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


25. 24

Now it was raining in Saffron City. It was a constant deluge that soaked the city, getting everywhere. Small rivers rushed down the street-side drains, under a sky filled with gray clouds that stretched as far as the eye could see. There were huge puddles everywhere, particularly in the craters that the battle had left behind, soaking passer byer's and worker's footwear as they hurried through detours or cleaned up debris. Workmen had to lay down large sheets of water-proof material on the new roof of what used to be Saffron City's tallest skyscraper. Every bit of ground not covered by a structure, concrete, or asphalt, had been turned into patches of runny mud. The citizens had grown used to the taste of freshwater on their lips for that day.

All the citizens save Sabrina. It wasn't freshwater she tasted running down her cheeks.

There was mud all over her, ruining her suit. The psychic didn't care.

It was fitting, Sabrina reflected, that there wasn't thunder and lightning. There was no fight in her, no anger, no denial to match it. It would have been a waste of weather.

Her hands felt wet and grimy. Cold mud seeped between her fingers from where she sat on her knees, leaning forward and resting on her hands. Sabrina's skin felt empty of warmth, all her heat washed away by the rain. Though her flesh was becoming more and more numb the woman could still feel herself shiver.

Sabrina's violet eyes were red and puffy, the colors juxtaposed against the large dark bags under them. Mucus constantly seeped out of her nose, mixing with the various waters running down her face. Her face was all splotchy, but that was to be expected. It had been a week after all.

Every second it felt like she couldn't cry anymore and yet every second she continued.

The day before had been the first day that she had been somewhat stable. She had actually managed to eat two decent meals and have a good night's sleep.

And then today she had come to the cemetery.

Of course there would be no grass on this grave.

She looked up from the muddy ground framed by the long black hair that fell over her head. She had taken care of it earlier in the day, taking care to hide the patch she had torn out earlier, but her time in the rain and mud had ruined it. The new sight which greeted her eyes was a tombstone inscribed with Atsushi's name, date of birth, and his date of death.

Dead. By her powers.

Earlier in the week she may have raged. She may have thrashed, screamed, and wailed. She may have tried to harm herself. Maybe she would have slammed her head into the grave marker. Maybe she would have tried burn herself with some pyrogensis. Maybe she would have thrown herself to the ground, tearing and biting at herself like a mad animal.

But that was earlier, before it started feeling like everything inside her had been scooped out. She was an empty vessel ringed by grief now. So she simply stared at the tomb of her dead lover.

"You'll catch a cold," a familiar voice spoke up behind her. Sabrina didn't bother turning around to confirm who it was. Nor did she bother responding to the member of the Elite Four.

Sabrina heard a sigh and then the rain quit falling on her. The psychic looked back and up.

The old witch's dark purple cloak was closed and she was holding an umbrella over the two of them. It was a modern umbrella which clashed with Agatha's old fashioned looks. The ghost type trainer was looking at the psychic type trainer with a calm and steady gaze. Her eyes held neither pity nor judgement.

"Come on," Agatha said, offering one of her clean and mostly dry hands to Sabrina. "I think you've been here long enough. You should go back to the gym, for a little while at least."

Sabrina simply looked back at the gravestone. Agatha was silent for a little while.

"It's not your fault you know. But we've told you that numerous times already so I doubt that'll make you feel better now." Agatha continued watching Sabrina, looking for any sign of a response.

"You're all wrong," Sabrina replied. "I may not have done it, but it was all my fault."

"Oh?" Agatha raised on fading blonde eyebrow. This was new.

"If I had stopped him from taking over-"

"There was little you could have done," Agatha told the trainer. "You were attacked in an unorthodox manner with an experimental machine which had just been stolen. It is ridiculous-"

"I managed to fight him off in the end," Sabrina replied.

"And there were several factors there that weren't present before," Agatha calmly responded. "The state of your emotions for one."

"Because he killed Atsushi, Britney, and Alakazam. Because he was the one who killed all those people in the hospitals when I mind controlled the doctors. Because he was the one who killed all those people who didn't take their medications or take care of themselves while under mind control. Because it's my fault all that happened." Sabrina's voice was filled with resignation and sounded glum. But, Agatha noted, it didn't sound dead. "Yeah, I managed to shake him off in time to save my life and that's about it."

"What else could you have done against him the first time?" Agatha asked calmly, reasonably.

"I could have killed myself," Sabrina's voice cracked for the smallest instant. "I could have saved all those lives if I had just thought about-"

"It's a bad sign when someone considers that an option in a crisis involving a sudden unknown attack," Agatha interrupted. "And I know it's hard for a psychic to kill themselves with their power unless they are very unhealthy. You have a lot to live for; no one blames you for not killing yourself-"

"Plenty in this city blame me-"

"Nobody rational," Agatha corrected herself. "There will always be some hot heads, but luckily most of the city is putting the blame where it belongs, with Team Rocket."

"The blame lies with them, but the fault lies with me," Sabrina looked back at Agatha. "Putting aside the option of killing myself, I could have always fried my brain, reduced my power."

"That's not much better," Agatha replied. "In fact that's worse, because you would have made it even easier for them to get you."

"Well, that's what ended up happening anyway," now there was an emotion in Sabrina's voice:bitterness. "My last attack ended up burning up some important nerves. Team Rocket won't bother trying that again, I've only got about a third of the potential I used to have. I'm useless now."

"Is that why you resigned?" Agatha offered no words of pity or conciliation. She was not close enough to the former gym leader nor did the eldest member of the Elite Four feel that she knew any words that would fit.

"One of the reasons," Sabrina's voice returned to its previous state and she turned back to her lover's grave. "The people of Saffron City will never trust me again, the gym trainers will have problems with me, and I don't trust myself. I'll be leaving most of my pokémon with the gym to help out the next gym leader."

"What will you do then?"

"There's a man I have to hunt down," Sabrina continued to stare at the gravestone. "After I stop by Cerulean City and Britney's grave I'm going to find Hikaru Buckak. And if I don't kill him right away, I'll drag him back into public view, and have him stand trial. And after he's convicted he'll die a horrible death that can't be traced back to me."

"I see," Agatha's voice carried the burden of all her years as she saw another tragedy wind down. "There's nothing I can say to change your mind is there?"

"No," Sabrina's voice sprang to life, carrying all her anger. It was a high and savage sound, something between a scream and a growl. "I will make him pay. I will make an example of him so no one else ever tries something like this again! I will not stop until I have him!" Her voice grew more and more feral, the end of her statement trailing off into incoherent noises.

"I guess it was foolish to think otherwise," Agatha closed her eyes. They stood together at the grave for a while longer.

After some time had passed Agatha opened her eyes.

"Did you ever thank that boy? Aaron, I believe that was his name. Even if you had me deliver that Marsh Badge to him you should have still-" The old woman was cut off by the psychic woman.

"No. I will never thank him." Bitterness once more. "He's a good kid. I hope never to meet him again, because I will resent him until the day I die. If he hadn't interfered I wouldn't have to live with all- all - all this."

"Well, if you change your mind, he's heading for Celadon City," Agatha told the the broken human. "And remember to keep his identity a secret. The public and Team Rocket don't need to know anything other than a League trainer helped to free you."

"I don't care. I'm not even going to try and remember his name." Sabrina's voice was flat again.

Agatha didn't respond. She stood with Sabrina for a couple more minutes before speaking again.

"Come on," she told the former gym leader. "You need to get back. You're going to be dehydrated and you'll probably need some salt to replace everything you've lost. And you need to get warm before you get sick."

"I won't die from this," Sabrina replied in a flat tone.

"You are either coming back under your own power, or I'll put you to sleep and have someone carry you back to the gym."

"I'm not leaving this spot. I may not have much power left-" Sabrina was interrupted by Agatha touching the back of her head with a single finger.

Sabrina fell over into the mud instantly, like a puppet who's strings had been cut.

"Thank you," a male's voice cut in. Captain Torch stepped out of empty air. His tattoos were glowing with a fading light as the cloaking spell died.

"You're welcome," Agatha told her student. "And thank you for fetching me. I doubt any more time in the rain would have done her good."

"Do you want me to carry her? Or are you going to have one of your pokémon do it?"

"You carry her? So you can-" Agatha stopped her teasing when she saw the expression forming on her student's face. "Oh. I'm sorry."

"It's alright," Torch waved away her concerns, forcing a pained smile onto his face. Agatha saw what was either tears or rainwater in the corners of his eyes. "It's not like anyone could have told."

"And you can't do anything now because of your reputation. It would seem like you're taking advantage of her grief. Or, even without your reputation, it would seem like you're moving in right after the death of your rival."

"I could always let Sabrina read my mind to show her the truth. But the problem is that Atsushi wasn't a rival." Captain Torch was looking away from his teacher, but she could guess the expression he would have on his face.

"Oh. Your heart was broken twice over then." Agatha gestured with the hand that wasn't holding her umbrella and a haunter flew out of the ground. It was carrying an umbrella, which it opened. Agatha walked away from the prone gym leader, leaving her pokémon to keep the rain off of her. The haunter also conjured up a blue flame, and began to warn and dry the gym leader while it waited.

She put a gentle wrinkled old hand on her student's shoulder.

"I saw some of what she did, I returned after sending the message to you." Torch stared up into the clouds. He must have been using a spell to keep the rain off of him. Agatha normally would have scolded him for such a frivolous use of magic, but she decided to let it slide once.

"Even if I was in any condition to be with her, she's got to live with the memory of doing that to him," the spellcaster took out a cigarette and a lighter. He offered one to his teacher. She shook her head.

"I thought you quit years ago," she said to him.

"I did." Torch lit the cancer stick and took a long drag. "A lot of what she was doing was telepathic illusions, and her protection plus my spells stopped me from having to witness them. But there were other things, things I could see, and I could always hear them scream. I kept trying to do something but it never worked. She almost killed Shadow without even realizing it. And she's got to live with all that and more. There aren't words to describe just how much that's got to have fucked her up."

He blew out some smoke.

"I'm not sure how she's even functioning right now," Torch continued. "I can't even begin to imagine what she's going through. I don't know if she'll ever recover. I know my reasons are selfish, but I want to help her. Disregarding everything else, we were friends. I'd like to be friends again at least."

"Of course it won't be that simple. There are going to be problems on your end if she does recover. You'll unconsciously resent her for killing your mutual love." Agatha sighed. If her life hadn't contained some major bright and shining lasting victories this would have been all she needed to give up. "What are you going to do now captain?"

"You know I haven't been a captain since you saved me," Torch replied.

"I can't imagine you as anything else."

"I have trouble with that sometimes as well." Torch blew out a bit of smoke. "I'm going to go with her."

"To protect her?"

Torch snorted.

"Even at a third of her former power she's a lot better than me," Torch informed his teacher. "No. I'm just going to..."

"Remind her to take care of herself. To remind her that there are still people who care about her. To try and bring some light into the dark place she's currently in, and one day, fate willing, help her out of there." Agatha clasped his shoulder. "I wish you all the luck in the world my student. You have my blessings."

"Thank you sensei." Torch bowed to her.

"No need. I think you need to do this just as much as she needs someone to do this." Agatha cupped the side of his chin. "Your heart will heal in time and you will know unclouded joy once more. Your and Sabrina's sunny days have been stolen by a sudden storm, but they will return."

"Maybe," Torch's voice was almost as bitter as Sabrina's had been.

"There is no maybe. Happy days will end and sorrowful ones will take their place. Storms will assault our journey's and home's, and hail will batter and cut us. But the sunny days always return. And when the sunny days return, we know that they cannot last forever." Agatha looked up into the rainy sky. "But we can learn to endure the rain, take shelter from the hail, and fight the wind. We can take joy in the knowledge that others are enjoying the sun while we struggle. We can shelter them from the hail. We can take joy from the fact our happiness can only be stopped, never stolen. You were happy once Captain. Take joy from those memories. You will be happy again. Take joy from the fact that your future happiness will never be stolen."

The good captain snorted and smoked some more.

"And you can learn to take light into the dark places," Agatha continued. "It will be hard, but you will succeed."

"How can you be sure?" Torch's voice was no more than a bitter whisper.

"It's easy." Agatha smirked. "I've always found that torches help with darkest places."

Torch smiled bitterly.

"After all," Agatha continued. "If it hadn't been for you being there to warn me, things would have been even worse. Chin up Captain. You've got work to do. But for now you can light the way back to the gym."

Elsewhere it was a bright and sunny day in Kanto, with only the occasional white wisp for a cloud. For most of Kanto autumn was pretty much a slightly cooler summer, where the leaves started changing color. The heat from the sun was offset by the cool breeze that gently rustled Misty's ponytail and Ash's jacket. The yellow dirt path was dry and firm beneath their feet.

Pikachu looked back from his perch on Ash's head. Grey clouds edged on the horizon that they were traveling away from.

Good thing we missed that, the yellow pokémon commented idly.

"Alright, say there were seven Rockets hiding in those trees up ahead," Brock began pointing to a small thicket around the path. They were in a rockier area than usual. For once there was more pale bare ground then there was greenery and trees. It was also a steeper land, filled with hills and gullies everywhere. Piles of stones, what looked like the remnants of rock-slides, littered the land.

"How would you go about-" Brock continued, but Misty cut him off.

"Give it a rest rock boy," she said to the former gym leader. "You've been grilling him on strategy all week."

"He went into that building with only the smallest bit of strategy!" Brock protested. "His tactics were good, but you should never go into a situation like that and just expect to string together a bunch of short term plans. He should have at least had some sort of exit strategy planned."

"I'm still surprised that you're not mad at me for getting into danger again," the boy called Aaron and named Ash commented, looking into the thicket ahead. He still needed to replace the walking stick that Bulbasaur destroyed in Saffron City.

Brock may have rolled his eyes at that comment.

"Considering that there was no safe spot in the city, Agatha's spell randomly failed to knock you out, there was a battle between a mad psychic gym leader and a member of the Elite Four, and Misty's Psyduck was in pain" -the half truth Ash had used to explain how and why he went to the building where the relay was - "attacking the Team Rocket grunts stationed around the relay wasn't necessarily a bad call," the elder boy explained. "We've already gone over this."

"I know," Ash replied as they reached the thicket. He glanced around for a fitting bit of wood. "I was just saying I was still surprised."

"Kids these days," Brock muttered angrily. "Why back in-" And he abruptly stopped once he realized what he was saying.

"Crap, I'm starting to sound like an old man," groaned the gym leader. "I must have caught something from Agatha's spell."

"I don't think it works like that," said Misty, an amused look on her face. "Or maybe Aaron and I were immune because we're in the springtime of our youth."

"I'm not getting old. I'm not even twenty!"

"You're old to me," Ash muttered, just loud enough for Brock to hear him.

"I guess I'll just have to prove I'm young by getting up even earlier in the morning for training then, won't I," the dark skinned boy shot back at the pokéraised child.

"Hey!" Ash protested. "There's no need to do that."

"Nonsense, I'm young," Brock said with an evil smile on his face. "I should be making the most of the day."

"Umm..." Ash nervously backed away. "Why don't we eat now! I need to go find a new stick!" He suggested in a panicked tone. He quickly turned around and darted into the trees.

Brock and Misty looked at each other and then burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

That was scary, Ash said to Pikachu as they came out the other side of the thicket.

If he thinks that we're going to be getting up any earlier then we already are, he's in for a shocking surprise, Pikachu growled, sparks flying from his cheeks. Some of us require our beauty sleep. I'm not going to lose my perfectly plump pikachu figure just because he's an early rising, sadistic, workaholic.

Yeah, I didn't want to say this, but I think you've lost a little weight, Ash told his pokémon, rubbing the back of his head.

No! Pikachu wailed. If this keeps up, I- I- I- I might become a thin pikachu!

It's only a little bit, Ash reassured him. Hardly noticeable. He felt a rough branch of a bush he wandered through brush his ankle. He looked down. There was no mistaking it. His jeans must have shrunk at some point. His shirt was also feeling a little tight, it must have shrunk as well.

He knew that washing his clothes so often would have consequences! Washing them after wearing them for only a week at a time wasn't only wasteful, it was harmful to the clothes!

Ash bumped the very tip of his head on a tree branch. Pikachu had seen it coming and jumped off without warning his trainer. He glared at the mouse.

It looks like I'm not the only one changing, Pikachu observed.

I don't know what you mean, Ash replied, rubbing his head. Come on, we really should find a good stick. Maybe I can get Brock to show me how to carve it.

They wandered around a bit more, chatting all the while in the tongue of pokémon. Ash rejected a couple candidates for his new staff on the basis of being too rotten, too short, and for being a young sudowoodo (the pokémon was pretty chill about the misunderstanding).

Ash and Pikachu stopped to take a short break, sitting on some large rocks. Ash stretched and groaned. Brock may not have been mad about what he did in Saffron City, but he had increased the intensity of his training a little bit. Or maybe he was still mad about what he had done back at Melanie's village.

The human leaned back, draping himself over the rock to enjoy the sunshine for a little.

His relaxation was interrupted by the sudden arrival of a pokémon. The pokémon had a pig like snout and grey fur that seemed slightly brown. Its long, prehensile tail waved behind it, and its oddly jointed long arms dug into the ground as it skidded to a stop, bleeding off the kinetic energy from its leap out of the trees. The pokémon's red eyes were intense, Ash guessed that from the curious expression on the mankey's face that the eyes were always like that.

You! Is it true that there's a human 'round these parts who can talk proper like! The mankey shouted, pointing a finger at Ash.

No, Ash replied. But I heard there's one just past Celadon City.

Oh, I was lookin forward to meetin a human, specially a human who could understand me, the mankey, its expression falling. Well, thank you kindly stranger. I best be off before the human gets any further away.

You're welcome, Ash replied to the pokémon, keeping a smile off of his face. I hope you find the human.

Good day ta ya'll, the mankey said, before turning around.

Wow, you are really unobservant, Pikachu called out before the fighting type pokémon could hop away.

Why, just what do ya mean by that? The mankey turned around, a look of dark confusion on its face.

I have no idea what he means, Ash snarked. The mankey stared at him for a second.

Hey! You're a human! You're that proper speakin human!

A regular master of observation, Ash said to Pikachu.

He's just a bit better than you idiot.

I'm going to trade you for a pokémon that will respect me.

Ha! Good one! Pikachu jumped up on Ash's rock and slapped his back. As if you could find one.

That was a mean trick ya played on me mister, the mankey spoke up.

Sorry, Ash replied, looking back at the monkey pokémon with the pig snout. I thought you would pick up on it right away.

So you're a funny man then, the mankey extended its hand. I'm Mankey, nice to met ya.

I'm Ash Ketchum, the human extended his own hand. Nice to meet you as well.

Mankey didn't take the human's hand. Instead he jumped on the human's limb and grabbed his hat.

He grabbed Ash's hat.

The hat that the Pallet pokémon had stolen for him.

The hat given to him by his wild friend and Poison Lance.



Mankey jumped away while Ash was frozen in shock.

Well funny man, here's my joke, Mankey. Come and get your hat!

Ash looked at Pikachu. Pikachu, knowing something of the work that had gone into getting that hat, nodded. The two of them turned to Mankey.

Something about their expressions unnerved the fighting pokémon.

Er... The grey pokémon started backing away. Oh dear.

"Ahh," Jessie sighed contentedly, laying back. She, James, Meowth, Koffing, and Ekans were relaxing on what used to be a huge boulder, but at some point had been cut in half. It gave them a nice flat surface, perfect for a nap in the sun. A place where they could be lulled by the sound of the gentle breeze rustling the tree leaves. A place where they could just do nothing but be with each other.

Or at least most of them could.

"So," James began, fiddling with a datapad of some kind. "I've just checked back in with the local Rocket groups-"

Not now, Koffing groaned.

"What Koffing said," Meowth said, curled up on one end of the rock. "Not now."

"We shouldn't do anything today, but we should decide what to do next," James protested. "From what I can tell about the twerp's path he's heading towards Celadon City. Now there are a couple of jobs we can do for the team and-"

Get back here you stupid monkey!

Ain't you one to talk human. A mankey scrambled out of the trees, a familiar red hat clutched in its hand. There was a crackling buzz and yellow power scorched the ground behind him.

Pardon me, it said, scrambling up the rock and over Team Rocket. Comin through.

Get back here you mangy monkey of a mankey! A hatless golden-brown eyed boy with black hair shouted also bursting out of the trees. A familiar pokémon ran at his side.

You can't dodge me forever! Pikachu called out. He let loose another bolt of electricity, missing Mankey and hitting Team Rocket.

Ash and Pikachu also scrambled up the rock and trampled the shocked and singed Rockets in their pursuit of the pig snouted pokémon.

The pursued and pursuers continued their chase into trees. Team Rocket just sat on the rock for several seconds. James stared at his fried technology. A single tear welled up in his eye. Jessie put out a small flame on her skirt.

"So..." She looked in the direction they had gone. "Is everyone thinking what I'm thinking?"

"That we need to get to Celadon city to steal a replacement," James said, referring to his ruined piece of technology.

"Go back to our nap?" Meowth suggested.

"No," Jessie responded, going from her back to standing on her feet in one fluent movement. "We go after that mankey and grab the twerp's hat! If we've got the hat, we can hold it hostage and make the twerp come to us!"

"And when he does we can show him the presentation!" James finished excitedly. He scrambled to his feet. "And we can make him come at a later date, so we have plenty of time to prepare."

"I like this plan," Meowth added. "Let's get going!"

"I wonder what he's up to?" Misty said to Brock, before taking a bite out of a rice ball. The two of them were waiting in the thicket that Aaron had originally run off into.

"Probably playing with Pikachu and his pokémon, or at least I hope so," Brock answered. "How is it? I'm trying a new recipe-"

"For some reason this onigiri makes me think of a jelly doughnut," Misty replied. She looked at the rice ball. "That's stupid, an onigiri is nothing like a jelly doughnut. Anyone who confuses the two is an idiot."

"Hmm, back to the drawing board," Brock said to himself.

"And why do you hope Aaron's playing with his pokémon," Misty asked Brock before taking another bite out of the rice ball.

Brock gazed off into the blue sky above.

"Sometimes I think I forget he's a ten year old kid," Brock told the red head. "Most of the time I think he's forgotten it. So far on his journey he's had to deal with two large scale battles, one of which was rather bloody, and another... well that was more like a natural disaster than a battle. He's had to deal with being stalked by that strange Rocket group, saving a certain someone from a crazy fearow,-" Misty coughed "- sinking ships, the fight with those helicopters, and whatever happened at Lavender Tower."

"I don't know if I really want to know what happened in there," Misty admitted.

"My point being, when he's not doing those things he's always focused on traveling or training," Brock continued. "I don't know if I've ever seen him really play around, like a kid should. He's only ten years old-"

"Only two years younger than me," Misty pointed out, her eyes narrowing slightly. She rubbed her hands together to get rid of the grains of rice stuck to her hands.

"That's right," Brock responded. "I sometimes forget that too." He reached over and grabbed her shoulder. "Tag, you're it."

"Very funny," Misty shrugged his had off.

"Well you really should play a bit too" Brock said.

"I'm a gym brat," Misty retorted. "I had my childhood a while ago. Hell, compared to feudal times across the world, I'm still living a carefree life."

"I really don't like the whole gym brat thing," Brock commented. "Seems a bit too much like child soldiers for my tastes."

"You're a gym brat," Misty pointed out accusingly. "Did you think you were turning into a child soldier?"

"No but-"

"Then shut it bub," Misty told the former gym leader. "I don't think there's anything wrong with the way he's doing things. He's obviously enjoying himself on this journey, even with all the other stuff that's been happening. In fact I think you're the one who needs to lighten up a bit. You're only sixteen and-" She reached out and poked his shoulder. "You're it."

"Why you!" Brock mock growled. Misty stuck out her tongue and then started running away, laughing. Brock followed, a smile on his face.

Ya know, ya might be takin this a might too seriously. Mankey scrambled up into another tree just before Pikachu fired off another Thunderbolt. He yelped when the crackling tendril of yellow power curved upward, striking the branch he had been standing on. The branch broke off and Mankey fell to the ground.

Then give me my hat back! Ash demanded, charging after the monkey like pokémon, Pikachu running by his feet.

Never! Mankey took off again. He jumped up and began to swing from branch to branch. The pokémon's swinging outpaced Ash's running.

Don't think you can get away that easily! Ash reached for the pokéballs attached to his belt. Go everybody!

White light blazed and four pokémon appeared. Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Charmander, and Pidgeotto, all looking somewhat amused.

Get my hat! Ash shouted, pointing at the fleeing mankey as he ran.

Sure thing, Bulbasaur said, keeping pace with his trainer. A hail of green leaves shot forth, cutting through the forest. The whirled through the air, aiming for the branches ahead of Mankey.

Ain't this goin to far? Mankey asked, abandoning his treetop escape.

Not really, came Pidgeotto's dry voice from right above him. She swooped down, talons seeking Ash's hat. Mankey ducked and grabbed her leg as she shot past. He swung himself onto her back and used her as a platform to launch himself into the air.

The maneuver caught Ash and his group by surprise. They didn't react in time to hit Mankey as he sailed of their heads. The fighting type pokémon started running back in the direction they had come.

"There's the hat!" A female voice cried out.

"Wait, we have to do the motto!" A male voice cried out as well.

Mankey skidded to a stop, kicking up dust as another group appeared. A red haired woman, a purple haired man, a meowth, an ekans, and a koffing all struck poses.

"Prepare for trouble!" Jessie said in a smug and eager voice.

"And make it double," James chimed in, smelling a rose he had pulled from somewhere.

"To protect the world from devastation!" Mankey sprinted off to the right.

"To unite all peoples within our nation!" Team Rocket ran, floated, and slithered after him.

"To denounce the evils of truth and love!" Ash and his group caught up, running side by side with their foes.

"To extend our reach to the stars above!" Mankey looked back. He saw a stampede behind him. His eyes widened in terror and he ran even faster.



"Team Rocket blasts off at the speed of light!"

"Surrender now or prepare to fight!"

Pidgeotto, Bulbasaur! Gust Seed! Ash told his pokémon. Pidegotto pulled herself upright and gave a mighty flap of her wings, spawning a small tornado. At the same time Bulbasaur shot several Leach Seeds in front of her. The seeds were caught in the winds and the tornado rushed forward.

Mankey herd the noise and looked back. Now a tornado was chasing him! His day just kept getting better and better.

He darted to the side and came to a small drop before the trees quit and a rocky area began. Mankey slid down. As he did so several needles flew over the spot where he had been.

"Nice Poison Sting," Jessie told Ekans. "He just got lucky."

Squirtle, Ash called out as the two groups came to the drop. Wide area Water Gun! Pikachu, Thundershock!

"Koffing, Sludge the area!" James shouted at the same time.

The stream of brown pollution crossed the high pressure stream of water near the source. Squirtle's stream widened and became more like a sprinkler or a brief bit of rain. Pikachu's Thundershock then joined the combination, setting Koffing's sludge on fire.

Mankey looked up to see droplets of flame falling down.

Ya crazy bastards! Ya'll set fire to the rain just to get me! Mankey covered his head and dashed onward.

"Just leave this to the top cat!" Meowth shouted, springing forward as Koffing, Squirtle, and Pikachu quit their attacks. "I'll show you how it's done!"

Haven't you watched any Saturday morning cartoons? Pikachu shouted, using Agility to boost his speed. The cute little mouse always beats the cat!

Hey that's right, Ash spoke up. They're Team Rocket.

He paused for a moment. Then he realized something.

Wait a minute! They're Team Rocket! Everybody get them! Don't let them near my hat!

"Oh attacking the competition in a race," Jessie said as she saw the rest of Ash's team turn towards her and her group. "How delightfully underhanded!"

"Definitely Rocket material!" James said before Ash's group pounced on his group.

The two groups became a swirling mass of swinging limbs and vines. Both sides tumbled down the incline and onto the rocky area. Pidgeotto used some sort of wind attack, which kicked up a cloud of dirt and dust.

Mankey looked back. He saw a meowth charging with his silver claws shining in the sun, a yellow blur that was Pikachu, and a dust cloud with people and pokémon cursing from within, their limbs occasionally sticking out as they brawled and wrestled with each other.

Good Arceus, he cried out. Nothin's made sense since I met ya'll!

And then Meowth and Pikachu were upon him.

"Hold still!" Meowth shouted, swiping his claws at Mankey's arm. The fighting type jerked it away, only to flinch as Pikachu appeared right beside it. The yellow pokémon's jaws snapped shut, just missing his trainer's hat.

Damn cat! Pikachu shouted. I would've had it if you hadn't done that.

"I don't want you to have it, remember! Idiot mouse!"

That's right, you're not helping. Fry cat!

"Bleed mouse!"

Silver glinted and yellow light flashed as the two pokémon laid into each other around Mankey. At the same time Jessie and James dodged jets of water and vines within the dust cloud, closing in on Ash. The three humans met and used absolutely none of their fighting skills. They just grappled and, well, rough housed.

Jessie and James were having fun and Ash was acting on instinct. He didn't remember that Jessie and James could easily beat him down. He just knew they were after his hat. And Jessie and James were enjoying spending time doing something like sports with their potential new recruit. That sort of bonding activity would make him more receptive to the presentation and increase team cohesion after he joined.

Meanwhile Meowth's and Pikachu's fight also kicked up a cloud of dust. Mankey was caught in the middle for a bit, before being unceremoniously ejected, still holding on to the hat.

Alright now, the singed, beaten, and cut pokémon began. I've just about had enough of this.

He nodded to himself.

Yes, there he was, minding his own business, and then this crazy posses attacks him for no reason! Mankey put the stolen hat on his head. His eyes narrowed and he cracked his knuckles. It was time to do something about that.

"Hold still and let me cut you up!" Meowth shouted, swiping at Pikachu.

Not on your life, the electric type responded, jumping over the claws. Eat electricity!

Meowth ducked and jumped to the side the instant he saw Pikachu begin to scrunch his cheeks. The cat scratch pokémon then jumped forward, dodging the delayed Thunderbolt.

"Nice try rodent, but I'm- Ow!" Meowth was interrupted by a hand grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and picking him up and swinging him forward. At the same time a long arm reached around, grabbed Pikachu in the same way and swung him forward.

The coconut like sound of their heads colliding delighted Mankey. He threw the two stunned pokémon to the side and turned his gaze towards the tangled ball of fighting forms.

Before he could even take one step he felt a joyous energy surge within him. It raced through every part of his body, making him feel like he was glowing.

In fact he was glowing. He was evolving!

The glow consumed him, turning him into a bunch of white light shaped like a Mankey. Ash's eyes flicked blue for half an instant, and he looked away from the leg he was biting. Oh, Mankey was evolving. Meowth and Pikachu were knocked out.

Wait, what?

Light faded as the shape changed. In Mankey's place stood Primeape, Ash's hat on his head, and an angry expression on his face.

Jessie and James looked up as well. Their expressions fell. This had a lot of potential not to go well.

Before they could call out to their fighting pokémon Primeape sprang into action. He bounded into the furball and started laying into everyone. A hand that could be considered gloved hit Bulbasaur right between the eyes when the plant type turned away from Ekans. The saurian pokémon sailed off into a pile of rocks.

Empowered by rage Primeape grabbed a shocked Squirtle and Ekans. He tied the surprised snake pokémon around the water type and made a primitive flail. Squirtle withdrew into his shell on instinct. With a screech of rage he began to wail on Pidgeotto, Koffing, Jessie, James, and Ash.

"What's the word for this?" Ash asked, running away, covering his head with his arms, running away from the raging pokémon.

"Irony?" Jessie suggested, jumping over her weaponized pokémon.

"Close, but I don't think it quite fits," James replied, before getting nailed in the stomach. He grunted and was sent tumbling backwards.

"Painful definitely works," Jessie said before she was hit in the side by the Ekans-Squirtle flail. She was sent flying away.

"Yes, painful works," Ash said, gulping. He closed his eyes and waited for the hurt to come.

Leave my trainer alone you big lout! A high pitched war cry came from Charmander right before he attacked.

His claws slashed at Primeape, who growled as they raked his back. He slowly turned his head, giving Charmander a sidelong glare.

You don't scare me! Charmader shouted.

Primeape's reply didn't come in the form of words. It came in the form of a backhand that spun Charmander around.

Okay, you're slightly scary, Charmder admitted, turning back to the fighting type. But I'm still going to beat you.

This time Primeape smacked him on the side of the face with Squirtle. Charmander was spun around again.

Will you quit doing that! Charmander turned back to Primeape again.

Primeape attacked him with another backhand. Charmander bit it.

I said quit that! Charmander said. Or rather tried to, but it was impossible to understand him through his mouthful of Primeape's fist.

Arrrgh! Primeape cried out, trying to bring the flail down on Charmander. Charmander jumped to the side to avoid it, still keeping his teeth in Primeape's hand.

Charmander decided to communicate his displeasure with some fire. Primeape screamed in pain and threw Charmander up in the air, jerked his hand away, some drops of blood coming with. While Charmander was in flight Primeape slammed him with the flail.

Okay, now I'm mad, Charmander replied, picking himself up. His tail flame flared up and Charmander launched himself back at the Primeape.

Ash grimaced as Charmander used Rage. He recognized the move from his days in the wild. He might have to put Charmander back in his pokéball to stop himself from getting hurt...

Wait, there was an idea on how to get his hat back!

There were twin cries of incoherent rage as the two pokémon became berserkers. They tore into each other with surprising savagery, trying to do great harm to each other. But they were interrupted by a large rock to the back of Primeape's head.

Take that you hat stealing jerk! Bulbasaur said, shaking his vines like fists.

Ash took his chance.

Get back here Charmander! He held up a pokéball. A thin beam of red light shot out. Charmander was sucked back into his pokéball.

Ash silently hurled a pokéball at the dazed Primeape. It smacked the pokémon in the back of the head, bounced up, and turned Primeape into red light.

Both the pokéball and the hat fell to the ground. Ash ran over and grabbed his hat.

Finally, Ash said to himself. Is everyone alright?

I've been better, Bulbasaur said. Pidgeotto?

I'll be fine, the flying type replied. Squirtle?

The water type came out of his shell and slipped away from the unconscious Ekans.

I'm fine, Ekans took the worst of all that, the turle pokémon answered. Sorry about hurting you. How are you Pikachu?

I'm fine, Pikachu responded, picking himself up. Meowth's taking a cat nap I think. We should probably get out of here before they wake up.

Good idea, agreed Ash. He looked at the prone bodies of Team Rocket and their pokémon. I wonder why they were so easy to beat this time? 

Probably because they weren't taking this seriously, Bulbasaur explained. Neither did we for that matter. Bit us in the ass.

Meh, all's well that ends well, Pikachu said. You all should get back in your pokéballs so we can get going.

Everyone nodded and then Ash recalled them all.

He absentmindedly picked up the pokéball he threw at Primeape and added it to his belt.

Both Pikachu's and Ash's stomachs rumbled.

Let's get back to Brock, Ash told Pikachu.

Good idea idiot.

"What happened to you?" Brock asked when Aaron came back to the clearing. Brock and Misty were leaning against some trees, resting after their impromptu game of tag. They were both slightly taken aback by Ash's dirtied and beaten appearance

"I had to catch my hat," Aaron answered. He paused for a second. "Oh! That's right, I also caught a Primeape! "

Getting his hat back was the most important thing that happened? Brock and Misty face-palmed in unison.

"Arceus dammit Aaron."

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