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


15. 15

A terrified squirtle scampered through the forest. He stumbled in his haste as he climbed, dashed, and leapt over fallen trees, ridges, and rocky inclines. His shell clattered against each obstacle, signalling his position to his pursuer. Not that the pursuer needed such hints.

Snorlax was hungry, there was no way this blue treat would escape. The large normal-type was relentless in his pursuit. He was hungry for meat tonight and nothing would stop him from getting some.

Not the trees which he smashed in his haste, not the boulders he knocked out of the way, not the terrain he crushed under his feet. The insatiable hunger of the sleepy pokémon overrode all over concerns. It was a terrifying thing to behold.

Nothing intruded on his attention, not even the presence of more pokémon.

At least until a water propelled shell bonked him right between the eyes. The huge pokémon staggered backwards and the shell flipped off of him and was revealed to be another squirtle as it extended its limbs out to land.

The squirtle that had been being chased stopped and stared at the squirtle that had come to his aid. And then he gaped.

Why are you wearing sunglasses at night? He asked of his would-be savior, indicating the pair of angular and sharp looking sunglasses adorning his face.

Cause I'm cool enough to pull it off! The new squirtle replied. I'm Squirtle and I'll be here to show you how to deal with louts like this one!

Hungry! Food! More food! The snorlax cried out, starting to lumber towards the two squirtles.

Stuff it up your other hole! Squirtle shouted. Last chance to get out of here!

Snorlax ignored the warning and continued to lumber onward.

You asked for it! Now boys and gals! At his signal several more squirtles, wearing round sunglasses, jumped out of their hiding spots. Several were holding ends of rope, keeping the lengths loose as they ran forward. They ran by either side of the startled snorlax, who was still lumbering towards the Squirtle and the squirtle it was originally going to eat, and then tied the ends around trees and rocks before the ropes went taut.

Snorlax stumbled, but his mass was too great to be stopped by such measures. Trees wee torn down and uprooted. Rocks were pulled out of their earthen hollows and pulled along. The snorlax dragged the train of debris behind him as he recovered his stride.

Squirtle took the opportunity to withdraw into his shell and use a water attack to launch himself at the snorlax once again. Shell met skull, and Squirtle bounced up. Snorlax put both hands to his head and moaned in pain. He glared up at the descending squirtle only to be hit with a powerful Water Gun right in the face.

Eyes! Hurt! The black and tan pokémon shouted.

Squirtle Squad, shell him high! Squirtle shouted.

Water propelled shells slammed into snorlax's head and upper body, thudding into fat and bone. Squirtles bounced off, arcing upward.

Squirtle Squad Squirt! Jets of water impacted the face of the snorlax, their combined might far greater than that of a fire hose. The massive pokémon flailed wildly, vainly trying to defend itself from the aqueous onslaught. It tipped over, falling to the forest floor with a great crash. It didn't move again.

Is it dead? The squirtle that the snorlax had been chasing asked.

Of course not, snorted Squirtle. It would take much more than that to kill a snorlax. He's just asleep. Besides, we wouldn't kill a pokémon for being hungry.

Oh. Thanks for saving me!

Don't mention it, Squirtle replied. The Squirtle Squad looks after all our brothers and sisters kid. Wanna join?

Great white masses of clouds filled the sky, leaving patches of pure blue and a shining sun. The air was still and humid but not unbearable. It wasn't a great day for Brock, Misty, and Ash Ketchum to be traveling, but it could have been much worse. The three were walking along in comfortable silence, Misty and Brock in front, and Ash hurrying to keep up, leaning on his walking stick.

The training with Brock was exhausting. It was a good thing that he'd already been training himself on the journey earlier, otherwise he wouldn't have been able to move. Or maybe Brock would have started out slower. One of the two. In any case, Ash had started carrying around a staff/walking stick. He found it surprisingly comfortable as well useful. There was just something about having the mass of the wood in his hands that Ash liked.

He'd have to carve it sometime. And more after this one broke.

Course he'd need to learn how to carve first? Maybe he could ask Brock if he knew how?

But then again he was already teaching him a lot. Some basic martial arts, the sort that the mandatory League classes would have had taught him, basic tactics, League protocols, strength and endurance training, and much more. Brock had been cheerily sadistic, stating that Aaron had asked for this each time Ash made some sort of sound of pain. Ash never complained though. He needed the training.

And his pokémon would've never let him live it down if he did complain.

They liked to take breaks, sit on the sidelines, and taunt Ash whenever they could. Evidently Brock wasn't the only sadist that he knew. Well he'd have to find new training routines of his own to torment them with. Especially since Pikachu had finally gotten the hang of the control exercise. Next time there was some rain or a storm he'd have to let him try and call down lightning again. But in the mean time... speed exercises, that's what! Pikachu was already was pretty quick, for his level and for the pokémon they had encountered thus far, but nowhere near as quick as top level pokémon. And endurance training would be a nice complement to the speed training, his current moveset and Ash's strategies tended to burn a lot of energy.

Pidgeotto needed general training, increasing qualities such as speed, strength, agility and the like. Butterfree needed to work on his psychic powers some more. And Bulbasaur... there was a bit of a problem there.

Ash and Bulbasaur had different ideas about training. Bulbasaur personally preferred to stick to the moves he learned naturally, such as Vine Whip and Razor Leaf, and focus his training on attribute boosting and things like tactics. Ash liked to come up with new ways to use moves in order to create a new attack, such as Pidgeotto's Sand-Screen. They never fought, but there was a lot of back and forth as the two tried to decide what to do for training. It could get frustrating, not that Ash would ever complain. It was the price of having Bulbasaur and it was well worth paying.

A couple of flying type pokémon passed overhead, two large spearows and a much smaller one, probably their child. They caught Ash and Misty's attention. The red haired trainer slapped her forehead.

"Almost forgot!" She exclaimed. "Didya find out what happened with Melanie and the hatchlings at the last pokémon center?" The question was directed to Brock.

"Vaxsh's family decided to give Melanie custody of the remaining hatchlings," Brock answered.

"Remaining?" The Cerulean city gym trainer asked the Pewter City gym leader.

"Didn't I tell you? Team Rocket got some in the initial raid and Melanie got the ones that escaped."

"That's horrible," Misty gasped. She had thought that they had saved all of Vaxsh's hatchlings. "Is there any hope for the others?"

"Only if we discover the League traitor and the main Rocket hideouts," Brock replied. "But then we could rescue all the pokémon the Rockets stole."

"And put the traitor's head on a spike," Misty growled. Brock glanced back at Aaron. He didn't seem to be paying attention to their conversation. He stepped closer to Misty.

"You okay?" He asked her quietly. She looked at him quizzically.

"Of course," Misty answered. "Why do you ask?"

"Last comment was a little bloodthirsty."

"I didn't mean we should literally put his head on a spike," she protested, "that was an exaggeration."

Brock gave her a look.

"Really. I just want to beat him into a bloody pulp."

"Actually that's a pretty healthy urge," Brock admitted. "But the League would probably have to throw a tournament to decide who gets to punish him. Unless the Elite Four or the Rangers get their hands on them first."

"Bullshit. Public caning, whipping, flogging, the whole nine yards, everyone gets a turn."

"Who you guys talking about?" Aaron asked, picking up his pace a little bit.

"The League traitor," Brock replied.

"The who?"

"You don't know about the League traitor? Guess it might not be common knowledge to people outside the League." Misty said.

"Evidence from Rocket behavior and from captured hideouts indicates that a high ranking member of the League is actively assisting Team Rocket," Brock explained. "It's someone who's a gym leader or higher. But all possible suspects check out. They wouldn't get those positions if they weren't trustworthy. "

"Whoever it is, the League traitor is the most hated person in Kanto," Misty stated, "or at least the most hated by the Kanto League."

"Oh." There nothing else to say.

"I always wondered if it's Giovanni," Misty commented, tapping her chin. "That man rubs me the wrong way."

"Giovanni? Nah, couldn't be him. Too busy looking for his kid." Brock replied. "During my more resentful days I thought it was my dad."

"Anyway, how far are we from Vermilion City?" Misty asked.

"Still got a ways to go," Aaron answered, picturing the map in his head.

Honestly he was a good navigator... for the most part. He had been anxious the night before he started his journey, and the Viridian Forest thing was that stupid samurai's fault. After living most of his life in the wild he'd have to be.

City folk like Brock and Misty on the other hand...

Well, he wouldn't protest when they tried to make navigational decisions. He wasn't in any hurry and detours meant meeting new people and pokémon. Ash merely wished that they didn't argue about it constantly when they got the group lost.

"I never realized Kanto was so big," Brock said wistfully, taking in the landscape around them. "I mean intellectually I knew, but walking it... that changes things."

"Know what you mean," Misty commented. "I had only left Cerulean in vehicles before I started my journey. Hiking to Pallet was eye opening."

Ash suppressed the first thought that popped into his head.

No. Not thinking it.

It was almost-

No! Shut up mind!

You could even say it was 'eye-catching', Pikachu joked from his place on Ash's head.

Dammit Pikachu.

It was due to his annoyance, Brock and Misty being engaged in their conversation, and Pikachu being busy making smart remarks, that none of them noticed the tell tale signs of a pitfall trap. Brock and Misty had had the training, Ash was forced to learn about traps, both from his experiences in the wild and from Lucas's pokémon.

Ash let out a yelp of what sounded like gibberish to Brock and Misty. Pikachu heard differently as they tumbled into the pit.

Arceus damn, cunt mothering fuckers, shit eating, bastards of bitches-

Language young- ouch!

The group landed in a tangled heap of bodies.

"Watch your hands! Quit touching me in weird places!"

"Brock, I'm not touching you anywhere!" Misty protested. "And neither is Aaron!"

It was true. She was curled up on all fours under Aaron's back. And over his arm. And beside his head.

"I'm not touchin you either!" Aaron protested from his extremely awkward position.

So that's who I fell on!

With a bit of arguing, pushing, name calling, language too nasty to be recorded, and luck, they managed to untangle themselves and climb out of the pit.

"Who the hell dug this?" Misty complained, taking Brock's hand and climbing out of the hole.

"Menaces. That's who," Brock answered. He helped Ash out of the pit next.

When I get my hands on them... Pikachu growled, leaping off of Ash, his arms pinwheeling angrily.

What'll you do sap? A new voice called out. Everyone looked down the road.

Where the hell did they get those shades? Pikachu asked the world. I wanted shades like that. They'd be perfect for kaiju fighting!

Ash did agree that it was weird seeing pokémon, in this case squirtles, wearing sunglasses, but he was wearing clothes stolen by pokémon. Pokémon having human things wasn't as unusual as Pikachu was making it out to be.

Well, you're not cool enough to have them, the squirtle with the angular sunglasses said.

Says who!

Says the pit you just fell into. Nice language by the way. Cunt mothering... hah!

The other squirtles started laughing and pointing at the group.

"I think we found our culprits," Misty stated, reaching for a pokéball. "Who wants to do the honors?"

"Thundershocked!" Aaron ordered. Immediately the squirtles scattered, diving out of the way. But no electric attacks blasted the area they had been standing in. They looked at Pikachu, confused.

It's a delayed attack, Pikachu explained, blasting them all with yellow tendrils of electric power. Thanks for stopping by the way.

Both Ash and Pikachu had gotten annoyed with the way enemies tended to dodge the instant an electric attack was ordered, instead of taking it like real pokémon or real men (or women). So they decided saying Thundershocked instead of Thundershock would be a nice way to trick them.

Evidently it was successful. And it was so satisfying, seeing all those formerly smug squirtles now singed and smoking.

You win this one oh foul mouthed Pikachu! But I, Squirtle, leader of the Squirtle Squad, declare that this isn't over! Squirtle shouted. Squad retreat!

That wasn't me swearing, Pikachu called out to the shells receding in the distance. It was this idiot, he finished, gesturing to Ash.

Yeah right, Squirtle returned scornfully, before the squad was lost in their own dust cloud.

"Well that was entertaining," commented Brock. "It's not often one runs into a gang of delinquent pokémon."

"Mildly delinquent," Misty corrected. "Squirtles are noted for being relatively light hearted, even in the wild," the water-type trainer explained, "so I doubt they would engage in most delinquent activities. I'm guessing they mostly do pranks and minor theft."

"I wonder if they're a local problem or a nomadic one," pondered Brock.

"What's that sound?" Ash asked, cocking his head. It was puttering, growling, purring sound, getting louder and louder.

"I'm pretty sure that's a motorcycle," answered the former Pewter City gym leader.

As it got louder Ash also recognized the sound. He had heard it in Viridian City when he had ridden with Officer Jenny... who seemed to have transferred up here. Hopefully. Only one way to find out...

"Officer Jenny!" Ash called out, waving. The green haired police officer adjusted course and skidded to a stop, inches away from them. A good sign...

"Whatcha doing up here?" Aaron asked the officer. "I thought you were stationed in Viridian City?"

"Nah, that's my cousin," came the reply from the rider.

Dammit! That's what he had been afraid of. Another thing like the damn Nurse Joy situation. Why was his species so frickin weird!

"So what should we do today?" Meowth asked, folding the map he had been looking at. The next pokémon center was a little ways away and the twerp still hadn't checked in yet. Meowth had politely suggested/asked James to hack into the videophone communication system at the pokémon centers to help keep track of the twerp. So what if they were heavily protected by the latest in cyber-security? James had found a couple exploits and slipped in two worms during lunch the day Meowth had suggested it.

Thanks to Jame's programs, every time Ash/Aaron made a call, Jame's equipment was notified and the information about the twerp's current pokémon center was sent to them. They thought it would give them the occasional lead when they lost track of the kid. The Rocket Trio didn't expect for him to make a call every time he stopped at a center.

Maybe he was keeping in touch with his mother? Jessie thought it that would be sweet of the twerp and that they should convince the boss to have a "Bring Your Family to Work" day so Ash/Aaron could bring her to meet them after he was recruited.

"Well James needs to work on his hand to hand," Jessie said, leaning back against a tree and looking at the local police station down the hill and on the other side of the road. It was always a good idea to keep an eye on the coppers when you could. "So we could do some sparring. Unless you guys have something you want to do..."

I'm fine, Ekans said from his place draped over Jessie shoulders.

I can't think of anything, Koffing answered from over Jame's head, watching his trainer fiddle with something electronic.

Meowth relayed their replies.

"But I wanted to see if I couldn't figure out a way to hack the pokémon center registries," James whined. "That way we don't need to rely on the twerp calling."

"You can do that any old time," Jessie told him in a scolding tone. "But you could get beaten in the next fight you're in, all they have you on the ground, drawing on your face and taunting you..."

"Alright, alright," James gave in, getting up. He looked up from his electronics and then something caught his eye. Down by the police station was a very familiar boy. "Well look who we have here."

"Oh, it's the twerp! Fancy running into him here. Now we can snatch him right under the nose of the police! Heh-heh-ha! Stupid good guys. Won't know what hit them." Jessie was rubbing her hands together and cackling evilly.

"Should we have lunch before or... hey! Where'd the sacks go?" Meowth looked around. They'd been here a second ago...

And now they were in the hands/paws/claws/appendages/synonym for hands of a couple of squirtles in sunglasses.

Crap they caught us, one cried.

Ropes! Another one, wearing angular sunglasses, called out. Propelled by jets of water several pairs of rope carrying shells rocketed out of the forest and right at Team Rocket. Like bolas, they wrapped around the Rockets and their pokémon, tying them to a nearby tree.

Why didn't we just do that from the start? A squirtle in round sunglasses asked the squirtle in angular sunglasses.

Because the expressions on their faces when they realized that the food was nowhere to be seen was going to be priceless.

"Nice trick," James commented, wiggling to get more comfortable. "But you do realize the problems with this, right?"


Too many different shapes and sizes wrapped up together, Ekans hissed as he slipped out of the ropes. You can't hold us all.

"That's right," Meowth said, casually unsheathing his claws and cutting the ropes apart. Jessie, James, and Meowth fell to the ground; Koffing floated freely once more. "You have to have a couple tricks prepared to take on a group of people and mixed pokémon. You'll never become top turtle acting like that."

Boss, they've escaped. And we haven't gotten out of here... A squirtle whispered nervously, tugging on the leader's arm.

They seem like cool cats, so to speak, Squirtle replied smirking. Where'd you pick up that trick?

"Speaking human? Here and there." Meowth said casually. "I'm" Meowth.

And I'm Squirtle, leader of the Squirtle Squad, Squirtle returned. This is Squirtle, he continued, indicating the nervous squirtle. Whatcha doing around here?

"Translation please," Jessie asked, leaning against the tree she had been briefly tied to.

"We exchanged names and he asked what we're doing here," Meowth answered.

"What's their names?" James asked.

"Squirtle and Squirtle."

"Duh," James replied, rolling his eyes. "The translation of his name please."

"Oh, right. The leader, the pokémon with the sharp sunglasses, his name means 'Little Bouncing Shell' currently, 'Fierce Shell' after his first evolution, and after that it'll be 'Haven Shell'. The other guy is 'Little Wave', then 'Path-making Wave', and finally 'World-bearing Wave'."

"Nice to meet you Squirtle and Squirtle. Can I have some of my lunch back?" James requested.

I guess. We cool folk have to stick together after all, Squirtle said, reaching into the sack. He took out a sandwich and an apple and threw the sack to James, who took out an onigiri. James began to munch, as Squirtle threw the sandwich and the apple to a couple of squirtles behind him. Split them up, the squad leader instructed. Anyway, he began, turning back to the Rocket trio, you never did answer, whatcha doing here?

"We're..." An idea struck Meowth. Their record against the twerp was frankly awful. Why not enlist some help? "On a recruiting drive. You guys like playing pranks, right?"

Of course! Squirtle proclaimed. We're the coolest pranksters in Kanto! If you want something pranked look no further!

"Do you want to help us play a prank on the police and the League at the same time?" Meowth asked, grinning. "You see, there's this young trainer with a lot of potential."

How much potential? What can he do?

"He can understand us pokémon. And speak properly too." Meowth ignored James' grumbling about human speech was proper speech.

That pikachu was telling the truth! Squirtle exclaimed. We ran into the guy earlier. He's got a real foul mouth.

"Really? We've never heard him swear. What happened?"

He fell into one of our pit traps.

"Huh. We'll have to use one on him on of these days."

But that's beside the point. While we would enjoy pulling off this prank, why should we help you? You're Team Rocket, and man, you really aren't a good thing for pokémon.

This was true, Meowth admitted. Jessie and James did aid and abet many activities that were detrimental to both individual pokémon and pokémon as a whole, even if they never actually delivered any stolen pokémon to the rest of Team Rocket.

Jessie and James never made the connection that occupied pokéballs actually contained pokémon like Ekans and Koffing. To them it was the same as stealing empty pokéballs. Intellectually they knew, but that fact never reached them on any other level.

Ekans, Koffing, and Meowth tended to 'accidently' spill or lose those occupied pokéballs before they reached other Rockets. The pokémon inside would either wait for them to move on and then leave their ball and go home, or they'd pop out of the pokéballs right then and there. And then Jessie and James would do what they did to every pokémon they encountered that they wanted for Team Rocket.

Give them the recruiting speech, presentation, and pamphlet.

When the pokémon inevitably refused they were sent on their way back to their trainers.

It was a hassle for Ekans, Koffing, and Meowth at times but it was an indulgence that Jessie and James needed. The things they did for those two humans... But it was worth it, even if they had a long way to go with those two.

Still, what could they do to get the Squirtle Squad to help...

Oh, right! The old standby.

"We could rob a PokéMart for you guys? Would that work?"

Squirtle thought about it for a second. Then he nodded.

The Squirtle Squad will help you with your prank! Now what's to be done?

"Abandoned?" Ash asked.

"Yes, a large part of the Squirtle Squad is composed of squirtles that were abandoned by their trainers. Their leader is a wild squirtle, and they take in any squirtle, but most were abandoned by their trainers." Officer Jenny replied, shuffling some paperwork around. "That's why they're delinquents. If they had trainers who cared for them..."

"But instead all they got was scum," Misty spat.

"They're actually not as good as they think they are," Officer Jenny continued. "It would be easy for a small task force to bring them in. But I talked with Nurse Joy and she told me that belonging to the Squirtle Squad was good for the abandoned pokémon, so I'm just trying to limit the collateral damage until she can get the League to come up with a solution." She sighed. "As if I didn't have enough of a problem with the forest fires..."

"Why are you waiting for the League?" Ash asked.

"Since a majority of those squirtles used to belong to trainers, League trainers, this is a League responsibility," the police officer answered. "They're currently trying to think of what's best for the pokémon they failed."

That made sense. If Ash had a cynical bone in his body, he'd question why the League was being so altruistic. And the answer he would receive was that, the League, especially the higher ranks, was made up of people whom the term "pokémon enthusiast" was a great understatement. Pokémanic, pokénerd, people who trained teams of pokémon to the point where they could easily wreck a mountain, there were many things to call these people. So it was no surprise that they'd be so altruistic when dealing with the squirtle squad.

Dealing with human matters on the other hand... well bureaucrats would always be bureaucrats and jerks would always be jerks.

Although it did make for a good show when one of the trainers who was known for abandoning their pokémon dared show their faces around the assholes. Douchery, used for the side of good, could be very entertaining.

"I'll send word to the Cerulean gym about the situation," Misty offered. "We specialize in water types, so we should be able to help."

"I'd appreciate that, thank you." Officer Jenny said, entering some data on her computer. "I don't think I have anything else to say. Any questions?"

"I wish there was something we could do to help those Squirtles," Brock sighed. He was hoping to have a chance to make the world better in a nonviolent way as a sort of balance to what had happened in the village. Keep his and Misty's mental health up. Breaking- ahem, training Aaron should've been helping, but the boy's determination and lack of verbal complaints sort of ruined that.

Brock sighed. It had worked so well on his misbehaving siblings too...

"It's a job for League specialists and the people living here," Misty replied. She too had wanted to help the squirtles, but the best she could do was pass the news on to her sisters.

Rotten water types. I'd like to help them with some electroshock therapy. Pikachu muttered.

Ash didn't reply, Brock and Misty were too close. But while he wanted to help the squirtles, he wanted to help them in the same way he had 'helped' Rattata find his clothes after the purple pokémon scattered them, or the way he had 'helped' Nidoran after he had 'accidently' eaten Ash's stash of berries, or...

It worked out in the end. It was just, that, well, all the stuff before the end involved hardship and tears.


And then his train of thought was interrupted by a large spray of water to the face.

How bout you get some hydro-therapy instead! It was the voice of Squirtle, leader of the Squirtle Squad.

Ash reacted on instinct.

"Pikachu! Electric Rain!" He shouted, pointing to the side of the road where the Squirtle Squad had come out of hiding. They were spread out to avoid being hit by a single Thundershock attack, standing with their arms crossed and smug expressions on their faces.

Lucky Electric Rain was multiple Thundershock attacks.

Like a bizarre combination of a disco ball and a plasma ball, Pikachu jumped off of Ash's head and sent out flickering, ever shifting tendrils of electric power. The Squirtle Squad dodge and dived but it was futile. Pikachu's electricity found each and every one of the water-types.

It also found Misty, Brock and Ash.

"Stop it!" Brock shouted between shocks. "The water's conducting Pikachu's electricity!"

Conducting! That must be the word Ash had been wondering about! That was why he was in such pain right now!

Right. Dealing with situation.

Pikachu had stopped his attack as soon as Brock shouted and had landed again.

Orders partner? He asked.

"Speed Burst! Quick Attack! Go for the leader" Ash ordered. He didn't include any electric attacks in his orders as he wouldn't put it past the Squirtle Squad to use the trick Misty had used in Pewter City.

Pikachu blurred and then disappeared from sight.

Now! Team Rocket had given the Squirtle Squad a quick briefing on the capabilities of Ash's pokémon and Meowth had suggested a way to counter Pikachu's speed. Each Squirtle unleashed a high pressured stream of water in random directions all around the squad, forming a maze of flowing water.

There was a burst of droplets as Pikachu ran straight into one of the streams. It hit like bicycle or a thrown brick or a charging rhyhorn or a big heavy thing moving fast.

Pikachu was sent tumbling into the air above the squad and hit with even more water attacks. He was sent higher into the air, helpless, unable to control his trajectory. Squirtle withdrew into his shell and propelled himself at Pikachu using a jet of water. Shell met skull with a thonk!

Son of a- Pikachu tumbled into grass on the side of the road, clutching at his wounded head. He glanced behind him, to know the terrain, and saw a small river behind him. Ah f-

Language! Squirtle scolded. He fired another blast of water at Pikachu, who was too dazed to dodge. Pikachu tumbled into the river. The shock of entering the cold water was enough to snap him out of his daze.

Ash studied the river as he reached for Bulbasaur's pokéball. He saw a horn and an orange fin..

Get out of the water before you hurt someone electric type! The goldeen shouted as it charged Pikachu. Pikachu couldn't use any electric attacks in the water without hurting any innocent pokémon that could be in the river, and his speed based moves were useless. He tried to swim away, but the goldeen was too fast.

Small droplets of blood flew through the air as the water-type's horn scraped across Pikachu and its skull met the electric type's body. The goldeen wasn't trying to hurt Ash's first pokémon, so Pikachu wasn't impaled, but it had little experience with fighting without trying to injure the other party.

Pikachu was catapulted out of the water with a scream. He hit the river bank and rolled to a stop. Other than signs of breathing he didn't move.

Ash growled as he grabbed both Bulbasaur's and Pidgeotto's pokéballs. They hurt Pikachu! They would pay!

"Koffing use Smokescreen!" A thick cloud of smoke engulfed Brock, Misty, and Ash. They all started to cough and choke, all thought of grabbing their pokémon forgotten. The trio raced for the edge of the smokescreen and towards air.

Ropes! Ropes slammed into the human trio, wrapping them together. Misty and Brock automatically began to work their way out of the bonds when the smoke roiled and changed. Ash found his eyelids growing heavy and -

When they supposed to wake up? Squirtle asked Meowth.

"I don't know. James is the guy who does the tech and chemicals. Hey James! How long they going to be out for?" Meowth shouted, turning to his human comrades.

"A couple more minutes. By the way, nice job dispersing the drug Koffing. You were wonderful."

Thanks, Koffing said graciously.

"We'll have to pick up an extra potion when we rob the PokéMart. That Pikachu isn't looking too good."

I think we were a wee bit too hard on him, Squirtle admitted. And then there was that goldeen...

"He'll be fine," Jessie said, checking over her gear. "But the twerp will pay more attention to the presentation if he's not worried about his pokémon."

"We'll be back in a bit," Meowth told the squad. "Keep an eye on them."

Pikachu! Ash didn't know whether he shouted the word or merely thought it when he came to in an instant. He looked around desperately.

He was in some sort of cave, bound to a large rock. Brock and Misty were next to him, still out of it. Pikachu was lying on a flat rock. Still breathing.

Ash closed his eyes and let out a sigh of relief. When he opened them again he saw a bunch of squirtles in sunglasses staring at him inquisitively.

They said you'd be waking up soon, the lead squirtle said. Looks like they were right.

Ash didn't care who they were, or about what was going on. There was only one thing on his mind, one thing filling his stomach with hollow dread, a terrible energy running through his body. He only cared about what had happened to Pikachu.

Pikachu! Is he alright? Is he hurt? The pokéraised child was nearly in tears.

Squirtle glanced over to the electric-type. Pikachu was was in bad shape. Not fatal, especially if Team Rocket got back with the supplies, but definitely not good.

Not good, but he'll be fine. Eventually. Squirtle answered.

I don't know why you've tied me up, but please, let me go get him a potion, Ash pleaded, tears leaking down his face. I'll come back right away, I promise. There won't be time to contact the cops or anything. Please just let me help Pikachu!

Hmmm... Team Rocket had asked the Squirtle Squad to keep their involvement secret until they got back. So that meant that he couldn't exactly tell Ash that a potion was on the way.

(Actually he could, but the idea of simply not identifying the people bringing the potion didn't occur to him. Hey, not every pokémon could be Poison Lance or Bulbasaur)

But leaving the human hanging like this would be uncool. Definitely uncool. Despite leading a squad largely composed of abandoned pokémon Squirtle knew that most humans were cool dudes, so to speak. It was just the bad eggs that ruined things for everyone. And this Ash kid was definitely a good egg.

It would also be unfair to expect him not to go back on his word and get help. After all he had just been kidnapped and his pokémon had been assaulted. Squirtle could only think of one solution.

Leave your pokéballs here and I'll go with to make sure you don't escape.

Ash let out a sob of relief.

It wasn't a very busy day inside the PokéMart. There was a scattered handful of people browsing the wares for pokémon supplies, traveling gear, a quick bite to eat, or paying for their purchases.

It meant that there wasn't a mob of people panicking inside when Team Rocket burst through the doors, sub-machine guns at the ready. In fact nobody panicked. No one thought that the guns were real. Everybody knew that guns were rare and ammo was rarer these post war days. What would a pair of Rockets be doing with real guns?

One customer voiced this thought. Team Rocket responded by shooting a circle in the ceiling.

"We made them ourselves," James said in answer to the silent question asked by gaping jaws, as plaster dust settled on hair. "Both the guns and the bullets. Now please move out of the way."

Everyone instantly complied.

Once they had gotten the items they wanted Team Rocket left the PokéMart. As they walked back into the sparse forest, they casually threw their guns to the side. Sometimes it was fun to use firearms, but most of the time Jessie and James preferred to use other methods. Besides, while guns could be very useful in the right situation, out in the open field against pokémon like a gyarados or something, it was better to have a Hyper Beam. One needed massed firepower to deal with certain pokémon.

And James liked to make the guns and ammo. It was something to do.

"How are we going to get the twerp to where we've stashed the stuff?" Meowth wondered. "We can't just hike him there, he'd have too many chances to escape."

"We could build a giant robot to take him there," James suggested.

"Hoist him over our shoulders and run there," Jessie suggested.

"Or we could take the balloon," Meowth said, thinking of a more reasonable solution.

"Oooh! And we can use it to make an entrance!" Jessie exclaimed. "It'll be a perfect introduction!"

Ash raced along the road, Squirtle clinging to his back. The human was really unstable at these speeds, but considering the situation it would've been uncool for Squirtle to complain. Still, the water-type wished that they had figured out someway of seeing and navigating when using their water propelled shell move. It would come in handy here.

So where'd you pick up the trick? Squirtle asked, trying to make conversation.

What trick? Ash asked, confused. As long as he kept running, keep rushing towards aid for Pikachu, he felt fine.

Speakin properly.

Just something I learned growing up.

Did your parent's teach you?

No. They... weren't there. I learned how to talk from pokémon.

Squirtle blinked in surprise behind his sunglasses. This kid didn't seem like a normal pokéraised child. Or at least, according to what Squirtle knew of the pokéraised. Something about not speaking human or being able to fit in with humans. Eh, maybe that ditto had been wrong. Or exaggerating, dittos never had any trouble fitting in anywhere.

Why'd you attack us? Now it was Ash's turn to ask the questions.

It was part of a prank we're helping some people pull. Normally we wouldn't work with them, but they offered to get some stuff from a PokéMart for us, so we agreed. Sorry about Pikachu, we weren't expecting that goldeen.

To a human raised by humans, this would've been an insufficient apology. To a human raised by creatures with the ability to control fire, lightning, ice, and other elements, creatures who fought each other to become stronger, intelligent creatures who existed in predator prey relationships with each other, it was a perfectly sufficient apology.

It's okay, Ash replied. He mis-stepped, stumbled, and then took off again. So why'd you form the Squirtle Squad?

Well it started when I met Squirtle. He had just been abandoned by his trainer, don't know why. He's a cool turtle. I started hanging out with him a lot. He was really happy about that, more than what's usual when making a new friend. After awhile I asked him about it and it turns out he really misses hanging out with his old team. He couldn't care less about his old trainer, but he liked being in a group of pokémon.

I see, Ash said, nodding. So you found another squirtle to hang out with.

Yep. Squirtle. Nice kid. A bit nervous at times though. Turns out he also missed his old team. So I found another squirtle. And another. And another. It just snowballed from there and thus the Squirtle Squad was born! It was a lot more work than I expected at first. There was always some problem cropping up. We'd need to get food, or deal with a predator, or find a place to sleep. There was almost no free time! But then I had an idea. If I could take care of the problems before they happened then I'd get free time again! I started telling groups of Squirtles to go get food before they were hungry or-

Ah, long term planning, Ash stated. I was wondering how you managed to keep a group like that together.

That's long term planning? That's it? I thought it was supposed to be some sort of ancient secret art only taught to the best trained pokémon. What a let down. Squirtle griped.

Eh, it's largely a human thing, that's why wild pokémon never learn it. According to Poison Lance, trained pokémon tend to pick it up by association.

Poison Lance?

The weedle who raised me. He's a trained pokémon. So why pranks?

Some members of the Squirtle Squad are a bit angry at humans about the whole abandonment thing. Pranks are a nice safe way of dealing with that anger. Also, Squirtle's voice dropped a little bit, I'm pretty sure some of the squad misses dealing with humans. Pranks get them some human contact as well.

Isn't there anything else you could do? I know that the League's going to get involved soon and they'll try their best, but you might like what they come up with. Ugh, sorry, I mean not like what they come up with.

Then we'll move somewhere else. It's not like they're going to make a group specifically to deal with us. Right?

Actually, Ash began, since so many of you were abandoned, they're sort of seeing it as their responsibility to fix the problem.

Cool attitude on their part. However the rest is very uncool.

It would probably be best if you guys found something else to do.

I'm seeing that now... there's the PokéMart. Go get your potion, I'll be waiting here.

Ash set the water-type down and ran towards the PokéMart. Before he could go in, the door swung open, and swatted him against the side of the building.

Ash sighed. It just wasn't his day.

Ash ran back from the PokéMart even faster than he had run to it. Squirtle had to hang on for dear life as Ash burst through bushes, clumps of branches, and other obstacles in his single-minded rush to help Pikachu. He really needed to find a way to steer the water propelled shell thing.

When they arrived at the cave by the cliff they found Brock and Misty outside, doing their best to tend to Pikachu who was lying on a flat rock.

"Potion!" Ash shouted. "Move movemovemeove!"

"Give it here," Brock said, stepping slightly to the side to give Aaron time to stop.

Ash complied, bending over and panting, while he watched Brock apply the potion to Pikachu.

"There," Brock said, stepping back from the electric mouse. "He'll be better in a few minutes. Heh, we wondered where you'd gone off to when we woke up. At first I thought you were off getting reinforcements but I guess I should've seen this coming."

"Reinforcements. We never needed reinforcements." Misty snorted, crossing her arms. Honestly Brock didn't have enough confidence in her abilities. She could easily deal with a cave full of water types with or without violence, bound or not. "I'm going to try and find out what they wanted from us."

Ash and Squirtle exchanged looks as Misty went over to the nearest clump of squirtles and started talking with them. The human and the water type both shrugged.

Brock left Pikachu's side to go help Misty. Ash sat down by his recovering pokémon's side and Squirtle sat down on the other.

"How you feeling buddy?" Ash whispered to his pokémon.

Fine. When did you learn Double Team?

"Yeeaaah... I think the potion still has a couple minutes to go."

Sorry about this, Squirtle apologized to the electric type. We didn't know about the goldeen.

Just don't get mad when I electrocute you for this when I'm better, Pikachu replied. So why'd you do it anyway.

PokéMart supplies. We get you and they get us some stuff from there.

Something tugged on Ash's recollection. The PokéMart had just been robbed, hadn't it. It had been robbed by...

Mother fuckin, Arcues dammed- The pokéraised boy began to quietly swear.

Language young man! I know Poison Lance brought you up better than that! Pikachu scolded.

Before Ash could respond a familiar female voice rang out.

"Prepare for trouble!"

A male voice followed.

"And make it double!"

"To protect the world from devastation!"

"To unite all peoples within our nation!"

"To denounce the evils of truth and love!"

"To extend our reach to the stars above!"

"Jessie!" Everyone had turned to look at the hot air balloon slowly rising over the edge of the cliff.

"James!" Ash, Misty, Brock, Pikachu, and the Squirtle Squad could see the Rocket trio.

"Team Rocket blasts off at the speed of light!" Jessie exclaimed.

"Surrender now or prepare to fight!" James declared.

"Meowth! That's right!" The normal type shouted, jumping out of the balloon. Jessie and James followed, releasing their pokémon on the way down.

"Team Rocket!" Brock growled, reaching for his pokéballs and moving between them and the rest of the clifftop occupants. "What are you doing here?"

"You guys again," Misty complained, grabbing her own pokéballs. "Didn't you learn anything back at Pewter City?"

Ash stood up and reached for his own pokémon. Brock turned to him, keeping one eye on the Rockets.

"Aaron, get Pikachu and the squirtles and stay back. Misty and I will handle them." The gym leader ordered.

"Aaron's beaten them three times so far and they weren't very tough back at Pewter City," Misty commented. "But then again I took them by surprise there and Aaron had all the pokécenter pikachus back in Viridian City."

"Indeed," James said, "and he also drove us off in the Viridian forest. It simply goes to show that we were right about his potential."

"His potential?" Brock entering a battle stance, ready to release his pokémon at a moments notice, Misty standing the same way.

"His potential for evil," James answered. "Aaron will be an excellent addition to Team Rocket!" The recruitment presentation they had prepared was the best they ever made, there's no way it would fail to sway him.

"You're so desperate for recruits that you've resorted to kidnapping newbie trainers?" Brock sneered.

"No," Jessie said, with a predatory smirk. "That's not it at all. But why should we tell you what we're up to?"

A horrible thought occurred to Brock. Was Team Rocket thinking about starting some sort of child soldier program? Were operatives all over the land stealing children that they thought had potential?

Giovanni's son! He had been abducted! If they were going around taking children, then they'd be sure to grab the son of a gym leader. They could use him to keep Giovanni out of their way. They might even be forcing him to give him League information!

Could Giovanni be the League traitor? No, the mole had been active before the gym leader's son had disappeared, it had to be someone else.

There was no more time for anymore speculation. Team Rocket was here for Brock's friend and he couldn't let that stand.

"Go Onix!" With an earthshaking roar and a flash of white light the rocky leviathan was unleashed on the battlefield. The stone serpent towered over everyone present, glaring down at Team Rocket. "Crush them!"

"Rock type?" Jessie and James grinned at each other. With the type disadvantage they wouldn't have to worry about killing the twerp's friend's pokémon.

"Koffing use Cloud Maneuver One!" James ordered.

On it! Koffing puffed in between the charging onix and his friends. He took a deep breath and expelled a thick smog bank, creating a poisonous smokescreen. Onix charged right into it.

Brock heard a roar of displeasure from Onix, but he couldn't see what was going on inside the cloud. He heard another roar of displeasure that seemed to be traveling away rapidly. Away and down...

How did they manage to trick Onix into going over the cliff? He had trained his pokémon better than that. Onix should have been listening for his foes, so he wouldn't be charging blindly onward, and as a pokémon that was native to the mountains, he really shouldn't have had a problem with the cliff...

Dammit, he forgot that they had a hot air balloon and that Koffing could float. That would probably do it. The gym leader would have to retrieve Onix after the fight.

The Rocket's and their pokémon charged out of the smoke, the humans and the meowth had their eyes closed and were pinching their noses closed.

"Go Geodude!"

"Staryu, Starmie come on out!"

Three pokémon blazed into being, ready to fight. Meowth, Jessie, and James took note of the composition of material that made up the two water types.

"Poison Sting Ekans!" Jessie ordered. There was no need to tell the poison type to make it non-lethal, everyone agreed that there was no reason to hurt a pokémon simply because it had to work for the good guys. Not that stopped Ekans, Koffing, and even Meowth from sometimes slaughtering the enemy pokémon (whenever they felt that the pokémon were a threat to Jessie and James, but they never told the humans that).

"Barrage Counter!" Misty ordered, a wall of water catching the spray of needles. "Water Gun, full power both of you!"

Pressurized streams of water blasted across the battlefield, rainbows forming the mist left behind in their wake, forcing the Rockets to scatter.

"Again!" Misty shouted. "Keep it up!"

"Dig!" Jessie commanded.

"Sludge Stream to counter!" James ordered.

Ekans dove into the earth, disappearing from sight, Starmie's blast just missing. Koffing coughed up a pressurized batch of sludge aimed at Staryu's blast. Water and pollution met and struggled against each other, a constant brown and blue explosion marking where they met.

"Geodude, Dig and catch that ekans!" Brock ordered.

"Not while the top cat's on the watch!" Meowth bellowed, charging across the battlefield. He docked, dodged, swerved and weaved around Starmie's Water Gun attacks that gouged the earth all around him, blasting up rocks and dirt. He moved faster than Geodude or Brock expected and leapt towards the rock type. His silver claws flashed in the sunlight and then blurred as he brought them down on Geodude, seeking the vulnerable eyes. Brock's pokémon was forced to abandon Dig and defend his weakpoints from the repeated slashes.

"Starmie use Ice Beam to keep Ekans down," ordered the red haired girl, her eyes constantly scanning the battlefield for Ekan's reappearance. She would've loved to get this attack off against Fearow, but its damn minions had broken her pokéballs too quickly.

A blue-white beam lanced out from Starmie's top point, tendrils of pale power crackling and coruscating around the central beam, leaving ice that cracked and covered the ground in its wake. Misty's pokémon made sure to cover the hole where Ekans had entered the earth.

She didn't expect for Ekans to reappear with a burst of flying ice shards right below Starmie. The purple pokémon wrapped itself around the water type and started to squeeze.

"Fly up and spin! Staryu use Flying Bubblebeam!" Misty ordered. Starmie and Ekans became an ascending whirling blur. Staryu abandoned the struggle of streams with Koffing and started to fire off high velocity bubbles while strafing sideways. Koffing frantically bobbed and dodged, firing off the occasional Sludge to stop a bubble he couldn't dodge.

Meowth kept up his relentless assault on Geodude, stopping the rock type from being able to obey Brock. The gym leader grit his teeth in frustration. His hand inched towards the large pocket of his backpack where his mace was kept. But the pokémon battle was raging too fiercely for him to fight personally. But with Geodude locked down and Onix gone it was all he had left.

"Enough of this," declared James. "Koffing Cloud Maneuver Two!"

Koffing flew up, outpacing the stream of bubbles, trailing smoke as he went. The poison type pulled a blanket of smoke over the area that the pokémon had been fighting and then dived back down. Brock and Misty jumped back to stay out of the cloud.

Brock stared at the cloud, trying to figure out what Team Rocket was up to. Geodude had been trained for blind fighting, as they should know if they had gotten any intelligence on the village battle. He didn't know about Misty's pokémon, but Starmie was too high to be affected, so the move might potentially shut down exactly one of their pokémon.

They'd shown themselves to be clever adversaries. Brock knew that he needed to figure out what they were doing or it could go very badly.

He got his answer when two humans burst out of the smoke and charged the two League members. Of course, they were after Aaron. They didn't even need to beat Brock or Misty, all they had to do was get past them.

Plus, Brock realized, they might be ignorant of the fact that he was a gym leader and Misty was a gym brat. Jessie and James were both adults and had a couple feet on Misty and a good several inches on Brock. If they didn't know better, it would seem like it would be easy to overpower the two teens. Easier than beating their pokémon.

A mistake on their part, Brock thought to himself, grinning wolfishly. He took up a fighting stance. Misty drew her trench knives and followed suit. When the Rockets were a few feet away the two League members surged forward to meet them. Brock met James and Misty met Jessie.

Crap, the word flashed through Brock's mind as he and James exchanged blows. James was good. Not better than himself, but good enough to put up a fight. The lavender haired man used some sort of style that used a lot of knife hand blows, palm punches, elbow attacks, and knees. It was unusual. Brock would have to think about what it meant after the battle.

Misty lashed out with a right cross, metal knuckles and blade catching the sun as they flashed forward at Jessie's jaw. The elder red head bent backward to avoid the blow, and flipped backwards, kicking out at the same time. Her foot was mere millimeters from Misty's face, causing the League trainer to flinch back.

Jessie regained her feet and rushed Misty. The younger red head slashed at the woman, but Jessie moved just enough to avoid the blade. She broke Misty's stance with a quick series of blows and then stepped in close and threw Misty back towards the cave. Misty rolled to her feet, regaining her stance just in time to meet a charging Jessie.

Misty let loose with a jab, trying to catch Jessie by surprise. But her fist met only empty air and Jessie was suddenly nowhere to be found. Where-

Time seemed to slow as the water type specialist saw Jessie in the air, flipping over her, body twisting, hands reaching out to grab Misty's head. Misty's sisters had sometimes practiced that move. They had explained to their youngest sister that it was a method of snapping necks.

She was going to die unless she did something. But she couldn't move her body fast enough to react.

Her eyes closed on instinct, the sudden prospect of imminent death filling her with icy fear. She let out a yelp of fear as she waited for hands, a painful twisting sensation, and then nothingness.

Something wet touched her face and then she heard Jessie land behind her. Misty opened her eyes. She was still alive.

The trainer whirled around to face her foe. Jessie was smirking and holding a black marker. What-? Misty touched a wet spot on her cheek. Her fingers came away stained black.

Brock glanced over to Misty when he heard the yelp. Her face was covered in various words and characters that meant brat and twerp. How did that- Crap James!

His lapse in attention would probably hurt, but if the gym had guessed correctly, he knew what moves James would use and give as good as he would get.

The blow to the ribs hurt, but Brock pushed past the pain to step into James' guard, grab his wrist, break his stance, and then use a hip throw. He caught sight of something black in the Rocket's hand. A marker?

"I told you that you needed to work on your hand to hand," Jessie said. "You take this brat, I'll get your brat!" She started running towards Brock.

"Fine with me," James agreed, getting to his feet.

Meowth exploded out of the smoke, dodging blows from Geodude the whole while. Now it was Brock's pokémon keeping up a furious assualt, but Meowth didn't seem at all bothered.

Staryu floated out of the smoke and fell to the ground.

Brock and Misty couldn't spare any attention to their pokémon, the common problem when engaging in hand to hand combat during a battle.

James and Misty met. Misty launched a furious offensive, fists flashing, her weapons forcing James to focus solely on the defensive. She grinned. The third time was the charm.

Her knee flew up towards her opponents groin and then- ouch!

James grinned.

"I've started wearing a cup after the first two times," he explained while Misty rubbed her knee. "That's not going to work anymore."

Brock had his hands full with Jessie. She was better than James, far better. Better than himself maybe. It was a good thing his style was highly defensive because she would have overloaded him otherwise. She alternated between throws, kicks, and highly acrobatic moves.

Starmie fell from the sky, struggling for control over its fall. It didn't regain it before it hit the ground. Ekans slithered off its foe and coiled up and waited for Jessie's commands. Koffing puffed out of the smoke.

Brock knew that the situation wasn't good. Misty's pokémon were out of the fight and Geodude was tied up with Meowth. If only they still had Onix, then it would be an easy victory. As it stood he didn't know why Misty was still alive. Jessie could have easily killed her.

He hoped that Aaron had gotten to safety. If he had done so, then it would be worth it no matter the-

"Hey! You goodie two shoes Rockets!"

Arcues dammit Aaron.

Jessie and James froze for a half instant and then jumped back from their opponents. They turned a pair of fierce glares on the boy who was standing by the edge of the forest and shouting at them while carrying his Pikachu.

"Who are you calling good you twerp!" Jessie screamed, shaking her fist at the boy. "When I get my hands on you-"

"Oh you'll regret this," James growled. Just for that, the boy would be the last to get snacks during the presentation.

"Nope. Don't think so." Ash said, closing his eyes and sticking out his tongue.

"Sludge the brats out of the way Koffing!" James shouted, before charging. Brock and Misty were forced to get out of the way as deadly slime was rained down on them. Jessie and James then ran on the open path to Ash.

"You loose," Ash said. "Now guys!" Pidgeotto and Buttefree flew out above him.

I know where the balloon is. I'll mark the smoke. Butterfree called out. The bug type focused for a moment and used telekensis to create a large indent on the smoke.

It's on you Bulbasaur! Pidgeotto cried out as she used Gust. A relatviely small grey tornado whirrled forward towards the indent, slower than usual. Jessie and James split and started to run around it.

I still say I should just aim for those two, Bulbasaur complained before firing off a stream of Razor Leaves at the Gust attack, the winds grabbing the leaves and adding them to the vortex. Ash had told Pidgeotto to slow her attack for that very reason.

"Since when did you have a Bulbasaur? And one that knows Razor Leaf?" Jessie shouted. "What are you even doing?"

"I call shenanigans," James muttered.

"Too bad about that balloon," Ash said to the the pair as the combined attack reached the cloud of smoke, sucking it up. "I hope you don't have anything you need in there. But I'm sure good guys like you wouldn't-"

"We're not good guys!" Jessie screamed angrily. Her voice took on a new edge, becoming more high pitched, less stable, and more animalistic. It sounded like she was teetring on the brink of sanity. "And we'll get you for this!"

She'd give him a cookie with salt and sugar switched. That's show him! But first they had to deal with the balloon...

"Everybody fall back!" Meowth cried out, vaulting over Geodude. "Try and save what you can from the balloon!"

The Rockets and their pokémon ran back towards the clifftop, right as the Gust and Razor Leaf combination hit the balloon. The swirling winds slashed it with the sharp leaves again and again, tearing up the canvas. One leaf hit the burning, sending the metal piece tumbling away into the winds, which threw it off into the forest. Then the winds dissapated and everything fell.

Team Rocket jumped off the cliff after it.

Ash paled. He had only meant for it to be a distraction while everybody ran away. He didn't mean to make them jump off the cliff.

The pokéraised boy rushed towards the cliff as fast as he could. He looked over trying to see the fate of Team Rocket.

But they were nowhere to be seen. He didn't even see the balloon.

Brock and Misty joined him.

"Well that could've gone better," Brock said deadpan. "I really wasn't expecting them to be that good."

"Just how good are they?" Ash called Aaron asked worridly. He hadn't realized the extent of Team Rocket's skills. If they were going to keep hounding him... "I mean if they could beat you, a gym leader-"

"Aaron, I'm the youngest, least expirenced, and frankly weakest gym leader," Brock responded. "And they still only were able to do so well because they managed to trick Onix off the cliff. Point him out to me when you see him please." He could guess why the boy was worried. "But, my point is, they're good, but you should be safe when we get you to Vermilion City."

Ash noticed Misty shivering out of the corner of his eye. Was she cold? Her sweater was probably packed somewhere hard to get. He should warm her up.

Misty was busy contemplating how close she had come to dying, when she felt a pair of arms wrap around her and pull her close.

Aaron was hugging her. Her cheeks went red. "What-?"

"Just trying to warm you up. Since you were shivering."

Misty stood up, pulling Aaron with her, took a couple of steps away from the cliff, again taking Aaron with her. Then the 'Fist of Female Fury' shot out, grabbed the front of his shirt, and started to shake him violently.

"You idiot! I'm shivering because I almost died! I'm not cold! You idiot!"

"Sorry, sorry, sorry! Forgive me!" Ash pleaded.

"Why didn't they kill you?" Brock mused turning away from the cliff. Several things about the fight didn't make sense.


"They had the oppertunity to get you out of the way and then double team me. Why didn't they take it?"

"Cause they're trying to get me and I wouldn't work with them if they had just killed my friends," Aaron suggested.

"Then why didn't they just knock her out?" Brock replied. "Then they could've had a hostage to ensure your cooperation. Instead they just drew insults on her face."

"I completely forgot about that. It's still on me." Misty groaned. "I'll have to get it washed off."

"What's their game? What are they really up to?" Brock sighed. It was a mystery that needed solving and he wasn't the best detective. "Great, just great. By the way, how are your pokémon Misty?"

"Fine. Starmie had just fainted, and Staryu was poisoned."

"Koffing must've filled the smokescreen with Poison Gas after everyone had been blinded. You wouldn't even know about the attack until you felt the effects of the poison. And they probably took the antidote or anti-venom, I forget which, before hand. Clever." Brock remarked.

"Ugh. I can still smell the smoke." Aaron complained. "I hope the Gust got the poison as well."

Brock sniffed. Then he started.

"That doesn't smell like Smokescreen smoke..." the gym leader said, slowy turning around. He saw a column of smoke rising from the forest nearby and an orange glow between the trees. "Forest fire!"

Ash knew that those were extremely bad news. Poison Lance had drilled him endlessly about what to do during a fire. But not when it had you trapped on a cliff.

Ah great, Squirtle complained, him and the Squirtle Squad rushing out of the forest where they had been avoiding the cross fire. Well we'll have to find somewhere else to go-

A group of water types. A forest fire. A way out.

"Guys, we need your help here," Ash told the group of Squirtles. "We can't afford to risk waiting it out up here."

Well, seeing as its our fault that you're here in the first palce, sure, Squirtle replied, sunlight glinting off his angular sunglasses.

He's going to pretend not to understand that, Pikachu spoke up. Just nod.

Squirtle complied.

"Great. Folllow me guys!" Ash shouted, taking off towards the forest. Behind him he heard Brock and Misty shout in protest, but he ignored them.

They could get mad at him for some weird human reason later. Right now he had to lead the Squirtle Squad into battle against the fire.

How do you know so much about forest fires? Squirtle asked, sitting against a boulder by the edge of the forest. Ash and Pikachu sat next to him. Behind them bits of smoke wisped up from the quenched forest fire. In front of them, aways away, Brock and Misty were talking to Officer Jenny.

Poison Lance was always worried about them, so I decided to read some books on the subject, Ash answered. I suck at human interaction, my human vocabulary isn't the greatest, but I have a very large collection of eclectic facts.

That's cool, Squirtle responded. So do think this idea go through? The Squirtle Squad becomes a League fire-fighting team?

It should. It works fo the League, it gets you guys to stop being deliquents, and it deals with the forest fires.

And it gives the abandoned pokémon some of the human interaction they've been missing while at the same time letting them keep their independence, channels their urges into something constructive, and gives them the chance to meet and work alongside good traiiners that they might decide to join, Squirtle observed. He noticed Pikachu staring at him and shrugged. What? I occasionally notice these things. It came with being the leader of the Squirtle Squad.

Came? Ash noted the tense.

Yeah. I'm putting Squirtle in charge after this. He's a bit nervous, but he's got the right qualities, and leadership should help him grow out of his nervousness. With the League helping him, he should to fine.

What are you going to do then? Pikachu asked.

Don't know. I'll probably hang out with the squad for a bit then strike off on my own.

Brock and Misty had finished talking to Officer Jenny.

Well good luck with that. Don't get eaten. It was nice meeting you even if you did beat us up. Ash said, standing up.

Thanks. It was nice meeting you guys as well. You're all pretty cool. Goodbye and good luck on your journey.

"-reckless behavior!" Brock scolded Aaron as they continued on their journey to Vermilion City.

"Well what else could I have done? We were trapped on that clifftop and it was getting bigger!" Ash retorted.

"We could've found Onix, either by eye, or using Pidgeotto, and had him help. Being a mountain pokémon he could have found a way up the cliff and either made a path for us or carried us safely down so we could get the professionals."

"Oh," Ash replied, rubbing the back of his head. That made sense.

"Maybe more training will help you think of these things," Brock growled. "We'll start getting up earlier after this."

Aaron paled. He really shouldn't complain, it was for his own good and it made him stronger. But he really wanted to.

"I wonder if we'll run into any of those Squirtles again," Misty pondered. "I know they'd be welcome at the Cerulean gym."

"I doubt it. They'll be busy with the League for awhile and after that they'll be mobile in the wilder areas, working alongside the Rangers." Brock replied. "So this is probably-"

Don't go counting us out yet, a voice shouted from behind them. Ash knew that voice. He turned around.

Squirtle stood on the road behind them. He grinned and took off his sunglasses, putting them in his shell.

Hey kid! The coolest member of your team has arrived!

Team Rocket were busy cooking on the fire they had set up in the cave on the face of the cliff.

"It's a good thing we decided to tether the balloon to this cave," James said. "And always carry the mini parachutes that Koffing can help us with."

"Yep. Otherwise we'd have lost all this food." Jessie said, stirring the pot. "Clever twerp. But it's more proof that we're right!"

"Indeed. I can't wait to recruit him. It'll be so fun working with him." Jame replied.

"It'll be nice having another translator," Meowth commented. "But now he's traveling with those two brats. I'm pretty sure they're League members."

"We'll have to look up their identies," Jessie stated. "James?"

"It'll be easy," the lavender haired man replied. "But this means that the Leage's getting their claws into him. We can't let the good guys-"

A mansion. Men in black suits holding him down. Being locked in a room.

"It's for the good of the family James. Quit fighting, we're the good guys here!"

Pain. Hurt.

"-get him." James said, voice pained as he was assulated by fragements of memory. But the attack was short lived and the fragements fell back into forgetfullness, even the knowledge of what the memories had contained quickly fading. "It'll be a disaster!" His voice had returned to normal.

He didn't notice Meowth or Koffing's worried looks.

"I know. The good guys-"

White rooms. Men in white hitting her. Holding her down.

"Don't worry. We're the good guys, see."

Pain. And something worse.

Make it stop.

"- are going to have a fight on their hands if they want him." Jessie declared. Just like with James the memory fragements were lost once more. Ekans and Meowth noticed the brief flash of pain that had shot across her face and were now giving her the worried looks.

"Well, we can't make plans on an empty stomach," Meowth said. "And I think the stew's done. Let's eat."

He was glad when they didn't fight the subject change. The flashbacks were flaring up again. Meowth had thought them a good thing at first, a sign of recovery, but the memories never stayed, and they only caused the pair pain. So sometimes it was best just to keep the conversation away from certain topics.

After dinner they would probably be better.

And they could return to talking about how to save Ash from the good guys.

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