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


19. 19

It was a clichéd dark and stormy night. Turbulent waves roiled beneath the sheets of freezing rain falling from the grey clouds as the occasional flash of lightning and crack of thunder rolled over the waters. Bone chilling wind whipped the waters as it swept eastward, ruffling Professor Oak's lab coat as he stood on the back of his dragonite. His arms crossed, the former pokémon champion surveyed the view before him, easily keeping his perfect balance as his pokémon surged up and down with each beat of its wings. The waterproof thermal clothing he wore under the white coat protected him from the worst of the cold.

Oak briefly glanced at the orange and green wings of his pokémon. They looked much too small to allow the pokémon to fly. They were actually, going by the normal rules of flight. But the Pokémon Professor had done the research to discover why they worked. He knew why, how, and what they did to allow them to fly, and had published the information already. He was an accomplished scientist, constantly pushing the boundaries of knowledge forward with his research, discovering new properties, techniques, and facts about pokémon biology. His accomplishments were legion, both from his days as the League Champion and the Professor.

And now as he relaxed in his advancing age, he travelled with a tour group from Pallet Town. Well, he travelled with them most of the time. Sometimes one just needed some time to themselves.

Ah, relaxing at Porta Vista, and watching the annual beach beauty contest. Oak idly wondered what the winner would be like. Maybe Delia would enter-


The former champion sighed and hung his head. Seven years had done a lot to dull the pain of the loss of one of his former students and later friend. He had been friends with Mr. Ketchum as well and had looked forward to seeing Ash grow up. But it was not to be.

The three of them had gone on vacations like this, sometimes just the two of them when Ash's father had to be elsewhere. She'd easily be able to crush the competition at a beauty contest. It wouldn't be fair to the other contenders, they would have stood no chance.

But that was lost forever, along with her husband's confident smirk, and little Ash's adorable smile. The Ketchum parents had to be sorted into their respective coffins via DNA testing. The funeral was closed casket, and they never even found Ash's body.

He had been there earlier that day! He had seen them alive and happy! And then they died during the night!

The investigation had revealed that at least twenty five houndooms and ten growlithes were involved, and were probably killed by what the Professor found to be a Signal Beam. From the numbers and powers involved there had to be at least one criminal team involved, maybe more. The evidence showed that there had been a scuffle after the elder Ketchums had been killed, where the fire and dark types had expired. It may have been internal fighting instead.

Oak had thought Pallet Town safe, protected by his reputation. But that had been a lie. Organizations like Team Rocket no longer respected him. He was a useless old man.

Oak grew angrier, resisting the temptation to scream and rage at the storm above.

"Are you sure that you've got to do this now?" Meowth asked, scrambling to keep his balance on the rocking deck of the Gyarados submarine flying the Rocket symbol on its flagpole.

"Of course. We don't want to be late checking in with HQ now, do we?" James said as he adjusted an antenna.

"Surely you could wait an hour for the storm to pass," Meowth shouted over the noise of the storm.

"Nonsense," Jessie said, idly waving a hand. "We don't want to fall into bad habits now do we?"

"But we do want to survive," Meowth responded loudly.

"Don't be a worrywart," James said contemptuously.

Jessie looked up.

"What's that?" the red haired woman asked, pointing to a dark shape in the sky.

Samuel Oak directed Dragonite lower, so he could get a better look at the vessel below. They might need his aid.

Then he caught sight of their flag.

The former champion's rage spiked and he suddenly burned with the desire to feel wet hot blood all over his hands, gushing from screaming figures...

"Down!" He shouted to Dragonite, who instantly complied, skimming over the waves, wing tips brushing the crests. In a flash the dragon type had drawn close to the submersible. During the single instant that the orange pokémon was next to the vessel, Oak jumped off of his pokémon, the tails of his white lab coat flapping behind him like vast white wings.

His feet touched metal and he rolled to bleed off any excess momentum. Oak regained his feet in front of the occupants. The rocking of the sub didn't even register with him. He needed to spare no conscious attention to keep his balance. It wasn't his first battle during a storm at sea.

Three figures stood before him, a man with shoulder length hair, a woman with long hair, and what appeared to be a meowth. The pokémon professor instantly marked their positions down on a mental map, along with all the relevant terrain features, and then charged.

Jessie was surprised by the old sciencey guy who had jumped off the dark shape that sped by. No one had been expecting that. When he moved to attack them she instantly snapped into action to protect her friends.

She went high, using a flipping axe kick. Her heel whistled downward with skull cracking force as she spun through the air, red hair whipping in her wake like a long tail. Jessie was already seeing the potential reactions in her head, from the man blocking, trying to grab, or jumping backwards to avoid. She was so busy with those thoughts that she almost missed the man increasing his speed to catch her thigh on his shoulder.

The assailant used the leverage to throw her backward. Jessie twisted in midair, trying to regain control of her flight. A clawed hand smashed into her side. She arced around the blow and let out a gasp of pain, a red mark forming on her side, just below her ribs.

Jessie soared into one of the fins on the central axis of the ship, hitting the metal with a thud. James rushed to his comrades defense, a knife hand blow aimed for just left of the spine, rain drops splattering on the appendage as it sliced through the rain.

But the old man in the white lab coat spun around, his coat tails swirling about his legs. He raised his arms and took a stance resembling the extinct insect known as a mantis, with his hands held in a claw like position. James' blow was deflected and the purple haired man spun on the spot to avoid the counter blow. James could feel the wind from the blow rustling his hair.

The Team Rocket member was unable to avoid the follow up blows, a mix of what Jessie, who was picking herself up, recognized as a mix of tiger and mantis styles. He was an old school martial artist then. He had probably been taught sometime before or just after the formation of the League. The stranger was also very good.

He was old. He was out of shape. He was out of practice. His blows were nowhere near as fast or as crisp as they had been in his prime. His strength was not what it once was.

But Samuel Oak was reminding himself that he was still a force to be reckoned with. The male Rocket fell, with several new bruises and cuts adorning his body. The meowth leapt over what was probably his trainer and attacked. The woman from earlier then rejoined the fray, assaulting him with several high kicks.

It was child's play for the pokémon professor to evade, deflect, and block the kicks and claws from the two. He brought his elbow down on the meowth's forehead, knocking it out. The rocking of the sub caused the feline pokémon to slide away. Three precise and quick strikes broke the woman's defense and her stance, and when she tried to escape he grabbed her hair and slammed her head into the sub.

She let out a sharp cry of pain, catching the attention of the man, who had grabbed the Meowth to stop it from sliding overboard. The man turned his fearful gaze to the professor.

"Normally I would try and take you in for questioning," Samuel said to the man. "But I doubt you'd be cooperative. From your skill level I'm guessing you're high level operatives. That will make this all the more satisfying. Dragonite!" He thrust his fist into the air as he shouted.

Once more the dark shape sped over the waves and drew close to the gyarados submarine. Oak jumped off the submarine and landed on his dragon type, his white coat settling behind him.

"On high," Oak commanded over the sounds of the storm, standing tall once more. Dragonite spiraled upward through the cold wind and rain. Sam looked down on the Rockets, bobbing up and down as his pokémon hovered.

He could see the man fiddling with something next to the unconscious bodies of his comrades. But it was too dark and they were too far away for Sam Oak to see what exactly he was doing. It didn't matter.

"Dragonite, Hyper Beam," Oak said calmly.

White light, bright as day, shone over the ocean as Dragonite gathered a ball of energy in his mouth. Smoke erupted from the vessel below. Oak smirked. As if they could escape.

The orange dragon reared its head back, shining the light of the gathered energy on the clouds above, bleaching them white. His head snapped forward and he launched the Hyper Beam.

It was a cascade of destructive energy, a piece of starfire stolen from the heavens. White energy lanced downward, so bright that it appeared to be as wide as a skyscraper. Piercing through the smoke, Dragonite's attack smashed through the submarine, just after James pressed a rather important button, reducing it to flying pieces of molten metal, trailing smoke as they flew away from the point of impact.

The beam continued into the ocean for awhile, until it lost cohesion in the murky depths and exploded. A geyser thirty stories high reached for the sky. The sudden absence of so much water left an open wound on the ocean about half the size of a football field. Water rushed back to fill the hole from the surrounding ocean, from the rain, and from the returning mass.

Professor Oak calmly looked upon the devastation below. He knew that he should have probably started with the Hyper Beam if he wasn't going to capture the Rockets, but thinking about the Ketchums had riled him up. And it always felt nice to beat up the fascist pokémon stealing scumbags known as Team Rocket.

He directed Dragonite to return to their previous course and forced himself to think about less dark thoughts. His friend wouldn't have wanted him to brood.

James clutched Jessie and Meowth tight to his chest, as Koffing spewed gas above him to keep his parachute aloft. Had he taken one more second to finish all the preparations and press the eject button, everybody would have been killed.

James shivered. It wasn't a thought that he could bear to think about.

He hugged Jessie and Meowth closer and directed Koffing to head to the closest shore.

"Finally a vacation!" Brock exclaimed. "And all the water from the storm's dried up already!"

So some of the beach is dry and some is wet then? Pikachu asked confused. I don't really see why that matters, we're just going to go swiiiiiiiimmmg!

Ash threw off his shirt and jumped in the water as Pikachu spoke, startling his first pokémon. Brock joined him.

"A chance to spend some time in the sun and the ocean without having to worry about drowning or drying," Brock sighed contentedly as he waded in. "This is the life."

Ash nodded in agreement.

"I thought we were supposed to meet at the snack bar?" Misty called out from the shore. Brock and Ash turned to look.

She was wearing a red strapped bikini, edged with green, giving the two boys an eyeful of her developing curves. Brock took notice, but didn't look too closely. He wasn't interested in her in that manner. Ash looked closely for reasons different than the norm.

"Why'd I think you were a boy back a Pewter City again?" He asked her, not thinking of the consequences of asking the question out loud.

It was the baggy clothes, Pikachu supplied helpfully.

"You mistook her for a boy at Pewter City?" Brock laughed. "You never told me about that."

"You..." Misty growled, a tick mark forming on her forehead. She chucked a beach ball at Ash's forehead. Ash yelped as the inflated sphere hit his forehead and fell back into the water.

Hehe, sucker, chuckled Pikachu, treading water nearby.

"So how'd that happen?" Brock asked.

"I was still recovering from the spearow attack and was wearing long pants and a blue sweatshirt," Misty explained, still fuming. "I help this idiot out with Team Rocket and then he calls me a 'swell guy'."

"I said I was sorry," Ash protested. Brock chuckled and shook his head.

"Aaron, you really don't get women do you?"

"I don't get humans," Ash muttered under his breath.

Neither do I, Pikachu said, his sharp hearing picking up Ash's words. And for the record, they think you're an idiot too.

Misty quit fuming once she got in the water and the three of them played in the shallows for a bit, tossing the beach ball back and forth, laughing when a wave swamped them, Brock and Misty telling jokes, and Pikachu paddled around.

Brock accidently thew the ball too far out, the ball bobbing over depths that were over their heads.

"I got it," Ash cried out, jumping up and diving under the water. He swam under the waves toward the beach ball.

Misty quirked her eyebrow in surprise as Aaron swam away. The boy swam like a fish or a water type pokémon. That wasn't a comment on his skill, from what Misty could make out of his progress it seemed slightly below average, but on his form. He didn't use his arms to propel himself at all, instead he relied on the motions of his body and legs. She hadn't really noticed this escaping the SS Anne where he had been mainly relying on his Squirtle for propulsion.

"Who taught you how to swim?" The red haired trainer asked the boy when he returned.

"Nobody," Ash quickly lied. "I learned by watching pokémon."

"That explains your form," Misty tapped he chin. "Why didn't your parents teach you?"

"They were busy with other things," Ash replied, shrugging. "They probably were going to, but since I already knew how..."


"What are your parents like?" Brock asked.


"Calm," Aaron replied. Brock waited for him to continue. When the young trainer failed to do so, Brock spoke up again.

"That's it? Just calm?"

"Sort of. Umm..." Ash dug through his early memories. There was a smirking man and a woman fussing over him. "Dad's a guy who's usually happy and laid back. Mom's a bit more of a worrywart."

"Where exactly did you grow up?" Asked Misty. She and Brock moved closer to Ash. Pikachu idly circled them with a backstroke.

"By Pallet Town" -for my whole life- "for awhile and then by Route Eleven." Lies. "I had to take a bus back to Pewter City and the walk through the Virdian Forest to get Pikachu."

Liar liar, pants on fire, Pikachu rhymed as he swam by.

"Where'd you go to school?" The red haired trainer asked as she leaned back to enjoy the sun and the waves.

"An elementary school in Pallet Town and then a small school in some town in Route Eleven."

"You don't remember the names?" That struck Brock as odd, Aaron should have been going up until he left to being his trainer's journey.

"I didn't pay too much attention," Ash replied. "And I had to miss a lot. Family stuff."

"Really? What stuff?"

"Illnesses," Aaron searched his memory for the stories that Poison Lance had prepared. "My dad got really sick for a while. And I had to help out with the wild pokémon."

"Wild pokémon?"

"Yeah. We'd look after their eggs and heal them and stuff."

"You never mentioned anything about that back at the village," Misty interjected.

"I didn't really see the need," Ash replied, rubbing the back of his head. It wasn't like they had that much time to talk anyway.

"So any friends you're hoping to run into on your journey?" Brock asked, throwing the beach ball at Aaron. Ash hit it to Misty and the three of them resumed their water-play.

"Just Gary Oak," Ash told Brock.

"Professor Oak's grandson? I didn't know you knew him. Is that why he asked you to call him every time you stopped at a pokémon center?"

"Sort of. I had to call him in Viridian City and when he heard about me saving Misty, he asked me to keep him informed. Misty's the one who makes me call at each center."

"You'd never do it otherwise," Misty huffed as Ash slapped the ball to Brock. "Honestly, if it weren't for me, you still wouldn't have filled out your pokédex registration."

Right, Ash realized he still needed to do that.

"You didn't make friends up by Route Eleven?" Brock asked.

"No. We lived pretty far away from everybody." And he had to hide from other humans, which obviously made making friends with human children difficult.

"That's why I came back to Pallet, so I could meet Gary as we started out." Ash told his two human friends.

"So why didn't you travel with him? Did you miss him getting there?" Misty asked.

"Nah, he... changed," Ash said, thinking of what had happened with his first human friend. "We're rivals now."

"Oh, Arceus, not another..." Brock moaned, putting his face into his hand. The beach ball bounced off his head. "Hey. Don't send the ball this way while I'm bemoaning cliches!"

"Cliches?" Ash inquired.

"Yes, cliches. Two rivals trainers seeking mastery is the oldest cliche in the book," Brock replied, lifting his head as Misty swam off to retrieve the beach ball.

"So what was it like, where you grew up?" Misty said, changing the subject and spiking the ball at Aaron.

"It was..." Ash thought for a moment. "Unique. We didn't have very much money, and we couldn't eat a lot. But I always got to see the wild pokémon! And we had plenty of books, so I could read a lot."

"You had money for books but not food?" Brock asked as Misty bumped the ball to Aaron.

"No, we just had a lot of books from before. Or we got them cheap when we had the money." Ash whacked the ball back to Misty.

"So you just read and worked with pokémon?" Misty set the ball and then dove back into the water to kick the inflated sphere to Brock.

"Uh..." Ash stared at Misty in shock for a moment. "Well, yeah pretty much. I also spent time learning survival skills. Lots and lots of time in the woods."

"That explains some things," spoke Brock. "I was wondering why you always seemed a bit uncomfortable in cities. And hiking would explain your athleticism."

Ash just shrugged. Their conversation turned to inconsequential matters as they continued to play in the water. Eventually the sun reached its peak and began to fall and the swimmers grew hungry. Brock and Misty swam and waded to shore, while Ash followed behind, carrying an exhausted Pikachu.

They quickly toweled off, threw on a few more scraps of clothes, and then went looking for somewhere to eat.

There were a variety of snack bars by the beach, but the party was in the mood for something more substantial. They went further into town, looking for beachside grills and restaurants.

Down one street, the trio plus Pikachu came across a grey bearded old man in an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, swim trunks, and a wide brimmed hat. He was sitting on a bench outside of an empty restaurant and looking like his dog had just died. Ash decided to see what the problem was.

"What's wrong?" The pokéraised child asked the old man, to the discomfort of Brock and Misty. The old man looked up, surprised that someone was taking an interest.

"Why do you want to know?" The old man asked suspiciously. People didn't randomly come up to you on the street and offer to help you.

"I wanna see if I can help?" Ash replied.

Or, maybe sometimes they did. The old man took a closer look at Ash.

"Er, alright sonny, it couldn't hurt to have an ear for my problems," the old man said. "I'm Moe, and I'm in a spot of financial trouble. Business isn't all that good and I've got debts piling up. I owe Brutella, the hag that owns the restaurant over there," the old man pointed across the street, "some money, and if I can't pay soon, she'll take my boat. I was planning to take a trip around the world on her. Some crazy kids wrecked my pier last night too and I need money to fix that!"

"Is there anything I can do to help?" Ash asked eagerly. Brock and Misty sighed.

"I could use some help around the place, but..."

"I'll do it!" Ash replied excitedly. "Sorry guys, I'll meet you later-"

"I'll help too," Brock said, probably rolling his eyes. "Someone's got to keep an eye on you."

Brock, after so many years trapped in the Pewter City gym, had a soft spot for people struggling with their dreams.

"Misty..." The former Pewter City gym leader began. The water type specialist sighed.

"I'll come along." Well, it was for a good cause.

And so the trainers became food service staff for the day. Ash handed out flyers advertising Moe's restaurant, and Misty waited on tables. Brock alternated by the two roles and Moe focused entirely on the cooking.

It worked. Customers were coming in thicker than before, straight from the beach, still in their swimwear sometimes, to enjoy Moe's cooking. The fliers brought customers in from the streets. Misty was a big hit as she waited on tables, garnering compliments and tips that she gave to Moe.

(Brock never noticed, but he got several admiring looks from their female patrons, who giggled when they saw him looking at them. It did nothing to help Brock's ego.)

"This is actually sort of fun," Misty commented to Brock and Aaron, walking past with platters of foods.

"I know what she means," Brock told Aaron. "It's a nice change of pace. How long were you thinking of helping?"

"A couple days," Ash replied. He knew a bit about money problems. "I just wanted to give him a boost, make him feel better so he'll do better."

"That's... surprisingly mature of you," Brock said, stroking his chin. "Aiding his psychological health by giving him some hope could deliver great benefits down the line."

Ash shrugged. He just wanted to make the world a better place like a pokémon trainer should.

The trainers went to the beach the next day, this time finding a spot that allowed pokémon, and spent all morning there. At noon they collected their pokémon and went back to Moe's shack, still in little more than their beach wear. They returned to their previous duties.

"You kids are a life saver. That's right, a real life saver." Moe told them. "It's been a while since I've seen the place this busy."

"We're just happy to help," Ash replied happily. He spotted an ugly looking red haired old woman across the street, by the restaurant located there. She was glaring at Moe's place, while a pretty blonde haired lady passed out menus.

"Who's that?" He asked Moe, before the owner could go back in.

"That's Brutella. Don't know why she's so grumpy," Moe drawled. "Between you and me, I think she wants my boat. And I've never seen that waitress before."

"She's pretty looking," Brock commented. "But she seems familiar."

"Another lost love of yours?" Misty snarked as she walked by. "I wouldn't let any of the Joys, Jenny's, or Melanie know about this..."

"Shut up!" Brock snapped at her, blushing.

"Wow, they're really raking in the customers," Brock commented the next day, when the kids returned. Crowds of beach goers were flocking to Brutella's place, passing by Moe's restaurant without a second glance. "I wonder what she did differently?"

"I don't know," Ash stated. "But we'll just have to do better!" The trainer grabbed his pokéballs. "Everybody get out!"

White light blazed and Ash's team solidified. Pikachu jumped off Ash's shoulder and joined their ranks.

Everybody reporting in Captain idiot! The yellow mouse chirped, saluting. Ash ignored the insult.

"Pikachu, Squirtle, I want you two to go down to the beach and hand out fliers," he said, giving them both a pile of papers.

"Aren't you worried that someone will try and steal them?" Brock asked.

"They're welcome to Pikachu," Ash quipped, "I feel sorry for whoever tries."

I love you too Ashy boy.

"Pidgeotto, you help Moe keep the coals in the grill hot."

Aye, aye captain, the flying type replied. Ash rolled his eyes. He hated it when Pidgeotto joined Pikachu in the sarcasm.

"Charmander, I want you to help Moe with the grill fire."

But Ash... Charmander said in a whining tone.

"Just think of it as a training exercise," Ash told his fire type, responding to the tone of voice rather than the actual words.

"Bulbasaur, you get to help Misty wait on tables."

Heh, heh, time to make tentacle jokes.

Ash wondered about his grass type's sense of humor. Then he wondered if being able to understand pokémon was actually a blessing.

"Butterfree... make sure Squirtle behaves."


Sure thing Ash.

Ash's plan worked. Pikachu and Squirtle increased the visibility of the restaurant, using their charm to convince people to take a look at the fliers. Charmander and Pidgeotto helped Moe to shorten the cooking times, to serve the new numbers more quickly, reducing the time it took for Moe to get the grill to the correct temperature. Bulbasaur helped Misty with Moe's increased output, balancing dishes on his vines with great skill.

Ash didn't hear any tentacle jokes from the green pokémon. He couldn't tell if he was lucky or if Bulbasaur had just been screwing with him. Hopefully it was the later.

Butterfree hovered by Squirtle and Pikachu, stopping Squirtle from playing pranks and Pikachu from shocking a couple of bikes and bikers.

The pokéraised child noticed Brutella glaring at Moe's place again. He wondered what her problem was.

Ash also noticed the blonde woman working there giving him a strange look. Thinking about what Brock had said, Ash agreed, for some reason she seemed familiar.

The next day, after another trip to the beach, the gang repeated their actions from the previous day. Once more Ash sent out his pokémon to assist in the running of Moe's shack. And once more they set out to do their tasks.

But today bad luck plagued their footsteps.

A sudden gust of wind ripped most of the fliers out of Squirtle and Pikachu's paws. Butterfree was able to catch some of them, but most drifted out to sea.

Another gust of wind knocked Pidgeotto off balance, causing her to lose control of her gust and knock the grill over. Water kept spilling near Charmander, scaring the poor fire type so badly that he couldn't control his flame. Moe was forced to go without their help.

Bulbasaur noticed the sudden appearance of a lot of objects that could potentially trip him up. He was able to avoid the hazards and keep Misty safe from them. Thanks to his efforts the two were able to perform their duties without difficulties.

"Errrgh!" Brock growled as hegripped the sides of his hair. "What's wrong with today."

"I don't know," Moe replied. "I've had days like this before, but never this bad."

Ash idly noticed that the blonde woman at Brutella's wasn't seen as often.

"We were so close," Moe moaned. "We almost made enough to give me a chance at the next payment."

They were situated in the kitchen. A 'Closed for the Day' sign hung on the front door. Pikachu and Squirtle played outside, while Bulbasaur lay under the table. Moe was at the table, pouring over numbers for the last couple days, Brock sitting on the other side. Ash stood next to them, while Misty leaned on the wall near the door. A fan spun lazily overhead, keeping the room from overheating.

"There's got to be something else we can do to get money," Ash said, pacing back and forth.

"I can't think of anything that would get more money then what we were doing," Brock told the boy. "Misty, do you have any idea."

"No," Misty replied downcast.

We should have looted some bodies, Bulbasaur spoke up. They were lying all over the place back at the village and Pikachu says you do that in all the video games.

Ash ignored his pokémon in favor of trying to brainstorm some more.

"There's got to be something," the trainer said heatedly.

"Maybe I can provide a suggestion," a voice spoke up from the kitchen entrance. Everybody turned to look at the source.

It was the pokémon professor himself, Samuel Oak. He was wearing a white lab coat and swimming trunks.

"Hello Aaron," the former champion said to the aspiring master.

"Professor Oak! What are you doing here?"

"I'm here with my tour group from Pallet Town," Oak replied. "And I was just walking down the street when I heard your voices. If it's money you need, there's a beauty and pokémon costume contest tomorrow with a cash prize for the winner. I was thinking that you could have Misty enter..."

"She's not old enough," Brock said automatically.

"Actually... how old are you little lady?" Moe asked Misty.

"I'm twelve, I'll be thirteen in a couple weeks. But as a registered gym trainer, I'm emancipated." Misty answered. "Why, what are the eligibility rules?"

"It's within a month of your thirteenth birthday," Oak replied. "I know it's a bit young, but Porta Vista is tied with Saffron City for the lowest age of consent in Kanto, fourteen."

"Why's it so low?" Brock asked.

"Well, Saffron City was hit hardest by the war and they needed to repopulate quickly," Professor Oak began.

"And Porta Vista did it for tourism reasons," Moe interjected. "Our city council was run by a bunch of dirty old men at the time and we haven't had a pressing reason to change it."

"How old do you have to be to be a grown up?" Ash inquired.

"Age of majority is the same here as it is everywhere in the League," Oak informed the boy. "Eighteen. Ease of emancipation varies in each member state though."

"So our best chance of getting the money we need is a contest only one of us can enter? This feels like the plot to a TV show or a crappy special." Misty said, crossing her arms. "Are there any prizes for the runner's up, because the odds are against me winning."

"Nope." Oak shook his head. "It's all or nothing."

"Hmmm... if Misty's too ugly then we can always try and make up for it with the costume," Ash suggested innocently.

"You..." Misty growled. That comment had really hurt.

"Aaron, you shouldn't call Misty ugly," Professor Oak chided the boy.

"I didn't," Ash protested.

"You just did! You said if she's too ugly to win..." Misty pointed out, keeping the tears from her eyes.

"But you were talking about not being able to win the contest..."

"It doesn't mean that I'm ugly!"

"What does it mean then?"

"It just means there are prettier women out there then me."

"Isn't that the same thing?"

"No! It isn't!" Misty shouted.

"Oh. Then I picked bad words. I'm sorry." Ash said downcast. "Really sorry. I didn't know."

"You can read all those books but you didn't know that?" Brock was confused.

"I'm weird like that," Ash told the former gym leader. When he read he translated the characters to pokémon speech most of the time instead of the human equivalents. "Misty, I'm really sorry okay. I'm an idiot."

"Fine," Misty huffed.

"When's the latest you can register?" Brock asked the former champion.

"Up until an hour before it starts."

"Misty, it seems to be our best chance. Do you think you can do it?" Brock asked, turning to the angry red head.

"Yes," Misty said, keeping her voice monotone. "But we'll need a custom idea."

"I've got some," Brock replied. "Aaron, we'll need to borrow Squirtle."

Night had fallen over Porta Vista. It was cool out as the blonde woman, who worked at Brutella's restaurant, navigated some back alleys. She kept a practiced eye out for any of the possibly unsavory elements of the town as she hurried in her waitress uniform and sunglasses.

She came to an unremarkable metal door. The blonde knocked three times, waited a bit, and then knocked another three times with a different tempo. Nothing happened and after a couple more seconds, she knocked three times once more, once again in a unique tempo. This time the sound of clicks came from the other side and the woman opened the door.

Inside rested Jessie and Meowth. Meowth was fussing over some bandages on Jessie and Jessie was examining some equipment.

"I can't tell if this piece is good or not," Jessie complained as the blonde woman entered. "James, you take a look."

She tossed the piece to the blonde woman, who caught it and took off her wig in one motion. Underneath the wig was a head of purple hair. James then took off the sunglasses.

"It's good enough," he told his compatriot. "Meowth, how are her injuries?"

"They'd be better if she just rested a bit!" Meowth replied.

"I'm fine." Jessie paused for a moment and surveyed herself. She still had a bit of a lump on her head and her ribs still bothered her. "Sort of. Have the twerps left yet?"

"No. I spent the whole day sabotaging their efforts and they didn't get the hint."

"I suppose we wouldn't want Ash if he gave up easily," Jessie mused. "But we really can't afford to have them stumble over us in our current condition. We'll need to make money and fast if they won't leave."

"There's still the beauty contest," Meowth said. "I managed to prevent about six girls from signing up earlier."

"And I stopped five, and made it so four more wouldn't be able to compete during my breaks, when I wasn't sabotaging the twerps," James reported. "There'll only be a small number of other entrants and I should be able to beat them handily."

Koffing floated over, with Ekans curled on his back.

Our costume's ready, the gas bag pokémon told Meowth.

"Ekans and Koffing are ready," the cat scratch pokémon relayed to the two humans. "You two should get some rest, you'll be useless tired."

"Alright," James said, stifling a yawn. "Just make sure to wake me up early so I have plenty time to prepare."

"Fine. I can finish the last of the sub work tomorrow," Jessie said. "James, how do you make it look so easy?"

"No clue, it just is." James replied. "Don't worry about it, I'm sure you did fine."

"Make sure to look it over. I don't want to be blamed if it explodes."

Bright sunlight shone down on the stands as Brock, Professor Oak, Moe, Ash, and Pikachu filed into their seats. They had arrived a little early and thus had a little time to get situated before the stands got crowed.

The stands where the audience sat were arranged in a semi circle in front of the contest stage. They were large enough to seat a couple hundred people, with snack stands in the gaps between sections of bleachers. There were a small number of vendors peddling their wares from within the crowd as well.

The contest area consisted of a stage decorated to give a view of a tropical island and the sea beneath. Painted sea pokémon swam beneath false waves, while some tropical pokémon played on sandy beaches near a palm tree, all under a rainbow. There was an aisle between the back and fore stage, which concealed the contestants until they reached center stage, which itself was concealed by red curtains.

"So how many other contestants are there?" Ash asked Brock, who was reading the event's handout.

"Not very many." Brock replied.

"That's odd," Professor Oak mused. "Usually there's dozens of entrants. I wonder what happened this year."

"Who's first?" Ash inquired.

"Misty is. Not sure if that will work to our advantage or not..." Brock looked at the clock. "We should quit talking now, it's going to start soon."

And less than a minute later the announcer spoke up.

"Welcome ladies and gentlemen, guys and gals, and beach goers of all ages to the annual Porta Vista beauty contest! Are you ready?"

The crowd shouted.

"I can't hear you!"

The crowd roared, louder that time.

"What was that?"

Once more the roar of the crowd sounded out.

"That's more like it! We've got a smaller number of contestants than usual this year, but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality! So let's get this contest started, with our first contestant, Misty!"

The curtains opened up and Misty, in her red bikini with green borders, walked out. She made sure not to strut, but instead took small steps, as her sisters had taught her.

The Cerulean gym, along with the woman only Celadon gym, and the ninja staffed Fuschia gym, offered its trainers seduction classes. Misty's sisters had given their youngest sibling an altered curriculum based off of those classes. They called it 'charm classes' and in the same way seduction classes were supposed to give trainers an edge in battle against opponents attracted to them and in information gathering, the 'charm classes' were meant to use Misty's age and apparent naivety to charm information out of people and make opponents hesitate. Misty hadn't really paid attention, she had been young when they tried to teach her, and it wasn't really her style anyway.

Currently though, she wished she had payed a little more attention. She closed her eyes, smiled, and waved innocently at the crowd, who was clapping, cheering, and shouting.

"This is totally embarrassing and degrading, but we need the money..." She muttered under her breath. The red haired trainer reached the end of the walkway and stood with her hands and arms held away from her sides.

"Let's give a big hand to this lovely and talented water trainer from Cerulean City who's making a big splash here today!"

The crowd roared and erupted in applause.

"Now, let's see what costume she came up with." Starmie and Squirlte followed Misty on stage.

Starmie was floating perpendicular to its usual axis and was wearing a sort of metal skirt and dome, decorated with bright oval stones. Squirtle was wearing a bulky futurististic looking helmet. Starmie swayed to and fro over Misty.

Hey, everyone, look at me! Squirtle shouted. He tipped his head back and shot a small fountain of water into the air. Misty struck a pose under the sparkling drops.

"And it's a combination, Starmie as a flying saucer and Squirtle as an extra-terrestrial!" The announcer cried out. "An imaginative idea! Giver her another round of applause folks!"

Misty took a small bow as the crowd clapped and then withdrew backstage.

"Next up we have Jasmine!" The blonde woman from Brutella's restaurant strutted onto the stage. She was wearing a green one piece that showed off her nice breasts and drew attention away from her hips.

"She's a poison specialist from Fuschia city and let's see what costume she has for her pokémon!"

An Ekans and a Koffing floated onstage. Ekans was coiled up into a wheel, very skillfully balancing on top of Koffing. Koffing was wearing a seaweed skirt in front, with two weeds in the middle hanging lower than the rest.

Ash was a little nervous at that display, after all Team Rocket used a highly trained Koffing and Ekans. If he was a little closer he could try and tell if they were the Rocket pokémon, but currently they were too far away. He turned to Brock.

"Is there any chance they could be from Team Rocket?" He asked the former Pewter City gym leader. Brock mulled his question over for a second and then took a long look at Jasmine.

"No, that woman has different curves then Jessie. It's not them." He reassured Aaron.

"And Koffing and Ekans are dressed as an Omastar." The announcer said. "What an interesting idea! Give them a hand ladies and gents!"

Jasmine bowed as the crowd applauded and she and her pokémon withdrew.

Backstage Jasmine ducked behind a corner and pulled out a walkie talkie from the backpack she had left there.

"James reporting in," he said into the device, his voice giving no sign of his discomfort. Honestly, he was using a contraption under the one piece to constrict his waist, making him appear more feminine. It really was uncomfortable.

"How'd ya do?" Meowth's voice returned.

"Okay. Not bad, but not good. And get this, one of the twerp's has entered the contest too."

"So this plan failed..." This time it was Jessie's voice. "Describe the crowd."

"Tourists." James replied simply.

"I've got an idea. James, you've been working so hard lately, you should take a break. Go enjoy yourself. Just make sure you do it somewhere away from here."

"What's the plan?" The cross dressing man asked.

"I'm not telling you, you'll want to help, and you'll just end up doing more work. Now shoo! Go enjoy yourself."

"Aye, aye," James replied, putting the walkie talkie back in the bag. He had a bad feeling about this.

"And up next we have... Gary Oak's fan club! Six beautiful ladies. Picking the best looking one out of all these girls will be tough, but it's a good kind of tough."

Misty thought that the announcer seemed a bit like Brock as she slumped backstage.

"With a buildup like that, there's no way they'll remember me," moaned the red haired trainer.

"What!?" Ash shouted. "Professor, why didn't you tell me Gary was going to be here?"

"He was supposed to arrive here tomorrow," the pokémon professor answered, confused.

"And what's this about his fan club?" Brock asked. "Does he have cheerleaders or something?"

"He does," Ash told Brock.

"What the hell is up with that?" Brock turned back to Oak. "Are they some sort of secret bodyguard squad or something?"

"No, they're an actual fanclub." Oak replied. "I don't get it either."

So Gary having cheerleaders was weird. Ash felt a bit relieved. He had wondered if he had been committing some gaffe as a trainer from Pallet Town going around without cheerleaders, but now he knew. This was exactly why he had started traveling with Brock and Misty.

"Yo, yo, yo!" Everybody turned their attention back to the stage. Six pretty girls, Gary's cheerleaders, and Gary himself stood on it. On his right stood all the girls in the two piece swimsuits and on his left stood all the girls in the one piece suits. "It's Gary Oak from Pallet Town saying it's nice to be here Porta Vista!"

The crowd cheered.

"Anyway, I heard my rival, Aaron Autumns would be in the crowd today, and my adorable fan club wanted to enter the contest, so here we are. Now, where is my honorable rival?"

"Hey!" Ash shouted, getting out of his seat, accidently knocking poor Pikachu over.

Ouuuuch... Pikachu said unhappily.

"Hey, Gary," Ash shouted, running up to the stage. He jumped and climbed up onto the walkway. "I'm right here! You wanna battle?"

"It is good to see that you are embracing the spirit of our rivalry," Gary shouted. Ash wondered if he realized he was still holding the microphone up to his mouth. "But, regrettably, my pokémon are currently at the center."

Curses. Ash had hoped that he could use a pokémon battle to snap Gary out of his insanity. He wanted his first human friend back to normal already!

"So, my honorable rival-" Gary began, but was cut off by screaming from the stands.

"It's a gyarados!" Ash and Gary both turned to look at the beach. Out of the water exploded a shiny blue serpentine pokémon, roaring furiously.

All Ash heard was gibberish.

He took a closer look as people started to panic and run. He could make out something under the supposed water pokémon. Treads.

"That's not a real gyarados!" Ash turned to Gary. "If you don't have your pokémon, you better get out of here, it's not safe."

"If you think you can handle the situation, rival, then I will gladly stand aside. Come on girls, let's find a place with a nice view of the festivities." Gary left, followed by his fanclub.

Two missiles soared out of the front of the mouth of the machine, streaking across the beach. Ash hadn't had time to release his pokémon, all he could do was seek cover.

"Starmie, Barrage Counter those missiles!" Misty shouted, coming out from backstage.

On it! Starmie sped out over the crowd and let loose a wide plume of high velocity water. The liquid sparkled in the sunlight as the two missiles impacted on the blue shield. Trailing smoke as they tumbled back, the two missiles were unchanged for a moment before they exploded, sending nets flying all over the beach.

"Thanks Misty!" Ash shouted to his friend.

"Anytime!" She replied.

Ash nodded and turned his hat backwards.

" Let's go guys!" Pokeballs flew and pokémon came out. Pidgeotto, Butterfree, Bulbasaur, and Charmander assembled around Ash, as Pikachu ran up from the stands, and Squirlte scampered over from backstage.

Another missile streaked from the submarine.

"Aaron, that's a heat seeking missile!" Professor Oak shouted, cursing the fact that he hadn't brought his pokémon with him.

"Got it! Charmander, long range Flamethrower on that dune over there!" Ash ordered pointing.

Charmander drew in a deep breath and unleashed a stream of fire. It lanced through the air, hitting and engulfing a dune a ways away from the contest area. Ash saw the missile wobble and then change course. It turned towards the stream of fire and exploded, sending a gray fluid everywhere.

"Is that glue?" Brock asked, running up to Aaron. Like Professor Oak the former gym leader hadn't brought his pokémon.

"Pikachu, hit that sub with Thunders! Keep it up, don't let them get off another missile!"

Bon voyage mecha gyarados! Pikachu shouted. Yellow power blazed around him and then arced up, slamming into the gyarados submarine. Electricity crackled and skittered all over the hull, and it halted in its tracks. The sub however sustained no damage. Undeterred, Pikachu fired another one.

Ash thought furiously for a plan. Charmander couldn't redirect the missiles without some sort of fireball attack, Pikachu would simply increase the ambient heat, the missiles were too fast for Butterfree to get a good grip on them (but he could at least deflect them), Bulbasaur didn't know Solar Beam, and Pidgeotto...

Wait that could work, Pidgeotto could easily carry Charmander, and then use Charmander's tail flame to misguide the missile, Flamethrower the sub...

Ash was about to give the orders when a memory flashed through his head. Charmander, on the rock, with his tail flame so weak, so very fragile looking, so very close to death-

No. Ash shook his head. It was only a glue missile and worst come to worst, Butterfree could save them.

Idiot, I'm going to need a second soon, Pikachu told his trainer. The repeated Thunders were taking their toll on the electric type.

"Pidgeotto, Charmander, listen up. Pidgeotto I need you to carry Charmander in front of the next missile and get it to follow you two. After that, carry Charmander close to the sub. Charamander, when you get close, hit it with a Flamethrower. Butterfree, you cover them. Use Confusion on the missile if it gets to close to them."

I'll do my best Ash! Butterfree trilled.

Alright, let's show them what we're made of! Charmander pumped his fist into the air.

Hang tight, Pidgeotto said, swooping down and grabbing the fire type.

"Pikachu, you can let up now." Pikachu sagged with relief and started to pant.

Give me ten seconds and then I'm ready, the electric type told his trainer. That endurance training was paying off.

Once more the submarine fired a missile and resumed its charge. But this time Pidgeotto sped across its travel vector, Charmander in tow. The missile's guidance system picked up on the heat source and changed course. It curved around and began trailing Ash's pokémon.

Pidgeotto banked and soared towards the submarine, the missile gaining ground on her. Charmander waited and Ash watched nervously from the sidelines and the missile inched closer and closer to his pokémon.

Charmander opened his mouth and bathed the sub in flames, orange fire engulfing the head. The missile's guidance system picked up on the new, stronger, heat source and changed course to intercept. It struck the sub and exploded, splatter glue everywhere, filling the mouth.

"It's a direct hit!" Brock crowed.

"Atta boy Aaron!" Misty cheered. She idly noticed that there wasn't a hint of a blush on her cheeks like she had been expecting lately.

The submarine reversed course and sped towards the water, entering the ocean with a large splash.

"Alright we did it everyone!" Ash shouted, laughing from the feeling of exhilaration coursing through him, like a bengin version of Pikachu's electricity.

We can see that idiot. Pikachu jumped on his trainer's head. But you really should be working on victory puns. Nobody will take you seriously unless you can suavely say some fitting or funny one liner at times like this.

"Thanks kids," Moe said, working on his pier. It was the day after the contest,and once again it was sunny in Porta Vista. Ash, Brock, and Misty, in their regular clothes, all stood at the end of the dock as the old man hammered away. "You were a life saver. I don't know what I would've done without you. I'll always remember you. "

"It was nothing," Brock told the older man. "It was actually sort of fun."

"Yeah. And it gave me a chance to win that beauty contest!" Misty said, brandishing the trophy. She had gotten first place for both her performance, and for protecting everyone from the first barrage of missiles. She had given the money to Moe, who had used it to catch up on his payments.

"It was quite the performance," Professor Oak spoke up from behind the group, "from both of you. Aaron, you grow to be a more interesting trainer each time I see you. Keep it up. And Misty, if you keep going at your current pace, you'll surpass your sisters in no time."

"Thanks Professor," Misty replied beaming.

"It was great seeing you again Professor Oak," Ash said. " And it was great meeting you Moe. But we've got to get going now."

"Bye!" Moe and Oak waved to them as they walked away. When they had left, Moe returned to his work, and the pokémon professor sat down nearby.

"Kids like that are good for us weary old souls," sighed Samuel Oak.

"Weary? These bones are full of energy!" Moe laughed.

"Well, yours maybe. But mine aren't. I've done a lot and failed to do a lot more. My bones are weighed down by all of that. But being around those kids helps. Aaron in particular." Oak frowned. "I never noticed this before, but I often think about Delia before I talk with him."

"Delia?" Moe inquired.

"A former student and dead friend. She was killed under my implicit protection." Oak stroked his chin.

"So what does it mean? You thinking about her when you're thinking about that boy? Is he her son or something?"

"No. Her son, Ash, died with her. It's probably nothing." Oak said, waving away Moe's suggestions. "It's just curious, that's all." He smiled all of a sudden. "Maybe it happens, because when Aaron becomes the next champion, he won't fail like I did."

"You think he'll become Champion of some League?" Moe asked.

"No. I know he will."

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