Symbiosis

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

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/7917071/1/Symbiosis

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27. 26

The days were growing colder and shorter, the breezes chiller and harsher, the clouds more numerous and darker. But the sun still shone throughout the weather of the oncoming fall. On one particularly breezy day, where the smell autumn trees wafted into the noses of the people and pokémon gathered within the trees, when the sun continually peeked out from behind the edges of clouds, where the cool air caressing bare skin raised small goosebumps, where Ash Ketchum's pokémon were training.

They were in a corner of a surprisingly large park within a small, closed, and compact city. The group was in a heavily forested section. All around them leaves, most green but some starting to turn into bright yellows and oranges, rustled in the wind. It was late morning so there was no dampness to endure as they threw themselves into their training.

Ain't dis a bit... Pimeape searched for the word while grabbing Razor Leaves out of the air without hurting his hand. Ridiculous?

Not really, Pikachau said, standing on a large rock that Bulbasaur was lifting up and down with his vines even as he fired off leaves. The electric type fired off Thunderbolt after Thunderbolt into the center of a small ring hanging and swinging from a nearby tree branch. The ridiculous bit comes later, when we get into the heavier training.

Besides, Pidgeotto said, flying a figure eight around some trees while carrying a large bag of stones. He might still be mad at you for the second hat incident.

I darn did apologize for dat one! Primeape protested.

Oh, I'm not mad at you, Ash reassured the fighting type, walking back into the area where everyone was training, carrying a new walking stick. He paused for a moment and then continued. Besides If I was mad then we'd be sparring. Or working on evasion.

Den why ain't Pikachu constantly dodging our attacks? Primeape asked.

Because he's gotten pretty good at those exercises and because it's easier just to shrug and not care rather than stay mad all the time, Ash informed his newest pokémon.

It's hard to stay mad at this face for long, Pikachu said, rubbing his red cheek pads and smiling.

I've had practice, Ash shot back. He grinned evilly. Besides, if you keep losing weight...

Don't even joke about that idiot.

So where were you? Charmander asked. He was taking a break from using his fiery breath to keep a single leaf aloft while carrying a large bag of weights on his back.

Poison Lance said Lucas came from around here, Ash said. I just wanted to see if I could find anything.

Didya look for any of his family? Squirtle asked. That's usually the easiest way to find things man.

No, Ash replied. There was some bad blood between Lucas and his family. They all belonged to some neo-fascist party or other, while he belonged to the League. They also shunned him for taking lovers of both genders. Poison Lance said that the worst moment of Lucas's life was when he had to kill some of them during the battle for Saffron City.

What's a fascist? Charmander asked. And why did they fight the League?

Uhh... I don't know the best way to explain, Ash scratched the back of his head. I only read a little bit about them, the book was mainly about the early days of the League here in Kanto.

Allow me to explain, Bulbasaur spoke up. He cleared his throat. A fascist is usually an ultra-nationalist who prefers an autocratic government. Usually groups and parties of them tend to form while the human world is experiencing some sort of turmoil, gaining power as humans get eager to throw away their rights, ideals, and dignity for a bit of security. No offense Ash. Anyway, fascists tend to hold rather old fashioned social views, especially concerning women and minorities, preferring an old fashioned patriarchal social structure dominated by male members of the majority ethnicity. They also tend to scapegoat some group or other, blaming all of their state's problems on that group, declaring them an enemy, and promising to lead everyone against this enemy. Nothing unites humans like blind hatred and fear.

No offense Ash, the plant type said to his trainer before continuing. In the case of Kanto, and most of the rest of the country after the war, various fascist parties began to arise during the chaos. Most of their goals involved uniting the nation through force. In some towns and cities they attempted coups. The only reason they didn't come to dominate the region was because of one of their views and only one: their anti-pokémon chauvinism. They alienated themselves from trainers, particularly the young trainers and the best trainers. This meant they lacked the military force they required to be successful Most protests can be quashed by letting humans know that they will be hurt if they don't shut up and give up the dignity and independence that is the treasure of sapient beings. They eagerly devolve into mere non-sentient animals, claiming that others aren't even members of their own species in order to rob, kill, and torture them. Almost every human will succumb to this cruelty in times of extreme duress, and those that don't succumb are usually killed by those that do, because nothing upsets a human other than a human that is morally superior to them.

No offense Ash, the bulb bearing saurian said again.

How many times have you insulted my species during this little speech? Asked the black haired trainer, giving Bulbasaur a dark look and tapping his foot.

I wasn't counting, Bulbasaur answered. Eventually trainers began to push for the formation of a league and the fascist parties started to talk to each other. As the League formed the fascist parties also put together an organization: Team Rocket. They attempted to seize control of Kanto before the League could fully form by invading Saffron City. This was one of the first major battles for the Kanto League. Their victory was what inspired the formation of leagues in other regions.

Nowadays, Team Rocket has dropped all their viewpoints except for the anti-pokémon views, and the desire to unite the country under an autocratic regime, Bulbasaur said, still explaining. And, F.Y.I., the lack of social regression and the surprising social progress that occurred in Kanto and the allied regions was a reaction against the fascist views, where rights and equality were guaranteed out of spite for the defeated enemy by high level trainers rather than any human wisdom or compassion. But Ain't it fitting that relying on spite and hate is the best way to get humans to do something. No offense Ash.

Do you have to keep insulting us humans? The hat wearing boy asked.

Then have them quit giving me so many reasons to, Bulbasaur returned. Although, I will say, that if Team Rocket ever does come to power, they're unlikely to roll back that progress. After a generation or two of the equality and openness people dropped their old hatreds... in favor of new hatreds to rally around. Other than anti-pokémon sentiments, Team Rocket will probably be able to rally people around hatred for some new social minority, or one nobody cared about before. No offense Ash.

You really don't have a high opinion of my species, Ash commented. How'd you know so much about fascists anyway?

Orre, Bulbasaur answered with a shrug. That shit-hole of a region is crawling with them and worse.

One of Pikachu's ears twitched.

As enlightening as this political conversation has been, he called to the group, there's a human coming so Ash has to shut up and be Aaron now.

Before Ash could respond a rather plump woman came running through the woods.

"Arnold!" She shouted, arms outstretched in an attempt to hug the boy from pallet to her bosom. Ash ducked and jumped back.

I said Aaron, not Arnold!

"Who are you? Who is Arnold?" He asked loudly, looking at the woman warily. His pokémon stopped training and arranged themselves around Ash in a defensive manner.

"You... you're not Arnold," the woman visibly deflated. Ash still kept his distance. He could hear the sound of more people running in the distance. They were getting closer.

"Arnold's my-" the woman began glumly before Brock and Misty burst onto the scene, pokéballs at the ready.

"Aaron, you alright?" Brock asked, he and the red haired girl quickly surveying the situation. "Is it those crazy Rockets again?"

"I don't think so," Ash called Aaron replied. "I think this woman thought I was someone else."

"I thought you were my son, Arnold," the woman said, backing away from Brock and Misty a little. "I'm sorry if I gave you a scare."

"Is he around here?" Aaron asked. "We can help you find him!" He offered, while all his pokémon rolled their eyes.

"I don't know where he is," the woman said. "Or where any of the other children are."

"Miss, you better explain the situation," Brock said. "Start from the beginning."

"This is... sort of harrowing," Misty said, sitting on the concrete edge of a raised garden, looking at all the missing posters. There was a long row of children's faces, all with the captions that read "MISSING". Instructions on who to contact if they were seen were written at the bottom.

"I know, but this isn't really our area of expertise," Brock said. "I'm sorry ma'am, but I'm not sure how much help we can provide."

"I understand," the woman said, on the verge of tears. "It's just that he's been missing for days now, and with all the other disappearances ..." She shook a little as her grief threatened to overwhelm her self-control.

Ash stared at her for a moment

Brown eyes that looked so very proud.

The woman's face smiling.

A warm embrace. A hug from a parent larger than him.

Dark shapes ripping and tearing.

An emotion that he couldn't understand. A horrible feeling that made him cry until Poison Lance started to worry that he would die of dehydration.

Poison Lance's worried eyes.

A hug from a parent larger than himself.

Horrible screaming. A man's last words to the pokémon carrying his son.

"We'll do what we can!" Aaron told the woman. "Don't worry, we'll find your son!"

"Will you? Thank you so very much," the woman said, clasping his hands while thanking him profusely.

Brock and Misty sighed.

"Might as well as long as we're here," Misty said with a shrug.

"Well that's always good to hear," a somewhat familiar voice cut in. Four human heads and one Pikachu head turned to look at the source. It was an Officer Jenny, carrying a rolled up poster. "You three can help me then."

Misty rolled her eyes and Ash curiously watched Brock, waiting for him to start gushing poetry or something. But Brock failed to display his usual behavior.

"Yes ma'am. I'm Brock, this is Misty, and this is Aaron. As he said, we'll help in any way we can." The former gym leader said to the police woman.

"That's good to hear," Jenny replied. "I'm Jenny, as you may have guessed. Let me just put up this poster. By the way, do you know anything about psychic pokémon?"

"Defensive measures only," Brock told her.

"A little," Misty answered, having done a bit of research after unwillingly getting Psyduck. Even if she didn't want the pokémon (even if he was a little cool) she would do her best to take care of it.

"Attacks or biology?" Jenny probed.

"A bit of both." Misty returned. "What does that have to do-"

"Good," Jenny said nodding as she put up the poster. "All right you three, we'll be going to the HopHopHop pokémon center now. I'll explain everything there."

Ash blinked.

"Is that the name of this town?" He asked. "How-"

"Don't ask," Jenny said quickly. "Trust me on this one."

They set off, walking towards the officer's motorcycle.

"So why didn't you fawn over her like usual?" Misty half hissed half whispered to Brock.

"Look at her left hand," Brock responded in kind. Ash and Misty did so. There was a purple stoned wedding band on her ring finger. "She's married, it wouldn't be right for me to act in that manner."

"Really? So you do have some manners?" Misty smirked. "But then again..."

"Shut up you," Brock growled quietly to the red head. "You'll be teaching Aaron bad habits if you keep this up."

"So why did you ask if we knew anything about psychic pokémon?" Aaron asked as they went into one of the back rooms of the pokémon center.

"That's because we think that one of them is behind this," another somewhat familiar voice said from the other side of the room. It was a Nurse Joy tending to a magikarp on a green counter. Ash glanced around the room.

There was a sleeping charmander, a dropping oddish, and a collapsed cuebone. Several other pokémon lay draped on counters, some with medical equipment hooked up to them, beeping monitors, IV drips, pumps, chambers, and other things. Others simply napped.

Ash yawned.

"Please don't do that, you'll just make things worse," Joy said with a bitter chuckle. "As you can see something is sapping the energy of these pokémon. I think it might be a psychic pokémon of some sort, but I can't tell. I'm familiar with their biology, but not the nature of their attacks. Normally I'd ask for assistance from the Saffron City gym but..."

There was no need to finish the sentence. All of Kanto knew what had happened in Saffron City.

"So I've been waiting for a trainer with some experience with psychic pokémon to pass through," Joy continued. "I have a couple of theories I need to run past them, and maybe identify the source of the problem."

Ash yawned.

Pikachu yawned.

Quit it idiot, you're making me tired, the yellow pokémon said sleepily.

"Aaron, that's really rude," Misty chided her friend.

"Sorry, don't know what's coming over me," Aaron told her. "I just feel tired. I'll feel better in a bit."

Brock frowned. Maybe he should scale back the training regimen a bit.

Joy gave him a worried look.

"Anyway, as you can see, this is getting really bad," the nurse said gesturing with a hand that had a purple stoned ring on one finger. She sounded really upset. Then again it was only natural for a medical professional to be upset in that kind of situation. "This charmander's flame could go out at almost any second! And the chanseys are having trouble carrying out their duties." Jenny put a comforting hand on the nurse's shoulder.

"And you want to know if it's possible for a psychic pokémon to be behind this," Brock stroked his chin as he thought. "Team Rocket shouldn't have had the resources to duplicate what they stole from Sliph Co, so I doubt they're behind this. Or at least doing the same thing as they did in Saffron..."

"It's more like a large scale, long term Hypnosis," Misty observed. "But the attack is usually calibrated to put pokémon to sleep... I don't know what it would do to humans. Especially children. It would seem that Brock and I are immune, but I'm starting to worry about Aaron here."

"I'm fine," Ash replied, a little annoyed. He suppressed a yawn as he talked.

"So you think all the kids just feel asleep somewhere?" Jenny inquired. She shook her head. "If that was the case we would have found some and heard about a sleeping epidemic-"

"I agree," Misty said. "But I'd also like to point out that Aaron is a little older than all of the missing kids. He might only be partially affected. We don't know what it's doing to the children."

Brock, Jenny, and Joy, made sure not to comment that she was a child as well.

"So what do we do?" Ash asked. He clenched his fist and forced himself not to yawn. Pikachu however…

Oh, great, the electric type said groggily. Wake me up when it's time to do something. Where's Mismagius when you need... her...

Pikachu slumped over and fell off Ash's head. The trainer felt a flash of cold panic go through him and caught his best friend on instinct.

"Close one," Brock said. "I think I have an idea."

"What?" Jenny and Joy asked in unison.

"Is there a Sliph Co. office in the city?" Brock asked. Jenny nodded. "Then we'll send them a request for any technology that can sense psychic activity."

"And you think that they'll help us why?" Jenny asked.

"Two reasons. First off, I'm a former gym leader-"

"So you're that Brock then," Joy interrupted. "So then you're the younger sister of the Sensational Sisters of Cerulean City?" She asked Misty.

"Yes," Misty said, eyes close, one twitching, and teeth grinding together behind her lips.

"Anyway," Brock continued. "I still have some clout. And they need a PR boost after what happened. They'll rush something over here as soon as possible, or they might have to deal with more investigation. Most of Kanto is looking for a scapegoat to hate alongside Team Rocket right now after all and they'd make a good one."

"Right," Jenny said nodding. "I'll get on the vidphone with them right away. But even if they do cooperate, the hardware won't get here for another day at least."

"That's too bad, but we can take a day off I guess," Brock said. "It would give us a chance to monitor Aaron's condition. Officer, could you see if there are any cases like Aaron? It would help to know if he's an anomaly or not."

"I'll get right on it," the woman from the police clan replied.

"Nurse Joy," Brock said, turning to the red haired medical professional. "Do you mind if I try and help out? I know a bit about pokémon care."

"Any help would be appreciated," Joy replied gratefully. "I'll put you to work in a second. I think Andrew said he needed some help treating a couple of recently caught pokémon."

"I guess I'll just lay about then," Misty said. "Aaron, stick with me please. Someone might need to keep an eye on you."

"I'm fine," Aaron returned crankily. He would have crossed his arms, but they were full of sleeping Pikachu.

"Really, they're giving us this food for free," Misty told Aaron. "You can afford to take a little more."

"Sorry, it's just a habit," Ash said, serving himself a bit more from the self-serve cafeteria. The small pile of food grew into a modest pile of food.

"Hey guys!" The two turned to Brock. His clothed looked wrinkled and he seemed a bit haggard. He had obviously been busy.

"They let me off for dinner," he explained before they could ask. "Remember to save me a seat please."

Ash and Misty sat down at a booth and started eating. After a few minutes Brock joined them.

"So what have you two been up to? And where's Pikachu?" Brock asked the other two.

"Nothing much and he's in a room we claimed," Misty told him. "Just reminded Aaron to call Professor Oak."

"He wanted to know if something happened to us in Saffron City," Ash informed the elder boy. "Since I forgot to call him while I was there. I lied and told him nothing happened."

"That's okay," Brock told the younger boy. "He and Agatha are pretty close, so she'll probably tell him..."

"Then wouldn't he get mad at me?" Aaron asked, nervousness cutting through sleepiness that seemed to be smothering him. Oak was the former pokémon Champion, with the word Champion taking precedence over the word former.

"Not if she explains it all," Brock said. "Did you know they used to date?"

"Yeah, but that must have been ages ago," Misty replied.

Brock shrugged.

"They still keep in touch. So what else happened?"

"Nothing," Ash said grumpily. He had large dark bags under his golden brown eyes, something he hadn't had earlier in the day. "Misty wouldn't let me go train or find a trainer to battle."

"I have to keep an eye on you," Misty responded. "And it would be bad for you to fall asleep in the middle of one of those activities."

"I'm not tired," Ash crossed his arms.

"Yeah, of course," Misty rolled her eyes, "I didn't notice you trying not to yawn all those times."

"Everyone yawns," Ash shot back.

"And not everyone is being affected by psychic activity," Misty countered.

"You could have found something else to do," Brock said. "As long as you were using the video phone you could have tried to call your family."

"Come to think of it, I've never seen you call your parents, or try to leave a message" Misty said. "You really should call them sometime, they would probably love to hear from you."

"You really should call them," Brock added, frowning.

They didn't get reception in the middle of the forest.

"Hey! When was the last time either of you called your folks!" Aaron said.

Brock and Misty grimaced and squirmed.

"Right," Ash nodded to himself. "So anyway-"

"You know, I think I will call them after dinner," Misty said quietly, thinking back to her talk with Erika.

"I'll pass," Brock said a little bitterly.

They ate the rest of their dinner in silence.

For once, while sleeping in a city, Ash didn't have a nightmare. Maybe it was the psychic activity, maybe it was the events of the day, or maybe he just got lucky for once. Pikachu curled up on his chest the boy didn't dream of dark shapes chasing him.

Instead he dreamed of a house in the middle of a forest. He and Pikachu, who seemed strangely larger, were sitting at a plastic table in small plastic chairs. They were busy stuffing their faces. Then a mareep came, pouncing on them. They wrestled playfully, everyone laughing. He could understand Pikachu, but not the Mareep.

Suddenly it was night. Mareep and Pikach were curled up around him, staring up at the stars. Ash was lying on two pairs of human legs. He looked back and saw a black haired man and a brown haired woman. They smiled at him.

He looked down and saw Poison Lance standing next to them, also smiling at him.

Ash looked back at the night sky. The stars started to dance, changing colors and swirling together. Soft multi-colored light covered the heavens. Ash smiled and closed his eyes within the dream.

He didn't dream any more that night.

"We need to find that psychic pokémon before it does something weird to Ash!" James declared, pounding the bottom of his fist into his upraised palm. They had listened in on the twerp's latest call to Professor Oak and had decided that the situation necessitated their intervention.

The Rockets were sitting on an empty skyscraper roof, making plans under the moon. Ekans was draped over Jessie's shoulders, James was using Koffing as a pillow, and Meowth was stretched out on a ledge. The cat scratch pokémon yawned.

"It's starting to be hard to tell if I'm just tired or if the psychic activity is getting to me," the normal type said. "Tomorrow's going to be fun. Can either of you think of a way to track that pokémon?"

"We could steal from the Sliph equipment that the twerp should be getting tomorrow," Jessie suggested.

"No, we should let them do their own pursuit," James interjected. "But we can steal the blueprints of whatever they're sending. I've still got a couple of worms in Sliph's system from our last job involving them. I should be able to download the blueprints and then steal the components we need to make it tonight."

"We can do that," Jessie said, nodding. "We'll have to start a bit later in the day so we can get some sleep, but it's still a good plan."

"I'll get started right now," James pulled out a handheld technical device.

"Wake me up after you're done humiliating the tech company," Meowth yawned before succumbing to sleep.

"Aaron, can you hear me? Can you get up?" Aaron groaned as Misty's voice dragged him away from the blissful oblivion of sleep. "Yes or no Aaron."

"If he can't hear you, then how is he supposed to say no?" This time it was Brock's voice.

"It's to get him to respond with words dummy. Yes or no Aaron."

"Yes, I'm up," Ash groaned. He opened his eyes and sat up. "Couldn't you have let me sleep a few more minutes."

"Aaron, it's eleven thirty A.M," Brock said. "You've been asleep for over twelve hours."

"Merh," Ash mumbled. His body was telling him that it was earlier than that. Much to early to be up. He yawned loudly, stretching arms that felt heavier than normal, heavy enough that he should just quit moving them and go back to bed. "Just let me take a shower and grab a bite to eat."

"Alright, but hurry up," Misty told him. "We don't want to keep Officer Jenny waiting."

"Fine. Wake up buddy." Ash gently shook Pikachu. The sleeping pokémon didn't even stir. Ash sighed. He knew how to wake Pikachu up and he knew it would hurt.

He picked up the yellow pokémon and headed into the bathroom adjacent to the room they had slept in.

"Are you sure he should come today?" Officer Jenny asked from the doorway. "The situation might get dangerous you know."

"He can help us verify that the machine from Silph Co. is accurate," Brock informed her. "If his condition worsens based on our movements then we'll probably be getting closer."

"If it gets too bad we'll have to drop him off back here," Misty added as the sound of running water started in the bathroom. "But until then it's more beneficial to let him come with than to try and prevent him."

"Well, you two are the gym leaders and you know him better than me," Jenny started. She was interrupted by twin screams and electric buzzing from the bathroom. The three humans' expressions turned horrified and they rushed to the bathroom.

Aaron, still in his sleep-ware, singed and smoking in places, wobbly walked out, carrying an awake, aware, and wet Pikachu. The yellow pokémon was glaring at his trainer.

"I think I'm plenty awake now," he told the group. "Here, someone watch Pikachu, make sure that he doesn't fall asleep again."

Misty took the electric type from him. Pikachu nuzzled into her embrace, still glaring at Ash.

"You know, most people just have some coffee," she said to Ash.

"Coffee's bad for kids," Aaron responded.

"And this is a much healthier solution," said Misty, rolling her eyes as Ash went back into the bathroom.

It was a bit of a struggle for both Ash and Pikachu to stay awake. They had to resort to Ash pinching Pikachu occasionally and Pikachu gently shocking Ash in return. On the bright side they were more alert than usual. On the less bright, possibly abysmally dark side, they were both very grumpy.

Stupid psychic pokémon, Pikachu growled. When I get my paws on it I'll give it an electrocution that it'll never forget.

Ash kept his plans for vengeance to himself. Partially because talking with Pikachu could arose suspicion and partially because his vocal chords might have been paralyzed by the repeated shocks.

Jenny looked at the handheld device that Sliph Co. had sent. The company had been rather helpful about the whole affair; Brock hadn't needed to call in any favors to get them to co-operate. It may have been out of fear of backlash, or it may have been them simply being helpful. Whatever the case, the company had sent a psychic sensor. Jenny was using it to pick up the various energy waves.

"I never knew there was so much background psychic energy," she muttered as she turned some knobs.

"Everyone produces some mental energy," Misty told the police woman. "Only psychics can control it. We should be looking for a relatively strong and coherent wave. Can you isolate one?"

"I'm working on it," growled the blue haired woman. "Do either of you three know anything about technology?"

"Not really," Ash told her. Oh, hey! His vocal chords weren't paralyzed after all.

"Maybe," Misty said. "Brock get over here and help me make sense of this."

Pinch me, Pikachu said, giving Ash a quick shock. He winced as Ash eagerly complied. This really sucks. But why are you affected and not Misty or Brock? The age difference isn't that much between you and Misty-

But it may be enough, Ash replied. Or it might be because I think differently than them.

What do you mean? Oh, right. That's also probably why you're having an easier time fighting it off than the pokémon. You don't think quite like them either.

You know if it wasn't for the fact I enjoy being part of both worlds, that statement would bother me a lot, Ash said to Pikachu. But enough for now, it looks like they're finished messing around.

"I think we've got something," Jenny said. "At least enough to start looking. This way."

The group weaved through the foot traffic. They took several turns that they had to immediately undo as indicated by the device. They met with dead end alleys, empty skyscraper rooftops, and one incident with a floor haunted by ghost pokémon.

Ash grew more and more used to Pikachu's shocks as time passed. They woke him up less and less. He had to struggle with the strange weariness. He felt like his head was full of thick, nearly solid fog, that he had to fight to think through, like he was swimming through sand. His eyelids kept falling and he couldn't keep track of conversations. But he put on his game face and kept this from the others.

"I think this could be it," Jenny said watching the waves fluctuate on her device.

"That's what you said the last two times," Misty said. "What makes you think you've got it this time."

"Well, this time I've been able to isolate the signal, and also, Pikachu just feel asleep."

Brock and Misty turned to Ash. True enough Pikachu had slumped over was lying stomach down on the top of Ash's hat and was currently snoring. His short limbs didn't intrude on Aaron's peripheral vision, which was why he hadn't noticed Pikachu fall asleep. Ash gently took the electric type from his head and cradled him in the arm not holding his walking stick/staff.

"Come on," Jenny told the group. "Let's try and get this settled."

Inside the building Ash's weariness grew worse. It was like his limbs had been encased in lead, like a team of machamps was trying to pull down his eyes. Thinking was like trying to swim through stone. It was a form of agony to be up and about in his current state, a vague and insubstantial pain plagued every part of his body.

They filed into the elevator and started heading upwards, to the floor halfway from the top. Ash ended up putting nearly all of his weight on the wall of the room. It grew worse and worse as they went up.

"Aaron! Aaron!" He heard someone calling his name as the darkness closed in.

Why fight it? Just a quick nap. He would be fine, he would wake up in the pokémon center. Brock and Misty could get him out of town at any time. There was no reason he needed to suffer through this.

Eyes filling with tears, a brown haired woman's face covered by an expression of ugly and total terror.

The pain in the eyes of Arnold's mother.

The only time Poison Lance had ever panicked, desperately searching for him.

Even if he would survive, the pain that the parents of the city were going through would persist. There was no guarantee that he was absolutely necessary to save their children, but at the same time, could he live with himself if he could have done something and didn't because he was asleep?

No! Ash gritted his teeth. He pushed off from the wall forcing his body to move, opening his eyes to look at the floor, forcing the lids to lift. Due to the angle nobody saw them flicker blue.

A rush of emotions welled up in the pokéraised boy, flooding through his body. The tiredness, the awful weariness was little more than a sand castle under their onslaught. Renewed energy filled Ash as he threw off the psychic tampering.

"I'm fine," Ash said. He took a deep breath, stood up, and looked them straight ahead. "Really I'm fine. Let's do this."

"If you're sure," Misty said, giving him a skeptical look.

"What just happened?" Jenny whispered to Brock.

"Under certain conditions, telepathic attacks can be fought off with willpower alone," Brock whispered back. "Usually it takes a bit of training, but you can get lucky sometimes."

Jenny looked back at the device.

"Strength's still increasing, I think it's near or at the top," she told the group, pressing a floor button. "Aaron, if you start feeling sleepy again-"

"I won't," he said flatly.

Several minutes later, when the elevator, after a couple of stops for other passengers, reached the top floor, Aaron hadn't felt the sensation again. The group filed out of the elevator and up a small staircase to the roof. Outside was a garden rooftop, ringed by small conifers, with two hedge mazes and a fountain. On the side opposite the group was a small mansion.

"I think it might be coming from there," Jenny said, looking at the device. "Let's go check it out."

"I swear if this turns out to be some sort of megalomanic behind this, with some sort of grand scheme, I will kill something," Brock muttered, taking out Onix's pokéball and holding it at the ready.

Inside they were surprised to see something resembling a society ball. Well-dressed men and woman mingled about, drinking from champagne glasses and chatting. There seemed to be an abundance of monocles and pearls.

"Oh, hello there," said one of the men near the entrance in a jovial manner, "I say, is there anything we can do to help you fine folks?"

"Uh..." Misty began, a bit shocked by the interior of the mansion.

"We're tracking psychic activity that we believe may be linked to the disappearance of several minors and is causing problems with pokémon in the area," Jenny said loudly, addressing the room at large. "If anyone has any knowledge regarding psychic activity in the area, your cooperation would be appreciated!"

There was a murmuring among the high class crowd. One of the monocled and top hat wearing men stepped forward.

"I think we may be able to help you with that," he told the investigators.

"You see," the man said, leading the investigators into a relatively small dining room. Several of his compatriots followed as well. "This is the Pokémon Lover's Club. We were founded to show our appreciation for all they do for us. After the recent mess at Saffron City, we took in a couple of the gym pokémon that didn't want to stay there."

Inside the room a hypno, two drowzees, a couple of abras, and a kadabra were lounging around. To the trainer's eyes they all seemed to be moping.

"Some of our members have been having sleeping troubles lately," the man said somewhat apologetically. "So we turned to them for help. We've been having them hypnotize the affected members."

"This is the source of the waves," Jenny said. She looked quizzically at the device. "But they aren't hypnotizing anyone at the moment? Why would there still be waves?"

"There are several explanations," Misty said. "If they've been doing it for a long time in the same location the ripples can build up. They could change the nature of the ambient energy in the room. They could be practicing right now. Or there's the fact that they've been through a traumatic event recently. That kind of stress can make it difficult to predict psychic behavior."

What's happening? Asked the hypno. What do you mean there are waves coming from here?

Ash bit his tongue to stop himself from responding.

"And remember what happened with Aaron," Brock reminded the two females. "This is definitely the place." He frowned. "But we need a way to be sure that this is related to both the missing children and pokémon."

"Everyone, may I have your attention!" the gentleman shouted to the club's pokémon. "We would like to aide this fine policewoman in an ongoing investigation. If you would cease all psychic activity for a little bit, it would be greatly appreciated."

Fine, the hypno said glumly. Guys, pull everything back. Abra, it's just like hiding training.

Cradled in Ash's arm Pikachu started to stir.

Is something interesting happening? He asked groggily, opening one black eye. It narrowed angrily at what it saw. Psychic pokémon? Are these the bastards responsible for the sleeping sickness? I've finally got my paws on you, you bastards! His cheeks scrunched up as he prepared to shock the other pokémon.

"Stop that," Ash scolded his pokémon, turning around so Pikachu was facing the other way. Pikachu scrambled up his trainer to glare at them, cheeks sparking.

"I guess that settles the question about this being the source of the sleeping problem," Misty said.

"But we still don't know how it's related to the missing children," Jenny said. "Misty, you're the one with the most knowledge on psychic phenomenon."

"I don't know enough to be of much use here," the red haired gym trainer admitted. "If we had a kid, we could test out the effects, but..."

"We're not using me unless we can't think of anything better," Ash declared. He was determined to help, but he wanted to see if there were any better options before offering himself up as a test subject. "I don't want to go through that again unless there's no choice."

"We could try it on me," Brock suggested. "We'd have to concentrate the activity on me-"

"It wouldn't work," Misty told him. "You're too old. It has a better chance of working on me."

"I'm afraid I can't allow that," Jenny said, stepping between them and the psychic pokémon. "We don't know the risks-"

"I'm afraid you will," Brock told her. "I may be a former gym leader, but my League ranking has only been downgraded to P-7. I'll pull rank if I have to."

"Ah, but you'll have to fill out the paperwork and deliver it to the superintendent first," Jenny returned smugly. "And I'm not about to let anyone risk themselves right now. We'll call in some more resources and do this by the book."

"Ah, yes, but the children have been missing for a couple days now," Brock told her, stepping up to challenge her. "In my judgment it's a state of emergency and I can fill out the paperwork later. There'll be a review, but by then it will be too late."

"No, I'll- according to- regulation-" Jenny stopped, thought for a moment, and then growled. "Fine, you got me legally. But I'm not letting her risk herself-"

"Alright," Misty said to the psychic pokémon, having snuck around Officer Jenny while she and Brock were arguing. "Can you guys do me a favor? I need you to use Hypnosis, but not on anyone. Just fire it near me, so we can see if I'll be affected."

Odd request, but fine, Hypno said with a shrug, perking up a little. Showtime everyone.

All of the psychic pokémon focused on the area around her. Hypno began to swing his hypnotic aid, as the others wiggled their fingers, or put their fore-paws to the sides of their heads.

Jenny glared at Brock, then at Misty, and then at Ash.

"Hey I didn't have anything to do with this!" the pokéraised child protested.

"You could have warned me that she was sneaking past," Jenny told him, before turning her attention to Misty.

Misty stood there for a few seconds as the psychic energy built up around her. Aaron began to back away, not wanting to be caught in the area of effect. From what he knew about psychic powers from Pocket Watch, which actually was not that much, there was no chance of anything harmful and permanent happening to Misty. Most likely she'd have to deal with the weariness. Which was fine with Ash. Misty could go back to the pokémon center and sleep while he helped to find a resolution to the problem.

After a couple seconds Misty fell to her knees.

"Are you okay Misty?" Brock asked, both he and Officer Jenny moving to her sides.

"Seel!" Was the only reply she gave. She awkwardly clapped her hands together, holding them like flippers. "Seel. Seel."

That hadn't been anything anyone had been expecting.

"Is she saying anything Pikachu?" Ash asked his pokémon, already knowing the answer.

You know it's gibberish as well as I do idiot, the yellow pokémon answered, shaking his head.

"Does she think she's a seel?" Brock asked, tilting his head in puzzlement. "How in the name of Arceus does that work?"

"I don't know," Jenny said, "but we've got a lead now. We'll need to search the park and the wild area around the city-"

She was interrupted by Misty barreling past, moving surprisingly fast for a human imitating a seel.

"Chase!" Aaron cried out, running after her. Jenny, Brock, and the gentleman followed.

Misty led them through town, Jenny shouting at crowds to get out of the way as they ran. Misty was headed for the park by the looks of things.

"Why don't we just knock her out?" Jenny asked.

"There's a small chance that she'll lead us to the kids," Brock answered. "The psychic activity might be guiding them all to the same place."

"And when do we give up on that idea," the officer asked the gym leader.

"When I say so," Brock responded, jumping over a bush that marked the border of the park.

They continued to chase Misty through the greenery, into an area of the large park that was deserted by humans, until-

Not another one! Ash heard a pokémon wail. A venomoth swooped down, over Misty, trailing a glittering dust behind him. The dust settled over Misty. She yawned and then fell over, asleep.

"What-" Jenny began, before a purple glow surrounded Misty and lifted her up.

"After the Misty-napper!" Ash shouted. They dashed through the plants and came out into a small open area before a pond.

There were sleeping children everywhere. There was a venonat carrying a sphere of water via telekinesis, letting some dribble into one of the mouths of the sleeping children. He looked up when the venomouth came nearer.

Oh, Arceus, another one dad- Hey, wait adults! The purple ground bound pokémon cried out, pointing to Ash, Brock, and Jenny.

Cripes! The venomouth spun around, depositing Misty on the ground. I completely missed them! But now we don't have to worry anymore.

"Are these all the missing children?" Brock asked looking at the rows of sleeping figures and the venonat giving them water.

"I think so," Jenny answered, cautiously looking at both the children and the pokémon. "But I've got no clue what's going on with that venomoth. Get ready to defend yourself if it attacks-"

"Hi! I'm Aaron, and this is Pikachu." Ash said, smiling and stepping forward, addressing the poison type. "Nice to meet you!"

Nice to meet you, the venomoth replied. I'm venomoth.

"Pikachu, could you ask Venomoth what's going on here?" Ash requested of his pokémon.

"Like what we did with Charmander, using Pikachu as an interpreter, good idea," Brock said.

Also utterly pointless, Pikachu muttered grumpily. If those two would just go away... now there's an idea.

What's an idea? The venomoth inquired.

Nothing big. Give me a second. Pikachu ran over to Jenny and Brock, making shoeing motions with his forepaws.

"I take it that he doesn't want to talk with us nearby?" Brock asked. Pikachu crossed his arms and nodded. Brock sighed. "Fine, we'll go away for a little while. But if we hear any commotion..."

"Kay," Ash replied.

"Wait a minute-" Jenny began, but Brock put a hand on her shoulder and shook his head.

"If we want answers this might be the best way to get them," the former gym leader told the officer. "We'll be nearby in case anything goes wrong, and I'll have Zubat listen in on them to make sure the situation is under control."

Jenny grumbled, but eventually complied. The two of them left the area.

Alright, now we can drop the charade... or in this case simply not do charades, Pikachu said after the other awake humans had left.

Seems a bit rude, Ash commented.

Wait, did I just hear that correctly? Venomoth asked. Were you just speaking properly?

Pokéraised, Ash responded.

But you were talking with other humans as well, Venomoth protested.

So?

Pokéraised don't do that!

Well, this one does, Ash replied. So what's the story with these kids?

I don't know, the venomoth actually wailed. I'm just taking care of my son here, Venonat-

Hello, Venonat said to Ash.

-when all of the sudden these human children just run in here, trying to act like they're pokémon. A couple of them, those who thought they were water types, nearly drowned. They couldn't understand me, and I couldn't get them to behave, so I used Sleep Powder on them.

Why?

I didn't want them to die! Venomoth answered. I mean me and my kid have a pretty good life here in the middle of the city. There aren't any predators around and if we get sick we can always stop by the pokémon center. I didn't want humans kids to die. But they kept on coming and coming, and no adults came by. We had to start scavenging for extra food just to feed them-

Why didn't you just try to fetch a human adult? Ash asked.

Huh?

Instead of waiting for an adult to come, you could have gone and gotten an adult instead, Ash told the bug type. Why didn't you?

The human children needed feeding, the venmoth replied. And a new kid could have come at any time.

Then why not have Venonat watch over them, and leave just after feeding them? Ash continued.

Uh... that never occurred to me...

That's because you're a wild pokémon, Pikachu said. Ash, your suggestions involved long term thinking. He's a wild pokémon, he doesn't have that.

Oh. Yeah, I forgot about that, Ash replied, rubbing the back of his head in embarrassment. He bowed. Well I think that's all we need to know. Thank you for your efforts in keeping these kids alive. Their behavior was caused by some side effects of a psychic sleep treatment.

You're welcome, Venomoth replied. It wasn't too much trouble.

I guess that answers the relevant questions, Ash said. Might as well get the others back here now. "Hey guys, you can come back now!"

A little while later, Brock and Jenny came back, Zubat fluttering about Brock's head.

"So what's the story?" Jenny asked Aaron.

"The kids thought they were pokémon. Venomoth didn't want the kids to die, so he knocked them out," Ash answered. "He and Venonat have been making sure they're well."

"Why?" Jenny inquired.

"He... likes humans I guess," Ash answered truthfully, throwing in false uncertainty. "I can't tell. But he took care of the kids. Isn't that good?"

"I guess," Jenny replied. She bowed to Venomoth. "Thank you very much for caring for these children," she said to the pokémon.

Er-uh, Venomoth looked flustered. You're welcome?

Jenny then turned to Brock.

"So what do we do with the kids?" She asked the rock type trainer.

"Isn't it obvious?" Brock responded. "We go back to the start of this fiasco."

"Do we even need to do anything?" James asked his partners in crime, looking through a pair of binoculars as various police officers and the awake twerps brought up groups of children to the rooftop mansion. They were on a skyscraper diagonal from the one that had the mansion.

"Naw," Jessie replied. "We only wanted to stop the psychic pokémon from doing anything weird to the twerp. Now that he's taken care of it we can relax."

"We could always try to snatch him up now," James said.

"With all those officers supporting that gym leader?" Jessie snorted. "No chance in the Reverse World."

"Meowth, that's right!" the cat scratch pokémon added.

"Could you please translate? It's rude to use a foreign language in front of individuals who don't speak it," James requested, somewhat haughtily.

"Not yet," Meowth replied.

"You say that every time," James whined. "Would it really hurt so much to answer?"

"Ya never know," Meowth told him. "But we should probably leave this place before one of the police or the twerp's pokémon catches hint of our presence."

"Good idea," Jessie said. Ten seconds later there was no sign of the Rockets.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you," the plump mother exclaimed, clutching Ash to her bosom and spinning him around. "If it weren't for you- I don't even want to think about it."

"Mom," Arnold said, pulling on her skirt. "I think he needs air."

"Right," his mother replied, letting Ash go. Ash, in turn, gasped for sweet sweet oxygen. There was a warm feeling in his chest, and despite his bodily needs, he felt an irresistible urge to smile. There was just something about the smile both the mother and the child had when reunited, the pure joy that radiated out through their faces, that made it so Ash couldn't help but smile.

After talking with Venomoth Jenny had called for more resources and the police department had transferred the sleeping children to the rooftop mansion. The psychic pokémon there had been able to reverse the effects of the psychic waves, and return the children to normal. The children were then reunited with their parents and guardians, who were very happy to see them again.

Misty, the oldest one who had been under the effects of the psychic activity, had been embarrassed about the whole ordeal. Officer Jenny had promised to speak with anyone who had photographs of behavior, but there was little she could do if the photographer refused to cooperate. The red haired trainer had begun moping at that point, knowing that her older sisters were eventually going to hear about her misadventure.

She was off hiding in one of the mansion back rooms. Jenny was trying to coax her out with little success. Brock was back, helping with the final procedures being administered to the pokémon who had been affected by the telepathic malfunction. They all would be ready for release soon. Once he was done helping the pokémon center deal with them and when Misty was over her scandal the group would be ready to leave again.

But that was all secondary to Ash. All that mattered to him was the parents reuniting with their children.

A dark haired man, smiling in relief. A woman with gold brown eyes, giving half hearted scoldings, happy to see him. A fussy old weedle, complaining about something or other as he wove warm clothes.

All three smiling proudly at him.

"It was the least I could do," Aaron replied. "But I'm just going to say, Arnold's lucky to have a mother that worries about him like you do."

"But she's embarrassing," Arnold muttered under his breath. He had just gotten out of a rather longer hugging session than the young pokémon trainer, and was still red-cheeked from the experience.

"You're such a nice boy," the mother told Ash. "Stop by here whenever you want, we'll give you a nice old fashioned, home cooked dinner."

"That's okay," Ash replied, "I probably won't be back in most of Kanto after this year."

"Well then," the woman told him, "we should make it count while you're here. Just look at you boy, you're skin and bones. And you're clothes, they're much too small for a boy your age. That's it, you're coming with me right now!"

"Wait, stop, stop, stop!" Aaron protested as the plump mother started to drag him away. Arnold snickered at his rescuer's predicament. There would be no escape for Ash Ketchum, aka Aaron Autumns. He would soon know the horror that was shopping.

 
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