A smirk crossed James' expression as he wandered from his partners to search elsewhere. They caught wind of the girl twerps and where there were those two, there were the boy twerps somewhere near as well. James left the dining hall and strolled casually, clad in his disguise past the hundreds of vendors selling Pokémon shirts, toys, collector Poké Balls, et cetera, et cetera. Pointless garbage if you asked James.

"Hey, boy. Look at this," a voice called.

James turned. "Are you addressing me?"

A dirty looking made with nasty stubble all over his face nodded and said: "I want you to have a look at this Pokémon."

One look into the tank and James made a face. Was this guy actually going to attempt to sell that thing? "Yes. It's a Magikarp. The most useless Pokémon in existence. Only learning Splash and a pathetic Tackle attack. They're extremely difficult to train and take forever to evolve. A Gyarados in itself would be easier to catch than raising one of these pathetic Pokémon!" James snapped. He knew this because the one they found in the Hidden Village was absolutely defenseless against them. Its pathetic Tackle didn't even faze Meowth and only made him angrier. However, they did get a new companion in Paras, which made up for the Eevee Jessie took for herself back at that Breeder's home.

The man looked stunned that someone had called him out on his scam. "Well then. If you don't have the patience to train a Magikarp, you won't be rewarded with an all-loyal Gyarados."

James scoffed. "Now you're going to attempt to make me feel bad? You have a real way manipulating people, don't you? Don't approach anyone about this again or I'll throw that good for nothing fish out as bait to reel in an actual Gyarados."

"It looks to me like you don't understand," the salesman said. "This Magikarp has been bred well and—"

"I want it!" Gabby shouted as she ran up to the tank glass.

James jumped back upon seeing her gawk at the Magikarp.

"It's so cute! How have I never seen these before? Are they common?" she asked.

The guy went from James to Gabby in about two seconds. "Magikarp in themselves are common, but Magikarp who went through such skilled breeding are quite rare."

Gabby nodded. "I can tell they were well bred. My father has bred a few Magikarp that can jump on top of a house."

"Yes! Much like this one. Why don't you tell it to jump into your arms and see just how good it is?"

"All right. Magikarp, I'm going to buy you and become your new Trainer and friend. What do you say you jump out and let me catch you?" Gabby said.

The Magikarp looked up to see Gabby's smile, and it knew she was being genuine, unlike the man selling him. Truthfully, Magikarp was simply reeled in and thrown into a puddle of itself before being found by the scammer who now had him in captivity. He didn't think he could jump out of the tank he was in, but when he did, he found himself in Gabby's arms. He didn't struggle as she captured him in an Ultra Ball she received after battling some strong Trainer. Tears filled the Magikarp's eyes as he got sucked into the ball.

Gabby paid for the Magikarp and turned around to see James was gone. "Which way did the guy go?" she asked.

The man pointed in the direction of the lower class hall. Gabby just nodded and went that way. Spitfire followed, nose high and alert.

The lower class dining hall as full, and unlike the upper class, everyone was socializing with other people as opposed to those in their circle. It was as neatly kept, and Gabby worried that Spitfire would get distracted by all the smell. Fortunately, he controlled himself and led Gabby to her concerned friends. Just by their expressions, Gabby could tell they noticed James.

"Have you seen any others?" Ash asked.

"Aside from Jessie and James, no, but they're likely disguised as regular trainers," Gabby said. "Misty's tailing Jessie and Meowth . . . If they try anything, her Psyduck can use its psychic powers to stop them."

"Good," Brock said. "You should go collect yours and Misty's Pokémon from your room."

After Gabby gained access to the elevator, she'd gone down before evening rolled around and put the Igglybuff egg in a case in the room so it wouldn't get cold.

She nodded and rushed with Spitfire by her side. Unbeknownst to her, several eyes followed her movements.

Gabby grew paranoid with every person she passed. For all she knew, they were Team Rocket members, but she did her best to not show her sneaking fear. Spitfire kept her calm by rubbing his cold nose against her ankle. A consistent rumbled came from deep in his chest, warning away other Pokémon from his mistress.

Her paranoia reached its peak when a stranger joined her in the elevator. Spitfire's growl grew. Team Rocket, Gabby knew.

The second the elevator door opened, Gabby and Spitfire bolted down the hall to their room. By the time they slammed the door shut, they couldn't see the Rocket. The only lights giving the room life came from the aquarium and the case holding the egg. Spitfire went to guard the latter as Gabby scrambled to Misty's side of the room. She reached for Misty's empty Poké Balls and approached the worried Water-types in the case; they could sense something was wrong, but without their true Trainer, they weren't sure what.

Gabby gave a gentle smile as she called the Water-types back. They cooperated surprisingly without needed convincing. She supposed they'd been around each other long enough that they have some trust toward one another. She slung Misty's bag over one shoulder before carefully placing the egg case in her own bag.

There was a knock at the door.

Gabby's heart sunk into her stomach, and Spitfire started up with his growl again. She reached into her bag and pulled out Raticate's Poké Ball. Once the rat Pokémon emerged from its ball, its attention trained to the door.

"It's a Team Rocket member," Gabby said quietly. Misty had her own key, and the guys would've already announced it was them. Raticate hissed at the thought. To be sure — if there was even the smallest chance that it wasn't a Rocket, Gabby stood on her tiptoes and looked through the peephole. She nearly fell back. "It's the same person from the elevator."

Spitfire and Raticate both ran up beside her on either side. Gabby patted both on the head. "Thanks, guys," she said. Then she shifted her attention back to the peephole. "Can I help you?" she called.

The Rocket lifted his gaze to the peephole. Thankfully, they made it a one-way thing. "I need to speak with William." His voice sent frightened shivers up Gabby's spine. It was the same man who had the Raticate who killed that man in Mt. Moon. Spitfire noticed this as well and began barking.

Gabby spoke over the barking: "I . . . I think you have the wrong room."

"No. I don't," he said simply. "Now let me in before I break down the door."

He was getting in, one way or another. Would it be better to make it easier and less frightening by just letting him in, or should she put his through the trouble of breaking down the door, likely angering him? Gabby made the dumbest decision of her life and unlocked the door. Before she could open it herself, Butch let himself in with the harsh shove at the door, knocking Gabby back.

At that moment, Gabby had no control over her Pokémon as they went straight for the man they met in Mt. Moon. Butch was also prepared, having released his Primeape. The Primeape came just up to Raticate's height, which was saying something. With the flash of fang, Spitfire bound forward while Raticate powered up a Hyper Fang attack.

Butch said two words: "End them."

Primeape reeled one arm back, hand balled into a glowing white fist, the other glowing a deep blue — Dynamic Punch and Cross Chop respectively. He caught both Spitfire and Raticate midair, throwing them back. Raticate's massive form crashed into the aquarium, shattering the thick glass. Spitfire hit the wall. Primeape stomped toward the two.

"No!" Gabby shouted. She attempted to recall her fainted Pokémon, but Butch grabbed her wrists.

"Let him finish," Butch said.

Gabby shook her head frantically and twisted around as best she could. "Spitfire, Raticate! Wake up! You need to get up now!" she pleaded.

Spitfire's ear twitched and his eyes slid open. Before he could push himself up, however, Primeape Cross Chopped him in the gut again. Spitfire howled in pain as he crumbled into himself. Meanwhile, Raticate hadn't so much as twitched.

Angry tears began to fill Gabby's eyes as she fought against the iron grip of Butch, who seemed to be enjoying the sight of Primeape bash Spitfire into the floor over and over again. "Stop!" she began shouting at Butch. "Please! I'll tell you what you need. Anything! Just . . . Just please make it stop hurting them." Her words ended with a sob as she bowed her head in defeat.

With the quirk of his mouth, Butch called Primeape off before shutting the door just in case someone happened upon them. "Good," he said. He looked over and saw her Pokémon were good as dead already, so he wasn't worried about them.

"Now, tell me — where is William?" he questioned, not daring to loosen his grip on Gabby's wrists.

"I don't know who that is," Gabby said honestly.

"William was supposed to be in this room. Folks affectionately call him the master Pokémon Researcher," Butch expanded upon.

Gabby blinked once before her eyes went wide. "Bill?"


"He gave me his ticket," Gabby said.

"He what?! Why the hell would he hand his ticket over to you?!"

"I helped him separate his cells from a Clefairy's," Gabby said.

The two stared for several seconds, both amazed by how ridiculous that was. Butch knew Bill well enough, though. Bill was a genius. If he wasn't, Giovanni wouldn't want him back. If there was one person who could merge with a Pokémon, it was Bill. That still didn't make sense, though. Why would Bill hand over a ticket onto the S.S. Anne to a kid when he knew there would be dangerous Team Rocket members on board? Was he that desperate to avoid them?

Butch's attention shifted elsewhere when Primeape began shaking.

Spitfire had pulled himself silently along the floor. The moment he reached a reasonable distance, Gabby tipped her bag, allowing her Poké Balls to tumble out. Spitfire was quick to tap his nose against one. In a beam of red came a flopping Magikarp.

For several moments, the only sound in the room was: "Karp-karp-karp."

Butch burst into laughter. "They're kidding, right?" When he looked over, he shook his head in disappointment. Then the light coming from Gabby's bag caught his eye. An egg . . . "To ensure you and your little friends don't continue getting in Team Rocket's way, I'll leave you with a little memory of what could have been," he said. He let go of her wrists and in that same moment, he reached behind her for the egg case. His grip was purposely loose. The egg rattled, showing just how loose a fit it was; still not ready to hatch. Butch's sadistic grin widened as he let go of the egg case.

A round of roars and beaming lights filled the room.

Wide eyes grew as the once pathetic Magikarp reached the ceiling now as a Gyarados. A barely conscious Spitfire caught the egg case on his side, eyes glowing red as he watched Butch's now cautious movements. Even the Primeape looked frightened at the new development.

Gyarados was beautiful, large fins and spikes covering his entire body and lengthy blue whiskers, meaning he was indeed male. He sported four visible fangs — two on the bottom and two on the top — and a crest framing his eyes to make him a lot more intimidating than he already was.

Gabby stared in awe and for a split second, Gyarados met her gaze. She took a chance in understanding and said: "Use Dragon Rage."

Her heart pounded in pride when Gyarados began powering up a fiery ball in its mouth. The sight seemed to break Butch and Primeape out of their shock. Before they could get out the door, Gabby shouted: "Fire now!" On par with his mistress' voice, he shot the rumbling Dragon-type move in a blazing mess. Swirling flames burst into Primeape, but Butch dodged by a single lick of the fire.

Butch cursed under his breath. He recalled Primeape, but not before Gyarados got off another Dragon Rage. Walls crumbled under the attack, and Butch was thrown back. Then, for a moment, there was silence.

The second that moment ended, Gabby ran over to Raticate, not caring that shards of glass stuck into her. She pulled Raticate close and pressed her head against his chest. She sobbed in relief when she heard the rapid thump of Raticate's heart. She ran her fingers through his matted fur before calling him into his Poké Ball. "I'll get you checked out soon. I promise." Gabby stood against, dusting the shards away, wincing as they scraped against her skin. She recalled Spitfire. "You did great saving the egg, buddy. I'll get you to Brock."

Once everything was back in her bag, she looked up at Gyarados before stepping closer to the massive serpent. He allowed her to pet his underbelly. "You really pulled through for me there. Do you still want to go with me?" Gabby asked, knowing lots of powerful Pokémon refused to go along with newer Trainers. She wasn't about to force a massive Gyarados to work alongside her if he didn't want to.

Gyarados looked taken aback at the question. Gabby only just captured him, and she was questioning whether he still wished to join her? He bowed his head to her level, accepting her as his mistress.

Gabby couldn't help but smile and hug her newest team member. "You won't regret coming with me. I promise I'll train you to be the strongest Gyarados the world has ever seen!" She tapped the Poké Ball and recalled her Gyarados. She didn't pocket the ball, fearing she might need her companion's assistance sooner than later. Her and Misty's bags slung over her shoulders — egg safe thanks to Spitfire's quick moving and thinking — she headed out of the destroyed room.

Just from looking at the destruction, Gabby assumed everyone had yet to come down. She sure hoped no one was hurt under the rumble, but she had no time to worry about that. Her friends awaited her above.

As she wandered down the dead halls, he noticed the rocking Gyarados caused hadn't stopped and, in fact, were growing with every step she took. She didn't dare slow her pace as the sounds of upstairs reached her ear. Team Rocket had taken over the ship and was looking to take everyone's Pokémon.

Just as Gabby neared the stairs — the elevator would take too long — bobbing of the ship sent her flying back at the end of the hall. She lost her breath as hit the wall. As she attempted to stand back up, the boat slammed her into one of the many room doors with enough force to allow her to bypass the locks. She tumbled into the empty room, arm stuck out to keep her from slamming into the wall again. With a quick look to make sure the egg was okay, she pulled herself out of the room.

Her legs ached as she forced herself up the slopping floor. She held tight grip to the to the door frame when she reached it. With a grunt, she climbed out and found the walls now acted more as a floor. The boat winced and cried so loudly, she could barely think straight.

She cradled her bag and Pokémon egg with one arm, fist clenched around Gyarados' Ultra Ball. A cold trickle of water hissed against her burning skin.

Her eyes bulged as she realized just how severe this situation was. It wasn't just her and Team Rocket. It was life and death.

She zipped both hers and Misty's bags up tightly. Her friends could get out themselves. She only hoped they didn't come searching for her, because she was about the flood the entire place. She released Gyarados, who roared with his exist. He met her worried eyes.

"We need to get out here," Gabby said simply. "Use Dragon Rage on the wall."

Once Gyarados was sure Gabby had a good hold of him, the fiery rumble grew between his jaws before he launched it at the wall. The S.S. Anne apparently wasn't very Gyarados-resistant before the wall shattered. Gabby had only a single second to fill her lungs with air before the barreling waves crashed in through the created hole. Gyarados dove into the sea water, and Gabby shut her eyes, heart pounding and head throbbing as her ears filled with water.

Gabby stayed that way, paralyzed under the icy cold water surrounding her. It was only when a new chill overtook her that she opened her eyes to see she was above water. She took a rattled breath as she looked to see the boat had flipped. The sight made her feel sick as she realized she was just on that sunken ship. She began looking at the lifeboat bobbing up at down with the storm-created waves. She couldn't see clearly, but something in her gut told her that her friends were not yet out.

"Gyarados, help me up," she said, lungs burning from having been denied air for longer than necessary. Gyarados leveled himself to a degree that Gabby could climb up. Once on top of his head, she released Misty's Pokémon. Gabby hardly had to give a demand, but explained: "Misty, Ash, and Brock are somewhere out there! Go find them and bring them here!"

"Goldeen/Hai/Horse!" each one chorused before diving against the rowdy waves. Now, all Gabby could do was wait.

Episode Fifteen: What Even Is?

Gabby's heart dropped. "Wh-what?"

Officer Jenny lowered her gaze. "I'm afraid your friends didn't make it out of the S.S. Anne. We couldn’t even find their Pokémon. We believe they are just three among the hundreds of young Trainers unable to escape."

Hundreds. Not to mention nearly every one of them had at least half a party of Pokémon with them. And Gabby's friends had to be among those hundreds.

Was . . . Was it her fault? Did her friends try to come down to save her? No. Surely they didn't have such little faith that she could get out. It undoubtedly had to do with Team Rocket, but that didn't explain why Misty's Pokémon didn't surface again if they had passed away. The very thought sickened Gabby.

Gyarados roared at his mistress' sadness, wishing to make her feel better. He never met her friends, so he had no clue who she was grieving.

Gabby reached out over the ship and stroked Gyarados' scaled — supposedly hard as steel and indestructible, like the S.S. Anne was supposed to be. Well, hard as steel but apparently not indestructible, considering how much Gyarados did with a single Dragon Rage. The S.S. Anne was made to survive anything, but apparently invasions weren't taken into consideration.

Tears filled Gabby's eyes as the sun rose. Officer Jenny called a salute among the other officers before tossing several bouquets of flowers — one for each person believed to have passed during the attack. Gabby clung to Gyarados as several tears streamed down her face uncontrollably. It wasn't fair. Why did it have to happen to her friends, the people she came to care for so much, those whom she never got to thank for being there for her in her times of need? They were nothing but kind and forgiving to others. Face it. Gabby didn't deserve their friendship in the first place.

Officer Jenny placed a hand on Gabby's shoulder, forcing the latter's tearful eyes to look up. "We should head back to Vermilion City. Lt. Surge will surely wish to talk to all the survivors."

Gabby shook her head and wiped the wet streaks away. "No. Gyarados and I will be heading to Lavender Town by sea," she said. There would be a memorial placed there for the Pokémon lost in the invasion, and she wanted to give those Pokémon the chance to be grieved over. It was the least she could do.

Officer Jenny looked ready to object, but Gabby was an official Trainer with three badges. Jenny couldn’t stop her. "Fine, but be safe. The sea is a treacherous place."

Gabby nodded this time. "I'll be fine with Gyarados."

Gyarados roared in confirmation, and Jenny gave an odd smile. "How did you manage to tame a Gyarados with only three badges?"

"I gained his trust when he was a Magikarp," Gabby said. "And he evolved when I needed him the most." She smiled fondly as she continued to stroke her newest companion.

"I'd say that's quite lucky. Most Gyarados, upon evolution, become hostile toward their Trainer, believing that they are not strong enough to know how to battle correctly with them. Even those loyal as a Magikarp. You should consider yourself lucky to have bought such a rare case of loyalty."

"Yeah. I did get pretty lucky with this one," Gabby agreed.

It had been two days since Gabby last saw a human by the time Gyarados reached land. He was fast, but he still had to rest often since he was getting used to his new body. They didn't come across many Pokémon, but when they did, a simple Dragon Rage would send them back in fear.

According to several signs, she reached Route 13. Miles away from Saffron City, as expected. Gabby wasn't up for a Gym Battle just yet. It would only remind her of the time she spent with Ash, Misty, and Brock.

After crushing a kid with Gyarados, Gabby said: "Do you know where the Pokémon Center is?"

The teary-eyed kid nodded and pointed near the docks Gabby dreaded going over. "The closest one is in Lavender Town. Not many people come by here, so there wouldn't be a point of having one," they explained.

"'Kay. Thanks," Gabby said before digging into her pockets. She pulled out a few crinkly bills and shoved them into the kid's hands. They were still damp, but at least they wouldn't fall apart from all the water on by the S.S. Anne. Gabby recalled Gyarados and took off for Lavender Town. At least then she would be close to Saffron City if she wanted to take on another Gym Leader.

The docks were a lot more stable than Gabby thought they'd be. No shaking whatsoever. Unlike that ship.

She jumped when she heard a tap on the glass of her egg case. She whipped her bag to her front and checked the egg. Her eye went wide. A crack that wasn't there before. Gabby tossed out Shadow and Beekee since they were the only two not critically hurt, and Gyarados would only cause havoc in the sea.

"Bzzzz?" Beekee said, tilting its head when it realized there was no opponent to battle.

Gabby showed them the egg. Shadow noticed the crack and shrieked in excitement. Beekee, on the other hand, swung his stinger arm around in annoyance, then proceeded to throw a fit. Gabby frowned and Shadow looked done with the younger of the team being so immature.

Shadow swooped down and tackled Beekee out of the air. Beekee looked up and his eyes were no longer blue. Instead, they glowed red like they were originally meant to. Poison bubbled from his stingers and he launched at Shadow, who skillfully dodged the attempted Poison Jab. The process repeated several times, before Gabby shouted:

"Enough!" That snapped Beekee out of his attacking craze, and Shadow out of his superiority complex. "We have an egg to take care right now," she said. "If you want to fight, do it later. We have to get to a Pokémon Center. Shadow, look overhead and see if you can find a nearer one than Lavender Town. Beekee, stay here and protect the egg and me." Gabby spoke in such way that neither Pokémon could deny her even if they wanted. She proved she was far more superior with her voice alone.

Shadow nodded and flew off.

Beekee was a lot more tempted to not listen, but he wasn't going to risk pushing Gabby's buttons. If Gabby could demand a far more powerful Pidgeotto, Beekee should've been honored that she took him in.

Beekee lowered himself to Gabby's level, where she tended to the egg. "Bzzzz?" He tapped on Spitfire's Poké Ball.

"He's hurt. That's another reason we need a Pokémon Center. Same with Raticate," Gabby answered as she wrapped a towel around the egg to keep it warm. She had no potions since Brock was usually the one to heal the Pokémon. Now she felt incompetent, dependent on her friend. She couldn't even hold on to her own supplies, for goodness sake!

Beekee considered this mindfully and gave as best a shrug as he could. He was still working on human gestures. Both in understanding them and doing them. As a wild born, he hadn't met a human before Gabby. He'd never even considered traveling with one and listening to their every order. Gabby was unlike every other Trainer Beekee heard of as a Weedle and Kakuna. Gabby didn't battle for the sport. Sure, she loved battling and wasn't too shabby at it either, but she didn't do it just for her ego and purely her enjoyment. No. Gabby battled for the thrill of seeing her Pokémon win, for the Pokémon's thrill when they got better, for the bonds and trust gained through learning each other's styles. That was why Gabby battled. It was her point as a Trainer. That was how Beekee saw it anyway. For a Pokémon still working on understanding human mentality and bodies, that was a pretty deep observation, if Beekee said so himself.

After several minutes, Shadow swooped back and squawked. Since Shadow was Gabby's first capture, the Trainer Beekee wished for himself looked up instantly, hopeful and worried eyes meeting her trusted Pidgeotto's. "Did you find a place?!" she shouted in question.

Shadow nodded and landed. He turned around and offered him back at a riding space so they'd get their quick. Shadow didn't know the severity, but he did know his Trainer's voice and when it was urgent. Another thing that seemed to make Shadow so much better than Beekee, the Beedrill supposed with a glowing glare.

"You sure you can hold me?" Gabby asked and she placed the egg back in its case.

Shadow looked insulted at that and nodded his confirmation. He was a bit bigger than Ash's Pidgeotto, but that was because he was male, whereas Ash's was female. They weren't particularly fond of each other when they did interact, mostly because he didn't see her as a leader, while that's what she wanted since she was far more mature.

Gabby nodded in return, called Beekee back into his Poké Ball and climbed onto Shadow. She wore her backpack on her front side, keeping the egg safely tucked in there. It didn't feel right having it on her back, where it could slip out. She gave a scratch to Shadow's neck, feeling how slick and smooth they were from the special food Brock made him. Her stomach flipped when Shadow ascended. Her heart pounded and a sense of freedom came with the flight. Gabby never imagined flying would be such an amazing experience, something that would make her worries go away. It was thrilling.

There were mostly forests below and the occasional lake leading to the larger body of water Gabby's been in with Gyarados before. The sky was bright blue without a cloud in sight, the polar opposite of last night during the invasion. A few other Pidgeotto and Fearow joined in a small aerial race. Gabby couldn't help but smile as Shadow pulled ahead. As a trained Pokémon, of course, Shadow would be faster.

Gabby's attention to the race snapped back to the egg when the egg cracked once more. "We need to hurry," she said to Shadow, hoping he would speed up a bit more.

Shadow did so several seconds later, the forest turned back into ocean and soon the tops of large buildings began to peak the horizon. Shadow only slowed when he came in for a landing, right in front of the Pokémon Center.

Gabby wasted no time climbing off Shadow, ignoring the odd stares several kids gave her. Shadow followed her into the Pokémon Center.

It was like every other Pokémon Center. Clean but cluttered with Trainers. Nurse Joy stood at the main desk, Chansey and Wigglytuff on either of her sides. Gabby ran over and presented the egg. "Nurse Joy, my egg is hatching. Could you help make sure its okay?" That was a silly question. Of course Nurse Joy would help. That was her job after all.

"Of course," Nurse Joy said. She took the cased egg in her hands and led Gabby into the back room. She put the pink swirled egg on a pillow. "It's too late to attach anything to help them," Nurse Joy explained as she set up a large heated lamp next to the egg. "At this point, we can only use the heat to help make the hatching easier."

Gabby nodded slowly, worried she'd gotten there too late. Chansey patted her arm, making Gabby flinch. She had to remind herself it was Team Rocket's Blissey who hurt her. Not anything of Nurse Joy's. Wigglytuff stared intently at the egg before reaching for it. She turned it around slightly.

Nurse Joy smiled. "Wigglytuff is making sure you're the first thing your Igglybuff sees," she explained.

Gabby smiled and petted Wigglytuff on the head, which the Pokémon gladly leaned into. What was the luck of a Wigglytuff being in this Pokémon Center? Shadow knew how to pick good Centers! Speaking of Shadow, where was he?

Nurse Joy must have noticed Gabby's dancing eye and said: "Your Pidgeotto is in the waiting room. He didn't seem to want to follow."

Gabby was a bit sad Shadow would miss the hatching, but if he didn't want to be there, he didn't have to. "Nurse Joy, I have some Pokémon that got injured in the S.S. Anne incident. Could you—?"

"You were part of the S.S. Anne invasion?" Nurse Joy asked, suddenly horrified. "Of course we'll take care of your Pokémon. Chansey." Said Pokémon already had the tray where Gabby placed Spitfire, Raticate, and Gyarados' Poké Balls. She didn't put in Beekee since she wanted the three Pokémon she used for her battle on the S.S. Anne to get treated first. Chansey left the room and made her way to the actual hospital side of the Pokémon Center. "They'll be fine soon," Nurse Joy promised. "Chansey is our best doctor, while Wigglytuff is more of a caretaker."

Their attention was once more drawn back to the egg as another piece began to crack. Igglybuff was having a hard time, seeing as it was trying to break three different places instead of working on just one. The heat seemed to help, though, as a small sign of pink pressed the stringy wet substance. That must have been what was keeping Igglybuff safe. Gabby watched closely, absolutely mesmerized by the sight of life reaching out. One more crack, two more, and three was the finale.

The eggshell crumbled under the weight of the pink Balloon Pokémon. It met Gabby's dark eyes with its own red ones. It had a swirl on its head and smiled. It tried standing, but fell back into its egg, shattering the rest of its old home.

"Pick it up," Nurse Joy instructed.

Despite the egg substance, Gabby did so. The slimy fur moved with her fingers as she picked up the baby Pokémon as if it were still as fragile as it was as an egg. Gabby's heart swelled at the sight of Igglybuff staring warmly at her. Again, despite the stickiness of the substance that protected the baby in the egg, Gabby brought Igglybuff close and cuddled her newest addition close. Igglybuff returned the cuddle as best her tiny arms could and nuzzled into the last of Gabby's clean shirts.

Nurse Joy smiled fondly and nodded Wigglytuff's way. "I'm assuming this is the first egg you've hatched?" Nurse Joy turned her attention back to Gabby.

Gabby nodded.

"Then these first few hours are most crucial for bonding. The most beneficial thing to do is give it a bath. We'll identify its gender while doing so. Then comes its first meal, which you will hand feed. You have to do this all yourself since you don't want them to get attached to someone else."

Gabby understood. Igglybuff was trying to understand, but the only words it'd ever heard was muffled by its egg.

Nurse Joy filled up a bucket with water, even going as far as to use a thermometer to make sure the water was neither too hot or too cold. Then she made a bowl of bubble froth. "A lot of Pokémon don't like playing in the bubbles, but if Igglybuff is willing, help yourself."

That made sense. Gabby couldn't imagine any of her other Pokémon enjoying bubbles. Igglybuff's eyes seemed to sparkle at the sight of them, though.

Gabby tested the water herself, to make sure it was indeed warm, before letting Igglybuff take their first dip in the water. A shiver ran up the Balloon Pokémon's spine before it settled into the warmth. Gabby smiled, holding Igglybuff with one hand — it was surprisingly light — and reached for some bubbles. At first, Igglybuff only stared at it, but the moment Gabby put it on its head, Igglybuff squealed with excitement. Lots more playtime and very little cleaning later, Gabby found out Igglybuff was a girl. Definitely a girl. Once that was figured out, Gabby wrapped a towel around Igglybuff, wrapping her up snuggly. That was when the crying began.

Igglybuff whined and twisted in an attempt to reach the bubbles left. Her eyes filled with tears and she began sobbing against Gabby's chest.

The inexperienced Trainer looked over at Nurse Joy for help, but she only shook her head. Great. Gabby had to figure things out herself.

"Igglybuff," was all Gabby had to say to catch said Pokémon's attention. Gabby twirled a finger in the tuft of fur atop Igglybuff's head. "That's what you are. If you'd like, I can nickname you. You're my first girl Pokémon, so I've been waiting to use one. What do you say?"

The tears dried quickly as Igglybuff began to speak: "Bu-buff!

Igglybuff's tears left her eyes and went straight into Gabby's.

"Ig . . . ly?" the confused Pokémon said, suddenly frowning at Gabby's tears. Gabby cut her off by wrapping her arms around tightly.

Gabby could've lost Igglybuff. She could've never seen her had Spitfire not risked in life to give the egg a soft landing. The thought of having not spent that hour with Igglybuff gave her heart a harsh tug. There was something special about 'firsts'. Igglybuff marked many firsts for Gabby. First egg hatched, first Fairy-type, first Baby Pokémon, and the first she could say she loved well before she could feel the fur. Wigglytuff gave her that egg for some special reason. Whatever it would turn out to be in the end, Gabby felt as though she couldn't live without it.

Nurse Joy smiled, knowing most of what was going on it Gabby's mind. The Wigglytuff by her side also smiled and nodded in acceptance. Then it was gone.

Nurse Joy went and got a bag of Baby Pokémon food. "Baby Pokémon eat a lot. This is the most nutritionally complete mix." She opened the bag and let Gabby scoop some out. It would be bad if Igglybuff got food from anyone else's hand; she'd think only they could feed her then.

Gabby held the food up to Igglybuff's mouth. The Pokémon sniffed and made a face, swatting the food out of Gabby's hand with her weak arms. Gabby blinked in surprise.

"That's strange," Nurse Joy expressed. "We've never had a baby Pokémon turn down this."

"Maybe some fresh fruit would do?" Gabby asked.

Nurse Joy nodded. "I'll go get some." She left the room to do just that.

Gabby turned her attention back to Igglybuff. "Back to naming you . . . I was thinking the name—"

"Pidgeo!" Shadow's shriek snapped Gabby's attention to the waiting room.

Gabby ran out and her heart nearly stopped when she heard: "Pika!"

"Gabby?!" her friends chorused. Those same friends she thought were dead, lost at sea, trapped in the S.S. Anne — somewhere that wasn't right in front of her. Brock stepped up first and put a hand on Gabby's shoulder. "Gabby, are you okay?" he asked.

Gabby should've been the one asking. All she could manage was: "Y-You're alive . . ."

Realization smacked the trio in the face.

"Of course we are!" Misty said, maybe a little too loud.

"As if I'd die before I become a Pokémon Master!" Ash added in the same determined voice Gabby only just realized she loved.

Gabby pounced them in a very one-sided hug. She blubbered whatever words she was trying to spill, but no more tears left her eyes in fear he friends would judge her. Trapped in the hug, Igglybuff squeaked in discomfort but Gabby didn't hear. Finally, a comprehensible sentence came out: "You're the greatest friends I could've ever wished for."

Pikachu quickly jumped into the hug. "Ka-pi!" he said — Gabby's name — as best he could.

With the sudden addition of Pikachu, however, everyone toppled over. Like when she was on the S.S. Anne, Gabby's mind snapped straight back to Igglybuff, and she twisted around so her newest companion wouldn't get crushed under her weight, to which Igglybuff was very grateful for.

Once they were all back on their feet, Pikachu scratched the back of his head sheepishly and spoke his apology in PikaSpeak.

Misty's eyes trained on Igglybuff, who looked a lot more disheveled than before. "So the egg finally hatched, huh?"

Gabby stroked Igglybuff's fur back into order. "Yeah. Just about an hour ago. Nurse Joy and I are trying to get her to eat something, but—"

"I'm on it!" Brock cut her off, already setting up a kitchen in the middle of the Pokémon Center. Gabby couldn't bring herself to react. Did he actually want to cook, or was he trying to impress Nurse Joy by making a food Igglybuff would eat? Both sounded logical, but Gabby couldn't quite pin it. And she wasn't even gonna ask where Brock stored an entire kitchen.

"Iggly?" the baby Pokémon said.

Gabby smiled and continued petting Igglybuff. "These are my friends. We'll be traveling with th"— she cut herself off —"I can still travel with you guys, right?"

Ash and Misty looked shocked.

"Of course," Ash said. "We never had plans to separate in the first place."

A breath left Gabby's lungs in relief. She went back to introducing her friends to Igglybuff: "This is Ash, Misty, and the one over there is Brock; he'll be cooking most of your food since he never seems to tire of cooking."


"And this is Pikachu, Ash's partner," Gabby said, lowering Igglybuff so she could meet Pikachu for herself. Gabby trusted Pikachu enough that he wouldn't do anything to hurt Igglybuff.

Igglybuff sniffed at Pikachu, who cuddled close to the baby Pokémon fondly. A few blinks of confusion later, Igglybuff let out the cutest squeal of excitement and attempted to hug Pikachu, but her arms were still far too short. Once she evolved into a Jigglypuff, which would likely be a while, she'd be able to hug properly.

"Hey, where's Spitfire?" Misty asked, looking around.

Gabby frowned and stood up. When Igglybuff looked ready to cry from being separated from Pikachu, the electric rodent jumped up on Gabby's shoulder to keep on playing.

"He got hurt on the S.S. Anne," Gabby explained. "I underestimated Team Rocket's strength and he and Raticate got hurt. Very hurt. Spitfire even saved Igglybuff's egg from hitting the ground. After that, though, he couldn't fight anymore."

"What happened?" Misty asked. Ash nodded to edge on, and even Brock looked over from his food preparation to show he was listening in too.

Gabby took a small intake of air and began to explain what happened that night.

Igglybuff and Pikachu ate their mix of actual Pokémon food Brock fixed them and the fresh fruit Nurse Joy came back with as Gabby finished her story.

"So you have a Gyarados?" Ash asked. "That's awesome!"

"No, it's not!" Misty objected. "Do you know how dangerous they are?! They kill, can learn Dragon-type moves, and worst of all, are unpredictable!" Dragon-types and Pokémon who learned Dragon-type moves were among the toughest to train, tame, and upkeep. Yeah, they were dangerous if not trained or bonded correctly, but if they were correctly trained, they would be lifesavers. However, Misty had little faith that she herself could handle such a beast of a Pokémon, much less a Trainer who had only been a Trainer for four months.

"It's not like they're pseudo-Legendary hard to train," Brock pointed out. Now that would be a problem. "What I'd be worried about is how you're going to feed him. I don't think I can make enough food to fill a Gyarados."

Gabby brushed it off. "He eats from the ocean. Besides, they make this supplement that makes large Pokémon like Gyarados and other serpent Pokémon full." How else would Gabby's father be able to keep his family of Wailord full?

Brock hounded Gabby with questions about this supplement, saying Onix could use it since he ate him out of house and home once.

"Gabby, your Pokémon are healed," Nurse Joy said.

Gabby's heart dropped and she ran over. She sent out Spitfire right away. Only, it wasn't Spitfire.


Misty's face went white, but no scream could escape. Ash and Brock looked up a the Water/Flying-type in amazement.

"Oops," Gabby mumbled. She forgot she hadn't labeled Gyarados' Poké Ball. Gyarados looked over at Gabby for an order, but she just stroked his scales. "No battle. I'm just making sure you're feeling better."

Gyarados nodded, making Gabby smile.

"I think you should meet your teammates and my friends," Gabby said. She tossed out the other Poké Balls, letting out all her Pokémon. Spitfire was first to pounce Gabby, earning a growl from Gyarados. Gabby frowned. "No, Gyarados. You and Spitfire are equals, like the others." Raticate took his spot by his Trainer, while Beekee stood behind with his stinger arms crossed. Shadow nodded as Gyarados in respect, having heard the story of the massive Water-type saving Gabby during the S.S. Anne ordeal.

Spitfire stared warily as Gyarados. Water beats fire, thus Spitfire worried he wouldn't be able to protect his mistress if Gyarados went on one of those random outbursts they usually went on. Yeah, Spitfire saw Gyarados save Gabby, but that didn't mean Gyarados wouldn't suddenly change his mind about who was boss.

Gabby put Spitfire down and went over and picked up Igglybuff. "This is Igglybuff. She hatched from the egg you and Spitfire were protecting on the S.S. Anne. Once she chooses her Poké Ball, you will also be equals. Do I make myself clear?" Gabby asked, eyes stern and unwavering.

Gyarados' eyes went from Gabby to Igglybuff, back again, and then once more. He leaned in to meet Igglybuff, whose eyes were wide. Not in fear, but in amazement. Beekee and Shadow tensed, ready to protect the baby Pokémon if it came down to it. Gabby sent them a warning glare, and they relaxed but didn't let up on their readiness to battle.

Gyarados watched Igglybuff, and his scarlet eyes flared when Igglybuff reached out and put a tiny hand on him. A rumbled built up in his chest, but before Gabby could pull Igglybuff away, Gyarados pushed himself closer, allowing Igglybuff to hug him. He closed his eyes and nuzzled gently into her.

Everyone stared in shock. The most menacing Pokémon of the sea was cuddling one of the most gentle baby Pokémon in the world.

Gabby smiled and pet Gyarados in appreciation. Spitfire watched, envious.

Gabby pulled away not long after and turned to Ash, Brock, and Misty. "These are my friends. I travel with them, so you'll have to respect them and their Pokémon, too."

Gyarados eyed the three. Ash still stared in amazement that Gabby could tame a massive beast known to be the most disobedient Pokémon ever. Brock, though amazed, was more so impressed than anything. Misty was still white-faced and terrified. Gyarados tilted his head at the Water-type Trainer, and Misty finally let out the scream she'd been unable to release until then:

"Ahh! Get that thing back in its Poké Ball before it attacks us!"

Gyarados looked taken aback. Gabby gave him a comforting pat. "Misty, he won't do anything unless I tell him to do so. I saved him, and he saved me. There'd be no reason for him to attack you guys," Gabby said.

That didn't do much to calm Misty down. Gabby sighed and recalled Gyarados. At least the Pokémon Center's roof was high enough so Gyarados hadn't hit it. "I thought you liked Water-types," Gabby said with a frown.

"I do," Misty said. "But Gyarados are dangerous!"

"Any Pokémon can be dangerous if they aren't tamed," Gabby said. "Spitfire could be dangerous, Pikachu could be dangerous, heck — even a Starmie could be dangerous! You shouldn't say a single Pokémon species is dangerous or not when there are obvious exceptions."

Misty held her ground and shook her head. "Gyarados are dangerous."

Before Ash and Brock could attempt to convince Misty otherwise, a man with a fainted Vaporeon in his arms. He didn't need to say a word for Nurse Joy to stay to attention.

"Oh, dear!" Nurse Joy said as she took the wounded Vaporeon in her arms. "Those Tentacool got another one." She set the Vaporeon on the cart Chansey brought in and let the Water-type Eeveelution be taken care of by Chansey's Aromatherapy.

The man grumbled: "Those damn Tentacool need to get outta our oceans! They're hurtin' everyone!"

"Please, sir, calm down. Chansey will take care of—"

"What needs to be taken care of is those Tentacool! I can't wait for them to be eradicated!"

"Sir, please don't say that. Tentacool are Pokémon, just like your Vaporeon," Nurse Joy said trying to convince the man.

"That ain't my Vaporeon! It's my son's, but he had to be rushed to the hospital since those Tentacool attacked him!"

Nurse Joy had nothing to say to that. Misty, on the other hand, did.

"You should be ashamed of yourself!" she shouted, jabbing a finger into the man's chest. "Tentacool don't just attack out of random! They need to be provoked or caught on a line!"

"Tell that to the Tentacool that attacked my son!" the man shouted.

"It's never a Pokémon's fault when they attack. It's always a human's doing, no matter the reasoning!"

The man scoffed and crossed his arms. "Then you figure out what us humans are doing by living here. Just head by the beach and then you'll see just how dangerous those ocean pests are."

Misty's face went red in anger and her expression turned deadly. "Tentacool are not dangerous!" she shouted, livid and ready send out her Pokémon on that poor man arguing otherwise. If only she caught her words just then.

The man mimicked Misty's face. "If that's so, then tell me what my five-year-old son did to them by playing in the shallowest of water with his Vaporeon. Tell me, you little priss!"

Thus, Misty's expression melted into one of worry. "Five-years-old?" Not even she was sure what a five-year-old could do to make a Tentacool attack. "H-He had to have done something!" Those words didn't meet her eyes, though. When the man noticed that, he calmed and gave a smirk that said 'I win.'

"Those Tentacool will be taken out soon, whether you inexperienced kid Trainers like it or not," the man said before walking out; it would be a while to get all that poison out of Vaporeon anyway.

Nurse Joy looked absolutely appalled and humiliated that she couldn't do a thing to stop that argument. "I'm so sorry," she said to Misty and the rest. "He's not normally like that."

"He's probably never had anyone's but your lovely voice, Nurse Joy, to tell him otherwise! And I can't blame him for not enjoying the transition!" Brock said as he bowed down to Nurse Joy, holding her hand as if she were royalty.

Nurse Joy blinked and pulled her hand out of Brock. "If you say so . . ."

Tears began to flow down Brock's face as the rejection sank in, while Misty only stared at the door the man left out of, contemplating his words.

Gabby and Ash got back in the swing of things by training along the beachside, where Gyarados could stay in the water while also being in sight. Gabby didn't need Gyarados by her side, but it brought a sense of comfort that Spitfire somehow didn't offer.

Spitfire's training was straightforward: practice moves, gain speed, and stay standing. He mostly had the speed down, but he lacked stamina and the power and strength in his moves. Yeah, he could chomp down hard, but it wasn't his all. Not to mention his Fire-type attacks were mediocre at best. After seeing the beating Butch's Raticate and Primeape gave, Gabby was determined to get Spitfire up to standards. He started out weak, got a bit stronger, only to flop again. If he couldn't defeat a Team Rocket member, they clearly did something wrong.

Raticate's was less straightforward. Rather than working on speed, he needed to meditate so he could eventually summon Psychic-type powers to use Zen Headbutt to combat Fighting-types like Primeape. Once that was done, then he would begin working on his speed once more. And, of course, Crunch and his fang moves were practiced, as to keep his teeth worn down.

Shadow's went along with Ash's Pidgeotto's training. Flying, speed, and lots of it! Building up the strength of their wings was simple. Tying weights on them, or, in Shadow's case, taking people into the air. That not only worked out his wings, but also his overall body strength. Speed was a bit more difficult. Agility and Quick Attack were the obvious moves, but those were speed techniques that merely offered speed when used. They needed to be fast and light in the air at all times; not just when using a move.

Beekee and Ash's Bug-types Beedrill and Butterfree went through much of the same training at the Flying-types, but with the added dose of effect spore training. Poison Powder, Stun Spore, and Sleep Powder were overpowered moves that nearly always meant victory so long as the opponent didn't have Sleep Talk, Snore, or any status healing move. Butterfree was the only one who could use all three, so Ash made a nifty new move in which Butterfree flapped his wings so fast that he mixes all through effect spores together to create a mess of status conditions that was nearly impossible to avoid. It was still in the works, but Ash had faith in Butterfree. The two Beedrill worked on sparing with their iron stingers and making their poison more devastating.

Gyarados was simple enough. He swam, got faster — notice a theme here? — and learned new moves. One great thing about Gyarados was, despite not being a Dragon-type, Gyarados was, in fact, a dragon, thus could learn several moves. Fire, Water, Ice-type — every type pretty much! Having such a wide movepool made a Gyarados very unpredictable, as Misty said the other day. Being unpredictable meant Gabby could get the underhand in battle though. With all the Dark-type moves Gyarados could learn, Gabby would surely have no trouble defeating Sabrina.

Igglybuff's — Gabby had yet to name her — training was a bit different. Gabby didn't want to stress her into training, but at the same time wasn't going to give special treatment and let Igglybuff slack off. According to Ash's PokéDex, Igglybuff start out knowing Sing. The issue? Igglybuff could not sing good, thus couldn't put even the most exhausted of Pokémon to sleep. So Igglybuff had to learn how to sing. Honestly, Igglybuff couldn't learn any more moves without having learned and mastered the move Sing. Truly, Gabby believed Igglybuff's training was the most crucial; not that she wanted the other to learn any less, but singing was what an Igglybuff and its evolved forms lived to do.

Brock was also kind enough to help them out by making nutritious meals that would pump the Pokémon full of energy and vitamins that would improve their physique.

Misty was a lot less considerate. Though she stayed in the water, she refused to help train Gyarados or even Squirtle and Krabby. She stared out into the ocean, eyes searching for the Tentacool that attacked that poor boy only yesterday.

"Guy," she said, so quietly the waves almost drowned out her voice. "Do you think an entire species of Pokémon can be evil?"

Gabby looked over and shook her head. When she realized Misty wasn't looking her way, she said: "No. Of course not. Like I said yesterday, any Pokémon can be evil and 'bad' if it isn't trained properly."

"I mean wild Pokémon," Misty specified. "Like, can a species hate the thought of being captured so much that they begin hating humans."

"Pokémon are better than that," Brock said, looking up from the grill he was cooking on. "If they thought all humans were bad, they'd be no better than the human who sees them all as a threat. That's nature, though I guess. People will hate what they're afraid of, even if one of that thing means well. So, the long and short of it: Pokémon are better than that, but aren't above doing so."

Misty considered those words but shook her head. Not at Brock's words, but to clear her mind. "I have a headache. I'm going to rest up," she said, standing up and turning to do just that.

"But we just woke up," Gabby objected. So long — okay, it was only about thirty-six hours, but still — away from her friends, she didn't want to feel like she was losing them again, no matter how clingy she appeared.

Misty shook her head again and gripped it in pain. "I know, but . . ."

"You okay, Mist?" Ash asked.

When Misty didn't respond, Brock walked over and put a hand on her shoulder. "Come on. I'll walk you back to the Pokémon Center. I have some medicine that should help with that headache."

Misty could only give a slight nod, head now throbbing with every sound and movement.

Once the two were out of sight, Ash turned to Gabby. "What do you think that was all about?"

"Pika . . ." Pikachu considered himself, concerned for his friend.

"I don't know, but I hope Misty's all right," Gabby said. "I think she'd tell us if something were wrong, though; probably stress sickness." With everything that's been happening lately, it would make sense, which is more than the Pokémon world could say.

Ash nodded. "Hope that's it."

A shrill scream rang from the ocean: "Tentacool!" Immediately, the few who were in the water swam to shore and went running as if Tentacool could chance them on land. Gabby and Ash, on the other hand, went running toward the water.

"Gyarooo!" Gyarados cried to his Trainer, sharp eyes on the Tentacool.

"Dragon Rage, Gyarados!" Gabby called.

"Come on, Pikachu! Thunderbolt!" Ash added.

The two powerful Pokémon called their respective names as they sent a fiery and shocking mess of attacks at the nearing Tentacool. The moves collided with the Tentacool at the same moment in an explosion, sending the Tentacool back to the depths of the ocean.

Gabby looked over at Ash oddly. "I think a Thunderbolt was a bit much," she said. "A Thunder Shock would've sufficed."

Ash grinned and scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. "Well, I heard you yell out a big move, and I just shouted out Pikachu's strongest move as well."

Gabby giggled, but her lips fell to a frown when an old hag made her way over. The hag had red hair and wore what appeared to be some sort of job uniform. Her cackle sent a wave of utter disgust down Gabby's spine.

"You scared that pest away good," the hag said. "If only they'd stay away from this place. Then maybe people'll have a reason for coming here." She looked up at Gyarados, who stood tall and ready to protect if need be. "It looks like you have yourself another pest of the sea, though. Shame. I could've given you a small fortune for helping out."

Gabby made a face. "I don't need your money. I'm just trying to make sure no one gets hurt by those Tentacool."

The hag shook her head. "That ain't gonna happen 'til the exterminator gets here. He best be here before the contest next week. Otherwise, a lot of ladies will be getting fried in the ocean."

"Exterminators?!" Ash shouted. "You make it sound as if you own the ocean!"

The hag snarled an ugly snarl. "Boy, if you knew a thing 'bout the world, you'd understand that Tentacool are pests that ruin businesses and resorts that rely on oceanside views as a selling point. No one wants to be attacked by Tentacool and so long as I have say, no one will be once someone gets rid of them."

Ash couldn't even begin to understand. "What will happen to them after?"

"Do you not know the meaning of 'exterminate', boy?"

That was a slap to the face.

"You can't just kill them!" Gabby snapped.

"Oh, I won't, girly. Trust me. I wouldn't touch a sea pest like that with a ten-foot pole if my life so depended on it." That annoying cackle again.

"It isn't right to just wipe them out!" Ash said. "They were here long before you were, which is honestly hard to believe."

The hag stopped mid-cackle as Ash's savage comment sunk in. "Watch you and your little friends' selves, because, boy, you just made an enemy."

As the hag turned away, more chills of disgust and fright ran up and down Gabby and Ash's spines. That cackle was scary enough. They couldn't help but wonder and dread for what the lady put her enemies through. Whatever it was, it was already too much.

"What?!" Misty shouted. She gripped her forehead as her own voice sent her head into a throbbing mess. "Ow . . . Why would someone do that?" Even as she lowered her voice, it sent spikes of pain that were beginning to run down her spine.

"They only see Tentacool as pests, sort of like how many hikers see Zubat as pests," Brock explained, keeping his voice down. "But since hikers to add much to the world, their complaints go unheard, even when a Zubat attacks. However, those Tentacool are forcing many to avoid the beach and by extension many of the businesses on the island, or even the entire island itself."

"That shouldn't matter," Misty objected.

"But it does," Gabby said with a shrug as she looked out the window at the full moon illuminating the crystal clear ocean invested with Tentacool. As much as she hated to admit it, the humans on the island did matter. If their businesses were to fall, they'd no longer be able to make money and by extension not be able to put food on the table or even have shelter. Now, what they were doing — killing off most if not all the Tentacool population — was wrong. There were several options to keep Tentacool away. "I think there's a way to keep Tentacool out of human reach, though and vice versa."

"What do you have in mind?" Ash asked, perking up in interest.

"I noticed there weren't any barricades to contain the swimmers." That alone sparked interest.

"That's a great idea," Brock said with a nod. "If we can put up a barrier, that would contain both humans and larger Water-type Pokémon from coming into each other's territory."

"But how could we make it work?" Ash asked.

"I have an idea," Gabby said.

Thus Misty had to deal with listening to the expert plans of Gabby. It was comforting, though, if not a bit painful on the brain stem.

By morning, Misty still wasn't feeling any better. Brock left Nurse Joy to check up on her while he and the others went to find a way to put up a barricade in the ocean. There were already several people on the beach, but very few went into the water.

Gabby kicked off her shoes and ran to the water, letting Gyarados out. The massive Water-type emerged with a loud roar that made a few tense. When Gyarados noticed there was no opponent, he lowered his head and let Gabby pet his whiskers. A rumbled of affection sounded deep within him as he leaned in, nearly pushing Gabby to the sandy beach. Gabby gave a giggle and hugged Gyarados before stepping back. Her expression turned serious.

"I want you to keep any Tentacool or Tentacruel away from anyone in the water, okay? I trust you won't hurt anyone," Gabby said with a stern yet soft tone.

Gyarados nodded and with a roar of warning to all Tentacool within ear-shot, he dove into the deeper end of the sea. A sense of safety enveloped the beach.

Gabby turned back to her friends and grinned. "Gyarados will protect the people today so we don't have that to worry about that. Let's get to chopping some trees down." She pulled out Raticate's Poké Ball. Spitfire by her side nodded in agreement, while Igglybuff ran behind Spitfire. Gabby frowned and knelt down to Igglybuff's level. "Hey, it's okay," she said with a pet. "Raticate has been with me since day-one. He won't hurt you."

Igglybuff just shook her head, or rather her entire body since she was just a round thing.

Gabby sighed and picked Igglybuff up. The baby Pokémon leaned away from Raticate's Poké Ball. "It's okay. Raticate won't hurt you. I promise," Gabby said. When Igglybuff only continued to object, she gave up for the moment and turned to Ash and Brock. "Come on. We need to get this done by the end of the week."

Ash and Brock nodded and they set off to the treeline of the island.

Unbeknownst to the traveling group of Trainers looking to protect both human and Pokémon, the old hag — also known as Brutella of the Brutella shop that for some reason also served food — contacted not just any exterminated. No. That would be too easy.

A cackle escaped her ugly mouth upon hearing a knock at her shop door, and she stepped over to open it. Two older teens, maybe seven years old than those brats she met the day before, stood there with a Meowth between them, arms crossed and smirk that said he knew what he was going. They were the rarely sighted uniform with a red ‘R’ on the front. Team Rocket was a force to be reckoned with. Once they took the sea pests to their boss, no one would dare go after in an inevitably failed attempt to bring the Water/Poison-types back.

“Good timing,” Brutella said. She allowed her guests in. It was well past closing hours, so no one was in there to see the dealing. “Now then. Let’s get down to business.”

“Let’s,” James said with a curt nod.

“Yes. Let’s make it clear that we’re only doing this for the money and the Pokémon. Not for you or the people here,” Jessie said, sneering at the rustic vibe the shop gave off. It was like being shoved into an old cabin with the folks you most hate.

“Yeah, don’t ya forget dat!” Meowth said.

Brutella didn’t react to their authority and instead gave a dangerous chuckle. “I expect nothing less of Rocket’s two best members.”

“Elite Field Agents,” James specified. “We operate with, under, and as the law if need be. Don’t mistake us as some group of grunts.”

The hag’s expression turned dark and her eyes flared with the intent of something unidentifiable to those unfamiliar with lawbreaking. “Then don’t mistake me as a kind ole’ lady.”

“Well, the ole’-part has to be right,” Meowth said, smirk growing as his eyes danced around, tauntingly. The hag fell for it all too easily.

“Why, you little feline!” Brutella snapped, raising a foot to kick him.

“Slash, Meowth,” was all Jessie had to say.

“With pleasure!” Meowth jumped into the air to dodge the pathetic attempt of a kick and stuck out his paws. What were once small claws grew to five-times their normal size. Meowth watched and cherished the look of utter fear of the hag’s face before he swiped down, the energy of his grown claws dragging down and leaving little more than a red mark of warning. By the time he landed on the ground, the hag’s eyes were wide and her hands were shaking. With said shaky hands, she reached up and felt of her face. No blood, of course, but she could feel the outline of the cut.

“Now dat you know we’re serious ‘bout this, I think it’s time to talk this over,” Meowth said, Slash claws not daring to go back to their normal size.

All Brutella could manage was a frantic nod.

Pathetic, Jessie thought.

She doesn’t even stand up for herself after such a half-hearted attack, James thought alongside. What would she do it someone tried stopping her? Give them a warning?

Dis’ll be too easy! Meowth thought as well.

It almost won’t be fun to take advantage of her, the trio thought in unison. Grins spread across their faces. Almost, they righteously added.

A few days later, Raticate had chewed down several trees and the others worked on making them the correct size. The water didn’t go all that deep on the beach, so half of a tall tree would do, while the shorter logs would be fine on their own. They made sure to cut the ones that were in a more compact spot so the tree line wouldn’t look weird. Krabby was especially helpful. With his pincers, he could help cut and trim the logs to size.

Brock wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead and sent out Graveler and Onix. The two roared as they were realized. The loud sounds sent Igglybuff, who was enjoying a meal alongside Spitfire, into a tearful fit.

Igglybuff was loud when she cried. Really loud. So loud that Spitfire glared at her and walked away instead of comforting her. Gabby, forcing herself not to cover her ears, walked over and picked the crying baby Pokémon up into her arms.

“Shh, now,” Gabby said, calmly, but loud enough that Igglybuff could hear. She cringed at Igglybuff’s crying. It was almost as bad as her singing skills. “Graveler and Onix are Brock’s Pokémon. They’re friends, okay?” She angled Igglybuff so she could see the two large Rock-types. “See? Onix is around the same size as Gyarados.” Then again, Gyarados was just a baby of his kind and would grow up to be a lot bigger than any Onix!

Igglybuff sniffled and wiped away the tears she’d shed. She stared up at Onix with curious eyes, then at Graveler. Graveler was about Raticate’s size, if not a bit more built. He stood almost awkwardly with his back hunched and his face in an odd spot. After a long observation, Igglybuff smiled and chorused her name as a greeting.

Gabby smiled at Igglybuff’s smile and added: “They’ll be helping us carry all these logs to the beach. Then our Water-types will help us place them so we can protect the Tentacool from coming too close to the beach.”

“Iggly?” she asked as Gabby put her back down.

Gabby took out her notepad. “Let’s see . . . Gyarados is six meters long and it takes twenty laps for him to reach the other end . . . Hmm. I think ten more trees should do it!” She took out a marker and went to write it down, bug Igglybuff sucked in a sudden breath of air, showing exactly why she was called the Balloon Pokémon and took flight to snatch the marker away from Gabby. It took a moment for Gabby to comprehend what just happened. She turned and gave a stern look to Igglybuff, but it couldn’t stay when she saw the precious baby Pokémon pretending to use the marker as a microphone. Of course her singing was so horrible that it didn’t affect any of the surrounding Pokémon, but it was cute nonetheless.

“Fine,” Gabby said, forcing a smile through the ear-piercing singing, if it could even be called that. “You can have that for practice.” She turned back to her friends to continue explaining the remainder of what needed to be done. Rope that wouldn’t be able to rot and fall apart was needed, so they put in a bit of their pocket money together to buy one despite Gabby insisting she could pay for it herself. The rope would cover the gaps between the logs since they didn’t want to get in trouble for deforestation just to block every little spot or prevent water from passing through the gaps. Smaller fish like Goldeen or Magikarp would still fit through, but beyond that, nothing harmful could do a thing to those on the other side!

From afar, wicked eyes watched. Brutella being the ugliest of them all.

“Those little brats are trying to stop me!” the hag snapped. “I oughta report their parents for what they’ve done!”

“None of them have both parents,” Jessie said. “They’re all their parents ‘babies’ so it wouldn’t matter anyway.”

“Yes,” James said, looking away with closed but emotional eyes. “That isn’t to say they’re parents have passed. Only the Rock-type users has a parent deceased. The others, on the other hand . . . Their parents are very much alive.” After a pause, he continued with a smirk. “Not that they’ll care. We do you think they’d leave? They have no interest in their children. Or in the Water-type user’s case—”

“Enough, James,” Jessie said. “We can’t give our clients too much information about our targets.”

James gave a grim expression. “Of course.” He turned to the hag. “Don’t you worry about those kids. They won’t be getting in our way given how pathetically weak they are.” With that little battle Ash, Misty, and Brock gave them on the S.S. Anne, he knew.

The S.S. Anne was sinking. Water spilled from every crack of the ship and was already up to Ash’s ankles and he searched for his friends. He’d been separated from Brock when the ship struck that iceberg, and he had no clue where Misty was in the first place. Pikachu stood on his shoulder, clinging to his Trainer’s head for what could’ve been dear life. Ash hissed at icy cold water traveled up his leg as he climbed up . . . or downstairs. He wasn’t sure at the moment which way was up and which was down. The ship must have flipped because the next down he came across was upside down.

Ash opened the door and gallons of water swallowed him in, sending him and Pikachu apart. His eyes squeezed tight at the sound of Pikachu’s struggled “Pika . . . Pika!”s. His best friend was in trouble and he couldn’t do a thing about it. He struck a metal corner, then another, and another. He realized then he was tumbling down the stairs he’d just walked up.

His body shook with the cold as he pushed himself up from the bottom step. He looked around, eyes burning and blurring with what he refused to call tears. A chill that hadn’t been caused by the cold ran up his spine as he heard a familiar chuckle. Ash wiped his eyes and looked up to see Jessie and James, who began their little motto, with that same talking Meowth ending it. Anger stirred with Ash with their every word, but his body ached, he was freezing, and his eyes burned. It was only after an intense glare that he heard Pikachu.

“Pikachu . . .” he called, hoarse voice hardly making a sound.

“You’re precious Pikachu will forever be in good hands,” Jessie said with a smirk crossing her lipstick stained lips. “Worry not, little boy. The rest of your Pokémon will live along with your Pikachu. Meowth, do the honors with a Slash attack.”

Meowth’s mouth grew into a massive smirk, fangs glistening with the dull flickering light. “Right on the throat. Gotcha.” A glowing white covered his claws, spanning them out. He swung his claws down, but before they could make contact with Ash’s throat, a star-shaped Pokémon took the hit and threw Meowth back.

A growl rumbled in Meowth’s chest as he pulled himself up and shook the water from his tail off. It was beginning to rise.

“Starmie!” Ash said. “Where’s Misty?”

“Hai!” was all Starmie said, its center button glowing brightly, ready to attack.

“You thinks that thing will help ya!?” Meowth snarled. “Prepare with the Fury Swipes!” He readied himself, but before he could pounce Starmie’s say, Jessie stopped him:

“Meowth, don’t.”


“Don’t,” Jessie repeated. “James and I will deal with this.”

Meowth hissed but nodded and took a step back nonetheless.

James grinned, took out a Poké Ball, gave it a kiss, and tossed it out with the words: “Paras, show your superior typing.” A crazy-looking Grass/Bug-type emerged, the air around it already murking up as it shook its mushrooms. Its claws were sharp, sharp enough to possibly know Slash.

“In that case, Eevee, bring us your speed,” Jessie said as she released her Eevee. The Eevee’s eyes glowered down at the Starmie and her tail flicked about in angry annoyance.

Ash realized then that Team Rocket was much more than a pest that needed swatting away. They actually worked well as a team. James had Paras, a Grass/Bug-types, whose STAB attacks were both super effective on Starmie, but was painfully slow, while Eevee had little more to offer than its speed. Brilliant.

“Hai!” Starmie said, bringing Ash’s attention back to the developing battle.

Ash blinked. “You want me to tell you what to do?” he asked.


“Okay . . .” Ash knew very little about Starmie, and what he did know came from Krabby and Squirtle training with the star-shaped Pokémon. Which wasn’t all that much.

“Enough talk. Paras! Start up with Growth!” James demanded. immediately, Paras followed ordered, glowing a brilliant green in contrast to it normally dull colors.

“Eevee, use Swift!” Jessie called.

“Eee! Veee!” the Normal-type called out as it bound into the air. With another flick of the tail, Eevee sent a line of beaming stars at Starmie and Ash.

“Counter with Swift!” Ash shouted as he pushed himself up for a better view.

“Hai!” Starmie took to the air, spinning in order to produce a cloud of stars shaped like itself. The Swift attacks met with an explosion, throwing both users out of the air. They hadn’t taken in the confined place into consideration.

Ash grunted and shielded his eyes from the smoke produced.

“Never look away from a battle, boy!” James said. “Paras, Stun Spore!”

Paras charged forward, mushrooms shaking with is paralyzing spores spraying in desperation. Eevee once more used Swift, this time in a pattern that prevented Starmie from dodging the Stun Spore without taking a power Swift attack to the face.

Starmie struggled, body twitching in pain as the paralysis effect took control. Ash called for Starmie to wash off in the pooling water below, but the poor thing couldn’t so much as fall down to do that. With another grunt of frustration, Ash reached for a Paralyze Heal that he often used on Pokémon affected by Pikachu’s Static ability.

“Pathetic!” Jessie called. “Eevee, Quick Attack!”

“You too, Paras! Use Scratch!”

“And I’ll be doin’ my own work with Slash!” Meowth said, claws growing even further with a glowing white energy.

The three charged at Starmie, each executing their moves again and again. Starmie remained unmoving, but still standing with every crash, claw, and slash pelted onto him. Attack after attack, however, Starmie’s center glow dimmed until there was little left.

Think Ash! Think, the Trainer shouted in his mind. Starmie wasn’t his Pokémon, thus he had no bond with him so encouragement would do little more than wasted breath; and with the water still rising, that was a bad thing. Then the realization came to mind. Starmie was weak to Paras because of its typing. Starmie was a Psychic-type! A type that relied on their mind rather than their body. Just because Starmie couldn’t use attacks that required the movement of its body didn’t mean it couldn’t use those involving the mind!

With his newfound realization, Ash shouted: “Starmie! Use Psywave, now!”

“H-Hai!” Starmie hardly managed.

“It’s too late, kid!” Meowth said as he came down for the winning shot. Before any of them could, Starmie began glowing pink around the edges before sending a beam of the same color at its opponents. The massive beam sent the three Pokémon flying back, crashing into their Trainers.

“Nice job, Starmie!” Ash said, taking quick action to spray away the Stun Spore. “You did great.”

“Hai!” Starmie said with a nod before turning back to Team Rocket.

Ash gasped when he saw all three Pokémon were perfectly fine, hardly tired of the battle at all. He clenched his fist. He wouldn’t let Starmie lose this battle! “Now! Water Gun and Rapid Spin!” Water Spin as Misty called it, he supposed.

Starmie got it and began spinning in the air, water spewing from each of its star points.

“Eevee, Protect,” Jessie said with a smirk. The three Pokémon huddled together as Eevee sent up a green gridded screen. The water Starmie sent their way bounced right off. “Good. Now use Shadow Ball!”

Eevee obeyed as the shield let off. It opened its mouth, gathering a black energy in front of its face before launching it at the still airborne Starmie. Despite Starmie being a naturally amazing Rapid Spinner, Eevee’s speed was too much to keep up with, and the Shadow Ball hit Starmie for super effective damage, throwing Starmie right out of the air.

“Kick it while it’s down with Leech Life!” James ordered Paras.

Paras’ eyes seemed to glow as it ran at the recovering Starmie. It pounced on Starmie’s back and began glowing as it consumed Starmie’s very lifeforce.

“Rapid Spin it off!” Ash shouted.

Starmie bounced back up into the air with the same spinning as before, it not a bit slower as Paras’ grip only tightened as it continued to feast on the Psychic-type naturally large system of energy. Starmie couldn’t go on for much longer, Ash knew, but what could he do against them? They had three Pokémon battling at once, while all Ash had was Starmie who came to protect him. Why hadn’t he healed his own Pokémon with at least a potion?

“Psyduck, use Fury Swipes!”

“Huh?” Ash said dumbly as he looked over to see Misty. “Misty?! When did you get here.”

Misty ignored and shouted: “Starmie, stop Rapid Spinning and land on Paras!”

Of course! Why hadn’t Ash thought of that?

Hearing its true Trainer’s voice, Starmie obeyed and landed on its back, its body weight crushing Paras under it. Once off, Psyduck seemed to take flight and bound straight at Paras, claws activated, and swatted at Paras, who cried out as both attacks began to inflict pain.

“Don’t belittle us with such pathetic attacks!” Jessie snapped, eyes full of fire. She swung her arm and pointed at Psyduck. “Eevee, Quick Attack!”

Eevee’s aura grew white as she charged forward at such a speed Misty couldn’t even make out which way the Evolution Pokémon was going. Eevee slammed straight into Psyduck’s gut, sending him flying into a wall.

Misty ran over and sat Psyduck up. “Psyduck, are you okay?” she asked, not taking her eyes off the waiting battle.

Psyduck pushed himself up, holding his head in pain as per usual, but his eyes were suddenly glowing pink as his psychic powers emerged. “Psy . . . Duck!” He cried out as a pink aura shot straight at the Eevee. Eevee clung to the floor, or roof, or whatever it was as the attack dug deep into its mind, sending it into a spiral of nothingness.

Misty gaped for a moment in amazement. “Confusion,” she concluded. Although not the most powerful Psychic-type attack, it was nothing to be played around with, especially when used on the right Pokémon. Not even Starmie’s Psywave could compare. A confident grin spread across her face. “Again, Psyduck! Confusion!”

Psyduck’s eyes didn’t falter as he sent a drilling burst of Psychic power at the group of Rocket’s Pokémon. His mind grabbed hold of Eevee and Paras. They withered helplessly as Psyduck threw them straight at their Trainer’s. They curled in their Trainer’s arms, fainted. Meowth wasn’t so easy to get rid of though.

“Meowth! Slash, now!” Jessie shouted as she and James recalled their Pokémon.

Meowth ran wordlessly at the Psyduck, claws massive and waiting to slice through even the toughest of skin.

“Starmie, Rapid Spin!” Ash shouted.

Although Starmie’s loyalty was elsewhere, Ash’s order was to protect its Trainer, thus it obeyed without hesitation. It spun around as fast as it could given how weakened it was from its previous battle with the others. Starmie and Meowth matched one another’s speed, but Starmie happened to be closer to Meowth than Meowth was to Psyduck. It hit Meowth with its sharp points, throwing him back to where he started.

“Dammit,” Meowth swore, as he pushed himself back onto his hind legs. He held his side, where Starmie had hit. “Dat Starmie is loyal to its Trainer. Her Starter, in fact.”

“Hai!” Starmie said.

Meowth couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s sayin’ we best give back Pikachu is we know what’s good for us.”

“Cute,” Jessie said dully. She lowered her head. Not in defeat, but to make her eyes appear that much more menacing. “But it won’t get a chance to say another word.” She looked over at James, who nodded.

“Koffing, dear! Use Explosion!” James shouted as he sent out his classic Poison-type.

“Koffing!” the Pokémon called out, and before anyone could so much as process what James just demanded, it began glowing a brilliant white before everything turned black to them. Before they were out, the faint voice of Jessie called out:

“Blissey, Protect.”

Thus, they won the battle. How those twerps got out of the S.S. Anne alive was an entirely different story. An even more different tale was when the twerps and Team Rocket ended up helping one another reach shore. Many secrets were shared, while some kept their mouths shut. James smirked. Not that he needed those twerps to know their little secrets. Team Rocket was a very knowing organization.

Ash dusted off his hands and gave a sigh as Krabby finished carving the logs just right. They didn’t want splinters on them after all. “Looks like we’re done here,” he said.

Brock nodded. “Graveler and Onix have taken most of the logs to the beach, so this is it,” he answered with much satisfaction as he looked around to see only the ten most recently chopped and trimmed logs. “We’ll have this down by evening, tomorrow morning at the latest.”

“Good. I’d hate to see a Pokémon, no matter what they are, get taken out in such an inhumane manner,” Ash said. The thought enraged him, especially after he lost Pikachu during the entire S.S. Anne ordeal.

“Ash! Misty! Wake up now!”

The smokey-colored Trainer’s opened their eyes slowly, chills consuming them, heads barely elevated out of the knee-deep water. Their eyes met Brock’s closed ones. They both muttered, but Brock continued shaking them.

“We have to get out of here now! Goldeen and Horsea brought me here.”

That snapped Misty out of her trance. She sat up immediately to see Goldeen and Horsea helping up both fainted Starmie and Psyduck. That Explosion attack was harsher than most. That Koffing must have been at a high level, or even holding a Normal Gem to power up the attack. “Thanks, guys,” Misty said, recalling her fainted Pokémon.

Ash also sat up, rubbing the back of his head to find a slight trace of blood from falling down the stairs before. “Pikachu . . .” he said. When no response came, he looked around frantically. “Pikachu! Where are you, Pikachu!?”

Brock put a hand on Ash’s shoulder to calm him down. “Ash, Pikachu’ll be fine. Staryu is already on the search for him.”

That calmed Ash for only a moment. “What about Gabby?! We need to find her, too!”

Brock shook his head. “She’s fine.”

“How do you know?! She could still be trapped!” Ash objected, pushing himself up unsteadily, ready to look for one of his friends.

“Ash, I told you. Gabby’s fine,” Brock said, a bit more stern. “I know because Gabby went to her and Misty’s room, where Misty left Staryu, Starmie, Goldeen, and Horsea. They got out only because Gabby let them out to come and find us.”

It took Ash a moment to understand, but he soon nodded his head. “Okay,” he said with a dry-throated gulp. It made sense. Besides, Gabby had Spitfire and all her other friends. If anyone could keep her safe, it was her battle comrades.

“We need to get off the ship,” Brock said. “Ash, you use Squirtle. I’m sure he’s fine to swim. I’ll use Goldeen, and Misty will use Horsea. All right?” He had to make it clear with his dazed friends that what they were dealing with was no playful ordeal. It could be life or death if dealt with incorrectly. Brock had to make sure it didn’t come to that.

His friends nodded, Ash releasing Squirtle. They clung to the Pokémon and dove under the murky water to be unseen by viewing eyes above.

That was only the start, but once they surfaced, Staryu was nowhere in sight it wasn’t until hours later that they saw it surface.

A splash startled the tearful boy out of his saddening daze. His eyes grew massive when he saw the two Rocket members, Meowth, and a case with Pikachu in it. In a hurry, he grabbed the case and pressed the button to open it.

“Pikachu, wake up, buddy!” Ash said, waking Brock and Misty up. “Wake up now,” he repeated, cradling his best friend in his arms. Tears began to rise as he held Pikachu’s cold form close to his. “Come on, Pikachu . . . Please . . . Wake up.”

Misty’s own eyes began to water as Brock stood up to sit down next to Ash. Brock placed a hand on Ash’s shoulder, but the latter only shrugged it off.

“It’s . . . It’s not fair!” he shouted. “Pikachu is my best friend! My comrade . . . My reason for even setting out on my journey!” He heard his own words but didn’t dare listen. It would be too true if he did. His eyes wandered up from Pikachu and trained onto the unconscious Team Rocket members. A weak bundle of nerves erupted within him and something within him grew until it consumed his entire body. His eyes raged a glowering blue and a spiral of aura emerged as he let out was could on be described as a roar.

“They did this! They will pay!” Ash roared as he held Pikachu tighter to him. His plume-like aura spanned out to form a hand ready to straggle a few throat awake before letting them suffer every moment after as their pathetic life drained. Their eyes would dim as they realized their lives were being stripped away from them. The very thought sent shivers of thrill up Ash’s spine. Before the slow-moving aura hands could slink their way over, however, Brock blocked the path. Ash stopped the aura immediately, recognizing his friend. How could he not? They’d been traveling for so long together at that point.

Brock looked down at Ash, making the latter feel inferior in every way. For some reason, it further enraged Ash.

“Ash, you need to stop this,” Brock said.

They must pay for what they did!” Ash snapped back, voice growing louder with every word spat out.

“If you kill them, you’ll be no better than them! Is that what you want? Is that what you want Pikachu to be remembered as? The one you killed for?”

Ash’s expression grew animalistic with an ugly snarl, upper lip trembling in fury. “Don’t use Pikachu against me!

“Fine. Then think about it this way. Team Rocket kill Pokémon — creatures not of their own species — as well as humans — those of their own kind. If you kill both Rockets and Meowth, who is just as guilty as the other two, you’re just as bad as they are,” Brock said. “Could you live with that? The fact that you could be mistaken as a Team Rocket member because you had a bunch of Rockets not worth your time’s blood on your hands?”

Ash’s bloodthirsty glare seemed to falter as he looked over at the Rockets. The three were unconscious, close to death as it was. They wouldn’t respond to Ash strangling them. They were smarter than that. They wouldn’t give Ash the satisfaction of a reactive death.

Slowly but surely Ash’s aura came back to him, surrounding his heart for protection of it breaking any further, but it was already shattered with Pikachu gone.

Brock watched, wondering if he’d been too harsh, but that snapped him out of his thoughts when Misty said: “Ash! Look, you’re bag is glowing!”

Ash snapped to attention and looked over. He pulled his soaked bag off and dug into it. He grabbed the one dry and almost warm thing in there. He pulled it out to present a beautiful feather. The was about six inches long and perfectly frilled. When lifted to the light of the sun, it shown every color of the rainbow. Ash and his friends watched in amazement as the rainbow slowly made its way to Pikachu.

A rocking wind suddenly picked up, but the sun didn’t dare leave to be replaced by clouds. It still shown so long as Ash held up the feather.

A loud cry came from the heavens and in that moment a beauty of a Flying-type swooped down to meet the three Trainers. Its eyes searched as if looking for something more before landing of Pikachu, then darting at the unconscious Rocket Duo and their Meowth.

Dear, Chosen One,” Ho-oh — Ash somehow knew it — said in a calming voice. “You have summoned me in your time of need. Do not let your guard down and do not close your heart to anyone. Even those you might think ill of have a heart. It’s just not with them.

Something in those words just seemed to click with Ash as he nodded. “But . . . Can you help Pikachu somehow. Any way, please! I just can’t go on without him!”

Ho-oh watched the child as he struggled against tears. “Of course, Chosen One, but do tell me this: why did you want to kill those of Team Rocket?”

Ash was taken aback by the question, and he began wondering himself why he’d done it. Yeah, they killed Pikachu, but likely not on purpose. They pretty much also drowned as well. Not to mention it wasn’t his right to do so. “I . . . I don’t know. I don’t think I wanted to kill them, but rather a part of me did. Just knowing that what they and the rest of Team Rocket did hurt my friends, killed Pikachu, and separated us from Gabby — it sent me over the top and my logic seemed to shut off completely. I don’t ever want to feel that way again.”

Ho-oh knew the boy was honest, and nodded in acceptance. “You understand than. It wasn’t them that angered you. It was what they did to your friends. That is what true anger is born from. Remember that, Ash Ketchum.”

Then it was as if Koffing had used Explosion again. Things went white and the next them they knew, they were all waking up, Ash from Pikachu’s morning snuggles. It took everything is Ash not to cry then, but even that wasn’t enough.

Ash smiled as he remembered. It was just as heartwarming as when he first seen Pikachu in Professor Oak’s lab that fateful day. The same day he saw Ho-oh, met Misty, and Gabby. Also the same day he happened upon Team Rocket, thus becoming a target of theirs. With every new thought, his smile refused to slip, ‘cause he knew he had all his friends in arm’s reach, so to speak. He touched his pocket, where he knew the Rainbow Wing stayed.

They worked through the night and by morning, the barrier was fully assembled and ready to be placed. Over the past several days they’d been working, they met a nice guy at a restaurant named Moe, who happened to have a boat, so they used that to help them put it in the ocean. Gabby, clinging to Gyarados, fitted the logs into the sea floor while to guys and even some volunteers helped hold the logs in place.

Noon came and after one last check for Tentacool on the safe side, the best friends gave an approving nod at a job well done.

“You did great, kids,” Moe said with a grin. He looked as though he’d be a grouchy old fart, but he was actually kind, especially since he offered his boat to help. He, like many other shops and restaurants, was worried about their sales going down because the island would become less appealing due to their infestation of Tentacool. “Let’s hope Brutella doesn’t get too mad now.”

“Brutella?” Ash questioned.

Moe nodded. “Yep. The lady who intended on having the Tentacool wiped out. Now that they can’t attack, though, the exterminators won’t have to right to do so.” He scoffed. “Seems it’s all about the humans living here and not the Pokémon.” Then he gave a sigh. “I guess I’m not really one to talk. I’ve hated those Tentacool ever since they began attacking people.”

“We’re hoping this will solve both human and Tentacool issues,” Brock said understandingly. “There’s only so much of each other you can take.”

“You got that right, kid,” Moe said with a chuckled.

Gyarados emerged from the water with a playful roar, Gabby still holding onto his firm scales. With an intake of air, Gabby began laughing in enjoyment as more and more kids piled into the ocean upon seeing the beast of a Pokémon. They didn’t fear him, which was shocking considering many people — Misty, for example — were fearful of the massive Water-type that ruled the sea.

“Come on, Gyarados! Back under! I could’ve sworn I saw Krabby under there,” Gabby said.

With another playful roar, Gyarados crashed back under and they continued their little hide and seek game with Krabby and Squirtle.

Ash frowned and felt for the empty Quick Ball and Poké Ball. “How did they get out again?” he asked himself, but shrugged. So long as they weren’t getting into trouble. He mostly worried about Krabby clipping the rope of the barricade. He supposed if Gyarados and Squirtle were down there, Krabby’d stay out of trouble.

Noon came around and the playing Water-types were exhausted and ready for lunch. As were the humans, so Brock put himself to work by cooking up a little something for them all.

“Is Misty still not joining us?” Gabby asked as she set down the bowls for her Pokémon. Spitfire and Igglybuff shared their food, Shadow and Beekee theirs, and Raticate got the largest bowl for himself. Gyarados had already hunted Tentacool and Goldeen last night, so he didn’t need much more than a few vitamins to make the scales and poison go down easily enough.

Ash shook his head. “No. Misty’s still feeling sick. No more fever, but now she has the chills and can’t seem to get warm.”

“We don’t think it’s from the call sea of the S.S. Anne,” Brock explained. “I think she would’ve gotten sick before now had it been that, but you never know. A doctor came by yesterday and gave her some medicine so now she can stomach the sight of food.”

“That’s good,” Gabby said. Sorta, she silently added.

“So you’re the three heroes is this. I’m not surprised in the least.”

The three looked up from the food and nearly jumped a mile back. “Professor Oak?!” they chorused, while Ash added: “Mom?!”

Ash’s mom — Delia as they’d later find out — gave a sweet smile and waved at Ash’s friends. “You two must be Ash’s friends. It’s good to see he finally made some!”

Ash flushed red in embarrassment. “Mom,” he whined.

“Oh, don’t get so embarrassment,” Delia said. “You’re my baby boy, after all. It’s only natural I be excited about you making friends. And quite respectable friends from the looks of it!”

Much to Ash’s surprise, neither Gabby or Brock laughed. Misty surely would’ve and then proceed to tease him about being his mom’s ‘baby boy’. There wouldn’t be any way to deny it either! Ash was Delia’s only child, thus he was her baby. He’d forever be the baby. By mother standards at least.

Brock offered the two newcomers a meal, which both readily agreed to after hearing from Ash just how good Brock’s cooking was.

Gabby, on the other hand, stared wide-eyed at Professor Oak. She’d seen him before, but never met him, per se. Professor Oak, the genius behind the PokéDex and former Elite Four member, stood in front of her so casually. It wasn’t like before, when Oak would stop by the Poké Ranch and offer new opinions and such. Professor Oak was wearing a hideous bitch shirt with flowers on it, for Arceus sake! How did he get let out of the house wearing it?!

Ash introduced them: “And this is Gabby. She saved the Viridian City Pokémon Center and escaped the S.S. Anne invasion. If it weren’t for her, Brock, Misty, and I wouldn’t have made it out.”

The two new pairs of eyes widened above Gabby’s blushing red cheeks. She’d never felt so small against anyone. Not even the Rockets made her feel so exposed.

“Then I have you to thank,” Delia said with a nod Gabby’s way. The young Trainer’s eyes went wider. “If it weren’t for you, I could’ve lost my very reason of existence.” When Delia directed her gaze Ash’s way, eyes tearful bun contained, Ash couldn’t even bring himself to say anything. His mother’s words were true, and not just by a mother’s standards.

“It was nothi—” Gabby stopped herself. Of course it was something. Saving a life wasn’t something so typical. “I mean! I would’ve done over and over again if I had to. Ash is my friend. Brock and Misty are my friends. I couldn’t just leave without at least doing something. Honestly, I thought I’d lost them . . . and . . . and . . .” She couldn’t manage another word as her throat clenched tightly, her eyes straining to suppress the tears she refused to shed. She nearly jumped out of her skin when a hand touched her shoulder. When she looked up, she saw Delia’s eyes — so kind and meaningful without a lick of negativity. There were tears, but they weren’t of sadness. They weren’t brought on by the past, but rather they moment they existed in right then.

“I know,” Delia said gently, like what Gabby assumed a mother would comfort their child. “I thought he was gone, too, and I thought my life was ending, but when I got that call from him . . . I realized I wouldn’t give up on himself so easily, so I shouldn’t either. Until my baby boy reaches his dreams of becoming a Pokémon Master, I won’t give up hope. Not for even a second.”

Gabby felt like a child. At least, she assumed it to be a child-like wonder sending thrilling wave through her. She’d never experienced a true childhood, she realized. Full of Pokémon and not enough people. Heck, she was closer to her father’s Arcanine that she was with her own father. Not that it lessened her love; it was merely so. Something in her — so small, minuscule, and once deemed meaningless in another life — it consumed itself with such a light yet baring feeling. It wasn’t normal, Gabby knew; it couldn’t be, yet — she didn’t mind it as much as she should’ve. Such foreign feelings should not be so acceptable.

“I don’t understand, but—”

“You’re a child. I don’t expect you to understand just yet, but someday you will,” Delia said with a smile as she moved her hand away from Gabby’s shoulder. “Someday — perhaps with your own children, or even sooner with your Pokémon — you’ll see . . . No. You’ll feel the need to never give up, to never let your Pokémon down. You’ll know; when their dreams become your own.”

Gabby nodded. “I’ll do my best to understand. For me and my Pokémon.”

Delia’s smile only seemed to grow. “Good. So long as you work on it for both yourself and the ones of more importance, you’ll understand someday.”

To prevent an awkward silence, Brock was kind enough to call out: “Lunch is ready!”

Everyone rushed over and got themselves a plate of food and began chowing down. The sounds of chewing and savory filled the beach. It must have reached under the sea, because next thing they knew, Gyarados emerged with a roar of anger that they hadn’t so much as offered some food.

Delia looked horrified. “Oh, dear!”

Ash waved her concern away. “It’s okay, mom. That’s Gabby’s Gyarados.”

“What?!” Delia said in both amazement and horror.

“Really?” Professor Oak questioned. “You caught and tamed a Gyarados? You look to be around the same age as Ash; it’s near impossible to capture, tame, and train a Gyarados in just a matter of four months. How did you manage?”

Gabby shrugged. “I bought him from this one salesmen on the S.S. Anne, as a Magikarp. He hadn’t battled or anything before that, I don’t think. When I was attacked, Spitfire, who was already down and nearly unconscious, released Magikarp. When the person threatened and actually did drop my Pokémon egg, Magikarp evolved and sent the guy and his Pokémon running. He was loyal from the start, since I got him out of that small tank he was in. He was well worth that five-hundred I spent.”

Gyarados agreed with a roar. Kids around seemed to cheer along.

“That’s quite a story,” Professor Oak said. “I’ve never known a Gyarados to obey their Trainer from the start, even if cared for during the Magikarp stage. You have a rare case on your hands.”

“Thanks,” Gabby said. “I’ve been wanting a Water-type for a while since my seem is either weak against or their attacks do little to Rock and Ground-types. I used to say I wanted only Fire and Flying-types, but over my years of research, I found it just wouldn’t work out. So I caught Raticate and Beekee, bought Gyarados, and hatched Igglybuff. Those dreams went down as duds.”

“You do research?” Professor Oak asked, eyes suddenly wide and full of interest in the subject.

Gabby nodded. “Well, my dad has a bunch of books on Pokémon, so I did my best to occupy myself with as much knowledge as I could before I headed out on my own adventure.”

“Impressive,” Professor Oak said. “That’s more than even Gary can say. Then again, I can tell you two are quite different.”

Gabby’s nose wrinkled at the mention of Gary. “Yeah. I met him on my first day as a Trainer. I took down his Squirtle! Of course it took both Spitfire and Shadow, but I did it nonetheless.”

Oak nodded. “Understandable. Might I ask, though, what interested you most when researching?”

Gabby took a moment, looked down at her half feasted-upon meal, and considered the question. She’d never thought of it as an interest, more so just a task that needed to be done. As she looked back, however, she could recall one thing she liked researching above all else. “I liked researching about Pokémon’s reactions and personality. For example, one book said a Growlithe would want a nickname so they can be called your own, whereas stronger or more fierce Pokémon like Raticate would prefer being called by their species name. It always interested me; nicknaming, that is. It can make or break the relationship between Trainer and Pokémon.”

Another nod. “How right you are. I believe you and your shiny Beedrill — uh, Beekee was his name right? — have a fine companionship due to the nickname. You clearly have trust. How else would he be picking up food from your plate and you just continue eating, not afraid of toxins whatsoever.”

Gabby lifted a brow and turned back to see Beekee waving his stinger arms around, as if to tell Professor Oak to give away his position. On his chin was a single grain of rice that had not come from his own food. Beekee’s eyes turned sweet as he swatted the rice grain off his face. He buzzed around happily before heading back to the bowl he shared with Shadow, who just shook his head in disbelief.

“Ah, well . . . Maybe that wasn’t the best example,” Professor Oak said.

“Yeah, because it wasn’t an example,” Ash said. “That’s just Beekee getting back at Gabby for the nickname she gave him.”

“I see.”

“Not to mention he’s just a baby of his kind,” Brock added. “Not as much as Igglybuff, but he’s still only about half a year old, at most.”

“Interesting. It’s rare you see a Pokémon being so sneaky about stealing food off their Trainer’s plate. Usually they steal it without much worry of getting caught, quite unlike you, Ash,” Professor Oak, catching said boy in the act of snatching a chip off his mother’s plate.

Ash pulled his hand away immediately and scratched the back of his neck nervously. “Sorry about that, mom.”

Delia ruffled his hair. “It’s fine. Just be a bit more discreet next time.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I can’t do anything so long as the barricade is there,” a young man in a uniform said with a shrug. His voice let on that he was more annoyed than anything. “If it’s stable and keep Tentacool away from the people swimming, I have no right to do my job.”

Brutella huffed. “I was made by a bunch of kids! How can that possibly be deemed ‘stable’, as you put it?”

“No one’s been attacked since they put it up.”

“Because they have their guard Gyarados!”

“Regardless. No one’s been attacked, so I can’t help you get rid of the Tentacool,” the experinator said.

Team Rocket sat in the back of the restaurant, listening to the old hag complain about things completely meaningless to the exterminator. That woman needed to learn that the man did not care about the hag’s business; he cared about his own job and the money he got from. Quite frankly, the Rocket’s would be angered if they came all that way just to find their job had already been done, especially by a bunch of kids. Hence why the trio seemed to share the same idea at once. Eyes lingered between one another as they perfected it.

They stood and walked out, uniforms changed into typical wear. As much as they hated removing their Team Rocket identity, it became necessary. Their steps echoed loudly in the dead restaurant. No one ever seemed to come by after that Rock-type user started serving his meals to complete strangers for free.

“May we make propesistion?” Jessie asked.

Brutella turned and glared at her lovely guests. “And what’s that?”

“Nothing against this young man, but he seems to bare no knowledge of the Pokémon he was brought here to wipe out,” Jessie said with a smirk when the man straightened himself up as if that meant something. “Tentacool, though pests, are intelligent. How else would they survive so long otherwise?”

“Unlike Magikarp who have their superiors in Gyarados to protect them, Tentacool often depend on themselves,” James explained before the comparison could be brought up.

“Even if dat were the case, their Tentacruel parents would be even more smart,” Meowth added.

“Get to the point,” Brutella snapped.

Jessie frowned, but did so: “Tentacool know their pests. They know how to pest. They also know when they’re being prevented from pestering. Even still, they’re not ignorant enough to put an end to the ceased pestering to attack immediately. They’ll wait until the time is right.”

“When the people are most comfortable, have a little get together, and enjoying themselves,” James added. “They’ve kept quiet this long, so they’re gonna wait until the time is right.”

Realization struck the faces of beauty and ugly. “The contest.”

Jessie and James grinned, while Meowth let his claws grow in need of flesh. “Precisely.”

“Genius,” Brutella mumbled.

More like common sense, but Team Rocket took complements whether true or otherwise.

The man looked less impressed, but nodded. “Fine. I’ll stick around until tomorrow, but if nothing happens by then, expect me to take every penny you have.” Not that it would be a lot by the looks of things here, he silently added before turning away.

The sun shown particularly bright the next day. The stage and many unmatching chairs were already on the beach. Misty finally felt a bit better, so she joined them. She wasn’t well enough to take part in the contest, though.

“No!” Gabby shouted. “No way! Absolutely not!”

Misty’s eye twitched. Just because she felt better didn’t mean her headache was gone. “Come on, Gabby. I have the cutest bathing suit you can use.”

Gabby’s face grew red. “No! It will be so degrading. All those eyes on me and . . .” She shuddered.

“You’re doing it, whether you like it or not,” Misty said. She knelt down and dug through her beach bag. Misty pulled out a red and blue striped bathing suit.

Gabby squeaked in fear. “A two piece?!”

“Well, a one-piece isn’t going to impress the judges,” Misty explained.

“Bunch of pervs,” Gabby mumbled as she cautiously took the bathing suit. It would fit, if not be a bit tight. Gabby supposed that was the point, but it was still humiliating. “I don’t even know why I’m doing this.”

“We need to money to give to the city in case the barricade breaks,” Misty said, turning to the ocean to see the logs sticking out. “You guys did a good job on it.”

“Thanks,” Gabby said, though it didn’t reach her eyes.

Misty waved off Gabby’s annoyance. “You’ll love the attention! Now, come on — we need to think of something for your Pokémon to be!”

Misty dragged Gabby behind stage, where there were a few stales were for the ladies to change. All that kept them concealed was curtains. Misty noticed Gabby’s discomfort and said: “I’ll make sure no one tries anything.” That didn’t help in the least bit. “You’ll be fine. You think any of your Pokémon would let something happen—”

“Growl!” Spitfire came skidding across the wooden floor and stopped in front of Gabby, growl rumbling deep within him. Several waiting eyes looked over as Gabby knelt down to pet Spitfire and ask what was wrong. Spitfire only growled at the closed stall.

Seconds later, a voice came: “Keep that mutt of yours under control.”

Chills ran up Gabby’s spine and a sense of discomfort overfell. Her stomach flipped when the curtain pulled back and she felt as though she could get sick.

Misty cringed. “James?!”

“Who else but me?” James asked mockingly.

“B-But you’re wearing that!”

A woman’s bathing suit. On James. How did that fit so well?

James looked down at himself and smirked. “Yes. Much like yourself, I’ve decided to join in on the contest. There is no rule against me doing so.” He looked down at the Growlithe at Gabby’s feet, who just wouldn’t stop growling; hence its name, James supposed. He smirked and tossed out a Poké Ball. His Growlithe emerged and looked down at the far smaller, much younger Growlithe. “Keep it company, Growlie. Show it what a Flamethrower looks like.”

Right. Growlie knew Flamethrower, unlike Spitfire. Gabby hadn’t even been working on the move, wanting Spitfire to first master Flame Wheel and then move on from there.

Growlie grunted and stepped Spitfire’s way. Oddly enough, Spitfire didn’t look threatened at the sight, perhaps getting cocky and doubting Growlie’s true skills. Gabby, on the other hand, didn’t. She knew Growlie could do a lot more to Spitfire, than Spitfire could to Growlie. Then the thought came: Growlie doesn’t have the ability Intimidate. Even worse, he had Flash Fire, meaning the few Fire-type attacks Spitfire knew would only do so much and actually power up Growlie’s own attacks. Spitfire stood no chance.

Gabby couldn’t help but ask: “Why haven’t you evolved him?”

When James’ eyes pelted down onto her, a sense of lessening befell her. Probably because the man had a largely admirable . . . uh, middle most women would kill for.

“Why haven’t you evolved yours?” James countered.

Gabby forced herself not to smirk at the smart response. “Spitfire still has a lot to learn, is all. A lot that he can only learn as a Growlithe.” Why she told James was beyond her; she didn’t like it that way.

“Hmm,” was all James said before a long pause sounded. “I don’t like when my Pokémon evolve. It strengthens them, yes, but they become something — someone — I don’t know. That’s all.”

Misty’s eyes went wide in realization. “That’s why you and Jessie recalled your Pokémon when they began—!”

“Yes.” James ended their conversation by walking away, wowing every woman he passed with his, uh, middle. Yeah. Middle was a fine word.

Growlie didn’t follow, instead staying to entertain Spitfire while the latter’s Trainer got herself dressed in the bathing suit Misty forced her into.

Gabby looked at herself in the mirror and nearly flushed the deepest of reds. Her head grew light, and she thought she would pass out. She couldn’t do it. Not then, not now, not ever. Never!

The top piece was much like James’, but primarily red with a few blue stripes going down it. The bottom piece, though colored the same, what made to look like a skirt. It frilled out and didn’t even reach the middle of her thigh.

As Gabby baked in her embarrassment, a sudden drench of water hit her from above. Not rain or anything, but rather a Rapid Spinning Starmie with Squirtle on top to make it appear as though they were a UFO. Squirtle pretended to giggle, before sending down another spout of water at her. That got her out of the stall.

Gabby shook her head as if she were a Growlithe and frowned as she felt her hair.

Misty smiled. “Nice work Starmie! Squirtle!” She turned to Gabby and her smile softened, as if sympathetic. “Sorry about that. I knew you wouldn’t come out otherwise.”

“My hair . . .” Gabby said. She suddenly realized how Misty felt when Caterpie had ruined her hair with String Shot.

“It looks better that way,” Misty said. “It looks like you’ve been swimming.”

“I hate you,” Gabby said unconsciously. “So much.”

“You’ll forgive me once you’re out there getting all the judges’ attention.”

That was the last thing Gabby wanted. Unfortunately for her, Misty was quick and shoved her over to the main stage entrance. Gabby tensed and attempted to run, but both Growlie and Spitfire blocked her way.

“Traitor,” Gabby mumbled.

“Come on, Gabby!” Misty said. “You’re beautiful! The crowd will see that. Not to mention Starmie and Squirtle’s ‘costume’ is great.”

“And neither of them are mine,” Gabby said.

“That doesn’t matter! You could use wild Pokémon for all the crown cared, so long as you are out there, smiling and making a pretty face.”

“I was made for battling. Not modeling.

“This is for the Tentacool.”

“Traitor!” Gabby snapped. How dare Misty use Pokémon against her? It simply wasn’t right, because it would always win. Gabby hated losing. Almost as much as she hated Misty.

Misty ignored and pushed Gabby out onto stage.

With a forced smile, Gabby walked as models would, waving her hand and blushing furiously. She glanced over at the judges — Brock, Ash, and Nurse Joy. At least she knew she could trust them.

“And here’s Gabby from Viridian Forest!” Brock announced. “Something else yet all the same, she struts with a confidence only a true born Trainer could have.” Which wasn’t all that much, to be honest. “Now, let’s see her—”


Heads turned as the beach began to shake with Gyarados’ oddly fast movements. Yeah, he was fast in the water, but never had they seen such a massive water-dwelling beast move across land so fast. Gyarados stopped right next to the stage and lowered his head to Gabby’s level. At that moment, Gabby’s mind went straight to her beloved Pokémon. The contest, the crowd, and that bathing suit she was wearing seemed to leave her mind as she brought her arms as far as she could around Gyarados and stroked his diamond-hard scales.

“Sorry I haven’t visited you in a while,” she mumbled; the crowd couldn’t hear. “This contest is a pain.” Oh. The contest. The crowd. The bathing suit. Gabby went noticeably red.

Gyarados huffed unknowingly.

A round of “aww”s came from the crowd, and even Nurse Joy. “I wonder what Gyarados could possibly be,” she wondered over the intercom.

“He’s nothing short of a hero!” one person in the crowd called.

“That Gyarados is unlike any other!”

“He saved my kids from being attacked by one of those Tentacool!”

“He saved mine when they went too far out!”

“If he doesn’t win, this city will know hell!”

“He’s the kindest of his kind!”

Gabby pulled away upon hearing those words. “You did all that?” she asked Gyarados.

Gyarados also pulled away and nodded, red eyes glistening for something. Praise. Not from the crowd, but from the one who save him; from the one he saved; from the one he stood by. Instead, he saw tears fill Gabby’s eyes. Something in him told him to swoop down and cover his Trainer’s face from the crowd, to ensure they didn’t dare see the tears they gained no rights to see. He did just that.

Gabby hugged him as tightly as she could. “You’re amazing, Gyarados,” she said through her few happy tears that Gyarados let her wipe on him. “I’m proud of you.”

“Rodos,” he answered, far more quiet than before, as to not hurt his dear Trainer’s ears.

Once the tears stopped, Gyarados lifted his head up to see the crowd swooning over how adorable it all was.

“Well,” Ash said. “What do you two think? Is a hero a good enough costume?”

“It’s the best one I’ve seen in all my years as a judge,” Nurse Joy said sweetly.

“Original and well-executed,” Brock said. “The model was nice, and the Pokémon’s costume sealed a fine deal.”

Upon hearing that, Gabby decided her time on stage was done. She climbed up on Gyarados and they got out the way so everyone could still see the stage. On top of her Pokémon, she felt ready to take on the world, even if she just went through the most degrading, humiliating, and horrifying ordeal of her life. She only hoped her father wasn’t watching on TV. Oh, gosh . . . He’d be horrified that she had a Gyarados. Beekee and Raticate were bad enough — them both being deemed ‘too dangerous’ — but if he knew she caught the monster of the sea, she’d be making her own grave.

A few models later, Gabby cringed when Brock called out James. The man came onto stage, bikini clad, and rocking it like no one before him had. James wore a lot of confidence in his smirk and wandering eyes. It was a . . . good performance. Gabby could tell. Most everyone, especially the ladies in the crowd went crazy. It was almost admirable — James’ confidence, that is. And his middle.

“And here’s his Pokémon!” Brock continued, voice letting on that he was very uncomfortable.

James’ Pokémon’s costume was interesting. Koffing came into view, Ekans tired around him, hanging to act as a string. They were a balloon apparently. It was a bit odd, but Gabby got where it came from. Not to mention it wasn’t too badly executed.

James didn’t take his eyes off the two Pokémon, eyes clouded with something Gabby never would’ve thought she’d see from a Rocket. There was a sense of worry in his intense, confident eyes. A worry for his and Jessie’s Pokémon. If Gabby weren’t there to see it for herself, she’d never believe it. A sense of sympathy came with the sight, and she sighed.

Gabby made fast work about sliding down Gyarados and rushing to a store that sold special stones. Fire, Thunder, Water, and Leaf Stone. They even had something called the Ice Rock, which apparently evolved Vulpix. How? Regardless, Gabby picked up a handful of Everstones, and requested they break one into several pieces, so it could control several Pokémon’s evolutions. There was Koffing, Ekans, Paras, and possibly Eevee. In case Eevee didn’t want to evolve, she even bought a harness that could easily go around the Evolution Pokémon. The other Everstones were for her and her friend’s other Pokémon, in case they didn’t want their Pokémon to evolve. There were several collars, harnesses, and other ortemets for Pokémon to wear just in case they didn’t want the Everstone’s implanted, in case they ever wanted to evolve in the future. It was cheap compared to the actual evolutionary stones, which were ten times the cost.

The man at the cash register raised a bushy brow. “You really don’t want your Pokémon evolving, do you?”

Gabby faked a smile. “They’re mostly, uh, gifts for other people.”

The man nodded. “Would you like them wrapped? Or in a special bag?”

Gabby shook her head. She didn’t want them to actually be ‘gifts’ for Team Rocket; just items to keep their Pokémon from evolving, to keep their power levels as low as possible. That’s what Gabby told herself. “No, no — just put it in a paper bag. I don’t want them knowing it’s for them.”

Another nod, and the man did as requested.

Spitfire and Gyarados kept a glaring eye on the Rocket duo, and when their Trainer turned up, then relaxed only slightly. Spitfire growled when Gabby walked up to the emotionless duo.

It took a few seconds of confident breaths of air, but Gabby held out the paper bag. The Rockets appeared surprised, given their shared glance, but Jessie took the bag and opened it with much caution. Eyes went wide, and Gabby turned away. “I don’t need nor want any thanks,” she said before walking away. Spitfire followed his Trainer, confused.

Just as she stepped off stage, the beach — the entire island — rumbled underneath her. The sea rippled. As she looked out, she saw, approaching the city faster than most of its kind could manage, a massive Tentacruel. At first only the top of its head was visible, the aqua blue and blood red bulges, then its menacing, dangerous eyes peeked the surface and it glared with so much hate; it radiated so vividly. Gabby felt herself growing vulnerable to the sheer hatred, and she realized she hated everyone as well.

Gyarados roared in warning at the Tentacruel, but that didn’t frighten it away. Why would it? It was the size of the tallest building in Port Vista, while Gyarados didn’t reach even half of that.

Folks began screaming and running away from the beach. Ash and Brock ran up alongside Gabby, Poké Balls clutched in their hands, ready and shaking to protect. Ash turned back to see Professor Oak and his mother staring in awe of the massive Tentacruel.

“Mom! Professor Oak! You need to run now!” he shouted.

“I am not leaving you here!” Delia shouted as she frantically shook her head. “I can’t.”

“And I can’t help the others when I know you’re near, unprotected,” Ash countered maturely. The seemed to snap something in his mother. Tears filled her eyes, but she nodded nonetheless.

“Take care of yourself, sweetie,” she said, voice barely reaching Ash’s ears as the island continued to rumble.

Ash gave a nod and confident smile.

Professor Oak made no objection of leaving, though he did wish he had better sight of the Tentacruel, for he’d never seen such an abnormally large Pokémon. Sure, there was this large Krabby at his office, but it was nothing compared to that Tentacruel.

Waves stirred with the Tentacruel’s every moment until it lifted one of its many large tentacles and slammed it down on the newly made barricade, shattering it to bits. As it was so near the shore, waves crashed at took the young Trainers with it.

“Pika!” Pikachu cried in pain as he hit the now muddy ground. He shook some water off and his cheeks began sparking. Before Pikachu could let the Tentacruel have it, the Tentacruel sent another wave — Surf — the poor Electric-type’s way, engulfing the Trainers. Before Ash’s head went under, Pikachu caught his Trainer’s voice shout:

“Use your tail to surf!”

Pikachu was quick to do so, swerving and unsure of the waves. Once he got it down, he saw Gyarados riding the waves alongside him, Gabby atop him.

“Dragon Rage, Gyarados!” Gabby called.

Just as Tentacruel reached the beach, towering over them, Gyarados opened his mouth and launched a massive stream of blue flames its way. Tentacruel was fast and lifted a tentacle to block the attack. It didn’t so much as flinch otherwise, swinging its tentacle down. Before it could strike either Gyarados or Pikachu, Gabby ordered Gyarados to dive.

Pikachu took the chance and launched himself at Tentacruel before streaming his electric current through his body. Bolts flashed and made dear contact with the Tentacruel. Had Pikachu only been ten times his size, maybe then it would’ve tickled the Tentacruel.

Tentacruel swung a limb and slammed against Pikachu, sending the electric rodent flying into a building halfway across the island.

“Hydro Pump!” Gabby shouted from below.

Gyarados fired a massive jet of water at the underside of the Tentacruel — its weakest and most delicate part. The moment it made contact, Tentacruel winced and began to thrash. The issue with having been under the Tentacruel was, it became impossible to dodge its flurry of tentacles. Gyarados took the attacks, not daring to allow Gabby to get hit.

Once out of the mess, Gyarados was breathing heavily and already exhausted. Tentacruel had gone from the beach to the many buildings in the city. With its many limbs, it slammed and crushed any and all things in its path.

Ash was already out of the water, on the back of his Pidgeotto, out of the Tentacruel’s reach and shoring through the sky. Butterfree also flew alongside, with large determined eyes glowering down at the Tentacruel as if it were the most unthreatening thing in the world.

“Try using Sleep Powder,” Ash said. “Use Teleport if you have to.”

“Vreee!” Butterfree called, swooping down. It produced a natural sleeping aid and allowed it to dust the Tentacruel’s top, but it just seemed to sink in to its squishy self. “Vre?”

That got Tentacruel’s attention. It looked up with a glare and swung a glowing purple tentacle — Poison Jab — and ached to knock Butterfree out of the air like it had to Pikachu.

“Teleport, Butterfree!” Ash shouted.

Butterfree knew what to do. One second he was there, and the next Tentacruel bashed in a building instead of Butterfree.

“Teleport close, then use Gust with your Effect Spores!” Ash called out.

Before Tentacruel could pinpoint where Butterfree had teleported off to, a gale rushed at him any powders covering it. It simply allowed the ooze coating its body to absorb it. Ash noticed the Effect Spore attack was pointless and called Butterfree off. Again, the Butterfly Pokémon was gone before Tentacruel could launch another Poison Jab its way.

From afar, two Rockets and their partner Meowth watched sitting atop a hanging cliff the waves couldn’t reach. “So that’s what Rare Candies do,” Jessie said considerably.

“I told you,” James said as he knelt down to Growlie. “They’re supercharged medication that have many negative effects on a Pokémon, even going as far as to evolve them unnaturally. Frankly, I find it disgusting of a Trainer to force something with what appears to be a treat.”

“I gotta agree,” Meowth said. “But if it makes da boss man happy, we have no choice but to do it.”

Jessie and James frowned. “Yes,” they said in unison.

Jessie released Blissey. With their two most trusted friends and Meowth by their sides, Jessie and James readied themselves for the battle and catch of a lifetime, shiny and newly backed Repeat Ball in hand. That little rich man in Saffron was good for something, they supposed.

“Onix, Rock Throw!” Brock shouted.

Onix, sitting the the water, slammed his tail on the ground, allowing hundreds of large pieces of earth to rise before he used his unknowing forced to hurl them the Tentacruel’s way. Over the years of being a Gym Leader, Brock had put Onix through quite a bit of training, so know he wasn’t so affected by water in of itself, but rather only Water-type attacks when dealt harshly.

Tentacruel coiled back as the rocks struck him hard, but wasn’t about to fall. Instead, he narrowed his eyes and slammed a tentacle to the ground, causing another uproar of wave.

“Endure it, Onix!” Brock said.

Onix braced himself and took the powerful Surf attack to the face. His rock segments were soaked, and Brock knew his friend couldn’t go on much longer in such a condition.

“Screech, then Dig for cover, then hit it with another Rock Throw when you come up!”

Onix was fast for his size. He bellowed out a ear-piercing screech, the mere soundwaves pushing Tentacruel back a few inches. Before the Tentacruel could retaliate, Onix burrowed himself deep within the earth, the feeling of dirt and rock surrounding him drying away the water. When he shot back up, he brought more rocks with him, hurling them Tentacruel’s way skillfully. They struck its underside, just as Gyarados had with Hydro Pump. They’d came across several Tentacool in the past, so he knew how to deal with it.

Tentacruel cried out in pain, slamming another tentacle into a building, as if it were helping him make a point in how strong and powerful he was.

“Teach it what a real Slam attack is, Onix!”

“Gyarados, Dragon Rage once more!”

“Don’t let up on Gust!”

The barrage of attacks struck hard and even with Tentacruel’s naturally amazing defenses, it found itself having the shield the many attacks pelted upon it. Every move he attempted went pretty much unnoticed or completely missed given Butterfree’s Teleport and Onix’s Dig. Soon it became too much, and it cried out loudly. Not in pain. No. For help.

What came next was a scene straight out of a horror movie as hundred of Tentacool — those responsible for so many injuries and even a handful of deaths a year — surfaced and gathered around to take hits for their leader. Not only did they take hits, but they dealt them in the form of water orbs. Brock could barely order Onix tunnel underground fast enough. Then what? The ground was not like it was in his gym; breathable, allowing sound to pass through with ease.

“Hydro Pump, and beat your tail on the ground!” Gabby ordered Gyarados.

Gyarados did so, spewing a torrent of waves at the line of Tentacool while also hitting the ground to alert Onix that it was momentarily save. The massive Rock-type emerged and launched several rocks the Tentacools’ way as per Brock’s sudden demand. Just as was about to hit its targets, a series of Water Pulse orbs shot right at the rocks. The impact was harsh and explosive, momentally stunning Onix.

“Butterfree! Teleport Onix away—!” Ash started, but was cut off by Jessie and James’ sudden appearance and demands:

“Growlie, use Extreme Speed.” — “Protect, Blissey.”

Growlie shot up Onix’s body at blinding speed with Blissey on his back. The moment they were atop the massive creature’s head, a green shield just as massive. The Water Pulses bounced right off.

They had to act fast. Protect didn’t work twice in a row.

“Dragon Rage! Don’t let up!” Gabby called.

“Rock Throw. Careful of Growlithe and Blissey.”

“Try a Confusion attack!” Ash called. He and Butterfree had been working on one of the most powerful attacks said Bug-type could use. It had yet to be perfected.


“Ice Beam!”

That became their tactic. Stun the Tentacool and Tentacruel into not moving, then use Protect to avoid hits. It worked for some time; several attacks in, until the massive Tentacruel had enough of the barrage of attacks. Horrible purple poison poured from its underside, where its toxin pounch was and with a sway of its tentacles, it let it free in waves. Even if Jessie could spit demands fast enough, no way would the exhausted Blissey have been able to create another Protect screen in time. There was only time for one rushed intact of air that already tasted of the awful Sludge Wave coming their way.

A thin wave of poison washed over them, Pokémon crying out in pain and humans wincing as the poison stung their all too sensitive flesh. It couldn’t reach Ash, though.

Jessie sat up, eyes shut as to not allow the poison into her eyes and shouted: “Blissey, use Aromatherapy to get rid of the poison, then use Heal Pulse!”

Blissey was right on it, her aura growing green as she ridded the poison first off herself, then Growlie, then the rest before sending a Heal Pulse, careful not to offer the Tentacool any, knowing it would anger and upset her best friend. It felt wrong, though. Blissey was hatched, raised, and trained to help all Pokémon, not a select view, but after Jessie helped her evolve, she wouldn’t dare go against her best friend’s orders.

Everyone seemed to lighten up and stood tall once more with confidence. Still, more and more Tentacool piled around. Thousands of them . . . If that was how many from just around Port Vista, maybe they did have an infestation problem after all and needed to do something. Not be rid of them, but maybe take some and place them elsewhere.

“Try using Confusion again!” Ash shouted at Butterfree. It hadn’t worked. The pink mind aura and glowing eyes came, but Butterfree couldn’t consume the Tentacruel with mind energy. He needs more practice with Psyduck, Ash thought as Butterfree’s eyes glowed with mind energy once more, only to fail. “Then hit it with a Gust and close-range Tackle attack!” He rarely used Tackle anymore; Butterfree was a long-range battler, but he needed a direct hit.

“Hydro Pump!”


“Rock Throw!”

Tentacruel was less careless in letting the attacks hit him this time, as he manipulated the water below him to create another wave and sent it their way.

“Protect, Blissey!” Jessie called, but it was too last. Waves of water consumed the attacks with ease and before Blissey could summon a shield, the water took them under.

“Brock! Gabby!” Ash shouted in worry. “Where’s Misty,” he wondered aloud, hoping she’d at least made it out of the mess. What about his mom? And Professor Oak? Were they okay? Ash dearly hoped so.

“Butterfree, keep attacking,” he said. “I’m going to search for Pikachu.” A powerful Thunderbolt would surely do the trick. He hoped, once more.

Pidgeotto swooped down, dodging each and every hurled tentacle shot her way. Ash clung to his first evolved capture when she turned on her side for a quick and easy dodge. When his eyes caught sight of yellow, he pointed Pidgeotto that way.

With a graceful landing, Ash jumped off and ran to his fainted Starter. There were several spots of blood, and Ash was quick to repair it with a Hyper Potion. Brock had taught him during their time at the giant Pokémon park how to properly apply potions so it didn’t burn the Pokémon while also getting the healing medication in the wounds.

Pokémon were incredibly fast healers, so Pikachu’s wound healed before Ash’s eyes. The faster the Pokémon, the faster the healing process since their heart pounded fast; Pikachu was very fast, especially with Agility and Quick Attack.

Pikachu’s eyes opened. “Pika-pi,” he mumbled upon seeing his beloved human.

“Hey, buddy. Good to see you’re awake,” Ash said. His expression turned serious. “You think you can help me take down that Tentacruel?”

Pikachu’s expression matched his Trainer’s and with a nod, Pikachu pushed himself on Ash’s shoulder with a determined: “Pika.”

“All right. Here,” Ash said and put a blackberry to Pikachu’s mouth. Pikachu made a face. “It’ll help with your fatigue. You need this to fight.” Lt. Surge had given Ash some military ration berries, as the soldier called them since Pikachu was rather frail with his defenses.

Pikachu took the nasty looking berry and immediately felt a sense of energy overtake him. His cheeks sparked and the sour taste of the berry was forgotten all together.

Ash with Pikachu on his shoulder climbed atop Pidgeotto once more and they were off to help a now struggling Butterfree. Teleporting was no easy feat by any means and though the Butterfly Pokémon had been practicing for several months now, it was still a pain. Literally.

Once high enough, Ash called: “Thunderbolt that Tentacruel, now, Pikachu!”

“Pika-CHUUU!” the Electric Mouse cried as he shot his many volts down at the Tentacruel. The cry alerted the Tentacruel, who looked up and held its tentacle over its face. It didn’t matter though. Tentacruel were made of toxins and a mushy water substance, so it conducted the electric-type move and allowed it to spread far. A light show lit the entire island brilliantly, but even when it ended, the Tentacruel stood mostly still the same. “Pika?!”

“What more than a super effective Thunderbolt can take it down?” Ash said in a mumbling tone. Then it hit him. The others had been aiming for the Tentacruel’s underbelly. “I got it. Pikachu, we’re about to pull a risky move so get ready.” Pikachu nodded, if not a bit cautiously so. “All right. Under the Tentacruel, Pidgeotto!”

“Pika?!” Pikachu cried out again.

Before Pikachu could further object, Pidgeotto swooped down with ease and dove under the many tentacle looking to strike her. Shadows shifted over them as the looked up at the Tentacruel’s black underside and continued avoiding the thrashing of poison-coated limbs.

“Now!” Ash shouted.

“Pika-CHUUU!” Yet another light show of sparks came, but they ended just as fast as they started. Tentacruel swatted a tentacle just right and knocked Pidgeotto out of the air, onto the toxin-covered mud of the beach.

Ash winced as he skidded along his arm, the poison entering his new wound. This isn’t good, Ash thought as he recalled Pidgeotto and picked up Pikachu’s once more fainted body. The berry had helped boost his stamina, if only for a short while. That was the issue with berries; they only lasted so long before the Pokémon crashed from the — for lack of better words — high the berries offered.

Ash pushed himself up and let loose Squirtle, Krabby, and Bulbasaur. He couldn’t see Butterfree from where he stood, but hoped he was okay. His final three watched with undeniable determination. Ash ordered their attack.

Bulbasaur was immediate in using Sunny Day. Though it would lower the power of Squirtle and Krabby’s Water-type attacks, it would also power down the Tentacruel’s. A blinding ray shot from Bulbasaur’s bulb to the fiery sun above to create a beauty to behold.

Krabby spat a storm of bubbles to hide within and did just that.

Squirtle began Rapid Spinning. He landed the first attack, going from one Tentacool’s top to the next, stunning them long enough for Krabby for find his way with Vice Grip. The two barely dodged Bulbasaur’s Vine Whip attack.

Bulbasaur kept the Tentacool’s tentacles from flailing around by tying his vines in a knot around their limbs. Krabby did much the same with Vice Grip.

It did little to the Tentacruel, though. In fact, he hardly seemed to care that his soldiers were falling to unevolved Pokémon. Ash realized this and ordered his Pokémon to instead target Tentacruel: “Krabby, use Bubble Beam to hide everyone! Bulbasaur, Squirtle, you keep on attacking!”

Another flurry of bubbles hid them until they got close enough. Squirtle launched himself in a Rapid Spin and struck the Tentacruel’s limbs, putting it off balance if even for a moment. In reaction, Bulbasaur gripped the unbalanced tentacles and yanked with much force. Not that it did too much. Judging by the sheer size, each of Tentacruel’s limbs were at least four time the weight of a Tentacool alone. Squirtle’s shell was just so strong, it was able to force the limb to buckle under it.

The attacks didn’t go unnoticed this time, as Tentacruel screamed out and swatted a tentacle at Squirtle, sending him flying back.

“Steady yourself with Rapid Spin!” Ash called to his friend.

Squirtle did just that and launched fast and hard into an Aqua Jet. He struck Tentacruel before it could swing at Bulbasaur.

“Now, Bulbasaur! Use Razor Leaf, just like we practiced!” Ash shouted. Ever since seeing Paul’s Ivysaur, they’d been working on Razor Leaf and even effect spores. Razor Leaf was simple: propelling leaves from oneself at great speed. It helped with the Sunny Day was still going strong.

Bulbasaur sent a cyclone of razor-sharp leaves at the Tentacruel’s underside. The creature before them being so large meant it was an easy target to hit, so Bulbasaur's early learning direction was hardly notable when he sent the leaves flying.

Size, however, didn’t matter when Tentacruel had the speed and reflexes to make up for his oddities and faults. No amount of Aqua Jets or Sunny Day could stop or dodge the Poison Jab sent Bulbasaur’s way.

It hit and Bulbasaur, though also a Poison-type, immediately fainted from the impact. Getting hit with the weight of four Tentacool plus the muscle Tentacruel used did not feel good, to say the least.

Squirtle used Aqua Jet to capture Bulbasaur before his Grass-type friend could hit the toxin soaked sand. Brown eyes flashed red for a split second before he laid Bulbasaur on the ground gently.

Ash caught sight of Squirtle’s seriousness and called out: “Rapid Spin into a Headbutt, then Bite!”

“Squirtle-squirt!” the Water-type cried out. Once more with the Rapid Spin, Squirtle shot his way at the Tentacruel, but climbed higher with every tentacle he pinballed off of until he reached the soft center of Tentacruel’s underside.


Squirtle did not disappoint. With the quick shift from Rapid Spin to launching himself straight, he struck a lucky spot with his Headbutt. Tentacruel coiled into itself in pain as the tiny but painful jut consumed its most sensitive of spots. Squirtle’s mouth shot open before he grabbed tiny hold of the Tentacruel’s nasty-tasting poison pouch.

Few people knew, but all Pokémon have poison pouches that contained the toxins from Poison Powder, Poison Gas, and Toxic itself. No one knew when it started, but assumed it when hand-in-hand with the entire ‘evolution’ ordeal. It was how most Pokémon could use Toxic, if only for a limited time, as it did run dry quick. However, a Pokémon’s body, as Professor Oak previously explained, regenerated with toxins in the pouch so the body would never become unused to the poisons, thus would never ‘die’ from them.

Tentacruel began thrashing before it let loose the toxins within him. As he was part Poison-type, his toxins never ran out, though it was believed at one point that Tentacool and Tentacruel were once pure Water-types, but the sea became so polluted that the ‘evolved’ to live in such conditions and eventually changed their typing altogether.

The Sludge Wave took Squirtle with them and despite Squirtle’s defenses, he was taken out instantly, just like Bulbasaur.

Krabby — poor little Krabby — had no way of fighting for himself, considering how abnormally small he was; not even half the usual size of his kind. It made him fast and easy to hide, but nothing more. Still, the feisty shrimp of a Pokémon rubbed his pincers together to get the Tentacruel’s attention. Eyes narrow and dangerous, Tentacruel swung around and met the Krabby with a hard Poison Jab. Had it not been for the powerful skin he wore, Krabby would’ve when down just as easily as Bulbasaur and Squirtle.

“Koock,” Krabby sputtered as he grabbed hold of Tentacruel’s poison-covered tentacle. “Kooock!” he winced.

“Use Metal Claw to protect yourself, Krabby!” Ash called. Through Vice Grips and Double-Edges, Metal Claw had become a natural development over the past week and a half. And it being a Steel-type attack meant Krabby was protected from Poison-type attacks.

Krabby’s pincer glowed silver and his eyes went narrow as the pain dissolve into nothing.

Tentacruel let out another cry, this time with a powerful shock wave in an attempt to shake Krabby off, but its grip was tight and refused to loosen even the slightest. The colossal Pokémon shook in rage and ordered his Tentacool minions to attacks. Orbs of water and poison pins shot at Krabby in desperation as Tentacruel sent another wave of water, this one higher than any of the previous Surf attacks. This time, Tentacruel was actually able to ride the wave.

Building crumbled like they were nothing against the waves and tentacles flailed. Ash could barely keep his head above the wave long enough to see Krabby go flying into a building.

Misty’s head beat against itself painfully with every step she took to get up the building. It was a smaller building further in on the island, but she couldn’t risk upping a taller on closer to the coast if that Tentacruel could beat them down as easily as it was. Words — no. They were more like mumbles; mumbles rang in both ears and bounced off her brain stem. She felt as though she could pass out at any moment.

This is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before, she thought. But I think I know how to stop it.

She broke into a sprint up the stairs, her shoes clamping against the metal and sending sickening pain to her brain stem. The moment she burst through the roof door, she let her lungs absorb the comforting sea-salty air she grew so used to. She let our Starmie. Psyduck may have had the more powerful Confusion attack, but that power could only come after taking a few hard hits to the head. Misty could only imagine of deadly painful that’d be, with her migraine going on, that is.

“Psywave,” Misty said, tone calmer than she truly was on the inside. The louder her voice, the worse her senses flared.

Starmie jumped onto the roof ledge, not the least bit scared of falling and sent out of pink beam of Psychic-type powers to grab the Tentacruel’s attention more than anything. It did the trick. Tentacruel cried out as the super effective hit cut his Surf short. It looked up with dangerous eyes and rather than meeting Starmie’s face, it looked straight at Misty.

Misty held its gaze unwavering. Her sisters had taken in several hurt Tentacruel before and the key was to never show fear or desperation in training them. That should’ve gone without saying, but so few folks who attempted training the powerhouse of a Water-type understood that.

Same with Gyarados, Misty realized as she shut her eyes for only a moment. The mere realization did something, as her head-throbbing pains ceased immediately. I owe Gyarados — No! I owe every Pokémon an apology for my low-leveled words. From this point on, all Pokémon are equal in my eyes. That includes you, Tentacruel!

“You need to stop this!” Misty shouted at the Tentacruel. “I don’t know why you’re attacking suddenly. We put a divider so you’d have your own space, but you just destroyed it like it was nothing! We — my friends — do it to stop anyone from coming to hunt you down! They did it because they can understand both Pokémon and fellow humans!”

Silence, human! You know nothing about Pokémon!” Tentacruel shouted.

Misty looked taken aback by his voice and stood there, stunned for a moment before breaking out into another fit of words: “You’re wrong. Ash, Gabby, and even Brock are great Trainers; something that can only come through real understanding.

Nothing comes out of Trainers! Look at how weak they are!” Tentacruel said, swinging around a tentacle to present the mess he’d made. Brock and the Rockets lay sprawled out on the muddy beach ground, barely able to lift an arm up to call back their Pokémon; Gabby hung not far, atop Gyarados who’d been thrown onto and was now hanging in a tree; and Ash hardly surfaced the water as Butterfree attempting lifting his beloved trainer up out of it all. “They’re weak! Unlike me.

Misty stared in shock of her fallen friends, but shook her head. “You’re wrong. If they were weak, they wouldn’t have stood up against you in the first place. They would’ve ran and hid. Instead, they stayed to protect the people they cared for, the Pokémon they cared for.”

That makes them all the more weak,” Tentacruel said simply, readying himself for another attack, this time at the building Misty stood atop.

“What are you fighting for then?! Is it not the Tentacool — the ones you care about — that you’re fighting for?! Answer me this one time truly!? Are you not fighting for your own kind?!” Misty shouted, tears pricking the corners of her eyes as she faced death in the face.

Tentacruel stopped and stared up at the tearful girl, searching for something in her. He couldn’t find it. At least not the way he wanted. The girl was fearful, but not of him. She feared for her friends, her Pokémon, and even him. Him. The Tentacruel who was more than willing to kill her at that very moment. Yes. The desire to do so was there, but it lessened with the fascination and misunderstanding swirling within his mind. He couldn’t figure it out. Couldn’t figure her out.

He’d called upon her the day she arrived in desperation, and she hadn’t responded. He needed her to stop the humans from destroying their waters with their nasty pollution. Just because they evolved to live in the nastiness of the garbage thrown into the ocean didn’t make it any more pleasant to exist within. The water near the beaches, however, were cleaned daily. Humans swam in it after all, and heaven forbid a human swim in nasty waters, yet the Tentacool had no choice but to endure.

Now the humans seen just what the Tentacruel’s home looked like. The rumble, the mud, and the destruction was nothing short of what the Water/Poison-types went through day in and day out. So what if they could exist within it? Humans could exist in the mess he’d caused, but that of course wouldn’t happen. Someone would come by and repair everything, yet no one came and cleaned to ocean for the Tentacool.

What made humans so special? They created Poké Balls to contain Pokémon, but if that Pokémon didn’t want to stay in, they could just as easily destroy the Trainer who attempted to confined them. If that were to happen, though, that Pokémon would get put down. It wasn’t like that for humans. They didn’t die for their sins, but rather for their stupidity. So where was the girl’s — Misty’s — stupidity?

She spoke the truth. Tentacruel fought for his kind, unevolved and all. He fought for the ones he cared for, but did that make it any better? The humans may have fought for who they cared for, but humans hadn’t suffered like he and his kind had. They weren’t born into a world their bodies had been forced to evolve into; the world conformed to them with heats, fans, and air humidifiers. Nothing remained natural for them, in every right sense, whereas Tentacool’s environments was unnatural in every wrong sense.

It hurts,” he said, shocking Misty once more. “You humans may be weak, but so would I without the Tentacool. I hate admitting it, but had they not been here to help, I would’ve lost. You say they care for their Pokémon . . . Why not let them go then?

Misty considered for a moment before saying: “Because that’s not what their Pokémon want. Starmie and all my Pokémon don’t want me to leave them. They may have been powerful before, but with me, they’ve grown beyond that, beyond what they’d be as a wild Pokémon.”

Being weak hurts,” Tentacruel said.

“You’re not weak,” Misty told him.

I admitted I’d be defeated without others! How is that not weakness?!

“Because you knew you couldn’t stand up alone, yet you still did. There’s no shame in leaning on someone, or in your case, many someone's for support, especially in something you believe so much in,” Misty explained.

Tentacruel shifted his body back and forth — a head shake? “I don’t understand.

“You can’t under you let something protect you while you’re also working hard to protect them.”

Tentacruel stared for several more moments before shutting his eyes and feeling around. People grew near, now that the crashing sounds had ceased. They intended on killing him. “I want to understand,” he said, opening his eyes.

“You eventually will,” Misty promised.

Tentacruel nodded and quickly lifted a tentacle up to Misty, who fell back with a scream. There was the fear she’d been missing before. She’d let her guard down. Even if for just a second, she trusted he wouldn’t harm her. That was enough for him. “Capture me, human.” Misty looked up, not only shocked, but surprised. “If what you say is so, I want you to prove it, under one condition.

Misty looked up at Tentacruel's tentacle. There wasn’t a drop of poison on it. “And what’s that?” she asked.

Of course, Tentacruel thought. Humans always wanted to know the terms and conditions of what they were getting into.Nothing you humans are above. Simply clean the water so its once more inhabitable for Tentacool and Tentacruel to live in without needed to travel to clean water.” It didn’t seem too hard. It might even be ‘civil’ of humans to do.

Misty nodded and reached into her bag. “A Dive Ball good enough for you?” she asked.

Tentacruel said: “I’ll be doing a lot of diving, so it will do. Now, capture me before other humans reach us.

Another nod and Misty threw the Diva Ball far. It hit the squishy top of Tentacruel's head before bringing him in as a beam of bright light. Starmie Rapid Spun around to capture it and brought it back to Misty, who watched every little shake until it went ‘ding!’ in completion. Like with Psyduck’s Poké Ball, Misty head it close to her chest in promise to keep her Pokémon safe, before stuffing it away in her bag, to ensure no one knew she was the capturer. It wouldn’t be easy, giving Tentacruel's size, but Misty would train him and earn all his trust no matter what.

The sounds of screams and desperate pleads for life in already gone loved ones broke Misty out of her confident daydream. Before she could do anything for Tentacruel, she had to face what the Pokémon had done first.

The three stared up in awe and terror as the hulking Tentacruel with narrow eyes didn’t give them so much as a glance. Moe scratched his head and could only stutter out a: “Wow.”

Pikachu and Spitfire shared looks, while Igglybuff gooed at the Tentacruel as if it were Gyarados.

Misty smiled and stood prideful. “All right! Time to get cleaning. There’s a lot to get done.” Tentacruel nodded and dove under the murky water; a huge contrast from the beach’s water.

Igglybuff jumped out of Gabby’s arms and went over to where Misty stood. The baby Pokémon pulled out the marker Gabby had given her. It opened its mouth and before anyone could cringe at the thought of Igglybuff’s horrible singing, liquid gold seemed to flow in Igglybuff’s every word: “Igglybuff, igglybu~” Its red eyes went wide when unconscious bodies hit the floor. She blinked several times before she puffed out her cheeks and took off the cap of her marker. She went to work on doodling all over the sleeping people and Pokémon.

Episode Sixteen: Butterfree & Second Thoughts

Episode Seventeen: Lavender Town Spooks & A Tragedy

Episode Eighteen: Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

Episode Nineteen: A Closed-Fist Challenge

Episode Twenty: Blackout In Celadon City

Episode Twenty-One: Spitfire’s Time To Shine!

Episode Twenty-Two: They're Supposed To Be Extinct!

Episode Twenty-Three: Tournament Time! A Test Of Strength!!

Episode Twenty-Four: Great Cycling Road Race!

Episode Twenty-Five: Enter The Safari Zone! Danger On The Horizon

Episode Twenty-Six: A Ninja By Any Other Name

Episode Twenty-Seven: Ditto, Ditto!

Episode Twenty-Eight: Time To Evolve?

Episode Twenty-Nine: Tears After Cloudy Weather

Episode Thirty: Showdown At Dark City!

Episode Thirty-One: Jigglypuff! The Natural Sleep Aid!!

Episode Thirty-Two: Weddings & Custody Battles!

Episode Thirty-Three: Growlithe Heaven

Episode Thirty-Four: Back To School

Episode Thirty-Five: Fire In The Heart Of Spitfire

Episode Thirty-Six: Taking A Shortcut

Episode Thirty-Seven: Flying-types In Snow!

Episode Thirty-Eight: A Shining Battle

Episode Thirty-Nine: Insane Blain!

Episode Forty: Road Back Home

Episode Forty-One: Entering The Mind Of The Broken

Episode Forty-Two: Final Stretch! On The Road To Viridian City!!

Episode Forty-Three: Final Badge! VS Giovanni!!

Episode Forty-Four: Movie Special: Mewtwo Strikes Back

Episode Forty-Five: Perfect Target! Poké Ranch Infiltrated!!

Episode Forty-Six: Kanto’s One & Only Dark-Type!

Episode Forty-Seven: Victory Road! In The Steps (& Wings) of Legends!!

Episode Forty-Eight: Trading Festival! Meet Elite Four Member Agatha!!

Episode Forty-Nine: Round One! Only The Beginning!!

Episode Fifty: Dragon Festival! Meet Elite Four Member Lance!!

Episode Fifty-One: Nostalgia! VS A.J.!!

Episode Fifty-Two: Evolutionary Stones! Meet Elite Four Member Lorelei!!

Episode Fifty-Three: Battle Among Rivals! Gabby VS Gary Oak!!

Episode Fifty-Four: Finish Preliminaries With A Bang!

Episode Fifty-Five: A Different Format! 6VS6!!

Episode Fifty-Six: Unheard Hatred

Episode Fifty-Seven: A Pokémon In Deed!

Episode Fifty-Eight: The Final Stretch (Out Of My Reach . . .)

Episode Fifty-Nine: The Mighty Howl Of The True Legendary Pokémon

Sevii Islands Arc

Episode Sixty: Pallet Town Party! Ash VS Gary!!

Episode Sixty-One: Helping Professor Oak! To The Sevii Islands!!

Episode Sixty-Two: Rare Beauties!

Episode Sixty-Three: Mission! Find Lostelle!!

Episode Sixty-Four: Hypno’s Lullaby

Episode Sixty-Five: One Island & Mt. Ember

Episode Sixty-Six: Four Island! Meet Elite Four Member Lorelei!!

Episode Sixty-Seven: Don’t Jynx It!

Episode Sixty-Eight: Five Island & Lost Ways

Episode Sixty-Nine: Mission! Tame The Aerodactyl!!

Episode Seventy: Six Island & The Dotted Hole

Episode Seventy-One: Electrifying Meeting!

Episode Seventy-Three: Chambers Of The Unown

Episode Seventy-Two: Seven Island & The Trainer Tower

Episode Seventy-Four: Bash, Splash, and Hatch!

Episode Seventy-Five: Movie Special: The Power Of Many

Episode Seventy-Six: Team Rocket Hideout

Episode Seventy-Seven: Unleashed! Mind & Body Form One!!

Episode Seventy-Eight: An End To That

Episode Seventy-Nine: Watching The Orange Island Leagues! Ash VS Drake!!

Episode Eighty: Pallet Town Rival Showdown! Ash VS Gary!!

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