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


22. 21

"So, we're all in agreement about the location of the gym picnic?" Sabrina said to the assembled gym members. They were sitting in one of the back rooms of the gym, a conference room with tiled ceilings, and fluorescent lights. The gym leader sat at the head of the black table, with her young student Britney off playing in a corner. No confidential information was being discussed and Sabrina wanted to keep an eye on her after the recent training accident. On her right sat Atsushi and on her left sat gray coated Captain Torch. Various other personnel sat around the table, looking at various pieces of paper.

A chorus of affirmations greeted her question, and the secretary wrote something down on a piece of paper. Sabrina looked down at the papers in front of her.

"The next item on the agenda concerns the recent memo from Silph Co.," Sabrina said to the assembled staff. "There's evidence that there may have been a break in. They've requested extra security and gym assistance in retrieving any items that may have been stolen."

"Where did they find the evidence?" It was Torch who spoke up, his demeanor completely serious.

"From what they've told us they could only find that there was unauthorized access to the Research and Development department. They've managed to rule out employee involvement. It might have been a case of industrial espionage, but they have some highly sensitive equipment in there, so they're assuming a worst case scenario." Sabrina glanced around the room, making sure to meet the eyes of every trainer there. "I've worked with their R&D department before. I can say from personal experience that some of those devices should never see the light day. If it turns out something was stolen, it could be a major threat to the security of Saffron City. I'm planning to mobilize all gym combat assets to deal with this potential threat."

"How are you dealing with this in the meantime?" Captain Torch asked.

"I've deployed some of my personal team to the Silph Co. building," Sabrina informed Agatha's representative. "A mix of old and new, its good experience. I'm in constant telepathic contact with all of them."

"Do they have any clue whatsoever as to who did it?" Surprisingly it was Atsushi who spoke up. "I mean knowing who it was might help tell uswhat they stole and what they want to do with the thing."

"They don't know and we don't know," Sabrina replied. "Captain Torch, given the magnitude of this potential risk, I'm going to ask you to inform the Elite Four about the situation."

"Alright, I draw a circle right after this," the magus responded. "What's the current status over at the building."

Sabrina focused for a moment, her mind traveling along the telepathic link with her pokémon.

"Their security is on high alert and they've halted normal business operations for the day," she told the spellcaster. She furrowed her brow. "Wait, I'm sensing something..."

Hikaru Buckak was a childish man despite his large size. The brown haired, almond eyed leader of the Team Rocket operation in Saffron City, the one who had commissioned the theft that Jessie and James carried out, was a man stuck in the past. Decades ago, soon after the Great War which had shattered central authority, Hikaru's father was a member of Team Rocket. He had been part of the ill-fated attempt to conquer the city, back when Team Rocket was at the peak of its power.

He had died there, he and his team scythed down by the power of the newly formed League. He left behind a young son and a grieving widow. The widow drank herself to death, leaving the son to grow up as part of Team Rocket. He became part of his father's old unit. They always talked about their past endeavors with the boy's father. The wounded, the maimed, and the scarred would attempt to drown their pain. It was usually unsuccessful and they simply ended up ranting about the 'tragedy' of Saffron City and how it meant Kanto was doomed.

Hikaru grew to hate the League which killed his father and refused to take the proper measures to defend civilization against the monsters known as pokémon which surrounded it. He grew to hate the pokémon that were the center of the conflict and the tools that slew his father. He grew to hate Saffron City and all it stood for.

He was mildly psychic. His talent wasn't much good in front line combat, it was nowhere near strong nor was he skilled enough to use it effectively there. He could only use it in supporting roles. It had irked him greatly; how was he to take his revenge on Saffron City and its' gym full of psychics with such a weak talent.

And then one day, while pouring through data stolen from Silph Co., he had found his answer.

During their forays into the unknown, Silph Co. had invented a device that worked with psychic power. Reading over its specifications Hikaru had begun to laugh. It was everything he needed. The key to his revenge.

He had pitched his plan to his superiors and they had given their approval. If everything worked out, Team Rocket could use it as a starting point to regain their former strength. Within five years they could once more openly challenge the League and maybe even destroy it.

Hikaru had imagined Lance, the Champion, being forced to the headman's block, and the sound of the axe slicing through air and flesh. He imagined Oak, the former Champion, the one Hikaru always assumed killed his father, regardless of any evidence, being bound, and then screaming as the knife was dyed red and his entrails spilled to the ground.

Yes, this was the start of his chance. He could have his revenge and build a better world.

The plan required gathering a pool of pokémon with psychic powers. Agents had been out collecting abra's and noctowls and the like, shipping them to Hikaru's base of operation in the countryside outside of Saffron City. He had asked agents to harvest butterfrees from the mating flock that would be gathering at the coast. That had been an utter disaster.

But, for once, the Crazies came through. They successfully infiltrated the Silph Co. building and stole the device that he needed. Yes, even without the butterfrees the plan could move forward.

There were agents stationed all over the city. Hikaru just needed a phone call.

John was an average sort of guy. He had never desired to be a pokémon trainer and had drifted through school in a half hearted daze. After graduating high school he had drifted from job to job, city to city, never settling down, and never being comfortable. He had never found anything that he really wanted to do with his life and so he had begun to merely exist.

And then he had tried painting, really tried it.

He had fallen in love. John had finally figured out what he wanted to do with his life. But his desires carried a heavy price. He needed to be able to work in uninterrupted bursts, completing things in the same session in which he began them. It was impossible for him to do that and keep himself employed.

John had been saving up for some time, so he could quit his job and start painting full time. then an opportunity had fallen into his lap. His current occupation was that of a custodian at the Silph Co. building. It wasn't anything big; he wasn't allowed near any of the important stuff.

But it was useful to someone.

He had been approached at a bar he frequented, by a black haired man. The stranger had made a request, a simple thing.

If the request had been for anything major or confidential, John would have refused. But it was a simple request. The man had simply wanted John to call a certain number when and if he saw an abra somewhere in or around the building this day. He wouldn't even have to say anything.

John couldn't see the harm and he agreed to the request. He had been paid half up front.

And today was the day. While sweeping the third floor north hallway he had glanced out a window and caught sight of an abra and two kadabras. So when his break came he rushed for a phone and dialed the numbed.

After he had made the call, he idly wondered what it had been for.

The call came.

Hikaru put his plan into action.

He activated the device.

Sabrina felt her pokémon's mental defenses shatter instantly at the unexpected assault. She marshaled her mind and the resources from the telepathic network of her pokémon to assist it. Nothing could be targeting her pokémon for anything good.

But before she could take action, the invading presence seized control of the link she had with her pokémon and started to attack her.

"What!" The gym leader growled. Instantly her own defences were up, boosted far beyond anything a human could achieve by her bond with her pokémon.

And then the attack hit.

"What?" Sabrina clutched at her head. She had endured telepathic attacks from people and pokémon alike and none of them had ever felt like this presence stabbing at her mind.

"Sabrina!" Atsushi exclaimed, rushing over to her side. "What is it?"

"Sis!" Britney cried out, running over to comfort her mentor.

Sabrina growled. Indescribable colors and shapes danced within the darkness of her mind as powers fought. Ordinarily a telepathic attack could be described as a lance. A stabbing attack that sought to either slip through a weakness in her mental armour or simply pierce her defenses.

But this resembled nothing like a lance. This attack could only be described as a drill.

"It... doesn't fell... alive," Sabrina said, clutching at her head. She felt a pair of warm and gentle hands on her shoulders and a small hand on her knee. Her lover and little sister were there for her.

Bolstered by their presence, Sabrina renewed her resistance, strength pouring in from the psychic network. She pushed, setting the entirety of her power against the attack. Inside her mind the colors and shapes went berserk, wildly oscillating and shifting. They danced a strange and savage dance, like chaos before Arceus.

She pushed the attack back in a furious counter attack, growling from the effort, until she had nearly cast it out of the link.

And then her momentum began to slow. She did the mental equivalent of thrashing and clawing, trying to keep the push going, but it was useless. Her efforts failed and the two forces entered a stalemate.

"It's like... a machine..." Sabrina groaned.

Yes, it really was like a drill. Relentless, it would chip away at her defenses continuously. Even now...

Her gains were lost as the intruding force forced its way back down the link. It pushed her back to within her mind, where she was strongest.

And then it began to break through.

Her eyes snapped open. Atsuhi and Britney were right in front of her, comforting her with their touch.

It was sight that filled her with absolute terror.

"Get them out of here!" Her tone was professional, but it failed to conceal the fear.

"Sabrina, what's wrong? Let me go!" Atsushi struggled against the trainers trying to drag him out of the room. Britney started to cry when another trainer scooped her up and ran her out of the room.

Captain Torch crouched down by her. He whipped out a knife and a pokéball. With a blaze of white light a haunter appeared.

"Alright Shadow," the spellcaster said to his pokémon. "We're going to perform Mists of the Mind." He rolled down his sleeve and then stabbed his arm, right in the center of one of the tattoos. Blood began to flow and then, against common sense, it started to crawl towards the purple lines inked into Torch's skin. Crimson liquid was sucked up by the designs, complete with a slurping sound. The tattoos began to glow with a sickly purple light.

"Shadow!" At her trainer's command the ghost type pokémon flew into the glowing arm and disappeared within it. The purple light grew in intensity until it drown out the other lights of the room, forcing those standing nearby to look away. The gray coated captain's blue eyes grew hard and icy, turning into terrible sapphires in the light from his arm.

"There is no lighthouse strong enough.

The shore cannot be seen by any eyes.

All is lost within the mist," he chanted and then touched Sabrina's forehead.

Sabrina sensed the mental mist surround the walls of her mind. Hope grew within her. Mists of the Mind was an anti-psychic spell. Anyone who attempted to traverse through the mental mist would become lost, unable to reach their destination or even retreat to the safety of their own mind until the spell ended. Even someone striking through a pre-existing link would be foiled.

But the attack didn't even let up for a moment.

"Not... working...," the gym leader moaned. Captain Torch's blue eyes widened in shock at those impossible words.

"Sabrina!" The brown haired accountant struggled against the trainers attempting to force him to safety. From the looks of concentration on their faces, the trainers were attempting to use telekinesis to drag him away. Atsushi didn't even seem to notice. "Let me go to her!"

No, he had to get to safety. If this attack succeeded he would be in terrible danger.

Pain burned in her mind, spreading like fractures in ice. Within her mind cracks spread through her mental walls, letting a blood red light shine through. Sabrina let out a scream.

Hikaru began to laugh. His plan was working perfectly.

The device had been one step in the process of attempting to allow the non-psychic to use telepathy. It was created in the time before Sabrina had assisted Silph Co. A layman would call it a psychic amplifier, but the layman would be incorrect. It did little to amplify the amount of psychic power the user could wield.

One could say that it treated the psychic power it received like fuel. But that was not entirely correct. It did not consume the power to operate, though it required it to run.

The best way to describe it was a focuser. It took the psychic power and used it all for whatever function the user required. It was far more efficient than any organic psychic could hope to be, it never stopped, and it wasn't reliant on the willpower and focus of the user.

And so Hikaru fed it the combined psychic power of all the pokémon Team Rocket had collected for the operation. Hundreds of mildly psychic pokemon [M3] screamed out in pain as they were forced to contribute to the network they had been slaved to.

Even with the device and the pokémon, Hikaru knew it would not be easy to break through Sabrina's mental defenses. The device was a simple machine in many regards, and under ordinary circumstances it would be child's play for Sabrina to outmaneuver it. But it attackedthrough a pre-existing link, like one she had with her pokémon...

Then it would be inescapable.

The walls of her mind, which had weathered countless fierce battles, began to crumble. Red hot pain burned throughout her mind and the inside of her head. And the attack continued to drill into her.

She screamed in pain and her pokémon screamed with her. All throughout the city they clutched their heads and sank to their knees.

Another flare of pain. Another part of her mental armor crumpled. Another scream.

Atsushi was crying and thrashing now, just outside of the doorway. Two more trainers had joined the effort to drag him away. His wet eyes sparkled with pain and fear.

Sabrina didn't like that look in his eyes.

But she couldn't do anything about it.

Another flare. Another failure. Another scream.

A horrible din blanketed the city. Citizens clamped their hands over their ears in an attempt to block out the noise that was driving them to their knees. But it was futile. The cacophony didn't travel on vibrations in the air. Instead it leapt from mind to mind.

All those in the gym, except for the captain, were driven to their knees, screaming in pain along with their gym leader. Atsushi quieted his screams, forcing away the pain, and forced himself to stand.

His face was a theater dedicated to agony, each step was a labor, every inch was paid for in pain. But he kept going. He crossed the distance between him and Sabrina, ignoring Torch's astonished gaze, and embraced her.

"Don't worry. I know you can beat this thing. I believe in you." He whispered, gentle despite the pain.

No. No. Atsushi. Get away. It's not safe. Don't be here.

One piece left. Her mind was almost entirely bathed in the blood red light, washing away all the other colors. The only part of herself that was untouched was a little bit of shadow, where she hid and feared.

Thin veins of red light began to shine through. She opened her eyes for what might be the last time and saw the real world.

Atsushi's face broke her heart.

Her walls shattered and she could feel a foreign will intrude upon the center of her being, invading the very things that made her her.

She instinctively knew that there was only time for one more action. Once more she began calculating all the possibilities. Most actions she could take would fail in the end. The enemy would have full access to her mind and plans.

In order to succeeded she would have to trick herself.

There were two faces staring at her. One was the gaze of her lover, speaking of gentle comfort and warm love. And the other was the hard gaze of the League trainer, calculating and cold, perhaps even wondering if he should kill her now. He wouldn't have time.

The human in Sabrina knew what she so desperately wanted to do.

The gym leader, tasked with the protection of Saffron City and the League, knew what she had to do.

Numbers whirred and she raised her hand. Would she be able to complete this action before her will was taken from her?

She clenched her hand.

The invader shattered her final defense.

The everything, including the very light around Captain Torch wavered and was crushed inward. Nothing remained.

For once it was not a bright and sunny day in Kanto. Instead it was a cold and clammy day, where the land was covered in mist. Ash, Misty, and Brock trudged through the forest path, sticking close together as their view became more and more obscured. Various twisted and dark shapes loomed out of the mist at them, the trees that bordered the path. The few leaves that the travelers could see were still green, fall's thus far short reign not being enough to begin the discoloration.

Even though their skin remained dry, the very air seemed wet and cold in the gray covering of the fog. The air was still, with no breeze there to stir the mists. The ground at least was dry and firm. Ash probed the ground ahead of him with his walking staff, searching for potential tripping hazards.

"Well isn't this fitting," Brock commented. "How much longer until we can't see our own noses?"

"It is the season," Misty told him as she strode through her namesake. "Falls in Lavender Town are known for their foggy days."

"We should have hit Saffron City first then," Brock said, before stumbling over a tree root. "Eh. See what I mean?"

"We'll have to stay close together then," Misty said to the two boys. "And we'll have to keep our eyes on the ground to make sure we're on the path. It fits the spooky atmosphere that the town likes to cultivate. Honestly it's putting me on edge. It would also be so easy to get lost. "

"In that case we should hold hands," Brock suggested.

"Alright," Ash said. He and Misty clasped hands and continued onward. Brock groped around in the fog searching for the younger boy's hand.

"Aaron, Misty, where are you guys?" Brock asked.

"Over here," the pokéraised child responded, waving his hand around. On his head Pikachu waved his tail. Brock saw a limb in the fog and grabbed it.

Hey! Cut that out! Pikachu shouted when he felt something grab his tail tightly. Let go, now!

Yellow light shone from within the fog, electricity buzzed, and Brock screamed in pain. Upon hearing his scream Misty shrieked in surprise. There was a confused moment in time where Misty and Ash tried hide the other behind themselves to protect them, which ended with Misty using some sort of arm lock to thrust Aaron behind her, and taking a fighting stance.

"...Ouch..." Brock groaned from the ground.

Serves you right, Pikachu said, arms crossed, and looking up and away from Brock.

"Brock, cut it out," Misty complained, relaxing her stance. "You scared me half to death."


Behind her Aaron started to laugh. It sounded like he was attempting to make it sound deep and evil, but honestly it simply sounded like he had a sore throat.

"He didn't scare me half to death," Aaron said, still trying to sound creepy. He spun around. Upon his face was a skull mask, with a large red tongue sticking out. "He scared me all the way!"

Misty gave him a look that said plainly that she was not amused. Brock groaned and twitched on the ground. Pikachu face-palmed.

Really Ash? The electric type rolled his eyes. Fine, I give it a two out of ten.

Ash's face fell behind his mask. That was uncalled for.

"Quit screwing around kid, we've got to keep moving," Misty said, brushing past him and grabbing his hand. "We need to reach town before nightfall."

"Yeah," Brock agreed, picking himself up. "That's probably a good idea."

Indeed. Enough screwing around everyone. Pikachu leapt onto Ash's head. Let's get moving.

Ash groaned. What was everyone being such a killjoy?

Atsushi ran through the suddenly grey hallways of the gym. He scrambled around a right corner that should have led to the exitway. But instead it led to an unfamiliar intersection.

He could hear the footsteps behind him.

No matter how fast he ran he could hear the footsteps behind him.

Without even trying to catch his breath, the gym accountant sprinted across the intersection into an area of the gym that didn't exist.

Laughter rang out behind him. It was the corruption of the sound of a pure maiden laughing amidst the falling sakura blossoms, like the laughter of a dead child among the falling ashes of a burning city. It held a note of coldness and a wild edge that no human's laugh should ever contain.

Atsushi came to another intersection, grabbed a corner, and swung himself into another left turn.

Down the hallway stood a monstrous creature. It was a dull yellow color, with skin that looked hard, with brown chitinous armor around the knees, elbows, and chest. Its' hands ended in three fingers, two long thin extensions that were a mockery of human digits, and another digit that resembled a thumb in form and function. Its' ears were long and sharp, extending beyond the large bulge of the creature's upper head. The lower half of its face tapered off into a triangular chin. Two protrusions stuck out of the sides of the face of the creature, giving the appearance of a five pointed star that had the lower two limbs stretched out and then turned upside down.

Two tentacles stuck out of the side of the bottom of the chin. The prehensile limbs were occupied, extending up the nose of a hapless gym member. The man's eyes were rolled back into his head, leaving only white visible where the iris should have been. Wet squelching sounds could be heard, and blood and clear liquid flowed out of his nose.

Atsushi looked on the sight, horrified. Who was the man? Despite his better judgment he looked closer.

It was himself!

For a brief moment he could feel the creatures tentacles caressing his face. He screamed and stumbled back, blindly running down a different corridor. The footsteps sounded, closer then ever. The inhuman laughter rang out once more.

Atsushi looked behind him. The lights had gone out, leaving the hallway shrouded in darkness. The man ran faster.

He ran faster, taking wild random turns as he raced through the gray hallways. In a mockery of geometry, geography, and psychics, his wild turns led him back to the conference room where his flight had begun.

Once more against his better judgement he looked in. Inside the room was Captain Torch, all over the room, with the area between his pieces painted red with his blood. In fact there were several Captain Torch's, scattered about the room, tens of his heads on the table alone.

Without necks they all turned to face him, eyes opening in unison.

"Come on Atsushi. Take a seat. Put me in your lap!" One cried out to him, waggling his eyebrows. "I can guarantee it will be a good time."

"Join us. It won't hurt." Another stated. "Much."

The brown haired accountant clapped his hand over his mouth, fighting the nausea. His cheeks turned green and he was forced to regurgitate the contents of his stomach. He staggered upright and continued to run once more.

The lights began to shut off behind him, the darkness advancing with the ever present footsteps. The fleeing man could hear the lights flicker and he see the darkness out of the corner of his eye.

He ran faster, panting, wild fear painted on his face. The darkness accelerated.

Atsushi could feel something, just behind his neck. Lurking just in the blind spot. So close that it was almost touching him. He didn't dare turn his head to look, his instincts screamed out against any action that would let him see it.

He couldn't be caught in the dark with it!

But he couldn't run any faster.

The lights directly above him flicked and went out as he ran under them, leaving him half in shadow. His heart skipped a beat and the horrible emptiness of fear shot through him.

Tears rolled out his eyes, leaving wet hot streaks across his cheeks as he tried to stop the panic from overwhelming him. All the muscles in his back automatically tensed, in anticipation of being attacked by the thing behind him.

There was another intersection ahead. Atsushi threw himself around the corner...

... only to see a blank, gray, concrete wall in front of him. A dead end.

He had no choice but to keep running and to reach that dead end. His fist beat desperately on it, searching for a weakness or a secret door, anything!

But it was a solid wall of concrete. There was no escape through it.

He forced himself to turn around, to watch the darkness. It had paused when he had run into the dead end hallway, and from the way it advanced, it almost seemed amused.

Atsushi pressed himself back against the wall. There was nothing else he could do.

About three yards away from him, the darkness halted. The horrible laugh rang out once more and the footsteps grew more distinct.

Out of the darkness walked Sabrina. At some point she had changed into her formal gym uniform, a red affair with two rows of large yellow buttons, one near the edge of each side of her front. From the splashes of red on Sabrina's wrists, neck, and face, Atsushi could tell that it was doing a good job of hiding the major bloodstains.

"Sa-a-br...ina...," he stuttered, gasping in fright.

"Yes...," she said, smiling seductively. "You've led me on quite a pretty chase little morsel. But now it's over."

He was lifted up by pure telekinetic force, pressure without shape or texture. He struggled, but it was no use.

"I don't like my things leaving me," she said, walking up to the bound man and running her hand along his chin. It left a trail of red where it touched. Atsushi could feel the still warm and sticky substance cooling on his skin.

"You aren't going to leave me are you?" She asked, grinning manically. "You won't leave me like Father did?"

She threw back her head and laughed wildly.

"Of course not." And with that statement Atsushi's feet exploded. He screamed as blood, flesh, and bone went flying through the hallway, sticky bits of meat, covered in red, with the occasional gleam of white bone sticking out.

"It's not your fault," whimpered the gym accountant. "Sabrina, this isn't the real you. Just remember this isn't your fault. This isn't your fault. This isn't your fault."

"Of course not," Sabrina said. There was the sound of sizzling flesh and another scream as she used pyrogensis and pyrokinesis to cauterise the maimed limbs.

"It's not your fault!" Atsushi screamed, tears streaming freely from his eyes, and more liquid then blood flowing down his legs. "Remember it's not your fault."

"I already agreed to that," Sabrina stated, matter-of-factly. "It's your fault for running away."

Lavender Town was a fairly pleasant and modern town. The lit buildings of the downtown area served as a backdrop for the trio walking the grey cobblestone stone path to Lavender Tower.

The pokémon cemetery towered above them. Originally constructed of stone, it had been done in an almost greco-roman style, with each floor supported by short pillars. There was a dome on the top, designed to resemble the acorn pokéballs of old.

During the day humans came to pay their respects to the departed pokémon, kneeling at the gravestones that marked the resting place of their bodies. Channelers walked the paths between graves, giving comfort to the spirits of all those within, creating areas of healing with white magic. Many a trainer had died of old age in there, with a smile on their face as they knelt at a familiar gravestone for the last time. During the day it was a place of closure and peace.

During the night...

During the night, only the bravest humans dared venture into the tower. During the night it was whispered that the vengeful spirits of the dead who could or would not be comforted raged, only kept from ravaging the town by the efforts of the local ghost pokémon. The men and women who went in there during the night, were always driven out, screaming into the night. They would never speak of what had happened within.

Some pokémon, on the other hand, knew what really happened inside. One of those pokémon was Pocket Watch, and that was why Ash was walking towards the tower with an eager smile on his face. Brock and Misty weren't so confident.

"Aaron, this really isn't a good idea," Misty hissed, following nervously behind the pokéraised child. "Can't this wait until day?"

"Why wait?" Ash called Aaron asked.

"Because it's Lavender Tower. At Night." Brock was also walking behind. He was twitchy and was growing twitchier the closer they got to the building. "This really isn't a good idea. Let's just go grab a room at the pokémon center."

"Nah," Aaron replied. "It's probably best to go while most people aren't there."

"Aaron," Brock began slowly. "There's nobody there now. And there's a good reason for that."

"Good!" Ash said brightly. "Then we can have the place all to ourselves."

"That's it. We tried reason!" Misty growled. "Brock let's just grab him."

"No!" Ash ran ahead, Pikachu swaying precariously on top his trainer's head.

What are you? Chicken? Pikachu taunted, turning around, and sticking his tongue out at the gym brat and leader.

"Stop! You've got no idea what you're doing!" Misty called after him.

"Yes I do!" Ash called back. He reached the entryway. It was tradition to leave the doors unlocked at all times. It wasn't like thieves would dare to break in at night. Brock and Misty stood back, simply watching.

"How long till he runs out screaming?"

"I give him five minutes."

It was a gaseous, amorphous, shifting purple mass, visible in the wan light of the gas lamps by the entrance. No logic could be applied to its' structure. There was no order to be found in its constant shifting and reshaping, no explanation for its' chaotic movements. It would be only mildly disturbing to an ordinary human if it wasn't for the noises.

They were an echoing, deep, and eldritch sounding chant. It was constantly repeating, an assault on the ears of ordinary humans. It unsettled them on all levels, subconscious and conscious. Even without the sight, the mere sound would be enough to drive away most humans.

However Ash wasn't an ordinary human.


You must be Ghastly! Ash said happily, waving the hand holding his walking staff. I've heard so much about you.

The blob quit its' shifting and reformed into a single coherent shape, a black ball surrounded by a cornea of purple mist. Two white eyes peered out of the top.

...You can speak properly? The ghost pokémon asked, unbelieving.

Yeah, I'm AshPocket Watch might have mentioned me when he stopped by.

Oh, you're that human child that Mismagius's old trainer's other pokémon adopted! We didn't know you were already a trainer. I'm so sorry, if we had known you were coming-

It's okay, Pikachu spoke up. There's no need to waste anything special on this idiot.

I love you too.

The best part is, you can't help but be sincere when you say that.

...I hate you.

You can't say that convincingly.

Ghastly sniggered at the back and forth between the trainer and his pokémon.

You know, I think we've got an opening tonight for a two person routine, the purple pokémon told the duo. Actually, we could use that as a perment position if you two are interested.

Nah, we're just here to meet Mismagius, Ash informed Ghastly. Do you know where she is?

She's either on the third floor watching the first show of the night, or in the children's room, Ghastly told the human boy. By the way, are there any humans coming tonight?

There were two that were supposed to be with me, but they didn't want to come tonight.

I wonder why? Pikachu and Ghastly were in perfect synchronicity, speaking in unison, and rolling their eyes in unison.

By the way if a Meowth stops by, please don't mention that I'm here.

Alright. I'll try and catch you after my shift. The Ghastly waved them on.

Ash and Pikachu thanked the door-pokémon and headed into the interior of the tower. Behind them Ghastly resumed its' ghastly display, preparing to enjoy himself at the expense of any ordinary humans who entered.

Human and pokémon walked through another set of doors and into the first floor of the Pokémon Tower.

They had to walk the winding path through the gravestones. The first floor was currently where the oldest pokémon were interred. In a decade or so, they'd both be moving the remains, either to a countryside graveyard, or returning them to nature. Numerous ghost type pokémon were lounging about, making idle conversation and eating. Every now and then one would pop through the wall, carrying a translucent bundle or food. Those with the bundles immediately headed upward.

On the second floor there was some sort of game going on. It involved rings of ghost pokémon, spinning around in alternating directions, and throwing small Shadow Balls at each other. When one was hit, it floated up and sat at the edge of the room. Ash and Pikachu made sure to keep their heads down to avoid being hit. Some of the pokémon sitting out waved and called out to them. The human and his electric pokémon politely replied. Ash's replies raised quite a few eyebrows and a few of them realized that Ash was most likely the human that they had heard gossip about months ago.

The third floor contained an impromptu stage. On it, floated a haunter, speaking to the crowd. Evidently he was telling jokes. Ash and Pikachu listened for a moment.

He wasn't. He was telling bad puns.

The instant he finished one, the room groaned and rotten fruit started to fly. More puns followed as the haunter dodged around the vegetarian assault. More groans followed, some edging into reluctant laughter. Evidently the rotten produce had been provided as part of the act. Ash and Pikachu threw a couple while looking for Mismagius. There was no sign of her. Ash caught the attention of a passing lampent.

How did you get past Ghastly human? The lampent asked in confusion.

He just let me pass, Ash informed the ghost/fire pokémon. Do you know where the children's room is? I'm looking for Mismagiusand Ghastly said she might be there.

Ah you must be that human she and that hypno were gossiping about. It's on the seventh floor, to the right of the stairs when you get there.

Thank you very much. I hope you have a pleasant night.

You're welcome. I hope you have a nice night as well.

And with that Ash and Pikachu were on their way. The fourth floor was mostly deserted, with a couple ghost types working on individual projects. The duo passed through the floor without incident.

The fifth floor was filled with sleeping pokémon, floating over head. Ash and Pikachu giggled at the embarrassing sleep talk they overheard.

The sixth floor was filled with quiet conversation, the pokémon keeping their voices down for the convenience of the floor below. All the pokémon were busy eating. Several pokémon offered Pikachu some morsels as they walked past. They ignored Ash.

Finally they reached the seventh floor. There was a doorway to the right, that led down an L shaped hallway, and then to another doorway.

Birtney whimpered.

Mark, the gym trainer who was carrying her away, had dropped her when the first wave of pain hit. He had tried to comfort her when he had heard the child crying, fighting off his own agony to relieve Britney of her's. Then he fell face first on the floor and didn't move again. Britney blinked in pain and when she opened her eyes again he had vanished.

Her pain ended at that instant.

And her terror began.

In that moment the colors leaked out of the walls of the gym, out of the doors, out of the ceiling, out of the receptionist's desk, even out of the lights. Edges that were once sharp became blurry and ill-defined. The air felt stale and still. All the humans and pokémon had disappeared. There was no trace that they had been in the building a moment ago. It was as if the gym itself had suddenly died, not just the building, but the very concept of the Saffron City gym. The blurring of the edges reduced the objects to one mass, the lack of colors took away the vitality it once had, the lack of people settled it all.

Britney whimpered and ran out the gym doors. She found no relief outside. The entirety of Saffron City had suffered the same fate as the interior of the gym. All the people and colors had vanished.

The young psychic let out a whining wail, a wordless cry for help.

There was no response.

She began to blindly run down the side walk in front of the gym, screaming in terror the whole while. She wanted to find someone, anybody. Somebody to help her in the suddenly dead world, someone to help her big sister.

And her desire was answered in the worst way possible.

The ground beneath her feet shuddered once. And then again. And again.

It was footsteps, giant footsteps, shaking the entire city with their stride. Britney stumbled and scraped her knee. She whimpered as she took a look at the reddened flesh and then looked behind her.

It was a shadow, hiding behind the nearest skyscraper. She could only make out the blurred edges peeking around the building, a shadowy grey against the lighter grey of the dead world. It was coming around the corner.

Britney was carried away on a wave of perfect terror. Her legs were wet with more than sweat. She ran and darted down an alleyway, hoping to double around the thing, whatever it was. A deep female voice boomed out, shaking the windows of the buildings.

"Where are you brat?" It was obviously the thing. There was nothing else in the world that could conceivably speak. "Come out and I might make this quick."

Britney squeaked. The thing was going to get her. The thing was going to get her. The thing was going to get her. The thing was going to get her the thing was going to get her the thing was going to get her thethignwasgoingtogetherthet hingwasgoingtogether![M7]

She fell against the alley wall, curling up into a fetal position. Britney tried to stifle her whimpers. Tears and snot covered her sleeve as she tried to quit breathing, to become as small and hidden as possible. She prayed that the thing wouldn't find her.

It was a prayer that would go unanswered.

"I can smell you," the thing boomed. "Aren't you a little old to be wetting yourself? I think you deserve extra punishment for that."

There was a great boom and then the series of crashes that often accompany collapsing masonry. Britney choked back a sob. It had come from right next to her.

"There you are." Britney felt a shadow fall over her. She needed to look, to move, to do anything, but the fear wrapped around her, crushing her like an arbok using Constrict.

She was beyond terror when she felt the touch of the thing. It gathered her into what seemed to be a hand and lifted her up. She could feel the hand open up and that she was in its' palm.

"Look at me." Britney couldn't comply. Her terror was too great.

"Open your eyes and look at me!" There was no disobeying that command. The young psychic opened her eyes.

It was Sabrina. A giant Sabrina made of grey wavering shadow, with two hellish white lights for eyes. They blazed in the dead world, throwing the darkness of the substance of shadow Sabrina into sharp relief against the grey world.

Britney should have fainted. She should have been able to escape the terror. She should have been able to flee to unconsciousness. But something was stopping her.

Hikaru laughed to himself.

Taking total control of someone like Sabrina was impossible. Even having invaded her mind, her psychic powers were far too strong to manipulate her directly. And then there was her willpower and her connection to her pokémon. One did not become a gym leader because of their esoteric abilities. They were chosen as a gym leader because of their skills as a leader and because of their skill with pokémon.

Even though they were suppressing the consciousness of her pokémon with Sabrina's own power, her pokémon would instinctively resist any command that didn't come from her. But Hikaru had found a way around that problem.

He didn't try to control Sabrina directly. No, what he did was more subtle.

It was a multi-pronged approached. First they suppressed her inhibitions. That alone would not be enough to do anything. Sabrina relied more on her own moral compass then her inhibitions.

Next he kept her in pain. It was the sort of pain that was hard to consciously notice. But it riled up her subconscious. This helped to bring all her dark thoughts to the front of her mind, raising themup from the upset waters of her unconscious mind. And it made her impulsive, very impulsive. She would be lashing out at everything in her current state. Hikaru also made sure to filter the impulses that weren't conductive to his plan.

Hate. Anger. Greed. Impure emotions. the only reasons mankind survived his early years in the world.

Man had been lucky. He had been born in a part of the world like Orre, a place that lacked native pokémon. He had grown up among animals instead, learning to kill and gather among creatures that also lacked the special abilities of pokémon. Those primal emotions had served as well as they did the animals.

Women, the gathers, had invented farming and humans began to settle lands. They moved northward seeking better and better land to grow their crops and herd their livestock. They reached a land cradled between two rivers and grew prosperous. They built larger and larger settlements until cities had been born.

And then pokémon began to migrate to the very same land.

Man was good prey for large predatory pokémon. He was stronger than the little pokémon, but nowhere as strong as them. He had no special abilities to defend himself with. And he was larger than their usual prey. He was a good meal.

The herbivores were able to drive man from his own fields. Man had no ability to defend himself against electricity, against a storm of needles, against rock shattering blasts of water, or against beings made of rock themselves.

Man was confused by these new beings. Were they monsters? Were they servants of angry gods, sent to punish him? Were some of them gods themselves? All he knew was that they devoured his crops, stole his land, and ate his kin.

Hate. Anger. Greed. These were the emotions that motivated early man to teach pokémon to fear him.

Man hunted. Man killed. He made no attempt to defend his fields. He simply killed every pokémon within and their kindred in the wild. They could not take his crops if they were dead.

The larger predators, monsters made of steel, dragons that ruled the sky, giant birds of prey, and monstrous bugs, man waged war with. If one killed a human then the whole community would devote themselves to killing it. Man drowned fire, rock, and steel types. He cut the wings of flying types and he burned plant types and bug types. Entire companies would fight to the last man to destroy the nests of dragon types. Whole species of pokémon were wiped out.

It worked. Pokémon came to fear and respect this new species. Word spread throughout the world and all pokémon learned about the wrath of man. They no longer stole from his fields, no longer ate his kin.

Soon man would discover a way to seal the monsters and work alongside them and then the first pokémon trainers would be born. The two species would enter into a friendship that had lasted into the modern day.

But deep down both sides knew that there was only one reason man had lasted long enough to reach that friendship. That was why organizations such as Team Rocket existed.

Hate. Anger. Greed. What saved humanity.

And that was what Hikaru needed.

He suppressed all other emotions in Sabrina. Her only impulses came from those three emotions. And Hikaru threw in some of his own suggestions. Without her inhibitions, with her in pain without even realizing it, without any other emotions there was nothing stopping Sabrina on acting on those impulses.

Hikaru also suppressed her conscience. If he had let it be Sabrina would eventually realize what she was doing. But without it, there was nothing to tell her what she was doing was wrong. She would continue until she died or Hikaru released her.

And why would he ever do that? He was finally getting his vengeance! Even now there was a child of Saffron City in the grasp of his metaphorical hand, trapped within psychic illusions. A child who had grown up with the League. A child who had grown up on the fruits of his father's failure. Well no more. Hikaru would give her a taste of the pain he had suffered his entire life!

"You know I'm getting sick of your shit ," said Sabrina, shrinking back to normal. She was holding Britney up by her neck, nails painfully digging into the child's skin. Britney was too scared to even cry.

"I was happy when I first saw you. You were cute. I welcomed having you as a student." Sabrina's grip relaxed gently. "And then I had to train you. You never listened! You were always getting into trouble! Always. Getting. Dirty. Always. Getting. Into. Danger." Her grip tightened once more. Britney let out a high pitched gasp of pain.

"And now look at you. You're not even cute anymore. A stupid little girl who pissed and shit herself." Sabrina glowered at the girl in her grip. "I think I would have preferred a doll. But you know it's not too late for me to get one instead!"

Her words confused Britney until she felt a weird sensation in her hands. Her fingers, she couldn't feel her fingers anymore! She tried to twitch her fingers, but found that she couldn't. She slowly lifted them up, careful not to provoke Sabrina, and looked at them.

Her fingers were now porcelain. And her hands were becoming porcelain. Britney began to hyperventilate. Her hands were no longer her own. She could feel something hard and cold digging into her wrists. It was still spreading. She shrieked and began to thrash in Sabrina's grip.

Sabrina smirked.

Her lowers arms became porcelain, freezing her elbows, and forcing her arms straight. Her toes went cold and then numb as they too began to transform. Her legs hung loosely, Sabrina had left some joints in there so she would be able to pose her doll later.

The transformation spread to her chest. Britney couldn't breathe. She tried, she forced her lungs to expand, to draw in air. Flesh tore from porcelain and she couldn't even scream. And then even that torn flesh was turned into the cold material.

"Much better," Sabrina grinned, staring into Britney's fear filled crying eyes as the metamorphosis spread up to Britney's neck. "It's like evolution. You're turning into something better."

"Yes! Oh yes! Oh god yes! It feels so good! Yes keep it up! Keep it up!"

Hikaru's joy rang throughout the Team Rocket hideout.

Ash could hear laughter. He noticed the sound before he opened the door on the seventh floor of Pokémon Tower.

Inside spirits played. Baby ghost pokémon played ball, they rode a carousel, they played with blocks, and so many other things. But they weren't alone. Accompanying them were the ghosts of human children. Almost all of them were dressed in modern clothes, but Ash saw some dressed in medieval fashion. They played with the hatchling ghost pokémon, giggling and floating right next to them.

Ash supposed that most of the ghost children appeared to be from the present because most of those from older eras had found peace and passed on.

He looked around some more. There were some older pokémon chaperoning the event. Some of them played with the children of both species and other simply watched from the ceiling.

A haunter carrying a translucent bundle passed through the floor in the center of the room. The pokémon set the bundle down and the bundle stood up. It was the ghost of a human child. The child grabbed the haunter's hand, smiled at it, and then ran off to play with the others.

So that's what the ghost pokémon downstairs had been carrying. He did remember Pocket Watch mentioning that they brought the restless souls of human children here, but he didn't think they were so active about it.

Something tapped him on the shoulder and he turned to see a gengar hovering behind his shoulder.

Excuse me... It began, sounding unsure. ...Uh, is there anything I can help you with?

Yes, please. I was looking for Mismagius and I heard she was here. Do you think you could tell her that Ash Ketchum is here to see her?

I will do that. The Gengar flew away, no doubt searching for Mismagius in the crowd.

This pace is a good place, Pikachu commented softly.

I know. Maybe we can stop here again some day and stay for a while.

I'd like that.

Pikachu and Ash stood and watched spirits play in silence.

A purple pokémon that appeared to be wearing a ragged pointed hat floated over. There were tufts of what looked like pink fur scattered on its hat/head. Under the hat the pokémon looked a bit like a sleeveless dress, with a scarf around a thin neck. The impression was helped by its lower sides and back trailing off into things that looked like plaits. A large pink opal sat in the center of its chest, flanked by a smaller opal on each side. Its eyes were gold instead of white, with irises that looked like jewels. The expression it had on its face reminded Ash of a smiling cat.

You must be Ash Ketchum! Mismagius exclaimed. Pocket Watch has told me so much about you! And who's this?

I'm Pikachu! Ash's first pokémon stated. I'm the one who has to keep an eye on this idiot. It's full time job.

And you must be Mismagius! Ash said, moving to hug the pokémon. I'm afraid Pocket Watch hasn't done me the same favor.

How utterly rude of him! Not talking about his most magnificent teammate! He better head south until I forget this insult! Mismagisus, whose name meant Witch of the North Sky, pretended to fume over Pocket Watch's 'insult' as she nuzzled into the hug. Hmmph! But I best not forget my manners. What brings you up here?

We came to correct our unfortunate ignorance, Ash said, stepping back and bowing. Oh great Mismagius, would you bestow your wisdom on us unworthy pilgrims?

I like you boy!

"Hhasn't run out screaming yet." Misty was tense and nervous, watching the entrance to Pokémon Tower from behind a nearby bush.

"That's not a good sign," Brock commented, also behind the bush. "You don't think something happened to him, do you?"

They both thought for a second and turned to each other.

"Of course," they said in unison. There was almost no chance that Aaron wouldn't have gotten involved in something.

"W-w-w-w-w-w-we should go in after him," Misty stammered out. Her legs and arms trembled as she stood up. Brock followed suit, but he was able to hide his fear.

The two of them made their way to the entrance.

"Right. Just through these doors." Brock said.

"Yep. All we have to do is open them." Misty added.



"Yeah, right through these two doors. We just have to open them and then go in." Brock nodded to himself.

"Yes. That's what we need to do."



"You also thinking about running away?" Misty asked Brock.

"Of course. But we've got to save the kid first." And with that Brock opened the doors. The two of them walked in. There was no light in the entranceway. The two of them paused in the pitch darkness.

"Wasn't there light when Aaron came in?" Misty asked.

"You're right. Maybe they're automated?" Brock suggested.

The gas lamps hissed to life. Brock and Misty jumped an impressive distance.

"S-s-s-see," Brock said, clutching at his chest. "Automated."

"R-right," Misty nodded.


The horrible inhuman chanting began, in a tongue that no ordinary human could speak.

"W-w-w-w-what!" Misty shrieked, looking around fearfully.

"What is it saying?" Brock asked. Presumably his eyes were darting around everywhere. One could never tell.


It slowly coalesced in front of the gym leader and trainer. Brock and Misty could only watch in frightened awe as the horrible thing took form. The purple thing began to inch towards them, intoning its horrible chant the entire way.

BOO! The thing was suddenly right next to them, having crossed the remainder of the distance in an instant. At the same it had reshaped itself so caricatures of their own faces started back at the two. It was the final straw for Brock and Misty.

"R-r-r-r-r-r-retreat!" Brock shouted, sprinting out of the tower.

"Wait for me!" Misty screamed, close on his heels.

The doors closed behind them. The lamps went out. And Ghastly fell to the ground, overcome with laughter.

And that's why Flygirl and Poison Lance can't look a tauros in the eye! Mismagius finished, chortling.

He never told me that one, Ash said, rolling on the ground with laughter.

Oh wait until I get back to Viridian! Pikachu rubbed his hands together. He'll do anything to stop me from telling this story.

Ahhhh, sighed the ghost type, Is he still pompous and stuffy?

You bet it sister, Pikachu answered. Mismagius shook her head.

Some things never change, the floating pokémon said with a fond smile. All this talk makes me miss the old days. Visiting new places with Lucas and my comrades. Meeting new people. Those were the days. Mismagius seemed to reach a decision. You know what, I think I'll come with you to Saffron City.

Really? The human was excited by the importunity to spend more time with one of Poison Lance's old teammates.

Its been a while since I left this tower, Lucas's old pokémon explained. And I can sweep by the Saffron graveyards to pick up kids while I'm there.

You do know we won't be able to talk freely, right? I have to keep the fact that I can understand pokémon a secret.

Of course. But I can take the opportunity to mess with your companions. That is something I simply cannot pass up.

Ash and Pikachu snickered. They couldn't pass that up either.

"Go Onix!"

"Come on out Starmie!"

White light blazed. The serpentine stone leviathan roared as it was let loose. Swirling about it was the purple bejeweled pokémon.

"Alright, hop on Misty," Brock told the gym trainer. "We're going to have to charge on in, find Aaron, and then exit the nearest wall. The Pewter City gym will have to cover the cost of repairs."

"Right. And then we'll call the League and have them send someone to exorcise that thing!" Misty added, pumping her fist and climbing onto the rock type behind Brock.

"On the count of three," Brock said, staring ahead intently. "One. Two. Thr-"

"Hey guys!" Aaron shouted as he walked out the door, Pikachu on one shoulder, Mismagius floating over the other. He was completely unharmed. "I'm back!"

Brock and Misty slumped over onto Onix.

"It was really great in there. You guys should have come with."

Brock looked over at Misty.

"That kid is going to be the death of me."

"You and me both bub," groaned Misty.

There was one part of Sabrina that was unaffected by Hikaru's psychic manipulations. The part of her that observed.

And remembered.

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