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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20. 20-1

Kanto never seemed to run out of bright and sunny days Ash reflected as he walked down cliffs by the seaside. Sunlight sparkled off the cerulean waves below as they rolled and crashed into the rocks on the bottoms of the cliffs Scattered small clouds drifted through the sky as Ash and his friends walked the grass covered cliffs. It had been a couple weeks since Porta Vista.

Misty had picked up an unusual Psyduck. Well, less picked up and more press-ganged into having him on her team. The... well there's no avoiding the phrase, odd duck had noticed them as they were returning from helping a wounded horsea and walked over. He took a look at Misty, declared that she looked like she could use an experienced hand, and then grabbed a pokéball. It was the first time Ash had ever heard of a pokémon catching themselves.

Sometime after leaving Porta Vista they had stumbled across another seaside town, this time one famous for ghosts rather than beaches. When they encountered the said ghost, Ash and Pikachu immediately knew it was a gastly. The ghost type convinced them to play along with his game for the sake of the town's festival and traditions. Ash and Pikachu had a grand time helping the pokémon out with its haunting. When it came time for the festival Ash and Brock had to excuse themselves from the festivities due to their lack of proper clothing. Brock sulked somewhere while Ash and his team had a merry time with the gastly.

That had been a few days ago. Currently it was late morning and Ash was consulting the map, trying to figure out the best way to get to Lavender Town.

"We take that that path, there," Ash said to Brock and Misty, pointing to a little shelf jutting out of the cliffs that wound along the coast. "And then halfway to Saffron City we turn east here," the pokéraised child gestured at the map. "And then we take this route to Lavender Town."

"Why do you want to go there anyway?" Misty inquired. "Planning to pay your respects?"

To beings still here rather than the departed, Ash thought to himself, not bothering to figure out where ghost types stood on the whole alive dead undead scale.

"Pretty much," the boy responded to the girl.

"And after that?" Brock inquired.

"On to Saffron City to get a badge," Ash called Aaron replied.

"Good plan."

I wonder what this pokémon is going to be like, Pikachu said from the back of Ash's head. Poison Lance is all stuffy and Pocket Watch is full of himself, so what's Lucas's ghost type like?

Ash refrained from reacting to his pokémon's musings. He really hated it when Pikachu said something substantial and he couldn't reply.

The group continued down the path, the salty wind brushing against patches of exposed skin as the sea roared below. The path wasn't narrow enough to make walking difficult, but Ash and Brock both had to deal with a mild case of vertigo that made the going more difficult then it needed to be. They refused to look down. Misty, on the other hand, was totally fine. She stared over the edge, occasionally pointing things out to the boys who refused to look.

Both the inexperienced trainer and the gym leader breathed a little sigh of relief when the path lead to a series of lower cliffs where they didn't have to walk so bloody close to a fatal fall.

"Wimps," Misty said, rolling her eyes as they continued forward.

After traveling a bit further on the new set of clifftops, something caught Ash's eye. Streams of white and purple shapes fluttered away from the coast, streaming into a gigantic mess of pokémon in the sky above the sea. The occasional human figure on the clifftop or in a hot air balloon sent another shape into the swarm. The humans in the balloons formed a multicolored floating buoy around the swarm, marking its limits. Brock and Misty saw it all as well.

"What are those?" Ash, hand shading his eyes as he peered. He could hear a bunch of loud muddled conversation coming from the cloud.

"They're butterfrees Aaron," Brock answered, "listen to their cries."

... I guess there are advantages to not understanding pokémon, stated Pikachu.

Ash didn't bother reaching for the low hanging fruit. Not that he could with Misty and Brock nearby, but still...

"Why are there so many of them?" Ash said starting to walk in the direction of the pokémon swarm.

"I don't know. Let's consult your pokédex." Brock replied.

Ash reached into his pocket and took out the red device. He opened it.

"Please fill out the registration form," came the mechanical voice, light beeping in sync with the words.

"You still haven't registered? How many weeks has it been!" Misty slapped a hand to her forehead.

"Don't know, haven't been counting," Ash replied, hitting the register later option. He'd get around to it one of these days. He started navigating through the options while Brock and Misty watched confused.

"Uh... you could just point it at them," Misty said hesitantly.

"Wouldn't that just give me the entry on butterfree?" Aaron asked.

"No, your model is more sophisticated than that. If there's something its algorithms find to be more relevant, it'll show that instead."

Ash wondered what an algorithm was. He'd have to look it up somewhere. The pokéraised boy pointed the pokémon encyclopedia at the swarm of flying bug types and hit a button.

"Butterfree, mating season," read the machine. "Every year some wild buttefree gather at the Kanto coast to form nomadic flocks, primarily for mating purposes."

"Mating?" Ash tilted his head to the side quizzically. "What's that?"

"It's, uh, you know..." Brock began blushing. "When a mommy and a daddy love each other very much and want kids-"

"Oh, sex," Ash replied still walking. Brock's jaw dropped and then his face and his palm met.

"Kids these days," the gym leader muttered as he followed along.

As the group got close they could make out individual butterfrees. Some hovered in groups, wings almost touching as they talked among themselves. Some danced together, delicate fluttering formations, each partner taking turns at taking cues as they wove patterns against the blue. Some were flying from individual to individual, stopping to talk, and sometimes engaging in a solo dance, before leaving and looking dejected.

Brock and Misty heard the mixed cries of the pokémon, blended together in a pressing chorus of the parts of the word 'butterfree' being trilled together. Ash and Pikachu heard the muddled noise of hundreds if not thousands of conversations.

Ash looked at the pokémon with a critical eye. He knew he was being biased, but none of the other butterfree looked as healthy as his Butterfree. None of their could match Butterfree's wings in luster, they seemed a bit smaller, and their antennae were slightly shorter. Why, he'd bet that Butterfree could beat most of them in a one on one fight!

Buttefree! He needed to talk with his pokémon.

"Alright, let's do this!" Jessie said as she pulled on her mask. James nodded and followed suit.

They were dressed in Silph Co uniforms. The uniforms had allowed them to get into the building, along with fake IDs provided by James. For once they were actually on assignment, a Rocket executive in the area had asked them to assist him by way of theft. Theft from the heavily guarded R&D department of Silph Co.

There were a couple of metallic sounds and then a small vent swung open.

"There you guys are," Meowth said, poking his coin adorned head out of the opening. "Do you know how long it took to sabotage the ventilation system and delay the repair guys?"

"Just long enough evidently," James replied. "We're just about to get started. Here" James held up a radio transmitter and receiver. "You know the drill."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Meowth responded. "Keep an eye on the guards from inside the vents and keep you informed as to their positions and movements."

"I've also broke their encryption, so you should be able to listen in on their communications," James informed the cat scratch pokémon. "Keep us updated about that as well."

"Got it," Meowth replied. "And when I say get out, you guys..."

"Get out," Jessie and James replied, rolling their eyes. "We know, we know. Honestly, Meowth, you don't need to constantly worry about us. We'll be fine."

"Someone's got to worry about you two," Meowth muttered to himself as he withdrew back into the vent and put on the radio. "Arceus knows you two need it."

Once Meowth had left Jessie and James stepped out of the alcove, hiding under the security camera. They were in a hallway with polished wood walls and metal floors and ceilings, with fluorescent lights shining down from overhead, leaving white reflections on the floors and walls.

Jessie and James waited until the security camera above reached the end of its sweep and started to move back before departing. They kept quiet while approaching the corner and then listened for the sounds of any guards. They heard nothing, Jessie peeked around the corner. No guards.

They swept around the corner and continued down the hallway. There was another alcove, one with a vending machine. Jessie and James ducked in. Jessie touched a finger to the talk button.

"Any info yet?"

"No patrols in your area," came Meowth's reply accompanied by the hiss of static. "I think it's because it's only storage and a couple of offices in that quadrant of the floor. There are a couple of guards patrolling the north most hallway, by the elevator. I can hear two in the northeast corner by the stair case. You'll have to get past them. Remember it's better if you don't knock them out, the exec doesn't want anyone to know that there was a break in for as long as possible."

"We know how to do a break in," James replied, rolling his eyes.

"Really? Then what about that time in Johto-"

"Never mind," Jessie said over the radio. "Just keep us updated on their movements."

So, Butterfree... Ash began.

Ash, Pikachu, and Buttefree sat in a small hollow on the flat clifftops. Brock and Misty sat by the edge, watching the swarm above. Ash sat leaned against a large rock, Pikachu sitting by his knee, while Butterfree faced them both from the edge of the hollow.

... Want to... what was the phrase people used...

Join the mating flock, Pikachu finished for his trainer, kicking Ash's shin with one of his tiny feet.

Well... Butterfree began, shifting uncomfortably.

It's okay with me, Ash said nervously. I mean, there's not much more I can help you with now that you've learned Psybeam, and Silver Wind doesn't need training. And I don't know when we'll be in this area again. Plus you'd make a great father.

He really didn't want Butterfree to leave him. Butterfree was the first pokémon he had caught. He had helped the bug type reach his final evolution, helping a nervous and scared caterpie to accept the risks of evolution. Butterfree had stood with him against Team Rocket when they first tried to capture him.

But Ash owed it to his pokémon to both offer him the choice and to try and steer Butterfree on what would be the best path for the pokémon. And quite honestly going with the mating flock was the best choice in Ash's eyes. Butterfree was a trained pokémon, he'd be stronger than his predators now, and he'd be safer then if he stayed with Ash.

He'd also get to do that whole mating/romance thing that adults did. Ash didn't get that stuff but they seemed to enjoy themselves, so hey.

True, I would like kids... Butterfree began. But...

If you're worried about me, don't be, Ash said, keeping his voice cheerful. 

Yeah, the idiot will still have me to look after him, Pikachu chipped in.

It's just that...

What Butterfree? Ash asked.

It just feels like I would be abandoning you. I mean you did a lot for me and then I just up and leave? It doesn't feel right.

You did a lot for me as well. It was only because of you that I stood a chance at beating Brock. You saved me from Koffing back in the Viridian Forest. It was only because of you that I was able to help Melanie.

Don't forget that you helped us all train at one point or another, Pikachu chipped in. The fact that you're protesting that you haven't done enough is all the more reason you should leave. You might be catching Ash's idiocy.

Hey!

Seriously Butterfree, we'll be fine, Pikachu continued to reassure his comrade. But how often does a trainer with a heavily trained Butterfree just stumble across a flock forming? You'll be doing both yourself and your species a disservice if you pass this up.

Ash silently thanked Pikachu. His first pokémon knew how to frame an argument in species terms, something that Ash totally failed at.

You really think so, Butterfree asked worriedly. Both Ash and Pikachu nodded in response.

Butterfree took a deep breath.

Alright. I'll go.

Sabrina sat on a stone bench in the garden behind the gym. Sunlight shone on her long dark green hair as she relaxed, stretching her slim frame to its full extent. She was of average height for her nationality and gender, which meant she was rather petite by most standards. Instead of her usual gym attire she wore a white tank top and blue jeans. She smiled as her violet eyes took in the scene in front of her.

Her youngest student, a psychic girl by the name of Britney, was playing ball with one of the gym abra's. Her black pigtails bounced behind her head as she chased down the sphere she failed to catch, all thoughts of using her powers forgotten during the heat of the moment in the game. Sabrina briefly considered using her own powers to retrieve the ball, but decided not to interfere.

She drew in a deep breath, drawing in the scents of the garden that her friend and fellow gym leader Erika had planted as a birthday gift. Small trees lined the small paved paths that divided up the patch of greenery. Between trees there were swathes plants that flowered at different times during the day, making it so that the dominate color was never the same in different hours. Bushes, bamboo, and other greenery filled the gaps and surrounded the koi ponds. It was a nice place to take a day off in. And it was nice to take a day out of her usual packed routine to relax.

"Sabrinaaaa!" Britney cried out. This time the ball was headed right for the gym leader's head. Sabrina concentrated for a time so small that it fit in-between one instant and the next and then the ball stopped in midair.

"You should be more careful," Sabrina commented, bring the ball to her hands. Britney ran up, skidding to a stop. For some reason she liked to wear shrine maiden robes. Sabrina had no clue where that taste had come from and she really didn't want to find out.

"Thanks big sis!" Britney replied as she took the ball from Sabrina. The gym leader affectionately tousled her student's hair.

"You should try to stop it on your own next time," the elder psychic instructed. "It'll be good practice."

"But that's not fair. No one else has to work on the days you go on a date!" Britney protested.

"I'm not going on a date today," Sabrina replied, using her years of training to control her emotions.

"Then what else do you call your plans with Atsushi," Britney innocently inquired, smirking.

"Hanging out with my boyfriend in the garden behind the gym," Sabrina replied calmly, secretly taking pleasure in Britney's expression of shock mixed with disappointment.

"Wait, you're not even going to try to deny it!" Britney shouted accusingly. "But now we can't tease you about it! And when did you two even get together in the first place?"

"Two days ago. I pounced on him in the middle of his confession. And, honestly I'm a highly powerful trained psychic. I'm more in touch with my emotions than most people can ever dream of. I realized the instant that I started liking him."

"But you two were always doing those little pre couple things. Always accidently touching each other and then you'd both turn away-"

"And who never blushed?" Sabrina asked, raising an eyebrow and smirking victoriously

"We thought you were cheating with your powers. And then there was the whole shyly looking away from each other whenever you made eye contact!"

"Which happened unusually frequently if I do recall. Almost as if I was doing it on purpose."

"But you also did that who awkwardly glad to be spending time with each other thing-"

"You know the biggest problem I have with relationships is resisting the temptation to read the other person's mind to see if they reciprocate my feelings," the gym leader of Saffron city explained to her pupil. "And because of the training we undergo with our empathetic talents we psychics tend to learn how to read people."

"Then what was all that shy stuff about," Britney whined, pulling on her pigtails in frustration.

"He was incredibly cute during all those moments," Sabrina told her student. "I wanted to see how long I could hold out before ravishing him. I also wanted to see how the whole normal relationship thing felt."

Britney's draw dropped in amazement.

"Sis, are you telling me that you had absolute control over the battlefield known as love this whole time?" She asked in wonder.

"I wouldn't put it that way. After all I had to let Atsushi have some of the fun of a normal relationship." Sabrina said.

"... I want to be just like you when I grow up."

"Now, now, little sister," Sabrina said to her youngest student with a wink. "Stick with me and I'll teach you plenty."

"Yes Lady Sabrina!" Britney saluted.

"Now run along. He'll be able to hear us in twenty seconds and I want to pretend that I wasn't tracking his presence."

"Ai ai sensei!"

Sabrina leaned back in the sun once more, and closed her eyes as she turned her head towards the sky. The heat of the sun gently caressed her as she waited for her lover to arrive.

"I would do the guess who thing, but with you it would be even more pointless then it usually is," a male voice spoke up from behind her. Sabrina turned her head, opened one eye, and smiled a crooked smile.

A man with brown hair and black eyes, who stood one head taller than Sabrina, wearing a green flannel jacket over a white tee shirt, stood behind the bench, leaning on the back. He smiled nervously at Sabrina.

"Atsushi," she replied happily, getting up. She strutted around the bench, 'accidently' stumbling once she was on the other side. Her boyfriend caught her on reflex, cradling her with his right arm.

"You okay?" He asked worriedly.

"Yes. Sorry, I've got no idea what happened," the gym leader replied as Atsushi helped her back to her feet. He unconsciously left his arm around her bare shoulders. Sabrina briefly smirked.

"You know," the male began, "I've been thinking about some things..."

"Oh," murmured the psychic in his arms.

"And I've been noticing some inconsistencies. You never trip except for around me, you never accidently touch other people, and a bunch of other little things."

Sabrina grabbed his right hand in her right and pulled his arm closer around her.

"I wouldn't like you if you weren't smart enough to notice things like that," she said smiling up at him.

"You little..." he said, the seriousness of his voice countered by the begrudging grin on his face.

"I'm sorry. You were simply so adorable I had to stop myself from eating you all up so many times..."

Atushi blushed so fiercely that Sabrina was honestly worried that his hair would catch fire. She led him around the bench and then pulled him down. She then snuggled into his unresistant form, settling her head under his chin. Sabrina heard Britney giggling off in the distance, felt both the warm sun on her skin, the comforting pressure of her boyfriend's arm around her shoulders, and the warmth of his body.

"I'm just a pillow to you aren't I?" Atsushi asked, fighting for control of his blush.

"A sexy one. A sexy full body pillow." Sabrina answered, slipping an arm around his waist. They sat in the sun, content, for several minutes before there was an interruption.

"Well, well, well, if it isn't a pair of lovebirds to ruin my day," another familiar voice spoke up. Sabrina picked her head up and grinned mischievously.

"What? Mad about the reminder that Atsushi got me before you could Captain Torch?" She asked the newcomer.

"Or mad that you got him before I could. I'm not particularly picky as to which reason," replied the man. "And don't call me captain, I haven't been a captain for years."

The newcomer was dressed in an old fashioned gray greatcoat, worn over casual clothes. Black hair topped his pleasantly stout face, out of which his blue eye twinkled. His haunter floated close by, right over his shoulder. On his hands, and on the parts of his arms, purple runes had been tattooed on, the same shade as his pokémon.

"So why are you bothering us? Agatha or the League have a message?" Sabrina asked.

"I just wanted to see if there was room for one more in there," the mystic teased.

"No no no, no, nope, we're full here," Atsushi quickly responded. "No more room here."

"Well if there isn't room there, we could always move it upstairs," Torch suggested, waggling his eyebrows.

"Not in your lifetime you worthless pervert," Sabrina responded without venom. Torch clutched his chest in mock agony.

"Arrrgh! Right through the heart!" The mage groaned, stumbling backward and falling to the ground. "The pain."

"You should be used to it," Sabrina told him dryly. "After all I'm pretty sure everyone over the age of consent in the city has shot you down at least once. Besides I think it would be a conflict of interest for the gym leader to sleep with the League watchdog."

"Why?" Torch asked innocently from the ground, propping himself up on one elbow. "It would help me keep a... closer eye on you after all." He leered, looking her up and down. "And a better view of the gym accountant," he continued, looking Atsushi up and down. Atsushi squeaked, and pulled Sabrina onto his lap and in front of him, as if to use her as a shield.

"Somehow I doubt your sensei would buy that excuse," Sabrina replied dryly, taking advantage of her sudden change in position to move onto her boyfriends lap. "So do you actually have business here or are you just bothering us?"

"A bit. Agatha requested a formal status report from both myself and you." The spellcaster said, getting to his feet, his tone businesslike for once. "I've drawn up the circle for whenever you're ready to send one to her."

Sabrina sighed. She knew why she had to do this. She was a powerful psychic, with a network of strong psychic pokémon, psychic trainers, and was the leader of the gym in the largest city in Kanto. If something were to happen to her, if she were to snap or slide into madness, the damage could be catastrophic. It was for that reason that Agatha of the Elite Four assigned one of her personal students, a practitioner of the mystic arts and a ghost type trainer to keep an eye on her.

Sabrina honestly didn't mind it at all. Torch was a good friend to everybody in the gym, even if he was a horrible pervert, and it was nice to have a spellcaster on hand, who also had ghost type pokémon to train against. It was just that the formal reports were tedious and time consuming.

"Don't worry," Torch told her. "She won't be expecting them for a little bit. I just thought I should inform you and try and have a bit of fun at the same time."

"Go have fun somewhere else," Sabrina said. "I'll get the report to you later this week."

"Alright. You two lovebirds enjoy your day," the magus said, nodding to them.

"We'd be able to do that a lot better if you'd just go away," Sabrina called out to him. Torch gave a rueful grin and then walked away.

Sabrina grumbled a bit, before leaning back against Atsushi. He draped his arms over her shoulders and gave her a hesitant peck on the cheek. She smiled, and cupped his chin, cradling his face, drawing him closer.

Life was good.

"Alright! Go Butterfree!" Ash shouted from the hot air balloon. An entrepreneur had taken to renting them out whenever the Butterfree formed flocks by the cliff-sides, so that trainers could join their pokémon in the sky for one last occasion.

Let's do this! Butterfree trilled, speeding into the flock. Sunlight glinted off of his wings as he soared, speeding and weaving through the mass of his species. He turned upwards, flying high above the mass, and gazed at all the butterfree he could see.

Just how did one go about getting a mate anyway? He'd have to go with his instincts.

One. Find female with great personality whom you find attractive as well. Two. Mating dance. Three. Mating. Four. Eggs.

It was too bad that he hadn't mastered telepathy yet because that would really help with the personality thing. He guessed that he'd have to fly around talking to other butterfree.

"What's he up to?" Brock asked as Butterfree fluttered around the flock. "I'm don't know anything about bug type mating behaviors."

"Shouldn't you be able use your expertise on romance to figure it out?" Misty ribbed.

"Shut up you," Brock said, elbowing her in the ribs.

"I think he's talking to girls," Aaron told them. "Look, he's not doing the mating dance and he's always facing them."

"Good eye," Brock praised, leaning forward to get a better look. Ash shrugged. He'd actually been able to tell by listening in on the conversation close enough to hear, rather than observing his pokémon's actions.

"It looks like he's picked up quite a following," Misty commented. Indeed, the first pokémon that Ash had caught was attracting a lot of attention. Several butterfree were trying to show their assets to Ash's pokémon.

"You know something," Brock said to Aaron, "I'm pretty sure that you've got one of the finest specimens of a butterfree here. It's a real testament to your skills as a trainer."

"Actually he was really strong when I first got him," Ash replied bashfully, thankful that he knew the word specimen from all those science books. "For some reason he was scared to evolve. After that I just had to teach him how to use his mind powers."

"Well then it's a testament to Pikachu that you managed to catch him so early in your career," Misty said, grinning and rubbing Pikachu's head.

See, she knows what's up, the yellow electric type said happily.

"Yeah, he's a great pokémon," Ash said. "Don't know what I'd do without him."

Shut up, you're making me blush, Pikachu said, turning away, abashed.

As the hours wore on, and Butterfree continued to search, the three humans in the balloon continued to make conversation, with the occasional contribution by Pikachu that only Ash understood. Butterfree wasn't really making much progress. He just found most of them... boring for lack of a better term. It must have been his prolonged exposure to Ash's life. Most pokémon didn't have to deal with attacks by Team Rocket, wild ones didn't have to deal with gym leaders, it was unlikely they had to deal with crazy ghosts or help save a hidden village that was under assault.

And then there was the fact that many of them were wild pokémon. Their lives were, for lack of a better term, simpler. Wild pokémon had friends and herds, but they didn't have to deal with the same level of politics present in the human world. Human civilization opened up hundreds of thousands of paths and actions. Life in the wilderness didn't. Wild pokémon found food when they were hungry, met with their friends when they were lonely, fought for their lives when they were threatened, and slept when they were tired. Few applied forethought to their actions.

Butterfree sighed and glanced at the sun. It was starting to sink into the west. Well, the flock would take at least one more day to form. He'd have more time tomorrow-

Hmmm? What was this? A female buttefree was crying.

Butterfree had been around Ash long enough to catch the urge to help anyone in need. He adjusted his course, preparing to swoop down and comfort her, when a pink butterfree beat him to it.

Ssh, don't cry, the pink butterfree said, using one of her short forelimbs to pat the distressed pokémon's back.

But none of the males have even looked at me, the crying butterfree sniffed.

That's because there's a lot of pokémon here. You'll need to do something to catch their attention, the pink butterfree said. Something other then the instinctual stuff. Are you wild?

Yeah, the upset butterfree said, calming down. Why do you ask?

So I know which ideas will work.

Butterfree fluttered around, staying within hearing distance of the pink butterfree. He was intrigued by this newcomer. Ash's pokémon listened to the pink pokémon. She made some suggestions involving unusual uses of moves, aerial maneuvers, and careful positioning to catch the light.

It was... actually a nice, well thought out suggestion. He should probably talk to this butterfree. He'd have to wait a bit, let her take care of the upset butterfree first.

He hovered for a while while the two talked. After a few minutes the two flying bug types split up and went their separate ways. Now he could go to her. Angling his wings, he dipped down and started flying towards the pokémon who had his attention.

She juked upward, behind a passing group of fluttering bug types. Butterfree snapped into a roll, letting his wings go limp, and curved around the group. His wings unfurled and he caught sight of the pink butterfree once more. She was diving down, cutting through a gap in the shifting expanse of pokémon below her. Butterfree couldn't see the sea at all due to the mass. It was nothing but flapping white wings and the occasional purple body below, all moving the myraid ways of a flock.

Turning over onto his back as he soared onward, Butterfree leaned back and dove downward. If he had pupils they would have been darting to and fro as he kept track of the position of the pink butterfree and the ever changing paths through the mass below.

The wind whistled past as Butterfree picked up speed, spinning to fit through a closing gap. Right as he past through he was forced to pull up to avoid slamming into a butterfree in the middle of its courtship dance. His wings flapped furiously as he corkscrewed around a couple cuddling in midair and then swooped into a larger gap.

It was noticeably dimmer within the mass, but butterfree could still see a flash of pink that signaled his target. Wings flapped and Butterfree sped forward. He zig zagged through the crowd before him, rolling in all directions so that the physical contact between him and the rest of flock was his wingtips brushing against them.

There! The pink butterfree was diving, streaking down towards the sea. Butterfree followed suit. Wind whistled in his ears and tossled his attenas as he traded altitude for speed. He became a blur to anyone watching.

The pink butterfree pulled up yards above the rolling waves. Butterfree pulled up inches above, sea spray tickling his face. He flew onward, nearing the pink butterfree, preparing to break near her-

Can't you take a hint, the pink butterfree called out in exesperation, turning to face Ash's pokémon. Her sudden annoucement caught Butterfree by surprise; he almost forgot to slow down. His wings were perpindicular with the sky as he did the midair equivilant of skidding to a stop.

What? He asked, confused.

Can't you take a hint! The pink butterfree continued, snappish. When a female flies into a group, takes a circuitous route through all the obstacles, and then tries to dive away, it means she isn't interested.

Huh?

Oh surprised that anyone would reject you, the pink butterfree angrily continued. Just because you're some sort of alpha male, huh? Let me tell you bub, I don't care how fit you are, or how good your genes are. You'll have to find some other pink butterfree to be your trophy mate.

Wait, what? Butterfree was backflapping away from the furiously advancing female.

Oh yeah. Don't think you're the first. Ever since I evolved I've had to put up with shits like you. You're all alike, you see that I'm a shiny and then you decide that I have to be yours! Well shove it bub! Don't think you can take me by force either. I've beaten your kind off before, and I'll do it again.

I just wanted to-

Don't care. I just want you to shoo! She began to try and headbutt him, forcing Butterfree to maneuver frantically to avoid being hit.

Oh more showing off! The pink butterfree spat at him. Why don't you go find a nice, sweet, ordinary female. It will make her really happy and it might improve your rancid personality!

Wait! Butterfree said, doing an upside down loop to buy time and distance. He cursed the fact that the psychic abilities of his species weren't strong enough to allow him to use Light Screen. He could really use a shield right about now. I just wanted to talk.

Yeah right!

No really! I overheard what you said to that crying pokémon back there. Butterfree said, ducking under another blow. I was going to thank you for that!

He cringed and covered his eyes with his wings, falling backward, waiting for the next blow to fall. But it never did.

Oh, the pink butterfree said in a small voice. Butterfree made sure to catchin himself in midair and begin hovering before her. Uh... sorry about all that... It's just when you kept chasing me and showing off...

Showing off?

When you through flew the rest of the flock. I thought you were showing off. Sorry, it's just that... well, you know... I've have to deal with some pretty bad types all the time and I get a little short temepered...

That's okay. I'm used to short tempered people, Butterfee said, thinking about Misty's temper and Pikachu's occasional outburst. It's no big deal.

If butterfree's could blush, Butterfree was sure the pink butterfree would be doing so furiously.

Again, I'm sorry. Ummm... what's your name?

I'm Butterfree. What's yours?

Butterfree, or butterfree for short. Sky Painter or Sky for short. Ash's butterfree thought it was a fitting name.

Anyway, Sky Painter, I just wanted to thank you for what you did for that other butterfree. Butterfree said to the pink female. It was a really nice thing you did there.

Please call me Sky. It was the least I- wait, why do you care? The pink butterfree's expression grew sly. Were you planning on giving her a little dance?

Nah, not interested. I just felt like I should try and help. Butterfree shrugged. It's a habit I picked up.

From the fact and the way that you said 'people', just a moment ago, I can't help but wonder if you mean you picked it up from your trainer or your comrades.

Mostly Ash. So far every time we've run into somebeing in trouble he insists that we help out. Butterfree shook his head. Honestly without Pikachu, Brock, and Misty to keep him in line, I'd worry about what trouble he'd get into doing that.

Sounds like a nice guy. Mind if I ask why you're leaving a trainer like that?

He thought it would be the best option for me and unfortunetly I can see his point, sighed Butterfree.

Ah. So if you weren't planning on courting Butterfree back there, Sky began, I take it you've found a mate. Take her to meet your trainer yet?

Actually I haven't found anyone. I mean there are some good looking ones here or there, but none of them really interest me, you know?

I've encountered situations like this before.

Oh, right. Any advice for me?

I don't know, I haven't solved my problem yet either.

Sorry. Do you know if this thing's going to be going on for one more day or two?

One officially, but it always takes a couple days to get going from what I've heard from older butterfree, so it's probably more like three.

That's a relief to hear. Sorry to hear that you had to talk to senior butterfrees. Butterfree shivered. They're always going on about their powders...

Ugh. Please don't remind me, replied Sky.

The two butterfrees continued to make small talk for a while, fluttering around the flock as they did so. Butterfree told stories about his travels with Ash, Pikachu, Pidgeotto (including the story about she wanted to eat him when they first met), Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander. Sky told him about what she did, namely traveling.

But you have to put up with a lot of assholes doing that, she said to the trained pokémon. All sort of local bullies want to mate with me simply because I'm a 'shiny' to use human slang. And then all the trainers try to catch me for the same reason.

That's too bad. It's really great out there, Butterfree told sky, remembering his own travels.

I know it is. That's why I'm joining this flock, for safety in numbers. And maybe I'll meet a nice pokémon for once.

Butterfree looked towards the sun. It was starting to sink under the horizon.

Well I probably should get going, my trainer will be worried. Good luck, I hope you find what you're looking for Sky Painter.

Thanks. Good luck to you too Butterfree.

"Gently, gently," James said, staring intently at his datapad. He had managed to gain access to part of the security system and had shut off the top portion of the laser detection system, but a disturbance would be all it needed to restart.

"I know, I know," Meowth hissed back, as he lowered himself from the ceiling by his tail. The fifth appendage was just barely long enough for this operation, leaving Meowth's balance and bearing precipitous. The normal type unwound a bit more of his tail, slowing coming down from the metal ventilation shaft right above the target.

The trio was in a large, polished, grey metal room. James and Jessie stood in the doorframe, watching their pokémon comrade work. There were four fluorescent lights on the ceiling, one in each corner, causing white glares to be reflected off the metal that made up the room.

The metal was nearly completely uniform, with the only anomalies being the two rows of emitters, strings of bulbous outcroppings along the walls with a single red dot shining in their center, and the rows of receivers on the opposite walls, two rows of pure black material. The lasers themselves were invisible and James had forbid Jessie from using the old dust trick to expose them. The littlest thing could set off the alarm.

One set of emitters was positioned over the only door into the room and another set was positioned vertically on the wall about an eighth of the way in. They would catch all unauthorized persons who were trying to get close to the item in the center of the room, unless the said persons tried tunneling through the floor, which would set off a different set of alarms.

Or if the said persons hacked the security system and shut off some of the lasers.

"Just a bit further," Meowth muttered. The item was in an a metal box, about the size of a paper grocery bag, sitting on a grey block of yet more metal. The cat scratch pokémon wondered if the designers also worked for a smelter. The normal type put his paws on either side of the box.

He didn't have a good enough grip to bring it back up. Silently he extended his claws, using the extra friction to gain purchase on the target. And then he yanked upward. The strain on his tail grew immensely in that instant, but it was no worse then what the cat-scratch pokémon put it through during his more intense workouts.

Squashing a groan, Meowth pulled himself back into the ventilation shaft, box in tow. He then extended the claws on his feet, and dug one of the appendages into each side of the shaft. After a couple of cramped, tight, and rather squished seconds, Meowth managed to get the box in a position above his head and then began to make his way back up the shaft.

"I got it you two," he called out to his two humans below. "It's time for us to get out of here." He grunted as he took another step. "Good Arceus. It's tough work being the top cat."

"Got it!" James called back. He looked down, pressed some buttons on his datapad and then looked back up. "Remember the rendezvous point!"

"Right, let's get out of here," Jessie said. "Where's the nearest window."

"That we can open. We're supposed to leave no trace of a break-in, remember?" Jame reminded his female partner.

"Right, right, no crashing through a window like last time."

"But this time we've got glide-suits, so that makes up for it."

"Glide-suits make up for everything."

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