Symbiosis

In a different life Ash Ketchum looks upon his world from an unique perspective.

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/7917071/1/Symbiosis

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12. 12

"Of course we won't catch pokémon here," Ash reassured Melanie as she led him, Brock, and Misty into the hidden village.

Even he's got some manners, Pikachu huffed. And a sense of pokémon decency.

Ash wondered if human decency was a more appropriate phrase. But he had never learned about such a thing, so he guessed Pikachu's phrase would have to work for now.

"I'm glad. I know a lot of trainers would try and catch many of these pokémon that are currently weakened from injury," Melanie went on, "and the abandoned pokémon would be just as tempting."

Ash thought that if one replaced the word trainers with the word scum, the sentence would make more sense.

"We'd never do that," said Misty. "What exactly happens here?"

"This village is a place to care for injured wild pokémon and to help abandoned pokémon recuperate and move on," the pretty blue haired girl continued. "Many of them were formerly abused so we have to work through problems arising from that. We also monitor the health of the local wild pokémon population for any serious outbreaks of parasites or contagious infections. Finally, in certain circumstances, we watch over pokémon eggs and hatchlings."

"That's amazing Melaine!" Brock exclaimed. "And you do so much by yourself!"

"Well, I've actually had a lot of help from someone," the blue haired girl with the bandages admitted. "I was actually going to introduce you to him, once I found him."

No introductions are necessary. What are they doing here! It was a voice that Ash was sure that he had heard before. And in unpleasant circumstances. He turned his head to look at the source.

The bulbasaur that the trio had encountered earlier was behind them and judging by the intensity of its glare, attempting to launch a Solarbeam from its eyes. Misty and Brock turned and saw it. Misty's hand immediately went for her pokéballs. Bulbasaur unleashed his vines again, forcing her to dodge instead of deploying her pokémon. The plant-animal hybrid whipped out again with its vines, green, sinuous, and shiny as they sought to do the red haired trainer harm.

But Brock moved himself between her and the pokémon. His hands struck out and caught the vines, halting Bulbasaur's attack.

Bulbasaur used the captured vines to wrench himself into a flying Tackle attack. At the same time Brock yanked back to send the plant-type flying towards him for a headbutt. However neither anticipated the other's movements and thus they both were unprepared when their heads met with a resounding thud.

Brock staggered back, resisting the urge to clutch at his head in favor of retaining a combat ready posture. Bulbasaur skidded to a stop, readying himself for more fighting.

"Stop it both of you!" Melanie shouted, stepping between the two males. "Brock! Bulbasaur! I expected better behavior from the both of you!"

"But Melanie-"

Melanie-

"No excuses out of you Brock! And you know I can't understand any excuses from you Bulbasaur!"

"It's my fault," Misty interceded on behalf of the sufferers of Melanie's wrath, "we encountered him earlier, when he was defending an oddish. I thought we were going to have to fight him again so I tried to get my pokémon."

What the hell are you all doing here! Bulbasaur growled at the arrivals. What business- oh it doesn't matter. None of you bastards can understand me anyway. At least that means I insult you and you won't even notice.

Ash's left eyebrow twitched.

"I see," Melanie responded, raising an eyebrow. "Well as long as it doesn't happen again."

Melanie, why are they here? Bulbasaur whined, trying to get his friend's attention.

"Bulbasaur, these fine folks are Brock, Misty, and Aaron. They fell into our bridge trap and Brock was washed downstream where he ran into me. Aaron and Misty were looking for him and fell into some of our other traps, so I brought them here to make sure they're all right."

Bulbasaur groaned.

We're all going to die because of kindness. Shoulda known my life would end that way.

"As I was saying earlier," Melanie began, "I get a lot of help around here from someone else, and that someone is Bulbasaur. He helps out with the young pokémon and the abused. He even protects the village."

"Oh. And I take it you've got an oddish in residence?" Brock guessed.

"Oh yes. A young wild oddish is in residence," Melanie replied.

At least you're not planning on telling them the whole truth, Bulbasaur grumbled. Bad enough that they're here when we're having trouble with those Rockets... and we're going to have to keep them around long enough to see if they're rocket spies! That's why you invited them here, so I can kill them if they are! Very good Melanie!

It took all of Ash's willpower not to make any sort of reaction to Bulbasaur's realization. It took more effort not to react to his own realization that a), that there were Rockets in the vicinity and b), Bulbasaur might be correct. Now how to warn Brock and Misty not to trust the food...

"Is it injured? Sick?" Brock asked their host. "I could assist in its treatment. I've got some medical training."

How convenient, Bulbasaur muttered. You just happen to show up with medical training to give us a hand. Do you really-

For Arceus sake, shut up! Pikachu shouted at the plant-type. We're not Team Rocket spies! Brock's a former gym leader and Misty's part of the Cerulean City gym. But I might zap you if you keep this up!

Bring it rodent! Bulbasaur growled. Pikachu jumped off of Ash's shoulder and faced off against the green pokémon. Sparks flew from his cheeks as they started to circle each other.

"Break it up you two!" Melanie and Ash shouted at the same time. The two pokémon shot one last glare at each other before walking back to their human companions.

"Sorry about that," Ash apologized, "I don't know what's gotten into him."

You heard what he was saying!

Idiot he can't understand us!

Pikachu stuck his tongue out at Bulbasaur.

"It's alright. I don't think Bulbasaur likes you very much."

You don't say, the plant type commented.

"Anyway, what are you three doing in this area?"

"We're on our way to Vermilion City," Brock replied.

"But we're lost because someone decided to take a short cut," Misty cut in, glaring at Brock.

"If I recall correctly-" the former gym leader began, but was cut off by Aaron/Ash.

"Not now. I want to see the pokémon." Ash said, exasperated by the antics of those who were supposed to be more mature than himself.

"Why don't you take a look around outside while Brock and I tend to the injured and sick pokémon," Melanie suggested. "Misty, what you want to do?"

"I'll go with you two. I've got a little bit of training too, so I can lend a hand."

"Very well. Bulbasaur, would you please show Aaron around? And no fighting."

Fine, Bulbasaur replied sulkily.

The three older humans went into the medical building, leaving Ash and the pokémon alone outside.

Oh great. Now I've got to deal with the potential spy and his potential lying pokémon, Bulbasaur muttered, rolling his eyes. He turned around and started walking towards the nearest pool.

Who you calling a spy!

I'm calling the stupid human a spy! Wanting to see the pokémon indeed. He just wants to see if the hatchlings are here, Bulbasaur said heatedly.

What hatchlings?

Didn't you're trainer tell you rodent? Well too bad. Just know that when the time comes you'll be regretting your actions before I get my hands on you rodent!

Who you calling a rodent!

You! Stupid Pikachu! Bulbasaur shouted, turning back to look at the human and the electric-type.

Actually, I haven't said anything recently, Pikachu said.

Course you did. Who have I been talking to if not you!

Me, Ash Ketchum said to grouchy green pokémon.

Bulbasaur was speechless for once.

Each beat of his wings made the burning sensation worse. He didn't care. Each foot of altitude that he gained cost him greatly, the edges of his vision turning black. Every mile, every yard, every foot, every inch he flew was torture, like his life was bleeding out.

Pidgey didn't care.

Safely clutched in his talons was Hoothoot. Her mother flew just below them. Further down was the forest that they had called home, a great expanse that looked like rough green carpeting spread all over the landscape, crawled with Rocket grunts and their pokémon. Pidgey had tried to spread word, tried to warn his friends and neighbors, his predators and his prey, but he couldn't tell if he had been successful. The only thing that mattered to him was getting his family to safety.

Daddy, I'm cold. Can we please go lower? Hoothoot spoke up, safely within his talons for now.

No. I'm sorry. Pidgey replied. They need the altitude to ensure that any Rocket atttacks couldn't reach them and to try and hide from the grunts below. If the criminals spotted them either their lives would be in grave danger or they would use the fugitives to locate the village. Neither option was acceptable.

I don't see or hear anyone, Hoothoot said from below the father and child. But that's not right. Don't Pidgey, Pidgey, Spearow, Hoothoot, Beedrill, and Taillow usually stretch their wings together around now?

They usually did, Pidgey realized. He hoped that they were just hiding or had already fled.

The direction they were fleeing led them out from under the edge of an overcast sky. The air was damp and cold. Occasional beads of icy water formed on the fleeing flying types Wisps of grey clouds passed around them as they flew. Before them they could see the sunlit lands and the promise of the safety of the hidden village. They couldn't see it from the air, it had been built in a location that made it impossible to spot from the sky. But the little family knew how to get there.

Hoothoot, can you sense anyone? Pidgey asked the mother of his child.

No, but I might be too high up. I never spent much time honing my psychic talents.

Not even Noctowl?

No, but he might be shielding himself.

Yes hopefully he was in hiding as well. Pidgey didn't want to consider the alternatives. Well, actually, the idea that he was fleeing was palpable...

The air around him began to grow warmer as the family neared the edge of the overcast region. Soon they would be able to see the little hollow in the green carpeting below that marked the site of the hidden village. Only a little farther.

Hoothoot do you sense anything at all! Pidgey cried out. They needed to know if any Rockets or their pokémon were observing them. Descending without knowing that would put both his family and the village at risk. He might as well slit their throats himself.

I can't sense anything! Not even the background buzz. I think they put a blanket jamming technique over the whole area. No pokémon or human with psychic abilities would be able to sense anything unless they can pierce it.

So there's no way of knowing if they're watching us. Then we can't go to the village, we'll lead them right to it.

Not if they're watching someone else, Hoothoot declared, her voice taking on a determined quality.

Wait, what- No! But Hoothoot ignored him and dove, forcing her round body into the most streamlined shape she could manage. Pidgey desperately tried to think of a way to stop her but between her own talents with telekinesis, no matter how meager, and their child in his talons, there was nothing that he could do.

Mommy! What's mommy doing daddy?

Dive now, while they're focused on me! Hoothoot's words were almost lost to the winds, but Pidgey still caught them. There was nothing he could do to stop her, but he could at least make sure the risk she was taking wasn't wasted. He also began to dive, a more gentle maneuver that Hoothoot's desperate descent in deference to the child he carried with him.

Why aren't we going with mommy? Little Hoothoot asked, her voice growing panicked. Daddy?

Mommy's making sure the place we're going is safe. Don't worry, she'll be fine. Pidgey reassured his daughter, his words feeling hollow and empty in his heart and the painfully cold and empty pit in the core of his body where fear dwelt.

"Judging by the data we've gathered, from pokémon population densities, trap positioning, observed movements, and casualties, I would guess that the village is located in sector thirteen," said a green haired man in a black and white Rocket uniform, wearing headset, said. He was the leader of the Combat Team, John Baker. He was a former mercenary who fell in with Team Rocket in order to secure a long term position. He cared little for the ideals or actions of the organization, his only focus was on doing his job. "How confident are you?" A green haired man asked John. He was a tall man, his height making him seem slimmer than he actually was. He had brown eyes, and under the left one ran a wide and jagged scar. His name was Vincent Yamamoto and he was the leader of Operation: Secret Retrieval, the Rocket attempt to capture the pokémon of the breeder who had escaped their clutches earlier.

He was a cold man, but an ambitious man. Vincent sought to unite the fractured and divided humanity inhabiting the world. To bring them together and stop the foolish wars and problems of incompetence that had plagued them for so long. The League had potential, in fact it had already taken the first steps down that path, but it was too slow. Vincent had considered various independent nations and kingdoms, but none of them had any aggressive agendas. That left Team Rocket.

So Vincent signed up with the team and swiftly climbed through the ranks. He was efficient, stern, and consistently made good calls, a trait that the higher ups liked. His combat proficiency with pokémon and without pokémon was extraordinary. He held himself to high standards and when he was given command, he held his underlings to standards just as high. If they failed to live up to the standards then Vincent would take what he felt to be appropriate disciplinary actions, up to and including killing them with his bare hands.

He cared little about how they treated pokémon, both Team Rocket and pokémon were tools to help him achieve his goals. But as he worked with the organization he began to share their views on the wretched beasts that inflicted the pain of their company upon humanity. For this reason he was dedicated to capturing the newborns and giving them over to the Rocket training and research divisions for a brutal upbringing or a life cut cruelly short, sacrificed so others could have knowledge.

"Confidence is sixty-seven percent," John replied. "Whomever's behind this has some idea about what they're doing."

"And their precise location?" Vincent asked the Combat Team leader.

"If I had to guess I would say right here," he said, pointing to a small area of land that the map said was a small hollow. "If I'm reading this right the geography would help to conceal it from aerial surveillance. Considering the competence they've displayed so far I feel that I would not be remiss in saying that they would've known the advantages and set up there."

"And because their greatest defense was the fact that their existence was secret they wouldn't care that anyone searching for them would recognize such a hiding spot. Yes it all fits."

"I could send a reconnaissance in force to confirm. Shall I give the orders?"

"No, I'll let Team C prove their worth. It'll be a daytime operation, I'll send them now. But start preparing your team. We don't know what defense they have, but your team will be the core of our offensive. And it wouldn't do to have them be unprepared, now would it?"

"No sir. I'll give the orders right away."

"Good. Report back when you're ready. And tell Team B to prepare the restraints."

"Yes sir."

So you heard everything I said, Bulbasaur groaned, rubbing his forehead with a vine.

Yep, Ash replied.

Everything. Including the parts where I called you a spy or gave away critical information?

It's not like I can tell what information is critical or not without context, Ash answered with a shrug.

You're not making me feel any better, Bulbasaur moaned. Pikachu patted his head reassuringly.

At least now you know we aren't spies, Ash told the plant-type.

What makes you say that. You could still be spies, Bulbasur's eyes narrowed.

If I were working for Team Rocket I doubt they'd use me like this. They could just have me ask the wild pokémon, Ash pointed out.

True. But on the other hand sending you here might make us lower our guard-

Not a spy, Ash interrupted. I was raised by a weedle. I really don't know all that much about the human world and all. But from what I've heard and seen Team Rocket doesn't seem attractive.

Fine. But step out of line and I'll kill- There was a brief flash of yellow light and a crackling sound as Pikachu let loose a small electric shock.

Quit threatening my idiot, Pikachu told the shocked bulb bearing saurian. Me and my comrades are the only ones allowed to do that.

I probably should hit you back for that. I guess you get that one free.

I should hope. You've been insulting us and threatening us this whole time, Ash said, crossing his arms.

There was a small spot of silence.

So I take it you want to meet the pokémon around here? Bulbasuar offered.

Yeah that would be cool! But can we see the hatchlings you were talking about earlier? I want to talk to some other kids first! Ash answered, excited.

Wait... but that doesn't... well maybe... what about... but then again... you know what, you're weird, Bulbasaur said to the pokéraised child, shaking his head to shrug off the minor confusion spell. I'm afraid I can't do that.

Why not? Ash asked.

Because I don't think they'll react kindly to strangers, Bulbasaur told him.

Why?

Because the last strangers they met before us killed the breeder that was looking after them, kidnapped some of their brothers and sisters, killed their parents, and are currently hunting them.

What! Why?

Evidently Team Rocket found the abilities that the batch had valuable, Bulbasaur growled. And they didn't want the breeder to give them to another batch that could be used against them. They would've gotten away with it all if the breeder didn't randomly wake up in the middle of the night and interfere. So they killed him, cut off his limbs, and were planning to do other things to him while his compound burned down. Bastards. At least they didn't think that the wild pokémon would help the hatchlings escape. They got them here. And then somehow Team Rocket tracked them this far.

So that's why you're so uptight and mean, Ash said, comprehension dawning on his face.

Well that, and no offensive, but I really don't like trainers.

Why not? Pikachu piped up.

Yeah! We're not bad, Ash added.

Bullshit! Bulbasaur spat. There's two types of trainers. Those like Melanie and those like Team Rocket. Those like Team Rocket see us as mindless beasts, dangerous tools. They use us, abuse us, and then throw us aside. Or they experiment on us and kill us for the smallest reasons. They hate us, harm us, and in the end they wouldn't be sad to see us all dead. And it's not limited to Team Rocket. You'll find scum like that everywhere, even in the League. And there's trainers like Melanie. They'll care for us. They'll help us grow stronger. They'll be our friends. They'll be our partners. We'll work together and make good memories with them. But do you know what eventually happens?

No, Ash replied hesitantly.

Eventually they'll be betrayed by the first type and then they'll suffer a horrible fate. And their team will probably share it.

Is that what happened to Melanie? Ash asked, a little hesitant.

Pretty much, Bulbasuar replied with a nod. She had a bit of information that was valuable to Team Rocket so they bought off one of her so called 'friends'. The guy betrayed her and the result was she was captured and her team was killed. When she wouldn't give up the information they tortured her. Burned her. And when the window of opportunity passed they threw her away and left her for dead. She gave up being a trainer after that. It would cause her too much pain. She disappeared from the human world and came here and started caring for pokémon that needed help. Soon she had to build buildings and stuff to care for them and then this place was founded.

When did you meet her?

A couple of hungry pokémon were attempting to eat her patients. I drove them off, saw what she was doing her, liked it, and then stayed here to help out. Look kid, why don't you stay here as well. Give up on being a trainer.

No! Ash replied forcefully It's been my dream since Poison Lance told me stories about him and Luke and all the things they did. They helped so many people and pokémon. I want to do the same!

Do that and you'll get hurt, Bulbasaur stated flatly. And you'll get your team hurt. And because you're a good soul you'll end up doing something like this anyway. So skip the being a trainer part. Ain't it better just to take the gentle path if you're headed to same place anyway?

There are plenty of good trainers who didn't have that stuff happen to them! Lucas, the guy who trained Poison Lance, the weedle who raised me, he was fine!

How'd he go then?

Don't know, Ash admitted. Poison Lance never told me. But I know he wouldn't have been so accepting of my decision to be a trainer if something bad had happened to Lucas. He's a bit of a worrywart you see.

He probably retired early, Pikachu added.

How much experience do you have with trainers anyway? Ash asked.

Enough, Bulbasaur said.

Did you ever work with one?

Not as part of their team.

Did you ever observe them? Ash continued his questioning.

Quite a bit. I was curious. And I saw all kinds, but in the end they all were scum or martyrs. I used to travel you see, region to region. I've been to Orre and Unova before heading over here to Kanto. I've seen a lot in my travels. Ever hear of 'shadow pokémon'?

Can't say that I have, Ash replied.

Trust me, you don't want to. Let the League scum and the Rocket scum kill each other and just stay here and help us.

How bout no. I'm not going to end up like that, right guys? White light flared as Ash released his pokémon.

Please, we're not important enough to get hurt like that, Pidgeotto declared hovering by Ash's shoulder.

We can beat them if they mess with us, Butterfree trilled defiantly.

Ash isn't that much of an idiot, Pikachu agreed.

You three and your trainer think you can handle the world? I bet you three together couldn't even handle me!

Oh yeah! I could handle you alone! Pikachu shouted walking up to Bulbasaur and glaring at him.

Really electric-type? You think you can handle me.

I always did like electrocuting plant-types. It's not easy, but its ever so satisfying.

Bring it rodent, Bulbasaur taunted, raising his vines.

Gladly, Pikachu replied, cheeks sparking.

Break it up guys! Melanie asked us not to fight, remember? Ash interrupted the two pokémon preparing for a showdown.

Che. Fine. Your Pikachu just got out of an ass whupin.

Oh wow, you honestly believe you wouldn't end up fried and twitching on the ground. Your level of denial is impressive.

Drop it.

Fine, Pikachu grumbled, jumping back to his perch on Ash's shoulder.

So, why don't you tell us a bit about the area.

Fine, Bulbasaur said. He began to tell them about the geography, the weather and the problems it gave them, about the history of the place, significant events, funny stories, and local wild pokémon gossip. Ash and his team chimed in at the appropriate times. There was an undercurrent of tension underneath the surface of civility that dominated the conversation, both sides unconsciously ready for combat at a moments notice.

This nearly led to an awkward moment when a pidgey dived out of the sky, carrying a tiny hoothoot.

"Anybody got a zubat on them?" The Team C leader asked the Rocket members accompanying him on the scouting trip. Working during the day was a departure from the previous operational guidelines of the operation. Even with the partially overcast sky he was still nervous. They really had no way to explain their presence in the area in such numbers to any passing League forces, so they hadn't bothered bringing disguises. And as for the village they were searching for... well it would be hard to believe that the entity that had inflicted such casualties on them so far would fall for their disguises. Or even care about killing civilians. A very Rocket like doctrine the leader reflected.

"I got one chief," a Grunt replied, holding up a pokéball.

"Is it completely obedient? And map trained?"

"Yessir!"

"Have it discreetly scout the area ahead, passively searching for sonic emissions that would indicate the presence of the target."

"Yessir! Go Batty!" The Grunt shouted, calling out his zubat. The leader gave him a level look. It must have been a personally caught and raised pokémon, there would be no other reason for the nickname. He would have to have a talk with the Grunt later. They weren't supposed to get attached to the pokémon under their command.

The zubat took off further into the forest, moving quietly. It had none of the marks on its body associated with being trained by Team Rocket. Batty's trainer was obviously attached. Corrective action would have to be taken after the operation.

While they were waiting for the zubat to return the Rockets watched the sky to stave off boredom. They saw a dot drop from the sky that was probably a pokémon, but seeing as it landed where they knew the village was not, they simply ignored it. After that they quit watching the sky.

They waited for a couple hours before Batty returned with some news.

Crap! The pidgey exclaimed, wings flapping wildly.

An attack!

Wait don't! There's a child on board! Ash called out.

On board what? It's a freakin pidgey not an airplane idiot, Pikachu pointed out.

Either way don't attack. And- Ow!

Sorry 'bout that, apologized Pidgey from one Ash's head. It's hard to steer sometimes while carrying the kid.

Who are you? Hoothoot asked. Where's mommy? Why is the world spinning? Why is a human talking right?

I'm Ash Ketchum, Ash replied, gently taking the baby pokémon off of his head. Did you come here looking for your mommy?

No. We were flying here and then she said something about them watching something else and dove and then we dove somewhere else... where's mommy!

What's going on here? Bulbasaur demanded.

You haven't heard have you. It was a statement from Pidgey, not a question.

Heard what? Bulbasur asked intently, gaze going hard.

About what Team Rocket's been doing to the wild pokémon. They've been killing us and you haven't heard... right, because they didn't want to betray the location of the village... fuck...

They've been doing what! Bulbasaur yelled. Those utter bastards. I'll suck the life out of them until there's only a drop left and then make them beg me to kill them!

We've got to get as many pokémon here as we can, Ash said, his mind already thinking of ways to gather as much of the wild pokémon population as they could.

That will lead Team Rocket right to us, Bulbasaur protested, and it will put to many of them in the crossfire. We need to get them out of the area-

But Team Rocket is going to find this place anyway and they might be able to help defend it, Pikachu interjected. Besides many of them will have children, like Pidgey does, and that will make evacuation nearly impossible. Parents can't abandon their children or the eggs. Team Rocket will steal them or kill them.

They won't be able to stand up to the Rocket pokémon, none of them are strong enough, Bulbasaur rebutted. But you're right, with the systematic elimination of the wild pokémon we've lost our early warning system and I won't be able to lead the Rockets away without them. Wait, why am I talking here with you lot. We've got to go inform Melanie! Ash, you'll have to translate for me-

No can do, Ash replied instantly, shakinghis head.

Why not? It would-

You keep the village a secret from humans and I keep my ability to talk to pokémon and my identity a secret from humans.

Fair enough. I can communicate something like this without help, it's just cumbersome.

What are we waiting for then, Pikachu interrupted. Let's go warn everybody already.

"Just a bit longer, okay Poocheyna?" Melanie asked sweetly as she and her two helpers from the League finished changing the bandages and applying more disinfectants to the cuts.

"I have to say, these treatments look really well done. Are you a certified pokémon doctor?" Brock asked the pretty blue haired girl.

"Nothing quite so grand," Melanie replied. "I took some courses, true, but most of it is simply field experience. I can't do much against the more exotic ailments. Most of the time I can only make them comfortable."

"It's better than nothing," Misty replied, stroking Poocheyna's head as she carefully cleaned a cut.

"I wish I could-" but Melanie was interrupted by a crashing sound near her front door.

"Bulb. Bu bulba bul. Saur bul bluba." An angry voiced sounded out from by the door followed by creaking and the sound of footsteps.

"You could've let me open the door first," they heard Aaron say.

"Bulba."

"That didn't sound very nice," Melanie called out to the other group by the entryway. "What's the matter?"

"A pidgey carrying a hoothoot hit me and then they and Bulbasaur started to make a big fuss and so we all went back in," Ash explained as they entered the room where Melanie and the gym members were.

"Are they hurt? Brock, Misty, you finish up Poochyena. I'm going to need to-"

"Bul," Bulbasaur interrupted, shaking his head.

"If they aren't hurt why did you rush in here? Did they bring new?"

"Bulb," Bulbasaur replied, nodding.

"Brock, Misty, Aaron. Can I please ask you to step outside for a moment?"

"Bulbasaur," the plant-type interjected, shaking his head.

"You want them to stay?" Melanie asked puzzled. That was very out of character for Bulbasaur, who nodded his assent.

"Alright then. May I request that you three stay quiet while I talk with Bulbasaur, no matter what you may hear?"

"Sure," Aaron replied. Brock and Misty shot him a nasty look for speaking for all of them in such a manner, but the boy didn't notice.

"Did they bring good new?"

A shake.

"Bad new then."

A nod.

"Does it have to do with our uninvited guests?"

A nod. She was afraid of that.

"Are they after this pidgey and its child?"

A hesitant nod.

"They are, but there's more to it?"

A firmer nod.

"Do they want to capture them?"

A shake. What else could Team Rocket... oh.

"They're trying to kill them?"

A nod.

"And others?"

Another nod.

"The ones who spotted the guests?"

A shake.

"All of the wild pokémon?" Melanie almost shouted.

A nod. One nod to communicate the bloodshed, the heartache, the despair, and the evil going on outside their village. So simple a thing, but just enough to shatter Melanie's newly repaired heart.

"No." She gasped. It wasn't a denial. It wasn't a plea to higher powers. It was a demand, a desperate order to reality itself. She fell to her knees.

"H-h-h-how many escaped?"

Bulbasaur shrugged.

"Are they coming here?"

Another shrug.

"Does Team Rocket know that we're here yet?" Brock and Misty yelped, but curiously Aaron stayed silent.

A shake. There was that at least- and then a nod.

"They'll know soon," she didn't know how Bulbasaur knew that, but it was easy to guess. Without the wild pokémon population to act as a warning system the Rockets would be able to move through the forests without the village having any clue of their whereabouts. They would be at the village within days.

"So Team Rocket's after the newly hatched here?" Brock asked. Everybody turned to look at him. He shrugged and explained. "They're obviously very young, and exhibit all the physical and behavioral signs of being newly hatched. From what I've seen of them they all seem unusually strong but are very skittish around strangers. And now that I know this place is being targeted by Team Rocket its easy to guess that these are the pokémon that Barry Vaxsh breed before he was murdered."

Everybody continued to stare at him.

"What, did you think I was an idiot?"

Misty nodded, smirking.

"Oh shut up."

"Well what are we going to do?" Aaron asked.

"Pika?"

"Bul bulbasaur."

"I-I-I don't know," Melanie admitted. "I never thought- there's nothing- and the wild pokémon..."

"Aaron we're going to need to borrow Pidgeotto for a bit," Brock told the boy from Pallet Town. "We'll send a message to the nearest pokémon center requesting for League support. There might be a ranger group or something around here. Secondly, if they're killing wild pokémon to stop them from warning us about their scouts we're going to need to stop them right away. Since they'll find this place soon we might as well let them know where we are. They'll quit killing pokémon in favor of heading this way."

"Huh?" Melanie squeaked out, looking confused.

"Do you have any maps of the area? We'll need to set up a-"

"Hold on an Arceus dammed minute!" the blue haired girl shouted. "Who do you think you are? Team Rocket will be attacking this place soon. A bunch of dangerous criminals are coming here to kill everyone. This isn't a game! Don't you understand!

"Ma'am, Misty and I are both part of the League-"

"Fuck the League!" Melanie nearly screamed, getting worked up into a frenzy. Her breathing became frantic and her eyes became like a wounded, cornered animal.

"You trying to impress me," she half accused, pointing at Brock. "You thinking, 'oh I'll just fight off a couple thugs and then I'll totally get laid? Well fuck you and yours. You'd get a couple of kids killed just to impress a woman you just met."

"Ma'am, he's not lying," Misty interjected. "We really are with the League."

"And just how does that make things any better!" Melanie screamed. She was waving her arms wildly now. Memories, like magpies swarming a hawk, kept assaulting her mind, brutally battering her psyche. The horrible grins, the fire, the sizzling, and him, that two faced bastard.

"You kids playing at being cops or soldiers or whatever! Do you really think that being part of the League means shit? Do you think it will make a difference to Team Rocket? It didn't for me!" Melanie screamed at Misty, advancing quickly on the red head who was losing her nerve in the face of the unstable blue haired girl.

"There's a reason I never requested help from the League or told them about the hatchlings. Somebody along the line would sell them out for a few pieces of currency. And the moment someone with money or power wanting something from the village, the League would bend over backwards to help them get it."

She vaguely took notice of Aaron who was watching her with wide scared eyes, trembling like he had never seen an adult angry before. Tch. Lucky kid. He should count himself fortunate that his parents never fought in front of him. Bulbasaur was watching with a concerned expression. She knew that the loyal plant-type had been aware of her problems, but had never seen them displayed so openly before.

"You. Pervert." Melanie gritted out, indicating Brock. She began to fiddle with the bandages on her left side. "You want to get laid? You want to charm your way into my pants? You're willing to get your friends killed just for a lay? Well, then kiss my hand" While she was talking she tore off the medical tape in one frantic motion.

Aaron gasped at what lay beneath.

Her flesh was red and black, bits of crinkled flesh everywhere. It glistened with an awful wetness at the same time, a testament to the fact that human skin wasn't supposed to be that way.

Did it hurt? Did the burns still torment her to this day? If so why had she kept the arm?

Melanie then jerked off her glove. Her hand was in a state similar to that of her arm, cracked black and red flesh. It was a marvel that she could still move it.

Stupid kids. Stupid pervert. They had no clue what was going on. No clue what could happen. They would all die, and it probably wouldn't be a clean death for any of them. The pervert and the kid would die the cleanest death out of them all, but even they would scream for hours. Actually she and Misty might not die, despite how pleasant it would be compared to the alternative.

"Well? Still want to get in my pants pervert? Still think getting your friends killed-"

Without pause or hesitation, with nothing but the utmost respect on his face, Brock took her hand gently and placed a chaste kiss on it.

"Miss, I apologize for giving the wrong impression. I am attempting to do my duty here as a member of the Kanto League. I am most sorry for giving one such as yourself, who has endured great suffering and yet still carried on, such impressions." Brock said, kneeling.

"What-" Melanie gaped. Her painful memories still continued to assault her and once more she heard the taunts from long ago. The two faced bastard had claimed that he would be the only one who could ever face her naked form without revulsion again, about how no other man would be able to stand the sight of her, about how it was all her fault for not loving him like he loved her... Arceus, how could she have ever been friends with that psychopath?

She tried to ignore it, the wild ramblings of the monster who had gotten her team killed. But still the burns remained, the scars never faded, and she never could forget that night. She had tried to move on, had moved on, but still he haunted her. They still haunted her. Even now Team Rocket moved to destroy her life and the lives of those she cared about once more, and again she was helpless to stop it.

But what was this. People offering to save her?

No. The nightmare would repeat itself but this time more would die.

"You can't," she whispered in a hollow voice. "You'll all die."

"I am Brock, former leader of the Pewter City gym." Melanie's eyes widened. A gym leader? But he was so young. "We specialized in defense and endurance at my gym. I also have had to lead several operations against criminal elements such as Team Rocket before. Misty is an experienced trainer from the Cerulean City gym and has been travelling the world. She will be able to hold her own. And Aaron here has a Pidgeotto and is probably a better navigator than Misty or I. He can fetch our reinforcements."

"I can fight!" Ash Ketchum who was called Aaron Autumns protested.

"We'll discuss this later," Brock said shooting the younger boy a dark look. "As I was saying, we can drive the Rockets back and hold here until we get League reinforcements."

"And then they'll take the hatchlings," Melanie said softly.

"Maybe. It depends on if Vaxsh's family wants to care for them or not. There's a good chance you'll get to keep them. But first we need to stop Team Rocket."

"Do you have a map or something? We could use it to figure out Team Rocket's most likely plan of attack. Oh! Aaron, is Pidgeotto mapped trained?"

"Yeah," Ash replied. It was easy to map train a flying type when you could understand their questions.

"Do you have a map that shows the location of the nearest pokémon center?" Misty went on.

"Y-yes," Melanie replied, still shaken from both her earlier loss of control and the sudden one-eighty that the conversation had taken.

"Good thinking Misty," Brock commented, "do you have copies? We'll need to send Aaron off with a copy-"

"What do you mean by that," interrupted the Ketchum boy.

"We'll. Talk. About. It. Later." Brock gritted out.

"I think I do," Melanie said slowly and hesitantly. "I need to go take a look."

"I'll help," Misty offered.

"Thank you. They're this way." Melanie said, indicating the stairs down the hall. The two girls left, leaving Aaron and Brock alone in the room with Pikachu, Poocheyna, and Bulbasaur.

Kid, I think you should listen to whatever the gym leader's got to say, Bulbasaur told Ash.

Can I go now? Poocheyna asked, yawning. I fell asleep for a bit.

Yeah, go get ready for bed.

Screw running to the nearest pokémon center! I want to fight! Pikachu declared.

"Aaron, I know you can handle yourself," Brock began, "but this is an entirely different situation. This sort of situation calls for people who've gone through the training to handle it."

"Hey, I almost beat you," Aaron protested.

Brock raised an eyebrow.

"Well, I did."

"I use rock type pokémon. One small, and one real big pokémon made out of solid stone. If I were to fight all out with them, what do you think the fatality rate would be among inexperienced trainers?"

That onix would kill a whole lot of pokémon, Pikachu commented, looking slightly paler than usual at the thought.

"Fine, " Aaron said, crossing his arms. "But I'm gong to fight. You guys need my help."

"You want to help? Really?" Brock replied, speaking in a harsh tone. "How do you think it would work?"

"We ambush them somewhere, beat them up, and then time them up," Aaron/Ash replied.

"Well that's not at all how the fight will go," Brock snapped. "Are you willing to kill pokémon who have done nothing wrong? Pokémon who've been abused their whole lives? Are you willing to kill them to stop Team Rocket? Because there's no other way to stop their attacks. And what about the humans themselves? Are you willing to kill men and women?"

Kill? Part of the reason he had left the forest was to go to a world where that wasn't necessarily the only solution. The human world was supposed to be more removed from any calculus of survival that would necessitate that Ash need to kill, like when his hungry friend Ekans had killed and eaten Pichu.

"What?"

"You heard me. Are. You. Willing. To. Kill. Because that's what the fight is going to be like. Unless there's a small number of them we'll have to kill a bunch, but Rockets don't usually operate out in the wild in small numbers. And a small group couldn't go around killing all the wild pokémon."

Kill...

No, there had to be a different solution. Killing might sometimes be a necessary solution for some beings and some problems, but not for Ash.

Ash Ketchum was just getting to know the world. He wasn't about to start taking people and pokémon out of it.

Screams. Dark shapes descending on the women. The sound of flesh tearing.

He shook the memories out of his head.

"Then there are other ways I can help," Ash said, trying a different approach. "I can run messages, or help build the defenses, or something like that." He left it unsaid that he might try to take some enemies out in a non-lethal manner.

"And when the attack comes what will you do?"

"I'll go hide. I'm good at hiding in the wilderness." He had years of practice, thanks to the insistence of Poison Lance who didn't want to be blindsided by a group of hikers or the like.

"Hide from Team Rocket tracers?" Brock asked with a raised eyebrow.

Actually, those were the people Poison Lance had wanted him to be able to hide from.

"Yep."

"Bullshit," Brock responded flatly. "It doesn't matter. You're a ten year old trainer-"

Was he ten, or was he eleven? Ash didn't remember where his birthday fell anymore. Or how old he had been when Poison Lance had taken him in. He and the old weedle had to put their heads together on occasion to figure out when he would be old enough to do certain things.

"- and as a gym leader, I cannot in good conscience let you be anywhere near the battle. You're going to the nearest pokémon center, and that's final. Am I clear?"

Aaron glared sullenly at Brock for a moment.

"Am I clear!" the former gym leader yelled at the newbie pokémon trainers.

"... Yes."

"Good. Now lets go find the women and see if they have that map yet."

Aaron left without protesting anymore with a copy of map of the area and instructions to send Pidgeotto with a message for help before setting out back the way they came in. It would still be secure. The village had received several more refugees and they had all come from the opposite direction.

Brock, Misty, Melanie and Bulbasaur all gathered around the map.

"Bulbasaur, do you know how to read a map?"

The green pokémon nodded.

"Can you mark where you've encountered the Rocket's before?"

Bulbasaur nodded and let out his vines. He picked up a pen, displaying great skill and dexterity with his vines, and then marked the locations with Xs.

"Can you also mark where the wild pokémon have seen groups of Rockets?"

Bulbasaur's face became a mask of concentration and then he hesitantly added a few Os to the map. The plant-animal hybrid then shrugged. The wild pokémon weren't in the most communicative mood.

"Alright," Brock began, looking at the map. "You picked a spot that was lower than the surrounding area so we don't want to try and fight them all at the village proper. Luckily you also picked a spot surrounded by rough terrain, so that limits the routes they can take to get here. Did you do that on purpose?"

"Well, the village's main defense was supposed to be secrecy," Melanie answered, "so I wanted a place that would be hard to spot from the air. But I also wanted to be sure that random hikers wouldn't stumble over it, so yes the terrain was a consideration."

"Well it works brilliantly in our favor," Brock said happily. "Since we know which direction they're coming from, we can tell which routes they're most likely to take. Standard Team Rocket operating doctrine in potentially hostile wild territory is to travel in several small groups down the route so that a single surprise assault won't wipe them all out. It also means that they usually take several different routes to arrive at the site of a tactical operation such as this one. But considering how important this is, they'll probably have a combat team involved. They'll be the main attack force and they'll probably need to take the easiest terrain to maximize their speed advantage. The team will want to overrun us while we're dealing with smaller groups of Grunts. Of course this is all still conjecture based on standard Team Rocket operating doctrine. I've got know idea what sort of units they have or their numbers. This is going to be difficult..."

Brock paused for a moment, studying the map.

"Alright, we know nothing about them. But they don't know anything about us. We just arrived and the only pokémon they could've seen is Pikachu. So..."

"So what?" Misty asked. Brock's earlier pondering had reminded her of her sisters when they were planning a League operation. Gym leaders were required to undergo leadership training as part of the qualification process, and then demonstrate it.

Against the Elite Four.

The objective? Well nobody really was allowed to talk about it, but most rumors indicated that it was one word. Survive.

Misty shuddered. Her sisters had gone up against Lorelei. Even with the type advantage they and the trainers they had been leading had been soundly thrashed. Cerulean's Sensational Sisters still had trouble talking about the experience to this day. Which was part of the reason why Misty was a huge fan of Lorelei.

"Here's what we'll do," Brock decide. "Rough terrain doesn't matter to me and my pokémon. We'll be the vanguard and attack them before they get here. They won't be expecting an onix out here. Onix will be with me for the initial attack on the combat team, who should probably come in through this gully here." Brock indicated the spot on the map. "After that he will move from Rocket group to group and wipe out the Grunts. Me and Geodue will finish up the combat team. If we move fast enough we can finish them off before the leaders get there. After that we'll hold off the leaders-"

"Why would the leaders be stronger than the combat team?" Melanie asked. Despite her... encounter with Team Rocket she knew very little about the organization.

"The leaders receive better training then their underlings," Misty explained. "Team Rocket doesn't have a lot of resources with which to train their members, so they only us them on members who have proven themselves. My question is, I thought you didn't know if there was going to be a combat team. Why are you basing your plans about there being one?"

"I'm not," answered the dark skinned boy. "As I said, rough terrain doesn't matter to me or my pokémon. I'm just going to intercept any Rocket groups and kill them. And I wasn't done explaining the plan yet. Misty, you and Bulbasaur are going to stay by the village proper to deal with anyone I miss. You'll need to stop any Rockets from getting to the hatchlings. Just one could steal a lot of them. Melanie, what combat training do you have?"

"I used to be an archer," the blue haired girl admitted, "but that was a while ago."

"That's okay. You can wait inside. Get the hatchlings together and hold the door. Do you still have your bow and arrows?" Melanie nodded. "Pick off any Rocket that gets past Misty and Bulbasaur. Finally, we need a scout to warn us of when the attack's starting. We'll need to ask that pidgey, after we explain the risks. And set up a check in time. If he doesn't return by that time, we'll assume he's dead and the Rockets are attacking."

"That's a bit cold blooded," Melanie commented, paling.

"Not nearly as much as letting a bunch of newborns be stolen," Brock replied. "Any questions?"

Bulbasaur and the humans shook their heads.

"Good. Let's get ready to make the Rocket's regret coming here."

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