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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17. 17

It was another bright and sunny day, as the group finally made it to Vermilion City. They were all dirty and travel stained from their journey.

"Finally!" Misty exclaimed. "How long have we been trying to find this place?"

"A while," answered Brock.

"I told you I wouldn't get us lost again," Ash said, moving forward again.

"Yes you did," Brock replied. "I'm sorry. I just thought that since Misty got us lost once and I got us lost once that it was your turn to get us lost."

Ash twitched.

"I really need to hit the laundromat," Brock said sniffing.

"And I need to hit the hot springs," Misty said, eyes gleaming excitedly. "I can't wait to get all this dirt off."

Ash and Pikachu rolled their eyes. Everyone was only a little dirty. A quick dip in a creek would be enough to wash off most of the dirt. Heck, Squirtle could give them a quick shower and that would take care of it. And Brock had only been wearing those clothes for several days. They didn't require washing yet. Sheesh, city folks.

"Alright," Brock clapped his hands together. "Lets go do our things and then meet at the pokémon center-"

He was interrupted by loud rumblings from Ash and Pikachu's stomachs. The gym leader looked at the pair with an amused gaze.

"Or we can stop and get something to eat first."

They were sitting at an outdoor cafe, enjoying the fresh air without having to move for once. Ash ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, the influence of his currency deficient upbringing. Pikachu sat on the table and snacked on some appetizers.

"So is this your guy's first time to Vermilion City?" Brock asked between bites.

"No. I had to come here with my sisters for a couple of conferences," Misty replied before taking a sip of her drink through a straw.

"I've never been here before," the boy called Aaron and named Ash replied. "Why? You been here?"

"Yeah, I've had to visit a couple times."

"Then why couldn't you find your way here then," Ash asked, not amused in the slightest.

"I took a bus, so you can stuff your attitude." Brock shot Aaron a glare. "So, Misty, what cities have you been to?"

"Everyone other than Fuchsia and Lavender Town. My sisters always took me with on gym business."

"That must have been fun," Aaron commented.

"Not really. I was stuck in hotels most of the time or on a bus seat." Misty looked out at the city. "I would've rather stayed behind and trained."

"Oh. What about you Brock? What did you do in the cities?"

"Attended League meetings." Brock said before eating another bite of his meal.

"That all?"

"That's all," Brock replied. "These will be my first informal visits to all of those cities."

"Are you planning to stop by Lavender Town?" Misty asked Aaron.

"Yeah." One of Poison Lance's old comrades lived there. He wanted to meet the ghost pokémon and say hi before going on to Saffron City.

"Well that was good," Brock said, pushing away his empty plate. "You two don't worry about the check, I got that."

Aaron started to protest, but Brock cut him off.

"Consider it an apology for getting us lost. I'll see you guys at the pokémon center this evening."

Misty pushed away her plate as well.

"Sure. I'll probably be at the hot springs if you need me. Just send in one of your pokémon." She told the two boys.

"Why can't we just go in?" Asked the child raised by pokémon in the wild.

Aaron seeing her naked... Misty's cheeks turned pink with embarrassment and then red with rage. The 'Fist of Female Fury' shot out to shake the boy but Brock gently put a hand on her wrist.

"He means go and ask for the front desk to send someone to fetch you. Some Kanto establishments don't allow pokémon inside. He wasn't thinking about peeking." The former gym leader told the gym trainer, calming her down.

"Oh. Right. Sorry, all the places in Cerulean city let pokémon in." Misty said, calming down. "Yeah just ask for me at the front desk."

"Sure," Ash replied. Why would he want to peek on her bathing anyway? In fact, why did they have separate boy and girl bathes anyway?

Of course! Girls had to have some sort of hygiene secret! That's why they tended to smell cleaner then boys. And the reason for the separate bathes was so the girls could keep that secret from the boys. And that's why boys kept trying to peek!

He'd have to ask his pokémon to spy on the girls sometime and retrieve the secret. Or help other guys get it. It would be only fair.

Before the two gym members left, Ash made sure to grab some directions to the local PokéMart. He finished his food and then followed them to the store. Ash had made sure to get his pokémon's requests before they arrived at the city and purchased their favorite foods, some more pokéballs, and a couple of potions.

After that, he and Pikachu looked around for a park without a lot of people there. It took them awhile, they had no idea where they were going after all, but they managed to do so after an hour of searching. Plenty of trees to screen himself from the people of the city, plenty of pokémon and trainers so they wouldn't seem unusual.

He released all his pokémon from their pokéballs, sat down, and then started to pass out the food.

"All right, berry pot pie for Pidgeotto. Some beedrill honey, fortified with extra sugar for Butterfree. Some pokéchow for Pikachu. A bit of fish flavored to taste like krabby for Squirtle. A packaged of mix vegetables for Charmander. Some nutrient water, fortified dirt, and a bit of beef for Bulbasaur."

Thanks idiot, Pikachu said, before taking a bite of his food. But you already gave me some food.

Ash glanced around to make sure there were no humans around.

We're alone, Butterfree assured him. I can't sense anybody.

Okay, thanks. Yeah, but I figured you might still be hungry, and most of that's for later, Ash said to his starter.

Fine, Pikachu said, munching on the chow. But don't blame me if I starting gaining weight.

Actually, if anything, you've started to lose a little bit, Ash informed the electric type.

What!

Only a very little bit. Hardly noticeable. A small grin snuck onto Ash's face as he reassured his pokémon.

But-but-but my perfectly plump pikachu figure! Do you know how hard I worked to get that?

Not very, Ash answered.

Right, I was born with it. But do you know how hard I must've worked in a past life to get that sort of karma!

Meh, Ash said, waving away Pikachu's concerns. Anyway I wanted to talk about the upcoming gym battle-

I'll fight it, Charmander exclaimed. I'll show you how good your training was.

The image of Charmander on the rock, in the rain, his tail fire burning so weakly, looking so very fragile, briefly flashed through Ash's mind.

Actually I was thinking of using Bulbasaur for the defensive type advantage, Ash told his pokémon.

Oh. Charmander looked a bit downcast. That makes sense.

So all those training sessions with Pikachu are going to pay off. I wonder if there'll be any as fast as him. Bulbasaur looked up from his food. Should we come up with a strategy before hand?

Nah, we don't know what pokémon he'll have. Just remember not to grab them with Vine Whip, Ash warned.

Yes, I know that's just asking for a shock, Bulbasaur acknowledged the warning.

If he uses a Raichu I'm fighting it, Pikachu declared.

What's with you and Raichus? Squirtle asked. Grudges aren't very cool.

It's a long story.

We've got time, Ash told his pokémon. You can at least give us the short version.

I'd really rather not. It's sort of private.

Alright I'll quit prying then, Ash said with a shrug.

I'll tell you some day. Pikachu's ears perked up when Ash patted his head.

It's okay. I was just curious. The trainer reassured his pokémon. Anyway, we've got some other things to worry about. It's come to my attention that human female are in the possession of a powerful hygiene secret...

It took Ash Ketchum until that evening to find the pokémon center after the impromptu and unproductive conference on hygiene secrets . He really couldn't find his way around cities, anymore than Brock or Misty could navigate the wilderness. He probably should have asked them for directions during lunch.

The trainer checked his pokémon in with Nurse Joy (he had finally accepted the fact that they were everywhere), sat down in the waiting room, and started to read one of the books the Pallet pokémon had stolen for him as a going away present. It was a book on interesting facts about chemistry. Ash figured that he could pick up a couple of tricks from it.

A while later Brock arrived at the center.

"Hey," the rock type specialist said, sitting down next to the pokéraised child. "How long have you been here?"

"A bit," Aaron shrugged, not looking up from his book.

"What did you do after lunch?"

"Went to the PokéMart. Fed my pokémon at the park." Got lost in another maze that was called a city, but no need to mention that to Brock. "What did you do?"

"Dropped off a load at the laundromat and browsed the stores. I also looked around for a reputable breeder to get some tips, but it turns out that there's a conference going on at Cinnabar." Brock sighed. "I was really hoping for some tips on how to get started."

"Hey guys!" Misty had arrived, the dirt and grime of travel washed away. "Huh. I thought I'd be the first one here."

"Nah, Aaron was," Brock informed the red haired trainer.

"Eh," Misty shrugged. "The hot springs here are amazing. And it felt so good to be the water again."

The twin doors to the center burst open and a chansey wheeled in a singed pidgey, a young trainer following close behind. They rushed into the back end of the pokémon center. Aaron, Brock, and Misty got up to more closely observe what was happening.

"Another one from the gym?" Nurse Joy asked the chansey, who nodded.

"Honestly Lt. Surge needs to calm down. It's the fifth today." The nurse shook her head sadly. "I feel sorry for all those trainers and pokémon going up against him."

Oh great. Reassuring. Like he needed more performance anxiety, Ash thought to himself.

"What's his beef?" Misty asked, looking a little pale. She was a trainer who had nothing but water pokémon, an out of control gym leader with electric pokémon was a very worrying situation.

"It might be time for him to retire," Brock said, resting his chin in his hand. "Or he's just screwing with everybody. He fought in the Great War you know. He likes to talk about how he used electric pokémon to paralyze his enemies."

"What!" Misty's eyes went wide with surprise. "But he doesn't look old."

"Yeah, I'm not sure what's going on with him. Could be related to his size."

Powerful, old, and experienced. Great. Oh, and evidently big.

He sighed internally. This upcoming gym battle was not going to be fun.

Brock and Misty checked their pokémon in and Ash retrieved his. The two gym leaders then reminded him to call Professor Oak and to check to see if anyone wanted to talk to him while they checked up on the status of the Damion investigation.

(Pikachu made sure to act casually while they discussed that last topic.)

Ash sat down at the videophone and punched in the number.

James looked down at his handheld.

"The twerp's in Vermilion City," he told the other members of his group.

"Really now. And it's so close..." Jessie looked thoughtful.

"We don't have time for that right now," Meowth said, looking up from his work. "We've got to get the preparations for this next operation finished, and then we got to carry it out. The twerp's going to have to wait."

"I suppose you're right," James sighed. They hadn't seen the twerp in a little while. It would be nice to try and recruit him again, even if he did insist on calling them good guys.

Ash didn't have much to say to say to Professor Oak, other than to inform the man, that yes, they did finally make it to Vermilion City. Melanie had used her newly installed videophone to leave him a message inquiring about Bulbasaur's condition. Ash let the grass type out and called her back. He really wished that he didn't have to keep his secret, those two could really use a translator.

There was a brief update from the Squirtle Squad liaison, sent via text message to Aaron Autumn's name. Things had been going smoothly and the new leader had proven himself able.

Professor Oak had also reminded Aaron to call his parents, to let them know how he was doing. After suppressing the brief flash of pain and grief, the pokéraised child briefly considered sending a messenger pokémon to talk to Poison Lance for him. But it wouldn't be practical.

So we're going up against Surge tomorrow, right? Pikachu asked, tail twitching as he investigated a new smell. No backing out, no getting lost, and hopefully no Rocket attacks?

Actually I hope Team Rocket attacks us at the gym tomorrow, Ash said, looking around to make sure no one was listening. There's no way they'd get away after that.

I'm looking forward to fighting gym pokémon, Bulbasaur said. I want to see how I compare.

This is going to be a first for me as well. Brock said himself that he's the weakest gym leader and I never had to fight Misty's sisters. Ash informed the green pokémon.

Wait, why didn't you have to battle them for the badge? Bulbasaur asked.

Because I saved Misty from a crazy flock of spearows led by a fearow who wanted to eat her eyes. It's how Pikachu learned to call down lightning.

Right, right, right. You mentioned that before. It's how you two met, right?

Yep. First day of the journey too, Ash said proudly.

An auspicious start. Let's see if we can make it more extraordinary tomorrow, eh Ash. Bulbasaur smirked.

Remember, I got dibs on any Raichus! Pikachu piped up.

I forgot to ask. Pikachu, do you know Swift?

Not really, admitted the electric pokémon. I can manage a couple of weak stars, but that's it. I haven't really practiced it much. When are we going to work on that?

Don't know. Your speed and agility training has been going nicely.

Also increased my pain tolerance, Pikachu grumbled.

And my accuracy, Bulbasaur said smugly.

Your electric control could use some work-

I can bend Thunder around trees! Pikachu protested. And I've even started to sense electric charges.

And you really need some more work on your endurance-

We've been working on that alongside my speed and agility. You never let me take breaks. Pikachu complained.

And there's a lot more we could be doing, Ash finished. Honestly, I don't really see the need for you to learn Swift. Any opponent you can't outrun or shock probably won't be bothered much by Swift.

Fine. So what's next? Pikachu huffed and crossed his forelimbs.

Ash looked at the clock.

How about dinner, some T.V., and then bed?

Monster movies!

Ash's nerves about the upcoming gym match, combined with having to sleep indoors again, resulted in another nightmare.

They never began the same way twice. Sometimes it was night, sometimes it was day. Some days and nights there were clouds and storms; others were clear.

This time it was a sunny day. He was out on a yard that stirred the vaguest hints of recognition in him, sitting on some plastic patio furniture. There was a man with dark black hair, and a women with brown hair and golden brown eyes. She was smiling at him and looked so very proud.

And then a white beam took off one of the man's arms. Shapes, dark and indistinct,even in the sunlight, swarmed the woman. She was torn into chunks, flesh and blood everywhere, entrails hanging off the back of the chair, bits of organ scattered about the table.

And then Misty was on the yard. She looked around sightlessly; her eyes were nothing but wrinkled empty sockets, leaking blood. Bits of her optic nerves hung out, red fibers brushing against the edge of her nose.

Flying dark shapes swarmed her and she disappeared. In her place lay Charmander, his flame weak. He looked up and gave a shuddering sigh. His fire went out and he crumbled into dust.

The yard shattered and was replaced by a burning forest. Mareep was standing before him, standing between Ash and the dark shapes. His electric fire flared out, yellow light warring with orange light, and then faded. The electric sheep fell to the ground and didn't move again.

The dark shapes rushed for Ash-

Multicolored light shone, the dark shapes vanishing when it fell upon them. It consumed the fires, the trees, and the fear.

Ash floated peacefully within the light's embrace and then returned to dreamless sleep.

You okay? Pikachu asked Ash, sitting on a bench outside of the showers. I think you had another nightmare last night.

Maybe. I vaguely recall something troubling me last night, but I don't remember anything, the pokéraised child responded. You are keeping a lookout, right?

Yes, Pikachu replied, rolling his eyes. We're the only two here. Why you taking a shower now? I thought you usually saved those for right before you left town.

Nerves. Sometimes the hot water helps calm me down and I want to be at my best when facing Lt. Surge.

Even though you're not going to be the one doing all the fighting?

Hey, I've got to impress him as well, Ash told Pikachu. At least if he's not using a testing team or whatever they call it. Besides, keeping calm will help me think clearly, and that's something you all could use. Don't want to get hurt because of my idiocy.

Hey, you finally admitted you're an idiot!

Why else would I keep you around?

Ouch, straight to the heart, Pikachu said, clutching his chest and falling backward.

Ash rolled his eyes and returned to scrubbing shampoo out of his hair.

The Vermilion City gym was an impressively large structure. It consisted of six main parts, a rounded hub area connected to what looked like five large warehouses. Four of the things were crawling with repair crews.

Ash, Pikachu standing proudly on his shoulder, led the way into the gym.

He was greeted by an absolutely massive man, easily the biggest he had ever seen. He had spiked blond hair, caramel colored skin, and an evident distaste for covering his chest, as evidenced by his lack of undershirt. The gym leader wore a military jacket and trousers.

"Oi, oi, oi! More challengers!" The man boomed. "I've been looking forward to today's batch! I'm Lt. Surge, the gym leader, and I'll be- Wait, Brock? And is that little Misty? What are you two doing here? Brock, how in hell did you get away from your gym?"

"My dad returned," Brock answered.

"Oh the deadbeat finally showed his face again? About damn time! And Misty, your sister's finally let you go?"

"Yeah. It was tough but I finally convinced them I could handle myself," the red haired trainer told the large gym leader.

"Glad to hear it. Are you two here to challenge me? Me and my pokémon could use a good match, we haven't had one in weeks."

"Actually, he's the one here to challenge you," Misty said, jerking her thumb over her shoulder to point at Ash. "Neither of us have actual destinations, so we decided to keep him company."

"Oh, and who's this baby?" Surge asked. He always liked to get under the skin of new trainers. Their indignant expressions were priceless.

Unfortunately Ash disappointed him.

"I'm Aaron Autumns, sir." Ash replied calmly. He needed to make the best impression possible in order to get a badge, because there was almost no way he was going to beat this guy.

Almost no way. Which meant that there was a chance. Ash's confidence started to rise again.

"Oh, so the baby's got some manners. Didya teach it to your baby pokémon as well?" Lt. Surge smirked. Aaron's expression didn't change, although his stance became a little prouder, but he really riled up that pikachu on the kid's shoulder.

"With all due respect, I wouldn't call Pikachu a baby," Aaron replied.

"Really? Then why doesn't he look like-" There was a flash of white light and a raichu stood before the gym leader."-this then?"

Oh and we're going to be fighting pikachu's now? I can't wait to get some real opponents. The newcomer sneered at Pikachu.

Pikachu leapt off Ash's shoulder and glared at the evolved pokémon.

I can't wait to make you eat those words, Ash's pokémon growled.

"It looks like the baby pokémon's got a temper. What do ya say? My Raichu vs your Pikachu?" Surge offered. He figured he could use the fight to demonstrate some tricks for electric pokémon that the kid show know. Having Raichu face another electric pokémon would also be nice practice for his own training.

"Fine!" Oh, he evidently managed to push the right buttons, Aaron was angry.

Surge smirked. This would be fun.

"For this match the participants will only use one pokémon each!" The gym member officiating the fight announced. They were in one of the warehouses. Windows lined the walls near the ceiling, allow light to all onto the grey cement floor below. Girders formed the rafters from which electric lights hung. "The fight will continue until one side gives up or is unable to continue. There will be no time limit-"

Surge smirked.

"If I can't beat him in five minutes, then he wins!" The gym leader called out. Give the kid a little hope. He'd pay more attention to the battle that way.

Ash had to bite his tongue to stop himself from saying that he would beat Surge in four minutes.

"Very well. If the match lasts five minutes without a conclusive result, victory will automatically be rewarded to the challenger, Aaron Autumns."

"Ready kid?" Surge asked. In front of him Raichu smirked. He crossed his arms and sparks flew from his cheeks in a menacing manner.

"Yeah!" Ash replied growing more and more excited. Battling felt so right for some reason.

"Begin!" Shouted the official. Ash wasted no time.

"Pikachu, Speed Burst!"

"Raichu, Thundershock!"

Pikachu blurred and then was concealed by blinding yellow light. Raichu was covered in an electric cornea, a black shape among the buzzing yellow power being emitted. The atmosphere became electrified; Misty let out an indignant squawk as her hair became frazzled. Violent, writhing, tentacles of electricity lashed all over the battle area, stopping just short of the white lines that marked its boundaries. Where they passed the floor was torn up like clay beneath a child's fingers, sending derbies flying all over. Windows shattered, shards of glass falling downwards only to be reduced to dust in the electric storm. Girders above started to glow from the heat produced by the electricity flowing through them.

Pikachu ran through the storm, seeking the ever shifting nodes of safety he could sense. He ducked and dodged stray bolts that erupted from blinding yellow mass of power all around him, trying to keep up with the movements of the small spots of safety.

There- that was it!

And then, after three quarters of a minute, it quit, leaving a cloud of dust to settle over the battlefield.

When it cleared everyone could see Pikachu, using his tail to stand up, on a tiny patch of undamaged floor. He had sensed where the attack would go and sped for the closest safe spot.

Ash let out a tiny sigh of relief. That attack had been almost beyond belief. No wonder the pokémon center was filled. But Pikachu had avoid it and certainly Raichu couldn't launch more-

"You've got the first pokémon to make it through that this week," Surge announced. "Good. I was afraid this would be boring." Evidently Aaron was lucky or already knew about using a sustained electric attack to reduce the chances of the enemy evading and probably coached his pikachu on how to deal with it.

"And you've started making combinations I see. Speed Burst was it? A combination of Agility and Quick Attack, am I correct?"

Ash stayed silent. They hadn't been using the combination for very long, but he hadn't expected anyone to see through it quite yet. No need to confirm or deny Surge's assumption.

"Not giving information to the enemy I see," Surge commented, smiling. "Good. Very good. Raichu, Thundershock again, but more powerful this time."

Ash and Pikachu's jaws dropped. Impossible!

But it was. This time it was like the entire field was covered by a solid mass of electric power, grinding the rubble to dust, removing all the glass from the windows, and even leaking out the empty holes. Bolts of electricity curved around the edges of the roof and streamed together before shooting skyward. Ash had to shield his eyes from the brilliant light in front of him, but he never quit trying to look at it.

It may have looked like a solid mass at first glance, but Ash could tell that the solidity was an illusion. In reality the attack was an ever shifting cloud of electric tendrils. There were temporary safe spots here and there.

Come on Pikachu, he said under his breath, voice inaudible compared to the crackling of Raichu's attack.

The attack ended after nearly a minute and this time there was no dust cloud. Any dust would have been obliterated.

Pikachu stood on all fours, fur singed and smoking, but he was mostly unharmed.

"Excellent!" Surge cried out. "You're the best this week!"

They'd never win if they didn't grab the initiative.

"Pikachu, get him!" Ash ordered. Pikachu started to run and then disappeared from sight.

Time to show the kid a thing or two about the defensive potential of electric pokémon.

"Storm Barrier! Mode two!" Surge ordered. Instantly a bubble of electricity flared up around Raichu, buzzing ominously. Pikachu barely saw it in time in time to avoid getting himself electrocuted. He tumbled through the air, barely able to recover in time to land. He sensed Raichu targeting him and jumped as soon as he landed. Less then an instant later, too fast for Pikachu to register, a single bolt hammered down the area he had been landed. The pokémon's heart skipped a beat as he felt the heat from the strike wash over him.

The amount of power in that attack would have been dangerous to use on a pokémon that wasn't high level or didn't have a defensive type advantage against electricity. Pikachu gulped. Surge and his pokémon had decided to up their game and play for keeps.

Ash figured out that 'Mode Two' for Storm Barrier must have meant that Raichu should strike if he saw an opening. And somehow he had managed to keep the Storm Barrier up.

Ash gulped. This was on an entirely different level. The only thing that had allowed them to last this long was the control training he had made Pikachu do. Without the ability to sense electric charges, there was no way he could have avoided any of those attacks.

They needed a strategy. And he needed to understand the Storm Barrier move better.

"Pikachu, Speed Burst and Thunder!" Ash ordered. It would burn a lot of energy, but hopefully the endurance training would pay off now.

Pikachu nodded and sped up. He moved in a random pattern around the Raichu, who waited safely behind his electric barrier. The electric mouse summoned up his own electricity and unleashed a Thunder. The blast of electricity arced up and then came down to hit the barrier with no effect.

Surge didn't even need to tell Raichu how to counter. The orange pokémon let loose a Thunderbolt, which shattered Pikachu's Thunder into smaller streams of electricity that hit the ground and died out. The counter failed to reach Pikachu himself, the attack just missing the end of his tail.

Surge frowned. It was good to see that the Pikachu already knew Thunder, but that had been a stupid move. Just what had Aaron been trying to do?

Ash had watched the whole exchange keenly. Raichu's barrier had shifted slightly, power flowing to the area being struck and away from the nearby areas. Yes, he could work with that.

Ow, he had given himself a static shock. Oh, wow, he could actually every hair on his body standing up. The air felt potent, filled with static electricity.

Two more tests to do.

"Pikachu, Four Point Thundershock!"

Pikachu kept running as he obeyed his trainer. He glowed yellow as he scrunched up his cheeks and fired off a Thundershock consisting of four bolts arcing up and then falling down around Raichu. Each bolt hit a point on Raichu's barrier, forming a pattern like the directions of a compass. Raichu's attack flew through the center, once again missing Pikachu by the barest of margins.

Ash nodded to himself. Yes, each spot struck by Pikachu's attack had been reinforced by drawing energy from the surrounding parts. But because Pikachu had struck multiple places there had been some overlap in the power drain. That meant that some parts were temporarily much weaker.

Surge had quit frowning. The Thunder had been a probing attack and so had the Thundershock. But what had Aaron noticed? Surge wanted to find out, so he let Aaron make the next move.

One last test.

"Pikachu, blast the ground around Raichu."

Pikachu trusted Ash enough not to question the orders during the battle. Afterwards he would shout his trainer's ear off until he got a satisfactory explanation, but for now he complied. Another electric attack flew through the air and hammered the already violated ground around Raichu. Bits and pieces of rubble flew into the barrier, eventually disintegrating before they reached the pokémon at the center.

Ash had all the information he needed.

"Pikachu, keep moving and then use Scattered Thundershock and then Swift!" This plan would only work if he had read Surge right.

Pikachu couldn't guess what Ash was thinking. They had just discussed his deficiencies with Swift, Why was Ash ordering him to use that attack? It made no sense. But he obeyed.

Several tendrils of yellow power smashed into Raichu's barrier, even as Pikachu struggled to produce the star shaped rays. They flew at Raichu from different directions, as Pikachu used Agility to keep up his rapid movements.

"Dodge!" Surge ordered. He was impressed. The newbie had managed to figure out a way past Storm Barrier. Of course the gym leader had to have his pokémon sit there and let him probe it, but considering the difference in their respective skill levels it was still an achievement to be proud of.

Raichu jumped up and away from where the stars would be converging, abandoning his defense to do so, Pikachu's Thundershock tearing apart the now unsupported barrier.

Ash had been waiting for this.

"Quick Attacks!" Ash ordered his pokémon.

Surge's eyes widened as he took better note of the condition and number of stars. That had been a really crappy Swift attack, and it hadn't been meant to hurt Raichu at all. It had been a feint. And he had fallen for it.

Pikachu's forehead hit Raichu right between the eyes, Pikachu's glare meeting Raichu's dazed expression. The mouse like pokémon then pushed off of his evolved form in mid air and sped out of sight once more. He reappeared in the side of Raichu's face, both still in midair. Tumbling head over tail, the yellow pokémon kicked off the other side, vanishing from sight.

Raichu hit the ground and Pikachu hit the back of Raichu's skull. Once more he tumbled over the large pokémon, but this time Raichu backhanded him. Pikachu's body curled around the blow and he went flying, skidding through the dust, leaving a furrow in the debris. Ash's pokémon hit a large piece of rubble, flipped into the air and regained control, managing to land on his feet. He glared at Raichu. Raichu returned the dark look.

You're the first one to hit me this week, Raichu growled. His glare turned into a look of dark amusement and anticipation. This is going to be fun. His cheeks started to spark and Pikachu could sense the absolutely massive charge building. The oppressive amount of static in the air actually increased, Brock and Misty giving small cries of discomfort.

"Raichu, get a Thunderbolt ready," Surge ordered, preparing to channel the build up into an attack.

Ash and Pikachu defiantly stared down the building attack as small yellow charges crackled all around them. Electricity flickered up and around Raichu, a small percentage of the power building up being leaked into the air.

Pikachu tensed up, all his sensing screaming danger, and every muscle ready to perform the movements to help him dodge. Ash watched intently, nervously, trying to think of something, anything to help Pikachu.

Surge nodded to himself. He'd have Raichu hit the floor with the Thunderbolt, throwing up a dust cloud which he could then run through and surprise the Pikachu. One Body Slam and-

"Time has expired!" The official called out. "Victory is automatically awarded to the challenger, Aaron Autumns!"

He had forgotten all about that. Well, now he had no choice. He'd have to give Aaron a badge. Not that that the kid hadn't earned it, but Surge hated being forced into things.

Ash fell to his knees in shock, Pikachu falling on his behind and panting. They had managed to face a gym leader and their personal pokémon and emerge victorious. Exhilaration burned in them both, lit by the spark of victory-

"So, Lieutenant, what's with- ow, stupid static- the new Raichu?" Brock asked, stepping up to the edge of the ruined battlefield. Surge's pokémon had managed to keep all the damage on the ground within the boundary lines.

Wait, new Raichu? Ash and Pikachu looked up at the massive gym leader.

"Him? He's looking to join a League squad in an artillery position, so I agreed to help him train. Right now we're working on wide area non-fatal attacks." Surge explained, not noticing the look of horror on Aaron and Pikachu's faces. "He's getting better. Soon he'll be able to use a large scale Thunder Wave."

"I was wondering about that," Brock said nodding. "He didn't seem to have that many speed moves, like you evolved him too early, which doesn't seem like you."

"He found a thunderstone in the wild and decided to play with it," Surge explained. Raichu returned to his side and Surge ruffled the fur on its head affectionately. "He evolved before he decided to look into becoming a trained pokémon."

Surge felt something twitch on his belt. He looked down and saw that his Raichu's pokéball was twitching.

"Oh, looks like she wants to come out." White light shone and another Raichu stood on the field. She took one look at Pikachu and squealed.

Oh how handsome! I just want to eat you all up!

Ash and Pikachu felt a bead of sweat roll down the back of their heads. This was a gym leader's personal pokémon?

Then, in a blink, she vanished.

Where'd she- Holy shit! Pikachu exclaimed, turning around to find the female raichu beaming down at him.

Let's cuddle, she cooed. Pikachu used Speed Burst to run away, crossing the battlefield as a yellow blur.

Raichu still ended up in front of him, faster than anyone could track.

No need to play hard to get, she scolded Pikachu, who fell on his back and started to scramble away from Raichu. Yellow power blazed behind him, simply melting, not blasting or carving, a trench in the already ravaged floor, giving Pikachu nowhere to retreat.

Pikachu shrieked.

Help me Ash, he called out as Raichu swooped down on him, grabbing him and holding him close, nuzzling him fiercely.

"Um, sir, can I have my Pikachu back," Ash asked hesitantly.

So cute and spunky, ready to fight pokémon much stronger then you. You're such a heartbreaker, Raichu said, still holding a struggling Pikachu. I wonder if I could convince you and your trainer to stay?

Ash!

"Right now please?"

"Raichu, let him go," Surge said rolling his eyes. He loved his pokémon, but her antics still annoyed him.

Fine, Raichu huffed, letting Pikachu squirm away. He ran back to Ash and crawled up the back of his shirt, quivering in fright as he hid.

"Well Mr. Autumns, it looks like you've earned these," Lt. Surge said, crossing the wrecked battlefield to hand Ash his badge and advancement. The gym leader's hair was unaffected by the electricity. How'd he manage that?

"I can't wait to hear about your future," the massive man said to the boy. "I expect great things from you."

Ash looked him in the eye and nodded earnestly.

Then Misty shrieked.

Everyone turned to look at her. She had fallen to her knees, legs splayed to either side, and her hands were in the fuzzy red mass on top of her head, formerly the hair she kept in a short ponytail.

"You- you- you- Look what you did to my hair!" She shrieked, turning red with anger.

Brock and Lt. Surge simultaneously paled and started to back away. Ash gave them a confused look.

After seeing Aaron's confused look, Brock and Surge looked at each other, nodded, and they each grabbed one of the boys arms and started to carry him away at a dead run.

"Wait, what's going on?" Ash cried out.

"You know the old saying, 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'?" Brock asked.

Ash shook his head.

"Well, I guess it doesn't matter, because the fury of a woman scorned is nothing compared to the fury of a woman who's just had her hair ruined," Surge said in a worried tone. "So lets get out of here!"

Eventually the group returned to the pokémon center, planning to spend one more night there before setting out once more. Misty went off to take a shower and fix her hair, while Brock, Ash, and Pikachu lounged around and watched T.V. Pikachu had flipped between channels until he found a monster movie and glared at Brock when the gym leader reached for the remote.

Ash could see a bit of their appeal, but he didn't care for them. But he'd put up with it to keep Pikachu happy. And today, he could also have it as a well earned reward.

Misty came out of the shower. Ash noticed she had changed her clothes. Before he could comment, Pikachu spoke up.

Unless the next words out of your mouth are a compliment, shut up or I will shock you for your own good, the electric pokémon told his trainer without even looking his way. It'll be better then letting Misty get her hands on you.

"What's with the change?" Brock asked glancing over. Misty had replace her usual outfit with... a large version of her usual outfit. Her tank top covered most of her belly and her shorts were loose and came down to slightly below her mid thigh.

"Considering the amount of trouble we had getting here, I didn't want to risk hitting a growth spurt weeks away from civilization," Misty explained. "And I'll just grow into these, so I won't have to go clothes shopping again for a while."

"Smart," Brock commented. "So where are we off next?"

"Is there an Aaron Autumns in here?" Someone called out. The group turned to look at the source of the voice. It was a man in some sort of uniform. "I've got something for him."

"Over here," Ash called back. The man came over and handed him an envelope.

"You've been invited to board the SS. Anne. This envelope contains your invitation, you'll need to present it when you arrive. We look forward to seeing you there." The man bowed and then left.

"Well I guess that decides where we're going next," Ash said, looking at the envelope. "We're off to the SS Anne."

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