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


24. 23

It should have been raining.

The thought idly floated through Den Tanaka's mind as he gazed out the window, glancing at the skyscraper a couple blocks away where Sabrina was catching her breath. The brown haired green eyed Rocket grunt was leaning against a wall looking out of one of the top floor windows. A mist covered and battle-scarred Saffron City lay below him, battling pokémon scattered throughout town. Flashes of light and bursts of shadow flicked through the mist. The sky was growing darker. The sunlight streaming through the hole Agatha had created was fading. It would be night soon.

More Rocket grunts were loitering around the floor. Some were gossiping, some were eating, some were sleeping on desks and floors, and some were ordering their pokémon about. Two grunts with truncheons stood by the elevator doors down the hallway out of the open office. Den knew there would be a group with pokémon guarding the stairwell for this floor and the floor above where the relay was located.

It had been a relatively boring assignment, if not a vital one. Hikaru had made sure that Sabrina couldn't sense them and so they didn't have to worry about mind control. They had also forced a captured pretty young channeler from Lavender Town to hide them from any casual scrying or wayward spells on Agatha's part; they had hoped to put off the League's discovery of what they had done for as long as possible but they took no chances and set up their defenses early.

When they were done with the channeler they had let her go via a knife across the throat and dumped her body in the building's furnace. Den had been mildly upset by that. They could have just kept her until the operation was over. There was no need to kill her. But he didn't protest. He followed his orders.

He didn't really like what they were doing to Saffron City. He knew that they were supposed to be destabilizing it and sowing distrust for the League, but the methods the Team was using seemed... wasteful. Even if they did manage to weaken Saffron City and split it away from the League, what use would taking it over be if most of its population was dead, along with its infrastructure and industry? It would be a paltry start to Team Rocket's comeback and eventual domination of the nation.

But it was what the higher ups had wanted done and he wasn't about to argue with them.

The building shook as a stray attack impacted on one of the lower floors. Den could hear glass shatter and metal groan. It must have been a doozy.

The Rocket grunt glanced out again. He wondered who was winning, Agatha or Sabrina. Smart money was on Agatha, but Hikaru would be aiming to take out Agatha now that he had the chance...

"Tanaka!" Someone shouted from the open office behind him. The brown haired grunt turned around. It was one of the four executives in charge of the unit, a purple haired woman with eyes of a matching color.

"What is it?" Den Tanaka asked the Rocket Executive.

"It's time for your shift. You're monitoring the security system." She jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "Hop to it."

"Yes ma'am," answered Den. He nodded and walked out of the office area. He traveled down the hallway, past the guarded elevator, and into the north stairwell. He exchanged nods with the men on duty. He looked down the empty shaft in the center of the stairwell. Evidently someone had decided to increase security. There were grunts and pokémon stationed on every stair landing on the upper half of the building.

He climbed the stairs to the next floor and went through a hallway. He turned right into a grey room that was normally locked. The Rockets kept it open. They were the only ones in the building after all.

Monitors covered one of the walls, receiving feeds from the security cameras. Black and white real time images of the entrance ways were on display. There were also various panels that indicated things such as silent alarms and environmental data. One red haired man sat at the console in front of the monitors and panels.

"You the relief?" asked the red haired Rocket, turning around in his swivel chair to face the newcomer.

"Yep," Den replied. "Anything I should know about?"

"Nah," answered the red haired man with a wave of his hand. "Nothing's been happening, other than the battle outside. Floor twenty's screwed up because it's been hit, but other than that everything's normal. It's pretty boring."

"Better than the alternative," said Den as the other man stood up.

"Well you'll probably be hoping for something to happen and spice up your shift-" The man was cut off in mid sentence. An alarm had been tripped, wailing a warning in the security room. The eyes of both men snapped to the monitors. On the first floor someone had broken through the main entrance, leaving shards of broken glass all over. The red haired man grabbed a walky-talky lying on the console. He pressed the button.

"All units be aware. We have intruders on the first floor. I repeat, we have intruders on the first floor. Numbers and identity unconfirmed." The grunt spoke into the communications device, eyes scanning the screens, looking for the intruders.

"Nice going," Den grumbled. "Haven't you ever heard the phrase 'be careful what you wish for'?"

"Stuff it," the other man shot back. "Just get ready to help kill them."

Slow down, Psyduck complained from within Ash's arm. You're making my headache worse.

No can do, Ash replied sprinting through the building, looking for a staircase. We slow down and we might die.

Death's a release, moaned the odd duck.

Oh be quiet, Mismagius said, flying alongside Ash's left. Take a nap or something until we need you.

Ash, this one! Pikachu shouted from atop his trainer's head. He was pointing at a door with the staircase symbol next to it. Here's a staircase.

Alright, Ash replied, skidding to a stop. Behind him Bulbasaur, Squirtle, and Charmander followed suit, claws and feet scratching the tiled floor. Pidgeotto flew past them and turned around, bleeding speed and landing next to her trainer.

Ash be careful going through here, Bulbasaur told his trainer. Doorways are a great place for ambushes or traps. We should-

Way ahead of you, Ash said, cutting off his pokémon and stepping away from the door. Mismagius, Charmander! Burn away this door!

Sure thing Ash! Charmander replied eagerly. He drew in a deep breath, puffing out his chest and raising his tail. The lizard drew his head back, orange light spilling out of his mouth and then thrust it forward. A stream of orange flame flowed forth, engulfing the doorway.

At the same time Mismagius called up a large ball of blue flames. They crackled madly as they appeared out of thin air. The flames that made up the sphere danced wildly creating a chaotic ever shifting pattern of shadow and blue light within the hallway. Everyone but Charmander and Squirtle had to shield their faces from the heat. The ghost type hurled the ball at the door. It impacted at the same time as Charmander's flames.

The flames ate away at the door, weakening it, and the fluctuations of hot air caused by the fire ball shattered it. Bits of flaming wood flew into the stairwell beyond bouncing off walls and stairs. There was the sharp boom of an explosion from within the staircase; an anti-personal mine had been tripped by some of the debris.

There goes the element of surprise, Bulbasuar said, rolling his eyes.

We don't have time to worry about that, Ash returned. Alright, this is going to be difficult. They'll have the high ground the whole time we're on the stairs. But it's narrow so we can stop them from crushing us with numbers. We're going to have to move fast and keep moving. Everyone will have to work together and watch each other's backs.

Aye, aye captain! Pikachu shouted with a salute.

Squirtle Squad at the ready! Squirtle cried out, standing tall.

I'll follow your lead, Mismagius told the human.

Just like the old days in Orre, Bulbasaur spoke up. I'm ready.

Tell me where to fly, said Pidgeotto.

I'm ready, Charmander stated.

Uggh, Psyduck moaned. Move me to your back. I think I'll be better there. The human complied, letting the water-type pokémon cling onto his back. The trainer then looked into the stairwell.

Ash's eye's narrowed. He reached up and turned his cap around.

"Let's do this," he said to the group, eyes narrowing. "Bulbasaur, Squirtle you're in front!"

The group roared as they ran into the stairwell and up the stairs. Squirtle and Bulbasuar were in the front, clambering up the steps as fast as they could. Bulbasuar used his vines to pull himself up faster, while Squirtle simply ran on all fours. Following close behind was Charmander, followed by Ash and Pikachu. Above them all flew Mismagius and Pidgeotto.

It was a good thing Ash's upbringing had left him rather athletic and that he had been training all his pokémon for endurance otherwise they would've had to stop by the fifth flight.

Around the seventh flight the group heard the sound of flapping wings, the sound of lots of small wings flapping. Ash stuck his head out into the empty column in the center and saw a mass of blue and purple winged pokémon bearing down on them. Zubats, an entire flock of zubats.

"Pikachu get them!" Pikachu launched himself into the air, soaring upward towards the flock. He scrunched his face and curled his body as he built up charge. Sparks and streamers of electricity danced on the red spots that were his cheeks.

The zubats opened their mouths, no doubt preparing to launch a massed sonic attack. But before they could make a sound Pikachu let loose the power he had built up.

Lights on, lights out! Three large bolts of zig-zagging yellow power sprang forth from the electric-type pokémon. They coursed through the flock, leaping and spiraling upwards from zubat to zubat. The Rocket pokémon shrieked as they were shocked. The three bolts swirled together when they reached the top of the flock, becoming one large bolt that continued upward until it earthed itself in the underside of a staircase.

Most of the flock quit flying downwards and started falling, lightly singed and smoking. Those that remained conscious were disorganized. They milled about, confused.

Without being prompted, Bulbasaur's vines reached out and grabbed Pikachu. He pulled his teammate back to the group.

"Pidgeotto, Gust Bullet to finish them off!" Pidgeotto let loose a wordless piercing cry in response. She flew out into the empty shaft and gave two mighty flaps of her wings. Two masses of grey furiously spinning wind shot upward. They caught the small blue flying pokémon and carried them upward, trapping them within their spiral currents. The zubats were spun about and then shot out, slamming into walls and then falling to ground.

"Wow, those zubats seemed real weak," Ash commented, leaning against the railing to catch his breath.

Yes, well, that's to be expected of most Rocket pokémon, Mismagius informed the human raised by one of her comrades. There's no reason for them to strive to get stronger, there's no bond between them and their trainers. Such a bond is against Team Rocket's ideals even.

What do you mean? Charmander asked.

I mean, Mismagius began, talking to Ash's newest pokémon, that Team Rocket views pokémon simply as tools to be used at best and monsters that need to be put down at worst. Most of their pokémon are kept in a general pool and don't receive training. They don't want them to get too strong and rebel, you see. Also, since they view the pokémon as expendable, there's no need to train them as they'll probably die soon anyway. Why waste the resources? This is part of the reason they like to steal pokémon from trainers. They come pre-trained, increasing the strength of the general pool, and cost the League resources.

Some of the higher ranking Rockets, like the combat teams and the executives personally train their pokémon, continued Mismagius. They're the ones you have to watch out for. For the rest, well, you're all probably heads and shoulders above the lot of them. I have to say Ash, you have a real strong team for one so young.

"Thanks", Ash replied, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment. "But they were all pretty strong before I got them."

He says the nicest things, Pikachu told Mismagius. It's why we put up with the idiot.

I see, Mismagius stated with a grin.

"Alright, let's keep moving," Ash ordered. "We've still got a ways to go."

Agatha closed her eyes and listened to what the mist had to say. Her spell-mist, created by her and her pokémon allowed her to 'see' what was going on in the city and carried her orders to the pokémon following her. With it she could tell that Sabrina was resting on the tallest skyscraper in the city.

Why was she resting there? Mist crawled up the sides of the building and snuck inside. It seemed empty at first glance, but Agatha wasn't sure.

The broadcast antenna at the top seemed like an optimal spot for whatever machine allowed Team Rocket to take control of Sabrina. If they had her move closer, maybe to strengthen their connection or give her new orders...

In this situation wartime measures could be taken, there was no argument to the contrary. Collateral damage was an accepted risk.

Agatha of Kanto's Elite Four ordered the attack.

A small meteor of dark power shattered some windows on one of the top floors and continued inward. After a moment the rest shattered and turned into glittering dust as a ring of dark energy radiated outward, slightly tilted. Supports and beams were broken and a whole floor disappeared. The remaining couple of top stories fell downwards with a crash, knocking Sabrina off her feet. There was a grinding sound as the loose floors began to slide off of the building. Anyone watching could see the giant structure shudder.

Sabrina regained her feet and jumped off before the piece of the building tumbled into empty air. The giant antenna on top gouged huge chunks out of the rest of the building, sending broken glass everywhere.

Several more balls of darkness shot up from out of the mist. They smashed into the falling floors and pulverized them, reducing them and the antenna to dust.

Sabrina reappeared on a much smaller office building. Agatha observed her for a bit, looking for any sign that might indicate something had changed.

There wasn't one.

Agatha sighed. It had been too much to hope for. It looked like the spell was the only option then.

Sabrina growled. That bitch had dared to scar her city, had dared to mar one of her city's best features! Just for that she'd tear the hag to piece. No, she'd burn the witch! After she had killed each and every pokémon that had followed her. Yes, that's how she'd take her revenge.

She sent her thoughts out to her pokémon, telling to form teams and then take turns grabbing items from the gym to refresh themselves while the rest held off Agatha's assault. That last combined Psybeam would have taken a lot out of her pokémon.

The fighting began to cluster around the gym. Pokémon let loose battle cries and screamed out in pain. Psychic power warped the world and was met with otherworldly strength. At the same time the mist began to reclaim the areas where it had been blown away by the giant Psybeam.

Buildings crumbled and the street was torn up by the condensed fighting. Lampposts were yanked up and used as clubs by both sides. Water mains were cut into and their burden shot out into the streets. Saffron City more and more began to resemble a war zone.

Sabrina teleported into the gym and grabbed some stimulants meant for humans. She needed to be at her best to take on Agatha. She would also probably need to be at her best to locate Agatha.

A Mr. mime crashed through a wall and tumbled down the hallway next to the storage room. Sabrina grabbed him in a telekinetic grip and brought him inside. She grabbed a super potion and began applying it to the pokémon's wounds.

There was a sharp pain in her head, like cognitive dissonance enhanced, as if two totally irreconcilable viewpoints clashed in her head. Why was this happening? She clutched at her head and moaned. Was something wrong with her-

She was staring at the floor. What had she been doing again? She had been treating the pokémon's wounds. And then she was going to find Agatha.

Why did she space out during such a critical conflict? Stress, that must be it.

Sabrina shook her head and returned to what she had been doing.

"Is it ready yet?" Agatha asked her mismagius through the mist. Most of the citizens of Saffron City were out of danger but the longer the battle continued the greater the property damage became.

While she was waiting for a response she looked over the citizens, looking for Brock and the Cerulean sister, whose name Agatha couldn't recall. Oh, and that one black haired trainer with the cap that they had with them.

Brock and that red haired girl were safe in one of Agatha's white magic zones. But she couldn't find the boy. She used the mist to look through the streets of the city and at the people her pokémon were still evacuating. He wasn't there.

Dammit, he must have been raised to speak a foreign language. Her sleep spell was modified to target the people and pokémon enslaved by Sabrina, but the regular version of the spell only worked on people who thought in the same language as the caster. It was an odd requirement, but magic was like that.

Hopefully the boy had enough sense to hide somewhere safe. If she sensed him out in the streets she'd have to send one of her pokémon to get him out of the city.

Mismagius's response came back through the mist. From the tone of her voice, Agatha knew that she was saying yes, the spell was ready. After spending so much time with her pokémon she didn't need to understand their words to know what they were saying.

It was time to begin the final stage of her plan. The old woman raised her cane and pointed it towards the city. The fog roiled and began to extend its coverage to the areas outside the city. But while it was doing that, for a brief instant, Agatha's position would be exposed.

Exactly what she wanted.

Sabrina perked up. Her network had finally sensed something, something other than the Arceus damned mist spawned illusions. She zeroed in on the feeling, analyzing it. No doubt about it, Agatha had been found. The member of the Elite Four had finally slipped up.

Two of her personal alakazams teleported to her side in an instant, refreshed by the items they had used. Sabrina stood up, finished treating the wounded Mr. Mime, and began the calculations. Numbers whirred through her head... why did it feel so foggy for a moment... and then she had the solution. She and the two pokémon flanking her teleported away.

She reappeared just next to the area where she had sensed Agatha. It was outside the city limits, on a foggy plain covered in dying green grass. The oldest member of the Elite Four stood before her, both hands resting on the head of the cane she was leaning on. Her pokémon were nowhere to be seen.

Sabrina sent out a pulse of telekinetic force to create a breeze in order to blow away some of the obscuring mist. The short grass rippled as the air pushed it; Agatha's cloak flapped as she simply looked at Sabrina.

"No tricks this time!" Sabrina cried out in wild glee. "No mist to hide you, no mist to fool me! Time to die!"

Agatha simply smirked.

"Rip the World!" Sabrina called out the name of the attack for once. It seemed appropriate to let her enemy know how she was to die.

Both alakazams pointed their right spoons at Agatha, a prismatic chaos gathering around the ends. They threw all of their newly refreshed strength into their work, grunting in exertion. They brought all of their power to a point just beyond their spoons, warping and twisting the world.

What they created was a region of truly warped space, nearly microscopic. If it had been a simple warp, that region of space would have resembled something found near a black hole, or perhaps even in one in regards to severity. However it was no where near as orderly as the space found near a black hole. That had been Sabrina's original goal when she set about creating the attack; produce a small artificial black hole to throw at the enemy. Unfortunately physics was against her and it was impossible.

But the attack she got instead was still formidable.

The attacks became ready. Light that entered the region was broken by lens of warped space; the distortion was so intense that shades and possibly even colors that had never existed before shone forth. With a final burst of effort the two alakazams launched their attacks.

Agatha calmly watched the two pellets of impossible color streak towards her. They kicked up a tremendous windstorm as they passed through the air, sucking up bits of clod and grass. Tendrils of fog were drawn in, pushed out, destroyed, and dispersed. There was a cacophony of sounds as the warped space chaotically spasmed from shape to shape. It truly was a tear in the world, a region of destructive chaos, an impossible piece of rainbow death.

It wasn't a particularly power or destructive attack. Some of the Psybeams and Psyshocks from earlier in the battle had more raw destructive power and took far less energy. But it was an attack that was impossible to block. How did one block a warped region of space? And it was difficult to evade, the windstorm it created made sure of that.

Agatha's smirk never changed.

"Mismagius Cut the Worlds Apart!" From the old woman's shadow a gengar appeared, holding a mismagius in its arms. It let the other pokémon go and the mismagius flew upwards, just over Agatha's head. Shadowy power flared up, covering the three, and mist billowed outward. The dark power vanished and Sabrina's attacks blasted through the area.

Sabrina laughed wildly. There was no way any defense of Agatha's could have stopped those attacks. Yes, the only thing that would remain was grass covered with blood and gore. It was her victory!

Once more Sabrina sent out a pulse of telekinetic force to blow away the mist. She wanted to see the results of her victory, to stand among her enemy's remains.

But there was nothing there.

Sure there was the wild and spotty trail of destruction her attack had left, but there was no sign of the scattered bits of the old woman's corpse and the broken bodies of her pokémon.

Sabrina frowned. Could the attack have carried the-

Shadowy power flared up again in the spot Agatha should have died. It wiped downward and then disappeared, leaving Agatha and her pokémon standing exactly as they had been before Sabrina's attack. Even the ground they had been standing on was untouched.

"Perfect," Agatha said with a smug smile that grated on Sarbina's nerves. "It's time to begin."

She slammed her cane down into the ground and red light began to pour out from it. It traced intricate designs within a set of circles around the witch. The sight filled the gym leader with a fear that was not her own.

Thirteen zodiac animals, all hunted by pokémon, the species who's representative lost the race that chose the zodiac signs (although some argued that dragon could stand for them). The animals now only lived under the care of humans to protect them from the pokémon.

"Rat, hide the bonds with your cunning,

Ox, tighten them with your strength,

Tiger, carve them with your claws,

Rabbit, pull them with your swiftness,

Dragon, harden them with your flames,

Snake, gather them with your wisdom,

Horse, bear them with your endurance,

Goat, direct them with your experience,

Monkey, tie them with your clever fingers,

Rooster, signal the dawn and the start,

Dog, protect the others and your master,

Boar, drive the enemy into their place,

Cat, observe and remember all these things!

Stars above, lend your light as the years spin"

Thirteen other designs, arranged in a circle around Saffron City sprang to life. A line of red light ran from glowing circle to circle, encompassing the entire city.

Sabrina felt something clamp around her, body and mind. Her arms were bound to her sides as if by invisible ropes and she stumbled at the sudden change. Her connection with the telepathic network began to grow weak. It was a sealing spell! Agatha intended to seal her power and take her prisoner!

Sabrina growled, fighting against her bonds, both physically and mentally.

"By the thirteen animals

By the river that chose them

By the years

By the stars themselves-"

She had just a little bit of telekinetic freedom, about enough to lift a twig. Maybe bend a spoon if she tried hard enough. What could she do?

Maybe she could give up, let Agatha deal with the weird stuff she had been feeling during this battle, and then escape later. Yes that-

No! Pain blazed through her skull and her eyes locked onto Agatha's circle. She marshaled the small amount of power she had and lashed out.

It was a small scratch. Just a scuffing of the blood and bone-meal mixture that formed the circle. A small interruption in the arc.

But it was enough.

"Be bound!" Agatha shouted, finishing the spell. But red light died instead of increasing in intensity. Agatha knew the spell had failed. She looked down.

Sabrina began to laugh once more. Agatha merely sighed.

"I'm so sorry Sabrina," she said, her eyes closed. "But it's come to this."

"Don't bother apologizing!" The crazed gym leader shouted. "I won't forgive you even if you get on your knees and begged!"

"I haven't committed the transgression yet."

"The hell you haven't! You came into my city without permission, you disobeyed me, and you damaged my property!"

"That's not what I'm talking about," the member of the Elite Four replied, opening her eyes. The gengar's hands became wreathed in shadows as he prepared to attack. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to kill you."

Ash's calves hurt. It was a bit of an odd experience. But then again going up so many flights of stairs was also an odd experience. It was a good thing they didn't try to run after the encounter with the zubats, otherwise they'd be too exhausted to do any fighting.

He had suggested taking the elevator, but both Bulbasaur and Mismagius had vetoed that idea. It would be too easy to dispose of them in there. No, stick to the stairs they had told him, stay with the original plan.

They had to have climbed over a dozen stories since then. There was No doubt that while they were doing that, Team Rocket was preparing their defense. It would be dangerous.

"How much further Psyduck?" Ash asked the water type on his back.

A ways, groaned the duck pokémon. Can we hurry up? My head hurts the longer I'm near this thing.

"Alright," Ash said gently. "Pidgeotto I need you to see if the next five things of stairs are empty."

Pidgeotto nodded, taking wing and flying upwards.

There was a panicked caw and the crackle of electricity. Pidgeotto dived back down; a few of her tail feathers where singed.

They're occupied, she said landing on the railing next to her trainer. And that hitmonchan is fast with his Thunder Punch.

Ash felt an odd lightness spread through his body. All of his aches and his minor weariness simply vanished. His heart picked up a faster tempo. He could feel a tugging on the corners of his mouth. For some reason he felt like grinning.

"Alright everyone! Let's go!" He gestured forward with his walking stick/staff as he shouted.

Instantly his team surged into movement. They started running once more, flying up the stairs.

A grunt with two raticates is hiding on the next landing, and there's a drowzee on the stairs behind them, Pidgeotto informed the group.

"Bulbasaur, Squirtle! Hit them fast and hard!" Ash commanded. He received grunts of acknowledgment from his pokémon. "Pikachu, Speed Burst, and get the support after them!"

Green vines reached out to grab the corner of the railing where the current flight of stairs ended. Bulbasaur yanked hard, pulling himself off the ground, and swung himself around.

The Rocket grunt was crouched by the next flight of stairs. The two raticates stood in front of him, fangs gleaming and crouched, ready to pounce on the intruders. But there was no time for either of them to react to the green blur that came around the corner.

Howdy, Bulbasaur said, his eye's meeting his enemy's as he slammed into the right raticate's head like a green bullet. The normal type pokémon was launched backwards into the stairs behind. He bounced off the hard steps and collapsed in a heap.

At the same time Squirtle flipped himself around. He withdrew into his shell and let loose a high pressured stream of water. He used this to propel himself at the wall opposite the Rocket group. He came out of his shell, hind feet on the wall, and took a quick look at the positioning of his foes. Then, before he started falling, he kicked off the wall, flipped over, and jetted himself at the left raticate.

There was a loud bonk and the other normal type Rocket pokémon fell over as if pole-axed. There had been no time to respond to Ash's pokémons blitz. Squirtle bounced off and up from the impact with the raticate's skull. While in midair he came out of his shell and blasted the grunt with another stream of water.

Pikachu waited half a second before starting his own attack. He used Speed Burst, following the blue and green blurs that were his comrades. He raced around the corner and let loose a Thunderbolt. The bolt traveled under Squirtle and then arced up at the drowzee crouching on the stairs.

The psychic pokémon called forth a Light Screen to protect himself. For a moment Pikachu's attack writhed against the shield, trying to push through, sending streamers of electricity dancing all over it. And then the protection broke. The Thunderbolt continued through and coursed through the drowzee. The Rocket pokémon screeched in pain.

A Thundershock followed, hitting the psychic type in four places. The drowzee flinched in pain, staggering backwards. Another Thunderbolt hammered into her head. She was down for the count.

The rest of the group arrived just as Pikachu was finishing up. Pidgeotto and Mismagius led the way, with Charmander guarding the rear.

"Good job guys," Ash told his team. "Alright, what's-"

He was interrupted by sounds of something running down the stairs. A tan blur appeared on the landing above them. It was a hitmonchan. One of its' red hands crackled with electric power; the other was surrounded by a pale blue aura, no doubt an Ice Punch. It charged the team, no doubt ordered to take out Squirtle and Bulbasaur in one shot.

"Charmander on high!" Ash ordered instantly. Charmander snapped into action. He spit out a gout of flame at the attacking fighting type's face. The hitmonchan was forced to defend, covering the vulnerable area with a boxer's guard.

Bulbasaur seized the initiative. Two of his vines lashed out and wrapped around the hitmonchan's ankles. He yanked upward, holding the surprised fighting type upside down, and then smashed the other pokémon into a wall.

Ash winced. He could feel the vibrations from that through his feet and in his teeth. Bulbasaur repeated the process again and then threw the Rocket pokémon into the wall on the other side of the room. The hitmonchan hit it and slid down. The pokémon slumped over and didn't get back up.

"Nice job Charmander, Bulbasaur," Ash said to the grass type and fire type. "Alright, what's next?"

I think I saw a magmar up there somewhere, I'm not sure, Pidgeotto said to her trainer.

"Pikachu, take the lead!" Ash told his starter. "Get ready to dodge."

On it mon capitan! Pikachu scampered in front of the party as they started running up the stairs again. The next flight held no enemies and neither did the next landing. The flight of stairs after that was empty as well, allowing Pikachu to rush over them and turn the corner to the next floor.

Whoa! Pikachu jumped backward as fire and electricity scorched the floor he had been recently occupying, his voice competing against their conjoining crackling and cackling. Magmar and electrobuzz up there, Pikachu called out as he sailed back down. Also two humans, armed with blades.

Ash nodded and thought for a moment. Before he could come up with any ideas the electrobuzz and magamar rushed to the top of the stairs in front of them.

"Dodge!" Ash shouted on instinct. He dashed away from the two pokémon. His team followed suit, barely avoiding the Thunderbolt and Flamethrower attacks. They could feel the wash of heat from the flames and the tingle of static electricity on their skin. They dashed down the previous flight of stairs and skidded to a stop on the lower landing.

Damnit, this is what I hate about assaulting buildings, Mismagius complained. They've got the high ground. I could probably take them both in this situation, but I don't know how'd much they'd hurt me. And since we don't know what else they have...

I've already got an idea, Ash whispered to the ghost type. You're a ghost type right? Obviously, sorry I meant you should be able to pass through the ceiling.

Yeah, but I know they'll be able to get at least one good hit in and I wasn't trained for endurance.

Just distract the electrobuzz. Pikachu's got the magmar.

I do? Pikachu twitched his ear in puzzlement.

Yep, you remember where he was standing? Ash asked his friend.

Yeah, but-

While Mismagius distracts the electrobuzz, you hit the magmar with a Thunder from here.

Oh! Pikachu perked up. Alright, I'm ready when you are.

Good plan, remarked Mismagius. I'll go when you say.

Good. Go now! Mismagius flew around the stairs and then back under them. She ghosted through the ceiling and came out the floor, right behind the electrobuzz. Both pokémon sensed her somehow and turned to meet the threat.

Incoming! Pikachu's shout caught the Rocket pokémon's ears, but they paid it no mind. They could deal with this ghost type before the pikachu got up the stairs and around the corner.

Which is why the magmar was caught completely unawares by the Thunder that engulfed him from behind. For a moment he was just a black shape within the column of electric power. Then the attack ended and the magmar was a blackened and singed form falling forward.

The electrobuzz started at the sudden development. It was a slight opening that Mismagius ruthlessly took advantage of. Several small balls of shadow shot forth and pelted the electric type all over. On instinct the electrobuzz raised its' arms to cover itself, a futile action. It was driven back to the edge of the top step.

Have a nice trip, I'll see you next fall! Shadowy power and blue fire mixed together and then sped towards the teetering electric Rocket pokémon. There was a boom, a rush of air, and the black striped pokémon went flying back.

Ash winced as the pokémon crashed into the floor. That had to hurt. He heard the sound of running footsteps above, and then a cry of pain. Mismagius evidently knocked out the two humans for him.

Alright everyone, let's keep going! Ash told his team. The Rocket's knew they were there. They had to keep moving. If they stopped the Rockets could build up a deadly defense. It was bad enough that they'd probably have all their best pokémon and trainers arranged near the relay; Ash and his team didn't need to deal with that sort of situation on the stairs as well.

I think there's one final group after that, Pidgeotto informed them as they raced onward. Mixed pokémon, raticates, machops, a golbat, and a koffing.

"Then Mismagius has the fighting types, Pikachu has the golbat, Charmander and Squirtle have the koffing and Bulbasaur has the rest," Ash told his friends.

Why don't I get any, Pidgeotto asked in a sulky tone. I'm just as strong as them.

I can't risk you getting hurt, I need you to scout ahead, Ash told her. He gently stroked her crest. Don't worry. You're the first pokémon I caught after Butterfree. I know you're plenty strong.

Charmander expression nearly fell, but he managed to keep his face steady. He was the last pokémon Ash caught. Wasn't he then the weakest? Was he still weak?

No, he'd show Ash he was strong!

Try not to waste too much effort everyone, Mismagius told the group. I'm pretty sure their setup is meant to delay and tire us rather than stop us.

How can you tell? Ash asked confused.

If they were trying to stop us, they'd have combined those two groups. The electrobuzz and magmar could have kept us down while the others moved in. They'd have still lost, but it would have been a better effort.

Why would they set it up like that? Ash thought like Mismagius was saying that the people in charge of the Rocket's here had pretty much decided to sacrifice their forces in the stairwell.

They don't know how strong we are, Mismagius answered. For all they know we're one of Agatha's handpicked students. And it's critical that the relay is protected until the end of the fight between Sabrina and AgathaThey're going with the strategy they feel has the best chance of success, no matter how strong we may be.

Heh. Ash grimaced. This was going to be...

Actually pretty easy.

He'd just have to make sure this idea was feasible. He could do that after they got rid of the next group.

"Move out everybody," Ash told the group. Building storming had to come before brainstorming.

Sabrina back-flipped away from the sudden attack by Agatha's gengar. She had been expecting a Shadow Ball, not a small Hyper Beam. She was forced to teleport in mid-maneuver as a small sharp bolt of darkness sought her heart.

She ended up a hundred or so feet above Agatha. Her two pokémon teleported to her side. The gym leader gave the telepathic commands and they constructed a fortress out of multiple Light Screens and Barriers, enclosing the group in a shimmering translucent box the size of a small house. Sabrina occasionally appreciated the classics. Gravity took hold and the construct started to fall. Sabrina and the alakazams guided its' path, steering it towards the member of the Elite Four.

Agatha didn't even bother looking up.

"Mack, take care of that will you?" She said to her gengar.

Mack would you gather some wood for the fire. Mack would you mean cleaning up that spill. Mack would you mind clearing out that nest of dark types. Mack's tone was rather whiny. He flung up his hand and a fiery spear of shadow ascended from it. And now it's take care of the mad gym leader's giant box of doom. Isn't there someone else you could bother?

The ghost type's attack shattered all the Light Screens and Barriers. The spear grazed the side of one of the alakazams, leaving a trail of red behind. Droplets of blood flew through the air, staining the shards of light that surrounded the falling trio.

On reflex all three teleported away.

Agatha stroked her chin. She had a handle on Sarbina's new style and she could guess why her... rapists was certainly a fitting term but not the term needed to describe them... her controllers were having her use it.

There was no subtly in Sabrina's new tactics; it was all about brute force and tossing energy around. There were no telepathic attacks on her pokémon; no secret manipulations of the environment; it probably never occurred to her to try and blow away the mist around the city proper!

Of course most of those things would require Sabrina to be in control of herself and her emotions. And those things that didn't would risk Sabrina breaking free. They couldn't risk it.

Agatha could guess how she'd react to her next attack in her current state.

"Mack, Lunar Cycle!" Agatha ordered, pointing to where she sensed Sabrina reappear within the mist.

The gengar opened his mouth. A ball of white energy shone within as he readied a Hyper Beam. At the same time he brought up both his hands, shadows spilling forth. He cupped the white power with the black, surrounding the light with darkness. He then lowered his hands.

Within them he held a black orb, like a miniature new moon. Mack hurled the gathered power. It made no sound as it traveled through the mist towards Sabrina and her pokémon.

Halfway through its flight the Hyper Beam's shell destabilized. The energy ran free of its original binding only to push against the darkness surrounding it. The orb suddenly expanded until it was half as large as Mack.

White energy struggled and changed as it warred with the black. A glimmer of silver could be seen on the edge. The silver then wiped across, changing the whole orb to that color. Then the darkness swept over it, and the silver followed. The process repeated itself over and over as the attack neared the gym leader. At any one moment the oscillating attack resembled the moon that would be arriving, silently passing through the mist.

Sabrina saw the attack rush towards one of her pokémon. Using an attack like that against herself! Such arrogance! She'd show Agatha!

The telepathic command went out. A series of blue orbs the size of a beach ball flew forth to intercept the silver and black attack. At the same time several Light Screens and Barriers were erected between the group and the attacks on a collision course.

The blue orbs met the intimation of the moon. Blue orbs shattered into motes of blue light. Agatha's attack mercilessly bored through them and then hit the defensive screens.

There was an explosion. Blinding white light shone, cutting through the mist, and waves of darkness rolled forth from the point of impact. Mist was blown away and then replaced with dust and smoke. The ground shook and the sound was like a physical thing, pressing up against Agatha and her pokémon.

Sabrina picked herself up. Bits of her uniform had wisps of smoke rising from them and her body felt unusually hot in some places. Aches and pains started registering, she was really going to hurt tomorrow. The psychic woman glanced around.

There was an arm. A yellow and brown arm that ended in a three fingered hand that was gripping a spoon. It lay next to her, without a body, smoking from one end.

Something flare up in her mind. That arm, didn't it belong to her...

Her pokémon...

Dead now. Where was the grief...

Sharp pain erupted in her head as something suppressed her grief. She had felt this thing before, just after killing Britney and after Atsushi expired. What was it?

No, not the time to think about that. Agatha was bearing-

"I'm sorry. Mack, finish her." The gym leader looked up at the voice and saw the gengar pointing one finger, a ball of dark energy on the tip, at her.

"Dammit, how the hell are they doing this?" The Rocket grunt pulled his head back as another Thundershock arced up from under the stairs and grounded itself in the landing and door-frame.

The intruders had managed to sweep away the lower defenses, the last group of mixed pokémon had fallen quickly. Defenses on the upper level had been prepared. Ranks of Rockets and their pokémon packed the last few landing and hallway entrances. Normal types and fighting types in front, special types in back. It would have been a massacre when they showed up.

But instead the intruder decide to bombard them with constant electrical attacks from below. They didn't have any types immune to electricity to bear the brunt of the attacks, so everyone was forced to find cover.

Den was idling in a hallway, playing with his small crossbow, occasionally glancing at the commotion by the stair well. Until the enemy made their move there was nothing he could really do.

He thought that he heard something behind him, by the elevators. It was faint, but it still managed to reach his ears. The Rocket grunt turned to investigate.

Den saw the tail end of a mismagius as it went through the ceiling. Both of the guards were out cold and the buttons were lit up. The enemy was sneaking behind them with the elevators!

He pointed his crossbow at the doors, waiting for the ding of arrival. He heard the sound and prepared to fire. The doors slid back-

It was a just a kid. A ten year old kid with a big stick and some small pokémon. Den hesitated.

The kid attacked, swinging his staff at the crossbow. Den let out a yelp of pain as the crossbow went flying and retaliated by kicking the kid in the stomach.

Ash gagged. That kick hurt. He felt his staff being yanked out of his hand and then he felt it hit his side. He tried to counter, using a punch Brock had been teaching him, but the man easily brushed it aside.

It was only natural, Ash was a ten year old child with only a couple months max of hand to hand training. He was up against a fully grown adult. He didn't stand a chance.

Luckily he wasn't alone. Green leaves sliced the staff apart and vines whipped the man. Flames licked at his feet and talons tore at his face. Finally a blast of water finished him off, throwing him into the wall.

The other Rocket's heard the commotion and were turning around to investigate.

"Pidgeotto, Charmander, now!" Ash grunted through the pain. He was having some minor problems breathing.

The fire type stepped out first. The orange pokémon took a deep breath and belched out a fireball. Pidgeotto flew over him, following the fireball closely. She pulled herself up, leaving the flying type perpendicular to the ground, and flapped her wings several times.

A Gust Bullet raced into the fireball, fanning the flames, enlarging the fireball, and adding the fire to its own spiral. The conjoined attack swept down the hallway scorching the walls, ceiling, and floor, a spiral flower of dancing light and heat.

The Rockets and their pokémon screamed as they were caught in the blast. The flames weren't hot enough to be lethal, but they would hurt considerably. And the wind was enough to push everyone back. Humans and pokémon by the door staggered backwards, out into the open. They were engulfed in a Thunder from Pikachu.

Upstairs the process repeated itself with blue flames. Mismagius's flames burned hotter and hurt more. Several Rocket's and their pokémon ran out of the hallway screaming. Pikachu got them too.

"Alright, everybody, finish them off," Ash grunted. It was getting easier to breath.

The Rocket forces were caught between Pikachu's electricity and the vines, fires, winds, and water of the rest of Ash's team. Combined with the brutal fire attack they had already taken, they went down quickly. The floor was covered with singed and groaning bodies, weakly stirring from time to time.

Mismagius floated back down.

Other group is down, she informed the pokéraised trainer.

"Good," replied Ash. He turned back to the open elevator and picked up Psyduck. "Psyduck, I need you to lead us to the relay now."

Ugh, the psychic duck moaned. It's- it's -it's on the roof, opposite corner from this stair case. I'm at my l-l-limit here, don't bring me any closer.

Alright, Ash lowered the water type down. Bulbasaur, Charmander, could you take him down a couple of floors and watch over him? Squirtle, Mismagius, I want you to make sure they're all out. Pidgeotto, I need you to look around to make sure there aren't any Rockets sneaking up on us.

And what do you want me to do? It was Pikachu who spoke up. Once the commotion had died down, the small yellow electric type had made his way up to meet with the rest of the group.

"You're with me," Ash informed his starter, extending an arm to allow Pikachu to climb up. "We're going after the relay now."

Anytime idiot, Pikachu imperiously pointed in a random direction. Come, let us now save the damsel!

The two of them crossed over to the staircase on the other side of the building. There was a brief incident with a trio of Rocket grunts and their pokémon, but rapid fire Thunders by Pikachu sorted it out. It also left him exhausted.

They reached the staircase without incident and fortunately found it to be empty. They climbed to the top and found an access hatch to the roof. Ash opened it and climbed up and out.

The winds were fierce, tugging at his clothes, and stealing his balance. Ash kept his stance low and stayed away from the edge as he searched for the relay. A small band of his flesh, near the ankles grew cold. He glanced down. Didn't his jeans used to go lower than that?

There! Pikachu pointed to what looked like a small transmitter dish on the corner. It didn't look out of place on a skyscraper like this, along with the antennas and other equipment on top.

Ash stared at the thing for a long moment. This was the thing that was putting an innocent woman's life in danger. This was the thing responsible for the death of that child who's head the crazed gym leader had shown them.

No this was just a representative of the thing that did all that. The real thing was far off, hidden somewhere in the countryside. Somewhere where they couldn't strike at it.

But at the very least...

"Pikachu," Ash growled to his pokémon. "Destroy that!"

Sure thing! Yellow power cackled and a twisting column of electricity blazed under the last vestiges of the twilight sun. It hit the dish, coursing through it. Wires and valuable electronic warped and melted from the heat. The electricity traveled down the connection to the process and power systems. They simply exploded within their darkened rooms. The dish itself began to warp from the heat generated by the current flowing through it.

Pikachu gave one final surge of power and the dish was blasted off the roof. It tumbled through the air and was lost in the mist below.

Hikaru Buckak clutched at his head. The image of a young boy with a cap and a Pikachu flashed through his mind as the pain raced through his body. He could feel the connection with Sabrina slipping away...

Sabrina suddenly screamed, catching Agatha and her pokémon by surprise. They watched in fascination as the gym leader grabbed the sides of her head and howled to the sky.

Mack grabbed Agatha and pulled her back right before a telekinetic storm was brought to life around Sabrina. Chunks of the ground were ripped up and thrown about wildly in chaotic orbits around the gym leader, randomly being crushed and twisted. The psychic distortions kicked up a roaring windstorm as well.

It wasn't an attack, Agatha and her pokémon could easily tell that. There was no control or direction. If one was caught up in it one would either be gently thrown out or crushed, it was all up to chance. But then, what was it? Could it be...

|Get. Out. Of. My. Head!| The telepathic shout could be heard throughout all of Saffron City. Even Agatha, protected by her spells, picked up on it. It was followed by a telepathic scream of fury and grief.

What miracle was this? What had suddenly given Sabrina the power to fight back? Agatha didn't know and in that moment she didn't care. As long as Sabrina could be saved!

Within the mind of Sabrina forces clashed. Chaotic could not even being to describe the way the struggle made the colors dance. And the pain, oh Arceus, the pain. It felt like her head would burst, like the membrane within her skull was tearing itself to pieces. Blood vessels all over her head bulged as her brain demanded more resources.

The wild expanse of colors began to shrink as Sabrina clawed her way back through the intrusive link that had violated the deepest parts of her being. The machine thing tried to fight back. The unstoppable drill force ground away at her efforts. But it was no match for the memories of Britney's last scream and Atsushi's tears. Wild and insane power tore away at the mechanically directed psychic force even as it attempted to grind the counter-attack into dust.

The colors within her mind began to go dark, shrinking the mental landscape. Nerves were fried by the fierce battle. Parts of her body began to go numb. Sabrina was in no state to notice that.

She quit opposing the drill like force, letting the storm that was her power flow around it instead. All of the power she and her pokémon had was put into offense, not a single bit was left to defend. The attack wasn't like a lance as most psychic attacks were; no it was more like lightning.

The drill returned to her mind, turning the remaining colors red, once more violating the center of her being.

But it didn't matter anymore.

Hikaru was slammed back in his chair as an ocean of psychic energy blazed through his mind. Any attempt at defense with the resources he had was laughable; one could not stop a tsunami with some sandbags. The captured pokémon slaved to the network screamed and died as the uncontrolled power ran through them. Heads exploded, showering blood and brain everywhere.

It was only chance that saved the psychic Rocket. Had any portion of the attack lingered in him, ended at him, then he would have died as well. But it all simply passed through him.

The machine that Jessie, James, and Mewoth had stolen exploded. The pain ended and Hikaru Buckak slumped over in his chair. His eyes were wild and he was breathing heavily, clutching at his chest. But for the most part he seemed healthy.

Sabrina fell over like a puppet whose strings had been cut. The ravaged earth felt soft to her. Her mind was blank; there was too much to process at once. And she was hurt and scared. Where was...

Dead! She had killed them! Memories invited themselves into the forefront of her mind. She could recall their screams and the pleasure she had felt as she tormented them. Sabrina could recall them perfectly.

No, it couldn't be true! It just couldn't! She would never do that!

But she did. She could not deny the truth within her head. They were dead by her hand.

The sound Agatha heard couldn't be described as human. No human could sound so utterly broken; human vocal cords shouldn't be able transmit such grief.

The eldest member of the Elite Four cautiously approached her foe. Mack and Mismagius hovered on either side of her. She knelt down and placed a gentle hand on the shaking gym leader.

Sabrina grabbed at it like it was the last lifeline in existence. Agatha pulled her into a warm embrace.

As the utterly broken woman sobbed into her shoulder Agatha reflected on the miracle.

Maybe it would have been kinder to simply kill her.

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